Meet Wynn Riis, The Main Character of Apex

I was tagged by the extraordinarily talented Lady Anabelle Bryant to participate in this blog hop discussing a favorite main character. Anabelle writes Historical Fiction and her book, To Love A Wicked Scoundrel, is available now. Anabelle also has another novel, Duke of Darkness, scheduled for release in June 2014.

Thank you for the invite, Lady Anabelle ~ A.T.

Now, I’ve chosen to introduce the main character and hot head of ‘Apex’. Love him or hate him, the Tiger King’s passion and drive cannot be denied.

1) What is the name of your character?

Wynn Riis is a fictional character that leaps off the page and e-reader screen. As I put his profile together, I can’t say that Wynn was inspired by anyone I know or know of. He’s purely born and crafted to carry this story. I think Wynn does it well, particularly considering that he has no idea of how to find a mate, nor what to do with said mate once he finds her.

2) When and where is the story set?

The story begins in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area and moves to Rockingham, Va.

3) What should we know about him?
Wynn is a royal blood Tiger who does his very best to avoid a responsibility he was born to manage. He’s not very complicated, but emotionally all over the place. After watching his brother find a mate, and then the wolfpack males as they caroused about town, Wynn strikes out on his own to find a companion for himself. Trouble is, Wynn can’t seem to pin down the right girl. *hint* He really wasn’t trying hard. So when fate moves him to Dallas-FT. Worth, Wynn’s life changes abruptly. As it turns out, his mate has been waiting for him for quite some time.

4) What is the main conflict? What messes up his life?

Wynn finally realizes that Cambrie is his mate and that she represents the peace in his chaotic life. He wants her and needs her, but the carousing ways of his past causes him to second guess his every action and emotion. Coupled with the responsibility of leading the Preternatural Council, finding out who murdered the graduating class of the Preternatural School, and the fact that his werewolf brother claims a vampire as a family member, Wynn is torn a number of ways. Throw in a mate, Cambrie, that he’s neglected for years and now loves more than life itself, Wynn’s got it bad all over.

5) What is the personal goal of the character?

Wynn’s sole goal is to make Cambrie his mate. With her in his corner, every challenge he faces will become infinitely easier to manage.

6) Is there a working title for this novel and can we read more about it?

Apex – Book 1 of The Citadel Series was released in April by Twisted Core Press.

Apex Cover1

I have tagged 3 other wonderful writers to continue the blog hop. Check out their posts and discover a new favorite author!

Michelle Anderson Picarella https://www.facebook.com/shellypic

Darke Conteur http://darkeconteur.wix.com/writer

Frantiska Oliver http://www.frantiskaoliver.com/

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This Is How Author’s Play

I was tagged in a blog post by a fellow author, Laurie Lyons. The challenge is to answer the following questions and then tag other authors. Because we can be quite the ornery sort, this is a vehicle to pull authors away from their imaginations and get them to tell the world about what is going on in their heads.

On one hand, this is one of the more interactive of our author games. Other fun things we do include passing puns back and forth, yelling Shakespearean quotes and identifying them. (yeah, I don’t do that) Another thing authors do is debate such nonsense as grammar issues. There + Their + They’re … that kinda stuff gets bandied about quite regularly.

Now, the other hand is usually backwards, if you know what I mean. I avoid that type of discourse as if it is the plague. Why we compete against one another is beyond my ability to understand. Readers read and they’re constantly searching for the next great imaginative escape. If your book ain’t the one for them, write another. In the time between, give them a recommendation to hold them until you can have that next one ready. It’s as simple as that. No real reason to bust someone else’s a … imagination because it doesn’t fit your own. Just saying.

Nonetheless, we authors are also truly boring. We’re constantly underdressed, if at all, and we spend an extraordinary amount of time talking to ourselves … even in public. Oh, and our google searches have probably landed all of us on some NSA watchlist. Some of the things we come up with, ahh, that’s the joy of it all. Then there’s the perv….  

Anyway, here is my Q&A:

 

A.T., what are you working on right now?

I’m currently rewriting the third book in the New Alpha Rising Saga. I love the story, but I want to love it more. Ergo, rewrite the damn thing until I’m dizzy and don’t know any better. Then, every other day I’m working on the second book in the Citadel Series. Apex was the first book released in the series and I’m feeling some serious man-love for the main character, Wynn Riis. Dude is way out of his mind. Now that he has a woman … well, you know how that goes. The big Tiger King might turn out to be a fluffy tabby, meowing and purring all over the place – until it’s time to kill something. Oh yeah, I’m also reworking a short story, Snowball’s Chance.

How do your stories differ from others in its genre?

Here’s an easy question for me. See, I write the stories I want to read. That there is advice to all new authors, isn’t it? Heck, we’ve been told that time and again. Now, I don’t to recreate the wheel, but I do want to make that sucker turn 360 degrees, horizontally – vertically – obliquely. I mean, let’s face it; werewolves ain’t a new idea. Lots of writers have and do enjoy developing them. Mine are just different. Here’s a big hint >> Werewolves have puppies, not babies. Dig the ‘aw’ factor when we see a cute puppy … then consider that only thirty percent of puppies are born female, which means there are few true-bloods. Add in the mate-napping and puppy-napping elements, a few other new twists on the old theme, and now we’ve got a brand new bag of tricks. 

Why do I write what I do?

First of all, I love writing. I’m also capable of writing across genres. I have, in fact. It’s just that, when it comes to werewolves, I find great joy in placing them in human situations, when the truth is they aren’t human. Can you imagine how much fun it is to say, “My dark skin doesn’t make me a black man, when in fact, I’m a Wolf. I have paws and a tail, baby. And the next time you call my packmate a white boy, he’s gonna show you his canines.”

How does the writing process work?

It has to begin no later than 5am. If not, too much daily life invades my senses and I’m usually incapable of engaging my imagination. A wife of 25 years and two adult children are commonly unwilling to wait on hubby and daddy to take a break from writing.  

But, when I’m seriously into the game, the office door is closed and a growl is returned when Alpha’s name gets called. Television is necessary white noise when I’m writing. I can do music, but I end up singing and/or getting my groove on. Aaaand if I’m writing a romantic scene, ole Alpha Mate gets … ahem. ‘scuse me. 

So those are my answers. At this point I have the honor of sharing three of the authors I know and respect greatly. Sir Q. is one helluva guy and I think you’ll take to him very well. Dude can spin some serious steampunk. Lady Valarie commanded my respect by simply being a fantastic person. She’s a pearl too. That’s a whole different post and we’ll get to it another day. Then there’s Frantiska (I have the microfilm) Oliver. If y’all don’t know her by now, oh … she’s the truth. So um, I’m taggin’ ‘em. Ya’ll are IT! 

Quincy J. Allen – a phenomenal cross-genre writer – www.quincyallen.com

Valarie Kenney – author of ‘Just Hold On’ – organizingchaosandothermisadventures.wordpress.com

Frantiska Oliver – author of ‘Never Forget The Past’ and several 7DS anthologies – www.frantiskaoliver.com

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PAGE TURNER BOOK TOURS PRESENTS… Rebels, by Elizabeth Lang


The Rebels (The Empire series)

 Rebels

Blurb:

With Adrian’s jump gate, the Empire is readying to take the fight to their enemies. The Rebel Alliance takes advantage of this opportunity to expand it’s power and bring down this oppressive regime.

The charismatic Tucker and his second-in-command, Dain, are at the vanguard of this Rebel push, but is everything as simple as it seems?

Adrian is once again caught up with factions vying to use his brilliant mind when a bounty hunter recaptures him while Kali and Bryce try to save him.

Will they succeed? Are the Rebels their salvation or is there a hidden agenda that will destroy them all?

Charles Sester the psychostrategist is back and at his manipulative best, but whose interests is he serving this time?

 

EXCERPT:

The Rebels – Chapter 7

The shack was swept clear of debris and holes were boarded up as best they could. Kitchenware hung from hooks on the wall, by category, or were stuffed in hastily drafted containers. Tins lay neatly stacked in cupboards, according to food group and expiry date. The room no longer looked as if a tornado had passed through it, and it was far from Adrian’s exacting standards, but this was better than the alternative.

He dipped a coarse sponge into a diluted cleaning agent, squeezed out the liquid so it wouldn’t drip all over the floor, and scrubbed a rustybrown stain next to a table leg. If he hazarded to guess, it looked like a spray of blood that had dried into the boards and then inexpertly cleaned with a caustic agent that burned it into the wood. He leaned into the sponge with his shoulder, ignoring the twinge in his back. After everything they had gone through, he refused to be defeated by a stubborn stain. 

Produce. Think. Solve. He shook himself mentally, trying to throw off the litany that had been plaguing him for weeks.

A croaking gurgle from the heater made him lift his head and frown. Warmed air wheezed through the heating system. The unit was fixed but far from efficient. When Bryce returned from town, they would clear the clogged ducts. 

He glanced at the light green numbers advancing on his databand. Six hours. He squeezed the sponge harder than he intended and brackish water squirted through his fingers.

Have the authorities arrested Bryce? The lack of up-to-date information was vexing and once he had the equipment, he would build them all comms devices. His, of course, was already connected to the planetary networks.

A creak of a cupboard door drew his attention. Kali removed two chipped mugs and set them on the counter next to a whistling kettle. The previous inhabitant didn’t believe in tea cups, saucers or glasses, just beer-sized mugs.

The idea of beer brought his mind back to his missing assistant. Where is he?

“He’s fine,” Kali told him.

Adrian blinked. “You read my mind.”

“I sensed you were worried and then you looked at the door.”

He didn’t remember doing it, and it was disconcerting how well she could read him.

“You sensed something from Bryce?”

“Vaguely. His impressions are not as strong as yours, but he appears to be happy, so I assume he’s safe.”

A sharp pinch of pain in his knees made him shift his weight. Scrubbing floors was an unaccustomed and menial task, but there was nothing else for him to do until he had more equipment and proper tools. “Can you sense when he’s coming back?”

“Unfortunately, no.” She brought the mugs over and set them on the table.

Steam drifted lazily from the kettle, the calming scent of chamomile teasing him with a tranquility he did not feel. Now that he was pondering it, Adrian realized his assistant had no reason to come back. With money from the sale of the bands, Bryce could build a new life. He glanced up at Kali who was pouring murky brown liquid into a mug. Without him, she would be much safer, and potentially much happier.

“I would not,” said Kali, without spilling a drop or looking in his direction.

Adrian tried to keep a disgruntled tone from seeping into his voice. “I thought you couldn’t read my mind.”

“I didn’t need to,” said Kali.

Dropping the sponge into the bucket, he pulled himself up with the table edge, his knees cracking audibly. “The fact still remains, as long as you stay with me, your life is in danger. You heard the Admiral, she will send people after me. People who will stop at nothing.”

Kali paused in the middle of pouring the tea. Her voice took on the softer tone that made him stiffen. “I’m here because I want to be with you. We’re in this together.”

“And Bryce? He’s not here because he wants to be here. He’s a victim of circumstance. If he had a choice, he would be in his bed sleeping, or in a bar drinking himself into a stupor. He only stays because he doesn’t realize that he’s no longer my assistant, that he no longer has to follow my orders.”

“You’re being unfair to him. If he wanted to, Bryce could have betrayed you many times. He can still sell you for a hundred million credits if he were that kind of man, but he isn’t and you know it.”

Adrian stared out the window at the snow-covered garden and the gaps in the fence. It was a bleak landscape, unforgiving and deadly to those who had no protection. He released a heavy sigh. “I never said he was a traitor.”

“I’m glad you know that. You cannot drive us away and none of us can survive on our own.”

As much as he wanted to wipe it from his memory, he could not deny the lessons learned this past year under the heel of the Empire. The thought, the stark reality of it sat like a bitter pill that he had to force himself to swallow. Unconsciously, his fingers slid up the much folded sleeve ofhis workman plaid shirt and he kneaded the tight numbness that radiated up his wrist. “I didn’t say I could.”

She fixed him with a stare. “You cannot die on your own either.”

He wanted to correct her, to say that it was very easy, but a lump formed in his throat, choking the response. There was something else he had discovered this past year, something he feared more than life or death or even the loss of his freedom.

“I know you’re concerned, but don’t be.”

Kali put the kettle down and considered him with a speculative tilt of her head. “Adrian, have you ever considered fighting?”

His brows lifted at the strange question. “I don’t engage in barbaric displays.”

“I’m not talking about physical combat. You’ve been fighting the Empire all your life, one way or another.”

He shrugged. “I fight stupidity wherever it may be. It is not exclusive to the Empire.”

“That’s true, but I’m not referring to a lack of intelligence. I mean resistance, rebellion, overturning a system that treats people unfairly.”

“You’re referring to the rebel alliance?”

“Not necessarily. But they are one option.”

“I’m a scientist, Kali. I have no interest in tilting windmills or engaging in violent rebellion.”

“Then become a nonviolent rebel. I’m sure there are many things you can do to make the Empire leaders sit up and listen. They need you.”

“They don’t need me. Only my knowledge and my skills. They want a human computer that can spit out answers, not opinions. And the rebels are the same.”

“Surely not. They’re fighting oppression. They’re trying to help people.”

“Fighting oppression doesn’t automatically make someone good, Kali. Rebels seek to tear down an oppressive system regardless of the consequences to others. Gekka was a prime example. They took over a planet ostensibly to free people from tyranny, but once they did, the rebels indiscriminately enslaved or killed everyone above a level three under the assumption that those who had privilege must be guilty of oppression. That does not make them better than the Empire. Many were doctors, scientists, educators, skilled people living peaceful lives.”

Kali eased herself into the opposite chair and poured the rest of the tea while he wiped his hands on a towel and joined her.

“I’d heard some bad things about Gekka, but it’s hard to believe the official reports.”

“This time, they were truthful. I had access to some of the higher level communications and verified the details.”

“You mean, you hacked the security channels?”

“Quite regularly. It was the only way to obtain the facts.”

“Then you know what the Empire does to people.”

“It’s not that easy, Kali. Unlike Bryce’s entertainment holo-vids, people are not that simple. They do not conveniently wear black or white hats.

We all live in murky shades of gray. We all act according to reasons that are justified to ourselves. I do not like what the Empire did to me, but I understand their reasoning. I just don’t agree with their methods.”

She lifted the mug to her lips and stopped, peering at him through the steamy trails rising from its surface.

“Do you know what I did before I joined the Empire?”

“It was not in your files.”

“You checked my records?”

He cleared his throat, an embarrassed flush warming his face. “I wanted more information about you.”

“You could have asked. I would have told you.”

“Yes, well…it was easier.”

An amused smile made her eyes sparkle.

“Shall I fill in the blanks?” she offered.

“That would be appreciated.”

She pushed a steaming mug across to him. “I was considered a rebel once.”

~~~

The bounty hunter slinked in the shadows, following the whistling young man carrying the box. Deeper into the forest they went and further away from civilization.

Outside the repair shop, he’d overheard the mention of a tech and somehow he doubted it was Bryce. So there were at least two of them, two bounties for him to collect, and if the other man was like this one, it should be fairly easy. Bryce didn’t notice he’d developed an extra shadow the last few hours.

Argus breathed in deeply, enjoying the sweet, fresh air expanding his lungs. He felt alive out here, connected to the world in a way he never did behind four walls, breathing the stale air of the recycling systems. His boots barely left a mark on the soft pine carpet, unlike the crunching steps of his noisy prey ahead. No man in his old military outfit would be allowed to be so dangerously incompetent. Others used to call them Ghost Walkers.

The young man, his name seemed to be Bryce, was most likely in a service trade and wasn’t a line soldier.

His lips curled in a scowl. Not that he was either. Not anymore. And his men, his former team mates, would be obligated to shoot him on sight.

It wouldn’t be personal, their line of work rarely was.

The young man slowed and turned to look behind him. Argus melted into the shadows, flattening himself behind a tree, his hand sliding to draw his pistol.

~~~

“I was young and brash.” Kali’s hands wrapped around the mug as the scene played in her mind. “Full of ideas.”

She had been appointed as an assistant to Ren Dastrin. It was quite an honor. The soft spoken Senator was one of the most respected leaders on Tellar. People hushed when she spoke, leaning forward to catch every word. Ren Dastrin’s word was law and Kali had learned a great deal from this brilliant, commanding woman.

“My mind was expanded by new ideas and challenges, perspectives I had never known. I learned to see beyond the narrow confines of our world until, one day…” An icy shudder passed through her and her eyes squeezed shut as the memories flooded back.

“I was accompanying the Ren on a diplomatic mission to Sector Eight when we passed near a battle zone. I still remember the flashes in the distance, the ships blowing up. It was the first time I felt so many people dying at once. Their screams paralyzed me. I couldn’t breathe.”

There had been so many of them, souls torn from bodies that did not want to die. She had collapsed, her mind catatonic, unable to shield itself from the onslaught of lives being snuffed out. “They were angry and afraid and there was a hideous darkness.”

Her fingers tightened around the mug and she felt hesitant fingers brushing the back of her hand and tentative warmth reaching out to touch her mind. She opened her eyes and saw hazel ones watching her intently, the hard, machine-like exactness softening with concern.

This was the Adrian people told her didn’t exist, the one who rarely appeared except in their most intimate moments.

“You don’t have to tell me,” he told her.

Kali twisted her hand around to grasp his. “I want to tell you.”

Her body tensed as she plunged into the memories again. “I felt them, Adrian. The aliens. I touched their minds. It was very brief and then it was gone. I think their minds are shielded.”

“Did they know you were reading them?”

Her eyes closed and her brow furrowed as she tried to dredge more details from the sense memories. “I’m…not sure. I felt their minds. One of them at least. I couldn’t get any details but I heard their surface thoughts and I could feel what they were feeling.” Her mind strained. “I think they’ve been watching us for a long time and they consider us dangerous for some reason, but I don’t know why. I felt their hatred though. I could…taste it. It was strong and bitter, like poison. They think of us like a plague, a disease that has to be wiped out.”

He nodded in acknowledgement. “The Empire has known their intentions since they first invaded this galaxy three centuries ago.”

“But it was never real to me, not until that day.” The thought of it still made her ill.

“You were weakened by the shock of the battle.”

“That’s what the healers told me, but it was more than that. Before that day, I firmly believed in our neutrality. I thought it made us superior to the worlds around us, more civilized.”

“You were right.”

Her hand gripped his harder. “I was wrong, Adrian. So very wrong. It only made us cowards, letting others die to defend our world while we were smug in our own neutrality. I finally woke up to the truth and I started speaking out.”

“That would not have made you popular.”

“I didn’t care. I had to make them see the reality of the situation. I pushed Ren Dastrin to give me a chance to speak in the Senate. To plead my case.”

The Senate chambers became deathly quiet when she stood up, her legs shaking, and a cool breeze passed through her thin cream colored attendant’s robe.

 Wisps of thought flashed around her. Who is this young upstart? Why does Ren Dastrin allow her to speak?

She had never felt so isolated on her home planet, so alone.

“I told them what happened, what I experienced during the battle.”

 Her words echoed in the rounded chamber. “We cannot let other people die while we sit back and do nothing.”

“They didn’t believe you?” asked Adrian.

The collective minds shouted her down, refusing to listen, questioning her authority, her agenda. She had never experienced such chaos on Tellar before, such an outburst of emotions.

“Tellar is an ordered and disciplined society. We believe in peace and harmony above all else. You would like it there.”

“It sounds an ideal place.”

“I thought it was.” It had been an illusion fostered by collective ignorance.

The warmth of Adrian’s hand travelled up her arm, pushing back the spreading chill of her past.

“When they drowned out my voice, I was angry and I did something that was unforgivable. I took what I experienced that day, the feelings and impressions from the aliens, and threw it at them.”

“You cannot deny—this!” She had lifted her head, gathered all of her psi-energy and exploded it outwards. A whirlwind of screams and angry shouts filled the chamber and swirled around her.

“I gather this is not done?” asked Adrian’s calm voice.

She took a shuddering breath. “Not without consent. As telepaths, we are very careful about what we send. Emotions are powerful and can overwhelm; it is considered an assault. To send hatred, without warning or permission, is not accepted in our society.”

“You were trying to warn them.”

“It’s no excuse.”

Her head bowed as she remembered meeting with Ren Dastrin a few days later. The senator’s high cheekbones made her seem even more grim.

“What were you thinking, young one?” the senator had asked. Her voice wasn’t cold, but neither was it friendly.

Kali had raised her head, her lips trembling. The last thing she wanted to do was to disappoint her mentor, her idol, but she could not, would not, take back what she said. “I’m not sorry for what I did, Senator, but I am sorry for how I did it. That was wrong of me.”

“It was,” Dastrin said with a disapproving tone.

“I was expecting to be reprimanded and kicked out. Told never to come back.”

They sat in silence as Ren Dastrin contemplated the future of her most junior attendant and then she said something Kali did not expect.

“But it worked.”

“Why did she allow you to speak in the Senate chamber?” asked Adrian.

Kali looked at him in surprise. It was as if he had heard her thoughts.

“It seems odd that she would let you speak,” he noted, “knowing the controversial nature of your topic.”

“You’re right. The senator told me she’d been arguing against neutrality for years, trying to get the Senate to recognize the seriousness of the invasion, but people were content in their ways and the battles were always on the other side of the galaxy.”

“Out of sight. Out of mind.”

“Too much out of mind.” She took a sip of the tea, not caring that it was no longer hot. “When I read the alien’s mind, his emotions, she saw a chance.”

“Can other Tellarans read Andromedan minds?”

“Not that I know of, and I only did it that once. That’s why I think they’re shielded against psi energies.”

“Quite possibly.” He tapped her hand speculatively, his eyes hooded in thought. “Are you considered a powerful telepath?”

“I was rated as having potential, but I’ve never developed it.”

“Why not?”

She looked away, embarrassed. “I never wanted the responsibility of having that kind of power.”

“You wanted to be normal.”

“Most Tellarans can read each other’s thoughts but just the conscious, surface ones. There are some who can reach beyond the psyche and invade memories and the deeper levels of awareness.”

“An invasion of privacy.”

She felt his discomfort, the sensation of nakedness. “Even Tellarans are not entirely comfortable with it.”

He let go of her hand and lifted the mug, grimacing when the tepid liquid moistened his lips. Putting it down, he asked, “Is that why Tellar joined the Empire? Because of your warning?”

“Ren Dastrin led the debates and discussions and they finally held a full referendum months later. The vote was close, but she won and Tellar sent a diplomatic mission to the Empire Central Authority on Earth. The rest you know.”

“Except how you end up being assigned to a science vessel not involved with the defensive efforts.”

A wry smile touched her face. “I was encouraged to leave Tellar.”

“Your people exiled you?”

“They didn’t call it that, but I had, as your people would say, ‘rocked the boat’.“

“And saved your world in the process.”

“They were polite about it.”

A sarcastic snarl curled his lips. “How very civilized of them.”

The door swung open and Bryce bounded in, a cheery smile on his face and a load of goodies in his arms. “I’ve got treats for everyone!”

~~~

Adrian’s brow quirked at the strange idea coming from his assistant. “You sold my services to fix farming equipment?”

If a pin dared to drop, the silence would have deafened it.

Bryce stopped unwinding the scarf. Any minute now, the woolen strands would become a noose around his neck. This was fast becoming the worst idea he ever had. “I thought it might be a change for you.”

“You thought?”

In a staccato burst, he said, “I know I should have asked you first but it seemed like a good idea at the time. And we needed money and you’re a genius who can fix anything and I just thought you could do this little thing and people would know how wonderful you are, and you could get more jobs, you know, ones more befitting your station and—”

“You’re trying to flatter me.”

Bryce lifted his eyes hopefully. “Is it working?”

“Continue.”

“I figured, since we need money, we’d have to work for it, and I don’t have any valuable skills except stealing.”

“And being presumptuous,” added Adrian.

Bryce smiled. When Adrian lost his humor, that was when to watch out. “So you’ll do it?”

“The idea is not entirely without merit. As long as we keep my face out of view.”

“I told them you were shy.”

Adrian was about to glare at him, but Bryce flipped open the box and dug out the worn leather pouch and laid it on the table. “They said you could keep that if you fixed the compressor.”

“This is a tool kit.” Shoving his cold mug to the side, his fingers trembling, Adrian undid the strap and spread the pouch on the table. “A standard mechanic’s repair kit. Not very sophisticated, but functional enough for farm equipment.”

A random ray ventured past the window slats and lit up the room. Bryce beamed, unrolling the rest of the woolen scarf. He mused, “Adrian and Bryce’s Fixit Service. It’s got a nice ring to it, don’t you think?”

“Don’t push your luck.”

The assistant’s smile tempered to a smirking grin.

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About Elizabeth Lang:
 1054908
I'm a science fiction writer who started off life as a computer programmer with a love for reading, especially science fiction, fantasy and mystery.Being in computers, I found my writing skills deteriorating so I decided to take up writing. It became a joy to create characters, stories and worlds and writing soon became a passion I couldn't put down. As a writer, I like to explore, not only the complexity of characters but the human condition from differing points of view. That is at the heart of the Empire series, of which 'The Empire' and 'The Rebels' are the first two of a four books series.

You can connect with Elizabeth Lang at the following places:

Author Page on FaceBook | Blog | Twitter | Website

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PAGE TURNER BOOK TOURS PRESENTS…The Empire, by Elizabeth Lang

The Empire (The Empire series)

 9804652

Blurb:

“It will be interesting to discover which will make you beg. Will it be the pain or the pleasure?”

How do you tame a man without breaking his spirit?

The galaxy is under siege from alien invaders. The Empire is the only force that stands in the gap, trading the freedom of its citizens for a tenuous security.

Amidst this chaos, Lt. Adrian Stannis is a brilliant scientist trying to stay out of the limelight. He hides on a research vessel plying the Outer Rim and finds peace of a sort with Kali Mirren, a psi-enabled humanoid. But his days of anonymity may be coming to an end. Someone has discovered his secret and is determined to make him pay for his treachery. He must finish the project he abandoned years ago, one the Council deems essential in its fight against the aliens, but things are never that simple where Adrian is concerned.

Is he more man than machine, or have years hiding behind a mountain of logic eroded his humanity? Can he learn to love and will he be able to survive the tangled web of political expediency and psychological manipulation that surrounds him?

Will Kali be able to save him from himself, or is there a mystery surrounding him that may explode in their faces?

Everyone wants to know the truth, but will it set them free?

 

Exerpt

The Empire – Chapter 5

 Green-uniformed medical personnel, with facemasks that obscured the lower half of their faces, removed Adrian from the restraints after giving him a sedative.

“This is disgusting,” said Penn, the taller of the two assistants, as they lifted Adrian onto a gurney, the slick, partially dried fluids making a slurping sound as they clung to his skin.

Dr. Greenwell, whose pepper-black hair contrasted sharply with his pale face, was an old-timer and had seen many cruel things done in the name of the Empire. Nothing surprised him anymore. “Be glad it wasn’t you.” He retrieved the scientific log kept by the Therapist and read it quickly.

“Someone’s going to have to wash him.” Yuen, the other medical assistant had the face of an ex-boxer, with a crooked nose that angled strangely, but his hands were surprisingly gentle. At a quick look from Greenwell, he said, “I guess that would be us.”

“You guess right.”

Penn’s nose crinkled under his mask. “You know, I never really liked him. Always thought he was a cold, stuck up fish; but what they did to him —”

“Makes you almost wish you could like him?” said Greenwell, who never became attached to his patients; life was much easier that way. That wasn’t to say he was a heartless man, but he expressed his caring in detached, impartial competence and concern.

“Feel sorry for at least,” said Penn.

“We’ll keep him under for now. He’s going to need all the rest he can get.”

“What about…” Yuen’s sympathetic almond eyes rested on Adrian’s tortured body. Being new at this, he still had a personal reaction, but he was learning quickly.

“Real therapy?”

“After what they did to him, won’t he need something?”

Dr. Greenwell’s lips thinned in distaste as he forced himself to read the rest of the log. “Not sure they want him to recover. Or need him to.”

“Well, that’s…” Yuen’s eyes reflected reluctant resignation. “…none of my business.”

“Smart man.”

Penn adjusted the automated steering controls on the gurney. “You know, I thought he was smart, smart as they came. But letting them do this to him? That was stupid.”

“It’s not our place to question people’s lack of common sense,” said Dr. Greenwell.

“Yeah, s’pose not.”

~~~

Captain Tarn strode onto the bridge; his hands clasped behind hi m, the morose look on his face caused everyone to straighten at their stations. He nodded absently to the duty officer and disappeared into his office.

Her eyes followed his passage as Kali ran diagnostics on the life support and environmental systems. Adrian was free, but she still had no idea what was happening to him. His mind was distant and the emotions buried so deeply, she would need a shovel to dig them out.

Bryce worked at his weapons station, his fingers on automatic as he performed the daily diagnostics on the armaments systems. He’d performed this task so many times, he could do it in his sleep. And sometimes in his dreams, he did, much to his horror and consternation.

Day shift was busy, full of routine tasks, but it was still an endless stream of boringness. Without anything to shoot at, his greatest source of excitement was gossiping about the crew. “Psst,” he whispered out of the side of his mouth to Kali.

Kali’s eyes kept flicking surreptitiously to the closed door of the Captain’s office. “I’m busy.”

“You can talk and work. ‘Sides the computers do most of it. We just stare at it and try not to fall asleep.”

“I interpret the results.”

“Yeah, that’s later.” Bryce chewed on his lower lip as he noticed her preoccupation. “About before, I’m really sorry I couldn’t help. I—” Several lights on his panel turned orange and beeped urgently at him. “Damn.” He rapped the monitor numbers but the indicators blinked obstinately.

“Double damn.”

The duty officer, Pincer, a balding man with a mole on his chin, said, “What’s the noise over there?”

Grumbling under his breath, Bryce said in a suitably respectful voice, “Just a few warning signals on the output flow regulators, Lieutenant.”

Pincer was a by-the-book officer, and his book told him to take care of warning signals before they developed into greater problems. He rushed over. “What’s wrong with them?”

“I’ve already started the secondary diagnostics,” said Bryce, who had just that second, entered the commands to begin the sequence.

“Good. Good.” The mole on Pincer’s chin jumped with excitement.

“It’s probably just a faulty reading. We get those all the time. It’ll even out in the secondary diagnostics. You’ll see.”

Pincer nodded slowly, “Yes. Could be.” He eyed Bryce intently. “But then that would mean the system sensors need to be reset, won’t it?”

Bryce groaned.

“Ensign Mirren, report to my office,” the Captain’s strident voice came over the oval comm speaker on the wall.

“Go on Mirren. I’ll watch the diagnostics,” said Pincer.

~~~

Kali stood at attention in front of the Captain’s desk, staring at a spot on the wall, waiting for Tarn to say something.

Tarn leaned back tiredly like a balloon slowly deflating, losing form and life. He stared at her over laced fingers. “At ease, Ensign.”

Kali relaxed a little and dared to look at his face. She’d been audacious the other day, barging through the officer’s quarters and confronting the Captain with her ideas to save Adrian, but she was acutely aware that he was the most senior person on the ship and she only a lowly ensign.

“You don’t need to be nervous. I’m not Barker.”

“Yes, sir. Is—” Her questions were like a flood of water waiting at the sluice gates.

“He’s in the medical unit.”

“Is he all right?”

“He’s recovering,” he said curtly, his words like a door shutting in the face of unwanted questions.

“I’d like to see him.”

“That’s not a good idea.”

The tension around the Captain’s eyes was nothing compared to what Kali sensed from him, the waves of guilt and worry that rolled towards her. “I don’t understand, I thought you said he was recovering.”

“Physically he is.” A ripple of tension made his jaw tighten. “You saved his life, but I’m not sure he’ll thank you for it.”

“Does he blame me?”

“I never told him your full part in this.”

“What did you tell him, sir?”

“I told him you asked to be transferred to the Trykor. But you didn’t understand the implications.”

“You lied to him?”

“He doesn’t need to know it was your idea.” He said it easily, as if it were a natural thing to do.

“I will not keep the truth from him, Captain.”

“You don’t have a choice if you’re going to help him. He’s going to need someone he can trust.”

She shook her head at the irrationality of what she was hearing. “Then I can’t lie to him.”

“Are all Tellarans this stubborn? Morality isn’t worth anything if it doesn’t produce the right results.”

“I don’t agree.”

“You’re going to have to. Barker and the therapists were never able to break him. He fought them to the very end.”

Adrian’s eyes haunted the Captain; the brokenness and surrender, the anger and pain, the self-hatred and a love he didn’t acknowledge, but which brought a proud man to his knees. Hidden beneath the prickly, icy exterior, Adrian was human, and the vision of those deep, anguished eyes burned into Tarn’s memory. “But he broke when I threatened you.”

Tarn leaned forward, his eyes like lasers, and his shoulders heavy with burdens of his own making. “Do you understand what that means?

That’s why he can’t see you now.”

Kali couldn’t believe her ears. “Adrian never broke,” she said fiercely, “What he did…” Her voice faltered; the memory of the pain, the anguish, and the horror of what they did to him… “What he did took a great deal of courage.”

Startled by her outburst, Tarn lowered his hands to the table. “Perhaps, but he won’t see it that way. He will see it as a weakness.”

Sadness dulled her gray eyes and her heart was heavy. At the back of her mind, she had known it was a possibility Adrian might push her away. He would see her and be reminded of the cost he had to pay. She nodded, her throat too tight to make a response.

“You’re a good woman. They’re going to watch both of you carefully on the Trykor. Adrian will have no choice except to do what they want, and he will consider that worse than dying. Be careful when you’re over there.”

He stared at her for a moment before sending her into the hungry jaws of fate. So young and inexperienced when she first joined the crew. Full of hopes and ideals, a few less now than when she started. Reality had a tendency to do that, dash the aspirations of the uninformed.

The conversation had ended, but something tugged at Tarn, one final truth that had to be told. His fingers tapped together as he contemplated what he was going to tell her. He was her superior officer; he was not supposed to get personal. But Adrian’s face haunted him. “Stannis saved my career. Did you know that?”

Kali’s eyes widened. “I didn’t.”

Tarn leaned back, his elbows resting on the molded arm rests, allowing the past to creep up to him. “We’re an exploration vessel.” Not much of one.Kali’s eyebrows rose in puzzlement.

“But the ship hadn’t found anything worth reporting in years. No valuable minerals. No planets worth colonizing. Nothing of note. Command was going to recall the ship, probably demote me.” He remembered thinking his career was over until he wandered into Adrian’s lab. Tarn wasn’t sure why he turned to Stannis for help; it had been an act of desperation and insanity on his part. “Stannis spent months developing a new scanner to give them.”

“I thought…he was obsessing over it.”

“No one knows. He made me swear not to tell anyone.” He sighed tiredly; there was nothing he could do for either one of them. “You’re being sent over as his consort. You will share a cabin together.”

“No, I don’t—” Her voice trailed off in shock. She knew Firsters had ‘connections’ arranged by special appointment. Directed genetics.

Perhaps they were interested in her psi abilities. How would Adrian feel about this, or would it merely be an order he had to follow? “We don’t have that kind of relationship.”

“You’re going to have to work something out.”

“I—”

“You are being used as leverage against his cooperation. They have to believe you’re intimate. I don’t have any choice.”

It wasn’t what she thought, it was even worse. “He’s not going to like it.”

“He’s an adult. I’m sure he’ll manage. We’ll be arriving at Base 337 in three days.”

She shook her head vigorously. “We really don’t have that kind of relationship. He barely tolerates me helping him.”

“I’m sure you’ll think of something. You’re dismissed Ensign.”

~~~

Feather-light fingers slid down Adrian’s body in caressing circles, seductive warmth that went straight to the pleasure centers of his brain. He bit back a moan, his body betraying him.

“No!” his eyes snapped open, a hoarse, angry denial on his lips as every muscle tensed.

“You’re safe, Lieutenant,” said the comforting tenor of the medical assistant, Yuen. “You’re no longer in Security Section. It’s all right.”

Adrian blinked in the glare of the panel lights. Blurry vision sharpened, horror gave way to reality, which was only horror waiting to happen. He flinched and pulled away as Yuen’s hand unexpectedly rested on his arm. His teeth bared in a snarl.

Yuen lifted his hand quickly, his eyes sad. “I’m sorry, Lieutenant. I didn’t mean to alarm you.”

Adrian hated people, hated eyes filled with pity whenever they looked in his direction. He wanted to finish the Neutron Wave Project, and then he wanted it to end. Human beings could destroy themselves as much as they wanted to; it didn’t concern him any longer. Mental walls thickened, trying to find impenetrable perfection in anger as he buried pain and shame in a mountain of logic.

~~~

An envious gleam brightened Bryce’s eyes when he found out Ka li was going over to the Trykor with Adrian. “Oh, you’re luuucky. What I wouldn’t give, and then some.”

He sighed wistfully, imagining the beautiful women—he couldn’t imagine a flagship without lots of them—and all the mouth-watering foods waiting for a discerning palate like his. Just the thought of it made him think of the fresh, sweet strawberries he’d stolen from a fine restaurant once, well maybe more than once, and the taste of fresh meat, the delicious juices squishing out as he took a bite.

“That’s not why I’m going,” snapped Kali.

“You’re in a cheerful mood.” Bryce eyed his partner-in-line as they waited their turn at the food dispensers. He didn’t understand why she should be in such a foul temper. She was going to a place of his dreams, and Adrian was fine, if a little worse for wear. What was her problem? So

what if the silly man didn’t want to go. Adrian would find heaven irritable. That wasn’t anything new.

“You wouldn’t understand.” Kali stepped up to the dispenser and punched in her ident-code. She touched the screen, scrolling through the menu, a simple line drawing of each food category served as icons.

“Yeah, yeah, I’m just a lower rank, what would I know?”

“Yes, what would you know?” Kali’s voice was harsh as she tapped the pictures for a plain multi-protein sandwich and a steaming mug of hot coffee.Bryce’s nose twitched in distaste when he saw the unappetizing items rolling along the food conveyor. “That’s disgusting. Do people really eat that? Oh, I forgot, you’re an alien. Probably don’t have taste buds.”

Sliding the plates onto her tray, she gave him a slicing glare but it glanced off Bryce’s thick skin.

He grinned impudently. It took someone higher up the food chain and much more intimidating than Ensign Kali to faze him.

“I may be alien,” her voice was taut with anger, “but at least I try to be human.”

Bryce shrugged. “Never said I was human.”

Kali didn’t hear his words as she scanned the crowded room, looking for a free spot to sit.

“You planning to drink that coffee or strangle it until it begs for mercy?” asked Bryce.

“Oh.” Kali looked down in surprise. Her fingers wrapped around the dull green coffee mug, squeezing it ever tighter until the bones stood out on her knuckles. “It’s all yours.”

She dropped the mug haphazardly on the tray, black liquid spilling from the sides, and stepped back from the dispenser to let Bryce have his turn.

“Hey, Kali, you want to sit with me?” asked Bryce.

Startled out of her thoughts, Kali stared at him before looking down at her tray. The gray spread of protein between two lifeless slabs of offwhite bread made her stomach turn. “You’re right. This is disgusting. I don’t know what I was thinking.”

Bryce looked back at the fast-growing line. No one was about to let them slip back in to get another order. “S’alright. Lucky I took extra then.”

A tall stack of blueberry pancakes, smothered in butter and syrup, was leaning dangerously on his plate. “You can have some of mine.”

Kali followed him reluctantly as he led the way to a corner table and elbowed them some room. He slid a few pancakes onto her plate.

“Sorry about before.” She poked at a pancake, stabbing it listlessly with her fork.

“I deserved it,” Bryce mumbled, as he chewed a mouthful. “I know you’re worried about the Lieutenant.”

Putting her fork down, Kali stared glumly at the butter melting into a pool of golden yellow. “Do you think the rumors are true?”

Bryce glanced at her nervously, stuffed another forkful in his mouth and chewed slowly this time. “What rumors?” he asked innocently.

“You know which ones. They’ve been all over the ship. “

“Maybe I have.” In fact, he knew quite a bit. The lower ranks grapevine was far more efficient than the ones for the officers.

“I want to know.”

“You’d better ask him.”

“Captain Tarn said that he wasn’t ready to see anyone, but…I think he doesn’t want to see me.”

“Don’t worry about it. I’m sure it isn’t personal.” He squirmed in his seat and crossed his legs under the table. “What they did to him wasn’t pretty. It’s no wonder he doesn’t want to see anyone.” He hoped she didn’t want any details. The pancakes lay neglected on the plate, staring up at him in accusation, berating him for his lack of common sense. “It’s better if you don’t know.” He’d promised himself that no one was ever going to do that to him. Nothing was worth being tortured like that.

“So it’s true.”

He looked up at her, and her eyes made him hesitate. What was it like to have someone care about you like that? “I’m sorry. I don’t know what you’re going to find when you see him.”

~~~

Adrian slid shaky legs over the side of the bed, pausing as he caught his breath and glanced up to make sure Yuen wasn’t making any motions to help. The medical assistant’s face was carefully schooled to express only mild interest. Adrian suspected sympathy lay hidden away behind those almond eyes, but the man was smart and seemed to know what his patient needed. He noted this fact and concentrated on his next move as his legs dangled from the edge of the bed. This step had been rehearsed numerous times in his head. He touched his toes to the floor, feeling a shock of cold tingling up his leg. His body tensed and muscles contracted as he angled to put more weight forward. He felt like an infant taking his first awkward steps. Weak and a twinge of pain, but it was manageable. So far, so good.

Gripping the padded support bar, he sucked in a quick steadying breath and let it out slowly as he increased the weight on his legs. His jaw tightened as hot needles of pain threaded through his calves. He stood, a bit wobbly and out of breath, but he was upright. It was taking all of his concentration to keep standing, but most important of all, he did it alone.

“It’s amazing how much muscle tone can be lost when you’re immobile for any length of time,” said Yuen, as if he was a commentator at a sports event. “Do you want to try a few steps?”

Adrian’s legs were shaking. Standing took more out of him than he anticipated and in his state, he would most likely fall flat on his face without help. “Perhaps not today.”

“You’re right,” said Yuen. “Would you mind if I help, sir?” He looked over at Dr. Greenwell who was speaking to another MA nearby. “Not because you need it, you understand. I have to look like I’m doing my job.”

Adrian’s eyes narrowed but he didn’t refuse when Yuen put arms around his shoulders and helped him back onto the bed.

The Captain entered the medical unit. “Lt. Stannis.”

There was no reaction on Adrian’s face but his heart beat harder. This man had witnessed his downfall, had preyed on him like an animal smelling weakness.

Yuen stood to attention. “Sir.”

Tarn waved his hand in dismissal. “Leave us.”

Glancing at Adrian’s blank face, Yuen nodded and removed himself from the room.

“Captain.” Adrian’s voice was expressionless as he leaned back on the pillow.

“We’ll be arriving at Base 337 tomorrow. How are you feeling?”

“I will be mobile.”

“That’s good,” said Tarn, though it was clear he had reservations. “You need to behave yourself on the Trykor. There are many more Barkers over there.”

“It’s not the Barkers that concern me.”

The accusation hung between them, a choking smoke that refused to clear. Tarn said, “Kali Mirren will be going over as your consort.”

Adrian froze. He asked harshly, “What do you get out of this?”

“A few more years of reprieve. And then, maybe an early retirement.”

“Is that all?” Sarcasm dripped like hot wax. “It’s disconcerting to discover I’m worth so little.”

“You may not believe it, but I’m doing this for your own good. You have to learn to play the game. It’s the only way to survive.”

“You’ve made that very clear.”

The temperature was dropping quickly. “The Empire is all we have. We might as well make the best of it.”

“If you have no further orders, Captain, I would like to rest.”

“There is one other thing. The matter of your personal attendant. I know you’ve never wanted one, but as a Firster, you are entitled to one. The Fleet Admiral will most likely assign you one of his own men. Do you understand?”

Having a PA was an irritant Adrian had never encumbered himself with. He would lose some of his precious privacy and there was little enough of it already, but if Tarn was right… “You will provide one from the Sedener?”

“I want you to pick your own. You may not trust anyone on this ship, but at least it will be a familiar face. It’s the least I can do for you.”

Adrian looked off in the distance. Tarn was right. Other than for Kali, he had little faith in anyone on this ship. He had trusted the Captain to a limited extent, but that had obviously been a mistake. “Bryce.”

“Sorry?” Tarn leaned forward, as if he hadn’t heard right. “Did you just say Bryce?”

“Yes.”

“Of all the people, why Bryce? The man is a thief and a cheat. He barely escaped a trip to a penal colony because he took the military service option. Plus he’s lazy and unreliable. I thought you detested those qualities?”

“I do.”

Tarn shook his head. “Then I don’t get it. There must be someone better qualified.”

“There are.”

“But you want Bryce?”

“That is my choice.”

“All right, it’s your funeral. I’ll tell him to pack his things. I imagine you’ve just made his day. Tarn stared at him for a moment as something occurred to him, but he left it unsaid.

Adrian returned his stare, his face blank.

~~~

After the Captain left, Adrian lay back down to rest. His carefully laid plans were unraveling. With Kali designated as his consort, it was virtually impossible to ignore her. The symbol of his weakness would be in his room, sharing the same space, breathing the same air, and sleeping in the same bed. From a distance, it had been a pleasantly diverting thought, but not when it was forced on him like this. He would have to find a way to maintain a strictly professional relationship. In the same room.

She would insist on doing things for him, but he had Bryce now. The irritating thief and busybody was going to have to earn his keep.

Concentration needed to be maintained in order to keep Kali out of his mind. It was difficult. Even now, he heard her gentle voice at the edge of his consciousness. She was his weakness. He could not afford one on the Trykor.__

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About Elizabeth Lang:
 1054908
I'm a science fiction writer who started off life as a computer programmer with a love for reading, especially science fiction, fantasy and mystery.

Being in computers, I found my writing skills deteriorating so I decided to take up writing. It became a joy to create characters, stories and worlds and writing soon became a passion I couldn’t put down. As a writer, I like to explore, not only the complexity of characters but the human condition from differing points of view. That is at the heart of the Empire series, of which ‘The Empire’ and ‘The Rebels’ are the first two of a four books series.

You can connect with Elizabeth Lang at the following places:

Author Page on FaceBook

Blog

Twitter

Website

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PAGE TURNER BOOK TOURS PRESENTS…Murder On Mars

Murder on Mars

(A New Orleans Mystery)

Blurb: A paranormal force has lured Ava to New Orleans, where shadows lurk behind every corner and an unknown power has yet to be unleashed. There is a darkness in New Orleans, one that has brought sixteen year old Ava Lopez to the city in search of her best friend, Dyson. A dark crime has been committed, and there are supernatural forces involved. Three sisters who whisper “fate” are awaiting the arrival of the Guardian. Shadow People fiercely haunt the city, unchallenged, but Ava senses that Dyson may be involved with their crimes. She must discover the secret that the Shadows are so determined to keep hidden. Ava will have to risk everything, because where the Fates are concerned there are no second chances.

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About M.M. Shelley: M.M. Shelley is a storyteller, word smith and dreamer. She has traveled the world extensively in search of the magic which is often overlooked in every day life. M.M. Shelley is a native of southern California, and a student of mythology from which she gets much inspiration.

You can contact M.M at the following places:

Website

Twitter

Facebook

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‘Dragonthology’ by Untold Press

Untold Press presents…

dragonthology

Available here

Blurbs:

Enter the pages of the Dragonthology. No single story has ever been great enough to contain the mystical, wondrous creature known as the dragon. We assembled the greatest draconian tales and put them between the covers of a single tome to satisfy your hunger for everything dragon. Seven magnificent stories, ranging from science fiction to mystery, await you within.

The Case of the Bloodstone Dragon by G.L. Jackson

gwynne jackson

A washed up has been, Private Investigator Clark is down to his last $100. That is, until the night a mysterious femme fatale walks through his door weaving a tale of intrigue in hope of recovering an artifact steeped in mystery and danger. What follows is a raucous ride through a little known human and dragon history, played out on the streets of New York City.

Unto the Breach by Jason Andrew

jason

Jonathan Heller uncovers an unusual secret during one of the bloodiest campaigns of World War One in the middle of horrific trench warfare.  Can he convince an ancient dragon that humanity is worthy of life during their darkest hour?

The Dragon of Sullivan Hall by Marian Allen

marian allen

A dormitory full of fun loving female students, an angry red dragon with a litter full of hungry whelps, and a particular student of Irish descent. This won’t end well for the dragon.

Egg Hunt by Jay Wilburn

jay wilburn

A lonely smuggler must make decisions he never dreamt possible in the darkness of space to elude capture and protect his precious cargo of dragon eggs. When one of them hatches, it threatens to damage his ship. Can a person change enough to save a ship, a dragon, and himself?

The Clan by Troy Lambert

troy lambert

Dragons return to the earth and humanity enslaves them with the last remnants of technology of their dying race. Now the technology of old is fading. Will the dragons be able to rise again? Will the humans declare war, or will a peaceful solution be found? It all rests in the hands of an ancient dragon, and a lowly shepherd and his clan.

Dragon Seeks a Wife by Sandra Graves

sandra graves

What happens when a dragon falls ill and is told he will die in a year and a day unless he finds his one true love? The only thing a dragon can do. He sets out on a quest to win the hand of the perfect mate for a dragon–the daughter of the king. Aided by a Quetzal bird sorcerer, he begins his quest. An old fashioned fairy tale with a Meso-American twist.

Darkness Taken by J.A. Campbell

j.a. campbell

In a land where children are warriors and the only adults are mythical creatures, all are called to fight the Darkness. Til and her dragon partner, Heliodor, complete the perfect Welcome Ceremony, but their joy is short lived. The Dark has slain a unicorn and taken her foal back to the Darklands. Can Til and Heliodor venture where none go and rescue the young unicorn?

 

Author Bios:


Marian Allen

Marian Allen writes science fiction, fantasy, mystery, humor, horror, mainstream, and anything else she can wrestle into fixed form.

Allen has had stories in on-line and print publications, on coffee cans and the wall of an Indian restaurant in Louisville, Kentucky.

Allen is a member of Quills and Quibbles and the Southern Indiana Writers Group, and is a regular contributor to SIW’s annual anthology.

Find out more about Marian at  http://MarianAllen.com  and follow her on twitter @MarianAllen

 

J.A. Campbell

Julie has been many things over the last few years, from college student, to bookstore clerk and an over the road trucker. She’s worked as a 911 dispatcher and in computer tech support, but through it all she’s been a writer and when she’s not out riding horses, she can usually be found sitting in front of her computer. She lives in Colorado with her three cats, her vampire-hunting dog in training, Kira, and her Irish Sailor.

She is the author of many Vampire and Ghost-Hunting Dog stories and the young adult urban fantasy series The Clanless.

Find out more about Julie at  www.writerjacampbell.com  and follow her on twitter @Pfirewolf

 

G.L. Jackson

G.L. Jackson lives in the hills outside Portland, Oregon with her family. She’s a licensed massage therapist, but when she’s not working at that she’s either writing, reading, taking photographs, or indulging in philosophical discussion with the birds, stray cats, raccoons, and other creatures that stop by on a daily basis. Much to the chagrin of her parents, she cut her literary teeth at an early age by writing and performing plays with her two sisters. From there she moved on to stories both short and long, but poetry has remained elusive.  Born and raised on the east coast, she’s fallen in love with the Pacific Ocean. The Case of the Bloodstone Dragon is her first detective story.

Find out more about Gwynne at gwynnejackson.wordpress.com  and follow her on twitter @notsuestorm

 

Jay Wilburn

Jay Wilburn lives in Conway, South Carolina with his wife and two sons. His novel, Loose Ends: A Zombie Novel, is available now. He has a novella, Circuit Rider, in the acclaimed anthology Realms of the Undead.  He has published a number of horror and speculative fiction stories.

Follow his many dark thoughts @AmongtheZombie on Twitter or at JayWilburn.com.

 

Jason Andrew

Jason Andrew lives in Seattle, Washington with his wife Lisa.  He is a member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, the Horror Writers Association, and the International Association of Media Tie-In Writers.   His short fiction has appeared in markets such as Shine: An Anthology of Optimistic SF, Frontier Cthulhu: Ancient Horrors in the New World, and Dark Tales of Lost Civilizations.  In 2011, Jason received an honorable mention in Ellen Datlow’s List for Best Horror of the Year for his story “Moonlight in Scarlet”.  Jason also writes for awesome RPG games such as Vampire: the Masquerade and Shadowrun

Find out more about Jason at www.jasonbandrew.com  and follow him on twitter @jasonbandrew

 

Sandra Graves

Raised in Colorado by European immigrant parents who passed on their love for both great literature and great music, Sandra has had her nose in a book since she first learned to read.  When she isn’t reading, she’s either writing fiction or designing her latest artwork project.  She also owns and operates her own business.

Sandra spent her school years in Denver and her summers attending musical events in the mountain valley of Aspen.  Throughout her youth she was a talented cellist, achieving first chair position in the Colorado Youth Symphony as well as a position in a semi-professional symphony while in high school.  She earned an MA degree in Anthropology from Eastern New Mexico University where she met her husband.  They have been married for more than thirty years.

She currently lives in Minnesota, a state far away from her beloved mountains but featuring thousands of lakes and rivers.  She is combating homesickness by writing a novel that takes place in the years of the Colorado gold rush. She’s looking forward to the necessity of doing on-site research within the next year.

Find out more about Sandra at www.IsisRising08.com

 

Troy Lambert

Troy began his writing life at a very young age, penning the as yet unpublished George and the Giant Castle at age six. He grew up in Southern Idaho, and after many adventures including a short stint in the US Army and a diverse education, Troy returned to Idaho, but the north end of the state this time, where he currently resides.

Troy works as a freelance writer and researcher by night, and the Museum Operations Specialist and Head of Research at the Wallace District Mining museum by day. He truly loves to write dark, psychological thrillers and released Broken Bones, a collection of his short stories, last September to great acclaim and with reasonable success. His new thriller Redemption is available now.

Troy lives with his wife of eleven years, two of his five children and two very talented dogs. He is a skier, cyclist, hiker, fisherman, hunter, and a terrible beginning golfer. The sequel to Redemption, titled Temptation will be released early in 2013.

Find out more about Troy at www.troylambertwrites.com  and follow him on twitter @authortroy

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PAGE TURNER BOOK TOURS PRESENTS…

The Tide Breaker by Sonya Watson

Tide Breaker Cover

Blurb: Once upon a time, there was a sixteen year-old girl that lost both her parents under unusual circumstances. Abrianna was lonely and found some comfort in the arms of her boyfriend, Michael. Life turned grim when she realizes that a man, who was once the enforcer of fate, wanted her to die. The disgraced enforcer had taken great steps to ensure Abrianna’s death and planned to do this by enlisting the help of humans and creatures without their knowledge. Evil had washed over the land the humans named Dainesville. Abrianna had the power to heal the land and when she did she would return prosperity to the lives of the townspeople. When the time came for Abrianna to stand alongside her half-brother, Stephen, to fight the coming evil she did so without hesitation. Life ended. Darkness fell. Love faded. The End?

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Tonya WatsonAuthor Bio:
Sonya was born in Mandeville, Manchester, Jamaica but moved to Canada eleven years ago. She discovered writing when she was eleven. However, was unable to pursue it since she lived in a country where writing was impractical. She rediscovered the art during third year at York University. Kinesiology, the program she was enrolled in, was no longer simulating and found herself questioning her purpose in life. This led her to poetry and poetry led her to writing novels.

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We’ve been here before

Although I love old soul music, I’m not an old soul. I’m not saying new music isn’t pretty good, too. It is. Take Anthony Hamilton, Adele, Taylor Swift … the list goes on, they’re really good. Truth be told; I’m still waiting on Christina Aguilera to pop something new. That little lady has some serious pipes.

For me, though, it’s just that old music strikes deeply. The meaningful lyrics of the times were spot-on. Marvin Gaye’s ‘What’s Going On?’ is one. Stevie Wonder wrote a few. I’m sure you can name some, as well. Trouble is; seems like the more things change, passions and ideals don’t always follow. That’s good in many cases, but bad in others. Take this year; divisive hate is in the air. The sickness appears to have permeated every institution, and so many people. The hate I’m talking about wasn’t left in the past, tragically. We have to face it yet again. All of us.

Well, my favorite song is still appropriate for today, along with my mantra, ‘History is a point of reference, not an anchor.’ ~ A.T.

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5+ with Beau Watson

Today I have the pleasure of chatting with Beau Watson, Author of ‘Dreamlancer’, published by Ring Of Fire Books in July 2012.

 

 

 

 

Here’s a brief synopsis; After a wizard breaks into his room, Ryan Wilkinson is whisked away to the beautiful kingdom of Elyria. The Elyrians are searching for their next Dreamlancer and believe Ryan to be an excellent candidate. To prove his worth, he must compete against the Kingdoms of the Dream Realm in the Tournament of Heroes – a series of six grueling contests ranging from jousting and dueling to engineering and sailing. While he is reluctant at first, Ryan is intrigued. “What the heck?” he reasons, “It’s all just a dream.”

As he begins his training, Ryan deals with struggles in his real life. His best friend is getting ready to move to the other side of the country, and he’s developed a horrible crush on his best friend…who happens to be falling for another guy. But to make matters even worse, Ryan discovers that a mysterious force has been tampering with the energies that flow between the Real World and the Dream Realm. The consequences are dire: the very fabric of reality could be unraveled. Perhaps he is not “just dreaming” after all.

Hi, Beau. It’s a pleasure to meet and get to know you a little. First, tell us about yourself and what drove you to write in the first place?

Hi, AT, thanks for having me here. Let’s see…a little about me. I was born and raised in Indianapolis, and have lived there my whole life. I went to Purdue University, where I studied web development – which is now my day job and one of my other passions. It may be tough to see the parallel at first, but my interest in building websites lends itself to my interest in writing: at their most basic levels, each is a creative process. They just have different goals and are applied in different ways.

That’s where I get my kicks. I love using my imagination and creating something with it. I used to write a lot of (admittedly bad) poetry in high school, and began experimenting with novellas in college. But it was in early 2009 where I got this idea that I wanted to attempt an actual novel. I wanted a “bedtime story” that was all mine: some wild adventure in a faraway land that would hopefully entertain readers of all ages. So, I let my imagination loose and came up with an entire world. I had so many different ideas that one day I just started writing, and in the act gave my story life and direction. I’d had so much fun with it that I wanted to keep doing it…and here I am!

What writer or writers inspire you?

Several! J.K. Rowling and her Harry Potter books might be an obvious answer. I admire Tolkien’s linguistics and details, and have recently started listening to Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series. Are you seeing the theme? I love grand, rich worlds filled with magic and adventure. I just recently picked up my first Stephen King books and feel bad that I was late to the party – I truly admire his command of the language. I’m a big fan of Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files books and love how accessible he makes his own fantasy world. Guys like Orwell and Vonnegut are some of my favorites; they’ve written some powerful stories that have personally affected my worldview. I’ve added many classics to my “To Read” list, so I imagine this list will grow exponentially in time.

Your style of writing; would you say it’s reflective of any of your favorite authors or books?

Yes, definitely. I think any time you expose yourself to any author’s prose, you ingest their vernacular – whether you mean to or not. When I was writing Dreamlancer, I was right in the thick of the Dresden Files, and as I re-read my book for edits, I could see how Butcher’s books had influenced my writing.

I’m sure finished products affect each writer differently. Considering that, do you sometimes find an element in your last book something you may want to expand upon in the next volume, or in another title?

Right now, I’m working on a series of books, so taking elements and expanding on them is the name of the game. There are many things I want to build on, but it will be interesting to see how my plans change as the stories unfold. There have been some ideas I’ve scrapped that I may try to work into other stories as well, but right now my focus is on Dreamlancer, so we’ll see about that.

Here’s something I struggle with. Maybe your answer to my next question can help writers that share this particular concern. When you write a story, what values do you adhere to? And if you adhere to any, do you sometimes want to break out and be chaotic?  (E.G., not a happy ending?)

One thing I really like to do is take the reader’s expectations and use it against them. I think it makes a story so much more compelling when you think you know what’s going to happen, and then the opposite happens. I love it when an author really makes me think about his or her characters’ motives and gets me thinking about all the different ways the story unfolds…only to catch me off guard. If you’ve seen or read George RR Martin’s A Song of Fire and Ice/Game of Thrones, you know he does this well; he’s said that he wants “readers to be wary of turning the next page” (or something along those lines) and he really is a master of that. You have to be careful, though, that these twists aren’t “too convenient” or go against the grain of your characters’ normal behavior – that produces the direct opposite feeling in the reader.

Aside from that, I think it’s important to not let your story get in the way of telling itself. Just write whatever comes to mind and worry about how clearly you’re communicating your idea later when you edit. It’s clear to me in my re-reads when the story was leaping off my fingers and when I was “forcing it.” The quality is so much better in the former. Now, that is not to say that sitting down and forcing yourself to write is bad…about 95% of the time, you’ll build momentum and the story begins telling itself for you. You can always smooth out or remove the rough patches later.

How about characters? What method do you use to come up with character names and origins? In the case of Dreamlancer; how about the world you created? Tell us a little about it and the efforts you made to craft such a vivid image.

As far as the world in Dreamlancer, I have it pretty easy. It’s a Dream Realm, so whatever I want to include in it is pretty much fair game. Dragons? Of course! Zombies? Why not? Cyborg Ghost Ninjas? Should I include just one, or an entire army? (some or all of these things may be included in Dreamlancer, but you’ll have to read to find out!) Coming up with religions and mythologies is as easy as sitting down and letting the imagination flow. If it’s a little weird, so what? For me, something weird and wonderful is a good reason to pick a book up!

Characters and personalities require a little more care, though. These are the people (or beings) with whom your readers will develop a relationship. But I usually start with an archetype in mind and the character takes shape on its own. I always try to keep character motives in mind when I write. I often ask myself “Now, why would so-and-so go and do that?” and if I can’t come up with a good answer, well, I’ve hit a snag. I rely on my instincts a lot…if a character “feels” right, then my readers will probably enjoy them as much as I do.


Okay, let’s talk about Dreamlancer. Tell us where the idea came from and how it all came together for you.

I mentioned before that I really just wanted to tell a fun story – ideally something people would read at bedtime with their children. I have a big interest in fantasy novels, so it needed knights and wizards and magic. But I wanted it to be a little more accessible than something like Tolkien’s work. The protagonist, Ryan Wilkinson, is from “the real world,” and using him as a narrator helps accomplish this; he helps us keep this crazy dream world within a frame of reference with which we’re all familiar. I’d share snippets of my work with my girlfriend, and she kept asking for more, so that was a nice motivating factor for me. In the end, I was pleased with the story.

When writing Dreamlancer, did you just sit down and churn out the words or did you work from an outline?

At the very beginning, I’d just power out different passages, but now I have tons of notes and outlines. I often go for walks on my lunch break and think of all kinds of great ideas. I can’t really write at work, but I would scrawl down ideas on a note pad and take them home with me.

I’ve got so many ideas that I actually created a scroll with a timeline of events, mythologies and origin stories. It’s about five feet long now…and probably only a third of the way filled in. I’ve got so many threads prepared, and with patience and a great deal of effort, I hope to weave together a very nice tapestry for my readers.

So, what’s the perfect writing environment for you?

At my computer, usually between the hours of midnight and 4am with a can of Coke Zero. About 95% of the time I’m blaring some kind of weird instrumental music to help keep me focused.

Is anything in your book based upon real life experience, or is it purely imagination?

The story has two “components” – the Real World and the Dream Realm. Unsurprisingly, most of the Dream Realm stuff is pure imagination. But a lot of the people in the Real World portions of the book are inspired by real people and things I’ve experienced.

What has been the toughest criticism directed toward you as an author? What has been the best compliment?

I haven’t received much tough criticism yet. I imagine it will only be a matter of time. The worst I’ve heard so far is “too many run-ons and over-explaining things” but that’s not a tough criticism. It was the truth. I did have a publisher tell me they didn’t think my work would be a commercial success for them, which is never good to hear, but it’s not exactly uncommon either.

The best compliment is from my dad. He’s ingenious and can build just about anything…but he hates to read. Unlike me, he takes no joy from it. But he read my book, in the space of a weekend. He sent me a text at 5 in the morning once telling me he had stayed up just to read my book because he couldn’t put it down. As my father, he’s gonna put up the effort. But to be the reason he’s read a book in the last decade or so? What an honor.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Read a lot and pay attention to what you like. Write a lot to get better at writing what you like. Both go hand in hand. Be open to criticism and don’t take it too personally if there’s a lot of red ink on the page. It doesn’t mean you’re terrible; it means you can get better at what you love. On that note, you better be writing because you love it, because it brings you joy and not a paycheck. There are no shortcuts in writing; it’s a long journey. Relish it!

Beau, I appreciate you stopping by. It’s been a pleasure getting to know you on other social media platforms, as well. This next question, however, is one I and several others will be discussing this week in several forums. Bullying, verbal attacks, and other misconduct committed by authors against other authors has become regular, and crosses multiple social media platforms. Has this affected you? Secondly, how do you recommend others to respond to such attacks?

I’ve not experienced any bullying first-hand, but I do see it on forums and blogs and the like. Anonymity and cynicism – what fine bedfellows they are – run rampant on the internet. It’s very easy for people to be scathing when they’re wearing a mask. One of my favorite Stephen King quotes is this: “If you write (or paint or dance or sculpt or sing, I suppose), someone will try to make you feel lousy about it, that’s all.” How true, right?

The best way to deal with these people is to simply ignore them. They want to make you feel bad. They want to tear you down or get a rise out of you. Why let them? Why give them so much power over you? Don’t respond to their attacks…the second you do, they’ve already won. And you’re not a loser, so you don’t let the other guy win, dammit! It’s not easy to brush off some jerky comment. But before retaliating, ask yourself if it’s worth your time. I bet dollars to donuts it isn’t.

Finally, tell us about relationship building, as it pertains to marketing in this new era of e-publishing. For example; the importance of peer reviews and reader reviews.

Super important. E-publishing is great for everyone because it makes the process easier than ever. However, that means the market is absolutely saturated with choice. How do you get your voice heard? Getting your name out there to a diverse crowd helps. Connecting with other writers lets you tap into other audiences. For me, just starting out, most of my connections are with friends and family. They’re great supporters and all, but there are only so many of them. But other writers tend to have their own groups of reader friends, making them a valuable resource for reaching different audiences. But beyond that, other writers have strategies and techniques that work for them, and they can share that info. It is the “Age of Information” after all, and info is the most powerful currency around. Networking and cooperating tremendously enhances your ability to reach new readers and to market to them effectively.

Thanks for chatting with me, Beau. 

Thank you for having me. Looking forward to reading your book soon!

Beau’s book, ‘Dreamlancer’ is available here, You can also connect with Beau on various social media platforms:

http://twitter.com/beauwatson

http://facebook.com/AuthorBeauWatson

http://beauwatson.com

Dreamlancer Specific Sites

http://twitter.com/dreamlancerbook

http://facebook.com/DreamlancerBook

http://dreamlancer.com

 

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5+ With Michelle Anderson-Picarella

Today I have the immense pleasure of chatting with Michelle Anderson-Picarella. She’s a fantastic storyteller, writer, team-builder, promoter … I don’t think there’s much Michelle doesn’t do well.

Michelle currently writes for Champagne/Burst Books and Ring Of Fire Publishing. Take a moment and get to know this remarkable person. You’ll come away impressed, and who knows, you may want to keep an eye on your inbox. #Justsayin.

 

Michelle, before we get all into your business, what’s new with you?

First, I am doing an interview with A.T. Russell. How cool is that? Thank you. It is always nothing less than a pleasure to chat with you.

Lots of new things going on. A quick rundown without boring anyone: My debut YA Fantasy, LIVIAN has recently been released by Burst Books. 7DS is in full force. I am writing on a couple and standing back to manage one. SEVEN DEADLY SINS is still rocking the charts and giving a new name to fables. I am working with Ring of Fire Publishing and loving every moment of it. I am also working on Book Two of the LIVIAN series as well as my first Historical Romance in my spare time. Oh, and I am spending my summer in North Carolina where my kids are adjusting from sounds of city life to the country echoes of roosters and tractors.


Let’s talk about Livian. Where did the story idea come from?

Over a decade ago, I created the concept for Livian by telling stories to my oldest daughter, Olivia. It didn’t take long before I gave my first go at writing a novel a shot. It was horrible. *Insert embarrassing laugh* I walked away from it and spent time plotting, not only the book, but an entire epic fantasy series. I skirted around diving back into the writing for too many years, but by the time I did, it flowed like I was writing the place and people I’d been missing for that decade gap. I didn’t realize the depth of the story until many revisions and a publishing contract was decided on for the first book. During my first edits, someone pointed out to me that many aspects of Livian covered my own life and the characters carried traits of the people of my life. Rereading it was like taking a step back into my own youth.

Can you give us a quick synopsis?

Beneath the orbit of the tri-moon dusk, a world sits unbalanced between good and evil. Each being fears the loss of their soul, as one mysterious creature hunts the Alpha of each tribe in order to possess the entire colony. Unaware of her royal warrior lineage, wingless Livian struggles with the unaccepted gnarling of her genetic roots and the questionings of her own twisted purpose of life, while keeping her existence unknown to the soul possessing hunter. Her destiny holds the decided fate of the world and the battle begins within her own soul before the first slash of bloodshed.


Some who have read Livian say the story has ingrained itself into their minds. Others were inspired to paint a vision, like this one by Stephen Penner. How long do you think it will be before they can get their hands on the second book?

I am hoping to have the next book released mid-2013. The entire world begins to open up with the second book. (Working title- Inennious) I still have a good amount of tribal and native research to wrap up, as well as making sure I mesh it well with a much more detailed steampunk element that was only grazed in Livian.

 

 

Tell us about your role with Ring Of Fire Publishing.

I am the Director of Publicity for Ring of Fire. I love it. Working with the authors and helping them build their platform excites me. Nothing compares to the passion an author carries for their work and I get to help show them to the world. I help submit work for reviews and blurbs, as well as seeking out various awards and recognition for the hard work these authors have placed into the pages of their book.  I do a good deal of social networking for Ring of Fire, as well, and recently ran a booth for them at the South Carolina Book Festival. I plan on doing much more festivals and cons through Ring of Fire. Oh, I am also a Ring of Fire author. My desire to work with them spawned quickly from my experience publishing through them. I’ve never seen anything like them. They are certainly riding the wave of modern publishing changes to better fit the authors. I had to get in with them and ride the wave and build other authors the way they have for me.

I’ve attended a couple of your on-line release parties. The atmosphere is pretty … um … well, it’s like a real party. What type of feedback have you gotten from them?

Online release parties are a must-do these days. I attended a few before hosting my own. I’ve gotten lots of positive feedback from the differences I’ve tried to apply to the normal online release. I will say that Facebook is the hotspot. Everyone and their mother is on Facebook. The attendance is always better there, compared to other online venues. Also, I do not treat guests as if they should have read a book already. An online release is an introduction. If you start conversations or ask questions fitted around those who have read it, what are the odds you are going to hook a new reader? I’ve heard lots of great feedback from people who are normally timid when attending these events, and when they don’t feel left out of the conversation, it is much easier to become entertained.

I also try to show people it is okay to let go and relax. Parties should be for cutting up, and I’ve never had an issue with clowning around. I think lots of people have this image of an author as an antisocial cat hoarder, when in fact, authors have the best imaginations and personalities around. Releases are our time to shine!

So, what’s your philosophy when it comes to promoting your authors and their brands?

Philosophy? Don’t ever compare yourself to the last big thing. Make yourself the next big thing. I’ve heard so many pitches of a book being the next Twilight, or an author being the next King or Rice. Why? If I want Twilight, King, or Rice, I can obtain that. Why in the world would I take a gamble on reading something that may be like the past? I read authors because they stand out. A.T. Russell is THE A.T. Russell. Stephen Penner is THE Stephen Penner. Beau Watson is THE Beau Watson. I want a new adventure with every book I take my time to read. I try to work with authors and pull the best of who they are to the front and work with that, and since Ring of Fire has the best, new and modern authors around, my job doesn’t feel like work very much at all.

Okay, I know we’re supposed to keep things smooth and collegial, but we need to step out of the norm for a second. Explain HBIC.

You knew this one would make me laugh out loud and sigh. HBIC is the true example of what you do online is never private. LOL. HBIC started as a log in I created on a blog. I assumed it was private, that no one would see it, but that isn’t the way it works. Ever. Head B**** In Charge (HBIC), my not so private self-given nickname, apparently posted beneath my photo with each blog post or comment I created. I truly thought I was the only one able to see this until a couple of my favorite author fellows pointed it out, and I’ve been face-palming ever since. It did give me a reputation to live up to and I work to earn that title as often as possible. Maybe. What do you think? Haha.

That carries us into 7DS. Michelle, you’ve hit one helluva a stride. You’ve got a lot of irons in the fire and I imagine it keeps you pretty busy. Here’s a topic I get a lot of questions about … tell us about 7DS, specifically. What is it? A new line of business?  

7DS started as nothing more than a fun collaboration to help build platforms, and I sent private invitations to select authors. I had the idea for SEVEN DEADLY SINS, but 7DS was a Twitter hashtag to begin with. SEVEN DEADLY SINS/7DS grew faster and bigger than I ever could have imagined. I am a firm believer in fate, so trusting fate and with some input from a great friend, (cough cough) I decided to carry on with 7DS. It is now an official branding of books. We have announced the upcoming book, SEVEN DWARF STORIES- another collaboration of seven authors working together to create a collection of short stories. This one is a collection of gritty tales featuring the dwarfs before Snow White and their paths leading up to living together. I like making adults fall in love with fantasy and fairy tales all over again, and this one should do the trick. It has been a blast. There are a few more 7DS brand books in the works and several more coming in the future. 7DS is also under trademark and a new line of business. All of the details are still being ironed out, but 7DS will cover even more avenues soon.

You wrote Sloth for Seven Deadly Sins. In that story, you introduced a type of character/species that seems to draw a lot of interest. Can you tell us a little about the Dwerger?

Dwerger may very well be one of the most modernly neglected fantasy creatures. Folklore and old tales run every aspect of these creatures as being elf related, to decedents of trolls. Many relate them as more primitive creatures- dark and destructive. I see them as misunderstood. Even in LIVIAN, these creatures as known as “soil sifters”- living beneath the land and surfacing only to attack and rob.

I have created Dwerger as highly advanced, spiritual creatures, banished beneath the land due only to their appearance. Fully-black eyes, natural to the Dwerger, are the only common identifier in LIVIAN for souls that have been possessed. I used the short story  ‘Claim Your Fate’ in Seven Deadly Sins to show the true nature of the Dwerger. I loved giving them depth. I am fond of several Dwerger and they will be around throughout the LIVIAN series.

Without digging too deeply into your business-model, can you tell us how you come across these authors?

Networking and socializing. I don’t want to work with an author who doesn’t know how to do these things. Those are two key elements to selling books in the e-world. I never invite an author without being able to see just as much personality and gumption as they have talent. I do ask for the total package, though. These 7DS collaborations are more than a normal anthology. As a result, I do not pick from hundreds of submissions and print the stories I like. Instead, I take remarkable authors and ask them to write something specific, and sometimes that means cracking them out of their normal shell and comfort zone. Authors not only walk away with another (or a first) published title under their belt, but working together with a group of authors to create a new 7DS builds a family of sorts. Authors cement support, beta readers, friends and networkers who will more than willingly push your work because the 7DS connection always pushes their work as well.

If I run across an author I enjoy chatting with, or if one of my close literary bonds suggests someone, I read several things they’ve written and note the way they network. If I think they would be a positive asset to a 7DS project, I invite them. So far, I’ve yet to have an author decline an invitation and that makes me feel mighty blessed.

What about authors who want to write for 7DS? How can they place themselves on your radar?

By being sociable. HBIC or not, I can be pretty friendly. Social networking carries that name for a reason. I may not have time to tweet or email for hours on end, but I do reply to tweets and emails almost always. I don’t like pitches or emails with links to click. Just like in physical life, I am more likely to buy from a friend or a sociable person, no matter what they have to offer, as opposed to a stranger at my door with a roll of paper towels and a high end vacuum cleaner, even if I don’t have one and my floors are dirty. Really, so many authors are already on my radar – many are listed in a notebook for future 7DS projects I am tossing around. I am always up for a hello from someone new.

Lastly; as you’ve grown and developed on several levels in the literary industry, what advice do you have for the budding publishers and writers out there?

I’ve always said my biggest advice to new writers out there would be to NOT take another writer’s advice. Advice is free and you get what you pay for, and the one thing I have learned (the hard way) is; everyone is willing to stop everything to tell a new author how they should go about things. Of course, you should listen to actual experiences, but form your own opinions. Do your research. Above all else, for budding authors and publishers, one thing is a certain must in the modern publishing industry: Networking. Work together. Promoting each other’s works is so much better than screaming your own name. Remember, we aren’t in a competition against each other. We must stop acting like we can’t cross promote other authors and other publishers. A wise man once told me ‘you can’t do anything on your own in this world’. It is true in every other industry and it is past time for us to realize this in our market, as well. Woodstock it. Share the love. You’ll see the difference in attitudes, as well as sales.

 

You can connect with Michelle on Facebook, Twitter, and on her website.

 

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The Platform

The Platform … Join me as I talk the craft of writing with the masters themselves… the WRITERS!

When John Rakestraw asked me to co-host the show with himself and Liz Borino, I jumped at it. I simply needed to know what he expected of me. John said, “Ask questions, engage topics, and have fun doing it.”

Next, I asked what our theme would be. You know; what are we trying to accomplish? John said, “We’re sharing the wonderful craft of writing with our listeners.”

Because I’m a knucklehead, I asked him if we’ll be helping authors market their books. John said, “Duh! Of course.”

That sounds pretty simple, huh?

Guess what … it is that simple.

Let me tell you a little of what I know about the primary host of the show – John Rakestraw.

See, John and Toni Rakestraw wrote Titanic Deception, a romantic thriller that revolves around the conspiratorial, theoretic history of the Titanic’s tragic sinking in 1912. Now, the book was good. I mean, like really good.

But that takes me off my point.

Anyway, after reading Titanic Deception, and then being asked to co-host, I figured this would be a way to help John broaden his marketing platform. I asked him straightforwardly, “John, what do you get out of this? I mean, the offer is huge, but what can I do to help you?”

John said, “I want to bring the show back, is all. I want you and Liz to co-host with me and I want to have fun. I like talking about writing, engaging writers, and helping writers. To me, it’s a blast and on helluva way to spend my time.” He went on to say, “A.T., you talk as much as I do and Liz is just awesome. We’ll be great together, and fun will be had by all. Besides, I love supporting authors. A.T., when you experience the show, and how an author unfolds their ideas on the air, you’ll see why I do it.”

Well, I did feel it. And I learned something huge.

John Rakestraw is the real deal. The work he does to air The Platform each week is a passion that comes from his heart, and he shares it with us for free. His payment is the joy he feels when he helps another author reach readers they may not have had the opportunity to otherwise reach.

That isn’t all, though. John also manages The Master Class. He offers editing, networking, book covers and the whole gamut of author resources. He even throws in some geek-tech lessons. I thought I was a supportive sort, but wow … John is on a much higher level. With Toni at his side, they are the best damn team around.

John also hosts Google Hangouts. Recently, we did a week-long theme about cyber-bullying and its effect on others, particularly the targeted victim. You’ll find that series here.

Claim The Platform as yours. Call John and share your thoughts. Chat with him live during the show. Get on his list and be a guest. John really wants to hear from you. You don’t know it yet, but uh, you want to hear from John, too.

I did say, NETWORKING, didn’t I?

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Can our words hurt us?

“So, you’ve got something to say, huh? Go ahead and say it. Really. Just throw it out there and let the chips fall where they may.”

I don’t know that I can support that ideology.

Here’s why;

As an author, the most important thing to me is my marketing platform. Bluntly put, I want to sell books. Now, in order to do that, I have to present more than just an interesting theme and a good story to my, hopeful, readers.

I also have to sell myself. That could be a bit difficult for many reasons, but I don’t want one of those reasons to be because I have a questionable character. No doubt, incendiary comments I may make on various social media platforms can certainly be telling of my character, thus becoming a turnoff to those readers I’m trying to snag.

Incendiary – the operative word.

Quite frankly, I’ve seen all types of awful comments made … and some of them from well-established authors. I’ve also seen a number of word-fights on social media platforms, too.

In this digital world our readers can watch what we say, follow our lives, and even chat with us. That being said; social media opens us up to critical eyes, I think. Just like reviewers drop questionable reviews on Amazon and B&N, isn’t it feasible that they could also be commenting about the writer’s character?

I wonder how, if at all, those instances affect those authors’ marketing platforms.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not being judgmental. I merely want to engage a discussion on this topic. I’m neither for, nor am I against folks saying what they want when they want. Do what ya like, as far as I’m concerned.

I just want to know what others think about it.

Can our words hurt us?

Tell me here, on Facebook, Twitter, or Google+

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Why I’m going to continue …

Taking a look at this blog, you can easily see that I haven’t posted much. Interviews after some early postings, that’s pretty much all I’ve done here. I even considered shutting the blog down. Oh, it isn’t that I don’t have much to say. Nope. I actually have a lot to talk about. Hell, I’ve got some things to yell about. Seeing as how I’m still on my first cup of coffee, and it is Monday morning, I don’t want to start my week with yelling.

In any case, good fortune has come my way in various forms. I’ll tell you about 18 of them another time.

In the meantime, here’s what’s new with me;

I received some writing invitations over the past few weeks. Yep. Somebody likes the stories I tell.

What’s that? … You don’t know about the invitations? Well now, I guess I need to tell you a little bit about that.

See, there’s this Senior Publicist for Ring of Fire Books, Michelle Anderson-Picarella. She came up with the idea for Seven Deadly Sins and invited … you guessed it … seven writers to participate in the anthology. Well, to make a long story short; the book was completed, it’s doing really great, and Michelle sent out some more invitations. How bout’ I got lucky again and received two additional invites; one for Ring of Fire’s inaugural summer anthology, and another for 7DS. If you don’t know how lucrative those invitations are, don’t just take my word for it; check with Tymothy Longoria, or any of the writer’s from the Seven Deadly Sins anthology.

2012 is going to be a hot year for many writers, and Ring of Fire Books is fast becoming the label of choice. That’s where I’m at.

Now, when I thought about dumping this blog, I came across some very good information that made me change my mind completely. It’ll probably help you, too. Check it out >> http://www.blogtalkradio.com/johnrakestraw/2012/05/06/the-words-are-the-thing-anyone-got-some-good-ones

You didn’t know? How bout’ that?

I’m a talk-show co-host, baby! Yeah! It’s some brand new shi … uh … stuff that I’m having a blast with!

Damn. Now I’m yelling n’stuff.

So, the whole deal about this post is that I’ll be continuing this blog. I guess that means I need to dress this puppy up with all sorts of pictures n’stuff, too.

Speaking of puppies, I definitely have to tell y’all about the Wolves. It appears that the Packs are going to start circling this summer. They’re coming from two different directions, too. Don’t worry, though. I’ll keep your head on a swivel so you won’t get your ass … er … butt bit.

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5+ with Dawn Kirby – Author of Secrets

Dawn Kirby’s book, Secrets, is available now.

If you want to support an author, one of the best things you can do is beta read for them. That’s what I did. I read SECRETS, by Dawn Kirby. Amazing. The story was, or should I say, is powerful. Soon, you’ll see that I’m not the only one who thinks so. Her publisher definitely agrees with me. I’m sure you will, too.

Anyway, when I found out that SECRETS was book one of a series, I knocked off the other three, too. I’m pleased to tell you that the series gets better and hotter by the volume. Of course, I had to get close to this awesome writer and storyteller, Dawn Kirby. When I did, I made a friend. Not only is Dawn a fantastic author, she’s a genuine Lady. Check her out;

Dawn, it’s a real pleasure to interview you and I’m really excited about your book. But what about you? Tell us about Dawn Kirby and what drove you to write?

The pleasure is all mine, AT. I admire you so much, I consider talking with you truly an honor.

There’s really not much to tell about me. I’m a mother of three great kids. My husband and I have been married for fifteen years and we live in West TX. During the day I work in a very grown up, normal world. At night I find myself in a paranormal world of my own creation.

I wish I could say I’ve been a writer for as long as I can remember, but the truth is until I picked up a pencil almost four years ago I hadn’t written anything longer than a grocery list in over ten years. I only put lead to paper to get an idea out of head. Who knew that one idea would grow so much AND become such an integral part of my life?

Thank you, Dawn. I really appreciate your kind words. Now, you’ve been fairly busy in the four years you’ve been writing. I’ve read a lot of your ink and it’s very impressive, as well as extensive. Now you’re going into publishing, which means you got that call. What was it like?

When Dark Dragon Publishing Co. requested a full I was shocked. When they offered a contract I was over the moon. Actually, I still am. It just doesn’t seem real. To tell the truth, I don’t think the magnitude of it all will hit me until I’m actually holding a copy of SECRETS in my hot little hands. I think any writer feels the same way. We all dream of the day we open our email inbox and find that one life changing email, but after receiving one rejection after another for months, maybe even years, “no’s” are what we expect to see. Luckily, we eventually get a reprieve from them and get to live out our dream.

Your successes didn’t start and stop there, though. You contributed to 13 Tales Of The Paranormal. How did that come about?

I had seen a post on Firefly & Wisps facebook page listing the contests they were accepting subs for and decided to take a chance. I had written a Flash about a vampire looking for a partner she and her longtime lover could enjoy a few nights with. Instead she meets a man whose only concern is which bed he’ll wake up in the next morning. Her first instinct is to kill, but then she thinks of something far worse than death. He’ll spend an eternity seeing the one thing he craves and never be able to touch it.

Now you’re involved in The Seven Deadly Sins collaboration. It’s a pleasure to work with you, by the way. But tell us a little about Lust, the short you’ve written for the collaboration.

The pleasure is all mine. Working with the six of you has been an awesome experience.

Sinful Pleasures is about a female vampire who’s appetite for sex is virtually insatiable. She sees nothing wrong with bedding two or more men in one night. In fact she keeps a “safe” guy on call just in case her search for a “real” man turns up empty during her nightly prowls.

 

 

 

Where can readers go to find examples of your writing?

http://myfriendscallmekate.blogspot.com There I write a weekly serial called TURNING, for none other than the amazing Sabrina Ogden. I’ve enjoyed the story so much, I’ve decided to expand on the shorts and turn them into a novel. My hope is to self-pub the book and donate a portion of the sales to a charity of Sabrina’s choosing.

http://paranormalutopia.com/2011/03/water-lily311/ … This is a short entitled WATER LILY, based on the myth of the Lady in White.

And of course my blog. http://dawnmkirby.wordpress.com/

When you finish a book, what effect does the completed work have on you? Is it relief, or is it a subject and theme that lingers on your mind?

I haven’t ever really thought about that question. Finishing a book is a relief, but for me it’s because I get to see how my readers respond. I love getting feedback. Good or bad…Thanks to them and their VERY frank opinions I have become a better writer.

Do you sometimes find an element in your last book something you may want to expand upon in the next volume, or in another title?

Oh, absolutely! SECRETS was originally a stand-alone title. Now I’m planning at least eight for the series. Thanks to the appearance of an unexpected character, I’m planning a spin-off sometime in the future.

When you write a story, what values do you adhere to? And if you adhere to any, do you sometimes want to break out and be chaotic? 

I can honestly say I don’t like wrapping things up neatly at the end. Life is messy, so are the lives of the characters in my books. Nothing is ever as bad as it could be, but it’s never going to be perfect either.

As far as values, I don’t really stick to a certain set. I think keeping a mix of good, bad and in-between makes them seem a little more relatable.  

How about characters? What method do you use to come up with character names and origins?

I like for their names to fit their personalities. I don’t relentlessly search databases, not at first anyway. I like to feel them out for a while and then name them.

Okay, now let’s talk about Secrets, specifically. You’ve written a great story around a creature known as a Damphir. What exactly is that?

A Damphir is a biological female offspring of human woman and a vampire. She has traits of both human and vamp. Some may inherit the thirst for blood, others may not.

Having read it, I can honestly attest that SECRETS is one of the best books I’ve read this year. When you penned the story, did you have any idea how passionate the theme would be?

I can’t thank you enough for that, AT. I can’t tell you how much that means to me.

My answer would have to be no. But as I wrote more, I wanted to bring as much to each character, each situation as I possibly could. In one scene for example, Leah is standing at her window overlooking her driveway when she notices a dog sniffing around. Curiosity peaks when she realizes the dog isn’t sniffing the ground, but rather sniffing the cars parked there. As she watches the unusual behavior, an ominous feeling sweeps over her. The tension kicks up when she inadvertently taps the glass and gains the attention of a very unhappy animal.

When it comes to Leah, your main character, what was the inspiration for her development?

For Leah I wanted a strong character. She feels like any other woman, but she also knows falling apart while her world is in chaos won’t change things. Even though she’s no match for the strength of a werewolf or the power of a vampire, she’s more than willing to step in when most would run away.

Just so everyone knows, you’ve written four novels and Secrets is the first in the series. Now, did you outline the story or did you pants it? Or did you use a mixture of the two methods?

I’m a panster all the way. I know where I want each story to start and I have an idea where I want it to end, but it nearly always goes in another direction. I never know what I’ll write from one page to the next. Somehow it all comes together in the end.

Okay, Dawn, how did you decide on the mix of characters represented in Secrets? There seems to be something for everyone in the book.

I looked at the people around me and how they interacted with others. It was only natural to incorporate that into my characters. I wanted to write something that people could read and see someone they knew.

How did you decide to write urban fantasy?

It’s the one genre I’ve never been able to get enough of. Everything about it fascinates me. There’s so much play a writer can do with it. If you want your vamps to tap dance, you can. If you want your weres to stomp around in a pair of boots and a flannel shirt, that’s okay, too. No matter what, it’s your world and you get to create any way you want to.

What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?

The toughest thing for me isn’t a crit really. It’s the rejections. Those sting more than any well meaning comment ever could.

The best? My fans…They make what I do worthwhile!

What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

Write! Get out there…talk to other writers. Bounce ideas off one another. Learn everything you can, and most of all, don’t quit.

Dawn is a fantastically talented writer, and as you’ve read, she is obviously dedicated to her craft. She’s also one of the most supportive folks I’ve met. So, by all means, follow her and enjoy a fresh blast of the paranormal. Here’s how you do that;

You can contact and follow Dawn on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+

 

 

 

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5+ With Melissa Buell – Author of The Seventh Blessing

Today I have the pleasure of chatting with Melissa Buell, Author of The Seventh Blessing, released on August 15th 2011. Melissa writes for The Little Things Publishing. I’ve had the pleasure of talking with this wonderful person and believe me, she’s as genuinely nice as they come. You can learn more about Melissa by visiting her website and her blog.

Here’s a brief synopsis of The Seventh Blessing, which can be purchased here;

Unlike most royal eighteen-year-old girls, Samantha finds it difficult to be a prim and proper princess. When she discovers her seven fairy blessings that were bestowed at her birth are a lie, her entire world is turned upside down. Although she can forgive the feuding fairies who made this large error on her behalf, she must find a way to control her real blessings–which may be more trouble than its worth. Things start to become complicated when her best friend’s brother becomes seriously injured just weeks before the annual knight competition. Samantha realizes the only way to help him and his family is to enter the competition by disguising her true identity. Balancing her mandatory princess lessons while hiding her secret blessings on top of this becomes difficult, but things begin to get challenging when Prince Nolan, a childhood friend, reenters her life. Samantha, bitter about their constant bickering relationship, suddenly begins to see Nolan in a new, and often confusing, light. But when she finds out her seventh blessing has yet to be decoded from the ancient tongue, Samantha’s most dangerous quest of all is discovering the true power her real blessings hold. Now, the fate of herself, her future, and her kingdom lie in her hands.

Hi, Melissa. Tell us about yourself and what drove you to write?

Hi, AT. I’m a wife, a mom of two young kids, and lots of other things! I’ve been writing my whole life (I recently found old journals I kept when I was in grade school – hilarious!) but really thought about being a writer in high school. I also found an old essay that said, “Maybe in ten years I’ll be writing my first novel.” That actually happened! Dreams can come true.

I actively started writing THE SEVENTH BLESSING while I was at university. Writing something other than research papers was necessary for me not to go crazy! TSB actually started as a short story that grew and grew and grew. I have a friend who is also a writer and she encouraged me to keep writing and actually show my writing to other people.

What writer or writers inspire you?

Robin McKinley, Gail Carson Levine (both fairy tale re-imaginers), Clive Cussler (adventure), Tom Clancy (many plotlines, intrigue), Rick Riordan (fun books for kids).

When you finish a book, what effect does the completed work have on you? Is it relief, or is it a subject and theme that lingers on your mind?

There does come a *whoosh* of relief but then…the doubts set in. “Is it really done?” “Could I have changed something?” “Did I leave any loose ends?” I wonder about what my characters are doing while I’m leaving them alone. Have they gotten into trouble? How can I write to explore different characters or different aspects in the first story? Yes, it lingers.

I’m sure finished products affect each writer differently. Considering that, do you sometimes find an element in your last book something you may want to expand upon in the next volume, or in another title?

I always try to leave some wiggle room for another book to be a possibility.

Here’s something I struggle with. Maybe your answer to my next question can help writers who share this particular concern. When you write a story, what values do you adhere to? And if you adhere to any, do you sometimes want to break out and be chaotic?  (E.G., not a happy ending?)

I definitely hold to my personal values as I write my main characters. (The bad guys, obviously, operate on a twisted system!) I try to make sure my books are such that my kids can read and my friends’ kids can read and my parents can read and not be embarrassed! You’re not going to find rough language or “bedroom scenes” in my books. I don’t want to be known for that.

How about characters? What method do you use to come up with character names and origins?

This is one of my most favorite things! I sometimes have a name spring into my mind fully formed and I say, “Yes, you’re a Samantha. You’re a Nolan.” Others take some searching. I look on baby name websites or “Behind the Name” to get a certain cultural feel to a name. I’m big into having a name that fits that character. I’ll even make up a little backstory about why the character got the name he/she did. Just like in real life!

Okay, let’s talk about The Seventh Blessing. Tell us where the idea came from and how it all came together for you.

I had read several books with weak female MC. I was annoyed and thought, “Could I write a story about a strong girl? What would that look like?” I started plotting out aspects about her personality, where she lived, created the magical country she was from, etc.

When writing The Seventh Blessing, did you just sit down and churn out the words or did you work from an outline?

OUTLINE! I’m big into outlines. I need to know where the story will ultimately end up. The path might meander a bit along the way but I have to have structure. After I have the outline, the words just pour out.

So, what’s the perfect writing environment for you?

The white noise of Starbucks at night is great, especially with earbuds in and listening to Mozart or Taylor Swift.

Is anything in your book based upon real life experiences or is it purely imagination?

Some of the things that Samantha thinks about while growing up was partly me, partly imagination. Misunderstandings, arguments – again, some basis in real life. I never trained as a knight or had “princess lessons” so that was imagination and old-fashioned research! Having an adventurous spirit is real life, for me, but I tend to get hurt when I do attempt to do adventurous things! (And I have the scars to prove it…)

What has been the toughest criticism directed toward you as an author? What has been the best compliment?

Toughest criticism has been disagreeing with choices I made in regards to my story structure. I (along with my editor) took out the prologue from the first edition and sprinkled that backstory into the story. Removing the prologue (which people admitted to skipping) made the story flow better. It’s hard to make those calls in the first place and to have someone second guess you is difficult.

Best compliment has been when people TOTALLY understand who Samantha is and they love her! Even with all of her quirks (she’s not perfect), they like her and the choices she makes. That is the biggest compliment to an author.

How about that first call from TLT? What was your response?

(I hope this doesn’t embarrass my publisher. Sorry, Randi!) I came home from a weekend retreat to a message from the CEO of TLT Publishing. She was sorry that she missed me but she’d call back again later. I was dumbfounded. “Why is she calling me? Am I being Punk’d right now?!” A second message from Randi said that I could e-mail her and let her know when I’d be home. “This is really weird…” I e-mailed her back and apologized for not being home when she called. I wasn’t sure why she called me in the first place but I was home now. She called back about ten minutes later. “I’m sorry! I made a note on my calendar to have a conference call with you but I forgot to let you know about it!” “Oh…okay.” “I was calling to offer you representation. We’d love to have you as part of the TLT family.” *Thought – am I being Punk’d???* “Um….wow. Yeah. I mean, yes. Wow. Okay. I need to breath.”

It was great once I got my mind wrapped around the fact that it was a real offer!

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Keep writing! Never throw (or delete) anything out. Come back to it later. Show other people what you’re working on. Network with other writers. Believe in your dreams.

What’s next for you?

I finished book two of the series and it’s being edited right now by the lovely and talented Farrah Penn. I’m writing book three of the series when I have time. I have a few other ideas working in this brain of mine for other stories.

Finally, tell us about relationship building, as it pertains to marketing in this new era of e-publishing. For example, the importance of peer reviews and reader reviews, as well.

Networking with other writers, authors, bloggers, reviewers is SO important. Getting good feedback is necessary and encouraging to an author. If we can help one another out, we should. There are a lot of great book review blogs out there and I read several every day. I get my book recommendations from these bloggers and MANY other people do, too. You never know who you’re going to “bump” into online or in person so make sure you’re not gossiping or sending out scathing e-mails that get posted on someone’s blog. (I haven’t done this but I’ve seen letters from other authors up on book blogs. Don’t go there! Keep it civil and work together.) If you get a review you don’t like, cry into your pillow, tell a loved one (who won’t talk about it on Facebook or Twitter), and then…move on with your life. Seriously. It’s one review. If your book is any good, that won’t break you. Keep reading the good reviews and smile. Offer to host a “blog hop” on your blog. Interview other authors. Interview book bloggers and reviewers. Make friends, just like kindergarten! Here I go, getting all preachy.

Bottom line: this is a community and we’re all grown-ups. So be nice.

Thanks for chatting with me, Melissa. 

Melissa’s book, ‘The Seventh Blessing’ is available here. You can also connect with her on Facebook Twitter  Google+ 

 

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5+ With Frankie “SM” Blooding, Author of Demons are Jackasses

 

Today I have the pleasure of chatting with Frankie “SM” Blooding, Author of The Demon Talker Series. Frankie writes for The Little Things Publishing. The first installment of her Demon Talker SeriesDEMONS ARE JACKASSES, will be released on October 1st.

 

Here’s a brief synopsis;

St. Francisville used to be a quiet place. Until three bodies turn up dead with spells carved into their skin. Someone in Louisiana is ritualistically killing people to capture the attention of Detective Paige Ansley.

Dexx, a snarky yet incredibly sexy demon hunter, invites himself along for the chase. He knows she’s the demon talker, even if she doesn’t remember it, and he knows what kind of trouble that means. Especially since she has no idea how to control her gift.

The killer is after a demon’s soul, and who better to get that for him than a broken demon talker?  In order for Paige to save herself, banish the murderer, and save Dexx, she must decide if she’s willing to give up the one thing that can hold everything together. And bring the quiet back to St. Francisville.

Hi, Frankie. Tell us about yourself and what drove you to write in the first place?

My last year in middle school, I met my first bosom friend. We latched onto each other like crazy. We were kindred spirits, but when I had to move away, and we did that a lot growing up, our friendship drifted. We were close because of proximity and need, I think. So, I created a character of her and started writing stories about her and all of her lovely, lovely horses.

What writer or writers inspire you?

Originally, it was Johanna Lindsey. I loooooooved her! And then I read her first book, and it didn’t meet my minimum expectations of her writing. I said, “Dear, if she could write a sucky book and succeed, so can you.” And I set out to write my ONE sucky book. I wrote…more than one of those. LOL!

When you finish a book, what effect does the completed work have on you? Is it relief, or is it a subject and theme that lingers on your mind?

First, there’s a feeling of euphoria. Like, typing that whole last paragraph, there’s triumphant music inside my head. And then the last sentence, I slow waaaaaaayyyyy down to savor the moment, and the last period always comes with a flourish. Sometimes, the euphoria can last a couple of days, sometimes a few months. And then I get this “Oh crap” moment where I realize that I forgot to tie up this ONE loose end and then I worry about all the other loose ends that this crazy brain of mine forgot and then…I stop.

And go to the next story.

The characters linger in my mind. I like people. I like connecting with people, talking to them, listening to them. My characters are my way of telling the stories of the people who can’t or don’t feel they need to. I meet some of the neatest, loveliest people and I like to share that. I’ve also met some people who are totally not neat or lovely, but is it because in that one moment, they were ugly, or because they were ugly and in that one moment, they were lovely?

I’m sure finished products affect each writer differently. Considering that, do you sometimes find an element in your last book something you may want to expand upon in the next volume, or in another title?

If it’s a series, yes. And *scuffs toes* most of my books are series because I lack the ability to just write one book *eye roll*. On the extreme rare occasion I’ve been able to write one book, it was a fight to keep it self-contained. “Don’t look for a thread. You’re writing this book and putting it down and you’re not picking it back up again.” *whimper, whine* “Okay, you big bully.”

Yeah. Usually, I do and it’s usually a character arc. The plot is fun. It lends entertainment, but I write stories about people. And I LOVE my supporting casts! Gad-ZOOKS!

Here’s something I struggle with. Maybe your answer to my next question can help writers who share this particular concern. When you write a story, what values do you adhere to? And if you adhere to any, do you sometimes want to break out and be chaotic?  (E.G., not a happy ending?)

The only one I really adhere to is “Capture the real story. Don’t just write scenes because they’re fun.”

When I capture the story, I’ll break grammar rules – in a huge, big way sometimes. BUT! *like there* I try to do that rarely so that the reader gets a better, deeper understanding of the truly important scenes, portions, or moments.

I want the reader to feel what’s in the scene, to see it, to BE in it. If I did my job right, it should be an experience, not just a book.

How about characters? What method do you use to come up with character names and origins?

Uh, oh man! Wow. That is a loaded question.

Well, I have an arsenal of characters that I lug around with the hope that someday I’ll be brilliant enough to come up with a story for this character worth telling. And then usually, I just write it!

However! Sometimes, I find myself sticking a character into a plot line and the character – let me restate that – my perception of the character isn’t very deep. I’ve tried lists. Interviews. Lots and lots of questions. *shakes head* I’m visual and kinetic when it comes to this, which means I have to see them in action and commit the feel of their actions to memory.

That can go one of two ways. I can pick real people to model them after, or I can model them after TV characters. One has the possibility of landing me in jail or seriously in debt, while the latter is fairly safe. I doubt Spike is going to read my book and say, “Listen, love, that is totally me and I’m a total @$$ in this book and I don’t appreciate being put off in that light. I’m suing you *finger shoved in my face* for all you’ve got.” He’d probably read it, look at me, sarcasm dripping from his tone as he’s leaning against the wall and go, “Love, do you really think I’m that lame? I’m hurt.”

*biting lip and shaking head* Not to say that I used Spike anywhere in any of my books. But if I did, he’d approve of being an oobervillain cast as an oobervillain and would only complain if he wasn’t oobervillain enough. Whereas people might look at a character and say, “Hey, that’s me. Do you honestly think I sound like that?!” And there would be the suing and the friend and family gatherings and the dirty looks and the whispers and the snubbing. *shakes head* No. No-no.

So I have story boards with pictures of the actor who portrayed said character and there’s no mapping, outlining, questioning, analyzing, anything. I do, however, go to dinner and invite them along for conversation and I do talk to them ALL the time. It’s important, however, that if you do this, you make sure to keep the non-verbal expressions to yourself OR bring a pad and pen so it looks like you’re just…eclectically brilliant.

Okay, let’s talk about ‘Demons Are Jackasses. Having read it myself, I think quite highly of it, as you well know. Tell us where the idea came from and how it all came together for you.

When I started this book, I was a mouse. I’d allowed myself to be beaten. So I turned to Paige. I said, “Now, Paige, I’m going to break you into a million pieces, and you and I are going to figure out how to A.) put yourself back together and B.) how to stand up for yourself.” To which she gave me the finger and attempted to run very quickly, and while there’s a very wide expanse inside this brain pan of mine, there is an invariable limit – the skull. So I was able to catch her and then…well, beat her up.

I figured that if she could stand up for herself, I could. It’s been a fantastic process. I saved some money on therapy, which, you know, as a writer, that’s a GOOD thing. And I think I have a story worth telling and worth reading.

Is Rachel, who was the catalyst to Paige’s downfall, a real person?

No. Originally, Rachel’s character was an archangel, and it worked for the short term, but didn’t work for the long term. I tried to make the archangel into Paige’s husband, but I’d already killed him off in a car crash before her daughter was even born. So, who else has the right to take a child for safety reasons? *sigh* The list is small.

You should be paying attention to Sven. He has a crush on Paige, in a creepy, “Frankie almost married a vampire” kind of way, only…grosser. *scared chuckle*

When writing Demons Are Jackasses, did you just sit down and churn out the words or did you work from an outline?

This was back when I wrote all my books off of outline. And I would get very cranky with my characters if they did something off-outline. However, that changed through the revisions. Now, I find it’s nice to let the characters do a little of the work for me.

So, what’s the perfect writing environment for you?

Quiet!

Unless it’s a crazy scene with lots of people, then total and complete noise.

Or if I’m trying to write a particular character, then it’s that person’s music. Paige is country and a little new age. Dexx is hard rock – the OLD stuff. The younger characters drive me a little batty cause they like music that drives me nuts. Lady Gaga? Seriously?

Although, really, I can write anywhere – UNLESS I’m also expected to converse. I cannot talk and write at the same time.

Is anything in your book based upon real life experiences or is it purely imagination?

The emotion is based off of real life. The people are fictitious. The plot elements are all make-believe. The only real truth is Paige’s loss of her child and how that affected her.

What has been the toughest criticism directed toward you as an author? What has been the best compliment?

Toughest criticism? Hmmm…There was a person who read it and said that Paige was “high maintenance”. O_o I took another look at it and decided that Paige is decidedly single. If she wants to drive to the coffee shop to pay for a toffee nut, extra shot, soy, no foam, extra hot latte, she can…and does, and then takes it home to enjoy it in a bubble bath. But the bath is a rare treat.

I love to hear when people read the book and love the characters or were taken away or “lived the moment” with my characters. I pat myself on the back and say, “Awesome, try not screwing this up in the next book. Okey-dokey?”

How about that first call from TLT? What was your response?

*long pause* “Come again?”

Randi: “Um, do I have the right Frankie?”

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Everyone hates hearing this, but it is SO true! Keep writing. Keep trying. The writing world is changing drastically. Change with it. It’s moving in our direction. This is a good thing.

And, it’s okay to write crap. Just don’t try to publish it when it’s still crap.

What’s next for you?

All kinds of stuff. I have the second book in this series into the editors right now. *keep your fingers crossed* I have to finish book 3 – which reminds me. I should see when I need to have that done…Yeah. And I have a few previously published books that I’m going to dust off and get back out there through me, myself and I. And I have a couple of other books in different genres that I’m working to complete and try to get out there. I love sharing my stories with the world.

Finally, tell us about relationship building, as it pertains to marketing in this new era of e-publishing. For example, the importance of peer reviews and reader reviews, as well.

OMG! When I sit down to “write”, I spend most of my time doing this. I spend most of my time reading – everyone’s Tweets and Facebook posts, blog posts, articles, interviews, reviews, etc. I have to admit that I’m not really good on replying to people.

I’m an introvert.

I get tickled beyond belief when others talk to me. So! I’m going to try and do a better job of talking to others. LOL! We’ll see how that goes.

However, I have to find a happy medium because for awhile, the only thing I was doing was social networking and I got zero writing done. Ouch.

In this new era, tho, everything is dependent on what other people are saying about you, and what they think about you, and it’s very important not to blow up on Twitter. Sorry! To my Twitter followers: HOW many wires are in a four-wire dimmable ballast? As soon as the Blogging world and the Tweeting world and the Facebooking world and the Goodreads world stop talking about you, is when people stop caring about your books. People don’t meet face to face anymore. We don’t get into RealWorld scrapes (watching hippies shower in the car wash). We’re afraid to talk to people at the grocery store because they might be a stalker.

We meet here, in CyberWorld. And we’re still social creatures. We still just want to be friends with everyone and be liked.

Thanks for chatting with me, Frankie. 

Frankie’s book, ‘Demons Are Jackasses’ is available for pre-order here. You can also connect with her on Facebook Twitter  SM Blooding .com 

 

 

 

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5+ with Artist, Jamal W. Hankins

Today I have the pleasure of chatting with Jamal Hankins. Here’s an artist whose talents may actually have no limit. As impressive as that is, his novel-writing skill is easily superior. Today we’re going to find out more about him. You can also check him out here. I highly recommend it. You’ll find out, clearly, why I’m excited to chat with Jamal.

 

Hey, Jamal. Thanks for taking the time to chat with me. I’ve been keeping up with your site for over a year now, and wow, you’ve got a lot going on. Tell us about some of the interests that drive you.

Thanks for having me. I really appreciate it. It’s a pleasure and an honor.

Well, in terms of my interests, they really come from all over. Music, Film, Books, Animation, Art, Video games, Dreams, Nightmares, Martial Arts, Science, Psychology, Life. My creativity is influenced by so much, both domestic and foreign. I like to keep an open mind towards creative concepts, and thankfully, my childhood was one that allowed me to dream and fantasize. Of course, it’s directly related to why I’m into some many creative mediums now.

With regard to novel writing, screenplay writing, and poetry – which one draws out your full artistic passion?

That’s a hard question. Each one serves a different creative purpose for me.

Honestly, poetry only hits me every once in a while now, and it’s directly related to music, rap to be precise. Growing up in Brooklyn, East New York in the late 80’s/90’s, my friends and I couldn’t help but get into writing rhymes. Like most things I take interest in, I focused on the Art of it. I didn’t write rhymes in the hopes of becoming a rapper, not saying that wasn’t a goal at one point, but I was in it for the artistry. Learning concepts like Flow, Metaphors, Double-Meaning, punchlines, being clever and witty with words. My goal was to verbally blow your mind. The idea was to be so nice, that in a battle, no one would want to rhyme after me because they knew they couldn’t contend, lol. Now, Rhymes/Poetry for me is for those moments of great emotion, usually dark, and they only healthy way for me to express it is with words.

Anyway, after rap changed, so did I, and my writing interests went back to my first love of novel writing, which at this point I reserve for my multi-part/series, Fantasy and Science Fiction stories that are seemingly too “epic/big” for a screenplay.

Screenwriting, my current love, is for those smaller Drama, Fantasy, Horror, Sci-Fi, and Thriller ideas that are too small for a novel, but too big for a short story, and really, I can see those particular concepts in my head as a film better than a novel.

Not long ago, you mentioned e-publishing a novel. Obviously, that takes some time, but can you give us an idea of what to expect?

The novel I’m working on, redeveloping that is, is one of those epic, multi-part fantasy concepts. Currently, it’s titled Amachi, after the main character. It’s about a young female warrior, who destroys an empire to free her family from slavery.

From a genre element and action standpoint, you’ll experience different hand-to-hand fighting styles, weapon styles, enhanced natural abilities based on Mind, Body, and Soul, various forms of magic, mythical civilizations, creatures, and a slew of other things.

From a story standpoint, you’ll follow Amachi, raised to be a fearless warrior since childhood, on her journey while she contends with her transition into womanhood and the complexities of her feminine side, of her psyche that has always been suppressed by her goal to become a warrior. Also, you’ll see how slavery has twisted the very members of the family she’s fighting for. Ultimately, Amachi’s warrior spirit conflicts, not only with the powers of oppression that aim to dominate her, but also with herself, her family, and her people as whole.

When I first met you on twitter, I was intrigued by the type of writing you did. Then, when I went to your site, I was blown away by all the things you actually do. Tell us, what’s the difference between screenplay writing and novel writing? And which do you prefer, if at all?

The difference between novel writing and screenwriting is, with a novel, you have the option of being as blatantly detailed as you want to be, from landscape descriptions to the most intimate thoughts of a character. You can basically just lay it on the page. Novels take a lot longer to write in my opinion, and of course the relative size of the work: 50,000 words, 100,000 words, etc.

Screenwriting, on the surface, is very restricting when you first look at it. Regardless of the size of the story, you only have up to 110 to 120 pages/bullets to hit all your targets with. You can only describe what the audience can see on screen, and the writing has to be fast paced, necessary, and straight to the point because of the page count. No time for flowery prose. It’s definitely great medium for learning the grand rule of “Show, Don’t Tell”.

Although it’s restrictive on what you can do in some areas, it forces you to be more creative in others. In a novel, where you’d describe a visual element in a paragraph or two, in screenplay, you have to chop it down to one or two lines/sentences. It’s an exercise in dialog and writing action as well, because every line must count for something and be integral to the scene or overall story.

So, right now, I must say that I prefer screenwriting because I’ve learned  a lot of “universal” writing and storytelling concepts, rules, and techniques that I feel are easily translatable to novel writing, which I believe, can help make my novels that much more of a better read.

Jamal, I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone so talented. Tell us about your background and what drove you into writing.

Well, as I said earlier, I grew up in Brooklyn, East New York, youngest of three by 10 years. I was fortunate enough to have parents who read a lot and watched a lot of movies. Along with that, I ran with a small group of friends who were all creative and talented. We were creative sponges. What drove me into writing was wanting to tell my own stories. I’d hear a song, watch a movie, play a video game, stare at artwork, read a book and be amazed at what someone else created. The urge to create my own worlds was a natural concept to me. I mean, really, when my friends and I played with our Transformers or G.I. Joe action figures, we played out our own stories using the toys as expressive tools. We even went to the extent of modifying toys, taking apart G.I. Joe action figures, switching their body parts, renaming and repainting them to create our own characters.

After a while, you grow up a little, trade in GI Joe for video games. The only other way we could still tell our stories was to illustrate them or write them out. My friends were artists, I was the writer. A friend was teaching me how to draw for a while. I was getting good at it too, but I didn’t have the patience for it. I could write an action sequence faster than I could draw one. So, I took the “easy” route, lol.

How about characters? What method do you use to come up with character names and origins?

My friends and I were creative rebels, lol. We did what we wanted. With Character names, at a young age, a friend and I realized, hey, these are OUR characters, in OUR dimensions. They’re not human, so WE could name them WHATEVER WE WANTED. That attitude gave birth to oddities like Erahdaht, Angeleater, Gi’Qweiz, and Be’dom Begayne Nyovey. Hey, don’t blame ME blame Obi-Wan Kenobi.

My character development process has evolved over the years. From a simple fill-in-the-blank method, where I tell the characters who they are – to a “psychologically” different character interview, where the characters tell me who they are, where they come from, and what they’ve been through.

I can remember Creature Features from when I was a kid, all the monster shows that I’d stay up late watching. Some of them shaped my imagination, affecting me still today. How about you? Where does it all come from?

I’d say a great deal of my influences come from video games, horror flicks, and most recently, real life murder investigations. When my 18 month old son isn’t forcing my wife and I to watch Elmo or Cartoon network, you can bet my TV is tuned to some kind of real life murder investigation. I get a lot of insight as to the many reasons, logical or not, why people do what they do through those shows.

So, what’s the perfect writing environment for you?

My writing environment isn’t static. As a kid I learned to write in different settings. So now, my perfect writing environment changes from time to time. When I was younger, my friends and I would create characters and plot stories standing outside in the back of my building, or I would write with my favorite animes and films on as background nose. Sometimes, I need quiet. Other times I can vibe with music because my mother played music a lot. And more often than not, I feel more focused jotting things down here and there during my busy work day.

Is anything in your writing based on real life experiences or is it purely imagination?

I think some of the more dramatic or emotional elements of my stories are drawn from my real life experiences, at least they’re energized by them. We’ve all done good things and bad things, we’ve done our dirt, we’ve all been through our fair share of the emotional spectrum. I draw on those things when I write.

What has been the toughest criticism directed toward you as a writer? What has been the best compliment?

I don’t think I have just ONE toughest criticism to name. Sure, I know a few things about writing, but it’s such a vast craft, ever evolving. We all have a lot still to learn, even our critics. All criticism stings at first, but it’s all in how you deal with it, though. You have to first consider the source, then separate truth from opinion, then you must be honest with yourself to accept whatever truths you find that applies, then focus on overcoming those shortcomings. But, as I like to say, you’re always going to suck to somebody, no matter what you do, lol!

In terms of compliments, well, I think you’ve given me some great ones, lol. Another writer did tweet me on twitter about my short story “One-Sided Triangle”, saying that she didn’t see that particular ending coming. So, that was cool. I’m happy whenever I find out that someone was entertained by one of my stories. Overall, that’s my real goal. Even if I never make a cent writing, I’ll still be writing because it’s in me to do it. I can write all day, and study the craft the same way others can watch TV, and study Athlete stats. It’s just in me.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers of any type?

Advice? Focus on the content of your story and study the craft to better convey that content. A good story is a good story no matter the genre or medium. I’ve played some video games with fantastic story content which made for an even better game-play experience. We all have B-Movies favorites that we love better than most blockbuster flicks. Usually, that’s because we connect with the story content in some way. So, regardless of how bad the acting, how ridiculous the dialog, or crappy the directing, there’s something about the heart of the story that allows us to look past its faulty presentation and still call it a favorite.

If you can engineer great content AND present it the best way possible, you can’t lose.

Jamal, tell us about relationship building, as it pertains to marketing in this new era of e-publishing. For example, the importance of peer reviews and reader reviews as well. What are some of the things you do to broaden your e-footprint for name recognition?

For building relationships, I think it’s important to be genuine. Be clear about what you’re trying to do. I think you’ll come out better off in the end. I love to talk about writing and its many aspects. I love the craft as an art form first and foremost, and I think anyone who’s talked to me or has gone to my site can clearly see that.

When you’re genuine, people know they can trust you to be just that. Even if you’re out to make connections only with industry big-wigs, people will respect you for it to an extent, as opposed to you acting like you’re about one thing when you’re really not. Who wants to work with or connect with someone like that?

It’s great to, not only seek knowledge from others, but share what you know as well. Regardless of the level we’re individually at in this creative industry, we’re all still learning. Nobody knows it all.

With reader and peer reviews, I’m all for it. It’s one of the best ways to advance your skills. By letting some of your work be read, you can find out what works, what doesn’t. I talk a lot about writing, share what I know, what I’ve learned, and I put bits and pieces of my work out there for show. That just me, though. That’s the creative environment I grew up in. Personally, I’ll admire someone more when they talk and give advice. Then I can read and see that they really know what they’re talking about.

So, by showcasing some of your work, being genuine with others, sharing what you know, helping others succeed, and focusing on learning more about the craft, you’ll naturally get your name out there.

Thanks for taking the time to talk to me and tell us about yourself, Jamal. As I’ve said, I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone so talented. Everyone, take a look at this Artist. I would call him a writer, but he’s far more than just that.

You can connect with Jamal on Facebook Twitter, or you can check out Scribereglyph 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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5+ With Author Everett Powers

Today I have the pleasure of chatting with Everett Powers, Author of ‘The Mighty T’ and ‘Canals’. It’s an honor to me because I’ve read ‘The Mighty T’. I mean, how often does a fan get to interview a favorite author? As lucky as I am today, for up to date info, I have to check out Everett’s blog, here. I highly recommend visiting.

Anyway, here are brief synopses of both of Everett’s books;

The Mighty T:

Detective Grant Starr and his buddy, Detective Ralph Bensen, took the day off to catch a Giants game, but their plans are cut short when a lunatic starts shooting people from the top of a twelve-story hotel. The shooter is crazy, but he’s also crazy-good with the sniper rifle.

The gunman’s found dead and Grant has no idea who he is or why he killed nine people, apparently at random. When two more are murdered the following night, Grant finds a thread connecting the eleven killings.

Unfortunately, he’s up against a well-funded fanatical eco-terrorist with a gang of hired mercenaries. After a building housing giant pumps in the San Joaquin Delta is blown up with a fertilizer bomb, Grant chases the gang into the foothills, then to the Hetch Hetchy Valley in Yosemite National Park.

The unthinkable happens: the O’Shaughnessy Dam at Hetch Hetchy is attacked with multiple bombs. It fails in a most spectacular way and a sixty-foot-high wall of water is sent hurdling down the mountain…

Can Grant and his team stop what would be the worst U.S. disaster since 9/11?

 

Canals:

Central California. June. Insatiable hunger. Something terrible is in the canals. Fangs that bite through steel. Body parts found on canal banks. Loner detective and beautiful deputy discover psychic powers. Can they stop the monsters in time? — CANALS by Everett Powers — You’ll make your children stay away from the canals for months.

 

 

 

 

Hi, Everett. It’s a pleasure to meet you and ask you some questions. First, tell us about Everett Powers and what drove you to write in the first place?

I’ve been a doctor of chiropractic for twenty-four years, in private practice. I’m fortunate in that I have office hours on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday only. I write on those days, but only for an hour or so. I do most of my writing on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, and a little on Sunday.

The tagline on my blog says “Everyone has something to say.” I got that from a guy named Dave Donaldson, who taught an English night class I took in 1982. The class was filled with adults who had worked all day—the back three rows slept through most of the class, but Dave never protested or woke one of them up. I thought that was pretty cool.

He gave us a writing assignment one night. We were to write a bit of fiction. When half the class groaned, he said something like “Everyone can write because everyone has something to say.” I got all goosebumpy. I had always loved reading but didn’t think I was capable of writing fiction, but for some crazy reason I believed him. After this incident, writing was always there, in the back of my mind.

I started writing fiction in 1994, after my professional career became routine. My first book was called The Healer. I never finished it and recently found it in a box in the storage room. I dusted off the binder and read a few pages. It was dreadful so I stuffed it back in the box; may it never see the light of day again. I picked up the pen (or the keyboard, as it were) again in 2004 and wrote Canals.

Writing gives me a “high” I’ve come to love. I love everything about it: the research, the plotting, the actual writing, and, yes, even the editing. I love sitting in public places with just my iPad, iA Writer or OmmWriter, my Bluetooth keyboard, and my headphones, ignoring the rabble around me while tuning into a world I’ve created. It’s great.

What writer or writers inspire you?

My writing style has been influenced a lot by the authors I read most. When I wrote Canals I thought I was Stephen King: the first draft weighed in at a whopping 200,000 words! I had to lop off a lot of unhealthy fat before it was ready to publish.

I read a lot of Jonathan Kellerman, Dean Koontz, Nelson DeMille, and everything John Sandford has published. I’ve grown tired of Koontz because I don’t like how it takes forever for anything to happen in his books now; he spends too much time inside a character’s head. I’ve read James Patterson but have given up on him. I like James Lee Burke, Robert Parker, and Elmore Leonard. I read mostly genre fiction.

I’m most influenced by Sandford; I love his crisp, clean prose—no extra words. Grant Starr was (very) loosely based on Sandford’s Lucas Davenport.

When you finish a book, what effect does the completed work have on you? Is it relief, or is it a subject and theme that lingers on your mind?

I’m both relieved and thrilled when I finish the creative work of a book: thrilled because the story is done and I’m happy with the way it turned out; relieved because creative writing is mentally taxing and requires enormous amounts of self-discipline, which I lack. There’s still plenty of work to do before it’s published but it’s mostly busy work, which doesn’t require as much mental energy.

Because I’m a genre writer, when I’m done with a book I’m pretty much done with the subject and/or theme. I may mention something from a book in a later book, to tie the two works together and to point the reader to the previous book.

I’m sure finished products affect each writer differently. Considering that, do you sometimes find an element in your last book something you may want to expand upon in the next volume, or in another title?

I’m working on the next Grant Starr thriller, so I’m expanding on his and other characters, but I haven’t thought of expanding on any one theme. The Mighty T addressed ecological themes important to people who live here in Central California—river management, hydroelectric power, preservation of fish species—but they’re not personal causes so I don’t plan on addressing them again.

Here’s something I struggle with. Maybe your answer to my next question can help writers that share this particular concern. When you write a story, what values do you adhere to? And if you adhere to any, do you sometimes want to break out and be chaotic?  (E.G., not a happy ending?)

So far I like things to wrap up nice and tidy in the end. I need to dial this down, though, because it lead to a fairly long epilog in Canals and a lot of wrap-up writing in The Mighty T. I now think both were probably unnecessary. None of the writers I read a lot of do this.

My wife hates sad endings and I don’t recall any genre fiction I’ve read that had a sad ending; two good reasons for me not to end one of my books like that. And I’d hate to lose her as a reader.

I’m a genre writer, not a literary writer. I have characters who will be in every Grant Starr book, providing something bad doesn’t befall them. In my work-in-progress, I want to give Grant a dark edge. Things have been going too well for him so I plan on shaking his world up a little. Or a lot.

How about characters? What method do you use to come up with character names and origins?

I usually create characters on-the-fly. My main protagonist in Canals, Daniel Lawless, was meant to be a little like me; how much I’ll never reveal, even under threat of life. I borrow names from people I know, from the phone book, and from on-line research. I could use to be a little more creative there. I intend to stay away from main characters with difficult-to-pronounce names. If the name isn’t easy to figure out, they’ll stumble over it the whole book. That is, if they don’t put it down out of frustration.

As for characterization, I like everyone to be different. I like to give people quirks: one a twitching eye, another is a health food nut, a third likes to listen to opera and collects shoes. Like that. I think it makes them memorable and I want my readers to remember my characters.

Okay, let’s talk about The Mighty T. Having read it myself, I think quite highly of it, as you well know. Tell us where the idea came from and how it all came together for you.

I wanted the plot for The Mighty T to be big—huge—and I wanted it to be local. Making it local was largely a marketing ploy; when I finally get the print version done I plan on doing a lot of marketing here in town and in the Valley.

When I decided to start another book, and had the idea for a huge plot, I began looking around for possible story lines. One day I read an article in the local newspaper about the O’Shaughnessy Dam, that the City of San Francisco had erected it some sixty years ago to flood the Hetch Hetchy Valley. The article said environmental groups had been upset about that, were still upset, and studies had been done on the feasibility of taking the dam down. They were years away from removing the dam, if they ever even got it done, but I got to thinking, what if someone wanted to significantly speed up the timetable? Who would do that and why, and how could they do it?

When writing The Mighty T, did you just sit down and churn out the words or did you work from an outline?

When I sat down in front of the computer to write The Mighty T, I had only a very rough and sketchy premise; I knew where I wanted the story to go but had no idea how to get there. It’s been drilled into me that a writer has only a few pages to attract new readers, so the story has to start off with a bang. I thought up the sniper angle as a way to hook the reader in early. At first I just had the guy shooting people, then get killed by another gang member. Then, when writing how Lightfoot put together his gang, the Danny character ended up being crazy so I went back and wrote in the ghosts in the opening scene.

I think of writing fiction as standing in a pool of light, but an odd one. I can see only a few feet ahead but everything behind me is brightly lit.

I keep notebooks when I write. If I run into a wall, I write the problem in the notebook and flesh it out. I write down any possible direction the story line could go, then begin crossing out the ones I don’t think the reader will buy. It has to be real; no “Mission Impossible” unrealistic hijinks for my work. This also gives me time to consider whether the action would fit into a character’s personality and if not, do I need to change the character?

So, what’s the perfect writing environment for you?

I can write almost anywhere. I wrote most of Canals in a spare bedroom on an old Windows 95 machine with no Internet connection, and only one window. The window proved to be the most distracting. I wrote much of The Mighty T at my office, either in the morning, on weekends, or during slow times. I also wrote a lot of it while sitting in the café of my local Borders. I did most of my editing there, too, which is why I shed a tear when that store was closed.

I bought an iPad this spring, with an Apple wireless keyboard. I can write anywhere now; a coffee shop, the break area of a local grocery store, a Panera store, or the library. I write with either the iA Writer or OmmWriter apps. I use OmmWriter if I need to shut out noisy neighbors. It comes with several sound tracks so all I need to do is plug in my headphones and people disappear into the background. Writer is easier to use, saves its files into my DropBox folder so they’re automatically backed up, and the Apple universal spell checking is active. They’re both great apps.

Is anything in your book based on real life experiences or is it purely imagination?

A bit of both, I suppose. As stated, I wanted my readers to be able to “buy” anything that happened in The Mighty T, so I kept it low-tech and, I hope, made the characters believable. None of my own experience was used in the book, but most everything else was based on someone else’s experience. That’s why I love Google.

What has been the toughest criticism directed toward you as an author? What has been the best compliment?

One editor said I “told” the story in my first book, Canals, instead of “showing” it. It took a while to figure out what he meant, but when I did, I realized he was right. It went through several major rewrites to fix that, and even then some of the telling remained.

My best compliment was probably the one you gave me, that reading The Mighty T helped distract and entertain you through a tough time. I make no pretense that my writing will be required reading for some future high school English class. My aim is to give my readers more than fair trade for their hard-earned dollar. If I can entertain them for a few hours, keeping their full attention, then I’ve done my job. And they’ll be back.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Realize you have something to say, then sit down and say it. I never took any writing classes or attended any seminars so I can’t say if they’re worth doing or not. I learned the craft from reading and from the school of hard knocks. You have to write a lot, though. You can’t pick it up every so often and work on it. Commit yourself to a writing schedule and stick with it. And get someone not your relative to read what you’ve written.

Now, for those of us waiting for more from you, rather impatiently, what’s next for you? Will there be a sequel to The Mighty T? Perhaps, something involving this fantastic character you’ve developed in Detective Grant Starr?

My work in progress is another Grant Starr thriller. It begins at a “bloodless” Portuguese bullfight when a matador is gored to death by the bull. Detective John McKay, who worked with Grant in The Mighty T, is lead detective. When it’s clear the death wasn’t accidental, and a Modesto connection is made, McKay asks for Grant’s assistance. They follow clues that lead them to investigate a crooked mayor, an animal rights nut, and a deal involving medical marijuana and millions of dollars. Look for it this winter.

Finally, tell us about relationship building, as it pertains to marketing in this new era of e-publishing. For example, the importance of peer reviews and reader reviews as well.

All published works have to marketed. If a writer gets a traditional book deal, where he receives an advance, he will likely still have to market his book if he doesn’t want to see it disappear from shelves in a few months. Only the biggest names have marketing budgets attached to their releases.

Self-published authors, which I am, must shoulder the entire marketing load. How one can market their own work is an education in and of itself. I like the advice of Jack Konrath and John Locke, both successful self-published writers:

Konrath: 1) Write a good book. 2) Give it a professional cover. 3) Write a good blurb. 4) Make sure the formatting is faultless. 5) Keep doing the above until people can no longer ignore you. This is pretty much my plan.

John Locke gave some good advice in an interview. He’s selling extremely well so it seems we should listen to what he said: Know your target market and design and write for them. Ignore everyone else. He’s found his market and does a good job of giving them what they want: a quick, breezy read. For a buck.

Good reviews are important. Most prospective readers won’t actually read the reviews, but they’ll pay attention to the average rating. One good strategy to get some reviews is to offer your book for free while asking for reviews. I make it clear a review isn’t mandatory and that any such review should be completely honest.

At this point, it’s probably obvious that I really enjoyed your work, Everett. In fact, reviewing The Mighty T was almost as enjoyable as reading it. So, if you haven’t heard it elsewhere – “Get-to-writing! Write faster! and congratulations on a great piece of work.” A.T.

Thanks for chatting with me, Everett. 

Everett’s book, ‘The Mighty T’ is available here, and ‘Canals’ here. You can also connect with Everett on Facebook Twitter – Google+ 

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5+ with Geeta Schrayter – Author of Reaching Riverdale

Today I have the pleasure of chatting with Geeta Shrayter, debuting Author of Reaching Riverdale. Geeta is published by The Little Things Publishing and her book is scheduled for release on September 10th.

Here’s a brief Synopsis;

Annebelle Roth was afraid. She was afraid she’d get stuck in the small New England town she grew up in. She was afraid her high-school boyfriend Riley would break her heart. She was afraid a lifetime of regrets would follow them if they never left. & so, they broke up. One headed to California, the other New York, and the years passed away.

Now, Annebelle’s back – with two degrees in her pocket and plans to stay no more then a couple of weeks, she’s still certain Riverdale couldn’t possibly give her all that she wants. But sometimes everything you’re looking for is where you least expect it. Soon, she finds herself sticking around, helping the town, and learning more about her self and others then she ever expected.

Riley’s returned as well, and Annebelle begins to discover that eight years apart hasn’t stopped the butterflies from fluttering in her stomach at the sight of him. But is it too late for the two of them? The girl who wanted Riley in high school is still vying for his attention – and it appears she’s finally getting it. And Annebelle’s own experiences make it harder than ever for her to believe she’s meant for a fairy-tale ending.

But things aren’t as they seem, and Annebelle can’t fight fate. With the help of her family, friends and Riverdale’s residents, Annebelle might just discover the hometown she was so determined to run from is the very place she should have been running towards instead.

 

Hi, Geeta. It’s a pleasure to meet you and ask you some questions. First, tell us about Geeta Schrayter and what drove you to write in the first place?

It’s truly a pleasure to meet you as well, and I’m quite excited to share a bit about myself. So! Here we go…

Once upon a time… just kidding. At the risk of sounding cliché, I’m going to tell you that I’ve always been driven to write. At least, I was as soon as I figured out that arranging these things called “letters” in particular combinations could form words, and those words, when strung together could form sentences, and then those sentences… well, you get the point.

I’ve no doubt that my love of writing stemmed from another love – reading. I found such joy getting lost in the world of books when I was growing up, that I suppose it was only natural for me to want to create some of those stories and spread the joy.

Writing was also a way for me to express myself. I was painfully shy when I was younger, but I always managed to get my feelings out on paper. The first time I was truly praised for my writing (compliments from family excluded), I was in the 4th grade. The entire school was at an assembly, and the winners of a Mother’s Day writing competition were being announced. I happened to win, which I wasn’t expecting at all. In fact, it took me by such surprise I was sure I’d heard wrong. It was only when my friends nudged me that I realized I hadn’t and walked in front of the entire school to accept my award. Did I mention I was shy? I felt like I was going to faint.

Then, the following year, I had a wonderful teacher who left an indelible mark on me in more ways then one. In fact, she was truly the catalyst. One day, she took me aside to ask if it were okay for her to read a piece I’d written on the Inuit – an Eskimo tribe – aloud to the class. Of course I told her it was fine, but I couldn’t believe she thought it was good enough to share. It’s because of that moment I realized that in writing, I’d found something I not only enjoyed, but must not be half bad at. And that was the day I decided I wanted to be a writer.

So, I suppose you could say I was driven to write by reading, Mother’s Day, teachers, being shy as a rabbit, and the Inuit.

What writer or writers inspire you?

This question’s always hard for me. Whenever I’m asked this, I can never quite put my finger on particular writers. Rather, in the same way I know my experiences are likely to manifest in my writing in some way, shape or form, I think I garner bits of inspiration from all the author’s I’ve read with vigor. That would mean, first and foremost, Jane Austen. Then perhaps a bit of Romance from Nora Roberts, and some wisdom from the likes of Mark Twain, the Bronte sisters and Harper Lee among others.

Over the years, I read a lot of my great aunt’s hand-me-down books as well, so I’m sure the authors she enjoyed, such as Debbie Macomber, Fern Michaels and Barbara Delinsky are likely to inspire my writing, too.

This question also makes me realize I don’t read nearly as much as I should. *Hides*

Hey, tell us what you think about Randi Ertz and The Little Things Publishing. What was your response when you first heard from her?

I’m about as crazy for TLT Publishing as Holly Golightly is about Tiffany’s. It’s an honor to be a part of a publishing house with such heart. When I heard from Randi that very first time, it was pretty surreal. It was like winning that award in 4th grade all over again. I thought, “Does she have the right person? Is this a joke?” Thankfully she did, and thankfully it wasn’t. There are many writers out there looking to get published, so to have been offered a contract so soon after finishing my first novel – and with a publisher that cares about a lot more than the dollar sign – it left me feeling very blessed. It’s refreshing to be a part of a company with the values that TLT possesses, and I’m excited to grow as an author alongside TLT, while they grow as a publisher.

As a writer myself, I find my books somewhat thought provoking. But then, that’s the effect they have on me. How about you? When you finish a book, what effect does the completed work have on you? Is it relief, or is it a subject and theme that lingers on your mind?

When I finished writing Reaching Riverdale, accomplishment is the first thing I felt. I was proud for sticking with it, for taking a single idea and turning it into a full-fledged novel. But being done with the writing aspect by no means meant I was “done” with the book. The themes, conflicts and relationships that took light in the story are all relatable – to me, and I hope, others. Because of that, I’d say that the themes certainly linger on in my mind.

I’m sure finished products affect each writer differently. Considering that, do you sometimes find an element in your last book something you may want to expand upon in the next volume, or in another title?

Life isn’t something you can package up neatly and tie with a ribbon – it’s messy. There are loose ends, and things are always changing. I like to think of my writing the same way. When I finish a story, I don’t really want the phrase “The End” to be applicable. More can always happen. I like secondary characters and side stories that could be developed into a book of their own or would at least serve as an interesting starting point for future volumes. I like to leave myself a sort of trail I can follow when it comes to writing down the road – like literary breadcrumbs.

Here’s something I struggle with. Maybe your answer to my next question can help writers that share this particular concern. When you write a story, what values do you adhere to? And if you adhere to any, do you sometimes want to break out and be chaotic?  (E.G., not a happy ending?)

I don’t think I really adhere to any specific values while writing. You know, I’m a fan of spontaneity… of getting in the car and driving, just to see where I might end up. I suppose I’m the same way with writing. In Reaching Riverdale, for example, I had originally imagined the end differently than it actually turned out. But in hindsight, it probably fit the story a lot more than the other version would have. To tie things back in with life again – you have to be flexible. Things don’t always go as planned, and the journey’s a lot easier if you can accept that. I like to bring that idea into my writing, so at the end of the day, whether I’m left with a happy ending or an empty box of tissues, I’m okay with it.

How about characters? What method do you use to come up with character names and origins?

I don’t have any kids yet, but I think my method for naming characters is similar to the baby naming process. Take me for example. Before I was born, a name was chosen. Then, once I graced the world with my presence (hah!), my mom was never able to call me by that name because she said it didn’t suit me. And so, after some deliberation and a few signs, if you will, I was given the name I have now.

Before I start to write a character, I’ll think about the attributes I want them to have and possibly assign a name based on that. But once I begin writing and their character is “born” I’m never surprised if it changes. Sometimes a different one just fits better. As for finding the names in general, if one doesn’t come to me off the top of my head, I admit to being a fan of the baby name websites.

Okay, let’s talk about Reaching Riverdale. I know you’re really excited aboutyour book and well, I know someone who’s read it and they think quite highly of it. Tell us where the idea came from and how it all came together for you.

It makes me so happy to hear you say that, & even more excited for its release than I already am – if that’s even possible. The idea for the story came to me one sunny day in Vermont. My family has a summer home up there, and let me tell you, there’s nothing quite like some fresh mountain air to get your creativity flowing.

I remember sitting outside and thinking about how much I love it up there, but at the same time, I love life in the city. It’s through that contradictory love that the idea first came to be. Throughout the book, Annebelle goes from pondering what’s truly important in life to questioning her decisions and wondering where she’s meant to be – a variety of conflicts that I think many people can relate to.

As for “coming together,” well, it sort of did that on its own. A few days ago, I was rummaging through one of my closets and actually came across the notebook I’d written my very first thoughts for the story in. The main character’s name is the same, and there are a couple other slight similarities – but just about everything else is different.

Are you a pantser or do you work from an outline?

A pantser! Hah! I like that. And I suppose that’s what I am. As I just mentioned, I’d written down ideas for the story when they first came to me, but then it seemed to take on a mind of its own. That’s how it always seems to go. I’ll sit down to write with an idea of what I might like to happen, but I’m never surprised when it doesn’t go in that direction. Then, when I’m finished for the day, I usually have a few thoughts as to what might happen next. But those ideas frequently change, taking whatever “outline” I DO have and turning it more “by the seat of your pants.”

So, what’s the perfect writing environment for you?

When I was working on the last half of Reaching Riverdale, Starbucks was my “perfect environment.” I don’t know why, but I was able to focus more there than anyplace else – even when it was busy. Maybe having strangers around me served as a bit of motivation. I was there so much that I started to see the same people. Every now and then someone would approach me and ask if I were writing a book. I don’t think they ever expected me to say yes – it seemed so stereotypical writer, I think – but I loved telling them that actually, I was!

The only thing about writing in Starbucks is…  It can get expensive. So this time around, I’m trying to stick to the library or home, where I write at a desk from the early 1900’s that belonged to my Great Grandfather. The poet in me finds it rather romantic and quite fitting.

In general, my environment just needs to be a place that I’ve designated specifically for writing. I can’t write in the dining room or the living room or I’m likely to get distracted doing one of the other activities that also takes place there, like watching I Love Lucy reruns or baking cupcakes (both recent occurrences).

Is anything in your book based on real life experiences or is it purely imagination?

I think there’s a combination of both. For me at least, that’s how it has to be. I’ve always had a thing for Regency England (about 1795-1830), so in 2004, I’d started writing a book that took place during that time. Everything went great until about 20 pages in, when trying to describe what the main character was wearing. I realized then that it wasn’t something I was going to be able to do off the top of my head. I didn’t know enough about the actual period, and obviously, I had no real life experience (although I admit to wishing I was around then), so it just wasn’t feasible. I liked the plot, so perhaps I’ll delve back into it at some point when I have the time to bury myself in research beforehand, but until then, I’ll stick to writing about what I know – or at least what I can make up.

What has been the toughest criticism directed toward you as an author? What has been the best compliment?

The toughest thing I’ve been told wasn’t really criticism directed towards me as an author, but towards the idea of writing in general. If you have a passion for writing, whether it be in the form of books or as a journalist, you’re bound to come across cynics – people who will shake their heads at you for attempting to join a “dying profession” if your sight’s set on journalism, or try to tell you it’s close to impossible for you to get your work published. I just try to ignore them. And now look; scholars are re-evaluating the idea that journalism is dying and my first book’s about to be published.

Compliment wise, you can’t really beat people telling you that you’ve “got a gift.” Of course, while I love and appreciate the views of my family, friends and teachers, the BEST compliment hasn’t arrived yet. That’ll be when a New York Times Book Reviewer tells me I have a gift. *dreamy look* Someday…

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Surround yourself with people who believe you can. If writing is what you love, if it’s what you truly want to do, then do it. There are people out there who will support you in that. And while it’s vital that you believe in yourself, on those days when you feel like giving up – you know, the ‘I-didn’t-write-a-single-word-worth-reading-and-why-would-anyone-else-be-interested-in-what-I-write-anyways’ sort of day – they’ll be there to make sure you don’t. Sometimes a nudge from someone around you is just what you need. As of right now, I’m one of those people. So… don’t give up. Go get another coffee/chocolate cake/cocktail or whatever else you need to help focus, and get back to work.

What’s next for you? Will you continue writing in the same genre?

I think I’m likely to stick to the same sort of genre… but then again, like you now know, I’m all for spontaneity and seeing where the road leads me. There’s a possibility for more adventures with the characters in Riverdale, but my second book takes us to India. The idea for a story there has been brewing for quite some time. It’s inspired by my upbringing – I’m not Indian, but I’ve been around Indian culture all my life – as well as my semester abroad there in 2009 and my visit earlier this year. I’m very excited about it and can’t wait for it to release (hopefully next year).

Before I let you go, tell us about release day. When Reaching Riverdale goes live, where will you be? What will you be doing? And, is there a book launch party planned?

You know, I haven’t even thought about it! Now that you mention it, of course I’ll have to do something to celebrate. There’s no launch party planned, but since it does come out on a Saturday, there’ll definitely be some sort of party going on. I’m sure the local bartenders get people celebrating all sorts of things… but I wonder if anyone’s ever come up to them and asked for a Stoli Blueberry & soda to celebrate the release of their book! Guess I’ll have to go find out. So on Saturday, September 10th, after purchasing your copy of Reaching Riverdale, you can venture out to Hartford, CT and hunt down the author :) 

Thanks for chatting with me, Geeta. 

Geeta’s book, ‘Reaching Riverdale’ is available for pre-oder here.  You can also connect with Geeta on Facebook and Twitter and Google+

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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5+ on Diana Ilinca – Author of ‘Zirconya’

Today I’m fortunate to drop a lot more than 5 questions on Diana Ilinca, who just happens to write about one of my favorite fantasy species types – Elves.

Diana is published by *Champagne Books and their sci-fi imprint, Burst Books. Diana’s fantastic book trailer for Zirconya is right here and her free-read appetizer, ‘Nahtaia: A Faery’s Tale’, can be found here.  (I highly recommend it.) Take a look at Diana’s website for more up to date info on other projects and get to know her better at www.dianailinca.com.

Here’s an idea of what’s between the covers of Zirconya;

 Synopsis: A young elf named Caelum is forced from her world of Zirconya into an unmagical realm called Earth. Ignorant of the life she left behind, she lives as a normal human being, but nothing could be further from the truth. After seventeen years of unknowing exile, a man from her real world, Maze, comes to escort her back, but without her memories of Zirconya, his tale sonly convince her of his insanity.

When holes begin tearing through the dimensional fabric between Earth and Zirconya, Caelum must find a way to remember her past life before Zirconya’s existence is discovered. But how can she remember something she doesn’t even believe in? As if surviving high school isn’t tough enough, add the constant dogging by an annoying, though hunky, mythical man, and the appearance of a creature from her darkest nightmares, and you’ve got a troubled teen.

Excerpt:

“Listen, Vicky,” she cut in. “I know about Lockesith and Zirconya and the
Sages. I know about them all. Don’t say a word to anyone else unless they
know who Maze is.” She began to speak in a panic as the dark man spoke with
the teacher. “It’s all true. You have to believe it, all right? Please!”

The teacher turned and pointed to Chloe. The sinstarian glared at her as he
neared. Chloe glanced at Vicky once more and flashed a half smile when she
suddenly shot out of her seat, jumped from desktop to desktop and dashed out
through the back door of the classroom leading her outside. She ran along
the edge of campus, Craban close behind. The other sinstarian came up from
the side and joined the first. The pursuit seemed in slow-motion as she ran
for her life.

Turning her head, Chloe saw the pair as they drew dangerously closer with
each stride. The Sage faced forward again and saw Maze standing a few paces
ahead, holding a large, silver sword which he lifted above his head and
slashed the air before him, creating a tear similar to the one in the sky.
Chloe had too much momentum and couldn’t stop herself before she reached the
tear. Her eyes widened as she ran directly into it and the campus
disappeared.

 

Hi, Diana. I really enjoyed ‘Nahtaia: A Faery’s Tale’, and thank you for taking the time to chat with me. For starters, could you tell us a little about what drove you to write?

Hi there! Thank you for having me!

As just about any other author will tell you, it was my over-active imagination that got me interested in writing. Wait, that’s a lie. It got me reading which got me to dreaming and from there it all broke loose on paper. When I would see a movie or read a book, my mind and creativity would really let go and I’d be dreaming myself into some odd situations. One day I had this string of fantasies that just felt too jumbled in my mind, so I decided to write them down. That’s when I first realized I actually had the ability to write something down and have it make sense.

Now, it’s a sense of relaxation when I write. If I’m stressed, writing helps. If I’m feeling like my brain is mush, writing is my answer.

As a writer myself, I find my books somewhat thought provoking.  But then,
that’s the effect they have on me. How about you? When you finish a book,
Diana, what effect does the completed work have on you? Is it relief, or is
it a subject and theme that lingers on your mind?

Good question. That really depends on the story and how it ends. If it’s a stand alone, I’m usually glad to finally end it. It seems to me the stand-alones are so much more difficult to write and I feel more of an urge to get them down and out onto the submission boat. As for series, they are thought provoking and I’m usually more excited about moving on with the
story in another book. There have been a couple times when a book I meant as a stand-alone hung over my head with additional scenes I could add, or more “history” to the story materializes in my mind and I’m tempted to write a sequel after all. It depends on the story, really. What I know for sure is that I can’t seem to let some stories go and there is always more in my mind.

I’m sure finished products affect each writer differently. Considering that,
do you sometimes find an element in your last book something you may want to expand upon in the next volume, or in another title?

For sure. Sometimes there will be something that happens in the story or a character that is introduced that fascinates me. Usually, though, I’d try to fit whatever it was into another story because once I finish a book I expected to be a stand alone, I don’t want to have to think up a whole other plot and subplots for a sequel. If it doesn’t fit into another wip, then
sure, I can eventually come up with another volume to that story.

Here’s something I struggle with. Maybe your answer to my next question can
help writers that share this particular concern. When you write a story,
what values do you adhere to? And if you adhere to any, do you sometimes
want to break out and be chaotic?  (E.G., not a happy ending?)

Values in books are a big matter that has always been talked about among authors. Some don’t think they’re necessary while others feel every book should teach the reader something – typically in childrens’ or young adult novels. I myself am with the latter, and enjoy a good sense of values from the author. Not forced values that make the book sound preachy but something thought provoking to the reader that will make them think beyond the story. Happy endings are not always the case and I wouldn’t want to lie to my readers by making it seem that way,(Though childrens’ books are different) In my writing.

As for my own values, in my writing, I try to show the YA’s that yes, there * is* evil out in the world and bad people and bad things, but that all of these things can be overcome with the correct sense of right and wrong. I also like to see the change and growth of a character that begins as a person that no one likes. Someone who’s just not nice and unpleasant to be
around…to see them change into a whole different person through experiences and troubles that many teens/people face in our modern day…with a fantasy twist of course.

How about characters? What method do you use to come up with character
names?

I have no set method, really. Sometimes it just comes to me. Sometimes I take a word and twist it or add another word to it. It’s all a matter of the story and the type of character, too. Elves and dragons, for example, are much more difficult to name than humans.

Okay, now let’s talk about Zirconya, specifically. I’ve heard it through the
grapevine that you’ve actually constructed Elven dialect and language. Tell
us how much work went into that.

Oh goodness, haha! I’ve been hearing this all over the place, too, but it’s only partially correct! Yes, I do have elvish in the Zirconya series but I don’t have the entire language spanned out Iike, say, Tolkien. I’ve put together bits and pieces but not an entire language…yet. I wish I could say I did but, yikes! That’s something that would take a lifetime!

In that the language of the characters in Zirconya is critical to the story,
you’ve created a study in culture, so to speak. So, when writing your book, how much time did that epic creation-ism take to develop?

Culture-wise, yes, I did delve much more into that. Each species has their own culture; their own typical beliefs, allies, quirks, etc. I have eleven chief species in Zirconya, too, so there was quite some work put into that when trying to explain every species separately and their own culture.  I’m currently working on putting it all together in readable, understandable form for my website, but believe me when I say that it takes some time and brainwork. You have to think about the creatures’/person’s surroundings and way of life to be able to form an idea of what effect they would have on a species, what they would eat, how they would hunt, etc. A lot of history also has to go into the world for everything to fit together and make sense. For example, in Zirconya, sinstarians would have no reason to hate elves so much unless there were some epic problems in their history. I have to create that history and have it down to understand it and make it understandable to readers. All of this creation, though, has been going on for the last decade. It’s not only time that’s needed, but a passion for the world to keep you going.

When constructing such an epic fantasy, did you outline the story or did you
pants it? Or did you use a mixture of the two methods?

It was a mixture that is still a process now. I have the basic outline of the next two books in the series but ideas are still hitting me. Subplots are still coming so I am forced to wonder whether or not I’ll really be able fit the whole story in three books. At this point, the main plots are outlined but I’m “pantsing” the subplots.

Okay, Diana, tell us how you came up with that stunning cover for Zirconya.

The wondrous Amanda Kelsey from Champagne Books designed it for me. She’s a
wonder in the works!

What can you tell us about your upcoming book?

Zirconya: The Sage of Aluh’Nehn is the first book in the series and focuses mostly on Caelum Foriei, aka, Chloe Wiles and Maze, “the Sagen bodyguard.” Around Chloe/Caelum, t’s about the typical, skeptical traits of our modern world and how she discovers that, all this time, we’ve been wrong and there is a whole other dimension out there full of things people only write faery-tales about. It’s the beginning of a series about the growth of two characters (Chloe/Caelum and Maze) as they learn to cope with one another and their fate while trying to keep darkness from veiling the land of Zirconya and passing into the modern world of Earth. Think about it. Two people who realize they’re going to have to deal with each other for all of eternity, work together to keep two dimensions safe and in-line…when they could hardly stand one another for a year. It’s not exactly fun; unless of course you do in fact find some form of enjoyment in torturing your characters, which I do.

Is anything in your book based on real life experiences or purely all
imagination?

Some of the events were true to my own life, though highly exaggerated so it’s really not worth sharing. Some of the characters are also based off of people who I know or knew at one point. Basing characters off of people you know helps with the whole sense of reality when you think about it, like, “how would that person react in real life if <insert event here> just happened?” Not all my characters, though. I do like using my imagination,
after all.

How did you choose the genre you write in?

Fantasy has always been important to me. I grew up constantly pretending instead of playing with Barbies and video games. The idea of creatures and magic has been something close to my heart for as long as I can remember. It’s the one genre I can enjoy while reading and enjoy writing the most. I guess it’s just my personality.

What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has
been the best compliment?

The toughest criticism is the criticism I get almost all the time when someone hears I write fantasy, but that’s not directed to my writing. “Fantasy is pointless.” I am often put down for my passion in writing things that “can’t happen” but it hasn’t stopped me this far and I don’t plan to let it.

The best compliment I’ve ever received was when I received the news that a seventh grade class used my Zirconya offshoot, Nahtaia, as a class reading project. They sent me pictures of the art from their presentations and everything! When I see that kids are actually getting something from my writing *as well as enjoying it,* it makes me all warm and fuzzy inside.

Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?

Read! A lot! The more you read and the more diverse books you read, the better your writing becomes. And when you start querying, don’t expect things to move quickly. Expect tons of rejections for a long time. It took me years! It’s the nature of the literary beast and there’s no fighting it. I was rejected because my book wasn’t as good as I thought it was. (and, shoot, I thought it was awesome, haha!) Jumping to self-publishing because
you think the agent/pub-house is “wrong” will only hurt you in your future attempts to get an agent or be pubbed by a bigger house.

Also, write what you enjoy! Not what “the market calls for.” Readers can tell the difference between a story written for the money and a story written for the passion and the love that’s there for that story. Unless, of course, you’re only writing for the money, then go for it. (Please keep in mind, this is not PROFESSIONAL advice. Just advice from my own personal experiences to aspiring authors – not already published authors)

Thank you for squeezing some time for me to jabber! I love sharing the world of Zirconya with anyone mad enough to listen!

You can connect with Diana on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+

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