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Author Interview: Dan Jolley and Gray Widow’s Walk

Published July 21, 2016 by admin

I’m really excited for today’s interview. It’s always fun to talk to someone whose work you’re already familiar with, and Dan is just an awesome, talented guy. I always enjoy what I read by him, and I always walk away from a conversation with him feeling positive. He’s one of those artists who knows how to listen and relate to people, which is golden, people. I cannot stress that enough. Be articulate like Dan.  Plus he’s one of the few people I can talk to about visiting Poland who gets half of what’s coming out of my mouth, so there’s that, too.

But today we are talking about his new book!

As an aside, just picture how many times I have to remind myself that it’s spelled gray because apparently somewhere I have a recessive British spelling gene. It’s killing me over here.

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SJ: Every writer has some sort of process. Give us a glimpse into yours. Do you meticulously outline? Do you write depending on what calls are out there?

DJ: In the whole plotter-vs-pantser debate, I come down as far on the side of the plotters as you can get. This is not just personal preference; when you’re doing any sort of writing for hire, as I’ve done my whole career, you have no choice but to be a plotter. No publisher is going to pay you to come up with stuff as you go. You have to submit an outline, or a summary, or both, and once that gets approved, you generally have to stick to it. That’s one of the things I learned very early on — never tell an editor, “And you’re going to love the ending!” No. No, they won’t. Or at least, they won’t take the chance that they will. That approach has carried over into everything I work on, whether it’s on spec or not.

Also, there are writers who, like Dean Koontz, go into their office every day and write for hours and hours and hours, draft after draft, until they’re satisfied. Then there are the writers who spend days or weeks or months thinking about a story, and when they’ve thought enough, they write it all down in a whirlwind. I’m in that second camp. I do most of my “writing” driving around listening to loud, aggressive music, or working around the house, or showering, or brushing my teeth. I get the whole story worked out beforehand, and then write it all down in bursts. I have a reputation in some circles for being a very, very fast writer, but most of the time, all the heavy lifting has been done before fingers touch keyboard.

SJ: Bonus question – Do you put on a cape and do a chant before hunkering down to work? Sacrifice anything? Along with your process, what’s your quirkiest writing habit?

DJ: I have a couple of writing habits, but they’re kind of boring. If I’m working on a comic book, I draw the outlines of all the pages of the comic on one page of a sketchbook, and do a very basic form of storyboarding; by the time I’m done drawing twenty-two little rectangles representing the twenty-two pages of a standard comic, my brain is fully in comic-writing gear. When I’m doing prose, I have a walking desk set up, and by the time my blood gets moving (around five minutes at two miles per hour), I’m totally in the prose-writing groove.

I used to write in a zero-gravity recliner, and my cat, The Minkus, would get in my lap, so I’d rest the laptop directly on him and work away while he slept. That had to stop, though, for two reasons. First, he doesn’t like my new laptop. I think it’s too heavy. Second, I had to take the old one in to the shop several times to get all the cat hair vacuumed out of it.

SJ:   Are you a meticulous planner or do you believe in the muse? Where do your ideas come from? Do they filter in through your dreams? Do they show up at inopportune times and whap you upside the head? Do they result in a shady deal with a dark power?

DJ: I am a very meticulous planner, as I mentioned earlier. If I had a muse, her name would be “Deadlinika,” and she would whisper things in my ear such as, “Your mortgage payment is due in two weeks,” or “You really need to get that transmission looked at,” or “The editor is expecting your first draft Monday morning,” and I’d shout, “I’M WRITING! I’M WRITING!”

As far as where ideas come from…they come from everywhere. Stories I read in the news, snippets of conversation I overhear in line at the grocery store, anecdotes my 13-year-old niece tells me…it never stops. Sometimes (not as often as I’d like), a fully-formed idea will just drop into my head out of nowhere. I wish I knew how to make that happen on a regular basis.

SJ: bonus question – If your muse had a physical manifestation, what would he or she look like and how would she or he act? Is it a sexy superhero version of Callisto? A sharp-tongued rogue? A reptilian alien? Do they have a catch phrase?

DJ: I’m afraid Deadlinika would look like a really stern, matronly grammar school teacher. She’d just stand there and stare at me, arms crossed, a ruler in one hand, tapping her foot.

SJ: What’s the book/story that’s closest to your heart? Is there a piece that you clearly feel is a piece of you? Do you play favorites?

DJ: In comics, my creator-owned series Bloodhound is closest to me. In video games, my work on Transformers: War For Cybertron came out really really well, though I’m also proud of the work I did on Dying Light. In novels, my answer used to be Alex Unlimited, the trio of YA sci-fi/espionage books I wrote for Tokyopop. But right now, the answer to the whole question is definitely Gray Widow’s Walk, the book that just debuted from Seventh Star Press. It’s what you might call “superhero noir,” and it’s the first time in my entire career that I’ve been able to take the gloves off and write anything and everything I wanted to. I am intensely proud of it. Everything I’ve ever written contains at least some of me, but Gray Widow’s Walk in general, and the characters of Janey Sinclair and Tim Kapoor in particular, are very very much me. Janey is even more me than Tim — which isn’t all that surprising, I guess, since I’ve been told more than once that my inner child is actually a 14-year-old girl. (My wife tends to agree with that assessment.)

SJ: If you could only write one genre ever again upon pain of being sacrificed to Cthulhu, what would it be and why?

DJ: I’d have to go with science-fiction. I love the genre, I grew up on it, my whole life changed the day I saw Star Wars in 1977. (I was six.) But the reason I’d choose it is that it’s so freaking broad. You can write almost anything in science-fiction. Space opera? Sure. Dystopian future, zombie apocalypse, rogue A.I.? No problem. Time travel? Of course. Superheroes? Almost all of them qualify. Even the epic fantasy saga I’m working on behind the scenes is, technically, science-fiction, in the way The Dragonriders of Pern is. I used to consider myself a horror writer, but I think I’ve really been a science-fiction writer all along.

SJ:  What’s your biggest frustration as a writer? What do you consider the downside, or is there one? Is there any cliché that makes you want to wring people’s necks?

DJ: The downside to being a freelance writer, which I’ve been for years and years, is the unpredictable nature of the business. I’ve actually been noticing a lot of similarities between what I do and what my sister-in-law and her husband do: they own and operate their own machine shop. We’re all self-employed, we’re all entrepreneurs, and when you’re self-employed, it’s always feast or famine. You’re either covered up with work (the good times) or you’re scrambling to get work (the shitty times). Sometimes I wish I had learned to do something useful, that would pay well, for the stretches when little or no work was coming in, like welding. Something I could just go do for a week or two or three until the next contract showed up. But then I think, if I hadn’t taken the whole throw-your-hat-over-the-fence, burn-your-ships approach, I wouldn’t be as far along with things as I am now. And I do love where I am now.

SJ:If you had to be stuck in one of your own books/stories for the rest of your life, what would it be and why? If you had to stick a loved one in one of your own books, what would it be and why? An enemy?

DJ:I’d probably choose to be in Gray Widow’s Walk, because it’s set in modern-day Atlanta, and you could live your whole life in that book and not realize people were being targeted by unknown parties and having their DNA forcibly rearranged. Of course, if you did get pulled into that process, it would get a lot less pleasant in a very short amount of time, but 99.9% of the people in the city don’t realize what’s going on. Of any of my books, Gray Widow’s Walk would probably be the (relatively) safest, so that’s where I’d put a loved one, too.

I’d stick an enemy in Harran, the Middle-Eastern city overrun by zombies in the video game Dying Light. No one stays happy there.

SJ: Do you think it’s possible to develop a sure-fire recipe/formula for success as a writer? Would you want to, or does that compromise the art or the fun of it?

DJ: I think some people have tapped into the (forgive me for using this word) zeitgeist in a way that lets them create success after success. Stephen King. Neil Gaiman. For that matter, Aaron Spelling. And y’know what? If I could do that, I TOTALLY would. Because that would mean I would have the freedom to write anything I wanted to. Collect the millions and millions of dollars from my super-popular creation(s), and then just retire to a villa in the south of France or something and write whatever I wanted to write, with no pressure. It’d be like winning the lottery.

SJ: Everyone has words of wisdom for young writers, so I’m not going to ask you about that. With a few unknown writers becoming success stories, a lot of people seem to think it’s an easy career choice. What would your words of wisdom be to these people?

DJ: Marry someone with a steady job that provides good insurance. I wish I were joking about that.

SJ: It seems like everyone likes to gang up on certain genres as being inferior, less meaningful, or cheap entertainment (especially if it’s speculative in nature). Make a case for the genre you write.

DJ: I’ll make a case for every genre, and it goes back to a tried-and-true bit of wisdom: it’s not the story, it’s how you tell it. Good writing is good writing, no matter what genre it’s in, and it’s that fact that has led to a few of my projects (if I may toot my own horn for a moment) getting reviews that proclaim, “This is way better than it has any right to be.” I especially enjoyed those reviews when I got hired to reboot Voltron in comic book form, back around 2002. A lot of writers would have sneered and turned up their noses at that kind of job, but I dove into it head-first, and turned it into an action-packed space opera with intense character relationships and overtones of interplanetary politics.

The same concept holds true for anything, really: witness the rise of My Little Pony, built on the series’ outstanding writing. Or, from several years ago, the TV show Girlfriends. I happened to catch an episode one day, flipping channels, and while I didn’t think I would have all that much interest in a show about four young African-American women in Los Angeles, I couldn’t have been more wrong. The writing on that show was razor-sharp, and I loved it.

It doesn’t matter if you’re writing magical-girl manga, or gritty military science-fiction, or a story about a bitter rivalry between two old men in a retirement home. Good writing will elevate any genre, just as much as bad writing will damage it. Is every genre for everyone? No, of course not. But no genre is inherently “inferior.” That’s elitist bullshit.

SJ: What do you want people to instantly think of when they hear your name or your work mentioned?

DJ: Hmmm…that’s a tough one. But I guess it goes back to when I was working for DC Comics, and was doing a signing at the DC pavilion at the San Diego ComiCon. I ran into one of their big-time, heavyweight writers, a guy who’d done multiple blockbuster books for DC and racked up walls full of awards. I hadn’t ever met him before, but he shook my hand and said, “Y’know, I always pick up your books, because I know when I see your name on the cover it’ll be top-quality.” (I eventually pried the stupid grin off my face.) Now, that was just one guy, of course, and he could’ve been blowing sunshine up my ass. But ideally? I’d love to instill that kind of confidence in all my readers. I’d love for people to see my name and, whatever medium it’s on, in whatever genre, for them to think, “Okay, I know this is going to be good.” Like virtually every creative type, I’m rife with insecurities, and I’m not saying I am that good. But it’s something to strive for.

SJ: Please tell us about your latest/favorite work or a little bit about what you’re working on right now. It’s plug time, so go for it!

DJ: Well, I’ve already said a few things about Gray Widow’s Walk, so I’ll just put the blurb right here on the page:

Janey Sinclair’s ability to teleport has always been a mystery to her. She tried for years to ignore it, but when tragedy shatters her life, Janey’s anger consumes her. She hones her fighting skills, steals a prototype suit of military body armor, and takes to the streets of Atlanta, venting her rage as the masked vigilante dubbed “the Gray Widow” by the press.

But Janey’s power, and her willingness to use it, plunges her into a conflict on a much grander scale than she had anticipated.

Soon she encounters Simon Grove, a bloodthirsty runaway with a shapeshifting ability gone horribly wrong…

Garrison Vessler, an ex-FBI agent and current private defense contractor, who holds some of the answers Janey’s been searching for…

And Tim Kapoor, the first person in years with a chance of breaking through Janey’s emotional shell — if she’ll let him.

But as Janey’s vigilantism gains worldwide attention, and her showdown with Simon Grove draws ever closer, the reason for her augmented abilities — hers and all the others like her — begins to reveal itself. Because, high above the Earth, other eyes are watching. And they have far-reaching plans…

Gray Widow’s Walk is book one of the Gray Widow Trilogy, to be followed by Gray Widow’s Web and Gray Widow’s War.

That’s from the back of the book, which debuted May 13 at StokerCon in Las Vegas. The following two books will come out one per year, unless I get them done sooner than that, which is entirely possible.

I’ve been trying to decide on the perfect way to sum the book up, and I’ve got a couple of possibilities. You could say that it’s like the Netflix version of Daredevil meets Red Sonja. You could say that it’s a sci-fi/action/horror story, since the principal antagonist, Simon Grove has been responsible for more than one reader’s nightmares. But really, it’s what happens when I get to tell a story entirely my way. No word count restrictions, no age-related language restrictions, no limits on the subject matter. Gray Widow’s Walk is the purest story I’ve ever told, and I’m beyond thrilled finally to have the chance to show it to people.

DanBeachHiRes

A Georgia native, Dan Jolley is an American author who writes novels, video games, and comic books, collects unmotivated felines, and should really go to the gym more. His first original novel trilogy, the YA sci-fi/espionage “Alex Unlimited,” was published in 2007. In 2016 he launched two new series, the superhero noir “Gray Widow Trilogy” and the Middle Grade urban fantasy series “Five Elements.” His comics work includes DC Comics’ Firestorm, Eisner Award nominated JSA: The Unholy Three, and TokyoPop’s The Lost Warrior, an extension of the Warriors novel series by Erin Hunter; his video games include Transformers: War For Cybertron and Fall of Cybertron, Dying Light, and Chronos. Dan and his wife, Tracy, live somewhere in the northwest Georgia foothills.

Website: www.danjolley.com
Twitter: @_DanJolley
Facebook: www.facebook.com/dan.jolley1
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Juniper Grove presents Shadowed by Ken Hughs

Published July 7, 2016 by admin

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It’s book blitz time again, so let’s check out a new title!

Shadowed

Title:  Shadowed

Author:   Ken Hughes

Published:   February 6, 2012

Publisher:   Windward Road Press

Genre:  Paranormal Thriller

He can hear a whisper a block away… and can’t remember why.

Open your mind, to a city where mystery chases up and down office back stairways, turns brother against brother, and plays out on frozen sidewalks where lives may be shattered if the enemy even looks at the ragged man passing by in the crowd—and even that man cannot guess what memory will be next to batter his mind.

Paul was no detective, no thief, only a student trying to get some distance from his father and brother. When he found himself marked by the power to enhance his senses, he had only that treacherous gift and what few tricks he dared to teach himself, to search for some explanation—or at least the chance to give it meaning by exposing a few petty corruptions.

Paul thought if he lived in poverty to keep his existence secret from the world, at least nobody could force him to use that gift as a weapon against others. But just when he thought he was untouchable, the last thing he expected shakes his world and drags him into the perils of his family, his power, and two women who each have a different claim on his life.

As Paul begins to play cat and mouse with enemies he can’t even name, he must break every rule that’s kept him alive, in every frantic chase and every gamble he makes to break his family free. And all the while, he knows his greatest enemy may still be what lies behind his own secrets.

If you think you know everything a paranormal thriller can do, take a closer look.

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***

Paul gritted his teeth. Gripping the metal piece as firmly as he could through the glove, he Opened to the shape in the shadows along the window, fighting to ignore the two memories so he could just see the wires, know the distance…

In one move, he reached down through the broken pane to stab the metal’s edge into the wood below, pressing its length between the sensors at just the proper angle. Nothing snapped, no alarm blared… and he yanked his hand back up as the dog snapped at him.

The metal stayed in place. He tried to Open his hearing to follow if the electrical path had changed, but all he heard were Quinn’s words and the dog’s thwarted growls.

Time to find out.

The dog watched his every motion now, so he took the last pigeon from his box and slid it through the hole. The dog barked as the bird fluttered by, but this time, it turned right back to the window as Paul reached in again to flip the latch.

He pulled his hand back in time, but the dog kept barking, and Paul could only hope the guard was still sick of false alarms. And that the other alarm here…

The window slid up, just three inches for now. No bells rang, but the dog snarled and snapped just beyond that gap.

And Paul raised the pet store’s spray bottle and squirted cleaning fluid into its face.

The dog yelped and pulled back, giving Paul a moment to fling the window up. As the dog started toward him again, he gave it another spray, then caught up the bird net and flung it over the beast.

Paul grabbed the bottle again and leaped through, into the room.

A few desks and cabinets stretched around him in the dim light. He turned back to see the dog already shaking off the thin net, as expected. He stepped back and pumped the spray as the dog charged—but it squirted once and then the trigger clicked in without pumping any liquid. He back-pedaled and pumped more slowly, but now the spray only made the dog flinch back a moment.

The inner door’s this way—Paul took a step, and his hip bashed the edge of a desk. The dog lunged.

He spun around the desk and threw himself at the door. For one frozen moment, he wondered if he’d ever heard the guard open it. What if it’s locked? Then he seized the handle and wrenched it open, which sent a spasm through his injured arm.

As he stepped through, the dog came up behind him. Paul ducked sideways and gave the spray bottle trigger one hard squeeze. The spray drove the dog back only a step, and Paul pumped wildly, felt the trigger catch on nothing—He smashed the bottle into the animal’s head, knocked the dog away, then leapt back out through the door and slammed it shut.

Gasping for breath, he listened to the dog’s muted barking for a moment. The spray bottle had split open in his hand, and he set the its remains quietly on the floor.

Paul looked past the desks to the office’s little file cabinet and then marched back to slide the window shut and gather up the net. That left him in the space between the alarms, with the dog trapped, and the guard tired of checking out all these noises.

“Alright, what now?” the guard growled, as the outer door’s lock clicked open. Paul dropped flat, behind a desk just as the light came on.

Ken-Hughes-Author

Ken Hughes is an urban fantasy writer living in Los Angeles, author of Shadowed and the upcoming The High Road. He’s also done technical writing for missions to Mars, and blogs about writing and genres at www.KenHughesAuthor.com.

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Southern Haunts 3: An interview with Alexander S. Brown

Published May 8, 2016 by admin

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It’s blog tour time! Today I have an interview with not only a fantastic editor and author, but one of my favorite people and podcasting co-host. But first, ze book.

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Genres/Subgenres: Horror, Short Story, Paranormal, Occult, Folklore/Southern Regional

Deep within the South, read about the magickal folk who haunt the woods, the cemeteries, and the cities. Within this grim anthology, eighteen authors will spellbind you with tales of hoodoo, voodoo, and witchcraft.

From this cauldron mix, readers will explore the many dangers lurking upon the Natchez Trace and in the Mississippi Delta. They will encounter a bewitched doll named Robert from the Florida Keys, and a cursed trunk that is better left closed. In the backstreets of New Orleans, they will become acquainted with scorned persons who will stop at nothing to exact their revenge.

These hair raising tales and more await you in Southern Haunts 3: Magick Beneath the Moonlight. Read if you dare.

Authors:

Alexander S. Brown

Angela Lucius

  1. H. David Blalock

C G Bush

Della West

Diane Ward

Elizabeth Allen

Greg McWhorter

John Hesselberg

Jonnie Sorrow

Kalila Smith

Linda DeLeon

Louise Myers

Melissa Robinson

Melodie Romeo

J L Mulvihill

Robert McGough

Tom Lucas

***

SJ: Tell us about SH3.  What makes it unique compared to 1&2?

ASB: Actually, each vol. of Southern Haunts is unique, as the subjects vary with each book.  Vol 1. Spirits that Walk Among Us, focused on ghosts.  Vol 2. Devils in the Darkness, featured on demonic entities.  Vol 3. Magick Beneath the Moonlight, regards witchcraft and cursed objects.

SJ: Why witches?  What attracts you to the theme?

ASB: I have always been attracted to the occult.  I find the whole subject fascinating and since Spirits that Walk Among Us was published, it was only a matter of time before we released an anthology about magickal persons.  But for this to happen, I had to wait.

For vol. 3 to be about witches, there is a great significance to the vol. number and the subject matter.  In the occult, there is the belief that what one puts out into the world comes back to them in triple abundance.  Also, in paganism, the maiden, the mother and the crone are recognized and honored as a trinity. These reasons are specifically why this vol. could be none other than occult related.

SJ: What makes for a good southern horror story?

ASB: Multiple elements can make a good southern horror story, such as elaborating about the habitat, cultural development, history, verbiage, and so forth.  But personally for me, what makes a southern horror story great, is the way that it is told.

Many times during childhood, I had found myself at family gatherings and I would overhear elderly relatives speak of infamous legends from the region.  The richness of their slang and phrases, made their ghost stories all the more horrifying, because it seemed more personal.  It seemed like the story tellers weren’t utilizing proper words and phrases to identify something infamous, they were using an age old southern dialect that seemed even more tangible.

SJ: Why do you think readers gravitate to themed horror like this, especially in short form?

ASB: I think the majority of readers are under attack from having a short attention span.  Because of life being so hectic, short stories can allow readers to enjoy complete stories in minimal time.  With the subjects being themed, it lets the reader know immediately what they are in store for.  This can result in a quicker purchase.  For example: Southern Haunts 3 is about witches, the title and cover image are self-explanatory.  If the reader loves witches, they are more likely to purchase.  If that reader is not a fan of magickal themed stories, then perhaps Southern Haunts vol. 1 or 2 is more their preference.

SJ: What are the benefits of anthologies?  Any downside?

The biggest benefit for an anthology is that it presents readers with a diversity of authors who they may not have read before.  This works well for the author because it can help them gain new fans.

The downside to anthologies is that no one really makes money, as book royalties are normally split between 15 to 20 creators.

SJ: Was it different wearing the editor hat compared to being an author?

ASB: It was quite different.  After finishing Southern Haunts vol. 1, I had a new respect for editors.  To me, writing is simple and relaxing, editing is time consuming and feels like work.  Although I prefer writing more than editing, editing the Southern Haunts series has improved my writing skills.

SJ:What is the best thing about putting a book like this together?  The most difficult?

ASB: The best thing about constructing an anthology is seeing likeminded authors come together and submit their creativity.  It is a good feeling to know that other names in the profession want to work with you and contribute stories that might have been stuck in their head for quite some time.

The downside is when I have to reject stories.  I can understand how an author might think that it’s so easy for an editor to dismiss a story, and this isn’t the case.  For me, sending a rejection email, hurts me just as much as it does the author.

SJ: Any advice to authors who are interested in submitting to anthologies?

ASB: First, research the publisher before you submit.

SJ: Second, follow the guidelines.  Sometimes guidelines are overly specific with their requirements, even down to spacing, font, and letter size.  Obey all of these rules.  A lot of times, editors will use these demands as ways to see if the author payed attention, or cares about their work.

SJ: What’s next for Southern Haunts? For you as an author?

ASB: For Southern Haunts vol. 4, we are anticipating creature stories.  We haven’t decided on a title yet, but it will follow the theme of its predecessors, but with monsters.

I have a few books that are in the works.  One of which is in the final edit stage, and is being published by Pro Se Press, this will be a collection of Halloween stories called The Night the Jack O’ Lantern Went Out.  I have one story left to write before Traumatized pt 2 is complete, and The Looking Glass Creatures is currently undergoing a massive edit.

AlexanderSBrown

Alexander S. Brown is a Mississippi author who was published in 2008 with his first book Traumatized. Reviews for this short story collection were so favorable that it has been released as a special edition by Pro Se Press. Brown is currently one of the co-editors/coordinators with the Southern Haunts Anthologies published by Seventh Star Press. His horror novel Syrenthia Falls is represented by Dark Oak Press.

He is also the author of multiple young adult steampunk stories found in the Dreams of Steam Anthologies, Capes and Clockwork Anthologies, and the anthology Clockwork Spells and Magical Bells. His more extreme works can be found in the anthologies Luna’s Children published by Dark Oak Press and State of Horror: Louisiana Vol 1 published by Charon Coin Press.

Visit Smashwords.com, Amazon.com, and Barnesandnoble.com to download his monthly short stories known as Single Shots. These are represented by Pro Se Press and they are known as stories that will be featured in the upcoming book The Night the Jack O’Lantern Went Out.

 

Juniper Grove Presents: Eli’s Coming by Darcia Helle

Published March 3, 2016 by admin

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Time for another look at titles that are out there waiting to be discovered!

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Title:    Eli’s Coming

Series:   Chasing the Night, Book 1

Author:  Darcia Helle

Published:  May 11th, 2015

Genre:  Supernatural Suspense

Content Warning:   Moderate violence and adult language

Synopsis:  Eli’s dark legacy holds murder as his rite of passage. They say his ability is a gift. He calls it a curse. A life of violence and heartache leaves him with nothing left to fight for.

Or so he thinks.

Amanda steals his heart, but love makes him vulnerable. He must give her up or accept who he is and fight.

Will he risk stepping into the darkness that could consume him?

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The allure of the night is its ability to pull you into its depths, to keep you hidden in its crevices. The darkness wraps around you. Nothing reaches you there.

And you reach nothing.

Have you ever wanted to melt into the darkness? Dissolve into the shadows?

You can lose yourself in the black emptiness. But while you may lose yourself, the night always knows where you are.

Eli Hayes stood alone in the darkness. The night sky was clear, lit by the stars and a perfect quarter moon. Shadows fell across the ground, casting a thick and almost tangible black film. He was aware of the tension in his shoulders and the ache in his jaw. Closing his eyes, he breathed in slow and deep. He stayed that way, quietly meditating, until the pain melted away.

When he opened his eyes again, the shadows followed the path of the gravestones. He squatted in front of a square chunk of marble. He read the name and date slowly, committing it to memory as if he’d later be quizzed on the information. As if it wasn’t already etched in his mind, a permanent fixture there.

He reached out. The stone felt cold against his fingertips. He traced the letters. Deep grooves in cold rock. All that was left at the end of existence

Darcia-Helle

Darcia Helle lives in a fictional world with a husband who is sometimes real. Their house is ruled by spoiled dogs and cats and the occasional dust bunny.

Suspense, random blood spatter and mismatched socks consume Darcia’s days. She writes because the characters trespassing through her mind leave her no alternative. Only then are the voices free to haunt someone else’s mind.

 

 

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Juniper Grove Presents: Ariel Rising

Published January 12, 2016 by admin

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Blog tour time again! I’ve got a great interview today for you, but first, you know the rules…let’s check out the book!

 

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Title:   Ariel Rising

Author:  AJ and CS Sparber

Published:  October 30th, 2015

Publisher:  Mind’s Eye Press

Genre:  YA Paranormal

Recommended Age:  14+

Synopsis:

My dreams were simple. College, a career, and let’s see what happens from there. But things don’t always go according to plan.

My name is Ari Worthington and I’ve had a very eventful week. A life-changing week. The kind of week that would make the average person whimper.

It started when my ex-boyfriend Luke accosted me in the woods.

How badly was I injured? Not a scratch. And Luke? Not so lucky. Nope, I whupped him good. It surprised the heck out of me. And it probably surprised him, too—once he woke up.

And then I met Davin. Handsome, witty, amazing Davin. Perfect in every way, unless you think being an alien, from a planet called Olympus, might be a liability.

“Seriously? Your planet is named after a Greek mountain?” I ask him.

“Actually, it’s the other way around,” he tells me. “The mountain was named after us. We’ve been visiting Earth for a very, very long time. As a matter of fact, we are responsible for human evolution.”

So, ancient aliens are real? Yeah. But there’s more. Davin’s an angel, which I could have handled, would have handled, if only he hadn’t told me I was one, too.

“But we don’t have wings,” I say.

“Real angels don’t need wings,” he counters.

“Ah, that explains everything,” I reply.

So, you think this is just another angel story? Well, it’s not. It’s got humor, romance, adventure, science, tragedy, and… did I say romance? It’ll make you think, and laugh, and cry.

Davin and I, you see, are part of a larger plan. A noble plan. A plan to save the sons and daughters of man, or what’s left of them, after the war. A big war.

Okay, enough of my rambling. Davin and I need to get back to training. And you’ve got some reading to do, yeah?

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***

SJ: Every writer has some sort of process. Give us a glimpse into yours. Do you meticulously outline? Do you write depending on what calls are out there?

AJ&CS: We frame a very broad outline, covering major plot points, chronology, and character descriptions. From that point, we tend to let the characters pull us through their story. In many ways, they develop a life of their own. Perhaps it can be called FI (fictional intelligence). We’ve heard it before, but never believed it until we started writing. Yes, our characters do speak to us. They really do.

As a writing team, we assume very clear roles. For example, AJ is the lead writer for this series, and CS (Carol) is the lead editor. Each chapter, when completed, gets uploaded to our Kindles, where we use the Notes feature to make edits and recommend changes. We then discuss those edits and commit them to the manuscript. We’re not sure how many writers work this way, but we’ve found it amazingly productive.

And since we are a happily married writing team, we get to practice the love scenes. Okay, probably a little too much information, but…

SJ: What’s the book/story that’s closest to your heart? Is there a piece that you clearly feel is a piece of you? Do you play favorites?

AJ&CS: Well, Arial Rising is the first book in our first series, so right now it is nearest and dearest to our hearts. That said, there is a lot of my husband and me in Davin and Ariel. We’re kind of all very closely related.

SJ: If you could only write one genre ever again upon pain of being sacrificed to Cthulhu, what would it be and why?

 AJ&CS: Young Adult. Young adults are old enough to have formed an intellectual foundation, yet young enough to be open to new ideas. Of course, there is no age limit to being a young adult. In fact, many of our favorite young adult friends have a few wrinkles. Of course, being a professor and a software engineer, we do get back to the real world often enough to keep things interesting. And my husband has this idea of someday writing paranormal software applications, but every time he finishes one, it kind of disappears…into thin air. He’s working on it, though. He really is.

 SJ: What’s your biggest frustration as a writer? What do you consider the downside, or is there one? Is there any cliché that makes you want to wring people’s necks?

AJ&CS: Downside? Hmm. Not really. I think that if you write because you love to write, and you have a story to tell, then there is only an upside—that your voice will be heard. On the other hand, if your chief motivation is profit, it could make for a frustrating journey.

There are many clichés we’ve seen in the hundreds of YA books we’ve read for research. There’s the bad boy character that seems to be in an awful lot of books. Last we checked, there are still a fairly large number of good boys…at least where we live. That’s not to say we don’t like a little edge to our characters, because we do. But a girl shouldn’t always have to endure emotional torture in order to win her guy’s heart. It gets old sometimes.

SJ: If you had to be stuck in one of your own books/stories for the rest of your life, what would it be and why? If you had to stick a loved one in one of your own books, what would it be and why? An enemy?

AJ&CS: I think I’d like to be stuck in Episode 3 of Between Two Worlds: A New Beginning. It’s due out in late 2016 and there’s going to be such a surprising turn of events. In fact, I think I’ll take the whole family there. Our readers will never see it coming. For my enemies, I will banish them to live in the dystopian world of  Episode 2: The Battle for Earth. It will be very tough for them to survive (play evil laugh track here).

SJ: Do you think it’s possible to develop a sure-fire recipe/formula for success as a writer? Would you want to, or does that compromise the art or the fun of it?

AJ&CS: The best laid plans? I’m not certain a surefire plan can even exist. Stuff always seems to happen. Things change. We change. I’d hate for us to have to file away a great idea just because it doesn’t fit a certain formula. I hope that the artistic aspects of storytelling always take the spotlight for us. Yeah! I think that’s the fun part.

SJ: Everyone has words of wisdom for young writers, so I’m not going to ask you about that. With a few unknown writers becoming success stories, a lot of people seem to think it’s an easy career choice. What would your words of wisdom be to these people?

AJ&CS: Learn to write well. Paint with words. Alliterate. Command the English language. Understand that Tom and me did not go to the mall. Tom and I did. And know that Jill did not follow Bob and I. She followed Bob and me. If you do not have a seasoned command of grammar, then seek out someone who does, and have him or her read your manuscript. If a bad report is had, then you will want to find and hire a good editor.

SJ: It seems like everyone likes to gang up on certain genres as being inferior, less meaningful, or cheap entertainment (especially if it’s speculative in nature). Make a case for the genre you write.

SJ&CS: The best case we can make for our genre is that we like it, it fits the story we want to tell, and so it is comfortable for our project. The story comes from the heart and the brain; the genre comes from the story. It’s a kind of natural flow.

SJ: What do you want people to instantly think of when they hear your name or your work mentioned?

AJ&CS: Quality writing and immersive stories.

SJ: Please tell us what’s up next for you. It’s plug time, so go for it!

AJ&CS: We are currently close to a first draft of the second book in our Ariel, Between Two Worlds series, which will be called The Battle for Earth. The middle volume in Ariel’s story will take a darker, more dystopian turn as the angels of Paradise mount a war against the Fallen. You’ll be riveted, we promise, and you’ll get to meet some uniquely fascinating new characters!

AJ and CS Sparber

When it comes to being a husband and wife (or wife and husband) writing team, there are advantages, or benefits. Chief among them is that you get to practice the love scenes. He writes, she steers, and…well, it’s fun. He is a software designer and she is a doctor of education. AJ and CS Sparber live in the lovely town of Hudson, Ohio, with their son Ryan, their daughter Melanie, and an Aussie shepherd named Hunter.

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Juniper Grove Presents: Cursed Rebel by HG Lynch

Published August 17, 2015 by admin

Cursed-Rebel-Banner

After a bit of some downtime, it’s time to be back, and with a title I think you’re gonna like! Also, be sure to take a look around my blog, because I’m participating in the Night Owl Reviews scavenger hunt, and there’s a graphic hidden on one of my pages! But back to our regularly scheduled book loving…

Cursed-Rebel

Title: Cursed Rebel

Author:  H.G. Lynch

Published:  July 14th, 2015

Publisher:  Crushing Hearts and Black Butterfly Publishing

Genre:  Young Adult Fantasy

Recommended Age:  15+

Synopsis:  Never trust a pretty face. My grandma taught me that. She warned me about the Fair Folk but I never believed her…until I was kidnapped by one. And damn, he is pretty.

But Fin was sent to bring me to his King, and if I want to survive the Otherworld, I have no choice but to trust him – for now.

Oh, and did I mention my sexy best friend is hunting me? I should’ve listened to Gran.

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Excerpt:

Looking at the faery boy in front of me, with his exquisite features and striking eyes, I thought that Grandma had been right. I was realising she had been right about a lot of things. I wished I’d listened to her better, wished I’d believed her when she warned me about the Fair Folk.

Staring into those inhumanly bright eyes, seeing the glitter of something cruel beneath that prettiness, I whimpered. I didn’t mean to, and the second I did, I wished I hadn’t. I couldn’t show fear there, or the beautiful monsters would tear me apart like well-disguised lions.

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Giveaway Details:

There is a tour wide giveaway. Prizes include the following:

  • $15 Amazon gift card

Giveaway is International.

Enter the Giveaway Here!

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Excerpt: Candles (a holiday zombie story)

Published December 15, 2014 by admin

Those who know me well enough (or pay attention to my bloggy ramblings) know by now that this time of year is a mixed bag for me. I don’t necessarily like the cynical part of myself or the part that gets beaten down by emotion from time to time, but it exists. Thankfully, the part that will gnaw off a metaphorical limb to keep going and the part that is determined to see a bit of light in everything also exists. Therefore, stories like this aren’t really out of the norm for me. I’ll warn you, this is not a pleasant holiday story, and it’s not the full story, but an excerpt. The full story can be found in Lost in the Shadows. One of these days I’m hoping to do a collection of dark holiday fiction, because these ideas come easily and they admittedly fascinate me. I like the dichotomy of things falling apart during a time that’s supposed to be a celebration and very well put together. It’s an amplified examination of holiday stress in some ways. Also, bizarrely, the only zombie fiction ideas I ever have are Christmas themed.

***

If it was any other Christmas, the candles would have been purple, pink, and white. As it was, Jamie had been lucky to find extra candles at all.

“This Christmas sucks. No turkey, no presents. We don’t even get a tree,” Tony whined from his seat in the shed’s corner. Jamie bit her lip against the sudden urge to cry. Of all the horrors they’d seen lately, it was her thirteen-year-old that was making her break down. The worst part was that he was right. Celebrating was a stupid idea that just made it all worse. She couldn’t save her family, or even give them a proper holiday. What kind of a mother am I?

“We have a lot of things,” Grant reminded him. There he was, coming to her aid once again. Every time they ran out of food, every time Tony or her five-year-old Andy got sick, every time the undead got riled and tried to charge their hiding spot of the moment, he was there with an answer. He gave her a tight smile over her oldest’s head. He looked as ragged as the rest of them did, but his drawn face didn’t look bad on him. His sandy brown hair didn’t show the light blond in it unless she looked really hard, and they hadn’t been alone enough lately for her to have a chance to look. His grey eyes were reassuring, though there was exhaustion in them, too. It was the same fatigue they all felt, the thing that chased them more than the zombies. It gnawed at them daily, made every little task an ordeal, dragged them lower and lower into submission to the new way of things. “We have a place to sleep. We have food for a few days. We have each other,” he urged. His eyes danced just a little, for her sake.

She echoed his smile, though she had to work to make her mouth move. She hadn’t felt a reason to really smile in so long; even the good moments were quickly overshadowed by another death, another problem, another strange shadow cast on the wall, another night filled with unearthly moaning, another attack. “That’s all we need,” Jaime agreed and wrapped both boys in her shivering arms. How long before I lose them? How long before I lose myself? Grant carefully struck one of their last matches and lit the candles in the Advent wreath made from barbed wire. His large fingers almost hid the match, but they couldn’t hide the tiny, beautiful spark.

“The first candle symbolizes hope.” The tiny blue flame struggled to stay alive. Jamie ran a hand through her dark, tangled hair and wiped it on her stained jeans to rid her hand of the oil. There hadn’t been a good time to wash it lately, especially with the cold weather. Tony and Andy weren’t particularly put out by not being able to take a bath, but it was a little comfort she missed.

Hope. It’s hard to have hope when Amanda was ripped apart by monsters, she thought, shuddering. She closed her eyes and pushed the thought of her baby away. She replayed the scene in her head constantly: how she’d gone to the nursery to check on her, how she’d found the screen knocked out of the open window, how three ugly corpses had been fighting over the infant’s remains. She’d only escaped because her husband Jason had dragged her away, forcing her to take Tony and Andy with her. She hadn’t seen his fate, but his screams had suddenly stopped when they’d reached the front door. The only reason she’d kept on running was because of her boys. That had been in June.

The only hope I have is that Grant found us, she sighed, and tried to focus on his rugged face and not the determined memory of her husband. Guilt came in bucketfulls when one had nothing else to think about besides surviving and the past.

“The second candle is preparation,” Grant continued, gently talking to the boys as he guided his hands to the next candle, his free hand guarding the little flame. Jamie chewed the inside of her lip and curled the dirty blanket she’d found tighter around her. Who can prepare for something like this? Decades of horror movies, of thinking about the most awful things, and there was still nothing we could all do to prepare for this. She glanced to the gun in her hands, stroked the barrel idly. They were down to their last three bullets unless they could find more. The heavy snowstorm three days ago had deterred the hordes that had been quickly giving chase to anything they considered worth eating, but it also made going on supply runs difficult.

She didn’t even know where they were now, except that they had been heading north towards Canada, where the hordes were supposed to be minimal thanks to the cold. They’d raided the empty downtown area of a small town a few weeks ago, and ended up in an abandoned shack on some abandoned plot of land. There wasn’t much cover so she was always sitting there, waiting for the final attack to come, but the weather had helped, at least. None of it, though, was anything anyone could prepare for. It had just happened. As of yet no one even knew how it had started, or if they did they weren’t sharing. Couldn’t share, more likely. Everyone was so cut off from each other, electricity and phone lines were rare, never mind a wireless signal.

“Joy,” Grant narrated, lighting the next candle, moving the match away at the last minute when Andy reached for it.

“I wanna help!” he complained.

“You’re just gonna ruin it or cut yourself again!” Tony grumbled and hunkered deeper into the hooded sweatshirt that was at least four sizes too big for him. “Butthead.”

Grant grabbed Andy’s arm away before he cut it on the barbed wire of the wreath. “C’mere, you, let’s do it this way,” he chuckled and shook the match out. Jaime watched as he helped her youngest get hold of one of the lit candles, carefully guiding the boy’s movements with his giant hand over the tiny one. “There we go…joy.”

“Joy, joy, joy!” Andy sing-songed. He was always doing that, making up little tunes from something one of them said. It had been cute when they’d lived in a nice house and had only the usual things to worry about. The last time he’d done it he’d alerted a shuffling corpse that had gone off on its own for some reason, though that wasn’t usually part of zombie behavior.

No. You know why that thing was on its own. She cleared her throat and blushed when Tony rolled his eyes. He knew how she covered her emotions all too well. You didn’t cover them up then, did you? You ran out and saw your little boy about to meet the same fate as your baby girl. You did what any mother would have done. She shivered and wrapped the blanket tighter. It was so hard to get warm when she’d lost so much weight and her clothes hung on her. You rushed right out, Grant’s advice be damned, and tore that bastard apart limb from limb. She could still feel the blood oozing over her hands, the cold flesh soft and slimy in her grip and smearing dirt on her clothes. It was only once she’d taken the head and gone to retrieve the pieces for burning that she thought to look at the face.

Jason. The thing after her son was half-eaten and had suffered more decay than any living thing had a right to, but it had been Jason. It was hard to feel joy after that.

It’s Christmas, she reminded herself. You’re still alive. You have most of your family. You have Grant. You have more than a lot of people do. Besides, it’s the season of magic and miracles. Maybe a cure will be found. Maybe the weather will kill the rest of them. Maybe everything will all go away over the winter. When she was ten, she’d finally found out the truth about Santa. Her mother had sat her down and explained the facts, but allowed her to be part of the magic from the other side, putting stockings and special gifts together for her little sister who was six years younger. She had done so, always the good and obedient older daughter, but it wasn’t enough. Christmas was about the impossible, the magical. When she’d been alone at night, tucked in her bed, she’d convince herself that her parents were wrong, that somewhere, somehow, there really was a Santa Claus. He just hadn’t been discovered yet, and his legend was so big that he was able to hide behind it, delivering his presents in a way that no one would be able to catch him at. She’d always been good at convincing herself the impossible was possible. Unfortunately, her belief system was running on empty lately.