October 2016 – Andy Peloquin

Andy Peloquin

I am an artist – words are my palette

Month: October 2016 (Page 1 of 2)


What Publishers Look for in a Good Book

What’s your #1 worry when planning to submit your book to a publisher? I’m going to go out on a limb and guess it’s: “What if this book isn’t good enough?”

Writing a book that’s “good enough” is definitely the first step toward getting that publishing deal, but it’s not the ONLY thing to think about. There are many more things that can affect your chances of a deal, including:

  • Plot, characters, and setting
  • Correct grammar and punctuation
  • Coherence, adherence to structure
  • YOU, the author
  • and so much more…

It’s tough to know what a publisher is thinking when they read over your work. I know I’ve anguished for weeks and months as my work was in the hands of an acquisition editor.

Thankfully, I got a chance to sit down with a few publishers and ask them the question: What do you look for in a good book?

The Cliff Notes

What do you look for in a good book?

  1. An idea that is a twist or unique to something that exists.
  2. Quality, coherent writing that’s well-organized.
  3. Solid plot line—in terms of character development, not just stories.
  4. Can we work with the author? Are they polite, friendly, and easy to work with?
  5. Draws them in, brings out some emotion or resonates with you.
  6. Unique, well-developed characters that readers can identify with.
  7. Author personality. What are they like on social media/in public?
  8. Hook us quickly! Three chapters to hook us, or no thank you.
  9. Follow the rules of submission!
  10. Ending done right. Good pacing, solid story.
  11. Does the book have series potential? Closure of the story, but threads to lead into the next one. It should be complete and close the circle.
  12. Can we build a relationship with that author? For future books—publishers see authors as an investment.

What makes you turn down a book?

  • Poorly written.
  • Lack of basic editing.
  • Didn’t follow submission guidelines.
  • Lack of beta-reading: too many plot holes and mistakes.
  • Too many mistakes!
  • Unclear or lack of character/setting/plot development.
  • A book that isn’t engaging enough.

Marketing ability vs. writing/story quality: story quality is more important—you can learn to market anything if the story is good enough!

How important is an author’s platform? Story matters more than platform. A great story can build a platform, but a large platform may not be enough to sell a crappy story. ALWAYS look at the book first, then platform second.

The Panelists

Joshua Robertson for Crimson Edge: We are a small press specializing in Fantasy, Dystopian Fiction, and Historical Fiction. Please note that we are not a vanity press or a self-publishing company.

At Crimson Edge, our mission is to publish quality, progressive fiction to meet the literary needs of readers. The market for reading books has changed drastically and the competition in the publishing world cannot be ignored. As an author, you will find a familial group of writers with an appreciation for creative collaboration. And, readers will discover books that are written with prestige that contends with your favorite bestsellers.


Edd Sowder for Burning Willow Press: BWC is an independent publisher of Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror. We are here to tantalize your thoughts, spark your imagination, and tap into your most primal fears.

We pride ourselves in being a home to authors of other worlds. We saw an industry that grossly profited off of the creativity of others. We wanted to do something different. By cultivating and caring for our authors in a way no other publishing company does, we hope to produce a better quality story for our loyal customers.


Nikki Yager for Dragon’s Rocketship Publishing

TDR Pubishing is an indie publishing company run by sister-in-laws out of Florida and Texas. The company started in February 2016, and publishes fantasy, science fiction, horror, thriller, and paranormal.


Monique Lewis Happy for Winlock Press:

In just a few years, Winlock Press has introduced over a dozen new writers and debuted even more stories and series, professionally edited and beautifully made. We are at the leading edge of multi-format, independent publishing.

Think you’ve read the best of Zombie, Vampire, and Post-Apocalypse fiction? Winlock believes there are an infinite number of amazing new stories waiting to be told in these solid and popular genres, and we’ve recruited great writers, both new and well-seasoned — to bring their unique perspectives to the horror we love.

Winlock Press: www.winlockpress.com


Book Review: Salt in the Water by J. Ray and S. Cushaway

For Bonus Book Review Saturday, I’ve got a book that I found myself immediately drawn into. It had potential to be the best book I’ve read all year, but sadly it fell a bit short…

Salt in the Water

There are a thousand ways to die in the desert—desperate outlaws, deadly predators, murderous elements, and betrayal. . .

Kaitar Besh, a veteran scout as legendary for his cynicism as his skills, is ordered to brave the deadly Shy’war-Anquai desert one last time. Escorting Leigh Enderi—a greenhorn Enforcer with a reputation as shady as his own—he soon realizes the ghosts of his past have come to haunt more than his nightmares.


When the mission breaks down in the wake of bitter hatred and mistrust, even Kaitar’s fabled skills may not be enough to bring them home again. Stranded in the red wasteland without contact, food, or water, they uncover a betrayal that could bring all they hold dear crumbling to the dust. . . and tear down the wall of lies surrounding them.

My Review: 4 Stars

Let me start off by saying that the characters in this book are GOLD! I haven’t read characters so unique and intriguing since I put down the last Scott Lynch novel. Every person in this book is beautifully developed, serves a purpose, and has something to make you want to find out more about them. There is no clear villain, which is what made me love it all the more. Every one of the characters is simply trying to get what they want in a grim dystopian world. On characters alone, I would give this book six stars.

The world-building is where the book fell VERY flat.

Let me be clear: the world itself is very well-developed. While I wasn’t as drawn into the world as with other books, I always had a clear sense of setting and location. I could feel the desert heat, taste the grit in my mouth, and see the empty expanse.

But the world-building in terms of describing the world, politics, religion, and character backgrounds was VERY underdeveloped. There were a lot of names thrown around—Toros, Enetics, Bloom, Junkers, Harpers, and more—that snagged my imagination and made me crave to find out more about them. But the further into the book I read, the more frustrated I grew. By the end, I was actually angry (and still am) because I never found out as much of the backstory of the world as I wanted to.  While I’m not big on info dumps or backstory, I think the authors fell really short of giving me the details of the world and all these amazing, fascinating, and epic concepts. I may not read Book 2 because of this mistake.

Of course, that could be just me. Some people won’t care about what the Bloom is, why there’s a guy sitting in a shack guarding a well (and from who), what the hell’s the difference between Shyiine and Sulari, and what Toros is. But for someone who wants a rich, well-developed world, Ibelieve the book will leave you dissatisfied.

Here’s a Taste:

They’d heard her, and were coming closer. Their eyes glowed in the blackness as they crept around the acacia stump she’d been sitting against only a few moments before. One threk leaped onto it. Moonlight gleamed along its twelve-foot length, making scales and feathers shine like molten silver. Then, the beast slipped into the shadows and out of view once more. Leigh clutched the cell lantern so hard her fingers ached against the grip, and frost danced in front of her nose with each ragged breath.

Where did they go? What did Orin say about cell lights? Zres uses one out in the fields, doesn’t he? But—

Something brushed her leg. A shadow against shadow, big and smelling of blood.

Chirrrup? Hssss . . .

Leigh squeezed her eyes shut. She pictured the jaws ripping into her midsection, puncturing her flesh with poisonous teeth, her muscles falling slack from paralysis. They’d eat her alive, and she’d be unable to move or scream for help or—

The faint rasp of scales against her fatigues almost tore a scream from her throat, but she bit it back, teeth clamping down on her tongue. She tasted blood.

“Keep still. Keep still,” some hidden instinct whispered. “Keep still.”

Her eyelids opened as if pried by unseen fingers. There, just ahead of her and so close she could see it, a monstrous threk raised its head and sniffed the air. It regarded her with brilliant, sun-bright eyes as the wide jaws parted. A long, serpentine tongue flicked out, heralding breath that reeked of fresh blood. Strings of thick saliva glistened in the moonlight. Poison.

The threk sat on its haunches, studying her. Its curved claws flexed against the sand, leaving long gouges. Leigh tried to swallow, but her throat seized from the weight of the leaden fear hanging there.

Where’s the other one? Where did it—

A nudge from behind nearly knocked her down. She caught her balance, biting her lip to stop from crying out. The second threk glided by, peering up at her. Its shoulder brushed against her waist, bristling, stiff feathers grazing her fingertips. They rippled like water, silver and blue in the gloom. It circled again before joining the other, still crouched in front of her, close enough to touch. The first turned and nosed its companion, a low, raspy growl emanating from its throat. Leigh stared wide-eyed at the predators, her body numb. Beyond them, she could just see the campfire, looking impossibly small and far away. Kaitar Besh stood near the glowing coals, awake and alert, peering in her direction. His eyes shone every bit as brightly as a threk’s.

He sees everything and he’s doing nothing!


One threk slid toward her. Leigh watched, too afraid to move, as a scaled snout bumped against her thigh. The threk’s nostrils twitched as it sniffed her fatigues, its hot breath tickling her legs through the material. It hissed, staring directly at her, mouth opened to reveal a long tongue that flicked against the edge of her jacket.

It’s going to kill me. Kaitar! Why are you just standing there? I’m going to die!

“Keep still!” the voice—it sounded almost like the scout—whispered in her mind, more insistent now. “Don’t move, don’t reach for the Firebrand. Keep still.”

About the Author:

Sarah Cushaway lives in the snowy wastes of northwest lower Michigan with her husband (co-author Jeremy Ray) and their young daughter. She has a passion for historical fiction, but enjoy reading and writing many genres, including fantasy, science fiction, literary fiction, and speculative fiction.  Sarah began writing at a very early age, inspired by such books as the Little House series, Watership Down, the Hobbit, and Animal Farm.

When not busy working on writing the next books in the “A Lesser Dark” series, she enjoys spending time with her family and two grumpy cats, dabbling in art and music, and trying to hide from the snow eight months out of the year.

Find the book on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01M6UR3JY/


Read her thoughts on her website: https://srchushaway.wordpress.com/

Connect with Sarah on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/authorSCushaway/

Tweet at her: https://twitter.com/SRCushaway



Why Book Reviews Matter

We all know that book reviews play a vital role in the success of our books, but have you ever wondered why? I sat down with a few readers, reviewers, and fellow authors to find out what makes book reviews so vital to them:

The Cliff Notes:

Why do book reviews matter?

  • Ratings don’t matter, but text reviews give us an idea of what’s in the story and whether we’ll enjoy it.

What’s more important: the review, or the “Look Inside”?

  • For many, the reviews (good or bad) mean nothing if that first bit of the book doesn’t draw us in or pass muster.

What do you look for in a good review?

  • Honesty. We want to know what’s wrong/right with it. Our goal is to make it better, so we need reviews to help us figure it out.

How do you read reviews? Skip to the 1- or 2-star ones, or read the 5-star ones?

  • The 1-to-2 Star reviews provide value to us as a reader and authors.

What makes you think a review is fake?

  • A couple of lines, no real understanding of the book, etc.

The Panelists:

Heidi Angell:

Heidi Angell is a bibliophile, lexicomaniac and wordsmith. She is the author of The Hunters Series, The Clear Angel Chronicles, and The Hell School Series. She also created Royal Prince Vince, and Creative Exercises to Inspire.

When she is not reading and writing, she can be found spending quality time with her lovely family camping, hiking, swimming, or watching movies.
Learn more about her at www.heidiangell.com


RevKess is an author, reviewer, publisher and avid reader. RevKess struggled to read as a youngster, but once his parents got him glasses he was seldom without a book. He began writing stories and poetry at an early age and hasn’t stopped since. Most of his published works consist of short essays and articles for Pagan sites and magazines. His poetry, essays, and other short non-fiction works have been compiled into a soon to be released book called The Written Activist. When not reading or writing he can be found curled up in front of the TV with his cats. Watching TV and movies is research, after all.
His reviews can be found at http://revkessreviews.wordpress.com. He publishes for Saturn Returns Publishing which can be found on Facebook (and soon on the web). He also podcasts for Pagan-Musings Podcast Channel on BTR (http://blogtalkradio.com/pagan-musings). His Facebook page for writing is The Written Activist (facebook.com/TheWrittenActivist).

Ani Manjikian:

Born and raised in Southern California, the diagnosis of hydrocephalus at birth should have killed Ani, or worse, left her blank to the world. Her strength of spirit, parents’ love, and a miracle all combined to overcome that prognosiswithin nine months. From this almost impossible beginning, she has developed into all-around person with the technical knowledge and analytical mind of a programmer, creative and detailed orientation of a writer, and aesthetic instincts of a photographer.

Ani’s writing career started when a friend in Cyprus made her promise to stop throwing away her writings because she thought they weren’t good enough. After returning to the States, Ani set out to finish a single horse story and tried to get it published. However, the book, like the writer, needed time to mature. While perfecting her craft, Ani graduated from San Francisco State with a BA in Industrial Arts and worked several jobs from retail sales to human resources project management. Her innate ability to learn new computer programs with minimal instruction combined with her need to be creative led to her current long-term stint as a web designer and developer.

The book, meanwhile, spawned several siblings. Not knowing what to call this conglomerate of creativity, Ani turned to another friend who suggested a word play on the books main themes of horses, space, family, and heroes. Spirit of the Lone Horse, the first book in the Stars of Heros series, was published in March 2015 by Unsolicited Press. Others are on their way.


Website – http://starsofheros.com

Right the Writer: an author to author blog – http://rightthewriter.com

Stars of Heros Facebook page – http://facebookc.om/starsofheros

Twitter  – http://twitter.com/lonehorseend

Jez Ibelle:

Jez Ibelle has been a Blogger / Reviewer / Reporter / Editor of FirstComicsNews.com for three (3) years; paneling at San Diego International Comic-con in 2015 and 2016 on how to attract Media coverage for independently published works. And–a host of Geek-a-PediaLIVE: What Geeks you at PodcastDetroit.com.

Reading is a pleasure–writing about the experience is a passion.

As a sentence structure snob, she recently started a Youtube segment JEZ'(RE)ADs: where she–well–reads. Discussing what she likes or doesn’t like grammatically and suggests how to improve.



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Book Review: It Always Bites You In the End by Michael Fish Fisher

It’s Book Review Wednesday, and I’ve got a treat for you! It’s a book I didn’t expect to enjoy, but ended up reading in one sitting. Murder, mystery, tattoos, and weird deaths: a great read!

It Always Bites You In the End

When a DC Homicide detective finds a victim dead from unusual causes, he finds himself drawn down a path of ink and blood.

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When a Washington DC Metro Homicide detective started his shift on a sunny July morning, he was greeted with an unsual victim, an obvious snake bite; not something normally considered a homicide, but a tattoo on the victim sends him down a path he would never have believed. As the week progresses, an increasing number of unexplainable homicides draws Detective MacCallen ever deeper into a world of tattooed nightmares, terrors enacted in the most gruesome ways imaginable.

Can Detective MacCallen stop the murders before they happen again?

My Review: 5 Stars

The body count keeps rising, and only one thing can connect them all: a tattoo.

Mac is your typical detective: cynical, insightful, world-weary. Yet nothing he’s seen could prepare him for one grisly murder after another—a bite from a snake that couldn’t exist, an impossible decapitation, a drowning victim with a body too heavy to lift. Washington DC hasn’t had a spree of deaths like this EVER!

This story has the perfect level of snark and sarcasm, gruesome details, and mind-boggling mystery to make you want to keep reading until you find out what the hell is killing these people. You will have no idea how things are happening up until the climax. But wait, the best part of the entire book takes place in the last two pages!

I didn’t expect to enjoy this book half as much as I did. It’s definitely not my typical genre (mystery), but it hooked me with its off-the-wall narration. A whole lot of fun!

Here’s a Taste:

With a relieved sigh, I slid into the parking lot outside Guido’s and hopped out, taking in the glorious aromas coming from the restaurant. I ran into the package store next door and grabbed a six-pack of Yuengling before heading to the pizza place. I grabbed my pie and, after dropping it into the passenger seat with the beer in the floorboard, I went home to decompress. There is nothing like a cold beer and a couple slices of a deluxe Guido’s New York-style pizza to make you forget about the worries of your day. Okay, there are but this was my flavor of choice, on this day.

I was halfway through my second slice of pizza, as well as a rerun of Friends, when my phone rang. I checked it to find the caller ID showing the number for Forensics. I guess the geeks had some news. So much for dinner. I paused the TV, tossed my slice down in the box and took a deep breath.

I answered the call, “Detective MacCallen, Homicide,” even though I knew who it was. You just have to play professional sometimes.

“Detective MacCallen, this is Michael Williams in Forensics. You said you wanted to know as soon as we have something about the Pfeiffer case. The snake bite.”

“Yeah,” My impatience showing in my voice, hoping to hurry the chief lab rat along so I could get back to my pizza and that cutie, what’s her name, Lisa something…you know, Phoebe.

“We found something really weird. We were able to pull some traces of venom from the wound. It is, simultaneously, a perfect match for an existing venom but unlike anything we have ever seen.”

What the fuck was he talking about? “What do you mean by a perfect match?” I asked, feeling frustrated that I didn’t quite follow.

“Well,” Williams drew a deep breath, “it is a perfect match for the venom in an Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake. That was the easy part. The downside is much worse. Pfeiffer didn’t own any rattlesnakes, first of all.”

“Aaaaand…” I tried to get him to keep going. The guy seemed to have the verbal momentum of a snail covered in salt.

“Even if he did have one, for a snake to have a venom that concentrated, it would have needed to be a rattlesnake the size of a Metrobus.”

“Ok, so it was a huge fucking snake. So what?”

“Rattlesnakes don’t get anywhere that long. Anacondas perhaps, but rattlers, never. I definitely think you have a homicide. It appears as if someone has found a way to concentrate rattlesnake venom into a much more potent form.”

“That’s more fucked up than a football bat!” I exclaimed. “Why would someone do that? What purpose would that serve other than poisoning people?”

Williams paused for a moment, considering his response. “Perhaps it could be used to formulate a more potent antivenin but I don’t know if it would be worth it. Regular rattlesnake antivenin works well enough.”

“So we have ourselves either a rattlesnake straight out of a Sci-Fi Channel movie or a killer with access to top of the line medical facilities. Neither one really seems very likely to me.”

“It doesn’t to me either. So there must be a third possibility, I don’t care how sharp Occam’s razor is, neither one of those are even somewhat likely. We’ll keep working on it, Detective. I’ll give you a call as soon as we have more.”

“You do that, Pete. I’ll look forward to hearing from you, because it looks like there is some more work you need to do,” I punched the End Call button before he could reply, as the image of a giant rattlesnake sank in.

I leaned back, beer in hand, and gave the case some deep thought. About thirty seconds of deep thought. Then I took a long pull off my beer, grabbed my slice and hit the play button. It can wait until tomorrow, I thought as I took in the sight of the ditsy blonde on the show.

Wrong again.

About the Author:

Michael Fisher, Fish to his friends and family, has worn many hats in his long life. He’s done a little of everything, including US Navy Hospital Corpsman, club DJ, security specialist, psychiatric technician, painter, and currently, father, Mason, author and tattooer, not necessarily in that order. He has a love of ugly Hawaian shirts. He also bears a passing resemblance to Walter Sobchak in The Big Lebowski. He is also a member of the Horror Writer’s Association.

Michael is an award-winning author, artist and editor with J. Ellington Ashton Press. Awards include JEA Honorable Mention for Short Story of the Year 2013 for the Return of the Devil Fly in Midnight Remains, as well as Top Ten Artist and Top Ten Editor from Critters Workshop Annual Preditors & Editors 2014 Awards and Top Ten Author, Artist, Editor, Book Cover, Nonfiction Article and Short Story from Critters Workshop Annual Preditors & Editors 2015. DC’s Dead was awarded J. Ellington Ashton Press’ Editor’s Choice Award for 2015. He also won runner up for CEO’s Choice Novel of the Year for It Always Bites You In The End and Runner Up Anthology of the Year for Within Stranger Aeons for the JEA Choice Awards, as well as multiple awards for his cover design work.

Find the book on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Always-Bites-You-End-ebook/dp/B01LXFP8XU/

Read Fish’s thoughts on his website: http://epicfishtales.com

Connect with him on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MichaelFisherAuthor/

See his cover art: https://www.facebook.com/MArtDunkel/



Story vs. Characters: Which is More Important?

This is a question I’ve found myself pondering on more than one occasion…

Make no mistake: I’ve come to understand that it’s the characters that drive the plot, not the other way around. Characters have to make decisions and take actions, not just react to the problems they encounter. A good story focuses on the character and how the things they face affect them, change them, and help them grow.

But you can’t just have a great character and do nothing with them. That’s like having a million dollars stuffed under your mattress. Unless you give readers a good story to go along with the great characters, you’ll do the character you’ve created a disservice.

I sat down with a few of my friends—authors and editors—and talked about this debate.

What are your thoughts on this debate? Drop a comment below and tell me what you think…

The Panelists

Maura van der Linden: My publishing career started in technical non-fiction with one solo book on Software Security Testing and a contribution to a study guide for a software security certification. I then moved to writing small-press fiction under a pen name and began editing for several of my publishers. With the advantage of being both a life-long reader and a bit of a grammar geek, I discovered I really enjoyed editing and helping develop an author’s work without taking it over.

I enjoy the challenges of polishing stories and books without detracting from their author’s voice or intent. I guess I really love editing works of fiction.

Website: http://www.thecontenteditor.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TheContentEditor/

G.G. Silverman:

G.G. Silverman lives north of Seattle with her husband and dog, both of whom are ridiculously adorable. When she isn’t writing, she loves to explore the mossy woods and wind-swept coast of the Pacific Northwest, which provide moody inspiration for all her stories. She also enjoys bouts of inappropriate laughter, and hates wind chimes because they remind her of horror movies.

She holds a BFA from the Massachusetts College of Art and also completed the Writing for Children program at the University of Washington. She has attended the Martha’s Vineyard Institute for Creative Writing, the Oregon Coast Children’s Book Writer’s Workshop, and the Big Sur Writer’s Workshop.

Website: http://www.ggsilverman.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/GG_Silverman

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/GGSilvermanAuthor

E.M. Whittaker:

E.M. began writing when she turned 13, starting with fanfiction stories on RPGamer, Forfeit Island, Fanfiction.net and Lufia.net. After growing her fanbase through these mediums, E.M. considered fictional writing after creating original characters and backstories within fandom universes. After extensive encouragement, E.M. plunged into original writing in 2012, specializing in paranormal mystery, urban fantasy and psychological thrillers.

Website: http://www.emwhittaker.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/EM-Whittaker-1377638635799476


Book Review: Raven Song by I.A. Ashcroft

It’s Bonus Book Review Saturday, and have I got a treat for you! I have to say no book has sucked me in so thoroughly as this one did within the first 100 pages. A great read, indeed…

Raven Song

A century ago, the world burned. Even now, though rebuilt and defiant, civilization is still choking on the ashes.

Jackson, a smuggler, lives in the shadows, once a boy with no memory, no name, and no future. Ravens followed him, long-extinct birds only he could see, and nightmares flew in their wake. Once, Jackson thought himself to be one of the lucky few touched by magic, a candidate for the Order of Mages. He is a man now, and that dream has died. But, the ravens still follow. The nightmares still whisper in his ear.


Anna’s life was under the sun, her future bright, her scientific work promising. She knew nothing of The Bombings, the poisoned world, or the occult. One day, she went to work, and the next, she awoke in a box over a hundred years in the future, screaming, fighting to breathe, and looking up into the eyes of a smuggler. Anna fears she’s gone crazy, unable to fill the massive hole in her memories, and terrified of the strange abilities she now possesses.

The Coalition government has turned its watchful eyes towards them. The secret factions of the city move to collect them first. And, old gods stir in the darkness, shifting their pawns on the playing field.

If Anna and Jackson wish to stay free, they must learn what they are and why they exist.

Unfortunately, even if they do, it may be too late.

My Review: 4 Stars

I have nothing but praise for the beginning of the book! It started off with amazingly intriguing characters, great setting, and everything I could ask for in a dystopian world. I wanted to find out everything I could about Jackson and his smuggling business. His dreams: meh, but they added to the “fantasy” of the story.

Once Anna was introduced, I felt the book went a bit off the rails. With two characters living half-in, half-out of a dream world, it spent more time on the dreams and visions than the part of the story I wanted to read.

Still, this is just my preference as a reader. The book was very well-written, and while I may not have loved the story line (with its trippy dream-world stuff), I was hooked by the premise, setting, and characters. For those who can handle the more abstract and metaphysical concepts, this would be a 5-star book. For me, who loves a story grounded in reality, this was good but not great.

About the Author:

I. A. Ashcroft has been writing fiction in many forms for almost twenty years. The author’s first book, written at age seven, featured the family cat hunting an evil sorceress alongside dragons and eagles. This preoccupation with the fantastical has not changed in the slightest.

Now, the author dwells in Phoenix, AZ alongside a wonderful tale-spinner and two increasingly deranged cats. Ashcroft writes almost exclusively in the realm of darker fantasy these days, loving to entertain adults with stories of magic, wonder, despair, violence, and hope, bringing a deep love of mythology into every tale penned. The author also loves diverse and intriguing casts of characters.

When not buried in a book, one might find Ashcroft learning languages, charting road trips, and playing tabletop RPGs with clever and fun people.

Find the book on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Raven-Song-Dystopian-Fantasy-Inokis/dp/1944674004/

Read I.A.’s thoughts on his Website: http://www.ia-ashcroft.com/

Connect with him on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/i.a.ashcroft

Tweet at him: https://twitter.com/ia_ashcroft




16 Ways to Make Your Editor Love You

You don’t have to fear the mighty red pen of your editor!

Many of my writer friends are afraid of their editor. More accurately, they’re afraid of the massive overhauls they’ll end up doing once their editor sends back their books. Me, I LOVE my editors. In fact, the more they tell me to improve, the happier I am. I want to know how I can do things better the next time, so the more I learn from my current manuscript, the better.

Want to make your editor’s job easier and more enjoyable? Want to make sure your manuscript is as red-pen-free as possible? I sat down with a couple of my editor friends and asked them “What can we writers do to make you love us?”

Here is their answer:

The Cliff Notes

  1. Properly format your documents.
  2. Give me a setting and character I love.
    1. Use strong sensory hooks to engage the senses. Sight, smell, sounds: all of these things draw the editor (and your reader) into the story.
    2. Being forced to ask questions: make us wonder about what’s going on.
  3. Hold your ground and defend the reasons for your story. If there’s a reason why it’s put that way, let them know.
    1. Remember the editor is trying to help you tell YOUR story the best possible way. If they can’t understand what you’re trying to say, neither will the reader.
  4. Be easy to work with.
  5. Make each scene count. Eliminate anything that isn’t necessary.
  6. Bring an unfinished manuscript to your developmental editor. Work with them to figure out the best way to tell that story and make your plot work.
  7. Incorporate past feedback into your work. It shows your skills are growing.
  8. Build suspense through the plot of the book. Build it up so we enjoy it.
  9. Make an effort to pass the Bechdel test.
  10. Don’t talk about coffee too much!
  11. Be unique. Editors love to see something new!
  12. Follow basic plot structure (three act structure, hero’s journey, etc.)
    1. For plot structure, look up: Scene and Structure by Jack Bickham, The Marshall Plan by Evan Marshall
  13. Know the rules, but break them anyway. HAVE THE FOUNDATION, and build off it to make your work stand out.
  14. Don’t overdo it on the details. Make the details (action, setting, etc.) relevant, and use it to lead the reader through the story.
  15. Enjoy the process and learn as you grow. Be open to suggestions.
  16. Be on time with deadlines.

About the Panelists

Megan Hannum

Megan Hannum is a developmental editor and writing coach at Whynott Edit, helping writers refine their words, strengthen their skills, and tell the best possible version of their stories. It’s been said she has “a supernatural ability to see what’s missing,” which she uses to get writers from completed draft to publishable manuscript.

Get Social:

Website: www.whynottedit.com

Twitter: twitter.com/WhynottEdit

Instagram: instagram.com/whynottedit

Michael Dellert

I’m an award-winning writer, editor, publishing consultant, and writing coach with a publishing career spanning 20 years. My blog, Adventures in Indie Publishing, is a resource for creative writers of all kinds.

With a Bachelor’s Degree in English Literature and Writing, a Master’s Degree in English Language and Literature, and a summer seminar at Cornell University’s elite School of Criticism and Theory, I have a formidable understanding of the art and mechanics of literature and poetry.

Get Social:

Publishing Services Web Page: http://www.mdellert.com/blog/writing-editing-and-consulting-services/

LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/pub/michael-dellert/29/40a/986

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/MDellertDotCom

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/mdellert.editor



Book Review: Sword Chronicles Book 2 by Michaelbrent Collings

For Book Review Wednesday, I’m pleased to bring you an awesome Book 2 in a fantasy series I was immediately sucked into. The Book 1 is one of the few books to receive a 5-star rating from me, and the Book 2 is no less awesome.

The Sword Chronicles: Child of Sorrows

Sword thought it was over.

She thought that when she killed the Chancellor and ended the corrupt reign of the Emperor, that everything would get better. That the suffering would end in Ansborn. That the people would be free.

But now a new terror has been born. A trio of warriors who live only for vengeance, who know only hate, have set their sights on Sword and on those she holds dear. They are powerful, they are deadly, and they are impossible to kill.


And worst of all, they are but harbingers of what is to come. Because after a thousand years, the unknown enemy that lies below the mountains of Ansborn is at last on the move. And it is coming for them all.

Death from among them.

Death from below.

And only one person – one Sword – has any chance of stopping it.

My Review: 5 Stars

Let me say that I LOVED the characters in Book 1, and they remained as epic in Book 2. The unique abilities they possess are fascinating, and they are all very well-written, very well-developed characters. Plus, the world built by the author is rich, detailed, and sucks you in.

There was one part where I felt the writing fell a bit flat: the death of an important character (I can’t say which for fear of spoilers). The character’s chapter ended a bit abruptly without any real indication of what happened, then their later appearance in the book isn’t written with the impact I’d expect from a character death.

That being said, I was sucked in by the book once more—instead of focusing on rebellion, it focused on trying to control an Empire rotting from the inside out. I can’t wait to read Book 3 and find out what the hell is going on beneath the clouds, and why no one who ever goes below returns alive. SO MUCH to look forward to!

Here’s a Taste:

“This is your last warning!” shouted the bowmen from the tower.

The old man ignored him. He stared straight at Barnas. “You look young, boy. How long have you been in the Army?”

Barnas gulped. He looked at Ikaia, who shook his head and shrugged, clearly just as unsure as he was about how to go about responding to the question.

“Uh… three months, sir.”

“I thought as much. You haven’t grown enough to be part of the problem yet.” The old man waved. “You may leave.”

Barnas cocked his head. “What? What – I mean… what?” The old man might as well have been speaking the language of the Old Ones for all the sense he was making.

The old man’s eyes narrowed – or at least, the wrinkles around where his eyes should be deepened slightly, which Barnas assumed meant his eyes were narrowing. “Are you slow, boy? Get out of here!”

“Where do I – why should I leave?”

“So we don’t kill you.”

Ikaia, for once, didn’t laugh. He appeared just as stunned by the statement as Barnas was.

Laughter came from the guard tower, though. Gruff laughter that made it clear all five men in that hot box of stone and iron thought this an amusing – and probably welcome – break in their usually dull routine of killing convicts.

The old man ignored them. Nor did he seem to notice the other wall guards who were beginning to converge on this section as, one by one, they noticed something new.

New was rarely good in this place.

“Well?” he said. “Are you going to leave?”

Leave, said a voice in Barnas’ head. You hate it here. You’ve always hated it here, so run! Get away!


But a saner part answered: And where would you go? And how long before the guards butchered these three, hunted you down, and then butchered you, too, as a deserter?

He shook his head. “I am a solder in the Imperial Army. I am a servant to the Empire. I will not leave.”

Ikaia put a proud hand on his shoulder. “Well sai –”

The big man’s voice cut out. Barnas frowned – it wasn’t like his friend to stop talking for any reason, let alone in the middle of a sentence. He saw his friend’s hand, fingers still clenched tightly on his shoulder.

But the hand was attached to an arm that ended at the elbow.

And the rest of Ikaia was just… gone. There was only a thin cloud of blood to mark the place where his friend had been only a moment before.

Someone screamed – Barnas thought it might have been him – and then he heard the distinctive thwap of bowstrings being released, the shhhhk of arrows passing overhead.

He looked at the threesome, and no longer cared how harmless they looked, because clearly they were not harmless, clearly they were dangerous, they had just killed his friend and the only thing he could say about them was that he wanted them to die.

Time seemed to both speed up and slow down. It reminded Barnas of his first day on the wall, the first time a lunatic had run at him, spittle flying, teeth gnashing. The fear. The certainty he was going to die. The relief when he didn’t.

Because Ikaia saved me.

He turned. Followed the arrows’ flight.


The first arrow sped to the girl. She didn’t shrink from it. Didn’t flee. Instead, she threw the woolly at it. The thing, a foot-long ball of fur, the kind of thing mothers gave to infants to sleep with and keep them company at night, flee into the air…

… and grew.

In the space of the few feet between the girl’s hands and when it met the arrow, the woolly went from a foot long to something that towered over the girl: probably ten feet tall, and broad in proportion. Its four legs became many-knuckled things that gave it a strangely arachnid appearance, and its snout split to accommodate a suddenly too-wide mouth.

The arrow sped toward it, and it didn’t move away. It simply swallowed the arrow mid-flight, and seemed no worse the wear for it.

The monster was connected to little girl’s wrist by some kind of leash that ran from her wrist to its neck. The leash pulsed with a sickly yellow light, something unhealthy and unwholesome, and as he watched the girl seemed to… fade. She drooped, like wax from a candle that has burned too long. Then she fell forward, and seemed to merge with the leash and through it with the thing that had once been a woolly.

The monster grew still more as it merged with the girl. Its teeth grew even longer and sharper, and it bellowed a terrible shriek that seemed to shake the ash from the air. Then it leaped the fifty feet between it and the guard tower. It snapped another arrow out of the air mid-leap, then slammed into the side of the tower, driving huge talons deep into the stone and climbing up the side.

The next of the arrows hit the simpleton. This one found its mark, as did the next one. The first hit the big man in the shoulder, the next one took him in the neck. He shivered, but was strong: he didn’t fall. Instead, he stood there and writhed, his features a study in agony.

If it weren’t for the fact that he had just seen his friend utterly destroyed, Barnas would have felt bad for him.

A final arrow made its slow-fast way toward the old man. Barnas felt a smile split his face, for surely the old man was the person behind the evil that had come to the wall this day.

The old man waited…

… waited…

… the simpleton kept twitching, shivering, shaking, kept not falling

… the huge monster that had once been a gentle pet made its way up the tower, tore one of the narrow arrow slits wide open, and shoved its head inside to a choir of screams….

… and the old man waited…

… waited…

… and then dodged.

Barnas blinked, unsure what he had just seen.

Could the old man be a Greater Gift? Could he be one of those types who jumped from place to place or who made himself as smoke?

No. The old man had moved. And not just him, but the chair he was on. It had all shifted.


The screams above Barnas worsened. Then grew silent. The guards that had come from other parts of the wall screamed battle cries. Some drew short bows or crossbows. The woolly/girl/thing dropped among them.

The simpleton stopped shaking. And his eyes were suddenly gone.

Barnas coughed. Not a cough of illness or the cough he made a thousand times a day as he tried to get the ash out of his lungs. This was a sound of pure, perfect panic. It felt like part of his soul shriveling inside him. The choked sound he had just made was all he could muster in the face of what he saw.

The big man’s empty-seeming eyes had disappeared. But not as though he had been tortured, not like they had been burned away with hot spikes or cut away with knives. They seemed instead to have receded into a dark nothing. As though a part of the night sky had found its way to the man’s skull and cast a dark spell that extinguished any light around it.

And, along with the man’s eyes, any sense of a feeble mind seemed to have disappeared. He ran at the wall.

Except for places – like here – where the wall had fallen into disrepair, the insides of the wall were smooth, hard to scale.

But the outsides were another matter. It was only the work of a moment for the man to climb the wall. To flip himself over the edge. To land in the midst of half a dozen wall guards.

And to kill them all.

He moved so fast he was a blur, a streak followed by swaths of crimson as he spilled the blood of the six guards. They didn’t even get to attempt a defense, let alone a counter-attack. They simply fell.

The man didn’t use a weapon. Just his hands. His feet. His nails.

His teeth.

About the Author

Michaelbrent Collings is an internationally-bestselling author, multiple Bram Stoker Award nominee, and a produced screenwriter. He also makes amazing waffles.
Find the book on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Sword-Chronicles-Child-Sorrows-ebook/dp/B01HDQWE6G

Read his thoughts on his website: http://michaelbrentcollings.com

Connect with him on Facebook: http://facebook.com/MichaelbrentCollings

Tweet at him: http://twitter.com/mbcollings



Battle of the Genres: Which is Best?

As you all know, I’m a pretty hardcore fantasy fan. I’ve been reading predominantly fantasy for the last few years, and have been heavy into Speculative Fiction since my teen years.

But, it turns out, there are more genres out there! Who knew? Heh…

During the launch of The Last Bucelarii (Book 2): Lament of the Fallen, I posted a few virtual discussion panels I had recorded with my author friends. One of them (I’m going to say my favorite) involved a debate about which genre was best.

Sorry to say, things stayed friendly and polite, but I had a chance to ask some fun questions like:

  • Aren’t science fiction and fantasy ONLY for nerds?
  • Is there any way to make romance more appealing to men?
  • How is paranormal not just romance with a fantasy spin?
  • Isn’t horror all blood and guts?
  • Isn’t it “if you’ve read one, you’ve read them all” for mystery thrillers?

My author friends did an amazing job of defending their genres, and I ended up with a discussion I think you’re going to love. Check out the full discussion below:


Which is YOUR favorite genre? Drop a comment below and let me know why it’s the best…


Book Review: Mountains of Mischief by Gordon Long

It’s Bonus Book Review Saturday, and I’m happy to bring you the third book in the Worlds of Change series. I enjoyed both Book 1 and Book 2, and Book 3 is a great continuation to the series.

Mountains of Mischief

Nobody messes with a Dalmyn wagon train. That is the credo of Dalmyn Cartage, and their drivers and guards are up to the task of keeping it that way.

Until Aleria anDalmyn goes out on her first assignment as wagonmaster and runs into a simmering quarrel involving an ancient boundary dispute and forbidden Mechanical weapons. And a Ghost Beast from an ancient tale, which Aleria would prefer not to believe in until the mutilated bodies persuade her otherwise.


Trapped in the suffocating depths of a crumbling mountain fortress by an ambitious and relentless foe, Aleria struggles to survive as her small party gets whittled down and her confidence in her ability to do her duty fades.

Even the sturdy presence of her guard Captain, Erlon, with his hand-and-a-half sword, and the handsome but diffident Kolwyn anLlannon, inheritor of the lore of the Old Ones, can protect her party if she makes the wrong move.  And then there are the two unknown horsemen dogging her footsteps. Do they have contact with a traitor in her own camp? Who can she trust?

And where in her crowded life is there a time and a place for the love she craves?

Heralded by advance readers as the best book in the series, this novel steps up the action considerably, without losing the fine characterization and quirky humour of the earlier books.

My Review: 4 Stars

What I liked about the previous books was that they had a grimmer undertone to the classic fantasy story. This one didn’t have that grimness, but I found I actually ended up enjoying it more. The story and characters were more interesting.

Here’s a strange realization: who knew running a caravan could be so interesting? The entire book is basically about Aleria handling a wagon train, and I found it surprisingly fascinating. Gordon did a great job of keeping the story grounded in reality while throwing in the bits of fantasy that makes it such an awesome genre. The story is solid, has decent suspense, and keeps moving at a steady pace.

The only problem was the climax: there was none. The big build-up to the confrontation ended with a whisper, instead of a bang. I felt cheated and disappointed by that lack of high-intensity ending.

That being said, the story was overall well-written, clever, and engaging.  A GREAT book indeed!

Here’s a Taste:

Aleria had no idea how to read the time by the stars, but she could see that they had moved quite a bit. She considered going back into the fortress but, out of the corner of her eye, she caught a movement down below her balcony. She searched the spot, but there was nothing. Staring at things in the dark made them look like they moved, so she let her eyes roam across the area.

There! Another movement in the shadows. Got him.

Now that she had his direction she could follow his route as he made his way towards the barricaded entry. She heard the slither of cloth over tree bark, and then he was stumbling up the staircase.

She slipped back inside and waited.

After a while, there was a scraping sound in their old camp and the flash of flint on steel. A torch flared. She looked around in the dim light that spread into the hallway outside, but her hiding place stayed dark. The only route is down the corridor. If he comes in here for any reason…

But Lexing was on a mission; he did not pause. He strode, sword in hand, away down the corridor to the west. She slipped out and followed at the very edge of his torchlight, confident that his flame-seared vision would not detect her in the darkness.

As she expected, he made the correct turn to take him to the west end of the fortress. He must think we were looking for the jewels out at this end. He’s had almost two days in here to get his bearings and read the footprints in the dust. Now things get interesting.

She hurried ahead and caught the glow of his torch as he turned again on the proper route. Soon they were in territory unfamiliar to her, but he strode with confidence through a lower archway. As his torch lit the entrance, she could see that this tunnel was different. More rounded and natural. Could be the original watercourse. If I was looking, I’d choose that one, too.

Sure enough, when she entered this tunnel it soon deviated, twisting and doubling back, widening then becoming narrow. She moved faster, confident that his torch would warn her.

Then she flashed her lantern beam on the dusty floor and stopped dead. Most of the tracks here are the Beast’s.

She pointed her lantern back down the tunnel. Nothing but the blank wall of the last turn. She flashed it ahead. Same view. Well, I guess if I go forward there’s the chance it’ll eat him first. He must know it’s up here. He must be headed for its den! There’s only one way he would dare do that. She followed, deeper and deeper into the mountain, the rock looming heavier above her as she went. She held her fear firmly in check and paced on.

Then she heard a light “clack” behind her, like a nail on stone.  She straightened, every sense alert. A faint, fetid smell brushed her nose. The wind blows up this corridor. The Beast is behind me!

She pointed her lantern back, but there was nothing there. Turning, she hurried forward. The light of Lexing’s torch splashed the wall at the next corner. She waited, her heart beating wildly, until it faded. Then she moved ahead again.

When she turned the next corner, she saw a dark hole in the tunnel wall. She poked her lantern in. It was a small room, hollowed out like an eddy in the banks of a stream. She glanced ahead. Lexing’s torch. She sent her lamp beam behind her.

Two eyes, spaced far apart, flashed in the darkness.

She slipped into the room, put her back to the wall and drew her sword but kept it down by her side. Lantern in one hand, sword in the other she waited, calming her breathing, relaxing her muscles, preparing herself for battle. A stillness came over her, and she breathed a silent thanks to Master Ogima. Whatever happens, I’m ready.

The light sliding of talons on the uneven rocks became louder. Click. Clack. Silence as the Beast traversed flat floor. Click. She did not shine her lamp on the door, but on the wall of the room beside her. If it didn’t like light, it didn’t want a beam shining in its eyes. She would save that for a desperation move. As if anything could be more desperate.

There was a thickening of the darkness in the doorway, and a huge shadow paused outside. The gleaming eyes turned on her. She stayed dead still. There was a snuffle of breath as the animal drank in her odour. She couldn’t stand it. She had to do something.

“Hello there, boy. Nice kitty. Um…happy hunting.” Well, that was sufficiently stupid. I hope he isn’t intelligent enough to notice.

The head cocked to one side. Then the eyes swung away, and the shadow was gone. The clicking faded. She breathed again.

She stood there a moment, but then her knees had no strength and she folded down against the wall. Suddenly she needed all the light she could get. She twisted the lamp fully open, disregarding what it did to her vision.

She kept the light open until her breathing slowed and she realized that there was nothing to see, anyway. She closed the lamp down to a slit again and sat.

What do I do now?

There was a shout from up the tunnel: a wordless blast of sound. It was answered by a roar the like of which she had never heard. The man’s voice sounded again, rising and rising into a scream of agony, sharply cut off.

Then there was silence…

About the Author

Brought up in a logging camp with no electricity, Gordon Long learned his storytelling in the traditional way: at his father’s knee. He now spends his time editing, publishing, travelling, blogging and writing fantasy and social commentary, although sometimes the boundaries blur.

Gordon lives in Tsawwassen, British Columbia, with his wife, Linda, and their Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever, Josh. When he is not writing and publishing, he works on projects with the Surrey Seniors’ Planning Table, and is a staff writer for Indies Unlimited.

Find the book on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Mountains-Mischief-World-Change-Book-ebook/dp/B017JF493W/

Connect with Gordon on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/gordonalongrenaissancewriter/

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