Susan Bishop Crispell earned a BFA in creative writing from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. Born and raised in the mountains of Tennessee, she now lives twenty minutes from the beach in North Carolina with her husband and their literary-named cat. She is very fond of chocolate and is always on the lookout for hints of magic in the real world. She is the author of The Secret Ingredient of Wishes (September 2016) and Dreaming in Chocolate (February 2018).
I’m not one of those authors who’s always known I wanted to write. When I finally stumbled my way into fiction in college, I couldn’t fathom ever writing something longer than a short story. My undergrad creative writing program was an incredible intro into the literary world. I learned craft rules and studied theme and symbolism. I even graduated with departmental honors in creative writing.
Then I stopped writing. For years. It’s not that I didn’t want to write anymore, but the kind of writing that was lauded in school—high-brow literary fiction—didn’t feel like me. The kinds of stories I wrote didn’t live up to that. Not by a long shot. And it left me feeling like I wasn’t good enough to keep at it.
But the stories wouldn’t leave me alone. And the voices in my head insisted I pay attention to them.
So, I decided to write a story for me. One that felt true to who I wanted to be as an author, not what I thought other people thought I should be. That changed everything. I started with a short story I’d used as part of my honors thesis and turned it into my first novel. It wasn’t some great work of literary genius, but then it wasn’t meant to be. It was a way to fall back in love with writing and to show myself that I could craft a story that spanned a few hundred pages instead of stopping after ten or fifteen.
I’ve written six novels since then, with a seventh more than half way completed. Through these stories and characters, I’ve refined my voice as an author into something that’s whimsical and commercial and a little quirky. And it’s about as far from what I was writing in college as I could get. But my books are one-hundred percent me. They’re the kinds of stories I like to read, all magical and sweet and hopeful. They’re full of family and fate and food. (So much food!)
When I first started writing these kind of stories, I wasn’t sure they would appeal to anyone. (I freely admit they’re a bit odd.) Then I read Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen and realized there was indeed a market for my brand of magical southern fiction. Now that I have two books out in the world, I know I’ve found my heart as a writer. I’m still learning and growing with every new book I write. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Dreaming in Chocolate
With an endless supply of magical gifts and recipes from the hot chocolate café Penelope Dalton runs alongside her mother, she is able to give her daughter almost everything she wants. The one sticking point is Ella’s latest request: get a dad. And not just any dad. Ella has her sights set on Noah Gregory, her biological father who’s back in town for a few months – and as charming as ever.
Noah broke Penelope’s heart years ago, but now part of her wonders if she made the right decision to keep the truth of their daughter from him. The other, more practical part, is determined to protect Ella from the same heartbreak. Now Penelope must give in to her fate or face a future of regrets.
Where to Buy Dreaming in Chocolate
Bestselling author Barbara Claypole White creates hopeful family drama with a healthy dose of mental illness. Originally from England, she writes and gardens in the forests of North Carolina, where she lives with her beloved OCD family. Her novels include The Unfinished Garden, The In-Between Hour, The Perfect Son, and Echoes of Family. The Promise Between Us, which shines a light on postpartum OCD, launched in January, 2018. She is also an OCD Advocate for the A2A Alliance, a nonprofit group that promotes advocacy over adversity. To connect with Barbara, please visit www.barbaraclaypolewhite.com, or follow her on Facebook. She’s always on Facebook.
As someone who has lived in the shadow of mental illness since childhood, I’m fascinated by the stigma, shame, and misinformation that surround invisible disabilities. I grew up in a family that hid both my aunt’s untreated schizophrenia and my father’s decade of alcoholism; now I’m part of a family that talks openly about mental health (my son and my husband both struggle with obsessive-compulsive disorder). I’ve been an enabler, an advocate, and a mental health coach for people I love. My learning curve continues, but the ongoing journey also feeds into the fiction I write—hopeful family drama with a healthy dose of mental illness. I guess that was inevitable, but it was also unexpected.
With one manuscript in the drawer, I was deep into my second manuscript when a character called James Nealy appeared fully formed in my brain and refused to leave. James has OCD, and he came from my darkest fear as a mother: What if, when my young son grew up, no one could see beyond his obsessive, anxious behavior to love him for the incredible person he is? When I met James, I thought I was writing love stories with a dark edge. My hero and heroine were tortured souls who shared a truckload of emotional baggage, but mental illness wasn’t even a blip in a subplot.
James was a revelation from day one, but I was nervous about writing a character with OCD. Could I treat the OCD in a sensitive, accurate way? Would people question why his OCD didn’t manifest in the same form as Monk’s, the germophobic TV detective whom most people identified as the face of OCD? Would James’s quirkiness take over the story of a young mother trying to make peace with the guilt surrounding her husband’s death? And yet there was James, taking up prime real estate in my brain, saying, “Write me into your story.” (He’s quite persistent, my beloved James…)
Eventually, I tore the manuscript apart and rewrote it to include him. After a famous agent declared James “too dark to be a romantic hero” and rejected the story, I ripped it apart yet again and added chapters from James’s point of view, allowing readers to eavesdrop on his hidden battles with anxiety. I’m not sure whether this was a moment of chutzpah or my British war mentality shining through, but it was the best literary decision I’ve ever made. I quickly snagged the agent of my dreams and thanks to her, I now have five traditionally published novels.
I owe James everything. Excavating his layers helped me discover my passion for giving voice to characters who challenge stereotypes of disorders. He also set me on my path as a career novelist. By the time I’d created Felix Fitzwilliam, the unlikely hero of THE PERFECT SON, it was obvious I was writing about the impact of mental illness on families.
While my novels are standalones, my characters share common traits: they show extraordinary courage as they navigate the minefields of their everyday lives; they are never victims; and they are flawed individuals who are messy composites of personality, brain chemistry, DNA, upbringing, education, religion, etc. When they screw up, mental illness isn’t always the culprit, and they are never defined by—or reduced to—a label.
Okay, time to get off my soap box. The bottom line? I believe fiction matters and novels can educate and enlighten as well as entertain. When I visit book clubs, we tend to share wine, information, tissues, and group therapy, which I love. Many of the private messages I receive from readers are filled with stories of daily struggles without treatment or support. Community is such an important part of recovery and management, and a recurring theme in my novels.
Happy endings aren’t guaranteed in the worlds I create, but my stories all close with hope. Endless hope! Life in the trenches with mental illness can be dark and isolating, and yet each new day brings the possibility of a fresh start or what I like to call light through the trees.
Which leads me to Amy’s question: If I could meet one author, who would it be and why? I’m going to pick four giants who’ve been open about their own struggles with messed-up brain chemistry: Marian Keyes and J K Rowling (depression), John Green (OCD), and Stephen King (addiction and alcoholism). When celebrities share their struggles, it helps demystify mental illness and spread awareness. If I were to meet these guys, I would say thank you: as a niece, a daughter, a wife, a mother, and a writer.
The Promise Between Us
“This is an eye-opening and realistic exploration of mental illness—a topic that greatly deserves to be front and center.” —Jodi Picoult, New York Timesbestselling author of Small Great Things
Metal artist Katie Mack is living a lie. Nine years ago she ran away from her family in Raleigh, North Carolina, consumed by the irrational fear that she would harm Maisie, her newborn daughter. Over time she’s come to grips with the mental illness that nearly destroyed her, and now funnels her pain into her art. Despite longing for Maisie, Katie honors an agreement with the husband she left behind—to change her name and never return.
But when she and Maisie accidentally reunite, Katie can’t ignore the familiarity of her child’s compulsive behavior. Worse, Maisie worries obsessively about bad things happening to her pregnant stepmom. Katie has the power to help, but can she reconnect with the family she abandoned?
To protect Maisie, Katie must face the fears that drove her from home, accept the possibility of love, and risk exposing her heart-wrenching secret.
Where to Buy The Promise Between Us
Becky Clark is the seventh of eight kids, which explains both her insatiable need for attention and her atrocious table manners. She likes to read funny books so it felt natural to write them too. She surrounds herself with quirky people and pets who end up as characters in her books.
Readers say her books are “fast and thoroughly entertaining” with “witty humor and tight writing” and “humor laced with engaging characters” so you should “grab a cocktail and enjoy the ride.” They also say “Warning: You will laugh out loud. I’m not kidding,” and “If you like Janet Evanovich, you will like Becky Clark.”
I'm lucky enough to be a full-time writer, which means I get to do my writing between 9:00am and noon every day, instead of 9:00pm and midnight. Which is good, because it's hard to write when you're fast asleep.
I started writing when my kids were very young and I had a childcare business in my home. The naptime rules were that they didn't have to sleep, but they had to stay put and read or otherwise silently occupy themselves.
That's when I went upstairs and wrote. At that time I wrote short personal essays about whatever was on my mind. I envisioned myself the next Erma Bombeck. I sold a few of those and it was extremely gratifying. It also gave me the writing bug.
Fast forward several years to my son and me at the public library. He wanted to find some historical fiction written for boys, but precocious as he was, he'd already read everything they had. As we left, he threw down the gauntlet. "Why don't you just write one, Mom?"
I didn't do everything my children wanted, but I did this. I had a lot of help, though. Several organizations and people came to my rescue: Colorado Independent Publishers Association, Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, and Pikes Peak Writers.
Many marvelous people taught me strange and wonderful things I didn't even know I needed to know and I got that book published, and into the hands of kids, one who told me he didn't like to read until he read my book.
Again, that writing bug chomped. Hard. And hasn't let go.
I wrote six or eight more manuscripts for kids, each one teaching me how much I still needed to learn. And then I made the leap to writing mysteries for adults. I became more involved in Pikes Peak Writers, and other writing organizations, teaching workshops to pay back the help I'd received over the years.
Getting involved in writing organizations is the advice I give everyone who asks me how to get started in a writing career. You meet fantastic and generous writers, some further along the path than you are, some further behind. You learn from both types. It's where I met most of my friends and many of my inspirations. Writer's conferences bring in editors, agents, and bestselling authors. And you get to chat with them.
As my mysteries found an audience, I was able to kick it up a notch, join Sisters in Crime (and help found my beloved Colorado chapter) and attend mystery fan conventions. Not put on for writers, but for readers. And I was able to hobnob with tons of mystery authors at conventions like Left Coast Crime, Malice Domestic, and Bouchercon.
Guess what! Even very famous ones are down-to-earth and generous! In fact, at Bouchercon 2017 I made a plan to stalk a bunch of authors to ask if they'd blurb my upcoming title FICTION CAN BE MURDER. I nervously clutched my ARCs, trying not to get them all sweaty, but I was nervous for absolutely no reason. To a person, they all said they'd be happy to read and blurb. Of course, it didn't work out for all of them in the end due to time constraints and their own writing deadlines. But I was never made to feel 'less than' or 'junior.' When asking, I always made sure to acknowledge that what I was asking of them was a huge imposition and that there really wasn't anything in it for them. They all pooh-poohed that, telling me, "People did this for me, and I want to do it for you."
Writers are inherently generous. I don't know why, but they are. I heart them.
I like the image of writers ahead of me on the career path stretching one hand back to me to help pull me along, while I have my other hand reaching back to help pull someone else along.
Because of all these helping hands, I have the first book — FICTION CAN BE MURDER — in my new Mystery Writer's Mystery series getting ready to launch in April 2018.
Fiction Can Be Murder
Mystery author Charlemagne Russo thought the twisty plots and peculiar murders in her books were only products of her imagination. That is, until her agent is found dead exactly as described in her unpublished manuscript. Suspicion swirls around her and her critique group. Which of her friends is a murderer?
Becky’s website …. https://beckyclarkbooks.com/
Follow Becky Clark on Amazon … https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B004NQO14I
on Facebook at Becky Clark Author … https://www.facebook.com/BeckyClarkAuthor/
and at Goodreads … https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4730815.Becky_Clark
Where to Buy Fiction Can Be Murder
J.A. (Julie) Kazimer lives in Denver, CO. When she isn't looking for a place to hide the bodies, she spends her time with a pup named Killer. Other hobbies include murdering houseplantsand avoiding housework. She spent a few years as a bartender and then wasted another few years stalking people while working as a private investigator before transitioning to the moniker of WRITER and penning over 20 titles. Visit her website at jakazimer.com and sign up for her THIS LITTLE PIGGY WENT TO MURDER Newsletter.
Thank you Amy, and readers, for allowing me much coveted space in this newsletter. Please forgive me if this is rambling and makes little sense, I’m flu-writing, which is, you guessed it, writing while whining about having the flu.
For those of you who haven’t heard of me, which is likely everyone but Amy, let me introduce myself. My name is Julie Kazimer, writing under J.A. Kazimer. I write mostly mysteries and romances, with the occasional divergence into urban fantasy, humor and YA. Oh, and adult-geared fairytales. Not Little Miss Muffet in web-bondage or anything. The series is called, F***ed-Up Fairytales, with CURSES! being the first book.
Overall, since 2012, I’ve had 20 or so books published.
Which really boils down to, I know very little about writing.
Seriously. When I sold my first book, I thought I knew a lot about it. Now I realize how little I understand about writing and the publishing world.
That’s what I wanted to chat about today (sounds like this will indeed be a short discussion).
The thing is, while I don’t know much about writing and publishing in terms of what makes it good or why something becomes a breakout hit, I do know about story. Story is why we read. Imagine a book that has zero story, just beautiful prose, would you bother reading more than the first page? I know I wouldn’t.
Even poets, whose word choice is all powerful, rely on convening some semblance of a tale.
Too many writers suffer over word choice, over whether to use an exclamation point or a period, or if they appropriately named a character…While these are important things to help convey story, they aren’t what readers will expect to find between the pages. It’s all about characters, plot, and pace.
Or I could be wrong. Happens more than I care to admit.
One last thing, if you love an author, then I urge you to reach out to them. Drop an email. It will mean more than you can imagine to them. My favorite author/best friend (I wish), Christopher Moore, is my idol when it comes to this.
Over the years, even before becoming an author myself, I would email him when my real best friend (who I’d throw over in a second if you’re interested in the position) and I would argue about a plot point in one of Moore’s books. Christopher always wrote back with amusing responses. It made me love him that much more. Authors are people too, but ones rarely allowed in polite society.
Haunted in Hollywood: The Adventures of Loey Lane
When a fashion magazine offers YouTube vlogger and model, Loey Lane, a cover shoot at the iconic Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, she jumps at the chance, flying from her small hometown in Kansas to the City of Angels . . . and ghosts.
Soon after arriving, speculation of a murderous ghost haunting the hotel reaches Loey’s ears. As the rumor goes, those that see the ghost will be the next to die. That very night, Loey watches, mesmerized, as the ghost materializes outside her poolside bungalow. Now she, along with her friends known as the LitSquad, will do anything in their power to save Loey from her supernatural fate. Of course, Loey’s best chance of surviving involves teaming up with a ghost-hunter from her past, a guy hot enough to melt away the promise that Loey made to keep him at a distance.
Social Media Links:
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/JulieAKazimer
Twitter - @jakazimer
Amazon - https://www.amazon.com/J.A.-Kazimer
Where to Buy Haunted in Hollywood: The Adventures of Loey Lane
Judy Penz Sheluk is the author of The Hanged Man’s Noose (Glass Dolphin Mysteries) and Skeletons in the Attic (Marketville Mysteries) for Barking Rain Press. In addition to writing mysteries, Judy has spent many years working as a freelance writer and editor, and is currently the Senior Editor for New England Antiques Journal.
Judy is a member Sisters in Crime International/Guppy Chapter/Toronto, Crime Writers of Canada, International Thriller Writers, and the Short Mystery Fiction Society. Judy was also elected to the 2017-2018 Crime Writers of Canada Board of Directors, representing Toronto and Southern Ontario. You can find out more about Judy at www.judypenzsheluk.com, where she showcases other authors and blogs about her writing journey.
One of the first questions people tend to ask me is how long I’ve been writing, and the answer to that is, “for as long as I can remember,” albeit with this caveat: for many years, I wrote stories inside my head, on my way to and from elementary and high school, or later, commuting to and from work.
Now I know what you’re thinking: it’s impossible for someone to read a story that’s inside my head (at least I hope it’s impossible!) but let me plead my case. You see, for many years I thought everyone wrote stories in their head. And while I wanted to study journalism, circumstances led me to get a fulltime job in the credit department of an insurance company, while I took company-sponsored business courses at night. By age 23, I was the Canadian Division Credit Manager, the youngest Division Manager in the company’s history.
I followed that Credit Management path for several years, leaving the insurance company but finding success with others. And then one day I said to my husband, “I can’t do the corporate thing any more.” And he said, “What do you want to do?” And I said, “I want to be a freelance writer.” He told me to try it for a year. That was 2003. I’ve never looked back, though I have taken a couple of online certificate programs in Fiction Writing and Creative Writing, and I’ve worked hard to build a reputation as a reliable researcher who consistently meets deadlines.
After 10 years of writing and editing for magazines and newspapers, I began writing my debut novel, The Hanged Man’s Noose: A Glass Dolphin Mystery. The premise was one I’d seen in my own small town: greedy developer comes with plans to build a mega-box store, thereby jeopardizing the small businesses on the town’s historic Main Street. As for the Glass Dolphin, it’s the name of an antiques shop, and I come by my knowledge honestly: I’ve been the Senior Editor for New England Antiques Journal since 2007.
It took a while to find a “home” for Noose, and when I couldn’t bring myself to write the sequel to a book that hadn’t found a publisher, I started Skeletons in the Attic, the first book in my Marketville Mystery series. Both books are currently being published by Barking Rain Press, and can be found in print and e-book, as well as in audiobook on Audible, Amazon and iTunes.
I’m also happy to say that the sequels to both books are scheduled. A Hole in One: A Glass Dolphin Mystery #2 is coming out Spring 2018, and Past & Present: A Marketville Mystery #2 is coming out early 2019. Which means, of course, that now I’m working on the sequels to the sequels. Sometimes I think it’s a problem, trying to write two series concurrently, but trust me, as problems go, it’s a very good problem to have.
When I left the corporate world I didn’t know if my life as a freelance writer would work out, but something inside me told me to try, and I never regretted the decision for a moment. That same voice told me to try writing a novel, and here I am, four books written and two more in the hopper.
Amy asked me to include a few lines about an author I’d like to meet, and why. I don’t know how to narrow it down. Every author I’ve read, whether I loved or hated the book, has impacted me, and in turn, my writing. Because all the writing courses in the world can’t change one simple fact: reading truly is the best teacher.
Skeletons in the Attic
Calamity (Callie) Barnstable isn’t surprised to learn she’s the sole beneficiary of her late father’s estate, though she is shocked to discover she has inherited a house in the town of Marketville—a house she didn’t know he had. However, there are conditions attached to Callie’s inheritance: she must move to Marketville, live in the house, and solve her mother’s murder.
Callie’s not keen on dredging up a thirty-year-old mystery, but if she doesn’t do it, there’s a scheming psychic named Misty Rivers who hopes to expose the Barnstable family secrets herself. Determined to thwart Misty and fulfill her father’s wishes, Callie accepts the challenge. But is she ready to face the skeletons hidden in the attic?
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William Nikkel is the author of seven Jack Ferrell novels, a Jack Ferrell novella, and a steampunk/zombie western series featuring his latest hero, Max Traver. A former homicide detective and S.W.A.T. team member for the Kern County Sheriff’s Department in Bakersfield, California, William is an amateur scuba enthusiast, gold prospector and artist, who can be found just about anywhere. He and his wife Karen divide their time between California and Maui, Hawaii.
The challenge and joy of crafting a novel came relatively late in life for me. I was born and raised in Bakersfield, California. Growing up in a small town in the fifties and sixties, I spent a lot of hours outdoors playing. Much of that play involved imagination and creativity. At an early age—actually for as long as I can remember—I immersed myself in my love of art, dreaming that one day I could become a famous artist. But after college, I chose a career in law enforcement and went to work for the Kern County Sheriff’s Department.
As a deputy sheriff, I worked the streets and then detectives, with special assignments in SWAT and Homicide. When health concerns brought about an early retirement, I once again turned to my love of art. After a couple of years and limited success as a profession wildlife artist, I discovered the joy of crafting a story. And once again, I drew on the imagination and creativity that was such an important part of my younger years.
My work fighting crime in the streets of Bakersfield provided me with extraordinary life experiences I bring into my writing to breathe life into my characters and scenes. But like any endeavor worth pursuing, the road to becoming a published author was paved with challenge and disappointment that required dedication and hard work. Having no formal writing background, there was much to be learned. Through the Maui Writers Conference I had the privilege of learning the craft from New York Times bestselling authors James Rollins, Tess Gerritsen, David Morrell, and author Gary Braver—not to mention a host of writers like himself. Since that time, my learning experience has continued to evolve at the International Thriller Writers conference in New York. And if I was only able to offer one piece of advice for the beginning writer, it would be to stress the importance of finding one or two good writing conferences to both inspire and enhance their writing.
In 2001, my wife Karen and I moved to Maui, Hawaii. It was after moving to the island that I decided to write a series of novels based on Hawaii’s many mystical legends and myths. The protagonist, I reasoned, had to love the ocean. Thus, Marine Biologist Jack Ferrell came to life in my stories. In 2008 I finished the first Jack Ferrell novel GLIMMER OF GOLD. Next I wrote NIGHT MARCHERS, and then CAVE DWELLER, a #1 Amazon bestseller. In 2011 I finished my fourth Jack Ferrell novel MURRIETA GOLD. All four books have since been re-released by Shannon Raab at Suspense Publishing, who went on to published BLOOD GOLD, SHIPWRECK, and my latest novel SAILOR TAKE WARNING, which released November 13, 2017. The entire series is available for order in e-book and trade paperback through Amazon as well as Suspense Publishing.
I believe it’s safe to say every writer is inspired by authors they have read and loved. For me, inspiration has come from many talented authors: in particular Clive Cussler (primarily his earlier novels), Jim Rollins, Steve Berry, David Morrell, Lee Child, Robert B. Parker, and especially John D. MacDonald whose character Travis McGee started it all. What a pleasure it would be if he were alive today and I had the great good fortune to be able to sit down with him and discuss writing over glasses of Plymouth Gin.
Sailor Take Warning
Jack Ferrell is spending time at Lake Tahoe. All he wants is a break from Hawaii to put Dana Mores death behind him. But a twenty-dollar gold piece, thrust into his hand by a dying man draws him into the enigma surrounding the coin.
But he’s not prepared to stick around. Then his brother Deacon asks him to help a lady friend out of a jam. A brief interlude of indiscretion has left pretty, dark-haired, Melissa Martinelli the victim of blackmail.
He’s ready to turn the fake coin over to law enforcement, bring about a quick end to the blackmail scheme, and return to Hawaii when he discovers a clue leading to a century-and-a-half old cache of stolen gold. A trail that entangles him in a web of violence and death in the seedy world of coin fraud, blackmail, and lost treasure. Making him the target of a vengeance-driven man named Ryan Chambers who wants the gold, and Jack’s head on a platter. But nobody wants that more than Chambers’ nephew, Paul Davidson.
USA Today Bestselling Author Jon Land says it best: “A darkly demented tale that’s utterly irresistible. The much-appreciated return of Jack Ferrell serves up a smorgasbord of deceit and duplicitousness across a landscape steeped in classic crime noir. Nikkel seems to be channeling his inner Don Winslow in crafting a book that is equal parts Raymond Chandler, Elmore Leonard, and John D. McDonald. Travis Magee has nothing on Jack Ferrell and Nikkel is every bit the equal of the genre greats ‘Sailor Take Warning’ emulates. Be warned: You won’t be able to put it down!”
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JOHNNY WORTHEN is an award winning best-selling tie-dye wearing author of books and stories. Trained theatre and standup comedy he has graduate degrees in modern literary criticism and cultural studies. When not teaching, Johnny writes upmarket multi-genre fiction—thriller, horror, young adult, comedy and mystery so far. “I write what I like to read,” he says. “That guarantees me at least one fan.”
Michael is called of God; just not that God.
Steven King explained horror as three levels. There’s the Gross-Out, which means showing you things that are icky, threatening your ability to hold down your lunch. The Horror which threatens your life with monsters and threats that chase you through graveyards, and Terror which preys upon your imagination and endangers your soul and consciousness.
“I’ll try to terrify you first, and if that doesn’t work, I’ll horrify you, and if I can’t make it there, I’ll try to gross you out. I’m not proud.” –Stephen King
Terror his is the level of spooks I reached for in my book WHAT IMMORTAL HAND, or at least tried. There are a few moments of unpleasant goo (thematically placed of course) and creepy suspense as the threats grow ever closer, but ultimately what makes my otherwise philosophical fiction into a literary horror is my challenge of Terror.
As a literary and cultural critic, I write to theme. The idea behind the book is as central to my process as character, plot and setting. In WHAT IMMORTAL HAND, I wrestled with the very nature of good and evil and realized the western conception of a binary nature of good and evil was at once unsatisfactory and obviously wrong.
“There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so,” to quote The Bard speaking through Hamlet.
Good and evil are a a construct, and how we define it is completely subjective. An angel that’s kicking your ass is a demon. It is a simplistic world view that disregards the complexities of actual observation. Winter is bad because it’s cold and things die, while the summer is good because things grow and you don’t need a coat In truth, both are necessary and to label one moralistically superior to the other is short sighted at best.
With this truth rattling in my mind, I envisioned the agents of evil not as bad but as necessary. Like garbage men they serve an important but maligned function.
And herein lies the terror.
There are other systems of belief than Judeo-Christian. There are older and more complex religions that account for the “evil” we see in the world. Hinduism is freed from the West’s binary construct of good and evil and at their center is a trinity of gods, Krishna, Vishnu, and Shiva, the Creator, Sustainer and Destroyer respectively. Each gains ascendency at different times like the seasons, and the wheel turns.
I’d long nurtured a story about the Thugs—an ancient cult of Indian dacoits eradicated in the 19th century. In researching their origins and beliefs I discovered the Dark Mother, Kali, consort of Shiva who drank his tears and became the most terrible and bloodthirsty creation in the universe. She then, became my muse and I walked with Her through the pages of my book and founds saints of a different color and challenged the western mind to a comprehension and appreciation of murder and mayhem.
It was a dark journey for me and my protagonist, Michael Oswald, but we arrived where we must and the horror lies in understanding why.
WHAT IMMORTAL HAND is available now from Amazon from Omnium Gatherum Media.
What Immortal Hand
Michael is called of God; just not that God.
What begins as a routine investigation of a hijacked truck turns into a desperate and personal quest for memories, faith, and meaning. The answers to these, for Michael Oswald, like the strangled cries of a thousand murdered travelers, is found in the dark heart of an ancient cult of killers.
Literary and dark, What Immortal Hand is a road trip across American wastelands and into the depths of spiritual darkness, where the Dark Mother, Kali, has set up house in the New World, and her children, the Thuggee cult of ancient India, are alive and thriving.
Well researched and imagined, in the tradition of Dan Simmons’ Song of Kali, throbbing with symbolism and epic undertones, What Immortal Hand answer’s William’s Blake famous question from The Tyger: “What immortal hand or eye, Could frame thy fearful symmetry?” It is the Goddess Kali, consort of Shiva, Lord of Destruction. Through her worshipers, the Faithful Tigers—The Thugs of old, she culls the roads of travelers and prepares the fires of renewal.
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Where to Buy What Immortal Hand
Less than 48 hours after returning from Las Vegas, my husband and I flew to Los Angeles to spend some time with one of my best friends (and to celebrate my 40th birthday). When I woke up that morning, the wind was howling and I thought to myself “this is going to make the flight fun.” The pilot tells us there were 90 mph gusts over the Rockies. Do you know what 90 mph gusts feel like at 30,000 feet? My stomach and I do. Even Allen said that was the worst turbulence he’s ever experienced. You know it’s bad when it shakes Allen up.
Anyway, we made it to L.A. alive and without throwing up, so we considered that a victory. We made our way to Santa Monica, where we’d be staying for the week, and then on to Thousand Oaks to celebrate my friend Nick’s marriage to the lovely Victoria. There’s this amazing spot in Thousand Oaks called the Gardens of the World that not only makes a lovely backdrop for pictures, but is a tranquil setting in the midst of the hustle and bustle of the Los Angeles suburb.
The rest of the weekend was meant to be relaxing but there’s so much to do and see in L.A. that we were on the go constantly. Our hotel was about 5 blocks from the Santa Monica Pier. The first morning we took a walk on the beach and then to the end of the pier where we met Herman. Herman is a seagull. He perched on the railing a few feet from us and stayed there (so, of course, we named him), studying the fisherman. I chuckled and said, “Herman is waiting for one of these guys to catch a fish,” which was funny because we’d just watched one fisherman cast his rod directly into the ocean. But soon, we realized that Herman was an even smarter bird than we’d realized. That same inept fisherman took one of his remaining rods down the pier, leaving his bait and tackle behind. The moment he stepped away, Herman swooped down, plucked up some bait and flew away to enjoy his morning catch.
Herman is smart. Be like Herman.
Over the next few days, we visited the Museum of Death, took a 5 hour tour of Hollywood and Beverly Hills, and found a lovely little Polish restaurant for my birthday dinner. I found Judy Garland’s prints at Sid Grauman’s Chinese Theater, enjoyed a Brownie Monster at the Los Angeles Farmer’s Market, and visited the original Muscle Beach. Between Las Vegas and Los Angeles, I think this was one of the strangest and most memorable holidays I ever had. I certainly won’t forget turning 40 anytime soon. We ate at a place called Solidarity in Santa Monica. The food was outstanding!
Now, I’m sitting back in my office in sunny Boulder, getting back into the thick of things. And I am reflecting on the teachings of the learned Herman. That bird had a plan. He sat patiently, kept his eye on the prize, and was rewarded with a delicious meal. I get the feeling Herman is quite practiced at his profession. So, my goal for 2018 is to be like Herman. My writing plans are in place, my next class starts in a few weeks, and I know that my patience and persistence will pay off.
Happy New Year! What are your goals?
You know the saying, “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas?” That useful little phrase that gives us all the green light to behave very very badly. Don’t worry. I won’t give away your secrets. But I would like to share my own holiday experience with you. I just got back from four days in Las Vegas celebrating Christmas with my parents, my sister and her boyfriend. It was quite possibly the least Christmasy Christmas, and yet, it will stand out in my memory as one of my favorites.
This trip was like entering an alternate universe. I boarded the plane in Denver at a balmy 10 degrees and landed in Sin City with a headache and too much clothing for the 60+ degree weather. As I stumbled off the plane, my eyes scanned past the sea of slot machines to the nearby Starbucks, a much needed caffeine pit stop. After throwing back some migraine medicine and an iced mocha, I made my way to the terminal to find my parents.
Now, my parents and my sister are my favorite people to spend time with, anywhere. I grew up in a large family – lots of aunts and uncles and cousins running around everywhere. And holidays were always huge in our family. At Christmas, we’d put up hundreds of luminarias and host a Christmas Eve open house complete with piping hot posole ad tamales. Over the years, we’ve spread out, with branches of our family stretching from coast to coast. But at the holidays, it’s not uncommon for us all to come together.
However, after my grandmother passed away four years ago, that trend began to change. She was the heart of our family, maybe more than any of us ever knew, and getting together has happened less frequently. We stay in touch, but it’s never quite the same. My mother, who was the primary caregiver for my grandmother in her final years, has been particularly affected by her loss, especially at Christmas. So going to Las Vegas made sense. We had our Christmas dinner at Carnegie Deli in the Mirage. We walked for miles up and down the strip. We ate, we drank, we gambled. We slept in late and stayed out late. And we laughed. We laughed so hard and so much that my face is still sore. We were together and very happy to be so.
We’re all very different people, but there is so much love that the differences don’t matter. In fact, those differences create hilarious moments and bring us closer together as a family. On our first night out, we saw the Tenors of Rock at Harrah’s, which my mother pronounces “hurrahs!” This show was not my sister’s cup of tea, but by the end of the night she was singing along at the top of her lungs as my mother jumped around like a teenager (no knickers were thrown on stage, but I think it was a close call). Me being me, when I heard that one of the singers, Jonathan Williams, played Jean Valjean in London’s West End, I sauntered over after the show and asked if he’d sing me a little Valjean for my birthday. Not only did he oblige, but he took me up in his arms and sang “Bring Him Home” in my ear. Be still my heart! (shh…don’t tell my husband…what happens in Vegas…)
We rounded out our stay with a delicious dinner at Gallagher’s Steakhouse (New York New York). The dinner was to celebrate my birthday (I turn 40 on New Year’s Eve), and as we sat around the table and talked, I was ever aware that I wouldn’t trade my family for anything in the world. We are odd, zany, high-strung at times, moody, funny, and all the things in between. We are everything.
Then, we headed over to Zumanity, Cirque du Soliel’s “adult” show. So, there I was with my mom, my dad, my sister, and her boyfriend, whom we’d only just met a few days before, watching topless acrobats and talking about sex. Merry Christmas to us! I would say don’t take your grandma, but the retired teacher they pulled up on stage was one of the highlights of the show (her comic timing was perfect despite being flustered by all the half-naked performers). And until you’ve seen the acrobats in the giant champagne glass, you haven’t really lived.
So, while what happens in Vegas may stay there for some people, I’m happy to say that I brought every bit of love and a whole suitcase full of memories home with me. (and a boatload of fodder for future stories....stay tuned).
Wishing you all a Happy New Year!
Linnea Tanner weaves Celtic tales of love, intrigue, and betrayal into the backdrop of Ancient Rome and Britannia. Since childhood, she has passionately read about ancient civilizations and mythology which held women in higher esteem. Of particular interest are the enigmatic Celts who were reputed as fierce warriors and mystical Druids.
Depending on the time of day and season of the year, you will find her exploring and researching ancient and medieval history, mythology and archaeology to support her writing. As the author of the Apollo’s Raven series, she has extensively researched and traveled to sites described within each book.
A native of Colorado, Linnea attended the University of Colorado and earned both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in chemistry. She lives in Windsor with her husband and has two children and six grandchildren.
Thank you, Amy, for giving me the opportunity as a guest to discuss how my writing career evolved.
As a young girl growing up in the 1950s in Colorado, I was inspired by myths, legends, and historical accounts of powerful women warriors, sorceresses, and goddesses. In third grade, when my friends were reading Nancy Drew mysteries, I was devouring books on Greek and Nordic mythology. By eighth grade, I was reading adult historical fiction classics such as The Egyptian, The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, and Ben-Hur. These novels swept me into other bigger than life worlds. This is when I began creating characters which I would use later in my books.
I did not actively pursue my passion of becoming an author until later in life. I earned both my bachelor’s and master’s degrees in chemistry after the birth of my second child and worked in pharmaceutical development. Even so, I continued creating stories in my head based on my life experiences. I escaped everyday routine by reading a wide genre of fiction and non-fiction. I particularly liked epic novels written by James Michener (Centennial), Diana Gabaldon (Outlander), and Marian Zimmer Bradley (The Mists of Avalon).
After my semi-retirement in 2010, I completed the draft of a book in a historical fantasy series, Apollo’s Raven. In preparation for writing the novel, I had extensively researched the history, mythology, and archaeology of ancient Celtic and Roman civilizations. Although I was soaring high with the accomplishment of drafting the novel, I had to face the hard reality that I needed to hone my craftsmanship and learn more about publishing.
Since then, my journey to publishing my debut novel, Apollo’s Raven, has been the most challenging yet rewarding experience in my life. I initially explored the traditional publishing route and pitched my books to agents. Last year, I decided to independently publish. Apollo’s Raven is the first book in a series inspired by the legacy of Cleopatra and Mark Antony, and the historically-based Celtic warrior queen, Boudica, who united the Britons to rebel against the Romans. It is my hope that modern women can draw on the rich traditions of the ancient Celtic culture where women owned property and could become rulers and Druids. These women fought in battles, hunted, rode horses and used bows and arrows, just like the men, to maintain the integrity and protection of their society.
What I’ve learned is becoming an author is like running a marathon. It takes persistence, training, and writing quality books to establish one’s reputation as an author and to increase readership. My role as expanded to being a publisher responsible for formatting, marketing, and distribution of my books. One of my greatest challenges is balancing publishing activities with writing. Since I can’t do it all, I’ve had to use the services of consultants and vendors to assist me along the way. It is critical to find a good copy editor and proofreaders to catch mistakes in your book before it is published. For next year’s launch of my second book, Empire’s Anvil, I plan to send out advance copy proofs to selected readers for their feedback and reviews.
One of the greatest pleasures I’ve experienced is getting to know other authors through social media and writers groups (Historical Novel Society, Northern Colorado Writers, and Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers). Many successful independent authors graciously support each other and promote each other’s books. At my website and blog, I post author interviews and provide reviews of books. Being a volunteer reviewer for the Historical Novel Society has provided me an opportunity to review soon to be released books in my genre and to meet other authors.
I’ve had the great fortune of taking workshops and meeting Diana Gabaldon. One of the reasons I admire her is that she writes true to her heart and graciously shares her knowledge. I wish I could have met Marian Zimmer Bradley and learned more about the research she did on the ancient Celtic religion depicted in The Mists of Avalon.
My advice to aspiring authors is to follow your dream and never give up.
An ancient curse threatens the fates of the Celtic Warrior Princess Catrin and her people in 24 AD Britannia. Torn between love, family, and country, Catrin must make grave choices on how to use the powers of the Ancient Druids so she can alter the dark prophecy that looms over her kingdom. Will the power to foretell the future through the raven prove a curse or an advantage?
Apollo’s Raven is a soaring epic Celtic tale of forbidden love, magical adventure, and political intrigue in Ancient Rome and Britannia.
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Where to Buy Apollo's Raven
I'm generally pulled in a million different directions and I wouldn't trade it for the world. Here's a glimpse of my life - hope you enjoy it! And if there's a big lapse between posts, well, that's the way life goes in Amy's world.
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