Book Review: The Dragon Business & Skeleton in the Closet

About The Dragon Business

Book Cover: A dragon rolling on the top of a hill, apparently laughing, while a knight points a sword at him and his horse sits on its haunches, watching.
Text: The Dragon Business, A Medieval Con Game with scales!, New York Best Selling Author, Kevin J. Anderson

Is your kingdom bothered by a pesky dragon problem?

Need any giant monsters slain?

Are your own knights in shining armor unreliable or—worse—cowards?

Young Cullin, wanting to see the world, joins a band of renowned knights errant who will slay your dragon for a price. Satisfaction guaranteed!

The only problem is, it’s all a scam. The “dragon” is no more than rumors and tall tales spread by Cullin and his gang, giant three-toed footprints stomped into the ground near strategically burned-down huts and charred skeletons (procured from the local graveyard). It’s a great con job, so long as Cullin and company can take the money and run, move on to the next kingdom before anyone catches on.

But even con men can be caught in their own game. Clever, spunky Princess Affonyl doesn’t want any part of the arranged marriage to an evil duke from a neighboring kingdom. And she realizes that a fearsome dragon, even an imaginary one, is the perfect cover for her escape.

It’s one caper after another as these medieval dirty, rotten scoundrels try to outsmart one another. And they discover that the dragon business is more than just a game…especially if a real dragon might be involved.

Purchase Links:

WordFire Press:


My Review

This book was originally released in 2018, but the digital copy which I read came from KJA’s January 2023 Kickstarter campaign.

The Dragon Business, by Kevin J. Anderson, drops readers right into the middle of a medievil con game. The marks are the kingdoms our three slightly bumbling tricksters travel to, selling their services as dragon slayers, which is fairly safe, since the dragons were all killed off long ago. But rumor of dragons in the area stir kingdoms to fear and it might be worth a great deal to a kingdom’s rulers to see the matter settled and the people calmed, wouldn’t you think? But eventually, all good capers go awry, and when a real dragon comes to town, it may now be up to our three heros, and a runaway princess, to save the day.

The funniest epic fantasy story you’ll ever read. Humorous and thoroughly entertaining. I give The Dragon Business five quills.


About Skeleton on the Closet

The Princess Bride meets Dirty, Rotten Scoundrels
Join former scamp Cullin and his merry band of confidence men (and one liberated princess) as they put The Sting in the Middle Ages. With dreams of being a hero, or at least a storyteller, Cullin travels with Sir Dalbry, a washed-up knight in shining armor; Reeger, ready and eager for any part of the dirty work; and Affonyl, former princess, who wanted to study science and alchemy, rather than embroidery.
Together, they cross the land with one scam after another, concocting their own heroic deeds, preparing mock dragon heads, or selling kraken tusks and mermaid scales.
But when attempting to con King Longjohn, whose castle is supposedly bursting at the seams with treasure, the caper turns sour. The powerful Wizard-Mage Ugnarok and his army of ugly and muscular (if not too bright) orcs takes over Longjohn’s castle, imprisoning the king, pillaging the halls, and carrying on with typical orc-like mayhem.
Cullin and his friends are trapped in the castle’s labyrinth of secret passages, just trying to survive … or is this the opportunity for a grander scam than they have ever attempted before?
Orcs are terribly superstitious—you can’t bash a ghost, after all—and it’s like Die Hard in a castle, as Cullin, Affonyl, Reeger, and Dalbry set up a grand haunting that will scare off even the scariest orc army.

Purchase Links:

WordFire Press:


My Review

After coming to know these characters in The Dragon Business, I couldn’t help but feel right at home as King Cullen begins the telling of this new tale for his son, Maurice. In my review of The Dragon Business, I said it was “the funniest epic fantasy story you’ll ever read”, but I may stand corrected here, as Skeleton in the Closet had me rolling with laughter even harder than that first book. Our troupe of con artists are up to new tricks as the market for the Dragon Business becomes saturated, with every con artist in the land jumping on the bandwagon. So Cullin, Reeger, Dalbry and Affonyl are back and they are thinking up some new tricks for conning Kings and Queens out of their vast riches.

What starts out as an artisitc masterpiece scam turns into a ghost haunting scam, when a group of vile Orcs invade the castle of our scammers mark, King Long John, looking for treasure which doesn’t exist. The Orcs won’t leave until they find the treasure, which our heros know they won’t, so they have no choice but to haunt the castle and save the king, in hopes that there will be a reward beyond his empty coffers.

Several questions still lurks in my mind, such as, how did Cullin and Affonyl finally discover that they were meant to be together? How did Cullin end up being king? And how did Reeger end up a tavern owner with a wife? And what happened to poor Dalbry, who doesn’t seem to be around anymore? So you see, there could be more tales to come, and that makes someone who has quickly become a fan of this series, very happy.

Funny and entertaining, This is a book you won’t want to put down. I give Skeleton in the Closet five quills.


Kaye Lynne Booth does honest book reviews on Writing to be Read in exchange for ARCs. Have a book you’d like reviewed? You can request a review here.

Time to bring the “Willow of Ashes” Book Blog Tour to a close

Willow of Ashes Book Blog Tour

Willow of Ashes has been a great tour. I’ve known Ellie about a year, and I learned things I didn’t know about her and her books. For this blog stop, we’re going to wrap things up and recap the highlights about the book. We covered the basics about this book in my introductory tour post on Day #1. This award winning fantasy novel is book one of the NecrSeam Chronicles series, and it is also available in audiobook through Libro and Google Play.

Willow of Ashes

Five kingdoms face destruction. Two brothers fight to prevent it. Their epic adventure of magic, love, and loss will become a timeless legend.

The five realms of Land, Sky, Ocean, Dream, and Death have been at peace for centuries, but that peace is threatened when dark forces seek to destroy it. The Gods have chosen a champion to protect the world, yet unexpectedly that champion was born as twin necromancers whose magic was split at birth. Only together would they be strong enough to survive what’s to come. But now one of them has died… and his soul became trapped inside his brother.

The coexisting twins embark on a journey across the five realms, determined to be normal again. But their quest of hope turns into a living nightmare when they stumble into an army of undead beasts that have been unleashed on the lands by a vicious sorceress. With the help of new comrades and a mysterious lady Reaper skilled with the scythe, they must fight for more than a new life. Now they fight for the future of the themselves.

Willow of Ashes is available on Amazon

Ellie Raine

Author Bio

“Writer’s Digest award-winning fantasy author Ellie Raine is a voracious BookWyrm when it comes to epic adventures, detailed world-building, and thrilling battles. Fueled by coffee-bean concoctions brewed by the finest caffeine alchemists in the land, she only emerges from the depths of these daring tales when she is summoned by her loving king and their darling daughter: the Dragon Princess Felicity, in the suburbs of Atlanta, GA.

Her first book, Willow of Ashes, won First Place in Fantasy for the 2019 Writer’s Digest Self-Published Ebook Awards, as well as Honorable Mention in Fantasy for the 2019 Readers’ Favorite Awards.”

We had a lot of fun on Day #2 over at Roberta Writes, where Robbie Cheadle did a wonderful Q & A with the author, Ellie Raine. We learned how Ellie accidentally became an award winning author of a story intended to be a video game.

Day #3, we heard from Ellie, herself in a guest post on This is my Truth Now, where she talks about the inspiration behind this story and the Necroseam universe.

Willow of Ashes

On Day #4, I posted my review of this fresh and original new series starter. With traditional elements of storytelling scattered throughout, usually with an unexpected twist to them, this book was unlike any story I had ever read before. Fresh and original, with interesting and unusual characters you can’t help but like, I highly recommend this book.

The Day #5 blog stop was on Robbie’s Inspiration, with a guest post from Ellie, where she talks about what it’s like to revisit the early beginnings of the five book series of the Necroseam Chronicles. Willow of Ashes is that beginning, and it is so cool that this award winning novel is now available on audiobook, too.

On Pictures from the Kitchen, Barbara Spencer hosted Day #6, with a guest post from Ellie that was designed to help us understand the Necroseam universe, including a chart to help translat the Grim language.

That brings us right back here. I want to thank you all for delving into this fresh new fantasy journey on this tour. If you joined the tour later in the week and missed some blog stops, or you’ve followed with us all the way through the tour and just want to go back and revisit a stop, click on the links above. Willow of Ashes and the Necroseam Chronicles are definitely worth reading. If you’d like to learn more about Ellie and her books, you can check out the following links.

Check out the books!



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Stopping by my blog today is author Ellie Raine!

Learn more about the NecroSeam universe and the Grimmish language of Ellie Raine, for Day #6 of the WordCrafter “Willow of Ashes” Book Blog Tour on Barbara Spencer’s lovely blog, “Pictures from the Kitchen Window”. Drop by and join in the conversation.

Pictures From The Kitchen Window

“My goodness, what a difference a few weeks make. Stepping into the world of blog tours is like bungee jumping when you don’t know the first name of the instructor and only met him two seconds before – definitely a dive into perilous waters.”

My guest, Ellie Raine, is a young novelist who is currently taking readers of fantasy by storm. Not only does she write about things that might go bump in the night but she is very good at it. And on reading her bio, I realised she and I only share one thing in common – our love of Terry Prachett. Other than that she is young, reads Rachel Aaron, Brandon Sanderson and Douglas Hulick, and originally set out to create a computer game. In all honesty, she shares far more with my granddaughter who has just given up on her attempt to create a graphic novel…

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Willow of Ashes blog tour – Day 5

For Day #5 of the WordCrafter “Willow of Ashes” Book Blog Tour, Robbie Cheadle hosts a guest post from author Ellie Raine about what it’s like to go back and revisit her seriews beginnings, on “Robbie’s Inspiration”. Come join us and learn more about this award winning epic fantasy novel and the NecrSeam series, which follows.

Robbie's inspiration

Today, I am delighted to welcome author, Ellie Raine, to Roberta Writes for Day 2 of her Willow of Ashes blog tour with WordCrafter Book Tours.

You can read the other posts for this tour here:

Day 1:

Day 2:

Day 3:

Day 4:

Ellie Raine’s Take on Revisiting her Series’ Early Beginnings

After spending the last 13 years writing the NecroSeam Chronicles to completion, going back to work on the first volume’s audiobook was an interesting nostalgia trip for me. A lot happened between book 1 and book 5. Similarly, a lot happened in my life throughout the whole endeavor. I’m really not the same person as the girl who wrote Willow of Ashes. I barely remember who she was.

But since I’m an indie author with the rare opportunity to work (extremely) hands-on with the narrators for the audiobooks (Matt Goodson &…

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Day #4 of the “Willow of Ashes” Book Blog Tour: My Review

Willow of Ashes Book Blog Tour

What they are saying on Readers’ Favorite:

“One of the most fascinating universes I have ever encountered… rich, mysterious, inviting and frightening at the same time. You will want to visit it again and again.” 

~Readers’ Favorite Review

Five kingdoms face destruction. Two brothers fight to prevent it. Their epic adventure of magic, love, and loss will become a timeless legend.

The five realms of Land, Sky, Ocean, Dream, and Death have been at peace for centuries, but that peace is threatened when dark forces seek to destroy it. The Gods have chosen a champion to protect the world, yet unexpectedly that champion was born as twin necromancers whose magic was split at birth. Only together would they be strong enough to survive what’s to come. But now one of them has died… and his soul became trapped inside his brother.

The coexisting twins embark on a journey across the five realms, determined to be normal again. But their quest of hope turns into a living nightmare when they stumble into an army of undead beasts that have been unleashed on the lands by a vicious sorceress. With the help of new comrades and a mysterious lady Reaper skilled with the scythe, they must fight for more than a new life. Now they fight for the future of the realms themselves.


Willow of Ashes

When I picked up this Willow of Ashes, I didn’t know what to expect. I knew I was about to enter a fantasy realm, but I didn’t realize I was about to embark on fresh and different fantasy adventure unlike none I’d ever explored before. As I said in my introductory post for this tour, it is easy to see why this fantasy novel won the 2019 Writer’s Digest Award for best self-published eBook, once you begin to emmerse yourself in the story. Raine has masterfully crafted this epic fantasy adventure in a universe that is fresh and original in Willow of Ashes, which is book 1 of the NecroSeam Chrinicles series. In a universe where ears an tails are all the fashion, but probably a dead give-away in a poker game, Raine’s characters are well-developed, interesting and unusual, drawing us in as we meet each one and get his or her portion of the story. There are many ‘aha!’ moments as the details unfold and the pieces begin to fall into place.

In this story, we meet the future Reapers of Grim, Xavier, Alexander and eventually, Willow, none of whom are what you might expect. Oh, you may find them to be cloaked figures, who wield scythes, but underneath they are adolescents on the verge of adulthood, unsuspecting players in a vicious and deadly plot that is bigger than anything anyone on their world has ever seen. If their mysterious foes, who are always lurking in the background, are successful, it could mean the total destruction of their world, and to make matters worse, they may be the only ones who can stop them.

The story begins when Xavier’s soul is ripped from his body as he thrown over a cliff, and it only gets more difficult from there. Raine throws every obstacle she can think of at our protagonists and their companions, at every turn of the page. The two brothers have the ability between them to resurect the dead, or send them on to their next destination, which might be a good thing, since they now share one body. On a search for a ghost gone missing who might have information about Xaviar’s missing body, they gather a troop along the way, including their reptilian friend, Jaq; the cat-eared son of the ghost they’re looking for, Octavious; and and a fire-wielding fox/wolf girl, Lilli, who are fellow apprentice Reapers; a resurrected rabbit-eared ghost, Vendi, bound to serve them, and her weapon crafting uncle, Henry. Together, they prepare to take on a powerful and clever enemy, who controls the soul eating Necrofera and Rock Dragons that can crush buildings and destroy whole villages.

Willow of Ashes

Ellie Raine has skillfully created a fresh and original fantasy universe, with a diverse array of captivating and unique characters. It is easy to see why this was an award winning novel, as the characters draw you in and each individual storyline comes together to form the intricate weaving of the bigger story, as a whole. I give Willow of Ashes five quills.

Five Quills

Buy Link:

If you joined the tour late, you can visit the blog stops that you missed here:

Day #1 – Introductory postWriting to be Read

Day #2 – Interview with Ellie Raines and Robbie CheadleRoberta Writes

Day # 3 – Guest post by Ellie RainesThis is my Truth Now


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Day 3 of the #WillowofAshes #BookBlogTour

Willow of Ashes Book Blog Tour

For Day #3 of the Willow of Ashes Book Blog Tour, we’re over at This is my Truth Now, where James J. Cudney IV brings us a guest post from author Ellie Raine about the inspiration behind Willow of Ashes and the Necroseam Chronicles universe. I hope you’ll join us there.

Willow of Ashes blog tour – Day 2

For Day #2 of the “Willow of Ashes” Book Blog Tours, finds us over at “Roberta Writes”, where Robbie Cheadle brings us an interview with the author, Ellie Raine. Don’t miss it. 🙂

Today, I am delighted to welcome author, Ellie Raine, to Roberta Writes for Day 2 of her Willow of Ashes blog tour with WordCrafter Book Tours.

You can read Day 1 here:

Q & A with author Ellie Raine

What attracted you to writing fantasy?

I’ve always been into dragons and magic and gallant knights. My family is very strictly sci-fi/Fantasy readers, so I guess I just grew up surrounded by it. The first “long book” I ever finished to completion was The Dragon and the George, and after that it was The Color of Magic, The Light Fantastic, Hogfather, Mort, Reaper Man, Harry Potter, Series of Unfortunate Events, Artemis Fowl… and the list just kept getting bigger.

But truth be told, I never considered being a writer. I guess I did win some kind of writing award in middle school, but I had only entered it because…

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Welcome to the “Willow of Ashes” Book Blog Tour

Willow of Ashes Book Blog Tour

Welcome to the Willow of Ashes Book Blog Tour, where we will explore and learn about the NecroSeam Chronicles epic fantasy series and more specifically, book 1, the 2019 Writer’s Digest Self-Published eBook Award winning novel, Willow of Ashes, by Ellie Raine. This tour is designed to get the word out about this award winning novel because the award isn’t the end of the story. In fact, it’s just the beginning. Willow of Ashes audiobook is now available on Libro and Google Play, (and will soon be available on Amazon), which is so exciting because it is one more new method of bringing the creative and original universe of Ellie Raine’s to life for readers, and listeners, too!

Willow of Ashes

Five kingdoms face destruction. Two brothers fight to prevent it.

Their epic adventure of magic, love, and loss will become a timeless legend.

I’ve just begun reading this fantasy journey for my review, which you’ll find later in the tour, but already I can see why this book won first place, with one of the most original universes I’ve discovered in many years, and well developed characters that draw the reader in and foster bonds, creating a need to find out what happens next. To respond to that need in her readers, Ellie Raine has created a five book series based on these characters and their Death World. It is a universe where death is viewed quite differently from our concepts of death and the boundaries of the afterlife are perhaps thinner and less distinctive. You can purchase this wonderful fantasy novel, Willow of Ashes, but you may want to purchase the entire NecroSeam Chronicles series, because once you emmerse yourself in Raine’s creative and original fantasy universe, you may want to stay for a while.

The five realms of Land, Sky, Ocean, Dream, and Death have been at peace for centuries, but that peace is threatened when dark forces seek to destroy it. The Gods have chosen a champion to protect the world, yet unexpectedly that champion was born as twin necromancers whose magic was split at birth. Only together would they be strong enough to survive what’s to come. But now one of them has died… and his soul became trapped inside his brother.

The coexisting twins embark on a journey across the five realms, determined to be normal again. But their quest of hope turns into a living nightmare when they stumble into an army of undead beasts that have been unleashed on the lands by a vicious sorceress. With the help of new comrades and a mysterious lady Reaper skilled with the scythe, they must fight for more than a new life. Now they fight for the future of the realms themselves.

Willow of Ashes Review

Willow of Ashes is the perfect introduction into this remarkably fresh epic fantasy universe. This tour will be running through the 14th, so stick with us to learn more about this award winning book and its author. Later in the week we’ll reveal more about the characters and their universe at each blog tour stop; with an author interview with Robbie Cheadle on Robbie’s Inspiration, more information about Willow of Ashes on This is my Truth Now, Pictures from the Kitchen and Roberta Writes, as well as my own review of the book right here on Writing to be Read. So, prepare to venture into a fresh new fantasy universe and join us for the rest of the tour.


Book your WordCrafter Book Blog Tour today!

“Chatting with the Pros”: Interview with award winning fantasy author L. Deni Colter

Chatting with the Pros

My “Chatting with the Pros” guest today is an award winning epic and dark fantasy author. She may not be as prolific as some writers, but everything she writes seems to shine in the fantasy realms. She is a two-time winner of the Colorado Book Award, and a Writers of the Future winner. That is three books and three awards. She must be doing something right. Please help me welcome fantasy author L. D. Colter.

L.D. Colter

Kaye: Would you briefly share the story of your own publishing journey?

Liz: I seem to have done a bit of everything along the way. My short stories have been traditionally published in magazines and anthologies. My first novel, A Borrowed Hell, was published by a small press that closed only a few months later, but fortunately the book was picked up again almost immediately by another small press. My epic fantasy novel, The Halfblood War, was acquired by a mid-sized publisher, and I chose to self-publish my latest novel, While Gods Sleep.

Kaye: Your books written under L.D. Colter are contemporary and dark fantasy, while your epic fantasy, The Halfblood War, is written under the name L. Deni Colter. What was the reasoning for the change of pen name?

Liz: I didn’t actually change my pen name, just added a second one. I started with L. D. Colter for my contemporary fantasy. When my epic fantasy novel was published, I decided to add the pseudonym L. Deni Colter to make it easier for readers to differentiate my writing by genre. While plenty of readers, like me, enjoy multiple sub-genres of speculative fiction, not everyone does, and I feel I write the two styles quite differently. I don’t separate my work in any other way, though. My website and author sites include my actual name, Liz, both of my pseudonyms, and all my books.

Kaye: When did you know you wanted to be an author?

Liz: I didn’t consciously decide to write with a view to publishing until well into adulthood, but I’ve been a daydreamer all my life—I nearly flunked out of 5th grade due to it—so I was hard-wired from the start to create fiction. I started toying with the idea of writing during high school but stayed too busy through college and for a long time after as I pursued of different interests, more school, and many different careers. Finally, I found myself with a seasonal job, a rainy winter off, and my first computer. I started a novel that winter and wrote 10,000 words in the first week. I’ve never looked back.

Kaye: Your first book, A Borrowed Hell,won the 2018 Colorado Book Award for Science Fiction/Fantasy. Were you surprised? Can you tell me a little about that book?

Borrowed Hell.ColterLiz: Yes, I was very surprised and honored to win. When I wrote A Borrowed Hell, I set out to write a contemporary fantasy with literary themes about a man forced to face his difficult past in order to move forward in life. To receive an award for this book, and especially one from Colorado Humanities—an organization dedicated to the humanities and the ways in which the human experience is documented—was very rewarding.

The story follows my protagonist’s challenges, which take place in both the real world and an alternate world. I think this last bit of the back-cover copy sums up the plot pretty well. “July is willing to do anything to end his world-hopping, right up until he learns the price: reliving a past he’s tried his whole life to forget. He’s not sure his sanity can take it. Not even to get back to his own world, a woman he’s falling in love with, and a life he finally cares about.”

Kaye: While Gods Sleep won the 2019 Colorado Book Award for science fiction/fantasy. Where did you get the idea for this story?

While Gods Sleep.ColterLiz: As to the origin of this, I’ve loved mythology ever since discovering a fascination with ancient religions and cultural myths in high school. Greek mythology was my first passion, and it seemed the natural place to start when I decided to write a set of fantasy novels based on different mythologies. It was great fun to finally write a book rooted in the Greek myths I love, but better still was getting to play with them in completely unique and original ways that were entirely my own creation. It was a goal of mine from the start to avoid the more common tropes and to take this in unexpected directions, beginning with setting it in an alternative 1958 Athens ruled by conjoined queens. From there, I threw a mortal man into the eerie underworld of Erebus where he becomes entwined with sleeping gods, the factions that seek to control them, and an enemy powerful enough to destroy them all.

Kaye: Your latest release from Wordfire Press is The Halfblood War. What can you tell us about that book and the inspiration for it?

The Halfblood War.ColterLiz: These days I read widely across speculative fiction genres, but I grew up reading epic fantasy almost exclusively. Those books shaped my love of reading and were a huge part of my life. I enjoy the current directions epic fantasy is taking, but it was very fulfilling for me to get to write my own traditional epic fantasy and mold it into something unique and, hopefully, compelling. This novel took me longer to complete, by far, than my others. It was a true labor of love and I’m grateful to Wordfire Press for acquiring and publishing it. The premise revolves around Tirren, heir to the ruler of Thiery, who is raising his half-Elven bastard son in a land that hates and fears the Elves. It’s a stand-alone novel, written with an adult audience in mind, and weaves themes of prejudice and acceptance with love and betrayal, capricious and dangerous elves, and epic battles.

Kaye: What do you consider to be your biggest writing accomplishment to date?

Liz: I have to laugh, because my answer is always the same: my latest project, whatever that may be. Right now, that would be an unpublished novelette and my work-in-progress novel.

Kaye: In my review of the Undercurrents anthology, I refer to your story, “Songs to Sing and Stories to Tell”, saying that it explores saying good-bye. Can you tell me about this story from the author’s point of view? Did I get it right?

Liz: Yes, absolutely, I see that story as being about letting go, or as you put it, saying goodbye. Not my protagonist letting go of her past or her memories or her love, but trusting her instincts to let go of fear of change and false security and to embrace the unknown. That said, though, once a writer publishes their work, it belongs more to the reader than the author so different readers might see different themes.

Kaye: Which type of writing do you prefer, short fiction or novels? Why?

Liz: I enjoy both. There’s a lot of reward in completing and polishing short stories more quickly (faster for me, anyway) and getting them out in the world. If writing is going to be a career, though, conventional wisdom says it’s going to be based on producing novels. I’m not a fast writer—if I manage one book a year I’m doing well—so it’s a huge commitment for me to start a new book, but there’s also the fulfilment of really delving into story and character and the pleasure of wrapping up multiple storylines in a satisfying way.

Kaye: What is the strangest inspiration for a story you’ve ever had?

Liz: That might be my short story that won the Writers of the Future contest, “The Clouds in Her Eyes.” I had no notion what I was going to write when I began and went to my odds and ends file, where I toss all my passing and partial story ideas. I was trying to choose between three different prompts: a title idea (The Clouds in Her Eyes), an image of an old windmill on a dry and barren farm, and an image of a ship’s wooden figurehead. When I challenged myself to combine all three, the story was born.

Kaye: Are you a plotter or a pantser? Why?

Liz: I have to side with the pantsers on this. That said, though, I don’t really see pantsing and plotting as black and white options, but as a continuum. People who outline in the thousands of words still have to let go of the outline at some point and wing it. Likewise, most pantsers have some level of plotting going on, even if it’s at a scene-by-scene level as they get there. For me, I usually start with atmosphere (dark, humorous, gothic, whatever), an idea of the main character, sometimes a theme, and then an opening scene. While all that’s coalescing in my head, I usually get a sense of the ending, which gives me a rudimentary arc. At that point I start writing and figure the rest out as I go.

Kaye: What do you think is the single most important element in a story?

Liz: Wow, that’s a tough one. Tomorrow I might have a different answer, but today I’m going to say detail. Not excessive detail, but those sharp, specific details that bring stories to life. The level of detail in a story enhances so many other elements: character, setting, emotion, pretty much everything except plot. And a good plot, poorly told doesn’t make for a good story. Evocative writing is what engages me as a reader.

Kaye: What’s the best piece of advice you were ever given?

Liz: A local author was kind enough to read an early draft of the first novel I wrote (the epic fantasy). She gave encouragement but advised me to seek out workshop opportunities to get detailed feedback for the many things I now realize were very novice mistakes. It was hands down due to her advice that I started on the right road to becoming a professional author. I followed her advice and joined a 10-week online workshop led by a well-published author. I’ve been a part of critique groups in one form or another almost constantly since that time, as well as attending conferences and workshops when possible, especially during my early years of writing.

Kaye: What advice do you have for aspiring authors?

Liz: Don’t write in a vacuum. Along the same lines as the advice I was given when starting out, I feel it’s hard to be objective about what you’re writing without some external input and feedback. Find fellow writers who are genuinely invested in helping to improve your work and, hopefully, at least some who are further along the career path than yourself. We know how we intend our work to read, but without a sounding board, it can be difficult to know if we’re succeeding.

Kaye: As a fantasy writer, what kind of research do you find yourself doing for your stories?

Liz: As a reader, I’m a huge stickler for logistics so it’s very important to me in my writing that I get details right in my own books. Not just big things, like avoiding plot holes, but small details, too. You never know what expertise your readers might have and, as a reader, I hate having my suspension of disbelief suddenly ruined in the middle of a story by a detail that’s blatantly wrong. So, yes, I get lost down research rabbit holes all the time. I research online mostly, but I’ve been known to read multiple textbooks for a novel as well as reaching out in person to experts or sensitivity readers.

Kaye: What can your readers look forward to in the near future? What are you working on now?

Liz: My current work in progress from L. D. Colter is the next in my mythology-based novels, this one centered around Slavic paganism. It’s a contemporary fantasy (working title: When the Winds Sing) set in far Northern California, near where I lived for 12 years. There are many wonderful settings and inspirations in that area, and I’m looking forward to playing with them all. The book is about 1/3 written and I hope to have the first draft completed before too long.

I hope, in time, to get back to an epic fantasy set I started and set aside some time ago. I had other projects needing attention, but it’s well started and has a concept and characters I still love.

Liz has followed her heart through a wide variety of careers including draft-horse farmer, field paramedic, Outward Bound instructor, athletic trainer, and roller-skating waitress, among other curious choices. She is a two-time Colorado Book Award winner in Science Fiction/Fantasy, a Writers of the Future winner, and her short stories have been published in a wide variety of magazines and anthologies. She writes contemporary and dark fantasy as L. D. Colter and epic fantasy as L. Deni Colter.

I want to thank Liz Colter for joining me here today and sharing so much about writing in the fantasy genre. You can learn more about Liz and her books on her website or her Amazon Author page. Join me next month, as we celebrate Superheroes and Supervillains, and my “Chatting with the Pros” author guest will be fantasy and science fiction author Kevin J. Anderson.

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