Book Review: Wilderness Survival Guide

reviewcover-wildernesssurvivalguideTitle: Wilderness Survival Guide

Author: Jason Marsteiner

Genre: Non-Fiction, Survival

Rating: 5 Stars



Whether you’re an avid adventurer or a bushcraft beginner, this wilderness survival guide can help you level up your outdoor IQ and boost your confidence on remote trips and treks. Get pro tips for navigation, finding food, building shelters, and even applying basic first aid. Discover how to tackle any situation, from running into poisonous plants to staying safe while adventuring in various climates and terrains.


I picked up Wilderness Survival Guide by Jason Marsteiner on pure curiosity. I grew up in the woods, traipsing my family’s lake cabin property, which had no road access, no phone, no internet, no TV, no indoor plumbing, and water straight from an underground spring. All of this has led me to a fascination with survival – because when you live off-grid, you need to be prepared for the worst.

I am happy to say that I found this book to be a helpful and fairly complete guide. There was a lot of useful information on a wide range of topics, from how to prepare yourself for the outdoors, to things like identifying the proper wood to start a fighter… what to do if you get lost, and basic first aid.

If I had one nitpick, it is that I wish there were more photo references included for certain sections, but I also understand why perhaps they were cut out – to keep the book more compact for carrying in your pack. This is certainly a book I would recommend for anyone looking into spending time in the outdoors.

Book Review: Woman in the Wild

review-cover-woman in the wildTitle: Woman in the Wild

Author: Susan Joy Paul

Genre: Non-Fiction, Guide

Rating: 5 Stars



Few experiences rival a grand outdoor adventure. Hiking into the wilderness, camping under the stars, and exploring the backcountry offer new challenges that awaken a woman’s spirit and test her soul.

Woman in the Wild: The Every Woman’s Guide to Hiking, Camping, and Backcountry Travel is the perfect companion for any woman looking to get into the backcountry lifestyle or level up her current active outdoor life.

Adventurer and guidebook author Susan Joy Paul provides real instruction for women of all ages and skill levels, from beginners to intermediate hikers and experienced mountaineers. She shares details gleaned from two decades of training and real-world experience, bringing together everything a woman needs to know to be safe, independent, and self-reliant at camp and on the trail. Five sections and twenty-five chapters cover hiking, camping, and backcountry travel from the basics to advanced skills.

  • Backcountry Essentials: Learn what to wear, how to pack, and where to find hiking partners for your outdoor adventures

  • You in the Wilderness: What every woman needs to know about nutrition, first aid, and personal care to stay healthy on the trail

  • Pushing Off: Backcountry knowledge and skills around land navigation, terrain, and weather take your travels to the next level

  • Reaching New Heights: Beyond the basics, understand how training, setting goals, and engaging strategies for success add a new and exciting dimension to your outdoor life

  • Next Steps: Leave the flatlanders and fair-weather hikers behind with an introduction to high altitude mountaineering, winter camping, glacier travel, and more

The backcountry beckons, and women want to go. With Woman in the Wild, they can!


I found Woman in the Wild by Susan Joy Paul to be a fantastic resource for those interesting in getting into trail hiking. Not only did I find the writing to be motivating, but the book is broken down into sections of incredibly useful and thorough information – from how to choose and fit a backpack, to personal care while out on the trail. I was impressed by the amount of detailed information and thought that went into the book, and I believe it would be a very useful guide for any beginner interesting in spending more time in the great outdoors. I couldn’t recommend this enough!

Book Review: The Complete Guide To Pickling

reviewcover-the complete guide to picklingTitle: The Complete Guide To Pickling

Author: Julie Laing

Genre: Non-Fiction, Cookbook

Rating: 5 Stars



Pickling is the best (and most delicious!) way to preserve all kinds of food, so it’s no wonder why it’s popular around the world. Whether you’re making your first pickle or you have years of experience, The Complete Guide to Pickling is packed with essential information and 125 flavorful recipes, including American classics and international flavors.

From Honeyed Bread-and-Butter Chips to Classic Kimchi, Scratch-Made Sriracha, and Southern-Style Pickled Shrimp, there’s something for everyone in this unique pickling how-to guide. You’ll find straightforward and scrumptious recipes for quick, fresh, and fermented pickles, as well as sweet and fruity pickles, hot sauces, relishes, salsas, sauerkraut, chutney, and more. Happy pickling!

The Complete Guide to Pickling includes:

  • Intro to pickles & pickling―Build your foundational knowledge with a brief history of pickling and helpful info about the different types of pickles.

  • Step-by-step instructions―Find detailed directions for canning and fermentation, choosing the right ingredients, and creating essential spice blends.

  • Tips for gardeners―Learn how to plan your garden to maximize your pickle potential, and use the bumper crop label to find big batch recipes for common produce.

Create your own delicious pickles with The Complete Guide to Pickling.


If you are interested in learning about canning or pickling your own foods, The complete Guide To Pickling by Julie Laing is an invaluable resource. The book is packed full of knowledge, recipes, history, and troubleshooting tips for when things go wrong. The recipes are easy to follow and come with thorough instructions, making it difficult to mess up. I was happy to see a wide array of recipes, including vegetables, fruit, sauces, and a variety of mixed foods such as various kimchi and sauerkrauts.

I think this book would be a valuable resource for anyone looking to get into canning or fermenting, and I’m certainly happy to have it on my shelf.

Book Review: The Beginner’s Guide To Backyard Homesteading

reviewcover-the beginner's guide to backyard homesteadingTitle: The Beginner’s Guide To Backyard Homesteading

Author: Lisa Lombardo

Genre: Non-Fiction, Sustainable Agriculture

Rating: 5 Stars



From raising chickens to tending gardens and orchards, starting a backyard homestead is a practical way to live more sustainably and self-reliantly. This homesteading book for beginners provides essential information, step-by-step instructions, and practical tips for transforming your backyard into a homestead that puts food on the table, reduces household waste, and helps you return to your roots.

Learn how to create a customized action plan for your backyard homestead, calculate expenses, and set realistic goals for every step of the process. From planting vegetable and herb gardens to beekeeping and raising dairy, poultry, and meat animals, you’ll find everything you need to start a sustainable backyard homestead from scratch.

This homesteading book for beginners includes:

  • Backyard homestead basics―Learn more about soil types, growing zones, and seasons, all of which affect what you can grow on your homestead.

  • Focused project guides―Calculate cost estimates, explore detailed timelines, and learn best practices for specific projects like planting fruit trees and raising chickens.

  • Troubleshooting tips―Get beginner-friendly advice for solving common, project-specific problems you might encounter.

Make the most efficient use of your backyard space with the practical guidance and helpful resources in The Beginner’s Guide to Backyard Homesteading.


The Beginner’s Guide To Backyard Homesteading by Lisa Lombardo is an invaluable book to have in your library if you are new to homesteading and want to know how to start. The pages are filled with useful information on an array of topics, from setting up a garden for your growing zone to livestock space requirements. It covers all the bases and gives you a good foundation of information to get started with.

The book was easy to read and follow, and organized to make finding certain topics easy to do. There are useful checklists to help with planning and visual examples for setting up. I’m thoroughly pleased with what I found inside this book, and I’d easily suggest it to anyone looking to getting into backyard homesteading, whatever the scale may be.

Book Review: The Beginner’s Guide To Raising Goats

reviewcover-the beginner's guide to raising goatsTitle: The Beginner’s Guide To Raising Goats

Author: Amber Bradshaw

Genre: Non-Fiction, Animal Husbandry

Rating: 5 Stars



From Angoras to Nigerian Dwarfs, this beginner’s guide to raising goats will break down the dos and don’ts to starting your herd. Learn how to pick the right kind of goat for your homestead’s needs, build fences and shelters, feed and breed them, and more. There’s even a recipe section in the back that shows you how to use their fresh meat and milk to make tasty home-cooked meals like Goat Chili and Goat Mac N’ Cheese.


I’ll admit, I know very little about goats in general, but I’ve been interested for a while in learning more about their care and benefits in a homestead setting. I can confidently say after having read The Beginner’s Guide To Raising Goats by Amber Bradshaw, that if you too are new to goats and would like to learn more about keeping them, this is an excellent place to start.

There is so much useful information held within these pages – from different breeds, general health, how to identify illnesses, vet visits, routine care, training, building plans, to recipes! This book is an incredible reference to keep on hand for any new goat owner, or as research for those looking to get into goats for whatever reason. I would definitely recommend it.

Book Review: The Busy Woman’s Guide to Writing and Finishing a Novel

review-cover-woman'sguidetowritingandfinishinganovelTitle: The Busy Woman’s Guide to Writing and Finishing a Novel: Stop Procrastinating and Get It Done

Author: Anita Evensen

Genre: Non-Fiction, How-To, Writing, Time Management

Rating: 4 Stars



Do you want to write a book? What is keeping you from getting it done? Whether you’re busy at work, with the kids, or doing household chores, there is still enough time to write.

“The Busy Woman’s Guide to Writing and Finishing a Novel” provides you with many different suggestions. It includes real-life strategies you can implement to stop procrastinating and get that novel done.


Learn how to reduce the time you spend doing household chores
Find time to write even with a baby or preschooler at home
Get that novel written despite of your busy job
Try any of the 24 strategies to keep you writing
Adhere to the one tip that will change your life


This book would have been more aptly named: The Busy Mother’s Guide to Writing and Finishing a Novel. For what it was, the book was pretty on-point. There were tons of useful tips, motivational speeches, and advice valuable to any writer—not just women. The book was written in a very conversationalist tone—though at times it did come across as almost a little preachy. You could definitely tell the author’s views on specific subjects, and while it wasn’t too obtrusive, in the back of my head I cringed a little.

The thing that did stick out for me overall was that this book wasn’t geared so much towards women, as it was mothers specifically. There were entire chapters, and multiple references to writing while also taking care of children—and while that isn’t bad… I mean this is a book geared towards women… at the same time, I felt a little off-put by it. It felt as if the book lacked an impartial author, and even though I have a child of my own, I felt the need to skip the sections that pertained to mothering. I don’t need someone to tell me how to effectively mother. That isn’t why I picked up this book. Not every woman has children, and the amount of time spent on writing vs mothering seemed disproportionate.

That aside, the book was great. It was helpful, I felt motivated to write afterwards, and really, what more could I ask for out of a guide all about stopping procrastination?

A Writer’s Guide: Naming Characters

When it comes to writing novels, names often get overlooked in the grand scheme of things. Most of us are happy if we can tell who is talking and we can remember the character’s names for the entirety of the book, but bad names can ruin a book. I don’t know about you, but when I get ahold of a book where the main character’s name is a comical 20-character tangle I can’t pronounce, it ruins the book for me. It’s hard to take a book, or a character, seriously when you want to roll your eyes every time you read the narrative.

In this article I’ve compiled a list of things to consider when naming a character for a novel, and though it’s pretty simple, I hope it serves to help someone in their future endeavors to name a character. Most of this is common sense, but it’s often easy to forget these little tidbits of wisdom when you’re busy trying to figure out if your character makes a better Ashley or a Paige.

Getting a  Spark

There are many great places to get ideas for names. I’ll list some here that you may have missed.

  • Phone Books
  • TV Credits
  • Family & Friends
  • Baby Name Lists
  • Mythology
  • Combine two names! Courtney + Evangeline = Courline
  • Evolve a name! Caroline->Carline->Carlene->Lene->Lena
  • Random Name Generators

Sometimes you may hear a name that strikes you. Write it down. Keep a list of names you like or that you may have heard and found unique, but may not be able to use at the present moment. When you need a new name for a character, check your list! You may already have one.

Name Length

The length of a character’s name is an important factor to consider when choosing one. Short names are often more memorable than long names, but long names can also have a significance. Generally, short names are often equated with strong, simple, and good characters. (Ariel, Juno, Harry, Jack ) Longer names are usually associated with nobility, intelligence, and sometimes, evil. (Voldemort, Hermione, Desdemona, Lancelot) Of course this isn’t always the case, but it’s something to think about when naming your characters. Especially when you’re naming a main character, it’s often helpful to make up a shorter name as it will be repeated often, and it needs to be easy to remember and pronounce.

Also, if your character has a long first name, consider balancing it out with a short last name, or vice versa. “Alexandra Gallager” is a mouthful, but “Alex Gallager” and “Alexandra Hart” are easier to swallow.

How Many Names Do You Need?

When creating a character, you should know the character’s full name, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to use it. Most of the time in novels, a character’s middle and even last name are not used at all, and if they are, they’re used only a handful of times. The exception to this of course is Historical novels in which propriety corners the characters into referring to each other by last name. For instance, in one of my novels I have a character named Abigail Olivia Conway, but no one ever calls her that. They call her Abby, Ms. Conway, or simply, Abigail.

Of course there will be instances in which a character needs a particularly long name due to their culture or an inherited title (we’ll get more into that later), and the time may come when you will have to repeat the whole thing: James Ferdinand Elijah Beaumont III of Durham (ouch!). If you have to have a lot of names, make sure they all fit together.

Also consider the fact that for some stories, it may be better to have only one name or no name at all. As an example, I have a novel where the main character is simply called “Khet”. She lives in Neolithic times when surnames didn’t exist and communities were so small that second names weren’t needed.

Some great stories, such as The Postman, Waterworld, and The Time Machine have main characters whose names are never revealed. They are simply referred to by description: “The Postman”, “The Mariner”, and “The Time Traveller”.

Sometimes characters are named only by nickname or by an alias. You should know what your character’s real name is, but that doesn’t mean your audience needs to.

Nicknames & Pet Names: Unique vs. Practical

If your character has a long name, or has several, you may consider giving them a nickname—particularly if your character’s name is difficult to pronounce. Even if your character does have a short name, you may consider letting some of your other characters give them a nickname or a pet name. For example, I’ll bring up Abigail again.  For most of the characters in my story, Abigail is referred to as “Ms. Conway”, but her friends call her “Abigail” or “Abby”. Her curmudgeonly grandfather calls her “girl”. Nicknames don’t have to be used by your entire cast of characters; they can be exclusive to certain individuals.

When choosing a nickname, it helps to consider if it’s a convenient nickname, or an opportunistic one. For instance, Abigail is referred to as “Abby” because it’s shorter. It’s a tourniquet version of her name, and what I’d call a “convenient nickname”. It exists because Abigail is a mouthful to say all the time. Hypothetically, Abigail could meet a man who refuses to call her anything but Violet. Violet, because when they first met she had a bright purple shiner where she’d been elbowed in the eye. Calling her Violet (referring to the color of the bruise) is an opportunistic nickname. Opportunistic nicknames don’t necessarily have to relate to a character’s real name.

What’s important to remember with nicknames is to adapt them to the character and the character’s situation within the story. For instance, if you were writing a young adult novel where the main character’s name was Maggie but everyone only called her “Raven” (for no particular reason), it would seem somewhat absurd. If you’re going to give a character a unique nickname, there should be a story behind how they got it, and it has to make sense. Why would I call Maggie “Raven”? Because in 6th grade she dressed up as a Raven in a school play and sneezed so hard from the feathers that she fell off the stage and into the front row. The kids at her school call her Raven to tease her, and she doesn’t particularly appreciate it. I would NOT call her Raven “because it sounds dark and awesome”.


Symbolism is okay if it’s subtle and believable, but if you’re trying too hard to be clever, you’re going to get a few eye rolls. Naming a dark, grim character “Raven Darkwood” is somewhat ridiculous. Naming the same character Darcy Mordant doesn’t seem so odd. Did you know Mordant is synonymous with: biting, caustic, cutting, pungent, poignant, sharp / grim, critical, or sharp humor? Darcy literally means “dark”. Don’t make your symbolism so obvious it becomes silly.

Other Naming Conventions…

In fantasy and sci-fi in particular, it’s common to have a character’s name be a little unconventional. Sometimes characters are named by their heritage or a title. For example, often in ancient times people were named after their father:  Erikson (Erik’s son), Thompson (Tom’s son) etc, their job: “Fletcher”, “Carter”, “Potter”, or were given a title: “The Bold”, “The Red” “Heavy-Hand”. Sometimes these names and titles were adapted through the family line. For example: Dracula literally means “Son of Dracul” Dracul meaning Dragon. Vlad Dracula III was named after his father, Vlad Dracul II who was historically a member of the Order of the Dragon. It’s okay to make something up if the naming convention works for your world.

A Few Things to Consider

  •  Names have a flavor. Some names (Damien, Delilah, Lilith, Lucifer) sound evil. Some names (Chastity, Harmony, Ella, Grace, Joy) sound good. Some names (Jace, Teagan, Skye, Aiden) sound modern. Some names (Edward, Abigail, Sebastian, Lottie) sound classic.  When you’re choosing a name make sure the flavor of that name fits your character, the time period, and their heritage. It makes no sense to give your character a classic Italian name if they’re from America in the year 2042.
  • Your character doesn’t get to pick their name. Their parents picked their name. When choosing a name for your character, consider where their parents grew up and the type of people they are. For example, if I had a character whose parents were Irish but had moved to America before she was born; her name might not sound American. It’d probably sound Irish. By the same token, orphans who are raised in nun-run orphanages often have names relating to religious figures. Hippies may name their kids really absurd names like Rainbow Joy or Moon Ray. Poor kids. Names are based on the parent’s expectations for their children. Don’t use a trendy name just because it sounds cool.
  • Avoid famous names unless you’re trying to make a point of it. Oprah probably wouldn’t be a great idea. Neither would James Bond. When in doubt, always Google your character’s full name to make sure it’s not accidentally associated with a well-known character from another book or a celebrity!
  • It’s okay for fantasy names to be quirky, but not absurd. Don’t use excessive apostrophe’s or add a ton of z’s, x’s and y’s. Don’t double or triple up on vowels. It makes you look silly.
  • Avoid androgynous names (Sam, Alex, Billie) unless you’re making a point. Using androgynous names makes it hard for your readers to figure out what gender your character is. The exception is if you’ve purposely given your character an androgynous name to spark character development. Example: A boy named Ashley who feels defined by his name and spends the book trying on different names for himself in an attempt to become someone other than who he is.
  • Try not to end your character names in “s”; it makes it difficult to write:  Hans’s? Hans’? What?
  • Avoid names that have more than one pronunciation (or cannot be pronounced) it’s not clever, it’s annoying. If your readers can’t pronounce the name, they’ll skim. You never want your readers to skim.
  • While unique names can sometimes be memorable, they also run the danger of seeming absurd to your readers. Plain names may not stand out as much, but they’re usually more relatable, unpronounceable, and rarely produce fits of eye-rolling.
  • Vary your letters. You don’t want an entire book where ever character’s name begins with “M”, you also don’t want two main characters with the same first initial, or a character whose name sounds like a rhyme. If it sounds silly to you, it probably is.

Don’t Be Afraid To Set a Name Aside

It’s okay to venture into writing a story where you don’t know any of the character’s names. It’s also okay to change a character’s name at any time during the writing process. If you aren’t sure what to name your character, write in a filler name that can be easily found and replaced at a later time. Get on with your story. Eventually you’ll settle on something, or you’ll choose not to have one at all. Either way, don’t let your inability to choose a name keep you from writing your story! Need good filler name? Grab a relative’s name. They won’t read the first draft anyway, right? You can also use simple designator like: “MFC” (Main Female Character) “JANE” or “JOHN” (as in Doe), or “THATANNOYINGGIRL” and “THEBROODINGBOY”. Have fun with it.

Well, it was short, but hopefully I gave you a few things to think about when considering names for your character. Thanks for taking the time to read my little guide to choosing names. I hope it helps!

Reblog: A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing


A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing: Guest Post by Richard Denoncourt.

This is a great post on book covers. It has a checklist of things to consider when choosing one, and talks about the impact a good cover can have on your sales. Give it a read!

Free Fiction Friday #6

Hello Ladies and Gentlemen! It’s Friday again, and that means it’s Free Fiction Friday time! EXCEPT…. today we’re going to do something different. This is the last Friday before summer here in El Paso, TX, and in celebration of the upcoming summer (where I don’t have to walk to the local elementary school in 103 F weather), we’re going to be looking through a bit of NON-FICTION today. Today I have for you some 100% FREE writing/publishing related books. These are all 4+ Stars rated on amazon, so grab them while you can. Maybe you’ll learn something new this summer. I not only hope everyone has a great summer, but that you get your writing goals accomplished too! Goodluck you guys! ❤