Nick Rowan, Local Kitchen Witch

By Nick Rowan

It’s been a busy summer, and a busy year for me, loves.

I’m still driving the school bus. I am The Local Kitchen Witch, and training more. So I cook for bunches of pagans twice a year. Festival of Souls is in October. Ancestor Ritual, Witches’ Ball, Candle Labyrinth. Kithaka Dun is in May. Wild Hunt, Maypole, and this year SJ Tucker is playing a concert.

Both are terrific times. Come out and join us in the woods.

I’ve been doing Grandma duty to two adorable boys. Hunter is 6 and Alexander will be 2 in November.

But my 2021, so far:

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January saw the re-issue of Glad Hands, with a new cover and about 20 percent more new material. It, like all of the Eight Thrones Books, is under the Angelia Sparrow name.

Chuck Hummingbird has a big rig and a big heart. Even as a boy, he took in every stray and injured animal and person around him. Now, even though he is speed-running through some of the most hostile territory in the DisUnited States, he can’t say no to rescuing a pretty blue-eyed gay boy in Heartland. And that just increased the danger level of his run from normal to expert.

This is a dystopian gay trucker romance.

~~~

Temple Secrets from the Cult of Cheesecake came out in December and is available in ebook or print. It’s our church cookbook, and I love it. It’s perfect bound because spiral wasn’t available anymore. It’s good food, some with good stories. The following made my father wibble a little, as it’s his mom’s bread pudding.

Bread Pudding – Nina Fantz

Nick’s grandma taught him to make bread pudding. This is very basic stuff, no fancy whiskey sauce here. When Nick’s mom was terminal with leukemia, he made this for her frequently during the month he took care of her. It was one thing she had no problem eating, despite chemo killing her appetite.

Ingredients:

  • 2 slightly beaten eggs
  • 2 1/4 c. milk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 2 c. 1″ stale bread cubes
  • 1/2 c. brown sugar
  • 1/2 c. raisins (optional)

Directions:

Combine eggs, milk, vanilla, cinnamon and salt. Stir in bread cubes. Stir in brown sugar and raisins. Pour into 8″ round cake pan. Place in large shallow pan on center rack of oven. Pour hot water into larger pan 1″ deep. Bake 350° about 45 minutes, or until knife comes clean.

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In July, I was a prolific little succcubus. (Succubi and incubi are the same demon, they just shapeshift depending on situation. As does my gender-fluid self.) Not only did I have a drag show early in the month, I wrote a lot.

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As Angelia, I published a sexy short, “Dangerous Game.” This is a fun little piece that manages to combine Real Person Fanfic from the Memphis drag community, multiple personalities, Jekyll and Hyde cosplay and yet remain heterosexual.

When Valentina’s guy heats up the stage as Dr. Jekyll during a show, she lets him know he’s got her heated up too. And wackiness ensues.

~~~

Also as Angelia, I compiled a Busy Night cookbooklet of freezer meals and slow-cooker dishes. It’s stuff that has always worked well for us. No flavor text or cute stories, just recipes. We’re busy, after all. Includes my famous Pasta Fazool. One of my drag characters performs as a zombie Dean Martin—complete with oversized martini glass and eyeballs for olives–and does “That’s Amore” while visibly restraining himself from eating the audience.

When the stars make you drool
Just like Pasta fazool
That’s Amore

Dean O’Bedlam’s Pasta Fazool (no eyeballs)

  • 1 pound extra lean ground beef, browned and drained
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 cup chopped carrots
  • ½ cup chopped celery
  • 1 can (14 to 15 ounces) diced tomatoes with juice
  • 1 can (14 to 15 ounces) kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can (14 to 15 ounces) white beans, rinsed and drained
  • 4 beef bouillon cubes
  • 1 jar (24 to 26 ounces) tomato-basil marinara or pasta sauce
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons oregano
  • ¾ teaspoon hot pepper sauce (such as Tabasco)
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1-1/4 cups dry pasta
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley, optional, for serving
  • Grated Parmesan, optional, for serving

Freeze all items except pasta in a ziplock. Dump into cooker, with 4 cups of water. Cover and cook on LOW for 5 to 7 hours, or until the vegetables are as tender as you like them. When ready to serve, stir the cooked pasta into the soup. Taste the soup and adjust the salt and herbs to suit your tastes.

~~~

Last August saw the reissue of Curse of the Pharaoh’s Manicurists, now with 80 percent less sex and 100 percent more characterization.

This summer, I edited on the sequel, Terror of the Frozen North. About 20% less sex, more plot and action. It will be out… unknown. As Thoth wills it.

I also continued writing on the third, Mystery of the Monkey God, and have roughed out the fourth, Dance in the Graveyard.

~~~

I did something a bit foolish, perhaps. I started an OnlyFans. It was intended to be a “Watch me Clean and Exercise” channel, but I haven’t done much of either. But it is some fun stuff and the pics are a bit sexier than we normally see.

And when the weather cools down, I will have Gabriel do me up a Lady Dimetriscu shoot. I have the costume.

~~~

In early August, I pinned down Gabriel, finally, and we took a weekend to rewrite Master Anton, fourth in the Eight Thrones series. It needed it. Unfortunately, we got through the book, then added a scene about 60 pages from the end which means we will have to entirely rewrite the end. Oops, so more rewriting is in our future.

~~~

I have the cover for Captain Calamity’s Bedside Reader, a collection of steampunk stories. The book itself is edited and needs formatting. I hope to have it out in time for Black Friday sales.

~~~

My next show is Sept. 10 at Black Lodge, and the theme was A Mad Tea Party. I did Alice Cooper dressed as Alice Liddle performing “Welcome to my Nightmare.” And for Shinedown’s “Her Name is Alice,” I was her shrink who morphed into the Cheshire cat during the song. My video performance list is here.

~~~
My Patreon will be running Sounds of the Season (Halloween music), with crafts, recipes etc. and Yuletide Youtube, Lucky 13, this year. I am also watching as many of the IMDB greatest horror films as I can find, and reviewing them, plus some extras. Tod Browning’s Dracula is not on the list which I consider a serious omission.

$1 gets a lot of online goodies. $5 gets ebooks, $10 gets paperbacks.

~~~

Ways you can support me:

Patreon. Get writing and pics of the say and sometimes crafted goodies:

I have a list here. Some of these are cash-back apps. You get money back, it costs you nothing, and I get a kickback from the app. Win, win win.

Links to all my books currently in print: Here.

Links to me: Nick Rowan, Violetta, Angelia Sparrow.

~~~

How do I do it all and hold down a full time job? 400 words a day. Two chapters of editing a day. And when the muse is upon me (not the kittens or Stratus who are always on me) I ride with her as far as she will take me.

Until next time, my freaky darlings,

Nick.

NICK ROWAN is a bus driver who lives quietly in the mid-south. He writes and crafts to support his yarn habit, You can follow him on Facebook (NickRowan) or Patreon (NickRowan) or Twitter (@NickRowan16) or Tumblr (nicholasrowan) or blogger (NicholasRowanSp) or Etsy (thecarpenterswyfe). Nick has been writing professionally since 2004 as Angelia Sparrow.

 

 

 

End of an era

By Elizabeth Donald

This month was a milestone for me, as my long-running short-story anthology finally went out of print after 15 years and I sold my last copy at a book signing in Memphis.

Setting Suns wasn’t my first book, but it was the first to appear in paperback. Way back in the dawn of the ebook era, my first novel Nocturnal Urges came out from Ellora’s Cave Publishing, but they only published in ebook (two years before there was even such a thing as a Kindle!). If the ebook did well, they released it in paperback later.

Nocturnal Urges came out and it sold well, won awards and the publisher demanded a sequel despite all the people insisting, “I’ll wait until the real book comes out.” I kept yelling, “It IS a real book! Ebooks are real books!” Now people look at my paperbacks and say, “I’ll get the ebook,” and I want to yell, “Where were you in 2005??”

I was working on that sequel when Frank Fradella, founder of New Babel Books, came to me with the idea of putting my short stories into a collection. I’d published a handful of short stories in horror and science fiction magazines that had a disturbing habit of going out of business right after they published me. I was the Typhoid Mary of the small press in the early 2000s. Frank suggested collecting those stories and writing another half-dozen or so just for the collection, and thus Setting Suns was born.

It wasn’t my first book. But it was the first time I opened a box of books and saw my name on the cover. Ask any writer about that moment, and see the look in their eyes when they remember.

Setting Suns has been in print for 15 years, give or take, and that’s one hell of a good run for a small press collection. It won the Darrell Award for best short story for “Wonderland,” a weird little Frankenstein riff told entirely in emails and online chats that gave Frank apoplexy in layout, and contains two of my most popular short stories: “Sisyphus,” a tragedy exploring toxic grief and lost love; and “Jesus Loves Me,” known as the Evil Teddy Bear story.

The Evil Teddy Bear still exists, here in my office. And there were T-shirts.

But there are other stories that didn’t get as much attention. There’s “Prisoner’s Dilemma,” a literal funhouse horror piece that looks at the different kinds of love a person can have for the people in her life, plus crazy man with gun.

There’s “Silent,” which was one of my very first short stories to be published for money, that smacks of a haunted house as told by The Twilight Zone. There’s “Deep Breathing,” a future-world submarine scarefest involving a monster several readers have referred to as “Cthulu-esque” which was funny because I’d never read Lovecraft at that point.

There’s “Memory Lane,” another escapee from Twilight Zone about a husband’s desperate search to find his missing wife, and the dark secrets that come to light. That one began as my first attempt at a short-film screenplay, rewritten as a short story for Setting Suns.

There’s “Gauntlet,” an action-flick of a science fiction story set in my Sanctuary universe that only reaaaaally dedicated readers know about, since it’s had a couple of stories published but the novels remain in the trunk until I get them to not suck. Three of the Setting Suns stories are set in Sanctuary, but “Gauntlet” is my favorite.

There are even two stories that would qualify as “literary” with no SFFH elements whatsoever, though entering an MFA program and exploring literary fiction was the absolute last thought on my mind in the waning years of my twenties.

After 15 years, Setting Suns was still the “entry drug” for Elizabeth Donald fiction. Long-time readers sometimes tell me it’s their favorite of my titles (which is a little humbling since I’ve published maybe fourteen books and novellas since then, give or take a few).

I’m gonna miss the old girl.

I want to thank Shane Moore, current publisher of New Babel Books, for working with me to put Setting Suns out of print with grace.

I also want to thank Frank Fradella, who is no longer with New Babel Books, for his contributions to making Setting Suns what it was. The book was Frank’s idea, and his editing, layout and design coupled with the cover art from Darren Holmes made a wonderful book that I was proud to call my first.

Thanks also go to Jason R. Tippitt, who co-authored one of the stories with me (“I Live With It Every Day”) and served as sounding board and inspiration through much of the book’s development. I very rarely work in partnerships – I don’t play well with others – and it is a testament to Jason’s patience and skill that our story turned out well. The book was dedicated to Jason, who is a fine writer and I hope you’ll hear more from him in times to come.

It’s been a terrific run for my first “real” book, at least as far as I’m concerned. I hope you enjoyed the ride.

Elizabeth Donald is a dark fiction writer fond of things that go chomp in the night. She is a three-time winner of the Darrell Award for speculative fiction and finalist for the Prism and Imadjinn awards, author of the Blackfire urban fantasy series and Nocturne vampire mystery series, as well as other novels, novellas and stories in the horror, science fiction and fantasy genres. More recently, she was awarded the Mimi Zanger Literary Award for fiction. She is the founder of the Literary Underworld small-press cooperative; an award-winning journalist and essayist with more than twenty years in journalism; a nature and art photographer; freelance editor and writing coach. She is currently completing two masters degrees at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville and teaches newswriting and English composition at the university. She serves as president of the St. Louis Society of Professional Journalists and Eville Writers, vice president of Phi Kappa Phi and Sigma Tau Delta at the university, and is a member of the national SPJ Ethics Commission, AEJMC, Editorial Freelancers Association and many other organizations for which she volunteers. She lives with her family in a haunted house in Edwardsville, Illinois. In her spare time, she has no spare time. 

www.elizabethdonald.com

www.donaldmedia.com

elizabethdonaldphotography.com

Writing isn’t Exactly a Healthy Profession

By Nicole Lanahan

It’s no secret that a writer’s job requires a lot of sitting—there are days when the only time I get out of my chair is to get a refill of coffee. And let me tell you, that much butt-in-seat action may be good for your writing output, but it’s not good for your butt—or in my case, my cholesterol. I had my annual bloodwork done at the beginning of the year, and the results were not great.

I’m getting older. It happens to the best of us. And my body can’t rebound from writing like it could when I was in my 20s. Let’s face it, most writers have day jobs and families. How are we supposed to go to the gym and cook healthy meals when we’re trying to meet deadlines?

The pandemic has been hard on all of us. If you were like me, most of your dinner came from a bag. The result was exactly what you’d think it would be. I was tired all the time, my complexion was a mess, and my cholesterol was through the roof. After a pretty serious conversation with my doctor, I promised to make some changes. I’ve started walking daily at the park and started making healthy eating choices. So this year I vowed to make a change and I’m happy to say I’m down nearly twenty pounds since January, I have more energy, my skin has cleared up, and my cholesterol levels are down enough that I no longer need medication.

Mornings have always been especially hard for me to make good diet choices. Either I want something sugary (I’m talking to you, Starbucks Frappuccino), or I skip breakfast all together. Now that I’ve discovered a healthy, delicious replacement for my usual sugar-filled coffee, I don’t suffer from the afternoon sugar crash. This means I’m in a much better position to write in the afternoons when I get off of work instead of succumbing to the dreaded sugar crash.

I’d love to hear from you. Do you have any secrets for staying healthy while writing?

Niki Alba’s Morning Coffee Protein Shake

1. 1 C. Ice (there’s 2 in the picture because I made a double batch)
2. 1/2 scoop of protein powder. All I had on had on hand was cookies and cream, but chocolate powder or my favorite salted caramel would make this killer
3. 1/2 frozen banana. Learn from my mistake. Peel this bad boy before you freeze it.
4. 1/2 C. Unsweetened almond milk
5. 1/2 C. Coffee (again, there’s more in my pic because I made a double batch.)
5. Optional 1 stevia packet

Throw all ingredients in blender, blend, and enjoy your only 150 calorie coffee protein goodness!

——

At seventeen, Nicole Lanahan found herself homeless with only a beat-up Volkswagen Jetta and a bag of Goodwill clothing to her name. The only things that got her through the nights she spent parked in truck stops and cornfields were the stacks of books she checked out from the library along with her trusty flashlight. Because of the reprieve these books gave her from her troubles, she vowed to become a writer so she could provide the same escape to readers who needed a break the reality of their own lives. She has written as both Nicole Lanahan and Cole Gibsen. 

 

Love story or romance?

And why, if you choose to ignore the difference, you should invest in fireproof underpants.

By Sela Carsen

 

Wuthering Heights is not a Romance. Literary theory may classify it as a romance, but that is not the same thing as Romance.

See the difference there?

That capital R indicates genre Romance, as opposed to the entire movement of literature that gets categorized as romance (did you know that Robert Burns’ poem about lice in a pretty girl’s hair is “romantic” because it’s about nature?), or millennia’s worth of love stories that fall under the same label, though the vast majority of them end miserably.

But here we are in the 21st century, and people still can’t quite wrap their head around the difference between the variations. I mean, it’s clear enough if you send your spouse to the grocery store to get “cheese,” then grind your teeth if they come back with cheddar instead of cotija, because those are clearly different things… that both use the same word.

For today’s exercise, let’s discard the stories that get labeled “romance” simply because they were written in the “romantic” era of the late 18th and early 19th centuries in Europe. According to Wikipedia, “Romanticism was characterized by its emphasis on emotion and individualism as well as glorification of all the past and nature….”

Nothing in that statement specifies tales about relationships, so let’s stick with stories that focus on romantic love.

Part of the trouble we have with defining our terms comes from the archetypical “romantic hero” who became popular during this era. Whether the stories involved a romantic relationship or not, they centered around certain types of characters. Either the brooding, solitary hero who rejects love because he’s somehow unworthy, or his counterpart, the waif-like, long-suffering heroine whose life is dictated by the harshness of her rational, patriarchal family. Because extreme emotion was the hallmark of the movement, those archetypes have stuck with the label of “romantic,” which isn’t necessarily a match for writing a Romance.

Capital-R Romance, however, is a very specific genre of literature that doesn’t concern itself with glorification of all the past and nature. Instead, it has two main focuses: the “Rules of Romance,” if you will.

A Central Love Story: The main plot centers around individuals falling in love and struggling to make the relationship work. A writer can include as many subplots as he/she wants as long as the love story is the main focus of the novel.

An Emotionally Satisfying and Optimistic Ending: In a romance, the lovers who risk and struggle for each other and their relationship are rewarded with emotional justice and unconditional love. (Romance Writers of America)

Nothing there about staring across the windswept moors or digging up your dead lover’s grave to beg her to haunt you so you can make everyone in a ten-mile radius miserable for the rest of your life. (I’m lookin’ at you, Heathcliff!)

There’s also nothing there about having one half of the relationship die tragically of cancer or in a car wreck or in childbirth or anything else. *coughNicholasSparkscough* No one cheats, no one gets bored, no one leaves.

And before you snort disdainfully and go, “That’s not realistic,” I ask you if zombies are realistic. Or demons that bubble up from cracks in the earth. Or whether you’ve ever actually encountered a hard-smoking, hard-drinking, hard-boiled detective who referred to women’s legs as “gams” in real life.

It’s. Fiction. People.

Love stories often get the first part right, the main focus on the relationship, but then take a left turn before getting to the part about the optimistic, satisfying ending with the lovers together. You can write a beautiful story where the relationship doesn’t work out, but the main character moves on happily. But if the lovers aren’t together happily, then it’s a love story, not a Romance.

Two people.* Together. Happy Ending. That’s a Romance.

Capital R Romance is about making readers end a book with a smile and a happy sigh, rather than a bewildered, horrified, and tear-drenched, “WTF did I just read?!? What is wrong with these people?!? Did no one learn anything?!?!?”

Whether it’s filled with sexy bits or not (my best-sellers have zero touchy-time on the page), whether it’s set in ancient Rome or in a galaxy far, far away, or in some fictional midwestern small farming town, whether it has vampires or werebears, or billionaires who are suddenly single fathers and down-on-their-luck waitresses/nannies, all Romances follow the above two rules.

Want to write a gorgeous novel that focuses on two people in a zombie apocalypse finding each other and struggling to make their relationship work… then one of them dies (like, all the way dies, doesn’t come back to life with a craving for human flesh), leaving the other a lone, tragic figure?

That’s awesome! Do it! But it’s not a Romance. It’s a love story.

Want to write a beautiful novel that focuses on two teens, but the boy is a zombie who eats the brains (and memories) of his girlfriend’s dead ex-boyfriend, and even though he stays a zombie, he sort of gets much better, and even though her zombie-hunting dad wants to kill him, the boy and girl overcome their human/zombie differences and stay together?

Don’t write that. Someone already did, it’s called Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion, and it’s freaking adorable.

But you could write your own zombie Romance as long as it ends with the two happily getting together and staying together!

Now let’s put on our author hats. The business hat, not the creative one.

Romance is a marketing term. It’s designed to let readers know what they’re picking up in much the same way that the terms mystery and thriller signal certain expectations to readers.

Romance readers are a savvy bunch of (mostly) women who drop billions of dollars a year on those Happy Ever Afters. They’re socially connected, they belong to vast communities of other readers, and they do not like getting tricked because you think you’re going to “turn romance on its head,” or you don’t like genre limitations, like that daft rule about how you always have to reveal whodunnit at the end of a mystery novel.

You’re an artiste! No one can tell you what to do! And those silly Romance-reading women with all that disposable income should appreciate your avant-garde approach to educating them and teaching them to read “better books.”

*snort*

Try it. I’ve got a bag of marshmallows to roast on the bonfire they’ll light around your flaming literary oeuvre and the ashes of your career. Or, as they call it in the Romancelandia territory of Twitter, “every other Tuesday.”

That attitude is not special, or unique, or clever. It IS however, probably some combination of pretentious, ignorant, and/or misogynistic.

Labeling a book as a Romance has meaning, and mislabeling shows that the author either doesn’t know what they’ve written, or they’re deliberately trying to mislead potential readers. Because I can absolutely guarantee that Romance readers understand their genre, and they read it specifically for that Happy Ever After satisfaction. They can get misery anywhere, but they pick up a Romance to get that happy sigh at the end. If the author doesn’t deliver, they have wildly misjudged their readership.

Note: Romance isn’t limited to just two people. There are entire niches filled with polyamorous but committed groupings. Romance has also become very open to non-het, non-cis, non-binary characters and relationships. Love is love.

Writing a Romance and labeling it correctly not only ensures that you’re going to hit your target market correctly, thereby putting you in a position to sell well, but it also indicates a basic level of respect for the readers.

So if you choose to write a relationship-based story, know that the conclusion dictates the marketing, and it’s up to you to understand the differences in how they’ll hit the readership.

 

Sela Carsen is an award-winning author of paranormal and sci-fi romance — with or without sex and dead bodies. Your pick. She also writes steamy contemporary romance as Silke Campion. Check out many of her titles on The Literary Underworld.

Guest Post: A Day in the Life of Writing

By Cathy Jackson

The life of a writer is a strange and wonderful thing, and varies from person to person. To create new friends, introduce a reader to new places, and bring a novel to life is an amazing honor. It’s sometimes an easy process, but there are times we struggle to create even a simply phrase. Writing is an occupation that encompasses the mind and soul.

At least it does for me. My husband says I become manic when I write and “zone out” at the computer. To be perfectly honest, once I put in my earbuds and the music streaming from them enters my thoughts, most external influences fall away. My thoughts and feelings become centered on what I see in my mind’s eye. Everything I am becomes about relating what my imagination sends to my fingertips, and I get to convey, to the best of my ability, everything I see, hear, “touch,” “taste,” and “hear.”

One of the amazing things about being a writer is a sharp focus to give myself completely over to whatever is happening at the time. Whether something is happening on or off the page, there is a heightening of the senses that doesn’t seem to ever switch off. Often I’m overwhelmed, but have learned to temper what I’m sensing from around me.

A day in my life is crazy, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. My day pre-starts at 4 a.m. when my husband gets up for work. We chat as he dresses for the day, he reads a chapter or two out of the Bible and we pray, then I fall back to sleep for a few hours before it’s my turn to get up. I say a quick prayer, asking God to use me for His glory, and rouse our 15-year-old. He’s remote schooling this year. I pray with him, go through his studies, and then start the housework. Once the housework is done, I get to answer emails and messages on all my social networks. By then, it’s around noon, and I haven’t begun to write on any manuscript. If I am very lucky, I’ll have about two hours to promote one or two of my seventeen published novels before I write.

Lately, I’ve been writing about 30 minutes to an hour a day. The time is enough to release some of the creative energy and I feel great. One more check on our son’s school day before he logs off and I start dinner. We try to have dinner together as a family, schedules permitting this to happen, and then an hour or two of down-time with my husband before bed.

Every writer’s schedule is different, and each day brings its own challenges, but we couldn’t imagine not wanting to do what we do. We love it, and feel called to bring novels to readers. As an avid reader myself, I love when my favorite writers release new novels. It’s nice to read the thoughts from those who read the novels I write when they write a review. Those precious words encourage me and I’m grateful for each review I receive.

Min Eurozan by Cathy Jackson

I am no longer on Earth, nor any other place I know.

I have scant memory of how or why I came to be here.

Time continues to ebb and flow with my memories and the strange, seductive men who inhabit them.

The only constant is Love.

One owns my Body, he equally possesses and protects me.

One holds my Heart, wanting me as his friend and lover.

One challenges my Mind, he’s captured me with his patient intellect.

One completes my Soul, our love is the deepest and most pure.

One heats my Blood, bringing with him fire and need.

I love them all, and I love them as One.

 

Cathy Jackson is a midwestern Christian mother of two twentysomethings and two teenagers. Reading is a passion of hers, but she adores writing. Some of the best people have been placed in her life to help her publish her books. They are a blessing and mean more to her than they will ever know. She loves writing scenes that uplift and encourage along with making one feel the experience. She wants readers to finish the books feeling hope, love, and happiness. To date, the books she has published are inspirational (Christian) romances, but they have a contemporary romance feel.

Author Links:

So you want to be a romance writer….

It’s awesome.

Romance as a genre is one of the most generous communities out there. Are there problems? Sure. But as a whole, the authors are unbelievably generous with their time and experience, and the readers are nothing short of amazing.

I think that’s what happens when you’re the most commonly maligned target of all types of literature. There’s nothing more empowering than standing arm in arm against misogyny — either blatant or internalized — with literally millions of women worldwide who are voracious readers. (I say women because the vast majority of our readers and writers code female. We do have a growing number of male authors and readers, but our industry still leans heavily to women.)

Romance writers tend to be extraordinarily business-savvy in a way that many other authors have never had to be, all while delivering story after story that our readers crave. And the majority of us now do it all ourselves, sometimes while still writing for traditional publishers, as well.

Regardless of the opportunities available to authors these days, it’s not easy to write a romance novel. There’s no machine out there cranking out pre-recorded tropes that you can just mix and match. No matter how much readers love certain tropes, they won’t pick up your next book unless you’re also giving them great characters, solid plots, and meaningful conflicts. There are infinite ways to screw with your characters before they get their happy ever after.

Speaking of those happy endings: yes, they’re a must if you want to sell your book as a romance. Don’t even argue. Just accept it. The same way you’d never tag a book as a mystery if you didn’t reveal the murderer, them’s the rules for romance.

The only other requirement of the genre is that the relationship is the central focus of the story. Within those two parameters, the entire storytelling universe is at your fingertips. If you don’t want to adhere to those rules, that’s fine. Write whatever you like. But you’re writing a love story, and I’d strongly advise against marketing it as romance unless you’re wearing flame-retardant underpants.

There are no length requirements, and you don’t have to write sex scenes if you don’t want to. Literally anything goes. Blue alien barbarians rescuing kidnapped human women? Go for it. Time-traveling Scotsmen wooing modern day wedding dress designers? Write on. Bikers and billionaires and shapeshifting rodeo bulls? Do it. If you want to write sweet Amish romance, there’s a market for it. If you want to write a lawyer and a mechanic coming together in a BDSM dungeon, please do.

There is no shortage of real-life awfulness in the world. Writing stories that readers can depend on to deliver a smile or a cathartic emotional experience that ends in joy can give people what they need to make it through their toughest days.

You’re writing love. And that’s all we need.

Sela Carsen was born into a traveling family, then married a military man to continue her wandering lifestyle. With her husband of 20 years, their two teens, her mother, the dog and the cat, she is finally (temporarily) settled in the Midwest. Between bouts of packing and unpacking, she writes paranormal romances, with or without dead bodies. Your pick. 

 

 

BY SELA CARSEN
Mondarbre Press
CAROLINA WOLF: Debar Henry is living the meek librarian cliche, except for the teeny hint of magic in her blood. as the keeper of magical knowledge passed down from her ancestors, she’s content with her quiet existence in the tiny town of Culford, South Carolina.
But a monstrous attack could reveal her secret and end her life. Maddox Moreau was a happy lone wolf until the day he spotted pretty, bewitching Debra along the trails of the Congaree Swamp. When he saves her, his fate is bound up in hers, and they have to learn to work together in a hurry to defeat the spread of evil.
CAROLINA PEARL: Conn Lucas is the bastard son who inherited the family home on the Congaree Swamp in Culford, South Carolina. Now he only has to deal with his cousin sabotaging him, his ancestors haunting him, and his gorgeous neighbor distracting him.
Blair Moreau knows Conn is her mate, but he’s proving difficult to convince that they’re a fated pair. If only the stubborn man would let her help, all his problems would be solved.
It takes a wild night with a nail gun before thy find they work better together than they ever can apart.

Women in Horror Month

The Literary Underworld is proud to carry the works of many amazing women writers, and more than a few of them write horror! In honor of Women in Horror Month, here are some of our favorite recommendations for scary stuff:

In tales that range from spine-tingling to heart-breaking, A CITY OF GHOSTS brings to life an alternative, haunted history of Nashville.
At least eight of the authors in this creepy anthology are women, including editor Rachel Brune and Elizabeth Donald, founder of the Literary Underworld.

 

Co-edited by J.L. Mulvihill, this southern horror collection includes several women authors exploring the haunted homes, landmarks and roads of the south.
A scary blend of science fiction and horror from T.K. Reilly.

 

And, of course, there’s the work of Elizabeth Donald, who has written at least a dozen novels, novellas and short stories in the horror genre. Check out these titles from Elizabeth:

 

Settle in for an evening of terror and suspense, from the trenches of World War I to the frozen Antarctic wastes to a creature that haunts the night streets of San Antonio… Elizabeth’s novel “Yanaguana” continues her Blackfire series!

 

Coppice & Brake is an anthology of dark fiction, featuring tales from the borderlands of horror, speculative fiction, and the nightmare fears that linger even after you turn on the lights. Authors include Literary Underworld director Elizabeth Donald.

 

These are the dark, ethereal songs of Moonlight Sonata, stories bound to disturb your sleep and chill your heart. A new collection from the award-winning author of Setting Suns and Nocturne Infernum, Elizabeth Donald has been called “a storytelling ability to rival that of Stephen King.”

 

In this alternate Memphis, vampires are a dark underclass whose bite offers pleasure and pain in one sweet kiss. Humans take advantage of the pleasures vampires can provide, but call them friends? Lovers? The strain between human and vampire grows as death rises in the streets…

 

In that space between evening and nightfall, between consciousness and sleep, the moment when the light fades and the shadows take over… These are the lands of the Setting Suns.

 

A tale of darkness and light, of twisted ritual and flickering faith. Enter the shadow of St. Augustine’s… and pray.
Some bridges shouldn’t be crossed. All that can kill you is what you carry with you, and what Dale and Ariane carry could destroy their dreams of forever.

Guest voices: Edale Lane on the writing process

From our friends at Seventh Star Press: Edale Lane is the author of an award winning 2019 debut novel, Heart of Sherwood. She is the alter-ego of author Melodie Romeo, (Vlad a Novel, Terror in Time, and others) who founded Past and Prologue Press. Both identities are qualified to write historical fiction by virtue of an MA in history and 24 years spent as a teacher, along with skill and dedication in regard to research. She is a successful author who also currently drives a tractor-trailer across the United States. A native of Vicksburg, Miss., Edale (or Melodie as the case may be) is also a musician who loves animals, gardening, and nature.

My Writing Process – from research to manuscript to editing

A lot of work goes into writing a novel; some may even say blood, sweat, and tears. And there are as many successful ways to approach and carry out this momentous labor of love as there are authors who endeavor in the process. I will give you a brief look at the methods I use.

Which comes first—the plot, the characters, the setting, the theme, or do they just all meet somewhere in the middle? When I wrote Heart of Sherwood, the idea that popped into my head was to write a gender-bent version of the Robin Hood story, and all the vital elements were there from the conception. For the Night Flyer Trilogy, I’d have to say it was the setting paired with the superhero element. I wanted to write a story that was unique, with a seldom-used era and location. While some novels are set in Renaissance Italy, they are few and far between compared to Medieval, Regency, Old West, World War II, etc. I began to think, what if there was a kind of “Batwoman” who lived in the time of Leonardo da Vinci? What inventions could she come up with? What bad guys might she face?

That led me to conceptualize the characters of Florentina, Madelena, and Alessandro, but before I could begin I needed to research to discover exactly where and when the action would take place. I knew Florentina was a former student of da Vinci and chose Milan because of the wealth of its merchant class, as well as being a city da Vinci lived in for a time. Also to timing, I wanted one of his significant works of art to be completed for my characters to see—the Last Supper—and I planned to include an epic battle scene, so there needed to be a war happening.

When I discovered that the story was too long to fit into one book, I broke it into three acts and started writing book one. Every time I needed to set a scene, there was research: what variety of trees and flowers grew there, what would each person be wearing, what did the furniture look like. I never completed a chapter without half a dozen windows open in my browser to check the accuracy of every detail. The same thing is true with everything I write. The thesaurus is also open as so I can check if a word was in use. Choosing language was easier with Heart of Sherwood because they spoke English (and French, but for simplicity’s sake I stuck with English); for the Night Flyer series I just made sure a word wasn’t too modern while throwing in Italian terms of endearment. Writing and researching were an intertwined duo throughout from beginning to end.

Authors have differing methods of planning their books. After conjuring the concept, my next step is to create a notes file. Here I first do character sketches of my primary cast (and add to it when I introduce a secondary character). I like to “see” my players and have an easy reference if I forget a detail about them. They have physical descriptions, but also characteristics, mannerisms, likes and dislikes, so that fully realized people inhabit the pages. Next, I jot down a plot outline which invariably sees tweaks and changes as the story flows onto the pages. (Guess that makes me both a “plotter” and a “pantser”!) I also include historical information, places and dates, etc. on the notes pages. Back in the day, I wrote all of this out in longhand in a notebook and then wrote the manuscript in pencil to make corrections easier. (I REALLY like doing it on a computer much better!)

As I complete each chapter, I send it to my partner and we read over it together. She is good at finding mistakes and makes good observations and suggestions, but I save the in-depth editing for when the manuscript is finished. Not every writer does this, but I find that I finish a novel faster this way. It is easy to get bogged down in editing and when I get on a roll I just want to flow with it.

When all is said and done, I go back one chapter at a time and use an editing program to help me make changes and corrections. While there are a lot of good ones, I use ProWritingAid. There is also checking the manuscript using the search and find word tool to be sure I have spelled all the names the same each time I used them. Spelling is a real Achilles’ heel for me! I also evaluate if a passage is relevant, or if further explanation is necessary, does it need less or more? Is my presentation of characters and language consistent? Can I “see” the action sequences as I read them? And even though my works are historical fantasy, I focus on the question, “Is this believable?” because I want the reader to come away thinking that this could have really happened.

Because of my day job as an over-the-road truck driver, I have limited time to get my book typed up, so I think up everything—characters, action, dialog, climaxes, etc—while I’m driving down the road. I have a voice recorder to take notes on. I will replay a scene repeatedly in my head so that when I park I can type it up fast, except for the time needed to research the details.

So, that’s my current process: create, plan, deviate from plan, then go back and fix what doesn’t work. Hopefully, the finished product is one that will inform, inspire, and delight the reader.

One woman stands between chaos and order – the Night Flyer.

When chaos strikes at the heart of Milan, it is up to Florentina’s alter-ego the Night Flyer to stop it. As Florentina and Madelena’s love deepens, so does the well of danger surrounding them. The race is on to discover the mysterious Shadow Guild and uncover who is behind the deadly rampage, but Florentina’s mission is threatened by a gang of assassins. Can the Night Flyer prevail, or will Maddie’s love be ripped from her arms?

Chaos in Milan is the third book in Edale Lane’s Night Flyer Trilogy, a tale of power, passion, and payback in Renaissance Italy. If you like action and suspense, rich historical background, three-dimensional characters, and a sweet romance, then you’ll want to complete the Night Flyer saga.

Check out the rest of the Chaos in Milan blog tour!

Pick up Chaos in Milan on Kindle, Amazon or Barnes and Noble!

NEW: Methuselah’s Legacy

We are delighted to announce a new title from one of our members, T.W. Fendley! Her new novel explores more of her rich and fascinating science fiction worlds. Read more about Methuselah’s Legacy, soon to be available at the Literary Underworld!

A conversation with T.W. Fendley

Q. Why did you start writing

A. Storytelling has always been a part of my life. As preschoolers, my older sister and I would create stories when we were supposed to be sleeping. We’d jump on our twin beds and take turns telling the next segments as quickly as we imagined them. Until our Mom returned with a stern warning to get to sleep… “and I mean now!” Later I wrote stories about the lives of my beloved model horses, inspired by Walter Farley’s Black Stallion books, and I wrote for the school paper staff instead of taking P.E. I majored in journalism in college, which over the years has allowed me to continue to learn, as well as pay my bills. When I needed more creativity in my life, I began writing fiction.  

Q. Why did you choose your particular genre? 

A. Putting together ideas in new and unusual ways is fun for me. I love to weave together science and spirituality, myth and history, fact and fantasy. Science fiction and fantasy are perfect genres for doing just that.

Q. What inspired the idea for your current novel/project? 

A. The concept of a longevity serum came to me twenty-three years ago while I was hunting for story ideas during the Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers’ Workshop. I imagined what truths about humanity are encoded in our genes, which eventually led me to write two short stories and now Methuselah’s Legacy. The novel’s longer format allowed me to share some of the possibilities with remote viewing–an intuitive-based protocol for precognitive predictions I’ve been practicing since 2009.

Q. What was the most useful advice you got as a  beginning writer? 

A. One of the Clarion instructors said it wasn’t always the best writers who got published, but those who persevered. While confident about my writing skills, I was even more sure of  my tenacity. Stubbornness can be a great attribute for a writer.  

Q. What are you doing next? 

A. Now that Methuselah’s Legacy and my young adult sci-fi novel Moonblood are published, I’m revisiting the Zero Time universe and Xmucane’s home planet, Omeyocan, where the expedition to Earth began. I’m also writing some short stories that have been on the back burner for a while. The trick for me is keeping the plot simple. Most of my stories want to become novels! 


Lilith Davidson has nothing to lose. Diagnosed with terminal cancer, her only hope for survival rests in an experimental longevity serum she herself helped to develop using an intuitive-based protocol known as remote viewing.

She never dreamed the treatment could be so wildly effective… nor did she expect its unusual side effect.

Now, as Lilith and the other eleven Methuselah Pioneers struggle to embrace the serum’s gift, powerful forces condemn their miracle cure as a violation of life’s natural order and threaten their lives. Will the treatment help humanity or tear society apart?

Preorder today! Releasing in February 2021

LiteraryUnderworld.com (print)

Amazon.com (ebook)


REVIEW:

Readers of sci-fi that revolves around genetic manipulation and human transformation will welcome a story that is vivid and fast-paced, containing many elements that will keep them engrossed to the end. It’s more than a cut above most science-oriented surveys because its inclusion of social norms, political responses, and revised visions of what it means to be an altered human are especially well detailed.” — D. Donovan, Senior Reviewer, Midwest Book Review

Methuselah’s Legacy asks thought-provoking questions and challenges hard-felt beliefs about life and love, while being an exciting tale of treachery and fanaticism. T.W. Fendley’s latest novel has readers turning the page until the end, and asking: would you take the treatment for a second chance at life?”– Brad R. Cook, author of The Iron Chronicles


T.W. Fendley is an award-winning author whose published works include Zero Time, a historical fantasy novel for adults, and young adult speculative fiction novels, Moonblood and The Labyrinth of Time. Teresa’s short stories are available on Kindle and Audible. She fell in love with ancient American cultures while researching story ideas at the 1997 Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers’ Workshop. Since then, Teresa has trekked to archeological sites in the Yucatan, Peru, and American Southwest. She began writing fiction in 2007 after working more than 25 years in journalism and corporate communication. When she’s not writing, Teresa explores the boundaries of consciousness through remote viewing and shamanism. She currently lives near St. Louis with her artist husband and his pet fish.

Learn more at https://twfendley.com and on her remote viewing website, http://www.arv4fun.com.

New: The Dark Walk Forward

A new dark-gothic collection from acclaimed horror writer John McFarland is out just in time for the holidays! McFarland is a long-time member of the Literary Underworld, with work ranging from dark fantasy like The Black Garden to offbeat children’s books like Annette: A Big Hairy Mom.

Now his new collection has been praised by Publisher’s Weekly! “McFarland tempers his frights with the mercy of familial love and sympathy for outsiders and victims. Horror readers will be riveted.”

Q: What was your first paid published work?

A: Actually my first paid published work were drawings, not writing so much. In the 1970’s surrealistic drawings by an artist called B. Kliban were all the rage. He published several books, which were the precursors of Gary Larsen’s Far Side, including several about cats. I did a parody of Kliban’s cat books called Kill A Cat and sent it to The National Lampoon. P. J. O’Rourke, the editor at that time, loved it and paid me the princely sum of $750. Scheduling mishaps at the magazine kept pushing the publication date back until the subject was no longer timely, and it never appeared. They never asked for their money back, though.

Q: Who are your favorite writers?

A: Like most boys who turn out like me, my favorite writers as a kid were Poe, Mary Shelley, H. G. Wells, Edgar Rice Burroughs, but also the likes of Joseph Sheridan LeFanu, M. R. James, H. P. Lovecraft, Robert Hitchens. In college I discovered James Joyce (of Dubliners), William Faulkner and especially Flannery O’Connor. O’Connor’s work was a revelation to me, small town country boy that I was. She seemed to know every one of my relatives and she has had a lifelong effect on my work. I visited her childhood home in Savannah, Ga. and Andalusia Farm in Milledgeville, where she did her mature work. I am fortunate enough to own a signed first edition of The Violent Bear It Away, and a series of watercolor concept are studies for covers for her books.

Q: What are you doing next?

A: Two novels are in the works. My current publisher, Dark Owl, has shown interest in re-issuing my 2010 book The Black Garden, and then its sequel, tentatively titled Azmiel’s Daughter. I am also working on a ghost story novel, called Phrygia House. Also, DOP has shown interest in publishing my Young Reader series Bigfoot stories, Annette: A Big, Hairy Mom.

Q: Was there anyone who inspired you as a beginning writer?

A: I actually touch on this in my acknowledgements section in The Dark Walk Forward. As a teen, I corresponded with both Ray Bradbury and Isaac Asimov. I asked the usual young admirer dumb-ass questions, but they were both, especially Bradbury, very kind and generous with their responses.

A: Do you outline or fly by the seat of your pants?

A: Both, but mostly seat of my pants. I always have a general idea of where I want a narrative to go, but as the cliche goes, the story seems to take on a life of its own as you go along. I was amazed at this process when writing The Black Garden. Connections, plot points, twists and turns just popped into my head as I wrote. No one was more surprised at how it turned out than I.


JOHN MCFARLAND’S first novel, The Black Garden, was published in 2010. His work has appeared in The Twilight Zone Magazine, Eldritch Tales, National Lampoon, River Styx, Tornado Alley and the anthology A Treasury of American Horror Stories, which also included stories by Stephen King, Richard Matheson and H.P. Lovecraft. He is a lifelong Bigfoot enthusiast, and Annette: A Big Hairy Mom was his first novel for young readers and is in print in three languages. He has written extensively on historical and arts-related subjects and has been a guest lecturer in fiction at Washington University in St. Louis.


The small town of Ste. Odile in America has experienced the Great War in ways that no one should ever have to endure.

Doctors must tend to births and deaths that make their most difficult cases seem benign.

An 1880s schoolteacher is faced with the worst blizzard of her time and must save the children under her charge.

A young man searches for his father the abandoned orphanage the older man owns… and both know they will despair at what they find.

A primitive woman experiences colonization and the stereotypes of men, yet finds her own method of retribution.

John S. McFarland has slogged through his characters’ woes and woven them into sweetly emotional yet acutely distressful tales. We as readers are forced to understand the pain, the despair, and sometimes the hope of his creations.

We realize we are lucky to live in the era we do. We also realize anything can change to tear us apart. Is it fate? Destiny? Or do we bring about these changes on our own? McFarland will let us know.

Preorder your copy today from the Literary Underworld!

Reviews

McFarland’s writing is lush and sensual, filled with textures, sounds, smells, and primal terrors that have lurked beyond the firelight since prehistory. –Kenneth Anderson, editor of Charon II

“John McFarland has a talent for drawing horror from raw human emotion. The Dark Walk Forward is heartbreaking and sad as well as frightening, with characters that linger in the mind long after the pages have turned.” — Elizabeth Donald, author of Moonlight Sonata, Setting Suns, and Nocturne Infernum.

“McFarland tempers his frights with the mercy of familial love and sympathy for outsiders and victims. Horror readers will be riveted.” ~ Publishers Weekly