Thursday, 31 December 2015


My writerly resolutions for 2016 are as follows...

1) Write more.

That is all.

Happy New Year

Monday, 28 December 2015

TK Current Book

The book I'm currently writing is told from the point of view of a 15 year old girl in Worcester, England. TK is an abbreviation of the title that will be revealed eventually.

I'm having fun with this story because it's magical Steampunk! So far I'm 2 chapters in. As of this blog post I've left my main character in a bit of a bind, trying to escape with her treasure. She's found something, and that something is definitely going to change her world.

Here's some images from the web that fit with the story theme so far.

Sunday, 27 December 2015

SPECIAL FEATURE Author Reb MacRath Guest Post - Caesar's Ghost


In March 2015, on a walk through Chinatown, something astonishing happened. And here's hoping you've known such a moment yourself.

Having written and published a dozen novels, I'd learned how to line up my ducks in a row. The time had come to start work on my fourth Boss MacTavin mystery after months of researching and planning. But first I decided to take a short trip to San Francisco. There, I met with an online friend and fan. And in our walk through Chinatown, Rob said that he really liked the MacTavin mysteries—my intended bread and butter—but that he loved the quirky series I called The Fast and The Furies. He felt that in these short stand-alone novels (each less than 40,000 words) I seemed to have written from far closer to my center.

After our walk and lunch, I still had a couple of days to myself. The first day I spent brooding, for I'd come to a Rubicon that I had to cross or evade. Already I had the ghost of an idea for a new Fast and Furies entry...a thriller starring Caesar's Ghost, on the comeback trail at last. To my surprise, the ghost idea began to flesh out quickly. And soon my brain was teeming. But...But...But...What of all the months of planning for the new Boss mystery? What of my career game plan inspired by Clint Eastwood: three projects for his fans and one for himself? Wouldn't it make more sense to finish the new Boss book first, providing fans a solid base of four completed novels before proceeding with quirky little Caesar's Ghost?

To this day I'm still not sure if I crossed the Rubicon or if Caesar's Ghost dragged me across. I began to write, with no outline—and with more passionate commitment than I'd felt since I started to write, way back when. Nothing existed for me but the Ghost and my need to do it justice. Not a thought in my head about agents or editors or Amazon ranking or reviews. 

Looking back, this seems appropriate for a tale about a spirit faced with still more Rubicons...and five people enlisted to help, all faced with tricky decisions. I've never written a thriller like Caesar's Ghost before. And I doubt you've read anything like it. But I'm confident that, once you've read it, you'll cross your next Rubicon with fire in your belly.




Under the name Kelley Wilde, I published four horror novels for Tor and Bantam Doubleday Dell. And in the past three years I've published 10 ebooks on Amazon as Reb MacRath. A new name for a new style, twenty-five years in the making.

For my more about me and my work, please visit my Amazon Author Page.

Southern Scotch blog:

Authors Electric blog (guest spot each month on the 12th):

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Exclusive Q&A on The Lie from Author C.L. Taylor

I've been wanting to feature The Lie on my blog since before it was officially released! But I was pregnant and gave birth so I've had baby-brain for the past few years, and that means hardly any reading. Maybe it's a good thing I waited though because I've had time to watch this book climb bestseller lists all the way onto the Sunday Times! Cally is an amazing writer and she's the reason I write novels myself. I remember when Cally wrote her first novel and it was published in 2009. I've received loads of writing advice from her over the years and I'm so grateful for her help. I also remember when she went to Nepal on her own. What a brave lass! She brought back some gifts that I still treasure today. Who knew then her travels would lead to the dark and twisted inspiration for The Lie? Well it's a damn good thing she braved travelling on her own to Nepal when she did, all those years ago. And now I finally get to feature an exclusive interview with author C.L. Taylor about The Lie, right here on my blog. Enjoy... 

1. Hi Cally! You've probably answered a ton of questions about The Lie by now, so can you tell us something a bit different? Is there a question (or questions) about your book that you wished you'd been asked by now? Without giving away any spoilers, obviously.

There's a character in The Lie called Isaac who is both charismatic and dangerous. No one has asked who I based him on and the answer is...he's a cross between Aidan Turner (very attractive actor who has starred in Poldark and Being Human) and Russell Brand (lady charmer and wannabe philosopher).

2. Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

The theme of The Lie is that your past doesn't have to define your present. Mistakes you made, or awful things that happened, may have shaped the person you are now but they do not have to define you. You can move past them. You can become a better, stronger person as a result of those experiences. 

3. What made you decide to set the book in the past and present?

I wanted to explore how devastating Jane's  past was and how she had tried to move on with her life. I am fascinated by people who decide to reinvent themselves. What are they hiding or running away from, and why? I needed there to be an element of danger in the present thread and for the reader to have no idea who was behind the threatening notes that Jane receives. The past thread gives away clues as to who could be behind the messages. It also reveals the terrifying situation Jane escaped from five years earlier. 

4. If readers wanted a sequel to The Lie would you write one?

Oh. Tough question. I've never written a sequel to one of my books and I'm not sure I could because I try to tie up all the loose ends at the end of a novel. So probably not, but never say never!

5. It's uncanny, but The Lie was released at the same time a devastating earthquake hit Nepal. Did this make you want to change anything about the book at the time?

By the time the earthquake happened there was no way I could have changed the book as it had already been published but my heart really went out to the people of Nepal. As you know I visited their beautiful country for three weeks in 2006 and I found them to be so wonderfully welcoming and friendly and what happened was devastating. If I could have included a link to the disaster fund in the back of the book I would have done so in a heartbeat. 

6. Did your psychology degree play into character development in The Lie? And if so how?

I have always been fascinated by psychology - how people think, why they behave the way they do and the nature of abnormal psychological conditions. For the Lie I did a lot of research into brainwashing, mind control, sociopathy and toxic friendships. I found a lot of information and my degree helped me sort the wheat from the chaff and interpret what I read.

7. Lastly, can you give us any teasers you're excited about with your next upcoming new novel The Missing?

My third psychological thriller, THE MISSING, is out in the UK on 21st April 2016. It's about Claire, a mother whose teenaged son goes missing. She is certain that Billy is alive and that none of her friends or family had anything to do with his disappearance. But when the TV appeal goes wrong and she finds herself in a strange room with no idea how she got there Claire questions everything she once believed. 


I'd like to thank Cally for her participation in this Q&A and if you've read and enjoyed The Lie you can thank the author too! Vote for The Lie in the The Sainsbury's Entertainment eBook of the Year Award 

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

How to know if you should blog post (or not)

Write the post. Set it to publish on a future date. Read your post the next day, decide you shouldn't have written such bollocks, never publish it. 

And that's how you can save face. When we are emotional about topics we sometimes regret what we say. By postponing your blog until you're in a rational mindset, you won't have words up on your blog that you might regret. Although at other times raw emotional posts make the best blogs, but that's people who don't care about embarrassment. 

This is how I blog now. I used to post straight away and then regret my huge blabber mouth. Never again. Well, probably again, but I'll try not to.

Monday, 21 December 2015

Jeff Russell on Indie vs. Trad Publishing

The romantic in me wants to believe that most authors suffer from an incurable passion to create. Scenarios, characters, dilemmas, conflicts, resolutions, happy endings, etc. are all aching to get out, to be heard, revised, edited, revised again (and again and again) and then, in due time, to be shared with the world. And it doesn't stop – before one story is done the next is crying to be heard. 

It is certainly that way for me. Three novels are complete – each of them an exhilarating experience of which I am quite proud – the fourth is soon to be released and numbers five and six are banging on the door pleading for some of my undivided attention. Therein lies the problem ... time. There is never enough and I can no longer justify spending any of what little I have trying to interest an agent. 

For that reason I walk the indie route. Don't get me wrong ... it's not that I haven't tried but after an infinite number of polite rejections and even more unanswered queries I've come to the conclusion that the return on that investment just isn't there for me. I can spend my time composing query letters and chasing down agents (with little actual hope of attracting their attention) and then spend countless hours attempting to build a vast social media following (because today even traditionally published authors must be their own marketing department) or I can spend it writing and creating and enjoying the fruits of my literary labors. 

Not a wise career move, some might say, and I agree with them. But for me writing is a labor of love, it is the end and not the financial means to some other end. Again, don't get me wrong – I'd be happy to be paid – but for now I'm content to give my stories away to whoever wants to read them, and if those readers are kind enough to post a review I would be grateful for their comments. Knowing where I fell short is invaluable feedback and knowing that I've pleased someone is reward enough.


For more from author Jeff Russell visit his website:

Sunday, 20 December 2015

How to Write an Addicting Novel Series

This is how I write series books, because I'm a reader first and I know what I like to keep me interested.

So firstly, be sure to have a bad guy or conundrum that runs through 3 books, solved at the end of the 3rd book. Make your series themed with underlying themes every 3 books. The entire series can be 9 books long, or even more! The hero solves a case in every book, but for 3 books there's also another plot-line haunting the MC.

The reason shows like Orphan Black and Extant don't work for me is because the only theme is discovery and anything can change. The story goes no where and we don't care about the bad guys because they get killed off all the time. For example, OB is about discovering more about why they were cloned, but that's boring because they were cloned and they could do stuff with that. They could spy for people., impersonate, they could be a group of investigators!

Extant is ridiculous. The storyline changes too often because each discovery is dead boring. They could have the robots do things! Like solve crimes or grow with artificial intelligence aspects!

The reason season 1 of Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries was so good was because of the continuous murderer from her past. Also the building romance between her and the detective. Seasons 2 and 3 were okay, but they would have been better with new underlying themes throughout. They gave the detective a divorce so that should have freed Phryne and him to hook up, but they never did because the writers wanted the romance to go on, because everyone knows viewers (and novel readers) get bored with a relationship once the characters find 'true love' and their 'happy ever after'. They could have driven them apart and brought them back together in the end.

My problem is sticking to rules. When I write I don't outline, I just write and the characters take me where they want to in a story. Well, that has to change. I need to start with the above aspects and insert them throughout, whatever it takes. Like Sherlock Holmes and Moriarty; the bad guy who doesn't just get caught in the first story. Moriarty plagues Holmes throughout many stories.

(By the way, Moriarty is a real name. When I started working with a woman with the last name Moriarty I asked her if that was her real surname. She said, "yes," and nothing else. I figured out real quick that she gets asked about her last name a lot, so I never talked about it to her again. I'm nice like that. Haha. It's a wicked cool surname to have though, wish I'd at least told her that.)

Another show I started watching is called Contiuum. When I read up about it, before watching it, I thought it was going to be a show that would involve a gripping plotline. I'm not going to say what I thought it was going to be like, because I'm keeping it as my own idea for an SF series! Whatever the case, it is not like I thought it would be and I won't even be continuing with watching season 1.

A final TV show example of a series with a good theme is House. The old medical show. Viewers were kept interested in the problems of the characters throughout every season, that was the addictive hook. Without the character's problems it would have just been solving medical problems and wouldn't have anything to keep me as a viewer coming back to find out what happened to the main characters.

It's tricky with book series that aren't yet complete. I'll only give examples of complete series that have worked, because I never ever demean books I don't like. I'm a writer, I know what it means to be an author of books that get both good reviews and bad. There's just no necessity in writing bad reviews. It goes with what we were taught as children, but fail to remember as adults just to be plain nice. "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all."

So The Hunger Games is a good series. There's an adventure 'solved' in each book, but the entire story isn't completely told until the end of the 3rd instalment.

I'm currently enjoying The 5th Wave series. Well, the 2nd book was a bit confusing, but I'm hoping desperately that the 3rd and final book will clear everything up excitingly!

I will say there was a series of 9 books where the author ruined the entire series for me with the final book in the series. That is devastating for a fan and reader. Years and years of exciting reading, anticipation of the finalé, only to have all that anticipation crushed. It made me wish I could re-write the final book myself, but I don't have time for fan fiction.

Saturday, 19 December 2015

Guest Post from Author Geoffrey M Gluckman on Inspiration

The inspiration for The Secret Keepers, the sequel to the award-winning spy thriller Deadly Exchange (2007), came slowly. In fact, it was the urging of readers for a sequel that set the creative wheels in motion. Unlike Deadly Exchange, which was writing itself unconsciously for several years before being put to paper, I had no workable ideas for a sequel. Then, after a prolonged stay in Europe in spring of 2008, a story began to emerge along with new and compelling characters. Key to the story was the new character, Katya Drachovna, who is rescued from a sex trafficking operation by Sara and Frank and the rest of Peter Wellington's elite team (carryovers from Deadly Exchange). This sparks the deeper mysteries within the thriller. Another key to The Secret Keepers was the element of cyber warfare, especially as the next terrorist threat. And that is how The Secret Keepers germinated into a novel.

Geoffrey M. Gluckman is an author of stories where "nothing is as it seems". Author of the spy thriller The Secret Keepers, sequel to the award-winning Deadly Exchange. All available on iBooks, Nook, & Kindle. Also at and from any bookstore near you.

You can find Geoffrey M. Gluckman online at the following links. Twitter: @deadlyexchange FaceBook Fan Pages: TheSecretkeepers and Deadly Exchange: A Novel Stories Blog: (on left side of webpage) or at:

Friday, 18 December 2015

FORGED IN THE FLAMES OF FANFICTION; Guest Post From Author Andrew Seiple

Hello there! My name is Andrew Seiple, and I'm a fanfiction writer. This is normally the part where you chorus "Hi Andrew!" and I confess my sins. 

But a weird thing has been happening lately. I'm not feeling that sinful anymore. See, the popular stereotype of fanfiction for years has been more about the "fan" part of the fanfiction. The stereotype is of poorly-socialized overpassionate zealots pounding out bad stories. Unskilled individuals committing literary sins; poorly written portrayals of popular characters, implausible and silly plots, bad grammar, poor spelling, bizarre punctuation (!!!!!!!!!) and inappropriate pornography. And some of that's true. Some of that's deserved. There's a ton of the stuff out there, and good lord, it gets disturbing. But some of it... some of it's actually pretty good. 

It's all about Sturgeon's Law in the end. Sturgeon's Law, if you haven't heard it before, is simple; ninety percent of everything is crap. There's a lot of fanfiction out there, so there's a lot of crap. But that ten percent that's left, now? That ten percent is worth wading through the other ninety percent. That's the other part to fanfiction. The "fiction". Some of it's so good that it can cross over, and be converted to original fiction. You know what I'm talking about, and it rhymes with "Nifty Grades of Hay". Love it or hate it, a lot of people read that story. That's the definition of a successful story, right there, and the only one that really matters in the end. It's not the only one, either. Check out a small list at Goodreads, here

Maybe not as big as the elephant in the room, but most of them are doing okay for themselves. Most of those are recent, within the last few years. Fifty Shades made the crossing, after all. It showed it could be done. And honestly? It's about time. Fanfiction's got a use, you see. Fanfiction's a chance to practice. You're working with known characters, so you have to play to their characteristics and attitudes. The rules of the universe you're working in are set, so you have to stay within those, too. Those boundaries provide basic measurements... if you can nail them, then you do well. If you can't learn to color within those lines, well, the fans won't hesitate to shoot you down. 

It's kind of like open mike night at a low-end comedy club where folks are just looking to have a good time, and don't care too much if you stumble a little so long as you're amusing overall. It's informal, too. That's a blessing... sure, don't get me wrong, beta readers and writing circles can be invaluable. But the danger there, is that you end up getting to used to your circle's biases, or playing to the personalities of the betas. The audience is limited, and sometimes that doesn't work so hot. With fanfiction? The audience is whoever cares enough to wander in and click on your link, and if you suck they won't be shy about telling you. It's hands-on experience learning to write for a diverse crowd, who has no stake in your success or failure. It teaches you to write for the audience, rather than the critics. 

That's how I got started. I wrote fanfic crossovers for fun, then eventually started messing around with more and more original stuff. I estimate I put down maybe four hundred thousand words, maybe more, over the years. (And I'm hardly prolific, compared to some...) Finally, my last fanfic story really took off. I'd done what's usually a risky maneuver, and tried a crossover with one of my OC's. (Original Characters.) I figured that if it didn't work out, I'd move on and try another angle. 

It worked. It worked so much and so well, that I found the confidence to go legit, as it were. I started writing original e-books, and just finished a full novel about the OC. That novel's now an E-book available in Amazon's Kindle Store, and it's selling pretty well. Maybe not shaking the pillars of heaven, (yet,) but there may be a few votive candles wobbling, here and there. Feel free to look over it here. It's a sweet little supervillain origin story. 

Even though I'm self-publishing, I'm still writing that fanfiction. And after it's done, I'll write another. I don't see a problem with working on both original fiction and fanfiction, as long as the proper disclaimers and manners are observed. And I'm not alone in this view... a lot of far superior authors than me have taken this route. And that's just the ones who have admitted it! How many more lurk out there, behind exotic usernames, and the anonymity of the internet? Far more than will ever admit to it, I'm sure. 

Gonna be a long time before the fanfiction stigma fades. I ran into that years ago, when I was playing City of Heroes. A published author, with dozens of stories in print and respected within her genre. We got to talking shop, and she complimented me on my City of Heroes fanfiction. I recall asking if she'd ever done any of the stuff, and she laughed, said she'd started by writing a few Star Wars fan stories back in the day. "Any of them still around?" I asked her. "God, I hope not," was the reply. That's fine, though. Not everyone has to get up in front of the group, and confess their sins. But for those who do? You might be surprised, to find that they're no sins at all.

Andrew Seiple is the author of Dire : Born, and two other e-books at the time of this article. He owes his confidence, and much of his technique to the practice, support, and encouragement gained with online fanfiction communities. He sometimes tweets as @AndrewSeiple

Thursday, 17 December 2015

Guest Post GUY ESTES Triad (Sisters of the Storm Book 1)

Today we have a guest post on the inspiration for his book Triad; Sisters of the Storm, Book 1. Please welcome author Guy Estes.

Strong female characters have always been my favorite, but they're a character type that is very difficult to get right and all too easy to get wrong. The result is either a one dimensional – and very unlikeable – character or one that ends up becoming a damsel in distress needing a guy to come rescue her. 

When I first started writing Triad, the only women warriors in the fantasy genre were members of the bronze bikini brigade. My main character, Aleena Kurrin, is my attempt to remedy that. The gods designed her to be a warrior, yet she has no desire to dominate or harm anyone. At least, not until she experiences evil first hand. 

Triad is an epic fantasy about a young, gifted woman coming to grips with her gift and all of its responsibilities while trying to find her place and purpose in the world. I can't really say that I created Aleena. I didn't deliberately set out to create this character. It's more like she just spontaneously formed, and the place she did that happened to be my head. 

I wanted a fantasy story with a good, well-developed warrior woman (one that actually wore sensible armor) and didn't see any at the time, so this is what my imagination coughed up. Someone once said a writer creates a story the same way an oyster creates a pearl – something gets inside one's shell that can't be expelled, so the imagination coats it in layer after layer, thus turning a rough irritant into a polished thing of beauty. 

To contact Guy Estes and for more about his books you can visit his Facebook page here.

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Guest Post On Inspiration From Author Katrina Ray-Saulis

I've just begun the initial notes for a new novel. My first novel, a YA fiction about faeries, is out on some agent's desk awaiting a rejection (or acceptance, be optimistic!) letter right now. My second, a novel about ghosts in a hotel, is almost a complete first draft. This third novel, though, feels entirely different.

As you can see, I don't focus on one project at a time. I'm way too easily distracted for that, and I switch between projects daily. Eventually, though, they all get completed.

In her book “Big Magic,” Elizabeth Gilbert writes that she believes ideas are things of their own, floating through the atmosphere just waiting for the right creator to latch on to, to be their vessel into the physical world. I don't know that I entirely believe in her theory, but if there were ever a moment for me to start to it would be the moment this third book idea came to me.

This is the first time a book idea has come to me with a full story arc. I immediately knew where this story was going. Usually I get a beginning, perhaps an ending, and the rest is like my pen is taking me on a wild carpet ride as I learn what happens along with my characters.

My faery novel has had plot issues and I've struggled with the character building throughout. My hotel ghost story came to me as a series of scenes with no real continuity between them. This story, we'll call it the Story of Grainne, came to me with a full image of the entire story arc. I knew immediately who Grainne was, what she wants, and how she will get what she wants from the world.

I've learned through the beginning stages of this new book project that writing really doesn't happen with any sort of plan or method. Stephen King says don't carry a notebook anywhere, the best ideas will stick in your mind and you won't be able to get rid of them. Every other writer on the planet seems to say carry one. Some writers say you should make an outline. Others say definitely don't.

I say, follow your instincts. Use those writing guides and tips lists to get ideas and try everything once, but if your gut says to do something a certain way, follow your gut. This is art, art is visceral.


Katrina's first book By the River is due out in February 2016. For more info and author updates check out her blog/website:

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Soul Rifters Guest Post From Author David Shaffer

David Shaffer is the author of The Rifter Chronicles. Book one; Soul Rifters is available now. His guest post today delves into his life and the inspiration behind his writing. For more from author David Shaffer visit his website.

I started Soul Rifters in March of 2012. I was putting together the outline after reading about the Oculus Rift. (Before they sold to FaceBook for 2 Billion). I had some ideas about this type of technology in the form of sci-fi fantasy writing. I since own three Oculus Rift systems. My son is working on his first game in Unreal Engine for the Oculus. This exposure has led me to work in the kids/young adult area.

Where it started: It is 2330, Tampa Florida, I am in the Air Force assigned to MacDill AFB, working at my desk at home on a rare cool evening. The events were in the Tampa local paper. I was over my 20 years of service point, I was awarded the Medal of Valor. Things were great. In January of the following year I was hurt in the line of duty, suffering a Traumatic Brain Injury. 

It took two years of rehabilitation to get to where I am today. While I was hospitalized in one of the many VA programs, I was pushed by one of my many great doctors to try and finish the book. I had the first very rough draft, I just needed to get it edited.

I made it my mission to finish this book. At first I had no ability to use my left hand, so typing was difficult to near impossible. My injury also left me with a slight stuttering problem, so using Dragon speaking was not possible. However, I stayed at it. Over time I healed well enough and speak well enough to continue, although at a much slower pace than my initial four BS degrees, and Masters in Cyber Security. 

Late 2014 I finished the book. I was picked up by a small company for a three book deal. I am working on book two, projected Feb 2016 release date. In addition I have a children's series due out close to Christmas. Target age group of 3rd grade to high school. (Similar to Percy Jackson series style).

Monday, 14 December 2015

Guest Post: The Origins of Peter; M Pepper Langlinais on The Fall and Rise of Peter Stoller

The old adage is that writers get asked, “Where do you get your ideas?” And the answer is, generally, “Everywhere and nowhere.” There are times, of course, when a writer can pinpoint the moment the idea for a story or book came to them, but writing is a long process, and as time wears on, the writer’s mind is so enswirled with what he or she is doing, the origin of the book begins to be lost in the fog.

I can say this about The Fall and Rise of Peter Stoller: It started as a Sherlock story. At this point, I was still writing the story in my head; I hadn’t yet put anything on paper. I was playing scenes through mentally, which is generally how I work—I envision them, stage them so to speak, and then write them down. And then I realized it didn’t work for a Sherlock Holmes story, that what I had in mind was something else entirely.

So I changed the characters, and they sort of flew out at me as if they’d been waiting in the wings the entire time. And once I had them, the story just happened.

Peter’s original name was Stephen. But I liked the title “St. Peter in Chains” so much (that’s the title of the original novella that kicks off the novel), and I felt like it would be weird if he weren’t actually named Peter. So I changed his name, which pleased him a great deal. He never liked being Stephen.

I’d also meant for him to have a love interest with his secretary Miranda, but Peter made it pretty clear early on he was gay. So even as I was writing, my main character was hijacking my story. (If you read the book, you’ll see how unhappy this makes Miranda.)

For influences, I’d name John Le Carré and maybe Tana French. Le Carré because it’s set in the 60s and is about a British spy. Tana French because that’s the tone I was going for, the depth of character. I was at the San Francisco Writers Conference a couple years ago, and after talking to editors at big publishers, I was told my book is “upmarket espionage.” It’s not a bang-em-up, and I do worry about that a bit. These days, with short attention spans and the constant need for stimulation, I sometimes fear there is no place in the world for quieter, more thoughtful books (or movies).

I was once told by a tarot reader that, when a writer has a story or character that comes to them so fully, it’s sometimes a way of remembering a past life. And I thought that was interesting. Was I a gay British spy in a past life? I don’t know, can’t even say how much I believe in that kind of thing, though it’s certainly an interesting idea. Peter did come on strong as a character, and I have a deep connection to him. But many authors can say that of their creations. And if you write contemporary fiction, I’m not sure how this would work.

Still, there’s something interesting in the notion that maybe, just maybe, I was trying to make a better ending for a past me by writing this book.


M Pepper Langlinais is best known for her Sherlock Holmes stories. She is also an award-winning screenwriter and produced playwright. Her novel The Fall and Rise of Peter Stoller will be released by Tirgearr Publishing in January 2016. You can pre-order it at a discount at the following sites:

You can follow M Pepper Langlinais on Twitter @sh8kspeare and Facebook and her website is:

Sunday, 13 December 2015

Star Wars Opinion Piece On Writing From Author & Washington Post Columnist Andrew Hiller

It was May 19, 1999. The air smelled of butter . The marquis glittered with thousands of speckled lights designed to bring you back in time. In this case, not to the 1920's when the Ziegfeld Theater was at its height, but the late 1970's when a seven year old kid was first introduced to Han, Luke, and Leia. In that line, excitement fizzed, it popped, and some people practically goobered. This was Star Wars. This was a chance to go back to our childhood, an opportunity experience something new, and to meet new friends. There was even a cultural connection that transcended nerdiness and nostalgia that transcended the space opera. The originals had become part of our culture in adopted language, phrases, and iconic images. 

That was why I chose the Ziegfeld Theater. I wanted to choose someplace historic. Someplace celebratory. Someplace incredibly New York. Several blocks away, my first play would open in an Off-Off Broadway house, but this was worth an opening night. I put aside my pen and purchased my ticket and picked a seat. The floor was clean, no sticky pull here, and the chandeliers glowed like a constellation of stars not seen from our orbit. Then I heard a voice, no not James Earl Jones, or Anthony Daniels, but a concessions girl. She was sequined like something from out of a movie. She carried a small try full of drinks and popcorn, candies, and other goodies. Her hair was done up period style, and you could almost imagine her shouting, "Cigarettes! Popcorn!" like a character in an old black and white movie. I raised my hand and asked about a soda. It was Star Wars after all. I was at the Ziegfeld after all. She calmly smiled and said, "That'll be two dollars." Two dollars? It was the first time I heard my father's voice in my head. "Two dollars," he complained, "I can buy two liters for seventy-nine cents!" 

In the end, I couldn't do it. Out loud, I declined much more politely and she left. Soon after, the movie began. Even if you're not a Star Wars fan or a nerd, you've probably heard about what a disappointment that film was. I knew coming in that the movie could conjure the magic my seven year old self felt. Even if it was just as good, I wasn't a kid anymore. Plus, the movie had all the disadvantage of having not only to compete with the original, but its hype, and the experience of thousands of hours of play with my friends. What movie could climb that peak? Still, the movie had a terrible flaw one that has served as a lesson to all my future writings for NPR, the stage, and in print. There was no dirt on the spaceships. In their lust for special effects and CGI, the film makers crafted a world that was too perfect. It was not real anymore. It was not lived in. This was the failure of the Phantom Menace. It was special effects and action over everything. They had good actors, Natalie Portman, Ewan McGreggor, Kierra Knightly, etc. It wasn't a dearth of talent that killed the movie. It was the story. 

Character must come first. Plot must come second. The special effects, the action, the escapes, and the impossible must live nestled within that. If you don't care for the characters you won't care for the story. If you don't live in that world you won't care what happens to it. Ray Bradbury once said that you have to activate at least three of the five senses in your first paragraph to grab your reader's attention. I think this is true, but if you grab their attention, you better make a grab for their sensibility and heart too. 

You need to remember that special effects are not the story. The beautiful faces and trappings of setting are not the story. Even the lurching, choreographed action is not the story. The story is the glue that ties together the moments and its core ideas and philosophies. It is the reason we respond to the beauty and power of a your prose or that flickering celluloid. It's the reason we think about a book and discuss it afterwards. 

I don't think that's a moral fit only for science fiction writers. I think there needs to be dirt on the space ship in mystery, romance, and literary fiction too. A great mystery can make you think, but if you lose the character and the story in place of the puzzle... well, no one will care about the solution. Likewise, a romance without characters you care about isn't romance. It's porn. Maybe that's harsh, but I think even it's true. Even the lightest of escapism or the most absurd humor needs to be grounded in humanity. In any case, as the new Star Wars awaits, the inner child in me readies himself. I just hope that its skeleton is the writer's tale, a director's story, and the actors portrayal. If so, who knows... maybe this time I'll spring for the soda and enjoy the fizz of the tale. 

Andrew Hiller is writer, reporter, and commentator who has worked with NPR, the Washington Post, and VOR. His latest fantasy novel, A Halo of Mushrooms, is a story filled with wonder, wisdom, and dessert.

Saturday, 12 December 2015

Author JD Byrne Guest Post

The History of Moore Hollow

Moore Hollow started out as a joke. It was a pretty good one, if I say so myself. What would be the absurd, fantastical extension of the murky history of dead people apparently voting in elections (I explored some of that over at my blog)? Actually raising the dead to do the dirty work. It's one thing to manipulate paper, it's a whole different thing to create a cadre of zombies to actually cast ballots on your behalf.

But a good joke does not a story, much less a novel, make (although many great jokes are, in and of themselves, great stories). So I had the idea, the question was, what to do with it?

Moore Hollow was initially going to a be a short story focusing on King Tommy, the corrupt politician at the heart of things. It would be about his bold plan to raise the dead and how it backfired in the most interesting of ways (no spoilers, such as they are). But that straight forward approach didn't really appeal to me. I went in a different direction and decided to have another character, a modern character, investigate the legends of zombie voters and see what he can find.

Thus, was the protagonist, Benjamin Potter IV, born. I knew from the beginning I wanted Ben to be British and a down on his luck journalist. Then a funny thing happened as I started to play around with the short story - Ben became more interesting than I thought he was. What was his background? Why would he cross an ocean and come to West Virginia and poke around a small mountain town? The more questions I asked, the more answers I got and the more obvious it was becoming that I wasn't dealing with a short story, but something bigger.

So, naturally, I stopped writing. I've always been someone who sits down to write a particular thing and if that thing starts to change in front of me, I need to step back and get some distance from it. I put the aborted short story version of Moore Hollow to one side and started digging deeper into Ben's life. The more I filled in his back story, the more the story started to shift. What had led to me getting this far, the initial joke, settled further and further into the background.

I sat back down to write Moore Hollow the novel during National Novel Writing Month in 2012. What I thought was going to be a funny little story about a scheming politician and zombies was now a tale of a family feud that went back years, of a man whose life had hit the skids and who was trying to make things right, and of a little town with a secret that it might not want the rest of the world to learn about for its own peculiar reasons.

I'm not a huge fan of when writers anthropomorphize their work and talk about how characters won't do what they tell them and whatnot. But I understand how one of the great thrills of writing is heading off into country that isn't just undiscovered, but wasn't even in the neighborhood when you started. Moore Hollow was like that, sprawling from a quick bit with a few characters to a novel filled with people I didn't know I needed to write about. Until I did.

What happens once you solve a mystery? Sometimes that’s the hardest part. Find out in Moore Hollow, available now at Amazon.

JD Byrne