The Kingmaker

“Good Gods!” the ax-wielder booms. “She has bigger balls than I do.”
Humor flashes in the warlord’s silver-hued eyes. “Balls don’t necessarily come with brains.”
“Mine do.” If my smile were any more syrupy, my teeth would rot.

I’m currently on book two of the Kingmaker trilogy by Amanda Bouchet. The first book was called ‘A Promise of Fire’, and the second one is ‘Breath of Fire’ The third one will be ‘Heart on Fire’, and I’ll definitely be reading it. Probably this week. *Laugh*

A Promise of Fire (Kingmaker Chronicles, #1) Breath of Fire (Kingmaker Chronicles, #2) Heart on Fire (Kingmaker Chronicles, #3)

The books are set in a land called Thalyria. It seems to be based largely on Ancient Greece, with Greek language, Greek Gods (who are real in this world), etc. Half the world is ice and half is desert, or so it seems. Magic is stronger in the regions with ice, and weaker in the regions without. Magic is might in this world…

Our two primary characters are Cat and Griffin. Cat is hiding from her evil family, and has made a home with the circus. She is kidnapped by Griffin, who is a warlord who has recently taken control of one of the three Kingdoms in Thalyria. He wants Cat because she has the magic his family lacks.

Cat takes a long time to warm up to Griffin and his team, but I felt that was understandable considering that he literally kidnapped her, put her in danger and made her leave the only people she loved. Yup, fair enough. They are good guys though, and she can’t help but warm to them. Sometimes she resents liking them, which feels like it fits the situation pretty well! I’ve read other reviews that say Cat is a bit whiny, but frankly, I would be too if I was treated the way she was!

I figured out who Cat was about 40% through the first book. We officially find out at the start of book two. I know there are more reveals ahead, it’s that kind of story, but Cat’s identity was most obvious.

I’m currently 70% through the second book and I’ve never felt like the story has dragged. It’s an epic adventure and story, and so it feels okay that it takes three books to tell it.

There is an enormous amount of world building that has gone on behind the scenes, and the creatures (some are mythical creatures I’ve heard of, some aren’t), the Gods, the secondary human characters, etc., are all well described and feel like integral parts of the story. You get enough scenery to picture the scene, but not so much that you feel the need to skip pages of description.

There is plenty of action, and if you’re squeamish, it might squick you out a bit. Even the healing scenes can be pretty gory or squicky in their own right.

The general plot of the story is obvious, but the story doesn’t feel predictable. So many things happen that I don’t expect, and things don’t go how I thought they were going to, and it all adds up to keep me interested and keep me turning the page.

The romance between Cat and Griffin is secondary to what is an epic fantasy adventure story. But it’s there.

The secondary characters are fantastic additions to the story, and Kato is a clear favourite. I’m not sure if that’s because he’s Cat’s favourite or mine. *Laugh*

All in all, it’s been a fascinating read, and I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the story. I rated book one five stars, and I expect to rate book two the same. I recommend it to anyone who enjoys fantasy or epic adventure stories.

My books arrived!

The three hard cover copies I ordered to give my kids and my nephew for Christmas arrived yesterday, well in time for Christmas.  So pleased.  The quality is amazing, and it’s an incredible feeling holding it in my hands as an actual book!


The illustrations my mother and son did look really great.

It’s for sale on Blurb if anyone is interested.  Because it’s printed to order, it’s quite expensive, so I haven’t added a profit for me.  That means I don’t make any money off it, which is fine, that was never the intention anyway.  If anyone buys one and they or their child enjoys it, that’s the main thing.

Grand and Epic Adventures

By Elle Schroder


Grand & Epic Adventures

Guess what! Okay, you’ll never guess. I’m so excited though. This is big news. HUGE! *Laugh*

Today, I finally finished writing Grand & Epic Adventures, the novel I started in 2012 for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). *Shock*

It’s taken me FIVE YEARS, but I finally finished it!

Mum has done some amazing illustrations for it, and so has my son, and I’m going to submit it to Blurb for printing before their sale ends on Wednesday. If it arrives in time (fingers crossed!), my kids and my nephew will finally get to read it on Christmas Day.

I can’t believe I’ve actually finished it! Five years! Ha ha! I’m almost giddy. I was busy writing the last chapter today while my mum and son were working on the drawings, and I’ve just finished it. Squee! I did it!

It’s nine chapters, plus two bonus ‘prequel’ short stories that I wrote for a NaNoWriMo prep challenge on in 2012 that I’m going to include. The nine chapters are 33,827 words, and the short stories are 834 and 549 words, so 35,210 words in total. I think that’s within the realm of normal for a chapter book aimed at (gifted) 11-13 year old children.

Of course, my son is now 16 (oops!) but better late than never, right? *Laugh*

Anyway, I’m so happy. Partly because I can’t believe I actually finished a project for once. *Rolleyes* *Smirk2*

PS. I’ll try to share the illustrations soon. They’re awesome, you’ll love them!

The Search For Inspiration

Silvanna coughed and spluttered as she climbed out of the picture, dripping water all over her antique wooden desk. The other muses, some working hard at their own desks, others chatting, all turned to the back of the room to stare at her. Silvanna flopped down on top of the picture in the puddle of water she had created, just catching her breath for a moment, before dragging herself to the edge of the desk. She sat with her legs dangling over the edge and slumped her shoulders.

“What’s up?” asked Shayla, one of the other muses. One dark, perfectly arched eyebrow rose as she eyed the sodden orange dress Silvanna wore. “Is that…saltwater? You do know you’ve ruined the silk, right?”

Silvanna grumbled, but nodded. “I can’t find any inspiration,” she sighed. She kicked her feet, drumming them against the wood below her, aware that the room around her had gone deathly silent.

“Start from the beginning,” Rosa advised, fluttering over to sit near Silvanna, but managing to avoid the damp patches. “What are the requirements?”

“Short story, choice of picture inspirations.” Silvanna sighed again, and didn’t miss Rosa rolling her eyes at the melodramatic sound.

“Show us the pictures.”

Silvanna plucked the pictures from the desk behind her, struggling a little with their unwieldy size, then scattered them on the floor so all the muses could see them. She almost smirked when Farryn shrieked and danced to avoid being sprayed by the last of the water droplets. Her beautiful white silk dress still looked good as new of course.

“Oh, I’ve seen these pictures before!” exclaimed Elliece. “My human had to enter this contest last year. I found inspiration in the cherry blossom picture. You didn’t find anything there?”


“I’ve seen these pictures before too,” said Kamali. She flashed her feathery golden wings and came to stand behind Silvanna. “Aren’t these for the Once Upon A Time contest?”

Silvanna nodded and tilted her head to look up. “Yeah.”

“My human is working on a story for that contest right now,” commented Shayla. “She asked for inspiration ages ago, and I found some in that picture of the stone circle with the purple lightning. I went for a sci fi horror thing, because she wanted to enter another contest at the same time.”

Kamali frowned down at Silvanna and demanded, “Doesn’t it close in less than 24 hours?” There was a sharp intake of breath from the other muses.

“Yes,” whispered Silvanna, her lower lip trembling.

“Are you serious right now?” asked Alvina from across the room, her kohl-rimmed eyes wide. “Your human has less than 24 hours left to write a short story and you haven’t even given her any inspiration? Woah.”

Silvanna narrowed her eyes, but knew she couldn’t really defend herself.

“Tell us what you’ve done so far,” advised Rosa.

“Yeah, we’ll all help.” Elliece smiled.

“Okay. So I had eleven pictures. I’ve been in them all. I felt sure I’d find something in that one of the owl,” she said, gesturing to a picture of an Eastern Screech Owl camouflaged against a tree trunk. “I left the aquathlon one until last, which is why I’m all wet, but…” She shrugged her shoulders. “Nothing.”

“Are there certain requirements?” asked Rosa. “Genre?”

“Any genre,” replied Silvanna, shivering as a small orange butterfly settled on her shoulder. “Has to be minimum two thousand words, maximum three thousand. Rating has to be 18+ or lower.”

“Two thousand words in less than 24 hours?” squeaked Alvina.

Silvanna rolled her eyes. “The length is pretty irrelevant when I don’t even have an idea for her.”

Kimali looked around the room, then settled her dark gaze back on Silvanna. “If we’re going to do this, we’ll have to do it as a team. And fast. Farryn, grab a whiteboard marker and make notes on the board. The rest of you, take one picture each and start brainstorming.” She looked around the room, counting under her breath. “Cancel that, without Silvanna there are eleven of us and eleven pictures, so just leave the marker there, Farryn. Elliece and Shayla, make sure you don’t go for the same picture that you used for inspiration last time, or there could be issues for Silvanna’s human if we end up with ideas that are too similar. Silvanna, you can make the notes. As soon as you get the inkling of an idea, yell out and we’ll see if we can take it all the way to a decent plot.” She shook her head, her blonde hair swinging. “Your human is going to need all the help she can get.”

One by one, the muses disappeared into the various pictures, leaving Silvanna all alone in the room. She took a moment to dry herself off, then fluttered over to the large whiteboard that dominated one wall.

Blank white space, her favourite starting point. She loved the possibilities that lay within the white nothingness of an empty notebook, a clean slate…a blank whiteboard. Anything could happen. She groaned aloud at her own thoughts. “It’s not much use having screeds of possibilities when you can’t think of a single one to write on the stupid page!” She threw the marker across the room, finding satisfaction in watching it bounce off a desk, until she realized she’d have to go and pick it up. She grumbled all the way there and back, the small butterfly her only audience, but fell silent as the muses started to return.

Kamali emerged first, from the picture of the thunderstorm and the stone circle. “Okay, here goes.” She gestured to Silvanna to start taking notes. “Stone circle could be celtic. Think of Stonehenge. Or there are other stone circles on little islands offshore of Scotland. Celtic witches? Some pagan ritual? What about giants who created the stone circle?” She talked rapidly, ignoring the squeak of the marker against the whiteboard as Silvanna tried to keep up. “The thunderstorm could be Thor, god of thunder, having a tantrum. The clouds look purple – could be a sci fi story set on another world. What sort of alien being could live there?” She paused for a moment, thinking. “Um, there was the sea too – a journey nearly at an end, only to be thwarted by a thunderstorm.” She raised her hands, palms to the ceiling. “That’s all I’ve got.”

When Silvanna turned around, she saw several other muses had also returned. She shook her hand to loosen the muscles and pointed to Elliece. “Go.”

“Okay, I did the aquathlon one. Your character has recovered from an injury that led everyone to say she’d never walk again, and she overcomes all her obstacles to compete? A father who doesn’t have custody of his child steals him from the chaotic beach scene? Your character is a photojournalist, looking for her first big break? A mother watches in horror as her child drowns? Ooh, a tsunami comes in to shore, chaos ensues!” She grinned, and watched as Silvanna jotted down the notes.

“Next!” called Silvanna, opening and closing her hand into a fist to try and relax the muscles. She had noticed that Elliece had emerged from the spray of the aquathlon photo without a single drop of water on her. No, it was only ever Silvanna who got dirty, wet, or tore her dress. Typical.

Alvina piped up next. “Cherry blossoms. First thing, obviously, Japan and Asia. Possibly a love story. Could be a multicultural love story. A historical love story? They could be Japanese royalty. Um…”

“The Emperor and Empress,” added Rosa.

“Yes, exactly.” Alvina flashed Rosa a grateful smile. “It could be someone on the search for a special Ming vase, or perhaps tracing the origins of a family heirloom. What about a soldier, going back to the fields of battle where he once fought? Um, looking for a woman he only has a single snapshot photo of?” The other muses sighed at the romanticism. “I could keep going, but I’ll see if someone else sparks your interest. You can come back to me if need be.”

Silvanna nodded, scribbling furiously.

“The owl-“

“Wait!” pleaded Silvanna. “Just let me finish… Okay, go.”

“The owl obviously lends itself to fantasy and mythology,” started Farryn, rubbing her hands together. Everyone knew fantasy was her favourite genre. “You could tell a fantasy tale from the viewpoint of the owl, watching unseen over everything. The owl could be a familiar for a witch or magician. A spy. He could provide guidance. The character could go on an epic journey to seek wisdom or answers from the owl. There could be a hunt on, and only the main character can find the owl, camouflaged against the tree. The hunt could be specifically for the owl, as a kind of challenge. Ah, a challenge to complete a course of study or something. The owl might not be a real owl, it might have morphed into an owl for a certain purpose. It might have been cursed to remain as an owl for doing something naughty or by someone evil.” She paused, watching the words fill up the whiteboard. “I suppose you could do some sort of animal story – the life of an owl, raising its chicks or something.” She shrugged.

“Okay, my turn,” said Fawn. “I had the picture of the fisherman.” She bounced in place while she waiting for a signal to start.

“Calm down,” suggested Kimali, only to receive a flick on the nose from Fawn who giggled at Kimali’s affronted expression.

“Yup, ready,” Silvanna said, feeling like she should be panting, except she was only writing notes, not running a marathon.

“The fisherman made me think of the ‘one that got away’,” said Fawn. “You could have a sort of ‘boy who cried wolf’ theme where the fisherman is always telling tales of the one that got away, and when he finally sees something amazing, no one believes him. Or you could set it in a small fishing village, maybe the people are starving and relying on the food from the sea. Maybe he has a magic fishing net. Maybe he pulls in a bottle from the sea with a message inside.”

“Oh, I love that idea!” Alvina clapped her hands together, her eyes shining. “A message in a bottle! Who could it be for? Who wrote it? What does it say? How exciting!”

Silvanna smiled at her enthusiasm. “Anything else?”

Alvina narrowed her eyes. “What, that doesn’t work for you?”

Silvanna shrugged in reply.

“Okay,” Juliana said, looking up from where she was tidying the photos into a neat pile. “I had the Taiwanese people with their traditional face paintings. You could have them painting themselves for war. A fight to the death. For honour? For a girl? For the safety of the womenfolk? Um, you could have them preparing for a performance, where one of them catches the eye of a woman in the audience and knows somehow that she’s his soulmate. You could have a photojournalist doing a documentary on them, but somehow danger stalks him or her, forcing them to take refuge with or from the villagers. A time travel story, going back in time to the traditional days?” She pursed her lips as she thought. “This was a tough one for me.”

Silvanna looked at the words she had written up and frowned. Juliana was dissatisfied with all those ideas? Silvanna hadn’t even come up with a single one. She closed her eyes for a moment, but the next muse started talking, and she quickly took the lid off the marker again.

“I had the lady carrying water in Myanmar,” said Tigerlily. “It was a tricky one. I thought you could do something like Jack and the beanstalk with magic beans that need watering. Um, a small child sent to get water who gets into trouble. Maybe they’re rescued by a dolphin or a hippocampus or something.”

“A what?” The query came from several voices at once.

“A mythical creature, half horse, half sea creature.”

“Ooh, that sounds cool,” commented Farryn. “A hippocampus. I must remember that.”

“A c, not a k,” Tigerlily advised Silvanna who had misspelled the word on the whiteboard.

“Whatever, we know what it means.”

“There could be some sort of biological weapon of war that has poisoned the water. Or something like that Chernobyl disaster. Mutant fish?” Tigerlily cracked her knuckles as she kept talking, ignoring the looks of disgust a few of the muses sent her. “You could do some sort of religious thing where the people are saved from salvation by their god. You could have her fetching water for her daughter who is deathly ill and some handsome Western doctor is going to save her.” She made a few faces before declaring that she was out of ideas.

Flora looked up from where she was painting her nails at her desk. “My turn?” At the nods from the other muses, she capped the purple polish and set it aside, waving her fingers in the air to dry them. “I had the cheetahs on the safari vehicle. Clearly you could have some sort of gory tourist drama where the cats drag them from their vehicle and eat them. You could have a honeymooning couple just to heighten the emotion.” She laughed at the horrified expressions on some of the faces around her. “Okay, what about a young boy who communes with the wild cheetahs, to the point where he can pet them. Everyone is in awe. Or maybe a comedy about a modern day Noah trying desperately to collect two animals of every kind for his ark, but it proving to be a lot more difficult and dangerous than the simple request makes it sound.”

“Ha ha, I like that one!” laughed Rosa. “That one sounds fun.”

Flora grinned. “Or you could do something from the point of view of the cheetahs, maybe they’re disgruntled at the intruders or they’ve set each other a challenge or dare to get something from the tourists to show their bravery or something.”

Silvanna nodded as she wrote, the letters much larger than when she’d first started writing. Her notes were no longer neat and tidy, but her hand was cramping and it was getting harder to keep up with the dictation.

Marelle waited patiently until Silvanna was ready, then started talking, her quiet voice going at a nice slow pace. “The child in my picture is the son of reindeer herders. Of course I thought a Christmas story would be perfect. The people who have to work for Santa? Looking after the reindeer and making sure they’re in tip top shape for their Christmas Eve run? Or maybe he tries to turn one of the real reindeer into Rudolph. Maybe the reindeer are in secret and he watches in amazement as they all disappear on Christmas Eve to go and help Santa, and he follows them. Or something goes wrong on the reindeer farm and there are no reindeer ready to help Santa and this young boy has to save Christmas? Really, the possibilities are endless.”

“I’d love to read any of those stories,” smiled Alvina. “I love feel-good Christmas children’s stories!”

“Me too,” replied Marelle.

Rosa tapped the chewed end of her pencil against the edge of the desk she was perched on, as she waited for Silvanna to be ready. “I had the picture of the tribal woman painted up for a ceremony. You could follow a young girl who was participating for the first time – her nervousness, her anticipation, that sort of thing. You could retell an ancient myth or legend, or even better, make one up. Maybe a child asks why the sky is blue or why their skin is dark or something simple like that and create a myth or legend to explain it.”

“That’s a really good idea,” said Kamali, approval clear in her voice.

Silvanna nodded, then gestured for Rosa to continue.

“You could have a love story where the village girl is preparing for her wedding ceremony. It could be an arranged marriage. Maybe the love of her life asks for the opportunity to fight for her hand.”

Silvanna jotted down the notes, then turned to Shayla with her eyebrows raised. “Go.”

“I had the image of a lady playing the piano on a street in New Zealand in front of a sea or harbour or something.” Shayla absently shuffled the cards she held as she talked. “There was a young girl sitting on the wall. You could write about the woman and the songs she’s singing. A lament to the girl’s father who is lost away at sea.”

“You lot are all hopeless romantics,” laughed Flora.

“You could have some gentleman hear the siren call…” Shayla laughed at the exaggerated expression on Flora’s face.

“Hush!” Everyone turned to Kamali who turned serious eyes on Silvanna. “You’re too late.”

“Too late? But I’ve still got…” Silvanna looked around for a clock.

“She’s already written the story,” explained Kamali.

“Without me? Without her muse? She can’t do that!” wailed Silvanna.

“Listen to this.” Kamali cleared her throat, then started reading from a piece of paper she held. “Silvanna coughed and spluttered as she climbed out of the picture, dripping water all over her antique wooden desk. The other muses, some working hard at their own desks, others chatting, all turned to the back of the room to stare at her.”

“Ohh…” breathed Silvanna. “She’s written about me!”

Kamali grinned. “All of us. You know, I think I kind of like this human of yours

An interview with author Reb Kreyling

You blog, you write short stories, you’re a novelist and a poet. Do you have a preference for a particular format? Do you find it hard to switch between them?
I seem to focus on a format for a while and not touch any others. Right now that means short stories. All the short stories! As I play with characters and ideas.

I haven’t done much with novels lately because my life is just crazy and I haven’t got sucked into the worlds. Doesn’t mean they aren’t there, just haven’t been sucked in.

My poetry is more a catharsis. I don’t really write it unless I need to get some feelings out. Or it was assigned in college.

I take your picture.
Your hair flying.
Your body dancing.

I take your picture.
Tears falling down.
Frowning smiles on your face.
Eyes cloudy–salt water clean.

I take your picture.
Hands raised in self-defense.
Black and blue.
Fear etched on your face.

I take your picture.
Finally at peace.

Photographs by Reb Kreyling

As for my blogging, it’s part of my way to get my name out to readers and I try to make it more of a conversation.

Apart from blogging, do you do anything else to promote your work?
Not at the moment. If I have a sale or something I post on Facebook. And I make comments on WDC, but I don’t have an author page anywhere. At some point I’ll do more, but not until I have more books published.

You refer to yourself as a life-long writer. What has been the hardest thing for you so far on your writing journey?
Two things really.

I submitted what I thought was a really good, solid piece of writing to an editor. An editor I know and consider a friend. And she rejected it. What made it less hard? She didn’t know it was me until after it had been rejected (it was a blind submission).

The other is sometimes just finding time to write is sometimes a tricky balancing act.

When your submission was rejected by your editor friend, what did you do?
I’m going to revise it, although I haven’t yet. She’s actually offered a more in depth critique so I’m waiting to hear back. I’ve written a lot new since then including another story for submission to her–which also got rejected but I didn’t like it nearly as much. And yeah I did wallow around for a few days.

You primarily write science fiction and fantasy. What appeals to you most about those genres?
I like the escapist qualities of fantasy. I was always fascinated with mythology as a kid and a lot of my stories have that type of idea in them. And Narnia, oh I loved Narnia. So I always wanted a world like that to play in that was all my own.

As for science fiction, although I’m not as good at the hard science part, I enjoy the “what if…” idea of science fiction.

Are there any genres you’re afraid to try, or struggle to write in?
I wouldn’t say afraid to try or struggle with any genres. I’m willing to try anything once. Maybe. I’m not a huge fan of horror though. And although romance creeps into my stories, I wouldn’t say I write much romance. Because of my day job, you will probably never see any erotica under my name either. Not my real name anyway.

Do you read the same genres that you write in?
Absolutely! I won’t get any better if I don’t read in my chosen genre. And honestly I just read.

What inspires you? Where do you get your ideas from?
Life inspires me. Which sounds funny considering what I write, but it’s true. I get ideas from friends, conversations, prompts, teaching moments. Just life. I also sometimes just get ideas from letting my mind wander.

Do you have a favourite author? Or perhaps an author you view as an inspiration?
Hahhaaha. Do I have a favorite author? Come sit down and let me unroll the REAMS of authors I adore and explain why I have a Kindle now and why my moms banned me from buying books for a while. But seriously right now I would say my top four are Jasmine Walt, Pippa DaCosta, Jim Butcher, and Tanya Huff. Oh and Mercedes Lackey. My moms would say Dean Koontz, but I’ll counter with none of his recent work—he’s become too commercialized. So…five really; maybe six.

What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever received?
“You just write like you got words.” From a friend on WDC. Not very grammatically correct, but it amuses me and at the time got me to write. It often prompts me to keep writing and I actually have it as a wall hanging.

Other than that? My freshman year in high school, my English teacher was always very encouraging as was another teacher in middle school.

What drives you to be published?
I don’t know that I have a drive per se. I write because I need to. If I feel I edit it into enough shape, I share my babies with other people. Sometimes that means publishing.

What defines success for you as an author?
Having someone enjoy my work and telling me so.

Your published book – When the Prince Didn’t Come in Time – is marketed as a ‘comic retelling’ of a fairy tale. Tell us a little about it.

When the Prince Didn't Come in Time: (Sleeping Beauty) by [Kreyling, Reb]

I know this is supposed to start “once upon a time” but since it doesn’t end “happily ever after,” I’m not going to bother. I didn’t mean to kill her. Honestly that wasn’t my intention at all. I mean I grew up in the shadow of a great big hulking relic from another time. How was I supposed to know she was waiting for her prince to come? The stories never told us that. All they said was that she was asleep and would sleep for a hundred years. Can I help it that I hit that hormone driven age just as she hit those one hundred years? I’m telling you it seemed like a really good idea at the time. Sneak into the castle, kiss the princess; hey, instant wife or concubine or whatever.
When the Prince Didn’t Come in Time by Reb Kreyling

I can’t say too much or it gives away the whole thing but it’s based off a quote from the David Crosby/Phil Collins song Hero. And wonders what would happen if someone other than the prince kissed Sleeping Beauty. The narrator is a bit of a sarcastic smart mouth which is where the comedy comes in.

You can get When the Prince Didn’t Come in Time free on Smashwords until the end of July, or you can also buy it at Amazon.

You can also check out Reb’s blog and her portfolio.

An interview with author S. H. Pratt / C. K. Brewer

‘“How goes the battle?” Spencer asked as he sat beside her with his own lunch.
“Not bad. Did you know that there is someone famous teaching here?” Rissa smirked.
“You know, I’d heard that rumor. I hope the fame won’t go to everyone’s head.” Spencer teased.
“I think we’re safe. Fame isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Rumor has it that the famous person left fame and fortune behind because she’d lost all of her marbles and really needed to collect them.” Rissa sighed sadly.
“Oh no, not the lost marble syndrome! I wonder how successful her campaign to collect her marbles is going.” Spencer commiserated.
“Beautifully. She has settled down, found a nice man who kisses her like she’s the only soul he’s ever wanted, reconnected with her family, and found a possible direction for her life away from fame and fortune.” Rissa deadpanned. Spencer chuckled.
“Only soul, huh?” he arched an eyebrow over the frame of his glasses. “How do you know he isn’t kissing her like that because she’s the only soul who ever made him want to kiss that way?”
“I don’t, but that certainly raises some interesting points, doesn’t it?” Rissa snickered.
“Points indeed,” Spencer laughed.’
~ The Artist’s Touch Epic Romance Book 1 by S. H. Pratt

You’ve published a number of novels as S H Pratt. Tell us a little about them and your journey to being a published author.
The romance novels I’ve published are all heavily based in real life headlines and psychology. Many of them have a strong suspense thread woven through them as well as some humor to lighten things up. I began writing semi-seriously as a teen but shelved it in favor of attempting to find ‘a real job’. Turns out my ‘real job’ is being a full-time mom and a full-time writer. I attempted to conform to the standard of Harlequin Romance Publishing but was told that because my writing deals with such intense psychological matter, it was too dark for their readers. Because I love my stories and refuse to dumb them down or soften the subject matter, I chose to research my options which led me to publish my work independently. I love the freedom this choice has afforded me and have left the notion of being with a Big 5 publishing company in the dust.

There are a great number of self published books these days, and a common complaint is that they are not sufficiently edited. Did you edit your own books?
I say I edit my books myself, but this is not entirely true. I have a team of alpha and beta readers who read through each chapter as I write them. Then I read through the entire manuscript from the beginning and then again, starting from the end and reading forward. After that, I have a proofreader/editor who is a friend of mine read through it (we trade our editing services – I read her works and she reads mine) and then before I publish, I still read it through again, this time out loud as though to a group of people. Unfortunately, as a human, misspellings still get through, but I’ve found that I’m more thorough and picky than most editors I’ve come across.

Did you find that you had to bring in experts of any description (eg. cover designers) at all? Or did you do the whole process by yourself?
I began this crazy journey into self-publishing with the notion that a small self-publishing company would be better than me trying to do everything myself. Unfortunately, I found a company that was less than reputable with interests more in my money than my books. Their “editing” was horrendous and I hated the covers they did. Because I don’t use models of any sort on my covers, it seemed to flummox them. After my contracted two books were done, I fired them, took back control of my books and republished them. My husband is a photographer and doesn’t mind when I bring him flowers and an idea for a cover. Between he and I, we create covers that pertain to the story within that are different from the typical “Fabio” style of covers. I also have a fair number of professionals, like medical personnel, peace officers, etc. who willing read parts (or sometimes the entire book) to ensure that the facts I’ve used are correct.

Do you think that different skills are required for writing novels as opposed to short stories?
I do think that you need different skills for writing full length novels than you do for short stories. However, I believe the skills used for the short stories strengthen the ones necessary for novels. I actually use short stories, particularly those with specific word counts, to help me eliminate extraneous words and ideas. This then translates into stronger novels with less ‘fluff” in them.

Like me, you have gifted children. We both know the struggle of finding age-appropriate reading material that challenges our children, and both of us have taken it upon ourselves to ‘fill that gap’ by attempting to write a children’s novel. How have you found writing a novel for gifted children? What were the challenges for you? 
I find writing children’s fiction to be much more challenging, in general, than romance. In romance, my world around me is the world I use and the source of my inspiration. However in my kid’s fantasy work, I have to create the world including its flora, fauna, and details in minutia. Also, as my intention was to give kids around the age of ten and up content that is appropriate while still challenging them, I have to use extra caution to keep the content child friendly. It sounds easy but has presented me with the need to rethink my own thought processes. I love writing the fantasy stories though because it’s a refreshing and invigorating change and challenge from the romance.

‘The monumental stone vibrated, shaking the temple violently. Srÿche stood, bracing himself in the stone archway, struggling to stay upright through the intense quaking. He watched, his black eyes narrowed, as a blue haired imp Shimmered into being in the archway across from him. She was miniscule compared to his six foot height, but he knew she was his equal in power. He felt the Magic radiating off of her across the expanse of the room and it made his bones ache.
Safina stood in her archway, her arms stretched out wide against the stone in an effort to stabilize herself. She nodded politely to Srÿche, her azure blue hair bobbing. He ignored her, turning away with a scowl, and focused his attention back on the stone. Safina rolled her eyes and turned her gaze to the stone as well.
As they watched, the monolithic stone began to glow a warm amber color. Small pieces of the crumbling temple began to fall as the quaking intensified, nearly bringing the pair of Magicians to their knees. Just as the shuddering reached a tempo that threatened to destroy the temple and everything within it, the quaking stone split in two and an unearthly voice echoed through the temple.

“Under Marching Moon afar;
A humble child born;
Noble and Royal hence;
To seek the DragonStar;
Mend the sword t’was torn;
Save Velania from obsolescence.”

As the echoing voice died, the vibrations reached a new pitch that sent a massive shock wave emanating from the broken rock. As if drawing a deep breath, the air seemed to flow rapidly into the fissure. With an earth shattering explosion, a second, stronger shock wave burst from the stone. The entire temple exploded in a mass of stone and dirt leaving only the two archways standing.
Safina and Srÿche, both doubled over from the force of the Magic, fell to their knees and covered their heads as the temple fell around them. The Magical shock wave overcame them, making their bodies scream with pain and their minds spasm in agony. As the Magic ebbed and the quaking slowed, the two Magicians rose slowly. Breathing heavily, exhausted, and aching from the intensity of the Magic, they stood, surrounded by the rubble of what once had been the Temple of the Oracle. Without a word, look, or acknowledgement of each other, they Shimmered and disappeared.’
~ DragonStar by C. K. Brewer (to be released 2018)

Have your kids read your work? What did they think?
Obviously, they don’t read the romance, but yes, my two youngest children have read the first novel of my fantasy series, DragonStar. They were my first beta readers and according to their constant questions as to when the actual book will be in their hands, I believe they enjoyed it. They said they did anyway. *Laugh*

What made you decide to use two different non de plumes?
I write adult romance with extreme subject matter and occasionally strong language as S. H. Pratt. I really, really didn’t want kids of 10+ to pick up one of my romance books and be scarred for life. Therefore, prudence dictated a second name strictly for fantasy and science fiction. *BigSmile*

Is there a reason that neither of your non de plumes use a full first name?
My full name is quite long and I didn’t want to take up half the book cover with it so I shortened it to my initials and that is my romance author name. Also, I didn’t want to worry about privacy should the miracle happen and I suddenly become famous.
As I was pretty much flying by the seat of my pants with the fantasy name but knew I wanted something that could not be confused with my romance author name, I took an old family name (Brewer) and then took my grandmother’s name on that side of the family and my favorite cousin on that side and used their initials rather than sounding weird with “Clara Kyle”.

Do you agree with the old adage ‘write what you know’?
I absolutely do.

It’s much more comfortable for me to write about things I have some knowledge of rather than trying to put my mind into a dark void of the unknown. Granted, I still heavily research things I know or have experienced because I don’t know everything about it, but I find it’s easier to put a bit of me into the story if my emotions are tied with the subject matter.

What’s the most important writing skill you’ve learned?
I think it’s to accept that writing is fluid. Every day is new and my skills shift ever so subtly. Without that constant change and growth, writing would become a bore and would cease to be a challenge. As a result, my editing skills, plotting skills, and imagination have all improved.

What one piece of advice would you give to an aspiring author?
Don’t give up and don’t stop learning. If you have a story to tell, tell it. Don’t let people tell you that you can’t and understand that in writing that story, you need to let yourself grow with the experience as a writer, editor, proofreader, reader, and person.

You can check out more of S H Pratt’s work here:

And you can follow C. K. Brewer on Facebook.

Unicorns and metaphors

Fragile strands,
ephemeral as candy floss,
twine around my fingers
in shades of raspberry
and amaranth
as I comb my fingers
through her mane.

Her coat, in champagne pink,
reminds me of deep, expensive
shag pile carpet,
the kind you sink into,
the kind that invites you to
curl up and dream.

The sturdy sensibility of
her tapered, achromatic horn
contrasts sharply with
eyes that dance with delight
and a thousand tiny rainbows.

And as we watch each other
with wary wonder,
I am so utterly enchanted
that I miss the symbolism