VesselVessel by Andrew J. Morgan
A strange vessel floats in orbit with the International Space Station. Things go into overdrive when communications with the station is lost. Sally Fisher, a SETI scientist and communications expert, is sent on an emergency mission to the space station to trouble shoot the problems. Meanwhile, on the ground, a feisty reporter, Sean Jacob, gets a tip that something isn’t quite right with ISS and starts to dig in places he shouldn’t. The reader is taken on a ride through this thriller with a great twist at the end.

Vessel, by Andrew Morgan, is a great story that is severely hurt by poor editing. It is one of those books that I’m frustrated that it made it to me (and all of the author’s fans) before it was fully edited. A good editor would have taken this adjective riddled story and tightened it into a great thriller that would have put me on the edge. Unfortunately, I had to drag myself through the wordy quagmire to get to the end.

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The Paper Magician

The Paper Magician (The Paper Magician Trilogy, #1)The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg
Ceony Twill dreams of being a smelter magician, yet her desires are thwarted by her assignment to the eccentric Paper Magician Emery Thanes. Her apprenticeship to a paper magician initially seems like an insult to her. After all, she was the top student in her graduating class so she should have been given her choice of any apprenticeship. She soon learns that there is more to being a paper magician than just making perfect folds.

This common story of magic, both light and dark, is presented in a fresh new way. Charlie N. Holmberg does borrow themes from other tales (magic schools are not a new idea), but she presents these in a way that feels new and inventive. It is a fun, fresh book for readers of any age.

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Crossing the Yampa

Since November I have not written one word. It has been a dry spell to say the least. Then I received an email  from Chuck Wendig’s blog with a flash fiction challenge. Just the kick in the pants I needed to write something….anything.

Finding a subject was a simple matter of choosing two arbitrary numbers from 1 to 20 and use those two numbers to match to two subject lists then write a flash fiction piece of less than 2,000 words. So, from the two lists I got Extraterrestrial and Wild West.

____________________ Crossing the Yampa _________________

The wagon train had left her station hours ago. She had worked through the rest of the day cleaning the horse dung and the human stench from the walls. Once a month they came through, sometimes twice in a month, and Margo never got used to it. The humans had a smell about them that reminded her of the dead rats she found in the barn sometimes.

Satisfied, she went back upstairs then out the window to sit on the roof. This is where she spent most of her time staring into the sky wishing for home. In the years spent in the southern hemisphere she could see her home cluster in the night sky, but here in the north she could only see the local sun. Only ten more years and she could go back south. Ten more years of being in this dust bowl serving the wagon trains that kept pushing to the west carrying those petty humans into the frontier.

Stirring out of her own mind she turned to go back inside. Mid-stride Margo met the blunt end of a shotgun in the gut. “Hello Margo. Been a long time wouldn’t you say?”

“Kate. What in tarnation are you doing here? How did you find me?”

“You are a slippery one Margo. I’ve been hunting you for the past couple of centuries. I have to admit you found yourself one hell of a place to hide. How did you find this dump anyway?”

Pushing past her, Margo went back through the window. “Believe it or not, I crashed here. Been stranded for at least a couple hundred years.”

“Come on Margo. You can’t expect me to believe that you, our top pilot, crashed on this rock. You’ll need a better excuse than that.”

“You know me Kate. Weird shit happens.”

“Weird shit my ass. Is that your excuse for the string of dead bodies you left all over the home cluster? Is that your excuse for decimating Corkerelle? Give me a break.”

Margo couldn’t help but laugh a little bit. “You have no idea do you Kate? You have spent all this time looking for me and never stopped to wonder if it was really me? Wake up Kate. Look around you. What do you see?”

“What are you talking about Margo?”

“I’ve been here for eons watching these humans scrape across their globe. They drag their sorry souls over the land and darken every corner of it. Right now, they drive their wagon trains out west in a thirst for riches and in their wake; they leave only a stench and rot. Did you smell the trash heap on your way in? Did you see what they do? Doesn’t it look even a little familiar? How long ago did Corkerelle happen? Think about it Kate, could I, one solitary being really destroy an entire planet? Think back, Kate. Remember what it smelled like?”

The shotgun began to weigh more than Kate remembered when she first pointed it at Margo. “They came here, didn’t they? They came here to do it all over again didn’t they?”

“Oh, they’ll try alright, but there will be bloody hell to pay before they can cross the Yampa.”


The humans had celebrated that night once they arrived at the edge of the Yampa. It had been a long trek across the eastern plains and everyone was ready for fresh water and time to dance. They had made it. Living to see the Yampa River was all they had prayed for and here they were. Couples clapped and danced to the fiddler’s tune late into the night.

The warmth of the rising sun pushed the gentle breeze through the camp. The air licked at the canvas capes that draped each wagon ruffling the bare threads. The horses had long left the area along with the cattle. A few stray dogs were all that remained behind. A breeze carried the echoes from the night’s celebration leaving silence in its place.

Iron from the wagons took the longest to disassemble, after the humans. It was in their coding to tend to the biomasses first then the iron and other non-living items brought by the humans. The bots did their job then marched back into the water and waited. The next wagon train was due in just a week. They needed time to recharge.

Fairest: A Good Read

Fairest: Levana's Story (The Lunar Chronicles)Fairest: Levana’s Story by Marissa Meyer

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Fairest, the next installment in The Lunar Chronicals delves deep into the backstory of Levana and the royal family of Luna. Meyer develops Levana’s tragic life in such a way that I was sympathetic to her plight. Her evil rule is well established throughout the series so this installment is somewhat predictable in that Levana would always make the bad choice when life gave her the option between good and evil.

Fairest does step away from the story line of the three previous books which I found a little distracting. I wanted the story rather than the history, yet it is a really good read. Lots of tension to keep the pages turning. Once I started I couldn’t put it down.

I wonder, does Winter (the final installment in The Lunar Chronicles) need Fairest to bring Cinder’s adventure to a conclusion? I look forward to finding out!

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A Beautiful Story

The Shell CollectorThe Shell Collector by Hugh Howey
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Hugh Howey has out done himself in this beautifully written book that explores the depth of love and passion to save a world that has lost so much. The Shell Collector is an exploration of great loss that leads to redemption. Howey takes the reader on an ocean voyage in prose that will sweep you into the storm and lift you over the sea.  The story will end at the last word, yet the journey will continue on in your heart.

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J.T. Evans


J.T. Evans stopped by to chat with us about his writing life and how he gets it all done.

KJ ~~ Tell us a little bit about yourself.
J.T. ~~ My Day Job is working as a lead software engineer on a set of international web sites that facilitate the purchase of training courses for other technical people. The nitty-gritty details are somewhat boring, so I’ll leave it up to your imagination as to what “exciting” things I get to do. The upside is that work takes me to Paris for meetings every so often. I live just outside Monument, Colorado with my wife of 16 years and my seven-year-old son. I do my best to treat writing as a profession, so I rarely (if ever) list it under “hobbies” anymore. This means my hobbies are Cub Scouts with my son, playing card/board/role-playing games, and watching hockey (I used to play).

KJ ~~ What are you working on right now?
J.T. ~~ I’m currently working on writing an urban fantasy novel while submitting some short stories to various markets. The novel is about an immortal Roman Centurion living in modern San Antonio, Texas. He works for The Ancients as a bounty hunter while searching for clues into his father’s mysterious disappearance almost two-thousand years ago. I’m hoping to make it into a series, but I’m just now starting chapter 4 of the first book. I hope to be somewhere in the late-teens in chapter count by the end of the month, done with the book by the start of February, and edit it in time for the 2015 Pikes Peak Writers Conference. It’s a hectic schedule, but I think I can pull it off.

KJ ~~ I see on your website that you have published a number of flash fiction pieces along with several short stories. For you, how does this differ than writing a novel (besides the fact that a novel probably takes a boatload more time)?
J.T. ~~ Besides the time commitment, it’s a matter of accuracy with words. Basically, it goes like this. Novels are words. Short stories are the right words. Flash fiction (and poetry) pieces are the right words in the right place. This is all probably gross oversimplification, but that’s how I approach things. If I have a powerful word with depth of meaning, I’ll use it once in a flash piece, maybe twice in a short story, and no more than once per chapter in a novel. In flash fiction, I try to use as many “kick in the gut” words as possible to amp up the pressure of the story in such a short time, but I can’t repeat those words. I also only try to explore one character, one concept, and one setting. No more than one of each of those. In short stories, I’m allowed a few more characters, but no more than two (maybe three) main characters. I also try to keep my short stories down to one setting, and around two concepts. This keeps my word count down. With novels, I let it all fly! I love world building, so that’s where my novels come into play. I get to explore (in depth and breadth) many aspects of the world through the characters’ explorations of the world.

KJ ~~You are a father, a husband, a technoguru, President of Pikes Peak writers, and a writer. How do you squeeze it all in?
J.T. ~~ There are a few factors going into play here. I have a great amount of personal discipline. It’s rare for me to waste a minute while I’m awake on something that’s not productive, but I do still schedule downtime. This prevents me from burning out. My downtime usually involves a quick TV show, reading while eating lunch, or playing with my son. Another thing that works well for me is that my corpus callosum (the bridge between the two halves of the brain) did not form properly in utero. This doesn’t impair my ability to think or act, and it has gifted with ambidexterity, and the ability to quickly shift from logical thinking (my Day Job and running Pikes Peak Writers) to creative thinking (writing). Lastly, I’ve been diagnosed with a rare mental oddity called “hyperfocus.” It’s basically the opposite of ADHD. It’s incredibly useful to be able to focus solely on my work despite being in chaotic surroundings (like at a loud coffee shop). There are some downsides to the hyperfocus, though. When I’m on a strong roll of writing, it’ll last long enough that I’ll forget to eat or take care of my body.

KJ ~~ What does a typical writing day look like for you?
J.T. ~~ For me, writing tends to happen on weekends or late in the evening. I’ll tend to wait until my son goes down for the night. At that point, I’ll stay up late and crank out some words. My peak “brain activity” hours are generally from 8PM until about 4AM. I wish I could stay up until 4AM every day, but that pesky Day Job requires me to be out the door by around 8AM each day to make it on time. On the weekends, I tend to write quite a bit on Saturdays since that is “my day” to be kid-free and do as I please. My family is generally gone Sunday mornings as well, so I’ll continue my work on that day until they get home. At that point, my wife will run about town on “her day,” and I’ll spend some good time with my son.

KJ ~~ Do you have strategies for getting past those days that are hard to write?
J.T. ~~ I’ve never had “writer’s block.” I have had scenes that I didn’t want to tackle because they made me uncomfortable to write. It could be a tender moment, something incredibly emotional, something complex in the physical realm, and so on. At this point, I’ll flip from the creative side of things to the logical and look at it from the new viewpoint. I’ll ask, “Why am I uncomfortable with this?” Once I’ve dissected the problem, I find the nugget of truth in there somewhere. Then I approach the scene from that angle and it works out well.

KJ ~~ What books or authors have influenced you the most and why?
J.T. ~~ The list is lengthy, but I’ll stick to the high points. Terry Brooks, Dennis L. McKiernan, Raymond E. Feist, Lawrence Watt-Evans, and Anne McCaffrey are high on my list because of their incredible world-building skills. However, they manage to drag out wonderful character moments from the world regardless of what is going on. This fine balance is why they make my list. I also love building new worlds in my own way, so learning lessons from these fine masters is something I strive to do.

Carol Berg, Jim Butcher, C.S. Lewis, Ursula K. Le Guin, Brent Weeks, Roger Zelazny, Saladin Ahmed, Jane Yolen, and Robert Asprin also hit the high spots on my list because of the true, raw, emotional, powerful, and exciting characters they create. However, these characters do not exist in a vacuum, so there is some world building in there as well. I aspire to create fictional people that give the reader an emotional roller coaster ride, so these are always on my shelf.

KJ ~~What are your favorite books that you have read simply for pleasure?
J.T. ~~ Interestingly, the author of my favorite book didn’t make the above list. It could be that he has not produced as much as the others. My #1 book of all time is The Long Run by Daniel Keys Moran. The characters in this futuristic, broken world are true. Not only true to themselves, but true to the world. It’s just an amazing piece of fiction. The things I tend to read for pleasure fall firmly in the fantasy and urban fantasy realms. I do branch out and read a bit of science fiction and horror, though. I rarely pick up anything else because my time is so precious to me. I just don’t know if I’d enjoy other things. I might, but I don’t know. This leads me to stick to the things I know.

KJ ~~ If you took a two-week vacation in any book or story, where would you go and who would you be?
J.T. ~~ Most of the places I read about in fiction are horrific places! Marauding orcs, horrible demons, power-hungry fae, and constant warfare tend to be the fare of what I read. I don’t want to visit any of those places at all. If I had to pick a place, it would be the multiverse that Skeeve and Aahz (and their troupe of friends) live in in the “Myth” series by Robert Asprin. There’s plenty of zany antics going on, and it all seems like so much fun.

Twitter: @jtevans

Chelsea Brown

Chelsea Brown

Chelsea Brown

Welcome Chelsea Brown!
Chelsea is an aspiring author. She is absorbing all the knowledge she can that revolves around writing and the publishing industry, and working on her latest project.

K.J. ~~ What are you working on right now?
CHELSEA ~~ I am currently in the midst of a first draft for a Young Adult novel titled Dreamer. The novel revolves around a girl who’s on the brink of adulthood, and is doing everything she can to create a better life/future for herself, through the route of a college acceptance letter. While, at the same time, trying to survive the rest of the year living with her parents; who both suffer from drug addictions.

K.J. ~~ Where did your inspiration for this book come from?
CHELSEA ~~ I think I had multiple inspirations for this book. The first came from a pile of setbacks with another book that I was working on. The second came from the passing on of my grandmother earlier this year. The third I think being that Dreamer was something new and different than any other story I’ve written in the past. I’ve also had my own personal experiences; where I’ve encountered or have known different people, who have had their own struggles with addiction. So it was the combination of those different instances that have inspired me for this book.

K.J. ~~ You have a blog where you chronicle your writing path (The Jenny Mac Book Blog). What was your inspiration for starting this blog and how has it helped you through your writing process?
CHELSEA ~~ In the beginning I used the blog as more of a platform for my books and to help me build up an audience; however through the years it’s become more than just a platform. It’s become a place of learning, inspiration, and discovery for me. Therefore having the blog at this time in my life has not only bettered my writing process, but it’s also helped me find my voice as a writer.

K.J. ~~ Do you have strategies for getting past those days that are hard to write?
CHELSEA ~~ I usually just grit my teeth and push through it but, if I’m still feeling drained and not up for another day of writing, coffee will do in a pinch.

K.J. ~~What books or authors have influenced you the most and why?
CHELSEA ~~ The Harry Potter series, Holes, and The Casual Vacancy have been the most influential for me. I started writing at an early age, and when I was a child Harry Potter and Holes just blew me away. It literally reached a point where I said “I want to create stories like that.” So shortly after reading Holes I picked up a pen. The Casual Vacancy is a huge influence for me right now because it inspires me as I work on Dreamer.

K.J. ~~What are your favorite books that you have read simply for pleasure?
CHELSEA ~~ Inherit the Wind, Dear John, and Harry Potter.

K.J. ~~ If you took a two-week vacation in any book or story, where would you go and who would you be?
CHELSEA ~~ Okay the child in me is coming out. If I were to vacation in a book for two weeks it would have to be the Harry Potter series and the character I would be is Harry. I love the first book especially when Harry discovers this magical world that he’s apart of, and I would want to explore Diagon Alley so that I could take in all of the magic.
Contact info:

Donnell Ann Bell


Donnell Ann Bell, author of the award winning book: Deadly Recall,  is here to talk about her newest novel from Bell Bridge Books, Buried Agendas, coming out Fall of 2014.

KJ ~Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Donnell ~ Hi, Kathie, thanks for inviting me to your wonderful blog. I have lived in Colorado Springs, the second time going on 30 years, but I was born in Texas and grew up in New Mexico. I’m the author of novels, Betrayed, Deadly Recall and The Past Came Hunting. I write romantic suspense and mystery.

KJ ~Of the books you have written, which one would you like to tell us about?
Donnell ~Gosh, how about the one that is coming up in Fall of 2014. It’s my fourth book from Bell Bridge Books, and the working title is Buried Agendas. The log line is: A devastating secret drove her from her lover’s arms. Will a secret equally as deadly lead her back to him?

KJ ~What was the hardest part about getting this book from the first ideas to publication?
Donnell ~ Buried Agendas is one of the first books I’ve ever wrote and it’s one I was passionate about because I was learning a great deal as I wrote it. But after so many years of having it in my files or drawer, so to speak, I found I’ve changed in style and writing knowledge, and I had a ton of updating to do. I think I’d rather start from scratch from now on because I ended up rewriting most of the book anyway. Amazingly, though, the events that happened during the time that I wrote are coming full circle in today’s economic and political climate.

KJ ~Where did you get your inspiration for this book?
Donnell ~ I definitely got this inspiration from my husband. He’s a chemical engineer and the story involves a chemical plant. He didn’t help me with it, however. When I asked him questions about processes and more, he said the last thing he wanted to do after working forty plus hours in that business was to talk to his wife about it. He wanted to come home and talk about other things. That didn’t stop me, though. I know most of his contacts, and they gladly helped me 😉

KJ ~ What books or authors have influenced you the most and why?
Donnell ~ This is a really hard question because the list is long and I leave off so many great, great authors when I answer this. Lawrence Sanders is the reason I write today. His First, Second, Third and Fourth Deadly Sin series made me fall in love with police procedurals and thriller writing. I love Sandra Brown, Daniel Silva and Robert Crais. I’ve added many more writers to this list but feel I do a disservice to them by not mentioning them. However, the ones I listed inspired me.

KJ ~What are your favorite books that you have read simply for pleasure?
Donnell ~ I love to read Mike Befeler’s Geezerlit series. He makes me laugh, and he’s a pleasure to read. Annette Dashofy is always intriguing. I love their characters and storylines. I just read a book by Eve Gaddy that hasn’t been released yet called Last Shot. I read it simply as a beta reader. I also beta read for Lois Winston and am always impressed with her work.

KJ ~What does a typical writing day look like for you?
Donnell ~ Sporadic, unfortunately. I’m trying to exercise. I’m acting as my mother’s foreman on a bathroom remodel and it’s summer and everyone seems to be coming to visit—not that I’m complaining. Life is short, come visit 😉 Last night I had ten people over for dinner. And I still managed to get a chapter in. Love the new book that I’m writing—finally now that my antagonist and I are speaking.

KJ ~Do you have strategies for getting past those days that are hard to write?
Donnell ~ Usually when I get blocked it’s because I haven’t got the plot, character or direction in a chapter figured out. I’m a linear writer. Sometimes I can’t wrap my head around a particular problem. When I figure it out, no amount of company, construction projects or whatever can stop me. I have to get the words down. This is why I don’t do Nanowrimo. I write junk when I participate. I may not be writing literally, but I am always brainstorming and working out a plot problem.

KJ ~If you took a two-week vacation in any book or story, where would you go and who would you be?
Donnell ~ Hmmm, a vacation – when I generally read mystery/thrillers? Usually when I’m reading one, something bad is happening. Perhaps I should pick up a vacation pamphlet and read one and let you know. I was in Monterey California this year and Key West Florida the year before. Do actual places count?


Hello Facebook

It was inevitable. The day has come that I finally got with the program and set up an author Page on Facebook. I have heard for months (okay, I’ve known forever) that as a professional person one should have all the social media that they can get. I have researched all the hidie-holes for information and, in case you’re wondering, there is more than one website dedicated to social media and how it can promote your profession (go figure!).

I did a quick search on Google “Why a Facebook Page?” (in quotations) and the results were robust….1,070,000 pages/links/hidie-holes showed up for me to browse and learn. It was surprising the number one page that came up was: 3 Reasons Why a Facebook Page Can’t Replace an Author Website

Wait….what? I’m looking for reason TO have a Page. After all, I’m an author and I am told I should have a Page. I must have a Page! There are millions of Fans climbing over one another ripping through cyberspace just so they can Like My Page. Fear not my curious reader. Jane Friedman gives some very sound advice for authors, or anyone in a professional career, a number of reasons not to put all your vowels into a single basket. Her number one point that I took away? Social Media is in a constant state of flux. What you set up today could be obsolete tomorrow. Proceed with caution.

Scanning down the list of Google’s choices for researching this vast subject I came across a blogger who supports the need for a Page and why. Why a Facebook Page for business or blog is necessary This post is very business oriented. Yet, there is some very useful information for the creative mind. Wading through the SEO’s, Branding’s, and Analytic’s can be a little treacherous, so take the time to get an idea of how it can help.  Even though you may be a painter, a writer, or a sculptor, all the techno-babble does apply to you and the art you are promoting. Facebook can help.

After weighing my vowels against my consonants I decided that a Page was for me. It is dedicated to those who have an interest in the things that life throws out into the cosmos inspiring creativity, along with those funny quips and foibles keeping the creative mind nurtured. Follow this LINK to my PAGE and choose to LIKE it and FOLLOW it and all those other things that need to be done to stay in touch. Thank you.

P.S. I can also be found on Twitter. (Yep, that one’s still a mystery to me, but I do tweet every now and again). @kjscrim

Karen Emanuelson

Sword fighting at Viking Festival

Karen demonstrates her sword fighting skills at a Viking festival.

KJ~~ Please tell us a little bit about yourself.
Karen~~ I’m a Viking re-enactor and do era correct sword-fighting.  My bird, Xanadu, a Peach-faced African Lovebird, is my oldest animal at 15 1/2.  She detests my cats and is happiest if she can get them in trouble.  I have two Pugs, Jera and her brother, Lahi, three cats, Li Po, my oldest boy at nine and the “kittens” Isaz and her brother, Wunjo.  I also have three horses, the mares Misty (Queen of the Universe!) who is a registered Spotted Saddle Horse (a gaited breed) plus my APHA registered Paints, Denver, my big dressage horse, as well as my filly, Fehu.  I used to be a horse breeder and trainer.  Sometimes I give riding lessons in dressage.  I’m a musician and although I play a variety of instruments:  Irish Bouzouki, Mountain Dulcimer, Ukulele, NAF (Native American Flute) and Bodhran (the Celtic frame drum) I have studied the recorder for the past 2 1/2 years so I can play Renaissance & Baroque music as well as Celtic music on that instrument.  Water is my element and I love to swim–almost as much as I love horseback riding.  I was a high adventure sports specialist, taught rock-climbing and cross-country skiing and worked as a whitewater raft guide all summer.  I’m a veteran and was in the Army for 9 1/2 years.
KJ~~ I understand that you are a Beowulf Scholar. Would you tell us more about this?
Karen~~  I present on Beowulf at academic conferences.  I always show up in period garb and often with a collection of weapons.  One year I did a sword-fighting demonstration as part of my talk which is not something most academics do I suppose, so I’ve attracted a bit of a following.
KJ~~ You are presently working on a series of books. What are they about?
Karen~~  They are all a look at Beowulf’s world which was early 6th century Scandinavia.  We know that Beowulf’s uncle, King Hygelac was killed in 521 CE during an act of piracy against his neighbors the Frisians.  Due to that documentation we can date the other events that happen during the Beowulf saga.  The poem that we are all familiar with was written down by a couple of monks over in England more than 200 years after the events occurred.  The stories had to get past the church censors, so the writers layered on a heavy Christian gloss that would not have existed in Scandinavian society during the saga’s time.  I have removed that Christian gloss and re-situated the story back into the proper culture.  Although Beowulf himself is an important character in my books, the thrust of the narrative focuses upon women of his world.  Norse women had a lot of power until the Scandinavian lands were Christianized at the end of the much later Viking era and their professions were quite diverse.  They were traders, farmers, healers, ship captains, warriors and leaders, among other things.
KJ~~ Where did you get your inspiration?
Karen~~ When I was going to college over in Germany–my last duty station while in the Army–I wound up being an English major by default.  At the time I wanted to be an Ethologist (animal behavior scientist) but the University of Maryland, European Division, Frankfurt, didn’t have much of a program in natural science, although of course I took all the classes they did offer as electives.  As I finished up my course work for my degree we had a “drive by class” that covered both “Beowulf” and “Gilgamesh” in one evening.  Something like, “These are both heroic epics.  The End.”  I studied “Beowulf” on my own.  Instead of anything Germanic in university, we spent loads of time–entire courses in fact–on the Greeks.  I asked one of my professors if anyone had ever written a novel based upon “Beowulf” that was empowering to women & she said not as far as she knew.  Years later I decided to present on Grendel’s mother at an academic conference.  As I did my research, I was amazed by what I learned–several key words in the original manuscript had been mistranslated because of the Christian attitude toward women in the late 19th century.  Rather than a monster, I learned that Grendel’s mother was a noblewoman and a mighty warrior.  I read about the graves of Norse women warriors who were mislabeled “men” because of the warrior artifacts buried with the remains until scientists were able to extract DNA to prove otherwise just recently.  Approximately 10% of the warriors were women.  My novels follow the life of one of them, a woman who starts life as a wife, mother and simple farmer until catastrophe strikes her farmstead.  As she travels in her quest of retribution, she meets many characters from the “Beowulf” saga.
KJ~~ What does a typical writing day look like for you?
Karen~~ The last thing I do every night before I go drain my brain into the idiot box and cuddle with my pets is write.  I write absolutely every single night, no excuses.
KJ~~ Do you have strategies for getting past those days that are hard to write?
Karen~~ My rule is that I write every night–even if it’s only one line.  Some nights I have indeed, only written one line.  Other nights I write pages.  It’s all a matter of discipline.
KJ~~ Is there a lesson you have learned in your writing that you would like to share with us?
Karen~~ Force yourself to write.  No excuses, no blaming “the muse” or whining about writers block.  If you plan to write something long, you must write every day regardless of what is going on in your life or you will never ever finish.
KJ~~ What books or authors have influenced you the most and why?
Karen~~ I’ve read many translations of “Beowulf” and although the late Seamus Heaney’s version is the most celebrated, I enjoy the beauty of the language in the Howell D, Chickering, Jr’s version the most.  Tolkien is a huge hero of mine and I can’t wait to get my hands on his “Beowulf” translation and hope the book includes his essays.  He was a famous Oxford professor and his scholarship is admirable.  His LOTR series of books was his way of giving the English people back their own mythology–instead of all the Greeks and Romans.  All Germanic mythology is related, so it’s relevant to me.  Plus, he was the first serious “Beowulf” scholar.  When I went to England with the university to finish up my thesis in graduate school, I walked to Tolkien’s favorite hang-out, “The Eagle & Child” to enjoy a pint, soak up his energy and write.  That night and the day I visited Stonehenge were the only times it rained–and it poured both times.  I love what Diana Galbaldon has done with Scottish history.  Any time an author does his or her research and is accurate without winding up with a novel that reads like a history text book and tells a good story, it makes me happy.  I plan to be to Beowulf’s time/place what Phillipa Gregory is to her era of British history.  Although I don’t find JK Rowling’s writing style to be especially “clean” I absolutely adore her Harry Potter books.  I believe that being a great storyteller is more important than anything else when one writes novels.
KJ~~ If you took a two-week vacation in any book or story, where would you go and who would you be?
Karen~~ I often dream about what it might have felt like to have a good childhood, so I think it would be awesome to be someone like Fern in “Charlotte’s Web.”  When I was a kid, authors didn’t tend to write books with interesting female protagonists.  I wanted to be Tom Sawyer or Huck Finn in Twain’s books–the female characters were a bore to me.  Of course most of the books I read were about horses or dogs.  I read all of Walter Farley’s “Black Stallion” novels and all of Marguerite Henry’s books.  She was a Wisconsinite like me, so I really admired her when I was a kid.  But again, both of these favorite authors had boys as the protagonists.  Girls were dull.
Coming September 1st: Award winning author Donnell Bell.
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