Barbarian’s Tease

Due to the number of books in this series I’m just going to add the link to the list of books I’ve reviewed by Ruby Dixon.

Barbarian’s Tease  by  Ruby Dixon  description:

It should have been a one-night stand.

I never intended to seduce Taushen, but things happened. I don’t dwell on the past and while it was great, I’m not looking for a relationship. Of course, try telling that to Taushen. The big blue alien’s in love after one night, and it’s making things darn awkward. We’ve got bigger problems than whether or not I’m his woman, like the ‘cargo’ of the space ship that landed here.

But Taushen’s not giving up. He thinks I’m his mate.
And he’ll do anything to keep me.

BOOK 16: Barbarian’s Tease  4 STARS

I hesitated to read this book for so long because of all the people making it sound like Brooke was just this horrible person, but honestly I really felt for her. I don’t consider it a spoiler since it all happens within like the first few pages of the book, but it turns out while trapped together on the ship Brooke was basically roofied, and Taushen unwittingly took advantage of her during a time when she couldn’t stop herself. Brooke is upset over what happened, while she had technically enjoyed it she still hadn’t been in a position to say no. And Taushen is equally mortified to know she hadn’t truly wanted him, and that he’d misunderstood when she tried to tell him she was roofied. But what actually upset me wasn’t that Brooke wasn’t willing to be his mate after that, why would she suddenly change her mind when she’d never wanted to be anyone’s mate, and hadn’t truly been throwing herself at him. It was that Taushen suddenly pushes her aside, won’t let Brooke talk to him, and then his idea to fix the situation where he’d taken advantage of her (even if he too was in a way a victim) was to kidnap her. Then act like a child over the idea of someone else playing with his toy. The beginning was a bit much to swallow, and it made me really not like Taushen. However, Dixon does move the characters on past that, and they do finally get to deal with their issues, and come to truly understand each other. There’s a lot of growth on both of their parts, and Taushen does quickly understand the mistake he’s made and does his best to remedy them and do right by Brooke. As Brooke puts it, these aren’t human men, their culture is completely different, and you can’t judge them by human standards. I mean yes there has been a lot of kidnapping going on, but this was the first one that really bothered me. Regardless, as the plot develops, and the ending comes about setting up the new spin-off series, it turns out to be a good story, and has me wanting more.

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Rosehead

Rosehead  by  Ksenia Anske  description:

Misunderstood and overmedicated, twelve-year-old Lilith Bloom finds the prospect of a grand family reunion decidedly dull… That is, until she discovers that the rose garden surrounding her grandfather’s Berlin mansion is, well, completely and utterly carnivorous. Armed with Panther, her talking pet whippet, and the help of the mute boy next door, Lilith must unravel the secrets behind the mysterious estate, all while her family remains gloriously unaware that they are about to be devoured.

Rosehead  2 STARS

In many ways this reminded me of Lemony Snicket’s Series of Unfortunate Events. Where it’s only Lilith and Ed who see the truth of the sinister garden and her grandfather, while all the adults are oblivious and think the children are lying, and toss in Lilith’s use of “big words” and you can’t help but see the similarities. In most ways this really reads like a Young Readers book. It’s fun and fanciful with a possibly murderous garden and talking dogs, and it’s kids saving the day. However, it’s almost like Anske isn’t sure if she wants it to be for young readers or adults as she delves into topics that seem a bit too mature and out of place for the tale. Such as Lilith’s parents putting her own medications and arguing over what they see as a mental disability. It’s practically borderline abusive. Then the talk of suicide and so much death. Even how Lilith talks, while it’s nice for her to sound intelligent for her age, it’s off putting how much she just doesn’t sound like a kid at times. What ultimately dropped it stars was in part the typos, which aren’t too many, but they’re noticeable. And the somewhat repetitiveness of the characters going over the same ground again and again, both figuratively and literally. But more so, it’s basically solved from the get-go, there’s no real build, there’s no spooky hints to create a sense of mystery, it’s more about Lilith knowing what’s really going on and everyone thinking she’s completely insane. It makes it a bit frustrating to get through.

Dirk Gently and Getting What You Deserve

This is no more a spoiler than a trailer for the next episode of Dirk Gently. Unless you haven’t finished season 1, in which case you may hesitate to read what I have to say.

The season 1 finale of Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency has everything falling apart for basically everyone who survived to the end of the season. One of the biggest things to happen, though, was that Todd Brotzman got Pararibulitis. This is a fictional nerve disease that causes hallucinations that feel real and causes an immense amount of pain for the person suffering from it. It’s a disease that runs in Todd’s family, in fact his sister Amanda already had it before he did. A lot of people have talked about this ending as seeing Todd getting the disease as punishment, namely because of the song that plays at the end. First Things First by Neon Trees.

You are never gonna get
Everything you want in this world
First things first
Get what you deserve

I mean someone gets a disease and then a song goes on to say “Get what you deserve” that definitely sounds like a punishment. But I don’t at all believe this was true. Even before seeing season 2, it just didn’t make sense. First off, it runs in his family, so the odds are he would get it eventually anyway. Secondly, he gets this after he’s righted all his wrong. By the end he has come clean and told the truth to Amanda about having previously faked having the disease to get money. He has saved the world and Lydia by stopping the soul swapping bad guys. He has even come to believe in Dirk and is choosing to follow him and help him solve future cases. Why, after everything, would he then be punished?

It is true that Todd himself sees it as a punishment, but as we go further into season 2 it’s obvious that it isn’t. If Todd didn’t have Pararibulitis then he wouldn’t have had that episode right in front of Sheriff Hobbs, who then wouldn’t have found the pill bottle left behind with his info, which then wouldn’t have led to Todd, Dirk, and Farah getting arrested. This is ultimately a good thing, because that keeps them in this town where the weird stuff starts happening, and it gives them a new set of people who are now willing to help, and not turn them in to Black Wing, who is hunting them.

If Todd didn’t have the disease he wouldn’t have had an episode at the same time as Amanda, who is now showing that the disease in connection with the Rowdy 3 actually gives her powers. Them both having an attack at the same time allows Todd to figure out where Amanda actually is.

Todd didn’t deserve to be punished. He deserved to have help, he deserved to find his sister, and he deserves to be part of the team that stops the terrible things that are happening in this town. Pararibulitis is making that happen. It’s all connected.

More than that though, in real world terms, when real diseases are contracted it’s hard to see the silver lining. Sometimes maybe there just isn’t one. But sometimes there is. I recently read an article about Michael J. Fox, and he talked about how he wasn’t exactly happy to have Parkinson’s disease, but that his having it has been a good thing. He’s been able to bring attention to the disease in ways others haven’t. He’s been able to help raise money and get awareness to where they’re working on a cure for it. Because of who he is, having this disease has brought about a lot of good.

Nobody wants something bad to happen to them. It’s hard to see how it could be good given that we call it “something bad”. But sometimes those bad things do actually happen so other good can come of it. Instead of looking at it as a punishment, maybe we should look at it as we deserve to have this obstacle to overcome so we can come out stronger and more capable than ever.

The Alien’s Mail-Order Bride

The Alien’s Mail-Order Bride  by  Ruby Dixon  description:

Though still carrying the scars of his past as an intergalactic soldier, Emvor doesn’t mind the quiet of his chosen life as a farmer. He doesn’t even mind that most nights are lonely on remote Cassa, but he does need help around his farm. A mail-order bride from his homeworld seems like the perfect solution. She’ll be a tall, sturdy female to help with the chores and bear his children.

Unfortunately, the person that arrives is Nicola. She’s small, delicate…and human. She also knows nothing about farming, and she’s lied and deceived her way across the galaxy to get to Cassa so she can hide from those that would capture her. She’s a problem, and also the most enticing thing he’s ever seen.

Now Emvor has to decide…can he keep the woman who’s nothing like what he asked for but is everything he needs?

The Alien’s Mail-Order Bride    4 STARS

This was a fun little novella, and if you’ve read Dixon’s Ice Planet Barbarians series then it’s in the same universe, though you don’t have to in order to enjoy this story. Having read her other books, it was interesting to see what happens to humans out there. It’s illegal to trade in them, even though people frequently do, but even when they’re “saved” by the authorities their fate is no better. It’s one of the things that makes you immediately sympathetic to Nicola’s plight, and something that Emvor feels as well. Dixon did a great job of developing these characters quickly, and really making the relationship that grows between them realistic and rather sweet. That’s really what this story is all about, even as it’s out in space and about a human on the run, it’s rather low-key and focuses on what Emvor and Nicola are feeling, what they want out of life, and what ultimately ends up making them the perfect couple. Altogether, quite enjoyable.

The Martian

The Martian by Andy Weir  description:

Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars.

Now, he’s sure he’ll be the first person to die there.

After a dust storm nearly kills him and forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded and completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive — and even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone long before a rescue could arrive.

Chances are, though, he won’t have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment, or plain-old “human error” are much more likely to kill him first.

But Mark isn’t ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills — and a relentless, dogged refusal to quit — he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. Will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?

The Martian   5 STARS

I actually saw the movie before reading the book, and so I knew a lot of what to expect, and in a way it helped me visualize what was going on. But as funny as Matt Damon was playing Watney, it’s no where near the level of humor that is so easily displayed in the book. You wouldn’t think that a book about a man stranded on Mars with one thing after the next going wrong and him almost dying every other page would be hilarious, but it is. Watney is a very light-hearted man, with a quirky view of the world, and is just trying to make the most of what life he may have left. There is a lot of science in this book, and it tries to show things in a realistic way. But you’re also dealing with a character who decides to use terms like pirate-ninja for measurements instead of the long convoluted names you’re supposed to use. We also get a look at what’s going on back on Earth, and how they’re all working to save Watney, but the best part of that is when they’re just trying to figure out what he’s doing, and the comparison between their conclusions and the actual facts once more is worth a giggle. As extreme as the situations got, and having to take breaks just because my little baby heart couldn’t take worrying over this guy for another page, it was a wonderful book. I couldn’t put it down, and I had to know how it would all play out in the end. Even having watched the movie, I still had to know whether or not he was going to be okay.

Jon Lee Grafton has been INTERVIEWED!!!

1. What’s your name? Where can we find you? Blog? Twitter? Facebook?
Jon Lee Grafton, you can find me at
 www.twitter.com/jonleegrafton.  

2. Tell us a little about your life outside of the world of writing.
I dwell in Kansas City on the Kansas side, two blocks from the Missouri line at the moment.  As a human who prefers to smoke his cocktails instead of drinking them, my life outside of writing involves living with a constant, subtle paranoia that I’m doing something wrong.  Accordingly, I spend a lot of time thinking about equality and civil rights as they apply to American citizens who make alternative, health-conscious, recreational drug choices.  I’m also a fine art & architectural photographer, which is my “day job.”  I drink copious amounts of green tea, smoke hand-rolled American Spirit cigarettes, wear sunglasses too much and read as much indie science fiction as I possibly can on my phone.  I also spend time with my elderly mother helping her remember the joy of yesterday, and in the evenings hang out with my girlfriend, Tiana and our cat, Lebowski, “the dude.”  Tiana’s making me watch The Office on Netflix right now, nope had never seen it until 2 months ago – and that show makes me cry laughing.       

3. How long have you been writing? What genres have you written? They don’t have to be published.
I started writing poetry and nonfiction short stories in college, that was circa 1993 – 1998.  I published a few poems and stories back in the 90’s with literary magazines… but I stopped around 1999 and became seduced by the evils of photography for about 12 years.  I didn’t write anything new until I began working on The 18th Shadow, my current sci-fi series, in 2013.  

4. What has been the greatest influence to your writing? Other authors, life experiences, etc…
#1, the epiphanies and understandings made possible by psychedelic drug use throughout my life.  On a less existential plane; I found my father dead in bed from a drug overdose when I was 16 years old.  I am now 45.  But I realize that moment, for me, was and always will be the moment.  It’s when my life changed in indescribably profound ways – and it was the tragedy, balance and understanding of this experience that pushed me to spend my life being an artist instead of a stock broker.  A stock broker can mingle with the wealthy and is loved by their clients.  An artist can mingle with anyone and is loved by everyone, thus in truly vain human fashion, I spend my days pursuing love, freedom and attention in all forms.  I ain’t gonna lie.  Other authors…?  Nonfiction; Charles Bukowski and Raymond Carver will always be my greatest inspirations.  As for fiction, I’m a certified geek, so I always read sci-fi these days – and those authors who have inspired me range from Hugh Howey to George RR Martin to Allen Steele, Dan Simmons, Phillip K Dick and Neal Stephenson.  I recently read a great trilogy called The Breakers Series by an author I hadn’t heard of before named Edward R Robertson.  

5. Are you currently writing anything now? If so tell us about it? If not make something up…
Asking me to make something up is dangerous.  Truth be told, being as predictable as possible, I am currently writing Escape from Hypatia 5, the fourth installment of The 18th Shadow Series.  There will be 6 books in all and this will be my primary project for the foreseeable.

6. How do you typically begin your projects? Do you create outlines and character profiles or jump in head first with the initial idea? And do you focus on just one at a time?
I story board on Post-It notes that adorn the sides of my computer monitor and a framed black and white poster of Clint Eastwood as The Outlaw Josey Wales that hangs on the wall beside my desk.  I rarely actually look at the Post-It’s once they’re up, but having them there for the current project somehow helps push the ideas into my brain via osmosis or magic or daydream implantation.  From there, I just dive in and start writing for the first 4-5 hours of the day.  And I definitely just work on a single project at a time.  

7. What aspect of your writing do you consider your strength? Your weakness?
My strength as a writer is my ability to create vivid visual descriptions of scenes, settings, landscapes and the characters who occupy them.  Almost every person who reads my novels has told me they feel like they’re reading a movie.  I like my writing to move fast, to match today’s contemporary media attention span, so this is a blessing.  My greatest weakness as a writer is my OCD desire to read and edit every single new sentence I compose to immediately make sure it’s perfect.  This is inefficient, and impedes my productivity, and is my greatest personal challenge – just getting the story down first, and worrying about the text being “perfect” in post-edits.  I truly struggle with this.  

8. After publishing, the next trouble facing writers is marketing. What do you typically do when marketing your novel? Do you have tips you’d like to share?
I spent a lot of time on Facebook, and most recently Twitter.  I follow other successful authors in my genre, see what they’re doing and saying, take the ideas I like and apply them to my own brand.  And I do look at my series as a brand, a product, that has its own unique interpretations of pop culture – which is these days it seems – all culture.

9. What advice would you give a writer who is starting out?
Get off your phone, get off social media, put the cat in the other room and get to work.  Also, if it’s your first book, don’t spend a lot of time telling your friends and family, “Hey, I’m writing a book and here’s what it’s about… what do you think?”  This, like aimless interaction with Facebook or Instagram, will only serve to distract you from the good ideas already in your head.  It will also consume the time you should be spending doing one thing – writing.  If you believe in yourself and your vision 110%, then translate that belief to your project and complete it down to the final period.  Then edit it.  Then start talking about it.  And only then.

Beauty in Autumn

Beauty in Autumn   by  Ruby Dixon    description:

Inspired by the story of Beauty and the Beast, a short and sexy interpretation of the classic fairy tale…

For years untold, there has always been a beast in the cursed forest. Every year at the Harvest Festival, a new bride is sent to him…never to return. But when Willow is chosen to be the newest bride, she seeks out the help of the local wise woman.

Willow might be able to break the curse, but to do so, she must refrain from looking at the beast entirely. It sounds easy enough, but as things get heated between them, can she keep her promise? Or will she need to see who – and what – she’s bedding first?

Beauty in Autumn   3 STARS

This is a really short story, and it’s shown as book 3 of a series of stories written by different authors, but they aren’t in any way connected as far as I can tell, and so it’s just as easy to read them in whatever order you want or just read this one which I very much enjoyed. While this is said to be based on Beauty and the Beast, about the only thing that ties it to that fairy tale is the roses that are mentioned. It really comes across as more of a retelling of East of the Sun West of the Moon. Regardless of what fairy tale it resembles most, it was a rather interesting twist, and I liked that Willow wanted this, that she realized that this was her fate and she went in gladly. Of course, since it’s Dixon, you should know just how naughty it’s going to be. It’ll make you blush, giggle, and have you speeding right to the end.

A Girl in Black and White

BOOK 1: A Girl Named Calamity  by  Danielle Lori

A Girl in Black and White   description:

My once upon a time didn’t end with happily ever after—but with blood-stained hands and cold blue eyes. The story of my life had been laid beneath my feet since childhood, but until death, I’d never known that road was paved with stones called lies.

In this city of sun and heat, cloaked in dark, both inside and out, I became somebody other than Farm Girl. There was no assassin behind my back. No, my shackles were just as tight but came in a different form.

Like Death’s icy fingers running down my spine, the ones that had gripped me for months, my past haunted my present in the guise of nostalgia. My old chains still left marks on my skin, their owner’s gaze following behind. But he didn’t know I lived. He didn’t know I was so close, that I heard his name spoken every day. That I still hated him. Until my hate started tasting suspiciously different.

One mistake and everything I’d created unraveled. A liar. Corruptor. He stood in front of me now. The air was heavy with expectation, tense with the possibilities of how this would unfold, of what he would do.

But there was always two sides to every story, and maybe in this version, the corruptor wasn’t him, but me.

BOOK 2: A Girl in Black and White   5 STARS

I really enjoyed the first book, but wow this one was a total step up. It’s nearly a year after the end of the first book, and a lot has happened in this time, and during such Calamity has clearly matured. She’s also started figuring out her powers, as well as the truth about her life, her mother, and all the plans her grandmother had for her. While it initially bothered me how much of the first book turns out to be a facade, hiding basically all of the truth and everyone’s intentions to the extent that by the end of this book it feels like everything was just a lie. It’s also sort of amazing to read a book that pulls it off so well that by the end you’re just stunned into silence and wondering where the hell you can get the next book, because you need it right now. Everything, from the Sisterhood she’s being forced into, the return of the Untouchable Prince, as well as Weston who is still just such a psycho murderous dreamboat, is all so perfectly laid out and balanced to make for a book you can’t put down. I glad so many of the characters that I loved from the first book make an appearance, but I also enjoyed the fact that since this all takes place in one city this time we get a full new cast of different sorts of people and all the interactions and relationships that have formed around Calamity. It makes for a very involved plot with so many possibilities. But mostly I loved the development of her relationship with Weston, and how it no longer feels like a silly girl with a crush, but an actual woman dealing with feelings she has for a man she knows she shouldn’t have feelings for. Altogether a great book.

Gar LaSalle has been INTERVIEWED!!!

1.    What’s your name? Where can we find you? Blog? Twitter? Facebook?

Gar LaSalle, you can connect with me on FacebookTwitteror GarLaSalle.com.

2.      Other than writing, what is your favorite hobby or thing you enjoy for fun?

I have many interests that I enjoy.  I teach the business of medicine at Cornell, Columbia and the University of Washington to Emergency Medicine Residents and faculty.  In my spare time, I am a sculptor (bronze, wood, stone).  I also enjoy long distance target shooting and bow and rifle hunting.

3.       How long have you been writing? What genres have you written? They don’t have to be published.

During my career as a physician, I have written many non-fiction articles about leadership, disaster management, clinical Emergency Medicine patient safety, “bedside manner” and clinical risk prevention.  In fiction writing, I authored several screenplays over several years.  I structured Widow Walk, the first book in the saga, as a treatment for yet another screenplay.  However, a producer friend, Nick Kazan, liked the story and suggested I turn it into a novel instead.

4.      What has been the greatest influence to your writing? Other authors, life experiences, etc…

Influences — well, during my post-grad M.F.A. studies at CalArts, I also moonlighted as an Emergency Physician in Los Angeles.  I recorded stories from the E.R..  The tragic-comedic drama of that setting, the pathos and pathology was always moving and helped me lend realism and plausibility to the fiction writing as I learned my craft.
I love the work of Larry McMurtry, Tom Clancy, Stephen Ambrose, Cormac McCarthy, Saki (H.H. Munro), Richard Selzer M.D., Chekhov, Dostoyevsky, Hemmingway and Stegner.  I am also influenced by great filmmakers like Scorsese, Fellini, De Sica, Ozu, Ridley Scott, Wadja, Attenborough and Spielburg.

5.      Are you currently writing anything now? If so tell us about it?

The Fairness of Beasts,  book III in the Widow Walk Saga, is scheduled for publication along with new editions of Widow Walk and Isthmus, in October.  I have structured book IV of the series (working title: A Little Gang of Five) and am researching the background for it in the Kansas City Museum of Orphan Trains, the haunted fields of Gettysburg, and the bypassed small towns of the Mid West.  Book V (no working title yet) will entail the epic events of the latter half of the nineteenth century Pacific Northwest, including the impact of the Chinese Exclusion (Expulsion) Act and Women’s Suffrage.  Am also working as an exec producer for a documentary about the challenge of palliative care in a film, Never Say Die – Dying in America, being shot in Detroit.

6.      How do you typically begin your projects? Do you create outlines and character profiles or jump in head first with the initial idea? And do you focus on just one at a time?

I “postcard” my writing on a large white board in my office, starting with two scenes: “Fade In” and “Fade Out” then I work from both ends to the middle “obligatory scenes.”  The white board has sections for plot lines, conflicts, character “arcs” and themes.  I find that characters get invented along the way because they act as foils for the main protagonists and antagonists.  What is really fun for me is creating the backstories for those characters, because they allow me to expand the breadth of the world in which my main characters live.  The book and on-line research I do is to find facts that corroborate the historical context of the plot, little known facts about well known historical events.  I also always try to visit the places in which I place my characters — to get a sense of the feel of the terrain and the weather, humidity and general atmosphere of the air above it all.  It was very important for me to traipse the Dariéne Jungle on what remains of the Camino Real, go by bungo boat on the Chagres River, walk the cemetery and home site on Whidbey, stand on the parapet where Pickett stood down the Brits on San Juan during the “Pig War”, and walk the streets to Richmond to find Chimburazo Hospital stood and know where the old whore houses were in during the Civil War.

7.      What aspect of your writing do you consider your strength? Your weakness?

My historical situations are historically plausible and accurate. Readers describe my work as intelligent,  “compelling” driven and visually evocative.  Different readers have called the work “Dickensonian.” Some have compared the labyrinthine twists in the books to Marquez’s “One Hundred Years of Solitude.”   To drive plot and move the story along in an engaging manner, I try keep my style “lean.”   But I am fascinated by the panoply of characters I get to introduce in the story and I sometimes absolutely must exlpore.  The diversions I take, in exploring some character’s backstories, does risk diverting the plot-driven reader from the main tension lines of the story.

Although I love poetry and know I can write lyrical work, the leanness of my narratives do not allow me to dally much on poetic metaphors.  I have gifted colleagues who write lyrical work, which many people love, but the stories seem thin to me so I don’t do that.  I try to put lyricism in my prologues and epilogues so there is at least a bit more music in the work.

8.      After publishing, the next trouble facing writers is marketing. What do you typically do when marketing your novel? Do you have tips you’d like to share?

I work with a great team.  Scott James and Archana Murthy are wonderful for the design of the “platform” and attention to the manyt details of the publishing process.  Randy Mott (MottGraphics.com) and Neil Gonzalez (Greenleaf Book Group) are extremely talented cover and interior artists.  Alex Head (theDraftLab.com) does precise work with the interior design.  And Andrea Thatcher and others on Sandy Smith’s team at SmithPR are terrific for the outreach process.  To the would-be-writer or those colleagues who have ventured into it already, be aware that the marketing is more than half of the effort.  Considering how long it takes to research and write in the first place, that is potentially daunting.  My advice is that in the marketing effort, one must not expect to receive the immediate gratification found in putting pen to paper, or reading one’s work aloud to oneself or to others.  Be aware that even if you have the luck to get a “big” publisher to carry your work, the time/effort and expense given by the publisher is discouragingly brief and meager.  If there is no return on investment, there will be no further investment.

9.      What advice would you give a writer who is starting out?

I always tell myself the same things: Have Passion, Patience, Practice, Persistence — and forget “Perfection.”  If any of those four first things are missing, you cannot succeed.

Ksenia Anske has been INTERVIEWED!!!

1. What’s your name? Where can we find you? Blog? Twitter? Facebook?

Ksenia Anske. I live in my writing cave and hardly ever climb out.

But I do blog right here: https://www.kseniaanske.com/blog/,

and I do terrify writers into writing and readers int reading on Twitter https://twitter.com/kseniaanske

and Facebook https://www.facebook.com/ksenia.anske daily.

  1. Tell us a little about your life outside of the world of writing.

There is life outside of writing? KIDDING. Writing is my life. And reading. And, of course, chasing my readers with a chainsaw to convince them (gently) to buy and read and review my books. It actually keeps me in great shape. Or coffee. Coffee is my life as well. Practically 18 hours out of my day I divide into 2 parts: first half of the day goes to my art (writing), second half of the day goes to my business (selling what I wrote).

  1. How long have you been writing? What genres have you written? They don’t have to be published.

It’s been 5 years already. Wow, yes. 5 years. Seems a long time, but often it feels like I’m only starting. I’ve written fantasy, dark fantasy, YA, and am going to be writing my first thriller and romance next. Though my readers tell me my books touch on magical realism and horror, and they know better.

  1. What has been the greatest influence to your writing? Other authors, life experiences, etc…

Oh, Russian fairy tales, mostly. I grew up on dark stories, and I write dark stories. Of course, the big names like Chekhov and Kharms and Akhmatova and Nabokov. Most recently Tolstaya and Petrushevskaya. And in my 20s I’ve discovered Stephen King and decided I wanted to try writing scary stories too. Little did I know I’d really be doing it, and in English to boot—not my first language (I’m from Moscow, Russia).

  1. Are you currently writing anything now? If so tell us about it? If not make something up…

I’m revising the final draft of TUBE, a dark fantasy novel about a woman who goes back into her violent past to win over her abuser by visiting compartments on the train (creepy, cold, and drafty). I started it as part of my 2015 Amtrak Residency Program, and 3 years later the book is almost done. It’s launching on March 17th, 2018. Be scared.

  1. How do you typically begin your projects? Do you create outlines and character profiles or jump in head first with the initial idea? And do you focus on just one at a time?

I used to just sit down and write. Not anymore. Now I don’t write down a single word until I plot my novel to death. Have gone into too many dead ends with TUBE, so learned my lesson. Plus, I love plotting. I get such a thrill. It’s like solving a puzzle and then sprinkling in clues for the reader to discover. Nothing could be more exciting.

  1. What aspect of your writing do you consider your strength? Your weakness?

Discipline is my strength. I won’t quit until I’m done, no matter what. And discipline is my weakness, as well. Sometimes I won’t be able to bend and adapt because I’m so dead-set on finishing a project. It’s a balance. My readers tell me they love my sentence rhythm and how I make them feel. I do hope my books give them delicious nightmares. That is certainly my goal.

  1. After publishing, the next trouble facing writers is marketing. What do you typically do when marketing your novel? Do you have tips you’d like to share?

I jump on every rooftop and shout about my books until I lose my voice, then do crazy dances for my readers’ entertainment. Well, actually, I market my books from the very start, before I even start writing them, as soon as I have an idea. It’s the only way. I’d type up a whole essay here if I were to give advice. Email me with detailed questions. But here is one thing I’ll tell you: share your process. Share everything with your readers, and if you do that, you’ll also market your book, so by the time it’s done, your readers will want to buy it and read it if only to see the result of your very hard work.

  1. What advice would you give a writer who is starting out?

Never quit—NEVER EVER QUIT NO MATTER WHAT—and write and read every day. If you do this, if you write for only 1 hour daily, by the end of the year you’ll have a book written. Build discipline, hole up and write. Don’t listen to anyone. It’s your art. You’re the only one who knows how to make it. I believe in you. You can do it. Get on it!