Sunday, January 24, 2021

Book Review: A Wish in the Dark

A Wish in the DarkA Wish in the Dark by Christina Soontornvat
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Sometimes the righteous are not right

I really enjoyed this book! I love the unique blend of Asian culture and fantasy elements.
I rented this book from my local library and started reading it to my son, but loved it so much I finished it without him.
This book reminds me of Studio Ghibli films, and I hope to one day see it made into one.
I was able to read it quickly, which is a plus for my busy schedule. I didn't want to put it down because the mixture of believable struggles and magical elements was very intriguing and I wanted to see how the main character would overcome his past, being born into a prison and sentenced to live there until he aged out.
Beautifully done, I would love to read more stories that take place in the same world, and only left off one star because I wish I had known just a little more about the world and the other point of view character and her special abilities.

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Monday, January 18, 2021

How can a Setting Feel Like a Character?

I recently reviewed a book, Preparing to Write Settings That Feel Like Characters by J. Lenni Dorner. I want to share with you why I recommend this book to anyone who wants to create awesome settings.

At first, I was confused by the title, but the more I thought about it, the more it made sense. Writers do character profiles for all the characters who influence the plot significantly, the main characters. They also do worldbuilding, but not necessarily as thoroughly as Dorner proposes in her book.

After reading this book, thinking about how I could apply it, and writing a review, I watched Despicable Me 3 for the fifth time this week and I saw the perfect example of a setting that feels like a character:  Freedonia.

Source:  - 
Marie Ayme - Senior Surfacing Artist

The first thing to notice is the archetype. This is a Mediterranean Village for sure and the colors, textures, and shapes make that clear.

A close inspection reveals just how complex this setting is, and just how much attention the writers paid to developing it.

Source: - Sebastien Camrrubi- Character Artist/Rigger

This image shows special customs and celebrations. The boys are offering cheese to the girls to invite them to enter an engagement. If a girl accepts your cheese, she agrees to marry you. You dance with one another and then your families meet to confirm the betrothal. Naturally, the outsiders are not aware of this custom and stumble upon it accidentally, crushing one boy's heart.

Why does this matter? Well, it affects the plot. This sets up the perfect conflict for the step-mother and her daughter. She convinces her to participate in a new experience, it ends poorly, then she has to make it better. The two characters bond over the experience and their arcs progress as a result! All because the setting was written like a character that influences the plot.

The attire of the villagers, and their overall look is consistent. It would be easy to spot someone who was not a native of the village because the setting has been clearly defined. The viewer has a set of expectations for anyone who is from this location.

Can you spot the outsiders?

Obviously those big round noses, are part of the setting and anyone with a different nose is not part of that world. The same goes for the neutral colored clothes in contrast to the bright blue and pink.

The details keep coming. 

Everywhere in the village, there are pigs. Automatically, the viewer recognizes that pigs are part of the setting and begins to expect to see them everywhere. In fact they find it satisfying each time they spot that unique quality about the town. Why are there pigs on the runway? Oh, there are pigs all over the village. Is that man holding a pig like a baby?

Seriously, this setting is a fantastic character. I can relate to it. I want to learn more about it. I want to see what happens next! I could watch a whole movie just about this village.

So if you are looking for a good example of a setting that feels like a character, check out this movie. If you need an example in book form, I recommend off the top of my head the market on the other side of Wall in Stardust, by Neil Gaiman, or perhaps the desert sietch of Dune, by Frank Herbert. 

If you want to try creating your own, check out the book. It's a super quick read and extremely affordable! (Seriously, I had more than enough credit in my Kindle account from using no rush shipping.)

What are your favorite settings that feel like characters? Tell me below.

Saturday, January 16, 2021

Review: Preparing to Write Settings That Feel Like Characters

Preparing to Write Settings That Feel Like CharactersPreparing to Write Settings That Feel Like Characters by J. Lenni Dorner
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Excellent easy advice

This is a super handy guide. It is easy to create a setting in my mind and even to write about events happening in that setting, but to truly have an amazing story the setting needs to become something more. This is especially true for sci fi, which is my passion. This books contains great advice for doing just that.

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 The book also includes a link to the worksheet that can be used for your settings! 

Friday, January 15, 2021

Review: Interworld

InterWorld (InterWorld, #1)InterWorld by Neil Gaiman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed this work. There is something about Neil Gaiman's work that allows the reader to fully experience another world. There were certainly some complex ideas in this book and yet, I had no difficulty understanding the scenery, the events, or the characters.

Typically I have trouble when character names are all similar, but in this case the name similarities are important to the plot. I also read this via audio book, so that may have helped me a little.

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Review: An Unkindness of Ghosts

An Unkindness of GhostsAn Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Read via audiobook, but I can safely say this book will be purchased for my shelf.

Solomon built a rich world and culture that I could experience with the characters. In fact, I felt connected with the characters. I wanted to understand them and to fight for them. I found a world where civil rights falls apart despite technology advanced enough to move an entire civilization completely believable. If there is one flaw that I fear will forever be with us, it is discrimination. This is the world that Solomon invites you into on a generation ship where the decks of the ship are physical manifestations of the economic status gradient. Our journey mostly stays on the lowest decks, where the characters live as slaves or indentured servants at best.

One benefit of the audio version was the range of dialects. I am interested to see how they work in the print version.

Solomon does well weaving together the plots as the main character battles discrimination, fulfills her role to help others, searches for the truth about her missing mother, and uncovers the larger truth about the fate of their people.

I noticed that several others had issue with the violence. I am not usually able to stomach graphic scenes of sexual and physical abuse, but I thought Solomon handled these scenes appropriately. The fear was there, the intense emotions were clear, but I did not feel like I was being forced to witness these horrible crimes for the sake of interest. For the most part she skirts around the ideas, makes them clear without smearing them on your face. Towards the end, as things become more difficult for the characters, the abuse increases, but I have read and seen things that were handled far less delicately.

There are a few shifts in point of view, but I found these moments useful to the plot. I was left with a few questions, but not so many that I did not feel the ending was effective. I think that another read will make the story even better.

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Review: Annihilation

Annihilation (Southern Reach, #1)Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I read this via audiobook. I also had a print copy that I followed along periodically. I loved this book because of the vivid imagery, the careful details, and the internal monologue of a woman discovering a new world and her own mind's transformation.

The writing is poetic in a sense and not the best book for someone who must have an easy or direct plot. It is similar to other science fiction works that focus on world building and character arcs over a clear problem and solution. Despite that, there are plenty of actions and events to keep it moving.

Lots of questions and intrigue, perhaps not enough reveals, but it is only the first of a trilogy and I look forward to reading the other two.

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Thursday, January 7, 2021

Quote of the Day

 “Finish the thing you’re on. Jot down enough of the idea. Then go back to the thing you’re on and finish it... You have to learn to finish... You can’t fix something you haven’t even begun.” --Neil Gaiman

Taken from 

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

January - Insecure Writers Support Group + Surprise Announcement!

January 6 question:

Being a writer, when you're reading someone else's work, what stops you from finishing a book/throws you out of the story/frustrates you the most about other people's books?

This is a tricky one. I fail to finish books all of the time, and it is not necessarily the book's fault. I easily have a dozen books I have partially read in the past few years alone. Perhaps if I analyze a few that I have not finished, it will help.

The first group of unfinished books:  God Emperor of Dune, The Sword of the Lady, Soul Music, and The Wishsong of Shannara are all fourth or later in a series. If I do not have time to read them quickly in succession, then they will likely not be finished because I become frustrated with not remembering the multiple side plots or character names. If I feel like I cannot remember something that I am supposed to, I give up. Chances are, I do not have time to start over.

There is another group of unfinished books outside the Speculative Fiction category and these tend to get put aside because the goal of the main character is either unclear or unimportant. I think the reason I prefer SF is because the goals somehow seem more relevant. Or perhaps it is because the obstacles that prevent the goal from being attained are more believable. (Basically there is a tangible cause for the conflict like magical intervention or alien mind control. If it is something that could happen to me, it is probably not that interesting!)

Another thing that annoys me while reading is proper noun overload. A cast that is too big, or with names that are too similar is a big turn off. Too many settings can also trick me if I have to remember them by name. This one turns me off of a lot of long fantasy series. I never can remember which castles and towns and historic weapons are being referred to. I will struggle through this as best I can (for at least the first three books).

Lastly, I have a few unfinished items because they are simply too long, and I know I will not be able to keep up over the extended time it will take to complete the work. I also become frustrated if I have seen a film series first and the book deviates too far.  If I look forward to something specific that does not occur, I will put it aside. The Magicians fits in both of these categories: too much to read, and too many deviations. (Why is Margot named Janet? Why? Julia already has a five-letter "J" name, there should not be two main characters that close! And Margot was my favorite character in the series but is not as prominent or spicy in the books.) I will definitely pick this one up again at some point. The Expanse books are on hold for me, too, but only because of time. So far the deviations are acceptable and even enjoyable.

Proper character motivation, limited and unique character names, acceptable length, plenty of unbelievable obstacles that have believable impacts and I will likely finish the book. Now if I could just finish my own book!!!!!

Almost to the surprise...

If you are interested in reading what others have to say about this question, please follow the link behind the badge below. You will find many, many blogs here, and can hop to any you please for interesting perspectives.

The awesome co-hosts for the January 6 posting of the IWSG are Ronel Janse van Vuuren , J Lenni Dorner, Gwen Gardner, Sandra Cox, and Louise - Fundy Blue!


You made it to the surprise!! 

Check out the new anthology coming out! Take a look at those awesome authors!!!

Dark Matter: Artificial

An Insecure Writer’s Support Group Anthology


Discover dark matter’s secrets…


What is an AI’s true role? Will bumbling siblings find their way home from deep space? Dark matter is judging us—are we worthy of existence? Would you step through a portal into another reality? Can the discoverer of dark matter uncover its secrets?


Ten authors explore dark matter, unraveling its secrets and revealing its mysterious nature. Featuring the talents of Stephanie Espinoza Villamor, C.D. Gallant-King, Tara Tyler, Mark Alpert, Olga Goldim, Steph Wolmarans, Charles Kowalski, Kim Mannix, Elizabeth Mueller, and Deniz Bevan.


Hand-picked by a panel of agents, authors, and editors, these ten tales will take readers on a journey across time and space. Prepare for ignition!



Founded by author Alex J. Cavanaugh, the Insecure Writer’s Support Group offers support for writers and authors alike. It provides an online database; articles; monthly blog posting; Facebook, Twitter, & Instagram groups; #IWSGPit, and a newsletter.


Release date: May 4, 2021

Print ISBN 9781939844828 $14.95

EBook ISBN 9781939844835 $4.99

Science Fiction: Collections & Anthologies (FIC028040) / Space Exploration (FIC028130) / Genetic Engineering (FIC028110)

186 pages



Artificial - Stephanie Espinoza Villamor
Space Folds and Broomsticks - C.D. Gallant-King
Rift – Kim Mannix
The Utten Mission – Steph Wolmarans
Sentient – Tara Tyler
One to Another – Deniz Bevan
Resident Alien - Charles Kowalski
Nano Pursuit – Olga Goldim
Resurgence – Elizabeth Mueller
Vera’s Last Voyage – Mark Alpert

I'm so nervous...