Interview strategies: “Huh?” *scratches head*

Came across this question on a FB writers group recently…

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I’ve been on live interviews a number of times, and if someone interviewing me used a word I wasn’t clear on, I would likely say: “I’m not sure what you mean, would you mind clarifying?” Or I’d play it for delight: “Oh! There’s a word I’ve never encountered before as a writer! Please, enlighten me — what does it mean?”

As long as you keep an upbeat attitude, the audience will (likely) be on your side. 🙂

Author Interview: LAUREN ALDER’S ELEVEN BOOK WRITING QUESTIONS, Answered By Eileen Troemel

Eileen bio pic

  1. Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I hate this question because I’d rather talk about books or crocheting or anything but me. I love to write, crochet, spend time with my family. I’ve written since I was in my late 30s getting articles, essays, and poems published. 2014 I started publishing my books. I tried the traditional route and had some interest but no publisher went the distance. Therefore I’m self-published.

My family is very important to me. I have three adult daughters and a husband. He and I have been together for 37 years. My daughters are my pride and joy! They are also my loudest and best cheerleaders.

I started out just wanting to publish my stories but after my daughters encouraged me I took my scribbled patterns and started publishing them.

  1. What is the title of your current work (WIP or recently published). and what is its genre?

Which one? Without fail, I almost always have three or four projects going on. Right now I’m finishing up Wayfarer Resolve – next in my Wayfarer series – makes book 18 with a nice short story prequel. This one is in the early production phase. Wild Magic 2 (I don’t have an actual name for this yet) is in the edit phase. This adds to the story of Mel and Leland. I hope to address some of the questions left by the first book. Do Mel and Leland become lovers? Will the two provinces go to war over the use of magic? Seven Sisters (working title only – maybe) is in the writing stage. I’m about two thirds of the way done with it. This is another sci fi / fantasy type book. There are other starts that I tinker with but none are as active as the three above. In general, I write in science fiction and fantasy

  1. Is this book suitable for children, or is it adults-only? If there’s mature content, what type of mature content does the book contain?

Wild Magic is child friendly though some of the concepts are not easy – racism, death, power. Wayfarer is not child friendly. Seven Sisters – I’m not sure yet. It depends on how I edit it. While Wild Magic doesn’t have sex in it, the second one does have some. There are violent scenes in there. Seven Sisters has violence and a few sex scenes. Wayfarer has it all – sex, violence, and language.

  1. What inspired you to write this work?

Wayfarer – the entire series is my middle daughter’s fault. I finished a project and she said mom write me a space adventure. I did. When she finished reading it, she demanded another… then another… and well you get the idea. As for the details of the book, I’ve grown up on Star Wars and Star Trek and space exploration. I tried to think of what could be different about a space adventure. I knew I wanted to start with a female lead who was less than confident with herself. This lead to well it’s space so who is she? What race? I created the Wayfarer race based on the gypsy or traveler style of life except they were the first explorers of space for the humans. From there everything sort of cascaded into place.

Wild Magic was inspired while driving to and from Indiana (where one of my daughters was living). The landscape in the opening scene of Wild Magic features some of the landscape between Wisconsin, Illinois, and Indiana. From there the story developed. Wild Magic 2 feeds off the landscape for Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Canada.

Seven Sisters just came to me. It’s based in a post-plague Earth type planet. The main character is 18 and trying to protect six younger girls. Aliens (yup went there) are here to help but really they just came to find their true mates. In a chance encounter, Mycos and Lydia meet and he pursues her. From there it just dominoes.

  1. What makes this book special, unique, or interesting? How does it “stand out”?

So the theme for all three of these books is racism. Life imitates art or vice versa. Each of these books addresses prejudices between groups. Instead of doing color of skin or religion, it is based on another aspect. In Wayfarer it’s based on species. Some core humans believe they are the superior beings and the rest of the species should cater to them. In Wild Magic it is based on who has magical skills and who doesn’t – though that will be addressed more fully in the third book. In Seven Sisters it’s based on class more than anything though there is conflict between the aliens and the humans. I didn’t intend to bring prejudice and bigotry into the plot so prominently but the characters insisted.

  1. Tell us some key information about the main character(s), both protagonists and antagonists.

In Wayfarer Resolve, Adara is a mother of four, wife, mixed race (1/2 human and 1/2 Wayfarer) who is made mother of the clans for Wayfarers. She’s a quiet soul. She resists the role of leadership but in this book she settles in and takes a firm hand of how the Wayfarers will be run.

The children in the book play a larger role. It is not easy to write children’s dialog. But they are key in this one as Adara is criticized often for trying to be mom and leader.

The cast of this series is large and the antagonists in the book are multilayered.

  1. What is your back cover blurb? Or if you don’t have one yet, how would you pitch your work in 200 words or less?

Fighting bias, prejudice, and terrorists, Adara and Decker are attacked through their children. Out exploring their sectors of space, Adara settles into being Mathair Naclan – mother of the clans. At the home planets, Hal, Dimitri, and others cope with vandalism, sabotage, and racism. The Humans only group rises with violence and hate to attack the Wayfarers from within.

  1. Share a tempting bit of the plot with us. Is there a particular scene that you’re really excited about? Why does it excite you?

Decker does not like anyone touching Adara. She’s his and even after all the years they’ve been together he’s protective. One person in particular triggers this response in him. Patr. Patr is an Etienne who has adopted Adara as a sister. Yet, when Decker first met him, he was jealous of the connection. In this book, Patr talks to Adara knowing this will provoke Decker which it does. Decker is fully aware Patr does this on purpose but Patr asks him “What are older brothers for?” This closes a circle for all of them. Decker moves from jealous to brotherly with Patr. Patr’s key in moving their relationship along in the first book. So in this book to have the annoyance Decker feels shift to brotherly affection for Patr closes a cycle in the series.

  1. Share up to 800 words of your current work with us (with an intro of up to 200 words to establish context).

“Look what we have here boys,” Deming sneered. “A little Wayfarer whore.”

Drake stiffened on hearing the words thrown at his maite saol as he stepped into the workout area. Alma put a hand on his arm and pulled him to the side of the room. “Watch,” she said quietly.

“Oh baby, let’s have a good time,” Dyer said grabbing Mylin by the arm, pulling her close to him with her back to him. Mylin struggled against his strong arms. Stomping on his foot, she jabbed an elbow into his diaphragm. Air whooshed out of him as he bent over, releasing her. He ducked her elbow to his nose as she spun out and away from him.

Deming grabbed her. “You’re not very friendly,” he growled twisting her arm behind her back as he dragged her close to his body. Face to face, he leered at her.

Drake started forward but Alma stopped him again. His face reddened with anger.

“You’re right,” Mylin said. She stepped into Deming. “Let me show you how friendly I can be.” She kneed him in the groin. As he went down, she slammed her forehead into his nose.

“Shit,” Deming said. “Shit.” He grabbed his bloody nose and his groin. He lay on the floor curled into a ball.

“Sorry,” Mylin said not knowing what to do.

“Don’t be sorry,” Owyn asked. “Your two attackers are down. What should you be doing?”

“Running,” Mylin said worrying her lower lips as blood flowed from Deming’s nose.

“Kick ‘em in the balls again,” Alma said striding into the middle of the room. Her stomach tight as she watched Deming writhe on the floor. “Really Dyer was down but not out. You gotta make sure they’re down and out.”

“Vicious much,” Dyer said squatting near Deming.

“What would you do,” Mylin asked turning to Alma.

“You got Dyer to let you go,” Alma said. “The next thing to do is run. Running takes you away from your attackers. You gotta be smart about your running. None of the girly running.”

“She did a better job on Deming,” Owyn said. “However, once free from him, she should have run because now his buddy is down, Dyer’s going to be pissed.”

“You’re confusing me,” Mylin said.

“Any chance you get to run,” Owyn said. “Get the hell away. You’ve got speed and endurance for running.”

“Yes,” Mylin said. “I like to run.”

“Don’t worry about the damage you do,” Owyn said. “Get free and get gone.”

“Alma,” Mylin asked.

“He’s right mostly,” Alma conceded. “Both of them were down enough running might have done it. When you’re going up against a bigger opponent, escape is the best option. The problem with running is they have longer strides than you do. They may catch up to you.”

“May,” Owyn said. “If she’s sneaky, she can get away and look for other ways to protect herself.”

“We can use VR to work on some of those techniques,” Dyer said rubbing his stomach. “Except I think Deming and I are going to let some of the others work with her.”

  1. What is the easiest part of writing for you? And what is the hardest?

Telling a story is the easiest part. Sitting with my laptop and putting the details down of a story is easy and fun. When I write I’m transported to a different place. My family has to remind me to eat, shower, sleep. I’ve set alarms so when I have to get up the next day for my day job, I can get to bed at a reasonable time. Otherwise I’ll write until the story is done. I always say my characters talk to me and tell me their story. It feels like that’s exactly what they do.

The hardest part of writing is marketing for me. Writing – or I should say when I talk about writing – is a multilayered process. Yes, it’s about writing and getting a story out of my head. This is the first step. From there writers (especially self-published ones) go into editing, cover design, blurb writing, product development – i.e. all the prep to get it from a rough draft to a final version, to production. Production is all about prepping the files, cover art, blurb for publication. This means creating multiple documents for the manuscript to go into different formats. The steps seem endless and one of them is marketing. Marketing is a lot of hit and miss. There isn’t a lot of cause and effect. What works for one book won’t necessarily work for the next one.

  1. Finally, if you could offer some advice to up-and-coming writers, what would that advice be?

Write your way. Educate yourself to be a better writer. This means learn from your mistakes and always work on improving. Read books on writing and glean from them the things which help you improve. Don’t let people tell you it’s a waste of time. If it brings you joy, do it. Don’t expect to make a fortune. Write. Write. Write.


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Eileen cover wayfarer resolve

Author Interview: Amber Ausherman

Amber Ausherman author pic

  1. Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I am a writer first and an author second. I have little care for what is popular. I just want to write what I want to. I want to gain experience along the way that challenges and changes me as an author. I was born in Hagerstown Maryland in 1991. Since I was fourteen I have picked up a pen with years in between.


2. What is the title of your current work (WIP or recently published). and what is its genre?

That is complicated question right now. I have republished one book, and recently published two more. I am currently working on Torn which is a horror with sprinkles of romance. I also have one fantasy Falling Darkness book two spiral of events, with my editor. My newest project is a newsletter called the Writer’s Grim highlighting Authors. I think I will talk about the one that is with the editor.


3. Is this book suitable for children, or is it adults-only? If there’s mature content, what type of mature content does the book contain?

There is a lot of fighting so it may be teen rated.\\


4. What inspired you to write this work?

The idea of giving some who is weak the ability to fight. The idea for the series came to me while I was in middle school at least the Nards did. I can say a box of nerds. I wrote the book twice in high school.


  1. What makes this book special, unique, or interesting? How does it “stand out”?

The story still holds its value with underlaying tones. I was told my characters stood out. The imagination for the three unique races and their worlds.


  1. Tell us some key information about the main character(s), both protagonists and antagonists.

Monett the antagonists wants everything for herself. She dealt with a lot and expects to be paid in full. Her hate for creed stimulates from what she knows of Nards.

Creed Is naïve and wise to the world. He experienced hate and still does. He has an ability that pertains only to him. He can influence his feelings onto another.

Vincent is the older brother father figure he does not want creed to grow up.


7. What is your back cover blurb? Or if you don’t have one yet, how would you pitch your work in 200 words or less?

Vincent, Crystal, and Sue long and hope to rescue Creed. Creed wants to understand his sister in law’s betrayal. Monett longs to rule. The king of the Nards Would like to meet his son. The other Nards are ready for a new ruler. Sizzler finally gets over his infatuation with Jade.


8. Share a tempting bit of the plot with us. Is there a particular scene that you’re really excited about? Why does it excite you?

My Character crystal gets powerful! She was a weak character, who went into a dangerous situation. She stood up and fought back instead.


9. Share up to 800 words of your current work with us (with an intro of up to 200 words to establish context). The scene that makes me giddy is in chapter five ‘Death of her?’

Crystal is a crybaby character. She has been through some tough times. My character gains the ability to stand up for herself and others. Granted she has a pack of wolves backing her up.

Crystal is a teen who adopted a young girl. The girl’s mother came back and turned out to be the villain. One of her friends is being held captive by a super race of monsters.

She was willing to die, and at the same moment she finds her nervous. The story so far involves a boy, before you roll your eyes. No, they do not end up together. That is not her story. Her story is about finding love fast and having it ripped from her before it even begins. Crystal’s story is the best friend who is a little boy crazy. She picks up the responsibility of a child. Only to have that taken away as well. That is just one of my characters. I was told by my editor the character’s do not stop evolving. People who are weak can become strong. People who are strong can be vulnerable.

Crystal kept an eye on the torches as she kept running. Out of the corner of her eye, she noticed a set of golden eyes in front of her. Crystal hesitated eyeing the eyes. As she shuddered; the eyes lunged out of the darkness revealing a white ethereal large wolf that had a mystical third eye in the center of its forehead. It opened its jaws jumping at Crystal again. She stumbled back, but the wolf creature grabbed hold of her shoulder biting down hard.

“AHH, no,” She screamed.

The wolf released her circling her.

Crystal grabbed her shoulder. She faced the way she came back toward the darkness.

The wolf growled speaking to her, “I would not do that if I were you. My pack lies in wait for my order.”

” You- you spoke,” Crystal stuttered.

“Yes, I spoke what of it Casalyian look alike.” The wolf snarled advancing.

Crystal lost her fear for a moment studying the beast in front of her. Her smell shifted from a terrified prey to something unusual.

All terror left crystal for instance. She dropped her jaw and cocked her head. Crystal’s heart was beating fast as her eyes lit up.

The wolf hesitated unsure of the change in its prey. He began to circle her with his ears pressed low on his head.

Just as he was getting ready to lunge again for her. Yelps and a rather loud smashing sound echoed from the unlit portion of the hallway.

The pack leader’s ears perked up. “Beta’s omega’s fall back and protect them. No pup left behind.” The Pack leader ordered.

Six pups burst out of the darkness. Behind them Seven adolescent wolves then there were eight adult wolves bringing up the rear. After all the wolves emerged from the unlit hallway, it immediately lit up. A golem the same size as the original stopped moving. The wolves formed a circle around the pups. The adolescent wolves surrounded the pups; then the adult wolves surrounded the young ones. Crystal had faced one just like it a few moments before she went down this hallway. The golem stomped toward them.

Crystal’s legs shook. “Not again! Not again!” She kept repeating. Her eyes darted around catching a peek of the trembling pups, the tense adult wolves growling, and the adolescent wolves looking ready to pounce. The pack leader pressed himself down closer to the floor his front paws spread apart. A savage growl escaped his throat. His ears pressed flat against his head again.

They fight even though they know it will be useless. They struggle to protect their young. They fight on his orders. Fear, they must feel it, Perhaps I need to learn from them. They will possibly die from this thing yet. They lie in wait to take it down. I should have fought harder. For Ashley, For Brandon, for Creed, and for Sue. I will fight, I will survive. Ashley waits for me. Crystal thought before she drew the sword stationed at her side. Her legs studied. Her eyes narrowed, and her breath stilled. She placed the sword in front of her.

The golem suddenly lunged, the pack leader also lunged. The golem swung his fist connecting with the pack leader. The pack leader slammed into the wall. The first string of wolves moved forward. The pack leader’s eyes immediately fell upon them. “Stay back!”

Crystal lunged forward her blade clashed into the side of the golem’s arm. The golem turned to look at her; its left fist went rushing toward her. Crystal ducked down glaring, and she swiped at his legs.


  1. What is the easiest part of writing for you? And what is the hardest?

Writing has always been the easiest part for me. Everything else is difficult. I have to come to realize there are necessary evils such as formatting.


  1. Finally, if you could offer some advice to up-and-coming writers, what would that advice be?

Keep at it. Do it for yourself and your readers. It is okay to be afraid of the unknown, to not want to take that step. If you choose to self-publish work at it constantly with effort. My final piece of advice is do not let doubt control you.

Author Interview: Catherine A. MacKenzie

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  1. Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I’m a wife, mother, and grandmother living in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. I write short stories, poetry, and essays. I’ve self-published several short story compilations and poetry books, along with a few children’s picture books. I’ve also had some of my work published in print and on-line publications.

I’m elated to announce my first novel, WOLVES DON’T KNOCK.

  1. What is the title of your current work (WIP or recently published) and what is its genre?

My first novel is WOLVES DON’T KNOCK. It’s a psychological drama, with elements of thriller, suspense, mystery, romance, and family relationships.

My plan is to write the sequel/prequel/stand-alone novel, MR. WOLFE (perhaps titled MISTER WOLFE) that will complement WOLVES. Both books will be stand-alone novels. I say “sequel/prequel” because the story of MR. WOLFE, as I envision it in my head, could go ahead of WOLVES or after it.

  1. Is this book suitable for children, or is it adults-only? If there’s mature content, what type of mature content does the book contain?

Though WOLVES DON’T KNOCK deals with sensitive issues (kidnapping and rape), there are no graphic scenes or bad language. I’d say it would be suitable for mature teens and up.

I have a funny story to share. My eleven-year-old granddaughter Taylor was recently at my house, and I “caught” her leafing through my book. As soon as she saw me, she put it down, clearly upset she’d been caught. I acted nonchalant, but I didn’t want her handling that particular copy, as it was designated for a purchaser. I gave her a damaged copy, thinking she would look at it for several seconds and discard it, but the next thing I knew, she was on the couch, deep into my book. I wasn’t certain it was suitable for her age, so I called my daughter for permission. My daughter was, at that time (probably still is!) at page 30, so she couldn’t definitively say it was an “okay” book for her daughter to read, but she approved it, saying, “Mom, you don’t know the books I read in grade six.” No, I probably don’t, I thought, thinking back hundreds of years to when I was in grade six and the books I had read. But, to me, my granddaughter Taylor is still a little girl. A child, but a grownup one. Gah, where does time go?

Continuing the story: By the time Taylor left my home on that visit she was on page 70 something. I called her the other day and she was up to page 90. School started shortly after she returned home, so she probably won’t have too much time to read it now, but I was elated she was so excited about something her granny had created!

Hubby started reading the book when we were camping over Labour Day weekend. He’s more than two-thirds into it but hasn’t touched it since we returned home. It’s not his genre, but he’s plugging through it for me. He said he was enjoying it, said it was well-written, which meant a lot to me. He hadn’t found any errors even though my daughter said she had discovered one within the first 30 pages. (Of course, she couldn’t remember where it was.)

I had thought the book would appeal to women only, but six other men I know of have read it and enjoyed it. So that’s a good thing!

  1. What inspired you to write this work?

I didn’t plan to write this—or any—novel. This book evolved from a short story I wrote titled “Doorbells and December,” which was published by Dancing With Bear Publishing in a Christmas anthology in December 2012. The following year, DWB put out a call for submissions for another Christmas anthology, so I wrote part two to the story. Both stories ended abruptly (no ending, really!), which antagonized the publisher. After that, I added more, reaching around 30,000 words, planning to publish it as a novella. Then I was up to 60,000 words and was almost going to publish it as a novel but wasn’t quite happy with it. I kept at it, reaching 80,000 words. Still unhappy, I thought it needed more. When I reached almost 104,000 words, I knew it was done.

I think a writer knows when to stop! In my case, it wasn’t the length, but I had said all that needed to be said and had included all the suspense that I could. Sure, I could have kept on with the book, but there needs to be an end.

I’m planning on another book, titled MR. WOLFE or MISTER WOLFE. Readers have asked me for more of Paul Wolfe, the kidnapper. What makes him tick? What is his story? This book will be in his POV, and I’m hoping for a publication date in 2019.

  1. What makes this book special, unique, or interesting? How does it “stand out”?

I used a lot of symbolism and imagery. There are ten knock-knock jokes in the book that, I think, make the story interesting and different. The jokes are there for a reason, though; they’re not just fluff. Two poems, too, are weaved into the story.

As well, I tell the story without using graphic scenes. A reader recently complimented me that I was successfully able to do that.

  1. Tell us some key information about the main character(s), both protagonists and antagonists.

The story is told through the POVs of Miranda and her mother, Sharon. Both Miranda and Sharon (mostly Sharon) have secrets they dare not reveal. The reader will see how both their lives intertwine.

Paul, the antagonist, is obviously a crazy person, but the reader doesn’t learn much about him. I purposely wrote the story that way because the book isn’t about him; it’s about Sharon and Miranda. But, as I said previously, I’ve had readers ask about him, so I plan to write a book in his POV. The story is in my head; I just need to get it on paper.

There are a couple of little “hints” or foreshadowing in the book that the reader of WOLVES won’t pick up on as needing further clarification, but reading MR. WOLFE will give the reader some “aha” moments.

  1. What is your back cover blurb? Or if you don’t have one yet, how would you pitch your work in 200 words or less?

The back cover blurb:

Twenty-two-year-old Miranda escapes from her abductor and the wolves that have tormented her soul for six long years. She returns to her childhood home where her mother, Sharon, caring for Miranda’s son, Kevin, has feared for her daughter’s fate. Uncertainty and distrust taint the first year after Miranda’s return. Miranda and Sharon hide secrets they dare not reveal while constantly wondering when Miranda’s kidnapper will reappear. Can mother and daughter bury their demons and repair their strained relationship? Can Miranda bond with the baby she never knew and find the love she so desperately wants? Will Kevin’s father play a role? Will Sharon find the answers she needs to recover from her own troubled past?

  1. Share a tempting bit of the plot with us. Is there a particular scene that you’re really excited about? Why does it excite you?

I got a brainstorm after the book was almost finished and wrote another chapter. I’d share part of it here, but it would give too much away. (It’s Chapter 74 for those who’ve read the book.) I love this chapter and think it really adds to that specific character and the book. And I hope it’ll shock the reader, too, but in a good way.

  1. Share up to 800 words of your current work with us (with an intro of up to 200 words to establish context).

This is part of chapter one in the novel, just before Miranda is abducted. Another chapter deals with her escape, but the rest of the book covers the year after she returns home. A lot goes on in that year. Miranda and Sharon continually look over their shoulders, wondering when the kidnapper will reappear. Miranda readjusts to her new life with her son. Sharon has secrets she doesn’t want revealed. I can’t say much more, but there are twists and turns. The novel may start off a bit slow, but the intensity increases with every page.

Miranda Morrison raised her arm and turned, ready to lambaste the person who had shoved her, but the supposed culprit disappeared into the Subway Restaurant.

“Idiot,” she muttered, hoping no one heard. Only crazies spoke to themselves.

She resumed her position, waiting for the red light to change so she could cross Spring Garden Road. As usual, traffic zoomed up and down Robie Street. People hovered around her, close enough she could touch any one of them. No wonder the guy had bumped into her.

She sighed, blaming her blue mood on post-natal stress. She had heard of post-natal depression, but she wasn’t depressed; at least she didn’t think she was. She suffered stress, though.

She gave up on the light and turned right on Spring Garden Road toward downtown Halifax and the waterfront. Despite being early December, the temperature was mild, and the sun shed its warmth. Soon it would be Christmas. All good reasons to be happy.

After an unexpected glimpse of her reflection in a storefront window, she stood straighter, heeding her mother’s incessant nagging. She placed her palms over her swollen stomach, confronting emptiness. How had she morphed into a mother at sixteen? With her pregnancy finally over, those drawn-out months seemed to have sped by. The cramping had lessened, but she had no doubt it would worsen.

She tugged at the bottom of her baggy T-shirt and yanked the fronts of the down-filled jacket across her chest to camouflage the bulge, unable to zipper the jacket over a belly that protruded as if she hadn’t yet given birth. She could kid herself that she had gained weight by making a pig of herself, but who else would believe it? Her swollen belly screamed the truth, and it was more than embarrassing.

She had been careless getting pregnant, especially at fifteen—not that she’d planned the pregnancy. What teenager did? She had made an even dumber move leaving the IWK Maternity Hospital—she glanced at her watch—thirteen minutes previously, where her mother and the doctors and nurses bustled about. She should head back. She hadn’t told anyone she was leaving, not that anyone would miss her. Everyone was all gaga over Kevin, and he sure didn’t need her, either.

Kevin, her baby. What would he be doing? Nothing. She giggled as her mind drifted back to the wailing infant. At five days old and premature, what else could he do but sleep, cry, and eat?

Her stomach growled. She’d only eaten half a grilled cheese sandwich at lunch. Hospital food was gross.

She continued down Spring Garden Road and stopped at a coffee shop, where she eyed mouth-watering sweets through the window. Should she? Yes!

Grateful for money in her pocket, she ordered a cinnamon bun and a Coke. She nibbled the warm bun, wanting it to last as long as possible, but slugged down the pop. She licked the creamy frosting from her fingers, wishing the baker had been more generous with the topping.

Back outside, she continued down Spring Garden and crossed to Summer Street, where several pedestrians strolled. The street glistened with melted snow, and white covered the median. A light dusting blanketed the sidewalks. She avoided patches of thick, slippery crusts shaded from the sun by overhanging branches. She should have worn her boots, but she and her mother had left the house so quickly when labour started that she had slipped into sneakers instead of searching for boots.

She peeked at the Public Gardens on her right, remembering brilliant, fragrant flowers during the summer, the colours so vivid in her mind she could smell their perfumy scents. She dreaded the long winter ahead and yearned for spring when plants evolved from hibernating bulbs or brown stubs into beauty and fragrance.

Camp Hill Cemetery emerged at her left. She would have wandered in had her father been buried there, but he was interred at the Garden of Eden Cemetery, an hour’s drive from town. Would she have stood before his grave and conversed if he were there? It boggled her mind that so-called sane people believed in such crap as talking to the dead.

She noted the contrast between the cemetery and the gardens. Winter brought out similarities between the two: bodies or bulbs, both buried deep underground. In the spring, the Public Gardens would be awake, boisterous with burgeoning blooms and bustling bodies, but Camp Hill would never awaken.

She had nearly reached Sackville Street when she heard what sounded like feet crunching in the snow behind her. Her stomach lurched. She turned. No one, and the only vehicle in sight was a dark-coloured truck turning left from Spring Garden Road.

  1. What is the easiest part of writing for you? And what is the hardest?

The easiest part is that I have the time to write. The hardest part is coming up with good ideas, dealing with writers’ block, and editing. No matter how often I proofread/edit, inevitably I find errors. I’m a perfectionist, so the smallest mistake will bug me to death. By far, though, the hardest part is AFTER the book is published. Who wants to promote themselves and their work? I sure don’t. I’m more of a behind-the-scenes person, and putting myself “out there” to sell my book is very difficult. I’ve had great reviews of WOLVES thus far, so that spurs me on, that maybe I’m not such a fake, afterall.

  1. Finally, if you could offer some advice to up-and-coming writers, what would that advice be?

This is a cliché, I know, but follow your dreams. If you want to write a novel, write a novel. That had been my unverbalized “dream” since I was a teenager, and I never did anything about it—until recently. Now that my book is done, I’m amazed I actually did it! If it could only be a bestseller…


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(also available from me)

Cathy Wolves Don't Knock June FINAL PRINT FRONT COVER

Author Interview: Katherine Brown

Katherineauthor photo

  1. Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Hello! Thanks for chatting with me. My name is Katherine Brown and I live in Texas – have my whole life. I am married to an amazing man and have a beautiful, kind stepdaughter who lives with us full time. I love to read. Truly, I have shelves of books, boxes of books, kindles running out of space for books, all of it! I also love to write, I enjoy words and find immense pleasure in weaving them together in a way to create something beautiful or funny or clever.

  1. What is the title of your current work (WIP or recently published). and what is its genre?

My current work is getting ready to publish very soon. Titled “Third Grade’s Terrible Trip,” it is the fourth book in a children’s series called School is Scary. The books are a mixture of humor and mystery and are geared for early chapter book readers. The series does advance a little as the characters grow up each year in school as well.

  1. Is this book suitable for children, or is it adults-only? If there’s mature content, what type of mature content does the book contain?

Absolutely appropriate for children, age 8 to 10-year-olds have really loved the series and I gave two kiddos a chance to be my beta readers for this work and they cracked up at several parts and want to know when the next book is coming.

  1. What inspired you to write this work?

The series, School is Scary, I actually began writing with friends on my bedroom floor as a pre-teen. As noted, I loved to read but I also always had a strong desire to write and create my own stories.

This particular book in the series was inspired by the many field trips to the zoo our school went on – I reimagined them with all the things that could go “wrong” to make a fun trip a hugely memorable trip for a child.

  1. What makes this book special, unique, or interesting? How does it “stand out”?

I think this book stands out in that it is able to take an unlikely group of friends, put them in a somewhat scary situation, and allow the reader to join with them on the journey as they work together to find their way alone through the zoo. There is even a map for the reader in the book that is replicating the map used by the characters for a visual aide to draw readers deeper into the story.

  1. Tell us some key information about the main character(s), both protagonists and antagonists.

The main protagonist is Bailey, an enthusiastic third grader that we met in book 1 of the series Kindergarten Teachers are Witches. Bailey was not optimistic about school in that first book but made a best friend Harmony who is still with her in Third Grade’s Terrible Trip and began to enjoy it a little more. Bailey also befriended a boy, Clay, in the last book who is a bit of a trouble-maker. You can see where his stubborn side and Bailey’s loyalty to friends lead them into some sticky situations.

Antagonists for this book are mainly the weather which really dampens the spirit of the kids on the field trip and an unknown voice that I can’t give away the identity of….just know it provides quite a fright several times throughout the story.

  1. What is your back cover blurb? Or if you don’t have one yet, how would you pitch your work in 200 words or less?

Still working on a blurb, so here we go for a pitch:

Finally, their first field trip ever! Bailey and friends couldn’t be more excited – well most of them, Liza is unhappy as always. A delay to their destination, then sudden storms, what else could go wrong with this trip? Turns out, quite a bit. Stalked by a creepy voice, separated and soaking wet, the friends seem to be disappointed at every turn. Will they ever make it out of the zoo? Find your map inside and journey along with them through all of the animal exhibits to see what happens.

  1. Share a tempting bit of the plot with us. Is there a particular scene that you’re really excited about? Why does it excite you?

I really love the homework assignment the teacher gives the class about the zoo when they are too distracted by the field trip. It gave me the opportunity to write a few mini-stories inside of the whole story.

  1. Share up to 800 words of your current work with us (with an intro of up to 200 words to establish context).

Below is a short excerpt from chapter one:

When several weeks after school started Mrs. Green passed out field trip notes to go in their Thursday Folders, folders the teachers sent home for parents to review and sign each Thursday, Bailey and several other students let out squeals of delight and whoops of joy. There had been no field trips before this year and everyone burst with excitement to finally go on their first one. Well, almost everyone.

“The zoo!” Liza grumbled. “Who wants to go to the smelly, old zoo?”

Theo nodded, “They won’t even let you pet the lions or ride the zebras,” he said unhappily. He continued drawing on the back of his homework, the picture had started as Captain America with his shield but now it looked like Captain America battled a lion, too.

Bailey just shook her head. Some people it seemed could complain about anything. She for one couldn’t wait for a whole day out of school with her friends. And so as soon as the bus dropped her off at home after school that day Bailey had run in to tell her parents the great news.


  1. What is the easiest part of writing for you? And what is the hardest?


Writing the story itself is easiest for me. I do get stuck for a day or two waiting on an idea or deciding a direction (no, I don’t plot too much in advance) but once I know where my characters need to go the words flow quite easily. The difficult part for me is turning off my “inner editor” and simply getting all the good stuff out. I typically stop and make corrections along the way, taking up sometimes valuable and scarce writing time that can cost me a thought or idea that doesn’t get fleshed out properly.

  1. Finally, if you could offer some advice to up-and-coming writers, what would that advice be?


Write!!! I put it off for a long time as “not a serious / realistic job” and I regret that.

Also, find a community of writers to encourage, share with and be encouraged by – it can make an enormous difference in the quality and quantity of your writing in my opinion.



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 The link to the first three books in the series –

Paperback of book 1 & 2:

Katherine Cover School is Scary Book 4

Author Interview: A.M. Surtees

  1. Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Well, most importantly, I am a mother of five children aged between two and twelve. I am also a children’s photographer and a kitchen hand. I know right, where do I find time to write? The answer, I have no idea aha.

  1. What is the title of your current work (WIP or recently published). and what is its genre?

Currently I am working on the second book in a trilogy that is due for rapid release next month, no pressure. It is a crime thriller trilogy with the first book ‘Called to Kill’ due out on October tenth with book two due on October 17th and book three due on October 24th

  1. Is this book suitable for children, or is it adults-only? If there’s mature content, what type of mature content does the book contain?

The main character is a call girl who becomes a trained assassin. So, safe to say it’s not kid friendly.

  1. What inspired you to write this work?

As a kid, I was ridiculed for having a small waist and larger than average chest so I wanted to create a character who had all those same things but used it against people. I wanted her to be the kind of woman who men would lust after one minute and beg forgiveness from the next.

  1. What makes this book special, unique, or interesting? How does it “stand out”?

Tamikah’s struggles and resistance to love would speak to a lot of young women who have been through the same kind of childhood. It also breaks the barriers of the norm and you really get attached to these characters in ways that you wouldn’t necessarily from a run of the mill crime thriller.

  1. Tell us some key information about the main character(s), both protagonists and antagonists.

The main hero is Tamikah who after a troubled past, finds home on the streets, using her body to get enough money to eat until Jackson Craig takes her in, gives her a true home and teaches her how to become a force to be reckoned with. He teaches her to use her body to lure and use her skills to instill fear.

I can’t tell you the name of the bad guy because it would give the story away, but lets just say that they were considered a friend until their secret past starts to unravel throughout the trilogy and the gang starts to realise they were never really a friend.

  1. What is your back cover blurb? Or if you don’t have one yet, how would you pitch your work in 200 words or less?

To the world she was nothing more than a lady of the night, but to him she was so much more.

After fleeing from an abusive childhood, Tamikah found her home on the streets until the day Jackson came along and gave her a purpose: To bring justice to the unjust.

But, when the unjust threatens her home, she will have to turn every stone, rattle every cage and learn to trust an unexpected love interest in order to kill the threat before it kills her.

Join the gang in Called to Kill, book one in a nail biting trilogy that will leave you lusting after a book four.

  1. Share a tempting bit of the plot with us. Is there a particular scene that you’re really excited about? Why does it excite you?

I think my favourite scene is when they uncover the bad guy and after several leads in all sorts of directions come up dry, the revelation will have some readers screaming ‘I knew it’ and others scratching their heads because they didn’t see it coming.

  1. Share up to 800 words of your current work with us (with an intro of up to 200 words to establish context).

This is the first few paragraphs of book one…

Moaning with just the right combination of exhaustion and pleasure to be convincing, I massaged my pelvis against his, a sly smirk playing on my soft crimson lips as his back began slowly arching toward the ceiling, his breathe exhaling slow and deep. He was close to climax and I was close to the apple martini waiting downstairs.

Helping him along, I gripped his hands and caressed them upwards along my abdomen until they found contact with the black lace bra that softly cupped my breasts, a softness that didn’t last very long when he realised what he had in his grasp. I cant say it was overly pleasant as he squeezed in a manner that could have been compared to that of a stress ball during an intense interrogation but the sounds I made as I rolled my hips in a downward curve against him made his eyes light up with hungry pleasure.

Gently leaning forward and guiding his hands around to my rear, I tilted my pelvis upwards as I lowered my upper body until my chest came into contact with his hot and sweaty torso. Short, black hairs tickled against the exposed parts of my breast, the shorter hairs prickling against my flesh. This was definitely not the kind of body I would go for on a Saturday night at Bellatrix, but those guys don’t come with the same fringe benefits this one would be coming with, so long as I tolerated a few unsavoury moments here and there. Trust me, it’s worth it.

The closeness of my body against his own was enough to really trigger an intense reaction, his body quivering as he pulled my pelvis down against his own in one final thrust to help finish him off before he fell back into the cloudlike softness of the hotel suite pillows. Sliding my hands along his torso, I smiled to myself at the view before me. Here lay this mid-forties man with his head tilted back, eyes closed and an ear to ear grin brimming with pride at his feeling of great accomplishment. In all my years in this line of work, I’ve seen maybe two men who don’t behave like this when they release themselves. It’s what makes the next part of my job so easy.

As I leaned back, keeping close eye on him to ensure he still had his eyes closed and maintaining enough soft movement to ensure he knew nothing other than I was simply just further enjoying the feel of him, I slid my hand down my thigh to the rim of my black leather boots. If it wasn’t for the biker babe fantasy that was admired by so many men, I would never get away with wearing my boots for these things. Then Id have nowhere to hide my gun.

Reaching into the lining of the right boot, I retrieved the small dark metal grey 22 calibre handgun with ivory woodgrain handle, while simultaneously retrieving the matching dark metal grey silencer from the left boot. Bringing the two halves together seamlessly behind my back, I looked down at him as he remained in a state of blissful unawareness to the end that was about to come for him.

Slowly drawing my upper body down until my breasts gently caressed his torso once again, I placed my free hand against his cheek and offered a gentle kiss upon his lips, causing his eyes to open, his smile growing wider. A smile that faded quickly upon the sensation of the cool metal against his the inner curve of his squared jaw.

He eyed me with his emerald greens wide and pleading as a momentary awareness took over him, realising quickly that his lucky score was none so lucky after all. In the same moment he opened his mouth to speak, I squeezed down on the trigger, the silencer doing its job at keeping the sound of the blast minimal. As the bullet penetrated his mandible, I was overwhelmed with regret at not closing his mouth before engaging the trigger as blood and flesh matter erupted from his mouth, splattering down the front of us both.

After taking a moment to gather my bearings from the shock of the unexpected mess, I unscrewed the silencer, placed the two parts back into my boots and rose off him, trying to avoid spreading blood even further before grabbing my bag from the entry table where it was dropped in what he mistakenly assumed was the ‘throws of passion’. What can I say, you don’t get to where I am without being an extremely convincing actress.

  1. What is the easiest part of writing for you? And what is the hardest?

The easiest part is actually the story because I create my starting character and then they tell me their story. The hardest part is focusing on writing with five children running around.

  1. Finally, if you could offer some advice to up-and-coming writers, what would that advice be?

Don’t write what you think your audience will like. What what makes you happy. There will always be a market for it and there will always be someone who thinks it is terrible. There’s seven billion people in this world. Also, a bad review is an opportunity for improvement, not a reason to quit.


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Author Interview: Steven J. Pemberton!

Steven J Pemberton


  1. Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I was born in England in 1970. At the time, my father was a librarian, and my mother was a teacher, so it was probably inevitable that I would grow up loving books. For most of my childhood, my family and I lived in New Zealand, returning to England in 1981. I graduated from the University of York in 1992 with a bachelor’s degree in computer science. I now live in Hertfordshire with my partner, where I work as a software developer.

2. What is the title of your current work (WIP or recently published). and what is its genre?

My most recent published novel is The Reluctant Dragonrider, book 2 in my Dragonrider series. As you can probably guess from the title, it’s fantasy.

  1. Is this book suitable for children, or is it adults-only? If there’s mature content, what type of mature content does the book contain?

It’s suitable for older children and adults. There’s a romance that turns sexual, but I “fade to black” before the sex scenes. A few characters get killed off gruesomely, but I try not to dwell on the gory details.

  1. What inspired you to write this work?

The Dragonrider series came into existence in a rather roundabout way. Many years ago, a member of a mailing list I was in (remember them?) had a quotation in her signature block, “Do not meddle in the affairs of dragons, for you are crunchy and taste good with ketchup.” (This, of course, is a riff on a quotation from Tolkien, “Do not meddle in the affairs of wizards, for they are subtle and quick to anger.”) I thought I might be able to get a story out of it. I wrote about 600 words of a man on a hilltop who’d just summoned a dragon and was trying to convince it to help him. After that, I got stuck, because I hadn’t yet learned to wait until I had a few of the story’s key scenes or turning points clear in my head before starting to write. Those 600 words languished on my hard drive while I wrote many more words and many more stories. As I was writing one of those stories (The Mirrors of Elangir), I mentioned in passing that one of the warring nations in it used dragons as airborne cavalry. I realised that if I took my 600-word beginning and set it in the same world as The Mirrors of Elangir (but many years later), I’d be able to continue the story. I now had a setting, some history, and (most importantly) some motivation for the dragon’s behaviour. That story became The Accidental Dragonrider, which is now the first book in the series.

I initially intended The Accidental Dragonrider to be a standalone book, and gave the ending a definite sense of finality. But I try not to close off options completely, and I left a few loose ends and unsolved puzzles to allow myself a sequel if I ever wanted to write one. Then it proved unexpectedly popular, and I decided I shouldwrite a sequel. (I swear this never occurred to me when I was writing, but it turns out there are a lot of people who like reading about dragons.)

  1. What makes this book special, unique, or interesting? How does it “stand out”?

I don’t think any one feature is unique, though I’d hope the overall combination hasn’t been done before – or not too often, anyway. (I often tell novice writers that if they think their idea is original, that just means they haven’t read enough to realise it isn’t.) I’m more concerned about craft than art – I’d rather tell a story that’s been told before and do it well than tell a new story and do it badly. That isn’t to say it’s impossible to do both, but I’m not arrogant enough to think I can.

One thing that’s fairly unusual (in my experience) for a fantasy with a teenage protagonist (Tiwan) is that both her parents are alive, and take an active part in the story. Her father is trying to prepare her for an important mission (see blurb below) but at the same time protect her from harm.

6. Tell us some key information about the main character(s), both protagonists and antagonists.

Tiwan, the protagonist, is the daughter of Iko, who was the protagonist of The Accidental Dragonrider. She’s one of the few people in this world who can speak to dragons. (Iko is the only other one in the story.) She’s brave, curious and resourceful, and will always try to do the right thing, even though it’s often not obvious what the right thing is. She’s seven when we first meet her, then we meet her again at ten, twelve and sixteen.

Iko, Tiwan’s father, used to be a teacher, and is the person who’s most knowledgeable about dragons. He wishes he could have nothing to do with them.

Revath, Tiwan’s childhood friend and later lover (spoilers!) mostly just wants to be a fisherman, but is caught up with the dragons through his love for Tiwan. He’s brave and strong but somewhat unimaginative.

Makhan is a bully who does his best to make Tiwan and Revath miserable when they’re all children. When he grows up, he joins the village’s police force. He tells everyone he’s protecting them from criminals in their midst. He might even believe it himself.

Athera is a dragon, one of their leaders, who has dealings with Iko in the early part of the book. Like almost all the dragons, he comes across as considering himself to be morally superior to humans and vastly more knowledgeable and wise than any of them. He’ll tell you as little as possible while acting surprised that you don’t already know more than he’s told you. He’s missing a foot, which is unusual for a dragon – they heal quickly and are almost impossible to kill.

Olahin is a younger dragon who seems to have been designated as their liaison for Tiwan. (She turns up whenever Tiwan summons a dragon. It’s not possible to summon a specific dragon – or if it is, Iko and Tiwan haven’t worked out how.) She’s a little more friendly than Athera, perhaps because she appreciates how important Tiwan’s mission is, or perhaps because she hasn’t had as long to build up a dislike of humans.

Vadim is another of the dragons’ leaders – not so much a villain as one who doesn’t believe the dragons need help from humans, and one who’s willing to resort to underhanded (or underclawed) methods to make sure it doesn’t happen.

  1. What is your back cover blurb? Or if you don’t have one yet, how would you pitch your work in 200 words or less?

It’s been forty years since Tiwan’s father Iko convinced a dragon to save their village. Now the dragons are back, and they want Tiwan’s help in a war against an enemy in their world’s oceans. But she’s just a child, so what could she do? The dragons threaten to invade the humans’ world if they lose the war. Tiwan reluctantly agrees to go on a spying mission for them, even though she risks being lost in the dragons’ world forever.

  1. Share a tempting bit of the plot with us. Is there a particular scene that you’re really excited about? Why does it excite you?

The magical artefact that Tiwan needs for her mission is a device that lets her breathe underwater. While she’s waiting for the dragons to send her on the mission, she practices using the device by diving shipwrecks near her home. There’s a scene near the middle of the book where she dives a wreck that’s rumoured to have a lot of treasure, too deep and too far inside the hull for an unassisted diver to reach. She recovers a small chest of jewels, worth more than her family earns in a year. When she returns to the harbour, Makhan is waiting to arrest her, though strangely enough, not because he wants to confiscate the jewels…

I like this scene because, well, magic and sunken treasure, but also because it sets a lot of events in motion for the second half of the book while initially seeming like nothing more than a cool diversion.

  1. Share up to 800 words of your current work with us (with an intro of up to 200 words to establish context).

This is from about a quarter of the way through the book. Tiwan and her father Iko have come to visit a merchant called Govus. They want to buy a book that they believe contains the location of a magical artefact that Tiwan will need in her mission for the dragons. Govus wants a far higher price for the book than they can afford. He agrees to give it to them if instead they’ll summon a dragon for him. (He’s fascinated by dragons, but has never seen one.) Two dragons, Olahin and Athera, answer the call. (Tiwan and Iko have met both of them before.)

The dragons communicate telepathically (indicated by italics). Only a few humans can hear and speak to them – Tiwan and Iko are the only ones in this story. For reasons they haven’t seen fit to explain, the dragons don’t want Tiwan to go on their mission until she’s sixteen. She’s ten in this scene.


Olahin walked up to the scarp and raised her head to look at Tiwan. Tiwan met the dragon’s gaze, trying not to let her attention shift to her teeth. Athera held back, shifting side-to-side, perhaps seeking the best distribution of his weight on three legs.

Why have you invited us here? Athera asked. You have not yet known sixteen years.

O great dragons, Papa said, we invited you here because this man -he pointed discreetly to Govus—has documents that we need to complete our mission for you. He refused to give them to us unless we proved you were real.

Olahin said, You should have told him that we would kill him unless he did what you wanted.

That’s not how humans do things, Papa replied.

In the time of the riders, it was your preferred negotiation strategy, said Athera.

That was a long time ago, said Papa.

“Help me up,” Govus said to his servants.

If the only reason for coming here was to convince a sceptic of our existence, said Olahin, we can leave now, yes? She began to turn towards the cliff edge, a lumbering movement that seemed to require a lot of planning.

“Stop!” said Govus. He hobbled towards Olahin.

“Sir, come back here, please,” said Papa. Govus ignored him.

Will this one be tasty, do you think? said Olahin, halting her turn.

Before Tiwan could protest, Athera replied, It is an old one, so is likely to be tough and stringy. Besides, it appears to be sick.

“Sir, they’re talking about eating you,” said Papa.

“I think they’re more intelligent than that,” said Govus. He came to Olahin, who stretched out her neck and sniffed at him.

You are right, Olahin said to Athera. Old and sick.

Govus raised his hand and reached out to Olahin. Papa said, “Sir, I really wouldn’t advise that,” just as Govus touched the dragon’s nose. Olahin jerked her head away and shook it, as though trying to hold back a sneeze.

How rude, said Athera.

My apologies, o great dragons, said Papa.

“I wanted to be sure it wasn’t an illusion,” Govus said. He took a couple of paces away from Olahin. He leaned forward and shielded his eyes with a hand, apparently studying the detail of the creature’s scales. He straightened, rubbing his back with his other hand. “Tell them I’ve got a job for them, if they’re interested.”

“I very much doubt they will be, Sir,” said Papa.

“Let them make up their own minds. Ask them how eighty ounces of gold for a couple of days’ work sounds.”

Tiwan tried to calculate how many svara that much gold would make, and ran out of numbers.

O great dragons, Papa said, the old man wants me to ask you a question. I know it’s a rude and stupid question, and I apologise in advance for that. He wants me to offer you eighty ounces of gold in return for two days’ work.

Olahin partly extended her wings and waggled them up and down. At the same time, she shook her head from side to side. Tiwan remembered Papa telling her that was how dragons laughed.

How customs have changed, said Athera. I never thought humans would willingly offer us treasure. I trust, Iko, that you recall our discussions of the Liberation?

I do, said Papa.

Then you will understand why we refuse this offer, sincerely meant though I am certain it is.

Papa bowed his head. Thank you, o great dragons. He turned to Govus. “They’re not interested.”

“What?” Govus looked at the dragons momentarily, then stared at Papa. He stumbled with the sudden movement, and a servant rushed forward to steady him. “A hundred ounces.”

“I’m sorry, Sir.”

“A hundred and twenty.” The dragons turned to face the cliff.

“It’s not about the price, Sir,” Papa said. “This… it’s just not something they do.”

“I thought dragons had hoards of precious metal and jewels,” said Govus. The servant helped him back to his chair.

“They do, Sir. I’ve seen one. It was the size of your dining room, and if I’d been brave enough to walk through it, the coins and trinkets would’ve been up to my ankles, if not my knees.”


Farewell, humans, said Athera. We will return when Tiwan has known sixteen years.

They ran down the slope – surprisingly fast for something so big – and fell off the edge. Tiwan clapped a hand to her mouth. A moment later, the dragons came back into view, ascending into the distance. Tiwan relaxed. The dragons’ voices came faintly to her.

That one would have been much easier to persuade to our cause than Iko, Olahin said.

Indeed, Athera replied. But we must work with what Fate grants us, not what we wish she had granted us.

There were two bright purple flashes, and the dragons were gone.

  1. What is the easiest part of writing for you? And what is the hardest?

The easiest part is playing “what if?” to decide on plot and setting after I’ve come up with a few ideas, because that doesn’t feel like work. The hardest… it’s not really part of writing, but I’ll say marketing. If I have to pick something that’s actually part of writing, I’ll say character motivation – making sure it’s believable and self-consistent.

  1. Finally, if you could offer some advice to up-and-coming writers, what would that advice be?

Firstly, if your main reason for wanting to write isn’t that you love writing, find something else to do with your spare time. It’s not wrong to want to be rich and famous through writing, but so few people achieve it that if it’s your main motive, you’re likely to end up bitter that you wasted years chasing a dream that wasn’t going to come true. If you write because you love to write, then regardless of whether any success comes from it, you’ll have enjoyed the time you spent writing.

Secondly, read a lot, and not just in your chosen genre(s). Mostly, read good stuff, to learn from it, but read some bad stuff too, so you can be confident of knowing the difference. I can usually tell when a writer doesn’t read enough, because they ask questions whose answers they would naturally soak up if they read a lot. (Questions like “How long should a chapter be?”, “Can I use swearwords?”, “Give me a long list of synonyms for ‘said,’ because I think writing ‘he/she said’ after every line of dialogue is boring.”)

Thirdly, write a lot, mostly in your chosen genre(s), but don’t be afraid to experiment. If you want to write fiction that you expect strangers to read and enjoy, you need to write, on average, a million words for practice. Finish what you start, even if you stop enjoying writing it. Many writers abandon a piece of writing when it becomes boring, believing that the problem is that they haven’t found the right story to write. And maybe they haven’t, but every story becomes boring to write if you spend long enough working on it. You simply have to trust that if you keep working on it, your mood will improve enough to make the story enjoyable again.

Fourthly, show what you think is your best work to people you believe are better writers than you. When you’ve finished crying and swearing over how they tore your precious baby to pieces, use what they told you to edit the piece to make it better, and make your next piece better to begin with. I believe there’s a limit to how much you can improve any one piece of writing from where it started – you either reach the current limit of your abilities or stop seeing its flaws. When you reach that point, or perhaps before, it’s time to start a new piece. If everybody you show the story to says it’s wonderful and has no flaws, find some new people to ask about it – not because the current ones are wrong, but because you won’t learn anything from them.

Not all advice is useful. Many writers, when commenting on your story, will try to turn it into the story they would have written. (This isn’t always intentional, and often they don’t realise they’re doing it.) You should pay the most attention to the advice that will help you to tell the story you want to tell in the best way you can. Also pay attention to problems that more than one person points out. There’s a saying, “What I tell you three times is true.” If three or more people independently point out the same problem, the odds are that they’re right, and you should either fix it or have a good reason not to. (“They don’t understand me” is usually not a good reason…)


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CM Fritzen portrait

  1. Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I am a third-year public school teacher by day and writer whenever I get a chance. I have been married to my husband for 3.5 years and we have two wonderful dogs: Kiara and Koda. I even used Koda’s name in my debut novel, The Promise!

  1. What is the title of your current work (WIP or recently published). and what is its genre?

My most recently published book is called The Promise and it is a fantasy with allegorical themes. I am working on its sequel, Legacy, and am very excited to share that with my readers hopefully next summer!

  1. Is this book suitable for children, or is it adults-only? If there’s mature content, what type of mature content does the book contain?

I would recommend my book to readers 13 or older. My book doesn’t contain any X-rated material, but there is mention of sexual assault that may not be suitable for younger readers.

  1. What inspired you to write this work?

My friends and I had huge imaginations as children and we created a world and characters that I simply adored and loved to interact with. I was the only one who wanted to write it down, so I did! It took me over a decade, but I did it!


  1. What makes this book special, unique, or interesting? How does it “stand out”?


This book tries to tackle some large topics from discrimination to surviving assault and trauma. It does so in a world of dragons and werewolves and kingdoms so I get to explore these concepts in a lighter fashion than I believe I could writing realistic fiction.


  1. Tell us some key information about the main character(s), both protagonists and antagonists.


My main character is a half werewolf half Light Wolf naked Silver. His father is killed before the start of my book and sets him on a path of revenge. He is very tall and likes to read and draw, but has terrible luck.

My antagonist, Draconis known as Nis, is a dragon species and is the creature who killed Silver’s father.  Dragons in my world have a human form as well as a dragon form. They can also use telepathy and telekinesis.


  1. What is your back cover blurb? Or if you don’t have one yet, how would you pitch your work in 200 words or less?


Also, here is a reworked book description: Silver White, half werewolf half Light Wolf, leaves home to avenge his father. Inexperienced and naive, he finds himself in the very clutches of the immortal he tried to kill. Sent on a mission that should spell his death, Silver instead discovers the destiny his creator made for him. Along the way, he will befriend allies and make enemies, growing from naïve teen to wise man. In this world of shapeshifters, elves, werewolves, dragons and more, you will experience a good versus evil tale unlike any hero’s quest you’ve read before.

  1. Share a tempting bit of the plot with us. Is there a particular scene that you’re really excited about? Why does it excite you?


I really enjoyed writing a scene where my main character, Silver, begins to experience extreme anxiety around the full moon. He is usually in control of himself, but his fears get a hold of him and he begins to see danger in every corner until he transforms in to a wolf and snarls, hackles raised, all night, oblivious to what he sees. This scene excited me because I was able to capture his emotion acutely from his point of view as well as from the other characters’.


  1. Share up to 800 words of your current work with us (with an intro of up to 200 words to establish context).


[[[Silver has just reached a town after leaving his childhood home for the first time. Here he experiences first-hand the prejudice his father had warned him of but also the kindness that can come from strangers.]]]

The town’s inn sat near the green and was the largest building around. Frankly, it was the largest building Zaiver had ever seen, but he had a feeling he would see larger in Lartnek. Zaiver made his way inside the Paxis Inn and was stopped by a thin man of middling height.

“Excuse me, sir. Can I help you?” The man’s eyes rested on Zaiver’s sword hilt that stuck up behind his shoulder.

“Um, yes, please. I was looking for a place to sleep and perhaps a small bowl of stew if you could spare it. I’m on my way to Lartnek and weary.” Zaiver saw no reason to lie, but he also saw no reason to overshare with the innkeeper.

“To Lartnek, eh? We don’t get many here headed that way…Can you pay?”

“I have some money, but not much. But I can do any sort of chore you need to make up for the cost of staying here!”

The innkeeper sighed and looked him up and down. “Well, I have space in the stable if you don’t mind hay. Joyce can see you fed. I imagine a youngling like yourself may need whatever coin he has if he’s going to the big city. Come, let’s get you outta sight then.”

Zaiver frowned, but he followed the innkeeper down the hall to the kitchens where a rather plump woman—sporting a large, floured apron—stood over a cook fire.

“Pardon, Joyce. I know you’re busy. We have a young patron a few coins short for a stay. Can he help you with dinner prep for a bowl of stew, dear?”

The woman turned and gasped softly as she beheld Zaiver. “Oh. Why yes, Frank, I suppose he can. Is he staying in the inn?”

“No. Stable for him tonight, I think,” Frank replied before turning to Zaiver. “Okay. You see me before you leave, and I’ll point you in the right direction. You sure Lartnek’s the goal, son? Nailan’s Meadow is the same distance, and the folk there are kinder.”

“I’m sure. Thank you.”

“Okay. Stay out of sight. Okay, young’un? I’ve nothing against your kind, I should say not. We are all Nailan’s children, right? But many of the folk here don’t take to creatures like you. Scared, I think. Ignorant for sure. They might try and hurt you if they recognize the werewolf in you.” Frank shook his head at Zaiver’s expression. “Nothing to do about it, son. Not your fault either.”

The innkeeper patted Zaiver’s shoulder as he walked back to the main dining room. Zaiver sank onto a stool near the fire. His hands rested limply on his knees.

Joyce came over to him and offered him a hot mug of tea. “There, there, sweets. Frank’s right. It’s not your fault you being a werewolf. None of them’s fault neither. They’s either born or bit.”

“I…” Zaiver inhaled sharply, overwhelmed. “I didn’t know we were so hated…”

“Eh.” Joyce shrugged, wiping her hands on her apron, managing to find a piece unsoiled by flour, “I wouldn’t say hated. Here in smaller towns, people are set in their ways. Lartnek has more than enough elves and werecats and other creatures that none’ll think twice about you. No, don’t worry.”

Zaiver took a small sip from his mug and sighed, feeling small, terrible, and unwanted. “Father was right all along…I wonder if he had been right about everything.”

“Frank’s telling truth about Nailan’s Meadow, though,” Joyce said as she resumed stirring a large pot hanging over the fire. “Queen Myra says that all peoples are welcome, no matter their origin. The Meadow follows Nailan’s laws well, I’d say.”

Zaiver shook his head. “I have to go to Lartnek.”

He left it at that, and though Joyce opened her mouth as if to ask more questions, but instead shook her head and went back to work.

Zaiver stayed in the stable loft that night, glad for the roof above his head, before heading out toward Lartnek early the next morning.

“Now if you stay on this road, it should only take you a day of fast walking, more if you stop for meals. Joyce made you a parcel of bread and cheese. Should keep you until Lartnek, at least.” Frank gently pressed a cloth sack into Zaiver’s hands. “Stay safe, young’un.”

Zaiver looked down at the innkeeper. His yellow eyes stung as if he might cry. This man had helped him for no reason, none at all. “Why? Why did you help me?”

Frank studied him, speaking slowly and carefully as if each word carried weight, “I know Nailan, son. He tells us to help all in need. A lonely young’un like yourself fits that description, I think.”

“Thank you.” Zaiver sniffed and swallowed. A lump had formed in his throat. “I won’t forget your kindness.”


  1. What is the easiest part of writing for you? And what is the hardest?

I think the easiest part of writing is writing when I have inspiration and the hardest is either when I don’t have inspiration or when I am editing. One of the benefits of having an editor work with my story was that I was able to look at her comments rather than at the larger work. This allowed me to focus in on problems rather than get overwhelmed with the thousands of words pusling on my computer screen.


  1. Finally, if you could offer some advice to up-and-coming writers, what would that advice be?

Finish your work and edit it. Give it to someone who doesn’t know the story and thoughtfully consider what they say. Additionally, do not fear cutting whole scenes or characters if they don’t add to your main story line. Keep everything you cut though!
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CM Fritzen Cover


Kicking off what I hope will be a series of many author interviews…
Zarina Macha author portrait
1. Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’m a musician and author from London, United Kingdom, and have published two books – one is a YA compilation of two novellas, and the other is a book of poetry. I recently graduated from Music College having studied Songwriting and Creative Artistry, and front my own funk-rock trio band.
2. What is the title of your current work (WIP or recently published). and what is its genre?
My novel ‘Every Last Psycho: A Collection of Two Novellas’ contains two Young Adult books called ‘Every Last Thought’ and ‘Psycho Girl.’ Both are dark social realist dramas dealing with mental illness. The first features a schizophrenic girl called Tess, and the second a psychopathic girl named Evelyn.
3. Is this book suitable for children, or is it adults-only? If
there’s mature content, what type of mature content does the book contain?
I have it rated for those aged fifteen and onwards. I have it classed as YA as the writing style is quite simple and both protagonists are in their teens (Tess is sixteen and Evelyn is eighteen) and deal with adolescent coming-of-age issues. There are mature themes in both; the first includes rape, drug abuse and self-harm, and the second has a few brief and explicit sexual scenes and one violent scene.
I have a content warning in the copyright section saying ‘Contains graphic depictions of violence, sexual assault and drug abuse. Minors are advised to read with caution.’ Young people nowadays are able to easily access mature content and I think mature teenage readers (such as my fifteen year old niece) will be perfectly fine to read it. I’ve read some YA stories that deal with mature content such as Thirteen Reasons Why (J. Asher), Suicide Notes from Beautiful Girls (L. Weingarten), Just Listen (S. Dessen), and Asking for It (L. O’Neill).
4. What inspired you to write this work?
The second novella was inspired by the movie ‘American Psycho’. I wanted to write about the most evil young woman I could craft. The first was more complex and partly inspired by a few instances from my own life; I wanted to delve into the mindset of a schizophrenic struggling with adolescent issues such as friendship, relationships, school work and transitioning from a teenager into a young adult.
5. What makes this book special, unique, or interesting? How does it “stand out”?
I like to think it brings a young person’s perspective onto mental illness, as both story ideas were executed when I was aged seventeen-to-nineteen and I’m twenty one now. I wanted to directly get into the heads of both protagonists in the stories; neither are super likeable, especially the second one, but both are fascinating girls with perceptions on life that are not necessarily frequently portrayed. (Both are also in first person so I could really write through their eyes and pull the reader in to their worlds).
The first novella is written with very short, fragmented sentences to symbolise Tess’ disoriented mental state. She goes through a lot within a short space of time and I wanted to really highlight how hard teenage life can be, especially for someone in her situation. I also wanted to showcase the importance of friendship but also the dangers of becoming too dependent on someone.
Regarding the second novella, I feel like it’s not often we see stories entirely from the perspective of the villain; we’re often expected to root for the ‘good guy’ and to see the happy or hopeful elements of life, but a lot of times life isn’t like that and there are awful people lurking out there. I was mainly having fun with the second story – it’s meant to be read as a bit of a dark comedy; not to be taken too seriously.
6. Tell us some key information about the main character(s), both protagonists and antagonists.
Tess is a sixteen year old lower middle-class girl living in London. She is in love with her best friend (Ed) but he has a girlfriend. I think a lot of times we expect the main girl and guy to get together, but sometimes that doesn’t always happen and friendship can be a beautiful thing too, but it can also be complicated. Ed is probably my favourite character; he’s the older brother figure in Tess’ life after her twin brother passed away several years ago which she has struggled to get over. Ed and Tess have a pretty co-dependent friendship and I felt that she expected too much from him and needed to learn to stand on her own feet and come to terms with herself. I didn’t particularly adore her but I wanted the reader to sympathise deeply with her.
Evelyn is an eighteen year old upper middle-class girl living in the fictitious town of Bletchfield, a small town outside of London. She is a narcissistic psychopath from the get go who only cares about herself and dislikes everyone else. No one else seems to realise it; her friends, teachers and boyfriend all think she’s this perfect person. I found her pretty hilarious to write and eerily charming. She is determined to study Law at the University of Cambridge, and will do anything to get what she wants. She is a fiercely entitled girl who expects the world to bow down to her, and her story is about appearances being deceiving, and that selfish actions don’t usually end well.
7. What is your back cover blurb? Or if you don’t have one yet, how would you pitch your work in 200 words or less?
‘Every Last Psycho’ contains two tales of two girls; ‘Every Last Thought’ and ‘Psycho Girl.’
One girl hears voices screaming in the shadows; the other burns with self-absorbed hunger.
Every Last Thought:
‘Rocking backwards and forwards; deep breaths in and out’
Sixteen year old Tess Davis suffers from schizophrenia, triggered six years ago by the onset of her twin brother’s death. She’s felt broken ever since. But when new guy Ed moved to her school two years ago, life gave her a reason to live joyously. Ed made her happy, becoming the friend she needed. But she didn’t plan to fall in love with him, and love isn’t always requited.
Distraught by Ed’s new girlfriend and a horrific trauma Tess endures, she finds herself spiraling out of control and into cocaine-fueled delusions. Will she be able to regain a grip on life?
Psycho Girl:
‘Deep inside, I feel nothing. I am nothing.’
Eighteen year old Evelyn Baxter is beautiful, confident, popular and well off. Everyone loves her; her friends, her family, her boyfriend. She is all set to apply to the University of Cambridge to study Law.
But when another girl in her year gets accepted into Cambridge and she doesn’t, Evelyn’s perfect mask starts to peel away. Murder, deceit and manipulation show Evelyn to be the monster she truly is. But will those around her realize it?
One is the victim of cruelty, the other creates it. One lives in the concrete jungle of London, the other in the suburban town of Bletchfield. Both novellas are in one binding, echoing the dark horrors within.
8. Share a tempting bit of the plot with us. Is there a particular scene that you’re really excited about? Why does it excite you?
I don’t want to give too much away so I’m going to pass on this question.
9. Share up to 800 words of your current work with us (with an intro of up to 200 words to establish context).
Again, I don’t want to give too much away but in brief: the story I am currently working on is a dystopian speculative satire. It is set in Britain a few decades from now and is meant to mock the current extreme left-right political discourse.
10. What is the easiest part of writing for you? And what is the hardest?
The easy part is coming up with the ideas; they just appear, constantly, often nicely formed and unexpected. The hard part is the execution, haha. Writer’s Block is a bitch. I spend a lot of time forcing myself to ‘shovel shit from a sitting position’ to quote Stephen King. But then that’s what editing is for; to clean up the crap.
11. Finally, if you could offer some advice to up-and-coming
writers, what would that advice be?
If you really want to be a writer, you will do it because you love it. No one will need to ‘push’ you; it will flow from you because it makes you happy. After that, work really hard on one story (no doubt you’ll probably have several ideas) that you think will be the quickest/easiest to write and finish; something that really grips and excites you and you can’t stop thinking about. The stories are what matter more than anything; a writer is a vessel in which the story pours through.