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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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Author Interview: Isra Sravenheart

Biography

USA Today and Amazon No1 Best-Seller. 😍

Dark Fantasy Fairytale Fanatic ✨🦄🐲🎃🔮

Avid Reader 📚

Witty Wordsmith 😆✏

Dragons and Villains are my forte 💪🙌👌😎

Share a little bit about your Dark Spell Series.

So the Dark spell series is about witches and it focuses on our main character Isra who has shunned the light in favour of the dark however there’s more to this cautionary tale than meets the eye. When Astrid comes in Isra believes him to be a messenger of another land but that’s just the cliff notes. Our rogue raven has a few things going on himself however you won’t get to find out about that until around ⅔ and 4 of the series.

What other books have you published?

So dark spell is dark fantasy. That consists of 8 books. However I am working on a Dark Spell spin off which might be another 3 I am estimating at this moment. I’ve also got a couple of fantasy standalones. And I am releasing my first PNR in May of this year.

Are all your stories dark fantasy? What drew you to write in that genre?

I mainly jive with fantasy but am releasing my first PNR in May.

What is one of your oddest writing quirks/habits?

Probably that I write best at night between 11pm and 3am.

If you were restarting your career knowing what you do today, what would you do differently?

I’d do it exactly the same except I’d research more before signing up to vanity publisher author house except I learned a lot from that experience.

What did you do that improved your writing the most?

Writing a series was the biggest learning curve. I personally found my writing style in between book 2 and 3 in The Dark Spell series.

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

It’s mainly based on experience of life but I’m not going to divulge too much here. Research is the key. Never post potential story ideas on social media or book titles until you’ve got a cover in mind.

Your Amazon author page says you are an avid reader? What do you most like to read? Who are your favorite authors?

I like Neil Gaiman. L Frank Baum. I’ve almost finished reading all 14 of his Oz books actually. I read a lot of Phillip Pullman when I was younger and I really love the Wicked series by Gregory Maguire. I love reading thriller as well but I can’t recall the author of the last one I had read.

How do you spend your time outside of writing?

Binge watching TV shows and movies, adult coloring, reading (of course) jigsaw puzzles is also a bit of an addiction for me lately.

What does success look like for you as an author?

So any accolades such as the USA today and orange tags are great however for it’s seeing those sales numbers crank up and especially when you’re making 3-5 figures a month depending on what the situation is. (You might have one month where it’s a bit of a dry spell but that’s okay, it happens it’s life)

Anything additional you want to share with readers?

Everything of mine including dark spell series sales pages, all social media, review page links, NL sign up all of that stuff is on my link tree so it’s nice and simple.

Link Tree

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Author Interview: E.G. Creel

Biography

I’m about to turn forty, the end of March, and I’m very much feeling like I need an adventure to mark the occasion. Maybe that’s why I wrote The Immortal. My inner wonderer wanted freedom from the everyday.  

Share a little bit about your book, The Immortal.

The protagonist, Emma, just turned forty and decides to take a vacation on a French Polynesian island. She becomes the soul survivor of a mass culling from a group of immortal Vikings. Using her wit and with a little luck, maybe she’ll make it off the island alive.

Two items stood out to me during my research on you. First, you describe yourself as “currently blooming.” I love that! Talk about how you came up with that description for yourself and what it means to you.

My husband is about to retire from the Army which meant a lot of moving around. Since we don’t usually get a say where we’ll be sent next I always say, “I’ll bloom where I’m planted.” Which is currently Fort Gordon, Ga.

Second, I thought your book trailer was awesome. Why did you make a book trailer and how did you come up with what you did.

Vocationally I’m a photographer, I shot the underwater footage in my neighbor’s pool. An actor friend, Kate Dailey, did the voice over. She’s also narrated the audiobook. I thought I’d build content while I waited for the manuscript to be edited and hoped the trailer might gain interest for my debut novel, since I don’t have an author following.

Why did you start writing and how long have you been at it?

I stumbled into writing last year after a bad dream. The plot seemed solid and as I daydreamed, I thought I’d write a paragraph to get it out of my head. I have my rough draft finished six weeks later. It’s a terrible idea, becoming a writer. I don’t recommend it. Save yourself the disappointment. I’m writing this with a smile on my face by the way. The journey has been a rollercoaster. Exciting but leaving me feeling nauseous.

What is the most difficult part of your writing process?

Writing over my screaming children which I’m doing this very minute. It’s like they know when I’m about to write. It’s their superpower.

How did writing and publishing your first book compare to your expectations?

The process is longer than I thought it would be. I’m rather impatient and it’s been a lesson in slowing down and staying humble. I suppose I expected more support and congratulations from friends and family. Social media gives the illusion of knowing so many people but in the end my excitement was mostly that, mine. I’m very grateful for the handful of friends who purchased my book but by far I’ve given away more than sold. I’m very much in the red for my debut book.

What piece of advice has made the biggest impact on your writing journey?

Talent won’t get you to the finish line, discipline will. Make it a rule to write, not a goal. Drink a glass of water before you write.

What is your next writing project?

I’m currently writing episodes on Kindle Vella. My ongoing story is called Gena. She thinks her daddy’s the devil. Collect your 200 free tokens on Kindle Vella an find out.

What does success look like for you as an author?

I suppose it’s Capitalistic and shallow, but I want money. I’ve been the starving artist long enough, and as romantic as it may sound, I’d rather be fat. My goal for this year is to break even, and long term I’d like to make enough to take my family on a vacation to French Polynesia.

Anything additional you want to share with readers?

Comparing is the killer of joy. Like Neil Gaiman said, there are no rules, just write the best story you can.

Website

Book Locations: The Immortal can be ordered at any local bookstore, also available online at Barnes and Noble, Amazon, and other global distributors. My local Barnes and Noble in Augusta, Ga. Also carries a few copies which I sign when I drop in.

Excerpt: My book can be sampled on Barnes and Noble, Google Books, Amazon, or Google.

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The Worst Day of the Year

It’s that time of year again. My least—and when I say least I mean exponentially worse than sitting at home alone all day on a major holiday—favorite day of the year. Spring forward can suck it as far as I’m concerned.

The rankings are not without their controversy.

A solid case can be made that fall back is the worst of the two because between early November and the middle of March it gets darker earlier, way too early. If you haven’t read my blog in the past I am a strong proponent of daylight savings time year-round. It’s ridiculous to keep changing our clocks twice a year and I think daylight savings time has the stronger case over standard time to be the year-round time tracker. But that’s an argument for another day.

What gives spring forward the edge as the worst of the two days is that we lose an hour of sleep. It throws my body off and takes me days to adjust. I hate it.

And no one in our political environment is taking serious this issue that is dearest to my heart.
I discussed this with a friend the other day and we devised a plan that might be a workable solution for my time change aggravation.

Each year during fall back I could move east because the eastern time zone would mirror what the central time zone was before the change. Then on spring forward day, I return to Kansas and the central time zone. That way my body would never have to adjust to the time change.

At first, I thought I could go to Louisville since that is where my daughter lives. After some thought, I have a better plan. She’s a flight attendant and isn’t home much and I don’t like the cold so it makes more sense for me to relocate to Florida for the winter.

I can’t help but wonder if a solid legal case could be made that since the government isn’t doing anything to ease the stress on my life that comes from their mandatory time change they should have to pay for my relocation and living expenses required for my mental health.

I simply need to find the right lawyer to take on my case. It seems like an open and shut case to me. And maybe the right lawsuit would get the attention of politicians to make the most logical change in the law since, well, ever.

Until the government quits manipulating time, I’ll have to consider dual citizenship in Kansas and Florida. The only downside of the plan is that it doesn’t solve the early darkness.

I guess that would be asking for too much.

Subscribe to Bill’s e-mail newsletter and keep up with all of his writing.

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Author Interview: Madilynn Dale

Biography

Madilynn Dale is an author based out of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, U.S. She writes fantasy, romance, and paranormal pieces primarily. She spends most of her day with her son, tending to her pets, and writing.

Madilynn holds degrees in several areas. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Kinesiology from Southern Nazarene University, located in Oklahoma. She also has an Associates of Science degree in Physical Therapy Assistant Sciences from Oklahoma City Community College. She is licensed as a Physical Therapy Assistant in Oklahoma and works as a PRN therapist. 

​Madilynn has enjoyed reading various forms of fiction and the occasional non-fiction story since she began reading as a young girl. Writing seemed to be another piece of this addiction to books, and she embraced it after becoming a mother. Writing is now a piece of her soul to be bared to the world. 

​Madilynn’s hobbies, when not writing, include reading, baking, crafting, hiking, and horseback riding. She loves to travel and explore. One day she hopes to expand her travels and see the world, but in the meantime, you will find her working on her next novel. She will most likely have coffee and some form of chocolate with her as she writes.

Share a little bit about your newest book, Black Flames.

Black Flames is an empowering novel that takes readers on an adventure. It’s steamy, addicting, and cinematic.

Ember believes she’s a latent wolf until she finds herself facing a demon using hellfire. The black flames trigger something within her and the world as she knows it is dumped on its head. Has her entire life been nothing but a lie?

Tied to the future Alpha via contract, she seeks an escape to find her true mate. Confused by the emotions surrounding her discovery, she sacrifices herself to save her pack and is taken to hell. With a false engagement and memories erased, she finds herself part of a larger plan. Can she fulfill her role and manage to return home without her secret being discovered?

What can you tell us about the future of the Ember Series?

Black Flames is the first book in what I plan to be a Trilogy. I may have a few spin offs with some of the other characters, but it is for sure going to be a three book thing. Ember will go through a lot of growth, heartache, and change with these books.

You have several books listed on Amazon, including another series. Tell us about what else you have written.

I have a variety of novels written. My first series that has more to come is my Fae Shifters series. The first four books follow main character Liz as she seeks a slower paced life only to be thrust into a world of magic, one where all turn to her as their savior. The novels focus on selfcare, friendship, love, and family. It’s a fast-paced series filled with various paranormal beings.

Breaking Traditions: the Shifter and the Mage is my paranormal romance novel following Natalie as she seeks to break free of her parents traditions of arranged marriage to pursue a life of love with her true mate. It’s a college-based romance and really focuses on pursuing your dreams.

I also have various short stories published with a variety of storylines. They are fun and feature fun characters.

Your educational and work background is in the medical field. Why did you begin writing?

It is! So, I’m a licensed Physical Therapist Assistant in the state of Oklahoma. I love helping people and only work on occasion as I spend more time with my son right now and focus on my writing. I have always been an avid reader growing up and had a wild imagination. With some encouragement from friends and my family I took that next step and attempted to publish traditionally before I tried Indie publishing. I love being an Indie author though and don’t see myself taking the traditional route in the future. Seeing my stories come to life and discovering that others enjoy them to has been life changing.

Where did you come up with the name for your website, thechaptergoddess.com?

I wanted something unique and empowering. The name reminds me that I can chose my path and encourages confidence.

What are your best and worst writing habits?

My best habits are that I can stop writing and pick write back up where I left off no matter how long it’s been. My worst habits are that I can’t sit still. I wiggle and swirl side to side while I type but tend to do better when I hand write it. I try to change things up and let my creativity flow differently by long handwriting my story then typing it up. In a way it creates a good habit by allowing me to do a bit of editing while I transfer it over improving the story overall.

If you could talk to yourself when you first started writing what advice would you give?

Write what you want. Don’t let other’s expectations effect you and your work. Don’t let depression and negativity hold you back. Go for it and stay strong. You can do it.

Does writing energize or exhaust you?

I have to say it honestly depends on the scene. Some scenes energize me, especially writing the action scenes, but others, tire me out. Transition scenes are some that make me fatigue easily but they are important in tying the story together. It doesn’t help that a lot of time my writing is done at night after the day has ended and my son is asleep.

How do you come up with character names?

This is a great question. When I first started writing I would just come up with them at random and sometimes I still do but with my latest series, the Ember series, I found myself researching the meaning of names more. I always love when authors hide bits of information like that in their characters names and I wanted to carry that over into my own work.

What does success look like for you as an author?

Success is having one person read my book and like it. Being a best seller in the future would be awesome of course but I’m a bit realistic. It will come in time. Having a good relationship with my readers is another thing that is successful. I love how much my readers have grown and become more engaging in the short time I’ve been published.

Anything additional you want to share with readers?

I would love for you all to check out my work and subscribe to my newsletter on my website, www.thechaptergoddess.com. I love to chat and share tid-bits of my personal life in my letters. Also keep reading!

Website: www.thechaptergoodess.com

Book Locations: Here are the links but they can be found widely.

Amazon
Apple
Kobo
B&N

Excerpt: Black Flames, Ember 1, Pg 17-18

“When your mother and I found each other, she was already pregnant with you. We didn’t find out until after we had been dating for a few weeks. We knew we were mates right off the bat, but wanted to learn more about each other before taking the next step to complete the mating. Your mother came to me with tears in her eyes when she found out. She had hoped it wouldn’t happen.” He reaches over and grabs my mother’s hand, squeezing it.

“Your real father was someone I met at a party. He was sweet and every girl’s dream. I will never know why he took an interest in me, but he picked me that night, and we slept together. I was about your age at the time. I didn’t find out who he was until the next morning.” She glances at Zeke.

I feel Zeke tense around me, and he tightens his hold on me.

My mother continues, “I had hoped to try and turn that one night into more when I woke the following day, but your real father revealed to me who he was. He told me he only ventures out from his realm on occasion to attempt to procreate. He has never had a true mate and will most likely never have one. He also told me that there was a chance I could become pregnant after our night together despite contraceptives and that if I find myself pregnant, to call for him, and he would come to take the child. He said the babe would be the next heir to the throne of Hell.”

Zeke’s grip on me becomes uncomfortable, so I elbow him to ease up as I continue to stare at my mother. “What are you trying to say?”

She lets go of my father’s hand and begins to shake them as if shaking water. Her eyes dart to my father, who is frowning, before coming back to mine. “Your father is Lucifer, the leader of Hell.”

“This has to be a joke,” I state, trying to push up from the sofa, only to be held back by Zeke.

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Author Interview: Jan Foster

Biography

By day, Jan juggles consultancy work with her family, but by night she sneaks off, into the past. Her penchant for sprinkling history with magic is fueled by coffee and Cadburys. When not writing, Jan takes her dogs and small monsters into the countryside, especially if there is a castle or historic building there with a cozy coffee shop in which to escape the rain of Manchester, England.

Share a little bit about your book, Anarchic Destiny and The Nature Series.

The Naturae series is a historical fantasy mostly set in the century of Tudor rule, in England and Scotland. It blends magical realism with actual historical events and people, featuring as main characters two fae who have differing views on how their life should pan out but are dedicated to being together, no matter what. Of course, when they are ripped apart, they each face challenges which can only be resolved by being together!

I’ve also written a prequel set in 800Ad which is when Vikings invaded the Orkney Islands (which has a significant impact on the story!) which is the tragic story of a villain’s descent, or creation!

Disrupting Destiny, book 1, sets out these main characters and establishes the world of Naturae through a dramatic journey towards accepting one’s destiny to rule.

Anarchic Destiny is Book 2 in the series and introduces the main antagonist for the remainder of the series, a morally grey vampire, Henry Fitzroy. Subsequent books will take the reader through the remainder of Tudor rule, culminating in the Civil War.

What inspired you to weave fantasy with history?

I’ve always been interested in history, and more importantly, what it can teach us about today. Fantasy allows the writer to ask trickier questions, sometimes human ones, and explore them. You can give characters wings, what a pain when corsets are a requirement. You can make them dependent upon blood alone – how handy if the Catholic church regularly ‘lets blood’ as a cure.

My stories verge on alternative history, and the challenge for me is skirting with how far can I go with having the characters witness or participate in real historical events without it actually changing the course of history as we know it.

Do you know how many books you plan for the series?

I think when I’m done there will be 6 books – including 2 prequels. The next on my list is a second prequel actually – the love story between my two main characters set in the 1400’s.

You also have a children’s book, Mitch and Mooch try Swimming. Tell us about it.

It’s a children’s picture book / early reader aimed at 4-7 year olds. The series, Mitch and Mooch Try, is all about new experiences, and equipping both parents and children with what to expect from a first lesson in a sport.

There’s some specific terminology help, what sort of activities you might do, and also addressing some common fears which children have about an activity (like, what happens if water goes up my nose? The book is also written with dyslexia in mind, the font is dyslexia friendly and the style is more like a comic book with speech bubbles as these things can help reluctant or struggling readers.

You have a whole website dedicated to Mitch and Mooch. Talk about what it offers.

The website is where parents and teachers can find out more about the book, as well as download some free resources like colouring sheets, word searches, and certificates for effort. There’s articles on there about rising to the challenges of parenting as well, kind of, what works for me or what  issues I’m working on with children in my life.

When can readers expect the next Mitch and Mooch book?

The next few books are written, but right now, I’m in the process of looking for a new illustrator as unfortunately, since COVID, mine has stopped illustrating. The next is Mitch and Mooch Try Gymnastics, but I don’t know when it will be published as yet.

Do you have any odd writing habits?

I don’t know whether there are ‘normal’ habits to compare with! Everyone is different. I don’t know if it’s peculiar, but I have to write in absolute silence. I tried writing with music or in a public place, and frankly, it just didn’t work for me. Perhaps it’s because I have to really get my head into 500 years ago!

What is the best piece of writing advice you have received?

AIS – it stands for Arse In Seat. The words won’t write themselves; you actually have to be there, ready to write, for them to get onto the page. Sounds obvious? Hard to do sometimes, but very necessary. Of course, words might come at other, inopportune times, but to get a novel written, you have to make time to actually sit down and write them.

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

Ignoring all the other things which require my attention, and getting absolute silence in a busy household!

What does success look like for you as an author?

Success would be someone I don’t know, picking up my book in a book store, and going, ohh I’ve heard of this, I’ll buy it.

Anything additional you want to share with readers?

Subscribe to my newsletter https://www.subscribepage.com/mailingsubscribe and I’ll send you a free copy of the Naturae Series prequel Risking Destiny (a full length novel set in Viking Age Orkney) to enjoy!

Fancy getting Advance Reader Copies of all of my books? Join the Launch Team here https://www.subscribepage.com/naturaelaunchteam

Author Website
Mitch and Mooch Website
Facebook
Amazon Author Page
Blog
Twitter
Goodreads
Instagram
Smashwords
Book Locations:
Anarchic Destiny
Disrupting Destiny

Excerpt

Whilst checking the concealing mist level, a desperate messenger fae had found Joshua, requesting his presence most urgently at the citadel. Despite flying the several miles back as quickly as he could, he fretted he would be late. By the time Joshua reached the High Hall, the hastily called Council meeting was already in session. A worker fae crowd gathered to watch the proceedings, so his flustered entry was hardly unnoticed. He paused by a trunk-seat, to straighten his attire after his rush from the far edges of Naturae island. Now, on top of being damp from the droplets of the cloud, he was sweaty and ill-prepared for whatever lay ahead. Joshua caught his breath in the humid atmosphere of the vaulted-ceilinged hub of their community and sent a brief prayer upward to calm himself. Already, he sensed the tension within the vast chamber, although tempered by silent respect from the observers as their representatives deliberated.

Present around the wide oval table which he had helped to craft were his Queen and wife, Aioffe; her closest confidante and advisor, Uffer or Lord Anaxis, as he was formally titled, who now oversaw the running of the Palace instead of the Beneath; Overseer Thane, the acknowledged spokesperson of the entire community of worker fae; the aging Captain of the Guard and fifteen worker representatives from across designations. None of the Nobles were there, which suggested to Joshua this matter did not concern the wider realm but Naturae island specifically. Had it been a full session, Joshua hoped that he would have been given proper advance notice of the meeting, but, he was only the Prince and had no formal responsibilities within Naturae. This session was thus urgent, but not disastrous. But he could be wrong, he realised; the debate, as he slid onto his seat, was decidedly more combative than usual.

He dropped his wings and tilted his head slightly to acknowledge Aioffe next to him. She flicked a grateful glance his way, her elbows resting on the table and her chin in her hands as the Council argued. He slipped his hand to her knee and squeezed it, and she smiled without turning her attention from the conversation. The smile didn’t reach her eyes. Instead, he saw they were a darkened blue and filled with worry.

“He needs to be kept away from us all, for our own safety!” Uffer said. His fists stopped just short of pounding the polished wooden surface.

Thane sided with him. “Lyrus is of the old order. It’s too much of a risk to have him around.” His head shook, causing tiny particles of mud to spray into the air. Down one cheek, a dark smudge still decorated his weather-beaten face.

“We should have left him buried,” a worker representative said, shaking his head. “I wish we’d never dug him out.” Thane nodded sagely, his mouth downcast.

Joshua leant over to Aioffe and whispered, “What did I miss?”

In a trembling voice, she muttered, “Lyrus was pulled out of the remains of the Beneath this morning. Alive.”

Joshua gasped, “Still alive? After seventeen years?” He leaned back as he tried to imagine what it must have been like to be buried underground for such a long time, unable to die in the suffocating darkness.

“Barely, but yes.” She turned her attention to the conversation. “I would appreciate hearing the opinion of the Captain of the Guard, please? Before we can come to a consensus about what should be done with him.”

The Captain nodded curtly; the grey hairs turning silvery on his head as they caught the light streaming through the windows, which only added to his gravitas. “My Queen, it would be remiss of me not to point out that I have a conflict of interest. Lyrus was my predecessor. He was, regardless of his actions, an outstanding soldier. He taught myself, indeed, all of our older army, everything. For that, we have a debt of responsibility towards him. A duty of care, you might say. But,” he sighed, “I also fear that rehabilitation into our ranks, were he to recover sufficiently in a physical sense, risks his opinions, his manner and style, corrupting our new generation of soldiers.”

“So where does that leave us?” Thane interrupted. “What are my workers to do with him? I won’t tolerate him spreading discord.”

Shrugging, the Captain said, “We no longer have a Beneath in which to hold him whilst we wait out his recovery and ascertain the threat level he poses. And, he was the most senior of all Guards – Captain as I am now. He should be accorded the respect he is owed.” The loyal officer then glared through his tufty grey eyebrows at Thane.

“He will surely need medical attention for many months,” Uffer interjected. “Perhaps if Lyrus were to be placed in one of the palace rooms, under strict guard, until such a time as we can determine where his allegiances lie?”

Joshua thought this sounded like a typically sensible suggestion from his friend, and nodded. All the while, he kept a gentle hand on Aioffe’s knee for support. His other fist clenched and unclenched in his lap. Two previous encounters with Lyrus had both resulted in differing traumatic outcomes. He held Lyrus fully responsible for kidnapping Aioffe and dragging her away from him, then leaving her captive in the Beneath, thinking he was dead.

Joshua glanced across the table, pondering the changes which had happened since then. The re-building of Naturae and establishment of Aioffe’s new Queendom had taken precedence, and their community grew closer as well as in numbers. No-one had missed Lyrus, and there had been no need for the Beneath; that entire area had been forgotten about – until they needed the space. Joshua knew they were excavating around there to build new ground level outbuildings to house their growing numbers of livestock, but he hadn’t anticipated they would dig so deep as to discover what lay in the Beneath.

He glanced at Aioffe again, seeing the tension in the way she held her slim body. This must be a shock for her, although she focussed on the conversation as if it were just another matter within her Queensland. He worried about the conflicted emotions she surely felt – this was her brother they were discussing, even if there had been little love between them.

If Lyrus was alive, what did that mean for them? Joshua’s tongue ran over the gap in his jaw, left by the tooth Lyrus had extracted while torturing him for information, just minutes before the Beneath had collapsed in an earthquake. As this happened some seventeen years ago, Joshua had tried to bury the memories and his guilt. At the time, it had seemed perfectly reasonable for himself and Spenser to tie up and leave his enemy in the Beneath whilst they rescued Nemis and Fairfax, but now?

At some point, he would have to see Lyrus. Face the brother-in-law whom Joshua had thought was dead. Joshua could not have known, and frankly wouldn’t have cared at the time, that Naturae would be almost uprooted with the violent shaking. He guessed Lyrus would hold him responsible, but to his mind, his imprisonment underground still didn’t make them even. Whatever pain Joshua had endured, Lyrus had caused far greater emotional agony for his wife, and that was unforgivable.

Aioffe stared straight ahead, trying to ignore the glowers which were being exchanged around the table. “I would like a Council consensus on where he is to be housed whilst he recovers.” Her mouth tightened. “We do not have medical facilities and whomever we assign to his care must be able to withstand his ‘methods’ of persuasion.”

The Captain splayed his hands on the table, reaching forwards towards his Queen. His eyes grew earnest, as he said, “Many of us remember the way he would manipulate minds. Your Highness, I still think it wisest if he is placed directly under our care. He, being of royal blood, will doubtless recover very quickly with the Lifeforce we can provide. But his injuries sound severe. The Lifeforce will restore his essence and speed healing, but without correctly positioning of his bones and wings, he would be left a cripple. Although we fae are not healers, we could send for the one who knows our ways, to ensure he makes a full recovery.” He glanced at Joshua, “I believe you know of one such person, our Prince?”

Joshua’s lips pursed. One of the few fae to have been severely injured – several times – and his life saved whilst in the human world, only a tiny part of him empathised with Lyrus’s future, doubtless painful, journey back to health. Joshua’s own recovery, after being slashed and squashed by Lyrus, would not have been possible without the very man the Captain referred to – Maister Jeffries. A witch and heretic. A man Joshua had no option but to trust, only to have been used and betrayed. He nodded briefly, pushing away doubts about whether he wanted to be in contact with the monk again, to be deliberated upon when he had a moment with Aioffe. Until he knew her thoughts on the matter, he did not want to commit to anything.

“We can’t allow unknown others, even if they are healers, into Naturae.” Simeon, one of the worker representatives, cried out. Around the table, Joshua noted many of the other workers shared his concern. “We don’t need outsiders. The risk is too great they will talk about us.”

“There is also the Treaty to bear in mind,” the Captain said. “Remember, only fae are allowed onto Naturae. Any visitors would have to be certain their stay here goes unnoticed.”

“We go into their world when we like.” Thane weighed in, “It is only by the bounty which our Queen has bestowed on our city that we have sufficient resources, sufficient strength, to learn from humans ourselves. Do not forget that.”

Joshua smiled – Thane had proved over the years to be more open to mixing with the wider realm than Aioffe and he had ever expected.

Another representative, Oldy Elizae, known for her dislike of humans or indeed anything not fae, but well respected in the worker community, said, “Why couldn’t we ask a healer what they would do, without bringing them here? But then, I suppose it’s difficult to explain what we are without actually seeing the problem.” Her voice tailed off, realising she was not particularly helping.

Aioffe nodded her head slightly, and Oldy Elizae smiled once more, grateful to have had the chance to be heard. Aioffe said, “I understand your fears, and yes, there is always a danger of exposure when we try to involve ourselves in the human world. But,” and her eyes flicked over to Joshua, “We do know there are healers experienced with fae there, and even if we cannot find the one who healed my husband, we should think about how to find an alternative. Where is Lyrus now?”

“Outside.” Thane grumbled, “Shouting still, hissing his poison.”

“With no guards? We must protect our Queen! Who knows what he will do now he’s out,” Uffer said, frowning at the Captain. “And that means protecting her from the likes of Lyrus as well as foreign intervention. He should be kept apart from everyone until he has healed sufficiently to answer for his actions.” The voices around the table began to rise again.

“Lyrus cannot be expected to justify what happened before when he was under the orders of the former Queen.” The Captain grew defensive – understandably, Joshua realised. He likewise had served under her rule yet was respected here as if he had not also perpetrated the unkind methods the old Queen used to get what she wanted. “He should not need a guard. Lyrus is not a threat to anyone and remains a sworn Queen’s Guard.”

Thane raised his voice, “Doesn’t need a guard? He was the cruelest of soldiers, the most wicked of any aside from Queen Lana, and the most scornful of those who were not his equal. I am not convinced he has any place in Naturae at all. Lyrus should be kept completely away from everyone. He has had years to plot what he would do when eventually discovered. Keeping him apart from us is the safest course of action. Isolate him under heavy guard somewhere else on the island. I don’t want the workers at risk. If Lyrus recovers, he will be strong, and there is no guarantee he will reform his behaviour and attitude to suit our current, more inclusive, circumstances. Our Queen has the full support of our workers, our army, and this Council – her security is paramount and he cannot be trusted.”

Joshua glanced at Aioffe, wondering how strange it must be to have your safety discussed as if you were not even present. There were too many differing opinions to make sense of, and he could see the tiredness in her eyes. He squeezed her knee again, but then Aioffe stood. Joshua’s heart swelled with pride.

“I do not wish to make a final decision about his future here without your full agreement on the matter.” She said, “All I know is, right now, my brother is lying in a clearing, surrounded by people staring at him and he can barely move. He is in pain, and certainly starving after so many years buried. Uffer, please ensure that he is assisted to feed from a small live animal. I know my brother – the urge to take Lifeforce will overwhelm him, and to deny him that risks him attacking any fae who happens to be close by. You will remember how fast he can be, even if injured. I doubt anyone would be able to fight off a crazed frenzy-feed from a maniac like him. Better to give him as much as he needs to heal from our supplies.”

The Captain said, “My Queen, then it would surely be safer for us all if he were to be placed in a chamber, rather than out in the open.”

“I agree,” Aioffe said, “There are many guardable side chambers which we could place him in for now. Rotate the soldiers outside but keep them close, Captain, and make sure they understand the potential threat he poses. We cannot afford for them to be swayed by his former authority over your army.” She smiled at the officer, “I know you will be cautious to keep us all protected.” She turned to Uffer, “As Lyrus will be kept within the Household, I can rely on you to ensure he is fed.”

Joshua said, “I recommend rabbits, Lord Anaxis. Small enough to sustain but will not provide much energy for significant or aggressive movement.” He looked at Aioffe to confirm. “We will need to first discover Jeffries’ whereabouts.”

Aioffe rolled her eyes. “That will be impossible with the few spies we have and such a large realm to cover.” She shook her head, glanced at the lowering evening light streaming in through the windows, and frowned. “I must take my leave, I have much to attend to.”

“Shall I assist, my love?” Joshua asked, standing as well.

Aioffe’s lips lifted, but the smile did not reach her eyes. “No, I know you have other matters to oversee. These are not affairs which I need you for.”

Joshua nodded and looked down at the table. He swallowed, then his eyes followed her as she flew out of the room. He turned back to the Council and saw most of them gathering their personal items and making ready to depart. Uffer engaged in conversation with some of the worker representatives about which rabbit enclosures to use. Thane met his gaze though, and they descended the few steps from the raised dais side by side. As they pushed through the cluster, Joshua heard the worker’s whispered shock. No doubt gossip about what had happened would travel quickly, leaving each to make their own minds up about the implications of the return of a known enemy of their beloved Queen.

Where the crowd thinned out, Thane, in his deep, authoritative tone which he only used when speaking in an official capacity, said, “Our Queen must be encouraged to proceed with the plans for the Ceremony. You know the workers are looking forward to welcoming this third generation into their ranks. The rite of passage it represents for our young must not be forgotten in the upheaval. I look to you, Prince Joshua, to ensure that this distraction does not take away Queen Aioffe’s focus.”

Joshua caught his regretful glance as they passed one of the smaller gathering areas to the side; neither of them had much time these days to sit and converse about their development plans as they had done in the early years of Naturae’s re-greening. Thane was the informally recognised leader of the worker fae, and Joshua felt honoured to work by his side, sharing ideas as they created and grew the citadel. The level of trust and mutual respect between them well established, so much so that Thane was not overstepping, however formally he had asked his favour.

“I will discuss it with her, of course. I cannot see any reason why we would not continue, despite the upheaval. Have we any sight of Ambassador Spenser and Nemis yet?” What a time for them to return, Joshua thought.

Thane shook his head. “I have had a watch close to the jetty as you requested, nothing as yet.”

“There is time still,” Joshua said. “Nemis may know where Jeffries has ended up as well.”

Thane stopped and glanced at Joshua, lowering his voice to say, “Are you sure you want to bring him here? It is well known what Lyrus did to you, and I realise how you feel about Jeffries.” He raised an eyebrow at his friend.

Meeting his eyes, Joshua said nothing, but his mouth tightened. “We have little choice in the matter. Lyrus is my wife’s brother. He is ‘royal’ as a result and that might be all that matters.”


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