Thursday, 30 April 2015

Magical Muse Collection Anthology - Author Interview with Allison D. Reid

Allison D. Reid’s passion for medieval history and fantasy was sparked by writers like C.S. Lewis and J.R.R Tolkien. She also spent years living in Europe, captivated by its ancient towns, cathedrals, and castles. She received her B.A. in writing from Hampshire College.

Current Published Works:

Journey to Aviad Published Nov. 11, 2011

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About the Anthology

Stories of fantasy ranging from dark, to light and inspiring, bring life to this anthology. The creatures featured throughout, both good and evil, display the devastating or wonderful personalities they were given by the authors who created them for your enjoyment.

Alexis Lantgen brings a twist to the story of a fairy changeling, showing a dark evil intent behind this mythological practice.

Andrea R. Cooper turns a dark fantasy tale into a lyrical piece that tests your understanding of your own mind.

George L. Duncan features a creature many never saw coming as the source of justice in a corrupt world.

Dark fantasy takes a humorous twist with Oz Durose, who introduces us to a new type of zombie that makes you regret deleting the files off your very own computer…readers beware!

Mythological hounds are a foreshadowing of doom for one man seeking refuge from their deadly chase. Allison D. Reid brings a tale of adventure as seen through the eyes of the hounds and their mysterious master, born from the darkness of hell.

Demons lurking throughout this tale bring a monster into the world. A demi-god finds out her fate as KJ Hawkins spins a tale of triumph and fear.

Matthew Frassetti presses the will of a man trying to save his lover from the hands of a demon. The bonds of friendship between man and beast are tested as this tale of adventure takes a twist.

Brendan Carroll brings a brilliantly fun, entertaining story to life, showing how in the midst of everyday beauty, time simply passes when you least expect it.

Khushi Agarwal tests the power of Christmas cheer with elves on strike. Will Christmas come on time, or will it be ruined for all?

The holidays are here as D.B. Mauldin brings a hard working elf into the spotlight for a special Christmas festival.

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An interview with Allison

What is the biggest obstacle you face as an author and what do you do to overcome it?

The biggest obstacle I face is time. I have a job with sometimes long or strange hours, and I’m raising a young family. My schedule can be unpredictable and overwhelming. I am learning to overcome this obstacle with good old fashioned discipline and persistence. Instead of trying to set impossible goals that leave me disheartened when I fail to meet them, I’m taking the one-day-at-a-time approach. If I know that I am going to have a quiet half hour in my day, I take it and get whatever I can accomplished, whether that be actual writing, marketing, editing, or planning.

Do you ever base your characters on people you know?

Not exactly. However, because Morganne and Elowyn’s stories began during my online roleplaying days, there are some significant events in their history that are still tied to the stories of other characters I knew from that world. One of those characters belonged to my husband, but I’m not telling who that is in the book series. Readers will just have to guess!

Though I don’t base characters on real people, I learn from the traits, attitudes, and behaviors of others and use that to inform my character development in a more general way.

What genres do you write?

At the moment my fiction writing is medieval-era fantasy. My blog includes other topics related to writing and editing, as well as my Bible study posts.

Is there a genre that you've been wanting to experiment with? If so, what is it and what attracts you to it?

I’ve been wanting to experiment with historical fiction for a long time. Aside from the middle ages, there are other eras of history I find fascinating, from ancient civilizations, through colonial times, to the industrial revolution and the Great Depression. What interests me most is the human element. I want to know what it was like to live during that time; how people thought, what they did, how they lived day-to-day, and how major events impacted them.

As I’ve traced back my own family history, I’ve occasionally come across old photographs of my direct ancestors. In some cases, they are the most personal link I have amidst a handful of facts and official documents. Those eyes staring back at me are a haunting glimpse into a world I will never know, but that still connects through time to my present day existence. Writing historical fiction is a way to honor those who came before us, giving them a chance to live again even if only in our imaginations, and touch a whole new generation of people.

How do you come up with the titles for your books? Do you find it difficult?

I find titles excruciatingly difficult, because they have to say something enticing, informative, and meaningful about my book in just a few words. I keep referring to “the second book in my series” because as long as I’ve been working on it, I still don’t have a title for it. Only about half of my chapters have their titles as well. When I do come up with titles, I start by thinking about what deeper meaning I would like to convey, then look for words or phrases that fit my intent.

Do you write about real life experiences, or does everything come from your imagination?

Everything comes from my imagination, though I do try to infuse a certain level of realism into my fantasy. This is not to take away from the imaginary, but to make the reading experience genuine and relatable. Interspersed with mythical creatures and make-believe landscapes are the authentic workings of medieval life, gleaned from many years of historical research.

I do not borrow real life stories or put people I know into my books. But I use what I know of human nature to make my characters think, feel, and react as real people would in their given situations.

What are you working on now?

I am nearly finished with the second book in my series (one chapter left), which is very exciting for me. I am eager to line up a few beta readers, finalize my editing process, and send this new book out into the world. It has spent far too much time hidden away on my laptop.

What was the hardest part about writing your latest book?

My latest book is more intense and introspective than Journey to Aviad. History, legend, and prophecy are starting to converge more rapidly. There are a lot of details to keep track of, and the underlying Christian message needs to stay true in spite of the unique way in which it unfolds in my imaginary world. Allegorical fiction gives me more leeway for creativity, but it also provides more opportunities for me to screw things up and say things that I don’t really intend to.

Another difficulty I’ve had is that Morganne and Elowyn are growing up. They live in a time and culture much different from our own, where the line between childhood and adulthood was pretty thin. While teens of our generation are thinking about school, extracurricular activities, and having fun, teens in the middle ages were already laboring at their adult jobs, getting married, and having families. Average life expectancies were about half of what we’re accustomed to. Girls could be married off as early as 12, and there was a much larger age difference between husbands and wives. Wrapping my head around all of that mentally has been challenging at times, and I’ve had to find ways to convey this shift in the norm (at least from our perspective) appropriately to my readers.

Are you a pantser or outliner?

Definitely an outliner. I tried to pants Journey to Aviad and regretted it pretty quickly, so I started outlining about halfway into the story which was a pain. I learned from that mistake and made a complete, detailed outline of the next book before I even wrote the first sentence of the prologue.

The outline has remained my best friend through the process, reminding me of easy-to-forget details, and keeping me from getting too involved in tangents and subplots. I’m not rigid about my outline though. If I come up with a brilliant new idea, or an old one isn’t working so well, I simply adjust the outline accordingly and move on.

What book or series do you enjoy reading over and over again?

Even as an adult, I still enjoy picking up the Chronicles of Narnia every once in a while, or listening to the dramatized version on CD. (Don’t get me started on those horrible movies.) They are soothing comfort books for me. Somehow Lewis kept his writing light and humorous, yet rich and spiritually powerful all at the same time. I would love to be able to write that way.

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Going Through the Change: A Menopausal Superhero Novel by Samantha Bryant

Samantha Bryant believes in love, magic, and inexplicable connections between people. Her favorite things are lonely beaches, untamed cliff tops, sunlight through the leaves of trees, summer rains, and children’s laughter. She has lived in many places, including rural Alaska, Kansas, Kentucky, Vermont, England and Spain. She is fierce at heart, though she doesn’t look it.

She’s a fan of Charlotte Brontë, William Shakespeare, Emily Dickinson, Neil Gaiman, Nicole Perlman, and Joss Whedon, among many others. She would like to be Amy Tan when she grows up, but so far it doesn’t look like she’ll be growing up any time soon.

Samantha writes blogs, poems, essays, and novels. Mostly she writes about things that scare or worry her. It’s cheaper than therapy. Someday, she hopes to make her living solely as a writer. In the meantime, she also teaches middle school Spanish, which, admittedly, is an odd choice for money-earning, especially in North Carolina.
When she’s not writing or teaching, Samantha enjoys time with her family, watching old movies, baking, reading, and going places. Her favorite gift is tickets (to just about anything).

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About the book

Going through "the change" isn't easy on any woman. Mood swings, hot flashes, hormonal imbalances, and itchy skin are par for the course. But for these four seemingly unrelated women, menopause brought changes none of them had ever anticipated--super-heroic changes.

Helen discovers a spark within that reignites her fire. Jessica finds that her mood is lighter, and so is her body.  Patricia always had a tough hide, but now even bullets bounce off her. Linda doesn't have trouble opening the pickle jar anymore…now that she's a man.

When events throw the women together, they find out that they have more in common than they knew--one person has touched all their lives. The hunt for answers is on.

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An Interview with Samantha

When did you first consider yourself an author?

Signing the book contract made that real to me, but I think I took myself seriously when I finished the first novel I ever wrote (unpublished as of yet: His Other Mother).

What are your goals as an author? Where do you see yourself in five years?

I'd really love to be making my living solely as an author. To that end, I'm working on a wide range of projects. In five years, I hope to be sitting right here, behind my computer, 

working on the next book. I hope that, by then, the five books I already have in progress will be published and I'll be working on my newest idea.

What is the biggest obstacle you face as an author and what do you do to overcome it?

Time. I have a day job, a husband, two kids, and a dog. Finding time to write, edit, and promote my work is my current largest obstacle. I'm fortunate in that my husband supports me in my writing endeavors or else it wouldn't be possible in our busy lives. I have had to learn to be just a little more selfish with my time and insist on daily time for my words. I'm reasonable about how much time I take and when I take it, but I don't let a day go by without writing.

Does your family support you in your writing, or are you on your own?

My family is solidly in my corner on this one. My husband has been my sounding board, a protector of my writing time, and my tech support. My daughters have been my inspiration (both in terms of story ideas and motivation to get it done). My older daughter even took my author picture!

What do you enjoy to do aside from writing?

I'm an old movie buff. My idea of a perfect date night is to take my husband to the Carolina Theatre in Durham to see something from Retrofantasma or one of their other retro series.

What genres do you write?

I write speculative and women's fiction, both with a feminist bent. I also blog, write articles for GeekDad, and even still write poetry sometimes.

Is there a genre that you've been wanting to experiment with? If so, what is it and what attracts you to it?

I'd like to get back to fairy tales sometime. Fairy tales speak to me at a deep level, and I love the paths my mind wanders inside their parameters. I have a few poems that explore fairy tale themes, and a short story that will come out in an anthology soon, but I'd like to find the right story to play with to try this on a novel-length project.

What is your writing process?

I'm a discovery writer. I usually start with just a little spark or kernel--a character, a moment, a scene, a bit of dialogue. I sit down with it and start writing, just seeing where the story takes me. When I've got a goodly chunk, I map out what I've got so far (I LOVE a good visual organizer) and try to make guesses about where it's going to go. I share some of the work while I'm writing it with my critique group--they help me find big flaws or logical problems while the project is still small and fixing them doesn't seem so overwhelming.

Once I've got a first draft, I map it out again, looking for holes, problems, and weaknesses. Then, I set to work patching it up. It's a looping process where I work on different elements one at a time, then smooth out the whole thing. When I've got a good second draft (which might really be a third or fourth draft, depending on how you're counting), I seek beta readers, then rewrite yet again. Then, it's time to find a home for the words.

I also really enjoy nature walks. I'm not quite rugged enough to call it hiking. It's more of a casual stroll through the woods or along a river.

I like to cook Indian food. I'm working my way through a cookbook called 660 curries. It's going to take a while.

How long does it take you to write a book?

I'm getting faster! It took me four years to get a complete first draft of the first novel I ever completed. It took one year to get a complete first draft of Going Through the Change. It took eight months to get that far on Change of Life (the sequel). I even finished a full draft of a middle grades novel for NaNoWriMo last year, so that one was finished in a month! Of course, the process from getting from first draft to truly finished and ready for publication is the tricky part, and the length has really varied from project to project.

How do you come up with the titles for your books? Do you find it difficult?

It's been harder for some books than others. Ideally, the title rises up organically from the piece itself, but sometimes that doesn't happen until you're practically finished with it. Titles are so important! They need to give your reader a clue about what the book is about and build curiosity. My favorite titles are the ones that you, as the reader, don't fully understand until after you read the book.

Do you ever base your characters on people you know?

Yes and No. I steal "pieces" of real people--the way someone looks, a verbal pattern, something someone said. But I've never based the whole of a character on a real person. Often, I don't even recognize the echo of my real life in my fictional world until after the fact.

Have you ever gotten an idea for a story from something really bizarre? Tell us about it.

You're asking this of the woman who wrote about menopausal superheroes. Arguably all my ideas are bizarre! The strangest one I've been turning over in my head here lately is a story about what happens to the Frankenstein monster after he runs off into the Arctic. My working title is "Adam Frankenstein in Savoonga." I'd love to write it, but I'll need some research time. Though I've lived in rural Alaska, that was in the 1990s, not the 1820s. Times have changed a bit.

What are you working on now?

The sequel! I've just gotten back beta reader comments on Change of Life, the sequel to Going Through the Change and hope to have the next rewrite complete by the end of the month.

What was the hardest part about writing Going Through the Change?

Writing a sequel is a special challenge. I've struggled with balancing filling in backstory to remind readers of book one or help readers who didn't read book one. I've had to keep going back to book one to remind myself what I said. It's the little details that didn't seem important at the time that trip me up: how many grandchildren someone has, what year they moved to the city, her favorite food. I've learned the importance of keeping detailed character notes! 

Have you ever had a particularly harsh critique? How did you handle it?

My writing critique group doesn't pull any punches. I've definitely toughened my rhino hide in my years working with them. When the critique is especially rough, I tend to shelve things for a little while, waiting for things to feel less raw and emotional before I undertake sorting through the suggestions to find the truth of what it will take to make the story fly. Usually, they're right about the problems, even if they're wrong about how to fix them. The hard part can be facing that, especially when it means the next draft needs more work than you had hoped.

Saturday, 18 April 2015

Shadow Stalker Part 1 Bundle by Renee Scattergood

Renee Scattergood lives in Australia with her husband, Nathan, and daughter, Taiya. She has always been a fan of fantasy and was inspired to become a story-teller by George Lucas, but didn't start considering writing down her stories until she reached her late twenties. Now she enjoys writing fantasy. She is currently publishing her monthly Shadow Stalker series, and she has also published a prequel novella to the series called, Demon Hunt. Aside from writing, she loves reading (Fantasy, of course), watching movies with her family, and doing crafts and science experiments with her daughter. Find out more about her, and sign up for her newsletter on her blog.

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About Shadow Stalker Part 1

This Bundle includes the first 6 episodes of the Shadow Stalker Series.

The Hidden Truth (Episode 1)

A young shadow stalker is destined to enslave the people of the Serpent Isles, and the Galvadi Empire want this child of prophecy dead. Auren Trasks perfectly normal life is disrupted when the Galvadi invade, and she learns a startling secret about her past. A secret that will change her life forever.

The Delohi-Saqu's Fate (Episode 2)

Auren is being targeted by the Council of Elders, and the only one who could put an end to their corruption is her father. But leaving the Dark Isle would turn Kado against her.

Shadows' Betrayal (Episode 3)

After seeing the monster she will become, Auren swears not to leave the Dark Isle. Despite that, the elders are conspiring against her. To escape their scheming, she and Kado decide to explore the Dark Isle. But worse things await them in the forests.

Forbidden Love (Episode 4)

Kado and Auren survive a deadly storm, but when Auren is forbidden from pursuing love with another young shadow stalker, will it be enough to drive a wedge between her and her foster father?

Destiny Reconciled Part 1 (Episode 5)

Auren and Kado accept that they may not be able to avoid her leaving the Dark Isle. Now they have to prepare for that eventuality. Will the training be more than Auren can handle?

Destiny Reconciled Part 2 (Episode 6)

Cathnor has been arrested and is facing a death sentence. The Dark Isle is out of control, and Kado is the only one who can help his people. So he prepares Auren for the possibility that she may have to leave the Dark Isle without him and face her destiny alone, but can she leave him and do what must be done?

Enter the Giveaway for a chance to win a signed copy of the paperback or a digitally signed copy of the ebook! Giveaway ends at the end of the day on the 18th of April so hurry!

For another chance at winning the signed copy of the paperback, and to also get a free copy of Shadow Stalker: Bound by Fate (Episode 7), sign up for the newsletter!

Or you can buy the book on:

Amazon Kindle (ebook)
Smashwords (ebook)
Createspace (paperback)

And other online retailers!

And now here is an excerpt from Shadow Stalker: Destiny Reconciled Part 2 (Episode 6)

The afternoon passed too quickly. Kado spent some time spying on the council, so he would know what he was walking into. He didn’t discover the identity of the one running the show. All he knew was this person had taken control of the council, and he was shadow stalker, though unfamiliar to him; a shadow stalker who was appointed by Drevin. My foster father feared one of the shadow stalkers who had gone in search of my father had somehow been brainwashed, and was serving the Galvadi. If it happened to one, it could easily happen to others.

"It's nearly time for me to go," he said, later that day.

The sun had begun to set, and his plan was to leave as soon as it was dark. If things went as planned, Cali, Cathnor, Kado and I would be leaving the Dark Isle in Kado's hydrocar as soon as they returned. If he was captured, I'd be on my own.

"One more thing, Auren. When you leave—"

"If I leave."

"If you have to leave, you should use a different name." Kado glanced outside. "It's time. Remember what I told you."

I nodded and followed him out of the grotto. As he strolled away from me, towards the village on the other side of the lake, it occurred to me it might be the last time I saw him. My mother said he wouldn't die, but she also said he would not be there to guide me and we'd be on separate paths. My chest constricted, and suddenly I couldn't bear to let him go. "Kado, wait!"

He turned, and I ran to him, wiping my eyes to clear my vision. When I caught up, I wrapped my arms around him. He surprised me by returning the embrace and kissing the top of my head.

"Please be careful, Kado. I need you."

"You be careful," he said, releasing himself from my grasp. Then he turned away from me without another word.

I watched him go until I could no longer see him, and trudged back to the grotto, hoping he would return.