Becoming a better writer

Most of us have heard the saying: Practice makes perfect. In the case of authors, writing does make us better. But what if we are practicing something wrong. Then we carry those bad habits from book to book. How do we improve our craft without relying on our editors to come and save the day?

Luckily there are several different ways.

We can read novels by other authors. This is my favorite option because I love to read. I have read 24 books so far this year. Reading helps us see how other authors structure their stories. Sometimes, I am too caught up in the narration to pause and observe the style. Which is not a bad thing.

You can also attend writer’s conferences or take courses. I have attended a local writer’s conference in the past and hope to take part in one next year when the world returns to normal.

In the meantime, I have been reading a few books on writing. While there is no magic wand, each book I have read has expanded my horizon. You can check out the writing books I have read here.

My most recent book is Characters & Viewpoints. This book is written in an easy-to-read style while imparting a lot of knowledge. I enjoyed the writing samples sprinkled throughout the book that conveyed information more readily.
For my Land of Magadha series, I choose first-person POV because a few fantasies I had read used it. This book discussed all the different POV options and its merits. I might use third-person limited POV for my next series based on what I learned here.
I recommend this book for aspiring writers and current writers.

Book Birthday

This past week, I celebrated a book birthday. I published my debut novel Heir to Malla a year ago. Just two months into the pandemic and new life of masks and lockdowns, I shared the story I had been working on for over five years.

A year later, I have realized how many mistakes I made. I had no marketing plan, no newsletter, and no beta readers. I launched the book into the wild with no clue. Since then, I have joined writing groups on Facebook and learned many things from experienced authors.


I have found a beta reader or two among my avid readers. I will be releasing Prince in Shadow, an Heir to Malla prequel novella, exclusively to my Newsletter subscribers.

For my second book, War of the Three Kings, I have a simple marketing plan, mainly focused on building my newsletter subscription, sales promo for Heir to Malla, and one or two third-party newsletter promotions. I will share more details after the launch.


This journey is a marathon, and I am grateful to my readers for letting me share the stories in my head.

Being Original as a Writer

Readers want original content. They want something new, unique, and never before told story.

As writers, one might feel like there is nothing new under the sun. Fantasy and Science Fiction genres offer some room for novel ideas. A story set in a galaxy far, far away captures our imagination. Or a complex magical system piques our senses.

What shall a historical fiction author do? Conflict of the heart is what I like to explore. In this society, plenty of ways to put my characters in situations where they have to choose between love and duty, the eternal conflict.

I use distinct metaphors to set the stage for the period (a pumpkin flower that wilted on its stalk). My female characters dress in vivid color saris (ripe mango).

Like your favorite bowl of comfort food, familiarity is also soothing. A romance reader craves a happily ever after ending. My books offer hope amidst the chaos.

A good book touches the human heart, and if mine stirred yours, I have achieved my goal.

Why read fiction?

Like many adults, I read a fair share of non-fiction books. Topics range from self-help, philosophy, and history to gardening and cookbooks. Many adults stop reading fiction after the high school days of forced reading. With our busy lives, why read fiction?

Photo by Janko Ferlic on Pexels.com

Humans have told stories for millennia, and we started telling stories as soon as we had language. Oral storytelling is how many cultures passed on their ancient myths and legends. Fiction builds on this tradition.

Reading fiction builds empathy. Our imagination translates the words in a book. As a reader, we picture the world, taste the five-course meal, smell the forest floor and feel the character’s pain. We can read about distant lands and cultures and fall in love with a person who only exists on a page. Watching TV does not have the same impact on our minds.

Fiction allows you to escape reality and walk in someone else’s shoes.

Reading science fiction and fantasy is the equivalent of daydreaming. Many scientists began their journey as science fiction readers. Historical fiction allows us to experience the past through stories. A child who dislikes history with dry dates and places might love the same past when told as stories.

There is research to show that reading literary fiction improves the Theory of Mind. Theory of Mind is the human capacity to comprehend that other people hold beliefs and desires and that these may differ from one’s own beliefs and desires. More broadly, their study shows that works of art enhance this critical skill.

Stories are a complex form of communication, and reading stories have a long-lasting effect on the human brain, per this Emory study. Reading fiction helps us better understand others and enhances our ability to keep an open mind, per this Harvard Business Review article.

Finally, reading fiction brings us joy. Overcoming adversity, triumphant underdogs, falling in love, and finding friendships all bring us enjoyment.

Curl up with a novel today and fall in love with a character. I recommend my historical fiction “Heir to Malla” or check out my book reviews for a great read.

Accepting negative reviews

Writing is a solitary journey. We authors think about our characters constantly. Meera and her world enter my reality while I am cooking—walking—in the shower—waiting at the stoplight. They become our friends and family. Then one day, we share our baby with the outside world, with our heart in our hands.

Photo by Taryn Elliott on Pexels.com

Then comes the reality all authors must face and dread—a negative review. Such reviews may turn our fight or flight response. Neither is beneficial for our writing journey. Writing a book review with constructive feedback is an art by itself. We should learn to treat these reviews as gifts and cherish these reviewers. This is not easy, and it is okay to call a friend and have a meltdown. Just keep it off social media.

As writers, we want to improve our craft. Constructive feedback gives us a valuable window into the mind of our readers. While we cannot make everyone happy, it is crucial to know what readers of our genre expect.

If a reviewer is malicious, please ignore and move on. Picking a fight is not worth your sanity. The good news is most reviewers are thoughtful.

So next time you get a negative review, bake bread and take your anger out on the dough. Then take a deep breath and understand it is not personal. Read the review and mine for the gold nuggets to take your writing to the next level.

Keep writing! I am cheering for you and looking for the next book to fall in love with.

Book Review – Bird by Bird

Anne Lamott welcomes you into her life and bares her mind to you in this book. This is no easy task for most of us. It is almost like shedding one’s clothes and allowing the world to see you vulnerable.

Anne shows a budding writer how to do this with humor and self-deprecation. There is nothing earth-shattering revealed in this book about writing. Most of the advice offered here would be familiar to any aspiring writer or an experienced writer wanting to improve their craft.

Still, I found it useful to read this book, if only to know my struggles as a writer are not unique to me.

Recommend: For aspiring and experienced writers who want to hone their craft.

Writing Update

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While I am editing War of the Three Kings, I have also started writing book three. I just wrapped chapter one of the finale. These characters have been with me for over six years now, so I am heading towards the finish line with mixed emotions. I want to complete the stories of Meera, Jay, and others. I want to write other tales about new characters who are whispering in my ears now. But there is sad music playing in the background (in my mind) as I think of the ending and bidding these characters farewell.


In some ways, this does feel like a mother or father sending their child off to college and mourning the lost childhood. In my case, I do have other stories I want to tell. Those nebulous ideas in my head now will grow into faint outlines and then characters with personalities and back stories and story arcs.

War of the Three Kings: Can Meera keep her secrets past and present from destroying Magadha and the men she loves?

Heir to Malla is available on KindleUnlimited and almost everywhere books are sold.

Writing without judgement

I write medieval fiction. While my story is set in the fictional land of Magadha, it is loosely based on India around those times. As an author, I do have a choice on what aspects of the culture I reflect in my story. Some of these, like polygamy or women’s agency, is not aligned with modern sensibilities. What should a writer do? Write the story they want to share.

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Pexels.com

Royal dynasties in the Indian subcontinent commonly practiced polygamy. This practice appears in my books. Whether I approve of it today is not material to the tale. It is a plot device in the hands of an author. I imagine how it must have been for characters to be in this kind of relationship. And I put them in situations that will result in a conflict of their human hearts. I strive to do this without judging them based on my modern awareness.

My female characters inhabit a world where they do not have any agency on their own. They are dependent on their male family members for their authority. Their daily lives differed from mine today. I enjoy writing about the human heart in conflict, the struggle between love and duty, the strife between self and society. For that, I imagine how female characters with different attributes will survive in this world. I place them in harm’s way, tempt them, lead them down wrong paths. And some characters like Meera surprise me with their strength and steadiness.

Readers come to the book with their own life experiences, and once a book leaves my hands, I have to let the readers take it from there. To enjoy, experience, emphasize, fall in love, grieve as they choose.

Looking forward to hearing your thoughts on how you approach reading books that have practices that we condemn today.


I am an author of medieval fiction “Heir to Malla”, a story of a princess fighting her battles without wielding a sword or a wand.

I am currently writing my second book “War of the Three Kings“, set in the same world.

Guest Blog by Kathleen Marple Kalb

NOT YOUR GRANDMA’S DIVA

(Well, depends on your grandma!)

Your mental picture of an opera singer probably isn’t a slim woman in breeches fencing a bad guy…and that’s just the first expectation Ella Shane shatters on any given day.

            Ella, the main character in my Gilded Age mystery series, is used to being different. She grew up poor on the Lower East Side as Ellen O’Shaughnessy, the daughter of an Irish father and Jewish mother at a time when interfaith marriages were a ticket to the social abyss. She sings “trouser roles,” male parts like Romeo played by women because of the vocal range. And she insists – sometimes at the point of her sword — upon being treated as a respectable lady in a time when singers were still often considered women of questionable virtue.

            All pretty different from a standard diva.

            Not to mention an absolutely unique character.

            She’s a lot of fun to write, because I grew up watching those old movies with the swashbuckling heroes and wondering why the women always had to just stand there. Years later, I read a book on young singers at the Met, and a mezzo-soprano who sings “witches and britches.” Trouser roles. 

            It all clicked.

A woman whose job requires her to dress like a man and fence will be able to credibly do all kinds of exciting things. It’s a great plot device. But Ella is far more than a plot device. She’s a woman who takes male prerogatives, pushing boundaries in a very sexist time. Plus, because she challenges limits onstage, she behaves with iron propriety offstage, which sets up a lot of interesting dynamics. 

            Equally interesting, Ella is a woman in her thirties who’s slowly deciding that she might want to have a child. But that child would come at price of her freedom; a woman legally becomes a man’s property when they marry. As the owner of her own opera company, and an independent woman, she isn’t willing or able to make that sacrifice. Which sounds a lot like a modern woman’s work-life balance battle…from a whole different angle.

Ella’s not my only unusual character. At her side is her cousin Tommy Hurley, former boxing champ and co-owner and manager of the opera company. Described obliquely as “not the marrying kind,” he’s as out and proud as it’s possible to be in 1899, and has a happy and fulfilling life with his friends and family. It works because nobody suspects it from The Champ, and nobody asks too many questions of a good standup guy…with a hefty right cross.

            They’re surrounded by a fun and interesting cast, including several more trailblazing women: a doctor, a reporter and a fellow opera singer who’s curtailed her career just enough to fit in a family. More, we see all of them, male and female, doing their jobs. This is not one of those series where characters have fabulous careers on paper but nobody ever seems to work.

            Of course, I can’t leave out the love interest. If very respectable Ella’s thinking of having a child, she must be thinking of marrying…and until now, there’s been no remotely suitable contender. That all changes when Gilbert Saint Aubyn, Duke of Leith, walks into her rehearsal studio. He assumes “theatre people” aren’t respectable, and our veryrespectable Ella schools him on that — over crossed swords. He’s hooked. She’s interested, but it’s going to take him a long time to earn her trust.

Their first adventure, A FATAL FINALE, features our cast looking into the death of Ella’s most recent Juliet, who drank real poison and died onstage. Turns out she’s the Duke’s cousin, and he’s come to New York to find out what happened to her. The mystery builds slowly, with Ella helping at first only because of her ethical obligation to her late employee, and her kind hope to ease the Duke’s grief. But as we get to know our cast, and they dig deeper into the girl’s life, it becomes clear that this was no accident…and focus their efforts on tracking a killer. 

            It all culminates in a classic Errol Flynn-style catwalk duel, with Ella handling the swordplay and the Duke waiting in the wings. After it’s all sorted out, it’s clear that Ella will be seeing more of the Duke…and we’ll be seeing more of Ella and the crew.

            Speaking of which, book two comes next April. A FATAL FIRST NIGHT features the same loveable characters, backstage drama and slow-burn romance, with a fast-paced interlocking mystery plot – starting with a dressing-room death. More duels – and murders – ahead!

Buy A FATAL FINALEhttps://www.kensingtonbooks.com/9781496727237/

Kathleen Marple Kalb grew up in front of a microphone, and a keyboard. She’s now a weekend morning anchor at 1010 WINS New York, capping a career begun as a teenage DJ in Brookville, Pennsylvania. She worked her way up through newsrooms in Pittsburgh, Vermont and Connecticut, developing her skills and a deep and abiding distaste for snowstorms. While she wrote her first (thankfully unpublished) historical novel at age sixteen, fiction was firmly in the past until her son started school. She, her husband and son live in a Connecticut house owned by their cat.

SOCIAL LINKS: 

Website: https://kathleenmarplekalb.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Kathleen-Marple-Kalb-1082949845220373/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/KalbMarple

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/kathleenmarplekalb/


Note from Anna Bushi:

I am an author of medieval fiction “Heir to Malla”, a story of a princess fighting her battles without wielding a sword or a wand.

I am currently writing my second book “War of the Three Kings“.

I feature authors in my blog regularly. You can view all the authors I have featured here. If you are an author and you would like to be featured in my blog, please contact me.

Guest Blog by Penmancy

Penmancy is a coven of creative characters who are fascinated with the magic of the pen to weave new worlds with words. One of our main goals is to create a virtual space where writers and readers support each other and build a wholesome community that cherishes literature.After the massive success of our first anniversary collection of short stories, ‘a fallen leaf’, we give you our second anniversary collection as ‘SHATTERED’. We hope that you have enjoyed the stories as much as we have enjoyed putting them together for your reading pleasure.

Introduction to ‘Shattered’

Life is beautiful yet filled with pain and suffering. Many people in the world, young or old, regardless of their gender, endure excruciating experiences throughout their life. The smiles that people wear on their faces are not proof of happiness. Deep inside, they may be hurting; their hearts broken; their hopes and dreams shattered; and probably, even the life that they so treasure hangs in the balance. It is in this very premise that this anthology, titled Shattered, was born. 

Believe it or not, we do love to read stories that are sad or make us angry and shed tears; tales where vengeance is sought and justice served. And the reason for this is simple- they make us realize the fragility of our own lives and see our own shortcomings; they remind us of the flawed society that we live in and wish we could do something about it. Most often, it is a realization that wakes us up from our deep slumber, urging us to be appreciative of our advantageous situation and forcing us to evaluate how fortunate we are to have not gone through the pain and suffering that others have experienced.

As the title of this collection suggests, this anthology offers a wide range of interpretations of the word ‘shattered’–stories of broken lives, unfulfilled promises, cracked beliefs, fractured egos, crushed hopes that are weaved tugging our heartstrings. While some of these are not shattered pieces beyond repair, others are smashed to smithereens, and the only way to handle the misery is to confront it and try to heal and rise above it or face death.

Shattered contains nineteen incredible stories in varied genres from eighteen talented writers. It is a product of Penmancy’s second-year anniversary celebration and its attempt to showcase the brilliant minds behind these stories to the world.

Stories and their authors

  1. Collateral Fractures – Sanjukta Ghoshal
  2. Sundarpur Chronicles – Nilutpal Gohain
  3. Him – Pai
  4. Splintered Souls – Supriya Bansal
  5. The Road to Hell – Aradhna Shukla
  6. Scarlet Skies – Chandra Sundeep
  7. The Best Man – Fabienne Meyers
  8. Beneath the Golden Seams – Sanjukta Ghoshal
  9. 1947- an Imprecation – Sonal Singh
  10. My Journey Beyond Life – Shweta Mathur Lall
  11. Dialogues Across the Realm – Sreemati Sen
  12. The Shattered Souls – Kokila Gupta
  13. The Unheard – Rasya Krishnan
  14. The Street Without Cherries – Trixiah Ann Gumba
  15. Wings – Archie Iyer
  16. Hrishikesha – Ravi Valluri
  17. Her Place on Earth – Preethi Warrier
  18. Anastasis – Alpna Das Sharma
  19. Pietra Angolare Dell’Universo – Olinda Braganza

Note from Anna Bushi:

I am an author of medieval fiction “Heir to Malla” that is available on Kindle Unlimited.

I feature authors in my blog regularly. You can view all the authors I have featured here. If you are an author and you would like to be featured in my blog, please contact me.