New release time!

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Back in college, I took my first stab at writing some original science fiction — and it came out well enough that I scored a round of applause from my writing workshop when I read the story aloud.  But I had no publication venues open to me at the time, so the story made its way into a drawer… until this past July, when I dusted it off and decided it was worthy of an upgrade.  And publication.

Escape 1 smallA “couple whiles” after it debuted to that first audience, here’s Escape!

Meet Eli Christopher – a 29-year-old factory worker who loves the theater. It’s his only escape from a dusty, frustrating life, a place where his imagination can run free, where he can feel some genuine joy and take a nap in the sun.

This same theater is also a place of terror, for those who can’t bring themselves to leave – the people who scream in panic and beg to stay.

This isn’t Now, and Eli Christopher isn’t on Earth. He’s in a place where silence and obedience are required, where you can never change the status you were given on arrival. Where something as simple as a clean drink of water is a near miracle.

He’s in a place where a moment of joy brings with it an enormous risk: that you’ll be carried, screaming, beyond the black door…never to be seen again.

You can find it here at Amazon.

Book Tour – Vanessa Wester, Author of the “Evolution” Trilogy

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Vanessa Wester - Author Picture 3As readers of Vanessa Wester’s EVOLUTION trilogy know, reaching the end of the trilogy doesn’t necessarily mean the story is finished. Vanessa is continuing her popular saga with the brand-new prequel novella EMILY, which is now available for pre-order at Amazon.  With the help of e-mail and book tour host MY BOOK FAIRY, I “sat down” with Vanessa to chat about her life and her thoughts about the trilogy.

First, an introduction to the story:

Steven Thorn has no trouble settling in at university. He is confident, hardworking and intelligent. When Caitlin Chance catches him off guard he is bemused by the instant attraction, and the more he gets to know her, the more he likes. Yet, Steven has a secret past that is destined to reveal itself, and he is soon to become a stranger to everyone. The wheels are set in motion for his radical upheaval. But first love is a powerful thing, and the connection forged between Caitlin and Steven is not easily broken. The impossible is only the beginning…

Take us back to the very beginnings of your trilogy! What came to mind first — a character, a scene, the desire to do something in that genre?

When I first started HYBRID I wrote a scene that is no longer in the book. I think I was inspired by Grease and I liked the idea of a beach romance that was then renewed whilst at university. Of course, I added a sinister twist. My main character, Steven, was attacked whilst on the beach and awoke in a cave, disoriented and alone. It was pretty cool, but after many rewrites I took the scene out! I changed the beginning of my novel so many times. So, I’d have to say the scene came first… and my character was definitely inspired by a mixture of John Travolta and David Boreanaz!

You published all 3 parts of the trilogy within a few days, but I’m guessing the book took shape over the course of several months (or more). Once that world began to take shape in your mind, did the writing come quickly, or did it tease you along, a little bit at a time?

Amazon allows you to update your books, so the publication date corresponds to the date they were all updated. I don’t think Amazon allow you to change the publication date anymore, but I wanted to make sure that readers knew it was a new version. I would say Hybrid and Complications were written alongside each other. The first 10% of Complications was originally in Hybrid, but I did a complete rewrite of the end of Hybrid when I saw it needed more. This is why Complications was finished within 6 months of publishing Hybrid in March, 2012. Return took a year from beginning to end. I have to admit that I am terrible… I could easily rewrite the entire trilogy again, but I have to let go and move on to new projects!

The editing process for my books works alongside the writing of new books. For example, I have already written about 30,000 of my new book, whilst I was editing and working on my new novella, Emily, and editing another novel (which might never get published). Sometimes, I am in the mood for one story and other times I write just for escapism and begin a story which I don’t continue. I have many novels that night never go anywhere!

Hybrid CoverJudging by all the 5-star reviews, your readers have a lot of passion for the story. What do you think it is about the characters and/or the storyline that has them so enthralled?

I think I have the answer to this… life! My characters and situations are real (or as real as they can be within a paranormal world). In fact, I read somewhere that people find it easier to relate to situations in a paranormal world, because they address the many issues we face today without thrusting it in your face. For example, within my trilogy I include instances of first love, lust, bereavement, suicide, murder, pregnancy, infidelity, unrequited love, thrill-seeking, coercion, paranoia… I think I covered a lot of bases!

You’ve had a very interesting career path — first in accountancy, then teaching, and now you’re hip-deep in indie publishing. What would you tell your students about learning to follow your dreams?

Everything is possible… you can do anything you want if you are prepared to work hard for it. Life has a way of shaping your path a lot, and it’s up to you to take hold of it and make it your own. It’s very easy to say, “That’s too hard” or “I can’t.” If you ask for help and share your thoughts with people around you it might surprise you. If I had never been brave enough to share my first romantic novel (as yet unpublished) with friends I would never have written the trilogy. Also, if I had not got pregnant again I would now be working as a secondary school teacher. Fate has a way of guiding your destiny and you just have to be brave enough to embrace the change. Yet, even when you follow one path, you can always take another one along the way!

On behalf of your readers, I have to ask: what’s next? Will you continue with the world and characters of the Evolution trilogy, or move on to something new?

I do have another trilogy linked to this first trilogy in mind, but at the moment it is on hold. I am currently working on a historical novel based on the life of my great, great grandparents. Both of English descent, they met in Jamaica, married and then moved to Gibraltar, where I was born. Victorian times are fascinating and I am having an amazing ride (if very daunting at times).

MBF Tour HostAbout Vanessa Wester

When Vanessa decided to start writing she found an outlet for her imagination. It’s the best way she can think of to express herself and escape from everyday life. She has a lot of eggs in her basket, since she’s a qualified Secondary School Mathematics Teacher, ASA Swimming Teacher, has a degree in Accounting & Law, has been a competitive swimmer and enjoys art, singing and drama. In addition, she is bilingual in English and Spanish, and speaks some Dutch, since she was born and raised in Gibraltar and has lived in Rotterdam. However, since her son was born, she has been a stay at home mum who gives up a lot of her time towards voluntary organizations.

Vanessa’s Blog
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Another addition to the catalogue!

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Wrapped revEven though the common advice is “Write novels!” – my stock in trade is short works, ranging from drabbles (100 words) to novellas. During the past 7 years I’ve turned out over 600 short stories, some of which I’ve been gathering into collections that I release from time to time.

This is the latest: a group of stories about a dad who was convinced he wasn’t ready. That he was just the “fun uncle.” That he couldn’t possibly provide all the right answers for a child of his own. But he finds out over time that his new little daughter doesn’t care, because he may be a jerk, but he’s her jerk.

You can find Wrapped Around Her Little Finger at Amazon – for only 99 cents!

Ree Mariani – Family Ties

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Ree Mariani is new to e-publishing – her first novel, City of the Seer, went “live” on Amazon just a few days ago. In the midst of all her debut-novel activities, she took a few minutes to share her thoughts about family and storytelling.

516Z8SOpjAL__AA160_Everyone has heard the saying, “Blood is thicker than water.” But what does it really mean? The modern interpretation is that family ties are more important than any other. But what if you don’t have any common ‘blood’ with your family?

In 1988 I was adopted. My immigrant Polish-Argentinian mother and my Italian-American father had tried for years to have a child with no luck. Then within six weeks they got not one, but two baby girls. My parents tell me that growing up everyone assumed my sister and I were twins – however, as we got older it became clear that my sister had a serious disability.

I remember the first time someone told me I looked like my mother. Her kinky brown curls and gray eyes were nothing like my straight, strawberry blonde hair and avocado colored eyes. I didn’t look like my father, either, not with his reddened skin and his coal-colored hair. It should have been obvious that I didn’t belong – however, my family never made me feel that way and I think that is something I’ve carried on in my writing.

Family is not blood. Family is not the people with whom you share genetic similarities. Family is the people who support and love you, who will put up with you even when you don’t deserve it. In my premier novel City of the Seer, Braelyn makes her own family. She finds people who will support her no matter how poorly she behaves or how impulsive she is.

Blood is not thicker than water. Love is thicker than everything, and family is love.

Book Review: “Life As We Knew It” by Susan Beth Pfeffer

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41q2QectsSL__AA160_Maybe you’re already familiar with this book – judging by the number of Amazon reviews, it’s pretty well-known, and I understand that it’s required reading in a number of schools.  But I haven’t been anywhere near a school reading list in a loooong time, so when I happened to spot it on a shelf in Barnes & Noble, it was something new.

Giant moon on the cover.

Yes, the full moon is something cool, and more often than not it sends me running for the binoculars.  It’s also one of my great bugaboos – most of my seriously creepy nightmares involve an enormous moon looming there in the sky.  (I’m talking BIG.  Like on the book cover.  Giant, look out, I-am-not-kidding-you moon.)  But we try to conquer our fears, right?  The tag line (“The weather finally broke…for good.”) was awesome, and the book wasn’t a typical size.  When I picked it up, I liked the heft of it, and the old-school cheap paper it’s printed on.  $8.99?  Sold.

Story?  In a nutshell: an asteroid hits the moon and knocks it askew, and its new position in the sky begins to wreak havoc on Earth.  Tsunamis, earthquakes, volcanic explosions.  The skies fill with ash and the sun more or less disappears.  All of this is observed by a 16-year-old girl and chronicled in her diary.

Yes, some of the science is suspect.  With no alphabet soup attached to my name, I can’t speak to how bad it is; I will say some of it had me doing an “Eh? What, now?”  Ditto some of the everyday stuff.  As someone who frets every single winter about losing power because it will mean my heat – natural gas, but the thermostat is electric – goes off, I was baffled by how Miranda’s furnace somehow works long after the electricity has failed.  (About 3/4 of the way through the book, she finally explains that her father rigged up “a battery thing.”)  It’s also somewhat bewildering that no one attempts to invade Miranda’s family’s home to steal their food and water.  There is no anarchy in her town.  Everyone’s polite, and other than one desperate plea from a neighbor, they all go about their own business, starving or freezing to death without ever running amok.

But… eh.  I’ll let the author have that.  Maybe there are places where the people would remain civil during an apocalypse, places where nobody would bust into your house with a gun and steal food away from you and your kids.  Who’s to say?  The more important thing to look at is the voice of the young narrator – an honest 16-year-old whose typical high-school life has been completely torn apart.  A number of the Amazon reviews complain that she whines too much.  That the story is boring.  I suppose they expected those missing home invasions… or maybe some zombies.  Instead, the story revolves around one of my favorite themes: quiet desperation.  As things grow progressively worse, Miranda begins to remind herself that she should seize the day, no matter how bad it is, because tomorrow…

Maybe there won’t even be a tomorrow.

It’s thought-provoking.  A reminder that we’re all at the mercy of things that could change on a dime.  If you had a matter of hours to stockpile things that would keep your family alive for months – what would you grab?  Would you realize right away that things you’ve valued will be useless tomorrow?  It was of course of great interest to me that Miranda’s mother insists that family is all that matters – and to see how Miranda responds to that.  Her story is a good one.  Maybe not flawlessly told, but – I think – truly told.

Would you survive what’s essentially a nuclear winter?  Would your family?

If you did… how would you feel when the lights came on again?

4 stars.  Very family-friendly (no cussing that I remember; no sex).  If your kids have to read it for school, grab a copy and talk about it with them.  And let them know that nobody’s likely to survive if all they’re eating is canned vegetables.

Interviewing… me!

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Writing, the theme of family, inspiration, Stephen King, and my time on the U.S.S. Enterprise… blogger Judy Goodwin has interviewed yours truly!  Here’s a brief intro:

1. What first drew you to writing?

DITW smallThe short answer would be… love.  Thanks to my dad, I’m a TV baby, and I found myself wanting more stories about my favorite TV characters, so I started to write them myself.  This being back in the pre-computer days, I did all my writing in spiral notebooks with a ballpoint pen, and sometimes I churned out so much material that it caused my hand to cramp and burn — all for something that had a readership of one.  (Me.)  Years later I found out that what I was doing was called fanfiction, and that thousands of other people did it too.  What a revelation!  I’d always thought I was the only one.

You can find the rest of the interview at Judy’s blog.  Take a look!

Jessica Randall – Paying Homage to “My People”

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Jessica L. Randall is the mother of 5 — so she’s certainly familiar with the challenges and inspiration that go along with FAMILY!  She began e-publishing earlier this year and has two popular novels under her belt already.  She’s another KBoarder I’m looking forward to getting better acquainted with… especially getting some inside info about her husband’s famous peanut butter and chocolate chip Monster Cookies!

71U1ZxUr9rL__UX250_I was raised along with nine siblings right next door to my grandparents, so I think it’s safe to say that those people had a large part in shaping who I am. They have definitely colored my writing, and even set me to the task in the first place. Several years ago I began pondering what made my family and my upbringing unique. As I thought about the mannerisms and the crazy anecdotes, I realized that “my people,” as I used to call them, needed to be immortalized. I was sure they’d make the perfect characters. However I didn’t have enough faith in my abilities until I saw people I knew writing and self-publishing books. I was also encouraged by the idea that if I was proud of what I did, I could send it out into the world rather than leave it sitting in a neglected file on my computer.

41+vLtB4ttL__AA160_For my first book, Goldenhood, I chose to write a twisted tale. It was helpful to have the rough outline of a story to work with as I learned. I quickly found that family members not only inspired my characters, but that family became a theme of the book. Elise loves healing others using herbs as did many generations of Roux women before her, but she also finds herself drawn to the dark magic that claimed her grandmother. She has to learn which parts of her inheritance she should develop and be proud of, and which elements are meant for her to struggle with and conquer. There are also a couple of characters that have to learn to accept a new role in their family when tragedy strikes. The ties of family are strong, and often demanding. Their loyalty is what makes their struggle such a difficult one.

519g7fxIzYL__AA160_After I had successfully written one book, I wanted to challenge myself to create a new story. The Obituary Society is that “heart story” I’d wanted to write for years. The book was a way for me to pay homage to the people that I love, and even tell some of their stories. One reviewer said, “There is so much subtle love written in this book — love for small towns, love (and acceptance) for the older community, love for the simpler way of life.” When I read that I was thrilled that someone understood. The love that came through was for my family, my grandparents, and the homes I loved.

The theme of family came out in this book as well, as Lila’s great desire is to feel she belongs somewhere and to learn as much as she can about her family, even though there are some family secrets that are hidden for a reason.

Right now I’m in the midst of a book that is a sequel of sorts to The Obituary Society. It’s about two sisters and love and good food in a small town, those themes that I believe will show up in my work again and again.

Happy Birthday, Mr. B!

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Me and ScottThis man’s work inspired me to write. First, a series of fanzines called “A Dozen Points in Time” — a collection of fifty-odd stories and novellas. Then, because my friend Candy Camin said, “You either do this, or I’ll kill you,” I said hello to the editor of the Quantum Leap tie-in novels… and a year later, I became an officially published author.

When I told Scott Bakula that my enjoyment of his work had allowed me to publish a book, he said quietly, “The most I can hope for in my life is to inspire other people.”

So… happy Throwback Thursday. And happy 60th birthday, Scott Bakula. You’re one of the kindest, most thoughtful and genuine people I’ve ever met, and I’ll never forget that you inspired me to take my own Quantum Leap.

Kyoko M – True Companions

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Kyoko M is another of the terrific authors I’ve been getting acquainted with via KBoards.  She’s the author of the urban fantasy series The Black Parade – a continuing story that revolves around a “made” family.  Here, she offers some background on her series and the idea of true companions.

61oc8puX9cL__UX250_Saffron: Everybody plays each other. That’s all anybody ever does. We play parts.

Mal: You got all kinds a learnin’ and you made me look the fool without even trying, and yet here I am with a gun to your head. That’s ’cause I’ve got people with me, people who trust each other, who do for each other, and ain’t always looking for the advantage.    — Firefly

Often, we authors tend to have laser-focus on our main characters—their development, their doubts, their fears, their flaws, and their strengths—but one thing I’ve learned through writing my urban fantasy series is that one of the most effective ways to measure your protagonist is through their family. After all, no man is an island. However, what happens when your lead is an orphan? Is blood the only thing that makes family? I beg to differ.

51692sJGRvL__AA160_Jordan Amador started out as just another happy little girl with a single mom, Catalina, until she was five years old and her mother was taken away to a psychiatric hospital. Jordan was sent to live with her mother’s older sister, Carmensita, and unfortunately, Aunt Carmen was not mother material. It turns out there was extremely bad blood between the sisters and Aunt Carmen only took Jordan in to exact her revenge through physical and verbal abuse. Jordan later ran away and started her own life, but fate had something planned for her. After accidentally murdering a Seer, Jordan finds out that she has the ability to see and hear ghosts. She is sentenced to help a hundred souls with unfinished business cross over or she’ll go to Hell. A couple years later, only days from her two-year deadline, Jordan bumps into Michael: a handsome, sarcastic poltergeist who is the final soul that will save her soul. Unfortunately, his case busts open Pandora’s Box—robbery, murder, a deadly conspiracy, and bloodthirsty demons with an ax to grind.

51uJTLZy6zL__UY250_Jordan spent most of her life as a teenager and twenty-something on her own. She’s very closed off emotionally thanks to being raised in a broken home and missing her mother, who died not long after she was committed to the psychiatric hospital. As the story continues, she bonds with the archangel Gabriel, who occasionally drops in to check on her progress with the souls she saves and later becomes like an older brother to her. He offers advice, teases her about her peculiar relationship with Michael, and gently reminds her to have faith in herself when times get rough.

Jordan’s best friend and fellow waitress Lauren Yi also has a large impact on her life, primarily as a playful voice of reason. She is fully aware of Jordan’s crotchedy personality and knows how to prod the truth out of her when she’s being hardheaded. Whereas Gabriel is always polite and appropriate, Lauren gives Jordan candid advice and won’t take no for an answer when she tries to deflect attention away from something that’s bothering her, like any good sister would. Plus, Lauren has a six-year-old daughter named Lily who looks up to her “Auntie Jordan” and is a beacon of light in Jordan’s mostly dark world. They are constant reminders that in spite of all the violence and the sacrifices the life of a Seer requires, there are still simple, beautiful things to live for.

Writing family has never been a challenge for me, as I have been fortunate to have a loving, supportive, colorful family. They might not see it right away, but many of my family’s interactions with me have influenced how I write Jordan’s true companions. We make fun of each other, but we do it out of pure affection. It’s a lot easier to keep your head above water with your family as your life raft. Just as I wouldn’t have made it this far without my family, neither would Jordan, and I think that’s what makes the best fictional characters. Family can show the many shades and layers of a character, whether implicitly or explicitly, and that’s why they’re vital to any story, fictional or not.

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