Review: Bina Venkataraman – The Optimist’s Telescope (S)

The Optimist’s Telescope: Thinking Ahead in a Reckless Age
Bina Venkataraman

“A trailblazing exploration of how we can think more strategically and effectively about the future–our own, our family’s, and our society’s. Many of us never learned–or have forgotten–how to make smart, long-term decisions, so we avoid making them. In a world where immediate satisfaction is the norm, it’s easy to do. Whether it’s decisions about our health (our chronic overuse of antibiotics has triggered a shocking rise in immunity to them), our finances (20% of us have nothing saved for retirement), or our jobs (we slash R and D to improve short-term balance sheets and then can’t keep pace with competitors), we avoid mastering the skills to make smart choices about the future. Yet today more than ever, we need to understand how to make such choices–for ourselves, our families, and the world.”

Considering that the book is titled “Optimist” it did not leave me feeling optimistic, as it primarily focuses on a pessimistic view of the future. While I comprehend its message, it fails to inspire motivation for future action.

Despite some historical tales and scientific insights, the book’s structure feels all over the place, leaving you a bit lost amidst the mishmash of stories tied to future thinking. It does have its engaging moments, but there are also some political and dull sections.

The book doesn’t deliver on its promise of offering tips on staying optimistic and thinking ahead, as suggested by its subtitle. Instead, it takes a gloomier approach to what’s coming our way. If you’re looking for strategies or fresh ideas on changing your mindset when dealing with current and future challenges, you won’t find them here.

In a nutshell, “The Optimist’s Telescope” may leave you feeling a bit let down, as it doesn’t provide the practical guidance or inspiration needed to tackle the uncertainties of the future, although a need to discuss the topic. I’d give it a 2.5 star rating.

Guest Post from Sara Hosey – “Only Connect!”: Ideas and Inspirations

Guest Post from Sara Hosey

Sara Hosey is the author of three young adult novels: Iphigenia Murphy, Imagining Elsewhere, and Summer People. Her short fiction been shortlisted for the Katherine Anne Porter Prize and the American Short Fiction Halifax Ranch Prize and has appeared in journals like Cordella Literary Magazine and Mudroom Magazine. She is a parent, a community college professor, and a tree enthusiast.

“Only Connect!”: Ideas and Inspirations

I often develop stories by thinking through a hypothetical situation or question. I was once in my local supermarket, for example, and for a split second I thought I saw something obscene on the flatscreen television about the checkout line. When I looked again, I saw that I had been mistaken; it was just an unappetizing shot of some squash. But I kind of laughed to myself and thought, what would I do if it had been an obscene picture? Would anyone else have noticed? Would I have continued to watch the screen to see if it cycled back around again? This situation became the opening for my story “Not for Everyone,” in which a mother character sees what she believes is a “dirty” picture in the supermarket. It freaks her out, and becomes the instantiating event of the story, which traces a daughter’s realization that although her parents are not unambivalently bad people, they are in fact profoundly dysfunctional, and, in many ways, hateful.

Similarly, sometimes a word or phrase or even a joke will come into my mind and that will be the anchor for a story, or I’ll hear or read about a concept, and I’ll ruminate about it until it works its way into a story. I came across an article one day that said that, before they were aquatic, dolphins had been land mammals. What? Dolphins had walked around on the earth? I found this amazing, and I incorporated it into my story, “Land Mammals,” in which the main character, Lexi, uses the idea of leaving behind one kind of life and moving into another medium, going somewhere that others cannot easily follow, as a way of grappling with the loss entailed by her mother’s dementia.

I am also endlessly inspired by my friends and relationships. I try to surround myself with people who interest and invigorate me. I thank many friends in Dirty Suburbia’s “Acknowledgements,” and some of them are people I haven’t spoken to, literally, in years, but whose lives or behavior or just general way of being impressed or inspired me somehow. I’m fortunate too, to have friends that make me laugh and who sometimes let me borrow their jokes, and they are acknowledged as well.

And it’s only now, as I consider the book as a whole, that I’m realizing how many of the stories end with two people, usually women, sometimes strangers, taking care of or supporting each other. Not all the stories end happily, and when they don’t, I think it’s because characters are left without that sense of being understood or belonging. I feel that short fiction is particularly well-suited for exploring this fumbling-towards-connection, and many of the authors whose work most inspires me—Kelly Fordon and Joel Mowdy and Jess Walter and Chelsea Bieker—so deftly conjure complex characters who try—and sometimes succeed—in breaking through. It’s what E.M. Forster called for, over a century ago: “Only connect!” To me, the most inspiring art is art that explores, and sometimes as a result enacts, this idea.

About the book

Dirty suburbias are working-class neighborhoods in which girls who are left to fend for themselves sometimes become predators, as well as affluent communities in which women discover that money is no protection against sexism, both their own and others’.

One young woman sets up her abusive, cheating boyfriend, hoping he’ll get arrested so that she can rescue him and win him back. A teenager arranges to meet up with an older man she’s met online playing video games; she brings a knife with her, just in case. A middle-aged divorcee attempts to rekindle a romantic relationship with her high school English teacher, who happens to be a former nun. A struggling academic falls in love with a Henry David Thoreau impersonator, and a well-adjusted grad student goes home for Christmas only to be repulsed by her family’s casual cruelty.

Despite the ugliness and injustice they face, as well as the failures of their families and communities, these characters often find relief in friendship and connection, and sometimes, even discover meaning and cause for hope.

Available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble

Review: Robert I. Sutton – Good Boss, Bad Boss (S)

Good Boss, Bad Boss
How to Be the Best… And Learn from the Worst
Robert I. Sutton

“If you are a boss who wants to do great work, what can you do about it? Good Boss, Bad Boss is devoted to answering that question. Stanford Professor Robert Sutton weaves together the best psychological and management research with compelling stories and cases to reveal the mindset and moves of the best (and worst) bosses. This book was inspired by the deluge of emails, research, phone calls, and conversations that Dr. Sutton experienced after publishing his blockbuster bestseller The No Asshole Rule. He realized that most of these stories and studies swirled around a central figure in every THE BOSS.”

The way the book is set up didn’t quite click with me. The chapters and sections felt a bit all over the place, and I couldn’t really see the clear connections between them. It’s like everything just melted together without any standout points. A bunch of it was things I’ve seen and heard a million times before – nothing groundbreaking, just common sense stuff. I guess if you’re new to this kind of thing, it’s a decent overview that gets you thinking, but it doesn’t dive deep into anything and tends to repeat itself here and there.

I also noticed some contradictions that made me scratch my head. My advice? Take what you like and leave the rest. There’s some humor in there, but I didn’t always catch the punchline.

It’s nice to see someone trying to make the whole work and management scene better with their examples and tips. They’re onto something when they say pretty much everyone can relate because we’ve all had a boss, have a boss, or are the boss. So, there’s some wisdom in there for sure. If you’re into business and leadership books or just want to up your boss game, “Good Boss, Bad Boss” is a solid stash of info that goes down easy and I recommend it for those getting into management. 3 stars.

Review: Kim Lock – The Three of Us

The Three of Us
Kim Lock

Elsie isn’t quite satisfied with the life of a 1960s housewife – there’s only so many times she can wash the sheets and try to make food from her Women’s Weekly cookbook. Her husband Thomas keeps himself busy at work, and Elsie is lonely enough to approach the quiet stranger next door. Aida is unmarried and confined to her house for the next nine months, determined to keep to herself.

I really enjoyed this novel because it portrays life as a polyamory thruple that isn’t just about having mind-blowing and random sex all the time! Instead, it delicately probes what it looks like to be in a committed relationship with more than two people. I was plesently surprised by the whole book.

I dealt with the multiple perspectives quite well, even if I didn’t quite ever connect with Thomas. Thomas has two women – which is something that most men would say they wanted – but he’s a perfect gentleman about the whole thing. The framing of the novel is a little odd, and to my mind unecessary. It was quite clear to me what would happen, the only surprise was the, well, if I told you, it wouldn’t be a surprise!

I had never read anything by Kim Lock, but maybe I should go and seek out a few more of her novels if they all have this beautiful relationship aspect. I was very impressed and surprised to find it from an Australian author. Although I used to hate Australian fiction for being dry and boring (like our weather!), newer authors are changing my mind. Amazing stuff.

Q&A with Clark Burbidge, author of “The Relic”

A Q&A with Clark Burbidge, author of The Relic

Today, Clark is taking readers back to where it all began with the launch of an updated, expanded edition of StarPassage Book One: The Relic (Morgan James Publishing), where two teenage siblings find themselves desperate for answers when a mysterious relic reveals its age-old secrets and power.

Join our heroes on a series of dangerous adventures to solve the relic’s riddles, save lives, escape the ever-increasing Tracker threat, and experience some of the most dreadful and exciting moments in history. Will they learn from the past–should they change it if they can? Is there any hope for survival?

The action-packed, non-stop odyssey of the StarPassage series not only entertains readers but shows them how to persevere and find hope through everyday challenges and life’s biggest storms as well as helps give them direction, purpose and a reason to become something more than they otherwise might have been.

What inspired you to create this series?

A silver star at the top of my son’s family Christmas tree a couple of years ago. It was a beautiful setting as they placed it at the top and I commented that there was a good story there somewhere. The idea kept bouncing around in my head and then combined with the difficulties we experienced when I was growing up with what I now have come to understand was my Father’s struggle with PTSD from his experiences in the Korean War. Within a month the story was well underway. I wanted people, especially children who struggle to feel there is real hope that they can overcome family challenges and personal challenges. This book provides such hope and encouragement I believe.

How would you describe the characters Tim and Martie?

Tim is a sturdy 6+ foot high school sophomore. He is athletic and intelligent but feels helpless in his current situation. He is doing his best to try to understand and be the adult in his little sister’s life but feels unequal to the task. Martie is a gymnast and hopelessly optimistic go-getter. She is in middle school and 3 years younger than Tim. She believes anything can be solved and is a total sucker for any time of adventure. You might say she is fearless although it is partly because she isn’t experienced enough in life to understand the risks and consequences that sometimes are present. She is worried about her parents and really is having trouble comprehending how their perfect family could so quickly have run into such deep trouble. She is at a loss how to go forward with her life.

How would you explain the family dynamic between Tim, Martie, and their parents? How does it evolve through the book?

They are a very close family who really care about each other. They have always worked and played and discovered as a team. Their togetherness has always defined their family. But they are in complete disarray as the book begins. This is the central quest of the book. How to bring the family back together. It involves helping their dad deal with his PTSD and their mom overcome her related depression both of which is pulling them in opposite directions so they are no longer a team but fighting alone as individuals. Their travels through history are the relic’s way to help them pull together and overcome. Will they do it? Does it work? You’ll have to read to get the answers…

What was the most rewarding moment you experienced in writing StarPassage: The Relic?

I write as if I am experiencing the story for the first time so I honestly don’t know how it will end up. So when I got to Christmas in the book and they had the strange visitor and then I discovered who was going to come to dinner and resolved how that would happen it was an incredible experience. Intertwining history with the lives of characters that feel so real and current was a tremendously rewarding experience.

What was the biggest challenge you faced in writing this book?

How to set the stage and provide the background for the current challenge in an interesting and dynamic way. The Fugitives Drift chapter was very important to that because it creates an exciting event in the middle of a story and it hooked me without letting me know how it fits in. I feel the background happens through several chapters now interspersed with excitement and adventure. That was very satisfying to discover how it worked together.

As an author who has written multiple books, how did the process of writing StarPassage: The Relic compare to your past work?

There was a lot more research involved. My last trilogy involved a completely fictional world and that had its own challenges of creating the mythology and setting. However, in StarPassage not only am I dealing with contemporary settings that have to be real, I am dealing with several separate real historical circumstances that require accuracy blended with literary license in a believable way. This involved research on many levels and it created a different challenge that I very much enjoyed.

What does your writing process look like?

I don’t really set an outline per se. I like to write as if I am experiencing the story as the characters do. This means I don’t know what I will discover when I round the bend. It makes it very exciting for me to write and I can hardly wait to get back to it. In a way it is like what I hope my readers experience when they put my book down, I hope they can’t wait to find out what’s next. This also keeps me from experiencing writer’s block.

How much research did you do for the book? What type of research did you do?

As mentioned above there was a lot of research from very different eras. It took me to George Washington’s diary’s, old ship designs and google maps of the southwest to unpublished personal family histories and interviews with veterans as well as a ton of reading of a wide variety of books to try to get every angle of the experiences of the Carson family right. The actual research was on and off for about 18 months time.

What drew you to the genre of young adult fantasy adventure?

I believe young adults and middle readers need exciting reading that also inspires and uplifts with strong well designed characters that can be identified with and respected. They are not superheroes but rather regular people that demonstrate the power each of us have within to bravely stand for what we believe, have hope and the faith that we are never alone. I believe my books can make a difference with young adults and help give them direction, purpose and a reason to become something more than they otherwise might have been.

What is the key to attracting young readers?

I believe they want to have a story that transports them to an adventure where the can find something of themselves in the characters and identify with the process and thereby absorb the lessons so they can apply them in their own life. It is not just about attracting, rather it is about holding attention with real stories that compel and inspire. Making them memorable and raising their expectations in life and their courage in stepping up to do hard things. I believe all young people are better off if they learn that they can accomplish hard things.

What has been one of your own greatest adventures?

By far my greatest adventure has been marrying my wife Leah which created a blended family of 10 children overnight. It has been wonderful and full of unexpected twists and turns almost daily. This wild ride of course continues. We have overcome great challenges along the way and have much still to accomplish but it has been something we have done together and we both cherish every day, every challenge and every joy. Oh and by the way…they just keep on coming…

When did your interest in writing begin?

I have always been a story teller and have written some in the past. However, in 2010 I was out of work and trying to find a job. I had some stories that I had always wanted to put to paper so I did. Then I decided that I wanted to see if I could get published and actually have strangers like my stories. One thing led to another and I have found it very rewarding and satisfying every step of the way.

Which writers inspired you as a kid? Which writers inspire you today?

As a kid I read a lot of Isaac Asimov and Ray Bradbury (Sci-Fi). In my 20’s and 30’s I enjoyed more of Tolkien and CS Lewis as well as history and historical fiction. Nowadays I am always reading a couple of books trying to appreciate good writing styles and discovering interesting parts of history.

Was your family involved in your writing process? To what extent?

They acted as readers and provided some helpful feedback on flow and interest levels and hooks. Also they have acted as models for some of the art in my books. However in StarPassage they were the inspiration for the relic and the concept of PTSD which were very central to the story. My wife and I are currently writing a book together and it has been tremendously satisfying and fun to share that experience.

What does your family say about your books?

They like them and probably are way too easy judges. I must say though by the time one is published they get a little tired of hearing the scraps of story and doing read throughs and having ideas bounced off them and hearing me up at 2 in the morning because I had a new idea and I had to record it right then.

In what ways do you hope readers are inspired by StarPassage: The Relic?

I have kind of addressed it but I hope it will inspire them to have confidence that they can overcome any difficulty and that they will never be alone in doing so. They have a Father in Heaven who cares, is involved and is always there for them in both spiritual and real, practical ways.

About the book

Two teenage siblings find themselves desperate for answers when a mysterious relic reveals its age-old secrets and power.

Tim and Martie Carson are the only ones who can save their family from a downward spiral fueled by their parent’s struggles with PTSD and depression. When they realize that an ancient relic discovered under mysterious circumstances holds the key to unlocking answers hidden in the past, the siblings embark on a race against time to learn the relic’s secrets while avoiding the Trackers, sinister shadowy figures doomed to haunt history and drawn to possess the relic for their own evil purposes.

Travel through history with the Carson family as they struggle to understand the relic’s secrets. In their race against time can they decipher the clues and piece together the puzzle containing the answers they desperately seek? Or will they be trapped forever by the evil forces relentlessly pursuing them?

Interview with Martin Knight, author of ‘Justice Killer’

An interview with Martin Knight, author of ‘Justice Killer’

Martin Knight is the Sunday Times best-selling biographer of several ’60s and ’70s superstar footballers, including George Best and Peter Osgood. He also ghosted the memoirs of Gypsy Joe Smith, the bare-knuckle boxer turned pro golfer, which was selected as Observer “Sports Book of the Year”. Martin also wrote Justice For Joan about an unsolved 1948 murder and an autobiography of the founder member of the Bay City Rollers pop band among many other books. Martin had a long career in the media monitoring industry and is co-owner of niche publisher London Books. He is married with five children and lives in Surrey.

Who is your favourite dragon in literature?

I have to confess I cannot bring to mind any actual dragons in books I have read. I guess they would have been in childhood and now distant memories. I did gobble up the C.S. Lewis books and I think a dragon or two figured there. However, I was greatly impacted by the film Enter The Dragon back in the mid-1970s about the time I left school. It was a vehicle for martial arts supremo Bruce Lee and I assume he was the “dragon” of the title. Hero worship of Bruce spread like a wildfire among teenage boys of the era. Kung Fu Fighting a song by Carl Douglas was top of the pop charts and kids couldn’t engage with each other without spinning around and jump kicking the air above the other boy’s head. I remember vividly seeing the film and leaving the cinema full of adrenaline after. When my bus pulled up and the doors opened I leapt on emitting a high-pitched war cry like Bruce and raised my hands karate style. The driver looked at me and unflustered said: “Where to, mate?”

I’m not going to be reviewing your newest novel, but from your other published novels, is there one that is your own personal favourite? 

My favourite previous novel is Battersea Girl written some twenty years ago. It was a lightly fictionalised account of my grandmother’s 100 year life. She was born in the year Jack The Ripper committed his murders and endured two world wars and grinding poverty. Her first husband perished in the so-called Great War. Her sister and niece were killed in the second world war bombardment of London. While I tried to stick to the broad facts and the characters were real people, of course, I had to imagine conversations, feelings and some events. Much of the content was based on stories told to me by my Grandma in the last years of her long life. I was comforted to discover as the years went by and ancestry web sites burgeoned that most of those stories – some incredible – could be confirmed.

Everyone has a ‘first novel’, even if many of them are a rough draft relegated to the bottom and back of your desk drawer (or your external harddrive!). Have you been able to reshape yours, or have you abandoned it for good?

My first novel was probably Justice Killer which is my latest novel just being released. It started off when I put pen to paper twenty or more years ago about a real-life local murder that happened by my school, while I was there in the 1970s. A young milkman, whose siblings were in school with me, was shot dead in the course of an armed robbery. The execution had a big impact on me and was a big part of the curtains drawing on my childhood. It was a truly shocking affair. The Man From Uncle or The Avengers it was not.  I didn’t know where to go with it and the development of the book got regularly parked as different projects came my way. Then the notion of an ordinary man who felt he didn’t have much to live for seeking justice for victims of crime and finding purpose again formed in my mind and Justice Killer started to motor forward. The premise of an everyday person with no previous disposition to violence drifting into serial murder fascinated me.

Over the years, what would you say has improved significantly in your writing?

I would hope my writing has acquired some wisdom and insight that comes with age. But that has to be balanced against perhaps more energy and passion in the earlier writing.

Some authors are able to pump out a novel a year and still be filled with inspiration. Is this the case for you, or do you like to let an idea percolate for a couple of years in order to get a beautiful novel?

Most of my books have been non-fiction so a novel every seven years is more applicable. I’d love to write a novel a year, especially as at my age (65) I am becoming increasingly reminded that you cannot take the years for granted. I am often referred to as a “ghost writer” which is a term I dislike. I was in the offices of a large publisher one day when I was writing the autobiography of footballing legend George Best and a publishing executive welcomed me to his office by saying “Are you the ghost?” It stripped away any creative illusions I had about myself and suggested I was just a cog in a publishing machine. Which, of course, I was.

I have heard of writers that could only write in one place – then that cafe closed down and they could no longer write! Where do you find yourself writing most often, and on what medium (pen/paper or digital)?

I write in Microsoft Word on a PC. I write mainly at home in outer London and am lucky enough to have requisitioned a room as my study. However, being a busy family hub my day is subject to regular interruptions, so when I really need solitude to bash out words in big numbers I visit a cottage in the countryside where I can get up to 5,000 words a day if my writing juices are really flowing and I can go for salubrious, bracing walks to empty my head when I need to.

Before going on to hire an editor, most authors use beta-readers. How do you recruit your beta-readers, and choose an editor? Are you lucky enough to have loving family members who can read and comment on your novel?

I occasionally have the benefit of a trained editor when one of my books is being published by the big companies but mostly my friend John King will review and provide honest feedback. He is a very successful novelist and I do the same for him. It works well. I used to try and read my books as they formed to my wife and children but when I looked up and saw them buried in their smart phones or their eyes glazing over, I gave up.

I walk past bookshops and am drawn in by the smell of the books – ebooks simply don’t have the same attraction for me. Does this happen to you, and do you have a favourite bookshop? Or perhaps you are an e-reader fan… where do you source most of your material from?

I love bookshops. They are sanctuaries of peace and contentment in an urgent, frantic and often scary world. When in central London I like to visit Foyles which is a palace of books. My parents were both librarians in public libraries and met in one. Books are in my DNA. Before I was ten I was reading three or four books a day and had by then had exhausted the canons of Charles Dickens, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Denis Wheatley and had moved on to the gritty working class novels of Alan Sillitoe. I don’t like ebooks as much as physical books and rarely read one online. The smell, look and feel of books is a pleasure I won’t lose but sadly the next generation/s will not have that attachment.

I used to find myself buying books in only one genre (fantasy) before I started writing this blog. What is your favourite genre, and have your tastes changed over time?

I started by only reading novels but after working through almost every established/famous writer in wide circulation in the 1960s and 1970s I moved into non-fiction and especially true crime. In my twenties and thirties I became almost snobbish about fiction taking the view why waste time reading about made up things when there is so much true material out there. When I reached my forties I rediscovered my love of fiction and now I’m in place where I read 50% non-fiction, 50% fiction.

Social media is a big thing, much to my disgust! I never have enough time myself to do what I feel is a good job. What do you do?

I have mixed feelings about social media and technology generally. I resent my mobile phone. I resent the fact that people expect you to answer immediately. I remember when we had a telephone at home (eventually) as a kid when the phone rang in the hall (never in the sitting room) we would decide whether to answer it or not. If we were watching a good programme on the television we ignored it. Technology and phones have gone from being servant to master in a few decades. I have dabbled in social media but again have mixed feelings. I dropped Facebook early on – just didn’t like it. The whole concept of collecting friends or being collected turned me off. Never did Instagram but I have embraced Twitter. You do get some sensible debate on there and it gives you alternatives to a homogenous news media. I have been on ten years now and do promote my books there. It helps.  I spend too much time on Twitter and am consciously trying to reduce on line time. Probably spend 2 hours a day, which is too much.

Answering interview questions can often take a long time! Tell me, are you ever tempted to recycle your answers from one to the next? 

Inevitably sometimes you asked the same question and then you will be repeating yourself but as a rule, no. Your questions have been different from many of the stock ones I get asked which is nice. Thank you.

About Justice Killer

Not a whodunnit but a hedunnit, told from the perspective of its central character, Justice Killer marks the crime fiction debut of the best-selling biographer of George Best and other cultural icons. It takes you inside the mind of an ordinary man who finds an extraordinary new purpose after the death of his beloved wife. Disgusted by the injustice of the world, he strives to bring justice to his small corner of England. A murderer and an elderly former child abuser, both of whom think they’ve got away with their crimes, soon find themselves in his crosshairs…

Purchase the novel here on Amazon

Interview with Emma Roberson, author of Beast

An interview with Emma Roberson, author of Beast

Emma Roberson writes about monsters and creatures because she is obsessed with them. She started drawing as a child which led to writing the scenes for the pictures she had created. Emma has worked with horses, reptiles and invertebrates such as spiders and scorpions. All the creatures which scuttle or run across her path find their way into her writng and illustrations. These illustrations are often included in the books.

Emma has worked as a stable hand, as a farm hand, attempted hospitality and warehousing. She works full time and spends her spare time with her animals as well as writng and illustrating. She aims to one day write and illustrate full time.

What is your favourite dragon in literature?

Tricky question. I adore Toothless from How to Train Your Dragon, but I also enjoy a more traditional monster-style dragon like the Hungarian Horntail from Harry Potter or those seen in the Witcher games, show and books. I strongly believe that the dragon and its personality must suit the style and feel of the story. And in the previously mentioned examples, I feel the authors accomplished this and created believable and unique dragons.

What comes next? And why should readers be interested?

Beast is book one of a five book fantasy series, The Leviathan Series. I am currently working on book two and should have it ready to be released in 2024.

Beast and the following books contain themes which I did not deliberately write into the story. From the feedback that I have been given, every person that reads this story receives a unique message and meaning.

Everyone has a ‘first novel’, even if many of them are a rough draft relegated to the bottom and back of your desk drawer (or your external harddrive!). Have you been able to reshape yours, or have you abandoned it for good?

Beast, book one of the Leviathan Series, is my first book. The story and characters have changed drastically over the years, and I have worked on it, abandoned it, loved and loathed it for well over a decade. The second book of the series is in progress, and I am enjoying writing this section of the story more than the first. The beginning is always the hardest part to write.

Over the years, what would you say has improved significantly in your writing?

I have received feedback that the dialogue in my book is good, which I was not expecting as I find dialogue to be quite difficult.

Some authors are able to pump out a novel a year and still be filled with inspiration. Is this the case for you, or do you like to let an idea percolate for a couple of years in order to get a beautiful novel?

My first book, Beast, took over a decade of compiling random ideas until it came to fruition. The second book, however, appears to be coming along quite quickly, within a year, as I know where I want to go with the story, and I understand the motivations of the characters. My attention span is short, I quickly become bored, so I find it best to use the dig in an get it done approach.

I have heard of writers that could only write in one place – then that cafe closed down and they could no longer write! Where do you find yourself writing most often, and on what medium (pen/paper or digital)?

Most often, I will write at home, in my room, looking out of the hills with a whisky glass or a mug of tea. If I write at night, I will often have a pet python sitting on my shoulders or head. During the day, my writing companion is usually one of my Blue Tongue Lizards.

I have become more proficient at writing directly into a Word document, but I still enjoy using pen and paper.

Before going on to hire an editor, most authors use beta-readers. How do you recruit your beta-readers, and choose an editor? Are you lucky enough to have loving family members who can read and comment on your novel?

I am one of the lucky few, my family members and friends are the first readers of the first full draft. After the first round of readers, I approach a literary assessor. From there my book continues to the editor and publisher.

I walk past bookshops and am drawn in by the smell of the books – ebooks simply don’t have the same attraction for me. Does this happen to you, and do you have a favourite bookshop? Or perhaps you are an e-reader fan… where do you source most of your material from?

I prefer a paperback or hardback, but I understand the appeal of ebooks and other such options. To be honest, I have rarely visited bookstores in recent years as I have been working on my own projects and admittedly, I am not an avid reader, I have always preferred to create my own stories. That having been said, I enjoy the second-hand bookstore experience the most.

I used to find myself buying books in only one genre (fantasy) before I started writing this blog. What is your favourite genre, and have your tastes changed over time?

I have a broad range of interest, but well written fantasy and fiction draw me in. I do enjoy a good thriller or horror.

Social media is a big thing, much to my disgust! I never have enough time myself to do what I feel is a good job. What do you do?

My publisher is amazing, and I can request marketing material such as book graphics and animated excerpts which I use to promote my book. However, my sister and her partner provided me with an excellent piece of advice. I do not solely promote my book and illustrations on my chosen social media platforms. I often post reels and photos of my interests, my animals. This has drawn interest and now I have consistent followers. I am still learning how to optimise my access to social media, but I do think that it is working in my favour, for the most part.

At this time, I manage my own profile, and this is mainly due to the options available to me. I have gone down the self-publishing route and I do not have limitless funds so often the marketing of my book lands with me. I try to post daily, but it is difficult to do and maintain the habit. I am not naturally social media inclined so it is a challenge to give it my time. I must admit I do enjoy the challenge of learning how to market my book.

Through my publisher I have also been linked with the national library service so bookstores and libraries can purchase my book. I do need to place more effort into contacting libraries and bookstores. My other option for promotion, which I have begun utilising, is book reviewers.

Answering interview questions can often take a long time! Tell me, are you ever tempted to recycle your answers from one to the next?

Definitely! The only time I will recycle answers is if I am given the same question – as the response will be the same!

Where can readers and fantasy enthusiasts find you and your work?  

Facebook
Amazon
Booko
Instagram – author_emma_roberson

About Beast

FORCED FROM THE SEA HE ONCE ROAMED AS AN APEX PREDATOR, THE LEVIATHAN MUST FIGHT TO SURVIVE ON LAND.

With a new face and name the Leviathan carves a place for himself in a volatile and violent world where monsters and humans wage war against each other and amongst themselves for survival and supremacy.

An unlikely alliance is forged between the Master of the Vanguard, the leader of the kingdoms royally sanctioned monster hunters, and the Leviathan, once the most notorious and elusive monster of the sea. United by terrible circumstance and bound by a shared purpose, the Master and the Leviathan struggle to overcome the hatred and fear which rules and rots the realm.

The Leviathan must defend the realm from all things monstrous, including himself. He must find a way to conquer the turmoil of the kingdom and the darkness of his own nature.

Interview with C. Pierce, author of Legends of Icaria

An Interview with C. Pierce, author of Legends of Icaria

Pierce is a new author from the east coast of the United States. Currently based in London, she has just transitioned from five years in the Armed Forces, experiences in which inform her writing. She began writing poetry when she was in high school, self-publishing a couple of collections, but her main focus now is high fantasy.  Respectful of myth, Pierce endeavors to explore the quiet developments of collective belief in both heroes and villains; this is more easily accomplished in a new world of her making.  She can be found on Instagram under the handle @legends_of_icaria or on subtack here: https://legendsoficaria.substack.com.

 What/who is your favourite dragon in literature?

This is such a great question.  My dragon of choice would have to be Gadzooks in Chris D’Lacey’s The Last Dragon Chronicles.  He’s an inspiration to another struggling author in the series.  That series in general is one of my favorite depictions of Dragons in youth literature, but really storytelling in general.

Everyone has a ‘first novel’, even if many of them are a rough draft relegated to the bottom and back of your desk drawer (or your external harddrive!). Have you been able to reshape yours, or have you abandoned it for good?

My first novel is sitting on the hard drive of a computer I no longer own… I wrote it when I was in my early adolescence (14 maybe?), and it is a reflection of a 14-year old’s writing.  The first novel I wrote as an adult and polished and queried also sits on a hard drive waiting for changes from the feedback I received.  She’s still waiting- but perhaps this will be good inspiration to return to her!

Over the years, what would you say has improved significantly in your writing?

Habit.  Writing and writing and writing and writing is the only thing that polishes.  Edits and feedback of course improve every piece, but the one thing that ensures rust never forms on your wrist is consistency.  I try to write SOMEthing every day, whether it’s a poem, an outline, the beginnings of a chapter or short story… Something to burn off my brain fog and keep the habit formed.  The brain requires exercise to stay fit too; it takes an author as long as it takes a runner to get back into shape after a break.

Some authors are able to pump out a novel a year and still be filled with inspiration. Is this the case for you, or do you like to let an idea percolate for a couple of years in order to get a beautiful novel?

I like to hustle once I have an idea.  That could mean I’m writing 5k words a day, or it could mean I’m waiting.  Once I finish a work I like to set it aside and explore for another idea- sometimes it strikes quickly and sometimes it doesn’t.  I’m not certain this is a useful answer, but it’s honest.   

I have heard of writers that could only write in one place – then that cafe closed down and they could no longer write! Where do you find yourself writing most often, and on what medium (pen/paper or digital)?

I am absolutely not a single place author.  I write when I have time, wherever I am.  Sometimes the best writing comes (to me at least) in the most unusual places.  As such, I write with whatever I have.  I was in the Armed Forces for a while, and as I exited, I went through all my old notebooks and found nonsense scribbles, half poems and story ideas from my most delirious watches, boredom in meetings, and those in-between times when your mind is still moving.  For me, the habit of continuing to write is more important than when or where I write.

Before going on to hire an editor, most authors use beta-readers. How do you recruit your beta-readers, and choose an editor? Are you lucky enough to have loving family members who can read and comment on your novel?

Believe it or not, I have two former English teachers who I inquire to read my works.  I have two very good friends (also writers) who often help read for pace and content- and I read their works as well- but for grammar and style, I have my Strunk and White from my high school English classrooms in my back pocket.  There’s something magical about a good English prof.

I walk past bookshops and am drawn in by the smell of the books – ebooks simply don’t have the same attraction for me. Does this happen to you, and do you have a favourite bookshop? Or perhaps you are an e-reader fan… where do you source most of your material from?

This is an interesting question for me… My family grew up “off the grid” without much technology.  Early on I only had hardcopy books- which was lovely.  I always had a book with me.  As I grew up and into technology, I found e-books useful when I worked into my studies, particularly at university.  E-Books allowed me to highlight and export highlights for citations… I also enjoy audiobooks as an adult now, but I do prefer when the author reads the text.  So I suppose you might say I am all over the place now; but there is something particularly romantic about a book you can hold in your hand, flip the pages, and dive into.  It’s finite in a way that e-books aren’t, and in that singleness it seems a bit more precious.

I used to find myself buying books in only one genre (fantasy) before I started writing this blog. What is your favourite genre, and have your tastes changed over time?

I am a high fantasy girl myself, but I also enjoy a good work of literary fiction.  At this point in my life, I tend to read books based on recommendations (a dangerous pastime!) so I read all over the map!

Social media is a big thing, much to my disgust! I never have enough time myself to do what I feel is a good job. What do you do?

I loathe social media myself.  Like I said, I grew up pretty off the grid- I still don’t have personal social media.  I have one page that I use to promote my work (I think I have about 200 followers…), and I manage it myself.  I post once a day to let people know that I still exist, as does my writing.  I should probably invest more time in learning how to navigate this potential source of connection!  I really dislike posting, it often feels cheap, but I do like when people learn about me and my work from the site. I only post on Instagram, and I send out writing twice a week on substack, otherwise I steer clear from the social media stage.  That being said, I do think it can be a powerful tool for people who know how to harness it.

Answering interview questions can often take a long time! Tell me, are you ever tempted to recycle your answers from one to the next? 

Ha!  You’re kind.  This is my first author interview, so I will let you know if I ever do another!

Looking for the novel? Find it here:
https://legendsoficaria.substack.com
https://legendsoficaria.wixsite.com/legendsoficaria/

Review: Donald Roos & Anne de Bruijn – Don’t Buy this Book (S)

Don’t Buy this Book: Entrepreneurship for Creative People
Donald Roos, Anne de Bruijn

“The sequel to the highly successful Don’t Read This Book – Time Management for Creative People. Like its predecessor, it uses the “To Don’t List” method to help you make the right choices – choices that help you achieve your goals as a creative entrepreneur. Don’t Buy This Book walks through the necessary steps: testing your idea, getting it ready for business, and building on it. It covers everything you need to get started or improve your business as a creative and offers practical exercises to clarify who you want to be as an entrepreneur.”

I should have listened to the cover and not bought the book! It’s a quick read, throws some good ideas your way, but let’s be real, it’s not the be-all and end-all of entrepreneurship guides. This is more like an Instagram-worthy motivational pep talk with quotes galore. They toss around some practical questions to get your brain working, but don’t expect actual answers – it’s more like a brainstorming session without a whiteboard.

Sure, there are snippets about some companies, but they barely scratch the surface. Oh, and they keep bringing up their first book, “Don’t Read This Book,” but don’t stress – you don’t need to read it for this one to make sense. It’s not really a sequel.

If you’re just dipping your toes into the entrepreneurial pool and need a little inspiration, go ahead and give it a shot. But if you’re after the real deal, check out “Twelve and a Half” by Gary Vaynerchuk. My verdict? Two stars – it’s okay, but nothing to write home about.

Interview with Julian Fogel, author of Tiloran: An Abandoned Home

An Interview with Julian Fogel, author of Tiloran: An Abandoned Home

Julian Fogel is a writer based in Colorado and has been writing stories for over a decade with his first novel self-published at the early age of just 25 with Tiloran: An Abandoned Home. What started as a hobby quickly turned into an activity he would love to turn into a career. While his initial dream was to get into the movie business through writing screenplays, he was eventually persuaded to give writing a novel a try by friends and collogues. So, if any stories of his have a cinematic feel to them, that would be his love for visual mediums of storytelling bleeding through.

What is your favourite dragon in literature?

Hmm… good question. Does Toothless from How to Train Your Dragon count? Definitely him, if it does. I just love the dynamic between him and Hiccup. If not, the first ones to come to mind are Falkore and Smaug, which seem pretty typical of answers, but they are classics.

I’m not going to be reviewing your newest novel, but from your other published novels, is there one that is your own personal favourite?

Well, I currently only have three novels published (all on Amazon, feel free to check them out *wink wink*) and they’re all part of the same series of Tiloran. It’s hard to pick a favorite out of any of them, especially anyone’s first published book. That one will always be very special, but if I had to pick one, then I think I would choose the second installment, Rise of the Worthy. There were just some themes and moments during writing that one that I didn’t know how well they could be explored until I wrote them. Very unique. But I still love the other two as well, obviously or I wouldn’t have released them, haha.

Everyone has a ‘first novel’, even if many of them are a rough draft relegated to the bottom and back of your desk drawer (or your external harddrive!). Have you been able to reshape yours, or have you abandoned it for good?

My first novel was technically An Abandoned Home, which I released, but funny enough, my original passion for writing came in the form of screenwriting. So, all of my first writing projects are currently screenplays and even the first draft of my first novel was a screenplay. That being said, while I’ll probably redo some of those as novels, my very first one needs a lot of work (as I’m sure many writers feel, haha). I don’t necessarily know if I’ll ever get around to doing that one again. Certainly not anytime soon, anyway.

Is there a running theme in your writing you tend to create, accidental or not?

I think I tend to write stories that showcase characters dealing with some kind of mental struggle of some kind like depression and/or loneliness. My first book has heavily themes of this and the rest of the series, while exploring other human conditions, will continue that trend. I find it fascinating and I feel you don’t find many stories dealing with those things as far as epic fantasy goes. Maybe I’m wrong and just haven’t found the right pool to read from, but it’s certainly unique to me.

Over the years, what would you say has improved significantly in your writing?

Just about everything, haha. Re-reading some of my earliest stuff, I can pick out all of the bad dialogue, the poor story structure, the non-descriptive descriptions. The only thing I really feel I may have been good with from the start was character arcs. I still think I made pretty good and well-paced character arcs from the get-go. Of course, that’s improved over the years as well, but the main and biggest improvement I’ve seen in my own writing is pacing. My older stuff would really just be all over the place with its pacing because I didn’t really have the fundamentals of storytelling down and it’s taken me a long time to really figure some of that out. It’s definitely something I think I’m still learning, honestly, I certainly don’t want to claim I’m done learning about it, no one ever really is, I think. There’s too much to know.

Some authors are able to pump out a novel a year and still be filled with inspiration. Is this the case for you, or do you like to let an idea percolate for a couple of years in order to get a beautiful novel?

Ooh, percolate is not a work I hear very often, good choice. I have no clue how people write so frequently. I always have something to work on, but my problem is finding time and motivation. As an author who can’t quite count on writing being my main job, it’s not something I can dedicate most of my time to. Who knows, maybe that’d change if it was more of my main job. If I think of a story idea, I definitely have to let it sit for a while before I really get the story beats down. I think some people just make a novel with whatever comes to them and that’s totally fine, sometimes it works out great, but I need to achieve a certain feeling to actually feel the novel is worth writing. What that feeling is, I’m not sure how to describe. It’s kind of like finally getting home after an extremely long road trip and all you’ve been seeing is roadblock after roadblock and there’s just this sense of the roads feeling right again and this sense of relief and peace like you know you’ve accomplished something, maybe even overcame something, if that makes any sense.

I have heard of writers that could only write in one place – then that cafe closed down and they could no longer write! Where do you find yourself writing most often, and on what medium (pen/paper or digital)?

Ouch, I can’t imagine getting myself all hyped up for a good writing session and finding out the only cafe I wrote in is closed, that would be unbearably frustrating, haha. No, luckily, I’m only comfortable writing in my home, preferably in my room on my computer. That’s kind of my safe zone where I can try and think of whatever ideas might work and which ones might not. I personally can’t imagine writing anywhere else, good on anyone who can, though. Sometimes I wish I felt comfortable doing so. But I certainly don’t think I’ll ever find my home closed… I would hope not anyway (insert scared expression here).

Before going on to hire an editor, most authors use beta-readers. How do you recruit your beta-readers, and choose an editor? Are you lucky enough to have loving family members who can read and comment on your novel?

I am lucky enough to have some good friends who will read my novels before release and thank goodness I do. It’s terrifying releasing something nobody has commented on or told you if it’s even worth reading, I would feel way more anxiety if I didn’t have those people in my life. As far as editing goes, I just mostly do that myself. Call it poor man’s editing or anything you want, but currently, I can only really let myself do it and whatever feedback I get from my friends on the books I write, I take into account, but I only really change things based on if multiple people call out the same thing. Because some story beats or moments might not work with one person, but may with another, so I need a group vote, basically, if I end up changing anything in the story.

I walk past bookshops and am drawn in by the smell of the books – ebooks simply don’t have the same attraction for me. Does this happen to you, and do you have a favourite bookshop? Or perhaps you are an e-reader fan… where do you source most of your material from?

I actually do love the smell of new books. Fresh paper should be an air freshener scent, haha. I definitely prefer physical books to ebooks, but I’m not a stickler for either. Ebooks are super convenient and physical copies are much more satisfying to get through, I’d say I read physical books more than ebooks. Though, I do enjoy a good audiobook, as well. No favorite bookshops, though, unfortunately. I just go to whichever one I can find.

I used to find myself buying books in only one genre (fantasy) before I started writing this blog. What is your favourite genre, and have your tastes changed over time?

I love almost all genres of storytelling. The only one I’m not very big on is erotica, never got into that. But I think I love fantasy/sci-fi the most. I love worlds that immerse me and take me out of this one. Escapism is very important sometimes. It can be dangerous if we get too lost in it, but staying only in this world our whole lives seems like a missed experience to me. If that’s what some people want and like, that’s their business and I can respect that, but I think they’re missing out just a little, at least, haha.

Social media is a big thing, much to my disgust! I never have enough time myself to do what I feel is a good job. What do you do?

On social media? I actually don’t get on social media very much (I know, go ahead and scald me for it). I know it’s kind of a self-published author’s necessity, but I just find it boring most of the time and the time-consuming aspect of it is very mind numbing. I will probably be getting more into it in the future as it does have it’s benefits for writers like me, but as of right now, I’m definitely in the same boat — not much of a good job going on with it from my end.

The only current profiles I have are Goodreads and Facebook. I manage them, I’m not on them very often and all I really add to them are book covers. I contact book bloggers for mentions and reviews, some websites sell advertising packages I go for (though you have to be really careful with those with all the scammers out there). I occasionally take advantage of the free book promos and ad campaigns kindle allows me to throw out there.

Answering interview questions can often take a long time! Tell me, are you ever tempted to recycle your answers from one to the next?

As I’ve not done very many interviews yet, I definitely haven’t felt the need to recycle many questions/answers, thankfully. I’m not a fan of repetition, so I’d like to try and vary my answers up as much as I can, but I can definitely see a point of being asked the same question where I run out of different responses eventually. It may take a long, long time, but I can definitely see it. All your questions have been great, though! No repetition here!

About the Book

Isaac, an average man, is thrust into a world of six war-fueled gods and must find a way home with the help of the allies he meets along the way. The world of Tiloran is vast and unfamiliar and Isaac does not belong. Along his way, he will be forced on an emotional and epic journey to accept a reality he isn’t ready to face.

More about Julian

In Julian’s spare time, he enjoys any form of story, whether it be movies, tv shows, video games, books, or even popular RPG tabletop games such as Dungeons and Dragons (Improvising stories and characters on the spot). He loves spending time with his friends and finding whatever adventurous activity he may be able to do when he can.

While he only has a couple of novels published on amazon for the time being, he plans on writing plenty more, starting with the rest of the series of Tiloran, currently awaiting the next installment of the series.

Among his fantasy series, he also loves to write for any genre including science fiction, drama, thrillers, and potentially horror, though that last one may be fairly far into the future. As for with all his stories, he sincerely hopes anyone who picks up his books thoroughly enjoys and perhaps even connects with them in any way and, while releases may be slow, he’s excited to share more for as long as he can.