Andy Peloquin

I am an artist – words are my palette

Author: Andy Peloquin (Page 1 of 48)

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The Artist’s Curse of a Sleepless Night

I dare you to ask any writer, “Have you ever had trouble sleeping because of a story?” I’m willing to bet that at least 99% of them will respond with an affirmative “Abso-damn-lutely!”

I’ve had many nights where I was trying my best to get to sleep, but the story in the back of my mind refused to let my brain shut off. When that happens, I HAVE to get up and write down everything that’s coming into my mind. Only once it’s down on paper will I be able to sleep. I’ve been up until ungodly hours in the morning because of a story that’s working itself out in my mind. It’s something we writers learn to live with.

I’m certain a lot of artists struggle with the same issue. I know my father, a musician, has gotten up in the middle of the night to write down lyrics or melody that refused to leave him alone. I’m certain the other artists (graphic designers, sketch artists, cover artists, etc.) in my family have also wrestled with a creative idea well into the wee hours of the night.

A study from an Israeli University found that visually creative people (painters, artists, etc.) tend to sleep less at night. The quality of their sleep is also worse. Their disturbed sleep habits can lead to difficulties functioning during the day.

But for verbally creative people (like writers), we tend to sleep more hours, but we get to sleep later and wake up later. I know a lot of my writer friends like to get their work done late at night or in the wee hours of the morning. (Having a day job and a family also necessitates this habit.) Instead of getting up early in the morning to write, it’s easier to stay up late to get in the writing time, then sleep in a few hours later.

Why is there a difference between the two? The study didn’t quite come up with a clear, well-defined reason why visual and verbally creative people have different sleep patterns, but it suggested that it came down to the neurological patterns of connectivity that control creativity. Visually creative people tend to be more alert all day and night, leading to sleep disturbances. Verbally creative people tend to be more creative while they are awake, but their brains are better-able to shut off at night. The cerebral mechanisms that control the two types of creativity (verbal and visual) are different, and thus affect the artist differently.

Either way, if you intend to be an artist of any sort (painter, sculptor, videographer, photographer, or writer), prepare for a few (or many) sleepless nights. The curse of the artist is that our brains never fully stop creating and making creative associations. Learning how to harness and channel the creative power of our brains is the closest we get to finding peace when it’s time to sleep. But sometimes, there’s nothing to do but accept we’re not going to get a full night of sleep and make use of our creativity. It’s definitely more of a gift than a curse!

 

 

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Book Review: Sun God’s Heir: Return

I know Book Review day is technically supposed to be Wednesday, but I’m the boss of this blog and NO ONE tells me what to do! Heh, actually, I’m participating in a Blog Tour, so I’m pretty much being told that I need to post this today.

For today’s Book Review, I’ve got a double treat: both a book review and a guest post. We’ll start off with the review:

The Sun God’s Heir: Return, Book 1

For three thousand years a hatred burns. In seventeenth century France two souls incarnate, one born the child of a prosperous merchant, the other, determined to continue an incarnation begun long ago.

In ancient Egypt, there were two brothers, disciples of the pharaoh, Akhenaten. When the pharaoh died, the physician took the knowledge given and went to Greece to begin the mystery school. The general made a deal with the priests and became pharaoh. One remembers, one does not.

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The year is 1671. René Gilbert’s destiny glints from the blade of a slashing rapier. The only way he can protect those he loves is to regain the power and knowledge of an ancient lifetime. From Bordeaux to Spain to Morocco, René is tested and with each turn of fate he gathers enemies and allies, slowly reclaiming the knowledge and power earned centuries ago. For three thousand years a secret sect has waited in Morocco.

After ages in darkness, Horemheb screams, “I am.” Using every dark art, he manages to maintain the life of the body he has bartered for. Only one life force in the world is powerful enough to allow him to remain within embodiment, perhaps forever. Determined to continue a reign of terror that once made the Nile run red, he grows stronger with each life taken.

My Review: 4 Stars

I’m not a huge historical fiction fan, but I’d have to say I enjoyed this book a lot. I almost felt like I was reading The Count of Monte Cristo, but with reincarnation and “soul mates” instead of vengeance.

First off, the characters are well-developed, with interesting personalities that are realistic and easy to identify with. They felt a bit too “optimistic” and “heroic” for the modern world we live in, but what’s life without escapism? The story held my interest all the way through to the end. The descriptions of everything—setting, background, clothing, sword fights, etc.—were excellent and drew me in. The character of the Maestro (protagonist’s teacher) was particularly interesting.

On the downside, the story is a bit slower than I expected. There are action scenes, but I never felt any heart-pounding terror or the overwhelming emotion at important deaths. The dialogue was a bit too formal, which slowed down the pace of the interactions. I felt the climax was a bit underwhelming considering all the build-up.

But, despite a couple of flaws, the book was overall EXCELLENT. If you like the classics (Three Musketeers, Count of Monte Cristo, etc.), you’ll enjoy this one for sure!

The post below was written by the author (Elliot B. Baker), and I found it a fascinating read!

Invisible Friends

In Quantum Theory, when two electrons ‘know’ each other, they are forever linked. (Remember, I’m just a story teller, not a scientist or mathematician, so the theories I use here are only the vaguest echoes of fact. Of course, in a quantum world, fact is a moving target.)

Back to my electrons. Let’s name them Fred and Ethel. Fred and Ethel met before the big bang. The youth hostel they were staying in was crowded, to say the least. Fred and Ethel had a brief fling and then were flung to the ends of the universe. End of the relationship? Not according to quantum theory.

Love/communication is not determined or diminished by either time or space. (If time or space is real, but we’ll push that to another exploration.) An electron guided experimentally will cause another electron previously paired with it to move in exactly the same way at exactly the same time, distance notwithstanding. So if Fred turns into a diner on Earth, Ethel, who happens to be on Planet 123 in the Andromeda Galaxy, is aware of Fred’s turn and if she’s hungry, makes the exact same turn.

Note: The “hungry” part is my original idea. Any real scientists, if they’ve been able to read this far without popping an antacid, have consciously or subconsciously said, “What!” I’ll come back to this, but let’s move on to romance.

If quantum theory is correct, we ‘know’ each other.  Have known, and will know. I asked my wife Sally Ann to marry me two days after we met. (Sally reminds me that we’d only spent about six hours together.) She said yes, and we have been happily married almost forty years. What? How could you have done that? My standard answer is that I recognized her. What does that mean? As a young man, I wasn’t particularly looking to get married or settle down. I was doing ok. Had a good job, friends, etc. but in a moment, I looked at her and knew that we had been together before. More than one lifetime, and that she would help me and I her to accomplish whatever we were here to do or learn. I acted, and have ever thereafter been glad I did. Ok, enough Cinderella already.

As I related in another post, I don’t spend time worrying about whether reincarnation is true or not. Like any theory that cannot be experimentally proven, as long as the theory provides benefit, as long as it is useful, I employ it. At the beginning of my mental and emotional exploration of this lifetime, (I must have been around nine or ten) I saw an unacceptable inequality. Why could I run and play and another be imprisoned in a wheelchair? What must that individual have done to deserve that? The child was my age and even though I was a creative youngster (I could create trouble with the best of them, as my folks would have agreed), I couldn’t think of anything I could have done that was so heinous as to remove the use of my legs for life.

So I dusted off my “why” (a favorite word for a number of years), and accosted everyone I thought might shed some light. No light was forthcoming. “God’s will,” was the closest I came to anyone’s even being remotely confident of their answer.

I translated that into “you’re not old enough, smart enough, good enough, to know.” Nah, that never worked for me. I was ok with the concept that adults knew more than I, but I didn’t see the world as evil. Still don’t.  That just meant that the adults didn’t know either and that was scary, but still ok. Like most, I pushed the unsolvable problem into the back of my mind until I came into contact with the concept of reincarnation. I must have been about twelve or thirteen. My conceptualization of the physical representation of the questions and answers of the world was kind of like the mail slots behind the desk in an old hotel. Without reincarnation, I ran out of slots. With reincarnation, all of a sudden the mail slots stretched on to infinity.

If we had as many mulligans (do overs) as we wanted, then I could buy, not punishment, but creative teaching opportunities. Of course at twelve, I didn’t see it in that way, but at least the gig wasn’t arbitrary. That I could live with.

Let’s get back to energy. Patience, romance is not done yet. So the universe loves balance, and energy is neither created nor destroyed. It also doesn’t have a problem finding the address of energies both negative and positive to find that balance. Remember, we’re not worrying about time or space. Electrons like company, and they like to dance. As aggregates of electrons and other stuff, so do we. At least the company part. The dancing waits for weddings and the occasional concert. So it seems to me that we may have begun with a group of close friends. Electrons with some kind of glamour that attracted us more than others. Which is not to say that we’re not in contact with all of the others. It’s just that it’s more fun for the purposes of physicality and non-physicality to hang with a smaller group.

How about soul mates. Is there within that group one electron that is closer in its sensibilities to each than any other? I’m just speculating here, but since in this physical world there seems to be more or less two sexes, and given the balance I think the universe is always striving for, it makes sense to me that there is a perfect complement for each of us. Perfect, however, where life is concerned, does not mean final, finished, unchanging. Life is growth, change and I include rocks in my definition of life. Slow doesn’t mean stop.

So in the story I spin for myself, we’re part of a group of folks working, learning, evolving from lifetime to lifetime. Some from within incarnation, some from without, always linked. Even the bad guys in our story may be friends in another, only agreeing in this one to create opportunities for us to experience some particular pain and grow.  Matter is informed energy. That information doesn’t dissipate just because the vehicle gets old and is retired. Entertain the concept that coherent information doesn’t need form at all. Wow, invisible friends. How cool.

In The Sun God’s Heir: Return (Book One), René Gilbert falls in love with one woman only to find he has fallen in love with another. René is an honorable young 17th century Frenchman and will not betray his first love. He cannot understand how it’s possible to love two women with the same depth of feeling and although he refuses to act on his feelings, the conflict continues. Until it doesn’t. What, did you think I was going to tell you how it turns out. J Nah, you have to read it to find that out.

In The Sun God’s Heir: Return, René becomes aware that he has lived before. There are moments where he inhabits previous incarnations for a short space of time deepening his awareness. His greatest pain comes from his failure to protect those he loves. The Sun God’s Heir: Return is a swashbuckling adventure through a brutal period of time, but it is also a journey of awareness, and growth, powered by love,  always requires pain.

About the Author:

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Award winning novelist and international playwright Elliott B. Baker grew up in Jacksonville, Florida but has spent the last thirty-five years or so living in sunny New Hampshire. With four musicals and one play published and produced throughout the United States, in New Zealand, Portugal, England, and Canada, Elliott is pleased to offer his first novel, Return, book one of The Sun God’s Heir trilogy. Among his many work experiences, Elliott was a practicing hypnotherapist for seven years. A member of the Authors Guild and the Dramatists Guild, Elliott lives in New Hampshire with his wife Sally Ann.

Find his book on Amazon: http://amzn.to/2ivhu4z

Read his thoughts on his Website: http://elliottbaker.com

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

Tweet at him: https://twitter.com/ElliottBaker?lang=en

 

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Using Disabilities in Fiction

People with disabilities and the differently abled have become more and more common in modern fantasy and sci-fi. And not just as the “burden” for the protagonist to take care of or the weakness the villain uses against him or her. The differently-abled have become true heroes and villains in their own right.

One classic example of this is in Joe Abercrombie’s Shattered Sea series. His main character, Prince Yarvi, has a club hand, but it doesn’t stop the prince from going on to do great things. Or Gregg Zimmerman’s Queen of Bones. I loved this book, because the author found a way to turn a handicap (severely disabling rheumatoid arthritis) into an ability that saved the main character’s life.

I’ve used disabilities in my own writing. Those of you on my newsletter list will have read the short story “Paint a Black Picture” where the main character has both Autism Spectrum Disorder and Sensory Processing Disorder.

(Note: If you haven’t read the story, drop a comment below with your email address so I can send it to you.)

I sat down with a few of my fellow author friends to discuss how to creatively use disabilities to write better, more realistic, and more inclusive fiction:

Resources on Understanding the Differently Abled:

Loving Someone with Bipolar Disorder: Understanding and Helping Your Partner

The Bipolar Handbook for Children, Teens, and Families

Asperger’s Answer Book: Professional Answers to 300 of the Top Questions Parents Ask

Autism in Your Classroom: A General Educator’s Guide to Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders

The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma

The Panelists

EM 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.

She is the author of Turbulence, the first book in The Renegades Saga, and expects to release her second book Drift by mid-spring, 2017.

Website: http://www.emwhittaker.com
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/EMWhittaker2
Twitter: @EMWhittaker2 (just starting)

My interview with her: http://andypeloquin.com/interview-with-e-m-whittaker/

Matt Posner

Matt Posner is a writer and teacher from Queens, New York. He is the author of the multi-volume School of the Ages series, about America’s greatest magic school; of How to Write Dialogue, a manual for writers; and the co-author of advice manual Teen Guide to Sex and Relationships. Matt’s new novel is Squared Circle Blues, about the rough and rugged lives of professional wrestlers in the 1980s.

Website: http://schooloftheages.webs.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/schooloftheages , http://www.facebook.com/squaredcircleblues

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/schooloftheages, http://www.twitter.com/SquaredCircleB

Spencer Pierson

I love to tell stories, and in turn see how people react to those stories. It helps to have a large amount of ideas and a really crazy imagination. I’ve also wanted to write for decades, but being a single, full-time father made risky choices difficult, at best. Now, however, I’ve taken that risk and couldn’t have been happier. Just “completing” a goal for myself has helped me in so many ways.

Amazon Author Page – https://www.amazon.com/Spen…/e/B01HCIE04O/ref=sr_tc_2_0…

Join my NEWSLETTER for future updates at http://spencerpierson.us12.list-manage2.com/subscribe…

Blog – http://spencerpiersonbooks.blogspot.com/

Facebook Page – https://www.facebook.com/SpencerPiersonBooks/

Kelly Erickson

Kelly Erickson has worked as a professional reader since she was 15, reading to students and professors who are blind or visually impaired. She also volunteered in the disabled adults classes working with people who have developmental disabilities. She studied psychology and social anthropology before switching to a math major in her senior year of college. She worked for the county social services department with foster kids, homeless people and people with disabilities. Her biggest advice: don’t write about disabled people. Write about people who have a disability. The person is always first.
Kelly writes whatever the voices in her head tell her to. Her book of short stories is mild horror written for teens. She has a vampire romance steampunk novel coming soon.
You can find Kelly here:
http://Facebook.com/KellyTheRed
http://facebook.com/OceanSkyBooks

Mary Crawford

Mary Crawford has been lucky enough to live her own version of a romance novel. She married the guy who kissed her at summer camp. He told her on the night they met that he was going to marry her and be the father of their children. Eventually she stopped giggling when he said it, and they just celebrated their 28th wedding anniversary. They have two children. The oldest is in medical school, where he recently found and married the love of his life, and the youngest has started middle school.
Ms. Crawford writes full time now. She has written and published over a dozen books and has several more underway. She volunteers her time to a variety of causes and has worked as a Civil Rights Attorney and diversity advocate. Ms. Crawford spent many years working for various social service agencies before becoming an attorney. In her spare time, she loved to cook, decorate cakes and of course, obsessively, compulsively read.

Facebook: www.facebook.com/authormarycrawford
Email: Mary@MaryCrawfordAuthor.com
Website: MaryCrawfordAuthor.com
Twitter: www.twitter.com/MaryCrawfordAut
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8294383.Mary_Crawford

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Duel to the Death: Ethan Jacobs

And we’re back with yet ANOTHER duel to the death! This time, it’s with my favorite author from Down Under…

I, Andy Peloquin, challenge you, Michelle Irwin, to a duel to the death! But it is not we who will fight, but our characters…

In the black corner, weighing in at 180 pounds, standing a cool 6 feet tall, the Hunter of Voramis!

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Tale of the Tape:

  • Superhuman reflexes, strength, speed–think Captain America, but stronger
  • Thousands of years of weapons training
  • Body has accelerated healing factor–can survive a sword to the heart (can be killed by drowning, iron weapons, beheading, and suffocation)
  • Cannot be killed by anything but iron
  • Accursed dagger that heals him when he kills
  • No magical abilities whatsoever
  • No hesitation to kill if he perceives opponent as a threat/obstacle to his desires–classic anti-hero

In the blue corner, standing a little over 6′, we have Ethan Jacobs, eldest brother of the Rain’s elite Jacobs clan.

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Tale of the Tape:

  • Serves the Rain, an organization with one primary objective: to rid the world of all non-humans
  • Human strength and speed
  • Has a preternatural ability for tracking
  • Can be ruthless where his family is threatened
  • Trained in defending himself and others against supernatural threats, using all manner of weaponry and whatever he has at hand.
  • His favorite weapon is his revolver; he regards only having his revolver as being “unarmed”, but is just as comfortable with any other weapon, including a katana, iron bar, sword, cross-bow, or flare gun.
  • He’s known for his quick thinking and ability to get the job done.
  • With the lore books and research provided by the backing of the Rain, Eth rarely goes into battle unprepared.

Two enter the ring, only one can leave alive!

How would Ethan kill the Hunter? If Eth was going into the fight knowing the situation, he would have the research behind him to know the weaknesses of the type of creature he was dealing with (and if the weapon was a well-known legend, he would have attempted to research into the weapon the creature carried). His usual cache includes cast iron bullets to dispose of fae, so his gun would be loaded with those. In addition, his bag includes a number of other guns, athames imbibed with magic and protections of various runes, flare guns, rope, cross-bow, and other daggers/swords.

To kill (your character): The Hunter would try to overwhelm him with his inhuman speed, strength, and skill. All he has to do is pierce Ethan’s skin with Soulhunger, and the dagger will consume him soul. Not even someone with considerable magical abilities can survive Soulhunger’s bite–it was created to kill demons.

Who would win?

Without his brother and sister to guard his back, Ethan would use his ranged weapons first (with usually lethal accuracy). He is well versed in taking on creatures with speed and strength well above his own (e.g. wendigos, werewolves, harpies etc).

Ethan would assess the layout of the land and either lay traps or “herd” his prey into the most ideal geographical situation he could and use the environment against his enemy (e.g. toward a lake in an attempt to drown the Hunter) or find a way to use the strengths of the enemy to their own detriment. His goal would be to neutralize any possible threats to a successful hunt as quickly as possible.

But the Hunter is no mere monster to be taken down by a well-placed trap or clever plan. He is a force of nature, wielding Soulhunger to deadly effect. He would use Ethan’s confidence in his ability to turn the trap on him, using his superior speed, agility, and strength to defeat the human.

If Ethan could bring his iron-loaded gun to bear on the Hunter before the Hunter closed the distance, the bullets would bring the Hunter down. But Soulhunger’s kiss would put an end to Ethan as surely as they defeat the demons of Einan.

Winner: It’s anyone’s guess. The Hunter may bring a knife to a gun fight, but he won’t be taken that easily.

Want to find out more about this hunter who would dare challenge the legendary assassin of Voramis to the death? Click here to read about Ethan Jacobs

 

Who do YOU think would win? Did we get the match-up right? Leave a comment below and let me know…

Want to match your character against the Hunter? Click here to enter your protagonist/antagonist in a duel to the death!

 

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The Fears that Drive All Action

Take a look at any fantasy or science fiction novel, and you will find a few fears that drive all the characters to some sort of action.

Fear of death – This is the most common motivator. The hero or villain fears their own or a loved one’s death, so they fight, conquer, or search for the MacGuffin that could prevent it. Nearly every fantasy and sci-fi novel has some fear of death. It’s why thieves evade being captured, assassins fight their target’s guards, and soldiers combat the enemy.

Fear of creepy crawlies – Snakes, spiders, cockroaches, rats, and other creepy crawlies are terrifying to many people. There are many phobies related to contact with these animals. Many sci-fi novels, in particular, use this fear to create alien races that are instinctively perceived as evil. After all, saying something has a snake-like appearance or a “rat face” is immediately “bad”.

Fear of the dark – There is an instinctive fear of the dark, because darkness hides potential threats. Assassins like the Hunter of Voramis use the darkness as cover, then jump out at their victims. Darkness can also hide magical threats, monsters, and more. The absence of visual input allows the mind to run wild with potential dangers. It’s why scenes where the main character creeps through the dark are so much scarier than scenes set in bright daylight. And it’s why so many “scary places” tend to be dark.

Fear of disfigurement and dismemberment – Many heroes try to escape torture before their sword hands are chopped off, or someone reveals information before the person torturing them removes an eye or their tongue. The fear of disfigurement stems from the natural reaction of disgust to anything abnormal or asymmetric, as well as the fear of being alone (no one could love someone so disfigured, the brain tells you). The fear of dismemberment stems from a fear of losing a part of one’s self, as well as a fear of being vulnerable (no legs to run away from danger, no hands to hold weapons).

Fear of the unusual – Things that are commonplace/well-known can become utterly terrifying when they change. For example, scary clowns, your best friends turning into zombies or vampires, and statues coming to life to kill you (a la Dr. Who’s Weeping Angels). The mind rebels against the changes made to the thing we’re so familiar with. That change from known to unknown can be scarier than things that are visibly monstrous.

Fear of being alone – Fear of being alone stems from a fear of vulnerability, which is the primal fear that we, the weakest member of the herd, will be picked off by a predator. Fear of being alone is also tied to our sense of self-worth and self-esteem. It’s easy for the psyche to make the jump from “no one loves me” to “I’m not worth loving”. That loss of self-value is another of the most primal fears that govern all human action.

 

 

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Just for Fun…A Bit of Reading

So I was going over old emails and I stumbled upon the original version of Blade of the Destroyer. This was pre-edits, so there were a lot of things very different.

One very different element was the intro scene! Instead of it starting with Lord Damuria falling from the cliffside to die on the forest floor, there was an actual chase scene with multiple POV characters and multiple deaths. Though it got chopped out in the published version, I thought I’d have some fun and post it here:

(WARNING: 2,400 words, all pre-editing so VERY rough)

 

He is coming. The Hunter is coming.

Lord Damuria’s mind raced as his booted feet crashed through the Forest of Souls, south of the great city of Voramis.

The sounds of forest life around him stilled as he raced past, and the scent of loamy earth filled his nostrils. Pain flared as tree branches whipped at his face, but he had no time to register the sensations. Exhaustion seeped into his muscles, but still he ran, desperate to escape the inexorable bringer of death hounding his trail.

Gods damned Hunter. The image of the Hunter’s last victim–Count Arendus of the House of Damasc–still lingered in Damuria’s mind. What a horrible way to die, hanging by your own entrails, eyes cut out. I refuse to die that way. 

Smoke hung in the air, filling his lungs and setting him coughing. His ruined carriage blazed behind him, the bodies of his guards smoldering among the wreckage. He could taste death on the air.

Behind him, struggling to match his inhuman speed, a trio of men he had hired as heavy muscle followed. They moved through the forest with all the grace of stampeding wildebeests, but Lord Damuria knew the noise of their passage would distract the Hunter. Perhaps even long enough for me to reach the city. Panic rose within him, and he fought to control his panting as he raced.

“My Lord Damuria!” a voice called out from behind him. “Where are you, my lord?”

He could not remember the fool’s name, but he didn’t care. The three would be dead before long. If I don’t move faster, he thought, I may very well share their fate.

 

* * *

 

Elwig’s scream echoed loud in the silence of the forest. He fell to the floor, his leg caught in an exposed root.

“Fuck!” he bellowed in his pain. “My leg!”

“Damn it, Elwig!” Trasik shouted. He could see Elwig’s leg bone protruding through the skin, and blood pooled beneath his fallen companion. Binding the leg will stop the bleeding, but the poor bastard won’t be running anywhere.

He whirled around, his panicking ears searching for the source of the sound he thought he had heard. The crackling of the burning carriage filtered through the silence, and his eyes darted in every direction.

“Alright, Elwig, get-” He stopped mid-sentence as he saw his companion. The tip of a crossbow bolt protruded from Elwig’s face, the man’s eyeball hanging from its socket by a thin strip of flesh.

Trasik’s blood turned to ice in his veins. The Hunter, he thought. Lady’s twisted teats!

Twigs cracked behind him. A strong hand grasped him arm.

“Shut the fuck up, Trasik you cowardly cunt.” Grannt’s harsh voice grated in Trasik’s ears. “You’re supposed to be protecting Lord Damuria, not cowering and hiding.”

“But Elwig-” Trasik whined.

“Is dead, you pig-fucking numbskull. We were hired to protect Lord Damuria, and that’s exactly what we are going to do. Do you want to end up like fat old Lord Drathos?”

Grannt hated being paired with Trasik. The fool is all muscle and no brains. He may be good in a street fight, but is utterly useless when it counted. He struggled to keep the revulsion from his face as he dragged Trasik along behind him. Gods damn the Third for sending him with us.

Terror spread on Trasik’s face. “Head on a spike, cock hanging out of my mouth?” he whispered. “Not a fucking chance!”

“Then run, dimwit!” Grannt shouted, following his words with a hard slap to Trasik’s face. “We have to reach Lord Damuria before the Hunter does the same to him!”

Dragging along a very reluctant, very terrified Trasik, Grannt resumed his sprint through the forest. His ears strained to catch any sound of his employer as he ran.

Where in the hells, he thought, did that pompous twist Damuria get off to now?

 

* * *

 

Lord Damuria’s breath came hard, but at least he had left the smoke behind. An odd thought flickered through his consciousness for a moment.

If only Lord Daavros could see me now…

His rich robes were the envy of Voramis, cut in the latest fashion and tailored to fit his body like a glove. What had once been costly silk was now little more than a hindrance, and he cast aside the heavy cloak in favor of greater freedom of movement.

Brightly colored fabrics worth a worker’s yearly wages ripped on branches. What I wouldn’t give for a drab cloak of a sensible color, instead of these garish clothes that stand out in the forest!

Soot from the burning carriage streaked his face and clothes, and mud caked both knees. His dark hair, once so coiffed and controlled, flew in the wind, sticks and leaves tangling in his locks with every step.

Never in his life had he run so far so fast, but desperation pumped through his veins as he pushed through the forest. His feet kept time with his racing pulse, and his heart felt like it would beat free of his chest.

He is hunting me, thought the fleeing lord. That merciless creature of death, that force of nature. The Hunter of Voramis. A wild, feral smile broke out on his face as he ran. He will find I am not so easy a kill.

 

* * *

 

Trasik’s terror had subsided, but Grannt could see the fool would go into shock if he stopped moving.

“Gods damn it, Trasik, run faster!” he said aloud, turning to find his companion. “We have to catch up with Lord Damuria before-”

He was alone in the forest. Trasik was nowhere in sight.

What the fuck? Grannt thought, sliding to a stop. He was just here…

His thoughts trailed off as he saw the headless corpse on the ground behind him. Trasik’s head rolled to a stop between two elder trees. Blood streaked the man’s blond hair, and the spreading stain of blood contrasted with the pristine white flowers in full bloom. The sweet scent of honeysuckle hung thick in the forest, but all Grannt could taste was the coppery tang of Trasik’s blood where it had spattered him.

“Keeper’s shriveled taint!” he cursed aloud. “Gods damn you, Hunter!”

He drew the pair of daggers he always carried hidden beneath his clothing, but knew they would do little against his merciless foe. Still, he thought, I will not meet The Watcher with empty hands.

 

* * *

 

Lord Damuria risked an anxious glance over his shoulder as he ran, and it almost cost him his head. Sheer luck allowed him to avoid a low-hanging branch, but he nearly lost his footing as he ducked. The forest flashed by in a mottled brown and green blur, but the aristocrat kept his eyes firmly focused ahead.

Fuck damned Hunter. I have to be outpacing Him.

No time to think, no time to look around. Just run, his panicking mind told him.

He had left his guards far behind in his hurry to escape. Their lives were his, bought and paid for, and he was happy to spend them in his escape from the Hunter.

They should slow Him down long enough for me to reach Voramis, and safety. The Bloody Hand will protect me from Him.

His optimism was little more than wishful thinking. Ever out of sight, deep in his subconscious, Lord Damuria knew He was there. The thick forest around him would not hide the terrified noble from the Hunter’s merciless blade.

The Hunter would follow him until his strength failed him, and the chase would culminate in death. But whose death, that remains to be seen.

As if the Hunter could penetrate his mind, a thought flickered through Lord Damuria’s mind: Run. I will find you. Run and, hide little mortal. Wherever you go, you cannot escape me.

Was it just his imagination?

 

* * *

 

“Come on, you bastard!” Grannt shouted at the silent forest. “You’ll not take me that easily!”

The familiar leather grips of his knives, worn smooth by years of use, comforted the man. A wicked smile spread on his face as he remembered the dozens of men and women who had met their end on the sharp steel.

I’ll not share the fate of Elwig and Trasik. His eyes flicked in every direction, searching for any sign of his hunter.

There! He had seen a flash of motion, the barest hint of something flickering in the shadows beneath the forest canopy. I see you now, you bastard.

The dark figure of the Hunter rushed towards him in a blur of motion, gliding through the trees at superhuman speed. Grannt’s face split into a feral grin, and he thrust forward with the knife in his right hand, expecting to impale the cloaked and hooded creature.

His knife found empty air and he stumbled forward, off balance. He tried to swing with his left hand, but his arms refused to move. His body felt numb, detached.

Looking down, Grannt saw blood spill down the front of his cloak. Bright red gushed from a gaping wound in his throat, turning the rich earth beneath him to ochre mud.

Odd. Grannt’s final thoughts came with startling clarity. The bastard didn’t even slow down…

 

* * *

 

Lord Damuria struggled to fill his lungs with air. The nagging pain in his side blossomed into agony, yet still he ran.

He struggled to clear his mind, to push the terror away. Fear would get him killed, like it had so many of the victims the Hunter had claimed in Voramis over the years.

If I don’t outrun Him, if He kills me, our plans will come to naught. All we have worked for, all our efforts, wasted.

His mind cast about for a way of escape, and a sudden thought struck him.

The cliffs. If I can reach the cliffs, I have a chance. I can outpace Him, and the only way He’ll follow is if the bastard sprouts wings. A feral smile spread across his face.

“You’ve not caught me yet, Hunter!” Lord Damuria panted aloud.

 

* * *

 

The craggy cliff face rose ahead of him, towering high above the tops of the forest. Almost there! I just need to climb the damn thing, and I’ll be-

The thick head of a crossbow bolt embedded itself into his right shoulder with an agonizing “thunk”, plowing destruction through his upper body and sending him stumbling.

Lord Damuria grimaced as he fell to one knee, the hard bone of his kneecap encountering a sharp rock buried beneath the soft loam of the forest floor.

He barely managed to stop himself from falling to his face, throwing out his right hand to arrest his forward motion. Waves of agony radiated from his broken shoulder, and muscles torn by the crossbow bolt refused to hold him.

Can’t stop!  the animal within him screamed. Lord Damuria knew that if he stopped running, he would never escape.

He pushed himself to his feet, struggling to ignore the sensation radiating through his upper body. A glance at the head of the bolt protruding from his shoulder showed him what he feared most: argam.

The thick black tar was highly toxic, and he could see the sticky poison turning his blood a sickly green. He knew he was already dead, but refused to give in.

Lord Damuria felt hot wetness on his back. His blood. He could smell the poison, the putrid stench of blood turned rotten by the argam.

And still he refused to yield to his certain fate. The argam’s venom clouded his brain, but he fought for clarity.

If I can reach the top of that cliff, I can escape. He would have to endure the pain of his shattered shoulder if he was to outrun the Hunter.

His was a maniacal, desperate laugh, bellowing forth with the futility of the situation. I will not die so easily, Hunter.

Lord Damuria stumbled forward, picking up speed as he ran towards the cliff face. Throwing himself as high into the air as he could, he slammed into the rock wall. The impact knocked the breath from him, but he was beyond caring.

He hung from the cliff, the ache in his arm spreading with the argam. The pain of his shattered shoulder cut through the mind-numbing effects of the poison like a knife; a very dull knife.

Hand over hand, the stubborn lord pulled himself towards the top of the cliff. His parched throat begged for water, but he focused on one thought: reach the top.

Time slowed to a crawl as Damuria climbed. Thoughts of the Hunter faded, even though a part of him knew the bastard was right behind him. He struggled through the pain, fighting to reach the top of the cliff.

He could see the top, could almost feel the breezes of the plains above whispering across his face. In his mind’s eye, he saw himself rushing across the plain towards his city, Voramis. Only there would he be safe.

His hand reached for the lip of the cliff, shaking with exhaustion. You’ll never catch me now, Hunter, Lord Damuria thought. I’ve escaped your-

A scream ripped from Lord Damuria’s throat as the crossbow bolt slammed into his leg. The tip of the bolt buried itself into the cliff face, pinning him to the rock.

Green oozed from his leg. This bolt too had been coated with the venomous argam. Damuria’s body became sluggish, the poison spreading quickly through his body. Thick green blood stained the rock wall. My blood.

His fingers cramped, stiffened. He felt his hold on the cliff wall weakening.

It is inevitable.

Another bolt streaked towards him from below. The broad head of the bolt severed his hand at the wrist. Blood spurted for a long second before dwindling to a trickle. His pain and poison-numbed mind registered that he had little blood left to lose.

Lord Damuria knew it was the end.  I refuse to meet the Long Keeper like a butterfly mounted for display.

With a final gasp of agony, he thrust himself away from the cliff face. The bolt in his leg held him suspended for a long moment, but the force of his fall ripped it from the rock.

The wind seemed to hold his body up as he fell, and he experienced a moment of weightlessness. Then, after what seemed like a pain-filled lifetime, his body was released into the clutches of gravity and he plummeted towards the forest floor.

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Using History to Write Fantasy

I’ve LOVED history since I was very young. Among the first books I ever devoured were the Complete Encyclopedia Britannica, and I lost myself for hours in page after page of wonders and marvels of the ancient and modern world. From the Library at Alexandria to the reign of Genghis Khan to Custer’s Last Stand to the Charge of the Light Brigade, history provides so many fascinating stories.

Is it any wonder that so many fantasy authors (myself included) use history to write amazing novels? There is so much inspiration in history—everything from politics to religion to cultures to great heroes to epic battles. History not only gives fantasy stories context, but it provides both valuable lessons (of what not to do) and a look at a simpler time.

I sat down with a few of my author friends and talked about how to use history to write amazing fantasy stories. I found it a fascinating topic, and I believe you will, too!

Panelists:

Michelle Irwin has been many things: a hobbit taking a precious item to a fiery mountain; a young child stepping through the back of a wardrobe into another land; the last human stranded not-quite-alone in space three million years in the future; and a time-travelling madman in a box. All of these feats and many more were achieved through her voracious reading. Eventually, the cast inside her mind took over and spilled onto the page.

Michelle lives in sunny Queensland in the land down under. A lover of love and overcoming the odds, she primarily writes paranormal and fantasy romance.

Social Links:
Facebook Author page: https://www.facebook.com/MichelleIrwinAuthor
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/author/michelleirwin
Website: www.michelle-irwin.com

Angie Grigaliunas (grig-ah-LOO-nahs) is a fantasy writer and blogger. She’s a country girl at heart, in the sense that she wants to be in nature and away from civilization. She loves Jesus, the woods, and the stars, and has always wanted to be a superhero with a secret identity. Seriously.

She has completed three books: one about elves that needs a massive revision before it ever sees the light of day, one that is part of her current story but also needs a massive revision to fit a new storyline, and the actual first book (Sowing) in her dystopian/medieval/grimdark/semi-romance series (The Purification Era). When she’s not writing, she’s usually Facebooking – ack! – or thinking about story stuff. Despite several of her writing friends claiming she’s Canadian, she is not; she lives in Ohio with her dear husband and their crazy cats.

www.facebook.com/angiegrigaliunaszewriter

www.angiegrigaliunas.blogspot.com

www.twitter.com/Angie_ZeWriter

www.instagram.com/angiegrigaliunas

http://amzn.to/2ck9So6

Caterina Pryde, sometimes writer, editor at Worlds of Wonder

http://www.worldsofwondermagazine.com/

Michael R. Baker is twenty-six years old and lives in the United Kingdom. An avid fan of history and fantasy, he graduated from the University of Sunderland with a Bachelor’s Degree in History and Politics, and he has always found the history of world culture’s fascinating.
Writing however has always been an interest to him, especially fantasy. He has been building his own fantasy world of Rengar for most of his life. The first novel in his Counterbalance trilogy will be released this year.

Website:
Blog: https://thousandscarsblog.wordpress.com/ I discuss games and writing, but it’s mainly my video game blog, if you like it, check it out, will cover lots of other stuff!
Facebook:
https://www.facebook.com/thousandscar/?ref=bookmarks
Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/anduril38

A.A. Jankiewicz (known to most as Agnes) hails from the city of Pickering, Ontario. Her debut novel ‘Q-16 and the Eye to All Worlds’ was published as part of her thesis project at Durham College as part of the Contemporary Media Design Program. Prior to that, she graduated from York University with a BFA in Film Theory, Historiography and Criticism. When she’s not busy plotting the next great adventure, writing, doodling, tinkering in the Adobe suite programs or mellowing out with her friends, she enjoys walks with her four-legged companion Meesha. She is currently working on the next instalment in the Q-16 series.

Website: www.aajankiewicz.com

 

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The Mutineers by Eryn Mills

For Book Review Wednesday, I have a LOOOOOONG book for you to read. If you’re a fan of more intelligent sci-fi, this is a book you will certainly enjoy…

The Mutineers

Two hundred years in the future, our first major human colony on Mars, the Zephyria Planum Research Station, is suffering. The inhabitants have rapidly dwindling rations and medical supplies, and are prohibited from returning to Earth. A handful of officers can only think of one final, last-ditch effort to get what they need simply to survive, but it requires them to break every sacred oath they ever took.

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Sakharov Station, in orbit between Earth and Mars, find themselves between a rock and a hard place when the World Government collapses, and the more powerful space-faring nations of Earth start grappling for possession of Sakharov Station’s deadly contents the personnel were sent to dispose of.

Can the two outlying bastions of humanity join forces and survive, or will each step bring them closer to their own doom?

My Review: 4 Stars

I have to say that this was a very well-written book. The concept was highly original, the story interesting, and the topic one I enjoyed. However, I had a hard time reading it because it was VERY slow.

The story moved along at a steady pace, but there were no real highs and lows for me to sink my teeth into. It’s the kind of book for a reader who enjoys digging into a book and doesn’t care about fast-paced stories. There is decent tension and action, but it took so long to reach those parts. For the most part, it was a fascinating look at what life would be like on a Mars colony, as well as the politics on Earth that would affect them.

It is definitely a book worth the read, but I’m giving it a 4-star rating because it took me so much effort to get through it.

Here’s a Taste:

The fleshy wall of rushing sand and air poured closer to them. It consumed the northern horizon wildly. In a few minutes it would block their view of the sun and they would be done for. To be caught in a Martian sandstorm even a hundred meters from the habitat could mean their deaths. Mars in a matter of moments could move tons of fine, penetrating dust and gravel from one corner of Zephyria to the other, create new landscapes in passionate, undeclared fury and smother placidly rolling knolls with poetic ease. It frightened Werner that he could hear the beast, and feel it in the gentle rocking of the rover. Enough unfortunates’ lonely bodies were scattered over the planet.

“The computer’s up,” Brijesh declared calmly. “It’s real!” he exclaimed. “A heavy gale and headed for us. Course heading east southeast, about a hundred and fifty kilometers wide!”

“Base is not responding, get in!” Werner dragged the Indian by the sleeve into the back seat of the rover. Werner fought his suit like a decrepit second skin, wrapped shaking knuckles around the rover’s steering wheel and slammed his foot on the accelerator. Five of the wheels spun vainly in the sand, one wheel fortunately found solid rock. The tire caught, they lurched forward so violently Sujay nearly launched from his seat before he grabbed the side of the rover. He struggled with the seat belt and wished they had been given a hopper. The rover could do seventy kilometers an hour on pavement. Only gravel and sand and boulders existed for the overworked machine here.

The vehicle skidded around a rubble mound, spitting up little stones against their faceplates as each wheel scraped for traction. A black spot jutting high on the northern horizon marked the four kilometer long habitat and their salvation. Werner checked the rover’s sensor display. If the black spot was a mirage, it fooled the equipment as well. It wouldn’t be the first time Werner had gotten lost.  Brijesh glanced at Werner. “Are we going the right way?”

“I don’t know!” Werner spat.

“Go faster!” Brijesh insisted.

“I can’t,” Werner groaned as he struggled with the steering wheel. Every time they bounced against a large bump the rover felt as though it would tip over.

The storm drew nearer. In generous, pulsing gulps, the furious sands began to swallow the habitat and its companion mirage.

Werner ripped the wheel to the right, the sand blasted them from the left. He felt the vehicle tip, somehow with a solid crank he managed to return the frantic wheels to the sand. He could no longer see the path to the habitat, but he knew he was close. If he could get to it they could feel their way for some shelter on the leeward side of a buttress, and he knew that was a foolish hope. Brijesh slapped his shoulder and pointed to a bright light piercing the brown air.

“The depot!” Brijesh shouted. Werner concentrated on that single illumination, still half a kilometer away from their deliverance from the surging beast that clawed at their face plates and oxygen packs. He slowed the vehicle down as he knew the terrain grew rockier from blast debris left behind from constructing the base. A knifelike boulder appeared out of the cloud directly in front of them. Werner swerved the rover to the right and found another boulder too near to avoid. The vehicle floundered and toppled onto its left side. Werner felt Brijesh tumble onto him, tearing him from the wheel. He slammed him against the ground. His breath caught for a moment—did his suit rip? Oh God—no, no, he was all right. Brijesh scrambled to his feet and grabbed Werner. “You okay?” he screamed.

“Ja, go! Run!”

Abandoning the rover, Werner followed nimble Brijesh over the rocks and swelling drifts. If they remained still the sand would engulf them in a matter of seconds. They had a better chance on foot now that they could see the habitat’s signal lights. They continued steadily. Werner yelped as the tiny indicator lights on the inside of his helmet flickered. The static electricity caused by the storm began to short out his suit’s electronics. He slammed a hand on his left elbow, hitting the degaussing button. The indicator lights stayed on for a moment, then every electronic device on his suit went dead. The small headlamps on either side of his helmet fell dark. He tried not to breathe so hard, as he had little air left, and he tried to keep Brijesh before him. Werner knew it would be a matter of moments before his air supply ran out. He could not use his headset, for it too had perished with the rest of the electronics.

The rover depot doors were shut. Were they sealed? Brijesh made it to the hatch and pounded a rock against the sturdy metal three times. Something black and flat the size of a dining table flipped away overhead. The habitat’s aging exterior shielding flaked and tore in such winds. They had lost another piece of buffer plating. He scanned the storm for Werner and screamed his name. Werner emerged from the whirling cloud, stumbling and confused. “You’re close, come on!” Brijesh fumbled with the rock to pound on the hatch again, suddenly it parted for him. He jumped after the fumbling Werner, grabbed him by the arm. He dragged Werner inside the door and slapped his hand on the hatch controls. Werner collapsed onto the floor, his eyes wide, his mouth gaping as he suffocated. The hatch screeched closed and the small rover bay gradually pressurized. A steady yellow light rotated overhead until a green one lit. Werner peeled up his helmet’s faceplate and sucked in lungfuls of air. They were alive. They were saved.

About the Author:

Eryn Vyctorya Mills was born in Denver, Colorado, and raised in Estes Park. A life-long lover of science fiction, she started writing stories as a child and never found a reason to stop. She and her mother own and operate the Enos Mills Cabin Museum, the original homestead cabin of Enos A. Mills, who is widely regarded as “The Father of Rocky Mountain National Park.” She lives in the mountains near Rocky Mountain National Park with her dog.

Find the book on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01CQ07E8M
Goodreads link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/29473343-the-mutineers
Read Eryn’s thoughts on her website: http://tahosa.wixsite.com/erynvmills

Tweet at her: @erynvmills
Connect on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/ErynVyctoryaMills/

 

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The Dangers of Complex Villains

Dark fantasy (and all dark fiction, for that matter) is a genre I love because it allows me to explore the various shades of moral grey. Instead of black and white (shining knights and cackling villains, heroic kings and evil viziers, noble warriors and cowardly evil wizards), dark fantasy deals with characters who are equal parts good and bad. There is less emphasis on “heroes” and “villains”, but more on actions and consequences.

But an interesting article on Psychology Today gave me a bit of food for thought. The article says: “We rapidly learn not only about our heroes’ shortcomings but also about the villains’ humanity as well.”

The truth is that every person is flawed. There is no such thing as “pure good” or “pure evil”. In the end, people make the choices they make for a wide range of reasons.

That doesn’t mean we should completely discard the concepts of “good” and “evil” completely. For example, the actions of the Nazis in World War II. All of the people who did those terrible things were fully human, and no doubt many of them had redeeming qualities that “showcased the humanity of the villain”. But that shouldn’t detract from just how terrible their actions were. All the horrors, torments, and suffering they inflicted on others isn’t reduced just because of their humanity.

One of the dangers of complex villains is that we fail to take into account their villainous actions. If, by the end of our story, we start to sympathize or empathize with the villains, we stop taking into account their actions and start looking at their reasons. This can desensitize us to the horrors of their actions, and almost give them a justification. That is a VERY dangerous road to go down!

Think of all the school shootings that have occurred in the last year alone. I’m willing to bet MOST of the shooters had real “reasons” why they felt the way they did—everything from psychological disorders to abuse to trauma. But those reasons don’t justify the actions. The things they did should NEVER have happened, no matter the reason.

Fiction that attempts to help us understand or sympathize with the villains can blind us to the villainy of their actions. That can be perilous in our modern world, one filled with so many shades of moral grey.

We still need the concepts of “good” and “evil”, and we can still strive to reach one while avoiding the other. It’s a much more complex world than black and white, but that doesn’t mean we should stop seeing good and evil. If we get lost in the shades of moral grey, the world is doomed to be a dark, unpleasant place!

 

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A Way with Words: Pain

Pain is a very common element of the stories I write. The Hunter is a half-demon assassin, so OF COURSE he is going to end up fighting (wounds are painful!). Ilanna from Queen of Thieves is a thief, a profession which carries its own share of pain.

Some pains are easy to write. Most of us can wax poetic about a severe wound, burns, or other common pains. Some pains are harder to write: internal pains, emotional pains, mental pains, and “magical” pains. These take more effort to get right, and it can be difficult to know how to write them.

Which is why I gathered a few of my author friends and had a good chat on the ways to write pain effectively. In the video below, you’ll find a lot of useful information on how to write pain:

Resources:

How to Describe Pain

A Scientific Look at Pain

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.

Website:  www.heidiangell.com

Lily Luchesi:

Lily Luchesi is the author of the bestselling and award-winning Paranormal Detectives Series, published by Vamptasy Publishing, as well as various short stories in the horror, paranormal, and erotica genres.

She’s an active and out member of the LGBT+ community, a self-professed nerd, music-lover, and just a little obsessed with vampires. When not writing or reading, she can be found drinking copious amounts of coffee, getting tattooed, going to concerts, or watching too much of the CW.

She was born and raised in Chicago, but now resides in Los Angeles.

http://lilyluchesibooks.wix.com/lilyluchesi

http://facebook.com/lilyluchesi

http://twitter.com/LilyLuchesi

http://amazon.com/author/lilyluchesi

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