Author Spotlight: R.J. Garcia

  • a writer, wallflower, and Hufflepuff, who wants a re-do at the sorting hat. She is a wife and proud mom, too.

Readers! Let’s give a good hearty welcome to R.J. Garcia.

R.J. Garcia earned her MSW and worked with foster kids, and the geriatric population. Writing has been her other great love.  Although faced with the challenge of dyslexia, she is publishing her second novel, The Call of Death with The Parliament House.

R.J., thanks for agreeing to be here today. Most interviews start off with bios and such, and while I’ll get to that as always, let’s start with the important stuff!

If you could have any pet (real/fantasy/no-allergies/no worries about feeding it) what would it be?

In that case, why not go big. An elephant. I loved Rosie from Water from Elephants. I wouldn’t really want to keep a majestic animal like that as a pet, but it would be awesome to have her stop by and hang out and bond with her. They are such loyal and intelligent animals. In real life I collect some elephant figurines.

If I was going to choose a fantasy pet, I’d choose Hedwig, Harry Potter’s lovable snowy owl.

Both are excellent choices! You’re not the first to dream of an elephant. I’m sure you’d have a momma certain it can still curl up in your lap. And an owl-friend/companion would be so lovely.

What do you write and how did you get started?

I had a love/hate relationship with reading because it was a struggle for me as a kid. Yet I loved the covers and longed to escape in books. I remember reading The Outsiders by SE Hinton in the 8th grade. It was the first book that I completely fell into. I started reading all kind of books and loved how the protagonist didn’t quite fit in like me. It was like I found my people. After I was also writing short stories on cheap notebook paper. I have written stories ever since.

Oh wow! You really had to struggle to get into something that so many of us take for granted. Fortunately for all of us, and all your fans (present and future), you knew your passion and persevered despite your challenges!

What do you like to read?

I love to read suspenseful books and coming of age stories. Some horror reads and  YA, too. My Heart and other Black Holes was an incredible story. I also like to dive into some fantasy. I love the Harry Potter series and Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. I don’t read romance as a genre but need to have a little romance in the books I read, or a strong friendship to fully get into it. I love to discover some great Indie books from small publishers, or self-published reads sometimes. 

That’s a lot of what I enjoy (although, I sometimes do full-on romances), so now I’m adding a book or two to my to read pile.

Name one commonly accepted piece of writing advice that doesn’t work for you.

Outline

A physical outline doesn’t work for me. I like to have a fluid outline in my brain. If it is written down, I feel more pressured.

Ah… so you’re a plantser, like me! A light outline, almost more in my head, and the willingness to ignore it to get the story out. #plantsersForLife

Name one commonly accepted piece of writing advice that they can pry out of your cold, dead hands.

Use beta-readers.

Beta readers are so important. I need someone to read my stories and always benefit from constructive input. Shout out to my teenage daughter, Sabrina, brother Kevin and fellow writer, Christine Dwivedi who read  everything I write.

Definitely! Having a second set of eyes (or third) to let you know that the story is coming across the way you intended. To ask all the details that you thought you’d put in. All of that is crucial for a writer.

Shameless Self-Promotion time!

My debut novel, Nocturnal Meetings of the Misplaced is available wherever books are sold. I have a short story about The Axeman of New Orleans in a horror anthology titled, Masks from Filles Vertes Publishing. It will be released in time for Mardi Gras. I’m excited to announce that my new novel, The Call of Death hit shelves today.

Fourteen-year-old Hannah Priestly crashes into a terrifying future. She wakes up in her dorm room now knowing the name of an infamous serial killer, Norman Biggs. He will attack her in the future unless she and her three male friends can change fate.

Hannah is a suntanned, obsessive-compulsive California girl dropped off at an English boarding school by her celebrity mother. Hannah has difficulty understanding algebra, let alone her increasingly dark visions. Rory Veer is Hannah’s smart, easy-going and romantically challenged friend and school crush. When Norman Biggs unexpectedly appears in Rory’s reality, terror is set in motion. It is Rory who must acknowledge a past he has denied if the mystery is to be unraveled.

Pick up your copy today:
Barnes and Noble | Amazon | Kobo | Apple

In the Background: Class in YA Fiction

In the real world, the social class we come from can have far-reaching consequences into our lives: from the jobs we hold, to the things that worry us, to our long-lasting health. Getting class, and its consequences right, can be tricky to do.

In the titular panel at WorldCon2019, Marieke Nÿkamp, Avery Delany, Caroline Hooton, and Victoria Lee discussed the ways their class upbringing compared to their current social class, and the implications inherent in that.

How The Classes Differ

Most of us are not rich. But the differences between working class and middle class can be easily missed if you’re not paying attention.

When the working class is even seen by those outside it, it’s typically through a political lens: either the lazy bums, looking for a handout. Or the poor, unfortunate who needs charity.

Working class

  • Social mobility is rare
  • You don’t always know where your next meal is coming from
  • Your parents are more likely to need help with bills than be able to help you out in case of emergency (groceries, sudden bills, job loss, ER visits)
  • One bad week is the difference between a rented home and life on the streets
  • Accents and expected behaviors are different — and failure to adhere can cause people to discount you
  • Attendance at events that can help your career can easily be beyond your financial means
  • Health conditions, because of inadequate health care, not enough time to rest, and/or physically demanding jobs
  • Transport is either public, rides from friends, or a car that isn’t in great shape
  • Don’t always have hot water. Or electricity.
  • Accent and speech patterns are looked down on, and seen as something to hide when not home
  • Diverse

Middle Class

  • Social mobility — down or up (at least as far as upper-middle class) is normal.
  • When things are bad, you eat cheap non-nutritious meals
  • If something goes wrong, your parents can usually help. (Car repairs, rent, bail, or at least a bag of groceries)
  • Far more homogeneous

How Is Class Represented in YA?

Often, we’ll see either the aristocracy, the middle-class, or the temporarily poor. Almost always the main characters are able-bodied and cis-gendered (their gender matches what they were declared at birth).

The ending or resolution almost always involves elevating the main character out of the working class. Implying strongly that the character growth and work deserves an “improvement”. That the working class is not something to be proud of, to strive for.

And? After one or two snafus, the ‘uplifted’ character seems to fit in seamlessly. Not finishing their meals because they’re ‘stuffed’.

If there is a diverse character, they’re usually not intersectional. They’re not disabled AND working class AND a person of color. They have one token diverse trait.

Who Is Writing? And For Whom?

Books in general and YA in specific is written by those with the time and energy to do so. Books are sold by those who have the money and energy to promote their works. Leading to very few working class authors.

Publishers look at past sales and, if they don’t see any, they assume there isn’t a market and don’t buy working class author’s works. After the success of The Hate U Give, there’s been an upswing in more working class books. But, they’re seeing them as a niche, as an issues driven book. And publishers typically only acquire one book per niche per publishing cycle.

What agents and editors see as a neutral environment, in an industry run on unpaid internships and publishing companies that are a net loss, labor of love, isn’t. People without a social net don’t even have a chance.

Many of the guest speakers from working class backgrounds, only made it to WorldCon thanks to grants and school funding. Others were denied Visas, so couldn’t even be here for the discussion. Money talks, and without it, you’re left on the outside, not even able to look in.

Worldwide, there are millions of people without access to education, much less to libraries. Think of all the stories we’re missing, because those people never had the chance to share?

How Can You Help Working Class or Diverse Writers?

How can you help mitigate the class segregation inherent in the publishing industry?

  • Share their work
  • Promote their work
  • Leave room at the table for them
  • Buy their work
  • Borrow from the library
  • Review them on Amazon
  • Contribute to their Patreon
  • Donate money to con scholarships
  • Read more diverse works
  • Host a writing workshop for them
  • More paid internships — especially remote ones
    • New York and London are expensive and challenging, even for people with money and connections.

What YA stories have you read that explored class? What did they get right? And what did they get wrong?

Do you have any other suggestions on how to help encourage diverse writers?

Twas the Week before NaNo

In honor of the last week of October, here’s a Throwback Post.

‘Twas The Week Before NaNo

‘Twas the week before NaNo, and all through the land
Not a writer was ready, not even the grand;
The stories all waited, ev’ry last one,
In hopes NaNoWriMo soon would be won;

The characters jostled all shoved in our heads,
While visions of new worlds continued to spread
And Facebook on the PC, and I in my tweets
Had just settled DOWN to fill those blank sheets—‌

When up on the screen there arose such a clatter,
I clicked off my doc to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew in a flash,
Scrolled over the adverts and cleared out my cache.

The notification of a new month said hello,
Giving luster of import to objects below;
When what to my wondering eyes should egress?
But a miniature list with eight friend requests!

Then with a li’l old idea, so lively and quick,
I’d know in a moment if this one would stick.
More rapid than eagles, the story now came,
And I whistled and shouted, and called components by name:

“Now Chapters, now Setting! Now Plot and Conflict!
“On False-peak, on Raised-Stakes! On Black-moment-strict;
“To the top of the peak! To the climax and fall!
“Now type away! Type away! Type away all!”

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When you meet with an obstacle: write fast, do not sigh;
So, up to the document’s top, I will go
With my head full of musings‍—‌my ideas now in tow:

And then in a twinkling, you’ll hear my keyboard
The tapping and clacking, each word I’ll record.
As I draw down my head, and ignoring all sound,
Down the page, my story will grow with a bound:

My main character formed, from her head to her foot,
And her clothes were all tarnish’d with ashes and soot;
A bundle of supplies was flung on her back,
And she look’d like a peddler just carrying her pack:

Her brow—‌how it furrowed! Her eyes, my how wary,
Her cheeks were like roses, her nose like a cherry;
Her fair little mouth was drawn up so’s to bite,
And the hair on her head was as black as the night;

The dangers she fled were as deadly as sin
And the safety she sought, oh–her lead, it was thin;
The plots, they did lead, and oh how I chased ’em,
While watching my subplots all full of odd whims:

A blink of my eye and a twist of my head
Soon’ll give me to know I had nothing to dread.
I’ll speak not a word, but return to my work,
And fill all the pages; then turn with a jerk,

And stretching my fingers, all done with their task
And after a click on the save key, I’ll finally bask.
I’ll spring to kitchen, to my fridge give a peek,
And filling a good bowl with th’ ice cream I’ll seek:

Then you’ll watch me update, ere the clock strikes midnight—‌
Happy NaNo to all. Put up the good fight.

(For more tip-filled posts, check out my previous NaNoWriMo posts:
It’s a Marathon, Not a Sprint
An Outline To Write By (for Plantsers and Plotters)
How to win NaNoWriMo
3 Things That Helped Me Win NaNoWriMo early
Craft Vs Professionalism )

So You’ve Decided To Write A Novel – Here are 7 Tips To Get Started

[Throwback Thursday: Just as true as when I first posted. And? Those placeholder names are still in that rough draft I’m scared to touch.]

7 Tips for Preparing to Write A Novel

For Pantsers AND Plotters and #NaNoPrepMo

Whether you’ve just decided it’s finally time to write that book you’ve been thinking about on your own or you’ve been bit by the NaNoWriMo bug, starting a novel can be intimidating!

It doesn’t matter if you’re a pantser (writing by the seat of your pants), a plotter, or something in between, there’s still stuff you can do to prepare yourself before you start writing.

Plotters, you have your to-do lists, but even you can get stuck. Here are some things that may be on your list, and a few things that might not be.

Pantsers and plantsers? You might not want to do all the planning that the plotters do. You might be just along for the journey to see where the story takes you. BUT! That doesn’t mean you have to be left out of writing prep!

That said, here are my top 7 writing prep activities.

1. Outlining

Clearly, the plotter’s first choice and the fear of every pantser, but outlining can be as extensive — or as sparse — as you want it to be.

– You can have 10 pages of notes for every chapter
– A basic “[Main character] wants [objective] but [obstacle] stands in their way.” statement
– Just pre-write a query letter!
– Even most pantsers find having a starting point and an end target at least moderately useful.

(Here’s my level of outlining)

2. Beat Sheets!

The cousin of outlining. These help you check your pacing — whether you’re going for a 3 act, 4 act, or another sort of structure.

Jami Gold has a great collection of Beat Sheet Worksheets to help you plan out your story’s emotional arcs AND plot arcs.

OR — save the beat sheet and use it when you’re pantsing to decide what to do next!

3. Mood Boards

Gathering together pictures that suggest your characters, your settings, your wardrobe, and your world.

You’d think this would be most helpful for those writers who are more visually oriented — literally helping them see their story. But, my imagination isn’t very visual, and I say that mood boards can be INVALUABLE for those of us whose imaginations are more conceptual.

If you have a vague idea in your head of a character’s look or the settings, you can google image search until you have something that works for your story — then you can use that image to help describe your people, places, and things to your readers.

4. Character Sheets

It’s official. I’m a geek. I’ve been playing D&D and its cousins since 2000. But even if it’s not a true ‘character sheet’, writing out your characters strengths, weaknesses, and personality traits is very helpful when you’re deciding during the story how your character will react.

You can use things like Myers-Briggs designations, star signs, or zodiacs to help flesh out your character and keep them consistent.

5. Creating a List of Names

I can spend weeks picking the perfect name for a main character. During NaNoWriMo, I’ve definitely lost hours of writing time trying to come up with names for characters, places, and my magic system.

Two NaNos ago, I decided to save a lot of time by just giving everyone placeholder names: Alice, Bob, Carol… I went through the entire alphabet and ended up naming the enemy country Canadia. It helped me accomplish a NaNo-and-a-half, but it had consequences (yep! 75k!). The editing this is going to require has me scared off starting that rewrite. Don’t make my mistake.

This year? I intend to have a list of at least 20 random names that fit my story and world that I can grab-and-go with once I start writing. So far I’ve got 6.

6. World Building

Is your story happening in the real world or a made up one? Do the laws of physics work the same?

Having a good idea of how far apart places are, the transport times, and key landmarks is super helpful.

I spent a couple hours last NaNoWriMo figuring out how far it was from Loxley to Nottingham. And the number of times I’ve redrawn my fantasy map because of average pilgrim walking paces versus bicycle paces… is more than twice.

I also have 2 moons in one of my worlds, so I keep an eye on the tides and the moon fullness in regards to the aforementioned travel times. It can get tricky!

7. Minimize Real World Distractions

I’ve mentioned this before, but for me? Having a stocked fridge, clean clothes, and straightened house when NaNoWriMo starts means I can ignore those things for longer while I dedicate more time to writing.

It usually takes a week or so after a good clean for my house to start really getting piled up.

I try to keep my calendar light, preload the Panera app on my phone for write-ins (getting hungry? Keep writing and the food will come to me), and work hard to build up momentum. Once I’ve got a good streak going, meeting that daily word target, I don’t want to break it.


And that’s it! Are you starting a new novel? Tell me about it!

Are you participating in NaNoWriMo? Feel free to friend me: morganhazelwood!

( Are you new to NaNoWriMo or an old hat? )

Author Spotlight: Mari Tishner

  • Writer * Expat * Pug Owner

Readers! Let’s give a good hearty welcome to Mari Tishner.

Mari lives in southern Germany with her husband and pug, where she regales others of her adventures as an expat in the Land of Beer and Pretzels on her blog and youtube channel Adventures of La Mari.com. The God Queen is her first novel.

Mari, thanks for agreeing to be here today. Most interviews start off with bios and such, and while I’ll get to that as always, let’s start with the important stuff!

If you could have any pet (real/fantasy/no-allergies/no worries about feeding it) what would it be?

Hands down a raccoon. I have wanted one ever since I saw Pocahontas when it came out (I was about 9 at the time). Meeko was the coolest! Although I do own a pug, after falling in love with Percy from the same movie. But my inner nine-year-old still wants a raccoon. They are not native to Germany so you don’t see them often so I have had to resort to following Pumpkin the Raccoon on Instagram

Awww! What a cute choice. I hope they’re as snuggly in person as they are in your dreams.

What do you write and how did you get started?

At the moment, I write sci fi – but I do have plans for a contemporary story based on my experiences as an American living in Germany, which I would like to probably have traditionally published.

I got started very young. I love stories. I have notebooks that I filled with scribbles even before I really knew how to write because I always loved the ideas of having a book filled with my words. When I was in kindergarten, my teacher would bring in 4th graders once a week to help us with writing. It was my favorite thing to do because I had all these stories in my head but I didn’t know how to write it out! I have always had an overactive imagination and being able to write helps me bring these stories and worlds to life. 

While I was still honing my debut novel, I kept my writing up by maintaining my expat blog. It was also a way for my family to keep with up my adventures in Germany, but also forced me to keep a schedule, even if I wasn’t working on my novel – I was always writing!

It seems a lot of writers have been dreaming about it since they were young. It’s great to see your dream coming true! I know from experience that keeping a blog and finishing a novel can be a real struggle. Congrats!

What do you like to read?

Fantasy and Sci Fi all the way! I love one with a good (and healthy) romance. I will literally read anything by Sarah J. Maas and Tamora Pierce. Books that I have reread so many times that I have lost count: A Court of Thorn and Roses by Sarah J. Maas, The Song of the Lioness Quartet and Immortals Quartet by Tamora Pierce, The Symphony of Ages of Elizabeth Haydon, Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier, and the His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman.

Oooh! You’re listing a lot of writers on my list, ones that I’d use as near-comps for my own work-in-progress. I’m taking that as an indication that your novel is going to be Right Up My Alley! What a great selection.

Name one commonly accepted piece of writing advice that doesn’t work for you.

Write what you know.

I write sci fi and while I do have a science background (biology degree + 9 years as a microbiologist), I can’t tell you the exact reason why faster-than-light is impossible – but I know there are ways around it that can be explained to a non-scientifically inclined person. I don’t what it’s like to fly in a ship and I was never in the military so I am also a bit at a loss when writing about it. So I have to research – thank goodness for the internet!

While I do use this advice where I can, I know it can’t apply to everything. If I did write what I know, I would only write about being Peruvian American living in Germany with her pug….wait I already do that!

So true! Especially for science-fiction and fantasy, we have to think outside the box to write. Luckily, we do know people — we know ourselves. And, I think, the most important part is to have our humanity bleed through into our writing.

Name one commonly accepted piece of writing advice that they can pry out of your cold, dead hands.

Keep writing. It doesn’t have to be perfect the first time.

Keep writing. Don’t stop. Don’t worry about it being perfect the first time, it won’t be. In the words of Stephen King: “Sometimes you have to go on when you don’t feel like it, and sometimes you’re doing good work when it feels like all you’re managing is to shovel shit from a sitting position.

Indeed. Persistence is the name of the game, more than anything else in the writing world. And you’ve done it!

Shameless Self-Promotion time!

My debut novel, The God Queen, was released on October 22!

The return of the God Queen is not what everyone hoped…

The God Queen (Rebirth Book 1) by [Tishner, M. L.]

Humans have long since spread their numbers among the stars. Now far, far into the future, war has torn the Tyre Star Cluster into two major political factions. The militant Dominion have gained the upper hand in the last decade when their champion murdered the hope of the progressive Federation: Niklaryn Ettowa. Some considered the war to be almost won.

Yet there are those who claim the war will not be ended by mortals…but by the rebirth of the gods.

Rei lived most of her life bartending on one Earth’s backwater towns. She daydreams of something more, traveling the stars, and destroying the man who murdered her brother Niklaryn. Her dream is within her grasp only if she accepts her fate as the God Queen.

Bronx is disillusioned with being a reincarnated god, let alone a reaper. He pays his penance by keeping people at a distance and taking up the mantle of a combat medic. When the sister of his old mentor Niklaryn storms in to join the cause will he find something worth fighting for?

Together with others, they must help the Federation tip the scales in their favor, but everyone seems to have their own plans for what the gods should do.

Jupiter Ascending meets X-Men in this epic New Adult space opera bursting with star-crossed romance, elemental magic, and an adventure across the star cluster, perfect for fans of A Spark of White Fire.

Here’s a sneak peek!

If you want to read more about TGQ, check out my website: http://mltishner.com

If you want to read about my adventures in Germany, check out: http//adventuresoflamari.com