Graphic Novel Review: Lady Mechanika (series)

In my quest for all things steampunk as research for my YA Queen series (yes, I have an idea for a sequel), I somehow came across the graphic novel, Lady Mechanika, by Joe Benitez.  Although it took a bit of figuring out how to get my hands on a digital copy, I eventually went to Comixology, opened an account and downloaded a short chapter (Episode #0) for free.  What do you know?  I was hooked!  While I hadn’t ever specifically considered reading graphic novels or comics as part of research, for YA steampunk, the genre seems like a natural place to look.  Three chapters (issues?  I’m not sure what the correct vernacular is here) in, I’m enjoying the story, artwork and am excited to see what direction upcoming issues will take the plot.  Additionally, I’m particularly enjoying how these comics read on my iPad mini – there is a really nice flow through the panels.  Technology is pretty amazing!  Also, the artwork is just fantastic to look at.

While Lady Mechanika and my protagonist do not share a lot in the way of a backstory, I’d like to think that my Queen is going to have the same kind of attitude – polite, intelligent, but also able to take care of herself.  I’m definitely going to keep reading.



What say you, dear reader, do you read comics/graphic novels?  Do you have any recommendations?


In which the author looks like herself.

So, it has occurred to me for some time that my author head shots were a tad out of date.  And by ‘out of date’ I mean they were taken during the summer of 2008.  As I’m now much closer to 35 than 28 years of age, I decided it was time to arrange a session to remedy this.  Fortunately, I happen to know an AMAZING photographer and when I mentioned I was going to be stateside, she agreed to help me out.  As Heidi had also taken my original session, I felt lucky to nab her again (she’s usually a wedding photographer).

courtney brandt

My very first ‘professional picture’ circa age 24.  The Brandt cheeks are strong with this one.



The author at 28 (from my original photo session).  Photo by Heidi Ryder.

And on a fine Wednesday in February, the same group (Heidi and my husband) went out into the magic hour to get the below images.  These were the best least awkward of the batch because I am terrible at being in pictures and missed that day at girl school.  And yes, the looks below are a result of professional hair and make up – I do not possess these skills and am more than happy to pay for them.  And yes, I did forget to wear an awesome necklace that I had packed, and now I also kind of wish I had painted my nails.  Oh well, life goes on.

PicMonkey Collage

In which I like leaning on things.

So, why bother?  I bother because I like to have a professional face to put forward into the world.  It isn’t some sort of beauty contest – it’s more that, ‘hey – this is me, I am a real person and worth buying a book from.’  As I hope to put more effort into my writing career, I want to have an image ready to send that I feel confident about and now I have that photo.  Thank you, Heidi!

What about you, do you have a professional picture of yourself?  Do you find it useful?

All photos by Heidi Ryder.


On choices in writing lady characters…

I have yet to read a novel in which female characters have menstrual cycles.

  –  from Tumblr, because badass girls taking down a vague yet menacing government agency or riding dragons to glory still get their periods.

If this topic bothers you, don’t read – but it’s a fact of life that women menstruate (unless you’ve had a IUD for 10+ years and are living the dream).  Thus, unless an author creates a world where women’s biology exists in some other fundamental way, this will be the case.  Now, have I ever included this element of my character’s lives in a book (published or not)?  No.  I have not.  As voracious a reader as I am, I can’t think of any book I’ve come across where someone is having ‘that time of the month.’  Sure, there have been miscarriages, but never – ‘wow, I have to worry about bleeding everywhere.’  Or, ‘oh shit, I have no control over my hormones.’

In my two most recent books, I could make mention of menstruation, but the topic never really occurred to me.  I mean, is it something people really want to read about?  Does it make my characters more ‘real’ that they could suffer through cramps?  Or would a reader just think, ‘what does this add to the story?’  Given that one of my characters is among the more powerful people in the world, I don’t want her to be seen as weak because of something all women live with.  Giving her PMS and then taking out her grumpiness on France just seems irresponsible.

What say you, reader?  More realistic female fiction, or just belongs in real life?

Prepping for the third longest flight in the world.

This time next week I will STILL be on a plane – from a flight that started at (inshall’ah) 9:00AM local UAE time.  That flight is AUH (Abu Dhabi) to LAX (Los Angeles) and it is listed at 16:45.  I am VERY fortunate to be flying in business class and on a great airline, Etihad.

Still, it’s A LOT of time to fill for what is essentially a day time flight – especially when the flight is almost always delayed getting off the ground (AUH hasn’t seemed to figure out the whole pre-clearance thing, even though it’s been months).  Yes, some hours can be accounted for sleeping, but I’m guessing I won’t sleep much more than 3-4 hours at best.  I could be wrong and get a few more, but being the planner that I am, here are the activities I’m looking at to keep me busy:

1. Reading!  I have A Clockwork Heart, Karen Memory (super excited about this one) and a romance or two to have on hand.  I’m also thinking of downloading The Girl on the Train.  Do you have any recommendations?

2.  Writing!  If all goes to plan, I’ll have The Queen of England (my current WIP) in a better place to make some progress in moving towards 60K (about where I think the rough draft will finish up).  I wouldn’t expect to write much, but 2K would be fantastic.  Having had some luck in writing at the airport or on an airplane, I’m optimistic.

3.  Watching!  Some movies…  Etihad isn’t nearly as good as Emirates when it comes to selection, but hopefully there will be a movie or three that looks good.  I’m also considering downloading The Young Victoria to watch as research.

4.  Editing!  My friend and author Elena has sent me the sequel to her book.  I’m hoping to help her make progress by making notes on her manuscript.

5.  Eating and drinking!  Hello, where there is champagne, I will be there…and asking for another glass.

I’m not sure if there will be internet on board…or if I will sign up, but who am I kidding, if the price is reasonable, I will totally go for it.  And of course, I’ll be prepared as I would for a usual flight longer than an hour.


What about you, dear reader, what’s the longest flight you’ve been on?  How did you pass the time?  Any suggestions?

On Writing With A Day Job (Expectations Vs. Reality)

There have been a lot of great articles (here and here) recently about what it takes to ‘make it’ as a full time writer.  As someone considering making the transition into full time writing, I’ve really appreciated a very real view into what it takes to make this happen.  I’m under no illusions that I’m going to somehow magically start making a profit or enough to even remotely cover my current salary.  However, maybe I don’t have to give up my day job completely.  Maybe it’s okay to do both.  Maybe that’s the reality of the modern author.

Here are some of my favorite takeaways from the article:

“For a while, I was in a bit of a funk, wrestling with the thought, I’m a writer. If I’m not making this my living, I’m a failure. I cannot tell you how relieved I was to know that I wasn’t the only one who worked full time in spite of being able to find writing work on a regular basis. It is okay if you keep a day job while you continue writing.” 

This is a real thing and I didn’t realize how much I needed to read it.  Not that I could work full time as a writer, but yup, I get in the same funk.  What’s the point of putting all this effort into something that doesn’t or potentially won’t ever support me?  Keep reading.

“If you are working, and working at your craft, you are not a failure. The only people who are failures are the ones who give up.”

And while this statement could apply to anything creative, I do keep working and don’t see any signs of giving up anytime soon.


Do you have similar struggles?  What do you do to stay positive?