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 
Website: http://www.tobyneal.net/ 

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 www.amazon.com/author/almondieshampine

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 www.almondieshampine.com 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


Tuesday, October 6, 2015

My Life As A Spy

by Luana Ehrlich
Author Luana Ehrlich

I'm Luana Ehrlich, the author of Titus Ray Thrillers, a new series of spy novels containing elements of faith embedded within the story line. When One Night in Tehran was first published, it surprised a lot of my friends at the church I attend. While they weren't surprised I'd written a book, they were very surprised I'd written THIS particular book. Most had just assumed my first foray into the publishing world would be a devotional book or a work of Biblical fiction.

However, once my readers viewed the "behind the scenes" workings of the CIA as seen through the eyes of Titus Ray, a veteran CIA intelligence officer, the question most often posed to me was, "How do you know so much about espionage stuff? Were you a spy?"

One Night in Tehran
My usual answer---and I'm sticking to it---is that I have to protect my sources, so I can't answer that. But then, I always point out I've been reading adult spy thrillers since I devoured one of my dad's James Bond books when I was eleven years old. Because I'm an avid reader, I now know enough about spy agencies, espionage, and clandestine operations to write hundreds of spy novels---or at least a series of them.

I wrote One Night in Tehran, the first book in the Titus Ray Thriller series, after reading about the persecutions of Christians in Iran. Because I was already thinking about writing my own spy thriller, I asked myself what would happen if a CIA operation went horribly bad and an intelligence officer was forced to seek shelter with a group of Iranian Christians in Tehran. How would his life as a clandestine spy change if he made a commitment to follow the teachings of Christ? What would happen to him once he returned to the States? Could a man trained to lie and deceive, and sometimes commit violent acts, be able to continue his career as a spy, while living out the tenets of Christianity?

One Night in Tehran unfolds as Titus returns to the States determined to explore his new life of faith. When he learns he's been targeted by a Hezbollah assassin, he must decide if the Iranian couple he meets in Oklahoma has ties to the man who's trying to kill him, and if Nikki Saxon, a detective in the Norman Police Department, can be trusted with his secrets.

Two Days in Caracas
The second book in the series, Two Days in Caracas, takes up where the first book left off, with Titus on the hunt for Hezbollah assassin, Ahmed Al-Amin. Titus travels from Costa Rica to Venezuela in an effort to stop Ahmed from murdering a high-profile government official. Along the way, a family crisis jeopardizes his mission, and an Agency division head threatens to destroy his career. As the danger mounts, he’s forced to partner with an untested operative to complete the mission and bring Ahmed to justice. Meanwhile, Titus continues to explore his newfound faith, particularly the concept of forgiveness.

Luana can be contacted on her Website, Facebook, Twitter, and You Tube.