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2018-2019 Writing Goals

Posted on June 20, 2018 at 5:05 PM Comments comments (1)

I’ve been suffering from writer’s block mostly for a variety of reasons. There’s some pressure I’ve put on myself to try and get books ready and out into the world. So, I sort of stalled the last year. I’ve finished two manuscripts and edited another, but two of those completed works have planned sequels and one is a hot mess that needs so much time and energy I felt like I’d never have time to work on it and get other manuscripts ready for publishing. I’ve jumped between a lot of projects. There are so many partially finished works or works that I had a few good, solid days of writing, then stalled and tossed it out.

It has not been fun. More and more pressure mounted and a little voice inside screamed “the year is half over and you have squat to release for next year.” Then I decided I wanted to get an MFA and all that pressure came to a head and I stopped doing anything for a while. I may write a few words here or there, but overall just eh. I had no ideas, nothing I would submit in an MFA portfolio. Then I got an idea for a short story, then a coworker put another idea in my head for a short story, and then a third short story cropped up. All ideas I am in various stages of writing/editing/having critiqued so I can submit them in a portfolio. But I still felt crappy no novel/novella ideas were coming up. It feels like forever since I had a good one and even ideas I have planned as sequels, feel stale right now. Then I rediscovered a handwritten sci-fi story I had put a lot of time into and got too busy to finish and as I read it, found I wanted to work on it again for the joy of working on it. And I feel better for it.

And then I took a long look at my writing. I want to continue to put content out in the world, but I’m letting the pressure get to me. So I’ve made a tentative plan for July 2018-end of 2019.

1) Apply to MFA programs with the three shorts I have in the works

2) Edit a Macbeth retelling that is a hot mess, but has been enjoyable. Potentially query to publishers/agents.

3) Finish the found sci-fi story, even if nothing comes of it, just do it for fun.

4) Edit a book that takes place about 20 years after the events of the Death Dealer. I have my name in for a cover art design already, but I don’t see this being released in 2019.

5) Work on a sequel to one finished work. I’m not sure what yet, probably the aforementioned work.

6) Calm the fuck down about writing. Yes, I love writing, yes this is a business venture that needs attention, but I’ve put a lot of stress of getting things done and ready and that is driving me bonkers.

7) Blog more. Haha, yeah right.

The Oracle Queen - Review

Posted on May 11, 2018 at 2:15 PM Comments comments (0)

4 Stars

It annoys me that the Oracle Queen we’ve heard so much about was pretty much driven to madness because of a man. No, seriously. There’s more at play, which I liked, but a lot of Francesca Arron’s plan rests on Elsabet throwing temper tantrums over her unfaithful husband. Seriously. They want to paint her as mad and unstable and use the king-consort to make her appear man crazy and jealous. Also, the people of this island are endlessly stupid. They turn on Elsabet on the word of Francesca without any real proof. I fail to believe there is not some loyal faction ready to go start a civil war because they believe their queen and hate the Black Council. I’ve enjoyed this series thus far, but the politics and government on this island make no sense and aren’t sustainable. I assume the whole island is brainwashed and that’s why they’ve allowed for this random, useless monarchy to continue ruling.

I will say the politics and backbiting at play were pretty interesting. I enjoyed watching a queen actually rule and then butt up against the Black Council. Francesca stopped at nothing to get her way and have her power, which was downright dastardly. She convinced a lot of people to lie on her behalf, to the point I have to suspend my disbelief. She’s pulling strings brilliantly and she makes a good, cold, calculating villain. It’s a shame this was just a novella, because there’s a lot of room to expand on how these conspirators moved the pieces into place to depose of Elsabet. Her reign set the tone for why oracle queens are killed, so that deserves some serious delving into. I feel like this just scratched the surface. I like what Blake does with political machinations and I hope there’s a lot more of this in Two Dark Reigns.

Also it was nice to get away from the triplets queens and by that I mean it was nice to get away from Jules who I feel is the lowest point in this whole series. I want more queens, less random NPCs.

Available Today on Kindle and Paperback

Posted on March 13, 2018 at 6:35 AM Comments comments (0)

Fearless as the Dawn

Pre-Order Today on Amazon

Posted on February 1, 2018 at 6:50 AM Comments comments (0)

The night Aleka Akoni's mother is murdered is the night everything changes. Aleka, once a pampered violinist for the nobility, suddenly finds herself the scullery maid for the man responsible for her mother's death. Alone, afraid, and legally bound as an indentured servant, Aleka sees no way out except in a pine box next to her mother. But a young woman can only take so much abuse before she fights back. Slowly, Aleka begins to formulate a plan for her future, a future beyond the law. A future in which the nobleman who killed her mother is subject to punishment for his crimes. There's word the Thieves' Guild or the dreaded pirate ship, the Fearless Dawn, will take on the young and desperate. But will Aleka's quest for freedom and revenge lead her to her own early grave?

The Sight - A Reviw

Posted on January 6, 2018 at 8:50 PM Comments comments (0)

I have two very different minds and ratings on this book. There’s the high school mind that loved this and was happy to ignore its obvious faults and then there’s the 30 year-old me that cringes every time one of these wolves sweats. So I’ll just let my two minds on the subject duke it out.

High School Me: What a great dark fantasy about wolves! I wish more books featured wolves like this.


Thirty Year-Old Me: Hot damn, wolves don’t act like this and they certainly don’t sweat. The back of the book says he studied wolves, but methinks not.


HS: The prose is beautiful and haunting. Davies really paints a picture of the mountains in winter. I can actually feel the cold through my clothes. And he imbues real historical events the wolves witness without knowing what they’re seeing. Amazing!


30: Davies certainly can paint a picture, but what’s with the omniscient narrator? The head-hopping mid-scene is enough to drive a person insane. I don’t really need to know what all eight wolves in the scene are thinking. Also, what is with these random history lessons? This is not adding to the actual story at all.


HS: This prophecy is great. It’s forcing Larka into such a fierce, independent character. So mysterious, so dark, so violent. I’m getting shivers just waiting to find out what happens.


30: This book sure talks a big game about free will, but literally every character is made to bend to this prophecy. They’re even aware the prophecy is shaping things and comment on “it’s as the prophecy said!”, but not a single one says “maybe there’s no free will, maybe it’s all predetermined and we’re screwed.” And Larka had plenty of options in the end, but nope. PREDESTINATION


HS: What the hell? Wolf Jesus?


30: What the hell? Wolf Jesus?


HS: Morgra is a terrifying villain and Kraar is a dastardly little sidekick to her. I hope the family defeats her and saves the world from evil!


30: WTF is going on with Morgra? She’s evil because she’s barren. How many times is she going to be told “you can’t love, you’re barren!” What kind of ass backwards crap is that? I’d be evil too if everyone kept telling me I was doomed to be unloved and unloving because I’m barren. I mean really. And Brassa let her take the fall for killing that cub? Yeah, I’d hunt down and kill my old pack too. And Kraar? Ravens and crows are very smart, so take your eagle superiority Skart and eat it. Kraar may be a scavenger, but I guarantee he’s smarter than you.


HS: Like 100 pages in the middle could have been cut, they dragged.


30: 200 pages could have been cut, this dragged on for too long.


HS: I hope I’m this good and inventive in my writing someday.


30: Davies has some great ideas and though it’s mostly Christian tales, I can get behind this wolf religion. It’s definitely inventive in the world building and pretty interesting, but this book often becomes bogged down in the world building, adding needless details rather than advancing the story. And the omniscient narrator doesn’t leave much room for “I wonder what is driving this character” since we’re in everyone’s heads, all the time.


HS: I’m going to read this again and again! I’m going to tell all my friends!


30: This stirs up a lot of nostalgia and this isn’t a bad book. But it’s no longer among my favorites because now that I’m older, I realize how much better it could have been. It was worth the reread and part of me remains loyal to this book despite its faults. I even look forward to reading the sequel.

The Last Jedi - Beware of Wookies and Spoilers

Posted on December 19, 2017 at 5:45 PM Comments comments (0)

Spoilers abound below, ye have been warned.

I have plenty of complaints about the new movie. Like, what was going on with Finn and Rose's little Vegas trip? And how come no one really takes Poe to task for his massive screw ups all over the place? And can somebody explain to me Leia's random Force powers? But apparently Star Wars fans are mad about The Last Jedi for destroying Luke Skywalker’s legacy? Haven’t they ever heard of the old saying “never meet your heroes?” Because when you meet your hero, you learn they are in fact, human. And yet it came as a surprise to many Luke Skywalker was subject to very human doubts, angers, and emotions. STOP THE PRESS! THE MAN HAS FEELINGS!

In the trilogy Luke was always so sure. So sure he could be a Jedi and succeed. So sure there was still good in Vader. So sure he could rebuild the Jedi order. Not to say he didn't work hard and suffer along the way, but at every turn Luke spoke with a certainity of his righteous victory. He tells Han not worry as they're about to die at the hands of Jabba. He tells Vader and the Emperor that Vader still has good left in him. He sees his victory, he obtains his victory. But then he was wrong about Ben and pretty much drove his nephew to the Dark Side. Things had always worked out before. From his destroying the Death Star in A New Hope to his helping Vader back to the light in Return of the Jedi, things have always fallen into place for Luke. Then he failed and his arrogance came crashing down and he reevaluated himself and the Jedi and recognized a legacy built on failure. The Jedi allowed for corruption from within with Anakin and as a result they were destroyed. When Rey finds him, he’s a defeated man, brutally aware of past failures, but hasn’t completely learned from them yet. It's about the dangers from within as well as from without. 

And this is the heart of The Last Jedi. Everything goes wrong because of internal failures. Empire Strikes Back is mostly about bad luck, bad timing, and external forces getting a leg up. The Last Jedi is about Poe causing the destruction of an entire bomber fleet because of his arrogance and inability to yield to Leia’s command. Poe’s defiance also causes Finn and Rose to go on a goose chase and bring back a codebreaker who willingly sells out the survivors of the Resistance because “it’s just business.” I find it hard to place blame on the codebreaker because, well, he was up front with Finn and Rose that everyone is just doing business, including the Resistance for dealing with arms dealers.


Luke had a moment of weakness and doubt and created a self-fulfilling prophecy with Kylo Ren. He saw darkness in him and contemplated ending it and even though he changed his mind, Kylo still saw the doubt and turned to Snoke fully. This is actually my favorite part because it presents the same story within two different memories. Kylo remembers a violent Luke coming to kill him, forcing him to strike out. Luke remembers a moment of confusion and doubt on his end because of what could be and a Kylo waking up when his lightsaber is drawn, striking out in terror. What’s even better, in Luke’s first retelling to Rey he doesn’t have his lightsaber. Even then, he hadn’t truly learned from his failure and doubt, he was still falling into old failings and ignoring part of the blame.

So we have a lot of failure going around on the parts of the good guys. Poe is getting people killed left and right. Finn and Rose are risking everything and everyone on a Hail Mary pass that bites them in the ass. Rey is duped by Snoke into thinking Kylo can be saved. And after much fan speculation of who Rey’s parents were, they were nobodies! Which makes me immensely happy, as does the death of Snoke here in the middle of the trilogy. Why? Because this trilogy, while drawing plenty of parallels to Episodes IV-VI, is trying new things as well. It’s saying “sometimes the good guys are wrong” “sometimes you’re a nobody, but that doesn't have to determine your destiny” “we all have harsh lessons to learn.” It opens the door to characters asking “what if” of themselves. What if Luke hadn’t contemplated killing Ben Solo, would he still have fallen? Could that future have been avoided? What if Poe had pulled back? Would the Resistance be in better standing or would the First Order still have tracked them through light speed? What if Finn and Rose hadn’t brought in the codebreaker? Would all of the transports have made it to Crait, even if they had, would it have mattered if the First Order still followed eventually?

In the next movie our three main heroes are going to have a lot of questions to ask themselves. And they’re going to have to ask themselves where they go next with everything in tatters. Is the true balance of the Force really just a shade of gray? And not light vs dark as we’ve been believing this whole time?

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/


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


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?


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.