Books to Write Books, my Writer’s Library – Olive

Sorry about our brief hiatus. Aristen and I have been busy chipping away at OF GOLD AND FIRE after receiving feedback from beta readers. Consequently, we’ve been neglecting our blog a bit. Oops.

Anyway, I’m going to share with  you a few of my favorite books that help me write, especially when I’m stuck on a specific problem. As a disclaimer, I don’t use any of these books word for word, but they often give ideas—especially if I’m stuck! I also routinely use these books to add depth to what I’ve already written.

1.  Oxford American Writer’s Thesaurus, 3rd Ed., by David Auburn


Yes, I do go online and use But I find that a physical book I can tab and refer to over and over jogs my brain better than searching online. Many of my books are dog-eared and have rainbow-colored wings gracing their fore edges. For a logophile/bibliophile like me, it’s multi-colored happiness.

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How Beta Reading can make YOU a Better Writer – Olive

If you’re wondering what beta reading is, check out my post on editing, The Quest to find the Perfect(ish) Editorfor an explanation.

I beta read for a couple of reasons.

First, I beta read because I feel like I owe it to other aspiring authors to help them with their work. It’s a shark filled pond out there, and we’re all the little fish in it together.

Second, as someone said about OF GOLD AND FIRE while they beta read for us, “you are the doers. So many people talk about these other things they want to do, but I want to help you because you’re actually doing it.” Truth. The doers are going after their dreams. If I can be a part of all that, that’s where I want to be, not with the people who talk about doing but don’t.

Third, believe it or not, helping others helps me improve. We read about the “rules” of the road when it comes to writing, but putting them into practice is a separate issue, one of execution. It’s one thing to know how something is supposed to be done; it’s quite another to actually do it.

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Inspiration for OF GOLD AND FIRE: Setting and Slavery – Olive

As I know we will talk about in other posts, much of our inspiration comes from the places we’ve visited and the people we’ve met. I know we’re not unique in that; most writers/authors find inspiration from the world around them. There are even memes that support it…


Central Asia

There has been collectively a fair amount of complaining about inclusiveness in fantasy. Rightfully so–not all fantasy should be about a European-esque setting. The world’s cultures are filled with myth and superstition that makes wonderful inspiration for fantasy, while the world’s societies make for wonderful inspiration for a fictional society. Unfortunately, unless you’re lucky like me (and Aristen) and have traveled much of the world (or studied it from afar), you’re unlikely to come across much.

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The Veteran – Olive

What do I mean a veteran? I mean that I served honorably in the military, but I also tend to mean a veteran as in I’ve experienced. I’ve experienced things that most never have and never will, and I’d like to keep it that way. Other people shouldn’t have to do what so few of us have.

That’s me, the Veteran of this collective.

It’s not glamorous; there’s no real glory in war. In the U.S. Army, I was a signal officer. To explain what I did, I usually tell people “toasters to telephones, if it had a current running to it, it was my problem.” And that was true–I remember once being asked if I knew how to fix a microwave. Turned out I could fix it, but only because a circuit breaker had tripped (i.e. he microwave overloaded the circuit).

But my main job focused on helping my unit communicate, and I was also responsible for ensuring that, if possible, I could prevent what we called RCIEDs, or Radio Controlled Improvised Explosive Devices, by using jammers, effectively preventing communication. I’d like to note that happily, on my watch, there wasn’t a single RCIED detonation.

Why this post? Well, I’ve been somewhat introspective today. Memorial Day came and went two weeks ago, and every year it’s harder and harder it seems. It’s hard because of those that we lost while deployed, but lately I’ve been struggling with a different loss: those who lost their lives to war, but were home when they did.


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Collectively, Olive K. Aristen: Meet the Author(s)


Alright, cat’s out of the bag. Olive K. Aristen isn’t a real person; it’s the pen name of two co-authors [us], Salinee P. Goldenberg and Brandi K.S. Endres. Believe it or not, Olive and Aristen are the names of their cats; K. stands for “Kitty.”

Brandi and Sal have been friends since they met in kindergarten in 1988. Over the many years, both have moved to different states and countries, but have kept in touch through the writing they once sent back and forth through the U.S. mail. Today, thanks to the Internet, they keep in touch through email and social media, and share their stories through Google Documents.

In addition to the Azura’s Chosen series, Sal and Brandi are working together on a sci-fi project that is unofficially called simply “Big Black Empty,” or BBE for short, among other stories that shall remain nameless … (as we haven’t gotten around to naming them yet).

Salinee “Sal Go” Goldenberg

In addition to listening to lots of records, watching lots of hockey games, nerding out over cinematic tv/film, Sal’s favorite thing to do is travel to new countries in order to find delicious things to eat. She plays guitar in a proto-punk garage band, plays video games, enjoys boxing, and is in the process of writing other speculative fiction novels.

Sal lives in Washington D.C. with her boyfriend and teenage son. She clocks in during the day as the head of Video Production for Bethesda Softworks, snugly locked away in a climate-controlled, soundproof editing suite. Of all the cats she’s lived with throughout her life, only one gave her Lyme disease and chiggers…

Sal writes on the blog as Aristen.

Brandi “Bee” K.S. Endres

Born in Honolulu, Hawaii, Brandi has lived in Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Houston (The Woodlands), Bastogne, Belgium, Syracuse and Watertown, New York, and Northern New Jersey (Newark and North Arlington). After graduating college, the U.S. Army immediately banished her to a desolate Kuwaiti desert, among other popular vacation destinations. Following an honorably served five years on active duty and four combat stripes, she attended law school in New Jersey, and currently serves as an government attorney during her day job, perched on the 18th floor of a high rise.

In her free time, Brandi attempts to grow tomatoes with her husband, Tom, in Fort Worth, Texas, and adores hot yoga. She has no children but does own two dogs, Dixie and Mama, and two cats, Nemesis (“Nemie”) and Olive, and also shares her home with the occasional foster dog(s).

On the blog, she writes as Olive.