17 July 2019

Book Review of DREAMS INC.: The Novelettes of T. E. Mark - Vol II

DREAMS INC.: The Novelettes of T. E. Mark - Vol II



T. E. Mark penned an excellent compilation of sci-fi fantasy tales with intriguing twists and turns that easily fascinates readers from the first page to the last. The author tells a series of engaging stories from revolutionary AI to manufactured dream worlds in an incredibly realistic way.

DREAMS INC. is a collection of five novelettes that explores a potential future and the consequences any singular technology could have on people and society as a whole. The stories are also firmly rooted in the present, providing a glimpse into current world issues. So, even though the stories are set in the future, the characters share humanities hopes and dreams of today, giving each of them a realistic feel.

The book description provides the reader with quite a captivating sneak peek: 

"-In a world where dreams are administered artificially by Dreams Inc, and no one sleeps, people are losing interest in reality – opting instead for their manufactured dream worlds.

-A woman unleashes a demon when she follows the recommendation of her sentient machine companion by installing a revolutionary AI programming language. A profound story with a dark and refined grittiness to it.

-Bobby Bright is 17. He's remote, a gifted design student and a puzzle to everyone. When Annabeth Bachman, a passionate young therapist, uncovers what Bobby's been working on, her world, his and ours will change forever.

-A neuronthologist is tasked with extracting the memories of a 17-year-old resistance fighter who can hyper-accelerate – move through solid matter when he's caught inside a Pentagon general's house stealing a top-secret war plan.

-Pinnacle is the future. A future where art and music are unlawful. An austere future where people only see in black and white. And in this tragic future, Douglas and Oulette Fischer have gone on the run to protect their daughter who sings, draws and sees colors."

Despite the shortness of the narratives, they are creative and provide plenty of background information. Although the tales are sprinkled with thought-provoking moments, they are also dynamic with plenty of action; the suspense will keep the reader on the edge of their seats. Each story is unique and independent, and do not feel like a variation on the same theme.

This was an enthralling read that had me absorbed from the beginning to the end. The stories flowed from one scene to another with ease, and the author shows an extraordinary talent for storytelling. There are plenty of attention-grabbing moments in this page-turner that will take the reader on quite an incredible ride. I highly recommend DREAMS INC. and give it a much-deserved five stars!


Piper is the author of several non-fiction books, and recently added three historical fiction novels to her ever-expanding collection of published writings, In the Shadow of Her Majesty , The Country Girl Empress. and A Life in the Shadow of the Crown. When she isn't busy typing away on her computer, she can be found chasing after her furry children or holding on tightly to a good cup of coffee. Follow her on LinkedInFacebook, and Goodreads.

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10 July 2019

Writing Historical Fiction: Where to Start!?


A few weeks ago, my friend, freelance writer Angela Tague raised some interesting questions regarding my writing process for historical fiction, which in turn prompted me to write this article. Thank you, Angela for the inspiration!

When I first conceived the notion to write THE COUNTRY GIRL EMPRESS series, I knew from the beginning that I wanted to cover the entire lifetime of Empress Elisabeth of Austria (Sisi), set in 19th century Vienna. While I was quite familiar with her life story and the setting already, I knew there was still so much more I needed to research about this timeframe. The question was: Where should I begin?  Why...with the characters of my book, of course!

Creating Characters



All the wonderful ideas for a grand story wouldn't do me any good if I didn't have people, fictional or real, to play a role in my narrative. However, before I put pen to paper or more accurately, fingers to the keyboard, I had to determine who my main character is and what he or she plans to accomplish in the story. Since my main character, Empress Sisi, was a person who lived in the past, I needed to learn all I could about that her status, lifestyle, and personality. Although historical fiction allows room for interpretation, because it's fiction, after all, it still needs to ring true.

Researching the Era



Once I had a good idea of who my characters  (main as well as supporting)  were going to be, I needed to define the setting of my historical fiction novel clearly. Here are several questions that helped me: What year(s) will the story take place? Will it span over many years, or will it be restricted to one year or maybe just one season? Where will the story take place?  

For my Country Girl Empress series, these questions were reasonably simple to answer, since I had planned to span Sisi's entire lifetime, which in her case was 1837 to 1898. As for the location, it was also rather easy (or so I thought in the beginning): The Austro-Hungarian Empire. Little did I know that the Empress was quite a world traveler, and I had to, therefore, incorporate a lot of her travel adventures into my stories. 

This is when historical research is essential. I borrowed books from the local library, purchased some, and read many articles about the subject matter online. Once I had immersed myself in the setting, I was able to create mental images of the physical landscape and the buildings. Of course, it also didn't hurt that I had visited many of the locations.

Learning About Fashion 



My next step was to research the style of clothing people wore at the time. Learning the names of clothing items and the fabrics used was particularly fascinating to me. Authenticity is, after all, found in the details where historical fiction is concerned, and they are definitely found in fashion.

Studying Architecture



Architecture plays a significant role in writing historical fiction, from the most magnificent cathedral to the tiniest dairy maid's cottage because these buildings reflect the ideals of the people of that given period. Learning the names of some of these structural features and the raw materials used was essential to give my stories an authentic feel. Again, it is all about the details!

Learning About Warfare



Although my book series is not predominantly about war, warfare dominates history. The Austro-Hungarian Empire was involved in many conflicts as well as significant wars throughout the timeframe I chose for my stories. I felt it crucial to study the art and nature of warfare in 19th century Europe, as well as the various weapons soldiers used and the armor/uniforms they wore. 

Researching the Social Status of the Characters



The social status of an individual was of great significance, even though things were beginning to shift within society in the 19th century. Status defined a person's lifestyle and how he/she dressed. There was little fluidity or moving upwards, the betterment of ones' situation. If you were born a peasant, you were, more than likely, remain a peasant for life. In Empress Sisi's case, she was born to royalty, and she couldn't escape her destiny no matter how much she might have wanted to get away from the strict protocol that governed her daily life.

Writing Historically Accurate Dialogues



Once I had written my outline and done my research, it was time to write my first book in the series. Of course, the characters needed to interact with each other.  This is when I felt I could take some liberties with my writing. 

People in 19th century Austria spoke predominantly German. Of course, there was no way I would have my characters converse in German in my story since I was writing for the American market. In my series of novels, they would speak English, sprinkled with the occasional mention of German names. Although this aspect could technically be viewed as an inaccuracy, I don't think it would have done my books any good to write them in German for the American marketplace. Yet, I felt obliged to be mindful of the historical timeframe in which my characters existed. So, they would "speak" a form of formal English, not inundated with 21st-century slang. 

Accuracy is definitely king in historical fiction. That's what makes writing a historical fiction novel so challenging. However, thoroughly researching the subject matter definitely helps. For more tips and tricks, read Writing Historical Fiction: Balancing History and Fiction and Writing Historical Fiction: Chronological Errors and How to Avoid Them.

I hope you enjoyed this article! Since this list of tips and tricks is not all-inclusive, please feel free to  add yours in the comment section below.


Piper is the author of several non-fiction books, and recently added three historical fiction novels to her ever-expanding collection of published writings, In the Shadow of Her Majesty , The Country Girl Empress. and A Life in the Shadow of the Crown. When she isn't busy typing away on her computer, she can be found chasing after her furry children or holding on tightly to a good cup of coffee. Follow her on LinkedInFacebook, and Goodreads.

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03 July 2019

Month in Review - June 2019


Happy Birthday, America! I still cannot believe that the month of June has come and the year is already half way over. Summer is in full swing, and the outdoor fun has just begun. But, before I get sidetracked by our Independence Day get-together, it's time to recap last month. So now, without further ado, here's the list of the most popular blog posts for June 2019, chosen by you, the readers:



Today I celebrate another significant milestone! Today the third book in my Country Girl Empress series THE PERPETUAL TRAVELER hits virtual bookshelves! I still can't quite believe it myself...this is so exciting. The book is centered around real historical figures such as Empress Elisabeth of Austria, her husband Emperor Franz Joseph I, and their children. Come join them as their story continues! Naturally, I fictionalized the story and filled it with page-turning adventures, some danger, and a hint of romance...



As long as I can remember I’ve always admired writers who can crank out thousands of words per day. When writing was merely my hobby, I often struggled to carve out time to write in between my day job, family, and life in general. But since writing has developed into something more I've learned that developing a daily writing habit helps to 1) make more money with your writing, 2) consistently produce quality content, and ultimately 3) achieve your writing goals...



A few weeks ago I received a private FB message from an aspiring writer named Jennifer who asked: “I just graduated from high school and will start college this autumn, and I've been contemplating making writing a career. I just love to write, but I also know that a writing career can be rough, so I'm not sure if I would make it in the publishing world. Can you give me some advice? I don't know what to do.”...



As the plumber replaced the water heater last week, (an appliance that decided to quit working in the middle of the night, but no one noticed until the following morning. Ugh...I'm not a fan of ice-cold showers!) he asked one of the questions I frequently get: How I manage to write as many books as I do!? Within the last seven months the second and third installment of my Country Girl Empress series, A LIFE IN THE SHADOW OF THE CROWN and THE PERPETUAL TRAVELER, were published...



Summertime means lots of fun in the sun for us and our four-legged family members….well, that is when the weather plays along. While long days are spent frolicking outdoors creates many priceless memories, it can also pose hidden dangers to your fur babies. However, when you follow common sense, you can ensure everyone, including your pet(s), enjoy summer safely...


Piper is the author of several non-fiction books, and recently added four historical fiction novels to her ever-expanding collection of published writings, In the Shadow of Her Majesty , The Country Girl EmpressA Life in the Shadow of the Crown, and The Perpetual Traveler. When she isn't busy typing on her computer, she can be found chasing after her furry children or holding on tightly to a good cup of coffee. Follow her on LinkedInFacebook, and Goodreads.
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26 June 2019

Is Writing a Good Career Path for You?



A few weeks ago I received a private FB message from an aspiring writer named Jennifer who asked: “I just graduated from high school and will start college this autumn, and I've been contemplating making writing a career. I just love to write, but I also know that a writing career can be rough, so I'm not sure if I would make it in the publishing world. Can you give me some advice? I don't know what to do.”

Should you make writing a career? This is a question that many budding writers of all ages struggle with. But first, what does it even mean “becoming a writer.” Many people enjoy jotting down their thoughts in a variety of ways. Some do so for personal growth, as a form of therapy, others for pleasure. Then, there are some writers who pursue publication (traditional or indie) because they want to share their stories with the world. And lastly, there are those who want to make writing a career, and along the way make a lot of money. So, my answer is a simple one: If you love to write, and are willing to put in the effort, then, by all means, become a writer. Set your words free, make your dream a reality, and enjoy the process along the way. Just keep in mind that writing is not a get-rich-quick scheme.

Should you pursue a career in sharing your words with the rest of the world? Let me be honest: Being a full-time writer involves arduous work in today’s over-saturated book market. Yes, you may have heard the stories of both self-published and traditionally published authors alike who became rich and famous virtually over night. However, the vast majority of full-time authors struggle to make a living with their writings. I’ve been writing full time for about eight years now, and I have published seven books, with two more coming out this November. But, I haven’t earned fat royalty checks with my books, and over the years I've come to realize that most of us are in the same boat. If you do wish to make writing a career, you need to be prepared for the realities of a competitive publishing market and the possibility of having a second or even third job to pay your bills - can't live on beautiful words and air alone!

I’d like to close this article by saying that if you are passionate about writing and want to make a career of it, then I think you should go for it. Don't give up on your dream, even when you hit a roadblock! I can honestly state that I love my job as a writer. It's my dream come true, and I can’t imagine any other career could be more fulfilling. But as you go after your goal, you need to be prepared to work harder than you ever have before. Give it your all, and with lots of determination and hard work, you might someday find that dreams can come true.

So what about you? What advice would you give others if they asked you if they should write for a living?


Piper is the author of several non-fiction books, and recently added four historical fiction novels to her ever-expanding collection of published writings, In the Shadow of Her Majesty , The Country Girl EmpressA Life in the Shadow of the Crown, and The Perpetual Traveler. When she isn't busy typing on her computer, she can be found chasing after her furry children or holding on tightly to a good cup of coffee. Follow her on LinkedInFacebook, and Goodreads.
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19 June 2019

Increase Your Writing Output with these Three Simple Steps



As the plumber replaced the water heater last week, (an appliance that decided to quit working in the middle of the night, but no one noticed until the following morning. Ugh...I'm not a fan of ice-cold showers!) he asked one of the questions I frequently get: How I manage to write as many books as I do!? Within the last seven months the second and third installment of my Country Girl Empress series, A LIFE IN THE SHADOW OF THE CROWN and THE PERPETUAL TRAVELER, were published, as well as my recipe book 'TIS THE SEASON FOR CHRISTMAS COOKIES. Now, I’m on track to have another historical fiction piece release next year as well. If all I needed to do was write the first draft and send it off, two to three books a year would be a fairly easy task. But we all know that an author has more responsibilities than just writing the initial draft.

First, there's the research. Can't write historical fiction or anything else for that matter without thoroughly researching the subject matter. Then, I generally do at least six sets of edits per book, plus incorporating my editor's finds and suggestions, and a final read-through to catch any overlooked typos and mistakes. With three books published within a less than a year, that means a total of twenty-four rounds of editing.

In addition to the research, writing, and editing, there’s, of course, marketing said books. Because no matter if you're self-published or going the traditional publishing route, we all have to do our share of marketing our writings. And let's not forget the countless other tasks that writers must attend to on a daily basis: social media, communications with readers and industry professionals, writing blog posts and magazine articles, etc. Not to mention other projects, perhaps a daytime job, and just life in general.

With all this going on, how in the world can an author like me possibly produce a book a year much less three of them? As I thought about what I do to remain productive in the midst of all these responsibilities, I realized that these three things help me keep on track:

- Self-Discipline


I can be extremely self-disciplined when I put my mind to it. No matter if the world around me is coming to an end or not, I make myself write every day, whether I'm healthy or feeling a bit under the weather. Well-rested or exhausted, joyful or depressed, it doesn't matter. When it comes to writing that first draft, I will write without fail.

I've also become quite adept at ignoring the internet. It does take some self-discipline not to respond to social media messages or emails the instant they are received. I’ve learned long ago that those messages and emails will still be there when I’m done with my writing for the day. Writing has to be my priority because it’s my stories that my readers are interested in, not social media posts about cute kittens or puppies - no matter how much I love puppies and kittens!

- Adherence to Set Goals


For most of my writing, I determine how much time I have available based on deadlines, even self-imposed ones. If I have projects that require editing, need a book cover, or require some visual aids to be added, while I’m in the middle of writing a book, I will work on those things after I have reached my daily word count goals.

- Intense Writing Sessions


When I sit down to write, I like to begin my writing process by reading the last couple of pages that from the day before. I might edit a bit if I happen to find a glaring error but the primary goal is to simply get my mind on the story flow. Once I've immersed myself in my story, I like to set interim deadlines for what I like to call intense writing sessions. I just write myself a note with today's word count goal and attach a time deadline to it.  Once I've reached said deadline, I establish a new one.

I find that these writing sessions help me ignore my inner editor and just focus on writing. Some days I'm better at it than on others, but overall I like to think that such writing sessions force me to focus on my stories rather than get side-tracked by minutia that often just slows me down.

So, how do you maintain a steady writing output? What helps you to keep on writing? I would love to hear what works for you!


Piper is the author of several non-fiction books, and recently added four historical fiction novels to her ever-expanding collection of published writings, In the Shadow of Her Majesty , The Country Girl EmpressA Life in the Shadow of the Crown, and The Perpetual Traveler. When she isn't busy typing on her computer, she can be found chasing after her furry children or holding on tightly to a good cup of coffee. Follow her on LinkedInFacebook, and Goodreads.
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