About My Book

Learn more about my first book, Six Pack: Emergence.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Book Review: The Energy Crusades

Valerie Noble's The Energy Crusades explores a relevant theme in today's society: the value of energy sources and how they impact our lives. In Noble's book, energy is the only currency and visitors from another planet come to Earth with ideas about how to save it, but the question is whether those visitors have Earth's best interests in mind or if they have a bigger agenda.

The book focuses on Kaia, a young girl considered one of the best students, who trains for her own Energy Crusade, one in which she is reunited with childhood friend Ajax. Along the way, though, she learns more about what the Crusades are really about, along with exploring questions about her own past and whether the people she thought had her best interests in mind can be trusted.

Noble's greatest strength is her world building. She certainly had a lot of ideas in mind for how this future world would take shape and how the role of energy sources in society could have a greater impact over time. She takes her time to introduce new elements into the story and does a good job of pacing them throughout the book. And Noble's love of tennis is evident throughout the story!

I did find some of the shifts in viewpoint to be a bit jarring at times. I find the novel works best when told through the eyes of Kaia. Some of the characters whose viewpoint Noble chooses to use are ones I didn't find myself relating to as well.

But those weaknesses are more than made up with Noble's strengths in building a world, her knowledge about energy resources coming through in her writing, and making Kaia a complex and relatable character.

The Energy Crusades is the first book in a planned series. Noble has already released the second book, The City in the Mountains.

You can learn more about The Energy Crusades at Noble's website or order the book through Amazon.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Three YA Thumbnail Reviews

As I've been working on the second book in my planned series, I've read a number of young adult titles in recent months to get ideas on how to make characters relatable and the situations they face.

It also gives me a good reason to read more books, a requirement for anybody who wants to get better at writing.

I'll do a few thumbnail reviews of some of the books that I've read in recent weeks and look at what I thought each author did well.

The Eye of Minds: James Dashner's first book in his Morality Doctrine series focuses on a young gamer named Michael who is tasked with tracking down a rogue hacker named Kaine who is causing mass destruction and death in the VirtNet. Dashner does a good job with world building, using the virtual reality concept to create many different settings and put Michael and other characters through different challenges. Dashner is also good at building tension throughout the novel. The ending was a bit unexpected.

The Infinite Sea: The sequel to The 5th Wave, a book I enjoyed. Once again, Rick Yancey narrates through several different characters in a first-person viewpoint, with a few instances of third-person viewpoint. It was kind of jarring, though, to be thrust into the mind of Ringer to start the book -- she was a minor character in The 5th Wave. I thought the book worked better when told through the viewpoint of Cassie and was disappointed I didn't get much insight from Ben, whose viewpoint was shared frequently in the first book. After a strong first book, the second book was a bit disappointing.

H2O: The debut novel by Virginia Bergin, in which Ruby, a teenage girl from England, tries to survive amidst a lethal rainfall that has left most sources of water unsafe to drink. Bergin's biggest strength is the voice she gives to Ruby... there's no question you're dealing with a teeanger who's desperate for company and really wants to find her father. You do have to get used to Bergin's decision to use all caps at certain points, but it does give the impression of a teenager writing in a diary and getting upset at certain points. The ending came off a bit flat, though.

There are some other novels that I read from my fellow Clean Reads authors, but I'll try to sit down and do more detailed reviews of those in the weeks to come.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Writing Inspirations: Suzanne Collins

When I started this blog, I wrote about four people who inspired my writing but forgot to write about a fifth... that person is who you might say put my book idea over the top.

My first experience with The Hunger Games was watching the movie, which I enjoyed. But it wasn't until I ran across the book that I became hooked on the franchise, thanks to the writing style of Suzanne Collins.

I loved the story that Collins set up, how she built tension, the voice she gave Katniss Everdeen, how good Collins was in making me sympathize not only with Katniss, but several other characters, too. Collins did a good job portraying Peeta and gave you just enough about Gale and Prim to make you empathize with those two characters.

The first time I read The Hunger Games, I had trouble putting it down. That's a testament to her ability to build suspense and intrigue. She seems to know the right spot to end a chapter and make you want to keep moving to the next one.

Just as importantly, Collins' book helped inspire my upcoming novel, Six Pack: Emergence. I had been toying with the idea of a superhero team-up for a long time, but didn't know what setting to utilize. Collins inspired me to add that missing layer to my book idea... the idea of a dystopian world.

The Hunger Games series are the only books by Collins that I have read thus far (which means I have some material to put on my reading list, right?) but if I hadn't ran across her books and only experienced the movies, I might never had found the right setting and storyline to place my characters.

Of course, now that I have completed the first novel and have the second one well underway, I've got ideas for other books running through my head. Who knows if I would have ventured down this path had I not read Collins' works?

(If you'd like to read about the other writing inspirations for my book, you can learn more at these links: Greg Weisman, George Orwell, Stan Lee, Conor Friedersdorf.)

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Twenty Questions With Sara Turnquist

This week’s Twenty Questions session is with Sara Turnquist, who has written four books and her most recent release is “Hope in Cripple Creek.” You may visit her website here to learn more about her other released novels and several others she is working on.

Anyone who is interested in participating in a Twenty Questions session with me to promote their recent or upcoming releases may learn more here.

So everyone say hello to Sara Turnquist!

1. How did you get interested in writing? I have always written short stories and little fan fiction for as long as I can remember. It wasn't until college though that I started writing the story that would become my second published novel, The General's Wife.

2. What inspired you to come up with ‘Hope in Cripple Creek’? I always liked historical dramas set during this time period - right after the civil war and out west. (Think Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman.) So, I wanted to set this story I was dreaming up during this place and time. I asked my husband, who had lived in Colorado for a short time, for the name of a small town in Colorado. He gave me Cripple Creek. When I started researching the town, the story of this historically significant miner's strike fell into my lap. So, the novel is partly about the love story and partly about the main character's brother who is a miner caught up in this strike. The stories are interwoven in places. It was really fun to write.

3. Tell me about the main character, Katherine Matthews, and what inspired you to create her. I wanted to create a character that had core wounds. And those wounds haunted her. Something she held on to, but needed to overcome in order to find love. She is a strong character, and that is part of what keeps her from letting anyone in to help her heal.

4. What characters, other than Katherine, did you find enjoyable to write as you progressed with the book? I really enjoyed writing Wyatt, the town doctor and Katherine's nemesis. You ever have those times when the character just runs away from you? Starts telling his own story and you're like, "so that's why you are the way you are"? Well, Wyatt did that to me. His backstory unfolded that way. It wasn't planned (I'm a pantser by nature - write by the seat of my pants, letting the story happen as I write with very little planning), but even less so his background. It literally came out as I wrote. It surprised me. But, as Robert Frost says "...no surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader"

5. What are some of the themes you explored in writing the novel? That the truth will have the last say. And that the truth, ultimately, will set you free.

6. What were some of the things you learned along the way as you wrote and edited the book? I learned a LOT about deep point of view. I learned a lot about deep POV while I let the manuscript rest. So when I went back to edit, I was surprised how much editing it required. I learned to trust the pantser in me. I have become more of a "plantser" over time (a cross between a plotter and a pantser - I do a lot of character developing and plotting before I start writing these days). But I learned that if I let the characters "run with it" that they can take me in some really interesting places.

7. How did this book writing experience compare to the other books you have written? The editing journey on this book was much more intense. Both between the resting of the manuscript and self-editing and what the professional editors brought to the manuscript. This was the roughest. Not because it needed the most work, necessarily, because, as the toughest editor said she "saw a tremendous amount of potential" in this story.

8. Tell me more about writing historical fiction and why you love it so much. I am just as surprised as anyone else that I became a historical fiction/romance writer. History inspires me. The fact that real life is stranger than fiction sometimes. I love that when the facts get vague, you add more fiction and when the fiction becomes a bit weaker, you add more fact. It's a dance. A beautiful dance.

9. What do you find is the right environment for you to write? I have a wonderful writing space at home. A nice U-shaped desk with enough space to lay out my research, notes, pictures and whatnot (not as necessary now that Scrivener keeps all that secure for you). But it's peaceful and my husband's desk is not far away. So, I can share scenes with him after I write them and get that instant feedback. But I find I am more productive at the local coffee shop. They have some really comfy booths that allow me the space to spread my stuff out, plug into my music (I have to have that!) and tap away the keyboard.

10. Are there specific programs or tools you find useful to help you with the writing process? I LOVE Scrivener. I love the way it lays out your book in the Binder. And I love the COMPOSE mode, how it blocks out your desktop and you can upload a photo as your backdrop. I pick a photo themed to my story to inspire my creative juices.

11. What have you found to be useful methods for promoting your writing? Going to conferences, regular posting on social media, blog tours (in which the blogs are targeted to your genre), posting memes in targeted Facebook groups, basically, know your audience and go where they are 

12. What are some of the famous books or authors you have enjoyed or inspired you? Michelle Moran writes Historical Fiction and I have enjoyed how detailed she is. Francine Rivers' stories have really inspired me on a number of levels.

13. Any aspiring or independent authors whose books you’ve read that you liked and want to mention to others to check out? I am loving Melanie Dickerson and Tamara Leigh's books right now. They are both clean Historical Romance authors. I love the way they draw you in and their well-developed characters. Joanne Bischof is amazing with deep point of view.

14. What advice would you give to those who want to write a novel before they actually get started? Have determination. You are not going to feel like writing on certain days. Sometimes the muse/inspiration isn't there. But if you are serious about the craft, you are going to have to dedicate yourself to finding that inspiration anyway. Just sit down and start writing. Search for a writing prompt if you have to and write about something that is not relevant to your work. Get the pump primed. You'll be surprised how quickly those creative juices will start to flow once you just get writing. You have to have that determination. No one is going to care about your career like you will.

15. Tell me about your work at the Orlando zoo. What’s involved with your work as an educator there? Mostly it's educational tours/classes. For children, there are classes about the animals. The elementary children, for example, go through the zoo and learn about how the different animals use their bodies, their behaviors, and their habitats to help them survive. They, too, play the part of an animal group trying to survive. For the adults, it's more of a tour - getting a chance to see "behind the scenes" - an animal night house, the vet hospital, the nutrition center (where the animal's diets are prepared), etc.

16. In your bio, you mentioned working as a sleep technician. Are you still doing that? What’s involved with that job? Sadly, I am no longer involved with that. Sleep technicians "hook" patients up for sleep studies (attach wires so that the patient's brain waves, breathing, heart, and muscles can be monitored while they sleep to determine if there is a sleep disorder). Then the sleep technician watches the data and makes sure the patient is safe during the study. I did that for a while, then I transferred over to the analytical side of things. I was one of the technicians that took the data and analyzed it for the doctor to "read" it and make his/her diagnosis.

17. What can you tell me about your experiences visiting the Czech Republic? That sounds interesting! I could talk about my visits to the Czech Republic forever. They had a tremendous impact on me. I loved the culture, the people, the country, the history, you name it! I went several summers to teach English at a summer camp for college aged students. We spent time in Prague, but the camps were held in the Krkonose Mountains. I would go back in a heartbeat. And plan to when my kiddos are a bit older. 

18. Tell me about these other creative outlets you pursue… is there a particular favorite you have? I love music (I sing and play the piano and the flute), painting, scrapbooking, and acting/drama. It is difficult to chose a favorite. Perhaps playing the piano is the most cathartic.

19. Have any of your children followed in your footsteps with a love for writing? My kiddos are 7, 5, and 3. The older two LOVE to read. And I have hopes that they will enjoy writing. My 5 year old already loves to tell looooong stories to avoid bedtime. So, we'll see :-)

20. Who would win a battle of superhero skills: Superman, Batman or Wonder Woman? Superman can FLY and has super strength among other amazing talents, Batman has some fancy toys, and Wonder Woman (girl power) has a magic lasso and a "jet" no one can see. What do you think?