A Very Proustian Study

The Proust Questionnaire is about delving deeper into one’s personality. It was presented to Marcel Proust in his teens by his friend, Antoinette. Supposedly such questionnaires were all the rage among English families at the time; Proust’s answers were written in Antionette’s confession album titled “An Album to Record Thoughts, Feelings, Etc.” (from Wikipedia entry, Proust Questionnaire)


I love the Proust Questionnaire. In fact, it’s my favorite part of reading Vanity Fair, reaching the back of the magazine to see who’s answering that month.

I’ve found it’s also a brilliant tool for getting inside my characters’ heads and really learning about them, finding out what makes them tick. I’ve used it for Dev, Wyatt, Ryker, and Darby and fully believe it’s worked wonders in unlocking little quirks about them and better understanding how they relate to one another.

Check out what happens when my character Jools Clayworth gets a little Proustian with it.


  1. What is your idea of perfect happiness? Once upon a time, it would have been anything to annoy my older brother, Wyatt. Now I know better – perfect happiness is a load of shit.
  2. What is your greatest fear? Losing Ryker
  3. What is the trait you most deplore in yourself? My use of rage to mask my pain
  4. What is the trait you most deplore in others? Stupidity
  5. Which living person do you most admire? Ryker
  6. What is your greatest extravagance? Smiling
  7. What is your current state of mind? Just trying to survive
  8. What do you consider the most overrated virtue? Patience
  9. On what occasion do you lie? These days, hardly ever, no matter how brutal the truth. Folks don’t like that shit.
  10. What do you most dislike about your appearance? The marks. They are everywhere to make sure I never forget
  11. Which living person do you most despise? Carter Breslin
  12. What is the quality you most like in a man? The ability to forgive
  13. What is the quality you most like in a woman? The ability to forgive
  14. Which words or phrases do you most overuse? Hard to say – lately I don’t have much to say.
  15. What or who is the greatest love of your life? Ryker
  16. When and where were you happiest? Running on the beach at sunset, the water lapping at my feet, the wind in my hair, and a smile on my face. That was so long ago…
  17. Which talent would you most like to have? Sing like Lauryn Hill. She’s human, I know, but talk about badass. I love her.
  18. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? My pain.
  19. What do you consider your greatest achievement? The Death. That’s all I’m going to say.
  20. If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be? Please don’t make me come back to this hell hole
  21. Where would you most like to live? A secluded island in the Maldives, where no one can find me
  22. What is your most treasured possession? my bow
  23. What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery? The Death.
  24. What is your favorite occupation? I only have one occupation – Killer
  25. What is your most marked characteristic? Bringing The Death.
  26. What do you most value in your friends? Loving me regardless
  27. Who are your favorite writers? Judy Bloom and JK Rowling, which shows how long it’s been since I read a book
  28. Who is your hero of fiction? Hermione Granger…duh.
  29. Which historical figure do you most identify with? Vlad the Impaler…just kidding…kind of.
  30. Who are your heroes in real life? Just Ryker. No plural.
  31. What are your favorite names? This question is stupid
  32. What is it that you most dislike? This fucking questionnaire
  33. What is your greatest regret? Agreeing to this fucking questionnaire
  34. How would you like to die? Most days I think I’m already dead.
  35. What is your motto? Survive.



What’s the Big Deal About Diversity?

Thelonious Legend

Why do people make such a big deal about diversity? Why is it so important that a protagonist in a movie or novel be black?  What does it matter if there are no Native-American themed dramas on television? I would argue that there is a strong correlation between diverse content, identity, and self-worth. What I mean is that it is important…no, it is imperative for children of color to see and read about strong characters that they can identify with. Characters that give them a sense of identity, expand their dreams, and increase their self-worth. What do I have to bolster my argument?  How about a few images…


I can’t think of an image more powerful than the first family on this night, Election Day 2008. Close your eyes and imagine this image through the eyes of a child of color. Keep your eyes closed and imagine the possibilities that same child of color is dreaming about after seeing this. It was an incredible moment and will be forever etched in my memory.


Space. The final frontier. My wife is an AKA and has, on occasion, reminded me, “We got sorors in outer space!” Can’t argue with that. This picture expands the dreams of millions of young girls just as much as it creates a pathway to make those dreams a reality. What American is not proud of the accomplishments of Mae Jemison? Her journey to the stars was a historical achievement, but her journey to the hearts and minds of children is what their dreams are made of.


Is there another image that contains as much power, grace, and beauty as this one? Don’t discourage children with your perceived limitations because YOU lack imagination. Challenge them. Thanks to Misty Copeland, how many girls want to be ballerinas today? I don’t have an answer for that, but I bet it’s more than before Ms. Copeland arrived on the scene. Ya’ feel me?

And what about novels? If these images can have a positive affect, would not words be just as, if not more, powerful? And if novels are about expanding the dreams of our children, then let them dream of being heroes. But where are our heroes? Where is our black Harry Potter? Our Latina Katniss? If, like my wife says, “We got sorors in outer space!” then can we not have minority heroes between pages? Well, we can and we do but you won’t find these books being produced by traditional publishing houses. You have to look at self-published titles for diverse books that mirror the real world. And if you want more than “Fund the change you want to see” stop demanding that authors like JK Rowling include more diverse characters in their works. It’s not fair to Mrs. Rowling or conducive to the creative process. And if, like me, you believe diversity, identity and self-worth are related and matter, then show the courage of your convictions and let us hear your voice. What say you?

Please consider assisting our efforts to diversify everyone’s bookshelf by donating to We Need Diverse Books fundraising campaign by clicking —> HERE – it’s vital, folks.




Thelonious Legend, boring IT guy by day but at night Jonesing for that pen and paper. I gots to write! And the world I create is filled with children of color who have super powers, tell jokes, play basketball, and want to be popular. Oh yeah, and they beat up bad guys.  You know what it is.

Want to catch up to Thelonious, try these spots:









Adding Diversity to Your Writing:

A Few Simple Strategies

Laura Oliva


A huge shout-out to Madhuri Blaylock for hosting this awesome blog series.  Thanks for inviting me to add my two cents on this incredible topic!

Literary diversity has been getting a lot of press lately.

Near as I can tell, it all started when NaNoWriMo announced its 2014 partnership with the organization We Need Diverse Books.  While WNDB’s stated mission is to “address the lack of diverse, non-majority narratives in children’s literature,” many writers of adult literature (including me!) have also elected to hoist the flag.

And it’s about time.

I had been doing some soul-searching on the subject of literary diversity even before I became aware of the NaNo/WNDB partnership.  More and more, I’ve been noticing the marked cultural uniformity in genre/pop/mainstream fiction.  It’s high time we as writers lead the charge for change.

I’m fortunate to live in one of the most diverse places in the entire country: California’s San Francisco Bay Area.  I was born and raised here, so I’ve literally been marinating in other cultures my entire life.  This diversity transfers to my writing in a very organic way; it’s simply the fabric that makes up my human experience.

Unfortunately, not everyone has it as easy as I do.

If you’ve lived the majority of your life surrounded by people who look and think like you (insert Pocahontas music here), diversifying your fictional worlds can pose an intimidating challenge.  Where do you start?  Perhaps more daunting, how do you portray diversity in ways that won’t debase, alienate, or offend?

I humbly submit that the surest way to offend any group of people is to leave them out entirely.  With that in mind, here are a few strategies I’ve found helpful when adding diversity to my own work…

1) Turn off the movies.

Hollywood is great for lots of things, but a sound cultural education isn’t one of them.  Sure, there are movies that do a great job portraying other cultures, but those are the exception, not the norm.  Why rely on someone else’s interpretation of a culture when you can make your own observations?

2) Eat something.

Even traditionally white-bread cities have their pockets of multiculturalism now.  Go crazy!  Order food you’ve never tried, bonus points if you can’t pronounce it or any of its ingredients.  Lost?  Ask the server their favorite dish, and make it clear you’re an adventurous eater (if you weren’t before, you are now).

3) Vary your playlists.

Your characters might not listen to the music you like.  In fact, they probably shouldn’t.  I’m a die-hard classic rock girl, but my musical library includes R&B, rap (no, they’re not the same), merengue, banda, manele, jazz, classical, and Islamic and Buddhist chant.  And who knows?  You might find you actually like Elvis Crespo…

4) Get out of your comfort zone.

Go to that dim sum place down the street and order by pointing at the pictures on the menu.  Check out the salsa club across town and let an old Hispanic gentleman teach you how to dance.  As a white woman, a big part of writing diversity for me involves going to places where I am “the other”.  Such experiences not only make me a better writer, they also make me a better human.

You’ll notice a lot of these suggestions involve sensory experiences.  I’m a very tactile writer, and I’m convinced the more of my senses I involve in the process, the richer my writing becomes.

If you’ve been contemplating infusing more diversity into your work, hopefully this at least gives you a place to start.  If you’ve already started the journey, what has your experience been?  What are some strategies that have worked for you?

Please consider assisting our efforts to diversify everyone’s bookshelf by donating to We Need Diverse Books fundraising campaign by clicking —> HERE – it’s vital, folks.




When not sweating blood over the keyboard, Laura Oliva is a full-time mom, wife, amateur chef, gardener, and (non)recovering chocaholic. Laura writes noir romance, romantic suspense, and urban fantasy.  She lives in Northern California with her young son and her remarkably patient husband.

 Want to connect? Laura regularly haunts these places on the Internet:



Writing In The Night

LJK Oliva Books





Why My Book Cover Doesn’t Look Dystopian

Kayti Nika Raet

People judge books by their covers. I’ve talked about that in a previous post on my blog and even made a list of my favorite covers. But what I DIDN’T talk about, or rather discussed very briefly, was diversity in book covers, and not cover diversity as “why all YA book covers feature girls with their heads chopped off?” but as a reflection of the character between the pages, as well as the world around us.

In my aforementioned blog post, I discussed Liar, an awesome book by Justine Larbalestier, featuring a multiracial girl who may or may not be a werewolf. The original cover, though gorgeous, featured a girl who was neither African-American nor biracial. Luckily, there was enough of an uproar about the disparity that things were soon fixed.


Unfortunately, that kind of thing is pretty common. Either from cover artists receiving a description of the book that may not mention some important physical aspects about a character, to marketing executives believing that certain book covers sell better than others (thus the plethora of headless girls, or girls in dresses).

As an indie author, you’re in full creative control, and if you’re an indie author who’s character doesn’t fit the mainstream norm (whether that means they are a person of color, LGBTQ, disabled, religious/agnostic/atheist, or in some way “other”) then you’re faced with a complex decision.

In Niko, my main character is black. I don’t come out and say it explicitly because, well, it IS set in a dystopian, post-apocalyptic landscape and I figured racial categories aren’t what they used to be.

So when it came time to talk with my lovely cover artist (and sister) Hana Kura I had to make a decision.


You may note that my cover doesn’t look very dystopian. It certainly pops out (look away from the boobs, please) but it doesn’t scream this a book with a landscape filled with flesh eating monsters, acid rain, and people interested in genetic modification, plus a dash of romance and sexy sexiness. On average, dystopian covers are non-representative and usually feature a symbol of some sort over a gritty background…


Even though I really really wanted to go with that kind of style, in the end I decided to feature Niko in all her baseball wielding glory for one simple reason: it’s for the girl browsing online (eventually, we will reach the print book stage…) scrolling through her favorite genre, who catches sight of the cover and stops, because it looks like she will be able to find herself in the pages. And hopefully, she will.


Please consider assisting our efforts to diversify everyone’s bookshelf by donating to We Need Diverse Books fundraising campaign by clicking —> HERE – it’s vital, folks.




Originally from Brooklyn, New York, Kayti Nika Raet moved down South when she was 11 where she was bit by the writing bug as well as other less friendly insects. She the author of the YA dystopia, Niko, Harm, and Outsider as well as the short stories Slither and Tape the Devil’s Mouth . She’s also a reviewer for Readers’ Favorite and has her own Youtube Channel Kayti Edition. Her procrastination aids are reading, K-pop, and photography. Kayti lives in Milledgeville, Georgia.

If you want to stalk Kayti, try these spots:







New Book Alert – Realm of the Goddess


YA Fantasy

November 26, 2014

My friend and fellow author, Sabina Khan, has been feverishly working on her book, Realm of the Goddess, since she and I first met earlier this year. We were introduced to each other by another author on Twitter who thought we might hit it off and although I cannot for the life of me recall that writer’s name or Twitter handle, I have to say she was spot on in her assessment. Sabina and I took to each other right away, like we’d known each other forever.

That’s probably because Sabina is all kinds of awesome. And if you don’t already, you should follow her on TwitterFacebook, and her blog at Realm of the Goddess.

She messaged me this morning, totally excited and ready to explode, because her book just went up on Amazon for pre-order. Meaning, you can order it now and it’ll be delivered to your email address at 12:01am on November 26, 2014.

This is great and you should do it – I just did and can’t wait to lose myself in Sabina’s tale of  ancient religion, action, romance, and so much more.

Here – check out this blurb and tell me you’re not intrigued:

Would you put your trust in strangers to save the ones you loved? Would you allow an ancient prophecy to change your life?

Seventeen year old Callie discovers she is an avatar of the powerful Hindu Goddess Kali and she has to save the world from Mahisha, the King of Demons. Now Callie has to accept her fate and control her powers. Before she can face Mahisha, she must find the Sword of Knowledge that the Immortals had given Kali five thousand years ago.

As Callie embarks upon the dangerous quest to find this weapon, she must travel deep into the jungles of India to find a temple only spoken of in legends. The Rakshakari, who are sworn to protect the Goddess, guide her on this treacherous journey, fraught with demons and mortal conspiracies.

She is accompanied by the gorgeous, enigmatic Shiv for whom she feels an inexplicable but undeniable attraction. Can she trust Shiv with her life or are there dark forces at work that will divide loyalties and leave Callie at the mercy of Mahisha and his army of demons?

In a timeless tale of good versus evil, travel across the world to a place that time has forgotten. Here lies the answer to an ancient riddle. Here lies the fate of humanity.

You know you want to be all over that.

So do it – head over to Amazon and pre-order REALM OF THE GODDESS

or just click —>here

or click —>here

Snag your copy, get lost in Callie’s world, and then come back and let us all know what you thought of the book. I love comparing book notes.

Holla bitches.


Sabina Khan is the author of Realm of the Goddess, the first in a series of YA Paranormal Fantasy books based on the gods and goddesses of India. She is an educational consultant and a karaoke enthusiast.

After living in Germany, Bangladesh, Macao, Illinois and Texas, she has finally settled down in beautiful British Columbia, Canada, with her husband and three daughters, one of whom is a fur baby. She is passionate about the empowerment of girls and women, hoping to inspire them with the strong female characters in her novel.