Category Archives: Guest Posts

Open for Submissions!

I’m happy to say that my blog is once again open for submissions! Acceptable topics for guest posts include book reviews, just about anything regarding reading and writing, short fiction, and poetry. Book review requests are closed at the moment, but hopefully I’ll be able to get back to that soon!

You can check out my Contact and Submissions page for more information. Please feel free to ask any questions, and I look forward to hearing from you!

* * *

Ashley O’Melia is an independent author and freelancer from Southern Illinois.  She holds her Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing and English from Southern New Hampshire University.  Her books include The Wanderer’s Guide to Dragon Keepingand The Graveside DetectiveHer short stories have been published in The Penmen Review, Siren’s Call, and Subcutaneous.  Ashley’s freelance work has spanned numerous genres for clients around the world.  You can find her on Facebook and Amazon.

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Guest Post: Poetry by Christo N

Breathe Deep, Seek Peace:

The tree of wisdom beckons

To all who would heed its call

The ancient power of nature

Breathing life into

Our weary souls

Let this fresh knowledge

These new synapses firing

Be a rapturous discovery

Of the healing power

Contained within

The oceans, rivers and forests

As the waves wash away

The pain and longing

And the wind in the trees

Whispers sweet nothings

To nurture peace within

Our tired thoughts

With time

We could spiral upwards

With content and meaningful

Thoughts, words, actions

Gliding

Surfing

Floating

On the beauty

Found only on planet earth

This blessed world

With all its angels and devils

Has all we need to find

Heaven within ourselves

You just need to know

Where to look

Start with the tree of wisdom

Drink deeply from the springs of knowledge

And never, ever, ever give up

Christo N is a poet/writer from The ACT, Australia who spent 6 years incarcerated in the Alexander Maconochie Centre.

Whilst locked up he began writing poetry and has continued after release. A lot of his poetry reflects the process of self development that only comes with years of introspection and hardship.  

He uses the metaphor of being lost at sea for the hard years doing time and feels incredibly blessed to be back to the safe harbor of freedom.

You can find his blog here.

***

Interested in having your work featured here? View the submission guidelines.

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Filed under Guest Posts, Poetry

Open for Submissions!

I’m happy to say that my blog is once again open for submissions! Acceptable topics for guest posts include book reviews, just about anything regarding reading and writing, short fiction, and poetry. I’m also open for book review requests if you’re interested in getting a little more traffic for your novel.

You can check out my Contact and Submissions page for more information. Please feel free to ask any questions, and I look forward to hearing from you!

* * *

Ashley O’Melia is an independent author and freelancer from Southern Illinois.  She holds her Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing and English from Southern New Hampshire University.  Her books include The Wanderer’s Guide to Dragon Keepingand The Graveside DetectiveHer short stories have been published in The Penmen Review, Siren’s Call, and Subcutaneous.  Ashley’s freelance work has spanned numerous genres for clients around the world.  You can find her on Facebook and Amazon.

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Guest Post: Poetry by Miriam Sagan

An Odd—Large—Painting

in the rental casita
a plump woman
asleep, on a lumpy sofa
bare feet
on a red pillow
despite the green
ferny wallpaper
this is no
Matisse
her unconvincing
knees
seem faraway
from her head
while her toes
are off the canvas completely

there are days
I’ve felt like this
no Sleeping Beauty
just trying to get through
a hot afternoon
a third trimester
high school
menopause
too enervated
to even put ice cubes
in a glass
of tap water

but this is bought and sold, signed
hanging on the wall
the artists’s name
a blur beneath a painted cushion

and the day seems like a to do list
I left for myself
twenty years ago
forgetting to even mention
I love you.

***

Ancestors

zodiac swam in its round
above the wooden ark
veiled women hid behind
a mechitza of water and blood
if I was a child
I ran among their legs
if I was a child I ran

in the Red Cafe in Kiev
at the teetering round table
in steam and smoke like a railway station
tea served in endless glasses
they are shouting again
those philosophers
too broke to pay
but suddenly I can’t hear them
sound fades, they’re ghosts
and what am I?

in all of history, who can care
about one girl, tired, besmirched
sitting by the coals of a dying fire
who can care
about birch trees—
there are so many…

who can care about rape
about how my eyes turn
a betraying green
or how my fingers curl helplessly
as DNA deforms my hand
the double helix of Vikings, Cossacks, the Rus
come down out of the cold shamanic north
for bad, for worse

ancestors come if I call
smelling like a snuffed candle
and come if I don’t call
smelling of hospital corridors and panic
for the angels are too busy
encouraging each blade of grass to grow
reciting the alphabet
but only from aleph to aleph
they have not yet
reached the first letter
of my name

before this, a wall
before that, destruction
before that, an ark on the deep
a raven a dove, an opinion
about what survives

***

Rancho de Taos

you think you
have problems…
windchimes
kept us awake
all night
along with the neighbor’s
barking dog
and the dance music
turned up loud
not to mention
the moon…

magpie feathers float on the air
something
killed and ate
a bird;
a cauldron, a metal rabbit, a lantern
guard the storeroom
of a different feeling

Taos Mountain is still
snow-covered,
the day after Easter
I’d be careful,
breeze ruffles the pages of a book
about grenades and the Chinese revolution

the tiny girl
like a crow
can count
at least up to five
for how mysterious
the hacienda is
that always
has one more bed
than the number
of residents.

* * *

Miriam Sagan is the author of over thirty books of poetry, fiction, and memoir. Her most recent include Bluebeard’s Castle (Red Mountain, 2019) and A Hundred Cups of Coffee (Tres Chicas, 2019). She is a two-time winner of the New Mexico/Arizona Book Awards as well as a recipient of the City of Santa Fe Mayor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts and a New Mexico Literary Arts Gratitude Award. She has been a writer in residence in four national parks, Yaddo, MacDowell, Gullkistan in Iceland, Kura Studio in Japan, and a dozen more remote and interesting places. She works with text and sculptural installation as part of the creative team Maternal Mitochondria in venues ranging from RV Parks to galleries. She founded and directed the creative writing program at Santa Fe Community College until her retirement. Her poetry was set to music for the Santa Fe Women’s Chorus, incised on stoneware for a haiku pathway, and projected as video inside an abandoned grain silo in rural Itoshima. Her blog is Miriam’s Well.

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Guest Post: What You Need to Know Before Creating Your Book Marketing Strategy

by Hayley Zelda

No matter how well you write, how many followers you have on Commaful or Wattpad, or how many contacts you have in publishing, your book won’t sell unless you plan a roadmap or a marketing strategy. Before you create your Tumblr content or social media calendars, you should have a solid understanding of your strengths and weaknesses as a writer. You also need to determine the opportunities and threats that await you as a published author. 

There are several steps you can take to ensure you have a strong foundation for your marketing strategy. By being fully aware of your brand, personality, and voice, you can easily step up your marketing efforts. 

We will look at some of the matters you need to address as part of your book strategy and author marketing.

Your goals

What do you want to accomplish in three to five years? Goals are a broader statement that focuses on your desired results but does not yet describe how you will achieve them. Think long term. Aspire and aim high.

Examples of author goals include:

  • Publish the sequel to my novel.
  • Build a strong fan base.
  • Get interviewed on a podcast or TV show.
  • Hire a literary agent.

Your objectives

What will success look like in 6 to 12 months? Write down two goals that you know are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART). As you write each goal, try to answer the following questions: What do I want to achieve? When? How do I know when it has been reached? How can I accomplish this goal? Does it seem worthwhile?

Here are some example goals:

  • Submit the sequel’s manuscript to a Big Five editor by December 2021. 
  • Set up my Goodreads author listing within the workweek.
  • Write a compelling pitch letter to my researched list of business book summary podcasters. 
  • Email three writer friends in my niche and ask them about recommended agents on Saturday.

Your value

Marketers often ask, “What’s your unique selling proposition”? To keep it simple, let’s rephrase the question: what do you have to offer? What makes you different from other authors? Unless you can identify what makes you unique as a writer, you cannot target your marketing efforts. Put yourself in the shoes of your reader. What motivates them to read your work? Why should they read your book and not someone else’s? 

Some examples to get creative juices flowing:

  • My screenplay is just like Jane Austen’s “Emma,” only set in Beverly Hills.
  • My novel is Franz Kafka’s “The Metamorphosis” meets fuzzy, cuddly kittens. 
  • A newly crowned king must comfort his people during troubling times. The only trouble is, he stutters very badly.

Your niche

Are you a fiction or non-fiction writer? Do you write short stories, poems, or novels? Or do you write how-to books or creative essays? What genre(s) does your work fall into? Does it have a sub-genre or a niche? Here’s a pro tip: If you’re writing in different categories like young adult fantasy and murder mystery, create pseudonyms for each genre. You don’t want to weaken your brand as an author if readers identify you with several but very different niches. 

Here are some ideas:

  • Dystopian science fiction stories and novels
  • Thriller novels with a female protagonist
  • English haiku about life in New York City

Your audience

Visualize who will want to buy your book. Are they male, female, LGBT, or gender doesn’t matter? Are they kids, pre-teens, teenagers, or older? Where in the world do they live in? What are their interests? What kind of websites do they often visit? What are their pain points? Keep these factors in mind as you both work on and promote your book. 

Examples of audience personas include:

  • Mayumi is a 36-year-old wife and mother of two who lives in San Francisco. She is a second-generation Asian-American and wants to know more about her Filipino heritage. 
  • Billy is a 27-year-old computer game enthusiast. He stays up late at night with his roommates playing fantasy role-playing games, rhythm and music party starters, and retro classics on his custom-rigged desktop computer. 
  • Jeannie is an accomplished 50-year-old entrepreneur who co-owns a local chain of healthy lifestyle retail stores. Her day isn’t complete without a cup of oolong tea, a daily phone call with her career coach, and a 30-minute yoga session. 

Your environment

Environmental factors are elements over which you have no control. Nonetheless, these factors still influence the decisions made when creating a strategic marketing plan. Study your writing environment from a macro and a micro perspective. Think of your suppliers, your customers, the general public, other authors. Analyze what’s going on in politics, law, economics, technology, and business that may affect your writing and marketing activities. 

Some environmental factors are:

  • The strict censorship policies in some countries make it difficult for your publisher to distribute your paranormal romance in different parts of the world.
  • The lockdowns caused by the COVID-19 pandemic force people to stay home for months. As a result, your audience now prefers to buy e-books.
  • Besides being a creative writer, you are the single mother of a two-year-old boy and write creative non-fiction from the home office.

Getting started on your marketing strategy

If you are a first-time author, a fully documented marketing strategy may seem overwhelming to you. If so, you can narrow down the essential information to drive your approach (which we discussed earlier) to just one page. Planning your marketing strategy takes a lot of time and effort, so it’s best to list all the “materials” you will need before putting everything together.

* * *

Hayley Zelda is a writer and marketer at heart. She’s written on all the major writing platforms and worked with a number of self-published authors on marketing books to the YA audience.

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Guest Fiction: Summer and Sunshine by Sharon Chidra Jonah

Everyday she breathes. Everyday she smiles. Everyday she laughs.
It was pretty normal to everyone; no one saw anything wrong. They thought she was overly chirpy. They thought she was the full definition of rainbows and sunshine. Summer itself, just like her name.

But no one saw the darkness and pain that she was quietly slipping into, like it was her safe haven, like it was where she really belonged.

Her nickname was Sunshine. It wasn’t an insult but what they thought she should be, instead of a mere human whose existence will cease to exist someday. The irony.

No one knew what she was hiding until that night. I heard crying, and I followed it to the back of the bar.  Who will be here this late at night? I asked myself, and that’s when I saw her. Her strawberry-blonde hair covered her face, but I knew it was her. Then she looked up and my breathing hitched. Never have I seen eyes as red rimmed as hers, and it struck something in me. I wanted to help her, comfort her, be the reason to bring that smile in her face again.

But, the next morning, she was all smiles again. I remembered her helping an old lady to use the computer, and a whole lot of other people after that. A sweet child, they said. She’s full of happiness, they said. Such an amazing soul, they said. They judged too quickly. Just like I did.

But for the first time, I saw the secrets and pain that were hidden deep in her eyes. I thought she was okay, but I’ve never been more wrong.

She kept that façade for a long time. The smiles, the laughter, the kindness, the everything. She kept them all. Until she stopped them all, together with everything that made her, her. Until her lips turned a deep blue. Until she could no longer say her last words. Until her skin turned pale and her blood ran cold. Until she could no longer do the one thing, she so desperately wanted to.

Breathe.

Until Summer and Sunshine was just a name, not the overly-kind strawberry blonde girl who seemed to live by her name.

Again, the irony.

 * * *

Sharon Chidra Jonah

Sharon Chidra Jonah is a teenage African girl from the Eastern part of Nigeria. Though she isn’t a published author yet, Sharon has always taken a liking to blogging and writing. At a very young age, she began to write and decided to start her own blog where she writes all her thoughts.  Sharon is working on her very first novel, which is currently on the web. Sharon loves reading, writing, and listening to music, and one day she hopes to build something bigger with what she loves doing. You can see more of Sharon Chidra Jonah’s work on Wattpad with the name “Dark Blood.” You can check out her blog www.geekysharon.blogspot.com, where she blogs about anything and  everything.

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Guest Post: 4 Things to Consider When Designing Your Characters by Marielle Ann Suy

by Marielle Ann Suy

One of the most common challenges fiction authors face is creating “believable” characters. Take note, I said believable. Designing a character is different from designing a realistic character.

You may already be aware that your character needs life. You might have been searching the internet or reading books endlessly on how to make your characters feel alive. But it’s not enough.

Thankfully, I’m here to share with you the same technique I use to create realistic characters.

Artist drawing pencil portrait close-up

 

  • The Personality

Every human has a personality.

I usually start with knowing their “type.” Are they strong and tough? Are they shy and timid? Are they preppy and fashionable?

The key question here is what are they like?

If you, by some miracle, get the chance to meet this character, what would they tell you? How will they act? Are they initiating active conversations? Do they gossip? Do they talk endlessly? Do they annoy you?

By meeting them, you learn more about them. Not just how they look, but how they act. The more you know them, the better you can craft them.

Here’s an example:

Coal Lockwood is a character from Disappeared (Quesnium). He is a medieval farmer who lives with his childhood friend, Christina Evangeline. Since he’s a farmer, he’s got ragged clothes and a pale skin from all that sunlight. He’s also quite muscular (farming requires a lot of effort) for his age.

Since he was exposed to the hard life of farmers, he’s very down-to-earth. Well, down-to-quesnium, in this case. He knows how to prioritize their needs. Say, there’s no more food in the kitchen and thankfully, he was provided with bread. What he’ll do first is break it into portions. He’ll give one, maybe two, to Christina, eat half of one portion and then store the rest. Afterwards, he’ll find ways to get more food for them.

  • The Goal

Creating your character’s goal is actually easier than you think. The goal is what your character wants.

It could be as simple as being accepted by their parents to as grand as saving the world before bedtime.

The point is that your character must want something. Otherwise, there’s no story.

Here’s an example about Coal:

Coal is a simple man. With his social status, his only goal was to survive the day and the next and the next. He’s devoted to farming. During harvest season, he stores some for himself and Christina, the others for sale. He uses the coins for various needs, like seeds for the farm, food for the livestock, and for future repairs.

The better you can visualize their goal, the better they will move towards that direction.

  • The Motivation

Motivation, in its simplest of terminology, is what inspires your character to reach their goal.

Every human has a motivation, whether or not they realize it. Say, your character wants to graduate. Their motivation is their family. Perhaps, they want to give their family a better life – a better future. That’s why they want to graduate. They want to work soon to be able to support their family.

  • The Humanity

Flaws don’t make us weak, only human.

Everyone has flaws. There’s no such thing as a perfect human (unless he’s a cyborg). Making a human with superhuman strengths and no weaknesses is close to impossible. Even Superman has a weakness.

Whether it’s an object, a hidden trauma, or a person, each character must have a weakness. At the same time, they must also have strengths. Try to balance these when assigning traits to your character.

For example, if your setting is a palace in the sky, your character may be afraid of heights, but they may also have keen senses. In a thriller, action, or adventure story, keen senses are necessary.

And there they are. Those are the 4 things you should consider when designing your characters. Happy writing!

* * *

suyA lover of fairytales and the mystical, Marielle Ann Suy is a storyteller and author. She has published two short stories. Both stories are about the sun’s disappearance, hence entitled “Disappeared.” “Disappeared (Earth)” is about a solar eclipse and how it affects the world. “Disappeared (Quesnium)” is about the sun’s disappearance and how it affects lowly farmers. A novel based on the same characters and the same premise is on its way. Stay tuned in via social media or by subscribing to her newsletter.

Social Media Links:

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/MariellesQuesnium/

Twitter – @suy_marielle

Blog – https://quesnium.wixsite.com/talesofworlds

 

Disappeared (Earth) Book Links:

Apple Books – http://bit.ly/DiniBooks

Barnes and Noble – http://bit.ly/DinNook

Kobo – http://bit.ly/2DinKobo

Scribd – http://bit.ly/DinScribd

Smashwords – http://bit.ly/2DinSmashwords

 

Get Your Free Copy of Disappeared (Quesnium): http://bit.ly/QuesniumFREE  

 

 

Interested in having your work featured here?  Contact me.

 

 

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4 Self-Publishing Essentials That No Author Can Publish Without

by Rosie Wylor-Owen

Self-publishing gives authors exciting degrees of freedom over their work. We can choose how long our books can be, what to put on the covers and *squeal* how much to charge for them. When we’re bound to publishing contracts, these important elements are left in the hands of editors and graphic designers who haven’t nurtured your manuscript the way you have. Despite this, in the hands of a publisher, all the costs of producing our book babies are covered. Self-publishing freedom is not without its expense.

Indie authors aren’t known for their riches, so sometimes we might feel tempted to cut corners. While we can take steps to be frugal, there are some things we just can’t sacrifice for the sake of cost. Before you self-publish your book, take a look at the self-publishing essentials you can’t publish without:

Editing

As indie authors, we tend to have a great network of author friends who are ready to beta-read our manuscripts for some cold, hard feedback. Ouch, right? While this is hugely helpful in creating a polished manuscript, beta-readers just can’t replace real editing by a seasoned professional. Without proper editing, you could quite easily publish an error-riddled book to your adoring fans.

No matter how many times you pore over your manuscript, something – nay, a lot of things – are going to slip under your radar. Editors may cost a pretty penny but the polished manuscript you receive from them is priceless. Even if you have to save a dollar at a time, hire the darn editor.

aerial-3253349

A Professional Book Cover

First impressions matter more than we like to think they do, and that could not be truer than of books. The front covers of our novels are the first things our readers see and are the first excuse to say “no” to our books. You might be quite artistic, but the chances of creating a fantastic book cover without some real graphic design experience are slimmer than an intern’s paycheque.

Your book title plastered across a free stock photo in sans-serif isn’t going to wow readers who have probably seen one hundred better covers that day already. Investing in a good book cover is arguably even smarter than hiring an editor, because the cover is what gets your readers to the first page. Forget about Canva and Pixabay, and start researching some good graphic designers. Your manuscript deserves the best.

Reading

This question has bounced around Facebook writing groups since time immemorial. Does a writer have to read to be a good writer? The answer is yes. Is it possible for a musician to compose good music without listening to any first? Only if they have superpowers.

Some writers insist that their writing is often complimented and they never read. Here’s the thing: a good writer isn’t just someone who can write at an acceptable level and gets themselves a few hearty congratulations from Aunt Beatrice and Uncle Tom. A good writer is a writer who is constantly improving, and there’s no better way to do that than to read regularly and write regularly. The best dishes come from the chefs who do their homework.

Networking

This writing deal really does test us, sometimes. Writing is, by and large, an introvert’s profession. We like holing up in our studies and creating in peace and quiet; no people, and lots of coffee. Bliss. So networking isn’t at the top of our to-do lists, but if we want to get our books under the noses of our ideal readers, we need a helping hand (or several).

The good news is, since the marvelous invention of social media, we don’t have to meet anyone face to face. Don’t tell me that’s not ideal.

Authors need each other to help host their book launches, to share their giveaways and to recommend their books. Without a solid backing, indie authors struggle much more to get their work noticed. Go and say “hi” in a few writing groups, and write a thank-you e-mail to your favourite indie author. You might just find friendships worth keeping.

Whether you enjoy socialising or not, we need allies on our journey; a journey we can all make together.

Whether we like it or not there are some things that we can’t do without. Books, friends, and the dastardly red pen, among other things. If you want your writing career to be a successful one, try out these ideas and see if you can take the next step towards that bestseller list.

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20157114_1802529079762912_4918685668669970332_o

Rosie Wylor-Owen was born in Worcester, England at the height of baggy jeans and boy-band popularity. Her work has been featured in the literary magazines The Fiction Pool, Anti-Heroin Chic and Ariel Chart, and the Manawaker Studios Podcast. Her short story “Arm-in-Army with Alchemy” was accepted for publication by Otter Libris for inclusion in the anthology “Magical Crime Scene Investigation.” In February 2018 she won third place in the Fiction Writer’s Global flash fiction contest for her story “In Exchange for Your Sins.”

http://www.rosiewylor-owen.com

http://www.welcometothesecretlibrary.com (blog)

Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/rosiewylorowenauthor/
Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/rosiewylorowenbooksquad/
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.co.uk/rosiewylorowen/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/bates_rosie

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/rouli91/

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Guest Book Review: The Fire King by Amber Jaeger

by Whitney Morgan

This five-star read was on FIRE!

For almost an entire year this book popped up on my recommended page on Amazon, and when I finally downloaded it, I couldn’t put it down.

I really enjoyed The Cold King and I always get nervous when reading other books by authors who have written one of my favorites. This was definitely worth it! This re-telling of Snow White was epic. It will be very hard to beat, in my opinion.

 fire king

The Fire King was a perfect combination of witty, smart and heart wrenching. I loved all of the characters but the relationship between King Lian and Princess Katiyana was absolutely priceless.

“Well, I can see that where ever you have been hiding, dressing and acting like a lady have not been the highest priority.”

 keeping

Katiyana was a perfect heroine. While there were times she was immature and complained about little things, she was fierce and she didn’t need a man to save her or set her free.

“I am not some simpering consort that is going to hang off your arm.”

She didn’t care to challenge the king or his highest-ranking officer.

“You are a grown man, not a child. Stop acting like one. If there is a problem, just find a way to fix it and move on. Your temper tantrums are exhausting and unnecessary.”

When she saw something wrong, she acted on it.

“What was that, coward?” Katiyana taunted. “I could not hear you from all the way over there. It sounded as though you were upset someone raised their voice and hand to your king, but surely that cannot be it if you are willing to allow him to do the same to a defenseless girl.” 

I will admit that it took her a while to realize it rested on her shoulders alone to save her people. When she stepped into her role and accepted her duty she became stronger and better. She became a queen that was going to protect and serve her people.

snow white

I loved that the “apple” scene was different and the same at the same time. Instead of going with the traditional “girl bites apple without knowing, girl goes into sleeping curse, girl is saved by man,” it was actually really awesome. And there were two different scenes, so it was cool.

Not only did Katiyana challenge Lian, Lian also challenged her.

“You act like a country bumpkin, not a princess.”

“And you act like an angry bear, not a king!”

There were times the hostility between them grew and they resorted to hurting each other.

“Your lack of manners and ability to hold your tongue is appalling, as is your refusal to act and dress like a lady. When you are not aggravating me, you are up in the roof of all places, daydreaming. I cannot imagine a man wanting to tie himself to a woman like that.”

The fact that the king had to tell her to bathe was absolutely hilarious. (I’m telling you, I could not get enough of their banter and relationship. It was hysterical.)

A simple bath had her out of sorts.

“I am never going to be able to do this,” Katiyana whispered to herself as she dejectedly walked towards the bathing room. 

She refused to call Lian her king but before she knew it, he had gained her trust and respect, much to her shock she started seeing him in a new light.

“How is our king spoken about?”

 If you like re-tellings, fairy tales, Snow White, men that act like bears, strong heroines, women that do not need a man’s help or all of the above… Read this. It was beautiful, funny and amazing!

If this sounds like something you’d be interested in, you can find it here.

* * *

Image uploaded from iOS-2

For as long as I can remember, I wanted to write. It’s been a part of who I am since I was a child scribbling away in my notebooks about characters and love and poetry and songs and ideas. I bleed stories and lyrics rather than blood. 

Well, I grew up and went through a bunch of life. I became a wife at eighteen-years-old and a mom three years later. I’ve gone through difficult losses and amazing blessings, but one thing remained the same over the years; I wanted to write. So, eventually, I did! 

If I’m not reading, then I’m writing and if I’m not writing, well, you guessed it, I’m probably reading. 

I daydream all the time. If I look like I’m staring off into space, it’s because I’m seeing a world that isn’t really there. I’m letting characters tell me about themselves.  Humor, passion, and romance is the braid that is my story-telling. I   cannot have one without the other two.  I may be approaching twenty-seven, but I’m beyond obsessed with the YA genre. Romance, Fantasy, and anything in between! 

If you aren’t a fan of fairytale retellings, but love romance and mystery, you can check out my novel ‘Finding Home in Redemption’ on Amazon! I have the first three, unedited, chapters on my personal blog, as well as a sneak preview of the prologue and first chapter of the book I have coming out this July! While they are part of the same series, you do not have to read book one to understand book two. (Although there are secrets that are revealed about book one, it’s not critical to read them in order.)

Are you interested in reading and reviewing an ebook for free? I’m looking for ARC readers who would like to receive an ebook copy of ‘Redeeming the Darkness’ in exchange for an honest review. If this sounds like something you’d like to do, feel free to contact me by email at: whitneymmorganbooks@gmail.com

Chapter one of Finding Home in Redemption:

https://www.whitneymorganbooks.com/single-post/2017/07/06/Want-to-read-chapter-one-of-Finding-Home-in-Redemption

Prologue and chapter one of Redeeming the Darkness:

https://www.whitneymorganbooks.com/single-post/2018/05/31/Redeeming-the-Darkness-Prologue-Chapter-One

For information about Redeeming the Darkness, Look here:

https://www.whitneymorganbooks.com/redeeming-the-darkness

For information about Finding Home in Redemption, Look here:

https://www.whitneymorganbooks.com/coming-soon

For all kinds of other information about books I have coming out in the future, check out my website at, www.whitneymorganbooks.com

You can also follow me on Facebook or Instagram @whitmorganbooks

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Guest Post: Where Do Those Characters in the Books Come From? by Jerold Last

by Jerold Last

As we try to create the imaginary worlds of our books, to be believable we have to rely on reality for inspiration.  I use the places I’ve lived in and visited in South America as settings in my South American Mystery novels.  These novels have to be populated with people, both the central characters like my detectives Roger Bowman and Suzanne Foster, and all of the rest of the people they will meet as they investigate the murder or murders.  We quickly encounter a problem of how to make these other characters into distinct individuals rather than just 20 stereotypes named Pedro or Jose.  To solve this problem I generally use real people I’ve met in South America as models for fictional characters in these books.  The process begins by visualizing someone I actually met for a physical description, and/or by taking part of their personas to start building the fictional characters.  To demonstrate this process, let’s follow the path from reality to book pages of several suspects in the murders being investigated in three of my novels.

 First up is Bernardo Colletti, the head of the Uruguayan Nazi Party in The Ambivalent Corpse, and a suspect in the murder.  He has strong roots in reality.  I first visited Montevideo in 1982 as a Fulbright Professor teaching courses in toxicology and protein biochemistry during the waning days of a right-wing military dictatorship.  One of my hosts was married to a physician who worked in the Emergency Room (think of George Clooney’s role in ER) of the major hospital in Montevideo, who also turned out to be the head of the Uruguayan Nazi Party.  Despite his politics, he was a charming and well-educated (Uruguay and Chicago, USA) physician with whom I was expected to interact professionally and socially while I was there.  To create Bernardo’s character in the book, I merely aged his role model from 1982 to 2011 and grafted the real Nazi’s looks and personality onto the fictional one.  Despite the obvious reasons one should not like a virulent fascist, I tried to portray Bernardo as I recalled the real person: extremely charming and intelligent in social settings where he chose not to emphasize the more odious of his political views.  But, I have to admit, I enjoyed finally killing him off in The Body In The Bed.

Next up is another character (actually a couple) from The Ambivalent Corpse, Gerardo and Andrea, who act as hosts for Suzanne at the University de la Republica and become good friends of our heroes as the story evolves.  The couple is modeled after my two best friends and scientific colleagues in Montevideo. They are, in fact, named after their two children.  Now there’s a switch, naming the parents after their children.  You can get a real sense of power when you write fiction!  The scene at the Feria (open air market) in the park described in the book is based on the actual Saturday morning Feria in the park across the street from the apartment we rented when we lived in Montevideo.  Andrea’s research with algal toxins she describes at dinner in the book is pretty close to what the real “Andrea and Gerardo” do in Montevideo, and formed a large part of the basis for our collaborative research and teaching.  

In The Surreal Killer, Suzanne and Roger are taken for a flight over Northern Chile’s vast Atacama Desert in a small two-engine plane by two of their suspects, Pedro and Romero.  Along the way, Pedro gives both of them lessons in how to fly the plane.  Pedro’s character is a composite based upon a couple of real scientists I’ve known very well.  One of them is a North American, originally from New Jersey, who actually taught me how to fly a single-engine Cessna many years ago while we were both research scientists at The National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland.  The other, more extroverted, half of Pedro’s character is based upon Manuel E., a Chilean scientist who hosted me during several visits to Santiago as we tried to build a collaborative program at The University of Chile similar to those we had already developed in Montevideo and Salta, Argentina. 

Finally, the Kaufman sisters, Gretchen and Barbara, make their debut as murder suspects in The Origin of Murder, as fellow passengers on a cruise of the Galapagos Islands with Roger and Suzanne.  They return to the series again to play substantial roles in Unbearably Deadly and Abra Cadaver.  We met the sisters’ counterparts in real life as, you may have guessed, passengers on the cruise ship we took for our real vacation in the Galapagos Islands.  One of the sisters taught school in the San Francisco Bay area, the other lived with her and worked for a publisher in the city.  We spent several dinners together on board the ship discussing life for single women in San Francisco, our common love of dogs, and whatever other topics came to mind, and tended to hang together as we visited the islands.  We also met for dinner in the Bay Area a few times after we returned to California, but that was a long drive and the friendship petered out.  I grafted their physical descriptions and personalities onto the fictional sisters in the novel as the list of characters emerged.  They were promoted to recurring character status in Unbearably Deadly.  I like how they can interact with Roger and Suzanne to keep the plot moving along without having to steal the limelight from our main characters.  I suspect we’ll continue to see them occasionally as the series continues.

            In this brief blog entry I’ve tried to describe how a small part of the creative process works for fiction authors.  Our life experiences are the source and our books and their characters are the product.  If you’d like to meet Bernardo, Andrea, and Gerardo, they can be found hanging out in The Ambivalent Corpse.  You can meet Pedro, Romero, and their Beechcraft Baron airplane in The Surreal Killer.  The Kaufman sisters appear in The Origin of Murder, Unbearably Deadly, and Abra Cadaver.  Finally, Bernardo Colletti also appears (very briefly) in the novella The Body in the Bed.

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JL Photo

Jerold Last is a Professor of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine at the University of California’s Medical School at Davis, near Sacramento in Northern California.  Jerry, a two-time winner of The Indie Book of the Day Award, writes “tweener” mystery books (tough and occasionally violent mystery stories that follow the cozy conventions of no graphic sex and no cussing), all published as e-books on Amazon Kindle with six also published as paperback versions, that are fast moving and entertain the reader.  Several of the books introduce the readers to South America, a region where he has lived and worked that is a long way from home for most English speakers.  He and his wife Elaine lived previously in Salta, Argentina and Montevideo, Uruguay.  Jerry selects the most interesting Latin American locations he found for Roger and Suzanne to visit while solving miscellaneous murders.  Montevideo, Salta, Machu Picchu, Cuba, the Galapagos Islands, and Iguazu Falls are also characters in these books, and the novels portray these places as vivid and real.  Jerry and Elaine breed prize-winning German shorthaired pointer dogs; Elaine also provides technical advice for Jerry’s dog-related novels like The Deadly Dog Show, Hunter Down, and Abra Cadaver, as well as editing for all of the books.

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