Month: November 2017

Writing in Asia: The Author’s View


With the planned re-release of my book, Pratima’s Forbidden Book, I’ve thought about the setting of that story. Set in Northern India, Pratima and the other characters must navigate a world they are immersed in that contains a mostly alien culture. I decided to ask other authors about the topic.

Erin Yoshukawa gave me her thoughts, “I got lucky: I’ve been to certain parts of Asia and I’ve known a lot of people from these regions. Being from Hawaii places me perfectly in the nexus for Asian-Pacific cultures. Anybody from Hawaii probably has the same insights I do. Our culture isn’t indigenous, per se. It’s a patois of every country that lands on our shores. We see glimpses of these places and find the intersection where our cultures (the indigenous population) and their cultures (recent immigrants) mingle. The devil is in the details, I suppose? The small things like attitudes towards strangers and other genders aren’t immediately apparent, in most cases. But small gestures and throwaway comments add up.”

In respect to Lesser of Two, the book I wrote with Mirren, I have one leg up on most people: I’ve been close to certain individuals who have traveled to Southeast Asia for sex tourism. And through that person, I’ve met several women who were in the trade on different levels of involvement.”

S. L. Kerns also shared his experiences, “After living in Thailand for nearly six years–and currently in Japan going on three–I have learned a lot about Asian culture. While cultures do vary, I am discovering first-hand that by and large people around the world want the same basic things: a good quality of life, love, and a purpose to exist, no matter how insignificant that purpose might seem to others. As a writer these all work to my advantage, allowing me to write from various POVs and still be able to move the readers with believable characters and situations they can relate to.”

In Butterflies in the Killing Fields (coming soon from Burning Willow Press: Crossroads in the Dark IV), the MC tries to give his life meaning by finding out the truth about his ancestors deaths in the Killing Fields of Cambodia. In Angel and the Weeper (coming soon in Heartfelt Flows and Misery), Sunsanee seeks the fame she has missed out on as a struggling actress in Thailand. These characters could have been anyone from anywhere–of course with changing out the details of certain situations and locations. But I try to write what I know and what I know now is Asia.”

One thing that a writer should keep in mind when writing on another culture is: what you like and what you know is not exactly the same as what they like and what they know. This is something I struggled with early on when attempting a short story called Chouko (unreleased). It is the tale of a young Japanese woman with a unique job. I wanted to make her an individual, someone in Japan yet into the American emo music scene–and such a person most likely exists; however, beta readers did not buy it. She should like Japanese music, and, Would she really know so much about the emo scene having never visited America? were common complaints that awoke me to the reality. Yes, characters can be, and at times should be individuals, but don’t expect the reader to always buy what your waving in front of them. Research is key in making fictional characters believable, no matter where they live or come from.”

Greg Alldredge contributed some thoughts, “I try to insert as much reality as possible in any story. I feel the real life experiences helps me to insert details to make the settings more believable. Last thing I want to be accused of is cultural appropriation but I think there are so many good stories that can be based or set in Asia it is an untapped location or at least underutilized setting for stories.”

“I also try to write in believable characters into my stories. Not just stereotypes or tropes of people. Everyone or thing I have written about are bits and pieces of different people I have met traveling around the world. Even the Transgender Hostel owner was an amalgamation of a few different people I have met over my travels, though I have yet to meet anyone with real super powers or aliens. Those all come from my head!”

I agree with points mentioned by these authors, Asian cultures share similarities with others, and are not uniform. Setting my story in Northern India required extensive research for me to imbue the story with realism and authenticity. For me, the important factors are authors immersing themselves in the culture, and clearly showing the culture is not uniform. Authors can convey an alien culture when they put in the effort and take the needed care and love.


S. L. Kerns:

Erin Yoshikawa:

Gregg Alldredge:

S. A. Gibson:


The Most Luxurious Medieval Manuscripts

Nicholas C. Rossis

I have Anika Burgess and Vittoria Traverso of Atlas Obscura to thank for the beautiful images you can enjoy below and for the fascinating tale of the Luneborch manuscript; a long-lost 15-century prayer book that had been missing for some 40 years.

The Luneborch Manuscript

Luneborch Prayer Book | From the blog of Nicholas C. Rossis, author of science fiction, the Pearseus epic fantasy series and children's book Two pages from the Luneborch Prayer Book. Back cover, Lindau Gospels, c. late eighth century. Image via Atlas Obscura

One day in 2012, the rare books assistant at the George Peabody Library at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, opened a package that had been delivered to the library’s mailbox. Inside was a long-lost 15th-century illuminated prayer book.

Luneborch Prayer Book | From the blog of Nicholas C. Rossis, author of science fiction, the Pearseus epic fantasy series and children's book A page from the Luneborch Prayer Book. 

The manuscript is one of the rare examples of vernacular spirituality—meaning it was for personal use, not in a church—from early Renaissance Germany. Known as the Prayer Book of Hans Luneborch, it had been commissioned in 1492. The book had…

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“On the Horizon”

“On the Horizon”

(Almost) Average

On the Horizon is the 22 author scifi/fantasy boxed-set I’m super excited to be part of. It releases on May 1, 2018. My novel The Selection will be one of the 22 novels featured in this collection.

Even if you’ve read my book, you can still pre-order this amazing collection of stories from a cast of international authors. With a price of .99 you can’t go wrong!


Right now we are able to offer pre-orders on the Nook (or Nook app if you’re like me and read on an iPad using all the different reading apps). By pre-ordering the collection on the Nook, you are helping us to achieve our goal and supporting talented authors from around the world.

Go ahead, click “pre-order” at the Nook store below! I’ll be extremely grateful if you did!

Nook Pre-Order

Amazon pre-orders will be coming soon in a few months. They only…

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Rereading Counts As Reading!

The Dream Book Blog

Reader and Cat Pic

Photo Credt: The Distracted Reader, Rick and Brenda Beerhorst, 9 June 2006, uploaded 5 August 2013: Benzoyl/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY 2.0

As many of my blog readers know, I’m a big fan of revisiting old favorites (books, films, art works) and I often do this. However, as a reader, the relationship between revisiting a book I’ve read and enjoyed the past and counting it as reading or not didn’t occur to me until I read Jessica Yang’s article “Does Rereading Count as Reading?”. At least, it didn’t until I decided to join the annual Goodreads reading challenge this year. Goodreads lets their readers set a goal for the year of how many books they want to read and then keep track of books on their site in an effort to encourage people to read more.

The idea of keeping track of how many books you read…

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Language & Culture: The Alien in Fiction


This week I thought about how we portray alien cultures in our writing. How do you handle different cultures, or alien groups. Should we use the spelling and pronunciation of names to distinguish the cultures we want to write about? Do we create a dialect, a patois that sets the culture apart, that conveys their foreignness? How do we indicate this is a different culture?

I believe an advantage for science fiction and fantasy writing is that we can infuse our stories with different creatures and peoples. This opportunity to explore different types of beings is wondrous. But the challenge is complex and difficult to clearly show aliens in ways that are understandable and interesting to the readers. We must carefully approach the steps we take, the words we use, and the names we choose in our writing. Too much detail and accuracy could bore the reader. Too little information could hide the difference and confuse it with our normal culture. To help me think about how we handle these topics I asked two writer friends their thoughts.

Stephanie Barr responded, “All but one of my groups are “different” as in not conforming to any particular time or place on earth. The culture for these groups is given as we go. Things that familiar or different are noted in passing as part of the discussion or demonstrated via action, all taken as a given rather than justified or explained.“

Since I’m character driven, generally the parallels between one culture and a human culture are deliberate, but different. Say, prejudice against shapeshifting/magic rather than skin color or religion. I try to keep the cultures a collection of characteristics that have been demonstrated actual past cultures so that I can say, if challenged, “Yeah, people really did that.” Naming methodologies are often indicative of the cultures (using my own ideas). I usually have handful of culture specific terms but use terms people would recognize to denote similar objects for clarity.”

Jason Nugent described his approach, “I use names to indicate it’s different. I sometimes will use a certain dialect however I feel like if it’s radically different, readers won’t deal with it for long.”

In my book Asante’s Gullah Journey I try to portray a different culture where the language and behavior are different. It was important for me to show an unfamiliar group of people. I made an effort to demonstrate with names, language, foods, and other cultural attributes how that society stands apart from the reader’s world. As writers we must communicate difference while keeping the reader in mind so we don’t lose them. We writers are fortunate to have such an interesting task, which makes the act of writing an always new and pleasurable experience.


Stephanie Barr: and

Jason J. Nugent:

S. A. Gibson:

Why It May be Worth your While to go Exclusive: By Brian Meeks

Books And Me Blog

It’s an age-old question.

Since the very first cave dwellers started telling stories on walls, human authors have been debating whether to go wide or exclusive on Amazon.

The early cave dwellers mostly went exclusive.

Should you?

I’m a novelist who makes a full-time living as an author. I quit my day job two years ago. It was because I went back to exclusive after my second attempt at wide that I could do this for a living.

There are arguments for and against.

Some of them are reasonable, others aren’t.

One of the authors I coach is wide. He makes 30% of his revenue from Amazon and 70% from the other venues. He is wide because it makes the most financial sense.

Some people are wide because they ask the question, “What if Amazon decides to do something terrible to authors, cut their percentage pay out, call them names…

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A Writer’s Guide to Firearms: Bullet Impact and Silencers

Nicholas C. Rossis

This is a guest post by my author friend, William R. Bartlett. It continues his discussion of all things firearms. Part 1, Introduction, was published in late October. Today, Bill continues his introduction to firearms with information on bullet impact and silencers. The next parts will be posted regularly, as Bill prepares them. Enjoy and bookmark! 

A Writer’s Guide to Firearms by William R. Bartlett

Part 2: Bullet Impact and Silencers

Bullet impact

Just a flesh wound | From the blog of Nicholas C. Rossis, author of science fiction, the Pearseus epic fantasy series and children's book Just a flesh wound. Image: Travis J. Hanson – DeviantArt

Bullet impact is rarely a smoothly drilled hole. Depending on the type of projectile used, the bullet cuts, tears and plows its way through flesh, deforming as it goes. In addition, a shock wave is transferred through soft tissue that results in greater trauma. Hydrostatic shock, not unlike the ripples expanding from a rock thrown into a pond, can rupture organs and result in complications…

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Author, Mackenzie Flohr


Mackenzie Flohr is the author of the popular young adult fantasy series The Rite of Wands, which has caught the attention of Doctor Who and Harry Potter fans worldwide. Readers agree that Mackenzie has crafted a robust tale of secrets, mystery, and uncertain destiny that rivals the works of Tolkien, Lewis, and Rowling.

Mackenzie grew up in Cleveland, OH, chasing leprechauns and rainbows and dreaming of angels. Her parents nurtured a love of fantasy and make-believe by introducing her at a very young age to the artistic and cultural opportunities that the city had to offer. Yet, it wasn’t until she was on a trip to Indiana, viewing a Lord of the Rings exhibit, that the innermost desire of her heart became clear to her.

Fans have become enchanted by Mierta McKinnon, describing him as an innocent, rambunctious, trouble-seeking, realistic, and believable character whom has quickly become a fan favorite. The Rite of Wands follows the young warlock as he seeks to fulfill his destiny and cure the land of Iverna of a horrendous disease called The Shreya. Readers will find themselves immersed into his story and feel like they are a part of his journey.

The Rite of Wands

One boy…one Rite… And a world of deadly secrets that could change the course of history—forever

And so begins the tale of Mierta McKinnon. When a horrible fate reveals itself during template-1-12172901503297868-largehisRite of Wands ceremony, he must find a way to change not only his destiny but also the land of Iverna’s.
Forbidden from revealing the future he foresees to anyone, he is granted a wand and his magical powers, but still must master the realm of magic in order to save himself and those he loves.
But Mierta is not the only one with secrets…especially when it’s impossible to know who to trust.
“For God’s sake, get out of the road!” he heard a voice shout from the direction of the out of control carriage. “Hail, Mary, full of grace. The Lord is with thee…”
         Mortain stared forward, frozen, unable to move. Life at that very moment seemed to slow to a near standstill. He could hear his heart beating in his ears as the horse and carriage barrelled down upon him. His mind concluded that this was how his life was going to end, rather than the way his Rite of Wands had dictated. There was nothing more tragic than being unable to be who he was.
         Mortain was abruptly lifted off the ground and thrown into a nearby water trough. As he sat up, feeling the water soak through his robe and tunic, he watched a beautiful woman wearing her long black hair in a twist to the side substitute herself in the place he had been previously standing.
         She gazed over to Mortain with annoyance, her green eyes shifting into what appeared to be snake eyes as she reached out a bare hand towards the carriage and shouted, “Concye halímo!”
         The horse snorted and quickly came to a halt.

Mackenzie Flohr

For more information on Mackenzie, visit her website at:

Killing our Darlings – Writers on Death


I wondered this week about how we writers relate to the act of ending the lives of some of our characters. Bumping off major characters has become big in fiction recently. However as authors, we do have conflicted thoughts about killing characters in our works. Sometimes we plan a character’s death, but spare them at the last second. Other times we actually want to do in a character, then can’t find the ideal way to do the deed. In trying to get a handle on these ideas, I again contacted author friends to ask their opinions.

Stephanie Barr gave me her thoughts, “I’m a character writer, so it takes a lot for me to even consider killing off a major characters. My characters do get injured and bloody and tired and stuff, but I usually find some way to squeak ’em out because, well, I love them. But I have done it, in the Taming of Dracul Morsus (first time for a major player in a novel–done it in the odd short story) and, they key element, if I do kill someone off there and in short stories, is to make that death mean something for whoever is left behind. They fight for something as a result. They learn something they never would have learned elsewhere. They’re saved. I give that death meaning so it’s not just an emotional manipulation but a step to a better story.”

Mirren Hogan also commented, “I thrive on bumping off characters. I had a king I was going to kill off in a coup but I couldn’t do it. Turns out he had to wait and be beheaded in front of opposing armies.”

Megan Haskell responded with these ideas, “There are times when killing a character is necessary, and times when it’s not. In my case, there have been two characters that came up to the chopping block. The first was a secondary character in book 2 of my series, Sanyare: The Heir Apparent. The guy was a reader favorite, and I literally debated up to, and through, sending the book to my developmental editor. However, we agreed that he did in fact need to die for emotional resonance. It increased the stakes for my protagonist, and was a turning point for her growth and development. She saw his death as a personal failure, and it became a later insecurity as she tries to lead others in her journey.”

The second character I ultimately chose not to kill, for the opposite reason as the first. This was an important secondary character who had been an integral part of her team since the first book. His survival was a sign of her growing power, and also her ability to trust her allies. She needed to save him to grow into her abilities as a leader. I don’t like killing characters for shock value. It seems a waste. But when done correctly, and for the right reasons, killing a character can add depth and dimension to your protagonist’s story.”

As we see, different authors have alternative approaches to the issue of removing a character. At times, we each face hard decisions, and some characters teeter on the edge between life and death. For me, giving the coup de grâce to a character is always a struggle. I often spare them after a long debate with myself, and agonize over the ones who are lost. Like most authors I lost a few. There is one saving grace for us science fiction and fantasy writers, if we change our mind, there is a way we can write our character back to life…