A “Within Reach” Interview with Jill Bisker + Giveaway

The talented Jody Vitek took some time out of her busy writing schedule to interview fellow talented author Jill Bisker about her shot story “Within Reach.”


Within Reach is a very moving and touching story about Emma and the relationship she has with her mother who is suffering with dementia. When Emma finds a special box her father carved with a seashell from her childhood inside, something happens and questions arise that she wants to ask her mother. Questions go unasked and when a small agate replaces the shell, she questions her own sanity.

Within Reach is a short, fast, fulfilling story I recommend everyone reads. The ending will have you looking within yourself.

JODY: I’d like to say hello to everyone and thank you for joining us. Jill, can you share a little about yourself? Where you live? Are you married? Do you have children?

JILL: I live in Stillwater, Minnesota.  I am just celebrating my 25th wedding anniversary with my wonderful husband, George.  I have a 21 year old son named Nathan and a 13 year old cat named Senora.

JODY: Have you always wanted to be a writer?

JILL: Yes, but it is only in the last few years that I was able to believe in myself enough to allow anyone else to read my stories.

JODY: When did you start writing?

JILL: I remember writing stories as soon as I was old enough to write.  I would staple pieces of paper together and make story books.  My mother used to tease me that I couldn’t finish a story because I was so intent on writing the dedication page.  It made me laugh a little to write the dedication page to her.

JODY: You write many different genres and I wondered if you write multiple stories at one time, within these multiple genres, at different times of the hour, day, week, month or when the mood strikes? How do you decide what to work on?

JILL: I have a lot of stories in production at a time.  I am outlining, writing and editing all at the same time.  I have many projects in various stages of completion.  My husband edits my work and helps with story continuity.  Outlining can take some time but when I am ready to write then I write 6 – 8 hours a day until a story is done.  I decide on a word count that I have to get to, usually 1500 – 2000, and I work until I get there.  As far as what to write, I find a story will often ‘demand’ to be told, whether that’s what I had planned or not.  It also helps me to rotate amongst different projects because after a first draft, it’s good to step away from it for a while so that I can return to it with fresh eyes at a later date.  So I typically have a few stories percolating in my mind, am actively writing one, and have one or two in a holding pattern waiting for the next revision.

JODY: You acknowledge your mother, Marlys, in the acknowledgments. Will you share how close to home this story is to you and your mother? If at all.

JILL: I wrote this story when I was helping my mother through the last stages of chronic illness, dementia and leukemia.  I simplified elements in the story just to keep the flow moving.   Some of the elements in the story are things that really happened.  All of the feelings and emotions are genuine.  In our family’s real story – I come from a Yours, Mine and Ours family – my father is living and I have many siblings, as well as numerous nieces and nephews.  We were all deeply affected by my mother’s struggle with dementia.  A portion of the proceeds from this story will be donated to the Alzheimer’s Association www.alz.org.

JODY: Was it difficult to write at times?

JILL: It was actually cathartic to write.  I could focus my feelings into the piece, and it gave me a way to express those feelings and share my experience with others.

JODY: What are you working on now?

JILL: I will be starting edits on my paranormal novel that is coming out in June. (NOTE: “Finding The Way Back” was released from Melange on June 19, 2014.)  I just finished a first draft of the next story in the series and I am on the second draft of a fantasy novel.  I am outlining 3 other stories as well.

JODY: Where do you see your writing career in five years?

JILL:  I hope to continue to be able to bring new stories to life.  Who wouldn’t love a movie deal?  😉 Honestly, as long as I’m able touch others with my writing in some way, I will feel successful.

JODY: My own writer’s curiosity has to ask a few questions: Are you plotter or pantser or both? Organized working area or a mess? Do you have a designated work area? Critique group and/or beta readers?

JILL: I am a firm believer in plotting.  I have many different ways that I outline.  Each story seems to come to me in a different way.  I ask my characters a lot of questions before I even start writing so I know them very well.  I know how they act and what motivates them as well as where I want them to go in the story – how I want them to evolve.  I am very organized, I can’t work in upheaval very well.  I have a vintage vanity I use as a desk and a vintage table in the room to work on outlines.  I don’t let anyone read anything until it’s finished and then I have beta readers.  I tried critique groups but it hasn’t worked for me.  I have found that I have to write in a way that’s true to who I am and what I believe in, and if it’s good enough then hopefully it will find an audience.


 About Jill Bisker

Jill Bisker lives in Stillwater, MN with her husband and a calico cat named Senora. She believes in empowering women to be strong enough to protect themselves, while still soft enough to be loving and compassionate. Her work includes paranormal mystery and traditional high fantasy, as well as contemporary and humorous fantasy and an everyday living blog. Her novella Within Reach is her first publication with Melange. Once a dedicated stay at home Mom, Jill now writes full-time.

Website: www.jillbisker.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/authorjillbisker
Blog: http://www.unaccompaniedjaunt.blogspot.com
Melange:  https://melange-books.com/authors/jillbisker/index.html

About Jody Vitek

Born and raised in Minnesota, Jody has remained close to home living with her husband of twenty plus years, three children and a cat named Holly. Growing up, she enjoyed reading V.C. Andrews’ the Dollanganger series, starting with Flowers in the Attic, S.E. Hinton, and Stephen King to name a few.

She has traveled throughout the United States, to the Bahamas and Cancun, Mexico. Between watching soccer games, scrapbooking and being the COO of the Vitek household, she writes contemporary romances.

Visit and contact Jody at: www.jodyvitek.com
And on Melange: https://melange-books.com/authors/jodyvitek/index.html


Want to get your hands on a FREE e-book copy of “Within Reach”? Simply leave a comment below and you’re entered to win!

A winner will be chosen on or soon after June 30, 2014.

A Character Interview with Colonel Ramachandra || “Flipspace” by John Steiner

Today we bring you an interview conducted by author S. Hampton, Sr. with the character Colonel Sumitra Ramachandra of John Steiner’s Flipspace series – specifically “Branching Out” which is the second mission in the series.


Colonel Ramachandra, please tell us a little bit of your background and how you came to serve in the Naval Aerospace Treaty Organization. I assume NATO is a descendant of the original 1949 organization, North Atlantic Treaty Organization?

“Yes, yes it is. Following the formation of the Pan-American Combine near the end of the twenty-first century, it was decided that NATO’s role should be redefined. Many of the newer member nations weren’t located near the North Atlantic. Also, the costs of maintaining modern air forces and navies overtook even the wealthiest of nations.

“I joined in January of 2159 and graduated in the Class of ’61. There were… complications in my life, which is why I entered the Aerospace Defense Response [ADR] in my late twenties. At first other cadets had a little fun over the fact I was ten years older than many of them, but near the end they started looking up to me a bit like I was their mother. I suppose that’s why my command style turned out the way it has.”


How long have you been in command of the ISS-454 Mockingbird? Is it a beautiful ship, or was it built strictly for functionality? How old is the Mockingbird? What are her full capabilities—at this time? You know as well as I do that no organization can resist upgrading and changing things.

“There are really two starts for my command. The first was being selected as the ISS-454 Mission Commander a little under a year before becoming CO of the Mockingbird itself. Once the ISV-71 Raven passed the test phase a year-long training phase started for myself and my crew.”


By the way, what is the ISV-71 Raven, and how does she differ from the Mockingbird?

“The Intra-System Vessel, Model 71 denotes the year that the test bed exited development as NATO’s chosen multi-role deep space platform. To reduce the minimum number of in-service designs, the Mockingbird and other Ravens were built to be undergo frequent remodulation for several simultaneous mission-specific functions. The Mockingbird and then the Magpie were the first and second of the line.

“The concept, as I understand it, was to ensure that NATO wasn’t forced to devote so many resources to successive waves of wholly untested spacecraft in order to maintain cutting edge capabilities. The talk is that the ISV-71 Raven could remain in service for sixty years at least.”


How long has Major Lamarr Fitch been your Executive Officer, and Chief Master Sergeant Carl Anders been the Chief of the Bird? Can you tell us a little of their background too?

“The Major’s career trajectory and life history aren’t what you’d call the straightest of lines. He’s big on fast cars, and he has a strong command of what the rules are in most any situation. Some of us on the Mockingbird are a little suspicious of how intimately familiar Fitch is with the law.

“As for the Chief? His early childhood was on the Kuiper Belt Object, Pluto. His parents, aunts and uncles, who were all living as an extended family in one habitat, managed to scrape together enough money to move back to Earth. It’s not easy living for most people under Remote Space Conglomerated Industries. I spoke with him about it during our Kepler 22 mission.

“Major Fitch likes to kid around with the Chief and others, though sometimes walks near the edge of undermining his own authority. I just hope he gets a better handle on that so that there isn’t a breakdown of unit cohesion and discipline.”


Were Major Fitch and Chief Anders simply assigned to the Mockingbird, or do you have a say on who your top people are? Individually, what are their greatest strengths, and how do they mesh with you, your personality and expectations?

“Selection for Ravens is only partly under my control. When the 1st Raven Wing was being organized we mission commanders were asked what qualities were best for XO and Chief of the Bird. That’s part of why our training lasted for a year. Much like the NASA astronauts of old, we grew familiar enough to read each other’s vocal tones and gauge underlying messages with greater concession.


How large is the crew of the Mockingbird, and how would you describe that crew?

“There are two circles for crew. Onboard, the original core was for thirty-five, plus AI, Maggie. There’s room for another fifteen extended personnel for certain missions, like our first rescue op. The groundside command numbers around two-hundred maintenance and support.

“However, as of the inclusion of two Flipspace Devices [FSD] on our Extra-Vehicular Frame, which we’ve come to call the FSD frame, our standard compliment was upgrade to thirty-seven. Our original flight surgeon was replaced by Captain Malcolm O’Connell, who also serves as SETI Team Leader. Under him is our FSD expert, Dr. Stanly Goddard and our genetics expert, Specialist Todd Nathanial Ash.

“O’Connell was a firefighter some hundred and fifty years ago, which includes his famous exploits dealing with Self-Propagating Organized Thermotrophs. He’s a C.A.R.E. patient who went through the Combat Augmentation and Recuperative Engineering program from the late-United States Army Medical Corps program.

“Stanly Goddard is what they call a Logician, which is someone with DNA computers in their neurons and wireless synapses throughout the nervous system. Their expertise and education are diverse and extensive, well beyond what most people could handle even as geniuses. He doesn’t use his PhD title, and instead prefers to go by Stanly, or Mr. Wizard.

“As for Todd Nathanial Ash… ehh, I wonder why NATO included him in my command given his notorious background. He used to be a genetic code writer for Runt Racing, which is where they breed animals to be under fifty centimeters tall yet strong enough to take a rider. He admits to being a Gacker, which is something like a computer hacker but with genes instead of software code. The Pan-American Combine security tribunals convicted him for bio-terrorism, and so they’re a little less than pleased that he was given an alternative to serving his full sentence. Frankly, I’m not thrilled by the decision either, but I’m told we needed his skills for any SETI scenario that might crop up.


For those of us new to the world of the Mockingbird, what is Flipspace?

“It’s become a catch term for spatial rotation. Goddard would describe it as a Tesseract or a folding of space to conjoin two locations. Instead of flying through an opening those locations are swapped or flipped, which is where the term came up. The proof of concept was achieved on June 7th, 2173, when a cube of empty space-time was successfully switched with one that contained a sensor probe. While the 1st Raven Wing was officially reclassified as a Light FTL Ops Wing, modern twenty-second century science still hasn’t beaten the quantum barrier. Einstein’s universe speed limit still holds true outside of Non-Locality or NoLo transmissions and Flipspace events.”


Regarding the SETI Protocols, these are descended from the original SETI that was established in 1984 in California? What are some significant changes between the 1984 SETI and the current Protocols?

“At that time the focus was on detecting radio transmissions from what was then called extraterrestrial intelligences. When permanent human presence was established in the solar system and our reach extended to exo-solar planets the SETI Protocol reviews included changes to account for finding physical evidence of intelligent life or their technology. We’ve since learned that those earliest of radio transmissions from Earth degrade completely within just a few tens of light-years. Also, the prospect of waiting centuries if not millennia for an answer compelled later generations of scientists to reevaluate the practicality of radio communication between stars.

“With the SPOT phenomena that Captain O’Connell encountered and the artificial intelligence breakthrough much later, it was decided that clarification was in order. Now we have the term Natural Environmentally-Selected Intelligences to specify that a form of intelligence arose as a byproduct of physical processes wholly independent of human activity.”


Come to think of it, how has Earth changed since the early 21st century?

“The coastlines are quite different. Many Pacific Islands no longer exist, but in their place are oceanic structures that are called Mult-e-nomic platforms. They are centers for overlapping forms of industrial and business, much of it internet-related, which is why the odd ‘e’ in the name.

“You may have noticed a trend of nations forming leagues, unions and combines. That has increased a great deal and for many reasons. Many national governments realized that economics had become bigger than their countries could get a handle on alone. Also, as I described, aerospace and naval defense required increased international cooperation. Peacetime rivalries often bordered on animosity as high or higher than what they used to call a cold war. Stateless threats also have continued to proliferate.

“However, a lot of good has come with the modern twenty-second century. Brain death can be reversed in most circumstances. The nations of the world are starting to get a handle on reversing climate change, and oddly the oceanic oil drilling firms were instrumental in that regard. I hesitate to suggest that spewing greenhouse gasses was a good thing, but it forced us to learn terraforming techniques we might not have otherwise researched.”


Has mankind learned anything since venturing into interstellar space?

“The big shocker was discovering that more than one astral body in the solar system harbors life. Europa’s ice-covered oceans do shelter complex forms of life. While there are bacteria on Mars, we’re unable to distinguish if they’re indigenous or if the Jade Continuum contaminated the planet after declaring their independence from the former People’s Republic of China.

“I’d like to say we’ve tamped down our propensity for conflict, but in truth we just got better at accepting it. The Earth is further from risks of total annihilation, but that’s just the result of advances in precision warfare. As it turns out, the twentieth and twenty-first centuries’ greater threats were in the form of financial warfare, which has persisted as a common practice between powers not quite willing to call each other enemies. Captain O’Connell could probably tell you more about how the world changed, since he lived through most of those decades.”


Between you and us, what is your personal opinion of Remote Space Conglomerated Industries?

“I really wish that their executive boards could take a more humane approach. Despite Chief Anders’ experience, I refuse to believe that everyone in RSCI is bad. Maybe some kind of reformers’ movement could get started. To avoid undermining diplomatic efforts, I don’t think I should delve too much into their social makeup.”


Between Earth and interstellar space, is there someplace that is particularly close to your heart? If so, why?

“I was an aerospace intercept pilot stationed on the Leda Missile Base. Starting my day with the rise of Jupiter and some of its moons made sunrise on Earth a bit boring by comparison. When Leda’s orbit is just right you can see the thin ring that Jupiter has. While I sometimes miss seeing fields of green, Earth also reminds me of troubles I had before joining ADR.


Bearing in mind that plans always change, particularly when serving in a military bureaucracy, what are your plans for your future?

“Honestly, if the powers that be allow it, I hope to stick with command and Raven flight ops. There’s nothing– and I mean nothing, like directing a craft larger than old era cargo planes yet with an agility approaching that of a fighter! During Surface-to-Orbit there’s a point where the Planck engines of atmospheric flight shut off and before the fusion pulse-detonation engine kicks in. It’s just beyond the altitude where blue sky turns black and the stars no longer twinkle. It only lasts a couple of second, and right after you’re knocked into your acceleration couch at anywhere from three to five g-forces!

“I live for that quiet pause between. In more ways than one, you’re crossing between worlds.”


Thank you for joining us today.


About John Steiner

John Steiner earned his Associate of Biology at Salt Lake Community College, where he is currently working as a tutor in math and chemistry. He exercises an avid interest in history, science, philosophy, mythology, martial arts as well as military tactics and technology.

Email: john@walkingotherworlds.com
Website: walkingotherworlds.com

S. Hampton, Sr. About S. Hampton, Sr.

Stan Hampton, Sr. is a full-blood Choctaw of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, a divorced grandfather to 13 wonderful grandchildren, and a published photographer and photojournalist. He retired on 1 July 2013 from the Army National Guard with the rank of Sergeant First Class; he previously served in the active duty Army (1974-1985), the Army Individual Ready Reserve (1985-1995) (mobilized for the Persian Gulf War), and enlisted in the Nevada Army National Guard in October 2004, after which he was mobilized for Federal active duty for almost three years. Hampton is a veteran of Operations Noble Eagle (2004-2006) and Iraqi Freedom (2006-2007) with deployment to northern Kuwait and several convoy security missions into Iraq.

His writings have appeared as stand-alone stories and in anthologies from Dark Opus Press, Edge Science Fiction & Fantasy, Melange Books, Musa Publishing, MuseItUp Publishing, Ravenous Romance, and as stand-alone stories in Horror Bound Magazine, The Harrow, and River Walk Journal, among others.

In May 2014 he graduated from the College of Southern Nevada with an Associate of Applied Science Degree in Photography – Commercial Photography Emphasis. A future goal is to study for a degree in archaeology—hopefully to someday work in and photograph underwater archaeology (and also learning to paint).

After 13 years of brown desert in the Southwest and overseas, he misses the Rocky Mountains, yellow aspens in the fall, running rivers, and a warm fireplace during snowy winters.

As of April 2014, after being in a 2-year Veterans Administration program for Homeless Veterans, Hampton is officially no longer a homeless Iraq War veteran, though he is still struggling to get back on his feet.

Hampton can be found at:

Melange Books

Amazon.com Author Page

Amazon.com. UK Author Page

Goodreads Author Page

A “Craving Vengeance” Interview With Valerie J. Clarizio + Giveaway

A little mystery, a dash of romance, add in a sexy detective and you have the Nick Spinelli mystery series by Valerie J. Clarizio.

Shelley R. Pickens, author of the upcoming YA thriller “The Haunting of Secrets”, took the time to sit down and grill fellow author Valerie J. Clarizio about the second book in her Spinelli series, “Craving Vengence.”

First, here’s a little about the book:

Nick Spinelli’s normal life as a homicide detective has been catapulted into a whirlwind of chaotic holiday adventures ever since he met the beautiful Shannon O’Hara.

Nick had hoped to spend his first Valentine’s Day with Shannon in a traditional manner, starting with a nice dinner out on the town and then perhaps a long warm adventurous night in her arms. His plans quickly change when cupid is found murdered in a back alley. The investigation becomes more and more inconceivable, as Spinelli discovers that Shannon is linked to the victim. When another cupid turns up dead, and it is discovered that Shannon knows him as well, Spinelli is motivated to go undercover as a singing valentine dressed as cupid, complete with wings and a quiver of arrows. How many other cupids are at risk? Is Spinelli on the killer’s list as well? The stress ignited by the day’s events causes sparks to fly between Spinelli and Shannon as he struggles to piece it all together and stop the string of slayings.

Shelley– So please tell us a little about yourself – how did you come to be a writer?

Valerie– This will sound a bit odd but I never read for pleasure until about six years ago. I had just completed my Masters in Business while holding a full-time and part-time job and suddenly had so much time on my hands I didn’t know what to do with myself. A good friend of mine handed me a Janet Evanovich book, from her Stephanie Plum series, and simply said, “Here, read this.” I said, “No thanks, I don’t read.” She put the book in my hands anyway and not only did I read that book, I read every book Evanovich wrote as well as every JA Konrath book I could get my hands on. I logged over 50 books read within that year.

I woke up one morning remembering the quirky dream I’d had and I thought to myself that Evanovich could make that dream into an awesome book. The more I thought about it I thought to heck with Evanovich, I’ll write the book myself. Hence, Nick Spinelli was born.


Shelley– So we start with murders on the most romantic day of the year! What made you choose Valentine’s Day for the setting of your story?

Valerie– Well, I’d already screwed up Spinelli and Shannon’s Christmas with murder and mayhem in Covert Exposure (book #1 in the series), so I thought that I may as well mess up their Valentine’s Day as well to see exactly how tough and in love they are. What a perfect day for testing love’s strength, don’t you think?


Shelley– Have you ever had a Valentine’s Day that didn’t quite go as expected like Nick and Shannon?

Valerie– Can’t say I did, and nor do I ever want to. I just want to take my heart-shaped box of chocolates and indulge.

Shelley– Nick Spinelli is one hot cop. What was your inspiration when you created him?

Valerie– When I started the series, I fully intended that Shannon would be the main focus, but as my fingers hit the keyboard Spinelli overtook everything, and told me how it was going to be. Now here’s my typical disclaimer – I work at City Hall and no matter how much some of the Police Officers think they are Nick Spinelli, they are NOT! I’d love to have just one Nick Spinelli on our force.


Shelley– Do you have to do a lot of crime research/police procedure for your books?

Valerie– Seeing as I’m fortunate enough to work at City Hall, I have plenty of easily available resources at my fingertips. The Firefighters lend a hand sometimes as well. Also, my brother is a Sheriff’s Deputy.


Shelley- In the book Detective Walker is an older married man who tries to help Nick through some of his relationship problems. Do you have a person like that whom you go to when things are rough?

Valerie– Oh yes, I have a great little circle of friends who are always there for me when I need them.


Shelley– Do you personally relate to any of your characters in this series?

Valerie– I like to think I’m more like Detective Walker. The down-to-earth, plain, supportive, brains behind the operation type.


Shelley– You left the book with quite a cliffhanger! So what can we expect from the next Spinelli adventure?

Valerie– I have a feeling that St. Patrick’s Day is going to test the strength of both Spinelli and Shannon. Only this time their adventure may take them out of Milwaukee and to ………

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About Valerie J. Clarizio

Valerie Clarizio lives in beautiful Door County Wisconsin with her husband and extremely spoiled cat. She loves to read, write, and spend time at her cabin in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. She’s lived her life surrounded by men, three brothers, a husband, and a male Siamese cat who required his own instruction manual. Keeping up with all the men in her life has turned her into a successful hunter and fisherwoman.

She holds a Master of Business Administration degree and works as a Finance Director. She is a member of Romance Writers of America and the Wisconsin Romance Writers of America.

Twitter: @VClarizio
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/val.clarizio

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About Shelley R. Pickens

Shelley Pickens is a Spanish teacher by day and a novelist by night. She’s been in love with everything paranormal since she can remember. After years of teaching high school students, she decided to take her firsthand knowledge of young adults and apply it to her passion for creative writing and fantasy.  When not teaching or writing, Shelley likes to spend time with her husband and two beautiful children in Atlanta, Ga.  Her escape from reality is her love of complex thriller and science fiction TV series like Supernatural and Sleepy Hollow.  In her spare time she is an avid watcher of little league baseball.  THE HAUNTING OF SECRETS is her debut novel.

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For a chance to win a free e-book copy of “Craving Vengeance” leave a comment below and let us know who your favorite fictional detective is. If you don’t have a favorite, that’s OK! Any comment will do.

A “Serenya’s Song” Interview with Mysti Parker + FREE BOOK

Author Alice J. Black, soon to be published over at our young adult imprint Fire and Ice sat down to question Fantasy Romance author Mysti Parker on the second book in her Tallenmere series.

First, a bit about the book:

No one ever said love was easy…

Serenya Crowe may be a half-elf commoner, but she’s no ordinary woman. With the ability to interpret dreams, and a birth defect that forces her to wear gloves, she’s endured gossip and the cruelty of her husband, Sebastian, The Earl of Summerwind. All she’s ever wanted is to live a quiet life and raise a family. When she meets the new stranger in town, her world and her heart, are turned upside down.

Wood-elf Jayden Ravenwing is an ex-secret agent who wants nothing more than to forget matters of the heart. He left the bustle of Leogard and his failed marriage to make a fresh start in Summerwind. He never planned to fall in love again, especially with the enchanting Serenya Crowe.

When a strange portal opens on the Crowe property, Jayden is thrown into an investigation, knowing that if he fails, Serenya and everyone in the town may die.

Together, he and Serenya must overcome an ancient evil, and their own inner demons, to save Summerwind and find the love they’ve always dreamed of.

Alice J. Black: Serenya is truly a sweet woman. Is she based off anyone you know in real life?

Mysti Parker: Not anyone in particular, though I admit to some parallels in my own life, like having a stepfather and never knowing my real father. Her struggle to discover who she really is and how she fits into the world around her is also something I can relate to.

AJB: What about Jayden? Do you know anyone who has been a womaniser such as he?

MP: I know a few, but not naming names! Jayden is very special to me. He’s the only character so far who has played significant roles in all the books in the series, so I’ve been able to really develop his character and get to know him inside and out. Whether he’ll appear in later books is yet to be seen, but I’d say it’s likely. My husband feels very sorry for Jayden and calls him my whipping boy. I do put him through the wringer, but I think he’s strong enough to handle it.

AJB: Does Serenya and Jayden’s relationship remind you of any in real life?

MP: I can’t say their trials reminded me of anyone in particular, because of all the supernatural elements involved. But metaphorically, their challenges represent a real relationship or marriage and all the work two people must do to stay together. Their love (and that of any of the couples I write) is also a reflection of that between me and my husband—challenged but unconditional.

AJB: Who was the best character to write?

MP: Serenya was probably the most fun, because I had never written anyone like her before, nor had I read any characters like her before. I didn’t depend on any well-known paranormal subjects, like vampires or werewolves. All her secrets were a fresh creation on my part, so my imagination had a field day!

AJB: Who was the hardest character to write?

MP: Sebastian Crowe, the Earl of Summerwind. As Serenya’s abusive husband, he took a great deal of work to turn him into a well-rounded character that ended up playing a big part in the book. At first, he came across as just a nasty brute, but I (and my critique partners) wanted more out of him. So, after 287 drafts, I think I finally got him right.

AJB: What inspired you to write Serenya’s Song?

MP: Jayden did. He needed somewhere to live after A Ranger’s Tale, so I built Summerwind for him and stuck him into another impossible love story. As the story’s themes emerged, I felt inspired to emphasize the theme of stepparents and how they can love their stepchildren as much as a biological child. I think Serenya’s relationship with her stepfather Douglas reflected that theme well.

AJB: The world that Serenya lives in is complex, did you always know there would be different creatures within it?

MP: Oh yes, from the start, I wanted to build a fantasy world from the ground up, taking readers on a grand tour so they can enjoy the ride as much as I’ve enjoyed designing it.

AJB: Serenya embraces her new identity. What advice would you give to someone who found themselves in an identity crisis?

MP: Having been in an identity crisis myself, I know how hard it is to rediscover who you are. I’ve been a mom since 2001, and now with three kids, a husband, and a constant slew of chores, it’s too easy to lose myself in the process of caring for everyone else. That’s why I write. It’s always been something I enjoy, and when I create a new story, it’s something I can claim just for myself. Writing a story or book is something that has a definite beginning and end. It’s not like laundry or dishes that have to be done over and over and over. The process is hard at times. I won’t lie about that. But, the sense of accomplishment when I hold the finished product in my hands is so freeing.

So my advice would be to find something you truly enjoy doing, whether that’s writing or painting or playing golf or reading, and make that your “thing”. Make time for it, set goals for yourself and work at them until you accomplish them. You’ll find yourself somewhere along the way.

AJB: Are you currently working on something new? If so would you care to share a snippet with us?

MP: I’m actually working on my very first historical novel. Here’s the blurb (for now):

Set in 1866 Lebanon TN, Portia McAllister, having lost both husband and only child to the ravages of the American Civil War, leaves home to take a job as tutor for a widower’s child. All she wants is to escape the grief, to guard her heart and never love again. Fate has other plans.

Beau Stanford came home from war to find his wife dead and his once-thriving horse farm barely hanging on. He takes in a young widow to teach his son and help run the house while he tries to turn things around.Despite his best efforts, he’s drawn to Portia from the start.

Amid post-war restoration, racial violence, and a morphine-addicted friend, love seems like an unnecessary luxury. When Beau’s late wife’s beautiful, rich young cousin arrives in town with her sights set on him, he’s forced to decide between a woman who’s lost everything but has won his heart or a woman whose money can protect his livelihood. His choice holds more impact than any of them realizes.


And here’s an exclusive excerpt that hasn’t been shared anywhere else. Enjoy!

Rubbing her bare forearms nervously, she broke the awkward silence. “Thank you for the dress. It was quite unexpected.”

“I felt the need to replace what you lost.” Dropping his foot back to the ground, he pushed off the wall and stepped closer. “I didn’t think you’d come tonight.”

“I didn’t know if I should…or if you…wanted me to.”

The musicians must have come back from their intermission, because the flowing, rhythmic sounds of a waltz floated across the veranda.

Beau held out his hand, breaking the border of shadow and light that separated them and revealing the callouses of a hard-working man. “May I have this dance?”

Her heart thumped a warning inside her chest. You’re stepping over a line you shouldn’t cross. But the warm beacon of his eyes caught her in his spell, and she lost all notion of refusing him. Slowly, carefully, as though she were about to touch Briar Rose’s spindle, she accepted his hand. His other hand settled on her waist, and he drew her to him, away from the window and prying eyes. They stood like this for one eternal moment, secure in their shadowy refuge. Portia could have soared into the cosmos, had Beau not kept her secure in his arms.

“I don’t dance very well,” she admitted quietly as she rested her palm on his chest. She could feel his strong muscles and the steady rhythm of his heart.

“It’s just a waltz. Simplest dance there is. It’s the only one I ever learned, though Claire tried her best to teach me. Her toes paid the price.”

“My toes are just as penniless as I am, so let’s not spend beyond their means.”


Portia smiled, relaxing with their easy banter. Beau led, keeping her hand in his firm but gentle grip. She followed, and they soon fell into the rhythm of sultry strings and piano chords. Glancing down at her feet, she missed her step and landed on Beau’s toe.


“Up here.” His soothing, deep voice eased her fears as expertly as he calmed his horses. “Don’t look at your feet. Always look ahead or into your partner’s eyes.”

“All right.”

It is easier this way, looking into your partner’s eyes. And there was no place she’d have rather looked right then. His deep-set eyes were gray in this light and softened by his serene smile. She could have stared into them until her feet grew numb if time would allow.

As the last notes of the waltz glided out onto the veranda, she burned into her memory the strength in his hand on her waist, the way he smiled and gently guided her back into the step when she lost focus. No matter what happened from this night on, she never wanted to forget the way it felt right then, dancing in Beau Stanford’s arms.

The final chords faded into silence. Beau went still, but he held her there against him. She longed to remain in the sanctuary of him, man and woman, united body and soul. He let go of her hand and touched her face, trailing his fingers lightly along her cheek. Portia lifted her chin to accept his kiss, but her spirit fell back to earth when his jaw tightened.

He spoke in a ragged whisper. “There’s something I need to tell you…”

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About Mysti Parker
ysti Parker (pseudonym) is a full time wife, mother of three, and a writer. Her first novel, A Ranger’s Tale was published in January, 2011 by Melange Books, and the second in the fantasy romance series, Serenya’s Song, was published in April 2012. The highly anticipated third book, Hearts in Exile, has already received some great reviews. The Tallenmere series has been likened to Terry Goodkind’s ‘Sword of Truth’ series, but is probably closer to a spicy cross between Tolkien and Mercedes Lackey.

Mysti’s other writings have appeared in the anthologies Hearts of Tomorrow, Christmas Lites, and Christmas Lites II. Her flash fiction has appeared on the online magazine EveryDayFiction. She has also served as a class mentor in Writers Village University’s six week free course, F2K.

Mysti reviews books for SQ Magazine, an online specfic publication, and is the proud owner of Unwritten, a blog voted #3 for eCollegeFinder’s Top Writing Blogs award. She resides in Buckner, KY with her husband and three children.

Website: www.mystiparker.blogspot.com
Blog: www.mystiparker.blogspot.com
Facebook Page: www.facebook.com/pages/Mysti-Parker/103786449704221
Twitter: @MystiParker
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4625596.Mysti_Parker
Email: mystiparker@yahoo.com

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About Alice J. Black

Alice J. Black was born in the North East England and even as a child had more fascination with books than the outside world. She writes in the supernatural young adult genre and likes to experiment with other genres. She’s an avid writer on her second home, writing.com. Her debut novel, The Doors, is due for publication in September 2014 from Fire and Ice YA Books. She has had other short works published previously in the Writing.com Anthology 2013.

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Free Book

Read the book that started it all!

A Ranger’s Tale by Mysti Parker is a free e-read!

Get it here:
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An Interview with Author Joanne Rawson + Giveaway

Joining us today we have Erin Elliott, author of the upcoming “Mira’s View” – the first in The Sword of Lumina YA fantasy series. Erin took time out of her busy schedule to interview Chic-Lit author Joanne Rawson about her short story “Learner Mum.”

First, a little about the story.

Polly Wilkins is a successful freelance journalist slash writer. She has been living with her partner Steve in what her parents call sin for the last eight years. But, to her parent’s disappointment, there are no signs of wedding bells or the patter of tiny feet on the horizon. Why? Because Polly, is not in the least bit maternal. Can this all change after Polly and Steve have a torrid weekend looking after her nephew? Or will Polly stick to her guns and loose Steve forever?


Erin:  What inspired this story?

Joanne: I was awaiting the release of my first book, For Better or for Worse. Nancy suggested I write something for the anthology, Having My Baby. Well, having no children myself, and now a little mature in years my maternal instincts have swayed towards being like Polly, which had me thinking. What fun it would be to write a story based on no maternal instincts.

Erin: I found myself laughing at the description that Polly gave when watching her nephew Josh, is this something that you have experience with or that you drew from for your story?

Joanne: Oh no first- hand experience! My brother Tristan is fifteen years younger than me, and being an only child for fifteen years, babysitting was classed part of my sisterly duties. I had many hair raising moments, that my Mum, (Margot) kindly remembers me of still today. However, the one that sticks in my mind and perhaps scared Tristan for life is the night he had an upset tummy, at around the age of two. Well, he called me crying, he had pooped right through his nappy, caked, from head to foot and puked in the bed. (Gross, I am sorry.) Anyway gagging, I removed the nappy, as he processed to poop and puke more, on me and on the carpet. Eventually I got him in the bath. Hot and frustrated, I dressed him, took him downstairs while I went back to gag and change the sheets and clean the carpet. Then there was an almighty scream from downstairs, I ran down to the sitting room just at the point Jaws came lunging out of the water, almost poking his head through the T.V screen. Terrified out of his wits he clung to me, too frightened to stay on his own, even when I put in his video. I had to hold him while I managed to clean up. When mum and dad arrived home, just as I was trying to scrub the carpet while Tristan hung on me like a baby kangaroo around my tummy, I broke down into tears, thinking I had failed. Needless to say, Mum was more than comforting. Sorry Tris for any embarrassment caused – Sis xx

Erin: What other works do you have available now?

Joanne: Always MR. Wrong, Angel of Kindness, No Strings Attached, Trials and Tribulations of a Blind Date (Anthology) For Better or For Worse, Having My Baby

Erin: What ideas are you working on now or what ideas do you have for future stories?

Joanne: Have you ever wondered what goes through a brides mind when she stands at the altar? Well that is the first part on my new book, in the mind of Zoe North. I also have ideas for another book based on the life and trials of Nanny Nora

Erin: Have you considered making a sequel for Ms. Polly?

Joanne: Not at the moment, but I never say never.

Erin: What advice do you have for future writers trying to make it into the publishing world?

Joanne: If at first you don’t succeed try, try and try again. People seem to have a glamour’s notion that as authors we write, we get published, and we bring in the bucks. Oh, I wish! My advice would be: Write only what you know about. Listen to all the advice given from your publisher, they know what sells. Your editor should be your best friend, not your enemy; they are there to make a good story great. Lastly, do not be despondent, making it as an author is a long process. I have had five stories published, and two more to be released soon, but I still class myself as an apprentice, and welcome any help and advice when offered it. Jo xx

Buy It

“Learner Mum” is available from Melange Books and can be purchased here.

Add it to your Goodreads shelf here.

About Joanne Rawson

Joanne Rawson was born and brought up in Derbyshire England. After leaving college in 1984, she headed off to be an au pair in the Loire Valley, France for one year.

Returning back, to England, Joanne worked work for Derbyshire Education Authority in special education, and then for Derbyshire Social services working with adults with learning and physical difficulties.

In 2005, Joanne and her husband decided to give up their hectic lifestyle, after ten years of managing branded restaurants around London’s M25, now spending her time in England, Goa, and Malaysia, writing romantic novels and short stories.

Melange: https://melange-books.com/authors/joannerawson/index.html
Blog: authorjoannerawson.blogspot.com

About Erin Elliott

 I’ve been a preschool special education teacher for the last ten years. I’ve always wanted to be a writer and started writing stories and “books” when I was in high school. I have three books coming out, The Sword of Lumina series. I love spending time with my family, reading, summer and the sun. My lifelong dream is to live in Hawaii someday.



Have you had a disastrous experience watching someone else’s child? Leave a comment below to win a free ebook copy of “Learner Mum” by Joanne Rawson!

Winner will be chosen on or after May 4, 2014.

Also don’t forget, we’re still giving away that $10 Amazon gift card over HERE!

An Interview with Author Daphne Olivier + Giveaway

For today’s Q & A I’m happy to welcome John Steiner, author of multiple Sci-Fi books including “Fire Alive”, “Squad V”, “Flipspace: Flight of the Mockingbird” and “Flipspace: Branching out.”

John is here today interviewing Daphne Olivier. She is the author of the upcoming “Thunder on the Veldt,” but John will be talking to her today about her 2013 mystery/sci-fi release, “Pegasus Project.”

About “Pegasus Project”:

When Jack Randal lands a job with Bells Biological Research Centre, he sets off for the remote South African farm, unaware of the dangers lurking behind the high, electrified fence. It doesn’t take long for him to uncover a top-secret project. When a fellow scientist dies under mysterious circumstances, Jack zeros in on the Pegasus Project. Tension mounts as he probes the dark secret surrounding the genetically modified bio-fuel, and the time comes when he must decide whether to risk his life in order to prevent a global catastrophe.

John: The subject of Pegasus Project deals with GMOs, but the story hails from a long tradition of noir mysteries. What prompted that aspect of the story?

Daphne: I’ve spent a good deal of my life on a farm so agriculture was a natural choice for a theme. A high-security GMO research farm was the perfect setting. All I needed was a protagonist to step into danger and risk his life to prevent a global catastrophe. Bingo—The Pegasus Project was born!

John: A hero’s foibles and a villain’s virtues can be as compelling in a story as the plot itself. The actor, Stephen Lang, who plays Colonel Quaritch in the movie Avatar, describes the villain he plays as, “Half a step away from being a hero.” Yet the main antagonist’s redeeming attribute in Pegasus Project, that of wanting to address climate change is itself marred by his desire to prove himself to the memory of a father who thought he’d amount to nothing. Tell us more about how you devised this character and why.

Daphne: Most of my characters start off as carbon copies of people I know. But pretty soon a strange thing happens— they take on a life of their own. And when I ‘got into the antagonist’s head’ I discovered that few men set out to do evil. Most times their actions are the result of circumstances combined with a flaw in their character. That’s what I wanted to portray with Brandt.

John: Certain action scenes and the many research projects in the novel strike me as an interesting mix of Dr. Moreau and a scheme that James Bond would be dispatched to stop, all with the background feel of the movie of District 9. What did you base the Pegasus 694 research program on, and the actions taken in the story to maintain its secrecy?

Daphne: Some from my research, some from my imagination and some from talking to a friend who worked on a similar research farm in a remote part of South Africa.

John: You live in South Africa, where the story takes place, so the regulations governing GMOs differ from those of the FDA and EPA. Do you think that program like Pegasus 694 or the other practices portrayed in the novel could happen?

Daphne: I most certainly do—not only in South Africa, but anywhere in the world. In my opinion, the danger of GMO is not the fact that they are genetically modified (most GMOs in use today are beneficial) but the possibility that the research may fall into the wrong hands. If that happens, the result may be worse than the scenario painted in my novel.

John: If given a choice of research projects in any company, what scientific challenge would you tackle?

Daphne: Medicine. I trained as a nurse so my choice would be some aspect of medical research.

John: Your other works include The Way It Was, The Kennaway Woman and Rock-A-bye Baby in the Having My Baby anthology. The first reminds me of a Bruce Hornsby song title about people facing hard times and discrimination in hiring in America. Pegasus Project seems like a sharp break from those genres and closer to science fiction, which I enjoy most. Is this the start of a new tract in your writing?

Daphne: Not at all. I read and write in a wide range of genre. When not working on a novel, I write science fiction. Most of my stories have appeared in sci-fi magazines. Maybe, just maybe, my next novel will be a SF… or a thriller… or historical fiction… There are so many ideas going around in my head, it’s difficult to settle on one.

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About Daphne Olivier

From an early age Daphne Olivier read everything she could lay hands on—biography, fantasy, historical fiction, thriller, mythology, science fiction and the classics. Her novels reflect this wide interest for she has written in several different genre—thriller, science fiction, young adult and historical fiction—all set in South Africa. She lives in a small South African town with her husband and their two dogs.

Blog: www.daphneolivierdotnet.wordpress.com

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About John Steiner

John Steiner earned his Associate of Biology at Salt Lake Community College, where he is currently working as a tutor in math and chemistry. He exercises an avid interest in history, science, philosophy, mythology, martial arts as well as military tactics and technology.

Melange: https://melange-books.com/authors/johnsteiner/index.html

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Leave a comment on the blog and enter to win a free ebook copy of “The Pegasus Project.”

Winner will be chosen on March 11, 2014.

An Interview with Author Walt Trizna + Giveaway

Jill Bisker, author of “Within Reach” and the upcoming “Finding the Way Back” stopped by to have a chat with fellow Melange author, Walt Trizna, author of “New Moon Rising” and the new sci-fi novella “Elmo’s Sojourn.”

First, a little about “Elmo’s Sojourn.”

Elmo, a retired scientist, travels through a wormhole to the planet Roth where he helps combat an alien invasion which is menacing the planet.

JILL: Please tell me a little about yourself – Where you come from? What led you to writing?

WALT: I was born and raised in Newark, NJ, but since then lived in the Midwest, LA, Miami and now in Pennsylvania.

I’ve always been an avid reader, feel naked if there is not a book close by.  I began writing poetry in college and pursued that for about thirty years while I pursued a career in science. About 14 years ago I began writing fiction.


JILL: What books and authors influenced your career?

WALT: I’ve read a great deal of science fiction by Arthur C. Clark, Asimov, Ray Bradbury among a host of others.

For horror I’ve read H. P. Lovecraft and Stephen King and Algernon Blackwood.


JILL: Your story, Elmo’s Sojourn, is a space jumping sci-fi story.  Do you write other genres?

WALT: I also write horror and the occasional poem.


JILL: How did you come up with the premise of your story?

WALT: I belong to a writers group, The Wordwrights, and one of the members writes children’s books.  She told us she had to write a story beginning with someone yelling that they have a problem.  Couple that with a Far Side cartoon where a wife is looking from a door down into a cellar.  In the cellar is her husband with the head of a fly.  She’s yelling, “Lunch.  Are you still a fly?”

With that in mind I had intended to write a story, Cellar Science, but enjoyed the story so much that I continued and the result was the novella, Elmo’s Sojourn.


JILL: Your time machine seemed very well thought out – is it based on something in theoretical science.

WALT: The time machine is a product of my imagination.

While I was in college, there was a guy in the dorm who built a tesla coil.  You could pull something like a quarter million volts to your finger, but since the amperage was low, you survived.  I had to get that thing into a story.


JILL: How do you personally relate to your main character in your story?

WALT: I was a scientist for 34 years, but a biologist not a physicist.  I love science and the opportunity it gives you to discover something new, when all the parts of a puzzle suddenly come together.  I share the wonder Elmo has for science.


JILL: How challenging was it to build your alien landscapes and creatures?

WALT: I have a very active imagination so it was really quite easy.  But the creatures changed along the way.  The first creature that comes through Elmo’s machine was going to be the dominant creature on Roth, but of course that changed.  Then Valmid was going to be a sinister being and that changed.  Since I needed some conflict, Gylex came into being and I could just picture what it looked like.


JILL: What theme do you want to convey to your readers?

WALT: I think, as with most science fiction, I want to create adventure and the wonder of the unknown.


JILL: This would make a great series – have you considered writing the next adventure?

WALT: Glad you asked this one, it’s already written.  Elmo’s Invention is a prequel to Elmo’s Sojourn.  In Elmo’s Invention, Elmo is working at Los Alamos and here sets out to build a time machine using an old iron lung, but things do not go as planned.

This novella is longer than Elmo’s Sojourn and still needs a lot of editing, and then out it goes.  I’m sure there will be other stories fermenting in my brain, but they have yet come to the surface.


JILL: What are you working on now?

WALT: Currently, I’m doing a great deal of editing.  I have two novels written but are in need of a rewrite.

The Beast Awaits is the most complete.  It deals with a monster created through stem cell research.  It escapes into the Everglades and its destruction leads to enhanced global warming.  How’s that for ‘hot button’ issues?

Sweet Depression is a novel which is a cross between the work of James Patterson and Robin Cook, a very sinister thriller set in a pharmaceutical company.


JILL: In your point of view, what is the most difficult part of the writing life?

WALT: Imagining story ideas I find to be the easiest part.  The writing can be difficult and the editing is, I find, even more difficult.  But the part of writing I find the most difficult is trying to get the work published.  I agonize over writing query letters.


JILL: Do you outline your stories before you sit down to write?

WALT: For short stories, I mull over the plot before I put pen to paper.  I write all my first drafts by hand.  So when I begin writing the story, it’s already fully formed in my mind.

For novels I use an outline but keep it fluid.  In a steno pad, for each novel, I form an outline to include scenes and dialog when the characters start talking.


JILL: What plans do you have for your writing going into the future?

WALT: If I can publish Sweet Depression I have plans to write at least one sequel.

I’ve also published a short story, Martian Rebirth, which I want to develop into a novel.

And of course, my brain keeps on cranking out short story ideas.

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 About Walt Trizna:

Walt Trizna, a scientist for thirty-four years, is now a full-time writer of horror and science fiction. He has published more than twenty stories, both online and in print. Walt lives in West Chester, PA with his wife, Joni.

Find Walt at Melange: https://melange-books.com/authors/walttrizna/index.html

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About Jill Bisker:

Jill Bisker lives in Stillwater, MN with her husband and a calico cat named Senora. She believes in empowering women to be strong enough to protect themselves, while still soft enough to be loving and compassionate. Her work includes paranormal mystery and traditional high fantasy, as well as contemporary and humorous fantasy and an everyday living blog. Her novella Within Reach is her first publication with Melange. Once a dedicated stay at home Mom, Jill now writes full-time.

Website: www.jillbisker.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/authorjillbisker
Blog: http://www.unaccompaniedjaunt.blogspot.com

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Leave a comment below and enter to win a free ebook copy of “Elmo’s Sojourn.”

Winner will be chosen on March 10, 2014.

An Interview with Author Tara Fox Hall + Giveaway

"Point of No Return" by Tara Fox Hall (Promise Me #7)

“Point of No Return” by Tara Fox Hall (Promise Me #7)

Recently, Nancy Pennick, author of the YA Time-Travel Romance series “Waiting For Dusk” (available from Fire and Ice Young Adult Books) had a chat with author Tara Fox Hall about her latest book, “Point of No Return”, book 7  in her vampire/shifter romance “Promise Me” series.

A word of warning, if you have not read the entire Promise Me series, there may be a few spoilers.

First, a little about her latest release, “Point of No Return”

When Sarelle discovers Theo’s love for Tasha is not all it seems, she breaks the love spell, even as she fears the consequences. Dreaming with Theo again awakens old feelings, even as Devlin’s possessiveness increases when Sar is discovered to be pregnant. Influenced by her blood bond to Devlin and Danial, and her magical bond with Theo, Sar is determined to make the relationship with her lovers work. But can Sar trust her heart fully, much less her own desires?

NANCY: Tell us a little about yourself. Did you always want to be a writer?

TARA: Not really, lol. I got accolades for writing in college, even was encouraged to publish an essay I wrote for my civil war course. I never followed through, preferring to study hard science and math instead. I only came back to writing because of a twist of fate. See question 3!


NANCY: Point of No Return takes place in upstate New York. Familiar territory?

TARA: Very familiar. I live in upstate New York, and many of the settings in the Promise Me novels are based on real places I’ve visited or frequented.


NANCY: What inspired you to write the series?

TARA: My mom got very sick suddenly, and her doctor misdiagnosed her prescription drug interaction as cancer. This put me into a panic, as I’d always promised to write her a book, and had never found the time for more than one page articles on my various animal rescues. I sat down that same night and began Promise, the novel that would one day be split in half to make Promise Me and Broken Promise.


"Her Secret" by Tara Fox Hall (Promise Me #6)

“Her Secret” by Tara Fox Hall (Promise Me #6)

NANCY: How long did it take to write Point of No Return?

TARA: I don’t really remember! It was written as part of the third book, Secret, which was later split into Her Secret and Point of No Return (Promise Me Books # 6 & 7). I believe I wrote Secret in a month or so. But to be fair, I was using any and all available time to work on my writing: evenings, lunch hours, etc. I was never without a piece of paper and a pen, and I read nothing else, barely watched TV or went out, and did nothing on the internet at all, as at that time I didn’t even have my own email address, much less a website or FB.


NANCY: Sarelle is juggling four men in her life, if you count Terian. Do you know who she ends up with? Or has that changed as you write the series?

TARA: No, Sarelle’s fate is already written, and it’s not going to change. It did change as I wrote the series, because when I was writing Promise, I always imagined her riding off into the sunset with Theo, because that was how that first book ended. But as soon as I began the sequels, it was obvious that there was going to be a lot more twists and turns to the story, and that Sarelle’s true love might be someone else.


NANCY: Tell us about Elle. She makes a statement about Devlin to Sar. “I’m afraid of him sometimes.” She goes on to say, “He doesn’t have any rules…does what he wants.” Foreshadowing?

TARA: My remark was foreshadowing of a sort, in that Devlin is very much a law onto himself. He really has no one he must answer to, which is why he acts as he does, giving little thought to the consequences. He considers himself a free spirit. That is why he’s such a dangerous person: there is little that anyone can threaten him with, especially with Lash at his side. But Devlin is going to find a reason of his own to curb some of his actions, though I’ll add in this spoiler that it’s really not Sar who tames the handsome vampire, it’s another female.


NANCY: In the story, Sar has two cats and two dogs. From reading, one can tell you’re an animal lover. Do you have as many pets as Sar?

TARA: I have more! Ghost and Darkness—Sar’s dogs—are based on my own now deceased German Shepherds Strider and Legolas, who looked and acted just as the two fictional dogs in the Promise Me series. One was white and one was black, which is why when I picked the fictional names, I chose Ghost and Darkness (as well as to give a foreshadowing hint of Sar’s affection for lions in general, lol). There is a reference in the second book about Sar’s name choice, referring to her dogs’ namesake being the real life lions that terrorized the African railroad when it was being built (Google Man-eaters of Tsavo for more info).

As for the cats, I did one better. Sar’s three cats Jessica, Cavity, and Asher are based on my 3 cats of the same name, and look just as described. Phantom, Devlin’s cat that we learn about in PONR, is also one of my cats, though his disfigurement is due to a birth defect and not a car accident. Lastly, Moonshadow, my fifth and final real life cat, will make an appearance in the next to last Promise Me Book, when he comes to live at Hayden as part of the family.


NANCY: Werecougars, weresnakes, and werebears. Where did you get your ideas?

TARA: I looked around at paranormal books, and didn’t like the preponderance of werewolves all over the United States, especially in larger cities. That always rang false to me—wolves are roaming around hundreds strong, but no one notices or cares or sees any killings? I didn’t want to add to that. But there was room for werecreatures native and alive in the Northeast that COULD blend into a country setting, with a little thought put into the planning of how they remained unnoticed. And a weresnake…it seemed like the scariest wereanimal there could be. I was happy to be the first to bring one to vivid life, with Lash.


NANCY: Devlin’s bodyguard is a weresnake named Lash. He’s ranked number one in that system. Is he someone to be feared?

TARA: Yes. He’s the worst of the worst. And like all my “bad boys,” a little feminine affection goes a long way with him, but it won’t tame him. He’s someone to watch for sure.


NANCY: Who’s your favorite character in Point of No Return? In the whole series?

TARA: Really, the whole crowd seems to me like old friends now. I’ve been writing the series and putting out the books for the hefty sum of eight years total. I love their interaction as a group, that they can be so well defined as individuals that I can know how they’ll react to a given situation, every strength and weakness. Editing the books is like a visit to home, where everyone knows my name. I’ll miss it very much, when the last book is published and the series ends.


NANCY: This is the seventh book of the series. Was that always the plan to keep the story going?

TARA: I planned to write one book, and then kept going, because my mother asked me to, and I’d written the series for her. But there is an ending and it’s already written. The series will not go on forever.


NANCY: When do you like to write? Do you have a schedule?

TARA: I don’t have a schedule and I have a full life outside of writing, which leads to a hectic schedule. In the past that lead to some missed deadlines. As much as it pains me, I’m really cutting back on my publishing this year to focus on my two series, Promise Me and Lash: promoting the former and writing the latter. I write whenever I can find extra time, usually. But I do plan to take off most of this summer from promotion to work on writing, yes.


NANCY: Romance vs. horror. Which do you like writing for the most?

TARA: Romance is easier. I’m an optimist at heart, and I really want there to be an ending that reaffirms that the struggle or conflict wasn’t for nothing. But I like a lot of action and suspense in the story, too, so horror is a natural genre for me. Hence my brand: tarafoxhall.com, Where Horror and Romance Come Together. And no, the word “come” in the title did not initially have a double meaning, even if I do write erotica, too J


NANCY: Devlin and Danial are vampires and brothers. They are both “Oathed” to Sarelle. Tell us about Oathing.

TARA: Oathing is equivalent to marriage for human beings, though instead of a ring on your finger, you wear a choker around your throat. As a vampire would likely go for the throat to bite, it makes sense to have the symbol of commitment there, where he can’t say he didn’t notice it. A standard Oath gives a vampire sexual rights as well as blood rights to the person giving the Oath, which can be a human, a werecreature, a faerie, or even another vampire, and does not have to be a member of the opposite sex (you’ll see all of these combinations at some point in my books). Also, a vampire can have several Oathed Ones, or can share an Oathed One with another vampire (can you tell that Devlin wrote most of these rules himself?)

"Immortal Confessions" by Tara Fox Hall (Promise Me #5)

“Immortal Confessions” by Tara Fox Hall (Promise Me #5)

The wording of the Oath varies depending on what the Oathed One says in their vow, though there is a standard vow which just states the two rights above and leaves everything else up for grabs. The vampire can also give an Oath of his own in response, such as Danial’s vow of monogamy to Sar, or Devlin’s addition of Theo and Danial to the Oath he shared with Sar.

The vampire may dissolve the Oath at any time, if the human breaks their vows, whatever that might be. The same is true in reverse, if the vampire breaks his vows. We see the former case in Promise Me #5 Immortal Confessions, when Anna’s choker unclasps after she breaks her vow to Devlin by having sex with Danial. But there is a long list of rights that Oathing gives to both parties involved that has only been briefly alluded to thus far in the first two books. There will be more elaboration of these “vampire laws” in the coming Promise Me books.


NANCY: Give us the inside scoop if the brothers are really okay with the arrangement.

TARA: Are any two men ever okay in sharing one woman? The truth is that both vampires would likely prefer that Sar be theirs exclusively. However, Danial and Devlin share the bond of time that no one else does. As such, they are closer than human brothers, even when they are at odds. When it comes to Sarelle, Danial acts content to share her, as long as it’s only his brother and his best friend Theo. Devlin also seems to feel the same way about Danial, but is far more permissive in who Sar takes as a lover. You might say that right now, both brothers are just glad to have found someone they both love who isn’t going to die in a few decades, just when their ménage-a-trois relationship is getting good. Will that last? You’ll have to read and see.


NANCY: There’s a famous quote from an old movie, Dirty Dancing, “No one puts Baby in a corner.” As I read Point of No Return, I felt that Sar was in a corner instead of what that quote implies. She is not in charge of her destiny anymore. Does she feel that way, too? If you agree, please explain. And if not, tell us why. Also, is there a way to get Sarelle out of the corner?

TARA: Yes, Sar feels cornered and trapped. It’s a feeling that begins in PONR, then escalates in Lost Paradise, Promise Me #9. She’s got two vampires to manage, plus her husband Theo. Everyone is jealous, and everyone wants their piece of her. There is only so much Sar to go around. Add into that her two children, her new pregnancy + The Lust, the Vampire Rulers clamoring to have her for a “brood mare,” her financial reliance on her men, and even caring for her pets, and it’s a lot to balance. The final straw for her is her dependence on the vampiric blood to live, though. Once Sar really comes to terms with that that means, she knows that Dev and Danial are going to be in her lives forever…or some other vampire would need to be, to keep her alive. That means she’s never just going to be with Theo. It’s also a kind of dependence that can sour a relationship, to know your life literally depends on your lover, that you can’t exist without them. For a woman who was very independent and enjoyed choosing her own path, this is one of the hardest trials Sarelle has to face in the entire series. She never wanted to need anyone to that extent, and its something this comes back to over and over with increasing frustration.

Sar battles with her feelings for several books, before finally taking decisive actions, hoping that her choices will wrest control back into her hands. Will it? Again, you’ll have to read and see!


Thank you Nancy and Tara! What a great Q & A.

Tara would also give a lucky reader a “I <3 Dev” bumper sticker as well as a Promise Me pen. Leave a comment below and a winner will be chosen at random via Random.org on March 6, 2014.

"I Love Dev" Sticker

“I Love Dev” Sticker

Author Tara Fox Hall

Author Tara Fox Hall

About Tara Fox Hall:

Tara Fox Hall is an OSHA-certified safety and health inspector at a metal fabrication shop in upstate New York. She received her bachelor’s degree in mathematics with a double minor in chemistry and biology from Binghamton University. Her writing credits include over twenty short stories published in the nature magazines Catnip Blossoms, Meanwhile, and On The River. Her short horror stories have appeared in Deadman’s Tome, Flashes in the Dark, Halloween Alliance, and Ghastly Door. She also coauthored the essay “The Allure of the Serial Killer,” published in Serial Killers – Philosophy for Everyone: Being and Killing (Wiley-Blackwell, 2010). She divides her free time unequally between writing novels and short stories, chainsawing firewood, caring for stray animals of all species, sewing cat and dog beds for donation to animal shelters, and target practice.

Check out all of Tara Fox Hall’s Melange releases here: https://melange-books.com/authors/tarafoxhall/index.html

Other Links for Tara Fox Hall

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/TaraFH
Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/tara-fox-hall
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5286654.Tara_Fox_Hall
Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Tara-Fox-Hall/e/B005YPAA4W/

Website: www.tarafoxhall.com
Email: tarafoxhallATgmail.com

Blog: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5286654.Tara_Fox_Hall/blog

Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Tara-Fox-Hall/151813374904903
Twitter: https://twitter.com/#!/TerrorFoxHall

Author Nancy Pennick

Author Nancy Pennick

About Nancy Pennick:

After a great career in teaching, Nancy found a second calling as a writer. Her debut novel, Waiting for Dusk, was a surprise to her as much as it was to her family. Watching a PBS series on National Parks, her mind wandered to another place and that is where the characters of Katie and Andrew were born.

Nancy’s called Ohio her home for all her life but loves to travel the U.S. She enjoys reading and writing young adult novels with a good cup of tea nearby.

Nancy Pennick at Fire and Ice Young Adult Books: http://www.fireandiceya.com/authors/nancypennick/index.html

Facebook: facebook.com/nancypennickauthor 
Blog: http://nancypennick.wordpress.com

An Interview with John Steiner + Giveaway

We’re happy to be introducing a new series of interviews with some of our authors.

We’re kicking things off with author Daphne Olivier (“The Pegasus Project”, “The Way it Was” and “The Kennaway Woman”) interviewing author John Steiner (“Fire Alive!” and The “Squad V” series)

First, a little about “FLIPSPACE: Flight of the Mockingbird”

Training for the ISS Mockingbird, Colonel Sumitra Ramachandra and Major Lamarr Fitch find that they’re being deployed before certification. The ISS Astraeus, an International Space Organization vessel fails to transmit its latest exploration report in the Gliese 667 System twenty-two light-years away. Colonel Ramachandra learns that the Mockingbird she commands was built for more than intra-solar operation. Three people with complicated and enigmatic backgrounds are added to her crew roster just before launch.

Now let’s get things started!

“FLIPSPACE: Flight of the Mockingbird” by John Steiner

Daphne: Hello. Please tell us something about yourself, where you’re based, and how you came to be a writer.

John: As a kid I was disappointed by the science fiction I was seeing, and in junior high school I preferred writing a fictional character’s journal rather a journal of myself as assigned by the teacher. Because I’d practically addicted to spaceflight I’ll start daydreaming it if I’m not getting enough in the news or in fiction.
Daphne: Flight of the Mockingbird is science fiction story that takes place in the far-distant future. Do you write in any other genre?

John: Other genres include speculative fiction, fantasy and horror.


Daphne: Who is you favourite sci-fi author?

John: It’s probably a tossup between Michael Crichton and Arthur C. Clarke. They both tackled stories with the backing of solid science, and still engrossed us with the depth of their characters and events in the story.


Daphne: What is the most memorable sci-fi book you’ve ever read?

John: That would be the Giants of Ganymede series by James P. Hogan. It involves finding a dead human astronaut on the moon who has been there for over 50,000 years. The discoveries and debates between main characters were intense and riveting, and engaged me to also speculate as to the outcome of the novel. This is what’s referred to as Active Reading, as those the audience is a participant in the story.


Daphne: What inspired you to write Flight of the Mockingbird?

John: The spaceflight monkey was riding me pretty hard. NASA missions were few, far between and all unmanned. Even shows involving space exploration were a let-down. I was excited for the series, “Star Trek: Enterprise” until a character I call, “Captain Buzzkill from the 26th century” steps in and spills the beans about what the first starship will encounter in the future.


Daphne: If Flight of the Mockingbird was made into a film, who would you choose to be the leading character?

John: That’s tough, because I’m not that familiar with Hindi-American or Bollywood actors from India. Most of the actresses from India I’ve seen kept their hair long, whereas Colonel Sumitra Ramachandra has hers very short.

I do picture Chief Carl Anders as being played by Carl Weathers, and wrote Major Lamarr Fitch as if he were Nathan Fillion.


Daphne: What are you working on at the moment?

John: The finale for the Astraeus Event series of Flipspace. I have a science fiction novel, “Bridging the Lotus” and a fantasy novel, “Brute” that are both waiting to be finished.


Daphne: Do you manage to write every day?

John: Not always. I’ve learned never to force a story if it’s not flowing, because the results always turned out bad.


Daphne: How do balance writing with all of life’s responsibilities?

John: To quote Captain Kirk in Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan, “First order of business, survival.” The day job must be dealt with, because that’s where my steady money is. Sometimes Sniffles, my cat demands attention and may get very insistent.


Daphne: Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? If so, what do you do to overcome it?

John: Originally I wouldn’t take on more than one story at a time, but lately I’ve realized that a mood shift will push me to do a story in another genre, where creativity opens up. Also, I have a few PC games that I imagine my story through as I play, or just to numb the mind.


Daphne: Do you plot your stories from beginning to end or do you just get an idea and run with it?

John: I envision key scenes, and gauge how much character growth or plot development is needed to bridge them. Many times the ending isn’t known to me until I get there. Other stories I had plotted out, but the pathway leads itself to an unexpected direction.

Think of Shmendrick the Magician in The Last Unicorn, “Magic, magic, do as you will.”

There are even times when I get the story in whole or in part during the dream. If it’s too vague, sometimes the dream will provide a narrator or subtitles.


Daphne: Do you think the Flipspace device you describe in your novel will ever be developed and used to achieve faster than light space travel?

John: The science suggests that tesseracts could exist, but the question is why they don’t occur naturally. Two hurdles exist for interstellar flight. The first is energy, but the second is precision. Vacuum Energy could solve the power problem if we can figure out why observed

Vacuum Energy doesn’t match what established quantum principles suggest should occur. Also, figuring out how to harness it is the other issue. With precision that may prove trickier, because it means calculating trajectories with several magnitudes more accuracy than we’ve ever done before.

Alternative means of FTL travel are serious points of interest for NASA. One of those is the Alcubierre drive. You can find a description on nasa.gov or other the 100 Year Starship Project which is 100yss.org.


Daphne: The combat scenes you describe in Flight of the Mockingbird are very realistic. Are they based on real life experience or are they simply drawn from your imagination?

John: My time in the military was only a couple months, and that was back in 1992. However,

I had spoken to veterans of wars from WWII all the way through to the latest Iraq War. I read about military combat experiences, operations and watched documentaries on the subject. I had decided that in adult fiction I wanted no sugar-coating of combat. That combat is a terrifying thing is the point of why we should avoid conflict until left no other choice.


Daphne: I was intrigued by the gene importation therapy, cellular cybernetics and genetic hacking you describe. Do you think humans will ever utilise such practices?

John: The 20th century is where we discovered DNA, learned its code for proteins and unravelled the human genome. In the 21st I expect us to understand the epistatic genome which are the genes that don’t code for proteins, but influence those which do. Then Our understanding of gene interaction will be good enough that we’ll tackle major medical problems and work them with the same efficiency as any other machine.

Gene therapy exists now in its infancy, and I think we’ll go further at first to deal with genetic disorders. Following that, we’ll tackle those genes which are normal in the human species, yet lead to series problems, such as joints, blood flow, aging and other ailments that are the result of mutations that all primates inherited or that are common to all mammals.

Then we’ll decided that maybe we should have a double-retina. There is one defective step in the pathway for making vitamin C that all primates have, which we may decide should be fixed. If we learn how to prevent harmful mutations, we’ll then be able to insert the amphibian regeneration gene, whereas the one all mammals, birds and reptiles have contain defects.

In the century to come we’ll learn to write genes that have no natural parallel, but create enzymes that can in turn produce nanotechnology. This would give us thumbs at the molecular level.


Daphne: One of your characters is reconstructed and brought back to life 28 years after his death. Present-day doctors are already using stem cells to grow new body parts, but is it theoretically feasible to reconstruct a whole body.? And if so, would the reconstructed man have the memory and personality of the one who died?


“Fire Alive!” by John Steiner

John: Captain Malcolm O’Connell is a carry-over character from “Fire Alive!” His reconstitution had to do with the Xerces Protocol, which involved not only preserving neurological stems cells, but a computer backup to the neuro-synaptic pattern that represents his mind at the moment of death. I’m still deciding on what new limits to lifespan might emerge, but in Flipspace there are several legal issues as to what is considered the same person, and whether a patient has a living will for “Do Not Reconstitute.”


Daphne: Is your novel part of a series?  Can you tell me a little about the world you’ve created and what makes it so different from today’s world.

John: At present, Flipspace is a twelve part series, which I constructed on the model of television or cable series. The first twelve stories are “The Astraeus Event” which is where the ISS Mockingbird crew are sent on various missions to eventually figure out what happened and how to find the crew of the ISS Astraeus.

The world of Flipspace, which is in 2175, is where I think we’ll end up as a world of nations and alliances based on the social and geo-political trends I see today. While I can’t be sure we’ll have solved the FTL problem, I think the other technologies of Flipspace will arrive by 2175 or sooner. That all depends on what emerges that might stall advancement of civilization or even knocks us back.


Daphne: Did you use a critique partner or group to help with revisions and editing?

John: With Flipspace I had a test audience. One of those is a civilian pilot, who is a big fan of WWII aces, and another is a good friend of mine at the college I work for.


Daphne: If you had a time machine, what time period would you travel to?

John: Forward… definitely forward. I tell people never wish to live in an era before penicillin. I have a good idea of where humanity will be in the future, but the time to get there is likely longer than I’ll live. Malcolm O’Connell as the “oldest non-consecutively living” human being is born in 2002. Most especially, I would love to be on hand to witness our first encounter with extra-terrestrial life, in particular intelligent life.


Daphne: Some of your characters are genetically enhanced. If you had access to such “enhancement” what characteristics would you choose?

John: My wish for enhancements is closer to fantasy, which would be a duel state genome, where traits for human and wolf were present, and I switched between them. Barring that, the claws and sharp teeth just because I feel like I should’ve had them. The fluorocarbon nano-cages that O’Connell and the Ghostwalkers have would be nice. I’d love to sprint for nearly an hour and not be short of breath. Anything that meant joints and nerves never broke down. Having the kind of immune system like a shark, where disease and cancer are never a factor would be great, without having to wait four hundred million years of evolution to get it. Better senses, and greater capacity of the brain. It’d be a long list.


Daphne: What hopes and plans do you have for your writing future?

John: I have to wrap up “Brute” and “Bridging the Lotus.” I’m also considering an urban fantasy series in the same writing template as Flipspace. I feel like the “Squad V” series needs one more novel to show where the overall theme is ending at, and maybe a few prequel stories to go with it. Other stories will be brought to me as the universe sees fit.


Leave a comment below and we’ll give one lucky commenter a free copy of John’s first FLIPSPACE mission, “Flight of the Mockingbird.” Winner may choose Kindle, PDF or ePub file format.

Winner will be chosen via random.org on February 25, 2014 March 4, 2014.

NOTE: Due to an issue with comments not posting, this giveaway has been EXTENDED.

John Steiner

John Steiner

About John Steiner:

John Steiner earned his Associate of Biology at Salt Lake Community College and works as a college tutor at Salt Lake Community College. He exercises an avid interest in history, science, philosophy, mythology, martial arts as well as military tactics and technology.

Contact John:
Melange: https://melange-books.com/authors/johnsteiner/index.html
Website: www.walkingotherworlds.com

Daphne Olivier

Daphne Olivier

About Daphne Olivier:

Daphne Olivier grew up in the foothills of the Amatolas, where the novel is set, and where many of the locals still speak with pride of their German/Irish heritage. The story of the Kennaway Girls has always fascinated her, and a visit to the museum in East London, which displays a collection of historic memorabilia, inspired her to write a novel based on the life of one of these brave women.

After training as a nurse, Daphne married and for many years lived on a farm. Today she lives in a small South African town together with her husband and their two dogs.

Contact Daphne:
Blog: http://dapholivier.wordpress.com

Interview with Author Charmaine Pauls // by S.S. Hampton, Sr. + GIVEAWAY

S.S. Hampton, Sr.: Where were you born?

Author Charmaine Pauls

Charmaine Pauls: I was born in Bloemfontein, South Africa.

SH: You’ve had a varied professional career, both as an employee and an entrepreneur, including photography (I’m a photographer too). What led you into some of these fields?

CP: After completing a degree in communication, specializing in journalism and public relations, I wore many different hats in the industry, but the biggest portion of my working time was always spent writing. In my media and public relations capacity, it was always required of me to practice a certain amount of in-house photography.

My interest in photography really took off when I worked as public relations officer for the Performing Arts Council of the Free State (Bloemfontein). After completing two photography courses at a Bloemfontein college, it started out as a hobby. Soon after I moved to Pretoria and was employed as advertising manager for an international vegetable seed company (Hygrotech). I had to change from photographing ballet dancers and opera singers to carrots and cabbage. The task needed a different skill altogether, and I completed another two advanced photography courses at a Pretoria college. Food and events photography became an integral part of my professional occupation, and soon bloomed into social and wedding photography on the sideline, first as a favor to some friends, and later on as a business.

Simultaneously I was trained in graphic design to produce Hygrotech’s printed advertising material and discovered that I enjoyed it tremendously. When Hygrotech relocated to the north, I founded a (one-woman) graphic design company that I maintained for a few years until I was appointed as internal communications manager for an international banking group.

Shortly before my employment with the bank, I enrolled for a 4-year diploma course in natural medicine, another passion of mine, which inspired me to manufacture an herbal tincture range under my own label. My training in journalism, advertising, photography and graphic design helped tremendously in this regard. I however realized that the enterprise wasn’t my life purpose and continued producing herbal products for personal use while launching myself back into the corporate world, this time as brand manager for a French pet food company.

My professional career path encompasses a wide range of careers, from managing public relations for the National Council for the Deaf to marketing short-term insurance for Auto & General, but the common thread has always been writing. Born with a passion for writing, I wrote poems since primary school and won my first writing contest in 5th grade. I was finally able to turn my dream of being a fulltime novelist into reality in 2010.


SH: You’ve also lived in France and Chile. What led you to those countries?

CP: My husband is a Frenchman whose work takes him around the globe. After meeting and getting married in South Africa, I first followed him to France, and later to Chile.


SH: Why did you decide to pursue writing as a career?

CP: When I write, I know that I am doing what I was born to do. Planning plots and weaving sentences together to create a memorable piece of art that reflects meaning and emotion are what makes me tick. I believe in imagination and magic and there’s no better way expressing it than through a story. I’m happiest behind my laptop, in some world or another. I’m head over heals in love with this job.


SH: On a more personal level, please tell us about one of your happiest childhood memories.

CP: Some of my happiest memories are from our time spent in Heidelberg, Gauteng. We lived on the school grounds where my father was a teacher, far from town. For us it was like growing up on a farm with vast expanses for running, hills for exploring, dams for fishing, rivers for swimming and trees for climbing. Television only came to South Africa in 1976, and we didn’t have one until even later. Our only entertainment was the inventions and journeys our imagination took us on. It was a carefree and magical time of burying treasures, building secret hide-outs, reading in tree houses, hunting for mulberries and cherries, breeding silk worms, bicycle racing and developing a code language. Our time was spent outdoors until the very last ray of the sun had set. And when we came home, my mother used to wait for us in the door, always with a special treat, like melkkos (a traditional South African dish like a type of milk porridge with cinnamon) or tamaletjie (home made toffee).


SH: You’re married—how did you know when you found your “Prince Charming”?

CP: I’m a big believer in following your heart and ‘the signs’. When I went for an interview for brand manager with a French pet food company in South Africa, my friends strongly advised me not to entertain the offer, as it meant a substantial cut in salary and benefits. Obeying the pull of my heart, I attended the interview and stepped into the parking of the building at the exact moment of the eclipse of the sun. Considering this a powerful and positive sign, regardless the well-intended advice from my circle of support, I accepted the position. A few weeks later, a handsome Frenchman walked into my office, told me he was my new manager sent to South Africa from France for a three-year contract… and married me. I’ve known since the moment I laid eyes on my husband, that he was ‘the one’. It was a feeling stronger than that famous eclipse of the sun.


SH: Your first book with Mélange Books was “Between Fire and Ice.” How did that come about?

CP: I am intrigued by opposites and the (sometimes elusive) balance to be found in the middle of their extremities. Examples are light/dark; sun/moon; yin/yang; male/female; good/bad; past/future; fire/ice. When we first moved to Chile, my husband and I, both keen travelers, first visited the two most opposite parts of the country in both distance and characteristics: the Atacama Desert (fire) in the north and Patagonia (ice) in the south.

When I stood on top of the highest dune in the Atacama Desert, looking down over the eerie crater formations of the Valley of the Moon, I realized that this was the perfect setting for a fantasy romance. Marrying the desert to its complimentary counterpart, Patagonia, created a beautiful and metaphorical backdrop for my story. It also inspired me to attribute the regions’ geographical characteristics to the protagonists’ personalities – Cy (sun) is from the Atacama Desert, a fiery and dark warrior, while Elena (moon) is from Patagonia, a pale and gentle woman with a special gift of healing. From there I took the characters on a journey through Chile, following very much in my exploring footsteps from the Elqui Valley that is claimed to host the earth’s magnetic center to fascinating Easter Island. The plot for the story was inspired earlier that year during a family holiday in France, in the magical forest of Rochefort-en-Terre, but I didn’t know the intricate details and metaphors the tale would take on until the Chilean landscape enchanted me. The book took five months to write and another two to edit. It flowed amazingly smoothly and some say it’s because of that magnetic Elqui energy. Smile. I was delighted when Mélange offered me a contract, setting my dream in motion.


SH: In hindsight, is there anything different you would have done in the writing of “Between Fire and Ice”?

I would have hopped less between the female and male protagonists’ point of views in the love scenes. At the time I believed it was important to give the reader insight into the minds of both characters acting out in one specific scene, as I kept on asking myself, “How does he feel?” and “What is she thinking?”. In retrospect, I’d stick to one point of view per scene. And I’d tell less and show more.


SH: You have a new book, “Second Best,” being released by Mélange Books in February 2014. Would you please give us a brief synopsis of it?

CP: The first time Molly sees Malcolm is in Oudtshoorn, South Africa in 1978, when he jumps from the back of an army truck to challenge her through the school yard fence. Little did she know then, when she boldly gave him the middle finger, how their lives would become intertwined.

Surviving the secret horrors of an industrial school, juvenile delinquent Molly van Aswegen grows into a tough and troubled woman who has sworn never to love anyone enough to be vulnerable. When Malcolm McLeod, rebel journalist and soldier, comes home from the Angolan Border War to save Molly from her institution, he starts fighting a different war altogether – the battle for both of their souls.

Molly’s fight for survival and Malcolm’s moral struggle will expose them as anti-conformists, at risk of being branded and outcast from society during a politically turbulent time when South Africa is in the midst of a twenty-three year long war.

Second Best is a story about the scars of the human soul, and the road that leads to healing.


Andrew Pauls

SH: Would you explain how that book came about?

CP: I was inspired by both my father and my brother to write this story. My father was a teacher at several industrial schools for juvenile delinquents in South Africa. I’ve always wanted to write a story about a character from such a school and the challenges that come with the unconscious social branding. Growing up around and living on the grounds of these schools have sparked in me a special empathy with the children who often ended up here due to cruel circumstances. At the time in which the novel is set, we lived in Oudtshoorn, in the Cape Province. It was during this time (1980) that the famous and feared military reconnaissance unit, who played a major role in the Border War (1966 to 1989), was founded in Oudtshoorn. My brother, posted to the dog explosive unit for the two years of his compulsive military service, inspired the character of the protagonist, a journalist who arrives in Oudtshoorn for his three months of basic military training.


SH: How did researching and writing “Second Best” impact you, personally?

CP: I was touched in a great variety of ways, all of those most intense. I appreciated our soldiers anew for the role they played in defending the country’s borders. Simultaneously, I was haunted by the scenes I had witnessed from some video clips and photos. It was impossible to imagine what these brave men had been through. It also awakened in me a new understanding of some of the intricate politics that shaped our country.


SH: Understanding that the manuscript is not yet edited, would you provide an excerpt from “Second Best”?

Spring, 1981

Chapter One

            The smell of burning human flesh was unmistakable. He knew it from his days in the army explosives dog unit, when soldiers were torched during the Angolan war. Two steps brought him to the sofa. Slowly, he reached for the hand that held the candle. Gently, he wrapped his fingers around her wrist.

            “Easy, Molly.” He moved her hand holding the candle away from her scorching skin and extinguished the flame between his thumb and forefinger.

She watched as he knelt down in front of her, his coat flaring out behind him and his leather pants stretching over his muscular thighs. As always, he exuded confidence and strength. With the calm sureness of someone who knew what he was doing, he wordlessly commanded her, moving her arm this way and that, his head bent low to study her injury. Raindrops dusted his dark hair.

            He let go of her to walk to the end of the room that served as a kitchen, his metal pointed boots sounding angry on the wooden floor. When he returned, he pressed a dishcloth filled with ice cubes onto her red skin.

Only then did he lift his black eyes to meet hers. “Jesus Christ, Molly.” Sighing, he sat down next to her, pulling her against him to cradle her head against his chest.

When she pulled away, he said, “Do you have aspirin?” She shook her head. “You’re going to need some. I’m going to the emergency pharmacy.”

            “I won’t.”

            Instead of verbally arguing, his lips set in a determined line and his eyes fixed on her broodingly. If she hadn’t known him better, she would have found him terrifying. The darker skin tone under his eyes gave them a demonic look. Stubble tainted his olive skin. His square jaw and straight nose give him a gypsy-like appearance. But it was the look in his eyes that mostly had people on guard. If it weren’t for the long lashes softening his features, he would have looked like the devil himself. Malcolm wasn’t a man to be crossed. Although, he did let her get away with defying him more often than not. This time, he turned and left.

            When Molly woke up, she smelled cigarette smoke. Her wrist pulsed with pain that she ignored. She padded barefoot to the backdoor where Malcolm stood on the landing in the drizzle. The end of his cigarette burned red as he inhaled, staring into the distance. Molly stopped in the door and leaned against the frame.

            “How are you feeling?” he said without turning.

            She shrugged. The night was cold from the summer rain. Her skin broke out in goose bumps under the thin T-shirt and denim shorts.

            As if sensing her tightening flesh, he flicked his butt into the yard and removed his coat. “Here.”

            She shook her head, hugging herself.

            “Then come back inside.” He walked past her and stood waiting, a silent instruction for her to follow.

            Satisfied only when she had obliged, he threw the coat onto a chair and inspected the contents of the fridge. Molly watched as he prepared a sandwich and a cup of tea, which he handed her with two painkillers. She swallowed the pills dry, but took the cup anyway. It warmed her hands.

“I suppose you are here for the next chapter,” she said.

He didn’t answer. His intense look was fixed on her face for such a long time, that her fingers went involuntary to the scar, tracing it from her forehead across her eye to her cheek. Seeing his expression, she quickly lowered her hand, tugging her wheat-blonde hair behind her ear.

His eyes followed the movement. As if pulled there by her action, he lifted his hand and touched a strand of her hair. “What happened, Molly?”

“Don’t you want to hear the next chapter of my life?”

“I didn’t come here for that.” He twisted the wisp of hair around his finger.

She stepped back. His expression darkened as he watched the lock slip from his grasp.

“Why are you here, Malcolm?”

“I was at the club. Thought I’d come and see why you weren’t.” His voice softened. “What happened, Molly?”

She turned away from him to stare at a window. “He fired me,” she finally said.

“It’s not your fault.”

Her laughed sounded hollow to her own ears. “How do you know?”

“I know you.”

She flung around, desperation creeping into her eyes and her voice as she said, “I can’t go back, Mal. If they find out that I’m without a job, so soon, they’ll take me in.”

“I know.”

She picked up his coat and pulled it on with jerky movements. “You’re here now. Do you want the story or not?”

“No. Not tonight.”

“I want to do this.”

There was a knowing look on his face when he advanced slowly, stopping short of her. She knew that look. He was allowing her to defy him. His gaze held hers as he leaned over her and retracted a hand-size tape recorder from the coat pocket. The way her body reacted at the contact with his said something entirely different, and she could see that he knew that too, but he played along with her when she moved away from him by keeping his expression unreadable and putting more space between them, placing the recorder on the table and switching it on.

When she started talking, he walked to the backdoor and lit another cigarette. He dragged on it while she spoke, sending the smoke into the night. He couldn’t look at her while she told her story. His guts pulled into a ball, his fingers into a fist in his pocket. It was his job to listen to people’s stories. And he heard his fill of bad ones, hundreds of them, worse than hers. But hers affected him. Even if he wanted, he couldn’t take a distance. It was long past that, as much as she denied what they shared.

He understood her refusal to acknowledge their bond. The reasons were there, in her life history. But it was his private war, one he intended on winning, no matter how long it took. If listening was agony, far worse than what had been done to him in the war, he did it for her. He said he was doing it for him, because if she had as much as an inkling as to why he was really doing this, she would refuse.

It had been a few seconds since she had stopped taking to his tape recorder before he turned, switched it off and dropped it into his pocket. He looked at her from under his long lashes.

“Eat,” he said, nodding at the sandwich before moving to the front door.

“Your coat.”

“I can get it later.”

“Take it.”

She removed it and handed it to him. His eyes moved to her wrist. “Make sure it doesn’t get infected. There are wax strips in the bag.”

Molly watched him walk up the hill from the door of the old Richmond metal factory until his shadow melted into the night. When she reentered her empty loft, the loneliness was a punch in her stomach. It was as if he had never been there, his presence but a dream.

            She had spent the afternoon before Malcolm came, after getting fired, playing the event over in her mind, and then trying not to. Freddie had fired her and he had gotten away with it. She was letting him get away. But there was no other way. Unless she wanted to risk being locked up. She thought that when she had left that school it all of that was over, but she was wrong. It had only just begun. When the images of her humiliation wouldn’t stop coming, she hit her head against the wall, but they only returned clearer. The only way she could ease her emotional torment was with a physical pain.

            “Get your sorry ass in my office. Now.” Freddie didn’t have to shout. The contempt in his voice was more effective.

            As Molly watched him walking through the car repair workshop and taking the stairs to the glass box, the others watched her. She gave the men in the blue overalls a look that made them lower their eyes. Then she snapped her teeth at Gertruida, the receptionist, and when she walked past her, the older girl cowered.

            Molly took the steps two by two, aware of the men below who tried to glimpse up her skirt. She slammed Freddie’s office door behind her.

            “I told you, when I hired you, not to pull funny tricks.” He pushed a piece of paper over his desk. “You left me with no alternative.”

            Molly glared at the black text that swam on the white sheet. She blinked, but her eyes wouldn’t focus.

            “You’re fired,” Freddie said with satisfaction.

“On what grounds?”

            “Theft. It’s the second time this week that there’s petty cash gone. I should have known not to trust your type.”

            She crossed her arms. “I didn’t touch your money and you know it.”

            His eyes followed her movement, lingered on her breasts and then flickered to her legs. “I have proof. We’ve gone through your bag.”

            “Then it was planted there.”

            “It’s your word against mine. Who do you think they are going to believe?”

            Molly picked up her dismissal and slowly rounded his desk. In a second, Freddie’s dominant stance slipped. He pulled at his collar. His voice was high-pitched when he said, “You stay where you are.”

            Molly smiled as the man, twice her size, wheeled his chair away from her. Rumors. What did he think? That she was going to kill him? She continued her advance, until she was bracing one hand on the arm rest, the other crumbling the paper into a ball.

She brought her nose inches from his. “Don’t think I don’t know your type.”

            He flushed.

            “I know what’s going on in your head, Freddie boy.” Her gaze lowered. “And in your pants.” She blew his thinning hair from his forehead.

            He glanced downstairs through the glass, to where his employees were witnessing their every action. Molly straightened and placed her boot against the edge of his chair, between his legs. His eyes widened as she wiggled the toe. She laughed, seeing where his attention had gone, to where her skirt had lifted. With a firm kick she pushed his chair to collide with the wall at his back.

“I know how you’ve been looking at me. You’re a sick boy, Freddie.” She took his stapler from his desk. “So, you’re always on my case about going to church. I know what you are thinking when you sit in the front row of the Sunday service.”

His pushed himself flat against the chair back when Molly moved forward, the stapler in one hand, and the crumpled paper in the other. Not giving him time to recover from his daze, she straddled his chair, her skirt creeping all the way up her thighs. He opened his mouth as if he was going to scream, and at the same time, she felt his hard-on growing under her skirt.

            As her hand with the stapler lifted, caressing his earlobe, he whimpered, and when she clacked it twice next to the cartilage, a muffled sob escaped his throat. His hands shot up, protectively cupping his exposed ears. But instead of crunching the tender flesh, Molly stapled the paper ball to his tie.

            As swiftly as she had jumped him, she hopped off his chair. She stared at the embarrassing bulge in his pants, grinning, watching as his humiliation turned to anger.

His hands lowered from his head to grip the armrests of his chair. “You little bitch.”

            She straightened her skirt. “I bet that’s what you like to call them in bed,” she said sweetly. “Or do you fuck in alleys?” His eyes narrowed in his flushed face. “I refuse to be fired, Freddie boy. So take that piece of paper and shove it up your fat ass.” She turned and walked to the door. “I resign.”

            No one looked at Molly when she made her way downstairs and through the workshop. Gertruida made herself small in a corner as Molly glared at her. With a swift movement of her arm, Molly swept Gertruida’s desk clean. She didn’t look back as she walked from Cheetah Spare Parts and Repairs into the street of the industrial Johannesburg suburb.

She went straight to her nearby loft, and sat on the kitchen counter for a very long time, until she could even her breathing. She thought about what had happened, and why they had set her up, until her head ached. And then, when she wanted them to, her thoughts wouldn’t stop. She bashed her head against the wall, and took a candle from the drawer.


“The Winemaker” by Charmaine Pauls Available June 2013 from Melange Books

SH: Though people may move far from where they were born and raised, there is still a place we call “home.”

Considering all that South Africa has experienced in the past decades, what is your greatest hope for South Africa?

CP: My greatest hope is that this beautiful country will host and protect a rainbow nation with security, safety and equality for all.


SH: Is there anything else you wish to add?

CP: Be on the lookout for my novel “The Winemaker”, inspired by the world-famous Chilean winemaker Francisco Baettig, due for release by Mélange Books in June. Thanking you for the interview Stan!

Charmaine Pauls Bio

South African born Charmaine Pauls followed a career in all the facets of her communications degree, including public relations, journalism, advertising, and brand marketing. Her debut novel, Between Yesterday and Tomorrow, was released in August 2011. She currently resides in Chile with her husband and two children.

Website: www.charmainepauls.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Charmaine-Pauls/175738829145132?ref=ts&fref=ts

“Between Fire and Ice” by Charmaine Pauls Enter to win a free e-book copy!

Between Fire & Ice, About the Book:
Cy is heir to the powerful empire of his parents, a mining enterprise in Chile, South America. Their future power depends on his ability to produce an heir himself, a daunting prospect, as the human race is becoming infertile. But Cy’s mother – a brilliant, cold-hearted scientist – left nothing to chance, when she, in the year of her son’s tenth birthday, headed a project to artificially inseminate a fertile woman. At thirty years of age, Cy is instructed to marry Elena, who his parents surrogated and adopted for one purpose only – to have his baby.

Elena was hidden in a secluded cloister in the ice-lands of Patagonia, where the nuns, renowned for their mysterious magical practices, taught her the art of meditation and healing. A cruel education ensured that Elena submitted to her destiny, namely to give Cy a child. But soon Cy will learn that there is more to his bride than shy submissiveness. Under her gentle beauty hides a powerful woman who can give Cy the peace he is yearning for. She holds the key to his heart, and for once, he may just begin to believe in the destiny that had been preached to him all his life.

Available here: https://melange-books.com/authors/charmainepauls/betweenfireandice.html


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