Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Summoner by Randy Massey: Interview & Excerpt

(This is the prologue to The Summoner) 
It was during simpler times, when the world was younger and history had not yet been written. Traditions were passed on verbally from father to son for generations. Everyone would gather around the evening cook fires, and then tales of yore, legends of the Elder Days, and genealogies of forgotten names and times would be told. This was so no one would forget who they were or where they came from.
But of all the stories, of all the myths and legends and prophesies that came down through the years, the favorite tale of all was The Summoner. From the youngest child to the oldest great grandparent, all ears would turn to the Narrator of the Fable of the Summoner, and the End of the Dark Years, and the Final Banishment of the Evil. This is that story.


When Raven’s family is taken captive by the hordes of the evil lord N’atax, her only desire is to rescue them before they reach the dreaded castle Axtalia. But, as she pursues them through the lands of Arth, aided by her friend Le-thon, she realizes that her true destiny could be far more than she had ever imagined. All the peoples of Arth have waited ages for the fulfillment of the Great Prophecy. Is she the one?
N'atax has released his horrible army of Boar-riders and Evils, flooding the land with destruction and despair. Their only purpose is to bring back captives for torture and death. His intent is to rid the lands of Arth once and for all of the Royal Families, thus putting an end to this foolish belief of the warrior that is to come and destroy him!

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So, he thought, it is true. The time has now come! The Summoner has arrived!
Delton started to mumble something, but Honol signaled for him to remain quiet. Then they began the ritual of Quam Giltee. In an ancient tongue that only a few now knew, the priests spoke in hushed tones over the child. They blessed her and her parents. As the ritual was performed, the brothers constantly glanced at each other. Sparks seemed to be flying from eye to eye. Both knew the meaning of this child’s arrival to the lands and the peoples of Arth. So, it was with the greatest expectation that they waited for the name the parents had chosen for their daughter.
“Now, T-legen and Bea-Kel, we have come to the closing ritual of Quam Giltee. Do you have a chosen name?” asked Honol. The parents looked at each other, and then T-legen spoke.
“Yes. We have chosen Rea’atee. She is our little princess.”
Both priests gasped. Although Rea’atee meant “princess” in their common tongue, it had quite a different meaning in the ancient languages that they used in the ceremony. The name meant “Chosen One”. Shivers went up and down their spines! The hair on their bodies tingled with excitement. Again the eyes of the two priests met.
So, she is the One!
The very air seemed filled with the sense of expectations. Time seemed to stand still in that little ceremonial room. Honol turned to the babe in his hands, holding her up and observing her face to face. Delton stood close by. He was shaking like a leaf in the evening breeze.
“Rea’atee!” whispered Honol, as he finished the ceremony.
“You have finally arrived!” 
She broke through the surface of the lake, and what appeared above the water was terribly wondrous and beautiful. Golden, rippling hair floated in the evening breeze. Her flashing blue green eyes sparkled and dazzled the onlookers like piercing arrows. Her skin was the purest of white like fresh mountain snow. It had a light of its own that shown from within. Her raiment was of marvelous flowing robes covered with gemstones that endlessly changed colors as she moved. The air was now filled with ripples and swirls of multiple colors like a living rainbow. Her voice went on continuously, enchanting and hypnotizing them. Her feet and lower legs could not be seen, for they were hidden by the foaming wake of her movement as she approached the shore where Raven and Le-thon stood.
Underneath, unseen by those caught in the web of her lies, was a monster terribly horrifying beyond words. She was huge, and looked like a living plant, having many trailers, roots, and shoots that hung down. She used them to propel herself through the lake, and to capture her prey. Many of her victims were still there, having been drowned while entangled in her roots. Their bodies were slowly digested to feed her hulking mass. The bits of the rotting flesh that she let fall was fed on by the tiny lighted creatures. She affectionately called them Nadols. They served her and delighted in their dance of death for all who came to the shores of her lake.
Slowly both Raven and Le-thon gave in to the trance. The Lady of the Lake was now only twenty paces away. Awestruck at her beauty and her voice of enchantment, the duo went face down into the water. Strangling trailers and shoots flowed across the surface of the lake like a swarm of living eels. They were quickly entangled in their deathly hold. Neither struggled nor put up any resistance. Even the normal fight of the body being drowned was gone as they were pulled under the surface of the lake.

Welcome!  Thanks so much for stopping by and allowing me to badger you with some questions.  I’m excited to find out a little about you.  How did you start your writing career?
Growing up in a family of readers, and being the 5th born, I had the pleasure of older brothers and sisters that constantly read to me. I can also remember my mom taking me to the public library every couple of weeks and how mad I was when I could only take out 5 books at a time! That was nothing for me to read in 2 weeks!
I actually started writing in the 6th grade, although back then it was mostly pencil and paper! My older brother taught me how to type on an old manual typewriter and that made it much easier. High school included 4 years of English, 4 years of Journalism, and some advanced classes, including Creative Writing. I actually used a story that I wrote when I was 13 for an assignment in Creative Writing, and was not only given an A+ but the teacher read the story to the class, stating that it was “the best she had seen in a long time”.
After high school I dove into the work force, following my brother into the steel fabrication business, and have been there ever since. The writing beast slept for many years, but finally was awoken with the filming of the trilogy Lord of the Rings. Even then, it took me another 12 years to finish my first book The Legends of Arth: The Summoner. The writing beast is now alive and well, and I am currently working on the next three books in the series.
Tell us about your next release.
My next book in The Legends of Arth series is Daedalus Rises. This is about an evil field general that is mentioned in The Summoner, but not a lot is said about him. With the death of his overlord N’atax, he now becomes the main nemesis of the people of Arth. Two more books to follow are titled: Daedalus Returns and Daedalus Demise. Beyond that I currently have seven other storylines for future books in the series.
When in the day/night do you write? How long per day?

It’s been a struggle: up at 4 am for work, and not home till after 6 pm. This Monday through Friday schedule leaves me little time during the week to write. I try to put down thoughts during the day, and then add them in the short time frame that is left in the evening. Weekends are more flexible, and I pick at it each day. My current goal is a chapter a week. 
Do you need quiet time in order to write or do you prefer some background noise?
I find that I prefer some type of background noise, and music fits the bill very well. Classical works wonders and is one of my favorites. I have just recently found epic music on YouTube, and that stirs the imagination and drives the inspiration. Some of my most profound moments have come when listening to them. 
Plotter or Pantser? Why?
Very good question! I will say “yes”, and here’s why.
I am a planner, and like to have a complete layout from beginning to end. This includes all the events, characters, timelines, maps, etc. I do a chapter by chapter outline so that each one leads into the next.
But, I am a pantser! I find that every character and action has to be fluid and not written in stone, so to speak. Sometimes changes in the later chapters force me to go back and change earlier events so everything flows together from beginning to end. As I write, filling in the corners and gaps in each chapter, I make every effort to be flexible. There really is something to be said about the thrill of an inspirational moment that a writer gets and then can drop it into a storyline, even if it means having to go back and make changes to other parts of his book! When these occur, I have found that it is an event or a character that I haven’t even thought of before. 
How would you describe your writing style?
I use 3rd person, which gives me the options and varieties I need for character development and inner thoughts, scene descriptions, etc. As for the style, I like to call it the Indiana Jones style! One “cliffhanger” after another! If my readers can’t put my book down, then I feel I have done my job well. It is a pleasure when fans tells me they hate my book because they had to keep reading to find out what happens next or how do they get out of that situation. Of course, they then ask “when are you going to get the next book done?”!
Thanks so much for giving us this glimpse into creative process!

Randy Massey works in the construction industry, and is a Steel Detailer by trade. He lives in Michigan with Sharon, his wonderful wife, who has put up with him for over 35 years. They have a married daughter, Samantha, and two wonderful grandchildren: Christiana and Gabriel. Reading has always been a passion of his, following such favorites as: Tolkien, Lewis, Asimov, Herbert, and, more recently, Riordan and Collins. Loving all types of literature, with Fantasy and Science Fiction being his favorites, writing followed easily behind. He hopes his works will be enjoyed by many in the years to come.
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Monday, July 30, 2012

The Grave Artist by Paula Lynn Johnson: Guest Post & Excerpt

16-year-old Clare can't stop drawing the bizarre, winged skulls she calls "Sammies". Her psychiatrist assumes the compulsive drawings are just expressions of Clare's grief over her father abandoning her. But then Clare discovers that her Sammies are exact matches for the Death's Head on the grave of Samantha Forsythe, a teen who reportedly fell to her death over two centuries ago.

Before long, Clare's drawings morph into cryptic writings that urge her to uncover the truth behind Samantha's death. Together with Neil -- the friend she might be falling for -- Clare scours the local history for clues. She finds that, although Samantha was engaged to a wealthy landowner, there were whispered rumors of her involvement with a younger, biracial man.

Soon, Clare is haunted by disturbing dream images -- a mysterious eye, a broken chain -- that point to someone Samantha called her "Dearest". But who is Dearest? And why does Samantha need Clare to find him so badly?

Isolated and carrying hidden scars of her own, Clare fears her obsession with Samantha will threaten her sanity and safety. But it seems she has no choice in the matter . . .

The Grave Artist is a compelling paranormal murder mystery and a poignant story about loss and what it means thrive in a less-than-perfect reality.

The sale ends, and Gollum and I grab some late fast food. Afterwards, I head back home to a dark house. Lauren and Mom are asleep. I climb the stairs and go straight to bed, too tired to wash up. I’m out almost as soon as I hit the pillow.

And then, the strangest of dreams.

Flashes of naked limbs and scattered leaves.  A world painted brown and gray.

It’s a forest in winter, and I’m running through it.

Thick trees block my path.  Spiny branches tear at my clothes.   I’m crying – choking sobs that hardly let me catch my breath. But still, I run, my breath frosting the air.

I round a bend and stumble against a mound of moss-covered rocks. They’re stacked like a totem – a stone god with a blank face. I push against them, propelling myself forward.

I’m gasping, now.  Something thorny strafes my ankle.  A shrieking bird flies above.

And then I break through the woods, cross a narrow pathway, and stop short.

My toes curl tight over the edge of a precipice.  I rear forward, then back, regaining my balance.  A swooping in my stomach as I register the void below, a dark cavity. My pulse beats in my ears, behind my eyes.

Hoof beats. At first, I can’t distinguish them from my pounding heart. But then they grow louder, more deliberate.

 I turn and look. A rider approaches from the woods, on horseback. He has no face, just a vague smear of features. But I can make out the broad span of his shoulders, the width of his hands clutching the reigns.  I can sense his strength.

Panic floods me.

The rider draws closer and dismounts.  For a horrible moment, he stands frozen. Then he paces towards me, slow and menacing.

Terrified, I shuffle backwards, towards the edge. My lungs slow, filtering just enough air for me to remain conscious. Not nearly enough to scream.

The rider is upon me now.  The wind catches his cloak and unfurls it behind him in a deadly fantail.  I cower down, spinal cord humming, sensing the drop.  Above me, he’s become all darkness – a gathering storm cloud.

A terrible crack, like a bone snapping in two.  Then staggering pain in my head.

I’m hurtling through the void, spinning and spinning . . .

And then I’m awake, clawing at my throat with my fingernails.

It only lasts a few seconds, until I realize who and where I am. But when my hands calm, I feel something warm clotting on my skin. Dazed, I go to the bathroom and find angry scratches swelling around my neck, circling it like a choker.  With my finger, I wipe a bead of blood from my throat and stare at it, horrified.

Oh, my God, it wasn’t just a random dream.  The popping sound my skull made as it fractured.  That terrible, endless fall.  I know who I was, where I was.  And how it felt to die.

My body goes limp with fear.  I stumble forward and clutch the sink for balance.  And then the urge floods me, washing away all thoughts except one.

Draw, O coward.

I clean the one scratch, the bloody one, wincing at the soap’s sting. Then I return to my room.  In the dark, my neck throbs and gives off heat. I turn on my desk lamp and sit, rummaging for a pencil and sheet of paper. Then mechanically, I sketch an almond shape, not much bigger than my thumb. I shade in a dark center, flecked with light, with thick strokes around the rim.  It’s only as I’m adding a series of fine lines to the outer edge that I realize what I’ve drawn.

It’s an eye.  And the way it seems to stare right through me scares the living hell out of me.

Suddenly, all energy drains from me.  I’ve never felt heavier, more leaden.  I turn the sketch face-down, then tumble into bed, exhausted.

The next morning, I blink awake. Groggily, I take in the Kandinsky poster I’ve pinned to the far wall of my room, the abstract pattern on my comforter. It’s like there’s a wet towel jammed inside my skull.  As I lift my head from my pillow, I feel an ache in the crease of my neck.  I touch my fingertips to the spot and trace a rough line of torn skin. Now I remember.

I force myself out of bed.  My gut cinches up when I see the sheet of paper lying flat on my desk top.  My hand trembling, I pick it up by the corner and flip it over.

 The eye freezes me.  Its gaze is still penetrating, unnerving.  But plaintive, too, like it’s asking for help.  Asking me for help.

I stand there, stupefied, almost levitating with panic.  Get a grip, Clare.  Somehow you’ve got to deal with this.  Then I reach across my desk for my cell and dial Gollum.

It’s four rings before he picks up.  “Yeah?” he says, sleepily.  I glance down at my cell for the time: great, I woke the guy before eight.

“Gollum, it’s me.  Can you meet me at the diner this morning?”

A pause.  “I think so,” he says, more awake now.  “Why? What’s up?”

“I – I made another drawing last night, and I don’t know what to do.  I think you should see it in person.”

“So something’s messing with you again” he says, more a statement than a question.

“Not just something,” I say.  Samantha.”

It’s All In The Eyes
In The Grave Artist, certain images keep appearing to my heroine, Clare -- skulls, crescent moons, broken chains, and especially eyes.  In fact, in the grip of a trance, Clare obsessively sketches a single, disembodied eye.  This eye turns out to match a similar sketch she finds in an antique locket that belonged to Samantha Forsythe, a girl who fell to her death over two centuries ago.  Before long, Clare is compelled to find out: whose eye is it?  And why is the owner’s identity hidden in the first place?  Did Samantha need to hide him?
I based Clare’s antique locket on a type of antique jewelry known as Lover’s Eyes.  These were popular in England during the late 18th/early 19th centuries, although less so in America.  Typically, Lover’s Eyes were brooches that featured a miniature painting on ivory of a single eye, belonging to the wearer’s beloved.  They were beautiful tokens of secret romances and hidden love affairs.  They also served as mourning pieces, to remember a departed loved one.
I find Lover’s Eyes to be breathtakingly gorgeous and mysterious.  The best almost have a surreal quality to them, like a Dali painting.  Unfortunately, they’re not cheap, with genuine Lover’s Eyes selling in the thousands of dollars.  Still, some talented modern jewelers and artists are putting their own, more affordable spin on the form.  When I finished The Grave Artist, I celebrated by buying my very own Lover’s Eye from Etsy seller Mercury’s Moon.   She does fabulous work, hand-painting tiny portraits and framing them in genuine Victorian settings.  They are to die for!
What do you think, readers?  Is there someone special in your life you’d like to remember in a Lover’s Eye?

I'm a California girl, currently living in New Jersey (but I can assure you I'm nothing like Snookie). I work with my husband at the family law practice and sell antiques on the side for fun. We have boy-girl twins who just turned eleven. It's a nice age because they haven't quite figured out that their Mom's a huge dork, but I'm counting the days until that happens. I love writing, reading, and old, splashy MGM musicals. I play the piano pretty well and the guitar pretty badly. And I'm a terrible cook!

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Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Earth Angel Awakening by Michelle Gordon: Character Interview & Excerpt

“Lucky? Don't you know by now that there's no such thing? That everything that happens in the Universe happens by design and not by chance?”
Aria looked at Linen. “You know, sometimes I forget that you're actually a Faerie when you say things like that.”
Linen shrugged. “I suppose I just find it all fascinating. That the humans are creating their lives with every thought, and yet they don't even realise. That people and circumstances are put into place by the Angels, and they have no idea of the significance. Don't you find that interesting?”
“Do I find it interesting that humans are a bit stupid and completely oblivious?”
Linen laughed.
“No, I don't find it interesting, I find it incredibly annoying! I mean here we are, cheering them on, hoping they will remember, and yet they blunder about with no idea about anything.”

Twenty-five years after leaving the Earth Angel Training Academy to be born on Earth as a human, Velvet (now known on Earth as Violet) is beginning to Awaken. But when she repeatedly ignores her dreams and intuition, she misses the opportunity to be with her Twin Flame, Laguz. Without the long-awaited reunion with her Twin Flame, can Violet possibly Awaken fully, and help to bring the world into the elusive Golden Age?

The Earth Angel Awakening is the sequel to the Earth Angel Training Academy, also available on Kindle.

Warning: Contains expletives and therefore may not be suitable for younger children.

An Interview with Aria.

Hello, Aria, it's nice to meet you, I've heard a lot of great things about you, perhaps you'd like to introduce yourself to our readers?

What have you heard? Wow, am I famous already? I bet it was Amethyst wasn't it? Or maybe Velvet. They're so sweet! I feel like a celebrity now! Oh, sorry, you asked me to introduce myself! Hello, readers! I'm Aria, and I'm a Faerie! I feel like I'm at a Faeries Anonymous meeting now! Um, what else? I used to live in the Elemental Realm, and I helped grass to grow, but then the humans destroyed my patch, so I didn't have a job anymore. But it's all fine now, because I have a job at the School for the Children of the Golden Age. Oops, sorry, that was probably too much information for an intro, I get carried away sometimes and forget to keep things brief. Sorry.

That's alright, Aria, no problem, you have a lot of energy, which is great, but what do you do to relax?

Relax? Well I don't get much time to sit around doing nothing, but when Linen and I get a few spare moments we like to go to the Leprechaun Garden and chill out, it's really cool there, but you have to solve all sorts of riddles and stuff to get the password to make the door appear.

Who is Linen?

Linen is my Twin Flame, my best friend, my work colleague, he's my everything really. When I first met him, he was pretending to be an Old Soul, but when he got turned back into a Faerie, we well, we finally got together. Now, I can't imagine life without him. He's just awesome. I love him.

That's really amazing, I'm so pleased that you have found your Twin Flame. Now for some quick questions for our readers to get to know you better, ready?

Yep, I'm ready!

Okay, morning person or night person?

Well, I'm not a person, I'm a Faerie, and I love the morning and the night.

Fair enough, do you play any sports?

Sports? I did try cricket once, but it didn't actually involve crickets, which I found a bit weird, so I didn't enjoy it much.

What's your favourite food?

I love food! Chocolate, absolutely. I love chocolate fudge, cupcakes, truffles... Actually anything with chocolate in it. I would love some chocolate right now actually, do you have any?

I'm afraid I don't, sorry.

Oh, that's okay, I'll have to see if I can manifest some. What else do you want to ask me?

If they made The Earth Angel Training Academy into a movie, who would play you?

It's being made into a movie? Wow! So I am going to be famous! That's so incredibly awesome! Did you know that I have my own Oracle Deck too? They have my portrait on them. They're amazing, all humans should have a set.

No, I didn't know that, that's great. Who painted your portrait?

This incredible artist called Jack Shalatain. He did Velvet and Amethyst's portraits too. He's done many paintings over the years of Faeries and Angels and Unicorns, you should check them out, they are very, very good. And he's such a nice man too!

I think you have an excerpt for us, from The Earth Angel Training Academy?

Yes I do! It's from the beginning, before I got my name, when Amethyst and I first go to our room at the Academy. Here you are!

“Wow! It's so beautiful!”

Amethyst and the little green Faerie gazed around their room in awe. The spacious room was bright and airy. There were three huge beds in circle, draped in beautiful linens. There was a notice board on the wall that had a large sign on it.

“Welcome new students! I hope your room is everything that you desire. To change the d├ęcor, simply touch the item and state your desire. To manifest anything, just speak your request out loud, three times. If there are any problems, questions or concerns, write them down on this board and they will be dealt with. We will be reconvening in the main hall later on today. See you there! Velvet.”

The Faerie's eyes widened. “We just touch things, and they change? I've gotta try this!” She flew over to the nearest bed and touched the sheets. “Green!” Instantly, the sheets turned the colour of spring grass. The Faerie squealed in delight, and started zooming around the room, touching things and yelling out colours and patterns, until the room looked like the inside of a kaleidoscope.

Amethyst looked around, amusement showing on her face. “Hmm,” she said. “I may just change a few things around my bed, if that's okay with you?”

The Faerie was bouncing up and down on her newly multi-coloured bed. “Okay!”

Amethyst went to the bed opposite and touched the sheets. “Amethyst,” she said. Instantly the sheets turned a shimmering lilac colour. She nodded happily and touched the wall behind her. “A meadow on a breezy summer's day.” The wall took on the appearance of a meadow, with a bright blue sky, lazy clouds drifting along, wild flowers in bright colours and the long grass swaying in an unfelt breeze.

“Ooh!” the Faerie said. “That's so beautiful! I'm going to try!” She flew to her wall and touched it. “A lawn from a Faerie's point of view.” Giant blades of grass appeared, a huge ladybug crawled slowly up one of them and a massive ant ambled past. The Faerie flew around in circles. “It's so life-like! It feels like I'm back home again!” She stroked the moving image of the ladybug. “I wonder how Larry is,” she muttered to herself.

Sighing she looked around at their now vibrant, colourful room. She glanced over at the third bed. “Do you think our room-mate is an alien?”

Amethyst glanced over at the empty space. “It would seem so. They are the only ones who have not yet arrived, after all.”

“Wow, a being from outer space. Or even outer, outer, outer space! What do you think it will look like?”

“I'm not sure. In the Angelic Realm we only really dealt with human-like beings.”

The Faerie looked over at Amethyst. “Human-like? Do you mean you helped beings on planets other than Earth?”

“Yes.” Amethyst smiled. “Humans on Earth aren't the only beings in the Universe who need a little help every now and then.” She sat on her bed and bounced lightly. “Beautiful feather mattress,” she murmured to herself.

“Do Angels need to sleep? I always assumed that being pure energy, there would be no need. Fairies are a little denser - we need to rest, though not nearly as much as humans. Do you know they spend about a third of their lives sleeping?”

“Angels don't need to sleep, no. But we can, and we do like to spend some quiet time in meditation too.”

“So why do you have a bed if you don't need to sleep?” the Faerie wondered.

Amethyst peered at the Faerie curiously. “Do you know what the process is like here at the Academy? Weren't you given information about the classes and the way they teach us how to be human?”

The Faerie blushed. “I think there was an information meeting in the Elemental Realm. And I do vaguely remember some leaflets. But to be honest, I didn't pay much attention. I was just so pleased to have somewhere to go and possibly be of some use again, that I didn't listen to what was said.”

Amethyst shook her head. “So what do you know about the Academy?”

“Erm… it's been around for about fifty years, it's run by a white-haired old lady called Velvet… and we're the biggest class they've ever had!” She looked at Amethyst. “Will I get into trouble for not knowing anything?” she asked timidly.

Amethyst smiled kindly. “I shouldn't think so. They're not cruel, the Old Souls. I just think you may have a bit of a shock at what's to come in the next few weeks, that's all.” She gestured around the room. “It's not all fun and magick, you know.”

“Oh, I know,” the Faerie said breezily. “I'm a hard worker, I'm sure I'll be just fine.” She grinned. “Besides, how can I go wrong? My best friend is an Angel.”

Amethyst smiled. “This course will be anything but boring, that's for sure.”

“Boring? It's going to be the biggest adventure of our existence!”

I'm afraid that's all we have time for, Aria. I've really enjoyed our interview, I hope you have too.

It's been great! A little short maybe, but I'm sure you can interview me again when the movie comes out!

I will, definitely. Anything else you want to tell our readers quickly?

Yes! Please buy Michelle's books, because I'm in them! Which means they're brilliant! You can find them in the Amazon, apparently. Bit weird, if you ask me, but there you are. And look at Jack's work, and follow me on Facebook and Twitter! That's it, I think. Oh, one more thing, have fun! Don't spend your life being a boring and miserable human, have fun and laugh and do silly things. Be like me! Okay, that's it, I promise.

Thank you, Aria, I'm sure we will meet again.

I'm sure we will! Bye!

I’ve always wanted to be an author, and have been writing creatively since I was eight years old. I have self-published five books so far, a non-fiction mini book called Choose Your Own Reality, a novella called Heaven Dot Com, and three novels: The Doorway to PAM, The Earth Angel Training Academy and The Earth Angel Awakening. I've started working on my next book, and am hoping to release it in December. I also enjoy helping other authors to realise their dreams through a self-publishing business I run with my editor – Elizabeth Lockwood. Check out Purple Self Publishing Services for more information!

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Saturday, July 28, 2012

The Day Zombies Ruined My Perfectly Boring Life by Jen Naumann: Interview, Excerpt

Seventeen-year-old Emma Ferdig has spent her entire life stuck in an itty-bitty town that is basically smack-dab in the middle of nowhere. She’s not bored because there are always the same mundane things to do with her best friend Finn every single weekend, but bored as in there is literally nothing for a teenage girl to do that doesn't involve farm animals and the threat of law enforcement.

But now she would do pretty much anything to go back to that boring life.

Emma's life is turned upside down after a night of senior pranks by the discovery of a real, live (better make that dead) zombie in her own backyard. In a breakneck journey across the rural Midwest, Emma will recruit a minivan full of teenage misfits while trying to survive, and uncover the secrets behind this zombie invasion. She’ll discover the true identity of Finn’s mother, the dark conspiracy that has infiltrated the U.S. Army, and maybe even realize the person she has been waiting to save her was right by her side the whole time.

As it turns out, life in a boring little town hadn’t been such a bad thing, after all.

I stop to clutch my sides when the runner’s death cramps kick into high gear. My chest tightens to the point where I wonder if it is possible to have a heart attack when I haven’t even been asked to the senior prom yet. Back in junior high, there was a time when I wanted to get a guy’s attention and went out for cross country. The coach had to call an ambulance when I declared myself unable to walk at the very first practice, but it turned out I was only having charley horse cramps in my legs. That was when I first realized I have a natural aversion to anything fitness related.
“Emma?” Upon hearing my name I look up and find Finn leaning out a second story window of his house. He gives me his best WTF look. “What are you doing?”
“Crazy…woman…at…my…house!” I yell up at him between bouts of pain shooting through my lungs. My voice is high and squeaky, like a dog’s chew toy. I clear my throat and try again. “There is a freaking zombie at my house!”
Finn shakes his head and sighs. “What? Hold on a sec—I’m coming down.”
Before I can protest, he disappears from the window. In the few seconds it takes before he joins me, I debate whether or not to continue running until I reach the Mexican border. But who am I kidding? I probably can’t make it another block as much as my sides are killing me. Quite possibly I will die from the pain alone at this point.
In general, I am not exactly what you would call an athletic person. My idea of exercise is going down to the mailbox by our short driveway. Frankly, I don’t see the point in it—every time you eat something you take another step backward anyway.
When Finn appears in the doorway, I dart into his mediocre-sized arms for an embrace. While holding him, I decide his arms maybe aren’t so much mediocre, but they are definitely un-muscular. Regardless, I squeeze him with all of my strength and savor the smell I know to be Finn mixed with trendy cologne. I let my face rest against his super soft Darth Vader t-shirt for a minute before pulling back.
I take the opportunity to really assess my old friend up close. His nose and cheekbones are both smooth and his silky skin is always the most gorgeous shade of tanned brown no matter the time of year, making his dark brown eyes suck you in even more than they already do on their own. His shaggy brown hair is tousled messily around his face to make him appear disheveled, but I know for a fact it takes a ton of hair products to achieve this look. He spends more money on that stuff than I do on my own mop of curls. My hair has a mind of its own and more often than not I just throw it into some kind of sloppy bun. Other girls spend all morning straightening their hair, curling it, or whatever, but that just seems like too much work.
As I study Finns’ face, I can’t believe I haven’t spent all this time actively pursuing him. He’s actually pretty hot, aside from his occasional dorky demeanor.
A dramatic sigh shoots out of me, making my friend appear baffled by my extreme behavior. “I’m so glad you’re home, Finn. You don’t even know.”
By the look he gives me I know he is somewhat amused by whatever explanation I may have. “What is going on? What were you saying before about a zombie?” All it takes is his adorably crooked smile for me to instantly question myself. I never really used to care what he thought of me when we were younger, but in the past couple of months I have started to develop a pathetic crush on my old buddy. Now pretty much everything I say is focused on whether or not he will think I sound like an idiot. About eighty-six percent of the time, he probably does.
I let out a nervous bubble of laughter. “Not exactly a zombie, zombie. I’m not really sure. You know I totally flunked biology last semester.” This is not one of my prouder moments as I fumble in front of him. Maybe the woman’s lack of communication skills rubbed off on me a little.
My friend grips me by my arms in more of a mocking gesture than anything. “Emma, why is your face so red? Wait—have you been running?”
I purposely scrunch my face, knowing he hates it when I do that. He recently told me to knock it off and said the senior guys rated me second most attractive female in our class, but mentioned they could never take me seriously. I’m guessing it has something to do with the fact that I would rather spend my nights hanging out with the guys playing video games than going to slumber parties to make out with pillows—or whatever they do at those things. I haven’t been invited to an overnight girl party since the seventh grade when I drew a Hitler mustache on the hostess. Apparently some markers are a bit more permanent than others and people can get pretty uptight about their dance recitals.
“Finn, you say it like I am not capable of running.” Okay, so maybe I’m not totally capable. Not really, anyway. Athleticism doesn’t run in my family—my parents are also more the type that tire just by listening to others talk about their exercise regimen.
“The only time I’ve ever seen you run is for gym class. You wouldn’t be running unless something was actually chasing you.” He chuckles at his own joke, making me even more furious with him.
I glance back in the direction of my house to find the road still remains clear of disfigured corpses. “That’s what I’m trying to tell you. I don’t know what it was, exactly, but there was this thing wearing women’s clothes…albeit really tacky women’s clothes…but that’s not the point. Its skin was all funky and it didn’t have very many teeth—or fingers. And it had this ginormous hole in its head. But it was still walking—not necessarily talking though. But it came after me so I hit it with the ax handle. When it came back again I just ran.”
He rolls his eyes to the top of his head while thrusting his head back and forth like he is trying to shake out what I have just told him. “Em, you get crazy like this every time we have a movie marathon. I’m beginning to think they’re a bad idea.”
“I’m not kidding, Finn. This is totally serious. We have to call like the police or the Red Cross or something. Whatever it was, it was not right.”
My friend looks closely at me for a moment to decide if I am totally pulling his leg or not. When his insidious little smile drops, I know he is finally coming to his senses. “You’re being totally serious right now?”
We have been best friends since like the third grade and he is supposed to believe everything I tell him. Well maybe not everything. I had told him Harry Potter turned evil in the last movie and killed all his friends, but only because he bailed on our plans to see the premiere together. If he had read the books like I told him to, he wouldn’t have fallen for it. I considered it a schooling in good literature.
I swear I try to resist the urge to smack him on the forehead, but sometimes I just can’t help myself—my hands can have a mind of their own.
Ouch!” he yells, grabbing my arm and holding it away from him. “Okay! I get it. You don’t have to get all violent on me. We’ll call the police.”
“Thank you.”
I have almost completely stopped quivering from my encounter with the backwoods woman. Finn always has this way of calming me, probably because he knows me better than anyone else on the planet. With heavy relief, I follow him down the path back to his house. But we stop short when a low shriek comes from not too far off in the distance. The sound makes the fuzzy hairs on the back of my neck stand erect.

Thank you for having me on your blog, Laurie! I love learning more about my favorite authors and their personal lives, so hope people enjoy this interview!

Tell us about your current release.

I am a HUGE fan of zombie movies—Shaun of the Dead and Zombieland being my favorite. I am also hooked on The Walking Dead TV series. After I recently read a book in which a teenage girl expertly killed off undead corpses off with a gun—even doing some stunts as she did so—I got to thinking: if this were to happen to me, I would be so dead. I wouldn’t have any idea how to work a gun, and I am the complete opposite of athletic. In The Day Zombies Ruined My Perfectly Boring Life, Emma is basically how I think the teenage me would have reacted to such an event. Emma may sometimes come off as being an idiot, but she is basically using humor to keep herself from going insane.

Tell us about your next release.

This fall I will be releasing my third novel, Shymers. A friend once asked me, “Wouldn’t it be nice to know exactly how long you have left on this earth?” I thought about her question for many days, and decided in the end that I would rather not know. I am more of a “live like you’re dying” type of person by nature. Shymers is a dystopian story in which the government is able to predict a person’s date of death. Because of this, people with shorter life spans are discriminated against—as in, “Why spend time/money on someone who isn’t going to be around much longer?” My main character was raised in the wild by parents who didn’t believe in that way of life, and she is appalled by the way government treats these people with short life spans, also known as “shymers.” On her journey, she falls in love with a shymer and discovers a whole string of secrets her family had been keeping from her.

Who is your favorite author?

It was Stephen King from the sixth grade up until J. K. Rowling came along. I am utterly floored by how she was able to create an entirely different world and make you experience all the emotions: from tears of joy, to complete fear and anger, and also tears of sadness. Her books take you through an emotional journey that is just so epic and unlike anything I have experienced before. Fortunately, my kids share my passion—we have been to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and our dog is named Bellatrix. I am probably one of those people who could have used some therapy when the books and movies ended. I have yet to find a series of books that have the same kind of effect on me.
Does your significant other read your stuff?

Funny story—my husband has never been much of a reader. He likes his farm magazines, but I don’t think he even reads those from front to back. After my first book, he made the comment that he would read my books if they were about tractors. So in The Day Zombies Ruined My Perfectly Boring Life, I added a scene with combine harvesters just for his benefit. But he still hasn’t read it, and I’m okay with that. He may be scared to go to bed with me at night if he ever actually does.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I have wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember. When I was growing up, other kids would be outside playing while I was inside writing books (all of which I still have and are pretty painful to read). It took me many years to actually have the courage to let others read my work. I still have a hard time accepting compliments on my books and think people are just being polite when they say they love it.

What are you passionate about these days?

Music, although I have always been really into it. When I turned 16, I went to my first concert and have probably attended 30 more since then. But I think the older I get, the more music influences me. Each of my books has a theme song that I listen to (sometimes even on repeat) while writing. I am playing some kind of music—usually Jack Johnson, Beastie Boys or Foo Fighters—nearly every minute of the day. Listening to music just makes me really happy.

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

Bad reviews are really hard to swallow—it feels like someone is telling you that your child is ugly or dumb. When you write a story, you become completely immersed in this other world, and the characters become like family to you. If I see a bad review, I get depressed for long periods of time and want to quit. I am trying to learn how to push the bad ones aside and remind myself that not everyone has the same taste—whether in music, movies or books. To cheer myself up, I usually look at the bad reviews of Harry Potter. Not only do I get a good laugh, but I am reminded of just how different people are. If we all liked the very same things, life would be super boring, right?

What was one of the most surprising things you learned while writing your books?

I learned that I have this romantic bone in me that I just can’t seem to bury, no matter how hard I try. I am generally not a big fan of romantic movies and books. I am much more into comedy and action. But every single time I sit down to write a story, a romantic sub-plot always manages to sneak its way in. Even in the midst of a zombie apocalypse, Emma finds time to act on her long-time crush in The Day Zombies Ruined My Perfectly Boring Life. If it were to happen to someone else, Emma would probably turn to them and say, “You’re an idiot.”

Jen Naumann has lived in southern Minnesota all her life. She currently lives on a farm with her husband Brian, daughter Sammy, and son Owen. She has two grown step-daughters (Lindsey and Jamie) who have made her a grandmother of three gorgeous little girls at a freakishly young age, and mother-in-law to two handsome men close to her own age, but she loves every minute of it. Her favorite free time is spent at the family lake cabin, catching the newest movie release or rocking out at concerts to her favorite bands.

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