Author Interview: Amanda Muratoff and Kayla Hansen

Biography

Kayla is a Shakespeare fanatic. Give her a quote, she can tell you which play it’s from. She studied theatre in university with a focus on directing while harboring a deeper desire to write. Creative writing has always been there for her after a long night like a comforting mug of earl grey tea.

Kayla Hansen

Art has always been a staple in Amanda’s life – from creative writing to painting. She is an award-winning published artist, and she left her career in VFX to return to the passion of her childhood. The memories of late night writing binges brought her back to the fantasy worlds she created.

Amanda Muratoff

They’ve been writing together since they were preteens, and the decision to publish the Pantracia Chronicles came from the desire to share their love of the characters and their adventures.

Your situation is fascinating because you are co-authors. Briefly tell the readers how you started writing together and why you continue to do so. And please identify who is writing because we want to learn about each of you.

Amanda: We actually started writing together when we were preteens. We met online on the Neopets site, and we fell in love with writing stories together. Over our teenage years, we went through phases of writing -every- waking moment, and then sometimes we hardly wrote at all. I think writing was always there for us when we needed it, and we were (and still are) very lucky to have each other as an outlet for it. We wrote in a text-based roleplaying format for a long, long time. It wasn’t until 2018 that we decided to start writing these stories into a bookish format, and by then, we’d already written over 1.5 million words in Pantracia.

Kayla: Text based roleplaying was a huge part of my life in my teens, and it was an activity I shared not only with Amanda, but also with a group of real life friends as well. However, there was something about how Amanda and I worked together that kept bringing us back together no matter what other projects I was also involved with at the time. She said it though, we had our dry spells, but there was always something about how our characters would interact and the adventures we could create together that was almost addictive. Which is certainly one of the reasons why when we finally started writing in book format, we were able to get it done so quickly! We just love doing it.

All of your books are related to the Pantracia Chronicles. Tell us about them.

Amanda: So the Pantracia Chronicles currently has ten books published (will be thirteen within a year), and they’re broken into smaller series—a trilogy, quadrilogy, and another trilogy. Each set of books has its own main characters, but because it’s all one story, one timeline, the characters overlap and entwine. So you see characters from the first three books in book 6 and 7, and you see characters from book 4 in book 3, if that makes sense. There are lots of easter eggs and hidden cameos, and moments where you’ll be like “Wait… is that person… THAT person??” As you read further down the series, the characters come together more and more as their fates irrevocably intertwine. Kind of like building the fantasy avengers, fantasy romance style.

Kayla: And all of this was really born of the original text based RPs that we used to write. The truth of it is that the first series are characters we created in our first adventure into Pantracia, then the second came from when we decided to restart a new story after getting a little bored of the first pair, and then came the third. By the time we wanted to start story #4, we realized how much we missed the old characters and wanted to bring them back. We were about to start a new ‘retelling’ of Kin and Amarie in a text based format again when we realized we should just be writing books, so we changed it up knowing we wanted to revisit all the characters we had created over the previous 10 years. And here we are.

You mentioned in an e-mail how you write together (in the same document at the same time). Will both of you describe what that’s like from your perspectives?

Amanda: So we sit on Discord, which gives us the ability to actually speak to each other, and then we have a google doc open (usually several, actually. Book, outline, timeline, previous book, etc.) and we kind of… “control” different characters. Some characters are mine, some are hers, and some are sort of shared. But for the most part, we always take one side of dialogue or interactions, which makes what unfolds very authentic. For example, Amarie is mine. Kin is hers. So when they’re talking, interacting, or even just in each others’ presence, we try to only control what one person does. So for us, writing isn’t just writing, but reading, too.

Kayla: Amanda described it perfectly. I think this style for us is another reason we’re so prolific. We both get hooked to the book in the same way our readers do. I don’t know what Amanda’s going to do next, so it keeps me engaged and excited. The writing is fresh and isn’t something I’ve come up with myself, so it makes it more interesting in a way. There are definitely times where we both push the boundaries of controlling each other’s characters, but for the most part, we tend to defer to whoever originally created the character as the final decision maker. Because each chapter is from a different character perspective, it also is a nice trade off to who is ‘leading’ each chapter, so we each get a chance to sit back a little more, or really be the one steering the ship. It’s a nice balance.

I noticed on Amazon that neither of you has published anything on your own. Do either of you have plans to publish solo or are you both all in on writing together?

Kayla: We both have our own solo projects that we plan on working on, but right now the main focus is Pantracia. However, we’ve also realized how strong the two of us are together, so it’s hard to make that leap and work solo. Our accountability to each other is part of what makes us so prolific, and I wonder at my own ability to write anything in a reasonable amount of time without Amanda there to pester me and keep me on a schedule. Right now, it’s all in for working together, but it’s hard to say what the future will lead to.

Amanda: I have a few manuscripts that I’ve started, and one that I’ve even finished (though it’s waaaaay too short and needs a lot of love), but at the end of the day—like Kayla said—we’re focused on Pantracia. We put all our writing energy into it. As much as I’d like to publish solo, too, my projects with Kayla are my priority.

How often do you disagree (in writing and/or publishing/marketing) and how to you work through those issues?

Kayla: We disagree all the time! There’s a lot of things that come up while we’re working and really it comes down to compromise. We both get some wins and some losses, but it’s pretty even across the board which is what keeps us working together well. Mutual respect is super important, and occasional breaks so we both can come back to an issue with clearer heads.

Amanda: I agree with what Kayla said. We disagree a lot. But sometimes, as we’ve come to realize, that really works to our benefit. Because if she doesn’t like something I’m proposing, or vice-versa, then it has a chance to be better. We improve each other, and push each other to come up with ideas that make us both happy, which in turn makes for a better story.

You have quite an extensive map on your website. Share what it took to put it together.

Amanda: Wow, the map. The first version of the map was created by us when we were teens, and it was very basic compared to what we have now. It has gone through many stages of development. Kayla created the first one, laying everything out, and giving Pantracia actual substance and terrain—bringing it to life as a real place. The most recent version is one I hand drew in Photoshop, using our previous versions as a template.

Kayla: The truth behind the map was there was a point in our early roleplays where I was getting super confused about where our characters were and what cities they were visiting and returning to. This was during a phase where I was obsessed with creating maps, and Pantracia came out of that. It also created this foundation of a world that Amanda and I decided to keep coming back to, flushing out more details and building more cultures and history. In a lot of ways, for me at least, the map is what really cemented these stories for me into something more tangible. That’s probably the visual side of me.

Amanda, your bio said you are an award-winning artist. Tell us about your background in art. How does your artistic side affect your writing? Is art something you still pursue?

I’ve been an artist as long as I’ve been a writer. My work in 3D Modeling has been published, and my robotic mouse model (completely virtual 3D) won awards and landed me some pretty great jobs in the VFX industry for film and television. While I no longer work in that industry, I still pursue art in more tangible ways. I paint (following my own whims, or by commission), do resin work (you’ve seen those ocean charcuterie boards, I’m sure), etc. Art will always be a part of my life, even if it’s not as prominent as writing.

Kayla, your background is in theater. Tell us about your experience. Does your theater background influence your writing? Is it something you are still involved in?

My experience in theatre 100% influences my writing. I love being a visual storyteller, putting action and emotion to words on pages. Shakespeare is definitely my favorite to stage, just because he’s so timeless and his stories are always relevant. I also have a soft spot for the language and the importance of the visual story on the stage to help get the meaning and intention of the words across to an audience. And all of this plays out in the books for me too. I tend to apply a lot of my stage combat knowledge to fight scenes, helping me really lay out where characters are in the room. Pacing is another huge thing in theatre that translates into my writing. It’s all about storytelling in both mediums, and my experience in both influence each other. I admit I haven’t been super involved in theatre since Covid, but worked as a technical director at a high school before that (which overlaps with the first 2 series in Pantracia). I’m hoping I’ll be able to jump back into the world again soon.

Amanda, what is your favorite thing about working with Kayla?

I love how close it’s made us as friends. I mean, we’ve always been really, really good friends. Best friends. But there’s something about writing together on a regular basis, and working towards common goals together that’s brought us so much closer. Our careers are so entwined with each other, and she’s just such an awesome person that I can’t imagine doing this with anyone else. Our writing time is so important to me. It keeps me sane, amid the chaos of my life, and helps this oh-so-isolating career feel a lot less so.

Kayla, what is your favorite thing about working with Amanda?

The best part is having a partner for sure. And not only that, but my best friend as my partner. We really have grown closer throughout this entire process. Gone through the highs and lows of it together, which is really what makes up the strongest of relationships. We’re like sisters, and it’s crazy sometimes how we can finish each other’s sentences. Literally. We do it all the time when writing. And there’s always moments of ‘that’s exactly what I was going to say.’ She keeps me honest and on track, which I need sometimes, and we’re always there for each other.

What does success look like for each of you as authors?

Amanda: This is success, as far as I’m concerned. I get to travel to conventions, selling and talking about our books, and when people rush back to find me the next day just to tell me they are obsessed with the first book and NEED to buy the others before the con ends… it’s just perfect. One day, I’d love to see Pantracia on screen, along with other lofty goals, but those are the cake. The bonus. For now, we’re successful. Because we have ten books published, soon to be thirteen, and the response has been overwhelmingly positive from readers. I love it. It’s the dream. And whatever comes next is gravy.

Kayla: Ditto to what Amanda said. Success is getting these stories out there. Being able to finally share these characters we love so much with the world. Plus it’s a great excuse to get to go to cons and fairs, haha! But yes, lofty goals would be seeing it on the screen. Netflix series (or whatever streaming service really) would definitely be a HUGE cake. Maybe a video game? I am that kind of geek and I think aspects have potential for that for sure! But no matter what, I can still say I’m a published author. And not only one book, but thirteen (soon). That’s always been the dream and we did it!

Is there anything additional you want to share with readers?

We’d love you to join in and be part of the discussion! We have a reader group on Facebook – The Rebel’s Hearth, and also a newsletter if you’d like to join and get a free digital copy of the prequel novella. You can sign up on our website – www.pantracia.com.

Website: www.pantracia.com

BookLocations: Signed copies are available from us, directly, just contact us through our website or facebook page. Otherwise, all our books are available on Amazon, starting here with the first one.

Excerpt

Kin held the sword steady while he dared the sharpened blade closer to Amarie’s neck.

“Cole.” Amarie’s voice came again in a gasp, and she grabbed Kin’s forearm, pulling it with a feigned amount of strength.

Coltin’s mouth opened to answer, but Kin spoke instead.

“Hello, Coltin.” His tone shifted to be far more sinister than he once believed possible. He gripped Amarie tighter, forcing her to squirm within his arms. “Might I have a word?” A wet drop hit his wrist, encouraging a glance down at his victim.

Amarie’s eyes brimmed with tears as she looked at the young heir before her.

Another wave of panic coursed through Kin, but he swallowed it. He ignored any doubts and kept his hand steady and his gaze locked on the dumbstruck nobleman before him.

Coltin stood stone still. His face paled in the flickering blue light, eyes wild and pinned on the blade at Amarie’s throat. “Don’t hurt her, please.” His gaze shifted to her captor. “I’ll give you whatever you want, I swear.”

Kin eyed Coltin and twisted the hilt of his blade, rocking it under Amarie’s chin for extra effect. He leaned in, pressing his temple against hers, and listened to the rasp as the edge of steel grazed over her skin.

She pressed harder against him, freeing her other hand to clasp a fistful of his tunic at his side.

Coltin rocked forward, but caught himself before he lunged when Kin twitched in response. Carefully, the bachelor took a step back, seeming to realize his helplessness.

“That’s a good boy.” Kin drew his lips near Amarie’s ear.

A little squirm interrupted Coltin’s stance.

Kin reveled in his discomfort, but there was business to take care of. “The great purple creature out there…” He kept his chin low. “She has a fancy necklace I’d like you to fetch for me.”

“Please, Coltin.” Amarie’s voice shook.

Another tear hit Kin’s skin and rolled down his wrist.

Coltin nodded vigorously. “Of course, the necklace. Just, please, don’t hurt her.” He didn’t turn to leave, despite his understanding. He stared, encouraging Kin to further torment him.

He turned his head into Amarie’s hair, taking a long inhale for Coltin’s benefit.

Amarie’s eyes closed with an added whimper of fear.

“I tend to get impatient.” Kin pulled Amarie farther back into the room. “So, I’d be quick, boy.” He squeezed her waist, lifting her from the ground.

Amarie’s foot caught on the lavish fringe of the rug, jerking her in his arms. His grip tightened to stabilize her, and she hissed.

Blue and white light reflected off the flat of his sword, glinting across Coltin’s face, forcing the nobleman to blink and turn his eyes away. Without another word, he hurled himself back through the doorway.

As soon as the door closed to nothing but a crack in Coltin’s hasty exit, Kin’s arm relaxed. It fell to his side, sword pommel thunking on a display case.

What kind of monster have I become for this to feel natural?

He couldn’t drop the act for long. Coltin would be back soon.

Hopefully, with the necklace.

He didn’t release Amarie’s waist, drawing in a steadying inhale. “Sorry,” he whispered.

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Author Interview: Alma Alexander

Biography

Alma Alexander’s life so far has prepared her very well for her chosen career. She was born in a country which no longer exists on the maps, has lived and worked in seven countries on four continents (and in cyberspace!), has climbed mountains, dived in coral reefs, flown small planes, swum with dolphins, touched two-thousand-year-old tiles in a gate out of Babylon.

She is a novelist, anthologist and short story writer who currently shares her life between the Pacific Northwest of the USA (where she lives with the obligatory writer’s cat) and the wonderful fantasy worlds of her own imagination.

You are currently promoting a new book. Tell us about it.

The latest big novel is “The Second Star”, finalist for the Imadjinn Award and the Washington State Book Award in 2021, and something I would really love to bring to your attention.

The latest published book is the collection “Fractured Fairy Tales”, which has some luminous tales in it (fairy tales new, old, and retold, as well as ‘fairy tale like’ stories which fall under the same umbrella, with one of the best covers I’ve ever had with art by James Artimus Owen.

The book that is coming up just in time for Christmas 2022 is “Val Hall: Century”, an omnibus edition of “Val Hall: The Even Years” and “Val Hall: The Odd Years”, with several brand new Val Hall tales included as well. Val Hall, for those who haven’t met it yet, is a Retirement and Rest Home for Superheroes Third Class (with First Class being those who are just GODS and can’t help their superpowers and Second Class the mere humans with enough money to throw at the problem and maybe replace or aid ‘superpowers’ by gadgetry money can buy; Third Class are humans like thee and me who are triggered by something to respond with a superpower). Val Hall is their final sanctuary, and these stories are a fine blend of history, human relationships and values, and pure superhero ker-pow. I commend it to your attention.

The book being released this summer is something quite different, a memoir entitled “Forever is Shorter Than It Used To Be”, a story of a journey from love to widowhood, and if you have read “The Year of Magical Thinking” by Joan Didion this is something along those lines… Lots of other stuff in the pipeline for 2023…

You have three pages of books listed on your Amazon page. Briefly tell us what people will find when they look through your listing.

Lots of fantasy of various subgenres (contemporary, paranormal, historical, epic, urban…) as well as science fiction (both serious and humorous), contemporary mainstream fiction, short story collections (including anthologies I’ve edited), and several nonfiction books. Please, come and browse. You’re sure to find something that piques your interest.

How have things changed in the nearly twelve years that you’ve been publishing?

Both massively, and not at all. The traditional publishing arena has shrunk and shrunk until there are now only three Big Publishers out there and that makes it harder for writers to crack the gatekeepers and get a berth there. At the same time those publishers have shrunk their advances (for their midlist and their non-househld-name writers, anyway) and left more and more of the publicity and promotion that they used to do to the writers. Most of us find that difficult to do – writers tend to be introverted people and shilling for our own books is almost impossible to do with any degree of grace.

Minolta DSC

And if you’re indie-published, or even self-published (there is a lot more of that these days) your road becomes even harder because you literally get no promo support at all and are also strictly enjoined from even mentioning your own work anywhere on social media on pain of banishment (even if someone on a listserv wants a recommendation for a book that sounds like a synopsis of your own novel, you aren’t allowed to mention its name… and it is unlikely that enough other people have read it to do so for you…)

I think that many of us just wanted to WRITE. But we have all been forced to become editors, designers, formatters, publicists, marketers, advertising executives, salespeople, and anything else that might be needed at the drop of a hat… and we don’t get paid extra for it…

What have you learned about yourself and your writing during your career?

Mostly that I write because I NEED TO WRITE. I have told people before, if you want to be a writer nobody can stop you and if you don’t then nobody can help you – and that is true. I write because there are stories that flutter around in my mind and drive me crazy until I tell them, write them down.

I’ve never and will never “write to market” which means that I simply have to hope that somewhere there is a market for what I write rather than vice versa. I am responsible to myself and to my story, and after that to the reader who picks it up. The market can take care of itself.

Which best describe where you are currently at in your career: Slowing down; Hitting your peak; Just getting started.

Somewhere in the middle, hip deep in the big muddy and forging ahead with varying degrees of resolution on any given day…

Do you have a favorite book that you’ve written? Favorite character or world?

That’s like asking a mama to choose a favourite child. Could I turn the tables? If you are reading this interview and you read anything I have written could you let me know what YOUR choice is? I always love hearing from readers,,,

Where/how do you come up with your story ideas?

There’s a tree in my back yard, and I just pick them when they’re ripe. (What? You don’t believe me? What did you expect me – or any writer – to say to this? Ideas are everywhere…)

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

Read, knit, take photographs, spend time with my cat. Recently, make bread (I started in the whole pandemic lockdown thing and now I am addicted to the smell of fresh bread just being taken out of my oven…)

What does success look like for you as an author?

A satisfied reader, particularly one who contacts me to tell me so. Seriously. That is why we all write – to be read. Riches and fame don’t come to many in this field and you only know their names because there ARE so few of them. But ALL of us write to be read, no matter what else might come our way.

Website: http://www.AlmaAlexander.org
Amazon author page
Twitter
Facebook
Patreon

Book Locations: https://bookviewcafe.com (selected ebooks), https://www.amazon.com/Alma-Alexander, or look at the Book Table page at www.AlmaAlexander.org 

Excerpt: A short story entitled “Go Through” – it currently appears in the “Fractured Fairy Tales” collection.

It’s a street. There are houses. They are old, built of brick, mortared, painted; the windows are framed in carved wood. There may be gargoyles on the edges of the roof – I don’t know. I don’t look up. I never look up.

At my feet, the cobbles – uneven, gray, worn. Sometimes wet with a persistent annoying drizzle, or with rain that has already come and gone leaving just puddles in its wake. Sometimes dry, dusty, absorbing sunlight, radiating heat back. I have to keep looking down as I walk because the street looks as though it might once have been a wave of water – a wave rising and falling, a memory of motion now caught and frozen for eternity under the old cobbles. If I don’t look where I am going I will turn an ankle, twist a foot, stub a toe. There will be pain.

Pain. There is always pain. I think I carry it with me. I brought it here. I wear it. I leave it in the tracks I leave behind on the cobblestones.

Right until I fetch up once again at a door that should never have been in front of me.

That’s the way I live my life. I stumble and stagger in the direction that I am perfectly certain I am supposed to be moving in – and then I find myself yet again in front of the unexpected door, the door I should never have met, never have touched, the door I should never ever ever even consider walking through – because I know where it goes, because I have no idea where it goes, because it is not a door that was meant for me, but here I am and there it is and I open it and step through…

*  *  *

She doesn’t know, when she wakes, where she is. Not quite. The bed – the room – they look vaguely familiar but she can’t be sure whether it’s because she’s seen this particular room or slept in this particular bed before or because she’s seen a thousand rooms just like this one.

Beside her on the other pillow, he sleeps. He snores. There is the shadow of a beard on his face. She tries to hunt through her mind for his name, but fails. It’s a man. That’s all she knows.

She gets up, slowly, carefully, disturbing as little of the bed as she can. She lays one long-fingered hand on the dusty curtain, brings her face up close and inhales the musty scent of fabric which hasn’t been washed for years, puts her eye to the crack where the two wings of the curtains have been pulled together, peers outside. Nothing is quite familiar. Nothing is completely strange. She almost thinks she recognises the place. She is not sure enough to swear to it. If she walked down this street and turned a corner she is almost-but-not-quite-completely certain that she would see an open square, with a tree whose outlines she has known for years, with certain shops lining the square, with a worn path through the grass where people persist in taking shortcuts. But perhaps none of this is real. Perhaps she has just dreamed it all, there in that bed which is still warm with the memory of her presence – perhaps she has put together that square in her mind from dozens of mental snapshots of places she has known but it has never existed, in the shape or form that she now visualises it, outside the confines of her imagination.

She glances back to the bed. He is still asleep. She suddenly knows that she could not bear it if he woke, if he looked up and frowned as if he couldn’t remember her face at all, or worse, if he woke up and smiled and called her by name or called her his darling. She can’t face any of it. She’s alone, here, now, in a cold room with the grey light of early morning gathering outside and the first shadowy shapes of scurrying people hugging the houses, scuttling along the sidewalks with their heads down and their shoulders hunched, their hands gloved and their collars raised. That tree in that square which may or may not exist no longer has its leaves, she knows this for a certainty – it’s autumn, late autumn, sliding into winter, the light tells her so.

She dresses in silence. There is a run in her pantihose, draped across the back of the chair. No help for that. She slides her feet into the stockings, smoothes them over her legs. Pulls on a nondescript dark skirt, a sweater. There is a battered handbag lying by the door; she pads towards it in stocking feet, carrying a pair of sensible shoes in her left hand, picks up the handbag with the fingertips of her right hand – there is no other woman here, the bag must belong to her, after all. Somewhere, soon – not here, not now –  perhaps over a cup of coffee in a cheap diner nearby – she’s going to open the bag and rummage inside it, for identity, for something to tell her who she is, what she is doing here.

She hesitates at the door, shoes in one hand, bag in the other. It is not a door she remembers seeing before. But she remembers the fact that she has often hesitated before strange doors. That doors never quite lead where she expected them to. That she quite probably never meant to be in this unknown room in this unknown house on this unknown street with this unknown man in the bed – she was never meant to be here at all.

She doesn’t know if she can leave – if she is able to leave. If, when she walks through the door, it will mean leaving life behind. But she knows nothing about what’s on the other side of this door, just as she knows nothing at all about the things which she can see on this side of it, hesitating before it. She knows nothing at all. Nothing. So – stay or go – it matters very little.

She reaches out, with the edge of hand holding the shoes. She pushes down the handle. The door opens, just a crack, silently. She doesn’t look back as she slips through, into shadow. Behind her, the room sinks back into shadow, too.

*  *  *

It’s a road. A dirt road. I’ve been on it forever, or perhaps I’ve only stepped on it moments ago. I don’t know. I don’t remember. Time is elastic, after all, bulging and distending, sometimes worn very thin, thin enough to lift up to your eye and look through and be able to glimpse other things on the far side as though you were looking through a fine chiffon scarf. But this… this is a road. It’s dusty. There’s nothing on either side of it but fields, empty ones. No cows. No horses. Not even hay bales. Just windblown fields, in between stands of trees. There are wire fences between the fields and the road – I’m not sure if they’re to keep me off the fields or to keep the things that don’t exist in those fields from stepping onto the road and gobbling me up.

There’s a crossroads. It’s just a place where four roads meet, in the shape of a geometric cross, a gigantic plus sign drawn on the landscape. There’s a signpost, right there in the middle – it has signs, pointing in the four directions – but the signs have either worn down into illegibility or else they’re in a different language altogether. I don’t understand them.

Beside the signpost, there’s a door. Just a door. A doorframe, with a closed door within. There’s even a key in the lock – but it’s just a door, and I can walk right around it, and it’s a door from either side, leading absolutely nowhere at all. I am certain, utterly certain, that those travellers for whom the signpost is intelligible will never see this door at all – but for me, for those like me, there’s always a door. A strange door which leads nowhere. A door that is an alternative to directions that are unknowable, and unknown – a part of the signpost, just as mysterious as all the rest. Every door opens into something. There are just too many doors that I should never even have seen, let alone passed through. Too many doors that lead from darkness into shadow, or into light too blinding to see. Doors that make me stumble. Doors that never allow me to pass them by, once I’ve seen them. Once seen, never unseen. Always there. A door ignored will return – again and again and again – until I reach for that key, for that handle, and crack it open. A door that should never have been in my path; a door without which my path would not exist.

*  *  *

She gets out of the car, slowly, her movements hinting at fatigue. She isn’t sure how long she’s been driving. She isn’t sure where she started from, not any more. There is a large black and battered duffle bag in the back seat – as far as she knows, it’s her only luggage. She has, in the moment she thinks of the bag, no idea as to what it contains – what items she had thought essential enough to carry, to bring with her, instead of leaving them behind… wherever it was that she had come from. Her toothbrush? Her childhood teddy bear? Her Bible? Her shotgun…?

Around her, darkness is beginning to rise, to seep into the sky from the black shadows underneath the trees ringing the parking lot – empty, except for her. There’s a house looming just in front of her, a house with a sign illuminated by a single dim light, a sign that proclaims it to be an inn. It’s a haven.  A refuge. A place to rest for the night.

There’s a light behind the drawn curtains of windows facing out to the parking lot. Somebody’s home. But there’s a door. And the door is closed.

She hesitates, before she knocks. The house feels like a stage set – a two-dimensional thing, no more, behind which lies the chaos of backstage – fake potted plants, and a cracked coffee cup, and a ratty moth-eaten sofa with the doilies from last year’s production of Arsenic and Old Lace still draped on it, and a typewriter with no ribbon in it, and a bunch of dusty silk roses, and a stuffed dog, and half-painted wooden cutouts of trees and of people and of a fireplace with a painted fire which gives no warmth at all. If she passes through this door she might simply be stepping into all that fakery, living a life in which nothing is real at all. Or she might be stepping from that fake life into something warm and real and waiting – a world where that fireplace is real, and so is the fire, and she can curl up in the corner of the sofa with a real dog curled up at her feet and real coffee in the cup. All just waiting for her. Maybe the bag in the back of the car is empty – just a stage prop; maybe the car doesn’t run at all. Maybe all of it at her back – the gathering twilight, the vehicle whose keys even now dangle from her fingers (ah, but are they real keys or fake…?) the mysterious piece of luggage supposedly belonging to her – all of that – perhaps all of it would simply vanish if she stepped through this door, as though none if it had ever been.

What a strange dream she’s been having. Of lying, and running, and hiding, and looking for sanctuary.

She should never have come here. Never have been on this empty and isolated road so late in the day. Never have known this inn existed. Never hesitated in front of its door.

She should never have seen this door in her life.

If she passes through, she will be a different person. She knows this. It frightens her.

It makes her happy.

She reaches for the door handle – if it opens to her touch, she decides, arbitrarily, on the spot, then she will walk through. If not, if it’s locked and she has to ring or knock to ask for admittance, she will not stop here. She will drive on. Into the night.

Into the doorless night.

The door gives under her hand. Swings inwards. There’s a light, somewhere, within.

Just as well. She knows, without knowing, that she would have come up against this door again, if she didn’t choose it this time around. That’s the way things are.

She steps through. She has already forgotten about the bag on the back seat of the car. Nothing it contains has anything to do with her, not any more. The future is behind a curtain; the past is a long-lost foreign country, almost forgotten.

*  *  *

It’s a gate made of wrought iron.

It’s a coal hatch.

It’s an airlock.

It’s a gaping hole in the ground, only darkness within and beyond.

There are many doors.

They lead from memory into oblivion, from darkness to light, from warmth into icy cold, from dream into wakeful reality, from life into death and then back again.

I’ve seen many. Too many. So have you. We’ll see more. They’re portals, they’re gates; they are inevitable, and they are everywhere, and there are some which you should never have seen or passed through at all… but you go where the waters of life wash you up, flotsam and jetsam, lapping at the steps leading from the sea up to the threshold of a door you don’t recognise and yet always knew would be there. Doors are choices. They are wishes. They are sacrifices (oh yes, they are – look down at the old blood stains at your feet, traces of those who came here before you…)

They are passages.

I wear a key on a string around my neck. It fits any lock. You carry one too. We all do. We are latchkey kids, the grown-ups are away, we’re home alone and must do the best we can. A door can lead home, or into frightening alien places you cannot ever hope to understand.

They are doors. Even the ones you should never have seen, never touched, never listened with your ear against the grain of the wood for the faint sounds of what might be stirring beyond – even those, even the ones you don’t know, don’t recognise, don’t understand – especially those – they’re yours. They’re meant for you.

It’s a street. It’s a road. It’s a sidewalk. It’s an alley. It’s a path between the stars.

Stop, and look. There’s a door.

You’ll never recognise it. You might.

Go through.

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Author Interview: John Bennett

Biography

Living fifteen minutes from the beach in New Jersey, John spends most of his time relaxing on the beach, playing a round of golf, or even a game of pool. Every day John works tirelessly to come up with the next best idea to expand his stories and soon his day will come to where he is a household name. That is the dream he aspires to accomplish.

Tell us about your debut novel, The Path of a Titan: The Proving.

ENHANCE_RESOLUTION

Jump into the eyes of Carson Paul as he pledges to join the global military in hopes of learning the mystery behind his parent’s disappearance. To do so, Carson must venture into the forbidden land of Alannah and from there he can join the Proving. A fifty-mile race through treacherous terrains, carnivorous predators, and hundreds of other competitors with the same goal in mind. To finish the fastest and prove themselves worthy enough to be drafted into one of the four legions of the global military.

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

I started my debut in September of 2019. Writing a book has always been a dream of mine. Once I finished it and saw the potential of what I can truly do with this world I just made, I wanted to show everyone. So, I went through the necessary steps to publish.

What was the biggest highlight for you in writing your first novel?

The biggest highlight when I was initially writing the novel was when I came up with the actual Proving. At first, the Proving was supposed to be a normal non sci fi event similar to a boot camp. But I came to the realization that with this sci fi world I created, I needed to broaden my imagination and use the world to my advantage.

What is something you will do differently when you write your second book?

The sequel to my debut novel has come with so much more experience behind it. With the first book, I was relearning how to do everything from simple grammar, to story building. With the sequel, the story was built with all that knowledge, but cleaner, and properly used without the doubt of doing something grammatically wrong.

What is the next project or next projects you are working on?

Right now, I am in the process of making the sequel to The Path of a Titan: The Proving. It is in its editing stages now, and I am really excited to get the cover done and show it off for everyone whose been following me.

What is your strangest writing quirk?

In dialogue, I tend to have characters studder. To physically studder when speaking is a common occurrence with anyone, especially when heightened emotions are visible. So, it is only logical for a character that I am trying to come to life to say, “uh,” or “um,” or “well,” or “I… uh,”

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

Without a doubt. Writing a book has truly been the greatest thing I could have done with my life. It has given me purpose in a way that is hard to describe.

Where/how do you come up with your story ideas?

I’ve been inspired by video games, books, TV shows, anything that I found entertaining but could be better. Even as a kid, I would enhance ideas or what not, so now it was time I put those enhanced ideas on paper.

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

I play golf, work on my lawn, play video games, work out. I always tried to keep hold of my hobbies so that way my real career doesn’t consume my life.

What does success look like for you as an author?

To be a household name is the ceiling. However, I recently found out that I recently had an interview with someone who has secretly read my book before the interview by sheer chance. When I was told she was fan-girling over the interview, I became ecstatic with joy once she finally told me.

Is there anything additional you want to share with readers?

You can follow me on Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok at AuthorJohnBennett. If you pick up my book on Amazon, I would appreciate any feedback. Don’t hesitate to contact me and chat, I’d love to get to know all of you and how you liked my work.

Thank you for your time.

Website: www.facebook.com/AuthorJohnBennett

Book Locations: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B091NBH6GX

Excerpt

This is a small excerpt between the two main protagonist. In a short reading, this tells the small story of how close a brother and sister can be and the secrets a family to hide between one another.

I look down at my hands and feel the violence radiate off them. A patch of blood has hardened on my bruised knuckle. It’s not the first time this has happened. It definitely won’t be the last. “Ky, he’s bullying you to do his homework. How about you rip up his paper and throw it in his face tomorrow on the bus? Do it in front of everyone. That will embarrass him.”

“What if he hits me?”

“Has he hit you before?”

“No, but what if he does?”

She’s not wrong to think that. Plenty of women have been reportedly assaulted for less. “Don’t get hit. Duck, bob, and weave.” I mimic some boxing moves. “Get out of the way. Kick him in the shin, the shin hurts! Or worse.” I point to my groin. It makes her laugh. “You’re fast, Kylie. Look at mom, she could kick dad’s butt. Don’t you want to be strong like her?” I reach over and wrap my hand around her bicep. “Give me a squeeze.” She flexes her arm muscles for me. I feel a small bump, but nothing impressive. “Wow, look at you,” I joke. “Some badass chick from the slums of Harmony is here to take on Tyke’s fiercest foes.”

“Stop it, Carson, I’m not strong like you.” She yanks her arm away from me.

“I’m not that strong, Kylie,” I lie. “But kids don’t mess with me because I fight back. I always tell them this. If you want to fight, fine. I don’t care if I lose, but know this,” I step to her and put a finger in her face to show her my intensity. “I will get you at least once, and trust me, you will remember it.” I step back seeing Kylie’s face turn feeling the intimidation of my words. “It really gets in their head.” I point to my temple. “Makes them second guess themselves. It creates doubt.”

“You’re not scared?” she asks.

“Sure. Just back there, seeing that goon squad he had behind him, I was intimidated,” I admit. “Just be smart about it. Remember what I did? I filled their hands with candy, got them off guard. They never saw it coming. They thought I was scared but they all fell into my trap.”

“Yeah, and about that. I know you stole that candy, Carson. Don’t think I don’t know.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Yes, you do! Why does one carry around four bars of chocolate in the spring months?”

I swing my bag around and pull out the last candy bar I have. It was Kylie’s favorite. I hand it to her. “Five, actually,” I say with a smile.

“Carson…” She looks at me stunned with disappointment but snatches the candy bar out of my hand. I laugh it off, but she doesn’t.

Although I believe my point is made, she must do something next time she sees him. The rain starts coming down harder and the thunder gets louder. I finish putting the bikes away and climb over the countless boxes and containers we have in here. The garage is dark and clammy, packed with boxes and cobwebs my parents have neglected over the years. Some would call them hoarders but in a strange kind of way. If anyone wants anything valuable in here, they will have to go through a lot of junk to get in here, I call it brilliant.

I hop and lunge over all the boxes, and other things in here. I end up tripping over a box and stumble around it. I curse and look back at it, my name is on it. Curiosity consumes me as I swipe a pile of dust off and I open it. What I find is unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. The curved-looking contraption feels wooden as I pick it up in my hands, but it’s brown and feels different compared to the blue trees we have here. I feel an otherworldly energy radiating from it, dormant inside. It’s wrapped in a cloth where it looks like handles, with some kind of insignia or language I don’t understand. I grip it in my hands and stare at it for a moment, examining this wild toy my parents have kept from me. What is this? I feel it crack and a glowing yellow light flashes me from the middle. It frightens me and I slam it shut and drop it back in the box cursing at myself for thinking I just broke it. I fold the box back up and slide it in a corner where it’s hidden.

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Author Interview: Lindsey Kinsella

Biography

Lindsey Kinsella is a Scottish writer and author of the science fiction novel “The Lazarus Taxa”.

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.

Tell us about your book, The Lazarus Taxa.

68 million years in the past. Deep time—the true final frontier. But all is not as it seems. Which should be feared most—the dinosaurs… or the people?

The Lazarus Taxa follows the first scientific expedition through time to the Late Cretaceous.

Your Amazon Author bio says you have a deep fascination for paleontology. Tell us about that hobby and how it factored into your book.

It’s hard to remember when my paleontology obsession first arose, but watching the BBC series Walking with Dinosaurs as a child was probably a driving factor. Since then, it has grown and expanded beyond dinosaurs and into everything from Cenozoic mammals to giant Carboniferous insects.

This love of the science was my original inspiration to write The Lazarus Taxa. I wanted to show dinosaurs in a new light—in a way in which I felt popular media didn’t. They are real animals with their own personalities and motivations and I wanted to show them in their natural environment.

When and why did you start writing?

I started writing during the first COVID-19 lockdown in 2020. In truth, I originally began simply to pass the time. Being confined to the house certainly gave me plenty of time to work on the book.

How long did it take you to write The Lazarus Taxa and at what point did you decide to publish the novel?

It took me almost two years to finish the novel. I certainly didn’t have my process worked out which certainly reduced my efficiency, but I also lost faith once or twice and didn’t touch it for months at a time. The prospect of publishing was always quite distant, and I don’t think I ever truly believed I’d do it.

The moment I decided for certain to publish was when I received the manuscript back from my editor. I had been tentative about paying to have it edited, but eventually figured it was worth a go. However, I was blown away by how good it read after the marvelous Donna Marie West had worked her magic.

Are you working on another book or project you would like to share with us?

I am currently working on a fantasy novel title “The Heart of Pangaea”. This draws on similar source material as before and features all manner of prehistoric creatures, but in a very different way.

Subject material aside, it’s a completely different book from The Lazarus Taxa, it’s quirky, funny, and family friendly, but with strong emotional themes.

I do also have plans for a follow up to The Lazarus Taxa where I will explore new time periods and follow up on how the newfound technology of time travel begins to impact the world.

What is your strangest writing quirk?

I think my blend of fiction and non-fiction is the most unique aspect of my writing. The Lazarus Taxa is heavily influenced by the science of paleontology, and so I make a point of writing interim chapters which take a break from the story and delve into the science. These chapters not only allow the reader to learn some amazing paleo-knowledge, I think they enrich the story by imparting some important background information.

What was your favorite part of writing The Lazarus Taxa?

I loved writing the more horror-orientated chapters. There are two sequences in particular which are really tense—I loved building that tension before releasing it into some intense action. I’m pleased to hear that these seem to be the parts of the book readers enjoyed most too!

What will you do differently in writing your second book?

I have definitely plotted my work in progress more carefully which has improved my efficiency and reduced the number of rewrites required. In truth, though, I’m very much still finding my process, so I’m sure I’ll do it all differently again next time.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing or immersed in paleontology?

I’m a huge car nerd and I spend a lot of time maintaining my cars. I currently have a little yellow MG B which is my pride and joy, and an Alfa Romeo which I am in the process of coaxing back to life.

What does success look like for you as an author?

In a way I already feel it’s been successful. People have read my book and enjoyed it. I get messages all the time from readers asking when I’ll write another and I couldn’t ask for more than that.

Is there anything additional you want to share with readers?

Just a reminder that you can download a free sample of The Lazarus Taxa ebook from Amazon, Google, or Barnes & Noble, so you can find out if it’s right for you without spending a penny!

Website: https://www.facebook.com/LindseyKinsellaAuthor

Book Locations: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Google Play

Excerpt

Sid’s train of thought was cut abruptly short by the sound of disturbed rocks tumbling not far away in the darkness. Both he and Dian paused and kept completely silent as they tensely listened for the slightest of further noises. Sure enough, another knock, slightly louder this time, echoed through the cave and both torches quickly turned towards the source—or at least where they deemed the source to be.

Such was the disorientating nature of the scattered and rebounding sound waves within the cavern that Sid and Dian found themselves shining their torches in opposite directions. Regardless, neither of the searching lights found anything out of the ordinary.

“Probably just the echo,” said Dian.

Sid was uneasy with this. It sounded different from the previous noises. Somehow, it seemed more… real. The smell of the animal scent markings was faint, but it was still something he had been mindful of since entering the cave. He knew, with little doubt, that they weren’t alone inside the mountain. The question was whether the existing tenant was open to squatters. Dian, who seemed content with her “echo” hypothesis, took another photograph and this time the flash illuminated something in a distant corner. Something dark. Something… moving.

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Author Interview: Abigail Manning

Biography

Abigail Manning is a wife, nanny, and author of YA romance. She resides with her husband, Marcus, in the beautiful state of Tennessee. In school, she studied both Early Childhood Development and Theatre Arts, both of which aided in the development of her Emerald Realm series, based off of retold fairy tales.

Abigail has always adored working with young children and drawing inspiration from their creativity. Her stories are geared towards young adults, but inspired off of children’s tales. She greatly enjoys the challenge of reinventing stories that most readers grew up with. She has only recently begun her career in writing, but already has growing ambitions revolving around her blossoming stories.

Tell us about your Emerald Realm Series.

The Emerald Realm is a series of fairy tale retellings that all interconnect within a single realm. Each book retells a classic fairy tale such as Snow White, Goldilocks, or Cinderella, but with a twist on the tale that you wouldn’t have expected. Each book features its own main character and possesses a happy ending, but a large story connects them all with a shared villain.

Is the series complete or can we expect more books? If it isn’t complete, what can you tell us about the future of the series?

The series is fully written but at this point in time only four out of the five books are released. The final book is coming soon, however! So, stay tuned!

Have you thought about what you want to write after the Emerald Realm Series is complete?

Absolutely! While the Emerald Realm may only have five books, I have currently written over seven full manuscripts… The extra two are each the first book of their own series, and I have big plans for them moving forward.

What drew you to write YA romance?

I always enjoyed reading YA romance, so it just felt natural for me to adapt it as my writing style. I also prefer to write clean romance, so my stories are also a good read for teens or anyone who doesn’t like things to get too spicy.

Tell us how your writing journey began.

I haven’t been writing for even a year yet, and only started in July of 2021. I just had a few days off work and a story on my mind that I wanted to put to paper, and I never really stopped!

What are your writing necessities (time, location, music, food, etc)?

I am a morning bird, so I get my best work done after I wake up, but unfortunately 90% of the time I can’t pick up my computer until the afternoon. I usually prefer quiet while I work, but will occasionally play some instrumental music, and no matter what I always need a cup of tea by my side.

What is the hardest aspect of writing for you?

Probably trying to avoid being repetitive. When writing fairy tale romances, it’s easy to fall into the tropes that they have created, but I like to strive to be original in both my stories and my writing. A thesaurus is often my best friend!

How have you improved as a writer since you began?

I would definitely say so. If anything, I’ve grown more confident in my writing and take criticism far better than I used too. There’s definitely a huge difference between the writing in my debut novel and my current WIP.

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

I love binging Netflix with my husband or watching him game. We also have a puppy that tends to soak up more of my time then I realize.

What does success look like for you as an author?

For me, success is having my books read by someone that I’ve never met. I just think it’s incredible that maybe, somewhere around the world, I might be someone’s favorite author.

Anything additional you want to share with readers?

Thanks for reading! If you enjoy fairy tales or just sweet clean romance, check out the Emerald Realm series and stay tuned for more exciting stories to come!

Website: abigailmanningauthor.com

Book Locations: Amazon

Excerpt

Poisoned Heart: A Retelling of Snow White

           “I take great pride in hunting down my victims, but you were no challenge.” He eyed me with annoyance. He spoke as if he was disappointed that I was too easy to kill. “I desire more excitement in my hunt than a pompous brat can offer, so princess, I am offering you a chance at escape.”

           I gasped through my tears. It sounded like he was going to let me run just so he could catch me again, delaying my death long enough for me to potentially freeze in the cold on my own. My breathing grew unsteady as panic filled my every bone.

            “So, here’s my deal, princess. I’m going to let you run, and after twenty-four hours, I’m going to come looking for you, just like a game of hide and seek.” I couldn’t see his mouth, but I imagined a sick smile on his face. “If I can’t find you after fourteen days, then congratulations, you win. I’ll return to my kingdom and explain that you got away, but if I find you…” he raised the dagger to my throat and my breath hitched, “then I’ll finish the job I was assigned.” He dropped the dagger and took a step back. I allowed myself to breathe again, filling my lungs with the icy air.

  “Time starts now, princess. Better start running.”

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Author Interview: Anat Eliraz

Biography

Anat Eliraz was born in Israel, but spent a few years of her childhood in Singapore, where her love for fantasy started. She describes her life as being quite normal, even though she has driven a tank and jumped out of an airplane!

Between being a mother to four, working as a physiotherapist in a neonatal intensive care unit and training in Martial Arts, she still finds time to write.

Anat loves to use double meanings and word games in her writing, allowing her readers to play along or double check themselves, as the story unfolds.

Tell us about your book, Jewels of Smoky Quartz.

‘Jewels of Smoky Quartz’ is a portal fantasy about a nurse who also practices martial arts and one day finds herself in another world. She needs to use her wit and skills to survive and find her way.

When and why did you start writing?

I started writing in primary (elementary) school. Mostly songs, poems and lots of unfinished stories. I wrote because it was a sort of way to deal with things I was going through in life. I used the fantasy setting, because I had the influence from D&D games I played at the time.

Why did you decide to write and publish a novel?

I wrote my whole novel about a year before I decided to publish it. I wrote it because I got an idea and it just kept expanding in my head that I felt an urge to put it down on paper. I would wake up in the middle of the night and just had to write what I thought about.

The idea to actually publish it came in the first lockdown, when I listened to podcasts about writing and publishing and started thinking ‘why not?!’

What have you written since you published Jewels of Smoky Quartz? Do you plan to publish any more books?

I am currently writing the sequel to my published book and another fantasy story that takes place on earth during WW2. I hope to publish them too!

You are a mother of four, train in martial arts, and have a full-time job. How do you find time to write?

As I wrote before – a large part of my book was written at night. I would wake up and not be able to fall asleep again unless I wrote what was on my mind. I also write on lunch breaks or on rare occasions that I have a cancellation. My kids are quite big and my husband is frequently abroad from work, so instead of ‘couch potating’ in front of the T. V., I write!

How did holding a copy of your published novel for the first time compare to jumping out of an airplane or driving a tank?

It was amazing! I was so excited and thrilled! Jumping from a plane was fun, but this was coming just after holding my children for the first time. In a way- it’s holding my creation,
which I put a lot of love into.

What is something you learned writing your first book that you do differently now?

Now I have readers feedback and it really boosts me onwards. I learned a lot about the editing process which I intend to do differently now. I was extremely “green” back then, and leaned heavily on what I was told, which later I learned was not quite true…

What is your favorite aspect of writing?

The ability to create! Create a world, create characters and make them ‘real’! I love the space it allows me to take real debates and let my characters deal with them, whether they make mistakes or choose the best solution.

What is your strangest writing quirk?

I usually write with pen(cil) and paper before I put my work on the computer. I have over 150 pages of my published book written by hand and currently over 50 pages of my WIP. It’s easier for me to write in a notebook when I am not at home, so it’s always in my backpack.

What does success look like for you as an author?

Success as an author is having people enjoy my writing and making contact to talk or ask about it/ writing in general. If people read my book and then say- wow! This is a book I really enjoyed/ that really surprised/ inspired me… Then I am in a state of pure bliss! Of course I want my book to become a best seller, but the personal contact and reviews seem so much more important, in my opinion.

Anything additional you want to share with readers?

‘Jewels of Smoky Quartz’ has twists and turns and lets the reader take somewhat of an active part in the reading. They might smile when they realize they found the clues strewn throughout the story, or turn back pages to see how come they missed something.

I have also written a song in the book and a friend took the words and brought them to life! It was not done in a professional studio, it was done at home with minimal essentials and lots of love!

You can find it on YouTube by writing the name of the book. Hope you enjoy!

Website: Best place to find me is on Facebook

Book Locations: My book is available on Amazon as a paperback, an ebook, and is free on
Kindle unlimited.

Excerpt

She was put down on a stone floor, her ankles were released and then her hands, but by the time she pulled the sack off her head, she only saw a door close and heard the lock. She was in darkness. There was only a thin line of light coming from under the door. She waited for
her eyes to adjust.

Coming to her feet, she moved to stand by the door. The door was at one corner of a small cell. She could make out the lines of wall meeting wall and ceiling. It was ten feet by five, the door being at the side of the five-foot wall. She touched the walls and walked slowly around. After
a few small steps, her feet touched straw on the floor. It covered the floor at the inner part of the cell. She continued to move when her hand came upon an iron ring in the wall. She pulled at it, but it held fast. It was about waist high and she found another ring a foot or so
from it.

Coming back towards the door, she could make out something dark in the other corner. She touched it quickly with her foot and retreated.

It was a wooden bucket.

Five-star hotel, she thought. Can’t wait for dinner…

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Author Interview: Jon Cronshaw

Biography

Jon Cronshaw is a best-selling author of fantasy and science fiction.

He lives with his wife and son in Morecambe, England.

He’s a voracious reader, a keen musician, and a history geek.

Your Amazon author site lists several pages of books. Summarize what you have published for our readers.

I’ve been writing fiction full-time since 2017 and have written in a few genres.

My first series is a post-apocalyptic/dystopian series set after the end of the world. It’s made up of four novels, starting with Wizard of the Wasteland.

My books Blind Gambit and Blind Reset are gamelit novels that I used to write honestly about disability. I’m legally blind with less than five-percent vision and wanted to write a book about me coming to terms with that as someone who loves but can no longer play videogames.

My series The Ravenglass Chronicles is a 21-novella epic fantasy inspired by the tarot’s major arcana. I love writing in this world and I have many other stories to tell in the Ravenglass Universe.

Speaking of which, my most recent novel Dawn of Assassins is the first book in an adult fantasy series set in the Ravenglass Universe. It’s a story about a pair of thieves reluctantly recruited by a master assassin…with lots of banter and swashbuckling.

If someone wanted to read your books, where do you recommend they start?

Probably with The Ravenglass Chronicles. It’s foundational to what I’ll be writing in the future. And fans of this series have enjoyed the Easter eggs in Dawn of Assassins.  

You have a PhD in history. Do you include a lot of history in your storytelling?

I steal relentlessly from real events in history and twist them to my characters and world. I love it when I come across stories in history that would seem too far-fetched for fiction.

What is your favorite book/series that you’ve written? Why?

Definitely Dawn of Assassins. I felt like it was first book I’d written where I hit the pacing perfectly.

How/why did you start writing novels? When/why did you start publishing?

I’ve always been creative, writing music, producing art, crafting stories.

I also work as a journalist doing political and court reporting as well as feature writing for several newspapers and magazines in the UK.

I published my first novel Wizard of the Wasteland in June 2017 and wrote my last freelance piece of journalism for The Guardian in February 2018.

The opening scene to Wizard of the Wasteland came to me in a dream. It’s about a self-proclaimed wizard displaying his magic in a post-apocalyptic settlement. Only the magic is just technology from before the fall.

It wasn’t the first novel I’d written, but it was the first one I felt was good enough to share with the world.

What do you do differently now than you did when you first started writing/publishing?

The biggest shift I’ve had is to think about the reader first rather than my own ego. I think we all write for ourselves when we start, but I had a moment where I realized there’s something incredible about making someone else hallucinate and take them on a journey That’s the closest thing to magic we can do.

What is your strangest writing quirk?

It might be that in my first drafts I don’t include description or any detailed action. I love writing dialogue, so my manuscript is something like a messy screenplay.

What have you struggled with the most during your writing journey?

I’ve written a lot of books. When I worked as a journalist I pretty much knew going on how long a piece would take.

Writing a novel is a completely different game. It took me eleven days to write the first draft of my novel Knight of the Wasteland. It’s taken me six months to get to the same point with my book Trial of Thieves.

I hoped by now that it would be easier, but each story I work on seems to present a new set of challenges.

What does success look like for you as an author?

Being able to get my wife out of teaching is a great feeling. And being able to pay my bills from stuff I’ve plopped from my imagination almost feels like I’m running an elaborate scam.

Anything additional you want to share with readers?

If you go to my website joncronshaw.com and drop your email address, I’ll send you a free novel, Birth of Assassins, plus a bunch of other stories set in the Ravenglass Universe.

Website: joncronshaw.com

@joncronshawauthor on TikTok, Instagram, Clapper, YouTube, and Facebook.

Book Locations: Amazon

Excerpt: From Dawn of Assassins by Jon Cronshaw

The assassin’s blade shimmered bright blue on black as the teardrops took hold. He glanced back at the washed-out echoes behind him, the thin reflection of the real world—scentless and silent and rendered in greys.

His target’s mind glowed a purplish-yellow through the ghost of a door—a tiny spark soon to be extinguished.

He drove his dagger into the door and dragged downwards, tearing a rift between realms large enough for him to pass through.

Ducking into the portal, the assassin stood for a moment, allowing himself to acclimatise to the sensory overload—the smells of damp socks and wood smoke, the stream of noise from the city beyond, and the colours…so many colours.

The target lay on the bed, his mouth half open, his sleeping breaths punctuated by the occasional snort.

The assassin wiped the lingering teardrops from his blade with his jacket’s hem. As successful contracts mounted up, the tears became harder to summon, as though each completed job took something from him.

He reached inside his jacket and uncorked a vial of his own blood. He allowed a drop to fall onto the blade, replaced the stopper, and returned the vial to his pocket.

For a moment, nothing happened.

He turned his head, averting his gaze as the blade glowed brilliant white and turned to fire in his hand.

Silently, he crept towards the target, his dagger throwing orange light across the walls.

He stared down at the man’s jowly features, his paunch creating a mound beneath the blankets.

Taking a breath, the assassin drew his blade across the man’s throat, slicing through flesh, tearing through the windpipe, and scraping along bone.

The man’s eyes opened. He clawed at his neck, gasping and gurgling for breath.

Something hissed.

The familiar smell of searing flesh filled the room.

The assassin stood back as the man convulsed.

The blade dimmed and grew cold in his hands, no doubt sated by its latest victim.

The hissing grew louder.

Flames erupted across the man’s body, spreading along his limbs and torso.

Flesh curled and slid from bones, turning to ash in less than a minute.

The assassin had seen death—too much death—but he could never get used to the stench of burning hair.

Covering his nose, he turned to the nightstand, struck a match, and lit a beeswax candle.

He dropped the candle onto the bed, resting it on its side, allowing the blanket to catch alight.

Fire spread slowly at first and gathered speed, engulfing the wool and throwing up smoke.

Taking one last look at the charcoal husk, he backed towards the rift and re-entered the shadow realm, sealing the gateway behind him.

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Author Interview: Jeffrey Kippel

Biography

Helping raise social consciousness with laughter, wellness & empowerment; with my comedy book, as a talk show host & as an ambassador for rethinkFIT.

Share a little bit about your book, The Ridiculous Adventures of Serbinand.

Serbinand, an easygoing, fun, go-with-the-flow adventurer, takes a trip through space, time, and dimensions after switching bodies with an unsuspecting human on Earth. 

The cast of characters learns to navigate through their new circumstances, with the occasional interruption from the author. Through new eyes, they get to experience the world with wonder, joy, some uncomfortable situations, and a lot of hilarious moments.

If you enjoyed the comedic style of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Monty Python, Fawlty Towers, Family Guy, Simpsons, Seinfeld, or the adventures of Star Wars, you will have a blast with this wacky journey too!

Are there more adventures coming with Serbinand?

Absolutely! Book 2 is almost complete… it’s called The Ridiculous Adventures of Serbinand: Godfried’s Turn

Humor is a major part of your storytelling. Where did you get your sense of humor from?

It sure is… since the book also has deep empowerment messages, along with self growth and self love, comedy seems to be a great way to deliver that in a subtle, yet powerful way!

My influences would have come from Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, Monty Python, Benny Hill, SCTV, Seinfeld, The Simpsons and, of course, Family Guy!

From your webpage it appears you are involved in a lot of different projects besides writing. Briefly tell us about what else you do.

Sure am! In fact, writing is one of the ways that I spread my message. Having helped launch and pioneer the natural bodybuilding and fitness model movements with events, expos, magazines, workshops and television shows around the world we found there was something missing. That being fit goes way beyond just strength and appearance. It also must includes mental, emotional, social, spiritual, and functional health too! So my wife and I spread that message in the Serbinand book series (she is actually co-Authoring the next books with me) along with our book and course: Rethink FIT To Be Happy & Healthy. We also coach, teach and share information, inspiration and insights on our podcasts and online tv shows.

What is your favorite aspect of writing?

 Well, I write for myself! I am the first audience. So when writing the comedy book I do so in a style where I allow myself to get into the moment and let the downloads come through. This means that I don’t have the details of the story planned out, and that means that I am unraveling it in real time, which means I get to read the story as it is being written, without knowing exactly what is going to happen next! That is fun 🙂

If you had to describe yourself in just three words, what would they be?

 Creative, Inspirational, Metaphysical 

What does success look like for you as an author?

Knowing my words make someone laugh, have an aha, new awareness or to spark the reader to rethink the way they are looking at things. To be impactful, and entertaining

Website:  www.serbinand.com // www.jeffreykippel.com 

Book Locations: It is available on Audible, Amazon , Kindle & Kindle Unlimited: https://amzn.to/3FZXEcx 

Serbinand Excerpt 

From deltic spagnoids to the Algernon Sector Serbinand and his slightly annoying, yet really super smart ship Godfried careened across the somewhat vast universe intersecting with Jime and Orville in some bizarre galactic space disruption that turned everyone’s world completely upside down, or right side up… ahh… or was it inside out…umm, outside in maybe… or… umm… well… everything changed.”

CHAPTER ONE:

SREEFS & RHINOKICKERS  

From the distant star of Placellner he travelled.  

Why? Who knows…? But that’s not the point. At least not right now. For three billion galactic years and nine point two mega seconds his ship careened across the somewhat vast universe. Turning left here and right there and looping around deltic spagnoids every so often. But all in all, besides the mishap near the Algernon sector, ahem, which we also won’t get into right now, it was smooth trekking.  

His journey would have been a lot shorter had he not stopped at Joe’s Galactic Bar. But who could blame him? With all the advertising that Joe has been doing lately, he wouldn’t be surprised if a Cornsharr actually did stop by. You know the slogan:  “No party is complete without a Cornsharr… Why not stop in and try Joe’s Galactic Bar!” 

What the hell is a Cornsharr?​, the space traveller thought as he came within a safe distance of the place.  I wonder if other beings come by just to see if they can catch a ​​glimpse of a Cornsharr​, he pondered.​  

Anyway, he decided why not​​ and stopped in for several sreefs and a shot of his favourite drink, the Rhinokicker. This strange and bizarre sort of alcoholic substance got its name during the Age of Bartenders​​. It is much like one of the Olden Age​​ soft drinks called​ Briozza, which was banned under section 77.56 of the Living Rights Act​ supplement​ 999.887.172.31457—A. Unlike Briozza though, it claimed that 3.289 seconds after tasting the rhino kicker, one would kick back their legs in disgust and charge something, usually a brick wall, scream-singing “Rhino, rhino, rhino!” The Rhinokicker has no such effect on Serbinand, although he has claimed to have hallucinated packs of rhinos flying around his head.  

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Author Interview: J.V. Hilliard

Biography

Born of steel, fire and black wind, J.V. Hilliard was raised as a highlander in the foothills of a once-great mountain chain on the confluence of the three mighty rivers that forged his realm’s wealth and power for generations.

His father, a peasant twerg, toiled away in industries of honest labor and instilled in him a work ethic that would shape his destiny. His mother, a local healer, cared for his elders and his warrior uncle, who helped to raise him during his formative years. His genius brother, whose wizardly prowess allowed him to master the art of the abacus and his own quill, trained with him for battles on fields of green and sheets of ice.

Hilliard’s earliest education took place in his warrior uncle’s tower, where he learned his first words. His uncle helped him to learn the basics of life—and, most importantly, creative writing.

Hilliard’s training and education readied him to lift a quill that would scribe the tale of the realm of Warminster, filled with brave knights, harrowing adventure and legendary struggles. He lives in the city of silver cups, hypocycloids and golden triangles with his wife, a ranger of the diamond. They built their castle not far into the countryside, guarded by his own two horsehounds, Thor and MacLeod, and resides there to this day.

Share a little bit about your debut novel, The Last Keeper.

The novel is book one of the Warminster series, and if you are a fan of epic fantasy, sword and sorcery and even some dark fantasy, The Last Keeper is for you. The book features the struggle between the fallen Keeper, and his plans for vengeance against his former sect, the Keepers of the Forbidden. He is challenged but a young, inexperienced Daemus Alaric and his allies from the realm, but the two soon discover their fates are more intertwined than they knew.

What can you tell us about the future of The Warminster Series?

Book two, Vorodin’s Lair, will be released in August of 2022 with book three, The Trillias Gambit, hitting the shelves around the holidays, 2022. The final installment is still in the manuscript phase but should be released late Q1 or early Q2, 2023.

How and why did you start writing?

I’ve always wanted to write and had begun pulling together the rough draft and map of Warminster back in my college days. When COVID gripped the world and many of us were in lockdown, I used that time to my advantage and finally put pen to paper… or I guess these days I clicked away on my keyboard.

Tell us about the decision to publish your writing.

I shared my manuscript with a trusted friend, one who led a writing class at a local community college. She read the draft and told me she thought, with some refinement, it would be publishable. From there, I sought the help of a development editor who then introduced me to my publisher.

What is something you will do differently with your second book than you did with the first?

I am limiting the number of point-of-view characters to make it easier on the reader and I am scaling back on the number of characters they need to follow. Although many of my reviews have been strong, there’s nuggets of wisdom in the not-so-good ones, and always room for improvement.

What is your favorite aspect of writing?

The freedom. Writing represents escapism for me, and it is more of a hobby that’s grown into something bigger, so I rarely mind diving back into it. And it provides a nice respite from day-to-day reality for me, and I can live through my character’s eyes for a few hours.

What is your strangest writing quirk?

I write backwards. I am a planner—or plotter—as we are referred to in the business and I know the ends of my stories and what happens to each character, so I begin at the end and reverse engineer my way to the beginning to ensure each detail is accounted for and nothing is left out. I know, it sounds weird, but it’s 100% true.

If money was not an obstacle, what would you do with the rest of your life?

I think I would become a game creator/tester or a professional dungeon master for role playing games. I grew up playing and leading campaigns for many strategy games to TTRPG’s like Dungeons & Dragons, so I would do that every day.

What does success look like for you as an author?

I want my readers to be entertained. I have a day job that provides for my family, and I think being successful as an author, there is nothing better than a reader coming back to you and asking when they can get their eyes (or ears) on the next one. Books like mine are supposed to be fun, so I define success in seeing others have fun and be entertained by them.

Anything additional you want to share with readers?

I want to thank them for their support and ask them to reach out to me through my social media channels or website to let me know what they like and don’t like. I am open to suggestions and always keep an open mind for constructive criticism.

Website: www.jvhilliard.com

Book Locations: The book is available through all major distribution channels, including Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Rakuten-Kobo, Scribd, Indigo, Thalia and the like in both paperback and e-book. Audio book is available at many of the same, included Audible, Apple Books, etc. And of course, you can buy direct from my publisher at Dragon Moon Press (www.dragonmoonpress.com).

Excerpt

A young boy’s prophetic visions. 

Blind at birth, Daemus Alaric is blessed with the gift of prophetic Sight. Now, as a Keeper of the Forbidden, he must use his powers of the Sight to foil the plans of a fallen Keeper, Graytorris the Mad.

An elven Princess with a horrifying secret.

Princess Addilyn Elspeth travels from Eldwal, the magically hidden home of the Vermilion elves, to begin her life as a diplomat to the human capital of Castleshire. During her journey, she stumbles upon a mystical creature foretelling ill tidings.

A terrifying force of evil. 

Daemus’ recurring nightmare vision threatens to catapult him into a terrifying struggle that will leave the fate of the Keepers—and the realm—hanging in the balance. Daemus and Princess Addilyn must set out to face the menace that threatens their very existence.

Will the entire realm fall to its knees?

The Last Keeper is the first book in The Warminster Series. With gripping, epic action and heart-pounding adventure, you’ll love this new adventure series.

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Author Interview: D.L. Gardner

Biography

Dianne is an award winning novelist, screenwriter, and artist. She has had a passion for the written word, having indulged in poetry in her young years and loving to write essays at school. She began writing novels in 2011. Dianne writes primarily fantasy novels including all sub-genres, with a love for historical fantasy, but has also written a historical novel based on actual letters by a relative during World War II.

Share a little bit about your recent release, Darkness Holds the Son.

Darkness Holds the Son is a standalone spin-off novel to the Sword of Cho Nisi saga. It takes us to a small village named Tuluva where Jareth, an unemployed mercenary, and his wife and two children are raising goats to sustain themselves. Things go well for them until the land-baron of Ogress raises their taxes, forcing Jareth to pick up his crossbow and return to the battlefield.

Jareth has an even more pressing problem than keeping his family out of debtor’s prison, though. His son Crispin has seizures that are caused by magic and if Jareth doesn’t find the source soon, it could be fatal as the boy hears voices instructing him to kill his father. On Jareth’s quest, he discovers that the same affliction is haunting all the children in the kingdom.

Tell us more about your Sword of Cho series. Are there more books to come or does Darkness Holds the Son complete it?

Sword of Cho Nisi begins with Rise of the Tobian Princess, and in it the world is introduced, a continent, and an island of magic. A wicked wizard is attempting to destroy mankind and rule the world while a daughter of a legendary king attempts to redeem herself from the trouble she caused by accidentally killing the allied king of Cho Nisi whose magic they need to win the war. There are three books to the series, each a little darker than the next.

Darkness Holds the Son is in the same world, with some of the same characters but a different story line. I’m currently working on another novel that continues to expand the world, bring the same characters back, while introducing new villains and new territory, and a touch of new technology.

You have quite a few books listed on your website. What do you want readers to know about your other books?

Almost all of them have a fantastical element to them. I have two series (Ian’s Realm and Sword of Cho Nisi). The others are stand alone novels. I also have a coloring book which I did the illustrations for with 2 short fable-like stories. You can buy it on Amazon and other retailers, but the best copy is on KaBlam because they’re the only ones that could do a flip-book like I wanted.  It’s called The Magic Plum.

I’ve done a lot of research for my novels and have two historical fantasy novels (Thread of a Spider and Cassandra’s Castle). Ian’s Realm is a portal fantasy. Pouraka and Dylan are urban fantasies. Hoarfrost to Roses is a historical mystery sweet romance with a ghost. I dabble.

When did you start writing and at what point in the process did you decide to publish?

Well aside from writing poems and prose when I was younger I began writing for earnest in 2010 with the idea of publishing a fantasy novel. The first one I got lost and scratched the whole thing. Then I started studying the craft and wrote the first book of Ian’s Realm, Deception Peak. That’s the one I wanted to publish.

In what genres do you write? Do you have a favorite?

Fantasy (epic), and historical fantasy. Those are my favorites, but I loved doing the few sweet romances too.

What advice had the biggest impact on your writing and/or career?

Probably C.S. Lewis’ simple advice to say what you mean and mean what you say.

I don’t know if it’s just one piece of advice, though that impacted my career. I studied John Truby’s Anatomy of Story and connected with his instructions i.e. how to have a plumbline that all the characters are connected to in some way and how their goals interact and conflict with each other. There’s a lot of advice out there. Marketing advice too and I think the most important thing I took away from all that I’ve studied is to just write because you love writing.

You’ve written at least one screenplay. How involved are you in that arena and how is it different than writing a novel?

You have to think action when you’re writing a screenplay. Everything gets cut into a few minutes of action to tell the story. Some dialogue, true but the dialogue has to be real. It has to sound like you and I are talking. But it’s all action.

I worked with some Indie filmmakers to make a couple of concept films and I’m currently pitching one of our screenplays. I’m not sure where it will go, though.

We won a lot of awards for the film. You can see it on FilmFreeway. It’s an adaption of Ian’s Realm

What is your favorite aspect of writing?

It’s exciting when the story unfolds. I love developing the characters and having them interact with one another. The whole process is amazing. You get caught up in this other world, and you’re there and have to solve problems according to your characters personalities. You’re with them, you see what they see, smell what they smell, taste what they taste, feel what they feel. It’s pretty involved.

Where do you get your story ideas?

That’s a good question. They happen from current events, or historical events, or just by asking ‘what if?’. Ideas are everywhere. Sometimes a walk in the woods will ignite a flame.

What does success look like for you as an author?

Success is people reading and enjoying my books. I really would like to have more people know about them and read them. It’s hard breaking the ice when there are so many authors, so many ads, so many people praising the success of others and you’re like standing there with your book waving it in the air saying, “here’s mine!” and the crowd passes by. Sometimes I feel like I’m 2 feet tall in the middle of a parade.

Anything additional you want to share with readers?

Just that I love writing and I think you might see it in my stories. They’re written for people to enjoy!

Website: Gardners Art

Book Locations:

Gardner’s Art Bookstore
Books2Read
Amazon

Excerpt: From Darkness Holds the Son

Barin hesitated to even touch the sword. It wasn’t in his heart to wield magic, much less dark magic. As he stared, a glimmer of light rested on the hilt and a whisper like a breath of air entered the room.

“This was entrusted to you by a friend.” The voice moaned—a low, deep, and raspy voice. “They swore you would only use it for good.”

“I’ve no desire to use it for anything,” Barin said to himself for he maintained he was alone.

“Sometimes need arises and we have to go against our desires,” came the answer. A pale blue light now shone on the hilt exposing the detailed etching—a graceful horse rearing—the destrier, the Potamian symbol for honor. Barin wiped his clammy hands on his coat while struggling against the urge to pick up the sword. He had sworn never to lay eyes on it again and yet here he was. As the light around it grew brighter he stepped back.

“I have no idea why it’s shinning except that the magic it holds is of the devil. I cannot touch such a thing,” the king protested.

“Is your virtue not more powerful than the dark wizard’s iniquity?” the Keeper—the last dragon— asked.

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