Friday, August 30, 2013

Alana Fisher and Kristin Halligan, Sydney and Vicky Dine Around the World

AUTHOR: Alana Fischer and Kristin Halligan
BOOK TITLE: Sydney and Vicky Dine Around the World
GENRE: Children’s Picture Book Age 3-7 (information based fiction)
PUBLISHER: Currently seeking a publisher

Please tell us about yourself.  Kristin Halligan is a second grade teacher at an International School in Northern Thailand.  She holds a B.A. in Sociology and a Masters degree in International Education.  Kristin is a self proclaimed cultural anthropologist and travel enthusiast.  She is fluent in Thai and loves to explore culture through linguistics.  
Alana loves travel and has been exploring Asia while teaching English for the past two years.  Alana holds a B.A. in Philosophy and a B.F.A. in Drama.  She is a member of SCBWI.

Please tell us your latest news.  We have now completed two books in our Around the World series; Sydney and Vicky Dine Around the World and Sydney and Vicky Celebrate Around the World.   Other titles are in progress. We are actively seeking the perfect publisher for our series.

What inspired you to write your first book?  I was working as a kindergarten teacher in an international environment.  In this position, I ate lunch with my students.  I was disgusted by a child’s lack of table manners.  My initial reaction was “How can I teach him to use a fork and knife?”  Then it occurred to me, maybe the dining etiquette in his culture is different than mine.  This led me to the idea for a book that showed children that something as simple as eating is different in many cultures.- Alana

What was the toughest criticism given to you? After our initial meeting with an editor, she told us we needed a hook.  She said that our book did not have enough substance for a child or parent to want to read.  At this point our book was nonfiction. We took her advice and introduced two likeable characters and a subplot which gave our book depth and brought our vision to life. – Alana and Kristin  

What was the biggest compliment?- My mom has always been my toughest critic and she loved the book. –Alana

Do you ever have writer’s block? If so, how do you get through it?  Writing as a team is a great way to avoid writer’s block.  Usually if one of us is feeling less inspired than the other, we bounce ideas off each other and get in a creative zone.   -Kristin

Did you learn anything from writing your book, and what was it?  I learned about a particularly interesting eating practice in Ethiopia.  I also learned a lot about meter, stressed and unstressed syllables, as the body of our book is written in iambs. –Kristin 

What do you plan for the future?  We are currently building a website in order to develop our web presence.  We have two picture books in the works.

How can we find you? Website, Facebook, Twitter, blog, etc.?  Our Facebook page is  We will let you know as soon as our webpage is up.

Tell us about the current book you’re promoting. When Sydney and Vicky have lunch together at their school cafeteria, Sydney is disgusted with his carefree friend’s horrifying table manners. This sparks the beginning of the seven year old friend’s magical journey; exploring dining customs in various countries throughout the world. “Sydney and Vicky Dine Around the World” is an information-based adventure book, exploring table manners around the world.  There are two main characters in “Sydney and Vicky Dine around the World”.  They are in second grade and are best friends. Sydney is a seven year old boy, who is a bookworm, and loves to acquire knowledge. Vicky is a happy go-lucky, carefree girl who is also seven years old. Vicky has horrible table manners. She also possesses a special power.  Vicky can fold a piece of paper into something magical that enables her and her friend to journey around the world seeking information. –Alana and Kristin

What genre do you write in and why?  This series fits into the genre of information based fictional picture books.  We decided that this was the best way to deliver the message of the series in an entertaining and fun way.- Alana and Kristin

What is your experience working or being around children or teens?     I am a second grade school teacher and a mom.  I am around children all the time. I know how they act and react to situations, what they like and I find it really easy to relate to them. –Kristin

What do you hope your readers will take away from this book?  This book is a unique way for children to discover that there is not just one “right” way to do things.  We want children to realize that table manners, which are culturally acceptable in one country may not be in another.  This book is the first in a series that will educate children to accept and celebrate differences. We also believe that young children love to explore and our series is a fun and interesting way for them to do so.  This series will awaken an awareness of the expansiveness of the world.  

What was the hardest part of writing your book?  Grammar.- Kristin

Do you outline before you write?  If not, what’s your initial process?  Yes, and then we conduct preliminary research and adjust our outline accordingly. Alana and Kristin

What comes first: the plot or characters?  Both, because they are intertwined and cannot be separated. –Alana

What do you do when you’re not writing?  I practice yoga, eat, and search markets for exotic fruits.  I like to travel and make my friends laugh.-Alana

What, if anything, bugs you when you read a novel?  Grammatical errors.- Kristin
Characters that I cannot relate to. –Alana

What book are you currently reading? What do you like or not like about it?  The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.  I really like it because it is nonfiction that is
presented in an interesting and readable way.-Kristin

Describe your writing space.  Skype and Google Documents.  We don’t live in the same country so these modern conveniences are extremely helpful.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Poet, Donna Marie Merritt, Her House and Other Poems

AUTHOR: Donna Marie Merritt
BOOK TITLE: Her House and Other Poems
PUBLISHER: Stairwell Books

Tell me a little about your book.
My first three poetry books each had a definite theme (unemployment, cancer, and a return to “ordinary” days). I hope those books help others who are going through difficult times, but I wanted this book to be more free-flowing. Her House and Other Poems is based on my observations of nature, relationships, intimacy, the joys and challenges of growing older… It’s a deeper look at, and appreciation of, the people and things we encounter every day and I hope it speaks to everyone on some level.

Are you a full-time writer or part-time, and how do you organize your writing time?
Once upon a time I was a full-time writer, but financial necessity has forced me into a day job, particularly for the health benefits. True for many writers, I suppose. I’m lucky, though, that my job requires no after-hours work, so my nights and weekends are free for writing or promoting (something we all have to do more of these days) or reading (a huge part of being a writer). And, since I work in a school, I am incredibly fortunate to have summers to delve into projects.

When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?
I wrote my first poem when I was eight, but no one ever told me I could be a writer until I was in college, and even then I didn’t know how to go about it. So, I taught school for 14 years, worked several years as an editor, and published magazine articles, columns, etc., before I had enough courage to submit my poetry as a book manuscript.

What do you hope readers will take from your writing?
I hope readers will find a bit of themselves in my work. John Keats said, “Poetry…should strike the reader as a wording of his own highest thoughts, and appear almost as a remembrance.” Each poem should mean something different to different readers. I don’t believe there is any one way to interpret any poem by any writer. If readers smile or cry or just enjoy a poem without knowing why, I’ll be quite content!

Why are you drawn to poetry?
It’s a passion, a love, something that has been part of me for as long as I can recall. Poetry has a way of touching the heart.

Would you say poetry is easier or harder to write than fiction and why?
For me, it’s harder. I struggle to find the right line, the right phrase, the right word. And I frequently shred poems that just aren’t coming together. For every poem I write, I probably toss half a dozen. Even after Her House was accepted for publication, my editor narrowed down the 100 poems I’d submitted to 56 of the strongest. You have to be willing to look at your work objectively and have your editor/publisher do the same.

What is the toughest part about being a writer and how do you get past it?
The toughest part is knowing that despite pouring all your emotions and hard work into your writing, realistically, few people beyond family and friends will ever see it unless you’re a big name. Still, I keep going because I can’t imagine NOT writing.

Is there anything in your poetry based upon a real life event? If so, tell me about it.
I think most poetry is based on real events. The first poem in this book is about washing dishes with my grandmother, to whom the book is dedicated. I write about past memories, current situations, and try to examine how connections are made between people, between people and the environment—even the connections we make with our own hearts, minds, and souls. We can never stop discovering who we are and where we “fit” in this world.

What about your poetry makes it special?
I suppose I think it’s special because readers may nod in recognition as they read certain poems. It’s accessible, not abstract.

What is your marketing plan?
My marketing plan is to get the word out in as many ways as I can (with as little money as I can!). I send out review copies, do blog interviews (THANK you, Penny!), promote on social media sites, and so on. I also create a promotional item for each book. For this book, I had coasters made with the title and website. In addition to putting them out at poetry readings, I left them at bars and liquor stores to be given away, along with flyers that advertised the book’s launch and signing, which was in June. And, I finally jumped on the book trailer wagon and invested in having someone create one for me. I am SO glad I did. Please, please take a look (it’s a little over a minute long—part of the key is to make it short):

Where can people learn more about you and your work?
You can visit my website ( or learn more on Wikipedia (

Would you give us an example of your poetry?
Here is the first part of a poem called “For My Daughters.”

I have loved you since before you were born
There is not one thing you could do or say
to make me walk away
You are my rays of sun
                  petals opening to dawn’s light
                  stars shooting across sky
                  dolphins dancing through waves
                                    Pure Joy

Any tips for new writers hoping to write poetry?
Read, read, read. And not just poetry, but many genres. Observe, observe, observe. Keep your eyes and ears open and see and hear things as if for the first time. Feel the wonder in that sensation and acknowledge it with your words.

Her House and Other Poems is a culmination of observation, reflecting on those details that so often pass by undetected, yet play an enormous part in our lives. Along the way we examine our fragile bargain with nature—and how close we are to chaos when nature reminds us just who is in charge. Long countryside walks, a good glass of wine, family and friends, growing older… all these Merritt celebrates with gratitude.

“Here we have an eye open to the world, that poem by poem brings that world into view for all to see, and to be nurtured by.” ~David Kherdian, Author of Living in Quiet: New and Selected Poems

Her House is filled with delicious morsels for the poetic palate.” ~Dave Morrison, Author of Fail

Monday, August 26, 2013

Shannon Cascarini, The Perfect Birdhouse

AUTHOR:  Shannon Cascarini           
BOOK TITLE:  The Perfect Birdhouse
GENRE:  Children’s
PUBLISHER:  Pink Blossom Publishing

Please tell us about yourself.   My heart is full being a wife and a mother of two busy boys.  I have been teaching elementary school for 15 years, and my latest endeavor of becoming an author.  I grew up in the beautiful mountain town of Steamboat Springs, Colorado and directly from graduating from college, I accepted a job in Southern California, where I still reside.

Are you a full-time writer or part-time, and how do you organize your writing time?   I am happily kept busy with my husband and two young sons, and being a full-time elementary teacher.  But, there is always time to write.  I like to get up early when everything is quiet except for the story in my head.  My family knows how writing is important to me, and they let me sneak away every now and again to write.  I couldn’t have written my book without their love and support!

What inspired you to write your first book? After years of telling this story to my students, I finally decided to follow through with the notion that “someday” I’ll write this as a children’s book.  When that day arrived, the words came from my heart, and my memories, of how a simple birdhouse helped shape the person I would become.  The message of The Perfect Birdhouse is for anyone who sets out on a journey, and lands at an unexpected destination.  There is beauty in all of life’s experiences, even if it’s not what you were hoping it would be.

What do you do when you’re not writing/editing or thinking about writing/editing?   We are a big baseball family. Both boys play baseball, my husband coaches, and I’m their biggest fan!  We go to the mountains as much as possible, and we can all agree that fishing is a great way to spend time together. 

Do you ever have writer’s block? If so, how do you get through it?  For me, writer’s block seems to creep in when I start self-doubting my work.  I’ve found the best way to break through is to just start writing…anything!  I can always go back and revisit and revise. 

How can we find you? Website, Facebook, Twitter, blog, etc.?, Pink Blossom Publishing (Facebook)

What gave you the idea for this particular book? The events that inspired The Perfect Birdhouse taught me a valuable lesson that I’ve carried with me my entire life.  My hope was that others could appreciate the message and it could help them when things don’t always go as planned.  I wrote this book for children and adults, as we all face adversity.  There is value in all of life’s experiences.

What do you hope readers will take away from your book? I had always dreamed of holding my story in my hands.  I found a wonderful illustrator, worked hard, and learned a lot about self-publishing to make that dream a reality.  I want readers to know that they have the power to make their dream, whatever it may be, come true.  Do not give up, learn what steps you need to take, and then do it!  I sign all my books,  “May you always follow your dreams.”

What about your book makes it special?  My book is a true story that took place when I was eight years old.  But what is very special, is that the story continued 30 years later, when something happened that I thought was impossible.  I had to add to my book to rewrite the ending, and added a photograph to show that what I thought was impossible, was indeed possible!

Are the characters in your story based on real people?  Yes!  All the characters are actual people~my little brother, parents, and of course, my little birds, George and Ann.

What has been the most challenging part of writing?  There have been a lot of challenges~but good ones that have taught me a lot.  There is so much more that goes into a writing a book than I ever imagined.  But one of the biggest challenges is being patient.  It's hard to do when there are so many steps in the process, but I've tried not to get over anxious and do everything the best I can, and not rush through it. 

What has surprised you about writing?  The most unexpected surprise for me was the friendship that I formed with my illustrator, Vicky Bowes.  She and I did not know each other when this started, and to this day, we've never met.  But, one of the greatest gifts I have received is gaining a new friend and knowing someone as extraordinary as Vicky.

Do you have plans for other books in the future?  That's the beautiful thing about writing!  It seems like a new idea comes almost every day for a new book! I do have another children's book in mind, but I'll have to wait until summer vacation until I can start it.  For now, I'm enjoying the ride of The Perfect Birdhouse!

Where can your book be purchased?  It's available at Amazon, and right now, it's on sale at a discounted price!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Suzzana C. Ryan, Love's Eternal Fire, plus #giveaway

AUTHOR:  Suzzana C. Ryan
BOOK TITLE: Love’s Eternal Fire
PUBLISHER: Rebel Ink Press
GIVEAWAY: ARC…for Love’s Eternal Fire Be sure to leave contact information in the comment section to be considered for giveaway

Tell me a little about your book. 

Love’s Eternal Fire is an erotic historical romance that takes place on the coast of Ireland. The year is 872.AD in the midst of all the Viking raids and a group of Vikings come ashore and invade the lands of a young widow. It’s an erotic romance my genre because the sex scenes are graphic and frequent.

What gave you the idea for this particular story? 

Over twenty five years ago I started a manuscript with this title. I look at it now, it’s a train wreck compared to how I write now.

Are you a full-time writer or part-time, and how do you organize your writing time? 

I write full time only because I have retired and I am bringing up one of my granddaughters.

When did you first know you wanted to be a writer? 

As soon as I learned to read and write.

What do you hope readers will take from your writing? 

Enjoyment, relaxation, titillation, arousement and for some perhaps, looking at their partners in a different light, that being desire.

Which genres do you write, which do you prefer, and why? 

First genre is erotic romance, and subgenre paranormal erotic romance. I love being an erotic romance writer and adore the paranormal. Yet I can write any genre when my muses appear.

What is the toughest part about being a writer and how do you get past it? 

Edits and you never get past it. You are constantly learning and improving.

Is there anything in your story based upon a real life event? If so, tell me about it. 

Yes Remembrance is based on my family. My father-in-law was a New York City policeman and so is my son. The time frames is days before 9-11-2001.

Do writing violent or highly sexual scenes bother you? Why or why not? 

I don’t like violence….but highly sexual scenes are my specialty and my genre.

Chains of Lust After Dark
Suzzana C. Ryan

It’s eighteen-eighty-eight London and a young woman is searching for her runaway sister who left to become an actress. In the midst of it all, a serial killer coined Jack the Ripper is murdering whores in the Whitechapel district. Vanessa finds herself in Soho and on Broad Street, the heart of the notorious Red Light District of London. 

She’d hit yet another dead end in her quest. Tired and hungry, she’s chased down an alley and her encounter is frightening when she realizes her life hangs by a slender thread. Out of the mist and debris emerges a man whom she’s convinced will end her days on earth. This dark, ominous yet handsome stranger takes her body and teaches her the joys of pain and pleasure.  She becomes his addiction and he takes her soul then the blood that runs through her veins. He’s Nosferatu, a vampire ages old and he’s found his mate and the love of a lifetime. His name is Knight. This immortal creature has had his cold black heart cracked, allowing him to love the gorgeous human. Together they’ll search the streets for her sister and encounter the evil, killing young prostitutes. Even Knight can’t stop him. Their search will end with a love so profound yet doomed because of her humanity. Vanessa must decide life or death. Will the truth of her love free her soul or damn it for all eternity?

Buy link:

You can find me:
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Wednesday, August 21, 2013

C.G. Ayling, Beltamar's War, plus #giveaway

AUTHOR: C.G.Ayling
BOOK TITLE: Beltamar’s War
GENRE: Epic Fantasy
GIVEAWAY: An autographed copy of the Paperback version of the novel sent directly to anywhere within the USA and Canada.  As a way to advertise Twitter, I'll also offer to write a customized Twitter Biography for one commenter. That person will need to provide me with a little information about themselves and the name of their Twitter account in order to allow me to "get to know them".  Be sure to leave contact information in your comment to be considered for giveaways.

Please tell us about yourself.
Perhaps the most important thing about me, is that I’m not who I seem to be.  You see, C.G.Ayling is long since deceased – while I’m obviously alive.  I chose to write under a pseudonym for many reasons, some of which are detailed on my blog, but one of which I is not, and which I’ve never before mentioned.  I am a contrary soul – I have a natural tendency to never accept anything at first glance, or at face value. While reading an article by an influential journalist, whose name is long forgotten, I came across a line that stated something like this, “There is never any good reason to write under a pseudonym.”  Never, is an absolute and I don’t subscribe to absolutes. Indeed, I immediately found myself thinking of “good” reasons to write under a pseudonym. The first, and most powerful, was to cast honor on someone other than myself.  Bang, decision made. I knew exactly the person I’d like to honor – my Godfather, Charles Gilbert Ayling, of whom you can read more if you so choose.  Now, in revealing this about myself, you might have learnt something else about me – this might be that I’m long winded, or downright deceptive in a truthful way – after all, look at the length of this paragraph and then realize that I’ve actually told you almost nothing about myself…

Are you a full-time writer or part-time, and how do you organize your writing time?
I’m very much a part-time writer. Would I like to be a full-time writer? I don’t know that I would like to be a full-time anything – other than available to my family should they ever need me, which most don’t since they’re all pretty independent souls!  Finding time to write isn’t as much a problem as finding the energy – I have a more than full time job and I really need my sleep. Add onto that home maintenance, week-long 24 hour duty cycles every few weeks, and my energy levels are pretty much done for.

When and why did you begin writing?
For the first twenty years of my career I was a full-time computer programmer. For the next ten I designed and configured computer networks, and watched my life-satisfaction levels erode.  I eventually concluded I needed a creative outlet to replace programming.

What inspired you to write your first book?
Since my dissatisfaction with the world in which we reside has continued to increase with each passing year (and I’ve now seen over fifty of those nasty little things), I decided to write about a better world, philosophically speaking.  Obviously, my contrary nature demanded I make this better world seem like a terrible place – thus the birth of Malmaxa, literally my world.

What do you do when you’re not writing/editing or thinking about writing/editing?
I allow snippets of thought to flow from my mind, through my heart, and into my computer keyboard, which magically transforms them into little things call “tweets”, which in turn are the components of a massive social network called Twitter.

What are your thoughts about promotion?
Honestly, I hate promotion.  Every time I think about posting a self-serving tweet guilt wracks me.  Pretty much the only time I can make myself do so is when a subject comes up in my timeline that prompts a memory about Malmaxa.  Fortunately, that happens a lot as Malmaxa is really a philosophical work more than a Fantasy – see what I mean about contrary?

Do you ever have writer’s block? If so, how do you get through it?
Sometimes I wish I had writer’s block. I almost never find myself at a loss for words, or without multiple ideas to utilize in my writing.  That said, I often find my perceptions of social injustice render me unable to write – perhaps distress is a catalyst for some, I fear for me it may be the opposite.  I generally overcome these depressing episodes with sops to my conscience, in the form of tweets.

What are your current projects?
I’m currently working on an apocalyptic thriller titled “Blind Sight”.  Naturally it has elements of the things that motivate me (aka philosophy) in the story, this time carefully disguised as fiction which I hope will be thrilling.

What do you plan for the future?
Continuing my magnum-opus, Malmaxa. It is a very long story, and very far from complete – but then again, humanity is all of those things as well.

How can we find you? Website, Facebook, Twitter, blog, etc.?
I have a blog bearing the easy name of – on which you can find random thoughts, samples of my work and links to where you can purchase my novels.
I am active on Twitter, where you can find me as @CGAyling – Twitter is the place to get my attention.
I have a Facebook author page, but I adamantly refuse to buy into that medium and don’t interact on it at all – however it does carry a rather nice feed of my tweets, with all the extraneous conversations removed.
What genre do you write in and why?
Beltamar’s War, the first novel in the series Malmaxa, is categorized as Epic Fantasy – but by now, I’m confident you realize my choice of that category is more complex than at first meets the eye.  What fictional novel is not Fantasy?  Fictional works are all from the thoughts and dreams, and therefore the fantasies, of their authors.  Is Malmaxa really “fantasy” as the current definition of that genre indicates? What you’re going to find is a story about character, and a story about a world utterly different from that within which we dwell.  Malmaxa is a world where many of the things we hold in high esteem don’t even exist.  Malmaxa is world devoid of the concepts that have so badly damaged humanity – in short you’re going to find a world in which the things that are missing are as telling as the things that are present.  I know I should never dissuade readers from reading, but if you’re looking for fireballs, princes, goblins, and trolls, neatly set on a stage where monstrous evil fights purest good – then look elsewhere, you’re not going to find a single one of those things in Malmaxa. 

Do you outline before you write?  If not, what’s your initial process?
This is a very difficult question as the true answer is both yes, and no.  Long before I begin working on the actual writing, I literally dream the story – if the dream is compelling enough then I record elements about it on a voice recorder.  If the voice recorder ends up holding enough information about the storyline when it comes time to clear space so I can record more ramblings, then I transcribe the elements into my computer.  That is the “yes” part of the answer.  The “no” part is that when I actually start writing I let the storyline and the characters develop as they will.  I know it sounds cliché – however I’m confident many authors will sympathize with me when I say the characters are in charge of telling their tales.  Regarding the question of “initial process” – well, I think I’ve covered that quite nicely with my answers to the outlining question.

What comes first: the plot or characters?
Another interesting question. To me, both are equally important.  However, I think most readers are going to believe I favor character over plot.  The reason I think that is because Malmaxa does not have an obvious, overriding plot.  It has multiple sub-plots, each of which tells the tale from the perspective of each of its main characters – and the cast of main characters is substantial.  Those sub-plots are each threads in the overall plot, which I can summarize in a single word – namely “Why?”  Why, has many answers and leads to other single word questions like “Who”, “When”, and “Where”.

Which of your characters do you love/hate/fear/pity the most and why?
I love that question!  The answer to all of those words is a single character – the antagonist, a Warrior named Adelmar (I hope you’ll note my choice of words).  I love Adelmar because he is incredibly fun to write – it is liberating to take all our socially acceptable norms, throw them in the trash, and write the primal character that results.  I hate Adelmar because he is precisely how I define evil – utterly selfishness.  I fear Adelmar because he wreaks havoc on the other characters I love, and he is also more than a little of me.  I pity Adelmar because he is doomed to derision – most readers will feel little or no sympathy for him.  Adelmar is a victim of more than we realize, his circumstances (and a particularly cruel author) have shaped him into something we might find monstrous.  When readers consider Adelmar, I hope they overcome their righteous disgust and realize there are elements of him in every one of us.

Did your book require a lot of research? If so, what kind?
Considering my work is ostensibly Fantasy, where, by definition, things are imaginary, Malmaxa takes a surprising amount of research.  I’ve been described as a nitpicker, and quite rightly so.  To me the tiny little details are very important – perhaps because I’ve come to realize that we can control the smaller things in our lives far easier than the larger.  Because of this character trait seemingly irrelevant details like character names and apparently “made up” words are crucially important to me.  I choose the names of every character with great care, readers interested enough to research them will find clues embedded within them.  By the way, I include a full Glossary, which I encourage readers to refer to if they find themselves confused.  One of the words unique to Malmaxa is “jumenta”, again this is a clue – in Latin “jumentum” means beast of burden, and it might point toward the story’s origin.  Another apparently manufactured word is “Chukrah”, once again the word has a human origin – derived it from the Hindu “Chakra”.  The same goes for the names of the days, and so on – in Malmaxa, the devil really is in the tiny details.

What do you do when you’re not writing?
What every sane man does – I blindly obey my wife’s every whim!  Do I wish I was joking?  Not really, my wife puts up with a lot of nonsense from me, so it seems I should at least make an effort to please her.  All jokes aside, I generally work on our house or on the property, where I do the heavy lifting.  Isn’t it strange how when you’re renting a home, you never have to work on it, yet when you own one the maintenance never stops… I wonder why that is?

What, if anything, bugs you when you read a novel?
Little inconsistencies – I find I’m more willing to disregard the big things than I am the small, nit-picking details.  Something else that destroys my enjoyment is when an element pops up out of nowhere – you know, those scenes that have nothing to do with the storyline and everything to do with satisfying some editor’s need for action or political correctness.

What seven words would you use to describe yourself?
Tolerant, dedicated, passionate, moody, intolerant, truthful, philosophical.

The following excerpt is taken from Chapter 11, Section 3, Titled Victory’s Retreat.

Victory’s Retreat.
Timeline: Late Afternoon, Thorsday, 2nd sixday, 9th Luna, 3600.

The groth, its razor tipped claws gouging for purchase on the hardened scale shields, darted over the phalanx.  Somehow, it avoided all spear thrusts and, with a final bound and a hissing yowl of victory, it leapt down – to land directly in front of Faroene.  It faced the artisans, completely unaware of her, and immediately began advancing toward them, slowly and carefully, anticipating its allies’ arrival. 
Brutally, Faroene struck the beast with her shield, hoping to distract it from the artisans – easy prey for any groth.  The groth, instantly on the attack, spun to face her.  Razor sharp fangs snapping, claws scratching, it focused its full attention on her.

Catching Ripkira’s command to retreat, Faroene dashed past the beast’s left side, keeping her shield between them.

Pivoting, the groth followed – intent on her destruction.

At the cry, ‘Beltamar falls’, Faroene’s heart and throat clenched tight in shock.  Distracted by this terrible news, she moved backwards as the retreat progressed.  Sorely distressed and badly shaken, she moved by rote alone.  Hard pressed to hold off the groth’s constant assaults, in no mental condition for combat, she held her shield low to the ground between their bodies.  Arresting its every attack, albeit barely.

With each thwarted thrust, the groth grew more incensed.

As no further word of Beltamar came, Faroene grew more distracted.

At an eerie wail, the rest of the pack turned tail and fled.  Only this lone groth had traversed the phalanx alive.  Perceiving its master’s horn blown summons, it instantly pivoted to obey – only to find itself trapped, stuck behind the phalanx.  With a vicious hiss, it spun about, fixed its amber eyes on Faroene, and resumed the attack.

Still with no word of Beltamar…

Faroene’s distress turned to anger.

Anger, blossomed to rage.

Each pulsing, fiery surge of her fully ignited Chukrah infused Faroene with energy and battle expertise.  Her body hummed with power, every nerve alive, every sense heightened.  The world and everything within it slowed as she embraced her fury, switching from defensive retreat, into luring attack.  Through her detached mind the disembodied thought floated, ‘Hounds are no match for groth, foolish to call groth, “hounds”.’  Immediately, replying to the silent thought, she grunted, “But I am no hound, groth!”
Stepping back, Faroene felt her right foot striking a boulder.

A normal person would have tripped, and crashed to the ground.

Faroene was no normal person.  She was a warrior, Chukrah matched, and infused with Chukrah power.

Instantly, her foot’s motion switched, from backward to upward.

Through her boot heel, Faroene felt the brush of the rock, as clearly as if barefoot.  As it cleared the boulder’s top, three hands high, she switched her foot’s motion to a smooth, backward sweep.  The boulder’s coarse surface caressed her sole.  Its resistance to her heel told her it was solidly embedded.  Her heel informed her when her foot cleared it, and her sole, when her foot hovered over it.

Changing her leg’s motion to a powerful, downward thrust, Faroene rose, lifting as easily as if walking backwards up a smooth incline.  As her body elevated, she raised her shield, extending her sword wide as counterweight.  Her body supported entirely on her right leg, balanced perfectly atop the boulder.
The bottom edge of her shield was now high off the ground, where a moment before it was less than a hand.  Her sword, outstretched, no longer targeted the groth.

Needing no more opportunity than this, the beast surged forward beneath Faroene’s shield.  Its serpentine-hinged jaws opened wider than any hounds could.  Needle tipped fangs, exposed.
Faroene struck.

Her body lifted into the air as she reversed the upward momentum of her shield, bringing it down on the creature.  The copper bound shield edge crashed into the groth’s back, just behind the neck, slowing the beast’s forward momentum.  Her sword, melded to arm, slashed to her left.  With a decapitation kill impossible due to her shield’s position, she did not attempt such.  She simply let the blade – an extension of her arm – chose its own path.

Her sword struck as high as was feasible, neatly severing the beast’s front legs – just below its shoulders.  Razor edge unimpeded, the blade flowed onward, in a smooth arc.  Her shield, still driving downward, slammed the groth’s legless torso into the ground.

Even with its front legs lost, the groth remained a formidable opponent, and far from dead.  Unable to roll its eyes sufficiently to see its tormenter, it twisted its head left, fixing her with a single eye.
Filled with malice, was that gaze.

Jaws spreading wide, rear claws digging for traction, it started to lunge.  Intent on striking, again.
Looking at the groth, Faroene’s battle heightened senses noted the slit-pupil, within its amber iris, its forked tongue, the razor sharp fangs, the heavy scales adorning its shoulders.

Almost casually, leaning her full weight on her shield, she held the frantic groth fast to the earth.  Her sword reached completion of its forward swing.  With a powerful twist of her wrist, she aimed its tip at the monstrosity’s neck, released the weapon and grasped it overhand.  Reversing her arm’s motion, she stabbed downward through the groth’s neck, driving her sword on, deep into the earth.

Her blade now held the beast.

Doubly pinned by shield and sword, immovable on the ground it lay.

Filled to bursting with a choking mix of rage and despair, Faroene’s mind gradually cleared.  With every sense sharpened, she missed nothing… felt her heart contract, felt blood’s surge through her vessels, felt sweat’s trickle on her brow, felt her eyelid’s drooping in a blink.

Eternity passed in that motion.

Memories of joy, anticipation of pain.

Unbearable love, and its loss.

Filled with unutterable torment, Faroene stood a moment.  A statue balanced on a boulder, frozen by sorrow’s chill breath.

Beltamar’s loss settled on her soul, clasping her spirit within its cold embrace.

“For Beltamar!”  No other outlet for her anguish, than her scream.

With a brutal twist, she wrenched her sword free of the groth.

Heart’s blood – bright in the falling sun’s orange glow – fountained into the air.  Jaws convulsively snapping, the reptilian hound’s head sagged to the ground.

With her shield, Faroene held it there, and watched it die.

That death brought no relief.

Tears welled in Faroene’s eyes, their mist obscuring her vision.  Her body quivered, knees suddenly weak as her Chukrah released her.

Her heart, slashed by sorrow’s sharp blade, bled.