Monday, July 28, 2014

The Dark Horse: Hazards of Being a Writer - Alison DeLuca

Books are vampires, some of them – they bite into you and don’t let go. Like a vampyr’s victim, the reader is changed forever.

It’s even worse when the urge to write takes hold. It is a fever that produces visions, ones that are so strong that at times they feel like reality. It can be a form of madness.

An author must be strong, must learn to live in two worlds at once. When the characters are talking and the scene plays out in the author’s head, as she listens to those voices and sees what happens to people who are, to her, completely real – when the real world intervenes, she must learn to silence the other, the unseen universe.

Of course the most important thing in the world is one’s family – children, husband, parents. Yet, when the writer is on a roll, riding that dark horse called fantasy as the movie plays out in her head, when the real world calls, she must rein in the steed and dismount.

In order to control those two warring, concurrent universes, the writer must have system – a plan. Writing needs to be in one room, real life in another. (Jane Austen was so conscious of this that she used to hide what she wrote under a piece of paper, kept on hand at all times, should anyone enter the room.)

The escape and the visions are scheduled for certain times – in the morning in my case, for others, at the dead of night. The visions themselves are outlined, or planned in careful notes, with painstaking research, all to create a map for the wild regions known as the Right Side of the Brain.

I don’t know why some people have that key to the stables, to ride the dark horse. In my case, perhaps it came from a childhood without much television, where my sister and I entertained ourselves with our own made up stories. As we sat in absolute silence in endless, formal teas, we formed the ability to see within, to watch an interior movie that no one else could see.

There are many hazards of being a writer – deadlines, editors, publishers, and social media. For me, however, the greatest pleasure in being an author is also my greatest hazard – that of harnessing the dark horse.

About the Author:  Alison DeLuca is the author of several steampunk and urban fantasy books. She was born in Arizona and has also lived in Pennsylvania, Illinois, Mexico, Ireland, and Spain.

Currently she wrestles words and laundry in New Jersey.

Connect with Alison DeLuca

See all books by Alison DeLuca on Amazon

About The Crown Phoenix Series:  An underground factory, a terrifying laboratory, and an Edwardian hospital…

Miriam has only her guardians' son for company, and she and Simon dislike each other from the start. But they must find a way to trust each other, or they will end up on the sinister Night Watchman Express.

Target audience: Twelve and up.

Genres: Steampunk, Edwardian fiction, YA fantasy

Amazon Affiliate Links are used within this post. That means when you click through and purchase something (anything!) from Amazon I earn a *small* percentage of the sale. It never costs you any extra but it helps me keep this site running.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

RJ Sullivan: "Profound" language and the storyteller's quandary

Haunting Blue is the story of a 17 year old punk girl who attends a small town high school. Prior to that, "Blue" hung out with college-age students for several years. As a result of her upbringing, she expresses herself with blunt, direct language. Like any other high school rebel, Blue is an angry person. She feels justified in that anger, picked upon, and she responds to the world aggressively--in words and deeds.

Although it has been quite a few years since I've walked the halls of my high school with anyone I could call my peers, I still remember the constant ambiance of four-letter words. Even if you did not use such words yourself, you couldn't avoid hearing a variety of--to use Mr. Spock's vernacular--"colorful metaphors." As everything else in high school--from bullying to music to styles--has slanted toward the extreme, I've no doubt that this trend has gone the same direction.

So when drafting my novel, I let Blue to talk the way she would talk. This was not about shock value, or, as a common accusation goes, to try to be "cool" or trendy in order to sell books. This was about letting Blue behave as Blue, and saying exactly what's on her mind.

Still, there is another side, a certain reader who prefers not to read a book full of four-letter words, and to them, I always say, "this book is not for you." I hate having to say that, because any author who wants to have any hope of success does not turn down a sale on purpose if they can help it. But neither do I want to alienate a new reader by not disclosing this important part of the book.

And I get it. I'm a parent with children. My two oldest are not, in my own estimation..."quite" ... ready to read my books. But they will be, sooner than later. And that's okay. Yes, you are reading this right--my own children have not yet read my major novels. And if I were a potential customer on the other side of the booth, I would not buy the book for my kids. (Maybe for myself, but not my kids.)

Because I am a parent, I made a number of conscious choices in my marketing to make certain that anyone who considers buying Haunting Blue knows what they are getting. The first words on the back cover read "Punk, blue-haired 'Blue' Shaefer is at odds with her workahaulic mother." Immediately, the potential reader knows this isn't Snow White.

My novel, and my series, is filed under adult paranormal thrillers, and the front cover of Haunting Blue with the demonic blue eyes on the pirate is meant to give younger readers and their parents pause. As a product, my series is not filed under YA, even though the category is "hot" and the character is a high school girl.

The book trailer was created specially to drive this point home. I've been asked, frequently, why I have dialog in the trailer, and why do I have "bleeped out words" that censor the language. A book trailer is meant to give a potential buyer an idea about the book. Ideally, it draws the reader to want to find out what they can expect before they buy the book. Anyone who sees my trailer knows how Blue talks in that scene, and can presume (correctly) that the novel offers more of the same.

Still, all three of my novels get the occasional lower rated review by some reader who is put off by the language or the content.

To those readers, I offer three thoughts. First, the vulgarity and delinquent actions that Blue exhibits come from an honest place. Every word, every action, was a choice I made to be as true to the actions and words of the character as I believe she would behave. Rebecca Burton, my paranormal investigator professional, does not exhibit any of these traits. 2. I've come to accept that certain stories I write will not be for everyone. I have to target a specific demographic and seek out the reader of the stories that I want to tell. When the book ends up outside that demographic, that is my failure, not yours. To those put off by the content, I don't apologize for the content, but I do apologize that my marketing did not make the content clear. 3. That's not to say I don't have anything for a more general reader. My Red Lotus space opera ebooks are written with a more general audience in mind. Not because I was aiming for a different demographic, but because the truth of the story happens to make it more palatable to a wider audience.

Could I have rewritten my stories to lessen or eliminate the profanity? I suppose so. And many very good writers are able to do so. But I faced a choice many storytellers face, and I chose to hold a magnifying glass up to imperfect people and show them, warts and all. I think they're still likeable in spite of their flaws.

I understand the dilemma of a sensitive genre reader trying to make wise choices and find fiction that appeals to them. I don/'t hold those choices against them. Just consider that the storyteller faced their own dilemma, and simply made a choice that doesn't appeal to you. And that's okay.

Haunting Blue Book Synopsis: Punk, blue-haired “Blue” Shaefer, is at odds with her workaholic single mother. Raised as a city girl in a suburb of Indianapolis, Blue must abandon the life she knows when her unfeeling mother moves them to a dreadful small town. Blue befriends the only student willing to talk to her: computer nerd “Chip” Farren.

Chip knows the connection between the rickety pirate boat ride at the local amusement park and the missing money from an infamous bank heist the townspeople still talk about. When Blue helps him recover the treasure, they awaken a vengeful ghost who’ll stop at nothing--not even murder--to prevent them from exposing the truth behind his evil deeds.

Haunting Blue is Book One of the Adventures of Blue Shaefer

Purchase Haunting Blue from Amazon for Kindle or Paperback

About RJ Sullivan: Haunting Blue is the first book of the adventures of punk girl Fiona “Blue” Shaefer. This is the 2014 revised edition by Seventh Star Press. Seventh Star also released Haunting Obsession, a Rebecca Burton Novella, and Virtual Blue, the second book in Fiona’s tale. R.J.’s short stories have been featured in such acclaimed collections as Dark Faith: Invocations by Apex Books and Vampires Don’t Sparkle. His newest project is the Red Lotus series of science fiction novelettes.

R.J. resides in Heartland Crossing, Indiana. He drinks coffee from a Little Mermaid mug and is man enough to admit it.

Connect with RJ: Facebook * Twitter * Goodreads

Find more books on the Amazon author page for RJ Sullivan

Amazon Affiliate Links are used within this post. That means when you click through and purchase something (anything!) from Amazon I earn a *small* percentage of the sale. It never costs you any extra but it helps me keep this site running.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

What is happening at Monkey Do Project?

Monkey Do Project logo

Monkey Do Project is one of my favorite non-profit organizations. I know the founder and members of the board and see how dedicated they are to helping the people of Appalachia. They give back because they feel strongly drawn to do so and they truly care about the people they are helping. At any given time Monkey Do Project has several different projects going to meet the needs of people in different parts of Appalachia. Here are the current needs:

Summer Starvation/Filling the Food Banks - Did you know that 6 out of 7 kids who rely on the school lunch program during the year do not have access to regular meals during the summer? Food banks and other food programs are important all year long but children need them even more in the summer time. Monkey Do Project has pledged to fill a food bank in Clay, WV, provides food for a weekend backpack program, and has pledged to feed kids this summer.

Daniel's Drawings - Daniel recently turned five but when he was four he was challenged to do something to raise money to help others. Daniel is a self-proclaimed "kid artist" and he is raising money with his "artings" (drawings) and giving it to Monkey Do Project.

Ella's Night-Night Do Project - Ella is an amazing six year old with a huge heart for giving and helping others. When she was four, she had a small blanket that she called her night-night. Ella decided that other kids needed the comfort of night-nights too so she created her own Monkey Do Project to give them away.

Backpacks for Ohio - Last year I helped fill 2,000 backpacks at Monkey Do Project headquarters. We gave each child a book, nutritious snack, and some school supplies. Monkey Do Project has pledged to bring backpacks to the summer health fair again this year.

None of these projects can happen without financial support from individual donors. The needs in Appalachia are high as it is the poorest region in the United States. Please visit Monkey Do Project to find out more about the needs in Appalachia and how you can help.

Donate today to support these projects!

Monday, June 16, 2014

Release Day: Greene's Calling by A.D. Starrling + Giveaway

Greene's Calling (Seventeen #3)
By A.D. Starrling
Release Date: June 16, 2014
Paperback, 394 pages
Genre: Urban Fantasy / Action / Mystery
Buy Greene's Calling on Amazon (affiliate link) 


An immortal healer.
An ancient legacy reborn.

A chain of cataclysmic events
 that threatens to change the fate of the world. 

When a plane crashes in the Amazonian swamp where Conrad Greene is attempting to live out the rest of eternity, the jaded immortal who was once one of the Bastian First Council’s greatest assets stumbles across a conspiracy involving the recently elected president of the United States.

Caught in the middle of the intrigue is US Secret Service agent Laura Hartwell, the one immortal on Earth most likely to put a bullet through Greene’s skull.

Greene is coerced into returning to the life he had left behind by the leader of the Bastians and reluctantly agrees to assist the Americans in their investigation. As disturbing incidents start to unfold around the globe, Greene and a team of elite human and immortal agents must track down an elusive organization hell-bent on shifting the power balance of the world.

Can Greene stop the deadly countdown that threatens to alter the course of human history and regain the trust of the woman he loves?

The riveting and fast-paced third installment in the award-winning, supernatural thriller series Seventeen is finally here.

Anyone interested is welcome to join the blast, just copy this and make sure you put your link in the Rafflecopter when you post! Not only will you get to share this great book and series but also will get 5 additional entries in Lady Reader's Book Tours Blast participation Rafflecopter!  There is a participating Giveaway Rafflecopter for this & the Tour!


Conrad Greene ran across the wet, sloping lead roof of the Banqueting House, his breath misting in the cool night air. Moonlight flashed on metal to his right. He caught a glimpse of a blade falling toward his neck and ducked. The sword skimmed past his head with a faint hum. Feet skidding on the slick surface, he spun around, dropped to one knee, and lifted the short, silver-gilded staff in his hands.

A grunt sounded above him as the burly swordsman brought his weapon down once more. The edge of the blade struck the staff hard, raising sparks in the gloom. The man’s lips pulled back in a vicious grin, exposing two uneven rows of stained teeth. The muscles and veins in his neck and arms bulged with superhuman strength as he drove the sword into the staff.

Conrad’s elbows slowly folded toward his chest. Air left his lips in a low hiss as the tip of the man’s blade inched closer to his left eye. He pushed back with the staff with all his might, dark spots dancing across his vision.

A figure dashed past them on the left. Conrad caught a glimpse of soft, brown curls. His heart stuttered inside his chest. He swore, fell back, and rolled out of the way of the falling blade.

He landed close to the balustrade that ran around the top of the building and climbed swiftly to his feet. Ignoring the swordsman charging toward him, he peered through the rainfall at the dark shapes engaged in a fast-paced and deadly battle on the moonlit rooftop. His eyes sought and found the woman who had run by him.

She was almost at the north end of the terrace, where a young man with brown hair and eyes stood confronted by three armed attackers; blood from the wounds on his left shoulder and flank had already soaked through his long-sleeved, ruffle shirt and stained his leather jerkin.

‘William!’ the woman yelled, her voice edged with fear and desperation. She passed the weather vane on the sloping roof and unsheathed the rapier at her waist.

Relief darted across the younger man’s face at the sound of his name. He glanced at the woman over his attackers’ shoulders and raised his own blade to block another strike.

Conrad clenched his teeth. He turned to face his opponent and twisted one of the metal rings on his short staff. The weapon extended and a spear blade sprang out at either end. A loud battle cry preceded the attack of the burly swordsman a heartbeat later.

Conrad blocked his blade, kicked him in the groin, and hooked the staff behind his neck. He yanked the man’s head down at the same time that he drove his knee up into his face. A guttural groan left his adversary’s lips, and he slid to the ground, unconscious.

A flurry of activity to the right captured Conrad’s attention. Another group of men had rushed onto the rooftop terrace of the Banqueting House. He scanned the other fighters around him, anxiety twisting his stomach; he and his companions were now heavily outnumbered.

His eyes suddenly widened. The newcomers had drawn their swords and were heading resolutely for the running woman and the wounded man still fighting at the north end of the building. Knuckles whitening on his staff weapon, Conrad moved to intercept the men.

The woman reached the figures at the edge of the terrace. She stepped in front of the injured young man and swung her thin blade around in a flurry of strikes and blocks at his three attackers. Rage darkened her face and a roar left her lips. The men fell back under her fierce attack.

The wounded man sagged behind her and gripped his bleeding limb. Even from a distance, Conrad read the fear and confusion on his features. The man turned and flinched when he met Conrad’s eyes.

The expression on his face left no doubt in his mind. William Hartwell was the one who had betrayed them. Bile flooded the back of Conrad’s throat. Hartwell looked away. His lips moved, forming words that were lost in the stormy night as he shouted something at the men trying to kill him.

For an infinitesimal moment, the woman faltered, a flicker of incomprehension flashing across her face. She cast a quick look over her shoulder at the one she was trying to protect. Their closest assailant moved and brought down his sword. The blade arced across her left arm, carving a deep cut from her elbow to her wrist.

A cry escaped her lips. She took a step back and warded off another blow inches from her neck. Hartwell moved forward then, anger blazing across his face. He raised his sword and joined in the fray once more.

Conrad got to within twenty feet of them before he crossed paths with the four men he was trying to head off. He raised the double-bladed spear staff and spun it through the air. The gilded wood deflected the silver swirl of swords that danced toward his body while the jagged tips blurred, slicing and stabbing through flesh. One man fell, his fingers rising to the spurting crimson stream pouring from the wound on his neck. Another followed him to the ground seconds later.

A single scream suddenly shattered the night.

The sound was a knife that cut straight through Conrad’s soul. He blocked a blow to his head and looked to his left.

William Hartwell had backed up against the balustrade. Conrad froze and felt time slow down.

The young man tipped over the edge and fell from the terrace, dragging his three attackers with him. The woman leapt forward through the curtain of glittering rain, crystal drops crashing on her skin, her movements heavy and sluggish in that stolen moment of stillness. She leaned over the balcony, fingers clutching desperately at the figures plummeting toward the ground. Her hands closed on empty space.

The bodies struck the street three stories below with a dull thud.

Time unfroze in a cacophony of sounds and sensations. Thunder rumbled across the heavens, underscoring the battle cries around Conrad. Cold wetness drenched his hair and face, bringing the sharp scent of the storm to his nostrils and a tangy taste to his lips. Lightning tore a brilliant, jagged path across his vision and made him blink.

Heat suddenly erupted across his chest when a blade slashed his skin. Blood bloomed on his shirt. Conrad scowled and focused on his two remaining adversaries. By the time he had disposed of them, the woman had disappeared from the rooftop.

He looked at the other fighters around him and felt a rush of relief at the sight that met his eyes; despite the odds, his men were winning.

‘Go!’ yelled someone to his right. The red-haired figure who had spoken danced nimbly out of the way of a blade and stabbed his opponent savagely in the chest. Pale eyes glanced at him for a second. ‘We’ve got this, Greene!’

Conrad bobbed his head jerkily and twisted the ring that retracted the staff’s spear blades. He raced for the door that led inside the building.

By the time he reached the ground floor, the wound on his chest had stopped bleeding. He knew without looking that the skin beneath his torn shirt was once more unblemished.

He found the woman on her knees by the pile of bodies that lay in an awkward tangle of broken limbs at the north base of the Banqueting House. She was leaning over William Hartwell, sobs shuddering through her as she stroked his pale face with shaking fingers; blood from the wound in her arm mingled with his where it seeped from the irregular depression on his temple. Hartwell’s chest rose and fell shallowly with his breaths. He was unconscious.

The woman looked around at Conrad’s footsteps, her hazel eyes wild with anguish.

‘Do something, please!’ she begged.

Conrad sank to the ground next to her, his voice frozen in his throat. He placed his left hand on the young man’s head and closed his eyes.

A burst of energy flared inside his chest and pulsed down toward his elbow. It darted through the birthmark dancing along his forearm and flashed to the ends of his fingers. He inhaled deeply and guided the flow of his power inside the broken body of William Hartwell.

Bone popped beneath his hand. The young man’s flesh slowly began to knit together.

Sweat broke across Conrad’s brow. The battle had drained him of much of his strength; he could feel Hartwell’s torn tissues resisting his ability to heal them. He ground his teeth together and willed his exhausted body to cooperate.

‘What’s happening?’ said the woman. Panic raised the pitch of her voice. She grabbed Conrad’s shoulders and shook him, her fingers biting into his skin. ‘Why isn’t he waking up?’

Conrad sagged as he felt his own life force start to ebb; he was nearing the limits of his ability. He blinked and swayed. Dark blotches clouded his vision. The woman’s frantic words became a roar in his ears.

A moan suddenly broke through the rush of blood inside his head. He looked down and saw Hartwell’s eyes open. Within the dark pupils of the man he had come to know and love as a brother, Conrad Greene read the words he could no longer utter.

William Hartwell wanted to die. He also yearned for something else.

Conrad gasped and slowly pulled his power back inside his own body, his fingers trembling on the cooling skin of the dying man. Hartwell shivered beneath his touch.

‘Why are you stopping?’ yelled the woman. ‘Save him!’

Conrad knew there were only seconds left; he could feel Death’s shadow approaching through the thunderstorm raging across the city. He leaned down and brought his lips to Hartwell’s ear.
‘I forgive you,’ he whispered, his vision blurring with tears. He pulled back slightly and saw Hartwell blink once. The young man’s last breath left his mouth and caressed Conrad’s cheek.

William Hartwell stared unseeingly at the rain falling from the night sky, his face serene and his body relaxing in death.

‘No,’ mumbled the woman. ‘No, this isn’t happening!’ Her voice rose to a scream. ‘Why did you let him die? Why? Goddamn you—!’ Grief overwhelmed her and she wept brokenly.

Conrad’s heart shattered inside his chest as he looked at the woman he loved and saw hate dawn in the depths of her hazel eyes.

AD Starrling was born on the small island nation of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean and came to the UK at the age of twenty to study medicine. After five years of hard graft earning her MD and another five years working all of God's hours as a Pediatrician, she decided it was time for a change and returned to her first love, writing.

Her debut novel Soul Meaning (Seventeen Book #1) has won and been nominated for several awards, as has her second novel King’s Crusade. She currently lives in Warwickshire in the West Midlands, where she is busy writing the next installment in the series. She still practices medicine. AD Starrling is her pen name.

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