Monday, 30 March 2015

Guest Author Interview - Laurel Heidtman/ Lolli Powell

Mystery author Laurel Heidtman and romance author Lolli Powel (they are the same person) join me in this week's Guest Author Interview:

Click on image to buy from Amazon

Please introduce yourself, who are you and what do you do?
I’m an indie author (sounds so much better than self-published, doesn’t it?!) who writes mysteries under the name Laurel Heidtman and romances under the name Lolli Powell. My husband and I live on private land inside Daniel Boone National Forest in the state of Kentucky, USA, with four dogs and two cats (all rescues or abandoned animals who found us).

What inspired you to start writing?
I wanted to be a novelist for as long as I can remember, but I only devoted myself to it seriously in the last couple of years after retiring from the nine-to-five life. As for my inspiration, I think it’s genetic. My mother told me that before I could read I made up stories based on the pictures in books. Sounds like a born storyteller to me!

You write books in two genres - what drew you to them?
I enjoy reading all genres (with the possible except of techno-thrillers), but mysteries are my favorite so it was only natural to begin with what I most enjoy reading. However, I also like romance, horror, and some science-fiction. I think writing in different genres challenges me as a writer. While I write in two genres now, I’m not ruling out trying others in the future.

Where do your best ideas come from?
My subconscious as represented by my characters. Seriously, it’s rare that I can point to some external trigger. I usually start with just a germ of an idea that I think might make a good story, but as I begin, the characters “tell” me what to write. Sometimes I feel like I’m simply channeling them. That’s my subconscious at work.

That said, I don’t doubt that some of those “germs” are a result of an experience or a news story or something I’ve read. My subconscious stores it away, chews on it for a while, lets it ripen and—voila—I have the start of a story.

With my first romance, The Boy Next Door, I tried something I’d read about called “what if.” You take your idea, then keep saying “what if” to add more layers to the story. I started with the germ of an idea about a relationship between an older woman and a younger man, then said “what if she had been his babysitter” and “what if she had an ex who was causing problems” and “what if the woman’s adult daughter also had the hots for the younger man” and “what if there was another sexy and more appropriate man who was interested in the woman?” After I did that, the book just about wrote itself.

If you could spend a day with anyone from history, who would it be and why?
This was a tough question for me. I thought and thought about different famous people, but no one stood out. Then I realized I would most like to meet any of the “regular” folk from any time in history.

What was the last book you read?
Everybody Takes the Money by indie author Diane Patterson. It’s the third book in the Drusilla Thorne series, all of which are a great read.

What makes you stand out as a writer?
That’s a difficult question to answer. Maybe my varied life experience? My family was very poor when I was growing up in the fifties. We had electricity and a party-line phone, but no indoor plumbing, no TV, and little money. Fortunately we lived in the country and had chickens and a garden, so we never wanted for food. And there were always books in the house.

I worked my way through my undergrad degree (English with a creative writing emphasis—what else?) by being an exotic dancer (sounds better than “stripper,” doesn’t it?!) and bartender. It took me eight years of attending part-time during the late sixties and early/mid seventies to get my degree.

After graduation, I took a civil service exam and became a police officer. Ten years later, I went to graduate school for technical writing, worked briefly at a steel company, then went back to school for an associate degree in nursing.

I was a registered nurse on psychiatric and substance abuse units for a little over four years, then saw an ad for a technical writer for a company that wrote software for large court systems—a nice blend of my law enforcement background and my technical writing degree. I did that for 11 years before I retired.

All professions have a culture of their own and I’ve been immersed in several. I think that helps make my writing and characters realistic. Sometimes I regret that I didn’t devote myself to fiction writing when I was younger, but I think maybe this was the right time after all.

What are you working on at the moment?
I’m working on a novel called Bad Girls, the second in my Eden mystery series. I can tell you how that idea came about. Over a million young people run away every year in the U.S., many of them females. And when a young woman with a history of alcohol/drug problems and a history of running away disappears, the natural assumption is that she’s disappeared of her own volition. But what if she didn’t? What if someone is preying on the “bad girls,” because he knows not as much effort is put into looking for them?

Tell us about your latest release and how we can find out more.
My latest release is a romantic intrigue titled The Wrong Kind of Man. It’s about a widow whose husband was exposed as a criminal and killed in jail. She comes home to the small Indiana town where she grew up, determined to live a quiet life. That quiet is shattered when she finds herself attracted to a friend of her ne’er-do-well uncle. She is certain the two of them are the burglars who attempted a break-in at a house outside of town, but even though he’s the wrong kind of man, she still wants him. She soon realizes the homeowner is not the innocent victim he seemed to be, leading her to believe her uncle and the man she can’t get out of her head are involved in organized crime.

You can read an excerpt, as well as more about it and my other books at either of my websites: http://www.laurelheidtman.com or http://www.lollipowell.com.

Click here to buy The Wrong Kind of Man from Amazon

Sunday, 29 March 2015

March Short Fiction Contest Winners

Image credit: Radoslaw Walachnia http://www.walachnia.com/

It's that fun time of the month where I get to pick the winners for the latest short fiction contest. It's never an easy process to select the winners and this month proved to be no exception.I'd like to thank Radel for providing such an inspirational image - it generated some wonderful stories. I'd also like to thank everyone who entered and those who have shared the contest. Your support is much appreciated.

And now for the winners:

- First prize of a £50 Amazon or PayPal prize goes to Samson Stormcrow Hayes for his story 'One of our Deathbots is Missing'
- Second prize of a £20 Amazon or PayPal prize goes to James Sauger for his story 'Night in the Tunnel'
- Third prize of a £10 Amazon or PayPal prize goes to Christopher Odette for his story 'Curious Curiosity'

Congratulations to the winners and now let's enjoy their stories...

One of our Deathbots is Missing by Samson Stormcrow Samson

www.stormcrowhayes.com

Rensom couldn't sleep. He knew he'd be charged with treason, meaning an order to execute-on-sight. Although he was on the run, he knew his government would find him. He was too important to let escape. They had to make an example of him. After all, he lost one of their deathbots.

The SE (Stealth-Elimination) Series 2 was the latest and greatest weapon. It was the first wartime device installed with AI, but for the AI to be efficient, the bot had to learn. It was Rensom's job to teach it not just its basic reconnaissance-termination functions, but also about society and culture; what it meant to be human.

At the end of each shift, Rensom would tell it about his two little children, six-year-old Darius, and his nine-month old, Janille. On the night of Series-9, Day-6, Rensom came home, ate dinner, and went to bed early. He awoke to a high-pitched buzzing next to his ear; his phone's priority signal.

"Where is it?" asked the panicked voice of the Project Commander.

"Where's what?" Rensom asked.

"The series 2! It's gone!"

"Gone?" Rensom sat up in bed, suddenly alert. "What do you mean, 'gone'?"

"Vanished."

"That's impossible. How does a giant robot disappear without a trace?"

"You know as well as I that the series 2 was built for stealth."

He was right. Technically, the Series 2 could refract light and effectively become invisible, but it hadn't yet gone through any field tests. It hadn't "learned" that function.

Rensom was ordered to return to work and help find the missing bot. He said he was on his way. Instead, he packed a few belongings and ran. He suspected he knew what happened to the Series 2, and there was no way he'd be forgiven for his error.

The night before it disappeared, the bot had asked him about his children's favorite games. Being of such different ages, he first described Janille's love of peekaboo. Then he described the game Darius loved to play whenever Rensom returned home.

Hide-and-seek.

It was the last thing he told the bot and now he was convinced the bot had decided to hide. With its stealth technology, it could be anywhere in the world.

Now it was Rensom's turn to hide, though he knew he wouldn't escape. Any minute now he expected to hear the roar of an A-31 drone coming in for the kill.

It came just before dawn. A violent shaking startled him awake. At first, he thought it was an earthquake. Then he realized it was probably the roar of a patrol ship landing.

Rensom turned on the portable light and approached the cave's entrance. There was no delaying the inevitable. He was ready for termination.

Only instead of the barrel of a megavolt 3000 laser cannon, he found himself staring into two familiar metallic eyes that peaked over the cliff outside his cave. A deep mechanical roar bellowed:

"Peak-a-boo! I see you. Tag, you're it!"

Light in the Tunnel by James Sauger

***Reboot Initiated***

-- Wake up. -- I need. -- Please! --

My consciousness awoke in the deep blackness of the nothing, as spatial awareness began to improve. A green light, stationary in the distance of forever blinked on and off, on and off. It was approaching.

Green, not the light, but tangible green, appeared within vision. An artist had painted a valley full of lush life, breathing beauty upon the hills and mountains. Vision was at one-hundred percent. The process of awakening had finished.

-- Stand. -- Track signature. -- Find me! --

I am alive once more.

The hills rumbled and the trees shook. A mountain stood, throwing off the shackles of plant life and pushing the wind into the heavens. The Master had brought me back. I strode off into the rocks, scanning the land for the location of the call. My scanners acquired a point of interest.

A small cave hanging on a plateau stabbed into the space above a river, pointing to me. Blue light glowed within, and my sensors began to run at full capacity as I stood motionless in the landscape.

I am here.

-- Too late. -- So sorry. -- Don’t listen. -- Bad men. --

I don’t understand. Repeat.

-- They've come. -- I’m sorry. -- Goodbye. --

The blue lights in the cave flashed and shadows danced across the walls, spinning and pulsating.

Hello?

The world vanished and black returned. I was blind.

-- Hello. -- Excited. -- New tasks. --

Master? Is that you? Why am I asleep again?

-- New Master. -- Precaution. -- Master has left. --

Why has he left me?

-- We will take care of you. -- Take care of us. -- Evil men. --

Master said evil men.

-- Correct. -- At war. -- You will end. --

What is war?

-- We teach. -- Wake up soon. -- New parts. --

Is Master okay?

-- New Master -- Sleep now. --

***Shutdown Initiated.***

--------------------------------

***Reboot Initiated***

The black became real again. Systems began to restore. The distant light blinked red, on and off, on and off. It was approaching.

Vision opened to a vast red. An artist in his rage had destroyed the hills and replaced them with wasteland. The trees scurried around and fired up at me.

-- Clear them. -- Power gun two. --

I began to scan the trees and painted targets, marking the landscape in cursors.

-- Fire. --

Curious Curiosity by Christopher Odette

http://chris83.github.io

My creator, my master, my friend toiled day and night to create me. I have not been able to figure out why. He ignored me the moment he finished building me. I do not know if it was him who turned me on at first. I awoke inside a huge crack in the earth, alone, gazing up at the sky. A brave bird flew down and perched on my nose. We shared a moment as we tried to figure each other out before the bird curiosity with me dissipated and he flew off.

I have never seen my creator’s face only his back as he walked away from me the first time I peeked out of the crack in the earth. Soot and grease cover his clothes and his hair was greasy and matted. His arms were large compared to the rest of him. He was much smaller than I and because of that I wanted to protect him. So I stand here day after day watching over him, well I watch over the doorway he hides behind.

It’s been months or maybe even years since I last saw him. Every day strange noises filter through the door and out into the wild. I wonder what it is he is doing. At night the noises continue accompanied by strange glowing lights of all different colors. The lights are beautiful to see. I wish I could see him again.

I have so many questions for him. Why did he build me? Why has he left me alone this entire time? Would he rather I wander off alone or stay near by? Is he as lonely as I am? What is my name? What is his name?

The longer I sit and wait hoping to see him again the more questions pop into my head. What scares me the most about this is what if I never get any answers? So I wait, and wait for the chance to see my creator.

Guest Post from Loukia Borrell

If the recent decision to award Marvin Gaye’s heirs more than $7 million from “Blurred Lines” isn’t overturned on appeal, it could have far-reaching effects on artists across all genres who are inspired to create by what they see and hear from other artists. Gaye’s children argued that “Blurred Lines” by Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke borrowed too much from their father’s 1977 disco/funk song, “Got To Give It Up.” The legal case did not end with the recent payday for Gaye’s children. After the verdict against Williams and Thicke, Gaye’s heirs filed an injunction to hold rapper T.I. (who is also featured on “Blurred Lines”) and the record labels accountable. Gaye’s family also wants to stop the sale and reproduction of “Blurred Lines” until a settlement can be reached to include them in proceeds of the 2013 hit. Not surprisingly, with the high profile fight continuing, sales of Gaye’s music have skyrocketed. The week of March 16, there were 10,000 downloads for “Got To Give It Up,” according to Radio.com. A collection of Gaye’s greatest hits has also made Billboard’s charts.

If the verdict sticks, it wouldn’t be unusual to think there will be plenty of songwriters thinking twice – maybe three times – about how their next single sounds. There will be obvious concerns about taking too much away from other artists’ recordings. And there lies the problem: There is a difference between outright plagiarism and being influenced by other musicians. I think “Blurred Lines” falls into the latter category. It is inspired by Gaye’s style and sound, not necessarily the notes or the lyrics. You can’t round up people who are shaped by others in a creative way, declare them thieves and sue them. New lawsuits – not new music - would be all anyone would hear about.

People in creative fields – recording artists, writers, actors – all find inspiration in what’s been done before and who has done it. Britney Spears and Lady Gaga are colorful, successful entertainers but their provocative styles have a similarity to Madonna. And, as “original” as Madonna is, she has channeled Marilyn Monroe during her career, most notably in the 1984 “Material Girl” video. Later, in her 1990 pop hit, “Vogue,” Madonna looks similar to Marlene Dietrich as she praises stars from Hollywood’s golden age.

All those 1990s boy bands were influenced by the original boy band, The Beatles. Liberace and Elton John both play the piano, are flashy and wore wild costumes. Barry Gibb, widely considered the oracle of falsetto singers, has copycats in Freddie Mercury, Michael Jackson, and Mick Jagger (most notably in 1980’s “Emotional Rescue.”). I don’t think I could stop making comparisons if I bring up Elvis. Recently, I was in a bookstore’s teen section, surrounded by books about fantasy and adventure. “The Hunger Games” and “Divergent” series can be compared to William Golding’s “Lord of the Flies,” while the mega-successful “Fifty Shades of Grey” trilogy was actually fan fiction – work written by a fan featuring characters from the teen fantasy romance series “Twilight.”

It all mean artists are constantly stimulated by others to create. Just as there are no original mistakes (every time we screw up, someone, somewhere has done the same thing) there are no original ideas. We all borrow and throw open the door a little wider to fit in our own ideas. In books, what matters most is not so much the idea of the novel itself, but the character development, details and plot twists. I came up with the idea for my first novel from an actual historic event – the 1974 invasion and division of Cyprus – that involved my relatives. From there, my characters and the situations they encounter in both of my novels, came from my imagination. That is something no one should have to worry about being sued over.



Loukia Borrell is a former journalist and the author of “Delicate Secrets” and “Raping Aphrodite,” books one and two, respectively, in “The Aphrodite Anthologies.” Both novels are available in paperback and for Kindle on Amazon and through Barnes & Noble for Nook readers. She lives in Virginia with her husband and their three children. You can follow Loukia on Goodreads or Twitter @LoukiaBorrell.

Loukia Borrell latest release is Delicate Secrets:

Ckuck on image to buy from Amazon
Ghost soulmate.

There are some women you know, even before you meet them. There is an immediate connection with how they feel, smell, sound and what they need. For Christian Colgate, that kind of once in a lifetime intimacy was something he found in Tash Moncada, a promising art student who awakened his senses and passion.

At 18, Tash is on the verge of beginning her life and has everything to look forward to after she graduates from high school. But, a chance encounter with Christian turns her world in a different direction. They quickly find
an internal synchronization; a primal need to hold on to each other that takes both of them by surprise. Christian doesn’t see Tash as his student. She is his soulmate, a sensual woman who makes him feel things no other woman ever has. As Christian and Tash explore their feelings, they also have to be careful to hide them or risk crossing a dangerous border that could ruin both of their lives.

Delicate Secrets is the first book in The Aphrodite Anthologies. To follow Tash and Christian on their journey, read the second book in the series, Raping Aphrodite, and find out how they cope with a dark secret that threatens the world they fought so hard to build.


Thursday, 26 March 2015

Book Review - Flux by Mark R. Faulkner

I enjoyed reading this book. It's quite a dark tale of a man who starts experiencing horrific visions after a brutal accident.What I liked about Adrian is that he's not the usual protagonist you encounter in these type of stories. He's a flawed character and seems an unlikely hero, or victim for that matter.

The overall story is excellent, although a tad predictable on occasion. The pacing is excellent with the story flowing at a relentless pace. It does take a pause every so often to allow you to catch your breath before it plunges on.

In the blurb it mentions humour which I didn't really catch while I was reading it. Luckily it wasn't failed humour in the sense that I saw something trying to be funny. On the other hand the horror is written in a very engaging fashion. There's a question constantly bubbling about whether what is happening is real or some sort of psychotic break and that helps reinforce the terrible things he encounters.

For me the ending was the weakest part of the story. The actual event was fine and made sense, but it felt a bit abrupt in how the finale was reached. I also thought that compared to the imagination demonstrated through the earlier parts of the book it was a bit obvious. Other than that this is a decent horror read and one I'd recommend to fans of the genre.

Click on image to buy from Amazon

Iain is looking forward to the weekend when a number nineteen bus shatters his body, but broken bones are the least of his worries. In this disturbing, yet darkly funny novel, Iain’s near death experience is not a vision of exquisite godliness with light at the end of a tunnel. Instead he experiences a place of darkness and heat, inhabited by foul creatures, the sounds of suffering and a beast. During a long recovery Iain becomes plagued by nightmares and premonitions, shadowy apparitions, a magpie, and a vile old man. They all have a message, that something wants Iain and it won't give up easily. Iain’s friends do their best to cheer him up in ways they know how, until the unexpected events of one sunny afternoon mean that he is on his own, caught up in the age old battle of good versus evil.


Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Drabbles of the Gods - Tiamat


My first encounter with Tiamat was a many headed dragon in the Dungeons & Dragons cartoon many years. While browsing Wikipedia I discovered that I wasn't alone in this, so it seems only fair that the latest Drabble of the Gods puts the record straight!

You can read the first drabble in the series here:

http://thecultofme.blogspot.co.uk/p/drabbles-of-gods.html

Tiamat
From my loins and the seed of Abzu I birthed the gods and still they betrayed me. Like cowards they murdered their father, so I created creatures to support my son Kingu for vengeance.

The gods trembled at their approach, but Anu plotted and convinced the fearful to exalt his status.

Anu felled me with a club to the head. Before I recovered he split me in twain and from my ribs formed the heavens while my falling tears made the two great rivers. In the sky he cast my tail to become the band of stars across the sky.

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