Tea and Books Tuesday – October 1st

Note: The Plum Deluxe links in the post are affiliate links. I was a contributor to the book anthology featured today.

So, I may have mentioned my short story, “The Librarian Who Would be King”. I may also have mentioned that it ended up in an anthology titled Heroes of the Realm with some of my very favorite speculative fiction writers, and published by Realm Makers Media. I may be just a little bit excited about that… OK, more like completely freaking out, but trying to be professional and play it cool.

I signed on with the Kickstarter campaign for this anthology well before I ever considered submitting. I was familiar with the writers who had already been brought on board and I knew that I wanted to read their stories. (Their stories did not disappoint, by the way!) When I found out that being a supporter of the campaign meant that I could submit a story for consideration, it took two people to convince me to submit something. My IT staff reminded me that doing the things that challenge us is what makes us grow and get better at our work. And my sister told me what Mom would have, that I was trying to talk myself out of submitting something, but if I wanted to I should just do it. I needed that push!

The first draft of my story was so awful that I don’t think you could even call it a first draft. (Don’t laugh! It really was terrible and I think I broke every rule of writing and grammar, and went a few thousand words over the max word count.) A sea of red ink later, I sent it to a couple of writer friends for advice. I got some great suggestions back and went back to the keyboard for a couple more drafts before sending it off. The night before Mother’s Day, I got an e-mail that it had been accepted for publication in Heroes of the Realm. Then it was on to more edits, including a fantastic suggestion from editor Danielle Ackley-McPhail that resulted in one of my favorite lines in the story!

The day I held a print copy of Heroes of the Realm in my hands was the most amazing feeling. I admit that I did flip to “The Librarian Who Would be King” and took a peek at that first, but who could blame me? After that, I started at the beginning and read through the stories in order. I love the variety of genres and writing styles featured in the anthology, and there’s a reason why I admire the other authors–they write great stories! You can order the anthology in either digital or paperback, and I think it would make a great Christmas gift for someone who enjoys speculative fiction and short stories. The theme for the anthology is heroes, so each story features some kind of hero. It was fun reading everyone’s interpretation on that theme!

The mug that’s made an appearance for the last three weeks is one of the Kickstarter perks, but you can order one for yourself at the Realm Makers website. The tea in the cup in my tea of the month from my Plum Deluxe subscription. It’s a wonderfully fall-ish tea, but the tea of the month is a subscriber exclusive. If you’re interested in learning more about their tea subscription you can check out the details here. At $10/month, it’s the most affordable tea subscription I’ve found, and their tea blends are delicious!

So, what have you been reading, or writing, or drinking this week? Let me know in the comments or on social media!

Author Interview: John W. Otte

Earlier this week I reviewed John Otte‘s latest book, The Hive, here at Teish Knits. John graciously agreed to let me interview him as well!

Teish Knits: What inspired you to take the leap into writing novels?

John W OtteJohn Otte: I’ve always been a storyteller at heart. There’s a reason why I love the Gospel of Luke more than the others, and that’s because Jesus is depicted as a storyteller. I’ll never be the master that He is, but I love following in His footsteps by telling stories that hopefully point to a deeper reality.
I’ve “gotten serious” about my writing lots of times. When I was in junior high, I wrote a Gary Stu-style sci fi adventure that I was convinced would catapult me onto the bestseller list. Thankfully, that one has been lost to the ages. In high school, I was going to write a mystery series about a teenage detective that also has mercifully vanished. But no matter what the idea was, I always wanted to share my stories with the world.

TK: What’s your favorite scene from The Hive?

JO: Some of my favorite scenes are between Scorn and Hopkins, the apartment AI. I like the way the banter between the two worked out, especially right after Zain arrives. I won’t say more than that, but those are some of my absolute favorite scenes.

TK: The universe you’ve created for Numb and The Hive is intriguingly complex politically. Did you have a vision of what this looked like before starting the books, or has it grown out of the stories?

JO: A lot of it has grown organically as the story has grown. To be quite honest, there are big chunks of the backstory that I never really figured out. I knew that the Ministrix was a corrupt, despotic version of the church. I knew that the Praesidium was an atheistic government with no moral compass. In both cases, they were caricatures of how atheists view the Church and vice versa. But that was just a starting point. While I like to outline my stories pretty thoroughly before I start writing them, I seem to explore the storyworlds with the readers.

TK: You are a self-professed geek. What’s the geekiest thing that you’ve done? (Or at least willing to admit to!)

JO: Oh, wow. Let’s see here. Be part of a World of Warcraft guild? No, that’s probably too tame. Been a panelist at Salt Lake Comic Con? No, still too normal. If I had to pick just one thing, it’d be the time I gave a wedding toast in Klingon. I tell the whole story over at my blog (link: http://johnwotte.com/geek-confessional-i-once-gave-a-wedding-toast-in-klingon/).

TK: What advice would you give to aspiring young authors?

JO: Just keep writing. The best way to learn how to write is to do it. You’re going to make mistakes. Some of what you write is going to be abysmal. There will be days where you’ll feel like all you’re producing is garbage and you should stop. But through it all, just keep writing. Every day, if you can.

TK: If there is one speculative fiction book that you enjoy reading over and over, what is it?

JO: Okay, I’m going to throw you a curve. Rather than go with a book, I’m going to go with a video game, namely Mass Effect 2. The Mass Effect franchise is fantastic, and it tells an incredible story. Out of the three games, the second one is my favorite and a big part of why is because it tells such a fascinating story. It may not be a book, but it’s just fantastic.
If we were going to just go with books, there are a lot that could qualify. So many good choices. If it was a series, I’d go with Michael Stackpole and Aaron Allston’s X-Wing books. I used to read that over and over again.
Or here’s another curveball: Paul Maier’s A Skeleton in God’s Closet. It’s not speculative in the strictest sense of the word (there are no real fantastical elements to it, but the story is definitely speculative). It’s a story about what might happen if archaeologists found Jesus’ skeleton during a dig in Israel. Fascinating book.

TK: When writing, do you prefer music or quiet?

JO: Quiet is usually the best for me, but I do like to listen to music at times when I’m writing. But what I’ve found works best is if I listen to instrumental music with no lyrics. Otherwise, I get distracted.

TK: Thanks for stopping by John!

The Hive

Don’t forget that The Hive is releasing tomorrow! You can pre-order it on Amazon today though!

Book Review: The Hive

Cyborgs, hackers, and priests… Oh my!

I read John Otte’s book, Numb, when it first came out. I found myself completely intrigued by the politics between the Ministrix and Praesidium. Not to mention the stories of the people whose lives became entangled in the political game being played! So when it was announced that another book was releasing in the series, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on a copy of The Hive!

The HiveZain is a young cyborg who suddenly becomes detached from the Hive and everything that she’s ever known. She’s alone, unsure of how the world works, and pregnant to boot. (The Hive sometimes uses members as surrogate mothers for outsiders who desire to “purchase” a child.) Her search for a way back to the Hive leads her to a hacker known as Scorn. Both of them are caught in the middle of a conflict between some of the biggest forces in the galaxy, and each of them wants Zain’s child.

The Hive may be the second book in the Ministrix series, but it’s not necessary to have read Numb in order to enjoy reading it. Though fans who have read the first book will look forward to revisiting a familiar universe! I was a bit concerned about the two main characters being teenagers, and whether it would make the story less interesting to a reader in her mid-thirties. That turned out not to be the case, and I did thoroughly enjoy reading through The Hive! My favorite part of the book was how Zain’s longing for the sense of “belonging” that she had while she was part of the Hive ended up being the beginning of her spiritual search for a better “collective”. There are very strong Christian themes throughout the book, but they fit in well with the overall story and don’t seem forced.

The one thing that disappointed me a little bit about The Hive was that while it took place in the same galaxy as Numb, there didn’t seem to be much else linking the two books together. That being said, The Hive certainly ended with the possibility of more of the story being told in another book. If there are additional books in the series, perhaps they will tie some of the threads from each book together.

I definitely had fun reading The Hive and hope that there are more books coming in this series. Fans of both science fiction, and political intrigue books will enjoy this latest book in the Ministrix series by John Otte. While this is a clean read, I’d still recommend it for older teens and adults simply because some of the themes touched upon are more than younger readers are perhaps ready for.

Stay tuned for my author interview with John Otte coming on October 15th!

Note: I received an advanced reader copy of this book from the author in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed are completely my own.