Posts Tagged ‘Fantasy’


Author: Diane Moat

Publisher: Createspace

Pages: 155

Genre: Middle Grade / Fantasy

Pepper Neely is no stranger to dangerous situations. In The Supernatural Pet Sitter: The Magic Thief, the young gnome defeated an evil witch who was stealing magic from the Familiars that Pepper took care of. She wouldn’t have survived without the intervention of a pack of werewolves, who endured painful, fiery spells to save Pepper’s life.

Now Pepper is determined to repay the werewolves for their sacrifice, no matter what it takes. She decides to break the centuries-old curse that keeps them in wolf form. At first she keeps her plans a secret, but it’s not long before Pepper realizes she will need all the help she can get to end this curse. Magic is everywhere as enemy witches cast dangerous spells to stop Pepper.

Pepper and her family must trust the local witches and work together with them to fend off the deadly spells, find the curse, and break it—before the hostile witches get the best of them.




Scattered around the room were seven women, including Momma Fran and Maggie. An older version of Maggie nodded to them. “Welcome, Neelys. As you know, I am Naomi, of the Samson coven. We have gathered in response to your request to meet. So without further delay, I invite you to speak.”

Here I go. Pepper wished she hadn’t eaten that sandwich a few minutes ago, as there was a fifty-percent chance she was about to throw it up, right here. She felt as if she had argued her case a thousand times. Hopefully this would be the last. She tried to think of the wolves as she took a deep breath around the lump in her throat.

Pepper stepped forward and began, “Thank you, Naomi of the Samson coven. I am Pepper Neely of the Neely gnomes. As you know, several months ago, a witch named Kale was caught stealing magic from Familiars. She was caught, in part, thanks to me and my brother, Jax. When she escaped, she came after me, Jax, and my friend, Luna, who is also a witch.” Keep reminding them Luna was saved also.

“Luna was nearly killed by Kale. But instead, three wolves attacked Kale, saving all three of us. The wolves took great risks in doing this, and they were set on fire several times, giving us time to get away. I know without a doubt that the wolves saved Luna, myself, and my brother. I have taken on a blood-debt to pay them back. As part—” Pepper didn’t get to finish before the witches started talking.

“What does that have to do with us?”

“The werewolves are our enemies; nothing will change that.”

“Do you even know what that means? How can your parents—”

“EXCUSE ME!” A male voice from behind Pepper cut through the chaos. It took Pepper a moment to realize it wasn’t her dad or brother. Everyone quieted instantly, looking behind the Neelys. The male voice continued, as a man stepped out into view. “I believe Ms. Neely wasn’t finished.”

Mr. O’Brien! The warlock had vanished after Kale had stolen the magic from from his Familiar, King Arthur. Pepper had thought he needed time to heal from his broken heart. He looked better than the last time she had seen him. He was still thin, but his face didn’t seem as drawn or haunted.

Mr. O’Brien continued. “I apologize for being late, but I believe my invitation was lost in the mail.”

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Author: Diane Moat

Publisher: The Supernatural Pet Sitter

Pages: 140

Genre: Middle Grade / Fantasy

Every animal can talk to you. You just have to know how to listen. Pepper Neely is better at this than most, especially because she is in charge of pet sitting all the familiars in her neighborhood. A familiar is a pet magically linked to a witch or warlock. As a gnome, Pepper is no stranger to spells and sorcery. She also knows that, despite their special name, familiars aren’t all that different from regular animals. They get anxious when separated from their people, so Pepper uses her special gnome powers to calm them down. She watches Cranky the high-strung ferret, Frank the laid-back parrot, King Arthur the elderly tortoise, and many others. Then, something terrible begins happening to the familiars. Someone is stealing their magic! It not only prevents Pepper from communicating with them but breaks their magical connection with their people. When King Arthur’s magic is stolen, his owner’s powers stop working too. Pepper can sense that the tortoise is very scared. In order to protect the animal’s magic, Pepper decides to track down the culprit. With the help of her best friend, Luna, and her brother, Jax, Pepper fights to protect all of the special pets.



About the Author:

Diane is a Tennessee transplant, animal rescuer, and nurse. The Supernatural Pet Sitter is her debut children’s novel. Diane is assisted by her many rescue dogs.



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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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P.I. AlltraineP.I. Alltraine is an award winning poet and author. She has won several international poetry competitions, and her poems have been published in separate anthologies.

She teaches English Language and Literature in London. She earned her degree in BA English from Queen Mary University of London, a Post Graduate Certificate in Education and Master’s in Teaching at the UCL Institute of Education, University of London.

Before moving to London, she lived in the Philippines where she was ensconced in the rich culture encrusted with dark myths and enchanted tales. She draws inspiration from these in her writing. Although she has lived indifferent places and experienced different cultures, she always enjoyed the constancy of writing in her life. Her favourite authors include John Milton, Virginia Woolf and James Joyce.

Her latest book is the YA fantasy romance, Heartbound.

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About the Book:

Petyr has never found it necessary to consider the humans as anything more than distant, inferior beings–until now. They are the cause of the fatal disease that has plagued his realm, taking the lives of too many of his kind. As a future Heartboundleader of a realm in peril, Petyr must find a way to resist and cure the affliction. He must enter the unfamiliar realm, appear to be an ordinary eighteen-year-old human, observe, and learn.

However, things don’t exactly go according to plan. Instead of embarking single-mindedly on his sober mission, Petyr meets an 18-year-old girl who does things to his emotions that he can’t quite fathom or control. Petyr is falling in love, and he almost forgets the gravity his choices have on his entire world. Despite the risk it poses to his life and hers, he wants to know her, and he wants her to know him–and his world.

For More Information

  • Heartbound is available at Amazon.
  • Watch the trailer at YouTube.
  • Discuss this book at PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads.

Heartbound teaser 2

Would you call yourself a born writer?

Writing is something I always knew I could do. When I was at school, some of my friends could sing, some could draw… I could write. I was the editor in chief of the school paper so I edited and wrote news articles, I wrote many of the school plays I performed in, I entered poetry writing competitions and performed spoken word poetry, I wrote the speeches I delivered in oratorical competitions, declamation, debates, etc. At the time, I thought I was doing so many different things, but looking back, everything I chose to do involved writing. When I was writing Heartbound, there were times when I didn’t agree with my characters’ actions, but I couldn’t change anything because it wasn’t my decision anymore. That’s when I realised what being a writer truly meant. Everyone can write a story, but to create a world with a life of its own, that takes a writer.

What was your inspiration for Heartbound?

The story came to me and demanded to be written. I know, I know. That’s the most clichéd answer ever, but writers keep saying it for a reason. It’s hard to describe the impact of a powerful idea. When it hits a writer, it’s no longer a choice. You have to write it, or it will drive you mad. In my case, I was minding my own business, and all of a sudden, there was this image in my head. It hit me so hard that I had to stop what I was doing. I picked up a pen and paper and started to scribble. My husband walked in and found me on the floor with pieces of papers around me. At that point, the outline of Heartbound was completed—chapter by chapter, from beginning to end.

What themes do you like to explore in your writing?

I’m interested in exploring the complexities of what it means to be human, to be alive, to find a resolution between who you’re meant to be and who you want to be, to find the courage to go against the tides, refuse to conform, and fight for something that means everything to you but means nothing to everyone else.

How long did it take you to complete the novel?

It took 3 years to complete and edit Heartbound, but since I didn’t have any set deadlines at the time, I only wrote when I could. The actual writing time would probably add up to just a few months.

Are you disciplined? Describe a typical writing day.

I’m an English teacher, which is pretty hectic, so I don’t always get to write during term times. I get the bulk of my writing done when I’m on my holiday. Otherwise, I take advantage of the silence I find in the early hours of the morning.

What did you find most challenging about writing this book?

Finding the time to write it.

What do you love most about being an author?

There is such delight in creating a whole world.

Did you go with a traditional publisher, small press, or did you self publish? What was the process like and are you happy with your decision?

Heartbound is published by a small press called Soul Mate Publishing, New York. It was a very quick process for me. First, I did some research on credible agents and publishers that would be interested in my genre. I randomly picked one from the list, just to see how the process worked and what a rejection letter looked like. Two weeks later, I got a request for the full manuscript, and two weeks after that I was offered a contract. I had a difficult decision to make because I hadn’t really tried anything else at that point. However, from what I heard, querying agents could take months for a reply (even a rejection reply), and even if someone took me on, there was no guarantee they could sell it to a publisher—and I already had a publisher interested. In the end, it made sense to seize the opportunity. I have to say that I made the right choice signing with them. The whole team—from the editors, the cover artists, the authors—have been so accommodating and supportive. I’ve learned so much from Debby, the chief editor. Most importantly, because SMP is not a big corporate publishing machine, I feel like I’ve had a voice in the whole process.

Where can we find you on the web?

I’m building a (spoken word) poetry collection that will hopefully be ready for publication next year. There’s a video performance available for Unmoving, and a few more from the collection should be up soon: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C2q4JxaN1fw

FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/p.i.alltraine

OFFICIAL WEBSITE: http://pialltraine.com


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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.

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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.


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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author pic 1

Terry Jackman was christened Teresa, and is married with kids. She’s not pretending to be a guy just for the book. It’s just that nobody, but nobody, calls her anything but Terry, so Terry is actually the most honest name to put on the cover.

To go with her two names she inhabits two worlds. In one she’s a mild-mannered lady who tutors children and lives in a pretty English village, called Lymm. [It’s not far from the Manchester United football ground. You can take a peek at it on www.lymmvillage.co.uk/gallery If you look carefully at the picture of the old stone cross in the village centre you might see the ancient stocks below, where villagers would have thrown rotten eggs etc at local miscreants – but we don’t do that now, honest.]

In the other, she’s written articles and study guides, is secretly on the committee of the British Science Fiction Association, coordinates all their online writers’ groups, writes a regular page for Focus magazine and reads submissions for Albedo One magazine in Ireland. Oh, and has been known to do convention panels and some freelance editing.

When Ashamet goes public the two worlds will finally collide. She suspects there’ll be some raised eyebrows so she’s stocking up on fortifying tea and biscuits – and lots of chocolate!

Q: Congratulations on the release of your latest book, Ashamet, Desert-Born. What was your inspiration for it?

A: Honestly, it was bad temper. I got really cross that a writer made the all-powerful prince in her story stupid, basically to make the plot work out the way she wanted, where if he’d had an ounce of sense it would have fallen apart. Why, I fumed, did powerful characters so often have to be bad, stupid or both? And just like that Ashamet walked onstage. He’s lots of things, but he’s definitely not stupid.

Q: Tell us something interesting about your protagonist.

A: Maybe you know someone who says one thing and does another, or is different things to different people? Or maybe they hide their true character, even from themselves? That’s Ashamet. He’s also about the fact that even those who seem all powerful are still bound by some restrictions, and that in the end it’s how they cope with those that defines who they really are?

Ashamet-CoverQ: 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: Ashamet, Desert-Born took several years to write. The first fifty pages came in a mad rush then I had stops and starts, because while Ashamet and Keril arrived fully formed, the world they lived in didn’t. It took me at least three tries to define the society Ash was born into well enough to make total sense of who he was. I couldn’t finish the story till I got that right.

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

A: Ah, an easier answer. I listen to my characters. If it’s not what they’d do, or say, then out it goes. Otherwise the story loses its credibility, just like that stupid prince I mentioned. The story slumps, and frankly I get bored writing it.

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

A: Actually, no. I get anxious about showing stuff to others but not about writing it. Some days I can’t wait to write, others I have to remind myself there’s a deadline, but after the first couple of sentences I’m usually in the groove. I’m no longer aware of what I’m doing, as long as I’m not interrupted.

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

A: I have a VERY flexible schedule, because it depends largely on when my husband is playing golf! Crazy as it sounds, and I know it does, I can write around strangers, on trains, around other writers – but not around people I know well but aren’t also writing (otherwise known as friends and family). When they walk out the door I reach for pen or keyboard.

Q: How do you define success?

A: Success was selling my first three articles in one week, then turning one of them into a series. Less successfully, that ambushed me. Regular requests for more got me writing nonfiction for ten years. Between a more than full time job and articles I had no time to try fiction.

So an even greater success was having Dragonwell ask, out of the blue, if I’d “like to send them something” because they’d heard about me from another writer. Wow.

And the final and greatest success will be if people like reading the result, and take a second to review it or tell me so.

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

A: It will make it harder but it doesn’t mean they shouldn’t go for it, if they’re sufficiently driven. Hey, I grew up in a house without books and look where I ended up. Due to my extreme shyness problem my family didn’t even know I wrote for several years, till I was selling articles regularly.

And in the end I only owned up about fiction because an amazing author/university lecturer, Adam Roberts, said “You are a writer”. After that even I had to ‘come out’.

But it helps a lot if people at least humor you.

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: Gosh no. Hearing strange voices in your head. Spending hours writing, assessing, rewriting. Crying over those nasty critiques – which are right, damn them – editing, polishing… How could that possibly be exhausting?

Seriously, sometimes it’s exhilarating, others depressing. So yes, I can’t imagine anyone doing it if they aren’t driven to. Me, I have to get those voices out of my head before they drive me mad.

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

A: Well, I guess I should tell people who don’t know me that Terry is actually short for Teresa, but that I regard Terry as my real name. I’m definitely NOT pretending to be a guy for my publisher. Since no one calls me anything but Terry, if I’d put Teresa on the book cover it would have felt more like hiding who I was, not less.

So unlike most of my characters I’m female, and as you’ll have gathered married with kids. I’ve visited some beautiful Moorish architecture, but I’ve never ridden a camel. In fact I’ve only once ‘sat’ on a horse. But hey, if we only wrote what we already knew science fiction and fantasy wouldn’t exist.

But I hope, very much, readers will enjoy reading Ashamet as much as I enjoyed writing it, and maybe tell me so, so I can breathe easier.


TitleAshamet, Desert-Born

Genre: Fantasy/adventure/romance/paranormal

Author: Terry Jackman



Find out more on Amazon

A desert world. A warrior nation that worships its emperor as a god. But for Ashamet, its prince, a future filled with danger…

Ashamet is confident his swordsmanship, and his arranged marriage, will be enough to maintain the empire’s peace. But when a divine symbol magically appears on his arm, closely followed by an attempt on his life, he no longer knows who to trust. Worse, the strange attraction he feels toward a foreign slave could be another trap. As events unravel, too fast,Ashamet must find out if this innocent young male is a tool for his enemies–or the magic key to his survival.

“Ashamet, Desert-Born” is a debut adventure fantasy with an exotic Arabian-style setting and elements of same-sex romance.

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Stonehill Downs banner 2

Sarah RemyWe’re happy to host Sarah Remy, author of the new fantasy STONEHILL DOWNS at The Dark Phantom today!

In 1994 Sarah Remy earned a BA in English Literature and Creative Writing from Pomona College in California. Since then she’s been employed as a receptionist at a high-powered brokerage firm, managed a boutique bookstore, read television scripts for a small production company, and, more recently, worked playground duty at the local elementary school.

When she’s not taking the service industry by storm, she’s writing fantasy and science fiction. Sarah likes her fantasy worlds gritty, her characters diverse and fallible, and she doesn’t believe every protagonist deserves a happy ending.

Before joining the Harper Voyager family, she published with EDGE, Reuts, and Madison Place Press.

Sarah lives in Washington State with plenty of animals and people, both. In her limited spare time she rides horses, rehabs her old home, and supervises a chaotic household. She can talk to you endlessly about Sherlock Holmes, World of Warcraft, and backyard chicken husbandry, and she’s been a member of one of Robin Hobb’s longest-running online fan clubs since 2002.

Her latest is the fantasy novel, Stonehill Downs.

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About the Book:

Stonehill Downs 2Stonehill Downs follows Mal, a powerful mage who functions as Lord Vocent, the king’s personal forensic scientist and detective.  Magic and murder are his calling.  Never have the two entangled in quite as terrifying a manner as on Stonehill Downs, where Avani, a Goddess-gifted outsider, has discovered a host of gruesome corpses reeking of supernatural malfeasance.  The investigation is haunted by ghosts of Mal’s past, and the two quickly learn that they must cast aside their secrets if they are to succeed in unearthing the pervading evil—before it’s unleashed from the boundaries of the Downs, straight into the heart of the kingdom.

For More Information


Would you call yourself a born writer?

Yes, definitely. I started writing when I was very young. It never mattered to me whether I made money off my stories. I write to entertain myself and it’s an essential part of my sanity, and really fun to boot.

What was your inspiration for STONEHILL DOWNS?

I wanted to set unusual characters down in a typical fantasy setting. I wanted a female protagonist who didn’t care what the rest of the world thought of her, who was true to herself, and not dependent on cultural norms for self identification. And I wanted a magus – Mal – who at first glance comes across as your usual fantasy sorcerer but who is in fact deeply flawed and maybe not meant to be the series’ hero.

What themes do you like to explore in your writing?

Morals. Real people have different value concepts, and my characters do as well. I also have a fondness for the puzzle of religion and how different cultures deal with faith or the lack thereof. I’ve also got a wee morbid streak. I like a little gore and violence in every story.

How long did it take you to complete the novel?

Stonehill took me roughly six months. Its sequel, Across the Long Sea, was written to deadline and as a result took only about four.

Are you disciplined? Describe a typical writing day.

Yes, I have to be very disciplined. Otherwise nothing gets done. I typically schedule a few hours in front of the computer after lunch, and then several more late, before bed. I sit down even if I have nothing to say. I put down words even if I have nothing to say. Bad prose can be fixed later, and I’m fine with that, so long as the story keeps going forward.

What did you find most challenging about writing this book?

Actually, writing the sequel. Stonehill was picked up in Harper/Voyager’s open call; the manuscript had been sitting in my desk for a few years and I hadn’t given it much thought. When Harper came back to me for a follow-up, I had a real brain freeze, simply because I’d moved on to other things and had other worlds in my head. I went back and reread Stonehill several times, and was relieved when the characters finally begin to live and breathe again.

What do you love most about being an author?

Living multiple imaginary lives. There’s nothing better.

Did you go with a traditional publisher, small press, or did you self publish? What was the process like and are you happy with your decision?

I’m a hybrid author. I self publish, I submit to small press, and now I write for Harper. I like to say I write the stories I want to tell, and then toss them out there and see where they end up. The pleasure, for me, is in the writing. The rest of it works, or doesn’t, and I’m okay with that.

Where can we find you on the web?

You can find me at www.sarahremy.com or on Twitter as @sarahremywrites Please do come find me. I love people.


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blackwellThe Blackwell Family Secret: The Guardians of Sin is book 1 in Jonathan L. Ferrara’s YA urban fantasy series. I must say this was a thoroughly enjoyable read, and I can’t wait to read the sequel.

After his parents are killed by a demon, sixteen-year-old Nicholas Blackwell is put under the protection of the Vatican and sent to a boarding school surrounded by a deep forest: St. Christopher’s Academy, complete with iron gates, gargoyle statues, and gateposts that leer at him. As his life is in danger, this is the only place where he can be kept safe. One night he ventures into the woods and a serpent tricks him into eating the forbidden fruit, with disastrous consequences–for the Guardians of the Seven Deadly Sins have been unleashed, and now Nicholas must go into the City of Demons and defeat the Princes of Hell, and in the process discover his family secret, one that could change the entire world…A daunting task for a teen, even if he happens to be the school’s cockiest leader of mischief.

I loved the book. Nicholas is a charming protagonist, cleaver, arrogant, yet brave and selfless at times. Ferrara’s world, inspired by Biblical tales, of course, is elaborate and imaginative. I especially loved his focus on the Seven Deadly Sins–what they are, where they came from, etc. Angels and demons are intertwined with fantasy elements, and the whole concept of good and evil is explored.

There’s romance, action, adventure, and mystery. It is also a bit dark at times, which I enjoyed. Ferrara is a talented writer, his prose smooth and his dialogue witty. The pace was excellent and the story kept moving forward with increasing tension until the very satisfying ending that left me hungry for book 2. Recommended!

Find out more on Amazon.

My review was originally published in Blogcritics.

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The Blackwell Family Secret:
by Jonathan L. Ferrara
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.

About the author:

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.

Look for my review of this book soon!

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n603087527_2141Cindy Lynn Speer is the author of several novels, including The Chocolatier’s Wife and the short story collection Wishes and Sorrows.  She loves mixing fantasy, mystery and romance and playing with the old stories.  When not writing she can be found reading, teaching people historical fencing, and costuming.

About Wishes and Sorrows:

“Richly ambitious” — Publishers Weekly

For every wish there is a sorrow…

Wishes are born from sorrows, blessings are sometimes curses, and even fairy godmothers cannot always get what they want. In this original collection, Cindy Lynn Speer, the author of “The Chocolatier’s Wife”, brings to life creatures of myths and tales, mixing them into a vibrant tapestry of stories, happy and sad, magical and real, each lovingly crafted and sure to touch the reader’s soul.

Step into the world where magic is real, and every mundane bit of reality is as magical as a true fairy tale.

Q: Congratulations on the release of your latest book, Wishes and Sorrows. What was your inspiration for it?

A:  I love writing short stories – I get lovely little scenes in my head, or people just settle into the back of my mind and start telling their story, and I know that these are not huge stories, they are just this one part of this person’s life, so I settle down and I write it.  Short stories are awesome because it makes you move a different set of mental muscles, keeping the prose on track, focusing on this one tale.  And it’s liberating to have something done in a shorter length of time.  (Though, I do love longer works, too, just for very different reasons.)

Q: Tell us something interesting about your protagonist.

A:  I have several…there’s a woman named Aziza, who is a “Bell Witch” – she scares away ghosts from her village every night.  There’s a lady who marries a very dangerous man despite her friend’s worries in my re-telling of the Mr. Fox/Bluebeard myth “A Necklace of Rubies.”  I have runaways, princesses, faeries, ghosts…each trying to find their way out of a mess to some sort of happy ending.  Some succeed, some…not so much.

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:  This book is so completely different from my other novels because it is the work of many years.  There’s “Remember” – a dark little story that I wrote in college, and the person I was then is not the person who wrote “But Can you Let Him Go?”  The person who wrote the first story had a totally different take on love, darkness…the one who wrote the second, at that time of her life, was much more interested in redemption and how we earn our happy endings in the hope that, eventually, I will earn my own.  So in a lot of ways, this is an interesting look at my development as a writer.  The stories are, on the surface, just good, solid stories with a mix of horror, fantasy, and romance.  Underneath they form my own history, as a writer – what I learned, finding the truth of my voice – and as a person, about what I felt was important at the time, what I valued.  There are more happy endings the older I get (Wow, I sound like I’m 80, I’m not quite half that) because I see how much more important they are.

That all sounds deep…more deep, really, than it should be.  *grins*

perf6.000x9.000.inddQ: How do you keep your narrative exciting throughout the creation of a novel?

A:  One of the awesome things about short stories is that the narratives are short, focused.  You can’t go wandering all around and everything needs to be important.  In novels you can sometimes get away with an awesome conversation or a small side trip as long as it feels like it belongs and it does not bore the reader, but in short stories everything excess is stripped away.  And…also…in a collection, if someone hates one story, they can leap to the next.  The stories are all kind of a mix, so there is something for everyone in it.

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

A:  I don’t…I have anxiety about trying to find time to write, but never about writing itself.  Once I have my mind locked into the writing, I have an awesome time.  It is simply a matter of making time and being disciplined.

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

A:  My writing schedule is a bit of catch as catch can sometimes.  I write when I find time…lunch breaks, after dinner, whenever there is free time.

Q: How do you define success?

A:  A lot of ways!  Getting something done you can be proud to stand behind and encourage people to read.  Having someone review your book and really seemed to have enjoyed it.  Even a tweet where someone says, “Hey, when is another book coming out?” is an amazing thing.

A lot of people want to define success with money – and goodness, it would be fun to be able to stay home and write, that is my dream.  But who knows if it will ever happen?  So I define success by the small goals.  I am so happy when someone says, “I liked this!” – making my readers happy is the best thing, ever.

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

A:  It is about balance and honesty.  I have seen so many people who were unhappy swallow it – they have someone who does not support their work, but they keep their unhappiness to themselves because they don’t want to hurt their partner.  I see this as treating the person you love as someone who isn’t your friend.  Sit down and talk to them about how important this is, how it is a part of you.  Ask how you can both work together so you have the writing time you need.

Mostly people are reasonable.  Some are not.  But the key is…I think the things that mean the most are the ones worth fighting for.  So if he or she won’t support you, as long as you are doing your part to keep the house/life/relationship going, there is no shame in carving out time to write, locking the door and saying, “I love you, but this is my time to work on my dreams.”

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, mostly.  Writing is work…sometimes you are just clicking away and you are like, “This is the best thing, ever!” and then you slow down, and you stop.  For me it’s not (generally) like hitting a way as much as coming to c clearing and having a feeling that you took a wrong turn back there somewhere, and you are unsure what direction you should go, so you sort of wander around the edges and try and see if any the paths out look right.  And making sure it all sounds right, everything is work.  But like I said, if it’s worth it, it’s worth the work.

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

A:  If  you want to be a writer, be persistent.  Never give up, read lots, and keep going.  If you are a reader, thank you – keep reading and telling people what makes you happy, because it is a great gift.

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