Legacy by Stephanie Barr, interview by #thetoiboxofwords

Greetings readers, bloggers, geeks, and authors and welcome to The ToiBox of Words. I’m your host Toi Thomas, author of Eternal Curse, and today I’m sharing a special interview with author, Stephanie Barr, about her fiction book entitled, Legacy. Enjoy!

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Where did the idea for Legacy come from?

Well, that’s a long story. I’d written short stories (already in another anthology) and then five novels and had self-published four of them after my divorce. I was having a hard time getting into the mood or writing after my divorce and signed up with a short story contest. Although I didn’t win, I jumped back into short stories as I hadn’t done in years. After a couple years, I had more than thirty of them and nowhere to put them. So, I thought I’d make another anthology. I have another two stories coming out in multi-author anthologies this fall.

Wow, thirty short stories is impressive. With thirty stories in one book, how long is the book?

It is nearly 133k words, so it’s a long read. I was actually expecting a few of my beta readers to complain, but, so far, no one has.

How did the title of this book come about?

“Legacy” is a story in my anthology and involves a pair of teenage boys who survive the atomic bombing in Nagasaki, with one of the boys (Omoto) deeply in love with the other but unwilling to bring that up because he didn’t want to ruin their relationship. When the one loved dies in violence, Omoto has to decide what kind of legacy he’ll leave. I love the title and it seemed fitting for stories that reflect my thoughts, frustrations, societal issues. There are also stories with characters from my novels, my own legacy so the title seemed perfect for the collection.

I’ve seen that quite often, having a whole collection of stories listed under the title of one, but the fact this is a representation of your own legacy, makes this all the more special.

What genre is this book and why did you choose to make it so?

Most of my fiction is fantasy and/or science fiction and my short stories are the same. The short stories that expand on novels are in keeping with the original genres, almost all of my upcoming novel related stories are hard science fiction and the stories that are related to nothing could be anything. I have two that are historical/contemporary, some fantasy, and some science fiction.

Do you worry that including so many different genres will alienate fans of a particular genre?

You know, I really don’t. I’m a character writer and I think the genre is really immaterial if the characters “speak” to the reader. And I hear that a great deal from readers. “I don’t normally like fantasy but this was really good,” or even, “I didn’t get all the technical details, but I just loved Kado.” That is something cool with my science fiction. Because I’m a rocket scientist, the science is pretty sound, especially anything in space.

What would you say is the overall message or the theme of this book?

People are what matters. What you are is not as important as who you are. We all can do something to make the world better. Love is always better than hate.

That’s quite a message, and one you can never seem to have too much of. I like it.

Tell me about the experience of writing this book; how long did it take?

The first contest I wrote for started in January 2015.  The last story I added to the mix was in June 2017. There are four stories (Tarot Queen stories) which are the only ones that were written before the respective novel. The rest of the stories, the other twenty-eight, were written in the last two years along with maybe half a dozen I’ve sold or am marketing elsewhere.

So, about two years to write an impressive single author anthology. Not too shabby.

Briefly, describe some of the stories within this book.

I told you about “Legacy.” I’ve got three stories with an autistic scientist in a space station (my son is non-verbal autistic). I have a blind arcane archer with a shapeshifting cat. I have kids escaping from ruthless invaders (prequels to the Bete Novels), meet and fall in love fantasy stories (prequels to Curse of the Jenri), a young couple getting married and the bride’s eccentric grandmother (sequels to Saving Tessa), and several stories centered on a talented Tarot Queen who uses and is used by her cards. And a farcical story of a dragon, a unicorn, and a miller’s daughter.

That last one sounds like the set-up to a cheesy joke, but then you did say it was farcical. I gotta say, I’m really digg’n the diversity of this collection. Nice job.

What are some of the major themes in this book?

Some things are bigger than yourself.
Who you are is more important than what you are.
Love can come from anywhere.
Love is better and stronger than hatred.
Nobody’s infallible.
Better to try and fail than be silent.
Karma, like natural laws, has no pity.
The quick answer isn’t always the best answer.
Brains over brawn.
There’s more than you think to some people.
Sometimes there is no good answer.
Anything can be taken too far.
Women are powerful.
Appearances can be deceiving.
People are people, no matter the “species.”

Those are some pretty intense and noble themes. I get the feeling that all your writing, at some level, has a greater message to it. Were these themes on your mind when writing these stories or did they develop within the writing process?

Some of the themes come from the novels that spawned the stories. Many of the standalone stories were prompted by particular markets or contests I was going for, but they include my own personal philosophies. “Legacy” was partly inspired by George Takai and his work. Several other stories like “Nemesis” and “Nightmare Blanket” were spawned by frustration with the recent election. I’m pretty adamant about feminism. It’s the long way of saying, some stories are built on the theme and some have the theme built into the story.

What are some of the settings in this book?

I have a space station – and that was fun because I worked with folks on orbit so it’s a bit of an area of expertise (though I don’t know as much as those who lived it). I’ve got high fantasy realms (often with highly patriarchal societies), the Earth in 2058, in a galaxy far far away (had fun with space battles using real orbital mechanics), modern day San Francisco and California between WWII and today.

Whatever the anthology is about, I always enjoy the sense of travel. It’s one of the best parts of reading an anthology, but you don’t get that as much when all the stories happen in the same world. Don’t get me wrong, there are times when being engrossed in stories from the same world is just what I want, but most of the time, I prefer setting diversity.

Who are some of your favorite characters in this book?

Who don’t I love? Characters are my favorite. Okay, I love Saldomar, Tander, Riko, Cristo, Denra, and Klevaron (Curse of the Jenri), Dylan, Nathan, Tessa, and Dotty (Saving Tessa), Dante da Silva, Scruffy, and Gus (Tarot Queen), Xander, Alya, K’Ti, and Laren (the Bete Novels), Bryder and Nayna, Kado—love me some Kado, the Devil, the dragon, Billy, Ryuuji and Omoto.

I love some of the names your characters have. I like that some are average sounding while others are more exotic.

Are there elements of your personality or life experiences in this book?

Oh, yeah. Most of my characters have a bit of me, but some have more than their fair share like Nayna and Dylan who are both very very smart and socially awkward. But the snark that makes my charming characters is mine, too (don’t ask me how both can be true; I can’t explain it) so that’s Dante da Silva, the Devil, Tander, Bryder. Kado, as I mentioned, is patterned on my son though he’s not really non-verbal, more ultra-terse and more ruthless than my son. I’m also a manga otaku who loves yaoi so Legacy is my sort of tribute.

I find that most writers can’t seem to keep themselves out of their stories, I know I can’t, but I like how you swing that a bit to pay tribute to people and influences that you care about the most.

What is one thing from this book you wish was real or could happen to you?

True love. Though inventing something that made me rich and famous would be cool, too.

One thing I’ve learned from reading so much is that true love isn’t always romantic love, (says the girl who married her best friend and can’t get enough of the Princess Bride). I too think I’d like to have something that could make me rich (don’t need the fame).

What is something you wish wasn’t real and hope doesn’t happen to you?

I wish people who were different or smart weren’t judged, bullied or mistreated, though that happened to me (to a lesser extent than in my stories). This is also applicable to minorities, religious minorities, women and LGBTQ folks.

I feel ya. There never seems to be a shortage of reasons for people to pick on others; I do wish the world would go ahead and change already.

Let’s say your book is being turned into a feature length film; quick- cast the main two characters and pick a theme song or score.

That’s really more pertinent to one of my novels, though you could tease a film out of the “Tarot Queen, Melan” stories or “Legacy.” I think Curse of the Jenri would make a great film. Grace Jones was an image I had for Melan. I could really see Scarlett Johansen as Layla and someone like the Rock (though probably younger) playing Tander. But that’s the general attitude he’d need. I always thought the opening credits would be great to a remix of “Witchy Woman” as Layla sneaks into the castle.

Wikipedia

I love that opening credits description. Sounds like something I’d totally watch. I understand this question being more suitable to a novel, but what if you could cast a film based on this collection. Imagine something like the Heavy Metal movie (not suitable for children) where one entity connects all the unrelated stories together. Do you think that would be too much?

That’s a very intriguing thought. I don’t have a single thread holding them together, but don’t challenge me. I could come up with something and several stories could be grouped into a single episode.

Do you have any special plans for this book in the near or far future?

Well, I’m hoping to release it in paperback and ebook at the end of July or, at the latest, early August. My other anthologies (stories and poetry) are only available in ebook format (and they’re available for free) but I think this is something special. My friend (Chuck, I mentioned him) says this book is like an anthology of anthologies. I think it’s something special.

So, is this book available for pre-order?

Yes. You can find it at Amazon.com

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Okay readers, bloggers, geeks, and authors, that’s all for today. Be sure to follow this blog to see who will be visiting next time. To try other works by Stephanie Barr, please visit the links provided.

Amazon.com  |  Smashwords.com

Learn more about Stephanie Barr at the links below.

Facebook | Writing Blog

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Thank you for taking the time to read this post. If you like it let me know and share it with others. See you next time, Toi Thomas. #thetoiboxofwords

Bookreview: Firebound #fantasy #FlashbackFriday

This is a special post I do once a month to highlight a book I reviewed some time ago, but never actually featured on my blog. Because this is an author blog and not a book blog, I don’t always feature all the books I read. Like all good and dedicated fans of the written word, I do my part and leave reviews on Goodreads.com, Amazon.com, and sometimes other places, but don’t always bring attention to what I’m reading, unless you follow me on YouTube… hint, hint, wink wink 😉 In any case, please enjoy this review of a book I read at some point in my life.

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Today’s flashback review is a little special but mostly because today is International Authors Day. I’m featuring a review of a book from an author I really like.

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Goodreads

Title:  Firebound

Series: Spellbringers #2

Author: Tricia Drammeh

Genre: Urban Fantasy Romance, Paranormal

Pages: 285

Reading Level: Teen

Content: PG-13 (violence, sensuality, brief mild sexual content, dark and mature themes, adult situations, suspense)

In book one my heart went out to Bryce who seemed to be misunderstood, but in book 2 I really fell in love with Alisa. She’s the only character with no power of her own, yet she seems to be the strongest of them all. Depending on how you look at it, Alisa is the reason the Alexander family is as mighty as they are. In their society of magic and Spellbringers, their connection to this one human keeps them all from becoming monsters… I may be exaggerating a bit, but in any case, I really adore Alisa.

Rachel, on the other hand, is a character that despite her many many flaws, I can’t hate but don’t exactly love her. I feel for her in many ways, but she seems to be a bit self-destructive. Like all self-destructive people, she also hurts others as a result. The one thing she seems to have going for her is the fact that she is apparently the most powerful being on the planet though she hasn’t realized the extent of her powers. As destructive as she is, I still like her more than Jace.

It’s not that I don’t like Jace. I feel a bit indifferent about this character. I can see that he will continue to grow as the story develops, but for now, he’s a pretty face, decent brother, and good son.

The action of this book is much more involved, which I didn’t think was possible. Alisa and Bryce struggle to be close yet so far apart. After he speaks the claiming words to her, they crave each other but can’t share each other or live together. Alisa is forgetting what an independent person she used to be and Bryce is clinging to her affection so he won’t turn to the dark side. Yeah, whoa!

Rachel has the best of intentions trying to protect her brother but she has to know that going on dream dates with a demon isn’t going to end well. Plus, there’s more than one demon after her. When, Alisa, the only human in the bunch has to risk her life to save Rachel, things heat up in more ways than one. What a perfect end to this installment and a grand enticement for the next.

I think I enjoyed this one just as much as the first. Highly recommended again.

Read my review of Spellbound here.

I give this book a 5.

This review has been posted to GoodReads.

If you’d like to obtain a copy of this book, try this link: Amazon

Thank you for taking the time to read this post. If you like it let me know and share it with others. See you next time, Toi Thomas. #thetoiboxofwords

Spellbound by @TriciaDrammeh Virtual Book Tour Interview by #thetoiboxofwords via @diversebktours #fantasy #amreading

Greetings readers, bloggers, geeks, and authors and welcome to The ToiBox of Words. I’m your host Toi Thomas, author of Eternal Curse, and today I have a treat to share. A while back, I had the pleasure to interview a wonderful author named, Tricia Drammeh. A good time was truly had by all, and here’s how it went down.

Toi Thomas: Hi there Tricia! It’s so awesome to have you here at the ToiBox Blog. I’m excited to learn more about you and your work.

Tricia: Hi Toi. I’m happy to be here and excited to share.

Toi Thomas: So tell me, who is Tricia Drammeh?

Tricia: I’m a wife, mother of four, and author. I live in New Hampshire with my husband, kids, and a lot of crazy animals. I write anything from young adult multicultural fantasy (The Spellbringers Series) to YA paranormal (The Seance) to contemporary (Better than Perfect).

Toi Thomas: Wow. Yes, after looking through your bibliography I feel like I need to play catch up. You books have such acclaim and the sheer volume is inspiring to young-in-the-industry authors like me.

Toi Thomas: Well before we dive into your special message today, let’s get to know you, the person inside the author.

Toi Thomas: Who is so you and why?

Tricia: I hate to say this, but Bella Swan from Twilight. I really am that clumsy, unfortunately. One of the many criticisms about that series is the way Bella was portrayed. “No one is that clumsy and awkward.” Well, I am.

Toi Thomas: Yeah, whenever someone mentions Twilight, there’s either a sigh of regret or a yelp  of cheer, but every character is relatable to someone in some way, otherwise they wouldn’t have been written. All fiction stems from reality.

Toi Thomas: What makes you geek out?

Tricia: I’m a huge Harry Potter fan. I know it’s a YA series and I’m not quite a young adult anymore (haha), but I am in love with that series and am anxiously waiting for my Hogwarts letter.

Toi Thomas: Don’t you know YA is the new black- or something like that. I don’t think there are any age requirements on fiction anymore. Sure somethings may not be appropriate for certain readers, but as I said before, everything is relatable on some level. People read what they like, and as long as they are reading, I’m happy.

Toi Thomas: What was your favorite book or story, pre-teen years?

Tricia: As a pre-teen I read and re-read The Outsiders. Actually, I did that with all the S.E. Hinton books, but The Outsiders was my favorite.

Toi Thomas: Yeah, for me that book was a bit tough because of the time I read it. Being from the 80s and getting caught up in the hype of the movie, I don’t think I ever really gave it full attention. But it is a truly great story.

Toi Thomas: In terms of interviews, whose brain are you just itching to scratch?

Tricia: J.K. Rowling. I absolutely idolize her. She’s a genius.

Toi Thomas: Yes, she is probably one of the best writer success stories you’ll ever here- so inspiring.

Toi Thomas: Now that we know a little more about you, the person, let’s learn about you, the author, and dive into your special message.

Toi Thomas: So whacha got for me today?

Tricia: Spellbound is the first book in the Spellbringers series. It’s a multicultural fantasy series for young adults that is based in a small Georgia town.

Toi Thomas: Something about books and stories set in small towns- you just know it’s going to be good. I must admit the cultural diversity of the book caught me off guard, not in a bad way, though. None of the characters were superimposed stereotypes, and I liked that. (See my review here.)

Toi Thomas: So who’s starring is this 2 dimensional script read of Spellbound?

Tricia: My main characters are Rachel and Alisa, two high school girls who have known each other all their lives, but have never been friends. Alisa is shy and shunned by her peers, while Rachel is one of the most popular girls in school. Even though Rachel seems to have an easy life, she feels isolated and different from everyone around her. When Jace and his family move to town, both girls are plunged headfirst into a world they never knew existed.

Toi Thomas: That’s a pretty good premise. If I hadn’t read the book I would assume that at some point, themes of friendship and love triangles might clash because of the two girls and the mention of Jace. I won’t give anything away, but the way it all plays out is refreshing and not at all typical.

Toi Thomas: What’s so special about this story that’s going to reel in the readers?

Tricia: Spellbound combines magic, danger, and romance. It also features a multicultural cast of characters where diversity is the norm.

Toi Thomas: Yes, I like the fact that your story has a diverse cast but doesn’t go out of the way to say “hey look at the races mixing and getting along together.” It’s very natural and encouraging.

Toi Thomas: Past, present, future, is there a rhyme or reason to your writing?

Tricia: When I began writing, it was nose to the grindstone. I completed my first book in less than three months. Oh, how times have changed. I bounce back and forth between two or three different projects. There is no sense of organization. I write in the middle of the living room with the dog sitting next to me. I’ve got Law & Order SVU blaring on the TV and constant noise and interruptions. And coffee. So much coffee.

Toi Thomas: In this day and age, I don’t see how people stick to such organized writing regimes. I admit that I plan and make every effort to be organized, but life happens. You gotta write when you can.

Toi Thomas: What author(s) has most influenced your writing? Why or how?

Tricia: There are so many, but I would have to say it’s a tossup between Anne Rice, J.K. Rowling, and Stephen King.

Toi Thomas: Those influences make perfect sense considering that material you write. After having read your work. I think they would be proud to count you amongst them, for I’m sure your work has and will influence someone else along with these guys.

Toi Thomas: Thank you so much Tricia for spending time with me today.

Tricia: Thanks for having me Toi. It was fun.

Okay readers, bloggers, geeks, and authors, that’s all for today. Be sure to follow this blog to see who will be visiting next time. For more from Tricia Drammeh, check out these great links:

Website: TRICIA DRAMMEH.com

Facebook: Author Tricia Drammeh

Twitter: @TriciaDrammeh

Amazon Author Central: Tricia Drammeh

Purchase links for Spellbound & other Drammeh books:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository

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interviewpic-toibox

Thank you for taking the time to read this post. If you like it let me know and share it with others. See you next time, Toi Thomas. #thetoiboxofwords

Tea and Conversation 20: The Race Thing

teaNtalk

Today I’m sharing a picture of “make tea not war” with a bird that I posted on my tea pin board.

Please do not copy this image. Click image to share on Pinterest.

Today in my meditation I’m thinking about Eternal Curse and Full Moon, and I’m writing about: Why the race thing?

My work isn’t that culturally diverse in comparison to works that aim for cultural diversity, but I do mix races and cultures a tiny bit sometimes. I can still remember one reviewer being shocked to learn that Mira, from Eternal Curse: Giovanni’s Angel, was black. Apparently I revealed her race in a very dramatic kind of way. In actuality, I just think most people have preconceived ideas about how black/ethnic characters should be written.

In my mind, I was simply providing a reveal between characters who’d gotten to know each other online without ever wasting time talking about the color of their skin because so many other matters were much more important. In any case, I’ve made some changes to the chapter structure of that book, which should tone down the “race reveal”, since that’s not the point of that scene.

Now in my first attempt at a contemporary romance, I’ve included one black character who plays a supporting role to my white main character. Some people have asked why am I writing about white people. The truth is that race is never brought up as an issue in this story. I wrote the story based on the way the inspiration came to me. The story is not about race. It’s about all the crazy things that happen in the pursuit of love, but I’m sure someone will be fixated on the one black character for whatever reason because that’s how it always goes.

I’m still fairly new to this whole writing thing and even though I have so many other stories to share and so many other characters to create, some people will complain that I’m not culturally diverse enough, that I’m not black enough, that I’m too edgy, that I’m too PC, that I’m not PC enough, and so on. So, since I know it’s coming, I’m already prepared to simply ignore it all and keep on writing.

Thank you for taking the time to read this post. If you like it let me know and share it with others. See you next time, Toi Thomas. #thetoiboxofwords

Review: Mr. Churchill’s Secretary

Mr. Churchill’s Secretary (Maggie Hope Mystery #1) by Susan Elia MacNeal

I give this book a 3.

Okay

First thing I want to admit is that I’m just now becoming acquainted with historical fiction in books. In the cinema it has always been one of my favorite genres, but I’ve never stopped to read any of it. With that being said, I’m starting to have an appreciation that is still very new and maturing.

Maggie is a very smart, almost genius, young mathematician, who is supposed to be flattered by an unexpected opportunity to be one of Mr. Churchill’s secretaries. WWII is just beginning to take its toll on London as the Nazis and the IRA take turns dropping or planting bombs in the city where Maggie and her friends struggle to just get by and make it through.

Of course, not all is quite as it seems. For one, a man Maggie is sure can’t stand her begins to look out for her well-being, then friends begin to act strange and she’s not sure if it’s a coincidence or not, and on top of everything else not mentioned, one of the parents she thought died years ago might still be around.

I think my problem with this book is that I really enjoyed the historical aspects of the story, but had difficulty reconciling the fiction aspects and the development of the characters. All the characters are well-developed, but I just don’t know if I relate to them. As a woman, still in an age facing the glass ceiling, it was easy to relate to Maggie, but the rest of the characters are a puzzle to me.

I feel as if the emotional aspect of the story could have been more involved. I get it, Maggie is this strong-willed woman who rises above her struggles, but what about everyone else. I just feel like that emotion was put to the side because there was a war on, as it should be, but it didn’t feel real to me.

The suspense and espionage was great and kept me interested in times when I was not emotionally attached, and as much as I hate to say it, I wish Maggie had more romance in her life (I’m not a traditional romance, chik-lit kind of girl).

[A slight tangent here-I encounter more and more stories every day with homosexual characters in them, in the same manner as is on TV and in the movies so that is no big surprise, but I wonder if there is a trend involving the “special aunt”. I’ve seen this general character quite a bit now.]  Trend or not, I like the aunt. She’s one of the few characters I felt really expressed good emotion and she did it in a letter, without interacting with any of the other characters.

All in all, this was a very entertaining story and an easy read/listen. I’d recommend this for adults with a love of history, spy thrillers, and or WWII, though it does seem to be geared toward women and may not be welcomed by conservative readers.

This review has been posted to GoodReads. If you’d like to obtain a copy of this book, try this link.

Thank you for taking the time to read this post. If you like it let me know and share it with others. See you next time, Toi Thomas. #thetoiboxofwords