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Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Kids and Creativity: being a mom doesn't need to end your creative life.

A few times I've gotten "compliments" that tell me how amazing it is that I can still maintain a creative life while still being a mom. There seems to be a weird perception out there that kids totally take away any sense of "identity" and use up all your creative energy and therefore having kids is like signing away your right to "create" or be a person or ... something?

It's ironic because being a mom takes a TON of creativity. They are hardly opposing forces.
Having kids is like being dropped into an ongoing narrative that constantly changes. One minute they're normal kids. The next they are wizards or ninjas or princesses or cats. If you stop see your job as trying to police this and control it, it can be exhausting, but if you accept it for what it is, it's downright invigorating.

Children aren't little leaches sucking life out of the world. They are people who need to interact creatively as much as--no MORE SO than--adults. Kids need creativity. Kids go hand and hand with creativity. Kids should FUEL creativity.

The only time it gets hard is when kids cause exhaustion, but anyone who has ever worked a full time job can tell you exhaustion can come from multiple sources, not just kids.

I probably would be a ton less creative working at a computer answering customer service calls than I am dealing with people who are constantly living in a world of discovery and imagination (AKA my kids.).

Now, there are points in life when you'll want to maybe pause other pursuits to focus on "what's important" in the moment. This isn't just kids, though. For instance, if you just got married or fell in love, that can become all consuming for a while. It can make it hard to focus on any sort of creative outlet ... or anything for that matter that doesn't center around your beloved. And it's an amazing state of being that you should enjoy and appreciate, because it doesn't last forever, and after a bit you'll find a sense of balance and be able to still love the person while also occasionally focusing on things other than them.
Some periods with (especially young) children are like this. Yes, you may only want to think about your baby. Yes, your baby may seem like they are your world. There's nothing wrong with this, but it won't last forever. Give yourself permission to enjoy it.

Or hard times. Times of illness and financial worry, for example. Sometimes survival is the immediate concern, and it is perfectly okay to just focus on "getting through."
And some days with (again, especially young) children will be like this. Somedays it is okay just to survive. Give yourself permission to let go of lofty goals and remember, this also won't last forever.

And the severity and length of these periods is different for every relationship.

I went relatively quickly from being totally wrapped up in love and newlywed bliss to being a new mom ... I think it was about six years of focus that I gave to that, from the start of my whirlwind courtship with Matt to when Claire and Coryn were around 6-months-old and four-years-old. I don't regret those years, honestly. I lived my life. I enjoyed those years. Then one day I woke up from them like a (mostly) pleasant dream and thought, "Hey, I'd like to start writing again."

I honestly think I was a better writer after the pause. I understood a lot more about life (and love especially). I had perspective. I had less fear of failure because whatever else went on in my life, my family was there for me.

So kids don't mean the end of creativity. If you play your cards right, kids are awesome inspiration. 

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Random Interview Saturday! M. Ray Holloway Jr.

The H. L. Burke Random Interview is not like other interviews. The questions are all over the place. They have no purpose. Their purpose is their lack of purpose.
There are nine questions because cats, but these nine questions are subject to change without notice, so the questions one person answers may not be the questions answered by the next author.

What's in the sky? Is it a bird? Is it a plane? NO! It's M. Ray Holloway Jr!

M. Ray Holloway Jr.
Author Bio

On New Year’s Day 1998, M. Ray Holloway Jr. moved to Louisville, Kentucky where he met his wife Pam, and he has lived there to this day. He loves spending time with his five grandchildren (with another on the way), playing the guitar, singing for the church, photography, reading, and writing fiction and non-fiction. He has published two short stories (“Gretchen’s Shoot” and “The Empath”) and two novelettes (“The Picture of the Ghost” and "The Deathburger Saga"), a book of poetry ("Encouragements: A Collection of Poems"), and a novel about time travel and young love called "At Some Point in Time". He is currently working on his next scifi novel called “Let No Word be Spoken” about a jumpship captain who crash lands on a very unusual planet.

If you had the honor of naming something really big (a country, a spaceship, a planet) what would you want it to be and what would you name it?
I have that task every time that I sit down to write a story. I have to name all of my characters, the towns that they frequent, and if it is space science fiction, I have to name the star that their planet revolves around, the planets in their solar system, and the people that live on that planet. In my current work in progress, my aliens live near the star Darol (DAH-ROLL.) Their planet is called Darol Tor, which means “second planet from the star Darol” and they are called Darol Torans. My jumpship, which was inherited by the captain of my story, was named “The Dreamer’s Fortune” by his uncle, who was the previous owner of the ship.
Describe your life as a film genre.
My life would best be described as a sappy romance like the kind that you would see on the Lifetime channel or read in a Nora Roberts book. I look to the rest of my life with great anticipation, and can’t wait to see how the story ends.
You have to trade places with one of your characters for a day. Which and why?
I would like to trade places with Ed Delaney from my novel “At Some Point in Time”. He has a time machine and knows exactly what he wants out of life and how to get it. In real life, not everything works out the way we plan it, so I may not be as skilled as he is when it comes to “fixing” my past.
What is the best dream you ever had? Alternately, what is the worst nightmare you’ve ever experienced?
I had this really cool dream when I was young that a girl that I liked gave me a peppermint candy. She had never done this before, but to my surprise, the next day at school, she gave me that candy, and it was all exactly like my dream. I don’t have many prophetic dreams, and when I do, they are about insignificant things like that.
My worst dream was about me driving down this street, looking off to my left and seeing my ex-wife in a car accident. A metal rod had pierced her leg, causing her a great deal of pain. I woke up in a cold sweat and sent her a message through my son telling her to be careful.
What’s the most important lesson you ever learned from a cartoon?
I learned that life goes on. To quote the Beatles, “Life goes on within you and without you.” From Wile E. Coyote to the Disney movies, I saw tragedies happen, but the characters picked themselves up after an appropriate period of mourning and moved on with their lives. Some people in my life tell me that I’m harsh because I have this ability to move on, no matter what the loss, but I’m just not the kind of person who spends a lot of time worrying about things I can’t change.
During an alien invasion, what would be your weapon of choice?
If you watch any scifi flick that depicts alien invasion, and really analyze the events and what was most effective in overcoming the aliens, you will probably come to the conclusion that the greatest weapon we have against any form of adversity is reason. Our ability to adapt and devise effective countermeasures to an alien attack is what will ultimately enable us to preserve the human species. Other than that, give me the biggest alien technology gun that you can find!
If I were to invite you over, what snacks would you bring, keeping in mind that fruit and dried fruit are not snacks?
I am a chips and picante type of guy, and eat it at least once a week as a snack at home. I also fix a mean hot cheese dip.

Are you the sort who sticks with the bird in hand? Or goes for what's behind door number two?
It depends on my perception of the situation. If the bird in the hand is significant enough, I will go ahead and grab it rather than wait for some possibly ill-conceived promise of a better prize down the road. However, if the bird is not that great, I would lean more towards waiting for a greater reward to come.

If this question were any question in the world, what question would you want it to be and how would you answer it?
The one question that I want people to know the answer about me is: “What is the message you want your readers to get from your writing?”
I always have trouble when people ask me what kind of stories I write. The answer that I usually wind up giving is that I write stories about relationships. I have written a ghost story, a magical reality short, a story about two sisters dealing with a conflict, a time travel romance, and a tale about a crooked mayor and the woman who wants to expose him. My next piece is about a jumpship captain and an alien woman, and the one after that is about a traveler who confronts the son of a wizard. On the surface, it looks like there is nothing in common with any of these stories, but in every one, there are relationships that have to be sorted out. THAT is what I write about!


Thursday, August 25, 2016

The Mythical Tournament continues!

The Mythical Tournament continues. 32 beasts were nominated. The first round took them down to 16. Did your favorite make it through? Who should make it into the next round?

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Why So Many Good Dragons?

I don't blog/talk about religion much. While I don't think I've hidden the fact that I'm a Christian ever, I don't write Christian fiction because I find the expectations of that market to be too restrictive. I also don't feel I've ever been given a good "salvation" story, and while I might lightly touch on spiritual themes from time to time, I'm not going to force messages into my tales which I see as just "stories." 

That said, a bit ago my friend linked me a blog post by a Christian fantasy author who thought the turn from "evil dragon" fiction to "good dragon" fiction was an ominous sign. Her logic was partially that because dragons are used to describe the devil in a couple of places in the Bible, dragons must always represent evil. 

I have heard this argument before, and while I don't feel qualified to give it a major theological breakdown, my personal take is the following: 
Yes, the dragon was used to describe the devil ... but so was a lion (the enemy is a roaring lion), yet lions aren't evil demons. They can even be tamed to an extent and have been used as representations of Christ. So either the Bible is inconsistent about lions ... or it is a metaphor and people can separate the aspects of a lion that are majestic and powerful from the fact that it is also a predator that can eat your face without demonizing what is essentially a dumb animal that really doesn't fit into theology as anything but a symbol.
I feel the same way about dragons. 

So I think dragons are fair game whatever your theological/religious background.

However, there has been a definite shift from "eat your face" dragons to "let's ride the dragons/free the dragons/love the dragons!" It's not an exclusively modern thing (The Reluctant Dragon was published in 1898. Nesbit wrote her Book of Dragons, including some friendlier ones, in 1901.), but it has become more common. 

So why? What is it about the modern age where dragons are no longer horrifying monsters but instead majestic creatures worthy of admiration? 

I am not going to claim to have any sort of academic basis for this, but just my observations lead me to believe the shift is based on cultural changes, not necessarily bad ones, in how we relate to our world and how our world relates to us.

Dragons Represent Nature

Image Credit Sandara

To me this is the biggest reason why we no longer fight dragons. Though intelligent dragons and even dragon governments aren't unheard of, the dragon of lore is essentially a beast. A powerful, predatory beast (you don't find many vegetarian dragons), but a beast still. This essentially makes it a force of nature. 
For much of human history, people have felt bullied by nature. We were at the mercy of the weather, of crop failure, and of the teeth of the wild creatures of the forest. After all, humans are soft and squishy and taste good with ketchup. It took the invention of modern guns to tip things in our favor (which led to us getting carried away and the extinction of some species). 
So we no longer fear nature as we used to (because of our machines, our ability to predict weather, because we only see vicious animals behind cages and on Animal Planet). 
In fact, I'd say that most modern humans feel detached from nature and long to return to a place of communion with it. Add this to the ecological messages of the 90s movies a lot of modern writers grew up on, and it's really no surprise we identify more with heroes who protect animals rather than hunt them. 

Dragons and Damsels

Some Damsels aren't distressed by dragons

Another reason for the shift is traditional dragon stories are closely tied to the DiD (Damsel in Distress). Dragons kidnap, eat, and imprison maids (princesses, mostly, but not all are that particular). Knights fight dragons and rescue maids. 
This tried and true trope gives us two separate but equally important reasons for the shift.
  1. Our current literary climate prefers a "reverse trope" to the old standard. So much that it has in itself become a trope. 
  2. Readers now expect female leads to pull their own weight and be more than pretty princesses. While sometimes this means they fight the dragon on their own, generally we end up seeing the dragon and maid fight against the society that treats one as a monster and the other as a possession.
And I'm really fond of this reversal. I used it for my most popular set of books (The Dragon and the Scholar Saga). In some way it has become a trope of its own, so I wouldn't be surprised if we see a trend away from it as evil dragons become less common and therefore more "original" than friendly dragons again. 

The Shrek Effect

Another reason, and one that I think is a good thing in a lot of ways, is the trend away from physical beauty=good. 
There has always been a theme to fairy tales of loving the unlovable (be it a literal Beast or a homely princess) being transformative magic. The girl loves the Beast or kisses the frog (or slams it against the wall. Ah, Fairy Tales ...), and suddenly he's a handsome prince. 
However, outward beauty being good is too "easy" and not reflective of how the world in general really works. I'm sure we've all known people in our lives who were beautiful to look at but nasty to be around as well as plain sorts who could light up our lives with their spirits. When Christ came to earth, there is reason to believe that, physically, he wasn't much to look at (Isaiah 53:2). 
The reason I call this the "Shrek Effect" rather than the "Beauty and the Beast Effect" is because (while it is not by any means a great movie in my humble opinion. I wouldn't call myself a fan.) unlike the traditional tales where true loves kiss turns the ugly prince into something more visually appealing, Shrek made (and if someone can give me an example of this before Shrek, I will happily rename this "effect") the somewhat bold choice of having the kiss make Fiona an Ogre, physically unappealing, but beautiful in the eyes of her beloved. 
We can't help our looks. Sure we can diet, slather on makeup, get plastic surgery, but all that while not necessarily evil (Well, plastic surgery isn't something I'm a big fan of, but I can think of extreme cases where it would improve someone's quality of life) doesn't address the root problem which isn't with the "ugly" so much as with the need of society to put labels on something and give it value just because it looks a certain way. I use "it" rather than "he or she" here because it isn't just people. It's produce (there is so much food waste because food doesn't meet an aesthetic standard) ... pets (try to be an ugly dog in a shelter sometime) ... and yes, people. 
And the modern world tries to pretend to be all open-minded about this, but really, we're not. We're still airbrushing models and throwing out asymmetrical apples ... 
So yeah, I'm all in favor of the Shrek Effect because in real life, love does not remove scars or shed pounds. We may like the idea of true love's kiss making us drop dead gorgeous, but it's not how the world works, and it's not even what we should hold up as an ideal. True love sees past those things ... and while that being a physical change can be seen as a nice metaphor, the true change is always going to be on the inside. 
And if this means that we sometimes embrace a "loathsome dragon" so be it.

Amy Pond speaks truth here.

Dragons, like any creature that exists mainly in our imagination, are going to reflect our view of the world, of other people, and even ourselves. They're an outward projection of what we crave ... or what we fear. 

So those are three reasons why I think we've seen a shift away from the evil dragon. Honestly, none of them herald the end of morality. There are even some signs of positive growth (and it's easy to get on the "our generation is so much better than past generations" high horse ... I'm not saying we've really improved, just that we've traded in our old, well-worn faults for new shiny ones). 

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Random Interview Saturday! Kristen Stieffel

The H. L. Burke Random Interview is not like other interviews. The questions are all over the place. They have no purpose. Their purpose is their lack of purpose.
There are nine questions because cats, but these nine questions are subject to change without notice, so the questions one person answers may not be the questions answered by the next author.

Today we sit down with Kristen Stieffel over cakes and tea. What sort of cakes and tea? Well, you'll just have to wonder, won't you?

Kristen Stieffel


Kristen Stieffel is a writer and freelance editor specializing in speculative fiction. She’s the associate editor of Havok, a flash fiction magazine focused on the science fiction and fantasy genres. She provides a full range of editorial services and has worked on a variety of projects including business nonfiction and Bible studies, but she is a novelist at heart and has edited novels in many genres for both the general market and the Christian submarket. Kristen is a member of the Editorial Freelancers Association and Christian Editor Connection and teaches at several conferences each year. Website: kristenstieffel.com.'

The Interview

You have superpowers. What are they and what do you do with them?I retrieve lost objects—like using the acccio spell in Harry Potter. I find and return them to their rightful owners. Like the antique pocket watch a burglar stole from my husband's dresser.

If your favorite historical era had an ice cream flavor made in its honor, what would it taste like?

Victorian Cobblestone Street is a dark chocolate ice cream with chopped walnuts, chunks of fudge brownie, and butterscotch chips. Best served with melted caramel topping. I have actually made this, and it is fabulous.

You have to trade places with one of your characters for a day. Which and why?
Astrid Laakkonen, because she flies on an airship … on Mars. Who wouldn't love to do that for a day?  

You're the next Disney princess. What fairy tale is your full length movie and how would you use your new ability to control woodland creatures?
Legend of Ptesan-Wi follows the White Buffalo Calf Woman as she teaches humans and woodland creatures how to support one another. After she departs, it all goes downhill.

What’s the most important lesson you ever learned from a cartoon?
Bambi, when Thumper says, "If you can't say somethin’ nice, don't say nuthin’ at all." Actually, I'm still working on that…

During an alien invasion, what would be your weapon of choice?
Whatever the mother ship provides us to obliterate the human scum. Oh, blast. Gave away the plan…

If I were to invite you over, what snacks would you bring, keeping in mind that fruit and dried fruit are not snacks?
Pretzels and onion dip. Because I like pretzels better than potato chips.

If you could combine any two animals to make a hybrid, what would they be?
A horse and an eagle, but I think someone already thought of that. Because horses are awesome and flight is awesome so a flying horse is just doubly awesome.

If this question were any question in the world, what question would you want it to be and how would you answer it?
Why do you knit so many sweaters when you live in Florida? Because knitting is creative and meditative, and because everything in Florida is air conditioned. Here, our sweaters are worn indoors.

Links to Kristen's Work

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Review: Magic Weaver

Magic Weaver

Magic Weaver: K. M. Carroll

As a catgirl from another world, Xironi Heartlight spent her childhood trying to blend in with Earth’s humans. She lives with her grandfather in a huge house he expanded with magic, and earns her living by weaving space into tapestries on her magic loom. 

When her friend Carda asks for her help to investigate a series of magical thefts, Xironi is caught up in the twisted schemes of an imprisoned sorcerer, and Alatha, the cutthroat politician he has forced to obey his every command. An innocent girl is taking the fall for it – Revi, the ex-assassin Carda has been training in magic. 

Now Xironi and Revi, together with Carda and his friends, must hunt down and capture Alatha’s probability ghosts from multiple timelines so that Xironi can weave them back together – before Alatha’s final strike brings the fury of an alien race upon them all.

My Review

I was able to dive right in, despite not having read previous installments in this series. There is a little bit of catch up with characters who obviously have a lot of history, but it was inserted naturally and quickly enough that things kept moving. 

This world has believable characters and an extremely complex magic system. It moves at a quick pace, and leads to a satisfying ending, with some "this'll be resolved later" threads but no major cliffhangers. It's also kind of good, quirky fun to see our very normal world mixed with elaborate magical systems and other worldly areas ... plus I'm a sucker for a mechanical cat. Did I mention this has a mechanical cat?
I received an ARC in return for my honest review.

Purchase on Amazon 

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Random Interview Saturday! Lesa McKee

The H. L. Burke Random Interview is not like other interviews. The questions are all over the place. They have no purpose. Their purpose is their lack of purpose.
There are nine questions because cats, but these nine questions are subject to change without notice, so the questions one person answers may not be the questions answered by the next author.

Strange lights on the horizon. A buzzing noise. A spaceship descends. Is it visitors from another world? No, it's Lesa McKee!!!
Lesa McKee

Author Bio

Lesa McKee grew up at her Grandmother's knee, listening to the French folk-tales her animated Grandma Ida shared. A love of stories was born and her imagination took off!
She’s now living her dream as a Christian Indie writer of feel-good fiction, including a short story series of far-out space cats, titled 'Operation Space Cats'. These purrific feline adventures are filled with faith, friendship & fun!

The Interview

We sometimes hear stories about lottery winners who still choose to man their tollbooths or drive their buses in spite of being able to afford to quit. What job (or jobs), to you, would be worth working even if you didn't need the financial pay?

Having money won’t curb my imagination, so yeah, I’d still be escaping to other worlds through my writing. I love anything creative, be it writing, drawing, designing (anything and everything), flower & container gardening, so anything I’m passionate about. And I wanted to be everything when I grew up! Still do.:)

Be it a singer, nurse, beautician, interior designer, travel agent, and the list goes on. I  love to bake so it would be fun to run a cupcake shop and do something really creative with the menu and the decorations, of course. 

I know! I could make it an Indie writer’s cupcake shop and name each cupcake after a fellow Indie author, and design their cupcake around their latest book. Hmm … How about a triple chocolate chunk cupcake with a cookie dough frosting, and a dragon’s egg in the center for yours, Heidi? 

You know I must go out and open an Indie books and cupcake shop now. I’ll spend the night dreaming up names for it.

What method do you suggest for dealing with dragons?

I’d try the diplomatic approach, but if that failed I have a team of space cats at my disposal with invisible spaceships, hover boards, and a ‘secret weapon’ so I have plenty of back up if I need it. And because, you know, cats.

Can you simply walk into Mordor?

Mordor. Tell me that’s from Lord of the Rings or one of those other Tolkien books/movies. I’m going to have to google it because I found the movies kind of, ahem, uh, boring. . Oh, dear. I’ve totally lost all coolness now to your reader’s. Sorry! Since you asked, I’ll guess no. At least It’s an honest (albeit a grin and bear it) answer. Maybe I’ll get points for that:)

What is the best dream you ever had? Alternately, what is the worst nightmare you’ve ever experienced?

Nightmare first. I’ll save the best for last.:) My worst nightmare is recurring unfortunately. I’m sleeping along, having a regular dream (I could be having fun) until a tornado pops out of nowhere. All of a sudden *fun’s over* it’s a tornado dream. I usually have these 3-4 times a year. I almost always end up in a car trying to outrun it.  

And now for the best. Happened just this past February. I know because I wrote it down which I never do. (And I’m so glad you asked because I never thought I’d get to share it:)) 

My dad (Allen) passed away two years ago. He had an identical  twin brother (my Uncle Alvin), and they passed away three months apart. They were 91, and shared the same nickname, Al! They had an amazing bond. I had to set it up, so here’s the dream. (By the way this dream had a part two, all in the same night.)


My husband and I were in his work shed and we heard a helicopter flying over us. We stepped outside. It was red & grey, and I thought it had a chevy or ford logo on it.

The helicopter turned around at the edge of our house, and came back toward us. It was so close, and I saw my Uncle Alvin was flying the helicopter. (No, he wasn’t a pilot in real life, lol.) He had a huge smile on his face!

I was so happy to see him. He looked like he did in his younger days, probably 50’s or 60’s, but they always looked 20 years younger, so he actually looked 30’s -40’s.

Then my dad popped his head up from the seat next to Alvin and had a big smile as well. I was thrilled to see him!

They flew over us and lowered the copter over our back alley. My Dad (somehow) rolled down the window and said, “Hey! You coming up there with us?”

I instantly knew he was talking about Minnesota (where my uncle was from), and he meant for the weekend. I kind of shook my head yes, and said I’d go (even with my fear of heights. Yikes!)

Uncle Alvin parked the copter in the back yard. At that point, I noticed David was gone, but my grand-darling, Alana was standing next to me. (It’s so typical in my dreams for me to be with one person and the next time I look at them it’s someone else!)  I brought her in the house and started looking for David to see if he wanted to go.

I found my dad inside in the back room packing his brown suitcase (the same one from ‘real life’ he used for years). I don’t remember finding David, or talking to my dad (I wish I would have!), but Alana had fallen asleep in one of the other bedroom’s.

I was so scared of the copter ride,  but I was going to go anyway.

Then I woke up!:(

I was so excited about this dream and seeing my dad, I laid there and thought about it for a while, and then I fell back asleep and had a second dream …

In this dream my mom came over. She looked younger too. Probably 50’s or so. I was so excited about my ‘dream’ I started telling her that I saw my dad in a dream. We were standing in the back yard.

At that point, my dad walked right by us and went into the house. He again looked young. I was so excited telling mom the dream that I didn’t even say anything to him!:(

After I told her, I went into the house to find him. He was asleep in his recliner. So I sat next to him, content to watch him sleep. He opened his eyes a couple of times, and looked at me. The tv was on but I didn’t pay any attention to it.

Then I woke up feeling so good about ‘spending time’ with my dad! Of course I cried like a baby afterward because I miss him so, but it was a lovely treasure I’ll always cherish. After not seeing him in real life for so long I felt it was a gift. Still makes me tear up and smile at the same time when I think about it. Two dreams of him in one night.:)

When cats take over the world, how do you plan to win their good graces?

Well, as I mentioned above I have feline friends in high places.:) But I could do with learning more of their language. (I don’t speak cat as well as I should).

If you could live inside a theme park ride, which would it be?

Aack! As a person who can’t even WATCH the rides in motion without getting nauseous, this one is a toughie. Is there a fairy tale ride with Cinderella’s castle that doesn’t include a boat trip or anything spinning? Again, losing my cool vibes here ...

Vs movies seem to be all the rage. If you had to put one together, what on screen match up would you like to see?

Thinking cartoons here. I’d pit Bugs Bunny against the Road-Runner. Because Bugs Bunny always beats Daffy Duck & The Road-Runner always beats Wyle E. Coyote. What a match-up! 

Are you the sort who sticks with the bird in hand? Or goes for what's behind door number two?

It depends on how colorful the birdie is.:) If I love it (say it’s yellow with green feathers which equals a new car) I may just keep it and forego the risk, but if it’s a meh color (let’s say it’s orange and equals a sailboat, which I’ll never realistically use) then, ya. I’m gonna go for door two!

If this question were any question in the world, what question would you want it to be and how would you answer it?

What is the best part about writing?

Aside from the immediate benefit *the thrill* of spending time with my characters in an imaginary world I created, I’d say it’s the long-term benefit of knowing one day my grand-darlings will be reading my stories, and passing them on through the generations. Leaving behind a legacy like that is truly the best part of all!:)

Connect With Lesa around the Web!!!







Thursday, August 11, 2016

Author Targeting Review Scammer

My general worldview is I'd rather be cheated a few times for small amounts than treat everyone with suspicion, but if I KNOW for a fact someone is trying to scam me, I'm going to let the world know about it so they don't do it to others. However, this week I had a red flag interaction.
I'm posting about it because the indie writing community is pretty small and we depend a lot on the kindness of reviewers. That said, some people like to take advantage of authors, and it's best to be informed about potential scams.

This started about a month ago ... I received an email asking me if I'd be willing to give a copy of a book in return for a review. I do this all the time, but this person insisted on a hard copy (not my preference, but I do budget for a certain amount of them in my promotion budget) rather than an ebook. I'd just released a new book and had a few to spare, so I did send the book. I then kind of filed it in the back of my head ...

Today the reviewer sends me an email saying that she's unable to keep up with review demands (then maybe she shouldn't be emailing people requesting copies?) and is starting to charge for reviews ... she's not charging a lot, she says, not as much as Kirkus, only 60 (I don't know how to make the English Pound's sign on this keyboard).

So if Jodie Cook of https://forthenovellovers.wordpress.com/ contacts you asking you for a copy of your book, be warned, she will follow it up with a request for money, but too late for you to cancel the shipping of the book. Please spread the word among the writing community.

It only ended up costing me a paperback ($8 including shipping, roughly), but in their interactions, the person did suggest that I could send them multiple books, which could've ended up costing quite if I'd gone for it.
I chose not to confront this individual because of the potential of a trolling backlash, but at the same time, if she tried to get money out of me (and did get a paperback with potential resell value), she's probably doing this to others. If others are sending her multiple books and she's able to sell them online, she could easily be making a profit and then being able to back out of review commitments because they "didn't pay her" (As I've discussed elsewhere NEVER pay for reviews. That will bite you in the butt).

ETA: Someone asked me how I'm sure this is a scam because while inappropriate to request funds from an author for a review, it's not necessarily criminal.
My reason for believing this to be premeditated is the timeline.
The original contact email was July 25th and we went back and forth for a day or two about whether she'd accept an ebook copy rather than a paperback.
The request for money was tonight (August 11th), so a little over two weeks (in my original post I said "about a month" but I went and checked dates and these are the exact dates). In the request she claimed, that she's been dealing with a backlog of books for over four months and her reasons for switching to paid reviews were (quoting now), "I would like you all to note that this is a final resort for me and I have been trying to power through the backlog of books for months but it has got to the point where it is impacting on my health and this is the only avenue I can take where I can still review."
If she had been dealing with a backlog for "months" to the point where it was becoming a physical burden, then why would she solicit a review copy from an author less than three weeks prior? 

Even if she hadn't premeditated it, it's just deceptive to request an item (that cost money to ship) based on one condition then add a price for the service after the fact. Either way, I'm not asking people to troll or punish this individual. I'm just saying, "Do not do business with her." 

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Review: World Building from the Inside Out

World Building from the Inside Out

Janeen Ippolito

Go to the heart of your world and build it well! 

Memorable world-building enhances story, attracts readership, and sells books! Find the core of your science fiction or fantasy people and instill your narrative with universal themes and concepts derived from real-world cultures. 

-Explore different religions and governments with concise entries that include ideas for plot and character development 
-Develop key aspects of your society without getting caught up in unnecessary details 
-Learn how the deeper effects of appearance and location can enhance your narrative 

World-Building From the Inside Out challenges you to go deep and build fantastical worlds that truly bring your story to life!

My Review

If you're feeling lost and uncertain where to focus, this is a good primer for creating world building that serves the plot rather than overwhelms it. It contains handy lists of religious and political systems and how they might factor into plots, things to think about, and some warnings about potential "black holes" that may suck you in and keep you from moving forward. All and all a useful primer/workbook for a budding speculative writer.
I received a free copy in return for my honest review.

Purchase on Amazon
Also check out the work book companion

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Another Fellowship of Fantasy POLL! MYTHICAL BEAST TOURNAMENT!!!

The Fellowship of Fantasy is at it again! This time they are trying to answer the age old question, "Which beast is best?"
Nominate your favorite mythical beast to enter the tournament bracket, where it will face off against other mythical beasts for the honor of being named the Best Beast!

For more information, visit the Fellowship of Fantasy HERE.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Random Interview Saturday! Kandi J. Wyatt

The H. L. Burke Random Interview is not like other interviews. The questions are all over the place. They have no purpose. Their purpose is their lack of purpose.
There are nine questions because cats, but these nine questions are subject to change without notice, so the questions one person answers may not be the questions answered by the next author.

Kandi J. Wyatt has rode in on a brilliant Mythical Beast, trumpeting great and glorious news. Let us listen!

Kandi J Wyatt

The Interview!

Would you rather travel to the past or the future?
That’s a tough question. I love the old west and the medieval ages; however times were pretty tough then. My favorite genre besides fantasy is science fiction; so traveling to the future would be amazing! At the same time, I’m pretty content where I’m at. If it is a chance to travel and return, I’d choose both past and future.

You're the next Disney princess. What fairy tale is your full length movie and how would you use your new ability to control woodland creatures?
It would be called Beloved. It would be the story of a girl who has the love of her family, but a foster brother causes havoc in her beautiful home. It takes the creator of the woodland creatures and her prince charming to convince her she is perfect just as she is and worthy of their love. The woodland creatures would be the constant companions and friends.

Describe your life as a film genre.
Anime: I have things that are perfect for kids, but other areas are darker that would be adult themes. The music ties the life together with humorous bits and hecticness.

Fill in the blanks. I am a () but I only turn when ()...
 I am a weredragon but I only turn when the students are unreasonably wild.

If I were to invite you over, what snacks would you bring, keeping in mind that fruit and dried fruit are not snacks?
Popcorn, chips and salsa, and sun tea.

If you could combine any two animals to make a hybrid, what would they be?
Horse and a cheetah. I have no idea what it would look like or how it would work, but I love the looks of cheetahs and horses are my favorite animal.

What weather is your writing? A dark and stormy night? A sunshiny day?
A fickle summer day. It may start out nice and sunny, but then the clouds move in, maybe have a downpour, and then clears for a gorgeous sunset at the end.

If you had to build a house without conventional materials, what unconventional materials would you use? (Gingerbread is inadvisable because it attracts snacking children)
I’d use hay bales or cob. I like the look of both. I’d use a rocket mass stove to heat it, the woodland creatures could keep it clean.

If this question were any question in the world, what question would you want it to be and how would you answer it?
What is your biscuits and gravy recipe?
Cut ¼ cup butter into 2 cups flour and 2 tablespoons baking powder. Once the butter is finely blended, add ¾ cup milk. Stir lightly until just moistened. Drop on greased cookie sheet. Bake at 425 degrees for 10-15 minutes.
Brown up a pound of sausage. Remove meat, save grease. Over medium heat add ¼ cup flour and 2 tablespoons of flour to the grease. Stir with a whisk until blended. Gradually add 2 cups milk to the flour, stirring all the while to avoid lumps. Turn up heat and stir until thickened. Lower heat and season with sage, salt, garlic salt to taste. Add sausage back into the thickened gravy. Remove from heat. Serve over broken up biscuits or biscuits cut in half.
Makes a delicious breakfast or even an evening meal..

Website: http://kandijwyatt.com
Book buy links: 
Dragon's Future: Free with sign up for my newsletter
it's also available on AmazonBarnes & Noble, and Kobo
Dragon's Heir is available on AmazonBarnes & NobleKobo, and Scribd
Dragon's Revenge is available on AmazonBarnes & NobleKobo, and Scribd