Where have I been?

Hey guys,

So I haven’t posted in a while (as you probably know), but I promise I haven’t forgotten about you beautiful people. I’ve just had a busy few weeks.

The end of the school year is never a walk in the park. A week before finals I had four papers due (which I somehow managed to get finished on time) and two projects. Then, on top of that sports season was ending so we had closing ceremonies (goodbye ultimate frisbee, see ya next year). And of course I had to study and do projects for my six finals. 


So, you might be thinking something along the lines of “woah, that seems like a lot. I totally understand why you had NO TIME AT ALL to read or write a post.” But friends, that was not all. I also had to empty out my entire dorm room and pack and find places to store things because I could only take with me what I could carry. Why? Because to get home I had to travel alone on a bus (a ten hour trip with 2 hours in the Boston bus terminal) so I couldn’t really take that much. 


So yeah. That’s been my last two weeks.

I’m happy to report that I made it home safely, and besides having to learn how to turn the water on, it’s been pretty good. So now I can finally get back to reading and posting, and hopefully be more active in the blogiverse than I have been over the school year. In the words of Eminem:

People!! It feels so good to be back!

Yay summer 2017!!

 

Book Reivew- The Great Gatsby

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The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Published by Scribner on April 10 1925
Genres: Classics, literature
Pages:
180
Goodreads
Amazon

THE GREAT GATSBY, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s third book, stands as the supreme achievement of his career. This exemplary novel of the Jazz Age has been acclaimed by generations of readers. The story of the fabulously wealthy Jay Gatsby and his love for the beautiful Daisy Buchanan, of lavish parties on Long Island at a time when The New York Times noted “gin was the national drink and sex the national obsession,” it is an exquisitely crafted tale of America in the 1920s.

The Great Gatsby was a wild ride. It was full of lies and deception from every character, yet there was something about the story that was sincere and beautiful. Fitzgerald manipulates the English language like no other, and I found myself peeling back layer after layer of meaning.

The characters were so lifelike it felt as if they were not characters at all, but real people that lived spectacular lives. But somehow at the same time they too outrageous to believe. There is too much dimension to comprehend with one sitting.

The Great Gatsby is definitely not the kind of book you can curl up with on a rainy afternoon and read. It is the kind of book that you read chapter by chapter, pausing after each one and trying to wrap your brain around what just happened. It’s the kind of book you want to read with a friend or group of people, just because there is no way one person can uncover the hidden messages in the pages by themselves.

I think everyone should read The Great Gatsby at some point in their lives, just because it is something that makes you ponder the true nature of society. I am going to give The Great Gatsby four out of five hearts.

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Book Discussion

Hey guys! Right now I’m in the middle of two books. One I read on my phone when I’m on the go, and one paper back that I read at home. Yesterday, my younger brother gave me a strange look and said “Hey Em, how are you reading two books at once? Don’t you mix up the plots?”

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The answer to his question is no. I’ve never had a problem reading books simultaneously, in fact, it’s something I am almost constantly doing. However, after talking with my brother some more, he revealed that if he starts a book while in the middle of another, he almost always has to re-read the original book he was reading from the beginning.

This has led me to the conclusion that there must be at least two different types of readers: Multi-readers and Single-readers.

So my question to you is this: What kind of reader are you?

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(BTW, I’m loving these eye-brow-raising GIFs) What pros and cons do you think there are for each? Is one faster or more productive than the other? What does your reading style say about you? I would love to hear your thoughts and comments down below!

Author Q&A- Roger Billings

Today I had the pleasure of interviewing Roger Billings; and up and coming historical author. Read all about him in the interview below!

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Q: How long have you been writing? Why did you start?

A: I have been working on my current novel for over five years, and I hope to finish in 2016. Yea!

I am a lawyer in my real life and it is often a struggle to find time to write.

I have been an avid reader all of my life. I thought of writing as something I should do, but never did, until a few years ago I was reading the biography of Bernard Cornwell. He moved with his wife to the United States and he did not have a work visa. Since he was not allowed to work at a traditional job, he started writing instead. From that came his first historical novel, Sharpe’s Eagle. I thought if he could do it when he had to, maybe I can do it because I want to.

Q: What inspires your writing? Do you have a muse?

A: I am often inspired by a sense of place. I love to find out-of-the way places that people might not have heard of before but that have a rich history. Then it seems natural to write about what might have happened there back then. One example is the floating islands (hortillonnages in French) in Amiens, France. They are a series of tiny islands that have been cultivated out of marsh land in the Somme River. It is a labyrinth of gardens and water, the history of which extends back to Roman times. I love to write about the kinds of mysteries that might have happened in places like that.

A: On the other hand, I have noticed that I am not “full of ideas” to write about, as some say they are. I feel like my ideas are buried in the subconscious and most of the time I am not aware that they are there, until I start writing. When I write, those buried ideas come to the surface. So I suppose I write to find out what is in my subconscious.

Q: You are a historical novelist. How much research goes into your projects?

A: There is more research than I expected, but I probably do more than I need to. No, I definitely do more than I need to. My idea for my current novel came from general reading in the time period of the French Revolution until several historical facts started to cluster together and I realized I had a book to write. Then the real work began of reading histories, biographies, and letters, and studying maps, lists and court cases, and anything else I could get my hands on. It has been countless hours. How much? I have not keep track, but I enjoy the research, so it has not felt like work.

Q: Why historical novels? Have you always been fascinated by history?

A: I do love history and historical research. In particular, I love literary history. The first thing I think about with respect to a particular time period is who the writers were then. My novel takes place in France and England in 1792, so I think a lot about the writers from that time and immediately prior to that time, such as Rousseau, Dr. Johnson, Fanny Burney, Cowper (I love Cowper!), and of course William Blake, Wordsworth and Coleridge, to name only a few. Both Wordsworth and Burney were in France during the Revolution, and Rousseau made an infamous visit to England some years before, all of which is great food for the imagination.

Q: What is the favorite place you have visited? Why?

A: If you take the time to get to know a place, anywhere is magical.

One example is the ancient walled city of York, in Northern England, that I visited many years ago. Any time there is still a massive wall around a city, going there is like a trip back in time.

CJ Sansom wrote a novel, Sovereign, set in York at the time that Henry VIII and his huge entourage visited the city. When royalty travelled, it was called the Progress, and nobles who hosted royalty on a Progress were sometimes (often?) bankrupted by the expense. I would have liked to have written that book. It is great fun.

In addition, some of my ancestors are from Yorkshire and my great grandfather sang in a choir for boys at the Minster Cathedral in York. I have a drawing of the Cathedral hanging on my wall. So York is special, for sure.

Q: When you travel does your family go with you?

A: Generally I travel with my family, and I enjoy traveling much more when I am with my family. Otherwise, traveling seems much more like just work.

Q: Tell me about your kids. Do they (or do you hope they will) love history as much as you?

A: It is easy for parents to expect their children to be projections of themselves, instead of individuals. My wife and I both love literature and culture. My children have their own unique interests and pursuits. I don’t think any of them are as fanatical about literature as I am, but they know what they are interested in and we encourage them to follow their interests.

Q: You are working on your first novel! What can you tell me about it so far?

A: I am in the middle of my second draft. But the second draft feels like a first draft, because as I wrote the first draft, I learned a huge amount about writing fiction. Now I can see much more clearly what I did wrong or what can be improved. The first draft was an apprenticeship, a great learning experience. Now I just need to finish and then celebrate!

The story goes as follows: a British spy dies while rescuing a young seventeen year old aristocrat from the French Revolution. The aristocrat, ungrateful and mortally offended to owe his life to a commoner, determines to discredit the spy’s reputation. Searching for hidden scandals, the aristocrat inadvertently uncovers a plot to overthrow the British Monarchy, pulling himself into a perilous underworld of treason and crime. Journeying from the jostling streets of London to the lonely mountains of Wales, the young aristocrat can only survive by finding the man within himself, and by finishing the work the detested spy had started.

Q: What challenges have you faced in your writing?

A: Finding the time to write is hard. I have been doing some dictating, which helps to use the time better.

Learning not to edit myself while I am writing and letting the words flow has been difficult. When I am being too critical and I want to write faster instead, I sometimes challenge myself to purposefully write as badly as I can. That gets me started, which is great.

I have also been challenged in finding the historical sources and information I need. For example, I had a scene in which my characters visited the office of the Foreign Secretary in London in 1792. I wanted the location to be authentic, but I wasn’t sure where it was back then. I knew it was somewhere in Whitehall and that the office had been recently created but I didn’t want to be vague and I didn’t want to guess. Then I found a Twitter address for an official historian for the Office of the Foreign Secretary, and they responded that the office was in Downing Street at that time, next to the Office of the First Lord of the Treasury (now Prime Minister) at 10 Downing Street. It was much easier writing the scene knowing I had the location right, and the actual location turned out to be a very significant part of the scene.

Q: If you could go back and meet any historical figure, who would it be and why?

A: There are so many I would like to meet. Perhaps the 18th century poet Samuel Johnson. He was known as one of the greatest conversationalists of all time. If you are going to go to all of the trouble of meeting someone from the past, it had better be an interesting conversation! I was also thinking of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire. She was also a great conversationalist, but there is a bonus that she was almost always surrounded by many other luminaries: Richard Sheridan, Charles James Fox, the Prince of Wales, the Duchess de Polignac, many others.

Q: What is something you think the world should know about you?

A: I think people should know that I like to look for the good in people. There is much more good out there than can be easily seen, and so looking for it is necessary.

Find Roger Online:

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Author Q&A- Ian Jackson

Today I had the pleasure of interviewing I. D. Jackson, the author of Deadly Determination and Dead Charming. He is currently working on his next novel, so if you haven’t read his books yet, now is the time to catch up!

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Q: When did you start writing?

A: I began writing as a child. Whenever we had people around my parents would wheel me out as the ‘party trick’ and ask their friends to come up with a character and a situation and I would be expected to create a fascinating story on the spot…I was about 6 they tell me! My first books were adventure stories written when I was about 10 and passed among my friends and family – unfortunately none survive, but I can still see and ‘feel’ them in my mind…. yes, I’m strange!

Q: What inspires you to write? Do you have a muse?

A: You know what I don’t, but probably should. Psychology and human nature fires my imagination to write.

Q: Tell me about your books Deadly Determination and Dead Charming. What were the original ideas behind them?

A: My interests lie in psychology and I’ve always been fascinated how seemingly normal people can be affected by an event or perhaps another person in their lives which then drives them on to commit heinous crimes. A germ of a story began emerging in my mind that eventually went on to become my first novel, Dead Charming which was greeted with critical acclaim. Deadly Determination is the second book (not a sequel) and carries through these themes. Both novels are crime thrillers with a twist that will take the readers breath away.

Q: How much ‘grunt work’ went on behind the scenes of writing your novel?

A: Many hours of research as well as interviews with detectives, coroners and some criminals – fascinating stuff.

Q: You have written articles for magazines such as Concept and Style Guide. How is this process different than that of writing a book?

A: When I wrote for magazines and newspapers it was a job to be completed, whereas now I get to write about things I’m interested in – thrilling crime!

Q: Did your days as a local magazine and sports program publisher help you in your quest to publish your novels?

A: Surprisingly not – the contacts I have through publishing magazines are completely different to novel writing and literary agents – like chalk and cheese really.

Q: What is some advice that you wish you had received when you began writing?

A: Start pitching your book as soon as you’ve written the first three chapters and have a tight synopsis ready for the rest – literary agents and publishers only want to see the first three chapters anyway and will base their decision on your writing style and the synopsis of the book.

Q: How has becoming a published author changed your life? Has it always been your goal?

A: My life hasn’t particularly changed as such. I love the fact that I have two books in print, but it wasn’t one of my ambitions as a young man.

Q: You got married to your wife, Susie, not to long ago. Has she read your books? Does she like them?

A: Yes, she has. She helps me as I go through reading chapters and commenting on characters and plot-lines. I think she enjoys the creative process and she says she likes the books…but then she has to really!

Q: What is something you want the world to know?

A: Labels are dangerous and anyone can work to improve their psychological imbalances, however severe they are. I believe in redemption for everyone when they are ready and I hope that readers identify with, and even feel sympathy for, some of my darker characters.

Find Ian Online:

Website

Facebook

Twitter

Author Q&A- Ruthanne Reid

Today I had the pleasure of interviewing an amazing and inspiring self-published author; Ruthanne Reid. Ruthanne has been writing since she was eight, and her dedication shows. Her book, The Sundered is out now!

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Q: How long have you been writing? Why did you start?
A: I’ve been writing with the intention of storytelling since I was eight, when I crafted my first masterpiece: a My Little Pony story in which all the ponies were murdered by the snake kingdom except for one single princess pony, who was just so pretty and precious they couldn’t kill her, but adopted her as their own instead.
That’s right. It’s a Mary Sue/My Little Pony/Genocide story. I typed the whole thing on my mother’s typewriter with red ink because I thought it was pretty. Take that, child psychologists.
I do have to note, however, that even this demented early tale shows the seeds of what my current universe became: genre-mixing, dramatic tragedy, and overwhelming cuteness. Oh, dear.
Q: What inspires your writing? Do you have a muse?
A: I don’t have a specific muse, per se; good storytelling is what gets my engines going every time. The format doesn’t matter, either; animated, written, or simply told, a good story is the fuel that drives mine.
I have had favorite characters over the years who showed up in any stories I imagined (Grimlock, Vegeta, Chang Wufei, Severus Snape, Steve Rogers). Weirdly enough, crafting a world around a known character often helped me to suss out the details of that world and its needs. From there, original characters were easier to build – especially since I’d already analyzed just what I loved so much about other people’s characters.
Q: Tell me about your book The Sundered. What was the original idea behind it?
A: I can answer this one of two ways: with the plot “hook,” and with the themes. How about both?
THE SUNDERED is about a young man who has to make a horrible decision: he can either save the human race, or save the aliens the humans enslaved. What’s “fair” in this situation? There’s certainly no easy answer, and in the midst of a world flooded by water that kills when touched, revisionist history and abusive homes, Harry has a lot of growing to do before he can even begin to answer that question.
I touch on the question of what makes a life worthy of survival; of what makes “right” and “wrong” in situations where no one is innocent; and on the challenge of making a “good” choice when no choice comes without heavy consequences.
(It’s a cheerful little tome, really)
Q: What challenges have you faced in your writing career? What have you done to overcome them?
A: The biggest challenge I faced was during the period of time I tried to get an agent. Over and over, I received personalized rejections from literary agents with essentially the same wording: I love this story, but it’s too weird for me to sell because publishers don’t like to take risks. If you could change the story to make it more normal (add a romance, change the gender of the protagonist, change the entire ending, etc.), then I could take you on and sell this book.
 
My challenge was literally deciding whether to change my story down to the core in order to sell it, or keep it as it was and try to make it on my own.
The last straw for me was an agent who told me he couldn’t possibly represent the book for the same reasons already mentioned, but he really had to know how it ended, and so asked me for the rest of the manuscript AFTER he’d already turned me down.
 
That told me I had a story worth telling. So I chose to self-publish.
That was one of the best and hardest decisions of my career. The more I’ve marched down this path, the more I’ve realized what a good idea it was for me. It’s not for everyone, by any means; but for someone like me, whose mind isn’t quite normal, it was the only way to retain my writing integrity.
I may still get an agent someday, but now I know enough to do this without compromising my stories.
Q: What advice do you want to give to budding writers?
1. Read EVERYTHING. Read fiction and non-fiction, classics and current best-sellers. Read indie; read how-to books.
2. Learn how to write by thinking about what you read. Learn how to write by writing, and writing, and writing.
3. Forgive yourself. Remember this: EVERYBODY sucks starting out. Absolutely everybody. Ira Glass put it really well in this amazing video that you should go and watch right now:
“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners[:] All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. 
 
But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. 
 
And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. 
 
Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know it’s normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”
 
That right there may be the most important advice anyone has ever given a writer.
Q: Did you anticipate how well received you and you books would be?
A: Not even a little – and it must be emphasized that they were not always well-received! No matter what you write, some people will love it, and some people will hate it. That’s okay. That’s normal. At first, when I got a bad review,  I’d honestly flip out a little; it took me a long time to see that everyone’s taste is different, and bad reviews are okay.
Now, the good reviews… those are delicious, gold-coated chocolate. Edible gold, that is. I genuinely had no idea starting out that this book would ever appeal to as many people as it has. It’s been a real encouragement to me. I may be weird, but evidently, so are a lot of others. 😉
Q: Which of the characters you have created is most like you? In what way?
A: There’s a little bit of me in every single protagonist I have.
  • Harry has father issues and has had to reevaluate everything he was ever taught.
  • Katie is so done with the drama of the world she grew up in, and she ran away to New Hampshire. That was LITERALLY me.
  • Grey is fearful and doesn’t want to be a hero; when he finds courage in himself, it’s more of a surprise to him than anyone else.
  • Notte has a gift for seeing all sides of a story, which means he doesn’t always assume he’s the good guy. It’s a sobering perspective I’ve had to grow into over the past ten years
Q: What is one thing you wish you knew in high school?
A: That I didn’t have to please other people the way my folks wanted me to. I felt like my whole world was my family and their acquaintances, but that simply wasn’t true. There are SO MANY people out there, and someone WILL “get” you in time. Keep looking; don’t give up because of rejection. Who you are matters, and who you are is who God made you to be, and there will be other people out there who understand. You just have to find them.
Q: If you could go anywhere in the world in any time period, when and where would it be? Why?
A: Does it count if I pick a time that might not have existed? I’m REALLY fascinated by cryptoarcheology. I want to see the really ancient metropolises of the world – the ones that sank and were lost, or were abandoned so long ago in the jungles that we don’t even realize they’re there without satellite imagery, or the ones that lie hidden under desert sands.
Q: What is something you want the world to know?
A: It’s worth pushing through.
There’s so much trouble and pain in this world that sometimes, it might not seem worth it – but it is. It’s worth getting hurt to try again. It’s worth trusting and fighting and forgiving.
It’s worth pushing through. Don’t ever give up.
Find Ruthanne Online:

Author Q&A- Lee H Haywood

Today I had the honor of interviewing Lee H Haywood; an awesome writing and amazing world builder. You can enter a giveaway here for a chance to win a signed copy of his book, The Guardian! Read his interview below.

Lee H Haywood

Q: How long have you been writing? Why did you start?

A: I’ve been writing since my senior year of high school, so I guess it’s been close to fifteen years now. It is by no means a coincidence that my first endeavor into the realm of fantasy writing occurred the same year that The Fellowship of the Ring was released on the big screen. My first manuscript was poorly written, full of clichés and not something anyone would want to read. Still, it was a start, and helped to establish the work ethic I would need to write a 100,000-word novel in the future.

 

Q: What inspires your writing? Do you have a muse?

A: Reading a good story inspires me more than anything. Tolkien was my first love, but I’ve since found a whole assortment of “muses.” Brian Jacques still lingers with me twenty years after I closed the final page of Mossflower. Cormic McCarthy’s post-apocalyptic tale The Road taught me a lot about building tension through description. It wasn’t until the last year that I picked up my first Stephen King novel. I’m certain shades of King have slipped into my most recent work.

 

Q: Tell me about your new book, The Guardian. What was the original idea behind it?

A: I wrote the first draft of The Guardian while I was attending college. It started off with a very generic good vs. evil story arc. Thankfully, I grew up quite a bit in the decade between the first and final drafts of my book. As I got older, I learned a few things concerning the complexities of human nature. The final result was a book that examines the drive that keeps people moving forward even when the odds are stacked against them. That, and of course dragons. Everything is better with dragons. I knew this fact when I was eighteen, and I’ve only grown more certain of it with age.

 

Q: Which of your books has been the most fun to work on? Which was the most challenging?

A: My third book, The Order, was definitely the most fun. I hammered it out in a three week writing frenzy. Nothing is more enjoyable than the words flowing easily. The most challenging was a prequel to The Guardian that I’ll call Book X. Book X will probably not see the light of day for some time, as it is a disjointed mess. It was a five-year undertaking from start to finish, written at a time when writing was something I did when I had some extra time to kill. It was a genuine slog, but in the end, writing Book X proved absolutely crucial to my development as a writer and my decision to take up writing fulltime.

 

Q: Which of your characters is most like you and in what way?

A: Whenever I read a book, I always like to guess which character is really the author in disguise. In my writing, I think there is a little bit of me in all of my point of view characters. Bently, one of the central characters in The Guardian, struggles through a lot of the same questions I have about loyalty, service, and duty. While the character Dolum is pretty spot on with some of my own fears and insecurities. Even Demetry, the story’s antagonist, speaks to me on some days.

 

Q: If you could be inside any book besides one of your own, which would it be and why?

A: My mind wanders to the great fantasy worlds, and as terrifying as it would be, I’d choose George R.R. Martin’s Westeros. It just feels like a place that could actually exist. He has set a brilliantly high standard for world building.

 

Q: What advice do you wish you received when you began writing?

A: This is going to take a lot longer than you think. Progress with writing is measured in months and years, not days and weeks. Keep your head down and keep going. Every word written on paper is a step forward. You only fail when you stop writing.

 

Q: What is the biggest obstacle you have faced in your writing career? What did you do to overcome it?

A: Getting published. For about a year and a half I languished through the process of trying to get someone to represent my work. I collected a staggeringly high pile of rejection letters from editors and agents. The solution: I quit my job and stepped into the world of Indie Publishing. I haven’t regretted the choice.

 

Q: What is the best part about building your own worlds? Where do you get your inspiration for them?

A: I majored in world history in college and proceeded to spend the next nine years of my life teaching history to high schoolers. World building has always come easily to me, simply because I have such a deep well to draw from. My thoughts on world building – you don’t need to reinvent the wheel, just paint it a different color. Laveria, which is the setting of my book, is heavily inspired by Greco-Roman and Ottoman history.

 

Q: What is something you want the world to know?

A: I received a letter from a former student the other day. In it he explained how happy he was that I decided to write full time because my book was “awesome.” The letter absolutely made my week.

Writing can be a lonely endeavor, and it often feels like I’m working in a vacuum. I’ve made a lot of leaps of faith, be it in writing, world building, designing covers, or even marketing. If you have enjoyed the work of an indie author, please be loud with your support. Write a review, recommend the book to a friend, and reach out to the author. I mean it, we want to know what you are thinking! The support of my fans keeps me clacking away at my keyboard, day in, day out. You can get in touch with me on Facebook, Twitter, or on my website at www.leehhaywood.com !

Find Lee Online:

Website

Goodreads

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