Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Old Lady Creeper's Meat Pies

“What do we do now? You told me nothing could go wrong and look what’s happened.” Kurt pushed and shook the basement doors again. “We’ll just go in and get the ball, he said, nothing will happen he said, the old lady isn’t even home he said.”

Pete gave his friend a shove. “Shut up! It’s not my fault the wind blew the doors shut.” He gave the other boy another shove to the side. “Stop acting like a baby, they probably just need a good shot of elbow grease.”

Kurt scoffed, “Yeah, my sister can bench press more than you in weight class.”

Pete gave him an evil eye then rubbed his hands together and pushed on the cellar doors. When they didn’t give he put his back into it, added a grunt or two for good measure. The doors rattled a bit but didn’t budge.

Pete looked to Kurt panic started to rise in both the boys. “Holy crap, Kurt! We’re gonna die down here!”

Kurt swallowed then stomped his foot. He wasn’t going to end up in one of Old Lady Creeper’s meat pies. “Shut up, Pete.”

After a few panted breathes of musty basement air, Kurt squinted as he tried to see in the dark. “There’s got to be another way out of here. We never see the old hag leave ‘cept to go to the Piggly Wiggly.”

Pete started to search with him, both boys took a tentative step further into the dark room. He swallowed. “Do you think this is where she stores the bodies? You know… the ones for the pies.”

Kurt gulped hard and elbowed his pal in the side. “Don’t be stupid, that stuff is just stories to scare kids like us.”

They took a few more steps into the dark, Kurt squinted again and peered into the dark corner. “Hey, it’s the ball.” He ran over and picked it up. “Pete here’s stairs. We can get out of here before Old Lady Creeper gets home.”

Pete yelped when his hand hit the edge of a worktable. His hands crept along the surface. “Yeah, I’m too young to be a pie.”

He took another few steps his hands felt along the table for guidance. A box turned over onto his hands and he froze into place. “K..k…Kurt…. “

Kurt was done with this freaky place, the old lady would be home soon. She’d call his parents, he would get grounded and miss the carnival this weekend. “Come on, stop being a baby.”

He walked over to Pete and grabbed at the items that lay over his friend’s hands. It felt…. No it couldn’t be…

The sun had started to shift and shine into the tiny filth smudged window. Kurt held up one of the things. He swallowed hard and started to tremble as his gaze fell on a skeletal hand. Kurt dropped the hand as Pete joined him in a high-pitched girly scream.

They ran full steam to the basement doors the force unjammed them. When the double doors flew open, they ran for the closest house, the boys emitted that girly scream all the way.

Mrs. Caraway walked down the stairs taking care with her bad hip. When she reached the bottom, the old dear gave out a long breath of relief. She set her Piggly Wiggly woven market bag by the deep freeze and looked over at the worktable.

There were skeletal remains scattered over the surface. With a deep sigh she walked over and started to clean up the mess. She dropped a skull into the box on top of a witch’s hat and pumpkin tablecloth. “Damn kids, always getting in here and making a mess of my holiday decorations. Maybe I should start putting more mince pies on the window sill.”

Friday, July 27, 2012

A Gallant Night #FridayFlash

Lucinda stood in the gallery and sipped her wine as she gazed at the veduta. The landscape was done in earthy oils. The artist expressed great elocution in his work. As she moved on through the gallery, she found another painting. This one seemed so real, as if the man standing at the parapet could tumble out of the work.

Applause erupted as the artist raised his glass in a toast to Phillip Glazer. Pronounced fee-leep glass-a-er. The shmuck probably wasn’t even French. Lucinda had a premonition that all the artist’s efforts to impress the great critic were all a fallacy.

In her mind’s eye she could picture the review in which uppity Philip would eviscerate the young artisan. At the very least sever an artery.

With a sigh, she moved into the exhibits. Lucinda couldn’t help a quiet laugh as she passed a couple. The gentleman was trying to impress his lady friend, badly. He stood back from the painting with a distant expression. Then proclaimed that the artist was ocular. Oh yes, the young man had a vision alright. A vision of getting that girl between the sheets.

A huge landscape caught her eye. The view was from the bottom of a gorge. Near the end of the great trench was a cave, coming out of the gaping mouth was supposed to be a bear. After another sip from her flute, she decided the artist should stick to landscapes only. The bear looked more like a hamster.

Next was a classic view of the medieval hero Robin Hood. The outlaw stood in disguise lined up with the other archers. Arrow knocked ready to fly true and win the legendary contest. With a grin, she entertained the notion of being able to step into the painting and blow in his ear as he let fly. Let’s see him make that shot.

An odd coupling by the same artist the next painting held a limo in the Nevada desert. A man dressed forties gangster style stood against the side of the car. He might have been attractive but for the horrendous scar down the side of his face. Something caught her eye and she started to laugh at the artist’s morbid sense of humor. A man’s shoe lay just under the edge of the limo’s trunk. The scared man wasn’t really alone in the desert after all.

In the next exhibit she found the scene of an interior of a house. A woman stood in the background hands on her hips. A man cooked over an old wood burning stove, he was apparently her husband. The poor man was tall and thin obviously worked to death by the shrew.

The next piece was a collage of calendars. It was quite impressive how he managed to encapsulate so much history into the piece. There was a calendar from the year JFK was assassinated the date circled in red. Little pictures of historical events speckling many of the dates.

Lucinda actually liked the Florida landscape. The beach with its white sands seemingly stretched on forever. Palm trees bent to shade a group of sunbathers as the waves licked at their feet. A dog with a Frisbee in his mouth ran along the shore, which made her a smile.

Hanging next was a peep inside a brothel. Ladies enticed men with their unmentionables and pretty smiles, with hope to make a few dollars that night. Some were danced, others drank, a few couples locked in romantic endeavors but all laughing and gay. All but one. At the corner window seat a woman with long golden locks stared at the moon. Her sapphire eyes held a longing, perhaps of dreams lost. 

Lucinda sighed as someone behind her made loud comments. She had lost patience with the crowd growing in number and noise. The wine no longer able to quench her thirst she poured it into the potted tree. Lucinda glanced around as she slipped the flute with its gallery charm that dangled from the stem into her purse. On her way out, she over heard Fee-leep tell another patron the artist should have stuck to flipping burgers.

The valet brought her car and Lucinda tipped him before she drove away. On the way home, she listened to Mozart drift through the speakers. Once inside her apartment the illusion was shattered.

She toed off her shoes then walked to the wall by her dining table. Lucinda pulled the flute from her purse and set the glass on a shelf turning the charm to dangle from the front.

She stepped back and looked at her collection. There was a glass from almost every gallery in New York and LA. Since the move to California, Lucinda had found the Beverly Hills posh galleries a lot of fun. It was her little escape from her mundane life as a post office clerk.

Once a month she would dress to the nines walking among the beautiful people. Experiencing the world in their eyes for a couple of hours, tasting fine wines, foods she would never be able to afford. Walking to her bedroom Lucinda took off her dress she’d saved for six months to buy it. There were three fine gowns in her closet just for her little trips.

As she slipped on the less glamorous oversized sleep shirt, Lucinda thought about the gallery and all she had seen tonight. Her gallant night out, her name for these outings. As she rested her head on, her pillow Lucinda made note to check the listings for next month so she could plan her next gallant night.  

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

One Word/60 Seconds: Gum

The clatter of a coffee cup being set on the desk brought his attention from the files long enough to grunt a thanks. This was one  hell of a mystery, he had no idea where to start the search for this dame's sister. She was like smoke in fog, and he was one puzzled gumshoe

OneWord.com is a website for getting the muse warmed up. Each day you get one word and sixty seconds in which to write what it inspires.This is my entry for today's One Word. What's yours? 

Monday, July 23, 2012

Danielle Thorne talks about Death Cheater on Glaidator's Pen

Pirates, biologists and ghosts… Oh my! The nice way of saying it, is "She's eclectic." And "she" would be Yours Truly. I'm a born romantic, but a suburban kid who grew up to be a busy mom and determined writer, destined to write about things besides spaghetti and grass stains. By thirty years old I took the leap from poetry and freelance writing into fiction. By thirty-five, I was reading Age of Sail books like Master and Commander and Horatio Hornblower and taking scuba classes. I never could bear to be like everyone else.

Much thanks to Elise and the Gladiator's Pen for allowing me to share news of my newest release, DEATH CHEATER, my first foray into the paranormal after writhing sea fiction and romance.

For me, my paranormal vision started after I visited some prehistoric Indian burial mounds. It was a haunting experience, and the town of Henderson, Tennessee, where I based my next novel, made a perfect small town setting.

Athena Gray lives vicariously through her sister because people in general avoid her. Whether it's strange things like dead butterflies fluttering to life, or the time she saved her dying grandpa just by willing him to live, Athena knows that she is different. The only person who doesn't seem to think so is Dan, the most popular boy on Omega High School's baseball team. But even Dan can't understand the reason she acts haunted, until a spirit roaming the local historic burial mounds takes an interest in people Athena cares about.

Athena is a strong, independent character who understands she doesn't have to fit in to be content with herself. She also knows that she has a gift. High school doesn't come easy though, because dealing with teen drama and her own social anxiety issues are as difficult as accepting her grandfather's death. With no parents to turn to and few friends, Athena has to dig deep when a dark angel enters her life at the worst time. And he doesn't just have information about who she is, he has demands.


A low rumble echoed around me, and the tall, dark trees went still. Not even a leaf stirred. My heart hummed, and a tingle of apprehension made my palms damp. A snarl came from the shadow of a tangled thorn bush, and soft, padding footsteps shuffled in the late afternoon gloom. My breathing went ragged with fear. Maybe it was a raccoon or an angry squirrel.


Whipping around, I stared hard into the murk. A voice. It sounded gentle, but at the same time it sent chills down my arms. I glanced up through the hooded canopy of tree branches and tried to see heaven.


There was a growl, and the terror I'd been holding at bay zipped up my spine into my skull. I was sure my long hair stood on end, like when kids touched the electrostatic generator at the science museum.

Something was coming for me, and it wasn't something from the woods. It'd been following me all day. Maybe even my entire life.

Now don't be too concerned. Athena isn't left entirely to her own devices. Her older sister has her best interests in mind, and Dan Lipinsky, Athena's secret crush, seems determined to make her one of his closest friends.

Is there really such a thing as ghosts? Are there dark angels intent on making us miserable? How many of us have abilities we haven't embraced? DEATH CHEATER is an exploration into forces from the other side and our power to choose what is right over what they would influence us to do. Meet Athena Gray today and find out more.

Check out DEATH CHEATER at Amazon.com

More Books by Danielle Thorne

Turtle Soup; 5 Star Environmental Romance. (Available at Smashwords, B&N and more)

The Privateer; Historical Adventure (Available at Amazon.com, Desert Breeze Publishing, B&N and more)

By Heart and Compass; Award Winning Contemporary Romantic Adventure (Available at Amazon.com, Desert Breeze Publishing, B&N and more)

Josette; Jane Austen-inspired Regency (Available at Amazon.com, Whimsical Publications, B&N and more)

Death Cheater; YA Paranormal (Available at Amazon.com, Desert Breeze Publishing, B&N and more)

Southern Girl, Yankee Roots; Poetry (Amazon.com and Willow Moon Press)

Friday, July 20, 2012

The Tentacle

Photo prompt courtesy photographer  Danielle Tunstall
His eyes snapped open, darted about the darkened bedroom. The room was too quiet, too still. His breath panted. They were almost here. No, not again.

A soft whirring sound made his muscles tense and jump. Then he felt the warmed air on his feet from the vent just below his bed. It was just the heat, he let out a breath.

There was a sound a claw scratching on the wall. The breath turned into a gasp as a dark blur shifted in the corner of his vision. His body stiffened and stilled, his heart raced until all he could hear was his pulse pound in his ears.

“Please.” His voice squeaked as his hands gripped the bed sheet.

The room fell into utter silence, until it began to quake. Mild tremors that caused nick nacks to clank on shelves, then stronger until the bed moved side to side. His hands tightened onto the mattress. “Please, please.”

The quake stopped as he begged into the still silence of the room. He began to pant, his fists balled around the sheet and pulled it up to his face. The clack of claw on the tiled floor became louder.

He tried to hold his breath, if he was still enough they may not see him. Sudden pain coursed though him as electricity lit every nerve ending on fire. The blaze faded enough for him to catch a breath.

It was difficult to take that desperate breath as though a weight sat upon his chest. He couldn’t sit up, couldn’t move any part of him.

Out of the corner of his eye he could see a blur, it reached out to press something by his head. He attempted to struggle against his paralysis as he felt his body being lifted then lowered. Cool thick liquid oozed over his skin until he was submerged.

He tried to hold his breath but it was too long and his lungs gulped in the gel. It burned as it filled his lungs. Then he felt them, their tentacles crept across his skin. Some of the creatures latched on. He screamed wordless as the tentacles bore into his flesh.

They crawled over his face reaching into his ears and mouth. He felt first one then another push its way down his throat. His screams were choked off by the creatures. Sensations of the arms inside him probing made him were sickening.

Worse as the paralysis wore off. He screamed and pleaded for mercy from the things. After minutes that seemed like hours of hell he felt the shock of pain down his spine once more.

The electricity jolted his body forcing the tentacles to flee their host.  He cried out in pure agony until….

He sat up, screamed wildly, his hands pulled at his face, hair and clothing. His breath came in hard gasps. He could see his reflection in his dresser mirror. The realization made him look around the room.

It was morning… He pulled off his shirt and tossed it aside as he searched his chest and arms for any evidence. Nothing. “It was a dream… just another nightmare.”

He didn’t know why they had begun, but hoped they would end soon as he swung his feet to the floor.

His foot stepped on something soft…wet…  His pulse in his throat, he looked down to what it was. A tentacle. 

Monday, July 16, 2012

Author Chat with Tmonique Stephens

Gladiator's Pen welcomes Tmonique Stephens to the Ludis today. She's here to talk about her upcoming release Eternity by Solmate Publishing. Pour a cuppa and enjoy the chat. 

Tell us a bit about Tmonique Stephens:
n high school, I wrote my first novel about a reporter and a hockey player after the U.S. hockey team won gold in the 1980 Olympics. I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing from City College of New York where I won an English Department Award for my play Tea with Salt in 1987. I took a break from writing to graduate from college, get married, have a daughter, but I never gave up on my dream.

The first romance I remember reading was a Harlequin about a sheikh and his forbidden love for an American woman way back in middle school. That’s before loves scene were included. I love writing flawed characters who reflect the emotional baggage we all carry. I write complicated stories for complicated people. Hopefully, you will enjoy my efforts. I love paranormal and fantasy romances and will read anything about fairies, demons, or angels. I also enjoy Stephen King and Dean Koontz.

I was born in St. Thomas USVI, but I grew up in The Bronx, New York one mile from Yankee Stadium. I love the SyFy and History channels, and Asian cuisine. But my heart and stomach longs for anything from the Caribbean. Have any Caribbean recipes out there? Please share! My mother died before I had a chance to learn her cooking secrets.

Currently, I’m working on an Egyptian God series. Why the Egyptian Gods, you ask? I say, “Why not?” All the other gods have been extensively covered, except the Egyptians. Undiscovered territory has always appealed to me.

Your first novel to be published is about to be released, has your experience with the publishing world been what you expected?
Publishing is not for the faint of heart. It takes discipline, dedication and a thick skin. I didn’t expect it to take five years to get published but I understand the process much better than when I first began my writing journey.

Tell us a bit about Eternity to be released August 15th 2012
Eternity is a story of reincarnation and redemption. Roman Nicolis, a mercenary falls in love with the Elyssian, the wrong woman. He seduces her, taking her virginity and cursing them both. For two thousand years, Roman wanders the earth searching for the only woman he can love. Time and again, Roman finds her, only to lose her horribly. Now, in present day New York City, they meet again. And this is his last chance to get things right. 

“You're asking me to sleep with you?” Roman said.
“I’m offering to share the futon with you,” Stella corrected.
Standing next to the futon, he whispered, “Why?”
She jumped, her hand stretched out in front of her, searching for him. “Damn, how can you move that fast? I didn’t hear you.”
“Answer the question. Why?”
“I … can't let you sleep on the floor.” She scooted over and waited for him.
He should resist. The many reasons why ticked by, but the futon creaked as he lay beside her and stilled. Everything he wanted rested inches away.
“Can you see me?”
“No,” he lied, watching her bite her lip. Slowly, she relaxed, believing the darkness covered her. He sucked in a sharp breath when her hand brushed his bare chest.
“Sorry,” but a smile tweaked her lips.
“No boyfriends,” she told McCabe. It was too ridiculous to be true. But … could she be a virgin?
“Roman,” she breathed his name and lust raced down his spine, igniting every nerve ending and wiping his brain clean of every thought, but one. He caught the belt of her robe and followed it up to the knot. A finger slipped in and loosened it.
“Yes.” His breath fanned her face. She tilted her chin up at the perfect angle for his lips to cover hers.
“I’ve never had a man in my home before.”
His finger stopped. What the hell am I doing? She drugged him with her words, frailty and covered body. He had to get out of her bed, her apartment, maybe the city, let one of his men protect her.
She touched him again, ran her palm over his stubbled jaw, then traced a finger over his eyebrows and down the bridge of his nose. She played with the shell of his ear until his chest rumbled with suppressed laughter. Then her fingers found his lips and the laughter stopped.

Where did the idea for Eternity come from?
About five years ago, I decided I wanted to write a series. I’ve always loved paranormal romances, vampires, werewolves, the fey, shape shifters, novels about other worlds inhabited with different species. Naturally, I gravitated to what I enjoyed reading, but I was tired of the usual books populating the genre. I considered writing about the Greek Gods, but I had recently started reading a popular series about the Greeks and I felt I had no new ideas to offer.

Then I thought of the Egyptian Gods. Ancient Egypt is one of the most well documented cultures. Although the Egyptian Gods have a wealth of history and folklore, there aren’t many fiction books about them. Their story still remains untold.

Eternity is a story of reincarnation and redemption. Roman Nicolis, a mercenary falls in love with the Elyssian, the wrong woman. He seduces her, taking her virginity and cursing them both. For two thousand years, Roman wanders the earth searching for the only woman he can love. Time and again, Roman finds Elyssian, only to lose her horribly. Now, in present day New York City, they meet again. And this is his last chance to get things right.

Silk or Satin Sheets?
Stella, my heroine is a simple woman. She purchases her linen from the local discount store. Silk and satin are completely out of her price range. Roman, my hero, will show her the delights of satin sheets on her naked skin.

Do you have a writing process/ritual, what is it?  
I have a writing schedule that I stick to. I work a regular job so weekdays my writing schedule is three p.m. to eight p.m. and I do most of my editing in my downtime at work.
My ideal time of day for writing would be nine p.m. to two a.m. I find my brain flows better in the evening hours. I save those hours for the weekend.

What do you believe is one of the most important elements of writing in your genre?
Believability. I write paranormal romance. My readers have to believe the world that I’ve created is real. My characters need to live and function in that world; otherwise, my novel will be pitched into a dusty corner, unfinished and unloved.

How has your environment/upbringing colored your writing?
 Growing up in the The Bronx, I like writing about the city and sometimes using New York as a character.

My mother had the biggest influence in my writing career. She wasn’t a reader. She didn’t understand my need to write. Also, she thought I was wasting paper when I wrote. My mother had a ninth grade education and we had little in common, but with all my heart, I know she would’ve been proud of me and my novel.

What is one stereotype about romance writers is absolutely wrong? What one stereotype is dead on?
Romance novels aren’t just about sex. The story centers on two individual uniting against all odds. It is a spiritual, physical and emotional union.
All heroes are over six feet tall, rippling with muscles and rich. That is the one stereotype about romance novels that is true.

 Where can we find Tmonique Stephens?
Email: Tmoniquebooks@aol.com

Friday, July 13, 2012

The Mission

A glance at the tower clock said it was almost time. Fingers drummed nervously on the cafĂ© table. Stop, he admonished himself mentally. He couldn’t afford to draw attention to himself. Not now.

The mission was about to take place, delivery was crucial. Crucial to national security, maybe even global from the impressions he got during briefing.

After one last sip of the pungent tea, he pulled a few dollars from his wallet and tossed them on the bill. Standing, the young man glanced again at the clock in the square. It was time.

Knowing the importance of this meeting made it difficult to keep a strolling pace to the park. He wanted to hurry and be a hero to his country. An unknown hero, since he was one of the “men in black”.

Focus man, focus. To keep his concentration on the task at hand he began to sing the instructions in his head.

Near a tree by a river, there’s a hole in the ground. Where an old man of Aran goes around and around.

It had taken him a bit to decipher the cryptic message. It all snapped into place once he found the tree. Behind it a river gently flowed with children on the bank skipping rocks along the water’s surface.

An old man with a thick Irish accent called out to them in the shade of that great oak. The table in font of him filled with all sorts of whirly gigs to catch the wind and spin around.

The young man took a deep breath. This was it, the moment he’d been training for.  Hand around a small pistol in his pocket, he approached the table of wares. “Good afternoon.”

The old man gave him a slight nod. “Afternoon. See anything you like there?”

He picked up a bird shaped pinwheel. “This one I think. Reminds me of something.” He gave a pause and made eye contact with the old man. “The blackbird sings on bluebird hill.”

The old man nodded and took the offered money for the trinket and doled out the spy’s change. “Thanks to the calling of the wild. You must be a wise man’s child.”

His heart sped, this was it. The old man knew the code phrase. The hand in his pocket moved away from the gun to a key ring. “Indeed, thank you.”

Blood thumped in his ears as he pulled the ring from his pocket slowly.  Without breaking his pace as he walked away, dropped the keys into the hole by the great oak tree.

It was hard to keep the grin off his face until he’d exited the park. Success, he’d done it.

The old man pulled the keys from the hole and sighed. Why did H.Q. insist on testing the rookies like this? The wig came off, revealing jet black hair. This was the last time he’d forget his keys in the office.  

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Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Author Chat with Joyce Harmon

Today we're welcoming author Joyce Harmon to the Ludis! So sit back with your cuppa and enjoy our chat as we talk about Joyce's Winery series and latest 

When did you first consider yourself an author?
Oh, always! I was writing Star Trek fanfic (though I didn’t know to call it that) in junior high. Back then, there was nothing to do with your stories, though. You just wrote them out in long hand and let your friends read them.
Tell us a bit about your latest work Died on the Vine. 
Update! Died On The Vine now has a sequel! Look for the further adventures of Cissy and her friends in Bidding On Death.

But back to Died On The Vine. I actually wrote this book in the mid-90s. I was planning to submit it to publishers and agents. But when I finished the story, it was too short for submissions – mystery publishers wanted works of at least 60,000 words, and Vine was around 45,000. So I needed to make it longer. The other problem was that I had made the story very ‘up to date’ and in the mid-90s, what was up to date seemed to change every day. Just when I’d updated something, something else changed and had to be updated – it was a moving target. Another difficulty was that I had a Vietnam War backstory, and as time went on, my characters would wind up being too old. Life ensued and the manuscript got filed away.

Then last year, I realized that I’d been calling myself a writer all my life and didn’t really have anything out there for people to read, and it was time to get serious. (I’d had a diversion for a number of years writing screenplays, none of which sold of course.) I decided that 2012 was going to be The Year Of The Writer. And with the advent of ebooks, getting published was much more plausible and your story could be any length it needed to be.

At that point, I remembered, hey, I wrote a novel once – and I dug out Died On The Vine, the original manuscript without all my attempts to bring it up to date. I reread it and the stuff that had looked outdated ten years ago now looked (IMO) like quaint period detail.  I only had the paper manuscript, since it was written many computers and several word processing softwares ago, so I had to retype the whole thing. But I kept it as it was, set it in 1996, and wrote a present day prologue and epilogue.

I published it via Smashwords and Amazon, and it’s available on all the ebook platforms. So far it’s doing pretty well, especially on Barnes and Noble.
What inspired your setting of a Virginia Winery?
I retired from the Navy in the mid-90s. My first post-retirement job was at the local winery. I took tourists on tours of the winery and conducted wine tastings. It seemed to me that it would be a neat location for a mystery, so I wrote one.

I’m still milking my own experiences for story fodder. After the winery, I worked as a local newspaper reporter, and then I spent a number of years as an eBay seller. I would go to the local auctions and buy things to resell on eBay. I used that experience for my sequel, Bidding On Death, where Cissy and her friends becoming involved in on-line auctions. I set Bidding On Death in 1998.

Did you learn something new about yourself or the craft of writing while working on this story, if so what was it?
I don’t know if I actually learned anything new, but I relearned how much I enjoy creating a fictional world and immersing myself in it. My stories always contain humor and I tend to crack myself up.

How would you spend a day inside of your book?
I’d track down Cissy and Julia and see what they were up to – which is usually pretty interesting. Maybe play with Polly the dog and Tough Stuff the cat. And I’d make sure to find time to stop by Della’s Kountry Kitchen for some pie.

Do you write every day or when the muse hits?
I try to write every day when I have a story in the works. Some days it’s harder to get going than others. When I’m really in the middle of it, I try to keep to a weekly word count goal, though that resolution has been more broken than kept recently.

How do you develop plots and characters? Do you have a set formula?
I don’t think I have an actual formula. I usually get a premise first, and then form the characters who’d have to deal with that premise. With my winery mysteries, I now have a set group of characters, though I expect each new mystery will introduce new ‘regulars’.

If you could spend time with any writer living or past who would it be and why?
Michio Kaku. I have a bit of a crush on him anyway, and maybe in person he could explain string theory to where I understood it.

Do you have any works in progress you can share with us?
I have premises for several more winery mysteries, but right now I’m trying something different. I’m writing a Regency romance. My mysteries are very breezy and informal, so Regency is quite a change of pace. It’s much more formal and mannered. My intent is to write a pure Heyer-style comedy of manners – no sex scenes, no time travel, no vampires or zombies.

After the Regency, I might write the next mystery, but I also have a screenplay I plan to novelize – science fiction action-adventure.

Is there something you would like to say to readers and/or fellow writers?
Just that writing should be fun. I can’t give a lot of career advice because I’ve just recently started putting my work out there, and I have no idea whether or not I’m on the right track to writing success. It’s all a crapshoot anyway, so the key is to enjoy the process; that way, if it doesn’t lead to fame-n-fortune at least you enjoyed what you were doing. When I see people on writing discussion groups saying resignedly that they supposed they’d better write a young adult paranormal romance because that’s what’s selling these days, and I know that they don’t particularly enjoy young adult or paranormal or romance - ! Sheesh. Write the sort of stuff you’d want to read!

Where can we find Joyce Harmon and your books? 

Readers hurry over to Joyce's blog The Village Wordsmith! She is giving a way 10 copies of Died on the Vine so hurry and don't miss out. Next week she will be giving away Bidding on Death!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Chat with author Mary Ann Bernal and WIN a SIGNED copy of The Briton and the Dane: Legacy

We welcome Mary Ann Bernal to the ludis today She has a very special treat for one lucky reader as well. You have a chance to win a signed print copy of The Briton and the Dane: Legacy. For your chance to win just leave a comment below with your email or twitter handle. On Friday we'll draw the name out of my magic chest and announce the winner! 

Now refill that sweet tea and get comfortable as we chat with Mary Ann Bernal.... 

We’re here today to celebrate your series The Briton and the Dane. The books are set in ninth century Anglo-Saxon Britain.  What about this period of history that fascinates you the most?
What intrigued me was how King Alfred managed to keep his kingdom of Wessex free from Viking rule despite the odds of conquest.  This was also a time when Christianity was replacing pagan religions, and the role conversion played in the political arena.  When King Alfred defeated the Danish Viking King Guthrum, one of the terms of the treaty was baptism, which King Guthrum agreed to, having King Alfred as his sponsor / Godfather.

Did King Guthrum willingly accept the one true faith?  Probably not, but it was politically expedient to do so.  Even though this was a time of unrest and instability, King Alfred managed to establish a standing army while he built up his defenses, created and enforced new laws and founded schools to ensure a competently-ruled kingdom after his death.  His reign lasted 28 years, dying at age 50. King Alfred left a legacy difficult to replicate, deserving the title Great.  Yes, I am one of King Alfred’s greatest supporters.

Tell us a bit about the book/s..
The Briton and the Dane trilogy follows the adventures of Lord Richard and his offspring, Stephen, David and Gwyneth.  King Alfred has just defeated King Guthrum, the terms of the treaty have been agreed to, and King Guthrum has already been baptized.  However, the Danish King still remains on Wessex soil, making preparations to return to his lands in East Anglia.

The story begins with Gwyneth atop the Keep in the early evening hours, enjoying the solitude when she sees movement on the beach. Of course she must investigate, which is how she meets Erik, who is wounded.  She hides her Danish Prince from her father, Lord Richard, who oversees a training camp for King Alfred’s recruits, aided by his sons, Stephen and David.  Gwyneth tends to Erik’s wounds in secret, while rumors of a Viking invasion are spreading throughout the countryside.

This epic adventure runs the gamut of deception, treachery, intrigue, and betrayal during a time of war and conquest, requiring three novels to complete the story.  I enjoyed every moment writing the saga.

What was your favorite resource for historic information during your research?  
“The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle” and Asser’s “Life of King Alfred and Other Contemporary Sources.”  Documentation of this era is sparse because monastic libraries were burned during the Viking raids.
If you were to be dropped into The Briton and the Dane for a day what would you do?
In “The Briton and the Dane: Birthright,” we have the Festival of the Ancient Games, which includes a Roman chariot race.  Did Alexander from the Papal City of Rome defeat Draco of Athens - you’ll have to read the story to find out, but my champion did win. 

Do you have a writing routine or ritual you follow?
My writing routine varies.  Initially I would write in the morning but soon found myself working eight to twelve hour days - once in Wessex, I did not want to leave.  Changing the time to afternoon did not help much either because I found myself burning the midnight oil.  So, I followed Stephen King’s advice to write a few hours a day, every day, and once your word count goal is reached, you are done, because life beckons.

The ninth century is vastly different from today from language, customs, even the every day activities. Do you find it difficult to write in a historic period or is it easy to submerse yourself there?
After three novels I am so immersed into ninth century Wessex that I sometimes have to reword emails or letters, but occasionally I just keep a favorite word.  I find I have used “I am not privy to this information” quite a bit lately, but for the most part, when I return to this century I make a concerted effort to remain here.

What are three things ever present in your writing space?
My children found an electronic typewriter table that is adjustable, which is fantastic for keeping back and neck issues to a minimum.  If I sit too long, I can raise the table and stand - how great is that!  I am also surrounded by my characters - I did cast every person in my novels, all dressed in period clothing, all demanding more dialogue.  No wonder my characters take over!  My IPod constantly plays period music, which keeps me in Wessex.  Some of the soundtracks are from King Arthur, Beowulf, The Last Legion, Centurion, The Eagle, Outlander, Tristan & Isolde, Merlin - and the list goes on and on, and yes, I am really into this stuff. 

What do you do to get past the dreaded “writer’s block”?
In my opinion writer’s block does not exist.  There may be a day you are unsure of the direction you wish to take in the story, which may cause a delay in writing.  I think if you are staring at a blank piece of paper, you should just write whatever pops in your head and take it from there.  If it is not needed for the story, delete it.  If you find yourself agitated, take a mental health day.  If you are not having fun, then you need a new career.
Do you have any upcoming releases or events?
Since I could not say goodbye to the trilogy, I am currently writing “The Briton and the Dane: Concordia,” available 2013.

Where can we find Mary Ann Bernal and The Briton and the Dane?  

Thank you Mary Ann for stopping by for a chat.  Readers don't forget to leave your comment below (with your email or twitter) for a chance to win a signed print copy of The Briton and the Dane: Legacy!