Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Symmetry in Writing: How to Keep the Flow Moving

Author Donna Alward
by Donna Alward

In 2006 Harlequin Romance bought HIRED BY THE COWBOY.  I’d been trying for nearly 5 years to sell to Harlequin; after a lot of rejections and nearly-theres, I finally put a twist on a popular trope and nailed what they were looking for.

HIRED BY THE COWBOY is a marriage of convenience story, and Connor and Alex decide to get married because of her baby. The “twist”, as such, is that the baby isn’t his. But he’s willing to step up and help. Of course, the initial intention isn’t to be married forever, and fatherhood isn’t really considered a permanent situation.

Until it is.

Hired by the Cowboy
I loved writing that story. I loved how they slowly fell in love, and how the planning of the wedding brought them closer together—and further apart.

That book has proved one of my most popular to date.

I’ve recently switched gears into writing longer, single-title books, and so my last for Harlequin is out in January 2016 – ten years after I sold my first. THE COWBOY’S CONVENIENT BRIDE is…you guessed it. A marriage of convenience story. And the hero is willing to marry the heroine because of her baby. Whoa!

Granted, the baby in the story is already born and cute as a bug’s ear. But she’s not his (in fact, he’s a paramedic and helped deliver her), and he’s not really looking at fatherhood as a long-term thing.

Until he is. You know what happens next.

The Cowboy's Convenient Bride
I love the symmetry between the two stories—my first and my last for Harlequin. It gives me a neat sense of closure, like I’ve come full circle. I honestly never thought I’d stop writing those shorter romances, and who knows? Maybe one day I’ll go back. I’m focusing on longer works now, but I know that I’m going to miss going home to my small-town ranchers and cowboys.  I’ve done 29 of them, and writing one feels like putting on comfortable shoes and walking around for a while. And while I love the full-circle aspect, I have to tell you that getting to 29 and not a nice, round 30 is a little grating. It feels unfinished somehow.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned for sure about publishing, it’s that nothing is ever written in stone. So who knows?



Laura Jessup is used to the rumors—everyone in tiny Gibson, Montana, thinks she’s a home-wrecker. And Laura can handle that if it means protecting her daughter from her sweet girl’s father. Only hunky EMT Tanner Hudson seems immune to the gossipmongers. The solution he proposes—a marriage in name only!—might just be crazy enough to work…if only Laura can keep her heart out of it.

Tanner wasn’t sure Laura would accept a platonic marriage, even though it would stop the rumor mills and get his own family off his back. But as the wedding draws closer, Tanner worries that his plan is working a little too well. He’s falling for Laura, hard. They thought they were ready for marriage, but are Tanner and Laura prepared for real love?

Donna Alward loves to hear from fans. You can reach her via her Website, follow her on Facebook or Twitter.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

The Resourceful Heroine

Author Chris Karlsen
by Chris Karlsen

When conversation turns toward strong women in books and other forms of entertainment, there seems to be a split. One group is made up of those ladies whose strength comes from power through political or financial influence and those who are deemed in the media as “kick ass” heroines. Recently, the more popular of the two has been the kick ass variety. They would be the Lara Crofts or Ilsa Faust the ally of Ethan Hunt in the latest IMF movie Rogue Nation. Both groups have made for interesting characters.

In Time for You - Special Pre-order sale on Kindle
I find there’s a third group and that’s the heroine I like to write. She’s what I call the resourceful heroine. She’s not wealthy nor does she have political power to wield. She’s not a master of any form of martial arts or top drawer shooter who could challenge the best sniper. She’s not even much in the way of a MacGyver. In a lot of ways, my heroines are like me. If you put me in a room and Flexcuff me to a chair with just a Swiss Army knife and come back in two hours, in two hours I’ll still be cuffed to the chair. I’ll not have MacGyver’d my way out of those cuffs.

What I try to have my heroines do is use the skillsets they have. I like to take ordinary women and put them in extraordinary circumstances and make them shine. I make them strong through their resourcefulness.

Electra and Emily Crippen, the two sisters from In Time For You, my latest historical romance, are torn through time and suddenly find themselves in medieval England. They recognize early on they need to adapt to the medieval world they’ve been thrown in and figure a way to contribute. This period in history was not a good time for women. The sisters are in a dangerous situation and cannot afford to put a foot wrong. Without giving away spoilers, I’ll just say I had them to use their skills, their common sense and their intellect.

With them it’s my way of saying that strength comes in many forms. I never wanted the sisters to give up. They had moments where they got close. They shed some tears once in a while, not often because I don’t like weepy heroines, but when push came to shove, they held kept it together. I hope the readers like that about them as much as I enjoyed giving them that gumption.

Check out more of Chris' Books on StoryFinds

Chris loves to hear from fans. She can be reached on her website, on Facebook or Twitter.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

The Appeal of Writing Mail Order Bride Romances

Author Linda Bridey

Writing is truly a labor of love for me.  I'd always written stories, but until I began writing the Montana Mail Order Brides (Westward) Series, I hadn't been serious about my craft.  Finally, after a lot of encouragement by my family and friends, I decided to take the plunge and begin publishing those stories.  There are 23 books in the Westward Series and there are 8 books in my Echo Canyon Brides series, which is still ongoing.  The current book is titled Montana Orphan and it builds upon the events from the last book and introduces some new characters as well.
I’ve been asked about my creative process many times and the best way to describe it is that I have this creative door in my head that characters walk up to, knock on, and come through.  They sit down, introduce themselves, and tell me what they're like.  I develop them from there, but they lead me where they want to go and sometimes we argue.  Yes, I know how that sounds, but it's true.  I've tried to write with an outline, but the characters never go where I originally thought they would. 
Westward Winds by Linda Bridey
I’m also asked frequently for advice on writing.  Here it is; read and write every day.  Even if what you write is garbage, write.  It's the only way to hone your craft.  Take risks and don't be afraid to roam outside of your comfort zone.  Stretch yourself as a writer and be ruthless when you edit.  Cut out things that don't go with your story lines, but don't get rid of it.  Save it because it might come in handy somewhere else down the line where it might fit better.  Don't listen to the reviews that aren't constructive.  It'll only discourage you and prevent you from writing.  Own your mistakes and go on and do better.
I’ve always admired Nora Roberts’ style of writing because her characters are vivid and she doesn't get bogged down with a lot of description that just slowly down the story.  So I guess I sort of emulate her somewhat.  I'm also an avid Stephen King fan and I love the way he inserts humor into his scariest stories, so I try to do that, too.
The biggest obstacle I always have to overcome is that I tend to be a very prolific writer.  Editing is painful for me because I never want to cut anything out of a story.  So I have to very stern with myself about it and force my fingers to hit the delete button or move text to a new document to use at a future date.
Montana Rescue by Linda Bridey
What’s next for me?  I’m very excited about my upcoming series, The Dawson Chronicles, which is a spinoff of the Westward Series and continues telling the romantic stories of Dawson’s residents and the descendants of the original characters.  My readers were clamoring for more of the characters they’ve come to love and I just couldn’t refuse them.

Linda can be reached on her Facebook page. Follow her on Twitter and check out her Website.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Writing a Dark Hero

Author D.B. Reynolds
by D. B. Reynolds

I liked complicated men. They tend to be a lot more high maintenance, but they’re also a lot more intense, which means life with them is more passionate. And I like that. When it comes to writing my heroes, of course, I tend to go with what I like in real life, which means my vampires are dark and complicated, they’re heroic but also brutal and bloodthirsty.

Rajmund by D.B. Reynolds
But how to make my vampire heroes unapologetically vampire, and at the same time appealing to readers? First, I gave each of them the qualities of all great heroes. They’re loyal, courageous, smart and charming. And they’re devastatingly handsome, because this is romance fiction, after all. They’re also completely devoted to their lover and mate, unyielding in her defense, and viciously possessive when it comes to her affections. And, yes, they can be violent … but they’re not bullies. Their violence is in response to betrayal by someone they trusted, or in defense of their territories or the vampires they’re sworn to defend. And especially when someone dares to threaten the woman they love. Who doesn’t want a lover who will defend them to the death, a lover who will crawl over the bodies of his enemies to get to the woman he loves?

Of course, because they’re vampires, they have to drink blood. My vampires embrace what they are, and revel in the taste of blood fresh from the vein, but they don’t roam the streets, killing at random, they have clubs and parties where willing donors line up to donate blood from the vein, in exchange for the sexual high of having a vamp tap in. They’re adamantly territorial, but they deal with that by having a rigid political structure which deals with their more violent urges and generally maintains the peace. They’re unapologetically vampire, but they’re smart enough to take advantage of modern society instead of fighting against it. And when it comes to vampire affairs, they don’t give a damn what humans think.  

Sophia by D.B. Reynolds
In the final analysis, my vampire lords are the ultimate dark heroes. They’re powerful, rebellious and beautiful. And the love of a good woman brings out the best in them.

To read more about my vampires, please visit my website at where I post free short stories and the latest news all of my books.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Meet Author, Philanthropist & Libertarian Phil Harvey

Author Phil Harvey
Phil Harvey is an award-winning author, philanthropist and libertarian whose stories won a prize from Antietam Review and were nominated for the Pushcart Prize. His dark fiction and controversial ideas have broadened debate on violent entertainment, relationships and sexuality. 

Q: Your three new books are collections of short stories in which characters touch something important in themselves or in others.

Show Time by Phil Harvey
PH: The centerpiece of my fiction is always the individual. I like to put characters in demanding physical/psychological settings that force them to respond. Frankly this saves work and imagination because some responses are fore-ordained. Other ideas come from experience. Fly fishing. Sex. Upbringing. And so on. Some ideas even spring from other books. Really, the stories run the gambit. A few end in death, one in time travel, a few in redemption.

Show Time engages with seven people and their idiosyncrasies, lust, belligerence, and desire to survive. How they are attracted to each other, how they fight with each other, how they sometimes undermine and then strengthen each other. They boil, they confer, they fight, they make love—but overall, they must survive.
For all my characters, life goes on but is changed.

Q: Tell us about Show Time. The novel challenges seven reality show contestants with the possibility of starvation or freezing to death.

Wisdom of Fools by Phil Harvey
PH: My book explores the use of violence and death as entertainment. We already have real-world examples like the potential fatal violence that helps fuel the popularity of car racing. We like violence. It fascinates us. That’s why it leads the news every night. My idea is that policymakers someday will, perhaps without knowing it, encourage certain kinds of violence to keep people satisfied. Presidents like wars—even though they won’t admit it. Wars unify us. We always support the troops. So deliberate steps to encourage controlled violence are not so farfetched.

Q: What’s the takeaway for readers of your fiction?

PH: I would hope they have journeyed to a place they would not have seen without the novel or one of the stories…that they experienced it and enjoyed being there, became engrossed, and had the pleasure of a good read. I always welcome emails with serious and thoughtful questions. I invite readers of Show Time to think about the complexities of violence. Perhaps this is worth considering: “War unites us. Love divides us.”

Q: What’s next for you?
PH: My most promising novel is Just In Time, in which a Wall Street trader is deposited back in the Pleistocene era. The other, Indian Summer, follows a Peace Corps volunteer’s transformation fighting famine in India during the 1960s. I plan to write more short stories focused on the transformative powers of sex and alcohol.

Across the Water by Phil Harvey
As for myself, I will continue enjoying my married life, being a stepfather, and nurturing my very promising grandkids. And, of course, I’ll continue organizing projects that promote civil liberties through the DKT Liberty Project, work to end the War on Drugs, and debunk yahoos who ignore the reason and science behind immunization and the genetically modified crops that can relieve suffering worldwide.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

A Trio of Naughty Shorts

Author Rowanna Green
by Rowanna Green

Raise your hand if you have written a short story. Keep it up if it’s a tad on the naughty side. And now keep it raised if you have a folder (or drawer or even, for those who remember them, a floppy disk) full of short stories you wrote several years/decades ago. Anyone still with their hand up is most likely female, a certain age and most definitely a writer. *waves in recognition*

On the way to writing my first novel, I wrote dozens of the things – mostly naughty little fantasies. What can I tell you? With full time jobs and three kids under five, we were generally too tired to do much more than dream about all those nights we spent practising the art of baby-making. One thing the stories all had in common was a twist in the tale – usually quite dark and frequently involving the heroine being rescued by a knight in shining armour. Metaphorically speaking.

So when I did write that first full length story, I’d honed some of the skills and the resulting tale, Fox Among Wolves, has all the aforementioned elements.

A couple of adult books (and a couple of teen series) later, I unearthed some of those slightly longer shorts, edited out all the rookie mistakes (with the help of the lovely ladies from the World Wise Writers) and published an anthology called Triple Jeopardy.
Triple Jeopardy by Rowanna Green

One Amazon reviewer said, “Although each story is separate and has its own characters (and decade) there is a similar theme to all of them - relationships gone horribly wrong. I wish there were two more stories to bring it to this decade. It is definitely a theme that has teeth.”  So now I’m seriously thinking about writing a story, based on a true incident in the naughties (the delightful, post-Millenium decade). The working title is “An Englishwoman in New York” and I thoroughly intend to have some fun with all the cross-pond translations which seem to be plaguing me at the moment. This is getting to be a bit of a motif, so, just for fun, if you have a particular UK word that foxed you when you read/heard it being used differently to your understanding, write to me at Your name could be included as one of the characters in that new story which will be out next year.

So, just ahead of Thanksgiving, Triple Jeopardy is FREE on 19th-20th November.  Download your copy and see if you agree with the reviewers who said “A well-written, humorous and insightful work about contemporary life in the United Kingdom” and “Each story is a fun and engrossing read, but you will also walk away from the tales thinking about the important issues the author has raised.” Just be warned: It does get very naughty.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Monsters in the workplace

No, this isn’t a book about vampires or a Harry Potter version of ‘The Office’.

It’s about the monstrosities that happen in the place where you spend most of your life time. 
Of course, ‘Graveyards of the Banks’ is not about any old workplace.  It’s about ‘The Most Successful Bank in the Universe’, and American bank in the city of London, a place so secret that there is no name on its wall, and the staff entrance leads through a mediaeval graveyard.

Graveyards of the Banks by Nyla Nox
But the real monsters are inside, and they are just as alive as you and me.

Particularly me.

The story of ‘Monsters Arising’ has at its core the culture of extreme bullying inside this Bank, and what it does to the people who work there, all through the night, in the graphics center, illustrating the 

Bank’s vision.

Most of them are jobless humanities graduates like Nyla (my namesake in the book), whose dreams are already broken and who are afraid of losing this job, the only opportunity to pay off their debts and survive another week in the big city.

So they are both vulnerable to being intimidated and humiliated, and very reluctant to stand up and do anything about it.


It’s a fight between survival of the body and integrity of the soul.  But the body has to live or nothing lives.

This story is set in an office environment but it is as dramatic and emotional as any family drama. 

Everyone is fighting.  Everyone is desperate.  Everyone is out for themselves.

Yes, there are nice moments.

Graveyard of the Banks: Monsters Arising
Nyla tries to make it with love interest Peter, who managed to find a job in a Better Place but had to come back, a terrible defeat which undermines both his career prospects and his ability to connect.

But the nightly bullying is relentless. 

Anyone who has ever been in a situation like this knows exactly what I am talking about.

People are paralysed with terror, both rational and irrational.

Nobody speaks out.

There are no heroes.

But what if someone would, either by accident or because they can no longer endure the silence, blow the whistle on the bullies?

How would that happen?

And what fresh hell would that person fall into, not knowing what has happened to their complaint, not knowing if the bullies have found out and want to revenge themselves, and, again, being treated like the dirt underneath the management’s shoes?

If you want a scary but very suspenseful ride through a world that is still largely unknown and completely misrepresented in literature, open the pages of ‘Monsters Arising’ and start reading, if you dare.

Nyla loves to hear from fans. Check out her Website, Facebook or Twitter

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Why Write Vampires?

Author D.B. Reynolds
by D. B. Reynolds

Why vampires?  I get asked that question a lot – mostly by people who have no idea how wonderful vampires are.  Over the years I’ve read so, so many vampire books, and I’ve probably seen every vampire movie out there, some good, some … well not so good.

When I was in high school and into my twenties, I was totally into science fiction and fantasy books. And then I read Anne Rice’s Interview With a Vampire. Vampires were no longer these hunched over Victorian monsters with buck teeth and no hair who somehow seduced willowy young maidens in their beds. They were sexy and sultry, and irresistibly seductive, and they’d lived among us for hundreds of years.

Rice’s vampires hooked me and I never wanted to break free. I fell in love with Frank Langella’s 1979 Dracula—gorgeous and sophisticated, smooth and sexy. And I loved the evolution to Wesley Snipes’ warrior vamp, with muscles and fangs and a take no prisoners attitude.  Not to mention the third Blade movie, which was, um, not that good.  But it did feature a shirtless Ryan Reynolds, which is always a good thing.  That scene when the half-naked Reynolds is chained to the floor, flexing those gorgeous muscles … well, it still takes my breath away.

But the real evolution of vampires has been in books. I love what Charlaine Harris, Susan Sizemore, Kresley Cole, J. R.Ward and Lynn Viehl have done with the vampire genre.  And I especially love the urban fantasy that’s been spun lately, featuring vampires in a whole new light, like Adrian Phoenix’s fantastic Maker’s Song series with the delicious and oh so damaged Dante Baptiste, and Ilona Andrews’ very different take on vampires and the “People” who pilot them.

Deception: Vampires in America by D.B. Reynolds
And then there’s my own beautiful vampires. I gave them all the seductiveness and beauty I admire, but I still wanted them to be vampires.  Every author makes her own choices, but I’ve been dismayed by the trend toward vampires who are just sensitive guys who happen to drink blood.  I wanted my vampires to be combative and territorial and vicious.  Yes, I wanted them beautiful.  But I wanted them to be unapologetically vampire, not long-suffering martyrs searching for a tender-hearted woman to heal them.

So my vampires are gorgeous and seductive, but they’re also ruthless and possessive. Merciless to those who betray them. And when they love, they do it with a fierce passion. Threaten their mates, and there is no end to the pain they will inflict upon you before you die.  Not that my heroines need much protecting. They can generally kick butt right alongside their vampire lovers!

So, why do I write vampires?  Because I love them.  Because they’re the ultimate bad boys (and girls) and the possibilities are endless.

Vincent by D.B. Reynolds
If you’d like to explore my vampires further, you can visit my blog at where I have free stories and info on all of my books.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Killing your darlings: the art of editing

I’m not a professional editor. But as the first native English speaker in my family, I grew up editing everything my parents wrote. Letters, CV’s, technical articles, even recipes. Everything passed through my hands before going out into the world.
My dad was a particularly prolific writer. As a civil engineer, he produced technical reports, educational manuals, and press releases—all of which I edited. Every time one of his construction projects neared completion, I also edited his cover letters, resumes, and post-interview thank you notes. I got a lot of practice, since Dad changed jobs about as often as most people change oil filters.

This early experience proved a boon. I breezed through high school AP English. By college, I was writing papers like a pro. The summer of sophomore year, I did a stint as a teaching assistant in a writing program. My students nicknamed me “The Knife” for my ruthless use of the red pencil. I emulated Hemingway: no frills, just clean, streamlined text.

Several decades later, I started writing romance. I love creating imaginary worlds, new characters, happy endings. But my favorite part? The editing. That’s when I can really go to town.

Without A Net
Here are the top 6 things I’ve learned about editing over the years:
  1. Read, read, read. Nothing improves writing and editing skills as much as reading.
  2. Silence your inner critic while writing. Otherwise you may never reach the finish line. Once you have a “completed” manuscript, you can switch to edit mode.
  3. Don’t be afraid to kill your darlings. William Faulkner (and later Stephen King) said that a good writer must recognize and eliminate whatever bits of writing don’t contribute to the overall work. Even if those are the bits you love the most—AKA, your darlings. You can always cut and paste them into a separate file. I have an “outtakes” file for every book I write, full of my cutting room floor darlings. If you must, you can always insert these snippets elsewhere. Into letters, for example. Remember those?
  4. Time and distance lend perspective. This is particularly true in writing. When you finish a manuscript, put it away in a drawer. Save it on a zip drive. Let it sit for a while. A week, a month, a year. Take it out, blow off the metaphorical dust, and read it with fresh eyes.
  5. Get help from qualified people. Even good writers can use a professional editor. Don’t rely on your spouse or mom or best friend—unless they are professional editors. And even then, think twice. In medicine, we’re taught not to treat family. Too close a relationship can cloud judgement, sometimes with catastrophic results.
  6. Know when to stop. After multiple rounds of editing, when your editor is satisfied, your beta readers are happy, your deadline was yesterday, and you’re still waffling between “a” and “the”—put down the red pencil. You’re done.

Jill Blake loves chocolate, leisurely walks where she doesn’t break a sweat, and books with a guaranteed happy ending. A native of Philadelphia, Jill now lives in Southern California with her husband and three children. During the day, she works as a physician in a busy medical practice. At night, she pens steamy romances, which are available on Amazon.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

The Birth of a Cover

Author April White
by April White

Writers and readers are very visual people. Writers have to paint pictures with words for readers to see in their heads as they read, which is why most writers I know have inspiration boards.

When I first began plotting Marking Time, I built my inspiration board into a collage with which I covered my writer's notebook.

You can see where the color tones for the first book came from. As I got closer to finishing Marking Time, I started to think about its cover. This was the first image I found that really inspired me.

I could never find a photo credit to track down the artist for permission to use it, so we tried to replicate the look in a photo shoot. It didn't work.

I thought I would be marketing the book to young adults because, well, Saira is seventeen. So every cover idea I came up with was sent to my then eighteen-year-old niece for her thoughts. She's an inhaler of books, as all the women in my family are, and her usual criteria for buying a book is cover first, then page count. If the cover doesn't appeal, or it isn't long enough, she puts it back on the shelf.

These were my early attempts. My niece was always supportive, but she didn't really love any of them, thank goodness.

But through the progression, the cover of Marking Time was born. My niece approved.

I love my old covers. I love that they were relatively gender-neutral, and not age-specific. I love that they are striking and graphic, and showed readers the different artifacts of the Immortal Descendant families. For readers waiting for book four, here’s the Monger ring…

As I finished books two and three, I began to really pay attention to marketing. There was a pattern in the reviews, and a study of reader demographics confirmed that the vast majority of my readers are women between the ages of 25 and 55.

They say the most powerful person in the world is the one who stands on a street and waves traffic in the direction it's already going. The trick is just to figure out which direction that is.

I began to think about the idea of re-branding the series to appeal directly to the women who are its biggest readers, and then a brilliant friend of mine designed these stunning covers, using elements found in the stories. When I sent the new covers to my niece, now twenty-one years old. Her response:

"I would totally buy them."

These new covers represent something bigger than just re-branding the Immortal Descendants series to appeal to readers of historical mysteries, paranormal suspense, and time travel romance. They have inspired me to actively seek the audience for my books, and to attempt to wave the traffic of readers in the direction it already seems to be already going.

April White
Author of the Immortal Descendants series: 
For readers who like history and a little magic 
with their time travel adventures. 
April's Amazon Author page

Friday, November 6, 2015

Remembering Veterans by author Livia Quinn

Livia Quinn
by Livia Quinn

Now through the end of the month all profits from Her First Knight: Under-Cover Knights (The Beginning) will be donated to Veterans’ charities. Please find a way to thank a get in your life for their service in some meaningful way.

Veterans’ advocate Ridge Romano is up to his Special Forces tattoo in manure.

“Take ‘em off, Tucker. Tucker. Tucker…”

What had he been thinking? He considered himself a careful planner, the consummate decision maker. He’d worn many hats—inventor, Ranger, mentor, CEO. So how had he wound up on stage in nothing but his trousers and tie beside two cover models, with a hundred women screaming for him to take it off. That’s the question his friends and family would be asking tomorrow, if they found out. That, and “Who’s Tucker?” He’d just have to make sure no one found out about his little side trip. A whim and a folly could turn into his worst nightmare.

It had seemed like a recipe for harmless fun. Take one curious CEO on the way to his room who followed a gorgeous redhead onto the wrong floor. Add a hundred romance writers and readers attending a conference. Toss in some false assumptions, throw out a lifetime of good behavior and
Ridge was up to his Special Forces tattoo in manure.

He should own up right now and stop this farce, exit while he still had his drawers, but that guaranteed revealing his faux pas. He decided to play along, call as little attention to himself as possible—while stripping off his clothes—and then slip away unidentified when it was over.

Before something happened…

Buy Links
Her First Knight

Hard Days Knight, book 1

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Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Like Halloween? Try the Pagan version (Samhain)

Author Jacky Gray
by Jacky Gray

I must confess to being a tad rushed trying to get this finished in time for the release date, but given that ceremonies on October 31st are featured three times during the book, the date was a no-brainer. Don’t know if it’s something to do with being born in October, but this time of year has always been very special for me.

It’s been quite a journey (and a huge learning curve) to get to this point.  While taking a well-earned year off from teaching math (or trying to!), I wrote five books about a bunch of characters who live in an alternate England (or more specifically Wessex), set in modern day but with a medieval twist. It’s taken five years to get to the point where the first five are all available – the sixth book has been written, but won’t be released until after the seventh is completed because the two are heavily entangled (think Game of Thrones entwined) and stuff may happen in the seventh which needs a little signposting (or tweaking) in the sixth book. All in all it’s been a heck of a journey, fraught with adventure as I’ve roamed the land meeting pagans, faeries, Vikings, pirates and honest-to-goodness knights in shining armour. *Knees go weak at the memory* Yep, it’s a hard life, but someone’s gotta do it.

Available on Kindle
The fifth book, Geraint,  sees a fourth protagonist, the son of a Renegate leader, failing miserably to live up to his father’s expectations and gruelling combat training. But with the help of some powerful magic (of the believe in yourself variety), he thwarts a vicious bully, Manfrid, to win the Herfest trial. His reward is a stay in Oxford, where he meets Siany, who brings joy and light into his life as she teaches him how to read, write and open his heart to love. Their special bond awakens powerful magic in both of them, until Manfrid’s ambush severs their connection. The universe has other ideas, bringing them together as he buries his faithful dog.

This special bond saves Siany’s family from a band of cut-throat highwaymen, and it proves useful to the people of Oxford when they are besieged by the same band. The real trouble comes when the leader decides to take his revenge.

I’m made up by the comments so far:

“Each of the Hengist books is an adventure, and I’ve fallen in love with every character.”

“I love books about guys who have a rough early life, but then turn it around and are so sweet and protective despite/because of what they've been through; Geraint fits this to a T.”

“If you love wild pigs, affectionate dogs, old crones and invisible children, you'll love Geraint.”

Released on 30th October, Geraint is available at only 99cents/99p until November 1st. Read more about it here.

Jacky Gray is proud to be a member of the World Wise Writers.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Historical Magic Makes for Great Writing

Author Kathy Fischer-Brown
by Kathy Fischer-Brown

When I decided to give a complete overhaul to an old story I’d started some years ago, I took a leap of faith. I have a few other books out there, all of them historical novels. My first stab at what is now The Return of Tachlanad started out as a straight medieval book set in the twelfth century during a civil war (often referred to as “The Anarchy”) in England. The characters included a lady married to a lord, who is off fighting for one of the sides (I don’t recall which), their daughter who is sent off for her safety and who later disguises herself as a boy, an old man (a monk in this case), a cruel usurper, a reluctant love interest, and a murdered abbess. It sat for nearly 25 years unfinished and kind of vague in its identity. Until the characters ganged up on me and insisted I write their story as an epic fantasy.

The Return of Tachlanad
While I never attempted to write one before, I am a big fan of the fantasy genre and I counted on my experience as a “world-builder” in creating believable historical settings to guide me in breathing life into this alternative universe. (I will add that it was more fun than I ever imagined.) Starting out, I wanted to avoid the common genre archetypes found in a lot of fantasy fiction these days (elves, orcs, dwarves, and “dark lords,” to name but a few). So I drew on my knowledge—and lots of research—of actual peoples and cultures and endowed them with other qualities.

In creating the characters that populate the book, I combined elements of our world and its historical past with those from my imagination. The creatures known as Skaddock, for example, physically resemble primitive hominids that roamed the earth in prehistory, but with a Stone Age skill set. Milith people, while having many traits common to elven types, share certain “aboriginal” cultural attributes, among them a matrilineal social structure and coming of age rituals. Nortlunders are a mosaic of ancient Roman and Viking cultures, with their violence and lust for conquest. The Lothrians are a mishmash of Celtic and ancient Britons, including some of their myths, legends, and druidic hierarchy. All with a bit of a twist.

The Partisan's Wife
Magic, is a strange power, and nearly always a component of fantasy fiction. While it exists in the universe in which my book is set, I tried to anchor it in a physical world, where Nirmanath, “the current of life,” is a tangible force, and things like the casting of auras, astral projection, potions that can cause amnesia and the ability to invoke invisibility are possible.

As with every author, the primary goal in writing a book is to create an entertaining story about likeable (and unlikeable) people dealing with adversity, love and hate, people the reader wants to cheer on—or boo and hiss at—people who undergo physical and emotional changes. A story about the human condition. I hope I’ve succeeded.

Follow Kathy on Facebook, Twitter, and check out her Website for updates on her new novels in progress.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

What is the Secret to Happiness?

Author Toby Neal
by Toby Neal

The secret to happiness is gratitude. 

Gratitude can be learned and practiced, while "happiness" is a byproduct of it. 

I've studied, read, and practiced a lot of different spiritual and other techniques in my time. Being happier and having more peace are the main things clients come to me looking for, as well as freedom from whatever symptom is plaguing them.

I'm not a passive therapist who just listens and reflects. I always give suggestions, and homework, and try techniques with my clients. Here's an experiment I've begun and I'm finding it really transformative, more than many others. 

I start each day, not just with a catechism list of "things to be thankful for" thoughts, but by refusing to get out of bed until I FEEL gratitude fill and suffuse me. This takes a little effort, and usually begins with a conscious list of what I'm thankful for. But gradually, as I let it, I feel the thankfulness begin to suffuse me, as each cell and pore opens up and cries, "Yay! I get to be alive today!" and then a sort of glow happens within me, and it overshadows the aches and pains of being fifty and doing too much at the gym, the list of "to-do's" I am mentally fending off, the worries, the sorrows. 
No. It is not enough to just list your gratitudes. Thankfulness, to be transformative, must be deeply felt. Whatever your situation or spiritual understanding, you can cultivate it. Try it. Just don't get out of bed until it happens.

You may need to wake up earlier. My husband has commented on how long I'm in bed some mornings. I'm not saying it's easy, but once the gratitude flow switches on, this "gratitude well" can be recaptured throughout the day in little pause moments: stopped at a stoplight, watering the thirsty yard, wandering the produce aisle, you will be ambushed by joy. 

I don't think you have to be any certain stripe of spiritual to have this phenomenon change your life right where you are. Every cell inside you is longing to have a voice. Stop. Listen. Let them cry, "thank you, thank you." And then do it again tomorrow. ~

Toby Neal

Rip Tides by Toby Neal
Author Toby Neal grew up on the island of Kaua`i in Hawaii. After a few “stretches of exile” to pursue education, the islands have been home for the last sixteen years. Toby is a clinical social worker, a career that informs the depth and complexity of the characters in her books. 

Neal is the author of more than a dozen novels in the mystery and young adult genres, and the bestselling Lei Crime Series, which launched in 2011. The series centers on Leilani “Lei” Matsumoto Texeira, a multicultural detective with issues. Lei, her dog Keiki, and her love interest, Stevens solve a range of complicated crimes in the Hawaiian Islands. 

Amazon launched the Lei Crime Kindle World in 2015, which allows authors to build licensed fan fiction upon Neal’s works, and she’s sold over half a million books. She is a 2015 Independent Publisher Book (“IPPY”) in Best Mystery/Thriller for Twisted Vine and 2015 National Indie Excellence® awards winner, Best Multicultural Novel, for Torch Ginger.

Outside of work and writing, Toby volunteers in a nonprofit for children and enjoys life in Hawaii through beach walking, body boarding, scuba diving, photography and hiking. 

Torch Ginger: A Lei Crime Novel 

Twitter: @tobywneal 

Instagram: Tobyneal0

Google+: Toby Neal

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Real Life Revenants

by Elise Abram

On 19 June 15, the Ancient Origins website published an article by Mark Miller entitled “Ancient Greeks apparently feared zombies so much they weighed down the dead“.  In his article, Miller says ancient inhabitants of the island of Sicily feared zombies so much they used large boulders to weigh down the bodies of the newly buried dead. This, apparently, was the result of the fear of revenants held by the Ancient Greeks. Miller defines revenants as existing in a state between life and death, in which the undead are able to “ris[e] from their graves to haunt the living.”

Both Miller and an article published by Richard Gray on Mail Online quote heavily from a Popular Archaeology article which confirms that “necrophobia, or fear of the dead…has been present in Greek culture from the Neolithic period to the present.”   These articles are the result of the excavation of a site in Sicily yielding close to 3,000 bodies. Two of the burials found were covered with heavy amphora fragments and rocks, presumably “to trap [the bodies] in the grave.”

In her article, Carrie L. Sulosky Weaver defines revenants as “reanimated corpses [who] rose from their graves, prowled the streets, and stalked unsuspecting victims, often to exact retribution denied to them in life.” She goes on to explain that  the Ancient Greeks believed that “even those who could not physically leave their tombs posed a threat, because mediums could easily invoke restless spirits and cajole them into committing heinous acts…[N]ecromancy, the purposeful invocation of the dead,” was another of their practices for which there is evidence in the archaeological record.

The Revenant by Elise Abram
In The Revenant, my YA paranormal thriller with zombies, there are two revenants: Zulu and Malchus. Zulu is thrown from his horse on his way to elope with his sweetheart in nineteenth century Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Raised from the dead by a necromancer, he has been walking the earth for more than two centuries, searching for his beloved Alma, when the story opens. His lifelong companion has been Morgan, a seer with the gift of longevity. Together, they save the people Morgan sees in his dreams from certain death. Malchus, the other revenant in the story, also seeks closure, but in his relationship with his brother. Raised in spirit form and inhabiting the body of a local teen, Malchus believes his brother, Morgan, is responsible for his death, and he intends to exact retribution. The Revenant is a young adult paranormal thriller with zombies that pits brother against brother in the archetypal battle between good and evil. Will Zulu and Morgan survive, or will Malchus emerge victorious?

Buy The Revenant wherever eBooks are sold to find out!
Other books by Elise Abram: Phase Shift, The Mummy Wore Combat Boots, and Throwaway Child, available on Amazon.

Monday, October 12, 2015


Author Almondie Shampine

Youth is not an age; it is a feeling. It took me until I was 31 years old, after 14 years professionally writing, to begin feeling that adult restlessness of the mundane. I didn’t just act old – I felt it, and it began to sabotage my writing. The adventures and experiences I’d had in my youth, I felt, I could no longer get away with as an adult.

One night my son wanted to watch Hunger Games for our fun night. I became so inspired that I sat cross-legged, too-close-to-the-TV, nearly pulling an overnighter in watching these YA movies. I went to the library and literally had a 6-month YA reading binge, and refused to watch any movies other than young adult. 

First Book Signing
Blind Fate 
Over a year’s time, I sat down and wrote my favorite series ever, the 6-book Modules series that begins with The Reform – a young-adult dystopian action/adventure with a lot of unruly behavior and humor – and I absolutely fell in love with Catina Salsbury, whose prodigy intelligence equals her stubbornness to simply do as she’s told, as The Modules fosters growing kids at a much faster developmental and educational rate in their attempts at creating a new era of Intelligent Design, currently the first 3 titles in the series that have been published. As I read the books to my children, Catina infiltrated our home, carried into my kids’ schools, and numerous YA and adult homes, hitting number 1 in 2 categories in July. I began having adventures just to have adventures, making moments just to have life-long memories, and experiencing the world again through the excited eyes of youth, versus the tired eyes of adulthood. My best reviews and fan mail for my young-adult books have come from … adults? It is so very inspiring to me to know that my books are not only encouraging youth in our young-adults, but regenerating youth in our adults.

This doesn’t mean I’ve stopped writing for adults. The Modules series provoked inspiration that led me to publishing 5 books in 5 months – other adult titles that include Glimp$es, a psychological thriller, and Blind Fate, a killer thriller, and now another one of my prized-novels, Otherland, written for adults, but PG-13 enough for young adults is up in line to hopefully be published next.

I’m happy to announce that The Reform and Glimp$es are currently FREE from 10/11/15 through 10/12/15 at

Otherland is enrolled in the KindleScout competition. You can nominate this book through 10/20/15 for it to be my next published book and get Otherland for free, as well. My website features promotions, giveaways, and contests, and additional social media sites that provide free-reading inspirations. Being an adult is difficult enough, but when you combine feelings of youth, you’ve got the energy and the heart to believe that anything is possible, and go after it.

Almondie Shampine