Writing Endings and Saying Goodbye

Endings: one of the hardest parts of the writing process.

When you commit to writing a novel, you’re not just putting words on paper– you’re embarking on a journey. You’re diving into the hearts and minds of real human beings (even if they’re not biologically human– don’t give me that excuse) and seeing the world through their eyes, pushing them through the joys and hardships of life, watching them grow and bond and develop. Some live and some die. But even the best novel ever written has to end somewhere.

Of course, writing an ending doesn’t meant you’re saying goodbye for good– these are your characters, and this is your story, so they’ll be with you forever! But the same doesn’t exactly go for your readers; they’ll expect and want a good ending when it comes to that. So here are three tips to make your ending impact your reader as much as that long-ago first line.

#1: Coming Full-Circle

This is when the first line/beginning of your story ties in with the ending by including the same phrase or situation. I LOVE it when books come full-circle, especially with long series!

Here’s an example from Jill Williamson’s Mission League series (which I really recommend, by the way!):

Beginning: The first book opens with Spencer playing basketball with C-Rok and his “gang” in the park. This hook, while seemingly small in the long course of the four-book series, does serve to lead into the major events that bring Spencer into a new– and much more thrilling– chapter of his life.

End: The very last scene of book four at the end of the series brings Spencer back to the old park and once again playing a game with C-Rok and his boys. In this way, this series brought the story full-circle.

I had another example coming your way, but I conveniently forgot what it was while writing the above xD

#2: Waiting ’til the End

Here’s a don’t for endings… Please don’t wait until the last minute to tie up an alarming subplot or storyline or questions the reader might have. Please do that BEFORE the resolution of the story, or at least long enough before the very last scene that you don’t end up just telling the reader what really happened. Say you’re writing a romance story, and earlier on in the story someone disappeared in suspicious circumstances.

If the very last scene is a wedding or proposal scene (because let’s be honest here, most romance stories do end that way), it would be jarring for you to suddenly mention “and as it turned out, Bob had not died but in fact had just been taking a really long time at the grocery store” whether that be spoken directly or in the narrative. Readers become disgruntled when their questions aren’t answered in a timely fashion (or at least I do, especially when I don’t like super-sweet romantic ending scenes).

#3: Give room for further development

Remember, this may be the end of your story, but it’s far from the end of theirs.

Your characters will still keep living and growing even without their stories being committed to paper, or at least you can give the illusion of that by teasing into their future lives in your ending. I mean, you could just have a really big dramatic climax and then they calmly walk off the battlefield, but I’m sure we all prefer nice, solid, resolute endings where we can feel fully satisfied that the end is just the beginning.

It also gives the reader a nice, solid, resolute feeling of the story having actually ended– by not ending the characters’ lives (I mean that in the most figurative way possible). Every person continues growing and learning throughout every stage of their life– unless they don’t, but we’re using positive change arcs in this example– and single arcs are really just capturing one stage. That way, the readers can feel as if these characters are moving on to another.

And with that… the time has come for a rather bittersweet announcement.

This post is my last here on TotLS. I’ve had such a wonderful time among this community and the other three girls, and I’m so happy for this experience. But, yes, for multiple reasons, I’m officially leaving the TotLS team this week. I’ll still be posting on my personal blog, Imperial Scribis, and I’ll be putting up writing-related stuff from time to time, so come say hello!

But this is my goodbye on this amazing platform. So cheers, everyone, and don’t forget to always be a happy camper!

Until we meet again,

~ Merie Shen

How to write strong male characters & story contest winner

No, there is not a typo in the title. Today is not about strong female characters, but the wonderful male species.

A lot of Young Adult books nowadays are all about the strong female characters. The girl who has two boys pineing after her, a corrupt world to change, and the ability to die just after fulfilling her duty as the chose one.

So I thought I would shake things up a bit and present a different topic today. How to write strong male characters.

He has kindness

For this study I picked a book for each trait. Enter Adam Black from A List of Cages by Robin Roe.

Adam is a kind fellow with a big heart. He is a friend of everyone, cheering them up with a charming smile. And I think that’s one of the biggest things a strong man could have. The ability to be kind to everyone and to still find the magical scroll or something.

He is loyal

I can say his name without needing to offer out the title or author. Samwise Gamgee.

Not many people would stick by their friends’ side with an evil ring for a 1780 mile hike. Or help their friend after being betrayed and scorned.

Yet Sam offered many times to help his friend, sticking it out on the long trek, and even carrying the burden. Literally.

He isn’t Prince Charming

When I say, “not Prince Charming,” I don’t mean one scene where he admits he isn’t perfect or has a bad habit of being an overprotective boyfriend. I mean a literal flaw.

When I think flawed my mind jumps to Owen Edmonds from the Delusion series by Laura Gallier.

Owen is anything but perfect. He still has lust and selfishness and envy, even after being saved by Christ. Owen is stubborn and blinded by his disbelief. He admits to those flaws and tries to change, but it doesn’t take one dramatic death scene to change.

I could write another whole post about character flaws which fascinate me, but unfortunately I cannot at the moment.

What makes a flawed male character strong is when he finally overcomes those things, and still makes mistakes later down the road. Give your male character some anxiety, jealousy, some cowardliness for a change

He is determined

Charlie West anybody? Charlie West from The Homelanders series by Andrew Klavan is a personal favourite of mine.

He wakes up without memory of his past year, listening to his death sentence outside the locked room. What does he do? He fights back.

Charlie gets beaten down and can easily give up, he doesn’t! He recites Churchhill in his head, telling himself to never give in, in nothing, great or small, large or petty- never give in. Never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.

And when it seems like the whole country is against him, Charlie keeps fighting for justice.

That is the kind of male character I want to read about. The boy who keeps doing what is right despite all the wrong around him. The boy who toils day and night to make a difference.

He is a defender and protecter

Another brilliant character from Andrew Klavan, this boy being a ‘preacher’s kid,’ Sam Hopkins.

Sam stands up to some bullies defending a crazy girl Jennifer. He is like, left on the side of road two steps away from death. But even when things get really weird and stuff, he is still around to protect and defend the innocent.

Now I know lots of you were more eager to find out if you won opposed to the writing of a male characters.

For this writing contest we teamed up with the lovely ladies Lila Kims, Oceane McAllister, Skye Hoffert, and Hannah Dragina who had won the last contest.

Our topic for the stories was fractured fairytales, in which we assigned a fairytale to each contestant.

So now without further ado, I present the winner:

Congratulations to Abigail McKenna! We all loved your story so much. The judges will contact you with the prize sometime soon.

And to all of the others that entered, your stories were also wonderful! Don’t forget to keep an ear out for the next season as it’s right around the corner.

Have a lovely day everyone!

First Chapter Formula

Hello dear readers! Today I am sharing the results of my research on the topic of writing the first chapter.

I recently tackled the first chapter of my book because what I had previously written as my first chapter was, in a word, boring.

To combat this I read the first chapter of several of my favorite books and took notes on what they included. Once I got about six books in I began to notice a pattern. Then I checked my notes against 9 more books. I read the first chapter of 15 total books and came up with the following “formula”. Formula is used loosely in this context, of course, because when it comes to art, rules are made to be broken. But this “formula” is tried and true and can be used as a great springboard for your story.

Most of the books had most of, if not all of, the following things:

Main Character’s Personality:

Arguably the most important thing to showcase in any first chapter is your main character’s personality. If you will be writing from several point of views, you may or may not want to introduce this in the first chapter, but make sure your reader starts to get an idea for who the main character is. One book that does this really well is 100 Days of Sunlight by Abbie Emmons. (you can read my review here if you haven’t already). She makes sure to showcase Tessa’s fierce independence very quick;y so that the readers know who Tessa is and what her struggles are.

An Average Day:

Eleven of the fifteen book I studied began with the main character going about an average day. One example of this is Cinder by Marissa Meyer. When we first see Cinder she is living her normal life. Struggling with her cybernetic limbs, working her stall in the market, and generally having a rough time. Which brings me to the third part of the formula…

Main Character is Dissatisfied:

This is another common component of first chapters. The MC is living their normal life, but they are often dissapointed in one way or another. Take The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan. We see Percy Jackson on a school field trip, a relatively normal activity, but for Percy as a character, he hates it. He hates school in general, he’s getting picked on and he is not happy with that aspect of his life. This is often a bridge to…

Internal Conflict:

Something commonly introduced in first chapters is the internal conflict of the main character. Even if it’s only hinted at, this aspect of the first chapter, if included, is a great way to keep readers interested in your story. Internal conflict is what makes readers relate to and empathize with the main character, so its often used as a hook right at the beginning of a story. For example, in Keeper of the Lost Cities by Shannon Messenger. We see Sophie, on a field trip and not exactly happy about it (I just now realized how its kinda like The Lightning Thief). We instantly see Sophie’s desire to belong, to be a part of something, to fit in. It acts as a very effective hook.


Next up is introducing the main conflict. This is very common to introduce in the first chapter, since it sets the tone for the whole book. Maybe it’s a glimpse of a larger problem to come, maybe it goes as far as including the inciting incident.

Sometimes the conflict introduced doesn’t relate directly to the main conflict, but it causes suspense anyway, which can help convince a reader to keep reading.

One example of this is in Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli. When Stargirl, a quirky new girl, shows up at Micah High School, there’s a noticeable buzz. Everyone is whispering about her in the halls, and the other students aren’t quite sure what to do with her. This sets up the events of the whole book, since the main conflict is the school’s reaction to Stargirl’s eccentricities.

Something Unique:

Every story brings something to the table that no other book has done before, or at least presents something in a different way. Advertising this in the first chapter is used as a hook in many stories.

As an example, these are the first few lines of I’d Tell You I Love You But Then I’d Have To Kill You by Ally Carter:

“I suppose a lot of teenage girls feel invisible sometimes, like they could just disappear. Well, that’s me – Cammie the Chameleon. But I’m luckier than most because, at my school, that’s considered cool.

I go to a school for spies.”

This is obviously an unusual thing. I mean, I don’t know about you, but I don’t go to a school for spies (or do I?). It’s worth mentioning that these first few lines also serve the purpose of introducing the internal conflict, how Cammie feels invisible. Which makes them ingenious in my opinion, but I digress.

This “unique aspect” can be a situation the character is in, like in the quote above. It can be a part of the world, like in The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud. It can be a writing style like in Heist Society by Ally Carter. You know what makes your story unique, embrace it!

And Everything Else…

The rest of these things showed up less often in my research, but might also be fun to include:

  • Introduction of the main love interest
  • Introduction of other major characters (family, best friends, mentor, etc.)
  • Backstory
  • A prolouge
  • Main character’s hobby
  • Allusion to future events
  • Allusion to past events
  • Big, mysterious questions

Here’s the thing about this “formula”: ignore it if you want to. Or ignore parts of it. Don’t start your book one way or another because other people do it that way. As Merie said last week, You Do You. If you want to start your book out by blowing up the Earth, do it. Including the things I mentioned above can be helpful, and there is nothing wrong with using any or all of them, but in the end, your story is your story. And no one knows how to tell it but you.

Until next time,

Publishing young | What I learned

Publishing young is an ideal for many young writers. There is a pressure to not only finish writing a book, but to release it to the world by a self-set deadline. And some young writers, like myself, do just that. But at what cost?

Why do we feel the need to rush to publication? Because the dream of having beautifully bound pages filled with your story is an exciting one. I for one couldn’t wait to have readers to call my own. I daydreamed of fanart, book signings, and sequels. I wanted to be a published author, and I wanted to make that come true as fast as possible.

Unfortunately for my smol infp-t self, my aspirations were a bit unrealistic–especially for a fourteen year old publishing her first novel. I made a lot of mistakes and later on have realized what I should’ve done, so these are the experiences and takeaways I will bestow upon you today.

Publishing the first novel you have ever written isn’t the brightest idea.

The exception is if you wrote your first novel, wrote a few more, then came back to your first idea and majorly revised it with more experience. Even this doesn’t always work, but it can.

This can be really hard to accept, especially if you’re absolutely in love with your book and can’t understand why it should be kept to yourself. And you don’t have to keep it to yourself… let family and friends read it if you want. Recruit a team of beta readers or find critique partners to give you feedback. There is nothing wrong with sharing your story and learning and growing.

But publishing is about putting your best work out for readers to be impacted by and enjoy. Readers pay money and commit time to reading a book. If you plan to have a career as an author, you want to make a good first impression. So selling your first attempt at something likely won’t live up to their expectations for what a good novel is, and you’ll likely feel disappointed later on.

And there’s no need to. You don’t need to be young to succeed in the publishing world. You need to start writing and stay committed, but you should be focusing on learning how to write well instead of expecting to master it on the first try. Of course, you’ll never write a perfect book, but you’re fifth novel will be a whole lot better than your first. So keep on writing new books, experiment with different techniques, and find your writing voice. Learn something new in every scene you write.

Edit. Edit. Edit.

Don’t think that your novel only needs a couple rounds of edits and it’ll be good to go.

Because editing isn’t just about grammar and typos! (shocker) It takes hard work and lots of time to sort through all the plot holes, character development issues, and world building deficiencies. It would be impossible to go through your novel two or three times and catch all the errors. Shannon Messenger drafted Keeper of the Lost Cities twenty times before it was published. Her efforts and persistence definitely show.

There isn’t a need to rush through edits. Take a break between drafts and editing rounds. Give yourself time to step back and evaluate your work from a different perspective. If you scrunch all your later drafts, revisions, and edits into a two month period, chances are they won’t be very thorough.

Though you can do your best, you can’t rely on yourself for all your edits. Find beta-readers! Ask a writer friend if they want to swap manuscripts for critique. Don’t be afraid to ask for help–the writing community has got your back. Whether or not you’re publishing your book, getting advice from other writers and readers can definitely help you improve in the craft.

Recruit Professionals

At the time Hide and Seek was first released, I had done almost everything myself–the editing, formatting, cover design, and launch tour. Bad, bad choice.

I thought that I had the editing skills to make my book nearly perfect and an editor would be of no use to me. No, frens, no. I haven’t hired any editors yet, but I know now that every self-published author should get one. Your own editing, and your friends’, can only go so far. An editor is experienced and unbiased, and they are wonderful beings who make messy manuscripts shine. It is a worthy investment that I plan to make when I next publish a book.

Cover design is key. I later on realized that the cover I made on Canva sucked, so I hired a cover designer to make a new one. She made a great cover for a good price, and I totally should’ve done that from the start. People do judge a book by its cover, so don’t expect to sell a book with your amateur design skills slapped on the front. Find something that’ll appeal to your target audience.

If you’re feeling discouraged, don’t be! This seems like a lot, but it’ll be worth it. Keep on pushing through that outline or draft or editing round. Lose and find yourself in the stories that call you to put them to paper. There is no shame in being a learner or a beginner. Enjoy and savor this season in your writing life.

Stay safe, and find loveliness in the everyday things. 🙂

When Writing: You Do You

Suggestions and tips and advice and all that are helpful and whatnot, but when it comes to looking at your own story and deciding where to use them and where not to– well, that can be a problem.

For example, I just used the word and six times in the above sentence. Add the but, you have seven conjunctions. There are people all over the world who would die if they saw something like that happen in a book.

There are people who would die if you decided to put a love triangle in your book, or if you killed your main character, or if you set your historical fantasy in 1836 Sweden. There are people who will tell you to do this, don’t do that, and for heaven’s sake remember not to ever use the word very unless you absolutely must! They will die otherwise.

But here’s a secret…

They won’t die.

Unless, of course, a serial killer uses grammar rules to their advantage, in which case you may as well disregard the rest of this post, considering a person’s life is a great deal more important than your next book. *throws hands up* I’m sorry, but it’s true. It may be hard for us artists to admit that there’s a world outside our own sometimes, but believe me, you’d regret not taking this seriously.


I’m not saying that you should punctuate every other sentence with a very and an exclamation point. No, that’s just plain annoying and you’ll give yourself a headache. I’m also not saying that you should completely ignore any advice fellow authors, published or otherwise, throw your way– because first of all, what would be the point of this post since I’m technically giving you writing advice, and second, that’s not a very smart idea. People really do have good advice, and you should take it to heart.

But only if it will make your writing better.

For example… my personal writing style is kind of, well, old-fashioned. I like third-person omniscient and using outdated fancy words and giving a narrator’s input into the story. Until, like, last year, I was under the impression that omniscient, since it was so underused and all that, is supposed to be this untouchable, sacred art that only the greatest of the great (read: classics) are allowed to use. Which of course I realize is rubbish; anyone can try their hand at it and see if it suits them. And now, I realize that it does indeed suit me, very well, even if I certainly don’t talk like that in real life. For me, an omniscient narrator seems to create a sort of personal bond with the audience– I would say it’s like the narrator becomes friends with the reader first, and then the reader starts to care for the characters because the way the narrator describes them is that charming.

I’m using this as an example because, sadly, 3rd-person limited and 1st person have become the ruling POV styles in literature. There is nothing wrong with that, of course, but there’s always that awkward moment when someone leaves out omniscient as a viable writing option. I’m telling you, if you love omniscient, do it and join the club.

What about tropes? Sigh.

What about tropes? Tropes are tropes, nice and useful little things that no book is without. Clichés are different in the way that they are using a trope the same exact way over and over again and trust me, that’s one thing readers do NOT enjoy reading. Because cliché isn’t you. You have your own style of writing, your own characters, your own storyworld and specific message to share through your writing. Art is all about self-expression. You’re not going to express anything if you copy someone else’s message down to every last plot device. That will leave the readers feeling dissatisfied and wondering what they even gained from your story, if it’s the exact same story that 100 other writers have told in the same year.

So, you do tropes your way. Wanna flip a love triangle on its head and kill the central character? Do it. Turn the love interest into a villain instead of the other way around? Feel free. Kill your main character? PULL A VERONICA ROTH AND HAVE NO REGRETS.

As a Christian, I just wanna say to all my fellow Christian writers– if God put a story on your heart, then tell it your way. The beautiful thing is that the same message can be shared so differently in so many fresh, unique perspectives. Cool, huh? That’s why we like art. It’s your little gift so use it wisely.

Also remember, the world don’t need Christian literature, it needs Christians writing good literature. Thanks for that, C.S. Lewis. So if you don’t want to mention God every other page in your story, you don’t have to. On the other hand, if you for some reason wanna preach at your reader, then… *whispers* your loss *backs away* (I mean, if writers preach, then what are preachers for?)

This post is already getting long, and I’m sure you’ve got the gist of it by now. So remember: when writing, you do you. PLEASE, PLEASE DO carefully consider every piece of advice and feedback people give you if you trust them. If you don’t, then… just please don’t take that attitude. Practice discernment and pray for wisdom. The end. *bangs gavel*

Always be a happy camper,

~ Merie

So the story isn’t coming to you, huh?

Writing is basically finding different ways to combine 26 letters into a clear meaningful story. So why do we writers find it so difficult to write a story?

Well, because we humans don’t like to take the easy route. As a Masterclass advertisement from Neil Gaiman said, “Writing a book is like driving through the fog with one headlight out.” And I must agree with that.

Writing is hard and stressful. But it’s also a perfect way to unwind and relax. So let’s suppose that you have hit that mythical beast known as Writer’s Block. Or maybe you’ve been procrastinating writing a certian scene. Or can’t think of what should happen next.

You have come to the right place my friends! I, Carlye Krul, is offering you free advice with the purchase of one like.

So, what is this ‘advice’ I speak of? Well… *rubs hands together eagerly*

Slay the beast

There is no better way to combat writers block then to physically kill it. Now, this is not a prompt to go kill your hamster that keeps distracting you. No no no.

Figure way the inspiration isn’t hitting you. It could be an annoying character (I’m looking at you Rowan), a scene that doesn’t seem right, or your plot isn’t thick enough there. Whatever the problem may be, figure out the solution. Hopefully that solves the issue.

Go hunting for inspiration

No, this isn’t an excuse to look at memes on Pinterest for seven hours. You are permitted to use Pinterest for novel related ideas only. Make yourself a board with photos that display the majesty of the novel.

For those talented in the music industry, create a playlist for a character or scene. That should get the inspo flowing.

Or, you could even do something that your characters do. Within a limit of course. I’m fairly certain my parents wouldn’t let me sneak out of the house in the dead of night to go skateboarding. But instead you could do something else fun. Go overthrow the government or cut your hair with a knife in a single slash. The possiblities are endless!

Get out of the house

This is me being a hypocrite sitting at my desk even though it’s amazing weather outside and I’m not quarantined.

But if you’ve been sitting and staring at your computer’s blank document, I would advise you to get out and do something different. Now we introverts find peace in staying home.

Sadly, I must say that even the biggest of hermits should get some fresh air. Go take a walk or a jog or a run or whatever verb you want to use. Maybe call up your friends and hang out with them. Or you could chill by yourself with a book in the sunshine.

So there are three lovely ways in which you could get writing again. I apologize in advance of none of the methods work, I’m sorry, but hopefully they do.

Now everyone, have a lovely day and stay healthy!

3 Pacing Tips

Hello dear readers! I’m excited to say that there is officially 100 people following us here on TotLS! Thanks to all you lovely people!

On another note, today we’re talking about the basics of pacing. When I read other people’s writing, especially those who are just starting out, pacing is often overlooked. Don’t feel bad if your pacing is off, no one’s writing is perfect all the time. I struggle with pacing scenes all the time, but if it’s done right it can change stories for the better.

#1 Sentence Length

Sentence length is key to pacing. As a general rule, longer sentences are best used in slower scenes and shorter sentences are best in faster scenes.

Think about what movies show during intense fight scenes. They show attacks, short bursts of activity. The camera doesn’t stop and zoom in on a tree in the background, it stays focused on the action.

When you go into a scene try and think of what you’re trying to convey.

#2 Sometimes… Do the Opposite

Sometimes shortening or lengthening sentences doesn’t work for specific instances.

For example, lets say you’re writing a slow scene. Maybe a character and their love interest are just sitting and talking. Maybe as they’re talking one leans closer. In order to draw attention to the reaction of the other character, you could shorten the sentences.

They sat together, talking about nothing and everything. Somehow, in the midst of the conversation, she didn’t notice how close he had gotten.

Her heart beat faster. Her cheeks heated up. Their eyes met.

Is it cliché? Yes. But it gets the point across. In order to bring attention to a specific instance within the slow scene, I shortened the sentences. This contrast shows importance.

It works for fast scenes as well. Say a protagonist is fighting a small group of pirates (or something). During the fight, an important object falls out of their bag. In a movie, it would slow down and zoom in as the object falls. We can achieve a similar effect in writing by lengthening sentences.

One of them drew a sword. I drew my own, just in time. He stabbed. I parried. He slashed again and I jumped back.

Although I remained uninjured, the blade cut through the strap of my satchel. I tried to catch it, but it hit the deck. It’s contents spilled out, and the amulet glinted, almost tauntingly, as it slid away.

The amulet is obviously important, for some reason, and by taking the time to describe it in the midst of a high pressure situation it conveys that to the reader.

#3 Conflict & Cause and Effect

The past two tips have been about pacing in individual scenes. However, pacing also applies to the plot as a whole. How fast important scenes happen in comparison to other scenes is very important.

However… there is not one way to pace a story as a whole. My best tip is to always think about the cause and effect of a scene. Important events have important effects. However, they also have smaller, more personal effects. After a big battle between two sides of a war, for example, will have political impacts and effect entire countries. But, if someone close to your main character is injured in the battle, it is likely they will want to address that before the large-scale effects. This will balance out the pacing because it will have a fast paced scene followed by a slow paced scene which will make the story flow nicely and the pacing even out.

That’s all I have for you guys today! If you have more tips on pacing, drop them in the comments, I’d love to see what you guys think!

Until next time,

The dying art of reading.

How many times have you walked into a library this past month? How many times have you sat down somewhere and just read for an hour? How often do you catch yourself thinking about books?

Let’s be honest, fairly often. But only because the readers here are probably book worms.

In actuality though, books and the action of reading is slowly becoming outdated. People, myself included, enjoy sitting down Friday night to watch a movie or scrolling mindlessly through your phone. Not many people these days can admit that they’ve read for an entire day or spent all their money at the bookstore.

Let’s be real, books are a dying art.

Some people believe that in twenty years libraries won’t exist anymore. Why get the physical copy and spend the time driving there when you can just download it from your kindle? Or even better, why bother spending money on a book.

You could buy clothes or food with the money. Don’t waste it on something you might hate.

Why read the book when you can just watch the movie? It’s the same, right? I don’t want to spend all day inside staring at words on a page, I’d rather look at a pixelated screen for ninety minutes.

I don’t want it to be that way. And I bet some of you would agree with me.

So today, let us collectively agree to never let books run dry. Start book clubs up at school, even if that means reading books that are at a lower level. Introduce easy-to-read chapter books to younger children. If you start them out at an early age, they could learn to love it.

And I know what it sounds like, you can’t force others to love books anymore than you can force me to like country music. But… you can spread your influence and hope that the little seed of bookish love you plant will blossom into a wonderful book-filled flower.

So I say to you, recommend your favourite books to others, drag friends into the library, and never watch the movie before reading the book.

Book Review: The Blood Spell by CJ Redwine

Blue de la Cour has her life planned: hide the magic in her blood and continue trying to turn metal into gold so she can help her city’s homeless. But when her father is murdered and a cruel but powerful woman claims custody of Blue and her property, one wrong move could expose her—and doom her once and for all. The only one who can help? The boy she’s loathed since childhood: Prince Kellan.
Kellan Renard, crown prince of Balavata, is walking a thin line between political success and devastating violence. Newly returned from boarding school, he must find a bride among the kingdom’s head families and announce his betrothal—but escalating violence among the families makes the search nearly impossible. He’s surprised to discover that the one person who makes him feel like he can breathe is Blue, the girl who once ruined all his best adventures. When mysterious forces lead to disappearances throughout Balavata, Blue and Kellan must work together to find the truth. What they discover will lead them to the darkest reaches of the kingdom, and to the most painful moments of their pasts.
When romance is forbidden and evil is rising, can Blue save those she loves, even if it costs her everything?

Hello dear readers! I haven’t done a book review in a while, but I recently read The Blood Spell by CJ Redwine. I fell in love with the characters, the plot, the world-building, and the uniqueness of it. It’s unlike any Cinderella retelling I’ve read.

The Blood Spell is the fourth book in The Ravenspire Series, a series of standalone fairytale retellings, which means they aren’t necessary to read in order. Each book takes place in a different kingdom in the same world. Even though each book has a new set of characters, there are fun cameos throughout the series, so the past main characters are not forgotten. This does mean that if you read them out of order, you may not recognize the cameos when they happen. The books are still understandable on their own, but it can be fun to read them in order just to smile when the old characters show up again.

The first book, The Shadow Queen, is a Snow White retelling. The second, The Wish Granter, Is a Rumpelstiltskin retelling. The third, The Traitor Prince, is a retelling of The Prince and the Pauper. Finally, as I mentioned above, The Blood Spell is a Cinderella retelling.

Looking back on the series, it is my opinion that The Blood Spell is by far the best book. The Shadow Queen is good, but does have cliche elements. The Wish Granter is better, probably my second favorite of the series, I love the characters in it. The Traitor Prince is also good, the world-building was really interesting. They are all worth reading, but when the first three books are compared to The Blood Spell… there isn’t much competition for me.

The Blood Spell is a truly beautiful novel. Main characters Blue and Kellan are both unique and have a lot of depth. Blue is passionate, yet compassionate, which is a welcome change from some popular YA protagonists. She is also really relatable, both because of her personality and the fact that she loves food and hates mornings. Prince Kellan seems like a charming prince that doesn’t let anything get to him, because that’s a necessary facade to keep up in the nobility. However, he has really sweet and caring personality and will do anything for those he loves. He’s reckless at the beginning of the story, but seeing him develop as a character and a person was one of my favorite parts of reading this book.

The romance between Blue and Kellan is wonderfully done, and CJ Redwine, as a Christian, keeps it clean and enjoyable. Its one of the best romances I’ve read in a long time, and it incorporated so wonderfully into their character arcs and the plot. Blue and Kellan have known each other since they were kids, but do not get along at the beginning of the book. Their teasing banter had me laughing out loud on several occasions. I loved watching them get rid of the assumptions they made about each other and then falling in love. It was so, so fun and left me with a warm and fuzzy feeling inside. Honestly, the whole book left me with a warm and fuzzy feeling inside.

The side characters were interesting as well, the most prominent two being Nessa (Kellan’s little sister) and Blue’s Grandmother. I loved both of these characters and what they added to the story. Especially Nessa, who is fierce in her own way, has an adorable relationship with her older brother, and made up her own sign language? Yes, that’s right, she’s that cool.

Another thing I loved about this book is how the plot was so developed and intriguing that the Cinderella aspects felt like they added a new layer to the plot. Rather than making up the entire plot, and therefore making it predictable, they felt necessary and unique. From the “evil stepmother” to the “fairy godmother” to the slippers Blue wears to the ball, everything has a true purpose and brings new aspects to the story.

The world-building was also intriguing, and I loved how we got to see two vastly different sides of the kingdom from Blue and Kellan’s different point of views. Blue is a commoner that is aware of the problem that Balavata (the kingdom) is having with the people, often orphans, that are living on the street. Her heart for the homeless not only reveals her character but also details of daily life in Balavata. Kellan, on the other hand, is the crown prince. He is aware of the problems the country has at large, especially with the nine “head families”, who make Kellan’s life pretty difficult. The best part of having both of these point of veiws, is that Blue and Kellan share these views with each other, which makes each of them more understanding of the kingdom as a whole, and more understanding of each other.

I could honestly go on forever about all the amazing qualities of this book. In fact, the other day Merie asked me if I had anything negative to say about it, and I was surprised to say that I didn’t. I rate it 5 out of 5 stars, and I recommend it to absolutely everyone.

Quick reminder that if you are participating in the short story contest, stories are due by March 12. Its coming up quickly! I can’t wait to read everyone’s entries as they come in!


Until next time,

Author Interview: Bethany Atazadeh

Greetings! Are any of you fans of fairytale retellings? Well, Bethany Atazadeh is the author of an amazing fairytale-inspired series–and I had the opportunity to interview her! I’m so glad, because I had a wonderful time reading her answers and I think you will too.

Have you always been interested in fairytales? 

Absolutely. I grew up on Disney’s version of fairytales! The first retelling I remember reading though was The Lunar Chronicles, which was also the series that inspired me to try writing again.

The Lunar Chronicles is amazing! Are there any other fairytales you want to retell in the future?

I have a few favorites that didn’t fit the current four-book-series. Those would be fun to retell. I could probably continue writing retellings as long as people wanted to read them lol.

I know I’d want to read them! Are there any underrated fairytales you would like to see more retellings of?

I haven’t seen any Pocahontas retellings yet – that would be so cool! I really wanted to include that one in my series, but I couldn’t get the storyline to fit.

You had to do what was best for the series. 😉 Which character in The Stolen Kingdom is the most difficult to write?

Funny enough, I’d say Arie. A lot of the other characters are so different from me naturally, so they feel easier to write. While Arie is more similar, so I have to work harder to make sure she’s her own person versus an imitation of me. I don’t want to write myself into every story, so I have to take time to make sure she’s different from me and well-rounded.

I can totally relate. Great protagonists are hard to write, especially when they’re similar to you. Which character in The Stolen Kingdom is the most fun to write?

Gideon for sure! He has so much depth and also his magical abilities are fun—I feel like I‘m still getting to know him but he also feels real to me. He’s so easy to write.

Powerful, mysterious characters are really fun! What was your favorite setting to create in The Stolen Kingdom series so far?

Hmm, probably the Mere underwater world. I don’t really plot my worlds beforehand, I’ve become a “pantser” in that area, and so it was really fun to discover the world as I wrote The Jinni Key.

It was really cool to read about! I loved the little details that made the world seem real. Do you find happy or sad scenes the most difficult to write and edit? 

I haven’t noticed that either of those are harder or easier to write or edit honestly. The hardest scenes for me are the ones where I know that I have plot holes/issues, but I haven’t yet figured out how to fix them. Those drive me crazy!

Unsolved plot holes are such a pain. What was the most important thing you learned while writing your last book?

To take my time. I wanted to do “fast releases” or “rapid releases” of this series, so that readers wouldn’t have to wait to find out what happened. While I did write the first draft of the whole series, I didn’t realize how much more editing they would need. (Or maybe I did, but I just thought I could do it faster.) It was doable but it made for a lot of sleepless nights, which is not the type of author life I want to have. Now I’m realizing that if I take extra time, it lets me (and the story) breathe between edits. It lets me step back long enough to get some distance and see if it’s working. The whole experience is more fun because it’s less rushed. It’s important to enjoy the journey and not just race headlong toward a destination lol!

That’s advice I needed when I wrote my first book. Are there any common pieces of writing advice you disagree with?

I’ve always felt frustrated whenever I hear a phrase that starts with “your story has to have ____.” Whatever it is. Whether it’s a style thing, a character or world thing, a preference based thing, expectations put on us by readers, or even little stuff like a specific number of chapters… All of those things might be good, and there might be good reason for them, but sometimes breaking the “rules” makes the best art. Like how chapter one in The Cruel Prince by Holly Black has one sentence. I love that! It’s always good to learn the rules, but a story doesn’t “have to” have anything in my opinion: take creative license and write the story YOU want to tell! If anyone ever tried to tell me my story “should have” something, I’d tell them, “No, that sounds like a story YOU need to write.”

Yes, if every story contained the same elements they wouldn’t be unique! You’ve talked about how The Lunar Chronicles inspired you. Just curious… which is your favorite ship?

Haha that’s so funny because I mentioned it in the beginning. Hmm, I’m not picky, so I have a lot lol… One of my faves is definitely Kestrel and Arin in The Winner’s Curse. That’s a really underrated series! I also enjoy Jude and Cardan from The Cruel Prince series. 🙂

I haven’t read either of those series, but I also have a lot of ships! Arie and Kadin being one. 😉 Thank you so much for joining me today!

About Bethany Atazadeh

Bethany Atazadeh is a Minnesota-based bestselling author of YA novels, children’s books, and non-fiction. With her degree in English with a writing emphasis, she coaches other writers on both YouTube and Patreon, helping them write and publish their books. Bethany is obsessed with stories, chocolate, and her corgi puppy, Penny.

Website: www.bethanyatazadeh.com
Patreon: www.patreon.com/bethanyatazadeh
Instagram: @authorbethanyatazadeh
Facebook: @authorbethanyatazadeh
Twitter: @bethanyatazadeh
YouTube: www.youtube.com/bethanyatazadeh

The Stolen Kingdom

How can she protect her kingdom, if she can’t protect herself?

Princess Arie never expected to manifest a Jinni’s Gift. When she begins to hear the thoughts of those around her, she hides it to the best of her ability. But to her dismay, the Gift is growing out of control.

When a neighboring king tries to force her hand in marriage and steal her kingdom, discovery becomes imminent. Just one slip could cost her throne. And her life.

A lamp, a heist, and a Jinni hunter’s crew of thieves are her only hope for removing this Gift–and she must remove it before she’s exposed. Or die trying.

The Stolen Kingdom is a loose “Aladdin” retelling. Set in a world that humans share with Mermaids, Dragons, and the elusive Jinni, this isn’t the fairytale you remember…

(review on my personal blog)

Have you added Bethany’s books to your tbr yet? You won’t want to miss out–these books are going places.

Also, story contest entrants: don’t forget to submit your stories by the 12th!

Have a beautiful day. 🙂