Indie Spotlight on Fantasy Author Jack Massa

True Magic is never an easy road.

For sixteen-year old Abigail Renshaw, the terrifying nightmares are not the worst part. When apparitions start leaking out of the nightmares into her waking life—Well, that’s a problem.

But Abby’s dealt with hallucinations before, and she’s nothing if not resilient. Following clues from the nightmares, she convinces her mother to let her visit Harmony Springs, the small town in Florida where Abby was born, and where her grandmother still lives.

There, Abby finds unexpected help from new friends: a compulsive teenage blogger named Molly Quick, and Molly’s older brother Ray-Ray (a guy Abby really starts to like). 

The not-so-good news? Abby’s apparitions might be real after all. And one of them wants to kill her. Ghosts of Bliss Bayou is available at Amazon

Story Craft: Presenting Backstory in Scenes

As fiction writers, we often hear the advice “Show, Don’t Tell.” But what exactly does that mean?

To me, it means to present your story with immediacy. Write it mainly in dramatic scenes, and focus each scene in a single character’s point of view.

But a rich story embodies a lot of information. If you try to convey all of it in scenes, you can easily find yourself writing lots of extraneous scenes, as well as using obviously contrived dialogue (“As we all know, Tom, the Druna are an ancient elvish race who live in Dampwood.”) This is a great way to ruin a story.

For this post, let’s define backstory as all the information from outside a scene that the reader needs to understand that scene. Skilled story-tellers use a number of techniques to present backstory within the structure of their scenes. Here are few that I’ve observed.

Tip 1: Create a scene in which the character can reflect

In real life, we all spend time thinking about our problems. Your characters can do the same: when out for a walk, waiting in line, riding a bus, whatever.

For example, in Chapter 1 of Ghosts of Bliss Bayou, our heroine Abby has woken up from a recurring nightmare. Worse, figures from the nightmare are now appearing in her waking life. To get a grip, Abby goes out for a run. During the run, she has a chance to reflect on her past:

With the route set, my brain flips into autopilot, and I can think about other stuff.

Like my hallucinations.

I’ve always been the sensitive, imaginative type. Hyperaware of other people’s feelings. Sometimes I can tell what they’re going to say before they say it. And I’ve always been prone to anxiety. But when I started to go through puberty, things got really bad. I was afraid all the time, and then I started to hear voices in my head. Scary voices, telling me I might as well just die, that I had no future, that I was cursed.

Just like my dad.

This goes on for several more paragraphs and gives the reader a chunk of backstory while keeping the immediacy of our protagonist confronting her very scary problem.

Tip 2: Let characters catch each other up

We’re all familiar with scenes where a character learns some backstory by hearing it from another character. You have to handle this carefully or it will seem contrived or ‘stagy.’

First, make sure your viewpoint character would realistically learn this information from the other character. (Tom really doesn’t know that the Druna live in Dampwood.) Secondly, present the dialogue in short chunks, not long speeches. Finally, make the disclosure part of an emotionally-engaging scene.

In this example, Abby has travelled to Florida to visit her grandmother and try to figure out where her nightmares are coming from. She’s just met Molly, and they’re talking over coffee about some recent weird happenings in the town.

Molly nods. “It’s not as far-fetched as it might sound. The history of Harmony Springs is full of paranormal stories.”

A wriggle of fear starts in my stomach. “You mean like apparitions and ghosts?”

“Sure. The families who founded the town were spiritualists. The Greenes, the Hollingsworths, the Aldens”—she gestures at me with an open hand—“the Renshaws.”

The wriggle turns into a cringe. “I didn’t know that.”

The scene goes on to reveal more of the town’s history and a supposed curse on Abby’s family. Notice that this exposition is rooted in the protagonist’s immediate and deep emotional concerns.

Tip 3: Add blocks of backstory near the start of the scene.

In this technique, you start a scene in the present, ideally with an emotional hook to engage the reader. Then after a few lines, you skip back to reveal the backstory. This is not really a flashback, just a bit of exposition that explains how we got here.

Midway through Ghosts of Bliss Bayou, Abby is scheduled to leave Harmony Springs. She has tried to convince her Mom to let her stay longer, but the reader doesn’t yet know the outcome. In the next scene, Abby meets Molly and tells her that, after a week up north, she’ll be coming back.

Molly grins. “Yippee! You must really like us.”

I grin back. “Yes!”

Mom took a lot of convincing. Granma and I both talked to her three times before she gave in. She finally had to admit how little time she’d actually have to spend with me in London, and I think she began to see how lonely I would have been. She did insist that I fly home this week so we could see each other, but that was something I wanted too.

Here, the tension of whether or not Abby will get to stay is resolved as part of a scene that emphasizes her growing friendship with Molly. A single paragraph of backstory does the trick.

What do you think?

Think about your favorite authors. How do they handle the presentation of backstory? Are there tips and tricks you can add to my list?

Jack Massa has studied writing and other forms of magic for many years. He has published fantasy, science fiction, poetry, and oodles of technical nonfiction.

In addition to the Abby Renshaw adventures, Jack’s current projects include The Glimnodd Cycle (epic fantasy featuring witches and ice-pirates; two novels published to date) and the Conjurer of Rhodes series (historical fantasy set in the ancient world; forthcoming).

Jack lives in Florida with his magical wife, wonderful son, and a pet orange tree named Grover. If you’d like to know more about Jack, you can visit his website, follow him on Facebook, and follow him on Twitter.

 

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Indie Spotlight on Sci-Fi Military Suspense Author, William Alan Webb

Nick Angriff’s ultimate enemy finally takes the stage and the 7th Cavalry will never be the same.

Operation Overtime has come through its first winter in post-Collapse America in better shape than expected. Food is plentiful, the city of Prescott is healing, and there’s even a battalion of new recruits for the Marines. Everything seems to be going Angriff’s way, until people start trying to kill him again.

When the aggressive Chinese send an armored force to capture old America’s largest tank farm, Angriff can rally only desperate measures to stop them. But first he must crush the traitors both inside and outside of Operation Overtime.

Angriff must rely on others to do what he has always done for himself. As the body count mounts, he has to determine who he can trust and who wants him dead.

In the tradition of Standing The Final Watch and Standing In The Storm, traitors, assassins, and secrets explode in a rocket-powered roller coaster called Standing At The Edge.  You’ve been warned. (Standing At The Edge, The Last Brigade Book 3, continues the saga of Lt. General Nick Angriff and the 7th Cavalry, which began in Standing The Final Watch and continued in Standing In The Storm. Standing at the Edge is available for pre-order and officially releases on January 18, 2018)

The writing’s done, now what?

I majored in Creative Writing in college. You’d think that would give me insight into writing, right? I forked over all of that tuition money, sweated blood churning out stories for my classes to read, critiqued tons of bad fiction, much of it by my professors, then smiled and told them how awesome it was, even when it sucked.

That last part was mandatory if you wanted to pass.

I did everything I was supposed to do, graduated, and then got slapped in the face with the reality that everything I’d just learned was useless.

There are some great writing programs out there, but not the one I took. Instead of learning things like don’t edit until you finish or don’t think you can edit your own manuscript, I learned RULES. Not examples, mind you, just the rules.

For example, I was told show, don’t tell. Sounds pretty fundamental, doesn’t it? But what does it mean? I wasn’t taught that part. Or don’t use adverbs. What? Wait, aren’t they part of the language? Such questions earned me contemptuous glares. So I followed the rules and produced nothing significant, which led me to quit writing fiction for twenty five years. When I forgot the rules and just wrote, I produced a beast. I had written the first draft of a 164,000 word book! Yay, me!

Now what?

Every writer who has ever finished a manuscript faces the question of what comes next

Many authors suggest you now put the first draft away for a while, with the idea this will allow you distance to be more objective when you read it. And there’s merit in this approach for many, maybe most, but not for me. I dive right in.

I start with beta readers. A beta reader gives you objective and sometimes painful feedback on your work. They are almost never your mom, siblings, friends or cousins. You need the brutal truth, not “I really liked it.”

Beta readers are your single most valuable asset as a writer. Cultivate them, pamper them, worship them (not really). But most of all, listen to them. I send my beta readers the first draft, others wait until later. Whatever works.

After the beta reader feedback I’m ready to start polishing the manuscript. The first things are the author edits, starting with content. This is where you make sure everything is consistent, all of the storylines match up, names are the same, etc. Nothing will kill a reader’s willing suspension of disbelief faster than overlooked storyline errors. This is also where I do most of my rewrites. Once that’s done, the author does a timeline edit. (Some books don’t require this, but my military SF relies heavily on synchronicity so for me it’s mandatory.)

Next up is the line by line edit. Maybe some authors enjoy this. I don’t. I hate it. I hate it more than I hate liver. But it must be done and the worst part is that you don’t do it just once. You do it as many times as you can stand doing it. For me that’s usually twice. Now comes the first point where most authors make a huge mistake. They send the manuscript out or, worse, publish it.

And then they get to read review after review about the bad editing. So here’s what I wasn’t taught in college: a professional editor is a must, be it a freelance editor or one at a publisher. What’s more, not all of them are good at their jobs, so sometimes a writer has to search until they find one that fits their work. I know one writer whose first novel desperately needs a good edit from a pro, but he says that he can’t afford it. Truth is he can’t afford not to find the money.

Then comes the cover, which is probably the least understood part of the process. If you have a publisher like mine to design it for you, and they’re good at it, it can sell a lot of books for you. The cover of my first book did just that.

On the other hand, if you wing it you might not sell any books at all. The writer who told me he couldn’t afford an editor also made a huge mistake in his cover. It is a beautifully rendered pastel drawing that does not have the name of the book or the author’s name on it.

Yes, you read that right. What’s more, the thumbnail looks jumbled. There’s nothing to indicate to the reader what the book is about, or even who wrote it. This is something else they didn’t teach me in college…covers matter.

And not just the artwork itself, either. The layout matters, the fonts matter, the colors of the artwork matter. Everything matters, and it takes a pro to recognize when it’s right.

The biggest takeaway for the cover is that when you find an artist whose work sells your books, never let them out of your sight. Marry them if you have to.

If you’ve done all of this well, your book is ready for the most important people in the world, namely, your readers.

 

William Alan Webb (Bill) lives on four acres in West Tennessee with his wife of 40 years, Kathy, 8 dogs, 3 horses and a cat. To say they’re failed foster pet parents would be an understatement. When not writing fiction Bill writes military history, does the housekeeping (he considers dust bunnies more pets, but his wife doesn’t), burns a lot of food attempting to cook and mows the grass whenever it gets too high to see the house. Fortunately for him she thinks he’s cute.  If you’d  like to learn more about Bill you can visit his website, follow him on Facebook,  and follow him on Twitter.

 

Indie Spotlight on Fantasy Author Chris Pavesic

Escape from a world of darkness into a virtual realm filled with magic and limitless adventure.

When hydrologists inscribe the consciousness of a human mind onto a single drop of water, a Revelation sweeps the land. The wealthy race to upload their minds into self-contained virtual realities nicknamed Aquariums. In these containers people achieve every hope, dream, and desire. But governments wage war for control of the technology. Terrorist attacks cause massive destruction. The Aquariums fail. Inscribed human minds leech into the water cycle, wreaking havoc.

Street gangs rule the cities in the three years since the fall of civilization. Sixteen-year-old Cami and her younger sister Alby struggle to survive. Every drop of untreated water puts their lives in peril. Caught and imprisoned by soldiers who plan to sell them into slavery, Cami will do anything to escape and rescue her sister. Even if it means leaving the real word for a life in the realms, a new game-like reality created by the hydrologists for the chosen few.

But life in the realms isn’t as simple as it seems. Magic, combat, gear scores, quests, and dungeons are all puzzles to be solved as the sisters navigate their new surroundings. And they encounter more dangerous enemies than any they faced in the real world. Time to play the game. Starter Zone is available in print, e-book, and audio.

4 Tips to Start Your Writing Day

Sometimes getting started is the hardest part of writing. Here are a few tips that may make it easier for you to achieve your writing goals.

  1. Start the writing day with a treat. When I sit down to write, I try to have a full cup of coffee, tea, or sparkling water ready to go.  Generally I will drink the coffee black. I will add a splash of Key Lime juice to the tea or water.  (If you are only familiar with the taste of regular limes, try Key Lime. It’s a game changer in terms of flavor.)

Not only is it important to stay hydrated, but this is also a low calorie treat. Since writing is basically a sedentary activity, you won’t be burning a lot of calories at your desk. But it’s still important to choose a beverage that you enjoy.

I don’t like eating when I’m at my keyboard. (Too many crumbs!) I also find that the physical act of eating takes my attention away from my project. However, I can sip some of my favorite beverage and jump right back on track.

  1. Create a specific playlist for each project.For me, music is a way to slip into “writing mode.” I don’t always listen to music when I’m working, but when I’m writing fiction it helps my productivity. Music helps to evoke a mood. The type of music really depends upon the listener. Whatever music helps you feel sad, happy, frightened, tense, or euphoric can help you translate those feelings onto the page.

As a bonus tip—if you are writing a series, save a playlist starting with book one. When you begin writing the second book, listen to that playlist to help you get into the mood of the series. Then add or delete tracts as you progress with the new novel.

  1. Power down before you begin writing.Writing takes concentration. Modern devices—as helpful as they are—work at drawing our concentration away from our tasks. Those little “pings” from our smart phones or “message alerts” on our screens pull our attention away from the task at hand.

Set your phone to the “do not disturb” mode to filter out these distractions. You can program in important numbers (parents, spouse, children, etc.) into the “always alert” setting so that you have peace of mind. In addition, include the “alert if call twice” setting. The call might not be from a number that you have listed on your VIP list, but generally people will call more than once in an emergency.

  1. Read before you write.In order to distance yourself from your day-to-day activities, try reading for a few minutes before you begin writing. Immerse yourself in a fictional world. Stimulate your imagination with the written word.

When I do this, I make sure to that I am re-reading a book I enjoy. I never want to start a new book and get so wrapped up in the story that I spend the entire time reading! I also read a book from a different genre and point of view than my work-in-progress. I don’t want my own authorial voice to mix up with the author I’m reading.

So if I’m writing first person, present tense, YA dystopian fiction, like my novel Starter Zone, I will read a third person, past tense, Regency romance.  The styles are very different and there is little chance that the other author’s narrative voice will creep into my own writing. But the simple act of reading helps my creativity start to flow.

I hope these 4 tips help you along your own writing journey.

If you’d like to learn more about Chris, visit her blog A Writer’s Life where she talks about her writing and publications,  reading, cooking, gaming, gardening, health/beauty tips, and, of course, her obsession with coffee. Or follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

 

 

 

 

Indie Spotlight on Paranormal Mystery Writer Casi McLean

Piper Taylor concedes she’ll never fall in love, until a treacherous storm spirals her into the arms of the handsome Nick Cramer. Unrelenting remorse over a past relationship haunts Nick, but he can’t deny the mysterious connection and hot desire Piper evokes.

The allure of a secret portal hidden beneath Atlanta’s Lake Lanier tempts him into seizing the opportunity to change his mistakes. But his time slip triggers consequences beyond his wildest dreams.

Can Piper avoid the international espionage and terrorism of 2001 New York, find Nick, and bring him home before he alters the fabric of time, or will the lovers drift forever Beyond The Mist 

 

How a ‘Wrinkle in Time’ Inspired my Writing Career

For as long as I remember, I’ve loved the idea of supernatural. Not blatant horror stories, vampires, sci-fi aliens, or other worldly fantasy, but the notion of “what if” that entices imagination into believing there’s more than what meets the eye.

My fourth grade teacher nudged the author within me when she read aloud Madeleine L’Engles, A Wrinkle In Time. The enchanting story opened the door to my future. I read every time travel story I could get my hands on and watched every time slip movie. The question niggled at me. If time travel was “a thing” how would the concept likely occur?

Years later, when I heard about the eerie lore attached to Atlanta’s Lake Sidney Lanier, a man-made lake located in the foothills of the North Georgia Mountains, the tales fascinated me. Plagued with mysterious disappearances, freak accidents, strange phenomenon, and ghostly occurrences, the lake became the perfect setting for my passion to bloom.

What if the construction created more than a lake? What if the excavation triggered a seismic shift, which when given enough energy, opened a portal to a different dimension…a rip in time connecting past to future? I loved the possibilities. I envisioned a town that time forgot and the history and creepy tales attached to the rural area that sleeps beneath Atlanta’s famous lake, became book one of my Lake Lanier Mysteries, Beneath The Lake.

Homes, churches and buildings still linger beneath the surface, abandoned by displaced families and businesses. The moonshiners of the 1940’s added built-in suspense and sparked the birth of NASCAR. Looper Speedway, a half-mile dirt track where bootleggers competed with their souped-up cars, bared its cement stands in a recent draught. And there’s a Lady of the Lake who haunts the ghost town. Some say she lures victims to her watery grave. The truth is, swimmers get trapped among the deadfall of sheered-off trees and town remains. Even expert divers get tangled beneath the murky surface, hence the lake’s unnerving label: Lanier never gives up its dead.

I moved to Lake Lanier last year and my home overlooks a beautiful cove. The glimmering lake is a solace for me. Taking walks on trails around lake, and talking to neighbors who have lived in the area for generations feeds my muse. There’s no telling how many tales Lake Lanier Mysteries will yield, but if this inspiration should ever dry up, my passion for a touch of supernatural will keep me submerged in fodder. For now, Between The Shadows, book three, flourishes as my current work in progress. This story slips back to 1865 Georgia at the end of the Civil War, where two more Reynolds Cove characters promise to lure you into their own romantic suspense. I hope you all will join us as Lake Lanier Mysteries continues.

I love venues where I can talk about the inspiration behind writing. Thank you so much for hosting me, Anita. And thanks for reading everyone.

BIO: Award winning author, Casi McLean, pens novels to stir the soul with romance, suspense, and a sprinkle of magic. Her writing crosses genres from ethereal, captivating shorts with eerie twist endings to believable time slips, mystical plots, and sensual romantic suspense. Her novel Beneath The Lake, is the 2016 winner of the Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence for BEST Romantic Suspense.  If you’d like to learn more about Cassi you can visit her website, and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

 

Indie Spotlight on Horror & YA Author, Ron Chapman

For anyone who’s lost a parent or a loved one, Never Forget is an emotional roller coaster that will grab you by your heart and hit home. As a father of three, Chapman struggles to recall his forgotten childhood memories with his father that he locked away so long ago, while at the same time, creating memories with his own sons.

Never Forget is a true story with a twist. Stay to the end to find out the twist. A box of tissue is recommended.

Stepping Outside the Horror & YA Box to Write About Family

My is Ron Chapman and I’m an Amazon bestseller of horror and YA. A while ago, I decided to step outside of the box and write about a different subject matter than I usually write about—a subject that’s been bothering me since I was a kid. It’s also a subject that is dear to my heart.

Some people fear heights, spiders, snakes or even intimacy. Me though, I fear being forgotten by my kids and to me, that is the worse kind of fear anyone could experience.

My fear of being forgotten didn’t happen overnight. This fear of being forgotten happened in two stages of my life.

The first stage was when my father died. I think I was 15 or 16 at the time.  It was hard for me to handle and understand. I always looked up to my father. He was my hero and then when he was taken from me, it was as if someone had ripped my heart out. My hero, my protector was gone. The passing of my father hit me so hard that I took all the memories we had as a father and son and shut them away hoping that maybe it would make the loss of my father a little easier.

I was wrong.

Not a day has gone by since I was a kid that I don’t think about my father. The memories of my father and me are still locked away and lost. I remember fragments of a father and son but that’s it.

The second stage was when I became a father. I don’t want my sons to ever forget the memories of their father like I did mine. Over the years, I’ve tried to build lasting memories so that my sons will be able to look back on life when they have their own kids and say, “I remember when my dad did this with me.” Or “I remember doing this with my dad.”

There will come a time in my kid’s lives when I will no longer be there for them and all they will have will be their memories of the times we had as father and son. I want my kids to remember the times with their father as if it were just minutes ago.

My kids are my life. They are what makes my heart beat. It pains me to think that one day my kids will be out on their own with their own family. Oh sure, I’ll have my loving wife by my side, but it just won’t be the same.

Never Forget is a story I felt had to be written and shared with everyone. If there’s a lesson to be learned from the story, it’s that life can be short in so many ways. People come and people go, especially the ones you love—so build those lasting memories and hold on to them. Never forget them.

BIO: Ron Chapman is a man of many hats, depending on the day. Some days he’s a construction worker, a pirate, or a swimming coach. He’s even tried his hand at being a doll and toy maker. He can even be found walking with the dead.Being a part time god isn’t bad either, creating worlds one moment then turning around and destroying, the next.

He also has a license to kill and will not hesitate to do so. You see… he’s a writer that loves to write horror stories and not just any run of the mill horror stories. He walks a thin line with his stories between being dark and twisted madness. He will take your nightmares and turn them into fantasies and dreams. There is no happily ever after in his stories but there are however, happy endings. Not the ones you would expect though. Beware, if you get on his wrong side he may just write you into a story and deal with you that way.

If you want to know more about this wild man, follow him on Twitter @RonMtDew and/or Instagram @Ronchapman69.

 

 

 

 

Indie Spotlight on Indie Author of Spiritual and Supernatural Fiction P.S. Winn

Journeys is the story of a young man who, because of a car wreck, has a near death experience. While Josh walked through that valley of the shadow of death, doorways opened. Arriving on the other side, Josh is told he has to return because an evil presence stepped through and made its’ way to earth and Josh’s hometown. Josh’s obligation is to find and destroy the evil. Josh returns and finds he was given some very unique gifts and two special friends to help him on his journey.

Writing – an Incredible Journey

When I began writing, trying to somehow preserve the words and ideas in my heart and floating in my head, I had no idea where it would lead. Now I have published fifty books in five years. One of the questions I am asked most is which book was my favorite to write. To me, that is like asking which of my seven children is my favorite. I love them all, but each has their own reason for being special. The same goes for the stories I write. The book I think took me on the most interesting journey is “Obligations.”

For me, there is a distinct link between the spiritual and the supernatural. That connection twists and weaves itself through many of the books I write.

I also think the books I write for preschoolers are important. Children who read do better in life. I have four books I hope instill the love of reading in young ones and also teach lessons that are essential.

The most important book I believe I have written is based on a true story. The man the story is about is an inventor who patented an invention that could burn garbage with no pollution and was creating an electrical charge in the process. The man, whose name had to be changed, wanted to clean our air while giving people cheap or free energy. Government bureaucrats with their big oil backers suppressed the idea and the man.

I wonder how many other great ideas have been silenced and how many important inventions suffered “Suppression” in the same way.

Although I love all my books, I give credit for the success I’ve had to the readers. Their vivid imaginations take the stories to new levels. A person who loves that journey of grabbing a book and sinking into the depths adds a different dimension. I think each reader sees the story a bit differently in their own minds. The story becomes personal to them and even better than I can imagine. The same reason the books are always better than the movies. The reader makes their own movie in their mind as they read and no two step away with the same pictures.

I believe, as a writer, I blend my own experiences into the stories I create. Along with that, I leave a piece of my heart, soul and life in each book. I think the reader does the same.

With each book, written and then read, that connection is what makes each book unique.

My health problems are making it harder for me to write. I write all the stories longhand before I struggle to type the words. That is beginning to be a bigger challenge to continue than I would like.

I hope with some innovative technologies and personal ingenuity I will produce more books. Maybe not another fifty in five years, but it is the sharing of the stories that float through my mind with readers that makes writing an incredible journey.

I have to thank my husband for his support, my children and grandchildren for input and believing in me. I have amazing friends, on-line and off who keep me going when I struggle. They are my life line and I am blessed to have them. Not only is writing an  incredible journey, but so is life.

P.S. Winn started writing when her husband had several heart attacks. He was told to move to a lower elevation. He wanted to go home to Montana and be by family. So, that is where they are now after spending thirty years in Utah.

P.S. is also an avid top ten reader on GoodReads and you can find the books she’s read and written there. If you would like to learn more about P.S. you can follow her on Facebook, join her Journeys Facebook group, and visit her GoodReads author page.

 

Indie Spotlight on Fantasy Author Mandy Jackson-Beverly

An ancient curse

A forgotten love

A painting with secrets only one woman can reveal

Coco Rhodes is surprised by a horrific vision beneath her most recent painting: the violent attack upon a fragile young girl. When a link is discovered between an education-finance fraud and several girls disappearing from Washington, D.C. schools, Coco’s lover and leader of the Allegiance, the vampire-warlock Gabriel, vows to rescue the girls, and topple a corrupt congressman. Concurrently, the dark and twisted past of Kenan, the Allegiance’s sworn enemy, is revealed. With Kenan’s whereabouts unknown, members of the Allegiance begin to unravel his sadistic plan.

From New York and D.C., to Tuscany and the Dolomite Mountains of Northern Italy, the supernatural guardians of the Allegiance are guided by both the lessons of history and the shocks of present-day life. Through magical twists and otherworldly subplots, this supernatural thriller weaves a web of intrigue, love, and conflict. In The Devil and the Muse, Coco’s sense of duty to the Allegiance is tested. But will protecting her loved ones cause her to sacrifice her humanity?

A Gift From David Bowie

During my earlier life as a costume designer and stylist, I was lucky enough to work with David Bowie, first as the costume designer for the music video for his song “Day In, Day Out,” and subsequently asked to join the crew as head of wardrobe for the Glass Spider tour in 1987. After turning down the opportunity of touring more than once, I finally accepted.

In retrospect, touring was not exactly the ideal situation for me to be in as I had recently become sober, and the lifestyle of being on the road 24/7 was not exactly harmonious with the emotional and physical turmoil one experiences during the first year of sobriety. It would not be until many years later that I would understand the relevance of this part of my life’s journey.

After a few months on the road in Europe, I decided that for my own health and well-being I needed to resign and head back to the familiarity of the city of angels. But the tour marked a turning point in my life; a seed was planted in my soul when we stayed just outside of Florence in a sanctuary called Villa La Massa.

Skip ahead thirty years…

While researching locations for The Creatives Series and searching for a lost stapler, I happened to open a drawer and pick up a bunch of old papers. As I went to stuff them all back where they belonged, something fell to the ground. I picked up the fallen paper and a flutter of recognition sparked my curiosity. It had been nearly twenty-six years since the Bowie tour, but time did not quell the host of images that flooded my mind. The paper in my hand was a brochure for a small luxury boutique hotel just outside of Florence: Villa La Massa.

As I stared at the photo on the front of the brochure, I remembered the sense of nostalgia I had experienced the moment I stepped off the tour bus and onto the path that led to the entrance of the sixteenth-century Italian villa, way back in June of ‘87. Standing in the foyer while waiting for my room allocation, protected by a border of arches, I had felt safe and happy. Making my way to my room along the third-floor open hallway, I looked down at the foyer. From this vantage point, the arches brought to mind a flower opening her petals to the Tuscan sun – a welcoming of sorts. I recalled the vivid baby blue tones of my room and the view from the attic window – the gardens that bordered the terrace, and the reflections mirrored upon the surface of the Arno River.

There are pieces of Villa La Massa woven into The Creatives Series, in particular, Antonia’s home in Florence, and Gabriel’s Tuscan villa outside of San Gimignano. Through a strange series of events I was drawn to another property in Tuscany called, Spannocchia, and this became the model for Gabriel’s villa. One look at the turret and I knew I needed to visit this place. My wish came true earlier this year and Spannocchia did not disappoint – complete with the snuffling sounds of wild boar lurking behind overgrown hiking trails!

Not a day goes by where I’m not grateful for the short time I spent working with David Bowie. He was the ultimate Creative – a sweet and sensitive man who loved to read and engage in philosophical conversations during long flights and family-style Italian dinners.

The purpose of a stapler is to bind things together. Although I never did find my missing stapler, I believe it more than adequately fulfilled its mission.

Mandy Jackson-Beverly is the author of A Secret Muse, and The Devil And The Muse; the first two books in The Creatives Series. Mandy is a contributor to The Huffington Post and a book reviewer for The New York Journal of Books. Her first novel, A Secret Muse, won first place in the fantasy section of the 2016 Beverly Hills Book Awards. Mandy has taught Advanced Placement Art, and previously worked as a costume designer and stylist for photographer Herb Ritts, and directors Joel and Ethan Coen, David Fincher, and Julien Temple, and music icons David Bowie, Madonna, and Tina Turner, to name a few. If you’d like to learn more about Mandy you can visit her website, follow her on Facebook, and Instagram.

 

 

 

 

Indie Spotlight on SciFi Author, Lesley Smith

FOR EVERY GOOD FORTUNE, THERE’S AN EQUAL AND OPPOSITE MISFORTUNE. As a brilliant young computer scientist working on her master’s degree, Ella Hote doesn’t believe in luck. But when bizarre accidents, insane coincidences, and weird encounters with improbably handsome strangers start to happen all around her, even hardheaded Ella has to change her mind.

She comes to realize she’s inadvertently created a luck generating computer that can make even the longest of long shots pay off.

Unfortunately, for every stroke of good luck, someone else pays the price in bad luck.

Ultimately, when lives are on the line, how far will she go?

Conservation of Luck is an engaging science fiction story that grapples with questions of morality—do the ends ever justify the means? And how can you go to save your loved ones?

My Love Affair with Science Fiction

Hi, my name is Lesley Smith and I’m a science fiction fan.  And, yes, I know that sounds like the intro at a twelve-step meeting. I write science fiction because I read science fiction.

My SF experience all started when I was a little girl and my chemist dad gave me a copy of Isaac Asimov’s Foundation Trilogy. From there it was just a hop, skip, and a jump to novels of Robert Heinlein such as Stranger in a Strange Land and Time Enough for Love. And, then, before I knew it I was hanging out at the library at all hours, reading works such as Fahrenheit 451 and The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury.

Maybe you had a similar experience with your favorite books?

My love affair with SF continued over the decades. I was especially happy to find more modern authors like Connie Willis and Kathleen Goonan who write from a more feminine perspective.

My critique partners like to say I write ‘science fiction with heart.’ I say I write the kind of books I want to read, with female protagonists who can be kick-ass scientists, have romances and dear friends and joke around, who can live and love–all while saving the world.

The bottom line is I can’t resist flights of fancy to other worlds and other societies. I love going on adventures and trying to understand other sentient creatures, cultures and scientific concepts. I love letting my imagination run wild in parallel with my reason when I create new fiction.

Reading fiction is the only activity in which you get to become someone, or something, else. Thus, as a girl I got to become an astronaut, a Martian settler, a time traveler, a psycho-historian, a robotic engineer, a scientist, and many other professions. I felt as if I was having adventures such as exploring Mars and doing scientific experiments. I’m a firm believer that you have to be able to dream of something to do it. You have to imagine yourself doing it.

For me, SF became a gateway to something even more powerful: science. Decades later, you guessed it, I’m a scientist with several degrees under my belt including a Ph.D. in Physics. I’m very passionate about encouraging people in underrepresented groups become STEM professionals and I think science fiction helps make this happen.

Every day, I make use of the imagination and creativity I learned, and continue to learn, from science fiction. Every day, I’m honored to carry the torch and advance humanity’s knowledge a little further and to write about it in my fiction.

And every day I’m grateful for the opportunity.

(Photo by Patrick Campbell/University of Colorado)

Lesley L. Smith has collected a plethora of degrees including a PhD. in Physics and a MFA in Writing Popular Fiction. She has published seven science fiction novels with her latest being, Conservation of Luck. Her short science fiction has been published in several venues including Analog Science Fiction and Fact. She is an active member of the Science Fiction/Fantasy Writers of America and Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers. She is also a founder and editor of the speculative fiction e Zine Electric Spec. She has had a variety of scientific jobs including investigating quarks, dark matter, extra-solar planets, clouds, atmospheric chemistry and global warming. She has worked for a variety of research institutions including The University of Kansas, Argonne National Laboratory, the Department of Energy, the National Center for Atmospheric Research, NASA, and The University of Colorado. If you’d like to know more about Lesley you can visit her website.

Indie Spotlight on Crime Writer Christina Kaye

THE SINS OF THE FATHER

In my award-winning suspense novel, LIKE FATHER, LIKE DAUGHTER, Libby wakes up to find her husband murdered in the bed next to her. When police arrive at the scene, they quickly realize that she’s the daughter of the infamous I-75 Strangler, who is now service several life sentences in prison. So I wondered…what would it be like to have a serial killer in the family?

When we hear about serial killers in the media, we become fixated on the monster and the horrific crimes they committed. We often forget about their victims. Beyond that, we forget that there are other victims that are rarely mentioned, if ever – their children.

Take for example, Kerri Rawson, daughter of the BTK Killer, Dennis Raider. She and her mother had no idea Dennis was a cold-blooded torturer and murderer until the FBI showed up at her house and told her and her husband everything. She claims she has coped with her father’s notoriety and the pain that comes with being the daughter of a serial killer with the help of her church and a psychologist (much like Libby in LIKE FATHER, LIKE DAUGHTER).

Melissa Moore is the daughter of Keith Jessperson (aka The Happy Face Killer) who murdered at least eight women in the early nineties while working as a long-haul truck driver (again, like Libby’s father in LIKE FATHER, LIKE DAUGHTER). He was known for mailing letters to the police and media detailing his crimes and signing them with a happy face. Chilling, but true. The truth came out when Jessperson turned himself in when Melissa was only 15. While she knew nothing about his crimes, she did tell BBC reporters that she knew something was “dark” about him. Moore wrote a book called “Shattered Silence: The Untold Story of a Serial Killer’s Daughter.” She later went on to host a television series called The Monster in My Family (available on Netflix).

The Green River Killer (Gary Ridgeway) may be one of the most well-known American serial killers. He is infamous for killing at least 49 women in Washington State before being captured in 2001. His son, Matthew Ridgeway, has said that his father (though absent mostly due to divorce from Matthew’s mother) was a “normal” dad and that he showed up often to sports matches and even taught his son how to ride a bike. Eerily, it has been said that Gary Ridgeway showed victims a picture of his son just prior to killing them, in an effort to calm their fears and make them feel at ease. Matthew went on to serve in the US Marine Corp. He later married and settled in California.

Some children of serial killers, however, do not fare so well. Take, for example, Yury Odnacheva, son of Andrei Chikatilo, arguably the most prolific serial killer ever identified. Chikatilo was convicted of sexually assaulting and murdering over 50 people, though he claimed to have killed many more than that. His son, Yury (who took on his mother’s surname after Chikatilo’s arrest), wound up having several run-ins with the law, including convictions for theft and extortion.  In 2009, he was arrested and convicted of attempted murder for stabbing a man nine times.

Though each of these individuals has reacted differently to learning that their father was a notorious serial killer, they have one thing in common. They all have to live with the knowledge that their father killed countless innocent victims and that the man they knew as “daddy” no longer exists.  They’ve each felt the sting of losing a father and having to accept the fact that the man who raised them is responsible for taking away other people’s mothers and fathers from them.

When I wrote Like Father, Like Daughter, I had seen an episode of The Monster in My Family and it got me wondering…what would it be like to have a serial killer for a father? Would you turn out to be just like them? Or was there a chance you could go on to live a normal life, despite living in the shadow of someone notorious for committing horrific acts of violence? I chose to take it a step further and have my main character, Libby Carter, charged with the murder of her own husband. In my mind, if an individual was charged with murder and then police learned that their father was a convicted serial killer, odds are they would be scrutinized even more thoroughly. I would think police would be disinclined to believe them and that they would automatically assume that they were just like their father. Hence the title, LIKE FATHER, LIKE DAUGHTER.

BIO: Christina Kaye is the award-winning author of dark, twisty novels. She was born and raised in Lexington, Kentucky. Some of her favorite things include: sweet tea, dragonflies, books, puppies, and thunderstorms. Christina lives in Nicholasville, Kentucky with her two teenage daughters, an extremely intelligent Aussie, and a very fat cat.

To learn more about Christina you can visit her website and follow her on Facebook and Twitter

 

 

Indie Spotlight on Romance (Thriller) Author Renee Charles

Amidst an epidemic ravaging the world, all Megan Fletcher’s hopes for the future lie in getting to Las Vegas where newscasts reported scientists were gathering to search for a cure for the modern plague. After rescuing her from a rooftop surrounded by Zombies, Sam Woods appoints himself her escort. While he knows she is determined to get to Vegas no matter the cost, he doesn’t know her secret. And with his hatred of all things Zombie, she doesn’t dare tell him the truth. The more he kisses her, the harder it is for Megan to hide her growing feelings…and the bite-shaped scar. But Vegas is not the haven it was promised to be, and when Megan’s immunity to the disease is discovered, she realizes her future and her heart belong to Sam, if he will trust her.

An idealistic school teacher and ex-corporate mogul manage to find love despite a looming worldwide catastrophe. Can their love survive while everything around them is dying? Will they learn that when facing the end of the world, Only Love Survives?

Do you believe in Monsters?

If I told you monsters were real would you believe me? What if I said there is proof all around us? Everyday proof and we step over it like a pile of laundry in our room, which screams for our attention, yet barely registers on our radar.

Think about this for a minute. How can multiple unconnected cultures come up with similar creatures, down to the height and smells, throughout history. Easy, because they are real. Don’t believe me? Just Google ‘Bear walking on hind legs’ AND ‘Bear with no hair’. It’s okay, I’ll wait. <<Cue elevator music.>>

You’re back. So, now do you see why the legend of BIGFOOT won’t ever die? Yeah, marry those two images together and voila, the stuff nightmares are made of.

Legends are born of truth. So are monsters.

Another good example is the Dragon. Thirteenth century men needed a word for what they found fossilized in the rocks around them. We call them dinosaurs now, but could you imagine what it would have been like to happen upon a skeleton taller than your thatched roof?  First off, you’d give it a name. Then you would give it a story as magical as the finding itself.

Another great example, the vampire. Sun sensitivity is a very real thing. I have a redheaded friend who gets bruises like she’s been punched rather than the traditional sunburn. I, myself a devote vegetarian since birth simply because I hated the texture of anything meaty, woke up one morning when I was 23 and cooked (barely cooked, really more I just took the chill off) a big hunk of red meat for breakfast. Turns out, not only was I preggers, but anemic as well. The body craves what it needs, and sometimes that is some good old fashioned protein soaked in blood. Harsh, I know, but it gets my point across.

These stories come from somewhere. Explanations for what cannot be explained, often from the minds of those who imagine the worst and revel in it. We authors do exactly that.

Romance authors are the worst, known for taking two perfectly innocent people and throwing the worst possible set of circumstances at them. Why? Because the harder the trials and tribulations, the better the HEA is afterward. Now add some good old fashioned monsters in the mix, and you have the perfect love story in this author’s humble opinion. That’s what I do in my books, I love strange beginnings with passionate endings. My full length novel, Only Love Survives chronicles two people as they carve out a life in a post-apocalyptic, zombie infested world.

Renee Charles believes all love is legendary. Having been the only female in a house full of giants (husband and two boys) for the past 20 years. she tends to lean toward the strange and unusual, but inevitably the softer side shines through. Her own romance began in an insane asylum. Luckily, both she and her husband only worked there. But it makes sense her romance novels have strange beginnings, which lead to passionate endings. Romance with a twist. In the face of zombies, werewolves, and dragons she always seems to find a happily ever after to leave you with a sigh at the end.

If you’d  like to know more about Renee please visit her website , follow her on Facebook and Twitter.