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Guest Post: Nightmare in the North by Kelli Wilkins

5 Oct

Travel takes a deadly turn in… Nightmare in the North

A new horror novella by Kelli A. Wilkins

www.KelliWilkins.com

Hi everyone,

Today I’m sharing a look at the making of my latest horror novella, Nightmare in the North. Some of you may know me as a romance author, but I also write short horror fiction. I originally started out as a horror author, but nowadays I divide my time between the two genres.

Nightmare in the North is a cautionary tale about traveling alone in the winter and trusting strangers. Here’s the summary:

 

NIGHTMARE IN THE NORTH

Stranded during a violent blizzard, Mark hikes to the only house nearby. George, a well-mannered University professor, welcomes Mark and gives him shelter from the storm.

By morning, Mark suspects that everything isn’t what it seems. George’s adult daughter, Kate, who also lives in the house, shares a disturbing and unsettling tale. When questioned, George insists that Kate has a psychological issue and can’t be trusted to tell the truth.

Mark quickly finds himself caught in a game of cat and mouse. Who should he believe? Is Kate’s desperate plea for help sincere? Should he be suspicious of George? Or are both of them plotting something together?

Isolated from everyone, Mark is forced to wait out the storm—and find a way to escape—if he hopes to make it out alive.

***

So… how did this novella come about? Believe it or not, I wrote a version of this story for my eighth grade English class. The assignment was to write a short story – and boy, did I! The original version was much shorter and less detailed, but the basic premise was there. I’m not sure what my English teacher thought when she read it, but I got an A.

I grew up in upstate New York where winters can be brutal and last a long time. It can be an isolated place, and sometimes you could be snowed in for days. I decided to use that as the backdrop to the story, throw in some strange characters, and add a little mystery. After I submitted the story for my English class, I pretty much forgot about it.

Then, in January of 2018 I drove to Vermont in a snowstorm. I was in the car for 12 hours, and naturally, my mind started to wander… I wanted to write a new horror story, but I wasn’t sure what I wanted to write. As I was driving, I thought back to that original story and decided to rewrite it – to tell the story the way it needed to be told.

I changed the opening, moved the setting to Vermont, and filled in all the details and backstory that set the tone. The ending of the new version is slightly different from the original, but it’s not off by all that much. I added an epilogue (of sorts) to the end, and spent about twenty minutes getting the last line just right.

Nightmare in the North is a departure from my “usual” romance novels, but it’s not gory. My horror stories tend to be more psychological/spooky than bloody. I love writing horror, and after writing a few romances, I find it refreshing to embrace my darker side and write something creepy. (I wrote this in between edits of my historical romance novel, Redemption from a Dark Past.)

After reading Nightmare in the North, my husband said that it was well written and it drew you in, but it was “twisted” and “disturbing” – I consider that high praise!

Here’s an excerpt from the opening… partially based on that trip to Vermont! Continue reading

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Guest Post: The Spark by James Vella-Bardon, author of The Sheriff’s Catch

11 Jul

THE SPARK

 

Inspiration, it’s a curious thing. I’m often asked what inspired me to lock myself away for nine years and complete a five-novel series set in Tudor (well, almost) Ireland, called The Sassana Stone Pentalogy. I can still remember the day I stepped into the now defunct Bridgepoint Books, a second-hand bookstore at the Bridgepoint Shopping Centre in the absolutely beautiful Sydney suburb of Mosman.

I was a recently landed immigrant back in ’08, having moved to Sydney from Malta, and becoming increasingly absorbed by the sixteenth century, which the French call ‘Le Grand Siècle’, the great century. These were the days when Hilary Mantel’s ‘Wolf Hall’ had hit the literary world like a sledgehammer. I was trying to read everything about the period that I could lay my hands on, when in the corner of my eye I noticed a curious little book called ‘Ireland: The Graveyard Of The Spanish Armada’ by Irish journalist T.P. Kilfeather.

Ireland? Spanish Armada? This was news to me. What on earth did Ireland have to do with the Spanish Armada? I opened up the curious little book, and was taken aback to discover that in 1588, the ships of the Spanish Armada chose to round Scotland and Ireland to head back home, in order to avoid being cut to pieces by Dutch pirates who were allied to Queen Elizabeth I of England. Terrible storms plagued the Armada on what was in truth a familiar and well-worn homeward tack, so that many of its ships were wrecked upon the coasts of Scotland and Ireland.

The western Irish coast was increasingly falling under the sway of the English crown back then. Which is why the Spanish Commanders expressly prohibited Armada crew members from attempting landings upon the Irish coast, despite the fact that they were plagued by storms, heavily leaking ships, thirst, hunger and disease, amongst others. But you don’t have much of a choice when you’re shipwrecked upon the Irish coast by a squall, do you? Yet not in vain did the Spanish Commanders warn against any landings in Ireland, for no sooner did the first Armada castaways land upon the beaches, that a chilling order was instantly issued to all English garrisons by Queen Elizabeth I’s Viceroy in Dublin:

“Execute all Spaniards, of what quality soever. Torture may be used.”

Upon receiving the order, scores of troopers were immediately despatched towards the beaches, to slay or capture all of the shipwrecked Spaniards who came into their power. And yet, I found myself also reading the accounts of Spanish survivors in Kilfeather’s book. Survivors? How could anyone have survived such treacherous odds, when the very fact that you were an Armada castaway meant you were a dead man walking?

I was near breathless as I devoured the pages which I held in my hands, which were almost shaking as I read through the hair-raising and horrifying accounts of strangers in a strange land, hunted like chattel by a merciless enemy. This stuff was almost as good as Mel Gibson’s epic drama ‘Apocalypto’, not to mention Charriere’s ‘Papillon’! Hold on – this was even better! Why don’t more authors write thrillers like this? And how curious was it that the Spaniards, having long persecuted the length and breath of the known world, suddenly found themselves persecuted in turn? As I read on and on, I felt like I was on some crazy rollercoaster ride, except that the events recounted were based on real human history!

The questions instantly resounded through my head: how was it that this story had never been dramatized before? Why had I never heard of this incredible episode? And how amazing was it, that the Armada landings caused a dramatic and violent juncture between the Spanish counter-reformists, English reformists and the late medieval Irish? And that’s not even mentioning the many militias full of Scottish gallowglasses!

I knew then, that I had finally discovered my inspiration. What Hollywood actor Sylvester Stallone called ‘the spark’, in his case the fight between Chuck Wepner and Muhammed Ali, which led him to pen Rocky. After reading Kilfeather’s book from cover to cover, I then bought it for five bucks and headed straight to my apartment in Mosman. I only left it to buy groceries, and a week later I had punched out the first manuscript which I called The Sassana Stone.

At the prompting of an established UK literary agent, I decided to further research the period of my novel, to ensure that it was based on fulsome and exhaustive historical research. I had already read scores of books on the period, and practically lived at the Fisher Library of The University of Sydney for the whole of 2011, during which I was increasingly hooked to the sources I found. Nothing had prepared me for the sheer complexity of the Gaelic civilsiation in Ireland, which the Tudor Sassenachs or ‘New English’ were seeking to subdue. A civilisation in which women still had most rights of men, and in which divorce was also permitted, despite the encroaching influence of Roman Catholicism. Which is not to mention the incredibly sophisticated bodies of law and the ancient bardic tradition. And that’s not even getting into practices like fostering, amongst others, which GRR Martin famously uses in his world of Westeros. How had no one built an epic literary arc around these incredible happenings and fantastic civilisation?

While typing away late at night I would bang the table countless times, and reprimand myself: ‘that’s enough research James!’ Yet the sixteenth century Gaelic world was both enchanting and mesmerising, and I knew that I had to plough on, no matter how exhausted I felt at the end of a day’s commitments, to extract as much information as I could to bring this story to life. I also made it to the western coast of Ireland in October of 2012, an unforgettable fieldwork trip (they have great weather there in October) in which I visited all of the breathtaking and incredible sights which feature in my story.

All of which meant nine years of rewriting and research (I also had a dayjob, got married and had two babies during this time), which grew my manuscript from 80,000 words to over 450,000 words. I absolutely loved every single minute of it, and I ended up with a five-novel series, the first of which is called ‘The Sheriff’s Catch’ and was published last month by award-winning publisher Unbound. The novel was an instant hit on Unbound’s platform, with presales worth 4000 GBP secured in its opening week! It was subsequently serialised on international digital book club The Pigeonhole, used by Ken Follett to promote ‘A Column Of Fire’. The reviews which followed have been quite simply sensational, and can be read on both Goodreads and Amazon.

I am proud to have dedicated nearly a decade of my life to telling this amazing story, and I hope to transport readers into the breathtaking events preceding and following the Spanish Armada landings. One literary critic has praised ‘The Sheriff’s Catch’ as ‘a fine debut’ and ‘a blockbuster with depth’. Another enthusiastically wrote to me to say that he hadn’t picked up such an ‘unputdownable’ novel since he’d read ‘The Da Vinci Code’.  Much as I am flattered by these descriptions I also believe that they’re apt, and that my debut is a curious and powerfully written yarn that will fling readers into an endless rollercoaster ride of incredible emotions, with unforgettable characters, cliff-hangers and narrow escapes aplenty. Strap on your seat belts before giving the first chapter a read, and get ready for a great deal of fun while you learn heaps without even realising it!

 

 

 

 

 

James Vella-Bardon

James was born and raised in Malta, an island nation steeped in the millennia of history. As a boy he often caught a rickety old bus to the capital of Valletta, where he would hover around the English bookshops to check out the latest titles in fiction.

Growing up he was an avid reader and a relentless day-dreamer, with his standout subject at school being English composition. He also won a couple of national essay competitions. Although he spent seven years studying and obtaining a doctor of laws degree, this did not cure him of his urge to write stories. So after emigrating to Sydney in 2007 he resolved to have a proper stab at writing his first novel.

The result of this decision is an epic, sprawling five-part historical fiction series called The Sassana Stone Pentalogy. It is the product of nine years of intense rewriting and research, and tells the story of a Spanish Armada survivor who is shipwrecked in Ireland.

The first instalment in the series is a rip-roaring, myth-busting page-turner called The Sheriff’s Catch. Its anti-hero protagonist Abel de Santiago is an Armada survivor who finds himself on the run across Connacht, whilst being pursued by English troopers who want him tortured and killed.

www.jamesvellabardon.com

– READ AN EXCERPT                     
– NOVEL TRAILER                     

 

 

 

 

 

Guest Post & Giveaway by Michael Okon, Author of Monsterland Reanimated

29 Jun

 

Why I Think End of the World Books Are So Compelling to Readers

By Michael Okon

 

I live in a world of make believe. Well, at least when it comes to my writing anyway. Not in a happy, princesses and fairy kingdoms kinda way. Don’t get me wrong. Those stories are great, but I prefer my make believe to be edgy and to include monsters and end of the world stuff. I mean, who doesn’t? That’s why Sci-Fi/Dystopian books are so popular. Who doesn’t like to play the what if game while sitting in the safety of their own living room?

Don’t we all read to escape for a little while? I know I do. I enjoy immersing myself in a terrifying world where just about anything can happen. Imagination is truly a wonderful thing. A good book can take you to places you probably will never visit in real life – and a few you probably don’t want to experience except vicariously.

When I write about mummies, zombies, monsters and vampires, I’m creating a world of possibilities for my readers. If I do a good job, my readers will empathize and relate to my characters. They’ll root for characters to pull through any adversity I throw at them. And, for a little while, readers just might even put themselves in those situations.

A good end of the world book will be an emotional roller coaster ride for the reader. They probably won’t even know why things are happening until the climactic ending. Building a suspenseful world where anything can happen is a writer’s dream and one that I always aim for when creating a story. That’s why I think end of the world books are the best!

 

Michael Okon is a bestselling author and screenwriter. Monsterland Reanimated, Book Two in the Monsterland series, was just released on April 13, 2018 and promises to be bigger and badder than Book One. Michael invites readers to connect with him on his website

 

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Guest Post & Giveaway: Top 5 Scary Movie Monsters of All Time

13 Mar

Top 5 Scary Movie Monsters of All Time

By Michael Phillip Cash

 

#5 Godzilla

I love big monsters. Like really big. Like big enough to stop any other monster in its tracks. Godzilla has these capabilities and it’s through his (I think Godzilla is a dude) sheer size, nothing can stop him. My son and I play Rampage on our arcade system. There is something incredibly fun about controlling a giant lizard to destroy the cities of America.

 

#4 Jaws

I watched the movie Jaws 30 years ago, and I still have a hard time going into the deep end of my pool without thinking about this massive great white shark. The problem with Jaws, unlike the other monsters – IT’S REAL. These sharks exist, and they apparently like to chow down on teens with bad hair. But I digress. Jaws is unstoppable. It lives in the ocean. It’s smart. It’s strong. And apparently, the only two things that can stop it are 1. NOT going into the ocean. 2. A scuba tank in its mouth that can be shot at from a mile away. To avoid this incredible monster, I’d rather opt for staying on land.

 

#3 Freddy Krueger

Yes, he has cheesy one-liners. Yes, his movies got progressively worse. Yes, Johnny Depp was in the first one. However, the idea behind Freddy Krueger has still haunted my memory from the time I was a kid. For some reason, my mom and dad (whom I love dearly) allowed me to watch A Nightmare on Elm Street as a wee lad. Apparently, they didn’t think the idea of a man who would kill teens in their dreams wasn’t so scary. Well, it was. To avoid being eaten by a shark, stay out of the water. To avoid being hacked to death by a masked Hockey nut, just don’t go to sleep away camp. But in order to not get killed in your dreams by a demonic, bladed-glove wearing, and disfigured psycho – don’t fall asleep.  Pretty difficult if you ask me.

 

#2 The Blob

I love The Blob so much I had to include it in the new class of monsters in my book Monsterland 2. However, I changed the name to The Glob. The Blob is relentless. An alien mass that grows bigger every time it comes into contact with living flesh. Having it just fall from the sky in a spaceship is a bit of a cop-out, but I changed things up with my version of the Blob. My Blob, again known as The Glob, is alien fuel that will suck the energy out of anything it touches; however, it can reanimate dead things too. I bet you can guess what The Glob will be reanimating in Monsterland 2.

 

#1 Gill-Man

There is something scary to say when evolution messes up royally. The last living member of a tribe of amphibious humanoids which thrived during the Paleo age (not the diet), the Gill-man resides in a lagoon located in a largely uncharted area of the Amazon (not the website, but actually the rain forests in the Amazon jungle). The creature was known to the inhabitants as the “fish-man,” which really doesn’t sound so scary. However, the Gill-Man is fast healing, which means he can survive any wound, which would be lethal to us mere mortals, such as gunshots or a silver bullet. Gill-Man also has an inactive set of lungs, should its gills be irreparably damaged. I can easily say this is one of my favorite – if not my absolute favorite monster – of all time.

 

by Michael Phillip Cash

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Author of the following books: 

 

 

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Guest Post with Giveaway: Sentinels of the Night by Anita Dickason

7 Dec

Plot Background

 

Sentinels of the Night is the first installment in the FBI Trackers series. Each of the agents has a special gift, one that defies logic and reason and is drawn from my infatuation with Native American myths, and Scottish and Irish folklore.

Cat Morgan is the first agent to be selected for the team. She has an uncanny ability to find dead bodies; not just any bodies, but the bodies of murdered victims. She hides her eerie link to her ‘informants’ under a shroud of vague and misleading explanations. Mystified by her actions, her fellow agents have dubbed her the Witchy woman. For Scott Fleming, the head of the new unit, she is the perfect agent for his team. Scott has secrets of his own.

On the way to her new assignment, she finds a body when she makes an unscheduled stop in Clinton, Mississippi.

 

Excerpt

 

Back on the ground, she stripped off the gloves and stuffed them in her pocket. She couldn’t toss them in the dumpster for the crime scene personnel to find. She already had enough to explain.

So, what am I going to do? With so little of the body visible, it wouldn’t be easy. Which story—animals, or accidentally tossing her car keys along with a bag of trash. Both had worked on other occasions. Since she didn’t have any trash to throw in the dumpster as a backup to her story, it would have to be animals.

Her first call was to 911, the second to her new supervisor, Scott Fleming. Although she hated to disturb him at home, there wasn’t a choice.

 “Fleming.”

“Scott, it’s Cat. I have a bit of a problem. I’m at a hotel in Clinton, Mississippi and found a body.”

“Holy hell, Cat! How did you do that?”

“Oh … uh, I’d parked my car and thought I heard odd noises as I walked past a dumpster. When I looked inside, I spotted the body.”

“You checked a dumpster just because you thought you heard a sound. Did I get that right?”

“Yep.”

“What caused the sounds?”

“Umm … an animal, maybe a raccoon rooting through the garbage.”

“A raccoon. Was there one? No, don’t answer. I don’t want to know. Where are you now?”

“At the hotel. I’m waiting for the police to arrive.”

“Call me after you’ve talked to them.” His voice faded, “Raccoons … my ass!” and the call disconnected.

Great! Just great. That certainly wasn’t the best start to her new job, sliding the phone in her jacket pocket.

 

Conclusion

 For more information on Sentinels of the Night and the second Tracker novel, Going Gone!, please see my website or the book trailers.

www.anitadickason.com

 

Sentinels of the Night: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4m00v2W4K4o

Going Gone!: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DGI9MzkBkSE

 

by Anita Dickason

 

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Guest Post: Writing Lies, Love & Redemption by Kelli A. Wilkins

12 Nov

Writing Lies, Love & Redemption… A Steamy Western Romance

By Kelli A. Wilkins

www.KelliWilkins.com

Hi everyone,

One day, I was thinking about nothing in particular when this popped into my mind:

A man limping along the prairie. He’s been shot and left for dead. He’s bleeding and hurt bad. And thirsty. So thirsty. It’s hot and he wants to rest, but he knows he has to push on. If he collapses again, he’s not going to get up and he’ll die here. But maybe he’s already dead and this is hell. Or maybe not…

That was my introduction to Sam, the hero from my historical western, Lies, Love & Redemption. That was also how I introduced readers to Sam—lost and hurt and wandering along the prairie.

 

Here’s the book summary that came from that initial idea:

Lies, Love & Redemption

Shot and left for dead, Sam Hixton stumbles into a general store on the Nebraska prairie and collapses into the arms of Cassie Wilcox.

Cassie’s world is turned upside down when the handsome stranger drops into her life. Sam is another complication she doesn’t need: her business is dying and her trouble with the townspeople is escalating. Yet she’s determined to keep the store open — no matter what the cost.

As Sam recovers from his injuries, he hides the truth about his identity and convinces Cassie to let him work in the store. He’s attracted to her and admires her independent nature but quickly realizes Cassie’s in way over her head. They fight their growing attraction, and Cassie questions whether she can trust her fragile heart to a mysterious stranger. Will he accept her once he knows about her troubled past?

Cassie resists Sam’s advances and represses her feelings until one fateful night when they give in to their fiery passion. Together, they work out a plan to save the store but find their efforts are thwarted—and their lives endangered—by the locals.

Sam’s secret returns to haunt him and pulls him away just when Cassie needs him the most. Will he regain her trust when she learns the truth?

Cassie has everything invested in the store—can she save it and find true love with Sam before it’s too late?

***

 

Believe it or not, that first scene came to me several years ago. When I got the idea for the book, I did all the initial research and wrote a very rough draft. Then the manuscript just sat around. I’m not exactly sure why so many other book projects came ahead of it, but they did. The story was always there, but I guess I wasn’t ready to revise and edit it.

When I started working on the book again I found that although the basic premise still resonated with me, I wanted (and needed) to make a lot of changes. I always had the opening scene of Sam walking across the prairie in my mind. I knew where he was going (to Cassie’s store), and I had the general idea of how the story would play out and who the characters were, but I didn’t have the specifics of each scene.

As I got further into revising the book, the details became more solidified. I added new scenes, deleted others, and generally gave it a complete makeover. Now it’s a much stronger (and better) book than it was originally.

But before I started writing, I did a lot of research. First, I had to decide when and where the book would take place. I knew it would be on the prairie somewhere (Kansas? Nebraska? Iowa?) and set after the Civil War. Once I picked a time period and a place I researched everything I could about it: what was going on in the country at that time, how people traveled, what their occupations were, what they ate, how a general store was set up…

I enjoy reading about history and exploring what life was like in different time periods, so doing the research part of a historical romance is interesting—but time consuming. I was always scribbling notes about details I could use in the book. I never used them all, but adding realistic details helps draw readers into the world of the characters, even though it might be very different from how we live now.

Although I have written a lot of historical romances, the time periods are always different. I’ve used Medieval (A Most Unusual Princess), Scottish (The Viking’s Witch) and Colonial (Dangerous Indenture) settings. When I’m writing a historical romance, I never know when (or where) the characters will take me. Lies, Love & Redemption is set on the Nebraska prairie in 1877 and blends a steamy romance with mystery and danger.

 

Here’s a mild excerpt:

Cassie dusted off a can of apricots and restacked it on the shelf. “Why do I even bother?” she muttered as she picked up the next can.

Another week had come and gone, but her days were always the same. Get up at dawn, sweep out the store, dust off the cans, and . . . wait. Her few customers strolled in on Saturday and Sunday afternoons to buy odds and ends, but nearly everyone bought their bulk goods at the general store in Baxter. Townsfolk came here only when they wanted something quick—or on credit.

The bell above the door jangled, but she didn’t bother to turn around. “That you, Luke? You’re up early. I bet you haven’t seen this side of ten o’clock in—”

She glanced over her shoulder and shrieked. The can of apricots slipped from her hand and rolled across the floor.

A stranger covered in blood leaned against the doorjamb.

She rushed to his side. “Who are you? What happened?”

The man locked his blue eyes onto hers. “Help me.”

He held a battered leather satchel out to her. “Hide this,” he said, then collapsed forward.

Cassie caught him around the waist and eased him to the plank floor. Was he dead? She felt the side of his sweaty neck. His heart was beating, but he looked like hell. His clothes were coated in blood and dirt, and his face had a sickly white hue to it. He was lucky to be alive. Someone had shot him full of holes.

Where had he come from? Holloway was in the middle of nowhere with no railroad connection, and it wasn’t on the stagecoach line. She hadn’t heard a horse out front, and he couldn’t have walked here from Baxter, could he? That would be suicide.

Wild ideas raced through her mind as she stared down at him. Maybe he was a fugitive or a bank robber. Decent people didn’t get themselves shot for no reason. Whoever shot him could’ve been following him, looking to finish him off.

Her gaze settled on the satchel. What was in it? Money? Gold? The deed to a silver mine? Why did he want her to hide it?

Cassie brushed her hair away from her face and frowned. What the hell was she supposed to do with him? Why had he wandered into her store, of all places? The last thing she needed was a half-dead stranger complicating her life. His being here would only stir up trouble—and she already had more than she needed.

Maybe she could— With a start, she realized he hadn’t moved. She shook his bloodied left shoulder.  The man remained motionless. “Damn it to hell.” She yanked the satchel from his grip, then ran behind the counter and stuffed it in the bottom drawer. There wasn’t time to look inside and see what the stranger was hiding. Whoever he was, he needed help—fast.

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Order your copy of Lies, Love & Redemption here:

Amazon  *  B&N  *  Other Platforms

 

 

***
I hope you enjoyed this inside look at the making of Lies, Love & Redemption. I welcome comments and questions from readers. Be sure to follow my blog for the latest updates and visit me on social media!

All through November, I’ll be highlighting my Medallion Press historical romances on my blog and Facebook pages. These full-length romance novels are available on several ebook platforms and all are just $2.99. If you haven’t read any of them, why not give them a try?

 And… FREE READS from all of my romances (all genres) are now on my Manic Readers page: http://www.manicreaders.com/KelliAWilkins/
Happy Reading,

Kelli Continue reading

Guest Post: Interview with Authors Andrew Joyce & Danny the Dog

19 Oct

Today we’re sitting down with authors Andrew Joyce and Danny the Dog for a joint interview. Andrew is the author of several novels, including his latest, Bedtime Stories for Grown-Ups, and Danny writes a monthly column to keep his legions of fans informed as to his latest adventures. So, without further ado, let’s get started.

Thank you for agreeing to do this interview.

AJ: It’s a pleasure to be here.

DtD: Me too … I guess.

Tell me a little about yourselves and your backgrounds?

AJ: I’m a writer, which surprises me greatly. For the first three years of my writing career, I never referred to myself as a writer. It was only when the royalties started coming in and I could quit my day job that I dared think of myself as such.

DtD: I’m a dog.

What book or books have had a strong influence on you and/or your writing?

AJ: The works of Louis L’Amour and Robert B. Parker.

DtD: The genius writings of Danny the Dog.

AJ: Excuse me, but I need to speak to Danny for a minute.

AJ: What are you doing, Danny? You don’t seem to be taking this interview seriously. You’re giving one-word answers and when asked about your favorite authors, you say “yourself.” I know all us writers think of ourselves as our favorite author, but you’re not supposed to say that out loud.

DtD: Whatever! May we continue with the inquisition?

AJ: I’m sorry for Danny’s attitude.

That’s okay, Andrew. Danny and I understand one another. So let’s carry on. Going back to the beginning, what is it that got you into writing?

AJ: One morning, about six years ago, I went crazy. I got out of bed, went downstairs, and threw my TV out the window. Then I sat down at the computer and wrote my first short story. I threw it up on the internet just for the hell of it, and a few months later I was notified that it was to be included in a print anthology of the best short stories of 2011. I even got paid for it! I’ve been writing ever since.

DtD: One day, about five years ago, Andrew went out and left the computer on. He was always complaining about how hard it is to write anything decent, so I thought I’d show him how easy it is when one has talent. Is that a long enough answer for you, Andrew?

Tell us a little bit about your writing process.

AJ: I prefer to write in the early morning hours when things are quiet. I usually get up around 2:00 a.m. and go to work. The commute is not long … only a few steps to my computer.

DtD: I have to wait until Hemingway over there goes to bed.

AJ: By any chance, are you referring to me?

DtD: Yes, but only in an ironic way.

AJ: You see what I’ve got to put up with?

Now, boys, play nice. You are both professionals. What would your fans think?

AJ: You’re right. I’m sorry.

DtD: I’m the only one with fans around here. I’d say that Andrew’s been riding my coattails for years—if I had coattails. But for your sake, I’ll try to be well-behaved.

That’s a good doggie. Do either of you have any hobbies? Or anything you like to do in your spare time?

AJ: I like to read history and do research for my next book. I also like to watch old movies from the 1930s and ’40s.

DtD: My hobby is looking after His Nibs here. I’m always getting him out of trouble or bailing him out of jail after one of his benders. I call him Hemingway because he drinks like Ernie did. You should see ol’ Andrew when he’s had a snootful.

What are you two working on at the moment?

AJ: This interview.

DtD: Ditto.

AJ: High five, Danny.

DtD: Next question, please.

AJ: Hey, Danny. Don’t leave me hangin’.

DtD: Pleeease … give us the next question!

How do you develop your plots and your characters? Do you use a set formula?

AJ: I usually sit down to write a book with no idea where my characters will lead me. I start out with what I hope will be a killer first sentence … and the last paragraph of the book. Then I set out to fill the in-between space with 100,000 words. I find that the easy part. Sometimes I will bring my characters to a certain place, only to have them rebel when we get there. They’ll tell me they want to go somewhere else and take off on their own. I have no choice but to follow.

DtD: That was a pretty artsy-fartsy answer.

AJ: Was not.

DtD: Was too.

AJ: Was not!

DtD: Was too. Was too. Was too!!!

Boys! If you can’t behave, I’ll have to end the interview. As a child, Andrew what did you want to be when you grew up? And, as a puppy, Danny, what did you want to do?

AJ: I never wanted to grow up, and I believe I have succeeded.

DtD: I think he has, too. As a puppy, I only wanted to survive Andrew.

What would we find under your bed?

AJ: The monster that lives there.

DtD: When it thunders, me (and Andrew’s monster).

If you could travel into the past or future, where would you want to go? Why?

AJ: Egypt. I’d like to see the Great Pyramid being built.

DtD: The caveman days. I think it would be super-duper to be in a time before dogs allowed themselves to be “domesticated.”

What has been your worst or most difficult job?

AJ: Some jobs I’ve had in the past have been real doozies. I’ve done back-breaking physical labor. I’ve worked as a waiter for a short spell and hated every minute of it. I worked with and breathed in chemicals that have done a number on my lungs. But the worst job I ever had was when I was eighteen. I worked at a McDonalds for one day. At the end of the shift, I walked out never to return. I didn’t care about the pay I was owed or anything else. I just wanted out of there.

DtD: Looking after Andrew.

What group did you hang out with in high school?

AJ: I had no friends in high school. Still don’t … come to think of it.

DtD: At last … Andrew has said one true thing! I, of course, had no need of schooling. I was born brilliant. Not to mention wonderful, marvelous, and good looking.

What is something that you absolutely cannot live without?

DtD: If you don’t mind, I’ll field this one for both of us. For Andrew, it’s vodka. For me it’s Andrew.

AJ: Aw shucks, Danny.

Thank you for stopping by. It’s been a little different. However, I believe we’ve learned a few things about your writing processes … and a few other things as well.

AJ: Thank you for having us.

DtD: Yeah, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. Continue reading

Guest Post: Writing Beauty & the Bigfoot by Kelli A. Wilkins

6 Oct

Have you ever read a Bigfoot romance?

Beauty & the Bigfoot – a quirky paranormal comedy

 

By Kelli A. Wilkins

www.KelliWilkins.com

 

 

Hi folks,

My latest release, Beauty & the Bigfoot (Yes, it’s a Bigfoot romance!) offers readers a quirky look at the legend of Bigfoot. When I told people I was writing a Bigfoot romance, they said, “You’re kidding, right?”

Nope! Maybe I watched too much In Search Of… as a child, but for as long as I can remember, I’ve always been interested in “unexplained phenomena” (aka: the strange and unusual).

I started out writing horror short stories and romances, so it was only a matter of time before I went down the paranormal romance road. Beauty & the Bigfoot is my third paranormal romance. My first, Confessions of a Vampire’s Lover, is a more serious love story, and Killer in Wolf’s Clothing takes the concept of werewolves in a very different direction.

Beauty & the Bigfoot started out with the premise: “What if a cryptozoologist’s daughter fell in love with a captured Bigfoot?” I liked the idea, but I wasn’t sure where I could take it.

Later, when I was doing research for the book (yes, there was a lot of research involved!), I came across several historical accounts dating back to the 1500s of huge, hairy “wild men” living in the woods. Native American tribes had several names for Bigfoot and they took the subject seriously. After reading these stories, my imagination took over. (Once you read the book, you’ll see how it all ties in together. If you think you know how the story ends, think again!).

Beauty & the Bigfoot was a lot of fun to write and I had a great time creating the characters. Through Tara and her eccentric father, Charlie, I was able to turn up the camp level and add in many wacky references and asides. They don’t exactly take the situation seriously, and neither should readers. It’s called a paranormal comedy for a reason.

So, is Bigfoot real? Is the Patterson film a hoax? Are there Sasquatches roaming the forests of the Pacific Northwest? I don’t know for sure, but I do know that the legend continues on – with a happy ending – in Beauty & the Bigfoot.

 

Here’s the synopsis:

 Beauty & the Bigfoot

Can true love exist between the species?

Tara’s world is anything but normal. Her father is known as the resident crackpot – just because he’s on a personal mission to catch a Sasquatch. Despite all of the “Bigfoot evidence” cluttering their house, Tara never really believed in Bigfoot – until the day her father brought him home.

She affectionately names her father’s prized catch ‘Joe’ and discovers there’s something oddly familiar – and erotic – about him. With a media circus descending on her father’s ranch and a showdown brewing with the local sheriff, Tara risks her life to save Joe. 

When Tara finally succumbs to her animalistic urges, she learns that Joe is not exactly who – or what – he seems. Joe is more than a Sasquatch – he’s her soul mate! Continue reading

Guest Post & Giveaway: Death of an Intensivist from Journey’s End

20 Sep
Death of an Intensivist
Gabriel Heras La Calle, MD
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My name is Gabriel and I have been an intensive care physician since 2007.
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As an intensivist, I spend my working hours balancing on the thin line that separates life and death. I have been doing this for more than ten years. Each day is a magical and unique adventure. I have cried and laughed. I have seen suffering and experienced joy also. I have helped patients survive due to the wonders of technology and emotional human support. I have also witnessed the finality of death, more than the rest of the population. Sometimes knowing that we did all that we could isn’t enough; sometimes death is just meant to be.
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I consider myself lucky to have shared many of these highly intense moments with the team members from the Departments of Intensive Care Medicine of several Spanish hospitals: Leganes, La Paz, Alcorcon, Torrelodones, Vallecas, Son Llàtzer, and Torrejón. After each day, we all know that our work doesn’t stop after eight hours: we bring those moments of joy and sadness home with us. Emotional time doesn’t run the same as normal time.
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Throughout the ten years, very little has changed in the way ICU patients are treated when “there is nothing to do.” With my years of first-hand experience, I now feel that there is so much more that we can do to improve the patient’s journey towards death.
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In Spain, death is not a subject to be spoken about; death is not conceived as natural-or as an inevitable fact that will happen to us all. Therefore, when a patient or his/her family is faced with the possibility of death, they build up a defensive wall to rational thought. First, there is the denial, then doubt that what they heard was true, then hope that the doctor is wrong and that this ‘news’ will just go away or disappear. But it doesn’t. When the fatal illness or injury happens, they are paralyzed, shocked, dumbfounded; they are not prepared. it is funny to realize that we, as organized human beings, prepare for our vacations to the last detail, plan our birthdays or weddings months in advance, yet ignore death or how we want to die or be treated in our last hours on this earth.
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Because of this lack of preparedness of our patients and their family members, we as healthcare workers and medical ICU staff need to stop, listen, think, and be empathic towards what the patients and the family members are experiencing. We need to think of how we would feel in the same situation, put ourselves in their shoes, and be aware of what they are going through. We need to think about our own death: the death of an intensivist, in my case.
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We need to stand back and think of what we can do to make this moment smoother, calmer, kinder, gentler; to reflect on how we can help them understand that death is part of the life process, that there is not anything else more democratic than death: it happens to us all no matter who or what we are. That cold fact doesn’t make it any easier, but through emotional support and genuine caring, the shock and numbness can be lessened.
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We have seen an individual who doesn’t benefit from sharing, from talking about their wants, their likes, their fears, or their tears. And I know that we as humans can adapt to almost any situation, no matter how desperate or dramatic it might be. You will survive; you will be okay. We are here for you; your family is there for you. So, let’s provide a relief from pain. Let’s provide solace for the desperate, company for the lonely, a comforting hand for the frightened, and the dignity in death.
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As physicians, we were taught to preserve life. But we also have the responsibility to educate people in the hard reality of life’s end: death. We must take up this challenge to train staff and management alike in the how and the why of end-of-life situations: communication, empathy, and bedside manners.
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Our objectives as specialists in intensive care medicine were always to reduce mortality and morbidity associated with critical illness, preserving the function of organs and restoring health. We were focusing on the result, not on the process, and we are probably wrong. But we have to make room for death with dignity: maintain autonomy, physical and emotional comfort, and ensure communication between people to prevent any kind of conflict.
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Some might think that palliative care intensive care is incongruous. However, we should try to bring together the best treatment available with the best multidisciplinary care to ease the patient’s dying process. Ultimately, we want to improve care in death by improving the quality of life of patients and families with physical, pharmacological, psychological, and spiritual support.
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We must work to make sense of death by helping patients, family, and friends to be prepared for the eventuality, avoiding surprises that trigger negative reactions, blatant rejection; we need to standardize processes in the ICU.
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Looking and listening, embracing and understanding, feeling compassion for those who are suffering means preparing patients, families, and friends for the inevitable. By putting ourselves in their shoes, we can feel what they feel and learn to respect their wishes. Hopefully, we can transform today’s reality into a better journey down life’s ICU path.
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Gabriel Heras La Calle, MD, intensive care doctor at University Hospital of Torrejón, Madrid. Creator of the International Research Project of Humanizing Intensive Care.
Facebook: Gabi Heras
Twitter:@HUMANIZALAUCI
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Book Title: Journey’s End: Death, Dying and the End of Life
Authors: Victoria Brewster & Julie Saeger Nierenberg
Category: Adult Non-Fiction; 558 pages
Genre: Resource/Educational
Publisher: Xlibris
Release date: July 20, 2017
Tour dates: Sept 4 to 22, 2017
Content Rating: PG-13 + M

Continue reading

Guest Post: Tomas Pueyo—The Star Wars Rings

23 Aug

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Launching Books

 

 

I was 21. An introvert since I could remember, my two years studying in Paris had changed everything. I went from not eating the first few days, scared of asking people where to buy food, to witnessing never-ending parties with thousands of people. I had discovered the World.

Back in Madrid, I felt it was my duty and my pride to show my old college friends how you really party. I rented a space. Bought food and alcohol. Emailed all my friends and acquaintances. Prepared the mattresses for crashers. Promised an unforgivable night.

My birthday came. Seven friends showed up.

My best friends were kind enough to limit the derision to a few taunts, hop from bar to bar to drink the night away with me, and welcome the sun from a rooftop. But I never forgot the feeling of rejection, of not fitting in, of failure. I would never expose myself to that again.

And yet, ten years later, I ended up leading the product and marketing of a startup in Silicon Valley. I gathered millions of customers, but I always hid behind my products. It was safe. If they failed, it was them, not me. It was easy: look at data, optimize your channels, tweak the product, test how people react, iterate, spend on advertising, rinse and repeat.

The introvert side never left me. That’s probably what pushed me to moonlight writing a book. It was comfortable to retire from the world and spend a few hours with myself, filling pages with ideas. Yet something was bugging me. Every word I wrote brought me closer to the dreaded moment: publishing the book and finding out if people liked it or not, if they liked me or not.

I needed to get away from my daily job to move the book forward—and escape that looming fear. I took a week off to focus on my book. The days passed, pages piled up. Friday arrived; I opened my work email for the first time that week. Scrolling down the unread emails from my marketing team, it dawned on me: I know how to make and market things. I had to apply the same approach to my book, or else face another failure: one book, zero buyers.

x

 

I decided I would apply to my book the same principles from my job as a marketer, to make sure it wouldn’t end up growing spider webs in the dark corners of Amazon. That meant writing another book.

It sounds a bit silly. Why would I write a second book to publish my first one? It comes from a deeply rooted belief in Silicon Valley: you never go all in with your first bet. You iterate. You try things fast, see what people like and dislike, change your approach and try again and again and again until you understand what people want and give that to them. I couldn’t just write a book and put it on sale. It would end up like my party a decade earlier: lonely, supported only by friends.

“Here’s my plan: I’m going to write a second book. It will be something I’d love to read, about a topic I enjoy and know well, so I can publish it and learn everything I need to know about publishing before I publish my initial book.”

At that time, Serendipity hit. Star Wars launched the trailer for its new movie, The Last Jedi. As a son of a TV commercials director, a fanatic of storytelling, a student of scriptwriting at Stanford, and a fan of Star Wars, I didn’t just see in it a bunch of cool scenes. I saw a repeating storytelling pattern that went back to the first Star Wars movie in 1977, all the way through each Star Wars movie ever since. And it struck me: many of the scenes of the trailer were actually quite predictable, once you understand the patterns in the movies.

I wrote a quick blog post about the topic to cheaply validate the potential of the idea, and it worked: people loved the post and dozens of comments flocked to my Facebook. I knew I had a good idea in my hands. I decided to write a book about the story structure of Star Wars. I moved my initial book aside and jumped knee-deep into my new project.

Fast forward five months.

The book is called The Star Wars Rings in honor of the Ring Structure, an ancient storytelling method followed by books such as the Bible, Beowulf, or Harry Potter. George Lucas fell in love with exotic story structures while he worked on the first Star Wars movie, and ever since, all Star Wars movies follow the same pattern. The book describes this hidden pattern, shows how it’s applied to many stories in the past, how Star Wars movies follow it tightly, and how we can use that information to predict what happens in the next installments of the saga.

Writing it made me reflect on our job as authors. I used to think that writing was about inspiration, letting my imagination travel, and capturing those images on paper. But after studying Star Wars, reading about other authors’ processes, and enduring the writing process myself, I realize that it’s not the case at all.

All stories follow innate patterns. That means stories can—and should be—designed. If Star Wars has done it to such acclaim, why wouldn’t we all? Isn’t it easier to understand the patterns of storytelling before we start writing?

In my mind, I imagine writing a book like walking in the most absolute darkness. One option is to start walking. You will stumble on uneven ground, hurt yourself, get stuck against rock, walls, and rivers, walk back. Another option is to look at a map. As you walk in the dark, you will still stumble on uneven ground, but at least you broadly know where you’re going.

An even better option is to also bring a torch light with you. For me, the equivalent is to share what I write as I write it, so people give me instant feedback and I incorporate it in real time. Iterate. Armed with a map and a torch light, you know broadly where you’re going and you can avoid any immediate pitfall. I will try this for my next book.

Writing books is like a journey. The first step is always the hardest. Writing this one has freed me from my mental cage of anxiety. I went from panic of failure to excitement: excitement about writing a fun book, about learning everything I can about publishing, and about being ok with failure.

–Tomas Pueyo

 

You can read more about Star Wars’ structure, how it helps us predict the next movies, and much more in the book The Star Wars Rings, from Tomas Pueyo, on presale now, launching Sep 19, 2017. If you’re interested in following Tomas’s learnings as he writes and publishes new books, you can sign up for his mailing list here.

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