Book Reviews Books

Jamie Foxx’s new book is a funny, serious, warm look into his life, with some parenting tips mixed in

When it comes to parenting advice, everyone’s got an opinion – whether they have kids or not. There are plenty of mommy blogs, parenting guides, videos, tips, advice; you name it, it’s out there. Everyone has a different opinion, and every family is unique, which means that what works for one person may not work for the other. Culture, financial structure, history, and religion all play a role in a child’s upbringing, which can make things….confusing for new parents

Jamie Foxx’s new book, Act Like You Got Some Sense, provides broad brushstrokes on what it means to be a good parent, regardless of what religion you follow, or where you come from. The book isn’t a parenting guide per se – there aren’t hard rules on how to best parent your child – but larger lessons that Foxx incorporates into his life stories. 

His life is fascinating, and his experiences with the Hollywood elite are incredible to read about, almost bordering on the absurd. He fully admits to enjoying life to the fullest, including attending parties across the country (and across the world). However, he also talks about being there for his family, putting his daughters’ needs before his own, and constantly learning about what it means to be a good dad. 

The biggest lesson he imparted, and one that he reiterates throughout the book, is to simply be there. This goes beyond physically being near your daughter. He talks about a time when he brought his daughter to Miami, in an attempt to bond with his daughter. However, he also went to Miami to party with his friends, and though he tried to spend quality time with his daughter, he ended up being distracted.

He later admitted that it wasn’t the best move to bring a young girl to a trip like that, mostly because he wasn’t there for her; even when he was, he was distracted. Being there for your child isn’t just about sitting in the same room with them, or about taking them on trips where they aren’t the priority. Even if it’s something as silly as going to Target, it’s about quality time, instead of just co-existing in the same space. 

His book is part autobiography, part motivational – he talks about his struggles as a child, including his complicated family history. He was adopted by the same parents that adopted his mother, which meant that his ‘sister’ was his mother and that his ‘parents’ were his grandparents.

Growing up in a foster family, with a disciplinarian for a grandmother, meant that he didn’t have much freedom as a child, but it also made him fiercely independent, understanding of what’s important in life, and valued the power of hard work. Having to go for piano lessons instead of concerts with friends resulted in an illustrious career as a musician. Working part-time through high school and having to give his money to his mom instead of spending it with friends, meant graduating high school with savings, and a safety net underneath him. 

The best part of his writing style is how self-reflective it is; he freely admits his flaws, how he’s changed as he’s grown older, and how he continues to change. Personalities aren’t static, and it’s vital to admit when you made a mistake because that’s how you grow. He talks about instilling discipline in kids but also learning to be flexible, that every situation is different, and there’s a time to lay down the law, and a time to back down, and let them make their own mistakes. He also talks about the importance of trust, and of keeping a family together in, well, unusual circumstances.

Having two daughters from two different women and being married to neither of them has created some challenges, but it’s admirable to see him rise above that, and do what he must to show his kids how much he loves them. And he does love them. It pours out of every word, a palpable feeling when you read his book. His pride and love are evident in the way he talks about them, though he does admit that he feels frustrated at times, but who doesn’t? 

Having seen him in Django Unchained and Baby Driver, I didn’t realize that he was also pretty funny, and an impressive writer. His writing is hilarious and honest – he’s not afraid to talk about his parties with Leonardo DiCaprio, or his time spent hustling at comedy clubs when he was younger, looking for a way to break into the scene. 

Despite his unique family structure, he’s able to make it work – though it does take years of work, and therapy. It’s not perfect, but no family is. It doesn’t have to be perfect, either. You just have to be there. 

Act Like You Got Some Sense will release on October 19th. Support local bookstores and pre-order on Bookshop

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Gender & Identity Life Stories Life

Modesty is used as an excuse to police women’s bodies, and it needs to stop

I was told that what I wore played an immense role in how I would be treated. Not only that, but I was told that what I wanted to wear was ‘immodest’. That term sounded sinful, dirty, and bad to my young ears. It seemed almost inconceivable that a young girl could be ‘immodest’ and be accepted by society. I was forced to police my  body and maintain constant vigilance, under the guise of ‘modesty’.

The thing about modesty is that it lies in the eyes of others. The understanding of modesty I grew up with is inherently tied to policing of bodies, to the fact that others could dictate who you are and how you can be perceived. 

The first use of modesty was associated with balance and moderation. It’s a term that arose out of the era of Enlightenment – it revolved around reason, restraint, and order. It’s turned from being about one’s attitude to being about one’s body; specifically the woman’s body. It’s gone from being humble and balanced to being conservative and narrow. Being modest is something that is ascribed to you, making it fickle, superficial, and difficult to attain. Since it depends on others’ perceptions, it becomes unattainable, a way for others to control you. 

Growing up, I was told that talking to boys, or spending time alone with male cousins, could be construed as ‘immodest’. I was told off for having male friends, for attending tutoring classes with boys, for hanging out with male family members! I’m not alone in this, and the Muslim community does have restricted, constraining ideas on modesty.

It became about one-sided restraint.

Women must be modest, must be covered, must be restrained. What would others think? The worst thing about modesty, in my opinion, is how it’s enforced – not by men, but by other women. My mother would tell me to be modest, women in my community lectured me about modesty, which went beyond attitudes to include behavior and actions.

I was asked to cover up and wear loose-fitting clothes (so no jeans), and I was not allowed to have male friends. I have a distinct memory of getting punished and called ‘shameless’ and ‘immodest’ when a boy I went to tutoring with called my house to ask my questions about the physics assignment that was due. It was confusing, and it angered me – I didn’t even see this boy as a friend, but the mere fact that he was a boy was grounds for punishment. It was my mother that lectured me, that watched what I wore and how I carried myself. She made sure I didn’t sit too close to male cousins, that my clothes weren’t too fitted, that I was quiet and not too opinionated.

My father may have been watching, but it was my mother that  enforced the rules. 

The phrase ‘people won’t take you seriously if you’re dressed immodestly’ is one I’ve heard far too often, and I hate it. I hate that my mind is somehow in second place to my body. It’s high time to recognize that women are more than their bodies; that I deserve respect even though I may not wear the hijab.

The fact that I was told off for spending time with a male cousin when I was 12 (we were the same age, by the way) is something that still annoys me. It made our relationship awkward, and it took years for that relationship to heal. Why are modesty and restraint a concern when I’m with family? Why must I restrict myself in front of someone I’ve grown up with?

 In terms of valuing women for their contributions to society, it’s high time to value women the way we value men – for their talents, for their skills, for their growth and for their capabilities as human beings, and not for their obedience to a system that tramples all and benefits none. It’s time we re-define modesty to its older meaning; to mean humbleness, reason, and balance. It’s time to bring modesty back to one’s attitude, not to one’s clothing.

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How To Use The Internet Tech Now + Beyond

What exactly is online privacy and should I be worried?

I first learned of online privacy from my dad. What initially struck me as paranoia–he hated making online payments–later turned into an understanding for concern over our online safety. Oftentimes, it was a balance of risk and convenience. I remember arguing with my dad over buying movie tickets online, and getting annoyed over his worry. Later, I read about threats to cyber security online and realized that buying tickets online probably isn’t worth losing your credit card info. Online privacy has become more concerning as I became an adult, with an identity, personal information, and finances of my own. I realized I was now responsible for my own data, and I needed to keep it safe. 

Online privacy refers to how much of your information remains private whenever you’re online.

Online privacy has become a growing concern as the Internet becomes more advanced and more complex. All of this revolves around online security: how data is acquired, where it’s stored, and whether it’s shared with third parties. 

Hacking has become a constant threat to online safety and privacy. There are countless stories of credit card numbers being sold online and personal identities being exchanged on chat rooms on the dark web. But identity theft is actually a legitimate concern as a lot of our information is stored online and can be accessed by hackers if it’s not protected well enough. Data breaches have become common, with companies spending vast amounts of money for cybersecurity. Malware attacks are also frequent and have affected companies and countries alike.

Online privacy has become a major concern, not just because of hackers and phishers, but because of corporations themselves. It’s become vital in a world where ‘free’ services like social media or third-party apps come with a hidden disclaimer: Nothing is actually free. In order to use these services, you’re asked to share your personal information. This can include your birth date, your gender, your likes and dislikes, your contacts, and more. What’s scary is that this data can be used by social media and third-party apps for a variety of purposes. For example, your data can be used to target you as a consumer, or it can be sold and gathered without your consent. It’s difficult to track how much data you’re asked to give out. Privacy policies by larger companies are complex, convoluted, and difficult for the everyday person to read and understand. After all, how many of us have fully read Terms and Conditions?

Internet privacy isn’t a clear black-and-white issue, but exists on the spectrum.

But this ranges from public information (like an online social media account) to compromised information (like targeted ads) to public embarrassment (like financial breaches, for example). Search engines track their users, logging what the searches are, and what sites you end up visiting. If the search engine also runs your browser (like Google Chrome), then they have your browsing history no matter what device you’re using–computer or cell phone.

The information collected creates a user profile, a persona based on your browsing, shopping, and social media. This persona is then used to create targeted ads. Social media, too, harvests your data and then uses it to for ads and posts. One popular example of this is the Cambridge Analytica story, where data was used to manipulate voters. 

It’s a direct result of how monopolies have been created in the tech industry, and how your data directly contributes to it, without your consent. Companies, like Google or Facebook, have created monopolies, often using unfair practices to steamroll over other competitors. These large companies need to be broken up to prevent a monopoly over the Internet, a complex and necessary tool that’s become the main source of information and communication.

Online privacy is challenging to protect because so many ‘free’ apps and websites use your data.

It’s difficult to navigate social media in particular, where you’re already expected to share your personal self online. It can result in unwarranted messages and even sexual harassment, and it’s difficult to protect yourself while still using social media because of how pervasive it has become.

Here are a few steps you can take righ now to protect your information and stay safe from target ads, manipulative posts, and data breaches.

  • Use a virtual private network (VPN). This routes your online activity through an encrypted virtual tunnel. It keeps your IP address and location a secret. It’s also used to access services and sites that aren’t available in your country.
  • Browse in incognito mode. This means your online history isn’t stored or remembered.
  • Use a different search engine. Search engines like DuckDuckGo are more private and secure than Google, and search engines like Ecosia donate 80% of its profits for reforestation.
  • Use a different browser. Using Google Chrome means that Google will still track your browsing history, regardless of what engine you use. Shifting browsers is another step to protect your information. Brave is a private, secure web browser with a built-in ad-blocker, to keep your web surfing ad-free. 

Thankfully, there are ways of staying safe and protecting yourself. In the meantime, transactions have gotten much more secure, so I don’t feel bad about booking movie tickets online. I try and stay cautious, using strong passwords, a VPN, and avoiding saving my passwords on browsers. It’s an issue that grows as technology gets more complex, but there are solutions. I’m glad my dad was able to instill a sense of precaution when we surfed the web, and for his sense of treading slowly in untested waters.  It’s a useful habit, and one that kept–and continues to keep–me and my data in the right hands.

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TV Shows Pop Culture

“The Bad Batch” is heartwarming and gut-wrenching in all the right ways

Disney’s Star Wars has just concluded its first season of The Bad Batch, a spin-off and sequel of the ever-popular show, Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Despite my initial misgivings of the show (I was still riding the high from The Clone Wars and what a fantastic show that was, coupled with the fear that Disney can – and does – ruin perfectly good stories with unnecessary sequels – for example, the sequel trilogyEpisode VI, Episode VII, and Episode IX), I found myself enjoying The Bad Batch and rooting for, well, the Bad Batch. 

The show is centered on a group of elite clones with genetic mutations, enhancing particular abilities in each clone. The leader of the group, Hunter, has enhanced senses; Crosshair has an uncanny ability as a marksman, Tech is very good with technology, and Wrecker is inhumanely strong, and their fifth member, Echo, is a clone that was part of the 501st Legion before he was taken by the Separatist forces who turned him into a cyborg in an attempt to get valuable information about the Republic’s forces. Eventually, he is rescued by clone force 99, Captain Rex and Anakin Skywalker, and joins the Bad Batch upon his return. 

The show features this motley group and Omega, a young girl clone who joins the Bad Batch to conduct missions. Like the others, Omega is an enhanced clone, but what surprised me was that she was, well, a girl. All the clones are men – the source DNA used is Jango Fett’s, so seeing a female clone was surprising. It’s never explained in the show, but one popular theory is that Omega is Star Wars’ first trans representation; if so, the show handled it well, treating Omega as a character unto herself, instead of just as a diversity prop. Of course, it is a case of too little, too late (one of Disney’s trademark ploys when it comes to diversity representation of any kind); similar to the lesbian kiss in Episode IX: Rise of Skywalker.

The show also opens with the Bad Batch splintering from the rest of the clone forces after Order 66 is executed. Thanks to their genetic mutations, they’re immune to the order and escape the clutches of the Empire, essentially going rogue. Crosshair, however, isn’t so immune to the chip, and joins the Empire, hunting the bad batch, and trying to retrieve Omega, at all costs. 

Unlike The Clone Wars, The Bad Batch focuses on two primary stories – on the bad batch’s developments, their growth as a team, and the found family relationship with Omega, and on Kamino, the planet where clones are manufactured. Vice Admiral Rampart of the Galactic Empire is overseeing the clone operations and proposes recruiting people instead of manufacturing clones, which is slow, and expensive. This is essentially the birth of the Stormtrooper program, and we see the Kaminoans struggle with convincing the Empire that clones are better because they’re made to be soldiers, and are less likely to disobey or fail at their objectives. 

The two-part finale cements the Stormtrooper program and destroys the clone forces in one fell swoop when Rampart orders the destruction of the factory at Kamino. Honestly, it did hurt to see Kamino fall – it wasn’t just a planet that manufactured clones, but the hearth and home for many beloved characters, in both iconic shows. 

Even though the show starts off with a slow start – the first few episodes are of Omega and the bad batch working together, with single-episode stories – it picks up momentum towards the second half of the season. It was a little boring to see formulaic episodes, particularly because it’s released every week, but the action does pick up after the 6th episode or so.

We see Rampart working with Crosshair and other Stormtroopers, plotting with Admiral Tarkin, undermine the Prime Minister of Kamino, and eventually bring the whole facility down. We also see the Bad Batch deal with the repercussions of the Empire, of the Empire’s promise of unity and strength being twisted into control and domination. 

Even though the narrative style differs from The Clone Wars, I liked it. The Clone Wars focuses on multiple characters (even though it is about Anakin Skywalker’s turn to the Dark Side), and multiple story arcs, be it the Jedi, the Separatists, or the clones themselves. The Bad Batch dives into the repercussions of Order 66 with one perspective, which means we get a much deeper understanding of the consequences of that order. It also means that we get to know the bad batch intimately in just one season, and there are greater chances of fleshing out the conflict between stormtroopers and clones, and between Crosshair and the rest of the team. 

The one thing I didn’t particularly enjoy, especially in the beginning? The fact that Omega is just a kid (please put your pitchforks down). The idea of the found father/child relationship is already there in The Mandalorian, and it feels too repetitive to see it here.

Of course, I can see why they did introduce Omega – it’s a good way to introduce new areas and provide much-needed context, and Omega serves as the audience’s way into the world, for the first few episodes at least. Still, I couldn’t help but draw parallels between Hunter and Omega, and Din Djarin and Grogu. 

Regardless, The Bad Batch is a show that goes from being fun and, honestly, a little cute to hitting home in some very real places, a style that I thoroughly enjoyed in The Clone Wars. It’s great to see the sequel do justice to the original show and flesh out the horrors that happened during the rise of the Galactic Empire.

The show tackles very real questions of home, loyalty, and trust, and as always, introduces a new droid to love – this time, it’s AZI. From sweet moments between Omega and the team to harsher realities of the clone project being shut down, The Bad Batch does justice to its predecessor and Star Wars, and I cannot wait for season 2. 

Looking to fuel your Star Wars addiction while waiting for season 2? Check out Star Wars: Darth Maul or Star Wars Ahsoka to find out more about my favorite hero, and villain from The Clone Wars.

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History Historical Badasses

The Indian Independence movement was possible thanks to these women


India’s history with British rule is a troubling, complex one. India was subject to British colonial rule for centuries. Though the ‘British Raj’ was established in 1858 till India’s Independence in 1947, colonization began in the late 1700s, with the East India Company overthrowing the Nawab of Bengal and establishing a puppet ruler in 1757. 

Indian Independence has always been a point of fascination. Not just for the fact that India was one of the few countries that granted universal adult franchise upon Independence, but the open acknowledgment of those who contributed to India’s freedom from British colonial rule including men and women alike. There are many cases of women who’ve fought the good fight – not just as cavalry, but as leaders, too. The history of the Indian Independence movement is long and arduous, and would not have worked without women.

Here are some women who proved instrumental in catalyzing events before and after the momentous Independence: 

1. Bhima Bai Holkar

A drawing of Bhima Bai Holkar, by Nanda Kumar.
[Image Description: A drawing of Bhima Bai Holkar, by Nanda Kumar.] Via Flickr by Nanda Kumar.
The first female Indian freedom fighter, Bhima Bai Holkar, was well-versed in guerrilla warfare. She lost her husband, and her father, at a young age. Finding out that the British were planning to annex the state of Indore, she knew that she has to save her motherland before she lost that, too. In 1817, she led the Holkar army into battle against the army of the East India Company in Mahidpur, when she was just 22. Though it did look like they would win the war, they were betrayed by Gafur Khan from the Holkar camp. After this, the Holkars were defeated. This resulted in the territory being ceded to the British, and she ultimately breathed her last in November 1858.

2. Lakshmi Bai

A painting of Rani Lakshmi Bai.
[Image Description: A painting of Rani Lakshmi Bai.] Via Wikimedia Commons by Vinayak Damodar Sawarkar.
A woman worth mentioning, who is still remembered for her bravery and patriotism, is Lakshmi Bai, the ‘Queen of Jhansi’. From becoming a regent in 1853 (when she was in her 20s) to fighting for the Indian Rebellion in 1857, she ultimately led thousands of her troops against the British during India’s First War of Independence. The British governor-general of India refused to recognize her regency and tried to annex Jhansi. She refused and joined the uprising against the British. She took charge of the rebels in Bundelkhand. By March 1858, the East India Company launched an attack against Jhansi, and Lakshmi Bai refused to surrender even after her troops were overwhelmed. She managed to escape with a small group of rebels. She then launched another attack against the city-fortress of Gwalior and was unfortunately killed in combat. 

3. Kasturba Gandhi

A wax statue of Kasturba Gandhi.
[Image Description: A wax statue of Kasturba Gandhi.] Via Wikimedia Commons.
During Mahatma Gandhi’s time, his wife, Kasturba Gandhi, was by his side throughout demonstrations and protests. Their marriage was a troubled one – Gandhi was a possessive man and did not allow her to go anywhere without his permission, leading to arguments between them. However, this didn’t stop her from joining protests against the ill-treatment of Indian immigrants in South Africa in 1913. She was even arrested for it. Despite this, she continued to work as an activist. The two returned to India from South Africa in 1914, and in 1917, she worked to help women in Bihar while her husband worked with indigo farmers. She was a front-runner during the ‘Quit India’ and civil disobedience movements, and would often step in to lead protestors when her husband was detained. 

4. Sarojini Naidu

A photo of Sarojini Naidu.
[Image Description: A photo of Sarojini Naidu.] Via Wikimedia Commons.
Another prominent figure in India’s struggle for freedom is Sarojini Naidu. She was a prominent activist and poet – in fact, her work earned her the nickname ‘Nightingale of India’. Born in 1879, she was an ardent follower of Mahatma Gandhi and his ideas of freedom. She became a political activist and supported his movement, eventually becoming the president of the Indian National Congress in 1925. Following India’s Independence in 1947, she was appointed as the governor of the United Provinces (now Uttar Pradesh), making her India’s first female governor. Her poetry ranged from children’s poems to more complicated works that talked about patriotism, courage, tragedy, and romance.

5. Sucheta Kripalani

A photo of Sucheta Kripalani.
[Image Description: A photo of Sucheta Kripalani.] Via Google Arts and Culture.
India’s first woman Chief Minister (she served as the Chief Minister for Uttar Pradesh from 1963 to 1967), Sucheta Kripalani was a fierce freedom fighter who worked alongside Gandhi and led several movements leading up to Independence and the Partition, and she was one of the 15 women elected to the Constituent Assembly and was tasked with creating documents that would help shape India into a strong republic. Her ideas and motivations were strongly shaped by the horrors they witnessed during the British Raj as a child. In her book, she mentions the trauma she felt after the Jallianwala Bagh massacre – where over 1000 Indians were killed, and 1,200 injured by British troops, who aimed fire on unarmed protesters.

Women’s contribution to Indian independence is an odd history to grapple with, especially considering India’s problems with sexism and casteism. Yet, it is uplifting to see how women have contributed to India’s freedom, and have politically shaped the country. It helps ground me to know that women were pivotal in the revolutionary struggle, and were duly recognized for it, too. Of course, oftentimes credit is attributed to Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, among other men, for securing India’s freedom from British colonial rule. However, the fight for Independence is more nuanced, more complex, and involved a lot of players – many of whom were women, either working directly with Gandhi, or launching movements before his time, and paving the way for Independence. 

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Book Reviews Book Club Books

Motherhood and building a career take on new challenges in “The Second Season” by Emily Adrian

When it comes to talking about motherhood, saying that it’s ‘challenging’ is a cliché. It’s a common truth. Another cliché, that’s a common truth? That in order to build your career – especially if you’re a woman in a male-dominated environment – you have to be better than the best. To get to the top, you can’t be better than the talent that’s already there, you have to be so remarkable, so memorable, that you’re peerless. Even then, it might not work for you. 

Emily Adrian’s The Second Season deals with these two core principles in a way I haven’t seen written down before. The novel – our Book Club’s pick of the month for August 2021 – features Ruth Devon, a sports broadcaster who’s looking to break into the area of color analysis, of sitting in the booth and being the voice you hear when watching basketball games on national television.

Ruth has the knowledge, the expertise, and the passion for it. She fought her way from calling a few games played by her alma mater, Georgetown, to calling some of the biggest basketball games of the season.

Another passion of Ruth’s is motherhood – in fact, that’s what she’s wanted to do, ever since she graduated from Georgetown. After a bad accident during a basketball game where she blows out her knee, she accepts – nay, invites – the challenge of motherhood; not for its Pinterest moments, but for the aggression, the exhaustion, the time, and the skill that motherhood brings.

She was ready to take it on, the way she took on basketball; but when she gets a chance to call a game for Georgetown, she takes it. Which leads to a very bright career in sports broadcasting. 

Ruth Devon is everything we love to see in a working professional, particularly someone who works in what is stereotypically a men’s field – in fact, she’s surprised men around the United States when she continues to provide commentary, go for interviews with players and coaches, and make a name for herself in basketball. She manages to climb up in the field of sports broadcasting, making a name for herself, instead of using her husband’s (a prominent basketball coach-turned-analyst) reputation.

In fact, by the second half of the book (spoiler alert!), most people don’t even know she was married to Lester Devon. One woman admitted that she thought Lester was her father (the fact that he’s 13 years older than her played a part in this assumption). Ruth’s biggest goal is to become the first woman to call NBA games on national television, and she’s more than qualified for it. 

Of course, Ruth’s only problem isn’t just about her career in sports broadcasting and her relationship with her daughter – that would be far too easy, and life hardly ever is. After getting a divorce, Ruth starts a tenuous romantic relationship with Joel, which begins as a one-night stand and blossoms into something much longer, albeit one that still takes place in hotel rooms, as the two of them constantly travel.

She grapples with her emotions for Joel versus her history with Lester – their family, their shared past, the fact that he coached her, guided her through most things (they got married right after she graduated, which means she did her fair share of growing up with him). 

Interspersed among the chapters that detail Ruth’s life is the intense game between the Sonics and the Wildcats, focusing on two players – Darius Lake and Emory Turner. The two players are best friends, and when Emory was shifted to the Sonics, the tension became palpable as the two best friends face each other as opponents. Ruth Devon, having built a close relationship with both players, is on the ground and covers both sides, giving viewers a peek into the inner lives of these two famous players, and what it means when your job now depends on you defeating your best friend in a sport you both love. 

What I loved about this book wasn’t just that Ruth was, arguably, one of the best sports broadcasters ever. I loved how Emily Adrian shows the struggles that Ruth goes through for that position – not just to maintain it, but to fight for it, to know that despite all of her talents, there’s a chance she could get passed for a promotion simply because she’s a woman.

We see the efforts that she puts in to remain on top; the long hours watching older games and playbacks, the time spent on social media to keep a track of all the basketball players’ lives (so her commentary can be as informative and well-rounded as possible), the constant tracking of stats, of team changes, of everything that comes with basketball. We also see Ruth hurt, her being painfully aware of what she’s given up to get this far – a full relationship with her daughter, Ariana.  

To be honest, I was never into sports – not as a kid growing up, and not as an adult, either. I watch the occasional FIFA game, and the F1 documentary Drive to Survive, but that’s about it. And yet, Adrian’s writing made me want to connect with American basketball; to fall in love with the game as Ruth did, to get sucked into the drama between players, their teams, and the sport itself, and to simply enjoy a game, pure and simple. 

In her second novel, Emily Adrian paints an honest picture of what it’s like to work hard to be so good at something, to make a name for yourself but still question your decisions and miss what you gave up; and most of all, how difficult it is to keep going back to what you love because you know what you’ll miss out on, but you can’t just walk away. 

The Tempest’s rating: 🌊🌊🌊🌊

Support local bookstores and get your copy of The Second Season on Bookshop or Indiebound.

THE SECOND SEASON is our Book Club’s pick of the month for August 2021. Check out the first chapter of the book here, join our read-along, and stay tuned for an upcoming Q&A with author Emily as well as 2 live AMA with her soon!

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Book Reviews Books

“An Ambush of Widows” is a magnific murder-mystery with a haunting history

A good old-fashioned mystery novel, one with a simple premise, a setup, and a twist at the end is fun in so many ways. I’m not just talking about the plot progression; but about the little details the author leaves in the story for you to pick up as you go along, the kind where you wonder why the story moves this way, only to gasp and still have an ‘aha, so that’s what they were planning’ moment in the end. Jeff Abbott’s newest novel, An Ambush of Widows, is just that – while also diving into the complexities and challenges of sudden widowhood

The story revolves around two new widows; Kirsten North and Flora Zhang. Kirsten, a freelance researcher with a head for investigation, is devastated by her husband’s murder. Flora, a mother who works with upscale charities and organizations, is far more confused about her husband’s death – feelings of sadness mix with feelings of relief, of finally being able to fully be herself.

The two widows collide when Kirsten receives a mysterious call informing her that her husband, Henry – a man who works with cybersecurity – was killed in Austin. Kirsten flies to Austin to find out more and meets Flora, wife of the now-late Adam Zhang, a wealthy investor with a company dedicated to providing venture capital to new businesses. 

An Ambush of Widows develops in an interesting manner; the author explores Kirsten’s and Flora’s histories in different ways. We see Kirsten meet Henry when she was just a teenager living with a foster family, and she falls in love with Henry because of his calmness and rationality, particularly during a crisis. Henry provides a sense of safety and stability that she never finds with family, and he eventually becomes (along with Kirsten’s foster brother, Zach) her family.

Meanwhile, Flora falls in love with Adam, who tries to care for his wife and child but is ultimately married to his career. She resigns her time as a business journalist, and becomes a full-time mother, and spends her spare time as a philanthropist. Her husband’s loss is difficult to process, especially when she learns more details about her husband after he’s passed, things that he hid from her. 

What I really enjoyed about this was how direct the initial premise was, how upfront the story was, and how the author managed to introduce an unexpected twist despite this. The story is simple; two men are killed at a warehouse in Austin, and no one can figure out the connection between them, or the reason why they were killed.

Suspicions abound, from people suspecting Flora for killing them both – either in an act of revenge or for Adam’s money, to the homeless man who first reported the bodies at the scene. Flora being targeted felt like a tired cliché, mainly because the many times women kill their husbands is done as an act of self-defense, to escape domestic abuse. It’s a difficult area to maneuver, particularly because for many women, there isn’t much recourse left, especially when they’re at the end of their rope

Flora and Adam’s relationship was never that drastic, but it wasn’t a healthy one, either. I don’t just mean cheating on his wife (which he was also guilty of). I mean not being open with what happened at work, or with his business. Flora uncovers more about Adam’s work-life after his death than she knew when he was alive, and it stung in more ways than one. Trust is an issue that Kirsten deals with, too. When she receives the mysterious call that her husband has died in Austin, she’s confused – Henry told her that he would be in New York. What felt like a lifelong, stable relationship is now slowly being torn apart – all while one half can never return, making things more complicated. 

What was even more enjoyable to see was Flora and Kirsten’s relationship. The two women go from distrusting each other and attempting to play the cops off each other’s side, to forming a bond based on trust and mutual trauma. There’s nothing like an intensely traumatic situation to bring people together, after all. The sweet part was how well they worked together – and how powerful they were, despite their initial misgivings and their limited resources. 

An Ambush of Widows made me realize a number of things; that there is power and dignity in standing with others, that falling for tropes and cliche’s (like ‘who benefits the most’) can be a trap, that the term ‘ambush of widows’ is cruel, but in this case, completely true, and that the sisterhood is a real, resourceful, and powerful thing.  

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Career Now + Beyond Interviews

Meet Gloria Bertazzoni, creative digital manager at Universal Studios

It’s no secret that women often aren’t given seats at the table in most businesses and that women have to start companies of their own or fight for a place that men take for granted. One thing that most of us realize a bit late is the importance of networkingmeeting people, staying memorable, and building connections is far more likely to get you that interview you’ve been applying for or help bump up your resumé over someone else’s. Heck, it can even get you into jobs that haven’t been posted online. 

We at The Tempest were able to speak to Gloria Bertazzoni, a creative manager at Universal Studios, a speaker at WomenX Impact. Women from professional backgrounds share their journeys at this summit, mentor women, and create networks across industries. She shared her journey with us in an exclusive interview with The Tempest, walking me through her history at the BBC and Universal Studios—what it means to be a creative manager, what her favorite projects were, what she thinks of the future of campaign management, and her time with WomenX Impact, an organization that’s dedicated to helping women in professional fields achieve their fullest potential, and meet others to create a strong network.

She shared her idea on what it means to be a digital creative marketer and her favorite campaigns from her time at the BBC. “Creative marketing is the hub for strategy and creation of commercial assets to promote a film or a series,” she explains, diving into what it means to be a digital creative marketer and what responsibilities that entail. 

“As a creative, you basically work on the strategy. What we do at Universal and what we used to do at the BBC, we plan and strategize around a concept and themes to promote, and then work with agencies that will create the trailer, the spots, ad the posters.” As a digital creative marketer, Gloria Bertazzoni dealt with everything that was posted online—from TikTok or Snapchat filters to trailers to working with influencers and creators online.

“One of my favorite campaigns was for Wild Alaska Live, which was a live documentary in Alaska. The documentary was a live stream of what was happening in Alaska, and because it was live, it was completely unpredictable. It was amazing because it was something I’ve never experienced before—coming up with ideas on the spot, and posting them, ” she said, adding that working with researchers was fascinating, and that part of her campaign was to provide a behind-the-scenes look into the work that goes into filming such a documentary.

We also asked her for some advice for young people trying to enter the field. “Start your careers trying to do a bit of everything,” Gloria says, sharing some tips on how to become a digital creative manager. “It’s helpful because you have an eye for design, and production, and cinema industry, and everything,” she explains, adding that it’s easier to plan a digital campaign when you know enough to see what’s feasible, what can be successful, and what might not work.

“Being a creative marketer is a bit of everything,” she adds, pointing out that creative managers deal with strategy, production, art design, and copy. “Learn a bit of everything, understand what you like to do, and do some research on companies that offer this role.” At the end of the day, the keyword is flexibility—which means as long as you’re willing to learn, you’re good to go.

This isn’t Gloria’s first time mentoring others, either. In London, she’s a part of Ladies, Wine, and Design, a non-profit organization that’s dedicated to providing women in creative industries and spaces a chance to develop themselves, find mentors, and hear similar stories. The organization is open to women and non-binary people in the workplace, and weekly meetings are held to share their stories for the week and catch up and enjoy each others’ company—forming a solid network is vital in today’s work environment, and having a solid support system can help boost your own career. 

Of course, representation is also crucial in showing that women belong in every single space that men already occupy. “We do need the representation that we grew up with, and we also need other representation,” she adds, pointing out that there is something empowering and vital in a woman wanting to become a stay-at-home mom, just as there is something empowering and vital in a woman becoming an entrepreneur. “We need women that have traveled the world or founded their own company. WomenX [Impact] gives us this variety of stories that hopefully will inspire future generations of women.”

The WomenX Impact summit will take place on November 18-20, 2021, in Bologna, Italy. Featuring speakers from organizations like Google, Spotify, BBC, The European Commission, and more, these successful ladies will share their career paths and provide invaluable advice on navigating the contemporary workspace. 

The Tempest is a proud media partner of WomenX Impact. Stay tuned for more interviews to come about their badass speakers, leading women in every sector!

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Pop Culture

Video games are the latest source of original storytelling

To be honest, I never really considered myself to be much of a ‘gamer’.

Growing up, I didn’t share the fascination my brother had with games and consoles. I stuck to books and movies, preferring more traditional forms of storytelling. As I grew older, I started to experiment with the Internet and online games. It was incredibly fun to play around with controls and see what my character could do. As games got better, it became possible to mess around with the outcome of the story, and I became more invested in the game world, and in video game stories.

When cinema first arose, people were fascinated with what technology could do. Cinema had a potential for being ‘spectacular’, for focusing on tricks with the camera and delighting the audience with a new medium. Of course, focusing on cinematic tricks gets old, and cinema began to shift from focusing on pure spectacle to focusing on narrative. The goal was to create compelling stories that would make people want to watch it over and over, to create prolonged interest.  

Video games are the only medium that comes up in the post-modern world. 

We can see the same effect taking place in video games, too. Early video games are pretty simple, plot-wise. There’s an emphasis on what you can do and how you can interact with the game-world. Game technology got better and better – you could do more, experiment with the game world, and try new things.

Recently, there has been a shift to focusing on narratives in games, on a new way to tell stories, to create ‘video game stories’ of sorts. It’s a way for people to play the game over and over, to try and get different outcomes with each ‘re-telling’. It’s a shift from spectacle to narrative, and it’s fascinating to see that with a new medium. 

Of course, there are some that prefer video games to stick to what they’re good at – interacting with the audience. Stories in these games can’t be too structured, because of how interactive games are. It can be difficult to articulate certain stories, and nuances can get sacrificed for interactiveness. The way we define stories changes with video games. Stories aren’t linear, or dictated by the author – the reader has an active voice in the way the story is told. 

Recently, there has been a shift to focusing on narratives in games.

Others celebrate this narrative turn, pointing out that games are a goldmine for fresh stories, because the medium challenges the way stories are normally told. Video games also work in terms of their sequels. I can’t count the number of movies and TV shows that have gotten spoiled because the creators didn’t know when to end the journey. Sequels have become notorious in ruining a good story, but not in video games. Thanks to their interactiveness, video game sequels are a great way to return to a beloved story while exploring new forms of gameplay. 

One of the video games that I played – and particularly enjoyed – was Detroit Become Human. The gameplay is relatively simple, but the story was compelling. Set in a futuristic world where androids serve humankind, we play the game from a few androids’ perspectives. We see the signs of struggle and turmoil, as androids rise up and fight for freedom. Depending on the choices you make, the game ends differently – with different fates in store for the androids. It’s a fun game to revisit because you can track various story paths, and its gameplay was easy to manage, so I never felt confused or overwhelmed. 

It’s fascinating to see traditional stories being reworked into something new. 

The Last of Us seems like a fairly basic zombie-hunting game, which works in a linear fashion. You move from place to place, kill zombies, and survive. What makes this game incredibly popular is its stunning story. Revolving around the relationship between a man and a young girl he needs to keep alive, we see the two bloom, and this narrative arc adds so much depth to the story’s mechanics. 

Another popular game that shows how a good story can supersede graphics is Undertale. The story revolves around a young child falling into a mountain and must interact with the inhabitants of the mountain to make their way out. Depending on the player’s approach, the outcome changes, and the game’s gained a large following despite its simple controls. 

Video games have become a new form of storytelling, and they’ve always been a source of comfort. It’s fascinating to see traditional stories being reworked into something new and exciting. Stories are a part of the human condition, and it’s amazing to see us adapt beloved tales to a new medium altogether. Stories in video games make them memorable, compelling, exciting to play. You become invested in the game, and it leaves a mark. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to fall in love with yet another video game character.

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Broadway Pop Culture

‘Hamilton’ the musical was possible thanks to Eliza Schuyler

I never really caught on to musicals – it wasn’t something I was exposed to. Until I heard the Hamilton musical soundtrack, that is. Living outside America meant that I wasn’t going to see the live show and that kinda sucked. I would listen to the complete soundtrack for hours, to the point where I can recite most of the songs from memory. Based on Chernow’s biography of America’s first Treasury Secretary, the musical is a wonderful tribute to the forgotten genius. He’s remembered for his creations, and by the ones who loved him, especially Eliza and Angelica Schuyler.

The musical is definitely worth the hype, especially now that it’s available on Disney+. I remember being ecstatic about this. I thought I’d never get the chance to see the musical, and I stuck with shaky hand-cam versions and listening to the soundtrack on repeat. Watching it in 4K was incredible, and I’ve rewatched it at least 4 times. The one good thing out of the pandemic is that Hamilton is available to a global audience. I’m hoping more musicals will follow this practice. 

What I love the most about Hamilton the musical is its addressal of the women in his life. The Schuyler Sisters played a significant role in the making of Hamilton, and in his legacy. In reality, there are 15 Schuyler siblings, though seven died in childbirth. Eliza, Angelica, and Peggy are the oldest and are closest to each other.

 His voluminous writing is preserved by his wife. Eliza helped Hamilton draft essays and correspond with heads of state, all while raising a large family. Along with raising eight children, she helped Alexander with his early drafts, including Washington’s “Farewell Address” and parts of his Federalist Papers. 

Angelica Schuyler’s intelligence and wit are highlighted, and she serves as a great way for Hamilton to develop his ideas. The two sisters make huge sacrifices for Hamilton – Angelica sacrifices her happiness, and Eliza does what she can to continue Hamilton’s legacy. In reality, Angelica was already married when she met Hamilton, but the two did share slightly flirtatious letters when she was in England. 

Angelica’s portrayal in the musical is what boosts it from good to great. She’s an intelligent woman who knows how the game is played. She sacrifices her own happiness for her sister but is never once bitter about it. We see her thought process in the musical, her nuanced understanding of current political society. She knows that, as the oldest, she’s expected to marry someone of similar social standing. She chooses a sensible option, knowing what role she is expected to fulfill. However, she continues to keep in touch with the Hamiltons, ready to lend an ear to Hamilton’s ideas.

Of course, we know that Hamilton isn’t the charming, trustworthy man he tried to be. Hamilton’s sex scandal covers a shift in American politics, and in his personal life. We see how his personal life affects his professional one. Though his name is cleared, his reputation takes a hit, and there are no more talks of moving politically further. On a more personal front, his relationship with the Schuyler sisters takes a huge step back.

Angelica returns to comfort Eliza, and not Hamilton. The sisterly bond stays strong, and here again, we see a testament to Angelica’s strength. She chooses to remain by her sister’s side, prioritizing family over the man she loves. There’s a song (that’s unfortunately cut from the musical) where Angelica is angry – angry at Hamilton’s betrayal. His treatment of her sister cuts deep, and the familial bond stands strong as she stays by her sister’s side.

Eliza also worked with the former First Lady, Dolley Madison, to raise money for a monument to George Washington, Hamilton’s mentor. 

In Hamilton, Eliza removes herself from the narrative after reading about the scandal. Heartbroken, Eliza doesn’t try to defend her honor. In reality, she does destroy the letters, and we won’t know why. The musical’s creator, Lin-Manuel Miranda, sees it as deliberate. The sentiment is reflected in the song, “Burn”.

It’s unfortunate that we don’t get to know what she said, but I think it’s brave. She withdraws herself, and she uses an incredible tactic – she stays out of his legacy. We see how important being remembered is to him, and she flips that on its head. The sentiment behind the song was heartbreaking and touching. What’s beautiful is that she continued to love Hamilton, enough to carry on his legacy.

 We see Angelica providing a helping hand and a shoulder to cry on for Hamilton. They form a close bond because of her warmth and her wit. The musical fleshes out these pivotal characters, noting their importance. Hamilton may have been a genius, but he didn’t get there alone. He formed political connections because his father-in-law was a powerful, influential man. His wife was pivotal to his career, and he wouldn’t have reached such heights without her help. 

The musical (and the biography) helped shine a light on Eliza’s efforts, and it’s not surprising to know that once again, a woman’s efforts took far too long to be recognized. Unfortunately, Hamilton isn’t perfect, and neither is Lin-Manuel Miranda’s newest work, In the Heights, a movie adaptation of his earlier musical. It’s no secret that In the Heights has a surprising lack of diversity, despite the story focusing on the Latinx community in New York.

Hamilton, too, has its fair share of injustices that the cast has had to deal with. Daniel James Belnavis, a cast member, posted an open letter on Medium detailing the struggles he faced as a gay Black man. It was appalling to realize that Hamilton, despite its laurels and praises, fell into the same trap that most movies and musicals fall into – that of under-representation, and of neglecting POC casts and crew members. It shouldn’t have to take cast members and audiences speaking out against this, only to receive half-hearted apologies.

Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musicals are incredible, and do provide a richer, more diverse view of history and society – there’s no doubt about that. However, they’re also flawed, in terms of representation. These ideas can and do coexist. It’s high time for Broadway to step up and listen to their audiences and their cast members, rather than continue to whitewash history.

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Editor's Picks Family Life

My dad made me the woman I am, and I’ll always love him for that

It’s been a running joke in my extended family that you can’t leave me alone in a bookstore, a library, or even near someone’s bookshelf. Chances are, I’ll probably tune you out and make a beeline towards wherever there are books on display. It’s a habit my mom hated (how antisocial of me) and one that my dad loved, and cultivated in both of his children. It’s one of the many habits of his that I’m proud to have picked up. 

When I was growing up, my dad always worked long hours. He’s a doctor who runs his own clinic, which means he either works in four-hour shifts and comes home late at night, or he works a straight shift and I see him in the evening. His one day off is Friday (in Dubai, the weekends are Friday and Saturday, because Friday is the day Muslims go to the mosque). 

So, Friday was the day for errands, chores, meeting family, and catching up on things that needed to be done during the week. His long hours meant I didn’t see him as much as I’d like to, but it also meant the time I did get to spend with him was special. On his days off, he would show me his favorite books and movies, and he would happily encourage my vigorous reading habits. 

I specifically remember my dad giving me the Harry Potter books to read when I was younger. Afterward I then excitedly waited for the new books to subsequently release every year along with him. I also remember him introducing me to his favorite authors—Jeffrey Archer and Arthur Hailey, to name a few— and me following Archer’s newest series with interest because it made me feel closer to my dad. 

I remember feeling sad when my mom eventually threw out my massive Kinder Surprise collection (remember those?). My dad would bring home a set of 3 chocolate eggs every week for me, and I spent hours playing with those little figures and collecting the plastic cups they came in. Over time, I had amassed over 150 toys; however, my mom ended up either giving them away or throwing them in the trash.

To be fair, they took up every inch of my desk, but it was worth it because they were beloved gifts from my father. 

I remember going on trips with my family, and my dad was an incredible swimmer. So it was always fun diving into the sea with him. Swimming with my dad was great, he could do all kinds of water tricks, like handstands and somersaults, and lie flat on the ground of the pool (I unfortunately never got the handle of sinking into the water as he did).

Notably, though, my dad was authoritative; especially when he broke up fights between my brother and me, or when we got into arguments about who I could meet or what I could wear. My dad and I had our ups and downs, but with time, the downs never stuck with me. I later realized he was so strict about my curfew because he was only concerned for me. If I was ever late coming home, he wouldn’t even say anything, but he’d always stay awake to make sure I came home safe. 

My dad was indulgent, too; one way he shows his love is with gifts, which meant I always got the book, or toy, or food, or clothes, that I asked for. It meant that my dad spent long hours at work to provide for us, which he provided us plenty. What he missed out on in time, he made up for in memories and affection.

My dad also supported my career choices, my university choices, and everything in between. He made sure I was free to do what I wanted—and in a Desi society wherein your options regarding a career path are often to become a doctor or a lawyer— it was good to know he had my back. 

When I was worried about what I wanted to do with my career, he looked at me and said, “I’ll support you for as long as it takes, you don’t need to worry about that.” And my dad has kept promise on his word, as he’s paid for our schools, our colleges, our master’s universities, and paid for my brother’s first apartment while letting me stay at home after I graduated (and during the pandemic).

I know he’ll never accept money from either of us because he firmly believes that what he makes is for us. He’s supported my decisions and has made it unequivocally clear— he will always look out for me. What’s even better is I just like spending time with him, whether we’re watching a movie, playing cards, or just spending time at home because he’s a great companion to have in my corner. 

I’ve always had a difficult time voicing my feelings as we’re not an “I love you” family. But we do show our love in a thousand different, smaller ways instead. 

With my family, our love language is through gifts and gestures. It’s through the chocolates my dad bought for me every week; the trips and restaurants he would take us to thanks to pharmaceutical reps; the insane hours he works to provide for all of us, and the efforts he took in teaching me… well, everything. 

So, this one’s for you, Uppa. Even though I don’t verbally articulate my “I love you’s,” just know— I wouldn’t be where or who I am today if it weren’t for you. Thank you for all of your sacrifices, and for putting up with the pains I’ve caused over the years. Ultimately, just thank you for being there for me and our family, no matter what.

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Editor's Picks Books Interviews

Victoria Aveyard talks about her newest fantasy “Realm Breaker”

The ever-popular Red Queen series by Victoria Aveyard debuted in 2015, taking the world by storm with a fascinating premise – a world that’s divided across genetic lines, where power and oppression stem from families that grow cushy because of their supernatural abilities, only to have their worlds turned upside down when the ‘have-nots’ realize a unique power of their own. The series is officially being adapted into a TV show, and Victoria Aveyard has taken another step into the genre of high fantasy with her newest release, Realm Breaker, which we reviewed here.

Author Victoria Aveyard sat down for an exclusive interview with The Tempest, where she talked about her latest release, her story-writing process, and her thoughts on the future of fantasy.

If you could be a member of any fantasy race, which would you choose and why? And if you could be a member of any Guild from Realm Breaker, which would you choose and why?

 Obviously, I would love to be some kind of immortal, but I know in my heart I would realistically be a hobbit. Or, some townsperson who is not involved in any of the adventures at all. As for Realm Breaker, I always play as an assassin in RPG games, so I suppose I would have to go with the Amhara Guild. Even if they’re incredibly intense. I probably wouldn’t survive the training, honestly. 

Are there any challenges you faced when writing this book – with regards to world-building or otherwise?

 My biggest challenge with worldbuilding is when to stop and rein myself in. You only have so much motivation when starting a new story, and I don’t want to waste it all on backstory and research. At a certain point, I have to switch over to drafting and just get the story itself started. Otherwise, a big challenge with Realm Breaker was deciding which piece of the story required which point of view. Which perspective and which character will be most interesting to an audience, and which one services the story best? It’s certainly a fun challenge, to filter each plot point through a different lens. 

When writing a story of this caliber, do you follow a set plan, or do you start off with characters in particular situations, and let the story tell itself?

I’m really into story structure, and I always use the 3-act, 8-sequence [structure] to outline. I usually know my Act 1 and 3 really well, with Act 2 being where I flounder, but also where the story and characters really grow. 

The spindles were an interesting point, similar to the portals in Pullman’s His Dark Materials. Was his work an influence in your writing, or even in your literary tastes?

I’ve actually never read those. I was more inspired by The Elder Scrolls video game, Oblivion, which featured portals opening in a fantasy world that the player had to fight and close. 

What’s your writing process look like – a typical day in your work?

I’m lucky enough that this is my full-time job and I work best when I treat it that way. I try to keep office hours from 10 am-5 pm, with a break for lunch, and I almost never work on the weekends. This helps me stay in a routine and really keep my momentum going, especially when I’m drafting.

Did you plan for the companions to come together (like a fellowship) or was that where the story took you?

I always planned for Realm Breaker to be a Lord of the Rings meets Guardians of the Galaxy kind of story, so the team element was central to the idea. I loved throwing together these misfits and criminals who don’t like each other, don’t care about doing the right thing, but have to save the world to save their own behinds. 

What do you think the future of the genre will look like – whether there’ll be more works that are set in medieval eras?

I don’t think the medieval era is going away any time soon, but I think an expansion of exactly where that medieval era falls geographically is happening. There are some incredible fantasy works set in worlds inspired by that same time period, but outside the stereotypical Western European location. It’s fantastic to see!

If you could go back and edit or re-do a particular scene in something that you’ve already published, what would you change?

Oh, that’s a can of worms I don’t want to open. Every single creator can point to anything they’ve done and find the flaws. I could find something wrong on probably every page of every book I’ve written. 

 In Realm Breaker, what character did you create that surprised you the most for the decisions they made?

I knew Erida’s place in the plot and what her journey would be, but only when I was drafting did I realize she needed to be one of the POV characters. And that was a delightful surprise, to hear her voice and use her perspective to give a very, very different angle of the story. 

Queen Erida’s lust for power reminds me of Queen Cersei, and her drive to do what she must to conquer the realm. However, (slight spoilers), her betrayal to the Companions was surprising – was that something you planned for her or was that how the story moved, something you didn’t really foresee?

Definitely planned. All my big plot twists are planned out, and I think that allows me to really dig in, and trick the audience. I know what’s coming, so I know how to lure them in a way that they are either really surprised or really pleased they figured it out. 


Any favorite fantasy publications for authors with no credits looking to grow their audience? Tips to stand out with anthology/ezine/contests, for budding fantasy writers.

I’ve never had anything featured in an anthology or magazine or contest, so I’m definitely not the person to ask for advice! I am a huge fan of the Reddit forums, however, and I lurk on r/fantasy, r/imaginarymaps, r/worldbuilding, and r/fantasywriters. They have some amazing tips and tricks!

Want to know what we thought of the book? Check out my review of Realm Breaker. Support local bookstores and get Realm Breakeron Bookshop or Indiebound.

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