Monday, May 4, 2015


Please welcome guest author Olga Godim, who's "novels and short stories are about magic, swords, and the wonderful folks of my imagination." Olga is here today discussing her love of fantasy and magic, and how her day dreams forged her into a successful author. After her post, stick around to read my review of her short story anthology SQUIRREL OF MAGIC.

Thank you, Donna, for inviting me to your blog. You asked me to talk about myself and my love affair with fantasy. Let’s start with the basics. I live in Vancouver, Canada, and work as a journalist for a local newspaper. My children are both adults and live by themselves.

I became a writer pretty late in life. By education, I’m a computer programmer. I worked with computers for over two decades. I’m also a daydreamer. Since I remember myself, I always made up stories and played them in my head, like a theatre for one, but I never told anyone about my daydreams. They were my secret. Frankly, I was a bit embarrassed to admit I liked daydreaming. Even my family didn’t know. I was a professional woman, a single mom with two children, and I dreamed of magic, swords, and adventures fit for fairy tales. It wouldn't do.

I never thought of myself as a writer either, never wrote anything down. No, that’s not exactly true. I thought about writing once before. When I was in grade one, I attempted to write a book. I drew a cover picture, something with a cosmonaut and a spaceship. It was horrible – I have no artistic talent whatsoever. I also made up the back cover, complete with a price. My mom was impressed. She kept that cover for years afterwards, but I soon got distracted by other projects and never wrote what should go between the covers – a story. It remains untold, fortunately for all.

In 2002, I got seriously ill. During my long recovery, I read a lot. I have always been an avid reader, and at that time, I wasn't strong enough to do much else. I read mostly fantasy novels, and although some of them were wonderful, many didn’t impress me. I thought I could do better if only I could write my own daydreams as stories. And then I thought: why not? Maybe I could.

At the same time, my daydreams became more persistent. They swarmed me, they wanted to be told. So I decided to be brave, stop resisting, and let my daydreams out. In February 2003, as soon as I went back to work, I bought a laptop from my first paycheck and started writing a story, the first writing I did since high school. I didn’t know if it was a short story or a novel. I didn’t know anything about writing or publishing. I just wanted to write.

Of course, I needed to learn a lot to get from that naïve, ignorant beginning to now, but the journey has been fascinating.

Why fantasy? I’m not sure. I've always liked fantasy, liked magic, princesses, and knights. I didn’t like reality. People who read my blog know that I’m bilingual – English and Russian. I grew up in Russia. Reality wasn't too nice there, and I didn’t like Soviet literature at all, with very few exceptions. It was too dreary, like life around me.

I wanted an escape, but fantasy as a literary genre didn’t exist in Russia. It wasn't political enough, I guess, so neither translations nor original fantasy stories were ever published. I didn’t know the genre existed; never read Tolkien or any other fantasy classics. To satisfy my craving for fantasy in my youth, I read Russian translations of fairy tales, legends, myths, medieval romances – anything that had a ‘fantasy flavor.'

When we immigrated to Canada, I finally discovered fantasy. And I knew right away I found my dream-home. Since the first fantasy novel I read in Canada (and in my life) – Mercedes Lackey’s Magic Pawn – my daydreams have migrated to fantastic worlds and stayed there.

My first love, in reading as well as in writing, was high fantasy. I have two novels published in the
genre – Almost Adept and Eagle En Garde – and many more are still in my head or in the first draft stage on my computer. High fantasy allows me the escape I always wanted. That’s why I read it and that’s why I write it.

My fantasy heroes are free. There’s no passport control or DNA in the fantasy worlds I create, and magic is there, when you need it. You read my stories and you forget (I hope), if even for an hour, that your bills are overdue, that your boss is an asshole, that your mom is eighty, and you’re helplessly watching her slip away. If I can give you this tiny escape from your worries, then I've done my job as a writer.

Recently, Eagle En Garde won EPIC eBook Award in the Fantasy category, and I’m very proud of it.

Urban fantasy is a departure for me. I have written few stories in the genre of urban fantasy, and most of them are included in my story collection Squirrel of Magic. It started with a random fact I stumbled upon while surfing the internet: that it’s illegal to bring a squirrel to Canada as a pet. At least that’s what Customs Canada website said at the time. You could bring in a crocodile or a panther, but not a squirrel.

Of course, a contrary daydreamer that I am, I started thinking: what if I had magic? How would I smuggle a squirrel into modern Canada? And the characters of Squirrel of Magic were born. After the first story, I couldn't resist the charm of Darya and Beatrice. I wrote more stories about them, taking absurd situations and real dangers and mixing them with magic and humor. All the stories are set in Vancouver, my home city.

I've also written a number of stand-alone short stories in various genres: some fantasy, some science fiction, and a few magic realism stories. Over the years, they were published in numerous magazines. You can access them for free from my website.

My favorite social media haunts:
Website and blog   Twitter   BookLikes   Pinterest   Wattpad

Thank you Olga for guesting at my site today. It has been a pleasure to host you.

A bane of short story compilations (by various authors, or a single author) is the lack of reviews. Olga contacted me after reading one of my comments on a mutually followed blog post (sorry, I forget where) and asked if I would be willing to read her anthology and post a review. After much discussion (no guarantees of a favorable review) she sent me a Kindle copy. I loved the stories that followed the witch Darya and her squirrel familiar Beatrice on several stand alone adventures.

The Blurb:  After smuggling her familiar, squirrel Beatrice, to Canada, young witch Darya embarks on a series of adventures. Whenever Darya needs a supportive ear or a sharp setdown, Beatrice is there for her, loving and grumbling. Together they kick butt of the bad guys and always help friends in trouble.

Buy Squirrel of Magic:
Smashwords (epub, pdf, mobi)
Amazon (Kindle)

My Review:
I really enjoyed this collection of short stories. Author Olga Godim has done something rare in the genre of short stories: she has written a series of stand alone adventures, all involving Vancouver’s city-protector witch Darya and her unique familiar Beatrice the squirrel, yet strung them together with novel like potential. The opening story was well chosen to show off the intrinsic quirkiness of Darya and introduce the story of how Beatrice became her familiar.

The first story also set up the contemporary world of Vancouver, Canada as a living character with a story plot of its own. What I liked most about the setting in all the stories is that Darya and Beatrice interact with the city in such an overt manner. Naturally there are forms of magic and magical creatures that ordinary people cannot detect, but the story plots are careful to blend both worlds in a completely believable reality. The line up of the stories was well thought out, creating increasing tension and drama, exactly as a well plotted novel would achieve; forcing Darla to become more creative with her skills and increasing the stakes to both her rescued victims, and her own moral character.

Darya is obviously a good witch. She is talented, confident, has good moral character, a usually accepting disposition (non-judgmental), a quirky sense of humor, and she loves being a witch. She is neither ordinary (as a witch or human), nor does she stand out. She is comfortable with her solitary life, but is adequately sociable, and sometimes her values as a witch and woman conflict with her sense of moral justice. I loved the author’s use of the cozy mystery writing style, yet Darla herself has a subtle agelessness to her persona. Beatrice is just plain adorable; animated, snarkish, endearlingly loyal to Darya.

I was given this ebook collection for free in exchange for an honest review. It appealed to me as a short story reader, and also as a series book reader. Each stand alone story was thoroughly entertaining, good for a quick read as a break between daily tasks, or as a sit down, lazy afternoon relaxation. I give the collection, and the author, a well deserved 5 star rating.


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Congratulations, Olga! Winning that award is awesome.
Smuggling a squirrel into Canada - now that's funny.

A Beer For The Shower said...

This was a great read. I too started off reading a lot of fantasy, and my interest in writing started because I also thought "This is good but I can do better."

Coincidentally, "Smuggling Squirrels" is the name of my punk band.

Pat Hatt said...

When the stories want to be told they just want to be told. Those day dreams need to get down or they keep on piling up.

Cathy Kennedy said...

Donna, are you not participating in the BoTB anymore? You may have said something about this before, but I'm forgetful sometimes. Anywho, nice book reviews.

dolorah said...

Alex; that first adventure smuggling in Beatrice was a blast to read. Very funny indeed.

Beers: love love fantasy :) You'll have to post a snippet of your playing, love that band name :)

Pat: Exactly.

Cathy: I post for BotB still, but not every time. Was on blog break during April. Will post on May 15 though.

Michael Offutt, Phantom Reader said...

Olga, thank you for sharing your writing journey with us. I can't imagine how difficult life must have been in Russia. It's good that you've made a successful name for yourself and now reside in one of the most beautiful cities in the world. I'd love to visit Vancouver, Canada some day.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Donna, for your great review. Thanks, everyone, for reading and commenting.
Beer, I love the band name Smuggling Squirrels - it feels almost like a cousin.

Botanist said...

So many parallels here with my own writing story - started late (2004) at about the same time as I immigrated to Canada. Settled in Victoria so we're near neighbors :)

My genre is sci-fi but I love fantasy too. So glad you're found an outlet for your daydreams, and sounds like things are going well.

P.S. I was also a programmer for over 20 years.

Anonymous said...

Botanist, I'm amazed! So many similarities. Maybe we could do something like cross-promotion or double events together.

Christine Rains said...

Congratulations to Olga! The title of the collection made me giggle, and the review really makes me want to read it. I lived for a year in Vancouver and that's a great city for urban fantasy. Plus, what an interesting tidbit about customs and squirrels. :)

Donna K. Weaver said...

How many times, I wonder, is a writer born with that thought: I can do better than that. :)

Shannon Lawrence said...

I love the story of how Olga discovered fantasy. That is the beauty of books, and something it's easy for some of us to forget. I'm glad she found her way to fantasy and was able to embrace that dream.

DEZMOND said...

that cover with the babies is beyond creepy.... shouldn't covers be inviting?

Carol Kilgore said...

Olga, I was the same way with stories in my head. I thought all people had them until much later. And it took me even longer to realize maybe I should write them down. Congratulations on your books!

Hi, Donna!

dolorah said...

Mike: me too

Olga: my pleasure

Bob: you are talented :) I like sci-fi also.

Christine: the squirrel thing is so wierd. Normally though, who would think to bring a squirrel into - anywhere?

Donna: lol

Shannon: it was creative

Dezzy: I know. But it does look intriguing enough to open and check it out . . .

Hi Carol :)

Denise Covey said...

Wow, Olga, for someone who started writing books later in life, you've caught up well! All the best to you!

Hi Donna!

Rebecca Ferrell Porter said...

I've been following Olga's journey, so much like my own for more than a year now. I've been meaning to read this collection, but just never have. I've read several of her free short stories, but as an author, I know that doesn't feel quite as satisfying as the cha-ching of change.
Olga, I just clicked the button. I'll be posting my review soon.

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