Author Interview with Charity Ayres

Dragon Soul Press sat down to interview Charity Ayres, an author featured in Dragons and Heroines.


1. How long have you been writing?

I honestly don’t remember the first time I wrote a story. Maybe in grade school? I know that I was working on my first novel in high school. I never finished it, but I worked on it for almost three years before entering the Navy. It was a vampire novel.

2. What comes first, the plot or characters?

The egg. Wait, the chicken? I don’t think there’s ever a true “first” other than the inclination to write. Sometimes, you catch an odd bit of conversation while standing in line at a coffee shop that triggers an entire character dialogue in your head. Other times, you’re taking a Geology class and realize that you could create a story where a random element horribly influences people. My characters tend to drive the story, but it doesn’t mean that the story wasn’t already lurking in the background, waiting to gobble them up. Writing is about that perfect cocktail of mayhem and connectivity between character and story.

3. How do you handle writer’s block?

When I teach Creative Writing or Writing Workshops, I always tell my students this: There is no such thing as Writer’s Block. There is such a thing as Procrastinator’s Block, and you have to decide to get over it. Writing can be hard work. Every time you sit down, you will not have the perfect writing session; sometimes, you have to push through and just write whatever comes out. That’s what first drafts are for. Get the story down, even if it means you spend the first ten, twenty, or sixty minutes of a session writing about everything in your head. Eventually, you will get what you need from writing so long as you just write through it.

4. How do you come up with the titles to your books?

Oh, I love finding my titles. Sometimes they come from a great one-liner a character says, and sometimes I want something that’s going to hint about what’s to come. If you’ve ever read or studied poetry, you know that the title is part of the prose. Stories are the same way. Titles are meaningful and give your reader a taste of sweetness to lure them in.

5. What is the most surprising thing you discovered while writing your book(s)?

I was amazed that writing novels got easier. The first one was like rubbing my brain with sandpaper. It was agonizing, but I learned so much about myself, especially what not to do in my writing. I equate it to running: once you do a big run, the others seem a little easier by comparison. Then, you go out and do it again.

6. How many plot ideas are just waiting to be written? Can you tell us about one?

I have to admit that every day is a different idea. My brain constantly picks up odd bits of fluff and swirls them around before putting them down and moving on to the next. My brain is very magpie-like. Today I was thinking about the Loch Ness monster as a dragon. Not just any dragon, though, the origin of life on this and other planets. What would the world look like with that approach? Why is the creature in hiding, and is it the only one? If so, how did it happen? That’s a story that could be fun to write.

7. Who is the author you most admire in your genre?

I read so many different genres and write whatever strikes my interest, so this is hard. I love Stephen King’s earlier works. Piers Anthony is phenomenal. Though, thinking about it, Marion Zimmer Bradley was one of my influences. I was heartbroken when she passed away. She was one of the first authors I submitted a story to. Even though she didn’t take it, she wrote me feedback that I was too stupid to take at the time. Beyond them, I could give you a near-endless list.

8. What was your dream job when you were younger?

Writing has always been my dream job. I have always been a voracious reader, and the thought that I could one day do that as a profession? What could be better than that? To live in a realm of my choosing as the hero or heroine so I could save the day and then and do it all over again the next day. It’s like living a million lifetimes or the truest form of immortality.

9. What is the best part of your day?

After the first sip (or gallon) of coffee hits me, and I’ve had one of a million “how to kill and hide the body” discussions, the best part of my day is when I can stop and enjoy a story. I make sure to read every day, and I do writing sprints with fellow authors almost every night. The best moments for me are the quiet reprieve of stepping into a different world and wiggling my toes in the sands of someone’s imagination. Sometimes it’s my own characters and their penchant for sarcastic quips, or maybe it’s following a trail of clues in historical fiction, or perhaps it’s a short story that makes me want to turn on all of the lights. Whatever it is, I’m there for it. All of it.

10. Where can readers learn more about you?

Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and my website.

Author Interview with Clint Foster

Dragon Soul Press took the opportunity to interview Clint Foster who is featured in Dragons and Heroines, History, Reign of Queens, and Organic Ink: Vol 2.


1. How long have you been writing?

I remember writing stories in middle and high school that were true nonsense. Fifty pages on Microsoft Word, single spaced, no indentations. Amazing stuff, surely. But I published my first book in 2018 and another forty some stories since.

2. How do you handle writer’s block?

I don’t get ‘blocked’ nearly as much as I just casually avoid writing by doing other things (like this interview.) But when I feel really stuck about a particular story I will just open another tab, among the hundreds, and start writing something else. Or I’ll read something. Just try to change the way my brain is thinking. Then I come back to it with fresh ideas and hope for something intelligible.

3. What comes first, the plot or characters?

The idea of a plot, to me, has always started with a character or two. Who is this antagonist and what do they want? But the characters develop along the way, then I have to go back and fix them in the beginnings of these stories when they still don’t know who they are yet. So I think the character instigates the plot, but the plot changes and truly creates the character. Chicken, egg, etc.

4. What time of the day do you usually write?

It depends on the day. Sometimes I write for four hours the second I wake up, others I write into the middle of the night because I had an idea.

5. How do you do research for your books?

All hail our overlord, the Google machine.

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

Music is always the answer.

7. How do you handle literary criticism?

I used to be extremely uncomfortable with it because I was also shy about having my writing out there, but it’s out there now, and I have succeeded enough times to know that someone must like what I’m writing, so I’ll keep doing what I’m doing and hope to get better.

8. How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?

One book, one epic poem. Favorite is such a final word. I’m obviously partial to my first novel, Pawns of the Shadow, because it was something I worked on for years, on and off, and was so proud to finally finish. But I always saw myself as something of a bard, and the idea of ‘singing’ a song by writing an epic poem was something I always assumed would be impossible. Final word – The Lay of Thorriman is my favorite of the two, but only of my two novel pieces.

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

I hang out with my wife watching true crime and bad tv shows. I relax with my puppies when I’m not watching them play in the backyard. I rot my brain with YouTube. I play (too many) video games. I read (never too many) books.

10. Where can readers learn more about you?

Visit me on Amazon and Facebook.

Balancing Multiple Projects

As writers it is nearly impossible not to have a constant flood of new ideas. But we how do we balance all the new ideas while still working and completing what we’ve got? Some of us might find that working on multiple projects helpful, but we also want to find a balance. 

Tips to balancing different projects:

1) Use Different Notebooks

We all love a good notebook. It’s almost like a writer’s rite of passage to have hundreds of unused notebooks in some desk drawer just waiting to be used. Put some of these notebooks to good use by dedicating them to your projects. Instead of scattering your ideas for all your stories across several different notebooks, just use one notebook per project. I have found it makes a world of different when I can just go to one notebook for everything having to do with Project A instead of rifling through five different notebooks trying to find the note I wrote.  

2) Plot, Plot, Plot

Organization is key to balancing several different writing projects. Writing one book is difficult enough and requires you to be organized, but when you’re juggling two books or more books, organization is essential. Plotting and outlining is a great way to make sense of your different storylines so that they flow cohesively. The last thing you want is your different plots overlapping in your head, which is why creating clear and concise outlines for each will help to keep you on track for each project. 

3) Compartmentalize One Project Per Day

Divide your time evenly amongst your different projects. And when you go to work on a project, work on just that project. For example, if you’ve decided that you have an hour on a Tuesday evening and you want to work on Book A, then just work on Book A. For that hour, pretend that nothing else in the world matters but working on Book A. If you like to spend your Saturday mornings working on multiple outlines, then make sure whatever length of time you take for yourself you evenly distribute for all your outlining projects. I find that if I’m outlining two things at once, I like to set a timer for each. So, if I’ve given myself half an hour each, I’ll set a timer so I stay on track. This also helps to create a sense of urgency to focus my allotted time to the project at hand, rather than wasting time letting my mind wander. Going off this point, dedicate your day to whichever project fits your mood. For example, if you wake up feeling like you’ve got a million different plot points you want to connect, then maybe take that day to focus on the project that is still in its plotting phase. Or, if you wake up thinking of some really good dialogue, then maybe focus on the writing aspect and choose one of your projects that is already in the drafting stage. 

4) Get in Your “Zone”

Before starting work on any project, it’s a good idea to get your head in the game. As writers we all have our different Go to your favorite writing space, play a specific playlist, light a scented candle – do whatever makes you get into that writer frame of mind. This ritual is also helpful when trying to transition between projects that you’re working on. I personally like to use different playlists for each of my projects. The music helps me shift from one story to the next through different themed playlists. But you can do whatever it is that makes you get in your writing zone. 

5) The 10-minute trick

This is great for those writer’s block moments. At some point we will all experience writer’s block on all of our writing projects. But if you don’t want to abandon yet another manuscript then this is a great idea, especially if you’re experiencing writer’s block on the dedicated writing day of one of projects. Rather than letting it roll over to next week or whenever you’ve scheduled yourself to work on it again, try this instead. Sit down at your chosen writing space and set your timer for 10 minutes. And during that time just start working. By the time your alarm goes off, you’ll be so entrenched in the flow you won’t want to stop. 

6) Be Patient and Don’t Give Up

Perhaps the biggest lesson to take away from trying to balance several different writing projects at once is that you need to have patience with yourself. Each project will end up going at its own pace. You might find yourself wanting to constantly write Project A while neglecting Project B or having severe writer’s block on Project C – and that is okay. No one is expecting you to finish all three at once and within an entire year’s timeframe. That is your own internalized pressure. Be patient and just keep going. Everything that you’re writing will eventually get written, you just need to keep working on them. Some of your projects will end up going fast than you expected, others will give you a little bit more resistance. Just keep moving forward and you’ll eventually get there. 

Deciding What is Plot Relevant

Writing an entire story is hard work. It requires a lot of time and patience. And when it comes to our writing, we are always given many different bits of advice. One of the advice tips that we constantly hear is that we must make everything plot relevant. And it is solid advice; we should always be striving to move our plot forward. However, how exactly do we decide what is plot relevant and what is not?

One misconception is that if we are writing to make everything plot relevant, then we can’t have moments of character bonding, or doing anything that isn’t 100% in line with the ultimate ending. But we need to remember this isn’t true. 

We need to remember that if a scene is showing the reader something personal about the characters, then it is plot relevant. It is the “why” behind a story’s action. But more importantly, it gives your reader a reason to care – if your reader doesn’t feel attached to a character or characters, then why it doesn’t matter what happens to them? And let’s face it, your characters can be integral to the plot. Not only that, but if your story doesn’t have more lighthearted or slow moments, you’re left with constant drama. And this level of intensity will quickly get old, and the truly intense moments of your story will lose their impact. 

Yes, everything that you write should have a ripple effect in one way or another, and should be plot relevant, but those that influence your character’s internal development can be just as important as the outside influences. 

Plotting Twists & Reveals

You’ve started your next writing project and you’re in a rush to perfect it. We’ve all been there and done that, but we must continuously remind ourselves to think things through in order to master the art.

To achieve the best drama, your protagonist must have enough information to make an informed decision. This slowly comes out in stages. By the midway point of the entire story, your character needs to have a good idea of what’s going on and who could possibly be behind it/influencing it. In order to set up the proper twist, don’t give them all of the details (aka NO info dumping).

An easy way to keep yourself in check is by remembering:

  • One reveal per scene or per chapter break.
  • The twist or reveal should cause an emotional effect.

Leave a miniature cliffhanger when you drop a good reveal on the readers. It will set them on edge and they’ll be lured into reading more.

What is the difference between twists and reveals?

  • Reveals are why something happens (backstory info)
  • Twists are what’s actually going on (new knowledge)

Be sure to watch out for the following caveats:

  • Don’t add extremely obvious hints or references. Be subtle enough that readers aren’t able to guess until the last couple of twists fall into place. Make them suspicious, but don’t overdo it.
  • Surprise is only half of it. Twists and reveals need to have an emotional impact or create a life-altering point of view for the protagonist from the moment of reveal and onward.

The number one thing to remember is you want readers to care about your story. Show them a protagonist forced out of their comfort zone by getting dragged through the mud, almost making a comeback, being pounded into the dirt, and then very slowly overcoming their obstacles. Your protagonist should not have a perfect score against all of the hurdles you’ll throw at them, but that’s what makes for an enticing story.