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What is the difference between a short story and a novel? June 23, 2015

Posted by heidi skarie in Writing.
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I write novels and have extensively studied the complexities of how to write one. I’m less familiar with the structure of short stories, so I did some research to figure how a short story is different from a novel.

The obvious difference between a novel and a short story is that short stories are short and novels are long. Short stories can be 1,000 to 20,000 words. More average is 3,000 to 5,000 words. A novel can be anywhere from 60,000 to over 120,000.

A short story has one main character and the story is told through that character’s point of view. Often it is told in first person or limited first person. A novel has a cast of characters and the story can be told from any of those characters’ viewpoints.

The main character of a short story has a need or fear that leads to a major change or climactic event in that person’s life. The protagonist comes to a single understanding or insight. A novel is much more complex with many transformational events that more than one characters can go through.

A short story usually takes place in a few hours or days in few settings. A novel can take place over a short period of time or it may cover years or generations in many different settings, countries and even planets.

A short story has one theme, whereas a novel can explore different themes and has more breadth and scope.

Each story form has different challenges. The short story gives the author a chance to explore one idea with one character. It must be written so that it is tight and a lot conveyed in an economy of words. The first draft may be written in one setting and rewritten and edited in a short period of time. However, the limitation on the number of words in itself can be a challenge. How do you make a reader care about the character in so few pages? How do you make an emotional impact?

The novelist has time to explore characters, different settings, subplots and sweeping events. The commitment to write a novel is much larger and it may take years to research, write, rewrite and edit.

While researching the difference between short stories and novels I came across a YouTube of TC Boyle reading The Lie from his anthology Wild Child: And Other Stories51++DtIBs9L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_. The story is delightful to listen to and quite engaging. I found myself thinking—no don’t say that! I can’t believe you just said that. What were you thinking?

The Lie illustrates all the qualities of a good short story discussed above. It’s well worth listening to.

Here is the YouTube:   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L-nwoMJTung

I’d enjoy hearing your impressions of The Lie. Did you find yourself identifying with the main character? Did you laugh? Have you ever told a lie that led you to more lies?

If you’d like a copy of my short story Star Rider Emerges, click over to my website and sign up for my newsletter. Here is a link: bluestarvisions

The Boy Who Lived Before May 28, 2015

Posted by heidi skarie in Past lives.
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Do you believe we have more than one life? I recently ran across a YouTube about a Scottish boy named Cameron who, as a toddler, talked regularly about being a “Barra Boy”. Barra is a small island that is part of the British Islands and has a population of one thousand. Cameron remembered living in a one-story white house and knew his family name was Robertson. He kept insisting that his family missed him and that he needed to go back to Barra to see them.

Cameron told his mother that he used to be in Barra and then he “fell through to you.” He added that it was okay to die because you come back as someone else.

After three years of Cameron talking about his life on Barra, his mother Norma decided to bring him there. She was accompanied on the trip by a man who studies children’s past life memories.

I think you’ll enjoy the YouTube, which also shares the story of a young child named Gus who said he was his grandfather. His mother didn’t believe in reincarnation but Gus knew things about his grandfather that he had no way of knowing. Once she overheard him saying to a friend, “I used to be big and I got to come back. God gave me a ‘ticket’. I came through a porthole. I was big and came through the porthole and was small again.”

Do you have any experiences that could be past life memories? Have you ever heard a toddler talking about when he was big?

You can view the YouTube here:


Interview with KS Ferguson, the author of CALCULATED RISK a mystery, SF book March 25, 2015

Posted by heidi skarie in Book Review.
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I  recently read Calculated Risk, an exciting mystery story that takes place in outer space. I enjoyed the book so much that I decided to do an author interview to find out more about the author and why she wrote the book. I’m sure you’ll find her answers as interesting as I did.


What inspired you to become a writer?

I didn’t have a choice about becoming a writer. It’s in my DNA. I started writing stories when I was ten. But being a writer for a living seemed like an impossible dream, so I did lots of other things for years and years before finding my way to a tech writing career. Some modest success there convinced me to throw myself into fiction writing.


What is Calculated Risk about?

Calculated Risk is the story of two people finding their way to trust in a future where sociopathic corporations run the galaxy. Rafe, a capitalistic security company owner estranged from his family since he was a teen, is obliged to repay a debt of honor by investigating his brother-in-law. He goes to a mining station in the Asteroid Belt to determine why his brother-in-law, the CEO of a huge ag corporation, has insisted on purchasing the station. At the station, Rafe meets Kama, a genius corporate spy and computer hacker there on a mission to retrieve a secret document that has accidently fallen into the hands of the station manager. But the manager is missing. Isolated on the station together, Rafe and Kama must work together to unravel a web of blackmail, fraud, and murder that threatens the future of millions of Earth’s downtrodden poor.

Why did you write this book?  Can you tell us the story behind the book?

Authors are advised to write what they like to read, and I read science fiction, fantasies, mysteries, and thrillers. It seemed natural to write a mystery in a futuristic setting with thriller pacing and a strong relationship thread. (But it’s a nightmare to market!) After ten years of working in corporate America, I had strong feelings about that world and how it’s shaped our society. That became the backdrop. I wanted the focus to be on the characters and how they find their way through their personal fears to a relationship of trust. And everything I write turns into a mystery eventually, so there are clues and suspects with the occasional chase or explosion thrown in.

What research did you do when writing the book such as corporate fraud and space stations?

The psychology community has turned out some interesting studies on how corporations behave like sociopaths, and how the upper management of many corporations are rewarded for psychopathic traits. I found those studies fascinating, and they certainly mirrored my personal experience in a Fortune 500 corporation. For pleasure, I read a lot about NASA and other space projects. The space station setting didn’t require much additional research.


There are two main characters in the story, Kama and Rafe.  How did they grow and change from their experience?  Did you learn anything about yourself while writing the book?

Rafe and Kama are polar opposites in their belief systems. He’s a capitalist who believes in law and order. She’s a socialist who favors justice over law. They have to look past their differences to see the deeply caring individuals underneath. Then they have to trust that person because neither of them can solve the mystery without help from the other. Following a near-death experience, Rafe reveals why he’s estranged from his family. It’s a guilt-ridden secret he’s carried for fourteen years. Kama initially sees Rafe as a stereotypical  smarmy, lying corporate executive. As she discovers that he’s a man who cares deeply about others to the point of sacrificing his life for them, she’s forced to change her thinking.

This book is part of a series.  How many other books are published?  How many will there be total?

Calculated Risk is the first in the series. Hostile Takeover takes up where the first book left off and is available now. In it, readers get a deeper look at Rafe’s dysfunctional family and Harvest, EcoMech Corp’s colony planet. Kama’s there to help and support Rafe, but their relationship travels a rocky road while they defend EcoMech and Rafe’s family. The third in the series, Family Owned, will be available late in 2015. We’ll travel to Oasis Corp to see Kama’s past and her own train-wreck family. She’ll reveal the dark secret that she believes will turn Rafe away her forever. There will be more books as Rafe and Kama continue to solve crimes and build a future together.

Is there anything else you’d like to add about your book?

Just that if readers try the series and enjoy it, please leave a review. Reviews are the life blood for indie authors in search of a new audience and are very much appreciated.

Do you have a website or blog? 

I don’t have a blog. There aren’t enough hours in the day! But I do have a website where I announce release schedules and post a few bits and pieces of things about the characters, including some interviews Rafe and Kama participated in, and information about my other two series. My website is at http://www.ksferguson.net.


Finding Neverland, movie review March 21, 2015

Posted by heidi skarie in Movie reveiew.
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51ui3htn10L-11Finding Neverland is an uplifting movie about J. M. Barrie, the author who was the creator of Peter Pan. The story is based on real events.

The movie stars Johnny Depp (without his pirate costume) who plays Barrie, Dusty Hoffman, Kate Winslet, and Radha Mitchell.   The movie takes place in London and opens with Barrie peering behind the curtain to see the audience’s reaction to his play on opening night. He’s disappointed to discover it isn’t well received.

Barrie goes to a Kensington Garden to write. While there he meets four young boys, including one named Peter, and their mother. Barrie and the family soon become friends and get together regularly. While Barrie plays make-believe games with the boys, such as pirates or cowboys and Indians, he is able to visualize the fantasy world they’re creating.

The boys’ father recently died of cancer and soon their mother becomes ill. Barrie becomes a father figure to the boys and provides financial support.

Meanwhile, Barrie’s marriage is falling apart as he spends more and more time enjoying this new family and less time with his already estranged wife.

The story shows how Barrie’s friendship with the boys inspired him to write a play about a group of boys who don’t want to grow up and led to the creation of Peter Pan. But the story isn’t just about the creation of a beloved, timeless story. It’s about young boys dealing with the loss of their father and a sick mother.

After viewing the movie, I did some research and discovered the basic story is true. Barrie supported the family financially, did become a father figure for the boys, he did have a Saint Bernard dog, and his interactions with the boys did inspire Peter Pan. A few things differed, such as Barrie met the boys in the park and became friends with them before he met their mother at a dinner party. Their father was still alive when Barrie met them and there were five Davies boys, not four.

The idea of a gang of boys who never grew up was inspired by Barrie’s thirteen-years-old brother who died in a skating accident when Barrie was six.  This trauma contributed to Barrie only growing to 4’10” and he never completely grew up.

In conclusion, the movie captures a world full of fairies, pirates, children who can fly and the magic of Peter Pan through the author’s imagination.

Old and young alike will enjoy this delightful, creative movie.

Why do you think Peter Pan became such a well-loved story? What elements make it timeless?

“The life of every man is a diary in which he means to write one story, and writes another; and his humblest hour is when he compares the volume as it is with what he vowed to make it. “ – J.M. Barrie, from his novel The Little Minister (1891)

Interview with Virginia McClain author of Blade’s Edge February 23, 2015

Posted by heidi skarie in Book Review.
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Blade's Edge

Blade’s Edge

Recently, I read a wonderful fantasy book entitled Blade’s Edge by Virginia McClain.  The characters are well developed, plot intricate and the setting influenced by Japan.  The book is about two young girls living in an orphanage who have powers that they must hide.  They eventually become separated and the story follows each of their lives.
I loved the cover art that was done by artist Juan Carlos Barquet.
Here is a description of the book:
The Kisōshi, elite warriors with elemental powers, have served as the rulers and protectors of the people of Gensokai for more than a thousand years. Though it is believed throughout Gensokai that there is no such thing as a female Kisōshi, the Rōjū ruling council goes to great lengths to ensure that no one dares ask why.
Even as young girls, Mishi and Taka know that they risk severe punishment – or worse – if anyone were to discover their powers. This shared secret forms a deep bond between them until, taken from their orphanage home and separated, the two girls must learn to survive in a world where their very existence is a crime. Yet when the girls learn the dark secret of the Rōjū council, they discover that much more than their own survival is at stake.
After reading the book, I asked the author for an interview.  Her answers were quite interesting.
What inspired you to become a writer?
I’ve always enjoyed telling stories. Even as a child I would write down ridiculous stories (written in crayon, and largely illegible, to start with) and share them with my mom, who always thought they were brilliant (as mothers do). Then when I was in middle school I had an English teacher who actually told me that my creative writing was good and that she enjoyed my stories. She encouraged me to write more and asked me if I wanted to become a writer. That was the first time anyone other than my mother had told me I was a good writer, or made me wonder if it was something I could do for a job. I decided it was, and I’ve been working (slowly) towards becoming a writer ever since.
How did you come up with the idea for Blade’s Edge?
Actually, the idea started because, as I was living in Japan and spending a lot of time hiking to secluded mountain shrines and temples, I started to wonder what it would be like if all of the shinto spirits were actually real and able to influence the world. Then I started to wonder what magic would be like if it were based on certain zen meditation practices. Ultimately, the book became something very different than a simple answer to those questions, but it was how the initial spark for the story started.
The world you created is very detailed.  How did you come up with it?
Well, the last question answers part of this, but the rest of it is that I stole a lot of inspiration from the Japanese landscape, and from feudal Japan. Of course Gensokai (the world in which Blade’s Edge takes place) is completely fictitious, but it’s inspired by Japan and feudal Japanese samurai culture. Living in Japan, having access to a lot of Japanese history even in the small and remote city I was living in, and having that cultural experience to draw from certainly helped me detail the imaginary world I created in my head.
You had interesting names for your characters.  How do you come up with them?

Virginia McClain

Most of the names of the characters are the names of animals in Japanese (Taka is the word for Hawk, for example), but not all. Others are Japanese words that suited the characters’ personalities or physical traits (Mishi’s name is an abbreviation of an infrequently used word for ‘strange’ for example) and others are actual Japanese names.
What is the most important theme in the book?
I prefer to let readers answer that question for themselves. Everyone’s experience of the book is likely to be quite different, and I don’t want to sway anyone else’s experience with the text. However, without getting too specific, I would hope that the book raises some questions in readers’ minds about gender norms, and how they affect us as a society.
What experiences from your own life helped you write this book?
Wow. That’s a difficult question to narrow down. Obviously my time in Japan, but also my whole life leading up to that point and since. How’s that for a broad answer? Honestly, though, my experiences with martial arts training, contact sports, and the fact that my parents always went out of their way to treat me the same way they treated my brother, all affected my ability to write this particular book. Hopefully, that makes sense to those that have read the book already, and is sufficiently vague and intriguing to those who haven’t read it yet.
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
I don’t think so. Thanks so much for taking the time to ask me these questions and for sharing them with your readers!
The author’s website is: http://www.virginiamcclain.org/
Here is the book trailer:
If you’re looking for a good fantasy novel, check out Blade’s Edge.
I’m always interested in hearing your thoughts and comments so feel free to share them.

Book Review: Star Rider, On the Razor’s Edge January 31, 2015

Posted by heidi skarie in Uncategorized.
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Book Review: Star Rider, On the Razor’s Edge.

Interview with Iva Kenaz, author of The Witch Within January 30, 2015

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I just finished reading The Witch Within and greatly enjoyed the main character’s journey both physically and spiritually.  The following is an interview with the author.

Iva Kenaz

Iva Kenaz author.

What inspired you to become a writer?

I’ve been fascinated with storytelling since childhood. I wrote many simple hand-written books and in my teenage years I wrote a three-part novel about past lives. I often had repetitive dreams and visions in which I experienced stories from another person’s point of view and felt compelled to note them down. I keep returning to these dreams for inspiration. Writing is something very magical and sacred to me. I believe that it’s a divine communication between the author and the worlds beyond.

 What is The Witch Within about and what is the major theme?

The Witch Within is set in 16th century Bohemia and is about a sixteen-year-old gifted healer, Talitha who has been charged with witchcraft.

Talitha escapes to the abandoned Cursed Lands and seeks the ancient cave of her ancestors where her grandmother lived. In the mystical woods, she starts to remember her ancestral lore of healing and magical symbolism and receives guidance on how to survive from the local spirits. But then she is captured by two men who were sent to bring her back to the local justice. One is a brute, but the other one is fatally attracted to her.

After Talitha manages to escape them, she finds her ancestral cave, but also another one at the highest peak of the forest where a group of refugee women have established a camp. By facing both the dark and bright side of her kin, Talitha learns that what she thought was her curse, may yet become her gift.

The major theme is survival, both in physical, emotional and spiritual sense. It’s about overcoming one’s fears and limitations and becoming empowered using primordial inner wisdom.


The Witch Within

The Witch Within

What kind of research did you do for the book?  What made you pick the 16th century in South Bohemia?

The story is inspired by repetitive dreams and visions I used to have and partly by a book called The Secret History of Czech Lands (by A.Cesal,O.Dvorak and V.Matl) that focuses on the long-gone mysteries of my home country.

During the 16th century the witch-hunts became more serious all over Europe but I decided on that period mainly symbolically, as the story is made up and thus remains a fantasy.

I was also inspired by the beautiful magnetic countryside of South Bohemia, particularly mountain Kleť, which could translate to Cursed or Mountain of Curses. In the middle ages many landscapes of South Bohemia were feared and some of them even drowned under lakes and ponds. People considered them cursed and haunted, however, those places had rich pagan history and concealed the wisdom of Celtic, Slavic and Germanic tribes.

 How does Talitha, the main character, grow and change in your book from her experiences?

Talitha starts off as a gifted healer but she has a very low-self esteem and feels guilty about the death of her brother. She believes that her choice of herbs caused his death. It’s only once she manages to heal one of her captors that she realizes she is truly able to save lives.

Eventually, she also becomes initiated in the magical and healing power of runes and a part of her soul that used to be conscious of such ancestral mysteries begins to re-unite with her present self.

Her spirit is also greatly tested by the shadow side of magic but in the end Talitha learns to understand that the witch within her might not be a curse but an actual virtue.

 What writing project are you working on now?

I’ve been working on a stand-alone sequel to The Witch Within that focuses on Talitha’s granddaughter, Berkana, and delves deeper into the mysteries of the natural spirit, runes and sacred geometry.

Iva Kenaz’s Bio.

I’m an indie author and a devoted student and practitioner of Sacred Geometry, Astrology, Tarot, Runes and Channeling. My novels are mainly visionary/metaphysical and are greatly influenced by spirituality, symbolism and philosophy.
In June 2014 I published my first novel The Witch Within and later that year also a personal confession titled My Melancholic Diary. I studied screenwriting at a film university in Prague, FAMU and MA Creative Writing at London South Bank University. Currently, I’ve been working on a stand-alone sequel to The Witch Within as well as doing a research for my non-fiction book about archetypes in storytelling.

Here is Iva Kenzaz’s website.


Author interview with MCV Egan January 22, 2015

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Defined by Others

Defined by Others

MCV Egan has recently published a delightful book titled Defined by Others.  Here is an interview with her.

-What inspired you to become a writer?

I am the sixth child of eight. As such it is not easy to be heard, by the time I knew what I wanted to say louder older dominant voices interrupted and I resorted to writing, to be prepared to communicate with words.

When I was twelve my entire family moved from Mexico City, Mexico to Washington D.C. , I left behind a really nice group of friends and there the need to stay in touch was a motivator to write.

Now any Astrologer would tell you that as I was born with the moon in Gemini and a few other aspects on my natal chart I had no choice but to write.

-What is Defined by Others about?

Defined by others is about how difficult it is to be true to yourself when influenced by the actions and influence of others.

It is about two women who feel lost because their husbands left them and they need to re- invent themselves; find themselves at the age of 47. They get involved in a cyber-game of manipulation; in a way living up to the old adage that misery loves company, and they play nasty tricks on other women.

It is a book about falling in love and losing love, friendship and enmity, trust and betrayal. The voice is humorous even though the subject has dark sides and there are strong consequences for their actions.

 -Did you do any research for this book?

There was not much traditional research per se. I did watch the documentary CATFISH and reports about it (http://abcnews.go.com/2020/catfish-movie-tale-twisted-cyber-romance/story?id=11817470 ) to understand how people create false identities to approach unsuspecting targets in cyberspace.

I did minor research on the different Chinese symbols and totems for their Astrology. I wanted to use snakes and dragons and it worked out great as they are years that are chronologically connected in the Chinese calendar. It was so fortunate that the description of Snake women is that they are beautiful, I needed pretty and mean women!

Looked into a variety of psychic abilities and what was the style in the 80s when these women would have been in high school.

 -Who is the main character in your story? How does she grow and change?

Anne Geyer is the main character. She is 47 years old and fascinated by loose words, words that can stand alone to define a moment. She is multilingual, the mother of teenage twins and her husband left her.

He left her and informed her that he had fallen in love with a man. She is broken and undefined. At the same time her dad suffers a major stroke and she has to deal with helping her parents put in order the house she grew up in. The house stirs memories and feelings of betrayals from her past.

The ‘frenemy’ of her youth dies and leaves her a game of manipulation, through pain, fear and perhaps a bit of boredom she gets pulled into this mean game of manipulation.

She grows and changes as the story flows because she has to decide her future, and because her nasty game has harsh consequences.

She is very flawed and as dislikable as she is likable, it was such fun creating her.

 -What projects are you working on now?

Defined by Others is book one in a series; Defining Ways. I am writing book two Climbing up the Family Tree; Defined by Pedigree, and I have another volume which I tentatively call Living in Vain; futility Defined, but I have changed the title umpteen times.

I have a huge list with synopsis and I see the “Defined” possibilities as endless, all books will be able to be read in any order and stand on their own.

 -Is there anything you’d like to add?

I now also write a history article every other week or so at THE INFLECTIONIST with Wanda Hartzenberg. I am very happy to share that with your visitors as well as my three blogs. Where I interact with and promote a wide variety of, writers, poets and artists.

MCVEganAuthor Bio

M.C.V. Egan is the pen name chosen by Maria Catalina Vergara Egan the author of The Bridge of Deaths and Defined by Others. Catalina was born in Mexico City, Mexico in 1959, the sixth of eight children, in a traditional Catholic family.

She only spent her childhood in Mexico. Her father became an employee of The World Bank in Washington D.C. From the early 1970s at the age of 12 she moved with her entire family to the United States.

Catalina was already fluent in Southern English as she had spent one school year in the town of Pineville, Louisiana with her grandparents. There she won the English award; ironically being the only one who had English as a second language in her class. In the D.C. suburbs she attended various private Catholic schools and graduated from Winston Churchill High School in Potomac, Maryland in 1977.

She attended Montgomery Community College, where she changed majors every semester. She also studied in Lyons, France at the Catholic University for two years. In 1981, due to an impulsive young marriage to a Viking (The Swedish kind, not the football player kind) Catalina moved to Sweden where she resided for five years and taught at a language school for Swedish, Danish, and Finnish business people. She returned to the USA in the late 1980s where she has been living ever since. She is fluent in Spanish, English, French and Swedish.

Maria Catalina Vergara Egan is married and has one son, who together with their five pound Chihuahua make her feel like a fulltime mother.   Although she would not call herself an Astrologer she has taken many classes and taught a few beginner classes in Astrology. This is one of her many past times when she is not writing or researching.

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Writing Red Willow’s Quest led to an unexpected revelation January 22, 2015

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A1uYOglfMKL._SL1500_-188x300Every novel has a story behind it—a reason the author felt drawn to write it.  When I started writing Red Willow’s Quest I decided to write a fantasy story of a young woman who was on a spiritual quest.  I began writing the story as fantasy because it was close to the genre I’d written my other novels in.  However, after writing several chapters, I realized I was writing about a culture that was much like the Plains Indians.  I debated starting over and writing the book as a Native American story.  While I was pondering this, I was sent a manuscript.  As soon as I started reading it, it seemed as if the universe was speaking to me, for the story was about a woman who remembered her past life as a Native American woman.  I wondered if the story I was writing was based on my own past life as a Plains Indian.

I had to take my daughter to her flute lesson so I put aside the manuscript and went outside.  There I found a hawk feather in the yard.  It was standing up and in perfect condition.  On each of the next two days I found another hawk feather in the yard.  For me finding three hawk feathers was a significant spiritual sign that I should start over and write the story of my own past life as a Native American maiden.


Later, I heard a talk by a spiritual leader who said that to some Native Americans the cry of a hawk meant clear spiritual vision and flying above the mundane world.  This was further confirmation that I was on the right track.

Once I’d made the decision to write about my own past life, memories of that life started coming through especially as I began doing research on the Plains Indians.  It was as if the reading I was doing opened the door to this past life.  My memories revealed much about that life, but I didn’t know the time period or place where that life took place, nor did I know what tribe I’d been part of.

I knew that the story took place in the mountains, so I started out by figuring out what mountains range I lived in.  Through my readings and looking at photographs, I soon realized that I had lived in the Rocky Mountains.  I had always felt a deep affinity and love for the Rockies that I now realized came from that life.  As a child my family had made many trips Glacier National Park where we had gone camping and hiking.  Later as a young adult I went backpacking in the Rockies. On these trips I always had the feeling of being home.

Draft of map for Red Willow's Quest

Draft of map for Red Willow’s Quest

My research also revealed that I was a Shoshoni Indian. Their culture, clothing and food matched what I remembered from that life.  One book I read about them was entitled The Shoshonis, Sentinels of the Rockies because of where some of the tribes lived.

The time period where that life took place turned out to be fairly easy to establish because in the story Red Willow and her companion go to a fort on the mouth of the Big Horn River.  Research revealed that in 1807 John Colter and Manuel Lisa built a trading post called Fort Raymond in that location. The fort was only in existence for one year.  John Colter was one of the men who was a part of Lewis and Clark’s expedition to explore the Louisiana Purchase.  He built the fort after the expedition was completed.

More pieces of the puzzle of that lifetime fell into place as I continued my research, such as figuring out which people attacked Red Willow’s village.  When I traveled out west, I also found out that a name I thought I’d made up for a tribe was the real name.  I’ll talk about these discoveries in the next post.

Here is a review of the book from Amazon posted on Jan. 21,2015

I could not put this book down. The action, suspense and awesome detail of life as a native American of that time period totally absorbed me. From the first page I was enthralled. Red Willow’s courage (as a 16 year old!) to hold to her visions and implement her dreams despite enormous resistance and danger gave me an entirely new insight into the depth of commitment that is possible in this physical life. It’s a story about living truly on the edge and being faithful in every respect to one’s principles and spiritual mission as revealed through visions and the counseling of one’s spiritual guides.

I can say that Ms Skarie’s story deeply inspired me. There was no room for compromise nor weakness, nor even for what might appear to be pragmatic. Always there was the decision made to follow the star of spiritual vision and the goal of accomplishing one’s mission in life. No quarter was given to personal attachment or ease. That kind of vision clarity is so rare. It was a delight to see it so clearly illustrated in this novel.

It would seem to me that this story would be recommended reading for any young person seeking to discover her/his own spiritual purpose in life or to build confidence and courage in living through the challenges of the modern world. Finding one’s core and staying true to it despite all objections of family and tradition is a worthy goal for anyone serious about their life’s purpose.

As I became increasingly captivated by the spiritual strength of the main character, Red Willow, I found myself identifying with her and literally absorbing her strength and centeredness. Something in me shifted to a greater acceptance of and commitment to my own mission. My guess is that if you read this book with a desire to know yourself better and be true to your own visions you will come away a changed person.

If you’re interested in buying the book click here to get a link to Amazon.

Great fantasy novel: interview with Michael Diack January 22, 2015

Posted by heidi skarie in Book Review.
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511WeB2EoYL._UY250_Shadows in the Sand is a fantastic fantasy story that is reminiscent of Tolkiens.  The following is an interview with the author.

 What inspired you to become a writer?

Writing has always made me happy and I’m motivated by a personal sense of achievement not a financial one. It’s great to see your hard work pay off by having one of your own books in your hands.   I still have a day job that I love and that pays the bills, but it’s great to have a hobby.

How did you come up with the idea for the Shadows in the Sand?

I used to work in Oman in the middle of the desert.  I was there for nearly five years on a seismic crew looking for oil and gas.  Everything in Shadows is inspired by the Omani landscape: the rolling dunes, the rugged mountains, the lifeless voids of endless flat terrain and, of course, the snakes, scorpions and other creepy-crawlies!

The world you have created is very detailed how did you come up with it?

I am inspired by the environment I live in.  I’ve had a lot of good feedback about the descriptions of the landscape and that’s because I essentially lived in the world of Shadows in the Sand.  I sweated in the heat, felt the hot, desiccating wind and I know what’s it like to be alone on top of a sand dune with no sound but your own breathing.  I consider myself very lucky to have experience an environment like Oman and in this modern world of big cities and hectic noise, it was very other-worldly to be in terrain like that.  I think my descriptions are strong but character dialogue is something I need to work on for future novels.

How do you come up with good names for your characters and beasts?

Again, some of the names have an Arabic feel to them while others are normal Western-style names.  I actually find it hard to think of strange names for the beasts and I usually just write a list down while a little half-drunk and then see if they make sense when I’m sober!

 This is part of series called Empyria. How many books are in the series and how do you plot your books?

There are actually only two books, the final being The Light and The Glass.  I found the second book much more fun to write as I had already set up all the plot in book one.  So book two is basically one non-stop epic of huge battles and life-changing scenarios.  As for plot, I have a general sense of where the storyline is going but I’m never too detailed.  I usually find that when I’m in the ‘zone’ and writing thousands of words each day the book just takes on a shape of its own.  However, that’s not to say it is perfect as it’s usually editing that is the very hard part and ironing out the plot-holes you find and sticking points.

Do you know the ending to the series?

I must be honest though, the ending to Book Two does leave open the possibility to writing more.  I never actually specified how large the world of Empyria is as I only talked about the one continent.  Perhaps there could be another land, inhabited by other monsters or another race, on the opposite side of the world.  That’s the great thing about writing fantasy, you are unrestricted and there is no limit to the scope of your imagination or world-building.   I know I said I’m not motivated by money but the truth is it also costs a lot to self-publish if you’re putting quality work out there.  A good thousand dollars for paying an editor to proofread your 75,000 word novel and then the cover design.  I’m simply not making the sales from Empyria to justify writing a third and paying to have it edited again.  I appreciate that’s negative talk but you have to prioritize everyday life and rent!

 What fantasy authors have inspired you?

I’m a huge Tolkien fan.  I think my entire bookcase is taken up by almost all his works.  It’s incredible how one man created so much detail and even a language.  I also find that Tolkien’s books are the only ones I regular re-read and never get bored of.  As a child I also enjoyed Brian Jacque’s Redwall series about heroic mice and other animals taking on the evil rats and similar foes!

 61d2n2MCKML._UX250_Author bio:

My name is Michael Diack and I’m from the UK, but currently living and working in Denmark.

I studied geology at the University of Manchester and, after graduating, I was lucky to find a job in the Middle East working for a geophysical company.

My favorite authors are Haruki Murakami, JRR Tolkien, Markus Heitz and an Italian author called Niccolo Ammaniti. I love fantasy books but I’ll read almost any genre that catches my eye, yet it is the world of Middle-earth that fills up my bookcase.

I released my debut novel, The Super Spud Trilogy, back in April 2012 as a paperback and e-book for Kindle. Book 4 of the Super Spuds – Over Land and Sea, was released on Kindle in December 2012. In July 2013 I branched out from writing about magical crisp packets and released Shadows in the Sand, the first part of my fantasy series Empyria – a survival story set in a dystopian world in the desert.

I’ll happily interact with any readers through Twitter, my website or on Facebook.

Be sure to check this book out on Amazon.  What are your favorite fantasy and science fiction books ?


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