Categories
Authorship Editing

Why Should I Recruit Beta Readers?

I’ve never seen stellar writing done in a vacuum.

Generally, nothing you do alone will be as good as what is accomplished when you collaborate with other people.



Free Check for Plagiarism


What are Beta Readers?

Beta readers are a group of people you select to read an early draft of your book (often after developmental editing). They are meant to give you a general idea of how readers are going to respond to your work. Think of it as your own market research group.

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Who Can Be a Beta Reader?

Anybody (friends, co-workers, writing group members, strangers, etc). However, it’s helpful to find people who resemble your target market and who are reliable enough that you feel confident in their ability to (1) read the entire book and (2) promptly give you feedback.

When Should I Start Recruiting Beta Readers?

As soon as you reasonably can. “Reasonably” meaning you have a solid enough understanding of the book’s content to clearly tell someone what kind of story or content they will be consuming.

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Where Can I Find Beta Readers?

Everywhere. Face-to-socially-distanced-face and online. Your critique groups, family members, and hobby groups. You’d be amazed how many people are willing to help out with your project.

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Now that you understand the basics about beta readers, get out there and start signing people up!

Categories
Authorship Writing

Why Should I Create an Audiobook?

Creating an audiobook for your latest work is key to helping boost your brand and your sales. Though it will take some time and effort, as detailed in ‘How Do I Create an Audiobook?‘, the investment is worth it for the vast majority of authors.

What is an Audiobook?


An audiobook is a recording of you or a voice actor reading your book. Instead of getting a paperback or hardcover copy of the book, or downloading the digital text version on to an e-reader, audiobooks allow people to listen to the book being read to them.


Who Uses Audiobooks?

Audiobooks are used by readers of all ages and genre affiliations. It’s difficult to make an audiobook for things like journals, workbooks, or books with lots of images (such as a children’s picture book), but every other kind of book is pretty much fair game. Audiobooks are also helpful for people who have problems reading small text, are legally blind, or who have trouble sitting still for extended periods of time. An audiobook can be listened to while engaging in another activity such as running, swimming, cleaning, or shopping.




When Should I Start Audiobook Production?

Depending upon the length of your book and how you plan on producing it as an audiobook, the answer to this can vary. If you want the audiobook to be available on the same day as your other formats (paperback, hardcover, ebook, loose-leaf, etc.), you’ll normally want to start the production process three to six months ahead of your proposed release date. Keep in mind that this means your text needs to have been written, edited, designed, and proofread in order to make sure your listeners are hearing the same version of the book that your readers are seeing. So, if you normally have a finalized version of the book ready six months before your release date, that’s when you would want to open auditions to find a voice actor/producer or start recording your own audio.



Why Should I Create an Audiobook?


Creating an audiobook has several benefits that can help you build your fan base and provide convenience for your fans.

As mentioned earlier, audiobooks are often the easiest way for someone with visual impairments of various kinds to consume your work. Each time you publish text-only versions of your book, you are missing out on engaging avid readers who just so happen to not be able to see (very well).

An audiobook provides a higher level of convenience for reviewers and busy readers. Reviewers often have dozens of books they have been asked and/or paid to read by authors and publishing companies (not to mention whatever they read for fun). So, being able to listen to a book while they drive their kids to school, vacuum the living room, or wash the puppy makes their lives a lot easier. Sometimes, offering an audio file that a reviewer can listen to may help move your book to the top of their list. The same benefits apply to friends, family, and other people who want to read and review your book in order to help support your authorship, but find they have a lot less time than they thought they did to sit down and read a book.

Being more accessible to more people can result in more sales, more reviews, and more fans—all of which help you grow your career as an author!


Should you create an audiobook for your work? The answer is ‘yes’ for the vast majority of pieces. If having the time and money to do it professionally on your own are a barrier, review my post on how to create an audiobook and learn more about how to do it for $0.00 and get it distributed on platforms like Audible and iTunes.

 

Happy writing!

Categories
Authorship Writing

Is Premium Grammar Software Worth the Money?

A student’s question highlights a few important points about editing apps like Grammarly and Pro Writing Aid.

So, you’re using the free version of a program like Grammarly and you’re considering paying for the premium version. After all, there seem to be an awful lot of alerts that you’re missing out on because you’re not a paid user. But, is that really in your best interest?

“Is paying for premium versions of grammar software worth the investment?”

This question was brought up during my “How to Shop for Professionals” class, and we were specifically speaking about finding, vetting, and hiring literary professionals like editors and illustrators. Using a grammar checker to go through your 80,000-word science fiction novel is not something I would recommend for most authors. Since you’re going to hire a copy editor anyway, paying for the premium version of grammar software is just more money out of your pocket for the same service.

“But isn’t a computer algorithm more accurate than a human?”

Not in my experience. The problem with a lot of grammar apps is that the program just isn’t sophisticated enough to be able to make judgments about things like style and context (don’t even get me started on character dialogue!). This means that the program may highlight something as being incorrect when it’s really fine. For example, if you were to write ‘Dam,’ on a line by itself, your spellchecker might not alert you because it knows the word ‘dam’ and sees that it is spelled correctly. But if your intention was to have a character think ‘Damn!’ then the algorithm hasn’t helped you at all. Whereas, a human reading the context of the scene would immediately catch that this is the wrong word being used.

“Okay…but what if I’m not going to hire a copy editor for my book?”

Then, by all means, get every bit of help you can! If you don’t think you can afford a professional copy editor, paying for a program to help you out is still better than letting the grammar mistakes fall where they may.

Whether you are preparing to publish independently or to start sending your queries to agents or acquisitions editors, making sure your copy is clean is always a good idea. If you can afford to get a professional copy edit, that’s always best. But, if you can’t, algorithms are certainly better than nothing. When you get to the copy editing stage of your manuscript development, just make sure you make the decision that works best for you, your bank account, and your publication goals!

Resources

Get a free copy editing quote at Volo Press.

Start using Grammarly, Pro Writing Aid, or Hemingway.

See which live Writerwerx course is coming up next.

Categories
Authorship Fiction Nonfiction Writing

5 Simple Sources for Content

Not sure what your next screenplay or book should be about? The five ideas can help your figure it out.


Variations on a Theme

One of the easiest ways to come up with an idea for your next piece is to borrow the core of another one and make it your own. This could be a classic tale like Jack and the Beanstalk or Snow White or something a little more modern like The Hunger Games or The Notebook. Choose a film or book that you like and break it down into its central components. What would its premise be? What would its slim, basic, or detailed outline look like?

Once you have all the pieces dissected, start swapping things out. For example, instead of a galaxy far, far away from Earth, make the setting an island far, far away from the United States. Instead of a human man reliving the same day over and over again, make the setup a country reliving the same atrocity over and over again. This method of switching out key components of the story or content and then writing it in your own style can help you create your next new piece. This is the process described in comparative statements made when people are pitching manuscripts and screenplays to acquisitions editors and film producers: “It’s like [insert bestseller / or blockbuster] meets [insert bestseller / blockbuster]”.

You are taking the same theme (the damsel in distress saved by a prince, the underdog overthrowing a tyrant, the financial glutton falling into poverty, etc.) and creating a variation of it that’s all your own.

No Longer Unsolved Mysteries

Watching a news report about an unsolved crime is another great place to find a new source of ideas. Take it upon yourself to speculate on what happened to the little girl whose body was found ten miles from her home in the middle of a school day. Give us the play-by-play for how a man who appears to have been caught red-handed is actually innocent of extortion. Sniff out all those cases that just don’t seem to make sense and have confounded local detectives and federal agents alike.

The Problem (and The Solution)

Especially useful for self-help and documentaries, consider some of the biggest problems in the world right now and what some solutions are. Do you have a stellar method for organizing the mountain of syllabuses that students are emailed at the beginning of each semester? Do you know the perfect way to explain to people why we see the sky as blue during the day instead of green, yellow, or some other color? Do you know that one secret that people need to understand about personal finance that will increase their net worth by 40% within the next three years? Even if you don’t have answers to these questions, if you know there is an answer (and that answer is one that people are desperately searching for) turn your research skills into your next literary venture. Put all the research together and give the people what they want!

The Mirror

Tell your own story, with a dash of creative license thrown in! Many people don’t write their autobiography or memoir because they have been fortunate enough not to experience any major, life-changing challenges. They haven’t had most of their limbs amputated, they haven’t survived civil war, they haven’t been to prison, they haven’t battled severe mental illness. In their minds, there is nothing about their lives worth reading, let alone writing about. If this is how you feel, that’s okay! First of all, it’s awesome that you don’t have some major drama or trauma going on for someone to be interested in reading. That just means you got lucky to have a life less stressful and painful than most people’s.

But you can always jazz it up (figuratively, of course) by exploring something that’s never happened to you and what your reaction would be to it. Never punched your supervisor in the face while he was man-splaining something? Write that scene! What happens next? How do you handle the consequences? Most important of all—was it worth it? Why? What did that moment teach you about your alter-ego?

Answering questions like this means you’ll start building a plot in no time, all by using all the experiences you already have available to you.

The Vision

We’ve all got fancy ideas about a paradise, the perfect spouse, or the best job in the world. In order to turn that vision of wonder into a book or screenplay that someone wants to read or make, we just need to add some conflict and resolve it. What’s the catch to living in this paradise? What one flaw does this near-perfect spouse have or how does their perfection harm you or those around you? The best job in the world really would be so if it weren’t for the fact that…what? And is that downside worth quitting or not?


If you’re like many people who love to write but don’t always have a steady stream of new ideas, these can at the very least help get your creative synapses firing so you can start dreaming up your next big project. Have some other ideas for new ideas? Share with your fellow members in the comments!

Categories
Fiction Writing Writing Contest

3rd Place 2020 Writerwerx ‘Slight Short Story’ Contest Winner

Read the story that won the third place prize in the 2020 Writerwerx ‘Slight Short Story’ Contest!

“So, What Happened Next?” by Kavita Srinivasan of South San Francisco, California


The sun shone bright, and the wind caressed soft that autumn morning in 2010. Water danced in the canals of the river Kaveri. Birds chattered in the wilderness next door. And the bullock-carts tip-tapped through the bright green fields all around.

I was on India’s oldest and toughest marathon trail for the first time — to support my partner in his debut 26-mile run. A few minutes after the whistle blew, he disappeared in the huddle. I had never been to a marathon before. So I lingered around the start line for sometime. Then, clueless about what to do, I strolled into the trail.

Everyone there was either a runner, pacer, or a volunteer. I was a visitor. So that Nikon D50 around my neck helped answer unasked questions. Techies of India’s silicon valley had common likes and dislikes. Most of them enjoyed photography and running, and showed a disregard for high fashion.

I was in a semi-sports attire that day, had a camera on me, and wore glasses like what Moss wore in The IT Crowd. I looked the part. Runners waved and smiled at me. And almost as an instinct, I held up the camera to click pictures.

The pseudo-cult of the technologists of the world fascinated me as an outsider.

What’s the deal with techies and running? Why do they all sign up to jog for forty kilometers? Why would you go the distance for anything less than the Olympics?

My mind sparked with questions, right when my heart began to take in the beauty all around. The lush green fields and endless blue skies painted the backdrop. The singing streams and the whistling teals formed the chorus. And the performance band of the day, filled with an army of runners, marched in and out in its own rhythm. Soaked in nature’s symphony, hours flew by.

It’s when I saw people run the other way, toward me, that I realized the race was in its final moments. The scene was different now. Heavy breaths quietened the youthful vitality at the start of the race. Slow and immobile steps took over the rhythmic march. And confident roars had faded out into painful cries. The support crew motorbikes rumbled out of the woods, one after another. In their backseat, each carried a runner who had either dropped out or passed out on the trail.

“Where, where is he?”

As my eyes searched for my partner, I noticed someone on the narrow bridge in front.

They were by the railing on the left, their blood-red tshirt drenched in sweat. Their limp hands rested over the fence, their head hung loose between the arms. And their knees wobbled inside the flesh of the legs, as they struggled to stand upright.

“Almost there, almost there!”

“Good job, keep going” “Come on!”

The runners cheered as they passed, to little avail.

Worried, I walked toward the bridge. As I approached the panting runner, someone in a green shirt ran in front of me.

They stopped on the bridge, bent down, put an arm around the frail body, and brought the runner up. At the railing, I lined up about two feet away from the duo. The two looked out into the water and like friends on a scenic outing, began to talk.

“I love this trail so much man,” The green shirt guy said. “Did I tell you I decided to marry my wife here?” “Wha..wha..t?” The red shirt guy said.

Out of breath, his voice was feeble.

“Yeah! I was about to sign up for a full marathon. And I had never run more than two miles in my life.”

The red shirt guy straightened up a bit.

“My girlfriend, she begged me to do the half marathon instead.”

“I was like, ‘woman! Are you questioning what I can do?’ Somehow she convinced me, and I was so glad she did. Because even at the start line, I was like ‘13 miles, ha, this is going to be a cakewalk.”

The other person raised his eyebrows.

“And..and I was on fire at first. Seconds after we started together, I left my girlfriend and many others far behind. I was like, yeah baby, I’m gonna crush the miles. Until something hit me at the fifth mile — an invisible force. I could neither move nor stop….” “Aah, I know that feeling, man,” The man in red said.

His voice was clearer now.

“People swooshed past me, crushing my ego. I felt frustrated, angry, confused, helpless

— all at once. And then, she found me.”

As he spoke, the man stretched his arms, exercised his hips, and jogged in place. And like a reflection, the other guy followed every move.

“She jogged next to me, told me I was doing well, and asked me to go slow, as I took baby steps,”

As he said that, the green shirt guy turned around, and hopped out of the bridge. The man in the red shirt swerved.

“Hey, but did you finish the race?” The other guy looked back and waved.

“I’ll tell you, come!”

Almost a corpse a few moments ago, the man in red picked up his steps and ran. It was like they had never stopped. I went the other way into the trail, to look for my partner.

He, my partner, may or may not finish the race, I thought. Yet that broken, battered guy in red will make it to the finish line.

He had a story to chase. He had a storyteller to follow.

Categories
Fiction Psychological Writing Writing Contest

2nd Place 2020 ‘Slight Short Story’ Contest Winner

Read the story that won the second place prize in the 2020 Writerwerx ‘Slight Short Story’ contest!

“The Nobodies” by Nicole March of St. Augustine, Florida


I just wanted to be noticed. Just….noticed. I don’t need congratulations, a pat on the back or anything grandiose. Just acknowledged that I’m here, that I exist, and that I’ve done something.

That was all I wanted. I wanted to be good, do the right thing, and make all the right moves. But nothing I’ve done works. I wanted a life that meant something to me, but it doesn’t. It just exists. I am a boat floating away on a river that just continues to turn. It just continues to go nowhere. I try to make any and all the connections, get out of my shell to try and meet people and network, but no one wants to know me past 10 min in. Why? All my family are gone now, and I can’t seem to make friends or even get a date. What’s so bad about me? I’m trying and no one will meet me halfway.

Everyday I’m at this job I feel my life draining away. Nothing I’ve done gets me out of this hellhole and I can’t afford to quit. I don’t want to lose my home, I don’t have a friends couch to crash on. I’ve looked every which way I can and again nothing… No responses. The small amount of interviews I got…nothing. I thought I had done well and yet here I am back in….nothing. I just exist.

I can’t escape….

He was there on a Tuesday, the “New Boss”. Embarrassingly young, full of no life experience and the thought process he was better than everyone else. He could do things “better”. The job should have been mine and everyone around me knew it. He knew it too, my stats were better than everyone else’s, and I am a woman to boot, yet try as I might no one acknowledged me. What….am…I…doing….wrong.

I stare at this computer and drift away in thought. Every day here I feel my heart race and my brain feels like it’s on fire. Something is constantly knocking on a door in the back of my mind but I can’t find the key. Sometimes the knocking is deafening. This place continues to kill me, and I can’t escape its grasp. I feel like I am suffocating slowly, as if the air in my lungs doesn’t care for my existence as well.

Again I became the good girl, did everything I could to make our team work together. My team liked me, they thought I deserved better, but unfortunately they cant help me at all. All I got was “I’m Sorry”, “It shouldn’t be like this”, “You deserve better”

I deserve….what? I’m not even sure now. Hope is fading. After the afternoon meeting, “He” asked me to stay behind.

“Let’s have a chat” he said. I saw him clench and unclench his jaw and I felt my heart race again. The knocking also started anew.

“We need to talk about how things have been around here” he said.

“You don’t seem to be interested in all the changes going on here, the positive direction the company wants for all of us”

I knew he was talking but it was getting harder to hear him.

“We really need team players, and while you are very good at your job you seem to march to the beat of your own drum” he said.

“What….how am I” I could only respond in stifled sounds, I could hear my own voice sound strangled.

“Consider this the first of our conversations as we try to get you to join us on the same…”

I didn’t feel the heavy metal in my hand until after it happened. I swung the hole puncher out and forward in an arc. It hit him in the cheek bone with a crunch that threw his body backwards.

His eyes widened and a WUH sound was all he could make.

I saw the wound grow across his cheekbone, the youthful skin swelling, the darkening of his eye. The eyes were opening and shutting in shock as he tried to raise his hands in defense.

A strange feeling emerged inside me. Rage.

I gripped it again and swung downward aiming for the bridge of the nose. 12 yrs of martial arts made me a stronger than average woman, but not that strong. I felt a stab of pain in my shoulder, as I watched the blood spurt out of his face arching and hitting my clothes. His nose was twisted to one side swelling and spilling blood. His right eye was swollen shut now.

Another swing, I aimed for his mouth with no particular reason at all. All he could do was sputter sounds. His body sagged, ready to fall off the office chair. I thought I saw fragments of teeth fall to the floor.

He collapsed on the ground and I stepped back surveying the scene. He was struggling to breath, the blood was getting in the way. I squatted closer, and his left eye the only one open, showed nothing but fear. I was taking his youth away and I was happy. The hole puncher was getting slippery and I brushed it off in my shirt. A raise of an arm, and again I brought it down on his temple, again on the remnants of the nose, and then once more. He wasn’t moving now. The floor became a sea of blood. He never even made that much of a sound the entire time.

Shockingly no one was running in, no screams of horror. It was quiet.

I stood and stepped back. I grabbed my purse and shut off the light. I peeked out the door and saw no one. So, I locked up like I did everyday. I got in my car and just drove with the windows down, I wasn’t going to go home now. Then it came suddenly the sound of silence. And I was happy once more.

Categories
Fiction Psychological Writing Contest

1st Place 2020 ‘Slight Short Story’ Contest Winner

Read the story that won our 2020 Slight Short Story Contest!

Paris 

By Ishan Davis of Charlotte, North Carolina

A crash from below brings him to consciousness. 

His bedroom, now washed with light from the open window, feels like a safe haven from the confines of his dreams. He wouldn’t call them nightmares, as that was too strong of a word. Not quite scary, but unsettling. They were bursts of strange thoughts—deformed memories, eerie voyages to places he had never been—all pushed out from some dark corner of his sleeping imagination. 

He was thankful for the loud strangers below, the life raft that pulled him to the surface of reality every morning. Their voices are unusually loud today, most likely the neighbors that had moved in a couple weeks ago. Exchange students, he guessed. He could never decipher what made its way up through the window, but he knows it must be English. Of course it is. 

It seems like that is all you ever hear now. 

He unwraps himself from the covers, feet meeting the floor as he sits on the edge of the bed. His glazed eyes find the nightstand. A scribbled note is left there, ripped from one of his lingering journals, he imagines. 

‘Meeting friends. 

Be back tonight, Munchkin.’ 

He scoffs. Of course she would settle on the worst nickname, he thinks. A part of him wonders if they were too old for this, nicknames and notes. But she isn’t asking for much. He could let her have this. 

The floor isn’t as cool as it usually is. It’s warm for October. The stale air in the apartment nears unbearable. He looks at the window, frowning. The latch is shut. He is so sure that it was open when he awoke just moments ago. He walks over, stretching his limbs as he takes in the scene below. It was the same morning shuffle as always: Unbothered old women walk through tour groups on tight sidewalks. A fit of snapping cameras. The clanking of silverware at a café across the way. The exchange students that were just happy to be there. 

He unlatches the window and in a couple of steps, he’s in the kitchen. A cup of coffee sits on the counter. Smoke wafts up to the ceiling, reeking of a fresh roast. It’s a pale brown color, café au lait, his favorite. The oven beeps, and the sudden smell of chicken meets his nose. The oven timer is at zero. Lunch is ready. 

He blinks several times, but the coffee remains, and the beeping never ceases. 

Nearly tripping over himself, he backpedals into the bedroom where his phone rests on the nightstand. The note is nowhere to be found. His attention snaps to the bed. It has been neatly made, sheets unwrinkled and pillows flat. 

His chest constricts, holding in every panicked breath that threatens to escape. His hands shake violently as he dials the first number that comes to mind. 

“Yes?” she answers. 

“I feel like I’m losing it.” He rubs his face, desperate for touch as she was not there to do it herself.

“What do you mean?” she asks.  

“Ever since we went to the Seine last week. Do you remember? For our anniversary picnic? I’ve been having these dreams. And time…time doesn’t make sense. I can’t explain it…I just—”

“Seine?” We never went to the Seine.” She snorts, amused. 

A beat of silence. 

“What?” 

“Munchkin, you can’t stand the Seine.” 

“Well yes,” he breathes, “I do. I hate it. But we still went because you wanted to.” 

“You really believe you would do that for me?” 

“It was our anniversary—” 

“So, you think you’ve found love in this city? Cliché, even for you.” 

“I love you! You know that. What are you on about?” 

“You could love no one but yourself. You know that.” 

The voice is jarring—deep, slicing—and not hers. He searches his memory before realizing it is his own. 

His heart plunges to his stomach when he pulls back the phone and finds his hand empty. The phone is still across the room, on the nightstand next to his bed. The room seems to tilt, bending into itself as the walls close in. The air is stale again, stifling. He slowly spares another look out the window and is greeted by the darkness of night. 

Categories
Adventure Books Fiction Science Fiction

Mercury in Retrograde by Merethe Walther (Full Review)

Mercury in Retrograde by Merethe Walther starts you on an interplanetary journey that will thrill you until the very last page.

writerwerx mrecury in retrograde by merethe walther

The Mercury in Retrograde Story

Mercury in Retrograde follows the story of Aralyn Solari a short while after she’s been released from a mega-prison called Tartarys. Having served her time for running (trafficking illegal goods), she finds herself offered an opportunity for one last job. The payout means she’ll never have to run again and can live out the rest of her life in peace. As an added bonus, she was given the job by Eladia, someone who saved Aralyn’s life while she was imprisoned, so it seems like a good way to repay that kindness. Do the job, get paid, live happily ever after. 

If only things were that simple for our heroine! 

  • The job goes all wrong, including her buyer not showing up as promised and sending someone to plant drugs on Aralyn so she’ll get arrested (again). 
  • She’s temporarily detained by her ex-boyfriend (now in a position to arrest her since he’s joined the outer space police force known as the UDA) who she hasn’t seen since they were both caught running contraband. She gets sent to prison, he gets a new job. Something’s not right here and it is KEY to untangling the nonsense that follows Aralyn all throughout the book. 
  • The object that Aralyn’s buyer was supposed to be purchasing from her is stolen after her ship is ransacked. 

All this makes for a great story by itself, but when you realize that you’ve covered all of these plot points and you haven’t even reached the third chapter, you know you’re in for a long, wild ride! 

What You’ll Love About This Book

There is plenty to unpack with Mercury in Retrograde, so anyone looking for a thick volume to sink their mental teeth into will be pleased. Everything that kick-started the story is embedded in the ending and makes the plot feel whole and mostly resolved. There are lots of moments that will make you cringe (descriptions of the daily traumas that take place at Tartarys), scream in frustration (characters doing idiotic things that make you want to shake their teeth out of their head), and laugh (from nerdy quips to comical circumstances). 

And through it all, the underlying story of Caden and Aralyn’s romantic relationship ebbs and flows. Will they rekindle their old bond, or will the betrayal and resentment Aralyn feels toward him be too much? Was Caden actually the one who sold her out, or is there more to the story? How couldn’t Caden be the one who betrayed her if he didn’t serve a day in prison and ended up on the other side of the law? 

Merethe Walther keeps the adventure spinning paragraph after paragraph to hold a reader’s attention across all 445 pages. 

What You’ll Struggle With

There were some noticeable problems with wording and grammar, almost as though the book hadn’t been (or had been poorly) line edited or copy edited. For the average reader, I’m not sure these things would make much of a difference. For those who do notice, the book is still worth the read, just brace yourself for some of what you’ll come across. For example, “standing to her feet” (as opposed to standing to her ankles or standing to her knees?) made an appearance more than once. As well as phrases such as “tens of hundreds” (thousands?) and “carrying a small suitcase of luggage behind him” (no, the suitcase was not filled with other suitcases, if that’s what you’re thinking). 

You’ll also run into a few places where the intelligence and resolve that it would have taken to survive a terror like Tartarys seems to just vanish from Aralyn’s persona. For instance, there is a scene in which Aralyn is in a Tartarys cell and has something CRITICAL hidden in her boot. Yet, when a prisoner she doesn’t trust sidles up to the cell, she remains in her position, the special boot toward him. So, even though the scene is written as though him stealing what’s in her boot is sudden or surprising, I knew exactly what was about to happen because she let him so close to her precious cargo. It would seem that, if she had spent so much time in Tartarys around a throng of highly untrustworthy people, she would have switched to a different position immediately after he came into view or put more distance between them.

Periodically, there are errors in logic that pop up as well. So, if this is some kind of pet peeve for you, be aware that they’re coming up. Using the same scene as an example, the thieving prisoner is somehow able to (1) reach into the cell, (2) grab Aralyn’s booted foot, (3) pry the boot off of Aralyn’s foot, and (4) pull the boot through to his side of the bars as the cell door automatically slams shut for the night, all before she can kick his hand away, fight him off, or pull her boot out of his grasp. This scene left me with a lot of little questions about the characters and the circumstances (Just how big is he? How light is Aralyn? Why would she lift her foot off of the ground to allow him the leverage he needed to get the boot off? Does the boot not have sufficient laces to the point that he could slide it off with no problem?), but don’t hinder your reading experience much. 

IN THE END

Overall, I give Mercury in Retrograde 4.5 stars. Be aware of the bumps in the copy, but don’t be deterred from starting this exhilarating series!

writerwerx book review rubric
Tenesha L. Curtis
Tenesha L. Curtis

Indie author and book editor at Volo Press Books.

Categories
Adventure Books Fiction Science Fiction

Mercury in Retrograde by Merethe Walther (Review Snippet)

Mercury in Retrograde by Merethe Walther starts you on an interplanetary journey that will thrill you until the very last page.

writerwerx mrecury in retrograde by merethe walther

The Mercury in Retrograde Story

Mercury in Retrograde follows the story of Aralyn Solari a short while after she’s been released from a mega-prison called Tartarys. Having served her time for running (trafficking illegal goods), she finds herself offered an opportunity for one last job. The payout means she’ll never have to run again and can live out the rest of her life in peace. As a bonus, she was given the job by Eladia, someone who saved Aralyn’s life while she was imprisoned, so it seems like a good way to repay that kindness. Do the job, get paid, live happily ever after. 

If only things were that simple for our heroine! 

  • The job goes all wrong, including her buyer not showing up as promised and sending someone to plant drugs on Aralyn so she’ll get arrested (again). 
  • She’s temporarily detained by her ex-boyfriend who she hasn’t seen since they were both caught running contraband. She gets sent to prison, he gets a new job. Something’s not right here and it is KEY to untangling the nonsense that follows Aralyn all throughout the book. 
  • The object that Aralyn’s buyer was supposed to be purchasing from her is stolen after her ship is ransacked. 

All this makes for a great story by itself, but when you realize that you’ve covered all of these plot points and you haven’t even reached the third chapter, you know you’re in for a long, wild ride! 

IN THE END

Overall, I give Mercury in Retrograde 4.5 stars. Be aware of the bumps in the copy, but don’t be deterred from starting this exhilarating series!

WRITERWERX MEMBERS: Read the full review here!

Tenesha L. Curtis
Tenesha L. Curtis

Indie author and book editor at Volo Press Books.

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Fiction Nonfiction Writing

Your Magnetic Masterpiece

Melanie Jayne Ashford
Melanie Jayne Ashford

Melanie is a freelance writer from Wales, UK. She has studied Literature, Business and Media, and has a Professional Diploma in Copy Editing and Proofreading. Melanie is passionate about poetry and genre fiction.

Magnetic words might seem like the kind of things your kids play with, but they can be a priceless tool for your writing career too. Order a set for yourself on Amazon or grab a box from your local bookstore. These printed words with magnetized backs come in a variety of editions such as “expletives” and “zen.” Choose one that best fits your genre or idea. You can expand your choices with a new pack every so often. All you need are the words themselves and a magnetic surface, perhaps a small whiteboard or your refrigerator.

Magnetic Words for Poets

Many poets use magnetic words to develop their poems. You can get some great stanzas started by experimenting with word kits that match a theme you want to write about.

  • Pull out the words that catch your eye first. Depending on the idea you’re holding in your head, the mood you’re in at the time, and which words are facing upward, you can get a nice, random variety of starting language.
  • Group the words. Start putting your selected magnets together to create phrases of 2 -4 words. Don’t worry about the phrases making sense at the moment, just follow your gut.
  • Review and revise. Now that you have some phrases to work with, you can start putting your poem together to reflect your theme or express your sentiment. Start by free-writing about some of the word combinations you came up with.

Magnetic Words for Copy Writers

Using random words can help copy writers come up with powerful hooks for products, services, and events. Magnetic words can also help with finding variable ways to write about a specific product.

For instance, if you’re writing copy for a car website, find ‘car’ in your box of words, and start adding other words underneath it. It doesn’t matter if you go way off track. Sometimes you find your best, most relevant ideas a million miles away from what you would expect. So, you might get the idea to write a blog post on shades of red in the car industry from placing words like ‘tomato’, ‘blood’ or ‘angry’ under the word ‘car.’ 

Magnetic Words for Authors

When you’re brainstorming ideas, magnetic words aid your thinking, which is useful when you’re trying to find the perfect opening for your novel or self-help book. They can help you think in a more unbridled, abstract fashion, which breaks the norm and gets your creativity moving. As an author, you probably find yourself trying to follow a lot of rules and standards (grammar, tropes, etc.), and you end up going down the same paths repeatedly. These industry guidelines can encourage you to rely less on creativity and more on your templates or conventions. Using magnetic words can help get you out of the box you’re thinking in, and open your mind to fresh ideas.

If you’re finding yourself stuck in your poetic, fiction, or nonfiction writing, try picking up a set of magnetic words the next time you go shopping. These tiny tools are a fantastic way to nurture your creative mind, flush any mental blocks, and have fun with language!