Review: The Tethered World

Title: The Tethered World (The Tethered World Chronicles, Book One)

Author: Heather L.L. FitzGerald

Genre: Fantasy

Publisher: Mountain Brook Ink (Please keep in mind Mountain Brook no longer publishes Christian spec fic.)

Available: Wherever books are sold



“Normal” means different things to different people.

For sixteen-year-old Sadie Larcen, family dynamics look a little different than most. Parents with oddball occupations? Normal. Five homeschooled siblings—one with autism? Normal.

Police knocking on the door and parents gone missing? Definitely not normal!

When Sadie uncovers the reasons behind her parents’ disappearance and the truth about her heritage, she despairs of ever feeling normal again. Especially when she learns that her mother’s interest in Bigfoot, Dwarves, and other lore extends beyond her popular blog. Sadie’s family has been entrusted with keeping the secrets of the Tethered World—home to creatures that once roamed the Garden of Eden.

Sadie and her siblings must venture into this land to rescue their parents. Stepping out of reality and into a world she never knew existed is a journey Sadie fears and resents. But she chooses to risk all to save her family.

She’s just not sure she will survive in the process.


5 Stars


Whowzers. Um, okay. What was this, my fifth time reading The Tethered World? And I’m still mourning the end of the book even though I know where the series goes.

This, my friends, is what Christian YA should be.

Urban Fantasy with a Biblical twist…kind of. It’s super unique and just fun and enjoyable. Clean, family-friendly, no amount of cringe material whatsoever, and just wholesome. Lots of adventure packed with good lessons, including the importance of family. Plus, I really liked the adoption thread, minor as it was. And the fact that we have a homeschool family as the main characters is a major YES for me.

Most homeschoolers can identify with Sadie’s exasperation at the “Oh, you’re a homeschooler?” part. I mean, come on, folks. Quit gawkin’ at us like we’re creatures from Mars. Or the Tethered World. We know how to “socialize” far better than your precious public school darlings, and I dare say we’re more intelligent over all. You know. Because our curriculum isn’t packed with nonsensical, anti-God, anti-intelligence, and anti-American garbage.

Anyway. Rant over. Needless to say, I empathized. Such stupid reactions we homeschoolers, and homeschool graduates, receive.

The Tethered World is beyond fascinating. The sheer amount of creativity FitzGerald packs into this story blew me away. Worldbuilding can become tricky when writing straight-up fantasy. But worldbuilding while tying it in with the Bible? And the real world? That’s a doozy. A doozy FitzGerald did marvelously at. You’re there in the passage ways, atop Odyssey’s back (and passing out with Sadie), and traveling to the different parts of the “World”.

Sadie’s a hoot. A sarcastic hoot. I was laughing for about half of this book due to the humor mixed in. I liked how organic her character arc was–the good, the bad, and the sassy.

Brady is great. Because I know what happens in future books, I have to say he’s my favorite. (Which ends up killing my heart in Book Three, but I’ll not go there.) An arrogant little twerp, but he learns so much during the adventure.

Sophie’s the stereotypical younger sister. I definitely empathized with Sadie about her.

Brock is Brock. Lovable because of who he is, not because he “interacts” a lot with the reader.

The myriad of supporting characters are fantastic as well. Except for the baddies. They’re not fantastic. Well, they’re fantastically nasty and evil and vile and putrid and just all-around miserable sots. It was easy to dislike them. Stinky creatures.

Faith/Spiritual Elements
Again, very organic. We learn with Sadie and we are reminded of the importance of relying on God and that He is in control no matter how dire the situation.

Many, many kudos to FitzGerlad for achieving something you rarely find in YA: a solid, nuclear family that actually loves each other. Liam and Amy’s devotion toward each other was so tender, even in the roughest moment, and I was delighted regarding Sadie and her siblings’ relationships and interactions. You don’t get that wholesomeness in most YA books, even if they’re touted as “Christian”.

Content Warnings
Characters are injured, kidnapped, smacked around, and bloodied. War and battle and their casualties are mentioned. Nasties are slain in self-defense. There’s no profanity to speak of (no pun intended) and the romance is pure and simple.

I reread this book after being exhausted by an absolutely colossal YA failure, and this is so refreshing. We need more YA authors like FitzGerald.

Like I said before, this is what YA should be. This is what Christian YA should be. Wholesome, clean, faith-filled, and just great for the entire family. The Tethered World falls into the same category as Chuck Black and Donita K. Paul: perfect for the entire crew.

If you want an excellent book that defies the typical YA boundaries, incorporates faith and family, and mixes in a generous heaping of adventure and hints of romance, The Tethered World is the book for you.


A Christian Writer’s Duty

“What is my purpose in life?”

We see that question, or variations of it, a lot, don’t we? What is our purpose? Is there more to life? Why are we here?

For the Christian, those are easily answered. The Bible holds the answers.

I want to address is a chip off something that has been burdening me for a long time. The Christian writing community is becoming noticeably darker as it strays from the narrow path and eagerly jumps onto the bandwagons of incorrect theology, no theology, and just “clean” books. We also are seeing an infestation of sexual incorporation–scenes that are not okay for a Christian book to contain. We are watching profanity sail right on in and being accepted with open arms (after all, criminals don’t use dang it, come back here, you irritating gnat, and similar “clean” expressions, you know. How plebeian to incorporate those.). And, last I heard, a class is being offered at an upcoming well-known Christian writer conference. A class on how to write for the secular market and still be accepted into a Christian publishing house.

Fellow Christian writers, we have a calling. We are to have standards–Biblical standards. We are the be the light. We are to exude our faith. We are to look different. Our actions, words, and stories should make nonbelievers pause and wonder what’s different about us.

We’re supposed to be different. We’re supposed to be “odd”. We’re supposed to go against the worldly grain.

Are we being different? Odd? Going against the flow?

As a whole, no.

Do not misunderstand me. There are plenty of solid Christian writers and they’re pumping out books that contain strong faith, Biblical romance, and plots that point the reader to God.

It is easy to lend ear to the world’s lies. It is easy to buy the falsehoods offered. In fact, you would make more money and gain more popularity if you wrote for the secular market. It’s a given.

But that’s not the path we’re to take.

That’s not the direction we’re to go.

Christian writers, we have a calling. Our purpose is to use our characters, plots, stories, and words to convey the Gospel. Not to tickle itching ears. Not to cater to the secular market. We are to stand strong. We are to be bold and courageous in spreading the Good News.

We have other duties as Christian writers as well. Those are to convey true theology, Biblical entertainment, and to be the lights amidst a dark, dark world.

I saw a section where an author was speaking about their new book. In this section, the author admitted to including profanity, but backtracked by stating the profanity wasn’t meant to be profane.

Let me tell you something: the justification of wrongdoing can never change the wrongdoing’s purpose and/or intent. It does not make profanity “clean”, it does not make sex scenes “okay to read because I don’t mean it in a bad way”. Wrong is wrong and right is right, and no amount of earthly attempts to cover the sin can actually blot out what it really is.

We cannot be lights if we include agnosticism, theological evolution, and repulsively-incorrect theological claims (we do NOT have the power to raise the dead; we do NOT see into Heaven no matter what; we do NOT see God (how arrogant such a belief is!)). Allow me to convey a truth that is not very popular these days. You don’t get special revelations. You don’t “receive prophecies”. You’re not the “next prophet”. THOSE DAYS ARE LONG OVER, and they ended with Paul. Those claims are unBiblical. Don’t believe me? Look. In. The. Bible. It is the ultimate source of truth. It is the only source of truth.

We are to write stories that honor God. That list of incorrect theology above? Yeah. No. That is not God-honoring. Including romantic scenes that go beyond polite descriptions of kissing? Nope. That’s not God-honoring either. Including profanity? Absolutely not. Doesn’t matter how you “mean it” or if it’s “in the appropriate context” (this is another post altogether). Including bedroom scenes? Ha. No. Fade-to-blacks? Nope.

My point is we cannot be the light when we blend in with the dark. Christian writers, please, please abstain from these worldly inclusions! We will receive ridicule because we’re different. Because the truth offends those who are perishing. We will receive backlash. We won’t sell as many books. We won’t be the biggest names in the writing market.

But that’s okay.

Because our purpose is not to write for worldly and secular accolades.

Our purpose is to write for God. To point others to Him.

We cannot do that when we are courting the world.

Recall Philippians 4:8: “[W]hatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things”.

The world’s passions and desires and profanity do not fit within this command.

Remember 2 Timothy 2:15? “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.”

We are not rightly handling the word of truth when we advocate wretchedly false theology.

We are not doing our due diligence as Christ followers when we include profanity of any type (this includes the “minors”, and certainly extends to the major scratch-out words.)

We are misleading others when we paint sexual scenes.

Christian writer, your duty is not to please the world. It is to honor God, and you can’t do that when you’re catering to the world.

Our actions are mirrors of what is within us. Are your actions wholesome and God-honoring? Or do they resemble the world?

Our duty is to spread the Word, to proclaim the Gospel, and to shine so brightly there is no question in anyone’s mind Whose children we are.

Please don’t be afraid to stand for your faith. Please don’t be ashamed to incorporate it in your books. Don’t be afraid to stand alone with the truth when everyone else is pursuing secular paths. And don’t be ashamed or afraid to leave the world and it’s version of entertainment behind.

Let’s come back from “Christian” fiction to Christian fiction.

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.

He is like a tree planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers. The wicked are not so,
but are like chaff that the wind drives away.

Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
for the Lord knows the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked will perish.

Psalm 1

Book Review: Fault Lines

The ground is moving…

In this powerful book, Voddie Baucham, a preacher, professor, and cultural apologist, explains the sinister worldview behind the social justice movement and Critical Race Theory.

Title: Fault Lines: The Social Justice Movement and Evangelicalism’s Looming Catastrophe

Author: Voddie Baucham Jr.

Genre: Nonfiction; Spiritual; Political


The Ground Is Moving

The death of George Floyd at the hands of police in the summer of 2020 shocked the nation. As riots rocked American cities, Christians affirmed from the pulpit and in social media that “black lives matter” and that racial justice “is a gospel issue.”

But what if there is more to the social justice movement than those Christians understand? Even worse: What if they’ve been duped into preaching ideas that actually oppose the Kingdom of God?

In this powerful book, Voddie Baucham, a preacher, professor, and cultural apologist, explains the sinister worldview behind the social justice movement and Critical Race Theory—revealing how it already has infiltrated some seminaries, leading to internal denominational conflict, canceled careers, and lost livelihoods. Like a fault line, it threatens American culture in general—and the evangelical church in particular.

Whether you’re a layperson who has woken up in a strange new world and wonders how to engage sensitively and effectively in the conversation on race or a pastor who is grappling with a polarized congregation, this book offers the clarity and understanding to either hold your ground or reclaim it.


5 Stars


I don’t really know where to begin, so this review will probably sound jumbled, since I’m just going to put my thoughts “onto paper” and try to apply some semblance of organization.

To be clear:

One thing Baucham was extremely clear on, and that I agree with, is that a lot of Christians who support CRT do so from a genuine desire to help others. While their intentions are good, their support for such a vile ideology is not, and they need to examine CRT for what it really is, then decide whether or not to pursue supporting this idea. They need to investigate for themselves and not just accept what the media and society tell them. To be clear, I am completely, one hundred percent, wholly, totally, and unwaveringly against CRT, social justice, racial inequality, and every vile idea Marxism has birthed. However, I also agree with Baucham that, when we interact with brothers and sisters who disagree, we need to do so in a direct, but kind, manner. Thus, I will compose my review, such as it is, in a direct tone.


What do Tim Keller, Margaret Sanger, Kermit Gosnell, “social justice”, the “Black Lives Matter” movement, defunding police, and “reparations” have in common?

CRT, otherwise known as Critical Race Theory.

And what does CRT have in common with the aforementioned list?


In Fault Lines, Voddie Baucham addresses CRT and Critical Social Justice, their origins, proponents, and how they are infiltrating, and utterly destroying the Church. It begins with Marxism, which was founded by Carl Marx. Marxism is the very root from which CRT and CSJ and their branches, “social justice”, “reparations”, “racial equality”, and “hegemony” sprout.

Baucham first provides the reader with an insight on his childhood, then his faith journey, his education, and other influencers in his life. Baucham then uses that to propel the reader into the purpose for this book: addressing the social justice movement. In a world full of those easily offended and people tiptoeing around to ensure they don’t offend those easily offended, Baucham holds no punches. In a direct and candid, but gentle, manner, Baucham details what is wrong with CRT, CSJ, and the slew of issues which have arisen from them.

I learned a lot from this book. While I already knew certain church figures have gone off the path by accepting CRT, I didn’t realize the full extent of how seriously lost and devastating this has been to churches and church groups. Baucham clearly details how CRT and its associates are incompatible with the Bible. In fact, Baucham easily backs his claim that CRT is now a cult. I also never realized how long this has been going on. Of course, I knew about Marx. I knew about the “American founders saying black people were only 3/5th a white person” lie, and I knew how CRT is deconstructing society, churches, and politics, but I never realized how deep its roots reach.

As I warned above, I’m going to be direct. Also known as blunt and frank. CRT is evil. It’s vile, deadly, and a tool of Satan used to crumble the nuclear family, churches, and society’s (already barely existent) remaining morals. Baucham illustrates multiple reasons why CRT and its associates are so destructive, and does it well. Someone who knows little about these topics can easily garner much information and knowledge by reading this book.

Baucham pulls no punches. Unafraid to call out prominent members of faith who support CRT, he opens the reader’s eyes on who to stay away from regarding listening to their theology, and what to watch for when engaging in culture. Also provided are ways to interact with those so deeply entrenched in CRT and its associates that they can’t see the utter absurdity of what they believe.

Everything about this book is powerful, but what really struck me were the abortion sections.

I’ve studied abortion; I’ve participated in prolife blog tours and have written numerous, lengthy prolife and anti-abortion essays for high school and (secular) college. I’m no newbie to the grotesqueness of researching abortion. I knew about Margaret Sanger and her Negro Project. I even knew a little about Kermit Gosnell. I knew they were vile people. Horrible beyond description. What I did not know was the extent of their evil.

Maragret Sanger, the founder of abortion, began the murder of unborn babies not to “free women”, but to put eugenics to use and eradicate black people. She’d be proud, for, as Baucham notes, over fifteen million black babies alone have been murdered through abortion—and that number is ever increasing.

The following paragraph contains disturbing information.

Kermit Gosnell. There aren’t words to describe how wretchedly awful this man was. A black man (who gleefully partook in the very action meant to wipe out black people) killed thousands of babies and murdered one immigrant due to anesthetic overdose. Baucham reports that when Gosnell was finally arrested, after years of society turning a blind eye to his atrocities, agents and police found his building to be littered with fetus parts just scattered about.

This book can cause worry at times. Can even cause anger at the true injustice going on (which is not social justice, etc.). But it also gives hope. Filled with Scripture, Baucham gently reminds the reader God’s church will prevail, that nothing can destroy God’s plan. We have been given the tools to deal with this blight upon our churches and homes, and we need to use them.

Racism exists. Racists exist. But there are not so many of them that “racial inequality” is real. There will always be evil. But, when you advocate for white people to apologize for being white and to pay repartitions for slavery, you only help perpetrate that evil. CRT is completely unbiblical for many reasons. By telling me I need to apologize for being white—the color GOD made me—you’re saying God made a mistake. By telling me I need to pay for the sins of those long ago, you’re accusing me of a crime I did not commit, which is bearing false testimony against your neighbor.

Fault Lines is an amazing book that tackles a difficult and divisive issue. I recommend it to everyone. Thank you, Mr. Baucham, for being unafraid to stand for truth. It bolstered my courage, helped me understand this complex evil, and provided ways to stand strong amidst this storm.

To those who embrace CRT, please, please look into its origins. It’s not what you think it is. Take the heart for others that God has given you and apply it to a true Bible-based effort.

To those who are watching the effects of CRT and are wondering what comes next in this catastrophe, stand strong. Ensure your foundation made of truth so it will not be replaced with a foundation of lies.


Some language (not from the author himself, but from quotes).

Disturbing discussion about the atrocities of abortion.

Cover Reveal: Love’s New Beginnings

Where it all began…

Today I am posting the reveal of a prequel for one of my favorite historical romance series: Wyoming Sunrise by Penny Zeller.


Take a glimpse into where it all began with Lydie and Reverend Solomon’s story in this tender novella releasing just in time for Christmas.

If you loved Forgotten Memories and you’re anticipating Dreams of the Heart, travel to the Wyoming Territory where new beginnings abound in the town of Willow Falls.

Full description coming soon. Stay tuned!

Releases: December 13, 2022

Resources for Upcoming Authors

You have completed the first (or second, third, or fourth) draft/rewrite of your book. In your opinion, the story is almost ready to be released (or, in some of our cases, unleashed) into the world. So…what now? Where do you go from here?

The concept of publishing a book can be daunting. What so many writers do not realize is there are multiple steps one must scale before their book is actually ready to publish.

Coming from the combined perspectives of author, reader, editor, and designer, I am presenting a list of of resources for everything from formatting to cover design, from swag to editing services, and more.


Editing is crucial for your book. I was recently in a local bookstore and the owner mentioned an indie author who, “Had multiple typos on every page”. The reason? The author had his “friend” edit the book. By friend, I mean a ninety-year-old, well-intentioned man who spends most of his time at the gym. Yes, I do know who this author is. And I know who the “editor” is, as well.

This was a cringe moment for me. For so long, indie authors have been seen as the “lowlifes” of the publishing world, and a certain stigma was applied to indie authors–and sometimes for good reason. Only in the past seven years or so has indie publishing become respected in some circles. We still have that stigma to break, and one way to accomplish that is to have your book edited by a quality editor.

Some editors charge an arm and leg. Others prefer to take a lung and your remaining foot as well. I’m not saying editors don’t deserve to be compensated for their work and time. They do. I’m merely stating some prices are exorbitant. I know I, for one, couldn’t afford to pay $500 to have an 80,000 word book proofread.

Few writers can thoroughly edit their own work. We’re too close to the story, which makes it harder to catch those pesky typos

Two editors I know are thorough are Mountain Peak Edits & Design and Kendra E. Ardnek. Both are affordable and offer quality editing services.

Nota Bene One:

There are many different types of editing, so do your research and determine which would best benefit you and your book.

Nota Bene Two:

Editors are human. It is almost impossible for us to catch every typo in a longer story. We will catch at least 97%, which is why it is important to have an editor go over your work.


Just what is formatting? Book formatting consists of the title page, copywrite page, margins, gutter, font size, placement, scene breaks, text justification, and, ultimately, book length. For ebooks, formatting also includes the TOC–Table of Contents. There is a lot that goes into formatting books, and it can be a lengthy and headache-inducing process. Alas, book formatting is a necessary evil.

Before you secure your paperback wrap cover, you’ll need the page count…which is determined after paperback formatting is complete.

There are a few methods for formatting:


I used Word to format DECEIVED, which is 90,000 words long. The thought of formatting IRON (97,000) and Shattered Reflection (113,000) makes me nauseous.


It’s free to format in Word, and ebook formatting is fairly quick and simple enough.If you’re able to format in Word, you don’t need to pay a formatter.


  • It is a lengthy process, which can take days if your book is longer than 50,000 words.
  • The justification of text can cause issues, such as gaps and odd placements.
  • There are plenty of ways to inadvertently cause errors and other formatting issues, such as Chapter Ten beginning on the last page of Chapter Nine.
  • Spacing for chapter titles and numbers, subtitles or character names, and days and dates is time-consuming if you want them to match. Even then, it is not a guarantee.


I’m fairly new to Atticus, and broke myself into it by using the program to format IRON for both ebook and paperback.


  • You have oodles of layouts at your fingertips, and even more possibilities if you’re keen on designing a format specific to your book (which is what I did for IRON).
  • The end product looks clean and professional.
  • It automatically generates epub and PDF if you so desire.
  • The gutters, margins, and indents can be altered without issue.
  • The amount of manual labor involved is minimal compared to Word.
  • It’s affordable, with a one time price of around $150. Included is a 30-day refund if you find Atticus isn’t for you.
  • It automatically inserts your desired scene break design. Just include it in your pre-format, keep three asterisks in the manuscript your upload, and voila. There you go.


  • There is quite a learning curve involved, which can take a few hours to get a grasp on.
  • Atticus is new, so some kinks are still being worked out, although I didn’t notice any real problems while formatting.
  • The front matter and back matter can be the most time-consuming and can cause some frustration.
  • The offered fonts can be iffy. The body text font I recommend is Spectral.
  • The gutters and margins are always pre-set too low, and you need to increase them by at least two clicks.

Formatters I Recommend:

Jon Stewart – I haven’t personally worked with Jon, but I do know he did an excellent job formatting Love in Disguise by Penny Zeller; I was also told he has excellent customer service and is easy to work with.

Kathryn with Hannah Linder Designs – Same as with Jon: I haven’t personally worked with Kathryn, but I do know she did a good job on Love Under Construction by Penny Zeller.

Mountain Peak Edits & Design – Formatted DECEIVED and IRON by yours truly.

Cover Design

“Don’t judge a book by its cover”, is the common cry. And, while that does have merit on some occasions (like traditional authors who don’t always have a say) ,we all know we do, in fact, judge books based on their covers. This is why it is so important to have a good cover, whether designed by yourself or a professional.

If you do design your own cover, please, please, please gather feedback before displaying it to the world. I’ve seen some self-designed covers and–not to be rude–and they’re cringe-worthy. I’m not saying not to design your own cover, as there are many indie authors with an eye for design. I’m merely recommending you receive feedback.

Designing your own cover:

There are many aspects to consider when designing your own cover: layout, flow, distance, genre, models, font, colors, and the “message” or “feeling” you want your cover to impart.

You don’t want flowy, elegant font on a book about how to write a will, just as you don’t want dull, boring sans serif font (yes, I am generally against sans serif) on a romance cover for the title. The font itself imparts an indication of what the book’s feel is. Look at other books in the same genre and take note of the fonts used.

Layout, flow, and distance are all problems I’ve noticed on many indie covers. Just yesterday, I saw a cover where the baby was as big as the woman. It wasn’t good. Take distance into consideration: babies are smaller, objects that farther away are smaller than those up close, and please, for sanity’s sake, don’t have the shadowed side of the model facing the sun! That’s completely incorrect.

Models, models, models. Beauty is indeed in the eye of the beholder, but I have to be honest: if I see a guy with more fur on his face than a bear has during wintertime, I’m done. I’m not touching your book. Just be careful when selecting your models. Please.They can turn readers off.

Other Do’s:

  • Consider font colors: Do they match? Are they aesthetically pleasing (no neon colors, please). Keep in mind the meaning of colors as well. Pastels and light neutrals are more sweetly-romantic. Red has the potential to indicate a certain…air you might not want your book cover to impart, so use that carefully. Black is an all-around color.
  • Keep everything within a layout–your font should be on the cover instead of bleeding off, it should be off the characters’ faces, your characters should be sized appropriately (no babies being just as large as the women). Beware textboxes. They either look good or chintzy.
  • Do have your models dressed tastefully. Please. I beg you.

Other Don’ts:

  • Don’t just slap a model on the cover and call it good. Most need blending, shadow adjustment, and possibly size reduction. Not all (take Love from Afar by Penny Zeller, for example) but most do.
  • Don’t have your male models go shirtless. I don’t care how ripped and muscular he is. He. Needs. A . Shirt.
  • Don’t have your female model’s junk be spilling out of the trunk. If you find a model’s head that is attached to a body with more skin uncovered than covered, just transpose the head onto a different body (it’s harder than it sounds, but it’s quite doable). This may land me in some hot water because you may know the cover I’m referencing, but I frankly don’t care because this needs to be said. I’ve seen one such cover floating around. The book is written by a faith-professing author. The model’s cleavage is billowing over the top of the bodice. It’s not okay for any Christian book to feature such bodily exposure. Our covers should be God-honoring. Lack of clothing is not that. Honestly, it’s vile. It’s gross. Keep it off your covers.
  • Don’t have your cover impart the wrong “feeling”. Don’t have hard, bold font for a gentle, tender romance. Don’t have calligraphic font for science fiction. Don’t have a woman staring out into the distance wearing a wistful expression (which is a romantic-type cover) if your book is suspense. That’s one thing I really love about Shattered Reflection’s cover. It conveys the book’s mood perfectly. You can just tell Layree has a long journey ahead of her, and the sword, cloak, and mountains are perfect.

Design Software:

Designers swear by Adobe and Photoshop, but if that’s too pricey (and it probably is), there are a few alternatives.


You have to pay, but it’s the software I use to design covers. I’m quite pleased overall. Picmonkey allows you to erase, blend, texturize, recolor, and more. It’s not as cutsey as Canva, but it does offer options for designs, along with the ability to upload your own font. I recommend it.


I have a love-hate relationship with Canva, although I know others who swear by it. Canva is cutsey and offers an abundant variety of elements, stickers, and fonts, even if you are using the free version. However, Canva offers a poor attempt at fading, and you cannot blend, shadow, or texturize well. In my humble opinion, Canva is second-tier. It has its place, but it cannot deliver a quality cover if you’re looking for covers like Karen Witemeyer’s, Penny Zeller’s, or DECEIVED.


I’ve not used this at all, but I’ve heard from authors who are pleased with it. All I can tell you is it must be downloaded–and it’s a big download.

Book Cover Designers I Recommend:

Asteriks (*) indicate designers I’ve not worked with, but have heard good things about and who offer quality covers. All but EAH Creative offer premades. Each designer offers something a little bit different.

Lynette Bonner – Designed DECEIVED

Mountain Peak Edits & Design – You may recognize several of the covers listed here

EDH ProfessionalsThe covers I purchased from Erin are for an upcoming series and are not yet released

*Cora Graphics

*EAH Creative – Designs for Enclave Publishing and made Love in Disguise by Penny Zeller

Graphic Design

Aside from a well-written book and quality editing, formatting, and cover, one of the most important things you can do is promote your book. One excellent way to do this is through graphics. Graphics are versatile, and through them you can offer what readers are saying, sales, releases, cover reveals, quotes, questions, and more.

The two sites I recommend for cover design are Picmonkey and Canva.

Picmonkey offers a more elegant design and includes options for font texturization and colors. The downside to Picmonkey is you have fewer design elements like flourishes and all those pretty doodads. Picmonkey does provide some, but not to the extent of Canva.

Canva is artsy and cute. You won’t get elegant and gorgeous out of it, but you will get fun, attention-grabbing graphics if you can figure it out. It also offers quite the variety of elements, probably quadruple that of Picmonkey.

It all depends on your personal preference. I use both, although Picmonkey is my modus operandi. I can immediately spot a Canva design; whether that’s good or bad is up to you.

Picmonkey Examples:

Canva Examples:

It is easy to make your own graphic designs, but if you don’t know where to start or have too much on your plate, Mountain Peak Edits & Design offers graphics at an affordable price.

A+ Content

A+ Content has been around for years, yet it seems like few know what it is. A+ Content is a design/marketing opportunity offered by Amazon. Images of certain sizes are placed on the book’s page and are seen by potential readers as they scroll. Amazon has just upped it’s absurd pettiness, however, so be prepared for some hassle if you do decide to go this route. I do recommend it despite Amazon’s unnecessary pickiness.

Mountain Peak Edits & Design also offers A+ Content.

Examples of A+ Content


Google Doc Forms:

Use these forms to create places where people can sign up to help spread the word about cover reveals, book launches, and giveaway/sales. You can choose from a variety of fonts and colors, and can even create a header.

Header Example:


This ranges from character cards, necklaces, bracelets, candles, tea, shirts, pins, stickers, and more. There are many designers/candle-makers/tea-providers who offer these services. I personally was pleased with Paige Coffer, who did an astounding job on Therese’s character card.

Authors, what do you use for your books/promotions? Writers and upcoming authors, what are your thoughts? There’s a lot more that goes into publishing than you think, but don’t get discouraged. There is a vast writing community, and the majority are more than happy to offer advice and encouragement.

IRON Launch Tour: Meet the Characters + Wrap-up

Welcome to the final post for IRON’s Launch Tour. A huge thank you to everyone who participated. Today, you will meet the characters and learn about what’s next for The Redwyn Chronicles…plus help decide a fairytale for an upcoming project in this series.

IRON released yesterday! Thanks to those who preordered, it made its way into the top 100 Christian fantasy books category! I wasn’t expecting that at all.

The ebook is still on sale at $0.99 for the next seven days, so if you’re an ebook person, get your copy now before the price is raised.

Meet Redwyn

Red is my feisty character. She swept in and claimed the story from day one. She’s suffered pain through the years, including losing her parents. This will really come into play in a later book.

I thought it would be fun to make her a detective, but for that, I had to learn how to think like a detective. So, to achieve that, I watched several Hallmark Mysteries and Suspense movies. (This is not a blanket recommendation for Hallmark. They have gone woke and nasty, but some of their older movies are good and do not include this wretched leftist agenda.)

A lot of readers ship her with Denton, and I dislike sinking ships, but I have bad news: that’s not who she ends up with.

Meet Carter

Carter was interesting to write. I didn’t really know his story until I returned to IRON in July 2022. He’s a horse-loving, attention-hating sweetheart with so much pain and too little trust. His character and spiritual arcs reminded me, as I wrote them, that while people will fail and hurt us, God never will.

I wanted Carter to be Red’s best friend. Their relationship is purely platonic, and even familial, which is not something I see much of in fantasy. Was it possible to change the story so they would end up together? Yes, but that wasn’t where I wanted IRON to go. Thus Carter was saddled with a crazy best friend who doesn’t know the meaning of patience and rest. It was fun watching their personalities clash.

Meet Chamonix

Pronounced Shaw-mah-nee, this quiet princess kind of just…happened. Her personality was clear from day one, and while I had to be creative about her issue (the weak lungs/asthma), she was fairly easy to write once I knew the logistics.

Chamonix’s original name was Eileen. But, after watching a Hallmark movie where the little girl’s name was Chamonix, I fell in love with the name and gave it to Veerham’s princess. It fits her much better than her former name.

I’ve always despised the heroines who, when the hero is being beaten up and injured, just scream and whimper and cower in a corner, useless and just aggravating. Chamonix is not a fighter, not like Red, but I wanted to illustrate how strength comes in many different forms. Chamonix received strength of character and faith, even if she can’t run very far without having an asthma attack. No whiny, worthless heroines in this book.

While my male characters are easiest to write, the females are the opposite. I was pleased and grateful at how Chamonix turned out, because it was difficult to really nail her character. She wasn’t sassy like Red, didn’t have Carter’s issues, and, on top of that, she was a princess. I didn’t want her to be rebellious, as is often the case where princesses are portrayed. But I also didn’t want her to be doormat and incapable of thinking for herself.

Fan Art

The incredibly-talented K.R. Mattson made my day when she surprised me with these fan art pictures (my first ever!). She really nailed Red’s and Chamonix’s personalities. (And that wolf and cardinal!)

Redwyn Deathan, drawn by K.R. Mattson

Chamonix Seyden, Drawn by K.R. Mattson

You can learn more about these crazy characters by going to the inspiration board. If you dislike strong female characters who know how to think for themselves (without the current feminist garbage), an overt faith element, and clean romance, IRON is not the book for you

Also, be sure to visit the character interviews! (Linked to in tour schedule)

What’s Next?

I am currently working on Denton’s story, which has yet to receive a definitive name. I will have it up on Goodreads late next week, Lord willing. You can see what I have of the inspiration board here. All I can tell you regarding the story is the first chapter breaks my heart.

The main female character in this little novella has sisters–and they need names! If you have suggestions, drop them in a comment.

I have another little prequel up my sleeve (here’s a hint: the characters’ names begin with C and I…and you meet them in IRON.) But I need a fairytale for them. Let me know your favorite fairytales! Those who provide the tale that I will use will be mentioned in the Acknowledgements.


There’s still time to sign up for the giveaway if you haven’t already.


An autographed paperback if the winner is a U.S. resident. Ebook if international.


An ebook in PDF or Epub format.

Enter Here.


You can find the tour schedule here.

Once again, thank you to everyone who helped make this tour possible, and thank you to the lovely commenters. The giveaway winners will be contacted next week.

Which are you partial to: boisterous female characters or quieter ones? What elements/themes do you think are crucial to fairytale retellings? Which of these would you like to see more of?

*all graphics plus the cover designed by Mountain Peak Edits & Design

Untold Blog Tour: Author Interview with Vanessa Hall

Today I am interviewing author Vanessa Hall as part of her tour for her latest release, Untold. Saving the best for last, the interview is at the end of the post. Scroll slowly so you don’t miss a giveaway opportunity and a sale.


You can only run for so long …

Two years hasn’t erased the sting of betrayal and the shadow of the past, but Nikolai Alexandrov has finally found a way to live. Moscow, Russia, is the last place anyone would look for a rogue ex-CIA officer, and the members of Grace Baptist Church see beyond his past to the man he is now.

Molly Baird never wanted to be a missionary, but due to her father’s wishes, she lands in Moscow to aid her missionary cousin, Gabe Kelly. All is foreign in the massive city, though, rendering her unable to serve. Only the few English speakers in Grace Baptist’s congregation hold a trace of familiarity—including Nikolai, whose kindness she can’t deny.

Yet when a sniper’s bullet strikes far too close, Nikolai and Molly are thrown together in a desperate race against untold threats. When time runs out, will Nikolai and Molly be able to trust God with the past—and with the future?

Untold Book Links


Ebook and Hard Copy: 


Vanessa Hall is an author, musician, and homeschool graduate. Most days, she is reading, writing, or practicing the violin—or trying to find time for all three pursuits. Currently, she is working toward gaining a degree in instrumental music education. But above all, she is a sinner saved and held fast by the abounding grace of Jesus Christ.

Author Links








One winner will receive free e-copies (epub or pdf) of Unworthy and Untold. Winner will be announced on Saturday, October 1, on Vanessa’s blog and will be contacted via email. Giveaway open to all entrants over 18. 



Unknown (#1) is on sale for $.99!

Goodreads link: 

Purchase link: 


He knew there was a cost. He just didn’t know how great it’d be.

Gabriel Kelly returned to Russia for one reason—to bury his parents. After ten years in the United States, he hadn’t expected to return to his childhood home in the face of tragedy. However, after short days in Moscow, he begins to consider if the same call that cost his parents’ lives is now upon him.

Sofia Rykova’s dreams finally came true when she became a principal soloist with the Bolshoi Ballet. One night, though, an old crush walks back into her life, making her wonder if there is more to life than ballet. Gabe Kelly is just as she remembered, just as she longed for—yet religion stands between them.

Unknown to Gabe and Sofia, danger lurks closer than either would have guessed. The deaths of Gabe’s parents grow more suspicious by the day, and Gabe and Sofia are drawn into the midst of a plot neither can escape. Will obedience to God’s call—in spite of their fears and desires—result in a price too steep to bear?


Words of wisdom for those who are just starting out on the writing path?

Don’t be afraid. Try tons of different genres and plots and styles and characters. Writing takes a lot of work, but it’s totally worth it all in the end. And as a Christian writer, seek the Lord. Write to His glory. Surrender your stories and writings to Him, and write for Him, because He gave this gift to you in the first place!

What is your favorite part of the writing process?

I really enjoy the first draft—if I can stop the editing brain from kicking on, that is—but I also really enjoy points of the editing process. I just love when I really feel as if I know and connect with the characters, and when the whole story starts coming together … yeah, that’s a good time as a writer!

What project(s) are you currently working on?

I’m currently editing the fourth book and writing the sixth book in this same series. I also have a few smaller projects waiting to get some attention!

How do you get inspiration to write?

“Inspiration” can be one of those things I struggle with. When I was a younger author, it was no problem to plop down at the computer and type out thousands of words. Now, my life is busier, and my inner editor and critic is way stronger than it used to be. The combination of those two can be a good squelch for any desire to write. So I’m working on trying not to rely too much on a feeling of inspiration, but rather just opening the document and getting into the story. Most of the time, once I start writing, I can keep going. So it’s just convincing myself to get a move on!

Who is your favorite Biblical character?

Outside of the Lord, I really admire and like reading about Jonathan, Saul’s son. He was such a faithful friend to David and such a brave warrior for the Lord. He did what had to be done in spite of the costs and against incredible odds. 

How do you incorporate your faith into your writing?

Throughout every story, I strive to both edify believers and witness to unbelievers. So I typically have a variety of themes and/or struggles that I approach from a Biblical perspective, even if all the characters themselves are not Christians. (I try to get most of ’em saved, though.) But this can all look slightly different for each story—maybe I highlight these themes by using Scripture or a hymn or through something another character says. However, all of this is incorporated through the characters’ stories, and each main character ends up with his or her own spiritual arc. I want to write stories that are real and raw yet show the Lord’s power that is made perfect in our weakness!

Also, not every story I’ve written has a scene where a character is saved or the entire Gospel is spelled out, but I like to at least present the Gospel in general throughout the entire book, even if it’s just a few verses or something that comes up in a conversation.

Every writer has a message they want to impart to their readers. What is yours?

My primary message can be summed up in John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

The Gospel is truly the most important thing I could ever share with a reader, and I pray each of my books hold that clear message in some form or another.

Specifically in Untold, there are a few themes and messages that come through the characters’ lives. One is depending on the Lord’s strength and His empowering Spirit throughout everything we do.. We can’t do anything without Him! And secondly, the book addressed the Lord’s Presence with us through every trial and affliction, and the fact He will use those trials for our good.

What book of the Bible is your favorite? What makes this particular book your favorite?

This is such a hard question! I don’t know if I can say one book is my absolute favorite. I love reading the Psalms, 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, John … they’re all so amazing. (Well, all of the Bible is!) Psalms in particular is very comforting, beautiful, and relatable—I love how raw and honest David and the other authors are, and how they almost always turn back to faith in the Lord no matter how overwhelming life was at that moment.


Friday, September 23 

Kristina Hall – Spotlight

Rachel  – Spotlight

Emma – Review

Rachel Anne English – Spotlight and Author Interview

Vanessa Hall – Tour Kickoff + Giveaway Announcement!

Saturday, September 24

 Kristina Hall – Review

 Anna – Review

Vanessa Hall – 

 Lorelei Angelo – Spotlight

Sunday, September 25

 Jolene @ Beauty in the Binding – Spotlight

Monday, September 26 

Kristina Hall – Character Questionnaire (Daniil, Evgeny, and Gregor)

Grace A. Johnson – Spotlight 

Kirby @ The Preppy Book Princess  – Review

Tuesday, September 27 

Stephanie @ Books Less Travelled – Review

Lillian Keith – Spotlight

Charity Henico – Review

Wednesday, September 28

Lillian Keith – Author Interview

Saraina Whitney – Review

Issabelle Perry – Review

Thursday, September 29

Stephanie @ Books Less Travelled – Author Interview

Madisyn Carlin @ Madi’s Musings – Spotlight and Author Interview

Vanessa Hall – Music of Untold (In Which I Gift You with A Playlist!)

Friday, September 30

Katja L. @ Old-Fashioned Book Love – Spotlight and Review

Rachel Anne English – Review and Character Questionnaire (Nikolai)

Abby Burrus – Review

Issabelle Perry – Author Interview

Saturday, October 1

Saraina Whitney – Character Questionnaire (Molly)

Kayti – Review on Facebook and Instagram

Vanessa Hall – Wrapup + Giveaway Winners (And Exciting News!)

Thank you for agreeing to the interrogation interview, Vanessa! And Jonathan is one of my favorites, too.

Readers, how many books would you need for a six-week stay? I know fifteen wouldn’t be enough for me. What faith-related themes do you like to see in books?

Shattered Reflection + Broken Mirrors Cover Reveals

I’m excited to announce Shattered Reflection is part of the Broken Mirrors retelling collection, which releases this December.

What is Broken Mirrors?

The Broken Mirrors are six retellings of The Snow Queen by six different authors. You don’t want to miss any of them!

The blog tour runs December 19-24. We’d love for you to join us in celebrating the release of these frosty retellings. To learn more about the Broken Mirrors ARC options and the blog tour, go here. (Details are being added as you read this, so if there aren’t any up when you visit the page, check back later.)

SR1 is the monster of the group, meaning it’s significantly longer than the others. What else can you expect, though? The Snow Queen is a long, long story and SR1 has five povs.

*Please consider promoting more than just the one person you came here for. The point of a multi-author release is getting as many eyes on as many books as possible.

It’s Prize Time

Yep. There are some fantastic prizes up for grabs.

How to Enter (copied directly from Kendra Ardnek):

Now, the giveaway – like last year, we have two prizes for y’all to earn, two different ways, this next week only!

Method 1: Preorder all six books and email your receipt to me at This week only, they are all just 99 cents each, so grab ’em now!

Method 2: Share all six covers on your blog, Instagram, tumblr, newsletter, Facebook, etc, and send me a link to the same address. (though, if you’re sharing on Instagram stories, make sure I am tagged @fairytalearista and message me telling me that it’s an entry, before emailing me.) I have a folder of graphics and metadata for you to use – and more graphics will be added soon, I just haven’t finished them yet.!AjAmS-99p507gbNiJfX5DafQNiP8ag?e=FOUUPi


For doing one task: A PDF with a first peek at the first chapter of all six Broken Mirrors.

For doing both tasks: A free full ebook from one of our backlogs. The list you can choose from will be compiled shortly. You will still receive the first chapters as well.

The main page, blog tour sign-up, and ARC request form, will be compiled and added shortly.

Blogger’s note: IRON is included in this!


To be honest, I never expected this book to be fully written, let alone published. I wrote the first 18,000 words up camping, surrounded by squirrels, gray jays, lodgepole pines, allergies, and the fresh, clean mountain air. Then I tabled the story until, in January 2022, a random act of recklessness convinced me to try another go.

I ended up putting down 113,000 words in three months.

SR1 also landed me promises of death threats from beta readers (I have no idea why).

It releases December 21st.

The Official Blurb:

Can hope be found for four shattered souls?

Princess Nordica Icerri’s crown will be purchased with blood—her blood. Now the sole heir to the throne, she is determined to be the queen the Snowlands deserve, but that comes with a price: a numbed heart and soul. Only when she meets kidnapped physician Loren Alocer does Nordica allow herself to hope she can become queen without completely losing herself. But not everyone wants what’s best for the Snowlands, and Nordica’s upcoming rule is compromised at every turn. Can the criminal physician—and his faith—thaw Nordica’s heart, or is she destined to be the heartless queen she is being forced to become?

War shattered not only Breac Finson’s heart, but his faith as well. Tired of fighting, Breac only wants to be left alone, but his efforts are for naught when a friend calls in a favor. He soon finds himself in an unexpected alliance with Layree Alocer, a woman determined to find her wrongfully-kidnapped brother at all costs. Can a broken soldier help right a wrong—and find his faith again in the process?

Sides must be chosen and loyalties will be tested as a new war approaches. Can broken lives be mended in time to help save the Snowlands, or is evil already too deeply embedded?

Ebook Preorder sale: (Because I’ll be upping this little monstrosity’s price after release day.)

Add on Goodreads:

If you can’t participate in the blog tour, but would still like to ARC read SR1, go here: SR1 ARC Form. There is no rush at all, but if your review comes in before November 10th, I can put it in a “What Readers are Saying” page.

Fun Facts about SR1:

This was the first concept/aesthetic board I made.

Some things have changed (singular reflection, no wolf, and the tagline are different), but the concept remains. Betas will know who the characters are. (To see the cast of characters, go here.)

First Line:

For three years he’d worked to lock away the past, to keep it hidden and out of sight, thought, and memory.

Random Line:

Tandri gasped. “I am a perfect influence, thank you.”

Random Quote:

“Look, kid. I’m just an honest swindler trying to make a living.”

Notable Typos:

“A book to to the ribs.”

And calling my character “Mucus” instead of “Marcus”. (My poor, sweet boy. He didn’t deserve that.)

Why am I calling it “SR1”?

Because I’m weird and every book title in this series has the initials of S. R. . Thus, SR1.

This books is nothing like Frozen. I despise that movie.

This post does not adequately convey my excitement. I have waited so long for this day and I love this story dearly.

Have you ever read a fairy tale retelling? Which ones? Which was your favorite? Have you ever read the original Snow Queen story? If not, you should. It’s one of my favorites. What about SR1? Are you looking forward to it? What about the other books in the tour? Which ones catch your eye?

Book Review: McKenzie

“Desperate times call for desperate measures.”

Author: Penny Zeller

Series: Montana Skies, Book One

Publisher: Whitaker

“Desperate times call for desperate measures” is the reasoning that prompts McKenzie Worthington, a young lady of Boston’s high society, to respond to an ad for a mail-order bride for a man in the Montana Territory. McKenzie is desperate, after all, to save her beloved younger sister, Kaydie, from her evil, abusive husband, who robs banks for a living. And so, it is with reckless determination that McKenzie runs away from the comforts of home and hearth to head West and meet her new husband-whom she’ll divorce, of course, after she rescues her sister.

Desperate times call for desperate measures is the reasoning that also prompts Zachary Sawyer, a rugged rancher after God’s own heart, to post an ad for a mail-order bride in various newspapers across the country. Managing a ranch and caring for his adoptive son, Davey, has become more than one man can handle alone, and Zach prays for God to send him a wife with whom to build a life and share his dreams.

When McKenzie arrives at Zach’s ranch, she immediately puts her plan in motion, searching for her sister and doing all she can to keep her new husband from forming an attachment. But his persistent kindness and significant self-sacrifices begin to change her heart-and ruin her plans. God has a way of working things out to the good of those who love Him, though, as McKenzie and Kaydie will soon see.

If you enjoyed reading McKenzie, you won’t want to miss the sequels in this series: Kaydie and Hailee.


5 Stars


What lengths would you go to to save your sister?

That is the question McKenzie Worthington must ask herself when she learns of her sister’s dire predicament. The book’s tagline is, “Desperate times call for desperate measures,” and that is exactly what McKenzie does–enacts a desperate plan to save her beloved younger sister.

This is such a sweet, gentle story. Zeller does well crafting a variety of characters, from snotty siblings, loyal ranch hands and mentors, and a wonderful hero and adorable child. Of the main characters, I think Zach was my favorite, but just barely. Of the secondary, how can I choose? I want to snuggle Davey and Asa and Rosemary are gold. And Lucille. Oh, boy. Lucille is one of those supporting characters who provides oodles of humor, and her antics kept me laughing. She means well, but that doesn’t mean everything always goes according to plan.

McKenzie is chock full of good lessons, including honesty, love, the importance of true faith, and loyalty. I’ve seen some of the reviews complaining about McKenzie being selfish and spoiled, and yes, she was to certain degrees at first, but going after your sibling the way she did is the opposite of selfish. And Zeller really did craft a well-rounded character, and used McKenzie’s flaws to grow her.

I am quite looking forward to the next book and Jonah and Kaydie’s story.

In short, McKenzie is a sweet romance that I can easily envision being made into a movie similar to Love Comes Softly. Fans of Christian historical romance should add this book to their TBR.

What Readers Don’t Realize

Before chronic pain and illness crippled my grandma, she made the best treats and the cutest crafts. I’m not talking about cookies that merely tasted good or crafts that are cute only because they’re made by a loved one. What I’m referring to is award-winning desserts you almost hated to eat because they were stunning in appearance, even though you knew a delectable delight awaited you. Her crafts could have successfully sold in stores. Mema was more than a baker and a crafter. She was an artisan, a woman truly gifted both in the kitchen and in her craft room.

Until a few years ago, as I held her latest creation–a creation originating from her mind but a creation she could not make herself due to the pain and lack of use in her fingers–I never realized everything Mema put into the gifts she bestowed upon us.

I’ve noticed something similar between authors and readers. Unless a reader is an author (someone who has published), they will not understand how we strive to bring them the best book we can present and what that entails, and what goes into writing and publishing. I’d like to offer you, dear reader, a glimpse into an author’s life.

Publishing is an Act of Love

It really is. We put in uncountable hours writing, polishing, editing, polishing some more, and editing some more. We lose out on sleep, worry about whether our story is good enough, and if readers will like it. We just know something’s going to go wrong or we’ll miss a typo or a formatting error. We’re sleep-deprived, emotionally and mentally drained (living our own lives plus our characters’ lives is difficult). Late nights, stress, lack of sleep, and residing in two worlds or two centuries takes a toll on us, but we continue writing because we love it. It’s our passion.

There are Only so Many Tropes

I recently saw a review where the reader was complaining at length about how the book she was reviewing contained the same trope as another book by the author. What the reader failed to realize is there are only so many tropes. Authors don’t make the tropes, nor do we devise new ones. Instead, we take a trope and spin it in an unique way. That is how our creativity shines through.

Readers, please don’t complain about the trope not being “original”, meaning the author did not create the trope herself. In your reviews, please don’t complain about the utilized trope in general. Focus on how the author used the trope and put her own creative twist on it.

Books Take Years to Write

This piggybacks off the same issue: the reader complaining about the same trope in two of the author’s books. What this reader also refused failed to realize is those books were published seven years apart. Seven. Years. The author did not go, “Okay, I’ve written this book. Now I’m going to write another one with the same trope.” No, that’s not how writing a book works.

When you open a book, it may have been originally written a decade or a few years ago. By the time that manuscript was finished, the author moved on to another story. Then another. Then another. The author may have returned to the first story, polished it, and published it, or a publisher may have taken a century to inform the author they wanted the manuscript (this is quite common). If you read an author’s books and find the same tropes, please realize those books were not written back-to-back, and please don’t complain about it.

Publishing a Book is a Complicated, Lengthy, and Trying Process

Whether traditional or indie, publishing a book gives us gray hairs and wrinkles. For traditional publishing, it can take anywhere from two to three or four years for a book to be published. First the manuscript and proposal must be submitted via agent or, if the publisher is a smaller house, by the author herself. Then there’s a long waiting period that can span up to a year, if not longer. If the manuscript is then accepted, it goes through numerous different edits. The author may be asked to change scenes, add scenes, or even alter a character. Then it goes to the formatter as the cover designer works their magic. Then final edits, the author looking over it, and, finally, publication.

Indie publishing is even more intense in most instances. Unlike traditionally-published authors, indie authors don’t have a publishing house backing them, which means they must find their own cover designer, editor(s), formatter, and so on.

A lot of time goes into publishing a book. We’re trying. We really are. But there’s a hefty to-do list we must accomplish before releasing our books into the world.

No Book is Perfect: Please Don’t List the Book’s Typos in Your Review

Do you remember the saying, “No one is perfect”? The same concept applies to books. There will always be an issue, whether the writing style needs tightening, there are typos or grammatical errors, or formatting goes awry.

Please, please, please don’t list these issues in your review. Instead, approach the writer directly. Be polite, be respectful. We’re human and, despite our best efforts, can’t catch everything. Or, in a traditional author’s case, the editor is the final person who looks at it. Those typos may not be the author’s fault, but the editor’s.

Regardless of the responsible party, please realize listing the errors in reviews doesn’t help us.

We Don’t Expect Everyone to Like Our Books

While that would be nice, it’s impossible. We do expect, however, that you be respectful and follow the Golden Rule if you deem it necessary to write a review. Being a spiteful, vindictive meanie in your review leads possible readers to call your testimony into witness and it just makes you look bad.

Legitimate concerns in a review are fine. They really are. I respect reviewers who tastefully write low-star reviews. Downright hatefulness, on the other hand, is unacceptable.

Spoilers are our Kryptonite

Please, please don’t include spoilers in your review. I’m not talking about content warnings, but spoilers, which basically are the review version of Cliff notes. When you write spoilers, you tell readers to not bother purchasing our books because, “Here’s the book in a nutshell! No need to read or buy it, because I’m blabbing about everything that happens”.

I have flagged reviews for containing spoilers, and I will continue to do so. Authors can’t control what readers put in their reviews, but we have every right to flag a review if the review contains spoilers. Spoilers, after all, affect the amount of income we gain from our books.

We’re Humans Too

It’s a shocker, I know. But authors aren’t mindless automatons or programmed droids or robots who mechanically write and publish. We have feelings. We experience emotions. Words hurt us the same as they hurt you. Please remember that as you’re writing your reviews.

Reviews Make or Break Our Career

“But it’s just a review!”

To the contrary. It’s not. A review either recommends the book or warns readers away. If I wanted to submit a manuscript to a traditional publisher, one of the things they’d look at are the reviews for my previously-published books. If they see too many low-stars or if they see my overall rating is 3.2 or if a book’s overall rating is 2.3, they are more likely to pass. Readers will pass on a book if they see too many low-stars.

If you like a book, please review it. We need to know when readers enjoy the fruits of our labor. If you dislike a book, consider the reason for that dislike and please craft your review in the most respectful manner possible.

We Can’t Make a Living off Publishing

Very few authors can make a living off publishing. Most of us work at least two other jobs so we can survive. That $15.99 you paid? We receive a fraction of that. And I mean a fraction. A microscopic, itty-bitty, teensy-weency minutest amount. An author sells an indie ebook priced at $0.99…and receives $0.35 of that. It’s even less for traditional.

We don’t write for the money, because there’s often not a lot of money to be gained. Please don’t assume authors are rolling in greenbacks, because we’re not.

Publishing is Expensive

We print our manuscript, which uses paper, ink, and electricity. We hire editors, which can cost in the thousands. We hire cover designers if we want quality covers, which, again, costs a pretty penny. Then we publish the book.

If you’re traditionally published, the publisher and agent (if you have one) take a share of the earnings, as does the company through which the book is printed and dispersed. If you’re an indie author, we pay to have our books printed and shipped out along with paying the printer/dispenser. I paid around $550 for DECEIVED, and that’s cheap. I did my own formatting, found a reasonable cover designer (if you need a cover, go to Lynnett Bonner; I highly recommend her), and an editor that didn’t charge me an arm, leg, lungs, and kidneys.

We Know When a Review is Intentionally Being Cruel

Some of us don’t take the time to think before we write reviews. It happens. We authors understand that. We are also capable of detecting when reviewers are being intentionally malicious.

Again, we don’t begrudge tasteful low-star reviews. They’re part of life, and we accept that. We do, however, have an issue with readers who rant and rage.

We’re Baring our Souls and Hearts, Knowing They Might be Destroyed

We put uncountable hours, tears, pain, and stress into writing, only to publish the book and bare ourselves to the world. You see, a book always contains part of an author’s heart. This is a dangerous business, as it is more than likely our hearts and souls will be stomped on and obliterated. We’ve put everything into our books, and you, the reviewers and critics, decide whether or not a book will go far or dissolve into just another book no one wants to read.

This quote from Bilbo Baggins (LOTR, J.R.R. Tolkien) is fitting: ““It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.” Authors publishing their books embark on a dangerous business. We never know how it will be received.

Some Days We Want to Give Up

Some days we just want to call it quits. A lot of times, writing doesn’t seem worth it. That’s why words of encouragement mean so much. They tell us you appreciated our efforts to present a quality story.

Our Writing is a Way We Address and Grapple With Our Own Burdens

In my unpublished manuscript, Dark Secrets, I gave the main female character an issue I was struggling with at that time. Through her attempts to understand the whys and as she waded through the emotions that came with the painful circumstance, I realized I was addressing that very same pain in myself. If something feels so raw and real in a book, that may be because the author was facing the very same thing in her own life.

We Grow in Our Faith by Writing

My upcoming release, IRON, tackles trusting God in everything, even when His plans don’t align with ours. Another upcoming release, Shattered Reflection, walks characters through their own struggles in their faith. Elements from both IRON and SR are ones I’ve struggled with, and I’ve learned the same lessons the characters have..

Writing forces us to delve into the Bible and to turn our writing to Him. There can be so much depth to a simple scene discussing faith, or a paragraph where the character cries out to God. You don’t know what research we did to write that scene. You don’t know, don’t see, how God grows authors as we write.

Most Importantly, We Write to Glorify God

For Christian authors, writing is a way to bring glory to our Heavenly Father. It is an act of worship, Using our words we can extol His majesty, spread the Gospel, and tackle difficult topics we pray the Lord will use to touch a reader’s life. Through our writing we strive to honor God, to show the importance of His Word.

Authors, do you have anything to add? Readers, what were some things you didn’t realize?


Too Much Faith?

A Word About Writing Low-Star Reviews