Creepfest Blog Hop Day 4 – An Interview With Marissa Farrar

Visit the Creepfest Blog Hop page for a complete listing of participating blogs and have fun!

Don’t forget to check at the bottom of this post for some crazy prizes you can win 🙂

One of the most fun things about a blog hop for we writers is meeting other writers and picking their brain, not to mention adding substantially to our To Be Read pile! Get ready to add more. It is my pleasure to introduce Marissa Farrar.

1. You have a degree in Zoology, which is really cool! But what prompted you to give up that career to pursue writing?

I always wanted to write; I’d been coming up with stories since I was a kid. However, I’ve also always had a sensible head on my shoulders and I knew how hard it would be to earn decent money through my writing. I spent most of my degree writing instead of studying, so as soon as I graduated, I made the decision to follow my heart instead of my head.

2. How is zoology similar to being a parent of two children?

It’s not! Apart from perhaps needing a lot of patience (there is a lot of sitting around in Zoology studying animals that aren’t doing anything!).

3. What is your writing process like? Plotter or pantser?

I’m a total pantser! People who intricately plot out whole novels totally intimidate me. I always have a vague idea about what I want to happen in a novel, but normally it’s the characters that are most real in my head. I let them lead the way and just write down what they do. With my latest novel, ‘Buried’, I thought the story was going to end one way, but then one of the main characters did something I totally wasn’t expecting. The good thing is, because I wasn’t expecting it, my readers won’t be either!

4. You’re a published indie author. What would you say were the greatest challenges of going indie and why did you make that choice?

I was traditionally published for a couple of years before choosing the indie route. I became very frustrated because there were so many things I wanted to try out but couldn’t because the choices were being made by the publisher. In the end I was lucky enough to get my titles back so I had new covers done, had them re-edited and then re-launched the books. I’m happy to say it’s the best decision I made.

I’d say the biggest challenge is still around people taking indie’s seriously. There’s a lot of misconception that the only reason writers go indie is because they can’t find a publisher, but that simply isn’t the case. I’ve had a publisher and have turned down several offers from other publishers. I’d have to be offered a pretty damn good deal now to ever give up my digital rights.

5. What is it about the horror genre that attracts you?

I’ve always love horror. Even as a child, I used to sneak downstairs and read my mother’s horror novels by the light of the fish tank. I think it speaks to that dark and twisty side of me I normally have to keep under wraps.
6. Sit on Santa’s lap and tell us your top five wishes for Christmas.

(Other than wishing for world peace, etc. I really only have three…)

For my family to stay happy and healthy. For next year to be easier financially. And the big one… To get to the point in my career where people are talking about my name as the next big thing in the horror and dark fantasy genre.

7. “Alone” deals with the serious issue of domestic violence. Why did you choose this theme for your book?

I never wanted for the theme to be domestic violence; it just happened to fit the theme of empowerment I was going for. I wanted to show how one person can start off broken, fragile and terrified, but draw strength from someone else. However, I also didn’t want Serenity to lean on that other person. I wanted her to learn how to be strong enough to take care of herself. I hope that’s what I did.

8. What advice would you give to new writers?

Get involved with other writers and learn, learn, learn. I’ve learned so much from the other authors I’ve met blogging and social networking. I’ve learned what works and what doesn’t, and above all, they’ve helped me learn my craft.

9. If you could sit down to tea with any author, living or dead, who would it be and why?

I’m going to be really unoriginal and say Stephen King. He’s always been a hero of mine!

10. Tell us about your upcoming projects.

I’ve got so many! At the moment I’m just finishing edits for my novel, ‘The Dark Road’, which I hope to have out by the end of the year. I’m writing the third book in my ‘Serenity’ series. I also have another two completed manuscripts which are still in need of edits and will be out next year. Finally, I’m planning a YA spin-off from my ‘Serenity’ series, featuring one of the characters. I’ve never written YA before but I’m up for the challenge!

Thanks so much for hosting me, Annetta!

Alone

Caught in a violent and abusive relationship, Serenity thinks there is no escape.

Upon meeting a stranger, Sebastian, she is shown the possibility of a different future.

Only Sebastian has a dark secret; he is a vampire.

As Serenity’s life takes a terrifying turn, she finds herself drawn into a world she never knew existed; one of murder, love and immortality. She is forced to confront her own weaknesses to save both her own life and that of the vampire she has come to love. But in the end all that matters is; can she find the strength to be Alone?

Book two in the ‘Serenity’ series, ‘Buried’ is also now available to buy from your favourite eBook store!

Author bio: Marissa Farrar is a multi-published horror and paranormal author. She was born in Devon, England, loves to travel and has lived in both Australia and Spain. She now resides in Devon with her husband, two children, a crazy Spanish rescue dog and four hens. She has a degree in Zoology, but her true love has always been writing.

Her dark take on a vampire romance, Alone, was first published in 2009 and has now been re-launched by Red Hot Publishing. The second book in the series, Buried, is now available to buy. The third in the series, Captured, will be published early 2012.
Her short stories have been accepted for a number of anthologies including, Their Dark Masters, Red Skies Press, Masters of Horror: Damned If You Don’t, Triskaideka Books; and 2013: The Aftermath, Pill Hill Press. Her own collection of paranormal short stories, Where the Dead Live, is also available.

If you want to know more about Marissa, then please visit her website at www.marissa-farrar.blogspot.com. You can also find her at her facebook page, Marissa Farrar, Author or follow her on twitter @marissafarrar.

She loves to hear from readers and can be emailed at marissafarrar@hotmail.co.uk.

Prizes!

Here’s the deal: At the end of the Blog Hop, on December 24th, I will give away twelve e-copies of “Athena’s Promise”, one for every day of Creepfest. But that’s not all! I will also give away one autographed print copy. WAIT! One more thing — I’m so excited about Creepfest, I will also give away one Amazon gift card in the amount of $20!

Since this is a sweepstakes and not a contest, entering is easy-peasy, and you can enter as many times as you like. Here’s how:

Leave a comment on any (or all) blog posts here during Creepfest.

Sign up for my Once in a Blue Moon Newsletter. (No spam, I swear.)

Like my Facebook Fan page.

Like “Athena’s Promise” on her Amazon page.

Tweet about this blog or AP and use the hashtag #AthenasPromise so I can track properly.

Mention this blog or AP on YOUR blog.

That’s it. You’ll get one entry apiece for each action – up to 17 entries if you do each of these things! Damn! I will tally the results from all twelve days and choose the winners via Random.org. Make sure you leave a comment that lets me know what you did and include a working email address so I can make an accurate count and contact you if you win.

Spread the word! The more the merrier 🙂

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Creepfest Blog Hop Day 3 – An Excerpt From The Amazing Patti Larsen

Visit the Creepfest Blog Hop page for a complete listing of participating blogs and have fun!

Don’t forget to check at the bottom of this post for some crazy prizes you can win 🙂

Patti Larsen is one of the hardest working writers I know. The woman is quickly building an empire; she is legend. I interviewed her here, so I thought it might be fun to post an excerpt from the heart-pounding first novel in her The Hunted series. To reiterate from what I discussed on the first day of Creepfest, Run is the kind of horror that makes you hyperventilate and start at strange shadows in the corner. In this series, Patti takes you on a wild and amazing ride, so fasten your seat belts and keep your hands inside the vehicle at all times. Enjoy!

The first book in Patti's series, "The Hunted". Get ready to Run!

Excerpt of RUN, book one of The Hunted series

From author Patti Larsen: I’m afraid of the dark. Mostly because of my overactive imagination. And while this is a truth in my life, for some reason my muse insists on sending me scary stuff to write.

The following is an excerpt taken from my young adult thriller series, The Hunted. In book one, RUN, sixteen-year-old Reid has been kidnapped and dumped in the wilderness. A foster kid with only his sister to miss him, he learns his purpose–he, and other kids like him, is prey. Reid must run or die.

Reid encounters a pair of normal men, hunters themselves, but oblivious to those who are trying to kill him. Unsure if they are friends or not, he tries to tell them what’s happening.

Reid is about to run off when he hears it. The howl dissolves his hope, strips away his new found plan of escape and reduces him to a tearful child all over again.

When the last echo of it fades, Reid can barely breathe or stand. His knees quiver so much he is sure he will collapse at any moment. He won’t survive another call, his heart will quit. He looks up and into Mustache’s face. The man is very pale, brown eyes almost blotted out by his pupils, swollen by his own fear.

“What the hell was that?”

“I told you,” Reid whispers. “The hunters.”

Scar is next to them in an instant, voice low and deep, his urgency a cloud that envelops them all. “I’ve never heard anything like that before.”

“Me either.” Mustache chews on his namesake, eyes scanning the trees. “Damn it, we can’t just leave.”

Scar nods. “I’m not running.”

Both men exchange a look before Mustache turns to Reid.
“Come on, kid,” he says. “Let’s go see what all the fuss is about.” His words are confident, but Reid hears the quaver in them. Both men move forward in the gloom.

He can’t go with them. It’s the last place on earth he can go. His feet are lead, legs locked in place. Every nerve and fiber of his body begs him to run the other way. But he only heard one howl, one voice. For all Reid knows, they are surrounded. If he runs, leaves the men with the guns, he could be heading right into a trap. At least with them he has their weapons to protect him.
Swallowing a giant ball of fear, Reid stumbles forward and goes with them.

“Tell us about them.” Scar stays close, eyes never resting anywhere for long.

“They’re fast,” Reid says, flinching from the memory of them.

“They move like ghosts. I’ve never seen anything so fast.”

“But they’re men,” Mustache says.

Reid’s breathing tightens, his chest constricting. “They look like men.”

Scar’s hands adjust on his gun. “Well, we’re ex special forces, kid,” he says. “And nothing is faster than us.”

Reid doesn’t say anything. He can’t. It won’t do any good anyway. They are wrong. He watches them move and he knows in his heart the hunters are faster. But are they quicker than a bullet? Reid does his best to ignore the fact both men are criminals, illegal game poachers. He doesn’t care. As long as they kill the hunters, they can shoot whatever the hell they want.

He considers asking them about rescuing the other kids and for the first time Reid actually lets himself wonder how many of them are out there and how many have already died at the hands of the black-dressed men. Lucy’s beautiful face flashes in his head, but he forces her aside. When the hunters are killed, when Mustache and Scar show him the black-clad men can die just like anyone else, Reid will worry about the rest. But not until then.

Yet again he thinks about running for the fence. But by then they are deep into the forest, almost to the clearing. Reid feels a chill run up his spine. He holds back a little as the two camo-clad men move ahead of him, rifles ready. They go quietly, smooth movers themselves, rubber-soled boots barely making a sound on the littered path. Scar is the deadlier of the two in Reid’s opinion, all sinew and cat-like grace. He feels his confidence rise. Maybe the men are right after all. They certainly look deadly to Reid.
Until he sees a flash of black in the trees and his heart stops beating. He can’t breathe or call out and can only watch in horror as the three hunters drift around his salvation like spiders on a web.

Reid knows it is a trap before the men even notice the hunters are there. But again he is unable to act. Words freeze to the inside of his throat, his blood sluggish in his veins as his whole body sinks into shock.

Mustache finally spots the first hunter and spins, weapon ready, but too late. Reid doesn’t even have the power to flinch as a shower of fine blood droplets arcs out from the man’s throat. Mustache gurgles, weapon dropping to his side, suspended from the thick leather strap, swinging like a pendulum. Both of his gloved hands clutching at the arterial spray coating the nearby trees with red.

Mustache half turns, knees buckling under him in a death dance, graceful as he falls. His eyes meet Reid’s, more blood squirting out between his desperate fingers. The second blow is even faster than the first. Bile surges to Reid’s throat when the hunter severs the man’s head and sends it flying, spinning, spraying blood in a colorful arc. It lands at Reid’s feet, sending more blood up and outward, the weight of the head rolling over to halt face up. Those brown eyes stare into his, the mustache dripping crimson into the dirt.

Scar has only a moment to shout, “Rich!” and raise his own rifle before his left leg is severed in one slice. His mouth gapes wide, the scar on his cheek pure white against his skin from the pressure of his fallen jaw as he looks down at his missing limb, nothing below his knee but air. The cut is so clean he is in perfect balance for a long moment, as though suspended by fine wire, a marionette gushing blood onto the ground. He topples in slow motion, gun swinging around. He fires one shot, another, but they go off into the forest, harmless.

A hunter appears at his side, oozing close as he hits the dirt. Scar is rolled over onto his back in one smooth motion. The hunter’s hand rises over the fallen man’s abdomen.

Reid’s sanity begs him to run, to get away and not watch, but he can’t help himself or them. The first hunter bends over Mustache and together they slice downward, gutting both of the men in synch.

This is enough at last. Reid’s feet are working again, his blood pumping. He turns and dashes into the forest, back on his original path, a new image there to replace the one of the dead boy.
Mustache gapes at Reid in his mind, the severed head his memory’s new companion as he runs for his life.

You can find RUN on Amazon.com, at Barnes and Noble, the iBookstore and on Smashwords.

She looks like she means business, doesn't she?

About the Author: Patti Larsen is a middle grade, young adult and adult author with a passion for the paranormal. Her YA thriller series, The Hunted, is available now. Books one and two of The Hayle Coven series, Family Magic and Witch hunt are also out now, with the sequels, Demon Child and The Wild, due in December of this year. She is a full time writer and a part time teacher of her Get Your Book Done program. Patti lives on the East Coast of Canada with her very patient husband and four massive cats.

You can find her:

On her website: Patti Larsen
On Facebook: Patti Larsen, Author
Her writing blog: Patti Larsen Writes
Her book blog: Patti Larsen Books
On Twitter: Patti Tweets
On Amazon.com and Goodreads

Prizes!

Here’s the deal: At the end of the Blog Hop, on December 24th, I will give away twelve e-copies of “Athena’s Promise”, one for every day of Creepfest. But that’s not all! I will also give away one autographed print copy. WAIT! One more thing — I’m so excited about Creepfest, I will also give away one Amazon gift card in the amount of $20!

Since this is a sweepstakes and not a contest, entering is easy-peasy, and you can enter as many times as you like. Here’s how:

Leave a comment on any (or all) blog posts here during Creepfest.

Sign up for my Once in a Blue Moon Newsletter. (No spam, I swear.)

Like my Facebook Fan page.

Like “Athena’s Promise” on her Amazon page.

Tweet about this blog or AP and use the hashtag #AthenasPromise so I can track properly.

Mention this blog or AP on YOUR blog.

That’s it. You’ll get one entry apiece for each action – up to 17 entries if you do each of these things! Damn! I will tally the results from all twelve days and choose the winners via Random.org. Make sure you leave a comment that lets me know what you did and include a working email address so I can make an accurate count and contact you if you win.

Spread the word! The more the merrier 🙂

Share

Creepfest Blog Hop – Day 2 – Rollin’ in the Deep

Visit the Creepfest Blog Hop page for a complete listing of participating blogs and have fun!

Don’t forget to check at the bottom of this post for some crazy prizes you can win 🙂

I thought I’d start off the Creepfest Blog Hop with something special just for you. This story was written especially for Joshua Guess’s Living With the Dead Universe, and until today, has only been seen in LWtD: Year One.

At the time, Adele’s hit, “Rolling in the Deep” was playing everywhere and I love the song. I researched the phrase and found different meanings to it — in the urban dictionary, it means having someone’s back, or letting people know you are not one to fuck with. “Rolling in the deep” also conjures an image of a small ship battling the deep, dark ocean in a storm.

So, here’s little Pete’s story. He might be a kid, but he’s rolling in the deep.

Rollin’ in the Deep

I’m watchin’ them from the tree stand. They can’t climb trees too good, so I think I’m purty safe up here. It’s a might chilly when the wind comes a’whippin, though the winter season is still a few weeks off, I reckon. I nicked some of that stuff Dr. Evan was makin’ in the clinic, and sprayed it all over my jacket like Daddy taught me when he was trying to make me a man by taking me out huntin’. I’m kerful to stay upwind anyways, and I got a purty good sightline even through the leaves. Only then it was about deer huntin’, and now it’s about makin’ sure the zombies don’t get me.

At least, not ’til I’m ready.

People think they’re gross and ugly, but they ain’t, not really. Look at ’em. They’re strong. They don’t seem to worry too much about nothin’. The colder weather might slow ’em down a lick, but they’s pretty lively, mostly. They don’t smell no worse than the stuff Daddy used to hunt with. And they smell a sight better than my uncle Joe Bob, come to think of it. Some of them act like they’s right smart. A lot smarter than a lot of people I know, anyways.

When we was huntin’, Daddy’d hand me a brown bottle. “You spray it all over, Pete,” and the stink of deer piss made me like to gag. I held it in, though, ’cause if I gagged or threw up all that would get me was a beatin’. This zombie stuff stinks way worse, but there ain’t no one around to call me a sissy boy or punch me if I gag. I hold it in anyway.

The zombies ate my daddy. I can’t say this really bothered me overmuch. Momma pitched a fit, and Uncle Joe Bob was pretty mad, but it wasn’t like the world was gonna miss him much. I know I didn’t. I figgered the zombies did me a favor and I owed ’em one. At least I wouldn’t get beat no more ’cause I wasn’t being man enough for him. I wouldn’t have to hear about being a “sissy boy” and sent out to sleep in the barn on account I wasn’t fit ta be with “normal” folk.

At least, that’s what I thought when the zombie tore into Daddy’s neck and ripped out his throat. I forgot about Uncle Joe Bob.

After Daddy done got ate, Uncle Joe Bob said we had to get on our knees and thank the Baby Jesus we was still alive. I was grateful and all, but three hours on your knees is a lot of thanking. He listened to the radio and said we were gonna have to move to somewhere safer. Momma said, “We ain’t gonna cotton to no folk lessen’ they’s good God-fearin’ people.”

Uncle Joe Bob said, “Woman, shut yore mouf. It ain’t like they’s a lot to choose from enymore.” Momma jest clutched her Bible and shut her mouth. Daddy knew how to handle the women-folk and Uncle Joe Bob was no different.

I didn’t much care one way ta’ the other, to be honest. Warn’t like they was gonna ask for my opinion, anyways. Nobody much listens to a kid, specially a kid like me. Not ’til we got to the compound, and even then, people don’t pay much attention to the kid of a buncha hillbillies.

See? Lookit that one over there. See ‘im? He’s one of the smart ones. They called them “smarties” at the compound. See how he’s herdin’ a group of the zombies together? Like he’s got a plan. He ain’t fallin’ apart like a lot of ’em do, neither. And he moves faster than the rest, even in the colder weather. I find that downright innerestin’, don’t you?

At first, bein’ at the compound was a lot better than jest bein’ with Momma and Uncle Joe Bob. The people of the compound had it secure purty good, workin’ on a big wall with plenty of supplies and stuff. You could tell they been workin’ hard and pullin’ together. I don’t mind hard work, it was a sight better than where we was, and a lot safer. There was food and ammo and nice people. Mostly.

‘Cept for that creepy preacher man. He’d be churchin’ every Sunday, jest like things were normal-like, and Momma’d drag me along even though I had no taste fer it. I had to listen to hours of how the zombies were God’s punishment ’cause we’s a sinful folk, and Preacher John would point out people livin’ on the compound that were still bein’ sinful, living together without God’s blessin’ and fornicatin’, women with more than one man and fornicatin’, men with men and fornicatin’. Seemed to me he was worried overmuch with fornicatin’. Momma and Uncle Joe Bob went along with all of it, like I didn’t know about their own fornicatin’. I wonder what the preacher woulda thought about that, although he had his own thang goin’ on, sure did.

After the churchin’, Uncle Joe Bob would git all worked up, like Daddy used to git. That’s when I’d really have to watch kerful. You know, strut around and agree with everythang he said. Pretend I thunk the way he did about the pit of sinfulness we landed in, and how everybody here but us was headed for the Devil’s house and taking us with ’em because they’s was the cause of the zombies in the first place. Momma’d chime right in. Didn’t really much care, to tell you the truth, until Uncle Joe Bob started in on Patrick.

Patrick was special. He was always lookin’ out fer me, took time to talk to me while I was workin’on the wall and actually paid attention to what I said. I used to like Patrick a lot. Mebbe that’s why Uncle Joe Bob was really on his case. “What you hanging around that faggot for, boy?” he’d yell at me. “What’s wrong with you? Don’chu you know that’s why the zombies are here? Preacher John even says so!”

“I ain’t hangin’ around him,” I’d say. “I’m jest workin’ like I’m s’posed to.”

“Well, you watch yerself, boy. I swear, I see a zombie comin’ fer me or a queer boy, I’d shoot the queer boy first, no questions axed. Even if’n they was related.” Then he’d squint his eyes at me like I was under one of them fancy microscopes Dr. Evan used. Momma’d stand there and nod her head, eyes bright and hands clutching her everlastin’ Bible.

“’Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither male prostitutes nor homosexuals will inherit the kingdom of God’,” she cooed, caressing the covers of that danged book. “That’s what it says in Corinthians, that’s what Preacher John says. These people here are walkin’ on dangerous ground, and I ain’t aimin’ to go to hell or get et by the zombies ’cause they can’t control they’s urges.”

I didn’t bother to say they was a lot more people in that passage of Corinthians, like idolaters, adulterers and fornicators, not to mention thieves. I warn’t gonna point out Uncle Joe Bob and Momma had a little of their own fornicatin’ goin’ on, neither. And after I saw what went on after churchin’ in the preacher’s house I jest concentrated on not gaggin’ when any of ’em started shootin’ off they mouths.

I almost tole Patrick about it, but I guess I’m glad I didn’t, the way things turned out. I thought Patrick liked me too, but he really didn’t. He got hisself a girlfriend, and he didn’t have much time fer me after that. Yeah, it kinda hurt my feelins. I thought he was different.

I started spending more time in the clinic, sweeping floors and cleaning up. Miss Juanita and Dr. Evan were nice people. I learned me a lot of stuff, ‘specially bout the zombies. I tole Momma and Uncle Joe Bob about the bacteria thang, and Momma threw one o’ her hissy fits and wanted me to quit working there.

“I ain’t gonna have my only son tainted and turned into a zombie!” she yelled. “I ain’t gonna git et in the night by my own flesh and blood! Sweet Jesus, deliver us!”

But Uncle Joe Bob talked it over with Preacher John and they tole her to shut it and me to keep my eyes open. I swear, Uncle Joe Bob wouldn’t so much as take a dump without Preacher John’s say-so.

It was Preacher John’s idear to mark people’s houses. You know, the ones fornicatin’ and stuff. O’course, when we got caught and that little girl died, I felt awful even if Uncle Joe Bob said it was a sign. Of what, I don’t know. Lindsey never did nothin’ to nobody as far as I knew. The compound people were pretty mad. They ran ole’ Preacher John right outta here and left him nekkid in the cold wilderness. But I knew that ornery ole’ cuss’d be back. Them religious folk, they got a way of sticking around.

Momma and Uncle Joe Bob got a whippin’ and had to work extra hard for a bit, but they never did give me up. Hoo doggy, they was madder than a wet hen. Uncle Joe Bob said, “Who do they think they is, enyway? They ain’t got no right whippin’ people, it warn’t our fault that girl got et.” He rubbed his butt, scratched his crotch, and kept on goin’, Momma bobbin’ her head like it was attached by a string to Uncle Joe Bob’s right hand. “Preacher John said that was probably a sign o’ her momma and daddy’s sinnin’, and they had it comin’. We’s gittin outta here, Lily Mae.” Momma jest nodded and nodded.

“But I don’t want to leave, Uncle,” I started to say, but he smacked me across the face so hard I tasted blood.

“Don’t you smart off to me, boy! You ain’t stayin’ here with this bunch of faggots and fornicators! ‘Lessen you want to be one of them yerself. Is that what you want?” To my way of thinkin’, this bunch of faggots and fornicators were a sight better than what I was dealin’ with, but it ain’t like I had a choice. “You owe us, boy, don’t you never fergit that. You shoulda been whipped right along with the rest of us. I say we go, and yer goin’ with us.” He was right, I knowed it.

I’m still watchin’ that smartie, watchin’ what he’s doin’. He’s got a group of zombies gathered over there, see ’em? They’s jest standing there, I know they don’t talk. At least, I don’t think they do, but that smartie’s got something going on. I wonder what he’s doin’ with ’em. He’s walkin’ ’round in a circle, ’round and ’round. Every once in a while he reaches out and touches one and they shudder. I wonder if it has somethin’ to do with that bacteria thang Dr. Evans was talkin’ ’bout. The wind’s changin’, I kin hear the leaves rustlin’ and the smell is purty rank, but I think I’m still okay up here.

Anyways, I was right about Preacher John. It warn’t too long before he was back. Tole you he was ornery. Even the zombies didn’t want to et him, and I don’t blame ’em. He and Uncle Joe Bob huddled together for a coupla days, whisperin’ and I jest knew they was up to no good. I tried to warn Patrick, but he didn’t have no time fer me no more, and it wasn’t like I had friends to tell. They’s nice people at the compound, don’t git me wrong, but livin’ with Uncle Joe Bob and Momma didn’t make me very popular. It’s like nobody wanted nothin’ to do with me.

Any chance I had of gittin’ along without Uncle Joe Bob and Momma was killed right along with Preacher John when he held up that little kid in front of him when we was tryin’ to git some stuff from the armory. Somebody had the guts to take the shot, and down ole’ Preacher went. The compound people were danged mad about the whole thang, but what can you ‘spect from a man like Preacher John?

There was a lotta harsh words thrown ’round, sure was. Oh, Uncle Joe Bob blamed it all on the preacher, but he was hell-bent on gittin’ outta there. He was locked up for a spell when we tried to git some vittles from the storage, and I guess the people from the compound decided we all should git on with the goin’ if we wanted to so bad. I didn’t want to leave, and I’m thinking none of the other kids did neither, but we warn’t never gonna be one of them and we all knowed it. So even though they gave us a choice, it warn’t much of one.

That smartie is still circling around his buddies. He stops for a time at the ones he’s touched and I could swear they’s talking. One by one the rest kinda jest wander off. I guess they ain’t innerested in what he’s sayin’. Dr. Evan said somethin’ once about how they’s changin’, gitting smarter and passin’ that along to the others. I guess they ain’t all cut out fer it. Makes me wonder.

Leaving the compound was hard, but it warn’t nothing compared to what I had to deal with once we was outta there. Uncle Joe Bob ain’t dumb when it comes to survivin’, that’s fer sure, but he leaves a heap ta be desired when it comes to people skills. They’s all holed up about five miles from here, but after a couple of weeks of getting’ beat fer no reason and watchin’ him have his way with all the women-folk whether they wanted it or not (and most of ’em didn’t) I’d had enough.

That’s why I’m in this tree stand and watchin’. There’s no way I can take on Uncle Joe Bob by myself. I’m jest a kid. But look at them thar zombies. They’s strong, and they never give up. I ain’t stupid. I bet I could be a smartie.

And a smartie zombie’s a sight smarter than Uncle Joe Bob.

***

Prizes!

Here’s the deal: At the end of the Blog Hop, on December 24th, I will give away twelve e-copies of “Athena’s Promise”, one for every day of Creepfest. But that’s not all! I will also give away one autographed print copy. WAIT! One more thing — I’m so excited about Creepfest, I will also give away one Amazon gift card in the amount of $20!

Since this is a sweepstakes and not a contest, entering is easy-peasy, and you can enter as many times as you like. Here’s how:

Leave a comment on any (or all) blog posts here during Creepfest.

Sign up for my Once in a Blue Moon Newsletter. (No spam, I swear.)

Like my Facebook Fan page.

Like “Athena’s Promise” on her Amazon page.

Tweet about this blog or AP and use the hashtag #AthenasPromise so I can track properly.

Mention this blog or AP on YOUR blog.

That’s it. You’ll get one entry apiece for each action – up to 17 entries if you do each of these things! Damn! I will tally the results from all twelve days and choose the winners via Random.org. Make sure you leave a comment that lets me know what you did and include a working email address so I can make an accurate count and contact you if you win.

Spread the word! The more the merrier 🙂

Visit the Creepfest Blog Hop page for a complete listing of participating blogs and have fun!

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Odds and Ends

I hope everyone had a nice holiday. Why is it turkey never tastes as good as it does on Thanksgiving?

It's a mysterious bird, don't you think?

Now, we’re on to the next holiday. Christmas.

Since people have been actually injured and even pepper-sprayed during the Black Friday festivities, I have decided to complete the bulk of my Christmas shopping online. More specifically, since there are several people I know who are receiving e-readers this year, I think e-books or gift cards are in order. It sure makes my life easier.

If you’re thinking how I’m thinking, let me make some recommendations for the reader on your list:

I am running a giveaway for “Athena’s Promise” on GoodReads. Three signed copies are the prize; all you have to do is register and click for a chance to win. Easy-peasy.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Athena's Promise by Annetta Ribken

Athena’s Promise

by Annetta Ribken

Giveaway ends December 15, 2011.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

Of course, the e-version is available on Amazon and on Smashwords.

http://youtu.be/n49kFgIkQVg

Looking for some heart-pounding action with a strong heroine? Check out PJ Druce’s Marooned.

http://youtu.be/ILg-L4gE29U

Speaking of heart-pounding, Patti Larsen serves up a heaping dose in her The Hunted Series. Excellent books.

If you’re into zombies (and who isn’t?) Monster’s Unmasked, a novella by Lori Whitwam, offers a look behind the zombie apocalypse set in the universe created by Joshua Guess. Sometimes the monsters are not always who or what we expect. Lori also writes from the other end of the spectrum — Make or Break is a funny, snarky, sparkalicious romantic suspense you’ll thoroughly enjoy.

If you like erotica with your story, you can’t miss out on Eden Baylee’s excellent Fall Into Winter. Wonderful stories with rich characters and imaginative plots.

***

I was very sad to hear of the passing of Anne McCaffrey. Those of us who are avid readers know there are special stories which can have a huge impact on your life. Some books can actually change or save a life. Anne McCaffrey’s “Dragonriders of Pern” is one such book for me.

The hardcover copy I have is battered and held together with clear shipping tape. It is almost 30 years old, and has traveled thousands of miles. It is the only book I have both in hardcover and e-format. I would emigrate to Pern today, if I could. And I make a mean cup of klah.

Although I am very sad we’ve lost such a distinctive and talented voice, Anne McCaffrey is not gone. All you have to do is open one of her books, and there she is. What a legacy! I can never thank Ms. McCaffrey enough for the hours of joy she has given me through her stories. She will be sorely missed.

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Meet The Peerless Eden Baylee

In this business, you meet a lot of different kinds of people, some good and some…challenging. And then you meet the kind of writer who goes above and beyond; who is not only talented in her chosen genre but supports other writers with a genuine desire to help which is very rare.

I met Eden through a Facebook group, and then won a copy of her book, Fall Into Winter. I don’t normally read erotica, but I am really happy to say I didn’t let that stop me from enjoying Eden’s work. Hers is a cut above erotica I’d experienced in the past; solid characters, solid plots with some extremely hawt bits included for spice. And baby, she’s spicy!

Please welcome a dear friend and a lovely person all the way around — Eden Baylee.

How gorgeous is this woman? Inside and out 🙂

1. Your chosen genre is erotica, and hawt it is! Have you written anything in a different genre?

Thanks Annetta, that’s so sweet of you to say! As a matter of fact, I just completed a story for a holiday anthology that is completely non-erotic, and I’ll be writing outside of the erotica genre for other collaborative projects coming up.

Additionally, I post flash fiction on my blog, and many of my stories have erotic elements, but I wouldn’t necessarily classify them as erotica.

2. Why did you decide to write under a pen name, and how did you come up with it?

I chose to use a pen name because I intend to write in different genres, and it’s a good idea to differentiate identities. It was purely a business decision at the time. Whether I decide to use my real name in the future will depend on the project. Most readers know my writing isn’t just erotic, so I may even stick with Eden Baylee because I’ve built up a following under that name.

Coming up with the name was easy. I’ve always loved Eden and the letter “e,” (that’s quite obvious from my tagline, heh). I also wanted the name to look a certain way on my website, so it came about visually at first. Of course, it had to sound right and roll off the tongue, and I think I accomplished that.

3. What are your favorite genres to read and why?

I read everything—from autobiographies to thrillers to women’s literature. I can’t really say I have a favorite genre as much as a favorite author, and that’d be Charles Bukowski. I tend to be attracted to the crotchety old men, even in real life!

I’ve read almost everything he’s written, including all his poetry. The reason I love his writing is because it kicks me right in the gut. His book Ham on Rye is one I refer to often just to see the simplicity of his writing and how it elicits so much emotion from me. Of course, his poetry is always a great inspiration as well.

4. You decided to self-publish “Fall Into Winter”. What were your reasons?

I didn’t set out to self-publish at first, but it evolved into that as a result of rejections from publishers. That, coupled with my own impatience made me go the self-publish route, and I don’t regret it one bit.

I knew I could write and that I had good stories, so I took the critique of editors to structure my stories better, but I didn’t change the plot. As an example, my second story “Act Three” has a scene that conventional romance/erotica publishers would never buy—it borders on a taboo that is against their submission guidelines. I was told to change it before they’d consider it. That was fair, but in the end, I really didn’t want to change my story, so…

I think most writers have to contend with losing some control if they go the traditional route. By being self-published, I am totally in control, but there’s a lot more I have to do because of it.

I love this cover!

5. What has been the most difficult aspect to self-publishing, in your opinion?

Ha! Great segue—doing it all. I write, promote, design, and develop my own marketing plan. I pay for a professional editor because there’s no way I can edit my own work. I truly believe writers have to pay for this if they want their work to be taken as seriously as those published by traditional houses.

6. Please describe your writing and editing process. Inquiring minds want to know!

Ha! I’m a pantser, bar none. Don’t ask me to explain my process. It will make no sense whatsoever because I don’t know how I do it. It’s akin to me asking my mother how she cooks a particular dish. She can’t explain it to me because she’s never had to think about it. There’s no recipe, and she measures nothing.

I must say I hate talking about the “craft” of writing, and I don’t deconstruct what I do. It’s not to put down those writers who have a plan, who use an outline, etc., but for me, the best way to learn how to write—is to read—a lot.

As for my editing process – I keep doing it until I’m sick of reading my words, and then I give it to a professional editor and pray it doesn’t come back splattered in red ink.

7. You have been incredibly supportive to other writers. How do you find the time?

Firstly, it’s my pleasure to be supportive of other writers, so I make the time to do it. I’d go crazy if all I had to think about were my own stories and thoughts, and just “me, me, me.” Writing is a solitary profession, and the last thing I need is to be wrapped up in my own ego 24/7.

8. What do you think has been the most help in selling books? What would you recommend to other writers?

Write a good book and get it professionally edited. If you don’t start off with this as a foundation, then everything else you do afterward will fail. If a reader cannot get through your book, then you’ve lost that small window of opportunity to win over a fan. The bottom line is nobody wants to buy garbage, regardless if it’s $4.99, $1.99, or free.

Once the book is ready, then do the social media, promoting, networking as much as your time permits, but first and foremost—you need a good product.

9. What is the one myth or inaccuracy about erotica you would like to dispel?

It’s only sex. Some people consider erotica just to be sex scenes strung together by a few commas and periods. That would be as interesting as watching paint dry. Good erotica incorporates plot, characterization, and all the elements required to tell a good story, not unlike any other genre. Sex is an important backdrop, but by no means can it stand alone and still be considered an erotic tale.

10. Tell us about your upcoming projects.

My follow-up anthology called Spring into Summer is scheduled for early 2012. It will have the same formula as Fall into Winter: 4 novellas – two will take place in the spring and two in the summer. I’ll have all the seasons covered (heh), and then I’m moving to full-length novels. I enjoy horror/thrillers with strong erotic elements, and would love to write something à la John Fowles’ The Magus – another of my favorite authors.

I also have stories scheduled for independent publications and will apprise once I know their release dates.
Thanks so much for having me on your fabulous site, Annetta! ‘Twas a pleasure!

Author Bio:

Eden writes erotica incorporating all her favorite things: travel; culture; and sex. She enjoys weaving together stories with edgy themes, and sex is but one way to do it. Her first book, Fall into Winter, a collection of four erotic novellas, is currently available on Smashwords, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other sites located on her website.

He second anthology entitled Spring into Summer is due out early 2012.

Connect with her via her Website, blog, on Twitter, and on Facebook.

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Woohooo! “Athena’s Promise” In Print!

Okay, so the Kindle edition of “Athena’s Promise” has been available since October 28th, right? And it’s gotten some amazing reviews, for which I am very grateful and overjoyed to see.

Athena’s Promise held my interest from the cover page to the end page. Pallas, the central character, rocks!!! ~Denise Battista

This book was funny, sassy, pro-woman, suspenseful, funny, and much more. I just had to find out what was on the next page until it was finished. ~B. Decker

I devoured this book! The heroine is fun, sassy and kick-butt with an attitude that doesn’t quit. The author has a unique voice, full of wit and snap. Her characters and setting are distinctive. ~Laura Eno

Ribken’s writing is very strong, full of snarking sarcasm that made me snort and giggle while tearing my heart out with Pallas’ need to protect the vulnerable ones she calls friends. ~Patti Larsen

w00t!

But like any true bibliophile, the reality doesn’t hit until I have a physical copy in my hands. To wit:

SHINY!!!

How pretty is THAT?? I just about peed my britches when the UPS guy pulled up and unloaded. “They’re heavy,” he said.

“Not a problem,” said I, as I toted the box practically one-handed. Okay, it really took two hands, a lot of grunting, and there may have been sweat involved, but work with me here.

So. Excited!

If you want an autographed copy, I still have a few left from the pre-ordering process. You can snag one by following this button right here:


Athena’s Promise Autographed



The price is $11.99 plus S&H, a dollar off the price once it goes live on Amazon. This would make a great Christmas present to the urban fantasy lover on your list!

Probably not as great as this. But close! And a lot cheaper!

The first two chapters and part of the third are available to sample on Amazon if you want an idea of what you’re getting. Go ahead and take a look, and while you’re there, if you like what you read please hit the “Like” button on the page (it helps with rankings so people can find the book). Every little bit helps 🙂

I am so grateful for all the support and the great reception. There’s even a bonus first chapter included of the next in the series, “Athena’s Chains”, which I hope to release in Spring 2012, the gods willing and the creek don’t rise.

THANK YOU! I HEART YOU ALL!

You make me so happy! *MUAH*
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The Incomparable and Eclectic Rebecca Treadway

Although I can’t remember the exact circumstances of our first meeting, I can say once you meet Rebecca you’ll never forget her. A fellow Aquarian, she and I hit it off from the beginning. She has that quirky sense of humor I hold so dear, coupled with an honesty that is both refreshing and bracing.

On top of that, the woman is mega-talented. Not only is she a writer with a twisted imagination I find fascinating, she is an amazing artist and the one behind the cover and the trailer for Athena’s Promise. Rebecca is fabulous to work with, and an amazing friend. Here’s a peek inside her unconventional and intriguing head. I’ll just leave the light on for you. Heh.

1. Your roots are in dark fantasy and sword and sorcery, but you work a lot in horror. What is it about horror that attracts you as a writer?

Both genres offers examinations into the human condition – touches deeper into the human psyche’s dark side. From religion or politics, to that inner monster we all possess. I don’t speak of slasher-style fiction or movies in that vein – for me, horror is more psychological than gore.

2. What do you think horror offers that other genres may not?

A catharsis, utilizing horrific imagery or words in real life instances where you’ve experience real horror, has been used in therapy. There’s also of course, the self-reflective approach. You can’t go around hurting people, so you create a character and whack them in the nastiest way possible.

3. Who is your favorite character you’ve created and why?

That’s a tough choice to make. I’ll go with what “type” of my character is my favorite, they tend to crop up in most of my stories, is the anti-hero. They tend to personify our own reality. Ordinary people who become something extraordinary (sometimes not) who do what needs to be done to “save the day”. It doesn’t mean they have to like it, or even volunteered for it.

This is my favorite character so far. And look at that cover!

4. What is your writing process like?

I write on regular note paper with a real pen. 🙂 Most of which are brainstorm sessions from either a notion in my mind, or a dream I’ve had. The longer I brainstorm, the more ideas generate. Sometimes it’s a scene between nameless characters, sometimes a short story. If it blooms into a novel, I create a basic structure for the plot and will fill in the gaps with these ‘scenes’. I still have “homeless characters” and situations with no story. Yet.

5. Who are your writing inspirations?

Michael Moorcock, George RR Martin, and of course – Tolkien. I will have to say however, my first inspiration – Robert E. Howard’s “Conan” – followed up with artists such as Larry Elmore, Linda Bergkvist, and Alan Lee.
Musically, very inspired by the now defunct duo Dead Can Dance, and a horde of Classical composers and music. A Night on Bald Mountain, Deis Irae from Mozart, classical music and operatic scores such as Carmina Burana almost always create mini-movies in my head.

6. What actually scares you the most?

I’ve been asked that a lot. Aside from the surface fear of spiders – the deepest fear is the inability to move, speak, see, or hear – and be completely conscious of this fact.

7. Name the scariest movie and book you’ve ever seen and read.

Vincent Price’s “Last Man on Earth” scared me as a child, and as an adult – Will Smith in “I am Legend.” Both storylines scared me, in that each character was utterly the last of their kind. And both scenes, having to kill their dog. That was just so sad..lol. I haven’t read a book yet that I could call the scariest. One scene in Raymond Feist’s “Faerie Tale” creeped me out. The parts about the “bad thing” were really spooky. But no, to date – I haven’t read a book that made me want to sleep with the lights on. I’d settle for the creep or spook factor!

8. What is your opinion regarding the indie or self-publishing movement?

I’ve been involved in the Indie/Self-Pub movement longer than most people realize. It started out for me in the early 90’s when I made a “zine” – quarterly, and accepted submissions for short stories, art, poetry. California’s had a stable Indie movement in this regard for longer. Back then, I wasn’t online – it was through U.S. Mail, including networking. I fell out of the loop in the late 90’s and about a year and a half ago – came back into the loop to see its growth through electronic media. I jumped back into the shallow end with publishing poetry I had lying around, then a short story. I’m a novelist at heart, however – and don’t have the patience to sit around waiting a year for a novel to go to print. It’s a great opportunity for writers and personally, I don’t see it any different from Indie bands who put out their own labels. If the powers that be in the “market” don’t want you – you create your market. Back then, and in the now – I think it’s great. It’s not so much the “control” and “royalties” but the creative force behind it. “It” being “your product”.

9. You’re both a graphic artist and a writer. Which appeals to you most and why?

Even though I’ve been into drawing since I was allowed to hold a sharpened pencil 😉 (age 3, my first piece of art was Flipper followed by Fingerpainting in pre-school) writing is the greater appeals. It’s easier, to tell the truth -to write down what my head visualizes, than attempt to draw it. haha!

10. Tell us about your upcoming projects.

I just finished type-ups on all of my handwritten mess regarding a novella turned into a novel “I Chiang”. Now I need to assemble them into chapters and do the first round of edits before I toss it to you – the editor 😉 “I Chiang” is going to be the first in a series which I’m calling, for now at least – The Unfailed Series. Each novel is planned as a stand alone with recurring characters – leading up to events that I will keep under wraps. 🙂 That part is still being fleshed out. Book 2, titled “Project 4: Unfailed” was originally Book 1, Project 4 was going to be my debut and in the middle of a second round of self-editing, the character Chiang started to talk. A lot.

I also have several short stories, some short-shorts that I’m compiling into a anthology tentatively titled “The Little Book of Weird”. They’re all supernatural or psychological horror based in and around my childhood, or simply things that came off the top of my head from mundane circumstances. One such a story, called the S(t)ink – is about a horrible odor exuding from the bathroom sink in an upstairs apartment, taking a life of its own. Another, based on where I live – called The Tenant, is about a woman who hears the veiled threats coming from the air conditioner unit outside her bedroom window. You know how sometimes, you get those evil little thoughts in your head towards somebody who peeves you? In the case of this short story, it’s our old apartment manager whose going to get it. Through a story, of course. This is why I love horror 😀 Where else can you get away with being creepy if not downright unpleasant? After the Unfailed Series I’m transitioning to my original love – Dark “Epic” style Fantasy with elements of Sword & Sorcery. (More emphasis on the Sorcery, of course) My “personal epic” – the “Lord of the Rings” in my life, is the “Book of the Accursed”. It’s taken close to 10 years, off and on – to see the conclusion.

Author Bio: I’m a writer and artist, all else is self-explanatory.

Blog: RL Treadway

Rebecca’s Fiction: Chilly Eye Callie

On Amazon

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Giving Birth and the Publishing Process

Usually I feature an indie artist in this space on Fridays, but today is a Very Special Friday.

Yes, it’s Launch Day!

Now, not only can you order autographed print copies here, “Athena’s Promise” is now available for the Kindle. I’ll be getting it up on Smashwords too, in the next week or so. Remember, you don’t need an e-reader to read it; Amazon thoughtfully provides a free app for you to use on your PC to read Kindle books. Isn’t that nice of them?

Don't mistake Amazon for a saint. But it's still pretty cool.

So, now we have that out of the way, let me just say this has been such a roller-coaster experience. I don’t remember it being so intense when I put out “Not Nice” last year. Of course, that could be a case of selective amnesia, heh.

This time, I took notes. Lots and lots of notes, because I intend to release “Athena’s Chains” in the spring of 2012. Believe me, I hear the clock ticking already. However, one of the great things about being fully in the driver’s seat of your own publishing business is the fact you are the one determining the scheduling. Although that can be stressful, it’s quite liberating.

Giving birth to a novel is really similar to giving birth to a child, I have come to think. You have your gestation period, where you conceive the idea and start writing. You might think once you’ve finished it, the hard part is over — but you’d be very, very wrong.

The early stages of labor — beta reads and editing. *Sigh* Just like in real labor, this stage can take forever, to the point where you start to wonder if you will EVER BE DONE WITH THIS DAMNED THING. Honestly, I was editing up to the very last minute, and then I had to quit picking at it like a scab and let it go. That was probably the hardest part, for me.

In the second stage, you’re wrangling with covers, trailers, and trying to formulate some kind of marketing plan. The deadline fast approaches and you start hyperventilating, trying to figure out how to fit 97 hours in one day. Tip: you can’t.

Then, the actual delivery. For the record, I hate formatting. Here is where my anal and compulsive personality is both a blessing and a curse. It helps to keep in mind print is vastly different than electronic and I must extend many blessings to the creators of Mobi Creator for making the electronic conversion so easy I about wet my pants.

Print is a different story. Designing a print book is an art form. I felt like a baboon with crayons.

Only I'm not this cute.

Honestly, this was very difficult. Mostly because I wanted the print version to look every bit as professional as a book released by a legacy publisher. And friends and neighbors, that is not as easy as one would wish, just like delivering a baby. It’s painful, messy and it made me scream, bleed, yell and not only use every cuss word in my vocabulary (which is quite extensive) but made me invent even more crass ways to express my frustration.

But in the end? I have a beautiful baby, and I can’t stop looking at her. I’m happy, relieved, and feeling all kinds of awesome.

I really hope you’ll check out “Athena’s Promise” and tell me what you think, whether in a private email or even better, on a review. Because, just like having a baby, once you deliver the hard part starts. Now I have to devote myself to raising her and introducing her to the World At Large. It takes a village, and I’m counting on my peeps to help me get word about Pallas out to the unsuspecting. So if you can spare a Tweet, an update, or want to write a review or even interview me, feel free 🙂

I’ve lived and breathed in Pallas’s world for two years. I know the journey isn’t over yet, but I’m ready. I think she is, too.

Thanks to all of you for the wonderful support. I appreciate it more than I can ever say. *MUAH* !!

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First Chapter of “Athena’s Promise” and a Cover Reveal!

Just for you, here is the print cover for “Athena’s Promise” and the first chapter. I hope you enjoy it! Don’t forget, you can pre-order autographed copies here. The official launch of the e-version is scheduled for Friday, October 28th. Thanks for all your support! *MUAH*!

Chapter One

Hearing the phone ring a full hour before the start of my shift was usually a sure sign the day was going to go right down the toilet. Living on site in a hotel as the front desk manager has its perks, but being on call 24/7 sure wasn’t one of them. I guess I should have been used to it, but that didn’t mean I hated it any less.

Of course, since the accident at Atlantis some twenty years ago, opening the Portal and allowing just any creature to cross over, calls like this were all too common. What awaited me this morning? A pissed- off centaur, a drunk and disorderly minor league wizard, what? Working in a hotel located on the edge of Zombietown sure made for interesting guests. Not to mention the staff.

I rolled over in the king-sized bed, one of my favorite perks, and picked up the receiver. Before I even lifted it to my ear I heard Lilah, the pixie working two night shifts a week, screeching in her twangy voice. Oh lord, it’s gonna be a long day, I thought, and I don’t even have my eyes open yet.

“Miz Pallas! I swear to all the Gods, you gotta get down here. I can’t get this stupid horse – yes, I just called you a horse! – to understand if he checks in this early he has to pay for two nights. –Don’t you shit on this floor mister, you just better not!”

Well, that popped my eyes open in a hurry. I knew exactly the target of Lilah’s screeching .

I sat up in bed. “Lilah! Lilah, I know you’re upset but calm down. You can’t talk to a guest like that, not even Cedric. Tell him to hang on; I’ll be there in ten minutes. You’d better hope Medusa doesn’t hear you from the back. Go to the laundry room if you have to and cool off.” I loved Lilah, I really did. She was a cute little thing, brown and sparkly with eyes shaped like almonds, but those damned pixies were so high strung!

She finally started to settle down. “Oh, oh, oh! I’m sorry Miz Pallas, sorry. Sorry. You’re coming down, right?” I heard her say, “Oh, now you gonna deal with Miz Pallas! How you like that?” and I couldn’t quite suppress my grin. I hated it when Lilah got upset, although most of it was just pixie dramatics, but Cedric could be a handful. I knew from pulling too many double shifts the night shift around here could get really hairy. And of course, no one wanted to deal with a pissed-off Medusa. That was strictly my job.

“I can’t get dressed if you keep me on the phone. Just hang up and bug out. I’m on my way. Cedric can leave or wait till I get there; I don’t care what he does.” I hung up and contemplated for the thousandth time why I was still at this job after three years of dealing with “critters” – the crossovers from every fable, folklore tale, myth, and legend you can think of. I must be crazy.

I sighed and scrambled into my uniform of the day – a navy blue polo and a pair of khakis. Sneakers, my red hair pulled into a hasty ponytail, and I booked out the door. Hey, with the running around I did, it didn’t pay to be girly. I just usually ended up sweating off the makeup and perfume. Not to mention the days when I was so frazzled my hair resembled Medusa’s. I cleaned up pretty well, I’ve been told, but this job was not for sissies.

I headed for the elevator. My suite was on the third floor, at the far end of the hallway. When I first started working here at the Traveler’s Haven, I made the mistake of taking a room on the first floor as close to the lobby as I could get. Big mistake. On the first floor everyone thought nothing of just walking over and knocking on my door at all hours of the day and night. On the third floor I could take the back stairs and no one knew my business, even though living on property was like living in a fish bowl. Privacy could be a problem.

With Cedric kicking up a fuss, I couldn’t even stop off at the little breakfast café to grab my daily cup of coffee, and that pissed me off. The food served there was gross, but I guess three years of anything would seem gross. However, the coffee was excellent and sometimes it was the only thing to get me though the day. I nodded to Luke, the breakfast host, on my way by. He was a new employee, hired by Medusa, and I had yet to become well-acquainted with him, but he seemed like a nice enough guy. Still, I’d been around the block enough times to know looks can be deceiving.

Cedric didn’t see me at first. He was busy feeling up the blond (Skank Number One) while the brunette (Skank Number Two) swayed back and forth on her feet and tried to snatch at Cedric’s tail. I sniffed the air as I approached the front desk, and thankfully I didn’t smell anything other than the odor of horseflesh and the perfume of the two floozies twined around Cedric. I saw no sign of Lilah – a good thing.

I sure wasn’t happy to see this bunch in my lobby. The hotel was at the edge of Zombietown, it’s true, and we received a lot of business from the local strip clubs and bars. But Medusa and I worked really hard to cultivate a better clientele than inhabited the hotel here when we first took over. The owners, three gnome brothers, didn’t seem to care where the money came from as long as it kept coming, but in the meantime guests like Cedric gave the “normal” clientele the wrong impression of our place, an impression we were trying to change.

“Cedric, what’s going on?” I pasted the “Guest Service” smile on my face, hiding my irritation at being called out early for this. I leaned against the front desk and crossed my arms. Oh, he appeared in fine form. From what I understood, centaurs were usually not so ostentatious, but Cedric seemed to be an exception to the rule. His light brown hair and mane were plaited with ribbons of all colors; sparkling bling around his neck, on his fingers, around his wrists. I knew his stuff wasn’t genuine, or he’d be staying at a much nicer place than this. The ice in his ears might have been real, but the rest of it was strictly for show. His clear blue hooves, probably the only thing I found attractive on the douchebag, were drilled out and embedded with more fake bling, ruining, in my opinion, his best feature.

A handsome critter, Cedric, but a player all the way. Actually, I was surprised he only had two females with him. Those girls just can’t seem to resist Cedric’s uh…other assets. I’m sure I don’t have to draw a picture.

“Ah, Miss Pallas! Finally some competence here.” Cedric’s deep voice rumbled as he untangled himself from Skank Number One to reach for my hand, dropping what I’m sure he thought of as a charming kiss on the back of it. To me, it was disgusting. His tail switched back and forth in agitation.

“Cedric, that’s not fair and you know it. How many times have you stayed with us?” I surreptitiously wiped the back of my hand on the side of my pants. See? That’s why I didn’t dress up. “You know the policy. Check-in is at three o’clock. You check in this early, you have to pay for two nights; check-out is tomorrow at eleven. I’ve explained this to you before.”

Cedric stomped a hoof, barely missing Skank Number Two. “Come on, Pallas, it’s not fair. You mean to tell me if I check in right now I have to check out at eleven or pay for two nights?” His tail switching stepped up a notch. I noticed he dropped the “Miss”. He stomped his hoof again, and I started to do a slow burn. “That sucks. I probably won’t even stay until tomorrow. ” He snorted and pushed away the loving arms of Skank Number One, who pouted and promptly sat down on the tile floor and thanks to her short skirt, I saw everything but Jesus. This was getting out of hand, and in a hurry.

“Cedric, it’s the policy and you know it. I can check you in right now, but if you pay for one night you’re checking out at eleven. Period.” My patience ran out. “It’s not my policy, it’s hotel policy, and I’m not jeopardizing my job for you. Pay or go. I don’t care which, just make up your mind.” I had to get this asshole and his two uh…companions out of the lobby before respectable people started showing up.

I walked right up to him and put my hands on my hips. I might have been a foot and a half shorter than this critter, but you bet I had a bigger attitude. “You can quit switching your tail, because I swear to the Gods if you shit on my lobby floor you’re banned for life. Now, do you want the room or not? Because I’m not in the mood to stand here and argue with you one more minute.” I stared him straight in the eyes, and he backed down, just like I knew he would.

He reached for Skank Number Two, and almost stepped on Skank Number One. “All right, all right. Gimme the room until tomorrow.” I heard him complaining and mumbling as I made my way around the long desk to the computer terminal to check him in, but that was okay. I loved it when they called me a bitch behind my back. Didn’t bother me in the least.

I checked him in and charged him top dollar, oh yes I did.
As soon as Cedric and his lovlies cleared the lobby, Lilah came flitting out of her hidey-hole.

“Miz Pallas, I’m sorry I called you early, I truly am.” She giggled into her tiny hands. “You sure gave him what for, and he sure had it coming.”

I stapled the paperwork together and threw it in the “in” basket. “Lilah, you can’t talk to guests that way and you know it. I know Cedric is an asswipe, but he’s a guest. Sometimes, you just have to grin and take it.” I sighed, because six in the morning was too early to lecture, and I needed some caffeine. Like, right now.

Lilah nodded as if she actually cared, and I said, “I’m getting some coffee. Might as well finish up your shift paperwork, girl, and you can leave early.” She brightened and glittered. I loved it when pixies did that, you know, got all glittery-like? It happened when they’re happy, and it was really cool to watch. This makes pixies dangerous to most people, because humans will go above and beyond to make a pixie happy just for the sparkle. This, in turn, makes pixies the most spoiled bunch of brats you’ll ever meet, but I didn’t take any shit from them. Lilah knew it and was smart enough not to push me past my limit. That would be a very bad thing for all involved. Good thing I had such a sweet temperament.

I made straight for the breakfast café. It wasn’t much, really – basic stuff like fruit juice, pastries, cereal and the like. The food sucked to me, but the coffee was fabulous. Critters could request special items, like roe eggs for the merepeople (mermaids were popular at the strip joints nearby and stayed here often) or protein shakes for the undead. I tried not to think about those items.

Luke came out of the kitchen with a load of cinnamon rolls. When I nodded, he smiled. I wasn’t quite sure what to make of him. He seemed charming enough; he showed up every day on time; he did his job well. Cute, I guess. Tall, shaggy brown hair he kept in a neat pony tail, brown eyes. Medusa hired him as Breakfast Host without any input from me, not our standard operating procedure. But, whatever.

“Morning, Pallas. Coffee’s fresh. Want a roll?” He breezed over to the warming station and started filling it up with cinnamon rolls. After smelling them every single day for the last three years, the aroma made me want to barf. Copiously.
“Uh, no. Thanks anyway. I just need caffeine.” I walked back to the small kitchen to grab my oversized caffeinator – I didn’t mess around. It held about a half a pot of coffee. No matter how quiet the day began, the joint started jumping around check-out time and I never knew what was going to happen.

Perky was not my thing in the morning, especially when I had to come on an hour early. The staff knew it, and they walked careful. Even Luke, new to this gig, knew that much and kept his mouth shut, which told me he might be smarter than he looks.

After filling up my tank of coffee, I walked around to the back of the front desk to my tiny corner of heaven. Medusa occupied the back office, and rarely came out front. There’s a reason. She had this unfortunate handicap, you see. When riled, she had a tendency to turn people to stone. Therefore, the bulk of the front desk duties fell to me. We got along fine – I didn’t have a problem with her, I was still standing, and I ran interference. The Gnome Brothers had a love/hate relationship with her, and with me…well, I despised the little fuckers and if it wasn’t so illegal I’d love to see her turn them into nothing more than a lump of rocks. But, I digress.

I sat down at my corner, just a space carved out big enough to do a little paperwork but not much more. The security monitor, mounted over my head, and the monstrosity of a copy machine constructed sometime around when dinosaurs roamed the earth made for a tight space. A night window, seldom used, helped me keep an eye on everything. Or try to, anyway.

Looking over the schedule for the housekeeping staff, I saw Miss Esther, the head housekeeper, had four zombies on for today. That’ll work, I mused – it’s a slow day and they should be done by one o’clock, saving on payroll. Those little gnome brothers were always carping about payroll, but they carped all the time. They had more money than King Midas, and yet they screamed poverty constantly. Typical.

Oh, the zombie thing. Look, I knew most people wouldn’t have anything to do with zombies, and I understood. There’s a lot of misinformation out there about them, but living and working on the edge of Zombietown gave me a different perspective. Zombies aren’t quite what they’re made out to be by Hollywood. Their condition is not their fault. They weren’t contagious until the Turn, and zombies could be quite lively for a long time – sometimes as long as a decade until the Turn happens. That was when they became feral and a danger. It meant they had to be put down. Usually, families took care of their own, but there was a unit which specifically took care of feral zombies when they Turned. They were called the Z-Squad. Original name, right?

Until then, zombies were perfectly nice people. We employed about eight as housekeepers. Yes, there was the stench, but commercial deodorants usually masked the worst of it. Our zombies were certified as required by law, meaning their “birthdate” was confirmed so we could anticipate the approximate date of their Turn, but most of them didn’t last that long. As they got up in age, certain body parts fell off and they couldn’t do the job.

It was a sad thing, to be a zombie, but the ones I met were some of the best peeps I’ve known. I took care of them, they took care of me. In the hotel business, loyalty counted for a lot.

I sighed and sifted through group booking requests, supply forms, invoices and a slew of other stuff I had no interest in dealing with. I heard Lilah counting her drawer, humming to herself and sparkling. I loved it when she sparkled, have I mentioned it? Otherwise, I expected another quiet morning at the ranch.

Lilah finished up and bounced over to me, singing in her pixie way, “All set, Miss Pallas.”

“Go ahead, punch out. See you in a couple of days. Stay out of trouble, will you?”

She giggled. “Oh, Miss Pallas. You know I stay out of trouble. I’ll be back for the second shift on Thursday, right?” Damned pixies never kept track of their shifts, but at least Lilah knew enough to confirm every time she left property.

“Yes, dearie, and you’ll be relieving me, so don’t be late.” She giggled again, and I had to grit my teeth. Sometimes, her chipper attitude in the morning was a lot for me to take, so it was. She flitted off, and I heard her punch the time clock on her way out.

I gathered my paperwork and moved to the front desk, where I had more room to sort out the stuff I needed to speak to Medusa about and the stuff that could wait. I liked having everything organized. It kept her happy and it was a good thing to be on her best side.

I flipped through the group requests and bird-dogged one from a band traveling through here on a regular circuit. They wanted to book two weekends in July; a nice piece of business, but I happened to know their manager served Lucifer himself, and they could be trouble. Not only the band, but the groupies following them. Another group request on the list, a tour bus from Pennsylvania; a group of vampires coming for a convention. I liked this, because they slept all day and were gone all night, which meant no service from housekeeping.

I shuffled papers and started making notes; grateful today seemed low-key and calm. Boy, seldom have I ever been so wrong. When things blew up, they really blew. I had no idea then how bad it would get.

Cedric was the least of my problems.

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Of Elves And Cons – Tristan J. Tarwater

Her name is beautiful and unusual, much like the writer. I met Tristan through a mutual friend, and as soon as I read her first email I knew we were going to work together great. Why? Because she’s imaginative, open-minded, and has a work ethic of mythic proportions. She’s also a lot of fun and I love her work. I’m not only her editor, I’m a big fan. Read the interview and you’ll see why! Then head on over to Back That Elf Up and check out “Thieves At Heart”.

Just looking at this smile makes me smile!

1. What has your path toward publication been like?

Our path towards publication has been a bit like stumbling through a marathon after thinking, ‘Hell, I think I’ll go for a little walk.’ When I initially started writing The Valley of Ten Crescents it was a lot of brainstorming and back story for Tavera and a bit of Derk for an RPG campaign. It started off as something a bit hyperbolic, and got toned down and fleshed out; it went from ‘Oh, I’m going to make a thief that likes to sleep around a bit and is part of a secret society!’ to over 200,000 words. I really fell in love with Tavi and the other characters and wrote it all and when it was said and done my Admin (husband) and I had to decide what to do with it. I wanted to share Tavi’s story with people, I just wasn’t sure how to go about doing it and through trial, error and a lot of learning about formatting we got it out there. Our unofficial motto of sorts is ‘Just ****ing try.’ It went from back-story to a serial on the web to an e-book and paperback with an actual ISBN.

2. With a Small Boss and a family to care for, how do you structure your writing time?

A vast majority of my creative writing takes place at night. I’m a night person through and through and I pretty much only turn in for the night because the part of my brain that can think about the future says ‘Hey, your child is going to wake up early tomorrow and you need to be able to make coffee without gravely injuring yourself.’ I spend the mornings answering emails and doing any advertising I have to do and basically brainstorm throughout the day, writing things down if I come up with conversations. I’m lucky enough to have this freaky memory so if the plot point is big enough, it generally sticks in my head and then pulsates in my brain, especially when I’m trying to get to sleep to avoid the coffee related injuries. Every once in a while I do have to go on crazy research binges where I spend a combined several hours looking up other lunar goddesses or rabbits or rock formations and how they occur or elemental magic. So basically it’s not very structured! I just try to use my free time to the best of my abilities while watching the clock. Sometimes that means dinner is at 6:30pm instead of 5:30pm. Sometimes it means saying ‘Hey, I need to get some writing done.” Sometimes it means not eating, sad but true. I love to eat and I love food but I have enough interruptions from everything else, I can’t let simple things like organs and biological needs get in the way of me hitting my word count.

3. Who would you say are your biggest literary influences?

I would have to say one of the earliest bits of fantasy that really struck me was ‘The Crystal Cave’ by Mary Stewart. I’m named after a version of Sir Tristan so an interest in the Arthurian saga came really early for me and Merlin is just one of those characters that I think everyone knows about. And to see him broken down as a little kid, to read about him as a real person who climbed trees and felt pain and was awkward around girls and wanted to belong really struck me. Those things happened adjacent to the stuff everyone knows him for, the prophecy of the tower, his aid to Uther Pendragon’s lust for Ygraine, the sword Excalibur. It wasn’t till recently that that book registered as ‘fantasy’ for me, I’ve always thought of it as a fictional biography, heh. Between the extraordinary bits, very human things take place and without them, the emotions and the political stuff and the familial angst, the extraordinary stuff has no foundation.

4. What made you decide to engage a professional editor?

Realizing that I definitely needed one, ha! I had ‘Thieves at Heart’ out in its original incarnation and it was only about 23,000 words long. We were just figuring out how to format and the Admin was learning GIMP and we just wanted to get it out there and do something. I think we rushed to put it out because at the time the Admin was deployed and we wanted something to work on together and to help fill up the space of our separation. There was also the sense of ‘If we don’t do it now, we’ll never do it.’ The series (then a single, giant book) was done so we jumped in. As a result it was not nearly as polished or professional as it should have been. I know part of this resulted because I was scared to look it over too many times. I didn’t want to give myself the chance to doubt myself (‘You wrote ‘their’ instead of ‘there’! You should never write again!). Someone was kind and honest enough to say hey, the story is good but this really needs to be edited (not their exact words) and gave us a name and email for our editor. That was another thing, when we were just starting out in February we didn’t know anyone who was an editor so having a name and a testimonial was kind of like a golden ticket. We had kicked around the idea of having someone else look at it and make corrections at the beginning but for me, the idea of asking a total stranger to potentially tear apart my work and judge me was pretty much terrifying. After it had been out for a spell we had a few people say that they enjoyed the story so I was more confident about my work and ready for a bit of literary flogging, I think. We worked with the tools we had at the time, someone gave us another tool and we thought we’d be stupid to not use this. But we had had enough positive feedback that the first spank wasn’t going to reduce me to tears. To use a really inappropriate analogy.

5. How has working with an editor affected your writing process?

There’s still an aspect of ‘other’ when it comes to the editor. Not the editor herself but by showing this body of text to someone else, I am admitting that this will in fact see the light of day. Therefore it needs to make sense not only to me because they don’t live in my brain, they don’t know what I mean or have the info I have. For me the inclination sometimes is to just get it out as fast as you can (see above issue with having ‘free time’) and sometimes that means gaps in trains of thought or events. In true husband-wife fashion, I do just tend to think the Admin knows exactly what I’m talking about and when he doesn’t I go, ‘WHAAAAAAAAA?’ In addition I can just explain something to him if he wants to know something since he is physically there. With my editor, that’s not the case. So the editor is kind of an intercessor of sorts. In addition I’m more aware of those words that I use too much and my own grammatical shortcomings. I used to use the word ‘had’ as if I was getting paid to use it. And bloody hell, do I love gerunds. Being in the headspace of writing for an audience versus just to write really helps.

6. What surprised you the most about working with a professional editor?

The most? That the first email I got back wasn’t a giant harpoon of ‘THIS SUCKS. DID YOU HAPPEN TO FAIL GRAMMAR IN MIDDLE SCHOOL? ALSO, ELVES AREN’T REAL.’ For the record, I did fail grammar in school. The fact that the initial email was rather quite pleasant and not just scathing commentary on my all too obvious lust for the pluperfect tense was a surprise. While I do have a professional relationship with my editor there is definitely a sense of camaraderie, that we’re working on making this as awesome as we can together. I guess I was expecting an editor to Balrog me (You Shall Not Pass!) when really, the editor is in your Fellowship. But don’t throw your manuscript into Mt. Doom! HA! That’s not the goal, obviously.

7. You recently attended Geek Girl Con. How was that experience and would you go again?

GeekGirlCon 2011 was AMAZING. And we’re already making plans to go next year. I wrote about it on my blog a few days ago but basically, I felt like I was home. Even though I was trying to sell books and network a bit and working, the Con was really well organized and everyone was really excited to be there. It was great talking to other writers and encouraging to hear people wish me luck in my endeavors. So many things there were awesome, from the people running the Con to the other exhibitors to the amazing cosplayers. It was a small Con, as far as Cons go (it had a bit under 2,000 people attending I want to say) but it made for great opportunities to connect with people. I got to talk to a lot of great people about the things they were working on and what they dug.

8. Why did you choose the path of self-publishing?

Probably a little bit because of impatience? HA! But also because our team of two people really does believe in things like DRM free e-books and Creative Commons and Open Source. I write on LibreOffice now and wrote all of the initial manuscript on OpenOffice. We both run Linux on our machines, the Admin made the ads and formatted the cover on GIMP. The e-books are DRM free and always will be. The book and the material is protected under CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 which has provisions for things like remixing and sharing. I love stories and if what I wrote, if Tavi and Derk’s story inspired someone to make a youtube video or write something or make something? I would be totally blown away! Even if it was a silly rap about onions (HA!) I would be floored. I wrote this story because I wanted to but I put it out there to entertain and hopefully make people think about what it means to be yourself. If it spurs people on to be entertaining and do their own things and follow their passions, that’d be great. Hell, if someone reads it and thinks, ‘I write better than this’ then well, get on it! Self-publishing was right for us because we wanted to be able to say ‘Hey, have a bit of fun with this if you like. The fun doesn’t have to end when the book is over.’

9. What would you say is the biggest challenge of being an indie artist?

Advertising/Self-promoting, I want to say. Back That Elf Up is a two person team with a lot of neat people filling in really needed roles but I’m the PR person, the research assistant, the caterer, the CEO, the advertising department, etc. I’m fairly introverted and the fact that I have to be digitally social daily and email strangers is slightly daunting. Trying to think of the best 140 character pitch for ‘Thieves at Heart’ takes more time than you might think. Getting your ads out to the right people who will be interested is another challenge. Thank goodness for the digital age that we live in. It makes a lot of this a bit easier. Through things like Twitter, Kickstarter and G+ we’ve been able to reach people and get out story out to places we wouldn’t have imagined a few years ago.

10. Tell us about your upcoming projects.

Well, there’s still about 180,000+ words of The Valley of Ten Crescents to reveal. ‘Self-Made Scoundrel’ is due to come out this coming winter if all goes well and that’s a prequel to ‘Thieves at Heart.’ ‘Self-Made Scoundrel’ goes into Derk’s beginnings as a thief and how he gets to the point he does in the very beginning of ‘Thieves at Heart,’ where he kidnaps Tavi. A few characters from ‘Thieves at Heart’ show up like Old Gam and Hock as well as a few new faces and the first bit of magic as we think about it when it comes to fantasy. The third book is tentatively titled ‘Red Moon Rising’ and picks up with Tavera and what she gets herself into once she’s on her own. Tavera teams up with a few honest type folks and so it goes into the whole private self vs. the public face and what that means when a group of people are trying to pull something off. We’ve also got some ideas for ways for people to show their support via t-shirts. And well, the next two books are started, ha! A lot is upcoming, basically!

Coming soon! w00t!

Tristan J Tarwater is the author of The Valley of Ten Crescentsseries, as well as several other stories that hope to see the light of day. Born and raised in New York City she remembers reading a lot, visiting museums and the aquarium frequently and wanting to be a writer from a very early age. Her love of fantasy and sci-fi spills over into what she reads and watches in her free time as well as the collection of dice, books and small metal figurines that reside in her home. She currently lives in Central California with her Admin, Small Boss, a cat that knows it’s a multipass and Azrael.

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