All posts by laelbr5_wp

The Fifteen Wonders of Daniel Green by Erica Boyce

Daniel Green finds purpose in secretly designing and creating crop circles within a secret organization who have field agents across the country. On his significant fifteenth crop circle, he feels drawn to the family of the farmer who hired him, and his life may just find another purpose. Boyce carefully presents the process of designing and making the crop circles, delving into the psyches of those who choose to do this work, and offering very human reasons for their hire. I received a copy of this wonderful story from the author’s agent Eric Smith for an honest review, and I highly recommend this book.

Colombiano by Rusty Young

Pedro’s life on his family farm turns into a nightmare when guerrillas execute his father and banish his mother from their home. Vowing revenge, he joins the Autodefensas, a paramilitary group fighting the guerrillas, discreetly alongside the state military, and inculcates himself into hierarchical politics toward his hidden agenda of vengeance. Young represents a no-win situation for a teenage boy in a village that’s essentially a war-zone based on greed disguised as ideology. The author writes from a well-researched position of direct observation and interviews with real-life child soldiers, though the perspective must remain that of a white westerner. Young co-founded a foundation to rehabilitate and resocialize former child soldiers, using his residence in Bogota as headquarters and tithing royalties from this novel to the foundation. Read about his history and connections here: As a novel, this is a compelling story of terror, self-redemption, romance, and familial obligations, evoking awareness of these child soldiers. I received a digital copy of this well-written story from the publisher Bantam through NetGalley.

Katie Rose Guest Pryal—Non-Fiction Author, Novelist, and Advocate

Katie Rose Guest Pryal is the bestselling author of novels, including Entanglement, Chasing Chaos, and Fallout Girl, and non-fiction, including Life of the Mind Interrupted: Essays on Mental Health and Disability in Higher Education and Even If You’re Broken: Essays on Sexual Assault and #MeToo. She writes for Catapult, the Chronicle of Higher Education, and other magazines. She lives in North Carolina.

Tell me about your writing process: schedule, environment, inspirations, and how you determine whether you’re writing a non-fiction book or a novel, and if that changes your process.

Thank you for asking me such thoughtful questions. First—I’m very lucky because I get to write full time. I do teach one course a year at our law school here in Chapel Hill, and I give talks (about one per month). But otherwise, I’m writing. I write lots of different things: I have three different regular magazine columns. I write books for academic and professional audiences (mostly on professional writing). And, I write trade books: novels and nonfiction books. Basically, I’m writing all of the time. I don’t have a choice.

What all of this means is that I have to plan my time very carefully to account for the many deadlines I am responsible for, and to be sure that the important parts of my personal life are also taken care of. I’m a wife and a mother of two young children. I also have discovered (way too recently) that it is important to take care of myself as well.

I tend to focus on one project at a time. On my calendar, I will mark out a period of time to work on one project until it is finished, and then I will move onto another project. Right now, for example, I have edits back on my next novel. The editorial process will go much better if I do them all at once without lots of breaks. So: I will clear my calendar for a week or two (however long it takes), and I’ll do this revision until it’s done. Stopping in the middle means I might lose threads or forget important things that I need to fix. That’s not efficient. Essentially, this process is just a writer’s version of “no-multitasking.” Once I get my 4 hours of efficient writing in, though, I will still have time for daily tasks, like answering emails and pitching stories, things that must happen to keep the ship afloat. But I won’t try to write two books at the same time. That’s not efficient, at least not for me.

Walk me through your publishing process from final” draft to final product, including who does what when, and marketing that you do as the author.

On average, I publish one trade book a year.

(Note: I usually publish more than one book a year because I’m also publishing academic/professional books, too. However, my academic/professional book publication schedule depends a lot on other people because I work with co-authors and because the publication dates depend a lot on strange things like the academic calendar. The point is, sometimes I publish more than one book a year, but let’s not worry about those other books right now.)

Back to what I was saying: I usually publish one trade book a year. I’m not unusual in this. Many excellent authors and author teams publish 2-3 books a year (and I wish they’d publish more, Ilona Andrews). I’m on a one-book-a-year schedule. How I write, though, is in bursts. I’ll write my first draft (70-80k words) in a matter of weeks, maybe 6 weeks. I realize that sounds fast, but you should see the steaming pile of nonsense that comes out in 6 weeks. Then, I set it aside for a while. I go back to it, take some anti-nausea medicine, and revise. After that first revision, I send it to my most trusted editor-friend. I trust her because she’s a great editor and also because she won’t share with the world how terrible my early drafts are. Then I wait a while more to let the book “sit” (think: aging whisky), and then I revise again with her comments. I usually send it back to her to make sure I did it right (mostly because I’m neurotic and worried) and she sends it back (with lots of encouragement and few more comments), and then I revise once more and send it out to my beta readers, people I trust to read it on their e-readers and give me their honest feedback on the story. ONE MORE REVISION with that beta feedback (or maybe three or four), and I’m done. Again, I think my process is pretty normal. I want to emphasize how group-oriented writing is. I literally could not do this without my trusted people.

And, because I publish one book a year, I am always writing a book. Always, always writing. I’m grateful that I have time to do it. But also, I’m working on setting some boundaries. Maybe one year I’ll go crazy and skip publishing a book.

Talk about your support system online and IRL, especially your biggest cheerleaders and how you became a beautiful blooming Tall Poppy.

I have a great support system. My husband and kids are incredible. I also have some great hobbies (including a new one!) that are both outside-hobbies and physical so I’m sure to get away from my desk. My support system of fellow writers and readers I described in my writing process. And of course, the Tall Poppy Writers is a wonderful community of supportive writers. I’ve made some of my best friends through that group.

Dear Readers can clearly feel your essence in your writing, especially your essays; how does your writing in return influence your life?

I figured out when I was very young (like, age 12) that writing things down would help me figure things out. I still have my journals from back then—somehow they survived all of the moves and purging I’ve done over the years. I still using writing to help me gain perspective on my world. A lot of my essays began as me trying to solve a problem in my life. Often, the problem seemed so huge and unsolvable. And then, after writing about it, I was able to find a way to intervene, to make things better. And after I was able to make things better for me, the essay became something I could share with others. In fact, my non-fiction books (on mental health, on career changes, on sexual assault) all started that way. Me: “I feel like I don’t know what to do. I think I’ll write about it.” *scribbles a lot.* “I think I have an answer. Let me share it with literally everyone.”

In fact, being able to write myself out of problems is one of the things I love most about being a writer in the first place.

What do you love most about your creativity?

[I just got to this question, and I answered it in my last one!]

Connect with Katie:


The Kill Club by Wendy Heard

A product of her decisions within a harsh justice system, Jazz does her best to protect her little brother Joaquin from his adopted (her foster) mother’s irresponsible religious response to his diabetes. Approached by a vigilante via phone, she resists at first, but gives in to the exchange of murders, though her first two attempts are thwarted, and she is then targeted. That the killings are obvious murders belie the idea that there’s an elaborate secret killing machination in place, especially since it does not seem to include an effective contingency plan. I received a digital copy from the publisher Mira Books through NetGalley, my request based on my appreciation for her previous book Hunting Annabelle, which I found brilliant.

Flash Fiction Friday: Werewolf Museum

Photograph by Max Braday
Dungeon and Torture Museum
Burghausen Castle, Burghausen, Germany

The dozen or so individuals gathered around the display while one read the placard out loud.

During the seven centuries long Bloodluster-Lycanthropy War, torturous atrocities were committed on both sides. Here you see “harmless” non-silver metal spikes that were driven into a small coven of vampires onto a silver slab, thus preventing their escape. Placed in an isolated cave deep within the Eurasian forest, they were found 157 years later by chance, after the war ended.

Of all the names, why do they insist on that one—a voice lamented from the rear. Dude, you’re not even a vampire; you’re a simple wraith—scorned a tall, dark, handsome vampire. The wraith whined—But I want to be. Laughter spread through the group as the reader rejoined them and said—the winner gets to name the war, bloodsucker.

Flash Fiction Friday: The Enemy Comes

“No one is my enemy.”

“Sure, Hank, no one is your enemy. We know. But let’s keep our tazers at the ready just in case, okay, my friend?” Waltraud snagged the book from Hank and stuffed it in the front of her shirt, bumping his tazer up with her own. “Why does your book smell like puke? It’s overwhelming my own fetid swamp in there.”

“It’s regurgitating the hate that surrounds–“

“Yeah, yeah, yeah, whatever. Sorry I asked.” Shoulder to shoulder, they strode stealthily through the starship’s upper deck, three starkiller robots on their heels like big dumb dogs with 4317s holding ammo that detonated on contact. When one hit a human head, it was a fireworks of organic material. Hitting a robot endangered them all. Sometimes the difference wasn’t obvious. The starkillers were programmed to follow the instructions of Waltraud alone.

When she turned the corner and her head disappeared from a blaster ray, the starkillers turned to Hank, who said, “No one is my enemy.” They fired.

What She Never Said by Catharine Riggs

There are secrets galore amongst the employees of Serenity Acres. Ruth’s anticipated promotion disappears when the owner sells the company due to, unbeknownst to Ruth, incredible debt. When she discovers a secret society planning deaths of seniors in her care, she hires her former detective neighbor Zach to investigate undercover as security. Even Ruth must give up her secrets eventually. Riggs brilliantly builds tension within several aspects of the multi-thread storyline, intriguing Dear Reader, serving up the satisfying secrets in a timely manner. I received this excellent story from the publisher Thomas & Mercer through NetGalley.

American Sherlock: Murder, Forensics, and the Birth of American CSI by Kate Winkler Dawson

In the early 20th century, criminologist Edward Oscar Heinrich used forensic science to expose criminals from trace evidence using techniques established by himself and progressive law enforcement colleagues. He also documented everything in his professional life no matter how small, a collection his son donated to the library of Heinrich’s employer, the University of California at Berkeley. Dawson’s determination persuaded archivist Lara Michels, who took on the monumental task of cataloging it all. I was fortunate to receive this well-researched and well-written biography of a brilliant founder of forensic strategies and forensic science itself from the publisher G P Putnam’s Sons through NetGalley.

The Chestnut Man by Soren Sveistrup

A serial killer leaves a little chestnut man at the site of each murder. Also left are fingerprints of a government minister’s child, kidnapped a year previous. Sveistrup portrays well a family on the edge of grief clinging to a tiny ray of hope. The police investigation gets a bit detailed, leaving Dear Reader hanging desperately to any investment in the story. The climax and denouement are sufficiently twisty and well-written. It’s worth the effort to slog through the slow parts to get to the revelation. I received a digital copy from the publisher Harper through NetGalley.

Off the Well-Lit Path by M S Holm

Bob Riggs invokes the Wild West on the sex traffickers who kidnapped his daughter in Sinaloa, Mexico. He seemingly returns from the dead seeking revenge disguised as justice. Dear Reader follows his frustrated efforts through multiple warnings that only spur him on to greater depths of determination. Nothing will dissuade him from rescuing his daughter and making the kidnappers pay. Holm paints a graphic picture of human trafficking in Sinaloa and a gritty portrait of a father’s love. I received a digital copy of this well-written, tension-filled story from the publisher Great West Pub through NetGalley.