Happy holidays readers! We're officially in the season.

To celebrate, a group of 12  authors have banded together to give you a truly awesome collection of speculative fiction novels. Over the next 12 days leading up to Christmas Eve, we'll all be offering you ways to enter to win them!

An official unveiling of the complete 12-book giveaway collection will be coming soon (one of them is my own debut novel, the award-winning Mud: Chronicles of the Third Realm War).

But for now, go ahead and enter to win! You can start by joining my email list.

Then, check out the other participating authors for even more ways to enter! Here is the full list of authors:

Charles Cornell

Danielle DeVor

Louann Carroll

Connor Drexler

Jeff Elkins

M. G. Herron

Sharon Johnston

Jade Kerrion

R. Perez de Pereda

Brian Rella

Antonio Simon, Jr.

E. J. Wenstrom

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2014-400x400Brian Rella lives north of New York City along the Hudson River with his wife, who is far too good for him, and his two vivacious boys who challenge his light-saber skills on a regular basis.

In an effort to escape the cube farm where he works to pay his bills, Brian decided to follow his passion for writing and published his first book in 2015. He hasn't managed to escape yet, but he's patient, and chips away at his dream every day.

Where did your inspiration to write Queen of the Fallen start?

Queen of the Fallen, and the Second Death series, evolved from a short story I wrote in 2015 called, “Arraziel”. I included “Arraziel” in my first self-published short story collection and then immediately got to work on turning the story into a series.

In this series, I tackle the classic good versus evil theme from a Judeo-Christian, angelic-apocalyptic perspective, blurring the lines between pure good and pure evil. The good guys are all damaged in very personal ways by the bad guys, and they act with vengeance, which they perceive as justice for what’s happened to them. And so, there’s a darkness and muddy morality that underpins all the characters, regardless of what side they are on.

I’m intrigued by religious mysticism, the religious occult, and religious books that have been excluded from the mainstream religious traditions. I recognize threads of horror and science fiction in many religious books – the Old Testament plagues on Egypt; Noah and the great flood that cleansed the world; demonic possessions; the Crucifixion, etc. These all have elements of horror and the supernatural if you look at them from the perspective story-telling and set aside the religious aspects. In this way, they are cosmic and terrifying and epic – all of which captivates and inspires me. So, I created a universe for the series that mixes some real biblical books and history with some fictitious ones that I’ve imagined, and married those with one of my favorite horror universes.

Several years ago, I came across H.P. Lovecraft’s short story, “The Call of Cthulhu.” I became hooked on the universe of creatures and the lore behind them that Lovecraft created. He was a poor man who lived in the early twentieth century and his imagination seemed way ahead of his time. His stories were very dark with epic backdrops. I kept reading more about his mythos of the Old Ones and the Elder Ones and loved the close intertwining of horror and science fiction in his story-telling. I think H.P. Lovecraft embodies the juncture of the two genres and that’s something I want to emulate with my own writing.

The Second Death series is horror fantasy with religious undertones. It’s my twist on the Fallen Angel theme, interlaced with the Lovecraft universe of cosmic evil and monsters. The Watchers (the good guys) are half breeds – part angel, part human – born of interbreeding between the two. They are more human than celestial. The Fallen (the bad guys) are fallen angels. They’re more monstrous than human in a Lovecraftian way. The two are at war and the prize is humanity.

What was the hardest thing about writing Queen of the Fallen?

Time is always an issue for me because I have a full-time day job and a young family, but for this book I also had a lot of trouble with one of the main characters. For some reason, Frank, who is a Watcher and is pursuing Jessie, a girl who is seduced by the King of the Fallen, was a struggle to write.

In my writing process, I plot an arc and basic framework, and leave lots of room to develop the story while writing. My storyboards will have 50-60 scenes with a few sentences describing what will happen in each scene and how the story moves from point A to point B. When I sit down to write a scene, I have plenty of room to work and develop the characters and story within the boundaries I’ve set.

In this book, I kept getting Frank wrong in all his scenes. His character is gruff, dark, and noir, but I kept writing him too soft or too mean or too whatever, and my editor would send me back the manuscript covered in red. It took four or five drafts to get him right which has never happened to me before. I’m still not sure why that happened, but it was a good experience to struggle and persevere to get the character right.

Writer’s block: How do you beat it?

For me, being blocked means I can’t move forward. When that happens, I force myself to move in any direction until I can move forward again.

I’ll do any number of things: change where I write, exercise more (or less), change the time of day I write. I will write “what if” statements in a notebook (“What if I killed Frank in this scene? What if I change this character in this way?). I’ll also switch from the computer to pen and paper (or vice versa). Sometimes, I’ll just write stream of consciousness, even if it has nothing to do with the story. If you looked in some of my notebooks, you’d see pages of “I don’t know what to write. I can’t think of anything to write. What the *&^% is wrong with me? Why can’t I think of anything to write!”

The trick for me is to keep moving, even if I’m not making forward progress and flailing around aimlessly. Eventually something clicks and I’m able to make forward progress again.

Do you have a favorite book or author? What do you love about them?

My favorite author is Stephen King. Favorite book is The Stand. I just finished reading the “author’s cut” of The Stand which is something like over 1000 pages.

His characters and storytelling are something I model my own writing on. He takes ordinary people and relates them quickly and easily to a reader. Then he puts them in horrifying situations and makes them extraordinary. I also love how prolific King is. He writes faster than I read I think.

I love The Stand because it’s a meandering good versus evil epic about ordinary people in an end of the world, dystopian scenario. The characters are deep and rich and layered. King embodies good and evil in his characters like I’ve not seen another writer do. Often times I find myself thinking about The Stand and the characters when I write. And sometimes, I’ll recognize a character’s idiosyncrasy in a real person and think to myself, “that’s something Stu Redman would do.”

That kind of stickiness – the long-lasting memories of a story or a character that stays with a reader – is something that King has mastered and is what I aspire to in my own writing.

What do you absolutely need in order to write?

A quiet space, a warm drink, and an idea I am passionate about. And of course something to write on, which at this moment is my MacBook Air.

What do you love outside of writing and reading?

I like spending time with my family, especially playing and talking about Star Wars and super heroes with my five-year-old and three-year-old. They love the lore behind the characters and test me all the time. We have light saber battles and make massive scenes with their action figures in the living room. Stuff I used to do when I was a kid. (Well I guess I still do it J)

I watch very little TV, but when I do, I’m a binge watcher. I love what Marvel and Netflix are doing with Daredevil, Jessica Jones, and Luke Cage. Game of Thrones, Mad Men, Shameless, and the Walking Dead are other shows I’ve binged on.

I like helping people, especially other authors. One thing I love about the indie author community is the comradery and the feeling we are all in this thing together. It’s a movement and I’d like to see the spirit of the indie author community spill over into the rest of the world.

I also love to cook. I was a chef for a while, before I went into a technology career, and now I’m trying to write for a living. You could say being an author is my third career, but cooking came first and I still love it.

Before I go, I’d like to thank you, Emily, for taking an interest in my work, taking the time to ask these thoughtful questions, and allowing me speak to your readers. The writing community needs more people like you and I hope you inspire other writers to give as you do. And congratulations on Mud! Well done and well deserved!

SNEAK PEEK: QUEEN OF THE FALLEN

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Prologue

OCTOBER 21, 2015

New York, New York

Jack had always been a dreamer, even as a baby. At least that’s what his mother had told him. But he'd never had a dream this lucid or long before. It seemed to last all night…

In the dream, he was standing on a road that went on forever. He turned to his left, and saw the earth had been scorched black, burned to ash and soot. The trees… Some of the trees had been burned to stubs, and looked like cleats turned upside down. Others were still tall and stabbed into the ominous sky, like spears trying to pierce the blazing orange sun setting on the horizon. A thunderous heartbeat pounded from somewhere. He could feel the vibration through his Nikes and up into his body. He had never been so scared in his life than he had been hearing that sound.

A song came to him on a gentle breeze from his right. He knew the tune but couldn't place it. A lullaby? A church hymn? One of his first memories was his mother humming it to him as a toddler. He turned to gaze in the direction of the sound. To his right, lush green fields of grass and wildflowers spread across fertile land. Trees, as tall as skyscrapers, slow-danced on an easy wind. Far off, past the fields and trees, a majestic mountain stood stoic under a bright yellow sun. The sun breathed warmth on everything it touched. A tranquil calm came over Jack as the tune played on the wind, lifting his spirits into the scattered clouds that accented the deep blue sky.

Thunder boomed, startling Jack from his gaze on the serene scene. He turned left as lightning slashed at the blackening sky and the silhouette of something purple-black and thudding in the dead landscape flashed brilliantly for an instant. Jack was filled with dread that tingled all over his skin as the images came rapid fire, slicing through his brain. His jaw fell open and he screamed, but he couldn’t hear his own voice over the cadence that reverberated through him.

A girl…

A purple heart…

An ice-breathing monster…

Tarek… Tarek is dead…

The name resounded in his head. He bolted upright in bed, wide awake, his vocal cords vibrating until they were raw and painful. He was vaguely aware his mother was holding him. That sound…that sound…The cadence was a terrifying rhythm; an endless thrumming.

A heartbeat

His hands slammed over his ear holes and his voice was like a steel rake running through the inside of his neck. He tasted blood in the back of his throat. His mother held him to her bosom, and rocked him and hummed to him. The tune she hummed—it was the same tune from the dream. The words found him and his screams trailed off into sobs.

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound,

That saved a wretch like me.

I once was lost but now I'm found,

Was blind, but now I see.

 

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Danielle DeVor

DanielleDeVorAuthorPhotoNamed one of the Examiner's 2014 Women in Horror: 93 Horror Authors you Need to Read Right Now, Danielle DeVor has been spinning the spider webs, or rather, the keyboard for more frights and oddities. She spent her early years fantasizing about vampires and watching "Salem's Lot" way too many times. When not writing and reading about weird things, you will find her hanging out at the nearest coffee shop, enjoying a mocha frappuccino.

You can follow Danielle at these links:

Blog † | ††Twitter† †| ††Facebook† †| ††Instagram

So, let's hit it, Danielle ...

Tell us about yourself:

I’m a horror movie loving girl who likes to spend her time trying to get scared. I also enjoy reading, watching animals in the backyard, and, of course, I write weird books.

Where did your inspiration to write Sorrow's Edge start?

It is the sequel to my novel Sorrow’s Point. But, I needed something different for my MC, Jimmy Holiday, to get into. And, my father watches old westerns all the time. So, the name of the town, Tombstone, popped into my head and how cool it would be if Jimmy Holiday had to do something in a place called Tombstone.

What was the hardest thing bout writing Sorrow's Edge?

Remembering all the little nuances. Writing a series is tricky because it is the little things that will trip you up.

Writer’s block: How do you beat it?

I kick myself in the butt and give myself a hard deadline. When working with a publisher, you know you only have a certain amount of time to write a book.

Do you have a favorite book or author? What do you love about them?

That’s a tough question. I have about 5 that revolve. Right now, I would have to say Richard Matheson because his books, while deal with terrifying situations also have an innocence about them that is lost today.

What do you absolutely need in order to write?

Silence, a steno pad, and sparkly gel pens.

What do you love outside of writing and reading?

Crocheting, hanging out with friends. Music.

NOTE: Be sure to keep scrolling past the sneak peek to learn about the awesome giveaway Danielle is doing to celebrate Sorrow's Edge's launch!

SNEAK PEEK: Sorrow's Edge
Book 2 in the fascinating series The Marker Chronicles!

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Excerpt

I got the phone call at three. Just as Lucy said I would. I was really starting to hate the true ìwitching hour.î I needed sleep, dammit.
I let the phone ring a few times, hoping that whoever was on the other end would just hang up. I wasnít that lucky. I dragged my tired-ass body up, grabbed my phone off the nightstand, and swiped the screen.
ìMr. Holiday?î the man asked when I grunted into the phone.
ìYou realize itís 3:00 AM, right?î My head hit the pillow. I did not want to be doing this right now.
The man sighed. ìIt couldnít be helped. We need you.î
I twitched. Who the hell was this guy anyway? Kind of presumptuous to call somebody at random this late at night when youíd never met the person on the other end. Apparently, manners werenít his strong point.
I glanced around the room. The lamp in the corner was on. The light glowed just enough to keep my mind at ease. Iíd gotten into the habit of sleeping with a light on ever since Sorrowís Point. Yeah, it was irrational, but hey, I was trying to keep the beasties at bay. From the dim light, I could see Lucy sitting on the floor in front of the TV. I, just barely, made out the program through her. Her hair was as pale as usual and so blond it seemed almost white. She wore the same white nightgown she always did.
ìHow did you get my number?î I had to know. I mean, I doubted Will would suggest me to someone else. Things hadnít exactly ended on a positive note.
ìYou came highly recommended.î
That was news to me. A very small group of people even knew I did something besides graphic design. ìBy who?î
ìThatís not important right now. Youíre needed. Thatís what should matter.î
I sat up. Not important to him, maybe, but it sure as shit was important to me. I squeezed the phone so hard my knuckles began to ache. If I broke it, this asshole was going to owe me another phone. ìListen. Iím not about to traipse around and do whatever the hell it is you want me to when you wonít tell me who you are or who told you about me.î
ìOíMalley said youíd be difficult.î
I froze. Father OíMalley had been the one who allowed me to see the church as a vocation when I was a kid. But there was one problem. Heíd been dead since before I left the church. I didnít care where he got the information. That was a low blow. I clenched my teeth.
ìIím going to hang up now. Iíd appreciate it if you didnít call here againóî
ìNo, wait!î
The desperation in his voice was the only thing that kept me from hanging up the phone. ìAll right. Iím listening.î
ìOíMalley told me about you in a dream. When I woke up, your phone number was scrawled on my hand.î
Yeah, I knew that kind of weird. I had firsthand experience with it. Having a dead person talk to him in a dream wasnít that different from a disembodied soul speaking to me in a nightmare. Yeah, my life was really interesting. Though Iíd never drawn on myself in my sleep. That was a new one. ìWho is it who needs an exorcism?î
The guy hung up. I literally heard the phone hitting the cradle. Who used an old phone like that anymore? I almost threw my cell phone against the wall. I mean, what the hell? Wake me up in the middle of the night for what?
I scratched the sleep out of my eyes and glanced over at Lucy. ìDonít you ever sleep?î
She stared at me and grinned. Her blue eyes almost sparkled. ìI donít have to.î
I shook my head. Of course a kid would think it great to not sleep. I, on the other hand needed my restóstrange phone calls or not. And if someone else called, Iíd probably be facing a murder charge.
ìDo you think Tabby will like me?î Lucy asked. She stayed dressed in this little white frilly nightgown. I wasnít sure if it was her favorite or if there was something else at work keeping her dressed that way. When Iíd done her exorcism, she sure wasnít in frills.
Now that was the question, wasnít it? Iíd been toying with the idea of not telling Tabby about my ghostly child, but it appeared that was no longer an option. And with my luck, Tabby would eventually see her, freak out, and the whole thing would be blown out of proportion.
ìIím sure she willÖî I hoped that was true. ìAfter she gets used to the idea.î
Lucy stared at me for a bit. I could tell she wasnít buying it. Best I start remembering there was more to her than to a regular six-year-old.
ìIt will all work out,î I told her. ìEventually.î Part of that was me trying to convince myself. There was only so much oddness a normal person could take, and I figured I was probably getting close to the threshold.
ìUh-huh,î Lucy said, back to watching the TV. How she could just sit in front of the TV for hours on end, I didnít know. It was almost like she became somehow hypnotized by it.
I laid my head back on the pillow. Hopefully, I could go back to sleep. Hopefully, I could stop worrying about that odd phone call. HopefullyÖwho was I kidding? I was seriously screwed. Again.

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Sorrow's Edge (The Marker Chronicles,†Book 2)

Uncovering the truth will take an exorcist.
Jimmy Holiday, defrocked priest turned exorcist, is trying to get his life in order. With his on-again off-again witchy girlfriend moving in, the spirit of the little girl from his last exorcism hanging around, and a secret organization of exorcists hounding him, Jimmy equals stressed.

When a stranger calls in the middle of the night asking for help with a possession, Jimmy is about to land in a mess of trouble. Especially since the man on the phone claims to have gotten his number from Jimmyís old mentor. Too bad his mentor has been dead for years.

After a mysterious silver flask arrives at his doorstep, Jimmy is left with two options: either ignore the newest enigma the universe has tossed him, or listen to Lucy and travel to Arizona to solve the mystery before all hell breaks looseÖagain.

 

You can buy SORROW'S EDGE at these retailers:

Amazon † † | † † Barnes & Noble

Giveaway

Open internationally. Must be 13+ to win.

Prizes:

1 Winner - Amazon $5 Gift Card

2 Winners - ebook copy of SORROW'S POINT

a Rafflecopter giveaway

This†tour†is brought to you by

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Please check out our other†tour†hosts for Excerpts, Interviews and more chances to win!

11/6/16 Natalia Brothers mycookbookofwriting.blogspot.com
11/6/16 Cheshire Cat cheshirecatlookingglass.com
11/6/16 Jennifer Theriot http://jennifertheriot.blogspot.com/
11/6/16 Em shotwell EmShotwell.com/blog
11/6/16 Leigh Anderson www.leighandersonromance.com
11/7/16 Steven Ramirez http://stevenramirez.com/
11/7/16 Randi Perrin www.randiperrin.com
11/7/16 Mindy Wall http://dream-reader-dreamer2229.blogspot.com/
11/8/16 Maer Wilson http://maerwilson.com/
11/10/16 Maryanne Fantalis mfantaliswrites.wordpress.com
11/10/16 E. J. Wenstrom www.ejwenstrom.com/blog
11/10/16 Ashley Pomykala parsimoniouspash.com
11/10/16 Kathleen Kelly http://www.celticladysreviews.blogspot.com
11/10/16 Miriam Greystone www.miriamgreystone.com
11/10/16 Craig Comer http://craigcomer.com
11/12/16 Christina Mandara http://christinamandara.com
11/12/16 Ronelle Antoinette http://www.redhotbooks.com
11/12/16 Tina Traverse https://writersonthewharf.wordpress.com
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Janice Hardy is the award-winning author of The Healing Wars trilogy and several books on writing, including her Foundations of Fiction series and Skill Builders series. For more advice and helpful writing tips, visit her at www.fiction-university.com or @Janice_Hardy.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunes | Indie Bound

Where did your inspiration to write Understanding Show, Don't Tell (And Really Getting it) start?

This was a topic that really wanted to be a book. It started out as a handout my Show, Don't Tell workshop (I'd done a little booklet for that one) and even conference goers who hadn't been in my workshop asked me if I had extras to spare. Earlier this year, I decided to do a newsletter for my site and started prepping that booklet to use as a thank you gift for signing up. In a few hours of tinkering, I realized I had a lot more to say about it, and "show, don't tell" was the perfect topic to launch the new Skill Builders Series I'd been planning. I'd wanted to do smaller books that analyzed and dug deep into various writing techniques to go with my larger planning and revision books. Since this is something writers struggle with the most, it made sense to write this first.

What was the hardest thing about writing Understanding Show, Don't Tell (And Really Getting it)?

Keeping it small. "Show, don't tell" is connected to so many aspects of writing that I kept wanting to add chapters to discuss those as well--such as point of view, filtering, and narrative distance. I do talk about how those aspects affect show, don't tell, but I could do (and will) a whole book on point of view alone. I wanted to keep this book (and series) focused and manageable for new writers. It's easy to get overwhelmed when too much is thrown at you.

In your years as a writer and blogger, what common mistakes and challenges have you seen writers struggle with most?

Show, don't tell, obviously. Point of view (which causes most of the show, don't tell issues) is something that trips up a lot of writers. I often see stories that describe an idea and how a character gets from Point A to Point Z, but it isn't actually a compelling plot with a strong protagonist solving problems to achieve a goal (so that would be a goal-conflict-stakes issue).

Generally, a lot of early drafts focus more on explaining the story idea and get in their own way, preventing the characters from living that story. It's not about saying, "Look at this cool idea I had," it's about interesting people solving interesting stories in interesting ways. Half the fun of reading is figuring out everything along with the characters.

You explain “show, don’t tell” better than anyone else I’ve found. Can you break it down for readers who haven’t found your blog yet?

Aw, thanks so much! Basically, it's when we explain things to readers they ought to be able to figure out by watching the characters experience the story. If we see characters cry, we can tell they're sad or hurt. If they're snapping at loved ones, we can assume they're unhappy or distracted in some way (or just mean). If everyone puts on gloves before they leave the house, we can surmise that gloves are a vital part of this society for some reason.

I've also created a list of what I call red flag words that are frequently found with told prose that people can search for in their manuscripts. They don't catch every instance of telling, and they don't always mean it's told prose, but they do give you a solid place to start looking. A few examples, are "to-verb" phrases (such as, to pick up) and "when" statements (such as, when she went for the gun ... ).

What can writers do to safeguard their work against “telling”?

Understanding what it is and how to spot it. The problem with it, is that it's subjective and depends on so many variables, so there are no hard and fast rules. You can't just "do X" every time and have it work. The same sentence can read fine with an omniscient narrator, but feel told with a first person narrator. Keeping a list of my red flag words handy will certainly help find told prose, but just cutting those words or rewriting sentences using those words doesn't always solve the problem. My favorite chapter in the whole book is an in-depth analysis of this, actually.

When editing ourselves, what can writers do to look out for “telling”—and turn them into “showing”?

Keeping an eye out for red flag words is a good start. Once you get used to looking for them they jump out as soon as you use one and you can stop and revise. After a while, you train yourself to avoid them. It's also helpful to consider if what you're writing is something the character would say, do, or think, or what the author is explaining. If it feels like an author explanation, it's probably telling.

How do you protect your own work against “telling” and fix it in your own drafts? 

I do an edit pass for my red flag words. This catches most of my slip ups, and anything I miss my beta readers and crit partners usually pick up. The nice thing about telling, is once you get used to avoiding it, you do it without thinking, so there isn't that much telling in your work.

You also write fantasy fiction! I have to talk to you about your fiction a little too, before I can let you go.

Writers block: How do you beat it?

I don't use the term (grin). That sounds flippant, but I'm serious. I think getting truly blocked is rare, and most of us just get stuck. We have a story that doesn't want to be written, a problem we have trouble solving, personal issues that are sapping our creativity--but all of these are things in the way, and once we figure out how to go around them, we're okay. So "writer's block" to me means there's something in my story (or life) I need still to work through to move forward.

When this happens, I walk away from the keyboard and let my subconscious work. Taking a hot shower helps more often than not. I think the brain massage of washing my hair does it. Doing tasks that take the focus off the writing also help a lot, so I'll do chores or exercise--anything that involves my hands and activity and doesn't use my brain.

For those who are truly blocked, take a break. Forcing yourself to write when you can't only puts more pressure on you and adds to the problem. Do things you enjoy, forget about writing and let the creative juices refill. When you feel ready to go back and write, do it for the fun of it for a while. Don't go back to the same project that blocked you. Rediscover the joy of your writing and remind yourself that you can do this, and then tackle that tough project.

Do you have a favorite book or author? What do you love about them?

Harlan Ellison. I love his voice, the way he organizes his sentences, his story ideas. He breaks all kinds of conventions and rules and it just works.

What do you absolutely need in order to write?

Focus. And by that, I mean the ability to pay complete attention to what I'm working on without distraction. So no email, no internet, no people coming in and out of my office, no cats jumping on my keyboard (this is the hardest one to get in my house). I need to cut out all the things I know will draw me away from the work. Quiet is nice to have, but I found I can get a lot of writing done at a coffee shop, so if the noise is more white noise in nature, that works just as well.

What do you love outside of writing and reading?

I'm a huge movie buff, so I see a lot of films, and I especially LOVE cheesy movies. I'm also a gamer (from old-style card games to pen and paper RPGs, to computer and console games), and I can lose myself for weeks with a good city builder or MMO. I met my husband scuba diving, and though we stopped diving when we moved to Georgia, now that we're back in Florida, we plan to get back into it. I love the water, so that will be fun to do again. I've missed it.

 

SNEAK PEEK
Understanding Show, Don't Tell (And Really Getting It)

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Do you struggle with show, don't tell? You don't have to. 

Award-winning author Janice Hardy (and founder of the popular writing site, Fiction University) takes you deep into one of the most frustration aspects of writing--showing, and not telling. She'll help you understand what show, don't tell means, teach you how to spot told prose in your writing, and reveal why common advice on how to fix it doesn't always work.

With in-depth analysis and easy-to-understand examples, Understanding Show, Don't Tell (And Really Getting It) looks at what affects told prose and when telling is the right thing to do. It also explores aspects of writing that aren’t technically telling, but are connected to told prose and can make prose feel told, such as infodumps, description, and backstory.

This book will help you:

  • Understand when to tell and when to show
  • Spot common red flag words often found in told prose
  • Learn why one single rule doesn't apply to all books
  • Determine how much telling is acceptable in your writing
  • Fix stale or flat prose holding your writing back

Understanding Show, Don't Tell (And Really Getting It) is more than just advice on what to do and what not to do—it’s a down and dirty examination and analysis of how show, don’t tell works, so you can adapt the “rules” to whatever style or genre you’re writing. By the end of this book, you’ll have a solid understanding of show, don’t tell and the ability to use it without fear or frustration.

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Em Shotwell is a cancer survivor, foster care advocate, and white belt in Brazilian jiujitsu. Sometimes she writes about oddballs and the weirdos who love them. Her debut novel, Blackbird Summer, is available now. You can visit her online at www.EmShotwell.com or find her on her goodreads page.

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Where did your inspiration to write Blackbird Summer start?

I always have characters before I have a plot. With Blackbird Summer, the first character I came up with was Evelyn, my main character’s grandma. I remember thinking, how cool would it be if someone was able to make flowers bloom simply by touching them?

This eventually morphed into the idea of giving off the power of life itself, making everything alive the best version of itself simply by being near.  

Then I wondered how it would feel to be related to such a person, to someone so powerful, and how that would affect a person’s view of themselves. This is how Tallulah came to be. She is rather ordinary (or so she thinks) and struggles to find her place in her powerful family.

On top of that, she lives in a town that hates her simply for being a part of that family. (Being Magic in south Mississippi isn’t necessarily a good thing. People don’t like what they don’t understand.)

What was the hardest thing about writing Blackbird Summer?

Blackbird Summer was my first full-length novel, so that in itself was a daunting task. The more you write, the easier it becomes, but that first book just feels like such a huge undertaking. For me, getting over being intimidated and actually just doing it was probably the hardest part.

Writer’s block: How do you beat it?

I switch projects for a day and write something else. If that doesn’t work (it usually does) I take time and just read. A lot. This refreshes me, and usually gets me in the mood to get back to work.

Do you have a favorite book or author? What do you love about them?

I have so many! My favorite book is and always will be Wuthering Heights. My favorite SFF author is probably Octavia Butler. I consider her the mother of the modern dystopian novel. She was doing it and doing it well a decade before it was the genre behemoth that it is now. A newer book that I enjoyed is Vicious by V.E. Schwab.  I will also read anything that Sarah Addison Allen writes. She could publish instructions on how to properly use a toothbrush and I’d buy it. I also love the voice in Joshilyn Jackson’s novels. She writes southern women’s fiction, but there isn’t anything fluffy about her books. She doesn’t shy away from the ugly parts of southern culture and writes complex relationships very well.

What do you absolutely need in order to write?

It’s cliché, but coffee. It helps me focus. I also will listen to music before getting started on a project, to help me get my mind right, but once I begin writing, I do better with complete silence. So I guess I need coffee and silence.

What do you love outside of writing and reading?

I am a mom to two amazing boys, and I adore doing things with them. We do everything from football games to comic-con, and we have a blast. I also love television. I know that “book people” kind of have this stigma that we turn our nose up at television—but I love campy television shows. Always have. Always will.

I have also recently gotten into Brazilian jiujitsu. I suck so bad, but it is seriously some of the most fun to be had.

Sneak Peek: The Chans

Em is giving away a free short-story eBook.
Follow the link to claim your copy of THE CHANS!

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Logan has spent his entire life knowing he is different...

 An invisible force has guided him through important—and not so important—decisions, always pointing him in the right direction. His Gram calls his sixth sense the Chans, a word that means luck in her native Haitian creole. 

One afternoon, while driving home from a faculty meeting at the school where he teaches music, Logan feels the familiar tug of the Chans. Usually the pull is like a suggestion being whispered in his ear. This time, however, it is a demand—one he is compelled to follow. 

When the Chans leads him to a ramshackle diner in an out-of-the-way rural Mississippi town, Logan thinks there must be a mistake. But before he talks himself into leaving, a woman walks in that will change his life forever.

 

When people fear the unknown, being GIFTED is a CURSE...

 In the cornerstone of the rural south, Brooklyn, Mississippi, no one dares make eye contact with the strange Caibre family. Until the rewards are worth the cost. The townsfolk come, cash in hand, always at night, to pay for services only a Gifted can provide.

No matter the Gifts prevalent in her family, at twenty-one, Tallulah is expected to follow the path laid out for her: marriage, babies, and helping her mama teach the family home school program. She’s resigned to live the quiet life and stay out of trouble…until she meets Logan.

An outsider and all around rebel, Logan doesn’t care about her family’s reputation. Yet after a tragic loss wreaks havoc on the crumbling relationship between the Caibres and the townsfolk, Tallulah must decide if love and freedom are worth risking everything.

Want to read the first chapter for free? Click here!

 

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screen-shot-2016-09-24-at-6-48-57-pmConnor Drexler is an urban fantasy author whose novel Mad God Walking releases in October!

Learn more about Connor and his writing on his website, or on Twitter or Instagram.

Don't forget to read to the end to get a sneak peek of Connor's writing.

Tell us about yourself:

My name is Connor, I write a little bit, live in Brooklyn where I sell wine and spoil a cat named Hobbes.

Where did your inspiration to write Mad God Walking start?

My inspiration for Mad God came from reading all of the urban fantasy authors I loved, and wondering what it would be like if the main character was a little different. In a lot of urban fantasy you have a human private eye type character searching for a McGuffin item while trying to avoid some power and retain his humanity.

In Mad God, Damon is a creature from a parallel magic universe that operates far from the human experience. Because of his upbringing he is desperately trying to learn about humanity as an outsider. Also, I wanted to write a character who had fun with his magic while unknowingly falling into addiction.

What was the hardest thing about writing Mad God Walking?

Honestly, I had to research the psychology of sociopaths and addicts. Damen, like all creatures from the Sideways, is alien to most of the things that make us humans. His natural state is similar to a magical sociopath, so a lot of the book his him coming to terms with empathy as he gains more humanity though connections with his friends.

Writer’s block: How do you beat it?

Sometimes I just keep writing silly things until I pass through it, other times I step away and go for a walk in nature allowing my subconscious to work through the issues.

For the past year or so I have started playing the Hamilton soundtrack whenever I begin writing to trigger a pavlovian response. This had been surprisingly useful.

Do you have a favorite book or author? What do you love about them?

I love Haruki Murakami for his ability to create hidden worlds within our own.

What do you absolutely need in order to write?

Caffeine, sparkling water and a writing playlist that mirrors the atmosphere of the scene.

What do you love outside of writing and reading?

I work in the NY wine industry so I love going out to dinner with friends and drinking a great bottle of wine. Otherwise, my wife and I love traveling to the American Southwest and Asia.

Last summer my friends and I turned a 1980’s military Humvee into a murder black painted, fire shooting, near future assault vehicular for Burning Man. So that was fun.

SNEAK PEAK

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Memories of the Night Hotel, Part One

In my dreams, I always returned to the Sideways and my childhood home, the Night Hotel. This time was no different. Alone, I walked down a burgundy carpet covering an endless, black, walnut-stained floor. Walking down a corridor with no doors, for what could have been a minute or a month, I felt the hard plaster of the hallway walls scrape across my palms. Yellow Edison bulbs hanging from the ceiling cast harsh waves of darkness, allowing my friends, the Shadows, to follow me. I tried to ignore their gossip: they’d tell me tales about the guests, the doors they most feared, and Aunt and Uncle. I am taller here. An angular face, mercury-colored eyes, and hair made from strands of pure silver looked back at me from a small, gold-wrought, Victorian mirror. On the sides of the mirror, twin flames danced inside glass lanterns and sang songs of endless hunger and lust. I greeted the fire in the tongue of the Sideways.

“Hello, hello, we can burn. Can we delight?” they sang. “Not this time,” I tell them and start to walk away. “We are yours. We dance for your delight.”

I stopped. “You don’t have to…”

“Can you, can you free us then? From her hate?” “Aunt’s?” “You know Aunt? Please don’t tell her anything. Watch as we dance, and forget our plight.”

I peered closer and saw two naked women, dancing on miniature pools of oil, become engulfed in fire. Burning red hair occasionally flickered blue, gyrating rhythmically to the crackling of their inner fire. The dancer’s yellow light reflected off my eyes, mirroring the color of a hunter’s moon. I reached out to the flames, and sensed the chains of a promise binding them to the mirror. Invisible chains had been forged out of an oath they had sworn to Aunt, the matriarch of the Night Hotel.

One of the dancers stopped and looked up at me. “We miss our mother, we miss our home…please.”

As the chains that bound her violently reasserted their binding, I felt shock. I had often seen humans stolen from their world and bound to something more real than anything in the Sideways, namely, a promise. It was customary here to trick humans into impossible promises, and then drag them back with us as slaves.
The woman screamed until she, once again, danced. I felt something in the back of my mind. An echo of something I had not felt since I was a child and first met Vera.
The echo grew louder and louder, until I sensed the disjointed orchestra of their pain. I drew in a deep breath and used my power to pull against the chains, using all of my strength. It seemed wrong somehow to me that they were bound, and it hurt pulling that hard. My heart raced, matching the power that bound the two, but the most I could do was loosen their chains and offer them a respite.

“I am so sorry,” I explained. “This is all I can do.”

With the chains loosened, one woman rested her face up on her pool of oil, gasping for breath. The other cried and struggled against her chains, then leapt from her pool. Without fuel, her flame began to burn out quickly. I instinctively caught her in my hand, but I didn’t have the power to keep her flame lit. As I held her, the flame faded away, the chains vanished, and she began to grow.

In my arms, I held the lifeless form of a beautiful girl. Her emaciated body was covered with tattoos, including one above her breast that read “Love will tear us apart 5/29/1977,” clearly a relic of a life she led before she found the Night Hotel. I held her for longer than I could remember, and soon small splashes of mercury fell on her limp body. I had never seen death, and I couldn’t imagine that anything could be this fragile. I heard a sob from the other girl, still chained to her pool and dancing for her fallen sister. “Uncle comes. Run!” Shadows warned me before they fled. Behind me, I heard heavy footsteps and felt wood buckle, as something willed the hallway to collapse in on itself, to shorten the distance between us.

Behind me, I heard someone yell, “You shouldn’t break Aunt’s things, child.”
When I spun around, Uncle loomed over me. His seven- foot tall body was made from black onyx and had a myriad of tiny, molten yellow cracks. He wore a silk smoking jacket and had an ivory pipe in his mouth. With one hand, he held my shoulder, his fire searing it black. When he bent over, a small stream of molten rock spilled out from his pipe onto my face. I remember screaming.

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13528838_589178314583826_953716740348942452_nJoshua Bader is a delivery boy, psychologist, retired vagabond wizard, and father of three. He reads and writes all manner of speculative fiction, but has an especially deep love of urban fantasy. Learn more and buy his novel Frostbite here.

Tell us about yourself:

I am a 37 year old father of three who grew up on reruns of Rockford Files and Magnum PI. I'm working my way through writing a long series in the weirdest order possible. (More on that later.) I write urban fantasy, high fantasy, poetry, and really, really want to write a crime noir at some point, but I'm not sure I have the chops for it.

Where did your inspiration to write Frostbite start?

I started writing my series with two books, Discord and The Last Hunt. I wanted to combine those two into an epic finale of supernaturally gifted humans versus a megalomaniac mega-corporation. As I started writing that finale, Borderline, I fell in love with two of the characters, Colin Fisher and Veruca Wakefield. Without giving away their story, I wanted to know how they started, how they got to the precipice of the apocalypse, and why their allegiances were what they were. So I went back to the start, some four and a half years before and wrote Colin's story in Frostbite.

What was the hardest thing about writing Frostbite?

Consistency. Because I had so much written material for the Modern Knights series, I wanted to be careful to make Frostbite line up with the rest of the series. I'm going to have to fix a few things later on to keep it canon, but I feel like I kept Colin himself.

Writer’s block: How do you beat it?

I write. It's the only cure. First sentence is awkward and awful and horrible. Second sentence is a little easier. By the end of the first page, my writer's block is usually cured. If that doesn't work, try a little rum and force yourself to sit in front of your keyboard while you drink.

Do you have a favorite book or author? What do you love about them?

So many. Jim Butcher's Dresden Files is amazing because it combines my love of old PI shows with fantasy. Harry Dresden is the Jim Rockford of urban fantasy. Since that spot is taken, I think Colin is my tribute to Columbo: bumbling, adorable, and clueless ... but he gets the job done.

What do you absolutely need in order to write?

A full size keyboard? I love my phone and pen and paper, but the keyboard is way important. Rum and Diet Coke help.

What do you love outside of writing and reading?

Pokemon Go is my drug of choice right now. I've dropped 10 pounds since it released. Parenting is pretty cool, too.

PREVIEW: Frostbite (An exclusive clip!)

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Her breath nearly gagged me when she spoke my name. It was full of warm spice overlaying cold decay. When I had recovered, I said, “And the spirit wars forced the wendigo to slumber. How?”

“Once, all sons of Adam and daughters of Eve were one race, one people. But after they were broken, their strength was not what it once had been.”

“The tower of Babel?”

“It is one story: Babel, Atlantis, Avalon, Pangaea. Many tales, one truth. The survivors who fled to this land found many enemies waiting for them. Arrogant spirits thought man’s dominion had ended. Mad spirits driven insane by the faceless set upon them. Without the strength of unity, the humans were easy prey for the monsters around them. Millennia after the falling time, the remnants of your people were still in fear of these beasts.

“The stories most commonly speak of twins who ventured beyond the edge of the world to bring back salvation. When they returned, they brought the spirit war. The tribes swore allegiance to the twins until all the people of this land were one people. Spirits of summer and spirits of crafting were appeased with offerings and promises and lent their strength to the twins’ army.”

“Offerings?” I asked.

“Do not play ignorant, knight-wizard. You know what the sun gods demanded for their aid. Winter is not the only thing that hungers for mortal life. Do not confuse our quarrel with the Seelie as a matter of good versus evil.” Visions of people lying on stone altars atop block pyramids, waiting for the dagger to fall, danced through my mind.

“I will remember, Eye of Winter. Please continue.” 

“Their full strength rode to the Shadowlands, determined to purge the world of monsters like wendigo. One-fifth came back from that dark place, carrying the peace of the twins. The dark spirits would slumber and men would not walk in the lands of shadow. This peace has held for all of written history.”

“How did the curse wake it?”

“No,” she whispered firmly.

“No?”

“The curse did not wake it. It only strengthened it, reminded the wendigo of the path from the Shadowlands to this realm. It was already awake.”

“Why? Why is it waking?”

“Some can be reached in their dreams. If people turn to cannibalism, the wendigo dreams it. From there, it might hunt in its sleep, but it will return to its hibernation.”

“Cannibalism,” I said.

“Not this one. Someone is walking the Shadowlands. Their footsteps echo in the night. The peace of the twins is broken and soon all the sleeping spirits will rise.”

“Armageddon.” Verses of Revelation came unbidden out of my memory.

“Apocalypse,” she corrected. “Armageddon is a battle to end all battles. This will be a one-sided slaughter.”

“So the person who wrote the curse is traveling through the Shadowlands waking things up?”

“No,” she whispered.

“No?”

“The person who cursed Valente is not strong enough to walk the Shadowlands. The two events are not directly related.”

“Not directly. But there is a link?”

“There are many links, Colin Fisher. For example, you tie both events together by your interest.”

I needed the right question, but I couldn’t come up with it. The Eye of Winter was trying to avoid saying something and I suspected she had centuries of experience at not saying things she didn’t want to say. I would need to offer a greater payment or be satisfied with what she was willing to give. “Tell me what you want to tell me.”

“There is much that I want to tell you, Colin Fisher. Perhaps I will have the chance if you focus on the immediate. Kill the wendigo and break the curse. Overreach too soon, too fast, and you will die.”

I nodded. She made sense. The wendigo was enough without worrying about faceless men or a shadow-walker. “How do I kill it?”

“The peace is broken, but the twins’ allies are still bane to their enemies.”

“Summer and steel,” I said.

“Use what belongs to them and you can hurt it.” She paused. “Or let winter flow through your veins and you can control it, turn it back against your foes.” Her fingers reached up and slowly dragged along my cheek. “I could show you how, wizard-knight.”

The air grew colder almost instantly. My skin rose in goose bumps in response to the heady mix of chill, thrill, and terror. “I cannot pay the price for such a gift, Eye of Winter.”

Her smile was filled with pity and premonition. “The day is coming when you will wish that you had. But the choice that is made cannot be unmade.” She leaned forward and the stench of her breath grew thick around me. “But you have not answered me as to the girl. When you are ready to know of Sarai, you need only speak my name and I will come.”

What she whispered in my ear next, her lips almost pressed to my frozen lobe, was so terrible, so crushingly sad, so unspeakable, I forgot each word as soon as the sound passed. Only the emotion remained, the horrific certainty that what remained of my life was so disturbing, so violated, that when death finally found me, I would be grateful.

Days passed as we knelt there in the cold and stink. “What did you say?”

The Eye of Winter leaned back and smiled. “I told you your true love’s story.”

 

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 Named one of the Examiner’s 2014 Women in Horror: 93 Horror Authors you Need to Read Right Now, Danielle DeVor has been spinning the spider webs, or rather, the keyboard for more frights and oddities. She spent her early years fantasizing about vampires and watching “Salem’s Lot” way too many times. When not writing and reading about weird things, you will find her hanging out at the nearest coffee shop, enjoying a mocha frappuccino. Visit her at http://danielledevor.wordpress.com.

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Where did your inspiration to write Sorrow’s Point start?

I was discussing with my cousin about how there aren’t any good horror films anymore. And, the history of Blackmoor flew out of my mouth—the hideous murder, dark magic, torture. It was only later that I connected that to possession and exorcism.

What was the hardest thing bout writing Sorrow’s Point?

Pulling on my foreign language skills I haven’t used in quite a long time. I found myself digging through my college Latin and Russian textbooks.

Writer’s block: How do you beat it?

Stubbornness? When I have a deadline, I tend to just crank out stories. My brain attributes a deadline with the idea of being late. I’ve always been an early bird, so whenever I’ve had to be late, I can go as far as having a panic attack. Missing a deadline is the same way. Of course, it kind of helps that I have several books planned out in advance.

Do you have a favorite book or author? What do you love about them?

I have three books I read once per year, religiously. They are Night Film by Marisa Pressl, House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski, and We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver. All three books struck a cord of familiarity and horror. I love the way these books make me feel while reading them. They keep me grounded.

What do you absolutely need in order to write?

A steno pad, glitter and metallic gel pens, and silence.

What do you love outside of writing and reading?

Movies—I am a pretty well-watched connoisseur. The only genres of film I don’t watch a lot of are romantic comedies and westerns.

Crochet—I create some pretty unique crochet art. Some of the pictures are on my website.

Take a Sneak Peek at Danielle Devor's Sorrow’s Point Below

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The Devil’s Brood

1950

O’Dell drove up the hill toward Blackmoor. What was left of his hair blew in the wind like the last strands of cotton candy left in the machine. It was too damn hot to have the windows up.

With the extra weight he’d put on over the last few years, the sun beat down on him more brutally, but this year it’d been a hard summer. He’d lost count of the amount of times he had to yell at kids for messing with the fire hydrants.

He adjusted his uniform, pulling at the hem of his shirt. The stiff fabric clung to his skin like nothing else. In this heat, he’d rather be home in his cotton undershirt, sitting on the back porch and drinking a beer. But work came first.

Pulling into the drive of Blackmoor, O’Dell parked the cruiser. He looked up at the monstrosity before getting out of the car. Damn thing was massive—about double the size of a football field. Three levels to it. Way too huge for any normal family, but then, the Blacks were anything but normal. To him, the house seemed like Moby Dick: massive, vengeful and misunderstood. He took out his hanky and wiped the sweat off the back of his neck.

“Just what I need. To hell with you, Doris. I don’t need Black breathing down my neck.”

He softly closed the car door as he stretched the kinks out of his neck and took in his surroundings. No birds or any little creatures stirred. No sound could be heard other than the ragged snorts of his own breath. Goosebumps traveled up his arms. He walked up the stone steps to the front door and pressed the button. The doorbell peeled in some tinkling tune O’Dell couldn’t name.

He waited.

No one came to the door.

Failing at the front entrance, he wandered around to the other side of the house. The place was so big it took a while to find the back. By the time he got there, his breath tore out of him and the air felt like twenty pounds in his lungs.

“Goddamn humidity.”

He stood in some sort of garden area. Flowers bloomed in beds arranged strategically around the back side of the house, like something you’d see in an art book. A stone patio led up the steps. He hobbled up them, still panting. Damn porch was large enough to host a “quiet” party of three hundred people. Yes, the Blacks were a whole different breed.

He knocked on the back door. Still no answer.

Then, he heard it, a noise at last, a thump from inside the kitchen. He peered into the side window.

It was too much for his brain to process. Flashes appeared as if his mind could only handle it in pieces. Red ran down the walls like a sprayed Jackson Pollock painting. It covered the doorway and dripped from the top as bright as cherry syrup. On the kitchen sink rested a dish drainer. Long black hair pooled around the severed head of Mrs. Black. The blood dripping from the neck stump had matted the hair to the counter.

O’Dell turned away from the windows and puked. Nothing like this ever happened in Sorrow’s Point. The most he usually dealt with was a stupid kid shoplifting from the five and dime.

He ran off the patio, around to the front of the house in record time, and back to his car.

His sides ached and his head swam. Nausea beat at his gut. Fumbling with the driver’s side door, he jerked it open, hopped inside, and pulled out his radio.

“Jesus Fucking Christ!” He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand and pressed the button on the receiver. “Mable?”

“What?” Mable answered, the receiver crackling.

“I need goddamn backup at Blackmoor!”

“Oh God. Sorry, Walt. I’ll make the call.”

O’Dell released his radio and waited. The sour sweet smell of the vomit on his shoes turned his stomach. He forced the bile back down into his throat.

One at a time, the deputies arrived. For a town the size of Sorrow’s Point, two deputies was all the town could afford. O’Dell’s fist tightened on the handle as he got out of his car.

“Sheriff, what’s going on?” Deputy Jones asked. Boy was a young one, fresh out of the

academy.

O’Dell hoped he’d be able to pull his weight. He took a deep breath. “It’s bad, Jake. Real bad.”

Jones glanced over at the other deputy, Parker, and then turned back to the sheriff. “I’ve never seen you this messed up, Sheriff. You okay?”

The sweat dripped from O’Dell’s head in rivulets. He glanced at his reflection in the side mirror of his cruiser. His face flushed bright red. Before this case was done, he’d need more blood pressure pills. He threw his hat off and into the dirt. “No, I’m not fucking okay. Black has gone and killed his whole family!” He poked Jones in the chest. “I want you to go get that sumbitch. Cuff his ass and get him in the car. You hear me?”

Jones swallowed. O’Dell watched his Adam’s apple bob. Then, the deputy motioned for his partner.

“Go round back,” O’Dell said.

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In today's Author Spotlight, we're meeting D. Ryan Gish, author of the zombie apocalypse novel ENTHRALLED. Be sure to catch the sneak peek at his novel at the end!

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Headshot5Where did your inspiration to write ENTHRALLED start?

ENTHRALLED was inspired, at least in its infancy, from a drunken conversation between my close friends and I in which we determined that we would, without any doubt whatsoever, survive a zombie apocalypse. At least there was no doubt on their part ... and there probably still isn't. I, on the other hand, wasn't so sure we'd all survive, so I thought it would be fun to play that out. ENTHRALLED became my way of doing that. Of course, it morphed into something far bigger and more interesting as the story unfolded and deeper questions, fears, and emotions began to surface. But it honestly all started with beer.

What was the hardest thing about writing ENTHRALLED?

This was my very first attempt at writing a complete novel. I had written short stories, but a novel was much more intimidating.

So I think the hardest part was actually getting started. Writing that first sentence. Then that first paragraph, first page, etc. ... At some point, though, the story started telling itself, and I just had to focus on keeping up.

Writer’s block: How do you beat it?

I don't. I've heard a lot of writers say they power through ... bust out a thousand words a day whether they suck or not. But I'd rather not force it. I enjoy writing. When I try to force it, I don't enjoy it. If nothing comes to me, then I do other things. I've found that with women and writing, desperation yields poor results. Eventually, I'll have a dream or an idea or something will happen that will inspire me. Sometimes I have a lot of ideas all at once, and I write them down so I can draw on them later.

Do you have a favorite book or author? What do you love about them?

I would have to say my favorite author is Stephen King. His Dark Tower series is still the most fascinating thing I've ever read. I love how he can develop a character, and often times a large number of characters, in ways that create real emotional ties with the reader. His unique way of storytelling is addicting ... I've never read another author that can bring a story to life the way he does.

What do you absolutely need in order to write?

Time. And fingers. I guess I really just need a good idea that I can work with. And whiskey. Whiskey helps.

What do you love outside of writing and reading?

I love spending time with my three kids. I support the Orlando City Lions MLS team ... love going to games. Duck hunting has become one of my favorite things to do, although I usually miss a whole lot more than I drop. I love being in the woods and near/in the ocean. I've been thinking about taking up surfing again, but haven't committed to it yet. Mostly I just love being around my friends and family.

 

FROM THE BOOK:

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Wake Up, O Sleeper

1

“Zombies,” I said, waiting for the automatic doors to sweep open. “Every single one of them.”

Beyond the glass, a myriad of shoppers stalked the aisles in search of items that would only briefly sustain them. I’d watched them all day from behind the deli counter, and I stopped in the entryway, grimacing as I realized I would soon be joining them.

A man shoved past with a case of beer, and my jaw clenched.

“Excuu-use us,” my daughter said, putting one hand to her hip. The man had enough sense not to look back. If he did, he likely would have turned to stone under my six-year- old’s glare. “Some people.”

“You don’t talk to adults like that, Zoe,” I said, then faked a cough so she wouldn’t see me smile.

Before us, an elderly woman struggled to separate a shopping cart from the rest in the stack, and my smile faltered. She freed the buggy and continued on her way. I gazed back into the parking lot, wondering how much we really needed milk.

My stomach rumbled its irritation at the amount of my wife’s fried rice I had consumed for dinner; an uncomfortable reminder that Sydney was home cleaning the dishes. There wasn’t a chance in hell I could come home empty-handed.

“Let’s make this quick,” I said. “Try and keep up, Faris.”

My son’s hand slipped into mine. He was three, and I could hear his miniature boots clopping fast against the polished concrete as I put my head down and power-walked past the cash register. Someone called my name, but I shot down the nearest aisle, pretending not to notice. We took a sharp right at the end of the row, slowing when the bank of refrigerators came into view.

“Can we get cookies?” Zoe said, stopping at a display of Oreo’s stacked in the center of the aisle.

“Absolutely not,” I said over my shoulder, and dragged Faris the last few yards to our destination. A blast of cold air hit me as I opened the refrigerator, pulled out a gallon of fat-free milk, and let the door swing closed again.

“You know why they put the milk at the back of the store?” I said when Zoe had caught up.

“So you have more time to tell this boring story?” She pressed her nose against the glass and let her breath mist up the frosted surface.

“You love my stories,” I said while she drew a “Z” over half of the fog, then took Faris’s finger and traced an “F” beside it.

A man and woman watched from farther down the row. No amusement there. Faris squeezed my hand and we started back the way we came.

Something about their expressions made me look again, but the couple had moved away in the opposite direction.

Zoe ran ahead, this time halting beside a bank of chips.

“They put the milk at the back of the store so parents have to drag their kids past all the junk food to get to it,” I said and prodded her with a light kick to the rear.

“Hey, Shane,” a loud voice came from my right. I cringed, my hope of making it to the check-out lane before being accosted now dashed. I turned to see the pimply part-time bakery worker hopping and waving in my direction, and I slugged toward the counter to see what he wanted. A line of people snaked through the tables of prepackaged pastries, reaching the sandwich station in the next section of the store.

“What, Tim?” I said, bypassing the queue, ignoring the impatient faces.

“Shane, I’m so glad you’re here,” Tim said. He stole an awkward glance over his shoulder.  Then he bent his head and said in a much lower tone, “Something’s up with Justin.”

I took a deep breath. “Tim, I’ve been off for over two hours. I can’t deal with this right now.”

“Dude, I know you got your kids and all, but something’s seriously wrong with him.”

“Listen, Timmy,” I said, trying to reign in my annoyance. “I am off the clock, and even if I wasn’t, it is not my job to figure out what’s wrong with the boss. I turned that job down, remember?”

“I really wish you hadn’t,” he muttered and shot another look toward the storage room door.

My arm jerked suddenly, and I felt Faris’s grip on my hand tighten. The old woman with the buggy stared down at my son. Her mouth curled into what might have been a smile if not for the way her cracked lips lifted over her yellow front teeth. Faris seemed unable to tear himself from her gaze; his body trembled with every breath.

A cold chill brushed down the nape of my neck, and I took a few steps back, pulling Faris with me, but my daughter didn’t follow.

“What’re you lookin’ at, lady?” Zoe said. When the woman ignored her, Zoe passed her hand directly in front of the elderly lady’s face. “Hello-o.”

The woman snapped out of her trance. She shook her head and turned her attention to Timmy.

“I’ll have a dozen of those sour cream donuts you make so well,” she said in a rather pleasant voice. Much more pleasant than that look she gave my son.

“That’s another thing, Shane,” Timmy said, holding a finger up to the woman. “I can’t find any of the damn donuts. Justin’s moping around somewhere in the back and Samantha’s nowhere to be found. I’ve got a line the length of the Nile and people are starting to act really weird.”

I lingered on the elderly lady a moment longer before returning my attention to Timmy. She seemed completely normal now, like her brain had turned off the senile switch and flipped on the sanity.

“Look, I can’t … ” My voice faded to nothing when the door to the storage area creaked open and Justin, the evening shift manager, slipped through. His glasses sat askew across the bridge of his nose and half of his shirttail dangled over his waistband, but not enough to conceal his open fly. Yet it wasn’t his disheveled appearance that took my words away, or the powdered sugar smeared all over his mouth and chin. It was the look in his eyes. So much like the old lady’s and they were aimed straight at Faris.

I backed away from the counter, this time ensuring I had both of my children within my grasp. “Sorry, Timmy,” I said. “We gotta go.”

“Uhhh,” Timmy said, only now noticing our boss standing in the doorway like a Royal Guard after an all-night bender. “Don’t … forget your milk.”

I quickly stepped to the counter and grabbed the gallon of milk. As I backed away, I felt Faris yank on my arm. But this time it was much harder. I spun to see the hunched old woman tugging at my son, her gnarled fingers wrapped around his forearm. Faris’s mouth gaped open, his eyes pleading, screaming the words his tongue refused to form.

Zoe cried for her to let her brother go. The line of people watched with blank stares and did nothing. Timmy gasped. Justin sneered. My son closed his eyes, and the old lady held fast.

I had no other choice.

The milk hit the floor. And so did the old hag.

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Today we're starting something new on the Monstrosity blog. Instead of just me and my thoughts, I'm going to introduce to you other awesome speculative fiction writers. After a little Q&A, I'm asking my spotlight authors to give you a little glimpse into their work with a sneak peek at one of their novels, so be sure to check that out at the end!

I am crazy excited to introduce you to our first author -- Jaimie Engle is an impressive force of an author, and a fellow beachside resident here on Florida's Space Coast!

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seated headshot RETell us about yourself:

Thanks for having me on your blog, Emily! I am a trivia-playing, dog-loving, family-oriented

author, editor, speaker, and writing coach. I love all things science fiction and fantasy, host my own podcast, and love creating crazy videos and educational videos on YouTube and Snapchat. I guess in a nutshell, I love being creative. Whether it’s writing a book or helping an author to

market by turning their book covers into jewelry (seriously, check it out on YouTube!), I just love the creative process.

Where did your inspiration to write Dreadlands start?

It actually started as a story I wrote in high school that I never finished. I was going through my Word files and I came across it. There was this family living in a desolate place in a snowstorm, a boy and his little sister who he loved more than life itself, a missing father, a nervous mother, and the creepiest grandmother in the world. All I had figured out was that somehow, the grandmother had supernatural powers and that if the father didn’t return home before the full moon rose, he would never make it home. From here, I decided I wanted to retell the classic monsters in a historical setting, namely Viking era Canada. Dreadlands has my version of werewolves, called ferine, who rise with the full moon and hunt each month. Well, in this world, they are suddenly breaking free of their bonds to the Dreadlands without lunar assistance, and main character Arud is sent away to a estranged uncle with his little sister. It’s all about family secrets, blood sacrifice, love, and redemption, told in an epic fantasy adventure.

What was the hardest thing bout writing Dreadlands?

This book was actually so easy for me to get out. I think the hardest part was the editing process, because I am so tedious and dedicated to my system when it comes to editing. I utilized The Emotional Thesaurus to really get some different visuals for the reader and I recorded each chapter, played it back, and edited some more. In the end, it was well worth it, as I couldn’t be happier with the story or the reviews.

Writer’s block: How do you beat it?

I try to juggle a new project, editing a current project, and marketing a published project at all times, that way writer’s block is harder to come by or at least I have somewhere else to turn when it strikes. I find that just thinking about my story while I’m walking my dog or doing dishes helps me to work through the process. I constantly watch movies and shows or read books to see how other stories are similar and different to my own. Somehow this can even inspire a twist in my book to beat writer’s block. Other times, I have stopped writing and simply outlined the remainder of the book. As a pantser, I generally have an idea where I’m headed, and get started as soon as I feel inspired. Writer’s block sometimes means I have some outlining to do during the writing process.

Do you have a favorite book or author? What do you love about them?

My favorite authors are Matthew J. Kirby, Suzanne Collins, and Orson Scott Card. I’ve met Matt and Orson, and hope one day to meet Suzanne. What I love about them are their characters and worlds. All with the fantastic in mind, Kirby writes beautiful historical books for middle graders with thought provoking narrative. Collins builds these immense story structures with rules that don’t break and tormented characters that must face their fears. Katniss Everdeen is a beautiful depiction of this in her constant inner turmoil of doing what she must verses what’s right and choosing constantly between those she loves while putting everyone else in danger. Card, much in the same way, builds these story worlds and characters that are so real I swear they must exist somewhere. Ender Wiggins, from Ender’s Game, is one of my favorite characters in all of literature. He is so dedicated to not becoming his greatest fear, that he ultimately is his own self- fulfilling prophecy. It was the coolest thing in the world to sit with Card and discuss Ender in person. Card is a true storyteller, something I strive to be with each novel I write.

What do you absolutely need in order to write?

Coffee….more coffee…spiral notebooks…pencils…lots of pencils…Pandora station on Hans Zimmer, John Williams or Danny Elfman radio.

What do you love outside of writing and reading?

My family, first and foremost. Playing trivia (I’m a total knowledge nerd). Church is super important and God plays a major role in my life. Trying new stuff, like super silly videos on YouTube where I play this old granny character named Dolores. Podcasting. Live music. And nature. I really love being outdoors.

Thank you again for having me on your blog!

 

FROM THE BOOK:

Dreadlands_AudioBk_2400x2400

After twenty minutes, the bedroom door flung open. Vinter flew into the room, her skin layered in a fine sweat. “Hurry, Arud.”

He looked up. “What’s the matter?”

“Your grandmother is coming soon. You must leave before she can prevent it.”

Arud quickened his pace, tossing the rest of his and Lykke’s clothes into their bags.

“What’s happening?” Lykke asked, rubbing her eyes. Noticing Arud packing, she added, “Where’s Arud going?”

Vinter knelt beside the cot, brushing a strand of curls behind Lykke’s ear.

“You and Arud are going on a journey.”

Lykke yawned. “A journey?”

“Yes.”

Lykke reached for her mother’s hand. “Are you coming with us?”

Vinter shook her head. “No, lovell. I am waiting for your father. But when he returns, we will meet you and Arud in Vithalia City.”

Lykke’s face lit up. “The city?”

“It is beautiful beyond your wildest imaginations. You will have so much to occupy your time, you’ll hardly notice my absence.”

Arud strapped the first bag closed, then handed a clean slip and dress to his sister. Lykke lifted her nightgown over her head and changed into an ankle- length linen slip. “Of course I will notice.” She raised her arms for Vinter to put on her dress. “When will you be coming?”

Vinter slid Lykke’s shoulder straps into place, attaching a bronze brooch to each side. “I will come with your father once he arrives home.”

Lykke’s face turned down. “But what if he doesn’t come?”

Vinter’s eyes faltered, but then her mouth curled into a smile as she reworked the already placed brooches. “Of course he will come.”

“It isn’t your job to worry about Father,” Arud said. “Now, finish getting dressed.”

“Here.” Vinter unhitched the beaded necklace from around her neck. “Take this.”

Lykke traced her finger across the smooth glass and amber beads, twirling them to scatter the light. She looked up. “But Father made this for you. I’ve never seen you without it.”

Vinter took the necklace and clasped it around Lykke’s neck. “Yes, and I will expect it returned when we meet again.” She grinned and Lykke smiled back.

Arud dropped a bag at Lykke’s feet. “Lift this. Is it too heavy?”

She picked up the sheepskin bag then shook her head. “No. It’s fine.”

“Good. Strap on your boots.”

Vinter stood. “Arud, bring your bag with you into the kitchen.”

She left the room and he followed, leaving Lykke to finish getting ready. His stomach wrung in knots. Any moment his grandmother could appear, and nothing good would come from it.

Vinter removed herbs from a row of tins descending in height beneath the kitchen window. Meticulously and with practiced hands, she measured the herbs by sight, combined them, and placed the blend into a small decorated tin. “This is the mix for Lykke’s tonic. You’ll need her to drink it once before you reach the city.”

Arud placed the tin into his bag. “How will I know when?”

Vinter packed dried meat and vegetables into various sized drawstring

pouches, along with loaves of dark bread, hard cheese, and dried fruit. She passed them to Arud, along with two sheep bladder waterskins. “When you see Lykke’s symptoms surface, prepare her tonic. The fever precedes the rage. Any abnormalities in her body or behavior indicate her sickness is flaring, and you must give her the tea at once. Do not wait long after she shows these signs, or it could be too late.”

“What if I have no way to make a fire? Or no water to boil? What if I—”

Vinter placed her hands on Arud’s shoulders. He stood nearly a foot taller than her, with a lean build like his father; broad shoulders to carry heavy loads, long legs and arms with muscles defined by many years working in the fields.

“You will do fine, my love. And your father and I will see you soon.”

Arud stared into her blue eyes, trying to decide if what Vinter said was true.

“The animal you saw in the woods, the one that stole your kill, you are certain it was a ferine?”

He nodded. “Yes, but I don’t want to believe it.”

“Nor do I. Something strange is happening to the creatures. Somehow, they have managed to crawl without the full moon. I hope you will remember that as you travel.”

“Yes, Mother.”

“Do you know the way to the city?”

“I’ve heard from Father,” Arud said, attaching his rolled blanket to the base of his pack. “The Tess Woods cover the realm from the Outlands to the Scynnthe Valley. The Thiannes River courses through the realm to the Labrador Sea where Vithalia City lies. I know my way to the river. Beyond that…I don’t know the way.”

Vinter gleamed, her head turned ever so slightly to the side. “I’m glad to hear that you have minded your father’s words. At the river’s bend where the bank lies the widest, you will wade through the shallow water to the Scynnthe Valley. Two mountain chains tower at the valley’s edge. The Torngats wind toward the Great Expanse, long and wide, but the pass is full of hidden dangers. The Sindri-Urd Range is jagged and steep, and although its pass leads more directly to the city gates, it is less frequented. Many find they are not able to survive the climb. But don’t worry. Each will eventually lead to Vithalia City. When you arrive, you will know which pass to take. Do you understand?”

“No. I do not understand. Why would you send Lykke and me away when there are ferine hunting in daylight? How could that ever be a solution I would understand?”

“Are you questioning my decision?”

“I am questioning your sanity.”

Vinter turned her focus back to the work of her hands. Arud’s heart pounded as his anger fed him courage. “What would Father say?”

Vinter slammed her hands on the counter. “Your Father would not question me. If he were here, he would be the one telling you to go. It is not always necessary for you to know the details, Arud. You and Lykke are no longer safe here. You will take her to Vithalia City and make haste. Do you understand?”

“As much as I am able.”

“Good. When the time comes, everything will be clear. But now you must leave.” She called out toward the bedroom. “Lykke?”

Lykke appeared in the doorway, wearing a black travel cloak. Blonde curls popped out from the bottom of a tan handkerchief drawn in a knot at the nape of her neck. “Is it time to go?”

“Yes. And quickly.”

Arud followed his mother to the door. Lykke walked with him, hand in hand. “I still don’t understand why we are going without you,” Lykke said.

“I’ve already told you. I am waiting for your father.”

Vinter scanned the yard before leaving the threshold, scampering quickly to the edge of the surrounding woods. Arud stayed close to her heels and Lykke pattered in hurried steps to keep pace. The grass bent beneath their boots. Arud watched as a flock of geese headed south across the clear blue sky. When they reached the woods, Vinter turned.

Lykke’s lower lip trembled. “Must we go?”

Vinter bent low, taking Lykke into her arms. “It isn’t safe here anymore. I have kept you in the Outlands too long.”

Lykke wrapped her stiff body around her mother’s waist.

“Then come with us,” Arud pleaded. “If it isn’t safe here.”

Vinter brushed the backs of her fingers down his cheek. “I cannot leave without knowing your father is safe.” She shook her head. “But you and Lykke must. That ferine will return for you at the next full moon. They seldom change their minds once they have found a scent they desire.” She grasped Arud’s hand with her cold palm. “That ferine won’t stop looking for you until you are caught.”

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