Talking Craft with Horror Author Brian W. Matthews

085-EditWeb.jpgBrian W. Matthews grew up in a small town in southeast Michigan. The oldest of three boys, his days were occupied with school, friends, and when he got older, work. Lots of work. He has been gainfully employed every year since 1977, running the gamut from making pizzas to waiting tables to working in a hospital to being a child therapist. He currently works as a financial planner and writes in his free time. He is married with a daughter and two step-daughters. The Conveyance is his third book.

The Conveyance can be purchased directly from the publisher at www.journalstone.com or from Amazon.

Q: Congratulations on the release of your latest book, The Conveyance. To begin with, can you give us a brief summary of what the story is about and what compelled you to write it?   

A: I loved watching horror and science fiction movies as a child. In Detroit, on Wednesday afternoons, one of the local channels would show a classic horror or sci-fi movie—Godzilla was particularly popular, but you would also see movies like see 20 Million Miles to Earth or The Fly. I would race home from school each Wednesday to sit in front of the television. This instilled in me a love for the bizarre, so when I started writing, I naturally gravitated toward speculative fiction and the supernatural. My first two novels were mash-ups of horror and urban fantasy and alternate history. When the time came for my third novel, I wanted to branch out. My mind kept returning to 20 Million Miles to Earth and its central question: how did life come to exist on Earth? For The Conveyance, I decided to approach that topic but with a twist, to keep the story fresh for the readers.

Q: What do you think makes a good horror or science fiction book? Could you narrow it down to the three most important elements? Is it even possible to narrow it down?

A: First, don’t focus on the zombie/alien/monster element of your story. You need to start with people—vividly drawn characters—and their relationships. The zombies/aliens/monsters are simply vehicles to apply pressure on your characters; to test their strengths and weaknesses. That is what makes your readers care about your characters, how they end up rooting for your heroes. If they don’t care about your characters, you’ve failed.

Second, the true horror is not the zombie/alien/monster theme: it is the extremes to which your central characters are pushed by these creatures. What is more horrific, a zombie attack or how it forces a mother to kill her child rather than let him or her become an undead fiend? If you’ve done your job well—if your readers really care about the mother and child and their relationship—then that act of mercy will be gut-wrenching; your readers will be far more horrified by it than by any graphic description of a zombie eating a human. This is exactly what made Night of the Living Dead such a hit; the movie was more about the people in the house and how they reacted and interacted under stress rather than the zombies.

Front_Cover_Image_The_Conveyance.jpgThird, the readers’ imaginations are far more descriptive than anything you can write. Yes, you can horrify using literary tricks like shifting narrative distance and time expansion and such, but if you over-describe your scene, you rob the reader of his or her input into the story. They can’t make it their own. Find one or two or three (at the most) elements of a particularly frightful scene and describe them, but only allude to the other elements. Let your reader fill in the blanks. Not only will they feel more a part of the story, this will help keep the reader from becoming fatigued.

Q: How did you go about plotting your story? Or did you discover it as you worked on the book?

A: I’m not big on story plotting. I typically have a beginning and an end, and I develop certain points I want to reach during the novel’s progression. Then I go ahead and write it. My main fear with plotting is that I will unintentionally telegraph what is coming. If I don’t know what’s going to happen next, how can the reader? In addition, discovering the novel as it progresses helps keep it fresh in my mind; I get excited by developments, my blood starts to race. Writing is a long, painful process, and this excitement keeps me writing with the energy I need to make the story effective.

Q: Tell us something interesting about your protagonist and how you developed him or her. Did you do any character interviews or sketches prior to the actual writing?

A: The main protagonist is Dr. Bradley Jordan, a child psychologist. I have a graduate degree in clinical psychology and spent many years as a child therapist. While Brad Jordan isn’t me, I used my experiences as a therapist to make him credible. I do utilize character interviews before I start writing, and I did with him.

Q: In the same light, how did you create your antagonist or villain? What steps did you take to make him or her realistic?

A: This is a harder question to answer because the antagonist is more a concept than an actual person. There are a few big baddies in the story, and similar to Brad Jordan, I did a character interview for each one. But these are mainly highlights. I enjoy coming up with character idiosyncrasies while I’m writing. The trick is to keep them straight and consistent throughout the book.

Q: How did you keep your narrative exciting throughout the novel? Could you offer some practical, specific tips?

A: Conveyance is written in first person. That’s a difficult tense to use because a writer tends to revert to telling and not showing what is going on. There’s a tendency to overuse visual cues, and this can result in stale prose. I made a conscious decision to show and not tell as much as possible, and to rely on two other senses (touch and hearing) to help expand the narrative stage. Also, I vary my sentence structure and paragraph lengths. Reader fatigue sets in quickly with the same five sentence paragraphs, all fully formed and complete. Vary it up to keep the reader interested.

Q: Setting is also quite important and in many cases it becomes like a character itself. What tools of the trade did you use in your writing to bring the setting to life?

A: Well, as I said in the last question, a writer needs to include descriptions other than the visual. I do use visual as a core descriptor, but I also try to triangulate the narrative stage for the reader by using the senses of touch and hearing. This helps the reader obtain the necessary spatial sense of your setting; your world becomes more realistic. Also, try not to describe too much. (I was guilty of this a lot in my early writing.) Let the readers supply some of the context. This will help pull them into your story and keep them reading, which is the brass ring on this particular carousel.

Q: Did you know the theme(s) of your novel from the start or is this something you discovered after completing the first draft? Is this theme(s) recurrent in your other work?

A: I need a theme in order to begin. I can’t simply say “a monster invades a small town in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula” (as in Forever Man). Instead, I need a central struggle for my main character: Izzy Morris, a wife, mother, and the town’s Chief of Police, has always struggled with her role in life, and when her daughter goes missing, she is forced to confront this conflict head-on and grow into the person she was always meant to be. You tell me, which one is the more compelling story? For me, the combination of the two—a basic plot arc and a central conflict for the main character—is what makes me decide to write the novel.

Q: Where does craft end and art begin? Do you think editing can destroy the initial creative thrust of an author?

A: For me, you really can’t separate the two. For my first draft, I go for the fences. I write like no one is going to read the story so it ends up as big and bold as possible. But what you have after that first draft is a hot mess. That’s fine. The editing is there to turn your hot mess into a logical, artful story. Don’t underestimate what thoughtful editing can do for your story. There is a book called Self-Editing for Fiction Writers. If you’re serious about writing, pick up a copy. Read it over and over. I helped my writing tremendously.

Q: What three things, in your opinion, make a successful novelist?

A: This one is hard to answer, because success means different things to different people. My vision of success is first completing a novel. I put a year or two of my life into writing it, and finishing it gives me a sense of satisfaction. Second—having people enjoy what I read. I wouldn’t want to put in so much effort and sweat only to have it panned by everyone. Thankfully, that hasn’t happened…yet. I suppose third would be some sort of financial success. It is certainly a gauge of how well received a novel is, but so few people can make a living at writing, and I’m reluctant to emphasize the monetary aspects too much. For most writers, it may never reach the level they think and still be terrific authors.

Q: A famous writer once wrote that being an author is like having to do homework for the rest of your life. What do you think about that?

A: I think he was 100% correct. If you want to be a writer, you need to write every day. For some, that includes holidays and vacations. It’s like homework. My wife is a teacher. Each evening, we sit down and do our homework: she corrects papers, and I write.

Q: Are there any resources, books, workshops or sites about craft that you’ve found helpful during your writing career?

A: As I mentioned earlier, the book Self-Editing for Fiction Writers is an invaluable asset. Another is the book, Scene and Structure, which delves into the framework of a novel. Both are very helpful. Also, join whatever organization represents your genre. I’m a member of the Horror Writers Association and the International Thriller Writers Association. I attend their conferences. That is where I’ve met other writers, picked up ideas about writing, and generally received considerable support knowing you’re not alone with your writing.

Q:  Is there anything else you’d like to share with my readers about the craft of writing?

A:  While there are many benefits to writing, it is a difficult and lonely endeavor. You sit for hours by yourself, typing on your computer or writing in a notebook. It can take months to years for your work to see the light of day. Be prepared and be disciplined. In the end, the payoffs can be amazing.

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First Chapter Reveal: Cable Car Mystery by Greg Messel

Cable Car Mystery banner

Cable Car MysteryTitle: Cable Car Mystery
Author: Greg Messel
Publisher: Sunbreaks Publishing
Pages: 180
Genre: Mystery/Romance

On the hottest day of the year in San Francisco in 1959, Private Detectives Sam and Amelia Slater are contemplating fleeing the city for their Stinson Beach house. However, when Sam decides to take a cable car ride to run some errands on the lazy summer day, he’s suddenly thrust into the spotlight when he rescues a woman who fell onto the busy street. Sam pulls the mysterious red haired woman out of the path of an oncoming cable car in the nick of time. The entire incident is captured by a newspaper photographer who splashes Sam’s heroics all over the front page. Sam is troubled not only by his new status as a city hero, but by the rescued woman’s plea for help. She whispers to Sam that she didn’t fall from the cable car but was pushed. She is frightened and disappears into the crowd before Sam can get more details. A San Francisco newspaper launches a campaign to find the mystery woman and Sam hopes to cross paths with her again.

Meanwhile, Amelia is troubled by the sudden disappearance of her elderly neighbor. Two thuggish younger men who now occupy the house next door say he took a sudden trip. One night when she’s alone Amelia grabs a flashlight and finds some disturbing clues in her neighbor’s garage. What really happened to her neighbor? Amelia is determined to find out.

Award winning author Greg Messel spins a new tale of intrigue in Cable Car Mystery, the sixth book in the Sam Slater Mystery series set in at the 1950s in San Francisco.

For More Information

  • Cable Car Mystery is available at Amazon.
  • Discuss this book at PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads.

 

THE DARK APARTMENT

May 29, 1959

It had been a beautiful early summer day in San Francisco but the evening fog was rolling in, seemingly pulling a cozy blanket over the sparkling city as 28-year-old Debra Norton returned from her Friday night date with John D’Angelo, a tall, handsome, dark-haired man she had met at work.

It was their first date. He was so unlike the men who had been part of her life in recent years. He seemed kind and gentle. John seemed like just what she wanted in a companion but she reminded herself it was too early to make such an assessment. It could be the beginning of something good for Debra who, at the urging of her sister, had fled Seattle to make a new start in San Francisco.

John was truly an artist and Debra’s job had been the most unusual experience of her life.

She began working at the wax museum on Fisherman’s Wharf at the beginning of May, where she performed a variety of tasks. Debra had secretarial and clerical duties but at times she was a ticket taker. Over the four weeks she had been at the museum, she had learned enough about various exhibits that she directed patrons and answered their questions. That part was really fun.

John, on the other hand, was the creative talent behind many of the museum’s famous wax figures. He actually created the figures which attracted tourists who visited Fisherman’s Wharf. She’d met John on the first day at her new job, but initially their paths didn’t cross because he was always in the upstairs studio.

Nevertheless, recently, John had been finding excuses to leave his work studio and chat up Debra. A few times she looked up and noticed him watching her.

Now on their first date, John had taken Debra out to dinner. He was very attentive. There were nice little touches many women would probably take for granted, such as pulling out her chair to seat her at the table and opening the car door for her.

After the dinner, they went to the late show at the Embassy Theatre on Market Street and saw “A Summer Place” with Sandra Dee and Troy Donahue. It was just the kind of romantic movie Debra loved but had never seen.

She shared a popcorn with her handsome co-worker. About halfway through the movie, he took her hand. His hands were manly but soft. He held her hand as if it were some delicate object of art which might break if treated carelessly.

They continued to hold hands until he gave her a good night kiss on the steps by the front door stoop near the entrance of her San Francisco-style townhouse apartment building. She seemed euphoric as she began to descend the steps to her second floor apartment. Debra stopped halfway up the steps and turned to look at the front door. She could see John standing outside the glass door watching her ascend the steps. She smiled and waved before resuming her climb up the stairs.

She smiled to herself knowing John was watching her.

Debra’s lighthearted contentment was shattered when she slowly walked towards the door of her apartment. Her sixth sense kicked in. Something just didn’t look right. A little voice in her head told her to bolt and go retrieve John, but instead she pushed ahead.

About the Author

Greg Messel

Greg Messel has spent most of his adult life interested in writing, including a career in the newspaper business. He won a Wyoming Press Association Award as a columnist and has contributed articles to various magazines. Greg lives in Edmonds, Washington on Puget Sound with his wife Jean DeFond.

Greg has written nine novels. His latest is “Cable Car Mystery” which is the sixth in a series of mysteries set in 1959 San Francisco. “Shadows In The Fog,” ”Fog City Strangler,” “San Francisco Secrets,” “Deadly Plunge” are sequels to the first book in the series “Last of the Seals.” His other three novels are “Sunbreaks,” “Expiation” and “The Illusion of Certainty.”

For More Information

 

BOOK TRAILER:

 

 

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Giveaway!

Greg Messel is giving away an autographed copy of his book, FOG CITY STRANGLER, & an autographed copy of his book, SHADOWS IN THE FOG!

 

Terms & Conditions:

  • By entering the giveaway, you are confirming you are at least 18 years old.
  • One winner will be chosen via Rafflecopter to receive an autographed copy of his book FOG CITY STRANGLER and one winner will be chosen to win an autographed copy of SHADOWS IN THE FOG
  • This giveaway begins May 2 and ends on June 30.
  • Winners will be contacted via email on July 1.
  • Winner has 48 hours to reply.

Good luck everyone!

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First Chapter Reveal: The Hidden Reality by Stephen Martino

The Hidden RealityTitle: The Hidden Reality
Author: Stephen Martino
Publisher: Light Messages
Pages: 318
Genre: Science Fiction/Political Thriller

In the year 2084, the brilliant inventor, Alex Pella, finds himself at a precarious crossroad between the pursuit of justice and preservation of his own sanity. While attempting to undermine an international New World Order government created by the financial juggernaut known as The New Reality, he must also face the hidden truths about his own genetic heritage that are slowly destroying him. After receiving an ambiguous message sent from a former New Reality executive who died 2 years prior, Alex learns that the only possible means to confront this New World Order is to defeat a long-forgotten enemy almost 2500 years old.

 

THE HIDDEN REALITY is the second stand-alone novel in a trilogy starring Alex Pella, created by New Jersey-based neurologist and entrepreneur Stephen Martino. With his fusion of history, politics, and science fiction, Martino joins such masters of the thriller genre as Dan Brown, James Rollins, and Michael Crichton.
Martino’s villain is a corporation run by a cadre of ruthless international bankers known as The New Reality. Directed by the most corrupt and morally unscrupulous of the bunch, Myra Keres, the company has economically seized control of the world’s governments and the population’s personal freedoms in the process. In order to save humanity from this despot ruler and the unwonted atrocities to which she plans to perpetuate on the world, Alex Pella must infiltrate the company and face an enemy that has unknowingly haunted both him and history for almost 2500 years.
Martino says he wrote THE HIDDEN REALITY more than just to entertain the reader. He wanted to create a modern day Orwellian ANIMAL FARM to allegorically forewarn his readers of a possible dystopia future that awaits all of mankind if humanity continues to proceed down its path of self-destruction.

 

In THE HIDDEN REALITY, Martino has included such hot-button contemporary topics as genetic cloning, unprecedented economic debt, the rise of big government, and the threat of a New World Order run by the economic elite, while bringing the reader back almost 2500 years into the past when the ancient city state nation known as Greece fought the mighty Persian Empire for world domination.
All of these elements, Martino maintains, separate his book from the pack. He calls THE HIDDEN REALITY “issue-oriented fiction. There are real concerns facing society today that threaten both the sovereignty and prosperity of our future generations. Though fictional, my novel addresses some of these issues and predicts the potential consequences we face as a nation and the world if they are not properly addressed today.”

For More Information

First Chapter

 

September 4, 2084 London, England

A YOUNG MAN IN HIS late twenties stood confidently behind a large, circular table made of clear glass. With his well-tanned, stubbled face and wavy, beelined honey-colored hair that reached his shoulders, he appeared more ready to catch the next wave than to speak at this meeting. His tan suit with a large butterfly-like collar and unbuttoned white shirt completed the look.

Most of the other 20 executives at the meeting also appeared less than adequately dressed for such an occasion.

In the center of the table a crisp image was meticulously engraved on the glass. It represented not only the symbol for their company but also that of the New World Order it created—a vibrant triangular diamond with a perfect, golden circle at its center. Above the symbol, a holographic image of a globe with countries coded in different colors rotated slowly.

“As you can see by the green color on about half of the countries,” the speaker from the public relations team went on to say with little enthusiasm, “The New Reality virtual services is actively utilized by at least 50 percent of the population. Though this percentage has increased by almost two-fold since the first quarter in 2083, we are still about 10 percent shy of reaching this year’s expectation.”

He pointed to one of the large canvas painted portraits at the front of the room. “As our former president and CEO of The New Reality, Albert Rosenberg, once said,” he continued in a monotone voice, “failure to meet expectation, no matter how grandiose these expectations may be, is still a failure.”

He attempted to rouse his fellow colleagues around the table with this famous quote, but none seemed interested with the words from the deceased old man or with the presenter’s lack of enthusiasm.

Although the painting depicted Albert as a younger gentleman with large blue eyes, curly, gray hair, high cheekbones and an intense demeanor, most remembered how he looked before his death three years ago—decrepit and skeletal. Some incorrectly assumed he was a casualty of The Disease, which once ravaged the planet and led to the untimely deaths of millions of her inhabitants. The real reason for his demise proved much more dubious in nature.

“Sit down!” a man by the name of Jules Windsor bellowed from across the table in an English accent. “Just sit down. Your total lack of understanding and ignorance of the subject is making me go completely out of my mind.”

Jules stood up from behind the table and pointed at the door behind him. “No, better yet, why don’t you just take yourself and that God-awful ensemble you call a suit and get the hell out of here. Go. Now. Be quick about it.”

The man giving the lackluster presentation then slowly backed away in disbelief. Because of Jules’ worldwide reputation as a great philanthropist and highly esteemed member of The New Reality board, he was taken aback by such a negative reaction.

“But…” he attempted.

Jules once again pointed at the door, curtailing all further discussion.

Unlike most others around the table, he was exquisitely dressed in a designer black pinstripe suit with a red tie and similarly colored handkerchief protruding from his right breast pocket. Just above six feet tall with wavy blond hair and an athletic physique, his physical prowess overpowered all those at the table. His large, black, penetrating eyes only proved to accentuate his ominous presence.

The man whimpered away from the table like a beaten dog. The door dematerialized upon his exit.

Not many noticed his departure as all eyes now squarely focused on Jules Windsor. Once a man of Albert Rosenberg’s inner circle, Jules was now relegated to the London office to oversee advertisement and distribution of The New Reality virtual products across the globe.

Still riling in the fact that Albert did not allow him to run in the general election for the leader of The New Reality, he begrudgingly took the position with plans of greater success in the future.

After The Disease had ravaged the planet for over a year, the world was subsequently left financially bankrupt. Though the illness did not precipitate this financial ruin, it was the final act that led to its collapse. Years of deficit spending, mounting debt, growing unfunded liabilities, poor central financial planning, and complete waste of taxpayer money produced the problem. The inception of The Disease proved to be its tipping point. Led by Albert Rosenberg, The New Reality was there to reap the benefits of the world’s financial ruin. Fueling the economic crisis by providing loans to countries around the globe that had no means to repay them, he took control of the governments when they universally defaulted on their payments. Thus marking the end of all local, territorial sovereignties and the rise of a central, economically controlled New World Order run by The New Reality.

“Look at you all around this table,” Jules admonished, as if scolding wayward children. “You all come here, to my office, dressed like shaggy vagabonds.”

He pointed to a gentleman who wore running pants made from synthetic rayon woven fabric with long slits along the sides to maximize air flow and a baggy black-striped shirt that looked similar to a poncho and said, “Or worse yet, some…” He was at a loss of words. “God knows what even to call that terribly unfortunate outfit.”

The man began to chuckle, somehow thinking that Jules’ reaction was funny.

“You think it’s amusing?” Jules asked as he closed in to where the man was sitting. The closer he approached, the less the man found it humorous. Jules’ broad shoulders, chiseled jaw, and focused expression made further laughter next to impossible.

Those few in the room who actually knew Jules on a personal level, shuddered at what was to happen next. Despite his popular reputation, Jules was actually an intense businessman with relentless determination and an abundance of self-confidence.

Jules placed his rather large and muscular hand around the back of the man’s neck. The pain was so intense that he felt paralyzed and could do nothing in response but wince helplessly in pain. He tried to speak, but only tears came out. The other people around the table were in shock. Instead of helping the man, they sat motionless in fear. Jules finally released his grip. The man slumped to the floor and began to gasp for breath as if he had choked.

“Crawl on out of here hooligan,” Jules reprimanded. “You will disgrace my board room with your insolence no longer.”

The man quickly obliged. Mustering what little energy he had left, he crawled to the doorway and rolled out of the room once the door dematerialized.

He turned to the woman and the rest of the men at the table. Many began tucking in their shirts, adjusting their jackets, or simply attempting to sit up a little straighter. “So,” Jules went on to ask as if nothing had occurred, “do any of you want to finish this dreadful presentation you traveled from far and wide to present to me today?”

No one dared to answer. Though he understood the fear he instilled upon his guests, Jules was certainly disappointed that not a single person was willing to speak. Always looking for a mental challenge or good intellectual argument, he quickly realized by the blank stares from the woman and men around this table that he would receive neither at the moment.

He pointed at the painting of Albert Rosenberg. “Your esteemed colleague left off by mentioning expectation. Would anyone like to further explain what Mr. Rosenberg meant by expectation?”

Though Albert was Jules’ uncle, he seldom acknowledged this familial bond any longer. The people who were chosen to run the enterprise shared little of Jules’ political or even moral beliefs, and he was appalled by Albert’s nominees and even more appalled by the political policies that The New Reality had created. From the time Jules was a teenager, he had worked tirelessly with his uncle and had helped financially to bring this company to its economic prominence—not the pathetic candidates who were nominated. Many of his ideas were those used to consolidate The New Reality’s power and create a financial empire never before seen on the planet.

Though his uncle never showed him any love or affection, Jules did not require it. Instead, he received something far greater: respect and responsibility. A promotion by his uncle meant more than a hug. A raise was more prized than an affectionate pat on the back.

“Well,” Jules went on to say, “despite what was so horribly just taken out of context, what Mr. Rosenberg referred to when speaking of expectation is a concept known as reflexivity.”

He looked around the table at even blanker stares. Knowing that few, if any, understood his reference, he continued, “The theory of reflexivity was first popularized by a great man and professor by the name of Karl Popper. Does anyone know of him or his work, The Open Society and Its Enemies?”

No one answered.

He shook his head, “William Shakespeare once wrote, ‘Ignorance is the curse of God; knowledge is the wing wherewith we fly to heaven.’” Imploring those around the table, “Please let us all not whither in this ignorance. Listen to what I am about to teach.”

Jules walked over to the painting of Albert Rosenberg and stood in front of it. “Reflexivity is simply a matter of cause and effect. If the cause is expectation then the effect will be its outcome. However, this simple domino effect is bidirectional in many instances whereby cause and effect can become blurred and at times indistinguishable from one another. And that is what we call reflexivity. It can occur not only in economics but also in business or even politics.”

He felt intellectually enthralled by the subject and could speak on it for hours. He continued with a little more baritone to his voice. “Let me give you an example. If the expectation for a product or even service is high, then the cost of its stock will rise accordingly. If the stock begins to rise, the expectation for this product or service will thus rise accordingly, making the cause and effect one in the same—creating a reflexive relationship.”

Jules swung his fist and hit the painting’s wooden frame, sending it crashing to the floor, smashing the glass-covered canvas upon impact. Shards of glass scattered across the tan carpet.

The people around the table shuddered at the sacrilegious action.

Jules smiled at the reaction, realizing he had properly conveyed his point. “You see, some reflexive relationships can build until they are unsustainable and come crashing down like this painting, crumbling under the false pretense of a ballooning cycle.”

He stared at the youth around him. Though they were at most only 10 or 20 years his junior, he felt this new generation being created by The New Reality was already lost. “So what do you believe?” he asked one of his guests wearing a rather conspicuous red sports jacket.

The man just shook his head, not knowing how to respond. Jules walked over to him and again asked, “What do you believe? What are your expectations? What do you want out of life?” “Well,” the man feebly responded, “my wife and I are going on a two week virtual New Reality experience later this year. We’ve been saving for it for some time now.”

Jules scoffed at the response, insulted by both the man’s ignorance and self-absorption. “Where is your drive or aspiration in life? If that is your greatest ambition, then you surely live a petty existence.”

Jules shook his head and began to walk around the table. Glass crunched under his feet. He put his hands behind his back and looked down as he perused the room. “Don’t you see what The New Reality has done not only to all of you but also the world? They are creating a generation of mediocre, mindless sheep. While The New Reality’s New World Order takes away more of your individual freedoms, rights, and even integrity on a daily basis, you are all so self-absorbed in total nonsense that you fail to notice what is so blatantly occurring.”

Jules laughed and continued. “Rome gave its population the Coliseum and spectacular gladiatorial displays to suppress the masses. Now, two thousand years later The New Reality gives you virtual experiences, mind-bending drugs, an inundation of free, highly-censored media, and a myriad other self-indulgent activities. Instead of reading the great Aristotle or the modern day philosopher Winston Burke, you peruse the bantering of the latest pop star. Instead of worshiping great minds like Heisenberg or Einstein, you venerate men who can carry a silly ball quickly or some underage, socially immoral adolescent who can gyrate to an algorithmic computer-produced song. Classical literature has been replaced by the holograms of pop culture. Conformity has supplanted innovation and enlightenment.”

“Don’t you see?” he said as he approached another painting on a different wall. “This is all just a smoke screen created by The New Reality to suppress the people of the world. While you all pursue your materialistic, self-destructive, and selfish behaviors, The New Reality and its economic cronies are becoming wealthier by the day at your expense and your personal freedom.”

Jules gestured to the painting of a smiling, middle aged, hazel-eyed female with short, cropped hair, sharp, yet fair facial features, and a mildly bulbous nose and on the wall. “Sure, there are some who understand what the esteemed President of The New Reality, Myra Keres, is perpetrating, but most say nothing in fear of negative repercussions. Plato wrote, ‘We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.’” He beseeched them all, hoping to inspire some initiative on their part. “Who of you or your pitiful generation will embrace this light?”

Jules attempted not to laugh as he mentioned Myra’s name. The election that brought her to this position was fixed by Albert Rosenberg from its inception. Her opponents were simply political puppets used to create a facade of a genuine election. The votes were never counted and the media coverage of the event was a carefully orchestrated event by the New Reality meant to provide the world’s population with a false sense of importance and power.

All those around the table sat uneasy on their chairs, not daring to utter a single word. Expecting Jules to smash Myra Keres’ painting just as he had Albert Rosenberg’s, an already tense situation grew even more uncomfortable.

The door dematerialized and a beautiful, young woman sauntered through the opening. Dressed in a blue dress, she cleared her throat and politely said, “Excuse me. Mr. Windsor. There’s a package that was delivered to your office that said Urgent—Must Open Immediately. I didn’t want to bother you sir, but…”

Jules’ whole demeanor instantly became at ease. Her blue eyes, long brown hair and pouty lips almost made him lose his train of thought. “No bother Marie,” he politely interjected. “I was just finishing here.”

Jules had a propensity for a beautiful woman and a long list of former acquaintances that grew by the day. He never found his secretary’s interruptions at all intrusive; in fact, he looked forward to them.

The woman and men around the table exhaled with a great sense of relief as Jules exited the room without speaking another word to them. Their reprimand had finally ended, and each could not wait to return home as quickly as possible.

***

Jules paced in his office, awaiting the package. Usually he would have disregarded such a seemingly unimportant message, but the public relations team the top brass at The New Reality sent to meet him was woefully inadequate and not worth any more of his time. Plus, the mere thought of how Myra Keres became president of The New Reality instantly placed him in an irritable mood. He never understood why Albert Rosenberg would choose such a crooked, unscrupulous, and morally bankrupt person to take over his company. She had a body-bag list too numerous to count lining her way to success. In addition, her policies of a strong-fisted New World Order that corrupted the population would never survive. Eventually, the sense of individualism and intellectual enlightenment would again rise like a great Renaissance and make her control over the masses nearly impossible.

Like the man himself, Jules’ office was immaculate and exuded an air of elegance. The natural flow and curvature of the Greco-Roman furniture with its cream-upholstered cushions, dark wood chairs and master desk, and white, lush draperies were offset with an assortment of modern fluted class sculptures in the shape of different colored exotic plants. Unlike all other rooms throughout the building, there were no New Reality logos or pictures of its current or former leader. Jules believed such visual distractions in his office would only be detrimental.

The door dematerialized and Marie began to walk through the opening with a large pizza-shaped box held out in her hands. Before she could fully enter the room, the box unexpectedly seemed to stand still in the air and slide across her arms until it abutted her chest, halting any further progression. She momentarily stumbled on her heels, both surprised and confused by the interruption.

“Is everything alright?” Jules asked in the most pleasant demeanor. She pushed the box forward with her body, and like a slingshot it flung about 10 feet into the room and hit the mosaic-tiled floor.

“I hope it didn’t say FRAGILE along with URGENT,” Jules jested, trying to diminish some of his secretary’s embarrassment.

Marie stood in the doorway almost in a state of shock, not understanding what had just transpired. “But,” Marie finally said with confused look on her face, “it seemed to just fly on its own. I really didn’t do anything.”

“No worries,” Jules responded while picking up the package. After placing it on his desk, he traced slowly over the box’s white strip that ran diagonally from one corner to the other, releasing the adhesive binding. The box instantly opened and white packing foam protruded.

“Thank you, Marie,” Jules finally said, curious as to what secret the box held. Without a return address on its front and with only a clear sticker continuously blinking URGENT on it, the package had no indication from where or from whom it originated. Jules patted down the packing foam and upon contact it collapsed, forming tiny white beads that fell to the bottom of the box. Captivated by the contents, he barely took note of Marie exiting the room or her again mentioning how the box flew through the air of its own volition.

Neither did he notice all the commotion that started to commence around his office building. Flashing red lights, sirens and even a muffled voice on a bullhorn did little to garner his attention. Two fully armed and internationally sanctioned World Order Guards, or WOGs as they were known colloquially, flew by his office windows, each riding their own silver, chariot-like heliocrafts named after the Greek sun god Helios.

The white beads continued to trickle down to the bottom of the box, revealing a beautifully ornate, circular shield. Jules gazed upon it, perplexed by the urgency of this gift. Though clearly recognizing its historical significance, he was at a loss to understand why he needed to see it right away.

A few more WOGs flew by the windows as other sirens and police began to converge on the building.

The intrinsic beauty of the shield was not lost on him as he looked in awe at the craftsmanship of this ancient artifact. The sun surrounded by the earth, moon and a few constellations were engraved in the center of the silver-plated shield. Then, like layers of an onion, different gloriously sculpted scenes encircled this central point. A city at peace lay above the sun and constellations, while a city at war was depicted below it. Surrounding these scenes were three separate engravings of men reaping bushels of corn from a king’s estate, workers plowing a field, and young girls picking grapes along a bountiful vineyard. The following layer tempered its adjacent, inner scenes of serenity. A bull being ripped apart by two lions was engraved prominently at the top while two more pleasant engravings of sheep grazing and young men and women dancing framed each of its lower sides. At its outmost edge, a flowing ocean encircled the inner scenes while a rusted strip of metal wrapped tightly around the edge secured its perimeter.

As the foam continued to collapse, Jules noted a transparent, rectangular strip of plastic lying inconspicuously to the side of the box. Taking the message card in one hand, he contemplated if it would provide him some clue to its origin or its urgent nature. Jules knew this shield was formerly the prized artifact of Albert Rosenberg’s Greco-Roman collection. But who sent it was a different story. Rumored to be the actual shield of Achilles, written of in Homer’s epic poem The Iliad and usurped by Alexander the Great, Albert prominently exhibited the relic in the center of his massive display.

The card’s perimeter began to blink a bright red. The intensity of its illumination made Jules wince. A succinct message then became apparent on the card. In three large capital letters, the word RUN appeared. Jules looked at both the front and the back of the card, perplexed at the message. Hoping more was to come, he awaited patiently, trying not to be blinded by the flashing light.

The door to his office dematerialized. “Marie,” Jules asked, assuming his secretary had entered. “Would you happen to know from where this package here originated? I’m awfully confused—”

Jules looked up, hoping to receive an answer. Instead of seeing his beautiful secretary at the door, a fully assault-ready WOG began to enter. Dressed in a pure black uniform with a New Reality diamond and gold emblem on each shoulder, gray helmet and crimson visor, this anonymous soldier headed towards Jules. As the WOG began to raise his weapon, only one thought came to Jules’ mind.

RUN!

 

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Talking Craft with Horror Author G.A. Minton

The Dark Phantom Review

MintonGA.jpgFrom his early childhood, G.A. Minton has always been a diehard fan of science fiction and horror. Whenever a scary movie was playing down at the local theatre, he was there in attendance with his friends, loudly screaming in terror alongside them. G.A. enjoys many hobbies, but the game of golf is one of his favorites, having lettered on his high school golf team. Besides writing, he also enjoys reading, traveling, fishing, swimming, snorkeling, working out, listening to hard rock music, and watching great movies—especially those genres that encompass horror, science fiction, mystery, and comedy. G.A. is married, and lives in Texas with his wife, a son and daughter, and two Bengal cats.

Strangely enough, it was only after G.A. was rear-ended by a drunk driver and suffered a closed-head injury, that he developed a newfound passion for writing (even though this story has the makings for a cheesy Stephen…

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Announcing A. Star’s WISH FOR ME BOOK BLAST

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We’re happy to be hosting A. Star’s WISH FOR ME Book Blast today! Please leave a comment to let her know you stopped by!

Wish For Me

Title: WISH FOR ME
Author: A. Star
Publisher: Independent
Pages: 172
Genre: Steampunk Fantasy Romance

When the snarky Glory St. Pierre discovers the gold mechanical vase in her deceased grandmother’s basement, she has no idea that she has uncovered a priceless treasure: a genie lamp. With a real genie inside. A very sexy genie with a not-so-sexy grudge against the entire human race.

Irving Amir hates being called a genie. He’s a Djinn, and he is none too happy to be in the service of Glory, who is as intolerable, and beautiful, as humans come. Now he owes her his gratitude for freeing him and three wishes. Damn his luck.

But an arrow through the shoulder alerts Irving to the fact that he is being hunted, and after a truce dinner with Glory ends with them both almost being killed, hating each other goes right out the window. As feelings change and love starts to develop, they must dig through the secrets and lies to find the truth…a truth neither of them will ever see coming.

WARNING: Not suitable for ages 18 and under. A significant source of bad language, sexy times, and dirty jokes. If you suffer from a lack of a sense of humor, take with plenty of wine. If the symptom persists, see a doctor.

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Book Excerpt:

“Irving…” I breathed.

He brushed his lips over mine. “Yes?”

“What are you doing?”

He chuckled. “I’m sure you are quite aware of what I’m about to do.”

“But you’re injured,” I tried. “You should be resting.”

“The only thing I should be doing is this.” And he kissed me, slanting his mouth over mine and taking full advantage of the power he wielded over me.

I wish it had only been a kiss though, but it was so much more than that. I couldn’t define it. All I knew was that he made me want to spend all of my wishes on his lips, keeping them soft and perfect and available to me twenty-four hours a day. I fell into the kiss, allowing my arms to encircle Irving’s waist and my nails to claw his back.

Damn, his lips were soft. Like homemade whipped cream and strawberry drizzle. I whimpered as he deepened the kiss and his tongue slipped between my lips and tangoed with my own. My hands moved from his back to his head, and I tried to give back as good as I was getting. But I couldn’t get close enough. I wanted more of him. All of him. Damn, if he didn’t start taking my clothes off soon, I was going to implode and bathe the room with my desire.

But when he pulled away, I felt relieved, like I had just been saved from making a terrible mistake. How I could feel that way after a kiss like that blew me. I didn’t know where the feeling came from. I wasn’t the type of girl who ran from a man like Irving. A man with a sexy accent and eyes that could sear my soul. A man with a smile that put the world on pause. A man with a body that I could spend days riding like a roller coaster that never stopped. So why did I want to escape him all of a sudden? What the hell was wrong with me?

“Glory, I–”

“Please don’t ever do that again,” I interrupted. I looked up into Irving’s violet eyes and hoped he could hear my plea.

He frowned. “Do what?”

“Kiss me, dumb ass.” I pushed at his chest, but he refused to budge. “Move.”

“You did not enjoy my kiss?” I almost laughed at how wounded he looked.

“It’s not that. I just don’t want you to do it again.”

“Because you did enjoy it?”

I glared. “No.”

A slow smile stretched across Irving’s lips. “You are the worst liar, Glory St. Pierre.”

“Get the fuck off me, Irving.”

About the Author

A. Star

A. Star is a fan of dirty passion. She loves to read it, and she damn sure loves to write it. She is the author of the Mythos: Gods & Lovers series and the Djinn Order series. She is a night-owl and a coffee junkie, and the only sneaker she would be caught dead wearing are Converses.

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Book Spotlight: Not Quite So Stories by David S. Atkinson & Enter Giveaway!

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We’re happy to be a part of David S. Atkinson’s NOT QUITE SO STORIES blog tour today! Be sure to enter the giveaway!

Not Quite So Stories

Title: NOT QUITE SO STORIES
Author: David S. Atkinson
Publisher: Literary Wanderlus LLC
Pages: 166
Genre: Absurdist Literary Fiction

The center of Not Quite So Stories is the idea that life is inherently absurd and all people can do is figure out how they will live in the face of that fact. The traditional explanation for the function of myth (including such works as the relatively modern Rudyard Kiping’s Just So Stories) is as an attempt by humans to explain and demystify the world. However, that’s hollow. We may be able to come to terms with small pieces, but existence as a whole is beyond our grasp. Life simply is absurd, ultimately beyond our comprehension, and the best we can do is to just proceed on with our lives. The stories in this collection proceed from this conception, each focusing on a character encountering an absurdity and focusing on how they manage to live with it.

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  • NOT QUITE SO STORIES is available at Amazon.
  • Pick up your copy at Barnes & Noble.
  • Discuss this book at PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads.
  • Watch the book trailer at YouTube.

Book Trailer

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Book Excerpt:

TURNDOWN SERVICE

Margaret’s heels clicked repetitiously on the polished marble floors of Finklebean’s Mortuary. The sharp sound echoed down aisles of metal-faced vaults in the chilled, solemn hallways. Her steps were quick but purposeful, her stride constrained by the tight skirt of her starched navy business dress. An invoice was clutched tightly in her talon-like hand. Someone owed her an explanation…and that debt would be paid.
Catching sight of the plain brown wooden door hidden off in a back hallway bearing a faded Caretaker’s Office sign, Margaret halted, causing her heels to clack loudly on the stone. She pursed her lips as she scrutinized the sign. As if using the white metal sign with flaking black letters as a mirror, she adjusted the smartly coiled chestnut bun of her hair. Then she shoved open the weathered door and marched inside.
“Excuse me,” she called out sternly before looking what the room happened to contain, or even whether it was occupied.
A portly man in old blue coveralls sitting at a rough wooden worktable looked up at her calmly. Long stringy gray hair framed his face around a set of coke bottle eyeglasses perched on the end of his reddened bulbous nose. A metal cart, half full of plastic funeral flower arrangements, was positioned next to the worktable. Individual plastic flowers littered the table surface.
Unlike the somber and silent polished gray marble trimmed in shining brass of the hallway outside, the caretaker’s room felt more like a basement or garage. The walls were cinderblock, unpainted, and the floor was bare concrete. Obviously, the room was not used for professional services.
“My bill is incorrect,” Margaret said, thrusting the invoice out at the frumpy little man between a thumb and forefinger, both with nails bearing a French manicure. “You maintain my grandfather’s plot, but this month’s bill is way over the usual twenty-five sixty-three…nine hundred dollars more to be precise. You may not be the person in charge of this, but you’re who I found.”
The older man quietly looked at her still presenting the invoice even though he had made no move to take it. “Name?”
“Margaret Lane,” Margaret said curtly.
“No,” the caretaker shook his mess of oily old hair. “I won’t remember you. I meant your granddad’s.”
Margaret pursed her lips again. “Winston Lane.”
“Ah, yes.” The heavyset man leaned back in his chair, putting his hands behind his head and cocking out his elbows. His belly pushed on the table slightly, causing loose plastic flowers to roll around on the tabletop. The flowers were separated into piles according to color: red, white, yellow, purple, and orange. “Winston Lane. His is over on hillside four, I believe.”
“I’m sure.” Margaret crossed her arms, still clutching the invoice. “So why do I have a bill for over nine hundred dollars?”
The caretaker hunched forward, setting his chin on a pudgy arm and wrapping a flabby hand around his mouth. “Let’s see…Winston Lane…bigger than normal bill…oh, that’s right!” His face brightened with recollection.
Margaret smugly waited for the expected rationalization to begin, the extras and add-ons designed to take advantage of the gullible grieving. She wouldn’t be so easily manipulated.
“He got an apartment.”
Margaret’s expression cracked.
“That’s what the extra money is,” he pleasantly explained. “It’s to cover the rent.”
Margaret stared, blinking occasionally. A thin purple vein throbbed angrily at the side of her neck.
The man smiled. Then he pushed his round glasses further back up his nose and grabbed one of the plastic funeral arrangements from the cart. It had a block of dense green foam set in a fake bronze vase and various colors of plastic flowers stuck in the foam. The man pulled all the flowers out in a single movement and set each in the respective colored pile on the worktable. Then he placed the vase in a pile of similar vases on the floor.
“You…rented my grandfather an apartment?” Margaret finally asked. “Why?”
“Don’t be ridiculous,” the older man snorted, dismembering another arrangement. “He rented the apartment, not us.”
Margaret sneered, having recovered her self-possession and indignation. “Sir, my grandfather is deceased.”
“Yep,” the caretaker agreed. He started quickly taking vases from the cart, ripping them apart, and then tossing the materials in the respective sort piles. “Guess he didn’t like the plot he picked out. Maybe it wasn’t roomy enough, I don’t know. Some things like that you just can’t be sure of till you get in a place and stay there a while. Anyway, he must not have liked something about it because he went and got himself that apartment. He wouldn’t have done that if he’d been happy where he was at.”
Margaret stood rigid. The toe of one foot tapped irritably. “How could my grandfather possibly rent an apartment? He’s dead!”
“How couldn’t he?” The caretaker snorted again. “It’s a great apartment. Plenty of light. Nice carpets. Good amount of space. It’s got a nice pool, too. Not that pools make much of a difference to a guy like him, being dead and all. Anyway, take a look; happen to have a photo of the place right here. Can’t rightly remember why.”
The man handed Margaret a bent-up photograph he pulled from a coverall pocket. It depicted a pleasantly-lit living room with vaulted ceilings. Tasteful black leather and chrome furniture was arranged around a delicate glass coffee table. On top of the coffee table sat her grandfather’s mahogany coffin, looking just as stately as it had at her grandfather’s funeral service.
Margaret glowered, unsure what to make of the photograph, noticing after a moment that she was chewing her lip as she ground her teeth. Her brain couldn’t keep up, it was all just too ludicrous for her to grasp. The man sorted more funeral arrangements. “So…you’re telling me that my deceased grandfather rented an apartment. Him, not you.”
“Yep. That’s the long and short of it.” The man jammed the photograph back into his pocket.
“My dead grandfather.”
“Yes’m.” He took the last arrangement off the cart and disposed of it as he had the others. He paused to dust off his hands. Then he grabbed a vase from the floor, jammed a plastic flower inside from each stack, and set the newly arranged arrangement on the cart.
“How could anyone rent my grandfather an apartment!?” Margaret threw up her arms. “He’s dead! The landlord couldn’t do that!”
“Sure they can,” the caretaker countered, paying more attention to the funeral arrangements than Margaret. “The building is zoned for mixed use.”
“Mixed use?! He’s dead!” She wiped her hand down her face slowly, stretching her skin as it went.
“So? He’s residing there. That’s a residential use. Certainly isn’t commercial.” The caretaker accidentally shoved two red plastic flowers in the same vase. Laughing at himself, he ripped them out again and started over.
Margaret stepped back, perhaps wondering if the caretaker was insane as opposed to just conning her. That would explain the photograph.
She crossed her arms loosely and tilted her chin upwards just a little, trying to mentally get a handle on the situation. Her brain felt like an overheated car with no oil in the engine. “I’m sorry, but that’s very distracting,” Margaret commented, pointing at the plastic flower piles on the worktable. “Is there any way that you could stop a moment?”
“Sorry.” The older man shook a thick calloused finger at an old clock on the wall, stopped as far as Margaret could tell. “I got to get this done.”
“But…what exactly are you doing? You’re just taking them apart and putting them back together.”
The rumpled man gestured at the flowers. “Well, people pay us to put these on graves, don’t they?”
“Right…”
“They come from a factory, don’t they? Someone paying someone else to bring something a machine made? I don’t think much of that. My way, there’s at least some thought in it.”
Margaret did not respond. Instead, she watched the man fill up the cart again. The arrangements looked exactly the same as before.
“Anyway,” the caretaker went on, “don’t you owe your granddad?”
“Pardon me?” Margaret puffed out her chest.
“Sure,” the man said, peering up at her through the finger-smudged lenses of his glasses. “He said when he bought the plot that you were going to take care of it and he was going to leave you money to keep going to school. He thought you should start working, but helped you out since you were going to mind his spot.”
Margaret swallowed, ruining her attempt to look indignant. A few beads of sweat gathered at her temples.
“You figure you’ve done enough?” The man had his head held low, hiding the tiny smirk on his face.
Margaret’s eyes widened. Her arms hung limply at her sides and her shoulders slumped. “But…”
“Hey, that’s between you two. I just take care of things like I’m paid to. If he wants his plot, I do that. If he wants a two-bedroom palace, I do that instead.”
Margaret absentmindedly twisted an old, ornate gold ring on her finger. Suddenly, her eyes narrowed as if the light in the dim room had gotten brighter. The meticulously squared corners of her mind twisted and stretched deliciously. “That’s right…it was a deal.”
“Come again?”
“I agreed to have his plot cared for.”
“And?”
“Well…” Her lips slipped into a pointed grin. “I pay you a fixed monthly amount to care for that plot. Apparently this apartment is his plot now, so the rent should be part of your monthly care. I expect you to take care of it accordingly. After all, caring for his plot is caring for his plot.”
“Now see here–”
“Regardless, I can’t help but think,” she went on, “that it reflects poorly on your services if grandfather isn’t happy with his plot, not mine.”
The caretaker gawked at Margaret, his mouth hanging loose. “Is that what you think now?” The older man finally growled.
“It is,” she responded with a saccharine tone, “and I expect that all future bills will be for the correct amount.”
“Hmph,” he huffed, settling back into his chair. “Wonder what your granddad would say about that.”
Margaret smirked. “You’re welcome to go and ask him, if you think it will get you anywhere.

About the Author

David S. Atkinson

David S. Atkinson is the author of “Not Quite so Stories” (“Literary Wanderlust” 2016), “The Garden of Good and Evil Pancakes” (2015 National Indie Excellence Awards finalist in humor), and “Bones Buried in the Dirt” (2014 Next Generation Indie Book Awards finalist, First Novel <80K). His writing appears in “Bartleby Snopes,” “Grey Sparrow Journal,” “Atticus Review,” and others. His writing website is http://davidsatkinsonwriting.com/ and he spends his non-literary time working as a patent attorney in Denver.

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David S. Atkinson is giving away one paperback copy each – BONES BURIED IN THE DIRT & THE GARDEN OF GOOD AND EVIL PANCAKES!

Terms & Conditions:

  • By entering the giveaway, you are confirming you are at least 18 years old.
  • Two winners will be chosen via Rafflecopter to receive either BONES BURIED IN THE DIRT or THE GARDEN OF GOOD AND EVIL PANCAKES
  • This giveaway begins March 1 and ends on May 27
  • Winners will be contacted via email on May 29.
  • Winners have 48 hours to reply.

Good luck everyone!

 

 

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The Story behind ‘Kaitlin’s Tale’ by Christine Amsden

The Story Behind the Book

When I first met Kaitlin, Cassie’s best friend, in Cassie Scot: ParaNormal Detective, she came with a theme song: “Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places.” She slept with Jason in that very first book, a one-night stand that resulted in her son, Jay. But it might surprise fans of the series to know that I never, not even for a split second, considered a real romance between Kaitlin and Jason. Not because there’s anything wrong with Jason – he’s my tragic hero. But they’re not right for one another. They never were.

To tell you the truth, Kaitlin wasn’t supposed to get her own book. She was a secondary character in the Cassie Scot series who I originally thought would have a minor, mostly behind-the-scenes romance alongside Cassie. But Kaitlin, much like Madison (from Madison’s Song), became too big for a footnote in someone else’s book…

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