Six Words & Phrases to Stop Using RIGHT NOW

WORDS&PHRASESRain teems down outside as you cozy up to the crisp pages of a new book, snug under your new fleece blanket and latest #bookish socks. You’re coasting along, line after line, eating up the words and losing yourself to the delicious story.

Suddenly, there it is. That word. Like nails on a chalkboard, the word comes screaming into your mind, like an unwelcome wild animal hissing and ripping up the furniture. There are certain words or phrases that just rub some readers and writers the wrong way. Some are overused, annoying, and totally cliché, while others just sound gross.

What is my word?


EVERYTHING is apparently “glinting” in stories. The moon, people’s teeth, glass on the ground, spilled water, you name it. I find it is a crutch word for some kind of light reflecting off of a surface, but it is so overused that when I see it, I am immediately taken out of what I am reading and thrown back into reality. Ew.

My solution? A $7.99 paperback thesaurus. Cheap, organized, and full of creative alternatives: Sparkle, flash, gleam, glimmer, shine, twinkle, shimmer…

A fantastic set of resources I have fallen in love with are the thesauri from Becca Puglisi and Angela Ackerman at Writers Helping Writers. I am obsessed with these, especially the emotion thesaurus, negative trait thesaurus, and emotional wound thesaurus. They all aim to elevate your storytelling and are absolutely worth checking out. Another resource I love to use when trying to drum up better descriptions and phrasing is a site called Descriptionari.

Here are a few more words and phrases to stop using:

Bile: There are apparently a staggering number of characters in books that have gastric problems since they all seem to be in need of an antacid, stat. Phrases such as “Bile rose in her throat” or “I tasted bile in my mouth” are popular. Please, just…don’t.

Releasing a breath: Not only do many characters have GERD as mentioned above, but also seem to be holding their breath. They will then release this breath that they weren’t aware of. Most characters don’t hold their breath, but this phrase is commonly used to show a physical representation of tension inside a character. Consider a switch to something more unique such as “I took a sharp inhale, then the tension in my chest eased as I finally let it go.”

Very: Very strong, very weird, very high, very wet, very gray, very tired…you get it. It’s boring.

Shaking one’s head: You see it everywhere, but most characters don’t really need to do this. In some cases, it may work, however, it may be fitting to re-word so it isn’t so cliché.

Clench: A lot of things clenching here, folks. Clenched jaws, hands, eyelids, fists… How about grasp, clamp, clasp, clinch (this is a real word, check it out), clutch, constrict, contract, grapple, grip, and hold? Or better yet, twist them into a more original, unique phrasing such as changing “My jaw clenched” to “The muscles along my jaw knotted.”

AN ARMY OF ADVERBS: (These are words that end with “-ly”). This isn’t a phrase per se, but rather a trend within a string of paragraphs. In a book I read late last year, I came across so many adverbs in the writing that it abruptly (see what I did there?) took me out of the story. A few dashed here and there are fine to sneak in, but please don’t let them build up.

What are your trigger words and phrases?




BOOK REVIEW: The Cruel Prince by Holly Black

The Cruel Prince (The Folk of the Air, #1)The Cruel Prince by Holly Black

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book stole the breath straight from my lungs. It is rare that I fall so hard for a book that I feel somewhat lost after it is over.

This is one of those stories.

The Cruel Prince by Holly Black follows the story of our MC, Jude, who is taken to live in Faerie with her twin sister, Taryn, and older sister, Vivi, after some…um…family drama. She is mortal, while her….family…is not. While she is raised in Faerie, she is constantly reminded of her mortal status. She is belittled by classmates and bullied. At first, I thought this story would be just any old ‘bullying’ story, showing an MC overcoming their fears to stand up and fight for their dignity.

Boy, was I wrong.

Jude is CRAZY. I LOVE HER. She is so complex (as are all of the characters), that Black manages to knock the old tropes out of the park and completely re-invent character development. There are no “good guys” vs “bad guys” here. Everyone is a little bit grey…and that is what makes them all so interesting. You fall far into Jude’s head, her motivations, and her desires. You feel her heartbeat. My hat, truly, is tipped to Black for her amazing character development.

“Before, I never knew how far I would go. Now I believe I have the answer. I will go as far as there is to go. I will go way too far.” -Jude

The world building is also excellent. I was hoping for a little more geographical expansion as there are places only described to make the world feel bigger, however, most of the action actually takes place in 3-4 settings. I am hoping by Book 2 the world maybe opens up a little more.

The plot is deep, twisty, and dark. Some twists I expected and others were a complete surprise. The politics and drama of the fae world do not seem like ones I would want to get involved with!

Fans of fae fantasy stories, strong female leads, anti-hero tropes, drama/politics, and spies will love this one!

This book is appropriate for younger readers as you will not find explicit sexuality or inappropriate themes. Triggers include violence and bullying.

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Tackling YA Fiction Tropes: Too Cliché?


“He stands there, alone and silent, in the moonlight—tall, dark, and handsome. He pulls his shirt off, there’s definitely scars there, but he won’t tell me why. His crystal blue eyes peer through the part in his dark hair above his knitted brows—wet from the rain—and stare straight into my soul. If only I knew what he was thinking…or why he makes me feel this way.”

He’s mysterious. He’s a bad boy. He’s emotionally unavailable and SMIRKS A LOT. He’s…the brooding YA (Young Adult) male love-interest trope!

Does this character sound familiar? Anyone ever read Twilight?

What is a trope? A trope is a recurring literary device that may show common conventions and devices used within a story. Similar to the idea of a stereotype, these literary tropes become well-known throughout a genre. In YA (young adult), there are some common ones you will recognize. All stories have tropes in them. A good story depends on how they are swiveled to drive the story the right way.

What is a cliché? Cliche refers to an overused device such as a saying, idea, expression, or description such as a character’s eye color. They are so common or predictable that they lose meaning or novelty. Don’t use these when you write. NO ONE’S EYES ARE CERULEAN BLUE.

Clichés are tropes, but not all tropes are clichés. 

Carrie Ann DiRisio is the brilliant creator of Brooding YA Hero. You simply must check Broody out on Twitter and buy Carrie’s new book: BROODING YA HERO: BECOMING A MAIN CHARACTER (ALMOST) AS AWESOME AS ME.  Her book is a parody of YA tropes, perfect for writers wanting to dive deeper and learn how to twist them to their advantage.

Key takeaways from Carrie’s recent trope discussion webinar I attended:

-Tropes are the building blocks of a story. They are NOT necessarily a bad thing. Tropes are like comfort food: We don’t want to read the same story 10 times. We want just the essence of tropes in stories so that they are familiar.

-Clichés are done so many times that they aren’t interesting anymore. Cliches lose originality and lose readers quickly.

So what are writers to do? No one wants to fall into a cliché rut. They key is to be original and twist common tropes to work to your story’s advantage. Use them as a device to drive conflict and drama!

Here’s some top tropes you may recognize:

  1. FEMALE PROTAGONIST blind to her own beauty. Typically has “dark hair” and thinks she’s “plain”.
  2. INSTA-LOVE! “Their eyes met over a steaming bowl of pasta.” Ooh, pasta. Now that I can fall in love with at first sight…
  4. BROODING MALE LOVE INTEREST. Perhaps closely related to Mr. Perfect, this guy has flaws, and he’s tight-lipped about his DTP (Dark Troubled Past)…and he’s bad for the protagonist…and it makes him SOOO hot.
  5. LOVE TRIANGLES! “They are both so hot, I can’t just pick one until the very end of the story (or entire trilogy)! Which leads to:
  6. …TRILOGIES! Why is almost everything YA in a 3-book series?
  7. PARENTS ARE JERKS! Or dead.
  8. INSTANT LEADER OF THE RESISTANCE. “Down with the king!”
  9. SUPER CLUMSY PROTAGONIST…but is amazing at fighting. Why? 
  10. UNDISCOVERED ABILITIES! “OMG, I’m a wizard?”


Do What You Love & Love Yourself For It

Valentine flatlay 3

“Don’t compare your Chapter 1 to someone else’s Chapter 20.”

I’ve been told this a hundred times.

Doing what I love—namely reading and writing—has made a big impact in my personal happiness and well-being. As an act of self-care, it has changed the way I see the world, opened my creativity, strengthened my relationships and friendships, and improved my perception of stressors within the world around me. When I let go of trying to compare my achievements and skill level to others, it completely liberated me.

It’s ok to love what you do. It’s ok to be a beginner. It’s ok to do something purely because it makes you happy. Don’t compare where you are to another’s success. 

On this Valentine’s Day, we are inundated with images of the L-word and what we picture it should be. Of course, love is romanticized through iconic images. Couples kissing, fuzzy stuffed animals, and mountains of chocolate and candy flood our Instagram feeds. What we forget, sometimes, is that love extends far beyond romantic love. Self-love, for example, is fundamental to the human condition. Self-acceptance, self-care, and the ability to embrace the things that drive us are what fundamentally let us celebrate being human.

Doing what you love not only improves quality of life, but there are literal changes in your body’s chemistry when this happens. In the presence of something perceived as “Good”, the brain releases four main chemicals, creating desirable states of the brain and keeping us coming back for more. I like to call these guys The Fab Four: Dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin, and endorphins.

  1. Dopamine motivates us to take steps toward our goals, needs, and desires, then gives a wave of supportive gratification when attaining them. Why do you think it feels so great when you hit your daily word count?
  2. Serotonin circulates when you feel significant or confident.  When Serotonin is absent, feelings of loneliness and depression appear. Being outside in the sunshine promotes Vitamin D and serotonin production, a bonus for us outside-loving readers and writers!
  3. Oxytocin creates strength and trust within relationships. Released during sexual intimacy, touch/massage, childbirth or breastfeeding, and eating food (AMEN to that), Oxytocin is also famous for lowering blood pressure, increasing pain thresholds, and lowering anxiety.
  4. Endorphins are released in response to pain or stress and help to relieve anxiety and depression. That feeling after a workout you get is thanks to the release of endorphins. Laughing will bring this same feeling. Remember that mountain of Valentine’s Day chocolate? Studies have shown that dark chocolate can cue the brain to release endorphins. Reading books? If you recall my recent post about Books vs Technology, you may remember the chemistry lesson about the beloved book smell, which included the scent of vanilla. Vanilla and lavender scents have actually been linked to the production of endorphins in the body. Bibliophiles, buying books really DOES buy happiness! 

So do what YOU love. Do it often. Don’t compare yourself to anyone else.

Create what moves you, and you will move the world.

With love on this Valentine’s Day,




R.M. Schultz

Ryan M Schultz takes us on a fast-paced adventure to ancient Egypt in his novel, “Eve of the Pharaoh”, which recently hit #1 on an Amazon best-seller list!

Check out my review HERE and grab your copy today! I had the opportunity to ask a few questions about his writing process and inspiration for this historic adventure:

When did you first start writing? Do you remember the first piece you wrote? 

In high school, I wrote a full-length, terrible fantasy novel after reading the classics and great works in the genre. But I still enjoyed creating a story and characters, and wanted to become a writer.

My grandfather once told me: If you love it enough, you will find it.

No, actually he never said that…he mostly told the same stories over and over again, but I wanted to come up with something inspiring.

How do you get into writing-mode? Do you do anything specific to warm up? Where do you write?

Spending time outdoors: watching the ocean, lake, mountains, fog, rain, trees, or snow. Those things put my mind in a special place, and I see things I otherwise wouldn’t. When I haven’t spent enough time outside, I have to force myself to sit and start writing. What comes out, in the beginning, is garbage this way, but I eventually find myself immersed in the story again and can get back into the groove. Editing the material hundreds of times afterward is then part of that process.

I’d like to write while viewing that outdoor scenery, but so far I’m in my office, typically late at night after the family has gone to bed. Maybe one day, if I sell enough books, I’ll write during the day, in a room overlooking water or the mountains.

What brought you to the idea for “Eve of the Pharaoh”? 

When I entered the tombs of the deceased, and read the writing that spoke to others long before you and I walked the earth. To feel that same stone, breathe the same air, and read the same stories within images upon the walls…

There’s probably no better way to tell a story than to experience and feel it internally and externally—to tread the same ground and sail the same river.

Through that experience, I believed a modern thread would help the story connect with people today.

What did you find most difficult while writing it? 

The past story flowed out of me. The present was more difficult, but weaving the two threads together and making sure the timelines of events fit with the actual past, as well as the discoveries in the present (and in the story) was very difficult.

When writing the storylines of Gavin and Horemheb, did you write them simultaneously, or did you write their stories separately before weaving the chapters together? 

In the first book of the series, I wrote them simultaneously and wound up creating the most difficult aspect mentioned above when going back through and editing the storyline of both threads.

For the second book, I wrote them separately and then wove the threads together. We’ll see if it is any easier once I attempt my editor’s and beta readers’ suggestions this time around.

How did you conduct research for this book?

Traveling, exhibits, classes, and reading about 15 books about ancient Egypt. The books included textbooks, travel guides, art, hieroglyphic translations, literature, and architecture from ancient Egyptian stories.

When you’re not writing, what are you doing?

Attempting to raise my daughter and working as a veterinary radiologist, which takes a combination of art, imagination, medicine, and science. I tried to incorporate all of these aspects into Eve of the Pharaoh.

Name three things you can’t live without:

Wow, this is a hard one. So many…family (including pets), adventure, and creating/experiencing other’s stories.

What was the best money you’ve spent as a writer? 

Cover design. I loved making the movie trailer, writing the script, and how it all turned out. Editors have been hit or miss.

In six words, write down your personal narrative story:

Small town kid turned inquisitive adventurer.

What else are you working on?

I’ve completed book 2 in the first draft form and am starting to go through the outline for the third and final book while putting words on paper.

And, for years, trying to come up with a completely original storyline and premise that millions of people will love—one that will make them feel the way I do when experiencing a great story. Does the opportunity exist? I hope one day to find it.




You can catch up with Ryan on his website at to check out the official book trailer, reviews, and more!

Lovers of adventure, history, and travel will love “Eve of the Pharaoh”, available now!



Health & Wellness for Creativity

What is the greatest enemy of creativity? Stress! 

Like so many writers, I only have the opportunity to write part-time. My full-time gig as a veterinarian can be physically and emotionally draining, especially those nights with heavy caseloads and high mortality rates. Barricading this kind of stress from my creative side is a real effort, and it has taken years to develop the power to affect how my mind perceives and processes stress.

When the flow of creativity is imbued with a healthy mind, you can shatter these barriers. An unhealthy mind and body limit the capacity of your brain and ability to create. Stress makes your brain go into survival mode. Think about it: when you’re “running from a bear” (a fun mnemonic my physiology professor used to use in vet school), you need to GET OUTTA THERE, not write him a novel or paint his portrait. There is no space in your brain to create when you’re trying to stay alive and function. When we are stuck behind the glass wall that stress puts up, we see where we COULD go, but we can’t get there—we are “locked out” of our creative vision.

Everything I read seems to portray the goal in reverse: Creativity is needed for health & wellness, especially mental wellness. I don’t necessarily see this as a one-way street, however. Mental and physical health are what feed creativity in your brain, thus one being mutually beneficial to the other.

Increasing blood flow to vital organs (including your brain) can not only balance hormones, even out your sleep cycle, decrease anxiety, and strengthen your immune system, it can also create a healthier outlook, decrease your chances of Alzheimer’s, and allow wider creative impulses.

So how do you get to the overflowing wellspring of creativity? It’s simple: MOVE. Move your body, move your mind.

Here are some simple ideas to get your blood pumping or de-stress, and get your creative juices flowing!

-Use a fitness tracker. I use the Fitbit Blaze and absolutely love it based on my lifestyle needs. If I am sitting too long, it prompts me to stand and take a specific minimum number of steps per hour.

-Walk regularly, jog, run, skip, or ride a bike. I can’t stress this enough: walk regularly, even if it’s just 15 minutes a day.

-Regular stretching, focusing on the back, neck, and shoulders. Staring at a screen will wreak havoc on your neck. Consider a professional massage or even acupuncture.

-Yoga, Barre, pole fitness, or aerial dance (silks, hammock, or Lyra hoop). Download the MINDBODY app HERE to explore classes and pricing near you.

-Meditation, recite mantras/affirmations for writers such as WriteNow cards which you can purchase HERE

-Photography and Videography. Train a different creative channel in your brain. You’ll see the world in a whole new way.

-Voiceover, podcasting, songwriting. Hear yourself in a new way. Record yourself reading your writing—it’ll blow your mind.

-Listen to music, play piano, learn guitar. Have a playlist blasting while writing to inspire certain moods or emotions. Pandora and Spotify are a great start. Noise-cancelling headphones are a must if you’re in public.

-Art galleries, painting, drawing, quilting, knitting, ceramics, Paint & Sip classes.

-Live performances, dinner theater, bands, acting workshops or theater groups, Shakespeare festivals in summer!

FURTHER READING: Psychology Today:“Our study supports the idea that engaging the mind may protect neurons, or the building blocks of the brain, from dying, stimulate the growth of new neurons, or may help recruit new neurons to maintain cognitive activities in old age” (American Academy of Neurology, 2015).

Pick Your Platform: Paper, E-Reader, or Audiobook?


Printed Books: Have you ever walked into a second-hand bookstore, stood in the open foyer to shake the rain off of your umbrella, and drawn in a long, deep breath through your nose? That glorious smell lingers thanks to the slow breakdown of substances called lignin and cellulose, which are found in wood (and therefore, paper), releasing volatile compounds that we recognize as certain scents. These include vanillin (vanilla), benzaldehyde (almond), and even certain floral or sweet smells can sometimes be detected. The older the better.

Ah, but then there’s the new book aroma. *Inhales*. There is nothing like that smell, wafting through the crackle of the new book’s spine as you journey through the story. Ink, paper, and adhesives give off this intoxicating aroma and can vary book to book based on the products used to make them. Check out this useful printable infographic by Compound Interest for more on the chemistry of old and new books.

Pros: What’s not to love? You can twirl around with them in your arms like Belle and cross your fingers wishing for a giant palace library from a prince. You can visit used bookstores for the low prices and amazing aroma experience. Everyone, of course, loves a good #Bookstagram: Taking photos all day of your color-coordinated bookshelves, coffee mugs, and long socks (bonus points if you have a cat in the photo). The best feelings are the butterflies you feel when that beautiful rectangular package is awaiting your arrival, leaning against your front door, like a lone cowboy from a romance novel leaning against a fence, waiting for you and tipping his hat (shirt optional). Howdy.

Cons: Books are a guilty pleasure for many of us readers, however, the soaring expense of printed books can be staggering (especially new release hardcovers). The physical lack of room can become a problem when your little book collection overruns your spare bedroom (actual book walls were banned at our house, despite my creative suggestion). The gut-wrenching wait for Amazon deliveries hurts, but thankfully Prime has relief for that.


E-Readers (Kindle, Nook, etc): About 3 months ago I purchased a non-backlit Kindle. I was hesitant at first. There was no intoxicating book smell, no physical pages to turn. I tried to hold it in one hand above me as one would a beloved paperback while laying down on my favorite couch, but it merely fell straight onto my face and bruised my ego. It was a rough start to our relationship. But after I downloaded a few books and found the ease of the features, I absolutely fell in love with it. Its portability makes it perfect for my busy schedule and frequent air travel. It makes me go to bed at a reasonable hour as I can only use it with the lights on. When my husband and I are ready to fall asleep, I turn it off and can fall asleep much sooner.

Pros: Lower cost than printed books and most audiobooks. You can highlight important sections and make as many notes as you want while staying organized—fantastic news for Goodreads users! Immediate delivery of e-books (sweet satisfaction!) and very large amounts of storage space make it a great deal. Purchasing a refurbished non-backlit Kindle is very economical. And if you forget to bring it along, you can download the app onto your phone.

Cons: Some models are a bit of a budget squeeze. The backlight on certain models can induce eye strain and affect sleep patterns. The battery life may be a problem depending on your model. You also may accidentally drop it on your face. No judgment.


Audiobooks: My dad got me hooked on audiobooks a very long time ago. He would listen to them during his almost one-hour commute every day to work. Plowing through audiobooks, we would go to the library and check out even more. Back then they were all on cassette tapes in an enormous, squishy plastic case. The cassettes were a pain to cue up, typically more than seven or eight in a set. Throughout the years, audiobooks moved on to CD’s and finally onto smartphones and tablets, making them more portable than ever. The only time you won’t catch me with an audiobook is when I’m reading another one in print.

Pros: Perfect for people on the go, especially with long commutes. Very handy for multi-taskers as you can tuck your phone in your pocket and get your to-do list done. They also can be a fun book-club alternative—club members attend to listen together over a glass of wine or two. For individuals utilizing English as a second language, audiobooks are excellent practice. Some studies show that audiobooks can actually increase reading accuracy and fluency. If you are tired, have difficulty with vision, or experience frequent eye strain, audiobooks are a comforting alternative.

Cons: Expense can be an issue, however, there are memberships available that may decrease the cost. Audible offers a free book when you sign up, and you get to keep it if you cancel. Storage can be limited if books are kept on a phone app. Sometimes the story itself is awesome, but the voice acting is absolutely awful, thus ruining the experience. I recommend downloading the audio sample before purchasing (if they offer one).

Photo Jan 20, 3 13 41 PM

Books that are available in all platforms bring larger audiences as they offer more options for virtually all lifestyles and budgets.

At the end of the day, if a story is meaningful and speaks to your humanity, get your hands on it and hold on. Stories have the power to bring change to our lives, and that is the magic of books.

What’s your favorite platform? Take the poll above!


BOOK REVIEW: Ever the Hunted by Erin Summerill

Ever the Hunted (Clash of Kingdoms, #1)Ever the Hunted by Erin Summerill

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Actual rating: 4.5/5 stars


Who do you trust when all you want is to seek the truth?

In Ever the Hunted, Britta, a recently orphaned huntress, is called to find her father’s killer—and the suspect is the last person she’d expect.

Written in the first-person narrative, the story follows Britta on a journey of not only the truth, but an odyssey of self-discovery as she navigates secrets uncovering her past, the slow burn of an old flame rekindling, and the mystery of her father’s murder.

Although the story has some familiar YA tropes (The brooding, dark, sexy, muscular love interest that somehow is always keeping snippets of truth from being known from the person he knows and loves the most because he was trying to ‘protect’ her…), they were twisted in a fresh way. I absolutely LOVED this story and it was a fun adventure to tag along with. I will definitely check out the second book.

Readability: I received this as an audiobook, therefore translating readability to “listenability”, I feel that this book was very easy to keep running while driving or getting chores done. The voice acting was a little difficult to settle into as the main character’s tone was always laced with anxiety when engaging in dialogue or inner monologue. She does, however, do a phenomenal job of performing different accents and male voices.

Characters: The characters are believable and there is palpable tension between the main love interest and MC, but I just couldn’t quite dive as deep as I’d hoped into some of the relationships and growth. I did not feel the depth between Britta and one of the secondary characters who suddenly becomes very significant in her life (I won’t spoil it!). I am interested in seeing these characters develop more in the second story.

Overall Feel: A fun, quick story that hits some of the major YA targets with a bow on horseback. Fans of travel, adventure, rekindling romances, and magic will love this one!

No explicit sexual content except for several scenes with consensual kissing, appropriate for younger readers.

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