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Author Spotlight - Katherine Wielechowski

Posted on December 2, 2017 at 12:30 AM Comments comments (0)

blog: kwielech.blogspot.com/

Facebook: www.facebook.com/Kwielech/

Bio:

Katherine Wielechowski is a Nebraska native who currently lives and works in Lincoln, NE. She started writing seriously while attending the University of South Dakota where she double majored in English and History. Her self-diagnosed ADD is blamed for her inability to stick to one genre and she has dabbled in historical romance, fantasy, horror, action, humor, dystopian fiction, and non-fiction. Her action-comedy novella series, 1-800-Henchmen, is available for download on amazon.com as is her romantic-comedy novella, Love Drunk & Dragon Tears.

You will also find her short stories “The Banshee Ciana” in Portable Magic, a collection of stories published by The Story Plant, released in July of 2015 and “The Vaults” in Below the Stairs: Tales from the Cellar, a collection of horror stories published by OzHorror.com, released in October of 2017.

She is surrounded by friends and family who act as cheerleaders and are constantly giving her welcomed advice and inspiration for her stories. She could not do this without them.

Follow Katherine on Facebook at www.facebook.com/Kwielech or read her blog The Blank Page at kwielech.blogspot.com.



1. What is your current project?

I am currently working on Crimson in the Dreaming, an urban fantasy/twisted fairy tale where the main character, Red, takes jobs with the organization that keeps Humans and In-Humes (Gouls, Vampires, Fae, etc.) safe from each other while trying to exact her revenge on the Werewolf that killed her family when she was younger. To complicate matters, a rogue Fae group is trying to kill Red and she was just assigned a Human student to train.


2. Where do you look for inspiration?

I don’t generally go looking for inspiration, it usually finds me be it in a phrase from a song, a picture I stumble upon online, something somebody says, or a stranger on the street. Wow, that sounds like something out of a movie that romanticizes writers but it’s true for me, for example, today at work, a coworker made a benign comment but it gave me the idea for a children’s book, something I generally don’t write.


3. What author has inspired you toward writing the most?

I was a born reader. Having a librarian for a mother, it was bound to happen. I don’t remember ever saying “This author makes me want to be an author.” I think it was probably just a conglomeration of the hundreds of authors I read when I was young. In college, I finally decided to start writing down one of the dozen stories in my head. It took me about six years, but that turned into my first novel, a historical romance that has some good qualities but needs a major overhaul. About halfway through writing it was when I decided that I wanted to be a writer.


4. Do you prefer to read and write in the same genre? Or do you prefer to switch it up and read in one and write in another?

When I started writing, I would have said yes with no hesitation but over the last couple of years, I have played with writing in many different genres, some of which I read regularly, some I don’t. This past year, I’ve challenged myself to only read Nebraska authors and it is forcing me to read out of my comfort zone into true crime, biography, steampunk, and family drama. I am hoping it will make me a better rounded writer in addition to introducing me to some fantastic local authors.


5. Do you ever suffer from reader’s block?

More than I care to admit. Until NaNoWriMo, I hadn’t really written more than a blog post here and there and short writing prompts for my writer’s group for about six months. I’m still struggling with it, but I am trying to get words down on the paper and re-introduce myself to this occupation that I love.


6. What does literary success look like to you?

Literary success to me is people reading my books and it doesn’t even have to be millions of people. I love the idea that there are strangers out there who have read my books and have gotten to know the characters that I created and love. I would also like to see my name on a spin in a bookstore someday, but that just may be my vanity speaking.


7. What is the most difficult part of your writing process?

Finishing a book. Brainstorming is easy, beginnings are easy, creating characters is easy, but I have struggled from day one to finish my books. I always seem to get halfway through and just run out of gas.


8. Do you remember the first thing you ever wrote? What was it and how old were you?

After years of wonder where this love of writing came from, I think I have it narrowed down to an assignment in a high school English class (somewhere between 9th and 11th grade). My teacher had us read an excerpt from Dandelion Wine, then write what happened next. I wasn’t familiar with the story but I had fun carrying the fear and panic from the selection into what I thought the next chapter looked like.


9. If you could give advice to your younger self about writing, what would it be?

I think the best advice I could give younger me would be to take more writing classes in college and finish more of the assigned readings in all of my literature classes. Both would have helped me become a more rounded writer and I might have discovered my love of writing sooner.


10. What do you do after finishing a project?

The first thing I do after finishing a project is heave a huge sigh of relief. Then, I panic read the last few sections to make sure I did in fact finish it. Then, I set it aside for a few days to a week, mull it over in my mind but don’t look at it for a while. Then I give it another read-through, editing while I go before sending it to my best friend who is also an editor. Finally, I cry inside while she rips it a part.


11. Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Up until my current project, I was about 90-95% pantser, 5-10% plotter but Crimson in the Dreaming is the first in a trilogy, something I’ve never attempted before. There are many things that I had to make sure to set up in the first book so the second and third would make sense. Plotting and outlining was the only way to make sure I could do that without too many tears later on.


12. Do you have a writing ritual?

Yes and no. I can pretty much sit down anywhere and write as long as I can focus long enough on the page/document to get into the zone but if I’m at home and know I have a few hours to just write, I usually light a few candles, turn off over-head lights and turn on lamps, and put on this old, beat up hoodie from high school that is one of the most comfortable pieces of clothing I own.


13. Beverage of choice when writing? Snack of choice?

I’m a habitual water drinker so I usually have a tall glass or bottle of ice water close at hand. As for snacks, I don’t really have a specific one but I tend to find myself munching on peanut butter M&Ms a lot.


14. What makes a good antagonist? A good protagonist?

Ideally, an antagonist is well-rounded character who you can sympathize with while still disliking but I tend to struggle with antagonists. Mine are usually one-dimensional and Snidely Whiplash-esque, but I am aware and am working on making them better. A good protagonist is also a well-rounded character that the audience is rooting for, but is also flawed. Nobody wants a perfect protagonist, that’s how you get Twilight.


15. Who is your favorite character to write for and why?

(I don’t quite get this one. I feel like either “for” or “character” is wrong. The first one is if “for” is wrong, the second is if “character” is wrong. And if I am completely off, let me know and I’ll redo it.)

1) My favorite character to write is Lydia from my Love Drunk & Dragon Tears and Shenanigans & Jello Shots novella duo. She’s probably one of the funniest characters I’ve ever written and she seriously lacks a filter. She’s ridiculous, knows it, and embraces it.

2) I don’t really have a favorite audience to write for except they should probably be over 18. I try to write with a lot of humor, no matter the genre and my humor tends to transcend age, gender, and level of nerdness. I have a pair of novellas that are definitely “chick lit” but I don’t think a guy would absolutely hate it and I have a series of novellas that the main character is an 18 year old boy and is kind of graphic-novel-esque. Probably more interesting to males, but I know a lot of women who loved it.


16. You’ve been transported into your favorite book, what world (time period, state, city, etc.) do you now find yourself? And what rules of survival do you need to follow?

You know it’s incredibly mean to make someone choose their favorite book, right? What next, favorite child or body part? 

Since I can’t say with any certainty what my favorite book is, I’m just going to use the first one that popped into my mind, the Charley Davidson series by Daryndra Jones.

World: modern-day Albuquerque, NM

Ghosts, demons, and angels are real, Satan is coming, and a sassy, klutzy PI who is also the Grim Reaper and her menagerie of demons, humans, oracles, and ghosts are all that stands between humans and the end of the world.

 


17. Any recommendations for books to read that have helped you on your journey? Whether it’s just inspired you with beautiful prose or helped strengthen your skill with technical advice or just a book that made you think.

To be honest, I have a stack of writer-help books that I stare at but haven’t opened, except on. Write That Book Already is a really good, straight forward guide to finishing your book and what comes after. It doesn’t sugar coat the process and I really needed that in my early days of writing.


18. And finally, describe your writing process with one meme. 


Author Spotlight - Gates Palissery

Posted on November 30, 2017 at 12:35 AM Comments comments (0)

blog: giwritesbooks.wordpress.com

Twitter: @Gateskp

Facebook: fb.me/WriterGateskp

Bio:

Gates has been writing since she was a little kid growing up in rural Pennsylvania. It was a "hobby" that stayed with her through high school and into college, where she studied neuroscience and creative writing. She completed her first novel before starting high school and started doing NaNoWriMo within a few years. Gates now works as a research tech at Northwestern University in Chicago but plans on going to graduate school for something in a year or two. When she isn't reading or writing, Gates can be found training for her next half marathon or obsessing over nature. In whatever free time she has left, she also enjoys travelling in all its forms and spending time with her two very demanding writing-impeding cats, Bean and Mocha.




1. What is your current project?

I am really bad at titles, so forgive me for not having one. My current project is my NaNo piece for 2017- it’s the story of a guy (Antares Rampwood) trying to figure out who he wants to be. His father is a demon from a parallel dimension who had a one night stand and Antares doesn’t get along with his family, so of course there are complications.


2. Where do you look for inspiration?

I spend a lot of time observing and people watching. Public transit is a great place to find characters and scenarios that you never would have thought of before. I have an hour-long commute (each way), mostly on a train, so I like to look out the window or watch other people for inspiration. Sometimes I’ll walk around a mall and kind of creep on people (but not in a really creepy way). Alternatively, when the weather is nice, I’ll go for walks. Nature helps get my creative juices going. I can sit by Lake Michigan and just stare out across the water for hours imagining what’s going on out there, on the other side of that blue expanse.

Also I have a powerpoint of pictures that I like looking at. I snatched a lot of nature pics from the internet and put them into a little slideshow titled “Inspiration1”.


3. What author has inspired you toward writing the most?

I don’t know if I have a specific writer that’s inspired me the most. I’ve been writing since I was a little kid. I’ve been reading practically my whole life, so I can’t pin down a specific author. Maybe J.K. Rowling because Harry Potter has (and still does) play such a huge role in my life?


4. Do you prefer to read and write in the same genre? Or do you prefer to switch it up and read in one and write in another?

I try not to focus on genres. I’ll read whatever sounds interesting and then write whatever tickles my fancy. I think dividing books into genres can be a hindrance as much as a help- help because people can find something specific; hindrance because it cajoles writers into categories that they may not even want to belong to.


5. Do you ever suffer from reader’s block?

All. The. Time. I have a small bookshelf stacked two deep dedicated to books I haven’t read yet but want to. Eventually. When I have the chance (or time).


6. What does literary success look like to you?

Mostly just being published. I don’t need to be on the NYT Bestseller list (though that would be nice), but I think literary success is being published and seeing your books on a shelf in Barnes and Noble. The Nobel Prize is always a nice touch.


7. What is the most difficult part of your writing process?

I spend a lot (maybe too much?) of time working on character development, but not enough time on plot development. The most difficult thing for me is getting the plot up and running. Once I get it going, it’s easier to move forward, but up until that point…yeah. Not fun.


8. Do you remember the first thing you ever wrote? What was it and how old were you?

At one point, I think I must have been 7 or 8(?), I wrote a story about spies at a place called The Academy. That became the basis for my first novel (which I very proudly completed before the end of middle school- it was a big deal). That first novel is very near and dear to my heart, but it needs a lot of work. A lot.


9. If you could give advice to your younger self about writing, what would it be?

Never stop. Writing will be your salvation, especially in your darkest times.


10. What do you do after finishing a project?

Drink. (I’m joking.) I print it out. ALWAYS have a hard copy. Of every draft.

Normally I’ll look around thinking, “Now what?” then turn on the telly and relax for a bit. Often I’ll go out and wander around, thinking about what I’ve accomplished, getting ready for the next thing I’m going to do. Sometimes I pick up a different novel and work on edits for that because I’m in writing mode.


11. Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Pantser. 100% I can’t plot very well. Not in any detailed way, at least. I start with an opening and an ending (which typically changes) and that’s about as far as I get in terms of plotting.


12. Do you have a writing ritual?

Meh, not really. When I was in school, I’d use every spare second in my hectic schedule to write, so rituals never formed. Now that I’m not in school, I’ll probably still use every second to write when I’m not busy at work.


13. Beverage of choice when writing? Snack of choice?

I don’t really have one. Every year it’s something different. I think last year, I was all about ice water and Skinny Pop? That sounds weird, but I think that’s what I drank when I was writing. Snacks also always change. I’m feeling plantain chips and Diet Coke right now.


14. What makes a good antagonist? A good protagonist?

The best antagonists are the ones you can’t make up your mind about. Do you love or hate the villain? Those conflicting emotions mean you have a complex character, and those are the most interesting. The same thing goes for a good protagonist. Is this character a saint or a prat? It’s hard to decide. Those are the kind of characters I love to read and write.


15. Who is your favorite character to write for and why?

Oh man…I don’t know if I can answer this. I have several characters I love writing for, and they’re all SO different. One of them, Macella, from a different world is a rebel, and she’s proud of it. My NaNo last year, Artemis Jacobie, is a total badass because she’s the reincarnation of a goddess and can manipulate time. The year before that I had a really good time with Gemini Saunders because she had no personality (sounds weird, but the whole shtick was her personality changes with her jewellery and situation). The one for my current project, Antares, is a lot of fun because he’s trying to figure out who he is, so there’s a lot of conflict


16. You’ve been transported into your favorite book, what world (time period, state, city, etc.) do you now find yourself? And what rules of survival do you need to follow?

Er…

I guess I would be in some fantasy mash-up kind of land. I honestly don’t have a favourite book, so this is a really hard one to answer. I think in any world, the rules of survival include being able to defend against anything that may attack you. I need to think about this one...


17. Any recommendations for books to read that have helped you on your journey? Whether it’s just inspired you with beautiful prose or helped strengthen your skill with technical advice or just a book that made you think.

I LOVE Johnathan L Howard’s writing. His novel, Johannes Cabal the Necromancer, was recommended to me a few years ago, and now I’m hooked. Susan Elia Macneal’s Maggie Hope series is really good if you’re looking for a period piece (WWII) and/or a strong female protagonist. Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park is so much better than the films it’s amazing (I made one of my friends read it and he was happy I did). I’ve read so many things by so many authors I don’t know if I can stop naming names!


18. And finally, describe your writing process with one meme. 


Author Spotlight - Sara Locatelli

Posted on November 28, 2017 at 12:30 AM Comments comments (0)

Blog: www.deeplytrivial.com

Bio: Sara is a statistician, blogger, singer, and writer, living just outside of Chicago. Prior to participating in NaNoWriMo, she mostly wrote plays, a couple dozen articles for scholarly journals, and blog posts about her favorite horror movies. She frequently finds herself narrating what she’s seeing and experiencing as though writing a story, and sometimes wishes she could directly transfer her thoughts to paper because she thinks faster than she can write. She serves as marketing director for the Apollo Chorus of Chicago, enjoys belly dancing and watching movies, and loves teaching people about the things she obsesses over. This is her third time doing NaNoWriMo. She’s generally a go-along, get-along ENFJ, but will fight to the death over the Oxford comma. (You can take my Oxford comma when you pry it from my from my cold, dead, and bony hands.)



1. What is your current project?

My current project is an idea I came up with about a year ago. I started writing a short story about it, but never got farther than a couple pages. I’m not set on a name, but I’m calling it (for the moment) A Survivor’s Guide to Moving Home. I was going to work on another idea (a comic book-type hero story with a twist), and I started doing my Preptober activities for it. I was stuck on a certain character (the villain), and picked up a copy of The 90-Day Novel to help me work through those questions. But that old idea, Survivor’s Guide, continued calling to me to write it. (Isn’t it funny how stories and characters seem to take on a life of their own?) I started thinking of different scenes, events, and characters, and began scribbling them down on note cards. I decided to finally commit to that old idea. Other than scribbles on notecards and a bare bones short story I’m probably going to scrap most of, I’m going into NaNo this year with no prep. I outlined last year (I’m a plantser, with more emphasis on the plan than the tser), but I’ve decided this year to be a bit looser. So this NaNo is going to be an additional challenge for me, because I’m getting pretty far out of my plantser comfort zone. (I’m also planning on writing the book in first person, a style I enjoy reading but hate writing because I like to get in the mind of the other characters. But I see no other way to tell the story I want to tell.)


2. Where do you look for inspiration?

I get a lot of my inspiration from dreams. Last year’s NaNo idea came from a dream I had about a guy acting in a murder mystery play who died during his death scene. I woke up, thought that sounded hilarious (in a really dark way), and wrote it down. It turned into Killing Mr. Johnson, about a group of independent film makers, making a murder mystery where the actor playing the “old man inviting people for a will reading” died during filming. They decide to cover it up and release the film quietly, but must continue covering up his death when the movie takes off. I wrote my 50,000 words but the book still isn’t done. Once again, I was stuck on a certain character and remember being surprised by some of her reactions/actions. I was thinking about her recently when she “told” me why she’s acting the way she is. I plan on getting back to that book after this year’s NaNo is over. There’s also a subplot I’m struggling with but I think I have it figured out.

Also, now that I work in the city and commute on a train from the suburbs, I get a lot of inspiration from people and situations I observe on my commute.


3. What author has inspired you toward writing the most?

My mom started writing children’s stories and poems when I was a kid, so I like to think I come by writing naturally! I’d love to talk her into doing NaNo with me some year, so she can finish the book she’s working on. I’m definitely not a children’s writer. (I’ve tried. Sorry, mom.) But I think there are two authors I love reading that also helped me fall in love with writing. One is Ray Bradbury: I love the poetry of his prose; The Martian Chronicles and Something Wicked This Way Comes are two of my favorite books. The other is Margaret Atwood, who is an excellent role model for writers on how to create realistic female characters and relationships between women – Cat’s Eye hit so close to home for my experiences growing up, it was almost painful to read. I’ve also been a huge Stephen King fan my whole life, and recently read his book On Writing. In fact, that book is why I’ve decided to give pantsing a try. I love reading Chuck Palahniuk, and have learned a lot from him on the “truth makes the best fiction” front, but his ideas are so different from my own, I don’t think I aspire to be the same kind of writer. I wish I could write dark comedy as well as he can, though. And Douglas Adams continually inspires me to up my analogy game (e.g., “The ships hung in the sky in much the same way that bricks don’t.”).


4. Do you prefer to read and write in the same genre? Or do you prefer to switch it up and read in one and write in another?

I tend to read whatever I can get my hands on. These days, I alternate between nonfiction (particularly about math or statistics – I’m a statistician by day) and fiction of varying genres (mainstream, horror, sci-fi, and fantasy). Killing Mr. Johnson is a mystery, which I sadly don’t read often. And Survivor’s Guide is difficult for me to categorize, but it’s probably mainstream/drama inching slightly toward “chick lit” (another genre I don’t really read). It’s probably most accurate to say I switch it up.


5. Do you ever suffer from reader’s block?

I’m cursed with a reading list I could never complete with two lifetimes and no day job. So I definitely have trouble deciding what to read next, because whatever I choose means not choosing a hundred other books I keep meaning to get to.


6. What does literary success look like to you?

Writing something I’m proud of – proud enough to show people. Publishing a book would be awesome, but it’s more that I want to write something that people enjoy reading, or (it’s probably more accurate to say) something I would enjoy reading.


7. What is the most difficult part of your writing process?

Getting started: there is nothing more intimidating than a blank Word document. I get stuck because on a blank page, there’s so much potential, and choosing any one thing means neglecting the hundreds of other ways you could go. (This seems to be a similar theme for me.) But once I have something down, whether it’s an opening line or an outline or a character sketch, then I can go. I still get stuck along the way – I put too much effort into trying to make it perfect the first time around, when I need to just channel my inner Anne Lamott and get words (any words, even the wrong words) on the page.


8. Do you remember the first thing you ever wrote? What was it and how old were you?

The first thing I remember writing was a play about a bird when I was in 2nd grade (probably when I was 8 years old). I even performed it for my 2nd grade class, with my friends. The play was terrible, but in hindsight, it was an excellent stream-of-conscious depiction of the mind of a child. I think Anne Lamott would be proud of the complete lack of self-censorship in that writing.


9. If you could give advice to your younger self about writing, what would it be?

Don’t doubt yourself. Don’t question what you put on the page. I think my 8-year-old self writing the play got that, but somewhere along the way – I think in 4th or 5th grade – I began doubting myself and my abilities. I remember working hard on a play in 5th grade, then throwing the pages in the trash one day in response to criticism from a friend. Young Sara, don’t do that. You’re not going to please everyone. You might not please anyone. And that’s okay. Just write. Write something beautiful, or meaningful, or funny, or sad, that you wouldn’t be embarrassed showing to someone else. Not because you think they’ll love it, but because you love it.


10. What do you do after finishing a project?

Start thinking about the next one? Honestly, I don’t think I celebrate finishing something as much as I should. I tend to keep editing, or in some case, share the work with someone I trust. Then move on to the next thing.


11. Are you a plotter or a pantser?

I’m a plantser, but more plotter than pantser. Not this year, though. I’m looking forward to the adrenaline ride of pantsing.


12. Do you have a writing ritual?

I love writing in a place where I can people watch. I know many writers like coffee shops for that reason, but I personally like bars. I love going to quiet neighborhood bar, beer garden, or taproom (I’m a beer snob), sitting at the counter with my laptop and a good beer, and just writing. And bartenders are great to talk to, especially about writing. Even if they aren’t writers themselves, they appreciate writing and have incredible insight into how people work. They totally get it when you tell them you plan on adding a particular bar patron as a character in the story – especially when that patron is being a jerk.

I also visit my parents for Thanksgiving every year, so I’m usually writing while I’m home. My old bedroom, which looks surprisingly similar to the bedroom I had growing up, minus some posters and with a larger bed, is another of my favorite places to write. I sit on my bed, looking out the window at my neighborhood, and just write. After all, that’s the room where I first became a writer.


13. Beverage of choice when writing? Snack of choice?

A couple times a week during NaNo, I’ll hang out at a bar with a beer and my laptop. (I try not to make that a daily habit. It isn’t really the beer I’m doing it for, although beer is tasty; it’s the atmosphere.) My favorite place to do this is Sketchbook, a taproom for a small micro-brewery. The rest of the time, my beverage is usually coffee – pretty much all day if it’s the weekend. Finger food is best when writing, so usually unhealthy stuff like fries, but occasionally some baby carrots or celery. November isn’t necessarily a healthy month for me in terms of food and caffeine intake.


14. What makes a good antagonist? A good protagonist?

Realism. Both the protagonist’s and antagonist’s actions should make sense, even a twisted kind of sense. They should also be flawed, sometimes in the same way. I think that’s what makes us hate another person; we see something in them that we wish we didn’t also see in ourselves.


15. Who is your favorite character to write for and why?

Ones that looks suspiciously like myself. I’d say that makes me a narcissist, but I find it helps me to make those characters more realistic (terribly flawed). I do base characters off friends, but I try to be careful with that, because the things that happen to them don’t belong to me, so lifting them for my stories feels like a violation (unless they’re assholes; then I don’t feel bad).


16. You’ve been transported into your favorite book, what world (time period, state, city, etc.) do you now find yourself? And what rules of survival do you need to follow?

I have a handful of favorites, and I can’t decide which one will be optimal for my survival. If I go with Something Wicked This Way Comes, I find myself in 1940s/50s small-town Illinois. Since I’d be one of the adults in the story, to survive, I need to be careful not to be tricked into riding the carousel. (If you want to know what that means, read the book!)


17. Any recommendations for books to read that have helped you on your journey? Whether it’s just inspired you with beautiful prose or helped strengthen your skill with technical advice or just a book that made you think.

Ray Bradbury has excellent advice for aspiring writers, and his is some of the most beautiful prose I’ve ever read. Margaret Atwood has an incredible gift for words and portraying complex relationships. Especially read her stuff if you want to master the art of leaving some things unfinished while still wrapping up the story in such a satisfying way. I’d also highly recommend Lesley Nneka Arimah’s collection of short stories, What It Means When a Man Falls from the Sky, not only for her gorgeous prose, but her incredible ability to create a world so subtly, you don’t even notice; you’re just entranced by the story. (Try not to be too intimidated by the fact that her short story collection is also her writing debut.) Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird is both brilliant and hilarious. I’ve already mentioned Stephen King’s On Writing, which I highly recommend. I’m currently reading The Sense of Style by Stephen Pinker; I’m already noticing an improvement in my writing as a result.


18. And finally, describe your writing process with one meme. 


 

Rebel Queen by Michelle Moran - Review

Posted on November 27, 2017 at 11:20 PM Comments comments (0)


4 Stars

I liked this book. It’s very clear to me that Moran was passionate about her research and wanted to be as true to the Rani of Jhansi’s story as possible. This read like an adult version of a Dear America book, which is fine by me because I love those books for the historical facts they impart to the reader. It’s really refreshing to read about India in this time period without the romanticized Victorian goggles on. The story of Rani Lakshmibai is an incredible one and I wish I had known more about her prior to reading so I could see what liberties the author took. She noted a few in her historical notes. I look forward to reading more books from Moran.


Though there were a few issues I couldn’t shake as I read. For starters each time the narrator would say “you wouldn’t know it” or “you may think you know about this, but you’d be wrong” it took me entirely out of the story and insulted my intelligence. Obviously you want to educate your readers on obscure facts and points, but don’t do it in such a condescending way. I realize this is supposed to be Sita recalling the story for British readers in 1919, but you can’t describe a whole conversation like she remembered every word and facial expression, then treat other sections like an instructional guide.


The other issue is how passive the narrator is. She’s absent from the most exciting things or she refuses to recount them. Again, I get this is for 1919 readers per the stories prologue and epilogue and Sita is supposed to be recounting it, but the climax was about two paragraphs long. Um….what? All that buildup to the rani fighting for India and her people and we get two paragraphs? And most of the buildup Sita was absent for. Any of the other Durga Dal would have been a better narrator. Even split the narration between several and drop the whole “I’m recounting this sixty-five years later” aspect. Sita was in one place while the rani is fleeing and holed up in another. Sita is in England when major changes are happening back home. We never really see any action and that’s a shame because there’s a lot of action that could have been had.


Overall, though, I liked it. I like well-researched historical fiction and most, especially fictions features women, have a lot of added drama. And that added drama sometimes overshadows the historical drama that I wanted to read about. So while it is passive in its telling, this did provide an interesting base of knowledge for something and someone I now want to learn more about.


Author Spotlight - Michael Pickard

Posted on November 26, 2017 at 12:30 AM Comments comments (0)

gerfnit.blogspot.com

Michael Pickard’s writing serves as the bridge between his professional work in technology and his passion for the creative arts.

Several of Pickard's short stories have been published, including Hardwired, which won a Ray Bradbury Creative Writing Prize in 2005.

Pickard’s extensive background working with cutting edge technology has proved helpful for imagining fictive universes and societies. Strong satire keeps readers grounded and laughing.



1. What is your current project?

Tomorrow, I begin writing my new novel, OFF THE BOOKS, a science fiction mystery set fifty years in the future.


2. Where do you look for inspiration?

Dreams, hot showers, the random incident I observe, but most of all, asking “What if...?”


3. What author has inspired you toward writing the most?

Two. Isaac Asimov for his large-scale story telling and Douglas Adams for his humor.


4. Do you prefer to read and write in the same genre?

Or do you prefer to switch it up and read in one and write in another? Shame on me, I read very little. When I do, it’s either science fiction, or non-fiction on a topic of interest at that moment or that I might eventually use as the basis for a story.


5. Do you ever suffer from reader’s writer’s block?

Nope, never. A wise mentor told me only to take a break when I was at a place where I could continue if I chose not to stop. That way, when I restarted, I’d know what came next. Voila, no writing block.


6. What does literary success look like to you?

People motivated in asking me about my books instead of the other way around.


7. What is the most difficult part of your writing process?

The loneliness of it, just me and my mind, with no feedback. No one to bounce ideas off of. That’s why I depend so much on beta readers.


8. Do you remember the first thing you ever wrote? What was it and how old were you?

I found a fold-over booklet called The Story of Mr. Oop, which I wrote as a pre-teen. I was fascinated that his name backwards was Poo.


9. If you could give advice to your younger self about writing, what would it be?

Don’t wait so long before starting your writing career. Take formal creative writing classes and join writing support groups in your college years.


10. What do you do after finishing a project?

I take a deep breath, pause for a millisecond, and either dig through my list of incomplete pieces or put up my antenna for the next idea.


11. Are you a plotter or a pantser?

I’ve been both. One NaNoWriMo, I was a pantser, starting only with a hexagonal frame structure as a starting point. Those 50,000 words formed the foundation for INVASIVE SPECIES. But I learned that I’d left out many scenes, and written some scenes twice. Since then, I use a spreadsheet to lay out the overall structure of the book, including plot, characters and places. That helps with the required up-front research.


12. Do you have a writing ritual?

While I’m at my desk – no. But those hot showers allow me to relax, let ideas flow, after which I’m ready to take a seat at my iMac.


13. Beverage of choice when writing? Snack of choice?

Cold water. I know, so boring, but it’s important to stay hydrated. When I’m paying attention to writing, I don’t nosh.


14. What makes a good antagonist? A good protagonist?

A reader needs to be able to have some sympathy for the antagonist as a person, their objectives and rationale. Otherwise, he/she is a boilerplate “bad guy.” The protagonist must be flawed, can make bad decisions, must falter and require assistance, but perseveres and grows.


15. Who is your favorite character to write for and why?

All of my INVASIVE SPECIES novels (a trilogy, or course) have at least one alien character, and those are the most fun. They don’t have the background of how Earth works, so things we take for granted are viewed with a fresh perspective and often challenged.


16. You’ve been transported into your favorite book, what world (time period, state, city, etc.) do you now find yourself? And what rules of survival do you need to follow?

I’m at an overnight camp in Wisconsin in 1996. I’m away from my family for the first time and a bit nervous. I’ve become friends with an awkward camper named Nicki Jordan, who gets everything wrong, as if Earth is a foreign place for him. Compared to him, I’m doing just fine. He acts like there is a looming threat, and that makes me scared. But he is confident, so I stick close and do whatever he asks.


17. Any recommendations for books to read that have helped you on your journey?

Whether it’s just inspired you with beautiful prose or helped strengthen your skill with technical advice or just a book that made you think. The Asimov Foundation original trilogy took me into a vast, complicated universe. Adams’ The Hitchhikers Guide to the Universe taught me that I didn’t have to abandon my sense of humor at the door when writing science fiction. In fact, I should embrace it.


18. And finally, describe your writing process with one meme. 


Author Spotlight - Isabella Ocampo

Posted on November 21, 2017 at 12:30 AM Comments comments (0)

In honor of NaNoWriMo this year I asked for authora from  a local NaNoWriMo group for interviews to discuss writing processes and all the fun stuff that comes along with writing. First up is Isabella Ocampo


What is your current project?

  • De Minimis Oort, my NaNo novel this year, and also When The Light Leaves Thee for an overarching project.


Where do you look for inspiration?

  • Anything that can catch my eye I usually jot down, even something as simple as a setting or a way things are arranged that I find aesthetically pleasing or concepts that I find, often in forums online.


What author has inspired you towards writing the most?

  • H.G Wells, mostly with his concepts and ideals towards issues in the form of sci-fi epics. I hope my work will have the same impacts as his have.


Do you prefer to read and write in the same genre? Or do you prefer to switch it up and read in one and write in the other?

  • I mostly favor science fiction over any other genre and will usually edge towards that even if my intention is not to.


Do you ever suffer from reader’s block?

  • All the time. There’s simply too many books I want to read at once and it all culminates into a wad of distress.


What does literary success look like to you?

  • A finished novel, and a single person saying “Hey, this was alright.”


What is the most difficult part of your writing process?

  • Motivating myself to keep going in the stale part of a story.


Do you remember the first thing you were wrote? What was it and how old were you?

  • A story called Star Cats or something of the likes. I must have been eight at the time, and had only coaxed myself to type three pages, which would be dwarfed by my first real writing project, a 180,000 word interpretive fanfiction in 2015.


If you could give advice to your younger self about writing what, what would it be?

  • Push on, lil’ one.


What do you do after finishing a project?

  • Celebrate with me myself and I and then mope around until I start working again.


Are you a plotter or a pantser?

  • Pantser, most definitely. I rush head-first into ideas without a semblance of a plan.


Do you have a writing ritual?

  • Not particularly- if you count waking up in the morning as a ritual, sure.


Beverage of choice while writing? Snack of choice?

  • Hot chocolate and honey-nut Cheerios.


What makes a good antagonist? A good protagonist?

  • A good antagonist is a thoroughly fleshed-out one, whose actions convoluted their sympathy. A good protagonist is one who changes.


Who is your favorite character to write for and why?

  • A snappy, slick and troublesome fellow of mine named Marrow, sort of a gangster in her own sense. I love writing for her because of her attitude and disregard for morales. She has barely any heed to rights or anything people would normally hold respect for- and often gets in trouble because of it.


You’ve been transported into your favorite book, what world (time period, state, city, etc.) do you now find yourself? And what rules of survival do you need to follow?

  • An early 20th century England in ruins, ruled by the almighty reign of the Martians. There are no specific rules, per say, just the implication something horrid is on the horizon.


Any recommendations for books that have helped you on your journey? Whether it’s just inspired you with beautiful prose or helped strengthen your skill with technical advice or just a book that made you think.

  • All of H.G Wells’ works, The Giver, Cosmos, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and The Outsiders.

And finally, describe your writing process with one meme.

NaNoWriMo 2017

Posted on October 30, 2017 at 10:10 PM Comments comments (0)

Oh God, it’s almost November. That means NaNoWriMo is upon us. And I am at a complete loss for what to do. I have had a relatively productive year, once I got over my slump from January to June. Since then I’ve finished:

  • A Macbeth retelling set in a wild west fantasy world
  • A story about Cesernan roughly twenty years after the Death Dealer books, about the world’s first potential lady knight
  • Edited and am getting Fearless as the Dawn ready for a 2018 release,
  • Edited an old story I’d like to work on the sequel for about a girl who can talk to ghosts and how that leads to her country’s civil war


I’ve had plenty of other ideas and started a few chapters on a fairy tale retelling and a Victorian-fantasy story about the Greek gods. I have plenty of motivation to work on sequels for the knight and ghost stories, but it would be nice to try something different. Which is where the problem lays. I like medieval fantasy, I really do. I enjoy researching the era and transferring interesting facts into my stories, but I have also written mostly that for years. And I enjoy mythology, a lot. It’s why the Death Dealer includes visits from a goddess to Grace. Which is why there’s a draw to work on a story about the Victorian era and the Greek gods. And yet, I feel obligated to work on a sequel for something that is done so when I do decide to publish the first book in either series, I will have the next book in the process of editing.


I have one day to figure this out or I’ll start NaNoWriMo behind….again. Wish me luck world.

Katie's Guide to Reading on the Disc

Posted on October 15, 2017 at 11:30 AM Comments comments (0)

Art Work by Paul Kidby who does all sorts of justice to the characters of Terry Pratchett

I have this uncanny ability to just forget I have a blog. I’ll scold myself over neglecting this, but I’ve been light on ideas lately since not going back to Dragon Age yet. For this I blame the Sims, which has pulled me in again, and Discworld, which is actually the topic of today’s post. I was looking to read another book of my 2017 read list, but then Going Postal just sounded like the right book. That led to Night Watch, which led to Guards, Guards, which I am now halfway done with and I’m eyeing Men at Arms, because I need my Angua fix or maybe even The Fifth Elephant. In any case, reading through Discworld just feels right and I’m reflecting on my own introduction to Sir Terry Pratchett.


My original introduction was not great. His books were recommended as a good fantasy read, but I didn’t know how Discworld books were structured (no chapters, lots of seemingly random things and characters who’ve been introduced elsewhere, etc). I picked Thud! as my first book. I do not recommend this as anyone’s first Discworld book. Technically you can read any of them as standalones, but I feel if you’re going to read a watch book, you should start with Guards, Guards because it’s important to meet Sam Vimes and Lady Sybil as they meet each other. Their relationship makes up a huge part of Vimes’s character and by starting with Thud! I had missed the foundation of what makes them so great and never really connected with Vimes because of it and hated the book. I’ve learned since then and obviously love Discworld now. In honor of my recent reread I present Katie’s Guide to Reading on the Disc.


Obviously this is just my opinion on how to be introduced to Sir Terry Pratchett, since you can’t start reading Discworld with books one (Colour of Magic) and two (The Light Fantastic). The rules of how the Disc worked changed after these two books into a more cohesive world. Even Sir Terry suggests not starting here.


I suggest starting with Wee Free Men or Going Postal because I feel they’re easiest to get into Discworld with. They don’t rely on already established characters and introduce you to new heroes and if you like these, then both have sequels (four in the case of Wee Free Men) that you can jump into immediately.


Deciding between these two comes down to what you’re looking for. If you want a more magical book, go with Wee Free Men. Tiffany wants to be a witch and travels to the land of Fae to rescue her brother and another boy who have been kidnapped. It features an intelligent girl who uses her wit to survive and it shows Sir Terry writes women better than most male authors and better than some female authors. A note on witches on the Disc. These aren’t like Harry Potter witches or Oz witches or the witches on Charmed. They’re more like village wisewomen. They have magic, they can use it, but generally do normal things instead. Like help birth cows and babies, mend the sick, offer advice, visit shut ins with meals, everyday things that need doing by someone. The biggest thing with a witch’s magic is knowing when to use it to as not to abuse it. I love the whole series and think anyone reading Discworld should read them at some point, even if not starting with them.


If you want a more average hero, with less magic on their side, I suggest Going Postal. Moist is a conman who was mostly executed, but is given the opportunity to do better and use his skills toward the civic good. Or as I view, an opportunity to take down an even bigger con artist by running the post office. I love this book, it’s the reason I kept reading Terry Pratchett. It takes place in my favorite location, Ankh-Morpork, and features some truly great characters, such as Adora Belle Dearheart. I think it’s a good one to start with because character-wise, you’re not thrown a lot of characters from previous books, except Vetanari, but having no background on him doesn’t hinder reading. Moist is interesting enough on his own because he still wants to be a conman, but he uses it toward a more useful purpose that just swindling people. The only downside of reading this first, is it does take for granted the reader knows all about Ankh-Morpork. It doesn’t necessarily take away from reading, but there are the occasional passages that don’t make sense on how the citizens act. Bonus, this has a made for TV movie available from Sky One.


Once you’ve finished these, I feel it’s best to either jump on a guard or witches book as your next Disc experience. If Wee Free Men and subsequent Tiffany Aching books held your attention, check out the Wryd Sisters or Witches Abroad. The witches are great. They’re so different, yet similar, and as a trio, they complement each other really well. I’ve noticed most people are all over Granny Weatherwax and promote her books as a first read. Personally, I like the witches and think they’re great for those who want magical heroines, but I fall more into the Going Postal read, with an everyday guy acting as protagonist. If you are more like that, Guards, Guards is the best next choice. It introduces readers to the Night Watch, which are among my favorite books. This is the base for all other watch books and honestly, I think it needs to be read first of those (see above for Vimes/Sybil relationship). But it’s also a good book all on its own. Take one part youthful idealist, one part “destiny”, one part grizzled policeman, and one part dragon, mix and serve on a cold day. The watch books are my favorite, so I cannot recommend these enough. And I believe Night Watch is Sir Terry’s best book. The only reason I don’t recommend it first, is because I feel readers should know Sam Vimes a little bit before witnessing him time travel to his youth.


Once you’ve gotten this taste and if you like Discworld, it’s wide open. These books set a good foundation on how life operates and introduces most of the main characters you see over and over again. There’s 41 novels to choose from and they don’t need to be read in any order. That’s the joy of Discworld. Everyone continues to live their lives between books, but you’re still welcomed back like an old friend.


Katie’s List of Must Reads from the Disc

-Night Watch

-Going Postal

-Wee Free Men

-Monstrous Regiment

-Witches Abroad

-I Shall Wear Midnight


BoJack Horseman - Season 4

Posted on September 12, 2017 at 5:40 PM Comments comments (0)


BoJack Horseman is a pretty ridiculous concept. Anthropomorphic animals living in Hollywood (or Hollywoo if you watch). It’s full of sight gags and nonsense characters like Vincent Adultman who is three kids in a trench coat standing on each other’s shoulders. The characters have names you imagine old ladies give to their pets (IE Officer Meow Meow Fuzzyface, Captain Peanutbutter, Butterscotch Horseman) It’s surreal, goofy, and somewhat ludicrous premise, but it is also one of the most emotionally charged, brilliant shows I have ever watched.


Season four just premiered and I spent most of my weekend watching it. I’ve already rewatched several episodes because this season is hands down the best. The narrative isn’t as tight or interwoven as past seasons since BoJack has essentially burned all the bridges with the people who care about him. And while their stories don’t all come together, we see Diane and Mr. Peanutbutter, Princess Caroline, and Todd all growing as people (or animals) separate of their connection to BoJack. It’s heartbreaking, but uplifting, because they’re all finding their places in the world. We meet teenage Hollyhock, BoJack’s long-lost relative, a young woman who is searching for answers and foolishly comes to BoJack for them. But what truly prompted me to write a review was the second and eleventh episodes, The Old Sugarman Place and Time’s Arrow, which are easily the most gut wrenching episodes of a cartoon, or arguably any show, I’ve watched.


For those not familiar, season two includes an episode where BoJack’s mother tells him he was born broken. It is his legacy and in these two episodes we finally understand what exactly she meant. In a beautifully animated and written story we see where BoJack’s mother, Beatrice, is coming from and how BoJack’s life mirrors the same depressive brokenness that caused his grandmother to be lobotomized and his mother to become so verbally abusive. In a series of shots that overlap past and present we see a family so hurt, there is no fixing it now.


Time’s Arrow is especially heartbreaking because as Beatrice’s dementia advances in the present, we see her memories filled entirely with faceless people, her once vivacious mother is a literal shadow of herself with a lobotomy scar, and her father burns her memories showing that her disease will take everything (technically he’s burning everything due to scarlet fever, but I mean…come on… ) It’s a horrifying look at dementia, not to mention an upsetting look at where BoJack comes from as his parents’ marriage crumbles because it was built on a mutual need to rebel, rather than love. The episodes pull no punches as they take you through a broken horse’s life, past and present. And as we see BoJack drive past a damaged gas station his grandmother had crashed into in the ‘40s, we see things touched by this family are doomed to stay broken (there’s a great review that points this out in eloquent terms, but damned if I can find the link now among all the other reviews of the last few days). And when it is all over, BoJack, who has wanted to tell his mother off, does something unexpected by softening the blow.


After three seasons of talking about how he hated her, three seasons of his depression and alcoholism destroying everything good, he sits down with his barely lucid, woefully confused mother and provides her with an image of a happier time that never truly existed, but one they both wish had. It’s a complete lie and I’ve read one review (www.vulture.com/2017/09/bojack-horseman-recap-season-4-episode-11.html) saying how cruel and wrong it is given what we know of both Beatrice and BoJack, but I’ve chosen not to view it in those terms. It is a lie, and it can be seen as a cruel one given what we know, but at the same time it’s a lie BoJack and Beatrice need right then. They’ve never been happy with each other. Their whole lives have been a descent into darkness. They’ve had abuse heaped on them, they’ve heaped abuse on others, they’re part of a never-ending cycle. Now Beatrice is slipping away and they can never truly make things right between themselves, but in one moment things are right. It’s a lie about a happy time that never existed, but it’s one BoJack at least needs to move forward. A lie about what could be so he can break the cycle for the good of Hollyhock who is already showing she is falling into the same trappings as BoJack did. I see it as BoJack finally letting the anger go, allowing himself to smile as the last scene of the whole season, smile because things could be better for a change, because family is what could potentially make him happy.


BoJack is a hard sell, I feel. It’s about talking animals in Hollywood, but of all the shows I watch, it is by far the most human in its depictions of raw emotions. It handles very real issues in a very surreal way. And while it tackles the dark side of life by making the titular character a manic depressive alcoholic, it also provides excellent points of levity with its clever sight gags and commentary on certain aspects of everyday life. It can be hard to get into, but it is worth the time, if for nothing else, it tells a story worth listening to

So Busy and A Bit Lazy

Posted on August 18, 2017 at 9:10 AM Comments comments (0)

I have unintentionally fallen behind on my Dragon Aging. Things got busy the last few weeks, so while I adult all day long, at night I mournfully look towards my desktop, asking when I can go back to saving Thedas. But this unplanned break from #KatieReplaysDAO isn’t all bad. I finished a manuscript, which is the first of a series. That’s exciting. I’m trying to get my final edits on Fearless as the Dawn started, which if I actually buckle down and finish said editing, I would like to release in January.



I think this is the first time I’ve been able to produce new content more easily than editing. I enjoy editing, but I can write on breaks at work in a notebook, so it has become easier to get new content down because by the time I get home, I’ve had all I can handle of computer screens. But starting next week (once the craziness of being in a friend’s wedding has passed) I’m going to try to set aside some computer time at home to get this editing done. Because I have been at it for too long this time, when normally, I’ve given it three or four reads, instead of two. This is the plan and if I want to get more than one book out in 2018, I know I need to stick with it.


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