Gen Con Wrap Up

Hey all, Dani here.

This past weekend was a crazy yet fun weekend of reveling in being a geek. Okay, I guess I should be specific and say that Saturday was a day filled with thousands of other geeks all trying to stock up on games and more in Indianapolis for Gen Con.

For those who don’t know, Gen Con is a gaming convention that started back in 1967 and was originally held in Wisconsin. Since 2003 though, it has been held in Indy and is scheduled to remain there at least through 2021. It brings together many companies and designers and such to celebrate gaming. There are panels and demos and such at the Indianapolis Convention Center, but there are also events going on in hotels and other buildings around the city, so that it is actually 4 complete days of gaming. Yes, you can find wonderful geeks playing games any time of day or night during the convention.

While I was in Indy during the weekend of Gen Con in 2016, I was there for a Dungeons & Dragons live stream, not for the convention itself. So this year was my first experience at this particular Con, and I was lucky enough to attend with my boyfriend and one of our other geek friends.

We woke up at 6:00 am on Saturday morning, loaded our things into our rental car and set off for the 3.5 hour drive to Indianapolis. After a pit stop at an IHOP for breakfast, and checking in at our hotel, we drove towards the convention center, parked the car at one of the many parking garages, and headed into the Con.

It was packed! Seriously, getting around the exhibitor hall was sometimes a bit of a struggle. Then again, this was the big 50th year of Gen Con. We did manage to see quite a few awesome booths, and collected a few business cards for the places we plan to shop from in the coming months, and of course we did buy quite a few supplies for D&D and Pathfinder. (And yes, I bought myself 7 new sets of dice. Did I need them? Not really. I already owned like 14 sets. But I wanted them and they looked really cool. Also, the one set is actually gemstone, turquoise to be specific).

When we were at the Lone Wolf Development booth, which also featured displays for Syrinscape and Kobold Press, we were actually approached by one of the new guys on the crew and he told my boyfriend and I that if we had any ideas for a book or a campaign to get in contact with him and pitch the idea. That naturally led to he and I exchanging business cards. So that was pretty cool.

We also made sure to stop at the booth for Green Ronin Publishing, and grabbed our pre-ordered copies of the Tal’Dorei Campaign Setting book based on the show Critical Role.

After several hours of wandering the floor and hauling bags that got heavier as we added more and more merch, it was time for us to go to Lucas Oil Stadium for the Critical Role signing. So we dropped our bags off at the car, grabbed a quick drink at Starbucks, and then headed over to a football stadium to wait in line for a few hours.

Waiting in line actually wasn’t that bad, honestly. Because we had purchased tickets in advance, the three of us were able to sit in the stands, and the Gen Con staff brought us down one row at a time to go through the signing line.

I know a bit about sports, but obviously I am not a huge follower of them. But I will say that it was so awesome to see the home of the Indianapolis Colts filled with geeks playing board games and talking about geeky things.

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Now, I had met most of the Critical Role cast last year during my trip to the live show, but Liam O’Brien was absent then. This year he was there, but Ashley Johnson wasn’t due to filming for the show “Blindspot.” So I was able to get Liam’s signature in my Player’s Handbook, completing my set. I also was able to get everyone to sign my Tal’Dorei Campaign Setting book.

And because the cast are amazing people and actually spent a minute or so talking with each of us, I was able to tell Matthew Mercer, the Dungeon Master for the show the story of my boyfriend and I getting together. You see, we met playing Dungeons & Dragons, with me as a player and my boyfriend as the Dungeon Master. But more than that, when we had our first date, I introduced him to the Mythica series of movies, and we watched all five of them on that date. This is relevant because Matthew Mercer played Szorlok, the villain in the series. And Matt being the amazingly big-hearted geek that he is, feels so touched when he hears stories like that.

Oh, and when I talked to Sam Riegel (who plays bard Scanlan Shorthalt in the show) again, I actually gave him a copy of a book I thought he’d enjoy. The book in question: Pop Sonnets. It is a collection of popular songs that have been turned into Shakespearean sonnets. What was really cool about that interaction was that Sam said he would use it for inspiration. See, bards have an ability where they can inspire other characters by playing music, singing songs, reciting poems, etc. And in the past Sam has used poetry books and books of jokes, so it’s entirely possible that he might use my gifted book on the show.

The cast (from left to right): Travis Willingham, Laura Bailey, Sam Riegel, Liam O’Brien, Marisha Ray, Taliesin Jaffe, and Matthew Mercer.

Needless to say it was an absolutely wonderful and geeky day, and myself, my boyfriend, and our friend are already planning to go for all 4 days of the convention in 2018.

AMA Answer Time!

Hey all, Dani here.

Thank you so much to Michelle and Elaina, who each asked me a question over the past few days. I really appreciate it. Let’s not waste any time with introductions. I’m jumping into the answers right now.

michelleltaylor94 asked: What are your must reads right now?

I think there’s two possible answers here: the must reads I can recommend for you all to read, and the must reads meaning books that I desperately need to read right now. For the first part, my go-to recommendations include: Dreamworld by Rachel E. Kelly, Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, and The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers. To answer the second part: The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee, The Last Magician by Lisa Maxwell, and The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss are all books that I really want and need to read soon.

Elaina Lucy asked: What is the number one book that you’ve read that has the deepest emotional hold on you? It could be either that the book itself is amazing, or for other reasons (a gift from someone special, the first book you ever read, etc).

Wow, this is a fabulous question, and I’d love to know how all of you would answer it as well. Okay, so I’m going to try not to constantly answer with the same books, so I’m actually going to go with a non-fiction choice: You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) by Felicia Day. This book was so lovely and inspirational for me. Follow that up with getting to meet her during her book tour for the paperback release (Yes, I own a first edition hardcover, and a first edition paperback of this book) and this book will always hold a special place in my heart. Meeting Felicia Day, considering how long I’ve followed her awesome nerdy career and how much I loved the book, is definitely one of the top moments of my life. You can read more about my fangirling and the signing at these links.

This was a fun idea, and I’ll probably try this again in the future, but if at any time you have a question, feel free to ask. I’m pretty much an open book.

Just for fun though, I’ll also throw in a few random fun facts about me, because I know sometimes people probably wonder about it.

Danielle Thamasa is a pen name. I chose it by taking all the letters from my legal birth name and rearranging the letters. (Okay, fine. I had to add in an extra ‘l’ and ‘e’ or else I would have been Daniel). I’ve been using this name for book related things on the internet for around a decade now so I answer to Dani as easily as I do my birth name.

Some of my other hobbies include board games, RPGs (like D&D, Pathfinder, Fantasy AGE, etc), LARPing, comic and gaming conventions, photography, ghost hunting, and traveling (though I don’t do as much as I’d like).

I’ve started watching anime and I’m enjoying it so far. I’m into My Hero Academia, Fairy Tail, Death Note, Trigun, and Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood. When I was younger I watched Sailor Moon, Cardcaptor Sakura, and Fullmetal Alchemist, and in college I watched Inuyasha because of my roommate.

I’ve already surpassed my original reading challenge goal on Goodreads. I started the year with a goal of reading 75 books, but now my goal is 100 because I have finished 77 books so far.

Okay, well that’s all for now. Tomorrow I’ll be talking about my time in Indianapolis over the weekend for Gen Con 50.

Review: Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur

Hey all, Dani here.

Well, here is something you don’t see me review all that often on this blog…a collection of poetry. I continuously tell myself that I would like to read more poems, and yet I get sucked into the land of novels and each year I’m lucky to read only one or two books of poetry.

This particular choice was due to the recommendation of actress Ashley Johnson. She spoke very highly of Milk and Honey during the episode she hosted of Geek and Sundry’s Signal Boost. I saw it in the grocery store and decided to pick it up.

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Summary

milk and honey is a collection of poetry and prose about survival. It is about the experience of violence, abuse, love, loss, and femininity. It is split into four chapters, and each chapter serves a different purpose, deals with a different pain, heals a different heartache. milk and honey takes readers through a journey of the most bitter moments in life and finds sweetness in them because there is sweetness everywhere if you are just willing to look.

My Thoughts

Rating: 5 stars!

Actually I give this all the stars in the sky. Seriously, so many of these poems were very short, only a couple lines with basically around twenty words, but man…they packed quite the punch. A few times I had to pause and rest the book on my lap while I just stared out into space, letting the words sink into my being.

Honestly trying to formulate the words to write up a proper review is difficult for me. I marked so many of these poems as ones that particularly resonated within me. Several I had to read out loud to my boyfriend. It would have been a good idea to sit down with post-it notes and properly mark some of my favorites. I’ll need to do that soon enough.

This collection of poems is divided into four sections: the hurting, the loving, the breaking, and the healing. Included with the poetry is artwork drawn by the author as well. The loving and the healing were the sections I connected most with at this point in my life, but they were all certainly worth the read.

Overall this was just really well written, and though I read this book rather quickly, I know I’ll pick it up again and reread it. Milk and Honey is a book that begs to be read over and over.

I will definitely be checking out more from Rupi Kaur in the future.

Where to Buy

You can pick up this collection of poetry from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-a-million, Book Depository, or your local indie bookstore.

BookTuber Recommendation

Hey all, Dani here.

Okay, so today is sort of another post related to BookExpo and BookCon, but it is more about the book community in general.

Now, I’ve had this book blog for almost a year and a half now, and it is by far the best book blog I’ve done. I had another one that I used for a few years back in college and I was lucky to get a few hits every month. But now I’m trying to be a bit more involved in the book community and make friends with other bloggers and such. That’s why I’m a part of Bookstagram and why I have several bookish people I follow on Twitter and Facebook as well.

There is one area of the book community though, where I’m just starting to be a little more active in, and it’s an area I’ve wanted to join but haven’t yet because I’m nervous about it. And that is BookTube.

I vaguely knew that there were people on YouTube who talked about books, but I had never explored that particular subsection until I started looking into bookish subscription boxes. I saw a few unboxings by BookTubers on the subscription box’s web site and that led me down the rabbit hole. Now there are eight BookTubers I am subscribed to and watch regularly. So I went from nothing to watching all of these great videos in the past year.

Today I want to talk about the BookTubers I enjoy following. I’ll also be including links to each of their channels in case you would like to check them out.

For me it all started with Sasha Alsberg (abookutopia). I was checking out the page for the subscription box Lit-Cube and they were featuring a few unboxing videos on the site and I happened to click on Sasha’s. I liked her energy and excitement and so I went on YouTube and started watching a few other videos and soon enough I had subscribed to her channel.

The next BookTuber I want to talk about is probably my favorite, mostly because I feel like our reading tastes are very similar, so I’ve gotten some really good recommendations from her. I am talking about Regan Perusse (peruseproject). Now, I found Regan because of Sasha. Together the two lovely ladies have a monthly book club called perusetopia, and hearing Sasha talk about her friend Regan, I found myself curious about other BookTubers. My TBR list has grown massive because of Regan, and it’s also because of her that I discovered the joys of buying books from BookOutlet.

From there I don’t know which BookTubers I discovered next but I feel like they all joined my list around the same time, which makes sense as they are friends and even have a monthly book club together. I’ll talk about them each individually in a moment, but for right now I’ll just mention their names: Christine Riccio (polandbananasBOOKS), Kat O’Keefe (katytastic), and Jesse George (jessethereader).

Christine’s videos are just so well made, and her energy and excitement are wonderful. I may be reading a bit more contemporary books mostly because of her but with a little help from other BookTubers as well. When I see a new polandbananasBOOKS video in my subscription feed I get excited, because I know that Christine’s enthusiasm is just going to burst out of the screen. Plus there’s all the book tags and bookish games and such she does on her channel as well. It’s just a lot of fun.

What I enjoy about Kat’s videos, though they are sometimes posted months and months apart, is that she also talks about NaNoWriMo. As a Wrimo myself, I find it nice to connect with others who join that marvelous and hectic writing event. Also, listening to her and a few others speak so highly of certain authors has gotten me to give some of them a second chance.

Then there’s Jesse. Now obviously it is clear that most of the BookTubers I follow are female; for the longest time Jesse was the only exception to this. I just enjoyed some of his skit videos and I liked how he talked about the books and bookish things. There’s a sweet adorableness to his channel. I don’t know how to explain it exactly but I just feel like watching Jesse’s videos is like having a bookish little brother to talk about books with.

Sometime after that I also added Zoe Herdt (readbyzoe) to my list as well. She has recently had a couple hiatuses on her channel, but I still like her content. Okay, I admit it, I may have been attracted to her videos because of seeing her bookshelves in a few of the video thumbnails.

While in a search for more book diversity, I came across Emma Giordano (emmmabooks). She is all about inclusion and diversity in her reading, and she has a big obsession with all the Shadowhunters books by Cassandra Clare. But I like that she features books that talk about mental health issues, and eating disorders, and racial issues or LGBTQIAP+ stories as well as own voices novels. She tries to spread more awareness about these types of stories and I just really appreciate that.

Finally, the reason why I consider this a BookExpo/BookCon relevant post. I saw each of these BookTubers at the convention, though I only really had a brief conversation with Sasha, and even shorter conversations (ie: one question about a book signing line) with Emma and Michael). It was actually seeing all of them at the Javits Center that got me started watching Michael D’Angelo’s (Michael BookLion) videos.

And now I feel bad for not finding Michael’s videos earlier; he is such a fun guy. I’ve lost count of how many of his videos have left me laughing. He’s a bit awkward in the most endearing way. I adore watching his book hauls and subscription box unboxing videos.

So there you have it…a bunch of awesome people who talk about books on YouTube. Are there any BookTubers you follow/like? Let me know about them in the comments.

The Road So Far

Hey all, Dani here.

Yes, I am well aware that the title for this post is a Supernatural reference. It was kind of intentional since my post today is going to be a reflection of the past year on this blog…and because I am a fan of the show Supernatural anyway.

I started this Mousai Books blog last January, just after my paternal grandmother died. She was exactly one month away from her 90th birthday so she had lived a long and full life, but I can also say that her death was the first major one to happen in my life. I lost great grandparents and great aunts and great uncles who I didn’t really know so they didn’t pack as much of an emotional punch to me. But I had spent a lot of time with Granny, and the last five years of her life she actually lived with my family so I was around her a lot.

I had thought about starting up a new blog for a while, since my one on Blogger never really had many views or followers. So I guess it was because I just really needed something to do while I was on my three bereavement days away from work.

A lot has happened in the past year, both in a narrow personal focus and on the national and global scales–and I’m not going to get into it here because political trolls are everywhere. Through it all I have been blessed to be able to continue and buy new books and start to really build a presence and find a place in the online book community.

Books have always been a refuge for me, a way to escape whatever is going on in life. They have helped me process life, love, loss, and so many other feelings and events. And they have led me to form some great friendships with authors, which is really cool.

There is this quote from The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger that says: “What really knocks me out is a book that, when you’re all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it.” In today’s modern world, a lot of us at least can reach out to authors via social media and sometimes find that they will answer back. But I actually have a few authors whose phone numbers I do know, and though I haven’t called them, I know that I have that opportunity. And yes, I do still squee when an author likes my tweet or retweets a link to a review of their book from this blog; it seriously makes my day a little bit better.

Starting and developing this blog, I’ve also found that I’m gaining more acceptance for e-galleys and ARCs, and I’m hopeful to develop this aspect even more in 2017 and beyond. I’m really trying to keep up with my NetGalley reads and reviews, and this year I’ll be attending Book Expo America, which means I’ll be picking up a few Advance Reader Copies in a physical format.

But when I first started this blog, I admit that I worried that it would be like my last blog, that I would be writing in this little black hole on the internet with no interaction from anyone. Thankfully though you lovely bookish people started liking my posts and following my blog. It makes my day when I check my notifications and see that I have another like or follow. My goal for 2017 is to start getting more comment interaction on my posts. So part of that means having more of a presence in the comment section on other book blogs too.

I can also say that 2016 was not a good writing year for me. I’m really trying to get everything all wrapped up on my next book so I can get it published. It’s possible that I needed a break, and it’s also possible that starting the year off with a big death in the family got to me way more than I thought. After all, I do write books about Death and the Angel of Death so…

Writing takes time. Reading takes time. Blogging takes time. Then you throw in the need to post on social media and build your presence there. Oh, and don’t forget going to work at a soul crushing job that actually does pay the bills. That typically takes at least 45 hours out of my time each week. I spend a lot of time at work day dreaming, sometimes about books I’m reading or TV shows I’m watching, and other times about my own writing. I use my break and lunch times to squeeze in more reading. I would totally listen to audiobooks if my commute wasn’t only 5 minutes. I don’t listen to audiobooks at home because an audiobook chapter might take 26 minutes but I can physically read that same chapter in like 4 minutes.

Oh, also in 2016 I found myself expanding my reading horizons a bit. Thanks to the recommendations of several BookTubers (PeruseProject, abookutopia, JesseTheReader, polandbananasBOOKs, katytastic, readbyzoe, and emmmabooks) I picked up some more middle grade books and historical fiction and cutesy contemporary YA reads. I found new to me authors who I intend to follow as they release new material.

I weeded out my library a bit, but then still needed to buy another bookcase because of all my book purchases–and I think I’m about ready to buy another bookcase now. Speaking of, I reorganized my bookshelves over my Christmas shutdown from work, so as soon as I clean up some of the clutter around my room I owe you all a bookshelf tour.

In 2016 I attended my first convention as an author. While I only sold a couple copies of my book, it was still an interesting experience. I spent time each morning before the convention floor opened walking around and chatting with other authors and artists. It was a great networking opportunity.

My books finally became available in an actual store at the end of 2016. There is a local store in the mall that has used books, comic books, board games, D&D and Magic: The Gathering, and myself and a couple other local authors are prominently featured when you walk in the store. The store owners have been absolutely wonderful about helping me to spread the word about my books. (I can admit that I am sometimes awful when it comes to self-promotion).

Basically last year was an absolute roller coaster of events. I’m not sure what all is going to happen in 2017, but I have a personal library filled with books and I’m finding my place in the amazing online book community. As long as I have that I think everything will turn out okay.

How about you guys-what has your blog journey been like so far? Let me know in the comments!

2017 Bookish Resolutions

Hey all, Dani here.

The tradition this time of year is to make a whole bunch of resolutions for your life, and with a large number of the resolutions we all only make it a couple weeks before we slack or just stop all together. That’s actually why I stopped making lifestyle resolutions like eating better, exercising more, or losing weight.

But making book related resolutions typically works out quite a bit better for me, so I’m just going to run through a few of those I’ve made for myself in 2017.

First up: reading. My initial goal is to read 75 books. I know this is an easily achievable goal, but I also know that if I manage to devour a lot of books quickly I can always increase my goal number. I’ve changed my goal the past several years. In 2016 my goal went from 75 to 100 to 130. More than that, though, I plan to participate in Dewey’s 24 Hour Readathon in both April and October, because I really enjoyed my experience with the readathon in 2016.

Second: blogging. I will have at least one book related blog up each week. Right now I have several bonus posts figured out thanks to some of my egalleys and ARCs, but I am really going to work to make sure that I maintain my posting schedule.

Third: vlogging. I have been watching BookTube for a while now and have thought that is something I could do myself. I love talking about books with other people. This is going to be the most difficult resolution for me though, because I am so nervous about this. Taking pictures or video of myself has never felt natural or comfortable to me, but I’m going to work through those feelings. With a bit of repetition and practice, I’m sure I’ll start getting used to filming and editing videos. So I’m going to start…soon.

Fourth: writing. This is actually an area where I really did slack in 2016. I did write on a few different things, but I didn’t finish a project or release one to the world. This needs to stop. Writing needs to be a priority in my life too. So, I will get Project Death: Revelation finished and released in the next couple of months. Then I need to get my focus onto the third book in the series. I’d like to have both Revelation and Redemption out in 2017. I guess this is also the area where I mention that I’m participating in Camp NaNoWriMo in April and July, and NaNoWriMo in November.

Fifth: Bookstagram. I loved being an active part of the book community on Instagram in 2016, and I’d like to keep building on that. Book photography is actually pretty relaxing and fun. So in 2017 I’d like to keep building my account, participate in at least a few monthly photo challenges, and just enjoy connecting with all my new book friends.

Sixth: Conventions. For this year I plan to be at a brand new local author event being held by my public library in March. I also am really hoping to make it to BEA and/or BookCon this year. As always, I’ll be attending Wizard World Chicago Comic Con, where I’m looking forward to seeing which authors show up, because I usually come home with a nice haul. And for right now my only author appearance at a convention will be Cincinnati Comic Expo in September; Mousai Books will be teaming up with Colorworld Books and it should be a lot of fun.

Well, I think that’s it for my bookish resolutions. That’s quite a hefty list when you look at it all together. Thanks for being a part of the first year of this blog, and I look forward to talking about bookish and nerdy things with all of you throughout 2017. It’s going to be a great year.

Critical Role LIVE Recap

Hey all, Dani here.

One week ago, I made a 3 hour drive from my home to Indianapolis, IN, to attend a live show event for Critical Role, a Dungeons & Dragons show, where a bunch of nerdy voice actors get together and continue a three-year long campaign. I have been obsessively watching this show for well over a year now, and as soon as I learned that they would be coming near enough to me, I absolutely had to attend.

The drive actually wasn’t that bad, and when I reached Indy, wow…was I impressed with how lovely the city is. I actually ended up telling my mom that I want to take a long weekend trip there to explore the city more.

Let’s be honest, I didn’t exactly have time for sightseeing last Saturday. The tickets for the show were not assigned seating. It was first come, first served, and I wanted to have a good spot, so I showed up around 4pm, and the doors didn’t open until 7pm, with the show starting at 8pm.

But I got to sit on the sidewalk, against a wall, with a ton of other fans of the show–who are known as Critters–and it was absolutely AMAZING. I had such a great time talking with these wonderful people. It did not matter at all that I went there by myself, because I made new friends. We were all bonded by our love for the show, the actors and the characters they portray.

Oh, and I may have helped to start a Twitter war while we waited in line. People who did not arrive quite as early found themselves waiting in line in the alley around the back of the theater, and it apparently did not smell the greatest. The started posting on Twitter with the hashtag #CriticalAlley, and upon learning this I told my companions that we should respond with our own hashtag, so we came up with #CriticalCircle, and I have to say that it was pretty fun.

Sadly, when the doors opened, and we all went inside, I was separated from my new friends because they only had general admission seats and I had paid for VIP. It just meant I got to meet even more people. I chose a seat in the third row, where I could have a nice view of both player tables and the DM’s table, and then waited in the merchandise line to buy a set of Critical Role patches, a button, and a poster.

Then it was time for the show, and the level of excitement in the theater was overwhelming….and our cheers and screams as each member of Vox Machina stepped out onto the stage just grew louder and louder. Even now, a week later, thinking about being in that theater and being a part of such an awesome crowd of people and being able to sit just a few feet away from people I’ve watched on my computer screen for so many months was just…such a powerful experience.

I won’t talk about the details of the episode, because it was the 62nd episode of the show and there would probably be spoilers, but there was some humor, some combat, and some interesting encounters. One of my favorite parts was when Scanlan, the gnome bard of the group decided to recite a limerick to inspire one of his companions, and the limerick was actually about seeing all of us Critters. It was a great shoutout breaking-the-fourth-wall type of moment.

Finally, after the show itself ended, they stopped livestreaming it on Twitch and we got to have a Q&A session…which included one of the fans singing a version of “You’ll Be Back” from Hamilton, but with lyrics that pertained to events of the campaign. It was amazing, and yes, you can find the video on Twitter.

Then, as if that wasn’t amazing enough, after all of that, the VIP ticket holders got to go to a room upstairs for a Meet-and-Greet with the cast. Guys, the fangirling was real. I had such a great time meeting them, getting them to sign my D&D 5e Player’s Handbook, and of course getting pictures with them.

It was an experience I will never forget, and it’s one I can’t wait to have again. Going to see Critical Role LIVE was breathtaking and so worth the long drive and wait out in the sun and the cost. It’s funny because even now the cast of the show talks about how they never imagined the show would get this kind of response, but I sat in a theater with 1500 other people and saw that the stream viewership was up around 20,000…so yeah, the fandom of this show is vast and amazing and filled with some of the greatest people I’ve had the privilege of chatting with on social media and meeting in real life.

Thank you Matt Mercer, Marisha Ray, Liam O’Brien, Laura Bailey, Travis Willingham, Ashley Johnson, Sam Riegel, and Taliesin Jaffe for the world, the characters, and the story you all present to us week after week. Thank you Felicia Day and Geek & Sundry for deciding to bring Critical Role to your Twitch channel. Thank you fellow Critters for just being fantastic.

Critical Role airs Thursdays at 7pm Pacific Standard Time, and episodes appear on the Geek & Sundry web site on Mondays before being uploaded on YouTube a month later.

Review: Colorworld by Rachel E Kelly

Hey all, Dani here.

So I feel like I need to review this book…again. Why? A) Because it is the start to one of my favorite book series and B) the review I had up online was on my old blog which was deleted.

I’ve talked about Colorworld Books before, but I decided that for the next few weeks I would go back and review the series once again in the hopes that more people would be intrigued by the story and go pick up a copy.

This series is to have seven books in total; four have been published so far and book five is supposed to be out sometime in 2016, and boy am I looking forward to the release of Dreamworld. But today is not about book five in this awesome series. No, it is about the one that started it all.

Welcome to Colorworld.

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Summary

Wen knows what love looks like. Since her mom died over a year ago, she’s seen it every day on her orphaned younger brother’s face. Wen’s made good on her promise to her mom that she’d take care of Ezra, even quitting her carefree party-girl ways to become a hard-working college student so she can provide for him.

Wen knows what love feels like, too. Because when she touches people, she feels what they do. “Uniquely perceptive” is what her mom called it, and Wen’s not going to argue; she doesn’t know any different.

But an energy therapy study changes not only what Wen knows about her unusual gift; it also changes her. Now, instead of feeling emotions, her touch brings death to others. No one is safe around her, especially Ezra.

Wen turns to energy healers for help. And that’s where she meets him: Mr. Tenacious and Audacious, Gabe Dumas. He knows about love, too; he speaks it in ways Wen has never experienced. And he’s never even touched her.

With her heart unravelling, Wen discovers a world only she can see. It may offer hope for her condition… or it may be better left hidden. *Intended for 16 and up

My Thoughts

This is the book series I recommend to just about everyone I meet, provided I can tell that they are a reader, or if they just ask for recommendations. I first learned of this series at Wizard World Ohio Comic Con in 2014, when the first two books were out and the third was scheduled for release at the end of the year.

Now, I’ll say that it’s pretty easy for authors to sell books to me at signings or conventions, because I love to read. But what first caught my attention for this series, was that classic Colorworld bubble cover. It’s just so incredibly eye-catching and it made me walk over to the table. (And now I also have a Colorworld bubble poster and bookmark. It is just such an awesome image. In fact all of the cover photos are photos of soap bubbles, which is just fantastic and stunning).

When I then learned that the book was about this girl who has empathic abilities who went in for an energy therapy study to earn some extra cash and walked out with lethal touch, I knew I had to at least try it. So I bought the first three books in a bundle package, getting the first two that day with the third to be mailed to me.

I read Colorworld really quickly. The characters were interesting and the story was compelling. Yes, I will admit that I caught a few spelling and grammar issues, things like typing heroine instead of heroin, but that didn’t really distract me from the story too much.

Also, I’ll be honest, I’ve never been a fan of insta-love because it seems a tad unrealistic. Insta-attraction I can understand. However, I think that in the case of this book I’m okay with the insta-love because Wendy is an empath and feels the emotions of those around her. So when Gabe is standing there projecting his feelings about and towards her, it’s only natural that Wendy almost instantly reciprocates.

And Gabe is an attractive and intelligent young man.

My favorite part of this series, though he is slightly a minor character in this first book, is Wendy’s brother, Ezra. He is such a wonderful fanboy and I love his excitement of things. The fact that he so easily gets behind the fact that his sister is now basically a superhero is just so fun to watch.

Most of the story has a sort of slow pace, as Wendy tries to figure out how to live without being able to have skin-to-skin contact with anyone. In the last third or so of the book the pace really picks up as Wendy really starts putting together the pieces and everything becomes more complicated.

Colorworld absolutely sets up the premise and idea for what will happen in the rest of the series, and it’s fun to think of where her journey continues in the next three books already released, and then to imagine just what awesome twists, turns, and revelations will happen in the remaining three books.

Oh, did I also mention that an Illustrated version has been released as well? No, well, I’ll do that now. It still contains the same text from the original version, but spaced throughout the book there are illustrated pages that show important scenes. Each book has a different artist working on it, so each book has a different art style. So far the first three books have been released in Illustrated Editions and the fourth book should be coming very soon. I’m very much looking to a re-read of Shadoworld when I get my Illustrated Edition.

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Team Colorworld is also working on bringing Colorworld to life as a comic series, so that should be really awesome as well.

Basically if you were a fan of the TV show Heroes (primarily the first season or two), and if you like complex characters with a multitude of layers, and the idea of superpowers that have a fairly strong basis in science and theory, then I very much recommend that you pick up a copy of Colorworld today.

Overall I ended up giving Colorworld a 4.5 star rating.

Where to Buy

You can pick this book up at Barnes & Noble or Amazon, but I highly highly recommend that you go straight to the source, and get a signed copy from the Colorworld store. You can also check out some amazing art prints, metal prints, bookmarks, and more.

Stop back next week when I post my review of the second book in the series, Teleworld.

Writing Diversified Characters

Hey all, Dani here.

A month ago I read an article by A.J. Hartley on the TOR/Forge blog about writing POC characters when you are not a person of color, and I bookmarked it as something to reference for a blog post. Now, since we’re in the middle of Camp NaNoWriMo, I figure that this is the perfect time to talk about characters.

For me, characters are what truly drive the story. Sure, yes, there are successful plot-driven tales out there, but the reason why I dive into a book and read through to the end is for the characters. I love following their journey and their adventures and seeing how they evolve and grow through the novel or the series.

But I can also admit that when it comes to my own stories, I am color-blind most of the time. It’s not that I don’t care about diversity. I like having a variety of characters from all sorts of places and cultures and backgrounds. It’s more that I tend to view the characters through their personalities and mostly ignore their physical appearance.

This is something I know I need to be more conscious of in future, and I’m trying to include those details, when the story warrants it.

I just don’t want to end up writing characters that are seen as racial stereotypes, which can happen when in this situation. And like A.J. Hartley comments in the article, I also don’t want to fall on the other side of the spectrum and just write the characters as if race doesn’t matter and then just give the characters “ethnic names” or casually mention skin color a couple times and think that is good enough.

Unfortunately I’m not from a very racially diverse area. I think when I was in high school the entire school district had maybe two people who classified themselves as African-American, and there might have been about 10 students who were of Hispanic descent. And in college I took an Anthropology course where there were a few African-American classmates and all I can remember from that class is a class discussion over items we thought should go in a theoretical white history museum and a black history museum. These aforementioned classmates listed off all these wonderful creations and cultural movements for the black history museum and then said that the white history museum should have whips, chains, etc.

Yes, I understand that these kinds of people exist in the world, and I also get that history is fraught with injustices and inequality and just nastiness. I just think there are better ways to handle the conversation today. Unfortunately as a society everyone seems so focused on spreading a negatively charged message, complete with anger, hatred, fear, and violence, and it ends up doing more harm than good.

Wow, okay, so now I’m just spiraling into a rambling tangent. Moving on.

I want to do justice to the characters and who they are inside. And considering some of the characters who have narrated my stories so far, skin color is not a factor they focus on. Tamesis, born a Resurrector before becoming the next Angel of Death, cares more about a person’s ability to do their job/duty. Thanos, who is Death, focuses on deeds and how people treat each other. Maybe for the Project Death series, Jules will have a different view, since she was a normal human until after her death.

And maybe this is also something I could potentially focus on with my Courts and Guilds novels as well. This series might even be fun to incorporate a diverse cast, since it is a science fantasy world, and there are so many possibilities

I think A.J. Hartley is correct in his article, when he says that all we can try to do is our best, and then be prepared for there to be complaints or backlash about how certain characters are portrayed.

So, if I have a more diverse cast of characters in the Courts and Guilds novels, then I also hope that I’m able to find a bit more diversity in my beta readers, just so I can get a better idea at how I am doing with character portrayal. I certainly don’t want to be insensitive towards people who already have to deal with so much in the real world.

If you’re a writer, how do you handle writing characters of different races, cultures, backgrounds from you?

If you’re a reader, are there any books you might recommend as being well-written while handling a diverse cast of characters?

Some quick recommendations I’ll mention: Borderline by Mishell Baker (POC as well as handling disability and mental health issues), The Great Library series–Ink and Bone, and Paper and Fire–by Rachel Caine (POC and diverse cultures), and More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera (POC and LGBTQIA).

Back to Camp NaNoWriMo

Hey all, Dani here.

Well, it’s that time once again. Camp NaNoWriMo is upon us. If you’ve been with me here for a few months, you might be thinking, ‘hey, didn’t you do Camp NaNoWriMo in April?’ and you would certainly be right. Camp NaNoWriMo holds two sessions each year: April and July, and I participate in both sessions, plus the original NaNoWriMo in November.

What that means is that I write a lot of words in just three months of the year.Sadly I can’t even keep up half that writing pace the rest of the year. Especially in April and November I let other hobbies and activities pile up: my DVR queue usually gets quite full, my TBR pile grows at alarmingly fast rates, and I tend to miss out on the company of my non-writer friends. So in the non-NaNo months I try to catch up on all of that.

And this time around I have even more to balance because I’ve started to get quite active on Instagram (specifically in the area commonly referred to as Bookstagram) and I’ve been posting more to this blog. So for the rest of this week I am trying to pre-write as many blog posts as I can, and I’m trying to hold a few photo shoots with my books so I don’t have to worry as much about figuring out what to put up on Instagram.

Oh, and did I mention that I have to cut my July Camp NaNo session short? Yeah, I have to reach my writing goal by July 28th, because from the 29th-31st I will be at Wizard World Ohio Comic Con.

This just might be the most hectic Camp session I’ve ever participated in. I’ll get through it…somehow.

I guess I should probably share just a little bit about my writing project for the month of July. I’m taking a little break from my Project Death series and world and focusing on this science fantasy I’ve been planning and somewhat writing for almost a year now. In fact, I have the first two chapters posted on my Facebook page.

It’s called Tale of Blood and Mourning, and it is the first book in my Courts and Guilds series. Right now I have four books planned out and each follows a different set of characters, though several main characters appear as side characters in other novels. The four books should complete the story arc I have in my mind, but if another storyline crops up and is interesting enough, I could expand the series farther.

I have done quite a bit of planning and world-building for this series so far, more than I have any other novel before. I bought books on world-building, on language creation, on fantasy cartography…all so I could try and make this series as epic as possible. Now, I’m not an artist so when I reach a certain point for editing the first book, I have a friend who is an artist and I have hired her to make a more professional version.

Still…I might as well share what I have for the world map so far.

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Oh, and here is my working summary for the first book:

Dax Ko’Vale has a problem. The beloved princess of the Lesark family has been taken and he is to lead the rescue mission. Unfortunately that brings him face-to-face with a woman who could jeopardize everything.

Lemley Thiel has been hired by the royal family several times to eliminate enemies of the realm. But when her friend Alaina is taken, Lem has no intention of abiding by her Court’s edicts during the rescue mission. If that means her death because of unsanctioned assassinations then she can accept that.

When the soldier and the assassin see each other again it dredges up old memories and hidden feelings. Giving in to either could be what unites them…or it could be the distraction that costs them everything.

Happy Writing to everyone who is participating in Camp NaNoWriMo this July!