Friday, September 30, 2016

Twitter and A Book Taught Me

If you've ever stepped into the chaos that is Twitter you've probably been overwhelmed--at least at first--by the flood your feed undergoes. Who only follows 10 people? Or even 100? Now, I'm sure there are people who only follow that many, but as I've seen from my own "followed persons" most everyone quickly passes over that 100 mark and goes into the thousands(or even 10's of thousands!).

Now, if you're like me, you think "how in the world do people keep up with this?" I'm a person who's got a very small social circle. I've got 4 siblings, my mom, kids, husband, a smattering of inlaws, and probably 5-10 other people I associate with. Then there's my writers group which I probably interact with a good 20+ people through there.

When it's all said and done, that's not nearly as many as people who have tons of family, coworkers, friends, etc.

I like to invest in people. I like to find people who I can connect with and build a relationship with them. Twitter was not designed for people like me. It's designed for people with a lot of patience, time, and willingness to make it work.

In most situations, you have to make Twitter "smaller". You have to form lists, make a spreadsheet of hashtags to interact with, etc. It's simply not possible to interact at a deep level(or even a surface one really) with that many people.

So that notion needs to go right out the window. *opens window and launches mass-interaction idea*

Everyone's got a different way of handling Twitter, but mine's been game hashtags. Twitter games enables me the most freedom with positive results. I can join if I feel like it, and pass on days I don't. I can find a current game that fits me, and I've fallen in love with Tweetdeck which allows me to schedule tweets ahead of time. I can add a picture, the hashtag(s), and whatever I want it to say, set a time, and I'm good to go.

This means if I want I can get all the game tweets for a month scheduled in advance, and then just check the hashtag everyday(or whenever I want) and see what other people have to say.

I also get a lot of responses in various forms to game tweets, and if I'm participating in a game, it's most likely because it appeals to me and what other people playing post is interesting. In that way it makes it easier to build a surface relationship at least with other people.

For the month of September, I joined Fellowship of Fantasy's #ABookTaughtMe game and found the prompts interesting, as well as what people posted throughout the month. I decided to share at least a couple with my readers here as well as some more details that I couldn't fit in a tweet. Darn the restrictive word count on Twitter!

One of the things I loved the most about this game is it allowed me to reminisce about some old favorites, and see people post other favorites and have something to connect over.

Day 1 - A Book Taught Me About Love.

The month kicked off with a REALLY hard one because so many books have love as a central theme, or just happen to have a really good romantic subplot. Then there's love of a non-romantic nature. Love between siblings, parent to child or vice versa, etc.

In the end this was an easy one as I just picked my all time favorite romance and one of the few "romance as a main plot" books that I've liked.

Lynn Kurland has 9 books currently in this world and they're set in storylines of 3, which each set taking place after the one preceeding in terms of time line.

It's the first trilogy about Morgan and Miach that I love. It's romance, not lust. It's an adventure. It's magic. It's mystery. Besides having a lovely world and back story, it's the chemistry between the characters and how the romance is handled that really makes me love this series.

My favorite thing about this day though was that someone put my book as their choice. :D It's always a great feeling to see someone mentioning my book or characters on social media.

Day 6 - A Book Taught Me About Nature

This one was a choice that just jumped out at me. As a kid I thought running away and surviving on the land would be an awesome adventure! To tell the truth it sometimes still does. :D My Side of the Mountain was like a wish-fulfillment story. Kid runs away, not because something terrible happened, but because he wanted to see if he could do it.

Not only was there all the lovely bits where Sam is being smart and figuring out how to survive, but there's this amazing sense of peace and tranquility from a story told from perspective of someone surrounded by nothing but nature.

Day 11 - A Book Taught Me About Heroism

I'm so excited to share this one because it's one of my favorite stories of all time.

I don't think I'll ever fall out of love with this story. Addie and Meryl are princesses. But while Meryl is brave and outgoing, Addie is shy and quiet. Addie's the typical princess who wants nothing more than to stay home with those closest to her and sew, hide from spiders, and one day meet her true love.

Meryl wants to go on adventures, fight dragons and ogres, and save the kingdom. She wants to find the cure for the deadly Grey Death that plagues the land. She's destined to become queen and wishes to be a hero. The only thing holding her back is Addie's desire for her to wait for adventure until Addie is married.

But this isn't Meryl's story, it's Addie's. Because when Meryl contracts the Grey Death, her days are numbered and now Addie must choose between staying safe and spending those last days by her sister's bedside, or go out in search for a cure. 

Addie may not be a hero, or brave, but she loves her sister. And so she sets out on what seems like the most hopeless mission, to save her sister. 

Armed with only a handful of magical objects, the occasional aid of a sorcerer-in-training, Addie's journey is fraught with dangers and she learns not only that there's a hero inside of her, but that she doesn't need to be Meryl to be brave. 

This is a story of surprises, with an ending you won't expect, and it's my definition of a hero: someone who does puts their life in danger to save others despite being terrified. 

Day 18 - A Book Taught Me About Growing Up

I hear a lot of people talk about how they identified with x book character growing up. And for the most part, I don't really have a personal understanding of that. I've never tried to identify as characters. I see all the ways we're different, rather than the ways we're the same.

It's a bit of a curiosity to me to try and see oneself in a character, but it seems to be common. It's also one of the reasons, I believe, that writers are encouraged to write diverse characters. And I mean diverse in every sense of the word. What they do, how they act, personality, looks, hopes, dreams, weaknesses, strengths, etc. Because the world is full of diverse people and readers want to find that person who's "like them" in some aspect.

Which is why this was a fun prompt for me.

Ha, yes, I'm the fantasy lover(with a strong leaning towards YA/NA) and I'm telling you the one character I remember thinking "She's like me" at any point in my life was Berta. A character from an adult inspirational fiction novel. 

This book meant a lot to me as a child. I was the weird kid that was reading books way above my reading level and I've now backtracked to mostly YA lol. So I probably first read this book when I was about six at a guess. 

I've read it over and over, though not in recent years as I no longer see myself in Berta.

Berta was the plain older sister who became intensely jealous when her beautiful baby sister was born. The two girls could've been such good friends, but Berta read into every situation and Glenna was more than beautiful. She was vivacious and happy and magnetic. Everyone loved her. Glenna was the soft-hearted one that wanted everyone to be happy, while Berta was more reserved and observant.

It came to a point where Berta decided she'd be whatever Glenna wasn't. Berta's battle with herself and the competition between her and Glenna progressed into her adult years, and I use to read about Berta as an adult thinking "That'll be me one day". And honestly, it could've been. 

Now I went down a different path and thank goodness, I didn't have to learn the same hard lessons Berta did. 

But I did understand her self-criticism and feeling like she didn't measure up the to the younger, more perfect siblings. Not because anyone ever said that to me, but because I decided they were better than me and therefore read into every situation as validation of that.

Being an adult, I now wonder if Glenna struggled with hidden things like my younger sister's do/did. 

This story taught me that it's okay to be the sparrow and that we have our own special gifts and are loved just the same.

Day 21 - A Book Taught Me About Fear 

I was sure I wouldn't have anything for this because, frankly, I don't like reading anything that'd fall into this category. But then I remembered one of my mom's favorite books.

If you've never read this book, you're missing out! Especially if you ever read to kids, this is a great one. It's one of those fun interactive books where Grover talks to the child and the person reading it gets to go crazy with the voices as Grover panics over the child turning the pages.

Day 27 - A Book Taught Me About the World

This is the only book I'm sharing here for the challenge that is a recent favorite. It's Across a Star-Swept Sea. It's actually a sequel, but stands alone and I slightly preferred it to the first book.

This is a recent(within the last 2 years) read. A YA steampunk novel that revolves around how the world is needing a change and how one young woman is doing her part to make it better. I think the above quote says enough about it. :D

And that wraps up some of my favorite choices for that challenge. I'm probably going to take the next month off, but I'll be looking for new games in November!

What Twitter games are your favorites?

Friday, September 16, 2016

Reading Challenge Update #3

I've got two more books on my classics challenge complete and the reviews are in!

Sticking to trying to balance the bad with the good, I have The Little Prince and Jane Eyre.  I know, I know, I promised to do Wuthering Heights, but I like my balancing act and I bumped it out to update 4.

First up is Jane Eyre, which I finished at the very end of August. I gave this one two stars, which for me was "Okay, but I'd never read again." The author had a penchant for suddenly writing lengthy descriptions of things that didn't appeal to me. I'll never understand why there needs to be an entire page dedicated to describing one tiny room, especially when the room doesn't really matter and the overabundance of description ensures that I now will not picture the room at all thanks to the overload of details.

I didn't care much for the writing style, and that's a big factor. The plot was decent enough, but the main characters were rather ho-hum and Adele's tendency to always speak in French(without translation) made me not even bother with her dialogue.

Here's a clip from my Goodreads review. And this touches on my issue with Jane who I felt was a bit snobby with those she considered beneath her and star-struck by those she saw as her equals or above her. Her moaning about how much pain it causes HER to stand up to these two men when she shouldn't feel bad at all about what she's doing just made her pathetic to me.

"I know Jane's supposed to be this revolutionary character of independence, but I felt she rarely showed that. What I noticed was a restless boredom. She wanted to be constantly entertained and have new experiences. I'd hate being so dissatisfied with good things in life because they were "normal" and hence dull, but it's not a negative trait and I imagine she and Mr. Rochester traveled a lot to help her get that taste for adventure.

I also felt she had this weird thing where she didn't think much of people unless she felt them extremely intelligent. And those she did find intelligent she kind of lost her head over. It was sad how the whole time she was telling Rochester "no" after the botched wedding that all she could think about was "poor him, and I'm so cruel, blah blah". Same thing with St. John. She had it in her head that these men were suffering and it was her fault and they were like wounded lambs.

In summary, I didn't hate or love this book. It falls flatly into the okay category. I didn't love or despise any of the characters. The plot was okay, the writing style was the worst of it all(I hated it), and I thought the last bit after Jane returns was the best part and that the characters well-suited each other and I don't resent them coming together in the end

And then we have The Little Prince, which I'm happy to report that I loved! This was a definite five stars and I had no idea what to expect going into it. I'd never even heard of this book until it was recommended to me.

The Little Prince is a children's book, but in a lot of ways I think it'd speak more to adults. It's written in a way that is easy to understand, but also has a lot of complex themes running under the surface. The book deals with love, death, life, and being an adult. I think as adults we sometimes do miss the silliness of our actions, or get stuck in routine, or lose our imagination.

My daughter came to me yesterday with a picture and like all parents I tried to guess what she drew, and of course was wrong. Now she'd drawn the same thing over and over--a circle with a bunch of short lines spiking off the edges. Here's where the fun part comes in, despite drawing the same thing repeatedly, she informed me that each thing was different. Two were eggs, one was a daddy long leg, one was a sun, one was daddy, etc.

Now that people, is imagination. I thought they were all suns. Anyway, I think that's a good reflection of how children think versus adults. And if you have a parent in your sphere of social media or friends that shares stories, I'm sure you see this. Or of course you may have kids yourself! Kids say and do the craziest things, but at some point we lose that creativity and innocence.

The Little Prince is told from the eyes of an adult who remembers what it was like to be a child and he covers the story of the little prince who is a child also. It's hard to put into words more than that, and even my Goodreads review was rather short and didn't do the book justice. But you know, it's a short book and the best I can say is read it! It won't take long and even if you hate it, you won't have wasted a ton of time, but I hope you love it because there's a lot to love even though it ends sad.

Next update will be for Wuthering Heights(I promise this time!) and Dracula.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Author Interview with Heather Hayden

Welcome to Heather Hayden, the author of Augment.

By Government-enforced mandate, genetic augmentation and implant technology cannot coexist in the same human body. Sixteen year old Viki's life has depended on her implants since she was five.
Now her implants are failing.

When Viki discovers that the malfunctions are due to illegal augmentation, she is determined to find those responsible. However, Agent Smith of the Search and Retrieval Bureau is also looking for the geneticists who augmented Viki, and his orders are to capture them by any means necessary--even if it requires risking Viki's life by using her as bait.

Viki's friend Halle, a rogue AI, is doing its best to help her search, but Halle has its own problems. Agent Smith had been closing in on the AI before being reassigned to Viki's case, and Smith's partner is still on the hunt. Searching for the geneticists risks exposing Halle, but Viki and her friend must find them first--they are her only chance for survival.

Heather is currently working on a sequel, Upgrade. And here's what Heather had to say when I interviewed her.

Kristen - Which writers inspire you?

Heather - Oh dear, this question... It’s so hard to answer, because there are so many answers. Though those who have read my earlier books would definitely say I was influenced by Brian Jacques (because I spend so much time describing the food). I’d say that it’s really more a conglomeration of Jacques, Asimov, Cherryh, Beddor, Colfer, Novik, Collins, Jones... I think you probably get the idea! Most of the writers are fantasy and science fiction, though; they all introduced me to fantastical worlds.
Kristen - Haha, I never thought about how much time Jacques spends on food descriptions. I love food descriptions, though, especially when they make your mouth water.

What’s your favorite method for coming up with names for your characters and locations?

Heather - I like to choose names that have a meaning associated with the character. It’s a bit cheesy, but I find it fun! As for locations... Sometimes I do the same thing, other times the name just sort of pops up. When I’m at a loss for either, I turn to the mighty search engine of Google to help me locate potentially interesting names.

Kristen - Not cheesy at all! At least not to me, as I do much of the same thing. Even if the readers never know, it's like a private little thing that you'll see every time you read or talk about your story.

If you could be any one of your characters, who would it be and why?  

Heather - Hm, that’s such a difficult question to answer! First there’s Sharque from The Astrals who actually was me at one point—the original story was based on a role-playing game my friends and I used to play. She’s grown a lot as a character, though, and the resemblance isn’t really there anymore. Plus, she has super-awesome water-manipulation powers! And she doesn’t have to worry about drowning, and she’s a great swimmer—all things I wish I was! But then there’s Halle, the AI from Augment and Upgrade, who can do pretty much anything it likes in the Cloud (though I guess in our world, that wouldn’t be quite as useful, and limited by the reaches of the Internet.) And Viki, Halle’s friend, who’s a great runner—something I am not. And in stories I haven’t brought to light yet, there are mermaids and pegasi and cats and androids and dragons and all sorts of other amazing characters! It’s hard to choose just one. But for the sake of answering the question, let’s go with Sharque. I really want to be a better swimmer!

Kristen - I love swimming! I wish I had more time to go. I'd definitely love a pool of my own.

Do you use any references to mythology or real-world folklore in your stories, or do they contain their own folklore?

Heather - Augment and its sequel, Upgrade, are science fiction, so they don’t really have any references like that. My fantasy trilogy of magic and demons has some grounds in the religious mythology of our world, but also their own myths. Another book I’m writing, The Astrals (working title), has myths and legends surrounding various different races, including the astrals, which is the race of several main characters, and the elementals (not saying more on that to avoid spoilers!) And for an upcoming anthology, I’m writing a retelling of the selkie myth, so that’ll definitely have references to the original. As well as my own twists, of course. I love writing fairy tale retellings!

Kristen - Have you ever created your own race for a book you wrote? 

Heather- Actually, yes! I almost answered no, and then remembered that the astrals from The Astrals (working title) were in fact of my own creation. Sort of. Originally I called them goddesses/gods/deities, but in reality their powers aren’t quite the same, though they are inspired by deity myths, and they do draw power from the belief of other races (mainly humans.) However, they aren’t immortal or all-powerful and must train hard to develop their powers so they can become a “mature” astral. They also must journey through the world as their final test of their maturity—this journey is where the story in The Astrals begins, as four young astrals set out to test their powers. Unfortunately, their path has plenty of obstacles on it… But getting back to the main question, I changed the name when I decided that “deities” didn’t really work for them. I think the astrals is one of the few races I’ve actually created for a story; most of the time my stories only involve humans (and the occasional AI, android, elf, dragon, or mermaid.)

Kristen - I've done the same with races in my novels. It's fun to take races that have been already created and tweak them a little and come up with something unique to your world.

Thank you for letting me interview you and I can't wait to read Upgrade!

I've had the pleasure of reading Augment. If you're interested in my review, you can find it here.
Augment is available on Amazon!

Though a part-time editor by day, Heather Hayden's not-so-secret identity is that of a writer—at night she pours heart and soul into science fiction and fantasy novels. In March 2015 she published her first novella, Augment, a YA science fiction story filled with excitement, danger, and the strength of friendship. She immediately began work on its sequel, Upgrade, which continues the adventures of Viki, a girl who loves to run, and her friend Halle, an AI. 

Learn more about Heather on Twitter or her blog, both of which consist of equal amounts of writerly things and random stuff she’s interested in.