About Me

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I love being a mom and a wife. I've married to a man I would do anything for, and we have three beautiful children. I see so much of myself in both of them that it sometimes brings me to tears (happy ones).

I also love writing. Romance to be specific. I love the happily ever after that I believe everyone deserves. My stories aren't 'stop and smell the roses' type romances. While I believe everyone deserves happiness and true love, I know that sometimes you have to walk a hard road to find it. Those are the types of stories I like to write. The happily ever after that wasn't found, but earned. I work to earn mine on a daily basis and so do my characters. 

I am also working on a children's picture book series. Inspired (of course) by my kiddos. :)

On the non-writing front, I play acoustic guitar, sing, read like I get paid for it, ride horses, hike, paint rocks, and support a rather obsessive addiction to Pinterest.

I love to cook, which combined with my pinning addiction, leads to many experiments foisted on my unsuspecting husband and kids, mostly with good results. But sometimes, the dogs gets what the family refuses to eat. And they never complain. 

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Making Time to Write - Thursdays with the Author - November 30, 2017

Making Time to Write... 
When Life Just Won't Leave You The Hell Alone

I've touched on this topic a few times throughout the course of Writer's Ramblings. Writing is hard. Finding time to write is even harder. Life is constantly getting in the way. 

It doesn't matter if you're a teenager, taking your writing seriously though you think no one else will. Or a single college student scribbling a few lines of poetry between classes. Or newly married, jotting down lines while dinner is burning cooking. Or pregnant, journaling between reading every pregnancy and newborn book ever published. Or a first time mom, filling out lines in a baby book and hurrying through a few paragraphs while your baby naps for roughly two minutes and thirty seconds. Or chasing a brood of toddlers as you resist joining them as they pull out your hair, before sneaking in a few chapters when they are finally all sleeping for the night, only to fall asleep on your keyboard after a few lines. Or dealing with a hormonal, a-hole teenager, and using that angst and stubbornness to add depth to your characters. Or working that 9-5 10-12, really-wish-you-could-afford-to-quit job then pounding out 5,000 words while the Chinese from last night gets cold... again. 

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Or an empty-nester, finishing a novel and hoping that the absence of a daily writing schedule won't make you think too much about how quiet your house now is. Or enjoying retirement and adding first-hand knowledge of amazing locations to your book. 

It doesn't matter where, or when, you are in life, finding time to write can be anywhere from hard, to down-right impossible. But there are ways to squeeze in a few moments to jot down words or scribble in a note-pad. Life doesn't stop just because you have an amazing story in your head. But the ups and downs, the crazy, beautiful, chaotic, amazing life you live, only adds to what you're writing. 

We've all heard exercise enthusiasts preach about carving time out of your day to get a daily workout in. Like waking up a half hour early to run on the treadmill before life really starts swinging. I've never been much for working out, but waking up a little early to write isn't a bad idea. If you're set on getting your work-out mojo on, record yourself speaking out ideas while you're burning through those calories. Then, when you actually have time, listen through the recording and type it out.

If you have younger kids, they will nap more than a few minutes at a time eventually. This is some prime writing time, when the house is quiet. Of course, falling asleep yourself is always an issue, but if you manage to keep your eyes open, you can keep those fingers moving.

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For older kiddos, if you're at home, school is a blessing in disguise. Wave them off to the bus then wave hello to your laptop and spend a decent chunk of the day writing while catching up on housework. Working mom? You can type between bites on your lunch break, just be sure not to spill on your keyboard.

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After everyone else goes to bed for the night, crack open a beer or pour a glass of wine, and commit a half hour or more to writing. Sure you're losing out on some sleep, and possibly some nooky with the significant other, but you're writing. Save the nooky and sleep for after, where you can test out the moves to the romantic scene you just wrote, in real life.

When you're on the go and something pops into your head, don't lose it, whip out that smart phone that's in your pocket, but instead of opening Facebook, open your notes app and type out what you're thinking. You won't regret it later when your small idea turns into four or five new chapters, maybe even a new book idea.

My favorite way to make time for writing is to do your own writing retreat. You can make this as small or as big as you'd like. Ask the spouse to take care of the kiddos for a bit and sneak off to a Starbucks, or a quite room, or even a park, and get a few hours of uninterrupted writing in. Or take a full day away. Pay a babysitter, beg a family member, trade the spouse for a 'I won't say I'm not in the mood' card, and spend the day writing. If you can, make a weekend out of it. There's tons of writing retreats available around the world for a few days or weeks of literary escape. Some are even low-cost or free! Get away from the usual, the distraction, the chaos, and completely focus on what you're writing. 

I went on a family vacation to Fort Morgan, AL a few years back and while the grandparents took the kiddos down to the beach, I was able to sneak an hour of writing time on the back deck. I could see my kids playing in the surf, felt the ocean breeze on my face, smelled the salt water, listened to the rhythmic crashing of the waves, heard the gulls crying out as they coasted above the sand. It inspired me to begin a new book located on the gulf coast. Just an hour of peace in the sun, and a new novel began. 

Sometimes the smallest amount of time can have the biggest results.

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So no matter where you are in life, how much chaos you're experiencing, how tired you are, find a few minutes or more to sit and write. It's not about how long it takes you to finish. It's about never giving up. You'll finish it when it, and you, are ready. And that will make it the best work you've ever done.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

What is a Committed Writer? - Writer's Ramblings - August 13, 2017

We've all seen the memes and quotes by successful authors, attributing their successes to their commitment to writing. One writes a thousand words a day, another any words a day, so long as they have written something. Another writes only with detailed outlines to stay on track. Yet another writes only when they've closed off the entire world and it's only them and the keyboard. Some use journals, and those daily scribbles become their next novels. But what makes them a committed writer?

All of it.

It doesn't matter what methods you use to write. How little or how often to put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard.

What matters, is that you never stop, even if there are large gaps in your works: you never gave up; you never quit.

My first novel took eight years from writing to publishing. Did I have days that I wrote absolutely nothing? I sure did. I even went weeks and months without writing. Work, family, pets, travelling, hell, even the weather, could interrupt my writing groove. I didn't let it bother me, or kill the passion I had for the written word. I wrote when I could, and found that when I did find the time, I more than made up for the lost time.

Last year, we welcomed our third child. My husband lost his job due to a horrible economy, and we found that we had to leave our home-state behind, as well as both our families. Deciding to move across the country with three kids (one being an infant), four pets, and fourteen year's worth of accumulated home, by ourselves, is not something I would recommend. But it's what we had to do. We left for Colorado shortly after Christmas and haven't looked back.

Of course, it was a huge adjustment: helping my older kids adjust to making new friends, learning how to navigate an unfamiliar area, and everything else that comes with a major move, left practically no time for writing in my blog, or working on my unfinished novel. It took over six months to really get back in the groove. 

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But if I look at the notes app on my phone, I can see list after list of ideas and story-lines that have popped into my head over the past year. I jotted them down so I wouldn't forget them and worked on them when I could.

I just typed the end on my latest novel just this week. It was like being with a friend you hadn't seen in years and you fell right back into it like there was no absence at all. I went nearly a year without moving that word count, but I had persisted, and eventually, finished it. The gaps in writing don't make you less of a writer. Writing daily doesn't make you a committed one. Never giving up, and somehow, someway, eventually finishing what you started: That's what makes you a committed writer.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Giving and Receiving Constructive Criticism - April 28, 2016 - Thursdays with the Author

At some point in our lives, as a reader, or a writer, we've been gotten or given constructive criticism.

Here's the difference between plain ole' criticism and constructive criticism.

Criticism is all negative. What you're doing wrong, all your mistakes, how you should've known better. Criticism can kill a writer's spirit.

Constructive Criticism is negative AND positive. It points out your flaws and mistakes while complimenting your successes and telling you how to fix or improve on what you've done wrong. Constructive criticism is a learning experience and helps the author grow and mature as a writer.

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For Readers:

If it's a first/early draft, there's going to be problems. It's guaranteed. It's impossible to have a polished piece without multiple revisions and corrections. Take that into consideration when reading an early draft. You're in for a garbage pile of problems. Unless the reader has specifically asked you for a detailed edit, you can gloss over the glaring problems like punctuation, spelling, and grammar, and focus more on what makes the story really great: flow, dialogue, story-line, characters, theme, etc. Those are the things that make an author great. Punctuation and grammar can be fixed in later revisions.

Now if you're reading what the author says is a final version, or if you're reading a published copy, there should be hardly any technical/grammatical mistakes. I've read/reviewed quite a few books in the last few years, mostly from self-published and indie authors, and unfortunately have seen a fair share of such mistakes in already published books. Maybe the author didn't receive any badly needed constructive criticism before publishing, but there's no excuse for finding so many mistakes in a published novel. 

In these cases, it's very easy just to criticize. But you still need to keep in constructive! I've reviewed a couple books with such problems. The story itself was fine, but it had way too many technical errors. In those cases, I chose to contact the author personally with the problems I'd found with suggestions on how to correct them. My public review focused on the meat of the story, like I mentioned above, the flow, theme, characters, etc.

When passing on your constructive criticism, it's good to start with the positive. Mention what you liked and/or loved about what you read BEFORE diving in to what needed work. An author is more likely to take your constructive criticism and apply it if you start off this way.

Always remember that you're critiquing the writing not the writer. Don't make your critique personal, keep it focused on what you've read.

If you're reading a book with the express purpose of detailed critiquing, make sure you take notes from the start. If you've been given a print copy or manuscript, use a red pen and mark as you go. Dog-ear the pages so you can find them easily later. If you've been given a Microsoft document, turn on the track changes app and mark as you go. If you've been given an eBook, get some note paper out and write down your observations and corrections chapter by chapter. For eBooks, using the page read won't work because each eReader has different size pages. Start with chapter, paragraph, then line, to help the author find the places you're marking.

Remember: The most important things isn't what you liked and didn't like. It's why you like and didn't like. If you don't have a reason for your like or dislike, you aren't helping the writer learn anything.

For Author:

As an author, you need to be able to handle such feedback. A reader wouldn't contact you, point out your mistakes, and help you find ways to fix them, if they weren't trying to help you. The reader might have been in the same circumstances themselves at one point. Constructive criticism is teaching you something, and you need to be open to learning.

Remember that the you, the author, is separate from your work. The criticism is for something you wrote, not for you as the writer. Even if there's a lot of critique, it does not mean you are a bad writer. If you're receiving constructive criticism at all, it means that you are a good enough writer that the reader wants to invest their time in helping you become even better. And that should feel good.

Constructive criticism and critiques are suggestions. You don't have to follow every one. Every reader has different tastes, maybe your novel was not in their comfort zone. If you get more than one critique for the same thing there's probably something you need to fix. But remember, you're the author, you have the power to change or not change anything about your story. 

On the same hand, don't let your hackles come up from pride and not listen to anything. Be open but realistic. Usually it's pretty easy to tell if someone is making a good suggestion or if it's because they just didn't jive with your story. If you're unsure if a certain suggestion NEEDS to be changed, try having a few other people read through the same section. If they're suggesting the same things, then you probably need to change it.

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Constructive Criticism, especially for self-published authors, can be one of the only ways we can improve our writing. Traditionally published authors get plenty of it from their agent, editor, and publisher. Most of the time those authors have no choice about whether they want to fix it or not. As a self-published author, you have a lot more options on how you want to edit your work. Don't ignore good advice for the sake of your pride. Don't be afraid to ask readers or other authors to critique your work. Don't be upset when they find mistakes and make suggestions. It's all a part of becoming a great author.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Writer's Ramblings - Pregnancy Journal - Four Months of Fear - March 8,2016

Little One,

I sit here at my laptop, only a day before I'm four months along. I still can't feel you moving inside me, but it won't be long now. And in only five short months, I'll be able to hold you in my arms.

It's been a scary ride so far, mostly in my own head. You see, I lost your sibling very early, and to say it scarred me would be quite an understatement. It completely changed me. Women know, as a general rule, that a loss can become reality in pregnancy. But none of us really believe that it will actually happen. Until it does.

You see, I had already brought your older brother and sister into the world. I had problems carrying them but they were never in any danger. The danger was to me. So the thought of losing them never crossed my mind. But your older sibling, the baby that would have been our third child, was lost to us before we'd even had a chance to hear a heartbeat.

It devastated me. It took me a year to want to try again. The fear of going through that loss was just too much. Then it took nearly a year convincing your Daddy. Then we tried for you for a year. A year full of disappointment and frustration. We were going to give up on having another child. Then you came along.

But with you came the fear. The fear of losing you. The fear of never hearing your heartbeat. The fear of never feeling you kick inside me. 

The first 12 weeks made me crazy with paranoia. Every twinge, every odd feeling, normal things for most pregnant women, sent me to the doctor in tears, fearing that you were gone. After those weeks, the actual chances of losing you were so much less, but my fear wouldn't abate. 

I even bought a Doppler to listen to your heartbeat at home, though most thought it was only adding to my fears, for me, it helped to alleviate them. You see, I can't feel you yet, so in between doctor visits, I have no idea how you are doing. Now I can hear your hummingbird heartbeat every day, and know that you are nestled safe inside me. 

These four months have gone so fast already and I hope that as you grow and I can feel you move inside me, that the joy I feel will far outweigh any fears I still have. 

In four months or so, I'll be holding you in my arms and I won't even remember how scary these past four months have been. Your tiny hand will be wrapped around my finger and the only thing I'll know or remember is how absolutely precious you are to me and how very much I love you. 

Your Mommy 

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Weekend Review - Catnip by J.S. Frankel

J.S. FrankelAbout the Author:

J.S. Frankel was born in Toronto many years ago and managed to scrape through school, earning a BA from the University of Toronto in English Literature. In 1988 he moved to Japan in order to teach English to anyone brave enough to step into his classroom. In 1997, he married the charming Akiko Koike and their union has produced two children, Kai and Ray. Frankel lives with his family in Osaka where he teaches English by day and writes until the wee hours of the morning.

Contact the Author:


Books by J.S. Frankel:

Getting to Know J.S. Frankel:

What inspired you to write?

I think that I had something to say. Not earth-shaking by any means, just a story to tell and a way to tell it.

What do you think is more important: Characters or Plot?

Both. You can’t really have one without the other. If you have decent characters but no storyline, then your creations are living in a vacuum. If you have insipid or characters you can’t relate to but they’re moving along in a plot, you run the risk of turning off your readers.

What is one 'day job' you've had that's affected your writing? How?

Not any one job, really. In life, you deal with people and maybe you pick up certain character traits from them. But really, my writing is a reflection of who I am and my own imagination.

If you could cast your main character(s) in a Hollywood adaption of your book, who would land the rolls?

Good question! ForCatnip, I would need someone young for the role of Anastasia, lithe, catlike in her movements. For the role of Harry, perhaps Jesse Eisenberg although he’s a bit too old for the role. He’s a fine actor, though.

What famous literary character is most like you?

None! They were/are all great, but I’m me and no one else.

What do you like to do when you aren't writing?

I watch movies. LOTS of movies, and yes, they help me to not only relax but also think about story lines and characters and what have you.

What is a talent you have that no one knows?

I speak Japanese rather well. That’s about it.

What is one tip you'd give to up & coming authors?

Never give up. Don’t stop. I wasn’t born with inherent talent to write. I had to develop it, and I did it by reading and writing and thinking about what worked and what didn’t. So don’t stop. This is your chance to tell the world who you are!

If you could spend the day with one person, alive or dead, who would it be and why?

My parents. Famous people are cool, but they didn’t give you life. My parents did. My father passed in ‘85 and my mother in 2007. And not a day goes by when I don’t miss them.

What's next for you?

More writing! I’ve always got something cooking upstairs, and I have three novels on submission, so we’ll see how that goes. And I have my family to think about. Much as I love writing, family has to come first.


Catnip by J.S. Frankel
4/5 Stars

*Contains Spoilers

I read catnip nearly in one sitting. It's a shorter book, geared more towards older teens and new adults. 

Catnip is a mix of science fiction and suspense. Harry, a young genetic research genius is caught doing some very illegal genetic research and taken to prison. But he gets a way out when the FBI finds a transgenic woman on the streets and brings Harry in for research. If he cooperates, he gets a new start. But things go wrong from the start. 

After meeting the cat-woman, the FBI pulls in a former KGB contact that hypnotizes Anastasia. She speaks perfect Russian and it's apparent that she may be some kind of spy. Shortly after the FBI's facility is attacked by another transgenic creature where almost everyone is killed. Harry escapes with the help of his new friend, Anastasia.

Trying to escape the transgenic bear-man, Harry and Anastasia flee, meeting another transgenic friend on the way. 

They finally make it to the Catskill mountains, where Anastasia's subconscious insisted they flee to and find themselves trapped by a mad scientist, Professor Nurmelev, who created the transgenics. For a spy, he's very talkative and Harry finds out about Anastasia's past and that due to an imperfect genetic formula, will revert fully to a cat very quickly.

Harry and Anastasia are able to escape, destroying Nurmelev's compound and research in the process. They flee to a cabin in the mountains where Harry is finally able to contact the FBI but cannot help them anymore. Anastasia has reverted fully into a cat and they have no information on the KGB's efforts at espionage. The FBI agent leaves but Harry reveals to Anastasia that he knows the formula to help her become cat-woman again, and possible fully human. It's clear that there will be a follow-up book.

I feel that this book could have been twice as long. The progression of Harry's time with the FBI, his relationship with Anastasia, finding the other transgenics, even the time spent at Nurmelev's compound could have been much expanded. But as a book written for young adults, and a set-up for a series, I understand the quick pace. Overall it was an entertaining read, even though it was out of my normal comfort zone and genre.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Planning vs Winging It - The differences in being a panster or plotter, and why it really doesn't matter.

I recently filled out a Q&A for an author signing event this July and one of the questions was: Are you a panster or a plotter? I literally had to look up what the definition of panster was. I had no idea! And you might not either, but I'm about to help you figure it out.

A panster is a writer who wings it, flies by the seat of their pants, has no actual plan, just to write whatever they want. A plotter is the opposite: a writer who needs a clear plan, outlines and synopses, one who writes from point A to point B. 

Here's some pros/cons of being a panster:
-You have NO idea where your story is going or how it starts. You might have the beginning all written out but have no idea how it's going to end. Or you could have written the perfect ending but have no idea what got you to that point.
-It's easy to get stuck in your writing trying to figure out how to make things fit, or where to go from here.
-You have a higher chance of giving up on what you're working on to write something completely different as a way to escape the writer's block.
-If you are submitting your story to an agent/publisher, a majority of them ask for a synopsis or outline. You don't have one, and writing one just to submit your work will drive you mad.
-You aren't stuck with what you've written in your outline. 
-If you get to a certain plot point and decide you don't like where it's taken you, you can change it, without adjusting an entire outline to make it work.
-You have total freedom in your writing. 
-You take your storyline where your characters lead you. 

Here's some pros/cons of being a plotter:
-Your entire story is based on your specific outline. If you want to change anything, you have to adjust the entire outline to make it work.
-You limit yourself by sticking to what you decided before you started writing. Your characters are limited to the amount of detail you give them when creating your outline.
-You know exactly where your story is going. You don't get stuck with writer's block, you simply look at your outline and know what you need to write next.
-Your story can flow better since you know what happens from start to finish, before you start writing it. 
-If you're submitting your story to an agent/publisher, you already have an outline/synopsis ready, which is what most require for submissions.

Every author is different. Some, like me, are pansters. Others, plotters. Some are something in between, or something completely different, or a mix of both, or one for a certain story and the other for a different story. 

But the great thing is, IT DOESN'T MATTER what type of writer you are. The fact that you are writing is ALL that matters.

What's it matter if you start at the beginning and write to the end, step by step? What's it matter if you write the end, then go back to the beginning, then maybe finish the middle if you're feeling it? What's it matter if you write a detailed outline, only to write in depth in random spots, piecing it together as you go? It doesn't matter. As long as you finish what you start, you are a successful writer.

Everyone's brain works in different ways. Some work better with a rigid structure, others with no discernable structure. Some like to blare music while they create, others like absolute quiet with no distraction. They all have something in common. They are ALL writers. Yes we all have to learn structure, outlines, and the like in our typical school English classes, but it doesn't mean we have to write like that. (Except for those annoying assignments where you have to SHOW that you DID work exactly like that.) If you're a natural plotter, these assignments can help you hone your skills at planning, making it easier to get your story finished. But if you're a panster, these types of assignments are a creative hell. Once you're free from the assignments of school, you can write however works best for you. Let your creative juices flow. If that means you need to spend hours working on a detailed and precise outline, than outline away! If that means you let your inner hippie out and feel the flow of the universe through your pencil/keyboard, than have at it flower child!
The important thing is that you are writing. That you are creating something only your mind can come up with. No one else can make exactly what you can. No one else has those ideas, and stories, and characters in their head. Only you. So write on pansters and plotters, and in-betweeners, and don't let anyone, ever, tell you how you should be writing. You're the author, after all.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Pregnancy Journal December 30, 2015

Little one, 

Yesterday I sat in a dark room, nervously waiting as the doctor tried to find you. She found a small black circle and zoomed in on the screen and my breath caught in my throat. 

"There's the heart, already beating," she explained as she pointed to a small white spot, flashing quickly. "Still too small to hear but we didn't expect to see the heartbeat yet so this is good." 

I was crying at this point, tears of absolute joy, as I watched your heart, still only two tiny chambers, beating so quietly inside me that the sonogram couldn't register it above my own blood flow. But it was beating. It didn't matter that I couldn't hear it. I could see it, and that was more than enough. 

From the moment I found out about you, I was scared. Scared I would lose you, afraid I would never hear that heartbeat. The fear is still there, but it's not overwhelming. It's small and insignificant. Overshadowed by the complete joy I felt when I saw your tiny little heart flashing on that screen. 

I won't hear that sweet sound of life for another few weeks. I won't feel you move inside me for months. Your Daddy won't feel you fluttering inside me for even longer. And we won't get to hold you in our arms for eight long months. But it doesn't matter how long we wait. The joy you bring us as you're nestled inside me, safe, warm, and completely loved, is more than I need. 


Pregnancy Journal December 17, 2015

Little light,

At this point, I don't even know if you're real. I could be imagining those two lines on that test. That second line was so faint, it could be a false positive.

If it's real, then you are just a tiny, little thing, just beginning inside me. So small, in fact, that a microscope would be hard pressed to see you.

But regardless of your size, you are loved so very much, little one. I've been praying for you, hoping for you, trying for you, for such a long time.

I am scared though. I'm afraid you won't be real, afraid that I'll lose you, afraid to let that hope continue to blossom inside me. 

But I will not be sad. How can I be with the knowledge that you may very well be tucked safely inside me for the next nine months? 

You are my child. Regardless of what happens. Regardless of how long you are mine. You will always be my child, a precious piece of me that will forever be lodged in my heart. 

So my dear, sweet spark of life, I will do everything I can to make sure you are safe and healthy and I will love you, so very much, until the day I get to meet you. 

Your Momma

Friday, December 4, 2015

Weekend Review - Heart of Steel - Elizabeth Einspanier

About the Author

Elizabeth Einspanier is the self-published author of the weird western novella Sheep's Clothing and the science fiction romance novel Heart of Steel. She is a prolific writer, and her short stories have been seen in Dark Fire Fiction and Down in the Dirt. She is an active member of the St. Louis Writers Guild and an associate member of the HWA. When she is not writing, she likes to read, watch strange movies, and play Dungeons and Dragons. She lives in St. Louis, MO, but frequently spends time in worlds of her own creation.

Digging Deeper

What inspired you to write your first book?
My inspiration for my first book, Sheep's Clothing, was simple: I had read Twilight and after seeing what Stephenie Meyer had done with vampires in order to make them the "ideal" paranormal boyfriend, I instinctively wanted to get back to what vampires originally were: undead, soulless predators that fed on the living. I also didn't want to rewrite Dracula, so on a whim I decided to set it in the old west. The rest wrote itself, really.

What do you think is more important: Characters or Plot?
Characters, but only by a narrow margin. You could have the best plot on the planet, but if your characters don't engage the reader, nobody's going to care how the plot turns out. Characters need to be interesting and engaging if the reader is going to care about the plot.

What is one 'day job' you've had that's affected your writing? How?
I've been working at the St. Louis County Library for pretty much my entire working life, and it's been a great ready source of genre research materials (books) while also teaching me to make the most of limited writing time. I wrote Heart of Steel in an hour a day.

If you could cast your main character(s) in a Hollywood adaptation of your book, who would land the roles?
Alistair Mechanus has two main casting candidates: Tom Hiddleston (looks, intensity) and Benedict Cumberbatch (baritone, quirkiness). Julia Parker is a bit more difficult to pin down, but maybe Julie Benz or Amanda Seyfried. She needs to be someone strong with some vulnerability, but still have a great smile.

What famous literary character is most like you?
Alice from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. I confess that I sometimes have my head in the clouds, and when I'm brainstorming I often have the most fascinating conversations with some of the weirdest people.

What do you like to do when you aren't writing? 
I like to read (a lot), play Pathfinder-edition Dungeons and Dragons, and watch movies. I also enjoy cosplay, and frequently dress up for conventions or even just because. I dressed as Twilight Sparkle for last year's Archon and met a lot of bronies.

What is a talent you have that no one knows?
I can do a passable impression of Pinky from Pinky and the Brain.

What is one tip you'd give to up & coming authors?
Writing is hard. There will be days when your brain will not cooperate and you cannot get that idea to work out no matter how hard you try. Don't give up! After fighting and clawing your way through writing and rewriting, the sight of something you wrote finally getting published (by whatever means) will make everything worth it.

If you could spend the day with one person, alive or dead, who would it be and why?
That's a really hard question. I guess if I have to pick one, I would spend the day with Weird Al Yankovic. I've been a big fan of his music for most of my life, and from everything I've heard he's awesome to his fans and an overall fun guy to be around. My second candidate would be Tom Hiddleston, because he's a great actor and he's adorable besides.

What's next for you?
I'm currently polishing Hungry as a Wolf, the sequel to Sheep's Clothing, and rewriting my NanoWriMo novel from last year, Necromancy Will Kill Your Dating Life. I hope to have Hungry as a Wolf out early next year if everything goes well.

Review Time!

Heart of Steel by Elizabeth Einspanier

I received a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. 

I give Heart of Steel a 3.5 out of 5 stars, rounded up to 4 stars for Amazon.

Heart of Steel is a sci-fi romance, set in modern day, on a seemingly uninhabited island near Hawaii. Julia Parker, the novel's heroine, is trying to enjoy a tropical vacation with her long-time boyfriend Jim. He's taking her diving, though she isn't enjoying his dive-spot pick, partly because she's preoccupied with thoughts of ending their relationship (a sentiment that's been nagging her for a while).

They begin their dive near the mysterious Shark-Reef Isle. Julia is just starting to relax and enjoy her dive when they are attacked by what appears to be a shark. Julia wakes up in what she assumes is a hospital. She thought she had lost her leg but finds it intact. It doesn't take her long to realize that she is not in a hospital, but in a mad scientist's lab underneath the volcano on Shark Reef Isle with the monsters he has created, including the shark-man that attacked her. 

Enter the novel's hero, Dr. Alistair Mechanus, a half human, half cyborg scientist that gave Julia a new leg and is keeping Jim alive, though by all rights he should be dead. Julia is desperately trying to absorb her current and very strange circumstances. Dr. Mechanus instantly takes a liking to her and agrees to fix Jim, though any thoughts of escaping the island are quickly put to rest. Mechanus does fix Jim, but to Julia's horror, he is now a horrific mix of robotic parts, with a mostly catatonic brain. 

Mechanus, not used to human company or even acting human, can't understand Julia's horrified reaction. He's set on keeping the new, though not-necessarily-improved Jim, away from her, while creating a more gentle and easier-to-look-at companion for her, in hopes that she'll eventually come to love him as he loves her. Julia's presence has sparked repressed memories of Alistair's former life, before he was part cyborg ten years prior, and he hopes to enlist her help in unlocking his subconscious. 

While Julia plans an attempted escape from Shark Reef Isle, cyborg Jim is going rampant, his seemingly catatonic brain zeroing in on one thought: Keeping Julia away from Mechanus, even if it means ending her life. Mechanus must fight to keep not only he and Julia safe, but the creations he has made on Shark Reef Isle. Jim's rampancy becomes full-blown, concluding in an epic hide-and-seek with Julia and Mechanus, during which he finally unlocks his hidden memories, culminating in a final battle, which ends with Jim's destruction and Julia finally realizing her feelings for her mad scientist.

I read through Heart of Steel in one day. It isn't necessarily short, but the story kept me engaged enough to not want to put it down. Though Dr. Mechanus annoyed me with his strange behavior and dialogue half the time, I found both he and Julia to be well-rounded and likable characters. Jim was an arrogant jerk, and I knew from the get-go he would be the story's grade-A a$$hole. The story is a clean romance, mixed with sci-fi. Dr. Mechanus' Victorian-era leanings towards fashion and speaking give it a bit of a steam-punk edge as well.

A few things that annoyed me:
- Events seemed to move ridiculously fast. I feel like this story could've have been nearly twice as long had characters, descriptions, events, etc. been more explained. 
- Julia's quick forgiveness of Alistair and hurried acceptance of a pretty bizarre set of circumstances seemed way too rushed. 
- I couldn't stand the main character's name: Dr. Alistair Mechanus. The first was too dated and the 2nd too metaphorical and cliched sounding for a 'mad scientist' character. When Alistair remembers his past life and his actual name: Michael James Conroy, I found myself wishing the author had started using that name for the remainder of the novel.
- The ending: Is he still planning on taking over the world? Or has his relationship with Julia changed those plans? Is there supposed to be a second book? If not, I would've liked those questions wrapped up better. 
-  Alistair's back story. Just a little snippet of a flashback seemed too little to explain such a complex character and his motivations. I would've loved to read more about his past.

Even with those negatives, I was still very much entertained by Heart of Steel. It was well written for the most-part, the dialogue helped me imagine the actual conversations, and a great job with editing. I usually find at least one grammar/spelling/punctuation mistake but I found none. I will definitely read more of Elizabeth's work. I recommend Heart of Steel to ages 17 and older for any romance and sci-fi genre readers.

Contact the Author  

Find Elizabeth's Books

Sheep's Clothing

Heart of Steel

Displaying ElizabethHeadshot.jpg
Displaying ElizabethHeadshot.jpg

Friday, November 13, 2015

Weekend Review - The Dragon Three by Victoria Perkins

 I recently had the opportunity to read The Dragon Three by Victoria Perkins. She was on my list of authors I had offered fair and honest reviews to. I'm horrible at organizing and staying on track, and I believe Victoria was a few spots down on the list. But I was bored one day and opened my Kindle to see what I hadn't read yet and the cover caught my eye. 

I've always loved dragon stories. I cut my teenaged reader teeth on Anne McCaffrey's Dragonriders of Pern books. I fell in love with Christopher Paolini's Inheritance Cycle books the moment they came out. I got lost in the historical science-fiction world of the Drakon with Shana Abe. So I figured a book about dragons was a good pick.

My Thoughts on The Dragon Three

This wasn't the book I was expecting. The dragon books I'd had experience with were ones in which dragons represented good. The Dragon Three is not the case. In Victoria's alternate Earth, dragons are the instrument of mankind's destruction.

I gave The Dragon Three a 3.5 stars out of 5 but rounded up to 4 stars on Amazon. The Dragon Three is geared towards YA, I'd say 10+ can read it. Though it does have a bit of blood, death, fighting, war, and some pretty harsh bullying, all-in-all, it's a very clean book. The mythology mirrors Christianity quite closely.

My biggest problems with the book were pacing. The story jumped from one plot point to another, or mentioned major background detail, without much explaining or leading into. Characters are introduced at a rapid rate, sometimes making it hard to keep up. It seemed very hurried, the dialogue sometimes forced at times, and stiff. Honestly, each of the three parts could have been its' own book with characters, plots, scenes, dialogue, world-building, and backgrounds much more fleshed out. There were SO many things I wanted to know that were skimmed over.

Regardless, I DID enjoy reading The Dragon Three. The cover was beautifully done, with great use of contrasting color and clear words. The characters were relatable, especially the high-school drama that most kids have to put up with. The story-line and world that Victoria created is quite an interesting place, and she did leave the door wide-open for related books that take place in the same world.

Amazon Review for The Dragon Three

I received this book in exchange for an honest review.

I give The Dragon Three a 3.5 out of 5 stars.

The Dragon Three is a YA fantasy that begins by introducing us to Brina, a powerless girl in a world where everyone is gifted. She tries to hide this fact from everyone at her school, though two friends, Thana, and Aidan, soon discover her secret. They team up to help Brina hide her lack of magic from everyone at school.
The first 1/3 of the book is made up of the three friend's relationship, with Brina and Aidan becoming very close until the course of normal teenage emotions get in the way. But it all changes after an earthquake hits the school and two students die from mysterious causes. After Aidan nearly dies from the same mysterious causes, he and Brina's relationship gets back on track but the three friends discover that a dragon had been sleeping under the grounds of the school and is now free. Powerless against dragons, only Brina, who doesn't need magic, can save them. The three friends discover they are part of an ancient prophecy that can stop the dragons for good. But at the end of Part 1, Brina is lost, and the reader is left wondering how the world can be saved without her.

In Part 2, we see Aidan's story as he copes with Brina's loss and learns that he still has a part to play in the prophecy. With help from the feisty Carys, he begins training to fulfill the prophecy. He develops a relationship with Carys, though he's reluctant to let go of Brina's memory.

In Part 3, we see Thana's story as she rejoins the fight. Part of this section are at school where a plethora of new characters is introduced.

This book is for YA and the theology of the world mirrors Christianity. There is some war violence, bloodshed, betrayal, and teenage bullying in the extreme but it is a fairly clean book. I would recommend this for ages 10-18 and would definitely let my 12 year old son read it.

I feel like the story as a whole was rushed, with some plot holes, unexplained world-building, and new characters that could have been explained in more detail. I feel like each part could have been it's own book. It is a YA book though, and they tend to be more fast-paced than adult novels. Out of the 3 parts, Part 1 seems to be the best written with the most details, though I enjoyed reading part 2 and part 3. The characters are relatable though they can be unbelievable at times, but it is a fantasy novel so it isn't a major issue.

I gave this story 3.5 stars (rounded to 4 for Amazon) despite what I thought it lacked because regardless, I really enjoyed the story. I think if the story had been expanded to separate books with more detail and a more normal-paced flow, it would have gotten 5 stars from me.

About the Author

Victoria Perkins began writing at a young age and story-telling even younger. Starting in third grade, she wrote stories, some of which became the basis of her published works. After graduating from Kent State University with a BA in English, Perkins held numerous jobs, including working customer service and teaching at a private school. 

In 2012, she began to work full-time as a ghostwriter, contributing to hundreds of short stories, novellas, and full-length novels for clients all over the world, including ones that have made Amazon's top 100 Kindle lists, as well as USA Today's Best-Seller list. 

She has had five YA novels, and a short story collection published since 2005. Her newest novel, Star Riders: The Twelve, came out in the summer of 2015.

Interview Questions

What inspired you to write your first book?

My first book was actually started when I was in junior high. My teacher gave my class a group assignment that made me start thinking about what it would be like if my friends and I were stuck on a desert island. A lot of the characters and basics from that story became Reeves' Island.

What do you think is more important: Characters or Plot?

I think that the importance of characters versus plot is based a lot on whether or not a story is character-driven or plot-driven. For me, I prefer character-driven stories, both to read and write.

Is there a subject/genre you'd never write about? Why?

Because I ghostwrite, I've had to set certain guidelines about what I write and it comes down to my faith. I don't write anything that violates that. Usually I take things on a case by case basis. For my own personal writing, it isn't really an issue because when I write, it comes from me, so it's automatically not going to be anything that goes against what I believe.

 If you could cast your main character(s) in a Hollywood adaptation of your book, who would land the rolls?

That's a tough one. I haven't seen any actors I like of the right age for the characters in The Dragon Three, but if age wasn't an issue, I'd love to have Molly Quinn from the tv show Castle playing Brina. Luke Mitchell who was on the tv show The Tomorrow People would make a great Aidan. Vanessa Marano from tv's Switched at Birth would be excellent as Thana.

What famous literary character is most like you?

I'd have to say I'm a combination of Ginny Weasley and Hermione Granger from the Harry Potter series, probably more like Hermione than Ginny.

What do you like to do when you aren't writing? 

I'm an avid reader so most of my free time is spent doing that, but I also spend a lot of time with my family. I also enjoy painting. Not pictures or anything like that, but ceramics like Christmas ornaments and decorations.

What is a talent you have that no one knows?

As I mentioned, I enjoy painting ceramics and I'm actually pretty good at it. I've painted Christmas ornaments for my family and done other things for gifts.

What is one tip you'd give to up & coming authors?

The advice I'd give to up and coming authors is to write for the story, not for the money or attention. If you're focusing on what people are saying or how many books you're selling, you'll get discouraged. If you write for the love of the story, it'll get you through the bad reviews and the rejections.

If you could spend the day with one person, alive or dead, who would it be and why?

I'd have to go with one of my favorite authors, but it'd be so hard to choose. I'd have to go with C.S. Lewis because, besides being one of my favorite authors, he has such an amazing life story and such deep theological insight.

Where To Find Victoria Perkins

Where To Find Books By Victoria

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