The author Toolkit

Tested. Trialed. & Triumphant.

Hi, Mel, here. *waves*

This page is a result of the most regularly asked questions from the many wonderful writers I’ve met, that all start with: “What do I use for…”

It’s a long list, so scroll away.


As authors, part of our job is to read as we continuously learn to improve our craft. Below is the dog-eared reference books I either use all the time, or those craft books that gave me those huge penny-dropping Aha moments when it comes to craft and the industry itself.  Of course, there are thousands of other reference books out there to choose from, these are my go-to’s that I’ve personally read and only offer as a suggestion.

The list is in no particular preference order.

SAVE THE CAT  by Blake Snyder (It’s for screenwriters, but highly relatable for commercial fiction writers.) I have this in print & e-book, it’s that good!

Edit your own Romance Novel by Ebony McKenna

GMC: Goal Motivation & Conflict by Debra Dixon. 

The Emotional Thesaurus  by Angela Ackerman

Let’s Get Digital by David Gaughran. This guy also has an awesome weekly newsletter about marketing and the Self-Publishing industry.

How to Write a Sizzling Synopsis by Bryan Cohen

Newsletter Ninja by Tammi Labrecque

Nobody Wants To Read Your Sh*t by Steven Pressfield (for those home truths- if you dare)

Building a Story Brand by Donald Miller

Romance Your Brand by Zoe York. Zoe also has a YouTube channel she started during the height of COVID that is quite informative.

Write to Market by Chris Fox (controversial but clever and worth a read)

The Elements of Style by Strunk and White A classic. And it looks so pretty on my bookcase as a handy ally in my war against grammar.

The Last Fifty Pages, Crafting Unforgettable Endings by James Scott Bell

How to Write Dazzling Dialogue by James Scott Bell

Plotman to the Rescue by James Scott Bell (What can I say, I’m a fan!)

How NOT to Write a Novel by Sandra Newman & Howard Mittelmark. This is hilarious! But, oh, so true!

How to Market A Book by Joanna Penn. Joanna also has a free successful self-publishing book, a weekly podcast, and a great author blog to cover most topics to do with this industry.

The Emotional Craft of Fiction by Donald Maass

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King. I scoop up my copy from my bookshelf every few years and always find something new and insightful. It’s worth a re-read if you have your own copy.


The following are due to the most frequently asked question on what I use as part of my online author platform. Here is a small list of the following:


FOR EDITING:  Pro Writing Aid Writing Software(FREE)




Podcasts and YouTube Channels

No secret I like my playlists and podcasts, I’m always surfing the air-waves (or should I call that the WiFi waves) for information in this ever-evolving industry. So here are a few that you might find useful:

You can find them on Stitcher, Spotify, or iTunes, YouTube…

Again, in no particular order.

SPA Girls Podcast, Self Publishing Authors Podcast (the fun and fabulous foursome) 

The Creative Penn Podcast, by Joanne Penn that I’ve mentioned before

Smarty Pants Book Marketing Podcast stopped in 2019 but handy tools to go back and listen to.

So you want to be a writer

Sell More Books Show 

Grammar Girl Quick and Dirty Tips

Smart Podcast, Trashy Books – Readers who interview authors from all over

Romance Your Brand by Zoe York. As mentioned above this her YouTube Channel that covers this topic in a down-to-earth style.

Self Publishing Show – this YouTube episode (that starts at 14:10-your welcome) is with Marie Force, publishing her 80th book with 10 million copies sold!!?!

Random Author Gift Ideas

(for your self!)

Besides the author gift shop we’ve got going on, we sit, a lot, staring at a screen. It’s part of the job. This is just a friendly reminder to be aware of correct ergonomic positions as you sit at a desk, or kitchen table to tap away on the keyboards for a long-long-long time.

It’s not always at a desk, I should know, I’ve written at camping sites, on the back of a ute, in airport lounges and the ever popular coffee shops.

But we do have that one area at home we covet as our space do most of our writing.

So, here’s some author gifts for us. Just us. And we can completely justify them to ourselves and the family and it doesn’t involve another new notebook or a stash of pens (although, you can never have enough stationary!)

For those mobile in their writing, try the mobile desk stand to tap away on the couch for couple’s times in front of the TV.

I know of an author who has a mobile desk that covers her car’s steering wheel so she can work while waiting during those daily school-pickups!

Every minute in front of the keyboard counts.

For those who work in warmer climates, or it’s summer, I’d recommend the cooling pad for the laptops. I have no idea how I survived without one, especially where I live.

Keep a Bike under the desk! Yes, it works. And it’s perfect for when you’re stuck in that ZOOM meeting you don’t want to attend. (Maybe I shouldn’t have said that?!)  Think of it like you’re multi-tasking, staying healthy while reading those emails or watching those YouTube Tutorials.

Backrests come in many forms, as do chairs. According to my fabulous physio (who I truly hate some days), our desk chairs should be replaced every 12-18 months! Yeah, right? Especially when it’s moulded so perfectly and it’s been with you through those many countless hours while staring at a screen, through the tears, the joy, the sweat… Um, yeah. I make a point of investing every few years on a new chair for my desk.

In between, do invest in lumbar supports. I’ve gone from rolled-up beach towels to correct the lower spine, to fancy beaded massaging gadgets to slip over the chair. Some have straps that never keep them in place, they break, they slip, they become pains!

Sometimes simple is best and I’ve discovered these rolls that curve and offer support for those hours at the desk to aid in keeping our postures healthy.

Pst, you can just cut up those floating noodles if you have some.

And finally, still working on self-care at the desk, my friend has one of these foot massagers and it’s the BEST!! *Hint to my family, this is what I want for Christmas, Mother’s Day or I’m Just Awesome Day?*

Hey, there is nothing wrong in taking care of ourselves, right? It’s challenging when our job means sitting for hours on end. You could stand at the kitchen bench and type, or invest in a walking desk. Yet, by taking small steps (pun intended) today it will help us produce more work in the long run as you won’t be off sick with sore joint pains. Don’t you agree?

Why did I do this?

Because I live in the middle of nowhere where there is no support for the commercial fiction author, and I’ve fumbled my way through a lot of time-wasting rubble to find the gold. So I put this list together for those writer-friends in my local region who are just starting their publication journey.

I truly hope this helps.

If you want to reach out, find me on the socials via the links below, we’d be happy to hear from you.

Until next time,

**some of the above contains affiliate links. Thank you in advance for using these links that goes towards my author costs of providing free material to you–and at NO COST TO YOU. Please refer to my policy page should you have any concerns.