My Reading Pet Peeves – How not to annoy your audience

Much like Aziz Ansari’s character, Tom, in Parks and Recreation, I have some “Oh No No’s”. But unlike Tom Haverford, my Oh No No’s don’t extend to my husband. They do, however, decide my relationship status with a book.

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Now these are just my personal opinions. If you do any of the following it just means I’m not your target audience. 

This is just why I stop reading books.

1. The names of characters

When picking the name of your characters, a lot of things should be taken into account. Setting, family history, genre, and who your character’s parents were are all viable ways to name a character. Fantasy settings tend to have more out there names, and that’s acceptable. The romance genre can get a little corny, but we’ve all come to expect that by now. So what’s the annoying part of names? The cheesy names for no reason, the naming a character who sacrifices themselves after Jesus, or the blatant “character stereotype” names. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read someone’s work where they have a girl named “Raven”, who’s a dark, brooding girl, with a dark past, and a dark future, and she’s just dark. Or how many Astras, Stellas, or Stars are quirky, “spacey” girls. When naming is done correctly, an author can shape a character and make a name fit into the narrative, but when names are just slapped on without any rhyme or reason, I say “Oh No No”, and close the book.

And it’s not just me who’s noticed this. Check out Cracked’s video “4 Bizarre Rules for Naming Fictional Characters

2. Instant character changes

I love character development. As a writer who focuses more on character driven stories than plot driven, when I find another author who has the same drive to create a well developed protagonist/antagonist, I will cherish that book for the rest of my life (as I have with Good Omens. Go find it and read it). When that development is rushed, however, I feel cheated. The mousy girl who magically becomes a sword wielding, viking warrior, the asshole guy who all the sudden has a heart of gold, the cruel villian who suddenly becomes kind, I’ve seen it too many times to count, and I can’t stand it. Now if the character grows into that role, I can accept it, but short of mind control or hypnotism, a character shouldn’t spontaneously turn into a new person in one page.

3. Short cuts/Deus ex Machina endings

This one infuriates me more than any other number on this list, because most of the time it doesn’t happen until I’m already invested in the novel. I agree with the fact that some stories do have to have a little bit of coincident to progress. If a character doesn’t happen to be walking down that one road, they never would find themselves in a story, after all. But when all hope is lost, and there is nothing that can save a character from a fate worse than death, there needs to be a believable way to get out of their problem. Again, usually it’s too late for me to throw out an “Oh No No” card by the time this happens, but it will make me question reading that author again in the future. You see this in Lord of the Rings, with the eagles, but that’s about one of the few exceptions I’ll accept.

4. Killing for the sake of killing

Have you noticed yet that I really love characters? While I enjoy plot, setting and story progression, I get attached to the people who live in between the pages. When a character dies, I’m completely okay with it, so long as it plays a part in the story. When characters die for no reason other than to shock the reader, however, I draw the line. I don’t need my protagonists to have happy endings, and in fact, I love it when they don’t because that makes it more real, but to just die for no other reason than the author wanting to “create chaos” I won’t pick up another book by them again.

5. The “Can Do No Wrong” characters, or their equally useless counter parts, the “So Extremely Dark and Edgy”

These are the perfect characters. The flawless, often times “inexplicably alluring” men and women who for some reason, are amazing. They look amazing, they sound amazing, they can sing, and dance and juggle chainsaws if they ever put their mind to it. And then there’s the anti perfect characters.  These are the ones who are so badass that if anyone even looks at them wrong, they’ll kick them into the ground, and everyone will be okay with this. Everyone in the novel loves these characters. Every man and woman wants to sleep with them and or be them, and chances are the antagonist only hates them because they’re jealous.

But that’s all there is to them. They never develop past how perfect, or imperfect they are, and the story sounds bland because of it. Most of the time, these beautiful bastards are abused in some way, either by bullies, their families, or by the antagonist themselves, but it won’t have any point to the story other than just being something to make that character all the more edgier.

When this character type marches onto the first few pages, I say Oh No and keep walking.

What are your Oh No No’s? Have anything that makes you toss a book into the library donation box? Let me hear it!

Author Interview #4 – Lissa Dobbs

When looking for authors to interview, I’m always excited to find an author with a high fantasy universe and well developed characters. Lissa Dobbs’ “never ending story” is just that. As I looked through her website and blogs, it became clear she doesn’t mess around when it comes to her world building.
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Check out my interview with her, and swing by her websites all about her world of Shadow Walkers.
Q. Let’s start off by getting to know you a little bit. Tell us a little bit about yourself, outside of your writing life.
 
There’s really not too much to tell. I enjoy reading, of course. I work a day job that, while not overly stimulating, does give me time to pursue my writing. My youngest son is about to graduate high school, so we’ll be getting into college mode soon. I’m hoping that will give me time to return to some of my other passions, like making dollhouse miniatures and crocheting.
 
Q. I noticed you also do work as an editor. What’s your favorite part of working with other authors?
 
I like getting to know them and getting to know their worlds. Besides, it gives me a great chance to read some new books before anyone else gets to.
 
Q. While reading your website, I noticed you’re heavily influenced by folklore and fairy tales. Which fairy tale you do you find yourself drawn to the most, or what trope do you notice showing up in your writing?
 
Oh gosh, there are so many fairy tales. I love all of them. I can’t really think of a favorite one, though I do find it fascinating that so many of the tales have parallels in multiple cultures. It’s as if the same story is written and rewritten over and over again. You find the same thing in mythology. Carl Jung did a lot of work on that with his idea of archetypes.
 
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Q. As a Tolkien, Rowling, Lewis fan myself, I have to ask. What Middle Earth race do you relate to the most? What house would you be grouped in? And if your wardrobe was a portal to any magical world, which world would it be?
 
I’m a big fan of the wizards, especially Gandalf, though I find the elves and dunedain fascinating as well. I’m a Ravenclaw at Hogwarts and a Thunderbird at Ilvermorny. My patronus is a wild boar. As to the wardrobe, Raymond E. Feist’s Midkemia all the way. Let me go there, please!
 
Q. After looking through your books, I was most intrigued by your novel Wolf in the Shadow. What inspired you to write this novel?
 
This was actually an exercise in working out character history. Two of the main characters play large roles in my trilogy, the one I call ‘the story that never ends’ because I’ve been working on it for two years and can’t seem to settle into completing the revisions on the first one, and I wanted to explore their history a bit, to get to know them. I knew the two would be connected, but I wanted to know more about that connection and the dynamics of it. I knew from the beginning how it was going to end, but I won’t mention that.
 
Q. Every author has their own habits and rituals. Some write for hours, at a slow steady pace, and others hammer out words in less than thirty minutes. How much time do you find makes for your “ideal writing day”?
When I’m off work, I can write for twelve to fifteen hours in a day. If it’s going well, I’ll keep going as long as my eyes are able to look at the computer screen. I get tired, of course, but I never get tired of doing it.
 
Q. Which of your antagonist did you find yourself connecting to the most when you wrote them? Which protagonist did you connect with the least?
 
The antagonist I connect with the most is one that is an antagonist in ‘the story that never ends’, but he’s a protagonist in one of the others. I can’t say too much about that without a spoiler alert for those who haven’t read the books.
 
As to the protagonist I connect with the least, I think that one is Gwennyth Grimsbane in Aradia’s Secret. She just flat out gets on my nerves. I get that she’s scared, and I understand why, but…suck it up and go on. Please!
 
Q. You have many drawings of fantastic beasts on your site, as well as links to crochet blogs you recommend.  How do these other creative outlets inspire you when you sit down to write?
 
Well, some of the critters come from mythology (my son draws them for me), but others come to me at odd times. I like the world I’m working with to be a complete world. The creatures help me get a feel for the world and how it operates.
 
The crochet patterns are also my books. I’ve been crocheting since I was thirteen, but we won’t say how long ago that was, and I love doing it. It’s peaceful. One of the best parts, though, is creating patterns, whether they’re something simply like a washcloth or more complex. I have a partial pattern for a fall tablecloth, but I simply haven’t had the time to sit down and make one. If I ever do, I’ll probably publish that pattern as well.
 
Q. Richard Bach once said, “A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit.” Who or what kept you writing at your low points on your road to be an author?
 
Mostly the people in my head. The ideas come whether I want to sit down and write the stories or not. It keeps me going when I feel like it isn’t worth the effort.
 
Q. Your work is filled with rich, vibrant cultures. Do you find yourself basing these off of any culture we see in today’s world, or are they whatever comes to mind?
 
Some of them may have tidbits from our cultures, but none of them are copies. I like to toss in different elements to make things original. A lot of the cultures develop on their own, and some of them are just coming to mind. Now that Aradia’s Secret is finished, I want to take some time and do some heavy-duty world building, even more so than what I’ve already done.
 
Q. When working on cover art, what inspires you the most?
 
I’m not the best at cover art, so I go with what I can make that I think might look all right.
 
Q. Ethan Grimley III is a Shadow Walker whose books, A Walker is Born, Cronos Attacks, and Revenge of Cronusare written for the early middle grade reading level. What do you hope inspires your young audience the most about your novels?
 
I’d like more than anything for some of them to slow down and spend some time with the old stories, the myths and legends. I think we’ve lost a lot of our love for those and the lessons they can teach. Sure, technology may make us more efficient, but myth and legend help us to be more human. We need more of that.
 
Q. If Ethan’s story were to be picked up for a movie or tv show, who would you hope to have play his lead role?
 
I have no idea. I don’t watch too much TV, and movies are mostly background noise for me. Just someone who could get to know Ethan and portray him realistically.
 
Q. I loved the imagery you put into your short story, How I Came to Experiment With Bonded Humans, especially how you described the demons your main character Professor Valedihr comes into contact with. What inspired the way these creatures looked?
 
I read a LOT of mythology and folklore, plus I read a lot of fantasy. Some of the images came from the woodcuts in old books (check out Internet Sacred Text Archive); others came from documentaries like Blue Planet, the ones that show the sea creatures that look like they could’ve come from the third hell.
 
Q. Some writers like to work alone, others need a “tribe”. Do you surround yourself with other authors, or do you prefer to figure out your plots on your own?
 
A little of both. Most of the people I bounce ideas off of aren’t authors. Since some of them have the same interests I do, it’s easy to get into a ‘what if’ kind of discussion. Most of the time, though, I work alone.
 
Q. What made you decide to self publish vs. the “traditional” route?
 
I chose self-publishing just because it seemed like fun. I have complete control over my work and can pretty much do what I want to with it. I like that.
 
Q. Writers, like all artists, collect ideas from their childhood and use their experiences in their stories. What place or person from your youth tends to show up in your work the most?
 
You know, I don’t think there really is one. Not a person anyway. I read a lot as a kid, and I’m sure some of my favorite characters may shine through, but I can’t think of a character or situation that really comes forward in my books. I’m sure someone else who read them and knew me then might could pick some out, though.
 
Q. What do you find is the most enjoyable thing when writing for children, and the least enjoyable thing when writing for adults?
 
I love writing for all age groups. There really isn’t a preference for me. All of the stories, the ones from Grevared anyway, actually link together, even if that isn’t obvious. Even The Chronicles of Ethan Grimley III has bits that will matter later, even if they don’t matter in a children’s book.
 
Q. If you could spend the afternoon with any author, alive or dead, who would it be?
 
Raymond E. Feist. He’s always been my favorite.
 
Q. To end, tell us a little bit about what you’re working on right now and when you hope to have it finished.
 
I want to go back through ‘the story that never ends’ again and maybe get it ready to publish. I also want to take some time to visit the world and maybe stay there for a few days, write out a bit more about the flora and fauna, the subcultures, etc. I’m not planning on putting out another book until fall or winter.
 
Please feel free to list any of your webpages and social media below. If I left one out, you’re more than welcome to add it.
 
Blog: shadowwalkersofgrevared.net
Facebook: @shadowwalkersofgrevared
Twitter: @LissaDobbs
Amazon: http://amazon.com/author/lissadobbs
 

My Love/Hate Relationship with Editing

I hate editing. I really do. When you’ve got other ideas chomping at the bit to get on the page the last thing you want to do is spend ANOTHER round of rewrites on your current project.

That being said, it has to be done. Putting out unedited work for me means that I’m not taking pride in my writing. But when do you call it quits? When is enough enough?

Here’s my method.

After finishing a first draft, either by hand or on the computer and no matter the length, I let myself do 3 rounds of edits. The first one, I look for character inconsistencies, the second, story hiccups, and lastly, I do grammar and spelling. Then I pass it on to my beta readers. Depending on the size of the work, I’ll give it to one to three people for a read over, and after that, I allow myself one more round of edits before I call it a day.

Why do I do it this way?

I’m a nit picker with bad grammar. If I don’t limit myself to four edits, I spend more time worrying about if a project sounds good or not, than I allow myself to enjoy the writing.

Not only that, but writers have a habit of working a novel or story into the ground, and I’m no exception to this. No matter how many times I rewrite a piece, there’s always another way it can be said, another flaw I can fix, another word I can cut. After awhile, it becomes redundant.

So how do you edit your work? What’s your method to make your novel ready for the public? Comment below and let me know.

Tips and Tricks to Naming Characters

Carelessly named characters are the first thing that pull me out of a novel’s narrative. I’ve put down several books in my lifetime because the name of the protagonist doesn’t make sense in the context of the story.
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In fact, I’m not the only one who feels this way. Google “Does what I name my character matter” and you’ll find reasons to double check your character’s name meaningwhy names matter, and questions on Quora from authors who are looking for answers.

 

How do you name characters so people don’t put down your book? Give your character’s name a purpose, and make them make sense in your novel’s setting. Sounds easier said than done, so here are some ways to name your characters to keep you on the right track.

 

1. Who are your characters’ parents?
At birth, you had nothing to do with what you were named, your parents decided that for you. Using this same rule when coming up with characters not only gives them a realistic name, but also builds a believable backstory. Religious parents are more likely to name their children something relating to their spirituality. Parents who are invested in their family’s heritage could name their child after a matriarch/patriarch. The options are endless, and even if your readers never find out your reasoning behind the name, your insight into your characters will make them more real to you.

 

2. Where are your characters from?
Different names have different meanings and spellings across the globe. Alexie could be a twenty something female from Detroit or Aleksei, a boy from Moscow. The same base name changes depending on where the character’s from, and suddenly you have a completely different person all together. Look into what names were popular when your character was born in their home city and you’ll have a hundred names to pick from.

 

3. How does the name sound?

Sherlock Holmes. Scarlett O’Hara. Tony Stark. Hermione Granger. Most people know these characters not only because of who they are but because their names are iconic. Even if you’ve never seen or read Gone With the Wind, the name Scarlett O’Hara sounds exactly the way the character acts. Strong willed, bold, and stubborn, there is only one Scarlett O’Hara, and there will never be another again. You want to make a name that sticks in everyone’s mind and lives up to your writing.

4. If all else fails, try a random name generator.
This is a sure fire way to get a list of names to pick from and can cover everything from fantasy realms to girls/boys next doors. My favorite is from Behind the Name. You can pick everything from how rare the name is, if it’s from a fantasy universe, a particular region and style.

 

How did you pick your character’s name? Have a link to a useful name generator? Leave a link below!

Author Interview #3 – Leah Hamrick

When I saw Leah Hamrick was doing a book raffle on Twitter, I jumped on board. I love modern/urban fantasy, and what originally started out as winning a free giveaway on Twitter turned into an author interview. She’s working on her second book to her Fire Bringer series, but took time out of her schedule to do a quick interview.

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Q. Let’s start off by getting to know you. Tell us a little bit about yourself.

A. Well, my name is Leah Hamrick, and I am currently 23 years old. I live in Michigan with my husband, daughter, and plethora of reptiles and fish! Oh, and a tree frog named Sticky! I love heavy metal music, cookies, anything that smells good, and enjoying nature. Yep, and writing. I like doing that too.

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Q. For your novel, Frost On My Pillow, what do you think is the most likable trait about the protagonist, Lyla?

I think her attitude is great, and she always has a way to get herself out of sucky situations.

 

 

Q. Which of your novels did you enjoy working on the most?

A. I enjoyed Frost on my Pillow, and Torn the most. I can’t pick out of those two. Kali and Lyla are probably my most fun protagonists so far. Wait, no, Anna from my two short stories, In the Darkness and Love Caster. Oh, what the hell. I like them all!

 

Q. If you could sit down with any author for lunch, past or present, who would it be?

A. Jennifer Armentrout, hands down, no questions asked.

 

Q. Every artist has a, for lack of a less cheesy word, muse. This is everything from family, to life experiences, to even places and people they’ve never met. Tell us a little bit about what inspires you as a writer.

A. Everything in some way inspires me to write. I can’t really pick one thing, because in the end, they all end up tying together somehow.

 

A. Like many writers with a family, balancing work and parenting can be hard. How do you find time to write and be a mom?

A. I write whenever I have time, which hasn’t been much lately. My daughter likes watching me on the computer, but only if I’m on Facebook or Twitter or YouTube. Screw everything else when she is around. It’s a mess.

 

Q.  You have quite a few pets. What type of animal do you feel yourself drawn to the most?

A. Probably fish, I love them. I have two ten inch goldfish, plus a lot of others.

 

Q. Intentionally or not, many writers include their real life experiences in their work. What part of your life shows up most in your writing?

A. The abusive situations.

 

Q. I am a big fan of Michigan. I spent every summer there with my grandmother and absolutely love the scenery. Do you find yourself often inspired by your state, or do you dream of more exotic places?

A. I love my state. It’s so pretty, except Detroit. Or Flint. Or Saginaw. Okay, you get the drift.

 

Q.  What is your editing process? How do you take the first draft and turn it into a final novel?

A. I don’t. I just write. Then I go back through and add words, or fix spelling.

 

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Q. If Frost On My Pillow were to be turned into a movie, which actor do you see portraying the protagonist, and love interested of Lyla, Ethan?

A. Nick Robinson for Ethan, and Lyla? No idea, cause that person as to be special.

 

Q. Having people in your corner when you start a novel is always a plus. Who’s the biggest supporter of your writing?

A. I’d probably have to say my husband, and everyone at my publishing company, Solstice.

 

Q. Writing doesn’t always come easy. What project have you struggled with the most and how did you overcome that?

A. I am currently struggling with my second book in the Fire Bringer series. My writers block is bad and yes, I’ve tried everything!

 

Q. What’s been your experience with Solstice Publishing , and why did you decide to go with them for your novel, Frost On My Pillow?

A. They are amazing and I’ve had nothing but incredible experiences with them. I recommend them to anyone, because really, what other group is as badass as us? What can I say? They are freaking awesome, and I love them. ‘Nuff said.

 

Q. If you could go back to your first novel and give yourself a tip, what would that tip be?

A. Stay away from Self-publishers!!!!!

 

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Want to know more about Leah Hamrick? Check her out in the links below

Twitter: @kookycharacters
Facebook: @spellbindingbooks
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B01MSHHOUS

A Tough Love Talk About Finding Inspiration

Finding inspiration isn’t impossible. Yes, it can be hard and some authors did some crazy things just to tap into that creativity well. While you don’t have to write with a cat on your shoulders like Poe, or keep a desk full of rotting apples like Friedrich Schiller, you should find a way to get inspiration when you can, however you can.

Here’s my first bit of advice, and it’s something that I have to tell myself on a regular basis. Stop thinking your inspiration is dried up, that you have writer’s block, and sit down to work. If you’re wallowing in a lack of creativity rut and not looking for inspiration, you’ll never find the novel worthy idea that’s out there waiting for you. Writing, as much feeling goes into it, is all in your head. You come up with what you write, and you hold yourself back, as well. Take a good look at your lack of inspiration and ask yourself, is it really because you can’t think of anything to write? Or is it because you’re not trying hard enough?

Now that I’ve gotten the toughest of the tough love talk out of the way (a talk I have to give myself from time to time, I’m not guiltless), here are some paths to inspiration that could work for you.

1. Get out of your routine. Maybe you take a new route to work, eat something you’ve never tried before, or even listen to a song you might never listen to. Do anything that you wouldn’t normally do. Now write about it. Have a hard time writing about yourself? Pretend it’s someone else hearing that music for the first time. You’re not a writer listening to a song you’ve never heard before, you’re the boyfriend of a woman who’s getting to hear her sing for the first time. You’re the mother hearing the appalling music her children are into. You’re from another planet experiencing human sounds for the first time. If it’s new to you, it’s new to someone else. Tell their story, and run with it.

2. If that doesn’t work, become a collector. Collect newspaper clippings, smooth stones from riverbeds, magazine covers where you only get the headlines, or even bumper stickers. Now give your collection to your character. Your protagonist’s obsession with new bumper stickers could be what drives him through to your setting.

3. And if all else fails, look at ideas from a new angle. Flipping tropes and tossing traditional plots around are two of my favorite ways to find inspiration. You can surprise yourself, and your future readers, if you try and break parts of the mold to recreate ideas in fantastic new ways.

Need even more ways to find inspiration?

– Keep a dream journal.

– Carry around a “dialogue notebook” and write down conversations you overhear.

– Carry around a notepad in general, and write down any random idea that pops into your head. I’m not kidding, I wrote down “dragon people” one time. I have no idea how I’ll ever use that, but hey, it was a random thought and I think about way more often than I probably should.

– Watch a bad movie, and rewrite it so it’s better.

– Read, read, read, and read. Everything you can get your hands on, even if it’s not something you normally pick up. READ.

– Interview people from different walks of life. Look at their different political, religious and social views with unbiased eyes and not only can you get inspiration, you can learn something, too. You’ll find most people open up if you just ask for them to help you understand their way of life. As a personal side note, I spent three days interviewing people at a Hindu temple in Texas to learn more about their culture, and I wound up finding out more things about myself than I did for my writing. It pays off.

– Tell your version of the news articles. Hell, even if you only read Cosmo, list your “top ten ways to drive him crazy with your tongue”.

– Clean out your attic/crawlspace/closets and put aside items that need to have a story told about them.

– Shut your phone off and spend the day away from your house and technology.

– Speak as little as possible for an entire day, and try to listen more to what’s going on around you.

– Start a blog challenge.

Have anything you want to add to the list? Comment below, and I’ll feature your suggestion in my next post!
Need some books to build your inspiration? Here are three of my favorite. 

– Writer’s Guide to Character Traits

– Writer’s Idea Thesaurus

–  Writer’s Book of Days
Or try checking out tvtropes.org. You can find all sorts of tropes listed there to get inspiration from.

Book Review #2 – Hades

Occasionally, I find myself wandering down the paperback book aisle in the grocery store, just to see what’s there. Often times, I’m met with shirtless cowboys promising to sweep a gal off her feet, burly warriors in kilts with a woman tossed back in his arms, or old novels that sold well in their time that I either already have or didn’t want to read in the first place. I was pleasantly surprised to find something different when I saw Hades. Something that wasn’t a romance. Something darker.

Hades tells the story of Frank Bennett, a detective with more than one skeleton in his closet and his new partner, Eden Archer. Dark haired, big eyed, and mysterious, Frank makes it his goal to figure Eden, and her brother Ethan, out.

When bodies stuffed in boxes turn up on the bottom of the ocean, Frank has to catch a killer while trying to uncover secrets from his partner’s past.

I’m going to tell you right off the bat, if you like Dexter, both as a television show and as a book, and/or anything Hannibal Lecter, this book is for you. For her debut novel, Candice Fox builds crime scenes with the best of them, and for an author’s debut novel, she blew me away.

The novel builds tension beautifully, and you can’t miss Fox’s sense of humor shining through Bennett. She knows when to throw in a dark joke, and captured the way cops act at a crime scene with an authenticity that many miss. Not only that, but Bennett’s a man’s man. Fox wasn’t afraid to make him an alpha male with more than one “meathead” layer. He knew what he was doing, but could rely on his smart, yet occasionally odd partner.

While I enjoyed Bennett, with his cocky attitude and a nose for trouble, I still found myself eager to get to the parts with Hades. An anti-hero with a soft spot for kids, Hades outshone every other character. He and Ethan, Eden’s somewhat unhinged brother, were by far my favorite to read about. And while I know I probably shouldn’t like Ethan, I enjoyed every action he took (even if I don’t condone them).

Eden spent most of the novel silently watching, or ignoring Bennett’s jabs, and I was left feeling like I never got past the surface of her character until the very end. That being said, this was due to the fact that everyone was an unreliable narrator when it came to her. Hades and Bennett both are outsiders to her world, and it wasn’t until the ending did Fox let a side of Eden come out that I was dying to learn more about. And really, I loved the way she slowly showed her hand. It kept me curious, and intrigued me enough to go out and buy the sequel, entitled Eden.

As for the writing itself, Fox knows how to craft a scene by focusing on the small details. When things are crumbling, sometimes quite literally, around the protagonists, Fox doesn’t focus on the blood or the violence. She writes about the flow of the hair as it halos around a young girl’s face or the light catching on something so small, it should’ve been missed. It creates a haunting image on the page that actually had me at one point go, “NO!”.

Overall, I’d buy Hades in a signed hardback edition, if I could track one down. That’s just how much I enjoyed it. While my husband is glad I’m done with this book (I have to admit, I had more than one outburst reading this book, and even forced him to listen to me read passages aloud), I’m not. I can’t wait to start the sequel, and say if you’re looking for a new author who’s been up and coming over the past three years, check out Hades.

Author Interview #2 – Hope Ann

After a busy week of getting my foot in the door in my new position at work, it’s nice to be able to sit down and look over author profiles. I stumbled across Hope Ann on Twitter a few weeks back, and since I’m a lover of fairy re-tellings, I was happy to find her! I plan on downloading her book after this, and hope to be able to do a review (after I’m done with the five other books I’m reading right now *sigh*)

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Q. You have quite a few books under your belt, and it looks like you have a couple more in the makings. What are you currently working on and do you have a deadline for it to be done? 

A. I have three main projects in the works right now… I have a slight problem sticking with one thing at a time. The most important wip is my third Legends of Light novella, a retelling of Hansel and Gretel. It’s progressing well and I hope to have it published in March 2017. The second major project is Fidelyon, which is a full-length fantasy novel and is in the editing stage. I’m hoping to have it read for submission to a traditional publishing house by the end of this year, or spring at the latest. The final project is Scarlet Rose, the first book of a futuristic trilogy. I’m hoping to complete a readable draft of that novel by the end of 2016.

Q. You’re very active with your caption challenges, flash fiction, and just generally being engaged with your readers/other writers. Which writing community games and challenges are your favorites?

A. My favorite challenge is the weekly six-word-story I do on my blog every week. I can’t enter them myself, but it’s so much fun to see all the different thoughts people can encase in just six words.

Q. In your book, Fidelyon, how are you most like your antagonist(s), and least like your protagonist(s)?

A. Ooo…let me think. I’m probably most like my antagonist in his stubbornness to get done what he’s determined to get done, no matter what. I am least like my protagonist in his insecurity and fear of failure.

Q. Which author, if any, inspired you to be a writer? 

A. It was more a lack of authors and books which inspired me to write than otherwise. I couldn’t find the kinds of books I wanted to read, so I slowly came to the realization that I’d need to write them. I have found more Christian fantasy in recent years, and draw inspiration from a number of favorite authors, like J. R. R. Tolkien and Gillian Bronte Adams. Now I write because I’ve so many story ideas in my head and they simply must be written.

51f90vdsxql-_sy346_Q. You’ve put out two books in your “Legends of Light” series, both retellings of fairy tales, with the first one free. What made you decide to take this route? 

A. The idea behind having my first novella free is that people can sample my writing with no risk to themselves. Then, if they like the novella, they can go on to buy my other works. I will also, eventually, be offering a free story at the beginning and end of my free novella to anyone who signs up for my email list, making it even more of a marketing tool than it now is. You can check out my free retelling of Beauty and the Beast here.

Q. I notice you’re very open about your religion. Do you find this is something that readers respond to, either positively and/or negatively?

A. I have got some positive feedback from other Christian readers and writers about my openness when it comes to my religion. So far, I’ve not got negative feedback, though I’m sure that will come eventually. But my religion is not part of my marketing. My reason for writing is to inspire others and so, while I at no time try to be pushy or preachy about Christianity, I am also very upfront about who I am and what I am offering in my stories and on my blog.

Q. You say on your blog that you like making movies. Would you be interested in doing screen plays in the future? 

A. Not really. It’s been fun to make some small movies with siblings, and I’d love for some of my own books to be made into movies, but at this point I’ve not much interest in trying to write a screen play.

Q. I’m a huge fan of learning about other writer’s “writing rituals”, little things you do before and during your writing process. Do you have a writing ritual, and if so, what’s the first thing you do before you sit down to write?

A. Put on music…either YouTube music on the computer, or other music in my headphones. I write better when there is some music going on, and it helps block out background noise from the house in general.

Q. You have eight siblings that you help home school. Do you find this cuts into your writing time, or do you think it helps come up with more ideas to write?

A. Homeschooling itself doesn’t cut into my writing, because I schedule it into my day. Have eight younger siblings who like to chatter or need help certainly does cut into ‘my’ time. Learning how to balance time spent writing and time spent with family is something I still struggle with, but I’d not trade them for a silent still house despite the frequent disruptions. And, occasionally, I do get some ideas from a few of my siblings which are then jotted down in my idea profiles.

 

Q. If Fidelyon were to be picked up as a movie, what country would you want it filmed in?

A. New Zealand! Especially if that meant I could go there and visit the sets.

Q. What’s your favorite project that you’ve worked on so far? 

A. Scarlet Rose. Perhaps because the main character is quite a bit like me, or perhaps because many of the plot lines are closely connected with imagined scenes in my own head. Whatever the case, it has been so much fun to write.

Q. As with a lot of writers, family plays a part in their lives, for good and for bad. Who in your family has been the biggest influence in your writing life?

A. Probably my father, who has constantly encouraged me in my writing (even while occasionally pointing out that a certain scene is very ‘movie-like’ and not quite realistic). He reads all my writing when I get it in a readable enough condition to reveal it, and takes interest when I talk about plots even when he must have no idea about the half of what I’m saying.

Q. Octavia Butler once said that the most important trait to have as a writer is persistence. What keeps you going even when you feel like throwing in the towel?

A. I know the downs won’t last. There are always moments…sometimes many moments, when a work feels like it’s the worst thing I’ve ever done, and that I’ll never get it right. But I know the feeling won’t last. I know that the end result will be worth the work once I’ve muddled my way through my corrections. And so I keep on, no matter whether I feel like writing or not.

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Want to know more about Hope Ann? Check her out below! 

Pinterest: Writing in the Light Publishing
Twitter: Authorhopeann
Facebook: Hope Ann
Website: Writing in the Light Publishing
Blog: AuthorHopeAnn.com
Amazon: Hope Ann
Youtube: Hope Ann
Instagram: author.hope.ann

Original interview done in October 2016

Book Review – The Good Daughter

I’m going to be completely honest here. Women’s Fiction isn’t a genre I dive into very often, and as much as I hate to admit it, I’ve never read Girl on the Train, Gone Girl, or even Alexandra Burt’s first book Remember Mia

All that being said, I was not prepared for how much I enjoyed The Good Daughter.

 I’ll try to stay as spoiler free as possible, as each page turning chapter really should be left for the reader to enjoy

The Good Daughter takes you to the small town of Aurora, Texas, where Dahlia Whaler is on the hunt to discover who she is and what happened in her past. Right off the bat, I was captivated by Burt’s knowledge of Texas. She leaves you with the feeling of dust in your mouth and sun on your skin, where the summers are too hot for too long. It’s the perfect setting for missing women, murder, and a little bit of American folk magic.

It’s in Aurora that Dahlia tries to make sense of the images of her childhood. Pictures filled with a half mad mother, Memphis, stuffy cars, and run down “no-tell-motels”. With her mother’s mental health slipping, Dahlia’s starting to find cracks in her own foundation, leaving her to ask, is she going crazy, too? While she’s trying to come to terms with this possibility, there are point of view switches from her to Memphis, and two women from the past. Quinn, a woman in a loveless marriage, and Aella, someone who could easily be described as a back wood, Texas conjurer. 

Where I think the book really shined was during Aella’s story. Everything about this character left me wanting more, and I would love to read a book about just her. Burt knows her folklore and Aella’s, for lack of a better term, magic is dark, gritty and is reminiscent of what you’d find in a Southern Gothic horror.

The chapters with Aella and Quinn interacting were by far the most enjoyable and made Quinn the second most likely character to steal the show. Quinn’s desperation and Aella’s strong will made for well crafted scenes with dialogue that’ll make you question who really controls the world. Fate, God, or something darker?

I do wonder if Burt enjoyed writing her third person perspectives more so than Dahlia’s first person? Reading about Quinn’s life, Aella’s private workings, or even Memphis’ mental instabilities had smoother transitions and tended to read clearer. That being said, Dahlia’s unreliable narrative did keep me guessing for most of the book. 

The relationship between Memphis and Dahlia was another part of this book that I think a lot of readers will enjoy. Not every mother daughter relationship is sunshine and roses, and sometimes the child has to be more of the parent. Burt captures the strange dynamics between the two and anyone who’s been in Dahlia’s shoes will be able to relate.

I also appreciate the parallels between the drama in Dahlia’s life, and her hunt for who she is. Dahlia’s past is interwoven with a search for the identity of a Jane Doe, the struggle with a sad excuse for a dog, and an array of missing women that Dahlia finds herself in the middle of. Each side story and subplot ties into Dahlia’s life, and if you overlook them, you’ll be missing a major part of the book.

My only wish was that the ending hadn’t felt so rushed. Just as the book hit it’s climax, it ended. I was left with a “that’s it?” feeling, in spite of how much I liked how some of the characters’ stories were wrapped up. The suspense that held you throughout the novel slowly loses steam, and I wanted more. That being said, I’ll definitely be giving The Good Daughter another read, and have already shared my copy with a few other friends.

In the end, I loved The Good Daughter.  It made me rethink the Women’s Fiction/Suspense genre, and was enough to make me add similiar books to my reading pile. A must read for people who like stories about self discovery through a dark past. 

 17190721_833559936796557_3561210457375346851_n.jpgWant to get your hands on The Good Daughter

Buy it on Amazon today.

Get in touch with Alexandra Burt
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Author Interview #1 – Anna Kaling

The small town of Steilacoom is quiet as I sit in the appropriately named coffee shop, Espresso By The Bay, and look over Anna Kaling’s website. What first drew me to want to interview her was the phrase “big fan of the Loch Ness Monster” on her twitter page (@annakaling), and I found myself smiling as I read her site.

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From her relationship with her family, to herwriting, to book reviews, there was no shortage of information to look through to find questions to ask her that didn’t fit the “traditional author interview” box. Getting to chat with her was a real treat, and I hope you enjoy as well!

Q. So I took a peek around your blog, but for those who are new to you and your work, tell us a little bit about your first and second books, Untouchable and Unthinkable.

A. They’re both contemporary romances featuring a trio of best friends in their 20s: Rachel, Sam and Ally. They aren’t published yet, but watch this space!

Untouchable focuses on Rachel, who has a phobia of touch and is destined to be a spinster cat lady (even though she only has one cat so far) and Alex, who hasn’t let anybody into either of his double lives since his father was murdered. When he bats a cricket ball into Rachel’s ribs at ninety miles an hour and is responsible for getting her to hospital, both of them have to test their boundaries for the first time in years.

Unthinkable features Ally, an artist who works three part-time jobs and is terrified of swans. She burns through men like matchsticks, but she’s fiercely loyal to her friends and has never been tempted to lie to them… until she falls in love with her best friend Sam’s father. Marc’s 20 years older than her with a jealous ex-wife, and Sam would never forgive Ally for ruining any hope of a reconciliation between his parents… but Marc’s the only man she’s ever wanted for more than a fling.

Q. I see you’re already working on your third. What’s been the most challenging thing you’ve encountered?

A. Book #3 centers on a veterinary pathologist who’s sent to Loch Ness to study a parasite endangering the local animals, so the biggest challenge was getting the science right. I don’t go into much detail about the research because I realize not all readers are science geeks like me, but I did want the project to be scientifically accurate. I’m lucky enough to have a writer friend who’s also a vet (hi, Simon!) and he’s been an incredible help.

For writing in general, the hardest thing for me is trying to maintain a zen-like patience when publishing moves at the pace of an arthritic snail. I’m a 90’s child–I need instant gratification.

Q. You have such a wide writing background, from writing bids to a construction company, to blogging for a cow sanctuary. When did you know you wanted to turn your love of writing into novels?

A. It started how many great adventures do: I was bored. It was just after Christmas, I was off work waiting for the office to re-open in the new year, and I began writing down a story that’d be in my head for years. A few months later I had a novel on my hands–the first draft of Untouchable.

Q. What made you decide you wanted to write romance?

A. It wasn’t a conscious decision and, in fact, my big love as a reader is horror–the gorier the better–though I read and enjoy most genres. While I was writing Untouchable I realized I wanted to go somewhere with it rather then leave it languishing on my hard drive, so I researched the publishing process and looked up genres. I discovered I was writing a contemporary romance and then began my romance education (still in progress, so if anyone has recommendations for me please comment!).

I love love love writing romance and don’t see myself deviating any time soon, though I have a vague ambition to one day write a cozy mystery.

Q. If you could go back to when you first sat down to write your first book, what advice would you give to yourself?

A. Oh gosh, I could fill another book with the things I had to learn writing that first one. Honestly, I think it was a necessary (if painful) learning curve, so I’d let myself make the same mistakes all over again.

Or maybe it’d be, “Don’t tell your mother you’re doing this.” because she keeps bugging me to read my novels and I know she’ll give me 1* reviews because of the swearing and sex (“It’s just not necessary, Anna.”)

Loch Ness Monster

Q. I noticed you have a love of Nessie (something I have to say made me first excited to contact you). Have you been able to take a trip to Loch Ness?

A. At the moment I have to live vicariously through Google maps and YouTube videos. 😦 I’m planning a visit around Christmas to make sure I have the details right for my third book, and I’m VERY excited. I’m also confident I will see Nessie and I won’t let anybody convince me otherwise.

Q. Who’s inspired you the most on your journey as a writer?

 A. So many people. One of my favourite things about writing is the writing community, where other authors are so selfless with their time and advice.

Q. If you could give yourself a literary family tree, with authors you either admire, or consider yourself inspired by, who would be your parents and grandparents? 

A. Ooh, that’s tricky! I suppose grandparents should be the ones who inspired me in childhood–Roald Dahl, Enid Blyton, Jacqueline Wilson and Noel Streafield. My family were ahead of the times with a same-sex marriage in there.

I think my mother will have to be Jennifer Crusie. Various readers have compared my writing to hers, which is a massive compliment, and when I began reading her books I fell in love with them. They gave me confidence that my kind of books have an audience.

I’m going to go all modern again and have a second mother instead of a father–Charlotte Bronte. Jane Eyre is probably the first romance I read, albeit literary romance, and I was blown away. If I can make just one person’s heart swell as much as mine did over Jane and Mr Rochester, I’ll be a happy author!

Q. I got a kick out of seeing your mother’s reaction to your writing (“too much sex and swearing, there’s no need for it” for those of you who haven’t checked out her blog yet). Does she play a part in your creative writing process at all?

A. Ha! She hasn’t read a single word of my writing and I don’t think she will, even when they’re officially published. For a start she almost exclusively reads crime / detective novels in the vein of Peter Robinson and Tess Gerritsen–two authors I also enjoy. She doesn’t even like kissing in novels, let alone full-blown (so to speak) sex scenes. And at least once a week she rants to me about a book she’s downloaded that was “spoiled” by all the “F-this and F-that.”

When I am published, if you see any 1* reviews complaining about swearing and sex, you know I caved and told her my pen name.

Q. What’s your favorite quality about your antagonist, and what’s your least favorite quality about your protagonist?

A. In Untouchable, I like that the antagonist is physically attractive whilst being a misogynistic cockwomble. Too often in fiction it seems that ugly equals bad, and life just doesn’t work that way.

The protagonist’s lack of confidence was often hard to write, and when I read it back I’m screaming, “DON’T PUT UP WITH THAT COCKWOMBLE!” at her. But that makes it all the more gratifying when she finally stands up to him.

Q. Tell me a little bit about your adorable cats! I love Sir Tedward McGinger’s name, by the way. Very cute.

 A. My protagonists are all very unlike me in various ways but one thing they all have in common is a love of animals. I just cannot relate to a person who doesn’t like animals, unless it’s centipedes. I don’t trust anything that thinks it needs that many legs.

Sir Ted was my soul mate in cat form, and although he passed away a few months ago he’ll always be my baby. He helped me write by plonking himself on the keyboard just as I was getting to the juicy bit of a scene. I’d often wake up to find him sleeping on my hip, or hear him in the garden yowling at the fence.

Now I have Pepper, a neurotic tortoiseshell who emits deadly silent farts and hides behind the sofa for no apparent reason, and Charlie, who manages to take up an entire king-sized bed all by himself and has the most pathetic meow in existence.

Q. What’s been the most exciting thing about the road to becoming published?

A. All the people I’m meeting along the way, from other authors to my lovely agents to the editor/s I’ll be working with. There’s something special about a community of people brought together by a love of books that outweighs a shared, introverted horror of human contact.

Q. I noticed you’re represented by someone in Inklings Agency. What made you decide to do that route vs. self publishing?

A. I’m lucky enough to have two agents from Inklings – Michelle Johnson and Amanda Jain. They both have incredible senses of humour and Amanda shares Loch Ness Monster news with me on Twitter.

For me, I think traditional publishing is the best way to get my books in front of readers. Besides that, writing can be a lonely thing and I love working with other people rather than doing it all by myself. And thirdly… if it was left up to me and my complete lack of design skill or taste, I’d probably end up on one of those “Worst Book Covers In The World” blogs being mocked mercilessly.

I do really enjoy talking to readers directly though, whether on my blog or Twitter.

Q. Let’s say your book gets picked up for a movie. Which actress/actor do you see playing your leads? 

Jennifer LawrenceA. This is easy because I always picture my characters as celebrities, or random people found on Google Images. I’m awful at visualizing new faces.

Untouchable – Rachel is a redheaded Jennifer Lawrence, and Alex is the model Isha Blaaker.

Unthinkable – Ally is Christina Aguilera in Burlesque (called Ali, funnily enough), and her love interest is Roy Thinnes circa 1980… though he’s nearly 80 now so we’d need a large plastic surgery budget.

For my current book, it’s Neha Sharma and Jessie Pavelka (who isn’t an actor but… we’ll convince him).

Q. John Barth once said, “Those rituals of getting ready to write produce a kind of trance state”. What is your “writing ritual”?

A. Boring answer, but I just sit down and write. Sometimes I turn the WiFi off first, which increases my word output by 3,000%.

Q. What are you working on right now, and do you have a deadline you’d like to have it done by?

A. I’m working on the Loch Ness book, which I hope to have ready for beta reading by 2 October. All going well, that should be finalized and on its way to my agents by the end of October. Then I plan to have a break from writing (during Nanowrimo, because I’m a rebel like that) before getting back to novel #4 in December. When I’m not writing, I’m usually beta reading for other people to build up my writer-karma bank. 🙂

Q. Anything else you’d like to share before we wrap up?

A. I’ve just been accepted as a #FicFest mentor for 2017 and I’d love to mention that so any aspiring writers reading the blog might enter. It’s a Twitter-based event where the mentors choose unagented and unpublished writers to mentor, and then help get their manuscripts and pitches ready for all the agents and small publishers taking part. I’m one of the 15 mentors in the adult category but there are also 15 for picture books, MG, YA and NA. We accept any genres and, of course, it’s absolutely free for everybody involved. All the info can be found here: http://www.tiffanyhofmannauthor.com/ficfest-writing-contest.html

If you’d like to find out more about Anna Kaling, here’s some ways of getting in touch with her!

Website: https://annakaling.com/
Blog: https://annakaling.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/annakalingauthor/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/AnnaKaling

Want more author interviews? Check out the one she did for me!

Originally posted Sept. 2016. Reposted due to website change.

Author. Blogger. Traveler.