Linda G. Hill, a Featured Spotlight

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If you haven’t heard of the On Fire anthology, this mini-interview and excerpt series will showcase the amazing authors I get to work with and their writing. Meet Linda.

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What motivates you to write?

People motivate me to write. Human behavior fascinates me endlessly: I can spend hours writing scenarios in which characters react to their surroundings and one another, just to work through what makes them tick.

How do you deal with writer’s block?

I deal with writer’s block by having a shower. I’m always amazed by how many other authors say they find inspiration there. Must have something to do with not having anything to look at but tiles…that’s my best guess anyway.

What interesting thing did you learn while writing your last story?

My current WIP, the third novel in my paranormal romance series, “The Great Dagmaru,” takes place, in part, in Ottawa, at the National Arts Centre. I was lucky enough to discover that they had an open house of sorts, where they allowed the general public access to the stage, the dressing rooms, the prop rooms and rehearsal halls – basically the entire building. During my self-guided tour, I had the opportunity to meet the stage manager and discuss a scene in my novel where my main character, a stage magician, has horses on stage. I was able to obtain the logistics of getting the animals into the building, and I had the chance to see the loading docks for reference. I found out they had an elephant on stage there once, so the horses weren’t as much of an issue as I imagined they’d be when I wrote the scene.

 

From “The Flame on Lick’s Island” by Linda G. Hill:

I wasn’t confident walking into Penny’s shop. Of the four ladies standing behind customers, talking to them in the mirrors, three were barely into their twenties. White-haired, Penny’s former beauty radiated past her wrinkles when she smiled at her client. At the jangling of my entrance, she dropped her comb, pausing on me a beat too long before she bent to pick it up and sink it into her jar of Barbicide.

“Can I help you?” She plucked another comb and ran it under the tap.

“I’m just here for a cut,” I said.

One of the other girls did my hair, but Penny’s attention made me uncomfortable. Before leaving, I asked for a word. I was surprised when she suggested a cup of coffee.

We sat in the familiar diner.

The staff eyed us.

“I heard Lick’s was passed on as an inheritance. Was Kristie a close relative?”

My turn to gawp. “We weren’t related at all. Hubert was my husband’s uncle.”

“You’re joking. You’re the spitting image.”

Unnerved, I twisted a napkin in my lap. “It must be a coincidence.”

Penny shook her head. “I’m guessing you want to know about her.”

“How did you know?”

“Because Kristie is still out there, on the island.”

My shoulders jarred against the metal seatback.

“I’m right, aren’t I? People like Kristie don’t just go away when they die. And after what Hubert did… He must have loved her, though.”

“What did he do?”

“Hubert had an affair. When Kristie found out, she had her third miscarriage. Nobody even knew she was pregnant that time. She lost all of them out on the island. Hubert took care of her body, but her mind…that was a different matter.”

“I understand you used to go out and do her hair.”

“Yeah. And she’d talk to me when I did. Then one day, I had an appointment. I got out of the boat on their dock—it was a hot day, just like this one.” Penny sipped of her coffee.

Out the window, the traffic stopped and started at the corner.

“She’d cut it all off. That wasn’t the worst of it. I can’t talk about the last time I saw her.”

I had the diary; I’d find out myself.

“It was a long time before I went out there again. Years.” She pulled a tissue out of her pocket and dabbed her eyes. “When I did, Hubert told me she was gone. I was the first in town to find out.”

“He didn’t hold a service or anything?” I asked.

“She had no family, and I was the closest thing she had to a friend. People asked the doc about her occasionally, but she kept to herself, so no one pried.”

That poor woman.

“So that’s it.” She looked me in the eye, her voice suddenly cold. “Was there anything else specific you wanted to know?”

“What do you know about the candles? Kristie seemed to like them. I keep finding puddles of dried wax everywhere.”

“She made them. The last time I was there, one was in the window by the front door of the house. Hubert had it lit like he was waiting for her to come home. Poor asshole.”

“Do you think she had anything to do with the fire in the apartment, here in town?”

The look in Penny’s eye made the temperature drop a degree, chilling my bones. “I have no idea.”

She paid for our coffees and left.

 

Linda G. Hill is a stay-at-home mom of three boys and the guardian of one beagle and two kitties. She concocts tales in her head 24/7 and blogs almost daily at lindaghill.com. Linda’s newest release, The Magician’s Curse, is the first in a series of Gothic paranormal romances. Also available on Amazon and Kobo is her romantic comedy novelette, All Good Stories. She lives in Southern Ontario, Canada.

ON FIRE is available now: Amazon, Nook, Kobo, and the Transmundane Press store.

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Ashley Nicole Hunter, a Featured Spotlight

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If you haven’t heard of the On Fire anthology, this mini-interview and excerpt series will showcase the amazing authors I get to work with and their writing. Meet Ashely.

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Unfortunately, I didn’t get to interview Ashely. However, that doesn’t mean we can’t celebrate her contribution to the anthology with a nice, long excerpt.

 

From “Fire Song” by Ashley Nicole Hunter:

Walking on firm land again improved my mood, but the tension in my shoulders since leaving the photo shoot refused to ease up. That was nothing new; I couldn’t relax unless I was working, and for a photographer, I had an unfortunate dislike of travel due to all the restrictions. The flight from Indonesia to China hadn’t been terribly long, but the one from China to Los Angeles had been sheer murder. If not for the recording of the song I’d made, I might have gone unhinged with the need to take out my lighter. Now, settled into the airport to wait for the taxi I scheduled, I removed my earbuds and tucked them into my jacket pocket. I still couldn’t indulge the way I would prefer to, but neither could I afford to keep them in and risk missing my taxi. Instead, I pulled a file up on my battered phone, taking solace in the looped video of a crackling fireplace I’d downloaded. The real thing was better, of course, but beat the silence every time.

I hummed the song under my breath as a sixty-something woman sat down on the bench beside me and settled her bags around her feet. A large, red maple leaf was emblazoned across her chest.

“Well, I’m off to Canada,” she said, surprising absolutely no one. “Going to visit the grandkids before my daughter and her good-for-nothing husband finally end this sham of a marriage.” She inclined her head in my direction, making it clear that I was going to serve as her confidant until a taxi or the apocalypse rescued me.

This was another peril of travel. I switched off my phone, turned to face her, and waited. I had not volunteered to enter into this conversation, and I was determined, after seventeen hours in the air, to participate as little as possible in it.

Ignoring my bloodshot eyes, three-day beard growth, and my “Lick it or Kick It” t-shirt, Mrs. Maple happily pressed ahead with forging a connection between us.

“You know, if she had listened to me from the beginning, she could have saved a lot of money…her father’s money, anyways…and just stayed in Utah.” She laughed too loud, like the silence bothered her, too. “But kids never listen, do they? Think they know better.”

Reasonably certain that I was as old as her daughter, maybe a little younger, I was uncertain what she expected me to contribute.

To her credit, she must have realized this, because she nudged me with one plump elbow. “Don’t be shy, young man, speak up. Where are you off to?”

After ten years working freelance, I had prepared a method of self-defense for situations like this. Pulling in a deep breath, I leaned in towards her.

“Well, I am taking the advice of my therapist and going to stay with my brother, who I have not seen since I had a penis surgically attached and changed my name from Tracey to Trevor, to talk about family matters even more uncomfortable than who I like to screw.”

Mrs. Maple opened her mouth, closed it, opened it, then picked up her bags. She moved down to the next bench, nudged an elderly man trying to open his medication bottle, and nodded in my direction before she loudly whispered and made several phallic hand gestures. I thanked the gods that was done with and returned to my phone, not resurfacing again until my taxi deposited me at my brother’s door.

Craig, three years older than me, lived in a monstrously-large imitation of a ranch house that looked like it belonged back home in North Dakota rather than here in California, surrounded by Spanish-tile roofing and terra-cotta pots. I gave a low whistle as I got my first look at the place, wondering how much my sister-in-law’s dad had paid for it. The house was painted a searing shade of blue, and the door—a glossy, black thing with a sunflower wreath hanging from it—was tucked so far back in an alcove that I spent the first few minutes knocking on one of his three garage doors before I found the entrance.

I hadn’t been lying earlier; it had been ten years, plus or minus a few months, since I had been in the same room as my brother. After I’d dropped out of college and moved to New York to begin my career, I’d also started my transition process. Craig had been supportive over emails and phone calls, but we’d both had a pretty strict upbringing, and I used my coming out as an excuse for avoiding not just him, but all of our family. I hadn’t even attended his wedding; I’d just had Amazon ship him a set of mixing bowls and a few hand towels. I treated my brother terribly, and I hoped it gave him a reason to hate me the way that he should have, wouldhave, if he’d known the truth.

To my shame, Craig had assumed the blame was his. He often watched his words when he called or emailed me, and sometimes, when he was drinking, he would ask me to tell him what he’d done wrong so he could apologize for it. I tried to be more of an asshole to him…I missed birthday calls, mailed him gifts I knew he would hate, trash talked the wife I had never even met. Craig was a good person and a better brother than I deserved; he always took the blame and believed he deserved whatever I threw at him. He was so sweet and forgiving that I began to hate him for it, which only deepened my self-loathing.

When he had emailed me the previous month to ask if I would come stay with him after filming an eruption at Mount Merapi, I called my therapist.

“I think you should go.” Her voice crackled over the bad connection. “You’ve been carrying this burden since you were a child, Trevor. And your brother has a right to know.”

Physically closer to my brother than I’d been since I’d left home in the middle of the night, a cold pit settled in my stomach. Call the cab back, I thought, but just as I was shifting my bags to fish my cell out of my pocket, the front door burst open with a shout.

“Hey, buddy. Long time no see.” I barely had time to look up before my overweight brother, with his embarrassing fondness for plaid button-ups and Nickelback t-shirts, came barreling out and into my luggage-filled arms. “Here, let me help you with that.”

 

Ashley Nicole Hunter is the assistant editor for the Vortex literary magazine and the editor for the Arkansas Pagans website. She is currently writing a novel about werewolves on food stamps and a web serial about jogging naked through the woods. Her passions include community service, awkward conversations, and arguing in favor of ellipses and the interrobang.

ON FIRE is available now: Amazon, Nook, Kobo, and the Transmundane Press store.

Did You Know…About Hybrids & Chaos?

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In most stories or myths, hybrid creatures are rare. And no, I’m not talking about shifters or were creatures who can change form, as they have become a species in their own right.

Instead, I’m talking about those anomalies—the chimera, the centaur, the satyr, the harpy, the lamia, the sphinx, the Anubis, the gorgon, the Pegasus, and man, could I go on. In fact, here’s a link to a nice wiki list of them, if you’re interested.

More recently, fiction and cinema have mashed together more types of creatures in interesting ways to test the boundaries of fantasy and science fiction and horror, like the vampire-werewolf hybrid from Underworld, Supernatural,andThe Vampire Diaries.

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For me, these are the most fascinating because most lore indicates how vampire and werewolves, who both transform others via a bite, are poisonous to one another. This is true in my Broken World as well, although for a reason that I haven’t found for other mythologies.

I’ll take this opportunity to explain. Phea, the first vampire and their ruling queen, is also the mother of all shifters—or bosex as I like to call them. Her son, Anthemos Romulous Celampresian, is the Atlantean god of beast and the father of all bosex. My variety of species sprung from Anthemos mating with various human women, and their offspring took on animal forms until puberty. The problem arose when Anthemos fell in love with one of these human women. His mother, Phea, grew jealous, made threats, and made attempts to kill his family. Because of this, he made their blood poisonous to her, and therefore, all other vampires as a means to hinder her ability to bring them harm.

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This is why Ria’s ability to drink from Mark in book two throws everyone for a loop. She can do this because she’s the first natural hybrid in hundreds of years and only the second in existence, and her phoenix powers allows her to perform some strange feats.

However, her abilities are not the main reason for concern over her hybrid status, except maybe for her personal desire not to be dissected by her queen, Phea. No, she indicates a larger-world phenomenon. It means chaos, an undoing of the usual rules, and a time of transition, although what that means, nobody is really clear about yet.

Except for me, but I don’t count.

I have snuck in a few clues, like how Julia in book three is able to walk around in the sunlight when in book one, James made a pretty big deal about Ria being up before darkness. She explained this away as a part of her hybrid status, but was that it?

Well, I can’t tell you it all, now, can I? But the answer is both yes, and no…

 

Want to learn more about the intricacies of hybrids in my Broken World? Take a dive into the series.

Here’s a free download of the creation story.

Here’s the first three books in her series.

And here’s her parent’s story.

Did You Know? An Ethology Lesson on Fey.

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I’m presently celebrating having finished the first draft of Lily Grave’s debut book, GIRL WITH THE GLOWING HAIR. I’ve been working on this baby for over two years—distracted quite a bit by a few other projects—and it’s done. Yay!

 

Okay, so today I wanted to talk a little bit about the fey, which are more traditional than the fae/faeries in my Broken World series.

The most common species of the fey are fairies, but their range includes a wide and varied list, like pixies, brownies, sprites, elves, leprechauns, goblins, dryads, nymphs, gnomes, and banshees.

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Again, fairies make up the bulk of the fey, so much of what’s known about the species focuses on them.

Here’s what Lily’s ethology book says, “Fey move in a hive-like group. They often mimic their leader and may develop a collective consciousness, which allows them to think and act as a single entity. This makes fey a near unstoppable force when threatened.“

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Fey are perceived as good and light but are often tricksters and prefer to communicate with their minds rather than speaking. They have little general interest in human affairs and remain excluded.

This is why the fey have a highly defined royal structure, great love and respect for royal families, who are often the most beautiful.

The humanoid of the species don’t age physically, maintaining their alluring, enticing, and desirable forms; rather their appearance is dependent on their mental maturity and social status—age is a symbol of respect.

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Some of their powers include telepathy, photokinesis, portal creation, and levitation.

Mythology describes different fey as being able to change into otters or common farm animals, some appear as bright orbs of light, others were responsible for instilling magic into humans—like the druids, groups live around tree roots and are closely linked to elementals as well, and texts say that mermaids, selkies, and kelpies fit into the fey species.

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Stay tuned for more mini-ethology lessons from Lily Graves’s world and sign up for an ARC of the first in her series, GIRL WITH THE GLOWING HAIR.

 

Anthony S. Buoni, a Featured Spotlight

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If you haven’t heard of the On Fire anthology, this mini-interview and excerpt series will showcase the amazing authors I get to work with and their writing. Meet Anthony.

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What is the best thing about being an author? What is the worst thing?

Best—being an asshole to characters. Worst—being an asshole to characters I like.

What are the genre(s) of the stories you write and why?

Horror.  My heart and passion exist in shadows cast by moonlight, in the creaking walls of a haunted house, and the devilish grin of a midnight creeper.  The genre often explores morality tales with complex human emotions.  Along with science fiction, horror asks the highest amount of suspension of disbelief from a reader, so if a tale ropes someone in, it is the mark of a talented storyteller.

What is the title of your next story and what will it be about?

Working on several projects. Closing circles as I like to call it.  Just finished a short for The Syndicate’s next Adventures in Arcaneanthology, and I am tinkering with a few more for Transmundane Press.  I have two books planned for this year, a collection of absurdist vignettes called A Grin Without a Catand then a collection of my horror shorts called Ossuary Tales.  Next year, two novels: zombies and a book examining what happens after death.

 

From “The Dancing Lilly” by Anthony S. Buoni:

Blazing orange, the sinking sun burned in the eastern sky, setting on the right of downtown’s skyscrapers. A haze blurs the river, and the chemtrail-scarred sky bleeds above the city.

As we cross the canal bridge, Peter’s got his extra claws digging into the steering wheel, sneer revealing his sharp teeth and bad gums. “Damn rats own everything. It’s not right.”

“This again?” I fiddle with the dial, hoping that music will smooth his raised hair. I swear, if Peter doesn’t learn to relax, he’ll stroke out in less than a dozen cycles.

“What do mean, ‘this again’?” Peter accelerates, bringing our transport too close to the ride ahead of us and setting off the dash alarm’s flashing red lights. “Things should be divided evenly between all of us. No one should have any more than anyone else.”

I yawn. I don’t want to grind today. “Doesn’t work. The ancients already tried that, remember?”

“They were uncivilized. We’re different. We’ve evolved.”

“I hardly think that’s true.”

“Believe what you want, we blew it when our leaders signed that treaty. Now the rats have all the money, power, and land, and we’re keeping the wheels turning so that they keep on getting fat. Slavery never went out, it simply morphed into a legal, controlled ideal. You and I…we’re suckers, man.”

I inspect my paws, and one of my nails is chipping. Was there a file in my locker? “Look, if you don’t like it, join the protestors. Hold up a sign and march and chant or something. A treaty is a treaty, and now we have peace. That’s that.”

He could have cut me with his glare. “That is most certainly not that. Those protestors are idiots, blocking traffic and wasting time. I betcha half of them didn’t even vote on Election Day. Then they hit the streets and smash windows. They beg for a free handout, and they have no idea what they really want.”

“I think all they want is respect.”

“No, no, no. That’s not it at all.” Peter’s worked up real good—his fur pokes out of his collar, and his ears point back. “Sure, they go on the Viewdaddy and cry and complain about respect, but what they’re really after is to be feared. They’ve mistaken the one with the other. They’re thirsty for power, to be on top, so they can be the ones calling the shots and making rules. If we lived in a world without rules and boundaries, where commerce could exchange freely between two parties instead of…”

Down below, despite Peter’s daily rant during our commute, three kittens and shoat play along the levee, oblivious to the wicked paths before them. Though I can’t hear their jubilation over Peter’s ravings and the jazz on the wireless, their gleeful expressions give away everything. Part of me nags to jump right out of window and land on the levee and run with them, but the realist, the adult, is louder than their muted fun and says you’ll drown in the canal. Poor kids. In no time, they will all be in the factories—the kittens pushing buttons and the shoat doing all the hard, back-breaking work.

“…Jack? Jack, hello? See, head in the clouds. You gotta stay focused, live in the now.”

“I’m tired. Not feeling the job today.”

“And that’s how we lost everything to the rats. People like you sleeping, not doing your part. You want to play rock and roll star and hang out with your dopey love toy while the world needs real people making real progress.”

“Maybe what the world needs is more dreamers instead of animals trying to fight each other over control.”

Peter shakes his head. “Hippie slacker. El Blanco hears you talking like that, and he’ll piss test you, can ya, then feed you to his rat buddies on Cielo Street. Mark my words, buddy-boy. Mark my words.”

 

 

Having relocated from Northwest Florida’s lonesome roads and haunted swamps, Anthony S. Buoni now prowls the gas lamp lit streets of New Orleans, playing moonlight hide and seek in the Crescent City’s above ground cemeteries. Anthony is the author of Conversation Party, Synchrony, as well as the editor to the Between There anthologies. His stories and articles have been featured in North Florida Noir and Waterfront Living. When not prowling, Anthony keeps it scary, writing dark fiction, editing, and watching horror movies. In his spare time, he DJs, plays music, and conjures other worldly creatures with tarot cards and dreams.

ON FIRE is available now: Amazon, Nook, Kobo, and the Transmundane Press store.

POV: How to Fix Head Hopping

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I had this post requested a while ago, and I couldn’t figure out how to put it into words at first. But as I’ve been writing lessons for a mentoring program I’m working on, I finally figured it out.

So here it goes.

First, head hopping is when we dip into more than one character’s POV in a single scene. This isn’t omniscient POV, but rather a switch between close-third perspectives.

Most editors advise against head-hopping because when we switch mid-scene, we’re not often warned that the change has occurred, and the reader is more likely to grow confused. My argument is that writers should do their best to structure of everything clearly so that the work happens in creating imagery out of language, and the reader can delve into the world instead of staying on the surface to decipher what’s happening and where.

Now, it’s been said that head hopping is more acceptable in romance and erotica because the relationship is more important than the characters individually. It helps increase tension to have access to both of their thoughts.

Do I write my romance/erotic fiction this way? No. I’m not convinced. I have seen romance writers do this successfully, like Sherrilyn Kenyon does in her Dark Hunter series, but overall, I’m not a fan of it. It confuses me too often, and I have a harder time connecting with a particular character.

So, with that out of the way, let’s talk about how we identify head hopping.

The best way to identify is to categorize, or color code, a first draft. It’s easiest to do this to a first draft so that you don’t waste time making the parts you cut and have to redraft pretty.

You can color code on a printed copy or in your word processer. Simply section highlight the parts of the story that dip into a character’s POV. This will be their internal thoughts/dialogue, the analysis of the scene or characters, and their opinions of/reactions to what’s happening in the story.

Here’s an example:

Jennifer rushed into the room, adrenaline numbing her legs and burning her lungs. The giant’s destructive footsteps didn’t shake this far into the farmland, yet.

Her hair fell from her ponytail as she swung the door closed and grabbed for everything she thought might be valuable on the move.

Frank didn’t know yet, that a giant fell from a beanstalk that’d grown overnight on the other side of the city, so he shook his head and poured another cup of coffee. What is she looking for?

Note how we’ve gone from inside of Jennifer—as she’s the only one who knows about the giant—to inside of Frank, who doesn’t understand why she’s rummaging through their stuff. There are several places where small tweaks can keep this in Jennifer’s POV.

Jennifer rushed into the room, adrenaline numbing her legs and burning her lungs. The giant’s destructive footsteps didn’t shake this far into the farmland, yet.

Her hair fell from her ponytail, teasing the corners of her eyes, as she swung the door closed and grabbed for everything that might be valuable on the move.

A giant fell from a beanstalk that’d grown overnight on the other side of the city.

Frank, her husband, shook his head and poured a cup of coffee in the small, attached kitchen. “What are you looking for?”

In this version, no one needs to tell us that Frank doesn’t know about the giant, we can see that he doesn’t by his external reaction to her. The rest is a reflection of Jennifer’s reaction to her situation: she saw the giant; she’s freaked out; she’s searching; she places who Frank is for us; and she hears him ask the question.

This creates clarity for the reader to experience the situation rather than being told about it, another reason to stay in POV. Readers like to put the pieces together because they’re smart.

Another clue of a POV shift is description. If the character is describing themselves physically, we’ve shifted out of their POV. The camera-effect shifts us into the omniscient perspective. We can’t see ourselves, except in mirrors, and that’s often a cliché technique.

This may be a pesky task the first few times you try it, but seeing a draft in colors rather than chapters helps separate us from the story to see its parts.

Once you have the whole thing color-coded—or the parts you’ve identified as problematic—see what color is most present in the scene/chapter. That’s likely the POV character for that scene and the rest should shift to his or her perspective. Some of it may not make it. If it’s an important detail, find another way to include it—dialogue, a new scene in the other character’s POV, some prop that can provide the information needed.

Sometimes, all you need to do is split a scene in two and allow more than one character to describe what’s going on and fill in the gaps. I often like the tension that comes in a mid-scene cut to the other perspective. It’s a nice trick to use every now and again.

Well, there’s my opinion and advice.

How do you identify and/or fix head hopping? When do you feel like it works or doesn’t work? Got any questions? Let me know in the comments below.

Kevin Holton, a Featured Spotlight

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If you haven’t heard of the On Fire anthology, this mini-interview and excerpt series will showcase the amazing authors I get to work with and their writing. Meet Kevin Holton.

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How long have you been writing?

Oh, man, what counts as writing? I knew I wanted to be a writer when I was eight or nine. I joined an online community at fourteen and started putting things up for the web to see, winning little awards and contests along the way. I didn’t get actually published until nineteen. So… a couple years? Ten? Keep that in mind, kiddos—I just got my first novel picked up, ten years after I started writing.

What are the genre(s) of the stories you write and why?

Generally, horror and science-fiction. I just can’t get behind normal literary fiction. Books like One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest at least hold my interest because it’s about mental illness, but The Great Gatsby? The Catcher in the Rye? Maybe I’m a bad English major, but I couldn’t stand those books. If you’re going to moan about a lost love for two-hundred pages, at least tell me you’re a cyborg, or that she’s a demon, or something.

How do you deal with writer’s block?

I might be weird for this, but I sometimes feel like writer’s block is your subconscious saying, Hey, buddy, the story doesn’t go this way. Usually, I’ll take a step back and realize a particular person is acting way out of character, or an event doesn’t make sense, then I revise and continue.

 

From “The One Who Burns” by Kevin Holton:

The way light fell across the decaying furniture made me uneasy. Or the fact that such a huge place now stood empty gave me the chills, since it clearly used to hold a lot of people at once. Either way, I backed up and unlocked the door, opening it for Celine. The locks were rusty, but nothing a little force couldn’t fix.

“Woah, look at this place.” Captivated, her voice took on the same distant, dreaming tone it always did, the already soft timber of her voice could’ve been mistaken for a cloud, and her looks matched. Sky-blue eyes and smooth, curving features that hid her cheekbones despite her relatively active lifestyle gave her an appearance years younger than most would’ve guessed. You’d think wandering around dark, abandoned places in search of ghosts might give her a haunted look, with gaunt cheeks and sunken eyes, but if anything, our adventures in the night made her shine.

“Yeah, it’s got one of those crazy staircases.” I pointed, and she followed my finger as we traced it up. There was a spiral part on both sides, leading up to the third floor. Overhead, a balcony allowed people to look down at the rest of the room.

She took out two high-powered flashlights and clicked them on, handing me one. The art on the walls showed people farming. In the center, on the floor, was a tile mosaic of the sun.

“Think they got it backwards,” I laughed. “Sun’s supposed to be overhead, you know?”

Celine shrugged. “The Cavanaughs were supposedly one of the founders of this town. Helped build the area up from nothing to a huge farming community, then into millwork and smithing and other production.”

“Supposedly?” I probed, mostly for our viewers’ benefit.

Taking the cue, she said, “There’s no record of them in the town’s founding charters, but other people clearly knew them. Some scattered letters suggest the last in the Cavanaugh line was Alexia, who took over all her family’s businesses when they all succumbed to disease. But, she was a woman in charge, who’d claimed her power through her family’s untimely death. The Salem Witch Trials were going on around that time…so you can probably guess what happened.”

“Stake through the heart?” I was never one for history. Ivy’s Path was only twenty miles from Salem, but I didn’t know jack shit about the trials.

“No, that’s vampires. She was burned at the stake. Alive. But legend says she didn’t scream, or shout, or plead for mercy. Alexia looked out at her accusers and said, ‘My family saved you all! We scorched away the forests to make way for fields. We provided kindling for your hearths to cook your meals and warm your bones. We lit the flames in your forges. We have created and destroyed, in equal measure, to provide for you, and yet, this is how you repay the last of our line? Burning me for being a witch? Carry on, then! I am fire. I will always burn.’ Then she smiled as the fire consumed her.”

“Badass.”

 

 

Kevin Holton‘s short fiction and poetry have been published with The Literary Hatchet, HellBound Books, Thunderdome Press, Radiant Crown Publishing, Mighty Quill Books, and many others. A short film he co-wrote, Human Report, is under production, and his novels The Nightmare King and At the Hands of Madness are being published by Siren’s Call Publications and Severed Press, respectively. When not writing, he’s an actor, athlete, and professor who can probably be found drinking coffee or talking about comic books.

ON FIRE is available now: AmazonNookKobo, and our press store.

Did You Know? An Ethology Lesson on Demis.

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In the spirit of exploring more of Lily Grave’s world, I combined three like creatures—the Nephilim, the Demi-Demon, and the Demi-God. Essentially, demi means half-human.

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First, the Nephilim. Their angelic side comes in the form of a selfless hero—large and rare with unusual traits. One can typically spot a Nephilim by their wide eyes, stiff postures, and hard-to-read expressions. They are often impassioned, cunning, and have hyper-active minds, like Lily.

This gives them an uncanny understanding of the world, life, and death.

Some Nephilim become Necromancers because of their strange connection with ghosts. Others have strong influencing energies. Lily has her mother, Lucifer’s, rare ability. Her glowing hair can make her radiant or terrifying, and she can generally make people uncomfortable by thinking too hard.

Originally, these half-angel/half-humans were seen as unholy monsters and were eradicated by God.

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“Half-Demon” by Venlian

Second, the Demi-Demons. They cannot mind control, like demons but rarely, and they cannot inhabit others. They are attracted to fire and are more in-touch with their primal temptations. They are, however, manipulative and have various natural abilities, like telekinesis, elemental control, hard/tough skin, and visions, etc.

Although most Demi-Demons are larger in stature, there are no specific physical traits that help one identify a half-demon, as they range the same variance as their parents.

Some Demi-Demon creatures have their own subcategories, like the cambion, birthed from an incubus or succubus.

More than anything, a Demi-Demon craves chaos.

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Finally, the Demi-God. Similar to the Nephilim, these creatures are often idolized as heroic figures. They have immense strength and power, typically come from high-ranking families and are expected to have good behavior. However, they are open to the entire range of supernatural predispositions.

They gain their powers from their parentage, like agility, invulnerability, healing, immortality, teleportation, and space-time manipulation. Yet their god-powers are fickle.

As the forgotten children, they’re prone to having an inadequacy complex. This often stems from their lack of knowledge about their parentage until they come into their own powers.

In some texts, signs of being a Demi-God might be the combination of having ADHD, Dyslexia, communicating with animals, and prophecies filled with doom—looking at you Rick Riordan.

 

Stay tuned for more mini-ethology lessons from Lily Graves’s world and sign up for an ARC of the first in her series, GIRL WITH THE GLOWING HAIR.

Sarah Lyn Eaton, a Featured Spotlight

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If you haven’t heard of the On Fire anthology, this mini-interview and excerpt series will showcase the amazing authors I get to work with and their writing. Meet Sarah Lyn Eaton.

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How long have you been writing?

I wrote my first story when I was nine. I illustrated it and everything. Doesn’t everyone say that? It’s true. But I’ve been seriously pursuing writing for the last four years. I set a list of goals for myself, to keep me on task. I’ve been sending out submissions regularly… I don’t know how regular, but I always have submissions out to publishers. It’s a way of making what was a hobby into a career. If I get too many rejections and there are only a few stories with people, I get itchy. If no one’s reading my work, I can’t get published, can I?

What did you edit out of “The Last Seven Tribes of the Ketchari”?

A lot of passive voice. Not that passive voice is a bad thing. It can be done well. But when it’s (mostly) not, it makes for an interesting but dull story. In real life, I am a fairly take-things-as-they-come person. But for a good story, you want your protagonist to have agency and curiosity that gets them into situations they then have to get out of. I’m working on leading with agency and not storytelling. I was taught description, description, description but most of the feedback I get says it’s too much for a short story and it’s getting in the way of the pace. We continually grow as writers, and I can finally see it in my drafts. I look forward to the day I catch most of it on my own.

What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?

The most difficult part of my artistic process is that all-or-nothing feeling. Either I have five stories in my mind fighting for dominance over my fingers or I can’t drum up one interesting character. Sometimes I know a passage is not ready yet, that it doesn’t quite say what I want it to say and I can spend hours on one sentence—the lynchpin sentence—just to make it what I want it to be. What it needs to be. It can look quite obsessive, I’m sure, when I am yelling at the thesaurus for failing me. But I follow my gut. It hasn’t failed me yet.

 

From “The Last Seven Tribes of the Ketchari” by Sarah Lyn Eaton:

The Old Ones stretched themselves in creaks and groans to protect Rochelle’s flight. She ran with long, practiced strides, gaining distance from the hunters.

Birch dryads flung splintered arms at the men, bowling and pinning them to the ground. Roots snapped, tripping the hounds and their masters. In a wave, the grove stepped out of Rochelle’s path, setting themselves between predator and prey.

A scream pierced the air. Rochelle stumbled. Her heart froze.

Marta.

A thin whistle in the crisp cold night. A burning sting sliced her shoulder. She fell against a young sapling, her cheek pressed against the snow. The birch curled itself low to shield her from sight.

Frightened, they both held their breath.

The forest filled with hounds and human cries and crackling flames, a cacophonous chorus shearing the night.

The dryads. They’re dying. She ran a hand down it’s trunk. The wood trembled.

I can fix it.

“I’m sorry. Hawthberskielth. Gruttberski—”

A sharp steel blade tore through the root. She screamed as thick fingers grabbed her mouth.

“Now, now. You went to all the trouble to wake the wooden bastards.” A dark face replaced the axe.

The tree above her shivered.

The hunter twisted the arrow she’d caught, grinding it into her shoulder. Biting back a yelp, her teeth drew warm blood.

“A shame to put them back to sleep before they fully experience life.”

“They’re going to die,” she said.

“See what destruction your magic has wrought? Isn’t it beautiful?”

The axe chopped through the wood twice more, raining splinters against her skin.

They dragged her out by her hair.

The bottom of the arrow scraped a sharp root, and she lost a moment to a blinding light of pain. Her breath came in uneasy gulps.

“It was sweet of this tree to protect you, but the trail of blood gave you away.” He dropped her and swung hard, imbedding the axe deep in the birch’s trunk.

Rochelle gasped at the stitch in her own side.

“Check her.”

Twelve scarred hunters and two wolfhounds paced the forest. A bald man with pocked cheeks pushed her over and ripped her tunic, exposing her back. The men nodded at each other triumphantly.

“We got ourselves a winner, Nico.”

Rochelle’s skin crawled at the violation. The tattooed feathers on each shoulder blade were gifts after the grueling Ketchari rites of passages.

And strangers groped them.

Her nostrils flared.

Nico lifted her chin with a calloused hand. His ice-blue eyes assessed her like a trophy—another kill. He hacked off a handful of her hair.

Rochelle’s heart wavered as he held it out to the other men. The hazy sky heavy with smoke and the sounds of genocide.

“I think this one is the leader. Her feathers are more elaborate than the others.”

Rochelle ducked her head and winced at the pain.

Oh, right. There’s an arrow in my shoulder.

How many got away?

Did any of them escape?

Dark bitterness filled her mouth.

Nico set her ebony hair on fire.

It flared bright but did not turn to ash. The black color burned away, revealing a brilliant clutch of red hair, which shimmered like fine gems.

Nico’s demented smile chilled her deeply.

 

Sarah Lyn Eaton is a writer who has survived both flood and fire. She lives with her wife and cats where the Susquehanna and Chenango Rivers meet. Her published stories can be found in Pantheon Magazine, as well as the anthologies Dystopia Utopia, Fracture: Essays, Poems, and Stories on Fracking in America, The Northlore Series, Volume One: Folklore, What Follows, and Elf Love. When not writing she can be found taking photos of fungus, collecting rock specimens, and mediating an end to the cucumber and bean plant turf war in her garden.

ON FIRE is available now: Amazon, Nook, Kobo, and our press store.

Did You Know…? An Ethology Lesson on Angels & Demons.

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With the impending end to my new book looming, I wanted to widen my spread on paranormal creatures to the thirteen main creature categories in my new YA world for THE LILY GRAVES SERIES.

 

According to the Ethology textbook Lily studies in GIRL WITH THE GLOWING HAIR, “angels are bred of silence to go unnoticed as they influence the world. They whisper those words in the back of your consciousness. Angelic communities teach their young to dance as they walk to learn the grace of the world.

Some more powerful angels can all but disappear at will.”

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Seen as the warriors of god and the agents of fate, which is true across several texts, they branch out to several interpretations—like, the “sons of God,” the fallen angels who mated with human women and resulted in the unnatural Nephilim; the jinn or genies take the role of angels and demons in ability to be commanded and lack of physical form; and the cherub, who is the closest to god, serving him directly rather than being a messenger, they guard the Tree of Life—pretty far from the small, child-like depictions that litter our culture come February.

But overall, they’re known to drive peace and perform “miracles” because of their invisible nature.

 

See Demon.

“The counterpart of the angelic community, born demons are trained to openly and discreetly police the wayward via physical prowess and observational testing. They often don’t need to communicate verbally as their thoughts manifest reactions in those around them.”

Most demons can possess a human host, or they need to in order to walk in Earth’s physical realm; however, possession is different for Lily’s demon friends. They have to be close, using mind control rather than embodiment of another being. Only strong demons can enter someone else.

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“This is the other side of the demon—the use of intimidation, formation of gangs, and being violent for violence’s sake.” Many of them grow old and bored, leading to some interesting results, like the search for alchemical immortality, the widespread torture of humanity, and of course, frequent cross-breeding with humans.

Demons are often depicted as evil in other texts. In fact, Lilith (Lily’s namesake) was the first demon, corrupted by the fallen archangel Lucifer. In Greek, daimon means intelligent, and they were seen as Satan’s personal army. Persian mythology depicted daevas as the personifications of evil, destruction, and disorder.

Overall, demons hold tight onto their stereotypical manipulation tactics, whether for good or evil, but most still continue to serve GOD in the ways best fit for them.

 

 

Stay tuned for more mini-ethology lessons from Lily Graves’s world and sign up for an ARC of the first in her series.