Explore the Castle:

June Wrap-Up


First things first, I got a new bookkeeping job, which is cool. For a local restaurant, run by a local couple. I get to open carry every day, so I basically get to swagger around the place with paperwork and a handgun and look Important. But now my schedule is different and it's throwing me through some loopholes. Hence the short and sweet blog posts and frequent absence on Instagram.

Second things...we sent out a call for folks who want to help with the cover reveal for Ships, Secrets and Survivors (yes, I'm going to mention that book as often as I can now).

So we moved the little pigs into the pasture with the big pigs. And the big guys adopted the tiny ones. :)

A friend and I camped overnight and rode 15 miles.

Went for a ride with Pepper and Max in the rain.

Max got a bath.

A clean puppers gets to stay in the house and help me draw a map.

Hitched Pepper up to the cart and went for a drive (with Max).

Did a Ride and Tie with a friend and her horse (she took the photo).

Going for a drive with my boys.

Did a Ride and Tie with Sister 2. She can't wait to do a "real" race, haha.

Hope y'all got your fill of Pepper and Max. Cuz in July you're going to hear a lot about Ravin and Adi and the Red Wind and PIRATES and TALKING SHIPS and ASSASSINS and the CAPTAIN OF THE SEAS HIMSELF.

Exciting Announcements (in my opinion, anyway)

I've been blogging for 3 years, y'all. THREE WHOLE YEARS.

Can you believe it?? Still feels like yesterday...while at the same time, feels like I've been doing this forever, y'know?

Anyways, thanks to everyone for sticking around and reading my posts and commenting and just in general being amazing. It's been such a wonderful journey to meet other readers and writers. Y'all are why blogging is so fun.

Are there any kind of posts y'all like seeing? Anything you think I should stop talking about? Posts you really enjoy? Drop a comment and let me know!

But now for the news I'm sure y'all have been waiting for...

Yes. You read that right. Ships, Secrets, and Survivors has a cover and we are getting ready to reveal it!!! (Note: THE COVER IS AMAZINGGGGG) So we actually had the cover made a few months back, to kind of motivate ourselves while we were editing, and I've had it as my phone background for months and I haven't been able to SHARE IT and I CANT WAIT TO FINALLY SHOW YOU GUYSSSSS

Anywho, we've got a quick little form for y'all to fill out, and then in a few weeks...the cover will be sent out. *squeals*

So what are you waiting for?? SIGN UP!!!!

(Also, side note: I've started a new job, so posts and comments might be a little shorter than normal, as I'm trying to keep to my blogging schedule while working new hours and working on PUBLISHING. So please bear with me.) Thank you!

Characters in QT

So I thought this would be a fun little post to write up. What would the characters in The Red War Trilogy do with all this Covid-19/shelter-in-place stuff going on right now?

(They technically are medieval fantasy characters, but just imagine they were in real time, haha.)

Marywyn - Would comply with the shelter-in-place, at least in the beginning: wear masks and gloves and be extremely careful and safe. Would not complain with those who ask her to wear said mask/gloves to places. Has gotten a lot of gardening done, and is enjoying the time off.

Wisdom - Has been extra busy, driving around helping in-need families and the elderly. Brings them food and whatever things they need. Leaves things on their doorsteps with uplifiting, handwritten notes. Handmakes masks in her spare time (what spare time, haha).

Connaven - Complains about how hard the QT is, despite sheltering in her parent's huge mansion, complete with swimming pool, fitness room, and in-home movie theater. Has made way too many TikTok videos and is bored out of her mind, but is convinced that if she steps outside she will die.

Duren - Restless. Goes for a long run every morning and then stress-builds stuff around the house. Isn't personally concerned about the virus, and meets with friends when he can. Has completely re-organized the garage twice since QT started. The tree-house, porch, and doghouse were not in the yard before QT... Has probably started 5 new hobbies.

Mithrinn - Goes about life as normal, laughs at people in masks and considers them to be needlessly extra careful. Is constantly sharing "is this just a government hoax" articles on Social Media. Gets annoyed when told to wear a mask into a store, and rants about liberty and freedom.

Raya - Her life hasn't changed much, to be honest. She forgets to go down the grocery store aisles the "right" direction and worries she'll get arrested. Carries a mask in her purse but only puts it on when stores require it. Has enjoyed what extra time she now has with friends who normally work. 

Jaran - May or may not be living on a throne made out of toilet paper. When he's not helping Duren with the latest QT project, he's probably binge-watching something.

Mask - He's just relieved he no longer stands out in the crowd (since he normally wears a handkerchief over his nose/mouth). Doesn't watch any news or have social media, so honestly is just doing what his friends tell him.

Maxin - Hardly ever goes out anyway, but when he does, he doesn't wear a mask or anything. Said he "read something in the newspaper" about there being a virus...

Tache - Is the one trying to explain to Maxin that they could have it but not know it and still end up passing it around to people. Has given Maxin a bunch of extra masks and gloves but apparently Maxin keeps misplacing them...not to worry, Tache stocked up on a bunch, and even if he runs out, he could probably ask Jaran for some...

Dominin - Has stockpiled and put himself under mandatory QT. Hasn't left the house in weeks. There's a viral video of him aerosol-spraying a bag of groceries. He's not letting anyone visit, but will wave at them from the windows.

Ondore - No one has seen her for the past few weeks. General assumption is that she's gone off-grid again, but whether that's because she is concerned about the virus or concerned about governmental control, no one knows.

Well, how was that? Tag yourself - I'm Raya! (And feel free to steal the idea and do a post with your own characters.)

My Pet Peeve About Book Reviews

So, I'm gonna put up a disclaimer and let y'all know that I'm not talking about "a certain person" or anything like that. I occasionally write these kind of reviews myself, so there's a bit of preaching to the choir here.

That being said, let's jump in...

Book reviews are an important part of the reading and writing community.

As readers, we check out book reviews to help us decide if we want to read a certain book/series or not. Do people seem to enjoy it? Dislike it? Are there a lot of "poor writing" or "boring" comments? Have a bunch of people mentioned the tons of language or lust-filled scenes? Or has everyone been putting up glowing "amazing storyworld" and "beautiful writing style" comments?

As writers and authors, we understand the importance of good reviews. We bribe our readers with swag and free ebooks in exchange for honest reviews. If our book has only a few reviews, there's a chance readers are less likely to buy the book...

As a member of Rebellious Writing, I understand the importance of using reviews to warn readers of the possible sensitive material found in fiction. I don't want to waste my time (or be forever traumatized) by reading something that I'll eventually DNF because of content.

So you can imagine my slight annoyance when I look at reviews, and most of them are something along the lines of....

"OHHHHH MY POOR SMALL ADORABLE BABY BOB" (just insert the name of the cute, possibly angsty, male character from the book)

Me: *eyeroll*


Me: sooooo ummmm is there anything in this book I need to be warned about?


Me: Anything else about the book that you liked?

So maybe I'm exaggerating a little bit. :) But you get the picture. I'm hoping for some coherent "this was done really well and this is amazing and there are some swear words and maybe a kiss oh and I really liked this character, he's written so well and I loved his story arc."

As an author, I'll be honest and say that reviews purely consisting of "AHHHHHHH POOR SWEET BOB" will make me smile. After all, if I wrote such a sob story arc, I expect people to sob over it.

But as a reader, I would like more information. "POOR SWEET BOB" isn't going to make me want to read the book. "Well written storyworld with no language or sex" will definitely make me want to read the book.

So to recap...scream about that cute character all you want. But maybe provide a little more information about the book as well? So like, we kinda know what it's about besides the cute/amazing/traumatized guy?

May Wrap-Up

Guess who barely noticed that May has finally come and gone? Me.

Anyways, my month was super busy. Lots of farm work. Lots of editing. I got a new bookkeeping job, so that's cool. Read a bunch.

Thanks to some fun farm happenings we now have:

1 horse (Pepper)

2 dogs (Louie and Max)

2 cats (Spice and Ragnar)

3 cows (Susan, Sweetie, and Sir Loin)

3 big pigs (unnamed, haha)

4 little pigs (Itch, Hen Wen, Bee, and Red)

20ish egg laying chickens

3 roosters

3 hives of honey bees

1 useless white male duck

1 useless mallard duck

20 meat chickens

10 baby turkeys

60 baby chickens of some weird french breed that my dad randomly ordered

Oh, and some fish in a tank that my mom takes care of.

And approximately only ONE HALF OF THE BARN ROOF (and did y'all know that NC has been getting a crazy amount of rain this month????)


Met up with Evan and Sarah for a hike - first time seeing each other since the virus stuff happened.


My mom doesn't ride, so she hiked while Jennifer and I rode our horses.

Some of the steep mountain trails.

Sarah and Joe stopped by for a few hours and we went for a hike.


Jennifer's girls also came for an afternoon and they got to ride while we hiked with them.

Taking the horse trailer through the drive-thru because we couldn't park and go inside...

Max went on his first trail ride and did splendidly!
Such a well behaved puppy!!! <3

The new little piggies!

Going for a drive before the rain returns... 
Cows, horses, and the big pigs out in the pasture enjoying it *not* raining for the moment...

Max enjoying a gator ride.

Ragnar in the flowers.

Busy bees, haha.

I trailered Pepper up to VA and we did a nice 10 miles together.

Hope everyone else had a lovely May. I'm worn out...fixing the barn roof, feeding all the animals, nursing a sick pig, doing a 100 mile virtual race with Pepper, finishing a round of edits on a CERTAIN BOOK THAT SHALL REMAIN NAMELESS BUT I AM VERY EXCITED ABOUT, and trying new kinds of teas because JUSTIN THATS WHY.

The Story Hunter - A Review

I'm very slow to jump onto new books. Or any book, really. (Partly because I'm soooooo behind on my TBR...)

So when I heard great things about The Story Peddler, I was like "okay, cool, I'll probably read it eventually" and then just kinda went on with my life.

Fast forward to Realm Makers 2019, and TSP is everywhere and winning allllll the awards and I was like "okay, I'm gonna get this book now."

And I did. Got it signed by Lindsey Franklin and everything. And when I read it I was blown away.

I was part of The Story Raider release and loved that book, though not as much as TSP. That being said, I hardly ever like "middles" in trilogies. They don't have the fun of first entering the world and meeting the characters, and they don't have a final ending. They just....continue on and on, if you know what I mean.

I also felt like Diggy kind of stole the show from Tanwen, and that irked me. I also wanted more time with the Weavers (and maybe a little less time of Tannie and Mor trying to ignore each other).

So I wanted for The Story Hunter, biting my nails and hoping that the final book would bring back the magic I loved in the first one.

And I wasn't disappointed.


I love Tannie so much. She's such an awesome character. I love her sense of humor and her way of seeing the world and she's so STRONG. Like, I would love to just sit back and drink a cup of tea with her and chat about sailing and country life and goofy farm boys and handsome ex-pirates and maybe she would weave me a story and I could play her a song on my mandolin.

The Corsyth Weavers. Guys. They are awesome. I really wish there was more interaction with them, because I love them all. Especially because they're all so different and yet brought together with their amazing talents and how they all help and support each other.

The writing style is just so soothing to read and enjoyable and full of life. #writinggoals 

Tannie and Mor openly admitting to loving each other are the best. I loved seeing them support each other and friendly bicker and tease and just AHHHHHHHHHHH

Also, Brac's storyline. I honestly always liked that farm boy...


Diggy. Now, I personally like Diggy. First off, her name is so stinkin' cute and after hearing her story I really want to (gently, lest she stab me) wrap her in a hug and tell her everything will be okay and bake her some snickerdoodles and try to get her to really smile. I liked her in TSR. But in TSH, I felt like I couldn't really get into her head at times, and some of her decisions seemed really sudden and maybe even out of character. Maybe that was the point, though? So all in all, I'll not complain much about it. It is what it is and her ending is still GOLDEN.

Braith is still boring, tbh. In all 3 books.

Final Report

I'm still going to wave these books everywhere and shove them in people's faces because these books are beautiful and fun and just full of awesome characters and an awesome world and some awesome magic and do yourself a favor and read the books. :)

Anyone else read these? Thoughts? Comments? Criticisms? Want to cry with me over the ending of TSH??

If you are interested in getting yourself a copy of this book, --->here<--- is the book page on the publisher's website. 

Tips for Co-Writing

Soooooo you still want to try co-writing? Here's a few methods that Sarah and I have found to help. If you have any others, drop them in the comments below!

Shared Google Docs

These are a life-saver. I used to hate Google Docs, but now I probably spend more time there than anything else. Sarah and I can easily view, edit, and comment on the same document and it's all accessible from phone and laptops so I can read what Sarah is writing while I'm driving the tractor around the farm.

We now have this saying "just make a shared doc for it".

For each WIP, we have a number of shared docs:

-A doc for the current draft
-A doc with an outline
-A doc where we originally brainstormed ideas

Sometimes the outline and ideas docs are combined into one. Sometimes we'll have old drafts saved as well. And we also have a doc with pictures that we shared with our illustrator.

Phone Calls

Sometimes an email won't just cut it. After doing random edits on our own, Sarah and I finally figured out a good way to do editing together. Twice a week, during lunch breaks at work, we would pull out our laptops and open the shared doc. Then we would simple take turns reading out loud and suggesting changes and discussing the scene/chapter/character.

We usually got 1-3 chapters done during a session. Once we were finished with the edits, and were working on brainstorming the next book, we continued the phone calls to discuss ideas and plots and themes out loud.

Emails and comments can easily be misread/misinterpreted. But if you can't talk in person, a phone call is the next best thing. Just put it on speaker, pull up that shared doc, and fangirl away! Any awkwardness will pass, I promise!

Define Goals

When we get together with our phone calls, we quickly set down what we hope to accomplish within the allotted time. Edit 2-3 chapters? Finish the blurb? Plan out next month's goals?

Thankfully Sarah and I both work with a "monthly goal" mindset. We have a Google Doc where we keep an outline of things that need to be done each month, and then we'll assign certain projects to each other.

Read-Through for Edits

Took us a while to figure this out, but it is the best.

When we started editing our first book, it was kind of this "jump on and fix things that you notice need to be changed" and then we'd literally be changing the same thing back and forth and missing stuff and it was basically chaos.

Then we tried something new: we got together via phone twice a week and took turns reading aloud each chapter. Not only did we get the added benefit of reading aloud (which really helps show weird sentence/grammar structure) but we could then talk over suggested edits.

Sarah would be reading, and I'd interrupt and say "oh, wait, that's weird, let's change it" and we'd discuss and make changes. I'd be reading and Sarah would stop me and say "I think this needs more description" and we'd talk about how we both imagined the scene and how to convey that.

It really works, y'all. 

Humility and Grace

You need to be willing to let things slide.

Maybe you're convinced a sentence sounds weird, but your co-writer thinks it sounds great? Just take a breath and let it slide. Are you willing to start a fight over a sentence?

Maybe your friend wants to go overboard and write some wild multi-plot-twisty story, but you want to write something simpler, especially for the first attempt at co-writing? Set out your concerns and wishes and politely ask for them to be respected.

Share Your Ideas

You may want to surprise your readers with a new character or plot twist, but do not surprise your co-writer. Instead, share you ideas and plans. They may help may them better -- or be the voice of reason that says no, don't do it.

Spend time discussing the characters and plot together. Make sure you are both on the same page. If you are constantly at odds in regards to something, it'll be a nightmare.

Also, don't just assume the other person knows what you want them to do, or what you want to happen. Err on the side of annoying over-communication instead of leaving things unsaid.

Set Aside Time to Fangirl

Usually we had set plans for our phone calls, but every now and then we'll just give ourselves permission to just scream at each other and make weird noises and shed some tears about what we'd been writing or editing or planning.

It really helps you get motivated to continue. :)

So??? Anyone else sold on co-writing??? GRAB A WRITING BUDDY AND TRY IT!!