Author Interview and Giveaway: Shawn Martin

Long and Short Reviews welcomes Shawn Martin whose latest book Forget Me Not is released today. Forget Me Not is the second book of the Shadowflesh Series. Leave a comment for a chance to win one of two print copies of the book.

The books in the Shadowflesh Series are as follows: Shadowflesh (February 2013), Forget Me Not (March 2013), Invisible Ink, Shadow of Doubt, and Nevermore (the last three TBA). Shawn subscribes to the theory that even though a picture is worth a thousand words, a poet believes a word is worth a thousand pictures–so he tried keeping his titles concise, using words that were rich with passion, lament, fear, and dreamy imagery.

“If, for example, I had called the books Aileen’s Story, Aileen’s Other Story, etc… the titles may have been accurate, but they wouldn’t have made anyone’s world move. Titles should make the ground quake and the skies swirl,” he explained.

Much of what is in Shadowflesh and Forget Me Not was taken out of the pages of Shawn’s personal experiences. He encountered bullies and intolerant religious types and outcasts who hid in the shadows. In fact, the outcasts–the group who belonged to no group–was the group he hung out with in high school. They hid themselves from the bullies, or simply hid from themselves. He has known both love and pain, life and death. He has seen dreams come true and nightmares shatter hearts.

“Somehow I had managed to survive those years with my memories intact, without reconfiguring my past to conform with the future I had constructed,” he said. “Of course some of the paranormal elements were spawned in my imagination, but they were nourished from both the darkest and brightest days of my teen years.”

For the last several months, Shawn has been working on the third installment in the Shadowflesh Series, Invisible Ink.

“I had found myself with the book nearly finished, but felt it lacked the passion and promise of the other two books. That was likely a grim reflection of my personal life,” he admitted. “However, my darkness has been vanquished, and light is shining on both Invisible Ink and my life once again. I’m spending my nights rewriting the story and hope to have it out sometime next year.”

Shawn began writing fiction during his high school days. I asked him to tell us about some of his early writing.

“Everything from a touching tale about a killer whale falling in love with a submarine, or a musical play about a lonely girl trapped in an insane asylum, all mirroring the time when Alice had been admitted to Wonderland Memorial, or heart-wrenching excuses written to school counselors telling them why poor Shawn had missed school the last three days because he had saving nuns lost in a cave,” he said. “Ten years ago, I spent serious time refining my art, hoping that one day it would rise up to the level of being a talent. After many Zen moments of near success consumed by the dragon of failure, my status went from amateur to pro in February 2013, with the publication of Shadowflesh.”

“Do you ever suffer from writer’s block?” I asked. “If so, what do you do about it?”

“When writer’s block comes to visit, it often plans on staying a while. It robs the psychic nourishment from my mental fridge. It kicks me out of my bed, steals the remote, and worst of all, runs away my muse—that super-secret inner voice which whispers words into my pen and breathes life into my soul. I fight writer’s block by forcing myself to get a change of scenery, a change of perspective, and a change of attitude. Writer’s block doesn’t like change, and he often slams the door and leaves. Then my muse comes wandering back home, ready to tell me about her adventures.”

Shawn told me that he doesn’t invent his characters as much as he meets them, just like he meets people. He will find himself immersed in a situation or event, where new and interesting people cross his path, and he gets to know them.

“So, really the plot, in its rawest, brutish form, comes first,” he told me. “Then I meet the characters, and they blossom like a rose nearly a week after Valentine’s Day. But then once I get to know my characters, the plot grows and details emerge, and more characters are met. And so on, and so on. Plot does indeed come first, but it is woven in with the characters so much that it’s easy to lose sight of where it all began.”

“What is your work schedule like when you are writing?” I wondered.

“I have to balance my writing schedule with the other obligations in my life. While I’d like to be one of those old Victorian authors in his oak paneled study puffing on a pipe in his red velvet smoking jacket, writing, writing, writing, I live in the 21st Century and am a slave to our times. I work as a firefighter, which has my undivided attention 24 hours out of every 72. I don’t write on duty, so that gives me two days to devote to my stories. I prefer the late evening into the early morning hours for writing. My inhibitions are low and my creativity is high, a perfect combination for spilling ink onto paper.”

“Now, a fun question. Have you ever eaten a crayon?”

“Wow, what a question! I’m afraid the answer is, yes. I’ll offer this explanation, which should never be interpreted as justification. When I was young—grade school young—and far from my finest moment, I had upgraded from the standard sixteen crayon box to the exquisite sixty-four crayon box. The colors had such fascinating names, such as mulberry, and mulberries sounded absolutely delicious. The crayon looked so ripe, and I thought, what could be the harm? One nibble later and I was sorely disappointed. It tasted nothing like any berry I had ever eaten. It more closely resembled wax and made my teeth feel gummy. Since then, I’ve sworn off crayons.”

“Thanks for stopping by! And, good luck with the new book.”

“It was a joy sharing a little about myself with you, and I want to offer a big Thank You to Long and Short Reviews. Never stop reading, dreaming, and living.”

About the Author3_31 author photoShawn Martin calls Springfield, Missouri, home. After graduating from Missouri State University with majors in Economics and Political Science, he bounced around the Midwest only to end up right where he started.

His day (and night) job is being a firefighter. Aside from rescuing cats in trees and removing burnt pot roasts from ovens, he spends his time finding the hardest way to do the simplest of things. The rest of his time is spent weaving words into another installment in the Shadowflesh Series.

Website ~ @martiniaff152 ~ Facebook ~ Blog

3_31 ForgetMeNot 200x300Fortune has smiled on seventeen year old Aileen McCormick ever since Addison came back into her life, giving her the love she has so desperately longed for. That is, until a mysterious man slithers across her path and slips a spellbinding cameo around her neck. The cameo holds more than just the image of an enchantress who hungers for souls. It possesses a curse that strangles away every memory Aileen has of Addison.

Addison, a three hundred year old fugitive from the netherworld, recognizes the wretched woman inside the cameo and the curse she has cast on his unsuspecting love. The enchanted cameo has but one purpose: to torment Aileen with hints of love she can no longer recall.

Nothing more than a stranger to Aileen, Addison insists that she knows him, that she has felt his lips on hers. Thinking the handsome young man in his leather jacket and dark Wayfarers is playing some cruel game, she pushes him away and runs into the arms of Geoff, the one person who could ever rival Addison.

Geoff has waited oh, so long for Aileen. Before the opportunity slips away, he sweeps her off her feet at the Christmas masquerade ball. But fate thrusts Aileen into Addison’s waiting arms. One passionate kiss later, she knows beyond a shadow of doubt that she loves the icy stranger with smoky blue eyes.

Her newfound love is overshadowed by tantalizing hints of the first love she shared with Addison, just beyond her memory’s reach. And remembering comes at too high a price. Aileen cannot escape the deadly cameo. She runs for her life with the curse only a breath away. If she truly wants her memory back, the enchantress is all too willing to restore it. It will cost her, though. Cost her everything.

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Memories by Shawn Martin — guest blog and giveaway

Memories
by
Shawn Martin
We are nothing without our memories. Memories tether us to the person who we have become, to the reality within which we swim. Without memories we would float aimlessly in the currents of life, our next action neither tied nor relevant to the action which preceded it. Every person we’d ever meet would be new—true—but irrelevant in the bigger scheme of things. We would essentially be like goldfish obliviously darting from one side of the aquarium to the next.

Memories are the islands in the vast sea of life. And when we look back upon our lives, we don’t remember the choppy water. We remember the islands, some filled with treasure, others filled with sharp stones. Those islands (those memories) map out who we have been, who we are, and even who we are likely to become. Most every conscious moment is spent either planning for the future or thinking about the past. And even when we plan for the future, it is with the utmost consideration of the past. Of our memories.

Jane Austen wrote in Mansfield Park “If any one faculty of our nature may be called more wonderful than the rest, I do think it is our memory.” She got that one right. Our memories are the wonderful foundation in which our lives are built.

I often wondered what amnesia would be like. Not the sitcom type of amnesia, where Gilligan knocks the Skipper in the head and the old captain forgets everything. The real amnesia. The kind brought on by a traumatic event, sometimes physical but often emotional. What happens when a person is severed from the lines which have anchored her to her life? She can’t help but drift away, relying on the stars and her moral compass to direct her. But she does drift away, time passes, and on her new path, her life is forever changed.

That’s what happens to Aileen in Forget Me Not. (Ironically while doing a little research for this posting, I found the title for that episode of Gilligan’s Island was also called “Forget Me Not.” Small world.) Without giving away too much, Aileen finds herself with all memories of Addison, her one true love, vanquished from her mind. She doesn’t recognize him when walks into her life for what seems like the first time. His touch and his kiss are foreign concepts, and the lightning in a bottle which had sparked their romance is nothing, not even a memory.

Yes, I wonder what kind of nightmare it would be to forget the moments, the memories which have brought me to where I am. Granted, some memories I would like to forget. Those embarrassing gaffs I had made during my formative years, the words I wished I could forget (or simply take back). I’d give anything to forget the pain, the betrayal, the vicious look in another’s eyes when a part of my life had been destroyed. But other memories are treasures. Love at first sight, for example. I remember every cloud in the sky, the cool whip of the wind, the fragile smile on the delicate face, and the lilt in the voice.

If I lost my memories, sure, I would lose the bad ones. But I’d also lose the good ones, the great ones. Assuming I was given the chance to do it all over again, I doubt the stars would ever line up the way in which they had when magic happened the first time, when I tried to capture lightning in a bottle. And I would drift away from the life I had been destined to live. And so does Aileen’s, the voice who tells you all my secrets and most of my memories.

About the Author3_31 author photoShawn Martin calls Springfield, Missouri, home. After graduating from Missouri State University with majors in Economics and Political Science, he bounced around the Midwest only to end up right where he started.

His day (and night) job is being a firefighter. Aside from rescuing cats in trees and removing burnt pot roasts from ovens, he spends his time finding the hardest way to do the simplest of things. The rest of his time is spent weaving words into another installment in the Shadowflesh Series.

Website ~ @martiniaff152 ~ Facebook ~ Blog

3_31 ForgetMeNot 200x300Fortune has smiled on seventeen year old Aileen McCormick ever since Addison came back into her life, giving her the love she has so desperately longed for. That is, until a mysterious man slithers across her path and slips a spellbinding cameo around her neck. The cameo holds more than just the image of an enchantress who hungers for souls. It possesses a curse that strangles away every memory Aileen has of Addison.

Addison, a three hundred year old fugitive from the netherworld, recognizes the wretched woman inside the cameo and the curse she has cast on his unsuspecting love. The enchanted cameo has but one purpose: to torment Aileen with hints of love she can no longer recall.

Nothing more than a stranger to Aileen, Addison insists that she knows him, that she has felt his lips on hers. Thinking the handsome young man in his leather jacket and dark Wayfarers is playing some cruel game, she pushes him away and runs into the arms of Geoff, the one person who could ever rival Addison.

Geoff has waited oh, so long for Aileen. Before the opportunity slips away, he sweeps her off her feet at the Christmas masquerade ball. But fate thrusts Aileen into Addison’s waiting arms. One passionate kiss later, she knows beyond a shadow of doubt that she loves the icy stranger with smoky blue eyes.

Her newfound love is overshadowed by tantalizing hints of the first love she shared with Addison, just beyond her memory’s reach. And remembering comes at too high a price. Aileen cannot escape the deadly cameo. She runs for her life with the curse only a breath away. If she truly wants her memory back, the enchantress is all too willing to restore it. It will cost her, though. Cost her everything.

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INTERVIEW and giveaway: SHAWN MARTIN

<a href=”http://www.shadowflesh.com”>Shawn Martin</a> is visiting with us here at Long and Short Reviews. His debut novel Shadowflesh is the first book in a series and was released in February by Vinspire Publishing.   The second book, Forget-Me-Not, will be released soon.   Leave a comment on today’s interview for an autographed copy of Shadowflesh.

Shadowflesh tells the story of Aileen, a sad girl who feels she can’t make it through another day.  After her family moves her halfway across the country, she finds herself an outcast in a new school.  When a group of bullies shoves her, she falls into the arms of Addison Wake.  And her world changes.  Addison is a seventeen year old who had been killed three hundred years ago, and his spirit was imprisoned by the enchantress who took his life.  When the enchantress hungers, she releases Addison into the mortal world to gather souls for her to consume.  Aileen falls for the handsome stranger, who confesses his dark secret to her.  When dead bodies start popping up throughout the town, Aileen begins to fear for her own life.  She has to decide if her love for Addison is worth the risk of possibly becoming his next victim.

“I’m currently working on the third book in the series, following Aileen on an adventure which takes her to a faraway place in another time, where she’s forced to run for her life and into the arms of someone who will love her forever,” he told me.

In addition to writing, Shawn is a firefighter. Part of the regulations of his job is that he has to fill out paperwork for a secondary job, so when Vinspire offered him the contract for Shadowflesh, he picked up the form from HR. One of the lines asked for the secondary job title.

“Immediately after I scribbled in the word ‘writer,’ it hit me.  I actually considered myself a writer and had the dinky little form to prove it,” he said.

Shawn began writing when he was a child. The winters were harsh, and there were times he found himself stuck inside and desperately seeking a creative outlet.

“One winter, I lost myself in writing a short story called ‘Corky the Killer Whale.’  It was a tale about a killer whale who had fallen in love with a submarine, and when those annoying Soviets launched an attack on the amorous vessel, Corky sacrificed himself to save his beloved,” he told me.  “My youthful heart tore in half, and I was hooked.”

Even though he enjoyed writing, he wanted to be a trial attorney when he grew up.

“I imagined myself wearing a suit, having a decent parking space, and saving the little guy against the big corporations.  I carried that ripening little dream with me into college, where I double-majored in Political Science and Economics,” he said.  “To further prepare me for a litigious life, I clerked for a law firm my last year of undergraduate school.  That’s when my dream dried up like a prune.  I wanted more out of life, and it took me a few years to find out exactly what that was.”

Between college and becoming a firefighter, Shawn worked as an inventory analyst for a large, very conservative company in Chicago.

“Halloween occurred on a Sunday, and a memo came out saying that employees could dress up for work.  On Monday, not Friday,” he said.  “I showed up Friday dressed as a pirate with a thin mustache and beard inked onto my face, a stuffed parrot on my shoulder, and cap and ball pistols at my side.  Yeah, that was embarrassing, but then I had to give a presentation to a group of clients that morning and didn’t have time to change.  I wasn’t exactly a jolly Roger.”

In Shawn’s opinion, good writing must have three basic elements. First, the characters have to be real, with the hero or heroine having some flaws and weaknesses, and the villain some virtues. Second, the research must be sound—if the story is set in London, the author must know if Big Ben has numbers or Roman numerals.  He also must know the smell of spring, the sound of birds, and the taste of soda bread. Finally, the style. The words and paragraphs are the picture frame in which the masterpiece is placed and should be crafted carefully.

I asked Shawn to describe his writing space.

“I write at an old ugly desk in a quiet corner of my house.  To my left is a skull with runic symbols carved into it, identical to Bob from the television series The Dresden Files.  A battered dictionary, stained thesaurus, and dog-eared baby name book sit behind my computer.  To the right, a few melted candles and incense box nag me for a light.  A sloppy stack of papers filled with research notes and one-liners hovers to my right.  Every once in a while a cup of tea or a can of Coke graces my writing space, but it’s rare.”

The hardest part of writing for Shawn is forcing himself to ignore interruptions, because if he answers every phone call, every email, and every tweet, he loses his rhythm and slips away from his character’s voice. He slips in ear-buds when he writes, listens to music, and shuts everything out. He also slips a heating pad behind his back—seven years ago while he was on a fire, he fell from a balcony and broke his back. Even though he recovered, the injury still pains him to the point of distraction.

The scariest moment of Shawn’s life didn’t happen when he fell off that balcony, though. When his wife was eight months pregnant, she called him at work and told him she was in labor.

“Like the good father I hoped to be, I dropped everything and rushed to my aspiring family’s side.  After several hours of huffing and pushing, my son was born.  But he didn’t cry.  The umbilical cord had been wrapped around his neck, leaving his face a heart-stopping shade of gray.  The doctor and nurses worked to resuscitate him.  I stood by my wife’s side, feeling completely helpless.  I couldn’t breathe, couldn’t move, couldn’t think.  I could do nothing but give my wife meaningless assurance.  What felt like hours, but probably was a minute or so, my son wailed out his first cry.  And he’s been vocal ever since.”

“What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever done in the name of research?” I wondered.

“While working on Forget-Me-Not, I needed to get a good perspective on palm reading.  I read up on palmistry and even had my own palm read.  But what I really needed was to see what a palm reader saw in the subject’s eyes and felt in her hands.  I met a young lady one evening and struck up a conversation.  I asked her if she had ever had her palm read, and she said no but always wanted to.  I told her I was a pro and she bought it, letting me bumble my way through the lines in her hands.  I remember the skepticism on her face, the way her brows knit when I stumbled onto her secrets, the way her lips hinted at a smile when I told her of a bright future.”

 

4_10 Shawn - pic to RTAbout the Author  Shawn Martin lives with his unconventional wife, two amazing sons, and a clowder of cats in Missouri. After graduating from Missouri State University with mostly harmless majors in Economics and Political Science, he took to the road rather than enrolling in law school.

When he finally settled down in 1995, he became a firefighter. Aside from rescuing cats in trees and removing burnt pot roasts from ovens, he spends his time finding the hardest way to do the simplest of things. The rest of his time is spent working on the next book in the Shadowflesh Series.

 

4_10 ShadowFlesh 200x300 (2)Death and darkness lurk in the shadows, awakening the flesh and forbidden love. Torn from her home and fighting bouts of suicidal depression, seventeen year old Aileen McCormick lands in the small coastal town of Redcliff, North Carolina. Her first day of school promises to be the worst day of her life when a menacing group of boys target the new girl. Shoved into the arms of arms of Addison Wake, she knows she’ll never be the same. Addison’s otherworldly charm and drop-dead gorgeous face leave her breathless, but only for a moment. Grim and painful secrets lurk in his dark soul.

Addison Wake isn’t exactly like other boys. Far from it. He’s dead and has been for 300 years, locked in an ethereal prison by a lethal enchantress named Donelle. When she hungers, she blesses Addison’s tortured spirit with moments of freedom, allowing him to roam the mortal world as Shadowflesh. But that dark blessing comes at a price. He must deliver the souls of five unsuspecting humans to Donelle. Knowing he’s here only for a short amount of time, Addison refuses to let himself fall in love and break Aileen’s already fractured heart. He pushes her into the arms of another, but destiny throws the two shadowy lovers back together. In the darkness of her room, Addison confesses his love and his deadly secret to Aileen.

When four dead bodies pop up in Redcliff, Aileen asks herself is her love for the mysterious boy unconditional? Is the love worth the risk? And will she be the next victim?

 

 

Shattering Grief by Shawn Martin (w/giveaway)

Like most writers, I supplement my addiction to creativity with a day (and night) job in the real world, the one that exists outside the pages.  It ensures the lights stay on and that there is always sauce on the spaghetti.  In addition to a steady paycheck, my occupation has opened the doors into the raw emotions people feel on what might very well be the worst day their lives.

I am a firefighter.

For nearly eighteen years I have been given a unique perspective on anguish and fear, anger and forgiveness.  I’ve witnessed both hope and misery, and have respectfully drawn on my experiences to make my characters more than superficial mannequins reciting lines.

As I began sculpting the conclusion to Shadowflesh, I wanted to bring out the true emotions of grief then relief.  I struggled with how Aileen would react, what she would feel as the story drew to an end.  Warning:  What follows hints of a spoiler.

Several years ago while pulling a double shift, a house fire was dispatched to our unit.  Like clockwork, the crew hopped onto the truck and sped to the blaze.  Other than flames blossoming out the windows, it was an average house in an average neighborhood.  A family stood outside, clutching what few belongings they had managed to save and staring at the impossible injustice of destruction.  Tears streamed down panicked faces.

I asked if anyone was inside.  None of them could seem to gather enough calm breath to speak.  Finally, a teenage girl coughed up the word “cat.”

As the crew began to snake the thick hoses to the front door, the girl grabbed my arm.  She shook her head hopelessly and explained, “He’s afraid.”

I glanced at the flames and billowing black smoke, wondering who wouldn’t be.

As one crew took care of the fire, I had joined the search team.  Working my way through the house, I found a back bedroom filled with deadly smoke.  I looked around, but found no cat.  Then I glanced at the bed, then the bed ruffle.  Peeking underneath, I discovered the petrified cat hiding in what little oxygen was left in the house.  After coaxing it out, I wrapped it completely in a towel I’d found on the floor.

The girl saw the covered bundle I carried outside, and I saw the grief in her eyes.  I could see she believed I carried the lifeless body of something she loved.

I’ve studied the grief cycle.  Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and finally acceptance. She must have sped through those first four phases while I crawled through the smoke and heat, because all I saw on her face was acceptance.  She had calmly and sadly accepted her cat had died.  Her grief was complete.

She held out her hands, and I placed the towel in her arms.  The towel stirred.  A slant-eared tabby poked his head out and wailed a long complaint.  The girl’s eyes lit up and a smile spread across her face.  And she exhaled, shattering her grief as if it had been a fragile stained glass window.

In Shadowflesh, Aileen didn’t lose a cat.  She lost something much more dear to her.  She fell through those same emotions as quickly and sadly as the girl who stood before her lost home.  Fate had been cruel to each of them.  As the story drew to an end, Aileen shattered her grief with the same light in her eyes as the girl holding the frightened cat.

While I tap away at my computer working on the next book in the series, I do it with a bittersweet smile on my face.  The characters’ emotions were born from the real pain, anguish, and hope I witness during the daily grind.

 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: 4_10 Shawn - pic to RTShawn Martin lives with my unconventional wife, two amazing sons, and a clowder of cats in Missouri. After graduating from Missouri State University with mostly harmless majors in Economics and Political Science, he took to the road rather than enrolling in law school.

When he finally settled down in 1995, he became a firefighter. Aside from rescuing cats in trees and removing burnt pot roasts from ovens, he spends his time finding the hardest way to do the simplest of things. The rest of his time is spent working on the next book in the Shadowflesh Series.

 

4_10 ShadowFlesh 200x300 (2)Death and darkness lurk in the shadows, awakening the flesh and forbidden love. Torn from her home and fighting bouts of suicidal depression, seventeen year old Aileen McCormick lands in the small coastal town of Redcliff, North Carolina. Her first day of school promises to be the worst day of her life when a menacing group of boys target the new girl. Shoved into the arms of arms of Addison Wake, she knows she’ll never be the same. Addison’s otherworldly charm and drop-dead gorgeous face leave her breathless, but only for a moment.

Grim and painful secrets lurk in his dark soul. Addison Wake isn’t exactly like other boys. Far from it. He’s dead and has been for 300 years, locked in an ethereal prison by a lethal enchantress named Donelle. When she hungers, she blesses Addison’s tortured spirit with moments of freedom, allowing him to roam the mortal world as Shadowflesh. But that dark blessing comes at a price. He must deliver the souls of five unsuspecting humans to Donelle. Knowing he’s here only for a short amount of time, Addison refuses to let himself fall in love and break Aileen’s already fractured heart. He pushes her into the arms of another, but destiny throws the two shadowy lovers back together.

In the darkness of her room, Addison confesses his love and his deadly secret to Aileen. When four dead bodies pop up in Redcliff, Aileen asks herself is her love for the mysterious boy unconditional? Is the love worth the risk? And will she be the next victim?