Author Interview: Jay Willis

Biography

My goal as an author is to create an engaging and fun body of work to sustain a generation through their life as readers of Fantasy: from intelligent chapter books to sprawling epics.

From an early age, I was fascinated by story-telling and wrote my first books in grade school by hand using typing paper packets stapled together for me by my mother. An avid Dungeons & Dragons role-player, growing up in the 80’s obsessed with Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark, my reading and writing interests have always skewed toward the fantasy and science-fiction genres.

I am a graduate of both Capital University and Capital University Law School.  I’ve been a licensed attorney for more than 25 years. I’m a former Judge and now work as an Assistant Prosecutor.

I live in southern Ohio with my wife and two children who are now grown and in different stages of college. I love both tabletop games and role-playing games. I’ve played video games since the Atari 2600, I’m a recovering World of Warcraft player, and my two current video game obsessions are Fallout 76 and Elden Ring.

Share a little bit about your book, Dream of the Sphere, and the Sphere Saga.

Dream of the Sphere is the intricate first entry in the expansive The Sphere Saga epic fantasy series. If you like gargantuan conflicts, jaw-dropping twists, and deep explorations of humanity’s beliefs, you’ll love this hard-hitting tale.

Here’s the book description for Dream of the Sphere:

Three thousand years of tradition torn asunder. When the truth comes out, will a hero emerge to pick up the pieces?

Dashira Eisenheart takes ultimate comfort in her community. So she’s thrilled when her brother ascends to the coveted order chosen to protect the world from safely sealed-away, millennia-old, dangerous magic. But her faith in her beloved parents’ loyalty cracks after she spies her mother sneaking about town to meet with the enemy.

Striving to stay focused on her own academic studies, Dashira becomes caught in family tensions that soon reach a boiling point. And as her father’s Brotherhood and her mother’s rebel group head toward a cataclysmic clash, the young seeker finds herself trapped by conflicting choices.

Will she face her fears and accept her role in a grand destiny?

At its core, the Sphere Saga examines the implications of The Conflagration in the world of Legacia which resulted from a clash between The Three, Axamar Sulvastra, Lornai val’Adoral, and Vrom Krazstar. The best of friends, the worst of enemies, The Three, the most brilliant and powerful mages in history, nearly destroyed Legacia, and after the near-apocalyptic event humanity decided to eschew Magic and prevent such a catastrophe from recurring. Over the course of three-thousand years of attempting to suppress Magic, the society forged by the survivors becomes a rigid theocracy stifled by fear. The denizens of the city of Kaharna have unwittingly locked themselves away into a pattern of stagnation trapped in their dependence upon the Sphere to keep Magic contained and untouchable. Ultimately, in Legacia Magic is Life and the people find their very existence in peril unless they find a way to restore Magic in their world.

You also have one book in a series entitled The Arcana Chronicles. Tell us about that book and series.

After I wrote the initial draft of Dream of the Sphere I struggled to pull it together and polish it into what I wanted it to become. I took some online writing courses with Dave Farland after that and started working on craft. With Dave’s help I started to realize my writing skills weren’t quite where I needed them to be to pull off my Sphere Saga so I left those books behind for a while.

At the 2015 Writer’s Symposium at Gen Con I spent a few days with Dave Farland in classes in-person and developed the story that became Blood is Thicker than Magic, a Middle Grade/Teen Urban Fantasy, which became my first full-scale published novel. I wanted to write a story geared to encourage young men to read that was full of wonder, something veering in a different direction from Harry Potter and the Percy Jackson books.

In addition to writing adult fantasy you write children’s books. Tell us about those.

I wrote the original Blacktooth the Pirate stories for my kids because I was getting sick of Princess Stories. I even had those first two stories printed into a book form so my wife and I could read them to the kids. Blacktooth’s Treasure Chest eventually became the first book I actually published. With Blacktooth I wanted something silly and fun that would make a kid want to read while introducing them to the wonderful world of Fantasy.

What drew you into writing in the two different areas of fantasy and children’s books? Which do you prefer?

I want to write Fantasy in various forms. Specifically, I hope to engage my readers from an early age sharing my lifelong love of Fantasy. We all need some magic in our lives. I don’t write down to kids in my Children’s and Middle Grade books. The stories may not be as involved and complex but they still inspire that sense of wonder we all desperately need and crave. Worldbuilding and intriguing characters are still important to kids.

Ultimately, if I had to choose, Epic Fantasy is my passion. I love storytelling and the multifaceted layers I can explore in Epic Fantasy are what I enjoy most about writing.

Your profile on Amazon says you have been a lawyer for 25 years. How does a lawyer get into publishing novels?

I’ve loved storytelling since I was very young. From making up stories with my Star Wars action figures to actually starting to write and illustrate stories on my own then moving into playing Dungeons & Dragons and creating characters and adventures in that setting I’ve always wanted to write.

Throughout college as a History and Political Science major on the path to Law School I wrote a LOT of academic papers. After my first year of Law School I managed to take an entire summer off and spent most of it writing to save my brain from the ravages of that brutal First Year. Writing preserved and salvaged what was left of my sanity.

Writing took a backseat while establishing my career as an attorney and I didn’t do much storytelling until my kids were born. As far as full-scale novels, I “won” National Novel Writing Month (NANOWRIMO) back in 2013 and completed an Epic Fantasy novel which will most likely never be publishable. I kept at it and “won” again in 2014 and 2015 with what were the original drafts of my first two Sphere Saga books.

I initially explored traditional publishing and queried agents and editors for a while. After over 100 rejections and no interest I decided it was time to learn about self-publishing and I immersed myself in discovering the intricacies of how to publish my own works and I haven’t looked back.

What is your favorite part of the writing process?

I live for worldbuilding. I enjoy outlining and plotting and all that goes along with putting a fantasy world together. The danger is allowing myself to explore too many rabbit holes and go too far astray into researching obscure topics.

What would you advise your younger self to do differently on the writing journey?

Stop playing World of Warcraft sooner and write more. Most importantly, I wish I would have conquered my unspoken fear of failure and started writing with purpose on a regular basis sooner.

Do you have any essential writing habits or strange writing quirks?

The most useful writing habit I’ve developed is to begin each writing session reading and allowing myself limited revisions through the last bit I worked on to warmup and immerse myself back into the world I’m working in.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

I watch a lot of movies, play board games, roleplaying games, and video games. I’ve spent far too much time dying repeatedly in Elden Ring of late.

What does success look like for you as an author?

Publishing the first three books of The Sphere Saga marks success for me. Having even a handful of readers and being able to share my world and the characters that have lived in my imagination for so long is why I write.

Anything additional you want to share with readers?

I am a Contributor on a new non-fiction book releasing May 3, 2022 called Putting the Fact in Fantasy. I have articles about the real world history of magic, the history of the Spanish Inquisition, and the use of Prophets and Religion in Fantasy included. Putting the Fact in Fantasy was edited by Dan Koboldt and will be available on Amazon.

Website: https://www.jayswillis.net

Book Locations: Amazon including Kindle Unlimited

My social media links are:

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Excerpt: from Dream of the Sphere-Book One of The Sphere Saga

THE WIND WHISTLED atop the Spire, blowing Dashira’s hair in every direction. She had never been this high up before. The city spread below them, a landscape in miniature, everything except the Sphere, of course.

Standing atop the Spire, alongside Spirelord Benebis, gave her a new perspective on the immensity of the Sphere. Even from this vantage, the Sphere was daunting. It waited below, a steadfast and implacable foe that had churned toward this inevitable conflict for three thousand years.

“We had not counted upon the Brotherhood marshaling well-armed trained forces,” Benebis said, as he watched troops moving below, attempting to break in the front doors to the Spire. “This certainly complicates matters.”

Despite the constant buzz of the wind, Dashira could hear Benebis speaking. She found that more than a little disconcerting. If only she had been able to obtain more details from Mother. Plagued by doubt and uncertainty now, she couldn’t yet fathom how she could be of use in saving Gambor and destroying the Brotherhood.

Not far off, a rumbling reverberated, followed by a fiery explosion. Benebis rushed to the opposite side of the Spire, Dashira following. The nearest Spire trailed a pillar of black smoke from its base.

From this height and distance, it was impossible to tell the source of the smoke, or the cause of the damage. Benebis’ face contorted in anguish. Something terrible had happened at that Spire, and he must be able to sense it.

“Take my hand,” he said, reaching out to her. Dashira did as requested. The man’s hand was ice cold, and smooth like polished marble.

“I will explain things later. Prepare yourself Dashira. You are about to witness actions which you may find… disturbing.”

Dashira nodded in response. The Spirelord’s ever-flowing runes ceased their shifting and flared with cobalt brilliance, inundating Dashira’s body with a tingling sensation. Then there was falling and white light.

She gasped.

Blinked.

They stood in a well-lit chamber pulsing with life. Her eyes adjusted, making it difficult to see.

In the center of this circular chamber was an oval-shaped vat carved from a marbled blue and white stone, like nothing she’d ever seen. The massive container held a mercurial liquid emanating a purplish glow. Dashira noticed there were no windows and no doors in this room. There was no visible means of entry, or exit.

“We must move with haste,” Benebis said, before Dashira could spit out any of the myriad questions tumbling through her head.

The Spirelord plunged his hand into the vat, closing his eyes as he did so. A purple vapor formed, rose from the liquid, and a ubiquitous fog permeated the chamber.

“Breathe in and do not fear,” Benebis instructed.

Dashira trusted the man. She did as instructed.

With her first deep inhalation, her body became hazy and indistinct.

Was she floating?

She now understood the smell and taste of purple.

How peculiar?

She exhaled and took yet another breath.

With her second breath, time slowed, and she gained a palpable awareness of everything in the room.

First, she was one with the liquid in the vat, which now bubbled violently, but in slow motion.

Next, her senses expanded, she was one with Benebis. His heart beat in counterpoint to her own. He smiled at her, as if to offer comfort and encouragement.

Time sped up, and her awareness seeped into and through the walls, upward and throughout the entirety of the Spire.

Her lungs burned with need, her breathing rapid, drinking in as much of the vapor as she could hold. Overwhelmed but exhilarated, she could see through over a thousand pairs of eyes, the entire population of the Spire all simultaneously.

Then, it all stopped.

She blinked and gasped for air, as if she had been submerged underwater too long. The purple cloud filling the room was gone, the liquid still, and Dashira panted and was covered in sweat.

Her body tingled.

She peered down at her hands and arms; flecks of purple swam just below the surface, and her skin paled to a lavender shade similar to the vision of Vrom from her dreams.

Benebis touched her on the shoulder. “What I have done is forbidden by our laws, but it is necessary. I need your assistance in defending this Spire. Follow my lead, use your instincts, and do what you know to be right. Take care, however, not to over exert yourself.”

He didn’t explain what he’d done. No explanation was necessary. In the moments of her exposure to the Fonte Arcanum, she knew the name of this chamber now; she had gained some of the powers, as well as knowledge imparted to Spirelords. She understood the secrets held fast within the Spires. Her head spun with the burden of arcane knowledge.

The dots swimming in her skin coalesced into shapes. The glyphs engraved upon their bodies from the inside imbued the Spirelords with permanent magical powers, with energy distilled directly from the pure magical essence contained in the Fonte Arcanum.

“Take my hand once again. We have no time to delay.” Benebis reached out to her once again.

She took his hand, her head spun with this turn of events. If only she had time to think things over. She needed time to access the knowledge she had now been granted.

“It will come to you as needed,” Benebis said, replying to her thought, and they vanished, reappearing in the entryway to the Spire above. The instantaneous travel to another location wasn’t nearly as jarring the second time.

He was right. Now was the time for action. She couldn’t spare the time for contemplation. The Sphere-blessed were dying. Gambor and Mother were in danger.


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Author Interview: Jennifer Tempest

Biography

Jennifer Tempest was born and raised in Edmonton, Alberta, where she lives with her partner and large cat. Jennifer loves to read and travel to gain inspiration for her creations as well as taking inspiration from her boyfriend’s Dungeons and Dragons Campaigns. Often including her friends in her works of fiction, Jennifer writes to make people smile and get drawn into her world.

Share a little bit about your book, The Cardinal War.

The Cardinal War takes place within the city of Mordale which is on the West coast of the Frythiel Empire. The Emperor passes away with no known heirs and the four surrounding manors are thrust into political drama and intrigue to determine who the next heir must be. The story follows Daithi, one of the Emperor’s lead messengers, as well as a young thief, Eileen. The two must learn how they fit into this changing landscape and upon meeting must determine how they fit with each other. Both continue to grow and develop and readers will be sucked into finding out what happens next.

What motivated you to go from writing for fun to publishing a book?

I have been writing to some degree since I was in third grade and my stories have been getting longer and more in depth as I have grown older. The Cardinal War was the first story that reached 20,000 words and there was just something about it that I kept coming back to and wanting to make the story even greater.

I looked into self-publishing years ago but let fear get in the way and I just continued to write for fun. However, 2021 came around and I decided I couldn’t let fear stop me anymore. I accepted my book may not be for everyone but I wanted to share my story with the world; the characters I had created years ago and the world that I continued to build in my mind. I reached back into The Cardinal War, touched up sections and dove into the publishing process.

What challenges did you overcome to get your book published?

Starting was probably the first challenge as I had no concept of where to begin; how to get it edited, how to create a cover or how much all of this would cost. I was not too worried about how long it would take, I just wanted the book out there with the story and cover that I had envisioned.

The next worry came with editing, I knew I had a good story but I was still a bit worried of what the editor would say and what they would want to change. It ended up being a wonderful learning experience and has helped me in writing future works.

Finally, I was struggling to imagine how I could best convey what I wanted the cover to look like to someone else. Since writing The Cardinal War, I knew the cover would have wings and a compass. Turned out, that the graphic designer was amazing and was able to interpret exactly what I wanted to create what turned out to be a very eye catching cover.

Do you have any strange writing quirks?

I would have to say the way I tackle writing a story is unique, especially if you know me well. I am known to love organization and planning but I don’t actually plan that much when it comes to my stories. I will create the main characters that will be spotlighted in the work as well as writing maybe a sentence or two for the basic chapters I envision. But other than that I write whatever I feel that day, whether that be chapter 1 or maybe its chapter 7 today. I tend to write based on the type of chapter I am feeling that day, so for example, maybe I want to write a intimate conversation for an afternoon or maybe it’s a fight scene that I have in mind.

I will jump back and forth between chapters adding on to them and weaving in the connections between. Sometimes I will be in an editing mood and I will simply re-read what I have already written and expand upon it. I mind that this method helps me escape writers block as if I am tired of writing a scene or have run out of inspiration for it, I will simply switch to a different section of the story. One consistent element of my writing however is that I will write the ending, at least in part, first.

What do you enjoy most about the writing process?

I love creating and expanding on the world and introducing my characters to this growing Empire. If I have one or two main characters I can develop their relationships with each other and other minor characters, who may turn out to be major characters in a future work. Each new character adds something to the world and the world brings characteristics to each character in it. I love the thought of eventually being able to share all of this with others and letting them get sucked into my world.

What is the best writing advice you’ve ever received?

“Don’t write with the thought of publishing the story, write because you love writing” I heard this recently in a group interview with a few other authors and it really struck with me. When I started The Cardinal War, I didn’t know I was going to publish it. It was with the writing and completion of the story that I realized it was something worth publishing. I think if you write with the focus of publishing in the forefront of your mind it can add unnecessary stress and fear. Write because you love to write and you love to create, the rest will follow if its going to happen.

If money were no object, what would you do with the rest of your life?

Travel, volunteer with animal rescues as much as I can and keep writing and sharing my books.

Who are some of your favorite authors? What are some of your favorite books that you’ve read?

Before I started this publishing journey, my answer was always the same: Mercedes Lackey, Kristin Britain and Naomi Novik. But with this experience I have meet new authors and I would have to add Connie Reed and JMD Reid to my list as well. As for favorite books, I would say: Brightly Burning by Mercedes Lackey, Winterlight by Kristin Britain, League of Dragons by Naomi Novik, Foundation of Courage by JMD Reid and finally Emerging Threats by Connie Reed.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

When not writing the quickest answer is I love to read! My To Be Read list grows and grows with so many wonderful stories out there but I just love reading people’s creations. In addition to that, I love playing board games with my friends, we have over 200 games, as well as doing Escape Rooms, I recently completed my 75th room. As I mentioned before, I love to organize and plan which has resulted in murder mystery parties and other fun activities over the years. I also love to work out, try new moves at Circus class and volunteer with animals.

What does success look like for you as an author?

To me the success is just to hear others talking about my book or simply being intrigued about the book and wanting to read it. Yes money is an easy way to look at some form of success, but I published The Cardinal War simply to share my story and I want people to get sucked in and keep reading. I love having the opportunity to talk to others about my work and have them be genuinely interested and invested in the conversation.

Anything additional you want to share with readers?

I just wanted to thank everyone for taking the time to read a bit about me and to encourage everyone to keep reading! If there are any budding writers out there that are on the fence about publishing or even just getting started, I want to say write with your heart and write for you. You will enjoy the process more and it will shine through in your story. Don’t let fear stop you!

Website: www.jennifertempestbooks.com

Book Locations: Available on my website otherwise through Amazon, Barnes & Nobles online and Indigo online.

Excerpt: From The Cardinal War

“Why do you think we need to be armed? Driskell asked, a bit surprised. “We have always been greeted peacefully.”

            “Well, I have been thinking about this all day,” Daithi replied, sitting back on his heels. “Who do you think is going to be new ruler? I mean, it seems almost positive that Emperor Ithel is not going to last the night, and with his wife Helori dead years ago and no children, well, who does that leave? Which means –“

            “It means there is going to be war between the four manors to see who can establish their child as the new heir”

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Author Interview: Elizabeth Lavender

Biography

I’m the author of the Sunspear series. The first book in the sci-fi series is called The Spinning of Deception, the second book is Deception’s Hold, and the third book is Shadowed Bonds. I’m currently working on the next book in the series.

Originally from the Alabama coast, I currently live in the Dallas area with my husband and my two children. I have a Master’s degree in counseling, a bachelor’s degree in psychology, and a minor in English.

I enjoy science fiction and fantasy and hope to bring that same enjoyment to others. I also enjoy suspense novels. However, as long as the storyline is intriguing, I’ll give other genres a try. My reading spans from Les Misérables to Shakespeare to the Percy Jackson series to anything written by Ted Dekker or Frank Peretti.

I work full-time and have been at the same company for over twenty years happily. I’m a huge football fan and have a decent throwing arm, despite what my oldest son says when he practices throwing the football with me.

Although I enjoy Texas, I love going home to Alabama to visit. Besides visiting family and friends, it’s nice to be back near the water again and enjoy the amazing seafood.

Share a little bit about your Sunspear series.

There are currently three books in my sci-fi/fantasy Sunspear series, which include The Spinning of Deception, Deception’s Hold, and Shadowed Bonds.  I am currently working on the fourth book in the series.

Our story starts with our two main characters, the two spear-bearers who will be the inspiration to stand against the Dark Lord’s army that means to crush countless galaxies, one colony at a time in a bloodbath.   Dante stands on one side, determined to stop the threat, even as his father commands the Dark Lord’s army. 

Across the galaxy, a mysterious young girl, trained in secret, fights against the threat as well.  Her gift of visions reveals the truth of a past tragedy from Dante’s family, and it could be the key to stopping the Dark Lord.  It’s also this past event that creates a deadly task for Dante to complete as it ties into the present terror that threatens the galaxies.   A mysterious connection grows between the two spear-bearers, but is it strong to defeat the battlefield that the Dark Lord has in store for them? And can they stop whatever the Dark Lord is creating to bear down on the colonies before he unleashes his destruction? 

What does the future hold for the Sunspear series? Do you have an idea of how long it will run?

The Sunspear Series is only at the halfway mark in completion, if even that. Shadowed Bonds, the third book in the series, released in October 2021.  I am currently writing the fourth book in the series.  The series will take at least six books to tell the whole story of Dante and The Girl.

Do you have plans to write something outside of this series?

Not at the moment, simply because I haven’t thought beyond this series right now.  This storyline, world, and characters have been in my head and heart for a long time, and it takes me considerable time to get each book published since I work full-time while doing the writing. This series will take at least a few more years to finish out.  After that, I’ll see where inspiration takes me. 

Your degree and career are in counseling. What drove you to write and publish a novel?

The story and characters had been forming in my head since about high school, and I’m now in my 40’s.  I’ll let you do the math…  There was a point that I just had to write the story down. It had been running around in my head for too long.  As far as my counseling background, it proves helpful in writing the series with getting inside the characters’ heads and conveying the emotional intensity in many of the scenes.  Also, with a number of the scenes with the Dark Lord’s deception, I found my counseling background helped as well as it’s similar to the lies many clients become trapped.

What is your favorite part of writing?

My favorite part is writing the first draft, getting the story down the first time.  The characters write the story for me now, and I love watching where they take it.  It’s the most amazing feeling when a scene unfolds in front of me, and I’m as surprised as the reader. 

What is the hardest aspect of writing for you? What you have done to improve?

The writing itself comes easy. By that I mean, it flows on its own, so I don’t find myself getting stuck. The hardest part of the process for me tends to be the revising/editing part.  I don’t enjoy it all, and so I have a hard time motivating myself when I get to that stage.   I have a difficult time figuring out when enough is enough.  Once you’ve been over the same scene so many times, it feels like it loses its “freshness” in a sense. Then that scene that I fell in love with before, after the 50th time, just seems okay.  I hate that about the revision process, and that’s usually when I’m done.  At that point, I’m afraid I’m taking away from a scene rather than adding anything positive to it.   As far as helping with that, I have revision tools to help with the process, like Autocrit.  I also have a couple of people go through it for feedback once I’m completely done with my process.  Then I send it to an outside editor.

In your biography you mention you like to read Ted Dekker and Frank Peretti. What is it about those two authors that you like?

I love what I call the “other battlefield” that’s always present in their works.  It’s the spiritual battlefield that rages.  In other genres, it can be compared to the supernatural and the psychological.  Whatever you want to call it, it’s a powerful battlefield and it adds a whole new layer to the story.  In my own series, it’s a battlefield that’s continuously played out in the major characters’ storylines and in many of the supporting cast.  Many of the biggest battles in the series are won and lost on this arena, not on the traditional battlefield. 

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

When I’m not writing in my own series, I’m usually getting lost in another author’s world. Probably the other thing is seeing a story come to life either on the big screen or onstage.  Of course, the rest of the time is just enjoying time with family and friends.

What does success look like for you as an author?

There is a traditional answer, like a certain number of books sold or to have a specific amount written.  However, for me that’s not it.  It comes down to why I wrote the series in the first place.  I did it because I simply believed the story is worth the telling, and I enjoy doing it. I believe stories are powerful, and you never know when your story is exactly what someone needs to hear.  So, success is when someone reads the story of Dante and The Girl, and it connects with them and it inspires them in their own journey.

Anything additional you want to share with readers?

I love getting to know other readers. That’s been one of the best parts about becoming an author. As I’ve always said authors were and are readers first. It’s what inspires us to write the stories we do. When I’m not writing my own story, I’m getting lost in another author’s story. There’s a magic in opening a book and finding it captured you so much that you came to the final page and didn’t even realize how much time had passed. It never gets old. So, I’d love to chat with you, whether it’s about my series or another world that swept you away or anything else that comes to mind. I can’t wait to hear from you!

Gulf Shores, AL beach inspired Sunspear world

Website: elizabethlavender.net

Book Locations:

My books are all on Amazon. I also have them published through Ingram, which is the supplier for most of the brick-and-mortar bookstores, like Barnes and Noble. Here are the universal links for all three books so far in the series:

The Spinning of Deception
Deception’s Hold
Shadowed Bonds

Excerpt (taken from The Spinning of Deception)

She saw or sensed no one in her room, but she could see nothing after all. Surprisingly, though she felt the darkness, she did not feel the usual reaction to shrink from it. It seemed foolish to fear it as she had in the past.

She heard a whisper, a haunting voice, “Yes, there is nothing to fear. Come…”

She heard another voice before always encouraging her, echoing the teachings of Alika, Alena, and her mother, but this voice was different, unfamiliar.

“You feared the darkness too long. You do have a purpose, one yet to be unlocked, but discover it on your own,” the voice said.

The girl stood from her bed. No light entered the room, but somehow it appeared easier to see in the darkness. Either she became more accustomed to the darkness, or it was not pitch dark anymore. Inside, the girl knew neither explanation could be possible, but she ignored it.

“You are right. With your training and will, you can avenge her death. She was innocent of this slaughter done to her, so be strong and make him answer for her murder. You know it to be true. You are capable of so much more. They are holding you back. There is a path for which you do not see yet. Let me show you,” the voice continued.

Before the girl realized it, she answered out loud, “How?”

“Fearing darkness are tales told to scare children, nothing more. The path of darkness does not lead to destruction, as you were told. It is full of power and glory. Come to me, cloth yourself in it, and I will help you gain what you truly seek.”

The girl peered down, and it seemed as if there was a path she could see even in the darkness before her. She stood there for what seemed like forever, staring at the path in the darkness. She took a deep breath and tentatively stepped forward. Instantly, a fiery pain spread over the bottom of her foot that threatened to seize her whole body. Almost simultaneously came wetness. She understood. It must be the edge of her spear or sword she practiced with a few days ago. How was it possible? She always put both under her bed to prevent such a thing from happening. She bled from the wound, and in the darkness, somehow, she could see a pool of blood forming around her foot. The girl felt sick with horror as an image of her mother’s dead body materialized in the pool of blood. Her father’s laughter echoed throughout the room though she knew he was not anywhere around. She stepped back, but it was still pitch dark and freezing cold. Even worse, the darkness hung in the room, but now it seemed to suffocate her. Then she remembered Alika’s earlier words and understood. She couldn’t get rid of it because it originated from her now. She felt the abhorrence for it return to her, as she always felt, but now she could not escape. It entrapped her, and she did not realize its strangling grip until now.

The cloaked woman’s laughter joined in to fill the room. The girl was no better than her father, the cloaked lady, any of them. She had tossed aside everything like it meant nothing, much like they dumped her mother’s body. She murmured, “No, no…” Her mother had poured her life’s blood out for her, to be trained, to be kept safe, sacrificed everything for her. This is what she did with such a precious gift?

“What have I done?” she whispered. She fell to her knees at the side of her bed and allowed the wracking sobs to consume her. Her bleeding foot no longer mattered, and she no longer felt the pain of it. She didn’t know how to recover what she had lost.


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Author Interview: Elizabeth Morris

Biography

Elizabeth Morris graduated with her bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing and English from Southern New Hampshire University in 2020. Her first book Tiger’s Blood she self-published in 2016 when she was 17 years old. She loves her cats and her family. She is currently working on the Blood of the Beast series and finds inspiration through music, nature and traveling.

Share a little bit about your two books, Tiger’s Blood and Rise of the Rebels.

Tiger’s Blood is about a world called Bitotem that is filled with creatures called Bloods. They are half-animal half-human shapeshifters. In this world the Lion Bloods are the most populated and they live under the protection of their king. One girl discovers she is the rarest Blood of them all, the White Tiger Blood. She goes on a quest to kill the king, and along the way she meets a rebellious Lion Blood, a clever Eagle Blood and a kind-hearted Wolf Blood. Will she succeed in killing the king?

Rise of the Rebels is the sequel to Tiger’s Blood and it’s about the rebels, Kira, Ethan, Noah and Chase taking revenge on the kingdom. The group meets a pair of mysterious Bloods, but they don’t know if they can trust them. When one of the rebel’s gets kidnapped, it’s up to the rest of the Bloods to save them. Will these new Bloods be friends or foes?

What do you expect this series to look like when it’s complete?

I would like to have five books in the series to complete it. I am working on the third book in the series currently. Someone told me a prequel to the series would be great, and I am working on that as well.

Where did your fascination with cats, and specifically tigers, come from?

I’ve always loved cats. I grew up with three cats and two of the cats I’ve had since I was seven. They are 16 years old currently. Tigers have been my favorite animal since elementary school. When I was in fourth grade, I wanted to do an animal project on tigers, but someone took that animal and I ended up with a whale shark. In high school I went to the county fair and there was a lion and tiger show. I got to feed a female white Bengal tiger named Kya at the fair, and that’s where I drew inspiration of my main characters name Kira.

How did you come to the decision to write a book?

I was in middle school doing an English project, when my teacher came up to me and said my writing was amazing and that I should write a book. That was when I decided I wanted to become an author and write a book. I was 13 when I had the idea for my characters and story for Tiger’s Blood and that’s also when I started writing the book.

What piece of advice has helped improve your writing the most?

“There’s nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed,” -Earnest Hemmingway. What the great Hemmingway was trying to say here is find your flow and stick with it. For me, when I have my “writers mojo” as I like to call it, I can write for hours. I like to write and not worry about editing until my book is complete. I’d say this piece of advice defined my writing style, which is when I feel inspired, I write. If you don’t like what you are writing, then you are doing it wrong.

How/where/when do you do your best writing? Do you have any strange writing quirks?

How I do my best writing is spontaneously when I feel inspired to write. Where I do my best writing is pretty much anywhere as long as I have my laptop or even my phone. I’ve actually done some of my highest word count writing on my phone rather than my laptop. I do my best writing during the middle of the day if I don’t have much to do. I’d say a writing quirk that I have is talking to myself while I write. Sometimes I will sound out a sentence or dialogue because translating it from my scattered brain to the document can be difficult.

If you could spend the day with any famous author (dead or alive), who would it be and why?

I would probably pick George R. R. Martin because I think we would have an interesting conversation. I absolutely adore his A Song of Ice and Fire series and I would love to get advice from him about how to attract readers. Overall, I think he is an amazing author.

What is your favorite aspect of writing?

My favorite aspect would be that it’s relaxing for me. Writing helps clear my scattered mind by putting words on paper. Writing is a big coping skill for me when I feel anxious or depressed. I don’t think I would be here today if I hadn’t started writing my first book Tiger’s Blood in middle school. Writing saved my life in a sense when I didn’t have any hope left.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

I love to go on walks and listen to music when I’m not writing. Music is a big inspiration for me when I write so when I listen on my phone, I think of characters or scenes in my books. Another thing I like to do is read other indie books. I like giving indie authors a chance to be heard.

What does success look like for you as an author?

I think success to me looks like happiness. If you aren’t happy writing, then why are you doing it? I already am successful in my own eyes because I’m happy. I don’t need fame or fortune, even though it would be nice, I just want to put out a book and maybe someone will read it and enjoy it.

Anything additional you want to share with readers?

Thank you for all you have given me. I love connecting with people with my writing and if you decide to buy my book(s) then I sincerely hope you enjoy it. Here are my social medias if you want to follow my journey 😊

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/elizabeth.morris.1401/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/lizlovestowrite/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/lizlovestowrite
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/18473321.Elizabeth_Abigail_Morris
TikTok: https://www.tiktok.com/@lizlovestowrite
Tiger’s Blood: https://books2read.com/u/49lR7d
Rise of the Rebels: https://books2read.com/u/mKRRBB
Book Locations: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books a Million, My first one has an Audiobooks so everywhere they are sold.

Excerpt

“Hello?” I yell. All I hear is my own voice echoing back at me. I walk upstairs and it is as quiet as a ghost. I start getting very curious. According to the note, he should be here. This is the only hospital he would go to. Then why isn’t he here? This makes me so angry. I start pacing around in a circle; my hands turn into fists again. I scrunch up my face and close my eyes tightly while tears race down my cheeks. I give up, he said he was at the hospital, and I go there and find no one. He’s probably dead now too, what am I going to do? I start breathing heavy and my heart beats faster than normal. Before I know it I am facing the ground…

I blink my eyes slowly. My body feels heavier than solid gold. I suddenly realize that I am still on the hospital floor. I pick myself up and notice that I’m walking on all fours. I look down at my feet… they are not feet but paws the size of gloves.

Paws? It sounds creepy when I think about it. I look around for a mirror or something reflective. I try to walk to the bathroom, but I’m not doing do well walking on these paws. I slip and trip everywhere. I finally stumble my way into a bathroom and look in the mirror and… I see paws, black stripes and white fur, sharp teeth, small round ears, and a…tail?

Well, I’m obviously dreaming. I close my eyes and try to wake up. I open them and I am still looking at this creature in the mirror. I try to wake myself up. I take one of my claws and pierce it into my other paw. I feel a sharp pain and roar ferociously. I see blood dripping out of my paw, then it hits me like a slap to the face. I’m not dreaming. This is real; I never knew that this was who I was.

My name is Kira, and I am a Tiger Blood.

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Author Interview: Adam G. Fleming

Biography

Adam G. Fleming, from Goshen, Indiana, USA, is an author with 12 books under his belt since 2012—and four or five more coming this year. He has written 9 novels, 2 nonfiction books, and 1 poetry/flash fiction project. Adam does a variety of gigs for a living, including ghostwriting and audiobook production. He has a background as a leadership coach and coach trainer. He is married to Megan; they have four children.

Share a little bit about the Satchel Pong Chronicles.

In 2016, I started out to write a steampunk book that some characters in another book, (which isn’t out yet) could argue about and write rock songs about. A few years later I pulled it out and said, “hey this is pretty good” and finished Satchel Pong and the Great Migration. One thing led to another and finally in 2021 I finished the five-book series.

I’d put this in the camp of humorous and lighthearted steampunk fantasy. The world is burning, and Satchel Pong has to decide if he’s going to take some leadership with the knowledge he has, and how he will lead his people to safety.

Tell us about what other books you available.

I have 3 books out in the Stetson Jeff Adventures. Stetson Jeff is a Texan with a hankerin’ for justice and a great piece of steak. He travels the world: Thailand, Morocco, and Amish country, Pennsylvania. I often describe the Main Character as a cross between Forrest Gump and Chuck Norris. These are co-written with my friend Justin Fike.

I have two non-fiction books about coaching and cultural leadership, one book of poetry, and one stand-alone novel called White Buffalo Gold which was my very first book, published in 2012.

Where did you get your sense of humor and how does it play into your writing?

From my dad, I think, and also from travel. We left the cornfields of Illinois when I was 13 years old and moved to central Congo. It was jarring! Cross-cultural experiences spark some of the funniest stories. It plays into my writing as I create cultures, or put my characters into cross-cultural situations.

What are your best and worst writing habits?

My best habit is when I’m drafting, I’m able to turn off the filters and let anything happen. My worst is that I tend to want to rush editing which is why I have to work with editors to make a great product.

You’ve traveled around the world quite a bit. What has been your favorite place to visit? Where would you most like to go that you haven’t been?

I’ve been to Thailand four times, about two weeks or so each time. Always in the winter, between January and early March, when the weather sucks in Indiana. It’s an absolute paradise, and stuff is really cheap. The cherry on top is the food. I like that spicy stuff, pad Thai, and tom ka gai, and fish and the wide selection of fruit, but I also like adventure and I ate a deep-fried scorpion there about four years ago.

On the top of my bucket list is maybe Italy and Greece and I would love to hang out in Zimbabwe for a month with the Shona tribe and carve stone with them, they’re famous for that.

What is the best writing advice you’ve ever received?

I think Stephen King is on point when he talks about writing for an audience of one. I write for my wife. If she likes the rough draft, laughs or cries, then I know I’m on track. My wife interviewed Madeline L’Engle when she was 10 years old, via cassette tape in the mail. L’Engle responded, and some of her best advice is to read, read, read. That’s the best advice for kids.

What is the hardest part of writing for you?

I have so many ideas! I’m pushing to get some of my drafts done so I can start a new series, but I have a lot of irons in the fire already.

You published four books in 2021. What is your goal for 2002 and how do you accomplish so much?

My goal is to complete 5, not counting my ghostwriting projects, but also to do a better job of launching them so they sell better, which could cause some delays to do the marketing “right”. Another goal is to finish 3 more of the Stetson Jeff books, 2 of them are drafted, so part of this goal is to decrease the number of drafted works in the pipeline, as it stands right now I have 9 to 12 books (depending on how they get released) which are complete rough drafts, and I’d like to bring that number down to 3 or 4 by the end of the year.

Your biography says that you are a leadership coach. How did you become a leadership coach and what does that entail?

I went through a couple years of training from 2007 to 2009, through a school in Virginia, and I was certified by the International Coach Federation in 2018 as a Professional Certified Coach. What few people seem to understand about what working with a leadership coach means: it’s a process where the coach asks creative, probing, open-ended questions that don’t imply a solution, to help the client discover for themselves a solution that will generally help them clarify their goals, get from A to B faster, and live a more productive and healthy life.

What does success look like for you as an author?

It would be great to have half of my income coming in from my novels. But the real success is when my wife laughs at my work. It goes back to keeping it simple; writing for an audience of one. So in that sense I consider myself highly successful already.

I know that my work is good, and that any major commercial success will be partly due to luck, but the second thing that’s really important is to keep stewarding the gift. I’m good at this, and working toward being great, so it is imperative to work on it every day and trust that everything will work out; finances and legacy are hard to predict, but impossible to get if you don’t put in the time and of course you have to be yourself in the process.

Anything additional you want to share with readers?

I know you can get my books on Amazon for just a few bucks. And if that’s the limit of your budget, that’s great. Please read and review. Remember, if you spend a dollar, I get about 70 cents—which used to be the price of a cup of coffee. If you think all writers are rich, think about how many copies I’d have to sell every month to make one car payment!

We writers work hard to bring you something unique, and the best gift you can give yourself and the author at the same time is an autographed copy. I love to drive to the Post Office; it means we’re building a friendship. So, email me at agf@adamgfleming.com. Tell me what kind of books you like, and I’ll tell you which of my books you might like the most.

Look at it this way, if you get one of my books and don’t like it that much, you won’t lose anything because it can make for cool re-gifting options.

Website: www.adamgfleming.com

Book Locations: Amazon

Readers can order autographed books from my website, locally paperbacks are available at Fables Bookstore in Goshen, Indiana, and I now have Vortex Street available as an audio book on Audible.com and dozens of other audio platforms, with more books coming in audio this year.

Excerpt

…Satchel Pong saw a boy of about fifteen approaching. The lad was in good condition, and when he arrived Pong noted that he was not even a bit out of breath. The boy fell in step and walked alongside Pong, who picked up his pace.

“You’re Magistrate Pong, aren’t you?” Said the boy. Pong thought he caught a hint of admiration in the kid’s voice.

Pong drew himself up. To be sure, sometimes it was annoying to be recognized in public, but other times, it felt quite good. “I am.”

“Bully! Well I think you’re swell, at least, maybe I do. I reckon it’s grand to sit up in the Municipal Complex and shuffle papers for a terrific wage, but teacher says you aren’t doing your job. There’s been years now since you’ve issued a report. Mother says I was just a wee lad. Why?”

“Who is your teacher?” Pong asked.

“Mrs.—er, that’s neither here nor there,” said the boy.

“Oh, you’re a clever lad, aren’t you. What’s your name, then?”

“My name is Emil. Everyone calls me ‘Double E.’ Why haven’t you issued a report?”

“Look, son, the weather, it’s complicated. Hard to predict. I’m not a, a, whatchamacallit. A necromancer, a thaumaturge. There’s no magic to it. It’s pure science, but you can’t know, it’s inexact, without the proper data it—”

“You’re making excuses, aren’t you? I’ve seen people make excuses in class. You know what we say. Mumble, mumble, excuses a tubful, barrel and crate, your homework is late!”

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Author Interview: J.E. Taylor

Biography

J.E. Taylor is a USA Today bestselling author, a publisher, an editor, a manuscript formatter, a mother, a wife, a business analyst, and a Supernatural fangirl, not necessarily in that order. She first sat down to seriously write in February of 2007 after her daughter asked:

“Mom, if you could do anything, what would you do?”

From that moment on, she hasn’t looked back.

In addition to being co-owner of Novel Concept Publishing, Ms. Taylor also moonlights as a Senior Editor of Allegory E-zine, an online venue for Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror, and co-host of the popular YouTube talk show Spilling Ink.

She lives in New Hampshire with her husband and during the summer months enjoys her weekends on the shore in southern Maine.

Visit her at www.jetaylor75.com to check out her other titles.

Share a little bit about Wicked Heart and the Shades of Night Trilogy.

The Shades of Night Trilogy (Wicked Heart, Crooked Soul, Tainted Mind) all revolve around Sarah Stone and her Monster Defense Agency (TMD) partner, Robby Young. They hunt vampires, demons, and anything that targets humans. And Wicked Heart opens after a very bad night for Sarah and the ensuing hunt is on. 

There is also a prequel – Young Blood because after writing Wicked Heart, I felt Robby needed his own story told, so this is the story of how he met Sarah and their time in training as TMD hunters and his ascension to Alpha of his pack.

You also recently released your Season of the Dragon Trilogy. Tell us what readers can expect from those books.

Season of the Dragon is a trilogy about the survival of the human race.  It takes place entirely in New York City after a pandemic which resulted in silence on earth as most people were quarantined in their homes during the height of the wave of illness. Because of that, monsters woke from their slumber and took over the Earth, hell bent on stomping out humanity. Led by the sea serpent, an army of Leviathans and Dragons rose from the bowels and now one of the dragons decided he didn’t agree with the direction of where the monsters were going and partners with a human rebel who has a secret he needs. Trust between the two is fleeting at times, but they form an alliance to save their species.

It looks like you first published in 2011? Do you know how many books you’ve published? What can you tell us about your collection of writings?

My first book – Dark Reckoning was published on July 5th 2010. by FIDO publishing which was a non-erotic publishing arm of Excessica. And I had Survival Games published by Excessica that same year.

I didn’t go full indie until 2011 when Excessica became a coop and I decided to go out on my own instead of paying someone else to do the things I had learned.

And as of right now, I have 63 books published. With my current series after Wicked Heart goes live, I will have another two novels and a prequel scheduled to be published this year.  I also have one more novel planned for December and a possible short story as well depending upon how quickly I blaze through Shades of Night. So, by the end of 2022, my total will likely be 67 books published which is all my single titles and does not include the box sets of my series.

You’ve obviously written a lot. What drives you to write so much?

If I say the voices in my head, they might put me in a padded room. 😊

Seriously, I have a really active imagination and its my way of sharing my stories with the world. I love the art of storytelling and I’m better on paper where I have time to tell the tale and don’t get all tongue tied like I would speaking.

With many books come many names. How do you come up with your character names?

Most of the time they are already formed in my head, but when that hasn’t happened, I will peruse baby name sites and look up names by meaning to find what I’m looking for.

What advice would you give writers who want to become prolific?

No excuses, just write. Even if its only a few words in a session, it adds up.  And don’t compare your output to other writers, especially someone like me who can churn out books every three months with a full-time day job. I am not really one to emulate. I struggle with the balance of living and giving my time to my family and the need to tell the story. I still haven’t found a balance and that is a high goal of mine. So while you do sit down to write daily, don’t stop living to chase this dream.

Do you have a favorite book and/or series that you’ve written?

That is so very much like asking who is my favorite child.  I love them all. I’ve had more fun writing my mash ups and crossovers with other series, but truthfully, the favorite of the moment is usually the series I’m in the middle of writing. So right at the moment, that would be Shades of Night.

What is your favorite aspect of writing? Why?

Playing God on the page. I’m creating people that stay with me long after the story ends. Documenting their lives, their trials, their darkest hours and redeeming them in the end – or killing them if it moves the story forward. It is a heady experience and I often wonder if I somehow have created these souls in some alternate world. It’s a fun idea to ponder.

Your career includes more than writing books. Talk about the other areas you’re involved in (editing, publishing, etc.).

First, I work a full time as a business analyst for a large insurance firm. That involves technical writing of requirements so that the developers can actually build what we’ve outlined.

Beyond that, I’m a co-owner and acquisitions editor of Novel Concept Publishing, LLC. We are a micro-publisher that was created in 2012 when another FIDO author who I had edited his series while we were at FIDO reached out to me and asked if I was interested in starting a publishing house.  We have a small list of authors at this point as both my partner and I have focused more on our own writing rather than publishing books for other authors. I still look at submissions, but something has to really capture me in order for me to put time into publishing other’s books instead of my own these days. We don’t offer advances, but we also don’t ask for the author to cover any of the costs to produce the book. We distribute through Amazon and Draft to Digital and offer paperback distribution through Amazon.

I also have been a senior editor on Allegory E-zine for years. That’s a labor of love that I haven’t been as connected with in recent years as I used to be, but reading short sci-fi, fantasy and horror is such a blast. There are some very talented story tellers out there and I am honored to be able to read their submissions.

And if that isn’t enough, I co-host Spilling Ink twice a month on Saturday nights from 8 to 9PM EST. It used to be almost every weekend, but that piece I stated about balance above made me cut back to twice a month, especially since weekends are coveted family and friends time.

What does success look like for you as an author?

Having people tell me my stories made a difference to them in some way. Whether I’ve made them laugh, cry, get angry, it doesn’t matter. I’ve had a few people reach out and thank me for my stories and those are the most uplifting things someone can do for an author beyond leaving a review.

I’ve also had those that are highly upset by some of my earlier books.  Granted they were explicitly dark, but it still took guts to write an email about how I affected them. I’ve turned those around too by just saying thank you for taking the time and effort to share your opinion even though the story wasn’t their cup of tea. I acknowledge them and they responded in an entirely different way.

Anything additional you want to share with readers?

I have a new reader group that I’m trying to grow where I’m putting first views of covers, some excerpts and playing fun games if folks what to check it out… https://www.facebook.com/groups/jetcryptkeepers

Website: www.JETaylor75.com

Book Locations: Wide (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Google Play, iTunes/iBooks, Kobo) and I do have a few titles in Kindle Unlimited, but that is usually less likely these days.

Young Blood: Universal Link: https://books2read.com/u/bwKR5Y
Wicked Heart: Universal Link: https://books2read.com/u/mgEV5x
Crooked Soul: Universal Link: https://books2read.com/u/4ElZOA
Season of the Dragon: Universal Link: https://books2read.com/u/mYG06Y
Dark Reckoning: Universal Link: https://books2read.com/u/m2Xdkd
Survival Games: Universal Link: https://books2read.com/u/3Lwo0X
Novel Concept Publishing, LLC: http://www.novelconceptpublishing.com/
Allegory Ezine: https://www.allegoryezine.com/
Spilling Ink: https://www.youtube.com/c/spillinginkshow

Excerpt: Note – this excerpt from Wicked Heart has not been formally edited yet.

His gaze returned to mine, but instead of the guilty look he wore a moment ago, that hunger he had just before he kissed me this morning was back, and it looked as though it was on the verge of detonating.

“What are you doing?” His cautious question along with the appearance of his canines only increased whatever had taken hold of me. His form trembled but he didn’t move toward me like I wished.

He didn’t bolt either.

“I’m not doing anything,” I said, but I wasn’t so sure now that desire to ravage him ruled my veins and since I was already damned by whatever I was, there were no more imaginary lines that we couldn’t cross. Thoughts of undressing Robby and feeling him on me…inside me stirred this carnal hunger. “Why?”

“Because you are tossing out pheromones like dice at a craps table.”

I chuckled and sucked my lower lip between my teeth, slowly raking it as I released it. There were several places on him that I wanted to bite, not just his throat. I wondered what sex with him would be like and certainty filled me. He would be the best I ever had by far.

I took him in from his dark hair and brighter than normal blue eyes. His face was chiseled with sharp cheek bones, a strong jaw, and a nose that fit perfectly in the middle above supple lips that were soft, and I would expect demanding in true action. His canines poked out denting his lower lip with their sharp points. Whatever I was doing was pulling his wolf to the surface and it thrilled me.

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Author Interview: C.A. Deegan

Biography

Hi everyone! I live in the East Midlands, right in the center of the UK, and when I’m not writing or working, I’m with the family or walking the dog in the local woodlands seeking those ever-elusive Fae.  Or sitting, pint in hand with the good friends I grew up with. Some of them are hidden in the books themselves; quite a few characters are based on the people I know and love. 

The Cracklock Saga is my first series, and I have huge plans for the world!

Share a little bit about your Cracklock Saga.

All the books are set in our world but with an overlap with the world of the Faery, plus a few other worlds thrown in. The protagonist knows nothing about Faeries or anything else; he’s just a normal teenager before everything gets really strange. He has a lot to deal with quite quickly, but fortunately has some family and friends who can help him. Throw in the megalomanic other family members, and it’s a melting pot of myth, folklore and peril.

Book 3 introduces the American Cracklocks; a long lost part of the family. Fortunately they are good guys but with an extremely interesting history that I cover in Book 4, “Dire Sorrows”. That one went off to the editors first week of March 2022 whilst I jumped straight onto Book 5 of the series.

You plan to release book four in the fall of 2022. Will that complete the Cracklock series or can readers anticipate more books?

Not quite! I think that there will be 6 books in this series, maybe 7 depending on how book 6 goes. After that, I have the back stories of some of the characters to do, then onto my new series which I am itching to write. Set in the same world, but following Tobias; a Cracklock that hunts dark Fae.

How did your writing journey begin?

I have always written short stories (never published them, too shy!) for pleasure; it just feels good to sit and type sometimes. But it was in 2019 really when I seriously started to wonder if I could write an actual novel. I beta read for a number of authors, and one of my author friends listened sympathetically and then told me to get on with it; there was no reason not to. That was February 2019. It was May 2019 before I got the courage up to try and write a full novel.

Why did you decide to write about faeries?

Hobya

I was triggered by those awful fairy books I had to read to my children! They were all the same, even though there were hundreds of them. It was reading those to my daughter over the years that got me started – I always wondered what would happen if someone didn’t like fairies, what they would do about it, and could anybody stop them? This idea grew, and the Cracklocks were born. I liked the idea of people who hated the Fae and everything they stood for. Everything else kind of grew organically from there; I had character ideas and they all started popping up to say hello.

Do you have any odd writing habits?

Alas, no. Apart from I need almost complete silence to write. I can’t have the TV on, or music playing otherwise I can’t think. I can just about cope with the sound of gunfire from the other room where my lad is playing Fortnite, but that’s about it! I have a study I can shut myself in so I am pretty lucky.

What is the hardest part of the writing process for you?

Can I use the dreaded “M” word? Marketing. As an indie author, its always the marketing that is the hardest part. I would like to have more time to do it, but it just isn’t feasible at the moment. I do what I can.

Lisovyk

How and where do you get your best writing ideas?

Walking the dog two or three times a day over the fields and through the woods is where I get my best ideas; it gives me time to mull over things my fevered brain throws out and see what fits. I dictate into my phone which gets some funny looks from other dog walkers. And occasionally the 3am muse visits. I have to go to the bathroom to write down ideas in a notepad I keep in there; my wife is only so tolerant… 

What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?

I’m quite simple really. Writing is a hobby for me; I have a business to run which takes most of my time, and I write to relax. When you have a business, relatively young family and needy dog, time is a luxury! I like video games as an alternative leisure pursuit, and meeting up with the lads. The latter is a rare occurrence nowadays; we are all busy with real life.

What advice has made the biggest impact on your writing?

“If you don’t have a go, you’ll never know.” That came from the author friend I mention above. It was really that that made me start to think I could do it. I have had a lot of great advice over the past few years that I have taken on board, but it was that simple statement that kick started it all.

What does success look like for you as an author?

I still consider myself to be a hobby writer if I am honest; I would love to do it full time and hope to be able to one day. So, I already have the success I was looking for – publishing a story (well, several!) that people seem to like. I’m not in it for money or fame; just to satisfy that itch that writers have. It works for me.

Anything additional you want to share with readers?

Just a big thank you for reading this far. Anyone who is interested in learning more about the Cracklocks can check out the following:

Email:  thecracklocksaga@outlook.com   – always happy to answer questions!
Website:  https://www.thecracklocksaga.com   [check this out for all things Cracklock!]
Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/TheCracklockSaga   
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/thecracklocksaga/  
Twitter: https://twitter.com/CracklockSaga  
Oh, and keep looking for those elusive Fae! Anyone needs a hagstone, let me know!

Book Locations:
Book 1, Fae or Foe?   
Book 2, The Lost and the Departed  
Book 3, Alice and the Mirror Glass

Excerpt

“Okay, my love.  Close your eyes.”

Jack did as she asked.  He felt Elsie’s hands move off his head, and then a feeling like his skin was stretching.  It felt like a plaster as you pulled it off your graze, stretchy and a little tight.  It continued to tighten until he felt something rip.  It wasn’t painful; it was like pulling off the skin after a sunburn when it was ready to go.  Jack felt it completely tear, unravelling from his whole body, and then the memories stopped swirling abruptly.

“Open your eyes, Jack.”

Jack did, and the light flooded in, causing him to squint.  He blinked a few times and marvelled at that colours as he took in the sights of the kitchen again.  Everything seemed intense, and the sun shining in through the windows dappled rays across the kitchen worktops. 

“I can see!” he shouted, hands coming up to his face to rub his eyes. “I can see, Auntie Elsie!”

He looked to his side at the old lady, who stood there with a slight smile on her face, her hands gleaming with a shining silvery thing that was slowly fading away, like water draining.  Jack turned back towards the window, and he gasped as he saw a dapper little man, elegantly dressed, standing in front of him on the tabletop. Jack’s jaw dropped.  About twelve inches tall, he had pale skin underneath his smart green suit.  He doffed his red hat to Jack with a smile and said in the rich, comforting voice that Jack had heard before, “I take it from the look on your face that you can see me, Jack?”

Jack fainted clean away.

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Author Interview: Wren Handman

Biography

I’m a novelist and screenwriter from Vancouver, Canada. I write a wide range of stories, from science fiction (Wire Wings) to YA contemporary paranormal (In Restless Dreams). All of my stories are connected by one thing: the magical blended with the everyday…probably because I secretly wish magic was real.

Share a little bit about your newest book, Wire Wings.

Wire Wings is a young adult scifi novel about the nature of grief and identity in a world where both are changeable. It’s set in a world where virtual reality is commonplace, and the world’s first AI is making waves. But it’s really all about the main character, Graciela. About her grief and her love and the journey she takes through both.

What drew you to write about such heavy topics as the nature of grief and identity?

I’m really drawn to subjects that matter, things that are universal and powerful and can draw the reader in to a unique world while leaving a door open to the wider world outside. I think stories that tap into that are beautiful and haunting, and that’s what I wanted to do with Wire Wings.

You have several other books as well as published short stories. What would you like people to know about your past stories?

They are all very different in tone, so there’s something for everyone! I have a few comedies, some romantic paranormal, and they all blend the magical with the everyday. That’s my favourite thing to do in stories. I love to see how people react when their worlds turn upside down.

Do you prefer writing short stories or novels? Why?

Novels, hands down! I love being able to really explore a world and its characters, and while short stories can be really fun, they never get to dig in as deep as a novel does. A novel is sort of like telling twenty short stories that all come together to weave something greater, and I love that.

Your website says you do screenwriting as well. How does that differ from writing a book?

The biggest difference for me is that screenwriting is always collaborative. When I write movies I work with a writing partner, and of course when you write a TV show you have a whole room of writers to work with. I love bouncing ideas off of other people and seeing how ideas can grow and evolve when other people add their stamp to it. Of course, you have to get very good at killing your darlings!

You also do freelance writing? What does that entail?

Freelance writing is the bulk of my income. It’s not as creatively fulfilling most of the time, but it’s really fun and interesting! I primarily ghostwrite business and self-help books. I’ve had the pleasure to write over 30 books that way, and I have gotten to learn so much from these fascinating subject matter experts. It really widens my horizons and lets me hone my craft.

What is your strangest writing habit?

I edit as I go, so I rarely bang out a first draft and then have to go back and tear it into pieces. Usually by the time it’s done, it’s ready for submission! I don’t know anyone else who works that way, but it works for me.

What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?

I love to craft! I really like to make things that will serve people or make them happy, and I love to try a new skill, get good at it, and then move on to the next thing. I’ve done wire wrapping, beading, knitting, baking, resin art, embroidery….you name it!

How did your writing journey get started?

I’ve been writing since I was old enough to hold a pen and craft a story. I wrote my first play when I was in first grade, and got all of my friends to put it on for my class. Then we borrowed a camcorder from a friend’s dad and made a movie of it, too! I wonder if I still have that tape anywhere…

What does success look like for you as an author?

I would love to have a dedicated fanbase who gets excited for my new releases, and make enough on each book to pay for really good cover art, editing, etc. I’m definitely at the beginning of my journey right now, and I’m so excited for where the road might take me!

Anything additional you want to share with readers?

Just a huge thank you to all of the people out there who love books as much as I do. It really is a community, and I’m so grateful to be part of it!

Website: https://wrenhandman.com/

Book Locations: Available anywhere ebooks are sold. Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Google Play, Kobo, etc. Physical books available from Amazon and directly from the publisher, Parliament House Press.

Excerpt

She picks up her Line and slips it on. The sensors adhere to her temple despite the sweat, electrical signals hijacking her senses. Her brain is no longer in control—she is Diving, the Waves collapsing over her head, filling her lungs, subsuming her. Her breath slows as her

Homepage rezzes into view.

She can feel immediately that something isn’t right—there is another presence here. She knows it on a visceral level, the acid in her stomach somehow reacting to a pressure in the air. A second later she hears off-key singing, a broken sort of crooning from the direction of the cottage. Cautiously, she approaches. No one else should have the key to enter. Even if it isn’t really her Homepage. She claimed it, but then the interloper must be…

Khaiam sits on the 4oor of the cottage. It’s Saturday night—he must have just come home from a party. Even through the translation of the Dive she can tell he’s been drinking. There is an artifcial looseness to his shoulders, a strange tilt to his head.

“Hey.”

He looks up, so drunk he isn’t even startled. He just smiles, opens his arms wide and falls back to the ground. “Graacie!” he sings to the tune of some pop song she doesn’t quite recognize. “You still come here?”

“I didn’t know you had a key.” She has been coming here every day for three months, but she has not seen him before. She had no idea he even knew where it was, and would probably not have claimed it as her own Homepage if she had. It feels wrong, as if she’s somehow usurping it, which she knows makes no sense.

“She gave it to me at…near…so we could visit. She said she wanted me to see her like this. Like her avatar. Healthy.” He draws patterns that are barely visible in the dirt floor, stares at the ceiling and sees something over than thatch and beams.

“You’re drunk,” Gracie tells him. She sits down on the floor beside him, the bed supporting her back. Her toes rest against his blue t-shirt, 2nding purchase through it to the solid weight of his ribcage.

“Very drunk,” he agrees.

“It’s late,” Gracie reminds him.

“It’s Saturday night. We’re sixteen. You should have come to this party, Gracie. It was completely wild. Matt threw up in Kathleen’s purse, and Derek and Ron got into a fistfight and then made out.”

Gracie hesitates, draws patterns of her own, watches how the dirt stains her fingertips, a little too thickly to be a perfect mirror of reality. She makes a mental note to tell her father, but nothing is ever perfect during a Dive. It isn’t the real world, and isn’t that the point? “If it was so great—why are you here?”

Khaiam rolls onto his side, curling up in the fetal position with her toes captured in the curve of his stomach. He is on the edge of tears, his scattered thoughts plain on his face. “She would have loved it,” he tells her. “Bella caught fireflies in jars and used them to light the path. People danced under the stars, by the side of the pool. Jacob’s brother bought us all alcohol and someone had Snap.”

“You didn’t take any,” Gracie admonishes.

Khaiam waves her worry away, and she cannot be sure if that’s a yes or a no. “I stole a jar. But I couldn’t figure out how to rez it into my avatar.” He holds up his empty hands

in a supplicating gesture. “Can you make a firefly?”

She would give him anything to clear the sheen of tears from his eyes. Somehow he has come to fill the hole in her life, slipping into clothes that are not his and do not fit. She

wonders if she could call him her best friend, if he would nod and understand, or if he is only a placeholder until it stops hurting.

She brings up her admin menu. Special privilege for being the daughter of Poseidon, King of the Waves. She can’t pull off any complicated programming from inside, certainly can’t hack, but she can access coding and bring up elements that already exist as possibilities. A firefly is easy—but it won’t come in a jar. She brings up a mason jar and a swarm of fireflies, and nimbly swoops the jar through the air. She catches three, but before she can close the lid they fly away. Khaiam laughs, so she plays up the game.

Catches one, shows it off only to have it fly away. Catches another, but trips on the edge of a chair and drops the jar. Picks it up and drops the lid. Khaiam laughs, and she imagines a black and white movie with herself as the star. Brings up the admin menu and adds a soundtrack, jaunty piano that tinkles in time to her movements. By the time she collapses into a pile at his feet, triumphantly holding the sealed jar aloft, he is laughing so hard he has to clutch his stomach just to breathe, and she is grinning through a sheen of sweat.

“Don’t say I never did nothin’ for ya,” she drawls, and Khaiam catches the jar and holds the glass against his face. She wonders what the fireflies think of his giant unblinking eye, and then remembers they are nothing but bits of code, flashes of electrical signal. They don’t feel anything at all, and she wonders what that would be like. If it would lift the hardness around her lungs.

“You should have seen the fireflies,” Khaiam murmurs. His breath clouds against the jar, little drops of moisture that fog brie4y before they disappear. There is nothing indelible in this world—a lesson they both have incised on their hearts.

“Arriba en el cielo, se vive un coyote. Con ojos de plata, y los pies de azogue…” she sings quietly. Khaiam curls up, using the firefly jar as a pillow. He tries to hum along, but he doesn’t know the tune and soon subsides. His eyes drift closed, and as his brainwaves settle into the calm of sleep his avatar shudders, pixelates, and de-rezzes. She is left  alone on the hard-packed floor, the strains of the lullaby circling through her mind, fireflies like stars against the dark cottage walls.

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