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Author Mary Cunningham

Author Mary Cunningham

Your hair is getting white, you’re losing muscle tone, you wish gravity didn’t exist so wrinkles wouldn’t take hold of your face, menopause is finally kicking in – really kicking in. Is it the end, or the beginning of great things to come?

Authors Diana Black, Mary Cunningham, and Melinda Richarz Bailey share their experiences — sometimes sad, sometimes joyful, sometimes funny — about their road ‘downhill’. Or is it really to middle age? They also share their dreams and realizations about life and what it really means to be 50.

WOOF: Women Only Over Fifty is a combination of short personal essays, poems, and witty quotes that will touch your heart and enlighten your mind about the aging process. At the end of each chapter the authors invite readers to write their own experiences and thoughts, so you may want to have a pencil or pen in hand as you read.

Bad hair days, chocolate (and expanding waistlines!), dogs, the menopause (flashing!), being a woman, cell phones, and computers are some of the topics covered in the book. Take a look at this short segment on the powers of chocolate:

Seriously, how could something so rich and luscious;
something that can make most grown WOOFers lie, cheat
and steal; something that can, with one delicious, melt-in-your-
mouth morsel bring a menopawsal, endorphin
deprived, raving lunatic back from the brink of insanity;
be bad for you?
Oh, don’t pretend you don’t know what we’re talking
about. Who hasn’t searched underneath the sofa cushions
in January for a stray piece of Halloween candy?

And of course, every WOOFer over 50 must have a WooFer name. In the book, Diana Black is ‘d. d. dawg’, Mary Cunnigham is ‘Milkbone’, and Melinda Richarz Bailey is ‘Mad Dog’. Towards the end there is a list of names with their behavioral characteristics, so you can choose the one that best suits the WOOFer in you.

WOOF: Women Only Over Fifty is a light, humorous, entertaining, and certainly uplifting read. I finished reading it in two hours. Many of the segments are hilarious and made me laugh out loud – and mind you, I’m not 50 yet. This little book would make a great Christmas or birthday gift to anyone who loves a good laugh, but especially to those Woofers over 50.

For those interested, the authors have formed a club for WOOFers: www.woofersclub.com.

And there’s also a blog: www.woofersclub.blogspot.com.

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Thanks for stopping at the Dark Phantom today, Christine. How long have you been writing dark stories?

For a while now. Funny as while I lean towards mystery first, I always seem to want to write horror. Blame it on Stephen King. Ha!

Tell us about your story, The Witch Tree. What inspired it?

Jimmy Grayson thinks he’s found utopia – a new house, a nice porch to relax on… and then THEY came…. Day by day, they arrive by the dozens, the hundreds, their beady eyes, watching, waiting. Jimmy fears for his sanity.

How will it end?

Who will survive?

Will it be him-or them?

I can tell it’s spring out here in Wisconsin when the red-winged blackbirds appear. We’ll get hundreds sitting in the trees, swinging on the cattails. They flock in hundreds, then do the same in fall, until they suddenly disappear, flying off to wherever they go until next spring. It’s a screeching, noisy, eerie mass.

Have you written other books with paranormal or supernatural elements?

My middle grade book, Searching For A Starry Night, A Miniature Art Mystery, from Quake/Echelon Press, has some spooky elements and a creepy family legend. Sam and her friend, Lita, are staying at her great aunt’s old Victorian while they search for a missing miniature replica of Van Gogh’s famous painting, Starry Night. They’re working in an old shed that Aunt Hilda once used as her painting studio, and where a family barn burned down, inspiring the family legend. Plus, Sam tends to like to tease Lita, who is kind of skittish about ghosts.

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

Readers are welcome to stop by my website, http://cverstraete.com and also see some of the miniatures I collect. I also am featuring various Halloween miniatures at my blog, Candid Canine.

Bonus: Visit my blog for a Scavenger Hunt this week and a chance to win some Halloween miniatures and a pdf copy of “The Witch Tree.” See question at end.

What’s your favorite horror novel? What about movies?

I have several favorites, Salem’s Lot, Dracula, Pet Sematery… Movies: We’ve gotten into a tradition of seeing a creepy movie near Halloween, probably Saw. I like suspense too.

What do you usually do on Halloween?

I usually go with my sister to a few local Haunted house events. Nothing like a good scare!

Anything else you’d like to say to our readers?

Visit Candid Canine this week for details on how to follow my Spooky Scavenger Hunt.

Scavenger Hunt Clue 1:

On Halloween, we go door to door

To get candy, look up to get scared and more

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Started in 2009, Echelon Press publishes short stories, novellas and novels in various genres. Under their new imprint 'Quake', they also publish fiction for middle graders and young adults. At present, Echelon publishes two paperback novels a month as well as one or two of their popular short story and novella downloads. Here to talk about the company and how it was created is owner Karen L. Syed. If you want to know what a publisher blog is about, visit Karen at The Life of a Publisher.

Thanks for being here today, Karen. Why don't you begin by telling us a bit about Echelon Press? When did it get started?

Echelon will be eight years old in February 2009. We started the company to make a place for writers to make a name for themselves. People seem to confuse that with not wanting to be successful. It has ALWAYS been my goal for any author at Echelon to go onto bigger and better things. If that means many books with Echelon, great! If that means one or two with us and then a contract with a bigger house, awesome. We are definitely not just a playground for writers who want to be published. I have recently discovered that there is a difference being an author and being a published writer.

You publish a fair amount of horror, both short stories and novels. What type of horror do you publish?

So far it hasn't been as much as I would like. I love the horror genre. What I'd like to see more of is the types written by John Saul or Douglas Clegg. I don't mean alien horror, they are more thrillers. I love the stuff that presents the unknown and grabs you by the throat and holds on tight without letting you immediately know what 'it' is.

What you do not like to see in a horror story and what are the most common mistakes horror writers make?

I am not a big fan of the total gore scene. I love the unknown. Knowing something is right around the corner, your skin crawling with apprehension and fear, while adrenaline rushes through you, leaving you breathless and unable to move. So many of the horror stories I read focus so much on the shock value that they don't give their stories a chance to develop fully. They spew slime and blood all over everything and think that this makes it spooky. It just makes it gross. Why can't authors rely on their senses to indulge the fear gene instead of just wanting to make people sick?

What makes a horror novel or story truly compelling?

The only thing compelling is the unknown. To recognize danger and fear and not know where that danger comes from. To feel the presence of an unknown entity so close that it's putrid breath blows across your cheek. To shiver against the chill of dread caused by words so powerful and explosive you have to close your eyes against the next phrase.

How do you see the state of the horror fiction market at the moment? Is it thriving or declining?

I don't know that it is declining, but neither is it thriving. I think so many authors in the genre have resorted to the shock value of the gruesome. The movie industry has made that so glamorous that authors feel the need to "keep up." This is not the case. Books are not the same as movies. Some people say that Friday the 13th and the Halloween movies are horror, but in fact I think they are more thrillers or gore flicks. Keep in mind this is just my idea, and many others may disagree.

What types horror books do you think are most popular with readers?

I can't even begin to answer that question. Different readers like different books.

You also publish horror for young adults. How much horror is too much horror in a young adult book?

I'll take a stab at this one, but let's be clear on one thing. How much is too much is up to the reader and their parents. For Quake, our new young reader line we like to keep things in the head. We aren't going to go out on a limb and offer gratuitous gore just to sell books. We all know that kids love all that blood and guts spurting here and there, but perhaps it's because it's all we offer them. When you present something as cool then what do you expect? A dude running around chopping off heads is not cool. A cloud of mist that sweeps into a room and envelops a sleeping girl while whispering secrets of evil, a little cooler.

On average, how many submissions do you receive in a month? Of those submissions, what percentage you end up accepting for publication?

Our paperback submissions are closed except for invitations and referrals, and eBooks, but we still get at least a dozen or so unsolicited submissions per week for paperback. Writers seem to ignore the potential for eBook sales and all want paper publication. eBooks have such great potential to build a readership, and if an author can build a readership with an eBook they can do anything.

As for acceptance, we do only twelve titles per year in paperback and right now aren't even getting enough submissions for eBook to do one per month. Did you know that tens of millions of dollars are spent on eBooks each year? Why wouldn’t an author want their share of that?

What tips would you offer authors who are doing book signings this Halloween?

Make them fun! They have to be fun. Don't let the readers wonder why they even bothered to come to your event. Show them with your words, you attitude, and your books that they are important to you. Don't make them wonder. And by all means get into the spirit! A little bit of spook goes a long way!

Is there anything else you'd like to share with our readers?

This industry is one of the greatest. Don't take it for granted, whether you are a reader or a writer. Writers, don't ever forget why you sell your books for publication. It's all about your readers. You can write all you want, but if you are serious about being a solid published author, don't ever forget how you get there.

And readers, let the authors know what you like and don't like. Your opinion matters. If you don't like something, don't buy it, be honest and be open about your favorite authors. If the last five books you read by your favorite best seller stunk, then why keep buying them? Don't be afraid to try new authors, they are the future of the industry, and you might be surprised!

Thanks, Karen!

Interview by Mayra Calvani

Mayra Calvani is a multi-genre author and reviewer. Her paranormal books include Embraced by the Shadows (romantic horror/vampire) and Dark Lullaby (atmospheric horror). She is also the co-author of the nonfiction work, The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing.

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Multi-genre author J.R. Turner dabbles into many genres–romance, suspense, character-driven action, horror, and now young adult. Her new upcoming series, Extreme Haunting, soon from Echelon Press, features a smart, tomboy skater heroine out to fight evil. In this interview, Turner talks about the first novel in the series, DFF: Dead Friends Forever, her love for the supernatural, her favorite authors, and about violence in young adult books.

Thanks for being here today, J.R. Why don't you begin by telling us a bit about yourself and the kind of fiction you write?

I write character-driven action, suspense, horror and romance–and many times a combination. Right now, I just completed my first YA Horror novel and I found the ride thrilling. As a huge fan of horror and action adventure movies, I tend to gravitate toward that in my writing/reading. Dean Koontz, Michael Crichton, Clive Cussler, Stephen King, Anne Rice–I read them over and over.

I wasn't always a writer though. Ten years ago I gave up a fifteen year career as a contract artist and craft instructor for the Milwaukee Public School system when we moved to central Wisconsin. Art, for me, was more of the family business, never my first passion. I could never capture the epic quality of the worlds alive in my imagination on a single canvas. When the moment came for me to make the choice between reestablishing myself as an artist, or exploring my writing in a more serious manner–I jumped at the chance.

Six or so years later, my first book was published and I've been enjoying writing novels ever since.

When did your love for the dark side of things begin?

When I was eight years old, I saw The Exorcist. I had never before, or ever since had such a reaction to a movie. It's one of those things you never forget and changes you forever. At that moment, I fell in love with the horror genre. From Full Moon productions to Class of Nuke'em High and other Troma films, of course all the Meyers, Jason, Night of the Living Dead and Texas Chainsaw Massacre films, then on to Japanese influenced films like The Ring and The Grudge. I absolutely adore Resident Evil, so I wouldn't want to leave that out. Hostel, Hostel II, the Rob Zombie movies like The Devil's Rejects, House of a Thousand Corpses, etc. are others I own.

When I was eleven, I discovered Stephen King's book, The Stand and fell in love with written horror. From there, I branched out into John Saul–who has many teenage proganists. Robert McCammon became another favorite, as well as Koontz, Rice, Douglas Clegg, and Clive Barker.

Looking back on my writing now, I'm surprised I didn't try my hand at horror before. It's just amazing writing the supernatural and the intensity those situations have within a character. By far, I'm most excited about this new book and can't wait for it to come out.

Tell us about your upcoming young adult horror novel, Dead Friends Forever. What is it about?

DFF: Dead Friends Forever is the first book in my Extreme Hauntings series. I am in love with Kaylee Hensler, my heroine. She's a tomboy, skater girl with all sorts of real-world problems that at first, she thinks are devestating. Until a dead girl begins haunting her. Things go from bad to worse quickly. It's hard to explain to your psychiatrist father that you're seeing dead people, and that a murdered girl who suddenly wants to be your best friend, is turning up at school, in your kitchen, and in your bedroom. Yet it gets even more intense when she discovers who–and what–is keeping this spirit from moving on. Once she becomes the target, events become mortally dangerous for her.

I can't say how much I completely loved writing this story. My style is action-based, so I worried that without the adult options of guns, bombs, and military training, I'd be left rather empty handed when it came to those fast-paced scenes. Oh boy, was I wrong! Instead, what I discovered was how very suspenseful and charismatic the supernatural can be. Talk about action–I couldn't stop, the story kept evolving, scene after scene of something fantastic happening. I could barely step away from the computer. This experience allowed me to explore areas I feel silly for never attempting before. I don't know if I'll ever write a non-paranormal/supernatural story again.

What prompted you to write a horror novel for young adults?

My kids have been bugging me to write a book they would be interested in for years. My publishing house opened a new young adult imprint, "Quake" and invited me to write a series, for them. Because my kids had nagged me for so long, I said yes. At the time though, I was just wrapping up an action-adventure series and had to wait until that was complete. At first I thought I would do fantasy, as that's a genre I enjoy as well. However, I knew that world-building would be a challenge and coming off my first series and all the challenges I faced with that (exciting-but in some ways exhausting as well) I wanted something a little more natural to my style, but something I would have tons of passion for.

I had picked up a few of my John Saul books from my keeper shelf during a recent move. While waiting for paint to dry at the new house, I read. It reminded me of how much I loved the genre and the younger protagonists were perfect to get me into the right frame of mind. From there, I read a ton of Young Adult horror and mystery books. Then one day, the idea for an Extreme Haunting series just clicked and I could hardly type fast enough.

I need to take a moment here, though and mention a television series I'm absoluetly ga-ga over. CW's Supernatural. It is a phenomenal show and I've been promised the Third Season for my birthday. I'm recording the fourth season as it airs because it just takes to long to get from one Thursday to the next! Almost more than anything, I think this series really cemented the idea of doing a paranormal book.

How much violence is too much violence in a horror novel for the younger market?

There's a fine line, there. I think that the violence has to have meaning and be purposeful for it to be within the bounds of making a story great, or it simply becomes shock value that loses what's truly spectacular about this market: the everyday hero/heroine. What I found most appealing writing with a younger heroine was her resilience and how she coped with what was happening to her, whereas an adult more set in his or her ways might have crumbled. If the violence becomes the focus, then the character gets lost and that can ruin any story, for any market.

Who are some of your favorite young adult novelists these days?

Of course there's the Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer, and while it's not strictly horror (more sci-fi) I highly enjoyed K.A. Applegate's Remnants series. Maximum Ride series by Patterson is really awesome too.

Some would say that many of the horror young adult novels published these days become famous because of their shock value. What do you think?

I don't think so. The most famous series are those that have more heart than shock. Of course shock will cause a buzz, but it seems to do so more among parents than teen readers, and normally quickly fades away. I do think that books today need to reflect the times. No longer are girls wearing tea-length dresses, or bobby socks and saddle shoes. Today, rightly or wrongly, they are being tested by more and more adult concerns as the world becomes more dangerous and fast-paced. A lot of that is simply survivalism, some of it is most likely unnecessary, but overall, I can't imagine it's easier today to shock a teen than even twenty years ago. So what might seem shocking to us as parents, might be old-hat for teens today, considering what they face in the media, in schools, and on the street. In my book, and in my series, I'm not interested in shocking them–just giving them a substantial and scary read.

Do you have a website or blog where readers may find out more about you and your books?

Yes! My website is http://www.jennifer-turner.com and my blog is http://jr-turner.blogspot.com. I love to hear from my readers very much.

What are you doing this Halloween? Do you dress up?

I'm planning on dressing up like Isabelle, the ghost in my book–as part of a fun Halloween book signing at a store near my hometown. Mostly though, I dress up my kids. They've been everything from a Pepsi machine to a "baseball bat"–a round baseball with bat wings–and a hippo ballerina. We enjoy Halloween almost more than we do Christmas around here.

What is your favorite Halloween monster and why?

Oh gosh–that's a toughie. Vampires are so terribly romantic. Aside from the Anne Rice books/movies, I loved Bram Stoker's Dracula with Gary Oldman and Winona Ryder. Frank Langella, though, will always have a special place in my heart. I love the whole Underworld series. Werewolves are great, too. Vanhelsing starring Hugh Jackman is one of our favorite family films. Anne Rice's book, The Mummy and the totally unrelated movies series by the same name starring Brendan Frasier are terrific, too.

Just one?? I don't think I can do that–I haven't even begun to cover how I love zombie movies and end of the world films like 28 Days Later and 28 Weeks Later. I didn't get to mention UnDead, which is a fabulously done film made by the Spierig brothers (special effects done on home computers!) with zombie fish and a very cool and unique plot twist.

I better stop now–you've got me on a roll here and this could take all night. Gosh, I didn't even get to cover all my Stephen King favorites or mention M. Night Shyamalan!

Is there anything else you'd like to tell our readers?

I've got some super awesome plots and supernatural beings coming up in the Extreme Hauntings series. From a haunted hospital to a truly insane asylum, it's going to be a wild ride! But don't worry, Kaylee is going to discover more and more what latent talents she has deep insider her to get her through what lies ahead. I can't wait myself, to write these books!

 

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Laurel, MD–December 1, 2007—FIRE! You see it on the news, on the Internet, in the papers, but if it doesn’t strike close to home it’s easy to ignore. With one e-mail sent by publisher Karen Syed to 21 authors, “The Heat of the Moment” was developed. Each of the authors, the youngest being sixteen years old, involved in this remarkable collection of short stories has made a pledge. Contributors, authors, editors, and artist, have all committed their royalties to benefit the survivors of the San Diego fires of 2007.

Local Librarian and Author, Heather S. Ingemar will have her story, “Firedreams,” featured in this anthology. “Firedreams” tells of one woman’s supernatural encounter when a truly ‘hot’ stranger answers her newspaper ad for her rented room.

Heather S. Ingemar has loved to play with words since she was little, and it wasn’t long until she started writing her own stories. A musician since the age of five (piano, saxophone, violin, pennywhistle and Irish flute), she completed a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature in December of 2006. She and her husband reside on the family cattle ranch, where she takes great delight in thinking up new stories to tell.

“The Heat of the Moment” is a compilation of twenty short stories with one common theme—fire. From fantasies to tributes remembering historical catastrophes, chilling and moving, the stories will tap human emotions with their overwhelming credit to survival.

The Fire Safe Council of San Diego County (FSCSDC) was formed in 1997 and is comprised of a 15-member Board of Directors (voting members). The Board consists of federal, state, and local agencies and stakeholders as determined by the FSCSDC. The FSCSDC is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, is incorporated under the California Franchise Tax Board. The FSCSDC is a member of the California Fire Safe Council, a non-profit corporation, and is authorized to use the name “Fire Safe Council” and the FSC logo. All FSCSDC Council members have common goals of fire safety education and pre-fire management, attend meetings, and participate in SDCFSC programs and activities.

Echelon Press, LLC, is an independent publishing house based in Laurel, MD. With ninety authors in their three divisions, Echelon Press has spent nearly seven years cultivating a stable of authors ranging from beginners to national award winners. Echelon authors are located across America as well as in New Zealand, Australia, Israel, and Canada.

A listing of all parties contributing to “The Heat of the Moment” is available upon request. The list includes story titles and author locations.

For review copies, requests for interviews, and author events, please contact Karen L. Syed at echelonpress@comcast.net.

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turner-mbbodyguard.jpg

My Biker Bodyguard
By J.R. Turner
Echelon Press
ISBN: 978-1-59080-560-2
Copyright 2007
Trade Paperback, 242 pages, $13.49
Romantic Suspense

Featuring a sympathetic heroine, a brave hero, and enough romance and suspense to keep you turning those pages, My Biker Bodyguard is a novel that will be thoroughly enjoyed by lovers of this genre.

Jess Owens leads a quiet, routine life helping her biker father at his tattoo shop. Having been abandoned by her mother at a young age, Jess is very close to her father, who is overly protective towards her. However, Jess’ life is suddenly turned upside down after a mysterious and handsome man, Mitch, shows up at her doorstep. Even though he claims to be a bodyguard sent here to protect her, she tries her best to keep away from his seemingly dangerous and alluring charms. The truth about his presence here stuns her, even more so because her father knew the reason all along but never told her. As her life becomes increasingly in peril, she is put in a position where she must leave to California with Mitch and two FBI agents. Soon she finds herself in a totally foreign, alien world, for not only does she discovers that she’s immensely rich, but also that her long-lost mother is there in a coma. Who wants Jess dead? Why? Can she possibly trust Mitch to protect her life?

The writing is engaging and Turner manages to maintain a good level of suspense throughout the story. The tension between the hero and heroine sparks from the beginning and achieves a spine-tingling climax, leading to a satisfying conclusion. I found the heroine original in the sense that she’s been brought up in a world of leather-clad, long-haired, tattooed, dangerous-looking characters. Turner shows us a different, refreshing perspective from the world of bikers. The romance scenes are handled with tact and subtlety and are sweet and steamy at the same time. Fans of romantic suspense will find in My Biker Bodyguard a joyful and interesting ride.

–Mayra Calvani
www.mayracalvani.com

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