Mastodon The Writing Desk: October 2014

31 October 2014

Book Launch Guest Post ~ A Quill Ladder, by Jennifer Ellis

Abbey Sinclair would just like to return to her physics textbooks, but the witches who just moved in across the street seem to be up to something, and one of them has offered to give her lessons in witchcraft. She also has
to decide what to do with the instructions on how to save the world...
that seem to have come from her future self. 

Available on Amazon US and Amazon UK

A Quill Ladder, the second novel in my Derivatives of Displacement science fantasy series for kids and adults, launches this week. I call it science fantasy because it is a portal fantasy novel in which the kids travel not to a different world, but to different futures. It is strongly science-driven as my main character, Abbey, is a fourteen-year-old chemistry and physics geek, who likes to hypothesize and solve problems using the scientific method. Abbey’s twin, Caleb, is a popular kid and a bit less enamoured with science. Caleb rounds out Abbey’s science edge, and along with their older brother Simon, and next-door neighbour Mark, they have a lot of exciting adventures.

I am mostly inspired to write by the books that I read as a child—books like the Chronicles of Narnia, The Hobbit, The Wizard of Oz, and Enid Blyton’s Adventure Series—books that take you to another world and simply refuse to let you go until you are finished reading them. Not only do these books incorporate great adventures, but unlike some middle-grade and young adult fiction of today, which tends to be more relativistic and gritty, my favourite books of childhood had a strong moral foundation without being too preachy—at least they did not seem preachy to me at the time.

In order to lose myself in a book, the book had to have certain qualities. The main characters had to be likeable and fundamentally good, even though they could make mistakes. There had to be a strong sense of adventure and excitement. The kids had to be largely left on their own to resolve the issues without too much adult intervention. The themes and plot could not be too heavy—bad things could happen, but I also wanted good things to happen with a positive resolution at the end. Finally, there had to be just some magic amalgam of earnestness and playfulness in the writing that captured me.

Trying to recreate this winning combination, and the absolute joy I experienced in reading as a kid, is part of what inspires me to write. I even carry this goal forward into my fiction for adults to some extent, although I deal with darker more realistic themes in my adult books. In addition, because I work as an environmental researcher, and I am a feminist, I do like to be able to insert ideas and events into my books that support my beliefs—not in a heavy-handed way, but in a way that makes readers consider different perspectives. I try to write strong female and strong male protagonists, with the hope of making both girls and boys realize that they do not have to conform to stereotypes but rather can be who or what they want to be.

I also perpetually have stories and characters running around in my head, so I suppose that also helps to inspire me.

I try to approach my writing very seriously, but passionately and with a good sense of humour—after all, what are stories without a good sense of fun? I work a little over half-time doing environmental research and reports, and I put out a minimum of two novels and two novellas a year, so I have to be very disciplined about getting my daily word count done. But because I love writing so much, showing up at the writing desk is rarely difficult. If anything, it’s difficult for me not to write (don’t tell my work clients).

On days that I work, I try to hit a minimum word count of a thousand words, either first thing in the morning or late at night. If I am finishing up a major work project and have to do some overtime, I allow myself some five hundred-word days, which I try to make up for on the weekends. Working and writing every day, even most holiday days, is of course one of the difficult parts of being a writer. On those rare and lovely days that I do not have to work at all, I ramp my word count goal up to two to three thousand words a day. I know other full-time writers do a lot more in a single day, but I find that after the three thousand word mark, the quality of my writing diminishes, and it’s time to go outside and enjoy the gorgeous part of the world that I am lucky enough to inhabit.

Jennifer Ellis
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About the Author 

Jennifer Ellis lives in the mountains of British Columbia, Canada where she can be found writing, running, spending too much time on skis, trying to keep up with her two sons, and working as an environmental researcher. She also has a PhD in geography and has been known to read tarot cards for fun. She writes science fiction, fantasy, and post-apocalyptic fiction for kids and adults. You can subscribe to her blog for the latest book news and industry insights at She tweets at @jenniferlellis.

30 October 2014

Book Launch ~ The Chateau, by Karen Aldous

Can young hearts ease a restless spirit?

On the shores of stunning Lake Geneva, Gina Remy is celebrating her brother’s wedding – when the figure of a woman appears hovering above the water, beckoning to her. Ghostly visitations do not happen to Gina - a self-confessed control freak with her own successful property business, she prides herself on being level-headed. But as she is tormented by dreams and visions, her perfect life begins to unravel, and she knows she needs to help this ghost find peace if she’s to get any of her own!

Enter Ollie Martin, an Anglo-Swiss property developer who’s sexy as hell and knows it. His arrogance annoys Gina, but he’s the only one who will take her seriously… and the closer they come to understanding the quest the ghost has set for them, the closer they get to one another…

New on Amazon UK and Amazon US

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About the Author

Karen Aldous enjoys village life on the edge of the north-downs in Kent with easy access to the buzz of London. Not only does she love the passive pleasures of reading and writing, she also craves the more active pursuits with her family and friends such as walking, cycling and skiing especially when they involve food and wine! Karen gets much of her inspiration from her travels and if she had to choose, France, Greece, Switzerland and Italy would be her favourite. However, wherever she goes, she discovers a new character emerges in 'Karen's World'. She likes to write about strong independent women who can direct their own lives - but struggle to control them! And, of course there's always a gorgeous hunk or two! Find out more at Karen's website and follow her on Twitter @KarenAldous_

28 October 2014

Guest Post by Jared Hill ~ Arthur C. Clarke: A Look Back to the Future?

The popularity of science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke was so great by 1970, that the Apollo 13 Command Module, headed for the lunar surface, was dubbed Odyssey. That name was, of course, a tribute to what is perhaps Clarke’s most popular and enduring story, 2001: A Space Odyssey, which hit movie theaters in 1968. Clarke co-wrote the screenplay with director Stanley Kubrick and the two of them were nominated for Best Screenplay at the 1969 Oscars.

Clarke also wrote the novel version of 2001, along with three sequels to the book, 2010, 2061 and 3001. His many other writing projects, which include countless short stories and the novels Childhood’s End and A Fall of Moondust, earned him a place among the most respected science fiction writers of the 20th Century. Beyond his fictional writing, however, Clarke is also still revered for his work as a futurist: someone whose scientific grasp and lively imagination enabled him to make interesting, and in some cases amazingly accurate, predictions about future technology.

In this respect, Clarke is especially remembered for his 1945 predictions about satellite communications. In his article Extra-Terrestrial Relays (published in “Wireless World”), Clarke envisioned, in both words and drawings, space stations that would broadcast television signals, and satellites that would orbit the earth at a fixed location above the equator, in synchronization with earth’s rotation. He was writing about rocket technology and how rockets with enough speed and thrust could eventually launch satellites into orbit. If one could launch them far enough, then the orbit of the satellite would match the earth’s orbit and allow the satellite to remain stationary above one given location. 

Clarke not only anticipated the creation of the International Space Station and geosynchronous satellite networks, but his writing helped to establish the conceptual foundation for the technology itself. Without his contributions, it’s possible that we wouldn’t have satellite internet or transatlantic television broadcasts as we do today. Today, this orbit is named the Clarke Orbit in his honor, and the area of space where scientists can implement stationary or near-stationary orbits is called the Clarke Belt.

By 1974, Clarke was making astounding predictions about future communications that sound strangely close to a description of today’s internet communications. Although the only computers in existence at that time were massive, and would fill entire rooms, Clarke envisioned a world wherein every home would have “a console” through which people could communicate with a large database of information. He predicted that this database could be used for everything from retrieving one’s bank statements to making theater reservations. He talked of "a world in which we can be in instant contact wherever we may be," and how we could connect with people even if we didn’t know exactly where they were located. He surmised that this would change the way people did business, since they would be able to work from far more remote locations than they could in the present. He even suggested that doctors might be able to operate on patients remotely. In what seems like serendipity, the first robotic surgery came to pass, interestingly enough, in the actual year 2001.

Arthur C. Clarke passed away in 2008, but his legacy as both a great science fiction writer and a predictor of scientific possibilities lives on. Many people in both the literary world and the scientific and aeronautics communities mourned his passing and paid tribute to his genius and his sense of optimism about the future.

Jared Hil
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About the Author

Jared Hill is a Chicago based writer who focuses on entertainment, technology, health and sports. Follow him on twitter @JaredHill341

27 October 2014

Book Review ~ The Oblate’s Confession, by William Peak

7th century England: Christianity is a new force in the land and pagan rites survive in the surrounding hills and mountains. Plague sweeps across the countryside, its path marked by death and destruction. In keeping with a practice common at the time, an Anglo-Saxon warrior donates his youngest child to the monastery of Redestone, sentencing the boy to spend the rest of his life as a monk. This child, called an oblate, will grow up in the abbey knowing little of his family, his existence haunted by vague memories of a former life and the questions those memories provoke.

Available for pre-order from Amazon US and Amazon UK

William Peak’s evocative images of Dark Age Britain are haunting and convincing. The Oblate’s Confession has a slow pace and demands the reader's attention, so is a book to save for the long winter months. The rewards are there, however, as it raises many questions that are as relevant today as they were in medieval times.

I was fascinated by the details of life in a monastery, the hardships and challenges that were presumably taken for granted at the time. The almost poetic narrative unfolds to give a real sense of what it must have been like as the new Christian religion swept across a Britain where plagues and sacrifice were part of everyday life.

Recommended for anyone who would like to look beyond what have been dismissively called 'the Dark Ages' and understand a little more of our medieval heritage. The Oblate’s Confession is a book I suspect I will return to.

Tony Riches

25 October 2014

Special Guest Interview with Allen Wyler, author of Dead End Deal

World renowned neurosurgeon Jon Ritter is on the verge of a medical breakthrough that will change the world. His groundbreaking surgical treatment, using transplanted non-human stem cells, is set to eradicate the scourge of Alzheimer’s disease and give hope to millions. But when the procedure is slated for testing, it all comes to an abrupt and terrifying halt. 

Available on Amazon US and Amazon UK

Thanks for asking me to talk about Dead End Deal, a thriller that takes place in both Seattle and Seoul, South Korea.

What is your writing ritual? Why is that important and how has being surgeon shaped it?

For me writing is a difficult process that takes discipline. First thing I do every morning is pour a cup of coffee and sit down in front of my computer, the door to the room shut, the blinds drawn. No distractions. Then I get to work. One to four hours every day, no exceptions. Each day I set a goal and don’t quit until I reach that goal. If it takes the whole four hours, fine. If it takes only two hours, even better. But the point is I work at it daily. So what does this have to do with being a surgeon? Well, surviving neurosurgical training took a great deal of motivation and self-discipline. It taught me that I could succeed at a task if I gave it 100% effort. As far as how my career might flavor my writing, I think being a neurosurgeon given me a wealth of experience on which to base some pretty interesting stories.

What was the research behind Dead End Deal?

This is a blitz-pace thriller about a Seattle neurosurgeon who, while in Korea, is framed for a murder. Now hunted by police he must evade a professional hit man while trying to find a way back to the United States. I figure it’s Three Days of The Condor meets Michael Crichton.

I got the idea for the story when I was a guest lecturer at a medical school in Seoul, South Korea. I was staying at the Walker Hill Sheraton hotel across the Han River from the hospital. So all the scenes (hotel, downtown Seoul, and the Korean hospital) were from notes and snapshots I took while there. (I always travel with a small point and shoot camera in my pocket). The brief description of the surgical procedure comes from my own experience.

My neurosurgeon protagonist, Jon Ritter, escapes via a route I personally took when figuring out how he might return to the United States without a passport. Again, the scenes were written with the help of snapshots. So, the short answer to the question is that all the research for the story came from personal experience. By the way, I find digital photography a great help when writing. I view a relevant snapshot on the screen as I write. This help me accurately describe what I’m seeing.

What are the challenges of writing a medical thriller?

People who read medical thrillers are usually interested in medical details, just as readers of legal thrillers find law interesting. What is difficult is adding sufficient medical detail to satisfy a reader without making descriptions or facts boring. This is one reason I try to move my stories along at a fast clip. Thrillers are intended to thrill, not lecture. Fast pace, good plot, interesting characters are the elements that should be in a medical thriller.

What made you take the path from neurosurgeon to author and what were your biggest challenges?

Writing always interested me. Even in grade school I read like a fiend. So it seemed like a good idea to major in English instead of the traditional chemistry or zoology when I was taking my pre-med courses. This caused me considerable grief because it was difficult to get in all my required credits. But I figured once I got into medical school I’d never have another shot at the literature courses. And that’s exactly what happened —medical school and post graduate training consumed all my time. Then one Saturday, after starting practice, I came home from making rounds at the hospital and decided to start writing. Just like that. I began a novel that ended up to be really awful. Then I wrote another one, which was better but still not ready for prime time. At that point I started trolling for an agent and finally secured one, but could not sell my work. Years later, I got the call I’d been waiting for. It was quite a thrill. I guess, in the end, my biggest challenge was finding enough time to devote to writing. For me the writing process is difficult and requires a ton of work. I now enjoy the luxury of having sufficient time to work on my craft. It’s a dream come true.

How does Alzheimers rank as one of the most pressing diseases in the 21st century?  Why and if it goes unchecked how will it impact our society? (is there any progress on finding a cure?)

Chances are you know someone among who either has Alzheimer’s Disease or is directly connected—by relation or care—to someone who has it.  As of this year an estimated 5.4 million Americans are living with AD. That translates to roughly one in eight older Americans.  That’s a staggering number, but yet in the public consciousness, AD isn’t as widely considered (“top of mind”) as the dangerous killer that it is; not like say, cancer or heart failure.  (AD is the sixth leading cause of death in the US).

The fact is, neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease are becoming more prevalent as the average life span of individuals increase and the more common health care problems ARE better treated. It’s predicted that by 2020, thanks to drugs like Lipitor, mortality from heart disease and stroke will be way down, making Alzheimer’s the leading cause of death in our time.  The personal consequences to individuals or families is devastating, but the general consequence to society as a whole is great as well.  That’s because AD patients often live a long time, their care is very expensive and will become a major health issue (both in cost and quality of life) that our society will have to bear.

There is hope in some novel drugs to treat AD. Because the disease results from the build up of Amyloid in nerve cells, a promising approach is to block the production of this protein. In addition, there is intriguing research into the concept of surgically implanting stem cells into especially damaged brain areas.  This possible cure is a central element that I used in the plot for my new novel, Dead End Deal.

Cures and treatments for diseases like AD are very expensive to develop, (millions upon tens of millions of dollars of R&D) with the resulting payoff even greater (billions of dollars of revenue for the “drug” or the “procedure”) often creating entire new branches of medicine, with thousands upon thousands of new jobs.  This high risk / high reward fact of life for medical researchers and practitioners like me is a natural stage for heroes, villains and high-stakes drama.  I try to capture that in my Thrillers, but the true high-stakes drama on the medical treatment / development stage is much more exciting than any fiction; the heroes are by far much more worthy of praise (though they often go unnoticed).  I like to see my books as homage to them, at least in some small way.

Allen Wyler
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About the Author

Allen Wyler is a renowned neurosurgeon who earned an international reputation for pioneering surgical techniques to record brain activity.  He has served on the faculties of both the University of Washington and the University of Tennessee, and in 1992 was recruited by the prestigious Swedish Medical Center to develop a neuroscience institute. Leveraging a love for thrillers since the early 70’s, Wyler devoted himself to fiction writing in earnest, eventually serving as Vice President of theInternational Thriller Writers organization for several years. After publishing his first two medical thrillers Deadly Errors (2005) and Dead Head(2007), he officially retired from medicine to devote himself to writing full time. He and his wife, Lily, divide their time between Seattle and the San Juan Islands. Find out more at his website

21 October 2014

Book Launch ~ Modern Hobbies, by Christopher S. Bell

Available now Amazon US and Amazon UK

Modern Hobbies follows forty-five-year-old narrator, Lawrence Thorne, a disgruntled employee of Pittsburgh-based super company Graffius Co.  Lawrence has been punching the numbers for twenty years, his body deteriorating in a similar fashion until a new test program offers the chance to up his productivity.  The small silver injections every week give the recipient a much-needed boost in all the wrong directions, Lawrence being one of nine dummy employees receiving their first dose.

Lost in an inevitable swirl of collected nostalgia tied to his deceased girlfriend, Bianca Deist, employee Thorne initially shows few improvements.  However, the spark comes in several forms by Friday.  Lawrence’s livelong friend, the recently-divorced Grace Emerson, returns to the Burg, soon seducing him into hysterics.  Unsure of his feelings, he desperately considers quitting his job and selling off his hobbies.

Internal tensions skyrocket following news of his Cousin Wesley’s suicide in their hometown of Atterbury, Indiana.  Returning to his roots with an unlikely ingredient inside, Lawrence Thorne is propelled into a depleted world of familiar faces and clever ploys in a place he hardly recognizes.  Haunted hotel rooms and alluring teen prostitute, Megan Bartina, are but half of the problems before the flood and his showdown with crazed legend, Motorcycle Frank Dribble.  Lawrence subsequently loses his cool; collected habits amounting to very little while lost in the eye of the storm.

Modern Hobbies is the tale of accumulated memories tied to the staying quality of inanimate objects.  Lawrence Thorne stands firm as one of the last survivors of a non-digital age, inevitably imprisoned by a thickened experiment meant to propel the human race forward, while still taking them two steps back.  Amongst his jilted ego, a frantic rebel resides waiting for the inappropriate moment to lash out on society before his insides do so first.  The subsequent consequences are beneficial albeit crippling to the fading mementos meticulously catalogued on his shelves.

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About the Author

Christopher S. Bell has been writing and releasing literary and musical works through My Idea of Fun since 2008.  His sound projects include Emmett and Mary, Technological Epidemic, C. Scott and the Beltones, and Fine Wives.  My Idea of Fun is an art and music collective based out of Johnstown, Pennsylvania. ( .  Christopher’s work has recently been published in The Broadkill Review, Mobius and  He is also a contributor to Impression of Sound. Find out more at and on Facebook

19 October 2014

Guest Post by Carrie Aulenbacher, author of The Early Bird Café

For years, Jim and Eve have shared breakfast every morning at the Early Bird Café. Their constant friendship, however, is thrown into chaos when Jim begins writing his second novel.

Available on Amazon US and Amazon UK

As I walk around in this old café, it is not only the setting of my book, The Early Bird Café, but it is a haunt for me.  The worn linoleum floor squeaks familiarly under my feet, the mismatched salt and pepper sets among the tables fit just right in my hand.  Even the dated cash register makes me want to keep coming back here when I need some relief from the daily grind.  Such is the inner world that I visit as the setting of my debut novel.

People ask me how I wrote such a story.  They say they never knew I had all of this inside of me.  To me, it is not something that I created, but something that I’ve discovered inside of me over the years.  I feel more like an explorer at times when I write.  I am not bringing anything new to life, in my mind; I’m simply uncovering an inner world and reporting back to my readers with my findings.  I’ve trod these streets on snowy, dreary days, my hands thrust deep in my pockets to thwart the cold.  I’ve donned sunglasses to sneak a peek on hot afternoons, watching around the corners as my characters have gone on living out their lives.  I’ve listened to a hundred conversations between Jim and Eve while sitting in the very next booth, never writing anything down; just listening.

I find that, the more I immerse myself in their world and get to know them, the better I am able to document what they’re doing, what they’re saying and what they’re not saying.  So, I hate to disappoint those who insist that storyboards and outlines are the best way to go.  I’ve never used any.  There is no storyboard to map out one’s own life, and I find that such an approach doesn’t work for my characters in their own lives either.  I just let the chips fall where they may and I see how things unfold for them.

That’s why I feel that Jim’s journal entries are such a good fit for the format of my novel.  His entry at the end of every chapter is a sneak peek inside his mind much like my trips to the café are my sneak peek inside their world.  To get inside his head is just as important for the reader as those times I would watch him prowl these streets clad in his leather jacket like a sexy yet forlorn rock star.  As intimate as The Early Bird Café is, it is Jim’s journal that shows us just how much he hides from his best friend, Eve.

These hints at further mystery make me keep coming back here.  As we discover just how private Jim keeps his innermost thoughts from his very best friend, how much could he be hiding from me, his author?  I ponder this as I occupy the corner table and watch him cross the floor before me.  Easing into the booth, he opens that journal laconically while Cassie pours him a perfect cup of coffee.  He shirks the leather jacket from his broad shoulders, revealing a tight shirt that leaves nothing to the imagination.  This author can see his mind working out something.  Running his hand over an unshaved jaw, the pen begins a sentence in the journal in front of him but hesitates, then stops. 

I watch his eyes glaze over as he stares out the window.  He chews his lip absentmindedly.  Dropping the pen for his cup of coffee, he runs a hand through his luscious brown curls, oblivious to me.  This is why I became a writer.  Because there are characters like this living in the inner world in my head that I don’t fully know - yet I just can’t resist.  I have to know.  What makes a guy like Jim tick?  Why is he the man that he is?  And who can save him?

Eve comes in the door, and one can almost sense his aura change.  It is clear there is something mysterious about her that he is trying to unlock with his own writing.  She’s got something that makes his eyes dance and his smile broaden.  I feel a smug satisfaction at realizing that, for all the secrets he still hides, there is yet another who holds an ultimate secret from him.

As the author of this unique love story, I can’t wait to come back and watch it all unfold.

Carrie Aulenbacher
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About the Author 

Carrie Aulenbacher was born and raised in Erie, PA, and currently works at one of the largest locally owned logistics companies in the tri-state area where she has enjoyed varied roles duties as an Administrative Assistant / Tax Clerk / Social Media Coordinator for the past 15 years. Although The Early Bird Cafe is her first publication, Carrie has had a lifelong love of writing.  On her website you’ll find some freebies of short stories and poems she has written over the years.  In her spare time, Carrie is a full-time mommy who loves collecting old books, exploring her nearby woods, growing tons in her flower gardens and treasure hunting in the local antique shops. You can find Carrie on Facebook and follow her on Twitter @Aully1 

17 October 2014

Guest Post ~ ImagiNation Unveiled: The Hidden Realm, by Judy Probus

"A fascinating fantasy novel ... reading this book felt very much like I was watching an episode of Avatar meets Indiana Jones in space." -, the #1 Harry Potter website 

"I think this could have the potential to be this generation's answer to The Never Ending Story!" - 

Available on Amazon US and Amazon UK

Across the Cosmos spins a once peaceful planet now under siege by an evil sorceress, an exiled member of the royal family, and thousands of soldiers in the army they wield.

In a last ditch effort, the oldest member of the benevolent empire scans the solar system for help. He locates three earthlings who he believes are uniquely capable of completing a secret mission with Zhii, the Imperor’s daughter.

The fate of the universe hinges on unlikely shoulders. The quartet is tasked with finding and assembling the Crystal Heart, a mysterious and powerful weapon that was broken and scattered throughout the ImagiNation centuries ago. Their adventure takes them on a quest to the four corners of the alien planet where magic, danger, and fantastical creatures lurk. But even if they succeed in their quest for the Crystal Heart, they must use it against their evil foes in an epic battle that is destined to take place on the Crystal Castle’s front lawn.

In a world of such skepticism, where what can be seen or touched is paramount, only the youngest at heart or those with extraordinary imaginations could believe a descendant of the most elite line of dragons survives… Each inquisitive soul must decide if they dare to believe a dragon-sized tale that spins mortals, aliens, sorcery, and fantastical creatures together…

Thanks for inviting me to your site, Tony. Hikari Ryuu (Ryuu), my dragon, and I are happy to have landed in such a wonderful place. Above is the synopsis on the back cover of the novel and a short snippet from inside the supplement that contains backstories, a map of the ImagiNation, and sketches of several main characters.

I met my dragon on a flight to New York. The beauty of the skies sparked my creative muse like never before. I returned home with the determination to write a novel. Later that week, while waiting at a stoplight, I envisioned my dragon sitting on my steering wheel! The other characters formed in my mind shortly thereafter.

My YA fantasy/adventure story is about young people from two worlds who face extraordinary circumstances without possessing innate superpowers. They must solve a series of rhymes and use the Ancient Ways on their quest to find a powerful ancient Crystal Heart. Instead of relying on technology, they must rely on the power of their imaginations, courage, ingenuity, and faith in one another in order to save the universe from destruction.

In real life, young people face many challenges these days yet they possess some of the world’s most potent imaginations, which I believe to be the most powerful and under-appreciated renewable resource in the universe. Krycling the ice monster; Vargon the ogre of the forest; his minions the Stump Dwellers; Master Mantis the crystal wizard; Vahdeema the evil sorceress; the magical Itz; Dillywogs; the space-age Trolls; and of course, Hikari Ryuu, the courageous young dragon are just some of the fantastical characters readers of the book will have fun discovering.

Imagine on!

Judy Probus
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About the Author

Judy Probus is the author of the adventure fantasy novel ImagiNation Unveiled: The Hidden Realm. Her husband Bill and extended family reside in Kentucky, “The Unbridled State” – a perfect place and state of mind for a writer of adventure fantasy tales. Judy possesses a B.S. and Masters in Education, experience in the performing arts and teaching, and has volunteered countless hours in the local school system. Besides writing, Judy enjoys reading, listening to music, watching sports and movies, gardening, traveling, and learning new things about Earth and beyond. Discover Judy’s imagination and what inspires her to write at and follow her on Twitter @JudyProbus

15 October 2014

Guest Post by Bob Van Laerhoven, Author of Baudelaire's Revenge

Everyone is guilty of something - the only mystery is,
to what degree?

Winner of the Hercule Poirot Prize for best crime novel of the year

Available on Amazon US and Amazon UK


We Flemings love our pubs and  our world-famous monastery beers.  They fuel a lot of, eh, cultural discussions.  And, in my case, a variety of what I could term “friendly but boisterous insults of the author.” Someone blows his alcoholic fumes in my face and delivers a target line, more or less like this: “Thirty-five books published in thirty-three years? If I was a fulltime author like you, for sure I would publish even more books, and they would be a lot better and sell much more than yours! You know why? Eh? Because I would write them utterly wasted! Alcoholic fluid is excellent for a fluent style! Rodeo-style! Fast and dirty! What a life you have, you lucky bastard! Writing isn’t like…like…working as I have to do.”


My standard answer in those cases, delivered with utmost dignity, is: “And what would you write about?”  Their standard answer usually goes like this: “Eh….I would think of something! Anything! Eh… Something commercial! Romance, love, sex, mayhem, murder, a villain you would like to tear to pieces with your bare hands, eh….I would think and think until I’ve found something.”

Sometimes, when I’m in the mood, I try to explain them that you don’t seduce inspiration by thinking. Inspiration seduces you when you allow her. The Muse demands a clear head and an intimate connection with your own brain. Okay, I admit, that last part of the sentence sounds weird. And it isn’t that I have gulped down a few monastery beers (world- famous!).

Still, it is kind of like that.
I have to be open in order to find my theme.
Or better: I have to be open so that my theme can find me.
Receptive, that is what a writer should be when a theme knocks at his door.

It so happens that a few days ago, I finished my new novel: “De schaduw van de Mol” (The Shadow of the Mole). So I spent a few evenings in various very Flemish cafés to celebrate this happy feat. I had a bunch of, eh, cultural discussions. Truth is: they become boring after a few days. Therefore, I’m on the look-out for a new theme. It’s like a fever that’s slowly building up.

There are writers who complain about “writer’s block.”  Or how hard it is these days to find a real good theme. Maybe they’re not curious enough. When I was little, my mother used to call me in sturdy Flemish a curieuzeneuzemosterdpotIt’s an untranslatable word – just try to say it out loud phonetically, heehaw - but it means that I am dreadfully curious.
A talent for a writer, I assure you.

In my view, you must not only be curious but also passionate about something if you want to write something worthwhile. Although this is an era where for the most part literature has degraded to mere entertainment, I’m a stubborn little guy and I like to think that literature has the ability to say something meaningful about the human condition. 

Authors can use stories as a vehicle to probe the vast universe of the human mind. I like my novels to have a social angle: individual lives caught up in broad social currents, often upheavals in tense times. All I have to do to find that angle is to listen, read and watch empathically. Then the rest follows as sure as day and night.

An example.

Only yesterday, a female journalist told me about her recent experiences in the metro of Algiers when she travelled after eight o’clock pm from station Haï El-badr to station El-HammaLet me give her the stage in her own words: “I was correctly dressed: a beige dress reaching to my ankles, a sweater that covered my arms and a shawl around my hair. I was hardly wearing any make-up.  At Haï El-badr, I nipped my train, had to wait for the next one. I was alone on the quay. A young man wearing a police uniform came up to me. Without  any hesitation, he said: “Are you not afraid to be here alone at this time of the evening? Be careful: you could be molested.” I told him I thought that Algeria was not like India or Egypt where women can be raped in broad daylight.  He tried to reassure me, but at the same time he asked for my mobile number because he thought I was assez jolie (very handsome).

“Once in the train, I noticed I was the only unaccompanied woman in the carriage.  In the station Amirouche a bunch of adolescents got on board and immediately started to harass me. An older man intervened but when the young freaks had backed off, he reproached me harshly: was I mad or stupid? In the eyes of those thugs  I was  une catin, a prostitute,  being alone on the metro at this hour instead of being home and tending for my man and children.

 “Out of the metro, going to my friend’s house, only a two minutes walk, two times men asked me what my price was for half an hour. At last standing before my friend’s door, another hissed something behind my back and shot me a menacing glance when I looked over my shoulder. Luckily, the door opened. I stumbled inside…”

Listening to her story, seeing her outrage, feeling her pain and confusion, something stirred in me.
A flicker.
A connection deep in the subconscious regions of the mind.
The beginning of a story.
A novel?
We’ll see. Let it brew.
But one thing is certain: inspiration is seducing me.
Thank God.

Bob Van Laerhoven
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Visit Bob's Website  and find him on Twitter @bobvanlaerhoven 

Book Launch ~ A Lady at Willowgrove Hall, by Sarah E. Ladd

Her secret cloaks her in isolation and loneliness. His secret traps him in a life that is not his own.

Available on Amazon US and Amazon UK

Darbury, England, 1819

Cecily Faire carries the shame of her past wherever she treads, knowing one slip of the tongue could expose her disgrace. But soon after becoming a lady’s companion at Willowgrove Hall, Cecily finds herself face-to-face with a man well-acquainted with the past she’s desperately hidden for years.
Nathaniel Stanton has a secret of his own—one that has haunted him for years and tied him to his father’s position as steward of Willowgrove Hall. To protect his family, Nathaniel dares not breathe a word of the truth. But as long as the shadow looms over him, he’ll never be free to find his own way in the world. He’ll never be free to fall in love.
When the secrets swirling within Willowgrove Hall come to light, Cecily and Nathaniel must confront a painful choice: Will they continue running from the past . . . or will they stand together and fight for a future without the suffocating weight of secrets long kept?

A Lady at Willowgrove Hall  ~ Litfuse Giveaway

One grand prize winner will receive:

  • A Kindle Fire HDX
  • A Lady at Willowgrove Hall by Sarah E. Ladd
Enter today by clicking the icon below. Giveaway open to US and Canadian residents only and  ends on November 2nd. Winner will be announced November 3rd here.


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About the Author

Sarah E. Ladd has always loved the Regency period — the clothes, the music, the literature and the art. A college trip to England and Scotland confirmed her interest in the time period and gave her idea of what life would’ve looked like in that era. However, it wasn’t until 2010 that she started writing seriously. Her latest release, A Lady at Willowgrove Hall is the third and final release in the Whispers on the Moors series. Sarah has over ten years of strategic marketing and brand management experience, including five years of marketing non-fiction books and three years of marketing the musical arts. She lives in Indiana with her husband and daughter - and very lovable Golden Retriever. Find out more at her website and find Sarah on Twitter @SarahLaddAuthor