How To Deal With A Negative Review (For Writers) Part I

We are told that reviews are important. Other people see reviews and decide whether or not to invest the dollar or two and take a chance on your unknown work. It has been said that Amazon doesn’t care whether the reviews are good or bad, more is better, and the more reviews your book has, the more it gets seen. Whether any of this is true, I’m not going to say. This is not meant to be an essay on the merits of reviews – any person is entitled to their opinion about anything, and the expression thereof. This is only a comment about what it’s like to be a writer on the receiving end of reviews. This is not to say I think someone should lie, and say they liked a book when they didn’t, or a book was great when it wasn’t, or that it was well-edited when there were typos on every second or third page, but there is such a thing as the golden rule and “Would I like to have someone say this about something I wrote?”. There is such a thing as recognition that the person didn’t intend to write the worst possible book they could, in fact, they intended to write the best book they knew how and if they knew of a better way to do it, they would have done so. There is such a thing as encouraging a person to improve and do better, and not killing any tendency to put anything out into the world ever again. There is such a thing as compassion and humanity, the taking into consideration that you are talking about a real, live person with feelings.

I can say from personal experience that having someone dislike your book sucks. Having someone dislike your book enough that they go and tell other people how much they dislike it is even worse. I don’t know if there are words to accurately convey what it’s like to get a really bad review on something you’ve created. Unfortunately, you’ll just have to experience that for yourself. And I hope you do. That may sound cold and cruel, but it’s not. There are a lot of people in the world, and you’re going to have to get your book out in front of all of them. Not all of them will read it, but some of them will. And some of those will not like it. And some of those will write you negative, bad, horrible, or downright shitty reviews.

If you’re looking for the one true answer to how to deal with such reviews (if you’re a writer), this may or may not be what you’re looking for. This is just one writer’s thoughts when she got her first one-star, this-is-the-single-worst-book-I-have-ever-read review, and because I felt it might be of benefit to others, I took the time to write this little post. It was not the easiest thing in the world to do, and frankly, I’d rather just forget about the whole thing, shove it under the carpet and pretend it never happened. Maybe a better way to handle it is to do  just that, quietly go on my way, and say nothing of it, and hope no one notices. But I think this is important enough to say something about, so here goes.

Not all people (and hence, not all writers) are the same. Like the song says, some people sail through their troubles and some have to live with the scars. If you’re not one of those super-confident inside and out, breeze through the world and brush aside any negative comments like the glitter to your sparkle that they are, a bad review will probably hit you in that incredibly sensitive part of you that is composed of self-doubt and uncertainty, that part that is not quite sure you’re good enough and makes sure to put in its two cents to that effect, especially when the world is offering you convincing reasons why you’re not as hot as you thought you were.

I found this review – the first negative review – for my book First Magyc very demoralizing:


Pretty bad, right? And the thought that anyone else could read it was even worse. It was rather surprising to discover how much it hurt – I never for a moment thought that everybody would love my book – but on second thought, why shouldn’t it hurt? You’ve put your time, effort, heart and soul into creating this beautiful thing that wasn’t there before, something magical, and someone has just trounced carelessly over it as though it were nothing at all. Hell, worse than nothing. I have yet to see a negative review of a book that hasn’t been written yet. It’s one thing to say “Be confident. Be thick-skinned. Don’t give a damn what anyone says or thinks.” but that can be a lot easier said than done. Even when you know that is true, and believe it with all your heart, when push comes to shove, it doesn’t matter, it still hurts, and all you want to do is lock yourself away, have a mental breakdown and never show your face again because now the whole internet knows – and worse agrees – that your book is not good enough and should not exist.  It’s a really horrible feeling, and difficult to describe. After a moment of stunned shock, in which you try to figure out if this is just a bad dream, and if not, where it all went wrong, you get around to thinking, “What do I do now?”

The list of “what do I do now?” that would be composed in the early stages of shock might look something like this:

1. Chocolate (or ice cream).
2. Cry (or rage).
3. Give up on all your hope and dreams of ever writing anything decent.
4. Call your friends and cry.
5. Have your friends bring chocolate.
6. Go into self-imposed exile, excommunicate yourself from anyone who might know you, especially anyone who knows you write.
7. More chocolate (and maybe pizza).

While that all sounded appealing, it didn’t sound particularly useful. After the initial shock and despair wore off, I did what any (more or less sensible) person would do and Googled “How to deal with a bad review for writers” (I had to add that last clause in there because Google gave me articles only regarding businesses, which I don’t see as particularly relevant or useful to my situation). I read many of the articles, but I felt something was missing, something proactive, because none of them really make me feel any better.

So, I thought it over carefully, and I came up with my own plan, and it is as follows:

Step 0 – Recognize that one of the things this world lacks more than anything else is care and compassion. This person may have made you feel about as attractive, creative, valuable and important as a smear of canine feces on the bottom of a Prada shoe with their review, but instead of getting angry or upset at them or feeling sorry for yourself, think about what Martin Luther King Jr. said: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” You don’t know what this person is going through. Maybe they’ve just been diagnosed with a terminal illness and the whole world is pretty bleak to them right now, or maybe their boss fired them and ran off with both their wife and the beautiful antique car that they painstakingly restored, and the only thing they would give a good review to is a newspaper article about said car going off a cliff. I don’t know. Maybe they’re truly just an unhappy person who can only tear people down instead of building them up. The point is, you don’t have to change just because someone doesn’t like something you’ve done, and you don’t have to feel bad just because someone else does. Two seconds before you read the review, you probably thought you had a good story, than you were writing it to the best of your ability, and you were more or less happy with the idea of having written the book. The best thing you can do for you is remain dedicated and optimistic despite the invitation to feel otherwise (and fake it ’til you make it if you have to).

Step 1 – Take a deep breath, and tell yourself that everything is going to be just fine. Look around and see the world hasn’t ended. In fact, it hasn’t even changed. No matter how much you want, at this moment, to crawl into a small dark corner and hide for the rest of eternity, that’s not going to help anything. This is your first practical experience about why people tell writers to develop thick skins – they need it. So if you’re going to be a real writer, you might as well start now. This is a good thing – and not in the reverse-psychological babble meaning of “you’re not a real artist until someone hates your work”. The world is full of people, and some of these people will like your book, some will not like it, and some won’t care one way or the other. You will have to deal with all of these people when you put your book out there. Protesting this is not going to change anything. This diagram sums it up nicely:

So your book has moved outside your comfort zone. It might be floating somewhere in the black space between your comfort zone and where the magic happens, but it’s moving in the right direction. And this is a good thing.

Step 2 – This video is the single most relevant thing you can watch as a writer (or artist) in my opinion. Watch it now, all 19 minutes and 54 seconds of it – do it, you won’t regret it.


If you find you no longer need the rest of this article, congratulations! If you’re curious about the final thing I did, please, read on.

Step 3 – One thing the articles I read suggested what you should do is go and read all the negative reviews of books that you love, or the negative reviews of best-selling books by best-selling authors. Now, I did this, but I don’t recommend that you do. Why? Because while misery loves company, and it is comforting to know that even successful writers and books get horrible reviews, it’s pointless and unproductive. Also, do you really think J. K. Rowling or Stephen King go scrolling through others authors’ bad reviews if someone gives them a this-is-the-single-worst-book-I-have-ever-read review?

Instead, I suggest the following:

  1. Do one thing that is productive and that relates directly to your writing. Outline the next chapter or write the next scene.  Make a beautiful and inspiriting aesthetic and set it as your desktop background. Do the character sketch for your Main Character or Antagonist, or that really cool Supporting Character than you’re already planning a novel for. Plug your book on Twitter, Facebook, or other social media you have.
  2. Do one thing that you have been meaning to do for a while and that you haven’t gotten around to (again, that relates to your writing – I’m not talking about laundry). That podcast episode on how to be a best-selling indie author? Go listen to it. That query letter you need to write and haven’t made the time for? Go write it. That submission for an author interview you’ve been meaning to send in? Go send it. That scene you’re avoiding writing? Go write it.  Now. No excuses.
  3. And finally, do something good, or as I like to put it, create good karma. Go read a book (or books) from authors like yourself – read them, and review them. Give them the review you’d like to receive if you had written that book. Read and review as many as it takes to make you feel good about the world. There’s one review in the world from a person obviously does not appreciate what it takes to create anything – so give the world one, two, three, four, ten that will make it better, that will lift someone up, or encourage them to continue to create the beautiful things this world so desperately needs. Whatever makes you feel good about the world.  I picked three, and you can read my reviews here, here, and here.  If you don’t like the exact method of #3, you can do whatever you like to achieve the same effect. Just be the change you want to see. Here are some great ideas. Or these ones. Or these ones – the options are limitless. If you don’t feel better after this step, start at #1 above, and repeat as necessary.

And that’s it. You will feel better, I guarantee it (unless you’re just determined to be miserable). Am I happy about my first negative review? No. Do I want to get more? Absolutely not. But I haven’t let my certainty that I am a good writer with a good story to tell die, I’m still smiling, and I’m still going to publish book number 5 in the Guardians of the Path Series (cover reveal coming soon – I’m super excited about that!). In closing, I leave you with a beautiful sentiment from my good friend Lisa Barry, a sentiment which I think is really important for all artists to keep in mind, and which helped ground me when my thoughts and emotions were doing a tornado-coaster: “For every story that is read and disliked, there are countless numbers of people standing in line who love and support that story or author.” So, don’t give up, keep calm and write on, and make good art!

If you found this helpful, pass it on, and if you have any advice of your own on the matter, please share!

❤ DragonBeck

P.S. And if you like epic fantasy, you can check out my excellent book here:

The Path is fading, and the music of Life is vanishing. Cedar and his fellow Guardians have been entrusted for centuries to protect the Path, the very force of Life itself.

An accident traps Cedar between his home and another world devoid of magyc–but not of music. He is found by Ria, a mysterious girl who holds the key to returning him home.

With little choice Cedar uses First Magyc, Blood Magyc, to save himself, and finds himself the unlikely caretaker of the very girl who might fulfill an ancient Prophecy and restore the Guardians to their former station as honored heroes.

Enchanted by Demona, a world of magyc and music, Ria struggles to understand her own growing abilities even as she is drawn into an ages old conflict.

Cedar doesn’t want Ria to be the one named in the Prophecy, but what if she is the Guardians’ only hope to defeat the Sorcerer and save Magyc?



A Wizard’s Eye

Hello world!

I have been very busy of late with numerous writing endeavors, which shall come to light soon, but probably not as soon as I would like. In the meantime, please enjoy the fruits of yours truly from the Ink Slingers Guild writing exercises of 31 January 2018:

Shadow, white, sunset

The sunset lit the sky in fire, and then the fire faded and died. Shevin watched the moon rise and the stars come out, sitting without moving and looking like a piece of the night itself. When he spoke, Jaden started with surprise.

“We should break camp now.”

Jaden nodded, rolled up his sleeping blanket and was on his feet in a moment. Shevin surveyed the shadows with his strange white eyes, eyes that saw more than they should.

“This way,” the wizard said.

Jaden followed him through the trees, trying to be as silent and swift, but his feet caught on roots and rocks that Shevin just glided over. Every night for the past week it had been the same, the pair traveling when other eyes weren’t watching, trying to make it to the border of the Woodlands without the Ember Guards catching them.

“I have to stop,” Jaden called out, and doubled over, gulping for air and massaging the cramp in his side. He looked up to find he was alone. “Shevin?” he called out in a soft voice, hoping the wizard had not gone too far ahead.

His only answer was the soft whisper of leaves.
Killjoy, fraction, slime,

“Shevin?” Jaden called again, a little louder this time, his heart thundering in his chest.

A figure stepped out of the darkness, but it was too short to be the wizard. It also wasn’t wearing the luminescent uniform of an Ember Guard.

“Hello?” Jaden said hesitantly, gripping the hilt of the knife in his belt.

“Oh, don’t do that,” a cheerful voice tainted with the slime of cruelty spoke up. “It wouldn’t do you any good anyway.”

“Where’s Shevin?” Jaden asked, his voice wavering slightly as he searched the shadows hoping the wizard would appear and rescue him.

“It seems your protector has deserted you,” the figure laughed. “I don’t know why you would choose to go with him anyway. He’s such a killjoy, all that duty and honor nonsense he’s so fond of spouting, and yet, when it comes to it, he runs away and leaves his charge to fend for himself. If only he truly believed but a fraction of what he said, but alas, this world is no place for saints, and eventually the darkness will reign supreme in everyone.”

“That’s not true,” Jaden said.

“Oh? And how would you know that?” The figure stepped forward and raised its hood revealing eyes like Shevin’s clear silver orbs, but rimmed in red fire.
shirk, iron, friends,

Jaden took a step back, and the figure smiled.

“Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Redial,” the man said and bowed low. “And who do I have the pleasure of addressing?”

Jaden stared at him, pressing his lips together.

“Oh, come now, how are we to be friends if I don’t know your name?” Redial said, his smile growing. “If you’re worried about the wizard, I can promise I haven’t done anything to him.”

Jaden frowned. If that was true, then where was Shevin?

Redial rolled his eyes. “Are you so enamored with him that you truly cannot believe he would shirk his duty? You don’t know him very well.”

“I know enough,” Jaden said, stepping back again.

“I wouldn’t go anywhere if I were you,” Redial continued, the redness in his eyes sparkling in a hypnotizing way. “You have no idea what’s out there.”

“What do you want with me?” Jaden asked.

“I’m not going to hurt you,” Redial said. “If it makes you feel better, I want what Shevin wanted. To take you and,” he smiled slyly, “what you carry, to safety beyond the borders of the Woodlandand the reach of the Iron King.”

“And if I don’t want to go with you?” Jaden asked, drawing the knife a little further from its scabbard.

“You’ll find you won’t have much of a choice,” Redial replied.



❤ DragonBeck

The Man With The Wolf

I have innumerable excuse as to why this is posted over a month later than it was written. I’m not going to list them here because I can already feel the eye-rolls being directed at me. Instead, I will just say that I hope you enjoy this collection of Ink Slingers Guild writing exercises that form a neat little continuation:

blow, infatuated, streak,

Ever since she could remember, she had been infatuated with the stars. She would
sit for hours just watching the skies, with the glittering diamonds streaking
and falling. And then one day they were just gone. All of them. She went out
every night and waited for their brilliance to return, but all she had for
company was the chill wind blowing through an empty sky. The others were scared,
and set alight huge pyres to appease the gods, but the stars did not return. She
was not scared, but she was sad to lose her sparkling friends. For a long time,
she wondered where they had gone, and continued her nightly ritual though it was
a cold and lonely time without the stars. After a while, she no longer went out
every night, and then not every week. Finally, she no longer noticed the flat
black sky that was left when the sun disappeared behind the horizon, and her
childhood wonder never entered her thoughts. That all changed when the man with
the silver eyes arrived in the town, at his side a massive wolf.
candle, black, wax

She made her way down to the tavern. The streets were rapidly emptying as
everyone scurried to their homes. She adjusted the basket of bread on her
shoulder, and went through the wide doors. Warm golden light and the smell of
ale greeted her, and she relaxed. Walking up to the counter, it was several
moments before she realized someone was watching her. It was several more before
she found him, sitting in the darkest corner, his eyes glittering like gems. A
single candle flickered in front of him, the wax oozing down the sides. She was
disconcerted when she saw it writing and looping on itself to form the likeness
of a beautiful flowering vine. “Do you like my work?” a voice issued from the
shadows. She averted her eyes, and dropped into a shallow curtsy more as a
reaction rather than a gesture of any respect. “I’m sure I don’t know what you
mean, sir,” she murmured, and though she was no longer looking in his direction,
she could plainly see the wax dripping into a perfectly normal puddle in the
saucer. “I’m sure you don’t,” the voice agreed. She turned to continue to the
bar to drop off the bread for dinner, and found herself confronted with a
massive black wolf, its golden eyes level with hers and a pink tongue lolling
from its mouth.
telescope, stickler, beard

She swallowed, and edged to the side. The wolf’s eyes followed her, and when she
had almost made it around the the chair, when the wolf backed around and cut her
off. “Can you call him away?” she called to the man behind her. A sharp whistle
made the wolf pad past her and back to its master. “Come sit with me.” She
sighed. “I really don’t have time for small talk.” “Then we won’t talk small.
Sit.” Something in his voice couldn’t be argued with and she sat. His beard was
thick and neat, his face worn. The wolf sat with its head in his lap. An open
satchel on the table showed an array of impressive tools, a knife, a telescope,
a crystal ball, and other things that she didn’t recognize. “I’m sorry for the
informality, I’m not a stickler for pomp and circumstance,” he said, and
chuckled. “I suppose I’ve been out in the Wilds for too long to be fit company
for civilized folks.” “Whatever made you go out there?” she asked. “The question
is what made me come back,” he replied, the jovial expression falling from his

❤ DragonBeck


Fantastical Flash Fiction

Greetings all! Around this time of year, everyone gets pretty busy, myself included, so you’ll have to forgive the brief message! I hope you are doing well, and the holidays are not unduly stressing you out. Here’s some fantastical flash fiction from the last Ink Slingers Guild meeting for you to enjoy during an interlude to the craziness! 🙂

Regard, ruler, format,

“Your problem is that the format of your spell is wrong,” Moss pointed at the
pile of feathers at the end of the pentagram. “What is that?”
Sara looked at the bloody mass, and her face colored. “I’m not really sure. My
cat brought it in this morning, and it seemed fresh enough…” She trailed off
at the pained look on Moss’ face.
The wizard pinched the bridge of his nose, gave a deep sigh and pulled out a
ruler. He knelt down, being careful not to touch the cat’s offering, and began
to measure the lines she had drawn. “Off by two inches. Off by two and a half
inches. This one’s better-only off by one and a quarter.”
Sara was fighting tears, determined not to let him see how upset she was.
Fortunately, he was so intent on critiquing her spell that he didn’t have
attention for her. “And with regard to the placement,” he pointed at an oblique
angle towards the door. “It should be lined up with the point to the
North-north-west. If you truly want to summon the spirit of your grandfather,
you’re going to have to start again.”
Sara sighed, and went to get the bleach. That blood was going to take some work
to get out.
poison (my word), top, satisfy,

Nat very carefully drew the tip of the arrow through the poison, watching the
black liquid gleam and then sink into the metal. This particular batch was for
an assassin who was very difficult to satisfy, but there was a reason Nat was
called the best. Nat set the arrow on top of the roll of leather, and reached
for the last arrow. He held it up to the light, admiring the grain of the wood,
the expert fletching, the razor sharp head. Instead of drawing this through the
jar in front of him, he stood and walked to the shelf behind his work-desk. He
pulled the blue book from its place, and pressed the hidden lever. The false
back swung forward, and revealed the little cubby he kept his most rare and
potent potions. The tiny bottle had but a single drop left, and Nat has been
saving it for a very long time, but now the time was right. He tipped the liquid
onto the last arrow, and watched as the metal began to glow as if it has just
been pulled from a fire. Then the glow faded, but if one held the arrow up to
the light, the tip of the arrow now had a slightly paler gleam than the others.
Nat smiled grimly. It was time for payback.
Derail, reflection, sugar,

Everything was in place to derail the king’s coronation. The street urchins had
been payed to tip the barrels of oil over the procession. The sharpshooter with
the flaming arrows was positioned on the corner of the highest roof of the
square, his arrow coated in black to dull the sun’s reflection on the metal.
“What do you mean, the coronation has been called off?” the sulky lord shouted.
“They can’t call it off!”
“I’m afraid they can, and they have,” the elderly advisor said without sympathy.
“It’s raining. They cannot hold a party in the rain.”
“When will they reschedule?” the lord asked. “They did not see fit to give that
information to me,” the advisor said, only now the slightest signs of strain
seeping through his carefully controlled demeanor.
“Well, then, find out!” the lord said, throwing himself across the feather bed
pouting. “First bring me some mulled apple cider. With sugar!” he added in an
imperious tone at the retreating back of the old man. The advisor closed the
door to the lord’s chamber, and only now did his impassive face melt into a
disgruntled scowl.
“Perhaps someone should plan your assassination, you spoiled little brat,” he
muttered to himself, before he walked off to get the tea.

❤ DragonBeck


Just Toppam

Here’s a three-in-one post of my writing exercises from the last meeting. Technically we only did two exercises, but both Brandon and I did continuations, so we got a third set of words for an extra-special story. Here’s mine – enjoy!

Turkey, messy (my word), narrow,

He walked down the narrow alley, the dead turkey swinging at his side. They
would eat well tonight, better than they had all winter. The dead bird was
scrawny, and had not been plucked, so it would be a messy preparation, but still
his mouth watered at the thought of hot, roast meat. His stomach gave an
answering grumble. Shadows moving behind him pulled him from his lovely fantasy,
and he groped for the rusty knife in his belt. He turned to look, but the alley
was empty. After a moment spent searching the darkness, he convinced himself
that he had been imagining things. He shrugged and turned to continue home. He
ran into the tall man standing in front of him, swinging the silver topped cane
with a smile that bared pointed teeth.

marked, butterscotch, grime,

“Who are you?” Tim stammered, clutching the turkey to his breast as if it would
protect him.
The second man smiled wider. “My name is Toppam.” The man bowed and touched his
Tim started. No one had ever bowed to him.
“And who do I have the pleasure of addressing?” The man had a pleasant smell
reminiscent of butterscotch hanging around him, and his fine clothes seemed to
repel the grime of the dirty alley they were standing in.
“My name is Tim. Tim Calloway,” Tim nodded, and raised his hand to his forehead
though he had no hat to tip.
“Mr. Calloway, it is an honor to make your acquaintance,” Toppam said. “Would
you walk with me this evening?”
Tim didn’t think he had a choice, so he nodded and fell into step beside the
tall, sinister man.
“You are probably wondering why I came to seek you out,” Toppam continued in the
same dignified voice that hinted at a private joke.
Tim nodded. “Yes, Mr. Toppam, sir, the thought has crossed my mind.”
“No, it’s just Toppam,” the man corrected, flashing pointed teeth again. “And it
is a simple enough answer Mr. Calloway. You’re a marked man, sir, a man marked
for greatness, if you would only allow me to assist you in that endeavor.”
Zone, ghastly, tickle,

Tim swallowed. “I don’t know about that Mr. Toppam, sir,” he said, forgetting
that the man wished to be called simply Toppam. “I’ve never done anything great
in my life.”
The tall man threw his head back and laughed, then turned and patted Tim kindly
on the shoulder. “You are such curious little creatures,” Toppam murmured, more
to himself than to Tim. “Such potential, and yet so shortsighted and
narrow-minded at the same time.”
Tim gave a nervous cough, and distanced himself by two paces from the
frightening man. “Mr. Toppam, sir-”
“Just Toppam, if you please, Mr. Calloway,” Toppam smiled, this time his lips
pressed closed.
A tickle of unease rippled down Tim’s spine, and the fact that the man insisted
on calling him Mr. Calloway made him more uncomfortable still.
“Toppam, if it please you, sir,” Tim continued, pushing past the lump in his
throat. “If it’s all the same to you, I just want to go home to my family.
They’re hungry, sir, and waiting for me to bring them supper.”
“Unfortunately, it’s not the same to me, not at all.” Toppam gazed at the sky, a
ghastly expression on his face, one of age-old suffering, then he twirled his
cane once more, and the expression was gone. “That is a fine bird. Tell me, how
did you come by it?”
“Won it in a game of cards, fair and square, Toppam, sir,” Tim said, lifting his
Toppam chuckled. “If it makes you happy to think so.” Toppam snapped his
fingers, and the turkey vanished.
Tim let out an unmanly scream, and stumbled back against the wall, quaking as
Toppam stepped towards him, reaching into his jacket.
“Please don’t,” Tim pleaded.
Toppam grimaced. “I’m not going to hurt you.” He withdrew a small square of
paper. “Have you ever seen this woman?”
Tim squinted at the picture of a girl with blond curls and dark eyes for a long
time, just to be sure. “No, sir.”
A sigh escaped Toppam’s lips, and he looked relieved, the darkness leaving his
face and his eyes lighting. “There may be time yet,” Toppam said.


❤ DragonBeck


The Ribbon

There’s nothing like a little mystery to hook the reader and draw them in….

leaving, broad, ribbon,

The ribbon had been a present from her mother, given on the day of her first
leaving, so many years ago it was lost in the fog of the past that shifted and
evaporated in her decaying mind. “Grandmother?” a gentle voice asked, and her
eyes focused on the bright face in front of her, pretty, with blond curls and
bright greens eyes. Something stirred in the fog, but it was so hard to
“Grandmother, can you hear me?”
The girl was probably seventeen, just younger than she had been when she had
gone through the ceremony and the terrible ordeal that followed. Or was it an
ordeal that had been followed by a ceremony? The memories were getting more and
more mixed up now. She looked down, and focused again on the faded satin ribbon,
the gold thread shining weakly against the burgundy cloth.
This ribbon had kept her safe. That much she was certain of, and she was also
certain that the girl in front of her had to have it, for a reason she couldn’t
explain, just that she felt in the depths of her ancient bones. She held it out
to the girl in a trembling hand, and gave a sigh of satisfaction when she saw it
in her hand, somehow broader than she remembered against the girl’s slim wrist
and dainty fingers.
“Grandmother, what is this for?”
But Fate dictated that she would never answer that question, as her final breath
slipped from her lips and she sank into the whiteness.


❤ DragonBeck


Bug Crisis

Erika said this wouldn’t end well. What do you think?

busy (my word), crisis, bug,

Just when she thought things couldn’t get any worse, the bug showed up. It was a
hideous things with too many legs, mandibles that clicked with a hungry sort of
questioning repetition, and glossy wings that rustled against its back. It was
also the size of a cat. Kella had been busy trying to avert the crisis brewing
in her cauldron, but now she was on the table, her heart hammering in her chest
as she watched the monstrosity crawl through her kitchen, praying to the gods
that it couldn’t climb the furniture.
Out of the corner of her eye, the witch noticed the purple froth begin to flow
more energetically over the rim of her cauldron, pooling on the the kitchen
floor like luminescent fog in the wee hours of the morning. The flames
spluttered, but clung stubbornly to life, which made the purple mist pour out
faster and faster, and soon the floor disappeared under it. Kella could still
tell where the giant insect was, by the way the mist moved, and the pair of
antennae that hovered above the blanket of mist, but then even those were

❤ DragonBeck


Shadow Road – A Stories My Friends Started

I haven’t done one of these for a while, so I thought I should remedy that. This is the first SMFS that I ever wrote, and it’s still one of my favorites 🙂 For Shaina Clark. May you find reasons to smile abound.

Although he had spent every day of his childhood being pampered and spoiled to within an inch of his life, he was still one of the most melancholic individuals his associates had ever encountered.

No, Judianna thought, not pampered. Groomed. Yes, groomed from before he could walk. Though Mage Doneron had told her to study all faces present, Judianna could not help but watch golden-haired Prince Quiteas brood at one corner of the triangular table.

It had been a long time since she had seen him this close and he did not remember her face. Quiteas sat ramrod straight yet still seemed to slump in the angular chair with a veiled expression and pale eyes that missed nothing and gave away less. The prince was not dissimilar in physical appearance to the boy Judianna had known so many years ago, but other than that, he was a different person.

The armored bulk that was General Armareus occupied the second corner. The silver-robed stick figure of High Mage Doneron sat at the third. Judianna was a fourth of the Mage’s retinue. The General had a full dozen men with him, but only four were allowed at the table. Quiteas had one accompanying him, a slim figure bowed beneath a hooded robe. As such, his corner of the table looked somewhat desolate.

“Your majesty,” Doneron the Mage said, his voice smoothed by eons of chanting spells. “You cannot wait any longer. A decision must be made.”

“And I say you make it,” Quiteas said. Judianna didn’t believe it possible, but his mouth turned down even further. “It means nothing to me.”

The General cleared his throat. Had Quiteas been an underling, Judianna had no doubt the General’s meaty fist would have been around his throat by now. As it was, the General merely raised his hand in a conciliatory gesture.

“My prince,” he began. “The man who is chosen to take the place of the late Lord Sardaen must be someone trustworthy. The new Lord inherits all of the Harmand Way. I should not need to remind you that the Way is a very strategic point and the surrounding lands very productive.”

“I know my history,” Quiteas sighed a world weary sigh. “And I trust the both of you to choose wisely.”

“Traditionally, it has been the monarch who…” Mage Doneron began.

Quiteas silenced him by rising. The shadow by his side rose as well. Judianna kept her head down, though her eyes remained fixed on the prince. “Traditions come and go. You make your choice and I will speak the words if it will make you happy.”

“I don’t think your father would be happy to hear his son make a mime of the throne,” General Armareus.

“If my father has a problem with my ruling, I look forward to hearing from him in person.”

Prince Quiteas left the Council room frozen and fragile in the wake of his parting statement.

“It’s just as well you didn’t bring up his coronation again,” Armareus said with a glance at the empty chair.

Doneron poked at his face with long fingers as though to iron out the lines in his skin. “I wish the boy would just accept his father’s demise, come to terms with it and move on. He cannot be prince forever.”

“He is a stubborn boy,” the Armareus said, his armor creaking as he stood. “Give him time.”

“It has been a full seven years,” Doneron said, exasperation leaking from every syllable. “I do not know how to make him understand that when one travels the Shadow Road, they do not return and not even a Mage can make it so.”

“He will not give up on the King,” Armareus said, his men falling into place behind him. “It may be us who will be made to understand that we will be calling him ‘prince’ until he follows his father’s steps on the Shadow Road.”

Mage Doneron grunted in reply and it was long moments before he rose. Judianna rose with him and took up the rear of his procession, folding her hands serenely across her chest. Her lilac robe trailed long behind her, as did the robes of those in front of her. In this way, they were always evenly spaced as they walked. They traipsed along, their footsteps lost in majestic halls where only Mage Doneron seemed at ease among the towering columns and gilded glass windows.

As they strode from patterned tiles to snow white marble marked only by the shadow of statues, a messenger hurried up to Doneron and the entire procession halted. Hurried words were exchanged and the Mage nodded. The messenger disappeared and Doneron beckoned Judianna forward. He pulled a dark bottle from his robes and handed it to her.

“I had meant to give this to Prince Quiteas, but it slipped my mind. Please deliver it forthwith.”

Judianna nodded and took the bottle. Despite having learned the castle passages from schematics until she could walk them blindfolded, she had never actually trespassed within the prince’s personal wing. A nervous flutter made her stomach clench. She stood without the huge pair of black doors and knocked.

A moment later the left door opened and the robed figure that had shadowed the prince stood on the other side. The hood had fallen back to reveal a pale face, soft brown hair and pointed ears. Forest green eyes flecked with gold appraised Judianna and a slim hand came out to silently request the bottle.

Judianna gave the elf the bottle, bowed her head and turned away as the door closed. She had barely started down the hall when the door was thrown open and the prince’s voice yelled at her, gloomy even in wrath.

“Mage, what is the meaning of…oh, I beg your pardon. I thought you were Doneron.”

“He sent me in his stead,” Judianna said, bowing her head. “Is something amiss?”

“Yes!” Quiteas said, waving the bottle. “This is not what I asked for.”

“I’m sorry,” Judianna said, reaching for the bottle. “I will return it…”

“No,” Quiteas sighed. “No, that will not do.”

Judianna stood silent, puzzled by his vacillations. The prince deigned to explain himself, for what reason Judianna couldn’t say.

“I have had increasing trouble sleeping of late, and I asked the Mage for a draught to ease my nerves. This…this is milk and honey. I used to drink it as a boy,” Quiteas said. “I wager it is his way of rebuking me. Tell me, do you think he is right to tell me to accept that my father is forever gone down the Shadow Road?”

The question threw Judianna further off guard and she stammered. “I…I think the High Mage is very wise and has your wellbeing at heart, your Majesty.”

“That is not an answer,” the prince leaned against the wall, sad eyes studying her. “I saw you in the Council room, attending Doneron. You were almost as watchful as he. You seem familiar. I think perhaps I might have known you, a long time ago.”

Judianna contemplated how to answer the unasked question. She chose the forthright response. “As children we played in the halls whenever you could get away from hawking or divination, your least favorite lessons.”

“Judianna!” Recognition dawned in the prince’s eyes, and his frown lifted a little though he did not smile. “I thought you had left the palace some time past.”

“It was judged I had some magical potential. Doneron took me to apprentice,” Judianna said. “I have been here, but keeping to corners and shadows.”

“Doneron is teaching you to see and not be seen. I remember those lessons.”

“I find it quite useful. Observing is the easiest way to learn things,” Judianna said with a smile. “Words and eyes may lie, but actions cannot be other than what they are.”

“Indeed,” Quiteas said. “Doneron’s pupil to the heart. Come. Join me and tell me of what has transpired since we last spoke.”

He held open the door to his suite. Judianna drifted inside. Her eyes immediately went to the figure standing at the window. The elf had discarded the cloak and wore deep green satin trousers and tunic. Quiteas nodded in his direction.

“This is Masatri. He was bound to my father by some ancient, forgotten pact and he, like everyone else, assumes that he is now bound to me. No matter how I try to dissuade him, he insists on following me everywhere.”

The elf bowed, bronze highlights gleaming in his hair. “Men are strange creatures with short lives and shorter memories, but this pact is not something to take lightly despite His majesty’s obvious discomfit.”

“Don’t mind him. He is very sociable though he doesn’t say much. Come, sit.”

Quiteas gestured toward the sitting-place under a spread of windows. Outside the sky was grey and a stiff wind pulled at the trees, sending showers of leaves swirling about like dervishes. The three sat on cushioned lounges. Masatri brought iced lemon water, candied fruit and spicy biscuits. Quiteas ate with dainty, solemn bites. The elf filled a plate and ate with gusto. Judianna nibbled on a biscuit and spoke between bites.

“I learned history, language, simple sorcery and enchantment. Now, I’m learning the finer points of diplomacy and intrigue in preparation for accompanying Doneron to the courts of Glorina, Holvard, Athmar, Yoland and Itread to learn their dispositions and intentions to this kingdom.”

“No doubt you will do wonderfully and come back to lecture me on international politics as Doneron does.” Quiteas could have been making a joke but his dolorous expression did not change.

“No, I think he enjoys that too much to delegate that task,” Judianna said.

“Truer words were never spoken,” Quiteas said, rubbing his chin and gazing at nothing with his pale eyes.

It would be easier to judge what a painting was thinking than what thoughts lay behind the prince’s triste expression. Judianna thought that he might be handsome if he smiled and let the light touch his eyes. “Why do I never see you smile anymore, Prince Quiteas?”

“Perhaps you are not looking hard enough.”

“I do not think that is the reason, for your entire court would be as unobservant as I.” Judianna paused. “And yet, I recall you were quite gay as a boy.”

“Children have the freedom to be carefree,” Quiteas said. “Then they must grow up and become accustomed to reality.”

“Your kingdom prospers, your people want for little, your General grows fat for lack of war and your Mage has nothing to do but brew sleeping potions and fret about court invitations from foreign royalty yet this reality calls for such a dour outlook? What, I wonder, will your outlook be in times of strife, famine or war?”

“It is knowledge that strife, famine and war could come upon us at any moment that restrains my lightheartedness. It is not an easy thing to forget that even when the sun is shining, a hundred storms may be brewing beyond the horizon.”

“Yes, I do not think I would smile if I was always worrying about storms beyond the horizon,” Judianna said. “That, or I would learn to love the rain.”

“You already love the rain. Thunder and lightning as well, if I recall correctly.”

“You do,” Judianna said.

As she spoke a slow peal of far-off thunder reverberated. Quiteas looked up, then stood and threw open the windows. Wind whipped the curtains into dancing ghosts of lace and the smell of rain flooded the room. Judianna stood and walked to stand next to him.

“The gods heard us,” she said, her voice soft as she watched lightning flash across the clouds.

“I doubt the gods pay attention to anything I say,” Quiteas said, the light making planes and hollows of his face.

“Would your father wish you to be this miserable because of him?” Judianna asked softly.

“He came back,” Quiteas said, pointing at Masatri. “The elf left with my father, and came back without him. When I ask him if my father is dead, he gives the same answer.”

“He walks the Shadow Road,” Masatri whispered behind Judianna, making her jump.

“He pretends bondage to me, but obeys very little of what I say. He would not leave my father but for death or command. He will not say my father is dead. He cannot lie, so he was told to say that. If my father were truly dead, his allegiance would shift to me and I could make him tell me what happened. But I only hear about the Shadow Road. Until I hear differently, I await my father’s return.”

Judianna knew a little regarding the forest folk and could not fault the prince’s logic, but still, to be unhappy until such a time came…“You must cheer up, Quiteas. Surely there must be something you can smile about.”

“One day, when there is a good reason to smile, I shall do so.”

“And what would be a good reason to smile?” Judianna probed.

Quiteas turned away from her but for once she could see his thoughts plain as day. My father returning.

“You should not pick so lofty a reason to smile,” Judianna said. “Reasons abound all around, and if they are not apparent to you, then you can always make one up. You are the prince, after all.”

Quiteas looked at her for a long time. “You have not changed at all.”

Judianna shrugged. “I suppose I did not become accustomed to reality.”

“No I suppose not.” Quiteas paused. “I have kept you long enough. Doneron will be looking for your return. You must come and visit me more often. I will ask Doneron to send you.” Judianna thought she may have imagined it, but very slowly one corner of his mouth turned up. “That will vex him, I think.”

“He does not enjoy being vexed,” Judianna said, thinking of the Mage’s wish that the prince take up his father’s crown and Quiteas’ refusal.

“No, but he can be quite entertaining.”

Judianna smiled and bowed, making her exit.


Judianna paused in the doorway.

“And please tell him: I choose Tamburn to be the next Lord Sardaen. Tamburn is a good man. He traveled with my father when he was younger and has kept the Donner Way faithfully.”

“I will tell the Mage. I’m sure he will be pleased to hear your Majesty’s decision.”

Judianna left still imagining the ghost of a smile on Prince Quiteas’ lips.


If you’d like to start a story (and help a writer out at the same time), please go to storiesmyfriendsstarted.com and leave a sentence for us!

❤ DragonBeck


Meet The Authors

Hello everyone – happy Friday!

The Ink Slingers Guild are officially at Tampa Bay Megacon this weekend – we have a table in Artist Alley, and lots of fantastic books for you!!!

Let’s take a moment to get acquainted, shall we?

Lisa Barry:

“Writing and reading every minute she can, Lisa counts on her cats to keep her keyboard warm and on the countless gargoyles who stand guard throughout her house to ensure the safety of all those who enter with good intent. The gargoyles, even more importantly, listen carefully when Lisa reads to them aloud.

On a person note…besides having a deep admiration of gargoyles (who says they’re not real?), I love to read and write.  I collect gargoyles, I love music and can be heard driving up before I am seen, I’m a very picky eater (just ask my friends -eyes rolling-), I enjoy fishing and will catch them, clean them, cook them but won’t eat them or anything else out of the ocean.  I also believe in many fairy tale creatures, just haven’t knowingly met any yet.”

And she has a really cool tattoo.

  and coming soon…

Dalia Lance:

Dalia says “I have had a very interesting upbringing starting with growing up in Hollywood, CA. Never shy, I learned that if you are not willing to try something new you may let life simply pass you by. I love meeting people from all walks of life and these experiences inspire me on a daily basis. As a true friend once pointed out “You are never a complete waste, you can always be used as a bad example”. So what’s the worst that can happen?”


J. M. Pacquete:

JM Paquette writes cheesy vampire romance novels filled with action, adventure, intrigue, and sometimes slightly steamy sex scenes. She enjoys alliteration and puns of all kinds.


Alanna J. Rubin:

Miss Rubin says “I’m originally from Massachusetts. As a northerner, I never missed an opportunity to pick apples, carve pumpkins, or visit Salem to see the witches and haunted happenings. Now that I’m in Florida, not a day goes by when I don’t miss the changing colors of leaves, but I would never go back to having to shovel snow. As a fan of science fiction, paranormal, and romance…I find that individually they are fun,  however, I love them more when they’re mashed together. Often, when I am not writing my next adventure you’ll find me torn between watching a Jane Austen adaptation or hopping on the Tardis for an adventure in time and space.”


And yours truly, Nicole Dragonbeck:

I was born on the first day of a year-long eclipse of the sun, the thirteenth child of the Prince of Elves and an enchantress. As a small child I fell into a poisoned well and was horribly transformed by the toxic sludge seething in the deep darkness. I was fished out by a band of gypsies, who promised to feed and clothe me if I cooked and cleaned for them. They taught me to ride bareback and read palms, but I royally pissed off the leader by setting his wagon on fire and he cursed me with a great imagination and an equally great inability to tell the truth…and the rest is history.


I hope to see you at Megacon this weekend and get the chance to meet you in person!

❤ DragonBeck (and friends)





Dragon Miscalculation

Here’s the last of my writing exercises from the last meeting. A fun little piece (which deserves a fun little picture) from a triumvirate of odd words:

popcorn, fox, hustle,

The queen sat on the makeshift throne, the silver cape lined in fox fur thrown
over the stump. Her face was rigid, and her eyes were cool as she gazed out at
the motley assortment of woodland folk in front of her.
“What is the meaning of this?” she demanded, her voice as regal as her
The gathered creatures shuffled and looked at the others on either side of them,
hoping someone would step up and take charge. No one did. “I do not have all
day,” the queen said, her voice hardening further.
“Tell me what is the meaning of this?” She threw her arm out and pointed at the
mounds of fluffy white material that covered the fields for as far as the eye
could see.
A small fairy with blue wings stepped forward, bowed hastily, and then again, as
if this would buy him time.
“Well, your majesty, you see, it went like this,” he began, and then coughed
“They stole it from us first!” an angry voice shouted from the back, and a
chorus of agreement sounded out.
It disappeared immediately when the queen raised her hand. “You’ll have to start
at the beginning.”
“Those humans stole our magic jewels,” the blue fairy said in a bolder tone, now
empowered by his fellows. “We just wanted to get them back. So we came up with
this idea, for a hustle, you might call it.”
“That doesn’t explain why the farmers crop is now popcorn,” the queen said.
“We needed a distraction,” the little fairy told her, and glanced at the red
dragon at the other end of the group. “Ember flew overhead and set the field on
fire. We thought it was just going to burn, we didn’t think it would do that.”


A little tidbit: the Ink Slingers are going to be at Tampa Bay Megacon this coming weekend Saturday 30th of September through Sunday 1st October. It would be awesome to see you, come pay us a visit in Artists’ Alley!

More soon,

❤ DragonBeck