2022 Year in Review

To celebrate four years of Dragon Soul Press, we present the four best in each of the following categories: Author Interviews, Prolific Authors, Anthologies, Blog Posts, and the Editor’s Pick.

Top 4 Author Interviews

These are the most viewed author interviews for the year.

  1. Damascus Mincemeyer
  2. Isaac Marion
  3. J.C. Murray
  4. John Greville

Top 4 Prolific Authors

These authors have submitted and been accepted into the most DSP anthologies for the year.

  1. Barend Nieuwstraten III
  2. Jo Niederhoff
  3. Charles Kyffhausen
  4. Douglas Allen Gohl

Top 4 Anthologies

These anthologies were the most popular among readers during the year.

  1. Haunt
  2. Beautiful Darkness: Vol One
  3. History
  4. Surge

Top 4 Blog Posts

These are the most viewed blog posts for the year.

  1. 4 Online Word Count Trackers
  2. How to Write Side Characters
  3. Do’s and Don’ts of World-building
  4. Signs You Should Delete a Character

Editor’s Pick

These are the stories that resonated the most with the editor during the year. Titles are in order of publication.

  1. Rogue Tales‘s Cinder Ellah by Deborah Brown
  2. Surge‘s Leviathan, Inc. by Joseph Sidari
  3. Beyond Atlantis‘s The King’s Anchor by Ella Rose
  4. Chance on Love‘s Your Brain for My Lips by Katie Kent

10 Tips for Writing Believable Main Characters

Writing a book is sort of like baking a cake. Each ingredient is equally as important as the next in order to create a tasty masterpiece. And just like in baking, you can create your own version of a story a hundred different ways. However, there are some elements to writing that are like your staple ingredients – you have to nail them if you want your cake to rise. Think of your plot, setting, and characterization as the eggs, milk, and flour of your story. You need to get these right so that the rest of your story to fall into place. But for now, I’m just focusing on characterization.

And here are 10 tips to writing a solid main character:

We all know the main character is supposed to be the most developed, well-described character in the book. But at the same time, there is such a thing as overdoing it. There’s no use wasting words on character descriptions/information that will serve no purpose to the overall story. Trim the fat and keep it all plot relevant.

Think of your readers like little ducklings looking to imprint on a mother figure to guide them through the story. Your main character is that “maternal figure” they’ll be following throughout the story. That’s why you need to introduce your main character as soon as possible so they can spend the crucial beginning chapters forming a “bond” with the MC. To avoid confusion, the first character you introduce should be the main character.

We all love a good character twist, but if you’re going to reveal something big about your character, make sure that it’s done well. Build up to it in tiny little breadcrumbs rather than just dropping the hammer. If your character is hiding a secret, hint to your audience that they’re hiding a secret. You’re not giving the game away, you’re just preparing your audience for a big reveal. That way, when you do finally reveal something big, your audience isn’t left confused.

Sure, letting us know that a character’s hair is brown and their eyes are blue gives as an idea of what they look like, but it tells us nothing about their personality or motives. A character that is always fidgeting, nervously tapping their fingers, or shifty-eyed tells the reader a whole lot more about their personality or role in the story than just being a brunette. Don’t skimp on describing their behaviors, as that can sometimes be more telling and insightful than basic descriptions of their appearance.

Sure, we love a kickass character that can take on any bad guy in a fight, or a cinnamon roll of a character that is so kind and loving, but we can’t make our characters just one thing. They need to be complex, with their own set of strengths and weaknesses that they grapple with. Just like in life no one is perfect, and neither should your characters be either. And just like your heroes shouldn’t be all good, neither should your villains be all bad. The more “human” your characters are, the more authentic they’ll read on the page.  

It can be hard to create a fresh character. Sometimes, we might feel like we’re writing a trope rather than a person. And when it feels like that, you need to take a step back from the story and really sit with your character. Dig deep and get to know them inside and out. Best way to do this is to write a whole biography for them. It might not make it all into the story (and it shouldn’t) but it’ll give you a better understanding of your character and therefore make it easier for you to translate their essence onto the page so they feel both original and relatable.

If your character feels too much like a “cookie cutter” version of a character, or they’re hard to distinguish from other characters in your story, try switching things up a bit with something that sets them apart. It might a distinctive manner of speaking, or a physical attribute, or even just a unique job – anything that might pique your reader’s interest and make them memorable.

Yes, the whole point of a character’s arc is for them to grow and get outside their comfort zone, but you still need to stay true to your character’s personality. If your character is an introverted homebody, would they really all of a sudden be riding a motorcycle through Burning Man? Probably not. And while a character is allowed to change and grow, these changes should feel organic to the story rather than a “whiplash” change. Otherwise, you risk confusing your reader and pulling them out of the story.   

Your main character should always be an active participant in the story. Many times, new writers make the mistake of allowing the plot to just “happen” to the characters. No. Don’t do that. Your characters, especially your MC, should always have an active role and it should be their actions and reactions that drive the story forward.

Our characters are like our babies. We came up with them, nurtured them, and are trying to tell their story. But sometimes, we also have to make the difficult decision to push them towards the background. Not every character we come up with will be MC material. If you’ve finished your story and you’re reading through it and it just seems like the main character is lackluster, it could be because they’re actually a side character. I once wrote a whole book before I realized my real main character was a side character I had introduced back in chapter three. So, don’t be afraid to switch protagonists, it will only make your story stronger.

Author Interview with Michael Raff

Dragon Soul Press took a moment to interview Michael Raff, an author in Haunt and Beautiful Darkness: Volume One.

1. What inspired you to start writing?

When I was in the seventh grade, an acquaintance of mine, shared a short story that
he wrote. I took it home, read it and thought, Hey that’s cool! I can do this, and
proceeded to write several short stories and a full-length western. I’ve never
stopped since.

2. What comes first, the plot or characters?

With me it’s the plot. An idea pops into my head and when I start working on the
details, the characters form.

3. What is the most difficult part about writing for you?

Other than marketing, sitting down and getting started, which takes me only a
minute or two, then the enjoyment kicks in and I’m off and running.

4. When you’re writing an emotionally draining (or sexy, or sad, etc.) scene, how
do you get in the mood?

The mood materializes as I work. It comes naturally. Since I’m primarily a horror
writer, I’m just about always in the mood. Getting out of the mood is another
matter. While writing Skeleton Man, my first horror novel, I worked quite a while
on the main villain’s death scene, my mind roaming in a dark and dangerous world.
After I quit for the day, it took me hours to get my mind back into reality.

5. Do you hear from your readers much? What do they say?

Occasionally, giving me compliments about my writing, but most of their feedback
are from reviews. Here are some samples:
“Author Michael Raff knows how to send chills up your spine. He is a talented writer with a wild
“Michael Raff has a sick mind, which is perfect for writing horror stories!!”  
“Mr. Raff consistently develops strong characters that are totally believable yet continue to
surprise you with their actions. His plots are always multi-dimensional and full of twists and
turns you don’t see coming.”

6. What was your favorite part, and your least favorite part, of the publishing

My favorite part is receiving my completed book. It’s a tangible gratification that’s
beyond description. My second favorite part, is finishing the first draft. It’s also
satisfying, but I’m always eager to start tackling the second draft. The least
favorite? Has to be the rejection notices. I’ve had my share of them.

7. Do you find it more challenging to write the first book in a series or to write the
subsequent novels?

As of now, I haven’t written a book series. I have an idea for one, but it may be
years before I start.

8. Describe your perfect book hero or heroine.

For a hero, a published writer or a school teacher with more than a few quirks and
flaws and at least one skeleton in his closet. A person who despites his drawbacks,
embarks on a challenging and quite often, dangerous journey, all the while
struggling to redeem himself.

For a heroine, a strong, resourceful, and independent woman, who struggles against
mind-boggling odds stacked against her.

9. Are you working on anything at the present you would like to share with your
readers about?

I’m working on my third horror novel, The Seventh Stranger, a ghost story that
takes place in the nineties, about a family who move into a haunted house, thinking
they can utilize it as a bed and breakfast. Little do they know that one of the ghosts
is a homicidal manic. I initially wrote it back in the late eighties on an old writing
program that no longer exists, and incompatible with Word, (talk about ghosts!)
Fortunately, I kept a hardcopy. It’s a great story and by scanning it into my
computer, I’ve been able to convert it into Word. I hope to have it published on
amazon.com by June, 2023.

10. Who is your favorite author and why?

Stephen King. The first book I read of his was Salem’s Lot, back in 1976. I thought
I died and went to heaven. There was a scene where two guys were delivering a
crate containing a coffin in the middle of the night in a cellar. I was reading it at
night, in bed, hoping to relax and go to sleep. As things unfolded, my cat lying at
my feet, suddenly arched her back and began snarling and spitting at the hallway,
her way of telling me something was there. I found the incident quite unnerving and
it sent my heart into a tailspin. As it turned out, another cat had entered the house
through an opened window. It’s something I’ll never forget. But why is King my
favorite author? With his creativeness, his imagination, and his productivity, there’s
just no stopping him.

11. What famous author do you wish would be your mentor?

Since I’ve read King’s On Writing, which is a terrific read and extremely
informative, I consider him my honorary mentor.

12. What do you like to do when you are not writing?

I read every day. To me, reading and writing go hand in hand. I also exercise but I
don’t actually care for it. I love movies, especially horror, comedy, action, and
adventure. Most of all, I love traveling, mainly to tropical locations where I can
snorkel and mingle with the denizens of the sea. My wife and I take cruises as often
as possible and I enjoy everything about the ocean. I adore animals. We own a small
ranch and have a family of five dogs, two cats, two goats, and a cantankerous horse
named, Freckles.

13. Where can readers learn more about you?

On my main website and my secondary website.

5 Tips to Renew the Joy of Writing

Sometimes, writing can feel more like a job or a burden, especially when the creativity won’t flow. Here are some tips to get in the zone to meet those writing goals.

Dabble in Something New

Write from the Point of View of a different character. Stretch your limits and try a new genre. Swap a romantic relationship to a spiteful one and see where it takes you. Do your ‘good guys’ always win? Let the ‘bad guys’ have this one. Create a “what if” alternate ending to a current project. More often than not, these will alleviate any writers’ block you may be experiencing as new ideas bloom.

Change of Scenery

Stir the pot and change your surroundings. If you normally write at home, try relocating to a coffee shop, library, or somewhere with people milling around in the background. You’ll get in some “people watching,” which provides natural inspiration for characters. 

Writing Mashup

What if robots went on a rampage in Victorian England? What if a human wants to be where the mermaids are? Let the creativity flow by using an online generator to give random combinations to write about. Making this a daily habit seems to successfully help many authors stay in the writing flow.

Free Write

Sometimes you just need to get words on paper to feel productive. Set a timer and write whatever thoughts flit into your mind until the end. It can be about what you did today, how you feel about your current work in progress, what you hope to achieve, random bits of dialogue between characters, etc. There doesn’t need to be any rhyme or reason to it nor does the grammar need to be perfect.

Reward System

Is everything going well with your writing, but you’re feeling a bit underappreciated? Set up a reward system for yourself. Say your writing goal for the day is 2,000 words and you’ll get to eat a cookie if you meet it. If you finish your goal for the week, you go to the movies. Be as creative and personalized as you want with choosing rewards.

First Five Pages Checklist

The first five pages of your book are so important. As aspiring authors, we are well aware of their significance. And we place so much time and emphasis on getting them right. While we probably have a fair idea of what to do and not do in our first five pages, here is a quick recap of things to keep in mind when looking at the start of your novel.

Important questions to ask yourself:

Does the first line engage your reader?

Is your main character properly introduced?

Has the POV and narration style been made clear to the reader?

Does your reader get a good feel for the world – i.e. have you set the status quo?

Have you established your main character’s deepest desire?

Is there an inciting incident?

The most important thing to avoid at the beginning of your novel:

The information dump. 

Your reader is only starting to get to know your main character and within these pages, so you don’t want to overwhelm them with backstory or world building information so early on. Remember, you’ve got a minimum of 80,000 words to work with, you can take your time introducing the important background information.