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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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Calling all Bloggers and Reviewers!

Published March 21, 2016 by admin

Wanted to give props to some blog tours coming up – if you’re a reviewer or a book blogger, you’ll want to get in on these! Just click the link to go to the respective tour page.

Bob Freeman’s Carinwood Manor Series – Horror/Dark Fantasy

THE VAMPIRE MACGREGOR LIVES…

“Foolish pup,” MacGregor chided the werewolf, “you don’t get it. Laddie, if water were evil I’d be but a drop. What lurks below is an ocean.”

From the haunted halls of Cairnwood Manor to the bowels of Rosslyn Chapel, Bob Freeman hurls you into the very heart of the eternal conflict between the forces of darkness and the forces of light.

It’s fang versus claw, spell versus steel, and love versus death in an epic battle of blood and thunder.

When a sinister cabal converges to unleash the ultimate evil against an unsuspecting world, only the combined strength of the Wolves of Cairnwood Manor and the Circle of Nine Skulls offers up a glimmer of hope as werewolves, vampires, witches, immortal warriors, and an army of the undead collide in a battle of epic bloodshed.

Southern Haunts 3 – dark fantasy/horror –  Magic Between the Moonlight. The Southern Haunts Anthology series is back, and this time it’s featuring all stories and folklore about witches. Not to be missed.

Georgia L Jones – Remnants of Life series – paranormal/urban fantasy

Dangerous Saviors…what would you do if your life rested in the hands of something that really wanted to EAT YOU…

Come journey through the realms of the next world where everything you know about Good and Evil are put to the test.

Samantha Garrett lives and dies a good life in the human world. She awakens a new creature, Samoda, a vampire-like warrior in the army of Nuem. She is forced to realize that she has become a part of a world that humans believe to be only “Legends of Darkness”. Samoda finds her new life is entwined with the age old story of Greed, Love, Betrayal, and Vengeance.

Join our Heroine as she battle’s not just for her own existence, but for entire human race’s future.

Juniper Grove Presents: The Demon’s Grave by E.M. MacCallum

Published October 7, 2015 by admin

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This title sounded perfect for an October post, especially for those whose tastes lean more to the urban fantasy side of things rather than horror. So let’s take a look, eh?

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Title:  The Demon’s Grave

Series:  The Demon’s Grave #1

Author:  E.M. MacCallum

Published:  June 2015

Genre:  Urban Fantasy

Recommended Age:  16+

Synopsis:  When strange shadows and messages plague Nora’s daily life she fears for her sanity. To escape questions from her family, Nora joins her friends on a weekend getaway. Despite not liking Aidan Birket, Nora finds his remote, Victorian house charming. Until they discover the marble doorway on the third floor and, against Nora’s better judgment, they open it.

Trespassing into an unfamiliar world called the Demon’s Grave, the group face a charismatic demon and six nightmarish Challenges as punishment. Those that make it to the end can go home, but those that don’t will be his forever. Friendships are tested, secrets revealed and sacrifices will be made.

Nora battles zombies, doppelgängers, eyeless bikers, and the demon—whose interests are more than just a game of cat and mouse. If it’s all in her head, then it should be easy. But, if not, it means the demon knows about her sticky past, and the death of her twin sister.

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Read FREE with Kindle Unlimited

***

Excerpt:

“Aidan,” I insisted in a whisper.

A few car lengths north of the Chevy a stereo crackled to life. An echoing voice sang followed by a choir of voices that doo de doo’ed in the background. The slow song sounded like something from the 1950’s.

Read and I exchanged a curious glance as the echoing main voice mentioned a game. Read pulled his hand from mine and we both wiped our slick palms on our jeans.

“What is it?” I asked Aidan. “What should we be looking for?”

He didn’t answer, his eyes kept wandering to the cars then down the street and to the motorbikes.

Read’s shoulders sagged, exasperated. He looked ready to say something when the roar of an engine smothered the music as well as my yelp. It stopped Read cold.

Aidan jumped and grabbed my arm as if I were the one to save him.

Craning my neck to see if there was a single vehicle taking up the roadway, I saw none. It had been so loud I couldn’t pinpoint the direction it came from.

The music began to take over the street once more, a new song erupting from the crackling speakers.

Between shallow breaths, Aidan said, “come on.”

Before Read or I could question him, Aidan stood up and started in long, purposeful strides, the kind that was harder to stop.

Read nudged me to move, or rather shoved me. Panicked, we hurried to Aidan. Looking to him, our pace quickened to keep up. Aidan stared straight ahead. His lean figure was rigid, but he hadn’t slowed.

Keeping close to the buildings, we passed the occupied car playing music. I could see three teenage boys inside. The muffled vintage music carried through the window.

I felt the scream choke in my throat as we passed. The passengers didn’t have eyes.

Their shapeless pale faces lacked not only the eyes but also mouths. The skin where lips should be had stretched horizontally, sealing any opening. The only portion of their faces that was noticeable was the lump of their nose—without nostrils. Even their hair was all the same color, styled the same, with a part in the middle, and they wore the same collared shirt and slacks.

I thought to myself, it’s just a few of the faceless, nameless people of this city, like any other…right? Maybe the demon had a sense of sick, very sick, humor.

I could hear, the eerie chorus of voices within the car, making it all the more surreal.

The three boys in the car watched us pass, as is if they could see. They turned their heads as we hurried along and I found myself staring back for as long as I could.

EM-MacCallum

About the Author:

E.M. loves long walks through bookstores, Disney, horror movies/books, anything supernatural, and researching random facts. She lives by a lake out in the Canadian wilderness with internet access, her husband and rag-tag band of pets.

Amazon Author Page | Facebook | Twitter | GoodReads | Website

Giveaway Details:

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

  • GRAND PRIZE is a $25 Amazon gift card and an ecopy of The Demon’s Grave.

Giveaway is International.

Enter the Giveaway Here!

#FallIntoHorror – Witch Way is Up by John Allen

Published October 2, 2015 by admin

John Allen is one of my favorite people, and it’s always hilarity when we get to hang out at cons. Of course I’m going to showcase his post on my blog, and hi, character interview? Bring it. What a way to end a hair-raising tour up, right?

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Welcome to Fall Into Horror with Mocha Memoirs Press!

Mocha Memoirs Press is celebrating the new Fall season by showcasing their love of horror and the authors who write it. Please welcome JOHN F. ALLENas he shares his thoughts on fall and horror.

Hello, my name is John F. Allen. I’m a speculative fiction author and I’m here with Ms. Xenith LaCroix, witch-in-training and part-time adventurer. This is an impromptu interview with her before she embarks on her intense training at the hands of a master sorceress.WithWay.jpg

John – Hello Xenith, thanks for granting me this interview.

Xenith – Hello Mr. Allen. You’re welcome, I’m happy to be here.

John – I just love your name! What can you tell me about it?

Xenith – Well, I’m glad you picked it out for me. As for what I can say about it, the name is unique and not just for the spelling, ‘Z’ replaced by an ‘X’. Xenith means, “The highest point reached in the heavens by celestial body, and/or a culminating point.” I think the ‘X’ represents the unknown, as in the mathematical sense.

John – That’s fascinating indeed. I think it speaks to what your life has in store for you and your tales yet to come. So, as a change of subject, fall is here and that is a time of year which happens to coincide with Halloween. Witches and Halloween go together like peanut butter and jelly, your favorite snack, so what do you personally like most about fall?

Xenith – The brisk air and the falling leaves in their kaleidoscope of colors. As for Halloween, it’s quite the busy time for us witches. You know, all those cauldrons to boil, brooms to fly and children to bake. (smiles)

John – Uh, you’re kidding right? (gulp)

Xenith – Wouldn’t you like to know? (smiles)

John – (sigh) Yeah, moving right along. What is your favorite fall color?

Xenith – Hmm…I think I’d have to say red.

John – What would you say is the biggest difference between fall weather in Chicago, versus fall weather in your native New Orleans?

Xenith – I would say that fall is much colder in Chicago, than it is in New Orleans. And, given the size of the city and the number of people, I mean that in more ways than one.

John – Are you feeling homesick?

Xenith – Not really…New Orleans only serves to bring back bad memories I’d just as soon forget forever.

John – That’s right, you moved to Chicago to escape an abusive ex-boyfriend and a checkered past. You were taken in by Zaji Laveau, a powerful witch and a descendant of the voodoo priestess, Marie Laveau.

Xenith – Again, I’d rather not talk about New Orleans.

John – My bad, please don’t hurt me.

Xenith – Relax Mr. Allen, you’re safe…for now.

John – Uh, okay. Anyway, let’s talk about your mentor instead. What’s it like to be under the tutelage of such a powerful sorceress who hails from such an infamous legacy?

Xenith – Zaji is a taskmaster. She’s strict and all about business.

John – So, your training isn’t going so well?

Xenith – Actually, on the contrary. I am challenged and held accountable for my actions and inactions. This is something which I’ve never had in my life before. The structure she provides can be a real drag and sometimes I feel like pulling out my hair, but at the same time I wouldn’t have it any other way.

John – That’s good. Has your ability to control your powers improved significantly?

Xenith – I’d say so. Although I have a long, long way to go, I can now recognize the road I’m on for what it is. It won’t be an easy road, for certain, but anything worth doing or having is worth the effort and struggle.

John – That’s a very mature attitude, good for you. Well, thanks for sharing with us today. Is there anything else you’d like to add before we conclude this interview?

Xenith – Just that folks who are interested in learning more about me and my adventures, should check out the novelette, Witch Way Is Up, written by you and published by Mocha Memoirs Press. Oh, and HAPPY HALLOWEEN!!!

John – Thanks Xenith, Happy Halloween to you as well!

Witch Way is Up

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ABOUT MOCHA MEMOIRS PRESS:

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Mocha Memoirs Press, LLC is a genre-oriented publishing company. Their vision is to provide an outlet for outstanding speculative and romance stories that often fall beneath the radar of traditional publishing houses. They seek to provide quality stories that invigorate the reader’s literary palette like a good, strong coffee. Like great coffee houses, they offer a variety of flavors. They publish stories in the following genres: science fiction, fantasy, horror, and romance, including the sub-genres of steampunk, cyberpunk, diesel punk, alternate history, weird westerns, and mash-ups.

WEBSITE | FACEBOOK | TWITTER | INSTAGRAM

TCM Presents: Nocturne Infernum by Elizabeth Donald

Published October 1, 2015 by admin

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I wanted to kick off October with something awesome, and when I found out Elizabeth Donald was touring her latest book, I definitely wanted to be part of the tour. I had a blast doing panels with her at Imaginarium, and she’s a fantastic author with a lot of insightful things to say.

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Nocturne Infernum includes the original three chapters in the Nocturnal Urges series, an alternate version of present-day Memphis in which vampires walk among us, but are not treated as our equals. They work the night shift, the jobs no one else wants, and they’re not too happy about it. Meanwhile, humans take advantage of the pleasures vampires can provide, but call them friends? Lovers? The gap between human and vampire stretches wide as death rises in the streets of Memphis.

Nocturnal Urges. It’s the most popular club in the Memphis nightlife. Part legal bordello, part feeding ground for the city’s vampires, Nocturnal Urges offers pleasure and pain in one sweet kiss. It’s the ultimate addiction: both drug and sex at once. For the vampires, it’s the only way to survive in a world where the creatures of the night are a dark underclass, ignored until the humans need another fix.

Into this world comes Isabel Nelson, a young woman seeking only a night’s pleasure. But after Isabel’s lover takes her to try the bite, she cannot stop thinking about Ryan, the dark vampire with whom she shared her lifeblood – and who is now suspected of murder. Isabel falls into a world where passion and love are miles apart, where life and unlike have little meaning… and someone is hunting in the shadows.

A More Perfect Union. Samantha Crews has lived a long time in the shadows of Memphis, working at Nocturnal Urges and hiding from the vampires that darken her past.

Det. Anne Freitas is stuck with a new partner, a young woman with a chip on her shoulder. Now they’re assigned to investigate a series of threats against congressional candidate Robert Carton, for whom Samantha volunteers.

But Samantha is falling for Danny Carton, the candidate’s son – an idealist who wants to make life better for humans and vampires alike. But there’s a lot Danny doesn’t know about Samantha.

He doesn’t know she’s a vampire.

He doesn’t know she works at Nocturnal Urges.

He doesn’t know his own father is one of her clients.

And he doesn’t know what’s stalking her…

Abaddon. The Lady Zorathenne requests the honor of your presence at a celebration. A toast, if you will. Followed by a feast.

Beneath the dark Memphis streets, something is stirring. Filled with ancient fury. Seeking revenge on the ones who live above. A revenge born in fire.

The fires are ranging in Memphis and no one is safe. Ryan and Samantha must descend into darkness beyond their imagining to find answers to the mysteries of the past, as Detectives Freitas and Parker seek the truth about the present.

And the return of an old foe could make the future a dark place indeed… save for the flames of Abaddon.

**

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?

ED: There is an anthology for absolutely everything, from climate change speculative fiction to Christian inspirational werewolves. So I will frequently write to a call. Some of the calls are truly creative, and spur an idea. Other short stories are inspired by life, random thoughts or weird dreams after too much wine at dinner.

The novels, on the other hand, are self-generated. I never used to outline, but publishers are remarkably picky about knowing what the book is about before they’ll offer a contract, the twerps. So I started to outline, and found that it sometimes helps keep me on track when I get stuck. However, I have no problem whatsoever with flinging the outline into the nearest fan if I decide the story needs to go in a different direction.

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?

ED: My quirkiest writing habit is probably my wrap ceremony. When I have finished a story or novel, I break out my authentic replica White Star Line wineglass and have a drink. I picked it up at a Titanic exhibit shortly before I finished my first real novel. I celebrated that accomplishment by drinking wine from that glass, and since then, I only drink from it when I finish a piece.

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?

ED: I see no difference between believing in the muse and being a meticulous planner. I plan my work carefully, and then that wench shows up and throws live snakes into the plan. I used to transcribe conversations with my Muse, who is a chain-smoking, angry woman in a black leather jacket with a knife scar on her arm and lives in the basement of my mind, using a heavy bag whenever she’s not screwing up my stories. It’s really annoying that her occasional swings through the story generally make it much better than my meticulous plan.

Where do my ideas come from?

Schenectady. There’s an idea service there that sends you a six-pack of ideas every week. That smartass answer is to be attributed to Harlan Ellison, who uses that answer every time he’s asked where his ideas come from. As he says, “Aristotle can’t answer that question.” They come from the ether, from Neverland, from the place between awake and asleep. I believe just about everyone gets ideas – random creative thought-balloons that float through their minds. The trick isn’t getting ideas. The trick is grabbing hold of them when they come, winding the ribbons around your hand and letting them carry you off to Neverland. When you learn how to harness ideas and turn them into stories you can share with others, you’ve become a writer.

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?

ED: You might as well ask me to pick a favorite child! Certainly I feel as though some of my books and stories are better written than others, and some were more fun to write than others. But I will say that the best book I have ever written has not yet been published, and I am committed to getting that book out someday.

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

ED: Horror, I suppose. Everything I write has a little bit of horror in it, whether it’s science fiction or fantasy or mystery or even romance. That darkness flows into everything I 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?

ED: My biggest frustration is probably time. I am a newspaper reporter, which is a job I truly love and requires a great deal of time, energy and dedication. I am a wife and a mother. I am also chapter president of a journalism organization, on the vestry of my church and sing in the church choir, serve on a national ethics board, advisory board for a campus newspaper and am a team captain for the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life. That’s in addition to running the author cooperative Literary Underworld, a separate local writers’ group and side work as a nature and art photographer. The downside of being a writer is that all these projects eat up an enormous amount of time and energy, and sometimes there simply aren’t enough hours in the day and enough of me to go around. But I suppose everyone feels that way at some point or another. The cliche that writers – especially writers who work at home – do nothing but sit around and eat bonbons all day, that’s probably the one that drives me mad. As Harlan Ellison says, actual foot-pounds of energy are expended in writing, whether that writing is in the form of news, blogs, articles, essays or novels. It is hard work, and should be treated and respected as such.

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?

ED: I wouldn’t mind living in the Blackfire world, if the zombies weren’t rising. It’s not the easiest life, working for a paramilitary organization to fight supernatural beasties and keep the general public safe. But I loved writing that team, and delighted in coming up with new critters for them to face – nearly all drawn from real myths and legends from various cultures, which is a fascination of mine. Things don’t often turn out perfectly for my Blackfire team, but I rather like their adventures. At least until the zombies show up.

My friends are pretty resourceful folks, so I might put them in the Sanctuary stories about Earth after we are occupied by an alien force. The resistance movement needs them. My enemies, if I have any, can go to Dreadmire. The undead cannibal elves will be pleased to make their acquaintance.

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?

ED: If you’ve got that surefire recipe for writing success, please share! For James Patterson, it seems to be hiring a staff of co-writers and giving them outlines so he can put out 20 books a year. That works for him, but I wouldn’t trade writing my own books for… um, most of his money. Sure, you can package yourself and sell the sizzle instead of the steak. And you might make money that way. But then you have to ask yourself, why are you writing? For me, and for most of the writers I know, we’re doing it because we love the written word and we hear music that calls us to dance. The best thing about becoming a runaway financial success would be the time and freedom to write whatever you want, publish it, and still pay the rent. Once you’ve reached that point, why would you stop doing the writing part? Wasn’t that the whole point?

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?

ED: I’ve said this before: the biggest challenge for beginning writers in this modern era is impatience. The ability to toss a book out onto the internet the instant you type THE END has put a lot of aspiring writers on fast forward, and the temptation to skip all that bothersome editing, submission and working with a publisher is very real. The problem is that most aspiring writers have a lot to learn, and we learn a great deal from the process, including rejection and wrestling with a recalcitrant editor over a comma. Skipping that process is generally the biggest mistake they can make, and so many of them do. Patience, grasshopper. Good writing eventually finds a home, and at the end of the marathon, it’s going to be a book you’ll be proud to call your own and a launch to a writing career.

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.

ED: I hardly need to fight for horror; the monsters just eat those who would mock us. There generally seems to be a preconception that people who write horror are bent or twisted in some way, and that’s only partly true. But there’s also a preconception that science fiction writers are nerds, that romance and erotica writers have actually done all the perverted things they describe, that mystery writers are obsessed with murder. None of that is actually true. We write what we love, and clearly there are a lot of people who love it too. If there’s a genre I think doesn’t get enough love, it’s science fiction. It is the genre that forces us to look in a mirror, that uses other worlds and other times to show us things about ourselves that might be hard to face. Those who dismiss it as mindless ships banging into each other in an improbable future are missing the point.

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

ED: I hope they have come to expect a story that pulls them in through the hole in the paper and puts them in another place or time, with interesting people doing exciting things. I hope they laugh and cry and throw the book (but not the iPad!) and that they forget to stop reading so they can get some sleep before work the next morning. Or that they can’t sleep, because the teddy bear under the bed might get them. What I hear from my readers is that they expect to come to care about my imaginary friends, and then watch them die horribly. For a horror writer, that’s high praise. But it’s that first part that counts: They care. That means I’ve done my job.

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!

ED: My latest release is Nocturne Infernum, a compendium that collects my three Nocturne vampire novels into one volume for the first time. It’s a trio of mysteries set in an alternate-history Memphis in which vampires walk among us, but they are treated as second-class citizens without the same rights as full humans. It’s a world based on the Jim Crow laws, and the vampires are getting peeved at their treatment. In the first part, a serial killer seems to be knocking off the clients of a vampire-run sex club in the seedy part of Memphis. In the second, someone is threatening members of a Congressional candidate’s staff as the debate rages about whether vampires and humans should be allowed to marry. In the third, someone is killing the human half of vampire-human couples with fire. It’s not easy stuff, not happily-ever-after romances despite the, er, occasional naughty sex scene. It was delightful fun to revisit those stories, and reminded me how many more stories wait to be told in the Nocturne world.

In the meantime, I’m working on a pulp space action-adventure novel, and I’ve recently finished compiling a short-story collection that should come out sometime next year. If only I can find the time…

 

 

ElizabethDonaldAuthorPhoto

Elizabeth Donald is a writer fond of things that go chomp in the night. She is a three-time winner of the Darrell Award for speculative fiction and author of the Nocturnal Urges vampire mystery series and Blackfire zombie series, as well as other novels and short stories in the horror, science fiction and fantasy genres. She is the founder of the Literary Underworld author cooperative; an award-winning newspaper reporter and lecturer on journalism ethics; a nature and art photographer; freelance editor and writing coach. In her spare time, she… has no spare time. Find out more about her at elizabethdonald.com.

Website:  http://www.elizabethdonald.com

 Facebook:   https://www.facebook.com/Elizabeth-Donald-147651731911508/timeline/

 Twitter:  @edonald

Excerpt: Real Wild Childe (or street vamps falling in love)

Published September 12, 2015 by admin

I do a lot of writing in anthologies, and this is probably one of my favorite pieces that has shown up in them. It also apparently made John Hartness lose his ever-loving mind and not hunt me down for breaking all his rules, so there’s that, too. This is one of those stories that incorporated some older work I’d played around with early on and hadn’t done anything with. I’m hoping eventually the characters in this story will get their own longer work, but we’ll see.

Rave and Asha are vampire siblings on the run from their sire, While she wants to settle down and settle the score once and for all, Rave is in love with the bad boy lifestyle. When a confrontation becomes unavoidable…Asha decides to go shopping. It’s after breaking in a local Addington dress shop that Rave meets Sin, a human who’s completely different than the vampire fangirls he takes pleasure in killing. Unfortunately, he’s not sure how to deal with how much she’s piqued his interest, and it isn’t exactly the most convenient time…

This bit is from the middle of the story, a nice little exchange as vamp and human try to wrap their minds round each other. And yes, while technically you could say the story has romantic elements, it is definitely put through the Selah filter, which means the actual ending of the story will pull the rug out from under you and no one is safe. Heh.

***

For two nights they kept Sin company while she worked. At first Rave had stayed only to make sure Asha didn’t try to walk away with half the inventory—or at least that’s what he told himself. Maybe it was a girl thing, maybe he’d just been expecting more chit-chat, but sewing was really freakin’ boring to watch. He couldn’t even relax with a good skin mag for fear Asha would read him the riot act, and he’d be damned if he’d sit there watching Sin mumble to herself and fuss with fabric doing whatever weird sewing voodoo that was required. Maybe Asha cared, but he didn’t. The only saving grace was that Sin shared his taste in music. When she’d gotten him into a debate about the merits of G’NR vs. Aerosmith, he’d been intrigued, but then she’d gotten lost in her work and went back to ignoring him.

It shouldn’t have rankled him so much. What did he care if she ignored him? She was doing her job and she had nothing to do with him! Still, her sitting there so alive yet so oblivious was infuriating. In retrospect, going out to make a few kills and work off some tension probably wasn’t the best idea, especially since he re-entered the small shop trailing blood and a few leftover chunks of intestine, but nobody was perfect. Better Sin understood what had come calling on her doorstep so she could be properly scared instead of…whatever it was she felt.

That was the other thing: she just didn’t react to him! He’d always gotten the girl right off the bat, had always known what to say to get legs and throat open. Fine. She wants to be all calm and aloof? Let her deal with this! Rave smirked as he trudged into the back room, boots squelching. At this rate I won’t have to feed for a week, he mused. He stretched contentedly before flopping onto the small couch that sat beside the large square cutting table and the small counter of sewing machines. He wriggled when his shirt and jeans rode against his skin like a swimming suit after a long day at the pool, and purposefully made a big deal of getting comfortable.

Sin didn’t look up once. She was bent over the machine, her full lips pursed into a slight frown. She had a mouth that could do a lot of good as a human woman or a lot of damage if she’d been undead. Stop it! Where the hell did that come from? You don’t notice things like that! She’s cattle and a chick, so she’s good for two things. Well, three if you count sewing.

“I never realized making a dress took so much time,” he finally offered. He wasn’t one for real conversation, but it beat sitting there playing warden or babysitter.

“It does if you want to get it right. And since I don’t want to see my insides on my outside, I figure I’d better get it right,” she mumbled, teeth clenched around a mess of straight pins.

Rave admired her focus and attention to detail. Still, he’d been around long enough to know that most obsessive people didn’t obsess without a reason. “Not everyone does. A lot of people these days just bust somethin’ out and figure someone’ll pay for it. What’ve you got to prove?”

Sin’s shoulders raised and her face momentarily crumbled in on itself. She carefully spit the pins onto the counter and glanced up at him. “Look, I get that you’ll probably kill me when this is over. It’s what you do. I just want you to know so you don’t think I’m spillin’ my guts to you for no reason. You think I like working for a self-important has-been in a nowhere town?”

“Then why do it?” Rave asked and squished back into the couch cushions. He made no attempt to correct her assumption; he hadn’t figured out what he was going to do with her afterwards, himself. “The pay can’t be that great. Dalia keeps you hidden. You obviously aren’t selling a lot in a place like this.”

“I do okay online. But…D has contacts from back in the day. She could set me up if she saw something in me. She probably never will, but…I need to work my way up somehow. I don’t want people to think…” Sin paused and bit her lip. “I made some mistakes when I was younger. I wanted to get out and see the world, so I took a gig dressing a local band. Not local to here—I grew up in St. Louis. It didn’t occur to me that they could pick their own clothes and I’d been brought on for other reasons until I was there and decided to…make the most of the lifestyle.”

Interesting. Now that was a tidbit worth perking up for. “So you’re afraid to go back to those contacts because you want to be seen as a designer and not—”

“Yeah, she admitted and sighed. “I just feel stuck. Dalia’s so in love with Dalia and her own version of small town haute couture that nothing else matters. I think she gets off on baiting me with the promise of bigger things, full-well knowing she’s not gonna do it. I’d kill to have her address book,” she sighed and ran a hand through her short hair. The delicate two-toned spikes rippled under her fingers and Rave found his own hands clenching against the urge to see if they were soft and supple against his hands or hard from product. “I hate being caught like this.”

“You do good work,” he offered. Why the hell am I bothering to be nice to her? I should be out raising hell or plotting a way to take down Amanda, not comforting some random human who probably wouldn’t even make a good blood slave. It was bad enough he hadn’t spared Amanda a thought in the last two days, but to occupy his thoughts with a random human girl? Not his style.

“I know,” she agreed. It wasn’t an arrogant comment by any means, just an acknowledgement of her effort and potential. “But it’s all about connections. No one cares if you’re killing yourself to make something amazing. I guess I’m getting used to no one noticing and I don’t like that.”

“I’ve noticed.” Sin looked up with a surprise that Rave felt, himself. They stared at each other, neither one able to come up with a reply.

“Your sister’s gone out to feed or hunt or whatever you call it,” Sin finally offered and turned back to the machine. “Or is it gettin’ lucky?” she added with a wry smile.

How long had it been since met a girl with a similar sense of humor? “Depends on the day,” he admitted. “She’ll be back soon.”

“She’s sweet. A good kid.”

He snorted. “One of the few times I’ve ever heard her called that.” He shifted his weight. There was already a sizeable stain underneath him. “Sorry ‘bout the mess.”

Sin shrugged and grabbed up a different color thread. “I smelled you when you came in. I figure it’s what you do. It’s all good as long as it’s not me.” She paused and bit her lip. “Is it hard to kill?”

It was Rave’s turn to stop and think. She’s got balls, that’s for sure. “At first it was. We were turned in the fifties, so it was a different set of rules then. It took a long time to get out from under that way of thinkin’. After a while it’s not hard.” He pressed on at her tentative expression. “Haven’t you ever gotten so fed up at petty people or all the little, stupid things they do? Isn’t there someone that’s gotten under your skin and made your blood boil so bad you can’t think of anything else? You just have to focus on that until it becomes habit. Then, it’s just like sittin’ down to dinner.” He expected her to be put off by his flippant attitude, was almost looking forward to it. While she considered it, Sin didn’t look particularly disgusted.

“I guess that makes sense,” she finally admitted. “I guess it’s something anyone could get used to if they wanted to.” In all his years Rave had never had anyone agree with his philosophy, especially not someone who could easily become his next meal. “So are you looking forward to this party thing, then?”

He snorted. “No.”

Sin blinked and tried to smile, though the look on his face killed her efforts pretty quick. “C’mon. A party with your own kind? That must be fun.”

He stared down at the little puddles oozing out of his boots. “I’ll look forward to seeing Amanda dead on the floor in front of me. If that happens, I’ll have a blast.”

“Is that like a thing, to hate your sire?” He could have gutted her for even trying to pursue the conversation; he probably should’ve. Things had gotten way out of hand fast. Still, she’d shown him hers, so to speak…

“She’s a psycho. Remember, it was the fifties. People were getting edgy about the Cold War and were desperate for ways to avoid any doomsday threat.” The actual memories were blurred out by decades of hard living, but the emotions still stung deep.

“You were turned to survive nuclear fallout?” Sin whispered, horrified. “Would that even work?”

Rave shrugged and twisted a chunky ring he’d acquired from one of his victims. “People thought it would. No one really knows for sure. It was yet another way to preserve the American Dream. Keep your family close and instill your values for all eternity. Or something.” He hesitated.  “Amanda got interested into that line of thinking, went to meetings, and decided to sign us up.”

“But why would some random…wait…” Sin trailed off, looking up from the fabric in her hands at last. Rave nodded at the realization in her eyes. “She’s your mother?!”

***

For more of Rave, Sin, and Asha, be sure to check out their full story in…

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Kindle   Amazon Hardback   Amazon Paperback   B&N Hardback    B&N Paperback

Everybody loves bad guys, and these are some of the baddest of them all. Forget the rules. There aren’t any heroes. No one is going to save you from the wickedness in the darkness. Monster hunters can easily become the hunted. Twisted perverts can find themselves on the receiving end of their own deviant desires. No matter how big and bad someone or something may be, there is always something bigger and badder just waiting. Even the classics like a dragon, werewolf, or supernatural being can fall victim to something even more evil. Take a peek, if you dare, inside the malevolent world of super-villains, monsters, demons and just plain evil folk. Be careful, what you see there might be disturbingly familiar …

Real Wild Childe

Rave isn’t interested in examining his soul or atoning for his misdeeds. He’s a bad boy vampire and determined to enjoy every kill. The only romance he’s interested in is the kind that gets him laid before getting his fangs into an artery. Unfortunately, he and his sister, Asha, are on the run from someone older, someone that they barely escaped once. To make matters worse, Asha is determined that they settle down in Addington, Indiana, once and for all.  When an unfortunate invitation leads them to Sin, resident outsider and human seamstress, Rave’s life is about to get a lot more complicated as he struggles to sort out his feelings and decide if he’s finally ready to grow up and stand his ground. To read an excerpt, go here

Juniper Grove Presents: Serena’s Fall by MK Smith

Published September 2, 2015 by admin

Serenas-Fall-Banner

So after an…interesting weekend (more on that later, when I can type a little easier – long, long story), I’m back with a book for you! We all know I’m a sucker for an interesting urban fantasy, and this looks like an amazing one!

Serenas-Fall

Title:   Serena’s Fall

Author:   MK Smith

Published:  August 4th, 2015

Publisher:   Champagne Books

Genre:  Urban Fantasy

Content Warning:   Minor language

Recommended Age:  14+

Synopsis:  Betrayed by her once-upon-a-naive-time friends, Serena, the last Water Fey, can’t touch any man she would ever want without dooming him to a hero’s brutal death. So she lives outcast among her own kind, caring for orphaned Fey children, casualties of an ancient war that broke magic and doomed the Fey to possible extinction.

Now her friends are back, desperate to use her powers to stop the return of the greatest evil the Fey have ever faced. Prophesy says if she doesn’t magic-up a hero and bond him to a mysterious, mystical sword, the human world will be the next to fall.

Two potential heroes surface—Lance, the free spirited surfer, and the doomed warrior Gramm. Both men want her, both need her, and both have a claim to her heart.

But Serena’s tired of human heroes dying because some Water Fey said so. With her combat boots strung tight and her corset even tighter, maybe it’s time to weave some new lines of destiny. Goth style.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | GoodReads

Excerpt:

I couldn’t stand still. I paced alongside the boxes and ran my nails down the cardboard. If I were a cat, my hair would have stood on end, and my tail would have twitched.

Chloe said nothing. Her eyes darted between Rachel’s and mine but couldn’t find a place to land.

I waited for her to say something brilliant, but I didn’t expect anything would make me want to be part of her Alice in Wonderland insanity. This was Morían. Morían Le Fey. The walking genocide who painted the White Isle in blood, broke the flow of magic, and decimated every Fey clan this side of the veil in a single night—oh, and started a war that killed millions of humans.
Sure, we’ll handle her.

Heat radiated out from my core, and my skin tingled as if I were breaking out in a cold sweat. But Water Fey didn’t sweat. I tugged at my corset and wished I had laced tighter. We didn’t stand a single chance in all the nine hells at fighting one of the most powerful Fey in history.

“Well, I’m listening. But this is beyond crazy. We’re eighteen years old, not one hundred eighty. We’re barely old enough to even have powers by Fey standards. And the Incarnates, the most powerful Fey from each clan, who stopped her last time were thousands of years old.” I hoped I wasn’t sneering too loud.

Rachel ignored me and threw her best you’re wasting my time look at Chloe. “So, where is she staging her comeback?” Her tone said she wasn’t expecting much of an answer.

“The vision’s…complicated.” Chloe focused on Rachel, with less naked hostility, but her voice rose sharply. She chewed her bottom lip. Complicated my ass. She was hiding something.

“So you don’t know.” Rachel went right for the kill. “Was it even your vision?”

Chloe stomped her right foot. “Yes. It was.”

The proximity alarm sounded in my head. Crash imminent, I decided to speed it up so I could go home. Chloe’s moment to take the lead had passed. If she had straight answers she would have spoken up by now. She had to be hoping we could roll back to the days when—details irrelevant—we’d have done anything for each other.

Those days were gone.

MK-Smith

About the Author:

MK Smith writes urban fantasy with attitude, telling stories filled with quirky imperfect characters trying to survive life, friendship, and each other. Part Choctaw, all storyteller, a neighbor taught him to love fantasy when she gave him his first book. Since then he has flown on dragons, carried baleful magic in faraway lands, fought supernatural powers, and lived the melancholy of the eternal elves. But the Fey are closest to his heart. And he loves telling their stories round the fire or at his keyboard late into the night. And he’ll keep telling those stories until he becomes a story himself.

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Giveaway Details:

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

  • A $50 Amazon gift card.

Giveaway is International. Enter the rafflecopter here!