Category Archives: writing

Meet The Author… F.F. John

Funmi is a writer I met through the One Stop Fiction Authors Facebook group, and I’ve seen  her blossom from the start with her first novel in the Nome Chronicles, the Pursual. Today, she’s launching her fifth novel in her second series, LegionMarked, the sequel to LegionBorn. Let’s meet this fantastic author.

F.F. John

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Biography

As a child, F.F. John was inquisitive and loved to find answers in books. When her home ran out of space for mer books, her mother told her to write the stories she wanted to read. So, she did. 

Today, she conjures worlds of characters that have a lot to say about everything. And she lets them as they tend to give answers to the riddles she’s yet to solve.

F.F. John lives at the top of a hill with my husband and children on a small island in the Eastern Caribbean.  I am the author of The Nome Chronicles, a young adult dystopian romance, and the urban fantasy series, LegionBorn. I’m currently working on Excelsia, a young adult space opera series as I expand the LegionBorn universe. Join my mailing list for updates on upcoming books at https://subscribepage.com/greatworlds.

How long have you been writing?

My late mother encouraged me to write for the simple reason that she’d run out of room for books in our home. She would tell me to create the books I wanted to read and I did. It started off with super short stories but soon cascaded into much more elaborate tales. None very good, if I must confess, but she loved them all the same.

Do you remember the first story you ever wrote? 

Unfortunately, no. However, I distinctly remember the first piece of fiction writing that made me realize writing could be fun! It was an assignment in the 10th grade. Mr. Arnold told us to write five more chapters for A Raisin in the Sun, by Lorraine Hansberry. BEST. ASSIGNMENT. EVER! At the time, I was maybe 14 or 15 and I loved creating tension between my characters. I still have that assignment and read it a few years ago. It wasn’t a masterpiece, but it was written with a zeal that I vividly remember. And, I got an A+ so not bad.

What made you want to become a writer?

FF_John_The_PursualMy kids. When they were small, I read everything I could get my hands on to them. In fact, they got to hear me read The Economist to them in utero. Between that and the amount of time they spent surrounded by books, it was no surprise that they constantly demanded stories for entertainment. It came easy to me–teaching them to spell with a story or teaching them to not touch the hot stove via storytelling. I then started a blog about my life with them that became very popular. That and a political analysis website of mine had people encouraging me to write. Then, my kids told me I should turn one of the funny stories I’d made into a book, so that others could borrow it from the library. That got me thinking why not? It took a while but I eventually got to writing fiction.

How has your environment & upbringing colored your writing?

There was a period in time where I would read books just so I could figure out which ones to get for some of my favorite nieces and nephews. Between getting them quality reads and finding stories for my own children, I noticed a lack of books with diverse characters. I knew I couldn’t just complain about it, so I set off to remedy the situation. My books contain characters of all races and are a reflection of the world I want to see–one where the color of our skin, the religion we choose, the sexual orientation we were born with or our chromosomes do not define us. I’m currently working on a fantasy series that will have a Vietnamese-American girl from West Virginia as the main character. My hope is to continue to create diverse story worlds with diverse characters that anyone from anywhere can identify with and be entertained by.

Is being a writer a gift or a curse?

Gosh, I daresay it’s a little bit of both. Per the gift, there’s nothing like meeting a character in your mind’s eye, discovering his/her story and putting it down. It’s incredible to get that in front of readers and have them enjoy it, no matter if that’s only five people.

Committing to fiction writing has allowed me to tap into a side of myself that needed to breathe.

As for the curse of it, there’s a bit of pressure to live up to my personal expectations. I love writing but its a bit of a time-suck and that bites into family and friend time. I’ve been very fortunate because the people who love me have been beyond gracious. I can only hope to repay them for their kindness and patience. I’ve started by writing a few characters into my books. Sister Patti in the LegionBorn series is based on a super cool family friend who didn’t let anything like the aftermath of a Category 5 hurricane stop her from getting me my manuscript when I couldn’t get it printed on the island I currently live on.

Pen or typewriter or computer?

It depends on the story. Recently, it’s been a combination of computer and paper. I used to log every thought into a Google Docs document but, since Hurricane Maria in September 2017, I’ve been without internet at home, which means I primarily work offline. As such, my trusty notebook allows me to jot down ideas. Oh, and my voice notes are a key component to my story building as well.

Goals of certain # of words a week or when inspiration strikes? 

When I’m in ‘storyland’, I aim for 20,000 to 25,000 words a week. Once I have an outline or ‘scene list’ (a collection of story scenes), I can knock out a first draft very quickly and I wish I did. Sadly, I don’t edit that quickly. I spend months doing that, my story twisting and changing before my eyes.

Do you outline or just write? 

FF_John_LegionBornOh, I have to outline. I go with the flow when I’m making up stories for my kids on the fly. That’s easy to do because they participate and if the tale goes off track, they reign it in so the conclusion is satisfactory for all of us. (Yes, this is something we’ve been doing since the kids were babies. Now they are teenagers and still enjoy making up silly stories when we’re in the car).

As for my books, I like to have a sense of where the story is going. What happens in the beginning, in the middle and at the end. Then I try to imagine other possible scenes that help flesh out the plot. From there, I craft a loose outline that can be very detailed but I don’t marry myself to it. I know it could change at any time.

Do you want each book to stand on its own or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?

I’ve watched the way my kids read, they enjoy long series with characters getting through extraordinary circumstances. While I don’t have that patience, I’ve learned that my kids are more reflective of the norm in that people enjoy longer book series that they can sink their teeth into. With my urban fantasy series, LegionBorn, I’ve decided to turn it into a multi-book universe. While LegionBorn focuses on Vaughn Prentiss, I have another related-series that will focus on another character. I’ve found that growing the series through the experiences of multiple characters is a lot of fun and the only issue now is finding the time to create more stories. Fingers crossed it will all work out!

Do you consider yourself to be a successful writer? If yes, why? If not, what do you think would make you successful?

It’s funny you ask this because I just realized I’m a successful writer! While my level of success might not be that of J.K. Rowling or Stephen King’s, I consider myself successful in that I’ve managed to craft stories and characters that readers like/hate enough to send me a private message or a demand to get another book in the series done. There’s no way to explain the feeling I get when I have those sorts of discussions with my readers. I’ve still got room to grow, though, and that’s the goal. 

Do your books have a lesson, a moral?

I’m the child of Nigerian parents and I was fortunate to live in Nigeria during my formative years. Nigerian culture plays a huge impact on my life as an author. It has to do with the great respect and almost mysticism there is around the art of storytelling in Nigerian culture. It’s the way elders share wisdom with the young. As such, I will confess that my stories always have a little moral or two to them. The danger of hubris is one that comes up again and again in the LegionBorn series. My Nome Chronicles series features the power of forgiveness among others.

What writing/publishing wisdom would you bestow upon new writers?

FF_John_LegionMarkedI’m still ‘green’ myself but if I could give some advice it would be the following—you’re going to make a lot of mistakes. Once you accept that, it will make the entire process a little easier. Be sure to continuously learn the craft. You will never not need to (yes, the double negative was purposeful). Understand genres as that will make you knowledgeable about reader’s expectations and what your covers should look like. Treat self-publishing as a business. It requires you to understand not just the art of storytelling but also the skill of marketing, networking, researching and much more. You can pay someone else to deal with these things, of course, but if you don’t know the ins and outs of the business, you’ll always feel lost and you’ll lose more money than you should. Ask for help when you need it. There are always authors out there willing to provide answers. Play nice with others and most will do the same. Finally, don’t compare yourself to anyone else. You’re in competition with who you were yesterday. That’s it. Focus on getting better. Be inspired by those who do well and know that you are capable of success. No matter how big or small that might be.

Do you send out a newsletter, and if yes, what’s your experience?

Yes, I do and interested readers can sign up at https://subscribepage.com/greatworlds. I have enjoyed this part of my author journey because it reminds me of my good, old blogging days. I share a little bit about my life with each message–what I’m watching or reading, what snack I’m craving (usually chocolate mousse cake), my favorite kitty cat gifs (they are a tad addicting) or how the writing process is going. My readers tend to write back and share their favorite gifs, recipes (yes, I got a great steak recipe from a subscriber that we now use for lamb. It’s delicious), advice on how to solve certain problems and much more. I prefer engaging this way though I’ve been encouraged to also communicate visually on my Facebook pages. We’ll see.

Where can we find you online?

Email: funmi@ffjohn.com

Website: https://ffjohn.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/F_F_John

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

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/ffjohnauthor/

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/F_F_John/

Amazon Author page: https://www.amazon.com/F.-F.-John/e/B06Y4Z5DPR

Bookbub page: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/f-f-john

Goodreads page: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/16612509.F_F_John

iTunes book page(s): https://itunes.apple.com/us/author/f-f-john/id1225855673?mt=11

Thank you, Funmi, for sharing a bit of history about yourself and about your writing. It is always intriguing to find out about how others became writers and how they experience it.

Book 2. LegionMarked is launching today, 19 June 2018! To celebrate, Book 1. LegionBorn is on sale for $0.99 but only for one week. Grab it while it’s hot!

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FF_John_Books_2

 

Brush Up On Your Tenses – The Future

Even though most novels are written in the simple past, the future tense often features in them. You need to be able to use it properly to convey exactly what you think is going to happen. Have a quick read of The Past and The Present if you missed them.

The Future Tense

There are four future tenses:

  • The simple future
  • The future continuous/progressive
  • The future perfect simple
  • The future perfect continuous/progressive

Simple Future

Use when:

  • a future action is predicted (using will or [be] going to)
  • a future action is planned/intended (using [be] going to)
  • an action is spontaneous (using will)
  • an action is offered/promised/threatened (using will), either given/made or talked about
  • an action is offered in a question (using shall…)
  • a future action is questioned (using what/where/how/why shall…)
  • the action is an order (using you will)
  • the action is an invitation

Shall is mainly used with ‘I’ and ‘we,’ use will for all other objects of the sentence.

Note: The simple future is used when the action in the future is not 100% certain to happen (it is predicted/planned/offered/promised, but not written in stone).

Note: Sentences beginning with time indications about arranged events together with others at a later date don’t use the present tense. In these cases, use the present continuous.

Example: When I’m attending this workshop tonight with my friend,  I am going to learn a lot.

Form: will/shall + verb root or   [be] + going to + verb root

Note that future tenses always use an auxiliary verb (will/shall or am/is/are + going to). These are verbs that help to convey the tense/aspect/mood of another verb.

Example: She is going to catch the train to get there in time.

Example: I will pick her up from the station.

Example: She will come every Wednesday to help us.

Example: Shall we pick her up from the station together?

Example: What shall we give her for helping?

Example: You will give her something!

Example: Will you accept our gift?

Example: I would like to, but I can’t.

Signal or Key words:

There are no specific signal or key words for future tenses. The future is indicated when:

  • Using certain verbs (would like, plan, want, mean, hope, expect, etc.)
  • Using modals like may, might, and could if the future isn’t certain
  • Using should to indicate you want something to happen or something is likely to happen

Future Continuous/Progressive

Use when:

  • An action is going to start at an unspecific time in the future and will still be happening at a specific time in the future (often accompanied by a future time indication)
  • An action is certain to happen
  • An action is being questioned
  • Two actions will be happening at the same time in the future

The future continuous stresses an action in the future that is/can/will/should be interrupted by another future action.

Form: will + [be] + present participle (= verb root + -ing)

or

[be] + going to be + present participle (= verb root + -ing)

Example: I will be addressing the media at noon tomorrow when I need to take my anti-stress pills.

Example: I am going to be working on the final chapter next week.

Example: Will you be helping me with my grammar?

Example: I will be writing and he will be reading.

Future Perfect Simple

Use when:

  • An action at a certain point in the future will have finished

Form: will + have + past participle (= verb root + -ed)

Example: I will have learned all tenses by the time I get to the end of this article.

Signal or Key words:

By Before

Future Perfect Continuous/Progressive

Use when:

  • An action has already happened at a certain time in the future and is unfinished in a more distant future, often used with a time indication

Note: When using the future perfect continuous, you are stressing the duration of the action.

It is not a very often used tense in the English language.

Form: will + have + been + present participle (= verb root + -ing)

Example: My novel will have been praised by many this time next year.

or

[be] + going to have been + present participle (= verb root + -ing)

Example: My novel is going to have been praised by many this time next year.

 

Beside the four future tenses, you can also talk about the future without a future verb tense by:

  • Using the simple present when an action is in the immediate future

Example: I throw the ball, you catch it.

  • Using the simple present when an action is a scheduled event

Example: You arrive on Thursday evening for the meeting Friday morning.

  • Using the present continuous when an action is a future arrangement

Example: She is working the night shift.

  • Using the verb going to

Example: We are going to do this!

  • Using future obligations

Example: She is to be wed to the old man.

I am aware that this explanation of tenses is far from complete/perfect, but I hope it will get the beginner writer a long way.

Here is a timeline graph that I made that I hope puts things into perspective.

Tenses_Graph

Meet The Author… Alexis Marrero Deese

I met Lexi on Facebook. I was looking for fantasy authors and her book, Ignited, jumped out. It’s a beautiful cover, and a very intriguing story. I had to get to know Alexis Deese a bit better.

Alexis Marrero Deese

A_M_Deese

Tell us a bit about yourself

I am an avid reader of all things Young Adult and Fantasy. Favorite authors include Brandon Sanderson, Jacqueline Carey and Leigh Bardugo. Although a Tampa native, I currently live near Atlanta Georgia with my husband and three dogs. I enjoy gardening, reading poolside and binging on Netflix.

Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?

I do! It was written on a yellow legal pad stolen from my father’s office and was about a little girl who runs away from home only to get swept away into a land full of dinosaurs. She has to fend for her life before she can go back home. I’ve always had a vivid imagination. My mother still has the story and it’s nothing more than a few sketches with some scribble underneath but I remember it very well.

What is your favorite under-appreciated novel?

Definitely Kushiel’s Dart (honestly that entire series) by Jacqueline Carey. Read it, people! I love stories with rich world-building and this series gets you hooked from page one. There is romance, danger and political intrigue. Basically all the things I love. If she had a dragon in there I’d be done.

Who is the most famous author you have ever met?

I met R. L. Stine a few years ago at a book convention in St. Petersburg, Florida. It was a beautiful day and I definitely geeked out. I stood in line for an autograph 🙂

R.S. Belcher friend requested me and I fangirled just a little bit. Oh, maybe I should change my other answer. Read Shotgun Arcana (the start of his Golgotha series) by Belcher, it’s SO GOOD!

What are your books about? Could you tell us a bit about them and why they are a must-read?

I write Young Adult Fantasy with just a hint of romance. My debut novel, Ignited, is a multiple POV, fast-paced adventure full of elemental magic, political intrigue and dragons. It is the first of a planned quartet titled: Dance of the Elements.

Do you want each book to stand on its own or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?

I’m definitely trying to build a solid body of work. Submerged, the sequel in the series takes place right where we left off at the end of Ignited. With the exception of a couple stand-alone projects I’m working on, all my current and foreseeable projects will be connected.

Of all the characters you have created, which is your favorite and why?

Kay is certainly my favorite. She is a precocious seven year old with too much attitude and too much power. She dreams of riding dragons and she’s kind of a badass. I’m actually releasing a novella featuring Kay later this summer. The novella will show everything that occurs in the two week period between the first two novels of my series. The second book is set to release in February.

What did you edit out of this book?

I actually deleted an entire chapter from Ignited at the suggestion of my editor. She said the chapter was redundant and the flashback was unnecessary. She was right and my novel was stronger for it. Always invest in a good editor! Submerged is currently in the hands of my Critique Partner so its editing fate remains unknown for now.

Can you give us a small teaser of your work?

I’m currently working on both Kay’s novella (title unknown at the moment) and Windswept, the third installment in my series. I’m happy to share an excerpt. Here are the opening lines from Kay’s story:

             For the first time since she’d been taken Kay opened her eyes and knew exactly where she was. The early morning light forced her to squint; someone had positioned the beds in just the right spot so that dawn brought its blinding radiance no matter which bed she chose to sleep in. She frowned down at the row of empty beds and reached blindly for the small glass of water on her bedside table.

            Every morning there was a new glass of the stale, warm water. Kay wondered who had the job of sneaking in her room at night and placing it there. Ash perhaps? She drank the morning’s rations and thought of the crisp water from the well back on her family’s property, somehow the water had always been cold, even in the middle of the summer. Here in the Sand Sea, the summer never ended.

What are common traps for aspiring writers?

Vanity Publishers!!! In the publishing business, money always flows down to the author. It’s sad how there are so many scams out there ready to trick newbie authors into giving them all their money 🙁

How do author friends help you become a better writer?

I love this question so much because I would be nowhere without my CP (critique partner). She is literally life saving. Having good friends who are also authors helps you in so many ways. Aside from the wonderful constructive criticism, my friends also provide me with motivation to write and answers to the publishing ins and outs. If you don’t have any author friends and you’re an inspiring author, go get some now! Join a Facebook group or a local writers club because writer friends are priceless!

Thank you so much for your answers, Lexi! It’s great to hear you talk so enthusiastically about writing. It’s clear from this and your earliest work you are a writer at heart 🙂

I couldn’t resist. I had to post the blurb for Ignited. Here it is:

AM_Deese_IgnitedA NOBLE DAUGHTER.

A FORMER SLAVE.

SCORCHED EARTH AND DANGEROUS GAMES.

“Jura imagined it sounded like rain.”

Juggling death is nothing new for seventeen-year-old Jura, daughter of the First of the Thirteen, successive rulers of the Republic of the Sand Sea. However, when a blood chain ensnares her father, she is thrust into the seat of power and forced to rule her elders.

“To Tylak, water had never tasted sweeter.”

Jura must track down her father’s assassin and balance a country on the verge of collapse. To find the Prince of Shadows and uncover the truth, Jura puts her trust in Tylak, a former slave accused of stealing from the Everflame—a man she once condemned to death.

In a world where water is currency and enemies lurk around every corner, Jura will use her wits or risk igniting a world war.

You can follow Alexis Marrero Deese via the following social media:

Website: www.amdeese.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/authorAMDeese

Twitter: https://twitter.com/authoramdeese

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/authoramdeese/

Alexis Marrero Deese’s book Ignited, as well as the anthology Once Upon a Wednesday which includes her short story called Magic Show, is available on Amazon, iTunes, Google Play, and Nook.

The Darker Side of Fiction Takeover!

Guess what? Jo Curtis and Rachel Brightley are doing a takeover on my Facebook page (Jacky Dahlhaus – Author) on Monday evening, the 11th of June!

Come and join us for some fun and learn more about this awesome book signing which will be held on Saturday the 6th of October in Peterborough.

There’ll be fun and games, and I will be giving away a FREE all-day ticket to the event. It’s also an opportunity to ask me anything about my writing.

I hope to see you on Monday evening, 8:30pm at my Facebook Page! 😀

Brush Up On Your Tenses – The Present

Yesterday’s the past, tomorrow’s the future, but today is a gift. That’s why it’s called the present. This post is all about the present tense. Read up about The Past here.

The Present Tense

Most novels are written in past tense, but some authors prefer the present tense. It is the tense commonly used in dialogue.

For the following explanation of the tenses, please note that the root of a verb is the base form of a verb (= whole verb minus –ing).

Simple Present

Use when:

  • an action is happening right now
  • an action happens regularly/never stops (and hence is sometimes called the present indefinite)
  • an action refers to timetables.

Form:  Verb root

If that word ends in a consonant; you need to add an ‘e’). You also need to add an ‘s’ or ‘es’ in the third person (use ‘es’ when the root form ends in o, ch, sh, th, ss, gh, or z).

Example: I write novels, but she writes thrillers.

Example: He goes to work when she comes home.

Example: We always watch movies on Fridays, but he watches movies on Saturdays.

Signal or Keywords:

Always Seldom After work
Often Never/Hardly ever First
Usually Every … Then
Sometimes On Mondays

Note that most of them indicate a frequency and the others a recurring time frame.

Present Continuous / Progressive

Use when:

  • an action is happening now
  • an action is certain to continue/stop in the near future.

Form: [be] + present participle (= verb root + -ing).

Example: I am writing tonight.

Example: He is finishing his novel this weekend.

Signal or Keywords:

Now For a few days Tonight
At the moment Always Later
Currently Forever This weekend
These days Constantly Little by little
Gradually Look, Listen,
Still At present Even now
Any longer Any more

Present Perfect

Use when:

  • an action has happened in the past but at an unspecified time
  • an action has an unfinished time (i.e. the action is happening all the way up to the present time)
  • an action has been recurring in the past up until now
  • an action has been completed in the very near past (usually indicated by ‘just’)

The present perfect explains why things are the way they are now; there is a connection between the past and the present. It is used to emphasize the result of a(n) (finished)  action.

Form: have/has + past participle (= verb root + -ed)

Example: She has published five novels during her life.

Note that during her life doesn’t indicate exactly when; it is an unspecified time.

Example: I have finished my book and can rest now.

Example: Why is he happy? Because he has sold one hundred books.

Note that he is happy is written in the simple present, and the reason Because he has sold one hundred books is written in the present perfect as it is the reason for the current state.

Signal or Keywords:

Today This week This year
In my lifetime Just Yet
Never Already Ever
So far Up to now Recently
Since For Not yet
Lately Recently Once
It’s the first time

Present Perfect Continuous / Progressive

Use when:

  • an action has begun in the past (sometimes at an unspecified time) and has lasted up until now, but could still be going on.

In contrast to the present perfect, the action of the present perfect continuous isn’t finished. It could be seen as a time indication of the near past (lately, recently) and the result of that action is still visible, heard, or felt. It puts emphasis on the duration of the action, which is often temporary.

Form: has/have + been + present participle (=verb root + -ing)

Example: I have been writing this last hour and have a cramp in my hand now.

Example: She has been teaching English for ten years, so she knows her grammar.

Signal or Key words:

All day Since For
The whole time (…week, year, etc.) How long (used in a question)

Tenses_Graph

Meet The Author… James Dorr

Horror lovers are in luck as I have another horror writer for you to meet this week. Meet James Dorr, past Bram Stoker award nominee and writer of a novel, several collections, and too many short horror stories published in too many anthologies to mention. Apart from writing dark fantasy and horror, he also writes science fiction and mystery. James takes on an active role in the writing community as a member of HWA (Horror Writers Association) and SFWA (Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America). Let’s get to know James a bit better.

James Dorr

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Tell us a bit about yourself

I was born in Florida, raised in the New York City area, in college in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and am currently living in the Midwest. I’m a short story writer and poet specializing in dark fantasy and horror, with forays into mystery and science fiction. My The Tears of Isis was a 2013 Bram Stoker Award® finalist for Superior Achievement in a Fiction Collection, while other books include Strange Mistresses: Tales of Wonder and Romance, Darker Loves: Tales of Mystery and Regret, and my all-poetry Vamps (A Retrospective). As an Active Member of SFWA and HWA, I have more than 500 individual publications. I have also been a technical writer, an editor on a regional magazine, a full-time, non-fiction freelancer, and a semi-professional musician. I currently harbor a Goth cat named Triana. My latest book is a novel-in-stories published in June 2017 by Elder Signs Press, Tombs: A Chronicle of Latter-day Times of Earth

How did you become a writer? 

I actually began writing fiction and poetry rather late. In college, for instance, I’d been art editor on several magazines, though occasionally doing some fill-in writing. In graduate school the situation somewhat reversed itself with me doing occasional fill-in illustration until I got a job with a university computing center as a technical writer. It wasn’t until I left that job, though, that I (with an M.A. in Literature), began to seriously try my hand at creative writing. Along with that, I’ve also had an interest in music and currently lead, and play tenor recorder in, a group specializing in Renaissance dance music.   

Who are your favorite authors and how much is your work influenced by them?

James_Dorr_TheTearsOfIsisTwo authors that I often cite are Ray Bradbury (who I approached as a science fiction reader, but stayed for the “dark bits”) and Edgar Allan Poe. Both, for their juxtapositions of both horror and beauty, have influenced me immensely. In fact, my Stoker® nominated collection The Tears of Isis is dedicated to Poe, “who led the way,” and is based in part on a passage in his essay on “The Philosophy of Composition” stating that the “most poetical topic in the world” is the death of a beautiful woman. Well, not everyone dies in the stories in that book, necessarily, but art does walk hand in hand with destruction, led by a poem about Medusa as a sculptress. And then, more death-centric, my novel-in-stories Tombs: A Chronicle of Latter-Day Times of Earth also borrows another theme from Poe, that “[t]he boundaries which divide Life from Death are at best shadowy and vague” (cf. “The Premature Burial”), as well as borrowing its very form as a “novel-in-stories” from Bradbury’s masterpiece, in my opinion, The Martian Chronicles. Then for two quick additions, Bertolt Brecht’s theories of “epic theatre,” particularly in terms of artistic distancing, have been an influence on some of my fiction while Allen Ginsberg, especially in his longer works with their cadenced rhythms, have been an inspiration for poetry.

Pen or typewriter or computer?

I almost always compose prose directly on the computer, though I may work out individual scenes or portions with problems with pen on paper. Poetry, on the other hand, is almost always drafted in pen, then rewritten to the computer.

Why do you write horror?

I like to get in characters’ heads, to write about, and figure out, characters under stress (not to mention invent situations to put them there), and for stressful scenarios horror seems the place to go. I’m also interested, though, in myths and legends and people’s beliefs in the inexplicable, where horror, again, provides a place to work these sorts of ideas out. 

Do consider yourself to be a successful writer? If yes, why? If not, what do you think would make you successful?

James_Dorr_VanitasjpgYes, in that I’m doing something I enjoy, I’m being published and at least some people are reading it, and I’ve received some honors for doing so.

No, in that I don’t have as many readers as I’d like, publishers are not exactly beating down my door, and at best I’m just earning supplemental income, and not much at that. I’m admittedly not that good a self-publicist, but interviews like this help (and thank you, Jacky!). Also more reviews on Amazon, Goodreads, blogs, etc., would be very helpful so, if you should read this and consider buying one of my books and like it, please consider reviewing it too — just a few lines are fine, and any writer is helped by reviews, even if not all are four or five stars.  

Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym? If yes, why?

As a graduate student, I did a series of humorous science essays for an alternative newspaper under the name “James Bearson.” I was in a Ph.D. program in English at the time (I later got out and accepted an M.A., but that’s a different story) and did so in part to avoid questions like “what does an English major know about science?” as well as from some of my professors like “why are you wasting your time on that stuff instead of studying more for my class?”    

Could you tell us a bit about your most recent book and why it is a must-read?

My most recent book is a mosaic novel, or “novel-in-stories,” Tombs: A Chronicle of Latter-Day Times of Earth. In it a Ghoul-Poet, an eater of death, contemplates a city in which all have finally died, seeking to find out what it was that made humans human. It is divided into five sections and with an “Entr’acte,” the sections in turn divided in self-contained story-chapters, about half of which also have also been published elsewhere. To quote from the publisher’s blurb: “It had been a time when the world needed legends, those years so long past now. Because there was something else legends could offer, or so the Poet believed. He didn’t know quite what – ghouls were not skilled at imagination. Their world was a concrete one, one of stone and flesh. Struggle and survival. Survival predicated on others’ deaths.

James_Dorr_Tombs“Far in the future, when our sun grows ever larger, scorching the earth. When seas become poisonous and men are needed to guard the crypts from the scavengers of the dead. A ghoul-poet will share stories of love and loss, death and resurrection.”

As such, Tombs is listed by Amazon as both “Horror” and “Dystopic Science Fiction,” to which I might add “Science Fantasy” and “Dark Romance” (but beware: in that last category some stories are tilted toward adult consumption). It is not a “happy” book, I would say, but not an entirely despairing one either. To quote again, this time from Amazon and a review by Heidi Angell: “Yes, despite the uncomfortable and dark future predicted in this future world, key elements, like love, money, and humanity’s ability to carve out some sort of life in even the direst circumstances carries on with a heart-broken tinge of hope and legends.

“I highly recommend this book for anyone who likes to think deep thoughts about what they read. For anyone who has an interest in politics, social issues, climate issues, anthropological studies, biomedical, and for the curious who like to imagine how the world could turn out. For me, this was more realistic an outcome than the Divergent series, Hunger Games, or Maze Runner, though definitely not for the same audience. This is a grown up’s view for grown-ups of what a dystopian world could potentially provide.”

What is your writing style?

I don’t think I have a single style, but rather try to provide what a story needs. Tombs, for instance, is written in a more literary, almost Baroque style because I thought the overall story wanted a serious, “classic” feel. Tales in The Tears of Isis, however, may vary from stream-of-consciousness, fairy tale, noir, dreamlike, more action-filled, even to light humor (though with a dark side too). 

Does your book have a lesson, a moral of the story?

For Tombs I like to think “love conquers all,” but, boy, does it have trouble doing so! 

What motivated you to become a published author? How did you break into publishing?

James_Dorr_StrangeMisstresses.jpgI first met Joe Morey, then editor/publisher of Dark Regions Press, at a poetry reading at a convention when he asked me if he could reprint a long poem I’d just read. From there we talked about a possible collection, from which Strange Mistresses: Tales of Wonder and Romance came about, mainly short fiction but with a poetry section as well. Several years later I approached him about a second volume resulting in Darker Loves: Tales of Mystery and Regret. I would add though that I’d built up a number of single sales in each case, allowing me to choose about 25 stories for each book from which Joe would pick just over half, so I wasn’t exactly unknown. Then a few years after that, with PMMP’s Max Booth III, I’d also already sold him a couple of tales for publications he had worked on, so when he was ready to start his own press he contacted me, in this case offering me pretty much a free hand in editing and story choice (the only constriction that the book had to total more than 60,000 words), from which The Tears of Isis was born.   

Thank you, James, for letting us get to know you better. I’m sure many of us authors are in the same boat regarding getting reviews and sales and feel your frustration. I’m glad you took up this offer for more exposure. I hope many authors will follow your example and head over to the ‘For Authors’ section on my website!

Most of James Dorr’s anthologies as well as The Tears of Isis and Tombs, are available on Amazon.are available on Amazon.

You can follow James via the following social media:

Email: edgarc@rocketmail.com

Website (blog): http://jamesdorrwriter.wordpress.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/james.dorr.9

Amazon Author page: https://www.amazon.com/James-Dorr/e/B004XWCVUS

Just to let you know I wasn’t kidding about the numerous works James has been published in, here’s the list available on Amazon!

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New WIP

I was supposed to see my dentist this morning, but they canceled… again. So, instead, I started on my new Young Adult novel, The Extra. I had postponed starting it for far too long. This is the first bit (not the whole chapter). It’s a new experience to write from a narrater’s perspective after writing three novels in first person. Let me know what you think of it 🙂

Chapter 1

Ashley stormed outside, not seeing where she was going through the red fog of her rage. Freezing air swirled into her lungs, its below-zero temperature matched the cold she was already feeling inside. How could Jake have betrayed her so? The pristine surface of the snow underneath her feet creaked softly. Unlike the emotions which screamed inside Ash. Tears welled up, and she shut her eyes firmly as she marched on. She wasn’t going to cry. Not for him. Not for what he’d done. Getting away from him was the most sensible thing to do. As soon as he’d told her, something had stirred in her. Something she hadn’t felt before. It was warm… no, hot. It was hot. It had quickly grown until Ash felt like a pure form of energy. The feeling had frightened her. She had been afraid that if she stayed near Jake, she’d have lashed out at him with a power she couldn’t control. But she didn’t want to hurt him. She still loved him. Yet right now, she hated him. Ash balled her fists and brought them to her mouth. She bit on them to prevent herself from screaming out in frustration.

The sound of cracking ice made Ash open her eyes. The night was dark. There was no moon visible with the snow falling. Her head whipped around, and she realized she had gone too far. Could she make it back? Another crack. Eyes drawn down, she saw the snow break apart in lines radiating outwards. Her feet slipped on the smooth ice as it broke apart and tilted. She flung her arms out in an attempt to get a hold of something to keep her upright, finding none. Her skull cracked as it hit the edge of the remaining ice. A sharp pain radiated through her head, and Ash gasped. Icey water sloshed into her mouth. She expelled it out of her lungs with a violent burst of air. Now, as her legs became heavy with the water in her boots, her arms scurried through the snow, her hands trying to get a grip on the ice. But the cracks had undermined its strength, and every time Ash put some weight on it, it broke off and slipped from her numbed hands, bobbing up and down on the water’s surface. Ash panicked as the water made its way through her winter clothing, enveloping her body, claiming it inch by inch. The water felt like the cold fingers of death, grabbing her, pulling her down into the deep darkness with unrelenting determination. The cold and the fear were paralyzing. Her head disappeared underneath the black surface, and her body began jerking as she fought the temptation to try and breathe.

Ash wondered if anybody had seen her go under. Was anybody going to rescue her? Was she going to survive this or was this the end? Now Jake wasn’t hers anymore, did it matter? Consciously, she stopped struggling, finding peace in the cold numbness. Darkness surrounded her as the last bit of air escaped her lips, and Ashley died.

***

Copyrighted (c) by Jacky Dahlhaus

Yes, you read it right. Ashley dies. Not to worry, she’ll live again but not as a vampire. I knew you were going to think that, LOL! The story does include vampires, though. And werewolves, and sirens, and witches. In fact, it has so much story to it, I wonder if I can get it all into one novel 😀

Brush Up On Your Tenses – The Past

It’s been a while since I mentioned writing some grammar articles on the English tenses, but I’m finally back into (some sort of) a routine. Today, I’ll be discussing the past tense. If you’d like to read up on the introduction again before diving into this one, you can find it here.

The Past Tense

The past tense is used when we write about what happened before now, what happened right up until now, and what happened right up until now and is still happening.

The past tense can be divided into:

  • the simple past
  • the  past continuous
  • the past perfect
  • the past perfect continuous

Simple Past

Use when:

  • an action has happened once in the past
  • an action happened repeatedly in the past
  • an action was true for some time in the past
  • the word ‘ago’ is used in the sentence.

The action could have happened once, never, or several times, but both the beginning and the end of the action(s) lie in the past.

Form: verb root + -ed

Example: I worked all night to finish the chapter.

Example: He attended several workshops on writing.

Example: We lived there for years.

Example: It was a long time ago when she kissed him for the first time.

Signal or Key words:

Often Always Sometimes
Last (time frame; day, week, etc.) When Yesterday
(period of time) ago The other day In (year)

Past Continuous / Progressive

Use when:

  • an action was happening before, during, and after another action or specific time in the past
  • an action is interrupted by another action
  • an action was happening for a while in the past
  • an action happened repeatedly in the past
  • an action was evolving/growing in the past
  • you want to indicate a change of mind in the past
  • two actions happened at the same time in the past
  • (you are wondering about something)

When you are wondering about something, you use the past continuous, but it is not a true time on the time line.

Form: was/were + verb root + -ing

Example: He was lying in the grass when he had an epiphany.

Example: I was writing a paranormal novel when I was asked to write an article on grammar.

Example: She was working on that book for ages.

Example: He was reading to us every night.

Example: Their grasp of the English language was improving.

Example: We were thinking about entering a writers’ competition, but we don’t think we’re good enough.

Example: I was writing while he was making dinner.

Example: (I was wondering if you could help me with my grammar.)

Signal or Key words:

While When

Past Perfect

Use when:

  • an action happened before another action or specific time in the past
  • an action happened before and up until another action in the past (example: live, work, teach, study)
  • using reported speech
  • (using if)

It is possible to use the simple past instead of the past perfect if ‘before’ or ‘after’ is used in the sentence to indicate the time the action happened.

You can’t use the past perfect if there is no specific time indication.

Form: had + past participle (= verb root + ed)

Example: She had always walked to work until she had the accident.

 Example: He had lived in a student flat for years until he got his first job.

 Example: I had thought her to be helpful before, but she wasn’t.

 Example: (If he had worked harder, he would have finished his novel by now.)

Signal or Key words:

When After Before
By the time Already Just
Never Not yet Until … (in the past)

Past Perfect Continuous / Progressive

Use when:

  • an action began at a certain time in the past and continued up until another specific time in the past
  • showing cause of an action (using ‘because’)
  • using reported speech
  • (using if)

Form: had been + present participle

Example: I had been buying books in the book store when I discovered online stores.

Example: She had been working all night because she didn’t work enough hours before.

Example: I had been reading my book before I looked up to see him standing there.

Example: (If he had been paying attention, he would have gotten there faster.)

Signal or Key words:

For Since

Next week, I’ll be discussing the present tense.

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Meet The Author… Jay Raven

Birmingham-based Jay Raven has written multiple horror/fantasy short stories which were published in many anthologies. He is an author with multiple books under his name, not all of them in the horror genre. Jay has been in the writing world for a while, as a journalist at first but now as a full-time novel writer. Let’s get to know Jay a bit better.

Jay Raven

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Tell us a little about yourself…

I have passion for all things horror, especially vampires. As a teenager I’d skip school to sneak into the cinema to watch Peter Cushing staking Christopher Lee.

I’ve been a full-time fiction writer for 25 years, widely published on both sides of the Atlantic, but it was only a few years ago that I began to focus on my dark fantasy output. Most of my stories are set in the past – I jokily label it “harpsichord horror”.

In my free time I do a lot of baking, although I’m not sure the description free time is strictly accurate as that’s when I dream up my best plots.

What is the most exciting thing that has ever happened to you?

Just before Christmas I was signed up by Junction Publishing to write two Gothic horror/dark fantasy novels. It’s since become a three-book deal.

What is your favorite childhood book, and why?

Alice in Wonderland. Even as a child I loved its creepy, menacing atmosphere, laced with barely controlled mayhem.

How has your environment and upbringing colored your writing?

I grew up in Glasgow which had more than its fair share of Victorian grave robbers in its past. The cemetery near us had a small building where relatives would stand guard through the night to protect their newly buried loved ones. Learning about that made a huge impact on me.

Jay_Raven_StorybookWhat was an early experience where you learned that language had power?

While still at school I used to write local history pieces for my local newspaper. One was a three-part reconstruction of a notorious murder of a foreman by gangers building the railway between Glasgow and Edinburgh. My articles documented the manhunt to bring the killers to justice and the resulting public executions.

Just after part two appeared I was taking a shortcut home from my girlfriend’s house and I bumped into the school bully in the dark. I thought he was going to beat me up, but instead he was all excited and in awe, demanding to know what happened to the killers in the final installment.

Who is your favorite author? How much is your work influenced by his or her works?

Michael Crichton, author of best-sellers Jurassic Park and WestWorld amongst others. His writing is so tight, pacy and cleverly structured that it leaves you breathless. There isn’t a wasted word, character or scene. He is a master storyteller. I try to make my writing just as fast-paced and lean.

Music or silence?

I write with earphones on, music pumping. It blocks all external distractions and helps inspire me. You could say that my stories are created with their own soundtracks.   

Do you outline or just write?

Before I begin a book I spend two weeks creating a highly detailed blueprint – every chapter, scene, major hook, key pieces of dialogue all go into it and I end up with a 30-page mini version of the novel, which I just need to flesh out.

If you didn’t write, what would you do for work?

I’d bake artisan cakes in the shape of coffins and sell them at Dracula events in Whitby.

Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym, and if yes, why?

Jay_Raven_MiddleofNowhereI already do. Jay Raven is the name I use for my dark fantasy work. I write humour under my real name. I try to keep both sides completely separate. As Ghostbusters advises: “Top safety tip. Don’t cross the streams!”

What is your writing style?

I concentrate on making the work as visual as possible. I want readers to forget they’re reading and imagine themselves watching a movie. I inhabit the boundary between horror and fantasy. My work relies more on suspense than gore.

Do you try to be original in your storytelling or to deliver to readers what they want?

I try to do both – I obey the rules of the genre but mix in loads of new elements to keep things fresh. In Blood Riders, for instance, my vampires have demon horses and can communicate with each telepathically.

Do you have any difficulty writing characters of the opposite sex?

No, I started out writing short stories for women’s magazines. That’s something many people would be surprised about.

Out of the protagonists you’ve written about so far, which one do you feel you relate to the most?

Anton Yoska, the marshal caught up in the jailhouse siege, is an idealised version of me. But where he is brooding, I am just moody. He is noble and high minded, I come across simply as pompous.

What do your plans for future projects include?

Jay_Raven_ToSnareAWitchWitch Hunt – a series of whodunits set in an alternative history (1930s) where a Russian empire warlock is a homicide detective investigating murders that involve supernatural elements.

What writing wisdom would you bestow upon new writers?

Write the kind of books you would want to read, don’t slavishly try to recreate what is currently hot!

How do author friends help you become a better writer?

I kick about ideas with my fellow writers. They see things from a different angle, and are brutally honest  – which is exactly what you need.

What has been the best compliment?

A magazine editor who paid handsomely for my first short story said – “Love this – do you have any more?”

What do your fans mean to you?

Everything. Their support makes it all worthwhile.

Can you give us a bit more about your latest book, Crimson Siege (Blood Riders – Book 1) as it is launched today, the 22nd of May 2018?

 

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When ruthless bounty hunters target one of 19th century Europe’s most feared vampire clans, the last place any lawman wants to be is caught in the middle…


But for Anton Yoska, Lord Marshal of the Imperial lands south of the Carpathian Mountains, fate has trapped him in a supernatural stand-off that can end only in terror, pain and destruction.
A gang of mercenaries led by Anton’s former army comrade Milosh Drubrick have captured vampire aristocrat Stefan Modjeski, wanted for a string of bloody ritualistic murders, and have come to Anton to claim the reward and seek shelter and protection. And as Stefan’s predatory undead kin lay siege to the jailhouse, Anton is faced with an agonising choice – hand over his prisoner and abandon the treacherous hunters to their unspeakable fate, or stand and fight.


What’s more, the vampires have made him an enticing offer if he co-operates – they’ll save his dying wife by turning her into one of their kind. He can join her, and the devoted couple will live forever.
The jailhouse defenders are outnumbered and out of options. It’s a battle that can’t be won, certain slaughter for them all, and Anton can’t trust his scheming allies. But Lord Marshal Yoska isn’t about to surrender.


For he’s an experienced vampire hunter, a dangerous man when cornered, and a single minded warrior who knows there are worse things to fear than death…

Why it is a must-read?

It’s pacy, visceral and packed with twists and turns.

Here’s the trailer for Crimson Siege:

Thank you so much, Jay, for letting us get to know you a little bit better. Besides reading your books, I’d love to try one of your cakes one day!

Jay Raven‘s books and anthologies containing his stories can all be found on Amazon. Why not get your copy of Crimson Siege now!

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You can follow Jay Raven via the following social media:

Email: jay@jayraven.com

Website: www.jayraven.com

Twitter: @JayRavenAuthor

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

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCYpfhXi_m6ePYfeHG_MPO7A

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3153810.Jay_Raven

Meet The Author… Mark Tilbury

On the 20th of April, Caroline Maston organized an online interview with Mark Tilbury who just released a new book of his, The Key to Death’s Door. I was lucky to have time to attend. I didn’t know Mark’s book had a paranormal twist and now I can’t wait to have the time to read his books!

Mark Tilbury

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Can you remember the first book you ever read (or was read to you)?

I can’t actually remember, but it would have had to have been Enid Blyton or a Noddy story.

What did you read yourself as a child?

The Famous Five, and then Agatha Christie as I got older.

The Key to Deaths DoorWhat’s the best book you’ve ever read?

From the Corner of Eye by Dean Koontz. There’s a really evil antagonist who made me laugh out loud. You could say it inspires my bad guys!

What did you do before you became an author?

Computer repair! Glad to get out of it!

When did you decide to become a writer?

I’ve tried on and off my whole life and had a little interest, but it wasn’t until Kindle/Amazon made it possible to self-publish that I really decided to go for it.

Are you a full-time writer?

Yes, I’m very lucky that it is.

Do you have a writing routine?

I generally tend to write in the afternoons as I don’t seem able to write at any other time of day.

The Abbatoir of DreamsWhat are your main writing ambitions?

To write a story of the caliber of The Green Mile by Stephen King.

Tell us something about your work.

I’d describe my books as dark thrillers with a supernatural twist. Usually, there’s a protagonist against the most evil antagonist I can think up and ordinary people in extraordinary situations.

What is the most difficult part of writing for you?

The editing! The writing itself I get lost in, but the editing has to polish out all the mistakes.

Where do you get your ideas from and do you ever find yourself worrying about what goes on inside your head?

Yep. My head is a very worrying place to live at times! The starting point of my stories is normally with an antagonist speaking to me. King from The Liar’s Promise said ‘what doesn’t kill you will make you wish it had’ and that was interesting enough for my head to develop it. As for the stories, it’s normally a case of ‘what if’, e.g. in The Liar’s Promise what if a child remembered being murdered in a past life and the murderer being alive in this one.

How do you come up with the paranormal aspects of your book?

My imagination generally gets the better of me! I think of a ‘straight’ story and then it gets taken over by my strange imagination! I do have a very open mind on the supernatural due to things I’ve experienced, so maybe they’ve influenced me too.

Would you write in other genres?

Yes. I do intend to write some straight psychological thrillers soon, without the supernatural element.

The Eyes of the AccusedHow much research goes into one of your books?

I research as I go, but I always make sure I get my facts straight.

Have you ever killed off someone you don’t like in real life in one of your books?

No. Thankfully I’ve not known anyone in real life I’d like to kill, but there are a large number of politicians I wouldn’t mind getting rid of fictionally.

Do you watch horror and thriller movies and TV shows or is it only written work for you?

I’ve got all of the Stephen King adaptations on DVD, and I also enjoy things like Trial and Retribution, Cracker and Prime Suspect (I have the box sets!).

If you could write with any other author living or dead, who would you choose?

Mark Edwards. I’ve just finished reading The Magpies and was blown away by it. It’s an amazing read, and kind of where I’d like my books to go in the future.

The Revelation RoomHow important is social media to you as an author?

Very! It enables me to talk to people who both have read, and who may read my books. I love the interaction with everyone online and all the various ways I can keep in touch with everyone.

Do your daughters read your books?

Yes, they both read them. The Liar’s Promise scared the bejeezus out of Danielle, my youngest one (21yrs old). I sometimes what they think of me when they read them!

With what book should new readers start if they’re interested in your work?

The Abattoir of Dreams. It does contain scenes of abuse so not for everyone, but is ultimately about good overcoming evil, friendship, and trust.

How do you unwind at the end of the day?

By watching things that make me laugh.

It was very nice to chat with Mark and find out he is a very nice, normal person (who just thinks up twisted stories 😀 )!

Mark Tilbury’s books (including the audiobook The Liar’s Promise) are all available on Amazon, with his latest one being The Key to Death’s Door.

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