Testimony is based on a real-life case against a professor at UCLA suspended in 1952 (without pay) after being observed through her own window kissing another woman.
Can you say invasion of privacy?
Sorry, I digress.

Testimony’s main character, Gen, is based on the very real professor Martha Deane. I don’t know if Gen’s personality was entirely her own, or if it was borrowed from Professor Deane, but to me, Gen seemed as real as you or me. I could hear her voice in my head as she taught, as she had drinks with Fenton and tried to live life under the social-police radar. My heart broke for Fenton, and there were a few times I just wanted to pour him a drink and tell him it would get better.
All of the characters stood in their own limelight – sharply crafted, finely tuned in their own ways and each with their own struggles. Ruby became a favourite of mine too.

The homophobia of that time period was written as an appropriately tense undercurrent that dominated the entire landscape of the novel. You couldn’t help feel the danger underlying every decision, every conversation and almost every character. Over this dark skeleton, the author built a highly readable tale that stays with the reader long after the last word of the acknowledgements has been consumed.

This is a novel that should be required reading. For everyone. This is a novel that should be an award-winner.

Go get a copy at Bywater Books. Tell them Carolyn sent you.

Tea With…

I’ve always wondered about other authors. What do they enjoy? What makes them tick? So not too long ago, I got the idea to reach out to a few authors I admire and see if they would be willing to answer a few questions for us. Thankfully, they’ve been generous with their time. In a perfect world, I would be sitting down having a cup of tea with these talented folks, but with distance and a raging pandemic, email is safer.

I have been a fan of Kory Shrum for a few years now. She’s a brilliant author and a creative soul that is both entertaining and inspiring. She is the author of sixteen novels, including the bestselling Shadows in the Water and Dying for a Living series. She has loved books and words all her life. She reads almost every genre you can think of, but when she writes, she writes science fiction, fantasy, and thrillers, or often something that’s all of the above. This past year she launched a true-crime podcast “Who Killed My Mother?” under the name K.B. Marie, sharing the true story of her mother’s tragic death. You can find it on YouTube. When she’s not eating, reading, writing, or indulging in her true calling as a stay-at-home dog mom, she loves to plan her next adventure. She’s written both paranormal mysteries and now mysteries set in the future, and every book she writes is more gripping and compelling than the last! (Trust me on this, I spent all night reading her last book and got NO sleep, but it was SO worth it!) Pop over to her website and check it out. 

Kory was generous enough to answer a few questions I had for her about writing, comfort food and reading. If paranormal mysteries or science-fiction mysteries are your reading-jam, pop over to her website and check it out!

What do you think the most compelling elements of your current story are? 

Probably the characters. I don’t have clear good guys and bad guys most of the time. They’re just people, with a good mix of virtues and faults, but this makes them seem more real and compelling on the page. I hope the plot isn’t too bad either! 🙂

What is your favourite genre to read?

Oh gosh, I don’t know! It’s like naming a favorite child! I read everything from nonfiction to comics, to fantasy, and mysteries. To really weird stuff like how to lucid dream, which is on my bedside table right now 🙂

If you could give your younger writing-self a piece of advice, what would it be? 

**clears throat** This is going to take a lot longer than you think it will. Getting the first book published is only the start, so settle in. Get comfortable. And start thinking about what stories really matter to you—which ones will you regret not writing if you were to die this year. Focus on those.

Who are the authors who have made a difference in your life?

If not my life, certainly my writing…

For fiction: Ruth Ozeki, Margaret Atwood, Stephen King, Robert Galbraith, Anne Rice, Laurell K. Hamilton, Neil Gaiman and many others.  I also owe a debt of gratitude to the poets Mary Oliver, Maya Angelou, Wislawa Szymborska and Lucille Clifton and more. And to the meditation/dharma books of Pema Chodron as well.

What occupies your time when you’re not writing? 

Right now, it’s producing my podcast! For every 20-25 minute episode, it’s about thirteen hours of work. I also like to read, paint, play piano, study French, travel – though none of us are doing much of that at the moment.

How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

Just two. 🙂 A werewolf novel and a novel about an 18-year-old demon-hunting witch.

What is your go-to comfort food?  

Macaroni and cheese. I also like a good hot tea.

What was the hardest scene you’ve ever written?

Well, the one that comes to mind, probably because I wrote it not that long ago, is from Episode 8 of my “Who Killed My Mother” podcast? In it, I was recounting a traumatic story of a doctor’s visit I had when I was six or seven, and it triggered some pretty intense emotions for me.

How do you choose the names of your characters? 

Usually they come to me along with the character, but then I check them using a baby name book online to make sure the meaning of the name matches the character.

 What challenges you the most about writing?

Showing up, honestly. I’ve published sixteen books and I can attest it hasn’t gotten any easier with time! But it’s important to show up and put words on the page every day, so I’m certainly trying my best.

Anything else you’d like us to know?  

I love interviews! This was fun. Thanks for having me! 🙂

Thank YOU, Kory!

Undercover Justice

Residents of a small dusty town are held fast in the grip of a controlling, cruel egomaniac. Those who try to leave are hunted down and killed. When a stranger comes seeking medical help, enforcers begin dying one by one. Only one person knows why, and that person may be the town’s only hope. This is a tale of secrets, hope and the bravery it takes to stand up to cruelty.

Available now for less than the price of lunch at Smashwords in all formats!

What Is Wednesday…A Geek?

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

The terms “geek” and “nerd” are thrown around pretty loosely these days, but what do they really mean? Encyclopedia Britannica says,

Nerd and geek have similar etymologies, with neither originally having much positive association. According to Benjamin Nugent, author of American Nerd: The Story of My People, the word nerd first appeared in the Dr. Seuss book If I Ran the Zoo, in which one of the zoo creatures, an angry little old man, was called a “nerd.” Nugent also notes a 1951 Newsweek article using the word nerd to refer to “a drip or a square,” which gets closer to modern stereotypes regarding nerds.

Geek was originally an early 20th-century term for a carnival worker who was so unskilled that the only thing the worker could do at the carnival to entice an audience was to bite off the heads of live animals. Essentially, a geek was a socially undesirable person who lacked any skill or ability.

Both terms still retain their original connotations of undesirable social traits and behaviors, but in the late 20th century their meanings became more fluid in nature, with the two terms often considered interchangeable. The last few decades in particular have seen associations with geek and nerd trending as more-positive social markers.

Geeks are now more generally described as “more community-oriented,” more likely to engage in “fannish” behavior such as collecting memorabilia, and more interested in trends.

Nerds tend to be associated with specialized technical knowledge, more interested in detailed theory than trends, and more given to serious study of a subject matter.

Both are now considered far more desirable for their expertise and enthusiasm for even esoteric topics than in the past. Whether someone is a nerd or a geek is now largely determined by personal preference rather than a hard set of characteristics, with no need to bite off the heads of any animals.

And now you know!

Looking Back & Forward

As so many others do at this time of year, this past week I’ve been reflecting back on the dumpster fire that was 2020. Not from a personal or political standpoint, but an authorial one.

Last year was the year I started tracking sales of my short stories, a category all the experts say is a hard sell. While I would have preferred to see higher numbers than I did, I was pleased every time someone took a chance on my writing. While I would have preferred more of those readers leave reviews, at least I did not get bad reviews. Self-publishing short stories, especially in the Speculative Fiction and Western genres, is always a crap-shoot, and I’m satisfied with the lessons I learned from my experiment.

One of the other things I learned last year is just how difficult it is to make new connections with new readers. I focused much more on my blog and newsletter over the past twelve months, and my mailing list saw a small increase in folks trusting me with their inboxes. I also dabbled a little more in flash fiction and even sent a couple of pieces out to flash fiction magazines. Both pieces were rejected, but both markets have high refusal rates so I tried not to let their rejections sting too much. 

I also invested more in learning my craft. The writing craft has more layers than baklava, and I don’t think writers ever stop learning. The past year saw me dedicate more time and focus on becoming a better writer. I reached out into the professional law-enforcement world and made connections with folks who answered so many questions about forensics, the law-enforcement world in general and how things were done in law-enforcement here in Canada. Because I want to be sure that I’ve done all I could to write my made-up worlds with as much accuracy as I can. My readers deserve that.  

I also submitted my mystery novel to a publisher. It was very politely declined and so I’ve been working on strengthening, adding layers and elements I thought of after it had left my hands (as is always the way) and just generally trying to make it stronger.

To my way of thinking, 2020 was the year of lessons. Not as successful as I’d hoped, but definitely not a failure either.

Looking forward, I’ve already decided on my goals for 2021.

  • Collect all my “Frizzle” dragon stories and compile them into an anthology. Release these in time for Easter.
  • Finish the rewrite on “Body In The Bush” (previously referred to as ‘the mystery’)
  • Collect and compile all my “darker” short stories and flash fiction into an anthology in time for Halloween
  • Outline the sequel to Body In The Bush
  • Collect all my holiday stories into a holiday anthology and release in early December
  • Build a collection of writing for my (still fledgling) Patreon patrons
  • Continue to develop my writing craft 

I think all of that should keep me fairly busy.

What goals would you like to reach for in the New Year? Let me know in the comments below, or in an email if you’d prefer.(dragonquillca@gmail.com) Either way, I’d love to hear from you!