This collection of stories veered from a little girl finding out that unicorns can be evil murderers to a young husband learning that his mother-in-law is a goddess. Some were barely holding together as a story, and others just completely unraveled, such as the Guided Meditation, which was maddening to read. All in all, the writing style is generally interesting, and the good stories are really good. I was fortunate to receive a digital copy from the publisher Jamie Lackey through NetGalley.
NetGalley doesn’t state if a book is part of a series, and perhaps this book would have made more sense after reading the first one,. Having said that, this author does a spectacular job of bringing supernatural beings to life in an ice castle in Russia no less. The heroes are just a bit beyond human, which makes them infinitely more interesting, but all are deeply flawed with very human emotions. I recommend this series based on the author’s storytelling and descriptive talent, but maybe start from the beginning! I received a digital copy from the publisher Wednesday Books through NetGalley.
Meant to be read in various ways, to gain the story through vignettes, or chronologically as three separate tales, this is a tale of a love story stretching romance throughout infinity through body snatching and searching for the one true love. I highly recommend this wonderful novel told in a unique style, rampaging through times and cultures, infinitely fascinating. I received a digital copy from the publisher St. Martin’s Press through NetGalley.
Freida Kilmari, an author, writer, and editor from south-west England, has been writing and publishing works of fiction and poetry for the last five years, and has found many homes for her pieces over those years, including ‘Advaitum Speaks Literary’, ‘The World Poetry Movement’, ‘Fairy Tales and Folklore Re-Imagined’, and ‘Rejected’. Her debut collection published in February of 2018, Man VS Happiness, and since then she’s been working on worlds of fantasy, magic, poetry, and romance, taking a special interest in LGBTQ+ and mental health representation in literature.
Tell me about your writing process: schedule, environment, inspirations, magic spells, etc.
I’m a messy writer; I have notes written on scraps of paper, edges of napkins, and old shopping lists littered everywhere. It drives my husband mad! But I do have an office where I try to contain most of the madness. There, I’m surrounded by books, inspirational quotes and images, and my project notebook with my ideas jotted down (it’s a Harry Potter notebook, of course). I write whenever and wherever I can; there’s no limit. But I do find myself being more of a nighttime writer, when the house is silent and my imagination can run wild. There’s something about a quiet, happy, peaceful house that I find magically inspiring, like witching hour for writers.
Walk me through your submission / publishing process from “final” draft to final product, including who does what when, and marketing that you do as the author.
I have a rigorous process for my writing. When writing the first draft, the main thing is that I get the words onto the paper and keep a small notebook handy for things that will help when revising, but once I’m finished I put it away. Usually for two-three months. Before I print it off and do a read-through on paper, where I doodle, note-take, and red-pen the entire thing. After applying those edits and going through the digital copy a few more times, I hand it over to my beta readers, who are great at both encouraging and critiquing. They’re always my first fans. I apply their feedback where appropriate and then run it through ProWriting Aid before submitting to my proofreader. It’s a huge process, and the editing usually takes twice as long as the writing.
Talk about your support system online and IRL; who are your biggest cheerleaders?
I’m quite a solo writer—I much prefer being my own cheerleader. But I’ve always been quite an internal person who prefers their own company to that of others. However, that means I can often get un-confident and self-conscious of my work, but I always pick myself back up. I do have some amazingly supportive friends, and my husband will sit for hours and listen to my plots, characters, and world ideas, and ask questions, poke holes, and be the most amazing support system. I’m part of a lot of writing circles and critique groups online, too, and I’ve found that support from people who, like me, are writers, is vital to my process. As great as my friends and husband are, sometimes I need the opinions of other writers.
How does life influence your writing and vice versa?
It does and it doesn’t. On the one hand, I’m mostly a fantasy author, so I write things that are supposed to be farfetched and not similar to life, but on the other hand, I’m a big supporter of including LGBTQ+ characters in my stories (whether the main character/s or not), and I guess that’s influenced by the largely heteronormative stance literature seems to take. I also like including mental health representation in my writing, which is what a lot of my poetry is about—that’s been influenced by my own life experiences. I used to feel so alone, and I think if I could have read characters who suffered like I did, it would have helped make me feel more ‘normal’, and less like I was failing as a human being.
Writing is one of the most important aspects of my life; I wouldn’t be here today without it.
What do you love most about your creativity?
I love those moments when you latch onto an idea and let it pull you away into the dead of night, and you can’t stop your fingers from typing out the movie you’re seeing in your head—even if you wanted to. It’s like, for that moment, you’re living an extraordinary life, and you get to watch your characters mess up, cry, laugh, and cause world-ending disasters all on their own. And knowing that it’s coming from my head, my thoughts . . . it’s like watching a personalized movie that’s writing itself as it plays.
Connect with Freida:
From a dystopian Earth of radical climate unlivable for humans, to a ghost exacting payment in the form of a child, these stories will plunge you deep and whip you back up into the air. Carr writes about the human condition while delving into fantasy, science fiction, and psychological horror, bringing readers to the edge and nearly dropping them. Neighbor fears neighbor in a world gone nuclear, an old man brings life back to the soil through magical wind chimes, and a neglected wife flies away on a hummingbird. Carr’s style is intense, lingering with readers. I highly recommend all of his books.
Ello. My name is Umair Mirxa. I live and write in Karachi, Pakistan. To be a published author is a dream I have long held and cherished, and it has finally, slowly come true over the past year or so. I have the honour of being published in several international anthologies, but there is much yet to achieve, including my first novel, and hopefully, an epic fantasy series. More recently, I have taken up drawing as a secondary creative outlet. When I am not writing, I spend my time on Netflix, reading, and watching football as an Arsenal FC fan.
Tell me about your writing process: schedule, environment, inspirations, etc.
The greatest and most ever-present inspiration for me is, and forever has been, J.R.R. Tolkien. I read my favourite passages from The Lord of the Rings whenever I’m stuck with my own writing or even generally if and when something has me down. Charles Dickens, Neil Gaiman, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and Christopher Paolini are just a few of the other authors who have inspired me.
I don’t really work to a strict schedule unless faced with a looming deadline. I do, however, make a point of writing every single day, even if what I produce turns out to be spectacularly ridiculous rubbish. If the muse is singing, I have been known to write for 14-16 hour sessions without food or sleep. There are, of course, plenty of days when even a 100-word drabble seems like the most horrible chore. I write digitally using a desktop PC, sitting at a desk which has a notepad, a pen-holder, an ashtray, several mugs of coffee, and snacks and smokes in a room which contains my bookshelf, a TV, a PS4, plenty of light, and a couple of extremely comfortable leather sofas.
Walk me through your publishing process from final draft to final product, including services hired as a self-published author, and marketing.
While I have been published in nearly three dozen anthologies recently, I have yet to self-publish a book. Once it is ready, and hopefully the day is not too far off, I plan on seeking out a couple of author friends to beta-read the final draft, and then upload the final product to print-on-demand platforms like Amazon and Lulu. I am lucky enough to have professional experience as a graphic designer and a digital marketer, thus eliminating the need for hired services. I hope to create a decent cover myself, and I will definitely be doing my own marketing, at least for a while yet.
Talk about your support system online and IRL, especially your biggest cheerleaders.
I feel I have been truly blessed when it comes to having a support system as a writer. My wife does everything possible to facilitate my process and schedule, and has been the greatest, most constant source of motivation and encouragement. My mother, both sisters, brother, mother-in-law, and sisters-in-law and even their husbands have all cheered and spurred me on, and I have the greatest group of friends a guy can ask for in my corner, always. They have supported me, encouraged me, chastised me when necessary, and contributed ideas and advice for my stories.
Lastly, and most certainly not the least, I have been incredibly fortunate to have a rather remarkable group of author and publisher friends online who have beta-read my work with honest feedback, shown me submissions opportunities, encouraged me to write and submit, and given me excellent advice not only for writing but for life as well. They include, and I apologize in advance if I fail to mention someone I should, authors such as Steve Carr, Shawn Klimek, David Bowmore, Bruce Rowe, Mark Kuglin, Patt O’Neil, Mehreen Ahmed, Pavla Chandler, Aditya Deshmukh, Nerisha Kemraj, Ximena Escobar, Kelli J Gavin, Arabella Davis, and Dawn DeBraal, and publishers/editors Grant Hudson, Dean Kershaw, Zoey Xolton, Madeline L. Stout, and Stacey Morrighan McIntosh.
How does life influence your writing and vice versa?
In every way possible, I imagine. For most of my life, reading fantasy stories has been a way of escape, and now I write them myself, more often than not, for the very same reason. Yet no matter how fantastic a landscape I portray or how outlandish my characters, the essence of my own personal experiences permeates all of my writing. My characters, therefore, and much like I do myself, will generally hate racism and discrimination in any form with a vengeance, and they’ll tend to be quiet and introverted, with only a small group of close friends. They will have experienced loss and adversity, will enjoy books and food and travel, music and solitude, and the all the simple pleasures of life.
Simplicity is perhaps the greatest lesson taught to me by the art and practice of writing. Too often, we complicate our lives beyond reason by chasing after material and financial gain at the cost of all that is good and pure in our time on Earth.
What do you love most about your creativity?
The ability to bring to life characters and things and places, and entire worlds which I can visit and explore at leisure. To be able to have conversations with people I would never actually meet, to give them lives and loves, experiences and friendships. To dream of a world which has never been and might never come to be but still be able to envision and set stories within, and then to share them with the world that is.
I love how my creativity means I am never, ever bored and can comfortably be alone for days, even weeks on end if necessary. I enjoy discovering potential stories when I’m out at a restaurant, mall or park, and can create characters of the people I see and meet. More recently, since I have taken up drawing, there is the additional joy of studying light and shadows, form and shape and perspective, and then to try and apply all of it to a blank canvas.
Most importantly perhaps, and I know all authors crave an audience, but I absolutely love when someone tells me they enjoyed reading one of my stories. It is one of the greatest pleasures in life, I believe, when your work is the source of joy for another.
Connect with Umair:
Author Extra: Write a 50-word story right here, right now!
Brynhildr withdrew her sword from the fallen warrior’s chest, swayed, and collapsed herself. Slowly, the dark descended, and she felt herself ascending. Strong arms around her. A gentle caress. The weight, the pain, the fear. All of it, gone.
She opened her eyes, and with a smile walked into Valhalla.
Author Extra Extra: Art Gallery
Zadie crushes on her best friend, the hero of the village, who has saved more than one person from the labyrinth that borders her village, a labyrinth full of booby traps and deadly creatures, including a boogeyman named Dex. When her friend disappears into the labyrinth and becomes history to the village, Zadie is the only one willing to risk the labyrinth to rescue him. Tate spins Dear Reader’s head with unlikely allies, exploding expectations, and astonishing revelations. YA fantasy fans will add this author to their list of favorites. I received this wonderful story from Flux through NetGalley.
Jack Rollins was born and raised among the twisting cobbled streets and lanes, ruined forts and rolling moors of rural Northumberland, England in 1980. He is the author of the horror novel The Cabinet of Doctor Blessing, the novella The Séance and a range of short , dark fiction tales. Jack lives in Newcastle, England.
Tell me about your writing process: schedule, environment, inspirations, magick spells, etc.
I have no hard and fast rules when it comes to writing. I’m not one of those 1,000 words a day writers. I wish I was, but life gets in the way. I have bills to pay and my writing won’t yet cover them, and I have children, who wait for nobody and nothing. I think, in fact, hearing some writers talk about their daily word counts actually puts me off writing in some ways—as though I needed to wait until I was in a position to hit that target before I could consider myself a ‘proper writer.’ The truth is, that perfect set of circumstances may never land for me.
So I write whenever and wherever I can. Lately I have been feeling really inspired and energized, and working in my shop enables me plenty of time between customers, to plan, plot, prepare, and ultimately piece together my current work-in-progress. And yes, it can be annoying if I get on a roll and have to stop because a delivery of new stock has to be checked and merchandised, but I have to get on with it and come back to the story because by the time my working day has finished, you can guarantee I’ll be sprawled across my couch, not in any fit state to write another word.
Walk me through your publishing process from “final” draft to final product, including who does what when, and marketing strategies.
I have a few trusted individuals, who are writers, to whom I send my work. One of these writers has known me almost twenty years as I sit here. He knows my style, knows how I say what I want to say, and he especially can help me get to the core of what I’m looking to bring out for the reader.
Once it looks as though we can’t thrash anything more out of the book, then it’s time to put it together. In the case of physical copies of the book, I have learned a great deal over the years about typesetting and formatting a novel properly to ensure a quality product—well laid out and comfortable on the eyes—is produced. The story could be the best thing ever written, but if the typesetting is awful, then who will take the time to read it?
In terms of marketing, I’ve enjoyed some online book launch parties. I found them effective ways of engaging with some readers, but right now, my aim is to be more prolific. I need more stories out there now. I need to reward the loyalty of the readers who have stayed with me, and if I’m able to do that, then hopefully, new readers will join the fold.
I’m not foolish enough to believe it’s some Field of Dreams’ “Write it and they will come” situation. But right now at this stage of my career, with the lengthy break I’ve had between finished projects, I feel the important thing is to look after the readers I’ve already gained. They are, after all, looking out for me.
Talk about your support system online and IRL; who are your biggest cheerleaders?
In real life, I know I have the support of my brothers and parents. They like to know that I’m being creative even if what I write doesn’t always appeal to them.
And I need to be honest here, Lael. I haven’t needed a lot of support with the creativity because up until recently, I’ve been fighting battles that completely took me away from my writing. So when I decided enough was enough, and I needed to get back to my old self now that life is settling down again, the first thing I did was write a blog post, almost a letter of apology to the readers who had enjoyed what I’d written previously. And the response I got from that post, in terms of comments, Facebook messages, text messages and all the rest of it, was really uplifting in one sense, and a kick in the balls in another. Uplifting because it was great to know that people are out there rooting for me, and will still get excited when I produce the next piece of work. A kick in the balls because I knew I had to live up to them. That, as a writer, if I do nothing to entertain these loyal readers, then I don’t deserve to have them in my corner. All of that reinforced the positive changes I had made in my life, and I resolved to make creativity a major part of my life once more. Those readers, some of them are individuals I’ve met, or exchanged messages and emails with over time, and that means something to me. My creative output is what connects me to them and because I want to keep that connection to these people who are important to me, I’d better create something to refresh and strengthen our bond.
Beyond that, there is one particular writer in the horror field, and I don’t know if I should name him here. He’s carved out a reputation and persona as one who just doesn’t give a fiddler’s fuck about anything, a bit of a Monster, a bit of a Sick Bastard. But what I came to know about him is, he really is a very caring person, he just doesn’t make a big show of doing it publicly. In my darkest times, periodically I’d get a message from him like, “You said this on Facebook, but I can tell something’s not right.” And I didn’t know how the hell he could read the situation, given I had only met him twice at that time he first called it. But he got it and it turns out he can spot your dark thoughts from 500 miles away, because he’s had them all. All of them and more. And deeper, and for longer. And so every now and then we drop each other a message or a quick call, and I just hope some of those times I give him even one percent of the courage and support he gives me.
What brought you to horror, and how does life influence your writing and vice versa?
As a teenager, when I discovered that I wanted to write fiction, it wasn’t necessarily horror that I wanted to write. I knocked out childish Tarantino-influenced gangster stories and a couple of futuristic tales that did really have their roots in horror. There were just stories and characters swimming around in my head; one of those stories is in fact being reconstructed in my current work-in -progress, and it wasn’t until I read some James Herbert novels that I realized what I was writing would sit in the horror section at W. H. Smith’s. Now I suppose we would think of that particular story more as urban fantasy, but it opened my mind to the fact that the horror genre was vast and has many alleys and corners with a million different types of story scattered throughout.
The horror that I try to capture for my readers is a deep feeling of unease. I remember my ex-partner’s mother reading Doctor Blessing’s Curse (the first part of The Cabinet of Doctor Blessing) and she said she had to put it down. There was nothing gory in there to offend her—not really, anyway. But what she described to me as being her issue was something else entirely. Doctor Blessing’s reaction to the creature he discovers, his almost paternal protection of it, made the most profound impression on her and left her really quite unnerved. Job done then. That’s a real reaction, triggered by something completely fictional and weird. So I think to take those fantastical elements, and handle them with real emotion, can elicit the best response from a reader. I’m not so much frightened by things in life, but I can find myself with a deep sense of unease about this situation, that person, this area, that mindset, or whatever. And we’re all built with very similar instincts hardwired into our bodies, aren’t we? The old fight-or-flight survival instinct. So if I can pluck the strings that set my nerves off just right, there’s a fair to good chance it could get a reaction from you.
Then on the other hand, there is one fun way that my fiction has influenced my life. I opened a business with one of my brothers a few years ago, selling geek merch and comics and all that. We called the business Carsun’s Bazaar, which is the name of the main character’s geek merch and headshop in my current work-in-progress. Carsun’s Bazaar in real life is almost entirely gone now, but I can see a way to bring some part of it back, yet that’s something for the future.
What do you love most about your creativity?
I have a vivid and active imagination, and that creative nature comes in handy, especially as I have two young sons. When we break out the action figures and play together, we get to play out these blockbuster plots that would put those DC movies to shame. If we’re drawing or painting, I can help set a little idea off that the boys can run away with and make their own. And then, for myself, creativity is I suppose an emotional outlet. Right now, the outlet feels great; I’m processing the vast changes I’ve undergone in my life over the past year or so, and now I get to hopefully take all the emotional experience and redirect it into something satisfying that will hopefully entertain others. Problem is, the pendulum swings both ways and the creative, productive heights never last as long as I would love for them to… and then comes the sickening feeling as I hit the apex and feel all that potential energy shift right before I swing in the opposite direction…
Connect with Jack:
The last Iberian sultan’s mapmaker Hassan and Circassian concubine Fatima share a love for a poem by Al Attar in which they only have the opening lines. They continue the tale together, alternating and combining their own stories of the birds looking for their king. Hassan draws maps that reshape reality, coming under the scrutiny of the Spanish Inquisition when Fatima is too open with Luz, Queen Isabella’s advisor, emissary, and secret inquisitor. Fatima must find a way to save her best friend, embarking on a journey—guided by a jinn in animal form—where she finds her true self on the hidden island of the bird king. Friendship is tested, credibility is stretched to the limit, and redemption is found. Magical realism blends historical events and mythology well, thought there are a few too many cliffhangers in the latter half of the tale. It’s a beautiful story of desire to escape a horrid time in Spain’s past. I was given a digital copy of this fantastic story from Grove Press through NetGalley.
Pixie Forest Publishing loves the idea of spreading awareness of indie books and anthologies by offering book boxes! Almost all of the books are signed by the authors, who provide swag like bookmarks, candles, pens, necklaces, and more. PFP adds in their own unique swag that’s centered around that month’s theme as well!
They offer up to five boxes of each theme every month. Some past themes include fantasy, horror, romance, kid’s, and young adult. To date they’ve sold nine different boxes! Upcoming themes include another fantasy box, a Mother’s Day box, vacation themed, sci-fi, and dystopian.
Boxes range from $30-$40 depending on the contents. Every box includes a $5 off coupon for a future box and a collectible snap-charm keyring.
You can read the book blurbs every month and decide for yourself at https://pixieforestpublishing.com/book-boxes/
Miss a month? Don’t worry! All the individual books are linked to Amazon on their website for a month following the box it appeared in, along with the author’s information.
Interested in being a part of a box? Email Jensen and Donise at email@example.com to learn more and have a chance at being a featured book box author, poet, or fellow publisher.
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