The Short and the Long of It

Psalm 117 holds two distinctions in the Bible. Can you name either?

The first has to do with its location. Psalm 117 is the middle chapter of the Bible. There are 594 chapters before Psalm 117 and 594 chapters after it.

The second distinction? Take a look at Psalm 117 (you don’t even have to read it) and the answer may come to you. The chapter only has two verses, making it the shortest chapter in the Bible.

The longest chapter of the Bible? Psalm 119 with 176 verses. It’s all about the Word of God.

The middle verse in the Bible is Psalm 118:8, which, interestingly enough states, “It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man.”

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Anyone Can Read the Entire Bible

Admittedly, the Bible is a BIG book, or rather, collection of books. The Bible contains 66 books divided into chapters; a total of 1,189 chapters to be exact.

Thinking about reading the entire Bible is intimidating, especially for someone who has never done it. But no one, not even God, expects you to read it all in one day.

It might help to know that by reading just 3 chapters a day, you can read through the Bible in 396 days. Increase your daily reading to 4 chapters on 31 of those days and you can finish reading the Bible in a year.

According to one source, it takes the average person 74 hours and 28 minutes to read the whole Bible. To finish in a year, that’s less than 7 hours a month, or just over 12 minutes a day. And let’s be honest—if you start skimming through the genealogies like many people do, you can shorten that time.

So even though the thought of reading the Bible can be scary and overwhelming, breaking it down and using a reading plan for guidance can make one resolution that all followers of Christ should have an achievable goal.

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Mixed Up Christmas: When Christmas Magic Fails

Christmas Magic has never failed…until today.

Delivering presents on Christmas Eve takes preparation, hard work, and most of all magic. Everyone knows that, especially Terrance.

As Santa’s main helper, he’s seen uncountable successful deliveries, so when Rudolph drinks the wrong potion and can’t fly, Terrance is sure they can still hand out the gifts on time.

But he soon discovers that everyone is affected. Will Terrance, Santa, and Rudolf overcome all odds when Christmas Magic goes awry.

Purchase

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October 2023 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!

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Grim-Training-644x1024.jpg

This is the 11th installment of GRIT’s adventure. To start at the beginning for context, start with Grim Failure.

The Final Verdict

I had received notice last night to appear before the court first thing this morning. We were less than two days after the earthquake. They hadn’t wasted any time making a decision about my future.

I entered the large domed courtroom that felt like overkill for me, the seven judges, and the lone observer. Samantha sat in the front row, to my right, flashing me an encouraging smile. I nodded in appreciation. I know she was trying to be supportive but honestly, her presence made me feel worse. The one person who had been kind to me was about to witness my lowest and most embarrassing moment—being stripped of my reaper responsibilities and likely demoted to a permanent desk job. That’s if I was lucky and didn’t receive punishment for negligence of clear protocol.

The judges sat in a semi-circle, elevated I’m sure to lord themselves over the lower class—in this case, me. I felt every bit the miniscule lowly nobody they viewed me as. The older lady in the center peered above her glasses and called my name.

I stood, my wobbly legs barely able to support my weight. Slowly, as if I could delay the inevitable, I approached the podium, encased within the semi-circle.

The door opened behind me and in the large, mostly empty hall, the door’s creak and shuffling of footsteps echoed. I watched as a short figure dressed in a long dark coat with the hood pulled down far enough that the dim lighting made it impossible to see their face. Obviously one of the higher-ranking reapers here to amuse himself with the destruction of a former up-and-coming youngster. I guess when you constantly deal with death you come up with odd and obscure ways to entertain yourself. Maybe this guy enjoyed a morbid sense of enjoyment.

The visitor had received my attention but not that of her majesty on high. After eyeing me for an uncomfortably long time, she looked down and read from a prepared statement.

“You have been summoned here today to receive final judgment for your Grim Reaper in Training period, your subsequent probationary period, and the results of such actions.”

I tried to swallow but my dry throat caused me to lapse into a coughing fit. I apologized once I regained control and wanted to shrink even more under the glare coming from the seven judges.

Final judgment? I gripped the podium to keep myself from collapsing. Those words carried so much weight. I wanted to tune out the rest but forced myself to focus on the statement.

“The court has taken into account the subject’s academic as well as professional record, and listened to the testimonies of co-workers—both peers and those in seniority positions, as well as administrative personnel. Our decision, while not unanimous, is final and not available for appeal.”

While hearing the judge announce that an appeal wasn’t an option would normally have bothered me, I couldn’t help but feel a little giddy. I wanted to ask her to reread the last part, where she announced the decision wasn’t unanimous. That meant at least one of the judges didn’t think I was the worst of the worst. With my recent track record I had to take the victories where I could.

I had no intention of appealing their ruling. Whatever they threw my way I had deservedly earned.

“As of sundown last night you are no longer a reaper in training. It is mandated by this panel that you be promoted to a full-time Grim Reaper with all the benefits thereof. You are to report immediately to administration for your first assignment as a Reaper. You will report directly to Stan in all matters regarding your Reaper responsibilities until such time as this panel rules otherwise. This verdict is final and binding. We are dismissed.”

The judge slammed down her gavel and the judges exited single file. Samantha clapped and squealed with delight, then gave me a hug while I stood unmoved, stunned at what I had just heard.

“I’m so happy for you.”

“That…I…What just happened?”

Samantha beamed, smiling from ear to ear. “I told you I owed you my life. You said the most important thing to you was working as a reaper so I convinced my uncle to pull a few strings. You earned this with your bravery. Stan just made sure the judges recognized that fact.”

Stan. She must have a strong pull on her uncle to convince him to help me. Even in helping me though, he had himself set up as my superior so he would always have leverage over me. Still, I couldn’t let that sour the fact that I was going to be, no, I was a real, fully commissioned reaper. I didn’t know what to say.

“Thank you.”

“Like I said, I owe you my life. If there’s ever anything else you need, find me. Or ask Stan. He’ll take care of you.”

After Samantha left I sat for a minute, gathering my strength (my legs still felt weak) and trying to process the last few minutes. I felt a mix of relief, fear, and anxiety. What would happen if I continued to screw up? Would the panel revoke their decision? Would Stan expose my incompetence? I suddenly felt like I had even more pressure on me than before.

The light dimmed as a shadow swept over me. I had been so lost in thought that I hadn’t noticed the approaching footsteps, even in the empty, quiet room. Standing above me was the hooded reaper that had entered earlier. With all of the excitement I had forgotten about him. When I looked up I could see inside the hood. It wasn’t a reaper. Or a he.

I stood excitedly. “Sheila!”

I tried to hug her but she put up a hand and whispered. “Shh! Nobody can know I’m here.”

Was she that embarrassed to be seen with me? I whispered back. “I’m sorry. Why the disguise?”

“My dad is friends with several of the judges. I can’t risk him knowing I was here.”

“He still hates me.”

What flicker of hope I had felt that she might be here to resume a romantic relationship diminished when she nodded.

“He’s mad that the judges promoted you to a reaper. He tried to talk them out of it but apparently you have someone with a lot of persuasion. Plus…” she scanned the room and once satisfied, dropped her voice even further. “Because the investigation was able to question the souls that tried to drag you and Samantha to Hades, they uncovered some corruption that was targeting Stan and a few of the higher-ups. It’s all hush-hush.”

That had my head spinning and created so many questions. Who knew about the corruption? Is that why I was promoted? Was Sheila’s dad involved?

“You said your dad didn’t want me to become a reaper…” I don’t know how to ask if he was involved and that’s why he wanted me punished.

Sheila, like she always has, read my mind. “He thinks it’s great that your actions exposed the conspiracies. But he thinks it was just luck on your part and that you don’t deserve to be a full-time reaper. Plus, he thinks if you’re working in administration I’m less likely to be interested.”

I wanted to ask if she was still interested but I knew it didn’t matter. “I miss you.” I knew it wouldn’t make a difference but it was true. “You were the only one who believed in me.”

She shyly glanced toward the courtroom door. “She was pretty.”

“Who? Oh, Samantha. Yeah, I guess so.” It wasn’t that I hadn’t noticed, it’s just that Samantha seemed more like the older sister type than a potential dating prospect. Besides, when we parted, nothing was mentioned about us ever seeing each other again.

“I wish you the best. I have to go.”

She gave me a quick kiss on the cheek and hurried away.

I wanted to run after her but knew it was pointless. I wanted to sit and wonder about how my life had suddenly changed in the last few minutes. I wanted to go home and tell my parents the good news about my promotion.

But I had to report to administration. I had a reaper job to do!

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

Snakemouth by T.R. Neff

Ritual by Gina Fabio

Truth Speaker by Barbara Lund

A Furry Problem by Vanessa Wells

The Boon by Juneta Key

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Author Interview: James Quinlan Meservy

Biography

James Quinlan Meservy loves literature!  His favorite genre to read is classic literature (Charles Dickens is his favorite author).

He lives in Southeast Idaho with his wife and children, and spent his childhood moving all across northern Utah. He considers his home town to be Mendon, Ut, a small community near Logan, Utah in the Cache Valley.

Tell us about your book, The United: The Realm of Light Book 1.

TJ Parkinson and his best friends, Blaze and Byron, are camping when Blaze goes missing. The only clue they have to Blaze’s disappearance is an old pencil sketch of a wolf. TJ and Byron need to figure out the meaning of the sketch, and find Blaze before it is too late.

    Do you have a plan for the rest of the series (# of books, next publication date, etc.)?

    At the current time, August 2023, the Realm of the Light has 4 published novels: The United, Denizens Among Us, Perfectly Evil, and Shades of Mortality. 2 companion novellas: The Viscount of Sternboard, and Cross of Roses. Also an anthology of Realm of the Light short stories, Within the Shadows. I do plan on writing Book 5 of Realm of the Light at some point in the future, but I do not have a set timetable for that release.

    How/why did you start writing?

    My writing journey is a little different from other authors. I did not always want to be a published author. I had a couple short stories that would not leave my mind, and a couple characters who would not stop talking to me until I wrote them down. So, when I was about 25, I decided to take the stories and form them into a novel. After a few years, a lot of research, and several drafts, I began to actually enjoy the writing process, and here we are.

    What has influenced you the most as a writer?

    Honestly, I think what has influenced me the most as a writer is my connections with other writers, whether that be through personal friendship or social media interactions, or just reading the works of other authors. I often look at, talk with, or read another author’s work and think, “I can do that,” or “I want to try that.”

    What is your favorite time of day, and why?

    When I was 20, I suffered a concussion that literally knocked all curvature out of my spine, and I have been dealing with post concussive syndrome ever since. My most frequent symptoms are chronic headaches and chronic migraines, so my favorite time to write is whenever my head does not hurt.

    What is your favorite aspect of writing? What is the hardest part of writing for you?

    I think my favorite part of writing is creating a new world and seeing how my characters react to and interact with their world.

    The hardest part of writing for me is the marketing and promotions of books that have already been written. I would love it if after a book is properly edited, has a cover, then the book magically gets the blurb and magically shows up on ads and other promotional places when I hit “publish.”

    What writing advice has been the most beneficial for you?

    To read. To read everything. To read books that are in your preferred genre, books of different genres, and as you read, learn from the author. One of the single most influential series I have read is Wheel of Time. I did not enjoy Wheel of Time. But, somewhere around Book 5, I was talking with my wife and other authors, and decided that I can learn how Robert Jordan built his world, even if I am not a fan of his works, and I have a been a student of Jordan’s ever since. Let me be clear, I never became a fan of Wheel of Time series, but I did become a huge admirer of Robert Jordan’s writing style.

    What does your writing process look like? Do you have a routine? What is your strangest writing quirk?

    My process is bit unique. As I mentioned in a previous question, I have chronic migraines. And one of my biggest triggers is mental excursion. Right now, my routine is that I read scripture to clear my mind and help me focus, than I turn on my PC, open my word document, and set an alarm for 30 minutes. And I write. After my alarm goes off, I leave myself a comment or a note about what I am working on, and turn off my computer.

    30 minutes a day is not my ideal, but when I hold my time to just 30 minutes a day, I am able to write every day and not trigger migraines, headaches, or other lingering symptoms of my post concussive syndrome.

    How do you start your stories (character, plot, setting, etc.)?

    How do I start a story? You know, I am not really sure. I guess I have an initial idea, and as I think on the idea, I start dreaming about it. After I have a dreamt about the setting and characters, I start outlining a loose plot and begin writing.

    What does success look like for you as an author?

    How I look at success has changed over the years. As I regain my health, I am certain my definition of success will change, but for now, every day that I am healthy and clear minded enough to write, it is a small victory

    Is there anything additional you want to share with readers?

    Thank you for your patience with me. I am actively writing, but my process is slow as I focus more on recovering from my recent head injuries, and I appreciate your understanding and patience.

    Website

    Book Locations: Amazon

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      Author Interview: Donna Marie West

      Biography

      Donna Marie West is a Canadian educator, translator, author, and freelance editor. She has published some 500 drabbles, short stories, and non-fiction articles in a wide variety of Canadian and American magazines, web sites, and anthologies. She loves the unusual, unexplained, and mysterious, and often finds ways to weave these themes into her stories.

      Tell us about your book, The Mud Man.

      Around ten years ago, I read The Man in the Ice, a nonfiction book about the body of a Neolithic hunter discovered in thawing ice in the Ötztaler Alps in Europe. After that, I found myself noticing news articles about discoveries of ancient bacteria and viruses and even the bodies of frozen animals like wolves, horses, and mammoths in thawing ice or permafrost soil in Siberia and other northern locations. Even more amazing, some of the bacteria and viruses, once thawed out, proved to be alive and well. I started to think, “What if a frozen human was found? What if they weren’t dead?”

      The Mud Man is the story of Dom, a man who lived 9,500 years ago and who, following his infection from mutated bacteria, was preserved frozen—yet alive—until his discovery by archeologists digging in northern British Columbia.

      As he recovers from his near-fatal ordeal and learns to communicate with his caregivers, Dom tells an incredible tale of his life as a prehistoric Native American. Eventually, he unwittingly reveals the source of his miraculous survival, something that promises unimagined breakthroughs in the fields of medicine and human longevity. Yet the question remains: will he be able to adapt to life in the modern world?

      What other books have you published?

      In 2017, I co-authored a collection of horror-themed short stories and poems called HAUNTED HORROR with New Zealand author John Irvine. In 2020, my first novel, NEXT IN LINE, was published by an indie publisher that subsequently closed its doors, so that one is currently looking for a new home. THE MUD MAN is my second novel.

        Do you have a set writing schedule (time, place, method, etc.)?

        Not really. I write when I don’t have any other work, or when an idea comes to mind that I have to write down before I forget it.

        What are you currently writing or what will be your next project?

        I’ve actually been doing a lot of editing for other writers lately, but I want to give a final revision to the sequel to NEXT IN LINE when I have time.

        How/why did you start writing?

        As far back as elementary school—back in the dark ages before the Internet, computers, or even electric typewriters—I loved reading and learning stuff and writing about it.

        I took creative writing courses in high school and later, enrolled in writing and editing courses by correspondence.

        I started writing seriously about twenty years ago, at first mostly about horses, as that’s where my expertise lay, but gradually expanding to paranormal subjects and Earth mysteries, which interest me immensely. Eventually, I branched out into fiction, publishing numerous short stories in a variety of anthologies and magazines, before trying my hand at novels.

        What is your favorite part about writing? What is the hardest part for you?

        Believe it or not, I like all the research that comes with writing both fiction and nonfiction. I also enjoy the revision process, improving my work until I’m (mostly) satisfied with it and feel it’s ready for public consumption.

        What is the best advice you ever received as a writer?

        To be honest, there isn’t one thing that stands out. One thing I’ve learned, however, is the importance of knowing how to revise and edit one’s own work. Also the importance of beta readers who will give you an honest opinion and often suggest things you didn’t think of.

        Your biography says you’ve published over 300 writing pieces. Are those fiction, nonfiction, or both? Tell us about them.

        I’ve published around 500 short pieces, actually, both nonfiction and fiction in magazines and anthologies, and I’ve even done some content writing for a couple websites. I like the learning process that goes with writing a variety of things.

        What is your favorite time of day?

        I don’t really have one, although I do like taking a few minutes of quiet time when I can.

        What does success look like for you as an author?

        I think success, to me, is when I know that readers have enjoyed something I’ve written, and maybe even learned something too.

        Is there anything additional you want to share with readers?

        Only the obvious: I do hope that everyone reading this will take a chance with THE MUD MAN and follow me as NEXT IN LINE and its sequels become available.

        Website: I don’t have a website, but I can be found on the Quebec Writers’ Federation Hire a Writer directory as well as Facebook (Donna Marie West – Author and Editor).

        Book Locations:

        Amazon.com

        Amazon.ca

        Goodreads

        Excerpt

        “We discovered him yesterday morning,” the student said with a grin. “We’ve been working ever since to dig him out.”

        They hurried another ten minutes along a deep, narrow chasm between two jagged outcroppings of rock. Several squares typical of archaeological exploration had been cut into the soil beneath the carpet of moss, but they seemed for the moment to be of no interest. Two students knelt almost reverently around a two-metre-long trench dug out of the thawing permafrost soil. Professor Sutherland, standing behind them, was taking photos with a compact digital camera.

        A human body lay on its back in an almost metre-deep trench, its left leg bent beneath it, arms folded across its chest, head turned slightly to the right. Though it remained caked in mud, it appeared to be a man of average height with shoulder blade-length hair, wearing the tatters of a leather shirt and trousers, and what looked like a sealskin moccasin on the visible foot.

        “He’s amazing,” Veronica murmured, her heart racing and eyes glued to the emaciated body.

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          Author Interview: Alexis Anicque

          Biography

          I am Alexis Ancique, an experienced author and avid adventurer, driven by my love for travel and exploration. As a mother of two grown children and Nana of four, my family is my pride and joy. In my free time, I enjoy writing and sailing, while my insatiable wanderlust often finds me jumping on planes, trains, or buses. Although I live in a charming cottage in the woods, I’m equally drawn to the energy and excitement of city life. Overall, I just love to adventure – I hope to share that with you!

          Tell us about your Famous Adventure Series.

          Famous follows her mother’s journal on a magical adventure to where her mother had found her. She ventures through many countries by trek, train, ship, and plane in this magical realism fantasy adventure.

          Is the series complete?

          The prequel will be coming out in the coming month.

          On your website you suggest reading your journal collection for an introduction to your writing. What can readers expect to experience by reading them?

          The journals each have 50 topics to journal about. Many times people want to start journaling, however, they get a pen and their mind goes blank. These journals get them started.

          How/why did you start writing?

          Years ago, I had written a steamy romance with a murder mystery twist. I sent out query letters and did not receive even one response. Fast forward twenty years, I read a book in this genre and it was awful. It reminded me of the one I had written. I found it in my old briefcase in my son’s shed, revamped it, and self-published. Then I just started telling stories.

          What is your current writing project(s)?

          I have two in progress and both will be out by October 2023: Before Finding Famous and       Dive Into the Deep; Our Life on the Hook

          What is your favorite aspect of writing? What is the hardest part of writing for you?

          Really, I just love telling stories. The hardest part is the marketing.

          What does your writing process look like? Do you have a routine? What is your strangest writing quirk?

          I am super random, I have to have noise in the background.

          How do you start your stories (character, plot, setting, etc.)?

          I have to talk it out. I usually use my husband or daughter as a guinea pig. I run my ideas and see what they think.

          What does success look like for you as an author?

          I was volunteering at a wilderness park recently and a girl there was talking about an upcoming book that she couldn’t wait to read. I would love it if there were people talking that way about my books.

          Also, I am a bit of a thrift store junky, and I always browse the books, it would be cool to see mine. I’d rather see it there, knowing someone had gotten and read it than sitting on a shelf at a new book store.

          Website

          Links:

          First chapter on Youtube

          Amazon author link

          FB group

          Goodreads author link

          IG

          Twitter

          Linkedin

          Book Locations: Amazon for the ebook boxset, but individually they are available everywhere books are sold.

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          July 2023 Storytime Blog Hop

          This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Blog-Hop.png

          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!

          This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Grim-Training-644x1024.jpg

          This is the 10th installment of GRIT’s adventure. To start at the beginning for context, start with Grim Failure.

          From Bad to Worse

          When my parents, school counselors, and then reaper training instructors warned me about the dangers and risks associated with being a reaper, I don’t think this is what they had in mind. Nothing was ever mentioned about pacing outside of Administration.

          For the third time in my young career, that’s exactly what I found myself doing—anxiously waiting outside of the Administrative offices worried about the conversations taking place within the walls about my future as a Reaper. I had no reason to believe I would learn anything today or that any decision would be made. Supposedly, the meeting was to discuss the earthquake and whether preparations and actions by all parties were appropriate for the natural disaster. My career wasn’t on trial, yet. I just didn’t know what else to do with myself and since I hadn’t been given another assignment (a fact I took as a very bad sign), I paced and waited in hopes that I would retain my job. At best my failure probably meant an extended probationary period.

          I heard her before I saw her, Samantha shuffling up behind me while I sat on the bench with my head resting on my arms on my lap.

          “Everything’s going to be fine,” she said kindly as she sat next to me and gently rubbed my back.

          I wanted to believe her, I really did.

          But I couldn’t so I ignored her, wallowing in self-pity.

          “What you did was brave and selfless,” Samantha scolded me. “I told my uncle the whole story and he was moved. Cried even.”

          “That’s nice, and I appreciate it, I really do. But your uncle’s a collector. He might be able to pull some high strings, but the trouble I’m in is well beyond his reach, I’m sure.”

          She sat up straight and stared at me until I looked her in the eye. She had very intense, serious eyes. “That might be true for most collectors, but you don’t know Stan, he has a way—”

          I jumped to me feet. “Wait! Stan? Your uncle is Stan? The Stan who helped us capture those evil souls?”

          “Yes, of course that Stan.” She puffed out her arms, slumped forward, and spoke in a gruff voice, trying to make herself look and sound like her uncle. “He said, ‘I’ll make sure GRIT gets what he deserves.”

          It was a decent impression and she sounded as ominous as he uncle.

          I slumped back onto the bench. “Oh, no…” My career was over.

          Maybe I should contact one of the counselors recommended by Administration.

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


          Timeless by T. R. Neff
          Desire by Katharina Gerlach
          Covenant by Chris Makowski
          Autonomous Militarized by Gina Fabio
          Pipes by Barbara Lund
          Under Surface Of The Stars: A Story Poem by Juneta Key
          Un-Nefer’s Triumph by Kate Flint
          Super Jill by Vanessa Wells

          Posted in Blog Hop, Grim Reaper in Training, Stories | 7 Comments

          Author Interview: D.J. LeJeune

          Biography

          DJ LeJeune sends his readers on near and far future Science Fiction adventures, blended with a dash of thriller and a lot of character. Grand Prize winner for the Summer 2020 Writing Contest at Short Fiction Break, he minored in Creative Writing in college, and is finally using that forgotten degree.

          Tell us about your book Path of Relics.

          Sure! Path of Relics is a near-future science fiction / LitRPG Lite novel about Terry, a down-on-his-luck guy in a job-starved future. Terry loves to play video games and is shocked when he gets the chance to place the game of his dreams and get paid for it.

          And this game is a real-as-life, virtual reality world, where he discovers lost civilizations, fights creatures, and solves mysteries. But as he’s playing, he realizes events in the game are causing malfunctions in real-world Manhattan, and it’s killing people.

            It’s like a mash-up of Ready Player One, Lord of the Rings, and Indiana Jones.

            Your website states that you’re at work on book two in the series. How far along is it? Do you have a target date for publication?

            I’ve finished the first draft of book two, and currently working on revision. My target date for publication is end of 2023.

            What drew to you write a LitRPG Lite / Gamelit adventure?

            Two things, mainly. My love of video games, and my love of technology. From an early age, I’ve enjoyed playing video games, including RPGs like old-school Dragon Warrior and Final Fantasy (I mean like… FF 1 and 2!). So the chance to create a game world, one that was as real as our own, excited me.

            Also, I follow technology and science advancements daily. So things like virtual reality, augmented reality, artificial intelligence, and more intrigue me. Path of Relics was my opportunity to bring all of those elements together.

            Most importantly, I wanted to tell a story involving a game, but with clear life and death stakes in the real world. For me, if the stakes are just… well you lose the game and that’s the worse that can happen… that’s not engaging. In Path of Relics, losing the game at first means dire repercussions for the main character, and as the story progresses, those stakes become catastrophic for millions of lives.

            When you write a story, where do you start? Character, plot, setting, other?

            Plot, I suppose. The big idea of the story has to be interesting to me‌. I love stories because they let you experience the impossible. So once I feel I have a story that takes me to interesting places (and therefore my readers too), AND that it has some good conflict and reasoning, then I’m off. I come up with characters and settings to service that idea.

            How much time do you spend writing compared to marketing? Do you feel that is the right balance for you?

            So far, writing has taken up more time compared to marketing, but I see that shifting. Since I only have one novel out so far (and working on the sequel), I’m still learning a lot about marketing. So for the past few months, I’ve been heavily focused on getting the word out about Path of Relics.

            The thing is, marketing is an ongoing process. Even when I’m writing my third and fourth series of books, I’ll still be marketing Path of Relics and its sequels. So in that sense, I’ll always be marketing.

            But I imagine once I have a better handle on promotion, I’ll have shortcuts and processes to make things more efficient. So in the end, maybe writing will take up more time. Ask me again in a couple of years, haha.

            Do you have a specific place/time/routine to your writing? Do you have a strange writing quirk?

            I write in the morning before work, usually from about 7:30 am to about 10 am. My “office” is a desk in our guest room. Not really a quirk, but hot, black coffee is a necessity.

            What is the best advice you ever received as a writer?

            Give it the time it needs. For most authors, gaining traction and a readership will take time. It’ll take several novels, not just one. I heard that advice early on, even though I didn’t want to listen. I wanted my first novel to be the one that broke that mold and catapulted me to literary superstardom.

            Is that possible? Maybe, although even the stories you hear of that aren’t often what they seem. A “first-time” superstar is many times a seasoned author who started over under a pen name. Or the “natural” who knocked it out of the park first time has been writing for years on a blog or something, but never “officially” published.

            Understanding that for most authors, this process will take a while, is helpful. You just know going in that’s the process. Go through the process, and you’ll very likely see success like you’re dreaming about. Having unrealistic expectations can cause would-be authors to give up too soon.

            If money weren’t an issue, what would you do with the rest of your life?

            Yeah, totally I’d keep writing. I mean, I get to flesh out and explore the places and situations of my dreams. How many times have you wished someone would write a story that just doesn’t exist? As an author, I get to do that for myself, and any others who might also be interested. Even if I had all the money I needed, that would still be a blast!

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

            I hang out with family and friends, mostly. But also, I play video games. I’m a Nintendo fan-boy. Right now I’m deep into Tears of the Kingdom. Listening to live music is also fun hobby. My fiance and I try to make it out when we can.

            What does success look like for you as an author?

            For me, success used to be getting published. Before I finished novel one, even when I was getting close to the end, it was hard to visualize just “being a published author.” I’ve done that, so in a way, I’m already a success. I always remind myself of that.

            But the goalposts move and now success looks like fully supporting myself from my writing. That will probably be a while from now, but if others have done it, so can I.

              Is there anything additional you want to share with readers?

              Thanks for reading. If you like stories with a sense of mystery and awe, combined with action and thrills, give Path of Relics a try. It’s an interesting blend of science fiction and fantasy, and I hope you enjoy it.

              Website: https://djlejeune.com

              Book Locations: Amazon / Kindle Unlimited

              Excerpt

              As Terry feared, their HP only whittled away. They must be high-level. Terry yelled as he neared the scuffle, drawing attention away from Chris.

              Two of the four men broke off, racing to meet him.

              He whirled his Kali sticks, deflecting each of their attacks in turn. Then Terry whipped around and caught the nearest man with solid strikes to hip and neck. He leapt back as the man’s companion thrust forward with his blade.

              Together, the two men pressed Terry, putting him on the defensive.

              He shuffled back through the obelisks, blocking and dodging. Still, he took a couple of hits, bringing his health down by a quarter.

              These NPCs were high-level. Unlike the goblins, they fought smart, pushing Terry between them. His heart thundered, straining at the collective effort of the fight and his earlier sprint up the stairs.

              The killing intent in the men’s eyes chilled him. Up to this point, he’d only fought creatures in PoR. Battling human NPCs was disturbing.

              He wondered briefly if they might be special, like Jade. In the heat of battle, it was impossible to tell, but it didn’t matter. He needed to turn that seal back on, no matter what. Lives in the real world were at stake—lives he knew weren’t faked by an algorithm.

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              Author Interview: Lindsey Kinsella

              Biography

              Lindsey Kinsella is a Scottish fantasy and science fiction writer and author of “The Lazarus Taxa” and “The Heart of Pangaea.”

              While a qualified and experienced naval architect and an avid car enthusiast, he always reserved a space in his life for a deep fascination with paleontology. This drove his writing process as he strove to write tales of the rich and complex history of life on Earth.

              As of June 2, 2023 you have a new book out, The Heart of Pangea. Tell us about it.

              The Heart of Pangaea is quite the departure from what I had written before. My previous book, The Lazarus Taxa, was a fairly grounded, gritty, adult sci-fi thriller, but I found myself wishing my children could read something I’d written.

              So, a more family friendly concept was born. Using an imaginary fantasy setting allowed me to apply all the tension and drama that I enjoy, without the need for bloody violence. It also allowed me to take things a little less seriously and employ a lot more humour than before, which is something I had a lot of fun with.

              I hope the readers of all ages (within reason, I’d suggest 10+) enjoy the combination of high emotional stakes, whimsical comedy, and fast paced action.

              Both of your books to date deal with dinosaurs and paleontology. Will readers learn as be entertained as they read them?

              Absolutely! In fact, that was the original spark which motivated me to write in the first place. Paleontology is so endlessly fascinating and goes far deeper than most people know. I hope to bring those ancient worlds to the reader in a way that interests them as well as entertains.

              The Lazarus Taxa takes an in-depth look at a specific snap-shot in time, delving into the world of Late Cretaceous North America. I loved being able to recreate more than just dinosaurs, but an entire ecosystem.

              The Heart of Pangaea offers a more expansive viewport into natural history, with creatures from throughout time co-existing in a fantasy realm. It’s somewhat of a tribute to the history of the science, with many characters being based on real life paleontologists.

              In both books I tend to take short interlude chapters which divulge some of the scientific background behind the story. I wanted to avoid lengthy dialogue with clunky scientific jargon, so these short non-fiction chapters feel more fluid.

              Do you have a set writing schedule (time, place, method, etc.)?

              It’s far from a schedule, I really just write whenever I can find an hour or two of quiet time! That tends to be late at night with both books having been almost exclusively written after 11pm.

              What are you currently writing or what will be your next project?

              I have already started on a new project and I’m rediscovering my love of first drafts! There’s something refreshing about a blank page after a year of redrafts and edits.

              The current work in progress follows the crew of an illegal whaling ship who find themselves stranded in the Arctic. It’ll be my first divergence from paleo-inspired fiction and will instead focus on climate science.

              How much time do you spend writing compared to marketing? Do you feel that is the right balance for you?

              Realistically I spend far more time marketing than writing, at least if you include social media marketing. Of course, I would love the reverse to be true, but marketing is far more demanding. However, social media definitely makes it easier, and being able to market on the go in short bursts does mean such activities don’t tend to eat into actual writing time.

              What is your favorite part about writing? What is the hardest part for you?

              I think my favourite stage is probably around the third or fourth draft when everything starts to come together and make sense. It’s around that time I find myself really falling in love with the story and finding the motivation to write then is so easy.

              The hardest part actually comes before the first draft—what’s the next story? Like most writers, I’m sure, I have pages and pages of story ideas, concepts, worlds, characters; I’ll likely not live long enough to see them all in print! Choosing any one puts the rest on hold for at least a year, maybe more, so it’s a big decision!

              What is the best advice you ever received as a writer?

              Hire an editor. Without question. It seems like such an obvious thing to more seasoned authors, but back when I was completely new to it all I probably underestimated its importance. But I’m glad I didn’t skip that vital step—my editor made a world of difference to both novels in ways I would never have considered (shout out to Donna Marie West; she’s amazing!).

              When you start a story, do you begin with character, plot, setting, other?

              It seems to vary. The Lazarus Taxa certainly grew from the setting, my current WIP grew from the plot, and The Heart of Pangaea really grew from a single scene which I then built a story round.

              For anyone who has read it, I’d love to hear you guess which scene!

              What is your favorite time of day?

              It depends on the time of year, but now in the summer I love the afternoons. The sun is out (yes, even in Scotland) and even simple tasks become a joy.

              Does writing energize or exhaust you? Or both?

              Definitely the former. While watching TV or surfing the internet, I’ll be needing a sleep by about 11am. But when writing, I could go all night. Often, I have to force myself to shut it down for the night to avoid being rather exhausted in the morning… I guess in a way it does both then!

              Website

              Book Locations: The Heart of Pangaea can be found on most online book retailers. Amazon link

              Excerpt

              I strode into the passageway. Robyn hesitated before following along the gloomy passage. The blue torchlight flickered and danced against the walls, but there were still no clues as to what lay at the end. It seemed to stretch into the depths of the mountain forever. The haunting voice of the Mausoleum echoed out once more.

              Before the Architect can be bestowed with the Heart, she must prove she is ready. You must pass the three trials of the Archean.”

              “Trials?” I asked with a gulp.

              These trials will test the traits the Architect must possess to fulfill her destiny.”

              “What destiny?” she replied.

              “The scripture…” I mused.

              For your first trial, you must prove your haste.”

              I looked at Robyn with a sly smile.

              “Hundred metre sprint champion four years in a row,” I reminded her with a wink. “I think you can prove you’re fast.”

              With the loud grinding of moving stone, a trapdoor opened before us. We walked toward this new hole in the floor and gazed into the abyss. As far as I could tell, this hole had no bottom. Who knew how far down it went or what lay below, but it was clear this was where we need to go.

              “Architects first,” I said while gesturing toward the hole.

              “I’m not going down there,” she replied, her eyes pinned wide with terror. “How deep is it? We could be jumping to our death.”

              “I don’t think the disembodied voice of the Mausoleum would have us leap to our demise. That seems a little convoluted.”

              “You don’t know that Ed. Oh god, or we could get stuck, or there could be spiders, or—”

              “Okay, I hear what you’re saying but…”

              Without finishing that sentence, I gave her gentle shove down the hole. She screamed for a couple of seconds before thumping at the bottom. I dived after her, landing right by her feet in another long passageway.

              “What was that, Ed?”

              “You needed a push,” I replied. “For your mum.”

              Robyn shook her head before sighing deeply.

              “What’s this trial of haste all about, then?”

              Up ahead, at a distance which I reckoned might well have been exactly a hundred metres, two bright orange torches illuminated a wooden door.

              “So, I guess you just run to the door as quickly as you can?” I suggested.

              “Seems simple enough.”

              “Maybe too simple.”

              It was. From behind us came a dry, laboured gasping. I spun around to see a hulking mass, covered in dark, patchy fur, creeping out from the shadows.

              The creature which emerged was hideous. Its jaws were vast and housed oversized teeth which dripped with saliva. Dark, soulless eyes penetrated through the torchlight. The beast’s front limbs were much taller than its hind legs, creating a muscular, front-heavy body plan with an immense hump of muscle above its shoulder blades. Its matted fur was interrupted by seemingly random bald patches, scars, and warts.

              “Is that…?”

              Daeodon,” Robyn confirmed with a tremble in her voice.

              I feared as much, though I knew it better by its unofficial and well-earned title—the Hell pig.

              It seemed that failing the “trial of haste” would have fatal consequences.

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