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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