Sunday, August 27, 2017

7 Reasons I Enjoy Historical Fiction

This post was inspired by a friend who gave me a completely different blogging prompt. But hey, that’s what happens with writing! Not only do you get a million plot bunnies, but when you finally pick one, they also tend to run off on a rabbit trail. So long as you don’t end up down the rabbit hole… 

Enough with Alice in Wonderland, though. This post is all about historical fiction! I’m here to talk about another one of my favorite genres, where fact meets fiction. 

I’ve been on a historical fiction reading spree lately, particularly when it comes to WWII fiction. I read other historical novels as well, but this has been my latest preference, especially considering my recent travels in Europe. Here are just a couple of reasons I enjoy historical fiction: 

1. It’s informative. 

I get a better sense of place from historical fiction than from history books. While history books will tell you about dates, historical fiction will tell you what a city might have looked or smelled like and how people may have lived their day-to-day lives. 

And let’s face it, reading or watching historical fiction makes us feel smarter. I know it does for me. Don’t deny it. 

2. It’s easier to remember a story if I can empathize with the characters/people. 

Need I say more? Fact: I can breeze through 300 pages of historical fiction, but it takes longer to get through 50 pages in a history book. 

3. Culture! 

I’ve touched on this topic before when it comes to 7 Reasons I Enjoy Sci-Fi, but I’m here to tell you about it again. I like culture. Once you take the time to truly understand somebody and where they’re coming from, they’ll be more open to interaction. And there’s nothing like understanding that not everybody lives their lives the way you do. If you can’t travel to a place to understand a certain culture, you can at least read about it. That way, you might even spare yourself the culture shock. 

4. Time travel. 

Time machines don’t exist… yet. And let’s face it, time travel would be a bit freaky. There are so many different theories about what could possibly go wrong and how such travel would work at all, but of course, that’s for a post on science-fiction not historical fiction. (Problems with time travel: germs vs. antibodies; language differences; spatial differences; the space time continuum; etc.) 

But when it comes to books, you can “safely” travel back in time and the most likely dangers you’ll encounter include papercuts, depleted bank accounts, and broken hearts. Okay, I never said you’d make it off easy. Reading is a dangerous game, my friend. 

5. Actual travel.*

It’s fascinating to read about a place and then travel there. That’s the problem with fantasy. The closest I’ll ever come to Narnia is the wardrobe in my house or visiting Oxford, which, let’s face it, looks nothing like I imagine Narnia to be. And sure, you can “visit” Middle Earth, but do you get to see Minas Tirith or Lothlorien? Unfortunately, not. (But I still want to go!) 

With historical fiction, you can visit actual sights. And while I’ve been to many, many places in my wanderings, I enjoy and understand a place even more if I’ve read a story about it before. I may even fangirl over a historical sight. I’ve visited Siena, the town where the Betarrini have been. (Okay, so the River of Time books are part fantasy, but they’re historical fiction too!) I’ve been to London, where many famous authors lived and kings and queens ruled. 

If you’re into actual travel and fiction, be sure to check out my latest newsletter, River of Books, and subscribe for more below!

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*I can tell when an author hasn’t visited the actual historical location or done their research. The setting tends to lack the personal touch that you can only get from visiting a place or talking to somebody who has. 

6. Author’s notes. 

Once I’ve engaged with a story, I thoroughly enjoy getting a bit more context. Maybe it’s the intellectual in me, but I like to learn the facts about something that’s already fascinating. Elizabeth Wein does a great job of this when it comes to her historical fiction novels. I would seriously like to see where more authors get their historical research from. 

And not just historical novels either. I want to know more about the facts and fiction when it comes to stories about people with disabilities or mental illness. A lot of stories just end, and I’m left asking what was real and what was made up. Sometimes, it’s hard to tell. Petition for YA authors to write more author’s notes. Seriously, people. I want to know more!

7. It’s sobering. 

Historical fiction reminds us that the world does not revolve around us. There were hundreds of thousands, millions of people who lived before us. Reading historical fiction can help us come in contact with just a few of those lives through stories of actual people or places. It also points out many of the tragedies that have occurred throughout the years and helps teach us what it truly means to be human. 

8. Bonus! (And because I can’t count): It helps me connect with my brother. 

My older brother is obsessed with history. I often refer to him as a walking encyclopedia. And even though we were pretty close growing up, so much so that we were often mistaken for twins, college has seen us develop different opinions and interests. So I may not have as much in common with my brother as I like, but at least there’s still history. 

Having watched BBC’s latest adaptation of Shakespeare’s history plays, The Hollow Crown, has enabled me to talk with my brother about the War of the Roses. Reading novels that include battle strategy is another favorite of mine because my brother could go on and on about the pincer movement or guerilla warfare. 

Enjoy historical fiction? If you related to this post, you might enjoy reading the following books: The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant (early 1900s, immigration, USA) All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr (WWII, France and Germany), Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai (1975, immigration, Vietnam and USA), and Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein (WWII, pilots, France and England).


Let’s chat! Did I miss any great points about historical fiction? What are some of your favorite genres? How often do you read historical fiction? What is your favorite era to read about?

Sunday, August 20, 2017

No Story is Perfect

I go through various phases of reading. Some days, I’ll breeze through a really good book and then demand 100,000 more excellent stories. Other days, I’ll read 25 pages of a book I’ve been trying to finish for a week, and by the time I’m done, I don’t want to pick up another book for the next month. Good books are energizing. Mediocre ones are exhausting. 

All the while, I keep reading because I’m in search of the next great story. I have this picture in my mind of what such a story should look like, and even books I give 5/5 stars don’t entirely line up with my expectations. Even books I end up thoroughly enjoying and buying because I want to read them again, if I tried hard enough, I could probably find faults with them. It happened with The Chronicles of Narnia, The Valley of Fear, and the Inkworld trilogy and will undoubtedly happen again. 

Disclaimer: This post is not meant as an attack on your favorite stories. Therefore, I have picked my own treasured books to analyze and critique as an example. Likewise, when I say “story”, I mean fiction, not nonfiction, though there are certainly imperfections in nonfiction as well. 

“It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.” –Aristotle, Metaphysics

I was quite surprised when during my postgraduate, I heard one of my professors criticize Henry V for its awkward structure. Apparently, characters are running around every which way, and how on earth are directors supposed to portray an entire battle on stage through messengers? 

“It doesn’t really work as a play,” my professor said. 

Wait, what? This is Shakespeare we’re talking about. Isn’t he supposed to be a genius, the standard for writers? 

As it turns out, even classics have their faults. 

Despite fans’ obsession with the famous detective, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle hated Sherlock Holmes, so much so that he couldn’t even stay consistent with John Watson’s injuries, and there are parts where the third-person narratives don’t make sense. How is Watson supposed to glean this information if the point of view character is dead? 

In The Faerie Queene, not only is it difficult to follow the dialogue let alone the narrative, but also the later stories are, apparently, not as well thought out. Though I haven’t read all the books yet, I’ve heard characters disappear from the story if you’re not paying attention. That and Spenser never actually finished the collection. He only wrote six out of his initial idea for twelve books.

In Paradise Lost, audiences argue whether Satan is the antagonist or the protagonist. (Please be aware that the protagonist does not equate to a “hero”. Instead, the protagonist is the point-of-view character. That does not mean he/she is admirable.) 

The Lord of the Rings reverts to Dues ex machina when it comes to the eagles and the army of the dead. Likewise, The Chronicles of Narnia has some narrative issues. How does the narrator know what to write in The Last Battle if the seven friends of Narnia told him the events of the other books? 

I don’t mean to be terribly condescending when it comes to fiction. The Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia will still be among my favorite stories from my childhood. Paradise Lost is among my Treasured Books, and I will probably always consider it to be among the best classics. 

But there still remains the idea that a story doesn’t have to be perfect for it to be enjoyable. If we didn’t enjoy stories because we dislike one or two aspects of it (or five or ten), we might never find a story we’d like. But that doesn’t mean, just because we thoroughly enjoy something, that we can’t talk about the elements that bothered us. Neither does that mean we have to get defensive if somebody else has a different opinion on a story than we do. 

“You can like things and also find them problematic. That is fine.” —Jen Campbell, “Let’s Talk | Villains and Deformity”

But what can readers possibly do when it comes to flawed fiction? First off, acknowledge the problem. Believe it or not, ignoring an issue doesn’t make it go away. Unless it’s a mosquito bite. Then you should definitely try to ignore it. Secondly, discuss the issue with others. Thirdly, and finally, if you’re a writer, address these issues in your own stories. You may not get it all right, but you are human, after all.

Sherlock: It’s not a pleasant thought, John, but I have this terrible feeling from time to time that we might all just be human.
John: Even you?
Sherlock: No. Even you.
(Sherlock, “The Lying Detective”)

Besides, I’d much rather read an imperfect story than a perfect one. After all, who can relate to a perfect life? As a gardener, I can often tell the difference between a fake houseplant and a real one. Fake plants are shiny and perfect and collect dust. Actual plants have scars and sometimes dried tips on their leaves, but at least they’re real. 


Film references: Sherlock

Literary references: C. S. Lewis’ The Last Battle and The Chronicles of Narnia, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Valley of Fear and Sherlock Holmes collection, and Cornelia Funke’s Inkworld trilogy, Aristotle’s Metaphysics, Shakespeare’s Henry V, Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queene, John Milton’s Paradise Lost, and J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings.

Let’s chat! What’s your take on fiction and it’s imperfections? What are some stories you enjoy despite their faults?

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Last of the Memory Keepers: Print Edition Cover Reveal!

One of the questions I find readers like to ask a lot is “Where’s the print version of your stories?” Good news, everybody! Print is not dead. I decided to release the e-book versions first to allow the stories to get a running head start. Now, I am pleased to present you with the print cover for Last of the Memory Keepers!

Isn’t it gorgeous!? The cover is not only intriguing 
and purple, but it portrays one of my favorite places 
to develop in the LMK series—the lost City of Light!

“Just because something’s forgotten doesn’t mean it never existed. History may forget our names, but that doesn’t mean we never lived.”

Rhona Farlane is among the top three apprentice Memory Keepers and an advocate for the unification of the remaining three races. But some days, she feels like she’s the only one willing to put in enough effort. Her closest friends, Finley and Ellard, are either too reckless or too reserved to make a positive impact on the world, and her uncle doesn’t even believe she deserves her apprenticeship.

Determined to make a difference anyway, she joins her father on her first diplomatic mission in the Southern Rim where negotiations are going smoothly. Perhaps too smoothly. Then a tragedy threatens to cease all negotiations within her lifetime and even start a war. Will Rhona ever be able to achieve unity when everything she believes about her world is shattered? 

Why should you buy the print version?


I kid you not, I often pick out books because they look pretty. If you enjoyed “The Diplomat’s Daughter” or any of the subsequent stories, don’t you want to show off this book on your shelf?

2) The poem, “Luan and the Star’s Daughter”, is a lot easier to read in print.

Unlike the version on my blog, you don’t have to scroll down and scroll up and scroll back down to read the footnotes. Of course, you can just ignore them if you want. But the print version is more user-friendly.

3) The print version contains exclusive content.

In addition to the poem following right alongside the novelettes, there will also be a fantasy map. That’s right. A map! Travel-enthusiasts like myself may appreciate this tidbit, as will anybody else who is curious as to how the Forest of Memory lies in proximity to the Eastern Desert.

4) Signed editions.

If you’re interested in a signed copy, I will be sending out quite a few! Even though I live in Europe, shipping to the United States is not an issue.

The estimated release date for the print version of Last of the Memory Keepers is September 1, 2017!!! (I reserve the right to change this date for any number of reasons. My primary concern is how soon my proof copy will arrive.)

Print edition cost: $13.99 (£10.74 or €11.99)
Signed edition cost (with shipping): est. $18.99 (£14.57 or €16.10)
Release date: 1 Sep. 2017

Feel free to contact me if you want a signed copy! You can comment below, send me a message on Facebook or Twitter, or e-mail me at


Let’s chat! What did you think of this cover? Do you think you’ll want a print edition? Which is your favorite volume from Last of the Memory Keepers so far? 

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Poem: Dandelion Seeds

If you don’t already know, I like books. Seriously, though. When it comes to traveling, I always bring at least five books with me—a collection of poetry, two fiction novels, my journal, and my Bible.

Then there’s books strewn throughout my house. I may call my room the library, because it has most bookshelves and I’m in charge of organizing and dusting them all, but that’s not where the books I’m currently reading spend their time. Sometimes they sit on the couch, on the windowsill, on the stairs, in my purse. They’re all over.

“A room without books is like a body without a soul.” –Marcus Tullius Cicero

In recognition of all this idea, I decided to write a poem that combines it with the symbol of the military brat. We’re often referred to as dandelions—hardy, scattered across the world, and can put down roots anywhere.

Dandelion Seeds

Books are strewn from floor-to-floor,
collected in corners and atop coffee tables
scattered from the shelves and minds
from across the world,
like seeds scattered in the wind.

Light reads blow away—dancing as they go—
to find another home, but the occasional book
that makes one stop, and think,
and breathe in the scent of the earth,
the damp air foretelling rain,
that pages of this life—
these books take root
in the otherwise hardened patio of the mind.


Let’s chat! What did you think of this poem? What’s the average number of books you tend to travel with? How many books are scattered across your house?