Caleb Wright: The Odyssey of the Dragolitha

Hi again! I’m Scarlett, and this month’s Indie Spotlight features Caleb Wright, author of The Odyssey of the Dragolitha series. Breaking Point, the third book in the series, will be released March 1st!


When did you first start writing?
October 8th, 2018. I started with practice writing, to see if I could even make a logical structure with the words that came to my head. After a few pages of what I thought to be a simple story. Funnily enough, that’s when I fell in love with it. I went back to my first paragraph and thought, is this my best opening. A really amazing hook? After rewriting the opening a few times I sent that paragraph to about forty people and I had a beginning and a plot idea.

What inspired the story in The Odyssey of the Dragolitha?
A large fashion of influences interjected their way into this series, the largest I would say would be: The Legend of the Dragoon, a PlayStation 1 game. The movies Harry Potter, Narnia, Lord of the Rings, and Percy Jackson. Lastly the tv shows, Dragon Ball Z, Sailor Moon, and Zoids. These all gave me the imagination to stretch what was possible in my book series.

How much do you think your time in the service influenced your writing?
According to a few friends, my writing shows direct time, one point action sequences, and other elaborate scenes that made them feel as the military was a influencer on them. Me personally… time in the service changed my whole life around, so I would gander a large portion is derived from it.

What inspired the character of Xirow?
Bullies. School was hard, as I am sure it was for a large number of children. The idea bullies want the attention, they want to feel powerful, they want to show dominance… but in my story, Xirow is only a pawn to Ramathule, the real power driven character.

How does Xirow’s past affect his actions?
That is actually going to be a separate book of its own. In book four, I take a few chapters to dive into what turned Xirow into the evil mage he is in this series.

What do you think makes a good story?
Any good story? Hmm, the ability to get lost in the idea. If you are trying to predict everything, or you don’t finish the story, then what you are writing isn’t capturing the reader’s attention. The cover is always the first eye catch, as it pulls them to pick it up… maybe. Then your ability to summarize the story in a way to pull them further on the back of the book is next unless they skip that. Let’s say they do, then that first paragraph has to have you hooked because if it doesn’t the person has to be nice to keep waiting to get hooked. After the reader is head first into it, then you have to consistently drag them along the journey as if they entered the story themselves.

What do you hope your audience takes away from this series?
Break the standards, across all fields, all tropes, all industries, all friendship, and all social cues. I’m hoping that this book can transcend the thoughts of people all ages and show them that with friendship, sacrifice, love, empathy, patience, and determination we can change everything for the better.

Is there anything you would like to say to your readers?
You’ll find that I tend to go off the beaten path. Not because I want to make it harder on myself, but because everyone can do the same thing over and over again. We don’t evolve by repeating things. We don’t create unique ideas by following suit to others. Instead, we make our own way. Now with that said, your content shouldn’t be offensive, it shouldn’t be targeting, and it shouldn’t be hateful. That’s the last anyone in this world needs. Your story, your art, your creations should depict what you want the future to be. I will love your story, with formatting issues, and grammar issues, and structure issues, as long as you are really attempting to challenge my mind on what is possible with imagination. Besides, there are thousands of people willing to help you with editing and formatting to present it to the world. Please, focus on your story, leave all of the presentations to the end of it all. I started with a few paragraphs in October, now I’m dedicated to write an entire universe of connected stories instead.


Interested in finding out more about The Odyssey of Dragolitha series? The first two books are available on Amazon now! This interview has been a special segment as part of the blog tour for the third book in the series, Breaking Point.

For updates from the author himself, you can subscribe to his website or follow him on Twitter!

W.B. Welch: Author of your new nightmares.

Hello, hello! I’m Scarlett, and welcome to my first author interview! This is the first segment in my Indie Spotlight series, and today I’d like to showcase the wonderful W. B. Welch.


Blood Drops is very different than your debut novel, Brenna’s Wing. Why did you decide to publish a horror anthology?
Horror is my genre of choice, Brenna’s Wing was a one off, actually, I had a random inspiration moment in the car one day, but I have always been a horror fan. I saw my first scary movie when I was 7 or 8 years old.

I originally kept most of my horror to my blog, because I didn’t have as much of a reach. The manuscripts that I’m querying are spec fic and suspense, and have more of a mass appeal, but I found the writing community and just decided that, one day, I’m going to pull all of my short stories together for an anthology.

When did you decide to pursue writing?
[For] fiction, it’s been almost 4 years now. My inspiration to just start it, I’d read Stephen King’s book On Writing in college. I read it again about 4 years ago. His story from his childhood up until he sold Carrie inspired me. When it got to his craft itself, he’s the first person who said you don’t have to outline. Journalism was easy for me, you sit down and write notes and write a story from it. I started with some short stories on Instagram. I would write the short story with a photo and got a good response from people reading them.

Do you have a set writing schedule?
I do not have a schedule. I’m probably the worst example for a writer that is out there. Sometimes I sleep in the middle of the afternoon, sometimes I sleep at 3 in the morning. And I really love to spend time with my family.

I make time when I know I have 3 or 4 hours. I tune everyone else for awhile. When I’m taking time off, I don’t write at all. I’ll read, but I’ll take time off from writing. I’ll work pretty solidly when it’s a bigger project. If I take too much time off from it, I’ll lose track.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I can be a little OCD, so I know that works in there somewhere. Let me just think about that for a moment. (laughs)

I don’t know how much of a quirk it is, but when I’m working on longer projects, when I sit down to write, first of all I have to clear out all of my notifications, so I sit down and I respond to them. Then I have to go back to reread what I’ve written before. I read several pages to get myself back into that mood to make sure that I’m feeling the character. If I’m not feeling the book, then I don’t work on the book. On those days, it’s just bad writing and it feels forced. Also, I don’t like to be interrupted when writing. My family has gotten some evil looks.

I think we can all relate to that. What was one of the most surprising things you learned while writing your books?
The thing that surprised me the most about finishing a book was that it wasn’t as sucky as I expected it to be. I am not a patient person. I don’t start a lot of long projects, I like to try a lot of new stuff. I expected it to be really hard to finish a book and it’s not. It’s just like writing a short story but it takes a lot longer.

What do you think makes a good story?
I think whoever can pinpoint that into a teachable item will change the industry. Good writing is good writing, accurate writing is accurate writing, good grammar is good grammar, but when you’re reading a good book it draws you in. It’s not something you’re able to say…

Most of that is going to be based on the person that’s reading it. I’ve read books that I fell in love with, one of them was “The Light Between Oceans,” by M.L. Stedman. I loved this book so much, and I couldn’t believe when I got on Goodreads and people were dissing it. It’s all going to come down to the person reading it, and if it has mass appeal it’s because a lot of people shared the same opinion on that subject.

There is significant social commentary in Blood Drops. How would you say your background in journalism influenced the tone of your writing?
I feel like journalism actually gave me quite an edge in all of this. It’s something that I haven’t talked about in public because I haven’t had the opportunity yet, so I’m actually really glad you asked this question.
The biggest thing, taking away from journalism, was how to be in a room and observe the important details and write a story about it. Sitting down to write a big book or a big project, it was easier to think of all of the big pieces to make people believable or set a scene. Because I would have to be in a room, and take these pieces to make people feel like they were in a room at a press conference. Also researching, researching in journalism [is key].

You focus on the darker side of human emotions to ground your writing in reality, but there’s often a supernatural twist. Why add the supernatural elements?
I don’t have a certain reason for that. I guess just because I enjoy it. It’s something that I like. It’s kind of like my nod to honor the genre. I like to include realness and characters that people can relate to. I also want to take them down a spiral and make them think “Wait what? What just happened?”

The Look is a bold story and based on a volatile topic. Why did you decide to include it?
It’s one that a lot of people that have read it really liked it. It was inspired by me recently having read Lolita. It’s a taboo topic, and it’s a very real thing. It happens a lot. I’ve had a lot of people tell me that they’ve been through this. I sat down to write it, and it surprised me where it went.

What do you hope your audience gets out of reading Blood Drops?
A whole bunch of different things. I like to hear when people say that they have to put it down in between stories so they have time to absorb. I like when people tell me that they couldn’t put it down…
From their own perspective, they’ll take something out of it. I like to touch people. I like to gut-punch people. I like to make people feel.

Is there anything you would like to say to your readers?
I wouldn’t mind putting a statement out there that I’m eternally grateful to the writing community. It completely changed my life. Anyone who is a writer, and is considering utilizing Twitter, should do it. It’s not even for the resources, although there are so many resources. Six months ago, I was doing this by myself and now I browse through thousands of peoples writing advice , and writing we know is lonely work. I’ve found so much support on Twitter, and am happy to give my support back.


Final notes: I highly recommend Blood Drops to any fan of horror. W. B. Welch’s voice is refreshingly modern while paying tribute to the giants that came before her. The stories in this anthology will make you feel, think, and reconsider the world around you.

For updates from the master herself, you can subscribe to her website or follow her on Twitter!

Entwined: 2.8

Entwined
Author: Heather Dixon
Rating: 2.8
Genre: Twisted Fairytale
THROWBACK REVIEW

“It should have frightened her, thinking of the palace as once evil and magicked, with the candelabras and ceiling murals alive, but it didn’t. It was hard to be frightened of a building that smelled of old toast.” 
― Heather Dixon, Entwined

NOTE: In order to keep up with my ever growing TBR pile, once a month I will now post a review of older releases.

I wanted to like this book. I say that a lot, but in a perfect world I would love every book I read. Entwined was recommended to me by a friend, so the bar was set higher than normal.

Synopsis:

Azalea is the crown princess of Eathesbury, and the eldest of twelve daughters. When they lose their mother, the girls are forced to go into mourning under the strict guidance of their distant father. In an effort to continue dancing, the one activity that brightens their days, the girls start attending a secret ball hosted by a mysterious man known only as the Keeper.

I don’t know if you all remember my fangirl rant about To Kill a Kingdom (GO READ THAT BOOK!) but this story did the exact opposite. It took a beloved fairytale, and mutilated it. Excuse me while I go weep in a forest dusted with diamonds.

À la Twelve Dancing Princesses style, the girls dance sneak out every night and the King posts a proclamation seeking the answer to their whereabouts. Dixon uses Entwined to fill in some of the more elaborate plot holes from the original story, such as how they find the magical forest and its back story.

She also includes her own special twist on the narrative, which is pretty much where I wanted to stop reading. It was boring. My entire reading list took a hit while I was struggling through this one.

Let’s start with the positive:

There was a playful wit to the prose that had me laughing out loud at times. Heather Dixon also does romance well, at least the few scenes that there were. It was embarrassing and flirtatious, a perfect portrayal of a newfound love interest.

Dixon also did a wonderful job at distinguishing each of the twelve differences, although that also had it’s downfalls in its execution. The dance motif that constantly appears throughout the story is masterfully executed and remains consistent.

….

On to the negatives:

The relationships felt shallow. For example, Dixon utilizes the King’s title as a plot device to demonstrate their relationship arc. This failed attempt creates a shallowly written character who doesn’t recover as much as his relationship with his daughters does.

Furthermore, the characters were annoying. Each of the twelve princesses has an extreme characteristic to express their personality, and none of them are done in moderation. Azalea is steadfast (read: stubborn), Bramble is rambunctious, Clover is sweet, and so on. Their names are also in alphabetical order by birth, and all flowers. While this may be a useful tactic to help the reader remember each princess, it results in one dimensional, static characters.

The magic system looked like it showed some promise. I loved the idea of silver gaining power from the people who possessed it, and the thought of dancing having inherent power. The entwine, a dance in which one partner attempts to catch their partner with a sash, seemed like a wonderful way to incorporate these ideas. So I waited.

And waited.

The other shoe never dropped, ladies and gentlemen. There is a big twist, but it feels like some of the magical elements were forgotten halfway through the story. I almost want to reveal the ending so you know not to waste your time, but I won’t do that.

Seriously though, WHO STOPS TO DANCE IN THE MIDDLE OF A BATTLE?

Overall, Entwined didn’t live up to it’s hype. There were parts that were promising, but the execution was poor. The few enjoyable moments weren’t worth the time I lost by reading this book.

December Wrap Up

Happy New Year, friends!

I know I’ve been gone for most of this month, and I’m so sorry I haven’t updated anyone! I’ve had a bit of family trouble that took priority, I hope you all understand.

That being said, I have some very exciting updates!

  1. In an effort to showcase some of the amazing indie talent, the lovely Scarlett Austen has agreed to guest post on the blog through 2019! She’ll host Scarlett’s Indie Spotlight, which will feature author interviews, giveaways, and more!
  2. Lissa’s Library is creating a podcast! We’re currently open to submissions for author interviews and short stories. The podcast was initially scheduled to air in January, however we have experienced some minor delays with the production company. The new release date will be in February, with more updates to come!
  3. I’m back to my regular posting schedule as of next week, so please feel free to request the articles that you’d like to read!

Thank you all so much for bearing with me during this difficult time. I appreciate each and every one of you for reading this! This blog is going to experience a lot of changes in 2019, and I hope you enjoy them!

The Art of Story Telling: Audiobooks (Part 2)

Here are a few tips on how to decide on if its a good fit for you, and the first steps to take if you want to pursue it as a career.

I’ve also included links to the equipment referenced in this post. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases, however, I highly recommend shopping around for sales, because the right equipment can get expensive.

  • Can your voice handle it?
    • So you love acting, you love reading, it seems like a dream job, right? Try reading a book aloud for a few hours and see how your throat feels. While doing this, try to maintain the same energy and volume for the entirety of your “performance.” While recording an audiobook, you’ll most likely be reading straight through for a few hours at a time. Don’t worry if you mess up a word or a line, you can use the punch and roll recording technique to go back and fix it.
    • Tips: HYDRATE. Don’t consume anything to dehydrate you or congest you. When I know I have to record that week, I avoid certain things like dairy, coffee, excessive sugar, etc. Also, when I go to the studio, I always keep the following items with me: chapstick, cough drops, throat spray, water, tea, and a granny smith apple.
  • Finding your niche
    • Ex. I sound like a teenager. I narrate YA and NA books. If I were to narrate a steamy romance novel, it would be weird. Like really weird.
    • Listen to other audiobook narrators and try to identify where your natural pacing and tone fit in best. It will make it easier for your voice to do work that comes to you naturally instead of forcing it for hours on end. Going off of the example above, I could voice that steamy romance novel, but it would be hard on my throat to maintain that lower pitch for the entirety of the book.
    • Finding a niche will also help you book more gigs and increase the sales of your audiobooks. (Ex. Since I narrate YA, my listeners can search for my other books. I wouldn’t want a steamy romance novel to pop up when my primary audience expects YA.)
  • Creating a demo
    • You need a demo. Even if you decide to strike out on your own, you can use samples from your demo to show prospective clients. It’s important, because it showcases your talent.
    • I highly recommend having a demo done at a professional studio, especially if you have no prior experience. If you choose to do it on your own, please make sure you have quality equipment and DO YOUR RESEARCH. I’ll talk about the technical aspects of a home studio and a production on Saturday, but different mics are better for different people depending on a variety of factors.
    • If you do decide to enlist the help of a studio, PLEASE thoroughly research the studios in your area before choosing one. There are several places that claim to be professional studios by people who don’t quite know what they are doing. I can’t even begin to count how many wannabe rappers from my high school spent thousands on their home studio and called themselves pros. No training. No research. No audio engineers. Just a few grand and a rap dream.
  • Listen to Audiobooks
    • You know how writers are supposed to read? And actors are supposed to watch? You have to listen to audiobooks. It helps you hone your craft. Listen to successful audiobooks in your niche. You’ll notice emotional range, voice variations, pacing, etc. that will help you when you narrate your first book.
  • Home Studio (optional)
    • Home studios are amazingly convenient, even if you work for an audio company. I live out of state from my company now, so I’m only in the same town as my studio about half of the year. That being said, they can get pretty pricey. There are a few key pieces of equipment that you absolutely need:
      1. Microphone: I use a Neuman TLM 102 ($699) ( in my home studio, but if you want a good starter kit, I recommend the Rode NT1-A ($229). The kit on Amazon comes with a shock mount, pop filter, and XLR cable. If you’re looking for a kit with everything included (except the XLR interface), Rode also has a Complete Vocal Recording kit ($329) that includes the above in addition to a mic stand and vocal reflector.
      2. Pre-Amp: I use a Focusrite 2i2 2nd Generation ($159) which is technically an Audio Interface, they also have a solo version if you shop around a bit. Because of the USB connection, I can use my laptop or my desktop depending on where I’m at. I’m upgrading to the Grace Design M101 ($765) in February.
      3. HEADPHONES. Do not use your AirPods or Beats by Dre and expect to be able to edit effectively. Beats are great for music, but once again, voiceover is a whole other beast. The problem with using normal headphones such as AirPods or Skullcandy to edit is that they are extremely forgiving. This means that you won’t catch all of the breaths and mouth sounds that you need to edit out. I, personally, love my Sennheiser HD 380 Pro ($199) headphones, because I can hear every crisp, cringeworthy mistake that I make.

I know that it seems extremely expensive to start out, but there are places to cut corners, and others where it’s simply not worth it. Headphones, for example, are extremely important, especially if you’re doing your own editing. I’ll talk more about the technicalities and benefits of each piece of equipment on Saturday, and go into detail about the process of producing an audiobook.

The Art of Storytelling: Audiobook Narration Myths (Part 1)

“Sometimes you have to go places with characters and emotions within yourself that you don’t want to do, but you have a duty to the story, and as a storyteller to do it.”

– Hugh Jackman

I’ve had a lot of questions about how to get into audiobook narration, and honestly, it’s a longer answer than most people realize. I’ll address some of the basic rumors that I’ve heard here, and next week I’ll talk a little bit about the preparation and technical side of audiobook production.

Thank you all for the requests. I’ve really enjoyed talking with each of you.

Now first of all, it’s important to note that not everyone is meant to be an audiobook narrator- and that’s okay. With that being said, let’s address some rumors.

Myths:

You need to know someone in the industry : FALSE
While it’s certainly helpful to know someone in the business, it is absolutely not necessary. All that’s needed to have a successful career narrating audiobooks is skill and hard work. There are a ton of resources to help new narrators navigate the industry.

Having a quiet place to record is essential: TRUE
Yes. I know that this seems like an obvious one, but whether you decide to record at a studio or from your home, you would be surprised how much the microphone picks up. And reverb. I’ll address reverb thoroughly in my post next week.
If you decide to record at a professional studio, make sure to thoroughly vet them first. I once heard a horror story from a narrator whose producer left car noises from the passing street in her final product. Those sounds should never have made it into the raw audio in a professional studio, let alone after post-production.

You have to have a background in acting: FALSE
Once again, while it’s certainly helpful depending on your genre, it is absolutely not necessary. Actually, in some cases, it might even hinder your career.
Why?
Because the microphone catches everything. Every breath, every quiver of your voice, and every inconsistent tick in that foreign accent you thought you had perfected. Audiobook narration is not a “fake it ’til you make it” industry. There are acting coaches who specialize in voice acting, because it’s an entirely different kind of beast. Even without coaching though, you can constantly work to hone your skills. Above all, audiobook narration is professional story telling, and if you can spin a good story, you’re on the right path.

You can use a USB microphone: FALSE
You. Guys.
I’ve been asked to review some of the demos that come across my producer’s desk, and there is a distinct difference when a USB microphone is in use.
(On a completely unrelated note, A NEW PRODUCER JUST JOINED OUR TEAM! I’m so excited. For those of you who don’t know, I’ve been wearing two hats for a hot minute while they scouted for new talent. Your girl is tired. And ready for a promotion.)
Here’s the thing about USB microphones: yes, they technically work. Yes, you might be able to score a few gigs with them. However, the odds are that these books will be a royalty share deal, which means you get paid royalties for every copy of the audiobook sold. Clients, or Rights Holders, have higher standards for PFH (per finished hour) products, since they’re risking their own money.
A royalty share deal means you only get paid if people buy the audiobook. Guess what’s a huge factor in people buying the book? Quality. Invest in a decent microphone and XLR interface, because trust me, it’s worth it. I’ll talk more about this in my next post. Even if you think you’ll start with the USB mic and upgrade later, do you really want those lower quality audiobooks floating around with your name on it? Do it for the brand your building.

You have to love reading: TRUE
I feel like this one should also be obvious, but you really have to love reading or this will be the most miserable career move you’ve ever made. You’re locked in a studio talking to yourself for hours on end. Sometimes in different voices. If you don’t love reading, and the project you’re working on, it can become amazingly tedious. We’ve all been there though, I mean, it’s a job. You don’t always love your work. When you have a project that you’re less than enthusiastic about, it’s important to push through and not let it show. Remember how I said that the microphone picks up everything? That includes boredom, smiles, shrugs, everything.

A great voice is all that you need: FALSE
Ooh, you guys. Do you know how many people think that because they have a great voice they can just sail into this career? A lot. Audiobook narration is about acting with subtlety, distinguishing your characters, channeling the emotion, tone and pacing of the book. A great voice is nice, but it is far from the most important part of storytelling. A wonderful example would be radio personalities. Their larger than life voices are great, but their training is a world away from the skills of an audiobook narrator.

You need to read the book before recording: TRUE
I don’t know how someone got it into their head that they could just jump right in, but that makes so much more work for everyone involved. A lot of planning goes into creating an audiobook, and it’s essential to know the story that you’re working with.
I always read a book twice before starting production, and I have a handy dandy notebook that I use to take notes on all of my projects as I go. I read it first to get a hold of the story, and write down a list of characters as I go, then the second time I mark down specific characteristics of each one that will affect the voice that I create for them.

This series is a bit longer than I expected, so next Tuesday’s book review will be replaced with Part Two of this series, and I’ll release the final part on Saturday. Check back on Tuesday for tips and tricks on how to decide if its right for you and how to prepare!

Thanks again for reading!

The Crown’s Game: 2.2

The Crown’s Game
Author: Evelyn Skye
Narrators: Steve West
Rating: 2.2
Genre: YA Dark Fantasy

“His laugh echoed through the entire room. He didn’t sound cruel, but then again, the worst kinds of cruelty come in the guise of kindness.” 
― Evelyn Skye, The Crown’s Game

****SPOILERS AHEAD****

In a world full of magic and danger, why wouldn’t a country’s future leader want a strong enchanter by his side?

Apparently, because he’s a hormone riddled teenager with no mind of his own.

I mean… I had the highest hopes for this series. Look at that cover! It’s stunning. I love the reversal of the city in the crown to display both sides. The cover is about as deep as this book gets. The aesthetic part of me is thrilled. The rest? Not so much.

Essentially, Vika and Nikolai have been raised with the knowledge that one day they will duel to the death for the right to become the tsar’s Imperial Enchanter. Country Mouse and City Mouse, as they shall henceforth be known, are excited for the opportunity to show off their skills and earn the coveted role. Thus, the Crown’s Game is set into motion, and Country Mouse is summoned to City Mouse’s domain to compete for the opportunity of a lifetime.

Want to know the most interesting part?

You just read it.

know. How could a magical duel to the death not be interesting? How do the words talent show sound to you? Not as exciting as a duel, I’m sure.

The mice were essentially tasked with showing off their magical ability, but all they did was try to one up each other, and it felt amazingly immature, even for YA. I mean, come on. The loser is supposed to die, and they were all “ooh, look at my life size music box.”

Also, let’s talk romance for a second. What. In. The. Ever. Loving. Name. Of. Love. Triangles. Was. That.

So City Mouse and Country Mouse embrace the enemies to lovers trope with arms wide open. Except they were never really enemies? They were mistrustful of each other, because sure, who wouldn’t mistrust someone who’s life depends on your death? They fall in love through their magic, without talking that much. It’s weird.

Pasha, the tsar’s son, is the one tasked with choosing the winner. This part makes sense, because the victor will be his enchanter when he ascends the throne. Pasha also happens to be Nikolai’s best friend, since childhood.

Does that give City Mouse an edge? NO. Apparently, Pasha is a hormone ridden adolescent who believes in love at first sight and can’t bear to sentence Country Mouse to her death.

I’m sorry little tsarovich, but if I was Nikolai, and you chose some girl that you just met over your best friend, I don’t care who your father is. It would be on.

I suppose I should explain the few pros that persuaded me to give this book the 2.2 stars that it earned.

The world building was detailed and beautiful, and the writing was smooth and delightful to read. The story itself lacked depth, and the characters were utterly ridiculous. Unfortunately, I have the e-book edition, so I can’t donate it.

Do you disagree? Comment below!