Saturday, May 28, 2011

Chuck Wendig's Flash Fiction Challenge

Well, folks, it's been some time since I've participated in one of Wendig's Flash Fiction Challenges, and I've really missed them. I love stretching my twisted mind muscles and putting my little bit of insanity out here for you to peruse. It's what makes a writer satisfied. Plus, he's giving away one of his awesome books to the 10 stories he likes the most, which sweetens the pot.

So I cracked my knuckles, spit on the floor, and cranked out this fun little story with a smile on my face the entire time.

I hope you all enjoy it as much as I did creating it. Here goes...


Trudging through snow up to his knees, he felt the cold in his bones. The snow swirled and howled around him. He fought against it, leaning into it. Guessing he had walked about a mile, Trevor squinted to see if he could make out anything in front of him.


He moved on.

Fresh out of college with a business degree, he took the only job offered him in six months – a traveling salesman. It didn’t matter that he never sold anything in his life. What did matter was his rent was due, and the water would be cut off any day now.

This was how he came to be in this predicament. Stuck in some backwards county town where there were hardly any road signs, no cell phone reception, and there hadn’t been a gas station since lunchtime.

The blizzard hit hard and fast, leaving his car immobile. He figured if he started walking he would surely come upon a house sooner rather than later.

Trevor’s hands and feet were beyond cold, and had grown numb. He bent his shoe more than needed and could not feel anything below his ankle. Flexing his hands he noticed they barely moved. Fear crept up his spine and the reality of dying in this godforsaken land was propelling him forward.

The faint outline of a building came into view between the bursts of snow. Ducking his head in his coat he walked toward it.

It was a house, an old house that was in need of some repairs. His eyes watered in the frigid wind and he blinked to clear his vision. There was a soft glow of light coming through one of the windows as he climbed the steps to the porch.

Thank goodness, he thought, it looks like someone’s here.

His hand wouldn’t form a fist to knock, so he pounded on the door with his palm instead.

After what seemed like forever, but was probably only a minute or two, the door slowly opened. An elderly woman with white hair piled on top of her head and a pair of thick glasses that magnified her eyes, gave him a welcoming smile and ushered him in quickly.

“Hello, ma’am,” said Trevor, nodding his head and rubbed his hands together. “Thank you for letting me in. My car is stuck in the storm and your house is the first one I’ve seen.”

She still smiled brightly at him, her hands clasped in front of her.

“Do you have a phone I could use?” he asked.

“Oh my, no. We’ve never had a use for one of those,” she said cheerfully. As she spoke, an old man sauntered up behind her. He was wearing the same thick glasses and his few wispy strands of hair combed across his lumpy head swayed as he walked.

“Are you hungry? I’ve just made some meatloaf. Come sit down and eat,” she said.

The lady guided him into a small kitchen and pointed to a chair. The old man stood in the doorway, watching him with a strange expression on his face. Trevor could see four large pans of meatloaf and thought she must be freezing it for the winter.

After a hearty supper, the couple insisted on him staying the night to wait out the storm. Seeing no other real option, he agreed.

Walking down the hall, a high whistling noise came from behind a shut door. Trevor saw there was light peeking out from the bottom. As they passed, the woman barked, “Be quiet!” It became silent.

The couple showed him to a room a few doors down.

Smiling, the lady said, “There’s some of my husband’s old clothes hanging in the closet, and a few books on the nightstand. Sleep well.”

There was something unsettling about this place. The sooner he was out of here, the better.

Lying in bed, he heard the same whistling noise. He quietly walked to the door and cracked it to see what it was. The old man was carrying a tray packed full of food to the door where the noise had come from earlier. From his angle he could only see the light from the open door and the man go into it. The noises became louder, and the floor shook briefly with a loud thumping. A few minutes later the man reappeared. He carried the empty tray back toward the kitchen.

Getting back in the bed, sleep came slowly.

It was dark in the room when Trevor woke to a sharp pain in his feet. His eyes adjusted and he could see movement at the foot of the bed.

He reached over and flipped the switch on the bedside lamp.

A squeal broke the silence.

Trevor saw a quick flash of movement followed by a thud as something hit the floor. Whipping back the sheets, he jumped up, his bloody feet smearing the floor. A tail was squeezing under the door.

He ran into the hall in time to see it disappearing under the same door the noise had come from.

Curiosity trumped better judgment and Trevor ran to it, busting in.

He was horrified to find a huge creature in the floor. There were many smaller ones crawling all over it. Shrieks filled the room as they took notice of him and lifted their small heads. He could see they had red glowing eyes and mouths full of teeth.

“Our daughter, she’s always hungry.”

Trevor turned to see the old couple standing behind him, their eyes glowing red, smiles plastered on their faces. 

The large creature roared. Trevor turned back to the slithering mass.

His body fell forward as he was pushed from behind. Landing on the belly of the beast, the smaller ones fell upon him first.

They shut the door and his screams gargled away.

Friday, May 20, 2011

A Visit by Author Mary Hughes

Hello all! I am host to fellow author Mary Hughes as she continues with her blog tour for her new release, Biting Me Softly, which debuted on February 1, 2011. Her book was published by Samhain Publishing Ltd. and can be found in your local US bookstore in a paperback format.

Crafting the First Line

First, thanks so much to Amber for having me here today!
How do you pick a book to read? If it's not a favorite author, many readers scan the shelves (or eshelves). A cover/title combo catches her eye. She picks it up and the blurb looks interesting. She flips to page one to give it a try. And she reads the first line.
If it doesn't hold her interest―she'll put the book back. That first line is vital to keeping reader interest high. To do that, try paying attention to three things.
Impact. Hook. Voice.
Recently I won the DRB 1st Chapters Best First Line contest with the following line. Check it out for impact, hook and voice.
It’s a little-known fact that when vampires fly, they hog the window seats. (The Bite of Silence)
Impact is made quickly through what I call pepper words. These are words that bite a reader's imagination (like bite) or send it soaring (like princess). Swearing, sexual language, high concept words like murder are all examples of pepper words. They're great to use in an opening to grab the reader's attention, but one warning. Like pepper, these words can quickly dull the reader's pallet, so use sparingly.
Here are some other first lines. Note the pepper words. 

Officially the murder was SCH-1, but I called it the Case of the
Punctured Prick. (Bite My Fire) When I first clapped eyes on Logan, I thought, Hot damn. Look
what the Sex Fairy brung me! (Biting Me Softly)
Hook is done via a question the reader wants answered, or juxtaposing ideas or images in a way that sparks her interest. In Silence, the idea of vampires hogging sunny windows is deliciously contrary, as are the official and unofficial name for Fire's murder. In Softly the question is who is Logan and what does he look like, that “I” have such a strong reaction?
Voice is your own style. It's the way you put words together and make paragraphs and tell stories, the quality that stamps the writing as yours through and through.
That first line is vital, but the good news is, most readers will give an author a bit more than one line to hook them. You still need to pay attention to impact, hook and voice. Here's the rest of Biting Me Softly's first page. “I” is Liese, a St.-Pauli-Girl- Next-Door programmer.

It was eight p.m. Sunday night, and I was at work. I do computers for the Meiers Corners Blood Center. The staff is me, the executive director and a part-time nurse named Battle. I was the only one who worked insane hours, but I was new and still trying to prove myself.
I don’t know what made me look up. The cool March air, perhaps. Maybe the aroma wafting in, mystery and magic with overtones of raw sex.
Whatever it was, my eyes lifted and there he was, the most stunning male I’d ever seen. Smack-me-between-the-eyes gorgeous. Bright blond hair rippled to broad, muscular shoulders. Lean strength roped a long, lithe body. Laughter and intelligence sparked gold-flecked hazel eyes. Perfect lips curved in a smile so sensuous it made my innards go bang.
Then he opened his mouth and spoke. Talk about ruining perfection.
“Hello, gorgeous.” His tone was deep and lazy. “I want to speak to the computer man in charge.”
Right. Well that just spoiled everything, didn’t it?


Biting Me Softly is in bookstores around the US, and I’m celebrating by having a giveaway. Just comment on this post to enter. For a second chance, let me know the city or bookstore where you’ve seen Softly! Through April 22, 2011. --Adults only please. Winner will receive choice of Biting Me Softly in paperback (if US or Canada) or one of Bite My Fire, Biting Nixie, The Bite of Silence or Biting Me Softly in ebook.
Biting Me Softly He’s a candy box of sex appeal wrapped with a golden bow. She’s on a diet.
Blood, sex, violence. Blood, okay, but computer geek Liese Schmetterling had enough S&V when her cheating ex fired her. Now security expert—and lip-smacking gorgeous—Logan Steel saunters into her Blood Center, setting fire to her libido. And threatening her job.
Visions of pink slips dancing in her head, Liese tries to push Logan away without touching his jutting pecs...or ridged abs. Or petting the Vesuvius in his jeans. He’s hiding something, but it doesn’t seem to matter when his smiles stun her, his kisses crank her to broiling and his bites rocket her to heaven. Fangy bites which, if she weren’t grounded in science, would make her think ampire-Vay.
Centuries old and tragedy-scarred, Logan’s mission is to fortify the Blood Center’s electronic defenses against his nemesis, the leader of a rogue vampire gang. He’s ready for battle but not for Liese, who slips under his skin, laughs at his awful puns, charges beside him into dark, scary places—and tastes like his true love.
No matter how often Logan declares his love, Liese can’t bring herself to trust him. But when his archenemy comes after her, not trusting him may cost her life...
Warning: contains explicit vampire sex involving absurdly large male equipment (hey, they’re monsters), unbelievable stamina (just how long can he stay underwater in a hot tub?), hide-your-eyes violence and horrendously bad puns. And, just when you think it can’t get any worse, a computer geekette trying to play Mata Hari.
Check In Stock at Barnes and Noble 

Hugs from Hughes! Bestselling author Mary Hughes is a computer consultant, professional musician, and writer. At various points in her life she has taught Taekwondo, worked in the insurance industry, and studied religion. She is intensely interested in the origins of the universe. She has a wonderful husband (though happily-ever-after takes a lot of hard work) and two great kids. But she thinks that with all the advances in modern medicine, childbirth should be a lot less messy.
To learn more about Mary, please visit

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

American McGee's "The Art of Alice: Madness Returns"

I was able to download a copy of the new book, "The Art of Alice: Madness Returns", by American McGee from NetGalley. This book is about the newest Alice game, "Alice: Madness Returns", which releases on 6/14, and contains artwork from pre-production through to the actual scenes from the finished product.

I played American McGee's first "Alice" game many years ago, and I fell in love with the amazing visuals and dark feel to the game. I have always loved "Alice in Wonderland", and a game where you can be Alice, a little grown up, and kick some acid-trip creatures' asses - well, sign me up!

Seriously folks, that game was unreal. I didn't stop until I had defeated it, and afterward I only wanted more. And this is coming from a person that is not really a gamer. The scenes, the music, the colors, all gave it an eerie feeling and one that resembled a nightmare dreamscape.

The premise of the game was that her parents had died in a house fire, leaving her an institutionalized mental patient. The Wonderland in the game is her version of it, albeit from her sick mind. The creatures in the game are reminiscent of Lewis Carroll's famous book, but with McGee's own twist. The White Rabbit, The Cheshire Cat, The Queen of Hearts, are all involved, but have a much different look and presence. Her goal is to save Wonderland from the reign of the evil Queen of Hearts.

There are nine levels which take you through rivers, woods, an asylum, a chessboard, and even what's left of her old house. The villains you will battle run the gamut from the insane children, the Jabberwock, Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum, and, of course, the Queen of Hearts herself in what can be described as a Lovecraft-inspired setting.

From my description it's not hard to see why I was so enamored by the game and the masters who made it.

When I heard about McGee making a possible sequel, well, I can hardly wait! The book was primarily the art from the upcoming game, and let me tell you, it's fantastic! Alice has changed, not drastically, but in the right direction. McGee has his own studio, Spicy Horse, who partnered with EA, who published the original game. McGee and his uber talented team at Spicy Horse have made pure magic with this sequel. The illustrations in the book are breathtaking, and awe-inducing. The savagery and emotion are easily felt through many of the darker images, while the depth and artistry pops in others. Alice is no longer institutionalized in this game, however, repressed memories are the culprit for the return angst. Her discomfort and symptoms return in a heightened fashion, and she goes back to Wonderland out of her need for comfort. This Wonderland, again, is influenced by her deteriorating mental state. She also suspects the fire that killed her family may not have been accidental. This new game boasts a seedy, dark, London, which she must maneuver in order to make it through the game.

I highly recommend fans and newbies to the games to peruse this fantastic book, and to play the game, if you get a chance. I know I will be in line to grab the newest one as soon as it becomes available. You can see more about the game here, and visit American McGee's website. Keep watching here on my blog to see my future review on the game.

If you played the original, or are simply wanting to play the new one, let me know. It's always nice to hear from you! Join in the madness...

Friday, May 13, 2011

Jenna Storm Guest Blogs Today

I am honored to give Jenna Storm the opportunity to be a guest on my blog today.

A little bit about Jenna...

She grew up in Pennsylvania and moved with her family to sunny Arizona after she graduated high school. She has a B.A. in Fine Arts, Drawing and Painting but her true love is writing. When not writing, she spends time with her daughters and enjoys reading various mythologies, romance, paranormal and suspense. The more vampires and mythical creatures the better. Throw in gloomy, cold weather, a soul shaking thunderstorm and she's hooked.

The following is an author interview she has provided:

Is this your first book? 

Her Last Kiss is my first published book with and I'm thrilled to have the opportunity to share it with readers.

I have other manuscripts that are in the submission process. So far, my heroes tend to be strong, passionate alpha males who meet their match with strong willed heroines. My heroine may start out a wreck in the beginning of the story, perhaps some tragedy or past relationship shakes her to the core and she struggles to rebuild her confidence while battling obstacles, including the intense alpha-hero. By the end of my story the heroine is more than ready to handle her assured, virile man who turns out of course, to be putty in her hand. 

My intent when crafting a story is to create a tale that evokes a moody feel using a setting ripe with mystery or volatile weather, a romance with plenty of conflict, external danger and, of course, the paranormal. Vampires, daemons and witches are my favorite but there's no telling what future mystical being will hijack my imagination.

Are you working on the 2nd book of the series?

I sure am. The next Stone Dagger installment focuses on another of the Brethren enforcers and introduces another mythical species (the Auras) as the heroine. The Auras muted golden essence is compelling, draws attention and is a symbol of their goodness. Unfortunately, it also makes them an easy target for the daemon factions who want their, oh so tasty, blood. Why feast on fast food when you can have gourmet? 

This tale (not yet named) will take place in Alaska with the heroine desperate to protect the Kassi, a gilded box that contains the Auras resurrection (Upprisa) ability. With the loss of Upprisa every living being the Auras touch will die while the daemons will have the ability to resurrect. The Brethren must not let this happen. It's the hero's duty to obtain control of the Kassi and the woman who possesses it. Lots of obstacles, secrets, fiery passion and tender moments between these two characters. 

Tell us about Her Last Kiss.

I wanted to create a story that took place in the Arizona White Mountains where I could use stormy, volatile weather to set a dark mood and create another obstacle for the characters. The heavy storms and remote location seclude the characters and keep them in the center of danger where they must rely on one another to survive. The seclusion enflames Alek's passion for the intoxicating Geneva and resisting one another's allure proves impossible. Toss in an antagonist who is on the brink of insanity and uncontrollable feasting and you have Her Last Kiss... 

Geneva Phillips life changes forever when she embarks on a weekend in the Arizona White Mountains to soothe her broken heart. Geneva never realized offering an injured man refuge from a raging storm would plunge her into a dangerous and sensual world. When a bloodthirsty daemon targets Geneva as his next kill, she must rely on the mysterious stranger to keep her alive. Alek Savakis is an Enforcer for the Brethren of Stone Daggers. His mission is to destroy a rabid daemon loose in the area. His one intent is to kill the daemon and move on, the last thing he needs, or wants, is to find himself stranded with a woman who drives him mad with the need to possess her. As their dark enemy continues to feed on the innocent ones Geneva fears Alek will go to any length to protect mortals even if it means sacrificing her to the daemon. 

I enjoyed creating the heroine Geneva. She has a sense of humor even as she discovers the world is full of dangerous creatures that would like nothing more than to drink her empty. Alek is strong, virile, and risks his life to protect an 'innocent' he just met. 

What made you think to have this as a series?

While I wrote Her Last Kiss, ideas for more stories featuring other Brethren popped into my head. I made the daemon world more diverse with different types of daemons who have different powers depending upon their ancestry. I also added another species, the Auras who I introduce in the second book of the series. 

How did you go about writing Her Last Kiss? 

Her Last Kiss was intended as a shorter story but when I started writing Geneva and Alek's conflicts and the interaction between them the story grew into the length it is now. I enjoyed my characters too much to end their story. I found Geneva a fun personality, a little quirky while Alek, my tough Enforcer showed a gentle, patient layer existed under his forceful exterior.  

What will be the thread that ties the books together?

The Brethren are a group of daemons who want to protect mortals, the innocent ones, as they're called throughout the books. The Brethren will always be fighting the faction of daemon who seeks more power and has a disregard for life. When I created the backstory for the daemons I had them banished to caves and encased in crystal. For the Brethren series, I created a special weapon, a stone dagger, needed to destroy the daemons. 

The series will depict the good and evil within the daemon world. The daemon who kills wantonly and the daemon who takes just enough blood to survive and resists his/her base desire which is to drink their prey to the point of death. 

How many books do you see in this series?

I have so many ideas for this series running through my head I can hardly get one jotted down before another takes its place. I would love to write about the Brethren for as long as readers enjoy it! 

Are you a plotter or a panster?

I always start my writing with character worksheets and then move onto an outline. As my characters develop in my mind and their character arc evolves I come up with more scenes for my outline. However, my outline is not something I have to follow. Some of the best twists in my stories come after I've already started writing and I'm revisiting the outline for the second or third time. 

What else are you working on? 

I have a paranormal romantic suspense coming out in March 2012 with Muse It Up Publishing. The first book in the Element Series is called The Burning Seal. Here’s a little blurb:

Detective Danni Keegan is plunged into a dark, demonic world where survival depends on deciphering the connection between ritual killings, and a demon terrorizing her for a ‘gift’ she wasn’t even aware she possessed.

She must unravel her dreams of another woman who lived during ancient times and battled a bloodthirsty demon. The same demon who now hunts Danni.

The loss of Danni’s body and soul looms imminent as her only chance to destroy the demon depends on changing her new partner’s convictions. A sinfully sexy man, who exudes power and self-assurance with the ease of breathing and has an iron willed determination not to believe in the paranormal.

Where can people find you on the web? 

Muse It Up Readers Loop:  (an email loop where you can hang out with the Muse It Up authors)

I wish Jenna the best of luck with her wonderful career!

If you have any questions for Jenna, please feel free to use the comments for this, or to simply say something nice! :)

Thanks for stopping by!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Book Review of "Breath of Angel"

I have recently become a member of Blogging for Books and chose to review the title, "Breath of Angel" by Karyn Henley. It is part of a series titled "The Angeleon Circle - Book One".

This was a well-written piece and was home to a complete world centered around the subject of angels. I personally love angels and I found it to be very entertaining. There were different ranks of angels portrayed, along with their duties and earthly powers.

Ms. Henley constructs a land that has been ravaged by a blight that was brought on by the destruction of the Wisdom Tree, which housed a stairway to the heavens and allowed passage for the angels. Once it was no longer available, the angels were stuck on this earthly plane. The poor condition of the land, and lack of food, has caused much ravaging. There is a war among the angels and the humans for power. All in all there is a nice hook and good character development. The main character, Melaia, is a priestess who has known very little of the world. She is witness to a brutal murder in the beginning and is consequently forced to travel where her services are needed. Along the way, she encounters many difficulties and adversaries as she becomes aware of a whole new world encompassing angels, draks, who are birds with human souls entrapped in them and bearing human hands instead of clawed feet, and a fabled war that is fact.This book will not leave you bored, but with all of the action and enlightening moments, leaves the reader wanting more.

I was rooting for the romantic element of the story, Melaia and Trevin, who is a shady kingsman whose true character is revealed as the story goes. There are plenty of teasers for the following books to come. 

I will be looking forward to the next installment in the series. It's definitely worth checking out!

Here is a link to download chapter one.

I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group in order to provide this review.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

The direction I'm writing.

I have been meaning to get back on here and put up a blog post, so here it is! I was thinking today as I mopped, sometimes the best ideas can come to me as I do household chores, that it's interesting how I take the time and effort to construct an outline before I start writing a new project, yet that outline grows and evolves as I write the story.

Each character will grow, the storyline itself will grow, too. I just never expected my outline to grow or change. I believe I lie somewhere in between plotting and pantsing. It's my own unique method to my madness. What starts out as A, B, C, and so on, becomes A, 1, 2, B, 1, 2, 3, C... You get the idea. Sometimes B is eliminated and C pops up in a fresh new way.

I suppose I thought this would happen during editing. Maybe I'm editing as I go along. I don't want to do that because I think it will only make more work for me and not be time effective.

Eh, well. I'm thinking there is no right or wrong. It's all individual, it's all unique. I'm sure the longer I do this, the better the routine I will acquire. My teacher in a year-long class about taking a story from premise to publication, explains is as being like driving a stick shift. There's a lot going on, but once you get the hang of it, it becomes routine.

I also know I'm an analyzer. I have to know how something is done, or at least I think I do. It did make learning to drive a stick shift a little rough in the beginning. Eventually I learned to let go and it happened. Maybe that's what I should do with my writing process, somewhat. Let go. Write the story. Especially for the first draft, because it's not supposed to be perfect or knit picked. Just let go and let it all out on paper.

But for now, I like my outline and my stick shift. I drive a van, for the kids, and I truly do not like it. I want a stick shift again. I suppose it's the same with my writing. I just want it to happen and not to be this overwhelming process that I have to think about. Geez, you'd think I would like an automatic when I put it that way! 

What about you - do you like to plot or are you more of a pantser?