Saturday, November 29, 2014

NaNo 2014 Check-In

Picture I just realized I hadn't done any NaNoWriMo progress updates this month. I got a late start, busy with the release of Beneath the Canyons at the beginning of the month, and other things came up, which made it hard to catch up and stay caught up. But now, with one day left (I make myself take Sundays off from writing) I've got 1700 words to go, so I'll finish today *knock on wood* I finished the actual story at around 40,000 words, so the last 10,000 words is an extended epilogue, which will probably be trimmed in the final version or maybe not, and back stories on each of the main characters, which may or may not find their way into the final version; if they don't, I'll release them as separate short stories. You do what you gotta do to get those 50,000 words honestly. My proudest moment of doing whatever it takes to get the word count was for Camp NaNo last year. I was writing book 3 of Daughter of the Wildings and, short of my goal and running out of story, in desperation I threw in a conversation about Silas's chest hair - and made it relevant to the plot!  And that *will* be in the final version.
In other news, Beneath the Canyons had a great launch - thank you for your support! The revision of Bad Hunting (book 2) has been slowed down a bit by NaNo, but it's still continuing, and I'm looking at a release date in January. I'm undecided as to whether to keep the series exclusive to Amazon for a while, to take advantage of the Kindle Unlimited program and other perks, or release them to all platforms once the 90-day exclusive period on Beneath the Canyons is over. There are advantages and disadvantages to each, and I'm trying to figure out what will get my books in front of the greatest number of readers.

To everyone who celebrated Thanksgiving this week, Happy Thanksgiving! And to those who didn't, happy day of your choice! Among many other things, I'm thankful for you, my readers. You're wonderful, and your support means a lot to me. Thank you!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Character Interview: Lainie Banfrey

Meet Lainie Banfrey from Beneath the Canyons (Daughter of the Wildings Book 1):

1. What is your full name? Is there anything significant about your name?

My name's Lainie Banfrey. There's nothing significant about it; it's just a plain old name. But it's my name, and I like it.

2. How old are you?

I'm 19 years old.

3. Tell us about your family. What do you like and not like about them?It's just me and my Pa, Burrett. He owns a big ranch in the Bitterbush Valley. My mama, Vera, died of a fever when I was six, and my older brother Blake got killed in a shootout just a few months ago. It didn't have nothin' to do with him, he was just minding his own business and some miners just started shooting things up, pissed off at a ranch hand who said something they didn't like. I really miss both of them a lot. Blake and I were real close, and it's hard to believe he's gone.

I love my Pa and we get along pretty well, running the ranch together, but we don't agree on everything. He's real picky about what men I'm allowed to talk to - he's got his own idea about who I should marry, and that's just how it's going to be. And he don't want me using my magic power. Most Plain folks hate wizards, and he's no exception, but with him it's personal, you know? But he won't tell me why he hates them so much. And I want to be able to use my magic, but I know it's wrong, and I don't want to be someone my Pa will hate. So it makes me feel all torn up inside sometimes.

I've also got my mare, Mala, and two cattlehounds, Bunky and Snoozer, and then there's Rat, he's a fat old orange-striped tabby tom with one ear. The other ear got chewed off by a rat, his first big catch when he was about five ninedays old. We've got a whole bunch of barn cats, but Rat's the one who decided I'd be his special person.

4. Who was your first kiss, and what did you think of it?

I've never kissed anyone. My Pa is really protective and don't like me being alone with a man, and I think every man in the Valley knows if they try anything my Pa'll come after them with a shotgun.

5. What is your occupation?I've been working on our family's ranch almost since I could walk. I take care of the house and the cooking and cleaning, and also do a lot of the ranch work, mend fences, herd cattle, stuff like that.

6. What are your best and worst qualities?I'm a hard worker, and I always try to do the very best I can at whatever I do. I'm a good cook, and everyone says I ride herd on the cattle as good as any man. I also love my Pa and do my best to honor him and be a dutiful, obedient daughter, even when we don't agree on things.

I guess I'm kind of stubborn sometimes, and sometimes I want to see things the way I want them to be instead of the way they really are. And sometimes I'm not very honest with my Pa. I don't lie to him outright, but sometimes I don't tell him everything because I also don't like arguing with him.

I don't know if my magic power's a bad quality. I don't think it should be, but everyone says magic is wicked and evil, and I don't know, maybe it would make me bad whether I want it to or not.

7. What quality do you value most in a romantic partner?

I want a man who's honest and a hard worker and who treats me good and with respect. If he wants to protect me, that's good, but I don't want to be treated like I'm stupid or fragile. It would be nice if he's nice-looking, though I'm not real picky about that, and if he's smart and fun to be with and talk to.

And... I guess this is silly, but I'd like a man who makes me feel all tingly and glowy inside, a man like the heroes in the penny-thriller novels. None of the men around here are like that, especially the man my Pa has his eye on for me. He's a good man, just not very romantic and exciting. So I guess all that's okay for stories, but real life don't work that way.

8. What is your favorite thing to do?

I love riding my horse Mala out on the range, and I like to cook, and read the penny-thrillers. Most of all, I like playing Dragon's Threes. I always win, too. :-D Men who've never played with me before can't believe it when they get beat by a girl!

9. What is your greatest fear?

I'm afraid that because I've got magic power, that means I'll turn into a monster with no heart and no soul, like everyone says wizards are. I don't feel like a heartless monster, and I don't want to do no one any harm, but maybe using magic just makes you that way whether you want to be or not.

10. What is your most treasured possession?

My horse Mala, and my certificate from the Bitterbush Springs town school - I went for the whole six years, starting when I was 9, and passed all the examinations - and the bird-in-a-cage quilt my mama made for me before she died.

Beneath the Canyons is available at

Monday, November 10, 2014

Author Spotlight: M.L. Crum

M.L. Crum
Introducing M.L. Crum, author of the paranormal romance Irony of Time:

1. Tell us a little about yourself.

I was born and raised in Frederick, Maryland.  I now live in southern Pa.  I wrote all the time as a child into my college years but writing took a backseat as I began my career in education then became a wife and mother.  I have been a first grade teacher for over 15+ years now.

2. When did you start writing, and why?I started writing in 2013.  Why?  Well, here comes the background story:   I had just devoted several months to preparing and then participating in the Avon 2-Day Walk in D.C. with 2 of my closest friends.  It was an incredible event and cause that filled me with a new purpose to my life-a peaceful, happy life as a wife, mother and teacher-a life where I gladly gave what felt like 120% of myself everyday, but now found great joy in paying it forward with another 120% of myself to a great cause.  We completed the walk (raised close to $6,000), my team members then drifted off into new adventures in their lives including a new job and a new home, summer came so school was out, my kids decided they did not need me to plan their summer days and I found myself sitting on the couch for several days feeing like I was in "a state of deflation."  I sat wondering what else can I do?  What were my interest anymore?  My hobbies?  Did I have any other aspirations? Who was I other than a mother, wife and a teacher?  Sadly no answer came Until...two weeks later I woke up from a dream that was very vivid.  I couldn't release that dream from my thoughts.  I had to know what happened to these individuals in my dream especially after the one made such a life altering decision.  Plus, there was such an intense connection between two people that I wanted to know more about.  I found myself at my computer that day and the dream became my first chapter.  The writing just flowed and so did the joy I got from writing it.  Then it was like a huge reminder hit me over the head....Uh, hello?  You love to write.

3. What do you write, and why? What do you enjoy about what you write?

I write some poetry.  My novel is a paranormal romance because that was revealed to me in my dream.  The fact that I wrote a paranormal romance still even surprises me. I love a good romance and I tend to read anything with a good love story.

But to be honest I had burned through several paranormal romances over a few years and vowed not to read another one because I needed a change.  I switched over to historical romances.  So when I had this dream I actually wanted to argue with myself over the fact that it was paranormal romance.  I tried to even change that aspect, but it is what it is and I am so glad that it remained just that.  I now have fallen back in love with that genre again.  I love developing the character arc with all the small and big details that makes each one of them so real and intriguing.  I also enjoy surprising the reader throughout the whole story.  I am a big fan of a plot driven story with twist and surprise turns.

And Last, I enjoy how wonderful it is to get lost in a world that is nothing like my own except for some smal elements here and there.

Irony of Time 4. What is your latest book or series? Any forthcoming books?
My debut novel is called Irony of Time. [Kyra sez, is that a gorgeous cover or what?] Here is the summary:

When irony falls upon Miriam… she slams head on into the face of destiny.

Miriam Duvall is followed by a shadow cast over her by irony itself. Feeling reborn and falling in love—all within blissful amnesia—this feisty woman accidentally transcends the rules of time, regaining her memory right at the precipice of the most tragic event in her past. Seizing this opportunity, she looks destiny square in the eye and declares this time around, she’s the one in charge. She proceeds to manipulate the events leading to that fatal accident before it deteriorates the family she dearly loves and hurls her down a guilt-ridden path of self-destruction again.

Her opportunity for redemption knocks in the form of a handsome but mysterious physicist named Dr. Ian Stone. Shrouded in secrets, this man’s whole existence revolves around preventing the moment evil claimed his soul, robbing him of a life worth living. He has spent centuries calculating how to harness an exorbitant amount of energy, wherein making time travel a reality. However, one variable was never factored into his equations: falling in love. His obsession fuels a deep denial, deflecting his true
feelings until his heart wins out at the exact moment he loses Miriam back in time.

Their contrasting worlds cohesively collide and repel during a series of climatic events spiraling around a man harboring a dark secret as he travels back in time to fight for a second chance at love, ironically placing this exceptional woman in a  position where she must choose between a past life she desperately wants or a future with the man she undeniably loves.

Her slap-the-face-of-destiny decisions could deliver her into heartbreaking sadness or possibly set her on a journey of forgiveness that will reset her soul.

It is part of a series, but I'm just not sure what to call the series yet.  The second book is something I call a "parallel novel" to the first one.  It moves through the same time period with the main character, Miriam, but it centers on a very minor character from Irony of Time. They move through the same few weeks interlapping and weaving through each other until my minor character becomes the true focus and releases from the same path of life as Miriam onto her own adventure into a very mysterious world.  I have started the third one too that does the same exact thing, but with a surprising character.

5. "Welcome To My Worlds": Tell us a little about the world of your latest book or series.It takes place where modern world meets a not of this world character.  The story begins in 2013, but Miriam is transported back in time to 2003.  The settings include the Virginia Blue Ridge Mountains to the Carolinas and to Frederick, Maryland.

6. Introduce us to some of your characters. What do you like about them?Miriam is my heroine.  What I love about her is the arc of her character.  The reader will get to know the many versions of her throughout a ten year period.  You get to see how destroyed emotionally and physically she was and how everything she was suppose to become deterorated.  Then she shows you her light hearted humorous, fiery confident side she has discovered all while living blissfully, away from the pain,  with amnesia and then you get to go travel back in time with her
into her teenage self once again where she now remembers the upcoming family tragedy that was about to destroy them all again and finds this incredible will to try and bend destiny into the life she feels her family should have been given. 

Then there is Ian.  Or Dr. Ian Stone.  I like him because his character will make you debate with yourself over who he is and whether you love or hate him and how that changes every few chapters.  His love for Miriam runs deep, but his secret runs deeper.

7. A fun fact you would like your readers to know about you or your book.

It is the kind of story that has many small Aha! moments that you might not catch the first time through.

Irony of Time is available at:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | CreateSpace
Where to find M.L.:
Website | Goodreads

Saturday, November 8, 2014

October 2014 Wrap-up and November Preview

So I'm about a week late with the monthly wrap-up and overview. My excuse is I've been busy :D Lots of good productivity going on!

First off, in case you haven't noticed, Beneath the Canyons, Book 1 of Daughter of the Wildings, is now available. Through tomorrow, Sunday November 9, you can get it for only 99 cents! After that, the price goes up to $3.99. Or, while it's exclusive at Amazon for the next few months, if you have Amazon Prime or Kindle Unlimited, you can borrow it for free! If you don't have a Kindle and don't want to wait till I release it on the other ebook platforms, you can download the free Kindle reading app for Windows, iOS, and Android. Also, the paperback edition will be coming soon.

So, that's how I spent October.

Bad Hunting I've started revisions on Bad Hunting, Book 2, and hope to get about a two-month turnaround time on it, looking at a release date in late December or early January. The revisions, editing, proofreading, and formatting on Canyons took a little less than two months, so that seems like a reasonable target. Book 2 does need a lot of work, right now it reads more like a summary than a fully fleshed-out novel and I anticipate adding 15,000-20,000 words to it by the time it's done. But the plot is fundamentally sound, and it's a shorter book than Canyons.

November also means National Novel Writing Month, and I'm using it to get a new novel written after having spent a year working mainly on revisions. This new project is The Source-fixer (working title, I'm so bad at titles :P) and you can read more about it on the Still to Come page. This is an old, abandoned idea that I picked up again. It's better developed than it was the first time I tried to write it, and I've made some significant changes to the main characters that I think will help drive the story.

On the A-Z reading challenge, I'm on D right now. For some reason, I keep choosing really long books so it's taking a while.

So that's where I am. I'll update my NaNoWriMo progress from time to time; right now, after starting late, I'm at about 10,000 words with another thousand or so to add tonight.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Author Spotlight: Ellen Allen

Introducing Ellen Allen, author of the YA thriller The Sham. Read on to learn about her and her book, and enter the giveaway on Facebook!

1. Tell us a little about yourself.
Three years’ ago I quit my job in London and moved with my small daughter to the south of France. The plan was to stay for a few months – to fulfill a lifelong dream of lollygagging in rosé wine vineyards, writing a book, getting the hang of French grammar, etc. – but we haven’t been able to leave!

We’ve built a new life here, complete with jobs, schools, and French subjunctive tenses – as well as the vineyards and writing! – and the best part is that we’re only a few hours away by train from our family in London. It’s also sunny here, roughly 300 days a year…

2. When did you start writing, and why?
I never set out to be an author but I’ve always been writing: at school, it was often some sort of trilogy involving magic kingdoms and dwarfs (I loved Tolkien); throughout my teens, I religiously recorded monumental events in my diary but mostly filled it with inconsequential lists of things I had to do each day (have a bath, feed the cat…); when I was pregnant with my daughter, I finally finished something serious. I wrote a play for the BBC. The play was rejected but it was the first time that I actually considered that I might be able to write; I received a really encouraging critique. Since then, I’ve written a few more plays as well as my first book, The Sham. It sounds a bit silly but I believe I do it because I simply can’t not write.

3. What do you write, and why? What do you enjoy about what you write?
My first book is a Young Adult thriller which was fun to write because I got to work through some of those teenage neuroses; the huge difficulties you have at 17 or 18 trying to reconcile what you want, what you know and what you can actually do. I remember feeling continuously pushed and pulled between huge insecurities (am I good enough? will I do well enough?) and a burning desire to burst onto the world and mould it to my liking.

I’m not sure contemporary thrillers are an easy genre to market in YA – too old for younger YA readers, too young for adult readers – but it’s one I’m keen on pursuing. I’ve just started my second YA thriller; it seems to suit me.

4. What is your latest book or series? Any forthcoming books?

The Sham is a YA contemporary thriller, set in England. The idea came to me in a nightmare. I dreamed that I was 17 again, back in school, with the same group of 4 friends, involved in a murder of one of them. It was so vivid that I couldn’t get back to sleep and the only way I could get it out of my head was to write it all down. It’s a standalone novel.

5. "Welcome To My Worlds": Tell us a little about the world of your latest book or series.

The Sham is set in the fictional town of Clevesham in the Midlands, England. It’s based on many of the towns I know very well in that region along the river Avon, which floods quite a bit (a dead body is washed downriver in the local floods) and is close to Stratford-upon-Avon, Shakespeare’s birthplace. A pivotal scene in the book occurs at Shakespeare’s grave.

6. Introduce us to some of your characters. What do you like about them?
Emily Heath, the protagonist in The Sham, is a composite of the person that I wanted to be at 18 and the person that I thought I actually was; I probably wasn’t anything like her in real life. I really love her – she’s smart, feisty and ever so slightly damaged.

Jack, her boyfriend, is slightly more prickly. He seemingly has no past, his body is failing, his brain is shutting down and he is very cagey about everything. The book has two main mysteries: 1) who is the killer; and 2) who is Jack (and ultimately if the two are linked) so I can’t really talk about Jack in much detail without a spoiler. He was great fun to write!

7. A fun fact you would like your readers to know about you or your book.

I’m not sure that I have many strange quirks but I love wild swimming; my favourite spots are under Pont du Gard in the south of France and Dosthill quarry in the Midlands, England.

The Sham
The Sham:
Eighteen-year-old Emily Heath would love to leave her dead-end town, known locally as "The Sham", with her boyfriend, Jack, but he's very, very sick; his body is failing and his brain is shutting down. He's also in hiding, under suspicion of murder. Six months' ago, strange signs were painted across town in a dialect no one has spoken for decades and one of Emily's classmates washed up in the local floods.

Emily has never trusted her instincts and now they're pulling her towards Jack, who the police think is a sham himself, someone else entirely. As the town wakes to discover new signs plastered across its walls, Emily must decide who and what she trusts, and fast: local vigilantes are hunting Jack; the floods, the police, and her parents are blocking her path; and the town doesn’t need another dead body.

WARNING: this book is unsuitable for younger teenage readers. It depicts adult situations, murder scenes, conversations about sex and profanity.

The Sham is available at Amazon

Ellen Allen on her inspiration for The Sham:
The idea for this book came to me in a nightmare. It was so vivid that I imagined I was 17 again, at school, in the same group of 4 friends that I used to hang around with. We were involved in a murder and cover-up. I started writing partly as a way to get it out of my head and then the characters turned into real people... and Emily and Jack were born.

More about Ellen Allen:
In a previous life, Ellen Allen was an Associate Director in a small consultancy firm (focusing on Sustainable Development and Climate Change) running research projects and writing client reports. She doesn’t find fiction writing too dissimilar in process but she gets to use her imagination considerably more! She now lives in the south of France with her small daughter. If you want to contact Ellen Allen you can find her on twitter @EllenWritesAll or facebook or on her writing blog:

Amazon author page | The Sham on Goodreads

If you would like to win a free e-copy of The Sham (in epub, mobi or pdf format) there is a current giveaway on facebook. (Through November 10)

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Western With A Twist, Part 3: Music

Beneath the Canyons
Welcome to the third part of the Western With A Twist blog series, music! (Part 1 is books, Part 2 is movies and TV.) As I'm celebrating the launch of the Daughter of the Wildings series with Beneath the Canyons, enjoy some music that's western in spirit, style, or both, but with a twist.

Now, I'm not a country listener, but for the most part these aren't country songs. Rather, they have a sound reminscent of the west, spaghetti westerns, wide open spaces, an attitude of independence and individuality.

To keep the post from being too long and too much work, I'm only including YouTube links for the songs; there's also a Spotify playlist of the music down at the bottom. I've also put Amazon buy links for as many of these selections as I could find them for (not my affiliate links; that would have been too much work!) Enjoy!

The song that immediately comes to mind when talking about westerns and fantasy or supernatural themes is Ghost Riders in the Sky. This has been covered about a zillion times; here are three of them:

Johnny Cash, traditional country (Amazon)
Outlaws, country rock
Spiderbait, rock
and this retro instrumental version from the 60's, by the Ramrods (with fan-made video). (Amazon)
The other "real" country song on this list is Ring of Fire. Of course, the original Johnny Cash version is classic (Amazon), but personally I prefer the cover by Social Distortion (Amazon).
The album Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys, by My Chemical Romance (one of the greatest rock albums ever made, if you ask me), makes up the bulk of the Daughter of the Wildings playlist. Set in a post-apocalyptic California, it's an in-your-face statement of individuality and independence. The whole album is excellent, but for the Western With A Twist theme I picked out Bulletproof Heart and Save Yourself, I'll Hold Them Back as being the most western in spirit. (Amazon)
The entire album The Joshua Tree by U2 (another one of the greatest rock albums ever made, IMNSHO) also celebrates the wide-open feel of the west, especially the songs Where the Streets Have No Name and In God's Country. (Amazon)
I picked two songs from the album Communique by Dire Straits for this list. Once Upon A Time In The West doesn't have a whole lot to do with the Old West, as far as I can tell, but it has a real spaghetti-western feel to the music, especially in Mark Knopfler's guitar playing. Angel of Mercy is a sweet and sexy country-flavored song that would be great to dance to. (Plus the lyrics mention catching a dragon; I know it's metaphorical, but still, dragons :D) (Amazon)
Peacemaker, by Green Day (Amazon), also has that spaghetti western feel, as does Kiseki no Umi, the theme song from the fantasy anime Record of Lodoss War. The show is about elves and the typical pseudo-European fantasy, but the beautiful theme song (by Yoko Kanno, the brilliant composer who also wrote the music for Cowboy Bebop and the theme songs for Ghost in the Shell) has a wide-open western sound.
Finally, probably the greatest Western With A Twist song of all time, and one of the greatest music videos of all time, the futuristic spaghetti western Knights of Cydonia, by Muse. (Amazon)

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Beneath the Canyons now available!

Cowboys and gunslingers meet wizards in this high fantasy series set in a world inspired by the American Wild West. Silas Vendine is a mage, a bounty hunter authorized by the Mage Council to hunt down and stop renegade mages. It's a dangerous life, and Silas knows it. Still, when he comes to the town of Bitterbush Springs and meets Lainie Banfrey, a young woman born in the Wildings who is both drawn to and terrified of her own developing magical abilities, he finds far more trouble and excitement than he bargained for...
Now available!
ebook $0.99 through Nov. 9!