The hardest part about writing is… by Antony Soehner – Guest Blog and Giveaeway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Antony Soehner will be awarding a $25 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

The hardest part about writing is…

In my opinion, it would have to be the inconsistency of inspiration and avoiding burnout. Something I think a lot of people overlook is how draining it is to keep a consistent daily word count. Back in 2019, I made a goal for myself to write 1000 words a day with an objective of 7 books written in a year. It was a lot of work and I didn’t end up completing the whole year because of real-life interference, but I was very proud of what I did achieve.

What I didn’t expect from that monumental amount of work was how much it would take out of me creatively. There was a long stint between the Fall of 2019 and early spring of 2020 (right before the pandemic hit the world) where I was uninspired to write and couldn’t get a consistent rhythm going. I was having a hard time coming up with what to write and it was starting to affect my confidence with imposter syndrome.

Since then, I’ve managed to write three (almost four) complete manuscripts at a much slower pace. It was a hard lesson to teach myself and I struggled to break away from the “Grind” work ethic. But after two years of being kind to myself and my process, I’ve discovered that writing is like art. You’re not going to be perfect on the first, second, or even tenth try but if you trust in the process and let yourself work unconfined, you’ll be able to create more and better works. Take your time, they didn’t build Rome in a day.

Destiny will always test the greatest of leaders.
Theo never imagined life outside the king’s castle. But when the queen’s funeral reveals the king’s true colors, Theo must rely on his sister, her allies, and his friends to get him to safety. With the help of mercenaries and the native tribes of the plains, Theo must learn to face his destiny and open his mind to the diverse world he’s been thrown into.

Enjoy an Excerpt

“Dad!” Rhan burst out.

Ta’goda turned his intense focus to his daughter and suddenly his entire body deflated.

Without another word between the two, Ta’goda stood up from his fighting stance, faced whatever was hiding from view of the other three, and he closed his eyes.

Around the towering orc, three snarling wolves made of green flame formed from the ground up. Ta’goda raised his axe in the direction of his fight and the wolves took off.

Once the wolves were out of sight, Ta’goda rushed to his daughter and wrapped her in his arms.

“Rhan,” Ta’goda choked out.

“I’m okay,” she cried into his shoulder.

The chief pulled away and looked her in the eyes.

“What happened?” Rhan asked as she wiped away tears from her cheeks.

“We are under attack,” Ta’goda gritted his teeth, “I must get back to the battle. Our tribe needs me.”

“And me—”

Ta’goda shook his head at Rhan’s protest.

“What?” Rhan blinked at her father.

“You have a new duty,” Ta’goda swallowed. The chief’s eyes peered over his daughter’s shoulders and locked onto Theo. “I cannot leave our people and get the prince to the rivers—”

“I’m not leaving you here—”

“Rhan’takono, this is not the time to argue—”

“There is nothing to argue over! I’m fighting beside you—”

“I can’t—”

“I am to be chief one day! How can I stand before my people after running from this?”

“If you don’t go now, there won’t be a tribe for you to be chief of!” Ta’goda snapped. “This is not a command as your chief. I am begging you as your father—” the words caught in the back of his throat, “please.”

About the Author:Geek by heart, author by trade.

Raised on a healthy diet of geek and pop culture, Antony has come to share his love and appreciation for role-playing games, geek culture, and fantasy adventure. If it’s random comic book facts, Star Wars trivia, or just the measly obscure movie reference, Antony is there!

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Writing Quirks by Stephanie M. Allen – Guest Blog and Giveaway

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*****

I’m definitely not your typical writer. Before I get into that, let me introduce myself. My name is Stephanie M. Allen. I’m a 7th grade English teacher, a mom to two kiddos, and a wife of thirteen years. I have a grouchy old-lady cat and a drama princess of a dog. As you can see, I’m a pretty normal person. However, when it comes to my writing, I definitely have my quirks.

My brain always gravitates toward fantasy. Every story that I write, even if I don’t intend for it to have fantastical elements…well, they come into it somehow. I’ve published six books so far. I have a four-book young adult fantasy series that I self-published. That was fun to write and was definitely a hobby that I enjoyed. Then came the current series I’m working on.

One of my writing quirks – not just for this trilogy, but for all my books – is that I don’t have a written plot outline. Of course, I have my notes and my map. It is a fantasy world, after all, and it’s hard to keep track of all those names and places! But, when it comes to a story outline, I use Spotify. Every single book that I write has a Spotify playlist. I use a mixture of instrumental and vocal music. Usually, I will listen for similar musical themes, especially with the instrumental music. The Game of Thrones soundtrack has played a huge role in the Dueling Fates trilogy so far. I love the dark themes that run throughout the music.

Honestly, I don’t think I could write without music. It’s always been a part of my writing process. What’s weird, though, is that I don’t usually listen to music while I’m writing. I listen to it before, after, or when I’m in a writer’s block. And when I look back on my playlists, I can see how much I’ve evolved over the years. For my first book, Harmony, most of the songs were vocal songs – think of the Twilight soundtracks. That was my inspiration back then. As I developed the story – and as I matured in my writing – I liked to let the instrumental soundtracks play so I could watch the story play out in my head. Almost like a movie.

When I find the right music tracks, it almost allows me to see into another world. The story starts writing itself. It’s like the characters are telling me their stories and, sometimes, they take me down unexpected roads. In Divided Fates, I never expected Niri – the nashech heir – to make some of the choices she did. However, now that I look at the story as a whole, it makes so much sense. Same with Isemay. She surprised me in this book. I did not expect her to have so much chemistry with one of the characters that she takes a journey with. However, it made sense and, as I said, when I look at the story as a whole, I see how it all fits together.

So music really does make my stories. I don’t even know how I would write without it. And if I ever lose my hearing….well, it’s a good thing I’ve listened to a lot of music over years. Hopefully I’ll be able to remember it.

Ten days after the battle in the north, the world of Erez has been thrown into turmoil.

Princess Isemay awakens – injured and weak – in a strange village. Branded an outcast because of her mixed heritage but forced to stay against her will, she must choose to conform to the sha’nidow way of life or face the consequences. When a mysterious stranger arrives with a heartbreaking message, Isemay’s hope abandons her to a fate far more destructive than she was prepared for.

Princess Alena finds herself the queen of the northern kingdom – powerful, adored, alone. Fighting inner demons of darkness, she travels south to visit her brother, now the king of Neilos. But fate will not allow her to find peace, and she must decide whether she will side with those she loves or the one who holds ultimate power.

Niri Flesh-cleaver, granddaughter to the elusive Choshech and heir to the nashech throne, has everything she could want – and yet her heart yearns for more. Torn between her mother’s orders and a forbidden love, she quickly realizes she cannot have both. Driven by brokenness, she will seek to destroy the one person she blames for Choshech’s demise – and find that perhaps her heart was the better guide all along.

Three women. Three separate journeys. One path to find that fate will divide even the closest of bonds.

Enjoy an Excerpt

“Your Majesty, go!” Jeremy shouted as he shoved the king toward his stallion. “We can’t fight what we can’t see.”

Jordan murmured a prayer for Jori and Noam as he gripped Ryoma’s mane and mounted bareback. “Get to a horse!” he ordered as he slammed his heels into his stallion’s ribs. Ryoma shot forward into the night, his ears flat against his skull. Refusing to allow panic to shiver its way into his body, Jordan used his legs to guide his stallion, keeping his hand fisted in the horse’s mane. Echoing hoofbeats came from behind—as well as the flapping of several wings.

“Your Majesty, above you!”

Jordan lay forward against Ryoma’s neck as a shadow passed right where his head had been. “Who are you?” he shouted at the fleeing darkness.

A shrieking roar filled the night as another shadow blew above him.

He squeezed his heels against Ryoma, urging the poor horse to gallop even faster. They were among trees now. He could feel branches whipping him in the face as his stallion fled at a blinding pace. He couldn’t be sure, but it felt as though they were climbing.

He could no longer hear hoofbeats behind him and prayed that Jeremy hadn’t befallen the same fate as the other two men. The trees seemed to be providing some cover for he could no longer hear flapping wings close by. The night was pitch black as they barreled headlong over unfamiliar ground, driving further and further up the mountain.

A roar and a crash sounded from somewhere behind him as Jordan and Ryoma broke through the tree line. He gasped as the moonlight suddenly filled his vision. They were atop a mountain peak, streaking along an open space. He risked a glance behind to see another horse break out of the forest—a riderless horse.

About the Author: Stephanie M. Allen graduated from California Baptist University in 2009 with a B.A. in English and a desire to share her imaginative stories with the world. She loves to write fantasy, particularly centered around young adults. Aside from writing, Stephanie loves to read, ride horses, and sing. She currently lives in Wyoming with her husband and two children.

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How to Handle Negative Criticism by L.T. Getty – Guest Blog and Giveaway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. L.T. Getty will be awarding a $25 GC, of the winner’s choice, to an online bookseller to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

How to Handle Negative Criticism

Spoiler Alert: I’m not a perfect author.

I’ve also had personal experience dealing with authors who didn’t like my reviews of their books. Personally I think that the author/reviewer dynamic is that unless there’s other circumstances, my response as the author should be along the lines of, “Thank you for the honest review” unless I’m being asked to comment specifically about a common criticism multiple people have pointed out.

Talking about what you’ve read or watched is natural, and should be encouraged. I think “he who dares not offend cannot be honest”, so while I’ll be the first to admit I try my best, it is disheartening to find out that someone didn’t like what I did.

Before you let the crippling imposter syndrome or perfectionism control your work output, recognize the difference between objective and subjective criticism. Objective means that the criticism comes from the object – I made a technical error (someone’s eye color flip flops) or I’m inconsistent of spelling, switching back and forth from American to Canadian. This includes grammatical errors, or saying that Toronto is North of Edmonton. I don’t have a leg to stand on if I mess something up and there’s no good reason as to why. So even if I go over it again and again and there’s a typo that ends up in the final product but it didn’t happen on my end, the reviewer is right to comment on it.

Subjective means that it’s someone’s opinion. This could mean that the reader didn’t like the direction I took the story, or they didn’t like a choice I made about the voice or what I chose to focus on. It’s important to remember that not everyone will like what you do. Sometimes there’s reason for it, say, you cussed too much for their liking. Other times there’s nothing you can do to make someone like your work. If you write something with unicorns and rainbows, and the reader wants grit and grime, it doesn’t matter that the genre and plot is something that they’d otherwise go for.

Ask yourself if the person’s concerns are legitimate for your genre. If you’re in a writer group and someone is trying to criticize the genre as a whole, I would probably take this person’s criticisms to heart the least.

Let’s say you wrote a romance novel and placed it in a space-opera setting. You may expect the member in your group who only likes hard, military science fiction to not give the best feedback for what you’re trying to achieve, but it can sting if another romance writer also didn’t care for it. However, do a bit of digging, and we find out that author who was lukewarm at best was more familiar with the romance tropes really only enjoys contemporary or historical romance, or you went for spicy when the other person prefers sweet.

On a side note, don’t let anyone trash the genre you like to write. They may have some valid points here or there, as the rules of spelling and grammar apply to everyone. It’s not up to you to prove that Genre X can’t be real literature. You do that with your work, if that’s your goal.

But let’s pretend you did your homework and you got the right person. You submitted your book for review to someone who gave glowing praise to a book like yours. Let’s pretend this was the response:

I like heroic fantasy, the reviewer says. I like high fantasy, low fantasy, urban fantasy, science fantasy, just about any sort of fantasy. Just not yours.

This is the sort of person whose feedback I would take more seriously, but again there’s subjectivity to the person, and you don’t necessarily know if they’re in a bad mood, or perhaps they just read something amazing, so everything they are trying feels inferior.

When you enter the world of letting your book out into the world, then you’re no longer competing with your local writer’s group. Imagine if I won a local pie baking competition, and now instead of competing at a mid level, I went right to the world championships. I’m not saying my pie is bad by any stretch, but odds are, I’m dealing with other people who have spent years perfecting their craft. Imagine I left, disheartened that my pies were no good, to run into an elderly lady selling pies. “Sure,” I say to myself, “I embarrassed myself and am the absolute worst. I’m never going to make a pie again.” Turns out, it’s not the professionals, but this woman no one’s heard of who makes the best pie. She laughs, and tells me a few of her personal secrets, and off she goes. I didn’t even catch her name. Returning home, I use her tips and tricks, and the next time I make a pie, I found out little things I could have improved on. I didn’t realize my previous flaws, and I got better.

The same people who will pick up my book are going to compare me to people who sell better and who have more education, resources, or something else like life experience, that grants them an edge. The reader doesn’t care about my tragic back story with my rolling pin, or that one of the guys who placed made his assistant do all the work. There’s so much good pie, why should they have mine? If I make the best blueberry pie, if the person with a fork doesn’t like blueberry, they aren’t going to like it. If they have a sweet tooth and I intentionally go easy on the sugar, they won’t prefer it. Did they really want pie, or is what they’re really after cake?

It’s a natural thing to want to defend yourself and your work. I say let reviewers have their opinions. They’re judging the end product, not you. Thank them, and if you’re to get anything out of the exchange, try to improve your skill in story telling for the next book. Ultimately, it’s your work that will speak for itself.

Koth’s life was decided for him since before he was born, for his ability to heal wounds by touch is rare even among his people. When an attempted kidnapping turns to sacrificial murder, he embraces vengeance and the sword. As he journeys far from his small isolated village in the north, he learns the truth as to why his bloodline is targeted by strange magic, in a world still rebuilding from a time when dark sorcerers didn’t bother with secrecy.

Koth thinks his quest is straightforward enough–find the men responsible, and kill them–and any who aid them. He will soon learn that those who have both privilege and power, there are few things they lack–and in the pursuit of godhood, their allies can prove even more sinister as mere mortals seek to advent empires and dynasties.

Enjoy an Excerpt

“Something’s wrong,” Una said. “Koth, wait here.”

“Why?” If there was a problem, she should be waiting outside for him.
He sensed inside, his aunt’s thoughts remained hidden from him. Una shouted, and he ran inside the building. He thought there were lights on inside, but he saw no candles.

The tea house was very dark, and he felt a sudden dread—he wanted to leave. Baro barked from the outside. ~Una!~ he thought, before something hit his neck.

He knew at once it was a poison dart, and ripping it out he tried to smell what it was. Seeing metal reflect moonlight and he moved his hand, his skin cut. Moving instinctively out of the way, his next reaction was to purge the toxin that coursed through his body and tried to understand the wound. It was mostly his forearm, deep but he could still use it, the bone unaffected. He’d do a better healing later. He focused on something not unlike a burn before going for the knife at his hip. Striking 85 in the next liquid motion, Koth realized he was attacking his aunt.

She grabbed onto his injured flesh and seared it, destroying, weakening the sinew and the cartilage and causing it to age and die, following up the bloodstream, to find the heart and kill. Koth tried to brace; he couldn’t heal and keep her at bay. He was physically stronger and much heavier, but she was weakening his muscles. He tried to wrench the knife from her.

He knocked the blade to the ground then tried to lock minds with her to find nothing short of blinding pain take him over, wrestling him to the ground and making him drop his knife. She took the dagger and when he tried to force himself up, a familiar sense washed over him. Magic, but not coming from Una.

“Do not kill him yet,” Yeshbel said, “we will bleed him first.”

About the AuthorL.T. Getty is a rural paramedic from Manitoba. She enjoys writing science fiction and fantasy and generally being creative.

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Some Other Traveller by Lyn McConchie – Q&A and Giveaway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Night to Dawn Magazine & Books will be awarding a $10 Amazon/BN GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

Do you have a specific motto that you live by?

Several. One was my mother’s from the depression years – if you can’t pay cash, you can’t afford it. (In other words, don’t buy on hire purchase or take out loans. I don’t. In fact, when I bought my small farm in 1989, the estate agent (rabbiting on) was saying he supposed I’d have to sell a place before I could pay, and whoever was buying would have to, etc.. I said, “I’m paying cash” – and he almost fell over.

The others are The easiest way to get out of trouble, is not to get into it.

And – learn from experience, preferably someone else’s, it’s less painful.

Do you have any pets and if so, what kind of animals are they, and what are their names?

My last cat had a heart attack and died only weeks before lockdown in 2020. Thunder was an Ocicat, and 16. I didn’t plan to get another cat, but – since I had a cat door, and no resident cat – a small black feral started turning up on cold nights. I named hir Sooty (Still don’t know hir sex), I feed hir, and while s/he head butts my wrist in thanks, I am not permitted to touch hir. Outside, I have 20 hens, 8 geese, and Daisy Duck, all free-range. The geese are my watch-geese, and heaven help anyone coning in they don’t know, or anyone at all after dark. Farms get burglars in the sheds and barns, not me. The last couple burglars are probably still running. The ganders did not like two guys on their lawn at 4:00 a.m.

Please tell us about some of your previous job titles, which one you disliked the most and why.

I’ve done everything in my time from stallion groom to odel, to cinema cashier, to mailwoman, making electric blankets to running the district office of a major government department with a quarter million annual budget. Never minded what I was called.

Can you tell us something about yourself that your readers would be surprised to learn?

I’m 76 at the start of April. I was crippled in a crash in 1977, couldn’t work 9-5 after 1988, and that’s why I bought my farmlet in 1989 and started writing in 1990. A lot of my books have events from my own life, animals I’ve known, and some even have friends of mine popping up in them – with permission of course.

When you aren’t writing, what kinds of things are you doing?

Feeding the feathered gang, reading, chatting with friends, doing many puzzles each week like crosswords, etc. that have prizes, (because prizes I win are donated to our village’s charities for raffles)

Have you ever created a character like yourself, and if yes, which character?

Many of my female characters have either some aspect of me, or some event in my life. In Coals & Ash (my 2nd post-apocalyptic set in Australia), Tam is 39, writes Regency Romances, and lives in an isolated rural area. She is so caught up in her writing it’s a week before she realises strange things are happening. At the time I wrote the initial draft I was 69, enjoyed reading Regency Romances, lived in an isolated country area, and yes, it could well take me a week to realise if that happened. In Some Other Traveller, one of Sheila McArn’s traits is mine, since she’s a cat-lover, and again lives in an isolated rural area, in fact, while I never thought about it. The majority of my six post-apocalyptics to date start with a main character/s living in an isolated rural area. About the only one that didn’t was Another Fire, where the main character lives in Seattle.

What are some advantages and disadvantages of writing post-apocalyptic fiction.

It’s entirely yours. Your characters, and everything that happens to them. You can pick what caused the event, and that was something that built up in my subconscious for several years. Back in the mid-1970s, Hong Kong flu hit my country. I got it and was quite sick for a couple of weeks. Then there’s been bird flu, since, SARS, and so on. And at some stage my subconscious said, what would make a virus really lethal, and what would render you immune but very low numbers of those? It came together with a thump, and I started writing. Most of us carry Staph A. So what if that mutates and the mutation has a very long incubation period? By the time cases go active, pretty much the entire world has it via air travel in latent form. And to be immune, you have to have had a prior minor infection of it, and have been treated with the new antibiotic, allodaxin. And all that is another advantage. I created a new plague, wiped out most of the world’s population, had fun doing it, and get paid. Disadvantages – none I’ve found to date.

Tell us about what success as an author looks like to you.

You need to understand I left school at 15. I have no educational qualifications whatsoever. I read hugely, and for half my life I venerated authors. They wrote the wonderful books I read. It never occurred to me I could ever be a published author. When my first book Farming Daze was published in 1993, I was stunned and it made my year. When my books continued to sell, I could barely believe it. Some Other Traveller is my fiftieth published book, and while I don’t make huge sums, my books are published and I get royalties. To me, that is incredible success beyond what I’d ever have dreamed of or hoped for.

Can you please describe Some Other Traveller in a single sentence?

Don’t assume even in the direst events that the aged have nothing to contribute – experience can count far more than you would believe.

Can you tell us something about this book that we can’t learn from the synopsis?

One of the characters is a real person, so are their animals.

Are there any questions that you would like to ask your readers?

What event/animal/person did you particularly like/dislike and why?

When the world’s civilizations collapse from a lethal pandemic, being old can mean you have the experience and wisdom to survive and to see that friends and family do as well. Donal and Sheila McArn are seventy when most of the world is dying, and they must hold the line for everything they know. They may not have long, but so long as they live, they’re going to do their best – and anyone against them had better step back. NOW!

Enjoy an Excerpt

Kaylie died an hour later. Ricky had all his things packed by then, Donal had dug a small grave, and we placed her in that, the teddy bear – a bright pink one that Ricky said she still loved – tucked in beside her. After that, he clung to my hand.

I drove home, and when I would have left the lad with Janet, he clung to me like a limpet, his eyes wide in fear of losing someone else. I put him to bed in the spare room, slept in the bed opposite, and took him with me the next morning. Janet took the accumulated cash, along with a list and several friends, utes, and her car with a trailer. We removed the Black and McMallan animals, several small portable sheds, and salvaged useful items from houses and outbuildings. During which time Ricky was never out of eyeshot, and when my hands weren’t employed, he clung to one of them.

We drove home to eat dinner, I put him to bed, and when he asked, I answered, “Yes, this is your room now. You’ll go to school here once it opens again. The place is called Glen Mhairi. It’ll be your home.” And then the tentative question that almost broke my heart. “Aye, you can call us Grandma and Grandpa if you want. We’d like that.” He fell asleep still trustfully holding my hand, and as I looked at that peaceful face, I knew the truth.

After all those years and with never a child of our own, we finally had a grandson.

About the AuthorLyn McConchie started writing in 1990 and within a year had short stories and poems published. In 1993, her first book – a humorous true-life work (Farming Daze) about her farm, friends, and animals appeared – this was followed by six others in that series. As a joke between them, a long-time friend of Lyn’s, Andre Norton, was given a book Lyn had written set in one of Andre’s worlds. Andre was impressed with the work and took it to her agents who sold it to Warner books. This led in turn to Lyn writing another six books in Andre’s worlds, which were published either by Warner or TOR. Lyn has won seven short story Muse Medallions from the (International) Cat Writer’s Association, and six Sir Julius Vogel Awards for her books. Since the original book, Lyn has seen almost fifty more books appear plus over three hundred short stories, and says she has no intention of stopping so long as she is able to write.

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Sentinels by L.C. Conn – Spotlight and Giveaway

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In his rage, Chaos destroys the world he created.
From his destruction, Order is born.
Order brings forth pure beings known as Sentinels.
From the Sentinels comes The One True Child.

Carling, raised as a normal daughter of The People, was brought up to believe in the value of love and caring, of kindness and tolerance, only to learn of the darker, more sinister teachings of Chaos and his plans for her. Forced to face her fears, she must leave the only family she has known, and the protection of the valley in the Sacred Lands. Her journey takes her far from the life she knew and closer to her destiny. Along the way she masters untapped abilities of her heritage.

Chaos hunts Carling until their ultimate encounter.
Can Carling stand as the Sword of Order?
Failure means the destruction of her world.

Carling cannot fail.

Enjoy an Excerpt

The distant star continued to warm the small world, threatening to dry up the collected water. The clouds above became sodden with all that they hoarded and released their heavy loads, spreading the life-giving liquid across the barren land. As the rain fell, the sunshine created an illusion: An arc of light, split into seven perfect shades of colour, that stood out from the dark landscape. As the Being stood on an upthrust of rock and wondered at the amazing vision, she did not see the dark one approaching.

“You are not welcome here. This is my world. My universe. Who are you?” the dark one loudly demanded of the Being. She turned to face the form that approached and recognised him as the one responsible for the turmoil that now reigned over the universe.

“I am from the light, and in this place, you shall never have authority. Never again will you oppress a people and use them for your own ends,” the Being retorted. She stood tall against his fury, calming her own as the tears still spilled from sad eyes.

“From my destruction came your creation. Therefore, you are my being, and you shall bow down to me and my wishes.” The darkness grew before the Being, looming large over her.

“I am the light, the light that will dominate you and put you where you should be. You have no sway over me. The light shall overpower you and keep you at bay. The children I will bring forth onto this land will welcome and grow in the light and will benefit from its kindness. They shall feed from the crops and animals which the light shall encourage to grow, and they will worship you never. They will not know you,” she told him slowly.

About the Author:Loraine Conn grew up on the outskirts of Upper Hutt, New Zealand. Her backyard encompassed the surrounding farmland, river, hills, and mountains which she wandered with her brothers and fed her imagination. After discovering a love for writing in English class at the age of eight, she continued to write in secret. It was not until much later in life that Loraine turned what she thought was a hobby, and something fun to do, into her first completed novel. Now married, Loraine moved from New Zealand to Perth, Western Australia in 2008, and became a stay-at-home mum. While caring for her family and after battling breast cancer, a series was born from a kernel of a dream. Loraine has now published the seven book fantasy series, The One True Child Series, and Realm of Dragons, Fight for the Crown. Both the series and book have been released with the American based indie publishing company Between the Lines Publishing, under their Liminal Books branch, using the pen name L.C. Conn. She continues her career with many more stories waiting in the wings to be released, and even more ideas to be written.

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She’s the One Who Can’t Keep Quiet by S.R. Cronin – Exclusive Excerpt and Giveaway

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Do you know what your problem is?

Celestine, the fifth of seven sisters, is tired of hearing about hers. Father thinks she’s frivolous because she likes pretty clothes and caters to the crowds in the taverns who adore her music. Mother thinks that because she’s the most social daughter in the family, she can’t keep quiet about anything.

They’re both wrong. Celestine hides a secret she has kept for most of her life.

As the family beauty and a talented musician with a lyrical voice, she has the best prospects for marriage to a prince. When such a liaison never happens, people assume Celestine is too choosy. But even in somewhat tolerant Ilari, a daughter hates to disappoint her family. How can she tell them she’s in love with a princess instead?

Lucky for Celestine, all her sisters are obsessed with an invading army headed to their realm. Celestine would rather ignore the threat and enjoy the freedom their lack of attention gives her. But, her voice can unlock a power that may help save Ilari. And the woman she loves is determined to fight these invaders. And her family, for all their talents, seems clueless about how to motivate the masses.

Celestine knows she can inspire the citizens of Ilari to do what needs to be done. Is it time to put her inhibitions aside and use her voice to save those she cares about?

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Over the rest of Keva, the days grew uncomfortably warm and my mood grew more foul. I saw Firuza from a distance a few times but our eyes never met. Why should they? I couldn’t live in K‘ba, I couldn’t even visit. What sort of future did she and I have?

My lodging had used up most of the coins I’d brought. More were hidden in my room back on the farm, but I still didn’t feel ready to go back to Vinx and face my family. I sent a message home telling them I was well. My father was right, it was the least I could do. When a messenger arrived at the door of my small room a day later, I assumed my parents had sent a response.

The messenger raised her palm in front of her face and began reciting.

“Prince Nevik of Pilk requests your presence at lunch today. Noon at the Crested Lark. He has questions regarding your music and hopes you will do him the honor of humoring him with your answers.”

Would I attend? Of course I would. It was a free lunch at The Crested Lark and I owed his princely highness an apology for insinuating he’d treated my sister like a cad.

I searched the room to find my cleanest frock.

Nevik stood to greet me and waved off my curtsey as though it didn’t matter. Today the intimate dining space at the Crested Lark was set with many small tables for two and all were filled. I’d heard it was difficult to get a seat here for lunch.

The occupants of every table stopped to stare at the prince dining with the cabaret singer.

“You wished to ask me questions about music, sire?” I projected my voice to carry to every table.

Nevik smiled. “Yes. I’ve been told you have the expertise to assist me. Please. Sit.”

Others turned back to their meals, satisfied nothing particularly interesting was happening after all.

“Clever,” he muttered.

I shrugged. “Do you actually play an instrument?”

“I do. I prefer the lute. I played it as a young lad until my father decided fencing was more appropriate for a prince. Now I do both poorly.”

Some women wouldn’t have liked his self-effacing good humor, but in a world full of men who strutted and growled, I found him charming. I suspected Ryalgar did too, including ways I did not. Despite our differences, I applauded her taste.

“You owe me an apology,” he said. “You’ve had plenty of time to unearth the truth.”

“Yes. My sister kept this well-hidden from me and most of my family, and I’m sure she did it out of concern for you. It appears your love story with her is complicated and yet you two have found a way.”

“It’s hardly the life I’d have chosen to share with a woman,” he said. “Yet, my loss may be the realms’ gain. She’s amazing and her plans to save Ilari grow more complex with each day. I think she may succeed.”

About the Author: Sherrie Cronin writes stories about people achieving the astonishing by developing abilities they barely knew they had. She’s made a lot of stops along the way to telling these tells — living in seven cities, visiting forty-six countries, and working as a waitress, technical writer, and geophysicist. She’s lost too many beloved cats to mention, but has acquired a husband and three children who are all doing fine, despite how odd she is.

Today she lives in the mountains of Western North Carolina where she writes, answers a hotline, and occasionally checks her phone for a message from Captain Picard. She still hopes to get the chance to pursue her remaining dream in life and become Chief Science Officer on the Starship Enterprise.

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Does music play an important role in your writing? by Michael Leon – Guest Blog and Giveaway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. One randomly chosen winner via rafflecopter will win a $50 Amazon/BN.com gift card. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

Does music play an important role in your writing?

I often listen to music to inspire me. Surprisingly, I don’t mind noise around as I write. A lot of my first drafts are penned in public places, such as cafes, beaches and parks. However, music that is special to me, summons some of my best creativity. I often say to myself and other writers, if what you write draws out strong emotions in you, it is usually good writing. All art can have that effect on me, writing, music, film and theatre.

Listening to music is a wonderful way to tap into your creativity. I cannot imagine a day without music or film to entertain and motivate me creatively. Writing Chandelier, I mainly listened to the operas by Guiseppi Verdi.

Music is a great way to evoke mood and thus enhance the dramatic impact of scenes. There were also a number of contemporary songs as well as operatic that influenced how I wrote Chandelier. Here are my top three.

The song that most impacted on my novel, Chandelier, also influenced the name of the novel! I listened to an Australian version of the hit song, Chandelier by Damien Rice and immediately imagined the scene where Benny is playing to an audience in a nightclub. Click on the link to hear the song.

Another haunting song by Melodie Gardot allowed me to imagine the finale where Viola is singing at the Garnier. It evoked emotions of a life that soared early but felt the bumps of tragedy and loss, then rebirth. Click on the link to hear the song.

Of course, Verdi’s opera of La Traviata was the backdrop for the whole novel. I chose that opera because it told the story of the downfall of a strong woman, Violetta. The atmospheric prelude evoked just the right emotions for my novel. Click on the tour banner to hear the song.

CHANDELIER is the genre-bending sci-fi/fantasy-romance novel follow up of Michael Leon’s 2019 fantasy-romance book, PHANTOMS. A century has passed since the fabled Phantom ruled the Garnier Opera House. Technology has advanced, and AI has evolved beyond human knowledge. They reside in a virtual Earth, free from the ravages of an environmentally damaged Earth where humans and post-humans live under AI’s qualified governance. CHANDELIER follows one AI sentient’s journey, Benny, whose loyalty for a famous opera singer, Madame D’Arenberg, sets him on a dangerous course, entangling him in The Phantom of the Opera’s deadly web.

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A human whistling sound, distant but growing louder permeated the chill of the room. An unearthly chilled breath wafted over his face. He opened his eyes and looked up to its source, but he was alone, until light formed on the wall behind Gaston’s bed. Shapeless light swirled as if blown by that same breeze. The foggy disturbance slowed, allowing the swirling shape to take form. It was human but completely covered in black, bar the shape of a smooth ghost-like face. As the contours sharpened he realised it was a mask. Was he looking at the phantom? If he was, Gaston’s stories had all been real!

Fear gripped him to the seat. He wanted to flee but dared not move. Before the apparition suddenly looked Flynn’s way, turning his fear to terror.

“Who are you?” He asked feebly, but the apparition remained silent.

Flynn went to stand but a second shape appeared from behind him. A man dressed in white walked toward Gaston’s bed, making no sound as it glided across the room. Both apparitions studied the body for a time, ignoring Flynn before vanishing through the bedroom wall, leaving Flynn alone. He immediately stood and left the room, fearful they may return, not daring to look back. Whatever he witnessed, he didn’t wish to see again. Flynn was a scientist who staunchly refuted Gaston’s ramblings about ghosts as the product of a vivid imagination. They had spent many years arguing over their existence. Perhaps this was his friend’s final wish, to show him that everything he had written and said was true.

About the Author:Michael Leon is an explorer, writer and author of the new novel, Sentient. Professionally trained in international trade, Michael has spent the last decade reading and writing SFF novels about new worlds to be explored in the future. His latest work, Sentient, imagines Earth in the year 2120. His next novel, Chandelier, will be released in 2022. Michael has travelled extensively around Europe, walking the paths of his characters, from the famous European opera houses in Phantoms to the mountain tops of Switzerland in Emissary.

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Character Creation by Lauren Wagner – Guest Blog and Giveaway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Lauren Wagner will be awarding a $10 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

Character creation

Dragons. Who doesn’t love dragons? Dragons play a crucial role in Awaken. At the start of the story. Natalia refers to the dragon as her “keeper.” He was her protector of sorts while also her captor. The dragon needed to be large enough to prevent her from escaping the caverns of Argentina and magical enough to make a lasting effect on the story. At the time, my mind had placed Natalia in the cavern, knowing I wanted a “sleeping beauty” type of scenario. The dragon needed to be on her side, but in ways that she couldn’t yet comprehend. Therefore, the dragon couldn’t talk or communicate very clearly with Natalia. But he did need to share with her somehow, so his body language became important. To try and understand how dragons move, I spent a lot of time analyzing how lizards moved. I also needed something “magical” to put Natalia into a deep sleep. Their scales became the obvious choice. The dragon disappears when it is safe enough for Natalia to wake up but leaves with no sign or indication of how he left. I needed to keep the dragon as mysterious as possible.

Natalia has embraced the choice of her people. She is honored to have been chosen as their human sacrifice and will surrender her life to the Gods. She awaits the call of her people for that final moment, living a life of solitude until it’s time. But then her death is stolen from her—she is kidnapped by her own guards and forced into an eternal slumber.

Hundreds of years later—now—Natalia is woken in a world that’s completely unfamiliar. The archaeological team was not looking for her. They were looking for Estancia, the lost city of gold, and Natalia agrees to guide them.

While they journey through the treacherous jungles of Argentina, Natalia stumbles upon the alarming truth of her past. Her life’s prophecy must be fulfilled to restore balance to her people, but only she can decide whether that balance is worth her death.

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They groomed me as a child. They taught me how to look, how to listen, and even how to die. They prepared me to live entirely for others. Die for others. I am destined to be the queen of Estancia, to live in a noble house filled with my own personal court and guards sworn to protect me at all costs, right until the moment of my death. Even as they tear me from my bed in the dark of night, I must remember this is their purpose, just as much as it is mine.

“May I say goodbye to my father?” The confidence in my voice covers the fear trembling in my gut.

“No, milady. There is no time.”

The guard throws a musty cloak over my soft linen nightclothes. The stale smell overpowers the eucalyptus of the lotions on my skin, making my eyes water in disgust. I feel no better than a horse being led by the reigns.

I grip my golden slippers and run out of the house. My bare feet touch the wood of the floor and memorize the soft pitter-patter that vibrates in response. The same guard places me on top of the nearest horse. Black as midnight, silky as the hidden clothes under my cloak. My hands fumble for the reins as I lean forward and fight for my balance. I am not accustomed to riding horses.

About the Author:Lauren Wagner’s love for reading started as a young adult after discovering her town’s public library. After carrying out piles of books at a time, and re-reading them over and over again, she discovered her love for writing. She writes fantasy and science fiction as well as post-it notes about her future stories. Awaken is her debut novel.

She grew up in the western suburbs of Chicago where she presently resides with her husband and two children. She currently teaches upper elementary students to love and obsess over written works of art.

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The making of a YA fantasy romance writer by April Marcom – Guest Blog and Giveaway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. April Marcom will be awarding a $25 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

The making of a YA fantasy romance writer

It’s ironic that when I sat down to write my first novel, I didn’t plan on writing for any of these genres. Simply keeping it a Christian-based novel was all I had in mind. I’ve never liked reading or watching romance, although I do enjoy middle grade and young adult novels more than anything else. My love story with my high school sweetheart husband is so wonderful, why would I ever need to create another one? But once I started writing I couldn’t help but want my heroine to fall in love and live happily ever after. For every character I create, I look forward to every bit of their love story. It’s my favorite part of reading my past novels. That’s what really stirs my heart and makes it all a beautiful story for me.

Fantasy fell into place when I wrote ‘Good vs Evil High’. Before this story, I always thought of fantasy as the genre for medieval tales with wizards and elves. That’s not really my thing. As I wrote and studied more about this genre I found it includes any sort of magical realm or even a story set in a fantasy world with no magic included, like ‘Good vs Evil High’. I suppose I already knew that, I’d just never given it any thought before. My story ‘The Gingerbread Curse’ is full of fantasy and magic and romance.

As far as writing for a young adult audience, I think I realized pretty quickly this was the best thing for me. This age group has an endless world of possibilities ahead of them. They’re not tied down by boring, never-ending tasks like an adult. They’re still free from all that, and they don’t understand how everything works yet. Their personalities are stronger. Their high school drama is deeper. Looking back, it all seems natural that I would fall into these genres as an author. It was a fantastic surprise.

All her life, Falon’s grandfather told her the age-old tale of ‘The Gingerbread Man’. Even as a teenager, she’d fallen asleep to his favorite bedtime story, a special tradition she knew she’d never outgrow. However, when he makes a dying wish, asking her to visit a secret underground world of magic to rescue the best friend he left behind fifty years ago, the tale begins to come to life.

Setting out with her self-obsessed cousin and a cure for the magicked man with skin like gingerbread, she finds herself tangled within an adventure nothing like the story her grandfather always told.

Once having found the long lost man of her grandfather’s youth, her only hope of ever returning home, or even surviving his world, lies in the talons of a deadly hybrid she scarcely trusts. Together they must face the animals taken from the children’s tale and magicked into monsters, a man who can move mountains who is bent on killing them all, and a labyrinth rumored to have never allowed a survivor.

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Hidden within the Evanish Mountains, there is a crevice that leads to an unknown world deep within our earth, where magic bleeds through the ground, transforming whatever it touches.
Over time, a great many wanderers have fallen into the enormous underground world, drawn in by its magic and turned into beings who look like they could have been made from gingerbread. The only way to escape is to face a maze filled with monsters and peril nearly impossible to survive.

Men have become lost until time consumed them. Others were destroyed and eaten by horses, by pigs, by oxen, or by whatever creature was unlucky enough to be touched by the magic of this underworld. It affects every sort of animal differently, but all are transfixed by the maze to crave the taste of the magicked man. The wind, as prey cuts through it, seems to chant:

“Run, run as fast as you can.

The moment you stop, you’re a dead man.”

None are worse than the vixens, however, a cache of female foxes with unparalleled speed and teeth that can cut through anything like butter.

Only a few have ever made it past them. The rare escapee is where the age-old tale of “The Gingerbread Man” originated, told differently from mouth to mouth. Not to mention that each “gingerbread man’s” tale is different.

About the Author:April Marcom works as a Pre-K teacher’s assistant, but her true passion is writing. When she’s not teaching or creating stories, she’s enjoying the country life with her car-obsessed husband and three fabulous children. She also enjoys rainy days, traveling, and her very rowdy dogs. April grew up a southern bell in Mississippi, but is now a proud Oklahoman.

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Mars Event series by John Andrew Karr – Q&A and Giveaway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. One randomly chosen winner via rafflecopter will win a $50 Amazon/BN.com gift card. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

Can you describe your dream home?

Paid for. Close to the beach.

If we were to come to your house for a meal, what would you give us to eat?

Chicken or fish from the grill, some vegetable like broccoli and salad, some sides. Beer and wine, of course.

Tell us about the absolute BEST fan letter you have received.

Read your book and enjoyed it.

Say your publisher has offered to fly you anywhere in the world to do research on an upcoming book, where would you most likely want to go?

Pre-covid, Australia.

Who designed the book cover for the book you are touring?

Kensington Publishing on the first two Mars Wars books. Close To The Bone on the third.

For decades the Space Consortium of America has searched for new ways to harvest resources beyond an increasingly depleted Earth. The ultimate plan is about to be ignited. So is the ultimate threat to humankind . . .

DETONATION EVENT

Battle-hardened Captain Ry Devans and his crew of the Mars Orbiter Station One (MOS-1) are part of a bold plan: resurrect the active molten cores of the Red Planet with synchronized thermonuclear explosions, and terraform the hell out of that iron-oxide rock for future generations. It’ll change history. So will the strands of carbon-based Martian cells that have hitched a ride on the ship.

Dr. Karen Wagner knows the microbes’ resistance to virus is incredible. It’s the unknowable that’s dicey. Her orders: blow them into space. But orders can be undermined. Two vials have been stolen and sent hurtling toward the biosphere. For Devans and Wagner, ferreting out the saboteurs on board is only the beginning. Because there are more of them back on Earth—an army of radical eco-terrorists anxious to create a New World Order with a catastrophic gift from Mars.

Now, one-hundred-and-forty-million miles away from home, Devans is feeling expendable, betrayed, a little adrift, and a lot wild-eyed. But space madness could be his salvation—and Earth’s. He has a plan. And he’ll have to be crazy to make it work.

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The barren red face of Mars grew before them.

The space shuttles of two centuries earlier had orbited Earth at roughly five miles a second. Doubling that speed, even tripling it—and in a hurry—was within easy capability of the PS-class shuttles.

Devans threw in a series of mild doglegs to make it a little interesting for Wagner. He had to admit, the youth had staying power. An hour later and Wagner hadn’t even taken a bathroom break. Two blips showed up on the main hologram of the planet below. They marked tunnel locations T1 and T2 as yellow-highlighted lines that shot straight down. Both had tiny right angles at the ends where the bombs were housed.

As they approached the space over T1, the surface camera feeds showed nothing but a mass of gray-and-red dust. Very little wind speed. It was thick but gentle, like a snow globe after its been shaken.

“Raise shields, Nuro,” Devans said. “Shannon, how about splashing our entry on the big monitor here and the feed to the crew?”

The shuttle’s shields warded off the entry heat and they entered the anemic Martian atmosphere.

“Withdraw shields, Nuro.”

“Withdrawing.”

“Nice sandstorm,” Devans said, gazing at the roiling wall hundreds of feet high.

“Dust storm!” Trent Wagner said over his shoulder as he leaned back and forth on the table as if shredding the galaxy’s longest wave. “This is the tail end of it!”

“How long until cleared?”

“Two or three.”

“Couple, three hours, not so bad.”

“Weeks,” Wagner said.

“And here I just had this thing washed. Let’s go to the dark side for now.”

The sun cut a divide on the red planet’s surface. PS-9 easily outdistanced the storm and raced over the desert surface to the dark side. The second blip beckoned them on the navigation screens. Near total darkness pushed against their vessel lights.

This was the eve of the moment they all had labored for…One last manual check and they would attempt to resurrect Mars with synchronized thermonuclear explosions at the core.

At least, that was the plan.

About the Author From his home in Wilmington, North Carolina, John Andrew Karr (also John A. Karr) writes of the strange and spectacular. He is the author of a handful of independent and small press novels and novellas, and also leaves in his wake a trail of short stories.

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