Andy Peloquin

I am an artist – words are my palette

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A Sneak Peek at Gateway to the Past

The Last Bucelarii (Book 3): Gateway to the Past will officially be launching TOMORROW!!! Hooray!

In anticipation of the launch, I want to give you a sneak peek at the first chapter so you can get a taste of what’s to come. Spoilers: IT’S BLOODY AND AWESOME!

Chapter One

Fire and agony filled the Hunter’s world.

So this is what it means to be helpless. He was dying, and there wasn’t a damned thing he could do about it.

Blood and soot stained his face, hands, and tunic. His lungs burned from the thick, dark smoke that billowed into the night sky and blotted out the stars. Horses screamed in the near distance, the terror in their voices echoed by the cries of the men, women, and children around him. The clash of steel rang out above the roaring blaze that consumed the camp.

“Bring them down, lads!” A strong voice cut through the chaos of the night. Sirkar Jeroen, rallying what few men remained. The half-dozen caravan guards would be outnumbered by the bandits, but that didn’t stop the caravan master from fighting back. He had to protect his retinue at all costs.

A gust of wind carried the smell of burning flesh, hair, and cloth. The Hunter groaned as a fresh wave of pain washed through his torso. He could no longer feel his legs. Not even the crushing weight of the wagon atop him registered through the agony. Immortality or no, he would succumb to the effects of the iron-tipped arrows in his chest, shoulder, and leg. The metal was poisonous to his kind; it would kill him in minutes.

I…I can’t!

The twinkling stars above danced in time with the flames engulfing the nearby tents.

The tents!

Hailen had been in his tent. He’d sent him there after the events of the evening, unwilling to let the lad see him kill. But had he condemned the boy to a fiery death?

It can’t be. I won’t believe it.

‘Look around you, Bucelarii. Trapped, dying, nothing to save you but that which you reject.’ The Hunter hated the voice that whispered in his head. It belonged to his inner demon, the thing that drove him to kill. The creature within him demanded death, heedless of who suffered at his hands.

A gentle throbbing filled his mind. Soulhunger, hanging at his hip, begged to feed. The dagger ached for blood; it would not give him peace until it had been satiated.

‘To break free, Bucelarii, you must kill.’

As much as the Hunter hated it, the demon was right. He’d spent months fighting to keep the blade’s voice at bay, struggling to take only those few lives he had been forced to. But now he needed Soulhunger’s aid, needed the power it would provide when it consumed a soul. To save Hailen, he had no choice. He would do what he must to protect the boy he’d cared for since that night in Malandria. The Hunter had shattered the boy’s life when he killed the Cambionari, Father Reverentus, and the demon Garanis. He wouldn’t let Hailen share their fate.

The arrow in his right shoulder sent waves of icy fire radiating down his arm, and a scream tore from his lips as he reached for Soulhunger. His fingers, numb from the iron’s poison, fumbled at the dagger’s hilt. Pulling the blade free required his last reserves of strength. The pain was a small price to pay to save the boy.

“Hardwell,” a weak, gurgling voice called out.

Beside him, Bristan slumped against the overturned wagon, just out of arm’s reach. Faint traces of the man’s scent—the lard in his hair, the hemp of his clothes, and the musky odor of a working man—penetrated the smoke. “Hardwell…are you…alive?”

“Y-Yes, Bristan,” the Hunter said. His tongue was thick, as if he had emptied a barrel of mead.

Bristan’s legs, splayed out on the ground, refused to move. He stared at them stupidly, with dull, unfeeling surprise written on his face. His tattooed hands clutched the loops of intestine spilling from the gaping slash across his belly, and suffering contorted his fierce, bearded face. The reek of ordure and blood hung thick in the air.

“C…Come here, Bristan.” The Hunter swallowed. His throat was parched, his lungs burning with the reek of smoke.

Bristan tried to move. “Can’t,” he mumbled. “Gotta hold on until Ayden gets here.”

The Hunter tried to speak, but nothing came out. Slim, pale Ayden had been one of the first to fall beneath the onslaught. An iron lance had caved in his bony chest and pierced his heart. The healer would never arrive.

He swallowed again. The numbness spread through him, far too quickly. He needed to move before the iron did its vicious work. He had to live, no matter what.

“Come here, Bristan. Let me take a look at it for you.” His words came out slurred, but the wounded Bristan was in no condition to care. The bearded man tried to move again, his gaze unfocused, features slackening. Exhausted from the loss of blood, he slumped—within reach of Soulhunger.

The Hunter stared into the man’s eyes. What choice do I have? It’s a necessary sacrifice to save Hailen. He tried to rationalize it to himself. He’s a heartbeat away from the Long Keeper’s embrace!

“I-I’m sorry, Bristan.”

Weakened by the iron’s poison, he struggled to raise Soulhunger above the dying man’s head. He had no strength, but the weight of his arm drove the dagger between Bristan’s ribs. With a scream muffled by pain and blood loss, Bristan shuddered and lay still.

Soulhunger shrieked in delight as it consumed the man’s life force. Crimson light leaked from the gem set in the dagger’s pommel. The blade, still embedded in Bristan’s neck, fed on the man’s soul and sent waves of power washing through the Hunter.

“May the Watcher have mercy on you.”

The Hunter spoke the ritual words every time he took a life with Soulhunger, but Bristan was not like the others. He hadn’t been paid to kill the man, hadn’t even wanted to. He’d had no other choice.

I’m sorry.

The momentary stab of sorrow was drowned beneath a torrent of power. Soulhunger drank deeply, suffusing him with energy and life. He reveled in the sensation, but in the back of his mind, he felt disgust at his weakness. He had given in. Again.

The demon crowed in triumph. ‘In the end, you always give in, Bucelarii!’

Why had he fought it for so long? The power coursing through him was as addictive as any opiate. Without hesitation, he seized the arrow embedded in his chest and yanked it free, uncaring that it tore flesh and muscle. Vigor pushed back the poison of the iron in his veins. Strength returned to his right hand, then the arm, then his shoulder and chest, and down his torso, to his legs. Blood pumped into his limbs as his body tried to heal the wound.

The wagon had pulverized both legs and cut off all sensation, but now he could feel the searing pain of his crushed bones. He screamed and though each twitch of his limbs brought a fresh wave of torment, struggled against the weight atop him. He had to get out from under the wagon, now.

His cries of suffering added to the chaotic din around him. Gritting his teeth, he repeated the agonizing process with the remaining two iron-tipped arrows and hurled them away. A few moments longer, and they would have killed him. Blood gushed from the wound in the Hunter’s leg, but he paid it no heed. With the iron cleansed from his body and Soulhunger’s power, he would heal quickly. Only the raw, jagged scars across his chest would remain—a reminder of every life Soulhunger claimed. Tonight, a new scar joined the others marring his flesh.

He studied the wagon atop his legs, trying to find a way to lift it. At least enough to squirm out from beneath.

“Hardwell?” The Sirkar’s voice reached his ears. “Where are you, Hardwell?”

Relief flooded him. “Here! I’m trapped beneath the wagon!”

“Over here, lads! Kellen, Graden, help me.” The sound of pounding feet drew nearer.

The Hunter froze. Soulhunger! His numb fingers closed around the hilt of the dagger, still buried in Bristan’s neck. Ripping it free of flesh, he slipped it into its sheath. Not a moment too soon. No one could know what he’d done.

“Help me, lads.” The caravan master’s strong, confident voice sounded shaken. His sun-darkened face looked pale in the flickering firelight. Blood leaked from a slash across his forehead and a jagged cut down his forearm. The hand he touched to Bristan’s neck showed bloody stumps where his pinky and ring finger had been.

Kellen, limping from a wicked gash in his left leg, and Graden, appearing unharmed, came into view. Together with the Sirkar, the three heaved on the wagon. The Hunter felt the pressure on his legs easing, and, ignoring the agony of the shattered bones, dragged himself free in the heartbeat before the wagon slipped from Kellen’s grasp and crashed to the ground.

“How bad is it, Hardwell?” Sirkar Jeroen stared down at him, genuine concern in his eyes.

“I’ll be fine, Sirkar.” The pain of his healing body threatened to overwhelm him, but he gritted his teeth against the fire coursing through his legs. He had no time for weakness. Hailen needed him.

From amidst the smoke and chaos came a woman’s scream.

“Arealle!” Sirkar Jeroen cried. He glanced down at the Hunter.

“Go!” The Hunter waved them away. “Help your wife! Give me a moment, and I’ll join you.”

Sirkar Jeroen stared at him skeptically. His eyes flicked to the Hunter’s legs, to the blood-stained holes in his tunic. The cry came again. Without hesitation, the caravan master sprinted away, Kellen and Graden following. The Hunter was alone. Alone, save for the still, silent corpse beside him.

He stared down at Bristan’s unseeing eyes, slack features, bloodstained hands and fingers, skin pale in death. Remorse would come later. Right now, he could only think of one thing. He stumbled toward the tents, his legs protesting with every agonizing step. He had to find the boy, had to make sure he was unharmed.

The metallic taste of blood filled his mouth. Not his own. Marin’s blood. Something resembling remorse nagged at the back of his mind. The old man had been nothing but kind to him and Hailen. Until tonight. Until the Hunter had plunged his blade into Marin’s chest.

A fist squeezed his heart as he approached the section of canvas where his tent had once stood. Nothing but a towering inferno and smoldering ashes remained. The blaze had carved a fiery swath through the hastily-erected shelters, leaving death and ruin in its wake.

Something smoldered at his feet. The scent of charred meat assaulted his nostrils, setting the world spinning around him. He fell to his knees. The pain of the embers singeing his flesh paled in comparison to the sorrow that twisted a knife in his heart.

A child-sized corpse filled his vision.

 

Want to know what comes next? Pre-order your copy on Amazon now: https://www.amazon.com/Last-Bucelarii-Book-Gateway-Past-ebook/dp/B06XDKVD47/

Join my Launch Party: https://www.facebook.com/events/1264998616922413/

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Guest Post: When Writing Erotica Gets… Weird

Let’s be clear: erotica is NOT my thing. Never written it well, and don’t know if I ever will. For some authors, it’s everything. One author friend, Jessica Collins, has an interesting perspective on writing erotica…

When Writing Erotica Gets… Weird

I’m known as the no-holds-barred, open to anything, if-you-ask-I’ve-probably-tried-it-once, family member. Sex is no big deal to me. I have it, I love it, I have fun with it. I even had a stint a few years back of working as a consultant for Pure Romance (I highly recommend their products by the way – any questions you’re embarrassed to ask, send them my way!).

My family is mostly the same. The women in my immediate family (including my sisters-in-law) read erotic romance. We share books, favorite authors; my mother and I even watched 50 Shades together. We’re that family. While it would seem (being as open as we are) it was easy to give them each a copy of my novel and tell them to “have at it”; it simply wasn’t the case.

My family all knew I had shifted from the “casual reader” of erotic romance into the “I have a great idea for a story and am going to try and write my own book” mindset about a year ago when I first started the novel. As the book progressed, they would ask how it was going, what my inspiration was, and of course, send the “I can’t believe you’re writing erotica” jokes my way. Throughout the process, they all completely supported me.

As the story progressed and I began writing steamier scenes, I had a moment of uncertainty about the idea of certain people reading my work. It strangely started with my husband. He would come into the office while I was typing away and I suddenly became so embarrassed of what I had written I shut the laptop. On my husband. Who I’ve actually preformed the acts I had written about on.

What the hell? 

Writing the erotic scenes suddenly became very personal. It was almost as if people I loved were judging me regarding sex; not just my husband, but my family and friends. Would it be good enough for them? Would they read it and find it arousing or boring? Would it be weird if they became aroused by what I wrote? I even found myself wondering if my mother-in-law would wonder how many of the scenes were “straight from real life”; and this is a woman who was there when I bought a sex-swing for her son and I.

Constantly being asked to read it, and knowing my novel was finished and on it’s way to publishing, I gave in and allowed one of my sisters-in-law to have a copy. It was incredibly difficult. I sent it in an email, pressed the send button, and had a moment of “oh my gosh, can I take it back” panic. Then something amazing happened. She texted me early the  next morning telling me how far she had gotten and had loved it.

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I was ecstatic. Not just because she loved it so far (that part was awesome), but because it suddenly wasn’t weird. It took her a week to read the book, and she would update me with thoughts, insights, and questions regarding what was going to happen. She let me know what she thought of different scenes in the “this is really realistic” or “I can’t believe he said that!” way. It was as if we were both reading the same book – from another author – and discussing it like we normally would.

It was then I realized while *I* wrote the book, and we all knew I wrote the book, it became just a book. It was the biggest hurdle I had to cross, allowing family to read what came from this imagination (and yes, some real-life inspiration), yet once I crossed the barrier I felt free.

I can’t lie and say I’ve given copies to each family member without any hint of resignation – and definitely can’t promise the idea of the men in the family reading what I wrote doesn’t still scare the crap out of me – yet it’s not as bad as it once was.

Hopefully, the more I write the less awkward it will be, yet I’m prepared for always having the small, lingering, feeling of embarrassment regarding certain people. From what I’ve heard from fellow authors, this feeling is normal. I remind myself I’m still the bad-ass, sex-loving chick I used to be; I just get a little red in the face sometimes now.

Who knows, maybe one day I’ll even let my husband read it.

About the Author:

Jessica Collins is a new contemporary erotic romance author currently living in New Jersey along with her incredibly supportive husband (let’s be honest, he enjoys the *ahem* research *ahem* he gets to assist with) and the love of their life – their pitbull, she. In her free time, she enjoys watching horror movies, taking baths, playing old-school Nintendo on her computer, and appreciating life.

Combining classic characters and erotica, Jessica has created a world the reader wishes they were a part of. Alpha males, confident heroines, amazing friendships, and fan-worthy sex combine with enough tension to keep you on the edge of your panty-soaked seat all night long in the new Fairy Tales After Dark series. Discover how each tale is rewritten into today’s world as the characters search for their happy ending – in more ways than one!

Author Links:

Facebook Profile https://www.facebook.com/jessica.collins.author.75054

Facebook Fan Page:  https://www.facebook.com/authorjessicacollins/

Facebook Group (Fairy Tales After Dark): https://www.facebook.com/groups/1393011250760671/

Twitter: @AuthJessCollins (https://twitter.com/AuthJessCollins)

Newsletter: http://eepurl.com/cqDCP5

Website: www.jessicacollinsauthor.com

 

Jessica has a brand new “Fairy Tales After Dark” novel titled Stealing Beauty. If you’re an erotica fan and love the dark and paranormal, you’ll want to check it out:

Stealing Beauty (Fairy Tales After Dark Book 1)

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Mental Health Problems: The Rule or the Exception?

There was a time when mental health problems were kept “hush hush”. People were ashamed or embarrassed to talk about things like PTSD, anxiety, depression, or even more serious disorders. Thankfully, modern society has destigmatized these mental health problems, which enables people with neurological, psychological, emotional, and physical disorders to get help without being seen as “weird”.

But here’s a pretty startling fact: only 17% of people in the world DON’T suffer from some sort of mental health problem throughout the course of their life. That’s pretty serious!

The Surgeon General has stated that 1 in 5 people (20%) suffer from psychiatric disorders, a claim supported by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. This may seem high to some, but a new study found that the statistics were even higher than that.

A team of researchers followed 1,000 New Zealanders for 35 years—from the age of 3 to 38. They carried out regular mental health assessments and found that only 17% of the participants didn’t meet the criteria for psychiatric disorders at some point in their lives. That means 83% of people DID suffer from psychiatric problems during their lives.

Granted, the majority of the problems included things like anxiety, substance abuse, or depression, many of which were simply temporary problems. However, many of the people discovered they had mental health conditions that affected them more severely than they expected.

I know a lot of people will roll their eyes at this discovery. It’s easy to shrug off mental health problems as being “the popular explanation” for behavioral or social problems. Many people will ignore this statistic, instead of learning from it.

I’d say it’s a good indicator that mental health problems can hit anyone at any time, and that it pays to be aware of your mental health. As the study found, many of the mental health problems were temporary—the substance abuse, depression, or anxiety cleared up given time. However, knowing that there’s a chance you could develop mental health problems emphasizes the importance of making the lifestyle choices that will promote a healthy mind as well as a healthy body.

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The Secret to Writing a Novel in Three Days

Just saying those words “a novel in three days” seems like an impossibility to me. I know I could never churn out 60,000+ words in that amount of time. At my current rate of 2,000 words in 90 minutes, that would require 900 minutes (15 hours) at my computer. There’s just no way I could hit that.

But, for some authors—namely Michael Moorcock—it’s a possibility. He could write a 60,000 word sword and sorcery novel (a la Conan) in just three days. Granted, sword and sorcery isn’t exactly high literature, but it’s still a pretty impressive achievement.

Here’s the basics of his process (taken from THIS POST, where you can find more details):

  1. Have everything prepared.
  2. Model the basic plot on the “Quest” theme.
  3. The formula depends on the sense of a human being up against superhuman force — politics, Big Business, supernatural evil, etc.
  4. Make lists of things you’ll use.
  5. Prepare an event for every four pages.
  6. Prepare a complete structure. Not a plot, exactly, but a structure where the demands were clear.
  7. Prepare a list of images that are purely fantastic, deliberate paradoxes say, that fit within the sort of thing you’re writing. The City of Screaming Statues, things like that.
  8. The imagery comes before the action, because the action’s actually unimportant.
  9. In your lists, in the imagery and so on, there will be mysteries that you haven’t explained to yourself.
  10. Very often a chapter is something like: attack of the bandits —defeat of the bandits.
  11. Time is the important element in any action adventure story.
  12. Don’t have any encounter without at least information coming out of it.
  13. You start off with a mystery. Every time you reveal a bit of it, you have to do something else to increase it.
  14. Never have a revelation of something that wasn’t already established.
  15. There’s always a sidekick to make the responses the hero isn’t allowed to make: to get frightened; to add a lighter note; to offset the hero’s morbid speeches, and so on.
  16. Divide your total 60,000 words into four sections, 15,000 words apiece. Divide each into six chapters.
  17. When in doubt, descend into a minor character.
  18. Once you’ve started, you keep it rolling.

It’s a pretty impressive formula, one that seemed to work wonders for him. After all, EVERYONE who reads fantasy has heard of Elric of Melnibone and his soul-drinking blade Stormbringer (no relation to the Hunter’s blade Soulhunger!).

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Book Review: Emperor for an Eclipse by Eris Adderly

Today I’m bringing you something a tad different than my usual fare—a fantasy book that’s a bit saucier and dirtier than I’m used to reading. The author is a romance writer branching out into fantasy, and overall she NAILED it with this book.

Emperor for an Eclipse

He was expendable. He was a sacrifice. He was the emperor.

An_Emperor_for_the_Eclipse_Cover_614x960Raothan Ga’ardahn wants to take his own life. Twelve years in exile have a way of beating a man down, and the shameful secrets of his past, no matter how far buried, weigh enough to keep him that way. The last thing standing between him and oblivion is a sign from the gods. That, and a unit of Imperial Guard trooping onto his farm one late summer’s afternoon.

Across the continent, the Taunai heed the warnings of their dead: act to correct an unforeseen fracture in the Pattern of events, or face annihilation. Niquel, their bravest Questioner, accepts the challenge to descend into the dangerous lowlander capital for the good of her people. A journey alone away from her snowy mountain home awaits. Any worry about the strange man in her dreams will have to come later.

When the paths of the two outsiders cross on the steps of the imperial palace at Protreo, the fate of the empire shifts. One the Novamneans call ‘exile’, the other they call ‘witch’. Neither will ever be the same.

My Review: 5 Stars

I found this to be a HIGHLY engaging read, one of the best fantasy novels I’ve read this year.

Make no mistake: I’m not real big on sex/erotica in novels, and this had it in spades. Perhaps a tad too much  focus on the sex and all for my tastes, without as much focus on the story.

But the world is bright, colorful, engaging, and well-described, with vivid details that make it an absolutely enthralling read. The backstories are interesting, and I was so disappointed that I didn’t get to find out more about the antagonists and protagonists. Thankfully, there will be two more books for me to get more details on what’s going on.

If you like fantasy and erotica, this is a book you’ll definitely enjoy!

Here’s a Taste:

Raothan bent back to his task, using the repetitive motions to smother away nagging thoughts and urges. Before long, he was in that still place with only his breathing and the sensations of the moment: the sun on his back, rind and stalk moving under his hands, the scent of warm earth in his nostrils, hoofbeats …

Hoofbeats?

He cocked his head, focusing his attention on the muted thudding. His farm was, if not remote, at least a short ride form the main road. There would be no one with occasion to lead a horse out this way, and damn sure not more than one. Still, his ears didn’t lie. He stood and turned in the direction of the sound.

A sprig of something dark bounced over the rise, growing as it came. Raothan knew that silhouette. The years would not let him forget. A spear point, aimed at the sky from horseback. Another black point joined the first, and then another. A rider’s helm, the pointed ears of a mount. Two, three, ten …?

J’rt Thi’s fucking blood, what’s this now?

He tucked the harvest knife into his belt and dusted his palms together, knocking away the worst of the dirt. The approaching riders—some sort of guard unit, if his impressions served him—came on at a walk: casual, confident, not even bothering to press their mounts into a trot.

They were cutting a straight path in his direction, and his steps took him back to the near edge of the field where it abutted the yard surrounding his house. What was there to do but meet them and learn their business?

Probably some fool new decree being enacted. A tax levy, I’ll wager.

The riders jangled up, bits of tack glinting under the noon light, two columns of five splitting apart and fanning out into a semi-circle before him. An eleventh man, who’d ridden in at their head, stepped his horse forward. Raothan crossed his arms over his chest.

“Look at this one,” he heard one of the riders mutter to a neighbor, “head shaved like he thinks he’s some kind of warrior.”

“The general would shit a sword,” the other agreed on the low assessment of this foreigner standing before them.

The leader swept a hand to the side for silence.

“Are you Ga’ardahn?” he said.

Raothan suspected the man already knew the answer to his own question. How many other Elvigra kissmelon farmers could there be out here?

He laid a finger alongside his nose and then angled it at the man, acknowledging the accuracy of his guess. “It seems I am.”

His eyes skimmed the line of what he now was sure were Imperial Guard. The Emperor’s sigil—a pair of crossed swords beneath a crescent moon—fluttered on blue pennants strung around the shoulders of every horse. Raothan noted the bulk of muscle distributed among the riders, the sharp eyes and taut grips. There were seven men and three women. None of them looked as though they had seen lives of ease. They were not here for a tax levy.

The leader nodded once at Raothan’s confirmation and tugged a folded leaf of parchment from a saddle pocket. He opened it and began to read, his voice carrying and formal.

“Raothan Ga’ardahn, you are hereby summoned to the Imperial Palace at Protreo Novamne Solarius by the order of His Excellency, First Councilor Ptyverias Firsoni. You are to meet with the First Councilor to discuss your forthcoming duty to the Empire. Accommodations will be provided at the pleasure of His Excellency.”

The man looked up from the parchment at him. “Do you come to the palace of your own will, Ga’ardahn, or do we drag you behind one of our horses?”

Raothan stood there, assessing, holding the leader’s dark-eyed gaze. The fact that he felt the need to ask if Raothan would be willing did not bode well at all. He narrowed his eyes.

“Let me see the summons,” he said, taking a step forward and putting out his hand. The leader sneered.

“Can you even read, ‘vigra?”

He kept his hand out and moved to stand beside the horse. Something twinkled in the man’s eye, and he handed the parchment down, amused. The leader shrugged and quirked a smile at his unit, as if to say, “This ought to be entertaining.”

Raothan read the content of the summons with no trouble, backing away several steps as he did. It was all there, just as the man had read it. What it meant was anyone’s guess.

Being an exile wasn’t a crime in Novamne, nor was being an immigrant, rare though the Elvigra were on this side of the mountains. And his “forthcoming duty to the Empire”? He shook his head. Even if they knew what he was …

No. It doesn’t matter what they want, or what they know. No more cities. No more empires.

“And whom do I have the pleasure of addressing, Guardsman?” Raothan met the man with a smile now. He straightened in his saddle and looked down a blunt nose.

“I am Ogdavian, of his Imperial Majesty’s Palace Guard. You may refer to me as ‘Captain’ ”

Raothan’s grin widened.

“Well, Ogdy,” he drawled, lifting the parchment, “you can tell ‘His Excellency First Councilor Firsoni’ ”—here he spat noisily onto the summons—“that he is hereby summoned to bend his prick around backwards and go fuck himself.” At this, he crumpled the parchment into a wad and with a decisive popping gesture of his fingers sent it rolling onto the dirt.

There were noises from several of the guard: a few growls, a chuckle or two, and Ogdavian’s face had gone tight. Raothan gave him a mock salute, turned on his heel, and strolled away, moving back inside his house.

“Somehow I expected no less,” he heard the captain say to his back. Then, to his guard unit: “Take him.”

About the Author:

Eris writes subversive romance for people who hate romance novels. Her award winning stories are the stomping grounds for bada** heroines, untamable alphas, a spectrum of sexuality and a serious disregard for convention. Much like her namesake, Eris likes to make trouble. When she’s not staying up into wee hours writing, Eris also likes to read, baby-talk her cats, exasperate her husband, and obsess about writing some more. Somewhere in the middle, there will be pizza.

Find the book on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Emperor-Eclipse-After-Exile-English-ebook/dp/B06WRPXT3V 

Read Eris’ thoughts on her website: http://erisadderly.com

Connect on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/erisadderly

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

 

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Education Isn’t Everything!

When I talk to other, more well-established authors, I often find myself wrestling with a bit of an inferiority complex. I know I have my strengths as an author (ability to talk easily with people, interesting ideas, good writing skills, etc.), but I have a hard time feeling like I can match up with many of the authors I encounter.

A large part of it is due to my lack of education. I have a high school education, with no academic training in ANY career or profession. Everything I know, I’ve learned by studying outside of the formal education system. I doubt I will ever obtain a degree in creative writing, English, literature, or any of the other backgrounds that cater to being a good writer. I don’t even have a background in a specific profession I can use to write from a position of authority.

It’s tough to feel inferior, and this particular complex is something I can usually ignore enough to be confident as an author. I may not have the education, but I have a keen intellect and the desire to work as hard as possible to be the best author I can be.

Turns out this is actually enough to make up for my lack of education!

A study from the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that cognitive ability (also known as intelligence) is often enough to make up for a lack of education. Specifically, the study examined the differences between students from disadvantaged backgrounds vs. students with more advantage (better education). To quote the research “Intelligence is the most important factor in determining long-term achievement outcomes”.

Non-cognitive or personality traits like perseverance, grit, and a good work ethic are all factors (albeit minor ones) in success. But the single most influential factor in success or failure of the students was their intelligence. Formal education and academic advantages were far less important than the intelligence of the people participating in the study.

This gives me hope that I can succeed, even without the education that so many other authors have. As long as I continue to sharpen my intellect, expand my knowledge base, and use my non-cognitive traits (like determination), I have a good chance for success.

 

 

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Interview with M.L. Spencer

I had a chance to sit down with the awesome M.L. Spencer and talk a bit about her past, her writing, and everything that makes her an absolutely unique (and quirky) author.

Tell us a little about yourself and your background?

Hi, my name is M.L. Spencer. I grew up in an orange grove in San Bernardino, CA. That orange grove was my first fantasy world. I mapped it, built cities, towns, rivers, waged wars, fortified castles, installed conflicting political systems and differing religious ideologies. It was my first foray into fantasy world building!

And then a bulldozer took it all away to build a freeway.

So I built another world, this time on paper. Decades later, I’m still building worlds; it’s what I do. The only difference is now, it’s usually me who destroys them.

What were you like at school?

I was that person who could speak Elvish, recite every line from Star Wars, and of course no one wanted to sit next to in class. You know the kid I’m talking about.

Were you good at English?

Yup. But I failed typing class because my teacher thought I’d plagiarized a novel blub we were supposed to write and then type. He didn’t believe I wrote it on my own!

What are your ambitions for your writing career?

Which writers inspire you?

My favorite authors are Robert Jordan, Frank Herbert, and Stephen King.

So, what have you written?

Right now I’m writing a series called The Rhenwars Saga. The first two books are available on Amazon, Darkstorm and Darkmage. Darkmage won the 2012 IndieReader Discovery Award for fantasy.

Where can we buy or see them?

https://www.amazon.com/Darkstorm-Rhenwars-Saga-Book-1-ebook/dp/B01MT77SK9

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B01MT77SK9 https://www.amazon.com.au/Darkstorm-Rhenwars-Saga-Book-1-ebook/dp/B01MT77SK9

What are you working on at the minute?

Right now I’m working on Book Four of The Rhenwars Saga

What genre are your books?

Dark Epic Fantasy

What draws you to this genre?

I like high stakes, turbulent plots, dark heroes, and complex villains.  I also like gritty realism as much as possible.

Why do you write?

I write to bring my characters to life. They exist as real people in my head. They must be freed!

What made you decide to sit down and actually start something?

I had a great idea!  And a great idea is a terrible thing to waste!

Do you write full-time or part-time?

I work full time and write full time. It’s basically a second job. I think I may even spend more time at my “writing job”!

Do you write every day, 5 days a week or as and when?

I am absolutely obsessive about writing. I’d write every second of every day if I could. As it is I have to come up for air and clean a dish or cook a meal occasionally. It’s hard, though!

Do you aim for a set amount of words/pages per day?

When I am on a roll, my mantra is, “A chapter a day keeps writer’s block away!”  For me, that’s about 5,000 words a day.

Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just see where an idea takes you?

I outline extensively before I ever set pen to paper. I will usually have one plot tangle or two that’s not worked out ahead of time, leaving it up to my muse to bridge those gaps as I go. Sometime this results in writer’s block, but that’s rare. Usually the solution to a problem will strike like lightning at the most unexpected moment—or in my sleep!

What was the hardest thing about writing your latest book?

The last novel I finished, Book Three of The Rhenwars Saga, was the hardest. It was difficult because I was putting together a lot of characters who had never been together before in the same scenes. There was also a ton of character growth and changes in plot direction—all in a land with no sunlight, which I had to world-build from the ground up. That took every scrap of my biology knowledge! Nothing came easy with that book. Nothing!  It was a struggle every step of the way. But it was worth it —I’m very happy to say that I think it’s my best writing so far!

What is the easiest thing about writing?

Dialogue. I can write dialogue in my sleep. Except for Quin; his dialogue takes me forever to come up with. He’s usually very formal, sardonic, self-deprecating, and insightful—all at the same time!

How long on average does it take you to write a book?

It depends on how busy I am with life. Usually six months. Although the original 230K word-manuscript of Darkmage was written in a whirlwind 40 days!

Do you ever get writer’s Block?

Yes. I can plot myself into a corner with the best of them!  Then I usually have to mope around banging my head on the wall until the lightning strike provides clarity.

Any tips on how to get through the dreaded writer’s block?

Read other novels. Listen to music. Research. Seek inspiration in poetry and works of art.

If this book is part of a series, tell us a little about it?

The Rhenwars Saga is a tale about the conflict between two opposing philosophies of magic and the moral imperatives that drive them. It’s basically about two conflicting moral ideologies.

What are your thoughts on writing a book series?

I hate writing stand-alone novels; I get too attached to my characters and my ideas are usually ginormous. Short stories? Forget it! For me, it’s go big or go home!

Do you proofread/edit all your own books or do you get someone to do that for you?

A little of both. I have an excellent content editor who keeps me humble. I am usually my own copy editor, although I did employ one for Darkstorm.

Do you let the book stew – leave it for a month and then come back to it to edit?

I try to. I usually fail at this. I can’t stay away from a fresh manuscript!

Tell us about the cover/s and how it/they came about.

My covers were done by Claudia McKinney and Teresa Yeh at phatpuppyart.com. My 16-year-old daughter and I selected the models for the covers from looking over pics at a modeling agency—what a great time that was! In all fairness, we picked both models because of the personalities they projected, which was far more important to us than their looks.

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How are you publishing this book and why?

Indie!
What would you say are the main advantages and disadvantages of self-publishing against being published or the other way around?

The main advantage to publishing Indie is that I retain my rights. I don’t have to worry about my publisher going out of business and having my rights tied up in litigation for years, a nightmare scenario I’ve heard too much about lately.

What is your favourite book and why?

Right now my favorite book is Patrick Rothfuss’s A Wise Man’s Fear. His lyrical prose his breathtaking.

What is your favourite quote?

Nietzsche: “If you stare into the abyss, the abyss stares back at you.”

What is your favourite film and why?

Avatar. Because it’s so unbelievably cool!  An entire world that is its own goddess formed out of an interconnected network that functions like fungal mycelium!  Incredible! And I just love the whole “stranger in a strange land” motif.  It’s always been a favorite of mine.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

Don’t. Give. Up. Ever.

Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?

Usually poetry or literature. Darkmage is inspired by Nietzsche and Machiavelli’s The Prince. Darkstorm was inspired by the poem “Kubla Khan” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

I play MMORPG games, teach biology and raise three children.

What does your family think of your writing?

They think it’s pretty cool unless I don’t come out of the room for five days straight. They usually start missing me when the dishes stack up.

 

Have you ever gotten into a bar fight?  Came really close. Almost got my boyfriend clobbered by a one-armed biker!

Do you drink? Smoke? Gave all that up. Now my main vice is coffe.

What is your biggest fear? That I will lose my memory when I age.

What do you want your tombstone to say? She wrote.

What secret talents do you have?

I am pretty good at music composition. One piece I had a big hand in creating had over 25 million likes on YouTube, last time I checked.

Do you dream? Do you have any recurring dreams/nightmares?

When I was a kid, I used to have a recurring dream of a ghost train that whooshed out of my bedroom closet, chugged down the stairs, and then sped off into the night across the orange groves.  Too much Stephen King for me!

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How We Respond to Attacks on Our Identity

We all have our an identity, a persona we have built up in our heads. Our identity may be built around our profession, our passion, our hobbies, our physical location, the place we went to school, the sports team we cheer for, the vehicle we own, our gender, our sexual orientation or preference, our heritage, our role in our family, community, or job, or any number of things. We need to build on these things in order to have the foundation for our identity and our sense of self-worth and self-esteem.

But what do you do when that identity comes under threat? When someone is racist, homophobic, or just cheers for the wrong football team, how do you respond? How do you deal with what you perceive as “hate speech” or “hate crimes”?

An article on Psychology Today gives an interesting breakdown of the way we humans respond to an attack on our identity:

Constructive Action – We try to overcome the threat to our identity by engaging in productive behavior, but we don’t address the threat directly. It’s sort of an “ignore it, be a good worker, and it will go away” mindset.

Concealment – We try to hide or tone down the identity under attack in the hope that the attack will stop. “Out of sight, out of mind.”

Identity Exit – We completely discard that part of our identity that is under attack. Instead of fighting, we choose to “flee” the attack.

Derogation – We denounce or criticize the person or thing attacking our identity, hoping to discredit or humiliate the attacker and thus stop the attack. We “strike back”.

Ignore – We simply ignore the person attacking our identity and move on with our lives without addressing the attack. This is common in situations where we feel “powerless to do anything”.

Importance Change – We make a conscious shift of how important the identity is to us. Perhaps it stops being the thing that “defines us” and becomes “just one more part of what makes us us”.

Meaning Change – We make a conscious shift of how we perceive the part of the identity and its significance to us. It may decrease in its perceived value, and we rank it lower than other parts of our identity.

Seek Assistance – We turn to others, perhaps those in authority, for help in dealing with the attack on our identity. We all need “reinforcements” to get us through the tough times.

Positive Distinctiveness – We try to change the attacker’s opinion of our identity by arguing the values and virtues of that particular identity. Try to “bring them around to our side”.

In this modern day and age, it feels like EVERY part of who we are is being attacked, criticized, or mocked by others. Our response to those attacks can affect the outcome—not only for the attacker, but how WE move on from the attack. Consider your instinctive reaction to attacks on your identity, and see if there is a better, more productive way to respond.

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Book Review: FERTS by Grace Hudson

For today’s Book Review Wednesday, I’ve got a book I found myself enjoying a lot more than I expected! I found it a sort of cross between The Hunger Games, The Handmaid’s Tale, and Equilibrium. Dystopian fiction worth reading indeed.

FERTS

FERTScoverThe war is over. Resources are scarce. The population is dwindling in the Forkstream Territories.

Pinnacle Officer Wilcox has created FERTS amidst the chaos, a facility designed to protect the female population from raiding hordes.

Beth 259201, a newly-demoted Epsilon Internee, suspects that there is something more that lurks beneath the carefully constructed order of the facility.

 

She has a gift, one that could brand her a defective. A novice fighter, she must use her intellect to survive. Her own life, and the lives of many more may be at risk. Will she succumb to the plans in store for her or will she conceal her secret long enough to discover her own path?

My Review: 4 Stars

While it took me a chapter or two to get into the book, by page 30 I was fascinated. I found myself curious to find out more about these “Beths” (each with their own unique number) and the horrible “breeding world” in which they lived. I LOVED the way the girls were ranked according to the various factors (attractiveness, musculature, personality, etc.). It was a fascinating look at what would happen if modern society broke down “being a woman” into numbers and formulas.

The story overall was pretty good, though I found myself enjoying the first 2/3 more than the last part. The climax was good (satisfying ending), but there was quite a bit that felt dangerously close to Deus Ex Machina.

SPOILER: DO NOT READ IF YOU HATE SPOILERS!! The character develops a sort of telepathy or precognition, but I didn’t catch the explanation of how or why. Unique powers like that need explanation or a reason why. END SPOILERS

A lot of details were also left vague, unclear, or unexplained. While the initial world-building was excellent, too many questions were left unanswered. Not the least of which was what made the main Beth so different from all the other Beths around her.

But, all in all, a good book, and one I’d highly recommend to any dystopian fans!

Here’s a Taste:

Cerberus strode out through the rear of the observation tower, leaving Quinton to his track and surveillance duties. The console zoomed in through trees to show the clear, glowing bright red outline of a young Internee, bent at the waist, visibly panting. Her hand gripped the tree beside her as she crouched, other hand planted firmly on her right knee to steady herself. She had lasted all of two minutes, the Ward Beacon surely must be having some kind of effect on her Implant Marker by now. Quinton looked more closely through the cracked monitor, admiring the sharp outline of her jaw, the defiant spread of her shoulders, as she leaned back against the tree, resisting the call.

“Go back,” he whispered.

She raised her head, as if sensing something.

He checked her file in the logs, Epsilon Circuit, three years trained, two years fight duty. Beth 259251. They were all marked as Beth, only the numbers would change between Internees. She was assigned to Epsilon Circuit due to a hormonal imbalance at fourteen. She had contracted a common autoimmune disorder, causing her fertility rating to drop to a 5.6, but it was her muscle mass that relegated her to the betting Circuit of Epsilon. Her muscle mass was far above regulation and despite her condition she was physically strong, testing high on agility. Her fight record was exemplary, a formidable opponent for any challenger from the Epsilon Internee fight pool.

The endurance monitor blipped. Her heart had begun to stutter. She had five, maybe six minutes to get back within the ward zone before her time ran down.

“Back, come on,” he muttered.

It was none of his concern, certainly nothing he would voice in front of the other Operators for fear of derision. The Internees were plentiful, and the common Epsilon fellows were worth far less than the price of a basic ration.

The endurance monitor spiked, displaying elevated cortisol and increased respiration. She clung to the bark under her fingers, scrabbling for equilibrium. He had seen this routine so many times before and had grown tired of the spectacle. He could do without another demonstration tonight.

Before long, Beth 259251 stood to her full height, appearing to move towards the ward zone. Quinton exhaled, shifting back in his seat, ready to log her return. She hesitated, then turned to face the sparse plains of the suspension zone. Each small step was heavy, but she persevered, dragging her body further from the tower reach. The beacon’s steady hum permeated the forest. Her hands crept up to cover her ears, routinely dropping back down in futility. One minute and forty-five seconds later she dropped to her knees, heart rate spiking, shuddering. The endurance monitor blipped once last time as her form faded to a dull green on the console.

“Recovery detail, suspension zone border.” He called out the coordinates into his radio, ignoring the crackle, repeating the details to ensure they had been received.

“Confirmed, Quinton. Log response time at 18:16.”

“Proceed as logged,” Quinton replied. He hissed a breath out through his teeth. The Epsilon fellow was no longer his concern.

About the Author:

Grace Hudson lives in Melbourne, Australia, land of sun, surf and drop bears!

She spends a lot of time in her writing cave but can be tempted to come out to check social media from time to time.

Her debut dystopian novel, “FERTS” was released in June 2015. Open Doors, an Aussie urban fantasy was released in Feb 2016. The Rogue Thread (Book 2 of FERTS) and Alpha Field (Book 3 of FERTS) are the latest releases for 2017.

Find the book on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/FERTS-Book-1-Grace-Hudson-ebook/dp/B010II21DW/

Read Grace’s thoughts on her website: http://www.gracehudson.net

Connect with her on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/GraceHudsonAuthor/

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

 

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Awesome Resources for Creative Writing: Transition Words

 

When it comes to creative writing, we all have our “style”. Some people like to use fewer words and shorter sentences, while others of us (I’m guilty of this) prefer to go with longer sentences that use more flowing words.

Longer sentences aren’t bad, but they must be constructed properly to avoid being boring, dry, or becoming run-on sentences. Transition words are useful to help you put together better longer sentences.

Transition words and phrases signify a connection between portions of the sentences. They can compare, contrast, and organize, and they can help make the transition between the various parts of the sentences smoother.

There are a few types of transition words:

  • Addition/agreement — In addition to, by the same token, as well as, furthermore, and moreover serve to reinforce or add on to the sentence.
  • Opposition/contradiction– In spite of, instead, although, despite, but, and nevertheless can all indicate a shift in perspective or belief in the sentence.
  • Condition/cause– Because of, while, due to, provided that, and in order to all show causes and conditions that link parts of a sentence together.
  • Emphasis/example– For example, for this reason, chiefly, especially, to emphasize, in other words, and in general all support or emphasize the idea you are trying to communicate, highlighting them for the reader’s attention.
  • Summary/conclusion – As shown above, in summary/conclusion, to sum up, and for the most part are all used to close an idea or thought, or to sum up what was just said.
  • Place/location – Near, above, beneath, beside, across, between, further, farther, and in the middle all help to qualify location in writing, and work together with time/sequence transitions to give the reader an understanding of the “where”.
  • Time/sequence – First, later, before, during, after, until now, by the time, occasionally, and from time to time all answer the “when” of the writing.
  • Consequence/effect – Because, for, so, hence, and consequently explain the reason behind something or the consequence of the action.

These transition words can help to smooth out your longer sentences and make it easier for the reader to transition between thoughts/ideas.

 

 

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