Author Interview, Book Love, Uncategorized, writers life

YA Fantasy Author Interview: S.M. Beiko

As the winter ice begins to thaw, the fury of a demon builds  all because one girl couldn’t stay dead . . . 

Roan Harken considers herself a typical high school student ― dead parents, an infected eyeball, and living in the house of her estranged, currently comatose grandmother (well, maybe not so typical) — but she’s uncovering the depth of the secrets her family left behind. Saved from the grasp of Death itself by a powerful fox spirit named Sil, Roan must harness mysterious ancient power . . . and quickly. A snake-monster called Zabor lies in wait in the bed of the frozen Assiniboine River, hungry for the sacrifice of spirit-blood in exchange for keeping the flood waters at bay. Thrust onto an ancient battlefield, Roan soon realizes that to maintain the balance of the world, she will have to sacrifice more than her life in order to take her place as Scion of the Fox.

American Gods meets Princess Mononoke in this powerful first installment of a trilogy sure to capture readers’ imaginations everywhere.

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Welcome, S.M. We are so happy to have you here! Congratulations on your latest release, CHILDREN OF THE BLOODLANDS 🙂 Let’s dive into some questions.

Loie: I love Roan. I love her personality, her cleverness, and her spunk. Did you have an initial idea about Roan? Did you learn more about her during drafting?

S.M. Beiko: Roan was really interesting to write, especially because her voice comes from first person perspective. Because of this, a lot of my own mannerisms and interests came through—though she’s of course much taller than me, and a bit more athletic 😉

Whenever I create any character though, I try to put myself in their shoes and their situation, and I wanted her to headstrong, the type who rushes in, a bit emotional but also practical, and level-headed enough to be reluctant about the hard choices she had to make. At first, she was a pretty simple Chosen-One hero type, but the more I wrote her, the more it came out organically that nothing was going to be that easy for her, given the circumstances she ends up in. What came out of that were evident character flaws, which I feel are very important to making a protagonist believable! Now that I’ve finished a draft of book 3, Roan has changed quite a lot from an idealistic can’t-do-wrong prototype, and I hope everyone likes where her journey ultimately has led her!

Loie: Wow, that is so interesting! I love how you learned more about her as you wrote. Her voice is so strong and that’s one of my favorite parts. She feels three-dimensional and real. I can’t wait to read the final book 🙂

Where did the story of the Fox come from?

S.M. Beiko: I live in the far west side of Winnipeg now, but I used to live more centrally, near the Assiniboine River and Wellington Crescent. In fact, a lot of Scion was planned during my frequent walks to and from work from River Heights into Wolesley. One night, walking home along the river in late winter, a fox ran in front of me on the sidewalk, threw me some wicked shade, then bounded off into the night. A wild hypothetical popped into my head—what if that fox followed me home and gave me a cool mission? A lot of my stories crop up from random questions I ask myself, and I keep asking them until suddenly a whole novel—or three of them—have formed in my head.

Loie: Yay, Canada! Love it. It’s magical when a question or idea pops into your head and the story unravels from there.

Have you always been drawn to fantasy? Are there any other genres or styles you would like to try?

S.M. Beiko: Fantasy is definitely my bread and butter, and what I was ‘raised’ on. A lot of that influence stems from magical girl animes, or Hayao Miyazaki films, as well as comics and video games like the Final Fantasy series, and films like Labyrinth, The Dark Crystal, Lord of the Rings, and hundreds of others. I love magic in all its forms, and pushing the limits of what is expected beyond the mundane. I’d like to someday try High Fantasy, where the world-building is much more extensive, or Historical Fantasy, which entails way more research and immersion.

I’m also very keen to start a comic/graphic novel (probably still in the fantasy genre!) that is a little more light-hearted than what I’ve been writing lately. Before I got into writing/book publishing, I was actually studying for a Fine Arts degree. I found the way my program was structured to be a bit stifling/confining, so I switched into Literature. As a result, art has been something I’ve ‘done on the side’ but I’ve let it go far too much. While I’m also a comics editor by trade, I’d like to hunker down and learn another dimension of comics by creating one. We’ll see!

Loie: I love magical girl animes as well ❤ Sailor Moon is still my favorite 😀 Wow! A graphic novel/comic would be fantastic.

I read that you work in the Canadian Publishing industry. Can you share a little bit about how it differs from the US? Or can you share about your experience working on the industry. What’s it like? Being on both sides?

S.M. Beiko: The general North American market is quite similar in terms of structure, but I’ve found (with a few exceptions) that fantasy, and all other Speculative Fiction genres (Sci Fi, Horror, Graphic Novels, romance, etc.) have a much livelier market in the USA than they do in Canada. The Canadian market is still quite focused on General Fiction, meaning the themes and characters take place in the modern, real-life world (often referred to as ‘Can Lit’), and as such, spec fic hasn’t thrived. I think a lot of it has to do with major publishing awards like the Giller and the Rogers Fiction Trust Prize being focused on the Can Lit experience, as well as population density; there’s just more people in the USA who are hungry for spec fic!

My experience working in the industry has been great, though. I’ve been working as a book and comic editor, as well as a packaging graphic designer and typesetter, since 2010, and at this point I’ve virtually worked in every part of the field as I’ve journeyed to full-time freelance sustainability. As a writer, my publishing education gives me insight and tempers my expectations for my own work, as well as buoying me forward when it comes to representing myself and knowing what I can ask for. It has definitely made me a much more proactive author when it comes to promoting myself, because I know how much work goes into getting a book to press, let alone making sure its visible on the shelf. The author has to take an active role in assisting the publisher rather than relying on them to do everything.

Loie: Wow. That is so cool that you’ve worked in all parts of publishing. Love it. That would really provide you with valuable insight. Thanks for sharing about the industry. I thought that might be a reason – re: larger population reading more spec fic in the US 🙂

Do you participate in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo)?

S.M. Beiko: Unfortunately I don’t. I always say I’m going to every year, but the reality is that by the time November rolls around, I’m just coming down from either handing in a manuscript or resting after book touring. However, I do try to apply the principles of NaNoWriMo to my every day writing ethic and schedule, and while I won’t be Tweeting or updating constantly about where I am on a project, I do aim to write every day in November, even if it’s not 50,000 words, or the project isn’t complete by month’s end. November 9 is my last travelling book event—a book launch for Children of the Bloodlands in Calgary—and I can’t wait to just be at home, making things, for the rest of the year!

Loie: Thank you so much, S.M.! It was so interesting to hear you talk about the Canadian Publishing industry and also where your inspiration came from ❤ I hope you have a blast on tour!

Also, for my maritime friends, check out this tour that SM and Kristen Ciccarelli will be going on. They made a beautiful banner 🙂

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I hope you enjoyed the interview ❤ Thanks again, S.M.

Are you guys participating in NaNoWriMo this year? What are your goals? I would love to hear below ❤

Loie

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The Sea Carries Me Along

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Hi all!

I’m writing from my little apartment in the port city, Saint John. In one day I will have my twenty-seventh birthday. Every year around my birthday, I always feel reflective. I think about what happened in the year, how I’ve grown, and where I want to go in the future.

What I’ve summed up for the past year is this: it was a year for new beginnings.

I transitioned and started writing full-time. I dealt with some personal problems. I leaned on God and hoped and prayed for a new beginning.

As with any journey, the going gets tough at times. I’m grateful for friends and family who supported me.

I’m thankful for the opportunity to write and make new writing friends online! My life has been enriched this past year. I’ve met so many new people and I love receiving messages from them and dreaming together.

Today, I am in a place where I get to write articles and fiction full-time from home and tutor Chinese students English. This is fulfilling and brings me joy. I am so grateful to be here. I know life is a journey and there are swells and waves and shipwrecks at times.

But right now I am peacefully crossing a stretch of sea that carries whispers of hope and new life and surprises on the wind. I throw my hands up in the air and say yes.

Thank you, God.

THE OCEAN BY NATHANIEL HAWTHORNE

The Ocean has its silent caves,
Deep, quiet, and alone;
Though there be fury on the waves,
Beneath them there is none.

The awful spirits of the deep
Hold their communion there;
And there are those for whom we weep,
The young, the bright, the fair.

Calmly the wearied seamen rest
Beneath their own blue sea.
The ocean solitudes are blest,
For there is purity.

The earth has guilt, the earth has care,
Unquiet are its graves;
But peaceful sleep is ever there,
Beneath the dark blue waves.

 

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I hope you enjoyed the poem 🙂 I love everything to do with the sea. I suppose that has something to do with growing up by it in a small town and then moving to a port city.

Do you do anything special for birthdays? Do you make a plan for the upcoming year or add to your bucket list? Let me know in the comments below ❤ !

Until next time,

Loie xo

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Enchanted Conversation Magazine publication and #WriteMentor news

June 4th, 2018

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Good morning, everyone! How was your weekend? I cannot believe it is June but I am happily soaking up the sun as much as I can (After applying sunscreen, lol. Otherwise I’ll turn into a lobster).

The flash fiction I wrote for Enchanted Conversation Magazine’s June edition has gone live. This is the beautiful cover art for my fic, Ladybug Cake. Imagine a whimsical and magical night at a Midsummer’s Night Eve party. I hope you enjoy ❤

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#WriteMentor

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“#WriteMentor has been set up to give unagented writers the chance to work with an agented or published author and help develop their manuscript and their overall craft skills and abilities.

We will hold an agent showcase at the end of the process for those who are selected as mentees and agents will look at the pitches and openings and potentially make requests to those manuscripts that look most exciting to them.”

I found out on Thursday that I was selected as a mentee in the #WriteMentor programme. I am beyond thrilled and excited to revise my seafaring fantasy, THE LOST SAGES, with the lovely and brilliant duo, Amber Duell and MB Dalto.

I’ll blog about my experience in a week or so. They have been so encouraging and kind. I know I am going to learn so much in the next three months.

I am so thankful. Keep writing and journeying, friends! What are you working on at the moment?

Until next time,

Loie xo

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WordSpring Writers Festival Recap and Book Launch

May 22nd, 2018

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Hey everyone!

So, I am a little late with this recap. WordSpring Festival was a couple of weekends ago but I still want to share my experience. I became a member of the Writers Federation of New Brunswick earlier this year and noted that there was an upcoming conference. I was so excited to attend and hopeful to make some writer friends. It did not disappoint 🙂

The Child Within: Writing Compelling Kids Books 

As soon as I arrived at the hotel where the festival was being held, I was ushered over by a friend to meet Wendy McLeod MacKnight. She writes middle grade fiction and was the keynote speaker that morning.

Wendy discussed the importance of sticking with one’s writing. That morning she shared about her experience with children’s publishing and pursuing the traditional route. I was encouraged by what she spoke about and I hope to pursue this path as well, once edits on The Lost Sages are complete.

Wendy has a book launch this weekend for her latest middle grade book, The Frame Up. It sounds like a fantastic read and I cannot wait to buy my copy when she comes to Saint John in June. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to make it to her launch this weekend but it promises to be fun. They are having it at the Beaverbrook Art Gallery, where her book is set. How cool is that?!

Goodreads

Twelve-year-old Sargent Singer is sent away from home to reconnect with his estranged father, who is the director of an art gallery. During his visit, Sargent sees a portrait of a girl named Mona Dunn stick out her tongue and the secret of the gallery is revealed. A friendship is formed between Sargent and Mona, then tested when art thieves threaten to steal Mona and other masterworks.

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Writing Deep: The Gentle Art of Layering 

Saturday afternoon I attended a workshop hosted by Deborah Carr. Wow. It was such an informative session. She spoke about writing deeply and layering in details in a scene, focusing on setting, characterization, tone, etc. Debby had us work on a scene and try our hand at some of the tips she showed us.

I have a notebook where I sprawled tons of notes from her and Wendy’s workshop. I am excited to add more detail to some of my scenes in The Lost Sages.

Literary Soiree 

Saturday evening there was a literary soiree. There was the most delicious food (butter chicken, salmon, Caesar and spinach salad, breads, and chocolate tarte for dessert), live music, and a talk from Marjorie Doyle, President of the Writers Union of Canada. She spoke about the importance of getting paid as a writer for what one is worth.

All in all, my heart is still full after that weekend. It lit a new fire under my feet to get going with my seafaring fantasy. It was fun to be surrounded by like-minded individuals and talk about the various projects we were all working on.

Susan White’s Book Launch 

I connected with Susan White, local author of young adult literature, and was fortunate enough to attend her book launch this past Sunday. Music is featured in her latest release, Headliner, and so the Saint John String Quartet were at the launch. They were lovely.

It made me daydream about someday, if I were to have a launch, what would I have as props or treats or decorations 😀 One can dream, yes? 🙂

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Summary from 49th shelf:

Franny Callaghan feels invisible. With a missing mother only seen occasionally who speaks to the family through the closed door of her bedroom or the ensuite bathroom and a father and younger sister, who travel most of the time, home long enough to wash their underwear and re-pack before heading to the next competition so her sister can be an Olympic speed skater, Franny feels alone most of the time.

Franny’s brother died a few years before and is only seen in the photos on the wall. Her family hasn’t spoken of him since the day of his big funeral and all the news coverage of the tragic accident that killed eight members of the Ridgewood High School Orchestra and one of his teachers. And Franny Callaghan remains… just the awkward middle kid in a family that used to look like everyone else’s.

What if Franny just took off to go see her brother’s favorite band on the anniversary of his death? Maybe that would be the jolt her family so badly needed.

Writing Goals 

This week I am trying to cut out all the filter, telling, and repeat words in my manuscript.  I also want to employ some of the techniques I learned from Debby Carr in her Writing Deep workshop.

If you ever get a chance to go to a local writers festival or conference, I highly recommend it 🙂

What are some of the projects you are all working on this week? Share below 🙂

Until next time,

Loie xo

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Friday Book Review: Uprooted

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Published in 2015 by Del Rey

High fantasy

Standalone

Goodreads Summary 

“Our Dragon doesn’t eat the girls he takes, no matter what stories they tell outside our valley. We hear them sometimes, from travelers passing through. They talk as though we were doing human sacrifice, and he were a real dragon. Of course that’s not true: he may be a wizard and immortal, but he’s still a man, and our fathers would band together and kill him if he wanted to eat one of us every ten years. He protects us against the Wood, and we’re grateful, but not that grateful.”

Agnieszka loves her valley home, her quiet village, the forests and the bright shining river. But the corrupted Wood stands on the border, full of malevolent power, and its shadow lies over her life.

Her people rely on the cold, driven wizard known only as the Dragon to keep its powers at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as falling to the Wood.

The next choosing is fast approaching, and Agnieszka is afraid. She knows—everyone knows—that the Dragon will take Kasia: beautiful, graceful, brave Kasia, all the things Agnieszka isn’t, and her dearest friend in the world. And there is no way to save her.

But Agnieszka fears the wrong things. For when the Dragon comes, it is not Kasia he will choose.

General gushing 

Wow. This book blew me away. I absolutely loved it and I’m so excited to read more of Naomi Novik’s work. She is a masterful storyteller and creates three dimensional flawed characters that you root for, feel sad for, and fall in love with:)

As a writer, I always delight in finding books that inspire me to become a better writer. Naomi is descriptive and really draws the reader into her character’s world. Her main heroine, Agniezska, is plucky and fun and loves nature. I totally related to her (though she has magic and I don’t so :/ haha) and her passion for exploring and noticing the natural world.

Favorite character moments

I loved when Agniezska would stand up to the Dragon or hold her ground on something she believed in. I admired her bravery and honesty. When her and her friend Kasia were reflecting on some of the things they resented each other for, I was so grateful that Naomi put that part in. I loved this realistic insight into friendship. It’s not always roses and sunshine. Like with any relationship, there are things we like and dislike about a person. However, Naomi showed how the two friends were able to look past their differences and jealousies.

Nature and magic 

I love Agniezka’s approach to magic. It felt intuitive and so normal that you easily forgot some of the fantastical things she was doing. It was in contrast with the Dragon’s approach to magic which was organized and strict, somehow. The two together are a powerhouse:)

I am a nature lover so this book appealed to me on many levels. I love the gorgeous imagery of the woods and the flowers and the animals. I won’t say much more about the plot because I don’t want to spoil it, but if you love nature, romance, magic, and fairy tales with realistic characters, I’m sure you will love Uprooted :).

Upcoming book – Spinning Silver 

So, after I finished Uprooted, I scrambled to my computer to find out if it was a standalone or part of a series. It is indeed a standalone but there is a new book coming out in July by Naomi which I cannot wait to pick up!

Happy reading, friends!

What have you been reading lately? Any recommendations? I think I am going to start uploading book reviews every Friday. My next read is Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor ❤

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Until next time,

Loie xo

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All That We See or Seem by Kristina Mahr Blog Tour

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All That We See or Seem by Kristina Mahr

YA Fantasy

Releases May 15th, 2018 by Uncommon Universes Press

Every night, seventeen-year-old Reeve Lennox finds herself under a noose.

By day she is a lady of Acarsaid’s royal house, daydreaming of adventure and love. But every night in sleep she wanders through a nightmarish city, an invisible witness to the screeches of monsters and the screams of their victims. Her only consolation is Bran, a battle-torn young man with a selfless heart and eyes that reflect the stars. 

Yet while Reeve falls deeper into her dreams, in truth she is engaged to Arden, a mercurial nobleman who has long been cured of his belief in love and breathes fire and flattery like other people breathe air.

Torn between two lives, Reeve struggles to remember what’s real. Until night and day collide, with a revelation that threatens all of Acarsaid.

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Hi everyone!
 I would like to welcome author Kristina Mahr to the blog. Her YA fantasy, All That We See or Seem releases tomorrow. I had the privilege of getting to read an ARC of her wonderful and fantastical book that I highly recommend. Isn’t that cover beautiful?! She has graciously answered a few questions I asked her 🙂
Interview Q&A 
1) If you had a recurring dream for years, what would you hope to dream about?
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That’s so tricky! I love the randomness and unpredictability of dreams. If I was stuck with just one… well, it’d better be a happy one. With puppies. And love. And summertime. Oh, and flying! All of the best dreams involve flying.
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2) What was the inspiration behind the world and characters of All That We See or Seem?
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The biggest inspiration was a dream my sister had four years ago, about a girl who falls in love with a boy she meets in her dreams. That’s definitely the nucleus of the story. The first scene that popped into my mind was of a girl, running through dark streets in her nightgown. Everything was kind of built around that. I started asking all of the obvious questions: why a nightgown? (Set in the 1800s.) Why is she running? (Monsters.) What does this boy think the first time he sees her? (Insane asylum escapee.) All of the pieces piled into place until it became this story.
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3) Do you have an tips for aspiring writers who hope to be published?
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It’s probably the most common advice, but it’s the most true: keep writing. It doesn’t have to be every day. It doesn’t have to be in novel form. But play with words, in some way, as often as you can. Turn off the radio sometimes while you’re driving and turn your story over in your mind. Write short stories. Write poetry. Read. Read some more. Surround yourself with fellow writers to bounce ideas off of and lift you up when your story is fighting you tooth and nail. Don’t give up. Even if the middle gets messy. It’s what middles do. Power through. Writers are lucky to have this dream, because so much of it is within our own hands. We can write the best story we know how to write. Getting published is a lot of luck and timing, but if you write the best book you can… at least you can feel content in having done everything you could do.
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4) What has been your favorite part of your writing journey thus far?
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I think the best moment so far has been the cover reveal. It’s so beautiful and so representative of the story. I feel very lucky to have it as the face of my words. And then the fact that that’s my name on it, and the title I always wanted for this book… it really drove home the fact that this is a real thing that’s happening.
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Kristina Mahr devotes her days to numbers and her nights to words. She works full-time as an accountant in the suburbs of Chicago, where she lives with her two dogs and two cats, but her true passion is writing. In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her family and friends, reading, and waking up at the crack of dawn every weekend to watch the Premier League.

Here are the links if you are interested in buying her book! Thank you for your time Kristina and thank you Uncommon Universes Press for the advanced reader copy.

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Kobo

Apple

Goodreads

I would love to hear what you think in the comments below 🙂

Until next time,

Loie xo

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Spring showers and fairy tales

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April 26th, 2018 – 12:35 pm

Hi dear friends!

Today has been an overcast day with a steady stream of rain. My porch plants are getting their fair share of a drink. Hopefully not too much 😉

Fairy Tales 

Popping in with a quick little post. This week has been full of lovely surprises. I received word that a fairy tale flash fiction I submitted for publication has been accepted by Enchanted Conversation Magazine for June’s issue. I will post the link when it goes live. This will be my first creative writing publication and I am super thrilled. I also sent out a proposal for an article about the importance of the library in our digital world and it was accepted. *inhales deeply* This writing gig is working out and I am grateful.

#RevPit 

There is a contest going on right now called #RevPit. A couple of days ago, the window opened to submit one’s manuscript’s first five pages and query letter to two potential editors. If you get chosen, one editor will work with you over the next five weeks to go through your book and strengthen it for querying. It has been a lot of fun stalking *coughs* I mean, watching the twitter feed to see if the editors I submitted to have posted any snippets or hints at what submission they are currently reading.

Writing Plans 

I received an editor’s feedback (different from #RevPit) on EVREN a week ago. I’ve been mulling over some of the suggestions or questions that came up while she read the manuscript. She sent me twenty pages of detailed notes, for which I am so grateful for. Currently creating detailed index cards for every scene in my book and deciding which to keep, edit, re-write, or trash. I believe this will bring EVREN to a stronger place than ever. Also, she suggested changing the title 😀 I agree with her suggestion and will be now calling my YA sea-faring fantasy THE LOST SAGES.

How are you all making out? What are you currently working on? Please let me know in the comments ❤

Until next time,

Loie xo