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Archive for the ‘Fantasy’ Category

barbcaffrey_authorpixBarb Caffrey is a writer, editor, and musician who holds two degrees in Music.
She has a particular fondness for the clarinet, lived in Nebraska for the better part of three years, and appreciated the ability to combine both her loves with the writing of Changing Faces.

Her other books are An Elfy on the Loose and A Little Elfy in Big Trouble (otherwise known as the Elfy duology), while her short stories have appeared in a number of places (most recently in Realms of Darkover). She’s also the co-writer of the Joey Maverick series of stories (with late husband Michael B. Caffrey), so the next story you might see from her could be military science fiction—or better yet, military science fiction with romance.

She lives in Wisconsin.

Barb Caffrey’s Elfyverse: https://elfyverse.wordpress.com

Link to book: http://www.twilighttimesbooks.com/ChangingFaces_ch1.html

Amazon (US): https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01N3CQKWJ

INTERVIEW:

Q: Congratulations on the release of your latest book, Changing Faces. To begin with, can you give us a brief summary of what the story is about and what compelled you to write it?
A: Thanks for having me! I appreciate it.

Changing Faces is about the importance of love regardless of form, and takes place in present-day Nebraska. Clarinetists and graduate students Allen Bridgeway and Elaine Foster love each other deeply and passionately, but Elaine is hiding a big secret. From early life, she has identified as transgender, and has a great deal of gender-fluidity in her makeup, besides. Allen only knows that Elaine is bisexual, not this other stuff, and when it comes out, it throws him for a loop. He’s willing to keep trying with her; he just doesn’t understand why Elaine, who is a feminist scholar who will always see herself as female whether she becomes male outwardly or not – she admits this to him, even – wants to become a man. And when things come to head, she decides to leave him rather than talk it out.

You’d think this is it, right? (Well, not if you’ve read many romances of whatever type, but I digress.) But it’s not. There are two angels involved also, who want Allen and Elaine to be happy together. And they only way they see toward doing this is changing Allen and Elaine’s faces…which happens because Allen prays, “I will do anything, absolutely anything, if Elaine doesn’t leave me.” And the angels take Allen at his word.

portrait in gardenNow, Allen is in Elaine’s body, unable to tell anyone he’s Allen. And Elaine is in his, in a coma, talking with one of the angels. If she can just wake up, they’ll have a second chance at love…but it’s not going to be easy, and poor Allen in particular is going to get put through the wringer.

Q: What do you think makes a good fantasy-romance? Could you narrow it down to the three most important elements? Is it even possible to narrow it down?
A: I think honesty is important. A story that matters is also important. And a willingness to explore that story wherever it goes is also important.

Ultimately, it’s these three things that make – or break – any book, but most especially a fantasy-romance, in my opinion.

Q: How did you go about plotting your story? Or did you discover it as you worked on the book?
A: The story came to me over fifteen years ago. I knew that Allen and Elaine were in a car accident and that she ended up in his body, talking to an angel about what went wrong and why she needs to be with Allen again, even if they’re both in the wrong bodies.

At the time, I had no idea what gender-fluidity was about, though I did know something about transgender issues because I had a few transgender friends. Elaine insisting she was always female regardless of her outward body threw me, at first, but I kept after it, and after five major revisions (including a late-round revision just last year in 2016), CHANGING FACES is finally ready.

So I guess it’s half and half. I knew right away what the story was on Elaine’s side, but I discovered Allen’s as I wrote it.

Q: Tell us something interesting about your protagonist and how you developed him or her. Did you do any character interviews or sketches prior to the actual writing?
A: There are two protagonists here, but I’ll choose Allen for ease of reference. Allen has always been confident in his body. He’s not handsome, knows it, but is centered, down-to-Earth, and is desperately in love with Elaine. But he did not realize what his prayer was going to do to him; all of a sudden, he wakes up in Elaine’s body – the body of a beautiful woman – and doesn’t know what to do.

As for how I developed Allen? I understood him right away. Here’s a guy who will always be male, but is in a female body and no one else realizes it but him. (As Elaine is still in a coma at this point, and can’t help him.) So it was more a matter of putting Allen in situations where he’d be confronted by his own assumptions as a male, and then see how someone ostensibly female was treated.

I didn’t do any character interviews with Allen, mind. I did do a few, down the line, with Elaine, as she was far more complex than Allen in certain respects and I wanted to do justice to her complexity.

Q: In the same light, how did you create your antagonist or villain? What steps did you take to make him or her realistic?
A: In this case, the villain is Elaine herself (in a way). She’s going to sacrifice everything because she’s so uncomfortable with admitting who she is.

But the reason she’s uncomfortable – and it’s why I said “in a way,” above – is because she was gang-raped at fifteen. So the villains who made her uncomfortable in her own body were those five rapists. And we do see a little of them in this novel, and how she manages to overcome that to form a good love-relationship with the only person who’s ever truly mattered to her, that being Allen.

As for making the villainy realistic? People sabotage themselves all the time, sometimes for what seems like good reasons. That’s what is realistic about what Elaine does.

In addition, I don’t know how anyone would deal with being gang-raped when you already know you’re transgender at the tender age of fifteen. So for Elaine to still be confused years later is not altogether a surprise.

Q: How did you keep your narrative exciting throughout the novel? Could you offer some practical, specific tips?
A: I wish I knew how to give practical, specific tips. The only thing I can tell you is that both Allen and Elaine had to confront a lot of deep, dark things – most of them being in Elaine’s past – to get to be able to have that second chance. And to accept the fact that the second chance would not be easy, would entail them both being in the wrong bodies for the rest of their lives, was also not an easy thing for either one of them.

The only practical tip I’ve ever seen that worked for me, as stated by renowned author Lois McMaster Bujold in various places, is this: “What’s the worst thing I can do this guy? Then do it.”

I think that’s what happened here, at least with regards to Allen. (And Elaine’s journey is far from easy, either, as you’ll see.)

Q: Setting is also quite important and in many cases it becomes like a character itself. What tools of the trade did you use in your writing to bring the setting to life?
A: I lived in Nebraska for three years when I went to graduate school. I felt the heat, I saw the vivid colors of the sunsets and sunrises, I felt the scorching cold, and I knew exactly how to describe it.

It’s hard to explain, otherwise, but I’ll do my best.

If you’ve experienced something, that helps you to describe it. And I experienced Nebraska. I even met some LGBT people in Lincoln, when I lived there; there weren’t many, but there were some, and most of them, at the time (this being the late 1990s/early 2000s) did not want to call attention to themselves. The goal at that point was for civil unions to be accepted in various churches, and there were many disagreements about this.

So, it was important to me to set this story in Nebraska. These are two people who could live anywhere. They have talent in music, they are creative, they are honest, they love each other. But one of them is transgender and gender-fluid, and yet their love is like anyone else’s, and their communication problems are like anyone else’s, too.

It’s important that society as a whole comes to realize that people are people, and regardless of gender expression or sexuality, they are deserving of love and happiness and care. Whatever form that love and happiness takes (providing it’s consensual, preferably monogamous, and with people who are adult so they can make their own choices and take their own risks) ultimately does not matter.

Only the love matters. And that’s why I set this story in Nebraska in the first place, because it showcases just how much times have changed…and yet, remained the same.

Q: Did you know the theme(s) of your novel from the start or is this something you discovered after completing the first draft? Is this theme(s) recurrent in your other work?
A: Oh, I knew the themes right away. Could I describe them right away, though? No, probably not. I just saw that the Allen and Elaine were good people, and that their outsides were not important. What was important were their souls, and how they loved each other, and how they were going to go on despite this radical change in their outward circumstances.

And no, this is not a recurrent theme in my work, at least not in this way. In my two previous novels, AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE and A LITTLE ELFY IN BIG TROUBLE, my main characters Bruno the Elfy and Sarah, his mostly-human girlfriend, are also in love and have a cross-species romance. But they are both straight. So it’s not as hard in some respects for them, though in others it probably isn’t easy because Bruno doesn’t come from this Earth at all.

Q: Where does craft end and art begin? Do you think editing can destroy the initial creative thrust of an author?
A: I think editing helps authors. There are sometimes mismatches between editors and authors, sure. But a good editor helps you clarify your thoughts. I was very fortunate that I had Katharine Eliska Kimbriel on my side as my editor for CHANGING FACES, because she helped me enormously. I also had a good copy-editor, Janne Kafka, who gave some late suggestions that I implemented. Without them, CHANGING FACES wouldn’t be half as good.

As far as craft and art goes? I think we have to put in many hours of thought and effort to do good work. Whether someone sees it as craft or art is up to the eye of the beholder; I won’t make that decision for them. But do I want them to see it as an interesting work of art and craft, both? Yes, I do. (Does that answer your question? It’s a tough one!)

Q: What three things, in your opinion, make a successful novelist?
A: Persistence, hard work, and a willingness to tell your story no matter where it leads.

Q: A famous writer once wrote that being an author is like having to do homework for the rest of your life. Thoughts?
A: In a way, that’s true. Authors do research settings, we do think a great deal about what we’re doing, and we spend an inordinate amount of time on our work.

But I like to think of it as an expression of my own creativity as much as it is “homework,” because thinking of it as homework takes some of the fun out of it. (Picture my big, evil grin here.)

Q: Are there any resources, books, workshops or sites about craft that you’ve found helpful during your writing career?
A: Yes, there are a number of them.

First, the Forward Motion Writers Group online is an incredibly valuable resource. They talk craft, they talk about marketing sometimes, they have writing prompts, and the community of writers there is second to none.

Second, I recommend Anne Lamott’s BIRD BY BIRD and Ralph Keyes’ THE COURAGE TO WRITE as helpful books when you get stalled. Lamont’s book reminded me that other authors also struggle through various revisions, while Keyes’ book told me that we all struggle to be honest and give our best effort as writers. I find them both useful references.

Third, if you want to share your work as a new writer but are worried it’s not that great and need critiques that will help you, I recommend Critters.org along with the Forward Motion community (as notated above). Note that you will get some very strong and pungent critiques there, so you had best have a thick skin…but you will get help if you are willing to work at it and can check your ego at the door.

And finally, I strongly recommend the group Marketing for Romance Writers. Like Forward Motion, like Critters, Marketing for Romance Writers is absolutely free of charge, and there are many wonderful writers there; you do not have to be a romance writer to become a member, either.

Q: Is there anything else you’d like to share with my readers about the craft of writing?
A: Just tell your stories. No one else’s. That’s all you can do. Be honest, tell stories that matter to you, and readers will respond to that.

Keep trying, keep working, do not give up, and continue to believe that what you are doing matters whether anyone else sees it or not. That’s the only way to succeed in this business.

Anything else is just window dressing, in my not-so-humble opinion.

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SE


Blurb
something_eternal
Life without love is fire without flame….

In our time, wonder has disappeared. Most believe in what is seen, others in what is heard, yet a few know something eternal guides them.

When Vincent steals his older brother’s girl, Noemi, someone is going to die. Three lives, once ascending to greatness, are pitched into chaos. Jak, after months of searching, finds his younger brother, Vincent, while Noemi faces certain death. On one hand, Vincent can save her, yet others will die for their love.

Hearts prided on rational choices waver. Logic conflicts with reality, and emotion, not reason, decides the future.

 

A Note from the Author:

To breathe life into this book, I am asking for your support. During the month of July, Something Eternal will be in the running for a Kindle Scout publication contract. My book needs your nomination. If Something Eternal wins, you’ll receive a free copy compliments of Amazon. Links for nominating Something Eternal will be made available in July during my month-long nomination period. Please check out the Kindle Scout program and discover how readers are making their voices heard.

 

 

 

abnaAuthor Bio


Joel T. McGrath is a proud member of the New Hampshire Writers’ Project. He is a four-time top 20% choice for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award with four different manuscripts. He has sold foreign rights to his first novel through a literary agent in Turkey. Joel is currently working with a Disney illustrator on a graphic novel and hopes to release portions of the work in summer 2017.

 

Author Links: Website | Facebook

 

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5 $10 Gift Cards – Winner their pick of the 5 in the order they are drawn. $10 Bath & Body Works GC, 1 $10 Amazon GC, 1 $10 Target GC, 1 $10 Starbucks GC, $10 Barnes & Noble GC

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Thomas Rottinghaus became fascinated with the written word and the power of imagination at a very young age, reading virtually everything he could get his hands on by authors as diverse as Jules Verne, Louis La’Mour, JRR Tolkien and Stephen King. He went on to study literature and writing at Colorado Mesa University, formerly known as Mesa State College, before pursuing a career in agribusiness. His writing blends genres into an entertaining amalgam of fantasy, westerns, science fiction and adventure. He resides in a small town in Colorado with his wife, Lisa, a very energetic blue heeler named Jake and a herd of cats.

GraywullfQ: Congratulations on the release of your latest book, Graywullf: Book One of the Dragonspawn Trilogy. To begin with, can you gives us a brief summary of what the story is about and what compelled you to write it?   

A: Graywullf details the exploits of a group of gunslinging lawmen in a fantasy world called Norland. The lawmen, known as magii’ri Warriors, enforce the Code at the direction of the magii’ri Wizards, but the Warriors are unaware of the fact they are being used by some corrupt Wizards for their own gain. When that fact is revealed, Norland erupts in a Revolution. The Warriors enlist the aid of a dark Wizard, Lynch, who encourages them to create the Dragonspawn, a magical blend of a warrior and a Dragon.

Q: What do you think makes a good western/fantasy?  Could you narrow it down to the three most important elements? Is it even possible to narrow it down?

A: A good western/fantasy must have larger than life characters, fantasy elements that blend seamlessly with the gritty action of a western and a suitable setting.

Q: How did you go about plotting your story? Or did you discover it as you worked on the book?

A: I knew from the beginning what was point A and what was point B, but Graywullf took a very different path getting there than I had envisioned when I first conceived the idea of the book.

Q: Tell us something interesting about your protagonist and how you developed him or her. Did you do any character interviews or sketches prior to the actual writing?

A: When I envisioned Lorn Graywullf, I imagined him in the same type of mold as the surly, silent characters played by Clint Eastwood in the so called spaghetti westerns.

Q: In the same light, how did you create your antagonist or villain? What steps did you take to make him or her realistic?

A: The antagonist was a combination of all of the truly bad qualities embodied by political leaders worldwide. To make him realistic I simply gave him human desires as the root cause of his actions.

Q: How did you keep your narrative exciting throughout the novel? Could you offer some practical, specific tips?

A: I like action, so I tried to keep the pace moving fast and keep the reader on his toes by throwing in some unexpected twists. I also tried not to let the story bog down with too much unnecessary dialogue. I let the actions of the characters carry the story forward.

Q: Setting is also quite important and in many cases it becomes like a character itself. What tools of the trade did you use in your writing to bring the setting to life?

A: I tried to write descriptions of the setting in a manner that transports the reader to that place.

Q: Did you know the theme(s) of your novel from the start or is this something you discovered after completing the first draft? Is this theme(s) recurrent in your other work?

A: I knew the general theme of Graywullf from the beginning and yes, the theme of good versus evil is recurrent in my other work.

Q: Where does craft end and art begin? Do you think editing can destroy the initial creative thrust of an author?

A: Writing is a blend of craft and art from the beginning. Yes, restrictive editing can limit what a writer is trying to accomplish.

Q: What three things, in your opinion, make a successful novelist?

A: Obviously, the ability to transfer the contents of your imagination to paper in a coherent form is probably the most important. That element of imagination is another, and persistence is also very important.

Q: A famous writer once wrote that being an author is like having to do homework for the rest of your life. What do you think about that?

A: I have to agree to a point. Research is homework, but the actual writing is an escape.

Q: Are there any resources, books, workshops or sites about craft that you’ve found helpful during your writing career?

A: Honestly, not yet. I attended a few workshops and met with a writer’s group but I’m too much of a realist to get much from groups like that. I prefer input from readers.

Q:  Is there anything else you’d like to share with my readers about the craft of writing?

A: The ability to write is a gift. Many people I speak with are in awe that the Dragonspawn series is over 1200 pages long, they simply can’t conceive that many words strung together. So if you can write, use it. Even if you never become famous or rich, there will always be people who appreciate that ability.

 

 

 

 

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amsden_AuthorLarge (1)Christine is the award-winning author of the Cassie Scot series, the story of the only ungifted scion of a family of powerful sorcerers. Her latest novel, Kaitlin’s Tale, follows the trials of Cassie’s best friend as she falls in love with Cassie’s arch-nemesis. Christine’s other titles include The Immortality Virus, Touch of Fate, and Madison’s Song.

When she isn’t writing, Christine is often editing or coaching other authors. In recent years, freelance editing has become almost as great a passion as writing itself. Plus, it supports her writing habit. Christine is a wife, a mom, and a foster mom. She lives in Olathe, Kansas, just outside Kansas City.

Q: Congratulations on the release of your latest book, Kaitlin’s Tale. To begin with, can you gives us a brief summary of what the story is about and what compelled you to write it?  

A: Kaitlin’s Tale tells the story of an unlikely couple – a telepathic mind mage and a woman immune to mind magic. The inspiration for this tale is far, far from the work of a moment. Kaitlin came to me six years ago as I wrote Cassie Scot: ParaNormal Detective, the first of a four-book urban fantasy series about the only ungifted scion of a family of powerful sorcerers. At the time, she was the sidekick, never meant to have a story of her own, but she soon grew too big to be a footnote in someone else’s story. Matthew, meanwhile, came to me in Mind Games, book 3 of the Cassie Scot series, as the villain of the piece. I don’t like two-dimensional villains, and the more I learned about why he did what he did to Cassie, the more I realized that he would make someone very happy – just not Cassie.

Q: What do you think makes a good urban fantasy/paranormal romance? Could you narrow it down to the three most important elements? Is it even possible to narrow it down?

A: Characters. Characters. Characters.

Look, the world building for most urban fantasy and paranormal romance is stock. I appreciate clever twists on the old tropes, fresh angles, and a few surprises, but a world isn’t going to win me over.

My favorite urban fantasies and paranormal romances pop because of character. It’s a certain tone and voice, an attitude and outlook on life. It works best when the author puts a little piece of him or herself into the book.

Q: How did you go about plotting your story? Or did you discover it as you worked on the book?

KaitlinsTale-cover-front72.jpgA: I outline, write, reoutline, rewrite, reoutline, rewrite, rewrite, rewrite, rewrite … Actually, for this particular book I went through more drafts than usual. It’s a complex story, with three main plots that intertwine, and getting the timing right, especially on the romance, was tricky. Luckily, I’m a firm believer in “Great books aren’t written, they are rewritten.”

Q: Tell us something interesting about your protagonist and how you developed him or her. Did you do any character interviews or sketches prior to the actual writing?

A: Kaitlin reads a ton of romance, but she doesn’t identify well with the heroine of the stories. She more easily identifies with the woman who “knows the score” and is cast aside in favor of the true heroine. There’s a world of hurt in Kaitlin’s past, hurt she wouldn’t even tell her best friend about. I had trouble getting it out of her! (And yes, I did interviews and first person journals.) Matthew, who can read her mind, is really a great fit for her.

Q: In the same light, how did you create your antagonist or villain? What steps did you take to make him or her realistic?

A: There are several antagonists in this piece, including Alexander DuPris, the would-be leader of the magical world. It’s important to know that he has good intentions. Most of my heroes have good intentions. It’s just that the road to hell and all …

Other villains of the piece include Xavier and Jason, the vampires hunting down Kaitlin. They were tougher to get to know because I don’t do sparkly vampires. Or even misunderstood humans. Mine are alien, with alien motives. But this wasn’t enough to drive a story, so I had to chip away at their motivations until I found something relatable. In the end, I created a conflict between Xavier and Jason to help make their desires more understandable (by contrast to one another).

Q: How did you keep your narrative exciting throughout the novel? Could you offer some practical, specific tips?

A: I try to keep my characters on their toes throughout the book! I’m not a formulaic plotter, but when I outline a book, I do split it into quarters and make sure there is a major plot point near the end of each quarter. For example, in Cassie Scot: ParaNormal Detective, there is a major family fight at the first quarter, a vampire attack at the second (also the midpoint), a family blowout at the third quarter, and I’ll leave the climax in suspense. Since I always have main plots and important subplots, such as a mystery, a romance, and family tension, it keeps me busy. Even outside the quarter points (which I only use as a general guideline) there is always something to do. Each chapter has to accomplish something. Each scene.

I have been told that my books cause insomnia. I think that means I’m doing okay. 🙂

Q: Setting is also quite important and in many cases it becomes like a character itself. What tools of the trade did you use in your writing to bring the setting to life?

A: Relevance. It’s my sonic screwdriver; I use it for just about everything. Setting comes to life when it matters to the people interacting with it and at no other time. Which isn’t to say that you should stick to the bare bones because the flipside of this is that when it matters, color it in! During one scene in Kaitlin’s Tale I had Kaitlin go to a magical nightclub with a friend. The place was crazy when she walked in! I know she couldn’t relate all of it to the reader, but I let her eyes drift around the room and I had fun with it … people dancing on air, a drunk man stumbling through another and starting a bar fight, some techno-mages messing with the laser lights for the fun of it … just a bit of this and that.

Q: Did you know the theme(s) of your novel from the start or is this something you discovered after completing the first draft? Is this theme(s) recurrent in your other work?

A: There is a recurring theme in my Cassie Scot novels and the spin-offs: Love yourself. I knew this theme going in, because it is as important to Kaitlin as it is to her friends. Maybe more so. There did end up being another theme in the book that I recognized partway through: Don’t judge a book by its cover. Matthew, in particular, was misunderstood when he first appeared in the series. There’s more to him.

 

Q: Where does craft end and art begin? Do you think editing can destroy the initial creative thrust of an author?

A: The answer to this question depends entirely on which stage of the creative process the author is in. There are four:

  1. Unconscious incompetence – in which you aren’t very good and don’t even know it.
  2. Conscious incompetence – in which you aren’t very good, but are coming to realize this fact and begin to work to improve.
  3. Conscious competence – in which you have begun to become a good writer, with a great deal of thought and work involved at every step in the process.
  4. Unconscious competence – in which your ability to write flows as naturally as breathing and you no longer have to think so hard about everything you do.

Let’s disregard stages one and two as part of the creative awakening process. You’re not really publishable until stage three, at which point over-editing definitely takes a toll on the sparkle of the original work.

But once you reach stage four, I think art and craft are inseparable. At this point, revision is rarely about scrutinizing your word choice anyway, and fresh revisions tend to improve the underlying plot.

Q: What three things, in your opinion, make a successful novelist?

A: Ego, humility, and insanity. (Not necessarily in that order.)

Q: A famous writer once wrote that being an author is like having to do homework for the rest of your life. What do you think about that?

A: I don’t agree. My homework was never this fun.

Q: Are there any resources, books, workshops or sites about craft that you’ve found helpful during your writing career?

A: Yes. And as the Internet is always changing, so too have the sites. But check out Savvy Authors. And The Elements of Fiction Series (except the one on dialog).

Q:  Is there anything else you’d like to share with my readers about the craft of writing?

A: Only write because you love it. No, you won’t love it every second of every day, but you should love the process and take personal pride in the results. If you’re in it for fame or fortune, you’re in for a serious disappointment.

Title: Kaitlin’s Tale

Genre: urban fantasy/paranormal romance

Author: Christine Amsden

Websitehttp://www.christineamsden.com

Publisher: Twilight Times Books

Trailerhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UcNgx7SoWy8&feature=youtu.be

Amazon / OmniLit

About the Book:

Kaitlin Mayer is on the run from the father of her baby – a vampire who wants her to join him in deadly eternity. Terrified for her young son, she seeks sanctuary from the hunters guild. But they have their own plans for her son, and her hopes of safety are soon shattered.

When she runs into Matthew Blair, an old nemesis with an agenda of his own, she dares to hope for a new escape. But Matthew is a telepath, and Kaitlin’s past is full of dark secrets she never intended to reveal.

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Title: Daughter of the Sun (Cult of the Cat series, Book 1)

Author: Zoe Kalo

Genre: YA mythological fantasy/paranormal

Word count: 93,000 words / 330 pages

Official Launch: May 1, 2016

Amazon purchase link:http://www.amazon.com/Daughter-Sun-Cult-Cat-Book-ebook/dp/B01DRDUQW8

Only $.99 until Wednesday May 11th(regular price $4.99)

Get your copy on Kindle today!

Daughter of the Sun, Book 1 – blurb

Sixteen-year-old Trinity was born during a solar eclipse and left at the doorsteps of a convent along with a torn piece of papyrus covered with ancient symbols. Raised by nuns in the English countryside, she leads a quiet life until she’s whisked away to the Island of Cats and a grandmother she never knew.

But before they can get to know each other, her grandmother dies. All that Trinity has left is a mysterious eye-shaped ring. And a thousand grieving cats. As Trinity tries to solve the enigma of the torn papyrus, she discovers a world of bloody sacrifices and evil curses, and a prophecy that points to her and her new feline abilities.

Unwilling to believe that any of the Egyptian gods could still be alive, Trinity turns to eighteen-year-old Seth and is instantly pulled into a vortex of sensations that forces her to confront her true self—and a horrifying destiny.

What readers are saying….

“This was an amazing story!” –Hot Off the Shelves

“This book was so super good! Great writing, great characters, great plot. Very immersive reading experience.” –Awesome Book Assessment

“Wow- this book was a stunning, magnificent adventure! Very well written and full of intricate details, I was immediately drawn in and just absolutely did not want to put this one down… The intrigue just leaves you racing through the pages to find out what will happen next! I absolutely, completely enjoyed this book and can’t wait to see what happens in the next one!” –The Recipe Fairy

“The way [Zoe Kalo] writes cats into the book is astounding. Every little quirk, mew and lick is incredibly authentic. I love it when a writer is skilled at writing about the animals in the character’s story, it makes it more warm and fuzzy, no pun intended.” –Samantha Writes

“Daughter of the Sun is an intriguing young adult mythology read full of mystery, magic, action, and history… [it] kept me flipping pages like an addict.” –Fishing for Books

“Oh my God. This is definitely a ‘something.’ This concept and the plot is soooo unique and weird and fascinating that I did not want to put this down. I literally breezed through this one…. This book was an overdose of kitty love.” –Grape Fruit Books

“If you are looking for a Young Adult Fantasy book that is different from the norm, then look no further. Daughter of the Sun is full of Egyptian mythology, with layer upon layer of mystery just waiting to be uncovered.” –Archaeolibrarian

About the Author

A certified bookworm, Zoe Kalo has always been obsessed with books and reading. Reading led to writing—compulsively. No surprise that at 16, she wrote her first novel, which her classmates read and passed around secretly. The pleasure of writing and sharing her fantasy worlds has stayed with her, so now she wants to pass her stories to you with no secrecy—but with lots of mystery…

A daughter of adventurous expats, she’s had the good fortune of living on 3 continents, learning 4 languages, and experiencing a multicultural life. Currently, she’s working on a Master’s degree in Comparative Literature, which she balances between writing, taking care of her clowder of cats, and searching for the perfect bottle of pinot noir.

Connect with Zoe Kalo on the web: www.ZoeKalo.com /Facebook / Twitter

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authorphotoLeif Grundstrom-Whitney is the proud co-author of the epical satire The Hidden Chalice of the Cloud People; the wicked and witty character known as Facinorous contained therein is a product of his multifarious mind. He has been published in several obscure poetry journals (hold your applause). To say that he is an edacious reader would be an understatement worthy of Hemingway. If he had a spirit animal, it would probably be a gregarious raven who knows how to play a Hammond B-3 organ.

Jason Grundstrom-Whitney has been a Social Worker and Substance Abuse Counselor in the State of Maine for many years. In this time, he has introduced meditation (tai-chi, qigong, yoga, and meditation) groups to teens when told he would fail. This was one of the most successful and long lasting groups. He developed a Civil Rights/Peer Helper course that won state and national awards (for High School) and has worked as a civil rights activist. He has also worked as a long term care social worker and now works as a Hospice Medical Social Worker. Jason is a poet, writer, and musician playing bass, harmonica and various wind instruments.

Q: Congratulations on the release of your latest book, The Hidden Chalice of the Cloud People. To begin with, can you gives us a brief summary of what the story is about and what compelled you to write it?

A: When Tommy Dana is abducted into a fantastical realm called Lethia, where the worthy stories of humanity are granted a physical reality, the social media-averse thirteen year old must plunge through a multi-varied meta-fictional adventure in order to save his, and the entire human world’s, imagination from falling into the thieving clutches of the witty supernatural villain Facinorous. That’s as succinct a description for a shelf-toppling novel as one can get. A marvel of concision!

A strong desire to satirize and introduce some much needed adequately thoughtful satire and inspired zaniness and crafty jocosity into a genre that seems to have grown rather grim and dystopian of late compelled us to create our mammoth manuscript.

Q: What do you think makes a good Young Adult Fiction novel? Could you narrow it down to the three most important elements? Is it even possible to narrow it down?

A: If we ever write a traditional one, we will let you know. The key to making a potent satire is meticulously crafting a sophisticated facsimile of the atmosphere and mood and plot elements and tropes of the genre you are satirizing so that readers feel as if they could be experiencing such a book and can therefore come to appreciate the subversive humor of the work that seeks to playfully undermine that literary category better. The style and the level of detail, combining adroitly, must produce a certain degree of verisimilitude. Compelling characters that make the reader pause and think, reflecting on the fictional constructs’ eccentricities as well as the meaning of their thoughts and words and deeds, and loads of heady action that serves to propel the plot are two other important elements.

Ebook - JPG format-.jpgQ: How did you go about plotting your story? Or did you discover it as you worked on the book?

A: The primary framework of the plot, with the major aspects and developments of its arc, was plotted out, summarized and established in concise written form long before the first actual sentence of the book had been painstakingly plastered to page. From there loose outlines for sections and chapters and crucial plot points were carefully created and used as a nonrestrictive starting point for the prudent meanderings of our artistry. From these literary blueprints an aureate rivulet of prose and imaginative writing sprang! Okay, maybe a turbid brook of modestly clever prose is more accurate. But we digress. Vivid detail was eventually produced by this method. Little by little, piece by piece, our vision for the story became a concrete reality. This structured albeit artistically free system allowed us to incrementally cover and create the novel in its massy entirety.

Q: Tell us something interesting about your protagonist and how you developed him or her. Did you do any character interviews or sketches prior to the actual writing?

A: Tommy Dana as a character parodistic of a wide range of young adult heroes comes from many different places. First and foremost he is a modern champion of cultural lore and the power of the imagination. Against the inexorable pull and the intoxicating allure of external technological objects he rails and protests! He is half Irish and half Native American, two cultures that have long storytelling traditions. Tommy not only understands storytelling but wishes for a world that would truly integrate this direct transmission of knowledge into a present time that has been increasingly ruled by the demands of technology. He sees a world that has become cold and distant, somewhat bereft of inter-personal communication. He sees that with such convenient technology our inherent ability to create fictional worlds via the symbols we use to explain what we have lived experientially has been diminished. In his youthful mind, the artistry of the personal creative identity is the panacea to all of life’s woes! Part of what makes him humorous (or satirical) is that his imagination turns out to be far more effete than expected. It is also utilized much less, over the course of the book, than it could be.

Q: In the same light, how did you create your antagonist or villain? What steps did you take to make him or her realistic?

A: It would be very strange indeed to make a supernatural near abstract entity (heavy on the malevolence) upon whom a vital majority of the satire of the book hinges terribly realistic. Facinorous, the arch antagonist of our vasty story, is the meta-fictional enigma that needs to be cracked in order to appreciate much of the book’s darker humor. He’s a deranged sliver of wry otherness speaking to everyone (in the audience or otherwise) and no one in particular. He seems to always lurk somewhere beyond the happenings of the tale and exists there primarily to perpetuate sly subversions.

Q: How did you keep your narrative exciting throughout the novel? Could you offer some practical, specific tips?

A: The elaborate interweaving of multiple storylines through which the protagonist and his allies traverse on a thrilling quest drives a large part of the excitement of the narrative. We compel our readers to soar on with our deft choice of the particular adventurous plotlines that they follow. By interfusing subtle shards of verse into the prose one can spice up the narrative as well.

Q: Setting is also quite important and in many cases it becomes like a character itself. What tools of the trade did you use in your writing to bring the setting to life?

A: We made use of a wide variety of diverse descriptions to convey the numerous settings of our novel. Fantastical settings such as the ones we present are best portrayed grounded with a certain amount of realism. With skillful elan the descriptions, whether vague or fastidious, should soar; they should never come across as mannered.

Q: Did you know the theme(s) of your novel from the start or is this something you discovered after completing the first draft? Is this theme(s) recurrent in your other work?

A: From the beginning of the process of creating the manuscript the themes were well-defined. The action and the structure of the plot and the various interweaving storylines within it flowed organically from a thorough understanding of these established themes. We never allowed them to constrain our creativity or rigidly shape the framework of the narrative however.

Q: Where does craft end and art begin? Do you think editing can destroy the initial creative thrust of an author?

A: That’s a tremendously difficult question with no easy answer. If managed in a careful and measured manner, there need be no divide and the two can run seamlessly together. The editing should never be allowed to hinder the execution of the author’s creative vision. The operations of the artistic mind and the processes of its thoughts need the freedom to forge a path unmarred by impediment.

Q: What three things, in your opinion, make a successful novelist?

A: Pertinacity, patience, and artistic vision.

Q: A famous writer once wrote that being an author is like having to do homework for the rest of your life. What do you think about that?

A: Precisely so, and we wouldn’t have it any other way. There’s a thrill to researching a topic of interest relevant to the subject matter or the details of your book that is later utilized in an inventive fashion in its creation.

Q: Is there anything else you’d like to share with my readers about the craft of writing?

A: A few platitudes we have to impart: Take your art seriously; refine your abilities, hone your skills and develop a habit of writing on a quotidian basis; not necessarily a piece of art that inspires the pneuma and rattles the firmament but something that is at least adequate or decent. Practicing your craft plays a crucial role in maintaining the well-being and the liveliness of your mental character as well as improving your writing abilities. Let the sensitive fabric of your psyche become pachydermatous and persevere through all the vicissitudes that adversity can muster.

 

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jjOn a cold winter night, wind howling into the desert sky, one ordinary hospital gave witness to a historic event. JJ Sherwood was born at 2:30 a.m. on December 31st, just barely managing to squeeze in to supplant New Year’s Eve. JJ has always had a flair for the dramatics.

Sherwood began writing in the womb after a harrowing incident in which Mother Sherwood swallowed a pen—and thus, destiny was born. JJ’s first work was completed by the age of 5: a riveting tale of a duck attempting to climb into an apartment during the pouring rain. Unfortunately this book is not in print, but it served as the first spark that spurred on a lifetime of creativity.

Much of JJ’s childhood was spent tearing through the woods, playing out fantasy worlds, and tying Barbie to the roof so that the Power Rangers might rescue her. Middle and high school carried on this roleplaying, while college encompassed creating and refining over 250 characters in the world of Aersadore.

After escaping college, finally armed with the tools of the trade and a lifetime of development, JJ set to writing what would become the Steps of Power series: it was then that Eraydon slew his first dragon, Jikun battled the warlord Saebellus, and Taranus rebelled against his brother’s throne.

When not orchestrating the lives and deaths of the people of Aersadore, JJ’s hobbies include drawing, video gaming, wearing a bathrobe, and eating too many baked potatoes. JJ Sherwood lives in Cincinnati, Ohio with one loving and extremely patient spouse, a bearded dragon, a monk parakeet, and four cats who look far too similar.

Q: Congratulations on the release of your book, Kings or Pawns. To begin with, can you gives us a brief summary of what the story is about and what compelled you to write it?   

A: As with any intrigue/suspense, the less you know, the better. The story is about an elven nation riddled with corruption and balanced on the brink of all out war with enemy warlord Saebellus. I have always loved the fantasy genre but have been disappointed by the lacking number of fantasy books geared for adults. Having grown up on Dragonlance, I always hoped to find a series as large and complicated, full of strong characters, set in a rich world, well-written, engaging, and enthralling—but geared for adults. So that’s what I write now.

kings 2Q: What do you think makes a good fantasy? Could you narrow it down to the three most important elements? Is it even possible to narrow it down?

A: Easy, actually: world-building, realism, and strong characters. I love the fantasy genre, and I believe those three things make or break fantasy.

World building is the scope, history, development, and strength of the world where all of the events and characters take place. Tolkien is a great example of a massive, fully developed history and world that allows readers to delve into a series and find themselves wonderfully lost within the depth of the world—and hungering for more.

Realism is the careful balance between fantasy and believability. In my case, I focus on realism to ensure non-fantasy readers can pick up and fall in love with the book. Even the magic systems—while retaining airs of fantasy— have a foundation of scientific understanding.

Strong characters is the last and possibly most important element—characters who rise above stereotypes and embed themselves into your memory… characters who drive and shape the story by their faults and strengths, heroics and mistakes. Characters whom you can fall in love with.

Q: How did you go about plotting your story? Or did you discover it as you worked on the book?

A:  I plotted my story from bullet-point to bullet-point, but as the characters fully drive and shape the story, elements very often shift away from my original plan as characters argue that they “would not have done something quite that way”—and that single shift causes a ripple effect throughout the entire story ’til the end.

Q: Tell us something interesting about your protagonist and how you developed him or her. Did you do any character interviews or sketches prior to the actual writing?

A: There are multiple points of view and multiple protagonists, but I’ll address General Jikun—as his visage is most seen in our series artwork. Jikun was always an arrogant, cynical individual—just since the moment I began thinking he shaped himself that way—and I find once I write the first sentence of a character’s existence, the rest just… materializes and carries forward as though he’s always been a complete and full individual. I have little control over how the characters “create themselves.”

Q: In the same light, how did you create your antagonist or villain? What steps did you take to make him or her realistic?

A: Antagonists/villians have long since been some of my favorite individuals. I find that the most interesting and REAL characters are those that are not “good” or “evil” per se, but rather those characters who have “both traits.” Thus, my antagonist is simply an individual on one side of the coin, with admirable traits and flaws, making him an understandable, complicated, and interesting individual—and I prefer the same thought process with my “good” characters as well, including the aforementioned General Jikun.

Q: How did you keep your narrative exciting throughout the novel? Could you offer some practical, specific tips?

A: I wrote from several points of view and I focused on each point of view as being distinct and entertaining. For example, when writing from General Jikun’s point of view, I infuse a lot of dry humor, cynicism, and metaphors into the writing—readers know they are getting a skewed but unique view of events/characters/the world. Then the next point of view might be from the  mute servant girl, Alvena, who is spunky, bubbly, and very optimistic—a stark opposite to General Jikun and a new, fresh look at everything going on. Keeping such strong characters and contrasting points of views allows readers to always feel like they are getting varying perspectives of the world/events/characters. Then they can begin to form their own passions, theories, and opinions: which means the readers can invest in the world and truly feel a part of it.

Q: Setting is also quite important and in many cases it becomes like a character itself. What tools of the trade did you use in your writing to bring the setting to life?

A: I have not read a lot of fantasy in years—and I consider this to be a strong suit. Instead, I focused on interesting studies in linguistics; Japanese; witchcraft, healing, & studies in secluded religions; forensics; astronomy; human anatomy; history; mythology; etc… This allowed me a unique, fresh take on the world not heavily influenced by other writers, but rather thoughts and ideas from cultures and humanity all over our world—and I’ve been developing it for nearly twenty years before the publication of the first novel. It has a history and life entirely its own.

Q: Did you know the theme(s) of your novel from the start or is this something you discovered after completing the first draft? Is this theme(s) recurrent in your other work?

A: The themes of the novels often develop organically based on the strengths and flaws of the characters in the series. In The Kings part of the Steps of Power series, each book has several themes within and the four book series will have an over-arching theme based on the growth and change of the characters involved.

Q: Where does craft end and art begin? Do you think editing can destroy the initial creative thrust of an author?

A: Editing perhaps can, but not in my experience. My editor only helps the series grow stronger—driving points and characters home. There are times we will disagree on what I define as an “artistic” touch (particular wording in a sentence that is done for artistic purposes and not just the “straight forward” information it could be written as), but at the end of the day, the author has the final say.

Q: What three things, in your opinion, make a successful novelist?

A: Determination, hard-work, and natural creativity.

Q: A famous writer once wrote that being an author is like having to do homework for the rest of your life. What do you think about that?

A: It is absolutely true. I have to read my book several times just to keep track of the cycles of the moon, consistencies in linguistics, history, dates, etc… I find myself constantly “studying” my own world and having to take notes about it. I even have calendar books filled with events just pertaining to an individual novel!

Q: Are there any resources, books, workshops or sites about craft that you’ve found helpful during your writing career?

A: Roleplaying. As strange and laughable it might sound to some people: roleplaying. Through roleplaying over the last (nearly) 20 years, I have developed the world, characters, and history of the world to a degree that many authors do not get to reach for years of writing novels and receiving feedback. By roleplaying online and in person with individuals all over the world, I can test history, characters, stories, etc… before they ever even make it into draft form. I can shape and change events for years before they ever touch the pages of a novel and yet not have to slow down the speed at which I write.

Q:  Is there anything else you’d like to share with my readers about the craft of writing?

A: I edit my novels about thirty times before they ever end up in your hands—most of those edits involve adding and shaping nuances that allow you to really fall in love with the characters and the world. It is my favorite part of the writing process.

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DSC_0005Jane Tesh is a retired media specialist and pianist for the Andy Griffith Playhouse in Mt. Airy, NC, the real Mayberry. She is the author of the Madeline Maclin Series, A Case of Imagination, A Hard Bargain, A Little Learning, and A Bad Reputation, featuring former beauty queen, Madeline “Mac” Maclin and her con man husband, Jerry Fairweather.  Stolen Hearts is the first in the Grace Street Mystery Series, featuring PI David Randall, his psychic friend, Camden, Randall’s love interest, Kary Ingram, and Cam’s career-driven girlfriend, Ellin Belton, as well as an ever-changing assortment of Cam’s tenants.  Mixed Signals is the second in the series, followed by Now You See It and Just You Wait. Jane’s mysteries are all published by Poisoned Pen Press, located in Scottsdale, Arizona. Butterfly Waltz is her first published fantasy novel from Silver Leaf Books. All of Jane’s books are on the light side with humor and romance.

Connect on the web:

https://www.facebook.com/GraceStreetMysterySeries

https://twitter.com/janetesh

http://www.janetesh.com/fantasy.html

Q: Congratulations on the release of your latest book, Butterfly Waltz. To begin with, can you gives us a brief summary of what the story is about and what compelled you to write it?   

A: Des Fairweather is a struggling young musician who fears he may possess the same destructive magic power that killed his parents.  While helping his tabloid reporter friend, Jake Banner, investigate a report of talking flowers, Des meets Kalida, a mysterious and beautiful young woman who says she is being pursued by her people, evil beings from a world called the Caverns.  Des will have to put aside his fear of magic and find some way to rescue Kalida.

I love using music in all of my books.  Often, a specific piece of music inspires a story.  For Butterfly Waltz, I used “One For Amelia,” a lovely waltz by ragtime composer, Max Morath.  As I listened to this or played it on the piano, I could see scenes from the book unfolding.

Q: What do you think makes a good fantasy? Could you narrow it down to the three most important elements? Is it even possible to narrow it down?

A: In any kind of book, there has to be a good story.  I’m a big fan of Pixar movies because no matter how wild the characters and settings are—cars, toys, emotions in your head—the writers make sure the story is solid and surprising.

The second element would have to be characters that the reader cares about and wants to see succeed.

Third, and most important for me, is humor.  Dystopian novels about ruined civilizations are fine every now and then, but I like to include lighter moments.  My favorite fantasy author is Terry Prachett, and he does a masterful job of mixing drama and comedy in his novels.

Butterfly_C1_2Q: How did you go about plotting your story? Or did you discover it as you worked on the book?

A: All of my stories just sort of happen, so I discover lots of things as I go along.  Sometimes I know how I’d like a book to end.  Other times, I let it roll.  I do like to keep track of time, though, so I’ll write “Day One” on a page and as the scenes happen, I’ll arrange them into “Morning,” “Afternoon,” and “Later.”  It’s all very casual.

Q: Tell us something interesting about your protagonist and how you developed him or her. Did you do any character interviews or sketches prior to the actual writing?

A: With me, the character’s name comes first.  Once I’ve found the right name, the description falls into place.  I see each letter as a specific color.  I used to think I might be a little crazy, but fortunately found an article in Psychology Today about a condition called synesthesia.  People with synethesia, usually poets and painters, have mixed up senses.  They might smell colors, or taste sounds.  Many writers see letters as colors.  Des Fairweather is gray, green, blue, and a little yellow.  By contrast, his friend Jake Banner is red, yellow, and black.  Once I’ve got all the names and colors, I’m ready to write.

Q: In the same light, how did you create your antagonist or villain? What steps did you take to make him or her realistic?

A:  The people of the Caverns are all red and black.  They arrived like this.  It is very hard to explain how they happened.  As a child, I had many imaginary friends, and lots of them morphed into characters.  I also watched a lot of TV.  The leader of the Caverns, The Lady, may have her roots in Cinderella’s evil stepmother.

Q: How did you keep your narrative exciting throughout the novel? Could you offer some practical, specific tips?

A:  This may sound obvious, but things have to keep happening.  If there’s too much backstory, description, or unnecessary information, especially at the beginning of the book, readers will get bogged down in the details.  If you can keep the story moving with just enough additional material here and there, then the narrative will become more exciting.  It’s all about finding the right proportion between important events—Des and Jake go to Snowden Manor to check out talking flowers, Jake falls for Christine Snowden, Des meets Kalida—and the additional material: what the characters look like, descriptions of the flowers, how Des feels when he first sees Kalida, how she feels when she first hears his music.

Q: Setting is also quite important and in many cases it becomes like a character itself. What tools of the trade did you use in your writing to bring the setting to life?

A:  Since dialogue is my strong point and I really love it, I have to work more on setting.  I can remember my writing teacher telling me my first draft read more like a radio play than a novel.  “You have Des sitting down, but where is he sitting?” he asked.  “On the piano bench,” I answered, because it was obvious to me.  “You have to let your readers see that,” was his reply.

I’ve never forgotten that advice.  Just because something was in my head, it wasn’t necessarily on the page.  Now I do my best to set the scenes and to use active descriptions.

Here’s an example:

“We’re gonna stay till we have a story, so let’s look around.”  Jake peered into the adjoining dining room.  “Enough room for twenty people.  More velvet cushions, silver candlesticks, some kind of fancy artwork in the corner that looks like it’s hanging upside down.  The place remind you of home?”

“Sort of.”  Actually, the house reminded him enough of the Fairweather estate to make him uncomfortable.

In this case, Jake is explaining the setting instead of me, and Des is having an emotional reaction.

Q: Did you know the theme(s) of your novel from the start or is this something you discovered after completing the first draft? Is this theme(s) recurrent in your other work?

A: I discovered the theme after I’d finished the book when I realized that everyone wants a home and a family.  Everyone wants to belong somewhere and to feel wanted.  This theme is especially strong in my Grace Street series where the characters, having lost their real families, have made new ones.

Q: Where does craft end and art begin? Do you think editing can destroy the initial creative thrust of an author?

A: I think when a writer has mastered all the mechanics and can let go and just write, not caring what the first draft is like, or what anyone will say, then art begins.  When you’ve been writing away and look up and three hours have disappeared, then you’re approaching that blissful creative state.

I’ve been lucky in that both editors I’ve worked with have made suggestions for changes rather than changing things themselves.  We’ve been able to work through problems together with the ultimate choice being mine.  However, I’m not going to cling foolishly to a title, for example, if my editor thinks another title would sell.  I can always call Just You Wait its original title, Cover Up, in my own mind.

Q: What three things, in your opinion, make a successful novelist?

A: Persistence, honesty, and a sense of humor.  I would not be published today if I hadn’t persisted since 1968.  As for honesty, I try my best to play fair with the reader, whether it’s laying in clues for my mysteries, or creating fantasy worlds.  If someone finds a mistake in my books and emails me, I always thank them and correct the mistake.  And having a sense of humor is the only way to get through the ups and downs of publishing.

Q: A famous writer once wrote that being an author is like having to do homework for the rest of your life. What do you think about that?

A: Bring on the homework!  I love it.

Q: Are there any resources, books, workshops or sites about craft that you’ve found helpful during your writing career?

A: I was very lucky to have attended the Writers Retreat Workshop in 1990 when the founder, Gary Provost, was in charge.  Gary’s books, Make Your Words Work and 100 Ways to Improve Your Writing are wonderful resources and they’re funny, too.

Q:  Is there anything else you’d like to share with my readers about the craft of writing?

A: Terry Pratchett said, “The first draft is just you telling yourself the story.”  You can always fix it.  Can’t think of the prefect word?  Put in an “x” and come back to that place later. Relax, have fun, and write the book you want to read.  Don’t try to follow or create a trend.  Explore what you love and care about.

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“Writing has taught me the importance of self-confidence in becoming good at anything,” says Christine Amsden, who, in spite of having been diagnosed with Stargardt’s Disease, a condition that effects the retina and causes a loss of central vision, has gone on to become the award-winning, bestselling author of the Cassie Scot: ParaNormal Detective fantasy/mystery series published by Twilight Times Books.

“My parents encouraged reading a LOT,” says this speculative fiction writer, who grew up gobbling up The Chronicles of Narnia, The Baby Sitter’s Club, and Flowers in the Attic. “I know they read to me too, but I was an advanced reader at an early age and preferred to read on my own when I could. I have memories of staring at picture books, making up stories about the pictures though I couldn’t understand the words.” At the tender age of 8, she wrote her first short story, about Cabbage Patch Dolls going to Mars. From then on, she wrote fairly consistently until 2003, which marked the beginning of her professional career when she attended a workshop with Orson Scott Card.

Amsden may be legally blind, but she hasn’t allowed that part of her life to stop her from becoming a prolific author, and nowadays she splits her time between writing, freelance editing, and coaching — with a keen focus on writing. She loves to write about real people defining themselves through extraordinary situations, giving special attention to people and relationships, her way of making science fiction and fantasy meaningful for everyone. “I will continue to marry romance with speculative fiction because I simply love both genres,” states the author. “I love a good character story. I think character is more important than just about anything else, and a great character will have me reading any genre at all and loving it. I get a lot of people telling me that they like my books even though they ‘don’t normally read stuff like that.’ I think it’s because of the characters.”

In what she describes as her messy, cluttered desk, and with a special arm attached to her monitor to help her eyes and back, Amsden creates her stories rich in characterization and world building. Her latest book, Madison’s Song, a companion to her Cassie Scot series, is about a shy young woman who has suffered more than her fair share of betrayal in the past. A friend of Cassie (the only ungifted daughter of powerful sorcerers), Madison now gets a chance to prove that she can be more than a plump, shy sidekick. When her brother’s life is in danger, she faces her greatest fear with head held high to save him. The story is equally about Scott, a werewolf who has fallen in love with a woman he doesn’t believe he deserves.

MadisonsSong_medAmsden’s writing style is straightforward and conversational, which is probably why most readers and reviewers describe her work as highly entertaining and fast paced. “I’m not the sort to hide the story behind flowery prose,” she says. “I like the words to get out of the way of the story.” She’s a fast writer as well, finishing the rough draft of the book in only two months, though she then put it aside for a year before revising it, a process that took her five additional months. Her writing process, though fluid, is different with each book. “My best story ideas are the ones that come to me while I’m doing something else, although this doesn’t excuse me from putting in my hours of conscious effort. No two projects that I’ve worked on have developed in exactly the same way, either. I like to try new strategies, mix things up, so life doesn’t get boring.”

Like the Cassie Scot series, Madison’s Song will also be available in audiobook format, which is how Amsden “reads” most books these days. “It was important to me, when I became an author, to make my books available to listen to as well as read, and not just for others with disabilities. Audiobooks are a terrific way to enjoy books for busy people whose reading time can be combined with a daily commute, or with housework.”

Like most authors, Amsden loves sharing her creative ideas with the world, something which can be understandably challenging. “Nothing is universally liked,” states the author. “I try not to read negative comments or reviews, but it’s almost impossible to avoid all of it. When someone ‘gets me’ I feel an almost euphoric connectedness to the world; when someone doesn’t, (in a really big way), it almost makes me feel isolated.”

The definition of success varies from writer to writer. For Amsden, it has changed since she started writing. “At one time (not too long ago), I had an unrealistic expectation of success that involved becoming a bestseller and making an upper-class living off of my books,” she confesses. “When the Cassie Scot series came out, I sold thousands of books but still didn’t make the kind of money that would let me ‘earn a living’ off of it. It made me rethink my definition of success, because MessyDeskby all measurable standards my books are doing well – I’ve got great reviews, I’ve won several awards, I’ve sold many thousands of books, and I’m making money. I feel most successful when I connect with readers who love my books. So maybe that’s what success is. I’d love to connect with more readers, sell more books, and make more money, but I’m becoming satisfied with who and what I am now. (Like Cassie.)”

At the moment, the author is waiting for her next book, Kaitlin’s Tale, to be released by Twilight Times Books. She’s also hard at work on a new series set in a completely different world and with a new cast of characters. Though it’s way too early to say much about it, readers can count on it being filled with romance and the paranormal.

A native of St. Louis, Christine Amsden now lives in Olathe, Kansas with her husband, Austin, who has been her biggest fan and the key to her success, and their two beautiful children.

TouchofFateSigningBibliography:

Touch of Fate (Twilight Times Books, 2006)

The Immortality Virus (Twilight Times Books, 2011)

Cassie Scot: ParaNormal Detective (Twilight Times Books, 2013)

Secrets and Lies (Twilight Times Books, 2013)

Mind Games (Twilight Times Books, 2014)

Stolen Dreams (Twilight Times Books, 2014)

Madison’s Song (Twilight Times Books, 2015)

Connect with Christine Amsden on the web:

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unnamed copyJonathan L. Ferrara was born in San Pedro, California to an Italian fisherman and a mother from New York. Growing up with one older brother, Jonathan had several hobbies: finding the best hiding spots to jump out and scare his mother, discovering new fantasy book series, and imagining outrageous, whimsical worlds full of magic. He is now happily married, residing in California in the City of Angels. He has two wonderful children-his dog Koda and cat Merlin. 

Q: Congratulations on the release of your latest book, The Blackwell Family Secret: The Guardians of Sin. What was your inspiration for it?

A: I’ve always had a love for fantasy stories and I always knew I wanted to write my own. Growing up as catholic I went to church like a good catholic boy, and was even an alter boy. I loved the history of the religion and I began to see a connection between Catholicism and fantasy, which led to the birth of this story. The Seven Deadly Sins fit perfectly with the two.

Q: Tell us something interesting about your protagonist.

A: Nicholas Blackwell is only sixteen-years-old and is somehow connected to the City of Demons, he just doesn’t know why. His family’s secret is hidden there and he has to challenge each of the Guardians of the Seven Deadly Sins to discover it.

Q: How was your creative process like during the writing of this book and how long did it take you to complete it? Did you face any bumps along the way?

A: The best way to describe my experience when writing this story was that I felt like I was Alice in Wonderland, discovering this world as it unfolded around me. This story truly had a mind of its own and took me for a ride. I was just as surprised as the readers when I discovered Nicholas’s family’s secret. before and after work, including my days off, I spent writing this story. I made my coffee, listened to some inspiring music to get my creative juices going, and wrote until my fingers were sore. It took me three months to write the first draft of the story. My personal editing took months after, but the main story took three months.

Q: How do you keep your narrative exciting throughout the creation of a novel?

A: The main setting for The Blackwell Family Secret takes place in the City of Demons. It would be hard to write anything but exciting in a fun, whimsical world filled with outrageous creatures.

blackwell2Q: Do you experience anxiety before sitting down to write? If yes, how do you handle it?

A: I don’t actually. I think writing has become such a part of me and my everyday. Sometimes I do get anxiety when I’m thinking about the story when I’m not actually writing yet. There are times when plots and characters are working out the way you want them to. In that case, it’s easy to get a little overwhelmed.

Q: What is your writing schedule like and how do you balance it with your other work and family time?

A: When I’m not at work I’m writing. I usually give myself a few hours at night to eat dinner and relax with a show or book, but other than that I’m on the computer writing. My significant other is an artist so usually we’re both being creative at the same time. We do make sure that Friday nights are date nights though.

Q: How do you define success?

A: Doing what you love and being proud of it. Even if a writer wrote a book, perfected it completely, and decided to keep it just for themselves I would call that success.

Q: What advice would you give to aspiring writers whose spouses or partners don’t support their dreams of becoming an author?

A: I couldn’t even imagine that. Personally, I couldn’t see myself with anyone who didn’t understand my passion and didn’t support it. I would say find someone who believes in you, if not, fight for your dreams regardless to what others say.

Q: George Orwell once wrote: “Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.” Do you agree?

A: I do agree to a certain extent. I wouldn’t say writing is horrible, but I would say it was exhausting. There needs to be a drive. Something inside you forces you to write until it’s complete.

Q:  Anything else you’d like to tell my readers?

A: Only that the Guardians of Sin are waiting to be unleashed!

ABOUT THE BOOK

blackwell

The Blackwell Family Secret:
THE GUARDIANS OF SINS
by Jonathan L. Ferrara
URBAN FANTASY, Young Adult
5.5×8.5, 224 pages
Publication date: December 5, 2014
$15.95 trade paperback, ISBN 978-1-940076-19-5
$5.95 E-book, ISBN 978-1-940076-20-1
Publisher: Dragonwell Publishing
Distribution: Ingram Book Company
www.dragonwellpublishing.com / AMAZON

Nicholas Blackwell has no idea he is supposed to fulfill a destiny. All he knows is that he draws trouble like a magnet. Orphaned at eleven when two demonic men killed his parents, he copes with the strict rules of his new home, St. Christopher’s academy, unaware that he has been the real target for the killers and that his guardian angel has saved him in the nick of time. And now, his problems are only beginning when a mysterious serpent lures him into the woods and tricks him into a demonic ritual that will unleash the Seven Deadly Sins to destroy the humankind. Nicholas has no choice but to correct his mistake–or die trying. Aided by Amy, a shy but determined girl who seems to know more about his task than she should, Nicholas’s quest is to travel into the City of Demonio and defeat the Seven Guardians of Sin. To succeed, he must confront demons, monsters, and lost souls, learn the mysteries of the Chapel of Dreams, discover the true meaning of friendship and love, and face the darkest secret of all: the Blackwell Family Secret.

“The Blackwell Family Secret: the Guardians of Sin” is a debut young adult urban fantasy adventure with a Christian theme.

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