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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.

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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.

 

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TCM Presents: Hades’ Disciples by Michael West

Published July 7, 2014 by admin

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I’m really excited to finally (FINALLY) get my bud Michael West on here to talk about writing. Before I ever met him I was orbiting him for years, and I’m pretty sure there was at least one convention where I was too scared to death to talk to him because he was so far ahead of me and I never thought I’d ever get a project picked up by a publisher, let alone be able to sell anything. And now he has to talk to me every week, mwahahahaha. This is all part of my master plan…

Anyway, he has book 2 of the Legacy of the Gods series out (finally :D), and he is here today!

 

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Terrifying creatures exist all around us, hiding in plain sight. Ancient. Deadly. They gather in secret, conspiring, dreaming of nothing less than humanity’s destruction, and their numbers are growing.

Earl Preston knows the danger all too well. After tangling with a horde of mythological sea monsters in Colonial Bay, he has been tasked with finding these beasts and exposing their plans whatever they may be. But Earl is not the only one with a mystery on their hands. At the very top of the world, Carol Miyagi has stumbled onto an artifact from Earth’s past, something magnificent held captive in a prison of ice and snow. Now, Carol and Earl must work quickly to decipher the will of the gods–a plot that defies imagination–and to stop their followers from carrying it out.

They thought the nightmare was over, but they are about to discover that the horror has only just begun.

Hades Disciples is Book Two in the Legacy of the Gods Series.

 

***

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?

MW: I do a bit of both, actually.  I do some outlining, but the characters really dictate what happens.  In the past, I’ve planned to kill off characters only to have them do something totally unexpected and live.  And in one case, my novel Spook House, the intended victim ended up being one of the stars of the story.

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?

MW: Nothing too weird, but I do like it to be as dark as possible when I write, so I close all the blinds and turn out all the lights.

SJ: Do you believe in the muse?

MW: I do.  My muse is very temperamental, and she comes and goes as she pleases. 

SJ: 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?

MW: I do dream some ideas, and many of them come to me in the shower, in that foggy twilight between sleep and being totally alert.

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?  

MW: She’s a spirited redhead with fairy wings, and she likes to read a lot.

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?

MW: I don’t really play favorites.  I always think that the last thing I wrote is the best thing I’ve ever written.  That said, however, I do have a special place in my heart for the story “Jiki.”  And my story “Goodnight” is one that I read aloud a lot when asked to do readings.  As far as novels go, The Wide Game captures my teenage years pretty well.  There were no demons or murders, mind you, but it is probably the closest thing to an autobiography that I’ve ever written.

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

MW: I write Sci-fi and Fantasy, but Horror has always been a part of my life.  It’s what I love to read, what I like to watch, and what I will always love to write.

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?

MW: I hate clumsy dialogue and weak female characters.  I think everyone has an inner strength, they just need the right circumstances to bring it out.  And people who write bad dialogue have either never heard people talk, or they never took the time to read the words out loud.  I always read my dialogue aloud.  If it doesn’t sound real, I re-write it until it does. (Ed. from SJ- THIS – SO THIS! TAKE THIS TO HEART, WORLD!)

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?

MW: I would love to be one of Poseidon’s Children or Hades’ Disciples, be able to change shape at will and swim into the depths or take flight.  I think that would be amazing.

SJ: If you had to stick a loved one in one of your own books, what would it be and why?

MW: I would probably pick “Goodnight,” because that has a very positive message on love and everlasting life.  Or maybe “Hell’s Hollow.”  I think it would be fun to visit that festival once in a while.

SJ: An enemy?

MW: I would love to feed them to Jiki, my Japanese demon.

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?

MW: I don’t think there is a sure-fire formula.  There are hacks who have become wealthier than Midas, and great artist who have never seen their works published.  I just write what I want to read, and I have worked hard to find the right homes for my creations, supportive editors and publishers who are as passionate about my work as I am.

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?

MW: Writing is hard work.  You have all of these people in your head fighting to get out, and you constantly question whether or not what you are doing is working.  Unlike actors or musicians on a stage, there is no instant feedback.  It may be days or weeks or months before anyone gets around to reading what you’ve written and can give you any comments or suggestions.  Even then, the chances of finding a good publisher are very slim, and the chances of landing those six-figure deals you read about are even slimmer.  Sometimes I find myself wondering why I do what I do, and the answer is simple: because I’m a storyteller, and I have to tell these stories or go insane.  As I tell my wife, writing stories is much cheaper than therapy.  

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.

MW: Horror, Sci-fi, and Fantasy allow us to make observations of our own world and comment on various important issues without sounding obvious or preachy.  We can turn a fun house mirror on ourselves and show readers how ridiculous certain practices and prejudices are, and because we are talking about ghosts or monsters or aliens, people who would otherwise be turned off by an issue or a theme may get to see and experience another point of view.

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

MW: I want people to see my name on a book cover and know instantly that, no matter what the story is, they are in for a great ride.

 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!

MW: My latest novel (which is my favorite right now) is The Legacy of the Gods Book Two: Hades’ Disciples.

Terrifying creatures exist all around us, hiding in plain sight. Ancient. Deadly. They gather in secret, conspiring, dreaming of nothing less than humanity’s destruction, and their numbers are growing.

Earl Preston knows the danger all too well. After tangling with a horde of mythological sea monsters in Colonial Bay, he has been tasked with finding these beasts and exposing their plans whatever they may be. But Earl is not the only one with a mystery on their hands. At the very top of the world, Carol Miyagi has stumbled onto an artifact from Earth’s past, something magnificent held captive in a prison of ice and snow. Now, Carol and Earl must work quickly to decipher the will of the gods–a plot that defies imagination–and to stop their followers from carrying it out.

They thought the nightmare was over, but they are about to discover that the horror has only just begun.

I am also working on a short story collection, Straightjacket Memories, due out this fall, and the next novel in the Legacy series, Zeus’ Warriors.

 

***

MichaelWestAuthorPhoto

 

Michael West is the bestselling author of Cinema of Shadows, Skull Full of Kisses, The Wide Game, Spook House, and the critically acclaimed Legacy of the Gods series. He lives and works in the Indianapolis area with his wife, their two children, their turtle, Gamera, and their dog, King Seesar.

West avoids manhole covers and sidewalk grates whenever possible. He just doesn’t know what’s down there, and he’s not sure he wants to find out.

Website:  http://www.bymichaelwest.com

 Twitter: @bymichaelwest

 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/bymichaelwestpage

 

Available Now: The Realm Beyond Issue 5

Published July 1, 2014 by admin

I’m always thrilled when I get to participate in different projects with other authors. I’m also always humbled when people approach me. A while ago, the good people at The Realm Beyond sent me a gorgeous image they’d wanted to use for a cover and asked if I’d write a story to go with it. “Uh, yeah,” was my immediate response. While I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with it, it definitely spoke to me. There was something alien yet fragile about the creature in the picture, and I found myself wondering what kind of a being she was.

Somehow, my love of history, interest in Lovecraft, and love of fairy tales all had a questionable night together and produced the story Marina, which is featured in this issue. It’s part The Little Mermaid, part eldergod lore, and part 1800s economic collapse in American industry. I don’t know about you, but that says good time to me!

Seriously, I’m really proud of this story of a girl with amnesia who hears strange voices in her head, prompting her that she only has so many days to resolve a problem she’s not sure about. When a wealthy but troubled family of industry take her in, she finds herself at the center of something much bigger than she initially realizes. Can kindness and love help overcome enormous problems and odds, or will both the family in question and Marina be left to drown in their troubles? You’ll have to get the issue to find out, and I urge you to because there are some fantastic authors in this one, including my pal L. Andrew Cooper!

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Order your copy of The Realm Beyond Issue 5 here!

And in case you’re curious, here’s a little bit of an excerpt of Marina to whet your appetite…

 

The voices rushed into her ears, ebbing and flowing like a tide.

There’s no place left for you.

Will you live? Will you die? Only time can tell and fate knows for sure.

All will be decided in three days.

Her eyes snapped open.

Sunlight filtered between heavy squares of hanging cloth. Even that sliver of light was blinding and she lifted a heavy hand to shield her eyes. Her head was supported by soft…pillows? The word was strange and unfamiliar, but felt right. She was in a bed. Her body ached. When she moved her body felt awkward and foreign.

Where…?

Before she could add to the thought, an entrance appeared at the far end of the room. Two figures approached, tiny sparks in their hands. Her fingers clenched and she braced to…to what? Cold fear swept over her, smothering knowledge that was just out of her grasp.

“She’s awake,” a soft voice said.

“It was bound to happen soon,” another voiced answered. It was older than the first and full of knowing humor. A silhouette came closer and the dancing spark – a tiny flame on a lamp – crept closer to her face. It wasn’t as bad as the sun, but still she winced. “Close the curtains, Ida. It could well take time for our guest to adjust to bright light.”

“Yes, Mother.” The blinding sliver was covered. The little flames leapt and spread throughout the room, springing up again on new lamps until she had a better view of her…what? Captors? Rescuers?

“That’s better, isn’t it?” the older voice asked and a round face leaned close. It was marred by the wrinkles and spots, and framed by yellow-white hair pulled back in a severe bun that contrasted the woman’s gentle demeanor. “Poor thing. Feeling better at all?” She smoothed her large skirt as she settled into a chair. Her words were thickened with an accent that was much lighter on the younger woman’s words.

“Yes.” The girl in the bed struggled to say the word. She knew it, yet she didn’t quite know it. “I think so.”

The younger woman was also dressed in finery and wore her hair up, but her skin was still smooth. Her grey eyes and dark hair danced with a fire that was still childlike though she was obviously a lady. “You gave us quite a scare, especially Adam.”

The newcomer’s confusion must have been palpable, for the old lady took pity on her. “My son, the head of the family now that my Emile is gone. He found you in the river by his sawmill. Poor boy thought you were already drowned.”

“The doctor said you just needed rest. Nothing appeared broken or harmed, but are you all right, otherwise? Are you in trouble with someone? Only the workers go to the mill, and they can be a rough group. Did something happen to you?” the younger woman pressed.

The girl shrunk back against the pillows, feeling small and vulnerable, a combination that disgusted her for a reason she couldn’t fathom. “I…” She searched her memory, but the past events kept slipping out of reach, drifting deeper and deeper away.

Every gift has a price to pay, the voices chortled.

“Now, now. It isn’t good to press her too fast.. Poor thing was found nearly drowned, washed up at the river’s edge. Is it any wonder she doesn’t know her past from her future?” the older woman soothed and placed one trembling, ancient hand on the girl’s smaller one.  A soft jolt like the sting of a jellyfish startled the girl. More confusing was that she could feel the life pulsing in the old woman’s veins, robust for the moment yet frail in the long-term. There was a subtle power that flowed in her blood, though, the power of what? Determination? Belief? Disturbed, the girl slid her hand out from under the gnarled one, shivering.

The old woman smiled. “Don’t worry, dear girl. Everything will be sorted out. You may call me Elise and this is my daughter, Ida. Now we must have something to call you.”

Panic swelled up with the confusion. “But I don’t know—”

Elise waved it away as though it was a minor ripple. “For now, you can be Marina. A good name for one found in the water.”

Despite the confusion, the name pleased her; a soft flush rose to her cheeks as she studied the wizened face at her side.

They’ll forget about you like everyone else.

***

Curious? Be sure to check out issue 5 to see how things are resolved, as well as check out more intriguing stories by some talented authors!

 

WeWriWa: Mooner

Published June 29, 2014 by admin

I’m once more trying to get back in the swing of things after a fairly busy past few months. Today’s eight is from a re-release of my historical vampire story, Mooner. This bit is when Bill, the naive upstart in the lumber camp, notices Tom, a reclusive, down-and-out  fur-trader, in Red’s Saloon. While Big John and the others make fun of him, something about the older man seems off and not quite right. He’s not going anywhere, though, until he gets what he wants…

***

“What…what you want me to do for a drink?” At first it didn’t register that Tom had actually spoken. His voice was high and reedy and cracked the way the thinnest ice along the river did.

“Pardon?”

“What you want me to do for a drink?” His lips cracked when his mouth moved. A thin trail of spittle dripped off his lower lip and was quickly caught up by the tip of the derelict’s seeking tongue. The distant gleam in Tom’s eyes burned as his mouth formed the last word.

For More Snippets of Stories, Check out Weekend Writing Warriors!

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Kindle         Nook      MMP Store

Like many young men at the end of the 1800s, Bill signed on to work in a logging camp. The work is brutal, but it promised a fast paycheck with which he can start his life. Unfortunately, his role model is Big John. Not only is he the camp’s hero, but he’s known for spending his pay as fast as he makes it. On a cold Saturday night they enter Red’s Saloon to forget the work that takes the sweat and lives of so many men their age. Red may have plans for their whiskey money, but something else lurks in the shadows. It watches and badly wants a drink that has nothing to do with alcohol. Can Bill make it back out the shabby door, or does someone else have their own plans for his future?

 

More reviews and guest posts!

Published June 12, 2014 by admin

I’m here, I swear! I wanted to pass around some links of places I visited at the end of the blog tour that I didn’t share yet, so that is today’s business!

Exquisite Corpse – I did a guest post here about the enduring appeal of fairy tales. It’s an issue that’s near and dear to my heart and I could easily talk your ear off and put you to sleep for a hundred years discussing it.

Bees Knees Reviews – A really wonderful, heartfelt review of Olde School. I love all sorts of feedback, but it really makes me happy when someone latches onto the story with the same fervor I felt writing it!

I Smell Sheep – Paddlelump struggles to write a post about troll stereotypes in modern Kingdom City society. Ippick helps.

Seers, Seraphs, Immortals, and more! – A really excellent interview about the process behind Olde School. This is quite possibly the only time in life I’ll ever be referred to as brilliant, stunning, or incandescent, so I plan on milking this for all it’s worth. That’s right, I’m INCANDESCENT. I’m thinking this should at least be a blurb on book two, and I may have to start using that description on all my business cards.  I love this interview because I was given the chance to show my less snarky, more positive side about genre fiction and how I approach writing. And the Paddlelump evolution story is in this one, too. I haven’t gotten a restraining order yet and people keep getting amused about it, so that’ll probably make it’s way into a post about character development someday.

 

Kingdom City Guest Post: Letting it All Go by Uljah Toothgnasher

Published May 29, 2014 by admin

So yeah, my apologies that I’ve let things sit for a couple of days. The blog tour has me pretty busy, probably busier than I’d anticipated. Still, I want people to be able to amuse themselves while I’m away, so I have some interesting prospects to take my place for the moment. Take this guy, for example.

A Discretionary Note from Selah Janel: DO NOT FOLLOW THESE GUIDELINES. JUST DON’T. THIS IS STUPID AND I’M ONLY POSTING IT BECAUSE ULJAH IS IN MY BOOK. THIS SOLVES NOTHING AND IS HILARIOUS BUT NO. JUST…NO.

 

Letting It All Go: Why Not Caring is the Solution

in Your Daily Life or When Your Realm is at an End

by Uljah Toothgnasher

It seems these days, whether ya live in the farmlands, the suburbs, or the city proper, that there’s a lot of stress. It don’t matter if you happen to be a person, a troll, an ogre, or even a pixie or elf. These days, we all got a lot to worry ’bout. Gettin’ a job, keepin’ a job, gettin’ a spouse, hidin’ from a spouse, deciding whether to have kids or leave them in a forest somewhere, contemplating stock and retirement options…there’s a lot to think about. So what’s a poor sod to do?

Ignore it.

Yep, it’s that easy. Just don’t pay it no mind, don’t even acknowledge that it exists. It’ll go away, or the police or Sheriff or whatever’ll come and lock you in a dungeon and then you won’t have to worry ’bout nothin’ no more.

But Uljah, I hear you whine, there’s repercussions for everything! How can you sit there and blather such tripe into a little laptop and expect us to believe you? Where’s your proof? Where’s your experience?

I’m here to tell you that the fact that I’m still standing is experience and proof enough. In one bloody spring (figuratively and literally) a friend and I were nearly mugged, involved in a brawl, plus I was kidnapped and almost ritually sacrificed. Granted, it reminded me of my honeymoon, but it wasn’t no fun, I can tell you that. Add to that all the charges the wife was ringin’ up on me cards and the coins she was diggin’ up from the yard and it just was one giant mess.

Spindles and briars! I hear you gasp. Bluebeard’s balls, what did you do, Uljah?!

Simple. I just went with it. There comes a point where you gotta realize even if things get worse, they’ll get so bad that you won’t be part of the equation, so you won’t have to worry about it!

The mugger was actually an assassin, but he went and got himself dead, so there was no use worryin’ bout him.

We won the brawl and most of those that attacked us got themselves killed, so we didn’t have to worry about that. True, my friend Paddlelump was looking at charges, but that ended up not happening, so why fret about it while it’s going on? Really, caring just wastes energy.

And the whole ritual sacrifice thing? Eh, I ended up blacking out but my pals saved me. Missed a hell a fight, but didn’t have to deal with it. And even if I had, the realm would’ve ended so then there wouldn’t be anything to raise a fuss over.

My point is caring is overrated. Worrying is nothing but trouble. Just be apathetic and you’ll find it works itself out. Or run away and hide, that’s a good option, too. If that doesn’t work, pass out and let others take care of things for you.

I’ve seen a lot in my years, and I’m still alive, so it just goes to show that things usually work out. And if they don’t you’ll be dead and won’t have to trouble yourself anymore.

***

Uljah Toothgnasher is a troll, butcher, and resident of Kingdom City, The Land. While this is his first venture into writing, he appears frequently in the book Olde School which you can find on print, kindle, nook, and kobo.  Although mostly good-natured, he thinks he’s funnier than he really is.

Clyde’s Corner: Popularity Problems

Published May 26, 2014 by admin

So while I’m out guest-posting and interviewing it up, here is another little tidbit from my resident (self-appointed) muse. I’m sorry. I’m really, incredibly sorry. For the uninitiated, Clyde is a character in my new book, Olde School. He’s a rather untraditional take on the fairy tale talking animal theme.  It seems when Clyde is dropped into the real world, his ego tends to get a little…well…you’ll see.

 

***

After a long, hectic week, it was nice to be able to take a few hours to appreciate the fine art of chilling out before tackling the next terrifyingly long to do list. Some days it felt that no matter where I looked, those lists were intent on stalking me, biding their time until they could throttle me to bend to their whim. One of these days my to do lists were going to strangle all their obligations and necessities out of the very core of my being, I just knew it.

Yep, movies and lemonade were very much needed.

I’d just collapsed onto the couch, intent on perusing the DVD selection on the coffee table when there was the unmistakable sound of a haughty, irritated throat clearing.

I knew better than to look, but it wasn’t like I’d be able to avoid it, either. Fighting a sigh, I leaned my head back to examine the decorative branch draped with colored scarves and fabrics that broke up the tedium of the beige wall behind me. There, perched on the branch in a rather annoyed ball of shimmering blue-green feathers, was what had apparently become my personal muse and bane of my artistic existence.

“Hey, Clyde.”

His head tilted and although it looked adorable, I had learned not to fall for such little tricks. “You cannot be more formal to one such as myself?”

I raised my eyebrow and went back to looking for the remote. I’d just acquired a new one that was supposedly impossible to lose, though evidence to the contrary showed that it either had fallen into the Couch Abyss or had gone on a surprise road trip to Vegas. “Nope.”

He grimaced and lighted on the couch arm. “If you are done with such mundane practices, I wish to speak to you.”

Fabulous. My luck, he’d used what little magic he had in that form to hide the blasted remote. I don’t know why I thought I’d never see him again after finishing Olde School, but the weeks had stretched on and my life had been blessedly Clyde-less, save for the random proclamations of love for him from new readers and friends alike. “Something buggin’ that mystic mind of yours, C-dog?” It was a cheap shot, and I probably shouldn’t try to play with fire, but besides being the only physical connection to my series, what was he really going to do? He’d long ago lost access to most of his powers and it wasn’t like he was a hawk or a goose or even a parrot. A tiny songbird was not much of a threat.

I hoped.

He narrowed his eyes and paced the couch arm. “I will thank you kindly to bestow upon me the respect my kind deserves. Remember that you were not this confident in your bard abilities a few weeks ago until I deigned to manifest to help your motivation.”

Okay, that was fair. Still, his ‘motivation’ had consisted of threats and demands for ice cream and red wine. Which reminded me… “Can I get you anything, Oh all-powerful  Olde One who deigns to see me fit enough to show me one of your forms and blow my ever-lovin’ mind?” Wow, I needed to get writing again and fast. I hadn’t even intended for that to be sarcastic when I’d first opened my mouth.

“If I wanted decent sustenance I would have friend Paddlelump in his capacity as my manservant scrounge something up,” Clyde grumbled. We’d long since established that he thought my tastes were either too healthy or beneath him, so I wasn’t surprised. “Your tone is also not appreciated. You may have laid forth the gateway to my world, you may have the power to shape realms, but do not taunt what your little mortal mind cannot completely fathom,” the songbird growled in a deep baritone that was both sandpaper and honey.

I blinked. “Wow, something must be wrong. Your feathers aren’t usually in so much of a jumble.” He snorted and bent his head to tug at the plumage on his chest. I averted my eyes (it seemed the decent thing to do if he was going to take the time to adjust himself in public). Still, that gave me no inkling why he’d shown up again. “What’s on your mind?”

He rose his head and glared at me. Under his feathery topknot, his blue-green eyes were hard and unforgiving. “You are not trying hard enough.”

It probably wasn’t possible for my eyebrows to touch the back of my neck, but that was how shocked I felt. “Excuse me?” He was lucky I couldn’t find the remote. If I had, he would have been smacked off the couch with it.

He thrust an accusing wing in my direction. “Your book has been out for weeks and yet your whole pitiful realm is not ablaze.”

“Uh…Clyde, things take time. The blog tour’s starting today, I’m working on some more outside promotion, there have been ads, I did that con and library signing in March, I’m working on more appearances, plus I’m setting up the next book plus a side book. Remember, I’ve got limited resources and series take time to gain momentum.” It was such a logical train of thought, so of course he didn’t want to hear it. My words did nothing to soothe the pseudo-bird and he stalked up the back of the couch and down to the other arm, pointedly using his nails to tug up threads in the blanket covering it as he did so.

“You need more reviews. Two is a pitiful amount, no matter how glowing.”

Yep, there was all the panic and self-doubt creeping in, making my back and chest feel like I was being attacked by a python. “I’m working on it. Again, things take time! There are more supposed to be coming in still. Besides, those around me who have read it, love it, they just don’t always think to leave reviews. They like you, especially.” I’d thought this might calm him a down a bit. Nope, I was not that lucky.

The bird cursed under his breath in a language I couldn’t understand, something guttural and malevolent-sounding. The very words made the room feel ice cold and my skin go clammy.  I’m fairly certain that between the couch cushions, a dark and foreboding something lurked, though I wasn’t particularly sure what a vortex was supposed to look like. “What are you doing? Stop it!” His little head snapped up to me, then he regarded the new portal shimmering along the back edge of the sofa. With a few well-placed, equally ancient phrases, it dissipated and all was back to normal.

Well, normal-ish. If the remote hadn’t been gone before, it definitely was now.

Something was up, something more than just the obvious lack of progress from a mortal minion to a bizarre muse/source of ancient evil magic stuck in the form of a bird. “Clyde?”

He’d stomped over to the pile of DVDS and systematically began kicking them off the table to the floor, one after another. “Wasting precious time with frivolous, idiotic follies…”

“Come on! It’s not like I just exist to write about you! I’ve been working hard juggling everything in my life lately!”

He ignored me, stiffening as the case for Thor: The Dark World came into view. After a few, silent moments he snarled and promptly stomped on it.

“Dude! I haven’t even seen that one yet! Watch the case—the library’ll charge me for that!”

“He does not really look like that, you know,” he spat. His feathers had puffed up and he looked like an agitated fluff-ball. For the life of me I couldn’t figure out why the bird would have a grudge against Chris Hemsworth. These were the incidents in life that my publisher, my editor, and every writing influence I’d ever had had somehow neglected to prepare me for.

“I…guess not? I mean he’s an actor. It’s not like he walks around looking like a comic book character—” The rude noise that cut me off defied physics and description.

“I do not mean that fellow. What would I care of a mortal player of tales? Though ‘twas quite a coup, involving the illustrated fiction and modern cinema to repopulate his following.” He was jumping on the case now, turning small circles on it, growling under his breath.

I was really, really missing something. “Come again?”

He fluttered up, turned, and lighted, jabbing a wing at me. “This is why you must work harder! I shall not be humiliated by a slummock so foul, so vile, so trivial—”

“Hey! Let’s get one thing straight, bird. I write your world, and I don’t appreciate you throwing your ego around or calling me names, no matter how antiquated! I’m not an idiot. I do actually know what you mean, you know.”

It was Clyde’s turn to look confused, and his feathers slowly deflated until he was back to his usual svelte physique. “I was not referring to you. I only meant that I need you to get your title into as many hands as possible so that I might compete!”

“Compete with what? Is this some kind of Olde One grudge with your brethren that I don’t know about?”

He snorted. “Nay. Those that are around are as hindered as I, and the rest of my kin are locked safely away from me.” He turned back to the DVD case and glowered. “I have no care about returning to my former glory, but I will not be slighted as a lesser being! Just because movies were made with attractive mortal avatars, he thinks he is so much better because his fan harems are bursting at the seams!” he ranted, descending back onto the case so he could scratch both feet over the movie cover.

An idea started to form in the back corners of my mind, a swirl of something so ridiculous and horrifying that it either had to be used in a story, or was exactly what was actually going on in some bizarre AU/real-world mashup way. “Are you talking about Thor?”

The curse I got in reply sunk that theory. “He is many things, but conniving of his own design, he is not. Besides, back in the day he required me as his wingman, so to speak, to gain the favor of the ladies. No, I mean Loki, the arrogant gundygut.”

I opened my mouth and shut it. Thought for a moment and couldn’t come up with a coherent thought to save my life. “I…you…what?”

He sighed and looked at me as if he’d veered off onto the highway and I was still cruising the back roads. “Clodpoll. Fopdoodle. Blatherskite. A great big idjit!”

“I get that, but aren’t you overreacting, freaking out about mythological fictional characters?

Clyde rolled his eyes and fluttered his tail feathers out. “It never occurred to you that the Olde Ones were once part of the other pantheons in some form? Just because the Greeks and Norse have better bards—”

I had to hand it to him. He was quick to dodge the pillow I threw at him. That’s what I got for having a muse with wings.

As irritated as he made me, there were bigger things to think about, though. “You mean to tell me that you hang out with other pantheons? And that they’re like real? Like real real?”

He blinked, startled. “I did not expect this to be a new concept for you. ‘Tis the downside of these modern times. They are as real as any other idea or concept these days.”

“So like all pantheons and legends?” My head was beginning to throb at the implications.

He did the so-so gestures with a wing. “It depends on our followings and how necessary we are at any given time. The Fae have gained quite a foothold recently, though they often keep themselves to themselves.”

That wasn’t quite the explanation I’d hoped for, but I’d learned to expect that with him. “Okay, so you manifest with ideas or belief or whatever, but only in certain ways,” I muttered, trying my best to talk it out. “And what, you guys hang out?”

“Aye, ‘tis the benefit of not being trapped in my home realm,” he admitted. “And not being consistently tied to Kingdom City, either.”

That concept had never occurred to me. Nor had it occurred to me that the various pantheons or archetypes or whatever would be quite so competitive. “So you get together and talk? What do you do, have meetings or coffee clutches or something?”

He rolled his eyes. “Nay. We merely compare notes, occasionally seek assistance, start wars with each other, dabble in the lives of mortal artists and fan harems. Though we do have monthly games of cards. Your mortal poker is quite entertaining.”

My mind was too blown to even consider that image. I leaned over him, intrigued. “What are they like? The other gods?”

I didn’t know what I’d expected, but Clyde right in my face wasn’t it. “You will not dally with the others! You are my bard, and you have many more words to write for me!”

His hot breath reeked of rare steak and the wings clamping my cheeks did him no favors. “Clyde!” I smacked at him until he finally released my head. “Stop it! It’s not like I have time to add any more grandiose worlds on my plate. I have enough to deal with as it is!”

He sighed and hopped down to the table where he resumed his destruction of the movie case. “The fool does not even resemble that visage and yet women still long for him. Do they not remember his true sins? Do they not remember the horse?! What does one have to do to gain mortal allegiance these days!!?” I hadn’t heard him so exasperated in, well, ever. Whatever Loki was really like, he’d apparently done a number on Clyde.

“Hey, calm it down, wings! I only asked because I was curious, not because I’m switching hors-uh, allegiances.” Somehow, the metaphor I’d been about to say just seemed wrong now.  “Besides, you have friends in Kingdom City who adore you, and I’m sure you’ll gain a following here. Think of it, the others have had ages to get established—”

His little legs flashed as he leapt onto my knee. “You think I am so new? You think a mortal like yourself can think up new pantheons instead of us letting you dream us into being?”

Talk about a rock and a hard place. Technically he couldn’t lie when asked directly, the Olde Ones being similar in their rules to the Good Neighbors. A closer inspection of Clyde proved that he wasn’t putting on airs. He was truly upset. Whether it was a clever ploy and ego or the truth wasn’t for me to ask directly, not when he was obviously feeling less.

I sighed and pet his head, twirling a finger around his feathery topknot. “I’ll see what I can do, okay? But it takes time, especially with a new book by a relatively unknown author.”

A heavy sigh rippled out of his little beak and his soulful blue-green eyes gazed up at me. “I apologize for my wrath. I do not like being reminded of my current shortcomings. I may have no interest in the manipulation and torture of souls anymore, but ‘tis nice to be wanted.”

I nodded. “We all have our days, Clyde. We’ll get there, don’t worry. There are still many, many stories to tell. People are asking for them. And for you.”

He sniffled and shrugged. “Mayhaps.”

I was too nice. The fact that I was comforting the jerk proved it. “They are! It’ll be great!”

He shook his head. “I should have let myself get locked into a more pleasing form.”

“Are you kidding? That’s part of your charm!” I insisted.

He nuzzled into my hand and kicked the DVD off the table. “Perhaps you are right, sweet bard.” He paused and stared up at me again. “Am I as pretty as Sir Tom of Hiddleston?”

I opened my mouth, then shut it. True, he couldn’t take my soul or curse me. Still, I didn’t doubt that he’d be able to tell if I was lying and the repercussions would be obnoxious. “Hey, I think I have some really good chocolate in the pantry. How about a little tribute to cheer you up?”

He took his place on my shoulder. “You are avoiding my query.”

“Did you do something different with your feathers? They’re so sparkly in the light today.”

“Bard, answer me or I shall fear the worst!”

I really hoped my answer wouldn’t send me into a couch vortex. I did not have time to navigate a couch vortex on a busy Monday. “Clyde, that’s an impossible question to answer. How can you expect me to compare two completely different forms?”

He considered this, then nodded sagely. “You are right. ‘Twould not be fair to a mere mortal to be compared to one such as myself.”

I released the breath I’d been holding and headed to the kitchen. Still, his grumbles of “Stupid Norse pantheon taking the best avatars,” didn’t escape my ear. Something told me I’d better get on my promotional tasks and start book two soon, if only for my own sanity.

***

Notes – Any reference to named characters refers to the mythological pantheons. I don’t do fanfic (except if it’s on my own universe, apparently).  Pop culture references aside, I’m not going there. As always, Clyde and the Kingdom City universe  is mine and I’m the only one who can use them for stupid shenanigans.

 

 To check out where I’m at today, check out the Blog Tour page!

 

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Book One of The Kingdom City Chronicles

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Cross-Genre: Fantasy, Fairy/Folktale, Paranormal, Urban Fantasy, Horror

Kingdom City has moved into the modern era. Run by a lord mayor and city council (though still under the influence of the High King of The Land), it proudly embraces a blend of progress and tradition. Trolls, ogres, and other Folk walk the streets with humans, but are more likely to be entrepreneurs than cause trouble. Princesses still want to be rescued, but they now frequent online dating services to encourage lords, royals, and politicians to win their favor. The old stories are around, but everyone knows they’re just fodder for the next movie franchise. Everyone knows there’s no such thing as magic. It’s all old superstition and harmless tradition.

Bookish, timid, and more likely to carry a laptop than a weapon, Paddlelump Stonemonger is quickly coming to wish he’d never put a toll bridge over Crescent Ravine. While his success has brought him lots of gold, it’s also brought him unwanted attention from the Lord Mayor. Adding to his frustration, Padd’s oldest friends give him a hard time when his new maid seems inept at best and conniving at worst. When a shepherd warns Paddlelump of strange noises coming from Thadd Forest, he doesn’t think much of it. Unfortunately for him, the history of his land goes back further than anyone can imagine. Before long he’ll realize that he should have paid attention to the old tales and carried a club.

Darkness threatens to overwhelm not only Paddlelump, but the entire realm. With a little luck, a strange bird, a feisty waitress, and some sturdy friends, maybe, just maybe, Padd will survive to eat another meal at Trip Trap’s diner. It’s enough to make the troll want to crawl under his bridge, if he can manage to keep it out of the clutches of greedy politicians