The Christmas Parade Miracle

Can a self-destructive addict right the wrongs of his life?

Don’s addictive and self-destructive lifestyle has left a long list of hurt and angry people, but he’s ready to turn a new leaf.

Four of the people he’s used and pushed aside—an alcoholic, a priest, a battered wife, and a jealous husband—are about to experience a few surprises during the annual Christmas parade.

Will Don manage to initiate a miracle that will not only change their lives but their eternities?

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November 2022 Storytime Blog Hop

Once again it’s time for a fun adventure. Enjoy my story below, then follow the links to other stories of participating authors in the blog hop.  Leave us comments.  We love hearing from you!

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This is the 8th installment of GRIT’s adventure. To start at the beginning for context, start with Grim Failure.

Passing the Buck

Once again I paced nervously outside of the administration building waiting my fate—this time all alone and with no hope Shelia would arrive to comfort me.

In case I had misunderstood her message, her dad and seven brothers arrived just to circle me and explain what would happen if I ever had contact with her again. Trust me, I got the message.

Contrary to popular human belief, reapers aren’t eternal beings. That’s why we’re constantly training new recruits. We grow, we get old, and we die. But unlike humans we don’t have a soul that lives forever. When we die, we cease to exist.

There’s no danger to us when interacting in the human’s physical world; that’s why we make good reapers, or collectors of the souls. We can’t be harmed.

Reapers also can’t directly hurt each other.

So why did Shelia’s dad and brothers scare Hades out of me? Because there is one way that reapers live forever. If we are thrown into Hades before we die we will live forever, just like the human souls, in eternal torment.

I don’t understand how it works exactly, but they told us enough horror stories during our training sessions to convince me to avoid that route at all costs. All costs! That’s why when Shelia’s dad and brothers threatened to drag me to Hades, I vowed to never go near her again. I didn’t vow to them, I vowed to myself.

Stan had said he wanted to pin the whole fiasco with Daniel on Rick and I hoped he was serious. He didn’t seem like the type that would joke, ever, so I felt fairly confident that was his intention.

I still didn’t trust him though. How hard would he try? And I didn’t know if he had the persuasive powers to pull it off. How would Stan wield the kind of leverage to spin the story so a collector gets blamed instead of the reaper, especially a reaper in training? If it blew up in his face they might send us both to Hades. Why couldn’t I just follow the rules?

Finally Stan emerged with the scowl he always wore, which gave me no indication of the results of his meeting. Still, hope fluttered within when I saw he walked alone. Surely if we were in trouble he would be escorted or already locked up.

When Stan drew near his face broke into a wry smile. “You’re in the clear. They pinned the whole incident on Rick.”

My heart soared, and then crashed just as quickly. “What will happen to Rick?”

Stan waved his hand in an unconcerned manner. “That pompous windbag will be fine.”

I understood Stan’s disgruntled attitude toward his partner as I hadn’t seen much in Rick that I liked. But still, I didn’t want to see him thrown into Hades. Or fired. He was annoying and a stickler for rules, but he was good at his job.

Stan must have picked up on my concern and put my mind at ease. “Rick has a stellar record so they only demoted him.”

“I-I don’t understand. Why would they demote him for one mistake if he’s such a great employee?” This didn’t bode well for my own future.

“Like I said, he’s an arrogant prick. Nobody likes him.”

That didn’t sound fair. “So this was an excuse for them to punish him?”

“Welcome to the politics of Grim Reaper administration, kid.”

I appreciated what Stan had done for me but I didn’t like that it was at the expense of Rick.

Now for the scariest question. “What’s going to happen to me?”

“I have your next assignment.”

I threw my hands in the air, screamed, and then threw my arms around Stan. “Thank you, thank you, thank you!”

He wrestled away and I saw his fist ball up. I ducked and covered my head and waited for the impact that never came.

“Get up you big sissy. I’m not going to hit you. I don’t like physical contact and you’re hugging is getting on my nerve is all.”

I offered him a fist bump instead but I guess it was too late as he glared at my hand like he could melt it with his eyes.

“You’re off the hook for Daniel, thanks to Rick,” Stan chuckled before continuing. “But you’re still on probation. And I won’t mince words, even though they blame Rick, you didn’t collect your last soul, again, and you’re on your last chance. Screw this up and it’s over for you, understand?”

“What’s the assignment,” I asked, hoping it was a reasonable task. I suddenly missed Shelia and her encouraging manner.

“An earthquake in two hours. Twenty-six dead.”

That sounds worse than it is. In situations where there are massive deaths, multiple reapers are assigned to work the scene because there’s no one way for one person to keep all those souls corralled and they can easily escape. This means there are others on hand to help me if I had any trouble.

“You have a newly married couple, Jerry and Annette.”

Newly married? How tragic. But two? I can’t even capture one soul and now they assigned me two.

“They’re on their honeymoon so they’ll probably stay together. Should be easy. Besides, some reapers were assigned three souls. Between retirements, vacations, and an extra high death rate today, administration is short handed.”

Oh no, everyone had several souls meant I wouldn’t be getting any help. I was in big trouble!

Check out the other stories in the blog hop and leave us comments.

 

Ark-Ship One by Katharina Gerlach

A Halloween Costume by Jodie Nahornoff

Midnight At Christmas by Juneta Key

I Do Believe In Faeries by Vanessa Wells

Summoning Spell by Jacquilyn Walker

 

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Author Interview: Alice Ivinya

Biography

Alice is a USA Today Bestselling author. She lives in Bristol, UK, and has loved fantasy all her life. Her favourite authors are Brandon Sanderson and Holly Black. When she’s not off gallivanting in other worlds, you can find her looking after her young son, working as a small animal vet, hanging out with her church family, or walking the best dog in the world with her husband.

You have a variety of reading options available for readers. Briefly tell us about your other books.

I have published more than ten books, mostly young adult fantasy and fairy tale retellings with unusual heroines and detailed world building.

My most popular series is The Kingdom of Birds and Beasts trilogy, which is a retelling of The Goose Girl.

Lady Brianna, must pretend to be the person she hates the most to win the heart of a disinterested prince. If anyone finds out who she really is, it will be war and she will be executed. But the cost of deceit is higher than she ever imagined.

Do you prefer writing short stories or novels? Why?

I love both, but probably full length novels are my favourite. I love the chance to really be able to sink my teeth into world building and characters.

In addition to your fantasy stories you have a couple of Christian books. Talk about those, why you wrote them. Does your Christian faith influence your other stories or do you compartmentalize them?

I have two contemporary Christian fiction books which are very close to my heart and written for new adults in the UK, particularly university students. In a great part they were a reflection on my own experiences and what I’d witnessed at university. I tend not to publicise them widely, however, as fantasy is where I love to write most.

My faith means a great deal to me, and a lot of the values I get from my faith come across in my books, such as loyalty, honesty and serving others when you are in power.

My new series, Kingdoms of the Faery Path has some lose Christian allegory in it, similar to Narnia, but more subtle.

What is the hardest part of writing for you? The most enjoyable?

Hardest: is often making everything fit together nicely in the end! I can get a bit chaotic and my developmental editor must be close to despairing sometimes!

Most enjoyable: World building, magic systems and inventing new characters.

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

Write, read, parent, and help my local community.

Do you have any interesting writing quirks?

I have to write in absolute silence. I also tend to write all the key scenes in my head, sometimes out of order, then go back to the beginning and fill in the rest.

What is the best writing advice you ever received? How did it change your writing/career?

Just keep writing and don’t look back. I get better and more experienced with every book. I think if I hadn’t stayed focused forwards, there would have been times where I would have been tempted to keep my writing just to myself.

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

I love reading, walking the dog, playing superheros and sea monsters with my son and sleeping in whenever that is possible!

What does success look like for you as an author?

Having people who love my books and doing better every year than the year before.

Is there anything additional you want to share with readers?

If you subscribe to my newsletter, get at least two short stories for free! https://sendfox.com/aliceivinya

Also come join in the fun on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/aliceivinya

Websitehttps://alicegent.com

Book Locations: My books are exclusive to amazon and are in Kindle Unlimited. https://www.amazon.com/Alice-Ivinya/e/B07W3HQ9KP

Excerpt:  From The Widow and the Beast

The hilt of the fae dagger in my belt dug into my palm as I stepped onto the bridge with firm steps, not looking back. The only sound was the click-clack of my boots on wood and the muffled gurgle of the water rushing around the rocks below.

As I crested the peak of the bridge, the other side became visible under the eaves of the woven roof. I squinted at the blinding white and frowned. Why was it so bright? I stepped to the end of the bridge and hesitated. The way was covered with deep, crisp snow that sparkled in the sun. How could there be snow at this time of year?

“Are you sure you want to pass?” croaked a voice.

I jumped and stifled a scream. A short figure sat on a low stool in the shadow of the bridge. It wore a black cloak with the hood pulled up.

I took a step back. “Excuse me, I’m sorry. I didn’t see you there.”

The figure tilted its head up so light fell on its face. Coldness seeped through my body. Its skin was a greyish green and the face was too wide, the mouth too stretched. It reminded me of a toad. This wasn’t how I’d imagined the fae folk.

“Before you lies the Faery Path. I would advise you not to cross.” It tapped its walking stick on the bridge.

I glanced back at the snow and my first view of Faery. The Isle of Barra was gone. No footprints marred the snowfall, and dark pine trees reared up on either side of a wide path. In the distance I could see mountains unlike any that I knew. Their peaks were tall and sharp.

I started to speak, but my voice was too quiet, swallowed by the snowy air. I cleared my throat and forced the words out louder. “My husband came this way three weeks ago. Caelan. He’s twenty summers old and is tall with curly brown hair.”

The toad-person cocked its head. “He passed. I advised him not to cross. But he smelled of pride.”

My heart lurched. I leaned forward. “Do you know where he is?”

The figure lifted its head so I could see two round golden eyes. Straggly black hair framed the stretched face. “My job is to guard the way in and warn humans of the danger. That is it.” The eyes didn’t blink.

My shoulders sagged. “I must find him. Please let me pass.” I tried to keep the desperation and grief from my voice.

“There is a toll to cross the bridge.”

“What is that?” Most of what little money I had, I had already paid to the fisherman. Would it take the silver bells?

“Your shadow.”

I took a step back. “My shadow?” I swallowed. “Why?”

“Every human who crosses must give me their shadow.”

I glanced at the floor, just to make sure my shadow was still there. “What do you do with them?”

The toad-person patted a large clay jar beside it. There was a leather lid fastened around the neck with twine. “I keep the shadows and use them to find you if you break the rules.”

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Author Interview: Lillian Brummet

Biography

Lillian & her husband Dave are the team behind Brummet Media Group, high-fiving cheerfully as they pass each other on the way from checking off one item or other from their long to-do list. Their business includes Dave’s music studio & percussion accessory products & graphic design work as well as numerous award-winning non-fiction books & popular blogs.  Visit the Brummets @: www.BrummetMedia.ca  -&- drop by their Amazon Author page @: https://amazon.com/author/lillianbrummet

Tell us about your recently revised book, Purple Snowflake Marketing.

Purple Snowflake Marketing – How To Make Your Book Stand Out In A Crowd (May 2021) is a step-by-step guidebook for authors shows how to create effective & frugal marketing plans for every book they write, one that suits the author’s unique situation at that moment & time. Purple Snowflake Marketing offers a realistic view on what an author can expect upon publishing a book & how to make a memorable first impression. Learn from the experience of seasoned writers, be inspired by effective advice & discover quotes from PR experts, members of the media & agents. Readers will also learn how to run the office efficiently; discover business operation, succession planning, budget-friendly advertising advice & tax tips.

We share 3 decades of researching, learning & hand-on experience, hosting radio shows & podcasts, professional book & product reviewing, staff writing & freelance positions that we held, managing blogs & newsletters or managing & starting up businesses. The main focus of this book is to guide the author to design frugal, unique book launch & marketing strategies that will have their book standing out in a snowstorm like a purple snowflake. We have plans to give this book a fresh cover design & new formats for people to enjoy later this year

You have a wide variety of books, from poems to recipes. Briefly tell us about your books & your publishing goals.

There’s the 2-book series in the poetry genre: Playing In The Sandbox Of Words, which includes Towards Understanding (a survivor’s journey to understanding one’s purpose & the value of life) & Rhythm & Rhyme (a collaborative collection on grief, music & life).

Trash Talk – It’s Easy To Be Green is a 2-book series in the green living genre sharing information about reducing waste, extending budgets, helping communities & reducing consumption of water, fuel, etc. 

We’ve already touched on the writer’s guidebook… & the cookbook is:

From One Small Garden – Over 300 Delicious Nutritious Recipes (Feb 2021) – the ultimate guide to utilizing fresh fruits & vegetables from backyard gardens to farmer’s markets – the purest source of food we can draw from. This book is not only loaded with nutritional & historical information, it also shares tips to save water, reduce energy costs & food waste & other frugal ways to extend your budget. Learn how to make your own chicken coating, or taco seasoning, air fresheners & cleaning supplies – – without the use of harsh chemicals, packaging & numerous plastic bottles.

You have experience in radio, product reviews & blogging. Talk about those ventures. Do they tie into your writings?

Yes in the 25 years in this career I’ve worn many, many hats. (She laughs) I ran the Conscious Discussions Talk Radio show for 15 years – it aired 3 times per week with guests showing how they were making a difference in the world. I also ran the Author’s Read podcast for 2 years; this was a quick half hour weekly program that featured other authors reading from their books. I worked for 2 publications & one book review agency providing book reviews for about 6 years or so… & this enabled me to donate around 300 books annually to local literacy organizations.

Today we run the Brummet’s Conscious Blog which has been active for about 18 years & focuses on creating positive change.  The Drum It With Brummet blog began a couple years ago & is mainly Dave’s forte as it deals with music. We also run the fairly new Brummet Media Channel on Youtube. Dave provides all the images, audio, ads & technical know-how to make all of these activities possible.

You also have experience as a musician, both playing & teaching. Talk about that venture.

Dave is the musician, teacher & service provider. Dave has performed on stage for nearly 4 decades with a variety of cover & original bands during that time frame. He spent many years as an on-call studio drummer as well, & at one time he visited schools to introduce percussion to youth.

Today, he operates the Angle Hill Studio, located in the lower half of our home – where he creates the audio & graphic needs for our business, hosts jams, band practices & teaches students. His services to percussionists & drummers include tuning & repairs, refurbishment, cleaning & polishing, purchase advice & set-up help for those that are looking at purchasing new or used instruments.

Are your activities leading you to feel like you are chasing various interests, or is there something deeper that ties them together?

The theme that ties them all together is our desire to be resting at the end of each day feeling as though the time that we were given was spent wisely, thoughtfully & we found ways to create positive change. In our home life we are passionate recyclers & find ways to reuse & repurpose items that would have been destined for the landfill. We donate when we can & because of our productive gardens we are able to give food to 5 houses around the neighborhood, various students, friends, family & coworkers. We garden using biodynamic, bio intensive, permaculture & organic methods, starting with building healthy soil first – & that means composting. We gather leaves & grass & cardboard from neighbors & landscape companies to help us build that valuable nutrient-rich soil.

Both this home & our last 3 homes attained certification with various wildlife, bird, bee, butterfly & organic organizations. Those homes were also modified to be more eco-friendly re water & energy conservation. We adopt from animal shelters, dog sit & work with connecting volunteers & nonprofits together. We give others in the realm of media & writing exposure through our blog, musicians through our other blog, & run several online groups as well for networking, entrepreneurs & volunteers.

Our passions carry forward to our business – we have strict green in-house policies & use our interactions with the media & writings to continue to create positive change. Our aim is to educate & empower people, help them realize the incredible power they have to create positive change in their own unique way with seemingly small daily actions.

What book project are you currently working on? When do you expect it to be published?

Right now we have a trilogy celebrating Dave’s late father’s lifetime of writing & photographic collections – but this has been set aside due to a variety of things causing delays that we are working through & hope to get the first 2 books out before Christmas.

In between this, as mentioned, we have the updates to the Purple Snowflake Marketing book to do… & we plan on making our books available in more formats by spring 2023.

I do have a manuscript that I attack occasionally, as time allows – it is a back yard garden guide that my late master-gardening parents & I began working on about 20 years ago or so. My mom was dying & I wanted to get all her knowledge on paper, & I was taking on 5 acres of market gardens while running a spa – so having the information on hand was important to me. Since then, we’ve added to it & have a huge file of notes & information to go through, lots of graphic imagery to create, etc. So I’m slowly working on the draft manuscript behind the scenes whenever the schedule allows it. I find spring – late summer is the hardest season to get intensive work done in the office, due to the heavy workload dealing with the gardens & processing garden harvests.

Talk about the challenges & joys of writing together as a married couple?

We have 2 separate offices – mine is where the dining area is traditionally located in a home, & his is down in the studio. Dave works a full time job & plays in 2 bands, so his time can be very limited – which brings in the extra challenge of trying to accomplish the goals in our annual action plan, while balancing that with understanding & elasticity.

My time is also limited because I manage the house, office, dogs, gardens, & do most of the menu planning, food prep /processing, appointments, the budget, etc. I find my day is often split in half – half in the office, half dealing with the home life.

This year we had a minor flood in the basement due to water from a heavy storm coming over the foundation wall so we ended up having to take apart the studio, cut the drywall, clean the carpets, all that fun stuff. There always seems to be something to interrupt our plans & we’ve learned to take these unexpected events with some grace… most of the time 🙂 We have monthly meetings and create a new action plan at the beginning of each year that we use to keep us on track.

Websites: Find us online via these landing pages:
https://taplink.cc/brummet
https://linktr.ee/LillianBrummet

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Author Interview: Lucy Winton

Biography

Lucy loves to write (and read!) stories with adventure, mystery, discovery, friendship…and a little romance as well! She first started writing when she was four; hopefully, she’s improved since then. She also loves trying out new recipes, daydreaming, and buying more books than her bookshelves can hold.

Tell us about your newest book, Secret Angels.

It’s a YA urban fantasy, and it’s the story of four girls – Zara, Lexi, Jess and Nikita – who have just started their first year of sixth-form college. In their world, you can either be Gifted with a power or be Giftless. As far as people are aware, the girls are Giftless…but then a Gifted attacks a shopping centre and everything changes.

It’s also the first of a series.

Judging by your website and Amazon author page, you have several series in process. Tell us about your other published books and where you are at in those series.

I’ve got four series on the go: Waterdrop, Secret Angels, Roses and Tales of Askarr.

Waterdrop was supposed to be a three-part retelling of the fairytale Prince Lindworm (the second book comes out later this year). Somehow it’s morphed into a six-part series with two other retellings included.

So far there are only two novelettes in Tales of Askarr and they’re both fairytale retellings: The Goose Girl and King Thrushbeard.

Roses is an original series, but it’s been put on hold until further notice. There will be two more full books in the series, though.

When did you start writing and why did you decide to publish?

I first started writing when I was about four. My decision to publish came after reading a memoir by the actress Felicia Day; I was at a crossroads in my life, and something struck a chord in me while reading that book. Maybe it was because I wanted something different. But that was when I started taking my writing seriously.

Where and how do you come up with your best story ideas?

I’m honestly not sure. I have ideas all the time; some are worth developing, some aren’t.

What is the best writing advice you ever received? How did it improve you as an author?

Make an outline. I tried writing without one and it was a disaster. I know discovery writing  works for other writers, but sadly I’m not one of them.

Do you have any writing quirks?

Um…not sure.

It appears you write predominantly YA fantasy. As you age, do you find it harder to relate to and write in the young adult realm?

Actually, no (and I’m not THAT old!). Some of the stories that are being told in the young adult realm are the kind I want to tell myself. Stories about becoming your true self, learning and growing, finding out who you truly are, discovering who you want to be, finding your courage, making a stand, making a change and learning how to forgive.

Do you have a favorite character that you’ve written? Tell us about them.

I’ve particularly enjoyed writing Milly (Wild Rose), Isabel (Dark Rose) and Zara (Secret Angels). They’re all free spirits, but they’ve all got things keeping them caged.

What do you like to do for fun?

I love taking photos, walking by the water and exploring new places.

What does success look like for you as an author?

Knowing that people like what I’ve written.

Website: https://www.lucywintonauthor.com/

Book Locations: You can find Lucy’s books on Amazon.

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Author Interview: Jim Potter

I met Jim Potter in early 2018 when he drove from Hutchinson to Newton for my book signing at the Newton Public Library. If I remember correctly, he saw the signing advertised in the Hutchinson newspaper. I’ve enjoyed seeing him at different author events since then and can’t recommend his books highly enough. Jim’s a great writer and he knows his subject well.

I also have to say that if you get the chance to meet him in person, do it. He’s one of the nicest individuals you’ll ever meet. I promise. I hope you enjoy this insight to him and then go visit his award-winning website to pick up one of his books!

Biography

Retired Reno County Deputy Sheriff Jim Potter, a former School Resource Officer, has just released his latest book, a novella titled Deputy Jennings Meets the Amish. Potter is an award-winning writer for his play, Under the Radar: Race at School. His memoir, Cop in the Classroom: Lessons I’ve Learned, Tales I’ve Told, recalls his career in law enforcement. His contemporary, character-driven novel, Taking Back the Bullet: Trajectories of Self-Discovery, is about people who are stigmatized. However, once they discover their true identities, each is empowered to begin the journey of life’s purpose.

Jim and his wife, J. Alex Potter, reside outside Hutchinson, Kansas, in Greater Medora.

Tell us about your newest book, Deputy Jennings Meets the Amish.

Deputy Tom Jennings, a patrol officer for the Cottonwood County Sheriff’s Office, is a caring cop. He doesn’t understand the Old Order Amish and they don’t understand him. After being assigned to investigate the theft of soil from a county ditch, he meets Mrs. Rosanna Borntrager Yoder. Rosanna, and Adam (her husband) help Jennings begin to learn how the Amish and the English are different, and alike.

When and why did you start writing?

In college I learned the joys of research and composing, especially as part of my MA degree’s thesis on a Civil War regiment. Research meant studying the regiment’s original muster roll located in Springfield, Illinois. A trip to the National Archives in Washington, D.C. allowed me to read the pension records of “my” men. While I was focused on nonfiction, the work required me to use my imagination, to tell stories, and to learn the rules of writing.

I wrote a short play, Under the Radar: Race at School. It was awarded a fellowship for playwriting by the Kansas Arts Commission and the National Endowment of the Arts.

Over a long weekend, while preparing for a workshop I was leading about exploring and valuing diversity, an idea struck me. I wanted to find a way to personally involve workshop attendees in a fictional racist encounter at a high school. The play, read in a group setting with fourteen characters, became an effective tool that guaranteed participation while encouraging an examination of different mind-sets.

Tell us about your background in law enforcement and the role that has played in your writings.

One funny fact is that after 33 years working in law enforcement, it’s difficult for me to write fiction without a cop showing up in the story.

My years as a patrol officer writing reports made me a much better writer. It taught me to pay attention, to observe and listen, and to interview people. Our reports had a definite deadline. We couldn’t go home until the paperwork was complete. 

You are the president of the Kansas Author Club District 6. Why is it important to you to meet regularly with other authors and why did you choose KAC?

The KAC is a friendly group of people who range from novice writers to experienced authors. Writers and authors find support at KAC. It’s also gratifying and inspiring for me to see people I know improving their skills. When I have a literary or marketing question, the KAC is a knowledgeable place with answers.

I understand trying to do everything myself, but sometimes it takes a village to publish a book, from first readers to editors, from formatters to designers.

You manage an award-winning website. What can people expect if they visit your website?

People have access to over 200 blogs I’ve written. They range from tips on writing, to book reviews, to historical fiction, especially on the sheriffs of Reno County, Kansas. It’s also the place to purchase my books directly from me.

What is your favorite part about writing? What is your biggest challenge?

Whether it’s fiction or nonfiction, like a parent, it’s difficult to choose a favorite part of fun. It’s exciting to come up with an idea for a book and to brainstorm the possibilities. Creative writing and editing are work, but they’re also very rewarding. Editing is required and involves patience. It’s part of the process to improve the story.

Marketing is often ignored, but it’s part of the publishing process. A book is only new for so long. If you don’t promote your book, it’s often ignored or soon forgotten.

What writing tip most improved your writing?

Take it a step at a time.

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

I love reading but getting outdoors to garden and do lawncare is my opportunity to get a brain break. I call it dirt therapy.

What does success look like for you as an author?

Personally, it’s writing a story or a book and being pleased with the result. Professionally, it’s being regarded as a very good writer. However, we all need to be careful when we allow others to label us.

Is there anything additional you want to share with readers?

Nowadays, most businesses have an online presence with advertising and selling. However, currently I’m having a blast marketing my books the old-fashioned way. The Amish-Mennonite communities across the country are my target audience. I advertise in a country-wide weekly newspaper, selling direct to customers who send me a check in the mail, not by using my website or ordering from amazon.com.

Very soon an audiobook of Deputy Jennings Meets the Amish will be available to purchase online. Also, I’ve started brainstorming and planning a sequel. The working title is Deputy Jennings Visits Amish Country.

Excerpt (Audio, narrated by Bob Neufeld):

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Author Interview: Thomas Kast

Biography

I’m an award-winning independent photojournalist and illustrator based in Zurich, Switzerland, and have published a number of photography art books. I’ve spent a big part of my life in Israel, where I taught photography and illustration at the Shenkar College of Engineering and Design and other Israeli colleges. My debut novel The Great Convergence is an absurdist-philosophical science fiction piece. It evokes many of my real-life experiences fused with unhinged fantasies.

Tell us about your debut novel, The Great Convergence.

In a nutshell, it’s a tale of revenge and a skewered mirror of humanity. 10.000.002 A.D. A cantankerous scholar slipping into obscurity is out for revenge. He time-travels to the year 2022 to stop his nemesis, Scott — a successful scientist at a competing university — from thwarting his research into the origin of a mysterious phenomenon, the Great Convergence. Cunning and ruthless, Scott will stop at nothing to defend his tenure track. The feud quickly spins out of control, and the damage to reality grows unchecked.

Caught in the crosshairs are three characters responsible for triggering the Great Convergence: an art-hating professional art critic who, unbeknownst to him, spontaneously switches between universes wreaking havoc as he goes; a talentless artist whose sculptures act as trans-universal portals; and a schizophrenic astrophysicist trying to avert the invasion of alternate versions of himself from different realities. As their paths converge, the apocalyptic event takes place, and the inescapable tragedy of human existence unfolds. 

As I mentioned earlier, the Great convergence is a satirical piece posing as sci-fi. I would say it’s more of literary fiction rather than sci-fi, mainly since I use the sci-fi elements to convey a specific message. Among other things, my book tackles our perception of reality which may be an artificial construct that doesn’t even exist.

Another message concerns the general purpose of human existence: many things we hold dear have no real meaning. Many things we consider insignificant turn out to be crucial in the grand scheme of things. And the tragedy that unfolds is that we’ll never know.

All my characters are pretty obnoxious people. Their choices are either random, or they are motivated by low instincts. Even my characters’ perceived idealism is exposed as a side-effect of maniacal relentlessness for the sake of it, petty jealousy or complete lack of consideration for anything outside of narrowly-defined short-term interests.

Did your background in photojournalism and illustration influence your novel?

Yes, illustration especially. The world of the future I describe in the Great Convergence is rooted in my psychedelic style, and stems from my bizarre illustrations. And it’s a really bizarre world. At the future-university, for example, there’s a lab where the scientists grow universes to experiment on. There’s an old, baroque-like fountain spewing streams of time instead of water in the university’s courtyard. There is a site with portals connecting different universes, much like the Four Corners Monument in the US. It’s frequented by tourists taking selfies with a hand in one universe and a leg in another.

I suppose, like with my illustrations, it starts making sense, but only after a while, once you’ve taken the effort to decode it.

Why did you decide to start writing fiction?

It all started at primary school. As a six-year-old kid, I watched my teacher draw the letter ‘a’ with white chalk on the blackboard.

‘A’, she said.

‘A …’ the class echoed in one voice.

I was bewitched. From that moment on, I knew I’d dedicate my life to those ‘sound-describing’ symbols. And the rest is history …

Do you have plans to write another book? Why or why not? If so, do you know what your next story will be? Have you started?

Currently, I’m working on the humorous and philosophical comic book series Bablah’s Odyssey, which is scheduled for by the end of 2022. Bablah’s Odyssey features a mad scientist, lord Bablah and his mutant creation, Pet-Thing. As they travel across the universe, lord Bablah teaches the Pet-Thing about the ’wonders’ of progress and civilisation. Witnessing many uncanny worlds, the Pet-Thing asks the right questions but gets the wrong answers. As his brainwashing continues, he becomes continuously confused about what’s right and wrong.

Bablah’s Odyssey aims to turn the reader’s attention to many ethical, environmental and societal problems, but with a healthy dose of humour. Along with the growing popularity of comic books, I think there’s also a strong need for content directed at a more ambitious reader.

What is the hardest part of writing for you? The most enjoyable?

The hardest part of writing is — as always — thinking. Or, more precisely, connecting many external elements integral to the writing process. The most enjoyable one? Being constantly inspired. By everything and anything. The conversations I have with people I know, with those I don’t know, and with myself in the shower. Sunsets happening too early, and sundowns happening too late. Forgotten breakfasts and overdue dinners. Blast from the past. A sudden pang of remorse. The smell of rhododendrons I walk by in the park. Voices in my head. Voices outside of my head. Sounds both sudden and uninterrupted. Surprises and lack thereof. Things I see and those I pretend not to notice.

Talk about what you learned while writing your first book? What would you do differently if you started over?

It took me about ten years to finish the Great Convergence, and so it was quite a process. I’ve learned a lot not only about the craft of writing and editing, but also about myself and the world around me. Essentially, a different kind of person started to write the novel, and an entirely different one finished it.

Do you have an interesting writing quirk?

I don’t know if it’s a quirk — it’s more of a general idea of what writing should be. For me, writing is just the last component of the long and arduous process of creating literature. So what’s writing about, as far as I’m concerned?

Procrastinating, for instance. I just love it. Procrastinating keeps my mind at rest. Thinking: you wouldn’t guess how much time I spend simply staring into the void, pondering grave philosophical matters, until I collapse from mental exhaustion. As an antidote, I then watch a lot of silly cartoons. Until I collapse from mental exhaustion again. Getting sucker-punched by my anger therapist: brings me down to Earth a little. Just a little. Spilling my guts to a random stranger, I met on a park bench at 2:00 AM. Getting my heart broken. Then mended. Then broken again. Dying inside. Feeling alive. Drinking. Staying sober. Shaking my fist in the air, overcome with anger at a random act of social injustice I’ll likely forget the next day. Worrying too much. Worrying too little. Forgetting why I’m writing in the first place, or what I’m actually trying to say. All of this and all at once.

What behind-the-scenes tidbit in your life would probably surprise your readers the most?

I’ve been diagnosed with Autism spectrum disorder (Asperger’s syndrome as it used to be known). This means that, on the one hand, the intricacies of social interaction remain a total mystery to me. On the other hand, thanks to having way-too-many brain connections, I’m uniquely predisposed to quickly examine the world around me in a very pragmatic and unemotional way and see things others can’t. I’ve been an outsider most of my life (which I don’t regret), and so are my characters.

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

I sleep. Or try to. I illustrate, paint, plan photography projects. Get angry with myself at things I shouldn’t get angry about. Disregard things I definitely should be more attentive to. Fantasise a lot and discard any trace of realism attempting to capsize the perfect — albeit unrealistic — picture of reality surrounding me.

What does success look like for you as an author?

To be proud of and happy with your work. No more, no less.

Is there anything additional you want to share with readers?

If you’re into subversive philosophical science fiction and enjoy social satire — check out the Great Convergence. It will take you out of your comfort zone, exposing the absurdity of many ethical and intellectual ideals.

Works well for the fans of Kurt Vonnegut and Douglas Adams, or the philosophical insights of Stanislaw Lem.

And remember — each time you write a positive review on Amazon — somewhere — an innocent puppy gets saved and a large oak tree springs out of nowhere 🙂

Website: www.thomaskast.com

Website: www.thomaskast.com

Book Locations: Amazon

Excerpt

There is an old legend which originated in the Lacerta Cantus Nebula. It explains how most universes got their shape. It goes like this:

A long, long time ago, there was a school for young Gods. At the beginning of each learning season, each God would get his own universe to study and to play with, under the keen eye of the instructor. On balance, the universes were sturdy pieces of work. They could take a lot of damage, often reversible, but not always. And there was a lot of damaging going on, because not all the Gods treated their universes well.

The school programme was brief and much to the point. Gods graduated quickly and moved onto different matters with far-reaching consequences. They’d leave their universes behind, to be studied and played with, by the next generation of deities. This would go on and on, until the universes would become altogether unusable. What would happen to the battered, pass-me-down universe nobody wanted anymore? The legend doesn’t say.

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Author Interview: Jeff Chapman

Biography

Jeff Chapman explores fantasy worlds through fiction and is the author of The Merliss Tales fantasy series, The Huckster Tales weird western series, and The Comic Cat Tales series. Trained in history and computer science, Jeff writes software by day and explores the fantastic when he should be sleeping. His fiction ranges from fairy tales to fantasy to ghost stories. He’s not ashamed to say he’s addicted to dark hot chocolate, and he loves cats. Jeff lives with his wife, children, and cats in a house with more books than bookshelf space.

Briefly describe what books you have published (there is quite a list on your Amazon author page).

I started out publishing short stories in online publications and anthologies. Many of these stories have been collected in Strange Paths to Wonder and Blood and Beauty and Other Weird Tales. These are all fantasy stories of one type or another.

For the past five years, I have been focusing on novels with a few novellas thrown into the mix. I find it hard to write short stories now as all my ideas seem to expand. The Black Blade—my first novel—is part of the Huckster Tales series. These are weird western tales mixing fantasy, horror, and comedy that follow the adventures of a pair of hucksters who are forever getting over their heads in supernatural trouble.

The Great Contagion and Cat Sidhe are novels in The Merliss Tales series. These dark fantasy stories follow the life of Merliss–the spirit of a young woman who has been cast into the body of a cat. The magic that cast her spirit into the cat has given her an unusually long life—thousands of years.

The Sniggard’s Revenge is a YA fantasy about a teenage boy’s confrontation with the guardian of a barrow. Some of my standalone novellas include Krampus Comes to Town—a dark story about bullying and treachery; A Cat Called Blackjack—a comic story about gambling and a card-playing cat; and Chasing the Great Corvid—a lighthearted fantasy about the theft of the crown jewel.

You’ve been publishing books on Amazon for a decade. When/why did you start writing and how did that morph into publishing?

I remember some story writing assignments from grade school but those were derivative. I was probably sixteen when I started creating my own stories. These were Edgar Allan Poe-inspired stories of the weird and macabre. Fortunately, none of those early attempts have survived, but my initial interest in the macabre lingers in the darker elements of my fantasy tales.

I suspect all the time I spent at the library during summer vacations drove my interest in creating my own stories. I took a couple creative writing classes while in college and received some encouragement. However, I wasn’t able to publish any of my stories. I wrote off and on while I pursued other interests. After surviving a serious health crisis, I became very aware of my mortality and decided that if I wanted to pursue my dream of writing and publishing, I had to get serious about it. From that point on, I wrote with an eye toward publishing.

Tell us about your current work(s) in process?

I’m at work on a novel in the Merliss Tales dark fantasy series. As I mentioned earlier, Merliss is the spirit of a young woman who has been trapped inside the body of a gray cat. She had been training to become a healer/shaman, so she retains some magical abilities, but she lives as a cat. Merliss aids her human companions in their battles with disease and supernatural threats. The Breath of the Sea is set several centuries in the future from the first two novels so there is a whole new set of human characters. The story revolves around an injured mermaid and a dying girl who befriends the mermaid. Merliss is drawn into events to protect the mermaid.

How is your writing career different today than it was when you started?

At first, I focused on short stories and went through the cycles of submission and rejection. It was all about finding a home for the stories. Now, I’m focused on writing novels, reviewing comments from my editor, and publishing the revised novel. Marketing now takes up some significant time, as well.

Where do you start when you write a story (character, plot, ending, etc.)?

I start with a situation and a vague idea of who the protagonists are and where the story is going. I find my best ideas come to me during the creative process of crafting the story. Outlining does not work for me because I come up with better ideas while I’m writing.

Each day when I write, I review what I’ve written the previous day. Some writers take things out when they revise. I tend to add, usually more physical details and improved dialogue. When I’m done with the first draft, I do a read-through to fix inconsistencies and weak sentences. I then send it to beta-readers or an editor. I avoid multiple rounds of revision. It doesn’t take long to revise a story to death.

What is your strangest writing quirk?

I write my first drafts on a tablet, hunting and pecking on the virtual keyboard with one finger. Originally, I wrote my initial drafts with pen and paper, but I made so many changes in the margins that I often couldn’t read what I had written. It also took forever to type the manuscripts.

Do you have a favorite book, series, or character that you’ve written?

One of my favorite characters from the Merliss Tales is Slynid. He’s a pooka who likes to take the form of a stoat. He’s one of those characters that came to mind as I was writing. I had figured he would be a minor character, but Slynid demanded more and more page-time until he became a major secondary character. The evolution of characters who seemingly come out of nowhere is one of those magical parts of the creative process.

Another of my favorites is Jimmy’s grandma from the Huckster Tales. Grandma never appears as a character—she’s long dead—but she lives on through her many, many aphorisms that Jimmy recalls whenever a situation calls for some homespun wisdom. One of my reviewers likened her to a Greek chorus.

How does your background in history and computer science influence your fiction?

My background in history has led me into fantasy. I enjoy creating fantasy worlds that incorporate elements from various eras of history. Computer science has taught me the importance of precision in language and meaning. My background in computing has also helped me with the technical aspects of publishing.

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

I enjoy reading and listening to audiobooks. I like to go on bike rides with my children. I spend time with my family and pets; grow vegetables; avoid yard work; and build useful stuff like bookcases.

What does success look like for you as an author?

I hope that many people will read and enjoy my stories.

Is there anything additional you want to share with readers?

Do you like fantasy? Do you like cats? Do you like dark stories salted with some humor? If you answered yes to any of those questions, I have stories you will enjoy.

Website: jeffchapmanbooks.com

Book Locations:
Goodreads
Bookbub
Amazon
Books2Read

Excerpt: From The Great Contagion

A twig snapped behind her. Merliss tensed, her muscles still and taut. She expected a predator, perhaps a leercat or a wolf. What she heard hinted at a very different type of presence.

Last season’s dead leaves, dried from heat and drought, crunched, but not from footfalls, more of a long, drawn-out compression.

She tasted a heavy and potent magic, like a thousand cherry blossoms compressed into one.

Her heart raced as she imagined another giant snake or some other gargantuan creature.

The birds had fallen silent. Only the gurgle of the river swirling over stones interrupted the hush smothering the woods. She drew a deep breath.

For a moment she doubted her senses. An avalanche of scents, impossible scents for these woods: pine, larch, cedar. And there were the old familiars: oak, walnut, yew, and alder. She smelled every type of tree she had ever encountered, every type of nut and berry at the peak of ripeness, and many others she could not place. Moldering leaves and dried needles mixed with flowers and the first leaves of seedlings, decay and hope brought together into a single, sentient force.

A wave of magical power swept over her. It pressed her ears flat and weighed on her neck. Her fur stood on end and crackled with static. The taste of all those scents was so intense it burned her tongue to numbness. She felt the energy ripple through her paws, rising from the roots of every tree. The leaves of the nightshade vibrated and sang with power.

There was no point in running. Whatever lurked behind her possessed the power of nature itself. She waited, thinking it would move on, but its presence remained strong. Had it come for her? Surely not. A magical being so powerful would have no use, good or ill, for a lowly cat, even one harboring a spirit.

Merliss rose slowly. Her heart thumped a rapid staccato despite willing it to slow. She stood level with the nightshade leaves. The pointed tip of one poked into her ear. She shook her head to dislodge it.

She tucked her tail between her hind legs. The sign of submission came to her without thought. So far, so good. No harsh magic had befallen her. Nothing had struck her down.

She turned around with the deliberation of a tortoise. Her breath caught in her throat.

The creature stood ten feet tall or more. A robe of birch bark panels laced together with ivy draped across its shoulders and hung to within a foot of the forest floor. Interlocking branches thick with leaves spread out in every direction beneath the robe. Its face bore the deep valleys of an ancient oak’s bark, its features lost in shadow, except for the eyes. The black rims of a pair of knotholes protruded from its forehead. A green flame burned within each circle. Brown and white stalks sprouted from the top of its head. Fleshy at the base, they tapered like roots to thin tips and arced toward the ground.

Wog, one of the old gods. She had heard tales describing the deity’s physical presentation as an upside-down tree. The tellers were nearer the mark than they could have imagined. Merliss swallowed. The Keeper of Forests, the guardian of all things wood, peered down at her.

“The one called Merliss.”

Wog’s voice rumbled. Neither male nor female, but both, it resonated with depth as if it had travelled the trunk of the thickest tree in the forest, accumulating age and wisdom with each ring.

“I…I am Merliss.”

“Your wishes will be granted.”

“Wishes?” Merliss hadn’t prayed to Wog. She had found the old gods indifferent and unresponsive at best, but her spirits lifted as she considered a potential boon. “You mean the thaugs root?”

“No.” Wog paused. “Persistence. It rewards many. Maybe yet, even you. No, I speak of your people’s wish to throw off the Anglii yoke.”

Merliss considered the failed uprisings of the recent past. “This generation? So many are sick and weak?”

“Consequences. The contagion. Your ally and your nemesis.”

https://books2read.com/ap/n0Qjkw/Jeff-Chapman
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Author Interview: Cassie Greutman

Biography

Cassie Greutman is a small town Ohio girl who has always loved stories in any form. You can usually find her typing away at her computer or playing out in the barn with her ponies.

Tell us about your most recent release, Dracos: Fantasy Dragon Tales.

Dracos was an exciting opportunity to get involved in an anthology with lots of other talented writers. It’s an entire set of dragon stories, my favorite! The story I have in the anthology is about a dragon hunter who makes some surprising decisions after finding something on the latest hunt.

You have a series called Perchant for Trouble with a fourth book scheduled to release in October. Tell us about the series and the upcoming book.

The main character Trish is fae. She has gone through a lot and learned so much in the last three books, and it really starts to come to a head in book four! So I’m not giving away too many spoilers, I’ll just say book one is about a fae girl being raised in human foster care and is blackmailed by the Faerie Council to help capture an escaped fae fugitive. Things only get more crazy from there!

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

The Mercy Thomson Series by Patricia Briggs and the Green Rider series by Kristen Britain are my favorite current series. My all-time favorite is The Enchanted Forest Chronicles, by Patricia C. Wrede. 

How did get started writing stories? Why did you decide to publish?

As a kid, I read through every book at our library that I found interesting, and most of them twice! So I started writing my own stories.  I was finally told enough times that everyone who read them loved my stories, so I decided to give publishing a go. It’s been quite a journey!

What is your strength as a writer? What is your biggest challenge?

I’m told I do characters and structure well. I hope that’s true! But I struggle with scene description. I can see it in my head, and I don’t always get it down well enough on paper!

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

I’d spend my time going back and forth between the best scuba places in the world and home, writing the whole time!

Do you have a favorite character that you’ve written? Why?

Trish from Penchant for Trouble is my favorite. She’s been through so much, even as a kid, but is learning how to trust and be part of a family again.

What is something you wish you would have known when you first started writing?

How long it takes! Here I thought I’d just do a thousand words a day and have a book in 70 days, right? Not so much.

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

I spend a lot of time with my family, and I’m really into horses. I also enjoy art and music.

What does success look like for you as an author?

Being able to pay the bills without having to work another job! That’s the dream, anyway!

Is there anything additional you want to share with readers?

You are really appreciated! Every author pours a bit of their soul into their work, and it’s so encouraging when a random stranger actually wants to read what you’ve worked so hard on.

Websitewww.cassiegreutman.com

Book Locations: Nearly anywhere e-books are sold! Amazon

Excerpt:  A short section from book one in the Penchant for Trouble series, Regen:

A mile on city streets should only take a person fifteen minutes. Out here where we had to dodge around rocks and massive trees, it was a good half hour before Cray stopped us, looking down into a dished valley.

“The energy is coming from that hill,” Cray said. It was the first time I’d heard him speak. His voice was surprisingly deep.

“Trisha,” Starren said.

“Yeah, yeah, I know. Go be bait.”

“Be careful,” Wade said. Strange coming from the guy that had killed me last week. And I still wasn’t sure they weren’t trying to kill me now. Something seemed off about this whole situation. I ignored him, took a breath and started down the slight grade.

It leveled off after a couple minutes and soon after the trees thinned. Before they were gone I paused, staring at a strange hill in the middle of the forest floor. “I feel you, Atreyu. I hope this doesn’t turn out to be a giant turtle, I don’t want to get snotted on,” I muttered. I’d probably watched too many movies at the children’s home. Something about the two worlds in that one made me think about Faerie, thereby reminding me of my mom. I’d watched The Neverending Story a bejillion times. I glanced back at the trees, hoping to see Starren. For once, I wanted her to tell me what to do. They were gone.

“They’re probably just trying to get me killed,” I snarled quietly. If I didn’t know that the fae couldn’t lie, I’d be running the other way right now. It was get this job done or get dragged to some world I didn’t know anything about, with people I didn’t know. I’d had enough of that growing up, thank you very much.

A step. Another. Something sniffed. I froze.

I didn’t move for a few seconds, then almost laughed at myself. A sniff? Really? Was that Jaden’s new, unknown power, a super sniffer? I laughed at myself quietly until the sound came again, louder and longer.

Okay, no way that was Jaden. A bear? That would not be cool. I’d heal while it did the damage, but how long until it decided to let me be? Ouch. I backed a few steps away slowly.

The earth began to shudder, nearly knocking me to the ground. The little hill shook, dirt rained down as something stood up from underneath it, knocking the soil from its body. My fingernails bit into my hands. Maybe a bear wouldn’t have been so bad. This thing was massive, its stony looking head nearly as tall as the trees.

Without warning, whatever it was moved over to a small stand of trees and ripped one out by the roots. It paused to get its bearings, more dirt raining down off its greyish skin.

“Oh crap,” I whispered as its gaze finally found me. It hefted the tree up like a club and took a step in my direction, covering the distance between us in that one stride. The club came down hard, right at me. I jumped to the side and it missed. The impact of the club on the ground still knocked me off my feet, dirt and small stones raining down on me. A fist sized rock slammed into my arm.

I tried to catch my breath, flat out on my back, the wind knocked out of me and my arm screaming in pain. That’s going to leave a mark, the nearly hysterical thought ran through my mind. At least for a few minutes. I looked over to assess the damage. Shoot. My sleeve was shredded and my clothes, unfortunately, would not regenerate like the rest of me. Nina was going to have a fit when she saw this. I scooted back a little but had to bite my lip to keep from yelling as my hip and side shrieked. I’d landed on a rock and hadn’t noticed while I was trying to catch my breath.

A rumbling started. The thing was trying to talk. It had massive moss green eyes with big crooked teeth hanging out of its mouth. The rest of its body looked fairly human, other than the size. It rumbled something again, then coughed.

Troll or ogre? What was the difference?

I rolled over to stand and a crunch sounded from my pocket. Shoot again. My phone. I pulled it out. The screen was shattered. Great. No time to worry about it right now. I stuffed it back in and moved into a crouch.

The troll took a step toward me, ground shaking under its massive foot. So this was why California had so many earthquakes. So much for the fault theory.

“I’m gonna rip your head off your body,” the troll finally got out. I could barely hear the words, his voice was so deep.

I wished I hadn’t been able to understand because for the first time since I’d started regenerating, I felt a thread of panic. How did that work? Even I probably couldn’t recover from that.

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