Tuesday, July 16, 2019

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Elika Ansari

An interview with author Elika Ansari.




Hi! Welcome to Zigzag Timeline. Can you tell us about your background as an author?

Hi there, thanks for having me. As cliche as this may sound, I have been writing for as long as I can remember. I came up with my first poem in Persian even before I could actually write; I basically dictated it and my mother wrote it down for me. I have also written short stories, reviews, and articles, but I think writing a book was probably the most challenging task I have undertaken as an author. But now that all has been said and done, I am really glad I finally did it!

What got you into writing?

Basically, the desire to see what happens in the fragments of stories I have in my mind. People think that it is mainly the reader who is transported into another realm upon picking up the book. But I feel the writer has the most enriching experience of all. When stories come to me in snippets, one of the most rewarding feelings I get is when I manage to line these snippets up into a coherent plot.

What was the first idea you had for your book, and how did the story grow from there?

The first idea I had was actually a fantasy story called ‘The Jewel Kingdom’. It is a story about how a kingdom is split up between royal siblings upon the King’s death, each inheriting a land to call their own kingdom. But the youngest brother, Malecai, unsatisfied with the part he receives, decides to invade his other siblings and take it all for himself. Since the world had been living in peace for hundreds of years, and had all but forgotten the ways of war, the other kingdoms are left vulnerable to the attack. The only way to save the kingdoms from Malecai is for the siblings to seek out the protection of the gods, which is not easy, as they had, long ago, gone into hiding in different corners of the earth. So they embark on an adventure to find them and bring Malecai to justice.

This story has actually never, to this day, been written into a book. But now that you have reminded me, I feel I should really get started on it!

Among your characters, who's your favorite? Could you please describe him/her?

Lee the turtle, from my debut children’s book, ‘Seacity Rising: A Tale of Unwatery Adventures’. I like her the most because her character comes across as very tough and unyielding at first, but then we get to see her kinder and more vulnerable side later on in the book. Makes you think twice about passing judgement!

What's your favorite scene from your novel? Could you please describe it?

My favourite chapter in ‘Seacity Rising’ is chapter 7, ‘Tiny Wars’, where we get to see a bunch of little ants with attitude boss the Seacitians around. The kind-hearted Seacitians, in turn, try to negotiating peace between the warring ant colonies, the AAU and the UAA, which they find difficult as both sides turn out to be so belligerent. I like it because I find it to be the silliest chapter in a way, and who doesn’t enjoy silly?

What's your favorite part of writing? Plotting? Describing scenes? Dialogue?

Definitely dialogue, because it just comes more naturally to me. I could easily write a whole chapter using dialogue only, but then, of course, that would not be a very good chapter, I suppose.

How long does it take you to write a book? Do you have a writing process, or do you wing it?

I wish I could answer that, I really don’t know. It took me a month to get the first draft done the last time, but of course that was the draft that could have never seen the light of day. After that, I revisited the draft on and off for a year while working full-time; redrafting, editing and tweaking it, while querying publishers at the same time. As for the process, I am trying to think what helped me last time as I am writing the second part of the Seacity series, and I can’t really remember, to be honest. I think having a good plan for each chapter really helps drive things forward, though, but that doesn’t mean I always stick to my own advice.

What is it about the genre you chose that appeals to you?
I try to focus on Middle Grade and Young Adult, though sometimes I expand out and write for adults as well. The reason I am drawn more to kid lit, and particularly the fantasy genre, however, is that I often find them more upbeat in general and more permitting to challenge the limits of our imagination.

Are there any books or writers that have had particular influence on you?

Angela Carter’s feminist rewriting of fairytales inspired my writing throughout my entire adolescence. And after that, I would say Tahereh Mafi’s ‘Shatter Me’ series really resonated with me. I also find JK Rowling to be hugely inspirational, but then again, who doesn’t?

Did you ever surprise yourself when you were writing your book? Characters who took on lives of their own? Plot elements that took unexpected turns?


Absolutely. I often even talk about my characters in the third person, for instance, if someone asks me, ‘Why did Babak the frog decide to do that?’ I’ll be like, well, that’s his decision to make, I can’t interfere with that.

Thanks for stopping by!

About the book:

Seacity Rising: A Tale of Unwatery Adventures is the first in a trilogy series, which touches on themes of friendship, selflessness, self-development, trust, diversity, displacement, and climate change, as well as other important ideas that children should be familiar with, and it does so in an endearing lens of fantasy and adventure.

Imagine your world is so incredibly small and sheltered, that you can only begin to fathom murmurs of adventures abroad in storybooks and legends of old. It may be a dull life, but it is certainly a familiar and comfortable one, and one that does not easily invite danger. Until now.

When the underwater creatures of Seacity pond learn that their home is in danger, they decide to investigate further by doing something no one has ever done before - go up to land to seek the answers they need. An unlikely team of two royal turtles, a genius goldfish and a timorous frog are then assembled to embark on a series of adventures. Whether they are racing the fastest tortoise on earth, falling in love with native mice theatre, or bringing peace to warring ant colonies, each unique experience is taking the group of friends closer to the heart of what is really going on. But will they make it back in time to save Seacity before the Winter’s Slumber?

About the author:

Elika Ansari is a writer, social scientist, and humanitarian professional. She has been working with MSF (Doctors Without Borders) in what has been recently described as ‘the world’s worst refugee camp’ in Greece for the past year, and as such she has had the (mis)fortune of hearing many touching stories about hardship and perseverance. She tries to focus her writing on globally relevant issues with the hope of one day making a difference through the stroke of the pen (or click of the keyboard), however small that may be. She loves writing anything from essays and articles to children’s fiction, and she does not shy away from the occasional rants about society’s downfalls. Ansari has published 100+ reviews, articles, and short stories, and her debut children’s book, ‘Seacity Rising: A Tale of Unwatery Adventures’ was published on June 6th, 2019 by Black Rose Writing.

Links:
Link to book: https://www.amazon.com/Seacity-Rising-Tale-Unwatery-Adventures/dp/1684332672

Website: http://www.elikaansari.com/

Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/elikaansari/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/19226072.Elika_Ansari

Instagram page: https://www.instagram.com/elikaansari/?hl=en

Thursday, June 27, 2019

My Shore Leave Schedule!

Hey everyone! I'll be heading down to Shore Leave the weekend of July 12-14! Below is my schedule :-)

Friday

10PM-12AM
Meet the Pros
Hunt/Valley Hallway

Saturday

11AM-12PM
Touchy Topics
Salon E

12PM-1PM
Crazy 8 Press Panel
Derby

1PM-2PM
Teen Writing Workshop: From Great Ideas to Great Plots
McCormick


4PM-5PM
Is YA for Adults Too?
Salon E

6PM-7PM
Beginnings, Middles, and Ends
Chase

8PM-11PM
Masquerade Ball (Judge)
Hunt/Valley

Sunday

11AM-12PM
Toxic Masculinity and Its Alterntives in SFF
Derby





Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Stronger Than A Bronze Dragon is out now!

Hey everyone! I'm thrilled to announce that my YA steampunk fantasy, STRONGER THAN A BRONZE DRAGON, is out today in hardback, e-book, and audio! In a steampunk fantasyland, a warrior girl teams up with a thief to defeat the demon king and save her village. But all is not as it seems...

I'm so excited to finally share this book with the world! I loved building this world of mighty airships, steampunk gadgets, and shadow demons. And I'm excited for the world to meet my fierce main character and narrator, Anlei. Check it out below! I hope you'll have as much fun reading it as I did writing it :-)


ABOUT THE BOOK

When a powerful viceroy arrives with a fleet of mechanical dragons and stops an attack on Anlei’s village, the villagers see him as a godsend. They agree to give him their sacred, enchanted River Pearl in exchange for permanent protection—if he’ll marry one of the village girls to solidify the alliance. Anlei is appalled when the viceroy selects her as a bride, but with the fate of her people at stake, she sees no choice but to consent. Anlei’s noble plans are sent into a tailspin, however, when a young thief steals the River Pearl for himself.

Knowing the viceroy won’t protect her village without the jewel, she takes matters into her own hands. But once she catches the thief, she discovers he needs the pearl just as much as she does. The two embark on an epic quest across the land and into the Courts of Hell, taking Anlei on a journey that reveals more is at stake than she could have ever imagined.

With incredibly vivid world building and fast-paced storytelling, Stronger Than a Bronze Dragon is great for readers who are looking for something fresh in epic fantasy.

Find it on:

B&N: bit.ly/2CRXWUo
Amazon: amzn.to/2HHCHKu
Indiebound:  bit.ly/2DG533C
Book Depository: bit.ly/2TmYHvs

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Excel for Writers

A Guest Post by Christie Valentine Powell
Author of The Spectra Unearthed


One afternoon my college roommate, an accounting major, found me pouring over an excel sheet. “You use excel?” she asked incredulously.

“Yes,” I answered. “It’s useful for writing.”

She still stared at me. She didn't seem to believe that a wildlife conservation major with a perchance for fiction would be using the same program she used in her classes.

Excel can be a useful tool for the writer. In fact, I was using it as early as middle school for keeping track of my characters (and their Pokémon—this was 2000).

Here are some of the ways I use excel for writing fiction. Some of these are influenced by genre. I write fantasy and create my own world, so I need to keep track of more information than, say, a romance writer might. Others are useful no matter the genre.

Names



“How do you name your characters?” comes up frequently in writing circles. I am something of a name enthusiast. I read name dictionaries and online lists for fun, and when I come up with one that fits my story, I add it to my name excel sheet. In The Spectra series, I go for names with meanings that tie in to that character’s clan. For instance, characters from the Cole clan have names meaning fire or red. The columns go across the top and then I fill in the information about each name. I include a column for “bearer” so I know if I’ve already used the name.

This way I can sort the names by gender and/or clan to help me narrow down the perfect name for my character. For instance, if a new male Sprite character appears, I can scroll down the alphabet to ‘S’…

And I’ve got a whole list of possibilities.

Timeline



I also use excel to keep track of the history of my fantasy world. At the top, I have a column per year (around 300 years). This way I have a quick reference for births, deaths and marriages; important events in both kingdoms and characters’ lives; and the reigns of kings. I broke them up by clan to spread things out. It may be chaotic for someone who doesn’t know the world, but I can find what I need and that’s what’s important.

Characters

Have you ever read a series where one of the characters switches middle names between books? What about eyes that change color? Annoying, right? A character sheet on excel can be a great way to keep all those little details straight, especially for minor characters. You can add whatever details are most important to you. Here’s an example of mine (by the way, I hid the columns for spouse and children—too many spoilers!). I can sort by book in the series or parents/birth order if I’m looking at a whole family.


Chapter Length

This is a tool I use to help with pacing. I keep track of the name and number of each chapter, and then copy down the page numbers from my table of contents. This calculates the length of each chapter for me, so I can determine if parts are too long or two short, and compare one book in the series to another. Yes, all of the Keita’s Wings books have the same number of chapters—I find it a useful tool for book length, but if this is unappealing to you please don’t. I can be OCD about some of these things. The different colors on the chapter names are groupings I find useful, based off of characters and setting.

Agents and Reviews

I’ve also used excel to keep track of agents and reviewers that I’ve contacted about my books. For reviewers, I listed their name, website, when I submitted to them, and what response I received (information has been removed for privacy). I colored the rejections red and the accepted invitations green:





I did the same thing for agents before I decided to Indie publish, which also included columns for hints I’d dug up about the sort of books they were looking for.

Moneys

Now here’s the sheet that my accounting roommate would approve of! Where is money going and where is it coming from? It’s important to keep track! At the end of the year I move the total costs, total profits, and year total to another table so that I can compare years and look for patterns… and do taxes (shudder).



What, you don’t think I doctored the profits, do you?

Word Count

I must admit, I had to get my husband’s help to set this up. I participate in NaNoWriMo each year, and one of the most motivating parts is entering your wordcount into their tables and graphs. So we put together a table that can give that same motivation throughout the year, with adjustable goals (let me know if you want a copy and I can email it).



Not Excel, But Still Useful
Here are a few other useful files I keep for my books that are not on excel:

Calendar:






I chose to use ‘Word’ for the calendar, but excel would work just as well. This helps me keep track of the dates in my story. I have to make sure that events are realistically spread out, especially when my characters are traveling!

Oh look, I left out a few death dates...

Family Trees

Main character Keita meets her cousins and other relatives in several of the Spectra books, so keeping track of them all is important. This information is on my excel timeline as well, but it’s handy to see them grouped by family in a linear, visual way. I have one of these for most of the major characters (including Keita’s mother’s side of the family on a separate sheet).

Maps


I have a ‘master map’ which shows the entire Spectra continent and all important places. This helps me get traveling dates straight (see calendar) and lets me visualize where the characters are and what directions they are facing. When I publish a book, I take the relevant section of my master map and turn it into an insert for the front of the book. Here’s the map that was included in book 3, The Spectra Uprooted: a map of the kingdom of Spritelands, and a small inset of the whole continent.

Various computer programs can be a real asset to your writing. These are the ones I’ve found the most useful. Feel free to try out any new ideas and let me know how they turned out!

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

COVER REVEAL: Brave New Girls: Adventures of Gals and Gizmos!

Today, I’m revealing the cover and story line-up for BRAVE NEW GIRLS: ADVENTURES OF GALS & GIZMOS, coming July 2019! This YA sci-fi anthology (edited by sci-fi authors Paige Daniels and Mary Fan) features stories about adventurous girls in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) whose science and tech skills get them in and out of trouble. Heroines who build superhero tech, tinker with nanobots, time travel, and more! Proceeds from sales of the anthology will be donated to the Society of Women Engineers scholarship fund.

And without further ado, here’s the cover!




Stories in the anthology (in alphabetical order by title):

ARMED FOR SURVIVAL by J.K. Ullrich
BOUND, DETERMINED by Holly Schofield
BRAINIAC by Nancy Johnston
COLOSSUS by Tash McAdam
THE CURSE by JF Garrard
DECODED by A.A. Jankiewicz
A DIFFERENT MATH by Aaron Rosenberg
EARTHQUAKE MACHINE by Lizz Donnelly
FUTURE SCOUTS by Phil Margolies
GAME OVER by Nicole Iversen
GEO by Elisha Betts
A GHOST AMONG THE STARS by Joanna Schnurman
HOPLITE by J.R. Rustrian
INDEPENDENCE DAY by Russ Colchamiro
JUPITER JEOPARDY by Kris Katzen
KELSEY: A ROBOT REPAIR GIRL ADVENTURE by Josh Pritchett
KEPTERMINE by Lisa Toohey
KNIGHT ENGINE by Jelani Akin Parham
LET THE NUMBERS SHOW TRUTH by Bryna Butler
MY FAIR CAVELADY by Jennifer Lee Rossman
THE PLANTS OF EREBUS by Victoria Zelvin
THE SILENT DUST by Keith R.A. DeCandido
THE THIRTEENTH PRINCESS by Mary Fan
THE TOWER by Paige Daniels
THE WATER PLANT by Amy Lewanski
ZOWS by Mackenzie Reide

ADD IT ON GOODREADS: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/43810391-brave-new-girls

SIGN UP FOR THE RELEASE DAY MAILING LIST: http://eepurl.com/bgBmvD

VISIT THE BRAVE NEW GIRLS WEBSITE: http://bravenewgirls.weebly.com/

Brave New Girls: Adventures of Gals & Gizmos is the ourth  volume of the Brave New Girls anthology series. The first three, Brave New Girls: Tales of Girls and Gadgets (2015), Brave New Girls: Stories of Girls Who Science and Scheme (2017), and Brave New Girls: Tales of Heroines Who Hack have so far raised thousands of dollars for the Society of Women Engineers Scholarship fund. Find them on Amazon.

  


ABOUT THE EDITORS


Paige Daniels is the pen name of Tina Closser. By day she works as an Electrical Engineer and Mom mushing her kids from gymnastics and violin practice. After the kids go to bed, she rocks out with her headphones turned to eleven and cranks out books. She is an uber science geek. If she wasn't married to the most terrific guy in the world, she would be a groupie for Adam Baldwin. Her books include Non-Compliance: The Sector, Non-Compliance: The Transition, and Non-Compliance: Equilibrium.

Mary Fan is a hopeless dreamer, whose mind insists on spinning tales of “what if.” As a music major in college, she told those stories through compositions. Now, she tells them through books—a habit she began as soon as she could pick up a pencil. And what stories she has! Currently, she has three series in progress and likes to think that she has even more in her bag. Her books include the Starswept novels, the Jane Colt trilogy, the Flynn Nightsider series, the Fated Stars novellas, and Stronger Than a Bronze Dragon.


Tuesday, February 26, 2019

NEW RELEASE: Wayward Stars!

Hey everyone! Sorry about the lack of posts! Been ridiculously busy lately. Just wanted to pop in and announce that WAYWARD STARS, sequel to my award-winning YA sci-fi novel, STARSWEPT, is now out in the world! Check it out:

E-Book: Hardback:

Sing your truth. Defend your dream. Defy your stars.

A month has passed since Iris joined an underground rebel group to save Dámiul from the brutal prison he was sent to for fighting back against his world’s oppressive system. Here, conformity and compliance are enforced through telepathy, and Earthling performers are brainwashed into absolute obedience.

Word of a merciless crackdown on those who sympathize with their cause leaves both Iris and Dámiul yearning for action. Determined to liberate her kind, Iris volunteers to return to her former patrons and covertly recruit supporters.

A raid on their hideout catapults her plan into action sooner than expected and forces her to leave Dámiul behind. After persuading the authorities that she’d been telepathically manipulated into helping him, Iris assumes the role of a dutiful musician while secretly spreading whispers of a possible uprising among her fellow performers. But the authorities always seem to be one step ahead, and anyone who defies them is swiftly mind-wiped.

Soon, Iris is forced to confront a horrifying fact: there’s a traitor among them. Desperately clinging to her cover, she races to find out who before her true loyalties are discovered—and the search leads her to an unthinkable answer.


AVAILABLE NOW IN E-BOOK AND HARDBACK!



Thursday, January 31, 2019

My Farpoint Schedule!

Excited to return to Farpoint this year! Below is my schedule:


FRIDAY, FEB. 8

Jean-Luc Picard: The Man, The Legend – Fri 7:00 PM – Salon A

Farpoint Book Fair – Fri 10:00 PM – Hunt Valley Hallway


SATURDAY, FEB. 9

Autograph – Sat NOON – Autograph Table 1

Diversity Vs Appropriation (MOD) – Sat 2:00 PM – Salon C

Crazy 8 Press – Sat 4:00 PM – Salon C

The Case For A Capt. Worf Series – Sat 5:00 PM – Salon A


SUNDAY, FEB. 10

Autograph (DeCandido; Fan) – Sun 10:00 AM – Autograph Table 1

The Star Wars Multiverse – Sun NOON – Salon A

Women In Star Trek – Sun 2:00 PM – Salon A