Book Review: Above All Men by Eric Shonkwiler

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Years from now, America is slowly collapsing. Crops are drying up and oil is running out. People flee cities for the countryside, worsening the drought and opening the land to crime. Amid this decay and strife, war veteran David Parrish fights to keep his family and farm together. However, the murder of a local child opens old wounds, forcing him to confront his own nature on a hunt through dust storms and crumbling towns for the killer.

In Above All Men, Shonkwiler thrusts us into the future, but not the kind of future you might expect, yet one that is painfully possible. The economy has collapsed. The landscape isn’t lush and healthy. Life isn’t filled with ridiculous gadgetry, as one might expect to encounter in a far off version of our now.  Instead, the unfortunate inhabitants of our tomorrow are forced to live a worse-off version of life than their long-ago ancestors once did. And the desperation which plagues this future is deliciously palpable and drips off the page, dances its way right into our hands and our hearts. And for as hard as times might be for our main character, David Parrish, the words which are used to tell this story are anything but. Page after page, you’ll quickly find yourself immersed into one of the most beautifully and artfully crafted tales about courage and strength and the power of resilience. It takes an author of real talent to tell a tale that is filled with a lot of ugly and make it anything but. And that’s what Shonkwiler is – an author of immense talent.

Above All Men now resides on my list of top reads of my lifetime. If you like your fiction more real than not and you’re a fan of magnificent literature, you’ll want, no, need to pick up a copy.

Available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble

Eric Shonkwiler has had writing appear in the Los Angeles Review of Books, The Millions, Fiddleblack, [PANK] Magazine, ed2383dd5d4e0a7f023591.L._V361843851_SY470_and Midwestern Gothic. He was born and raised in Ohio, received his MFA from The University of California at Riverside, and has lived and worked in every contiguous U.S. timezone. Above All Men is his first novel.

Connect with Eric on Facebook, his website, and follow him on Twitter.

Writing Prompt #20 ~ Stormy Weather

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The ground rumbled beneath his feet and his body trembled from the bitter air which danced violently around him. The sky was dark except for the intermittent flashes, when the bony fingertips of the heavens reached down to stroke the parched earth below…

As always, if this prompt leads to a story, do come back and share a link with us.

Happy Writing!

Interview with the Amazing Buddy Gott

Mark your calendars!  Tonight at 9:30 PM EST, the wonderful and amazing Buddy Gott is going to interview me on his fabulous writing show, Buddy’s Writing Show!  You all will finally be able to see me talk and move!  Pretty exciting stuff, I know.  If you watch the show live, you will have an opportunity to comment, so, yes, you will be able to drop by and tell me how amazing and awesome I am.  Plus, you’ll get to see me attempt to not flirt with the host (who is the love of my life).  It should be an entertaining evening all around :)

In any event, the show can be accessed by clicking HERE.  I hope to *see* you all there!

For those of you who are not yet familiar with Buddy, let me introduce you:

64575_10202510344707453_217292487_nBuddy is a native Delawarean (did I spell that right?), a fiction writer, a pop culture junkie, and a host of two shows on YouTube.  Buddy is a smart, sweet, and funny guy all writers and artists should connect with.  Buddy’s debut novel, I Was A Teenage Amish Vampire, will be published this year.

Buddy can be found on his website, YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook.  He also co-hosts Sunday Night Fiction Club with the lovely and talented Melissa Lummis.  Stop by and say hello.

My Everything

WP_20140216_031 (1)I sit at water’s edge
the waves lapping at my feet
the beauty all around me
and my heart does skip a beat
the sun is shining brightly
the clouds big and white
but it is not this natural wonder
which causes me delight
in everything I experience
and everything I see
my thoughts they only think of
all that we will be
you are my sun and moon light
my breath, my heart, my soul
and with you by my side
I am finally whole

He’s the One

I sit and watch him type. See the excitement in his eyes when he sneaks a peek at me when he thinks I’m not looking.  When he thinks I’m busy typing something else, reading something else.  But I’m sitting here thinking about him. About us. About all that we are and will be. And I smile. He thinks the emotion on my face is from this story I’m supposed to be making up. But how can I possibly make something up when we’re living the most magnificent story ever written.

I love him so much.

I stare at the blank page and the cursor dances, laughs.  But I have the last laugh.  My eyes see something other than emptiness, they see all the beauty and all the possibility in the world.  They see him.

He laughs at the story on his screen.  I turn and sneak a peek at him when I think he’s not looking, when he’s busy typing. He sings softly, “I’m lost in emotion,” and rocks in his seat.  Takes a quick drag on his cigarette and then glances at me again. I can tell in this quick moment he’s thinking about us. About all that we are and will be.  And he smiles.

He loves me so much.

I realize in this moment how far past wanting I’ve come. No longer something I’m merely interested in.  He is a need. He is the nourishment I never knew my soul required. I’ll starve without him.

And just like that, this comes to life before me. A sample of “us” lives on this screen. And I copy it, paste it on my website, caring only if one pair of eyes reads it. So he can quickly arrive at the end. And he sees this: I love you with all my heart and I’ll never stop.

Happy New Year, Updates, and a Free Book!

Happy New Year! I figured it was a good time to update all you lovelies on what exactly my craziness has been up to, as well as what you can expect to (hopefully!) see from me this year.WP_20140105_003

As many of you know, my educational pursuits took a good chunk of my free time (as well as my sleeping time) this past year.  Because of that, my muse became very irritated, packed her bags, and the bitch headed to Ireland, refusing to come back until I’d learned to manage my schedule a little better.

I basically just about burned myself out trying to juggle 886 things at once and last fall stepped back from everything for a few months to regroup, relax, learn to live a little, date some (oh my… the stories!), and contemplate where I was with life and where I’d like to go.

School starts up again next week, but this time, I’m taking a much more rational approach to the amount of coursework I’m taking on.  I’ve devised a writing plan to make sure my creativity does not suffer from my studies, and, most importantly, I’ve joined a few social groups to make sure I remember to, you know, stop and smell the roses too.

So…

I’m happy to report, Samantha (my muse), returned home just before the Holidays, and BOY has she been keeping me busy!!  I’m currently in the process of rewriting and editing Ugly Beautiful, which I hope to have out by this summer, as well as toggling back and forth between two WIPs, Shit You Need to Read, which is a comedy about an unemployed, nearly middle-aged writer who struggles to find his way, and Where the Sidewalk Ends, a novel inspired by my very own boss, which follows the story of a successful lawyer who learns what it’s like to say goodbye to a 35-year career and hello to the last quarter of his life.

I am also working on FINALLY catching up on some reading and reviews that I owe so, so, so many wonderful writers who shared their magnificent words with me.

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In celebration of this New Year, my anthology of short fiction and poetry is ON SALE for FREEEEEE until this Saturday.  You can snag your copy here.

What are your plans for 2014?

Interview with Christopher Godsoe, Author of pre://d.o.mai.n

Christopher Godsoe is an author and computer graphics artist residing in central Maine, with his son. He is a maker, a futurist, and a child at heart. pre://d.o.mai.n is HEADSHOTthe first novel in his d.o.mai.n science fiction series. In his free time, he enjoys golf, video games, and customizing automobiles.

In your opinion, what are some of the factors that distinguish novels that sell well from novels that flop?

It’s such a crapshoot, commercial success. I’m a big believer in removing roadblocks between your work and each potential reader. Each step of the purchasing process for people has such a small margin of error nowadays, because there are so many options out there for people entertainment dollar. Certainly an attractive cover comes first. You have to both capture the readers attention and accurately represent the content and quality of the story within. Second, the reader looks at price. While established authors can get ten dollars or more for an ebook, and fifteen or more for a paperback, the rest of us need to lower the bar a little to give a reader an incentive to give us a chance.

In their eyes, a new author is unproven, and while you may look at it as just a couple of dollars, the truth is that there are thousands of other options in the same column for people, and if a reader has decided to check out something new between releases of their favorite authors, then you need to remove every source of objection that you can from their path. Third-The book has to be great. Not just superficially great, but having layers of nuance and meaning that cause it to live on in your readers mind moving forward. And fourth? Dumb Luck. This one might be the most important of all.

I have to say one thing that can turn me off to a book is a horrible cover and/or horrible synopsis.  What other aspects do authors overlook that can ultimately make or break a sale?

A cover is your first impression. We get the luxury as writers/artists to take all the time we want to craft a good first impression. For all those times that you met someone for the first time, made a poor showing of yourself, and wished you could have it back, you owe it to your book to not let it go out like that, and the same goes for your synopsis. You know how good your book is. Write your synopsis like you’re writing to impress a beautiful member of the opposite sex.

The publishing/book world has changed dramatically over the past five years, and is still changing. How have these changes impacted the way we market?

It’s driven more of it online. I have this wacky vision of a writer able to create this amazing career, using a pen name, voice changing technology, and the like. They do all that, become one of the richest people in the world, and nobody knows who they are. It’s possible now. It’s also completely pointless, because I can count on my hand the number of authors that would even be recognized by a substantial portion of the population, lol. The point of all that being that there is no reason to not be accessible to your fans. Even if you make it big, you have to make it REALLY big to have any kind of measurable impact on your life are essentially zero. The changes in the industry have forced authors out of the shadows, to make themselves accessible to their fans.

It’s a scary thing for many of them, but I think most have realized that it’s rewarding. I mean, they’re your fans. These people like your work. So long as you aren’t a raging lunatic (or more often than not, even if you are), your fans are going to love you. We need to give of ourselves, realize that there aren’t finite resources of our intellect or wit, and engage our readers on a social level. In the age of social media, there’s no reason not to.

As authors, our main objective is to find readers. What has been the biggest resource to you in finding your readers?

This is going to sound like the mother of all cop-out answers, but the internet. I don’t specify social media, because I think if you just stick to social media, you’re making a mistake. Sure, it’s a great tool to interact with fans, but social media does not an internet make. The internet is a delivery medium, a way for an author to deliver whatever content they want, however they want.  Want to send a video message directly to your fans? You can do that. Want to create a 3D world from one of your books, and post it online for your fans to explore/enjoy? You can do that. Want to live broadcast a book release party, inviting millions of fans the chance to virtually “hang out” with you? You can do that. Actually, scratch that. You NEED to do that. Hugh Howey, author of WOOL and the Silo series, broadcasts his book signing/mailings. It’s cool to see the interaction when people can see him sign their book that they will receive in the mail a few days later.

What is the biggest mistake you see authors make when marketing?

They spam the hell out everyone with “OMG, Buy my book!” links. Seriously? That’s just lazy. You need to put yourself out there, but you also have to let people discover you. That car salesman that really wants you to buy one specific car is an apt analogy. If he’s pushing you to buy one specific car, the first question that pops into my head is usually, “What’s wrong with it?” If someone is pimping the hell out of their book mainly through direct request of purchase links, I would ask the same question. It just wreaks of desperation, and a desperate author is commonly thought to have a reason for being desperate.

What has been the most successful part of your own marketing campaign?

My marketing campaign is (as of this writing) just getting underway, but I anticipate that the giveaway will be the most effective. People like free stuff, and if you can make it easy and simple for them to enter, it makes them more likely to do so. I have a lot of prizes that I am giving away, several that I’ve never seen done before. I have actual “props” from the book, )(objects described in the book) to give away, as well as beta reader copies of the book. The beta reader copies are three paperback copies that I circulated around to my beta readers earl on in editing, inviting them to write notes directly in the book for me to use later. So three lucky winners will get those, actual paperbacks used in the editing process of the novel, with handwritten notes from beta readers pointing out all of the mistakes I made up to that point in the process. It’s a cool idea (I think), and I hope it’s something people will consider spreading the word on twitter or their blog for a chance at winning.

Traditional vs. Indie – Do you think indies have to market differently than traditionally published authors do, or is the game the same for everyone?

I think they do. Traditional authors get invited to do book tours and the like via their publisher, and there are a few other limited resources that publishers still do for their authors, though the gap is narrowing between the two worlds. Some of the options that were traditionally only available to….traditionally published authors are now accessible to all, and some that weren’t possible before when working with a publisher have become available on the other side as well. Even book placement in stores is becoming less of an issue, with expanded distribution and the general decline in the number of book stores rendering the divide less each year.

How important is blogging to an author’s platform?

To me, blogging is a bit like phone calls during summer vacation. (Stay with me on this, I make a lot of absurd analogies and they usually end up working out in one way or another.) Novel releases are like the school year, it’s easy to maintain relationships as a kid when you are all gathered together. During summer vacation, however, everyone is doing their own thing with their families. New friendships are formed while others fade away, as new people are introduced into your life and you no longer have time for the old ones. Unless, that is, you do a good job of staying touch via phone (this is all pre-smartphone, I grew up in the 90′s, just take my word for all of this if you’re under 25). That’s like blogging, it’s a way to stay in touch with people in prose, to post excerpts from your book, to share your thoughts in longer form than you can on twitter or facebook. It’s just good for keeping people from making new friends (forgetting how much they enjoyed your writing).

Social media – worth the time or not?

Worth it, but you need to forget about using it as a selling tactic and just have fun with it. People want to get to know you a little bit, they want to see what makes you tick, so to speak. Share pictures, share ideas, funny anecdotes, and they might even come to like you as a person, which makes their decision on whether or not to buy your next book a no-brainer. It also encourages them to talk about you to their friends, if you say something they particularly like, they might share it or tell someone, which is the word of mouth advertising people pay huge sums of money to generate otherwise. So I say have fun with it, don’t be afraid to look foolish (any of my facebook friends can tell you I don’t have this problem), and people will respect you for “keepin’ it real.”

Any other words of wisdom?

Writing is a long, discouraging slog. It can be months and months between book releases, and you never know if your months of work are going to be well received, or if people will just ignore it and move on. There is a lot of advice about there that says, “Write to your demographic”, or, “Know your audience.” Most of it is crap. Certainly, it helps to know who will read your book from a ratings perspective. I mean, nobody wants explicit sex scenes in a YA book, but a lot of the advice sounds a lot like, “write something you can sell to the maximum number of people.” That’s the part that I think is crap. Write what you love. If you want to put a sex scene in your book, write the sex scene, just don’t write the rest of the book like it should be on the shelf somewhere along Sesame Street.

Own your story. Accept it for what it is, and don’t try to water it down because you think someone will get offended or not buy it. I worry about that, people watering down their work for commercial gain. Where would we be now as a societyme kn if Orwell, Steinbeck, Rand, and Stowe decided that they couldn’t risk taking chances in their work because it might not sell? There are parts of this book that I could have removed to make the content more appropriate for a larger audience, but I’m not even sure I like those people, why would I want to spend months out of my life trying to please them? If someone reads this book and enjoys it, I can safely say that they would be someone I could share a drink with, and we would have plenty to talk about. We’d have similar interests, I think, and I say that because I made it a point to write a book I would enjoy reading if I found it on a shelf somewhere. That’s my biggest piece of advice-write a book you would want to read. Don’t compromise, write something you can put your soul into, and it will be better for it.

Connect with Chris on his website, Facebook, and follow him on Twitter.

51LsiyOwAhL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_22 year old Miles Torvalds doesn’t need to cure cancer to save his mother’s life, he just needs to find a way to steal one and a half million dollars to pay for it.

In 2037, cancer isn’t an automatic death sentence if you can come up with the cash, but what is certain is that Miles will spend the rest of his life in prison if he’s caught. A chance encounter with an old flame introduces him to an enigmatic man named Atlas, and he just may be the answer to Miles’ prayers. Out of options, Miles accepts his offer of assistance, and Atlas promptly delivers a powerful tool; DJINN, an artificial intelligence crafted by the hacker collective Anonymous before the turn of the millennium.

To a sexually frustrated loner like Miles, the fact that they designed her as a flirtatious twentysomething only complicates matters. Together they will weave their way through the augmented reality darknet while eluding Tobin Maldovan, a former Black Ops operative and the FBI’s newest agent in the war on cyber crime, to save his mother.

Miles will learn that in a future where appearances are often misleading, trusting yourself is the only hope you have.

pre://d.o.mai.n is available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

BOOK LOOK: Sneak Peek at The Latest Novel from Author Marni Mann

Seductive Secrecy Cover copy“We were two broken souls who had found each other in a world of shadows. We were held together by a connection of secrets, dark and fearful and reluctant to leave. Their depth was seductive and overwhelming, an endless ocean of black that threatened to cover the brilliance we kept reaching for with each other.”

With her art career flourishing and the mansion predators no longer a threat, Charlie is creating a new life. Her desires have changed, and she has a chance at a healthy, loving relationship with Cameron–if they can bury the memories and doubts that plague them.

Can they overcome the destruction of their clouded pasts, or will the revelation of more painful, shocking secrets pull them back into the shadows?

**EXCERPT FROM SEDUCTIVE SECRECY**

I wasn’t reserved anymore when it came to controlling sex with Cameron; I would readily steer him directly to the places that wanted attention. But he’d usually covered them before I had the chance. Tonight, I didn’t want to give instruction. I wanted the painful tease and the surprise when he gave in. He was guiding my passion, doling out my pleasure in small bursts. It was perfect.

Then all at once, it became exhilarating. He was caressing those sensual little buds and rather than circling them, he flicked them back and forth using the heavy wetness. My legs spread; my fingers threatened to move in between them, but I held them at my sides, clenching them into fists to keep them from touching.

Every few minutes he left my body; when he returned the substance was colder, thicker and had begun to dry in his wake. Suddenly, I knew: it had to be paint. He was touching me—stimulating me—with a brush…the tools of my trade, and now of my pleasure as well. It was confirmed when he moved behind me. The cold spread to my ass as he removed the blindfold from my eyes.

I blinked as I became accustomed to this new light. It wasn’t just any light, though; these were black lights that illuminated the all black room. The paint on my breasts was florescent, and my body immediately responded to the sight of it. Cameron wasn’t just introducing me to new feelings and textures. He was combining our passions and adding to them, sensually and sexually.

There was a table set up not far from where we stood. It held several bottles of paint in a variety of colors. A canvas rested on the floor, well over six feet in each direction.

“I’m going to finish painting you,” he breathed against my neck. “Then you’re going to paint me.” The brush slowly went up my back and around each shoulder. “And once you’re covered, I’m going to place you on that canvas, slide my dick inside you, and we’re going to create our own art.”

I released my response in a series of exhales, each ending in a moan. It was my reaction to everything: what we were about to do, the feeling the brush created when it

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swept over my skin. The thought of us becoming our own masterpiece. I didn’t know if I would have the same reaction to any other substance, but there was something special about paint that made this experience even more erotic. Feeling it on my skin, it had become an aphrodisiac.

***

Like what you read?  Seductive Secrecy available at Amazon and B&N

New to Marni’s sizzling series?

Seductive Shadows, the first book in the series, is available at Amazon and B&N

Sunset

A New Englander at heart, Marni Mann is now a Floridian inspired by the sandy beaches and hot pink sunsets of Sarasota. She taps mainstream appeal and shakes worldwide taboos, taking her readers on a dark and breathtaking journey. When she’s not nose deep in her laptop, she’s scouring for chocolate, traveling, reading, or walking her four-legged children.  

Connect with Marni on her Website, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest

NEW RELEASE: Diaries of the Damned by Alex Laybourne

Ebook_CoverThe dead have risen and a desperate struggle for power has begun. The military are evacuating all survivors in passenger planes. With their destination unknown, one group of survivors led by a journalist named Paul Larkin, decide to share their experiences with the hope that when combined, their stories will reveal the answers that the government had not been willing to give themselves.

Nine survivors banded together, yet none of them realized, as they stood to tell their tales that they stood on the brink of discovering a conspiracy the likes of which the world has never seen.

Grab your copy from Amazon today for just $2.99

Sample:

Chapter 1 – Boarding

Paul Larkin sat in his seat and fastened his seatbelt. His body was caked with sweat and dried blood. His ears rang from the gunshots, and his ankle was swollen again; remnants of an injury he acquired jumping from the first floor window of his suburban home. At least, it used to be suburbia, before everything went to shit.

He sat back and let out a long, deep breath. Shock threatened to take hold of him, so he closed his eyes and waited. The plane filled up and the cries of those refused admittance echoed down the walkway, swiftly followed by the sound of their execution.

Paul spared but the most fleeting of moments thinking about it. He found it strange how killing and death had become such a large part of his life.

“Excuse me,” A fragile sounding voice stirred Paul from the calm place he had just started to settle into. “I believe this is my seat.” An elderly woman, late seventies at best stood before him, her face was smeared with blood, while one eye had been covered by a filthy rag that had been hastily secured to her face with what looked like duct tape.

Grab your copy from Amazon today for just $2.99

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Born and raised in the coastal English town Lowestoft, it should come as no surprise (to those that have the misfortune of knowing this place) that Alex Laybourne became a horror writer.

Married with four children; James, Logan, Ashleigh and Damon. His biggest dream for them is that they grow up, and spend their lives doing what makes them happy, whatever that is.

‘Diaries of the Damned’ is his third full length publication along with numbers short works.

 Connect with Alex on his Amazon Author PageFacebook, and on his Blog.