Guest Author Joshua Allen Mercier

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I know Joshua Mercier from his blog, The Bearded Scribe. Since then, Joshua has started his own publishing company (Bearded Scribe Press) and released his first publication: Twice Upon a Time, An Anthology. He was kind enough to do a short interview with me:

Twice Upon a TimeIt is so exciting to have your first book out in print. Congratulations! Twice Upon a Time contains stories from multiple writers. How much fun was this project and working with the writers?

This anthology project was an absolute blast! From the moment I sent out the submission call to the heart-pounding moment when I submitted the final files for publication, it was a rollercoaster ride to say the least. Receiving each story was like opening a present. I was so pleased with the number of submissions and overwhelmed by the quality of the stories.

I can’t wait to get started on the next volume of Twice Upon A Time… soon.

 

You are both the editor and publisher of Twice Upon A Time, and you’re also one of the guest writers. Was it a challenge to retell your chosen story? What was your inspiration?

Doing all three was somewhat challenging, especially since my characters didn’t want to cooperate. I had to take breaks from writing my own story to edit the other submissions, too, so having to come back to the story frequently made the first draft seem really disconnected.

When I first chose Red Riding Hood to retell, my outline was a completely different story than what exists within the pages of the anthology. And after outlining the original story, a verse kept creeping into my mind—the verse that is at the very beginning of the tale—which became the entire inspiration for the final product….

 There were two witches in a wood;

One was evil, one was good.

A cloak of red, a cloak of black;

Like the fire and the ash.

That verse alone haunted me and forced me to take the story in an entire different direction.  Images of gallows and Salem and an apple orchard flooded my mind, and the opening scene poured out of me.

Why do you think fairy tales captivate us so much? Why do they have such lasting power?

I think any story that we hear over and over resonates within us, an echo returned, and we relate to that which we already know so much more easily.  Stories from our childhood especially, when our minds, imaginations, and hearts are untainted by the burdens of life’s reality, seem rooted that much more deeply.

 

When I think of fairy tales, I think of the classics—Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Sleeping Beauty—but there are many tales that are not as widely known. Were you surprised by any of the stories your writers picked or did the classics rule the day?

I have to admit that those came first to my mind, too. It’s one of the reasons I opted to have prospective contributors query their intended retellings first before allowing any submissions. I didn’t want constant queries for the same tale, so I closed further queries on a tale once I approved one. Doing so forced everyone to think outside the box, and I ended up with a large amount of queries for tales even I had never heard of before. There are both classics and obscure tales—even some that combine multiple tales or worlds in one retelling.

 
What are your promotional plans for Twice Upon A Time?
 

Currently, I am running a blog tour to feature both the contributors and their stories individually—at least enough to entice readers.  Also, my partner, Jeremiah, has helped me a lot by contacting reviewers about the title—with great success, I might add. It’s a large volume, and some reviewers who agreed to review it did so for a timeframe that fits their schedule… so now it’s just a sit-and-wait game with the reviews. I am still accepting reviewers, if any of your readers are interested, and they can sign up to review this and future titles by visiting http://www.beardedscribe.com/arc-list/

I am also plugging the book on all of my social media outlets, of course, especially within niche groups.

Thank you so much, Joshua. Best of luck with your novel and Bearded Scribe Press.

Melissa Reads :: Scarlet by Marissa Meyer

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Scarlet by Marissa MeyerSynopsis:

Cinder, the cyborg mechanic, returns in the second thrilling installment of the bestselling Lunar Chronicles. She’s trying to break out of prison–even though if she succeeds, she’ll be the Commonwealth’s most wanted fugitive. Halfway around the world, Scarlet Benoit’s grandmother is missing. It turns out there are many things Scarlet doesn’t know about her grandmother or the grave danger she has lived in her whole life. When Scarlet encounters Wolf, a street fighter who may have information as to her grandmother’s whereabouts, she is loath to trust this stranger, but is inexplicably drawn to him, and he to her. As Scarlet and Wolf unravel one mystery, they encounter another when they meet Cinder. Now, all of them must stay one step ahead of the vicious Lunar Queen Levana, who will do anything for the handsome Prince Kai to become her husband, her king, her prisoner.

 

My Rank: 4.5 stars

I’m just gonna say that Carswell Thorne is one of the best characters. And when Iko becomes the ship (the SHIP) I was having a really hard time decided who was the better comic relief: Iko or Thorne. And when they’re together: heaven help me.

In the second installment of the Lunar Chronicles we dive into Little Red Riding Hood. Grandmother has gone missing, Scarlet must track her down through the French countryside with a street fighter named Wolf — who seems disturbingly wolf-like. Like Cinder, the story flips to different characters, allowing us to see what is happening with Prince Kai (I loved how Meyer makes the prince powerless; I love it when gender roles switch) to Cinder and Thorne as they hide from arrest to Scarlet and Wolf as they struggle to trust one another.

My only complaint (and it’s a small one) is that when the characters get highly emotional (usually during an argument) they become … forced. There’s a lot of hand waving, and sighing and spinning around, all of which I like, but these actions stand out, so when they are repeated in quick succession, they become too theatrical and lose their power.

Final Thoughts:

Onward to book three!

Favorite Lines

“I knew they would kill me when they found out, but…” He struggled for words, releasing a sharp breath. “I think I realized that I would rather die because I betrayed them, than live because I betrayed you.”

>>>>

A relieved grin filled up Thorne’s face. “We’re having another moment, aren’t we?”

“If by a moment, you mean me not wanting to strangle you for the first time since we met, then I guess we are.”

>>>>

“Scarlet and Wolf are saying gushy things in the galley,” Iko said. “Normally I like gushy things, but its different when its real people. I prefer the net dramas.”

>>>>

Kai neared his desk again, seeing that the fugitive’s profile had been transferred to the screen. His frown deepened. Perhaps not dangerous, but young and inarguably good-looking. His prison photo showed him flippantly winking at the camera. Kai hated him immediately.

>>>>

Thorne blinked at her, then down at the sewage he could barely make out in the darkness. “Don’t you have some tool in that fancy hand of yours that can get us across?”

Cinder glared, light-headed from her body’s instinctively short breaths. “Oh, wow, how could I have forgotten about my grappling hook?”

>>>>

Melissa Reads :: Cinder by Marissa Meyer

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Cinder by Marissa Meyer Synopsis:

Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl.

Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.

My Rank: 5 stars

After my little book rank I was in serious need for an awesome book and I struck gold with Cinder. I’ve never been much of a robot girl, though I adore WALLE. When I realized this retelling of Cinderella was of a cyborg Cinderella, I was put off and pushed the book aside. Thankfully, a friend, looking at you, R.G., was positive I’d like it, so I finally gave it a go.

Thank goodness.

Meyer’s retelling of Cinderella is vibrant, engaging, satisfying and exciting. I could not put it down. I love it when writers flesh out their world. Set in the far future, Earth is (FINALLY) peaceful, but the moon looms large. (Can I just say that I LOVED that the moon houses a magical — though that’s not exactly the right word — population that control others with their minds. LOVE. LOVE. LOVE.) Though the Earth no longer wars with itself, Luna is antagonistic and constantly threatens invasion.

But life on Earth is not perfect. There is still prejudice with cyborgs receiving the brunt. They’re the lowest on the totem pole and poor Cinder is more of a servant to her adopted family. But she hides her metal extremities by wearing gloves and cargo pants and her natural charm and personality (she’s delightfully sarcastic) makes her easy to like.

I highly enjoyed that the story flips to different characters. Cinder is told through both Cinder’s perspective and Prince Kai’s. All the wonderful aspects of the classic fairy tale are here: grubby girl, ball to find a wife, hasty retreat down the stairs, loss of foot(wear), but Meyer molds them into something new. Putting them into her futuristic Earth, that is crippled by a plague and the dominating Lunars, she melds them into her story with satisfying ease. Even better, Meyer has made her story massive, stretching over numerous books where more fairy tales will be woven in.

Final Thoughts:

Fantastic.

Favorite Lines

Iko rolled to her side, clasping her metal grippers over her chest. “Prince Kai! Check my fan, I think I’m overheating.”

>>>>

The night sky was clear, and though the lights from the city blocked out any stars, the sharp crescent moon lurked near the horizon, a sleepy eye squinting through the haze.

>>>>

She was unnatural.

>>>>

What Kills a Book (for Me)

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I’m a picky reader and I call myself a picky reader because it’s a downright mission to find a book that I truly love. In my years of reading, not many books are in the ‘truly love’ category. Today, in fact, I’ve decided to stop and desist reading Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book. Sorry, Graveyard, it just wasn’t working out between us. And it got me thinking: What kills a book for me?

Characters.

Yep. Characters. Those blobs that fill up a book, banging into each other and causing all sorts of messes. If I don’t care about the characters (main, supportive, or whatever) then I have a really hard time enjoying the book. Sometimes the writing style can overcome this. If it’s fast, engaging, funny or quirky, then yes, I can ignore the fact that I don’t give two cents about the characters. But if the writing isn’t enough of a filter, then I’m sorry, I’m putting the book down.

To me, the characters hold up the book. Sure, the plot can be ingenious, the writing glorious, but the characters! The characters are the actors. The characters are the ones carrying the story on their shoulders. A simple story with killer characters will always get gold from me. And I don’t mean that the characters have to be bizarre or flawed to the point of mental instability, unless that’s what your character is supposed to be. What I mean is I want them to be real. I want them to have depth. I want them to think things over and tell me why they do the things they do or care the way they care or hate the way they hate. I want to root for the good guys and bash the bad guys and fear the evil guys and roll my eyes at the annoying guys because why, WHY, would I read about someone who I don’t give a damn about?

 

 

Twice Upon a Time Book Blast

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Choose Format
Amazon|Kindle
Amazon|Paperback

Blurb:

Fairytales don’t always happen once upon a time. Fables don’t always have a happy ending. Sometimes the stories we love are too dark for nightmares. What if waking Sleeping Beauty was the worse thing the Prince could have done? What if Rapunzel wasn’t in that tower for her own protection—but for everyone else’s?

Assembled by The Bearded Scribe Press, Twice Upon A Time combines classics and modern lore in peculiar and spectacular ways. From Rapunzel to Rumpelstiltskin, this unique collection showcases childhood favorites unlike anything you’ve ever seen.

Both traditionally-published and independent authors will take you on a whirlwind ride through fairytale and folklore, myth and majick. Cherished stories are revisited and remastered into newly-treasured tales of hope and heartache, of adversity and adventure.

This collection features 43 short stories ranging in length from 2K-12K words from the following cast of talented writers:

Bo Balder, AJ Bauers, Carina Bissett, Rose Blackthorn, S.M. Blooding, Rick Chiantaretto, Richard Chizmar, Liz DeJesus, Court Ellyn, S.Q. Eries, Steven Anthony George, Dale W. Glaser, Jax Goss, K.R. Green, Kelly Hale, Tonia Marie Harris, Brian T. Hodges, Tarran Jones, Jason Kimble, Shari L. Klase, Alethea Kontis, Hannah Lesniak, Wayne Ligon, RS McCoy, Joshua Allen Mercier, Robert D. Moores, Diana Murdock, Nick Nafpliotis, Elizabeth J. Norton, Bobbie Palmer, William Petersen, Rebekah Phillips, Asa Powers, Joe Powers, Brian Rathbone, Julianne Snow, Tracy Arthur Soldan, C.L. Stegall, Brian W. Taylor, Kenechi Udogu, Onser von Fullon, Deborah Walker, Angela Wallace, and Cynthia Ward.

Edited by Joshua Allen Mercier. Cover art by Luke Spooner.


 

Excerpt from Fire & Ash by Joshua Allen Mercier, a dark fantasy retelling of Little Red Riding Hood:

THE cold, autumn gusts ripped across Salem’s port, stirring the angry waters, stirring the angry spectators gathered before the gallows—gallows which had not, until this day, been used since the Trials several years back. Men, women, children—all bore hateful eyes and twisted faces. All bore a deep-seeded fear of the woman before them; they watched and seethed, anger building like fire fed by the winds, waiting for answers, for closure, for justice—for the devil’s death.

Constance Archer stared at the sea of faces; she despised all of them, save two—two faces that weren’t supposed to be there. Her daughters, Rhiannon and Rowan, hid in the small grove of trees, but she could still see their watery, green eyes piercing through the shadows, their stares stabbing their fear and pain and confusion into her. They weren’t supposed to see her like this. With the gag still tightly secured about her mouth, however, her muffled pleas for them to leave went unheard.

Where was their grandmother?

Constance’s fiery locks were drenched with tears. Her heart ached. For them, for herself, for her husband, Jacob. She shouldn’t have let the rage overtake her; she knew that now, now that it was too late.

“For the crimes of witchcraft, how do you plea?”

Even though the thick rope around her neck made it difficult to escape it—to forget—the reverend’s voice jolted her back to reality.

“Not guilty,” Constance replied through the gag, unsure if her plea was understood.

“Executioner, please remove the gag from the accused.”

The reverend’s statement was cold. They had known each other since they were children, but he was but a stranger now as he stood before her. He was once so compassionate, so caring—what had changed?

The executioner approached Constance with apprehension; she soon understood why. Despite the black hood covering his face, his scent—sweet, woody, musky, like freshly-sawn wood mixed with perfume and sweat—immediately revealed his identity: William Black. He removed the gag with haste and stepped across the gallows with a speed she hadn’t witnessed him have in years.

How fitting that the town adulterer would be the one to hang her. She wondered who the woman had been, the one whose scent lingered on his clothing and skin. Surely it wasn’t his wife, Catherine.

It couldn’t be.

She had killed her, in a way, the memory of the act flooding back to her nearly causing her to faint. Seems Catherine and her husband didn’t understand the meaning of marriage; then again, neither did Jacob (apparently). Catching him with Catherine was the most heart-breaking of all.

Wyatt Thatcher cleared his throat. “Mrs. Archer—your plea, now that we can hear you.”

Constance stared at her old friend, pain and tears welling in her eyes. “Not guilty.”

“If not for witchcraft, how do account for the brutal way you murdered Catherine Black? Surely, you were possessed,” countered Reverend Thatcher.

“I didn’t murder Catherine Black. As I told you all before, she was attacked by a beast.” She wasn’t lying, but she wasn’t telling the whole truth. The truth wouldn’t save her, and she couldn’t have her daughters hearing it. They weren’t supposed to be here, but calling attention to them now would only make matters worse.

“You’re the beast!” a woman’s voice sounded from the throng.

“Witch!” said another, followed by her husband’s jibe, “You’re Satan’s whore!”

Reverend Thatcher held his hand to the crowd; without a word, they fell silent. It wasn’t their first execution; it probably wouldn’t be their last. His attention turned to the defendant, but his eyes remained downcast, staring at the rough wood of the gallows as if it were the most interesting sight he had ever beheld.

Constance knew why Wyatt Thatcher wouldn’t look at her, knew he couldn’t show a hint of weakness or compassion for her lest he be hanged, too, for sympathizing with the Devil. Satan was in Salem Village that day—no doubt about that. But it wasn’t Constance or Reverend Thatcher. The Devil stood in the crowd, reflected in the eyes of every spectator. His hunger bellowed in their calls, their taunts, their glares, and it wouldn’t be satisfied until her limp, lifeless body waved in the autumn winds like a banner for their tainted justice, a flag of their blood-stained victory over evil.

Wyatt’s hardness broke, even if for just a second, Constance the only witness to the silent tear soaking its fleshy path across his regretful face. “And please explain to us why you were covered in her blood.”

“I’ve told you all this before, Wyatt…” Using the reverend’s first name stirred a wave of gasps from the crowd, forcing her to pause. “I carried Catherine into my house to try to stop her bleeding, to prevent her death.”

That was a lie; it was what she wanted everyone to believe, but it had been all for naught. It had only sealed her fate.

“And what of your husband’s disappearance?” An icy gust of wind blew through Constance’s locks of red hair; with it, Thatcher’s own coldness returned. “Did you use witchcraft to dispose of his body?”

“My husband was attacked, too, his body dragged into the orchard by the beast.”

That was a lie, too. She couldn’t tell them the truth—that she had, in a fit of rage after seeing Jacob and Catherine naked in the orchard, cursed her husband’s appetite for flesh. The curse had gone horribly wrong…

 

 

Praise:

“Brilliant change-up on the new flood of “Fairy Tale Twists”. If you’re looking for something that can suck you in right away, this book is definitely it. The collection of short stories makes sure you never get bored with the story or writing style.” ~Jett Murdock / Amazon review

 

About the Publisher:

The Bearded Scribe Press, LLC is an independent publisher of quality Speculative Fiction. They aim to become a platform for emerging writers to get discovered by the mainstream and inversely, through becoming a staple in the literary community, becoming the source for readers to discover emerging talent in the Speculative Fiction realm.

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Watch the [Extended] Book Trailer:

Guest Author Andean White

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AndeanWhite - aurthor photo 5_edited-7Please introduce yourself. Where can we find you? Blog? Twitter? Facebook?

Andean White, writer of heroic fiction. Published Winter’s Thief in October 2014.

Website: www.AndeanWhite.com

Twitter: @AndeanWhite

Facebook: www.facebook.com/AndeanWhite

Give me a random tidbit about you. It could be anything. Anything at all.

Writing for five plus years—although the travel journal and the short story periods could be easily classified as training.

I have published three books: a spy story that shall remain nameless, a mini-book about Parkinson’s Disease, and Winter’s Thief. Hopefully, in May I can answer “four”, as the second book in the Winter’s Thief series will be complete.

Out of thrillers, non fiction and fantasy, which genre do you prefer writing the most? What challenges do you face in this genre?

Heroic fantasy is the preferred genre and likely to remain number one for the next three books. It’s a fun genre because the setting, location, and characters can be mixed with a fictional backdrop.

Fantasy is a wide-open genre and strange combinations can make for some pretty unusual stories. For example, a knight and cowboy driving a tank at Waterloo. I find myself wanting my hero, and occasionally the villain, to have some technology that is too far removed for the time setting. Balancing historical accuracy and artistic license can be difficult.

Tell me about Winter’s Thief. It’s a very intriguing title.

Winter’s Thief is a medieval like story of a king’s secret scheme to kidnap a newborn and raise the child to be his successor. Despite abductions and assassination attempts the King and Captain of the guard have managed to keep the heir alive. But revenge from a childhood friend threatens their well-kept secret.

Winter's Thief by Andean WhiteSounds exciting! How do you typically begin your projects? Do you create outlines and character profiles or jump straight in with the initial idea?

I do some of both methods.

My first step is developing the general story line—typically five to eight word sentences that represent the chapters. For example, Oscar sneaks baby into castle.

The next task is expanding the descriptions and adding key details to a group of related chapters. The work of writing turns these notes into the story. When I am satisfied with that part of the book, I move on to the next section.

One Note is great for brainstorming, organizing, and documenting the details. Lately, I have used Scapple to create a visual presentation of the key elements of the story.

Previously, I attempted to outline the whole tale, but found that the characters and the story sent me “off script”.

I envy your outlining ability. Editing can be quite the challenge. How do you go about editing your work? Do you have any tips you’d like to share?

I have a list of words that I typically abuse in the draft. Before the final draft goes to beta readers, I search the book for these words. For example, “he ran all the way to the blacksmith’s shop.” ‘All’ is one of those words. For me, ‘all’ usually means excessive wording.

Also I search for: was, were, their, there, they’re, she, her, he, him, etc. In the search feature the word is highlighted making it pretty easy to spot over-use. This works best if an entire page can be displayed.

Reading the story out loud helps me find errors and opportunities.

The most important action item for editing is have a professional editor read it.

Talk to me about your marketing strategies. Any tips?

It is a shocker to discover how much promotional time is required. After four months I have adjusted to a workable plan. Each week I try to improve or add another task. When the promotional effort started, blogging was the only activity. A week later the twitter account went live, then followed in a couple weeks with Facebook. It’s occasionally hectic, but overall I am making progress. I had to sacrifice my writing time at first, but I am back at three to six hours per day.

What advice would you give a writer who is starting out?

My favorite line in a recent article is “It only took eight years to become an overnight success.” When talking with established authors at book shows, conventions, craft fairs, or book signings their advice is be patient and don’t give up.

Perfect advice! Thank you so much Andean!

If you are an author and would like to be interviewed, check out more at Be My Guest.

 

The Writing Process

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First, the idea hits.

giphyAnd it’s electrifying. Brilliant. Beautiful. Perfection. You scribble down ideas like a person possessed. The keyboards clack at lightening speed. All is wonderful. All is bliss. Until you notice plot holes.

giphyfrustratedDraining, destructive, frustratingly endless plot holes. But then in the darkest moment, ideas surge forward and…

giphyepiphanyit turns out you’re a genius! Those pesky plot holes are filled and onward! Onward! Onward! You realize the draft is done. You pass it along to your editor, glittering and iridescent, expecting praise, expecting jubilation. Alas …

giphyrevision2revision.

giphyrevision1Plot holes you did not spy earlier are decorated with flashing, neon ‘Look at me!’ signs and you wonder why your editor hates you so very, very much and you wonder how you will ever fix this terrible, horrible mess of a manuscript.

giphyrevision3But you get through the revisions, even though it seemed you never would, and you complete your copy edits like the waltzing Mozart that you are.

giphycopyeditYou’re finished. You scan through one more time to make sure. Your spine tingles as realization hits.

giphyfinishedYou.Did. It.

giphyfinished1You really did it.

giphyfinished3And you realize all the headaches, all the tears, all the sleepless nights full of angst, all the chocolate binges were worth it because nothing can compare to this ecstasy.

giphyfinished4Rock on, writer. Rock on.

 

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