Interview with Shiju Pallithazheth, author of “Katashi Tales”

Shiju Pallithazheth

It pleases me to present a special Saturday interview with a man who has made huge contributions to literary communities world wide. He is the author of the recently released magical realism story collection, Katashi Tales, as well as the founder of Motivatinal Strips social media forum, which promotes the unification of authors and people across the globe. I am honored to have him as my author guest today. Please help me welcome Shiju Pallithazheth.

Kaye: You are not only an author, but a scholar, striving to improve yourself and others through the promotion of world literature. Can you share a little about your journey to becoming an author? When did you discover your love of literature? When did you know you wanted to be an author?

Shiju: To this context, I would like to narrate my favourite penned quote..

‘My friends used to play with toys in their childhood, while I was playing with tiny English alphabets made of plastic. We all grew up together. They became engineers, doctors, accountants etc. and I ended up being a writer.

Guess that quote narrates the answer.

Kaye: Is there anything unusual or unique about your writing process?

Shiju: Yes! I write fast lest I forget where I started… lol

Kaye: What do you feel is the single most important element in a story?

Shiju: Characters that fit aptly in a plot.

Kaye: What is the most unusual or unique thing you have done so far?

Shiju: I have unified writers from 105 countries for what they love doing. Guess that’s unique and interesting.

Kaye: You are the founder of Motivational Strips, a social media forum designed to celebrate humanity and world literature. What do you hope to achieve with this very selective group of authors?

Shiju: The readers are going berserk to identify quality reads as well as writers. The whole agenda of Motivational Strips is literary unification. It started as a crawling baby ten months back. It withstood will power and today it has daily visitors crossing 130 thousand. So that sums up to 4 million visitors a month.

Kaye: Why do they visit the forum ?

Shiju: They love the literary works of the writers, and feel it’s a safe and secure place to network. The forum has achieved commendable milestones within a short time. All credit goes to its members as well as administration. Today it has World Nations Writers Union as well as Union Hispanomundial De Escritores (UHE) as its associates. World Nation Writers Union had Late Dr Koffi Annan ( Former UN General Secretary) as its co president in the past. UHE has former Costa Rica President and Nobel Prize laureate Dr Oscar Arias Sanchez as its present Hon. President. The above mentioned merger speaks volumes on the mission of Motivational Strips. It has affiliated six other qualitative groups in Facebook for writers so that worldwide writers have variation and choice. So we are liberal on writers’ interest. In a nutshell, Motivational Strips keeps writers interest over its own. The forum has novice beginners to many literary icons and award winning authors. Many Nobel Prize Nominees interact and coach the writers for literary progress. It has more than 60K poems and articles penned by writers from more than 105 nations. Now, does that sound small?

Kaye: Motivational Strips honors and encourages those who have made a significant contribution to world literature. I received a Certificate of Honor, myself. What do you feel has been your own greatest contribution which you have made?

Shiju: I have been one among them, that’s the greatest contribution!

When you want to steer a mighty unification process in literature or any other creative fields, you have to know how to strengthen its roots. The leaders can’t stand away and ask the members to keep the roots firm. The ideal leader is one, who has a desire to learn and to teach relevance. Just like how an editor takes responsibility to edit a book to relevant material, a leader has to jointly interact to keep the basics right.

Katashi Tales

Kaye: Your collection of magical realism stories with life lessons, Katashi Tales, is coming out in April. What are some of the life lessons you hope to convey with these tales?

Shiju: Katashi Tales is all about morals. It has a storyline that will take the reader through a journey of magical realism. It ends with realities and values to cherish in life. It has varied forms of narration to keep away monotony, as well as expectations. The expectation level of the reader goes up as the chapters progress. The reason why the expectation level goes up is because of the way the stories have been placed. It gives exposure to the reader in meeting different characters and feeling the ambiance in unknown places. Many new places one has never heard of or read about in life will be revealed in the plot. The book speaks for itself. Each of the fifteen stories teaches a different lesson.

Kaye: The stories in Katashi Tales carry with them lessons or morals, similar to western folklore. Do the lessons just unfold as you write the stories, or do you craft the story to fit the lesson?

Shiju: No, it unfolds in unexpected twists and turns in the plot. The story line was never meant or designed with planned thoughts. The characters revealed themselves in my imagination. I felt as if my presence was in the plot, and witnessed them weaving great stories with tiny outlines. It was fun to write those fables. I experienced the feelings and ambiance of the cute characters in the jungle. They were dying to tell their stories. They are adorable innocent characters, that teach us humans, that they have great stories, principles, ethics and morals, as well.

As Katashi Tales is released worldwide, I’m glad to say that, today being second day of its release, the book is already in the No 2 position among best sellers in KOBO.

Kaye: What is the most challenging part for you of writing magical realism?

Shiju: Magical realism is an art in literature that needs great understanding of the readers’ expectation. I feel bringing reality to a fantasy script is the greatest challenge in writing.

Katashi Tales is a typical attempt of magical realism.

Kaye: You write in many genres. What is your favorite type of writing?

Shiju: I do not limit myself to any favourites. Moods and ambiance decide my choice for the season. But humility and interactions has taught me to be a greater learner. I enjoy writing for writers, as well readers. If you go through my posts in Motivational Strips, you will understand the fact, that my favourite is what the writers/readers desire syncs with.

Kaye: What do you enjoy doing when you are not writing?

Shiju: I love researching people’s behaviour, as well mine. Doing a comparison helps a lot in correction of oneself and adaptation to the public mass behavioural patterns.

Kaye: What do you consider to be your greatest accomplishment to date?

Shiju: I’m still learning, I feel that’s a great accomplishment in my life.

Kaye: What is the best piece of advice that was ever given to you?

Shiju: ‘Learn to see the good side of people rather than digging their faulty holes to bring out the trash.’ That was my late grandpa’s advice. I cherish it close to my heart.

Kaye: What is something most of your readers would never guess about you?

Shiju: I’m a busy corporate executive and do rob myself of sleep to promote writers in Motivational Strips, as well affiliates, because of my love for literature.

Kaye: What advice do you have for aspiring authors?

Shiju: Observe, interact and write. Mistakes are bound to happen as well as success. Take them both in positive spirit. Don’t sell your soul, you can sell your writings though.

I want to thank Shiju for sharing with us today. He’s a man who has done some impressive things for the literary world and the human world, as well, perhaps. Katashi Tales sounds like a wonderful book filled with delightful and meaningful stories. You can learn more about Shiju Pallithazheth or get your copy of Katashi Tales at the following links.

MOTIVATIONAL STRIPS: https://www.facebook.com/groups/252154565336217

AUTHOR PAGE: https://www.amazon.com/MR-Shiju-H.-Pallithazheth/e/B07QQZDS86

AMAZON UNIVERSAL LINK: http://Author.to/Katashitales

KATASHI TALES KINDLE: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07QPVCNGC

KATASHI TALES PAPERBACK: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1094684120

                                                        https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1094684120

KOBO: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/katashi-tales

BARNES & NOBLE: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/books/1131274084


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The Confusing Faces Of Poetry

The Many Faces of Poetry 2

I struggle with such questions as “What is poetry?” Or “Why is poetry?” I don’t HAVE to struggle; it seems like a waste of energy, except that any honest inquiry into the nature of important things is…well, important. Yesterday I read three poems in a prestigious literary magazine. They were written by a prestigious lady who is a professor at a prestigious school. I’d better take these seriously, I thought. They have the imprimatur of critical acclaim. They’re supposed to be good.

I read the three poems several times. They are contemporary poetry. They have rhythm without rhyme. They are abstract. They are boring as hell. In order to run a quality check, to ensure that it wasn’t just me, quietly going insane, I referred to some poets that I love. I read some Lorca, and then Charles Bukowski. Okay, okay, it’s not just me. The latter poets wrote great poetry. I can sense THE PERSON inside these poems. I know who, where is Bukowsky, what he’s thinking. Lorca, even translated from Spanish, had poetry full of blood, I mean “Blaaahhhdd”, okay?

globes 2

Poetry has always been the bastard child of my prose work. It’s the long prose, the novels, that challenge me. Poetry’s easy. I write a poem, like that! boom, done. A few corrections the next day. Trim it a little. I can go years without writing a poem. This month I’ve struck a seam, I’m writing poems. My poetry is ME, it penetrates to the core of myself and exposes my sense of failure, confusion, ambivalence. Sometimes it’s mystic, it’s pure celebration of what I know is GOD but I don’t want to preach.

These  poems were written in the last ten days. I got pleasure in writing them, and more pleasure reading them. The second poem is among the best I have.  It’s one of “those”.

 

It Don’t Rub Off

More and more each day

my life looks like a stage set.

Props

my green rubber key chain,

the white bowl from which

I eat Cheerios .

More and more it looks less real;

it’s nothing like I wanted, not at all.

It’s more like a joke that’s on me, the opposite

of my desires. It waits to see

if I’ll laugh. I do; I laugh. It’s so silly, wanting,

but it can’t be helped. Wanting is like breathing

or waiting

while something giant hurtles towards me

too far away to sense

but it’s coming.

And I need it.

I’m in no hurry to see through things;

they control the pace.

Who I am

is not a mistake. I came here for an exercise

a knowledge that slips through my fingers.

One day my hand will close around it.

My car is banged up

my knees hurt.

I’m poor but never broke.

My broke friends know

that I’ll pay them for work on my car

or my house.

I carry some of their Stupid for a while.

It don’t rub off.

I always think I’m injured but I’m not:

except that life is injury, an obscure pathway

through a forest full of thrilling birds

and venomous snakes.

Is this real?

Yeah, I guess so.

For now.

 

Shit

There’s shit on my shoes;

cat shit, dog shit, I hope that’s all shit.

Every step I take I risk stepping in shit:

Is this not life? There’s nothing wrong with shit.

Like bugs, we need shit, desperately

to nourish with its stink the most unlikely growth.

This poo is for you, it says, as I wipe it off my shoe

foolishly trying to keep it from my hands, then washing

again and again. How often in a day do I inwardly exclaim,

“Shit!”? More than I would admit. My mind is full of bricks, pies and purges.

Cats, dogs, owls, horses, all shit. People shit,

the universe shits on these very shoes

which I try so hard to keep clean. Many are obsessed

with the microscopic haunt of e.coli. I don’t bother to say

“Relax, we intermix with e.coli and far worse

every day, we are sturdy,

knocking off shits right and left, undaunted

by the invisible spores of imagination”. Instead I give this benediction:

“You must be crazy in whatever way you want.”

Not every disease is preventable, nor is every affliction brought on board

by the shit on our shoes. Every time you stroke the cat, the dog, the horse

your hands investigate bacteria, resist infection.

After all, shit is the most common thing in the world.



A Midwesterner by birth, Arthur Rosch migrated to the West Coast just in time to be a hippie but discovered that he was more connected to the Beatnik generation. He hearkened back to an Old School world of jazz, poetry, painting and photography. In the Eighties he received Playboy Magazine’s Best Short Story Award for a comic view of a planet where there are six genders. The timing was not good.  His life was falling apart as he struggled with addiction and depression. He experienced the reality of the streets for more than a decade. Putting himself back together was the defining experience of his life. It wasn’t easy. It did, however, nurture his literary soul. He has a passion for astronomy, photography, history, psychology and the weird puzzle of human experience. He is currently a certified Seniors Peer Counselor in Sonoma County, California. Come visit his blogs and photo sites. www.artrosch.com and http://bit.ly/2uyxZbv


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Interview with romance author Chris Barili (AKA B.T. Clearwater)

Today I have the pleasure of interviewing author Chris Barili, and although he’s written in other genres, and his latest release is the fantasy novel Shadow Blade, which I reviewed last month, he also writes romance under the name B.T. Clearwater. You can read my review of his paranormal romance, Smothered, here.

In January, we talked to women’s fiction author Barbara Chepaitis and western author Loretta Miles Tollefson about the fact that women authors still are encouraged to use sex neutral pen names when writing certain genres, but here we have a male author who uses one when writing romance. We’re going with talk to Chris about writing romance and why there aren’t more male romance authors today. Or are there? Let’s find out what Chris Barili has to say about it.


Kaye: You have fiction published under your own name, but when it came to Smothered, your publisher suggested you publish as B.T. Clearwater. This is the reverse of what many female authors experience when publishing in certain genres, such as western. Did you feel like there is discrimination toward male romance authors?

Chris: My publisher didn’t encourage the pseudonym, actually. That was advice from a mentor and college professor, who recommended different pen names for different genres due to perceptions in the industry that if you write one genre well, you’re limited to that genre. I also publish westerns under a different pen name, T.C. Barlow.

And while I didn’t experience discrimination toward me as a male romance writer, I did get some raised eyebrows and comments like, “You write THAT?” So I had my youngest daughter think up a pen name that used my initials, and that sounded gender neutral. She came up with B.T. Clearwater.

Kaye: Do you think it is harder for male authors to make it in the romance genre than it is for female authors? Why?

Chris: I think it’s harder because not enough men have tried, so there’s no benchmark for it, no evidence to the doubters that men can do it. Men tend to avoid it because of the stigma associated with writing “that” kind of fiction.

Kaye: What is the biggest challenge of writing romance for you?

Chris: Probably making it “juicy” enough for a modern audience. I’m an old-fashioned guy, so I like love stories, and I tend to focus on the emotional relationship rather than the sexual one. Many (not all, but many) romance readers are looking for the steamy stuff, and that just isn’t me.

Kaye: You have a family, and are involved in cycling and martial arts, yet you find time to write and attend conferences and seminars. What are your secrets for juggling writing with your home life?

Chris: Mostly, I neglect my dog. 😊 No, that’s only a little true. As with anything, finding time for writing is a matter of discipline and sacrificing things that are less important. I had to remove a video game from my computer because it was distracting me from writing. Similarly, my DVR is 90% full of programs I fully intended to watch, but can’t get to because of writing. You have to make writing THAT important. My priorities are: my family, my health, the day job, writing. Everything else comes later.

Kaye: What is your favorite genre to write in? Why?

Chris: I’m actually published in every fiction genre: fantasy, science fiction, romance, horror, western, and crime. I don’t know that I have a favorite, but I do most of my writing in the fantasy and romance genres. They’re all fun to write, and one of the things I learned during my MFA studies under Russell Davis at Western is to let the story find its genre. Don’t try to force it into one you’re comfortable writing.

Kaye: If Smothered was made into a film, who would you like to see play male and female leads?

Chris: Interestingly, when I develop a character, I often choose a model, actor, public figure, etc to roughly model their looks. In this case, I used actor James Denton as a rough look-a-like for Mike, and Annie was loosely modeled on Jeanine Garofalo. So yeah, them.

Kaye: What’s is the single most important element in a romance story?

Chris: Damage. The lead female character has to be broken somehow, and the only way she can heal herself is to be with the male lead. It’s corner, and not a great way to base a real relationship, but that’s kind of the trope of romance. She has to realize she cannot live without him.

Kaye: Where did you find the inspiration for Smothered?

Chris: Again, my MFA studies, only this time in a class with Michaela Roessner. She had us write a sex scene that gets interrupted somehow, and I had mine interrupted by the ghost of the woman’s late mother, who appears at the foot of the bed. That interested me so much that it grew into a novel, which was my MFA thesis.

Kaye: What was the most fun part of writing a romance for you?

Chris: Romance is a very formulaic genre, and the fun part, for me anyway, is finding a way to make that formula sound new. They say there are no new stories, only new ways of telling old ones, and I think that’s what I like about romance. Proving to doubters that it CAN be original and unique.

Kaye: Is there a future for B.T. Clearwater? Can readers expect to see more from this author?

Chris: Oh yeah, B.T. has a novella published in Gwyn McNamee’s Last Resort Motel series, called “Room Fifty-Eight.” That came out a few months ago, and will appear in a box set soon. And B.T.’s latest novel, Rise and Fall, needs to go off to the freelance editor soon for a work-over. I decided to take B.T. full indie, to self-publish those stories, because self-pubbed romances can do very well. Gwyn has given me some tips on how to get it right. So when Rise and Fall and the next two in that series are ready, I’ll upload them and see how they do.

Kaye: Chris Barili has a fantasy novel coming out in June, Shadow Blade, which I recently reviewed. Would you like to tell us a little bit about that one?

Chris: Shadow Blade was actually my backup thesis. Yeah, I had a backup. Outlined both, but wrote Smothered and saved Shadow Blade for after graduation due to the world-building it needed. It tells the story of Ashai Larish, an assassin for the feared Denari Lai order. The Denari Lai are a religious order that keeps their killers loyal by addicting them to the very magic that makes them so effective at killing. In Ashai’s case, he is sent to kill a king and his daughter, but falls in love with the princess, and finds himself fighting to keep her alive rather than to kill her.

Shadow Blade is being published by WordFire Press, as a “Kevin J. Anderson Presents” title, where the best-selling author highlights a new author “to watch.” It’s on a review tour now, and should come out in e-book and hard cover in May, and by the time this article airs, it will be out as part of WordFire’s “Epic Fantasy” bundle at StoryBundle.com.

I want to thank Chris for joining us and sharing today. It is interesting to learn about writing romance from a male perspective. You can learn more about Chris and all of his works on his author blog and website, his Amazon Author page, his Goodreads Author page, as well as on Facebook and Twitter. You can learn more about the works of B.T. Clearwater on Amazon, Goodreads, Simon & Schuster, and Smashwords.



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Jeff’s Movie Reviews – Shazam!

Jeff's Movie Reviews

Just say the word.

by Jeff Bowles

(Be sure to check out my video review of Shazam! on YouTube’s Jeff Bowles Central.)

Shazam! is the kind of movie just about anyone can get behind. Film audiences segment into a multitude of groups, but when it comes to comic flicks, you’re either on board for the ridiculousness or you aren’t. Younger audiences tend to take a movie like this more seriously, whereas more mature viewers are often left scratching their heads. When science fiction and fantasy work best, they indulge in a certain real-world approach to emotionality, family, romance, regret, passion, and they do so at high enough levels that any and all nerdy accoutrements go down a little bit smoother, in that for many people out there, they’re extraordinarily hard to swallow.

Shazam! is a big, fun, friendly superhero movie with more heart and humor than just about any other DC Comics offering made in the last twenty years. During a time in which Superman is angst-ridden and Batman is a violent rage-freak, Shazam! understands home is where the heart is. Ask any comic movie fan the difference between the two behemoth companies, Marvel and DC, and you’re likely to hear Marvel is fun and DC is morose. Such is the genius of David F. Sandberg’s new movie. It feels Marvel-fun but engages the kind of deep archetypes and mythic dynamics DC Comics has been famous for since the 1930s.

Billy Batson is an orphan looking for a place to finally call home. He thinks finding his birth mother is the answer, but the truth is, if she’d wanted to be found, he wouldn’t have to break into cop cars and hack suspect ID computers for her deets. Enter the Vazquez family, genuinely supportive parental figures Victor and Rosa, and a full house of five other kids, all of them orphans. The dynamics at play in the Vazquez household expound in wonderful ways when Billy expects disaffection and dysfunction and finds hardcore familial love. And the other kids are all great to watch onscreen, always eager with another funny quip or charming character quirk.

To wit, Billy’s roommate, Freddy (Jack Dylan Grazer), perhaps the best personification of a sympathetic sidekick you’re likely to see all year. He’s disabled, hilarious, and he’s got a keen geek obsession. Superheroes, after all, exist in this world in spades. In fact, one of Batman’s famous baterangs is a star narrative prop, and Freddy’s knowledge of said-comic-isms comes in pretty handy when Billy gets his powers and then has to figure out what the hell to do with them.

Off world or in another realm, or wherever/whenever else you prefer, the ancient god of right-makes-might, Shazam (Djimon Hounsou), searches for a suitable replacement after millennia of tireless service. Unfortunately, the forces of evil are on the hunt for a successor, too. The clock’s seriously ticking, so in a spray of CG pyrotechnics and unexpected altruism on Billy’s part, Shazam summons our would-be hero to his mysterious throne room and endows the kid with strength, speed, flight, and of course, killer lightning powers. All Billy has to do is say his name, and he’ll transform into a musclebound adult version of himself in a red suit and sparkly white cape. Zachary Levi plays the god-like, full-grown superhero with all the adolescent joy, immaturity, and zany recklessness we’d expect from a teenager stuck in a man’s body. This is the where the movie kicks into full Tom Hanks’ Big mode, and Levi is the perfect choice. You get the sense this kind of thing is a walk in the park for him. It’s almost criminal how much fun he appears to be having.

https://i.redd.it/6r9wq6a58dz01.jpg

Just as Billy begins to feel confident in his new dual identity, the evil Dr. Sivana (Mark Strong)—similarly endowed with incredible power, but by monstrous avatars of the seven deadly sins—arrives to threaten his heroic dominance, his life, and all the wonderful new people he’s come to love. The real joy of Shazam! is that it takes for granted how crucial it is to have people who care about and support you. So when Mom and Dad and all the other kids are in danger, we really feel the urgency. The filmmakers value them and what they mean to Billy, and we can’t help but do the same.

Billy Batson may not be a groundbreaking addition to the world of comic movies, but he does offer us a glimpse at a different kind of pop superhero psychology. There’s not much tragedy, horrific scarring, or trauma in his makeup, no more or less than in you or me. It’s almost a relief that the film only sparingly engages in world-ending theatrics. An interesting paradigm emerged in March and April, 2019 when Marvel Studios released Captain Marvel, and Warner Bros./DC released Shazam! As any fan will tell you, Shazam was also originally called Captain Marvel, and years ago, the two companies settled the branding dispute out of court. Apparently, Marvel was dead set on maintaining a character that carried their moniker and DC, well, maybe they realized Shazam is a better name for a boy-in-man combo that literally cannot do anything cool unless he, as the advertising declares, says the word.

But whereas Captain Marvel was a movie about finally realizing the power that always dwelt inside, Shazam! is about a sudden overwhelming change of fortune. Sometimes the thing you need most is right there in front of you. It is also admittedly the ultimate adolescent boyhood fantasy to wake up one day and find out you’ve got super powers. Shazam! won’t win any awards for exploring gender, sexuality, or race, but its heart is in the right place, and lest we forget, we could still be watching scowling Superman beating the crap out of growling Batman for no discernible reason other than MUSLCES! ANGER! KA-POW!

Billy Batson is enormously relatable, the perennial loner and outsider who has so much more to offer people than he knows. Who hasn’t felt unloved? Who’s never been lonely? Yet isn’t there always just a bit of hope in all the neglectful crap we have to put up with? Someday an amazing person will recognize me, and I’ll finally come home. It’s the emotional psychology of a movie like this that makes it so effective. Yes, the world is a terrible place sometimes, but when we take off our costumes and put away our utility belts, all we really want to do is laugh and dream.

On the surface, Shazam! is just another silly superhero movie in a sea of nearly identical offerings. But it’s also a fine example of comic book storytelling done right, supremely enjoyable, heartwarming, surprising, in fact more than enough to redeem the brooding misanthropy of other recent DC films. It rivals the very best of Marvel, and what’s more, it recognizes when a cape is just a cape. You don’t need to wipe out half of humanity or destroy the globe to bring out the hero in people. When the chips are down, all you have to do is say the word.

Shazam!

Am I … am I still here? Still just a slightly overweight yet lovable, handsome, and humble author/movie reviewer? I’ll work on that. We’ll get there, folks.

The new Shazam! movie gets 9 sparkling red tights out of 10


Jeff Bowles is a science fiction and horror writer from the mountains of Colorado. The first Wednesday of every month, you can find him dispensing writerly wisdom in Jeff’s Pep Talk, right here on Writing to be Read. The best of Jeff’s outrageous and imaginative short stories are collected in Godling and Other Paint Stories, Fear and Loathing in Las Cruces, and Brave New Multiverse. He has published work in magazines and anthologies like PodCastle, Tales from the Canyons of the Damned, the Threepenny Review, and Dark Moon Digest. Jeff earned his Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing at Western State Colorado University. He currently lives in the high-altitude Pikes Peak region, where he dreams strange dreams and spends far too much time under the stars.

Check out Jeff Bowles Central on YouTube – Movies – Video Games – Music – Short Stories – So Much More!


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Writing for a YA Audience: Romance Darkly

Writing for a Y.A. Audience

My mom and uncle are obsessed with Westerns. They grew up watching Westerns and still make time for them every weekend. While watching a Western with my mom, I had the idea of writing a young adult Western…with a steampunk twist. I brainstormed a ranch with a family secret. Along came TREASURE DARKLY.

After the first draft, it was recommended I add in a romantic theme. Thus, Clark and Amethyst fell in love. It worked. I didn’t have to force them together. They were already best friends, and it flowed that they should develop romantic feelings for each other.

treasure darkly

Then came the challenging part. My first editor for the story wanted more romance.  I wasn’t a romance writer.  Sure, my main characters each had a love interest, but I wouldn’t call my early works romances.

I set out to read romance novels to get a feel for the genre. I read some young adult romances, some Harlequins, and then I discovered a love of paranormal romance. I devoured those and wanted more. Eventually, I felt ready to write my own romance.

Young adult romances are tricky. Some people don’t want any sex in YA novels; some people say its okay. I struggled with that fine line before firmly stepping onto the “no sex” side. Yes, the book does get a bit steamy, but there is never explicit sex.

“But teens already know everything about sex,” I’ve been told.

Okay, that might be the case, but it doesn’t mean every young adult book has to contain graphic sex scenes. I want my books to be more about the adventure and setting than erotica.

man and woman embracing each other

Photo by Anderson Weiss on Pexels.com

Jordan Elizabeth is a young adult fantasy author who dapples in the steampunk realm.  You can connect with Jordan via her website, JordanElizabethBooks.com.


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Chatting with the Pros: Interview with romance author Maya Rodale

chatting with the pros

Today on “Chatting with the Pros” my guest author is a historical romance novelist, Maya Rodale. She writes strong female characters who stand up for themselves and still manage to maintain their feminity. Her books have appeared on the USA Today bestselling list and have been published in several languages. Her novel, The Wicked Wallflower won the RT Reviewer’s Choice Award for best historical hero, and What a Wallflower Wants was labeled as a romance novel for the #MeToo movement. I’m pleased to have the opportunity to chat with her today and learn her thoughts on romance, female authors and women’s place in the world.

Maya Rodale Framed

Kaye: Your stories favor strong heroines for your main characters. Do you think romance is usually a female domain?
Maya: Romance has been traditionally a female domain, though 18% of readers today are men! I would love to see more men openly reading romance, but I also hope it never loses it’s focus on the female experience and the empowerment it brings to so many women in publishing. 
Kaye: Perusing your website and checking out your book covers, one gets the impression that your romances are a bit risqué. How steamy can you get before you cross over into the land of erotica? Do your books cross that line?
Maya: Romance Writers of America provides the best succinct definition of erotica: “Romance novels in which strong, often explicit, sexual interaction is an inherent part of the love story, character growth and relationship development and could not be removed without damaging the storyline.”
So it’s not a matter of how much sex is portrayed but how the sex engages with the plot. My historicals definitely have some steamy sexy times on the page, but I wouldn’t classify them as true erotica.
The Tatooed Duke
Kaye:  How do you decide the titles for your books? Where does the title come in the process for you?
Maya: A title needs agreement from both the publishing team and myself; sometimes the title I pitch is the one we go with. Sometimes the story is nearly done and we’re frantically brainstorming at the last minute to find something that works.
Fun behind the scenes story: I wrote The Tattooed Duke thinking the title would be Brave New Lord which I LOVE but my pub team thought The Tattooed Duke had better sales potential, so that’s the one we went with.
Kaye: Your books feature strong female heroines, who stand up for themselves and what they believe against the men around them and societal beliefs. Why do you think your readers relate to them?
Maya: I think this is the experience for most women: we are constantly having to stand up and assert our humanity. I like to think that my heroines help real women have the courage and confidence to do this. And for those readers who don’t feel it’s necessary, I hope they see that it is.

Kaye: What are some tips for writing strong female characters in a time period when there weren’t many to be found, and making them believable?

Maya: The more I dig deeper in my research of history the more I believe that this is a myth. Women have always gotten out of the house and done great, wonderful, terrible things; but it hasn’t been recorded, or their stories haven’t been told, or (male) historians deemed it unimportant. Women have never been boring, silent bystanders to the world. 

I think we’ve been (maybe deliberately) shut out of history books and as a result we don’t know the long and full history of women being active participants in the world. Start with a look at the New York Times Overlooked Obituaries, for example. 

The problem isn’t that strong historical female characters aren’t accurate, the problem is that we have been made to believe they are. And in the name of “historical accuracy” we unwittingly perpetuate that in our novels. 

My tip for writers: find those stories, write those stories! And then explain your research in the author’s note. And my advice for readers: check your biases and preconceived notions and let yourself get swept up in the story. You may just learn something new about history too. 

Kaye: What’s the biggest challenge in writing romance for you?
Maya: Protecting my time! It’s my day job and still there are so many demands on my time and energy that make it hard to focus on my books.
Dangerous Books for GirlsKaye: You wrote a nonfiction book titled Dangerous Books for Girls: The Bad Reputation of Romance Novels Explained. Can you explain briefly why romance has a bad rep and it is justified?
Maya: Romance novels have a bad reputation because they’re so powerful—they are the only art that consistently portray women triumphing in a world that doesn’t want women to triumph. Mocking them as “trashy books” or just “mommy porn” or “unrealistic” is a way to diminish their power. If we valued women and women’s work more, we’d value romance novels more!
Kaye: How many different countries and languages are your books sold in?
Maya: Many! A list of covers for foreign editions is on my website at www.mayarodale.com/books
Kaye: What’s the most fun about writing romance?
Maya: I do love being the all powerful Goddess of fictional worlds. And not having to get dressed up for work 😉
Kaye: What do you think is the single most important element in a romance story?
Maya: The development of the romantic relationship! And the happy ever after, of course.
Kaye: Where does inspiration for your stories come from?
Maya: Story inspiration is everywhere if you open your heart and mind to it! Right now I’m finding the New York Times “overlooked obituaries” of historical women to be a gold mine of story ideas for historical romance. I just need more time to write them…
Some Like It ScandalousKaye: You have a new book in your Gilded Age series coming out in June, Some Like it Scandalous. Would you like to tell us about it?
Maya: Longtime enemies embark on a sham engagement and end up falling in love! The only way for society darling Theo Prescott to survive his most recent, unspeakably outrageous scandal is marry someone respectable. Someone sensible. Someone like Daisy Swan. But she has plans that do not include a loveless marriage to anyone. Instead, she aspires to sell cosmetics that she has created. But this brainy scientist needs a smooth talking charmer’s flair for words and eye for beauty to make it a success. Before long, Daisy and Theo are trading kisses. And secrets. And discovering that despite appearances, they might be the perfect couple after all.
Read more at www.mayarodale.com/scandalous
Kaye: As a romance writer, what kind of research do you find yourself doing for your stories?
Maya: I do A LOT of research. Everything from reading biographies, non-fiction, histories, other novels to trips to the library or visits to museums. Or just googling. There’s general research to do about the time period—for example, I had to learn all about the Gilded Age (1860-1900) in Manhattan for my new seriesThe Gilded Age Girls Club.And then there’s research necessary for each particular book. For the next book in the series, Some Like It Scandalous I had to do a deep dive into the invention and popularization of cosmetics, since the heroine launches a cosmetics company with the hero.
Kaye: What advice do you have for aspiring romance authors?
Maya: My best advice I think comes from Nora Roberts: “Ass in the chair. Words on the page.” Also, my friend once told me “If you’re not getting a rejection once a week you’re not trying hard enough.” Brutal, but effective. 


I want to thank Maya for joining me today and sharing her views with my readers. I think some may walk away with a different perspective on the romance genre. You can learn more about Maya on her very creative website: http://www.mayarodale.com/ and on her Amazon Author page, her Goodreads Author page, or on her Fantastic Fiction Author page.


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“The Christmas Cruise”: A science fiction time travel romance

The Christmas Tour

The Christmas Cruise, by Tammy Tate is a really cute romance story which could have been so much more. This story combines romance with science fiction when the two main characters, who are attracted to one another but won’t admit it to themselves, both happen to be swept from their Christmas cruise in the Burmuda Triangle onto a deserted island from the past.

It’s a good plot and it could work if the characters were more developed and didn’t just accept what was happening without a second thought. The story moves from point A to point B in a fairly straight line, at a fairly quick pace, lacking any real twists or surprises. Just the fact that they are the only two to be swept away gave me trouble buying in, and when they return without any logical explaination as to how it happened, it lost me totally.

If the author had taken the time and effort to expand the plot, and portray believable reactions to absurd circumstances, The Christmas Cruise could have been a really entertaining story. As it is, it lacks depth of character and is difficult to swollow. I can only give it three quills.

three-quills3

Kaye Lynne Booth does honest book reviews on Writing to be Read in exchange for ARCs. Have a book you’d like reviewed? Contact Kaye at kayebooth(at)yahoo(dot)com.