Communication Skills – 4

Story telling


Of all the points in this dating discussion, next week’s and this week’s are two where I’m above average.

Oh yeah, I can tell a story. Sixteen long years as a night desk clerk at four motels, I’ve collected scores of stories. Living in an apartment house with a revolving door of criminal tenants (including the landlord), still more. Vacations, odd jobs, family, Uber passengers…where would you like to begin?

Stories can be humorous, serious, but like the written word, should have a beginning, a bit of conflict, a resolution, and an ending.

Apply the K.I.S.S. principle with the first S standing for Simple but also can stand for Short. Don’t run on and on to where the other person is bored. Hit the high points, finish strong, and leave him/her interested in another.

With the lady I’m thinking about, I could do that. With friends and family, story telling is no problem. My fear is telling a story to this woman would sound like a ten year old boy talking about catching frogs by the muddy lake shore.

I think it would be okay once that initial ice breaker is breached. Nerves wouldn’t be as on edge but my next concern would be how not to lose the conversation…and knowing when to end it and, yes, make on invitation for a future one.

Are you good at story telling? Yes, authors, I know you are, but what about the verbal anecdotes or, “Let me tell you what this guy did last weekend…”

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Communication Skills – 3

Small Talk


Last week’s topic, but a quirk of coincidences, leads into this week’s.

Making friends first, discussing interests.

The third point sent to me suggested having a small talk script. I don’t exactly what it means, but I might venture that having two or three pieces of information to make about topics helps avoid a long silence while struggling for something to say that doesn’t sound like you’re struggling for something to say. Or avoiding the opposite, where you’re rambling and babbling the topic to exhaustion.

In my self defense courses, I urge the women to have two or three options for a given situation. If the first doesn’t work or isn’t effective enough, instantly switch to something else.

This might work with small talk. Have a few points and see in which direction the conversation is heading and choose one point that seems the best. If the opportunity presents itself, bring up another.

Sometimes you have to think fast on your feet. The talk may veer into an area about which you’re clueless. What then?

This one is easy because I do this a lot. Ask questions. This is actually Dating Point #5 to be posted at a later date. However, nothing says this series of topics can’t cross over into each other’s territory…and probably should.

Back to scripts. Don’t have a cheat sheet. Be intelligent, practice speaking and memorize your points to the point they don’t sound memorized, but have a natural flow.

With my potential date, I would have no problem listening and asking questions. The few times I’ve been able to make my contributions, I hope I haven’t sounded like a dork asking the cheerleader he favorite ice cream flavor.

Have you tried this? We authors have our speeches prepared for presentations and answers for interviews, but what about with a person of the opposite sex for whom you’d like to know better, say at a Cubs game preceded by dinner?

Who knows, she might go for that.

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Communication Skills – 2

Unnecessary talk


We’re delving into the dating dilemma – how to better go about my getting one.

Of course, the most talked about way is to make a friend first, then see where it goes. Find common ground, interests, etc.

When the time comes to ask for an evening out, I’ve read where it is goo to start with an opening, an observation, then ease into the actual invitation. If you see she likes coffee, mention that you heard there was a shop you’ve been meaning to visit…would you…

Since I don’t like coffee, that specific scenario is out…maybe.

Anyway, my point is, get to the point. Don’t ramble on with talk that won’t go anywhere. I’m not going to set a word or time limit, but referencing last week’s post, watch her body language, her willingness to continuing conversing.

Get in, say a few words, then ask.

The problem for me is that common ground. There is a specific woman I’d like to date, but she and I work in different departments, one opposite sides of the building. We’ve spoken one on one on one maybe a total of four times. About business.

Say that I pluck up the nerve to talk to her…what about? By starting any conversation, do I risk revealing myself? Would that be a bad thing?

I don’t know. What are thoughts on small talk?

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Communication Skills – 1

Body Language


Now that I have a day job (well, actually early morning to middle/late afternoon job, thank you overtime) I’ve been I’ve been spending many evenings and weekends out on the town. I’ve noticed (and how could I not) the plethora of attractive women in this here capital burg. More specifically, the number of them at my place of employment.

Do I approach any for a date? Are you kidding me? Why not, you ask? Because I’m petrified when it comes to women. Think I’m joking? Think again. Even striking up an innocent conversation requires me to psych myself up.

I can talk to a crowd about my books and writing. I can instruction children and adults in self defense techniques. Talking to a pretty lady – I’m stricken silent.

So, I’m thinking about one particular woman and trying to figure out how to talk to her on any of the rare occasions I see her. Early in July, I received a company wide email listing ten points for better communication. I thought I’d write a series of blogs from the point of view of writing and authors. Speaking at conferences, authors fairs, and the like, but decided to make it more personal, open up and expose myself (uh, figuratively of course) and see if writing might help me (and maybe others with a similar problem) to find a way through that wall. I had hoped to have a ten week block where I could run these sequentially, but they may be interrupted by one of those pesky authors. But I’ll do the best I can.

Before I discuss the first point, let me say that I have broken through a few times. The number of rejections vastly outnumber the successes. I definitely need to start balancing out the scale.

First up is a good one for beginning the discussion: Body Language.

How often do I tell the women in the self defense classes not to ‘look like a victim’? Stand up straight, shoulders back, head up, eyes looking at the surroundings. Walk confident, with a purpose. Don’t withdraw, cur up, head and eyes down or shrink away.

But that’s what I do when she enters the room. I look down, physically feel myself withdraw inside.

I think the first impression is expression. So, I’ve been working on entering new places where there are people with whom I might converse with a smile on my face. Arms uncrossed, open, ready for a handshake. When she walks by, I’m ready with a smile.

Crossed arms or a frown are turnoffs. They tell people to leave you alone. They give off a defensive attitude and when I’m looking for a night at the jazz concert followed by dinner, defense is not how to play.

Think about how you stand, where you put your hands (in pants pockets or on hips, near your face), your posture when standing or sitting. What is your expression? Are you looking down or do you look ’em in the eye?

Confidence is key in body language. The correct projected attitude goes a long way.

So, your homework assignment-and mine-is to practice proper and beneficial body language. Let me know how it works.

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Sarafina’s Visit

sarafina shot reducedThis morning when I sit down to my computer, I wonder, as I do often, what to post for this week. Last week I was at Killer Nashville and enjoyed my vacation and meeting some wonderful people.

Then…the knock on the door.

“Ignore it,” I think and whoever it is will go away.

Another knock. I get up and answer…and wish I would have followed my first thought. But…on second thought, who knows what would have happened had I ignored a voodoo priestess? Oh my!

Anyway, I back away slowly and let her have control of the keyboard. I just hope it’s not hexed.

Voodoo Child Banner 851 x 315The Voodoo Priestess Sarafina is one of the main characters in Voodoo Child, Book One: Zombie Uprising. Here she shares an entry from her personal journal, dated just before the book’s events transpired.

The Private Journals of Sarafina: Voodoo Priestess

My name is Sarafina, and like my ancestors I am a Voodoo priestess, or, to use the proper term, a mambo. Each day I strive to follow my ancestors’ teachings and honor their memories. Our beliefs probably seem very strange to you, so I will try to explain them and help you understand.

When you think of Voodoo you probably picture barbaric pagans, dancing wildly while sacrificing chickens to strange, frightening spirits. On the surface some of this is true. I myself have sacrificed many chickens and goats, but I’m as skilled with a knife as any butcher so they do not suffer. These animals’ lives are not wasted because we dine on them after the ritual. My chicken stew is considered the highlight of any gathering. Do you still think we’re savages? Sarafina has seen your massive factory farms where chickens are raised and slaughtered. I would never subject a living creature to such cruelty. I suppose the truth is in the eye of the beholder.

We believe there is only one god, called Bondye, so we are not pagans. We symbolize god as a rainbow, and the earth as a serpent, and man dwells between the serpent and the rainbow. I believe this phrase was used as the title of an adequate book, which became a very silly movie.

God (or Bondye) is very busy providing you with air to breathe and rich soil in which to grow food and does not have time to listen to your pleas for modern luxuries like a new donkey or a bicycle. But God created the multitude of Voodoo spirits (or loa) as agents to communicate with humanity. If you were a Catholic you might call them saints. 

But these spirits are no saints; they smoke, curse, drink, dance and even have affairs—our beloved Baron Samedi does all of them! Because of these character flaws they are willing to forgive our human shortcomings. Are you beginning to see how pragmatic we Voodoo followers are? Did you know there are over fifty million of us?

The origin of Voodoo is a long journey, but sadly it was not a journey we chose to make.

Centuries ago, white merchants explored the islands of the Caribbean where they found vast fertile lands where sugar and coffee could grow in abundance. Deeming these islands to be a gift from God, they slaughtered the natives and conquered the land.

After that conquest they needed new workers to grow and harvest their bounty. And so they reached out to Africa, where my ancestors were taken as slaves and forced to work the fields, growing sugar and coffee under the hellish tropical sun. Over half of these slaves died from disease, starvation and brutality but for only a few pieces of silver they were replaced with new captives.

The only thing my ancestors carried from their homeland was their beliefs, a rich tapestry of unwritten religions honoring nature and the spirits of the earth. The slave masters declared our beloved spirits blasphemous and forced the slaves to worship a new Christian god. But my ancestors questioned how these white slave masters could worship a god who preached about love and mercy while showing no such love or mercy to their slaves. My ancestors got around this problem through syncretism; substituting the image of a Catholic saint for one of our spirits. So when slaves honored Baron Samedi, the spirit of the dead, they would use a statue of Saint Martin de Porres. To this day, many Voodoo and Santeria altars include statues of Catholic saints.

So my ancestors secretly clung to their old beliefs, and over time the African tribal religions merged into one rich spiritual tapestry. This blend of faiths was given the African name Voodoo, meaning spirit.

The practice of Voodoo fostered hope and courage among the slaves. But our secret ceremonies did something more. They quietly harnessed centuries of pent up rage and turned that anger into power. On the island of Fantomas Voodoo believers cried out, “No more!” and united to take revenge on the slave masters. Of course, the Voodoo spirits approved and used their powers to aid them. How else could shoeless men and women armed with farming tools have driven out the mighty empires of France and Spain?

These newly freed people continued to practice Voodoo in their secluded island world. It is a blessed land where past, present, magic and reality walk hand in hand.

Most Voodoo priests including my ancestors chose the path of light, spreading love and hope among their people. But there were other priests, known as bokors, who chose the path of darkness, evoking the dreaded Baron Kriminel to inflict pain and death on the innocent. For centuries these two opposing forces fought a silent battle for the souls of the people until the powers of light banished the bokors into hiding. Let us pray they do not return.

Unfortunately Sarafina the bokors and Baron Kriminel do return with terrifying consequences in the new book Voodoo Child, Book One: Zombie Uprising. Available on Amazon.

CoverZombie Uprising

Voodoo Child

Book One

William Burke

Genre: Horror/paranormal with Action/adventure

Publisher: William Burke

Date of Publication: June 17th 2016


Number of pages: 333

Word Count: 96,000

Cover Artist: Deranged Doctor

Book Description:

The forces of darkness are out to destroy mankind… Too bad they never reckoned on facing Maggie Child!

Army chopper pilot Maggie Child has a reputation for being fearless, professional and, above all, rational. But when she’s shot down over Iraq her well-ordered life spirals into a paranormal nightmare. Alone, wounded and surrounded by hostile forces, Maggie is rescued from certain death by a demon straight out of Dante’s Inferno. Then, barely alive, she’s abducted by a private military corporation conducting insidious medical experiments. Her escape from their covert hellhole lands her on a Caribbean island where an evil voodoo spirit and a psychotic female dictator are conspiring to unleash an apocalyptic zombie plague. Then she uncovers the most terrifying secret of all—her own destiny. It seems a Voodoo oracle has ordained her the only warrior capable of saving humanity from a supernatural Armageddon … whether she wants the job or not!

But saving the world isn’t a one-woman job, so she teams up with a trio of unlikely heroes—a conspiracy obsessed marijuana smuggler, a Voodoo priestess with an appetite for reality television, and a burnt out ex-mercenary. Together, they’ll take on an army of the walking dead, with the fate of humanity resting in their eccentric hands.

Voodoo Child, Book One: Zombie Uprising is the first novel in a new horror series packed with supernatural thrills, rousing adventure, dark humor, Voodoo lore and plenty of zombie stomping action. But a word of warning; don’t shoot these zombies in the head … because that just makes them mad!

It’s the legions of hell versus Maggie Child … and hell doesn’t have a prayer!

Book Trailer:

Voodoo Child, Book One: Zombie Uprising by William Burke is a fast-paced horror novel with quirky characters…Reviewed by Kim Anisi for Readers’ Favorite

William BurkeAbout the Author:

After two years of ghostwriting, William Burke has released his first novel VOODOO CHILD, Book One: Zombie Uprising. It’s the first installment of a new horror series chronicling the exploits of Maggie Child and her Voodoo priestess partner Sarafina as they battle to save the island of Fantomas from the wrath of evil Voodoo spirits.

The author was raised on a diet of late night creature features, comic books, Mad magazines and horror stories. As a result every volume will be packed with eccentric characters, dark humor, chills, zombies, ghosts, monsters, military hardware and plenty of stuff blowing up.

Prior to writing Voodoo Child he was the creator and director of the Destination America television series Hauntings and Horrors. He has also written scripts for two Cinemax television series, Forbidden Science and Lingerie, which he also produced. He has also written magazine pieces for Fangoria and the Phantom of the Movies Videoscope among others.

William began his film and television career as a perfectly respectable video engineer at the venerable United Nations. Budget cuts shifted him to becoming a production manager and assistant director on an array of New York based indie films. With that experience under his belt he relocated to Los Angeles where he eventually produced sixteen feature films and two television series for the Playboy Entertainment Group. After years of producing T&A extravaganzas, kickboxing epics and gangster rap videos, he created a self financed television pilot entitled American Mystery Tour. Canada’s CTV picked up the series under the title Creepy Canada, which was then re-titled Hauntings and Horrors in the USA. Since then he has successfully produced three series for HBO/Cinemax as well as documentaries and other … stuff.

After hundreds of hours of film and television production he is basking in the freedom of the written word, where small budgets and giant egos are only memories. He lives in Toronto.

If you enjoyed the first adventure please visit where you’ll find lots of interesting information about Voodoo and military hardware, along with excerpts from Sarafina’s personal diary AND, as a gift to readers, the author will be serializing a prequel novella

Author interview video:

Author interview and book trailer video:


Tour Giveaway

4 $10 Amazon eGift Cards

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Adult Truth #22

#22Sometimes I’ll look down at my watch 3 consecutive times and still not know what time it is.”

Why does this happen to us? Because we’re really not paying attention in the first place.

I have a difficult time remembering names. I see familiar faces but names escape me. However, after listening to a short audio book giving tips to landing a second job interview I made a goal that I would endeavor to remember people’s names.

Not knowing names is not good for authors. Now, I’m not saying you have to remember every fan wanting an autograph. If you say hello to a person buying your book at a library appearance and six years later that same person greets you on the street, I don’t expect you to remember his name even though he’ll know you. However, if you’re at a conference and are schmoozing with agents / publishers, you might want to lock those names in place for future reference.

When you’re introduced, repeat the other person’s name to yourself three times. Then make sure when talking with that person to repeat the name. “So, Bob, could you explain the whale blubber diet you mentioned earlier?”

Another trick is to relate the person’s name to something pertaining to that individual. For example: Bob. He’s into whale blubber. Whales are big fish. (Yeah, I know, whales are mammals, but work with me here, folks.) To go fishing you need a BOBber.

Or, maybe the guy is bald and his head looks like the white part of a bobber. (or the red part if he’s sunburned.)

Remembering names is important with the industry where I’m working at the time of this writing. (By post time, who knows? Long sordid story, not worth getting into now.) With hospitality, getting to know the names of regular guests is good customer service. Knowing their routine is also beneficial. For instance, I have a few customers for whom I try to have their receipt ready by the time they come down to check out. I’ve learned to recognize a few names when guests call to book a reservation. There was a crew of inventory takers a few years ago for whom I had to prepare a large breakfast because they snarfed it up like a swarm of locusts on a cornfield.

Much of remembering names is focus and, as I mentioned above, paying attention in the first place. You have to make a conscious decision to remember. Don’t overestimate your mind. Don’t think you’ll remember later. You may not. Temporary short term memory loss can be a critical situation.

Of course I don’t need to mention (but will anyway because I need to fill space), to smile, have a pleasant tone, and even have a few questions (standard though they may be) ready if you find you have a few minutes with a person. I enjoy speaking with foreigners (and I don’t mean people from California. Sorry, Sunny. Lol) I’m from Iowa. Corn, soybeans, hogs. Pretty blasé unless you’ve never seen a gazillion acres of corn or smelled the ripe odor of a confinement pen. My opportunity for travel has so far been limited to a few weeks between semesters in college when I traveled to Mexico. So when I hear an accent that isn’t Midwestern twang I take a second listen and look. I’m interested in other cultures and if people are willing to discuss their homeland, I’ll listen and ask questions. I may even do this for folks from other parts of America.

Just a side note: if you’re an attractive woman from the United Kingdom or were born and raised south of the Mason-Dixon line, and you speak to me…oh my! Those accents drive me crazy in a good way. In fact, I’ll forget the guy from North Dakota who buys all my books and wants a picture with me if the Southern belle or the Britisher will spend fifteen minutes just talking to me. Okay, make it thirty. I probably wouldn’t care about the topic. You could wax philosophical about the whale blubber diet and my ears will be in rapturous delight at your voice.

Anyway, where was I? Sorry, I was conjuring up a scenario where I’m happily stuck between an Irish lass and a Georgia Peach.


People are happy when you remember their names. They show you more respect and courtesy. If you need one, keep a notebook or carry their business cards. The worst thing I can do is re-visit a place where I’m trying to make an impression and have to say to the receptionist, “Uh, yeah, I was here two weeks ago and I spoke to, uh, somebody in the promotions department. I can’t recall who she was…”

I’ve instantly lost points.

…and I still don’t know what time it is.

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Bad Reviews

bad-reviewThis morning I turn over the coveted blog to another author who wants to discuss the dreaded REVIEW. As you know, I am also a book reviewer. If you’re interested in seeing my opinion on a variety of books, please visit Yes, I’ve given reviews that rate books as poor quality. But, I don’t ‘trash’ the book or the author. I try to remain professional and point out errors, weaknesses, and strengths. Anyway, this morning isn’t for me to ramble on. Time for this week’s guest post.


Cold Hearted Button 300 x 225

Handling Bad Reviews

Hey folks, my name is James A. Hunter and I’m an Urban Fantasy writer, not that you’ll catch me making that confession in public. I’m the author of the Golem Chronicles—a series starring a dysfunctional, socially awkward, vigilante, shapeshifting golem—and the Yancy Lazarus series, which revolves around the adventures and various shenanigans of Yancy Lazarus, a magical, wet-works man turned rambling blues hound. Today, I’d like to sling some sage advice—come straight from the book-writing word-trenches—about what not to do when you get a negative review.

*Pats knee* “Come on over, Jimmy. I think it’s time we had the talk.”

*Jimmy looks at me, puzzlement painted across his face* “I’m twenty-eight, I don’t need the talk. Also, my name’s Bob, not Jimmy, and I’m not really sure who you are.”

Nonsense, Jimmy, of course you know me. Also, it’s not that talk we need to have, it’s time for the How to Handle Bad Reviews Talk.”

Okay, here’s the thing writerly folks, at some point you’re going to unleash your word child upon the world, and although you love your word baby like an actual baby, not everyone is going to be so smitten. What?!?!? No, you say, surely not my book. Why it’s the best part of every great book ever written. I’ll be hailed as the next Tolkien, you boast. Sadly, that’s probably not the case. Some people aren’t going to like your book—heck, even a lot of people might not like your book. A few might even hate it; they’ll say you should never write another book again for fear your terrible prose may inadvertently usher in the word-apocalypse: Wordocalypse. That’s just one of the hard truths of publishing, and here’s my sage advice on how to handle those reviews.

1.It’s okay for it to hurt.

I’m gonna shoot straight with you: bad reviews hurt, especially as a brand new author. If you’ve written a book, you’ve spent countless hours pouring yourself into that book. I get it. You’ve spent months or even years crafting this thing and then someone comes along, and in two poorly spelled sentences, rips apart all your hard work. Those reviews will hurt and if you don’t have thick skin, then here’s my advice: just don’t read them. I’m at a place now where I can read bad reviews—mostly because I know I have fans who appreciate my work—but in the beginning I just couldn’t do it. Every one star review was like a knife to my soul. If that describes you, then seriously, DON’T READ THEM.

2. It’s okay to rant a little …

It’s okay to rant, but don’t do it publically. Your spouse, significant other, or even a close group of writer peers is a good place to air your frustration over a negative review, especially if you feel the review is really unwarranted. But don’t ever air your opinion in a public forum. Don’t respond to the reviewer. Don’t email them or send them hate mail. Don’t even mention it in passing on your social media. It’s unprofessional and a generally terrible way to respond as an author.

3. Shrug off the ridiculous ones …

Some bad reviews aren’t worth getting upset over. If the reviewer insults you directly, then your book is not the issue, the reviewer is. Probably, they have some other issue that is the root of their hostility, and your book is just an innocent bystander caught in the crosshairs of their emotional turmoil. Either that, or they’re trolls, looking to provoke you. In either case, just shrug off these reviews—and again don’t respond.

4. Learn from the bad reviews

If you are at a place where reading your bad reviews isn’t going to crush the urge to live from your slumped-back writerly body, then you can learn a thing or two. If someone offers a well-articulated and thoughtful critique of your book in the course of a review, it can definitely be beneficial to take their advice to heart. Now bear in mind, not every book is for every person, and that reviewer may not be your target audience—which is totally cool—but their insights might prove useful for future books.

5. Don’t Respond Ever:

Seriously, I can’t stress this enough. Whatever you decide to do, responding should never be an option. At the end of the day, reviews aren’t really even for you. They’re for other readers. When you write a book, you’re making art. When you publish a book, it becomes a product—a product no different from a vacuum or a blender. If someone buys your blender/book, they have the right to say they didn’t like it. If I buy a blender and it sucks, I’m not going to think, Gee, I bet the folks who designed and built this blender really put a lot of effort into it, and that should influence my review. Nope. I’m gonna think, This blender is terrible, I’m going to tell other potential blender buyers why this product wasn’t for me. Please, be a professional and don’t respond. It’s not a smart move and it’s only going to draw additional attention to the bad review, which is exactly what you don’t want.

Good talk, Jimmy. Good talk.”

My name’s still Bob, and my lawyer will be in touch. You have a restraining order coming your way, pal.”

If you have any comments please feel free to leave them. How do you handle bad reviews?


coverCold Hearted: A Yancy Lazarus Novel

The Yancy Lazarus Series

Episode 2

James A. Hunter

Genre: Adult Urban Fantasy

Publisher: Shadow Alley Press

Date of Publication: May 22, 2015

ISBN: 978-1514234266


Number of pages: 415

Word Count: 111,000

Cover Artist: Dane,

Book Description:


Yancy Lazarus is back and facing off against his most dangerous foe yet—without the benefit of his magic. A breakneck thriller that’ll keep you turning the pages!

Sam Witt, Author of Half-Made Girls (Pitchfork County Novels)

Yancy Lazarus just wants to be left alone. He wants to play his blues music, smoke a few cigarettes, and otherwise leave the supernatural world to fend for itself.

He especially wants to be left alone by the Guild of the Staff—the mage ruling body—where he used to work as a Fix-It man. But when a little kid gets nabbed by an ancient Fae creature from the nether regions of Winter and the Guild refuses to set things right, he just can’t seem to heed good sense and leave things be.

Nothing’s ever easy though. Turns out, the kidnapping is just the tip of one big ol’ iceberg of pain and trouble. It seems some nefarious force is working behind the scenes to try and unhinge the tenuous balance between the supernatural nations and usher in a new world order. So now, if Yancy ever hopes to see the bottom of another beer bottle, he’s gonna have to partner up with an FBI agent—an agent who’s been hunting him for years—in order to bring down a nigh-immortal, douchebag mage from a different era. And to top it off, Yancy’s gonna have to pull it off without his magical powers … Boy, some days just aren’t worth getting out of bed for.



The tunnel stretched out before me like the throat of some monstrous serpent, icy blue walls radiating pale witchlight to guide my feet. I shuffled along the winding pathway, trying for speed and failing miserably. There was snow underfoot, but the powder was often interspersed with patches of slick ice, which made the going treacherous as hell. It didn’t help a lick that my feet were so numb I couldn’t feel my toes, even though I had on heavy boots and thermal socks. Every friggin’ step felt like a crapshoot and I wasn’t quite sure how the dice would land.

I heard a howl from somewhere back in the darkness, a warbling noise that echoed and bounced around the narrow tunnel. I glanced back for a moment, which is precisely when my feet skidded out from under me and I went down hard, my ass connecting on the slippery ground below. My hip ached from the tumble, but at least my head landed in a pile of snow instead of on hard ground. I lay there for a moment, staring up at the curved ceiling, simmering in indignation.

Why me? Why couldn’t I ever just keep my head down and mind my own friggin’ business? I felt like kicking my own ass for being such a gullible, softhearted mook. Shit, the least I could do was be a little more selective. Tell people I’d only do them favors if the location was somewhere nice and beautiful … like say, sunny, sandy, not-cold-as-balls Honolulu.

I guess, technically, Thurak-Tir—home to the High Fae of the Winterlands—was a beautiful-ish place, so long as you’re the kind of person who doesn’t mind the arctic tundra of Siberia. The buildings are impressive at least: slick spires of frost, carved and sculpted into a thousand wonders; a house fashioned to resemble a frozen waterfall; a palace made of snow and crystalline-rime in the image of Yggdrasil, the Tree of Life; a tower in the shape of a serpentine neck, complete with scales, topped by a massive dragon’s head. Under the light of day, the whole city sparkles like a diamond, and at night beautiful slashes of green and gold drift through the air, a semi-permanent Aurora Borealis.

But it’s also piss-freezing cold and only beautiful in the way a statue is—lifeless, still, too perfect. And the residents are all the same. Bunch of too-good-for-you, cold-hearted pricks. I absolutely hate Thurak-Tir. Give me a warm New Orleans night in a dirty bar with a crowd of shit-faced hobos any day of the week.

Down in the subterranean caverns below the city, where I happened to be trudging around, was even worse. Monsters, spirits, and a whole lot of frigid air. The light of day never penetrated these depths, so the cold … well, the cold seemed both malevolent and alive, like some frostbite-belching yeti.

More yowls and howls, followed by cackling laughter: Ice gnomes—not nearly as cute or cuddly as they sound—closing in, and fast. Time to move.

I scrambled onto my hands and knees, gaining my feet like a clumsy toddler taking his first steps, and shambled away from the chorus of mocking laughter. Creepy little twerps.

If I was going to make it out of this place in one piece, I needed better lighting. Thankfully, I’ve got something a little handier than a flashlight. I can do magic, and not the cheap stuff you see in Vegas with flowers or floating cards or disappearing stagehands. People like me, who can touch the Vis, can do real magic. Although magic isn’t the right word—magic is a Rube word for those not in-the-know. Users just call it the Vis, an old Latin word meaning force or energy. Simply put, there are energies out there, underlying matter, existence, and in fact, all Creation. It just so happens that I can manipulate that energy. Period. End of story.

I paused for a moment, and opened myself to the Vis. Power rolled into me like magma from an active volcano, heat and life and energy filling me up, sending renewed strength into my limbs. I was careful only to draw a little and push the rest away—unchecked, the Vis can be as seductive and dangerous as a beautiful woman with a grudge.

Weaves of fire and air flowed out around me as I shaped that raw force; a soft nimbus of orange light encircled me, granting both better visibility and a small pocket of comforting warmth. Sure, it would make me stand out like a dirty redneck at a posh country club, but there was nothing I could do about that.

I got moving again, huffing and puffing my way along. More frenzied cries floated toward me from the tunnel twisting away behind. I needed to move faster, but the gloom still hampered my progress, forcing me to slow down and take my time. Even with the combined illumination from my construct and the ghostly witchlight bleeding from the walls, I could only see a few feet out. This was a night place, a dark place that fought the intrusion of light and heat with tooth and nail.

Even going sloth-speed, I almost didn’t see the cliff until my feet were over the edge. I hollered and threw on the brakes in a panic—digging in with my heels and pinwheeling my arms as I fell once more onto my back. I landed with a whuff of expelled air and immediately sprawled out my arms and legs. The greater surface area seemed to slow me down a little, but not enough. My legs skittered over the side, drawing me onward and downward. I clawed at the unyielding ice with numb fingers, my thin winter gloves making it all the more difficult.

I pulled more power, more Vis, into my body, and pushed thin strands of fire out through my fingertips. Small divots blossomed into the ice-covered surface of the floor, little grooves where my digits could find purchase.

Unfortunately my gloves began to smolder from the flame, the leather sending up curls of gray smoke. I ignored the heat—survival was my first priority. I dug in, giving it everything I had, arms and hands straining with the effort.

At last I skidded to a halt, my slide coming to a premature stop though it was a damn close thing. The tension in my arms and hands eased up as I slowly, carefully, pulled my hips and legs back from the drop-off, though my feet still dangled out in the air. Past the drop-off was blackness all the way down with no bottom in sight. Admittedly, the soft glow surrounding my body didn’t do much to diminish the gloom. Hell, the bottom could’ve been ten feet down or ten thousand. Better not to find out by taking a leap.

My heart thudded hard against my ribs. I’m not exactly afraid of heights, mind you, but anyone would be apprehensive about the prospect of careening off a cliff into potentially unending blackness. I took one more glance over the edge and uttered a sigh of relief. Whew. Dodged a bullet there.

I heard a hoot of mirth just a second before something hard and heavy collided into my back—a wallop right between my aching shoulder blades.

My fingers tore free of their meager holds and over the drop-off I went, manic gnome laughter filling my ears as I fell. I tumbled down and down, flipping through the air like a fumbled football. I caught just a brief glimpse of a short, knobby form peering over the edge, his whole stumpy body shaking as he cackled. Asshole gnomes.

I lashed out with air—great columns of the stuff—directed down to slow my descent. That was a start, but the construct wouldn’t keep me from getting impaled on a giant icicle or busting my guts open on a rocky outcropping.

So next, I pulled in strands of artic cold, weaves of spirit and reinforced bands of fae power, floating through the air like so much dust. A shimmering bubble of green—shifting from emerald to pine to jade and back again—snapped into place with an effort of will, encompassing me in a tight globe of power, exerting a slight pressure on my body. A small safeguard against pointy things and an air pocket to cushion my body from the inevitable impact.




About the Author:

Hey all, my name is James Hunter and I’m a writer, among other things. So just a little about me: I’m a former Marine Corps Sergeant, combat veteran, and pirate hunter (seriously). I’m also a member of The Royal Order of the Shellback—’cause that’s a real thing. I’ve also been a missionary and international aid worker in Bangkok, Thailand. And, a space-ship captain, can’t forget that.

Okay … the last one is only in my imagination.

Currently, I’m a stay at home Dad—taking care of my two kids—while also writing full time, making up absurd stories that I hope people will continue to buy. When I’m not working, writing, or spending time with family, I occasionally eat and sleep.

You can visit me to find out more at

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Chapters – IX

C09Although the brochure said that there was a fully equipped kitchen, there was no egg slicer in the drawers.”

Of all the complaints on a vacation, I would think this might be one of the most pathetic. Heavens, how did they manage to survive their stay?

This brings up the topic of adapting to one’s environment, which brings up my employment change and living conditions in 2013.

For those who don’t know let me briefly relate the story: In May of that year my boss called me and said that the motel’s sale, which had been pending for awhile, was finally going to be completed…in four days. I accepted the same position within the company at a motel in Keokuk. I had to pack up and move and find a place to live within two weeks. I managed the first and had to adapt to the second. I ended up in my sister’s camper at a campground forty miles north of Keokuk. I spent the next four and half months in that camper with a three week stay in my parent’s permanent site trailer while working and looking for a place that was financially feasible and accepted cats. Nothing until the middle of October when I accepted a job in Altoona and, once again, had little time to pack and move. I ended up in a place that was worse than the last apartment but only twenty miles from work, easy access to Des Moines, the Knoxville writers group, and Oskaloosa for classes.

Adaptability. You do what needs to be done. The cat didn’t enjoy the move, but settled in fairly quickly with the new environment. We even continued our walks after dark. My only anxious time was when he escaped and wandered around the campground on his own for half an hour. I was afraid he wouldn’t return either because he was lost or grabbed up by some nocturnal predator.

I didn’t enjoy the forty minute drive each way to and from work five or six days a week. Yes, it was four lane for half of it, but that road became pretty long some nights.

I did enjoy the solitude, the quiet. Sure the campground had activity what with other campers and the owners mowing every week. But otherwise, there was no traffic, no sirens, no crowds. I was close enough to Burlington to visit on occasion, close enough to Ft. Madison to find someplace to eat. I had to plan my nights out but no big deal since I’m not a party animal. My parents came down when they could and I loved the summer nights outside with campfires and nobody to cause me grief.

The apartment in Carlisle, as mentioned, is smaller than the one in Oskaloosa, but it has more cupboard space. I do like the easy access to a convenience store, the vet, the ice cream shop, and the football field. Carlisle has a small town feel and is relatively quiet. The neighbors in the apartment all have their eccentricities and, after over a year, the landlord finally evicted the noisy dog upstairs.

It’s not the best, but I’ve adapted and will continue to look for opportunities for something better.

As I always have.

I adapted well when I worked up in Keystone, South Dakota for a summer. I enjoyed so much of that summer. I lived in an old camp office, sharing the building with three, and for awhile, four other guys. I made friends, enjoyed the summer attractions, satiated my wanderlust. Work was not hard, but sometimes the hours were long and the pace was busy. It was a different world but I adapted.

I’ve always resisted change. For instance, I needed a new winter coat. I spent twenty minutes deciding between two. Twenty minutes! This was a minor matter so you can imagine the anxiety I feel when moving to a new job or a new place to live. It’s a case of my losing control of the situation, unsure of the future, of being stranded somewhere, or being alone without assistance.

But I know I have family and friends willing to help. The summer of ’87 I was stranded on the Interstate with a flat tire. A friendly person in the nearest house helped. A few years ago I was stranded east of Carlisle on a mud road on the morning of January 1. A friend came and retrieved me.

I didn’t adapt so well when I was up at Camp Dodge between my junior and senior year of high school for an event where the participants all were ‘elected’ to be in government positions. It was a week long event and I lasted two days before two lengthy nose bleeds sent me home.

Otherwise, I’ve done all right.

How have you adapted to important changes in your life?

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Around The Globe With Sharon Ashwood

VanMusicFesthsrsFor my next featured author I don’t have to transport very far when I pick her up. She wants to stay near home and visit the Vancouver Music Festival. It’s a bit loud to do an interview, but we talk between acts. Smells of pizza and beer drift on the air. People are smiling and having a great time. Let’s talk!



1. Who are you and what makes you the most fascinating person in your city?

I’m a word ninja living a secret life. I look perfectly respectable during daylight hours—paying bills and holding down a normal job—but at night I transmogrify into a dragon-battling, match-making fairy godmother bullying my characters toward a happy ending.

2. Without revealing a deep dark secret (unless you want to), what one thing would people be surprised to learn about you?

At one point in my life, I really wanted to be a Rockette and dance at the Radio City Music Hall. When I finally visited New York, I had a thrill when I saw the neon sign. No one offered me a job, though.

3. What interested you to become a writer rather than something else such as rock star?

Being a rock star seems like noisy, sweaty work and might involve wearing tight leather garments. Writing can be done on my own time wearing comfy pajamas. Plus, I don’t have to be nice to my bandmates because the only other person in my writing space is my cat (and he doesn’t do drum solos).

4. Writers are readers. With which author(s) would you enjoy sharing dinner? Why?

George R.R. Martin, because he has an interesting mind. Plus, I could tie him up until he finished the {insert colorful vocabulary} series.

5. If I were stranded on a deserted island or suffering from a four hour layover at the airport, why would your book(s) be great company?

Whether I’m writing romance, steampunk, or fantasy my focus is always on character. I do my best to deliver a story with really interesting people, a lot of adventure, and a bit of humor. And, since my Camelot Reborn series is romance, there’s a steamy central love story. My goal is to make you miss your plane.

6. Share your process of writing in regards to: plot and character development, story outline, research (do you Google or visit places/people, or make it up on the spot), writing schedule, editing and number of rewrites.

My characters tend to walk into my head, so I don’t know whether that qualifies as a process. Plot for me requires a lot more thought. I put sticky notes on the wall with bits of story and move them around until I have something that makes sense and falls into the natural “beats” of story structure. For writing gurus, I find Michael Hague the most useful resource, though I tend to stick to the broad strokes. Research depends on what I’m doing and can range from Google to getting on a plane to go soak up atmosphere someplace. I still love libraries, though, and am quite happy to go old school with a stack of books.

Then I dive in and start writing until I get about 5 chapters in, which is where I typically have to go back and start over because I have developed a feel for the book and its natural pace. I write between 1,000 – 2,000 words in an evening and double that on a day off. Once deadlines loom, I tend to pick up the pace a bit. I’ll go through 2 or 3 edit passes before I turn it into my editor, and then the rewrites begin—usually 2 or 3 counting page proofs. I never, never put something before the reader without a lot of polishing.

7. “I think I have a good idea for a story, but I don’t know where or how to begin. Your process may not work for me. Any advice?”

The two basic elements of a story are character and conflict. If you make the reader care enough, you can get away with breaking other rules.

8. I saw an amusing T-shirt the other day which read, “Every great idea I have gets me in trouble.” What is your philosophy of life?

Long ago I decided that I’m not obliged to have an opinion about everything, and I will reserve my adrenaline for things that actually matter.

9. Please tell me you’re not going to stop writing? What’s next for you?

I have two more Camelot books coming, plus some other projects still too new to announce. I’m going to be very busy this fall!

10. Where can people find more information on you and your projects?






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enchanted cover

Enchanted Guardian

Camelot Reborn Series

Book Two

Sharon Ashwood

Genre: Paranormal Romance

Publisher: Harlequin Nocturne

Date of Publication: August 1 2016

ISBN: 978-0373009763


Number of pages: 300

Word Count: 85000

Book Description:

Enchanted Guardian- A love of legendary proportion

In another time, in a place once known as Camelot, they had been lovers. Torn apart by betrayal and lies, Lancelot Du Lac and Nimueh, the Lady of the Lake, had each suffered greatly.

But the magic of the fae had reawakened a man once trapped in stone, and Lancelot was determined to find his long lost love. Only, Nim was desperate to hide her fae soul, as she was marked for death by their mutual enemy.

Though centuries apart had not diminished their passion, they would once again face a dangerous test to prove each was the other’s destiny.


Lancelot caught her arm, pulling her up short. Nim scowled down at the long, strong fingers. Fine scars ran along his tanned knuckles, evidence of a life around blades. Heaviness filled her, a primitive reaction to the strong, aggressive male taking control of her in the most basic way. Once it might have grown into anger or lust, but now it confused her.

Take your hand off me,” she said, letting her voice fill with frost.

No.” He pulled her closer, turning her to face him. “You will answer my questions.”

Nim jerked her arm free. They were so close, she could feel his warm breath against her skin. “About what?”

His nostrils flared as if scenting her. Still, Nim studied his tense jaw and the blood flushing his high cheekbones. The heat of his emotions made her feel utterly hollow. His hand closed around her wrist again, almost crushing her bones.

There are too many people here,” he growled.

There are enough people here for safety. Perhaps I don’t want to answer you.”

His eyes held hers a moment, dark fire against the ice of her spirit. That seemed to decide him, for he pulled her close and took a better grip on her arm. “Come with me.”


He didn’t reply, but steered her toward the door, moving so fast she skittered on her heels. She took the opportunity to pull against him, but this time he held her fast. “Don’t.”

The threat was real. Her fighting skills were nothing compared to a knight’s. Lancelot could crush or even kill her with a single blow. Still, that didn’t make her helpless, and she would not let him forget that fact. Rising up on her toes, she put her mouth a mere whisper from his ear. “You forget what I can do. My magic is nothing less than what it was when I was the first among the fae noblewomen. I can defend myself against your brute strength.”

Just not against what he’d done to her heart. She closed her eyes a moment, feeling his breath against her cheek and remembering the past for a long moment before she denied herself that luxury. “Let me go,” she repeated.

In response, he pulled her to the side of the building, refusing to stop until he was deep into the shadows. The ground was little more than cracked concrete there, tufts of grass straggling between the stones. He pushed her against the siding, her back pressed to the rough wood. “Not until I’ve had my say.”

He had both of her arms now, prisoning Nim with the hard, muscled wall of his chest. Anyone walking by might glimpse two lovers in a private tête-à-tête, but Nim drew back as far as she could, something close to anger rising to strike. No one handled her this way, especially not him.

Then talk,” she said through gritted teeth.

Aren’t you even surprised to see me?” he demanded.

Why should I be?” She needed to squash any personal connection between them. Even if she was whole and their people were not at war, he had betrayed her.

He put a hand against her cheek, his fingers rough. She jerked her chin away, burning where his touch had grazed her.

But he was relentless. “I’m told you were caught by Merlin’s spell along with the rest. I know what the fae have become.”

Soulless. As good as dead inside. Lancelot didn’t say the words, but she heard them all the same. “It’s true,” she replied. “It’s all true.”

His expression was stricken as if hearing it from her lips was poison. Good, she thought. Better to be honest. Better that he believe her to be the monster she was.

Maybe that’s true for some. I don’t believe that about you. You still have too much fire.”

With that, he claimed her mouth in an angry kiss. Nim caught her breath, stifling a cry of true surprise. The Lancelot she’d known had been gentle and eager to please. Nothing like this. And yet the clean taste of him was everything she remembered.

His mouth slanted, breaking past the barrier of her lips to plunder her mouth. The hunger in him was bruising, going far beyond the physical to pull at something deep in her belly. Desire, perhaps, or heartbreak. She wasn’t sure any longer, but she couldn’t stop herself from nipping at his lip, yearning to feel what she had lost. A sigh caught in her throat before she swallowed it down. Surely she was operating on reflex, the memory of kisses. Not desire she might feel now. The warmth and weight of him spoke to something older than true emotion. Even a reptile could feel comfort in the sun. Even she…

Still, that little encouragement was all the permission he needed to slide his hand up her hip to her waist and she could feel the pressure of his fingers. Lancelot was as strong as any fae male, strong enough certainly to overpower her. That had thrilled her once, a guilty admission she’d never dared to make. She’d been so wise, so scholarly, so magical, but an earthy male had found the liquid center of heat buried under all that logic and light. They had always sparked like that, flint against steel.

But then his hand found her breast and every muscle in her stiffened. This was too much. Memory was one thing, but she wasn’t the same now and she refused to have a physical encounter that was nothing more than a ghost of what it should be.

Nim pushed him away. “I don’t want this.”

Something in her look finally made him stop, but his eyes glittered with arousal. “Are you certain about that?”

ashwoodAbout the Author:

Sharon Ashwood is a novelist, desk jockey and enthusiast for the weird and spooky. She has an English literature degree but works as a finance geek. Interests include growing her to-be-read pile and playing with the toy graveyard on her desk. As a vegetarian, she freely admits the whole vampire/werewolf lifestyle would never work out, so she writes her adventures instead.

Sharon is the winner of the RITA® Award for Paranormal Romance. She lives in the Pacific Northwest and is owned by the Demon Lord of Kitty Badness.






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Tour giveaway

$25 amazon gift certificate + books 1&2 of the Camelot Reborn series

(winner’s choice of paperback or ebook)

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rejection4A double dose of authors this week. First up is a guest blog from Luke Ahearn, discussing something most authors know all too much about.


Rejection is a word I take issue with, especially in the context of being a writer. It is an especially toxic word for a writer and will do great damage if you let yourself buy into the notion of rejection. A rejection is a very personal act and attacks a writer in the place where he most needs to be protected and reassured. Finally, and most importantly, it is completely inaccurate. And that’s the good news! You don’t have to deal with rejection; it simply doesn’t exist when trying to get published. The bad news is that virtually every writing teacher uses the term. It is my opinion that those teachers be dragged out of the classroom and beaten in the parking lot. It is a crime to teach someone that information and feedback is rejection. The writer wasn’t rejected, they were informed!

So, no rejection huh? That’s right. Nowhere does a publisher use the word reject or rejection. A publisher doesn’t want you to feel rejected. What most people are calling rejection is, in fact, valuable information. Most of the time a publisher or agent passes on work not because of the writing, but because of mistakes made in the submission process. That’s great news because those are easy to fix errors.

The notion of rejection blinds people to this information. If you sent your epic adult romance novel to a Mr. or Mrs. To Whom It May Concern at ABC Children’s books you are asking to be turned down. Many authors don’t realize that feedback, a reply of any kind, is valuable information and not a rejection. Looking at it as a personal rejection and pinning it to the wall is to completely miss the value of it. A very impersonal response may mean you made big errors in the submission of your work and were filtered out immediately. Maybe you put the wrong name on the envelope or a generic honorific. Perhaps you are sending the publisher a genre they don’t publish. Maybe you didn’t give them the physical format they requested, you know: 1 inch margins, double-spaced, font and size, etc. So, a printed form telling you they are not interested, or must pass on your work, may mean you were filtered out early, whereas a more personal letter means you made it farther through the submission process. When a publisher gives you a list of specific information such as the genre they are interested in, who to submit it to, and how to submit it, and usually much more, you can get far just by delivering what they want.

Believe it or not, even with all the talk of competition (another blog post I assure you) publishers are usually starved for good content. It is my understanding that there is a dearth of publishable material. Publishers would love to get that great material but I suspect a lot of good writing is filtered out early on. My theory is that the really creative types with great stories are often terrible at details like names and formatting. It’s the pinheads that are good at that stuff, but bad at creative storytelling, that are choking the publishers and agents with all their crap.

And that is because a lot of that crap is resubmissions. I am not talking about a submission someone worked hard on to improve but resending of the exact same package back to the publisher or agent. Resubmissions are a waste of everyone’s time and money and, believe it or not, publishers and agents get a lot of submissions that have already passed through their system and were filtered out. At first I thought the people resubmitting like that were stupid, but I realized that they simply weren’t taught how much control they have over the writing and publishing process. Most aspiring writers are taught that the whole shebang is all personal and you will get rejected many, many, times. So in the mind of the wide-eyed aspiring writer it’s all luck and a personality contest. So, if it’s all the luck of the draw, it stands to reason they would treat a submission like a lucky lottery number and play it again and again hoping to win the next time around.

If you look at why your work wasn’t picked up by a publisher, you will learn what to fix. Each time you improve your submission or the work, you get farther up the ladder of success. And it doesn’t take much to move up that ladder. Especially nowadays as the computer makes it infinitely easier to find the right publisher or agent for your submission. You can also self-publish and that allows a writer to accomplish many goals that were impossible a short time ago. Not everyone wants or needs to go the traditional publishing route. What route should you take? That is yet another topic for a future posting.

I have read that publishers estimate that up to eighty percent of their submissions are filtered out for the simplest of reasons. There are numerous articles on the submission process and most publishers and agents give a great deal of information on the Do’s and Don’ts of the submission process as it pertains to their company or agency. They will usually tell you what they are looking for and everything you need to know to send to them.

I have taken and audited several college level writing classes. Every professor had a doctorate and none of them had any significant publishing credits. They all spoke with great authority on the submission process that resulted in a mountain of rejection slips. They told tales of the great literary genius (referring to themselves of course), who even had a doctorate (they always make sure to mention that!) that submitted their work hundreds of times and collected hundreds of rejections and pinned them to the wall. In their minds they are thinking, all these rejections prove that publishers are assholes and will assuredly reject you if they rejected a genius such as me (with my doctorate). They believe it must be personal if they didn’t get published and yet they fail to understand how the submission process works and that publishing is a business. Publishers are concerned with markets, profits, genre popularity, audience size, and more. If you can demonstrate an understanding of that in your submission it goes a long way towards your success.

So… What, you may ask, should I do if I actually get a hateful, personal, letter that uses the word reject, rejection, or ‘big steaming pile’? That’s easy, first ask yourself, do I know this person? Is this the guy I left at the prom for the janitor? Is this the girl I made vomit by pouring salt in her milk at summer camp? Is this the neighbor whose purebred dog I shaved right before a national dog show? Ok, if it isn’t someone you personally wronged, then move on to number two.

Number two is asking yourself, “What the hell is this person’s problem?”

It isn’t you, a reply like that means the sender has a mental problem. Case closed. But most importantly, would you want to be in a relationship with a person like that? Would you want to sign contracts with them? Would you want to trust your creation with them?

There are just too many audiences, markets, topics, and writers just like you with your unique perspective to ever go unpublished. The first thing you must do is to drop the word rejection from your vocabulary and look at people who use it with contempt and disgust, with a dash of pity (but mostly contempt and disgust).


Transition coverTransition

The Euphoria Z Series

Book Three

Luke Ahearn

Genre: Thriller/Post-Apocalyptic

Publisher: Luke Ahearn

Date of Publication: April 25, 2016


Number of pages: 194

Word Count: 56,200

Book Description:

Transition is the third book of the Euphoria Z Series set in a post-apocalyptic California.

The post-apocalyptic world is in transition. While things may seem safer, a great danger lurks under the surface and sometimes from above.

What does the Island have to do with the state of the world, and the invisible creatures? New threats arise and evil is tracked down. Will this finally be the end for Ben and his psychopathic lifestyle?

Continue the adventure as we find out what happened to Cooper, Lisa and the others

Excerpt: Prologue

It doesn’t rain frequently in San Jose, California and when it does it’s a quick gray affair that rinses away dust and freshens the air. Every few years there’s a day or two of torrential downpours, interspersed by widespread drizzling and dripping. And rarely, as was the case this day, the skies opened and dumped a decade’s worth of rain upon the city in only a few days. These rare downpours could last days and do substantial damage citywide.

The downpour was so heavy it was impossible to see farther than a few hundred yards. Water ran from the highest spots in the city and merged into thick fast flowing rivers on its journey downhill. It gushed down streets, blasting over curbs and past sign posts, taking away anything that wasn’t nailed down. The waters were black with months of accumulated filth and foamed with the runoff of a million miles of city streets. The fine dust of millions of corpses, that which wasn’t already blown away by the winds, was swept into storm drains and out to the Pacific Ocean.

But the most alarming aspect of the rainstorm by far was the thunder and the lightning. Every few minutes great jagged bolts of light arced across the sky, illuminating the world in blinding flashes, followed moments later by the thunder, a terrifying sound as if the heavens were being torn open. Then cascading booms shook the earth for long moments after.

One of these giant flashes illuminated the inside of a dark warehouse revealing a world of crisp black shadows and harsh blinding whites. For a split second a human shape was visible laying atop a large worktable. It resembled the sarcophagus of a long dead pharaoh. Puddles of odd liquids had collected under the body and run off the edge, hardening in long stalactites of black and dark red. A minor flash revealed a hardened shell, mottled with the same black and reddish hues. The long low rumble of the distant thunder that followed caused an eye to twitch. A loud crack and a blinding flash of light caused both eyes to open wide in shock and fear. A high-pitched keening could be heard emanating from the misshapen body on the table.

Slowly a hand rose, the cracking of dried viscera was faint but clearly audible above the muted pounding of rain. The open eyes, clear and green, regarded a grotesque hand armored in a red and black crust. The arm dropped and the eyes closed. The thrumming of the rain and intense fatigue made slipping back into the sweet darkness of sleep all too easy.

Later, a blinding flash of light and the ensuing crack of thunder caused the figure to startle awake. Fat drops of water fell almost forty feet from the compromised skylights above creating a loud rhythmic clunk, clunk, clunk as they struck a crustaceous shell. There was a hiss as breath was sucked inwards through thin reddish tubes that hung over a tiny mouth. The creature spasmed at the discomfort as air filled its long dormant lungs.

The figure rolled awkwardly left and right as it attempted to stand. Dried viscera cracked and crunched and fell away in large chunks. It stopped to rest a few times until eventually, with great effort, it rolled on its stomach and swung its legs off the table, pushing itself to a standing position in a sort of diagonal pushup. It struggled to stay upright as it took one awkward step forward, then another.

The heavy armored shell made walking difficult and uncomfortable. Each labored movement caused the figure to hiss and gasp. It took three steps and bent forward over the table to rest. The effort was exhausting and the armored plates tugged at odd spots and pinched and pulled on the raw skin beneath.

Many laborious steps later and the creature was nearing the door to the warehouse. The effort was exhausting, the movement unnatural, and feelings of weakness and nausea were overwhelming. But a sense of urgency drove the creature forward. It knew that it must get out of that dark place. There was somewhere it had to be.

The warehouse door swung open and wind blasted cold rain across the armored body, but it felt nothing. It looked down, apparently just now gaining a sense of awareness beyond wakefulness and the desire to escape the dark building. Groggily it tugged on a section of armored shell as if it was just now noticing it. The skin beneath pulled, the shell seemed to be attached to flesh like that of a lobster or crab. A disfigured hand rose up, lightning flashed and a gasp of horror came from the bulbous armored head as it looked with revulsion at its own red and black armored appendage.

The creature looked to the sky and stepped into the torrential downpour. It shuddered as icy rain made its way beneath its armored plates. A shell loosened from a forearm and with a touch clattered to the ground. The rainwater stung like fire and the figure backed into the warehouse staring at raw skin glistening with red wetness. The unprotected skin was as sensitive as that of a newborn babe. The arm went back into the rain and recoiled again as if the rain water was scalding. It tried again and again until it could stand the pounding rain.

Eventually it stepped out into the deluge and disappeared into the blinding storm.

Lisa barely remembered her own name when she awoke, but now it was all coming back to her as she shuffled along in the downpour and she grew more and more terrified. She had no idea what had happened to her or what was happening to her presently. She remembered hiding in the safe room and later talking to the creature. Another piece of her exoskeleton fell away and she shivered as cold rain pounded her left shoulder. It didn’t hurt as bad as the first time rain hit her flesh. She almost tripped when most of the shell on her right leg fell away all at once. It was as if she were molting like a crab. She was sick, weak, and terrified. She had no idea what had happened to her but everything about her body felt different and weird.


AhearnAbout the Author:

Luke Ahearn was born in New Orleans, LA and now lives in Central California. He is a successfully published author of both fiction and nonfiction, most recently completing Transition, the third book in the Euphoria Z Series. He has over 20 years of professional game development experience in lead positions; designer, producer, and art director.Luke is also a book cover designer interested in supporting his fellow authors. He hates writing about himself in the third person, but thinks it makes him sound more substantial.

He can be reached at

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