Nano Spotlight: Litharukia of Toronto

November 29, 2013

Good morning, friends and followers. For my penultimate spotlight, I have somebody from close to home: Dianna

My name is Dianna L. Gunn and I’ve been known as Litharukia on the Nanowrimo forums—or Lithy by my friends—for 8 years. This will be my ninth year participating in Nanowrimo and my eighth win. I’ve also been blogging about it for years, and I’m currently hosting my own Nanowrimo Blogstravaganza elsewhere on the web.

I was 11 years old when I won my first Nanowrimo, and though I could gloat about it, what’s more important is what Nanowrimo gave me: the confidence to go for the writing career I dreamed of and the knowledge that I actually could write a novel.

At the end of my first Nanowrimo, my dad was diagnosed with cancer. At the end of my second Nanowrimo—the only year I ever lost—he passed away. The friends I made through Nanowrimo helped me through that and they’ve helped me through many things since. I’ve never met some of them face to face but they are my dearest friends and many are my oldest friends.

November is always a hard month for me, but instead of focusing on the sad memories and getting bogged down in depression—something I am highly suspect to—I write as many words as I humanly can every year. I’ve written up to 300, 000 words in the month of November and gained a celebrity status in my local community, but it’s the friendships that make it worth it.

I’m really excited to be here and I hope I can help shed some light on the whole Nanowrimo experience for those of you considering participating for the first time.

What are you writing about this year?
May I be frank? Yes? Good. I don’t really know. I’m pretty sure it’s going to be a story involving an exile riding a dragon and an assassin, but I have no idea what those characters have to do with each other or what kind of story it will be. There’s also a part of me that’s tempted to stray far from my usual genre of fantasy, though I don’t have any ideas for a novel in a different genre, so I’ll probably leave that for another year.

Who’s the best character in your Nano novel?
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Ninja Spotlight #11: Shauna Kelley

August 22, 2012

Well, I’d like to thank all of the Dojo ninjas that have emerged from their hiding places to answer my crazy questions this summer. I think that today will be my last Ninja Spotlight in the series, so I’m pleased to present Shauna Kelley!

Out of your favourite fictional characters, who’d make the best sneaky ninja?
I’m going with Peter Wiggin from Ender’s Game. In the spin off novels, he definitely becomes a sneaky ninja, but in the original, he is one of the most sneaky teenagers you might imagine. Instead of sneaking out of the house to hang out with friends, however, Peter is sneaking to try and rule the world.

What are you currently working on right now?
Three things– I am working on some clean up of my first novel Max and Menna. The press that originally published the book has ceased operations, and so I am working to make it available for Kindle again. Secondly, my second novel Don’t Wake Up is coming out in November, so I am working on some things to prepare for that. And finally, I am writing a fictionalized memoir about losing someone you love to cancer. This is very tenuously based on my relationship with my mother, who died of Multiple Myeloma two years ago.

If you could change one thing from the history of your life, what would it be?
Not to sound trite, but nothing. If I could cure cancer and keep my Mom, that would be it, but that seems a bit out of scope for the question. I’ve made mistakes in my life– lots, and lots of huge, staggering, and really stupid mistakes– but I have learned from every one of them. There are things I regret, things I wish had worked out differently, but after 30+ years of trying, I am extremely happy with who and where I am. I wouldn’t give that up to change one thing.

Shauna Kelley is passionate about just about everything she does, from writing, to traveling, to reading, to watching movies. She shares her great loves and hates and opinions, both solicited and unwarranted, on her blog at

Ninja Spotlight #6: Suze Reese

July 26, 2012

Well, suddenly it seems like I’ve got lots of Ninjas wanting a piece of the spotlight this summer! Today, I’m happy to introduce you to Suze Reese.

What is your current (or next) project about? 
I’m working on Book Two in the ya paranormal romance ExtraNormal series. (No title yet). Book One is the story of Mira, a teenage girl from a planet called Nreim who gets to visit planet Earth as a student emissary. Mira’s not sure why she was chosen, since she’s considered pretty mediocre on her world. She has a bunch of rules to follow – mostly involving staying away from Earth males. She quickly starts breaking rules, which leads to a very forbidden romance. And then someone starts targeting people around her and she realizes she has to step up her game and figure out what’s going on if she’s going to protect them. Book Two starts with a new assignment on Earth, this time as an official agent along with her hot boyfriend Jesse and her best friend Geery. (Who is a fan favorite.) They start out pretty excited about the job, but it goes downhill pretty fast–from totally boring to totally dangerous.

What was the first story you wrote, (or can remember writing)?
Ooh, great question. This goes waaay back, to when I was probably five for six and had the most adorable dog – a little black cocka-poo named Bleu. I would sit and cuddle up with Bleu for hours and either draw his picture (which I was absolutely convinced were life-like) or write stories about our adventures. (Not that we had adventures beyond running around in the backyard. But I made up some great ones.) As far as a real story goes, I was about twenty-five when I decided to write an actual novel. It had great elements to it. Readers laughed and cried and I got great feedback. But it was a horrible book. I hadn’t yet learned all the elements of plotting, story structure, and things like that. I did learn a ton, however, so it was totally worth it.

How did you first find out about Ninja Writers or the Dojo?
I’m not sure exactly. But I know it was through Ali Cross. I’ve been following her career for several months and like to think of her as a friend (you do remember me, right Ali? =) She’s great at social media and supporting other authors.

I’m so honored to be here at the Dojo! I love the idea of Ninja Writers! It fits so perfectly how I feel when I’m pounding out a story. (If I could just figure out how to burn calories I’d be set.)

In fact, I’ve been going through cancer treatment for the last couple of years. (Yes, I went bald – my most frequently-asked question). ExtraNormal was just a rough draft when I got the diagnosis. This is taken from my official bio: “Meanwhile, I had decided that I (literally) lost too many brain cells to continue working on anything as complex as a manuscript. Fortunately I have an incredible support system who convinced me to at least open the file. After that I felt kind of like Rocky in his last movie when he’s an old geezer pouncing around the boxing ring doing things his aged body has no business doing.”

I can honestly say that I’m in awe with every good review I get. It’s humbling and amazing to me. And a heck of a lot of fun.

I’d love it if you’d drop by my blog and drop me a note! And while you’re there, please sign up for the I Heart YA Blog Carnival! We blog on the 2nd Tuesday every month. See you there!

This has been great! Thanks for having me!

Thanks for coming over, Suze!

My weekend in the city.

August 7, 2011

I didn’t end up getting much editing done so far this weekend. But I had a pretty great time, met some new people, and got out of my comfort zone a bit to spend time with people, which is something that I generally see some value in, as opposed to shutting myself up in my apartment and writing – or writing on public transit with my headphones in, for that matter.

So, the fun kicked off with my brother picking me up on Saturday afternoon. I drove his car along the Lakeshore route up until around downtown Oakville, which seemed to be having a festivity of some sort that shut down the main road, and I stopped to switch places with him, and he drove the rest of the way to North York, and a Karaoke fundraiser for charity that somebody on the Toronto Whedon-fan mailing lists had mentioned. I do like Karaoke when I can go in a situation where I don’t feel like a complete outsider, and Jason mentioned that there were several special Firefly and Buffy themed songs in the program.

It was a lot of fun. I sang four numbers:
Rest in Peace, Spike’s solo from the Buffy musical
The Downeaster Alexa, by Billy Joel
The Impossible Dream, from ‘Man of la Mancha’
The Hero of Canton, from the Firefly episode ‘Jaynestown.’

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