Mermaids & Friends: Leah Cypess

Good morning, everyone — Alethea Mermaid here, wishing a happy book release week to fellow author Leah Cypess! Her young adult fantasy DEATH SWORN released this Tuesday, March 4th. It’s a gorgeous book…congrats, Leah!

I asked Leah to join us in the lagoon today to talk about three favorite reads. And not just any reads…her favorite WRITING reads. Take it away, Leah!


Leah Cypess, AuthorI’m going to combine the “three favorite reads” with “three things every writer should know” and give you a list of “three favorite writing advice books.” Is that cheating? As I’m writing this, I don’t know, but if the post is up, I guess it’s not. Either that, or I bribed someone to put it up anyhow.

I read lots of writing books, and most of them have nuggets of wisdom, inspiration, or thoughts to ponder; there are few that arenโ€™t worth reading. But these are my favorites โ€“ the ones that, after reading my library copy, I bought so that I could have them on hand and keep them as references. Here are my top three and the reasons theyโ€™re on my bookshelf:

How To Write Killer Fiction by Carolyn Wheat. Although most useful for mystery and thriller writers, this book has advice on structure and clean writing that would be useful to any writer. It also has a detailed “Four-Arc System for Organizing Your Novel” — which is the closest thing to an outline I’ve ever made use of. Although I am incapable of strictly following an outline, I use this one to help me figure out what’s wrong when my story starts to feel muddled.

The Emotion Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman & Becca Puglisi. Here are things my characters do on every other page of my first drafts: lean against walls, stare at each other coldly, and smile menacingly. I’m sure your characters have a few tics of their own (narrowed eyes? holding breath? glaring?) So when your editor says to cut out “cold stares” and you have 66 of them, what do you do? Sometimes I watch tv scenes with the emotions I want to show and write down every character gesture and tic I see. And sometimes I open The Emotion Thesaurus, which has an emotion at the top of each page (from “adoration” to “worry”) and a list of facial expressions and gestures associated with that emotion.

The 10% Solution by Ken Rand. This is a really short, concise, hands-on book about how to tighten your writing. I read it about a year ago and am both (a) glad that I read it before Death Sworn was finished, and (b) chagrined that I hadn’t read it before I wrote my first two books!


Bio: Leah Cypess used to be an attorney living in New York City, and is now a writer living in Boston. She much prefers her current situation. When she is not writing or chasing her kids around (or doing both simultaneously), she is usually… well, let’s be honest; sleeping. But in her rare moments of spare time, she enjoys reading, biking, hiking, and drawing.

Visit Leah at her website:

And be sure to check out her fabulous new title, DEATH SWORN.

Death Sworn, by Leah Cypess


6 thoughts on “Mermaids & Friends: Leah Cypess

  1. Welcome to the lagoon, Leah! I am totally buying The Emotion Thesaurus! My characters roll their eyes. A LOT! And they narrow their gaze and cock their head. Even typing these things here is irritating me! ๐Ÿ˜‰

  2. Leah,
    Thanks for coming to visit us in the lagoon! Those sound like amazing books, and I’m actually going to run to Amazon (well, not physically) to buy The Emotion Thesaurus right now. Who knew they had one of those? If my characters shrug, smile or roll their eyes one more time, I may be tempted to throw my laptop out the window.

  3. Hi Leah! First off thank you and second off congratulations on Death Sworn. As a fellow fan of sleeping and drawing, I’m very happy to have you here. Thank you to Alethea too.

    I also have a copy of The Emotion Thesaurus and that along with Breaking Into Fiction are my two go-to writing books. I loved your 66 cold stares example.

    Wishing you a wonderful weekend and thanks again for swimming with us.

    PS–I love that face at the top and middle of the arch on your cover. Very cool.

  4. The Emotion Thesaurus sounds like a great thing to have on hand! I may just have to get me a copy ๐Ÿ˜€

  5. Thank you, everyone! Discovering The Emotion Thesaurus kind of changed my life, and I think you’ll all find it equally useful. Carlene, thank you! The designer who did this book is amazing.

  6. I do believe I will have to order a case of the Emotion Thesaurus to give out as gifts…or PRIZES. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Thank you again, Leah! xox

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