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18 January, 2013
Read My Mind is participating in a book blitz for the YA sci-fi novel, OBSCURA BURNING by Suzanne van Rooyen. Thanks to the author and Xpresso Book Tours, I have a bunch of content to promote the book, and there's even a giveaway!
About The Author:
Suzanne is a freelance writer and author from South Africa. She currently lives in Finland and finds the cold, dark forests nothing if not inspiring.
Suzanne is the author of the cyberpunk novel Dragon’s Teeth (Divertir), the YA science fiction novel Obscura Burning (Etopia) and has had several short stories published by Golden Visions Magazine, Space and Time and Niteblade. Niteblade nominated her short story Where dreams are grown for the Pushcart Prize. Her non-fiction articles on travel, music and other topics can be found scattered throughout the Internet.
Although she has a Master’s degree in music, Suzanne prefers conjuring strange worlds and creating quirky characters. When not writing you can find her teaching dance to ninth graders or playing in the snow with her shiba inu.
Suzanne is represented by Jordy Albert of the Booker Albert Agency.
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Setting a Story Somewhere You’ve Never Been
Of the 13 countries I’ve visited on 3 continents, I have never been to the US. Why my story insisted on being set in New Mexico remains a mystery, but that’s what my characters were telling me so that’s where I set the story despite having never set foot on American soil.
Setting is vital to any story. Setting becomes a character unto itself and should be made as real as possible. This is not easy when you’ve never been to said location. In the interest of verisimilitude, I did extensive research. This involved reading everything I could about New Mexico, specifically the Four Corners where my fictional town is located. I also watched documentaries about the State and its oddities. I even trawled through Youtube to find posts by New Mexican teenagers so I could listen to their accents and slang. (Apparently, thanks to an honest reviewer, I still got it wrong).
Thanks to the online writing community Scribophile, I was able to compile some anecdotes about life in NM as well - what a sunset looked like, which way storms blew in, what storms smelled like, what small town residents did to celebrate the 4th of July, what people typically ate, what the vegetation looked like etc. There was tons of research that went into this book and I still managed to get things wrong. Yup, I mangled the Spanish expletives and used Britishisms where I shouldn’t have.
From this experience, I’ve learned some extremely valuable lessons. 1) Better to write about a place you’ve actually been. 2) Know your stuff inside out - there is no such thing as too much research. 3) Own your mistakes even if you (embarrassingly) refer to the wrong city as the capital.
There’s nothing wrong with setting your story somewhere you’ve never been but brace yourself for backlash from readers when they find your mistakes, which they will because authors cannot get every nuance of a culture they’ve never experienced right without seeing, hearing, tasting and feeling the place for themselves. That said, I don’t think I did too badly writing this book as I did from my spot in the forests of central Finland.
Here's a taste of OBSCURA BURNING!
Closing my eyes, I imagine New Mexico burning, can almost smell it, the pungent pine, fireball mesquite, and smouldering cacti. I should be worried about the damage the UV’s doing to my scars, but after tonight, none of that will matter.
Just when you think it can’t possibly get any hotter or the mercury will explode, the temperature rises just a few more degrees. Today, Coyote’s Luck lies in a simmering mirage, hotter than any hell imaginable.
The crush of mesquite huddling between the tombstones offers little respite from the sun. Sticking to the dappled shade, I thread my way toward Danny’s grave. I’m not alone.
She looks like a ghost with the white sundress fanning around her legs, her long black hair teased by the warm breeze. For a moment, I think it’s one of the ch’iindi made flesh, until she turns at the sound of my step.
Gabriela, her face a teary-eyed frown. She folds her arms and returns her gaze to the grave. When did she get so thin? She was always so voluptuous, a shorter, less saggy version of her mother. Now she looks more like a sixteen-year-old kid, barely there in layers of cotton.
stand in silence, both just staring at the grave. The rosaries dangle over the stone, tied in knots around the stems of already dead flowers. There’s a white and blue beaded one, the one that was attached to Danny’s bed, the one he’d kiss at night before going to sleep.
“I miss him so much,” Gabriela says eventually.
“So do I.”
“I blame you, you know.” She casts me a sidelong glance.
“Maybe you should.”
She nods and sniffs and fingers one of the blooms turned brown by the heat.
“Dead, all of it.” She tears the petals from the stalk. “Little Maria, now Daniel.” She turns her dark eyes on me, searching for something I wish I could give her.
“This is killing my parents. Daniel was their only son. They’ll never have more children. Once, I had a brother. Now I’m alone. Sister to dead siblings.”
That’s the most Gabriela’s ever said, to me at least. I’m stunned into uncomfortable silence. There’s nothing I can say that’ll make it right. But tonight, maybe there’ll be something I can do.
“I wish I could make it right.” My words sound so pathetic.
She harrumphs and digs her sandaled toe into the dirt. “Nothing can make Daniel dying right.”
“I’m sorry.” There is nothing else I can say without trying to explain the whole confusing story and Gabriela’s not the type to believe in rifts in reality.
“Tell Daniel you’re sorry. He’s the one who died because of you.” She takes a deliberate step away from me, crosses herself, offering prayers in Spanish to the ether.
“I loved him, you know.” Maybe I am to blame, but she makes it sound like I don’t give a crap that he’s dead.
“Obviously not enough.”
The world's going to end in fire…and it's all Kyle's fault.
Kyle Wolfe's world is about to crash and burn. Just weeks away from graduation, a fire kills Kyle's two best friends and leaves him permanently scarred. A fire that Kyle accidentally set the night he cheated on his boyfriend Danny with their female friend, Shira. That same day, a strange new planet, Obscura, appears in the sky. And suddenly Kyle's friends aren't all that dead anymore.
Each time Kyle goes to sleep, he awakens to two different realities. In one, his boyfriend Danny is still alive, but Shira is dead. In the other, it's Shira who's alive... and now they're friends with benefits. Shifting between realities is slowly killing him, and he's not the only one dying. The world is dying with him. He's pretty sure Obscura has something to do with it, but with his parents' marriage imploding and realities shifting each time he closes his eyes, Kyle has problems enough without being the one in charge of saving the world...
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