May is National Get Caught Reading Month! As writers, we love to read although we aren’t able to as often as we’d like (does anyone?). To celebrate, we are listing some of our favorite books that have stuck with us!
The Bartimaeus Sequence by Jonathan Stroud
This is the only series that Talia has read more than once from cover to cover. She first discovered them while working as a library aide in high school. They’ve stuck with her after that, and she got Dorian to be a fan of them, as well! The witty characters, fully realized world, and fun adventures with heart and soul makes them a top read!
The Pendragon series by D.J. MacHale
Talia found these books during her early adolescent years when only the first couple of a nine-book series were out. She followed them throughout the years, feeling almost as if she grew up with Bobby Pendragon. The main character’s humor makes him easily likeable, and the grand adventures across diverse worlds keep each book feeling fresh and fun.
The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
The Hobbit has always been Dorian’s favorite book. He has owned multiple copies of it over the years with a variety of beautiful covers. We were both definitely excited to watch The Hobbit trilogy, as well! It’s a classic, fun, and timeless adventure story.
Heir Apparent & The Book of Mordred by Vivian Vande Velde
Heir Apparent was recommended to Talia by a teacher in sixth grade. She fell in love with Velde’s books after that, and The Book of Mordred was another top favorite. The style of writing is engaging and fun, and the characters are easily memorable. For fans of medieval-era stories, these are great reads!
The Magician’s Nephew by C.S Lewis
This is another book that has stuck around with Dorian since childhood. One of the things he connected to was the use of music in the book, as he later grew up to learn to play many instruments! This is the first in the Chronicles of Narnia series, which are charming children’s fantasy books.
Today we are celebrating two events at once. April 23 is both Slay a Dragon Day and World Book Day. Two things that are rather dear to our hearts for several reasons. As fantasy authors, we grew up with stories where heroes battled dragons. Many of which were actual dragons but slaying a dragon can also be a metaphor.
One of our favorite quotes is by fellow fantasy author, Neil Gaiman.
“Fairy tales are more than true: Not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.”
Slay a Dragon Day came about from a story where Saint Theodore Tiron slew a dragon. Legend has it Theodore came across a village where a dragon demanded sacrifice and treasure. After the village gave up its livestock and wealth, they turned to human sacrifice. When Saint Theodore witnessed this, he took a stand and tamed and killed the dragon. Thus the town was saved.
Digging deeper into this story, we learn it dates as far back as the mid-9th Century. Art at the Yılanlı Kilise shows three saints, Theodore, George, and Demetrius battling two snakes with separate heads.
The story represents the battle between good and evil and is a story as old as time really. Slay a Dragon Day is about overcoming challenges in your life. No matter how big or small.
Although, if you’re into slaying dragons and even befriending them or love books, our epic fantasy book series Thread of Souls is for you.
Happy World Art Day! As a husband and wife team of artists, we want to take time to celebrate this day of creativity and imagination!
The arts have impacted our lives in so many ways. As co-authors of a fantasy book series, digital illustrators, crafters, designers, and more, we embrace and love the arts. Our home as our books on display as well as our own art and creations. It is a happy, inspiring place to be!
Talia’s journey as an artist began at her earliest memories. She was writing stories before she could really write, instead doing a series of crayon drawings and narrating the plot. She wrote five books before graduating high school (which shall never see the light of day). In her early twenties she became an award-winning fanfiction author. Now she writes, draws, and creates for a living!
Dorian was always making up stories. He especially loved the journalistic side of storytelling, and while in college researched, wrote, and hosted a radio program. Being a lover of all things creative, he prefers to write about video games, cars, and fantasy settings. He is grateful every day that he gets to continue living his dream career!
World Art Day is not only a time to celebrate well-known artists, but also indie artists. We’ve found some of the best content have come from indie creators, whether that’s on Etsy, indie video games, or small Twitch streams and Deviantart hobbyists. Take the time on World Art Day to discover a new artist and support them!
It can be difficult for creators to overcome distractions when they sit down (or stand up) to work on a project. Between the tasks of the day, outside noises, interruptions, and our own self-doubts, it can definitely come in the way of producing a product you are proud of! Whether you are a writer, an artist, a TTRPG player, a photographer, or any other passionate creator, we compiled a list of four top tips to help you out! These are items we have found indispensable when we sit down to create Thread of Souls content.
Play Music (Without Lyrics)
A great way to overcome distractions is to play music. But not just any music. Ensure there are no lyrics within the piece, and ensure it is a type of music you enjoy. Unfamiliar with the world of instrumentals? Spotify has a lot of great lo-fi playlists these days to work to. You can also explore soundtracks from your favorite movies or video games.
Keeping a pleasant background noise can give you energy and increase your focus. We’ve also found we get conditioned to entering the “work mindset” when we have our established instrumental playlist going. It makes us more productive and less distraction-prone.
Get in a Comfortable Area
This goes beyond just a comfortable chair, although that is very important. If you sit a lot while creating, it is worth it to invest in a gamer-type of chair to support you. You should have a dedicated creating space that is free from other distractions and always has what you need on-hand. A good desk, an organizer for items, a great lighting source, and quick-reference items all make your space more productive.
We have two gamer-style desks and chairs facing one another (for easy collaboration). We have a lamp and quick reference items on a side table. Between our two desks is a holder for pens, pencils, USB’s, and lip balm. We are also surrounded by depictions of Thread of Souls, keeping us inspired! We are also not far from our healthy snack bowl, ensuring we don’t get sidetracked if we get up to eat.
Complete Any Pressing Tasks Beforehand
One super easy way to overcome distractions is to remove those distractions beforehand. We’re talking about the “putting-off-that-call-laundry-pile-don’t-want-to-do-that” type of tasks. If those are turning in the back of your mind, it will just be a problem and make it harder to create your best work. By getting pressing tasks done upfront, you can free up your mental space and ease the tension.
Have an End-Goal in Mind
Something that has been tremendously helpful for us is to sit down with a goal. Whether that is a daily goal or a weekly goal, having something short-term to work towards is a good motivator. It also helps keep you on track, and can push you forward if you are struggling with your creation. This is flexible for whatever works for you. Maybe you want to complete one chapter a week, or your goal is to write 500 words a day. Maybe you want to do one step of your art each day so by the end of the week you have a full piece. Or if you are world-building, maybe you want to outline one bit of the fictional society a day. It also makes you feel great when you are able to check items off your to-do list for your creations!
Hope these are helpful! Remember that anytime you create something, that is beautiful in and of itself and should be celebrated. By using strategies to stay focused, you can accomplish more of what you want to create.
Coming up with a new story idea always presents a challenge. Whether it is for a book, fanfiction, TTRPG game, or creative video, it often involves some brainstorming for an effective story. We always enjoy seeing fun story prompts online, so we want to bring some of that to you! Using our personal tarot set based off Thread of Souls characters, we used a spread meant for storytelling prompts. Here is the spread below and what each represents. Have fun with it!
The Tarot Spread
What is the central theme of this story?
Our top left position is the Humble One. This card is represented by Hwalla, who lives a simple farming life. He is soft-spoken, kind, and puts his children above everything else. This card symbolizes simplicity and focusing on the small things in life.
Who is this story about?
The bottom left is the Shadow. The Shadow is represented by Neir Shadowsnare. He is a Gloom Stalker of great skill, and has strict morals to always do the right thing. This card symbolizes quiet action, unseen foes, patience, and anonymity.
What is the obstacle the protagonist must overcome?
The top middle is the Barbarian. This card is represented by Sen, a good-nature pirate captain that is always down for a brawl. Despite his large size, Sen has a fear of magic. This card symbolizes strength, recklessness, letting go, and trying to hide inner vulnerability with boastfulness.
How do they overcome this obstacle?
The bottom middle is the Criminal. This card is represented by Elisi, also known as the Grandmother and leader of the Shadow Guild. She is feared by even members of her own Guild and uses this to instill loyalty. This card symbolizes breaking the rules, not caring what others think of you, cheating, and moral lines.
How does this change them or their world?
The top right card is the Dragon. This card is represented by Draxis, a gold dragon often disguised as a Human. He lives an easy and carefree life, but must keep himself secret. This card symbolizes inner power, epic journeys, and great challenges.
What is the story’s ending?
The bottom right card is the Illusionist. This card is represented by Tymus, who is a Gnome Wizard trained at the Citadel. He has a sunny personality and takes his work very seriously. This card symbolizes illusions, analysis, not taking things at face value, and trusting your inner gut.
Our guide for outlining a book is perfect for all those current or aspiring writers out there! We’ve been writing for decades, from four indie publications, short stories for a popular online game, and award-winning fanfictions. Knowing where you are going from the start helps craft a beautiful story. There are some writers that prefer to “wing it” in their first draft and rely heavily on multiple rounds of re-writing and revisions to pull the story together. That is perfectly fine! But if you are like us and prefer a strong first draft based around a comprehensive outline, then this one is for you!
We’ve talked about brainstorming and getting ideas in older posts, so we are not going to rehash that here. We recommend drawing inspiration from music, games, books, nature, art, etc to generate multiple pages of ideas before whittling it down to the skeleton of a story. Then, you are ready for the outline!
Create Your “Acts”
So, you’ve got a loose series of notes and ideas for your book. How do you go about outlining a book from these? The first step is to organize your ideas into “acts”. We personally prefer the three-act structure, but others may prefer more complex structures. We like to have a beginning section to get the ball rolling, a middle section with rising drama and intense moments, and then a final act that is very emotionally-driven and large-scale. We also like to end each act on a “cliffhanger” or an emotional climax. When going through your notes, divide them into three parts (or more if you prefer) to set up your act structure. At this point, only focus on your major “scenes” such as characters leaving home, fights, deaths, developing romance, or entering new locations.
Character Arcs & Plot Points
At the start of each of these acts, write down some notes on what characters arcs you would like to be present. For example, does a character start out greedy in act one, having things taken from them in act two leading to self-reflection, and then in act three change their ways and behave honestly? It doesn’t matter if your outline doesn’t fully support it at this point, just write down how this arc is divided across the acts.
Do the same thing with your major plot points. The point of this while outlining a book is to ensure your plot is complete and makes sense. Let’s have an example from Phantom Five. In act one, we establish not all is as it seems in Brother Zok’s town. In act two, we have him discover treachery and set out into an unknown land to set it right. In act three, we follow him attempting to return home through challenges which change him into a stronger, more world-wise person.
Refine Your Scenes
Now you have your act structure and character and plot arcs written down. Go over these arcs and add in minor scenes into your outline to ensure these arcs are achieved. You can also take away scenes that you feel compromise these arcs. This might include something simple like “character has a conversation with her mentor on why she used to steal, but her life is changed now”, or “characters stop at a tavern and overhear conversation about the enemy army”.
Chapters & POV’s
What helps us the most when outlining a book is dividing it into chapters. That gives us clear breaking points for the story, shows us the pacing, and helps identify where scenes are needed, or not needed. Take the outline and break it down by chapters in a way that feels right to you. Some writers like short chapters, some like long. Ours tend to be an average of 4K words, but that depends on the content of the chapter and where a chapter “break” feels natural. Ending chapters on cliffhangers, emotional moments, or transition scenes works well.
If you are varying point-of-views like we do in Thread of Souls, then you’ll also want to choose a POV for each chapter. This may involve moving some scenes around to make sense based on whose POV is most impactful.
Read Over & Finalize
Now it is time to read over the outline of your book from start to finish! Here you are looking for good pacing, clear arcs, strong characters, and a solid plot. Make sure you have plenty of high points, as well as some “quiet scenes” to balance them out. If you are writing part of series, it also is good to keep in mind how this book works in the grand scheme of the series plot.
Make adjustments as needed until you are satisfied with how your book is at this stage of the process.
Enjoy the Writing Journey!
The most important thing is to enjoy this journey as a writer! When outlining a book, you give yourself a solid base from which to start. But that doesn’t mean you won’t change and revise plenty until your book is in its final form. Enjoy the process of telling a story, and tell it from the heart!
Happy Valentine’s Day everyone! In honor of the month of love, we created fun Valentine’s cards for four of the Thread of Souls characters. Enjoy!
Ruuda’s card references her culture’s Blessing system, where each child is given a Blessing by the god the Forge King. This is proclaimed by a priest or priestess. However, in all her 100+ years of life, Ruuda has never received a legitimate Blessing. While this has forced her on the run to avoid mounting debt, she still thinks you could be her special Valentine’s Blessing!
Taliesin’s card references an event that happened in the third book in the Thread of Souls series, Path of the Spiders. Taliesin is a Cleric and thus closely tied to the goddess he chooses to worship. But for how special you are, he will let you be his new deity to worship!
Jade the nomadic Druid loves all things nature. With her deep magical ability, she is easily able to grow flowers and make them blossom into beautiful displays. Jade has a rough edge to her, with her ability to transform into the elements and her pragmatic way of solving problems. But she still has a soft spot for the prettier things in nature, as well as for her Valentine!
Sen is a carefree pirate captain beloved by his crew. When he is not fighting for coin or sailing the seas, he loves to relax and drink some rum. In fact, there are few things in life Sen loves more than rum. But he is a fiercely loyal friend and will always be on the front lines of battle, especially for his Valentine.
Merry Winter’s Eve to all! To celebrate the holiday season, we are sharing some Thread of Souls holiday cards drawn by co-author Ashley Roepel. Enjoy these cards and feel free to share around to your favorite fantasy fans for the holidays!
The first is a scene of the Arcane Fangs. This jagged mountain range divides the Citadel’s territory from the rest of Corventos.
The second is Ruuda Drybarrel! Our favorite Dark Dwarf is carrying her signature barrel on her shoulder.
The third is Taliesin Ostoroth, the rebellious Dark Elf. The Deep Hollows don’t get snow, so this is a new experience for him!
The fourth is a scene from inside the Citadel, a new location promised in book four of the Thread of Souls series that releases next year! Here we see mage Jasita from Phantom Five and Ash & Thunder.
And finally in the spirit of friendship and caring we have Taliesin and Ruuda exchanging gifts for one another!
We hope you enjoyed these holiday cards! Merry Winter’s Eve!
We look back at the first book publication for the Thread of Souls fantasy series with some “behind the scenes” trivia!
It was this week in June of 2019 that the first book in our epic fantasy series, Thread of Souls, was released! With the upcoming release of Book III, we wanted to take a look back and share some interesting trivia with you.
The Writing Process
We started writing Book I: Phantom Five early in 2018. As this fantasy series is based off our multi-year D&D campaign, we had to go back to our original notes. It took some time to compile what we had and put it in chronological order. As we explored in our article on this subject, converting a D&D campaign into a book series isn’t a simple copy/paste matter. Some things simply don’t work for a book, and others have to be approached differently. As this was our first time attempting something like this, we had to do a lot of thought about how this conversion process would look.
We also decided early on to have this has a multiple POV (third person limited) book. It was the only proper way to tell the story of these characters with all the heart and depth that required. So after breaking down the plot and dividing it into chapters, it became a matter of who had the most impact in telling that chapter. And then ensuring there was a good balance in characters.
Shhh! Don’t tell anyone. But a lot of the early writing took place at an office desk during slow hours before we turned fully to self-employment! As any writer knows, it can be hard to find time to sit down and write while balancing all the other demands of life. But once we started, there was no stopping! This series is a work of pure passion.
Let’s not talk about the editing process. As any writer knows, it’s just hell.
Note: There are some minor spoilers for Phantom Five in this section.
We thought it would be fun to share a bit of side-by-side on differences and similarities between the D&D game and the book.
While climbing down a rope into a well, Sen spills some rum out on Jade below him.
In the game, Jade rolled low on her athletics check, causing her to slip. The rum was used narratively to explain the struggle.
In the game, this played out much the same. But in the game, we were in possession of a flying carpet. We didn’t realize until the end we could have used the flying carpet simply to fly to the top. The flying carpet was never featured in the book, but it always gives us a good laugh!
Taliesin and Ruuda’s Plot
We follow Taliesin and Ruuda on and off throughout the book, but none of that was played out in-game. Actually, they did not join the game as characters until much later (level 10). All that is included is backstory that was role-played in a 3-hour long car drive.
The group uses camels to cross the desert, and Artemis gives cute names to them. In the D&D game, one of the names was Camelot. It is unfortunate that could not be included in the book!
Curse of Strahd
In the D&D game, we played out Curse of Strahd. For the book, this plot line was heavily edited, rewritten, and revamped to avoid the same storyline. It was one of the biggest challenges we tackled in converting our game into a book. Luckily everything else was homebrewed so we don’t have to deal with it again!
Have you missed out on Thread of Souls? No worries, there is plenty of time to catch up! Our website page has all the information you could want about the book series, including excerpts and info about the pantheon. You can also purchase the book as paperback or ebook from Amazon.