Archive for the ‘Short Fiction’ Category

perf6.000x9.000.inddWishes and Sorrows is a well-written short story fantasy collection that interweaves myth, magic, romance, and fairytale elements. At times, the writing is darker and bordering on horror.

The 14 stories in this collection range from the melancholic, lyrically written “The Taste of Cherries,” to the chilling “The Train,” to a character study of isolation mingled with love in “The Tower in the Desert.”

I especially enjoyed “I Am the Grey Lady,” about a woman afraid of going insane, and the darkly magical “Every Word I Speak,” a retold fairy tale with a not-so-happy ending about a girl who spills a flower, a pearl, or a diamond out of her mouth whenever she speaks.

I enjoyed reading this collection. The author has a beautiful writing style, at times poetic and literary, with dreamlike, vivid images. The stories are pretty unique, though some of them, such as “The Taste of Cherries,” feel more like vignettes than complete stories. In spite of the plot variety, there’s a unifying thoughtful, “quiet” mood throughout that I especially liked. Recommended for fans of fantasy, fairy tales, and magical stories.

Purchase on Amazon.

Read my interview with the author HERE.

My review originally appeared in Blogcritics.

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Christmas is in the Air Anthology 2

This is the second Christmas romance anthology from Books to Go Now that I have read this month. I loved the first one,Christmas Romance, and this the second one didn’t disappoint. Four talented romance authors, four sweet stories that will warm your heart this holiday season. And just like in the first one, there are dogs in this one, too!

In “Red Soles at Night Christmas Delight,” by Cary Morgan Frates, Audrey Wells is out of her wits when a dog jumps on to the deck of her boat and in the process throws her super expensive Louboutin shoes into the lake. The dog’s handsome owner has no choice but to dive into the freezing cold water to rescue them. Of course, Audrey ends up making sure he doesn’t get pneumonia. In a turn of fate, they end up spending Christmas Day together. A humorous and sexy story.

In “Yuletide Bride,” by Danielle Lee Zwissler, reporter Mary Simms is out on a mission. She wants to prove that the town’s Magic of Christmas Festival, where perfect couples are “matched” for life, is a sham. Will she have the courage to uncover the truth and destroy people’s belief in the tradition, even if it means destroying the happiness of some of the old couples involved? And what about James, the handsome lawyer who asks her not to go ahead with her story, and for whom she’s developing some serious feelings? Will Mary learn to have faith? An original, delightful story with a touch of mystery.

In “Christmas Gift that Keeps Wagging,” by Jennifer Conner, we meet Julian Barrows, a single dad with a kindergarten son who suffers from seizures; and Hannah, the beautiful trainer who specializes in seizure-detecting dogs. Their paths touch when Julian tries to get her dog for his son. The problem is, it’s incredibly expensive. Fate has other plans, and the magic of Christmas works its way into their lives…A heart-warming story with an ending that will pull at your heart strings.

The last story is “One Horse Open Sleigh Race,” by Karen Hall, where we’re transported to 1819 London, and where, after a most unexpected encounter, a wealthy earl and the feisty twin of the new clergyman find true love thanks to a Christmas sleigh race and an adorable “match-making” Scottie. Lovers of historical romance will relish this one.

This anthology has a tantalizing, charming cover. That’s the first thing that pulled me to the book, and it adequately illustrates the inside content. The four stories in this anthology are all about strong yet vulnerable heroines and sensitive, yet forceful heroes; about the spirit of the Christmas season and the magical effect it can sometimes have on people; about the hope and faith for true love and the attainment of that love.

Through the authors’ imaginations, I was transported to different places and times, relishing the characters’ fictional worlds and predicaments. I also love how the authors incorporate humor into their stories, and how the dogs play their important roles. Christmas Is in the Air is an upbeat, thoroughly enjoyable read, and one I’m sure readers of sweet romance stories will enjoy.

Find out more on Books to Go Now and  Amazon.

My review was originally published in Blogcritics Magazine. 

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ENGINE_24This book is a collection of five short stories written by Joe Corso, a retired fire fighter from notes he compiled whilst in service.

Whether you want a glimpse into the true life of a fire fighter, or are just looking for a fantastic collection of stories, this is definitely the book for you!

The author has an amazing ability to bring his stories to life, his vivid descriptions of the locations, situations and emotions felt has you sitting on the edge of your seat, itching to turn the page to find the outcome and yet not wanting the story to end.

Each story is completely different, but all contain the crew of Engine 24 of the FDNY to whom the book is dedicated.

This is a compelling collection of short stories. I finished them feeling that I had been allowed a privileged insight not only into the very real dangerous world of a fire fighter, but also, that I had been able to  feel the sense of the comradeship, dedication, duty and loyalty to fellow workers they share.

I hope the author continues to write more FIRE stories for his number one fan!

Available at Amazon on Kindle here: http://www.amazon.com/Engine-24-Fire-Stories-ebook/dp/B00E8898M6/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1375715932&sr=8-1&keywords=FIRE+Stories+engine+24

Reviewed by Susan Keefe

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john-paul-jaramillo authorA native of Southern Colorado, John Paul Jaramillo now lives, writes and teaches in Springfield, Illinois. He has an MFA in creative writing from Oregon State University, and presently holds the position of Associate Professor of English at Lincoln Land Community College.

His writing has been featured in Acentos ReviewCopper Nickel Review, Antique Children Arts Journal, Fogged Clarity Arts JournalDigest Magazine, Verdad Magazine, Polyphony Online, Paraphilia Magazine, Sleet Magazine and forthcoming in Palabra Magazine of Chicano and Latino Literary Art. 

He’s the author of the short story collection,The House of Order, published by Anaphora Literary Press.

About the cover…

“The artwork is from an amazing Illinois artist named Felicia Olin. Her work inspires me and this particular piece titled ‘Breathe Out’ caught my eye at an art showing at the University of Illinois Springfield. I’ve been told these stories are very raw and I hoped the artwork matched. I also liked the way composite stories could break down a family and also a man so that we might see a fuller understanding. A fuller dimension in the layers of storytelling and narration. I like the idea that narration of a story can give us the inside and outside view of something. As in Olin’s work I guess things aren’t as pretty on the inside of folks or in the inner-workings of the world. I’m all for more complication in fiction to match the complication that exists in what Amy Hempel calls ‘the problem of being alive.’ Hopefully when one reads the book they might see a fuller view of a man or character, or situation for that matter, they might otherwise ignore or become offended with.”

About his writing style…

“I’ve always been more interested in the form of books rather than the meaning. Expressing rather than communicating. I try to teach that to my students. Content only matters as much as it is organized and structured on the page and I have studied literary minimalism so closely. Obsessed with it really. I’m attracted to the idea of doing more with less. That’s the failed poet in my I guess. I’ve always been inspired with the minimalism of Amy Hempel and Denis Johnson. The minimal form works best with stories about such weighted subject matter such as abusive fathers or delinquent parents. I’ve tried to steal an elliptical and bare bones style to match the laconic male family members.”

About what makes a good story…

“I think I’m particularly interested in trouble. Folks getting in and out of trouble. The thing within folks that creates that trouble around them. Expecially Latino males. Tom Spanbauer describes his style as dangerous writing. And I’ve tried to steal that for my stories. I think finding the trouble and putting the reader in an uncomfortable position along with the characters creates the most interest for the reader. So that’s one. I also think the language needs to mean more to the writer than the reader. That comes from my study of poetry. Tracy Daugherty told his workshop members that language is a character’s skin. I like that idea. We have to get inside of our character utilizing more and more intimate language. I guess that’s when I started using more and more mixing and switching of English and Spanish in my stories. To match the intimate language of the old folks from Colorado that influenced me and that best represent me. So that’s trouble and language. I guess the story must also be affecting. And I guess I mean that stories need to be less plot-driven and more driven by emotion. The best stories that I return to again and again are stories that give less plot and storyline but through the deep use of language and care for the main character makes me feel the most. The work has to be character driven and affecting to create a true immersible experience to compete with films and television and more visual mediums.”

What’s next for John Paul Jaramillo…

“I’m working on a follow up to my first collection of stories. I’m tentatively calling the book Huérfanos named after the nearby county I grew up around and it is more of a traditional novel rather than literary minimalism styled collection of short stories. The criticisms of my shorter stories have been a complaint on the length of the stories. We don’t spend much time with characters and within a novel I can spend that time. I can give a fuller trajectory for the characters. I jump from generation to generation in the short work but I like the idea of adding even more dimension of time within a novel. I also like the idea of following more characters. I’m also interested in creative nonfiction essays about the steel mills and steel unions of Southern Colorado. I’m also interested in turning blog posts from my writing and teaching weblog I keep into fuller essays on the subject of so-called “Spanglish” and the use of intimate language within my written work. I’m interested in writing on the representation of Latinos in popular culture and in films as well as in literature.”


house of order

The House of Order, the first collection of composite stories by John Paul Jaramillo, presents a stark vision of American childhood and family, set in Southern Colorado and Northern New Mexico. Manito Ortiz sorts family truth from legend as broken as the steel industry and the rusting vehicles that line Spruce Street. The only access to his lost family’s story is his uncle, the unreliable Neto Ortiz.


Barnes and Noble

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Born in Barnet, Hertfordshire, England, Barry left his beloved England in 2000, moving to the USA. Under the name “Storyheart,” Barry is better known for his short romance stories on the net and in his book “Stories from the Heart“. His first YA novel “Across the Pond” proved extremely popular with over 120 reviews on Amazon.  Now he is going back to his romantic roots with the first of a series of books “The Bathroom Book of Romance”.

Barry’s whit, oratory, and old-fashioned English charm make him a popular interviewee. He is also host of the popular radio show “A Book and a Chat” with over 450 shows under his belt.


Web Site: http://romance2read.com

About the Book:

The Bathroom Book of Romance – Book 1 “ is the first in a series of books with short stories, is short enough to read over a cup of tea or coffee, or whenever you have some time to yourself, yet long enough to bring a tear to your eye or a smile to your face. In fact some people call them “bathroom stories” as that might be the only place you get five minutes peace and quiet to yourself.

Thanks for this interview, Barry! What was your inspiration for The Bathroom Book of Romance ?

The title of the book comes from when I first started writing these short stories many years ago, originally is was that  you could read the stories whenever you had five minutes peace and quiet. One reader (the stories used to be produced online) that with three young children the only time she got peace and quiet was if she locker herself away in the bathroom, so the stories became “bathroom stories”.

Tell us something about your hero and/or heroine that my readers won’t be able to resist.

Being numerous short stories there are many different types of characters, hero’s, ages and relationships. Over this book and the next two I have tried to cover every form of romance I can think of. There are always twists and turns and I try to fool the reader whenever I can, in fact I actually take great pleasure in being told… “You did it to me again, I thought it was such and such an ending…”

What is your favorite story in the book?

This is the first of a series of books with the stories written for not only book two but a Christmas Special. I have many stories I really like, I used to have my own local TV station where I used to come on like Mr Rogers, and narrate a story or two to the camera. Hardest part of that is looking up at the camra and then down at the story I was reading without losing my place. But you asked about my favorite stories. The first four in the book “The Radio Show”, Love of an Angel”, Emerald Eyes” and “Why?” are ones I like though there are many more that have their own special spots.

What do you love most about being an author?

I always bulk at being called an author, though with my YA book “Across the Pond” having over 120 reviews on Amazon I guess I can call myself that, though I prefer to be called a “story teller”. My English is not brilliant; I do not have authors names dropping from my tongue like so many authors, and as for my spelling… thank goodness for spell-check. I love chatting to authors though which can be seen from the popularity of my radio show “A Book and a Chat” which now numbers around 470 shows, and not just authors I am a huge fan of bloggers and try to get them on the show when possible.

A Short story from book two… “The Rose”

Night stirred its inky finger at the ending of the day, the office lights breaking through the windows into the dark night. Desks emptied as people sort to get an early start to the weekend.

She completed the last letter she had to send that day, filled in the final figures on the day’s spreadsheet, and was just about to close down her PC when a message popped up saying she had a new email. She was going to open the email to check what it was when she felt a hand on her shoulder. Turning round, she looked into the sparkling eyes that belonged to Andy, her boss, which as normal, set her heart racing.

“Still here?” he said with a smile. “Nothing to go home too?”

She smiled back.  “Nothing much.”

Not as if you were there she thought, then scolded herself in case she let her secret feeling for Andy show.

Andy smiled once more. “Well, see you on Monday” And with that, left her to her thoughts.

He was so good looking, she thought to herself, as she watched his rear disappearing out the door.

With a sigh, she shut of her computer, letting the email wait until Monday, and slowly made her way to the lift. She had nothing to go home to except an empty and lonely house. Her husband was a long gone, and good riddance. Her son was at college far away, and all that was there for her, was another lonely night.

She reached the exit of the building. There, waiting for her was Mike, the security guard. Mike always there with a smile that seemed just for her, understanding her moods and problems sometimes before she herself knew them. Mike, whom she could tell anything to, knowing it would go no further and that he would never judge her. As normal, he held open the door, his arm almost but not quite touching her as she went by.

“Night Mable, have a good one,” he said to her with a smile.

“Night Mike.” she answered back over her shoulder as she walked to where she had parked her car. “And thank you.” She blew him a kiss as normal.

She walked down the now empty parking spaces to where hers was parked, and opened to door to get in the car, when she noticed something on the front window. Moving round, she realized it was a rose, a single red rose placed under one of her wiper blades. Taking it carefully in her hands, she looked for a note or something to say whom the rose had been from, but there was nothing.

She drove home trying to work out in her mind that might have left her the flower. Could it have been Andy, guessing her feeling for him, and letting her know that he felt the same? Perhaps it was Mike, just showing her that he cared?

Her mind went through all the other possible people, but kept coming back to Andy and Mike. The weekend seemed to fly by, with her thoughts always turning to the rose that took pride of place on her table in the small glass vase. Was it Andy, or was it Mike? She had to wait until Monday to find out.

At last Monday came, she parked her car as normal and found Mike waiting for her with an open door. She flashed a special smile his way eager to thank him if indeed the rose had been from him.

“Thank you so much,” she said, lingering for a few moments before walking through the door, as if waiting for him to reply. But Mike did not say anything about flowers or her, so she hurriedly made her way to her desk.

Andy. Andy. It had to be Andy. After all this time at last he was showing her that he felt the same way as she did.

She waited for Andy to come in, her heart racing at the thought of him leaving a rose for her.

While she waited, she checked her mail, the first message being the one that she left on Friday, it was from her son.

“Hi Mum.” it read “I was just passing through on my way to a friend’s house, from where I am sending you this email. I did not really have time to stop, just thought I’d let you know how much I love you. I hope you enjoy the rose. Love, Don

With a sigh, the dream bubble burst. Oh well, she thought, at least her son loved her.


Author’s twitter: storyheart52

Author’s facebook: https://www.facebook.com/#!/storyheart 

Link to purchase page: http://romance2read.com

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Between the Sheets

I find kiss scenes more challenging to write than sex. BUT, even more than steamy scenes, I love build-up and playful banter. In addition to paranormal YA and historical romance, I write erotica under a nom de plume.

Real Life Romance

I met my husband, the love of my life, Sébastien, in France while I was a teaching assistant during the 1999-2000 school year (and returned home a married woman). Some people bring back a shot glass – I brought home a husband.

First Kiss

Not till age 21. No wonder I get anxious writing them.

Seven Times a Charm

I wrote six “practice” novels before I felt ready to go live with my first eBook, this month, Entangled. It is the full novel version of Spellbound and will be followed up with two sequels.

Sweet Tooth

Off the charts! I once gained 50 lbs in 3 months because I couldn’t stop baking (and eating) chocolate chip cookies. My favorite cookbook at the moment is “Health by Chocolate” by Victoria Laine. Now I can have my chocolate and eat it too!

About Nikki’s chocolate-covered contribution:

A Resurrection Spell Gone Wrong

Two months after dying, Graylee Perez wakes up in her identical twin sister, Charlene’s body. As the daughter of a witch, can anyone blame her mother for attempting to bring her back to life? Only now Gray’s stuck sharing her sister’s body 50/50 in 24 hour shifts.

The race is on for Gray to find a way back inside her body before Charlene purges her from existence. Warlock Raj McKenna is rumored to meddle in the black arts, not to mention he’s after Gray’s invisibility spell and worse – her heart. But Raj might be the only one powerful enough to save Gray from fading away forever.

About the author:

Nikki Jefford’s novella Spellbound appears in the YA paranormal romance anthology Death By Chocolate, released this week. She is a third generation Alaskan who found paradise in the not-so-tropical San Juans Islands in Washington.

She blogs at: http://www.nikkijefford.blogspot.com/

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Dear Readers,

I’d like to announce the release of my paranormal suspense novel, EMBRACED BY THE SHADOWS, now available on Kindle for $2.99.

Here’s a blurb:

In a bazaar in Istanbul one evening, ten-year-old Alana Piovanetti sees a man standing in the shadows. He smiles, and over time she convinces herself that it was just her imagination that placed sharp fangs amongst those flashing teeth.

Twelve years later, Alana is surprised when she is chosen to manage a new restaurant opening in her home city of San Juan. She has neither training nor experience to justify her success. But La Cueva del Vampiro has the kind of ambience she adores, for Alana has always had a penchant for horror and the dark side of life. Yet she is also plagued with dreams of dark sensuality, dreams that take on shattering reality when she meets the stunningly handsome, charismatic Sadash.

For Sadash is the man she saw in the shadows so many years before…and Sadash isn’t human….

You may read the prologue and first chapter here: http://twilighttimesbooks.com/EmbracedbyShadows_ch1.html

The link to Kindle is:


The story features a Latina protagonist and a Turkish vampire. I hope you’ll give it a try!

To celebrate the release of my novel, I’m giving away two of my other books for free. This offer will run until Halloween night only. Of course, I hope you’ll consider supporting my work by purchasing a copy of Embraced by the Shadows, but if for whatever reason you decide not to, the two free ebooks are still yours to download. This is my Halloween gift to you!

The FREE ebooks I’m giving away are: Dark Lullaby and Cat Cellar and Other Stories and they’re available in various formats on Smashwords:

Dark Lullaby https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/94529

The Cat Cellar and Other Stories https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/95031

Enjoy! Happy reading and happy Halloween!


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Vincent Hobbes was born in Dallas, TX in 1975. He has been actively writing since he was fifteen years old. His roots lay in horror, but he has recently branched out into other genres. In 2007, he was published. The Contrived Senator was the first book in a fantasy series. In 2008, he released Exiles, the second book in the series. Short stories have always been a favorite of Vincent’s, and in 2010 he teamed up with 11 incredible authors, and created The Endlands. This horror anthology is an ode to the kooky and bizarre. The Endlands was released January 17th, 2011. Vincent is currently working on more novels, including a dystopian book. He lives north of the DFW metroplex with his wife, two dogs, two cats, chickens and ducks.

You can read more about him at: www.VincentHobbes.com

Horror is such a broad subject and there are so many subcategories. Please tell us a little about the kind of horror fiction you write.

Horror indeed has many subcategories. Personally, I can’t stand gore for the sake of gore, or shock value for lack of quality. Now, I don’t mind some blood and guts on occasion, but I feel it’s overused in both the book industry and movie industry. As for myself, I prefer psychological horror—to leave something up to the imagination. Alfred Hitchcock was a master at this, as was Rod Serling. I find if you let the reader’s imagination run wild, it will turn out much scarier.

How did the project come about and how long did it take to complete?

This project has been in my head for years. I approached my publisher a few years ago, and he agreed to it. So, I’d say The Endlands was years in the making, though it took about a year to put together. We searched for talent and found eleven other incredible authors to take part.

What are some of the themes explored in the book?

Fear of the unknown is a common theme in the Endlands. The classic good vs. evil is prevalent. Stories that boggle the imagination and cause the reader to question their own sanity. The Endlands has a little bit of everything in it.

Where is the book available?

The book is available on all major online book retailers, including ebook format. Hopefully it will be on the shelves soon, and many libraries are carrying it.

What is your writing schedule like? Do you have any special rituals or quirks?

I attempt to write every day. It’s important for me to stay in practice, though sometimes life doesn’t work out that way. I try to keep a minimum word count daily, and many nights I stay up late, inspired to peck away at my keyboard until exhausted. A good writing environment is important to me. I cherish silence when I write. My wife has learned to stay away when I’m really going at it. Loud music helps, too. Just depends on what I’m working on.

How do you keep your narrative exciting when you don’t feel like writing but you know you have to? Do you force it?

I always force myself to write, even if I don’t feel like it. That doesn’t mean the words are always good, but that doesn’t matter. If I end up throwing away or deleting what I’ve written, that’s fine…it’s like working out, sometimes you don’t want to, but we do it anyways.

What is your editing process like? Do you edit as you write or do you leave that for the second draft?

I always save editing for later. Usually it’s for a second if not third draft. Then, I have editors who help me after that.

You write short stories but you’ve also written novels. How is your creative process like when writing a short story as opposed to a novel?

With short stories, I write fast and furious. A quicker pace. Usually I can complete a draft in one sitting, or a few days at best. I get inspired and type away until I’m finished. For example, I wrote a short story for The Endlands anthology called, The Hour of the Time. I literally wrote it in an hour. It just came to me; the words flowed and the story came together.

With novels, it’s a different monster. It takes tons of patience and months or even years to finish. I find writing both gives me balance; a short story gives me an instant fix while writing a novel tests my endurance.

Would you say the horror book market is rising, declining or at a plateau?

Hard to say. Horror movies have probably taken away from the book market, and it seems the book industry doesn’t put as much effort into horror as it once did. My local mega-chain bookstore doesn’t even have a horror section. However, there are still wonderful horror writers out there, and many small presses have put out some great work. I think horror will always maintain its spot in the industry, though it’s being defined differently. Nowadays, horror can be labelled as mystery, drama, suspense or whatever, so I’d say horror will always have its spot.

Do you have a website and/or blog?

I do. My website is: www.VincentHobbes.com. I also post blogs on it. I review books and movies, horror mostly (go figure). It’s something I enjoy doing and my fans seem to enjoy it, as well.

What’s inside the mind of the horror writer?

Do you really want to know?

I can’t speak for other horror writers, but for me, it’s to explain the unexplained. Sometimes it’s to face my own fears. I’m inquisitive by nature, always asking ‘what if’ questions. Human nature—our flaws, our quirks—intrigue me. I find myself studying people.

Leave us with some words of wisdom for aspiring writers.

A good writer must read. If you want to write, then WRITE! Don’t think about it, don’t talk about it, just write. Put your heart on paper and see what happens. It’s a journey in itself.

Thank you, Vincent!

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It took me a while to arrive at what topic to write about. Marta had left the field pretty wide open, “amything about writing, marketing, publishing, or creativity would be great” she told me. One of the really great things about being around bloggers who review books, or those who write, blog, and review, is the spectrum of perspective you can get from seeing different approaches. But you get to read that all the time.

So I struggled a bit with what to present. Then it slapped me upside the head as I was listening to my iPod . . .

Unforgettable — That’s what you are . . .

It can be intensely challenging to gently draw your reader into caring for a character or seeing, immersing themselves into a scene you try to set through description. Consider the very manner in which the human brain works when reading text—it sees letters as individual pictures, and in many cases not even all the letters in a given word are visually seen, our brains learn what a given word likely is just by the arrangement of characters. Seeing words and letters as pictures isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but there is a huge drawback: as a reader there are an overwhelming number of them. The brain has a hard time retaining text; actual pictures or images are an entirely different matter. The brain can recall detail in a photo for a stunning length of time after the image is first seen. Not so with text.

So what’s my point?

You must not simply present your story or characters. You must evoke some internal reaction from the reader, provide something they can bite into.

Unforgettable — Though near or far . . .

I have been told (more than once) that I can be verbose. Could I tighten things up—make them punchier for the sake of brevity? Undoubtedly. And in some instances I truly need to focus on that; but for others it would mean sacrificing the very thing that brings subtle accent to my style: my voice. Somewhere, in that murky, foggy acreage between the two is where I strive to be.

Like a song of love that clings to me
How the thought of you does things to me. . .

Clinging. In that one word you get a feel for some form of desperation, be it warm or chilling. Associate it with the proper modifier—like ‘love’—and you elicit a powerful emotion from the reader. Who doesn’t want to experience, or even recall fondly, clinging, welcome love? By choosing the best words you can achieve the best effect.

For instance, if a character is beaten, worn down by her circumstances, don’t simply say “she looked sad and exhausted.” Find a way to try and provoke your reader. Sit back and think about what another character might see if witnessing such melancholy: “His finger tucked under her chin, its tip warm with sympathy. As he raised it he could see the sad surrender in her eyes.”

I’ll grant you that it’s verbose. The more important question: Did it draw an image for you, or elicit the slightest twinge of emotion? Did it cling?

Never before has someone been more

Unforgettable — in every way
And forever more, that’s how you’ll stay. . .

If you can get out of your soul, and under your readers’ skin, your characters will stick with them . . . because the reader becomes, as we all have among the words and pages of stories that touch us, part of the story themselves.

Selling lots of books is a goal any hopeful author has, but for me the more genuine aspiration, the more profound and noble achievement, is to perhaps attain an effectual status with a reader of my words—to reach the silent warmth of unforgettable.

All My Best,
J.W. Nicklaus

J.W. Nicklaus is the author of The Light, the Dark, and Ember Between , a collection of short stories. Want to know more . . . of course you do! Visit his website avomnia.com to see what others have said about his published debut, or visit his blog.

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Please welcome today’s guest, Christian Usera, poet and author of the anthology The Four Corners. Usera grew up Washington, D.C. and graduated from New York University with a degree in English and Creative Writing. He has lived in four states as well as abroad in Spain and Bulgaria. While living in Sofia, Bulgaria he wrote a poetry compilation, entitled, Bulgarian Nights about his travels. In addition, Usera also wrote an earlier book of poetry cataloguing the years 2002-2008 called, Then Came The Rain.

He has also written four illustrated novels contained in the anthology The Four Corners. He has been featured in “Voces del Caribe,” an online scholarly journal sponsored by City University of New York, The Gypsy Art Radio Blog, Northern Virginia Magazine and The Midwest Book Review. Usera was also the subject of Marassa 2007, a presentation sponsored by the Comparative Literature Department of New York University and Kamau Brathwaite, a world-renowned Caribbean poet. He currently resides in Denver, Colorado.

Welcome to the Dark Phantom! Why don’t you start by telling us a bit about The Four Corners and what inspired you to write it?

The Four Corners is an anthology of four graphic novels regarding the themes of light, love, truth and wisdom. They were originally intended for children and to a large extent can be appreciated by them. Each work was crafted using different media: "The Ones" was constructed using spray paints on canvas, "Gate to Eden" was an acrylic on paper project, "Power of Three" was also completed using acrylic (however it was applied on gesso board) and lastly "The Elders" was made using a combination of watercolors, pastel w/ water (which infused the color) and crayons on watercolor paper. The collection is meant to be highly interpretive, however I will say that there is a spiritual component to the work. It is not intended to be dogmatic nor point to one particular religion. Instead the work poses some philosophical questions such as:

“Does anyone marvel at the fact that the universe was at one point ‘Nothingness’? For that matter what is ‘Nothing’? If Nothingness is theoretically the potentiality of being, what would one create out of that? Isn’t it a wonder that consciousness (or rather self awareness) wasn’t here, then appeared on the planet sudden? What is the nature of perception and reality? Are rules better for society or are ideals? Is there more to existence than the avoidance of pain and the seeking of pleasure?”

The work is at its core a series of folktales designed to be a rorschach test for the soul. It is not meant to proselytize people or berate anyone, rather to interject some intellectual inquiry. Its target audience includes artists, speculative thinkers and children of all ages.

Are you a full-time writer or do you have another job?

I do a little of this and a little of that. Odd jobs.

How would you describe your creative process while writing this book? Was it stream-of-consciousness writing, or did you first write an outline?

It’s a funny story. I actually created the image “Mother Nothing” for the book, The Ones at which point my friend said that the work looked like an image from a Gerald Mcdermott novel. This was the launching point for the anthology: to create a new mythic story. I got hooked creating illustrated books and haven’t stopped since.

As far as structure I usually create a “skeleton” and then add/subtract from there. I usually have an “Ah ha!” moment where I either make a specific addition or subtraction that makes the work complete. So to answer the question, a little bit of both: I outline the book in my head, write down a general idea and then ‘tinker’ with my work.

Do you use index cards to plot your book?

I don’t use index cards, rather once I have a completed working draft, when the major scenes of the book are solid, I compile a list. I describe the scene and then try to mentally map out how I am going to go about illustrating the work. Sometimes I choose not to work from a ‘linear’ platform. (I.E. I end up painting a scene from the middle, then the beginning then the end for example. )

How long did it take you to write the book?

Believe it or not it took me a LONG time! From the end of 2006-2009! So about three years. I completed “The Ones” and “Gate to Eden” in 2007, “Power of Three” in 2008 and “The Elders” in 2009.

Have you ever suffered from writer’s block?

Of course! ? Doesn’t every writer! My biggest advice would be to STOP what you’re doing and go about life. The biggest mistake one could make would be to push beyond the limits of the frustration. It’s akin to an athlete trying to play through a broken bone or torn ligament. Take time away from the work then come back with ‘fresh eyes’ or better yet go over your ideas with a friend (or an enemy for that matter. 😉 )

What seems to work for unleashing your creativity?

Life itself. I know it’s corny, but creativity is linked to one’s infinite imagination. There isn’t a shortage of ideas rather but perhaps an inner blockage which writers should try to detour around.

What type of book promotion seems to work the best for you? Share with us some writing tips!

Conducting interviews with very generous hosts is always great! 😉 I recommend obtaining book reviews and contacting local magazines/papers. Also, if you have any professors from college willing to back your work, that’s incredibly helpful. (Especially if they’re famous writers.)

I’d like to add that I’ll be promoting this book at New York University in the late spring of this year sponsored by Kamau Brathwaite and the Comparative Literature Department of New York University. (April 2010 tentative date)

What authors or type of books do you read for fun?

Mostly books on alternative spirituality: Eckhart Tolle, Don Miguel Ruiz, Carlos Canstaneda, Neal Donald Walsch, Osho etc. I also love Palahniuk, Kafka, Kundera, Neil Gaiman, Paulo Coelho, Neruda, Borges and many many others. I am a bookworm. I don’t really read too much ‘fad fiction’ you won’t see the author of “Twilight” on my bookshelf anytime soon. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that… it’s just not my flavor.)

Do you think a critique group is essential for a writer?

I wouldn’t know I’ve never attended one. I do have a degree in creative writing so I’m familiar with the workshop setting. It can help, but I wouldn’t use the word essential. Critique is good- developing an insecurity about writing is not.

Do you have a website/blog where readers may learn more about you and your work?

Absolutely! www.myspace.com/theonesbook is the official website of “The Four Corners” as well as any future updates to my work.

You can follow me on Twitter as well @ CNUtheAuthor to get a week by week status check.

I’m also on Facebook, but that’s predominately a personal site.
You can however become a fan of CNUtheAuthor – which has just recently been posted.

Also one can purchase the book at this site: Https://www.createspace.com/3394262

Do you have another novel on the works? Would you like to tell readers about your current or future projects?

Yes! I am currently working on project entitled, “Mascaro.” It is another illustrated work. It centers around this tribe, which becomes immersed in a game of building masks in order to pretend they are monsters. However after several generations they forget that this event is just a game and thus believe themselves to be these creatures. Can they discover the truth? Well we shall find out in about a few months. ?

I also have a side project that’s a spirituality paper, entitled “The Vertical Spirituality Manifesto” although I think I might just post that for free via social networking sites.

Is there anything else you’d like to tell my readers?

No sincere dream is laughable. Persevere and you will see how funny doubters truly are. I’d like to thank you for your time. Blessings.

Thanks for the interview!

Book Info:

The Four Corners is an anthology of illustrated folktales by Christian Usera. Each story is an inner journey into the heart of Light, Love, Truth and Wisdom. Although written in a childish voice, the style belies these complex surrealist proverbs.

Publication Date: Sep 01 2009
ISBN/EAN13: 0615313191 / 9780615313191
Page Count: 112
Binding Type: US Trade Paper
Trim Size: 8" x 10"
Language: English
Color: Full Color
Related Categories: Comics & Graphic Novels / Fantasy

Purchase the book HERE.

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