GUEST BLOG: Jonah Bergans on Anonymity Online | BOOK GIVEAWAY

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In the Time Magazine feature “question everything,” (Sept 21st 2015, Pg 66), the question was posed “Should we let ourselves be anonymous online?”  The responders, Ellen Pao  (former CEO of Reddit) indicated “yes,” and Jonathan Taplan, (Director of USC’s Annenberg Innovation Lab)indicated “no.” Their arguments were both sound but as is all too common in news media today, neither was able to provide a satisfying answer. It was a sound byte of a question, a sound byte of a feature and what they were able to provide was little more than a sound byte of an answer—leaving us with the sense that there is no answer—as if all thought is merely opinion. I disagree. There is an answer, but it cannot be found with the question asked. It is too great a topic for a sound byte of a question. It is not a philosophic question—it is not one of life’s imponderables, but rather it is a question of social responsibility and a question with a direct and immediate bearing on liberty and freedom of speech, and the free exchange of ideas that makes any society great.

Pau, being an entrepreneur and having had personal experience with innovative technologies answered “yes,” in favor of anonymity, and citied the personal stories of growth and the benefit of the open communication that often times does result from anonymity. “More voices expressing more ideas with more openness is a wonderful ideal,” Pao says.  She’s right of course—it is. She goes on to indicate that there are dangers, down-sides and the potential for misuse and so on, and she’s right about that too. But it isn’t a matter of personal stories, it’s a social matter. It is matter that effects the whole society—many societies, all of them and then every one of us within that society.

Taplan, an academic, cites Plato: “If we were shielded from the consequences of our actions, how would that change the way we act?” He insists, that as a result of anonymity online, we now know the answer, and he goes on to make some very solid arguments, including the argument that undermines the sense of any potential benefit from anonymity—that oppressive regimes can and likely do trace even anonymous users.  It’s a strong argument—rather, it is a strong response to an argument, and yet it fails to recognize that an oppressive regime is not necessary to silence a voice. A community standard can silence a voice. A commonly held belief can silence a voice. A belief that blacks should not marry whites can silence a voice. A belief that gay men are pedophiles and perverts can silence a voice.

As authors we all share in a long standing professional tradition of anonymity. Many of us use pseudonyms.  Some do this based on the tradition itself, while others use pseudonyms to shelter family and friends from the consequences of publishing what might be construed as controversial in their own local communities. We know that an oppressive regime is not the only reason anonymity is important and even necessary. We have, for the most part, learned the importance of using anonymity to introduce ideas into the public discussion, and those of us who have succumbed to sensationalism have suffered the consequences of doing so. Can you name a single author who supported slavery? Nazism?  No, it is not the anonymity itself that presents a social danger, but what we do with it, that determines its value to ourselves and to our society. Authors have learned to act responsibly even though many of us publish anonymously, and now so must the rest of the people in our society.

“Should we let ourselves be anonymous online? “  It’s a weak question. It’s a question with a faulty premise.  Recently, Facebook has begun banning authors who operate under a pseudonym. These are not authors of hate, but rather targets of hate. It works like this: Authors of LGBT fiction are sought out by the hateful and reported to Facebook for using “a false name.” They are banned. There is no recourse, no appeals process. Their access to what is arguably a public media is simply denied. Their access to their fans, coworkers and editors and to the public itself is eliminated as easily as that. Imagine the delight on those hateful faces as they take down (in their opinion) yet another pervert. Facebook, like a monolith of corporate indifference, does not respond to the emails, the pleas for assistance or even some reasonable accommodation. A voice is silenced. Then another. Then another. Do we “let ourselves” be anonymous? Ask these authors.

No, a better question might be:”What are your rights and responsibilities in a free society?”  We might ask that same question of a monolithic corporation (like Facebook) too. For the same reasons that we must tolerate Klan marches, for the same reason Tenure exists, for the same reason freedom of the press and freedom of speech exists in our country, anonymity online must exist—it must be permitted to exist. It is not a new question or a new argument. We must tolerate the Klan so the NAACP can gather and march—so gay people and all people with a less than majority voice can gather and march. We must have Tenure so a teacher can teach—even those subjects which are unpopular in a local community. We must tolerate the hateful and endure the tiny voices of hate and shame who may also act anonymously, so that the greater louder and enduring voices can speak. Anonymity allows that to happen, not just under oppressive dictators, but right here in America, and right now in our local communities. Maybe the question should have been, “If we silence the hateful, will we silence everyone?”

I am Jonah Bergan.

AboutTheBook

Off-World-Full-Front-CoverTitle: Off World

Author: Jonah Bergan

Publisher: Booktrope Publishing

Cover Artist: Michelle Fairbanks

Length: 240 Pages

Release Date: August 22, 2015

Blurb: What really brought Taine to that backwater little world? Taine’s a hunter. He’s a red-skinned, black-eyed Lowman by nature, and a hunter by trade. Some hunters work in flesh, others in secrets, and some few work to set right what’s been set wrong. It’s a big galaxy and there’s always plenty of work for a hunter like Taine, so you got to wonder, what with all that at his feet, what really brought Taine to that backwater little world?

Off-World is a M/M science fiction action/adventure set in F/M dominated space. The story takes place in an arm of the galaxy where slavery (sexual and otherwise) is legal and commonplace. Strictly speaking, it is not a BDSM novel in that consent is not a matter of concern for the characters, but those with an interest in BDSM should enjoy the story. Due to explicit content, Off-World is not recommended to readers under eighteen years of age.

CommonExcerpt

“You his father?” Taine asked.

“Uncle,” the man said, glancing toward his wife. She looked away, a terse expression on her face. He looked back at Taine, bringing his chin up defiantly. “By marriage,” he said. “I did right by the boy.”

Taine shrugged. It made no difference—these backwater worlds, with their backwater cultures, none of that mattered to him. It was bad enough he had to ride in from the starport on horseback. Bad enough he had to dress the humble part just to avoid offending these rubes. Still, if he’d come blasting into town in his Hover, he’d have found half the doors shut to him, and the other half damned slow to open. Taine was a hunter, a Lowman—a red-skinned and black-eyed alien, and his kind wasn’t welcome everywhere, no matter how much they paid for what they bought. No point in making things worse by flaunting wealth in a place of such poverty.

Taine turned his attention back to the human he was here to inspect. He took a quick inventory of the boy. Pretty face, decent frame, all good starts, but the boy was un-groomed, pale and too lean for his age. Malnourished, Taine thought. Most likely in body and mind both. That might be correctable, might not. Sometimes that kind of damage can’t be undone no matter how much you pay to fix it. Still, the boy looked appealing enough despite the slight frame—long legs, long arms and a pretty face with a halo of wild blond hair like the rays of some golden sun. He’s young, but not under, Taine thought. Taine checked the boy’s teeth, running his finger under the boy’s lips and along the gums. He tugged a tooth or two—still solid.

“How old?” Taine asked.

“Nineteen now,” the boy’s uncle said. “Twenty soon. Been here more’n half that time.”

“Lazy?”

“Hard worker,” the man snapped. “Wouldn’t have lasted otherwise.”

“So why are you selling?”

“Hard times,” the uncle said, “and harder coming.” This brought a scowl from the missus, but she didn’t say a word. She’d had enough of the gambling, and the drinking, and she’d said so often enough that the words seemed to have lost all meaning. If her husband had saved his earnings, instead of squandering them, none of this would have been necessary. When he said, “It’s him or me,” she didn’t argue. After all, it wasn’t an ultimatum, it was simply true. She consoled herself by thinking about the money. It would help them get off-world before the aftermath of the war came upon them like some kind of tidal wave, and swept both of them away from her. Choose one or lose both, bane or burden. It had been an easy choice, at least until now.

Taine slipped his middle finger deep into the boy’s mouth. The boy closed his eyes, and his face blushed red, but he yielded, relaxing his jaw and taking the finger as though it were a cock. Taine moved his finger in and out, fucking the boy’s face, watching him blush and tear up. Taine had good reason for doing it, but he earned a sharp look from the missus anyhow. She nudged her husband and glared at him. He scowled, and turned back toward Taine.

“You buying or not?” he snapped.

“Maybe,” Taine said. “Hard to tell with him all covered up.”

The uncle grunted and stepped forward. He tugged at the waist of the home weave the boy wore. The coarse trousers loosened and then slid down the boy’s long legs. A gentle tug and the shirt came loose in front. The uncle slipped it over the boy’s shoulders and let it fall the floor.

“There,” he said. “No need to make a show of it. Buy, or get out.”

Taine felt the boy’s tongue start moving against his finger. It surprised him, and he drew his finger back, but the boy sucked at it, trying to keep it in him. Taine obliged the boy, sliding it in and out a few more times and smiling as he felt the boy’s tongue bobbing and dancing beneath his finger. The boy wouldn’t speak, wouldn’t make eye contact either. His uncle had taught him that well enough, but the boy doing what he was doing with his tongue spoke volumes. That’s him just about pleading, Taine thought. What must life in this little hell be like, for the boy to yearn for a sale off into the unknown?

Taine leaned forward, drawing in just a taste of the boy from the air around him. He sampled the first scents of the boy’s essence. Sweet, Taine thought. Like honey must taste. It was a thick and golden flavor, and it made Taine smile. That’s all he needed to know to buy any boy—that there was something either savory or sweet in them that was still strong enough to reach the surface. The rest would be up to the trainers—the professionals back at the Temple on Taine’s home-world. But the boy’s dancing tongue sparked Taine’s curiosity, and he wanted to know more.

He reached up with his free hand, taking hold of the boy at the back of the head and began slowly moving his finger in and out. He knew he was humiliating the boy before his family, but Taine closed his eyes, and drove his awareness deeper. There were other ways to open a human. Most of those were forceful, and some were downright violent. The uncle and aunt might not understand, but for a Lowman, this was an act of kindness. It was the gentlest way to break through to the only thing a Lowman truly valued.

Taine pressed his awareness into the boy, moving through the ebb and flow of the boy’s many complex flavors. He was careful not to feed, not to take any of it in. As was so with most humans, the boy was a stormy wash of conflict within. Taine found urges and desires and regrets, a mind in constant turmoil, and rife with fear—predominantly fear. Some of that fear had been earned, and some had been instilled and it lurked in the boy, like shadows in some dark wood. Taine pressed forward beyond all that and went deeper, reaching toward the source of the boy. Taine found his way blocked. It was expected, a barrier—an obstacle to turn him back. It had a scent and a flavor—something akin to the bitterness of burned toast, but its aspect was like a sharp blade bearing a dark stain, it stabbed at him, threatening him and warning him to turn back. Taine instinctively flinched away from it, slipping around and behind it, evading it, and driving himself closer to the wellspring. He found and followed the predominant scents—that of seaweed, dark and rich, and the flavor of saltwater, and he found himself standing on hot sand, feeling the sensations of an empty beach, and the heat of a brilliant and golden sun. It was a rich and delicate feeling, and a smell, and a taste—the smell and taste of sunshine. Yes, Taine thought. That is who he is. Sunshine.

Taine slowly opened his eyes and withdrew his finger. He wondered then, and not for the first time, why humans waste their children so, as though darkening them would brighten the world. Didn’t they know the world would be less hard with fewer hard people in it? It’s not an easy thing to change, it takes some real effort, but didn’t they know it could be changed? Didn’t they know those dark urges could be controlled and even used?

The boy had given him nothing but the idea of burnt toast between him and the seashore. Not much to glean from that, Taine thought. To learn more he’d have to feed, and that wasn’t something he’d be doing, not with an uncultivated and feral human. Still, he was curious.

“You about done?” asked the uncle. The aunt had turned away, and the uncle was glowering.

“Not by a long measure,” Taine said.

The uncle shook his head and waved Taine on. “Just get it over with,” he said.

Taine ran his hands across the boy’s chest and down his flat stomach. The boy’s breathing quickened as Taine fondled his cock, teasing it to life. It responded by thickening and rising, though maybe not as fast as it should. The boy never raised his head, never moved a muscle, he just stood there like Taine had every right to touch and use his body. Taine gave the balls a firm squeeze, and the boy tensed, rising on his toes a little, but he never once raised his arms, never once tried to defend himself. Good submissive spirit, Taine thought, that’ll be important if we’re gonna heal him up.

Taine took the boy by the shoulders and turned him around. He meant to plunge his finger into the boy, just to check for damages, and maybe make the boy’s cock grow up full-sized, but the two cheeks were crossed with welts, some fresh and still white where the switch had marked him recently. Maybe not born to it after all, Taine thought. Maybe all that submission was just beaten into him. No way they nurtured it, no way they cultivated it, not the way the Lowmen would have with such a delicate specimen as this one.

Taine considered the welts across the boy’s ass. There were older ones across his back, a few sores, in-growns and pimples across his shoulders; nothing that couldn’t be tended to, and probably should have been before they offered him. These people had no idea what they were doing, but that wasn’t a surprise either, was it?

Taine would’ve slipped his finger in right then, but by the scent of things they hadn’t cleaned him, so he traced his fingers along the welts on the boy’s ass instead, and then looked up at the uncle.

“Trouble maker?” Taine asked.

“No,” he said. “That’s just from his dailies.”

Taine nodded. “So, what’s your price?”

“Sixty,” the uncle said.

“Waste of time,” Taine said. He snorted and turned for the door.

“Sixty’s fair,” the uncle said, raising his chin. “More’-n-fair.”

“Yeah,” Taine said, “Not for that.”

“Now, don’t be disrespectful,” he said. “The boy’s family after all.”

Taine turned and looked the man squarely in the eyes.

“I’m interested, so you name me a real price and I’ll consider it,” Taine snapped, “but sixty is just plain fantasy.”

The man stepped close. That was a brave act, or maybe just a desperate one. Not many people dared approach a Lowman hunter, not with their alien looks and their reputation for violence. The solid black eyes and all that red flesh intimidated humans—something about their ancient myths. Still, Taine had gone to a great deal of trouble to make himself approachable to these backwaters, and now he wondered if maybe he’d done that a little too well.

“Boy sucks cock good as any,” the uncle said, keeping his voice low, as if keeping it from his wife.”He’s a good earner, and that backside’s got years of action left to it. I wouldn’t be selling if I didn’t need to, and I know you got your own expenses, so you tell me what’s fair.”

“Ten,” Taine said.

The man grimaced.

“Ten and you’re lucky to get it,” Taine said. “He’s nineteen, nearly twenty, easily a year past prime, and by my guess, he’s spent that time squaring up plenty of your debts. You’ve done nothing to develop him. By the time I’m done fixing what you’ve botched, I’ll be lucky to clear a slender profit. So that’s my offer, ten, or I’ll head over to Jenkins Creek where I hear there are a set of twins coming up prime.”

“I can’t take ten,” the man said, shaking his head. “I gotta have fifteen, and that’s a loss for me, Mister. I had him ten years under my roof. Fifteen don’t half cover it, but I’m willin’ to concede some, if you are. So there we are, it’s fifteen, or I’ll wish you a safe trip over to Jenkins Creek.”

Taine reached for the door handle, but hesitated. He thought about Shilandra, and what he had done to her. The memory returned, unbidden and heavy, like betrayal. He still had some of the boy’s scent with him, so he turned and looked back. The boy was standing there just about trembling—his head down, and face red, and his cock still jutting up. Would she even accept this one? He thought.

The boy was as lean a colt as Taine had ever seen, but the flavor of him showed promise. It’d take some work, bringing this one up, but there was something alluring about him—a hint of what might be found in him by skilled hands. He’d already found the boy’s name: Sunshine, and that was no small thing. Making him live up to that name, that’d be some hard work, and some expensive work as well, but if he did, if the boy did live up to that name, he’d be valuable well beyond his family’s reckoning of wealth, and well worth Taine’s time and investment. She’d recognize that at least, Taine thought.She’d see the value in him, wouldn’t she?

“I know I’m going to regret this,” Taine muttered. “You got his papers drawn up?”

“All but the price and date,” the man said smiling.

BuyLinks

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Amazon UK

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AboutTheAuthor

Jonah Bergan is a freelance writer living in New England. His publishing credits include a ten part serial, multiple short stories, and a collection of anecdotal humor. He has also published MMORPG game reviews and content, hypnosis scripts, online user manuals, and advertising texts. Please visit jonahbergan.com to learn more about him.

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Winner’s Prize: A Paperback copy of “Off-World”.

Runner-up’s Prize: An e-copy of “Off-World”.

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Because Two Men Are Better Than One

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EXCERPT: Blood Slave by Kathleen Collins

The zombie Pomeranian yipped at Nathaniel in between growling and tugging at the leg of his jeans. Juliana pulled her foot back to kick the creature away from her friend and made ready to bring her sword down on it as soon as it was clear.

“Don’t,” Nathaniel protested as he held up a still-clawed hand. “You might hurt it.”

Her brows arched up into her hairline. “That would be the general idea.” The thing growled again and she looked down at it where it was doing its utmost to gnaw a hole through Nathaniel’s jeans. And she wasn’t entirely sure it would stop when it got to skin. I realize you have a particu-lar kinship with all things canine, but it’s gnawing on your leg.”

“Just my jeans.” Now back in fully human form, he bent and disengaged the dog from the denim.

“Easy there, boy. Good dog.” When the Pomeranian continued to express its displeasure with the situation in general and Nathaniel in particular, he lifted the beast above his head, looked at it nose to nose and growled back. Evidently recognizing an alpha even in its altered state, the dog curled in on itself and whimpered before darting its tongue out to lick Nathaniel’s nose. Juliana grimaced. Zombie breath couldn’t be pretty.

“See, he doesn’t mean any harm,” her friend said as he tucked the abomination under one arm. Their scruffy brown hair made them look surprisingly similar.

She blinked at him in disbelief before taking another look at the creature in question. When she bent closer, it growled and she straightened with a huff. “She.”

“What?”

“She. Name tag says Fifi. Last time I checked that was a girl’s name.”

Nathaniel snorted in derision. “Fifi. What a prissy name.”

“Hate to break it to you, partner, but that is a prissy dog. And it smells like mold.”


Blood Slave

Realm Walker Series

Book 3

Kathleen Collins

 

Can she find a killer in a town where the basest desires are allowed to run free?

There are zombies in the Dead Zone and Juliana Norris is sent to take care of the problem. And for there to be zombies, there had to be bodies. When vampires are found to be the culprits, Juliana is sent undercover in the red light district of Kansas City. Lying to her mate, Thomas Kendrick, isn’t something she wants to do, but she’s in another vampire’s territory and Thomas would not be pleased. Besides, she’s more than capable of doing the job and she needs to prove it to everyone. Most of all herself.

Charles Morgan is in control of the Kansas City area, making a rich living off his various enterprises. Juliana goes undercover at the strip club Lust and gets sucked into his dark, decadent world. More victims turn up and the Agency is positive they’ve got their man, but Juliana is not so sure. When the Agency refuses to listen, she reluctantly turns to Thomas for help. He intervenes but finds Juliana unaware of the danger she is in and discovers she may just be too deep for him to save.


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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kathleen Collins lives and works in Missouri. By day, she labors in the local prosecutor’s office. At night she writes while surrounded by her husband, two boys and two loveable mutts. She is constantly thinking of her next project and loves to connect with her readers. You can fine her most often on Facebook or on her website.

www.Kathleencollins.net

@kathy_collins

www.facebook.com/kathleencollinsauthor

http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7191208.Kathleen_Collins

GUEST POST: Pest Peeves with Spencer Dryden | SWAG GIFT BASKET GIVEAWAY!

Hello, I’m Spencer Dryden, author of a new book, “The Memory Of Mermaids” published by Fireborn Publishers. It’s an action/fantasy/adventure about an ordinary guy living in the world today who rescues a mermaid from a sea monster and then….

I’m still pretty new to the writing life, if you can call living in a refrigerator box a life, but I’ve been at it long enough to develop a few pet peeves. Pardon me while I take a moment to vent. These are in no particular order but if the shoe fits wear it. Most of my rants have to do with social media where we all have to camp, building our platform.

I must confess one part of me is very envious of writers, who in addition to literary skills also poses graphic arts skills. I don’t know much, but I know a post that includes catchy graphics is more likely to be read. Moreover, I’m impressed by those writers who are avid readers and reviewers and maintain elaborate websites and blogs. Not me. I have a website but it’s an embarrassment. Blogging depletes my limited creative talent. Finally, there are those that can traverse Goodreads. I find it hard to navigate. I’m grateful for people who have added and reviewed my books. I’ve all but given up on Twitter, the noise is deafening me, me! ME! is all I hear. Facebook is the source of my biggest anguish. So here we go:

1) As writers in the modern era we all have to do platform building. Facebook is a big hang out for trying to gain some exposure. But friends, because of the Facebook algorithm everyone you friend is also a writer trying to gain attention. Sites are overloaded with promotion. I get that. I do some self-serving promotion but the thing that drives me crazy is the people who day after day, sometimes many times in the same, day put up the same promotional material. Dude, we get it, you managed to fit enough words together to have a book. Beating us on the head won’t make us want to read it. Why not take part in discussions, promote other writers, find something to lighten our day. Stop with the repeat button already.

2) Cryptic language for a small group of insiders. Do it in a group e-mail, Facebook is a public forum. It’s annoying. Stop it. Hit that button that limits who sees your posts.

3) Using the same promo over and over. Oh, I said that.

4) Reporting writers on violation of Facebook community standards. F’n’ trolls do this. If you’re subscribing to an adult site expect adult material. Unfriend the person but don’t report them, you are depriving someone of their livelihood and undermining their self confidence.

5) Some women seem to use Facebook trying to get over bad self image problems. They publish endless selfies seeking approval for their looks. Facebook is not a good place to try to cure deep seeded psychological problems. Go get therapy or join a private support group. Nothing anyone tells you on Facebook is going to make you feel pretty if you feel ugly inside.

6) Publishing the same promo material day after day. Is there an echo in here?

7) I’m sorry that creep broke your heart, but he was a creep. There are plenty of good men out there who would treat you with far more respect. Whining about it day in and day out wears thin. It’s important to go through grief but a public forum isn’t the right place. Once again, hit that button that limits shares. Get out of the virtual world and get out in the real world. You’ll find your true heart there.

8) I’m sorry about breast cancer, really, but if you are not aware of breast cancer by now you’re too stupid to live. More men die of prostate/ colon cancer than woman die of breast cancer. We need more awareness of men’s health issues because we are too stupid to live.

9) Memes that use false dichotomies, like I’m not a patriot unless I forward your poster. I am a patriot. I don’t need to prove it to you. Put your energy to work helping disabled veterans.

10) Did I mention how much I hate seeing the same promotional material day after day?

11) Trolls. Ladies, I’m sorry, trolls are everywhere. They are seriously diseased. It has to be unnerving to be trolled.  It’s nothing you did.  There seems to be no way to stop them. At the first sign inappropriate behavior block the bastard.

12) Too many 5 star reviews for a POS. Amazon has it faults worthy of an entire rant, but one thing they try to do is perform a service of accurately representing user experiences. I don’t know how many stories I’ve read, mostly by indie authors operating outside of any vetting mechanism, that somehow manage to get their book loaded with five star reviews when in fact, it’s a piece of crap. There are very few books worthy of five stars, including mine. (Some would say especially mine). When you line up a pile of friends to give five star reviews you’re cheating honest buyers and making the world more resistant to good evaluations. Seek honest reviews. It’s very revealing and will actually help you grow as a writer. I’m terrible at doing formal reviews so I don’t do to many. I won’t post a review unless I can honestly give the book three stars. For bad ratings I prefer to contact writers off line to tell them of my problems with their work.

13) I almost forgot. Posting the same promo material ad nauseam.

14) The endless invitations to ‘like’ pages and attend cover reveals.

I’ve done something a little different with “The Memory of Mermaids.” (Actually not me but my creative, energetic marketer Lori Blantin of Indigo Marketing) She created a Facebook give away page for me where we celebrate the inner mermaid with photos, musings and easy entry contests for mermaid theme bath products. Once in a while I throw in a promo for the book but it’s easy to ignore. You should come over and take a look.

Thanks for spending a few minutes with me. I know my host would be most grateful if you made a comment or asked a question.

Oh did I mention how much I hate seeing the same promo material every day? I finally unfriended that guy.

TITLE: The Memory of Mermaids

SERIES TITLE AND NUMBER:  N/A

PUBLISHER:  Fireborn Publishing

RELEASE DATE:  August 21, 2015

GENRE:  Fantasy

TAGS:  Action/Adventure, Romance, Comedy/Humor  

HEAT LEVEL: 2

PAIRING: Male/Female Mermaid

LENGTH: Novella

BOOK LINKS:

Fireborn Publishing – http://firebornpublishing.com/store/index.php?main_page=product_bookx_info&cPath=4&products_id=130

BLURB:

After he rescues a mermaid from a sea monster, Max Weiss falls into a world of pirate treasure, dolphin whisperers, murderous mobsters and a forbidden love.

Troubles multiply in the already-troubled life of Max Weiss after he rescues a mermaid from the clutches of a sea monster. Drawn by the allure of the enchanting mermaid, Azzaria, Max agrees to help her find her lost mermaid sister. Max is pulled into a world of missing drug money, pirate treasure, murderous mobsters, dolphin whisperers and a forbidden love.


AUTHOR BIO

Spencer Dryden is a new writer, but an old guy on the threshold of draining any reserves left in Medicare and Social Security.

In real life he is a handyman, an at-home dad, inventor and web videographer living a quiet life in the frozen tundra of Minnesota (USA).

Like all writers he has a cat but they don’t get along well. He can be found at the usual writer hangouts:

Facebook |Twitter |Goodreads |Email


GIVEAWAY

Rafflecopter Giveaway – Mermaids and Seashells Gift Basket valued at $100.00

Memory of Mermaids gift basket includes;

Seashell Gift Box that looks like a Book

Bamboo Fiber Bath Scrub

Mermaid Ornament

Mermaid window decal

Starfish Glass Soap Dish

Sea Clay Dry Body Scrub 5 ounce

Shimmering Mineral Bath 5 ounce

Soy Milk Bath scent Mermaid Dreams (2 standard tub uses or 1 garden tub size) scent Mermaid Dreams

Bath Melts (2 standard tub uses or 1 garden tub use)

Shimmer Body Powder scent Memory of Mermaids

Cocoa Butter Lip Balm – passion fruit

Organic Sugar Lip Scrub- passion fruit

Sea Urchin Massage Bar Soap

Mermaid Olive Oil Soap

Nautilus Soap

Conch Soap

Sand Dollar Soap

GUEST BLOG: Feast of Dreams by Christian A. Brown

A Remedy to Media Desensitization

After the Game of Thrones episode with Sansa’s ‘deflowering’, I decided that I needed to take a break from “gritty”, “edgy” programming. A cultural shift is happening and there seems to be nothing on the table that we cannot discuss or see anymore. I’m a strong supporter of the freedom of information, artistic-expression, and choice. That said, I worry—and personally suffer at times—from the overwhelming sensationalism that surrounds certain media. I understand why it is important to accurately portray violence and evil—I have often written divisive, dark material myself. Still, I feel that an over-immersion in this type of content separates us from the humanity that we need to objectively view and tackle rigid gender roles and issues of sexuality and violence. Live too long in the darkness and darkness is all you know. Sometimes it’s easier to just turn off my brain and watch something mindless, instead of having to worry about furthering—or dismantling—negative social constructs with the material I’m watching. I look to laugh. I look for something that doesn’t tax mind or morality.

A hearty serving of brain-pap was what I intended to feed myself when my partner and I flicked on Netflix the other night. While scrolling through our options, I saw a still of Jane Fonda grimacing at Lily Tomlin and was immediately intrigued. “Grace and Frankie,” their new show is called. I didn’t read the synopsis—I rarely do, even with books. I knew that there would be tomfoolery and hilarity with this duo. Grace and Frankie has a kind of magic to its casting and delivery that’s as rare and unexpected as the scent of vanilla while standing knee deep in a fly-buzzing quagmire of manure—my analogy on the current state of crass programming that gluts our media. I rarely, if ever, watch situation comedies. Only that’s not what Grace and Frankie is, entirely, and you realize that right from the opening sequence where all four of the major characters are introduced: Grace (Fonda), Frankie (Tomlin), Sol (Waterston), and Robert (Martin Sheen). The four are at a restaurant. First, only Grace and Frankie are present and we can sense their forced pleasantness around the other. They’re really only acquaintances on account of their husbands who work together. Said husbands, Robert and Sol, arrive for dinner; they’re nervous and fidgety. The men almost immediately come out to their wivesprofessing their love for one another. They have been involved in an affair for decades.

At this point, there are a number of ways in which a comedy tackling social issues of this depth—homosexuality, infidelity, trust—could go horribly off the rails. However, through the power of the performances and a passable script (which gets better as the show matures), the actors guide us through a great betrayal and shattering of relationships, and build something quite remarkable from the pieces. Reviews have been mixed on Grace and Frankie. I’ve read a few blurbs on the show’s ham-fisted characterizations but I’ve never found that to be the case. In the many episodes of Grace and Frankie that I’ve enjoyed, I’ve seen the show deal with addiction, ageism, unfulfilling sexual patterns, death, and of course all of the foibles and disasters that accompany the whole “our husbands are gay” quandary. I like how the writers and actors make less of a fuss about being gay and more of a fuss about the betrayal. That’s why people are usually angry when someone comes out—they think they should have known, they blame or project themselves into the situation. I enjoy how the show slowly paces the long process of healing between former partners, and interweaves that with the budding, beautiful friendship of the titular characters.

A show can’t do or be everything, and you can only impart so much wisdom through twenty minutes of comedic drama. I can forgive the show’s failing of not being life-altering satire. What Grace and Frankie does right, however, is to show human relationships at their most flawed and vulnerable, in a digestible way. You see, it doesn’t matter what the message is if people are too offended to heed it. Grace and Frankie shows people who have hope. It shows people who are old and still beautiful (inside and out). It has a number of lessons for us to learn if we are willing. Also, you get to see Fonda tripping balls on painkillers and peyote juice in the very first episode. That alone is worth the price of admission.

Most of all, I watch Grace and Frankie because I worry for a diet of the mind consisting solely of grim, dark gruel. Too much of one thing is never good. We need levity. We need thoughtful lightness in our emotional diet. A world fed only on Cersei’s machinations and Sansa’s cries makes for a starved and violent populace.


Feast of Dreams

Four Feasts Till Darkness

Book Two

Christian A. Brown

Genre: Fantasy Romance

Book Description:

As King Brutus licks his wounds and gathers new strength, two rival queens vow to destroy each other’s nations.

Lila of Eod, sliding into madness, risks everything in the search for a powerful relic, while Queen Gloriatrix threatens Eod with military might—including three monstrous technomagikal warships.

Far from this clash of queens, Morigan and the Wolf scour Alabion, hunting for the mad king’s hidden weakness. Their quest brings them face to face with their own pasts, their dark futures…and the Sisters Three themselves.

Unbeknownst to all, a third thread in Geadhain’s tapestry begins to move in the wastes of Mor’Khul. There, a father and son scavenge to survive as they travel south toward a new chapter in Geadhain history.

Available at Amazon Kindle and Paperback


EXCERPT

“Fine playing,” said Maggie.

The Silk Purse’s proprietor sat down at the table where the night’s entertainment fiddled with his lute’s strings. The bard glanced up and smiled at her with his eyes, although he kept on tinkering and tuning to the pitch of his voice. Maggie watched him for a spell. The man was mystifying. He was as distant as a dream one forgot and so far into himself, his music, or some secret obsession that she might as well have been elsewhere. He was certainly handsome, though, and in their short conversations today, he’d proven a capable and witty talker. She wanted a bit more of his talk.

“Will you be staying on another night?” she asked. “Before heading back to…”

She realized that in all their discussions, the man had never told her where he had come from—or where he was headed. Or much about himself at all. Even stranger, she couldn’t pin down how she’d made his acquaintance. Had he come knocking at the tavern door yesterday? Had he smiled a dashing hello with a lute over his back and a promise to play for coin? That seemed right.

“Would you like me to stay?” he asked suddenly.

He grinned from ear to ear and displayed his offer of companionship as confidently as the fox he reminded her of strutting around the henhouse and picking its prey. She could see him evaluating her body—her full breasts, strong hips, thick, wind-tossed hair, and comely face. She was as chipped and beautiful as a sculptor’s favorite piece. She wore her hardship plainly, but it had not dulled her beauty, and he seemed to appreciate her weathered self. As for the fox’s proposal, Maggie was a sensible self-made woman without need for a man. Once or maybe twice a year, she took one to her bed, but she never asked him to stay or even to break a morning fast with her. Whatever her hesitations, when the fox smiled—fiery and daring—she lit up and felt as warm as a woman sinking into a bath. A decision was made. A little outside of herself, she slid his hand over hers. She reinforced her agreement by standing up from the table and leading him past her tired staff as they cleaned up the night’s mess and rolled the drunks outside. The trip up the stairs and into her chambers was fuzzy. Suddenly, they were alone and kissing in the dark. He whispered of her beauty. “Like a cameo of Diasora,” he declared.

She wondered who Diasora was while he plucked his fingers upon and within her as though she were his lute. They tumbled into chairs, onto the carpet, and onto the bed. She wasn’t sure where they were half the time. She swallowed his hardness just as he ate and kissed the mouth between her thighs. Together they rolled and tumbled about in the dark and moaned in ecstasy. She rode him against the wall and swallowed his gasps as he spilled himself inside her. It was careless, and she should have known better. Apologetically and with a perverted grin, he cleaned out with his tongue what he had done, and passion carried her mind away again. Through the haze of their sex, she would remember his handsome smell—vanilla, subtle incense, and sweeter herbs such as marjoram. Sometimes he sang to her ears while playing the instrument of her body. She would most remember this—his passion and musicality.

When they finished, dawn had come. It cast its hard rays though the curtains and into their humid nest of sin. Maggie should have felt embarrassed or shamed even, but instead she snuggled into her lover’s taut flesh while he continued caressing her breasts. Milk drops, the bard called them, for their pendulous whiteness and succulence. She chuckled as he said it. She would have slapped any other man who made nicknames for portions of her anatomy.

“Where will you go?” she asked.

She knew this was a fleeting encounter. Men as artistic at loving as he were called to greater passions than women.

Alastair kissed her breast. “Well, I shall stay in Taroch’s Arm a while longer. I have another task to which I must attend. One more meeting after this.” He sighed and looked off with his multicolored stare to count the ceiling’s lines.

Maggie snuggled into him further until she realized what he’d admitted. “Wait! Meeting? Is that what this is? What is your aim?”

She leaped from the bed. Alastair went after her and backed her into a corner. He appeared stricken and white from regret. Rather brazenly, he kissed her so deeply she lost her breath. Although Maggie allowed it, she slapped him as soon as their lips parted. He grinned and rubbed his cheek. “What fire you have!” he said, adding sadly, “How much you remind me of a woman I once knew. Do understand. This is not how I had planned our parley. I am not ungrateful, though, for this turn of events. I would stay for a thousand kisses more if I could. However, my master is most demanding of my time.”

“Master?” she exclaimed.

“You are fortunate, Maggie. Most serve masters and destinies from which we cannot break. You have made so much of yourself without the hands of others. Despairingly, I must ask this of you. It’s a task you cannot refuse.”

I can, and I shall, she thought. No man, not even a roguish wanderer, could boss her around. Then the fox whispered a secret and those familiar names to her: Thackery, Caenith, Rowena, and Galivad. By the time he was done, she had no resolve to argue. She had only an unwanted urgency to pack, make quick arrangements for the Silk Purse’s managerial duties, and leave. She had no choice—not with so many lives at stake. While she busied herself about her apartment, the bard came to kiss her a final time, and they fell onto the bed. For all their grinding, they did not make love. Soon he stopped, studied her, and soaked in her beauty. Maggie closed her eyes. She would not watch him leave. When she was certain he had gone, she pulled her sturdiest boots from under her bed and put them on.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Bestselling author of the critically acclaimed Feast of Fates, Christian A. Brown received a Kirkus star in 2014 for the first novel in his genre-changing Four Feasts Till Darkness series. He has appeared on Newstalk 1010, AM640, Daytime Rogers, and Get Bold Today with LeGrande Green. He actively writes a blog about his mother’s journey with cancer and on gender issues in the media. A lover of the weird and wonderful, Brown considers himself an eccentric with a talent for cat-whispering.

Links:

http://christianadrianbrown.com

https://twitter.com/AuthorChrisAB

https://www.facebook.com/ChristianAdrianBrown

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8422242.Christian_A_Brown

https://plus.google.com/u/0/105782095673393074893/about

SPOTLIGHT: Intimate Fear by D.C. Stone | BOOK GIVEAWAY!

Intimate Fear

Empire Blue

Book Two

DC Stone

Genre: Romantic Suspense

Publisher: Evernight Publishing

Date of Publication: 06/19/15

ISBN: 978-1-77233-392-3

ASIN: B00ZZ7S9YW

Number of pages: 256

Word Count: 86,150

Cover Artist: Jay Aheer

Dwayne Gonzalez has always had a thing for the beautiful Brooke Mason, but she married another man, had his child, and started her life without him. Now, years and a divorce later, he’s still on the sidelines, yet in Brooke’s and her daughter, Hailey’s life, but not in the way he wants.

A drug investigation brings Dwayne on the front step of Brooke’s life. With his attention distracted, Hailey is kidnapped and engulfed in a human trafficking ring. Dwayne marches in and toes the line between the right side of the law, and in it, pursues his heart’s desire.


BUY IT HERE

Evernight     Amazon     Amazon UK

 

Amazon CA      ARe     Bookstrand


EXCERPT

Worried about Hailey, exhausted to the bone, and slightly swaying, Brooke clung to Dwayne, took strength from this solid, very real protector. She would have to be dead not to notice his firm body beneath her fingertips, the hardness of his chest pressed to her breasts, and the wicked, clean scent drifting from his skin. While they were no longer hugging, but more her clinging to him, she didn’t want to turn away, couldn’t find the power to do so. How easy would it have been to end up with this man? She’d caught the looks he had given her before. But that had all been in the past, a separate life for them both.

She had become a mother, someone who dedicated her entire being to making sure her daughter was well-rounded, cared for, and knowingly loved. Not only that, but she wasn’t a young pup any longer, and from the few women she’d seen Dwayne with, his type seemed to have a list of traits all very similar: young, perky breasts, tight asses, single, and free of major responsibilities.

His hand tightened on her back and she held her breath, waiting to see if he would push her away.

Just a few more minutes, please.

She needed him, this close contact with another being. It had been so damn long.

Hailey refused to slow down to cuddle on the couch as she had once done as a young girl. Her daughter had her own life now, one currently held in peril, but Brooke had faith they would find her. They had to. Failure wasn’t an option.

Dwayne trailed his hand up her back and pressed a palm to her head, his other arm tightening around her waist. She went with the direction, pressed her face into his warm neck, and breathed. His skin emitted heat rivaling the summer’s sun. She grasped the back of his suit jacket, wishing she could be closer. He shifted their bodies, and her aggravation spun to something else. His lips brushed her temple, and moist air fanned across the side of her face. He hovered there. So close, all she had to do was turn her face and take his mouth. She knew he would let her, too.

So near to him, starved for human contact, she wanted to get lost for a while. She trailed her nose along his neck, took another deep breath, and pressed closer.

He grumbled something unintelligible, the sound coming from his chest more than his mouth. His hand at her waist laid flat on the small of her back and urged her closer still.

The situation was moving fast out of control. Tendrils unraveled, but she was helpless to stop it. This strong male held her as if she were a treasure. He had the power and ability to make her forget everything, to make all the stresses and danger go away.

His hand slipped beneath the back of her shirt and made direct contact with her skin. They both hissed and his breath pushed her hair from her face. His cruel yet sensual mouth continued to drift in a teasing caress across her temple. She turned her head, like molasses on a cold day, up and toward him. Her lips tingled in anticipation, waiting for his kiss. She brushed her mouth across the line of his jaw, a hairsbreadth from his skin.

His heart thudded against hers, a matching hammer between their bodies, telling her he was just as affected. The hand at the back of her head tightened. She trailed the caress over his cheek; his lips were right there, centimeters away.

The rest of their surroundings faded. She didn’t know if it was because of this man drawing her absolute attention, or because of her exhaustion.

She touched the side of her mouth to his and thought she’d be prepared for the rush of desire.

She was so wrong.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

D.C. “Desi” Stone is a best-selling romance author and full-time fraud investigator. She lives in the northeast with her incredibly supporting husband, two kids, and the ever-growing family of cats.

After serving eight years of service with the United States Air Force, she went on to transition into the world of financial crimes and became a lead investigator for many years.

Reading has always been a passion of hers, getting lost in a good, steamy romance is one of her favorite past times. She soon after discovered her own love for writing and recreating stories and characters in her head. Her writing concentrates on romantic with specifics in paranormal, suspense, and erotica.

Now, when she isn’t trying to solve a new puzzle in the world of fraud, she is engulfed with coffee, her laptop, and all those crazy characters in her head. She is a member of the Romance Writers of America, Hudson Valley Romance Writers, New Jersey Romance Writers, RomVets, RWA Kiss of Death, and the Liberty State Fiction Writers. She served as the 2014 NJRW Vice President and Conference Chair. Come stop by on Facebook, Twitter, or her website and say hello!

Facebook PAGE: http://www.facebook.com/authorDCStone

Facebook PROFILE: http://www.facebook.com/dc.stone.92

Twitter: http://twitter.com/DCStoneauthor

Website: www.authordcstone.com


GIVEAWAY

 D. C. Stone is giving away 2 ebook copies of Intimate Fear and 5 ebook copies of Intimate Danger, book 1 in the series. Enter the giveaway through the rafflecopter.

GUEST BLOG by Renee N. Meland

THE FREEDOM IN GOING BACKWARDS

I had an epiphany the other day. It seems, at least for us artsy types, that we spend the first part of our adult lives figuring out how to go back to the way we were when we were five. I saw a similar post on a friend’s website the other day, so I know I’m not alone on this. When we’re five, everything seems achievable: being a writer, being an astronaut…whatever dream comes into our juvenile little heads, we see no reason why we can’t achieve it.

At what point were we told we were wrong about that?

Somewhere between age five and age thirty, our perspective gets all screwed up. I don’t know if it comes from the first bill we ever have to pay on our own, or the first relative who tells us, with a chuckle, “no really, what do you want to do with your life?” Either way, that five-year-old gets lost along the way.

And it takes a while to get them back.

Some people never do. Some people find themselves on their deathbed, thinking “yeah I never did write that story/paint that painting/build that house, but I sure met everyone else’s expectations of me.” It’s crazy that we were are most true selves before we even reached junior high.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to make a life for yourself, in whatever way that means. There are other dreams that come with being an adult that are also valid: wanting a house, wanting to be able to travel…these things are important too.

But somewhere along the line, it seems like we got the idea in our head that we had to choose. One or the other. House or art. Cruise or culture. What is it that makes us think we can’t have both? There never seems to be enough time in the day, but if you really want something, you’ll find a way to squeeze it in. And you may find that half-hour that you shove into your schedule is the best part of your day.

Five-Year-Old-Me told me that.


Burning Doors

The Extraction List Series

Book 2

Renee N. Meland

Genre: Science Fiction Thriller

Publisher: Limitless Publishing

Date of Publication: April 28th, 2015

ISBN: 9781680581119

ASIN: B00W7GV018

Number of pages: 164

Cain Foley committed his first murder before he could even drive a car…

Not that he would’ve had anywhere to drive to. When he was fifteen, America was one of the poorest countries in the world, and its’ citizens took their hatred of that fact out on each other through gangs and violence.

Children barely tall enough for carnival rides peppered the streets selling drugs (or themselves) so they could buy their next meal.

Every night on the news, Cain watched as an angelic blonde woman who lost her own child swore she’d end it…

She assaulted America’s televisions with praise for the Parental Morality Law: a set of rules that spells out exactly what it takes to be a parent in the eyes of the government, and the consequences of breaking those rules. He prayed every night that she’d come to rescue him before his father took off his belt again.

Before she could save him, Cain faced a fatal choice…

Fight back or die on the basement floor.

He chose life.

Now on the run, he finds himself being hunted by a police officer with his own special brand of torture. Before he can save even a handful of the children who have been swept up in the gang life, he must first cover up not one, but two murders. His father’s and one committed by a teenage madam who is either the love of his life, or his final undoing.

As he feels himself being pushed further and further to the edge, Cain realizes that surviving his father was just the beginning.

Available on Amazon  Kindle  Print


EXCERPT

The first time I killed someone, it was an accident. Though I guess it was the kind of accident that happens when you squeeze your hands around someone’s neck for too long, or when you shove someone who is standing too close to the edge of a building. In my case, I accidentally killed my father when I beat him to death with a pipe.

He had set me up that night, I’m sure of it. I was always careful to leave the TV volume down so I wouldn’t be caught. But when I flipped the power on that night, the news roared. The woman I wanted to see was there, giving a speech like always, but her voice came out with the force of thunder. Sweat drenched my body when I heard the door to my parents’ upstairs bedroom fly open and hit the wall. The foundation shook and so did my limbs. I sat frozen in a seated position as I heard his footsteps. All I could focus on were his shiny patent leather shoes coming toward me. Even in the middle of the night, he took the time to slip them on.

I could smell him before I even saw his feet. He constantly stunk of mouthwash and old cologne; it was some putrid mix of sandalwood and beach vacations that we would never take. He cackled as he stepped toward me, so the minty air from his breath reached me before his hand did. I felt my head hit the floor before I felt the familiar sting in my cheek.

“You’re so stupid. You really think you’ll ever leave here? Where do you think you’re going to go, huh? You need me. She hasn’t come for you and she never will!” He kicked me in the side with his foot.

My stomach clenched from the impact.

I usually kept quiet when he hit me. At most, I would agree with whatever he was saying to stop him before he did real damage.

It never worked.

No matter what I said, or didn’t say, the blows would keep coming. My mother was always conveniently upstairs, but no one can tell me she couldn’t hear the snap of his belt or the furniture rattle as he shoved me into it.

That night was different. Maybe it was watching the woman from the television, or maybe it was the way his smile stretched across his face as he struck me, I don’t know. But when he was finished and heading back upstairs, I spat towards him.

My cheeks burned as I did it. In fact, my whole body felt like it was on fire. But I’d be lying if I said I wished I could take it back. Even when he turned, eyes wide when he noticed the wad of saliva glistening on the concrete floor, I didn’t regret it one bit.

I may have even cracked a smile.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Renee N. Meland is an avid writer and reader of speculative fiction. She and her husband reside in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. When she is not writing or being a devoted doggy-mom, she is gardening or learning a new recipe.

She is currently working on the rest of the books in The Extraction List Series. Other upcoming projects involve reincarnation, and a house filled with people who all have something to hide.

Blog: https://reneenmeland.wordpress.com/

Twitter @reneenmeland

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8194285.Renee_N_Meland

Facebook:https://www.facebook.com/pages/Renee-N-Melands-Books/311899338826241

JUST DESSERTS by Gail Koger | GIVEAWAY $25 AMAZON GC

Do you like laugh out loud stories? Hot sex with a alpha male whose man parts are a teensy bit different? A heroine who isn’t afraid to kick alien butt?

Kaylee knew being a Coletti Warlord’s mate wasn’t going to be easy. Not only was Talree downright scary, he had a bossy streak a mile long and collected enemies like most men collected  lovers. But while Kaylee’s life might not be perfect, Talree truly loved her.

Flash forward nine months to a very pregnant, insanely hormonal and cranky as hell Kaylee. If the pregnancy wasn’t enough to drive her crazy, Talree’s enemies are tap dancing on her last nerve. The Shani Queen Mother, a psychotic alien with a bone to grind against Talree, decided she wanted the planet Tartum – a barren piece of crap loaded with Ditrum crystals, and part of the Coletti Empire. Her master plan? Kidnap Kaylee and hold her for ransom. If the Overlord refused to give the Queen Mother Tartum, she would feed Kaylee and her son to the Tai-Kok.

She thinks Kaylee will beg for mercy. Boy, is the alien bitch in for a surprise. She’s about to meet a woman suffering from hormone overload and a serious lack of chocolate. The only one begging for mercy will be the Queen Mother.

Want more? https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/363954-just-desserts


A BLURB FROM JUST DESSERTS

My name is Kaylee Jones. Chaos and disaster dog me where ever I go. I was nine months pregnant, hormonal, and cranky as hell when our ship was attacked. The Shani Queen Mother, a psycho alien bitch who looks like a crocodile mated with a python, decided she wanted the planet Tartum. This barren piece of shit is loaded with Ditrum crystals, and is part of the Coletti empire. Her master plan? Kidnap me and hold me for ransom. If the Overlord refused to give her Tartum, the Queen Mother would feed me and my son to the Tai-Kok.

The only one begging for mercy will be her. Paybacks are a bitch.


ABOUT GAIL KOGER

I was a 9-1-1 dispatcher for thirty-one years and to keep insanity at bay, I took up writing. Not to worry. The insanity isn’t catching – much. Other than the addiction to chocolate and the twitch in my left eye, I’m good. Next up in the Coletti Warlord series is Just Desserts. My current project is Catching Dragos, a paranormal romance.

Buy link: http://www.loose-id.com/authors/g-k/gail-koger.html  – Just Desserts will be released June 23rd.

Website: www.gailkoger.com

Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/Colettiwarlordbooks?fref=ts

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/1598719.Gail_Koger

Twitter: Askole


GIVEAWAY

Want to win a $25 Amazon GC from Gail Koger? Leave a comment with your e-mail! Winner will be selected two days after the post. Don’t forget to leave your e-mail, or you won’t be entered.

Writing a Zombie Apocalypse

Thanks to The Walking Dead the zombie-horror genre has been revitalized. Fans of George A. Ramiro (myself included) have been able to enjoy a slew of zombie novels, movies, games and comics. Zombies are, to put simply, the new vampire.

While the spike in the genre is great, we have to take it with a grain of salt. With more authors writing about zombies, that means we’re going to get our share of poorly written, ill-conceived, and unoriginal zombie stories. Everyone raise your hand if you’ve read a bad zombie book. (If you aren’t raising your hand right now, you’re lying!) It happens, and that’s okay. Because if there’s one night thing about a bad book, it’s that you can learn from it—you learn what not to do, and what to do.

While I worked on my Meteora Trilogy, I had to find a balance between classic, cliché, and original. I’m going to discuss some of the biggest issues in the zombie genre, how to avoid them, and provide some tips for creating your own original zombie novel.

Knowing Your Zombie 

You wouldn’t think you’d need to know a lot about zombies to write a zombie novel, but you’d be wrong! A zombie is still a mythical creature, just like the vampire, werewolf, or witch. It’s a good idea to know a bit on the history of zombies. There’s a long and complicated heritage to zombies, but the root of it comes from Haitian culture. Zombies were magically reanimated corpses. Over the years, the idea of a zombie has taken ahold of culture—this goes as far back as Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Hell, you could say farther, because zombie lore has been passed down for ages.

Why is this important? Because it helps you figure out where your zombies come from. Researching the different cultures and mythos for zombies will help you develop a more solid starting ground for your story. Maybe you want to go with a magically created. If that’s the case, how? Was it a necromancer? A voodoo priestess? You’ll need to research both of those. Or are you going the Ramiro route and having the undead rise up? That’s fine, but why are they coming back to life? Even if you never reveal it to your readers, you still need to know so you can write a more rounded story.

What King of Zombie? 

Now you need to decide what kind of zombie you have. There are so many kinds now, and you can put your own spin on each one.

Here are some basic zombies to consider:

  1. Traditional zombies – slow moving, rotting corpses (Ramiro)
  2. Running zombies – rotting corpses, but they run really fast. Could also be called rage zombies. (28 Days/Weeks Later)
  3. Cyber zombies – Cybernetically enhanced/revived corpses (Chronicles of Reddick, Mass Effect)
  4. Space zombies – Driven mad by the edges of space or altered by an alien borne contaminate (Firefly, Night of the Comet)
  5. Mutant zombies – Genetically altered corpses, possibly stronger, faster, and not looking like a human (Resident Evil, The Last of Us)
  6. Magic zombies – Brought back by voodoo magic or necromancy. (American Horror Story: Coven)

All of these have a root somewhere. Use them as a base to create your own zombie. Maybe you want to do running zombies in space, magically created space zombies, or mutated cyber zombies.

That Trope as Old as Time 

Try not to fall into the pitfall of writing a stereotypical zombie novel. An authoritative hero steps up when the zombies rise (for unknown reasons) and leads a band of misfits to survival. Too many stories have this same premise. Try putting an original spin on the idea. Why are they trying to survive? Is there someone else after them? Take an old idea and give it a new spin. We don’t need more copies of The Walking Dead. Look at Autumn by David Moody. We don’t know why the zombies happened. In fact, we barely get the zombies (until the end of the story). Instead we focus on three characters and how they handle the strange turn of events. We follow them from being with a large group, to splitting and going to fortify a home. There we watch how everything breaks them down, resulting in different decisions from each character that’ll have an effect on their survival. Moody took the basic plot and gave it a fresh twist by making it a character driven story instead of a plot driven one.

Keep it Consistent! 

The biggest issue with poorly written zombie novels is that they start with your basic zombie, don’t know where or why the undead are rising up, and fail to keep the story consistent. You’re traditional shambling zombies aren’t going to start running at you half way through the story. Whatever you do, keep your creatures consistent. It only frustrates the reader.

Understand the Human Body 

These are rotting corpses. I repeat, they are ROTTING corpses. Know how the human body works, understand the time period it takes to decompose, and consider all elemental/environmental factors. This will have an effect on your zombie. If it’s a few months into the apocalypse, unless they’re a newly turned, most likely that rotting body is starting to crumble. It means weak skulls (good for stabbing), decaying flesh, exposed/bleached bones, and so forth.

Stereotypical Authoritative Hero 

Everyone thinks that the main character needs to be another Rick Grimes. If they aren’t a sheriff/police officer/army man or some other authoritative figure, than the group won’t survive. Wrong! That trope is over used and dated. I’m not saying there doesn’t have to be a cop or military officer in your group, but he/she doesn’t need to be the leader or the main character. In my Meteora Trilogy, the main characters are your average Joes: two book store employees, a pharmacist, and college student. Yes, during their travels they encounter the military, but I never make those characters the focus.

Survival of the Fittest

This is, at the heart, a survival story. Whatever your cause of an outbreak is, in the end (unless you’re writing from the zombie’s POV), it’s about survival. Another big issue with poorly constructed zombie stories is that the characters make poor decisions. Talk to any friends that are into camping or are survivalists, browse forums, talk to forest rangers, and read survival books. You’ll need to gather a lot of information in order to create a realistic and accurate story. I spent hours looking at maps and talking to people about scenarios, supplies, and other factors. Even the smallest minute detail can alter a story. Things to consider:

  1. How far into the apocalypse are they? If months, are the characters keeping bug out kits and supplies?
  2. Can anyone shoot a gun? Do you know about guns?
  3. What’s the weather/temperature/environment like?
  4. Where are they going? Would main roads or back roads be safer?
  5. What injuries and diseases can they get?
  6. What assets do the characters provide to the group? Can someone heal? Can someone hunt? If they’re dead weight, are they really important to the story (other than being dead weight, because then they need to GTFO.)
  7. What other threats are out there (beyond zombies)?

 

Making it Realistic 

I understand this is a zombie novel, and some form of suspended belief is required. That doesn’t mean you can just slack off and expect your readers to swallow every load of crap you serve them. Your characters should react to situations realistically. If they’ve never shot a gun before, they shouldn’t immediately be able to handle a shot gun. If you don’t have a medically trained character, they shouldn’t be able to become the doctor of the group.  Know the process for government response to this situation. Do your research! I cannot stress this enough!

Outside Threats 

There is more danger than just zombies. Consider all possible factors, such as bandits, wild animals, cannibals, poor weather, environmental hazards, wounds/illness, government, and religious zealots. All of these can kill your characters. Zombies aren’t the only thing we’re going to be surviving. So don’t be afraid to weave in other situations to help round out your story.

Well Rounded Characters 

Too much is depended on the main character. Unless your character is by themselves, make sure all your characters are well rounded. Put as much thought in your secondary characters as your main.

Incorporating Other Genres

Want to add some romance to your story or mystery? That’s great. In Meteora Trilogy I combine both romantic erotica and horror (crazy, I know). The key is finding a realistic balance. At the heart, I knew the story was a zombie survival story. So I made sure to keep that the main focus. The secondary plot was the story of how my three main characters (Sawyer, Jesse, and Topher) become an item and how the zombie apocalypse tests their unique relationship. I put them through a gamut of problems, from jealousy, to outside threats, to difficult ethical decisions. I never let one thing overshadow the other, balancing the sex, relationship drama, and zombie survival.

Do not, I repeat do not, turn your zombie survival into a soap opera. It’s okay to have some drama (because realistically, life exists beyond surviving and shit will happen), but it gets really annoying if that’s the main focus. Your readers came to read about undead corpses eating people, not about whether Dick likes Becky or Jane.

 

Don’t Lie to Your Readers

This is important. Don’t lead your readers to believe one thing and then change it. This applies to the zombies, to the characters, to everything. I read one zombie novel and I was really angry (to the point of not finishing the story) because I was led to believe one thing about a character, and then halfway through the book the author decided to reveal something entirely different for plot convenience. It was cheap and lazy writing.

Suspense vs Action vs Gore

All of these three elements equals a great zombie novel. Find a balance between the three. Sometimes it’s scary not to see the zombies. Describe hearing them, having them scratch walls and beat against doors. Describe the solid darkness or emptiness. Use the senses to help create an atmosphere that has your reader’s spine tingling. Then, after you’ve scared the beejeebus out of them, bring in the zombies and start splitting heads.

Hopefully these tips will help you in crafting the perfect zombie story. In the end it’s just about putting in the effort and work. You do your research, you think things out, and you stay true to yourself and your readers, and you’ll create an original and amazing story.

Fighting Guide

Fight scenes are really fun to write, and if done right, can really make a story shine. I’ve talked to a lot people about how they have issues writing action sequences, so I figured I’d do a little guide on how to write a fight/action scene. Now remember, this isn’t necessarily the only way, but these are a few things I do when writing some of mine. The first thing to remember is that action scenes need to be fast and flow succinctly.  One action needs to move into the next, without breaking stride. Imagine every battle scene you’ve seen in a movie. There isn’t a pause to take in the scenery, you’re moving from one moment to the next, caught on the edge of your seat. You want to give this same effect to your readers.

Keep It Real

It doesn’t matter if it’s a street fight, a boxing match, an epic battle with swords and sorcery, or war; you need to keep it real. A street fight doesn’t last long. Typically a person gets in a few good hits and then it’s over, equaling to maybe ten or thirty seconds of actual fight time. Boxing matches have clocks, so if someone doesn’t KO within the time limit, the bell strikes. War is gritty, and ten minutes can feel like three days. Consider what kind of fight is going to happen and make sure you don’t extend beyond that. Readers will get bored if it lasts too long. Most fight scenes should only be a few paragraphs, unless they’re intense battles. Like sex scenes, you don’t want to drag it out for a hundred pages. Dragon Ball Z can get away with it, but you can’t.

Short and Sweet

Short and sweet is the way to go, both for length of the fight and your sentences. To make the action seem fast pace, it’s better to use less. This isn’t the time to use long descriptive sentences. Keep them brief, broken up, and with only what needs to be told. Don’t stop to describe eye color or the way someone’s hair moves. Don’t give descriptions on how the trees move. We’re getting this through one of your character’s POVs, and they wouldn’t be noticing any of that. So only give us what they would see. When describing the actual actions, such as a fight move or a chase, use short sentences to describe the movements. It’s not about the description, but about getting the feeling of the action its self. You want to make your reader feel like they’re in the fight.

Use Action Phrases

Remember to use a variety of bold adjectives. The wrong word can completely ruin a scene. So take your time to consider what is going on at the moment. Instead of saying “William ran around the corner” try “William sprinted around the corner” or “William bolted around the corner”.  It gives it more of a sense of urgency, which is key in building up tension. You want to have your readers on the edge of their seats, anxious to turn the page.

Nail Biting Tension

Like horror, you want to build up the tension. Will he win the fight? Will she kill him? Will they succeed? Utilize action phrases, sentence structures, and pacing to slather on that tension. The fun part about fight scenes is that you don’t know where they’ll go. This creates a page turner, which is the exact thing you want.

The Devil’s in the Details

I know I said details don’t matter, and for the most part they don’t; but certain details do. Pay attention to your word choices and what you do describe. Details like specific moves, spells, or body parts shouldn’t be confused or messed up. If you say a character is struck in their solar plexus, make sure that’s what you really mean. Also give an accurate response to an attack or situation. A throat punch is going to do a lot of damage, leaving a character choked, winded, and disabled for a few seconds. Research weapons and locations before you write. Don’t confuse a short sword with a broad sword, or an M16 with an AK-47.

Know Your Target Audience

Who you’re writing for really matters when adding a fight scene. Not only for what kind fighting and choices characters do and make, but also for gore factor. Middle Aged and Young Adult novels may not be heavy on the splattered brains. A romance novel could have a brawl or car chase scene, but maybe you won’t stop to describe how Bad Guy A’s organs glistened as they spilled from his split belly. Research the genre and target audience, that way when it comes time to write, you can make an accurate and responsible judgment call on what’s appropriate for your novel and what isn’t.