Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Interview Post: Krysten Hager and "Best Friends...Forever?"

Hello my fellow writers and readers,

Today I'm doing an interview post with Krysten Hager to celebrate the release of her latest book "Best Friends...Forever?". In addition to the questions, Miss. Hager provided me with a blurb and excerpt of her book. 

On your book
1. What is a one-line synopsis for your book? And is this a stand-alone or part of a series?
--->Good friends have your back, but Landry soon finds some friends will go behind it. Best Friends…Forever? is the second book in the Landry’s True Colors Series.

2. How did you decide when and where to set Best Friends…Forever? What inspired the story itself?

--->It’s based in current times in Grand Rapids, Michigan. I’m from Michigan, but I’m from the other side of the state (an hour north of Detroit—a suburb of Flint). I set the story in Grand Rapids because I have family there and my parents both grew up there. I wanted to use that setting instead of my hometown because I think Grand Rapids is more relatable than my hometown of Grand Blanc would have been.

 The story was inspired by the way the media used to (and still does) portray groups of teen friends as having these unbreakable bonds where everything was sunny and no one ever had a bad day and me feeling like I couldn’t relate to that. I thought everyone had it all together BUT me and so I wanted to create a character who shares the other side of things (the awkward, anxious moments of growing up and trying to fit in) in a funny way so readers know they’re not alone in having those thoughts.

3. What are your current projects? What are you planning for future projects? What are you working on next?
--->I’m working on the third book in the Landry’s True Colors series and on another younger YA story and rewriting an adult novel as well.

4. Can you tell us a little about your world-building process, and how you designed the setting for Best Friends…Forever?

--->I actually use my grandmother’s house (in Grand Rapids, MI) as the house Landry and her mom live in, but I have the house set on my aunt’s street. I used to walk around there a lot and so in my mind I can picture Landry’s school (Hillcrest Academy), where she goes for ice cream with her friends, and where all her friends live. I even have Landry’s bus route written down and her school schedule.

5. Did you outline it ahead of time, or wing it?

---> The first book I had no outline for, but now that it’s a series and I have to make sure to stay consistent, I did do a bit of plotting.

6. How is writing a book now different from writing your first book?
--->The main thing is that now that it is a series, I had to put together what some people have called a “series bible.” So now I have down Landry’s class schedule, which teacher is for which subject, her friends’ siblings’’ names, etc. so that I don’t make a mistake. I also have to make sure I keep the characters all consistent.

7. What do you know now about being a writer that you wish you had known before you published your first book?
---> Right after I signed the contract, I saw another author post on Facebook that she loved being a writer, but hated being an author because it’s hard and scary and I thought, “What am I in for?” And she was right—it can be hard and scary, but this is what I chose to do. I wish I had known more about the business side of things though.

8. What is the most common rookie mistake you see new authors make?
--->Trying to do things to promote that are out of their comfort zone and they don’t come off well. If a person isn’t great in live (or print) interviews, it shows and they come off awkward and uncomfortable. One author who is an amazing writer did an interview where she got nervous and ended up making her character and book come off as a different genre all together. She was terrified going in and she did herself a disservice doing the interview. Meanwhile, her blog posts are great and that’s where she shines. So don’t force yourself to be something you’re not.

9. What sort of author marketing have you found to be most effective?
-->Basically making sure you start before the book is out so people know what to expect from your work. If they’ve read a few things from you then they are more apt to take a look at your book.

On Writing
10. Do you use beta readers, and, if so, what qualities do you look for in a beta?
--->I have. I like to pick people who will be honest and give feedback and not just say, “Yeah, I liked it,” or say they weren’t crazy about it, but not able to tell you why. I just had a conversation with one where they said they loved one part and I asked why and they said, “I was riveted in the parts about Landry dealing with the friendship misunderstandings. If more dads read this sort of thing they’d understand why their daughters act that way instead of chalking it all up to hormones. This was eye opening.” That was great feedback to get.

11. Where can we find your work?
12. What book or books are you reading now?
---> I just finished The Paris Wife with my book club and a friend sent me The Rainbow Club. I have been so busy editing that I haven’t started it yet, but that’s on the list.
13. What do you do when you’re not writing?
--->I read a lot and I really relax with the TV. I have moved a lot so keeping in touch with friends is a big thing for me. I like emailing and even sending little cards and things in the mail to connect with friends who live far away so we keep in touch.

 14. Name three of your favorite television shows.
--->American Dad is my ultimate favorite. I re-watch episodes of it all the time. I also like Switched at Birth and Hart of Dixie
Best Friends…Forever? (Landry’s True Colors Series) by Krysten Lindsay Hager
Tag line: Good friends have your back, but some go behind it.
Blurb:    Landry Albright hopes the new year will start off in an amazing way—instead she has to deal with more frenemy issues, boy drama, and having most of her best friends make the cheerleading squad without her. Suddenly, it seems like all anyone can talk about is starting high school next year—something she finds terrifying.
                Landry gets her first boyfriend, but then gets dumped just as things come to a head with her friends. She feels lost and left out, but finds good advice about dealing with frenemies from what she considers an unlikely source. Landry faces having to speak up for what’s right, tell the truth (even when it hurts), and how to get past the fear of failure as she gets another shot at competing in the American Ingénue modeling competition.
 “Landry, it’s gotta be so awkward for you to be going to Vladi’s school next year,” Tori said. “I mean, what if you run into him during the tour?"
"It’s a huge place,ʺ Ashanti said. “People break up all the time. It’s not a big deal.ʺ
Tori raised her eyebrows as if to say, “Yeah, right,” and went back to her sandwich. Meanwhile my delicious homemade soup was no longer sitting well. It never occurred to me Vladi might be around during the first prefreshman tour. I would be mortified if I ran into him and he was with a girl. Or worse yet, running into him, and he was with Yasmin. Plus, I hadn’t told my mom about the breakup, so if she saw him, she’d probably go over to talk to him. I could already imagine it: “Landry, Vladi’s here! Hon? Why are you hiding behind the garbage can? Your boyfriend, Vladi, is here. Come say, ‘hello.’ Stop trying to run away. Why is everyone laughing and pointing at you and calling you a ‘loser dumpee?’ What does that mean?”
Well, maybe the world would end and I wouldn’t have to deal with high school or Vladi and my mother running into each other.
Sadly, the world did not end, and on Thursday, we all had to go to the high school for a freshman information night from 6 to 9 p.m.
Author bio: Krysten Lindsay Hager is the author of the Landry’s True Colors Series, a clean reads young adult series. Krysten writes about  friendship, self-esteem, fitting in, middle school and high school, frenemies, modeling, crushes, values, and self-image in both True Colors and Best Friends…Forever?
Krysten is an Amazon international bestselling author and book addict who has never met a bookstore she didn’t like. She’s worked as a journalist and writes middle grade, YA, humor essays, and adult fiction. She is originally from Michigan and has lived in Portugal, South Dakota, and currently resides in Southern Ohio where you can find her reading and writing when she’s not catching up on her favorite shows. She received her master’s degree from the University of Michigan-Flint.
What people are saying about True Colors (Landry’s True Colors Series Book One):
From Teenage Book Recommendations in the UK: "This is a fantastically relatable and real book which I feel captures all of the insecurities and troubles which haunt the modern teenage girl. It is about a young model who has to go through tough times when she is torn between a life as a model and managing her friendships. You learn which friends she can most trust and which will create the drama typical of teenage life. Follow the life of Landry and try to see if you can find out which are her true friends before their true colours are revealed. This book is all about relationships, hopes and truth. I loved this book!"
From Books & Authors Spot: “This book is such an inspiration for those who just care about their looks and are tensed about them. This thing is looks aren't everything. This book is related to every teen's problem. Hager has written a very inspiring novel.”
Connect with Krysten:

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

signpost of what is to come-building a universe of stories

Journey to Chaos book 3: Mana Mutation Menace has been sent to beta readers. While they read it I'm working on book 4. Right now it is untitled but I'm leaning toward "Race to Applied Apotheosis". This is where the deepest plot structures that have been underpinning the series thus far will take center stage. After that, there will be on more book in the Journey to Chaos series. It too is untitled. Mana Mutation Menace should be released sometime in the late spring or early summer and, If I'm fortunate, book 4 will be released later this year,

Once Journey to Chaos is complete, I plan to write other books in the world of Tariatla. These will be both prequels that expand on the world's history and sequels that examine the new status quo following the Journey to Chaos. There will be new casts of characters but also many of the same, and taking place in similar locations and referring to events in the main story. Others will be completely separate but still taking place in the same world.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Read for Fun: Worlds of Medieval Europe

Read for fun review

Brief backstory: Back in college, I wanted to take this intro course on medieval European history, but there was never time in my schedule for it. Other cases had higher priority because they were required for my majors (I choose to focus the history one on ancient eastern Mediterranean). To compensate, I bought the main textbook for the class. That book is Worlds of Medieval Europe by Clifford Backman . It is a fascinating read and also an engaging one. I will examine Content, Tone and Polish and then assign a grade.


The book's reach in regards to time is the tail end of the Roman Imperial period to just before the 15th century Renaissance and its reach in regards to space is from the Iberian Peninsula to Central Asia, and from Norway to North Africa. Mr. Backman does not regard Medieval Europe as existing on its own but as a part of this wider world.

The book's theme is less about narrating the events that happen but more about how these events fit in with the society, influence it, and are influenced by it. "Gestalt" is the word I'd use to describe the book's focus. In other words, how the machinery of Medieval European Society functioned in addition to all it's little gears and what this created.

There is a great deal of information here. It's about the time, the society, the economy, the religious life, the cultural life, along with farmers, merchants, nobles, priests, sailors contrasted with each other. As many as three chapters will go over the same time period in order to examine them from different angles.


Forget all stereotypes about academic books being stifling or dry. This one is remarkably engaging. There is a strong writer's voice present that make it like a storyteller instead of a historian, and yet it remains objective.

Footnotes have jokes in them. A good chunk of them exist solely to provide some historical fun fact or for Mr. Backmann to make some humorous illustration of a point.

No spelling or grammar errors. There's a good use of images.

Trickster Eric Novels gives "Worlds of Medieval Europe" an A+

Click here for the next book review (a review request): Shadow of the Raven

Click here for the previous book review (technically a beta read): Final Ragnarok: She Returns

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Beta read review: She Returns-Final Ragnarok

Dan Wright asked me to beta read the third book in his Draconica series. This one is called She Returns and it is part of a sub-series called "Final Ragnarok". If you've been following my blog for a while (basically the beginning-Dan was the first person to use Book Tweeting Service to find me) you'd know that I've also reviewed the first book (Trapped on Draconica) and the second book (Legacy of the Dragokin). Both of them scored highly. I will examine Plot, Character and Polish and then assign a grade.

For full disclosure, I beta-read She Returns so my review will not be fully reflective of the finished product. Instead, it is likely better than what I'm descriping here.


What we have here is an Evil Plan by a bunch of evil supernatural people to release their patron evil god. Like in previous Draconica stories, there are few points for originality, but in my grading scale that are few points to be awarded for "originality" anyway. It's what happens within that framework that matters.

The evil people have varying degrees of evilness, which leads to alliances with the heroes against the other evil people. Some of them have different goals, which leads into different plot points from personal vendetta  to country take over and Rage Against the Heavens. Some of these evil people are evil no longer and some of the good people are no longer so good. In fact, two of them have switched places; Cain is calling his brother "Cain" because he is now Abel.

A point I like is the continunity of the books. Each one feels like a true sequel instead of an episodic "the next adventure" sort of thing. For instance, there's Daniar. In the first book she's this young single woman doing the Badass Princess thing. In the second book, she's become a queen, a mother and wife, and having trouble balancing it all. In the third book, she's doing better in all three aspects but the toll on her pysche is implied to be great, thus leading to her actions during the book.

One problem I see with the plot is a lack of focus. Each of the Dragokin sisters has their own plotline, and Benji does as well. This makes them all feel underdeveloped and the narrative to feel cluttered. This is especially the case with Zarracka as she doesn't do much to advance the plot.

A second problem is that the Dragokin don't seem quite as powerful as in the previous two books. One could chalk it up to being out of practice (Zarracka, for instance, has been spent years in a cell), but it feels suspiciously like Strong As They Need to Be.

The ending is a cliffhanger, BUT, She Returns is sold as a two part set so a cliffhanger is expected. Furthermore, it's less of a "incomplete story" thing and more of a " disk 1 complete. Please insert disk 2" sort of thing. There's an epilogue and everything. In other words, it's not a Goading Cliffhanger.


As I said earlier, a strong point with the characters in general is this sense continuity. Growing older,  referencing the past, changing in personality as a result of the past; a strong sense of history.

Zarracka, for instance, is 180 degrees different from how she was in "Trapped on Draconica" because in the previous book "Legacy of the Dragokin" she mellowed into Benji's doting aunt, and ultimately calling truce with her sister because of it.

Kalack and Daniar have learned from their experiences in the previous book as well. They're not having marriage issues anymore and being more inclusive with their son Benji. Daniar has finally begun his training as a dragokin. No character arc recycling here.

One problem I have with the characters are the villains. Compared to the previous books they are flatter, more monolithic and more For The Evulz.  What makes this a problem, is that they are the very same villains that were killed last time, and supposedly Killed Off For Real.

No spelling or grammar problems. Any that I missed have surely been fixed since the book was published.

The prose has improved over the last two books.  It's tighter; less word cruft.

Trickster Eric Novels gives (beta) She Returns a C

Click here for the next book review (which was not a request): Worlds of Medieval Europe

Click here for the previous review request: Apple Cider Vinegar For Weight Loss: The Secret Of A Successful Natural Remedy For Faster Weight Loss (Apple Cider Vinegar For Beginners)