Thursday, November 20, 2014

Katie Clark's #Dystopian #YAlit Novel VANQUISHED and #giveaway

Congratulations to Katie Clark on her YA dystopian novel, Vanquished. Even better, there are two more novels available in The Enslaved Series. Oh, and even better yet? She's giving away a copy of Vanquished! All you have to do is comment on this post to be entered to win.

*   *   *

The Making of Vanquished
by Katie Clark

Thank you for having me today! I’m thrilled to introduce your readers to my debut novel, Vanquished

People are always asking me how I got the idea for Vanquished, and since it’s a story I love telling I am happy to share it.

This wasn’t an easy idea. It came to me in bits and pieces over the course of a few years. It started with the main character, Hana. I was always thinking about this girl. This strong but vulnerable girl. She wanted to believe in the life she’d been led to live. She wanted to follow the rules. Except she couldn’t.

At that time, I had no idea what brought about her unhappiness or dissatisfaction, I only knew she needed to work toward something more.

Fast forward a year or two, I was given the idea to write a story set in a world where there was no God. No Bible. No religion. Would this world be better? Worse? And how? I had no idea how to make this story happen, but the idea stuck in my head and percolated.

Finally, the two halves came together to make a whole. One day I was sitting in church (yes, I admit I was daydreaming), and it hit me. These two stories were the same story. Hana was dissatisfied because she suspected there was more than met the eye in her city, and she set out to find it. Her mom was sick, and she needed answers. What she uncovered went way beyond hidden medications and technology—what she found was the truth that the God she’d been told was myth might not be myth at all. The story just flew from there, and it didn’t end for three books!

I hope you all enjoy it, and to celebrate I’m giving away an e-copy of Vanquished! I’ll choose one lucky commenter at random, so leave your name and email address below for a chance to win. Thanks for stopping by!

About Vanquished:
When Hana’s mom is diagnosed with the mutation, she is denied the medication that might save her life.  Fischer, a medic at the hospital, implies there are people who can help—except Hana’s not sure she can trust him; Fischer is involved in a religious group, and religion has been outlawed for the last hundred years.  Hana embarks on a dangerous journey, seeking the answers Fischer insists are available. When the truth is uncovered does Hana stick to what she knows?  Or does she join the rebellion, taking a stand against an untrustworthy society?

*   *   *
Learn more about Katie Clark at her website, on Facebook, or on Twitter.

Purchase The Enslaved Series (Vanquished, Deliverance, Redeemer) on Amazon.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Romance and Suspense in Emma Elliot's novel AS DARKNESS GATHERS

I am please to welcome Emma Elliot to the blog today. Her novel As Darkness Gathers shows characters skirting the cliff's edge. She shares some thoughts about crafting a world of such complex emotions.

*   *   *

As Darkness Gathers is, essentially, about betrayal, about varying degrees of the destruction of trust. Trust is essential in any relationship, and any chipping away of that has a rippling effect in one’s life and in his or her interactions with others. The story revolves around Finch, a woman whose reality is turned on end when she’s involved in a plane crash. Surviving that horror is only the beginning of her struggle.

“The line between friend and foe is blurred.” I think that line sums up the struggle the heroine is faced with in the story. You know how to relate to people when you know where you stand with them, when you know of their agendas toward you and their attitudes, when you know what motivates them in their interaction with you. Understanding those aspects affects your approach to the relationship. When there’s a lack of clarity regarding those aspects, you’re left in a more vulnerable position.

In As Darkness Gathers, increasingly frightening events make Finch question those around her. Someone wants to hurt her, and she isn’t sure whom she can trust. I think Finch navigates this uncertainty with a lot more aplomb than I ever would. She’s afraid and angry, of course, but she doesn’t allow it to cripple her. She refuses to be cowed and doesn’t allow the experience to make her bitter. She has a lot of grace and strength of character, even as she struggles to determine whether those she loves are the ones she can trust.

I love a good mystery, which probably comes from cutting my reading teeth on Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys, Trixie Belden, and the Bobbsey Twins books. Intrigue of a multitude of sorts drives any story:  the uncertainty of a relationship in a romance, the personal trials in a drama, the political machinations in a thriller, the outcome of a battle in an historical…. But I love the intrigue of a suspenseful novel, the tension and anxiety, the apprehension and puzzles.

If there’s a secret recipe to combining romance and suspense, I haven’t discovered it yet. I’ve written two different books within the genres. The first, A Thin, Dark Line, is a character-driven story that is very much a romance with a suspenseful subplot. My latest release, As Darkness Gathers, is more plot-driven, and I’d say it’s a suspense novel with a romantic subplot. I think the balance and weight of the two genres largely depends on the story and the character’s journey over the course of it.

Romance and suspense are two genres that are perfect for exploring the human story. Both—love and anxiety—have an internal and external impact on a person, and when the romance and suspense are woven together, you can better dig into the visceral fears and desires of a character. Romantic suspense is an excellent platform to study human reaction, interaction, and motivation.

*   *   *

Learn more about Emma Elliot on her blog or on Facebook.

Go to Amazon to purchase As Darkness Gathers  and A Thin, Dark Line.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

THE LAST HERO: How Escapist Imagination and Real Life Led to Nathaniel Dane's First Novel

Anyone who writes fiction---actually, anyone in the arts---will relate to the essay from today's guest, Nathaniel Danes. He shares how the world he created for his first military science fiction novel, The Last Hero, grew in his mind and gained importance in his life until he just couldn't keep it off the page.

*   *   *

The Last Hero -- I had to write it

by Nathaniel Danes

I never thought I'd write a book. Heck, for most of my life, getting beyond page three of any school writing project felt like a Herculean task. I think the difference between now and then, is my writing doesn't feel forced, like the story is there, I just need to get it out. Maybe that's the difference between writing what you want as opposed to what you have to.

Thinking about it now, it almost feels as if The Last Hero grew itself organically rather than having been written. My over-active imagination, love for military history, science fiction addiction, blindness, failed military career, daughter, and more were filtered through my fingers onto the page. It's a nexus where several pieces of my life came together. Believe me, that sounds far easier than it was.

I've always used my imagination as an escape hatch from life. As far back as I can remember I'd bolt from mundane situations in my mind, transporting myself to excitement and adventure. I'm sure most kids do this, but for me, I've never stopped. Today, I do this as a coping mechanism. I'm losing my sight to a genetic disorder, the reason for my failed military career, and I find it relaxing to drift off into worlds where I don't have that limitation.

These fantasies were always content to live inside my head until I read The Forever War. That classic sparked something inside me. Science fiction has always been my preferred genre for TV and movies, but as far as books go, I used to only read military history. After stumbling upon The Forever War everything changed. I couldn't read enough military science fiction and those stories in my head started to become restless.

I also can't overstate the importance of my daughter's birth in helping to shape the story in my first novel. There are a select few things I truly love in his world, my wife for one, so the feeling isn't foreign to me. However, I honestly wasn't prepared for the body blow of raw emotion, of pure unconditional love, I felt the second I held my baby girl for the first time. From then on, I couldn't imagine a universe that she wasn't a part of, where that incredible connection didn't exist. Her presence in my life enriched and brought depth to my fantasy worlds. She brought meaning and purpose to them.

Literally bursting at the seams, I had to get the stories out. So, I started to write and write, then I rewrote and rewrote. Before I knew it, a few years had past and I'd written four books. Finally, I decided to try and get one published. Fortunately, Solstice Publishing saw fit to give me a chance and agreed to release the The Last Hero.

If you read my book, I hope you enjoy it and can feel the passion that went into its creation. It will be the first of many. I don't have a choice, the stories have to come out.

*   *   *
Learn more about Nathaniel Danes on his website.

Purchase The Last Hero on Amazon.


Sunday, October 26, 2014

EBENZER'S LOCKER #spooky #kidlit #ebook #giveaway: #Halloween #creepyfreebies

Milo James Fowler was kind and scary enough to invite me to join #creepyfreebies, a circle of authors giving away copies of their spooky books and stories.

I'm giving away three e-copies of EBENEZER'S LOCKER, my middle-grade paranormal mystery novel (more funny-spooky than scary, dear parents!). The entry form is at the bottom of this post, and the winners will be chosen Halloween night!


A hundred years ago, Corbin Elementary School's building housed Dr. Ebenezer Corbin's School for Psychical Research. It seems that a couple of old spirits are still wandering the halls. It's up to Rhonda Zymler to find out what they want.
Ebenezer's Locker follows the adventures of Rhonda, a sassy sixth-grader who's having trouble finding her place and identity. Getting to know these spirits becomes Rhonda's quest. The more she digs, the more perilous her task becomes, and to complete it she must take two trips back in time. This story blends the realities of an economically challenged modern American town with supernatural elements. What Rhonda finds not only gives her life a sense of purpose but changes the fortunes of her entire town.

EBENEZER'S LOCKER excerpt, in which Rhonda Zymler tries to gather clues by traveling through time. The technique called Semi-Centennial Astral Transport (SCAT) sends her into the past in multiples of fifty years.

One last thought passed through my mind before I was SCAT-ted a hundred years into the past.  I tried to say, “Do we know how I’m going to get back?” But I couldn’t force my mouth to move.
The world went fuzzy. My heart crashed and banged like a rocker’s drum kit. I felt lifted and pressed down at the same time. There were colors, every possible color, swirling everywhere, and then forming sharp-edged shapes, and then sprayed like fireworks. I heard sirens, screaming, a thousand ambulances, and a million dog whistles.
Then silence. What I noticed first were the smells. Men’s cologne. Old wood. Mothballs. Then the sounds. Creaks and scrapes and breathing and talking and wind and plumbing and birds and footsteps and someone slurping a soda. I had superhero hearing.
At last my vision started to clear, but nothing looked right. I saw the little room through a giant magnifying glass. There was too much detail. I could count the stitches on the blanket over the cot and see three layers of varnish painted on the desk. Yet, in the mirror opposite me, I couldn’t see myself. Looking down at where my hand should be, I saw only the floor. I tried to pinch my cheek. I couldn’t feel anything.

Footsteps and floor creaks grew louder, and I heard a deafening CLACK as the lock turned. The door opened inward.

For lots more chances to win ghoulish lit, learn about the other #creepyfreebies participants here.

Of course, you can always buy EBENEZER'S LOCKER (in fact, it's half-price during the month of October!). Find it on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and directly from MuseItUp Publishing.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Andrea Buginsky Considers the Future for the Girls of New Avalon

The magical and the exotic are wonderful elements to add to fiction. However, their sparkly presence is no excuse to ignore the basic techniques of writing that can make stories great. Andrea Buginsky discusses the importance of character development in her YA fantasy series, New Avalon.

*   *   *
Character Growth

by Andrea Buginsky

I have always loved King Arthur stories. When I saw the movie The Mists of Avalon on TNT several years
ago, I loved the way the writer retold the story of the ladies of Avalon. One of my favorite Arthurian characters is the Lady of the Lake. So, when I was choosing a subject for my first (and last) NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), I decided to create my own story about Avalon and the Lady of the Lake.

I knew I wanted the story to take place in modern times, and I knew I wanted to use magic. The logical choice was to make my characters witch-like. Then I got the idea to write about an introverted character who never seemed to fit in at her school. But once she finds out the truth about herself and is sent off to a special school with other girls like her, she blossoms. This is where New Avalon comes from.

I was always a very introverted person, until I got to know people, then I would come out of my shell. I never had a large circle of friends, but the small circle I had was very tight. I’m still in touch with many of them today. When I created the characters for New Avalon, I had this idea in mind: a group of girls who would form life-long friendships. I knew they would be facing many ups and downs throughout the series, and I wanted them to be there for each other as they went through them.

The first character I created was Elena, the introvert. When you meet her, you’ll understand why she’s so shy around her classmates. I enjoyed watching Elena grow in Destiny, and continue to grow in Fate. There’s more to come for her in future books of the series, and she will discover many layers of herself. She will need her friends to help her get through her obstacles. But they will also need her.

My plan for the books is to focus on one girl per book so readers can get to know each of them better. In Fate, you’ll discover there’s more to Izzy than meets the eye, and suddenly, Elena will have to be there for her, which continues to help her grow. The other girls are always there too, allowing all of them to be together through thick and thin. I’m enjoying getting to know the girls as the series grows, and watching them grow along with it.

*   *   *
Learn more about Andrea Buginsky on her website.
Purchase Destiny and Fate (the New Avalon series) on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

How SHIFTING ALLIANCES Author Kevin Hopson Discovered Science Fiction

Ah, the allure of a robot on a book cover in one's formative years. How well I recall that feeling! Kevin Hopson, whose science fiction novel Shifting Alliances was recently released, muses on his introduction to that glorious genre.

*   *   *

Discovering Science Fiction
by Kevin Hopson

I was in middle school…I think. I visited the B. Dalton bookstore at my local mall and perused the Science Fiction & Fantasy section. Dungeons & Dragons game sets lined the shelves. I always wanted to play but could never afford to buy one, at least not on a weekly allowance of only a few bucks. You have to understand that a kid of my age and mentality never saved. Maybe my generation was to blame, or perhaps it was due to my impatience, which I still have problems dealing with to this day. Either way, money burned a hole in my pocket, so it had to be spent immediately or my parents would be forced to buy me new pants on a regular basis.

What was the alternative? Buying a paperback book? No way! Honestly, I hated to read in my adolescent years. The only thing worse than reading was having to write something. Yeah, seriously. It’s funny how times change. Anyway, I was drawn to art, and a cool cover was the one thing that might actually make me open a book…and it did. I don’t recall the title, but it was a story by Isaac Asimov, one of our greatest pioneers in the science fiction genre. A child and robot graced the cover, instantly luring me in. I’m amazed at how intelligent kids are today. Unfortunately, I was never a book worm, so some of the material proved to be cumbersome. However, seeing that cover always brought me back to the book. It was my first real taste of science fiction, and little did I know it would lead to a long-term desire.

I can’t remember if I said something to my mom or if it was the other way around, but we both recollect a time when there was mention of me writing a science fiction novel one day. I might have broached the subject as a kid, or maybe she saw something in me (an interest in the genre and a later appreciation for writing) that made her believe it. Regardless, it’s been nearly thirty years in the making, and that day has finally come. Though my book, Shifting Alliances, is technically a novella, I figure it’s close enough to the real thing, and it’s dedicated to my mom for all of her support. Coincidentally, the story touches on a woman’s motherly instinct to do the right thing, so it’s the perfect way to honor her.

*   *   *
Learn more about Kevin Hopson on his blog and his MuseItUp author page.

Buy Shifting Alliances directly from MuseItUp Publishing, on Amazon, and elsewhere.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

J.R. Sparlin's Irish Saga, The Sea at Mughain

Sometimes a journey can open the floodgates of a writer's mind. When J.R. Sparlin visited Ireland, a new saga was born from the ancient past. With the help of a lot of fascinating research, she turned her impressions of the Celtic surroundings into her YA historical fantasy novella, The Sea at Mughain.

*   *   * 
by J.R. Sparlin

When my husband and I visited Ireland, the first thing we saw was a big sign that read, “If you think this is all there is to Ireland, you’re wrong.” A toy leprechaun was stabbed onto it with a knife.

Many threads came together to give me the idea for The Sea at Mughain. Ireland was not at all what I expected. I had not, of course, expected leprechauns. But it is an ancient, remote, eerie place, full of sun-dappled green valleys, sheep, and the ruins of castles, churches, and ancient monuments no one really understands. It is also a modern country, with all the challenges faced by any of the rest of us.

The people of Ireland are anything but remote; we had wonderful conversations with our B&B proprietors and others we met along the way. One of the places we stayed was a renovated nineteenth-century schoolhouse in Ballinskelligs, just out of sight of the sea, an area believed by the ancient Celts to be an “in-between place” between our world and the Otherworld.  I sat by a peat fire in the sitting room and watched a wave of opaque white fog, several feet high, roll in over the hills that hid the sea. No getting around it, it was strange.

At some point after our trip, I was sick and had nothing to read. My husband has a degree in ancient and medieval history and has accumulated an extensive library. I snuffled around and found a volume entitled Ireland before the Vikings. I greatly enjoyed reading it. I especially liked a remark, early in the book, to the effect of, “This was a very long time ago and we have very little evidence so this may or may not be right.” Now that just begs for stuff to be made up. Derek was horrified to find me reading it; it is very scholarly and I was very sick and he felt I should be reading something lighter, so he went out and bought me two movie-star magazines. (I read those as well.) But the damage was done. I read another book, How the Irish Saved Civilization by Thomas Cahill, and was intrigued by the way Christianity had spread in Ireland. It was a much more peaceful process than in the rest of Europe, but it was still a period of conflict and transition between the old and new ways, and that type of transitional period, to me, just begs for stories.

I learned, as well, that a branch of my mother’s family may be descended from Dal Riata, one of the ancient kingdoms of Ireland (roughly equivalent to today’s County Antrim). This may or may not be true, but it is fun to consider.

So these were probably the main threads. Here you have a highly developed heroic culture in sixth-century Ireland, and most of the history and stories of the period deal with kings and battles and so on. I was interested in how a relatively unimportant young woman would fit into this picture, and that is how Mughain, daughter of Tiernan, king of Dal nAraide, came to be. If this were a “real” Irish saga, it would likely be about her father, not her. There is no shortage of strong female characters in the old stories, but they are in positions of more prominence.

So the story wove itself around these threads, and banged around in my skull until I wrote it down, and I present it to you, and hope I have done some justice to its strangeness and beauty.

*   *   *
Learn more about J.R. Sparlin by visiting her blog or following her on Facebook.

You can purchase The Sea at Mughain on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.