Cover reveal! Case Maynard's The Surrendered by Ryan Hill

 

Happy Cover Reveal day! Blaze Publishing has another gorgeous design to share with the world today. We're revealing the cover to THE SURRENDERED by Case Maynard. This YA dystopian will definitely have your pulse pounding as a tax is placed on the financially devastated country's most valuable resource--the children. Join the Facebook Party tonight from 5-11pm EST, and mark your calendars for release day 9/20!



After a financial collapse devastates the United States, the new government imposes a tax on the nation’s most valuable resource—the children.

Surrendered at age ten—after her parents could no longer afford her exorbitant fees—Vee Delancourt has spent six hard years at the Mills, alongside her twin, Oliver. With just a year to freedom, they do what they can to stay off the Master’s radar. But when Vee discovers unspeakable things happening to the younger girls in service, she has no choice but to take a stand—a decision that lands her on the run and outside the fence for the first time since the System robbed her of her liberty.

Vee knows the Master will stop at nothing to prove he holds ultimate authority over the Surrendered. But when he makes a threat that goes beyond what even she considers possible, she accepts the aid of an unlikely group of allies. Problem is, with opposing factions gunning for the one thing that might save them all, Vee must find a way to turn oppression and desperation into hope and determination—or risk failing all the children and the brother she left behind.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


With over 20 years’ experience in the legal and medical fields, Case Maynard decided to trade in her briefs and reports to write the stories that have been floating around in her head since childhood. She lives with her two teenagers and husband in South Georgia, while maintaining a long-distance liaison with her oldest daughter and partner in crime in Alaska. When not writing, she enjoys reading as often as possible, binge watching anything good on Netflix, and all things NCAA football (Go Noles!). You can learn more about Case and her stories on her website.

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Coming soon! Paired with a dark prince in a murderous game of survival, Maia Graystone discovers the only thing more dangerous than the Emperor’s court is her conflicted heart. The YA Sci-fi Apocalyptic SHADOW FALL by Audrey Grey releases in November, but you can sign up for review copies now.



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THE CONCH SHELL OF DOOM Release Day! Random Acts of Silliness! by Ryan Hill

 

It's here It's here IT'S HERE!!!!!!!!! 

The book with quite possibly the most RANDOM and SILLY title in this history of the written word is here!!!!! 

Witness the Awakening. Witness the tomfoolery. Witness the ridiculous that is... THE CONCH SHELL OF DOOM. Buy it here, won't you?

Not only that, but there's a contest going to win free stuff like signed books or a $20 Amazon gift card! Seriously. May 24, 2016, should just be called the gift that keeps on giving at this point. 

Contest ends June 3, 2016

  • One winner will receive a $20 Amazon Gift Card and a signed copy of The Conch Shell of Doom by Ryan Hill
  • One winner will receive a signed copy of The Conch Shell of Doom by Ryan Hill
  • One winner will receive a signed copy of The Book of Bart by Ryan Hill
  • One winner will receive a signed copy of Dead New World by Ryan Hill

Time to announce the RANDOM ACTS OF SILLINESS winners!

Now, some of the suggestions I got were a bit much, or borderline iffy/legal. There were also a few ideas that required women's clothing. Regardless, everyone who entered a suggestion gets a FREE CONCH SHELL OF DOOM EBOOK! If you entered via ryanhillwrites.com, please contact me with your email so I can send you the ebook. As for the winners, YOU GET A FREE BOOK! YOU GET A FREE BOOK! AND YOU GET A FREE BOOK! (free signed paperback, that is). If you all could get me your mailing info, I'll get those books out to you as soon as possible.

Thanks to everyone who suggested a Random Act of Silliness!

Rank: 75,000

Act: Write an ode to my fans and leave it on my website. Barbara also suggested a dramatic reading of Magic Mike, but I had to be wearing a tutu. I'm not made of money you all! :)

Winner: barbara.hopkins39@*****.com
 

Rank: 50,000

Act: Do the "Time Warp"

Winner: Danielle from ryanhillwrites.com
 

Rank: 25,000

Act: Dye my hair

Winners: vampyrelady6606@*****.com, calden40@***.com 
 

Rank: 10,000

Act: Dance with a stranger

Winner: mq3377@***.com
 

Rank: 5,000

Act: Paint my body in either the cover or a character

Winner: doveknoll@*****.com
 

Rank: 1,000

Act: Cover myself in oatmeal and yogurt, then run around screaming about my book

Winner: majikalone@******.com
 

Rank: 100

Act: Create a Minecraft-inspired costume and wear it in public for 30 minutes.

Winner: Ginger from ryanhillwrites.com
 

Rank: No. 1 in any sub-category

Act: Dance to "Ring my Bell" in '70s garb, i.e. whatever is left of my Dad's wardrobe from that era ;)

Winner: artemis.lynn1966@*****.com

Introducing RANDOM ACTS OF SILLINESS by Ryan Hill

 

With the upcoming May 24 release of my third novel, The Conch Shell of Doom, I'm throwing almost all shame (what little remains, at least) out the window. I want this to be my best release yet. I want this release to make The Beatles appearing on The Ed Sullivan Show to seem like no big whoop. That may not happen - it almost certainly won't - but a guy can dream, right?

To help Conch Shell have a big release, I need your help to get the word out. But, I also want this to be fun for everybody. I want you all to feel like you're getting something out of it besides good karma. As such, if the book hits certain milestones in terms of Amazon ranking, you all can decide on a RANDOM ACT OF SILLINESS for me to do. I'm willing to do pretty much anything except risk life (definitely not) and limb (absolutely not) for this. Or something that will get me arrested. Or fired. You know, big, life-altering in a very bad way kind of stuff. 

These are the milestones I'm laying out. Some of these are for overall Amazon rank, others for reaching No. 1 in a sub-category.

Overall Amazon rank milestones:

No. 75,000
No. 50,000
No. 25,000
No. 10,000
No. 1,000
No. 100
No. 1

Sub-category rank milestones - there are three milestones:

No. 1 in one sub-cat
No. 1 in two
No. 1 in all three

The greater the milestone, the greater the act of silliness I'm willing to subject myself to. If I reach No. 75,000, for example, I could maybe do a dramatic reading of something. Fifty Shades of Grey, Shakespeare, The Big Bang Theory, anything. The sillier the better. If I crack the Top 100, maybe I'll dye my hair green. It all depends on what you suggest. 

If you're interested in helping spread the word on May 24, sign up for my release day blitz, fill out your information (you don't need a blog to participate), and in the "Comments/Questions" box at the bottom, indicate your RANDOM ACT OF SILLINESS suggestion - just be sure to introduce your comment/question with RANDOM ACT OF SILLINESS

The ideas that are picked will win a signed paperback of The Conch Shell of DoomIf I somehow hit No. 1, ALL the winning ideas will receive SIGNED PAPERBACKS of ALL THREE OF MY BOOKS. That's pretty cool if you ask me, but since I wrote the books I may be a bit biased. 

Don't worry about assigning your idea to a milestone. I'll do that based on degree of difficulty and/or level of silliness. 

Thanks in advance for all of your help. If this goes well, I may make it a tradition for all future releases.

Enjoy!

Ryan

Interview time with ASLEEP's KRYSTAL WADE!!! by Ryan Hill

 

"Time to let all the kings know that the ACE is back." - Dr. Dre

That's an appropriate quote for author Krystal Wade, who's already rocked the casbah with CHARMING, the WILDE'S trilogy, and SHATTERED SECRETS. It's only appropriate she does it again with ASLEEP, a thrilling mash-up between SNOW WHITE and A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET (something I totally screwed up in the Q&A below).

Even more, Krystal doesn't just have a new novel out. Because that's child's play for her at this point. ASLEEP doesn't just signify another entry in the outstanding catalog that is the collected works of Krystal Wade, it's the debut entry in her OWN PUBLISHING HOUSE, Blaze Publishing! 

How effin' sweet is that? "Yeah, this book stuff is old hat. I think I'll step my game up a notch for no other reason than BECAUSE I CAN."

Ryan note: Krystal is my friend/kindred spirit/wise kemosabi, and she's flippin' sweet. If you don't know her, you're worse off for it.

Such a great/creepy cover!

Such a great/creepy cover!

"To cure fear, you must use fear."

Rose Briar claims no responsibility for the act that led to her imprisonment in an asylum. She wants to escape, until terrifying nightmares make her question her sanity and reach out to her doctor. He's understanding and caring in ways her parents never have been, but as her walls tumble down and Rose admits fault, a fellow patient warns her to stop the medications. Phillip believes the doctor is evil and they'll never make it out of the facility alive. Trusting him might be just the thing to save her. Or it might prove the asylum is exactly where she needs to be.

If you want to see more of ASLEEP, you can find the Ten Weeks of Teasers and other great content on the Blaze Publishing blog. Order your copy now!

Amazon   Barnes & Noble   Kobo   Signed Copy of Asleep   Goodreads

ON TO THE QUESTIONS!

Congratulations on ASLEEP! This is the first release under your own banner, Blaze Publishing. I won't ask about what it's like creating a publishing house, because we all know the answer: it's hard and a lot of work. What I will ask, though, is with ASLEEP, which you wrote, being the first novel coming out through Blaze, which you run, do you feel there's some sort of weird nepotism thing going on there?

Yep! We plan to have a whole lot of nepotism at Blaze. Because NEPOTISM! 

On a more serious note, there has to be a lot of additional pressure on you. Having a novel come out is pressure enough, but ASLEEP is also the first look the world gets at the quality of work Blaze Publishing will be releasing. To relieve some of the pressure you're feeling, I've provided canned, multiple choice answers for you. Choose the most appropriate.

A. So much pressure I've gone from drinking wine maybe once a month to downing shots of hard liquor day after day in the hopes of finding some relief from this headache.

B. It's a good thing this interview isn't being video-taped, because I've lost patches of hair, and the only extensions I could find came from discarded My Little Pony manes.

C. Pressure? I thrive on pressure. Don't worry about how much coffee I drink or how many cartons of cigarettes I smoke a day. That information is private and I will not share it, especially with you.

D. Huh? What? Sorry, this heroin is some good stuff.

ASLEEP is your second genre mash-up after the very cool CHARMING. A mix between SNOW WHITE and A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET is pretty crazy. Do you have a dartboard covered in potential genres to combine and whichever two genres the darts hit first become the framework for your next novel?

SLEEPING BEAUTY and NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET. But I forgive you. And your idea about the dart board is excellent. Maybe I'll try that in the future.

*Ryan note: That’s right, SLEEPING BEAUTY… I’m an idiot.

Since ASLEEP is very much about nightmares, what's one nightmare you've had that scared you to the point you were freaked out the next day?

I've had several nightmares like that. But the ones that usually have me crying when I wake up are when loved ones die in dreams. I once had a dream so vivid, so horrific about my daughter being kidnapped and then brutally murdered while we were on a skiing trip that I STILL get nervous right before every ski trip. 

I still have dreams where I think I forgot to write a term paper, or forgot to put on anything besides underwear (which isn't a bad dream. In fact, I and the ladies in said dream rather like it). Do you have any recurring dreams like that? 

I actually don't have recurring dreams all that often, and when I do, I usually forget them until the next time they pop up in my dreams. So, um, not sure.

Many readers may not be aware you have a chicken coop in your backyard. Do they ever wake you up at the butt crack o' dawn with their yelling? If so, how often do you feel the need to "make an example" of one of them? Do you worry they may break free and peck one of your fingers off? Also... HOW DO THEY TASTE? The chickens, not your fingers.

No cockadoodle dooing here. We have all hens, and we've never eaten them. We use them for eggs only.

Did anything influence your writing on ASLEEP? Watch any scary films, spooky TV shows, or read any terrifying books to help you get in the right frame of mind to write ASLEEP?

I'm always watching the spooky, the fantastical, the emotional on television or in movies. I don't think any particular show or book influenced me during the writing process, but clearly a couple stories mashed up influenced the book.

Are you currently writing anything else? If not, WHY? PEOPLE LIKE READING YOUR BOOKS, WADE. GIVE THE PEOPLE WHAT THEY WANT. WHY AREN'T YOU GIVING THE PEOPLE WHAT THEY WANT? That is, if you're not currently giving the people what they want.

I'm trying to give the people what they want! Come on! I do have a couple more books in process, but my focus right now is on publishing. I do hope to have one release next year, a mystery that mashes up BEFORE I FALL with FREQUENCY!

Let's play fill in the blank. Come up with your craziest genre mash-ups.

The Princess Bride meets Practical Magic in this tale of lust and revenge set amidst the Protestant Reformation.

Meet Joe Black meets Silence of the Lambs as two brothers, one Asian and one Russian, vie for the affections of a woman who runs a hot dog stand in 1980s New York City.

Field of Dreams meets Doc Hollywood as a humble, poor, illiterate man does whatever it takes to become the greatest dentist in all of South Dakota.

In haiku format, tell everyone why they should buy/read or buy/not read but definitely buy ASLEEP.

You should read Asleep.
It will give you the creeps.
And you will not sleep.

As always, a big thank you to Krystal for taking the time to answer my insane questions, and being an awesome friend/author!

You can follow/stalk Krystal on social media at Website   Instagram   Twitter   Facebook   Google+

See? Toldja she's got her own publishing house!

See? Toldja she's got her own publishing house!

Want to stay up to date on everything from Blaze Publishing? Sign up for our newsletter so you don't miss a thing! The first 100 subscribers get free Blaze bookmarks (UK, US, and Canada only) AND get added to our Loyal 100 group, which gives you access to exclusive news, teasers, prizes, and ARCs!

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Love my parents by Ryan Hill

 

Last weekend, during the SNOWPOCALYPSE: 2016 EDITION, I took Hunter S. Gonzodog out, so she could do her business. The Gonzodog loves the snow, and ran into a wooded area near my apartment. While trying to keep my grip on the leash, I lost my phone in the pile of snow and leaves.

Gonzodog!

Gonzodog!

It took a little while to find the thing, and fortunately everything still worked. Not long after, I told both of my parents about what happened separately. Mind you, I live in Raleigh, NC, and my parents in Greensboro, NC, so one guess as to how I was talking to them.

Hint: It was with my phone!

Mom

Me: So I lost my phone in the leaves taking Hunter out.

Mom: Did you find it?

Me: I'm talking to you on it, aren't I?

Mom: Oh. Shut up.

Dad

Me: Did Mom tell you I lost my phone in the leaves earlier?

Dad: No. Did you find... oh.



On being 36-years-old by Ryan Hill

 

No joke, that title felt weird to write. It brings up so many thoughts. Where the time went, what to do with the time ahead of me, and the fact that in the grand scheme of things I'm not old, but hot damn. I'M 36.

Pretty much

Pretty much

Getting older is always something you worry about when you're younger. Twenty-somethings fret over every birthday, because it brings them one digit closer to the end-all, be-all that is thirty. Why? Because it's a number all of us have seared in our brains as TIME TO GET YO SHIT TOGETHER AND BE A REAL, ACTUAL ADULT. Heck, my mom cried when Dad turned 30.

Guess what? Being in your thirties really isn't that bad. At all. I prefer it to being in my twenties.

I was a friggin mess in my twenties. I was still trying to figure life, the universe, and everything out with little success. I didn't have a foothold in, well, anything. My early-to-mid twenties were mired in a haze of longing for my college days while trying to figure out the whole adult thing. My late twenties were more about trying to squeeze as much fun in before the big three-oh hit. I even wrote a manuscript about a guy reflecting on his life before he turns thirty. I can't say I was a mess about it, but some people are.

My thirtieth birthday turned out to be kind of a baptism by fire into "adulthood." I'd discovered someone stole my mail, taking checks intended to pay bills and counterfeiting them to buy stuff to the tune of $800.

Welcome to adulthood, Ryan! Here's a swift kick in the ass to get you started!

It really was kind of a harbinger of things to come. My thirties have by far been the most difficult decade of my life, but it's also been the most rewarding. I've become a published author. I still get to review movies, i.e. see them for free before everyone else and write about them. More than that, other things happen in your thirties that are pretty awesome.

Mainly, you stop giving a flying f--k about everything. By everything, I don't mean ev-er-y-thing, but everything that doesn't really matter in the grand scheme of things. With some life experience under their belt, people settle into themselves in their thirties, and with that comes a level of comfort with who you are - some might even call it self esteem - that elevates you above worrying about whether someone thinks you're full of it, and other assorted items like that. Ya just don't care. And it's a wonderful thing. It builds up confidence, and makes dealing with all the B.S. that life throws at you that much easier to handle.

Granted, being in your thirties does have the drawback of OMGZ MY BODY WON'T STOP FALLING APART.

This part is actually worse for me, since I blew my back out six-years-ago doing too much weight on a Lat Row Machine. I've got two ruptured discs that irritate the Sciatica in my left leg. It's been awful. But enough about me.

I liken the physical deterioration in your thirties to a toy. When it's new, everything is strong and sturdy, but over time, wear and tear sets in. Some things don't work as well as they used to. That's kind of what your body is like in your thirties. It's not terrible, but you do notice the changes, which range from achy joints to inability to stay up late, less tolerance to extreme cold or heat, etc. Basically, if you blew out your knee at some point, that knee is going to remind you of it on an almost daily basis in thirties. Your hair also turns grey on a more steady basis, but that's kind of whatever. It doesn't bother me at all.

So to anyone afraid of turning 30, don't be. Like everything else, it's a mix of good and bad. Sure, it's different and your mortality starts coming into focus, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. Then again, as someone who's never been married, has no kids, a spotty (at best) relationship record, I could be talking out of my ass.*

I pretty much always reserve the right to admit I'm talking out of my ass. If I'm wrong on something, so be it.

 

 

On Adapting THE BOOK OF BART For Film/TV by Ryan Hill

 

Fun fact: I originally wanted to be a screenwriter. After I finished grad school in 2004, I even moved out to Los Angeles in the hopes of making that dream a reality. Long story short, I came back to North Carolina after six months. I missed my family, friends, clean(ish) air, and a zillion other things. But I never lost the writing bug (obviously).

Last year, I got the idea to write a pilot script for The Book of Bart. I've always felt it would make a good show, something that could be a book-end to, say, Supernatural, so while I was in the middle of edits on the upcoming The Conch Shell of Doom, I set to work turning Bart into a 50-odd page pilot script. I'd written feature-length screenplays before, but not an adaptation.

For anyone out there considering adapting their novel, know that writing a script is ABSOLUTELY NOTHING like writing a novel. They're different beasts with different rules. A novel can really dig into details and emotions, enveloping the reader in the soft, gentle sway of a tree branch in the wind. If that line were written in a script, the reader would toss it in the garbage and move on to the next script. With novels, that kind of writing is welcomed, and sometimes even praised. It can also mask potential deficiencies in plot or dialogue. 

Guess what?

SCRIPTS ARE ALL ABOUT PLOT AND DIALOGUE.

Scripts require the most sparse, bare-bones writing possible. Every single word matters. A script is meant to serve as a blueprint for a film or TV production. What's on the page is meant to be on the screen. If it can't be seen or heard, it shouldn't be in the script. Emotions, motive, all that stuff has to be left to the cast and crew for interpretation. Ever read a play, like Thornton Wilder's Our Town? There's the scene location, characters, and dialogue. That's it. Everything else is left to the director, actors, set designers, etc., to interpret as they see fit. A script is similar, though there's room for just enough description to paint a visual picture. 

The transition from book to screen is never seamless. Even films like The Hunger Games and Harry Potter have differences/departures from the books. The change in medium makes it impossible to stay 100 percent true to the source material because of length, a scene isn't visually compelling, or what works as a book doesn't necessarily work as a film. Some books just aren't meant to be adapted, while others are.

This one wasn't.

This one wasn't.

I knew going in that adapting Bart to a visual medium would be tricky. Much of the fun comes from Bart's narration, and only so much of that can survive before characters wind up standing in front of a camera, waiting for the voice over narration to finish so they can move on to the next thing. It became a balancing act of mixing the narration into a mix of voice over and dialogue. 

While I'm happy with the pilot for The Book of Bart, there's a lot of work left before it can even think about seeing the light of day. And that's fine. If nothing else, it was a learning experience, so onward and upward, and all that stuff. I'll share it one day, but today it's about the challenges of adapting one's work to a different medium.

John Irving won an Oscar for adapting his novel The Cider House Rules. Suzanne Collins wrote a draft of the first Hunger Games film. So adapting your work can be done, and done quite well. Just go into it knowing that by no means is it a cake walk, and good luck!

Wrapping up 2015, unwrapping 2016 by Ryan Hill

 

Whew. Thank goodness 2015 is pretty much over. It hasn't been the worst year I've ever had, but it wasn't far off. For some reason, my life plays out a lot like the Star Trek series. The even years are so, so much better than the odd ones. All years have both good and bad stuff, but those odd-numbered years tend to have more of the bad stuff. And 2015 was no exception.

I had to put my dog to sleep. I haven't really mentioned it online, but losing Maggie was the defining moment of 2015 for me. It became clear in late June something wasn't right with her, and shortly after I learned she had a tumor in her lung. The vet gave her three-to-five months (more like three), and my sweet baby made it a little over five. I won't get into the details of those last couple of weeks, only to say I made the decision to put her to sleep after learning she now had two tumors in her lungs and another in her liver that was raising the back half of her body higher than the front, making it nearly impossible for her to lie down.

It even looks like an In Memorium pic. Sorry.

It even looks like an In Memorium pic. Sorry.

I don't regret the decision, but that doesn't mean I don't miss the heck of my little girl. She was only 10, and Miniature Schnauzers can live to be 15-17. No, the only thing I regret is the time I won't get to spend with her.

To every cloud there is a silver lining.

And the silver lining in this came in the form of one Miss Hunter S. Gonzodog.

I'd always hoped to have a puppy for a couple of years, giving Maggie a chance to teach her a couple of tricks, but sadly things didn't work out that way. Such is life. Hunter is a super sweet pup, and I look forward to seeing which traits of Maggie's she takes on and which are completely her own.

I also didn't have a book released in 2015. Womp womp.

That stinks. A combination of things led to this: laziness, the day job, my horrific back (two ruptured discs and an irritated Sciatica), anxiety, etc. They all pretty much play into each other, creating this awful, giant beast of worthlessness, but I digress.  Let's move on to 2016.


I will have a book out in 2016, and another one or two in 2017.

I'm going the self-publishing route for 2016's release, The Conch Shell of Doom. I'm aiming for a mid-May release, just in time for UtopYA 2016.  I'm super proud of the book, which presented lots of new challenges that helped me grow as a writer. CSoD is also the craziest book I've written to date. I can't wait to share it with all of you.

The other two novels in the works are an untitled YA mystery set during Christmastime, and a sequel to The Book of Bart. The book is tentatively called The Unspoken Rule (or Bart of Darkness, depending on my mood), and it's going to be a lot of fun. Bart and Sam are in for one helluva run. Get it? Because Bart is a demon from Hell? 

Once the sequel is further along, the original will be forever known as The Book of Bart - Verse 1. The sequel? You guessed it. Verse 2. And so on and so forth, until the series ends. Which may be never. If I had more time, I'd write a novella or two each year, detailing Bart's escapades throughout history B.S. - Before Sam. Get it??? B.S.??? These jokes just write themselves... which explains why they're so awful. 

But I do have a humor award, so that makes it okay? If not, the Jensen Ackles gif should. At least for some of you.

My work as a film critic at Screen Invasion will continue in the new year, but I am on the lookout for a new outlet to write for. I love SI. LOVE THEM. SI has also proved to be a fantastic springboard for a lot of writers, and after two years with them, I feel like I'm ready to take the next step, regardless of if it's full-time, part-time, freelance, etc.

PS - It's okay. They know/support this. It's another reason why they rock.

Truer words have never been spoken.

Truer words have never been spoken.

I also hope to get my back fixed, or at least get it to a place where it doesn't drain the life out of me each day. Back pain like I have isn't like normal pain. There aren't really nerves involved (except for the Sciatic nerves, which one of my discs rubs up against and irritates), nor are muscles. It's more an empty, hollow pain, like someone reached into my lower back and yanked out the base of what held me together. Without it, the rest of the structure is overburdened and tires. It's awful. 

Let this be a lesson to you kids. Don't lift too much weights. Especially on back exercises, like a Lat Row. Don't do it.

Next year should be a good one in the world of Ryan, and I sincerely hope all of you have a great 2016!

Hugs and kisses,

Ryan

Interview with LINK author Summer Weir! by Ryan Hill

 

Apologies for being a day late on this, but anytime yours truly conducts an interview, it's always well worth the wait. Always. This time, my vic- I mean my interviewee is Link author Summer Weir!

About Link:

For seventeen-year-old Kira, there’s no better way to celebrate a birthday than being surrounded by friends and huddled beside a campfire deep in the woods. And with a birthday in the peak of summer, that includes late night swims under the stars.

Or at least, it used to.

Kira’s relaxing contemplation of the universe is interrupted when a piece of it falls, colliding with her and starting a chain of events that could unexpectedly lead to the one thing in her life that's missing—her father.

Tossed into a pieced-together world of carnivals and gypsies, an old-fashioned farmhouse, and the alluring presence of a boy from another planet, Kira discovers she’s been transported to the center of a black hole, and there’s more to the story than science can explain. She’s now linked by starlight to the world inside the darkness. And her star is dying.

If she doesn’t return home before the star’s light disappears and her link breaks, she’ll be trapped forever. But she’s not the only one ensnared, and with time running out, she’ll have to find a way to save a part of her past and a part of her future, or risk losing everything she loves.

Dreamy, fluid, and beautiful, Link pairs the mystery of science fiction with the minor-key melody of a dark fantasy, creating a tale that is as human as it is out of this world. 

Available now from Amazon, and other retailers.

TO THE INTERVIEW!

Congratulations on having your first novel published! Do you feel kinda like you got away with something? When you're alone in your car, sitting in traffic, do you laugh to yourself and say, "Suckers!" out loud? 

Thank you! It is pretty amazing to think that I actually wrote a book, finished it, and someone loved it enough to publish it. I'm not sure that it feels like getting away with something... and if I WAS trying to get away with something I wouldn't be sitting in traffic waiting to get caught.

Link has a nice, meaty plot. Pitch it to me in one sentence. Example: Batman & Robin meets Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Ready? GO!

A Wrinkle in Time with a Stargate twist. Boom. 


You and your family have moved around quite a bit, correct? Is this because you're light on your feet and whenever a stiff breeze comes along you get carried away to somewhere else? Are you worried you may get dropped off somewhere like the Sudan, or the middle of the Pacific Ocean?

Yes, we have. And you know, there may be something to that 'stiff breeze' theory. But it's more like I get settled somewhere and get an itch to be somewhere else, to experience another adventure (though Sudan and the middle of the Pacific Ocean are not on that list). After living out of the country more recently, we're super excited to be back in the states, and I reckon we'll be planted in Texas for a while. And yes, I just said 'reckon'.

Ryan note: I've lived in North Carolina almost my entire life and make it a point not to use words like "reckon" when speaking. Just saying.

Link is your first published novel. How many manuscripts did you write before Link? Do you feel bad about leaving those other manuscripts behind, because you probably should.

I have absolutely no other manuscripts that would be jealously plotting my demise. Link is my first, my last, my everything... okay not my last, but it definitely holds a special place in my heart. And now that you mention it, I guess I should feel like I got away with something, having my first manuscript published and all. 

Link has a black hole in it. What are your feelings on black holes? Wouldn't people get crushed by the intense gravity in black holes? Or do they pull a Matthew McConaughey and visit their daughter throughout the years via the back side of a bookcase?

Black holes are such an amazing phenomenon. Used to be, scientists thought nothing could escape the gravitational pull of a black hole once an object made it to the event horizon. But the premise of Link is that some starlight can escape and in doing so creates a portal for travel.

More recently, however, world renowned astrophysicist Stephen Hawking has confirmed Link's theories, describing this escaping light as a "hologram." I know some of this science-y mumbo jumbo can be hard to swallow, so think of it in terms of less Matthew McConaughey popping through bookcases and more Captain Kirk "Beam me up, Scotty."

Is there radiation in a black hole? Was there concern that your MC may go through a black hole and come out the other side with no hair? That'd definitely be a concern for me. 

I understand your concern, as traditional science would tells us black holes do emit traceable amounts of radiation. However, if you're traveling in the protection of starlight (which I'd recommend), rest assured, you'll lose no hair in the process.

Why Link? What was so special about this story that it grabbed you by the throat and choked you until you turned purple and then you finally gave in and agreed to write it? What influenced it? Psychedelic drugs is an acceptable answer, by the way.

When I started writing Link, I envisioned two characters connected in some way, maybe through dreams, or alternate realities, or something. I quickly realized all of these concepts were becoming really common in young adult books (maybe that's where psychadelic drugs come in). There was a point where I even stopped writing until I figured out what I could do to make LINK stand out. One day I stumbled across as NASA video, and somehow all of the pieces fell into place. My ideas clicked as I watched this video again and again--it was perfect for what I was trying to do with the plot and story. Check out the NASA video that inspired the theories behind Link

Does Link have a character in it named Zelda? If not, why? 

It should. It really should. There's no excuse for this. 

What are you working on now? Link II: A Zelda to the Past?

Ha! Now I really want to play Zelda (the Super Nintendo version, best ever). Anyway, I'm currently working on Link sequels, Lost and Light. I'm the slowest writer in the history of writers, but I'm halfway done with book two. I also have the final book in the series mapped out, so I just need to dig in and write!

In haiku format, explain why people should not only go out and buy Link, but read it. Also, do you care if they read it after they've bought it? 

I'm soooo much better at limericks, but here goes nothing:

The book is unique
it might even make you think
the stars will guide you.

Eh? Eh? Guess I should stick to limericks. And I guess you don't HAVE to read it if you buy it, I can't make anyone do that, nor would I if I could. Free will and what not. But I'd hope that if you buy Link, no matter where it falls on your TBR, you'll make your way around to it. It's out of this world!

Thanks for having me, Ryan! Always a pleasure.

Well. Seems Summer escaped my clutches relatively unscathed. Congrats?

About Summer Wier

Summer Wier is an MBA toting accountant, undercover writer, and all around jack-of-all-trades. Link is her debut novel and the first in The Shadow of Light series. She has three short stories appearing in Fairly Twisted Tales for A Horribly Ever After and co-authors the Splinter web serial. When she’s not digging through spreadsheets or playing mom, you can find her reading/writing, cooking, or dreaming of the mountains in Montana.

Check out more of YA author Summer Wier on her blog, Twitter, Facebook, and Goodreads.

Wait! There's more! Check out the Rafflecopter giveaway!!


New Month, Same Goals by Ryan Hill

 

It's a new month, which means there's got to be one or two people out there interested in what I have to say, right Mom and Dad? Mom? Dad? Anyone?

*crickets*

Pfft. Like my parents read my stuff anyway. And I'm 100% okay with that. I meant it. Really. I STILL LOVE YOU TWO. NO HATE AT ALL.

New Month

September should be a fun month. I finally get to meet my little niece Jo, college football starts (Go Wolfpack!), fantasy football also begins, and the otherworldly, non-climate change* induced armpit of heat and humidity known as summer goes away. 

sarcasm

Same Goals

My goal(s) are the same they have been for the past few years. Have enough success to where I can write novels full-time, then go from there. 

To get more specific, I'm still shopping around my latest manuscript, The Conch Shell of Doom, to agents in the literary world. Some of you may think that's an absurd title for a novel, and to that I say OF COURSE IT IS. Some of you may also think nobody worth their salt would be interested in a novel with such an absurd title, and to that I say SHUT UP MAYBE SOMEBODY WILL.

Anyone who knows me knows that a novel called The Conch Shell of Doom is right up my alley. It's a fun, paranormal, Goonies-style romp. It will see the light of day, that much I can promise. I'm just not sure how.

I'm also hard at work on an UNTITLED YA MANUSCRIPT, which is a non-funny, non-silly, dark story with one of the most original titles in the history of books. Yes, I mostly write silly books, but I also like to stretch my writer muscles and dive into areas that are new or unfamiliar to me - in this case, a female POV. The story revolves around an 18-year-old teen girl who visits her brother's killer in jail, only to come away wondering if the wrong person was convicted. Scandalous! 

Work also continues on the TV pilot script for The Book of Bart, which I'm co-writing with my friend Josh Lanier, a writer for the Charlotte sketch comedy group Robot Johnson. I'm still a little over halfway through with The Unspoken Rule: The Book of Bart Verse 2, but it's currently on the back-burner while I expand my writing horizons. Not to worry! Once my Untitled novel is finished, Verse 2 is next on the docket.

 

 

INTERVIEW: Drew Hayes, Author of UNDEATH AND TAXES by Ryan Hill

 

Drew Hayes is a dirty bastard. Wait. That's a lie. He's actually really nice, and from what I've noticed, his hygiene is up to snuff. So he's not literally a dirty bastard. Figuratively, however, that's another story all-together.

See, Drew is one of those rare folk who get to call writing stories their career. My brain even grumbled "dirty bastard" as I typed that last sentence. Regardless, Drew is a great guy and is back with Undeath and Taxes, the follow-up to his ridiculously fun The Utterly Uninteresting and Unadventurous Tales of Fred, The Vampire Accountant. 

To celebrate the occasion, Drew subjected himself to the rigorous and potentially soul-crushing grind that is... a Q&A with Ryan.

Enjoy!

Where does Undeath and Taxes pick up? How much time has passed since the original? 

It’s been a few months. They are successfully out of Holiday Alley (Halloween to New Year) where the first one took place.

Why a Fred sequel? What made you want to return to this world? Where are Fred, Krystal, and Albert now?

The why is easy, I had fun the first time and had some ideas for where I wanted things to go. That’s pretty much all it takes for a sequel, though the fact that it was so well received doesn’t hurt either. As for where they are, more or less still in the same places. Not much has changed, save for Fred expanding both his business and his specialization by becoming a Certified Public Parahuman Accountant.

You have an awfully unique/awesome release day ritual. Care to share it?

Sure! I start the day with a $5 bottle of champagne (because I do well enough to pay the bills, but I ain’t on the Times Bestseller List or anything). Then I hop onto social media and answer questions pretty much all day. Of course, I know the part you’re really asking about is the fact that I have a shot every time I get a 5-star review on launch day. It’s my way of celebrating, and cheers-ing the speed/beta readers who liked the book enough to hop on and get things started on a positive note. Luckily, not many people can get through a book on launch day, which is probably why this tradition hasn’t killed me yet.

How similar is your writing style to your release day ritual? I'd imagine they're almost one and the same.

Like my mother told me when I tried to enter the workforce with an English degree, “You’re in for some disappointment.” Shockingly enough, I actually very rarely drink when I’m working. Hemingway might have been able to write drunk and edit sober, but he’s also a legend for a reason. For me, it’s hard to get into the zone when I’m buzzed, so I tend to only write when sober. This is also why the great bulk of my work gets done in the morning, freeing me up for beers at lunch.

With the title Undeath and Taxes, I'd imagine there's a bit more accounting in the sequel. Is there? Did you study accounting? Did you just Google accounting for dummies for Fred? WHAT IS YOUR FASCINATION WITH ACCOUNTING, MAN????

I never studied accounting, although I did work for a stock brokerage at one point, so I know a fair bit about investments and types of retirement accounts. As for why it keeps sticking around, well, it’s what Fred is great at. He might be a cowardly vampire with severe fear of confrontation, but he is one hell of an accountant.

The first Fred had a very episodic, serialized format where it told one big story, but it was almost like a TV show where you could pick it up at the start of any episode and know what was going on. Is Undeath like that?

Yes indeed, it’s another five novellas that combine to form one whole story. I’m not sure I’d ever use this method for any other book I write, but for some reason it just seems to fit well with Fred. A sole plot with a sprawling lead-up would demand an action-packed, high-paced conclusion. With the smaller stories, I can have smaller pay-offs, or sometimes show there was no real threat in the first place, and it works because there hasn’t been as much build-up.

Time for a little vamp on vamp, mano e mano action. How would Fred fare in a Kumite style tournament against these other vampires? Also, if you weren't aware, Kumite is an underground fighting tournament that was popularized in the 1988 Jean-Claude Van Damme classic Bloodsport. Also, if you didn't know that, shame on you and a pox on your house.

Fred vs Literary Dracula

Fred helps Dracula register his castle as a historic landmark, shows him how to use it as a proper deduction on his taxes, and saves the older vampire a ton of money. They are cool.

Fred vs Gary Oldman Dracula

Same as Lit. Dracula. Money is money.

Fred vs the entire Cullen clan and whiny Taylor Lautner from Twilight

Fred calls Krystal to let her know there’s a bunch of dipshits having supernatural fights out in the open. Two days later, there are nothing but smoking husks and we’re all saved from getting dragged to any more movies.

Ryan note: Oh, if this were actually the case

Fred vs Jim Carrey in Once Bitten

Fred gets Jim Carrey clear of the older vampire who is feeding on him, ideally into rehab. Then he finds the woman doing the feeding and helps her find a nice psychologist to deal with these “virgin-hunting” issues that have plagued her for so long.

Ryan note: I see what you did there Drew, and I like it. For more "virgin-hunting," check out my AWARD-WINNING novel THE BOOK OF BART. #shamelessplug

Fred vs Salma Hayek in From Dusk Till Dawn

Yeah… if Fred sets foot in that world, he’s pretty much dead. But like, permanently, this time.

Fred vs Eric Northman from True Blood

Fred offers to do freelance accounting at a sharp discount, which as a business man Eric can’t turn down. Fred then telecommutes as often as possible, steering clear of all the fucking, staking, and general chaos of that world. Also he makes sure to send a nice bottle of scotch for Christmas, just like with all his high-end clients.

Fred vs vampire Paul Reubens (aka Pee-Wee Herman) in Buffy the Vampire Slayer (the movie)

Movie world, that’s a tough one. Probably get killed in the background of a scene unceremoniously. Now if it were the TV show, I think we could make a strong case for Fred becoming the first vampire Watcher.

In haiku format, tell everyone why they need to go out and buy Undeath and Taxes. Also, do you care what people do with your books after they've been purchased? What if someone bought one of your books and just pooped on it? This can be for paperback or e-book.

Despite what you think
Paperwork can save the day
Although fangs help too

I would heartily recommend against using an e-book to wipe, as those Kindles are bulky, hard, and do not flush worth a damn.

About Undeath & Taxes:

After discovering just how filled with magic, intrigue, and adventure the parahuman world of being an Undead American can be, Fredrick Frankford Fletcher did exactly what was expected--he became a certified parahuman accountant. Myths and legends, as it turns out, are not so great at taking appropriate deductions and keeping their receipts, and Fred is more than happy to return to a life others view as woefully dull, expanding his accounting business to cater to various monsters and their respective financial needs. 

Said monsters are, unfortunately, still spectacular at pulling Fred into trouble, though. And despite merely wanting to stick with simple paperwork, Fred once again finds he is going to have to deal with enchanted weaponry, government agents, possessed houses, and one enigmatic dragon’s interest. In the parahuman world, any business can turn deadly, even one as mundane as accounting.

Buy Undeath & Taxes Today!


Author Bio:

Drew Hayes is an aspiring author from Texas who has written several books and found the gumption to publish a few (so far). He graduated from Texas Tech with a B.A. in English, because evidently he’s not familiar with what the term “employable” means. Drew has been called one of the most profound, prolific, and talented authors of his generation, but a table full of drunks will say almost anything when offered a round of free shots. Drew feels kind of like a D-bag writing about himself in the third person like this. He does appreciate that you’re still reading, though.

Drew would like to sit down and have a beer with you. Or a cocktail. He’s not here to judge your preferences. Drew is terrible at being serious, and has no real idea what a snippet biography is meant to convey anyway. Drew thinks you are awesome just the way you are. That part, he meant. Drew is off to go high-five random people, because who doesn’t love a good high-five? No one, that’s who.

See Drew talk about himself in first person on his website and twitter.

#UtopYA2015! by Ryan Hill

 

Greetings!

Some exciting stuff going on the next couple of weeks. HOW EXCITING, you ask? Hoooooo boy. I wish I could say I won the lottery, but it's pretty exciting nonetheless.

Tomorrow, well technically starting tonight, since I'll be making the first part of the 8+ hour drive tonight with a layover at my parents' house, I'm on my way to UtopYA2015 in Nashville!


It's going to be a blast. At least, it better be. Otherwise, somebody's car is getting keyed. But I'm pretty confident it's going to be amazing, so everyone should be safe from my keys o' doom. I'll be signing books on Friday, giving out sweet, soap-based swag (brain soap, Doctor Who Tardis soap), candy, and I'm even having a contest where you can win some pretty nifty Doctor Who items!

Anyone who signs up for my newsletter at UtopYA will receive one free entry into the contest, and an extra five entries will be given to those who buy one of my books (ten extra entries if both are purchased). Winners will be chosen using a random number generator online, and will have the option of picking one of these prizes:

A Doctor Who (10th Doctor) Mr. Potato Head

Doctor Who exploding TARDIS mug

A Dalek

he giveaway will only be happening Friday, since that's the day I'm signing books. If you're in or around Nashville, come on down!

But the exciting news doesn't end there!

Both THE BOOK OF BART and DEAD NEW WORLD have been selected by Amazon to be Kindle Daily Deals! This has the potential to be HUGE. Like... win the lottery huge.

Sooooo many new sets of eyeballs will see my books for the first time, and there's all kinds of potential to crack the Kindle Marketplace Top 100, and maybe even more than that! However, I'm going to need your help do this.

I've got a Thunderclap campaign set up for BART, and need at least 100 people to sign up in order for the campaign to take place. All you have to do is go to the campaign page, sign up, and Thunderclap will send out the message for you.

How flippin' easy is that? Plus, you're helping someone, which has to feel good. Doubly so since it's me you're helping. 

Volunteer for THE BOOK OF BART's Thunderclap here

 

COVER REVEAL - UNDEATH AND TAXES by Drew Hayes!!! by Ryan Hill

 

After discovering just how filled with magic, intrigue, and adventure the parahuman world of being an Undead American can be, Fredrick Frankford Fletcher did exactly what was expected--he became a certified parahuman accountant. Myths and legends, as it turns out, are not so great at taking appropriate deductions and keeping their receipts, and Fred is more than happy to return to a life others view as woefully dull, expanding his accounting business to cater to various monsters and their respective financial needs. 

Said monsters are, unfortunately, still spectacular at pulling Fred into trouble, though. And despite merely wanting to stick with simple paperwork, Fred once again finds he is going to have to deal with enchanted weaponry, government agents, possessed houses, and one enigmatic dragon’s interest. In the parahuman world, any business can turn deadly, even one as mundane as accounting.

 

Add Undeath & Taxes on goodreads


Author Bio:

Drew Hayes is an aspiring author from Texas who has written several books and found the gumption to publish a few (so far). He graduated from Texas Tech with a B.A. in English, because evidently he’s not familiar with what the term “employable” means. Drew has been called one of the most profound, prolific, and talented authors of his generation, but a table full of drunks will say almost anything when offered a round of free shots. Drew feels kind of like a D-bag writing about himself in the third person like this. He does appreciate that you’re still reading, though.

Drew would like to sit down and have a beer with you. Or a cocktail. He’s not here to judge your preferences. Drew is terrible at being serious, and has no real idea what a snippet biography is meant to convey anyway. Drew thinks you are awesome just the way you are. That part, he meant. Drew is off to go high-five random people, because who doesn’t love a good high-five? No one, that’s who.

See Drew talk about himself in first person on his website and twitter.

THE BOOK OF BART won a humor award!!! by Ryan Hill

 

So, remember (or not; the point is I REMEMBER) how THE BOOK OF BART was named a finalist in the 2014 USA Best Book Awards - Humor category? Guess what? Another contest, the Next Generation Indie Book Awards, a fine institution with a superior sense of humor to the USA Best Book Awards, has named THE BOOK OF BART as Best Humor/Comedy novel in their 2015 awards!!!!!

Yes, everyone's favorite well-dressed demon is also the funniest demon... at least according to the Next Generation Indie Book Awards. And that's just for 2015. Next year it could be something completely different. Who knows with these things? 

 

Regardless, thanks so much to the Next Generation Indie Book Awards for recognizing THE BOOK OF BART!!!


The Six Stages of Reading George R.R. Martin's A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE series by Ryan Hill

 

One doesn't simply sit down to read George R.R. Martin's mammoth A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE series. It's an investment in time. LOTS of time. YEARS even. For anyone who reads a lot, each entry in the series (five and counting) is so friggin long, they're the equivalent of three to four "normal length" books. That's not to say the books aren't fantastic, they just require you to give up years of your life to finish them.

So, while you're reading the books, partly for enjoyment and partly because you refuse to let the GAME OF THRONES TV show never, ever, ever rip your heart and your guts out at the same time again, that pile of books sitting on the book shelf waiting to be read only grows larger, adding to the anxiety that your life is spinning out of control because these books are so time-consuming and you'll never reach a point where you can read a book not written by George R.R. Martin in this lifetime. 

Now...

Stage One: Excitement

That's right! Screw you, HBO! You're not going to pull another Red Wedding on THIS guy. I'll already know what's happened! LET'S DO THIS

Stage Two: The crushing blow of reality

Okay, been reading A GAME OF THRONES for a few weeks now, and... shit. Over 600 pages to go. This is really good and all, but damn.

Stage Three: Depression

Three months in. Still 400 pages to go. Most of my relationships never lasted this long. Body shutting down. Tell Mom I love her.

Stage Four: Hope

Only 200 pages to go! Heads are getting lopped off left and right! I can see the finish line!

 

Stage Five: Triumph

Oh yeah! Just finished a 900 page book! It's Miller Time!

One down... wait.

No.

No...

Four to go? At least the ones that have come out? So, after knocking out 900 pages, there's still 4,000 more to go? I WILL NEVER CATCH UP TO THIS DAMN SHOW. 

Stage six: Complete and utter defeat

Just... go on without me. Try to remember the good things we shared. I'm not getting out of Westeros with my head attached to my body.



DAUGHTER OF THE FALLEN Chapter Reveal! by Ryan Hill

 

Check out the first chapter of Madeline Wynn's DAUGHTER OF THE FALLEN! Madeline is a friend of mine, which makes this reveal doubly awesome! 


About the Book:

Most sixteen-year olds aren't worried about the fate of their immortal souls. May Krieg should be.

Typically, honor student May's biggest problems have revolved around her super-hot arch-rival, Jack. But when a school project takes them ghost-hunting in a local cemetery, she discovers that an ominous force roams in the darkness around her.

And it follows her home.

It claws its way into her life, burning messages into her wall and imprinting them onto her body. Even worse, she can't tell if it's trying to possess her... or protect her.

May's thoughts soon become actions, causing the target of her anger severe physical pain and giving her a rush the likes of which she has never experienced.  She quickly realizes that she needs to find a way to reign in this power before she kills someone. May hates the pleasure it gives her, hates herself for hurting others, but she can't stop.

As her entire world shatters around her, she is forced to ask what her soul is worth-- and who would she risk losing her soul to save?

For More Information

 

First Chapter

           This is New England. And in New England, a town without a good witch hanging or ghost story just, well, isn’t considered to be a real town.  So when I walk past the iron gate of the cemetery and feel the urge to bolt riding up my legs like a herd of football players bum-rushing the food counter on taco day, I set my shoulders and do my best to cowboy up.

          Set between imposing stone walls and punctured by large granite fists, Hillside Cemetery definitely looks like it deserves its sinister reputation, making my attempt at bravery rather brief.  “This place sucks. Maybe we should just go.”

          “Here, watch your step,” Cay says and holds out his hand to help me over the uneven cobbles just on the other side of the entry. Once we make it over the stones, he drops my hand and pulls the recording equipment out of the duffle.

          We’ve been friends ever since kindergarten, when some boy taunted me for living in a “little troll house.”  Cay, the kickball king, told him that it was actually a gingerbread house, and everybody knows that only fairy princesses live in gingerbread houses. 

          He was wrong, of course; it was witches who lived in the gingerbread houses, a fact I pointed out to him later, but I gave him props for the effort.  We’ve been “Cay and May” ever since, but the whole dating thing still feels… awkward.

          “Is this all from school or is Jack bringing some of his dad’s?” I swipe an errant curl of hair out of my face and cringe at my surroundings as I reach for the big videocamera.  Why does it have to be so dark?  Why can’t people ghost hunt in the daylight?  You can still supposed get sound bites and whatever in the daytime, right?  It’s not like ghosts go anywhere or sleep or, you know, whatever.

          “Well, the big stuff is the professional gear with night vision from school.  And then we have my stuff.”  Cay stops in front of a wide tomb, laying his multiple cameras and his mini video recorder along the top like they are the most precious things in the world. “Weird that Mr. Dowd put both you and Jack on my team.” 

           “Yeah, weird.”  And a nightmare. If it wasn’t for Jack, I’d be ranked first in our year, and, unlike Jack, if I don’t earn a ton of scholarship money for college, then I can’t go. 

          Cay fumbles with the equipment, his breath rising in great grey puffs of frost, lingering in his dark bob of curls.  I shiver.  

          A BMW pulls up in front of the entry gate, looking sleek and new and out of place.

          I run an unsteady hand through my untamable hair…right…Jack.

          He gets out of the car and strides towards us, stepping out into the camera’s lights: short blond hair, high cheekbones, and a long neck leading to strong shoulders.  Everyone at school, except for me, that is, adores him because he’s rich, intelligent and supposedly lost his virginity to a Victoria’s Secret model.

          Watching the god-like way he strides across the cemetery, you can almost believe the hype.  He lifts his eyes to meet mine as he nods a greeting.  My heart flips.  

          Of course, it would be easier to dislike him if he wasn’t so damn… hot.  I shake my head.  I hate that about him, too.

          “You’re late.”  I grab the sound gear from Cay and hand it to him, eyeing the orange-clad harpy of a girl trailing after him.

          “I had to pick up Alicia.”  He indicates the thing as he straps on the professional sound gear.  “And respond to your post on the AP History board about gun control.”

          I huff.  “You think we should arm everyone with a credit card?”

          “What I think is irrelevant, Mason.”  Jack’s the only one in the universe who calls me by my full name. “It’s what the Founding Fathers wanted that matters.”  He holds out his hand to help me navigate my way over a broken tomb.  I ignore it.  He smirks, “Or do you not support the Bill Of Rights?”

          God, please keep me from throttling him tonight.  Cay clears his throat.

          “WTF, losers?  A graveyard?” Alicia Impestio. Wearing her designer hoodie unzipped so that she reveals way more skin than she has to, her straight brown hair is bleached at the tips and held off of her over-tanned face by some rhinestone-studded catastrophe.  I grit my teeth. 

          “Hey Alicia, glad you could make it.”  Cay holds the minicam out towards her and helps her onto the cobbled path of the graveyard.

          “Whatever.”  Alicia grabs the mini and swats at Cay’s hand as she struggles to gain a foothold.  A challenging endeavor, I’m sure, for someone wearing flip-flops in November. 

          She gives me the once-over, lips curling. 

“You really wore that?”  She asks, mouth open with disdain. 

“Alicia…”  Jack’s voice is low, menacing.

          “I mean” –she gives me the once-over and sneers- “Aren’t the Kardashians some of you people?  They at least know how to dress.  But, then again, they also know who their daddy is.”  

          That’s Alicia: hitting where it hurts. I blink through the stinging at my eyes as my mind races to find something snarky to say...something to…

          “Alicia,” Jack snaps. “Stop.”

“Fine, but tell Clay Aiken over there to hurry it.  I’m cold.”

          Jack makes a motion with his head to indicate that Cay should ignore her as he adjusts the weight of the portable boom on his back.

          “Okay, I’m filming.”  I say and catch the low-hanging harvest moon before panning down to Cay.  “In three, two, one…”

          “This is Cayden Robison of Chase Hills High Broadcasting reporting on site at Hillside Cemetery. In 1734, three witches were reportedly hung just up the road, on the town green and buried, here, in this cemetery, in unmarked graves.”

          “Then, in 1864, three men were arrested for grave digging, and ever since, people have reported strange things not only here, but especially out behind the burial grounds, in the woods.” Cay runs his hand along the top of a worn tombstone.

          “Reports of paranormal activity really began to pick up in the past thirty years.”  He pauses, and I pan the camera over to the creepy oak and the broken bench beneath it, hands a little unsteady.  “Some people claim to hear voices, others see full-body apparitions, but most convincingly, in the 1980s, some kids back here partying say that they found satanists performing rituals in the woods.  They watched as the group made a make-shift temple of one of the half-buried barite mines in the woods, and claim that the men actually raised a demon.”

          He stops, looking intently into the lens of my camera. I flex my fingers, my breath rushed, like I’ve been running.

          “Tonight, we’re going to dig for the truth and see if Hillside Cemetery is actually haunted.”  Cays smiles.

          Deep breath, May.  It’s just a story.  Fairytales. There’s no such thing as demons, or ghosts. 

          Cay motions with his hand to indicate that the “official” filming has ended and that now the “ghosthunting” part of the project begins. Why couldn’t we report on the old tavern, or maybe on one of the farms like everyone else? I blow onto my fingers to keep them warm before turning off the main light of the camera and switching to night vision. 

          A dog barks.  I jump. Looking at the shadows clinging to the crooked, thin stones more cautiously, my heartbeat ticks up.  Stupid dog.

          Jack, eyeing me with something like concern, takes a step in my direction.

“So, what exactly are we looking for?  Has anybody actually taped any evidence here?”  I ask, trying to put some steel in my voice.  Don’t look stupid in front of Jack, May.  He’s not freaked out and you shouldn’t be either.

          “Lots of people have caught pictures and stuff…  a few good EVPs.”  Cay stops and explains as he snaps a bunch of still shots.  “Electronic Voice Phenomena.  Voices of ghosts are usually at such a low frequency that human ears can’t pick them up, but you can catch them on tape.”

          Cay walks, holding out both a still camera and a wand-like mini-recorder in front of him.

          I follow, looking over my shoulder. “Sounds like a bad recording…or interference.”

          Jack laughs soundlessly as we slowly follow Cay’s movements.  Is it wrong to say that I’m happy Jack’s here?  I mean, it would be better if it was someone else, of course….

          Cay storms around the tomb and wags his finger at me, dry leaves crunching beneath his feet.  “It’s not interference, jeez May, didn’t you read those links I sent you?”

          No.  The whole ghost thing is ridiculous. The trees at the edge of the cemetery, though, are freakish.  Black and dripping with shadows…  I absolutely would have read a link about a barite mine lurking somewhere beneath those trees.

          “This is creepy.”  Alicia says, “Jack, we’re going to Eric’s party later, right?”

          Jack glares at her.

          “Whatever.”  She purses her lips and tosses the minicam on the ground, “I’m going back to the car.”

          Thank you, God. 

          Cay’s sweet, boyish features twist at Alicia’s defection. “We’ll do some EVP work, first, OK?” He messes with his digital voice recorder for a minute before holding the wand-like thing before him.  He presses record. “Testing.”

          We wait.  The frost from our breath hovers around us, filling the darkness with fog, hiding us from the trees.

          Cay looks to me. Then he pushes stop.  He plays back the recording and we hear him say, “Testing.”

          Jack shuffles his feet, trying to lower the boom over where Cay is standing in the least conspicuous manner possible.  A strange, cool feeling falls over me.  My teeth clench against it.

          “Shhhh, May. Do you feel that?” Cay holds out his arm, listening.

          My body tenses. “Feel what?”  I ask, angry at myself for my quickening heartbeat.

          “It just dropped like ten degrees.  Ghosts need energy to manifest, and when they’re about to appear, you find a cold spot. Just like this.” He grins.

          Swallowing my galloping heartbeat, I refrain from mentioning that it is always cold in November in Connecticut.  But a wall of cold that hits suddenly, in a graveyard, while trying to talk to the dead…

          “Is anybody here with us tonight?”  Cay asks, holding the recorder out before him. “Is there anything you would like to say to us?”

          We wait in the silence of the night, Cay with the tiny, handheld voice recorder and Jack with the pro gear and mic, both recording, both waiting…

          The cold sits at the bottom of my stomach like a virus, lying, waiting to rear up and make me ill.  I keep the camera on Cay with shaking hands, black hair falling in front of my eyes, but I don’t dare swat at them, in case I miss the shot. 

          Cay plays the tape back. He waits, holding his breath as we hear his voice asking the first question, and thankfully only a blank pause before we hear him ask the second and I relax, shoulders softening, but just then, just as he moves to turn off the playback, a sound, a groaning, emanates from the small machine he holds in his hand.

“Go.” 

          “What the hell was that?”  I shriek, jumping in time with Cay and reaching out to grab at Jack’s shirt. 

          “It sounds like it’s saying ‘go’, hot damn!”  Cay shouts triumphantly.  “We like totally made contact!”

           Jack looks at my hand on his shirt and smiles. I let go. Crap!

“Mason, this ghost hunting stuff is all bull, you know that, right?”

          Heart slamming, I hold my feet steady beneath my pounding heart.  Bull, yeah, bull, right, I do know that.  I nod at him, breath heavy.  

          “Here, I’ll show you.”  Jack lowers the long wand microphone to his feet.  Arm muscles tensing as he pulls the battery pack off of his back, he plays back the feedback on the main sound recorder.  He fast forwards then hits play.  We hear Cay ask his questions and…I hold my breath…and…and…nothing.  Jack’s right.  Nothing groaned.  Nothing said “go”.

          Thank God.

           “The EVP recorder’s more sensitive.”  Cay says incredulously as he points the EVP recorder at Jack’s set lips.  “It’s specially set up to pick up more sound waves than standard equipment.”

          “More sensitive than professional sound gear?”  Jack raises his eyebrow and looks me in the eye.  “He pre-recorded it, Mason.  He’s faking.”

          “Cay?”

          “I’m not lying, May, I swear!” He hops around a cracked tombstone and grabs my hand in his, “Promise.”

          “Right.”  Jack shrugs off the rest of the soundgear.  “Using an assignment on local history as an excuse to play ghost hunter was a bad idea, Cay. Faking a ghost sighting or hearing or whatever to impress your girlfriend is just wrong.”

          “We’ve just experienced something supernatural here!”  Cay turns to face Jack, looking wiry standing against Jack’s athletic physique.

          “No, we haven’t.”  Jack’s eyes meet mine and my heart flounders… not sure as to what the hell it should be doing.  “He’s lying to you, Mason.” 

          My heart tightens, falls.

          “I am not, you dick!”  Cay shoves Jack in the chest.

          Jack doesn’t push back, he just straightens out and looks to me again, “Maybe you should ask him what else he’s lying to you about, Mason?”

          “May, you’ve known me like your whole life, you know I wouldn’t fake this.”  I look into Cay’s eyes, searching for the truth.  He wouldn’t.  For one, he’s not that smart.  And he wouldn’t fake something like this. Not on purpose.  Not if it would mean tricking me. Maybe Alicia tampered with this stuff somehow… And what the hell is Jack implying?

          “He wouldn’t lie, Jack.”  I look across the field to the blackened woods. “Not to me.  It must be the equipment.”

          Jack’s face closes...he’s pissed.  “For your sake, I hope that’s true.”  He hands me the sound equipment.  “I can wait by the car if you want me to, but I won’t be part of this.”

          “Just go.”  Cay demands, getting in Jack’s face.

          Jack raises his eyes to mine. My heart amps up.  I force my eyes to the ground.  I don’t want him to go. Safety in numbers and all that.

          Wait, Jack’s walking away….  

           I turn to Cay. “Why is he so sure you’re making this up?”

          Cay looks at his feet.  “Probably just pissed he’s not in charge of something for once.”

           “Maybe.”  I watch Jack’s form seem to disappear into the trees and tombs beneath the light of the moon.

          “Come on.”  He looks over at Jack’s retreating form and says at full volume, “I’m your boyfriend and I won’t let anything bad happen to you.”

          Jack stops, back tight, and Cay sports a defiant grin as he ushers me closer to the tree line. 

          After a long moment, Cay clears his throat and talks into the wand-like EVP machine. “We’re here to talk to you.” 

          Leaves crunch beneath his feet as he picks his way through the tall blades of yellowed grass and creeps down towards the woods. I ask, “Wait, Cay, where are you going?” 

          He hits ‘record’, ignoring me.

“We want to talk to you.”  Cay calls, talking to the dead as he motions for me to follow him, trampling twisted fronds of dead milkweed as he crosses the field of graves and approaches the trees. 

          My heartbeat ticks up even further by the sudden stillness of the trees.  No owls, no wind, even the yippy dogs from the condos have stopped.  My feet stay planted, rooted… I really don’t want to go near those trees.  Much less walk around in them.

          “Would you like to say something to us?” He waits for what seems like a year, then stops recording.  

          He meets my eyes over the top of the view screen.  He pushes ‘play’.

          We wait.  I feel a trickle of sweat down my chest, sliding over my racing heart…I swallow the lump in my throat…waiting…

          Merciful silence. I let out a breath of relief.  Thank God.  That first voice was probably just the wind, or Cay doing something beneath his….

          “Go away.” The voice is loud enough to hear, coming from the woods, and my heart takes a great leap, stomach trembling.  Cay’s eyes widen, and just before I drop the camera and run back to the car, he grabs my arm, and holds me steady, fear like a giant nail in my chest…. and we hear it again, the voice, low, dark, barely above a whisper. “Demons.” 

          Cay shivers with excitement.  “Did you hear that?  Were you recording?  Did you catch what it was saying?  This is like totally amazing!”

          “It was crystal clear what it was saying, Cay! And it means we need to get the hell out of here right now!”  My breath leaves short, angry clouds of frost in the air around me, and I struggle to keep a good shot on anything as I look into his delighted face.

          No way.  No way.  This is bull. I’m being punked or something, right? He has to have paid someone to hide in the trees.  He didn’t tell me because he wanted me to look scared on film.  He’ll tell me later, we’ll laugh about it later…

          “No way, it means we’re going into the woods!  How many times do you get a chance to possibly catch an inhuman haunting on film!  This is like wicked hot.”  Cay hops a thin sapling and walks into the forest. 

          “Cay, please, let’s just go back to the car.  We’ve got more than enough for our three minute assignment.”  I say, voice thin.  Please don’t make me go in there.   

          Breathe, May, breathe.  It’s just trees, dammit.  You like trees. I look up to try and find Cay.

          But he’s gone, walking into the misshapen wood, trees bending, scooping at the ground instead of the sky.  I peer into the shadowed forest, and then back to the graveyard. Dampening my pounding heart, I square my shoulders and try and think strong, think tough.  I can’t let Cay go in there alone.  He’ll trip on a rock or something and get himself killed. I take a deep breath, hope to God this isn’t a mistake, and take a step into the trees.

          The woods are definitely worse than the graveyard.  The graveyard has some sense of form, some light.  The woods here are a mess of fallen vines, thorn bushes and half-broken, half-dead trees and their sickly, barren limbs above.  Holding onto the peeling bark of an old birch tree, I allow my eyes to adjust to the new degree of darkness.

          Having better vision through the lens of the camera than I do with my own eyes, I raise the camera and slowly make my way through the chaos.  I follow Cay’s movements with the camera, watching his lanky form appear and reappear onscreen ahead of me, asking more questions of the voice.

          There are things here.  I feel them, watching, waiting, my skin tingles at the sensation, as if it has sprouted thousands of tiny, needle-like thorns. The only sounds in here come from us, which is…well… wrong. 

          “Ugh! That totally sucks! May, go around, I got caught in this nasty puddle here.  Oh, wow that’s cold.”  Cay says, shaking his foot and hopping around some saplings. 

          “We should go.” I say.  “It’s hard to shoot in here.”  My path around the freezing mud leads me either through a patch of thorny undergrowth or over a massive downed tree.

          Right, over the tree it is then.  I lower the camera and let it dangle around my neck and use both hands to grab the log and climb up and over.  Landing on the other side, I pull a leaf out of my hair.  Wait…why does it feel like the ground here isn’t frozen?   My feet sink…what’s going on?  Did I step into a pile of decaying leaves?

          The ground gives beneath my feet and the forest floor rushes up to my eyes.

          A moment of dark free fall and confusion ends with the clarity of impact. Pain bursts my body.  Burning up through my legs, through my lungs, through thoughts of anything.  Anything but the pain…erasing everything. 

          I can’t breathe.  Like a fish on a dock, I fumble as my lungs torturously pull in raw, slicing clouds of oxygen.  Short, excruciating breaths, but I have to….  

          “Cay” I call for my friend, somewhere above me, but the sound that leaves my throat is too low, too guttural to carry.    

          I’m wallowing, covered in something.  Oh crap.  Am I in a grave?  I can’t tell; I can’t see anything.  My heart is on overdrive. The smell is noxious. I wipe some of the sludge off my face, only to smear more of it near my eyes.  It clings to my sweater, wet, cold, beneath my filthy coat.  The stench, oh God I can’t see.  What is this?

          The only light filters in from a small hole somewhere maybe eight feet over my head.

          Are there bones?  What is that smell?  Decaying leaves?  No, too deep, and the smell is rancid, like something is dying, or has died, leaving me lying in a pool of decomposing flesh.  Oh please God, tell me I am not in a puddle of rotting bodily fluids.  The noxious fluid clings to me, burning my nostrils as I try and stop the heaving of my chest and I gag.

           “May!  May can you hear me?  Are you OK?  Oh crap, I like can’t like believe this, if you can hear me, I am like calling 911, ok? Are you bleeding?”

           “Cay.”  I try again, a low moan as my body’s initial numbness turns to tiny pricks, like millions of biting ants running up and down the length of my body as my nerves surge back up.  I lay on my side, curled up in the mire.

          Fighting pain, fighting panic, I look around me.  And see nothing.  The dark is absolute.  I move my head to look at my quivering, bleeding hands.  They don’t seem to be broken.  Okay, this is good. Well, maybe not good, but I’m not dead, and that’s at least something.  Just calm down and think your way out of this. Check your legs.

          My right leg is sore, throbbing, but okay. I move my left foot and waves of agony reverberate up my leg. I exhale forcefully, trying to exorcise some of the throbbing so I can focus.

          “Cay!”  My voice is a low, whiny croak…not enough…not enough…

          My eyes adjust, slowly, so slowly. I lean on my aching left hip.  My phone.  Open the phone. I pull my cell out of my pocket.  Hands trembling, I flip the phone open. The ambient light I’m counting on fades to black, as if snuffed.  Damn!  I just charged the stupid thing this afternoon.  It’s so cold, so dark…

          Breathe, just breathe.

          “Cayden Robinson.  I’m at Hillside.  No.  My friend, she fell into like a hole...I don’t know, yes, a hole…no…look, you like have to get her out like now….”  His voice fades.

          Breathe in…His voice echoes down to where I lay in a pool of grayish light.  Breathe out….I look around at the walls, and see nothing.  Nothing but darkness.  Focus, May! Breathe in….Cay is up there, not too far above you, and you will be able to call to him in a minute, once your breathing steadies.

          Breath out… “Cay!” I call, voice finally unlocking.

           “Oh my God!”  He fumbles, kicking debris down into the hole, “May!” 

          “Just stay calm, OK?”  He calls, “The EMTs told me to tell you not to move because you might have a neck injury or something.”

          Not move? Stay calm?  Seriously?  I feel my cheeks moisten and I stifle a yowl.  Breathe in….

          I wish I could see into the dark around me.  Then at least I would be able to know where I am.  Sitting in the only light makes me feel like I’m onstage. 

          Remembering the light on the camera, I fumble around my surrounding area, only to finding more mud.  Hot dammit! 

          “I’m going to look around and see if I can find something to help you out with, OK?  Like a stick or something.”  Cay calls.

          I sit, cold, trying to stay calm.  But I feel…something…. 

          I feel it.  I am not alone.  The tips of my fingers go numb. Something is here…around…watching….

          Cay returns to the edge of the hole and he leans his head over.  “I don’t want you to like, freak out or anything, but I think you’re in the shaft.”

          The temperature plummets and my stomach lurches, “What shaft?”  I ask, voice hoarse.

          “Like, the shaft, May.  I think I just found the entrance over there, it look like it’s sealed and all.”

          My heart flutters.  “Cay, are you talking about the mine shaft?  The one the …..”

          “Yeah.”  Cay murmers.  “But don’t panic.  Help is totally on its way.”

Asshole! Don’t panic?  Is he for real?  I’m in the satanist’s shaft and he tells me not to panic!?!? 

          Something shuffles in the dark not three feet from where I’m laying.  My heart shifts, “Something just moved, Cay.”

          Cay’s head is back in the light.  “It’s probably just a mouse, May, relax.”   His voice is tight.

          Right, a mouse.  But it sounds bigger…

          I hear a low-level snarling.  Bile dribbles down my throat, burning as it goes. “Cay, there is something down here.”

          The color slowly drains from my cheeks and all feeling rushes to my core.  Growling.  Something is here.  Growling.  Oh God help me.  Growling.

          My mind frantically searches, wishing I could see anything in the darkness. My throat tightens and I am barely able to whisper. “Help me.”

           “May, here.”  Cay drops a glowstick down the opening, and I watch with horror as it illuminates a large, growing mass of shadow against the rock of the wall. No. The shadow is vaguely human in form, and can’t be cast by me.  No.  I’m on the wrong side of the light.  My blood ices. Please somebody help me.

          Move!  May, move! I tug at my legs desperately and back away from the sounds, but it feels like I am surrounded.  I have nowhere to go.  I have no escape.  The light of the glowstick fades before it hits the floor, swallowed by the darkness, as if absorbed by this thing, and I hear the sound of the video camera’s plastic casing being ripped, shredded. 

          “Cay!”  Shrieking, I clamor at the wall behind me, looking for some sort of grip to try and pull myself out of the mineshaft, hands only finding slick stone.  Then I feel it, hot breath on the back of my neck. “Get me the hell out of here now!  There is something down here and it’s huge!”

          “May!  Hold on!  Help!  I’m gonna, I just, like…”

          The black is absolute, but I feel it, breath tickling at my skin, everywhere, nowhere, my fingers scraping at the rock wall, trying to find a hold, a way out. “Get me out of here!  Please!  I feel it, it’s everywhere!”

          “May! What’s going on?  Are you OK?  Help!  Somebody!”  Cay’s screams are desperate above me as I fall to my knees, the air taking on life a life of its own as my fingers bleed, clawing against the rock.  Can’t think.  I hear another sharp, angry voice somewhere above me.  Can’t breathe. I lunge right to try and avoid touching the mass of darkness to my left, but my head bangs hard against the rock wall and I can’t keep my eyes open. 

          It all goes black.

About the Author

Madeline Wynn holds a master's degree in procrastination.  When she's not writing, she can be found ghost hunting, gardening and parading around her home state of Connecticut with her husband, dog and two kids.

Her latest book is the YA paranormal, Daughter of the Fallen.

For More Information

Interview with Ashley R. Carlson, author of THE CHARISMATICS by Ryan Hill

 

The three or four of you who frequent this site no doubt have come across my author interviews, which are the greatest pieces of hard-hitting journalism this side of Between Two Ferns with Zach Galifianakis (fun fast: We both went to NC State). The latest author to go under the knife is debut author Ashley R. Carlson, whose steampunk novel The Charismatics released wayyyy back on Dec. 13. Of 2014. 

Charismatics_FRONT 2.jpg

 

First, congratulations on your debut novel! The lead up to a release can be pretty hectic/stressful. Has any of your hair fallen out during this whole process? You have to be careful out there. ALL WORK AND NO PLAY MAKES JOHNNY A DULL BOY.

Thank you! It has been exciting but mostly surreal--a year ago I was tinkering on my NaNoWriMo project and dreaming of finishing a book one day. Now it's actually happened, and The Charismatics is something I'm really proud of.

No hair has fallen out, thankfully. This hasn't been that stressful for me, mostly because I love the process so much. I hired two amazing guys (Stuart Whitmore of Crenel Publishing for formatting and M.S. Corley to design my cover) and they've helped me SO much to create a fantastic product.

Now it's just a matter of marketing it, getting it into readers' hands, and WRITING THE SEQUEL. That part is what scares me.

When you picked up the first physical copy of your book were you overcome with emotion? Did a single tear drop from your eye and land on the cover, prompting a "Shit! It's ruined!" Follow-up question: Did this make you consider flinging yourself into the Grand Canyon?

I actually recorded myself unboxing my first physical copies and posted it on YouTube for my readers. You can find it here.

This is my genuine reaction--I didn't cry, but I was very excited and getting overheated and my entire neck was red at the end of the video. That happens when I get excited/nervous/overcome with emotion--imagine going on a date and having your entire neck/chest red and blotchy when you talk to the person. Basically a neon sign that says "I'M NERVOUS RIGHT NOW ISN'T THAT COOL." So yeah, basically the opposite of cool. 

Admittedly, you're a good-looking woman. Do you plan to use your beauty to help sell books? Hint: you should.

HA all of this after I talk about my gross, red neck. (Jennifer Lawrence moment, perhaps?) I don't know how to answer this question without sounding egotistical or something.

I do think that a person's appearance can help or hinder in selling their product--an author who is put-together, clean, and attractive is going to be someone you put more trust in with their writing than a scruffy, unbathed, scary "Gollum" look-alike (and believe me, I've had those days).

Ultimately though, I want readers to enjoy my personality. I try to be very forthcoming about who I am not only as a writer but as a person, and invite you into my life. My dating mishaps, my everlasting love for Jennifer Lawrence and animals, and my desire to help those in need (I have a charity page on my website that you can see here, and I'll warn you--it's got some graphic photos of animals who have been abused. But it's necessary to see, so that we can help them). So yes, perhaps my appearance will attract the attention of some--but I hope it is a genuineness and compelling writing on my part that keeps them around.

Ryan note: This is a good, albeit serious answer to a silly question. Also, I gave $15 to a foundation in Africa that helps elephants last week. SEE??? I can be charitable too!

Back to THE CHARISMATICS. Every author puts a part of themselves in their work. What parts of the novel were more autobiographical? The forced marriage? Oh! Wait. DO YOU REALLY LIVE IN A STEAMPUNK REALITY???

HAHA! Thankfully our government isn't evil (erm...) and forcing young people into advantageous marriages to further there secret motives. Alas, I do not live in a steampunk reality--it is very much real reality (as in I have an entire house to clean today and a menu to memorize for my new job at an Irish pub nearby).

I would say that the main character, Duchess Ambrose Killaher, is the most autobiographical element to "The Charismatics." She is strong, but her strength does not lie in her physical abilities. She is no Katniss (The Hunger Games) or Tris (Divergent). She is also not a Bella (Twilight), wrapped up in a romantic relationship and not thinking of much else.

Ambrose certainly wants love and companionship, but there are more important elements that come into play in "The Charismatics" besides that--namely that the poor in her world (called denizens) are starving, and live in horrid conditions. And she has the ability to change that, or at least try to.

So in that sense, I feel a kinship with her--I have always felt the desire to help those who are struggling, especially children and animals. A lot of time however, life and excuses can get in the way. So in The Charismatics Ambrose has to make a choice--whether she is going to keep making excuses, or whether she is going to buck up and do something about the problem. 

What's your idea of a good steampunk? What the heck is steampunk? Does it involve "steamy" punks? Is it like punk rock, but with smoke machines to simulate steam? Maybe it's some new kind of drug the kids are taking...

I didn't set out to write a steampunk novel, that's for sure. I don't even know a lot about the culture, aside from the general definition: 

Victorian science fiction. What makes my book "steampunk" would be the clothes that they wear at times (fancy top hats and "fascinators") and dresses or suits. Think of the elite of Victorian times--similar to that, except that this is an alternate universe, not set in the future or past. So they also have sneakers, and pants... it just has some of those themes/undertones of elaborate dress from that time period. Also, the transportation is steampunk-inspired--there are no cars, because the nobility live in floating cities over the poor denizens. So they use airships and copters and zeppelins to get around--all flying machines in various sizes. Aside from that, my book is more fantasy-inspired. There is a supernatural realm forbidden to speak of, and invisible companions, and winged horses... all my favorite things.

Speaking of drugs, were there any hallucinogens involved in creating THE CHARISMATICS? Alcohol? Surely you had some drug of choice.

Probably sounds like it after I just described The Charismatics, doesn't it?! No, no hallucinogens or drugs or alcohol of any kind. Honestly, I don't drink much and especially when I'm writing--I need my mind clear. For me, the drug is when I get so wrapped up in a scene I'm writing that I can see it playing out in my head lie a movie. THAT is magical. 

Name three of your favorite authors. And yes, I can be one of them.

HA. Well number one is Ryan Hill, obviously. I don't read as much as I should, because a lot of books lose my interest. I find that adult books are too descriptive or deal with things I don't care about, and that young adult books can sometimes be too juvenile and also deal with things I don't care about.

Not a great thing for an author to say, is it?

There are a few authors that will always have my heart though, and they are:

-J.K. Rowling (of course).

-Gail Carson Levine. She wrote Ella Enchanted, a book I've read close to fifteen times. I have a lot of inspiration from her woven into my own novel.

-Stephen King. I am getting into his work--I find that sometimes he can detail things too much and I get bored, but MAN does he know how to build suspense. He's a master. 

Now play the marry f--k kill game with them.

With the authors? Oh geez.

I'd probably marry J.K. Rowling since she's insanely rich and could fund my writing career until I can myself.

I'd f--k Step--oh no. But I don't want to kill Gail Carson Levine.

Want to know which author I would f--k? PIERCE BROWN, author of Red Rising. That guy is gorgeous. 

Ryan note: NOT AS GORGEOUS AS ME!!!!!

So, why get into writing? Is it because you can't count? Science too confusing? I know those two things played a big part for me.

Basically. I have no other skills.

According to my third grade teacher on one of my writing assignments, "I should write a book." So it must be something I've shown promise with for a long time. Just took me a while to realize it--now that I have however, I never want to stop. Ever. 

Tell us, in haiku format, why we should buy THE CHARISMATICS.

A secret realm of

Dangerous dark rebellion

Is waiting for her

I looked up what a haiku was. Hopefully I got it right. Thanks so much for this Ryan, it was the most fun I've had today!

Ryan note: Yes, this is correct. Also, the lack of people not knowing what a haiku is disturbs me, and I may have to make it a mission in life to educate people about them.

Bio

Ashley R. Carlson grew up wanting a talking animal friend and superpowers, and when that didn’t happen, she decided to write them into existence. She lives in Scottsdale, Arizona with three (non-talking) pets and one overactive imagination. Follow Ashley R. Carlson’s writing at ashleyrcarlson.com, on Twitter @AshleyRCarlson1, and facebook.com/ashleyrcarlson1.1.


Book Blurb

An arranged marriage. A corrupt government called Legalia. A forbidden spiritual realm.

Duchess Ambrose Killaher was just seventeen-years-old when exiled to Shinery—a city of snow and darkness—to marry a man who despised her, finding her only solace in an invisible companion named Roan.

Now as the poor starve in the streets below and rebellious acts become a frequent occurrence, Shinery holds its yearly celebration to commemorate Legalia’s rule. But when Ambrose stumbles into a hidden courtroom and witnesses a violent murder, she is thrust into a secret world of the supernatural—one that could endanger everyone she cares for. With the help of a handsome stranger, Ambrose learns of the past Legalia has covered up, and that she alone possesses the power to stop their unspeakable plans for the future.

Find it on Amazon and Goodreads now.


I used to like those end of year "Best of" lists... by Ryan Hill

 

First, it's my birthday! The big 3-5. I am officially middle aged. I may talk about what that's like for all the younger folk out there, but not today. I will share that since it is Dec. 15, both of my novels, THE BOOK OF BART and DEAD NEW WORLD, are Amazon Countdown Deals today, and available for 99 cents! Get on that. Seriously. This blog will be here when you get back.

As the title suggests, I'm not a fan of those "Best of" lists that every blog/media outlet/publication put out at the end of every year, proclaiming these ten items to be the best in a certain category for that given year. Is this slightly hypocritical, considering my debut THE BOOK OF BART was a finalist in the USA Book News Best of 2014 Awards in humor? Absolutely. Do I love all other Top Ten lists that don't mention books? ABSOLUTELY.

Allow me to clarify on my blatant hypocrisy. Reading a bunch of "Best Books of 2014" lists make me sad. The life of an indie/small press/hybrid author can be a difficult one. Everywhere you go, you're always second (or third) fiddle to authors from the Big 5 publishers, and that's okay. It really is. But, places like The AV ClubTime Magazine, etc. that do these end of year lists, especially for books, rarely read anything outside of the major publishers, eliminating books like mine before they've even had a chance to be considered. When I read these lists, part of me wonders if I'll see one of my books that came out this year, or maybe even one a friend wrote. 

Nope.

Never.

Not once.

Yes, I'm complaining and can be considered sour grapes. Guess what? I am complaining. I am sour grapes. Some author recently publicly ranted about not being nominated (or awarded, I can't remember) for some big writerly award. It made me sick, when so many authors can't even garner consideration for something like that. Sure, it's a case of the haves and have-nots. I get that. Honestly, it doesn't even make me upset when I see the same ten books on every list, none of which are mine. It's cool. I just wish it was easier for authors like myself to get more attention. Ah well. It is my birthday, so I'm allowed to rant about completely superficial stuff. Maybe one day I'll be a popular enough author to merit consideration for one of these lists, maybe not. In the meantime, there will still be a slight womp womp sound in my head when I don't see an author I know on the list. 

On Getting a Bad Review by Ryan Hill

 

For writers, a good review is like an elixir. A validation of their talent. A sign that yes, a writer has talent, and now they have the glowing review to prove it. Sure, everything comes up aces when the good reviews are coming in, but what about those times when a writer gets a bad review?

Of course authors want everyone on the planet to love their book. To laud it as the next Harry Potter, or shout from the rooftops that the world has found the next John Green. That's human nature. Sadly, for whatever reason, if enough people read your book, bad reviews are absolutely going to follow. 

A bad review can wound an author's soul. Send them into a tailspin. Don't believe me? Click here. Every book an author writes is intensely personal. This isn't just a novel. It's their novel. It's a piece of their soul. As such, the work is sometimes thought of as the author's kid, or something along those lines. This makes a bad review all the more painful.

You can't please everyone. It's science. So what if someone doesn't like a book? Writers read books they don't like too. They may have a greater appreciation for the time it takes to create a published novel, but it won't change their opinion on whether or not it's any good. Also, once a writer sends their work out into the world, technically it isn't theirs anymore. A writer has no control over their work once it's in the hands of someone else. So why get upset when things don't turn out well? A bad review isn't an indictment of the writer as a person (or as a writer). And if a bad review comes across that way, then the reviewer is either jealous, looking for attention, is a massive tool, or all of the above. Just like when I get shot down by a beautiful woman at a bar, a writer shouldn't take rejection by a reader to heart. Sometimes, it's just not in the cards. For whatever reason, it wasn't meant to be.

Instead, a writer needs to focus on the positive. Yes, a writer got a bad review, but think about all of the success it took to get the book into the hands of a negative reviewer. If a writer gets a negative review, it typically means that writer is good enough at writing to be PUBLISHED. That's a big effin' deal. Looking at it like that, a writer shouldn't care about a negative review. I don't. With two published novels under my belt, I'm secure enough in my abilities as a writer that a couple of bad reviews aren't going to burst my bubble. Point in fact, I'd like to see them do better (because they can't).

So let go, move forward, and keep writing!

Cover and trailer reveal for WATCH ME BURN by Sharon Bayliss! by Ryan Hill

 
I am thrilled to take part in the cover and trailer reveal for Book 2 in The December People Series, Watch Me Burn!

So without further ado...




A note from the author:

Thank you to artist Michelle Johnson and the whole team at Curiosity Quills Press for creating a cover I love! 

If you haven't guessed it by now, you'll see a butterfly on the cover of every book in The December People Series. The butterfly is a symbol of transformation, hope, freedom, and generally creepy crawlies turning into beautiful things. And also...look how pretty! ;)

Instead of the broken glass from Destruction, this butterfly is surrounded by fire, and it's probably obvious why from the title. Watch Me Burn is the summer book in the series. All the books center around my winter wizard family, but each book takes us deeper into a different season. Summer wizards are the "light" wizards, but light also means HEAT and FIRE.


More about Watch Me Burn:

David Vandergraff lost his home, his job, and contact with his oldest son, but remains determined to be a good husband and father despite being a dark winter wizard.

His resolve is tested when a flyer for a missing girl--who happens to be a summer witch--begins to haunt him. David believes a spell needs to use him to save her, so he follows the magic's command and looks into her disappearance. His teenage daughter Emmy resents him for caring so much about a random stranger. But when she uncovers some disturbing evidence close to home, she begins an investigation of her own.

David and Emmy quickly learn that the mystery is not only about a missing girl they barely know, but a deeply personal story that impacts everyone they care about. As their world crumbles, they fear the warning may be true—never mess with summer wizards, because the good guys always win.




If you're new to The December People Series, start with Destruction--99 cents for a limited time!


Enter to win!! Get a paperback of your choice of Destruction OR Watch Me Burn. International entries welcome. Also join The December People Winter Celebration for more giveaways!!


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