Monthly Archives: June 2016

Author Spotlight: A.S. Johnson

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Today I’m shining the spotlight on author A.S. Johnson:

I’m A.S. Johnson, disabled veteran turned romance novel writer. Published my first romance novel “Orion” December 2010 with a small press publisher and it’s been non-stop fun ever since! I write a little bit of everything for everyone to enjoy. 😉

I love to read, write romance novels and poetry, cook, history, sightseeing, funny movies, travel, and spend time with family. Moved to Cancun, Mexcio in June 2015 and looking forward to a new chapter in my life with my husband.

I write Fiction: Genre: Romance
For who? Teen/YA to Adult
Everything from Paranormal/Alien/Demon to Altered-History/Western-Historical/Native-American-Historical to Contemporary/Futuristic/Sci-Fi. Sweet-heart Romance to naughty Erotica and everything in between; all with female self-empowerment to boot.
I’m living the dream by turning all my wild dreams into novels!
~A.S. Johnson

Where to find A.S. Johnson:
Website | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Goodreads

My previous interview with A.S. Johnson

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Isabella A Spanish Love Story (Wild West Series, #1)

Isabella Roche is a French orphan who came to America with hopes and dreams to tame the Wild-West. Little did Isabella know a storm was brewing that would change her life forever bringing undeniable true love in its wake.

Alberto Santiago fled Spain for a simpler life giving up his place in the royal court to become a local ranch hand in the Arizona Territory. Alberto wanted to earn his keep, buy land, and create his own way in life. That’s what he wanted, until fate put a twist in those plans and love in his path.

Is this budding romance destined to grow or will it be washed away in an unforeseen storm that is brewing?

Available at Amazon

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The Vampire Empress Chronicles: Caroline’s Path (Empress Series, #1)

Caroline Fantolini, the future vampire Empress whose destiny to rule the oldest vampire empire in Italy was set in motion before she drew her first breath and a plan to stop her reign before she knew it. This food critic from New York City must be reborn and overcome a great loss before she takes the throne. Primo Gozzoli, a sexy Italian vampire is charged with her protection and education. He has plans of his own to conquer more than just the throne as he ignites Caroline’s desire or will another love interest spoil his seductively sinister plan.

The Vampire Empress Chronicles: Caroline’s Path takes the reader into a mystical world within the human world. The storyline and concept takes on a level of excitement, passion, and shakes the evolutionary tree in the process.

Available at Amazon

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Mistress of the Mirror collection now available

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Just an assortment of news and updates. First, Mistress of the Mirror and Other Stories, my new short story collection, is finally available. This collection contains five short fantasy tales of strange things found in pawnshops… And things too strange for pawnshops:

Mistress of the Mirror: A poor woman, an assassin, and a mirror.
Valuables: A curious pawnshop owner and a mysterious figurine.
Of Rings and Lemon Cream Cakes: A respectable spinster and a diamond ring with a mind of its own.
Pawned: A fate worse than death.
A Worthy Instrument: A struggling musician and the lute of his dreams.

Only 99 cents at Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunes | Smashwords | OmniLit | DriveThruFiction | Kobo. Through August 31, if you sign up for my email alerts, you can get a coupon code for a free copy from Smashwords!

So whenever I think things are going to settle down, it seems like that’s just an invitation for something else to happen. The week before last, it was the event that will hereafter be known as the Lycopolypse, when Lycos, the hosting and domain name provider, crashed for nearly three days. The Lycos sites, including customer service, email (including my business domain email), and subscriber control panels went down, as did sites hosted on Lycos and its subsidiaries Tripod and Angelfire, AND (relevant to our interests here) all domain names registered through Lycos (including kyrahalland.com) stopped working. So if you tried to visit my site on those days and got an error, that’s what happened.

Fortunately, everything is back up and working, but I’ve also decided it’s time to move on from Lycos. I’d been with Angelfire and Lycos since 2001, when I started my fanworks archive that I still run. Back in the old days, if you had some fanfiction or fanart you wanted to collect and post, or opinions to make available to the world, or any kind of hobby or interest to show off, or just wanted to carve out a little space for yourself on the internet, you taught yourself some basic html, signed up with Angelfire or GeoCities or Tripod (there were other hosts, too, but those were the Big Three and Angelfire generally seemed to be considered the best), and made yourself a website. None of this easy, instant WordPress/Tumblr/drag n drop stuff; you had to actually learn some coding. But it was fun; there were a lot more regularly-updated amateur fansites back then, and if you’ve never had the experience of going to your favorite fansite, hoping for an update with a new chapter on that fic you were following or some cool new fanart to admire, and seeing – oh joy! – that flashing neon green text on black background scrolling by announcing an update, well, that’s a big part of the internet you’ve missed out on. My fanworks site was hosted on Angelfire; just few weeks before the Lycopolypse I copied it over to private hosting owned by my older son and his wife. The Angelfire site went down, but with the domain names not working, no one could get to it on the other hosting, either, and of course no one could get to my author site. So I made the decision that it was time to transfer my domain names away from Lycos. That’s been kind of a mess (I’ve had to involve their registrar, Tucows), but hopefully I’ll get it all sorted out soon without any more disruption. Looking back, I’d been seeing signs for a few years now that Lycos wasn’t the great company it used to be. I should have gotten out sooner, but I was still kind of sentimental about it. No more; it’s time to move on.

One important thing to note: This site being unavailable for a few days had nothing to do with Weebly, my hosting service. Weebly has been awesome and very reliable, with great, responsive customer service. Still, I’m backing up my site (saving to Evernote, so I can keep the contents and the general layout) just in case the day does come that something happens to Weebly. Hopefully it won’t; they’ve been great to work with.

So I’m still kind of tearing my hair out over the lack of progress with getting both of my domain names transferred (my fansite domain is all settled in its new home, but the transfer for kyrahalland.com is dead in the water at the moment), but otherwise it’s back to the writing. The Source-Fixer is out to beta readers now, and the Mistress of the Mirror collection is finally up for sale. Next up, I’m working on getting Tales of Azara, a collection of companion stories to Chosen of Azara, ready to publish and working out more kinks in the follow-up series to Daughter of the Wildings. Some of what I’ve already written I can keep, but a lot is going to have to be ditched or changed as I rein myself in from my meanderings and get back to the heart of what the Wildings books are really about. I’ve been re-reading The War of Art and Do the Work by Steven Pressfield and using the focused and simplified three-part outline structure from Do the Work, and I think I’ve finally got a handle on this.


Author Spotlight: Kat Ross

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Today I’m happy to welcome author Kat Ross:

1. Tell us a little about yourself.
Why is this question always so hard? I guess I find my characters more interesting than I am, which I why I like living in their heads! But let’s see…I live a bit north of New York City—close enough that I can hop on a train when I’m in the mood for crowds and dirt and good Thai food, but far enough that raccoons regularly break into my kitchen. I write a lot at my local library, just to get out of the house and be forced to wear pants and shoes. This is sadly necessary. I love movies but don’t watch much TV.

2. When did you start writing, and why?

I loved to write fiction as a kid, but ended up in journalism for many years (I still do some part-time work as an editor). About six years ago I was dreaming out loud to a friend about going back to it, and she encouraged me to just set aside 15 minutes a day. That quickly turned into hours, and I wrote a middle grade manuscript that landed me an agent. My next book was YA, but the new series veers a bit more adult, especially as it progresses. I just feel incredibly lucky to be doing what I love.

3. What do you write, and why? What do you enjoy about what you write?

My latest series is epic fantasy with a historical twist. It’s a genre I’ve always devoured and I knew I would want to try my hand at it someday. I enjoy writing anything with lots of world-building. My first book, Some Fine Day, is set about 80 years into the future at a time when Earth is almost unrecognizable from extreme climate change. I did a ton of research for that one, including into the class of storms dubbed hypercanes (which could theoretically exist). The Midnight Sea is set in ancient Persia at the end of the Achaemenid Empire—so nearly 3,000 years earlier! But for both stories, I spent a huge amount of time just working out all the details of the time and place, which is a lot of the fun. I love many different genres (in fact, I’ll have a mystery coming out later this year), but the one I will probably never touch is contemporary realism.

4. What is your latest book or series? Any forthcoming books?

The Midnight Sea, the first book in the Fourth Element series, released in May. The second, Blood of the Prophet, comes out on September 12, with the third in the trilogy set for November or December. I also have a Gilded Age mystery called The Daemoniac—that will probably be an October release. So lots coming up this year!

5. “Welcome To My Worlds”: Tell us a little about the world of your latest book or series.

So it’s not quite alt history, but a few true events do play a large role in the plot, like the invasion of Alexander the Great. Fundamentally, the story is about the things we do for love—and hate. When the first book, The Midnight Sea, opens, the wealth and military power of the empire is intimately connected to the slavery of creatures called daevas. They can wield magic and make deadly soldiers. The priests teach that they are Druj—impure. But as the protagonist trains with her own daeva, she protagonist comes to question everything she has been taught about them. So the first book focuses on her evolution and eventual rebellion, while the next two develop conflicts in the larger setting. I mean, what’s epic fantasy without a diabolical demon queen?

6. Introduce us to some of your characters. What do you like about them?

Nazafareen is the main character of the series. I like her because she’s so different from me. Reckless and hotheaded with almost zero filter between mouth and brain. But deep down, a very moral person who will do what’s right whatever the cost. Her daeva, Darius, is more of a slow burner and has his own ghosts, so their relationship is complicated. But frankly, it’s the bad guys in the series that are some of my favorites. I don’t want to give any spoilers for the first one (where there’s a major betrayal), but there’s a necromancer who starts to get his own POV as the series goes on. His name is Balthazar and he’s bad but not pure evil. I think of him as morally grey—something he surprises me with his decency, other times he’s utterly repugnant. Those unpredictable characters are the ones I enjoy writing best.

7. A fun fact you would like your readers to know about you or your book.

I actually wrote an entire manuscript with the major elements of this story, but set in contemp times, and ended up throwing it in a drawer and starting again. I realized I needed the origin story, and that meant going way back in time.

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The Midnight Sea:
They are the light against the darkness.The steel against the necromancy of the Druj.And they use demons to hunt demons….

Nazafareen lives for revenge. A girl of the isolated Four-Legs Clan, all she knows about the King’s elite Water Dogs is that they bind wicked creatures called daevas to protect the empire from the Undead. But when scouts arrive to recruit young people with the gift, she leaps at the chance to join their ranks. To hunt the monsters that killed her sister.

Scarred by grief, she’s willing to pay any price, even if it requires linking with a daeva named Darius. Human in body, he’s possessed of a terrifying power, one that Nazafareen controls. But the golden cuffs that join them have an unwanted side effect. Each experiences the other’s emotions, and human and daeva start to grow dangerously close.

As they pursue a deadly foe across the arid waste of the Great Salt Plain to the glittering capital of Persepolae, unearthing the secrets of Darius’s past along the way, Nazafareen is forced to question his slavery—and her own loyalty to the empire. But with an ancient evil stirring in the north, and a young conqueror sweeping in from the west, the fate of an entire civilization may be at stake…

The Midnight Sea is available at Amazon
Preorder Blood of the Prophet at Amazon

Excerpt:
My eyes flew open at the crack of dawn. I groaned and rubbed my forehead. My scalp tingled, an icy, unpleasant sensation. I knew right away where Darius was and what he was doing. It was another side effect of the bond, I’d discovered. I could feel his heart beating. I knew that one of his boots was too tight. I could shut my eyes and tell you exactly where he was, even if he was hundreds of leagues away.

Why had no one told me what it would be like? I supposed Tijah did, but this was much worse than I’d expected. Much, much worse.

I threw on my new scarlet tunic and marched down to the river. Tendrils of mist swirled through the dead reeds at the edge. It was late autumn and the air had a dank chill that promised snow.

My daēva stood there, stripped to the waist, pouring water over his head with his right hand. He wore a gold faravahar on a chain around his neck, its eagle wings spread wide. His left arm lay at his side, grey and dead. I stared at his shoulder, at the juncture where smooth skin met rough. His Druj curse.

It slowed me for a moment, seeing that pathetic arm, but I wasn’t yet ready to forgive him for waking me. That was my excuse, anyway. Of course, what really angered me was the terrible realization that I was burdened with a sorrow not my own, but that bled me nonetheless. What really angered me was him—everything about him.

He was calmer this morning, but I wasn’t. I stopped about twenty feet away. He didn’t turn around although he knew I was there.

“It’s nice that you’re so pious,” I said. “But don’t you think it’s a little early to be down here performing the morning rites?”

He paused, then dumped the last of the water from the bowl. I felt the cold trickle down my spine and my lips tightened.

“I was taught by the magi to come at first light,” Darius said. “Did you expect to sleep in? I’m afraid that’s not the way it works for Water Dogs.” He smiled, and we both knew it was fake. “I’m sorry if I’ve offended you in some way.”

I stared at him, at the dark hair plastered across his forehead, his stubborn mouth. He looked so human. And yet there was something in the way Darius held himself, perfectly at ease in his own skin. Still but coiled, like the wolves I’d seen in the mountains.

“You haven’t offended me in the least,” I said. “I suppose you need the blessing more than I do.”

I spun on my heel and walked away, knowing I had wounded him. A small stab to my own heart. And I felt slightly ashamed. But that wasn’t the end of it. Then I felt his satisfaction at my shame. And my own anger that he knew and was glad.

And then his amusement at my anger!

I stalked off, determined to think nothing, to feel nothing, ever again.

If only it were that easy.

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About the author:
Kat Ross worked as a journalist at the United Nations for ten years before happily falling back into what she likes best: making stuff up. She lives in Westchester with her kid and a few sleepy cats. Kat is also the author of the dystopian thriller Some Fine Day (Skyscape, 2014), about a world where the sea levels have risen sixty meters. She loves magic, monsters and doomsday scenarios. Preferably with mutants.Web site | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Newsletter

May 2016: ouch, arg, yay

So those three words (ouch, arg, and yay are words, right?) pretty much sum up May, or at least the last half and the first part of June.

For starters, sometime around May 18 I did something to my back. It started with stiffness, then progressed to pain and spasms so bad I would lie awake in bed at night, unable to sleep, crying because it hurt so bad. What was worse, we were supposed to go take care of our 3-year-old granddaughter for a few days (more on that in the “yay” section) and I just didn’t see how I could do it, in as much pain as I was having. It also made it very hard to concentrate on getting any work done. I knew it was just muscular strain, most likely a combination of new shoes that weren’t right for me and some awkward bending, but wow, it really hurt. Finally, the day before we were going out of town to tend Kylie, I did a search on stretches to help with back spasms, and found a site with some things that looked helpful. There was also a book, a $5 Kindle download, so I bought it and tried the first few stretches, and wow. I hesitate to say “miracle cure,” but after I did just those first beginning stretches the pain was sooo much better and as I continued with the program my pain went away. The site is here: lowbackpainprogram.com. Of course, I’m not a medical professional and if you’re experiencing unusual, severe, or persistent pain you should see a doctor, but for simple muscle tightness and strain, I wanted to share what really helped me.

So that’s the “ouch” part and, fortunately, it’s much better now. As for the “arg,” I spent the second half of May (and some of it is still ongoing) wrestling with some frustrating problems.

First off, I was horrified to discover that on certain Kindle devices and apps (that use the new Enhanced Typesetting), all the paragraph indents were stripped out in all my books published since Nov. 2014, including the entire Daughter of the Wildings series and the two box sets I’ve released, Love and Magic and Daughter of the Wildings Books 1-3. I was absolutely mortified to see how terrible this looked. When my readers pay their good money for my books, even if it’s only 99 cents, they expect and deserve the highest-quality, most professional product I’m capable of providing. And a book with no paragraph indents does not meet that standard. With some detective work and some help from the good people at the Kboards Writers Cafe, I discovered where in my formatting process the problem was coming from, a program I use that apparently doesn’t play nicely with the Enhanced Typesetting. Fortunately, it’s a step in the process that, it turns out, is unnecessary; I was afraid it was a problem in my html coding and that I would have to re-do all my coding or change my formatting process completely. But all I had to do was run my html files through my process again, leaving off that last, unnecessary step, and everything turned out fine. Then I had to re-upload everything and get Kindle Direct Publishing to make the new files available to customers who’ve already bought the books, which kind of turned into its own comedy of errors (somehow, some of my correspondence got handed off to CreateSpace, which does paper books, not Kindle books >.>) and I lost a lot of writing time wrestling with all of it, but it eventually all worked out.

If you bought any of those books from Amazon and had an unsatisfactory reading experience because of the paragraph indent problem, you should be able to delete the book(s) from your device (NOT from your Amazon account!) and re-download it to get the corrected file. But apparently Amazon considers a complete lack of paragraph indents to be a “minor” quality problem <.< and so won’t automatically push the corrected file to people who bought it.

Then, while I was dealing with that, I noticed some suspicious activity with the fanworks archive site I own. I couldn’t track down what exactly was going on, and the only help I got from my hosting company was “change your password.” >.> I ended up moving the site to private hosting owned by my older son and his wife (I trust them with my site security more than the company it used to be hosted with), but I’m still getting the domain name and pointing sorted out.

And, this whole time, I’ve really been wrestling with the second Daughter of the Wildings series. I was going merrily on my way, well into the third book (of a projected five), then I realized I was bored and unhappy with what I was writing. The magic and fun of the first series just weren’t there. Some serious thought on the matter revealed a couple of problems. Mainly, I’ve been very concerned with some current social and political issues, and that was making a heavy appearance in the stories. I don’t try to keep my books entirely free of my basic convictions and world view, but pounding on issues the way I was doing, making the books *about* them, does not make for good books. It was sucking all the life out of the books. I also realized that the fun of the Old West setting, the magic, and the Silas-Lainie relationship were all missing as I was telling this bare-bones story that was, really, just a thinly-disguised rant on the issues I was concerned about.

So I refocused on what the Wildings books are really all about, magic, adventure, and romance in a fantasy world inspired by the Old West, made note of the stuff I needed to change, and set aside what I had of book 3 and started over (I didn’t change anything in books 1 or 2, just made notes on what to change, in case I changed my mind again. Which turns out was a good thing <.<).

But I was still unhappy with it; now Silas and Lainie were all whiny and depressed because everything was awful and all these terrible things were happening to them. Which brought out the other major flaw in what I was writing. Silas and Lainie weren’t *doing* anything. Things were just happening to them and they were just going with the flow, whining and moping and feeling guilty and depressed about it. Which, you know, maybe you win literary awards for stuff like that, but I can’t stand reading or writing it.

So, finally, last Friday and Saturday, I sat down and rewrote the entire series summary, looking for the flaws in the plotting, where I was making things happen just for the sake of having something – anything! – happen and where I needed to focus on the heart and soul, the reason for being, of the Wildings books, and re-outlined the entire series beginning to end. The good news is, I’m not going to have to throw out everything; most of book 2 is still good (though with severe editing for political ranting), but the whole second half of book 1 has to be pretty much rewritten, and while the basic structure of book 3 is okay, the characterizations and reasons why things happen have to be totally redone. The bad news is there’s a lot of work to be done to get back up to speed, and it’s going to make my daily word-count tracking more complicated, since I’ll be doing a combination of copy-and-paste (can’t stand rewriting material I’ve already written if it’s at all usable) and writing new material. But I finally feel better about where this series is going, and excited about it again.

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And now for the “yay” part. First off, I’ve been invited to participate in some projects that I’m really excited about. They’re still in the early planning stages, so I don’t want to give any details yet, but I promise you’ll hear all about it when the time comes 😀

Even better, I mentioned earlier that we went out of town to help take care of our 3-year-old granddaughter for a few days. Well, the reason we went and did that was because her mommy was in the hospital with a new baby! Our second granddaughter (first one born to us; her older sister came to us when our older son married her mommy, and hopefully the adoption procedings will go through soon) was born two weeks ago. Her name is Lily Dawn, and she is absolutely adorable, just like her big sister. Between taking care of Kylie and helping out at the hospital (our d-i-l had a c-section and had to stay a few extra days; she had a rough couple of days, and she’d had serious complications after her first baby so my son was really concerned and wanted to make sure she was never left alone at the hospital) I’m still pretty worn out, but it was worth it. It was really fun, and wonderful to welcome this precious new child to the family.

Hopefully (knock on wood), things will settle down now and I can start getting some more work done. I’ve got a series to re-write, two books to revise, edit, and release, and a short-story collection I’m getting ready to publish (have been for the last month >.>). We’ve got a big week-long out-of-town family reunion coming up later this summer which is looming menacingly over me (I don’t travel well, especially when flying is involved, and I love my family but don’t have a lot of energy for too much togetherness) but in the meantime I will try to ignore it and get back on track with my writing routine and schedule.


DDsE – Serial Flash Fiction by Sue Perry

Okay, so it’s been a busy couple of weeks. I’ll write a post soon catching up with everything, but for today I want to feature DDsE, a flash fiction serial by Sue Perry, author of Nica of Los Angeles, which I enjoyed very much but don’t seem to have featured yet in a Reading Roundup. Also gotta get caught up on those one of these days.

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About DDsE:

… a young-adult paranormal horror romance.

So far, being sixteen is no good. Ella has no one to talk to except her new diary, which she has to hide from Ma and Pa Warden, the foster parents she’s stuck with since her family got flattened in a car accident. Now that she lives with the wardens, she has to switch to a new school, where people act like her tragedy is contagious. Her new suburb is just as boring as the last, and offers no hope of secret passageways or magic.

But life is not all bad. There’s an interesting boy at the new school – although his family turns out to be impossibly dangerous. And there’s a feral cat, living in the suburb’s only open space, a pitiful excuse for woods. Sometimes the cat invades Ella’s mind. She tells her diary, ‘I’ve gone a special kind of crazy, a split personality. And my other personality is a cat, not a person.’

Welcome to the secret diary of Ella, occasionally co-authored by her feral cat.

Kyra sez: Go check this out – it’s fantastic!

My interview with Sue Perry | Sue Perry’s main website