Thursday, June 28, 2018

Interview: Authors of the Kissed Anthology

The authors from Evernight Teen's new romance anthology, Kissed, agreed to answer a few of my questions about romance, anthologies, and reading! I don't know about you, but seeing how different each of their backgrounds are makes me really excited to see what they bring to YA romance!

About the KISSED Anthology:

Pucker up for KISSED!

Kisses can be innocent, playful, or just to comfort. Some are for luck and others have the promise of sweeter ones to come. 

That's why we've dedicated an anthology to the kiss. These eight hand-picked stories are brimming with romance, and they all begin and end with a kiss. 

Our talented authors will prove that love knows no boundaries. 

The Kissed Anthology is coming July 20th from Evernight Teen!

Christine Rees
Just Like the Movies
Why do you write romance?
I typically write more YA fiction/paranormal stories, but the KISSED anthology was the perfect opportunity to dip my toes into romance with "Just Like The Movies." I craved writing in a genre I hadn't explored on its own yet and found genuine enjoyment in bringing aspects of my favorite romcoms to life in this story.

Do you think there is a stigma around reading or writing romance, and if so, how would you respond to it?
I believe that the stigma around reading or writing romance is that only a hopeless romantic can love them, but I don't believe this is true in all cases. I am a romantic but I am also a huge cynic at times, and I savor contemporary romance among other genres. Whether it's reading or writing, I think it depends on your current interests and where you are in your life when you find a desire to dive into romance.

Where do you go for writing inspiration?
I tend to get lost in music for inspiration. Plenty of authors use music to zone into their story and step out of the real world for a while, but I use music as a way of driving inspiration. I pop my earbuds in and go for a walk (or a run) and let the songs guide my imagination. Certain music genres open my creativity to specific scenes -- rock leads to fighting, pop leads to happier moments such as someone's first kiss or a meet-cute, etc. I take those scenes and build a story by developing characters, flaws, and problems that need to be resolved. The scenes are a gateway for new ideas that aid in moving the story along.

What was it like writing for this anthology?
I was thrilled to try my hand at a contemporary romance in a short/novella format. It felt like a fresh take on a concept I always wanted to experiment with. As I mentioned, "Just Like The Movies" is my first contemporary romance but it is also my first contribution to an anthology. Having a limited amount of words to foster and flush out the idea was definitely a challenge, but an enjoyable one. This experience has led to a new appreciation for short stories and I intend to write more of them in the future.

What are you currently reading?
An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir. AEITA is a thrilling and heart-wrenching YA fantasy. It's truly an amazing ride!

About Christine: 
Christine Rees is the author of an Amazon #1 Best Seller: THE HIDDEN LEGACY. Christine is a 25-year-old Western University graduate and Sheridan College alumni, YA book writer and lover of all literature. Also an admitted movie junkie, brunch enthusiast, and cat lady, Christine spends her free time writing books with a cat nestled on her lap.  

Peri Elizabeth Scott
It’s in His Kiss

Why do you write romance? 
This is a genre I’ve read for years and enjoy. And one I’ve written for years.

Do you think there is a stigma around reading or writing romance, and if so, how would you respond to it? 
I, personally, have found that the stigma isn’t as prevalent as in the past where people tended to hide their book covers! Romance might not be seen as ‘serious’ writing but it’s a huge part of everyday life. I’m often amused when someone will disparage it and yet haven’t picked up a book in years. I believe each to his own. There’s a genre for everyone.

Where do you go for writing inspiration? 
Not far! I just look around me, and listen. 

What was it like writing for this anthology? 
In that I’d never written YA before, it was a delightful challenge. I wanted to write a strong heroine and a hero with depth as well as convey a simmering connection between them based on attraction and mutual appreciation, and think I achieved it. 

What are you currently reading? 
I’m actually reading the Brew Ha Ha box set and loving it. 

About Peri: 
 Peri Elizabeth Scott lives in cottage country, Manitoba, Canada. She and her husband pretend to work well together in their seasonal business.

Sasha Hibbs
No Romeo
Why do you write romance?
Of all the emotions we go through—grief, horror, stress, sadness, depression—love is the one emotion that helps us to endure all the rest. I write romance because I feel that counteracts the darkness. 

Do you think there is a stigma around reading or writing romance, and if so, how would you respond to it?
Great question. I’ve honestly never thought about it. Now that I am, I’m sure there’s some stigma surrounding it … isn’t there always with things in life? I guess I would respond by continuing to do what I do and respect the opinions of others but not allow any bad stigma to have any power over what I love to do: read and write the heck out of romance J

Where do you go for writing inspiration?
Nowhere in particular, but I did have inspiration nearly hit me, literally, for my pervious release in January, Northern Pines. I was driving to work, using my boss’s car no less, and I came within an inch of hitting a cow. Not only was I terrified, but the inspiration for my last novel came directly from that event. I had the completed manuscript finished within a month of me nearly killing a cow and my boss’s car. I wondered what would’ve happened had I hit it. How would I pay for the damages? And boom! Just like that my mind went to being 17 again and hitting the cow that ironically belonged to the rivalry neighboring farm. 

What was it like writing for this anthology?
Wonderful! I had NO ROMEO completed in 4 days, I think. I love writing short stories for anthologies. There’s just the right dose of romance and when you’re finished with one story, all you have to do is flip the page to next great one. This particular story for me was fun and challenging. Please don’t throw rotten cabbage at me, but I’ve never liked Romeo and Juliet. It’s just too much! So, to challenge myself, I wanted to write a short story (minus the horrific ending) with that entire theme. 

What are you currently reading?
UPON BROKEN WINGS by E.L. Reedy and A.M. Wade. I’m half way through it, and wow. It’s deep and beautiful and lyrical and brings a voice to YA lit that was often just a whisper and not talked about. It explores suicide, always a tough subject to tackle and my hat is off to the authors. 

About Sasha:
By age 5, Sasha Hibbs' favorite movie was Gone With the Wind. By age 12, she completed her 7th grade book report on the sequel, Scarlett. By 18, she met and married her very own Mr. Rhett Butler and as it turns out, she never had to worry about going back to Tara to win the love of her life back. Fortunately, he stuck with her. 

With a love of all things paranormal, the ambiance of the South with its gigantic antebellum mansions and canopies of Spanish moss, and a love for her husband’s rich storytelling of blacksmiths and the mythology surrounding their origins, it wasn’t long until the world of her debut novel, Black Amaranth, was born. 

When not working her day job as a nurse, you can find Sasha dreaming of her next beach trip, reading the latest YA novel, and drinking more white chocolate mocha than she should. 

Sasha lives in mountainous West Virginia with her husband, Tim, and their two daughters, Aeliza and Ava. She is currently hard at work on her next novel.

Lisa Borne Graves 
Why do you write romance?
I absolutely love that butterfly-filled belly, pulse spiking, goose bump feeling when you first realize you’re attracted to someone. Compound that with the stark, sometimes overwhelmingly, plummet into love and it creates a euphoria that matches nothing else in this world. Since I found my soul mate already, I love recreating that feeling vicariously through fictional beings on the page to continue this blissful first-time feeling for myself and others.

 Do you think there is a stigma around reading or writing romance, and if so, how would you respond to it?
I definitely think there is a stigma around reading and writing romance due to societal expectations of women that are utterly old fashioned and wrong, not to mention full of double standards. I read it and write it and say forget everyone else. I do what I like to do. At the same time, society cannot fully be ignored. You have to abide by some unspoken rules, which forces us to get creative in portraying some things when it comes to YA novels.

Where do you go for writing inspiration?
My muse, or imagination, rarely lets me down, so I find inspiration everywhere. But when I’m grappling for ideas I usually “go to” or read the classics. I’ve had my best ideas in Scotland and Wales, which I try to visit every couple years if possible. There’s something almost magical in the Celtic air, brooding in the beautiful landscapes, and rich in the antiquated architecture that demands inspiration.

What was it like writing for this anthology?
Amazing! I’ve only published one story prior to this one, so it was a great learning experience. Everyone who works for Evernight Teen are nice, constructive, and professional. As for fellow writers, there’s a huge online community where we help and celebrate each other. I felt like I’m back in high school rooting for our team to win a completion. 

What are you currently reading?
Relentless by Karen Lynch and loving it so far. 

About Lisa:
Blogger, English Lecturer, YA author, avid reader, wife, and mother--not in that order but these roles constantly battle over me for center stage. We all feel torn in the many roles we must perform in life, but writing for me, and for most writers, is a necessity, almost a malady. I write not because I want to (because sleeping or simply relaxing would be preferential) but because I need to, that if these ideas do not get down on paper I won't be able to function as a human being. My mind would be otherwise diverted and I wouldn't be able to give anyone my undivided attention.

Kate Larkindale
Run to You
Why do you write romance?
You know, I don’t really feel like I do write romance.  Sure, there are always romantic elements to my books, but that’s because romance and intimacy are an important part of life, and often the source of the most pain and terrible behavior.  Which is why it’s so good as a plot element - plenty of conflict!
Do you think there is a stigma around reading or writing romance, and if so, how would you respond to it?
I think there possibly is a tiny bit of a stigma around reading romance, but I don’t really get it.  Romance readers read far more than anyone else!  And as far as I’m concerned, getting people to read is a good thing in this day and age where everyone seems to have a digital device glued to their fingertips at all times.  
Where do you go for writing inspiration?
I find inspirations for stories all over the place.  Newspaper articles, documentary films, other books I read, people I see on the street…. Often those sparks of ideas don’t go anywhere until one or more collide, but there are always stories spinning through my head, waiting until the right mixture of ideas come together.
What was it like writing for this anthology?
I really enjoyed writing for this anthology.  I love having a writing prompt to set me off, and this was a nice loose prompt that allowed a lot of room for my own story to grow.
What are you currently reading? 
I’m reading a book called Diary of a Bookseller.  I thought it was going to be something quite different than what it actually is, but I’m actually enjoying reading the bookseller’s musings on the mundane details of running his second-hand bookshop.

Thanks for having me!

About Kate:
Having spent a lifetime travelling the globe, Kate Larkindale has settled in Wellington, New Zealand. A marketing executive, film reviewer and mother, she’s surprised she finds any time to write, but doesn’t sleep much. As a result, she can usually be found hanging out near the espresso machine.

She is the author of contemporary YA novels An Unstill Life and Stumped along with several others that no one is allowed to see. She has also written one very bad historical romance, which will likely never see the light of day. She is working on several more YA novels that may or may not ever be finished…

Her short stories have appeared in Halfway Down The Stairs, A Fly in Amber, Daily Flash Anthology, The Barrier Islands Review, Everyday Fiction, Death Rattle, Drastic Measures, Cutlass & Musket and Residential Aliens, among others.

Kacie Ji
It Started with a Kiss

Why do you write romance?
The short answer? Because it’s fun. With everything going on in the world these days I like to read stories that follow a couple falling in love and have endings that makes them, and me, happy. I’m hoping to do the same for someone else with what I write.

Do you think there is a stigma around reading or writing romance, and if so, how would you respond to it?
I do think there is a stigma around both reading and writing romance, as if it is something to be ashamed of. By why? If you like romance, great. If romance isn’t your thing, that’s fine too. Read and write what you want to and let others do the same.

Where do you go for writing inspiration?
I don’t need to go far to get inspired to write but if I had to choose a place that would kickstart my brain, it would be the beach. There’s just something about the sight and smell of the water and the rhythm of the waves that clears my head every time.

What was it like writing for this anthology?
It was great fun! I’d been struggling with writing YA the past little while and this anthology gave me the opportunity to dip my toes back in. It’s definitely given me the push I needed to start writing in this genre again. So, a big thank you to Evernight Teen for putting out this call!

What are you currently reading?
I’m about to start Insanity by Cameron Jace. It’s been sitting on my TBR pile for far too long!

About Kacie:
When she’s not writing or sleeping, Kacie can be found discussing plot twists with her cat who usually seems to enjoy being a part of the process. On the days he’s not she usually finds herself wishing there was a way to mainline coffee while she writes, deletes and tweaks until she sees something that makes her smile.

Roxas James 
After Tomorrow

Why do you write romance?
I write a lot of different things depending on what mood I'm in. I think that different types of writing accomplish different things. Mystery and adventure get your heart pumping. Horror gets your fear rising. Romance does all of those things though. For me, it's fun to imagine all the different ways that people can fall in love and all the obstacles that could stand in their way. As the writer, it gives me a little boost trying to come up with all the way they can work through it to get their, hopefully, happy ending. Besides, it's always fun to come up with a love story that you wish you could be living, isn't it?

Do you think there is a stigma around reading or writing romance, and if so, how would you respond to it?
I think that there used to be a bigger stigma around romance novels in the past, but in recent years it’s gotten a lot less. That may have come with the invention of the ebook reader so now people can’t see what you’re reading. Anonymity always makes people a little braver because who cares about reading 50 Shades of Grey on the subway when no one can see what it is. And then people become more open to idea of reading whatever they want to. And for the ones out there who just call romance trash, they obviously haven’t read any because there are some really amazing “trashy” novels out there.  

Where do you go for writing inspiration?
I go many different places for inspiration. A lot of times, I’ll get an idea while reading books or watching movies. Once, I got inspiration for a book I wrote from a knock off Louis Vuitton wallet. It might be a random line somewhere that makes me picture a scene. For this anthology, the second I read the topic for a starting kiss, I immediately picture someone kissing an old stone statue as part of a tradition, the rest of the story just followed. I never know when I’m going to get struck by an idea.  

What was it like writing for this anthology?
Writing for this anthology has been a wonderful experience. This is my first time publishing a story the traditional way and it’s just been so much fun. From the moment I came across the open call to moment I submitted it, I felt drawn to completing this. Yes, there have been times where I’ve given up mid story, but I just knew it wasn’t possible with this story. And surprisingly, I found the editing part to be the most fun. I’ve never worked with a professional editor before and was terrified of the whole process, but it was great, despite learning I have a tendency to use the word ‘that’ way too many times for a normal human being. 

What are you currently reading?
So many things. I’m listening to Simon Vs. The Homosapien Agenda on audiobook right now because I’ve read the book, watched the movie, and had to come back for more. As for reading reading, I’ve finally broken down and joined the rest of the world and started the Game of Thrones books. I’m currently on the second one. And on my kindle, I’m currently reading the other stories from the great authors who were selected for this anthology. I’m in good company. 

About Roxas:
Roxas James is a teacher, writer, blogger, and generally exhausted human being. He has been writing since the second grade, which made many of his teachers very angry since he did most of it in the middle of their classes. When he is not working in various parts of Houston, Texas, he can usually be found in or around his local Starbucks, where he has been given many free cups of coffee, without which, he migh never right a single word again
M. Wiklund
Pixie Cuts and Purple Dye

Why do you write romance?
I write romance because the most interesting thing in the world is exploring relationships between people, and romance is the only genre that has relationships as its focus. I especially love that romance is optimistic about relationships, believing that they can work out--and often optimistic in its view of the world in general. It can be dramatic and still you can believe in a happy ending.

Do you think there is a stigma around reading or writing romance, and if so, how would you respond to it?
There is--I think there's a view that it's somewhat immature and, well, feminine. I'd say that romance being a woman's genre is actually a good thing, and also that although romance is often light reading, it's the kind of light reading that serves as strong catharsis and is good for the mind and heart. Besides which, it isn't necessarily immature; romance can also at times deal with serious issues or have quite complex plots.

Where do you go for writing inspiration?
Sometimes I get inspiration from reading other people's writing. Other times I just get it from events in my own life. And when I'm absolutely desperate I may occasionally get it from prompts online--but it rarely comes down to that.

What was it like writing for this anthology?
It was tricky to condense the story of a relationship into such a short space, but it was also really fun. I hadn't actually written contemporary YA before so that was also very interesting.

What are you currently reading?
Currently I'm reading House of Names by Colm Toibin and Thorn Fruit by Felicia Davin.

About M. Wiklund:
M. Wiklund has contributed to the anthologies Kissed from Evernight Teen and BlackHearts from Dreaming Rabbit Press.

Disclosure: this post contains links to an affiliate program (Amazon), for which I receive a few cents if you make purchases. 

Monday, June 25, 2018

Review: Demons and Destiny

Title: Demons and Destiny (Angels and Avalon #2)
Author: Catherine Milos
Page Count: 314
My Rating: 3 TURTLES: An enjoyable read, but I suggest check out if you like the topic before adding it to your to-read list.
*I received this book in exchange for an honest review

What else are friends for, but to rescue you from a deranged reincarnated dark Viking shaman serving a lazy lesser Celtic god? Ex-Angel Tyrel Hanson is cursed. He must send all demons back to Hell before he can be with the woman he loves. The mission is enough to drive him to darkness. Elizabeth McAllistar discovers she is magic-blind. A dangerous condition which could end up killing her and her best-friend Madison. Madison Porter is a scientist. When she suddenly discovers she has magic and a past-life with Tyrel her world is thrown into chaos. Her magic might be the only thing that can free Tyrel from his cursed destiny and keep them all alive.

When the author first reached out to me to review this book I was really excited. Angels and demons, Vikings and reincarnation? It sounded totally up my alley! And while I loved the use of mythology and the world-building around how magic worked in this story, this book never really clicked for me.

I think one of the bigger issues that contributed to me not really getting into Demons and Destiny was that it is the second in a series and I hadn’t read the first one. I don’t normally read series out of order like this, but the author assured me that they could be read out of order. I did not find that to be the case. 

While it is true that the main plotline in this book is separate from the plot of the first book in the series, the plot of the first book is constantly referenced. Many of the characters in the first book have been reincarnated as characters who show up in Demons and Destiny. The book gives a “what are they up to now” look at these characters, so maybe if I had read the first book first I would have thought it was very interesting. As it was, it felt like I was given a lot of non-essential details about minor characters’ lives and things that happened in their past lives that weren’t necessarily relevant to the plot. 

And even when some of these details were relevant to the plot, because I hadn’t read the first book, I didn’t have an emotional connection to these past events. It just felt like I was being told a lot instead of getting to see events unfold. This was made even more difficult given that there is such a large cast of characters.

I did really enjoy the characters’ relationships with each other. I could tell that the author had spent a lot of time developing their backstories and fleshing out their different dynamics. The big cast was confusing at times, but it was made less so by the fact that each character was very distinct, memorable, and complex.

This book has a great concept, interesting characters, and cool world-building. If that interests you, definitely give this series a whirl, even if it wasn’t for me – but be sure to start with book one!

Disclosure: this post contains links to an affiliate program (Amazon), for which I receive a few cents if you make purchases. 

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Excerpt: The Gilded King

The Sovereign Series:
The Sovereign series is set in future Europe, in a world in which the human population has been decimated by a blood-borne virus so that only one, small city remains. That city, the Blue, is controlled by a vampiric race called the Silver.

Beyond its boundaries, the world is contaminated by a vaccine that was developed in order to combat the virus. The humans believe that instant death awaits them in the forests beyond the city walls, the forests of the Red, but in fact the effect of the vaccine is quite different: it not only protects humans from the virus, but it also causes the Silver to be turned human.

The protagonists of the series are Julia, a human teenager, and Cameron, a Silver who is millennia old. The series follows the characters as they address the corruption of the Blue and stand against an ancient enemy who wants to take control of it for himself. Their endeavours bring them face to face with the zombies that the vaccine should have eradicated, and force Julia to reassess everything she thought she knew about the world.

The series is targeted at young adults. The books contain horror, profanity, M/F and M/M romance, and some limited sexual content.

At the very furthest point of the temple, at the end of the double row of pillars that processed towards it, there was a pedestal mounted on a stepped dais. A figure was laid out on top of it. For a moment, Julia froze, thinking it was a real person lying there, slumbering in the temple, but something didn’t fit.
The figure wasn’t breathing. It wasn’t moving at all.
‘Come on,’ Lucas said, leading her down the aisle towards it.
‘Is it a statue?’ she asked.
‘A tomb, really.’
As they walked, he snuffed out the lamps that lined the walls, until finally the only illumination came from the rounded alcove into which the dais rose. It was a bright island in the centre of the darkness, and in the middle of it the statue shone: a man, wearing fine clothing in an unfamiliar style, with a blanket of stone covering his body. His exposed skin was tinged with a sheen of gold that glowed like the walls of the temple.
‘He looks so real,’ she said, reaching out to touch the golden curls that crowned his head. They were slick under her fingers, so intricate they might have been moulded from a real person.
‘They say he was.’
‘You mean this is his coffin?’ The pedestal certainly looked like a tomb. It was wide and deep enough to accommodate a body.
‘No,’ Lucas said, ‘I mean that this is him, that this statue was once alive.’
Julia’s hand had been tracing the lines of the face, but now she snatched it away. ‘You’re not serious.’
‘I am.’
‘This is why you brought me here,’ she said.

‘Of course. You want to hear the fairytale, don’t you?’ 

Author Bio:
Josie lives in Oxford, England, with her husband and two cats. When she’s not writing, she works as a lawyer, specialising in intellectual property and commercial law. She also runs a video book review club, The Gin Book Club, through her website.
The Solis Invicti series (a prequel series to the Sovereign series) is available now.

Website & Blog | Facebook Twitter Instagram YouTube    

Pre-order The Gilded Kings on Amazon

Disclosure: this post contains links to an affiliate program (Amazon), for which I receive a few cents if you make purchases. 

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Review: Check, Please!: #Hockey

Title: Check, Please!: #Hockey
Author: Ngozi Ukazu
Page Count: 288
My Rating5 TURTLES: AMAZING read. I loved this book, and it's going on my favorites shelf forever! You must get a copy of this book!

Helloooo, Internet Land. Bitty here!

Y’all... I might not be ready for this. I may be a former junior figure skating champion, vlogger extraordinaire, and very talented amateur p√Ętissier, but being a freshman on the Samwell University hockey team is a whole new challenge. It’s nothing like co-ed club hockey back in Georgia! First of all? There’s checking. And then, there is Jack—our very attractive but moody captain.

A collection of the first half of the megapopular webcomic series of the same name, Check, Please!: #Hockey is the first book of a hilarious and stirring two-volume coming-of-age story about hockey, bros, and trying to find yourself during the best four years of your life.

Oh my God, you guys, this graphic novel made me FEEL things! I never make audible noises when I’m reading things, I don’t even usually laugh at loud if I’m watching comedy shows, but Check, Please!: #Hockey made me laugh and squee at the sheer adorableness of this story! I read this whole thing in one sitting, which never happens, so you know it’s serious!

If you had told me several years ago that some of my favorite stories would heavily feature non-equestrian sports I would have looked at you funny, but this new trend of sports teammates/colleagues falling for each other has arrived and I am 100% here for it. (I’ve included a list of my other favorite books and TV shows that follow this trend at the end of the review and I hope that you’ll check them out).

Teammate to lover stories though
There is so much I love about this story! The art is super fun and thoughtfully drawn. The characters are also so distinct and memorable – I especially love the adorable and earnest Bitty and the party-bro with a heart of gold Shitty (whose real name we may or may not learn throughout the course of this book). And, of course, the main selling point of this book for me, I loved the romance between Bitty and Jack. What can I say? I’m weak for sweet queer romances, especially of the teammate to lover variety, and since there are not nearly enough of them (yet) each one I find is like finding a rare gem.

Also, huge bonus points to this book for having a badass character with my name, even if 99% people refer to her by her nickname, Lardo.

One thing that catches me a little bit off guard about graphic novels is that they tend to feel rushed to me. Check, Please has a great arc, but I wanted, like, five more hockey games, and ten more Bitty and Jack scenes. I think this is partly due to the fact that this is a compilation of web-comics. If I had read each page as it was initially released and had to wait a while for the next installment I don’t think it would feel rushed at all.

I think this would be especially true since the author runs “Bitty’s” Twitter account, so people’s experience with the story continues between installments (such a smart idea). The advanced copy has a sampling of some of these tweets, but promises that the published version will have many, many more. 

Picture of me trying to figure out how hockey works
The only other small thing that I would have liked to see was an in-depth explanation of how hockey works. Most of the other stories I know of that follow sports team dedicates a section where they just explain how the game works. It feels a bit info-dumpy, but also necessary for someone like me who has very little knowledge about anything sport-related. There were some explanations of how hockey works here and there, but by the end I was still pretty confused. 

And if you’re thinking “Gee, Larissa, if only there were a magical device that you could type ‘how does hockey work’ into and get as detailed an answer as you’d like,” point taken. 

Thank goodness my roommate for the NYU publishing program I’m taking lent me her advanced copy that she picked up at Book Expo, but I will definitely be picking up my own copy when it comes out in September! And if you’re as excited about getting your own copy as I am, you can always pre-order it.
Now that I have been introduced to this wonderful comic, I definitely won’t be patient enough to wait for volume two to come out to find out what happens next. Lucky for me (and all of you) this comic is not only available online, but it’s still ongoing! So there’s plenty more in store for Jack, Bitty, Shitty and all the others. 

More Queer sports romances! 
These are the stories that I couldn’t help but think of while reading Check, Please! Did I miss any? Let me know in the comments!

Yuri on Ice (TV show)
Fence (comic series)

Disclosure: this post contains links to an affiliate program (Amazon), for which I receive a few cents if you make purchases. 

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Guest Post: Benjamin Appleby-Dean - Author of The Stickman's Legacy

Benjamin Appleby-Dean, author of The Stickman's Legacy, stopped by the Howling Turtle to talk a bit about folklore and fable and how it has influenced his work on this book. Had you heard of any of this fairytale trivia before?

Guest Post
I’ve always been fascinated by stories – not just the actual reading and hearing of them, the beginning-to middle-to end rush, but by the pieces of them and how they fit together. Why we have heroes and villains, antagonists, and protagonists, morals and happy endings or tragedies that can’t be averted.
I tried to write stories of my own almost as soon as I learned to read, starting with simple tales of heroes and monsters – but even then I wondered why the monsters had to lose.
As I grew older and read more widely, I discovered Joseph Campbell and his beat-by-beat formula for heroic journeys. I noticed the similarities in folklore and fable across different continents – the version of Cinderella that goes back to ancient Egypt, the sunken-city myth that persists from Greece to India to China, the enduring archetype of little people living underground that recurs in country after country. I read about the changing of even our best-known modern fairy tales – how the Grimms rewrote their own collections to remove Rapunzel’s pregnancy and switch abusive mothers for stepmothers; how Beauty and the Beast once had elaborate backstories involving rival fairies; how Tom Thumb originally joined King Arthur’s court and battled giants.
Most of all I came to understand how much of what we are is built upon the backs of these persistent narratives – stories informing our language, our relationships, our aspirations, our ideas of good and evil. Stories woven through our basic ideas of self.
What would happen if someone tried to use them as a weapon?
I wanted to write a story about stories – but not in a postmodern, ironic, poking-fun kind of way. I wanted to drill down into how they worked and how they could be made to work. I wanted to see what happened to the survivors. How far an ending could be made to stretch.
Most of all, I wanted to tell the story of a girl who refused to give up.
The first ideas for THE STICKMAN’S LEGACY came to me nearly fifteen years ago. I spent seven years taking the ideas and building on them, trying to fit them together until they made sense. I read up on folk history from every country I could find, spotting new patterns and obscure fragments. I took six months writing a detailed, blow-by-blow plan to make sure my strange, experimental plot actually fitted together and then another two years finishing my first draft of the book.
But as many older, wiser writers will tell you, the first book you write is never any good. 
I wrote other books afterwards – simpler, less ambitious ones. I even got some of my other works into print. Then I came back to my unwieldly first manuscript, finally became aware of my mistakes, and spent another year re-writing it from scratch. I eventually cut out 60,000 words (the length of a short novel in itself!) and was left with leaner, better-paced book – still saying everything I wanted to say, but in 70% of the page count. 
It took me five years to find a publisher for THE STICKMAN’S LEGACY, and it’s still the most complex and ambitious thing I’ve ever tried to write.
I can only hope that some of you find it worth the wait.

About the Book
Mary never knew her father until he died and brought his enemies to her doorstep. Searching his house for answers, she unearths an ancient nightmare and is drawn into a world of corporate magicians, subterranean kingdoms and living architecture, all of whom have history with the Stickman - and their own sinister agendas for his daughter.

As a secret war breaks out across London with her at the centre, Mary finds fragments of her own past resurfacing, and has to understand the true nature of her legacy before it's too late...

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