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This month meet Melissa Herman, author of paranormal mystery Unfashionably Dead!




Fashionista Cheline Morgan’s life is turned upside down following the discovery of a corpse outside the building where her best friend lives. After coming to terms with the death, Cheline attempts to solve the mysterious circumstances surrounding it, while her best friend appears more guilty by the minute. Will she find the murderer before her BFF ends up in jail or worse…dead?










Meet Melissa and read an excerpt below!



Tell me a little bit about your writing journey. How long have you been writing and how did you get started?


"I started writing song lyrics probably when I was in first grade—about forty years ago and I eventually migrated to poetry, short stories, and finally novels. The road has been long and it hasn’t been easy. With four kids and moving every couple of years, sometimes writing has had to take a backseat to life, but a promise I made to a group of my ESL students always lurks in my thoughts. They wanted me to write a book. I’ve completed six. Now I just need to work toward publishing them."


Why paranormal specifically? Is it something you write often, or is this your first venture into the genre?


"I love paranormal. I’m a huge Twilight fan and I love just about anything Charlaine Harris writes, especially the Sookie Stackhouse series. I mourned both series until I realized that maybe I could write something of my own. However, vampires were dead according to agents, so I needed to come up with something different. I had a few attempts at paranormal prior to Unfashionably Dead, but they were seriously horrible…and some are still unfinished. I’ll work my way back to those abandoned stories."


What are your goals for your writing?


"I would love to see my stories on the shelves at Target, Walmart, or my local grocery store. I’m not sure if that’s realistic though. I plan to query UD for a few months once I have a home and my computer back. If I’m not successful with that route, I’ll consider self-publishing."


What inspired Unfashionably Dead?


"I already touched on a couple of the series that inspired UD, but it was strange how the story came about. I was driving my son to preschool through the Georgia countryside, and we went past this creepy house. Not sure why Cheline came to me at that moment, but she had a story and wanted me to tell it…and she wouldn’t leave me alone. (Is it possible she possessed me?) I wrote the first chapter as soon as I got home and then I started planning the story. Her voice would wake me up at all hours of the night and refused to leave until I finished the book. Lately, she’s been pestering me to return to her sequel. I just don’t have a workspace (or my computer…and a lot of things) right now."


Who is your favorite character in it and why? Tell me a little about them.


"I have a love/hate relationship with Cheline because she wouldn’t let me sleep, but John is probably my favorite character. I love that he’s weird. I love that he has a good reason for just about everything he does, especially when he complicates things for everyone."


What was the most challenging part of the book?


"I mentioned earlier that I sat down and planned the story, mostly because at its heart, UD is a mystery. I needed to know my killer. I needed to plant those clues. Then reapers came into the picture and my alpha reader loved them so much and wanted more of them. I had to go back to the drawing board and figure out how to incorporate them without a massive rewrite. It gave UD about 15k extra words and the potential for a series."


Do you have anything else you’d like to say to the readers?


"Thank you for reading this! I hope you enjoy the story."


 

“Is she dead?” a woman asks from a crowd gathered several feet away.

“I think so,” another says, her voice choking back tears.

Wow! Someone died? How awful.

The body is too far away, so I inch forward, trying not to push into the burgeoning crowd. Corpses don’t just turn up on Harbor Island. Death is ugly, and this is where the pretty people of Tampa live in the safety of their gated communities and security guards. It’s not like my side of town, where drug overdoses, robberies, or some weird Florida occurrence like the guy who ate the face off another guy seem to happen on a weekly basis. Okay, maybe that’s a slight exaggeration, but it isn’t anything like here.

A man steps back and I quickly take his spot. The regrets come quickly as I notice the shoulder-length, greasy, black hair of the guy who lives down the hall from Lanie. I think his name is John, but I’ve pretty much tried avoiding him in the two years Lanie has lived in Palma D’Oro. He clearly has money since he can afford to live here, yet I’ve never seen him all cleaned up. He consistently looks and smells like he hasn’t showered.

Body odor wafts into my nose. Yuck.

John turns around and glares at me.

I wonder which imaginary friend he’s going to talk to tonight but asking is a tad rude. Instead, I glare at him until the silence becomes uncomfortable. “Can you move?” I quickly add a please to it, but his expression only hardens.

Hands gripping what appears to be a large chess pawn, he says, “Go to the other side.”

Weird. “That’s what I’m trying to do. I have to get through the crowd so I can enter the building.” As if it’s not obvious. It’s not like I’m going to climb the levels of the parking garage when my shoes are wobbly and an elevator is only a few feet away.

Still, he wears a stony expression on his face. I haven’t always been nice to him, but I’ve never been rude to him. I’ve just always kind of avoided him for fear of catching whatever disease his grime-infused clothing might contain.

“Really, I want to see Lanie. If you’d move, I’d be that much closer to seeing her.” My voice is squeaky. I hate it when it does that.

“You don’t want to see this,” he says without emotion.

The realization sinks in. It’s Lanie.

My gaze flutters up the coquina building, to the seventh floor. A pale blue curtain is flapping outside the window of the apartment three windows to the left, Lanie’s apartment.

“No!” I scream. “Not Lanie!”

John’s expression turns to confusion, but the crowd’s attention remains focused on the corpse.

“Let me through. Now.”

He throws his free hand into the air and says, “You aren’t going to like what you see, Mom.” He puts his hand on an old woman’s shoulders and guides her away.

 

Read Unfashionably Dead for free, or support Melissa on Twitter or Facebook!

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Meet Tori Hope, author of portal fantasy Steady Ground!


He’s damaged. He’s lost. And worse of all, his memories have come to life. If he wants to find peace, he’ll need to redefine what it really means to move on.

For the first time in years, Atlas feels like he’s separated himself from the misfortune in his life. He’s healed, he’s rented a decent apartment, he’s settled into a solid-enough-for-him job working as a grunt for some scientists. Now he’s (reluctantly) traveling to the spring snows of Alaska, where they plan to test the first run of their earthquake-harnessing technology.

But something goes wrong. They don’t harness the energy of an earthquake.

No. Instead, the ground rips apart. A massive crevice forms, leading deep into the Earth. The chasm lulls him forward like a Siren, telling him tales of his mother, of her laughter, of her scent of strong sandalwood, and of his life before her death.

Waking up in what he can only describe as Hell, he’s confronted with every misfortune in his life. Forced to befriend mirages made from his most painful childhood memories or pay severe consequences, he travels the twisted realm in search of answers.



Meet Tori and read an excerpt below:


Tell me a little bit about your writing journey. How long have you been writing, and how did you get started?


"I started writing 12 years ago! With Warriors fanfiction. I still have all of it and I love going back and cringing at my 11 year old self who thought that was a good idea lol. That aside, the authors behind the Erin Hunter pen name are the only reason I began reading and writing in the first place, so I have lots to thank them for. I began dabbling in original fiction about a year later with Cinda Williams Chima as my inspiration, and I completed my first story in 2012. It was a novelette of about 18,000 words, but it inspired a lot of my later writings and my enjoyment of science fiction and fantasy."


Why fantasy specifically? Is it something you write often, or is this your first venture into the genre?


"Why fantasy? Because it is completely freeing. I can do whatever I want in it and no one can stop me! It has always been one of my favorite genres to read, and it mixes so well with other genres that there really isn’t a limit in what you can do with it. I would say that every one of my stories has an element of fantasy in it, whether or not it’s the main genre. In terms of Steady Ground, this is my first time written a isekai or portal fantasy, where the main character is taken to another world in order to learn more about themselves and what’s missing in their life."


What are your goals for your writing?


"Some of my goals are: 1) to create places and worlds readers and myself haven’t seen before, intertwining the mysterious and strange with elements of real life, 2) to have fun, and 3) to help me learn more about myself while giving readers a story they can relate to and talk about. I don’t intend to professionally publish in the future. Online updating through Wattpad will likely be as far as I take it, but that’s exactly what I want."


What inspired Steady Ground?


"I took a geology course and a GIS course in 2020 where we learned all about earthquakes and satellite technology. Even though they ultimately weren’t that important in the book (they were supposed to be, but the story took a mind of its own and said, “no.”), I never would have started Steady Ground had I not learned more about them. The boredom while working on homework led me to daydreaming, and daydreaming led me here.

Other elements that inspired Steady Ground were: 1) the 1920’s surrealism period, especially the paintings where a human face was morphed into the landscape. They were always so weird and intriguing that I had to do something with it, and while the end product is a bit strange, I feel like that’s exactly how it should be. And 2) my family’s relationship with Christianity. Throughout the book you’ll see small mentions of Atlas questioning his faith and how he had grown up with his mother often contradicting what it meant to be Christian. It’s a very small portion of the book—I wouldn’t ever consider this a spiritual book—but it really helped me determine who I wanted Atlas to be and some of the challenges he would ultimately have to face."


Who is your favorite character in it and why? Tell me a little about them.


"My favorite character is Ashe. She is a shy, introverted woman scientist. Her curiosity led to Atlas finding the portal to the other world, and her strength led to him being able to get out of it. She was resourceful, courageous, and determined, a true leader, and she never needed to become conventionally beautiful or extroverted to be a strong asset to the cast. That is a character arc I often see in relation to shy or introverted characters, and I wanted to do something different, because really, shyness or introversion don’t always have to be the character’s major flaw."


What was the most challenging part of writing the book?


"The biggest challenge I faced writing Steady Ground was the constant doubt that it would come together in the end. The idea for Steady Ground constantly changed as I wrote and learned more about the world and the characters having an impact on it. It became difficult to see what the ending would look like, and I was worried the increasing weirdness of the world would prevent the story from resonating with readers. But in the end, I had a great time seeing how all of these seemingly irrelevant aspects of the plot and world came together at the end. So far the reception of the book has been good, and I’m working on revisions to make it even better."


Do you have anything else you’d like to say to the readers?


"I could leave off with something cheesy, but I think I’ll leave off here, as I don’t have much else left to say. If you decide to click on my book and give it a try, don’t be scared to let me know! I love interacting with readers and hearing your thoughts or feedback about the book. Thank you for the time you spent reading through my rambling answers to these questions, and I hope you have a wonderful day!"


 

Atlas counted cars to pass the time, waiting for Leia’s run-down red Civic to pull in. The sky darkened. Street lamps flicked on one by one, outlining oncoming traffic in pale white light. It wasn’t a quiet night. People shouted and car doors slammed, and he heard dogs barking in the distance and the roar of engines down the road.

And then he saw her.

He leaned back, stretching his arms over his head. Finally.

He stood up from the bench, jogging across the parking lot to meet her. He probably shouldn’t have left his wallet and phone on the table, but he knew he’d be back in just a moment.

Atlas tapped on the glass. Leia looked up, her phone screen illuminating her face. She broke out into a smile, and propped the door open with her boot. “Hi!”

“Hi. You couldn’t have had more perfect timing; the pizza just got here,” he lied, opening the door for her.

“Oh thank God, I’m starving.”

He laughed. “You didn’t drive here like it.”

“Don’t be an ass! Something came up.” They walked side by side back to the table he chose. “Why are we sitting outside?”

“It was warmer earlier.”

Atlas retook his seat. He dipped his head and muttered a “thanks” beneath his breath before helping himself to a much needed slice. He hadn’t eaten since breakfast, and the salty cheese on his tongue was exactly what he needed right then.

“This is perfect; thank you for paying,” Leia said. She was dressed warmer than him at least, with a black windbreaker that covered the tattoo on her wrist. “I can’t believe you get to go to Alaska. I’m jealous.”

“You can go instead. I hate the cold! It’s spring but I bet I’ll be trudging through snow up there.” Atlas shivered at the thought. He would have to gather and compare GPS coordinates up in the north for three weeks.

She laughed. “Oh gosh no. You can have all that snow to yourself.”

He downed the last of his porter, pushing the empty glass to the edge of the table. Exhaling, he grabbed another slice.

Did Alaska even have restaurants? He had never left North Carolina before, and he knew with his light southern accent everyone he met up there would know it immediately.

All he had ever seen were TV shows of people living on an acreage, surrounded by farm animals, living day to day with the food that they harvested and killed themselves.

He suppressed a groan. There better be restaurants. He was not hunting down antelope or whatever lived up there to eat. Hell, he didn’t even know how to hunt, much less skin an animal and cook it, and he sure didn’t want to learn how. His stomach churned at the thought.

Atlas reached for his phone—surely Google would know—only to pat nothing but wood. He glanced around the table, and then patted his back pockets.

Where were his wallet and phone?

 

Read Steady Ground for free!

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Meet Nick East, author of fantasy comedy The Last Philosopher!


In the freezing mountains of Empris, Lyeasrakardsul, the oldest living sorcerer suffers from devastating nightmares. At the same time — far away in the sandstone desert of Zenon — Herschel, a man filled to the brim with strange ideas is escaping a prison filled with strange old men.

OR if you prefer the summary:

Before everything, it’s assumed there was nothing, but what if there was no real difference between the two? Just two extreme philosophies from the original conflict.

The planet Huom has been under observation for longer than should technically be possible. The primary watcher, a bitter black-hole, is excited to see that there is finally a proverbial Darkness at the end of the tunnel.

Meanwhile on the planet, in the freezing mountains of Empris, Lyeasrakardsul, the oldest living sorcerer suffers from devastating nightmares. At the same time — far away in the sandstone desert of Zenon — Herschel, a man filled to the brim with strange ideas is escaping a prison filled with strange old men.

What does all this have to do with arsehole Gods, hairy Dwarfs, frustrated Afreets, curious Knomes, lizard-women, and nude Áettar? Perhaps Nothing, perhaps Everything… but why can’t it be both?



Meet Nick and read an excerpt below!


Tell me a little bit about your writing journey. How long have you been writing, and how did you get started?


"I’ve always had a fascination with stories, even as a kid. But the main reason I started writing was because of reading. I wanted to see if I could do something like that too."


Why fantasy specifically? Is it something you write often, or is this your first venture into the genre?


"Fantasy is practically the only thing I’ve ever written, I think I like it because I don’t have to be limited by reality, I can make my own rules."


What are your goals for your writing?


"I’d like to make something that entertains but also makes one think. Whether it be me or the readers."


What inspired The Last Philosopher?


"I take inspiration form everywhere, so I can’t really pinpoint one specific source as the inspiration. But somewhere deep in the background of the subtitle “Nothing is Everything”, there’s an idea that perhaps the multiverse runs on philosophy."


Who is your favorite character in it and why? Tell me a little about them.


"In a multi point-of-view book, favourite character is tricky question to answer. However, if I had to choose one it would probably be the grumpy old sorcerer who tries so hard to hide the fact that he’s basically nice."


Were there any specific challenges to balancing fantasy and comedy? How did you deal with those?


"I think the hardest thing is to not feel like you have to shoe-horn in the comedy, to find the fun where it comes naturally."


Do you have anything else you’d like to say to the readers?


"Please Sir/Madame, may I have some more… feedback?"



 

On the edge of an odd galaxy — in a universe older than all others put together — a displaced black hole was spinning out of control from the force of perpetual indignation.

Richard, long for Dick, was outraged at all the untraditional things going on here in what the black hole considered to be ITS galaxy.

Imagine having an ego so astronomically large that not even light could escape.

Then picture a never-ending garden party, where one’s ego got seated on the wrong side of the hedge, away from the glittering lights. All alone in the dark.

From the other side, an endless stream of tittering banter drifted Dick’s way. But on this side, there was no one to listen to its exceedingly selfish opinions.

This would give a vague idea of how Richard has felt for what doesn’t just seem like an eternity.

 

Read The Last Philosopher for free on Wattpad or RoyalRoad, or follow and support Nick on Facebook, Reddit, or Patreon!

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