Introducing J.D. Waye and The Harvesters

So the title sounds like I have a band here. And with a name like The Harvesters, you can bet they’d play both kinds of music: Country and Western. (Queue Theme from Rawhide) Sorry, I had a Blues Brothers moment there. No, J.D. Waye is an author, and her new book is called The Harvesters. I haven’t read the book yet, it doesn’t come out until next week, but as far as I know, it’s not about Mama, or trains, or trucks, or prison, or gettin’ drunk, so until I’m proving wrong, I’m going to say it’s not Country or Western. What it is is some good, old-fashioned, aliens coming to Earth and ruining everyone’s day, sci-fi. And I’ve been looking for some of that lately. So I pre-ordered a copy. After I introduce you to J.D. Waye, perhaps you’ll do the same.


Tell us about yourself.

I live kind of an ordinary life. There’s always someone or something more important, more exciting, than talking about myself.

Tell us about your book.

The Harvesters is about how people react when faced with a crisis, when their hopes and dreams come to a crashing halt, when they have to re-invent themselves to cope…you know, like real life.

Who is your target audience?

This book is targeted to teens in high school, but could also appeal to younger and older readers. So…almost everyone. Hopefully.

Is this book part of a series? If so, how many volumes do you plan to write?

The Harvesters is not yet part of a series, written as a stand-alone book, but has the potential to be developed into three volumes. I’m currently coming up with scenes for the second book, seeing if it will work.

How long did it take to write?

It took about four months to write the first draft, but the concept itself took years to form. It didn’t work the first time around, so I shelved it for a few years before changing the point-of-view. And alas…editing…dreaded editing…took longer than writing the actual book.

What are some books that influenced/inspired you in the writing of this one?

This book was more inspired by movies than by books, which is why it is formulated to a screenplay plan. (Let’s take a moment to salute Save the Cat, by Blake Snyder.)Alien and Aliens, with their creepy strobe-lights and sirens. War of the Worlds (the new 2005 version). Independence Day (love the comedy). And of course, District 9 (ordinary events colliding with extraordinary circumstances).

Who are your favorite authors?

Listing my favorite authors is hard, because it changes all the time. These are a few that I enjoyed reading as a teen:

Frank Herbert (Dune, and the rest of his series)

John Wyndham (The Chrysalids, The Day of the Triffids)

Ray Bradbury (The Illustrated Man, The Martian Chronicles, Something Wicked This Way Comes, Fahrenheit 451, and everything else by him)

And now, anything by John Scalzi. Brilliant. Mind-blowing. Funny. Thought-provoking.

On which aspect of your writing do you work the hardest? (Characters, plotting, prose, etc.)

Characters come naturally, springing to life all on their own. Plotting is difficult, but oh so satisfying when puzzle pieces fit together. What’s hardest are the bridging scenes, linking images together into a coherent whole, describing events that make one scene flow seamlessly to the next. And what is most challenging is finding the time to write, then stopping creative outbursts for real life tasks.

What’s next?

I’m currently working on part 2 of Chago’s story – an Andes adventure where Chagojoins a team of scientists trying to save a wildlife species he was responsible for driving to the brink of extinction. After that, who knows…maybe spirits clashing with ghost hunters in a Scottish castle; maybe deception and persuasion between Victorian evolutionists; maybe the next book in The Shadow People series…

Introducing Martine Lewis

Today I have the pleasure of introducing you to Martine Lewis, the author of the young adult title, Crossing the Barrier: The Gray Eyes Series Book One. She’s also hosting a book giveaway on Goodreads!

_JEF6320Why don’t you start by telling us about yourself.

This is always the hardest part, isn’t it?

We’ll get the hard part out of the way first.

I start writing when I was eleven years old, and have written on and off ever since. I wrote mostly fanfictions and some bad originals when I was younger, mostly inspired by people I knew. Fanfiction was a good way to hone my skill and when I tackled the writing of my own original fiction, I was ready.

Now, I write original fictions with no end in sight.

On a more personal side: I work full time as a Project Scheduler/Planner to pay for my “writing addiction”. Hopefully one day, my writing will support itself and me, and I’ll be able to do it full time.

As a Project Scheduler/Planner, you probably don’t have the organizational problems that plague me and so many other authors.

Tell us about Crossing the Barrier.

It’s the story of a football player who falls for a band girl. It was heavily inspired from my attending high school football games here in the suburb of Houston. I came to love the atmosphere at those games, and I got to know a lot of the parents. It’s an interesting world, where the players are very devoted to the sport, and the band is having the time of their life, and I wanted to explore it more.

It turns out this book worked very well in the universe I created. While this is the third book I wrote in that universe, it was only fitting that it would be the first one to come out. It worked best in the series timeline.


High school student Malakai Thomas, star wide receiver of the varsity team, collides with band member Lily Morgan on his way to football practice. As days go by, Malakai cannot get the petite clarinetist out of his head.

Lily Morgan can feel everyone’s emotions. She loses her ability to shield herself against them the day Malakai runs into her. Now she must try to maintain her sanity in the emotional jungle that is high school, as well as deal with her growing feelings for Malakai.

Can Malakai get over the social stigma and his own internal struggle to be with Lily? Is Lily’s secret too big to accept, even for him?

Who is your target audience?

I would say young adult/new adults between the age of 16 and 20.

How many volumes do you plan to write in the series?

This book is part of a series of six, the Gray Eyes Series.

A few days ago, I received the development edit comments for book 2, and I am currently revising book 3 to send it to my legal reviewer. All my books go through her. I think it’s important for me to get my legal facts right and I take good care in doing just that.

I will complete the first draft of book 4 in April during Camp Nano. I began in November and got halfway through before I had to go back to book 1 (Crossing the Barrier) to address my copyediting comments.

Book 5 is written, at least a first draft. I should begin my first revision of it in September.

Book 6 is the only one that is not yet written, at least in part. I should be writing it during Nanowrimo this coming November.

It certainly sounds like you’ve got a great start on the series. How long did it take to write?

Usually, I can write 95,000 words in a month. I use challenge months such as the National Novel Writing Month (Nanowrimo), Camp Nano and Junowrimo to complete my first drafts, and off months to plan. It works for me to have the pressure of a challenge in order to obtain a good word count by a certain date. I think my first draft is by far the easiest part to write.

Then I do revising, at least two passes, then the editing cycle.

I’ve always wanted to try the challenge months. They don’t fall at good times for me.

What are some books that influenced/inspired you in the writing of this one?

This particular book wasn’t inspired by any books. It was mostly inspired by what I witnessed at the football games I attended.

Who are your favorite authors?

While I write Young Adult, Cambria Hebert, who mostly writes New Adult, is a big inspiration for me. I especially like her #Hashtag Series, which I read three times in the last year. I also like CM Doporto and her University Park Series, and Tammara Webber’s Easy.

And of course, I would be remiss not to mention JK Rowling. She really created a wonderful universe in which I took an enormous pleasure to write in. I wrote hundred of thousands of words of fanfiction in the Potterverse.

J. K. Rowling? Would I have read anything she’s written? Joking. I too am a huge potter fan. I recently read the series with my oldest son, now I’m on book three with my youngest.

On which aspect of your writing do you work the hardest? (Characters, plotting, prose, etc.)

Prose. English is my second language and I do struggle with it a lot. My first draft reads like a paper from a third grader. The words are not very diverse and the phrases are frequently worded using French grammar. That’s why I do so many revisions. That’s why I put so much importance in my editing effort too. I have surrounded myself with editing professionals who know English is my second language and are a great help in varying my vocabulary and finding the right word for what I’m trying to say.

Characters are sometimes a challenge too. While I was writing book 4, or trying to, Malakai, my main character of book 1, kept on talking to me. In fact, he was talking so loud, I couldn’t hear the characters of book 4. That’s part of the reason I couldn’t finish book 4 during Nano, like I would usually have done.

Now plotting is usually not very hard as long as I have an idea already in mind. Subplotting can be challenge sometimes but after a long drive, I can usually figure it out… Yes, I love to plot while I’m driving. There is nothing else to do!

From what little I know of you, I’d have never guessed English wasn’t your first language.

What’s next?

The second series, believe it or not. I plan to be around for a long long time.

Starting in 2017, I will begin writing the Blue Eyes Series which is set in the same universe but with different characters. If my schedule holds – remember, I’m a Project Scheduler by profession – I should write book 1 of the Blue Eyes Series for Camp Nano in April 2017, and book 2 for Nano in November 2017. Let’s see if the schedule will hold.

Crossing the Barrier eRev09-eBook
By link:
Don’t forget to enter the Goodreads book giveaway.

Survival Colony 9 Review and Interview with Joshua David Bellin.

One of the first authors I met (with a publisher other than my own), after signing my contract and trying to establish a presence on social media, joins me today. By the time I met him, Joshua David Bellin had gotten a good start on his Facebook and Twitter accounts, and he had recently created his blog, The YA Guy, where he reviews and promotes other young adult books, as well as his own. I pre-ordered his book, Survival Colony 9, and anxiously awaited its release–though, I did wait a little extra time so I could get an autographed copy. I read it as soon as it came, enjoyed it, wanted to have Joshua join me here . . . but I got busy. So, after a several month delay, here he is, the author of Survival Colony 9, Joshua David Bellin. Read on after the interview for a review of his book. But I admit, I’m not comfortable writing reviews, so it will lack the eloquence with which Joshua writes his reviews.

Ok. I want to get this out of the way right off. We all know you’re a huge King Kong fan. I didn’t notice any references to the giant ape in Survival Colony 9, but I may have missed something. Of all the sequels, remakes, guest appearances, parodies, and references, which is your favorite of the great ape’s RE-appearances?


Joshua David BellinWell, we can rule out the ’76 version immediately. The Peter Jackson remake isn’t horrible, except it’s about two hours too long and relies too heavily on CG effects. I’m going to go with another Willis O’Brien vehicle, the original Mighty Joe Young. Even better stop-motion (thanks to O’Brien’s assistant, Ray Harryhausen in his first feature film), and thought the plot and acting are on the weak side, it was nice to see a giant monster film that ends happily for the giant monster!

I intended to insert a clip from How I Met Your Mother here. There’s a scene where a monkey climbs a model of the Empire State Building and they throw paper airplanes at it, but I couldn’t find it.


On to your book. I know authors don’t like to speculate which actors should play characters in their books. The best reason I’ve heard for this is they don’t want the reader to have a presupposition for what a character looks like. After all, when you first read Lord or the Rings, did Frodo look anything like Elijah Wood? (Yet for me, Gandalf did look a lot like Ian McKellen.) So I won’t put you on the spot here, but what do you think of *whispers name of a top billed action star* as Laman?


I think he’d be great in the role of Laman! Impressive presence, very authoritative, but with an edge of something dangerous or unbalanced. For the same reason, I think [cough, cough] would be just as awesome.


A few aspects of this book reminded me of The Walking Dead. We’ll skip the obvious world in ruin stuff. Laman, as a leader, reminded me a lot of Rick. Laman had a bit more of a grip on his sanity, but he grew up in his world, Rick grew up before the world ended. This could be hard to adjust to. Both had a son under their wing, and both sought a permanent shelter. (Of course, I think we, as people, want a permanent shelter. If not, we’d have never started building houses.) Can you expand on some similarities/differences you see?


You’re not the first person to make a Walking Dead connection with my book, but I have to admit: I’ve never seen the show. (Or that’s not entirely true—I watched the first episode simply to see if it was as similar to my book as people were saying, but I didn’t like it.) In general, I’m not a huge fan of zombies. I feel like they’ve been done to death, and with very little originality to the story line. They’re undead cannibals who turn their victims into other undead cannibals and destroy the world in the process. Been there, done that.

The reason I made the connection (and I can’t speak for the show, I’ve only seen an episode or two), is the comics really aren’t about zombies. Sure, they exist, and when it’s time for a character to get killed off, they can always get bitten, but the stories are about the people learning to live in a new world. It’s character driven more than any other Zombie medium I’ve seen. It could be a world taken over by mutant lions and have the same result. (Hum, a world taken over by mutant lions.) Anyway, In Survival Colony 9, the Skaldi made them live in constant fear, but the book was really about the characters.

I also intended to compare the Skaldi to the byrus in Stephen King’s Dreamcathcer, but I forgot.


In one scene, Laman makes everyone give up the items they carry that aren’t absolutely necessary. In our world, so full of hoarders there’s even a TV show about it, how hard do you think it would be for people to give up sentimental items in the event of the apocalypse?


I think it would be nearly impossible. Though I personally feel we in the western world care far too much about material possessions—this is an ongoing dispute with my wife and kids, by the way—there’s no denying that this stuff defines us. So if the world were to collapse, and on top of that (as in my novel) memory were to fade to the extent that people have practically no reference points to the past, I think the importance of material stuff would be greatly magnified. Which is one thing that makes Laman a problematic leader—he doesn’t understand this. But as readers will discover, he has his own reasons for not understanding.


I always like to ask authors about characters they like or dislike. I did not like Yov. Who are some of your favorites/least favorites?


I actually like Yov, because he’s such a smart-mouth jerk he got some of the best lines in the book! But leaving him aside, I love Aleka and Petra, two of the strong women in the colony, and Korah, because she’s so much more complex than I’d originally planned. She was one of those characters who took on a life of her own and refused to be limited by my first intentions. If I had to choose a character I don’t like—which is hard, because in this book I very much wanted there not to be simple heroes and villains, so I got to know all my characters too well to hate them—I’d say it’s Araz. I get where he’s coming from, but I simply can’t condone some of the things he does.

You’re the second person in a row I mentioned the character I liked least, and the author pointed out that the character is smart-mouthed. Interesting. What does that say about me? Maybe I don’t like characters too similar to myself.


All right, enough about Survival Colony 9. As you wrote in the book, “Life isn’t about looking back. It’s about looking ahead.” What can you tell us about Skaldi City? I assume it will also be about Querry. What’s next for him? Do you know an approximate release date?


I don’t have a release date yet, alas. But you’ll know as soon as I do (as will the rest of the Twittersphere). SKALDI CITY picks up right where SURVIVAL COLONY 9 leaves off, but it takes Querry and the others into very different territory, revealing much more of the world, as well as much more of his personal history. I think readers will be surprised by what they discover. And they’ll also meet a new character who is, hands down, my favorite in the series. So it’s something to be on the lookout for!

I look forward to it. I’d pre-order a copy now if I could. On to the review.

Survival Colony 9 Review:

Querry Genn can’t remember who his is, or how he got to Survival Colony 9, but he needs to remember to save himself . . . and possibly the human race. In a world destroyed by war, the remaining people formed survival colonies, but harsh climates, including lack of food and water, aren’t the only threats in this post-apocalyptic world. They also have to contend with the Skaldi. No one knows what these monsters look like. No one has seen them and lived to tell. You see, they possess a human host and mimic them perfectly. They could be anyone, even me.

Joshua David Bellin creates a completely plausible dystopian world. When the Skaldi attack, and Survival Colony 9 has to pack up and run, you’re there. When they find a place to set up camp, possibly for a long-term, you feel their relief. And you share in their losses when members of Survival Colony 9 fail to survive the Skaldi.

My only complaint is the book left me wanting more. Sorry for the vagueness, but I’m not actually sure what ‘more’ I wanted from it. I may have wanted more interaction between Querry and Laman. Or perhaps I wanted more information about Querry or the Skaldi. If that’s the case, I guess it’s a compliment not a complaint. In which case, I should get my ‘more’ in Skaldi City.

Erin Rhew Interview About The Outlanders Plus Book Reviews

I have one of my favorite virtual friends back today. This time we talk about her newest release, The Outlanders (The Fulfillment Series Book 2), her future writing plans, and for more fun, I throw in my review of the book. I also never got around to giving her a review for the first book in The Fulfillment Series, The Prophecy, and I know how important reviews are to authors, so I’ll put that in here as well. So sit back, learn about the first two thirds (plus a little extra) of an enjoyable young adult fantasy series, and help me welcome Erin Rhew. Oh, and if you hurry, there’s a giveaway happening.

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So we have a “love triangle” with Layla, Nash, and Wil (Though I’ve always considered them more of a “Love V.” Think about it.) Do you have any favorite or least favorite love triangles from fiction?

I wouldn’t consider it a traditional love triangle (maybe I’ll say love “V” instead…heehee) since supernatural powers are at play and affect the feelings/beliefs of the characters. If I did have a love triangle, I wanted it to be well done (I hope I succeeded—LOL!). I wanted both men to be wholly worthy instead of one good guy and one traditional bad boy.
My favorite love triangle in fiction is the one from the Infernal Devices series. Tess, Will, and Jem…happy sigh. And thanks to the world Cassandra Clare created, the outcome could not have been happier for the reader.
I don’t like love triangles where one guy won’t accept his fate and tries to bend the girl toward his will.

I can’t say I’m a fan of Samson, though I give Elder Werrick an easier time than you. Who are some of your favorite and least favorite characters, not counting the big three?

LOL!! I actually like Samson. His snark is my homage to Percy Jackson. 😉 I like King Rex a lot. I love how he’s strong but gentle. My fiancé, Deek, likes Queen Cataleen, but he always likes the villain because he finds them so layered. 😉 And I like the Voltons. Their calm, cool, collected attitudes appeal to me—particularly Mars and Holt.

I really don’t care for Werrick. He’s an example of “absolute power corrupts absolutely.” And though I tried to make her sympathetic because of her life, I have trouble liking Mia. I feel like I should like Mia, but I just don’t.

Well, you’re the author, so I guess you’d know. But sometimes characters surprise even the author. One day you may learn Samson has a bit of a back stabbing personality, and Werrick has some separation anxiety issues he’s trying to work through. If he keeps meeting with his counselor, he’ll handle it.

Chapters 21 through 25 were my favorite of the series so far. Give us a hint of one thing well get in Book Three: The Fulfillment.

Wow, thank you!! Parts of those scenes were definitely difficult to write.

Hmmmm…here are two hints: One of the three kingdoms will fall in The Fulfillment. And an important character will behave rashly with serious consequences.

Do you have an approximate release date for The Fulfillment?

It’s written, but I’m still matching it up consistency-wise to changes made in The Prophecy and The Outlanders. I hope to submit to my publisher early next year. So, I’m hoping for a later summer/early fall release date.

Have you given any thought to your writing life after The Fulfillment Series?

I already have several projects in the works—a young adult futuristic thriller and another fantasy novel, with a twist.

What writer’s style do you most admire?

Rick Riordan. I absolutely, positively love his style. I want to BE Rick Riordan! LOL!

Oh! I knew this one. I should have asked a better question. Here, I’ll ask one of myself instead:

Team Wil or Tem Nash? Wil’s all right, but if I have to pick one I’ll take Nash.

Rapid Fire Randomness:

Volton Mars/Veronica Mars—any correlation? Nope, I never thought of it until you said it. I actually would have gone for Vulcan with Volton. 😉

Alterations reminded me a bit of Compulsion in the Vampire Academy series. Agree or disagree? I don’t think they’re exactly alike, but the difference is negligible. Compulsion is more related to forcing people to do things. The Alterations implant images. I think it’s a little different.

Layla—is she named after the Derrick and the Dominos song? No. Her name appeared in my head out of nowhere. I found out after I named her that it meant “Dark Beauty.” Perfect and random.

Pick a fantasy series: Song of Ice and Fire, Sword of Truth, or Wheel of Time.
100% Song of Fire and Ice. 😉

I hear winter IS coming. No seriously. The next book is titled The Winds of Winter. That, amongst other things, leads us to believe it may happen.

Here’s an excerpt from The Outlanders:

Everything about Mia felt wrong. The girl, who looked so much like Layla, just happened to be where Samson could find her and came with him to the home of her enemy without any resistance? Whole generations of Ecclesiastics searched for entire lifetimes and never found the Fulfillment, yet Samson encountered two potentials in short succession. She couldn’t pinpoint the reason for her unease, but something tickled the back of her mind, inching toward the surface with painstaking sluggishness.

“I don’t understand why she would just come with you to Etherea.” Layla struggled to keep her voice level and calm to avoid raising Samson’s hackles.

“She didn’t have anywhere else to go. Vance killed her family in Vanguard.”

Layla made a mental note to confirm Samson’s version of the story with the information Nash managed to extract from Mia. “If she’s a Vanguard, why would she come with you to Etherea?”

“You came here,” Samson shot back, his inexplicable protectiveness for the mystery girl heightening her concern.

She treaded with care. “Well, some insane man in a black and purple robe stole my brother, so I didn’t really have a choice.”

Mia stared at the young man before her with a mixture of curiosity and weariness. She understood why others found him so handsome—rich, dark hair and those shocking green eyes. If she succeeded, he would be her…she stopped herself, determined to keep her mind clear. She had to give off an air of mystery, to lure the Ethereals into her web so they followed her plan. More than anything, she needed them to follow her plan, so much depended on it. She could not slip up. She could not make a mistake.

Taking a steadying breath, she refocused her thoughts and slid her amethyst colored eyes across the prince in front her. She wouldn’t even think his name or give any indication she already knew about him. She had to forget how much she’d been told about him…how much she’d been told about them all. Feigning ignorance factored into her plan.

“Who are you?” he asked, after spending an inordinate amount of time regarding her.

She noted how his gaze bounced from her eyes to her hair and back again. As planned, her appearance intrigued him. Though he’d asked a different question, she heard the real one layered beneath it. He wanted to know why she resembled the proclaimed Fulfillment. That question would then lead him to an inevitable one…could Mia be the Fulfillment instead of Layla? And if she were the Fulfillment, what did that mean for him? For Wil? For Layla?

“I’m Mia.” She almost grinned, pleased she’d answered his question but given him nothing more. When his lips twisted, her grin broke into a full smile at his evident irritation. “And you are?”

He hesitated. “Nash, brother of the king.”

“The injured king?” He flinched, a subtle movement most might miss, but she caught it.

“According to our friend, Samson, you’re an Outlander.”

“He found me in the Outlands.” The less Nash knew, the better.

Frustration flickered across his face, marring his otherwise handsome features. She smiled to herself, not trusting his patience should her lips turn up yet again.

“Sooo,” he dragged out the word. “Are you an Outlander?”

“No. I’m a Vanguard.”

Nash cocked his head to the right. “Why were you in the Outlands then?”

“I went to escape Vance’s oppression.” Mia stared at the wall behind him until her vision blurred. She willed tears to form. Given the pressure she’d been under, summoning them proved easier than she expected. When the familiar tight burning started near her lids, she blinked at the prince. He shifted in his seat. Mia wanted to snort at his reaction. Tears always made men uncomfortable. “Vance killed my family.” She paused and swallowed, hoping he believed she needed a moment to collect herself. “I ran as far as I could and ended up in the Outlands. Samson found me.”

Nash cleared his throat and shifted again; she increased the flow of her tears in reply.           “What do you know about the Outlands?”

“Very little.” She sniffed. Looking as pathetic as she could manage, she attempted to wipe her eyes, an impossible feat given her bound hands. Nash frowned as his gaze landed on her restraints. She bid him to unbind her hands, and for a moment, she believed he might. To her disappointment, he gripped the side of his chair until his knuckles turned white and left her tied up. Mia ground her teeth.

“Do you believe you are the Fulfillment?” Nash kept his voice steady despite the turmoil she read upon his face.

Mia waited a moment to respond, both to further escalate his frustration and to collect herself. In this moment, she needed to be most convincing, to begin what she’d been tasked to set in motion. She gestured with her chin, drawing Nash’s attention to the blazing “F” upon her upper arm. The dark purple birthmark matched the shade of her eyes.

“The First Ones speak for themselves.”

Nash shook his head. “It’s too obvious.”

Mia’s head jerked back. She struggled to maintain her composure as his reaction, so unexpected, derailed her careful planning. Her mind racing, she grappled for a response.

“Too obvious?”

“Yes. See, Mia—” His clear distaste tainted the sound of her own name. “I know about the First Ones.”

“Who do you think you are? An Ecclesiastic?” She smirked at him, acting like she retained complete control, but her insides knotted. She couldn’t lose her ability to direct the conversation.

To her surprise, Nash laughed, though she noted no pleasure in it. “The Prophecy states, ‘In a time of war, when the land is divided amongst the two, she, with raven black hair, purple eyes, and a special blessing from the First Ones shall bring peace.’”

“I think everyone in the three kingdoms and in the Borderlands is familiar with The Prophecy.” Mia rolled her eyes for effect. “What’s your point?”

“My point is, the special blessing wouldn’t be something as simple as a birthmark. If it were, the First Ones would have just said raven black hair, purple eyes, and an ugly purple ‘F’ on the upper arm.” He flicked his hand toward her arm. “Special blessing is vague, indicating something mysterious. There is nothing mysterious about your birthmark.”

Mia’s heart pounded as she felt the tables turn and the conversation slip away. “And there is something mysterious about her?”

The word her hung between them for a moment. Mia took another deep breath, worrying she’d pushed him too far. Beneath his shirt, she saw Nash’s muscles ripple and hoped she’d managed to touch a new nerve.

Mia clenched her teeth. She hated acting this way, so out of character, but she had to press on. No one could know the truth. She had to win this game…


Erin Rhew is an editor, a running coach, and the author of The Fulfillment Series. Since she picked up Morris the Moose Goes to School at age four, she has been infatuated with the written word. She went on to work as a grammar and writing tutor in college and is still teased by her family and friends for being a member of the “Grammar Police.” A Southern girl by blood and birth, Erin now lives in a rainy pocket of the Pacific Northwest with the amazingly talented (and totally handsome) writer Deek Rhew and their “overly fluffy,” patient-as-a-saint writing assistant, a tabby cat named Trinity. She and Deek enjoy reading aloud to one another, running, lifting, boxing, eating chocolate, and writing side-by-side.

Find me online:


Twitter: @ErinRhewBooks




Buy The Prophecy:

Buy The Outlanders:

OK. That turned into quite a post. If you’re still with me, you either really like Erin’s books, or you want the reviews . . . or both. So here they are.

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The Prophecy:

Let’s start off with this whole love triangle thing because it bothers me–in fiction in general, but not in The Prophecy by Erin Rhew, and that’s why it works, and it’s one of the things that makes this book so good. Every time you turn around in modern fiction, one female gets in the room with two males and you’ve got a love triangle . . . and they don’t even have to all belong to the same species. Erin Rhew wrote a compelling, plot driven, fantasy novel, and the so called ‘love triangle’ is just one element of the plot. And instead of getting thrown in because it’s almost expected in YA fiction, it’s necessary to move the plot. Not only does Layla not know if she loves Wil or Nash, she’s not sure if she’s supposed to love Wil or Nash to make the prophecy come true. And yes, guys, if I haven’t made my point clear, this isn’t some sappy romance.

Now that we’ve cleared that up, The Prophecy has action, adventure, humor, and yes, even a little love. If I have anything negative to say, it’s just that the story seemed to jump ahead a time or two, which I found distracting because I wanted to know what happened in the lapse.

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The Outlanders:

I started out thinking I was going to like this book less than The Prophecy. It started slower, and I could tell by the general tone, it wasn’t going to have as much action as its predecessor. I was right about everything . . . except the part about liking it less. I thought it was great! The deepening of the plot more than made up for the lack of action. And the ending, watch out! The Prophecy ended on a major cliffhanger. Not only does The Outlanders end on a cliffhanger, but all the loose ends you think are getting tied up toward the end of the story, well, they all come untied.

Now if you’re still with me, you’re just looking for something free, so here’s a Rafflecopter giveaway. A $50 gift cards, signed copies of The Prophecy and The Outlanders. That sort of thing. But hurry, it ends at the end of the day November 1.

School of Deaths: Interview and Review

I read and reviewed School of Deaths by Christopher Mannino, then, as an added bonus, I sent some questions to Christopher. Here are his responses (spoiler alert: you get to hear about some cool travels in Wales and England), and read on for a review of his book.


The training scythe, they remind me of the golf clubs that break if you don’t use a proper swing. Where did you get the idea for scythe that won’t work if you use them wrong?

I’m a teacher as my main career. In education, there’s almost always a “training” version of something. When creating the training scythes, I kept in mind that the scythes had an intelligence, and I figured they’d be able to tell if you used them correctly or not.

You created a sport in your book called boskery. Did you play any sports in school?

Not particularly. I played baseball for one year, and soccer for one year, but I was an arts kid in school- far more interested in drama and music than sports.

What real sports did you want boskery to be like, or which did you definitely want it not to be like?


I think my idea for boskery was loosely based on rugby and lacrosse- I see them spinning the scythes which reminds me a bit of cradling a lacrosse stick, and the game’s ultimately about physical endurance, which is best embodied by rugby. A few reviewers have compared it to quidditch and to the “games” of the Hunger Games. I definitely did NOT want it to be anything like quidditch, but I will admit the idea of children attacking each other, similar to the Hunger Games struggles, flitted through my mind several times while writing that scene. I did make an effort to keep it different from Collins’ dark “game”.

I love this kind of story, where kids are sent off for an “abnormal” education (see also Beware of the White by Kai Strand). What inspired you to write this?

The idea for SCHOOL OF DEATHS emerged when I was finishing my graduate degree at Oxford University. I spent four months abroad, far from everyone I knew. Every week, I traveled somewhere I had never been before. I would climb castle ruins in Wales and visit cathedrals in England. One of my favorite trips was to Tintagel Castle in Cornwall. After misjudging the time it’d take to get there, I became stranded. The tourist office was closed, and I couldn’t find a hostel. I walked from pub to pub asking if I could sleep above their bar.

The next morning, having slept none, since I’d found a room over a noisy pub, I crept to Barras Nose before dawn. Barras Nose is a stone peninsula, or rocky outcropping jutting into the Celtic Sea, just north of Tintagel. Tintagel itself is a small island with castle ruins on its cliffs. Some believe it to be the birthplace of King Arthur. When I reached Barras Nose, the winds howled so fiercely that I had to crawl on all fours to keep from being blown into the ocean below. Then dawn broke. No other humans were in sight. I struggled to keep my balance, but watched the sun rise on the ruins of the ancient castle, listening to the thunder of waves pounding the fifty foot cliffs I clung to. Wind battered me with ferocity, and I imagined a character being buffeted by winds, completely alone. I envisioned Suzie, alone in a world of men, buffeted by sexism.

I like the Reaper in Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey, and the Stephen King story The Reaper’s Image is downright frightening. What are some of your favorite Grim Reapers in fiction, excluding your own of course?

Favorite Grim Reaper would have to be Terry Pratchett’s character “Death” as mentioned in the Discworld series. I particularly liked “Reaper Man,” a novel where Death loses his job and is forced to try and live as a normal person. Pratchett’s Death is a parody of the stereoptyped Grim Reaper, but Pratchett does it in a very funny way, and I enjoy reading him.

A different version of Deaths that I enjoyed are the shinigami, or “Death gods” in the manga and anime series “Death Note.” The creatures are strange and dark, but it’s an interesting spin on the idea of a Reaper, especially since the shinigami such as the main character Ryuk, have to kill in order to stay alive themselves.

And here’s the Review:

Thirteen-year-old Suzie has to get used to a new school. Also, she’s the first girl at her school for a million years. . . oh, and did I mention she’s training to be a Death. Not welcome by classmates or teachers, Suzie has to survive if she wants to pass the end of year test to return to the Living World.

In School of Deaths, Christopher Mannino creates a believable world where kids have to train to be deaths. From struggling to make friends, learning to use a scythe, and ultimately trying to learn why no woman has been a Death for a million years, School of Deaths will captivate you and throw you into Suzie’s world. . . and maybe YOU won’t be able to leave.

Get it here:


Muse It Up

Review and Interview of Kai Strand’s Worth the Effort

Today I’m honored to be part of Kia Strand’s release tour for her novella “Worth the Effort.” I agreed to read and review her work, and she agreed to submit to an interview about the story, so we’re both happy. Here’s the review, and if you read on afterward, you can see our fun little discussion about coffee, love, publishing, and of course… writing. When you’ve finished, don’t forget to click the link for the Rafflecopter giveaway.

Woth the EffortElla discovers a homeless teen boy living in an alley behind the café where she works, and at first he frightens her. But as time goes by she gets to know him and in the process of overcoming her fear, she also attempts to shatter the high society expectations her parents have for her. But just when she thinks she’s getting to know Ayden, she discovers his shocking secret. This story will have you turning pages to see what happens next, and even though it’s a complete story, it will leave you wanting more. And since it’s a Kai Strand story, expect a last-minute twist to keep the ending from dragging on or becoming boring.

Here’s my interview with Kai. If my less-than-award-worthy reviewing ability didn’t convince you to try “Worth the Effort,” maybe our conversation will.

Kai StrandSince you live in the Pacific North West, and Seattle is known for coffee (among other things), and coffee plays a central role in Worth the Effort, what kind of coffee do you like and how do you take it?

I adore this question! Thank you for asking it. I am a coffee drinker. 24/7 when I can get away with it. My favorite brand is Starbucks. I like my coffee STRONG and usually black. I rarely drink flavored coffee, but when I want to spoil myself, I throw some dried orange peel and a snap of cinnamon stick into the grinder with the beans. When I REALLY want to indulge, I’ll mix chocolate milk into the brewed cup of coffee. (Picture Homer Simpson drooling here)

I’m not much for flavored coffee myself, but I do love some Highlander Grog when I can get it.

For a novella, Worth the Effort has many layers of depth: themes of poor versus plenty and breaking with norms/expectations contribute to this depth. Did you set out to write a story as such, or did the layers build on their own as you wrote?

This is a tough question. I don’t know that I set out to tell this story in particular. What I did know was that I wanted a high school girl to fall for a homeless boy. It was very, very important to me that people see the underage homeless population. As the story developed I realized I needed – no wanted – more dynamics in the story itself. That is when I decided these kids needed some surprises. The irony is, that when I was doing some research for the basis of my story, visiting a transitional living shelter for teens in my area, I was told a story of a boy with a similar enough background to my fictional Ayden that I knew beyond a doubt that I’d chose the right story to tell. I actually got shivers when I was told his story. Still do!

At first, I thought this was going to be a story of love(ish) at first sight. After reading it, I realize it’s not, at least not for Ella. Do you believe in love at first sight or do you think it’s just a tool to move some plots?

I’m sorry we aren’t sitting at my local Starbucks so I could fully answer this question. First and foremost I had an instant and powerful reaction – attraction – to my now husband. Was it love? No. But I’ve never had the same experience with anyone else. So there is SOMETHING to that feeling. Different people may have a different definition for it. Second, and I’m saying this mostly because my oldest daughter would cry foul if I didn’t mention it to the world when I’ve had some very in depth conversations with her about teen love…I don’t think teen love is a real love. WAIT! PLEASE LISTEN! I think it is very real for the people who are feeling it. I think it is possible (though rare) it will mature into a lasting love. But I don’t think it is formed on proper life experiences or even with a realistic sense of time, for that matter. Can it break a heart? Absolutely. Is it everlasting? If so, why not wait and see…?

You wrote this story in first person present, the other stories of yours I’ve read have been written in third person past (my more natural writing style). Did you find it difficult to write this way?

Oh, Eric! Can I just thank you for recognizing this? It was very hard for me to write in first person present. My poor editor was like, “Wait? Why are we switching to past tense here?” and I was like, “Cause this is HARD!” Ella’s story needed to be immediate. But it was my first time writing this way. I laugh when I hear others write this way all the time and have a hard time writing in third person past. Imagine that—she asked. *wink*

In my opinion, the worst part about being an author is either promoting, or the fact that I can no longer read anything just for its entertainment value. I can almost hear my high school literature teachers in my head asking, “Why do you think the author did this?” It greatly slows down my reading time, and it frustrates me (at times), but there’s nothing I can do about it.

You self published this novella, and if I’m not mistaken, it’s this first work you’ve self published. Tell us a few things you learned while self publishing.

I learned that writing is hard. Oh wait, I already knew that. I learned that it takes a team to write a book, writer, cover artist, editor. Nope—knew that already. I learned marketing…no, already did that too. Okay, I learned book formatting. Honestly, I did so much research prior to deciding to self publish that I don’t really remember what I didn’t know before. Prior to making the decision to self pub these novellas, I read a lot about the ‘why’ and the ‘how’ so there weren’t a lot of surprises. At this point I don’t intend on leaving traditional publishing completely. I enjoy the overall experience of traditional publishing, but being a competent and capable person, I wanted to take advantage of the additional revenue stream. Especially on smaller work, like my novellas.

So this was Ella’s Story, and you tell us that Ayden’s Story is yet to come. Give us a hint of something we’ll learn with Ayden’s Story.

Ayden is the whole reason behind these two novellas. Therefore, in his story we will get to really know him. We will see even more clearly why he’s homeless. We live on the streets with him. We learn about some of the resources that are available to him (that he takes advantage of) and most important, how Ella impacts his life – which, I admit is big – and we’ll wonder if he can rise to the occasion. It was so much harder to write his side of the story than I expected it to be. I just figured I’d write the same story from his point of view, but well…that was boring! So I chose key scenes to dip into so readers can see what he was thinking when they happened. Other than that the story has to follow his life, which is nothing close to Ella’s.

Thanks for joining me, Kai, and I hope someone comes across this and finds your story interesting. But for a little more motivation, here’s a Rafflecopter giveaway.

Ladybug Lin Holmes and Christmas Goes Green

Yes, I have a calendar just to my right, and I can see today is May first. I’m also aware very few people want to talk about Christmas at this time of year. (Only 238 more days!!!) But Christmas Goes Green by Lin Holmes isn’t some sappy Lifetime Christmas story… it’s more of an A&E type story.

Lin Holmes, affectionately known as Ladybug Lin at Muse It Up Publishing and elsewhere about the web, had dedicated herself to helping all of the authors at Muse It Up (read her review of Unveiling the Wizards’ Shroud here). I wanted to do something for Lin in return, so I offered to review one of her stories (I haven’t written the review yet–but I’ll link it here when I do) and interview her about it, which is posted below. I read it one night while walking on the treadmill–an activity I despise, but Christmas Goes Green helped pass the time and even made it an enjoyable experience.



I began this series with the idea of subbing it to another publisher my daughter author Kat Holmes was with at that time. They only had a few themes open for new authors at the time. Horror and holiday. I didn’t want to try my hand at horror at that time, so decided to give HOLIDAY a try. 

Shortly before this a man who’d spent years as a local Santa was arrested for…well…he was just not going to play Santa ever again. That got me thinking. Retail relies heavily on their Christmas Season…what would a store owner do if Santa was arrested mere days before the BIG DAY? 

I went a step further and wondered how would the FEMALE Santa fair if she’s not physically perfect. That’s how Angie Brightwell came into being.

Luckily before I finished writing SANTA IS A LADY Kat and I learned Lea Schizas and Litsa Kamateros were opening MUSE IT UP PUBLISHING…At the end of March 2010…(March 28) I sent SANTA to Lea…less than three hours later on March 29th, I got my contract, and SANTA released on December 1, 2010…and won the 2010 Preditors and Editors 5th place award in January 2011.

Book Two: THE CHRISTMAS WAR is the story of Beck Cavington…she’s the owner of the shop in Book One that needed a Santa. In One, you’re going to want to smack her upside her head a lot. 

In this book, we find out why she behaved the way she does. She has a mother…a social climbing mother, who is determined, for her own reasons to marry her daughter off to a man she, the mother, can control before Beck turns 35, a few days after Christmas, and Beck’s inheritance is released to her. 

We’ll learn how it came to be that Angie’s family came to Northeringale allowing Angie and Beck to become best friends. Reverend Hank Childress throws a few monkey wrenches into Irene Cavington’s designs for her daughter.

At the end of Book Two, we have everyone going to Angie’s as she gives birth to her baby. There we meet the midwife, Tierney who will be the heroine in Book Three CHRISTMAS GOES GREEN. Tierney is half leprechaun, and half human witch.


I will add you’re going to LOATHE Irene Cavington, Beck’s Mom…and I think you’ll cheer for the resolution of how Irene is ultimately dealt with.


It’s very similar…although neither of us is really petite, and neither of us have the kinds of elemental power either of those two have…WOW…if we did we’d be selling books like J.D. Robb or J.K. Rowlings already. 🙂


Northeringale is a land of Christmas Magic, but magic exists in many forms around the world. I wanted to bring a bit of expanded flavor to Northeringale. In Book One, Angie and Cam are our heroes. She’s a woman who’s had to survive against incredible odds, and he’s a man who’s served in Iraq, then had to fight his late wife’s Iraqi brothers to get his daughter back from their avaricious claws so he can bring her to Northeringale and give her her first magical Christmas. 

In Book Two, we have Beck, whom we wanted to smack up side her head a lot in Book One…and we have Hank…Cam’s best friend from Iraq, who just happens to be a minister and lawyer, coming to Northeringale hoping for the job of minister made available when the late minister passed on. Beck is Angie’s best friend, Hank is Cam’s. 

In Book Three I wondered what kind of EXTRA magic could I bring to Northeringale? Leprechauns, I decided, would LOVE the idea of Santa…meeting him…maybe…sneaking a peek at him as he goes about filling stockings and patting his magical reindeer…I’d already introduced Chris and his store in book one…it wasn’t too much of a leap to imagine he’s half elf half human…oh and Santa’s son…not that everyone in Northeringale would be privy to that information…But Martha, is a powerful witch…she’d recognize the magical signatures of others. 

I imagine Northeringale as a place where all kinds of magic exists. As far as I know Book three IS the finalé, but you never know. There’s all kinds of magical beings that may find their way into Northeringale in the years to come. 


Santa’s an immortal…the HEAD elf…so to speak…he and Mrs. Claus have been around for a long time. 

He spends most of his days playing with little elves…but he’s still a man when he settles in at night with his Mrs. 

Since I’d already introduced Chris Krinkle in Book One, it wasn’t too much of a stretch to make him Santa’s son. Once I did that, it wasn’t hard to imagine Santa as a matchmaker. For Santa to know enough to try his hand at matchmaking, he really needed to be established in a loving, adult relationship. It just took off from there. (Can you imagine Santa as a doting Grandfather? Hmmm I did say there MIGHT be more stories taking place in Northeringale in the future didn’t I?)

Guest Post: Detective for the Innocent by J.H. McCarthy

Today I have my first author interview based upon a novella. I thought with a shorter text I’d have a harder time coming up with questions, but as I read Detective for the Innocent, I actually found it quite easy. If you’re looking for a quick read detective story, I recommend this one by J.H. McCarthy.


You’ve told me our characters are all named after people you know. Tell us about one of them.

Kerry is one of my aunts, she is a detective in the story.

Do you have a brother, and is Jeff and Dave’s relationship based upon your own?

Funny you should say that, I don’t have a brother . I only have sisters. The character Jeff is based on my mom’s friend and David is based on a very good friend of mine.

Your book takes place in NYC, did you have to do much research on the city?

I have been to New York City and I did a lot of research on it.

I choose to write about New York because it is an interesting city.

Mets or Yankees?

Mets, I don’t like the Yankees. I am from Boston.

What about the Dominican? How did you research it?

By books and online.

Did you base Jeff’s character on a detective you know?

No it’s all fictional.

Did you ever want to be a detective?


I know you do some ghost hunting. Tell us a bit about that.

I just got back from a big investigation for my team “Paranormal Hunters.”  We had the privilege of

ghost hunting at the Opera House in Derby, CT.

Jeff reminds me of Robert B. Parker’s Spencer meets Dean Koontz’s Odd Thomas. How would you describe him?

Jeff is a great detective and a good person who has passion for doing the right thing.

Speaking of Odd Thomas and ghost hunting, who would you rather hang out with, the ghost of Elvis or the ghost of Frank Sinatra?

Definitely Frank Sinatra. My father loves his music and I grew up listening to him.

Who are your favorite crime authors, and what are your favorite crime books?

My favorite crime author is someone I actually know very well. His name is Robert W. Walker.

I like all of his books.

Life with a Fire-Breathing Girlfriend… and Bryan Fields

Where to begin? When I first came across Bryan Fields and his book, Life with a Fire-Breathing Girlfriend, I thought, “Well, that’s an interesting title.” But I had a lot going on with my book, so I didn’t give it much more attention than that. A few weeks later I saw the cover of the book. Most book covers at Muse It Up Publishing are outstanding, and Bryan’s is no exception. There’s a saying about not judging a book by its cover, but really, why else does a book have a cover if not to catch a readers attention… and hold the pages together (but in the world of eBooks we’ve conquered that problem). After seeing the cover, I looked at the book a bit closer and decided I needed to read it some day.

While this was going on with me, Bryan had his own life to deal with. While I admit I know very little about his life (more now that I’ve conducted this interview), I did see a post he made on Facebook about how he had a blog stop lined up and the host backed out for… well, for his or her own reasons.

After seeing this, my brain started working. Always a dangerous event, but sometimes it leads to interesting results. I decided to contact Bryan to see if he wanted to participate in a blog post where I read his book and ask him some questions (some are even about the book). He agreed, and here it is. Right now I’m feeling like I came out ahead. I got to read a good book and I got a new post for my blog. So, if you please, leave Bryan a comment so he can get something out of this as well.

Oh, and at the end, read on for a glimpse of Book 2: The Land Beyond All Dreams.

Life with a Fire-Breathing Girlfriend Cover Image

Did you set out to write three books into a single volume, or did it just happen, the way writing often has a mind of its own?

Rose showed up in a dream I was having about life after high school. I had no idea who she was, but I knew she was a dragon and she was keeping herself fed by dining on… well, people whose absence made the world a better place. I stumbled to my computer at 4:00am and got the details down. When I actually woke up the next morning, I started writing an outline as soon as I’d had some coffee.

The first two sections of the book started as short stories. I wrote the two of them in eight or nine hours total, all in one weekend. Everything was right there – why the dragons were here, how the connecting spell worked, what the obvious issues were for dragons living on Earth.

I initially submitted the two short stories to an anthology, but they were rejected for having inappropriate content. I was overjoyed, frankly. My beta readers had said the stories were too short, so I was in the process of rewriting them as novellas.

The third section didn’t come together quite that fast, but it was still much faster than almost anything else I’ve written. It’s a little different from the first two since it was plotted out as a longer story.

The characters in your book really embrace geek culture. Can you relate to them?

David is a guy I would have hung out with in high school and played D&D with. Well, other than my being twenty years older than he is. I tried to make him someone geeks in general could relate to. He’s done conventions, he’s a tabletop, console, and MMO gamer, he’s been in the SCA, and he works in IT. He pretty much ticks all the boxes.

Rose was a little different. The challenge with any non-Human is to make them alien but not so alien they become unrelatable. I wanted her to feel like someone any reader could have a relationship with. She gets into all the stuff David likes and embraces it. I think that’s what makes her relatable – who doesn’t want a romantic partner who makes an active effort to embrace the things we like to do?

Have you ever gone to a festival in costume?

Yes. Conventions, too. I never really caught the costuming bug, though. I did try learning to sew and discovered I couldn’t stitch a straight line following a chalk mark. I could never picture how the pieces fit together, either.

I noticed many literary quotes as I read, from Shakespeare to Thomas Harris. What are some of your favorite quotes from literature?

Hmm, so many good ones to choose from. I have to go with a few from Richard Bach:

“The bond that links your true family is not one of blood, but of respect and joy in each other’s life. Rarely do members of one family grow up under the same roof.”

“If your happiness depends on what somebody else does, I guess you do have a problem.”

Actually, here’s one more – one your readers should carve on their livers:

“A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit.”

Rose said, “No one can take the sky from me.” Is that a Firefly reference?

Gorram right.

What’s the air speed velocity of a swallow?

African swallows are non-migratory and don’t travel north of the Zaire region. European swallows, on average, have a cruising speed of 11 meters/second, or 24 MPH.

And Assyria had four capitals: Ashur (Qalat Sherqat), Calah (Nimrud), Dur Sharrukin (Khorsabad), and Nineveh.

I’m pretty sure I noticed a Mythbusters reference in there. Who’s your favorite Mythbuster?

Actually, there are two: Cutting through a gun barrel and the hwachas used in book three.

I’m partial to Jamie. I like the way he approaches problems and breaks them down for their builds.

It’s hard to not like Jamie. He does give me a full-blown case of moustache envy though.

You write some pretty detestable characters. Have you created any characters you hate, or is there something you like about all of them?

I try to find something likable in all the characters, just to keep them from becoming caricatures. I try to base the Human villains on real people, or at least the actions of real people. The stuff the HOA does, for example, all came from real events.

I’ve only written one character I’ve hated. How was your working relationship with Randall?

I was glad to see him go. He was an amalgam of some real jerks, like the armed guard who would start cleaning his .357 if he didn’t like the way the D&D game was going. One time he finished cleaning the gun, reloaded it, and set it on the table pointing at the person he was angry with. That’s not an exaggeration – I was one of the people sitting downrange from him.

This book makes me question if I should like elves and unicorns… it’s the whole cat thing. Do you like them? (Elves and unicorns I mean, not cats.)

I do, but for story reasons, they had to be that way. What is one Human to a creature that thinks in terms of entire biomes? How can you expect mercy from someone who views the Black Death the same way we look at a bug zapper?

It’s hard and unpleasant to get into that headspace, but once you do, Smith and the other unicorns make perfect sense.

I’m currently on the last act of David & Rose’s third book. We meet some elves from a different world, and they’re much more fun to have around.

On that note, what’s next for your characters?

The second book, ‘The Land Beyond All Dreams’ has already been picked up by MuseItUp and is in the editing process. I’ve been working on the third book, and am almost to 70,000 words with it. It takes place at a comic/scifi/gaming convention in Las Vegas. Vegas is really Rose’s kind of town, I have to say.

‘The Land Beyond All Dreams’ is very much the story of David’s maturation into a full-blown Hero. He discovers the new weight loss drug his employer is testing may be causing episodes of psychotic violence and cannibalism. He becomes a whistleblower and accepts an early retirement offer, but soon finds out the drug prototype was contaminated.

A plane-travelling necromancer named Ingrim Thain has added a cocktail of his own to the drug prototype, trying to trigger episodes of murderous rage in the test subjects. He offers to cure David’s mother of her terminal cancer and shower him with wealth, if only David will look the other way. That leaves David in a tough position, because his mother only has a few weeks to live.

Most of the characters from the first book are back. We have more fights, bigger and more brutal battles. We get to see more of Rose’s world. We meet lizard men, Pack Rats of Ginormous Size, and naked Dwarf women with neatly knotted beards. And we learn why you should never ask a Dwarf to do you a Kindness.

My favorite new character is Thirteen, a cat who moves in with David and Rose. He has thumbs and takes his coffee black, two sugars.

‘The Land Beyond All Dreams’ should be available this summer.


‘The Land Beyond All Dreams’ Preview: Contents subject to change prior to publication

ONE: Cat, In Hat

The inevitable zombie invasion of Earth began at dawn on the day of the Mayan Apocalypse, and the herald of the End of Days was a cat in a hat.

Well, sort of.

Before anyone gets excited, it was just a cat wearing a hat. And there is no ‘Mayan Apocalypse’; just the calendar rolling over, like a car’s odometer. I wouldn’t say the cat in question was really a zombie, either. He’s more of a living mummy.

But other than those few quibbles, that was how it was. Cat in a hat.   Zombie invasion. Mayan calendar. “Hark, the Herald Zombies sing, “Time to start the brain munching…”

Just before dawn on the 21st of December, 2012, about twenty of us gathered at the top of Red Rocks amphitheater. We were there to drum, dance, and sing up the sun, welcoming the start of the New Year and the 14th bak’tun.

As a rule, Denver doesn’t have white Christmases, the notable exceptions being the blizzards of 1982 and 2006. Nor do we tend to have white solstices, but today we did and the predawn hours in late December were damn cold.

Rose was the only one dressed for dancing, but we clapped and cheered her on through five or six songs about the sun or sunrise. Being a Dragon, Rose was immune to the cold and could have danced the rest of the morning; the rest of us mere Humans were ready to leave far sooner.

With the sun well up and everyone ready for coffee and breakfast, we walked back to the upper parking lot. Our cars were just as we left them.

Well, sort of.

“What the frak?” Ember pointed towards our car. “When did you two get a cat?”

“We don’t have a cat,” I said.

Ember moved to the side and pointed again. The rear passenger door of our Range Rover was partially open, giving us a good view of the seat and the cat perched on it. “Something tells me you do.”

“Pretty sure we don’t.” I knelt and pulled the door open, while Rose peered over my shoulder. The space that was supposed to be empty was unquestionably occupied by a highly factual feline. I stared at him for a moment, but he showed no signs of Cheshiring off anytime soon. I had no idea what to say, so I stuck with the incredibly obvious. “Huh. It is a cat.”

Rose said, “In a hat.”

The cat flicked his tail. He was wearing a worn leather drover’s hat and the faded, cracked remains of a sky blue leather collar. Bright green eyes peered out at us from under the brim of his hat. A jagged scar pulled his lip up into a permanent sneer and a dried stem of catnip dangled through his exposed teeth. He looked to be little more than bone and thin, worn-down flesh. Whatever color nature gave to his fur had long-since bleached away, leaving him an irregular patchwork of brown, grey and tan, mostly due to the dirt and sand encrusting his fur.

I looked around and asked, “I don’t suppose he came up here with one of you?” All around the circle, people shook their heads. I stepped back and opened the car door all the way. “Sorry, buddy, but this isn’t your ride.”

Ember snickered. “Oh, yeah, that’s telling him.”

The cat stayed where he was, staring out from under the brim of his hat. The catnip stem twitched, and nothing more. I started trying to think of places where I could get my hands on a water pistol.

Rose stepped up and tapped me on the shoulder. “Let me try,” she said. I moved aside and she knelt to look the cat in the eyes. “We’re not the right family for you,” she said. “See if someone else here will take you home.” I know cats don’t understand English, but with the magic of the imperative form, that shouldn’t matter.

The cat started to stand up, shook his head, and settled back into position. Rose tried again, speaking Draconic this time. The cat flicked an ear at her.

Rose sat back on her heels. “I don’t think he’s an ordinary cat. Maybe we should give him a chance.”

“Fine,” I said. “He gets a chance. But not here. Let’s get into town and get some breakfast. I’ll buy him some chow and we can toss around theories. Starting with how he got a locked car door open.” I looked at the thin layer of snow and frost covering the parking lot, crisp and clear and even. Our footprints and tire tracks were obvious, but the area was singularly devoid of cat prints. It didn’t prove anything, but it was something else to consider. It wouldn’t be the first time I’ve caught a cat teleporting.

Miriam asked, “Is he wearing any tags or anything?”

“I don’t see any,” I said. “I’ll try to check his collar.” He didn’t look hostile or feral, but I still took my time and watched for any sudden change in demeanor. The only identifying mark I found was the faded remains of the number ‘13’ embossed on his collar. He tolerated the search, but made it clear he didn’t like to be touched. At least he agreed to move to a blanket-lined box long enough for us to drive over to the diner.

The cat breezed past the ‘Service Animals Only’ sign and hopped up on the window ledge next to our table.  The waitress flipped to a new ticket and asked who was paying for his breakfast.

I looked at the cat and asked, “Scrambled eggs and sausage?”

He nodded.  He stuck one paw out and tapped the window ledge twice.

“Two of each?” I asked.

He nodded again.

The waitress’ name tag said ‘Retta’.  I smiled at her and shrugged.  “Two eggs, scrambled, with two sausages cut up and mixed in. Put it on our bill.”

Retta looked at the cat.  “You want anything to drink, honey?  Milk, water, soda, hot coffee?”

The cat shook his head, then flexed one paw and tossed his head back.

“Six bucks for a shot of Jack,” Retta said. “You going to pay for that, too?”

“Sure, why not.” I shook my head at the cat. “You’re an expensive date, buddy.”

“A shot of Jack Daniels in a saucer coming up.”  Retta looked at me and added, “Don’t you be letting that cat drive home after this.”

“Not a chance,” I said.  “He lost his license for catnip abuse.”

Once our food was delivered, the cat polished off his breakfast and started nosing around, collecting leftovers and bringing them back to his plate. I looked him over as he made short work of a blueberry pancake and said, “Pretty clever, cat. You picked the biggest bunch of suckers you could find. What’s the next step in your master plan?”

The cat ignored me and went back to looking out the window. Around us, the conversations went on, eventually turning to our hopes for the New Year and the new age of the world. Somewhere in there, the cat sat up and started pawing at the fogged-over glass. I glanced over, but it looked to me like any of the ‘finger-painting cat’ videos you can find on the Internet. He finally got tired of it and sat down, leaving the window covered with an abstract pattern of lines and whorls.

“That’s pretty cool,” Ember said. “Think he’ll hold still while I get a picture of it?”

“You know cats,” I said. “Give it a shot.”

Ember skipped the usual cell phone camera and pulled a Nikon out of her purse. She took half a dozen shots and the damn cat posed like a furry Van Gogh for all of them. She scratched the cat under his jaw and asked, “What are you going to call him?”

Rose said, “Lunch.”

“Don’t be mean,” Ember said. “Was there anything on his collar?”

“Just the number thirteen,” I said. “It’s not the greatest name in the world, but we could use that. What do you think, cat? Once for yes, twice for no.”

The cat looked at Rose and then back to me. “Mrow.”

I nodded. “Thirteen it is, then.”

Bryan Fields Author Photo

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Interview with Jimena Novaro: Author of Blue Rabbit

Today I’m doing a blog swap with Jimena Novaro. I read her book, Blue Rabbit, and asked her some questions about it. You can find them and her responses below. Then you can hop (sorry about the pun; my brain said stop, but my fingers wouldn’t listen) over to her site to read my answers to her questions about Unveiling the Wizards’ Shroud by clicking here.

Which character(s) do you most identify with?

I identify with all my characters, but probably the one that I identify with the most is Chloe. As a Creature from another world who struggles to find her place among humans and in the gap between the two worlds, she bears a striking resemblance to me―a girl who grew up in two different countries, speaking two different languages and belonging to two different cultures.

Are any of the characters based on people you know?

The main cast of characters―Erika, Haley, Dorian, Nathan, Sandra, Riven, and Chloe―all represent different facets of me. The diva tendency, the nurturing instinct, the social inadequacy, the self-sacrifice, the self-repression, the propensity toward obsession, the feeling torn between two worlds… I could practically define myself with those (often conflicting) traits. (Not that I intended that when I first wrote the novel, but I’ve come to realize it since). However, I’d say Nathan is also an amalgam of several different men and boys I know, all of whom are selfless, kind, and might try too hard to take on other’s burdens.

Did you base the Creatures on any other fictional characters?

Technically, Terminators.

Let me explain. One of my favorite shows of all time is Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, and one of my favorite aspects of it was its exploration of the human side of the Terminators―their morality, their self-awareness. I guess there’s just something fascinating to me about beings that look human, but aren’t, engaging with and struggling against their humanity.

The Creatures are beings who come into our world in order to find a way to save their own, and the more time they spend among humans, the more human they become, whether they like it or not. Although on the surface they might seem nothing like killer cyborgs from the future, both Creatures and Terminators represent an exploration of what it means to be human.

Where did you get the idea for the unique form of story telling, ie the video clips?

We live in a world full of images. If you take a look at someone’s Facebook page (unless it’s my dad’s, which is empty) you’ll see snippets of their lives―or even their whole life story. When people want to remember something or share an experience with others who weren’t there, they take a picture or film it. I think that images and videos are an integral part of contemporary life, especially that of teenagers, and I wanted to represent that aspect in the book.

Your story doesn’t exactly have a “bad guy,” are there any characters in it you don’t like?

I HATE MASON REDWOOD. I really, truly despise him with all of my being, and getting inside his skin to write from his point of view is one of the hardest things I’ve done (yet). Writing fiction is an exercise in empathy, and empathizing with Mason was like pulling my hair out. (Or should I say “accompanied by” pulling my hair out?)