Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Author Interview: Rebecca Mikkelson

Rebecca, thanks for sitting down to talk with us today. Let’s dive right in, shall we? What inspired you to write The Anatalian soldier?

I’ve always enjoyed writing stories, starting from my early teens and on, but I didn’t really start writing until I was living in South Korea with Mr. M. My mother always told me that I’d write a book one day, and being stuck in our incredibly small apartment all day and unable to find a job, I thought it was time to give it a try. 


I started writing a single scene to see what would happen, and from then on I was hooked. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about writing since.

It’s funny how books can happen out of boredom. Tell us, are there any themes, symbols, or motifs in your story? 

I wanted to answer this question no because I don’t particularly feel like books need to have a lesson in them, but all authors put in themes and otherwise whether we intend to or not. I’ve found that I have running throughout the whole series themes of courage and perseverance—both Liam and Margaret have to overcome the obstacles in their lives on their own, all while trying to be successful at it. Growing up in a military family, this was my life. We had to persevere anywhere we went, and we went a lot of places, so I’ve unconsciously infused it in my books.

Those are things that I think everyone can relate to in their everyday lives. Who is your favorite character?

This might be a little surprising, but my favorite character is Lord General Crompton. He’s a morally gray character that will eventually surprise people. I also really like writing King Sorren—he’s such an evil character in later books, but there are still moments where you kind of like him. To me, these characters are much more of a challenge to make people like, and thus I enjoy them more.


That isn’t to say that I don’t like my main characters—if I didn’t, I wouldn’t have written this story with them as the focal point, but they’re not as challenging to make the readers like. 

Morally gray characters can definitely be fun to write. How did you craft your world? 

Well, I initially thought when I started writing that I was going to do a straight historical fiction, and then not being able to have access to any research libraries in English, I thought instead I would make it a fantasy inspired by history. I modeled the political climate after the Wars of the Roses. The clothes and other elements in the book are kind of an amalgamation of other time periods. I’m particularly fond of the silhouette in the 17th century, but I don’t always follow that rule…because I do what I want.


You’ll find a lot of easter eggs for the history buffs out there—and I’d love to hear about when you find them, readers!

You mentioned modeling it off the Wars of the Roses, what about that time period drew you in?

Well…this might be a slightly unexpected answer, but I really enjoy the absolute petty nature of the Wars of the Roses. Two sides of a family can’t stand being in power so much that they’ll literally murder each other to make sure that they can keep whatever power that they have. 

That’s certainly one reason to like it. Let’s switch gears a little: Who are your favorite authors? 

I’ll always have a special love in my heart for David Eddings—his Belgariad series is what hooked me into reading in the first place. Having dyslexia, reading was not my thing until I was gifted his series, and a whole world was unlocked for me. I’m also a huge fan of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series and Kristen Britain’s Green Rider series. 

All great authors. We’ve got one final question for you: What can readers expect next from you?

Gosh, there’s a lot to expect, but for now, I’ll have my second book in the series, The Anatalian Countess, out in November of next year. You’ll also be able to look forward to the remainder of the books in this six-book series, and two to three (because my brain won’t stop creating books) other stand-alone novels completely unrelated to the Anatalians. If you’re wanting something short and more immediate, you can check out my short story, “The Measure of a Princess.”


Rebecca, thanks again for talking with us today. Readers, join us for the launch party of The Anatalian Soldier, on Saturday, November 20th for your chance to win a free copy!




The Anatalian Soldier

by Rebecca Mikkelson


Liam Fulton wants to see the world beyond the vineyard his parents live and work on. The only option he sees is the Anatalian army. Shortly after he joins, war breaks out, where he discovers a treasonous plot. Will he come away unscathed, or will his actions during the war irreparably change his life?


Margaret is just learning to fit in at court when her father falls gravely ill. The other courtiers start to pull away from her family, thinking they're cursed by God for reaching too high. Her mother, unable to handle the pressure of scrutiny, abandons them. Can Margaret figure out how to care for her father on her own?


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Wednesday, October 6, 2021

How I Screwed Up My Author Career

and What I’m Doing to Fix It

Brandi Spencer (formerly B. C. Marine), CAO Authors 4 Authors Publishing

I don’t think it’s easy for anyone to own their mistakes or flaws, especially in the era of social media. And I am far, far from immune to that drive to keep up that polished veneer. Frankly, I’ve been putting off writing this post because of it. The fear that publicly revealing my errors will destroy any confidence in me—it’s paralyzing.

Why? Because I’m not just an author. I’m one of the founders and directors here at A4A, and copyediting and proofreading are under my purview. It’s literally my job to find other people’s mistakes, not make them myself! Of course, it’s one thing to say, “Oops, disregard that note,” when an author points out an iffy correction. This is…decidedly worse.

What’s in a Name

Let’s start with my biggest mistake: my pen name.

Too Close to See It

Believe it or not, B. C. Marine was not fake. I was born with the name Brandi Christine Marine (yes, I know it rhymes). It’s not a common last name, which is a bit of an advantage, right? And it sits higher on the alphabet than my married name of Spencer, which means better bookshelf placement. At the time I chose it, my initials felt more professional to me than Brandi—a name I’d been teased about for years. From my point of view, B. C. Marine was a great name with a personal connection to me.

The Algorithm Hates Me

My first clue I had a problem should have been the emails sent to me as I established my author name. B. C. aren’t just my initials; they happened to be the abbreviation for British Columbia, a Canadian province that’s known for its western coast. Combined with my surname, I received many offers related to boating in Canada.
I shrugged these off and figured it wouldn’t connect to fiction books. Oh, how wrong I was. Not only were readers having trouble finding my books via Amazon search, but even I couldn’t find myself unless I was ridiculously specific with my search terms. Rather than showing my titles, a search for B. C. Marine gives page after page of boating and military books. While writing this, I actually received an email from a reader who was concerned my second book, The Allurist’s Son, might be out of print because they couldn’t find it. Cue my infinite groan of frustration.

Surely, You Can’t Be Serious

Most of my other mistakes are various results of my trying too hard to look professional and respectable as an author. I picked titles and covers that emphasized high fantasy, not romance. I took critiques of my book descriptions to heart when they said they sounded “fluffy.” My author photo was stiff and aloof, and my interactions on social media weren’t much better. When it came to packaging and marketing, I was afraid to be true to myself and my writing.

Is This a Kissing Book?

I know what I write. My trilogy is about a pair of lovers who have healing kisses, one of whom is a perpetual jokester. While I break hearts from time to time in my stories, they’re ultimately fun and a bit silly if you think about the premise directly. As an author with neither aspirations nor desire for literary or academic accolades, why should I care how serious I look? Even among the fantasy geek crowd who might enjoy my world building, if I have to obscure the romance to get their attention, they aren’t my target audience anyway.

What Now?

Knowing all this, the longer I keep this all the same, the harder it will be for me to change it. As is, I have two novels and a short story series to republish, along with an overhaul of my social media accounts and website. So, like ripping off a bandage, I’m getting it all over with quickly, making all my changes at once.

Being True to Myself

Going forward, I need to accept myself as a person and an author for who I am. For my books, that means titles and covers that embrace the romance. Some people might find them cheesy, and that’s okay because they’re more genuine this way. For my online presence, I got a new set of author photos that look more relaxed and approachable, and I’m working on coming out of my shell and letting my humor and whimsy show more.

It also means being more personal and opening up about parts of my identity that might be considered uncomfortable. My ADHD and probable autism are just as much a part of me as my intelligence and imagination—or my real name. Remember how I said I was teased for my name? I’d spent most of my life thinking my name was the problem, but the more I learn about myself and my place in the world, the more I realize that my name was just a weapon some bullies chose to wield. I was picked on for being different, and if it wasn’t my name, it would have been something else. In fact, my eldest son actually started gushing about how he didn’t want to call me “mom” because he liked to say my name. I realized that I shouldn’t have to hide what might be beautiful just because some people decide to be assholes.

And as a romance author, what could be better than my married name? As I write about love, I want to celebrate that with my name (not to mention how much simpler it makes things to just use my legal name).

What Are the Changes?


Old

New

B. C. Marine

Brandi Spencer

The Meriverian Trilogy

Healers’ Kiss

  1. A Seer’s Daughter

  1. Kiss of Treason

  1. The Allurist’s Son

  1. Kiss of Destiny

Idylls of Carum Sound

Gifted Hearts: Short Love Stories of Carum Sound

BCMarineBooks.com

BrandiSpencer.com

Facebook: @BCMarineAuthor

Twitter: @Meriverian

Instagram: @Meriverian

All platforms:


@Meriverian

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Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Author Interview: K. R. Galindez

K. R., thanks for sitting down with us today. Let’s dive right in, shall we? What inspired you to write The Spirit of a Rising Sun?

To be honest, I was just kind of bored. An idea popped into my head one day for a scene, and from that scene was born a character, and a world, and then a plot, and before I knew it…I had an entire story! I didn’t really work on it for a long time, but after I started writing, I fell in love with the craft and didn’t stop until I finished the book. In terms of what inspired me, I knew I wanted to write epic fantasy—something big, exciting, and with plenty of thrills. But I also wanted to challenge epic fantasy’s usual political and economic worlds—think monarchies, kingdoms, empires, feudalism—and tell a story that could feature a more egalitarian community, rebellions, revolutions. That’s where the Ungoverned come in. I really wanted to write a fantasy story where the characters engage with the subject of revolution—how to achieve it, what are we willing to sacrifice for it? As the series goes on, we’ll see the characters really pushed to these limits. 

We’ll certainly look forward to seeing them push their limits. Are there any themes, symbols, or motifs in your story? 

Definitely! There’s the theme of navigating intense social and political change. I imagined Vaaz to be a late medieval society that’s constantly at risk of breaking apart. There are the Haf, gun-wielding invaders from across the sea. There’s a corrupt church in decline, clinging to control and asserting the old ways against change. There’s rebellion in the swamp and a powerful empire grasping for supremacy. It’s just anxiety and collapse everywhere—how do you fix a world like this? How do you possibly stay positive? How do you find hope? 


And this is where the other theme comes in, the tension and contrast between Liviana and Oyza. Liviana, I thought of as a kind of modernizing figure—she doesn’t like the inefficiency of the church, and she can’t stand how the empire’s being run. To fix the problems, she takes an authoritative approach: do as I say! And so we see her always responding with force and power. “The world stirs, but it will not stir us,” she says. She’s so strong, and yet this thorn in her side just nags at her—Oyza. 


Oyza, on the other hand, more follows her own heart. She’s got this personal journey to find her lost family, but all these years locked up have forced her to dream all while enduring horrors. And when she’s finally free, she wants to stay true to her dreams, though she’s grasping for a moral foundation as she finds her own voice throughout the book. The question then is, how do you lead? How do you convince others to live their lives in the service of a greater cause? For Liviana, the answer is through acquiring power. For Oyza, the question itself is less important: she follows her dreams, and if others choose to follow her too, then that’s superb.

Last, there’s also the theme of transcending boundaries. What kinds of (new) solidarities can be built that can challenge power? Are differences always insurmountable, or can a common cause be found that allows us to transcend our particular experiences toward something universal? These sorts of questions really factored into how I thought about the story thematically. 

The readers will certainly have a lot to ponder over while they read. You mentioned a couple of characters—who is your favorite character in the book?

Honestly, probably Liviana. I loved how she just doesn’t take shit from anyone. She’s so ready to lead, to take over, and to really just clear away all the old stagnant things in the world that get in her way. (But a close second place is the fabulous ship captain, Captain Seralus!) 

She’s definitely a woman who knows what she’s about. How did you craft your world? 

In Vaaz, there’s a religious system that’s very inspired by astrology. I’ve always loved the stars, and I wanted that to play a role in the story, which took the form of shaping the world—the Starmarks and the Celesterium. But I also wanted the politics of it all to really shape the world, too, and I was definitely inspired by real historical examples of peasant uprisings, rebellions, pirate mutinies, that sort of thing. 

Very interesting! Let’s change gears a little: Who are your favorite authors? 

Perhaps cliché, but certainly George. R.R. Martin. I devoured A Song of Ice and Fire. And certainly Tolkien, as well as Ursula K. Leguin. Outside of novelists, I’m a big fan of Final Fantasy games for their stories. 

All great authors. We’ve got one final question for you: What can readers expect next from you?

I hope to have the second book out in 2023! Otherwise, I’m planning to update my blog regularly, including some bonus content that was deleted from the book. 


K. R., thanks again for talking with us today. Readers, make sure you join us on Saturday, September 4th for The Spirit of a Rising Sun’s launch party and your chance to win a free copy!





The Spirit of a Rising Sun

by K. R. Galindez


Rebellion is always right.


Oyza yearns for revolution—an impossible dream with her lifetime prison sentence. Fueled by the destruction of her home and years of servitude, she reads the smuggled texts of the Ungoverned and dreams of a future that can never be. But the arrival of a new prisoner, Yars, reignites Oyza’s courage. She finds herself capable of more than she ever imagined.


To fight their way to their own freedom, they must fight for something bigger: freedom for their homeland. Between an invasion by godless gunwielders, a heartless commander who’s determined to kill Oyza, and webs of secrets and lies woven through their world, it will take all their strength and wits to survive. When blood is spilled, how much will be their own?



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Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Continuing Education: Weird Science

Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored—Aldous Huxley

Kari Donald, A4A Member

It’s time for another installment of Continuing Education. Science surrounds us and has an enormous sphere of influence. It’s impossible to explain the physical world without it. No matter what genre you write, science and facts will have some involvement in your story. Inaccuracies and errors create distractions (which most readers definitely don’t enjoy). Today we’re going to look at the use of these types of information in your narrative, why they’re important, common pitfalls, and how to avoid mistakes. 

Are science and facts really so important in fiction?

Definitely. Accurate representation of known and accepted facts is very important in your story. I knew an Air Force pilot who described the movie “Top Gun” as a great comedy. Anyone who’s seen this movie will tell you it’s obviously intended as a drama, not a comedy. However, the misrepresentations of military aviation were so laughable to this person, they could not suspend disbelief enough to see the movie as anything other than a farce. 

Ideally, people from every walk of life should enjoy your book. Unless you’re planning on limiting your intended audience, make sure your facts are correct to avoid taking subject matter experts out of your story.  

Will readers really look that closely at the facts in a story?

Probably not. I seriously doubt anyone is googling the facts in your book while they read to check for accuracy. But once again, recall that our continuity read is looking for anachronisms and errors that could distract readers and pull them out of your story. 

For example, consider something as simple as a pond or lake freezing over. Your characters cannot go to sleep and even remotely hope that the overnight drop in temperature will freeze a body of water sufficiently to walk across it. Nor can they assume frozen solid edges indicate the entire pond is frozen solid. It takes time for the water to cool enough to freeze (lake turnover) and longer for deeper water to freeze solid enough to support weight, especially if the water is actively flowing. At the very least, you will lose any reader from climates with lots of lakes and cold temperatures, such as Minnesota or Michigan. 

While this may not be common knowledge for many, it is experience some people will have, making them de facto subject matter experts.

Would a small mistake about an obscure fact seriously impact my book?

Possibly not. But I have seen one star reviews where readers commented that they stopped reading a book because the author’s mistreatment of horses made it impossible to finish the story. And “mistreatment” in this sense was not beating the horses; it was unrealistic representations of a horse’s abilities or the ignorance of a supposedly expert handler. 

Again, people who have never had horses would have no clue there was a problem. However, as in this case, there are a lot of experienced horse lovers who are offended by such cavalier disregard for their beloved equines. Don’t make assumptions about what topics your readers may or may not be familiar with.

I also need to add if you really want proof about how readers can be VERY particular about “known facts,” ask any fantasy author what happens if their characters use the wrong armor or weapon during a story. Response from die-hard fantasy fans will be swift and brutal. Basically, consider the risk and the return on investment of research. 

What sorts of facts or topics need to be researched?  

Just about anything from a subject ending in “ology”? Seriously though, we aren’t born with innate knowledge of the universe. Everything we know, we had to learn somewhere—either at school, by life experience, from knowledgeable people, or through the internet (I saw it online so it must be true...). 

Everyone, especially writers, use language on a daily basis. Yet in spite of that, how often do we make mistakes or need to look up spellings, definitions, grammar, or punctuation? Now expand that idea to topics you never studied or haven’t thought about in years, and the potential for mistakes is huge. Any solution to a problem, especially medical, should be thoroughly researched. 

Should I get bitten by a venomous snake, I personally don’t want someone treating it by making incisions on the bite mark and trying to suck the poison out. That solution may be fine for a clichéd western, but should not be presented in a way that portrays it as a viable option for treatment. I am sure we all have examples of well-meaning people repeating something they read “somewhere” which really isn’t true.

How do I check for factual inaccuracies?

There are lots of things you can do. The internet is a great place to start. Just be careful about using reliable and comprehensive sources. A personal blog of someone with no credentials or education is probably not a great source. 

When including any type of fact, whether you think it’s common knowledge or something you’re sure you heard about somewhere, ask yourself how or where you learned it. Even if you have an old textbook, check for updates as science changes. Mythbusters was able to find enough material from movies and urban legends to fill 20 seasons worth of plausibility experiments, so things you only vaguely remember hearing about at some time may not be factual. Basically, anything that you haven’t studied recently or is outside your normal sphere of knowledge should be double-checked for accuracy. 

Don’t be afraid to ask experts in the field you are writing about for advice. Will your character experience a painful injury? Then interview someone with a medical background for feedback about the condition, its treatment, and recovery time. It doesn’t matter how skilled your surgeon is, there’s really no chance your character will be able to run a race less than a week after surgery repairing a torn ACL. Bleeding late in a pregnancy? Don’t follow in the footsteps of the male author who argued with his female editor and insisted it was perfectly normal for pregnant women to keep having periods. As such, it was a totally acceptable explanation for said bleeding. I am not making this one up. You can find it on TikTok. 

And while you are talking to that expert, don’t forget to ask about special jargon they use in their profession if you are going to portray characters in that field. Again, simply make sure your representations of science and other facts won’t distract someone familiar with the subject.  

But I am writing speculative fiction or fantasy, so facts don’t really matter.

Well...yes and no. There is a tricky balancing act when writing about alternate worlds and times. Modern medicine would never treat a fever by bleeding someone. However, it was acceptable therapy even as late as the 19th century. Obviously your facts need to fit your world. In your fantasy universe, it may be entirely possible to heal bones in 24 hours (Gotta love Skele-Gro!). 

The deciding factor is how closely you model your alternate reality after Earth. If a character in your book fetches some carrots from the garden, I would expect they’re dug up from the ground, not picked from a tree. When a process or item in your world has the same name as a process or item on earth, its description and function should match what people would reasonably expect—which means it needs to be accurate. By the time you either research something or manage expectations with explanations of how your item is different, you could have simply given it a unique name, removing the comparison. Just make sure you’re consistent using your new vocabulary in your book. 


That’s all for this week. Look for the next continuity blog, Well-Seasoned.

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Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Continuing Education: Call It a Day

“Time and the hour runs through the roughest day.”
–William Shakespeare
Kari Donald, A4A Member

It’s the dawn of a new installment of Continuing Education. Each day in the life of your book is a microcosm of your story and world. The details and descriptions of events during the day not only set up the experiences for your characters, but also provide a window into the cultures and traditions of your world. Inconsistencies during and between the days can be both confusing and distracting. Today, we will look at some of the important elements of a typical day as well as  potential mistakes and ways to avoid them. 

How could a single day possibly be that complicated?

There’s more to a day than twenty-four hours (or however long a day is in your world). Within each day is a finite amount of time that progresses, with patterns both for individuals and for groups. When are meals served, and what are they called? What sorts of routines are typical during the day? How long do your days last? Do seasons or holidays affect how the day unfolds? Consider these questions when describing scenery and activities throughout your story’s day. Even topics that are part of world building still need to be incorporated into your narrative in a way that supports the world you created.

Do I need to include every single routine of the day?

Absolutely not. Only those routines that affect your plot, add description, or establish patterns in your world need to be included. For instance, consider the delicate topic of bathroom breaks. When catching up with friends and family, would you include details about going to the restroom? (That might be TMI.) There is definitely a time and a place. Characters missing out on major events because they were heeding nature's call have a very plausible explanation for an absence when necessary. However, just because you don’t want to address this routine does not mean you can ignore that it is necessary for your characters. The poor maiden forced to wear a chastity belt for months while her knight is away fighting dragons will evoke more than just sympathy. Speculation on how she will perform personal hygiene could take readers right out of the narrative. The Harry Potter stories do a great job demonstrating how to balance this. Several scenes take place in bathrooms, establishing that they exist and are available, but the only details on use of the bathrooms are those relevant to the particular scene that supports the plot. Just check that your routines are natural and organic to the story.

With this in mind, you don’t have to squeeze every daily routine into every single day. Just make sure that events throughout the day are consistent and follow established patterns. For example, some people refer to the evening meal as dinner, and some, as supper. Using these terms interchangeably could be confusing. If your travelers regularly eat supper before retiring and then suddenly eat dinner and retire, your readers may not be sure what time of day it is. Did they retire for the night or just for a nap? If dinner is the large meal at noon, then showing up for Sunday dinner at six would be totally unacceptable. Basically, make sure that your descriptions and labels match from day to day. 

Anything else I need to look for with routines?

Be sure to keep track of the frequency of your routines. There are routines your characters will likely only do once a day, like eating a particular meal. If your travelers partake in a hearty breakfast before they set out on their journey, then they shouldn’t be stopping for breakfast again several hours later (second breakfast anyone?). Likewise, routines need to happen in order. Morning prayer after lunch doesn't make a lot of sense. Try to map out each day in a similar way you would map out your story.

Why are lengths of days or seasons important?

Lengths of days are important because they influence the type and amount of activity of your day and how you describe the passing of time. You might expect to cover more distance traveling during daylight or want the cover of darkness for something clandestine. If you write speculative fiction and your world is Earth or loosely modeled after Earth, then your world will be tilted on its axis, have seasons, and variation in length of the days depending on the time of year. If your world is different from Earth, make sure the progress of your day matches the physics of your world. Timing and pacing during the day is just as important as for the chapter or story. Too much activity squeezed into too little time can be overwhelming, while too little activity over a long amount of time can drag. Try to be aware of the amount of time available in your day to avoid exhausting either your characters or your readers. 

Isn’t worrying about the proper length of a day rather picky?

Yes and no. It depends on the setting of your story. The more closely your world is related to Earth, the more important it is to be careful about time of day. Anyone from Boston will tell you there is no way the Fourth of July firework celebration started at 7:00 PM, because the sun won’t set until almost 8:30. The outdoor all-night movie marathon in Anchorage, Alaska, on June twenty-first might not be such a good deal since it is only “night” (and not necessarily very dark) for four and a half hours. Remember, we are trying to avoid distracting the reader. In the same way your descriptions of a known location need to be accurate, your descriptions of time of day in a known location need to be accurate. While this degree of consideration is not as important in a totally made-up fantasy world, consistency still needs to be maintained. It would be very distracting to have consecutive days where the length of the day changes dramatically or without a predictable pattern.

In a similar way, your descriptions of the sun and moon during the course of the day need to be realistic. Just because we have the expression “high noon,” it does not mean the sun is always directly overhead at noon. Sunrises and sunsets are arguably among the most magnificent backdrops, making them popular settings in art and literature. In fact, they can be too popular. Is it already time for another full moon only a week after the last one? Do your characters really have time to hike another 5 miles through the mountains between the first twinkle of stars coming out and the sun finally disappearing below the horizon? Do the two separate portrayals of a sunrise on the same day mean that your world has two suns in a galaxy far, far away?

Of course, I found a great tool for today’s topic. This day and night world map page is a lot of fun and shows the location of the sun and moon on any given day, from the past to the future (I was way too entertained putting in dates of eclipses to see what they would look like). You can calculate how much time passes between twilight and sunset, note the intensity of light based on location and time of day, and generally use it to provide accurate descriptions. It even has links to information about the moon phase. Your world isn’t on an axis like earth? No problem. Just pick a date for one of the equinoxes to check out time of day for your world. A day cycle on your world isn’t 24 hours? Again, no problem. You get to apologize to your middle school math teacher because you will need to use those math lessons to calculate the time that works for your world. 

Is there anything else that could cause problems in a day?

Of course! Probably more than I can cover. But as a final note, I want to point out the importance of maintaining consistency between different points of view on the same day. One character should not be experiencing a fierce thunderstorm during their narrative while another character is walking under a cloudless sky less than a mile away. As always, edits are the most common culprit for continuity errors, so you always want to check for these issues during the editing process. However, it is also easy to get sucked into writing an amazingly creative description, ignoring what would realistically be taking place. Avoid duplication and work toward consistency to avoid time-of-day continuity distractions. 

That’s all we have time for today. Check back next time for Weird Science.  


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Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Author Interview: Lisa Borne Graves

Brandi Spencer, CAO Authors 4 Authors Publishing

Bladesung is the third Celestial Sphere novel. How does it feel to finish Toury and Alex’s story?

Horrific and amazing—or I guess if I tone my feelings down, bittersweet. I don’t believe in taking a story too far just for the sake of it. That feels exploitative, and as a reader, I’ve dropped authors’ series because of it. It IS painful to walk away, and some readers might be disappointed, but their story was complete. I owe them an end to their numerous struggles. 

Are there any new themes, symbols, or motifs in this story? 

I’ve realized that all my novels suggest autonomy as the main theme. I wasn’t sure why that was a fixation. First, I thought it was the feminism in me, but there is much more to it than the treatment of women, but all people. This series’s call for equality and equity was a direct result of seeing my special needs child struggle as a student in a strict environment, stripping him of his ability to control his world, and then watching him flourish in a new environment that gave him choices and chances. Treatment of the disabled or the neurodiverse is not a direct theme in the book, but an embedded personal one. Everyone deserves personal freedoms to be themselves.

Now that we’re in the third book, do you have a new favorite character?

Torn on this answer between two. I somehow loved writing the villain in the story and the careful balance between representing a person who has crumbled into mental instability and is yet still humanized. My other favorite is Toury. I always intended for her to be the ultimate character we love, the one who grows and becomes herself. I let Alex do that the last book, but this book is Toury’s time to shine. 

What are you most excited about in Bladesung?

The draca! But I so don’t want to ruin anything. There are dragons, and you’ll learn much more about them. I can say no more.

Do you have anything else planned for Celestial Spheres?

Alex and Toury’s story is finished, but I could not leave Fyr completely. We’ll see them again but from the outside looking in. I could not resist the pull to tell Mary’s story, but from the points-of-view I had used in the trilogy, I could never do Mary’s tale with justice. So I’ll be doing a companion epistolary novel about Mary, called Wundor. I also have started a couple spin-offs that might just take a couple Sapphirians to other spheres.



Join us this Saturday for Lisa's launch party and your chance to win an ebook of your choice from the Celestial Spheres Trilogy and be entered to win the grand prize: signed paperback copies of the whole trilogy and a necklace from the world of Fyr!



Lisa Borne Graves


To say Toury and Alex’s reign has been rocky is an understatement. But the danger isn’t over yet. Rebels and necromancers are still out there, joining forces under "the commander." As Alex plans against a war beyond what Fyr has seen in generations, he knows they will strike where it hurts Alex most: his heart. He must make the ultimate decision—sacrifice everything, or let his tenacious lifemate save herself? 


Meanwhile, being a queen is not Toury’s dream job—she always wanted Alex, not the crown. But as enemies close in, Toury must make her own harrowing choices to control her own destiny, and if she must, all of Fyr’s.


In this conclusion to Alex and Toury’s love story, they will face horrors beyond their wildest nightmares. Will they be able to heal a fractured kingdom, or will all turn to ash and ruin?


What can readers expect next from you?

Before I return to Celestial Spheres, I’ll be dropping a couple books of my other series: The Immortal Transcripts. It’s a Greek mythology-based romance series following the god of love and the turmoil when he dares to fall in love with a mortal. Book 1, Quiver, is already out, with Fever and Shudder following in 2022 and 2023.



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Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Continuing Education: Space Time Continuum

Time and tide wait for no man—Geoffrey Chaucer

Kari Donald, A4A Member

Time again for more Continuing Education. (It’s about time!) One universal constant in any story is the passage of time, even when the narrative involves time travel or multiple dimensions. Timeline issues are among the most glaring problems and present some serious challenges to fix. Timeline is crucial and regularly impacts other areas of continuity. So let’s look at some typical timeline errors and ways to avoid or correct them.

There is more than one way for the timeline to impact my story?

Absolutely. Timeline involves more than just the amount of time that passes from the beginning to the end of your book. Time is a common phenomenon. Even if your world has its own way to account for time, it will still be in flux and changing as your story progresses. Also, it is the one thing you can guarantee readers will identify with. Time may seem to pass differently depending on your perspective, but it’s still passing at some measurable rate. Readers expect timelines to be realistic and consistent. Anything less is confusing and distracting.  

How can my timeline be distracting?

No matter what setting you choose for your book, characters engage in actions and activities readers relate to. Any person has a good idea how long it takes to complete basic tasks. How would your reader perceive a character who showers, washes and dries their hair, brushes their teeth, and dresses in formal attire (including accessories and makeup) in less than ten minutes? Unless your character is The Flash, this freakishly amazing efficiency can easily distract a reader.

While my example may seem obvious, there are plenty of other routines you’re not familiar with but your readers are. One situation might be an author who isn’t a parent writing a scene where the character learns they must leave and gathers up their two toddlers, gets out of the house, and drives off in less than five minutes. This scenario makes for great comedy, but not a realistic rendition of life. Bottom line: either keep the time vague enough so you don’t put your characters in impossible situations, ask an expert, or use that wonderful tool known as Google to look it up.

Isn’t there more to a timeline than individual events?

Most certainly. Many books have more than one point of view or minor plots that are concurrent or overlapping. Such isolated incidents often create the biggest timeline issues. It is very easy to get wrapped up with creating the narrative and quite literally lose track of time.“The next day” can add up to weeks or months, which alone is not a bad thing. However, during these individual storylines within your book, you want the same amount of time to pass amongst all your characters. It doesn't work if only seven “the next days” pass for one character while ten “the next days” pass for another character before they are reunited. Juggling multiple timelines is not an easy task, so props to anyone that can do it while maintaining the overarching one.

You might be tempted to use time warps and breaches in the space-time continuum to explain or fix your timeline, but those might not be credible. I mean, how well would it go over if after being gone for a month, your significant other can only account for two weeks of their absence? Most people would have a serious issue with this and find it difficult to believe some trite excuse like an alien abduction or getting stuck in a time loop with a groundhog. The same thing goes for your book. Attention to detail is the key. Don’t cheat on your readers.  

I plot my books, so there won’t be any timeline problems.

Do not disparage my pantser friends. It does not matter what writing style you use. I see the same issues from both plotters and pantsers. Editing can destroy even the best timelines. Rearranging and cutting events in order to help with pacing and gaps in the narrative make your initial timeline obsolete. The fallout from such developmental edits is one reason I recommend doing an edit looking just at continuity. 

What can I do to avoid timeline issues?

There are a couple of basic approaches that help avoid timeline problems. A good starting point is documenting the timeline of your book. While there are lots of programs for plotting a novel and tracking timelines, I prefer a simple spreadsheet. You can easily customize and tailor it to track the passage of days, major events, time cues, time relative to events, or anything else that may be important to preserving the integrity of your timeline. Besides spreadsheets, just about any software useful for plotting your book can also be used to track your timeline. I’ve used Plottr, but software such as Scrivener or Evernote can work for tracking a timeline too. Most offer free trials so you can check them out before committing.

That sounds a lot like plotting. Are there other tools or techniques I can use?

Most definitely. Be creative in developing tools for tracking your timeline. You might even set up an actual calendar for your book. Add different colors or lettering to represent different characters and events and your calendar will provide a great snapshot of your timeline. You could even set up a system using post-it notes! Just make sure they are locked away from the prankster in your life (obviously).

When organizing your tools, also think about how you want to calculate the passage of time. Counting the number of days from the beginning of the book can be tedious, especially if your book covers a long period of time. You might want to consider chunking your timeline by using major events as milestones and relate the passage of time to these specific happenings. For example, track the number of days since the Red Wedding or the days since the Council of Elrond. Relating the passage of time to events simplifies the process by creating smaller, more manageable timelines. This type of relational time tracking is also very important for any speculative fiction novel following actual events in history. It helps ensure there are no discrepancies between your book timeline and the time period it’s modeled after. In this case, historical events would serve as the milestones or major events your timeline relates to.

Another way to avoid timeline issues is to take time and pay attention during the editing process. Track your revisions (or your editor or beta reader’s revisions) in Track Changes or Suggest mode. As you review the changes, identify and adjust the manuscript as needed when the edits affect your timeline. While this may seem time-consuming, it saves you from an editing pass dedicated solely to analyzing your timeline. 


So glad we had this time together! Check back next for “Call it a Day.” Until then, happy times!


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