Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Interview with House of Falling Embers author Krystal Jane Ruin!

My friend Krystal Jane Ruin released her fourth book on October 1st and I finally finished reading it a few days ago! As per tradition, I asked her a few questions about the story!

House of Falling Embers is available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Google Play, and other online retailers!

Once upon a time there was a witch. She was a kind witch, but that didn’t matter. The people were afraid, and fear often turns to hatred.
When Artemis was thirteen, her best friend Aris was swallowed by the crumbling house they found in the woods. Like a coward, she abandoned him to the horror within.
She moved away. She tried to forget. But when she finds herself back in her old neighborhood after college, the ghosts—and her guilt—are waiting. A charred figure stalks her dreams, and someone, or something, haunts her from the trees.
Going back into the woods might be the only way to save her sanity.
Because nine years later, the house is still there. Still waiting. Still restless.
On with the interview!
1. Can I gush about the cover and how well it goes with the story? So great! How did the cover come together? 
Thank you! It was a bit of journey. I knew I wanted trees on the cover, but there are so many things you can do with trees and running amok online was driving me crazy. I finally just sketched some concepts and went with one of those. The easiest decision to make was with the font. I’m really into fonts and such, and I loved the idea of doing a textured and gradient effect with the title. 

I definitely wanted everything to be purple, but in my initial email with the designer, I completely forgot to mention it, so my first two mock-ups came back with just purple font. The colors on the first mock-up were too warm, which made the forest, house, and book title kind of blur together. She did cooler hues on the second concept, and there was also a person on that cover, but it gave the book a ghost-thriller vibe that didn’t work for this story. She suggested then that we make everything purple, like a mind-reader, and I was totally up for that, of course! 

2. So, most of Artemis' storyline seemed to be based in, like, reality--I mean, the book is 

fantasy, but she has work problems and relationship problems, just like all of us do. 
How did you find writing those more mundane parts for you? 

I actually really liked it. I don’t often get carried away with the more contemporary aspects of a 
story. I think the familiar setting contributed to that, because I didn’t do it on purpose. But I got 
to use a different set of writing muscles, and it was definitely more fun for me than I would have
thought before diving into it. I feel like I often forget to round out my stories with more normal 
and every day kind of things. So, it makes sense that my brain would pop out something more 
rooted in reality than usual. 

3. You love fairytales! Was this based on one?

It was! I didn’t quite stick to my original idea, but it’s definitely Hansel & Gretel inspired.
Originally, it was set in olden times, and Artemis was a seamstress apprentice and engaged to
a grain farmer. She temporarily moves back in with her parents to plan her wedding, and while
there, she’s literally and emotionally haunted by the past. So, the concept mostly held up, but
while it sat in a drawer, it turned into a more modern kind of beast. 

4. I wanted more Greta and her story---where did she come from? Is there any chance you'd tell 
more of her tale?

I love Greta! Artemis, Aris, and Greta all have fairytale equivalents, so they were the first
people to sprout up with the idea. When I was still in the brainstorming process, Greta was
going to be in the story a bit more, but once I started writing, things took a turn, as things are
prone to do.   

It’s not likely I’ll go back and write some kind prequel with her. My brain is very cluttered, and
I’ve yet to finish any kind of sequel or companion story to anything. But I love the thought of it,
and I don’t ever like to rule anything out, because I never know what my brain is going to latch

Thanks for having me over! Interviews are so fun. ^_^

You can find Krystal at her website, The Narcissistic Rose. 

Thursday, November 15, 2018

NYC from different perspectives

I've been noodling around with story ideas in the past week, including finally getting some actual word count words down on my Broadway romance idea, the first of four stories. It's...not going to be done any time soon, guys.

But thinking of that story world again is bringing me back around to one of the core components of the stories--the setting, my hometown, New York City.

Today we are having our first snow of this autumn/winter. It was supposed to be slushy sleet but no, it's definitely sticking-to-the-ground snow. Also, you may have heard that Stan Lee of Marvel Comics died a few day ago. Stan Lee was born in Manhattan and grew up in the Bronx. He set many of the Marvel comics in New York. You can read about some of them here.

Peter Parker aka Spiderman is supposed to be from Queens!

Of the eight main characters in my stories, two are Queens natives, one was born in Brooklyn and raised in the suburbs on Long Island, and one was born and raised in New Jersey, the state New Yorkers make fun of. Some of the characters have recent immigrant roots while others have more distant migration in their backgrounds--and because it's contemporary and theater and based in New York, these characters are diverse (to the point where my best friend was like, "He's half what and half what? Did you pick those two ethnicities out of a hat?")

The other four characters are a mix of visitors and transplanted residents.

I've read very little fiction set in New York--but I've seen New York portrayed on TV and in movies.

And it either makes me cringe (ugh, the accents; I swear, not all of us sound like that) or just shake my head in New Yorker fact checking ("That is not anywhere near that. How'd they get there so fast? How come the subway isn't delayed? Where's the cat in this bodega? How can she afford this apartment in that neighborhood? Why is everyone on this show white?")

I feel like people who move here--excluding immigrants for a second, although immigration is a huge part of New York's past, present, and future--tend to come with "ooh, this place is bright and shiny!" or with "Ugh, this place is overcrowded, dirty, unfriendly, loud, and too expensive" attitudes. Both points of view are valid. Then there are the rich people who stick to their rich people enclaves, but I don't know any, so we won't talk about them.

Broadway is part of the bright and shiny of New York City, but Broadway actors experience the graft that artists anywhere experience--with the added pressure that New York City is expensive and theater is, like all creative careers, hard to get into.

You may have heard that Amazon is splitting its second headquarters between northern Virginia and Long Island City, which is a Queens neighborhood right on the East River. When I was a kid, Long Island City was pretty industrial--a lot of warehouses--though it always had its residential areas. In the last five, ten years, Long Island City has really boomed as people are priced out of Manhattan and even parts of Brooklyn. Now that Amazon looks like it's coming to Queens, there's real anxiety that the prices and rents in Long Island City and Astoria will become ridiculous and that that'll ripple on down the subway line further into Queens.

Gentrification is real in New York and just like in RENT, the first gentrifiers of a neighborhood are often artsy types. And then the tech and finance bros follow. And then new buildings start going up. Then prices go up. Then small stores start closing or turning over, unable to afford jacked up rent.

This is why New Yorkers do a lot of, "Oh, wait. Didn't that used to be...?" when pointing at stores or buildings.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

IWSG November

It's IWSG time again! The Insecure Writer's Support Group posts every first Wednesday of the month. Our co-hosts for November are:

And the IWSG question this month is: Ellen @ The Cynical Sailor,Ann V. Friend, JQ Rose, and Elizabeth Seckman!

How has your creativity in life evolved since you began writing?

In short...I started writing as a kid, so I don't really remember much of life without writing. I used to draw a lot with crayons as a child--houses, anatomically incorrect people, but though I liked the different colors, I was mostly drawing things and making up stories about whatever was going on in my picture. 

And while I like other creative endeavors--I grew up in a city full of museums and theaters--I can't sing, dance, act, paint well or really even like talking to other people, so writing is my creative outlet. 

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

A Contest Submission

It's been a long time since I've entered anything I've written into a writing contest, but I submitted a short story "Lady Beatrice's Ball" to the Insecure Writer's Support Group Anthology Contest today.

For the past few years, the IWSG has run an anthology contest, where stories are submitted and short-listed and the winners are published in an anthology.

Check out the contest here. This year's genre was Young Adult romance and the theme was masquerade.

I haven't written very much Young Adult--and I read it very, very rarely--but I had a character from a story that crashed and burned a few years ago who worked for that age range. So, yay!

I always find it hard to write romance in shorter pieces. Wait, who am I kidding? Romance, as much as I read it and enjoy it, is hard for me to write in any length, but especially shorter. I tend to find romance short stories and novellas kind of unsatisfying because the romance plot has to be truncated.

Anyway....we'll see how this goes!

"Lady Beatrice's Ball" is literally the second piece of creative writing I've managed to finish this year, so that in itself is wonderful. It would not have been possible without my betas T. Drecker and Krystal Jane Ruin. Thank you ladies!

Monday, October 15, 2018

Dueling, Or: Men Are Stupid

I am a pretty deep Hamilfan, y'know? I saw Hamilton in 2015 (still bragging), I watched the PBS Hamilton documentary twice, I'm currently reading the annotated Hamilton: The Revolution book on my Phone's Kindle app.

My nieces have recently gotten into Hamilton, but not because of me. Niece #1, aged 10, got to see Hamilton on Broadway with her aunt for her birthday. When the nieces went to visit friends this summer, said friends' children listened obsessively to the Hamilton cast album in their car. They came back knowing the songs and being excited about Hamilton's story, like so many others.

Their parents even took them to Weehawken, a New Jersey town across the Hudson from Manhattan, where Hamilton and Burr's fateful duel happened in 1804.

And I'm up to the "Ten Duel Commandments" chapter in the Hamilton book. And it's been a while since I've ranted about something historical.

It's long been my estimation that dueling is incredibly stupid. I know it had its own code--first there was the offense or insult, then the challenge, then the appointing of seconds, then those seconds negotiating for a retraction or apology or whatever so that these men wouldn't have to stand ten paces apart and shoot at each other, etc. etc.

If an apology was not forthcoming, the men and their seconds arranged to meet at the crack of dawn in their apppointed dueling grounds (the Bois de Boulogne, if in Paris, for example. Or Weehawken).

Duels were supposed to restore one's honor (or was it supposed to satisfy testosterone and unnaturally ruffled feathers?). There is something romantic about a man defending a woman's honor by dueling another dude who may have insulted her reputation. You know where this kind of thing is romantic?

In fiction.

Duels began in medieval times with swords. (Swords are far cooler than pistols, methinks) Noblemen with disputes would do combat with each other because they didn't have the communication skills to talk it out like rational human beings. Louis XIII of France outlawed dueling and his son Louis XIV also tried to wipe out dueling in France, but the tradition continued.

By the eighteenth into the turn of the nineteenth century, dueling was firmly a gun thing. Men of a certain class owned dueling pistols.

The Hamilton-Burr dueling pistols, owned by JP MorganChase

Dueling was popular in the United States, which is how Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr ended up in a field in New Jersey shooting at each other. Mind you, Alexander Hamilton's son Philip had died because of a duel three years earlier--on the same dueling grounds, by the way--even though dueling was illegal in New York and New Jersey. But New Jersey was lax in enforcing their anti-dueling laws.

Burr shot Hamilton. Hamilton died the next day.

Hamilton monument in Weehawken, NJ. The boulder is where Hamilton
supposedly laid his head down after he was shot.

You'd think the Vice President shooting the former Treasury Secretary would've put dueling in the kibosh, but nope. Dueling became popular in the South and in the Wild West.

Notably, it was usually aristocratic men participating in duello, though in the United States, men of all classes dueled. The duello code was well known, the protocol known. I don't know what the general public's attitude toward dueling was--some of them seemed to think it was barbaric, stupid, wasteful, and against religious teachings over time.

The practice died out by the end of the nineteenth century--the American Civil War and the toll it cast on the country did dueling in here and by World War One, dueling was done in Europe.

Also: women did duel, but it was rare. Apparently, Catherine the Great got into a duel with a cousin when she was a teenager and was a second for female duelists in Russia several times.

No matter how much dueling was about defending one's honor--and a person'a honor meant a lot in the olden days--women probably saw it for the violent, ridiculous ritual it was: a ritual that often resulted in death and for what? A dispute that could either be swept under the rug or discussed by human beings with analytical communication skills who were emotionally mature enough to acknowledge that you can't solve everything every little slight with your pistols?

As a historical fiction reader, a duel in a book is a dramatic, tense incident. There is a flair to it. In real life? In real life, it seems needless. And frankly, I'm not surprised that dueling was mostly the provenance of wealthy men.

Duels Between Women
How Duels Work