The Courtesan’s Avenger by Kate M. Colby: Themes in a Series

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I would like to welcome author Kate M. Colby to my blog.  In this post, she discusses the issue of themes in a series of novels. Kate is an excellent writer, one I am proud to know. I respect her abilities and writing, and I have used her previous novel The Cogsmith’s Daughter (Desertera #1) in two of my college English literature classes.  So, welcome Kate please as she discusses Themes in a Series:

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 What makes a good book series? Most readers would say a captivating world, strong characters, and an overarching mission or journey. I absolutely agree … but I think there’s something missing there. Theme.

While books can (and should) offer escape and entertainment, they have the ability to do so much more than that. Fiction allows authors the opportunity to explore topics that matter to them on neutral ground, to expose and evaluate unsavory aspects of society, to celebrate all that makes up this wonderful and crazy human experience. As someone who blended sociology and English in university, this is exactly what I try to do in my fiction.

The world of my Desertera series is a steampunk wasteland. It’s about as far from reality as I could run. But the themes within the world really hit home with me, and have with several of my readers, too. My first novel, The Cogsmith’s Daughter, is a revenge tale. When Aya, my protagonist, was a young girl, the king had her father executed for treason. Therefore, at first opportunity, Aya joins a plot to avenge her father’s death and trap the king into a crime, thus bringing about his execution.

If I’ve done my job as a writer, the readers should be on Aya’s side. They should seethe with anger and root for her to succeed in orchestrating the king’s execution. They should identify with Aya’s quest for self-redemption, love, and the reclaiming of her sexuality. They should be appalled at the social injustices in the world, the stratification of class and wealth, and the hypocritical palace politics – all things that can be found in reality.

When I set out to write the sequel, The Courtesan’s Avenger, I wanted to tackle a lot of these same themes. Class struggle remains a central issue, along with love and sexuality, friendship, and self-discovery. However, I knew I had a responsibility to address the other side of revenge: justice.

I had to face the ugly truth of the morality I had exalted. As much as I respect Aya and her mission, revenge isn’t healthy. Even if it is “justified,” it can turn a good person evil, blind them to their own wrongdoings, and pose troubling moral questions for a society. After all, if Aya can (essentially) murder and (definitely) commit crimes to avenge her father, what’s to stop the other citizens from doing the same to address their own grievances?

Enter Dellwyn and The Courtesan’s Avenger. When one of Dellwyn’s fellow courtesans is murdered, she doesn’t desire revenge or any sort of payback. She wants justice. Her whole goal in finding the killer is to submit them to the authorities and the judgment of law. She doesn’t take justice into her own hands, doesn’t commit any crimes, and even condemns Aya’s actions from the first novel. Dellwyn has seen how Aya’s quest for revenge created rifts in their world, and she refuses to do the same.

This is all a longwinded way of saying that theme, just as much as characters and setting and plot, is a central part of writing a book series. As an author, you have the opportunity to highlight the wrongs and praise the good you see in society. You can help readers gain empathy for the corrupt, question their sense of right and wrong, or just consider an issue they’d never thought about before.

Readers, you have the greatest blessing of all. You get to pick and choose what to take with you. Every book, no matter how thematically driven, leaves a piece of itself with us. Pride and Prejudice encourages us not to judge others too harshly and be open to love, The Girl on the Train reminds us to take responsibility for our actions, and The Picture of Dorian Gray condemns vanity, self-indulgence, and moral duplicity. At least, that’s what I get from those three – your interpretations could be entirely different! You can take the author’s message at face value, mine for deeper meaning, discover something the author didn’t know was there, or ignore it all completely. That’s the beauty of theme.

So, fellow writers, have the courage to experiment and make theme a central part of your series. It’s not just for stand-alone literary fiction novels. And, fellow readers, examine everything the author presents and take whatever it is you need. Every possible meaning lurks between those pages, and you can have whichever one you like.

Happy reading!

Author bio:

Kate M. Colby is an author of science fiction, fantasy, and nonfiction. Her first series, Desertera, consists of steampunk fantasy novels with themes of socio-economic disparity, self-empowerment, romance, and revenge. She lives in the United States with her husband and furry children.

 

Book links:

The Cogsmith’s Daughter (Desertera #1) – http://books2read.com/the-cogsmiths-daughter

The Courtesan’s Avenger (Desertera #2) – http://books2read.com/the-courtesans-avenger

Social links:

Website – http://www.katemcolby.com

Goodreads – http://www.goodreads.com/katemcolby

Facebook – http://www.facebook.com/authorkatemcolby

Twitter – http://www.twitter.com/katemcolby    

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Happy 50th Anniversary to Star Trek!

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This month is the 50th anniversary of Star Trek! Congratulations to extraordinary longevity and influence for a television show that ran 3 seasons beginning in September of 1966.  What had been seen initially as only an action-adventure space opera, the influence and importance of this series would grow slowly.

The series was scheduled to be canceled after only two seasons, but an onslaught of mail and calls from fans convinced the television executives to renew it for one more season, but it still was finished after a partial 3rd season. This run of circumstances ordinarily would have been the end of most shows, but something was happening.

Star Trek was in many ways a response to the turmoil of the 1960s, but it was also a vision that transcended that particularly chaotic era. Gene Roddenberry, the creator, of the series, imbued it with a sense of optimism and humanism that suggested it was possible for humanity to confront and overcome its enormous problems. It was the first series to create a multi-cultural, indeed multi-planetary, crew.  In many of its episodes it dealt with issues that were then, and still are, current and facing humanity; among these themes: racism, war, and the spread of weapons in various cultures.

After a short period of dormancy, Star Trek went into syndication and soon would spin off 5 other series, and a 6th is coming out soon. Additionally, many feature movies have been made, including the most recent from this year Star Trek Beyond.

I am a proud Trekkie, especially favoring the original series. The humanism and optimism of the show has resonated with me, and I find the writing especially to be at the top level of television science-fiction shows, right along with The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits. I hope that the messages of  this show continue to inspire people for many years to come.

“Live Long and Prosper!”

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Roosevelt’s Cheeseburgers and Panfried Veggies

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Roosevelt Franklin, the protagonist of my horror novel Maledicus: Investigative Paranormal Society Book I, in many ways is a sophisticated man. He has expensive tastes in British tailored suits, fine cigars, and the best single malt Scotch whisky. He is not, however, a food snob.  His beloved wife, Sarah, was an excellent cook and often prepared elegant meals for Roosevelt.  Sarah died a few years before the beginning of the book, and Roosevelt honors her memory by not attempting to make those meals for himself. Now, he prefers simpler fare, even if it is not always the healthiest.

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(Photo by Liz French)

One of his favorite meals now is panfried veggies and cheeseburgers.

The Recipe:

Roosevelt emphasizes that, if possible, to use cast iron pans for the frying.

Ingredients:

One pound ground beef, preferably 80/20 mixture.

Cheese–American, cheddar, or Swiss.

Two to three large red potatoes.

One large sweet onion.

4-5 carrots.

One tomato.

One bell pepper.

One egg.

Ground pepper.

Sea salt.

Worcestershire sauce.

Paprika.

Dill.

*Clean and cut potatoes and carrots into irregular small pieces.

*Briefly steam the carrots and potatoes to soften them.

*Dice the bell pepper, tomato, and onion.

*Preheat two cast iron skillets to medium.

*Lightly coat one with olive oil or vegetable oil (this pan is for the veggies.)

*As pans are heating, mix the groundbeef with an egg and Worcestershire sauce. Season mixture with pepper and sea salt.

*Form into patties, as large or small as desired.

*Place patties into heated pan. Allow to sear on both sides.

*Add all veggies into other hot skillet.

*Season with pepper, sea salt, paprika, and dill.

*After about 5 minutes, reduce heat. Turn veggies ever 5 minutes or so to prevent burning. Add more oil if needed.

*If needed, reduce heat for hamburgers. Depending on their size and the preference for level of being cooked, it could take anywhere from 10-15 minutes to cook, so keep a careful eye on them.

*When close to being finished, add cheese and cover, so the cheese melts completely.

*Serve either on a plate or hamburger rolls. Add whatever condiments are desired.

Enjoy!

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(Photo by Liz French)

 

 

Dining With Authors

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It has been a while since I have written a post in this series, so I thought it was time to revisit it. And because I am in the process of preparing to release my horror novel Maledicus: Investigative Paranormal Society Book I in early October, I was thinking about previous horror writers and their works.

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I would invite three important authors of works of horror fiction to join me in a discussion about their writings, and we would meet at a pub for food and pints of beer or ale–always Guinness for me! I hope that this meeting would create a lively discussion of what they consider the most important aspects of their work.

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For this gathering, I would invite Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu, who wrote Carmilla (1872), the first novel to feature a female vampire. Le Fanu, from Dublin, Ireland, and who was recognized as a first rate writer of ghost stories introduced a new element into the Gothic Fiction: of both a female vampire and the inclusion of a lesbian element to the story.  This novella is a compelling tale, one that is often overlooked today.

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My second invitee would be Bram Stoker, author of Dracula (1897), also from Dublin, and the creator of a book, that while not successful during Stoker’s life, became one of the most well-known and best selling books of the 20th and 21st centuries. Stoker’s portrayal of Dracula set the standard for many years for the portrayal of the vampire as a Eastern European nobleman with great power and wealth.  I know that Stoker was not the first to feature a vampire of noble birth, but Stoker’s work is the preeminent and superior book to the second-rate, and I am being kind, novel by Rhymer and Prest: Varney The Vampire. I would go so far as to say that unless you have an academic interest in the literature of vampires, don’t bother reading Varney the Vampire–it is terrible.

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The third author I would invite is the Scottish writer, Robert Louis Stevenson, typically not known for Gothic or horror novels, but famous, nevertheless, for The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886).  In this short novel, Stevenson explores the idea of various elements, such as good and evil, existing simultaneously in the human mind, and his good doctor Jekyll attempts to isolate and remove the evil side, but with terrible consequences.

There are many questions I would like to ask these authors. I would like to know what their concept of evil is–does it exist as part of the universe or part of humanity or both? Where do they think Gothic or horror fiction fits in the world of literature? Did they have other novels they considered writing but never did? And what contemporary themes about society exist in their works?

Are there any questions you would have liked to pose to  these writers?

 

 

Roosevelt’s Bread Pudding With Whiskey Sauce

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As an affirmed anglophile, and a would be British country gentleman, even though he is a proud American, Theodore Roosevelt Franklin, the protagonist of my horror novel, Maledicus: Investigative Paranormal Society Book I, loves some traditional British foods, but he always puts his own touches to the recipes.

One of his favorite desserts is bread pudding with a whiskey sauce, in this case a bourbon sauce. While not a baker, this is a dish he has learned to make to his taste.

Ingredients: (Roosevelt emphasizes that if you make this dish, adjust the ingredients according to your tastes.)

For the bread pudding:

4 cups stale French or Italian bread, cut in small, irregular pieces

2 & 1/2 cups milk

3 eggs

1 cup sugar

1 tablespoon vanilla (extract is fine to use)

1 teaspoon nutmeg

1 teaspoon cinnamon

4-5 tablespoon melted butter

1 cup raisins

For the Bourbon Sauce:

1 stick butter

2 egg yolks

1 cup sugar

1/3-1/2 cup bourbon whiskey, depending on how strong you want the sauce to be

How to make the bread pudding:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees

In a big mixing bowl, combine milk and the bread. Squeeze the bread until completely saturated with the milk.

Use another mixing bowl. Beat the eggs and sugar on a high speed (use electric mixer) until thick.  Add the vanilla, nutmeg, cinnamon, raisins, and butter, and stir together thoroughly.  Then add the bread to the mix and stir.

Next, let the mixture sit for around 10-15 minutes so there will be no separation during the baking. Roosevelt made this mistake the first time he tried the dish, and the result was not good.

Grease a baking dish (a spray also works well), and pour the entire mixture into the dish.

Bake about 45-55 minutes.  Check with a butter knife to see if done. Insert into the middle, and examine when taking it out. If the knife is clean, it is done.

Let it sit while preparing the bourbon sauce.

How to make the bourbon sauce:

In a mixing bowl, beat the egg yolks until they are thick. Melt the butter along with the sugar. Add the mixture to the egg yolks, and mix until thickened. Stir in the bourbon with a wooden spoon.

Serve by cutting pieces into a bowl, and pour  an ample amount of the sauce onto the bread pudding.

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Roosevelt usually eats his dessert with a glass of bourbon and a good cigar.

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Please follow the following links to find my novel:

ebook

Print book

Thank you!

The book trailer:

Maledicus:Investigative Paranormal Society Book I

My radio interview:

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Tour For the Re-release of The Curious Tale of Gabrielle by Zachary Paul Chopchinski

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I am very pleased to be one of the hosts on the blog tour of the re-release for The Curious Tale of Gabrielle by Zachary Paul Chopchinski. Mr. Chopchinski is a talented writer, whom I have had the honor of meeting through the world of the blog, and I hope all of you consider reading his book!

Mr. Chopchinski discusses his reasons for the re-release:

As with many things in life, you will always be your own worst critic. This is not only true in my case, but a savage reality that drives much of what I do. I look at my writing as an extension of myself, it is something that I created and breathed life into. You strive for perfection in what you create as it mirrors its creator, no? This is one of the primary factors behind me re-releasing my first book in a second edition.

There are many things that I had to accept and overcome with the first edition of The Curious Tale of Gabrielle. There were plenty of grammatical issues, to start. I like to believe that I am a gifted wordsmith, however it is impossible to produce a good piece of work without proper editing. This is exactly what I was missing as I couldn’t afford a conventional editor the first time through. While I was proud of what I did put forth, there was a lot to be desired in the final fit and finish. So the first step that I took was to enlist the assistance of a proper editor. Which made the first huge leap.

Secondly, as I am working on the next steps of the journey, I began to look at what will become of Gabrielle and the adventures ahead of her. I realized that, as I was currently writing, there was a lack of a running antagonist. All of the books would be stand-alone with their endings bringing the end to that story. I felt that by introducing a secondary protagonist (Morrigan), who will give Gabrielle someone to grow and develop with, this would lay the foundation and allow for the introduction of a running antagonist. I thought that this would bring a bit more depth and realism to the series. As my readers grow and develop relationships with the light in my books, they must first respect the shadow. So I designed and introduced a theme that will develop into essentially a fight between good and evil.

I also wanted to expand on the story a bit. For selfish reasons, I wanted to put my book at around the 70,000 word mark so that, by definition, it was a novel. This may seem petty, and I don’t mean for it to. I set a goal for myself to write a novel, and that is what I intended to do. I cannot bake a singular brownie and then proclaim it to be a cake.
So with the extensions of the book, the proper editing and accepting my own flaws, developing more profound foundation for the future works, and placing my book in an arena where I can look to it and be proud of what I have created, I felt that sending it out into the world with a proper sendoff was fitting. Hence the re-release.

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Author Bio:

Zachary is 27 and lives in Florida with his lovely wife, Layla. The two of them share a home with their four fur-children.

Zachary has degrees in Criminal Justice and Criminology. He had two short stories and a poem published by Ohio State University. Zachary has always had two passions in his life, criminal justice and writing. After spending nearly 5 years working in security, he decided it was time to give his other passion a chance.

Zachary is very much a family man and when he is not deep in writing, he can be found spending time with his family, playing video games or contemplating his next story idea.

Author and Book Links:

Where to buy the book:

The first edition of the book can be found on the following sites. However, the second (expanded) edition will be available on March 25.

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Curious-Tale-Gabrielle-1/dp/1508423938/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1453249542&sr=8-1&keywords=The+Curious+tale+of+gabrielle

From Me (cheaper rates): http://zachchop.com/mywork/

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/524345

Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/books/details

/Zachary_Paul_Chopchinski_The_Curious_Tale_of_Gabri?id=k4XjBgAAQBAJ&hl=en

Connect with me on social media

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Zachary-Paul-Chopchinski-772308849490741/?ref=aymt_homepage_panel

Website: http://zachchop.com

Tumblr: http://an-author-and-his-books.tumblr.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/ZachChop

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/9853623.Zachary_Paul_Chopchinski

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Mr. Chopchinski,

Thank you for appearing on my blog!

Science Fiction Films of the 1950s: The Invasion of the Body Snatchers

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The 1956 film The Invasion Of The Body Snatchers is a seminal piece of cinema.  This movie combined the theme of alien invaders with that of xenophobia and the fear of communists infiltrating American society. Kevin McCarthy and Dana Wynter starred in the film, and directed by Don Siegel, in an Allied Artists film. The film was based on a novel by  Jack Finney called The Body Snatchers.

This black and white movie is atmospheric and establishes quickly a tone of distrust and disquiet, by creating a world in which normalcy seems just out of place. This questioning of normalcy, especially in  the context of 1950s America, in which conformity was seen as a virtue, is a strength of the movie. In post World War Two America, many people lived in a segregated world, divided by race, class, and religion.  Also, the United States was suffering through the hearings run by Senator Joe McCarthy, which were a modern version of witch hunts. The level of paranoia that was permeating American society is reflected in this film. Additionally, the possible effects of scientific research on humanity as well as the omnipresent nuclear threat also inform the tone of this film.

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Certainly, there were people who opposed the insanity of the time, people such as the writers Dashiell Hammett and Lillian Hellman, and the journalist Edgar R. Murrow, but I will discuss their courage in another post in the future.

Invasion Of The Body Snatchers has grown in popularity and has become recognized as one of the most important science fiction films of the 1950s, if not in American cinema as a whole. The idea of the loss of humanity behind the facade of a person’s face gives rise to the current explosion of zombie movies. This movie also gave America the term that would live in our consciousness of “pod people.” It is a brilliant movie, and one that I suggest that you see if you have not.