28 April 2015

Proust Your Protagonist with Samantha Holloway

Meet Annissa, one of the protagonists in Samantha
Holloway's epic fantasy novel, Married to the Wind.


Annissa of Yorra, 
Wisewoman's Daugher

There's been a fantastic rumor that's appeared and disappeared over the last couple years, like the ebb and flow of ocean waves: there was a boy who fell from the sky. I've always wondered if there was anything to it, and I had the luck of coming one step closer to realization when I met Annissa. She kindly let me ask her some of the deep questions I ask everyone else when I want to learn the truth of things. ...Sometimes the truth doesn't live in things, but people.

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
I would have thought, before now, that it would be being restless and having no way to quench it. But I know now that loss is the greatest depth of misery--losing people we love, losing our homelands, losing everything we thought we knew about everything--losing humanity.

But I also know now that if we never lose anything, how can we really know that we fully appreciate what we have?

Where would you like to live?
Yorra. My own, tiny hometown. It was by the Wall the whole time I was growing up there, and it's far, far different now, but the whole time I was away, all I wanted was to come back, to my home and the trees that I planted there, and the places where my family walked. It's funny, too, because growing up, I would have wanted to live anywhere else.

If I can't have Yorra, my second choice would be with the Clans; Ardeth still has his 'thant and his 'hro, and we have many, many good memories there.

What is your idea of earthly happiness?
Knowing what needs to be done and knowing that I have the ability to do it. Being with Ardeth, without having to worry about one of us flying apart and returning to the elements we came from. Having a purpose and living it fully. Ardeth's smile. Gods, I missed that while he was gone!

The quality you most admire in a man?
Gentleness and kindness at times when you'd expect dangerous violence.

The quality you most admire in a woman?
The same! Why should girls be held to a different standard? Didn't Glorisa and I challenge the Dark on our own?

Your favorite virtue?
Compassion, above all else. Though it's a hard lesson to learn before you can practice it.

Your favorite occupation?
I love planting trees, and watching them grow before my eyes, but I don't know if that counts as an occupation. The Clans taught me how wonderful singing is, and I've always loved storytelling. Traveling, of course. Helping people. I would have no purpose if I wasn't helping people.

Your most marked characteristic?
Boldness, I suppose, though I never thought of myself as bold. But how else would I have had the nerve to cross an uncrossable Wall? To travel across the world and back with dangerous strangers? To challenge my homeland's history and it's very religion? I must've been bold.

What do you most value in your friends?
Love! Love enough of me to believe me when I say amazing and strange things. Love enough to build me an army and believe I'll be back to lead it. Love enough to heal the world when I can't do it myself.

What is your principle defect?
I cannot give up. Even when I want to, even when reality or power or fate is literally killing me, I cannot roll over and let it happen. Hiri says that's why I'm a hero; I think it's why I'm still alive.

What to your mind would be the greatest of misfortunes?
Never accomplishing what you have been created to accomplish. Fate is a terrible thing and a great gift, and if you never do what you are here to do, what is the point of it?

What would you like to be?
Most of my life, I wanted to be normal--to marry and have babies and live and die and pass everything on while maintaining balance. Now I want to be myself. I know who I am now, having come through the Dark and the Final Battle and survived, and I only want to be myself.

Who are your heroes in real life?
My friends, who went to battle with me--and the ones who fell there. Already, we're heroes to others, half-legendary, but they're my heroes. Benni, how traded his plough for a sword. Tchenu, who challenged his own people.

Who are your favorite heroines?
Hiri and Nualu! One who was my friend almost from birth, and who led an army in my name, and one who taught me the ways of the desert and told me their stories. D'Nola who was my mother when I had none. Genna who was my mother before that. Senni, my grandmother.

What is it you most dislike?
Dishonesty and the corruption of power. None of this would have happened if it weren't for the Regent's grasping for the throne.

What natural gift would you most like to possess?
Peace! I was always restless, and even now, I feel the urge to move and to act when it would likely be better for me to wait!

How would you like to die?
Who says I haven't? I'm not afraid of it; however I go, in the end, I hope I go doing good for my people.

What is your present state of mind?
After everything we have been through, I'm happy and fulfilled, and I'm glad that we're still here.

What is your motto?
Love is stronger than Fate.

About the book:  Everything she thought she knew was wrong.

Annissa of Yorra knew she was the Wisewoman's daughter. She knew she was to be married in just a few short months. She knew her tiny village near the Wall was unimportant. She knew her country was safe, the sacred homeland of the First Lady's Chosen People. And she knew her life would be unremarkable, though such quiet left her restless.

She didn't know destiny had so much more in store for her.

When she rescues a boy who falls from the sky the same moment an impossible evil returns from Over the Wall, everything changes. Soon, she must make a choice--safety, or the truth?

Married to the Wind is a multi-piece fantasy that begins with part one, available now. You can find it at Amazon.com. Be sure to leave reviews at Amazon and Goodreads, which is one of the best ways to help out the author.

(c) Samantha Holloway
About the author: Samantha Holloway is unfit for anything but writing expansive fantasy and the occasional science fiction story, so she does it full time. 

She's the author of the upcoming epic fantasy novel Married to the Wind, and has published dozens of book reviews, TV reviews and a few short stories. 

In between writing and thinking about writing, she lives in North Carolina with an aptly-named cat called Ninja, wears too much jewelry, runs a homemade nail polish company for a lark, and subsists mostly on tea.

To learn more about Samantha, visit her official site and keep up with her releases through Amazon Author Central and Goodreads. Be sure to follow her on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, too!

24 April 2015

Proust Your Protagonist with Author Ron Shannon

Meet Tillie Thornwhistle. one of the protagonists
in Ron Shannon's newest novel, Gabriel's Wing.


Tillie Thornwhistle

I am Matilda (Tillie) Thornwhistle, also known as Snake Eyes, a handle my brother gave me, a reference to my unusual eyes. They are amber, the color of a traffic light and the result of my mother’s dark, cavernous brown, and my father’s emerald green. 

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery? 
Loneliness. Not the opportunity to be alone, or to spend time enjoying the world without the worry of intruding on another’s time, but the ultimate horror of having no one to call your friend, brother, sister, or parent. I am lucky. With all the challenges the world throws at a person with unusual color or heritage I have people who love me.

Where would you like to live? 
My brother lives on a houseboat and there is an element of romance living on something as unstable as water. Water, by its very nature, is always moving, flowing, like life and I understand his attraction to it. I, on the other hand, would love to live inside the walls of an ancient castle. The walls would shelter me from the evil outside. I'd spend my days as the defiant member of the royal court.

What is your idea of earthly happiness? 
I have lived my life as an outcast. I am accustomed to the kind of prejudice that results from the fear of someone unusual. Earthly happiness is fleeting, but comes with acceptance and love. Not necessarily romantic love complete with the act of physical love. But why not? Yes, happiness is love without fear.

The quality you most admire in a man? 
Fearlessness. No, I am not talking about the silliness of a man facing battle, for instance, without the fear of dying. Such things are meaningless. I am talking about a man who is unafraid to face himself, for all of his frailties. A man who knows his faults and is not afraid of them.

The quality you most admire in a woman?
Women are faced with so many challenges, but a woman who stands up and fights for what she wants is truly someone to be admired. I am not talking about someone without the ability to be flexible and respect the rights of another. That’s just selfishness. I am referring to a woman who is unafraid to be different and travel her own path.

Your favorite virtue? 
Kindness. So much more can be achieved through kindness than with anything related to force. Kindness is the closest thing I know to attaining moral greatness.

Your favorite occupation?
I am in a career that is not available to women. That’s not really true, because here I am and I know there are other women in this occupation. I had to sacrifice plenty to get here and keeping my job requires a small miracle to occur on a daily basis, but I wouldn't give it up for the world. I’d only risk it for someone I love.

Your most marked characteristic?
I know it’s my eyes. They are an unnatural color—amber, the color of a traffic light—and something that distinguishes me from anyone else I know. They are one of those features that would be part of my description if anyone ever wanted to keep a file on me. In my profession that is a definite possibility. It’s something that is considered whenever I am in the field.

What do you most value in your friends?
Friends are so important. I value understanding. I am not faultless and I make mistakes. A friend who is my friend in spite of these faults is a priceless treasure.

What is your principle defect?
I've always had trouble with love. Not the kind of love I have for my brother, my mother, and my father. My father once apologized for the plight he bestowed upon me. He is white and my mother is black. My brother and I share the same father, but we have different mothers. I have never regretted who I am, but I have often blamed my inability to love a man on my race. Then again, I know I am not being completely honest.

What to your mind would be the greatest of misfortunes?
To be alone. I am lucky. I know, I've mentioned this before, but it’s true. I have people who love me. My family and a few very close friends, yet there are times when I stand and look out at the world and I feel so isolated. Then I tell myself I am only feeling sorry for myself and move on. That feeling, though, is something I can never forget. I wonder what it would be like to be totally alone, maybe with no place to go, no home to run back to, no place to hide in the comfort of the people dear to you. That thought brings me the closest to an utter despair I’d ever want to experience.

What would you like to be?
That’s easy. I want to be a successful part of the FBI. It’s an ambition I've known for a long time. I fought my way through school, I’ve passed the tests, and I've earned the position. However, I know I would risk it all for the people who mean the most to me.

Who are your heroes in real life?
When Bobby Kennedy died I think I cried for a week. I still have not fully recovered.

Who are your favorite heroines?
Eleanor Roosevelt is one of them. I have no idea why she comes to my mind first and for the life of me I can think of no others at this time. Funny, but we have nothing in common. There is nothing to make me feel any connection at all to her, except possibly the fact I am treading on ground not many women have traveled. That could be the connection. Most of my achievements have not made it to history books. Not yet anyway. That could be because the people in power do not want other people to know breakthroughs are happening everyday. What if women could have reached what I have done when Eleanor Roosevelt was living in the White House? Eleanor Roosevelt could’ve achieved more than we know. It seems very likely to me.

What is it you most dislike?
I guess it comes as no surprise. Bigotry. It always surprises me and it always baffles me. What is it based on?

What natural gift would you most like to possess?
Charisma. That unexplained talent to light up a room the moment you walk in. To be like John F. Kennedy, Mark Twain, or Marilyn Monroe, but that would mean I would also have everyone’s attention when I walked into a room. That is not necessarily a good thing, especially in my trade. Forget it. I was being whimsical. Something I tend to do on occasion.

How would you like to die?
Why ask such a thing? It will happen without any help from me. I’d rather not dwell on it.

What is your present state of mind?
Worried. I am in the worst kind of position. I had to make a choice and I know I made a mistake. I had all the right intentions, but you know what they say about good intentions. The losses are mounting and I must stop the momentum.

What is your motto?
I don’t know. I've been told what I wanted was impossible. I was told to give up. Find another goal. I didn't listen. I kept going. Maybe that’s it. Never give up.


About the book: It’s April 1969 and many of the flower children who left home to escape the old morality face disillusionment, extreme poverty, and death. They give up on their dreams and do whatever it takes to survive, even if it means submitting to unconscionable evil.

Stanton Clayburn, a young private investigator, has been hired to find a nineteen year-old lost flower child. He is determined to bring the boy home safely, but the journey takes him back to the world that nearly destroyed him.

Tillie Thornwhistle, the daughter of a white father and a black mother, knows the meaning of hardship and living as an outcast. Adversity makes her strong and gives her the determination to let nothing get in the way of her success. Then a series of misguided ventures changes everything. The trail to redemption includes a psychopath, an unexpected trip, and the mysterious Stanton Clayburn.

Stanton and Tillie meet under extraordinary circumstances. Fate and necessity pull them together. What follows is an adventure that could easily cost them their lives.

Photo (c) Ron Shannon
About the Author: Ron Shannon discovered a passion for storytelling at a very young age: while listening to his teacher read the Charles Dickens’ classic A Christmas Carol to the overly-excited members of his sixth grade class. Later, he went on to study at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey and graduated with the unlikely degree combinations of accounting and English. Recently he completed his Master of Fine Arts in Writing Popular Fiction at Seton Hill University in Greensburg, Pennsylvania. Ron lives, daydreams, and writes at the New Jersey shore.

Gabriel’s Wing is Ron’s second novel. His first novel, The Hedgerows of June, is available at Amazon and at Barnes and Noble.

You can also meet the protagonist of The Hedgerows of June in another Proustian interview here.

21 April 2015

The Epic Anime Watchlist - 2015 edition

Yato from Noragami. Huzzah for streaming and simulcasts!
What a magical day and age we live in, where we can stream and watch anime in simulcast!

When I began watching anime in 2011 (after like a decades-long absence), it felt like while there was streaming, simulcasting hadn't kicked into gear yet.

Now that it's 2015, I can't believe how much anime I can watch that's subbed and available the very same day (or day after) it airs in Japan. And since I like watching subs and dubs, it's amazing to see companies such as Funimation dubbing episodes of series in English before the full show has even completed airing in Japan.

It feels like everything is go-go-go, and when I think about how it was to watch anime in the 80s and 90s, it also feels like a lifetime has passed between eras (for another nostalgic look--and what I feel is a valid criticism of the situation--check out this article from Kotaku).

Because there are so many shows available, I don't watch regular television anymore (with exceptions for Game of Thrones). I watch shows from Funimation and Crunchyroll, and if I feel like being old-fashioned and using cable, the Anime Network (On Demand).

Here are my current ratings of shows I've watched, as well as an update on what's on right now (and what I still need to see per my friends'--and voice actors'--recommendations). For an explanation of the rating system, check out this post. Above all else, please enjoy; if you have recommendations or see anything I've missed, feel free to leave a comment!



Attack on Titan
Darker than Black
Death Parade
Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works
Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood
Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo
Hellsing Ultimate
Pandora Hearts
Princess Mononoke  
Psycho Pass
Tokyo Ghoul 
Wolf Children 


Black Butler: Book of Circus
Chaika the Coffin Princess
Death Note
Fullmetal Alchemist  
Gurren Lagann 
Howl's Moving Castle 
Magi: the Labyrinth of Magic
Magi: The Kingdom of Magic
Psycho Pass 2
Rage of Bahamut: Genesis
Spirited Away 
Summer Wars 
Tales of Vesperia - The First Strike
Terror in Resonance
The Devil is a Part Timer!
Wolf Girl and Black Prince


Berserk: The Golden Age Arc - The Egg of the King
Garo: the Animation
Inari Kon Kon
Jo Jo's Bizarre Adventure
Kids on the Slope
Knights of Sidonia
Kuroko no Basuke
Laughing Under the Clouds
Little Witch Academia
Makai Ouji: Devils and Realist
Monthly Girls' Nozaki-Kun
Spice and Wolf
The World is Still Beautiful
Tokyo Ravens


DRAMAtical Murder
Elfen Lied
Free: Eternal Summer
Kamisama Dolls
My Little Monster
Orenchi no Furo Jijo
Ouran High School Host Club
Soul Eater
Sword Art Online
Tales from Earthsea
Togainu no Chi
Watamote: No Matter How I Look at It, It's Your Guys' Fault I'm Not Popular
Witchcraft Works


Fullmetal Alchemist: The Conqueror of Shamballa 
Fullmetal Alchemist: The Sacred Star of Milos 
Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet
Origin: Spirits of the Past 
Space Dandy
The Comic Artist and His Assistants


Diabolik Lovers
High School of the Dead
The Future Diary




Barefoot Gen 
From Up on Poppy Hill
Ghost in the Shell 
Grave of the Fireflies
The Secret World of Arriety


The Cat Returns
Whispers from the Heart


Akame Ga Kill!
Assassination Classroom
Blood Blockade Battlefront
Casshern Sins
Cowboy Bebop
D.-Gray Man
Deadman Wonderland
Golden Time
Is it Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon?
Kamigami no Asobi
Maria the Virgin Witch
Natsume Yujin Cho
Panty & Stocking
Parasyte-the Maxim-
Plastic Memories
Princess Tutu
Sword Art Online II
The Legend of Korra
Tokyo ESP
Yona of the Dawn
Your Lie in April


Infinite Stratos 
Lord Marksman and Vanadis
No Game No Life
The Irregular at Magic High School 
The Unbreakable Machine Doll
World Break: Aria of Curse for a Holy Swordsman


Black Butler 



Aoharu x Machinegun
Castle Town Dandelion
Chaos Dragon
Hoozuki no Reitetsu
I Can't Understand What My Husband is Saying
Prison School
Rampo Kitan
Rokka: Braves of the Six Flowers
Snow White with the Red Hair
The Heroic Legend of Arslan


Beyond the Boundary
Black Lagoon
Eden of the East
Guilty Crown
Love Stage
Magical Warfare
Monster Musume Everyday Life with Monster Girls
Phantom: Requiem for the Phantom
Seiyu's Life
Shonen Hollywood
World Trigger


Accel World
Ah! My Goddess
Angel Beats!
Chrono Cross
Excel Saga
Fairy Tail
Fruits Basket
Full Metal Panic!
Hero Tales
Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple
King of Thorn
Kyou Kara Maou!
The Legend of Legendary Heroes
Lucky Star
Murder Princess
My Bride is a Mermaid
Naruto Shippuden
Neon Genesis Evangelion
Peacemaker Kurogane
Pumpkin Scissors
Samurai Seven
Scrapped Princess
Sgt Frog
The Big O
The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya
The Sacred Blacksmith
Tiger and Bunny

19 April 2015

Proust Your Protagonist with Nicole Taft

Meet Prince Gaius Astrauckas, one of  the major
players in Nicole Taft's Terpischore's Daughter.

His Royal Highness, Prince Gaius Astrauckas

Kristina: Well. I thought I was meeting with a pr--uh... Readers, it seems I goofed somehow with today's schedule...

Prince Gaius: My apologies. You expected Sergius, my brother, did you not? I am Gaius Astrauckas. Sergius is…engaged elsewhere. [grins] It seems you'll have to deal with me instead. I am the eldest son of the Astrauckas royal line. My family has ruled the land of Suthfold for five generations and I am to be the next king.

Kristina: The next king?! Oh! Thank you for gracing me with an interview. I hope your responses will bring you further adoration from your subjects. Did that sound awkward? I get really nervous around royalty. And there's something about you I can't quite put my finger on...

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
When one has given up. Men who are in the lowest of dungeons and who have no hopes of seeing the light of day again. And they have long since given up that hope.

Where would you like to live?
I enjoy castle Strax here in Suthfold, but I must admit that I would very much like to stay for a time in castle Corioli in the eastern lands of Isonice. I've entreated King Byrose for such a chance, but he’s not taken my messages thus far.

What is your idea of earthly happiness?
Comfort. It’s a very simple concept. Comfort means that you are secure, that worry is at a minimum. That you want for little or nothing at all. 

The quality you most admire in a man?
Those unafraid to do what needs to be done. Even if those things are unpleasant. How can one truly know one’s depth if they are unwilling to go all the way?

The quality you most admire in a woman?
That she is confident. That she doesn't bend to the will of others. That even love doesn't break her. I find that to be impressive – though I have yet to see it.

Your favorite virtue?
Hmm. [laughs] You know, I can't really say that I have a favorite. Perhaps this will seem strange to you, but I find “virtues” to be delusory. Men are men. If they are good, then they are good. If not… Virtues are just trophy awards for those who suppress their darker natures.

Your favorite occupation?
King. I am still a Prince of Suthfold, though with my father unwell I am acting in his stead. But I look forward to when I wear the crown. Don't misunderstand me, I don't wish ill upon my father, I will just be proud to finally be recognized as king.

Your most marked characteristic?
Confidence. I bow before no man – even if he is a king himself.

What do you most value in your friends?
Friends are a dangerous commodity for a king. I have those that serve me and I have those I keep in confidence, but friends are not what I need, nor do I want any.

What is your principle defect?
[laughs] Perhaps I want too much. But what man isn’t always seeking more for his life?

What to your mind would be the greatest of misfortunes?
Failing in all that I have worked to accomplish. And trust that I have worked hard to place myself in my current position.

What would you like to be?
King, of course. I would like to travel to Isonice and see their lands for myself. I also know that there are lands overseas that I have yet to visit. As king, I would like to see them and perhaps start up new trade agreements – if not more.

Who are your heroes in real life?
There are kings of old that have done what I am now trying to do. I would hope to someday become like them.

Who are your favorite heroines?
I can't yet say that I've met the woman that’s impressed me with her…heroic skills.

What is it you most dislike?
Weakness. You can't live a good life, or even an effective one, if you are continuously weak. It serves no purpose. Stand up and take charge of your life or die.

What natural gift would you most like to possess?
[smiles] Flight. That would be something. Could you imagine? The Winged King. I feel rather certain that would solve a lot of my problems. [laughs]

How would you like to die?
I have no qualms about dying in battle. But I would like to live to a strong, old age. Though I admit, I don't think I would mind if my son decided to challenge me for the throne – as long as I was old enough, of course, to the point that it wouldn't matter.

What is your present state of mind?
I'm well, thank you.

What is your motto?
Power above all. Clichéd, I suppose, but truly, what would you put above power?


"Corona1" by Gravelinas1
(pd) Wikimedia Commons  
About the book: Running away is Liana Byrose’s only option. The death of her father, King of Isonice, is the fault of the secret she and her mother shared. A power that can inspire men to greatness or drive them to ruin. In the hopes of saving her people, she escapes to the neighboring kingdom with the intention of living out the rest of her life as a simple servant girl. All she has in her possession is a fur mantle and three beautiful dresses. However, she hadn't planned on meeting one of the princes of Suthfold, much less losing her heart to him—however dangerous that may be. 

Prince Sergius Astrauckas has renounced his claim on the throne in hope of keeping his life. Although he doesn't have proof that his brother Gaius is guilty of fratricide, he isn't taking any chances. Instead he’s set his sights upon getting married and settling down far from the palace, yet the lovely servant girl Liana seems intent upon rebuffing his advances. But when Gaius announces a masquerade ball and a stunning woman in a magical gown arrives, he worries that he may have fallen for not one, but two women—both of which seem to be just out of his reach.

Terpischore's Daughter is one of two books thus far in the Figments Fable lineup, which breathes new life into the mythic themes from your favorite fairytales. Terpischore's Daughter is available in ebook and paperback from Amazon.

About the author: Nicole Taft was born in Las Vegas, Nevada, but poker isn't exactly for babies. She has since lived in Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Pennsylvania, and currently resides in Missouri. She writes fantasy, science fiction, and enjoys tossing a bit of romance in when she can. At Illinois State University she earned a Bachelor's in English with an accidental minor in Japanese, and then discovered Seton Hill's Creative Writing Program and received her M.A. When she's not wreaking havoc on the page, she's eating chocolate and dreaming of moving back to Colorado.

Be sure to support the author on Facebook and keep track of her works on Amazon's Author Central.

14 April 2015

First Class Literary publishes "Victor Stitches"

Victor Stitches as it appears on First Class Literary's website.
Huzzah! My Frankenstein-inspired poem is up and running at First Class Literary Magazine. Check it out!

First Class specializes in poetry and prose that can fit onto a single postcard, which makes for some lovely, quirky, fabulous works. 

I found out about them through Poets & Writers, and set to work on writing once I perused their site. I highly recommend them, for both the joys of reading and writing

I had a lot of fun with this submission. I knew I wanted to not only write another haiku, but to also make it into an art project so the image would work together with the words in the poem. 

I took a somewhat-yellowed postcard from a collection of Yoshitomo Nara's works that I got from MOMA in 2006 and altered it. As much as I like the postcard collection, there wasn't a single piece in it that I felt would correspond with my poetry. So I ended up fabricating almost the whole thing myself. 

I used Bidloo and Lairesse's Ontleding des menschelyken lichaams... as the main image for the front of the postcard. I tried to find anatomical drawings from the 1790s (when Mary Shelley's Frankenstein takes place) but for whatever reason, when I typed "18th-century anatomical drawings," 17th-century artwork kept coming up instead. Ontleding des menschelyken dates 100 years earlier at 1690...close enough, I guess? 

Cell phone pics of the original sewing--wasn't 
sure if it would hold up traveling from 
Ohio to Minnesota but it did!
When I submitted my poem to First Class, I told them in advance I was going to stitch directly into the postcard. Originally I wanted to sew the phrase "Victor Stitches" but that was waaaaay too ambitious. I ended up printing the title directly onto the front of the card, using the German Latin font from WaldenFonts so it reads "Victor Stitches."  

As far as actual sewing goes,  I settled for some pretty accent stitches on certain parts of the muscles, using gold metallic thread. Then, to reinforce the postcard (and to make sure my flimsy printer paper wouldn't rip), I glued the modified postcard to a second postcard, then sewed the outside sections with black thread (so it would look kind of like a book cover). Voila!

As for the poetry itself, it follows the rhythm and syllabic pattern of a standard haiku (5-7-5), and as for the inspiration for the specific phrases I chose, I ended up picturing Victor Frankenstein reciting the phrases, albeit the Frankenstein from Showtime's "Penny Dreadful." (Yeah, my inspiration comes from books and television. How original. Hee hee!)

I enjoyed putting together this entire project. Please hop over to First Class Lit to give it a read, and I hope you enjoy it, too!

11 April 2015

Proust Your Protagonist with Jan Ferrierr

AddMeet Edgar, the protagonist of  the Amethyst Series.
first in this fantasy trilogy. caption



Kristina: I'm so happy to bring my readers another participant in the Proust interview series! Since Edgar is a bit on the shy side, he opted to write his answers out for me instead of doing an in-person interview. 

His good friend Jan (who introduced us) passed his responses on to me, and she included this fabulous introduction with his notes:

"We first meet Edgar in the opening chapter of The Children With The Sky In Their Eyes, book one of the medieval fantasy trilogy known as Amethyst. His name means "protector of the good," and throughout the books he does indeed fulfill the role of a protector. He is a reluctant hero who prefers privacy, his books, and his modest role as a teacher of The Way, a living philosophy of the east. His charges, the children with the sky in their eyes, Hinto and Amaryllis, become pawns in a territorial war between The Lands Of The Sands and The Kingdom Of The West. The ancestors choose this rather shy young man to be the leader of their people and he is transformed into a Lightning Struck at the Pool Of A Million Stars. He has to make life changing choices to save his people from their slide into anarchy and the clutches of the people traffickers who thrive in the wake of a brutal planetary war."

Exciting and impressive, indeed! Many thanks to Edgar for allowing me to interview him, and thank you, Jan, for introducing me to another fascinating hero!

Without further ado, here are Edgar's responses to the Proust questionnaire

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
That is a hard question. On a personal level there are two moments in my life when I have experienced the lowest depths of misery. 

The first was when I was a very young boy. A caravan from the east came to us at Lord Charles's keep and brought with it the fever. My mother, little sister and big brother were taken by it. My father, Halen the hollow, so called for his lack of personal attachments, sent me back east because I was, shall we say, difficult. I was so grief stricken that I tried to jump into the grave with my mother and siblings. He could not handle my overt emotionalism. He thought the logical teachings of The Way were just what I needed to stabilise me and in the long run, he may well have been right.

The second time of great sorrow for me was when my beloved wife, Aurora, died. You see, when I became lightning struck on the night of The Great Retribution, at The Pool Of A Million Stars, I was also given longevity. Aurora was not. I had to watch her age and die while I remained young. I don't think I ever got over that, quite.

Where would you like to live?
The adventure (and Edgar!) continues in
 the second novel  of the Amethyst series,
Ah! An easy question that. I would choose to live behind the waterfall. I created that community from nothing and have strong links with the people there.

What is your idea of earthly happiness?
Another simple answer for me. My idea of heaven on earth would be to be surrounded by my books. Anguo, my boyhood teacher, called my books my babies and I do love them almost as much as I love my children.

The quality you most admire in a man? 
Above all I admire honesty, pure and simple. Lies never have a good outcome.

The quality you most admire in a woman? 
Women are different. My best friend, Rhiago, who is a warrior, would say that I am hopeless with women and in a way that is sort of true. I am shy with them. However I have to say I can be drawn to them by their warmth. I love their warmth most of all I think.

Your favorite virtue? 
My favourite virtue I believe is beauty. All things have a natural beauty to them if you look closely enough. Even what appears to be ugly on first inspection can have an inner beauty to it when it is studied more closely, don't you think?

Your favorite occupation? 
I like working with metal. When we, Rhiago and I that is, we're being inducted into The Way, we had to create something out of nothing, so to speak, as part of our training. Rhiago, who is incidentally my best friend, made wonderful reins for his horse and decorated his saddle. I made a rather beautiful armour face plate for Precious, my black stallion, with silver inlays set into the pewter. The figures on it are mythical beauties. I still have that horse armour to this day. Perhaps you might like to see it later, if you have the time.

[Kristina: This sounds lovely, doesn't it, readers? Edgar, if you're reading this now, yes, I'd love to see!]

Your most marked characteristic? 
I can bore people sometimes. I tend to philosophise overlong about people and things. I am a bit of a night owl who doesn't sleep so well. Consequently, I have been known to ramble on well into the wee small hours of the morning, if you know what I mean?

What do you most value in your friends? 
Now that is easy. Loyalty. Nothing to add to that.

What is your principle defect? 
Again, I have a short, succinct answer for you. I talk too much.

What to your mind would be the greatest of misfortunes? 
The greatest of misfortunes for me would have been, never to have known The Way. 

The Way is the only path of life for me. It teaches you to know your strengths and weaknesses. It helps you to value the good in life and reject evil for evil's sake. There is great satisfaction in its teachings and the people are so wonderfully open and generous. You feel this most in communal exercise when the energies of the people are somehow joined and at one with the gentle displacement of the air that occurs with each tiny, exacting movement. The air is the invisible chain that links each to the other. The elements and the people are then as one, in perfect harmony.

[Kristina: This, too, is quite lovely.]

What would you like to be? 
Not Leader of The Way. I wish every day that I did not have the responsibilities of leadership. I would be much happier as a plain librarian surrounded by all my books.

Who are your heroes in real life? 
Why, the people of The Way, naturally! They accept their lot in the main and just try to live the best lives that they can, day to day.

Who are your favorite heroines? 
My mother: my wives, past and present, Jez, who is a fantastic example to us all. She is the leader of her community in The Lands Of The Sands, despite being almost totally blind. The beautiful, Amaryllis, my first pupil, who sadly is no longer with us. She was a truly brilliant and dedicated nurse and the first of my Children With The Sky In Their Eyes to learn The Way. She was happily married to Afzal, the dark caster or enabler. The people say he inhabits the space between life and death, part man, part myth, centuries old, yet, he has the power and the looks of a man of twenty something. There is a secret to that, but, it is for me to know and for you to try to unravel, if you can. 

But I digress.

What is it you most dislike? 
I hate war. It is so destructive and wasteful and kills indiscriminately. In its wake comes the breakdown of law and order. It heralds the four horsemen: death, destruction, pestilence and people traffickers, who are the scum of the earth and epitomise evil in its worst form.

What natural gift would you most like to possess? 
Bravery. I think I'd like to be naturally brave like a warrior, like Rhiago. However, there is and always has been this frightened little boy inside of me. Linden, one of the Originals of The Way, has always made light of this inner child in me. He says I am not unique in my fear. He says that all men have such a child in them that has to be conquered. He says it is as simple as that, but, I do not agree with him on this subject. As a telepath I can sense things in men even if they try to hide their innermost thoughts and daemons from me. I have not detected the scared little child in all of the men that I have secretly scanned for hidden flaws.

How would you like to die? 
The trite but true answer is that I would like to die in bed with my boots on. I know it's a cliché but my feet are too big and not really so beautiful to look at. They must be the exception to the rule that there is beauty in all things. It is best that they be covered over in death so that people will not laugh at them when they come and find me. People sometimes laugh at the oddest of things when they see the dead, you know, to disguise their fear of the inevitability of it all. They long to know what happens but dread having to find it out for themselves.

What is your present state of mind? 
Enquiring. As I get older and nearer to the ancestors, I wonder more and more about things and I am especially fascinated by our founder, the prophet Chi, who cast the six hundred letters onto the earth in The Creation Time. Is there still life in his perfectly preserved sky blue eyes?

What is your motto? 
I don't think I have a motto. I just try to be the best I can be every day that I draw breath.

...Thank you for having me. Your questions have been varied and interesting. I just hope that my answers do not disappoint. Everyone tends to think that leaders have all of the answers to life's main questions. Let me assure you that is not the case. 


For more on the Amethyst series:  Book One, The Children with the Sky in their Eyes,
is available as a paperback or ebook at Amazon (UK/US), as well as in paperback via CreateSpace.

Book Two, The Lightning Struck, is available as a paperback or ebook at Amazon (UK/US), as well as in  paperback via CreateSpace.

Book Three, The Rise of the Violet Sorcerers, is forthcoming and will complete the series. Stay tuned--this page will be updated when the book is released!  

Photo (c) Jan Ferrierr
About the author, Jan Ferrierr:

Originally, I come from Scottish Baronial stock and can trace my lineage right back as far as my ancestors in the time of Queen Mary Queen Of Scots. I was an only child. I earned a bursary to Aberdeen Academy, the local grammar school, where I completed my basic education. I attended King's College, Aberdeen where I graduated with an M.A. My main subjects were English and History. I went on to teach after that - general subjects. 

While I was in full time employment I wrote poetry and had some thirty to forty poems published in anthologies, magazines and literary papers. My biggest success was "Living On The Edge," which went into The National Poetry Library of the USA's River Of Dreams. That same poem was read by Ira Weintraub accompanied by The London Chamber Orchestra on "The Sound Of Poetry."

I am a widow and after my husband John's death I decided to try my hand at prose writing. He encouraged me to do that. I have quite recently completed a trilogy called Amethyst and two books are available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle and Create Space. They are The Children With The Sky In Their Eyes and The Lightning Struck. The third book, The Rise Of The Violet Sorcerers, is due out soon. They are medieval fantasy.  I am currently working on a few other projects this year. I love movies and jazz and like to dabble in water colour and embroidery. I have two children who are both adults now and like to spend time with my family and friends.

Keep in touch! Follow Jan on Twitter, Facebook, and Amazon's Author Central.

06 April 2015

My History of Japanese Anime - The Early Years

Apparently, there's a debate over the quality of anime (when has there ever not been a debate?) and like this Kotaku author, I believe that we are currently in one of the best eras for anime. Author Dexomega discloses that he watched a lot of it in earlier years, but in the late aughts, walked away from it because he was "sick of some of the crap that was being ported over here and that led me to swear it off and revert to western media." I kind of went through the same thing, and if I have any complaints about anime, it's pretty much this, no matter what the era.

So here's a multi-part post about anime; one, to give more context to my Epic Anime Watchlist posts, and two, because I believe anime is awesome and worth checking out. It can be a gorgeous art form, but even more so, it's full of compelling characters and intricate plots that don't have an equivalent in Western storytelling, in my opinion. (To be fair, a lot of Japanese anime takes its plots from manga, so I amend my statement: Japanese animation and comics are full of compelling characters and intricate plots that do not have an equivalent in Western storytelling).

A lot of people have different definitions as to what constitutes anime. To Westerners, the term anime is a generalization that means animation from Japan (although, the reality would also include South Korea, Vietnam, and India); the truth of the matter is that anime is simply the Japanese abbreviation of the word "animation." Therefore, any and all animated work, no matter its origin, is anime. Throughout my blog, I've used "anime" as a generalization; for this post and onward, I will try to remedy that.

There was a time when I was an avid viewer of Japanese anime, and didn't know it. To me, it was just another cartoon I watched, because the movies and series were presented in English on channels like Nickelodeon and Disney. These early productions shaped my views on animation and storytelling overall, and played a major part in my childhood and growing up. It even planted the seeds to help me determine what I wanted to be when I grew up.

The truth: it was directly through anime that I was introduced to Western classics and mythology, American literature, and German fairytales. Kind of mind-blowing, isn't it? Of course I would run into these subjects eventually in school and in books, but these stories were a part of me when I was in preschool and elementary school. I often wonder if they were the reason I knew as early as six that I wanted to be a writer.

My original golden age of anime: The 80s

Little Women (1980)

Excerpts from my favorites...

Little Women -Toei Animation (東映アニメーション株式会社)loved this show and watched it maybe a thousand times growing up. I think this aired as a part of Nickelodeon's Special Delivery lineup...Anyway, this special introduced me to Chopin's music, Civil War and slavery; plays and playwriting; and above all, Josephine March, my literary heroine for the longest time in my life.

The opening of "Little Women"

Unico in the Island of Magic - Madhouse (株式会社マッドハウス). This might've been one of the scariest animated movies I saw as a child. But I was obsessed with it because I loved anything that had to do with unicorns, no matter how wackadoo it was. I think this might've played a weird part in developing my fascination with puppets, robots, and artificial intelligence. I actually purchased the DVD of this a year ago entirely based on nostalgia, and when I watched it I couldn't believe all of the stuff I missed when I watched it as a kid. Lord Kuruku still creeps me out. At least there's Toby's flute @ 3:14.

 "Toby...Tooooby...what are you doing, Toby?"

The Last UnicornTopcraft Animation (トップクラフト) Yes, this is a Rankin/Bass production, but this is Japanese animation, and the best of the best from the 80s. And I love this movie to death. Still. Love love love.  Interestingly enough, when Topcraft shuttered, Studio Ghibli took its place. Hmm...

The famous opening sequence, based off the Hunt of the Unicorn Tapestries

The Flight of Dragons - Topcraft Animation. Another Rankin/Bass film with Japanese animation. This was my sister's favorite, and I liked it, too, but some of it also scared me. It was the first film to introduce dragons to me, and my first glimpse of Eastern dragons (which reminded me a lot of lions). About ten years ago or so I watched it again with my sister to see if it held up over time (it was a bit awkward). But this song still rocks.

In the sky...or in my miiiiind....

Additional mentions from the 80s:

Animation of Japanese characters by an American studio: 

The Legend of Zelda (1989) - DIC Entertainment. This appeared on the Super Mario Brothers Super Show which I watched every time it aired. But my favorite episodes were when they aired The Legend of Zelda. Unfortunately, because this is an American production, there are stupid American jokes and trends that date the show terribly/are annoying ("Excuuuse me, Princess!"); however, this was my first introduction to Nintendo and to Link, who, despite being a total airhead, was my first cartoon "crush."

"For you Zelda? Anything." Link is totally tubular, bros.

Japanese anime from the 80s that I discovered after the 80s:

Grave of the Fireflies (1988) -  Studio Ghibli. Watched this as an undergraduate in college with my friend Aly. The first animated film to have me bawl my eyes out uncontrollably from sadness. This was also the first anime I viewed in its original language dub. Up until then, I'd only watched English dubs because that's pretty much what I was raised on. Now, I always try to watch anime with both language tracks.  

Barefoot Gen (1983) - Madhouse. The second animated film to have me bawl my eyes out uncontrollably from sadness. I watched this after it being referenced in the HBO documentary White Light, Black Rain. The film was sad, but it also horrified me. It depicts Hiroshima being bombed, as experienced by the young boy Gen. The anime as well as the manga is autobiographical, so what the audience experiences is what the creator,  Keiji Nakazawa, experienced when he witnessed and survived the aftermath of Hiroshima. The family that suffers in the film is his family. It's one of the most powerful war films I've seen, ever. 

Both of these animated films reminded me that war is terrible for everyone and that despite what teachers and history books have told me, I really wish nuclear weapons were not a thing. Ever.


Stay tuned for part two: the 90s and the aughts--when I walked away from anime.

Happy Easter! Happy Spring!

Spring has sprung!
Image licensed by Shutterstock.
In the old Greek myths, Persephone (kore, the young maiden) returns from Hades (the underworld) and the earth blooms again in greeting. Persephone trades death for life in a recurring cycle each year.

Thus, spring symbolizes new growth and renewed life.

I hope that this spring infects you with a vigor and creative spark that will carry you through the years to come.

Warm, sunny weather would be nice, too. :)

Happy Easter and Happy Springtime, everyone!