Misc Posts

Celebrate Read a New Book Month


This September we are celebrating “Read a New Book Month”! You can also totally celebrate in December, since that is also designated as a new book month. For us, September is the doorstep of our favorite season of the year, and it has us looking to settle down, find some new books, and enjoy a slower pace of life.

Choose Your Weapon

When looking for a new book, there are many avenues available! A big chain like Barnes & Noble has plenty to choose from, or you might want to go to a local bookshop and find some hidden gems. Going online to stores like Amazon enables you to support indie authors who might not be able to get their books into larger stores. Or if you find yourself pressed for time to sit down and read, audiobooks are another option! Don’t overlook your local library if you don’t want to spend money.

What Genre?

We are lovers of high fantasy, and that tends to be 80% of what we read. But we also enjoy some spooky stories, some urban fantasy, and some nonfiction books. Stick with what you like, or it might be fun to branch out and try something new! If you are uncertain about spending money on a book you are not sure you’ll like, you can find ebooks for relatively cheap, especially from indie authors. Some sites like Amazon also let authors do a temporary free promotion of their book, so you can try one without any cost! Keep in mind the authors do not make any money from this, so you can tell they truly want to share their work if they do free promotions.

Recommendations

We’ve definitely written plenty of posts talking about some of our favorite books. If you are looking for some inspiration, feel free to check these out!

Are there any books you recommend for this list?

D&D / TTRPGs, Misc Posts, Video Games

Best Video Game Character Creators to Build Your Characters

Visualizing a character in a book series or tabletop game is all up to the imagination. Authors, readers, and players have an idea of how a character looks but they both may be entirely different from one another. No two will see a character the same, and that’s a good thing. As long as the author describes how they look, the reader forms a complete image in their head.

Yet, as authors ourselves, we like to see our characters come to life. To get a better picture of them, we turn to art and video games. Along with Talia’s original art of each character, making them in video games is a great way to take them from our imagination.

Whether you’re an author or a reader, here are some of our favorite video game character creators.

1. Elder Scrolls Online

Ruuda looking at nature

Elder Scrolls Online is a game where you’ll spend plenty of time with your character. The world is massive and you’ll spend hours adventuring across Tamriel so having a character you enjoy playing is key. Even more so, having one that is nice to look at is a bonus. The game is beautiful and provides so many customization options for your character.

From their height, build, muscles, and race, there is plenty to choose from. There are even accessories to go through and several hairstyles and colors to choose from. Though we’ll count off a few points for not having dwarf as a race but that’s more related to lore than a problem of the creator. For those who want to play a dwarf, as we do for our character Ruuda, we suggest making a dark elf and roleplaying them as a dwarf, or dwemer in Elder Scrolls lore.

Once you’re through with customizing your character, the next best thing is selecting their clothing. Which can be done an unlimited amount of times throughout the game.

2. Baldur’s Gate 3

Jade

Baldur’s Gate 3 is one of those games that just keeps giving. While the first two came with character creation, they were halted by the era in which they were released. Characters were little more than pixels on a screen, and while you could tell what class and race they were, it was difficult to make out finer details.

The technology of today allows for a wider range of character customization options. You’ll be able to build just about any book character you can imagine in the game — even more when it’s fully released. However, for those who want to make their character taller or smaller, you’re out of luck, at least for now. One day it would be nice to see drow women taller than drow men. Getting the lackluster part out of the way, one of our favorite additions is the ability to have two-toned hair. A great option for characters with wild hair such as Ruuda.

3. Solasta: Crown of the Magister

Jade, Taliesin, Ruuda, and Jasita

Solasta is what Dungeons & Dragons looks like when taken from a tabletop game to a video game. It’s a near exact adaptation and it works rather well. Its character creation is simple when compared to others but it’s no less worthy of being on our list. When you make a character, you choose their race and class, the class is the important part we’re focusing on here.

Classes come with their own clothing and weapons. So, if you are wanting to build an archer character from a book series you like, go for the ranger. Or perhaps you want to see what a thief may look like, select the rogue class to get a character with dual daggers and light armor. You can even give them a tattoo or face paint to hide their identity.

4. Elden Ring

Ruuda with dual hammers

You’ll spend a lot of time dying in Elden Ring, but its character builder is a worthy rival for stealing your time. It is one of the most dynamic creation systems we’ve come across. You can make characters any color you wish, which is great for making dark elves, dwarves, gnomes, and dragonborn-type characters. Everything is so in-depth, from your character’s hair to their eyes, nose, and mouth.

Choosing your starting class also gives you fun clothing and weapons. So, a mage will start with a staff and robes while a fighter will have armor and a weapon like a sword. Once you’re in the game properly, you can find several weapons and clothing to choose from to better equip and detail the specific character you are building. The one major downside is there isn’t a slider for height.

5. Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-reckoning

Ruuda

Kingdoms of Amalur is one of Dorian’s favorite games. Well before Thread of Souls was conceptualized, he made characters just for fun, never having one that was his own. That is until characters such as Ruuda, Taliesin, or Jasita came along. Now, in every game he’ll build a character from Thread of Souls. Kingdoms of Amalur was one of the first that comes to mind.

You can choose from race, skin tone, eye color, makeup, hairstyles, facial hair, and tattoos. From there, you’ll play a bit of the game to unlock class options. Classes are based on abilities and your choice of weapon rather than a specific class. You can also multiclass and choose to be a fighter and wizard if you wish. So, you can make a character who specializes in melee and magic.


We’ve got plenty of other video games to choose from as well! This is merely part one of the best video games to build your characters in. Stay tuned for part two!

Misc Posts

How to Overcome Writer’s Block


Writer’s block. We’ve all been there. Staring at a screen, your cursor flashing on and off, and not knowing what to write next. Perhaps you know what to say, but not how to say it. Perhaps you’re stuck on a scene transition, or a bit of dialogue, or simply don’t know where to take the plot next. This blog entry is for you!

I am a big outliner when it comes to writing books. I need to know from start to finish where I am going. Even then, I still get writer’s block. Sitting at the desk across from me, I see my husband staring blankly at the screen. He has it, too. So what do we do when we are stuck in our writing? I want to share the top three strategies that have always worked for me! I hope some work for you, as well.

Walk Around

My #1 go-to strategy is to walk around. I especially like fidgeting as I pace. It could be bouncing a ball, or turning over a stuffed animal in my hands. Going outside is fine if you’d like, but I prefer just to pace my house. Sometimes I talk things over with my husband or out loud to myself, but most often I just think about what I’m writing.

I try not to think about the writer’s block. Instead, I visualize the story as if it was a movie, and let my imagination just drive it. Eventually, a solution will present itself just through letting my mind and feet wander.

Listen to Music

Whether it’s lyrical or instrumental, music always helps. I can’t listen to lyrical songs while I write, I find that too distracting. Having some instrumental music going keeps my pace while writing. If I find myself particularly stuck, I may stop, lie on the couch, and listen to some songs. Again, I try not to find a “solution”. I just let my mind wander and see where it goes.

Take a Break

This is really the best thing you can do for yourself during writer’s block. Just take a break. Get your eyes away from the screen and let your tension relax. Coming back to your writing with a fresh mind is very helpful.

I read this tip online once and I really liked it, so now I impart it to you. When you stop writing, try to end with an unfinished sentence. For example:

He went-

She frowned and said –

They left the house and –

When you come back to write, re-read the last page or so leading up to that unfinished sentence. Most of the time, when you get to it, you will simply be able to start typing and carry on with the story!

We hope you enjoyed this entry for storytelling tips! If you have any other strategies you use to defeat writer’s block, share them below!


Lore, Misc Posts, Thread of Souls

International Beer Day and the Drybarrel Clan

Happy International Beer Day one and all! It’s not for everyone but it is what Ruuda Drybarrel’s family bases their entire livelihood on. The dwarven clan built a brewery next to their house and spends hour after hour creating beer. Whether it’s an IPA, lager, stout, ale, root beer, or another concoction, they are dedicated to perfecting each and every bottle.

The clan of 14 was blessed by the deity Thruumdar to brew beer. Ruuda, however, was not so lucky. When it came time for her blessing, she failed at everything. She couldn’t seem to do anything right and her family said each bottle of beer she made turned out wrong.

She failed at the whole process. From milling grain, pulling yeast from fruit skins, lautering, properly boiling the brew, fermenting the brew, and creating kegs and glass bottles. Her parents said each brew was poor quality.

In Thread of Souls: Phantom Five, Ruuda is forced to leave her home as she’s earned a sizeable debt to other clans figuring out her blessing. She carries with her a keg on her back full of supplies and her homemade brew. Her family may not like it but she finds it drinkable. As do many others along her journey.

Taliesin said, “Ruuda, right now I could really use one of your beers.” “Really?” Ruuda gasped. She untied her barrel from her back and quickly rummaged through, pulling out a bottle.

At first she only grabbed two cups, but when Unolé and Wash held out their hands, she grabbed another two and sat them out. She poured the beer into each one and dispensed them.

Taliesin took a long drink and she watched him carefully. When he sat the cup down, she asked, “How is it?”

He grinned. “It’s the best thing I’ve ever tasted.”

There’s a lot that goes into writing a novel. We researched how beer is made so we’d understand the process and could explain it in Thread of Souls. We both grew up not liking the drink and to this day it’s still not our favorite thing. However, it runs in the family.

Dorian’s father is a homebrewer so we know firsthand what it takes to brew a bottle. The smell is horrendous but the process can be enjoyable, especially to watch. There was one time the kitchen nearly burned down in the middle of brewing. From then on, father Ravenwood was forced to brew outside.

At home, the process was a one-man band. In Thread of Souls, it’s every Drybarrel on deck. Each clan member has a job to do and it’s all managed by Ruuda’s father Angrem and mother Sadiq.

So, the next time you grab a pint of beer or root beer. Give a cheer to the Drybarrel Clan. They’ll toast your success as well. Drink responsibly, friends!

Misc Posts

How to Write Dialogue


Hello to all you writers or curious readers out there! Let’s talk dialogue. You can have beautiful descriptions in your stories, you can have intense fight scenes, but if you don’t have good dialogue, the heart and soul of your characters vanish.

I have been writing my entire life, and before becoming a published author my first exposure to having my work reviewed by others was writing fanfics. (I encourage all new and seasoned writers to take a shot at fanfics, they are great learning experiences!) As I put out more and more stories, I found I was getting the same comments.

“You write dialogue so well.” “You really capture the character voices.” “I can tell the difference between who is talking in your dialogue and it’s great.”

I realized then how important dialogue was to bring heart to the story, and that readers really pick up on good quality dialogue. From my years of award-winning writing that followed, I have compiled a list that I hope helps others that are struggling, or that just want to learn more!

Top Dialogue-Writing Skills

Don’t Overuse “Said”

I’ve mentioned before on this website how much I dislike “said” and only use it when absolutely necessary. Using alternative words will not only help your dialogue feel fresh and dynamic, but also help to convey emotions. Here’s some examples.

Don’t: “I hate you,” he said.

Do: “I hate you,” he snapped.

Don’t: “I can handle this,” she said.

Do: “I can handle this,” she asserted.

Choosing the right word helps to convey tone. You can refer to this list that we compiled for use! For a quick reference, here are some good ideas: growled, proclaimed, commanded, grumbled, countered, commented, explained, sighed, muttered, reprimanded, stated, admitted, pleaded, sputtered, divulged, concluded, begged, yelped, recalled, scoffed, teased, whimpered, responded, questioned.

Varying the Structure of Your Dialogue

What I mean by this, is that the “said” part of the dialogue shouldn’t always appear in the same place. Put it before, after, or even in the middle of the quotes to ensure things feel fresh and not repetitive. Here are some examples from Path of the Spiders:

“I’ve seen many things,” Xidime answered.

“I need to think,” Artemis sighed. “Let’s get out of here before we’re caught.”

Unolé gasped. “There’s a skeleton inside!”

Use Action to Bring More Life to Dialogue

When you use action alongside dialogue, it helps to carry the scene forward. Of course, this can be overused. You don’t want to interrupt the flow of dialogue by having too many action descriptions. But also under-using it makes dialogue feel too transactional. We want to keep readers invested in the scene and keep the plot moving forward. Here are more examples of individual lines from Path of the Spiders that have action with them.

Taliesin held his hands up before him. “Let’s see what he has to tell us.” Magic trailed after his fingers and his spider medallion leaked shadow. The snarling sounds of Chasmic rolled off his tongue. “Bol saath dzmare.”

Artemis returned her gaze to Lysander. “Yes, I will help.”

“I don’t think they are coming back,” Ruuda’s voice broke through his mess of thoughts as she walked up, wiping her blades clean of blood. “Those things were terrible. What did you say they were again?”

Understand How Your Character Sounds

We’ll do a whole other entry on “character voice” another time, but for now keep in mind that characters have a unique way of talking. That doesn’t mean you should force characters to speak unnaturally just for the sake of differentiating them. People often sound similar in real life, after all. But keep some things in mind when writing that character’s speech.

  • Do they use “big” words, or small words? (“This is a pretty place” vs “This is a magnificent location”)
  • Do they use conjunctions a lot, or do they not? (“I can’t do that” vs “I cannot do that”)
  • Do they often speak their mind, or are they private?
  • Are they emotional or stoic?
  • Do they speak a lot or a little?
  • Do they use profanity?
  • Do they have any patterns of speech unique to them? (For example, Wash often uses “How’s about” in conversation.

This is more of a personal preference, but I’ve found trying to write accents more distracting than immersive. When I read a character that says “Ye gunna do wut?” rather than “You’re gonna do what?” I find I’m spending more time dissecting their speech rather than getting into the story.


Hope this has been helpful in your journey of writing! We love to know what projects you’re working on, so feel free to share below! Thanks for reading!


Lore, Misc Posts

Pride Month 2022

Happy Pride Month! As two authors that fall within LGBTQA+, we are passionate about supporting people and writing diverse and inclusive characters. Our real world is not “one size fits all”, and we enjoy reflecting that in our books with characters that have depth, different cultures, varying values, and unique ways of approaching life. To celebrate this year, we want to feature some characters showing their pride, as well!


Captain Sen

Sen is everybody’s friend. Up for a good time, a long night drinking, and a bar brawl, his large size makes him intimidating. Looks can be deceiving, however, because Sen is fiercely loyal and unfailingly kind. Sen is a pirate that loves sailing on his ship, the Scarlet Maiden. Sen is pansexual, enjoying the company of any race and any gender. His longest lasting relationship was with a human woman named Miriam, but they have both gone their own ways. Since then, Sen has enjoyed casual hookups in his adventurous life.

We first meet Sen in Phantom Five, winning his 100th tavern-hosted fight in 100 nights in a row. Quite a way to introduce our easy going dragonborn!

Ruuda Drybarrel

The dual-wielding dark dwarf Ruuda is fast and strong in battle. She is down-to-earth and pragmatic, but that is well-balanced by her large heart and caring spirit, particularly when it comes to animals. She is a protector of animals and an advocate against their slaughter. Ruuda is demisexual, uninterested in sex unless she feels a deeply strong emotional bond with someone. Casual relationships do not intrigue her, as she commits her entire heart to all she does.

We first meet Ruuda in Phantom Five escaping the caste system she grew up in. Teaming up with the dark elf Taliesin, she adventures the Surface to find a new life and purpose.

Taliesin Ostoroth

Talkative, energetic, and rebellious, Taliesin’s endless curiosity gets him into trouble more often than not. He weathers it all with a grin and a shrug, though, seeing life as one grand adventure. While he faces the world with a smile, there is deep hurt in his past, having grown up in an oppressive cult. Taliesin is bisexual, uncaring if he is with a male or female because he values the quality of one’s soul above all.

We first meet Taliesin in Phantom Five, a runaway from his cult hoping to repair the broken pieces of his life. He finds an excellent adventuring companion in Ruuda!

Jasita Yolarin

Jasita is a dedicated researcher at the Citadel, a prestigious establishment of arcane discovery, education, and law. To Jasita, the world is all logical and can be easily analyzed through numbers, patterns, and facts. Archeology is her specialty, especially ancient elven history that has been lost to the ages. Jasita is asexual, preferring to focus on her research and career rather than relationships. Her encounters with sex were beneficial from an experience prospective, but nothing she is interested in having again.

We first meet Jasita at the end of Phantom Five, stationed at a checkpoint tower along the Amakiir River. Her first encounter with Taliesin and Ruuda intrigues her very much, and she sees them as highly beneficial to her research!


Misc Posts

How to Publish to DMs Guild

Tabletop games such as Dungeons & Dragons offer endless opportunities for creative freedom. You’re free to use official books from Wizards of the Coast to craft a campaign or in the case of our epic fantasy book series Thread of Souls, make your world entirely homebrew. One of the best sources of homebrew material can be found on Dungeon Master’s Guild, where you can buy and sell your homebrew content.

As authors, we have several published DMs Guild supplements ranging from new enemies, adventures, and NPCs. If you’ve got an idea and want to share it with other like-minded individuals, DMs Guild is the way to go. Once you’ve finished creating your document, publishing to the platform is the next step and here’s how to do so.

Publishing to DMs Guild

Once you’ve created your own account, head to the main Account page. Scroll down to find the fifth sub-category titled My Content. Select Enter New Community Created Title to get started publishing.

The next page you’ll see is the Publisher Hub. The first step is to select which platform you’ll publish your supplement on. There are four categories to choose from: DMs Guild, Fantasy Grounds, Dungeoncraft, and Dungeoncraft Fantasy Grounds. Unless you’re already familiar with the other three, we suggest starting with just DMs Guild.

Side Note: Fantasy Grounds is for a virtual tabletop platform and is a little more of a process to set up. As is Dungeoncraft. So stick with DMs Guild for now until you feel comfortable or work with the fine folks at Grim Press to have your projects post on Fantasy Grounds.

Title, Author, Artist, and Price

Type in the title of your DMs Guild. We suggest something attention-grabbing as it will help it stand out. From there, choose the author, artist, and number of pages. The author will be yourself, and you only need to enter an artist if you’ve had anything hand-drawn. After that, you’ll choose the number of pages in the supplement and then select the price. It’s a good idea to look at what others have charged to get a ballpark price and you can add or subtract as you see fit. WotC does take a percentage from each sale you make, just to keep in mind.

Description and Cover Image

The product page text is where you’ll describe what your DMs Guild supplement is about. This could be a few sentences or a paragraph with pictures. Highlighting features of your project is always good to include here. If it has new NPCs or monsters, put it here as well.

The cover image is what everyone will see when they go to view your project. It should be visually pleasing and not too busy. Give it a title and a cool cover and you’re good to go. A good cover inspiration is using an official D&D book cover as a guide.

Side Note: Make sure you have the rights to all pictures you use. There are free images available through DMs Guild if you are looking for some. Or you could Canva, the platform we use for all of our designs.

Categories: Theme, Setting, Edition

The next section is where you’ll choose specific categories for your supplement. You’ll find Storylines, Adventures, Core Rues, Character Options, Gear and Magic Items, and more. These are broken down into their own smaller categories and basically, help you determine what is in your supplement. It has everything from adventure tiers, race, backgrounds, items, adventure theme, and edition.

Automatic Previews

Previews are to showcase specific pages of your supplement. The flipbook is a smaller preview that flips like the pages of a book. While the PDF preview is larger and allows viewers to scroll through pages of your project.

Uploading Files

Once this section is complete, head back to the main Account page. Select the Upload/Update Files and find your DMs Guild title. Make sure it’s saved as a PDF and attach it to the drag and drop area. Select make public and it will be added to the DMs Guild database.


Misc Posts

National Reading Month – Our Favorite Books


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.

Tell us about your favorite books!


Misc Posts

Slay a Dragon Day on World Book Day

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.

world art day
Misc Posts

World Art Day

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!