Friday, March 17, 2017

Interview with JR Creaden

This month's YA writer is JR Creaden! Let's jump right in.

Kristen - Did you have any ideas about being a writer that becoming a writer changed?

JR - Perhaps it was those summers spent in Maine reading Stephen King, but I imagined writing as a more solitary experience than it’s been for me. Instead, I’m involved with more writers than I ever dreamed possible—exchanging stories and tips, brainstorming, commiserating, researching. I talk to more writers everyday than I knew existed before.

Kristen - I was much the same way. I assumed writers holed up in caves and never spoke to anyone, but for me it has been a lot of interaction with other writers and discussing the craft and brainstorming. 

What do you do when Real Life intrudes on your writing?

JR - As in when the characters are too much like their real life counterparts? That’s happened a few times, but then I call up the facts and reorganize my thoughts. The characters are unrelated and from alien worlds that didn’t even coexist in the same time periods prior to coming aboard the ship (where the story begins in Re: Morse). Also, none of them had parents, so their core problems—personality or otherwise—have to be addressed by themselves. I am their author, not their parent.

Kristen - Do you have a favorite scene or line you’ve written?

JR - I do! The scene when Relativity’s crew performs a Vincil play, Renderings, for the cadets. I’ve been pressured quite a bit to drop the scene, but I’ve stuck to my guns. The play, which is not exactly “children-oriented” any more than Romeo and Juliet, and the character reactions to the play, are essential to the plot of the whole series.

As an educator and a parent, I believe it’s important for our literature to expand our familiarity with different media. Students of all ages are expected to read, perform, and engage with theater, and using theatrical performance within literature is a fantastic method to model a universal experience. 

Kristen - Tell us about your main character’s weaknesses. How do these affect the first book of your series?

JR - In Re: Morse, the main character, human Hugo Morse is plagued by self-doubt. While we don’t go into major detail about Hugo’s background, certain elements haunt him. Despite the utopian version of Earth he remembers, Hugo’s experiences were not so pleasant. His upbringing within the Syndicate, raised on space ships before being deposited at the Rodanbary Academy, was rather lonely. His fear of failure holds him back and puts everyone in danger.

Kristen - What do you want your tombstone to say?

JR - “Free Fertilizer ↓” I wrote a poem ages ago about my wishes for after death called “Bury Me Standing” all about how I’d like to be buried Bene Gesserit style—upright, wrapped in linens, with a fruit tree planted over me. It might sound morbid, but I have no qualms about death, about the function of my physical body after death. I can’t stand the idea of being put into a sealed box, where my matter is isolated from the Earth that sustained me. I want to give back.

Kristen - Thank you so much for stopping by and sharing! If you'd like to find out more about JR, follow any of the links below!

Check out her Website
Follow her on Twitter
Follow her on Facebook

C:\Users\Jessica\Pictures\JR creaden.jpg
JR began her writing career as a child disgruntled with song lyrics. After some early success with poetry and essays, she spent decades distracted by songwriting and academia until her story dreams became too interesting to keep to herself. Re: Morse, the first book in JR’s YA scifi series Contact Files, will soon be ready for public consumption or vivisection. Her goal is to share stories that inspire readers to embrace cultural diversity, the promise of science, and the value of humor and imagination to build a future that’s more Star Trek and less 1984. When she’s not writing, JR enjoys exchanging “your mama” jokes with her children, floating in lakes, and slaying virtual dragons.

Friday, March 10, 2017

February Book Tree

And we're back with another book tree! Last month was slower than January, but still a good month in material. Out of 12 books, 9 of them made the tree list!

The month started off fast enough as I plowed through a series I started in January. I also devoured my first classic challenge book. After that, I hit a slow patch that had everything to do with attention span, other things calling my name, a crazy shift in weather(I am not kidding, mid-February we were getting 50-60 degrees in MICHIGAN), and a general restlessness.

It's not about the quantity though, it's about enjoying what you read, so a slow month by no mean equals a bad one! I'm sure as summer creeps closer it'll get even slower.

Top Row
(Five stars)
  • Where Carpets Fly - An Arabian flair brought this exotic story to life as restless teenager, Elina, moves to the big city in order to take magic lessons. A deeper mystery runs around some of her new acquaintances, but Elina doesn't have time to figure it out before a simple visit to see her father's ship lands her and her new friend, Kara, in danger. Swept up in events beyond their control, the girls soon find themselves in a foreign country that's ripe with turmoil. Disaster strikes and now it's up to Elina to save the day, but she won't be doing it alone.
  • Tower of Thorns - I've recently decided I need to catch up on series I've already started and after loving the first book of this series, there was no doubt that Tower of Thorns had to make it on my pile for February. Blackthorn is a healer recently freed from the worst of prisons. Her rescuer's conditions? That she must say yes to every request for aid and not leave the country he sends her to . . . for seven years!

    As a former mother, wife, and rebel who tried to gain justice for her murdered husband and son, plus the dozens of women harmed by the local warlord, Blackthorn's attempts landed her in that ghastly prison for a year and now that she's out the only thing she wants it justice in the form of the man's death. Being trapped for seven years by the deal that keeps her free is frustrating to the tenth degree.

    Grim, another resident of the prison of horrors, is also freed upon Blackthorn's request that his release be added to the deal. Both are fighting the nightmares of the past, both are a little less than personable, and both are some of the most real characters I've ever read. Their struggles, their personalities, their inner demons make them easy to relate to.

    In book 2, Blackthorn goes to the aid of a strange lady who tells a chilling tale of something stuck in a tower on an island covered in thorns. Whatever is in there cries from dawn to dusk, a sound so terrible that it brings people's worst memories to the forefront of their minds and causes both people and animals no short amount of terror often leading to depression and suicide. 

The lady believes that certain conditions are needed to enter the tower and eliminate the problem, and she needs Blackthorn to meet them. Meanwhile, Grim is fighting his own struggles as something comes a little close to home in bringing back horrible memories from his past. Add in an old friend of Blackthorn's who says the time is right to take down her old enemy, and you've got the recipe for a perfect novel!
  • The Ultimate Prince Charming - Book five in the series I couldn't stop once I started, this story took top prize. Though I enjoyed the whole series, one book had to walk away with favorite status and it was this one hands down.

    Prince George isn't like the other princes from Charming Academy, oh no, he's the ULTIMATE prince charming. After the death of his princess, George begins to see flaws in the system. Namely that there are any number of princesses who don't get rescued for whatever reason. These princesses sit, and wait, in their cursed situation either until they die(from old age or circumstances) or a random person rescues them.

    George rightly things this isn't something that should just be "okay" with everyone. He then makes it his personal mission to find as many of the Lost Princesses as he can and rescue them. What a guy! The fairies from the school try to throw a wrench in his plans by assigning him a new princess and trying to push for him to just save her and that's it. George, the prince of awesome, he's not about to be pushed around. So he does his own thing and begins the ultimate quest to do what no other prince has done before.

    Meanwhile, Leticia(the princess assigned to him) has lost her original prince and has no idea who's coming for her or if someone even is. But she's got two of the coolest dragons for company while she waits. 

Bottom Row
(Four stars)
  • Prince Charming's Search - This was book 3 in the Charming Academy series(the one I spam read). This followed the story of Clarissa and Jacobi on their Cinderella inspired tale. Really loved the twists given to Cinderella's half of the story.
  • Oliver Twist - I have a classic challenge this year for five books, and this is the one I finished first. Great read with lots of sarcasm and wit. There's this revealing insight into an unfamiliar world that was probably way too familiar at the time. It's easy to hate or love these characters in their turn as they're so deeply defined that you can't help feeling like they're real and wishing them good or ill.

    The climax at the end was really WOW and I read it twice, the second time aloud, so that I could really get the full effect of it. Great way to start off this challenge.

  • Becoming Prince Charming - Book 4 of the Charming Academy series brings us to Beauty and the Beast where the focus is more on the Beast than Beauty, an interesting twist in itself. Kaelan's unique curse has forced him to look like a Beast, but now it's trying to take over his mind as well.

    With only an old fairy and a handful of servants, Kaelan's wait for his recuser is fraught with inner battles and growing danger outside of the castle walls.

  • Ella Dethroned - A novella that leads into a series that takes place over a hundred years later. Very interesting beginning and did its job of making me want to read more. Powefully descriptive writing (and that cover!) that hooked me and did it quickly, not easy for a novella to do.

    Ella's on the run as after being removed from her throne by an enemy, her life is now in danger as the allegiance of everyone around her is shifting. Everyone except for one of her trusted guard who is determined to save her.

    The story follows their winter escape, the pursuit that follows, and Ella's discovery of what her role is now that she's no longer Luminary.
  • Prince Charming's Quest - The final book in the Prince Charming series. This brought the series to a satisfying end with the long awaited quest from the main character from the first book. Lucian's quest hasn't been easy. Of course, quests never are, but his has been extra difficult thanks to a dragon's grudge. While he battles through obstacles(and a lot of dragons), Moira's fighting off horrible nightmares that are a bit too real for comfort, and they don't want to let her go.

The only thing that could've made this book better is if it ended with the dissolution of the prince/princess match-up and quest system which seemed to put a lot of people in danger(even to the point of severe injury or death) and ran all over the lives of everyone in the quest's path without so much as an excuse me.
  • A Study in Scarlet - Book 3 in my classic challenge(we won't speak of the horror that was book 2). A Study in Scarlet was a quick read, but engrossing all the same. The first half is dedicated to Sherlock and Holmes meeting and then solving their first case together. The second half went back to show the motivation of the killer in a very indepth sense that was definitely interesting, though the tactic of pulling me away from the current storyline was not one I enjoyed. Since both stories were equally interesting, I'm not sure what I would've preferred, but it did feel like I was reading two separate stories that barely tied in to each other.

And that's how my February went! What was your favorite read of the month? Any good romances that went along with Valentine's Day?

Friday, March 3, 2017

Interview with Krisna Starr

This month I'm interviewing fantasy writer Krisna Starr who also happens to be a good friend of mine. Krisna sneaks her writing in around parenting her two adorable children and is currently working on her novel Dragons of Atlantea.

Kristen: What drew you to write in this genre?

Krisna: I’m an avid reader of almost all genres – mystery, thriller, sci-fi, YA, but my all-time favourite is fantasy. From the time I can remember, I’ve been fascinated by magic, different worlds and fantastic creatures like dragons, mermaids and unicorns. When I read novels featuring them, I get transported to their magical world and get to meet them :)

LOL! Who wouldn’t love to fly upon a dragon’s back, ride a unicorn or uncover the treasures of the ocean with mermaids?

Kristen: Fantasy is my favorite too! All the magical creatures and worlds, not to mention you have the freedom to create more and not be limited by our world.

When did you decide to become a writer?

I don’t remember when it became a conscious decision. I’ve always been making stories in my head. After reading a fascinating book by Enid Blyton in my eighth grade, I started penning down my own story. But it was just for my entertainment. I had no wish to share it with any one. One story lead to another and before I knew it, the passion for writing overtook my life.
Kristen: What is your favorite motivational phrase?


Kristen: Do you think that the cover plays an important part in the buying process?

Krisna: Definitely. I think an alluring book-cover is one of the major hooks for a reader. Many times, people think of a hook in terms of a great prologue or chapter 1. But it is much more than that as I described in my blog post on “Elements of a Strong Hook”.

Before a reader reads our chapter 1, his attention has to be grabbed in some way to entice him to pick the book, have a look at it.

When I go into book stores or browse through amazon, two things grab my attention – the book cover and a catchy title. If I’m hooked by them, then I read the back blurb and the excerpt.

So a great cover translates definitely to more sales.

Kristen: I'm of the same mind. With so many books available and so little time, the best place for me to start narrowing down choices is to see what covers catch my eye and go from there.

Where is your favorite place to write?

Krisna: Hm, my favourite place to write is the beach. I’ve always felt calm and peaceful when I sit on the sands of the beach and gaze upon the infinite ocean. And when I write in this state of mind, the words just flow like the waves. But, the beach is about an half-hour drive from my house and I can’t spend as much time as I want there.

So the next best place is the meditation center that is across the street from where I live. The atmosphere is so peaceful there that my mind is instantly calm. The ideas just flow. I’ve written some of the best scenes of my novel there. Of course life gets very busy that many times I can’t afford the time to even go across the street and spend some alone time. Then it’s back to my writing desk with my laptop :) 

Kristen: I'd love to be able to write by the beach! Like you, I live about 30 minutes away from a decent beach(though mine's on a big lake, not the ocean!).

Thank you so much for joining me today and I can't wait to read your book once it's published!

Krisna is an avid reader and a lover of dragons, unicorns and all things magical. She divides her time between living in this world doing her day-to-day tasks, and the wonderful world of her dreams that is full of magic and fantastic creatures. Her current WIP, Dragons of Atlantea
(working title), is set in the magical world of Atlantea where magic rules, dragons roar and angels soar in the skies.

Besides books, she enjoys spending time with her children, mediation/ yoga, music and watching animes on the net.

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