Archive for June 2016 | Monthly archive page

God gave me three gifts of inspiration in life and literature.

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I was 24 years old Nov 6th 1988, standing in an operating room as doctors performed an emergency c-section on my wife. My son was dying in her womb. My son was dying. I stood there in shock and dismay, how could this be happening? I watched the surgeon cut into my bride, move organs and then reach into her abdomen and delicately pull out a small struggling life strangled by an umbilical cord. My son’s body was blue, he wasn’t crying. They freed him and his body soon took on a healthy pink color. My son, Thomas Michael, my boy had arrived, earlier than expected and seemingly no worse for the dramatic entrance. Things seemed normal for at first but Tom soon had developed breathing issues, his lungs weren’t developed properly and he was sick.

I listened in shock as the doctor explained Highland Membrane Disease, fluid buildup and under-developed lungs and a series of other issues afflicting my son. My wife had given birth with pneumonia and was having her own health issues. I remember her tears as other moms were able to hold their babies, and  she couldn’t. We waited for several hours while the doctors were tending to Tom. My father stayed by our side offering his support and encouragement, he was the rock we both leaned on. A doctor finally came and told us they couldn’t help and Tom had to be sent to Children’s Hospital and placed on a respirator. Twenty minutes later I watched my son, attached to machines, being loaded into an ambulance and transferred into Boston from the small suburban hospital. The doctors would call me tomorrow. I stood there in shock, as the ambulance drove away carrying my son, my father literally holding me up as my whole world just imploded.

I looked at my dad, lost and hopeless, “Dad, what do I do? I can’t fight this battle. Why? Why my boy?”

My father hugged me, his face wet with his own tears, “God is watching over him now, Greg. You need to take all your strength and stand tall, for that woman up there and your boy. You need to grow up fast, son. You need to keep it together for your family. You told me once how strong you are, call upon it now and be strong for all of them.”

I awoke the next morning to the ringing phone at 5:30AM, I felt ill as I picked it up. It was Children’s Hospital, Tom had had a rough night but was holding his own for now but they couldn’t make any promises and I should prepare my wife for the worst. I hung up the phone, took a breath and looked at the cross hanging on our bedroom wall, “Don’t you take my boy, you can’t have him!” I’ d never sworn or threatened God before, but I let loose a string of blasphemies I’d only used on people facing me in a street brawl. He wasn’t going to die and I wasn’t going to tell my wife about the phone call from the hospital.

I got in my truck and I drove to Boston. I was escorted to a small incubator-like unit, inside was my son, hooked up to machines to do his breathing and to help cleanse his blood. His face was swollen and yellow, nothing like the child I saw the night before. THE nurses left me alone; I couldn’t touch my son I could only stare through the glass.

“Thomas, it’s your dad. I know you can hear me, son. Fight, do you hear me! You fight and you live. Don’t go with the Angels, you stay here, with me. I don’t want to lose you, do you understand? Mom and Dad love you so please don’t leave, you just got here. You just got here.” I felt my tears, “Don’t leave me son.” I sat in silence for three hours, my hand touching the glass, watching my boy, willing him to live. Imagining my strength flowing from me, through the glass barrier and into his frail, tiny body. I repeated the mental image every time I saw him, it didn’t matter who I was with or who was around and I didn’t care what anyone thought, each day he lived was a gift and a victory. And if he needed my life to survive he could have it.

Thomas made a miraculous recovery and is part of a Children’s Hospital medical journal, he shouldn’t have lived, but he did, he beat the odds and fought the ultimate fight, the first month of his existence; the battle for his life. Tom is 27 years old now, a remarkable young man with tenacity and a will to do things his way. That tenacity has caused some friction but no matter what his trial, he always finds a way to make things work out in the end, he never seems to give up on anything or anyone. In the end he finds a way to fight through.

When I find myself going through a rough patch, I remember a frightened young father staring through a glass barrier at a new life and urging that life to fight on and beat the odds. Within those memories I find the strength to rise up and keep pushing forward. My battles and issues have never been as severe as the one he fought and won over 27 years ago. Whether I’m struggling with a chapter in a novel, writing a blog or facing a financial or life hardship I look over at my son and see that twinkle in his eye or that crooked smile he inherited from his dad and I know I can get through. Tom was the one who pushed me to submit my first book and write the follow up. He inspired and motivated me to keep working on my novels when nobody seemed interested in a half-alien private detective. He gave me the confidence and the gift of his insight on the second and third book in the Hybrid series serving as critic and creative collaborator. Tom just didn’t influence my writing he is the spark that fanned the creative flame. A flame that would never have existed if he’d lost his fight so many years ago. He is the best son a father could ever hope to have.

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Three years ago my youngest daughter, Christie, at the age of eleven, decided she wanted to try out for an out of town swim team. I’d coached her in basketball and softball in open town leagues but this was something different.  I watched her first competitive meet from the upper balcony at Milford High School, as my baby girl stood waiting for her event with sport swim wear, a racing cap and tinted goggles.  The feeling of dread weighed in my gut like I’d just eaten a cinder block as she stepped upon the diving block against other swimmers. For the first time, I wasn’t there coaching her, I couldn’t walk up to her and give her advice or encouragement, she was on her own.

The starting horn sounded and the race was on . . . everyone around me screamed and cheered, I watched in muted silence willing her on in my mind, hands balled into tight fists. It was the longest 25 yards in my life. But she finished and won her heat. It was a long year of ups and downs for her and a great deal of frustration but she grew into the sport and more importantly developed new friendships. At the awards banquet she was awarded the most improved swimmer, a trophy she has in her bedroom to this day. She’s still a competitive swimmer and will be on the High School league this fall. I’ve watched her develop into a strong competitor and have seen her conquer her insecurity and lack of self-confidence. She now believes in herself and the difference in her personality is a wonderful thing to behold. Gone is the need to be just like her big sister rather she yearns to be “Christie.”

My youngest has reminded me that the road isn’t always easy in life but those who stay true to themselves and don’t go with the crowd will prosper in the long run. She found a place for herself; it was different from herr friend’s passions in dancing and boys, it was in the pool training and competing, working to shave off that fraction of a second and master a smooth flip turn. I’ve taken that lesson and applied it in my own writing. I’m not going to write like everyone else, I’m going to write about what I want and express how I feel. My political blogs have earned me a great deal of hate mail because I call a spade a spade. I won’t ever apologize for my morals or ethics or my freedom to express them and I won’t bow to political correctness. I did for a while and took the easier choice, it gave me less headaches but I let myself  be silenced. Life isn’t about taking the easy road it’s about making the hard choices, following your passions and not following the herd blindly. As I watch my daughter in the pool working and training through each practice, I’m reminded of that lesson.

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January 24th 2015. It’s three in the morning, the snowfall is near white out condition and I’m looking at the weather in Connecticut and New York. My destination is the Javitz Convention Center in Manhattan. Only an experienced driver or a madman would head out in this weather. But my older daughter was auditioning for “The Voice” and needed me to drive her. “It’ll be an adventure,” she said flashing me that patented angelic smile reserved for when she really wanted something. So a week later here we are, headed off in the storm, Rachel looking out into the darkness and me gripping the steering wheel as we sloshed through the snow. We saw several spinouts and accidents but we had to keep going. Half the time my car was barely holding the road and any turn of the wheel would make us an accident statistic. A four hour ride took seven terrifying hours. But we made it.

The lines and crowds were spectacular. I waited in line with her for another ninety minutes and the group she was with was called in. Because of her age, she didn’t require a parent escort, I got to sit around and fret and hope and pray that she’d come out with a pink ticket. I had my Visa card and would gladly charge the $500.00 it would cost to stay in a hotel if she made the cut to tomorrow. Another hour later she texted me, “I didn’t get picked.” My heart sank. There must have been something wrong, my daughter sings like the most beautiful songbird. I dreaded the long ride home. Another snowstorm would be welcome over the black cloud that would be hanging over my car all the way back to Massachusetts.

I saw Rachel and she smiled, she wasn’t upset and simply said, “They loved my voice, but I didn’t have the right look, whatever that means, oh and I saw Blake Shelton, he was here for Saturday Night Live.’ I was blown away, she handled the disappointment like a trooper, we laughed on the way back to the car and I enjoyed the time with her. The ride back was light and fun despite the snow falling again. That ride home was one of those memories I will treasure forever, I gained a new insight and admiration for Rachel. She took what most would have taken as a debilitating setback and saw it as a positive experience. She wasn’t daunted or discouraged.

Life doesn’t always deal a natural strait flush or four of a kind, sometimes you’re dealt a crappy hand and just have to wait for that hand play out and start with a fresh set of cards. I was never more proud of my daughter than at that moment, she’d had solos before and large parts in plays etc, but this was an indication of her inner strength character. She understood and accepted disappointment without anger or frustration. It was a lesson in how to handle rejection and disappointment.

I’ve been on the receiving end of some letters of rejection from Penguin, DAW and a few hunting magazines and I’ve learned that handling and coping with rejection is more important than celebrating success. Failure builds character and determination. It makes me a better writer and will no doubt make Rachel a better singer. It also defines how we handle life’s larger setbacks; we can accept them and move forward, learning from the experience or be debilitated by failure and never try again. My daughter learned the lesson and discovered the right attitude. When I get down on myself or when things seem to be falling apart I like to flash back to that drive home and the precious hours we spent bonding over an unsuccessful Voice audition. I brush off the setback and try again, pushing myself harder.

 

As parents we spend our lives teaching our children, hoping the lessons sink in, I look at my children and realize how much I’ve relearned from them, my lessons being re-taught through their lives. There’s no bigger reward for me as a father than to spend individual time with my children, to reignite the bond and simply catch up with their hectic lives and let them know even though I’m not always around, I’ll always be there and they’ll always be with me, no matter how far away life’s journey takes them.

Greg Ballan is the author of the science fiction thrillers Hybrid and Hybrid Forced Vegeance. You can purchase them both at Lachesis Publishingamazon.com, Barnes and Noble, and kobo.

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Prepare yourself for a world of graphic violence and mythology, topped off with a dose of delicious suspense.

GHOSTS OF GLORY by Morgan Chalfant is an incredibly fluid read that held me captivated from the moment I began reading it.

The story follows an ex-boxer named Jersey the Brawler, a man who finds out he’s half-human and half-demi god and the son of the Twilight Goddess, who is also the creator of his hometown of Glory, USA.

Told in first-person narrative, GHOSTS OF GLORY takes the reader down the dirty streets of the town’s underbelly, where evil creatures are plotting Glory’s complete destruction. Only Jersey, who shares a an unwanted connection to the leader of this evil force, can prevent the worst from happening.

I loved this book! The narrative was extremely vivid and the hero, Jersey is a battered and beleaguered hero we can all root for. Author Morgan Chalfant, puts us right into the action and makes us feel everything that Jersey feels. And do we ever!

Chalfant‘s writing grips us from the first page to the last, and I look forward to reading more of his work in the future and can’t wait for Book 2 in this series!

Reviewed by Sara Brooke.

Morgan Chalfant is a native of Hill City, Kansas. He received his Bachelor’s degree in writing and his Master’s degree in literature from Fort Hays State University, where he now teaches writing.

You can purchase Ghosts of Glory by Morgan Chalfant at  Lachesis Publishing, Amazon, Kobo, iBooks, and Barnes and Noble.

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What’s a guy to do when a beautiful and sexy witch asks him to be her baby daddy? TUG OF ATTRACTION is our DEAL OF THE WEEK. .99 CENTS! This week only! 

NEWS: TUG OF ATTRACTION is a winner of the 2016 Still Moments Magazine MAPLE LEAF AWARDS for BEST COVER (cover by Holly Kennedy who just happens to be the daughter of author Ashlyn Chase! 🙂 Congratulations!!! 

TUG OF ATTRACTION – WHAT I’TS ABOUT:

Book 2 Love Spells Gone Wrong Series

Failed actress Brigit Love moved back to New Hampshire from Hollywood with one goal: to have a child. So far her only babies are furry and live at the animal shelter where she works. Brigit isn’t willing to marry to get what she wants, so doing things in “the correct order” may not be possible. Even her Wiccan spells don’t seem to be working. Until she comes up with an outrageous idea that just might do the trick.

Handsome tugboat captain Ethan Cox loves his life as a happy bachelor and his only goal is to keep things exactly the way they are. No wonder his coven friend Brigit thinks he’d be the perfect guy to plant the seed and walk away whistling, especially with an iron clad contract protecting his interests.

Ethan truly wants to help Brigit, but the contract she draws up stating he must give up all rights and responsibilities leaves him with a sinking feeling. Will he lose Brigit’s friendship and make coven rituals awkward if he refuses—or lose even more if he doesn’t?

Ashlyn Chase is a best selling author who writes funny and sexy, light paranormal romances and erotic romances. Connect with Ashlyn on her website and on facebook and twitter.

Ashlyn’s  other books in the Love Spells Gone Wrong Series include The Cupcake Coven (book 1) and Tug of Attraction (book 2).

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Something I’ve noticed over the years is the difference between successful authors and authors who sell only a handful of books a year. If you want to get an idea of how you’re selling – check your ranking on amazon and barnes and noble. But shouldn’t your publisher be doing all the work of selling your book? Nope. There isn’t a publisher IN EXISTENCE big or small who does that. Your publisher has to promote many different titles a month (both older and new releases). Whereas YOU just have to worry about YOUR books. Your publisher has to worry about many different authors. Whereas YOU just have to worry about YOURSELF. If you are consistently in the 1 million or higher ranking, you need to re-evaluate what you are doing (or not doing) to sell books. Here are a few key qualities that I have seen that successful authors have in common. I call them THE THREE Cs: COMMITMENT, CONSISTENCY, CLEVERNESS.

COMMITMENT: Successful authors are committed, not only to their writing craft but to promoting their work. After they release a new title, they don’t just forget about it and move on to the next book. No way. They have a plan in place to promote that book. That plan – should be in place well BEFORE your book comes out. One year before. One year? But won’t people get tired of hearing about your book a year in advance of it coming out? You’re not LITERALLY talking about your book every single day. USE COMMON SENSE. You are BUILDING your identity on facebook so that when your book DOES come out, you will have lots of friends and followers who know you and (hopefully) like you. People that you have made a CONNECTION with.

Let’s say you plan on promoting your book on facebook. Terrific! BUT, now here’s the hard part: What is your commitment going to be? How often should you post? What should you post about? How can you engage your friends and followers? If you don’t have enough friends and followers, how can you get more? As an author, you have to be asking yourself these questions WELL IN ADVANCE and you have to answer them. Ask other authors. Read books or articles on social networking. Figure out what you want to say and say it. READ. OBSERVE. RESEARCH.

But isn’t that a lot of work? Sure it is. But if you want to sell books, then you have to do it. Or, hire someone who knows how to do it.

But isn’t this just common sense? Of course it is. But if you already know this then why aren’t you doing it? The answer is because YOU ARE NOT COMMITTED.

CONSISTENCY: The most successful authors are the authors who are consistent. They post on a regular basis  – not just once or twice a month. They ALWAYS have something to share. Some authors talk about their relationships, kids, even their health issues. While others like to share silly stuff about their pets or funny things they find online. The key is to share consistently but don’t bombard your followers with the same BUY MY BOOK post every day. Be creative. Have fun. Share who you truly are. But do it on a regular basis. Why? Because the key word in social networking is the word SOCIAL. It means “taking part”. Engaging with other people. Being sociable. Not hiding in an ivory tower.

A lot of authors have “regular” features on their facebook pages. What does that have to do with selling books you might ask? Well, social networking isn’t just “HEY MY BOOK IS ON SALE”. It’s about ENGAGING, COMMENTING, and SHARING. And you have to do it on a REGULAR BASIS. Some authors have a Question of the Week, Hunk of the Week, Cute Critter of the Week, Funny Video of the Week . . . You get the point right? Other authors run monthly contests where they give away a free signed copy of their book or some nifty “swag” that they got at various conferences. OR they go out and buy something really cool that has a connection to their book/series and they run a contest that way. How do you promote your contest? Some authors purchase sponsored ads on facebook. Or they ask their fellow author friends if they can share the post. They share the contest info on facebook group pages – spreading it out and posting on various groups every few hours, every. single. day. Some cross-promote on other blogs and on twitter to get the word out. The point is to SET UP A PLAN and STICK TO IT. If the plan isn’t getting you sales then re-evaluate every few weeks to see how you can improve/change that.

CLEVERNESS: It’s hard to be clever. But the most successful authors are just that. They come up with fun and creative ways to engage their readers and they always keep it fresh. Whether it’s running contests, or posting fun content, or setting up newsletters that reward subscribers with free, original content, or making funny videos that go viral, or coming up with a fun way of branding themselves, or working with other authors on unique cross promotional contests or giveaways – they put their creativity to work – not just in their writing – but in selling. Don’t be afraid to spread your wings and think outside your box. Be a little daring. Take a chance on doing something different. Approach some other authors about setting up a YouTube channel and make regular videos that you can post online. Have fun and keep trying even if you flop the first few times. Just keep thinking and doing. Eventually you will hit your creative stride and come up with something that works really well for you. The point is – don’t just sit back and expect others to do it for you. Do it yourself. Motivate yourself. And if you find it overwhelming to go it alone – then team up with other authors and go for it. You have nothing to lose, and so very much to gain.

Joanna D’Angelo is Editor in Chief at Lachesis Publishing. She loves chai tea, social media, and good writing.

Connect with Joanna on twitter@JoannaDangelo, on facebook and on pinterest.

Her facebook page is: Love Romance Novels (on facebook)

Her other blogs are: thepopculturedivas and therevolvingbook

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I have always been a fan of comic books and graphic novels, not only as “novels,” but the art form itself and all the great storytelling that comes with them, storytelling that would not necessarily be dampened without the imagery provided within, but is enhanced through these images.

So many people see these graphic novels as “comic books,” which I’m sad to say to this day still carries with it a stigma of being pure drivel despite the wonderful titles out there and the millions of people who love and appreciate them. Unfortunately, the words “comic book” and “graphic novel” still do not get the respect they deserve.

Fortunately, the art of the graphic novel is beginning to be appreciated in society and academics with the aid of pioneers like Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman (The Sandman), James O’Barr, Michael Turner (RIP), Grant Morrison, Brad Meltzer, and hundreds of others. So, in an effort to spread this awareness that graphic novels are just that, “novels with images,” I give you a list of ten of the greatest graphic novels ever printed. Go read them. Let them inspire you. Let them inspire your writing or your art. I know they have inspired mine.

The Crow by James O’Barr– In many ways, the ultimate love story, as well as being the ultimate revenge tale too. Pick up the special edition of this one which has added content (including a dedication to the late Brandon Lee) by O’Barr that is not in the original and one of my favorite sequences ever, “An August Noel.”

Kingdom Come – Alex Ross’s realism artwork and beautiful storytelling make this story of DC’s iconic superheroes, aged and battered, making one last comeback.

The Dark Knight ReturnsFrank Miller’s pivotal tale of an aged Batman/Bruce Wayne forced out of retirement. Though I don’t particularly like Miller’s take on Superman, this graphic novel belongs on this list for the story it tells of the time worn caped crusader.

The Death of Superman– “The Best Selling Graphic Novel of All-Time” pretty much says it (though I think it no longer holds that title). Superman versus Doomsday in a battle to the death that shattered the worlds of a million readers (and childhoods). Pictured is my CGC graded copy I just obtained this year of one of the six issues in the Death of Superman comic run. This was my favorite issue when I was a kid.

Watchmen– Alan Moore’s iconic deconstructionist tale of flawed superheroes belongs on this list. There’s a reason it made “Time Magazine’s 100 Greatest Novels of All Time.”

Final Crisis– This marks the death of Batman and single-handedly changed the DC Comics universe sparking the Battle for Batman’s cowl. Pivotal in its relevancy to the DC universe.

Batman: Hush– A dark tale with wonderful artwork by Jim Lee and a story that takes Batman on a hunt through Gotham in an attempt to discover the identity of the villain named Hush.

Wolverine: Old Man Logan – This sordid little tale of Wolverine in a post-apocalyptic America where the villains have triumphed and too few heroes remain to end their tyranny is tragic, beautiful and well-written.

Superman: Godfall– The beautiful art by Michael Turner (R.I.P.) really drives this story of an amnesiac Superman stuck in Kandor without powers and with a new lover, Lyla. The story’s themes of fascism, alien prejudice, misplaced deification, and terrorism give it a depth that makes Godfall much more than a simple superhero story.

Identity Crisis– One of DC’s best-selling series that handles many dark themes (sexual violence and brutal murder) and really redefined the mood/underlying themes of the DC universe. The mini-series run was selected as one of the Great Graphic Novels for Teens in 2007.

Morgan Chalfant is a native of Hill City, Kansas. He received his Bachelor’s degree in writing and his Master’s degree in literature from Fort Hays State University, where he now teaches writing.

You can purchase Ghosts of Glory by Morgan Chalfant at  Lachesis Publishing, Amazon, Kobo, and Barnes and Noble.

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Our DEAL OF THE WEEK is the breathtaking historical romance (with paranormal elements) MOON DARK by Patricia Barletta.

Get it for .99 cents at amazon, barnes and noble, kobo, and iBooks. You can also get it right here at Lachesis Publishing (all formats) for .99 cents.

 

It’s the first book in an exciting, and romantic new series called the Auriano Curse. You will love this book as much as I do. Beautifully written and full of steamy romance, adventure, and of course a hero and heroine who are perfectly matched, MOON DARK has recently won the Colorado Romance Writers Award of Excellence. 

 

What It’s About:

Lady Sabrina Dunfield is desperate. Widowed and destitute, she must rely on the dubious benevolence of her secretive uncle, an art collector living in Venice. Determined to make her way and provide for her young son, Sabrina is forced to take on clandestine and dangerous errands for her tyrannical relative. But when a mysterious shadow man saves her from an assassin’s blade, she knows she must do everything in her power to keep her son safe.

Alessandro D’Este, Prince of Auriano, is cursed. Doomed to live a life half in shadow, he is determined to free himself and his family from the evil that stalks them. When Alessandro saves the English woman’s life, he is captivated by her beauty and shocked at her ability to touch him in his shadowy form.

When Sabrina meets Alessandro in his human form, heady attraction sparks between them. She has no idea he is her shadowy savior, and she wonders what her life might be like with this charismatic man. Alessandro has never met a woman who affects him this way. Although life has taught him to trust only family, Sabrina might be the key that could deliver him from the diabolical darkness.

 

Find out more about Patricia Barletta and her books on her website: www.patriciabarletta.com.

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Author Heidi Cullinan

Heidi Cullinan has always enjoyed a good love story, provided it has a happy ending. Proud to be from the first Midwestern state with full marriage equality, Heidi is a vocal advocate for LGBT rights. She writes positive-outcome romances for LGBT characters struggling against insurmountable odds because she believes there’s no such thing as too much happy ever after. (Bio from Heidi’s website)

Welcome Heidi!

LP: You write in a variety of genres in the LGBT arena – including contemporary romance, paranormal, historical, and steampunk – what are the challenges and benefits of writing in several different genres?

HC: It’s fun to be able to play around, but it’s also like starting over every time I switch around. There are core readers who follow me, but there are also readers specific only to each genre. So it’s a little bit like having several careers at once.

LP: What first inspired you to write LGBT books and why?

HQ: I had a gay male character appear in a heterosexual love story I was writing, and I found myself unable to resist giving him his own story. In writing that, however, everyone who read it said I’d really found my voice, that my stories were sharper and brighter when I wrote LGBT. I’d written lesbian short stories during my studies for my masters degree, so this wasn’t my first time writing LGBT, but it was the first time I actively wrote gay romance. As I continued exploring these stories, I also became involved with local LGBT rights issues, particularly around the Iowa Supreme Court decision granting our state marriage equality. The more I wrote and the more active I became, the more important those stories became to me.

LP: You also do volunteer work in the LGBT community – tell us about that and what you’re involved in?

HQ: As I said above, we worked with One Iowa particularly during the time of the Supreme Court case here. I’ve done some work with them since, but now my focus is more on youth. We give to LGBT youth shelters and programs, and we’re foster parents focused on LGBT youth.

LP: Who are a few of your favourite authors and why?

HQ: My top two authors are Sir Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. Their stories resonate with me on so many levels in so many ways. Reading them always makes me happy and makes me think. On a bad day there’s little I want more than to curl up with a Pratchett in a comfortable chair.

LP: What social media networking sites do you use? Which one(s) work best for you and why?

HQ: I prefer Twitter, though I also use Facebook. They’re the ones that work for me and help me connect with readers.

LP: What are three key things you do to promote every new release?

HQ: I try to make sure I mention the book on social media and in my newsletter, and I usually do at least a small blog tour, with review copies made available.

LP: You are a traditionally published author. Have you considered self-publishing? Or is self-publishing an avenue you might be interested in?

HQ: I actually have been self published twice now and will continue to do so for many of my new releases, especially in my continuing series.

LP: When readers message you or meet you in person – which series or book comes up most often as a fan favourite and why?

HQ: It all depends. They all get mentioned eventually. Popular are the Love Lessons series and Carry the Ocean, but honestly all the contemporaries get a mention.

LQ: Tell us about YOUR favourite Heidi Cullinan book and why?

HQ: Double Blind, because it has Randy. Also because it came out so quickly. Nothing will ever be quite like that book.

LP: What’s coming down the road for you?

HQ: I have a novella in the Love Lessons series coming up in May, Short Stay. Then I have a few other novellas on the line, and then continuations of the open series before I start on some new ones.

LP: Bonus questions – What has been the best moment of your publishing career so far?

HQ: Every time I connect with readers. Readers are always my favorite.

Thank you Heidi!

Connect with author romance author Heidi Cullinan via her website, on twitter @heidicullinan and on facebook.

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Movies often fire my imagination and inspire my writing. These days, I watch movies carefully to see what storytelling tricks I can glean. Special features on DVDs can be instructive, helping me see what choices the directors and writers made to tell their stories. Movies can give me a frame of reference when I’m visualizing a location in one of my novels or imagining how a character might react in trying circumstances. Today, I want to look back at three movies that I found particularly influential.

There’s a good chance I wouldn’t be a novelist if not for The Milagro Beanfield War, directed by Robert Redford and based on the novel by John Nichols. It tells the story of a developer who wants to build a resort in a small New Mexico town and those people who stand up to him, including Joe Mondragon, who resuscitates his father’s beanfield with water slated to irrigate the development’s green lawns. An angel with an accordion and a serape gives our heroes a nudge. For most critics, it explored magical realism in the desert southwest. For me, it showed the kinds of things my family and friends do. The movie showed me that the stories I experience everyday can be worth telling. I started looking at the stories of my mom’s family homesteading in New Mexico and began to imagine what it would be like if people homesteaded an alien world. That led directly to my first novel, The Pirates of Sufiro.

I studied German extensively in my college years. My professors not only had us read German literature, but introduced us to German cinema. A major film that came out during that time was Wolfgang Peterson’s film, Das Boot. It is a tense, occasionally humorous, often frightening film that showed the grim realities of crewing a U-Boat during World War II. The movie helped me understand one thing that long bugged me about science fiction films. The space ships often look too clean and everything is so spacious. It struck me that space travel would be much more like working on a submarine. It would be claustrophobic. Fire would mean disaster because it could exhaust the air supply very fast. Every bit of space aboard the ships would be used as wisely as possible to keep costs down. When I started imagining the star vessels in my books, The Pirates of Sufiro and Children of the Old Stars, I imagined that they would be more like the submarine in Das Boot than the Starship Enterprise. This realization helped me visualize my spaceships and think about how the officers and crew would interact with each other.

While I might not have written a novel if not for The Milagro Beanfield War, I wouldn’t have written horror if not for another film I discovered during those years studying German. Werner Herzog’s 1979 film Nosferatu is a remake of the classic 1922 silent film. What made Herzog’s movie special is Klaus Kinski’s portrayal of Count Dracula, which creeped me out while making me care about him at the same time. Characters such as Lord Draco, Alexandra, and Rudolfo from my Scarlet Order vampire novels owe a lot to Kinski’s performance. What’s more, the vampire makeup in that film helped to inspire the human-created monsters in Vampires of the Scarlet Order. Perhaps more important than even these elements, Nosferatu taught me that horror is one of the ways to explore human emotion in the extreme. We see humans at their worst as they give into temptations and at their best as they sacrifice themselves for noble causes.

As I write this, I’m working through the second editorial pass of my forthcoming novel The Astronomer’s Crypt and I find these movies have influenced this work as well. The setting is my beloved southwestern United States, which I learned to utilize from The Milagro Beanfield War. I endeavor to create tension like that in Das Boot and we see humans at their best and worst as we do in Nosferatu. I’m sure this won’t be the last novel to be influenced by these amazing films.

You can purchase David Lee Summers’s books at Lachesis Publishing, on amazon, Barnes and Noble, kobo, and iBooks.

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This week’s DEAL OF THE WEEK is YA time travel Dawn of the Sentinel by Richard Blackburn (book 1 in the Guardians of the Gate trilogy).

GET IT HERE FOR ONLY .99 CENTS!

What It’s About:

Jenny has no idea what it means when she stumbles through a magical “gate” at Stonehenge and travels back to the year 1347. She has no idea that the “old lady” who travels back with her is actually a sorceress protector, and a Guardian of the Gate. Most shocking of all, she has no idea that she has powers of her own just waiting to be discovered.

Gwenelda, the Guardian, intends to hide Jenny in the safety of a secret cave until the next time warp, but fate works against them, and Jenny is thrust into the society of the time. She disguises herself as a young man in order to protect herself, but when she discovers a sinister plot master-minded by a former Guardian named Rudigor, who has turned to the dark side—it becomes a race against time as Jenny tries to stop the sorcerer, and rush back to Stonehenge to get back to her own time.

EXCERPT:

Jenny started to tremble. She remembered her last glimpse of Stonehenge. In that flash of lightning she’d seen a dark liquid running from the slab above her head. She looked down at where it had splashed onto her arms. They were stained with blood.

“You saw what was on the altar stone?” the old woman whispered sympathetically.

“Yes,” Jenny answered in a quavering voice. “A . . . a human sacrifice.”

Despite the warning to keep silent, Jenny had to whisper the obvious questions.

“Who are you? What have you done to me?’’

In reply the old woman leaned her face close to Jenny’s ear.

“My name is Gwenelda. I’m one of the Sentinels who guard the time warp, what the ancients called The Gate. And all I did was to try to stop you from standing near that stone,” she whispered, more resigned now than angry. “You were on the actual site of the ancient Druid altar. I’ve guarded it for centuries during the few brief seconds each year it becomes a gateway into the past. But hush!”

As they listened, they could hear sounds of the men searching nearby. Someone prodded the thicket where they were hiding with a stave, but Jenny had curled into a tight ball, her arms protecting her head. She knew that if she made a sound, it would be her last, so she kept absolutely silent.

After a few minutes the searchers moved on.

“Those fools are trying to act like Druids, hoping to stumble upon the secrets of our ancient sect. It’s a dangerous business, though. The Church will burn them at the stake as heretics if they’re caught, so they’ll kill anybody who witnesses their secret meetings. Now they know we’re here, they’ll be desperate to find us.”

Trying not to rustle the leaves of the bush, the old woman looked out carefully.

“When they’re searching on the far side of the columns, we’ll have to run to the ditch over there,” she said, pointing to the opposite edge of the ruins.

Jenny felt as though she’d just been through one round in the boxing ring with Muhammad Ali and was in no shape for even the shortest sprint. Fit though she was, her mental condition had taken a considerable battering, but when Gwenelda croaked urgently for her to run, she somehow found the strength. The memory of her first, close look into the dead eyes of the pagan victim spurred her on. She threw herself the last few feet into the ditch.

“Well done,” Gwenelda whispered.

Jenny couldn’t imagine how the old woman got there first, but she didn’t really care.

“Can I say something now?” she pleaded weakly.

“Not yet,” Gwenelda said. “We’ve got to get well away from here. We can relax later, when we’re sure we’re not being followed, but even then we must stay alert. We have to avoid human contact like the plague. I’m going to take you to a cave I know. It’s nearly a day’s walk from here, but you can hide there until I can return you to your own century. So up you get. The coast is clear. We must get away.”

Twenty minutes later they were able to slacken the pace and walk side by side.

“Please tell me what happened,” Jenny begged. “I’m sure I’ll be of more use to you if I know what’s going on.”

“All right. I’ll tell you the little you need to know for now and when we reach safety, I’ll fill you in on the rest.”

Jenny could hear in her companion’s voice the coldness of a seriously dangerous situation. As they followed the winding path across the lonely moors, Gwenelda told her a story so incredible that, had Jenny not been physically involved, she would never have believed it.

“There are a few places on the face of the Earth where it’s possible to walk through time into the past,” the old woman explained. “They only occur on significant occasions and in very special places. The Egyptian Pyramids, the Easter Island statues, and the Inca temples are just a few of them. Oh, and Stonehenge of course.

“Not many people these days would know how to invoke the magic to travel through time, but in Stonehenge it’s different. Every year the words of the ancient incantations are chanted exactly when the time warp occurs—at dawn on the mid-summer solstice.

“But modern Druids don’t know what they’re doing. It’s just by chance today that the right words were said at the right time. That was the command for The Gate to open at the site of the original Druid altar . . . and you fell into it.”

Jenny was still puzzled so Gwenelda continued to explain.

“If you look at any really old painting of the ’Henge you’ll see that the columns used to be scattered all over the place. It was in Victorian times the authorities took it upon themselves to put the stones in an order they thought was right—but they were wrong. The real place for the altar was exactly where you were standing.

“When I couldn’t get there in time to move you away, I had to come with you, not just to help you, but to preserve the past. So now I’ll have the pleasure of your company until The Gate next opens, the hallowed eve of All Saints Day. That’s in about four month’s time.”

“Four months! You must be joking. I can’t—”

Once again Gwenelda had to silence her unwilling companion.

“Keep your voice down!” she whispered furiously. “We may appear to be alone, but you can never tell. Things aren’t as bad as they might sound, but I can’t explain now. We’ve a long walk ahead of us, so we’d better get a move on. It would be dangerous for two women to be found out alone after nightfall . . . particularly here and now.”

Before they continued, however, Gwenelda seemed to find one spark of amusement in their plight.

“By the way, Jenny,” she said with mock dignity. “Welcome to the year 1347.”

Like what you’ve read? You can get your copy of Dawn of the Sentinel right here at Lachesis Publishing.

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Venice, Italy was captured by Patricia Barletta’s imagination before she captured this photo.

Where does your story take place? In a galaxy far, far away? Or maybe in an anthill teeming with tiny creatures? No matter where you’ve chosen to place your characters, they have to be someplace. The setting of a story is much more than logistics – making sure a character doesn’t trip over a table or walk out a door that wasn’t there before. Setting is also a state of mind. We think one way if we’re on a busy city street in the summer and another if we’re trudging through the mountains in the middle of a blizzard. Characters in a story should, too. What if you’ve never experienced either of those conditions, but one or the other is important to the tale you want to tell? What if you want to set your story in a place where you’ve never been? How do you do that and make it authentic?

Image: www.ispirando.it

My book, Moon Dark, is set in Venice, Italy, in 1797. I’d never been to Italy when I decided to set my story there, and I certainly couldn’t time-travel back to the late eighteenth century. I knew a little bit about the city, that it had canals and gondolas, and a celebration called Carnevale, but not much else. So I had to do some serious research about the physical place, as well as its history and customs.

The first sources I went to were travel guides. These are great for giving the layout of a place, as well as the tourist attractions like historical sites, which were in everyday use in my historical story. Most have detailed street maps. Some show the floor plans and interiors of important buildings, and some others give details that only the natives know. This type of information is important if you want your characters to appear like they belong where you’ve put them.

Image: Merlin TV series http://www.bbc.co.uk

Next, my research took me to political histories of Venice. Even if you’re writing a story set in the present, a little knowledge of the setting’s history helps fill in background details, because no one lives in a vacuum. No matter who or what your character is, he/she/it should know or want to know something about the past, whether immediate or distant, because it impacts the present. In my case, I discovered that Venice has a long history of keeping secrets and protecting herself by using spies, called capo neri. Putting them in my story added another layer of danger and suspense.

One of Canaletto’s paintings of Venice Image: www.telegraph.co.uk

Every region of the world has its own rules of conduct, and we interact with each other differently now than we did in the past. I needed to discover how the Venetians lived their lives and where they slept. I delved into social histories, which explained customs and mores of the time. Since the buildings in Venice are unique because they have entrances which open directly onto the canals, I looked at books on architecture. Fortunately, at the time my story is set, landscape painting was the hot fad, and Canaletto was its master in Venice, so I was able to look at his artwork reproduced in books that showed scenes of the city. For stories set in the modern era, photography books work well. And of course there’s the app, Google Earth.

I happened to find a memoir written by a Venetian about his ancestor who lived at the time of my story, which gave me fabulous details about Venice and her inhabitants. Journals, travelogues, and newspapers are some other good resources for discovering what the people of a time and place are thinking about. Your characters may be focused on the action in your story, but other stuff is going on around them.

The next stop in my research journey took me to fashion books, because people move differently in corsets and petticoats and waistcoats and breeches than they do in tee shirts and jeans. Besides, readers of romance want to know what the characters in a story are wearing. Finally, cookbooks reveal how and what people from a specific region eat. You are what you eat, right? And don’t forget to check the weather. It’s not sunny and seventy-two degrees everywhere all the time. You can get details about conditions at different times of the year online. You can even find out the specific date the moon was full centuries ago.

Patricia Barletta (right) with her friend enjoying Venice.

Serendipity plays a big role in research. I’ve tripped over quite a few interesting details that I’ve used in my stories to make my characters and settings more authentic. Once you get the sense of a place, you can extrapolate and let your imagination run wild. I don’t think there ever was a Canale di l’Ombres (Canal of Shadows) in the real city of Venice, but I put one there.

I finally got to travel to Italy last year and see Venice. It was everything I imagined – magical and mysterious and beautiful. And I was thrilled to discover that a lot of my descriptions matched the actual sites. But I can’t decide which was more fun: creating it in my imagination or riding through its canals and walking its alleys.

Moon Dark

Patricia Barletta writes historical romance with paranormal elements. Her first release with Lachesis Publishing is MOON DARK and it’s the first in a new and exciting series called the AURIANO CURSE SERIES. You can buy it here at Lachesis Publishing or on amazon, kobo, Barnes and Noble.

Find out more about Patricia Barletta and her books on her website: www.patriciabarletta.com.

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