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Short Journeys

I have talked about short stories before and how important they have been to me on this journey to become ‘real writer’… that makes me think of Pinocchio I want to be a real boy… 

I think, all too often, we tend to overlook the short story form, assuming that the real success and I guess therefore the real creativity and even the real money is to be made from the novel that becomes the bestseller that becomes the Hollywood blockbuster… and so on. But short stories have also been made into movies you know. And besides, not all short stories want to grow up to be movies, do they?

I always talk about how I ‘cut my teeth’ as a writer working on the short form, and how important this was for me in terms of developing my style and honing my craft and I have spurts now of still writing short stories and sending them out. When I did that earlier this year I had three successes and two of those placements has resulted in a publication; one of which is now available to pre-order, I was runner-up! So I thought I would share a short extract of that as a teaser with some links…

Thinking in Circles

In order to understand something, we must exist outside it.
We are all made of numbers.
Aged 13, Size 8 shoes, Form 5, the 14.35.
We are all on a journey to somewhere from somewhere else with
our eyes half-closed.
And sometimes we get stuck.

You are standing there. Head tucked down; reminds me of a
penguin. The strap of your big blue school bag cuts across your blazer
and it’s as if there’s a thread attaching your head to your shoes. Not
shiny new shoes. These are scuffed, end of term Clark’s one-size-too-small
shoes; they didn’t buy new shoes. Because of what happened
over the summer.
It’s the thing – the thing no one will want to talk about – but they
will talk about it. They’ll whisper. They’ll pretend they’re not talking
about it.
People say bad news is always better when it happens to
somebody else but even when it happens to somebody else,
sometimes it’s happening to you.
You shuffle last year’s shoes to the front; to the desk you used
last year. And the year before. And the year before that. Soon they’ll
all come in and sit where they always sit and nobody will ask. But
they’ll all know.

They’ll all know because it was in the Echo. It was in the Echo
over the summer. Shock had filled up the kitchen: a line of uttered
Oh Gods.
In the sound you were sure you heard something break.
Not like a snap. Not like an ornament shattering into a million
pieces. Not like that. And not like the jolt of something stopping
suddenly, because that happens all at once. This was like a slow
unpicking along the seams.
It happened because of what happened over the summer. It
happened to your dad when he went quietly mad and your nan had to
move in.
It was in the Echo. Everyone knows. About the thing – not your
dad going quietly mad, or your nan moving in. About the thing. The
thing that happened over the summer.

The train left London at 14.35. The name on the front said
Southend Victoria…

© Debz Hobbs-Wyatt 2017, With Our Eyes Open, Published by Bausse Books October 15 2017

The book is available now for pre-order as an eBook and a paper version will follow in tine for Christmas! I will share the link again!

With Our Eyes Open

Order me…

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Who Will Be My Friend?

Dreams never die and my dad is a testament to that! Some of you will know he is a Walt Disney artist (one of only a couple back when he started approved to work for Disney) and has illustrated many children’s books and comics over the years. He was a co-creator of the BBC’s Poddington Peas when he brought Paul Needs’s characters to life, some of you might remember.

I worked with him when my little press published The Jet-Set books at Paws n Claws for Born Free helping him to realise the dream of writing as well as illustrating his own characters.

Well I am thrilled to announce that he had another picture book of his illustrations and stories published this month by Chapeltown Books and how lovely this is for its illustrations and beautiful message that in today’s political climate is just what we need.

 

Who Will Be

The book is available on Amazon; here is the UK link! Dad will be doing talks in schools and has some planned at local libraries next month; this Saturday in Benfleet!

Do please spread the word… Dad taught me that age is no limit and if you have a dream… never give up!

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Opening Windows With The Short Story Form

After some twenty short stories being published in collections since 2008, the biggest feeling of accomplishment came when my debut novel While No One Was Watching was finally published in 2013, nine years and one MA after deciding to be a serious writer. It was  finally something all in my name and the thing I had been working towards. But it would not have happened without the short story. This is why I have a lot to thank it for and why I still write short stories; although fewer now, there are still some out there trying their luck and still ideas I can’t wait to develop.

The short story form for me is this perfect thing; if you get the voice right; deepen the characters enough and capture life in those few words you can shape the story into something that didn’t exist before — and within a relatively short space of time. It’s incredibly satisfying.

I am probably most proud of three short stories (so far including the one I’ve just written, right?) — the first one ever to be good enough to be published in 2008 and that was Jigsaw. I was in the middle of working on a novel (with a lot to learn about writing) when this child’s voice entered my head and I was compelled to write it. I was nothing like anything I’d written before and I was thrilled when Bridge House Publishing (who I didn’t work for back then) chose it and it inspired the cover. What a feeling that was.

A string of success later (and rejections naturally) I wrote something while studying for my MA, but not as an assignment as an experiment in contemporary story-telling and that was The Theory Of Circles, which I have talked about here before. The faceless/genderless voyeur social media obsessed narrator in a story reporting on the goings-on on a crescent in a nameless place; but reading backward the way you scroll blogs. But of course, I had to make certain it still flowed forward for the reader in terms of story. Quite a challenge. I knew conventional publishers and competitions would pass on it but had been seeing a lot about innovative short story publisher Unthank Books. So I targeted them and waited.That wait was rewarded and the story was published in Unthology 3 back in 2012. I was even more thrilled when the publisher nominated the story for the prestigious US Pushcart Prize.

So more short story successes later ( a few short lists and anthology acceptances), between the novel writing and I saw Learning to Fly win the Bath Short Story Award; another young voice, but an important theme, coping with grief but with humour.  This story, with some autobiographical elements, is one I was so proud of — so did the dance when it won! I celebrated that night at a Bon Jovi concert and wow. They even had a tea-party in my honour in Bath (not Bon Jovi!) but the lovely ladies at the Bath Short Story Award.

Of course amongst these stories are some yet to find homes and others that made it onto prestigious short lists that I hope will find homes: namely Mirror Image that I long to adapt into a novel (short listed in the Aeon Prize in 2010) and Chutney that was short listed in the Commonwealth Short Story Prize 2013 and is the current work in progress having been adapted into a novel.

While No One Was Watching as you may also know was adapted from a short story.

So it’s clear how important short story writing has been for me, in three key ways: the first in teaching me how to write, to experiment, to develop and to grow (and you learn faster and get the satisfaction faster with this shorter form). The second  being that some short stories get bigger and inspire development into a novel. And thirdly, the more I write them, it seems the more the ideas fall from the sky. So ideas seem to be around me all the time and some get scribbled on bits of note paper… and when I am between drafts of novels beg to be written. Once I finish Chutney I plan to write a few more.

When I was thinking about moving back to my home town over the past two or three years I wrote ny first short story set on Canvey Island about a group pf friends meeting at Canvey sea wall after the wake of one of their friends, Adam. I called it Open Windows; which has more than one meaning, but the main theme is making the time for people while you still can. Something happened to Adam when he was thirteen and he got stuck. He is the real boy who never grew up.

The story was selected for another Unthank books Unthology and I got to hold a hot off the press copy in my hands yesterday! Don’t you love the smell of fresh ink! This book is officially released on June 20th. There will be copies at the London Short Story Festival Unthology event that I plan to pop along to and say hi to the lovely Ashley and Robin. And its official launch event is June 25th in Norwich where I, and others, will be giving readings.

While this might be something like publication success number 20, or 21 (which is an odd but humbling thing and to lose count!), and it might be that we all strive for that next novel success (and trust me I do) but we must never negate any success, and to be alongside such a calibre of writers in Unthology 7 is indeed a thing to feel very humble about and feel very grateful for. I am immensely proud to be in another of their collections. Thanks for choosing it Unthank Books.

I will post a small excerpt of Open Windows tomorrow.

Wave your banner BIG and PROUD for the short story form, and thank the publishers for keeping the stories out there…

Happy Wednesday folks!

I hope to invite some of the other unthologists onto the blog to talk about their writing and their stories, so watch this space… and there will be photos and a post about the launch of course!

Unthology 7 coverOrder from Amazon, release date June 20…

Yay!

Yay!

 

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In The Spotlight, Guest Blog by Writer Lauren Scharhag

I have a special guest in the spotlight for you this week folks… please give a big warm welcome to Lauren Scharhag who kindly had me as a guest on her blog at the end of last year and she agreed to come over to mine! Thanks Lauren!

 

spotlightoj-md

 

Lauren Scharhag is a writer of fiction and poetry.  Her titles include such works as Under Julia, The Winter Prince, and West Side Girl & Other Poems. Her work has appeared in The SNReview, The Rockhurst ReviewInfectus, and Glass: A Journal of Poetry. She is the recipient of the Gerard Manley Hopkins Award for poetry and a fellowship from Rockhurst University for fiction. A lifetime resident of Kansas City, MO, she currently lives in the Waldo area with her husband and three cats.

Lauren Scharhag

 

Have you always wanted to be a published writer? Tell us something about your path to having your first book/story published.

I wouldn’t say I’ve always ‘wanted’ to be a writer.  It was something I’ve always been.  For me, it’s more like a vocation, a calling.  My whole life, I’ve always loved reading.  From a young age, I kept journals.  I wrote stories and poems.  When I was thirteen, I started writing for the Kansas City Star’s teen section.  That same year, I wrote my first novel (which was very awful and will never see the light of day).  I completed my second novel by the time I was seventeen (only marginally less awful).  I studied literature in high school and college.  In 2005, I wrote a script for a small independent production company here in town.  But I don’t feel like I really hit my stride till just a few years ago, where I can actually look back on some of the stuff I’ve done and feel something other than embarrassment.

Did that journey involve an agent? If not did you try to get one? Any advice about that?

I did get an agent with my second novel.  In my experience, it didn’t work out.  They shopped my work around for two years to the publishing houses and nothing ever came of it.  Since then, whenever I’ve tried to submit novels, I always try agents first, then publishers.  Again, that has never worked out for me.

I tried submitting my third novel, Under Julia, a few years ago.  I had eight different agents and publishing houses extremely interested, but ultimately they found the work too dark, too controversial.  They said, “Send us your next work.”  Like it’s just so easy to whip something out!

At that point, I decided I was done with submitting.  I have somewhere around 600 rejection letters, both in a filing cabinet and in a folder on my email account.  I mean, how much rejection is enough?  I decided it was time to get back to my roots—why had I ever started writing in the first place?

Because I can’t not do it.  I can’t tell you how much happier and more productive I was when I remembered I wasn’t writing to please the publishing industry, but myself.  Then, whaddaya know?  A publishing house in the UK found me on Twitter and asked me to submit some work.  I sent them a vampire novella.  They liked it and asked if I would consider turning it into a novel or even a series.  I’ve since signed a contract with Kensington Gore for a horror trilogy.  So I guess my advice is, you have to find what works for you.  We all have to forge our own paths.

I don’t believe agents or even publishing houses are the only path to success anymore.  Do they make things easier?  I’m sure they do.  But I believe it’s possible for a determined author to self-publish, self-market and ultimately become successful without them.  And you gotta ask yourself, who are you doing this for?

Do or did you ever belong to a writing group? Crit group? Did you ever have someone professionally critique your work before first submitting? Or do you have friends or anyone else who sees it before you send it off? Has that changed since you became a ‘successful author’?

Sure, I’ve always hung with other writers.  In high school, three of my best friends were literary.  We’d read and critique each other’s work.  For many years, I belonged to an online community called Sharepoetry and became very close to a lot of the people there.

Currently, I co-author a scifi/fantasy series with my friend, Coyote Kishpaugh.  He’s now my main go-to for professional advice and feedback.  My husband is not a writer, but he’s a very insightful reader—he’s usually the one who gets to read the first draft of something.  I’m sure those two guys will continue to be my main critics for years to come.

Over the past year, I have also become very active in the local literary scene.  Kansas City has a lot of groups and organizations that are very helpful and supportive, like the Writers Place and the Uptown Arts Bar.  I have always felt that connecting with other writers not only improves your work, but provides a constant source of inspiration.

Who did you first tell when you heard your first book had been accepted?

In order: my husband, my co-author, my mom, then Facebookland.

What happened next? Can you tell us something about working with an editor? How important is that to you now – is there a lot of discussion and does the editor make a real difference to your work?

I haven’t come to that stage yet.  I’ll have to let you know.

Tell us something about your writing day, routine.

For me, it’s kind of different for each book, especially as I write across multiple genres.  I tend to do all my research on the front end, and come up with a broad outline that still leaves plenty of room for improvisation.  I really love it when the characters hijack the story and do things that surprise me.

Whatever I’m working on, I like to immerse myself in that topic or genre.  I watch movies and documentaries related to it, I read books on the subject.  I want to dream about it when I go to sleep.  Right now, since I’m working on a horror trilogy, I always light a candle for atmosphere.  I’m writing it longhand in a notebook.  I also have an hourglass that I use to keep track of time.  After an hour, I like to get up and move around.  That’s something I always do—I always need to pace when I write.  My husband calls it my “stomping time.”

When my co-author and I are working, we have a set schedule—every Friday night, almost without exception.  We’ve been doing that for eight years now.  He usually gets here about five, then we write until dawn, pausing only occasionally for snacks.  We record our sessions so we don’t miss anything.

What or who inspires you most? Any particular people, authors, books?

I’ve always been a passionate reader, as I mentioned, so plenty of books and authors would be on my list: Watership Down, Lolita, The Dark Tower series, The Road; anything by Charles Bukowski, T.S. Eliot and Sylvia Plath.  I’m also a big TV and movie geek, so a lot of visual media has influenced me as well.  Tarantino films, The Dark Crystal, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Sopranos, The Twilight Zone, cartoons—these are some of my go-tos for inspiration.  Writers have to think of big pictures and grand schemes, but we have to be concerned with the details, too.  I think that we have to be interested in everything.  Anything that involves language involves us.

Music is another big source of inspiration.  I like all genres—rock, rap, country, classical, you name it.

I usually listen to music before I write to get into a particular mood, but when I start writing, I either turn it down very low or turn it off.  I also soundtrack my stories.

Why do you write? (Now that’s the question!) What do you want your stories to do?

I write because I must.  In the movie, Frida, when Frida goes to ask Diego Rivera if he thinks she can be a painter, he says, “If you are a painter, you will paint.  You’ll paint until you die.  Okay?”  That’s how I feel about writing.

As for what I want my stories to do—I’m very interested in people.  I want readers to connect with the characters—I want them to see themselves and people they know.  I want to introduce them to people they’d never associate with in real life.  For me, writing is the chance to be a thousand people.  I want to give the reader that same experience.

I’m also a worshipper of language, so I want the prose to be beautiful and lyrical, yet clear and authentic.

How much marketing have you had to do, even with a big publisher? How comfortable are you with self-promotion?

I’m not with a big publisher, so I expect I will have to do at least as much as I am now—playing the social media game, blogging, seeking out reviews and interviews, that sort of thing.  On my own, I’ve done a few literary festivals.  I’m hoping working with a publisher will mean expanding into doing more events—book signings, conventions, all that good stuff.  I’m getting more comfortable with self-promotion, as long as the focus is on the work and not me.

Tell us about the latest published book …

The first book hasn’t been published yet.  I signed the contract based on the short story, which I can tell you about.  The story was inspired by a vampire walking tour I took in the French Quarter in New Orleans.  It takes place in 1909.  A young schoolteacher gets a job at a Catholic girls’ boarding school only to find out that her students are not what they seem.  The short story was called, “Our Miss Engel.”  The series is going to be called The Amaranth Trilogy.

The publisher and I are discussing a contract for The Order of the Four Sons series, which I co-author with Coyote.  O4S is about two ancient organizations, the Order of the Four Sons (of course), and Starry Wisdom, who have been battling for centuries for possession of a powerful artifact known as the Staff of Solomon.  Whoever has possession of the staff can rip open the very fabric of existence.  We’ve written and self-published Books I-III.  The fourth and final book is about a year away from completion.

Blog: http://www.laurenscharhag.blogspot.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/laurenscharhag

Twitter: @laurenscharhag

What next? Tell us about work in progress and aspirations. Where do you see yourself in ten years’ time?

Next, I finish Book I of the horror series and get it out the door.  I’m hoping to have it done by fall.

Coyote and I are working hard on Book IV.  As I mentioned, I think we’re still about a year away from having it done.

In ten years’ time—I haven’t the faintest idea.  There’s a saying, “Announcing your plans is a good way to hear God laugh.”  I’ve learned not to plan too far ahead.  I can tell you that I have a lot of stories and poems in me, and I just hope that I have enough time to get some of them out.

Tell us something random about you for the pure hell of it

I just found out recently I have a second spleen.  It really doesn’t mean anything except it confuses doctors whenever they have to do an abdominal scan.

Which of your characters would you most like to be friends with and why?

Christophe and Leopold from Where Flap the Tatters of the King (O4S: Book III).  Basically, they’re everything I admire in people: brilliant, kind, witty, resourceful, generous.  They’re lifelong best friends, the sort of friends I’d want to have—loyal and courageous.  Also, they can use magic.

Finally: can we post an extract of your latest published book?

From The Order of the Four Sons series, I will share an excerpt from the latest book, Where Flap the Tatters of the King. 

 

When they sat out again, it was still snowing heavily.  They were exhausted and running low on stores.  They had no choice but to take a detour.

The town was much larger and more crowded than the previous.  The basic design and sensibilities were quite similar, though: row houses, shoppe fronts, a pretty little square.

At the inn, they dismounted, and, as usual, JD took the horses around back.

“How are we paying for this?” Bill whispered.  “I thought we spent all our money on the horses.”

“Not to worry,” Clayton replied.  “It’s all under control.”

Murphy opened the inn door with a bow.  “Ladies.”  As they passed him, he gave a contented sigh.  “Blond, brunette and a redhead.  Like flavors of ice cream.”  All three turned and gave him the exact same look simultaneously, and he grinned.  “I must’ve done something right in a past life.  I can’t imagine what it might’ve been . . .”

“Thank you, Mr. Murphy.  That will do,” Clayton said with good-natured tolerance.

This inn, like the one before, had a tavern.  It was quite packed.  And loud.  Several card games were in progress as they entered the room.  A young woman bustled in and out among the tables, serving drinks and the occasional plate of food.  The air was thick with the scent of cigars.  Overhead, the rafters were lost in a haze of smoke.  Beneath their feet, the stone floor was sticky with spilled drinks and littered with ashes and butts.  There were two more women in the tavern.  One was at the bar, the other sitting in a man’s lap, her arms around his neck.  Both women wore surprisingly plain dresses, very short in front, the hem stopping well above the knees, putting their fine stockings and garters on display.  The stockings were quite eye-catching, in fact—one pair striped red and white, the other woman’s black with rainbow-colored sequins.

The roar of conversation lessened only slightly when the team gathered in the entryway.

The proprietor, a surly-looking man perched on a stool behind the counter, said, “Your pardon, my lord, but this is a modest establishment.  I am sure you are accustomed to far better.”

Clayton glanced around.  “Have you rooms to let?”

“We have.”

“Then I’m sure they’ll suit us just fine.  We’ve been on the road for some time.  Two rooms for the night, please.”  Glancing at Bill and Emily, Clayton quickly amended, “Better make that three.”

Emily smiled gratefully, and beside her, Bill was in no way displeased, but his eyebrows shot up at the extravagance.

The man bowed.  “As my lord wishes.”

As Clayton signed the book and collected their keys, JD came in from stabling the horses.  There was a second, more pronounced lull in conversation, and some men even turned to take in the Carcosan.

JD scanned the room and quickly zeroed in on the poker tables.  One table in particular, the fellas there were taking their cards real serious.  Real serious.  And that meant serious stakes.  He glanced over at the kid.  She had been standing behind Clayton, looking out over the bar area.  When JD came in, she turned to him expectantly.

The slightest of nods passed between them.  JD approached Clayton.  “Game goin’ on.”

Clayton handed him the small pouch with their remaining funds with the attitude of a man who never had to count such things.  “You may indulge yourself.”

JD took the bag with a nod and a “My lord,” and while Clayton finished arranging some supper and a table, threaded his way to the high-stakes table.

Alyssa, having shed her coat and gloves, wandered over to some chairs by the fire, where a gentleman gladly gave up his seat so she could warm herself.

JD tipped his hat to the card players.  “Evenin’.”

They did not return the greeting, but eyed him guardedly.

“I wonder if you fellas might wanna deal me in?”

One of the men tapped ash from his cigar.  “Do they play Blind Prophet in Carcosa?” he inquired.

“Can’t say as they do,” the Colonel said genially.  “But I reckon I can keep up.”

The men looked amused.  “Very well,” one said.  “If you have stakes, you are welcome to join us.”

JD tossed the bag of coins on the table and took a seat facing the kid.  Her chair was turned so that he could see her profile.  She did not look at him.

They dealt him eight cards.

 

* * * * *

 

Murphy, Clayton and Emily sat down at a table while Bill and Kate took the luggage upstairs.  The barmaid brought them a pot of tea, then went back to the kitchen to fetch plates of food.  As Murphy took a sip, the woman with the spangled tights approached.  “Pardon me, monsieur.  Would you care for company?”

Clearing his throat, Murphy set down his cup.  “Thanks, but I’m good.”

“You don’t have to say no on my account,” Emily said sweetly.

“Gosh, Em,” Murphy rubbed the back of his neck.  “I appreciate that.  But no.”

“Are you sure?” the woman raised her eyes to Clayton’s.  “The nights are so terribly cold.”

Clayton shook his head.  “Thank you, mademoiselle.  But we’ve had a very difficult journey.  We require sleep more than company.”

“Well, if my lord should find himself in need of my services, you have but to ring.  Monsieur Danaeus knows where to find me,” she nodded to the innkeep.  And with that, she sauntered off.  They saw that her skirt was longer in the back, the dark silk falling like water around her derriere.

Murphy gave Emily a look.  She shrugged.  “Just trying to help.”

“Uh-huh.”  Murphy turned his attention to the poker game a few tables away.  It seemed JD had lost the first few hands.  That was to be expected.  New place, new game.  But on the fourth hand, Alyssa touched her ear, and JD immediately raised.  And won.  Next hand, he folded.  Then she traced a line down her throat, and JD won again.  But not before he’d bluffed the rest of the players into going all in.

“Oh,” Murphy remarked.  “They have a—oh, nice.  Very nice.  Can she do lottery numbers, too?”

Clayton stirred his tea.  “Sure.”

Both Murphy’s and Emily’s heads turned sharply at that.  “Really?”

“Of course.  She’s an Oracle.”

“But I mean—really really?”

“Where do you think the Order gets a great deal of its funding?  Oracles usually aren’t engaged for this type of activity.  Alyssa just does it because she likes to.  She and the Colonel have been quite the team for many years now.  But the Order has a whole division of psychics who are completely non-combative.  Their entire role is to, very carefully so it’s not traceable, gather funds for the Order.  Lotteries, casinos, always small jackpots, of course.  The stock market—”

Murphy looked over at Alyssa with a newfound respect.  “Y’know, I take back some of the things I said about you people.  You’re all right.”

The barmaid came back with dishes and a steaming chicken pie.  They all breathed the scent of pastry and giblets appreciatively.  Murphy looked around.  They were out of the cold and all looking forward to warm beds tonight.  Emily was unshackled.  Bill was sleeping—well, presumably, he would not be sleeping tonight, but in a good way.  Kate and JD were on speaking terms again.  Even Al was as close to being happy as she allowed herself to get—she was playing with the Colonel.  And everybody was back to being friends.  And look—pot pie.  Chicken pot pie.  Life was pretty fucking good.  And look, here comes Kate and Bill now.  Just in time for pie.

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Alyssa rise swiftly from her chair by the fire.

A man at one of the tables whistled at Kate.  “Hello there, berry girl.  Do you taste like strawberries?”

Kate paused, frowning, then resumed walking.  Several other men laughed.

The catcaller seized her arm.  “Don’t you turn your back on me when I got good money–”

She barely had time to get out a “Hey!” when the unmistakable sound of a pair of hammers being pulled back on their revolvers brought the whole place to a stop.

The Colonel had stood.  One gun was pointed upwards, ready to come down if anyone so much as breathed wrong.  The other was pointed at the offender’s heart.  His eyes blazed with terrifying intensity.  “You get your goddamn hands offa her.  Right now.”

Murphy threw down his fork.  “God dammit.”

Alyssa had materialized at Clayton’s side, her hand on his shoulder.  “Get our bags,” he said calmly as she pulled him to his feet.

Bill and Emily raced up the stairs.

Meanwhile, the man had released Kate and raised his hands.  His face had gone dead white.

Kate stared at JD.  “What the fuck are you doing?”

His voice was low and eerily calm.  “Don’t you worry about a thing, darlin’.  I got this.  You just go on outside now.”

Behind Kate, Bill and Emily came running back down.  They didn’t even pause, but made for the door.  On the way, Bill grabbed Kate and dragged her along.

“But—” Kate began.

“C’mon!

And the three of them were out the door.

Alyssa had already gotten Clayton and Murphy safely outside.  Returning, she busily circled the poker table, sweeping handfuls of silver into a coin purse.  One of the men’s hands rested on some of the money.  She tapped it.  With a small grunt of surprise, he raised his hand and she swept the remaining pile into her purse.

JD kept the room covered as she finished.  Then the two of them backed towards the door together, Alyssa grabbing the registry book from the counter as they went, tucking it under her arm for safekeeping.

Finally, they too, were out in the cold.  The others had brought the horses around.

The Colonel and Alyssa joined them, and the seven of them rode back out, into the darkness and snow.

 

* * * * *

 

Once they had reached a safe distance, they stopped to set up camp.

Murphy got furiously down off his horse.  “We were in there all of twenty minutes!  I timed us!”  He threw his arms out.  “And now here we are!  Are you people allergic to happiness?  Is that what’s going on here?  There was pot pie!  And now there will be no pot pie for anybody!  None!  No one gets pie!

 © Lauren Scharhag 2015 Can not be reproduced without permission from the author or publisher

 

More about this series:

The Order of the Four Sons is a sprawling, fast-paced, epic adventure that encompasses multiple worlds and ensemble cast of characters.  Two ancient organizations, the Order of the Four Sons of Horus and Starry Wisdom, have been battling for centuries for possession of a powerful artifact known as the Staff of Solomon.  Whoever has possession of the staff can rip open the very fabric of existence.

Book I

The series’ heroes are introduced: Colonel JD Garnett, novice mage Kate West, Detective Ryan Murphy, scholar Doug Grigori, and field techs Bill Welsh and Cecil Morgan.  The team is dispatched to investigate the disappearance of one of their own in a small town.  There, they uncover a lot more than they bargained for—a segment of the Staff of Solomon, and the evil forces that are converging to claim it.

Book I is permanently free through Smashwords and other e-book retailers.  

 

Book II

Carcosa follows the team – JD, Murphy, Doug and Kate – as they pursue Countess Elizabeth Bathory across the face of a sinister desert planet filled with untold dangers.  O4S Director Clayton Grabowski and the Oracle find themselves mired in the political intrigues of the Order’s leadership, while back on Earth, Bill forges an uneasy alliance with a government agent.  As they race to recover the Staff of Solomon, they uncover truths they had never expected about their enemies—and themselves.

 

Book III

Where Flap the Tatters of the King sees the surviving members of the Order – Kate, JD, Murphy, Bill, Clayton and Alyssa – reunited in a world known as Corbenic.  With the Corbenese king held hostage by Starry Wisdom, the land has been plunged into endless winter.  At all costs, the Order must liberate Corbenic and restore the king.  As the team sets out, they find themselves once again braving the elements, on their way to Corbenic’s capital city.  There, they will be plunged into a dark and seductive world, a world of alchemists and geomancers, nobles and courtesans.  Unrest has spread throughout the empire, stirring talk of rebellion.  And beneath all the gilt and glamor, evil sleeps.

 

Book IV

Going Forth By Day –the fourth and final book of the series is due tentatively in 2015.  Be sure to check out the authors’ blogs for news and sneak peeks.

Buy some of Lauren's books in the UK! LINK

Buy some of Lauren’s books in the UK! LINK

 

Wow what a fabulous and insightful blog post and I really appreciate your generosity in sharing this with us. I certainly hope it will inspire and encourage you all to look out for these! I know I will be!

Thanks for being in the spotlight and we hope to have you back at some point with more! 

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In The Spotlight: Guest Post Charlie Flowers

We have not had a guest for a while, so it gives me great pleasure to welcome to the spotlight an author who’s local to me and who I met online; he was recently interviewed by Tony Fisher on BBC Radio Essex about his latest novel and I think some of you might be interested in his work and his journey. Please welcome to the stage… Charlie Flowers.

spotlightoj-md

 

Charlie Flowers Author Pic

Charlie Flowers, Author of the Rizwan Sabir Thrillers

 

Have you always wanted to be a published writer? Tell us something about your path to having your first book/story published.

Hi everyone! I’ve always *written*, as I used to be a frontman for two bands, and I wrote most of the lyrics. But I could never seem to write vast screeds of words. So imagine my surprise in April 2012 when I found myself writing the first Riz book. It poured out of me and I had it finished in about four months.

 

Did that journey involve an agent? If not did you try to get one? Any advice about that?

Nope, all done on my lonesome. The few agents I contacted weren’t interested, although one of the people who represents Lee Child told me that personally, she loved the first book but she couldn’t pitch it to publishers as it was “too real” in its depiction of modern British Asians. Apparently they all still want that Far Pavilions stuff…

 

Do or did you ever belong to a writing group? Crit group? Did you ever have someone professionally critique your work before first submitting? Or do you have friends or anyone else who sees it before you send it off? Has that changed since you became a ‘successful author’?

I have a small “constant readers circle”, each of whom has a specific task — one for grammar, one for continuity, one for the French, one for the Urdu…

 

Who did you first tell when you heard your first book had been accepted?

 My Facebook group. Sign of the times!

 

What happened next? Can you tell us something about working with an editor? How important is that to you now – is there a lot of discussion and does the editor make a real difference to your work?

The editor(s) are everything, as of course, they can see the things you can’t. Also, some of my readers know my two main characters very well, and will pull me up on things. Would he/she say that? And so on.

 

Tell us something about your writing day, routine.

I write for an hour a night, normally around 11pm. Loud music helps. During the day, I’m often writing the first drafts out by hand, into notebooks.

 

What or who inspires you most? Any particular people, authors, books?

My friends inspire me, as that is where I drew inspiration for the characters from. Author-wise, I’d say Fleming, Deighton, and most of all, Ralph Peters’ classic novel Red Army, which is basically a retelling of War and Peace but set in 1990!

 

Why do you write? (Now that’s the question!) What do you want your stories to do?

 Because I hate it and I love it and I have to! I aim to make my books, and characters, live on in the reader.

 

How much marketing have you had to do? How comfortable are you with self-promotion?

Very comfortable — nowadays you have to be. You’ve got to be willing to doorstep, sell yourself, and tweet those tweets.

 

Tell us about the latest published book…

My latest book is Murder Most Rural, a classic cosy crime novel set in East Anglia.

And you can get it at:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Murder-Rural-Rizwan-Sabir-Mysteries-ebook/dp/B00RQNVTJU/

Here’s the Facebook fan page for the series:

https://www.facebook.com/TheRizwanSabirMysteries?ref=bookmarks

Here’s the Twitter feed:

https://twitter.com/rizthrillers

 

What next? Tell us about work in progress and aspirations. 

Next up this year are FOUR new books, hopefully —  a historical SAS thriller called The Siege; two spinoffs from the Riz series, one of which is a cookbook and the other a Young Adult novella about the childhood of Riz’s wife; and finally, a sixth Riz thriller!

Where do I see myself in ten years’ time?

Writing Riz 25 I’d imagine!

 

Any advice for writers who are trying to get their work published?

 Self-publish to begin with, and never, ever, ever give in.

 

Tell us something random about you for the pure hell of it

I can ride a camel.

 

Which of your characters would you most like to be friends with and why?

They’re actually loosely based on my friends, so…

 

 Finally: can we post an extract of your latest published book? 

 

Extract from Murder Most Rural…

My boss had once described my other half as “Essex Girl, from Mars”. He was mostly right, I’d give him that. Our families were from Mirpur in Pakistan. Our mothers had lived on the same village street back in the old country. And they’d married us off.

Holly ‘Bang-Bang’ Kirpachi was a short, birdlike girl, with raven hair and non-committal hazel eyes. Her arms were adorned with several tattoos, and there was a gaudy golden ring in her nose. Every now and then she’d pop some bubblegum or her face would light up with a cheeky grin. Very little phased Bang-Bang. She was always happily singing to herself. And with good reason.

Bang-Bang was twenty-one. She’d shot her first man when she was fourteen, and she’d probably killed more than forty people in her career as faction leader of the Blackeyes, and then section leader in our Army unit.

I say “probably” because in our line of work, you stopped counting after the first few. All in all, she was a better person to have on your side than against it.

Something else that should be known about Bang-Bang. When it came to things mechanical or electric she was a sorceress. Her hacking skills were at an insane level and had saved my, and the country’s, collective bacon on several occasions. She’d been the star of her school’s science department, and had a bursary lined up at BAe Systems, before she’d just jacked it all in and got into burlesque.

In short, stuff WORKED for her. The downside was that you couldn’t leave her near equipment without her tinkering with it.

Shredded paper fell like confetti. I looked down at her. ‘Continuous improvement, I see?’

‘Always! Got the briefing then?’

I nodded.

‘We going anywhere nice?’

‘Yep. Essex.’

She jumped in the air and clapped her hands. And then stopped. ‘Oh no. Not that place your cousins live.’

I looked at her. ‘Yes that place our cousins live. What’s the problem?’

She looked up at me. ‘You know. I go that far north of the A414, I get a nosebleed.’

I resigned myself to griping and banter. Darkest Essex, here we came.

 

© Charlie Flowers RIZ 5 MURDER MOST RURAL. Published with permission of the author and can not be reproduced without his permission.

 

Thankyou for having me Debz!

Charlie

You are most welcome Charlie and I wish you the very best with this, I saw it climbing the charts and from the radio interview folks you don’t have to read all the others to read this one… but you might as well?

Charlie Pics

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Lost In Sharonville

Don’t you just love the kinds of books that take you somewhere and leave you there. Like being dumped in the desert but you don’t just see miles and miles of sand but a whole other world — one that plays out inside your head. The fiction writers who do this deserve a medal. No matter how hard life gets, there will always be books.

The trick is for the images to play out like a film projected on your visual cortex. The language and the story unfold so seamlessly you forget you’re just reading words on a page. You’re seeing it, losing yourself inside the language, the place, the story.

The developing writers, me included, strive for this. You know it when you see it but you can’t always define it.

You can only look at the less accomplished fiction, perhaps works in progress at your writing group, to see the difference. When writers are overwordy, use too much TELLING, too much exposition, characters are stereotyped, you do not get that connection, nor do you get lost in that space. I guess you could say it’s like tripping up on the words. When author uses lots of clunky phrases, adverbs or  inventive words for said because they feel the need to remind us he’s speaking — conspiratorially (my most hated adverb!) or retorting angrily.

The skilled writer doesn’t have to remind you this is a book and here are my clever words, the words just flow like rich wine, effortless and wonderful.

SHOWING is FILMING; and done well you see a character speak, you observe the subtleties of the body language and you become part of it. No need for telling us how something’s said, we see it in the subtext and the construction. No tripping on clichés or awkward overwrites, odd sentences which say look how clever I am — no. We just become one with the work and lost in that space. And that is the mark of great writing — no matter the genre.

Right now To Kill A Mockingbird is doing that very thing to me, but another book that took me to that place recently was Sharon Zink’s powerful Welcome to Sharonville. Another writer with a small press, the wonderful Unthank Books who have also published one of my shorts and another one will be published next May in Unthology 6. The problem with the small presses is getting your work known, getting it seen by the world and it would be a travesty if this one slips through because it’s not got the power of the BIG marketing machine behind it or it costs a little more than a mass market paperback. But worth it. And there is always Kindle too.

Do yourself a favour and treat yourself. This is the kind of novel where the characters feel so real and the language so beautiful (but not overwritten) you get lost inside it. It is a literary novel, and I find the danger with some literary writing is writers feel the need to show off and make the language cumbersome. Not so here, this is divine.

Here’s the review I posted on Amazon and Goodreads and a photo from the launch. Sharon is such an interesting person and I remember sitting in the little room at New Writing South, Brighton, American flags draped on the wall (another Brit who has written an American novel hey?), goodie bag of US candies balanced on my knee, Mum at my side, and thinking this writer is so eloquent, so funny and so talented! Yes I know Sharon, but only because we were both published in the same book but I would not review the book so highly if I didn’t think it. I read many many books, a lot by friends or clients but I only review the ones I really love! I think Sharon has a career ahead that you need to watch with interest! She is humble too because she knows how tough the journey is to get to that point.

Here’s my review on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/980382552

 

The launch!

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Sharon has worked long and hard for this day, like so many. It was many years in the crafting and the success all the sweeter! Well done 🙂

Highly recommended read!

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In The Spotlight Guest Author Laura Wilkinson

I have a very special guest in the  spotlight today — some of you already know, the talented Laura Wilkinson whose first novel BloodMining won the first and only Bridge House Publishing Debut Novel prize and has since gone onto to have great sucesses.

Laura’s new novel is now out and after we met Kit last week with her novel based around the miner’s strike I want to introduce you to Laura’s novel — downloaded and waiting to be read, along with Kit’s. Both inspired by the same period in history but very different. So I hope you, like me, will read both and see how the writers handled it.

So without further ado I would like to hand my blog over to Laura …

Welcome Laura Wilkinson

Welcome Laura Wilkinson

Laura Photo

 

Remembering our Foremothers by Laura Wilkinson

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the Miners’ Strike, an industrial dispute which divided the nation like no other and whose effects are still reverberating today. The role of women in the furore cannot be overestimated. The strike made feminists of many miners’ wives – women formerly used to fulfilling a very traditional role – and after the conflict, there was no turning back.

My novel, Public Battles, Private Wars, is set against the backdrop of the strike and tells the story of a young wife and mother who finds her voice, and love, during a time of great hardship and struggle. I have been asked why I’m interested in an industrial dispute decades old, who wants to read a feminist novel, and what relevance does it have for modern women?

I answer these questions by quoting Elie Wiesel: ‘Without memory, there is no culture. Without memory, there would be no civilisation, no society, no future.’

While I was researching the novel, I spoke with a number of the women involved, miners’ partners and women from the political movements who rallied round – Labour Party activists, Marxists, Feminists and others – about the often profound impact of the strike.

Memory is key to our identity, image and awareness, and for many women, the conflict was a defining period in their lives.

I have my own memories. My step-father was a steelworker, an industry crushed by MacGregor and Thatcher before they turned to coal, and my mother was an important role model. Growing up in a working class family in the 70s, I was unaware of the feminist movement until I studied for a degree in Manchester. Whether or not she wore the badges, read the books and attended the marches (though we did visit Greenham on route to a CND demonstration when I was a child) my mother was undoubtedly a feminist, and her involvement in local politics had already helped shape her identity – she took public office as a town and county councillor, as well as becoming mayor of our town. My stepfather was also a feminist, though he too would never have described himself as such. Even before he lost his job, there was never any question of him not pulling his weight in the home, with cooking and cleaning and shopping and so on. Theirs is a relationship of equals with the mutual respect this implies. In this, we were different from many friends’ families in the rural Welsh town I grew up in.

When the miners came out on strike, I was in my first year of an English degree. Like so many of my fellow students, I marched and rattled buckets. My mother helped the women of the Point of Ayr Colliery and it was women like my mother who became role models for women who previously lacked confidence and belief in their abilities.

There is a stack of writing about the strike, but the bulk of it is non-fiction and none of the three novels I’m aware of focus on the women. Until now, with the release of Public Battles, Private Wars and Kit Habianic’s novel. While much of the non-fiction available makes for compelling reading, nothing sticks in the memory quite like stories. Narratives evoke emotion, take readers on journeys and allow them to walk in others’ shoes, to live the life vicarious, and learn from the experience.

There is still widespread oppression of women across the globe, but as the women’s role in the miners’ strike demonstrates, there is power in collective action and the cross fertilisation of ideas. History (herstory) is important because we learn lessons from our pasts, collective and individual, and it helps us to understand our present and shape our future.

Public Battles, Private Wars is published by Accent Press.

Yorkshire 1983

Miner’s wife Mandy is stuck in a rut. Her future looks set and she wants more. But Mandy can’t do anything other than bake and raise her four children. Husband Rob is a good looking drinker, content to spend his days in the small town where they live.

When a childhood friend – beautiful, clever Ruth – and her Falklands war hero husband, Dan, return to town, their homecoming is shrouded in mystery. Mandy looks to Ruth for inspiration, but Ruth isn’t all she appears.

Conflict with the Coal Board turns into war and the men come out on strike. The community and its way of life is threatened. Mandy abandons dreams of liberation from the kitchen sink and joins a support group. As the strike rumbles on relationships are pushed to the brink, and Mandy finds out who her true friends are.

Here’s a buy link:

AMAZON

E-book is on special offer at the moment too – just £1.

You can find out more about Laura and the novel, including Book Group Questions, here: http://laura-wilkinson.co.uk

Accent are running a giveaway over at Goodreads. There are 6 paperbacks up for grabs. Competition ends 25 April: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/21488069-public-battles-private-wars

 

 

Thanks so much Laura and I have to say I am looking forward to this — so come on followers and get buying!

Have a great day everyone! Something amazing is about to happen, if you believe!

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