Author Spotlight: Interview with Dawn Ross

Dawn Ross is a daydreamer who has been perfecting her writing skills for over twenty years. With an imagination inspired by a few decades of fantasy/sci-fi books, movies, and television, she has created her own epic sci-fi full of rich characters in a vast universe. It all begins with StarFire Dragons, which Kirkus Reviews says is “A thoughtful novel that owes a debt to Star Trek but works on its own terms.”

Dawn has a Bachelor of Science degree, cum laude meritum, in financial management. She also self-studies history, writing, and various sciences including astronomy and physics. Her character-focused stories include scientific elements such as space travel, space battles, fascinating worlds, cybernetic beings, and more.

Tell us a bit about the stories you write and why?

I’ve always been attracted to fantasy and science fiction stories. I love how they spread beyond the boundaries of reality and into worlds of endless possibilities. Not only do they provide an escape from reality, but they also spark my imagination.
I’m drawn to tragic characters who’ve had the odds stacked against them their whole lives and yet still manage to rise above them to become better people. It gives me hope that others can do it too. I’m also inspired by stories where the good guys win and bad guys get what they deserve.
All these things together have inspired numerous stories in my head, but none as epic as this sci-fi series I’m writing now. StarFire Dragons: Book One of the Dragon Spawn Chronicles was initially inspired by an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation titled “Suddenly Human”. The story has a Star-Trek-feel, but it doesn’t end there. I have dozens of novel ideas following this one, most of which follow the life of Jori, a ten-year-old warrior with amazing and sometimes deadly abilities.

What is your writing routine? How do you schedule your time to write?

That’s an easy one to answer: As a stay-at-home mom, I spend the first half of my weekday volunteering, running errands, and/or cleaning house. After lunch, I generally have 1-3 hours to write before my child gets out of school.

What’s your creative process like?

Many of my stories have been partially daydreamed in advance. I don’t just keep them in my head, though. I keep a ton of notes. I have notebooks all over the place, including in my car. I sometimes use the notes app on my iPhone, and I have several documents on the cloud and saved on my desktop and tablet.
This might seem very unorganized, but in truth, all my notes eventually end up on the cloud and on two separate external hard drives. My notes are very well organized in specific folders, making it easy for me to find individual stories, specific characters, and certain worldbuilding details.
Every year in October, I pick one novel-worthy story and outline it. I start with the basic Plot Dot method, then flesh out the details chapter-by-chapter. By November, I’m ready to hammer out the story. I do this with a group of other writers, both online and locally, through an event called NaNoWriMo. It stands for National Novel Writing Month and can be found at NaNoWriMo.org. The goal is to write 50,000 words by the end of the month. Even though the story is outlined in advance, I’m not afraid to veer off track. Sometimes I find interesting subplots and sometimes I realize the story won’t work as originally planned. After November, my tasks are as follows: write the second draft, get feedback from beta readers, write the third draft, self-edit, edit using ProWritingAid, send to a professional editor, then fix the final draft.

What are some of your favorite Sci-fi/Fantasy movies and books?

This is always a difficult question to answer because there’s so much great stuff out there. I grew up watching Star Wars and Star Trek so even if some aren’t great, they still have a special place in my heart. Firefly is one of my favorite TV shows. The movie that came after it, Serenity, is fantastic. Regarding sci-fi books, I’ve always loved Isaac Asimov. I’ve recently enjoyed James S.A. Corey’s series as well. And since I’m a sci-fi Indie author, I want to mention some great sci-fi Indie Authors: Elysia L. Strife, Craig Alanson, and E.J. Fisch, just to name a few. Frasier Armitage also has a novel that I love. It’s not published yet, though, but he’s a sci-fi author you should look out for. Allen Huntsman isn’t a sci-fi writer, but his horror short stories always give me chills.

Thanks Dawn! That’s very generous of you. Have you ever imagined writing in a different genre? If so, what?

Writing sci-fi/fantasy has always been my passion. The great thing about this genre is it can easily incorporate other genres such as horror, mystery, or suspense/thriller. No holds barred in sci-fi/fantasy!

What other things are you passionate about besides writing?

I love animals and nature. Growing up, my family frequented the Cascade Mountains. We went to places with no amenities like well water, bathrooms, or cabins. We hiked, explored, and camped far from civilization. It was an exciting time for a curious child to discover the spectacular facets of nature.
My love for animals and nature led to my love of art. I enjoy drawing mountains, trees, birds, and mammals using vibrant colors. My favorite subjects are carnivorous animals like eagles, wolves, and tigers.

I also enjoy drawing pets, especially dogs. You could say dogs are also my passion. My mother was the unofficial rescue lady of our town, so we always had them around. I’ve rescued many myself over the years, and have worked at or volunteered for animal shelters, boarding kennels, and veterinary offices.

You can find Dawn Ross’s epic sci-fi series on Amazon in paperback or as an e-book. Read her blog at DawnRossAuthor.com and find her on Twitter @DawnRossAuthor.

Book Review: The Quiet Game-Five Tales To Chill Your Bones, By Rami Ungar

This is my second experience with the works of Rami Ungar. My first experience was his novel Rose, a story about a woman who turns into a plant creature (you can find my review of that story on my YouTube channel DeathGroundReviews). Published back in 2013, The Quiet Game definitely shows its stretch marks. You can tell Rami’s still learning his craft and discovering his voice (of course, it’s arguable we are always learning our craft, even for the seasoned veteran), but don’t disregard this collection outright. It still has its charm. One thing I love about Rami Ungar is the robust exuberance of his imagination. You can tell he’s having a damn good time when he writes, and as a reader, I sense that as well. Even with some of the weaknesses in this collection, the charm of his excitement for the strange roads of his imagination pull you on through anyway. Rami’s not just writing because he thinks he can make a lot of money or attain a lot of fame. He loves it. He lives and breathes it. It’s who he is. Rami Ungar is a serious writer. I respect that.

“Addict” is the first story in this collection. It’s a story about a man struggling with a sex addiction who one day, after encountering a woman struggling with heroin addiction, becomes inspired to overcome his addiction. Using a video that guides him into a meditative state, he encounters symbolic and tormenting visions of his addiction, women he saw in porn videos, prostitutes, girls from high school that teased him. During this delirious process, the entity guiding him into the hypnotic state discloses the void in his life that he feeds with continuous consumption of filth. This is the definition of lust: one who greedily consumes but is never filled or gratified. This story surprised me. Rami handled it quite maturely, despite some moments that felt somewhat overly contrived. He illustrated well how temptation torments us.

The second story, “I Want To Be The Next James Bond”, was the weakest of the group for me, though it still has its charm. It’s a tale about a group of teenage kids encountering a haunted abandoned hospital. The main character Ronnie uses his James Bond fandom as inspiration to brave the ghosts they encounter. I related to ole Ronnie in this tale. When I was thirteen, I loved James Bond flicks (thanks to the N64 game Goldeneye, a gateway to James Bond for many my age). I spent many summer afternoons pretending I was the charming and sophisticated secret agent, defusing bombs, fighting villians atop moving airplanes, jumping out of high rise buildings as they exploded without a scratch, and don’t forget seducing the ladies with that magic line, “The names Bond, James Bond.” All this is part of my issue with the story. I was distracted by the Bond element. The haunting elements and possessed doll lost their punch. Maybe it could have worked better in the longer form of a novella or short novel, allowing more investment in Ronnie. Perhaps the James Bond fandom could have become a running theme throughout the story, his imaginative scenarios strengthening him against worse encounters with ghosts. Some of my issue was the humor, too. It ruined the horror effect for me, making it feel more like a Scooby Doo cartoon instead of a horror story. Though, maybe that’s my fault as a reader, expecting the story to be something it’s not. Perhaps Rami meant for it to be more like an adventure fantasy, not a horror story. The galumphing title suggests this.

“In The Lady Ogre’s Den” comes next, and now we’re talking. Rami hits a strong stride with this one, showing us the bizarre and disturbing experience of a young autistic boy named Jason. He suffers abuse at the hands of a nurse in the hospital and receives visits from a creature called a death wolf that preys on those nearing death. The story gives us an interesting view into the experience of someone suffering autism. Rami himself suffers with the disorder, though at a high-functioning level. He states in a postscript to the story that he dredged up “…long buried memories to write from the point of view of Jason Cambridge, along with calling upon my own personal experiences with autistic children.”

“The Quiet Game” was the first story Rami wrote for this collection, and it’s definitely a strong point. The girls at St. Dunstan wake up one morning to the eerie shock of not being able to hear. Everyone in the entire school is deaf, requiring them to resort to white boards and projector screens along with limited lip reading in order to communicate. Soon they learn that a mysterious force has overtaken the school, and it wants them to play a little game in order to escape this awful scenario. Can they solve the game and be released? Can they play within the rules to avoid elimination? This was a great story. It felt like something that would have fit perfectly as a Dr. Who episode. There’s also a hectic moment near the climax that brought to mind Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery.” This story is definitely a pleasure.

The collection finishes with a slam bang win. “Samson Weiss’s Curse” feels like a pure horror tale. Samson Weiss is a senator working hard on the campaign trail, meeting hectic appointments for speeches and interviews. Then one of the worst nightmares for a man in his position turns up: a stalker begins to hassle him. He soon discovers matters are much worse than your traditional stalker. This woman is a carrier, the carrier of a demanding message beyond the grave. This story is about a dybbuk, a wandering malevolent spirit that possesses the living until it can be exorcised. There’s a great moment in the story when a horde of hellish locusts invade the senator’s bedroom that had me grinning ear to ear, but in a good way. Rami also does a good job sprinkling in those background details of Samson’s life as a senator, adding in useful verisimilitude, which makes the extraordinary moments more impactful.

Overall, I rate The Quiet Game by Rami Ungar with a 3.5 out of 5. The stories are great. There’s nothing wrong with Rami’s imagination, but one big downside of this collection are the punctuation errors, especially when it comes to dialogue. There are so many moments when a sentence of dialogue should have ended with a comma followed by the dialogue tag. For example: ” ‘Well done.’ he said, clapping his hands theatrically.’ These kinds of little mistakes constantly pulled me out of these wonderfully woven tales. That’s a key reason I marked it down. However, as I said before, don’t disregard the collection. This is one of his earliest works, written eight years ago when he was discovering his craft. I still think you’re in for a great pleasure.

May I introduce you to the strange and exciting imagination of Rami Ungar? Please do meet him. You can find him here.