Guest Post: “The Unique Power of Science Fiction and Fantasy” by Danielle Stinson

Guest Post

Danielle StinsonMeet Danielle Stinson.

Stories were a central part of Danielle Stinson’s childhood. Growing up in a military family meant frequent moves across the US and abroad. She spent many summers in her room surrounded by unpacked boxes and stacks of library books. She currently lives with her husband and four boys in Virginia, where she writes fiction for young adults.

Before I Disappear is her debut novel.

Social Media:
instagram: (daniellemstinson)

The Guest Post.

When I sat down to write this blog post, I wasn’t expecting it to turn into an open love letter to the genres I read, write and adore, but I’m not mad that this is what ultimately happened. The truth is that I do love science fiction and fantasy, and I believe with all my heart that they are for everyone. And maybe not for the reasons that you might expect.

Let’s face it. Sometimes we read books simply because we need to escape. No genres provide a better exit hatch than science fiction and fantasy. Want to leave earth and travel to another galaxy? No problem. Feel like hanging out with fantastical beings or going on a quest through make believe words? Science fiction and fantasy have got you covered. We all need to escape sometimes, but very few have the option to just pack a bag and head off into sunset whenever we feel like it. That is what books are for.

But there is more to sci-fi and fantasy than pure escapism. Sometimes, we read them to strike at the heart of what is Real. What is True. Science fiction and fantasy are playgrounds for the heaviest, most enduring themes and questions about what it means to be human. They are the battlegrounds for good and evil. Blank canvases for the interplay of complex human relationships and systems of belief. While the rich world building, clever premises, and tight plots might bring us into story, they aren’t why we remember them years afterward. We remember them because of the characters and their struggles to navigate the shades of grey that we experience in our own lives. Hello, Katniss and Frodo.

Science fiction and fantasy excel at placing characters in extraordinary circumstances, forcing them to make impossible decisions that call everything into question. So doing, they thrust us into the most intricate of moral dilemmas, asking us to evaluate what things matter most. Who we want to be. In essence, works of science fiction and fantasy can serve as portals not just to other worlds, but as microscopes that reveal the inner workings of human nature.

Speaking of truths, one of my favorite things about science fiction in particular is that it is a genre dedicated purely to the possible. Most works of sci-fi deal not in what is, but what could be. They ask tough questions about technology and progress. About exploration and isolationism. Questions that seem to be striking a relevant note when you consider the high demand for dystopian fiction in popular markets over the last decade. I also love how many works of science fiction, no matter how futuristic or seemingly far-fetched, are rooted in some degree of reality.

The list of merits of science fiction and fantasy is nearly endless, but the last one I’ll mention here is arguably the most important to my mind. Freedom. By allowing our imaginations free rein, by taking us away from our world and all its rules and ways of thinking, science fiction and fantasy give us a chance to start over. To see the world through new eyes and break out of our established paradigms and prejudices. One of my very favorite things about these stories is that they often teach us about ourselves and our world on almost subconscious levels. They help us think outside of our own boxes and adjust our viewpoints without feeling our own identities are threatened. I guess you could say some of the deepest, most meaningful truths ever told are told through these types of fiction.

These are some of the reasons I read science fiction and fantasy and believe strongly that they are for everyone. But if I’m being honest, none of these reasons are why I write them.

I write science fiction because I love it. Because one of my favorite things to do is imagine our own contemporary word, but with a mind-bending twist. Because I feel the pull of the mysterious unknown and love nothing more flipping pages as fast as my eyes can devour them. When I sat down to write BEFORE I DISAPPEAR, my debut novel, my only goal was to write a something that would make the reader feel their heart pound. So I wrote about a small town that disappears into thin air and a girl who has to find her little brother before he disappears forever. It’s got atmosphere, mystery and twists galore, but at its heart, it’s a book about people and the type of bonds that can never be broken.

A story that I believe isn’t just for people who like science, but for anyone.



Stinson’s debut Before I Disappear is out today!

Visit her website for more information.


Author Interview: Mara Rutherford

Author Interview, Misc.

Meet Mara Rutherford.

mara headshot bw.jpg

Social media links
Instagram: @mararutherfordwrites
Twitter: @mararaewrites

The Interview.


Hi Mara! Thanks for joining us today. Tell us a little about yourself.

Mara Rutherford began her writing career as a journalist but quickly discovered she far preferred fantasy to reality. Originally from California, Mara has since lived all over the world along with her Marine-turned-diplomat husband. A triplet born on Leap Day, Mara holds a Master’s degree in Cultural Studies from the University of London. When she’s not writing or chasing after her two sons, she can usually be found pushing the boundaries of her comfort zone, whether at a traditional Russian banya or an Incan archaeological site. She is a former Pitch Wars mentee and three-time mentor.

A journalist turned author. Does your journalist mindset aid or weaken your writing?
I’m not sure I’ve ever thought about how journalism affects my fiction writing, other than that I found reporting extremely boring! I editorialized way too much when I first started. But I do think learning how to copy edit made me a very clean drafter, which is a blessing, and I love a deadline!
How would you describe your upcoming debut, CROWN OF CORAL AND PEARL in five words?
Beauty. Family. Sacrifice. Self-discovery. Home.
If you were stranded on an island for a week, what literary character would you pick to be there with you?
I feel like you can never go wrong with Jamie Fraser from Outlander. He’s brave, strong, has survived some truly hellacious situations, and he’s got a Scottish accent. What more do you need?
How would you introduce your CROWN OF CORAL AND PEARL characters? Do you have a favorite?
Nor is the main character. She’s headstrong, outspoken, and adventurous, but also extremely loyal. Her identical twin, Zadie, is the responsible one, but deep down she’s actually very stubborn, once she learns what she really wants. Their best friend, Sami, is the son of their village’s leader. He’s lighthearted and mischievous, almost to the point of recklessness. There are two princes in the novel: Ceren, the crown prince, who is a brilliant but power-hungry inventor, and his half-brother, Talin, who feels torn between two worlds. I love them all, but Ceren was probably the most fun to write. I really enjoy writing complicated villains.
Was there any particular scene in CROWN OF CORAL AND PEARL you had to work on constantly because something just felt off about it?
I wouldn’t say there were any particular scenes I struggled with, but the transition from Nor’s ocean village to the mountain castle was a challenge. They are such different worlds, and I wanted them to be equally unique and intriguing.
Tell us a little bit about you writing process.
Once I have an idea for a book, I usually sit on it for a month or so, letting it flesh out in my imagination. Sometimes I draft a couple of chapters before realizing I don’t know exactly where the story is going, so I take a break and then make a beat sheet. I like to draft as quickly as possible, usually in a couple of months. It really depends on what’s going on at home (I have two young sons, and now a puppy, so my schedule revolves around them). Drafting is definitely my favorite part of the process. Revising is hard for me – I’d rather move on to the next story!
Is there anything else you’d like to share with the readers today?
For any writers who might be reading– CROWN OF CORAL AND PEARL was my ninth completed novel. It took me ten years to sign with an agent, and then several more years to sell a book. I have a mantra that I tell myself when publishing starts to get me down: follow your compass, not your clock. There is no timeline on being an author (even though it feels like there is!). If this is what you love to do, just keep moving forward, one word at a time.


Keep an eye out for CROWN OF CORAL AND PEARL coming out later this year!

Guest Post: “5 Ways to Unwind After a Deadline” by Author Amber Mitchell

Guest Post

Meet Amber Mitchell.


Amber Mitchell graduated from the University of South Florida with a BA in Creative Writing and her debut novel was Garden of Thorns.

When she isn’t putting words on paper, she is using cardstock to craft 3D artwork, exploring the world with her husband Brian, or playing far too much Dungeons and Dragons. They live a small town in Florida with their four cats where she is impatiently waiting to return to Scotland and explore ancient castle ruins.


Her second novel, War of the Wilted, will be released by Entangled Teen on October 1, 2018.

Social Media Links:
Twitter: @amberinblunderland


The Guest Post.

5 Ways to Unwind After a Deadline



Your fingers have been glued to the keyboard, the playlist you were listening to has long since stopped playing and you are surrounded by a forest of mostly empty coffee mugs (or if you’re me, Diet Coke cans). If that sounds like a familiar scene, you’ve probably been on deadline. Whether it is a self-imposed deadline or one from an agent or editor, the end result is always the same: a plethora of words on a page and a mind so made of mush, you’re envious of the shape Jello can take.


But now that you’ve completed your deadline, it’s time to relax! Pat yourself on the back and get ready to unwind. Here are my five favorite ways to treat myself after a completed deadline!



  • A hot bath- There is nothing more rewarding than drawing a hot bath. Bonus points if you can swing a bath bomb or bubbles in there. Grab your favorite drink, a fancy glass, your phone for some ambience music, light a few candles and let yourself soak. Chances are, you’ve probably pushed everything aside to get this book done so now it’s time to spoil yourself a bit.


  • Save a good series- As a reward for a job well done, I always save a popular or new series that I want to read. Though it’s hard not to pick it up while I’m writing, nothing makes me happier than binge-reading when I’m finished with my own writing. Not only is this a great way to reward yourself, but it also helps you replenish all those words you just spent writing your own book!


  • Binge-watch a t.v. show- Brain too mushy for reading right now? That’s alright! That just means that you can find a good t.v. series to get lost in for a while and let the screen do the work for you. Falling in love with a new show is a great way to relax your overworked mind and you can learn a bit about storytelling along the way. A few shows I find particularly binge-worthy: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Outlander, Stranger Things, Jessica Jones and Doctor Who


  • Try a new recipe- Sometimes I spend far too much time watching Tasty videos and that’s mostly because I don’t have the time to make them. But after deadline, I treat myself to one or two really good looking ones and get busy in the kitchen. Following a recipe is a great way to relax your mind and after you’re finished, you can share your hard prepared meal with friends… or if it didn’t turn out so well, because let’s be honest, it’s never as easy as it looks on the video, you can go grab a bite with them!



  • Start daydreaming about the next exciting thing- Whether it be that idea the sparked in the middle of writing your book on deadline, wondering what the cover will look like for the book you just turned in or getting back to your WIP, let yourself look ahead a little bit. Daydreaming about the next big step you’re going to take is part of the fun and will really help you remember why you pulled an all-nighter three nights in a row to hit your goal.


There are a few of my absolute favorite things to do after deadline. The main thing to remember is that you just pushed yourself one step closer to your dream and that deserves to be rewarded.


What do you do to unwind after accomplishing a goal?

Guest Post: Author Elizabeth Tammi Discusses “Use Your Re-Imagination: YA Retellings”

Guest Post

Meet Elizabeth Tammi.


Elizabeth Tammi was born in California and grew up in Florida, but is currently double-majoring in Creative Writing and Journalism as an undergraduate at Mercer University in Georgia. When she’s not writing, you can probably find Elizabeth at rehearsal for one of her vocal ensembles, or at work for her university’s newspaper and literary magazine. Her other interests include traveling, caffeinated beverages, and mythology. Outrun the Wind is her debut novel. You can find Elizabeth online on Tumblr at (annabethisterrified), Twitter at (@ElizabethTammi), Instagram at (elizabeth_tammi), and at


The Guest Post

“Use Your Re-Imagination: YA Retellings”

In this year alone, YA fiction’s already published some fantastic retellings. Kristina Perez’s Sweet Black Waves gives a new perspective on the tale of Tristan and Isolde, Megan Bannen’s The Bird and the Blade pulls inspiration from the opera Turandot, and Kiersten White’s final installment in The Conqueror’s Saga, Bright We Burn, offers a gender-flipped exploration of the life of Vlad the Impaler.

My forthcoming debut novel, Outrun the Wind, also draws from ancient source material from poets like Ovid and Apollodorus. The life of the legendary Greek warrior Atalanta first grabbed my attention a little over two years ago, before I left for college. Though I’ve always been a mythological fan, until that summer I’d never learned the full extent of the story of Atalanta, a young girl who managed to help kill the ferocious Calydonian Boar, and a girl who demanded that her suitors try to beat her in a footrace…in which she slew them all.

Needless to say, I was intrigued by this figure, but riddled with questions and confusion. I think that it’s a combination of intrigue and frustration from our modern perspective that has birthed this movement of retellings. Mythology is a great source material, because there’s already so much disparity and differences between the most ancient of poets– it has an evolutionary and fluid freedom that leaves room for wild interpretations and additions. (Madeline Miller and Rick Riordan are both wonderful examples of authors who use the Greek myths in their own completely vivid and original tales.)

Stories are always inspired by something, so I get defensive when people say retellings aren’t as valid as ‘original’ works. Atalanta is an icon of mythology, but it’s up to me (and other authors who have used her) to give her a personality, motivations, and relationships. It’s up to me to create a new cast of characters and develop a setting, plot, and conflicts that help to piece together the loose dots of source material I incorporated.

I’ve adored reading all the fantastic retellings of recent years, and look forward to more to come! I believe readers truly enjoy seeing instances of today’s imagination interacting with yesterday’s tales to create exciting, innovative stories that make us consider different views on the stories we’ve passed down and used to define ourselves.

Thanks so much for letting me ramble about this awesome publishing trend, and I hope you’ll consider reading my take on Atalanta’s story on November 27th, when Outrun the Wind releases from Flux Books.

Are you ready for Outrun the Wind in November?

Want more info to survive the wait?

Check out Elizabeth Tammi’s links above!

Guest Post: Author Katya de Becerra Discusses Character Creation

Guest Post, Misc.

Meet Katya de Becerra.

Katya de Becerra.JPG

Katya de Becerra was born in Russia, studied in California, lived in Peru, and then stayed in Australia long enough to become a local. She was going to be an Egyptologist when she grew up, but instead she earned a PhD in Anthropology. She is the author of What The Woods Keep, and Oasis (2019).

What The Woods Keep can be purchased wherever books are sold.

Social Media Links

The Guest Post.

My YA debut, What The Woods Keep, is a crossgenre multimedia novel about one girl’s quest for truth about her mother’s decade-long disappearance.

What the Woods Keep.jpg

Like most book projects, What The Woods Keep started small, but soon morphed into a many-headed monster I had to tame on a daily basis as I was writing it. One of its complexities had to do with the process of creating a supernatural race that was both grounded in history and mythology and governed by the laws of the science fiction genre. My main task, as I saw it, was to maintain that intricate balance between creating something decidedly otherworldly and still keeping it within the realm of the believable “this could happen here” situation.

This is how I’ve done it.

guest post photo 1 Nibelungenlied Fragment, Berlin, SB, Fragm, 44

The Nibelungenlied has always been one of my obsessions, ever since I first laid my eyes on a certain weathered collection of international myths and legends at my uncle’s house. It was in this book that I also had my first glimpse at the dragon-slaying Siegfried in all his sword-and-armor glory. As the child-me was comprehending for the first time the concept of a mythic hero and their quest, my brain was busy absorbing all the details of the Nibelungen lore: from their visual aesthetic to the obscure quality of legends that chronicle their strange fate.

Years on, as the grown-up me was just starting to write what was to become my eventual debut, whatever mark the Nibelungs have left in my mind have resurfaced and recaptured my imagination with renewed ferocity.

But… the story I was writing was set in the modern world. This meant that the legendary Nibelungs had to become a seamless part of this world too.

While the ancient language I imagined the Nibelungs inhabiting the world of What The Woods Keep spoke was an essential part of the process of (re)creating them from myth and lore, since I’ve already written about it elsewhere, in this post I want to focus on another important aspect of my world-building process: the science and science fiction ideas that I drew on to flesh out my particular brand of the Nibelungs.

guest post photo 2 – A photograph taken of Hoffman’s 14 set designs for Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen opera in 1876.

Due to its modern world setting, the narrative of What The Woods Keep draws on the principles and laws of physics which govern our lives on Earth. Hayden, the book’s protagonist, is particularly fond of physics as a way of defiance of her father who, in her eyes, has rejected the discipline in favor of some crackpot theories. But when Hayden encounters the eponymous woods of the book she has to dig deep into her own established views of the world to understand what exactly she is facing. Specifically, the question of how the phenomenon she experiences in the forest fits into the natural world that she thinks she knows so well is on her mind a lot. When Hayden finally draws a blank in her analysis, she needs to start thinking in a divergent way if she wants to prevail in her quest. And so while most of what we know about the Nibelungs in What The Woods Keep can be explained with help of theoretical physics, there’s that one elusive bit that evades theorization: the otherworldly element which adds “super” to the “natural” and makes my debut a fantasy/science fiction mashup. I hope that readers enjoy reading my creation because I most definitely enjoyed creating it and bringing all the things I love – science, mythology and mystery – together to make What The Woods Keep a strange beast that it is today.

Guest Post: Peyton Garver on Edgy Contemporary YA

Guest Post

peyton.jpgMeet Peyton Garver.

As a child, Peyton called places like Livorno, Italy; Orléans, France; and Augsburg, Germany home. She has since settled in Maryland, where she earned her degree in education at Towson State University, married her sweetheart of two years, and became an instant mother to three spirited young boys before adding another son to the brood. And, with their yellow lab George, it’s no stretch to say she’s outnumbered.

When not writing, Peyton is a fulltime high school teacher. Inspired by the individual spirits, heartaches, and triumphs of her students, Peyton has developed characters who resemble real world teens dealing with real issues: relationships, jealousy, bullying, and depression. Her newest novel, Sublime Karma, is a contemporary story filled with emotion, depth, wit, and suspense.

Social Media Links:
Twitter: @peyton_garver


Guest Post

“Writing Edgy Contemporary YA Responsibly”
There are so many subgenres for YA literature: fantasy, dystopian, science fiction, adventure, horror, historical fiction, steampunk, paranormal and many more, all of which readers must rely on their imagination and world building of the author. And, there is nothing wrong with that. It’s easy to get absorbed into stories that sweep us away and allow us to escape into a world of imagination. I enjoy reading YA dystopian and science fiction. I loved the Divergent dystopian series, while Ender’s Game is my favorite science fiction.

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But, with contemporary YA, the story is relatable and the issues are real. My book, Sublime Karma, is a coming-of-age story where my characters grow and change because of their real-life experiences. The characters face the tough issues of jealousy, bullying, isolation, relationships, trust, loss, and depression. The same issues that so many teens deal with every day. Coming-of-Age contemporary stories, although fiction, are relatable and often come with life lessons.

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Sublime Karma falls into the category of edgy contemporary YA with the tough issues of self-harm, attempted suicide, and abuse. It is written for older teens, not tweens or younger teens. This was a difficult book to write. As a teacher, I’ve had experience with some of the themes I’ve included in Sublime Karma. Why was it difficult you might ask? Of course, the topics are sensitive, but more difficult than writing about sensitive topics is how to write about those topics responsibly. On that note, I would like to refer you to this enlightening article by Hannah Heath, “Six Problems with Edgy YA Fiction”: She describes negative issues with edgy YA. And, for the most part I whole heartedly agree. But, that doesn’t mean I would shy away from writing it. As I wrote, I knew I needed to be cognizant of the fact that my readers are impressionable, and while I believe the topics I’ve addressed are important and need to have light shed on them, I also knew I must do so in a responsible manner. Hannah’s first point was that difficult issues such as self-harm and suicide are romanticized. I do have scenes of self-harm and one scene of the aftermath of an attempted suicide, but in so doing, I wanted the reader to understand the character without glorifying or condemning the act stressing that the character is suffering and needs help. And, their acts also affect others.

Secondly, Hannah points out that there is a lack of nice characters. One of the early reviewers for Sublime Karma wrote this about one of my main characters:

Jake I absolutely loved in this book. He was the jock, but he really wasn’t. This kid had a heart of gold. He wasn’t one that just did things to be noticed. He had a lot going on and he made time for his sister which is pretty awesome. With Jake he was all in all the time. He took life a little too seriously at times, but he had to grow up fast. He was one of the strongest teens I have seen in a book in a long time.”

For contemporary YA it is likely that the reader can identify people they know in real life who are similar to characters in the story. Ultimately the reader should be able to experience the growth of the characters, especially the MCs. Believable characters and compelling plots are both key to all YA fiction. Speaking of compelling plots in contemporary writing, keeping it real is important. In edgy YA it gives a glimpse into some tough issues that all readers have not experienced but may be curious about…another reason to approach it responsibly. Just because it’s edgy, it doesn’t mean it has to glamorize a specific act or tempt a reader.
Hannah’s third point is the prominence of sexual situations. I agree. Thus, the heat level of Sublime Karma is sweet. I didn’t want sexual relations to be the focal point of the story. Hannah goes on to make three more points in her article. To be honest, I didn’t see this article before my book was published as the article hadn’t yet been written. The take-away here is that it is possible to write edgy YA responsibly for a young adult audience.


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What an awesome guest post!

Want more? Check out Garver’s links above!