Category Archives: fiction

Ghost Touch by LA Dragoni

For fifteen minutes each night a portal opens in Tamara’s
barn and a horde of ghosts spills into her yard. She and Dex work together to
find a way to help Cal and the thousands of spirits stuck in the void to cross
over. When she learns she has the ghost touch—the ability to touch the ghosts
as if they were corporeal—and she accidentally helps a little boy cross, she
believes it might be possible. But not all the spirits play nice and when they
learn they can sip energy from her ghost touch, they become greedy putting her
life at risk.
Each time Cal has to pull her from the mass of ghosts, her
touch restores him more and more until he is at danger of being stuck on
earth—forever, which is very enticing to Tamara the better she knows him. Will
she and Dex figure out how to help the spirits cross and if they do, will she
be able to let Cal go?
Available in ebook, and audiobook
from Amazon, and now available in print!
Also available on Barnes
and Noble
, Kobo,
iTunes, and other
e-tailers.
Excerpt:
Tamara rubbed her hands together then held them
toward the fire. The air had an extra chill to it. “Hurry up, they should be
here soon.”
She’d barely finished speaking when bright light
burst through the barn. Tamara spun back around. “Dex!”
She shielded her eyes with a hand searching for
Dex’s familiar silhouette, but couldn’t make him out in the chaos of ghosts
streaming from within the building.
“Dex!” she shouted again, leaping forward and running
toward the door. A stabbing pain of cold sliced through her upper arm when she
knocked against the ghost with the shovel in his hand. He stopped to stare at
her with a surprised expression on his face. She pushed forward, ignoring the
increasing pain as she jostled up against the ghosts.
A knot of ghosts hunkered together where she last
saw Dexter. She pushed through them, her warm touch surprising enough to make
them jump back. Dex lay crumpled in a quivering ball at the center of the
group. Tamara kneeled beside him and clutched his shoulders.
“Dex! Are you okay?” He didn’t respond, just
rocked to and fro, mumbling incoherent words. She shouted. “Dex! Can you hear
me?”
His gaze finally lifted, a wary look colored with
terror.
“Oh my God.” Tamara wrapped her arms around him.
His body was ice cold. She pressed as much of herself against him as she could
and buried her face in his hair. “I gotcha. You’ll be okay.”
Then she became aware of an ache worming through
her muscles and realized hands pawed at her, clutched her, and were trying to
pull her away. She raised a furious glare at the eager crowd of ghouls and
snarled. “Stop! Leave us alone.”
However, hunger showed in the eyes of those who’d
been dead a short enough time to still have them. Actions became more insistent
and then combative. The group shoved and swayed until she worried she’d be
crushed beneath them when they fell. She kept her arms wrapped around Dex,
hoping to keep the spirits off him, but many simply reached through him to get
to her. He shuddered violently and had grown quiet.
Each individual touch drained her of warmth and
energy, yet they continued to grope at her arms and back, tug on her hair and
clothing. She grew weaker and weaker until the edges of her vision dimmed and
she could barely feel the boy she was trying to protect. Just before she passed
out, a roar penetrated her frozen mind and she sensed more than saw the crowd
spring away. But she was already too far gone and lost consciousness just as
lukewarm hands gripped her upper arms.
Reviews:
The writing’s terrific,
the storyline compelling. Truth be told, I rushed to the end to find out who
Tamara would end up with.
-Stuart R. West

About the author: LA
Dragoni
isn’t too particular about who falls in love or where they fall in
love. She simply considers it her job to capture the story about their love.
Whether it’s paranormal, mythical, or time travel, LA will be there to divine
their story for you. She lives in Central Oregon with her husband and children,
but haunts ghost towns and cemeteries up and down the west, in search of the
next adventure to sift through her storytelling brain. Follow LA on Facebook and Twitter. Subscribe to her mailing list and learn more about LA and
her work at www.ladragoni.com

A Little Christmas Cheer

Here are a couple of short Christmas tales:

mtnsAfter Christmas Blues

Even with a full day to deliver presents, Santa doesn’t finish on time. He gets home late on Christmas Day, and he’s so exhausted he’s in bed for a week.

“It’s outrageous,” Donner snorts when Mrs Claus asks for help. “We need a new plan.”

“Oh, it’s not so bad,” Rudolph murmurs. “After all, it’s only once a year.” His nose flashes a couple of times.

Donner tosses his antlers. “Just wait until you’re my age. That sleigh gets heavier every year, and when I get back I’m too stiff to fly for at least a month.”

“Well, what do you suggest?” Vixen pipes up. “We’re already limiting our deliveries to good children between five and ten who celebrate Christmas.” She tosses her antlers and smiles.

“Yes,” Blixen adds, “and we’ve got a stack of complaints from the parents of the under-fives.”

“There’s that new North Pole Federal Express office,” Prancer offers, shifting from hoof to hoof. “We could offload the excess, just leave enough so Santa doesn’t feel useless.”

The reindeer all nod.

And that, boys and girls, is why most Christmas gifts come in the mail.

 A Case of the Flue

“Santa has a fever. Mrs. Claus put him to bed.”  Rudolph pawed the snowy ground. “Who will drive the sleigh?”

“No one,” Blixen said. “We’ll send everything by Federal Express.”

“Belief in Santa is at an all-time low. If we send everything by mail, no one will believe.” Rudolph tossed his antlers, almost skewering Blixen.

“And Santa will feel useless and become depressed.” Blixen led the way into the barn.

“Ready to get hitched?” one of the elves asked. Without waiting for an answer, he began harnessing the reindeer.

Blixen  said, “Rudolph is in the lead. He could grab the gifts by the ribbons and drop them down the chimneys.”

“But what if the children spot the Santa-less sleigh? Then no one will ever believe again.”

“We should go. It’s our best chance to save Christmas.” Blixen stamped his hoof and turned to the elf. “Freddie, go tell Mrs. Claus to tell Santa not to worry, we’re on top of the delivery crisis.”

“Better hope everyone’s cleaned their chimney,” Blixen muttered as they rose into the air.

The rest of the reindeer snickered.

And so, boys and girls, don’t feel too bad if you got a lump or two of coal this year.
And now for a couple of poems …

Round
The sphere
is the perfect
shape

for conserving heat,
providing the least
surface area
per unit
of volume,

thus explaining
why Santa

lives at
the North Pole.

What Happens Christmas Night

I’ve noticed that Saint Nick’s a bit
too big around for him to fit
inside our chimney, Christmas night
the struggle must be quite a sight.

Perhaps he oils his nice red suit
all over so that he can shoot
right down the chimney. Then you’ll see
he’ll cut his hand and sprain his knee.

I guess that all those aches and pains
will hurt so much that he’ll complain
that getting down was such a chore
he’s going to leave us by the door!

 

 

 

 

Finding Their Voices: Using Language to Build Character

rndrbnlogo

Broken Bonds was the first novel I wrote with more than one point of view. The final version has five point-of-view characters, the four characters involved in a romantic relationship and the antagonist who is the “villain” in the political plot. There are three aliens and a Terran: Major Brad Reynolds, a major in the Terran Federation Guard, Ardaval Namar, an BrokenBondsCoverAleyni scholar and teacher, Imarin Namar, one of his former partners, involved in government, and Nidrani Namar, another former partner, a woman, and a musician. As well, there was Senator Hank Manning, a member of the Terran Federation senate.

I wish I could tell y’all that I was wonderfully methodical about this, but, alas, it would be a lie. Ardaval and Brad had appeared in a previous novel, Relocated, so their voices were pretty clear to me. I had little trouble finding a voice for Imarin and Hank Manning, but Nidrani was slower to come clear, and I ended up searching out clothing I thought she might wear to help me out.

I pay attention to grammar, sentence structure, word choice, pet phrases, how formal or informal they typically are in their speech,  pet phrases, etc, but a lot of it involves my being able to “hear” my characters.

One of the things I did was collect up all of the pieces from each character’s point of view and put them together. Then I read through them for consistency of voice and to make sure that they sounded distinct.

I do use grammar and word choice with far more intention for minor characters, where there is less time and space to paint a full picture.

 

 

Skye Taylor http://www.skye-writer.com/blogging_by_the_sea
Marci Baun  http://www.marcibaun.com/blog/
Margaret Fieland https://margaretfieland.wordpress.com
Victoria Chatham http://victoriachatham.blogspot.ca
Beverley Bateman http://beverleybateman.blogspot.ca/
Dr. Bob Rich  http://wp.me/p3Xihq-OB
Rachael Kosinski http://rachaelkosinski.weebly.com/
Judith Copek http://lynx-sis.blogspot.com/
Helena Fairfax http://www.helenafairfax.com
Rhobin Courtright http://www.rhobinleecourtright.com
A.J. Maguire  http://ajmaguire.wordpress.com/

 

Interview with Susan Hughes

Tell us something about yourself

sue

I’m a USA Today bestselling author of contemporary and historical romance. I live in Ottawa, Ontario, with my husband and three children.

Tell us something about your new book

My new release is A Baby for New Year’s. Since my first holiday romance, A Baby for Christmas, has been my best seller, I decided to write a sequel where Meg, the heroine’s single coworker and friend, gets her own second chance at love. More than a love story, A Baby for New Year’s is the story of a fractured family struggling to put aside their differences for the sake of a girl who needs their help. A Baby for New Year’s is an independent story, so you don’t need to have read the first book in order to enjoy it.

How did you get your start as a writer?

I have been writing stories since I was a little girl, always with the goal of being a novelist someday. I started writing romance about 15 years ago.

Which is your favorite, contemporary or historical romance?

I like reading and writing both equally, but historical is more challenging to write.

Do you use real places in your stories, or do you make them up?

I have used real places and fictitious ones. So far all of my settings have been in Canada.

If you could meet any writer, alive or dead, whom would you pick and why?

William Shakespeare, so I could settle once and for all whether he really wrote those plays (LOL).

I notice from your website that you do copy editing. If you pick up a book with a large number of grammatical errors, what do you do?

I probably wouldn’t finish reading it and wouldn’t buy another book by that author, but I’d never write a negative review. I just wouldn’t have the heart to do that to another author.

What is your favorite among your own works?

I am fond of my historical Music Box series because I used elements from my own parents’ lives to round out the details of life in the 1940s and 50s.

Who is your favorite romance writer, and why?

It’s too hard to pick a favorite! Recently I have really enjoyed Alice Orr and J.M. Maurer.

If you had to be marooned on a desert island with only one book, what would it be?

Probably some kind of survival manual.

What are you working on now?

I’m trying to finish off a Christmas novella with a tight deadline!

And do check out Sue’s latest novel, A Baby for New Year’s:

A Baby for New Year’s buy link for Amazon: http://tinyurl.com/jenoagy   New Years cover.indd

Blurb:

After an emotionally destructive marriage, Meg has settled into a quiet life as a single mother. When her pregnant teenage niece arrives at her door, seeking shelter, Meg finds herself caught in a family drama between the girl’s parents. She hasn’t seen her estranged sister Kelly or her former brother-in-law Evan in years, but she hasn’t forgotten her secret crush on him when they were teenagers. Now that he’s single again, he still makes Meg weak in the knees. As the New Year brings complications she never thought she wanted, should she listen to her heart and take a chance on love?

Excerpt:

Evan stood waiting at the top of the stairs, a small smile hovering on his lips. “They’re great kids,” he whispered.

“Yeah, they are. And you’re going to be an awesome grandfather,” Meg added with a quiet chuckle. “You know, before Julie was born, I couldn’t picture you as a dad. But you were a natural with her right from the start. And right now, I honestly can’t picture a kid calling you ‘Grandpa.’ But I know you’ll be wonderful.”

His smile widened. “Thank you, Meg. That means a lot to me.”

She meant to walk past him and head downstairs. But she paused beside him, overcome with feeling for him, and lifted her hand to touch his face. She caressed her fingertips across the coarse day’s growth on his cheek, her thumb grazing his soft mouth. The dim light from the living room glittered in his beautiful eyes.

“You’re a wonderful man,” she murmured.

Evan’s lips parted slightly. His warm, intent gaze tangled with hers, while his hand covered hers and he pressed a gentle kiss to the tip of her thumb.

Awareness quivered from Meg’s hand straight to the pit of her stomach. Her heart slammed against her ribs with a blow that made her catch her breath.

She knew she ought to suppress her feelings. She should walk away and send him straight back to his hotel. But she stayed rooted to the floor, only letting her hand fall from his mouth as he bent to graze his lips against her temple.

“You’re wearing that rose scent again,” he whispered. “That fragrance haunts my dreams.”

Meg closed her eyes as desire for him spiraled through her in a heady rush. Tilting her face upward, she leaned into him and brushed her lips against his mouth.

Links:

Website: www.susanrhughes.weebly.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Susan-R-Hughes/150348171749025

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Susan_R_Hughes

 

 

What do I write?

I’ve been tagged by Joan Curtis a fellow MuseItUp author to participate in a blog hop, What three things do you write about/don’t write about.

1. Poetry.

I started out writing poetry. I’ve been writing silly verses for holidays and birthdays since I was a teen ager, as well as the usual angst-ridden outpourings, and scribbling the resultant masterpieces into notebooks which I stuck in the attic and forgot about.  I love to write Relocated 500x750(2)rhyme as well as free verse. I find the restrictions often free me to become more creative rather than less so. I never had any intention of writing fiction.

2. Writing for kids

I’ve written two sci fi books for young adults published by MuseItUp, as well as a chapter book that’s due out later this year. I started writing fiction around 2005 or so when I joined a writing forum that required its members to write both fiction and poetry. I started writing for children under the mistaken impression it was easier than writing for adults.

It’s not. It is, or can be, shorter, which was what concerned me at the time. I got hook and I’m still writing.

3. Sci fi and fantasy

My love affair with sci fi and fantasy goes way back. I’m a huge fan of the Alice in Wonderland books as well as James M. Barrie’s Peter Pan, and I was already a die-hard Robert A. Heinlein fan when I choose the then-new Farmer in the Sky for my tenth birthday, now long past. Still, I only started writing my own in 2010 when I decided to participate in National Novel Writing Month in order to overcome my phobia about world-building.

I wrote Relocated 

for 2010 Nano. You can read about my experiences here. Now I have three published sci fi novels and am finishing up a fourth.

What I don’t write

1. Horror

I am not a horror find. I find it, well, horrifying. I don’t enjoy reading it and I don’t want to write it. Not my thing. {shudder}.

2. Literary fiction

While I admire  writers of literary fiction, I lack the patience to both spend the effort reading it as well as writing it. I do love beautiful language, proper grammar, and elegant prose, but most literary fiction, for me, is too involved in admiring its polish and not enough in engaging the reader. Yes, I fail to appreciate most of it.

3.  Historical Fiction

I love reading historical fiction, but, sadly, I wasn’t paying attention in Social Studies and am in no way suited to write my own. It would require a huge investment of time spent in research, and, frankly, I’d rather spend my time writing.

Not With a Whimper – an interview with Pam Kelt

  Dad_writing NWW_frontcover Your dad’s book, Not With a Whimper, is newly released on Amazon. Tell us a bit about your dad.

My father was born in Dumfries and went to study geography and anthropology at Edinburgh. Like young men in the 1950s, he had to do National Service, and ended up moving to England for work. His masters degree meant he could be employed as a teacher in England, not Scotland, so off we all went. He enjoyed most aspects of teaching, and had a marvellous rapport with some of the tougher cases that came his way. In his private life, he loved sport – golf and rugby – and was something of an armchair revolutionary. He was the most tolerant man, and modest to a fault, and loathed injustice and corruption. He also had the silliest sense of humour, which was totally infectious.

Your dad has passed on. What was it like for you, preparing the book for publication.

Hard! It took me months to open up the box of manuscripts when they arrived. He’d never DSCF0964-400let me read anything of his during his lifetime, so I had no idea what to expect. I read the first few paragraphs and was stunned. The style was so confident and professional. At first, the job was merely technical: I had to scan the typewritten pages and then correct them. After a while, the story and characters began to emerge, and I could recognise people and places – even myself! Subsequent editing was fine, but when it came to developing the website, it did get a bit emotional. My stepmother Maggie and I shed some tears, I have to admit.

Tell us a bit about the book.

It was written in the paranoid 1970s during the Cold War. It’s dad_head_and_shoulders_spaibased on a family trip to Spain. We stayed in a hotel in Andalusia not far from the American naval base at Rota. The place fired his imagination and the story is all set there. It’s full of the most fascinating characters, heroes and villains galore, with some wonderful cinematic scenes of suspense. With the tight dialogue and piercing insights, it would make a marvellous movie!

 

golfswing

My own father was a terrible martinet when it came to English grammar — he never let anything slide. Most of what I remember about the subject is due to him, not to my teachers.  Did your own father have any influence on your writing, and if so, what?

Dad was brought up in the Scottish system, so his grasp of grammar and language was top notch. He also continued to read widely, from the essays of Montaigne to John Updike, so he was quite the gentleman of letters. Yes, I can still hear him correcting me if I ever said ‘me and my friend’ or whatever. In fact, I’d be corrected in stereo, for my mother was a journalist. There was no escape!

You have written several books of your own. What is your favorite among your own work, and why?

It has be Tomorrow’s Anecdote. This started out as a rant against the sleazy misogynism of 1980s journalism and turned into a semi-autobiographical murder mystery novel. It’s also written in my own conversational voice, because I was getting weary of agents and editors sneering at my choice of words or use of adverbs. One day I just rebelled and out it splurged. It was cathartic. I had to be careful about some of the characters, and although I did think about killing off a few more just for fun, I was restrained. It was also my first book to come out in print, and that’s always special.

What do you consider your strengths as a writer? What do you struggle with?

I do like to plan the stories, and I certainly love the research. It’s sometimes hard to stop. What I do find hard is to have a regular schedule. I simply can’t sit down and be creative at set times. My brain just rebels.

What’s the best writing advice you ever got? The worst?

Best advice – don’t give up! The worst? Pay lots of money for writing agencies to edit your books before submission. You could spend hundreds of pounds, disagree with what they’ve done – and still not get published.

What is your favorite book? Favorite author?

Although I love murder mysteries and medieval whodunits, the books I can’t put down are always teen fantasies. Just recently, I finished the Leviathan trilogy by Scott Westerfield. It was fast, funny, action-packed and simply dazzling. I also loved the Edge Chronicles by Paul Stewart and Chris Ridell, with those haunting illustrations. I felt bereft when I’d read the last one.

What would you like readers to take away from your dad’s book?

Although it’s a spy novel, it’s a very human story about a rather modest bloke struggling with an impossible situation. However, it’s not just the main character that is so compelling. My father studied psychology, and just seemed to know what would make every individual tick. In my view, it’s a fascinating study of flawed humanity – and a cracking plot!

Any last words?

Getting Not With A Whimper into print was quite an emotional journey. I’ve been particularly touched by everyone’s response. It’s a travesty it wasn’t published in his lifetime, but we got there in the end. Dad was always one for saying ‘don’t look back’, but I’m rather glad I did on this occasion.

Links:

Peter A. W. Kelt – http://peterawkelt.blogspot.co.uk/

Pamela Kelt – http://pamkelt.blogspot.co.uk/

Video trailer – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AcivIqF9jhw

Meet Christopher Mannino

I read you teach theater arts. How did you get involved in this?Headshot1

I have been involved with theatre since I was 10.  I have been an actor, designer, director, playwright, and now teacher.  I initially went into theatre education because it was a stable way to make a career in theatre, without having to live audition to audition.  However, once I started working with teenagers, I found that I truly enjoyed inspiring young minds.  When I was in high school, all of my greatest memories were on stage.  It is one of my biggest joys to be able to share that passion with new generations.  Theatre teaches more than just acting, it teaches teamwork, leadership, communication, and public speaking.  Now, I can’t imagine doing anything else.

I loved theater as a kid. What kinds of plays do you put on with your students?

The school where I teach, and only started teaching at last year, has an enormous theatre program, one of the largest in the Washington DC area.  Every year, we present a Broadway musical, a play with the advanced acting group, a student-directed play, a One Act Festival, and a series of short sketch-comedy style student-written skits, which are performed at a large performance nicknamed “Pancakes”.  There is also a student improvisation team, which performs four times a year.  Next year, the advanced play will be different, as I plan to develop an original ensemble-based play with the class.  We will adapt a story, and create the play together.

Do you have to use abridged versions? I always hated those as a kid.

We use full versions of all plays and musicals.

Your book is coming out soon. What inspired you to write it? It’s an unusual CoverSchoolofDeathssubject.

The idea for School of Deaths emerged when I was finishing my graduate degree at Oxford University.  I spent four months abroad, far from everyone I knew.  Every week, I traveled somewhere I had never been before.  I would climb castle ruins in Wales and visit cathedrals in England.  One of my favorite trips was to Tintagel Castle in Cornwall.  I crept to the cliff face of Barras Nose, a stony peninsula jutting into the North Sea and overlooking the ruins of Tintagel, which some believe to be the birthplace of King Arthur.  It was dawn, there were no other people in sight, and I had to struggle against the wind, fighting to keep my balance so I didn’t crash into the ocean.  I imagined being buffeted by winds, alone, and what that would do to a character, and came up with the character of Suzie, alone in a world of men, buffeted by sexism.

Returning to Oxford, I envisioned Suzie alone in a strange school.  The idea of a school of trained Reapers appealed to me, giving a fantasy edge to her story.  In an early draft, the school of deaths resembled Oxford.  However a beta reader told me, very correctly, that Oxford was the inspiration for JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series.  I eventually changed the setting drastically to avoid that parallel.

Is this your first novel?

Technically, no.  It’s my first published novel, however it is the second novel I’ve written.  The first is currently shelved, although I may re-visit it at some point.  I have also written a play, which was performed at a high school in 2012 (not the high school I teach at now).

Who are your favorite authors?

Tolkien, Rowling, and Philip Pullman

 What’s the best writing advice you ever got? The worst?

An author I met told me this: “What do you call a writer who never gives up?  Answer: Published.”  I’ve never forgotten that, and have never given up.

The worst writing advice I received was from my parents.  When they heard me say I wanted to write they suggested I copy someone else’s book, or just write fanfic.  I decided to do neither.

What are you working on now?

My current work in progress is a sequel to School of Deaths called Sword of Deaths.  While I did write School of Deaths as a standalone novel, I knew Suzie’s story was not finished, and I had always intended to turn it into a series.  Other projects in the work include an adult science-fiction novel and a historical fiction novel set during the American Revolutionary War.

 What’s your favorite part of the writing process? Your least favorite?

The best part of writing is drafting at the beginning, a phase that is pure creation.  My least favorite part was trying to find a publisher, and now marketing.  Editing was difficult but it did help the story, and overall wasn’t that bad.

Are you a plotter? A pantser? Somewhere in between?

I am definitely in between.  I need to have an idea of where I’m going, and I sketch out with pencil and paper where I want my story to take me.  I outline roughly at the beginning, but once I have a general idea, I let the story run its own course.

What do you consider your strengths as a writer?

My greatest strength is my vivid imagination, and ability to bring new worlds to life.  The combination of vivid world building with strong characters helps my stories.

What would you like readers to take away from your book?

With determination, anyone can overcome adversity.  Suzie feels that she is alone, and she is bullied, yet turns her differences into her greatest strength.

Any advice to aspiring writers?

Keep writing, no matter what you do.  Perseverance and patience will pay off in the end.

Any last words?

If you enjoy the book, please visit my website www.ChristopherMannino.com for extras including a free prequel.