Guest Post: Every Hero Needs a Sidekick

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Every Hero Needs a Sidekick: Mudarra and Yusuf from SEVEN NOBLE KNIGHTS by J. K. Knauss

Writing a novel set more than one thousand years ago has many pleasures and challenges. The character I had the most trouble adapting to a modern context was the hero, Mudarra. In the medieval source materials, he seems like a mere revenge machine because medieval writers weren’t really into character development. The first thing I did to humanize Mudarra was give him a love interest, and so I wrote my ultra-supportive late husband’s favorite scenes in the book.

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Genetically, Mudarra is a balanced mixture of northern “Christian” Spain and southern “Muslim” Spain, but he’s lived all his life in the Moorish capital. When it comes time for him to go north to find his destiny, he needs a guide. Otherwise, how would he know where to go and what to expect in a land that seems like another planet to him?

One sentence in the source material reads: “And the next day in the morning they rode to Salas, and they sent a squire ahead to make the necessary arrangements, and he carried Mudarra’s banners.”

That anonymous squire suggested the solution to Mudarra’s navigation problems. When he’s ready to leave through the grand gates of Madinat al-Zahra, Mudarra meets Yusuf. They haven’t met before because Yusuf has spent most of his life traveling around northern Spain. Because the languages and customs from all over the peninsula are second nature to him, he acts as a professional guide to noble warriors venturing away from the civilization of southern Spain for the first time.

When Mudarra is bewildered, Yusuf is self-assured. When Mudarra has questions, Yusuf can answer. When Mudarra wants to stray from the plan, Yusuf corrects his course. Giving my lonely hero someone to talk to moved the story along beautifully. It was astonishing how quickly the two young men became loyal friends, and how easily some of the other plot elements and character quirks flowed from that extra bit of humanity. I think without Yusuf, Mudarra wouldn’t be half the man he is.

And yes, I got some of Yusuf’s moral correctness and adapted his name from my first boyfriend. My hero, Mudarra, gets his good qualities from my adored late husband.


This scene from Seven Noble Knights, Part Two, Chapter IIII, shows Mudarra receiving Yusuf’s guidance in the strange new land with a high dose of friendship.

There were so many different dishes at the welcoming feast Salas presented to Mudarra and his retinue that his fear of consuming pork waned long enough for him to pick and taste a slice of ham soaked in wine and spices before asking Yusuf, in Arabic, what it was.

“How was it, my lord?” he asked in reply. “Your first taste of forbidden meat.”

Mudarra felt himself blush while the bile rose in his throat. He swallowed hard and paid attention to his stomach. Perhaps he was more Christian than he’d thought. The flavor had delighted his mouth, although he did feel dirty with that bite of flesh inside. “Well, I can see why they eat it. It’s not bad.”

He and Yusuf laughed at their private joke and Mudarra forced down the bile, strengthening his resolve, until Doña Sancha touched his arm. “Speak Christian so everyone can understand you in this, your home.”


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Spain, 974. Gonzalo, a brave but hotheaded knight, unwittingly provokes tragedy at his uncle’s wedding to beautiful young noblewoman Lambra: the adored cousin of the bride dead, his teeth scattered across the riverbank. Coveting his family’s wealth and power, Lambra sends Gonzalo’s father into enemy territory to be beheaded, unleashing a revenge that devastates Castile for a generation.

A new hero, Mudarra, rises out of the ashes of Gonzalo’s once great family. Raised as a warrior in the opulence of Muslim Córdoba, Mudarra must make a grueling journey and change his religion, then chooses to take his jeweled sword to the throats of his family’s betrayers. But only when he strays from the path set for him does he find his true purpose in life.

Inspired by a lost medieval epic poem, Seven Noble Knights draws from history and legend to bring a brutal yet beautiful world to life in a gripping story of family, betrayal, and love.

“Let Seven Noble Knights welcome you to historical fiction! …it’s a rich saga populated with characters you will grow to love (and a few you will love to hate). The ancient empires of Spain are a beautiful backdrop to the struggles of humankind across all generations of all lands: romance, revenge, war, and adventure.”

—Pushcart Prize nominee Reneé Bibby, The Writers Studio


Seven Noble Knights will be published on Kindle by Bagwyn Books in two days on December 15, 2016! The softcover edition will follow on January 16, 2017. Preorder it here and enter to win a first edition softcover copy here at Goodreads.

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For more about Seven Noble Knights and all the information about its grand blog tour and launch party (win prizes!), visit JessicaKnauss.com. Feel free to sign up for her mailing list for castles, stories, and magic.

Guest Blog – Sheri Queen

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Bounty Huntress

Janda Gray’s a Lykoi—part werecat, part wolf—shunned by both sides of her lineage.

She yearns for the day when she can escape the disdainful glances and leave her home on the outskirts of Sleepy Hollow, NY. When she lands a lucrative bounty hunter contract, she thinks her life is finally turning around. All she has to do is lure her werecat target from the safety of the Hotel Paranormal.

Then she meets a werepanther. Her life will never be the same.
Alexander Holden, second-in-command of a powerful werecat clan, is accused of murdering the woman he was to marry. He must find the real killer to clear his name or spend the rest of his supernaturally long life on the run.

Complications arise after Janda falls for the man she’s supposed to be capturing.

Now she must decide if following her heart is worth risking everything, including the love they’ve found in each other’s embrace.

Love is about making sacrifices. Saving him is all that matters.

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Bounty Huntress is the introduction to the Sleepy Hollow Hunter series.

It is also a Hotel Paranormal story.

The Hotel Paranormal is THE place for supernatural beings looking to get away from it all. Beings like werewolves, vampires, elves, sprites, djinn and more check in from all over the world for business and for pleasure—and sometimes for both.
http://www.thehotelparanormal.com

Excerpt

Half a block stood between me and my future happiness, but it might as well have been a mile for all the good it would do me. From the alley to the bar there was no cover, no shadows to absorb my presence. I’d scoured the surrounding area for another entry point to no avail. Barred windows and a padlocked backdoor thwarted me. I had one shot at getting inside before anyone could stop me, and that meant waiting until the barkeep kicked the last of his patrons out at closing time. While they were busy getting on their bikes, I’d make a mad dash to the front door. I was grateful the street was deserted at this hour, but it was almost too quiet. One stupid move on my part could mean disaster.

I calculated the distance from where I stood, hidden in the alley, to the bar’s entrance and figured I’d probably be fast enough to make it as long as the wolves were so drunk they wouldn’t notice me until it was too late. It was a long shot, but the only one I had. Wolves were quick, even inebriated ones. Their metabolism burned off alcohol within minutes of downing it, which meant my window of opportunity was about the size of a mouse hole. In my Lykoi state I was faster than a wolf—I’d honed that particular skill long ago with all the times I’d been chased—but I couldn’t go Lykoi. Paws didn’t lend themselves to turning doorknobs, so I’d have to do this the hard way. Nothing new there.

I leaned against the brick wall and let the cool autumn air soothe my restless body. My calf muscles twitched, and my stomach rumbled. It was tempting to give in to the urge to transform and run through the woods I’d passed on the way into town. Maybe even hunt a bit of rabbit. I let out a slow breath and resisted my primal desires.

I counted four bikes outside the bar. Mutther’s might be a neutral, no-colors establishment, but I still had to get past the owners of those bikes. Four big-ass obstacles between me and the portal to the Hotel Paranormal. I knew portals existed in most major cities—definitely in Manhattan—but, of course, my only way into the hotel would be through a wolf biker bar. My luck ranged from bad to stinking bad. I was long overdue for a bit of good luck, but I didn’t look for that to happen tonight. My usual mode of blending into the background to avoid attracting attention wasn’t going to work here. There were no crowds to lose myself in, and the glaring neon sign covering three quarters of the bar’s facade was a beacon spreading a swath of red across the sidewalk. Anyone wishing to enter the bar would be doused in light. This had to be the hotel’s idea of a joke—or a test.


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Sheri Queen received her MFA in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University. She grew up in the Hudson Valley region of New York—an area she loves to depict as a backdrop for her stories—and enjoys traveling to new places where she is constantly discovering inspirations for her writing. In particular, she loves visiting old graveyards.

www.sheriqueen.com

You can follow the author at:

BUY LINKS:

Amazon | Nook | iBooks

Building a Mindreader’s World in Jessica Knauss’s Awash in Talent

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Awash in Talent is made up of three interrelated novellas. In this alternate version of Providence, Rhode Island, about ten percent of the world population has one of three Talents: telekinesis, firestarting, or psychic powers. Psychic powers are the rarest Talent, between 1.5 and 2 percent of the general population, leaving at least 8 percent to be firestarters and telekinetics. But these figures may result from underreporting, because psychics also have the hardest Talent to detect and control.

Impartial critics have called the third novella of Awash in Talent the most poignant and some of my best writing. It’s narrated by Patricia, a therapist who can read people’s thoughts—whether she wants to or not.

Please enjoy this excerpt, which introduces Patricia and a little bit of the reasoning behind her decision not to register with the government as a psychic. See more about Patricia’s dilemma here.

To my husband:

It comes through the eyes. You have a technical bent of mind, so I think you’d like to know how it works first of all. It’s a sensory experience something like sound, but muted, like the voice in your head. You can tell it’s not passing through vocal cords and over teeth. It only took me until I was five to figure that out. But it’s also a little like watching a movie that flashes and jumps. Psychologically complex people can send me pictures with a muted soundtrack that has nothing to do with what I’m seeing. I married you because you’ve never done that to me. Despite your outward histrionics, you’re a one-note sensory experience.

But I became a therapist so I could act on the information people sent me without registering as a psychic, not so I could describe my experience as a psychic accurately. Let’s call it “thought energy,” to which I and other psychics are sensitive, while most humans are less so.

Because thought energy comes through the eyes, they’ve made special sunglasses “for any psychic who registers,” according to the public service announcements. I don’t know if you’ve noticed them—Soul Stoppers, they’re called. They’re supposed to encourage registry in a population the government can have no real control over—those of us with this, the most reviled of all Talents. They should have spent more time on the design of the glasses, because they draw so much attention to the wearer. Attention is the last thing I want. Those strange slats over the lenses—I think it’s so we’re prevented from looking into people’s eyes while still able to see where we’re going. I can only imagine everyone in the street looks headless. I’d much rather close my eyes and look away if I get an intolerable beam of thought energy, though I’ve sometimes wondered if that makes me look even stranger than the glasses would.

I had a friend in grade school, Danielle. One day in the middle of art class, where we were learning about papier-mâché, she just started screaming. She didn’t stop screaming her wordless terror until they decided to take her to the special school for psychics, where they found out that she was one of them. I didn’t want to be taken away, so I kept my eyes to the floor. Later, Danielle visited our school, obligated by the authorities, who wanted to show children that psychics aren’t dangerous. Any fears I had about her new school were confirmed in the ugly glasses she had to wear and her new demeanor. She was too quiet. You might think it would be a nice contrast from the screaming, but her silence, which went all the way down to her slow-moving, abnormally uncluttered thought energy, terrified me.

Although I never scream, it doesn’t take long for all the thoughts to become too much, too stimulating. I decided to become a therapist because looking into one soul at a time is easier to handle and helps me feel I’m making a difference in people’s lives…

It wasn’t long after I got here that I noticed that in Providence, Friendship is a one-way street. I was comfortable with that, because for me, it really has been. And continues to be.

 

As I built Patricia’s lonely world, I had to employ all my own powers of empathy to imagine what the characters’ thoughts look like to Patricia as well as how their encroachment into her psychic space affects her. In the first draft, I found myself using the usual language to show what other characters might be thinking, and my beta readers called me out on it. I had to remember that with Patricia, it’s not typical empathy. Imagining concrete images and sounds and what feelings they would conjure in order to make her psychic Talent authentic was often terrifying, which helped make the story dramatic. I almost feel like I need some therapy sessions with Patricia after seeing the world through her eyes.

Patricia’s biggest challenge comes in the form of the narrator of the first novella, Emily. Because she’s attempted to kidnap a married graduate student, the courts have required Emily to undergo psychological evaluations and treatment. Patricia should be the perfect person for the job, but she finds that where everyone else transmits their thoughts too freely, Emily shows Patricia only static. How can she evaluate Emily, much less help her, when she has to treat her using the primitive methods of un-Talented therapists? Patricia has never been confronted with this problem before: How can you help someone who doesn’t want your help?

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Jessica Knauss’s Awash in Talent was released by Kindle Press on June 7 to praise from readers who love something different.

This is the second stop in a week-long Awash in Talent blog tour. Don’t miss the crazy character interviews and writing advice at the blogs of A.J. Culey, Andi Adams, J.L. Gribble, and Jennifer Loring!

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Born and raised in Northern California, Jessica Knauss has wandered all over the United States, Spain, and England. She has worked as a librarian and a Spanish teacher and earned a PhD in Medieval Spanish Literature before entering the publishing world as an editor. Her acclaimed novella, Tree/House, and short story collection, Unpredictable Worlds, are currently available. Her epic of medieval Spain, Seven Noble Knights, will be published by Bagwyn Books in December 2016. Find her on social media and updates on the sequels to Awash in Talent and Seven Noble Knights and her other writing at her website: jessicaknauss.com. Feel free to sign up for her mailing list for castles, stories, and magic.

 


Links and Contact Info for Jessica Knauss

Why Happily Ever After Isn’t Always “Prince Charming”

Today on the blog I have Andi Adams, author of The Girl in the Glass Box! This is an awesome YA novel that re-imagines the Snow White fairy tale with a fresh perspective. Part of that change is moving away from the traditionally-defined Happily Ever After. Now, in romance, we have a fairly rigid definition of HEA/HFN, and it has to be based on romance (no matter who the partners are or how many). But that’s not the only way to be happy, and Andi talks about other paths you might take, both in writing and in life!

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When I was writing this book and constructing the plot from start to finish, I spent a lot of time dissecting what makes a fairy tale a fairy tale. Basically, we all know that it boils down to the heroine always finding her happily-ever-after (HEA), most often in the shape of a brawny lad who whisks her away to a far away castle to be a housewife or arm candy or something like that. Now this works for a lot of stories and certainly has its place in genre fiction, but I spent a good deal of time considering this convention in the scope of my own story and how it should/shouldn’t function in the plot.

I know, as I was growing up, I envisioned that my happiness too would come in the form of a Prince Charming. But why should our happiness be derived only by the presence of someone else in our lives? Don’t get me wrong, companionship and friendship and marriage are all wonderful things that can add such joy to a person’s life. We see it play out in romantic fiction and film as a fulfilling, though sometimes trying, characteristic of a well-rounded life. But why are we being taught at such a young age that this happiness is dependent on another person? You see the difference? It shouldn’t depend on anyone but ourselves and that is one of the core themes I wanted to emphasize through this novel. And I think good romance addresses this idea as well. The most gratifying romance stories is how the individual hero and heroine are improved by the presence of the other, but not necessarily made by the presence of the other. That distinction is paramount when considering complete character arcs and thoroughly-formed characters.

Both Agrippine (the Queen) and Genevieve (Snow White) are both greatly influenced by others, and the presence of others in their lives is essential, but their happily-ever-afters, though non-conventional, are of their own making. To me, it is important to demonstrate that we have that power and that choice regardless of who may or may not come into our lives. At the end of the day, a happily-ever-after is yours to create. And if you think about it, that’s pretty darn empowering. That means that no one can rob you of it. No one can diminish it. No one can stand in your way of attaining it. (How ’bout them apples!?)

And most importantly, I believe that happily-ever-after is a relative term and is all a matter of perspective. For many, the traditional idea of marriage and raising a family is the realization of achieving an HEA. But for many others, it’s not. Maybe success in a career is someone’s idea of an HEA. Maybe being a positive influence in someone’s life is a person’s ultimate HEA. Maybe being able to travel around the world meeting new people and learning new things is someone’s greatest HEA. Who knows? The possibilities are endless and that’s exactly the point. It doesn’t just boil down to the idea that marriage = perfect life, or that the inclusion of one charming dude is enough to make all problems disappear. That’s simply unrealistic. I just think it’s necessary to articulate that, unlike in the portrayal of most Disney films, we shouldn’t need someone else in order to find our life’s greatest fulfillment. We should have the ambition and drive and self-worth to find it in ourselves.

And if a studly, Chris Hemsworth look-a-like should come to sweep us off our feet, so much the better. But if he doesn’t, I’m pretty sure we’ll be just fine.


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Author Bio:

Andi Adams writes, teaches, gets excited about performing random acts of kindness, invents words, and talks with strangers, as often as she can. She loves learning about the world, about others, and about herself, and uses that knowledge to write realistic fiction – everything from YA Fantasy to Women’s Lit. She has a passion for travel, for all things Harry Potter (of course!), and for her two dogs, who are also incidentally her biggest fans. The Girl in the Glass Box is Andi’s first novel.


Links:

All About Andi

Get your copy from Amazon!

Firefly Hill Press

So You’ve Finished Your Novel. What Next?

This week on my blog I have special guest J.L. Gribble, author of Steel Victory and its brand new sequel, Steel Magic! J.L.’s going to talk about the revision process, something to keep in mind if you’re doing Camp NaNo this month, and will have a great big mess of words in a file by the end of the month.


Congratulations! You’ve finished a novel. It could be your first novel, or it could be your tenth. Either way, I’d like to share my revision process with you. This doesn’t mean my way is the best way. Just that I hope you get some ideas that work for you, no matter your level of experience.

Step 1

Write “The End” after the final paragraph. This doesn’t mean it’ll make it into the final print of the book when published. But it feels really good.

Step 2

Have a celebratory drink and/or snack! Wine, chocolate, potato chips—It’s up to you! You just completed something that very few people do, statistically. Acknowledge that you are a rock star. Call your best friend/spouse/parental unit/biggest supporter so they can cheer for you. Post a picture of that “The End” on social media so everyone else knows how awesome you are, too.

Step 3

Put that sucker in a drawer (metaphorically speaking) for a minimum of 24 hours. Work on another writing project. Go for a walk. Play a video game. Visit the people you live with who may or may not have seen you for however long the final push of “I’m almost done!” took. Do absolutely anything else except think about the book.

Step 4

Get back to work!

At this point, I do a complete read-through of the entire novel. This is my basic coherence check. Are the scenes in logical order? Do events in different timelines match up? If it’s noon when the characters get into a car, it shouldn’t be dusk when they get out if they only drove across town. Even though I’m a complete “plotter” who writes from a detailed outline, things may still jump out at me that I need to tweak because I changed a subplot later. Feel free to take extensive notes as you write, so that it’s easier to return to issues or check behind yourself. Was the hero wearing a coat in the previous scene? Did the villain have short hair or a braid?

This is also where I catch a lot of my more glaring grammatical errors, though it’s not my actual focus right now.

Step 5

Once you’re happy with the major storytelling issues (plot, characterization, etc.), send it off to your beta reader(s)! This does not mean your mother. This doesn’t even mean another writer. This means someone who can read your work critically and not be afraid to point out the bad along with the good. Hopefully, this person is able to write notes in the margin that range from “This scene made me wonder who was cutting onions since I was getting emotional about your characters” to “This scene was cute, but total fluff. Cut it.” When you get these notes, address them the best way you see fit. Even if I don’t always take my beta reader’s suggestions, I always thing about the issue critically because they saw a reason to call it out.

Step 6

Search and destroy. Over the course of my last few novels, I have put together a list of words that I search with using the “Find” function. Here are a few examples (my current list actually has nearly 100):

Fluff words that can usually be deleted: “very” and “that.”

Words where the surrounding language needs to be punched up instead: “ly” to search for adverbs, finding stronger words for “went” and “walked,” describing what the character is seeing whenever they “look” somewhere.

Bobble-head-isms: “nodded,” “shook,” “shrug,” etc. A great resource is The Emotion Thesaurus to find better ways for your characters to use body language.

Consistency issues: I do a search for “ward” to make sure that my toward, backward, forward, etc. are all in that form rather than with an “s” at the end. (Having the “s” at the end is fine, but the key is having them all be the same!)

Passive verbs to strengthen action: “was,” were,” and “been.”

Phrases that I know I personally overuse when I’m cranking words out: My characters really like to put their hands on the hilts of their swords and “materialize” next to people unexpectedly.

And finally, words and phrases specific to my world: “Mercenary Guild” is always capitalized, and Europe is actually “Europa.”

Step 7

Squeeze your eyes shut as you hand over the credit card to get the full text printed out at your local copy shop. The last project I printed out came to $26. That’s like 6 whole lattes! But this step is important, because at this point, you’ve read your own words so many times that it’s easy to miss things. Changing up how you’re reading your text is important, and reading a physical page with pen in hand is different from staring at a computer screen.

This is the final critical read-through, where I look for grammatical errors and dropped or repeated words. It’s okay if you still find bigger things to fix at this point as your brain scans the text differently. Jot down notes for yourself in the margins and return to Step 4 for a bit before continuing on to…

Step 8

Submit! It’s time for the bird to leave the nest for real. In some cases, this is the hardest part of the process, regardless of whether you’re querying agents with your first book or sending the latest in a series off to an editor you’ve worked with for years. Someone who is not you, or even your trusted beta reader, now has your baby in their hands.

This is usually where I have another glass of wine.

***

This is the revision process I have used to complete all of the books in my urban fantasy/alternate history “Steel Empires” series. Please check out book 2, Steel Magic, which is available today!


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Funerals are usually the end of the story, not the beginning.

Newly graduated warrior-mages Toria Connor and Kane Nalamas find themselves the last remaining mages in the city when a mage school teacher mysteriously falls ill and dies. But taking over the school themselves isn’t in the cards. They’re set to become professional mercenaries—if they make it through the next 18 months as journeymen first.

The debate over whether to hunt mutated monsters in the Wasteland or take posh bodyguard jobs is put on hold when a city elder hires them to solve the mystery of the disappearing mages. Toria and Kane’s quest brings them to the British colonial city of New Angouleme, where their initial investigation reveals that the problem is even greater than they feared.

But when a friend is kidnapped, they’ll have to travel to the other side of the globe to save her, save themselves, and save magic itself.


Gribble photo colorBy day, J. L. Gribble is a professional medical editor. By night, she does freelance fiction editing in all genres, along with reading, playing video games, and occasionally even writing. She is currently working on the Steel Empires series for Dog Star Books, the science-fiction/adventure imprint of Raw Dog Screaming Press. Previously, she was an editor for the Far Worlds anthology.

Gribble studied English at St. Mary’s College of Maryland. She received her Master’s degree in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University in Greensburg, Pennsylvania, where her debut novel Steel Victory was her thesis for the program.

She lives in Ellicott City, Maryland, with her husband and three vocal Siamese cats. Find her online (www.jlgribble.com), on Facebook (www.facebook.com/jlgribblewriter), and on Twitter and Instagram (@hannaedits).

Cover Reveal: What’s Left of Me by Jennifer Loring

I am so excited to be able to announce this book! I loved Firebird and I’m looking forward to the next chapter for Aleksandr and Stephanie!

WHAT’S LEFT OF ME by Jennifer Loring
The Firebird Trilogy, Book #2
Cover Designer: WICKED BY DESIGN
— SYNOPSIS —
Recovering from years of living the superstar hockey life wasn’t easy, but now Aleksandr Volynsky finally has everything…

He’s married to the love of his life, expecting a daughter, and has a new job as an assistant coach with his old team, the Buffalo Gladiators. His happiness is short lived, however, when a sexual assault allegation surfaces, and Alex is forced to cooperate with an investigation for a crime he didn’t commit.

Stephanie Hartwell is juggling her dream job with marriage and motherhood, but she’s not convinced she’s doing any of it well…

Stephanie’s stress level goes from bad to worse when she’s diagnosed with a serious illness. Battling declining health and the critics who question her commitment to Alex in light of the allegation, she makes a decision that could change their relationship forever.

Alex is afraid he’s about to lose everything—especially when he sees Stephanie’s friend kiss her…

Devastated that his life is spiraling out of control again, Alex turns to his friend, Natasha, a Russian pop star. Convinced that Stephanie and her friend Brandon are having an affair, Alex resumes his self-destructive behavior.

What Alex doesn’t know is Stephanie has been conducting a secret investigation of her own. She learns the truth behind the sexual assault—a truth no one, especially Alex, expects.

With everything now out in the open, can Stephanie and Alex commit to a fresh start for the sake of their daughter, or will the ghosts of their pasts finally tear apart everything they have left?

— THE FIREBIRD TRILOGY 
BOOK 1: FIREBIRD: http://amzn.to/2963z3S
★✩★ MEET THE AUTHOR ★✩★
Jennifer Loring’s short fiction has appeared in numerous magazines, webzines, and anthologies. DarkFuse published her novella Conduits in 2014, and her debut novel, Those of My Kind, was published by Omnium Gatherum in May 2015. Jenn is a member of the International Thriller Writers and the Horror Writers Association and holds an MFA in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University. She lives in Philadelphia, PA, with her husband, their turtle, and two basset hounds.

Guest Blog by A.J. Culey

YA and children’s author A.J. Culey is visiting today, with a fun article previewing the events to come in her newest paranormal humor book, The Trouble with Antlers, which releases June 23, 2016.

Human Proofing Shifter High

by Norris Raccoon

Moving through the chaos of construction at Shifter High, it’s increasingly clear that the school has the greatest burden of all the buildings in Shifterville, in terms of preparing for our newest human arrivals. Bad enough that the only applicant for our veterinarian position is a human, but for him to have a teenaged daughter is an absolute disaster for Shifter High and its principal, Steve Armadillo.

Armadillo has had to empty out the prized trophy case in the school’s main hall, removing his own championship trophy for claw put. All the other school awards, including its ten pawball championships, seventeen 100-yard burrow medals, and twenty wrestling (predator and prey class) trophies are no longer displayed in the great hall of Shifter High. When asked what will replace these items in the case, Armadillo simply replied, “Something human, no doubt.”

The cafeterias are also undergoing a transformation. No longer labeled herbivore, carnivore and omnivore, these cafeterias will now be known by the generic titles of A, B and C. Let’s hope incoming freshmen don’t become confused. No herbivore wants to be trapped in a cafeteria full of hungry carnivores.

The art classroom no longer has art displaying shifters in mid-transformation. The music room’s shifter songbooks have been locked into a storage closet, no doubt to be replaced with more human-friendly songs. No more school chant about the triumphs of all species working together. No more predators vs. prey songs for Halloween. No more Shifter Clans Gone By to ring in the New Year. It is truly a sad day for Shifterville and its teenaged residents.

While the high school is being human-proofed as swiftly as possible, it is obvious Principal Armadillo has quite the challenge in front of him. When asked what his plans were for the school crest, with its human silhouette morphing into those of a turaco bird, a jaguar and a hedgehog, Armadillo simply threw up his hands and shouted, “Do I look like a miracle worker?” and stormed off.

One thing is for certain. Armadillo will need to work miracles this summer if he intends to keep his newest student, the human named Amelia, from discovering the truth of Shifterville and its residents.

Norris Raccoon is a reporter for The Shifterville Times (formerly known as The Daily Shifter).

Author Bio:

A.J. Culey was not born a shifter, much to her dismay.  Despite her limitations as a human, she enjoys spending time with cats, bunnies and other animals. She hasn’t met a shifter yet, nor has she had any antlers spontaneously appear in any classroom she’s taught in, but she hasn’t given up hope that it might one day happen. In the meantime, she has fun writing about the possibilities.

Author Links:

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www.goodreads.com/author/show/15139048.A_J_Culey

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