My New Favorite Camp NaNoWriMo Helper

It’s Camp NaNoWriMo time again, and once more writers around the world are pushing themselves to write every day. While Camp is inherently less demanding than NaNoWriMo itself (you can choose your own goal, for one thing), it’s still a great way to encourage yourself to write more on your NaNovel, or start a new short story, or edit things that have been sitting there gathering dust (real or virtual) since November. But if you are like me, you pretty much only write your personal stuff during NaNo and Camp NaNo. So it can be a struggle to remember to get the words or editing in.

This year I have a new tool that is going to help a lot. In fact, it is the reason I am sitting here writing this article right now.

I’m talking about Habitica. Some of you may already use this. For those of you who don’t, let me explain:

Habitica (formerly HabitRPG) is a way to turn your tasks into a game. You create your lists of dailies, habits (both ones you want to form, and ones you want to get rid of) and to-do’s. You mark them off as you do them. (Bear with me here, I know it sounds like any other tasklist app or website so far.)

What makes this different is how it encourages you to actually do your tasks. As I said before, it’s a game. You earn experience and gold and/or silver for completing tasks, and lose health for not completing dailies, or for doing “bad” or negative habits. As you level up, you begin to gain pet eggs, hatching potions, and food for the pets. You can also join guilds, complete challenges, and most helpful to me, you can join a party.

If you join a party and do quests, when you miss a daily your entire party can be damaged by the boss, not just you. You could end up killing your teammates if you aren’t careful. For me, that is a huge motivator to actually do them. Completing your tasks, on the other hand, deals damage to the boss.

There is much more to say about Habitica, but this is what is important for you to really know why it is such a wonderful thing for NaNoWriMo (and Camp).

Add your goals to your dailies (if it’s a smaller weekly goal during camp, it can easily be marked as a once a week “daily” and if you do it that week, when that day comes around you mark it off). Assuming you are in a party quest, not only are you letting yourself down by not writing or editing, you are harming your team (or at least not helping them).

It’s amazing how much more you are motivated to write when other people are depending on it too!


A Tour of B&Q NaNoWriMo Headquarters

Welcome. My name is Diannika, and I’ll be your tour guide today as we explore the Books & Quills NaNoWriMo Headquarters in Discord. A few basic reminders before we get started:

Our address is You can find us from a mobile or desktop app or from your favorite browser. If accessing us from the app, you can use just the invite code (4yNGRN4) to find us.

Books & Quills is not affiliated with OLL (Office of Letters and Light) or NaNoWriMo, or any of the NaNoWriMo Facebook groups, in any way other than most if not all of us are participants.

This is a place for many ages of people, so we do ask that all people keep their language and topics of conversation appropriate for ages 13 and up. We do, however, have an 18+ room for those who wish to or need to discuss topics that are not otherwise allowed in the common areas. Outside of that room, we ask that if you are discussing adult topics (such as a description of an adult novel) you word it in such a way we won’t end up with angry parents.

Thank you for your patience with the official babble. Now that we have that out of the way, let’s get on with the tour!

As you can see, this is the general lobby. Here we encourage chatting about nearly anything. This is especially for those who want to chat while writing, but don’t want to hang out in one of the other rooms, and people who just want to drop by but don’t mind writing talk so don’t want to relax in the break room. Basically, everyone is welcome here. As of now, it is usually the most active room, although we do expect many of the other rooms to pick up as NaNo continues.

Behind me we have the information desk. Here you can find basic information on what NaNoWriMo is, as well as on how to use Discord. It’s very helpful for those who need it and people should take a look at it individually, but it’s not very interesting as a stop on the tour, so let us continue.

Down this hallway we have the writing rooms. This first one is the Writing Only room. It is strictly for writing-based conversation, for those who do not want to be distracted. People are welcome to pop back and forth between any of the rooms, as long as this room is kept free of any distractions from writing.

Across the lobby you can see another room. That one is the Break Room. As you can see from the sign on the door, no writing talk is allowed there. It is intended for people who want to take a break from writing and just relax, recharge their brain. Here is a good place to play games as well.

Alright, now back to the writing wing… we will get back to the recreation wing on the other side in a few minutes.

Next stop on the tour is the Sprint Room. Here is where people can set up or join time-based sprints. For those who are unaware of what those are, you set a time and everyone participating writes as much as they can during that time. It is not exactly competitive, it is just a way to write together with others, while giving each other the push to succeed.

Across the hall is the Word Crawl Room. Here you will find or be able to set up word crawls. Those are basically writing to an RPG, or role-playing game. There is usually a base story, and as you and your partners (or competitors, depending on the crawl) progress, you have to complete certain writing-based tasks. These can include sprints, word wars, and other challenges. Sometimes they are merely required to progress, other times success or failure may change the outcomes of the story, or give you tools to help you through the story.

As a note, as I have seen many people confused by this, you complete the challenges with your NaNo novel… the crawl’s story has nothing to do with the writing itself. The crawl’s story is only intended to make it more fun to do, alone or with others.

Here at the end of the hall we have the Battlefield, where you can take part in word wars. That is, you and another person (or people) will set a time, and you will write as fast as possible in an attempt to be the winner. While traditionally this is a one-on-one type of thing, I have seen (and participated in) team word wars, where the teams wordcount was added up and compared instead of individual ones. Both kinds are welcome here, so have some fun.

Ok, follow me back this way. Behind the information desk is the Reference hallway. I’m sorry what was that?

Ah yes, the locked room. While I believe you can all look in and see what’s happening in there, it is locked to prevent people from entering without warning. That room is for a special speed crawl. Anyone can be invited in before a round starts, but due to the nature of it we do not allow people not participating to speak there. Just let us know if you want to take part, and we will be sure to give you a pass to get in.

Back to the reference hallway. Here at the beginning you can see a bulletin board. Here you can find prompts, or request a prompt, or post your own for others to use. It’s a great way to pass your plot bunnies on to others when they are too small to stand on their own.

We have several rooms here for helping to build your novel. First up, here to your left, is the Character Creation room. You can ask for help on various aspects of character creation… naming help, questions about specific traits or habits, how to describe a certain hair or eye or skin color, information on a profession or hobby and how it would influence the character, whatever you need. You can also post article links and other resources that can be helpful to those looking for character help, or answer other people’s questions.

Next is the World-Building room. This is a great place to discuss various aspects that make up the world your story is set in, whether it be things like what society would be like if the planets star was dying, or things like how does magic work, or just about anything. If it is part of world-building, it fits well here. Just like with the other reference rooms, feel free to ask for help, post your ponderings, or references, or help others.

And here we have the Plotting Station. Here is a great place to plot… no, not world domination… why are you cackling?

Ahem. As I was saying, this is a great place to plot. Have a plothole you don’t know how to fill? Find help here. Not sure where your story is going, or how to get from point a to point b? Surely someone here can help!

Here you have the actual reference reference rooms. This one is for Historical Facts, this one for Science, and this one for Cultural Articles and Studies. Here you can ask for help on these topics, but you can also contribute things you come across randomly that would fit the room’s topic.

At the end of this wing we have the Plot Bunny Adoption Center. Here you will find (or contribute) fully grown plot bunnies that the original owners just couldn’t take care of. They are available for anyone who needs or wants them to take home. This allows the original owners to focus their time and attention on the bunnies they are working with, while making sure the bunnies’ stories are still told.

Alright guys, I know they are cute, and you want to take one home, but you can come back later. We have one more wing to explore. You… yes, you. Come along. Thank you.

Here next to the break room is the recreation wing. First up is the novel-sharing room. This is where you can tell others about your NaNovel, including your working cover if you have one.

In the hallway between rooms we have this bookshelf. It is where you will find published works by other NaNoers who frequent our HQ. Feel free to add yours to the shelf. However, each person is limited to a single post, in which you are welcome to include multiple works. We want to make sure everyone’s writing has a chance to be seen.

On the other side of the hall we have the Jukebox. This is a great place to post links to music, especially YouTube links. They will play in the Jukebox, meaning people will not have to leave to listen to them. Please, browse the offerings here whenever you wish. You never know what you will find!

Back here in the back of this wing is the 18+ room I told you about back at the beginning of the tour.  This room is for adults only, and is a place where conversations can be had that would not be appropriate for teens. Obviously I will not go into detail here, as I know we have a few underage people with us today, but we do ask that these kinds of conversations remain here, and that teenagers (and kids who may find their way here) keep out of this room.

Let’s make our way back to the lobby.

The last thing to show you right here is the channel request box. This is for those who may need a room for something specific… perhaps a long crawl you don’t want to take up the word crawl room with, or a different sprinting schedule than is going on in the main sprint room at the time.  You can also request a specific room for your writing group. These rooms will be public unless specifically arranged with myself or May, and even in private ones the B&Q staff will still have access. The third type of channel request is for suggestions of permanent rooms you think we should add.

Remember you can talk verbally here, not just in writing. Just find the room that fits what you are looking for and enjoy yourself!

We hope you enjoyed the tour of our facilities, and look forward to seeing you around and getting to know you better.


Interview: Tamara Hecht

Diannika Alyse Star: Hi Tamara. Thanks for agreeing to speak with us!

Tamara Hecht: Thank you for having me as a guest.

Star: We are more then happy to have you.

Your newest book came out just in time for everyone to read before Halloween. But before we get to that, could you start us off with a little about your first book?

Hecht: My first book, “Welcome to Monsterville” is about the main character arriving in the aforementioned all-monster town.  Because she is the first human kid ever to live there, she has some trouble with making friends at first.  The whole first story is about the funny and awkward miscommunications between Jen and the monster kids as they get to know each other.  By the end of the story, readers can tell that friendships were established, so the second book picks up where the first one leaves off.  Friendship is an important theme again in “The Music Room.”

Star: That sounds very interesting. I know it’s aimed at children, but I think I may have to give it a read myself too.

Speaking of which, what age children is the series recommended for?

Hecht: Let’s say maybe 8-12.  But I know some younger kids who liked the first book read to them.  I also know some big kids – you know, big kids in their 20s and 30s – who enjoy it.

Star: Oooh perfect for my daughter. lol

I know many authors dread this question, but I really do need to ask it. Where did you get the idea for Monsterville?

Hecht: I’ve always loved monsters, I’ve always loved Halloween, and I’ve always loved the idea of there being some secret alternate world to get away to.  The first spark of the idea was initially for a cartoon series, but after pitching the series to many cartoon studios and TV channels, I decided to just write it myself.  I mean, I wrote the scripts myself anyway, but a script isn’t a finished product in the same way that a book is.  Right now, I prefer writing books to scripts: there’s no length limit, no restrictions based on other things that are currently popular, and nothing is “designed by committee.”  I still love writing scripts, but right now I feel like Monsterville is better suited to being a book series.

Star: That is really interesting. Do you feel like the story has benefited from the change in format?

Hecht: Some things were lost and some things were gained.  Any time you go from one medium to another, there are changes you have to make.  In the cartoon scripts, there were a lot of jokes that depended on timing or instant visuals.  Those don’t quite hold up in books because reading something is slower than just seeing or hearing it, and the writer has little control over how the jokes are presented in the reader’s mind.  What works very well in books is description.  You can’t do that in a script because it doesn’t show up on the screen, but description and commentary is basically what a book is made of.  So I have fun with that.  Within the text, I write a lot of silly comments about the characters or places, or I use unusual metaphors, or suddenly switch into casual language.  I’m telling jokes about the story rather than showing a story full of jokes.

Star: That makes sense.  Do you intend to pursue a cartoon based on your books in the future, once they are more established?

Hecht: I would like to, eventually, but I also have a lot more Monsterville books I want to write.

Star: Do you have some idea of how many books you expect the series to be, or do you plan to keep writing until it comes to a natural ending point?

Hecht: I plan to keep on writing them.  The worldbuilding is fairly detailed and I’ve put a lot of thought into the characters, so I imagine I can write an infinite number of stories.  I don’t have an ending point in mind as of now.

Star: So back to the newest book in particular, is there anything you wanted to tell us about it?

Hecht : With this one, I’m trying out a story that is more mystery-based.  There is some actual danger.  The conflict in the first book was Jen’s struggle to make friends, but in the newer one, there is an external force that acts more like an enemy.  Although, interestingly, both of these very different situations are solved by people learning to understand one another.

Star: Do you see that as possibly being a theme that runs through the series, or just a coincidence?

Hecht: I only realized it after the fact.  I didn’t plan it.  I only set out to tell interesting stories, but of course, my values are going to influence that.  I think empathy and communication are very important, and I prefer heroes that use kindness and intelligence to solve problems.  There is a good chance my stories will all have that as a common thread.

Star: Nicely put.

When did you first realize you wanted to be an author?

Hecht: I always wanted to tell stories.  Even as a little kid, I was acting out scenarios or writing and drawing very short visual gags.  The idea of writing a whole book seemed quite daunting back then.  However, there were a lot of frustrations with trying to tell a joke or a short story in the moment – people would get distracted or interrupt or steal the punchline.  I started writing things down because a blank page is an excellent listener.  The hobby just grew with me.  By high school, I was writing chapter books.  The stories I wrote then were about me making sense of (or making fun of) all those strange social rules that people follow at that age.  I still use writing to help me make sense of the world.  Besides, writing is a skill I’ve been refining for a long time and I’m proud of it.  I can do things with it that, ironically, get people to pay attention.  So, thank you, people who didn’t pay attention before.  My not being super great at connecting with the outside world made me really, really good at making inside worlds.

Star: Other than that, who would you say has inspired you most in your writing?

Hecht : Any authors who break the rules (or at least break what I thought the rules were).  When I was little, I discovered Robert Munsch’s “Paper Bag Princess” – at the time, I was so sick of trope-filled fairy tales and insulting stereotypes, and then all of a sudden there was this hilarious book about an independent princess who was a quick thinker and it just made me realize that books can be about anything.  I could make stories about anything I wanted.

Later on, I found the works of Gordon Korman and eventually Terry Pratchett. Their humor and insights come in the form of tone and meta-commentary.  That was how I learned about using writing itself to say something with how the story is told, and not just what the story is about.

Star: I should probably let you go. One last question to wrap things up.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Hecht: Yes!  Write “you.”  Don’t write what it feels like you’re expected to write or worry about what is trending.  Write the story you want to write, the way you want to write it.  That’s what makes it important.

Star: That is great advice!

Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me today. I can’t wait to read your books!

Hecht: Thank you for the interview.

Visit Tamara’s webpage at

Don’t miss her Monsterville short story airing Halloween on 600 Second Saga! 

Adult, Book Reviews

Review: Bearly Awake by D. R. Perry

First a disclaimer of sorts. The author requested we review this book. However, we were not paid in any way and did not receive a free copy of the book.

This was a series I was interested in reading anyway, so you would have been seeing a review for it soon even if the author hadn’t requested it. Especially since I took a road trip this week as a passenger, so I got to read while traveling.

That said, let’s get to the important part… the review!

Genre of the Month, July - Fantasy

Interview: Amy Hopkins

Diannika Alyse Star: Thank you for agreeing to speak with us for Fantasy month!

To start with, could you tell us a little about your “Talented” series?

Amy Hopkins: Sure! Talented is an urban fantasy set in modern day London. It contains open-world magic – Fae and other magical creatures wander the streets in plain view, and magic is used openly.

Emma is our heroine. She’s a simple teashop owner, content to sell her enchanted tea with the help of Gibble (her boggart assistant) to the magical population. Until, that is, someone tries to kill her.

It’s not just a simple thriller. The books deal with themes of bigotry, and standing up to those who misuse power. Emma isn’t a super-strong, unbeatable magician. She’s a half-blood, weaker and with limitations on her power. She needs to learn to work with what she has to overcome not just the bad guys, but the prejudice against her kind

Star: I’d definitely agree it’s not just a thriller. What inspired you to write the series?

Hopkins: I’ve been working on bits of stories forever, but this one just seemed ‘right’. I’ve always adored fantastical worlds, and knew that anything I wrote would fall under the SFF banner. This one just kind of fell out of my head and onto the page, and each book makes me even more sure it was the right choice.

Star: Do you feel ‘spoiled’ by how easy it was, or have all your books been like that?

Hopkins: I’ve always found writing easy, in the first phase. However, I tend to run out of steam and really have to push myself through the end. Editing is also really tough for me, I find it utterly exhausting! It’s an interesting balance of absolute joy and really hard work.

Star: I’m sure plenty of aspiring authors reading this will be relieved to hear that they aren’t the only ones who don’t like editing;)

You have 3 published books so far, correct? I believe the most recent came out 2 days ago on kindle? (note to readers: This interview took place on 6/22/2016)

Hopkins: Yes, it did! I’m launching this one slowly, so I haven’t really publicized it yet.

Star: When did you first realize you wanted to be an author?

Hopkins: I don’t remember there ever being a time I didn’t want to, I just never saw it as a viable career path. I thought writers were these highly educated, incredibly talented, big-city people that had done something I could never attain

Star: And when did that change?

Hopkins: Last year. I was running a blog and found out about self publishing. I decided to write a nonfiction book (on body positive health) and found out more about the process through that. Around the same time I decided to finally have a go at nanowrimo during a camp month, and took time off work, study and writing my non-fiction to start the first of the Talented series. I wrote about 25 thousand words that month, but never imagined it would turn into what it has. It was just a passion project to begin with.

Star: And you already have 3 of them out?! Now that IS inspiring, at least to me 🙂

Will there be more to the series after Truth Taker? I have to admit, My TBR list means I’ve only had a chance to read the first one so far :’(
Hopkins: It looks good because I managed it well! Dream Stalker was pretty much done by Christmas last year, except for applying beta reader feedback and last proofing. Barrow Fiend was my November nano project, and was partially through beta-feedback when the first book was released. I had a head start, but I plan to try and keep to a release schedule of at least one every three months.

Talented will be six to eight books long, and there will be at least one spin off series if it goes well. I also plant to write a SciFi series, and have that ready to launch by Christmas, and I’d like to fit in a steampunk serial next year as well.

Star: oooh I can’t wait! You certainly are ambitious 🙂

Do you think it will be difficult to move to scifi while also writing fantasy?

Hopkins: No – to me, they’re both about impossible worlds and new ideas. Science is just an explanation for how magic happens.

Star: Well, I have to admit, I hope you choose to write science fantasy at some point, with that way of thinking!

Who would you say has inspired you most in your writing?

Hopkins: Enid Blyton. She was the author who taught me the wonder of books, and of new worlds. She instilled a love of words and all things British into my young brain.

As an adult, I’d say a combination of Jacqueline Carey, who has a way with words that makes you fall in love with a phrase or description; and that cliquey group of fantasy writers who talk about their craft. Pat Rothfuss on the Story Board and Brandon Sanderson with Mary Robinette Kowal on Writing Excuses gave me a really solid grounding when I finally put pen to paper. I listened to their stuff for a long time before writing these books and I think it helped me to be a better writer.
On a personal level, fantasy author Katika Schneider has acted as my cheerleader, supporter and my incredibly helpful beta reader. I keep telling her my books wouldn’t be one-tenth as good without her feedback.

Star: I have one final question before I let you go.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Hopkins: Figure out why you’re doing this, and put the appropriate amount of resources into it. If you really, honestly want to make this your job, treat it like one. That means you have to *work*, every day. You have to do the hard stuff, take care of the business end, invest in it, learn the process – not just of writing, but of marketing, selling, getting your work out. You can’t wait for the muse, bounce around unfinished projects and make excuses. You need a plan, and you need to work *hard*. IF you can do that, if you can really, truly do the work even when it’s not fun, this is the best time ever to be an author. There are limitless opportunities and a voracious audience, if you create the work and help them find it.

Star: I’ve really enjoyed speaking with you today. Thank you for taking
the time for an interview.

Hopkins: Thanks for the opportunity!

You can find Amy Hopkins on Twitter and Instagram @spellscribe .

Genre of the Month, July - Fantasy

Interview: Katika Schneider

Diannika Alyse Star: Good evening! Thanks for agreeing to speak with us for Fantasy month!

To start us off, could you tell us a little about your book “Devotion”?

Katika Schneider: It’s my pleasure! Devotion is the first of my character-driven epic fantasy series, Tale of the Fallen. Its premise is a holy war against demons, set on an island nation whose god abandoned them. An immortal paladin is sent to try to restore faith to the nation and fend of the demonic threat. I like to think it has a little bit of everything in it – action, suspense, mystery, political intrigue, and a touch of romance.

Star: OOOH, That definitely sounds worth reading! What made you decide to write about that?

Schneider: Well, the series honestly began as a mistake. My freshman year of college, my then-boyfriend-now-husband asked me to create a character for an online RP he was part of. I said I’d only join if my character and his character could know each other, and he told me that was fine as long as I could figure out the logistics of how they met. That’s when I met my female lead, Nessix Teradhel, and she grabbed me by the hand, introduced me to her entire family, then dragged me along through her story. Before I knew it, the simple background for this character became an entire history, from birth until death, leaving me no real room for role playing. Having failed my objective, I told my husband what I’d done and he laughed and told me to scrap the RP idea and write the entire story. From there, I took a step back, fleshed out the history of the world of Abaeloth, created gods, killed gods, and created new gods. The entire beast has now gotten rather out of my control and after Tale of the Fallen is completed, I have at least two other series in The Afflicted Saga already underway.

Star: Wow. That is kinda awesome. 🙂 How many books do you anticipate in Tale of the Fallen?

Schneider: Assuming all of the rewrites stay on track, Tale of the Fallen will have five books. The entire series is already at least in first draft form, so mostly I have to make sure they clean up at the same pace which they came out. Once I have the entire series live, I’ll start on my male main character’s storyline, Legend of the Risen, and it’s currently at five rough drafts and not quite done.

Star: Was there a choice to finish a series before publishing, or did it just happen that way?

Schneider: When I first started writing what became Devotion and the subsequent books, I’d been determined to publish as soon as I could get them out. I’ve got a vicious inner editor, though, which kept me working on Devotion for the better part of 4 years. Once I finished Devotion, I set it aside to begin Deception, and in the first December of working on this book, I learned about NaNoWriMo (which I had barely missed). I was absolutely determined to participate in it the following year, so made finishing Deception my priority. Since then, November’s become a sacred month for me and I’ve churned out a fresh rough draft every year since 2007. Somehow, my publishing dreams kept getting shuffled aside – I’m going to blame how hectic life got on that one – but I’m actually very grateful for the delay I had. Let’s just say, it took me getting much deeper into other characters’ pasts for me to fully understand what I was working with, and it took me getting to experience a whole lot more in life to be able to do my characters justice. I’ve been in the world of Abaeloth since 2003 and it took until 2014 for me to feel as though I fully understood it enough to make things official. While part of me is disappointed for not making my original goal, there’s a much bigger part of me that is glad I took the time I needed. Having a massive backlog of first drafts is a happy accident and added bonus.

Star: So would you recommend those looking to publish a series in the future to wait until they had first drafts of all of it?

Schneider: It’s hard to say, since I’ve only experienced it this way and everyone has their own journey, but I definitely think it helps having the series already written out. For me, I feel as though it’s taken a lot of pressure off as far as trying to create a release schedule. Honestly, if I had it to do over again, I think I’d try to have the entire series at beta-level or better before releasing the first book, so it could all be seamless, but you live, you learn.

Star: I know I’ve heard people say that that definitely increases the overall quality and continuity of a series (As well as, of course, the publication rate lol)

When did you first realize you wanted to be an author?

Schneider: It first occurred to me in fourth grade. I’d had trouble getting interested in school until my fourth grade year. My teacher scheduled an hour of every day for Writing Workshop where all we did was learn about the different genres, different story telling devices and techniques, all that good stuff. Pretty much, it was an hour a day where we were allowed to be creative and express ourselves, with lessons in language arts hidden in there. I absolutely thrived on that hour and knew I had to keep writing in my life for the long haul. Not only did Writing Workshop secure my love for the written word, it also turned me around and got me caring about education as a whole. It’s one of the reasons why I think writing is such a beautiful part of our lives.

Star: Did you always write fantasy?

Schneider: To my recollection, I’ve only written one story that didn’t have some degree of fantasy element to it. I’ve always loved to read fantasy, but had been scared to write it for the longest time until I got my feet wet with a DragonLance fan fiction (before I knew what fanfic was) in junior high. I dabbled with a dystopian trilogy when I was in high school, but never made much of it. I’m a notorious rule breaker (or, at the very least, a rule stretcher) and there’s a certain degree of freedom that comes with writing in a completely unique world. Fantasy’s a good fit for me these days.

Star: Who would you say has inspired you most in your writing?

Schneider: As far as the authors that influenced me the most, it has to be Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman. They’ve written three of my all-time favorite characters and really are the reason I thought maybe I could give fantasy writing a try. Outside of other authors, I credit where I’m at with my writing on my husband. He makes it a point to ensure that I can devote the time and energy needed for my writing and has so far funded all of the costs that go along with self publishing. I could not be where I am today without his support.

Star: It’s great that you have that kind of support!

One last question before we go, Do you have any advice for other writers?

Star: One more question to wrap things up.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Schneider: My advice to other writers is to write true to yourself, and take the time the story takes. Trying to write to suit other people and trying to rush a finished book are two of the most harmful things you can do to the integrity of your story. Don’t be afraid of letting it come out organically; that’s the best way to really let the story shine as it’s meant to.

Star: Thank you so much for doing this interview. It was great speaking with you!

Schneider: It was a pleasure! Thank you for having me.

Genre of the Month, June - SciFi

Interview: J.R. Gershen-Siegel

Diannika Alyse Star: Thanks for agreeing to speak with us for Science Fiction month!

To start us off, could you tell us a little about your book Untrustworthy

JR Gershen-Siegel: Untrustworthy is an LGBT dystopian science fiction novel. It explores what happens when an oppressive society more or less eats itself.

Star: That sounds very interesting. What inspired you to write about that?

Gershen-Siegel: It was kind of an odd story. I had had some of the more science fiction elements just sort of come to me, but the idea of essentially an alien Kristallnacht came to me and it would not let go until it was written.

Star: That sounds rather intense. Do your story ideas usually come to you that way?

Genre of the Month, June - SciFi

Interview: JR Gershen-Siegel


Diannika Alyse Star: Thanks for agreeing to speak with us for Science Fiction month!

To start us off, could you tell us a little about your book “Untrustworthy”
JR Gershen-Siegel: Untrustworthy is an LGBT dystopian science fiction novel. It explores what happens when an oppressive society more or less eats itself.

Star: That sounds very interesting. What inspired you to write about that?
Gershen-Siegel: It was kind of an odd story. I had had some of the more science fiction elements just sort of come to me, but the idea of essentially an alien Kristallnacht came to me and it would not let go until it was written.

Star: That sounds rather intense. Do your story ideas usually come to you that way?

Gershen-Siegel: This one came deceptively easily. It spoiled me! Now the ideas are different, but the process is similar. I get some sort of nagging concept and then want to expand on it because it becomes all-consuming. For last year’s NaNo, I wanted to comment on primitive societies and evolution. Year before, I wanted to comment on aliens and immigration. This year, the commentary will be on class and teamwork, most likely.

Star: Very cool! At least you’ll never be left wondering what to write!

(For readers who may be unaware, NaNo is short for NaNoWrMo, a writing event in November)

I know you have written for a few anthologies. Were those pieces Science Fiction as well?

Gershen-Siegel: One is sort of roundabout. It looks like science fiction (it was for The Longest Night Watch, which is a charity anthology benefiting Alzheimer’s research), but the reader begins to realize it’s just the ravings of a woman being affected by her illness. Hence she mentions aliens and space ships but it’s just the trappings of her nursing home (sorry, spoiler alert!).

This year, we are publishing a second Longest Night Watch Anthology, and for that one, the story is told from a dog’s point of view. Which I suppose is sort of science fiction, sort of not.

Star: Was Science Fiction a genre you planned to write in, or did it just kind of happen?

Gershen-Siegel: I love science fiction and I do try to write in it. Short stories can be in other genres (I have a few in the works which definitely are not), but sci-fi is, to me, the perfect genre because you can fit nearly anything into it.

Star: Very true, I think that’s one of the reasons it is such a prolific genre. Anything can happen!

When did you first realize you wanted to be an author?

Gershen-Siegel: I wrote when I was a kid but I didn’t really see it as a viable thing to do (and for actual, you know, money) until a lot later. But I was a five year old child drawing and writing little captions so I suppose I started off as a graphic novelist.

Star: Awww, that’s cute. 🙂

Who would you say has inspired you most in your writing?

Gershen-Siegel: Ray Bradbury. I love how short stories work so well. I also admire his work ethic tremendously. He wrote a book on writing and it makes a lot of sense, that you keep a jar of ideas on your desk. And I do! Even if I rarely open that jar, it helps a lot to know there is stuff in there.

Star: That definitely seems like it would be useful.

I know you entered a contest, and it led to you being published. Would you care to tell us a bit about that?

Gershen-Siegel: Sure thing.

I had casually mentioned to my mother back in 2013 that I had written a book in a month and she was intrigued and thought it was kind of amusing. So I got the dreaded question: are you going to try to get it published? I suppose I was in a mood to try, so I figured, why not?

I did some creative Googling and also checked Twitter and again this is such serendipity, but I stumbled across a contest being run by Riverdale Avenue Books. They wanted to publish a NaNoWriMo novel! The prize was a one-time publishing contract with them to get right of first refusal on my next work. I did some digging into them and discovered they were very LGBT-friendly, plus they were looking to expand their HSF imprint, which is horror, science fiction, and fantasy.
This helped tremendously as I fit the bill in terms of having a NaNo novel but also fit their mission and happened to fit well into the niche they wanted to promote. Timing helps a lot with these things. I have a friend who is a professional editor for textbooks, but she doesn’t normally handle novels. I gave her mine (e. g. I contracted with her to edit the piece) and she did so, and told me she thought I was going to win.

And here we are.

Star: Wow. Definitely a bit of good luck in that timing!

I know I’ve taken quite a bit of your time. One more question to wrap things up.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Gershen-Siegel: A few things. 1) Don’t stop. Even if you think what you’re writing is dumb. Just write. 2) Don’t delete wholesale and don’t throw things away. Save them, move them, repurpose them. Ideas are the ultimate recyclable goods. 3) Get an idea you can’t use immediately? Write it down, park it, and move on. You’ll want that bank of ideas when you’re stumped. You’d be surprised on how those ideas morph and work for you. And 4) Take risks! Step outside yourself and do something new. I never thought I would write LGBT and I really didn’t think I would be published.
You can do this. Yes, you.

Star: Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me today. It was a pleasure speaking with you.

Gershen-Siegel: Thank you. I greatly appreciate your interest and support. May we all be creative!

Genre of the Month, June - SciFi

Interview: After Sanity: Corporate Aspirations by Wes Kirk

Diannika Alyse Star: So, to start with, could you tell us a little about your book After Sanity: Corporate Aspirations?

Wes Kirk: That’s probably a bigger question than typical, believe it or not. It’s got quite a history behind it. But the actual story, takes place in an alternate timeline and after that timeline’s World War 3. Society is still trying to recover, and government is extinct. The rule of ‘law’ only extends as far as far as people who have the gumption to do something about it. On a high level, I’d say it’s a cross between Fallout 3 (the game) and The Punisher. Minus all of the advanced tech from the Fallout universe.

Genre of the Month, June - SciFi

Interview: Shiv Ramdas

Diannika Alyse Star: To start us off, could you tell us a little about your book Domechild?

Shiv Ramdas: Well, Domechild is basically an attempt- or the beginning of an attempt to explore a whole bunch of questions that had been troubling me for a while. The ethics of AI, machine rights, freedom, information addiction, hypercapitalism vs organised anarchy. Lots of questions. 🙂 Without giving away too much of the plot, it’s basically the story of what happens to an average nobody living in a world where physical addiction to information is a massive issue, and how the simplest of things- a wrong turn- changes his life, in ways he could never have imagined. And in the process, he learns a bit more about his world than he’d perhaps have liked to.