Saturday, March 31, 2012

The Phantom Pilot by Ann Swann : Character Interview

When a small plane crashes behind Jase's house, he finds himself being haunted by the ghost of the pilot. The phantom pilot even seems to have some strange attachment to Jase's rescued dog, Lady. Jase doesn't know where to turn until he sees a girl named Stevie entering the local "haunted" house, alone. He believes she is the only one who may be brave enough to help him. But will they be able to communicate with the pilot to find out what he wants? Or will Jase remain "haunted" for the rest of his life?

Amazon  |  Cool Well Press  |  Goodreads

5 Star reviews:

“I couldn’t sleep, so I picked up the book and started reading.  I loved it!  I didn’t stop until I finished the entire book.  I can’t tell you the last time that happened.”
“I would use this in my class.  There are so many teachable moments!” 
“The story caught me from the beginning.  I love the characters.  It made me cry.  The Phantom Pilot is a great read!” 
“No matter what, you don’t go inside the spooky old house.  No matter who dares you, no matter what lures you.  You do not go in.”  She turned the knob and stepped inside. 
Ann Swann said:
“I wanted to set a Young Adult ghost story in the small town of America’s past.  I ended up recreating the world of my youth, but I think readers of all ages will be able to identify with the brave, vulnerable characters whose struggles cross generational lines.”

Character Interview with Stevie-girl
and her best friend, Jase
from The Phantom Pilot

I'm so pleased to welcome Ann Swann's leading characters from her new book, The Phantom Pilot.  Thanks so much for being here!  Where do you dream of traveling and why?

STEVIE-GIRL: I want to go to New York City.  I want to see all the trees in Central Park, especially in the fall when they’re changing colors.  It seems so funny to have a giant park in the middle of a giant city.

JASE: I’d like that, too.  Plus I’d like to visit Baltimore, where Poe lived.  And maybe Paris, and London . . .

LOL! Sounds like a full itinerary! So...who is your favorite author?

STEVIE-GIRL: I love Jack London, and The Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder, and the guy who wrote the Silver Chief books, Jack O’Brien.  And also (Stevie tucks the tip of her braid in the corner of her mouth and nibbles at it while she’s thinking), oh . . . there are just too many!

JASE: (laughing) I agree with Stevie.  But I would definitely add Edgar Allan Poe and S.E. Hinton, and then there’s this new author, Ann Swann.  I hear she’s a pretty good storyteller.

What do you think makes a good story?

STEVIE-GIRL: (Stevie defers to her friend) Jase should answer this one. He’s about the best writer I’ve ever read.

JASE: (cheeks reddening, Jase flips his blond hair off his forehead self-consciously) Thanks, Stevie-girl. I do like to write—

STEVIE-GIRL: (Stevie interrupts) No, you love to write!

JASE: Okay, I love to write.  (He grins) What makes a good story for me to read?  I think it’s the characters.  If I don’t like the characters, I don’t care about their story.

Tell us about your family.

STEVIE-GIRL: It’s just my Gramps and me.  He’s the best.  Both my mom and my gran passed away a few years ago, mom in a car wreck, and Gran had a stroke.  Don’t know about my Dad.  Guess he’s still alive, somewhere.

JASE: My dad works a lot.  He sells appliances at the hardware store down on the square.  Mom has her study clubs, and church, and my big brother, Rusty?  He’s in Vietnam.  He’s a soldier.

What was the scariest moment of your life?

STEVIE-GIRL: I’ll let Jase answer this one first.  I think I know what he’ll say . . .

JASE: (Jase nods) The night the plane crashed behind my house and the phantom pilot looked at me with his silver eyes and said, “I was alone.  We all are.”

STEVIE-GIRL: That’s what I thought you’d say.  Either that, or the night you woke up and saw him peering at you from inside your closet.

JASE:  Yeah (tugging the end of Stevie’s braid), thanks for reminding me.  Been trying to forget that.  Now, tell ‘em your scariest moment.

STEVIE-GIRL: Well, I have two.  The first one was when Gramps told me my mom had been in a wreck.  The second one was when the shadow-man pushed you down the stairs in the old haunted house.

What are your favorite TV shows?

STEVIE-GIRL: That’s easy: The Monkees, American Bandstand . ..

JASE: Mission Impossible . . .

STEVIE-GIRL: Yeah, and don’t forget The Mod Squad.  Oh! And Shock Theater on Friday nights, my favorite.

What do you do to unwind and relax?


STEVIE-GIRL: Besides watching TV and listening to records, we like to ride our bikes over to the drugstore and get a Coke and fries while we look at the new comic books.

JASE: Yeah, or ride over to the music store to check out new albums and 45s.  I got Steppenwolf and CCR and Stevie got a 45 of that cool Tommy James song, Crimson & Clover.

STEVIE-GIRL: Do you want to tell them what happened to that record, or should I?

JASE: You tell ‘em.

STEVIE-GIRL: Well, see, after we left the music store, we were going over to Jase’s house to listen to it, and also so that he could show me exactly where the plane had crashed.  But I didn’t know the phantom pilot would get mad at me.  He thought I was going to try and make him leave, but really I was just trying to help Jase find out what he wanted.  

JASE: Yeah . . . but she wound up wearing the record on her forehead when the pilot made it fly off the turntable—

STEVIE-GIRL: Didn’t really hurt though, (she rubs her forehead in memory), but it certainly got my attention. 

Is there a piece of advice that you have received that has really stuck with you? If so, what was it?

STEVIE-GIRL: (looks at Jase and grins) My Gramps always tells us to obey the traffic laws —

JASE: ‘Cause bikes are vehicles, too!  (they laugh together as he finishes her sentence)

STEVIE-GIRL: Gramps used to be a cop, you see.  He takes traffic laws very seriously!

Thank you both so much for coming by today. It was great talking with you and I appreciate the opportunity to meet you! 

Born in West Texas, Ann began writing stories to amuse herself when she was abducted by a pack of shape-shifters and taken to live in the wild desert.
Even after she escaped, she continued to write short
stories and novels featuring weirdities and oddities.
Watch for more updates as she readjusts to life among
the mortals.  She started a blog so if you like that sort of
thing, check it out!

Ann is the author of numerous short stories, but this is her debut novella. 
She loves writing, reading, movies, dogs, cats, kids, and her handsome
hubby, Dude.  Oh, and jalapenos!  She also likes all kinds of music,
especially singer/songwriters like Bruce Springsteen, John Mellencamp,
Zac Brown, Kenny Chesney, Melissa Etheridge, the list goes on . . .

Ann would love to hear your thoughts about her book, your book, any book. 
Or music,  Or just life in general. 

Blog  |  Facebook  |  Coolwell Press  |  Twitter

Friday, March 30, 2012

Everblossom: A Short Story and Poetry Anthology by Larissa Hinton : Interview & Excerpt

An anthology that will quench your thirst for more than the ordinary.
Everblossom is a journey through poems and short stories that may seem ordinary on the surface but dig a little deeper and the world not only shifts. It changes.

From the author who brought you Iwishacana/Acanawishi, she now brings you a dash of everything from dark fantasy to the paranormal to even romance. So prepare yourself to delve into the three stages of the flower from bud to blossom then back to seed, you'll go through them all with a whole new perspective on what it all truly means.

Kindle  |  Smashwords  |  Nook  |  Createspace

Jia woke up and looked at the crystal ball sparkling in the morning glow seeping through the gauzy white curtains. She knew she should have thrown the stupid thing away, but it kept whispering sweet nothings in her ear. Darn crystal ball.
A knock echoed across her pink little pony room.
“Breakfast is ready,” Mother said, her voice muffled.
“I’ll be down in a sec.”
 As her mother's flat feet stomped down the small steps, Jia slipped on some flannel pants and a Hello Kitty t-shirt. When Jia walked down the glossy laminate wood floors, silence answered her from the kitchen. The hairs on the back of her neck tingled in psychic wonder and yet intuition failed her.
The television.
Jia walked up to it and put her ear to it.
“It’s broken,” a voice whispered.
Jia whipped around. Nobody was there. She frowned and pushed the on button. He was right though; it didn’t work.
“We’re in here, Jia,” her mother said in her usual sing song voice. Within minutes, Jia found her.
Her face froze. “What happened?”
Jia shrugged. “Nothing.” She put on a weak smile. Her face muscles tensed in effort of putting on a happy face. Literally. “Breakfast smells great.” She grabbed some pancakes and some boiled eggs. She heard padded feet coming closer to the kitchen. Jia didn’t even have to look up to know who it was: Tojo.
Her silky black hair caught in two tight pig tails bobbed up and down as she grabbed the plate with her pail little hands. “Where’s Daddy?”
Jia and her mother looked at the head of the table, the chair covered in a thin layer of dust. Mom mumbled, “He’s on a business trip.”
Tojo looked from Jia to mother then sat at the table and nibbled on her pancakes. She took a deep breath and filled in the silence with her endless chatter. Jia didn’t hear any of it, her voice sounding like one big, high-pitched blur. She kept looking at her younger sister, with her high cheeks and big eyes, which made her yearn for the younger years. Where everything was simple and yet so important at the same time.
Except for her own childhood. Nothing seemed to have changed since her father died three years ago. The emotions came rushing back as the vision laid before her with such stunning clarity. She knew he would die on December 23, 2004, yet there was absolutely nothing she could do about it. The vision was clear, and fate was already decided. He had to die.
She tried to suppress the memory but it flooded back. Her mother’s pale face. She shook her head. Jia screaming at her mother to listen to her, that it was the truth. She failed to listen. It happened. He died. At the funeral, her mother slapped her and called her a demon. Everything fled into darkness. Everlasting darkness.
Jia looked up at the food then walked away from the table. Her mother watched her walk away. Her food cooling on the plastic plate. Jia slammed the door shut and curled herself into a ball, willing herself to forget, to always forget. Forget. Forget. Forget . . .

How did you start your writing career?

I started my career with writing at the ripe age of 12. At first, I wrote poems because of my lovely English teacher decided that we should write poems and from then on, I fell in love with poetry. The writing bug really bit me a year later when the movie of Nickelodeon movie, Clock Stoppers came out. I thought the movie was going to be horrible, so I decided that I would write a novel that would be better than the movie. Needless to say, my book wasn't as good as the move but I didn't care. I love writing and nothing else mattered. Thus my obsession with writing begun.

Where do you dream of traveling to and why?

I dream of travelling to Russia since I love the Russian culture and I speak Russian. :)

Tell us about your current release.

Everblossom: A Short Story and Poetry Anthology is is a collection of short stories and poems that explore the three stages of a flower that correlates to the human different stages of life but with a paranormal and fantasy twist. Here's more information about it in the blurb: 

An anthology that will quench your thirst for more than the ordinary.

Everblossom is a journey through poems and short stories that may seem ordinary on the surface but dig a little deeper and the world not only shifts . . . It changes.

The author who brought you Iwishacana/Acanawishi, now brings you a dash of everything from dark fantasy to the paranormal to romance. So prepare yourself to delve into the three stages of the flower from bud to blossom then back to seed; you'll go through them all with a whole new perspective on what it all truly means.

Tell us about your next release.

My next release is Angel Diaries: Volume One. It's a paranormal romance that features Lindsey Wings. Lindsey's life couldn't have been any more ordinary. So, she had two guys fighting over her, a psychic friend and a school dominated by Goths but, other than that, life was good. That is until horrible nightmare start about her mother being ripped apart by a monster, changing her life from the inside out. Literally. Her whole world was full of lies. She's not human. She's an Angel.

That's the basic premise for my next release. Hopefully I will release it late April but more than likely it will be available in May.

What is the easiest part of writing your books? What is the hardest part of writing your books?

The easiest thing about writing is coming up with the ideas. I come up with new ideas practically every day I take a step outside. Now the hardest part about writing is putting your idea on paper and making it come across right. Especially for a novel. It's a long journey from the first page until the last and to make sure it's projecting the idea from cover to cover from word to word is the most difficult part. As a writer, you have to be consistent, persistent, and have excellent time management to be able to complete a novel with style, grace and be sane. Seriously. Ask some writers if they haven't pulled their hair out over a story that just wouldn't translate from their brain onto the paper right. Ah, the makings of a novel.

Do you listen to music while writing? If so what?

Actually, I don't listen to music when I write. The reason I don't listen to music is because it distracts me from writing. My favorite genre is electronic dance. So every time I listen to it (especially Cascada or Rhianna's Please Don't Stop the Music) I want to dance instead of write. So it's more of a hindrance instead of a help. 

Do you have any suggestions for beginning writers? If so, what are they?

I have plenty of advice for beginning writers! They can check out these links on my blog here:

But overall, I'd say keep writing and keep reading. Do your research. Do not limit yourself with traditional publishing or self publishing. It is possible to do both.

Describe what it’s like to be an author in three words.

Unique. Traumatic. Therapy.

Do you have a Website or Blog?

Absolutely! Here's my blog:

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

To my readers, I have to say you are the driving force behind my writing. You are the people I am so grateful for and I hope that you will find time to read my books and love them just as much as I do. And if you do love them to pieces, then please express and share your love in reviewing my books online! That is all the thanks I need at the end of the day. 

Hello, my name is Larissa Hinton. I'm a grad student at Hampton University and hopefully by next year, I'll be a full time secondary English teacher. In the morning, I'll be a teacher but at night I'll become an author. Is the reference not working for you?

Anyway, most of the fiction I write really comes from a life of reading of what I love to read. Some of it, comes from a dark place which I never knew existed until college. Ah, gotta love college. Always discovering new sides of yourself.

If you want to know more about me and my sarcasm, you can just check out my blog ( and click on FAQ's. Thanks for reading my super short bio! :)

Blog  |   Amazon

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Blood Awakening & Burden of Blood by Wenona Hulsey: Interview

Today's Double Feature
33pp Novelette 
Evil starts the clock ticking, leaving
Nicole's life changed forever....
Hidden powers, ancient grudges, romance and
  action that will leave you begging for more....
A police officer in a sleepy county town..
content in her denial.
She can hide her secret for only so long
 before an ancient grudge and the power
 hidden inside her burst to life.

Author's Note:

Blood Awakening is the novelette that gives some of Nicole Keenan's story prior to her life as it's told in the full length novel Burden of Blood and (coming in spring) Blood of Fire.

The novelette is a suspenseful with mystery along with a touch of the paranormal.  I would say this book is safe for teen/YA genre but the two follow up novels are more adult (not erotic) in nature.

(Burden of Blood is Exclusive to Amazon until the end of May)


How did you start your writing career?
I have always been a devourer of books.  For as long as I can remember I've always had a book with me so the move into writing just felt like a natural thing for me.  Decided I'd try it for fun and realized, hey, I'm not too dang shabby at this.

Tell us about your next release.
Up next is Blood of Fire which will be the 3rd book (second full length novel) in my epic fantasy/contemporary romance series.  I am writing the final chapters of this book right now and I must say I'm going to miss my characters.  They feel like my family but, sadly, this is the end of the series.

What is the hardest part of writing your books?
Without a doubt is when I have to hurt one of my characters.  I become so attached to each one so when I have to..ummm…do away with one, I struggle.  I want to have them all happy and smiling at the end of the book but sometimes it can't be that way.  You have to let a few go to make the ones that remain stronger.

When in the day/night do you write? How long per day?
I still work a day job so most of my writing is done late at night or on the weekends.  I have to wait until the kids are in bed or my book would be littered with random lines of "Mom, can I have a snack?" or "Mom, sissy is being mean!" and, well I'm sure that wouldn't make a very good book lol. So when the house is quite I settle in usually for an hour to write.

What does your significant other and family think of your writing career?
My family is very supportive of my writing.  They try hard to give me my space when I'm in the zone.  The only odd request I've gotten was from my 16 year old daughter who asked me to write her into my book…then off her.  So in my upcoming book, Blood of Fire, look for the teen fairy with an attitude problem named Destiny.  She has a short lived appearance but makes a bold impact on the story.

Do you listen to music while writing? If so what?
Yes! I've got soundtracks for scenes.  Like if I'm writing a fight scene I'll blast "Seven Nation Army" by the White Stripes or I'll put on some Adele "Set Fire to the Rain" for those hard choices between heart and mind.  I think I have a song for everything!

What book are you reading now?
Do to my daughter's constant insistence I'm reading the Hunger Games.  I try not to read while I'm writing but I gave in on this one and I'm enjoying the books so far.


Author Wenona Hulsey is a lover of all things written. When she was a child, you could find her reading anything from Edger Allen Poe to the back of cereal boxes. Today you will find her with an ebook reader glued to her hands except for the times when she is writing or spending time with her family. 

She is also an avid social Networker who loves to meet new people.

Twitter   |  Facebook   |  Website

You can also join my email list and find out about my books, contest and all the juicy stuff before anyone else by going to the "Contact Me" section at my website and signing up.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Watchmaker's Lady by Heather Massey: Character Interview & Excerpt

Erotic Steampunk
Matthew Goddard is a lonely watchmaker in 1840 New England. One fateful day, he discovers the lover of his dreams in a dusty corner of the local general store—Isabel, a bisque porcelain mannequin head with mesmerizing, smoky blue eyes. When Matthew invites her to come live with him, she eagerly “accepts.”

The couple embarks on a lust-filled affair, one fueled by Matthew’s wild imagination. In order to provide Isabel with a brass body and pretty clothes, he begins a secret side business selling clockwork sex toys to his wealthy female customers.

Danger, however, threatens their idyllic romance when a disgruntled customer exposes Matthew’s forbidden business to the townspeople. Despite the growing menace, Matthew will stop at nothing in order to save his soul mate—and protect their love.

The Watchmaker's Lady is the first of three erotic clockpunk romances in my new Clockpunk Trilogy. Each hero will be an artisan of some kind (story #2 will feature a blacksmith!).

Chapter One

Shrewsbury, Massachusetts, 1840
At half-past nine in the morning, the door to the shop of “Matthew J. Goddard, Watchmaker – Clock Repair” swung open, inviting in a blast of crisp November air.
Behind the main counter, Matthew glanced up from his oak rolltop bench, his right foot pausing over the flywheel treadle. A lady, obviously wealthy, stepped through the opening. She sashayed toward him, cloak and skirts rustling softly. A gleam of anticipation lit her hazel eyes.
Matthew openly studied her. He’d never seen her in town before. She was probably new to the area, or hailed from nearby Worcester. Many people were moving there, and often sought recreation in idyllic Shrewsbury.
The lady’s pine green bonnet had a single, wide bow. Cascades of spaniel curls framed her powdered face. Matthew’s gaze traveled over her high cheek bones and too-full lips before dropping to her cloak. Its dark, stylishly cut fabric covered her dress completely, but flashes of pine green trim peeked out from beneath the hem.
Matthew stood. He bowed slightly as the lady approached the counter. “Good day, Madam. How can I be of service?”
“You’re Mr. Goddard?” she asked breathlessly, her gaze darting about the shop.
“I am.”
Her gaze finally settled on his face. “Oh, thank goodness. I’m in the right place, then. My name is Mrs. Benjamin Rutherford. My husband and I recently moved here. We’re in the south end. Are you familiar with the area?”
Matthew nodded. He’d been born here. “Shrewsbury is a fine community. You made an excellent choice.”
“I couldn’t agree more. A…close friend and neighbor recommended you, quite highly, as a matter of fact.”
She produced a brown velvet reticule embroidered with flowers and opened the drawstrings. Her black-gloved fingers withdrew a pocket watch. This item she placed upon the glass countertop, a light clink echoing in the wake of her action. “It’s my husband’s watch. I accidentally dropped it, and now it doesn’t work.” She didn’t sound very remorseful.
Matthew picked up the piece and turned it around in his hands. The Vaucher Frères open-faced, rose gold pocket watch—he estimated 18 karats—was well-constructed. Indeed, it was a far cry from the low quality Swiss watches that had infiltrated the market these days. He opened a drawer behind the counter and pulled out some precision screwdrivers and tweezers. “Does your husband know you dropped it?” he murmured.
The lady blushed and looked down. “Not yet. I was hoping you might be able to repair it before he finds out.”
One corner of his mouth curled upward as he spread a piece of clean white linen in a tray and placed the tray on the counter. Working carefully, he removed the case. It took him only a moment to discover the source of the problem. “It’s not broken. The oil has dried up, however. I can lubricate it for you. When do you need it back?”
“Ah, within the hour, if you could. Don’t worry about the cost. I can compensate you handsomely for the rush work.” Mrs. Rutherford moistened her lips. They shone a bright pink in the lantern light.
“I can start immediately.”
She nodded. He showed her to a chair where she could sit and wait. Returning to his bench, he reached for a bottle of French clock oil, which in his opinion was the best around. The standard oiling only took about twenty minutes. He called Mrs. Rutherford back to the counter when he was finished.
Once again, her flickering gaze swept over the shop. It was as if she expected someone else to appear at any moment, or was looking for something.
Matthew gestured to the display case behind her. The walnut and glass shelving housed a collection of quality watches and jewelry. Some were unclaimed items he had previously repaired; others were undiscovered treasures he’d found at a bargain during his occasional travels. “May I interest you in some of my finest pieces? Perhaps your husband would like a monocle, or some diamond stud pins.”
Mrs. Rutherford gave them an obligatory, yet cursory glance. “They’re all lovely, but….”
Matthew braced his hands palm down upon the counter and regarded her expectantly. “Yes?”
She dropped her voice to a whisper as she met his piercing gaze. “Truth be told, I’m interested in your…other service.”
Matthew smiled warmly, knowing it would put her at ease. “Ah, yes. Well, it just so happens that I recently completed a new product. Would you like to see it?”
Mrs. Rutherford nodded eagerly. “I would, very much.”

A free download of the entire first chapter is available here (multiple formats available).

Greetings!   I am thrilled to introduce my guests today.  Join me in welcoming the talented Matthew Goddard and his amazing companion, Isabel.  Let’s get started, shall we?  Please tell us about yourselves. 

Many thanks for hosting us. My name is Matthew Goddard. I run a watchmaker’s shop in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts. I build and repair pocket watches and clocks, mostly.
He gestures to the clockwork automaton sitting beside him* This is Isabel, my companion. What’s that, darling? *strikes a listening pose* Yes, of course. *turns back* Isabel said she’s delighted to be here. She said she enjoys reading the newspaper and assisting me with repairs. 
What do you do to unwind and relax?

*Matthew turns to Isabel and they share a knowing look* Isabel has a brass clockwork body beneath this beautiful dress, you know. She enjoys it when I stimulate her mainspring. *blushes* I do that quite a bit, actually.

Who should play you in a film?
*puzzled look* Begging your pardon, but what is a “film”? *turns aside to Isabel* Do you know what a “film” is? *Matthew shakes his head* I’m sorry, but she doesn’t know either.
 What would we find under your bed?
 *Matthew blushes again* Er, discarded clothes.
 What makes you happy?
 *With a shy smile, Matthew threads his fingers into Isabel’s brass hand* This lovely lady right here. There’s no doubt in my mind that Isabel is my soul mate. We’re meant to be together. For eternity. *leans toward Isabel* Did you want to add something? *clears his throat* Isabel said nothing makes her happier than being with me. *Matthew squeezes her hand* You’re too, too kind, my lady!

Heather Massey is a lifelong fan of science fiction romance. She searches for sci-fi romance adventures aboard her blog, The Galaxy Express.

She’s also an author: Her latest sci-fi romance is The Watchmaker’s Lady (Clockpunk Trilogy #1) from Red Sage Publishing. To learn more about her published work, visit


Now for the giveaway! One visitor will receive a digital copy of The Watchmaker’s Lady. Available formats: PDF, Epub, and .mobi. The deadline to enter is midnight on April 6, EST.
To enter, leave a comment that answers the following question: If you could build an automaton of any kind, what would it be (or do)?

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Assassin's Curse by Debra Martin & David Small: Interview & Excerpt

When elite assassin Jeda received his assignment to kill a witch and deliver her twin daughters to the Countess of Berkshire, he had no idea it would be his last. The witch stuns him with an elemental blast, but not before he's able to throw his knife. When Jeda regains consciousness, the dying witch is performing a compelling spell between him and her twin daughters. Now bonded to the girls, Jeda's old life is forfeit. His only thought is to take the girls and run as far away as he can. He has no idea that the twins are the ones spoken of in the long-lost prophecy of The Witch Stone. Forces are gathering: the white witches want to teach them; the Countess wants her grandchildren back, and the guild has sent their best assassin to bring Jeda back, dead or alive.

Jeda must use all of his assassin skills to stay one step ahead of them all, but will it be enough to save himself and keep the children of prophecy alive?

The Prophecy of the Witch Stone

From the line of power twice born
To the power born twice
Shall arise the seekers of the Stone.

Look for the sign of the witch in two joined
For they shall be the saviors
Who shall grasp the power from darkness
And bring it into the light
For when the flower blossoms
Then will be the time

For their powers shall be twined within a single aspect
And stand balanced on the sword’s edge of good and evil.
False guidance shall lead to the path of doom
And will spell destruction of all
That they were brought about to save.

The boy stood in the middle of the room staring blankly at the wall.
Choose well was all he remembered.
The room was about sixty paces long and probably half as wide.  It was two stories’ high with numerous oil lamps set along the upper walls that provided more than adequate lighting for the entire room.  A balcony ran along three of the four walls and provided a means to observe any event happening below.  There was one door leading in and out of the room, but it was blocked by a large, well-muscled man dressed completely in black.  His eyes were deadpan, like those of a cold-blooded killer. 
The air was relatively cool, but the young boy felt a drip of sweat run down his back.  He tried to hide his nervousness beneath a façade of serenity while staring at the wall, but he could feel the butterflies roiling in his stomach, threatening to unman him.
The wall the boy stared at contained all conceivable manner of weapons, from short throwing knives to elegantly curved swords to long-handled halberds with wickedly curved barbs and spikes.  The boy had to choose something soon or forfeit his chance to test again for another year.  He would not let this opportunity pass, because this was the day he had trained long and hard for, the day he had anticipated for the last three years, and the day when he would finally prove himself worthy.  Today he would test to become an apprentice in the guild of assassins.
The rules of the test were simple: choose your weapon and fight.  Any novice who aspired to test for apprenticeship had twenty short minutes to fight and draw blood from their opponent.  Whatever weapon a novice chose to test with would be the school in which they would be apprenticed if they passed.  There were five schools: Sword, Knife, Axe, Staff, and Bow.  The tests were short, brutal, and bloody, designed to ensure that no one advanced who did not rightly deserve to.  Their opponents were fully trained brothers of the guild who gave no quarter or latitude to the would-be contenders.  Many tested for the honor, but few passed their first time, and some even lost their lives in the attempt. 
Jeda had decided many months ago to choose a pair of fighting knives as his weapon of choice.  He was good with knives, both in hand-to-hand combat and throwing, and liked the way they felt perfectly balanced in his hands.  He had been steadfast in his weapon of choice until the moment he entered the room and saw Brother Mave waiting for him.  A slight grimace passed over his face, but he quickly composed himself.  The last thing he wanted was for Mave to see he was scared.  Mave was dressed in the traditional, assassin color of black, but also wore a distinguishable symbol of red, crossed swords on the bandana holding back his hair.  That symbol marked him as a preeminent sword expert within the guild, second only to the masters in the School of Swords.  Knives were excellent, close-in fighting weapons, but Jeda was not good enough with them to draw blood from a sword expert like Mave.  Now he stood immobilized, staring at the weapons wall, furiously trying to think of what he should do next.  He knew he would have to choose wisely if he was to survive this day. 
Damn, of all the brothers in this guild, how could I be so lucky as to get Mave? Jeda thought sarcastically.  He stepped forward and reached for the weapon he thought he would have the most luck with.
No sense in changing now.
Mave saw the boy look his way and inwardly smiled.  He knew the boy was scared, and rightly so.  It was not chance that brought him here today, but a carefully orchestrated scheme to make sure he tested the boy.  He felt Jeda was no more than a third-year upstart who did not deserve the opportunity to test for apprenticeship.  Most novices trained for five or six years before petitioning to test.  Mave was going to make sure that the boy did not pass.  That was as it should be, for it was Mave who had brought Jeda to the guild in the first place.  He should be the one to put the boy in his place and teach him humility.
Jeda finally reached up and took a pair of fighting knives off the wall.
Mave shook his head at the boy’s choice.  I knew it.  The boy may know how to fight, but he knows nothing of winning.
“Begin,” said the dispassionate voice of the master-in-attendance judging the test.
Mave strode forward, closing the distance and eliminating the only advantage knives would give the boy.  Without the distance to throw them, they were completely useless against swords. 
The boy stood stock-still, visibly trembling as Mave approached.  His frozen fear was pathetic and almost embarrassing.  Mave would cut him slightly with his first blade and knock him out with the handle of his second, putting a quick end to this charade of a test.  Twirling his swords in a deadly dance, Mave felt no sympathy for the boy.  Today’s failure would set Jeda back at least a year and give him more time to learn proper respect and modesty, traits Mave felt he was sorely lacking. 
The young fool doesn’t know what he’s in for.   
As Mave swung the first blade to catch the boy across the cheek, something unexpected happened.  Jeda dove forward, under the first blade, and whipped one of his knives at Mave’s exposed side.  Mave deflected the throw with his second sword.  If he had not been such an excellent swordsman, the throw would have a scored a hit.
Maybe not quite the fool I took him for.  Mave spun around swinging the sword in a deadly arc to face the boy as Jeda jumped to his feet.  The swing cut the boy high on the arm and he cried out in shock and pain.  The cut was deep and bleeding heavily, rendering the arm useless.  The boy went down on one knee, but Mave moved cautiously forward.  He would not be caught off-guard a second time by the boy’s cleverness.  When Mave came within a sword’s reach of him, the boy jumped forward into a diving roll and threw his second, remaining knife.  Mave anticipated the move and easily deflected the throw, shaking his head at the boy’s stupidity in throwing away his last means of defense.  As he turned to face Jeda, he realized his mistake.  He felt a blade slice through his trousers, burning and drawing a bright-crimson line along his leg.  Jeda had used the second throw to distract Mave from his true objective: the first blade that Mave had deflected.  The boy had used his diving roll to reach that first blade, left forgotten on the floor.  
How did he get that knife so quickly and throw it so precisely? Mave wondered, looking down at his bleeding leg.     
“Enough.  Blood has been drawn by Novice Jeda,” said the master’s voice from the balcony.  “He is elevated to the rank of apprentice.”
Mave studied Jeda with a smoldering anger.  He was a good fifteen feet away and was wobbling on his feet from loss of blood.  It didn’t seem possible that he could have thrown that knife in his condition.  Mave knew the boy must have somehow cheated. 
This is not over; no one makes a fool of me.

Tell us about your current release.

Assassin’s curse is about elite assassin Jeda. His latest assignment is to kill the witch Miriam and deliver her infant twins to their grandmother, the Countess of Berkshire. However, Jeda is in for a big surprise. Miriam is waiting for him and even though he does stab her, she renders him unconscious with an elemental blast of magic. When Jeda regains consciousness, the dying witch is performing a compelling spell between him and her twin daughters.  Now bonded to the girls, Jeda's old life is forfeit. His only thought is to take the girls and run as far away as he can. He has no idea that the twins are the ones spoken of in the long-lost prophecy of The Witch Stone. Forces are gathering: the white witches want to teach them; the Countess wants her grandchildren back, and the guild has sent their best assassin to bring Jeda back, dead or alive. 

This is the story of how Jeda copes with taking care of two infants. He goes through a lot of changes in a short period of time from only taking care of himself to being responsible for two other lives. It’s totally alien to him and he must find a way to do it and fast before he is found.

Do you have critique partners or beta readers?

Yes, we have beta readers and they made Assassin’s Curse infinitely better with their comments and insights. Things that Dave and I hadn’t thought of, our beta readers thought of. It’s great having a group of people willing to read and comment on your work.

Plotter or Pantser? Why?

Our writing process starts with an extensive outline. When you have two people writing a story, it is imperative that the story be fleshed out. That’s not to say that we don’t go off on tangents within a story because that has happened quite a few times, but if we have the basic outline of the story then we both can write different scenes or chapters. Usually one of us chooses to write a chapter, emails it to the other for additions and edits. Instant Messaging and Skype play a huge part in our writing as well.

How do you develop your plots and your characters? Do you use any set formula?

We usually decide on the main character and try to build around that. With Assassin’s Curse, Jeda is our main character. He is an elite assassin so to support that we had to create the Assassin Guild. This involved deciding on a structure the guild would be built upon. To make matters interesting, we created Mave, another elite assassin who originally brought Jeda into the guild, but is now his nemesis. Then we had to build upon the story – we have the twins of prophecy, Kala and Kara and their mother Miriam. Adding into the mix is Elizabeth, head of the witch’s coven in Constantine, Catherine—Elizabeth’s sister and the twin’s grandmother, and Gelda—the most powerful healer in the kingdom. All of these lives are interconnected and as the story unfolds, it all becomes clear to the reader.

Do you have any suggestions for beginning writers? If so, what are they?

Yes and the most important one is patience.  Writers get so excited when a book is finished and are anxious to hit the publish button, but it’s better to wait. Let the book percolate a bit, then go back and look at it again. You’ll be amazed at how much you want to add/change once you get some distance from it. Another piece of advice is to hire an editor. It will be the best money you’ve spent for your writing. Too many writers say they can’t afford one and I think this is wrong. An editor is your best friend and will turn your work into the best book it can be.

How do you react to a bad review of your book?

No one likes to get a bad review, but sometimes there is a lot to be learned from one. This is one reader’s reaction to your story, but is there a reason why they didn’t like the book? Were there plot holes? Was a thread left hanging? I try to learn from each review, good and bad, and move on. I never comment on reader reviews. It’s their opinion and they have a right to express it.

Entice us, what future projects are you considering?

Dave and I are currently plotting out 2 books. Witch’s Curse is the second volume in THE WITCH STONE PROPHECY series and The King’s Last Word is the final volume in THE RULE OF OTHARIA series.  We hope to have these published in 2012/2013 timeframe.

Where can readers find you?

I blog about writing, ebooks, epublishing as well as post book reviews at Two Ends of thePen  All of my books are listed there as well.

I also have an author page on Facebook  and a twitter account.

You can find a list of all of our books at my Amazon author page.

Debra L Martin writes SF/fantasy with her co-author and brother, David W Small.  They have been writing together since 2006. They make their partnership work through the use of email, Instant Messaging and Skype. 
Their newest release is an epic fantasy, ASSASSIN'S CURSE. They have written two novels, QUEST FOR NOBILITY and THE CRYSTAL FACADE in the RULE OF OTHARIA series and three novellas in the DARK FUTURE series to-date.  Debra lives on the East Coast with her husband and 2 cats.  David lives on the West Coast with his wife.