5 Books on My Reading List

Here are some books I’ll be reading/reviewing soon. These are in no particular order, so stay with me.

1. Warrior of the Wild

Warrior of the Wild by [Tricia Levenseller]

I read this one a night ago and will be doing a review of it on Youtube here soon. I didn’t put it down after I started it. Can’t wait to tell you all what I think. It was great, it was stellar. Simple, compelling, and easy to read.

2. Somnium

SOMNIUM Beyond the Darkness by [A.D. Sterling]

I saw this one on my twitter feed and I’m interested to see what’s in it. It looks like it might be dark fantasy? It really have no idea based on the book blurb. There’s no genre indicators there so it might be entirely mundane, horror, surreal, or fantasy. Not sure, but interested to find out.

3. Gideon The Ninth

Gideon the Ninth (The Locked Tomb Trilogy Book 1) by [Tamsyn Muir]

I heard this one described to me as lesbian necromancers in space. I was of course like bring it on. So, I’m interested to see where this one will go. I’m a few chapters in at the moment and I’m dying to finish (pun intended).

4. Heart of Obsidian

Heart of Obsidian: A Psy-Changeling Novel by [Nalini Singh]

This one looks like it’s going to be thoroughly problematic. I’m excited to see if it proves to be just as troublesome as it looks. It’s supposedly a villain-falls-in-love-with-protag story and I’m expecting I’ll be disappointed, but maybe I’ll be pleasantly surprised. That’s half the fun, now isn’t it?

5. Save the Cat! Writes a Novel

Save the Cat! Writes a Novel: The Last Book On Novel Writing You'll Ever Need by [Jessica Brody]

It’s the book that has everyone in the writing industry chatting like crazy. So, I guess I will succumb to their whims and partake in this event. But more seriously, I expect that I’ll read this one piecemeal and since it is a technical books I suspect that I’ll be reviewing it in chunks.

An Offer of Review

Are you a self-published or traditionally-published author that wants some more reviews? Message me on Twitter and I’ll put it on my next reading list. Trust me, it doesn’t take me long to read through something if I’m having fun.

Reviews writing

Beta Readers: Work Shouldn’t Be Free

Ah, as a writer I know things are tight for all of us. We aren’t paid nearly enough for the work we do and it wrecks me to know that I’ll make so little return for my sweat and tears. But you know what else irks me? The stigma against paying good and honest workers. So, let’s talk about Beta readers and why their work shouldn’t be free.

Beta Readers, A Debate

Beta reading is a passion, but it’s also a job. This post by Nat Russo is enough to prove that. The post is 4 Things Every Writer Should Know About Beta Readers and I was quite enjoying what the article had to say about Beta reading. Yes, you need to be specific with your beta readers. Check. Yes, you need to look for good beta readers and develop a relationship with them.

But then I stopped dead in my tracks.

“Under NO circumstances should you agree to pay a beta reader. That’s simply not how it’s done. If someone approaches you to beta read your work and tells you they’ll do so for a fee, run in the opposite direction.”

Nat Russo

I reread it.

I mean, I know that this has been a charged topic for a while in the industry. But here, in an article with such a business-like and driven tone, to see this blatant disregard for paying people for their labor I was taken aback.

If you’re sending your document to a Beta reader you’ve done everything you can possibly do in your own power to make it better and now you need someone (I agree with Russo in that is should be a fellow writer if possible) to go over it with unbiased eyes. You need a beta reader. And if they’re expected to take hours out of their day to read over and break down your work, how is that not a job worth paying for?

The Policy Of Not Paying Passion

Wouldn’t it be worth paying someone for that kind of time? They’re giving you their time and, if they really are a fellow writer, they’re giving you time they could have spent on their own projects. I don’t wanna hear the they should do it for the skill they’ll gain or that they’re paid in the pleasure they get from their work arguments. That justification is the very thing that keeps creators from getting paid in real wages. Somehow people think that satisfaction will pay the bills. If only, if only.

Don’t believe me? Don’t believe that people try this stunt all. the. time? Watch this comical but mildly horrifying skit by a pianist. Yes, things really are like this in the creative industry. And no, it’s not okay. And what’s worse, in not paying Beta readers we are merely perpetuating the issue in our own industry.

Paying People, A Good Way To Live

I see signs that the “paying Beta readers” stigma is going away, albeit slowly. In this article is says that most Beta readers are charging 10$ per 10,000 words. Honestly, that’s pretty fair because Beta readers are supposed to be less skilled than editors, they are supposed to be pre-production. So, charging .001 cents a words seems reasonable.

For more articles about paying Beta readers, check out this post Should beta readers get paid?

I’d like to see a day when creators are paid for the work they do, and so let’s start with the things we can control. We can do an exchange for the work our Beta readers do. We have control over that.

But, I don’t have money either!

I’m a writer and we also get paid so little for the work we do. If you really don’t have money, but your fellow beta reader is a writer as well, then perhaps you could exchange manuscripts? Perhaps you could work something out where you don’t have to pay the whole amount all at once? Perhaps, perhaps. There are options, but it’s really best to, if you can, pay them in money.

After all, that’s how you would like to be paid as well.

What do you think? Do you think beta readers should work out of the goodness of their hearts? Or do you agree that they should be getting some compensation for what they do? I’d love to hear your perspective in the comments below.


Book Review: Misty of the Chincoteague

I was in a secondhand bookstore and went a little crazy—as many of the book-enthused are prone to do—with my book buying. As I was rounding up the goods, something caught my eye. Before me, on the shelf, was one was one of my favorites: Misty of the Chincoteague. So, not only did I immediately snatch it off the shelf, but I also determined that I would re-read it and see if it was as good as I remembered it to be.

For my full review, watch the video below:

Basically, this book was good for me as a child. The author, Marguerite Henry, has a firm grasp of metaphor and simile. Also, they know what emotions will hit you hardest. By no means is this book any less deep because it is a children’s book.

I must admit, Marguerite obviously has their strengths and weaknesses. While she’s strong with her metaphors, she struggles with other writing concepts. Despite this, the book was still a fun read and I would absolutely read it again.

Reviews writing

Why Maleficent Never Needed To Be Good

Over the last decade there has been a fascination with how villains become villainous. Megamind (2010), Despicable Me (2010), Maleficent (2014), Joker (2019), and others have taken to humanizing their “bad guys.” I personally enjoyed some of these titles for their genius. However, I have some qualms with the depreciation of evil in mainstream media. So today, I’m going to talk about why Maleficent never need to be “good” to be good.

I still remember reading a series of unfortunate events as a child. Even then one quote in particular stood out to me:

“People aren’t either wicked or noble. They’re like chef’s salads, with good things and bad things chopped and mixed together in a vinaigrette of confusion and conflict.”

– Lemony Snicket

I thought this was pure genius. And it is so true that people are a mix of many things. Writing a well-rounded villain takes a skill and thoughtfulness that comes from recognizing that they are people too. In fact, John August does and excellent job of explaining this in his article “Every Villain Is A Hero.” For a villain to feel real, they do need to have both aspects of good and evil. They need to have hero-like motivations which put them at odds with your main character.


In Maleficent (2014), I found myself startled and disappointed at the defanging of Maleficent in what could have been a truly spectacular remake. While there could have been a deep dive into the culture of politeness among fairies, we instead got an uncomfortable rape analogy which “justified” Maleficent’s actions. In the end (SPOILER ALERT), it was instead her love that set Sleeping Beauty free from her slumber. This was, overall, an interesting take and a well-executed twist.

But, was it the Maleficent from the original Sleeping Beauty?

This villain was a far cry from the well-spoken, noble-reminiscent, castle-dwelling woman who was both petty and vengeful. Disney had already reinvented Maleficent in their retelling of the Sleeping Beauty story back in 1959. The woman in the original tale didn’t play such a large role. However, it seems they were unable or unwilling to keep that character’s spirit alive in 2014.

Maleficent did not need to be a misunderstood person in order for her to be a character that was both compelling and complex. Whatever drove her original character to sit alone in the dark castle, away from other fairies, would have been an interesting story indeed. Just look at her rage in the original movie.

[the video got taken down… but you can look it up]

I don’t know about you, but I want to know more about the character I see in that clip. I want to know more about how she amassed all that power. About how she remains unchallenged on that mountain for 16 years even when the people know she’s going to kill their princess.

No one dared challenge that Maleficent.

We’ve entirely lost the spirit of fairies, now. Sylvia Spruck Wrigley explains this perfectly in their article “Five Reasons Not To *** Off the Fair Folk.” Fairies are not nice, but they are extremely complex, extremely tricky, and very compelling characters. Why wasn’t this explored? The character we saw in Maleficent was not one of the “fair folk” but was the romanticized fairy that means humanity no harm.

Give me the no-apologies-given noble fairy who lusted after power and didn’t care who she stepped on to get it. After all, what’s more relatable and more human than something we see so frequently in our everyday lives? Show us how regular people rise to power, how their desires can lead them down dark paths, and what conflict did Maleficent face within herself as she walked that path, if any?

Do you agree? Or do you think this change was for the better? Share and comment below.


Indie Video Game Review: Gris

Des and I take another turn at reviews with our latest video. Watch it here or check it out on YouTube on our channel.

After playing the delightful and picturesque game, Gris, by Nomada studios, I was delighted. It was the best combination of movies meets video game media I’ve encountered so far. I would recommend it both to children as well as adults for its excellent handling of complicated emotions.

The Cover Art for Gris

One of my favorite things about the game is the fact that it really allows you to work “with” the enemies you face to overcome challenges. Even those things that try to bring you down are actually the things that, at the end of the day, bring you up. The emotionscape presented in Gris is something to strive for in writing as well.

Mechanically speaking, the controls are easy to handle. The keystrokes are simple and it doesn’t take a high level of skill to navigate the world. The game implements puzzles but nothing too complicated or stressful. Overall, Gris tries to tone back the complexity to more fully immerse you in the landscape and the emotion.

So, don’t miss out. Purchase your copy of the game as Gris for Switch console or get the Gris art book. Have you already played? Well then, go ahead and share your insights below. What fell short for you? Or, what did you love?