Interview with Ashley Earley


This interview is so good! Ashley has some very good writing advice, which I am sure you will all enjoy.
1) Tell us about your latest book:
I am very excited about my upcoming book, Alone in Paris! It will be released next year. I haven’t set a date yet because I am still revising to make it as perfect as can be for my readers.
If you follow me on Instagram (@ashley_earley) or Twitter (@ashleyc_earley), then you’ve seen all my editing updates. I’m so close to finishing, and I’ve been sharing my excitement constantly!
It is already available for pre-order on iBooks, Kobo and Nook (Barnes & Noble) for $2.99.
Here is the summary:
Breathe, Taylor.
Taylor Clay’s family isn’t exactly perfect. They may look the part with the nice, big house and her dad’s fancy job, but that’s what’s tearing them apart. That, and her dad’s sudden recurring drinking problem.
Though her family is close to falling apart, she never wished for something like this to happen. She never wished for her father to drive off a bridge. Especially not while they were on vacation; especially not when her and her mom were in the car with him at the time.
Breathe.
She’s devastated after the fact. And it isn’t helping that the papers are gossiping about how the pristine lawyer could have driven off the bridge on purpose. And just when she thinks nothing could possibly make things worse, she realizes she’s left alone with no relatives to care for her.
So she’s alone. Her parents are dead. And she’s stuck in the country her family was visiting for their vacation. She’s alone in Paris.
Just breathe.
Then Nathan walks into the picture. Funny, snarky, persistent, and sometimes, just flat out rude, he annoys Taylor to no end. He won’t leave her alone, but Taylor doesn’t know whether or not she should push him away.
2) How old were you when you started writing? 
I was 14-years old when I started writing. At first, it sort of started out as an experiment. I wanted to see if I could write a book—to see how difficult it was. I ended up loving it and couldn’t stop. I wrote one book after another!
3) What do you do when you are lacking inspiration?
I listen to music; I read for a little bit, or I take my writing gear and go somewhere else for a change of scenery. I love writing outside on my back patio!
4)What made you decide to publish your book(s)?
I had tried to get published the traditional way, but when that didn’t work out, I decided that I wanted to take one of my books to the next step myself and publish it on my own. It was very challenging to publish The Darkest Light. I ran into a lot of bumps in the road, but I was determined to get it in print. It was all worth it once I got to hold a physical copy of The Darkest  Light. I’m looking forward to publishing another book!
5) At this point in your career, what has been the most memorable experience as a
writer thus far?
Actually submitting my book to publish it. It was horrifying and exciting all at once. I wanted to take it back as soon as I had done it because I was worried what people would. I was really worried that no one would like it, like every author. It’s a scary thing to share something you’ve created. It’s even scarier to share a part of you because every book (even if it’s fiction) holds a bit of truth. I’m not saying that dragons are real, but life struggles or thoughts that character(s) have can be true—as well as other things.
6) What would be your advice to fellow writers who want to publish their work?
Don’t give up on it. Sometimes you’re going to feel like your book isn’t good enough to publish, and you shouldn’t feel that way. You can always edit and revise your book to make it better. You should be proud of what you wrote! You worked hard, whether if it was for weeks, months, or years. You should publish your book if you feel like you’re ready for the challenge.
And do your research! Don’t just hire anyone to do your book cover art.
7) Share one of your past obstacles in your writing career, and how you overcame it?
I battle with one obstacle constantly. It is one of the most common obstacles for writers and the most difficult to overcome. Writer’s block.
I hate writer’s block just as much as every writer. Having a block is horrible, and pushing through it isn’t always the best solution because you’re not doing your best writing. Sometimes, listening to music can help me, or reading another book. Though, most of the time, I have to wait out my block. It can take days or weeks until I’m ready to write again. But, once I do, I usually find myself unable to stop.
8) If you were starting your writing career over today, what is one thing you would do differently?
I would have done a better job at putting together The Darkest Light and done a better job spreading the word about The Darkest Light. I plan to do a much better job with Alone in Paris.
The story is put together a lot better, and the writing style and grammar are all much better, at least, I think so. Hopefully, everyone else will too!
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Author Interview with Heidi Mason



1) Tell us about your latest book: 

My latest book, Cross My Heart, will be available in paperback (from Rainy Day Reads Publishing) soon. It is a continuing story, featuring Liam and Emma, the characters from Investigating the Heart. It is a romantic suspense novel, and will take readers on an exciting journey. I have also just signed with Hot Tree Publishing for my third novel, Always Hope, which will be available toward the end of this year. Always Hope is Romantic Women’s Fiction, and is certain to pluck at your heartstrings. 

2) How old were you when you started writing? 

I started writing in Junior High, and quickly  discovered that I was much better at expressing myself through the written word than I was verbally. I knew it was something I wanted to pursue, but I put it on the back burner once I had children. I seriously started pursuing my dream in 2015, and my first novel, Investigating the Heart was published with Solstice Publishing in September of last year. 

3) What do you do when you are lacking inspiration?

 When I feel like I’m lacking inspiration, I generally step away for a bit. I’ll hang out with my kids, do some work around the house, or focus on something else for a while. Normally, something will spark the fire of creativity and I’ll get back to work. 


4) What made you decide to publish your book(s)?

 Being a published author was something I always wanted, and once I began taking my writing seriously, I knew that would be the ultimate path for me. 
5) At this point in your career, what has been the most memorable experience as a writer thus far? The most memorable experience for me by far was being offered my first publishing contract. It was so surreal, seeing the culmination of my dreams right in front of me. 

6) What would be your advice to fellow writers who want to publish their work?

My advice would be to keep writing. Write even when you know it’s bad. You can always edit bad writing, but you can’t do anything with words that don’t exist. 
7) Share one of your past obstacles in your writing career, and how you overcame it.

The biggest obstacle for me when I started out was learning how to handle rejection. I had the fantasy, as most beginning authors do, that everyone who read my work would instantly fall in love with it. The opposite reality was hard to accept at first. Not everyone will love what you do. Those aren’t the people you’re writing for. You are writing first and foremost for yourself, and if you do that your work will come from your heart. When that happens, you’ll find the readers who will fall in love with your words.
8) If you were starting your writing career over today, what is one thing you would do differently?

I’m not one who regrets many things. I believe that there is a purpose to everything, and each path you choose is chosen for a reason. I’m happy with my journey so far, and quite honestly, I wouldn’t change a thing. 

Interview with Malinda Andrews


I am so glad we were able to do an interview with Malinda Andrews! She is a great writer, and her advice is very helpful.

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Can you tell us anything about your books?

Of course! The current trilogy is a high fantasy set in a medieval world where magic has been labeled as bad, the only dragons left are bonded with people bent of destroying everything, and a king is in danger. Riona is the main character, and through a series of events and adventures, discovers who she really is. A cast of varied friends accompanies her, as well as one snarky dragon named Feoras.

While I love writing and reading fantasy I wanted this story to be much more accessible for readers of all genres; I know the length of fantasies and the quantity of description can turn readers off.  So to that end, these books are small, the first is just under 77,000 words, and I keep the action moving forward. No getting bogged down in detailed description here!

There’s family, loyalty, fate, and love all wrapped up in a magical bow.

How old were you when you started writing?

 I’ve always written stories, ever since I learned how to write.

But the inspiration for these specific stories, what I call The Ryder Chronicles, started when I was 16. I wrote a lot of the first books, but then let it sit for many years. While in college I picked it up again, and haven’t put the characters or world down yet!

What do you do when you are lacking inspiration?

Whenever I am lacking inspiration, or drive to write, I usually cut myself some slack and do something outside. Even just going for a simple hike at a nature preserve nearby clears my head. Usually I end up coming back with even more ideas.

I also work on at least two projects at once. I can bounce between them if motivation in one is lacking. It keeps the words flowing, and that’s the important part. You can edit a bad page, you can’t fix a blank one.

What made you decide to publish your book?

 I have always wanted other people to read and enjoy my books. Sharing the stories with others is one of the best feelings.

I decided to self publish this series because I did not want someone else telling me how to “fix” or “change” my stories. I have been working on these characters and this world for years, if I select a name or plot point, there is a specific reason why.

I currently am finishing up a contemporary romance set in Ireland, the first in a trilogy that will be shopped around to traditional publishers and agents. I feel there is more of a market for romance books. If it doesn’t pan out, I’ll just self publish them too!

So far, what has been the highlight of your career as a writer?

 Getting Fan Art! That hands down, has been the best aspect to being a writer.

Though the second best is when people read it and then geek out over the characters and story with me.

What is your advice to writers wanting to be published?

 There are so many avenues for writers to take to being published, so I would say to stay positive, and keep trying. At times it will seem like you’re climbing the highest mountain, but just keep going. Keep querying, keep writing a backlog, join a critique group where people are honest. Hone your craft.

What have been your biggest struggles with writing, and how have you overcome them?

 Honestly, probably staying positive when there are no sales, the imagination has run dry, and no one else is in love with your characters yet.

Everyone has those days where you just want to throw in the towel. You have to remember that every writer has felt this way at some point. Every writer has felt the sting of rejection, it’s all part of the industry.

What you have to do is remember why you started writing in the first place. Was it for an audience? Or was it because you had characters poking at your head begging to have their story be told? If it’s the latter, keep going.  It will all be worth it.

Do you have any advice for your fellow writers?

 

See above!

Interview with Diana Anderson



Tell us a little about your books.

I write in three completely different genres: faith-based fitness (non-fiction), women’s contemporary, and young adult fantasy. My non-fiction books are all about viewing ourselves as three-part beings comprised of spirt, soul, and body, and eating well and exercising properly with that in mind. To me, fitness is about far more than looking a certain way or preventing diseases; it’s about being the best version of ourselves so we can better serve and love those around us. 

My first novel, Moonbow: The Colors of Iris, is a prequel to the young adult fantasy series I’m currently writing. It’s set in an ancient-Greece-like world and tells the story of a teenaged girl with a secret superpower who must decide whether she’ll use it to perpetuate war or bring about peace. It was an adaptation of a screenplay I wrote in college and was a ton of fun to write, as I love researching all things related to ancient Greek culture and mythology!

My upcoming women’s contemporary novel is called Armor for Orchids. It follows three small-town twenty-somethings who are each struggling with seemingly hopeless battles, from depression and anorexia to rebellion and marital infidelity. Their only commonality is their connection to 82-year-old Poppy McAdams, a local heroine who shows them all, in her unique albeit mysterious way, what it takes to have true and lasting victory. This story was one of those I literally felt had to be written….really, it wouldn’t stop pestering me until I got it out on paper! It was truly therapeutic to write and I pray it’s a blessing to the women who read it. It will be published by Evatopia Press later this year!

The current fantasy series I’m working on is, like Moonbow, heavily influenced by my lifelong love for Greek mythology. It is set in the present, unlike Moonbow, and follows my protagonist Chloe who lives in a dystopian world whose corrupt government is hiding a long-kept secret only she can uncover. I’ve had a blast bringing gods and heroes such as Apollo, Hermes, Orpheus, even Medusa into the cast of characters!

When did you start writing? 

As soon as I learned the alphabet! My mom has bins full of my stories, which were written before I knew sentences run from left to right! I just scribbled letters around the edges of construction paper, drew pictures in the center, stapled the pages together, and called it a book! 

Why do you write?

I’m going to shamelessly quote Nicole Krauss because her statement perfectly expresses my sentiments: “Why does one begin to write? Because she feels misunderstood, I guess. Because it never comes out clearly enough when she tries to speak. Because she wants to rephrase the world, to take it in and give it back again differently, so that everything is used and nothing is lost. Because it’s something to do to pass the time until she is old enough to experience the things she writes about.” 

I write because, quite simply, it’s the best way I know to both express myself and daydream about and discover the things of which I am absolutely ignorant and naïve. It’s the art form God gave me to explore and enjoy, and I intend to soak up all its joys until the day I die.

How do you find inspiration?

Obviously, Greek mythology is a huge inspiration for my fiction. I’ve been fascinated with myths, and Greek myths in particular, since I was little girl. There’s something so timeless about them. The characters, even the most divine and powerful ones, are incredibly relatable and relevant, even now. The level of conflict they portray, the pathos they present, the catharsis they provide, and the worlds they paint are what have kept readers and writers returning to them for millennia. They’re classic examples of stellar storytelling that will never grow stale. 

My fitness books and contemporary fiction are largely inspired by events in my own life. I struggled with anorexia and body image issues as a teen and now write extensively about having a healthy mindset when it comes to fitness and nutrition. I know firsthand what it’s like to be your body’s own worst enemy and want to help women overcome harmful habits and thought patterns. Though several of the characters in Armor for Orchids struggle with things with which I personally have little or no experience, I draw inspiration from stories I’ve heard or read throughout my life, as well as from my own imagination. As is often the case, inspiration seems to come when I just let myself ponder the question, “What if…?”
What is your advice on the editing process? 

First, enlist beta readers, people who are familiar with your genre and can give you honest feedback on whether what you’re writing is resonating or falling flat. 

Second, hire a professional editor to proofread and/or edit your work from a developmental standpoint, preferably both. It’s worth it to save some money and invest in an editor who can put the final polish on your book. A great editor and an expert cover designer are musts, in my opinion. 

Third, never stop learning about the craft of writing a story that works from start to finish. Learn all you can about plot structure, beats and scenes, set-ups and pay-offs, crises and resolutions, inciting incidents and climaxes. The more you know, the easier editing will go for you as you’re better able to identify any problem areas and their fixes. 

Were you ever nervous about publishing?

Honestly, not really. I knew that this would be a giant learning experience and that only a very small percentage of people knock it out of the park with their debut novel, or even their first ten novels. I made a boatload of mistakes when I published my first few books, but these have only made me a better business person and have further convinced me that I was born to be a writer. So much has happened, both personally and professionally, that could have caused me to give up on writing altogether, but I’ve stuck with it because I love it with all my heart. 

Today’s publishing world is exciting, volatile, competitive, and tremendously frustrating, but I believe it will always reward the authors who stick with it and persevere. 

So far, what has been the highlight of your career as a writer?

Recently signing with Evatopia Press was a huge moment for me. I’m very excited to have their support and look forward to seeing what this relationship brings. 

Second to that – and this might sound strange – my agent breaking up with me earlier this year was actually a blessing in disguise. He’d been representing my novel Moonbow and gave up on it, understandably, after eight months. I was heartbroken. 

A few months later, I emailed him my latest fantasy novel for his consideration and didn’t receive so much as a standard rejection email. More heartbreak. I felt like I was being rejected by my first love all over again! But, as was the case with my publishing mistakes, this disappointment only made me stronger. After I cried and threw my pity party, I got up, dried my tears, and went straight back to work on my manuscript. 

You can’t let one person tell you, either by their words or actions, that you’re not good enough, that your work is worthless. I strongly believe that the joy of writing should always be your “why” for writing. It should never be about pleasing an agent, making money, or winning fans. Creating meaningful art transcends all those things, which is an immensely freeing thought. 

Do you have any advice for your fellow writers?

Read a lot! I know I quoted another writer earlier, but I’m going to do it again. Lisa See said this, “Read a thousand books, and your words will flow like a river.” 

Read books that challenge you, books by authors you know are (for now, at least) far better than you. Let them be your teachers. Let their words wash over and enrich you. Take notes on how they turn a scene, build a world, and describe a character. Read like a student. I promise you’ll be amazed by the results!

Free -Sybil Menora


A northern breeze sent shivers down Mariette’s spine as she made her way down the Dover sidewalks.  Under her arm she carried a heavy bundle, which was wrapped with brown paper, and tied with string.

She stopped before a the door of an old antique shop, where she stepped inside.

“Can I help you?” Asked a man, who was rocking in a rocking chair by the fireplace.

Mariette nodded, “Are you Monsieur Leray?”

“Yes.” He said, standing up, “I am.”

“I was hoping you could give me some information.” Mariette explained, laying her parcel on the counter.

The man nodded, and watched as she untied the string. Inside of the package was a stack of books. They were old books, yellowed with age, and worn from many readings.

“What can you tell me about these books?” Mariette asked.

Monsieur Leray stared in wonder. “W- Where did you find these?”

“That is irrelevant.” She answered, impetuously.

“Where did you get these?” The shopkeeper demanded, his voice shaking.

Mariette smirked, “We’ll say that they were in my attic. Now, tell me what you know.”

“Who are you?” Monsieur Leray stuttered.

“If you give me some info on those books, I’ll just be another customer,” The young lady replied, menancingly, “But, if you refuse, I will become something far worse.”

The shopkeeper ignored her, and began slowly thumbing through the pages of one of the books.

“Are you going to tell me? Or not?” Mariette asked, a pout on her pretty face.

“I’ll tell you this,” Said Monsiour Leray, “That no power is within these books, any more than what was in them when I was young. No power at all, anymore. It was all used long ago, long before my generation, or even my grandfather’s generation, had come into being.”

Then, without hesitation, the old shopkeeper took up the stack of books, and thrust them into the fire. His face was jubilant, as he watched the books light up in flames. Tears welled up in Mariette’s eyes.

“How could you?” She demanded, but Monsiour Leray did not answer. He only stared into the fire, despite her desperate cries. The deed was done, and he was finally free.

 

 

Captive Bride, by Hope Ann


This is our WINNER!!! Congratulations to author Hope Ann for writing the winning submission!

 

Captive Bride

By Hope Ann

The Volandums had absurd ideas about how to treat a captive princess. I mean, golden chains? Really? Were they showing me off to the people, or were they showing off their own wealth to me? I honestly wasn’t sure anymore.

My mount’s hooves clopped against the flower-strewn pavement of Dezmond’s central street and I briefly let my gaze wander, taking in the towering stone buildings, mapping out routes, exits, dead ends. They were crowded now, with cheering citizens greeting their returning king. Oh yes, and the Elentisaren princess who’d been the price of peace and would become their queen.
I gazed steadily at the faces passing by. Returning each insolent stare with defiance. Each slur with a smirk. Each fragment of pity with determination. But many of the gazes were ones of wonder. Or perhaps they were just staring at my ridiculous white fluttery dress. Loose bits of gauze flew about my waist and a heavy necklace hung about my bare neck while taches of gold fastened my sleeves. All in all, it wasn’t a dress I’d be able to slip away in without being recognized.
But mostly, my gaze rested on the guards surrounding my mount. An especially grim soldier led my horse, but others closed in on all sides. Two before. Three on each side of me. Four more behind. Not as if they thought I could escape, but I couldn’t help relishing in their worry over the almost mystical legends surrounding the Elentisaren Phoenix, otherwise known as the most deadly woman assassin in history. They seemed to think she’d not stand for her princess being taken by Volandums. And that she’d be coming after me.
Ahead of me, the Volandum king shifted in his saddle. His gaze swept over me for the dozeneth time. And, for the dozeneth time I met his stare with a glare of my own and the slightest curl of my lips.
His own smile creased his beard as he turned away.
The Volandums respected strength. Already the king was well pleased with the spirit of his bride-to-be.
Except all the Volandums lacked one small detail.
And, as the castle of Dezmond loomed over us, I permitted my smirk to deepen. The Volandums thought they were welcoming a bride. Instead they were providing the Phoenix of Elentisa safe passage into their most guarded fortress.
They’d been right about one thing. I wasn’t about to let my cousin the princess surrender her freedom for peace.
I was the Phoenix. And I was here to bring Voland to her knees.

Fearless, by Piper Farr


Congratulations to the 2nd place winner of our Fantasy Story Contest!


My parents knew I was gifted from the moment I was born, when I came out with a head full of rosy pink hair. Sure, my gift didn’t actually develop until I was five, but the unnatural hair color was a dead giveaway, and being born “Gifted” was actually a curse. My mom cried. My dad punched a few walls. And then life went on. 

I was raised under their tender and loving care until I was six, the age when people start to ask questions. I wasn’t in school, after all, and my parents rarely took me out in public. No one could know I was gifted. The staff at the hospital had been paid into silence when I was born. And at six years old, I shoved a piano through a wall. Don’t be fooled, it wasn’t like I had super strength or anything, no, it was nothing like that. It was the gift of music. Or rather, to control musical instruments. Not much help in a fight, but to be able to play the piano, violin, cello and flute all at the same time, and with only my mind to top it all off? You better believe I could make some pretty amazing music. And it wasn’t just instruments, it was—well—anything. Anything capable of forming sound that can be transformed into music, I could control. But it wasn’t telekinesis either, that was different too. It was simply the raw, unadulterated gift of sound. Of musical sounds, played in unison to make something beautiful. 
And so, at six years old I was sent to Miss Lavinia Gooding’s Academy for the Gifted. At first I resented my parents for sending me away, I figured they must have hated me, and I was too young to fully understand the situation. But as I grew older I realized that it wasn’t their fault. It was to protect me. It was where every child like me was sent when their gift started to become uncontrollable. Then I started to resent myself. Why did I have to be one of the “Gifted” ones? Why couldn’t I have been born normal so I could live a normal life like ninety percent of the world did? Over time, I grew to accept that as well, and then the only thing I resented was the fact that I would never play my music outside the academy walls.
So why was I born with pink hair when it had absolutely nothing to do with my gift? I have no idea. But my hair is pink and I play music and I’m okay with that. In fact, the music part I love. The hair part I’ve grown used to. It’s a part of who I am. It defines me. Which is why I’ll never change it. Just like I’ll never play my music outside these academy walls. I don’t think much of anything in my life will change. Or at least I didn’t, until one day one of the students disappeared and the gate was found wide open. The gate we were told never to pass through.

I sat in the music room, my fingers lying listlessly over the black and white keys. Even though I could play the instrument by mere thought, there was something about playing it the normal way. Feeling the contact of the keys against my skin. But on that day, the instrument remained silent. I wanted to play—there was scarcely a moment when I didn’t—but on that particular day I felt especially preoccupied, my mind filled with all manner of thoughts. It could have been the extra assignments Miss Gooding had given us, or maybe it was the strange way Jenny had been acting. Or it could have simply been a lack of caffeine. Whatever it was, I didn’t like it. When the music didn’t flow, something was definitely off. 
Sighing, I slid my fingers from the keys and crossed to the other end of the room, where a huge floor-to-ceiling window looked out into the forest. Forest. It was all I saw, all day every day. The Academy was nestled in some remote area of the world where trees were abundant and humans nonexistent. Honestly, I wasn’t even sure where exactly we were. No one knew aside from Miss Gooding.

A creaking sound met my ears, the sound of rusty hinges in dire need of oiling, and I pulled my gaze from the window to find Avery slipping into the room. She closed the door behind her, then tiptoed toward the window, stopping beside me. She stared outside for a few moments before resting green eyes on me. “What are you looking at?”
I laughed. “Something that isn’t there.”
She glanced out again, biting her lower lip, her brow puckered in thought. Avery wasn’t much for humour. “Lunch is ready. Miss Gooding sent me to get you.”
I nodded, chewing my thumb nail. “Thanks. I’ll be there soon.” My gaze drifted back toward the window, to that blasted green forest. Why couldn’t a skyscraper sprout from the ground? At least it would be something different.
Avery turned to leave, then paused, looking back at me. “Is everything okay, Malorie? I didn’t hear any music today.”
She’d noticed. I suppose everyone probably had. They had all grown accustomed to my music. To my playing in the afternoons. 
I sighed again, dropping my hand to my side. “I’m fine. I’m just… there seems to be a lot on my mind today.”
She studied me for a few silent moments, then turned and exited the room with another round of hinge creaking. 

Leaving behind the creaky hinges and noiseless instruments, I slipped from the room and started down the long, polished hall toward the dining room. The academy was large but not overabundant. There were currently thirteen students under its roof and a dozen bedrooms, half of which sat unused. Miss Gooding believed companionship was the key to understanding oneself and so insisted on two students per room. Aside from the bedrooms, the academy boasted one huge library, a music room, a dining room and breakfast nook, a kitchen, one classroom and a large living area. It was all very 1800’s, right down to the hand carved banisters on the stairs. And everything, all of the wood in the place, was kept polished to perfection. I wasn’t even sure who kept it up. We didn’t have a maid, and I never saw miss Gooding lift a finger. 
The double doors leading to the dining room stood open, as they always did during the day, and I hurried into the room, taking my seat at the table. 
I gave a quick glance around those already seated. “Where’s Jenny?” Jenny was my best friend and roommate, and lately she’d been more absent during meals than not. I was really starting to worry about her.
Miss Gooding, who sat in her place at the head of the table, gave me a cursory glance. “She’s your roommate, Malorie. I was hoping you could tell us that.”
I shrugged, dropping my gaze to the empty plate in front of me.
Miss Gooding cleared her throat. “Let us say grace.”
Hands were held, heads were bowed, and grace was said.
During the meal I ate in silence, listening to the fragmented bits of conversation that met my ears and throwing the occasional glance toward the gaping doorway.
About halfway through the meal, Jenny decided to make an appearance, dressed in her usual baggy black sweater and converse. 
Miss Gooding gave her a disapproving look. “Jenny, you know the rules about dressing out of uniform during the day.”
Jenny lowered into her seat. “I don’t see why we even need uniforms. It’s not like we ever see anyone.”
Miss Gooding only glared at the remark. She and Jenny went over this same thing about once every other day. 
I cleared my throat—loudly—exchanged a look with Jen, then glanced around the rest of the table. Cole winked at me, and I quickly dropped my gaze to my plate, a blush warming my cheeks. Cole was a year older than me and the oldest student at the academy. He was also extremely good looking. Not that that mattered. 
“After lunch I’d like you all to spend some time outside.” That was Miss Gooding’s way of telling us she wanted peace and quiet the rest of the afternoon. 

The meal was quickly concluded and I grabbed Jenny’s hand, dragging her outside and to our favorite hangout. It was an old shack, about half a mile from the academy, that was built up on stilts and had a swing extending from the side of it that swung out over a cliff. Why it was there and who built it remained a mystery. 
We reached the shack and I flung Jenny onto the swing. “You were late again.”
She curled her fingers around the weathered ropes, extended her legs and pushed out over the cliffside, sending a rush of unease through my midsection. I could never handle watching anyone swing on that thing.
“Jen?”
She laid her head back as she continued to swing. “Don’t you ever tire of all the rules Lavinia crams down our throats?”
I bit my lip. “Miss Good—“
“I mean, she practically has us in a box.”
“She does not have us in a box.”
“Doesn’t she?” She swung faster. “Wear this. Study that. Be to a meal at exactly this time or suffer her oh-so-terrifying look of disapproval.”
I chewed my thumbnail. There was never any getting anywhere with Jenny. “She has a lot of rules and schedules but I think it helps keep order to things. Someone has to—“
Jenny laughed, stirring up dirt as she brought herself to a stop. “Why do you always justify everything she does?”
“Why do you always have to go against everything?”
“I don’t go against everything. But it’s been the same thing ever since we got here. Don’t you ever want change?” A coy smile slid onto her face. “Don’t you want to see what’s on the other side of that gate?”
My brows went up. “The gate? Why would you even say that?”
Jenny shrugged, still smiling, then swung out again. “I don’t know. It’s hard not to wonder what’s beyond it.”
I lowered myself down onto the lowest step leading up to the shack. “It’s the one place she told us absolutely never to go. Don’t even think about it, Jen.”
“Who said I was thinking about it?”
A twig snapped, and moments later Cole stepped out from the forest. “I thought I’d find you two here.” He brushed a dry leaf from his hair, then lowered down on the step beside me. “Whatcha talking about?”
“The gate.” Jenny offered all too readily. Cole was the last person I would want to get that idea planted into his head. He and Jenny were way too alike and it scared me a little.
“What about the gate?”
“Nothing.” I quickly stood, my hand resting on the railing. “Have you ever been inside this place?”
“Way to change the subject, Mal.” Jenny hopped from the swing, looking up at the shack. “It gives me the creeps.”
Cole stood to his feet. “I vote we check it out.”
“I vote we don’t.” 
I threw Jenny a look of surprise. “You? Miss Daredevil? You were just talking about how you wondered what was beyond the gate but you vote against going inside the shack?”
“The gate is outside. Clearly whatever is beyond it is an open space. The shack is all confined and small and up on stilts with nowhere to run. What if there’s a dead body inside?”
Cole laughed, and I had to hold a little laughter back myself. “I highly doubt that.”
“Why? Because it’s so peaceful here? Doesn’t mean it’s always been. Someone had to have built it, and I don’t think that someone was Lavinia.”
“Someone had to have built the academy too, and I know that wasn’t Lav—Miss Gooding, but you still went inside.”
“More like I was forced to go inside.”
Cole shook his head, starting up the creaky steps. “I’m checking it out whether you girls want to or not.”
I stared after him, threw Jenny another look, then started up the stairs myself. Each step creaked and groaned and for a moment I wondered if climbing up these weather-battered stairs was the brightest of ideas. The railing was warped and peeling, making it impossible to grab onto it without getting a sliver or twelve. 
When Cole reached the top he paused a moment. Maybe he was also rethinking this whole thing. Then he looked down at me, a half smile tugging at his lips. “So, you want to go first or should I?”
I ascended the final step, stopping just behind him. “You go ahead.” My voice trembled a little, but it wasn’t from fear of what might be inside. No, it was the fact that I was terrified of heights. Sweat moistened my palms and I reached out to curl a hand around Cole’s arm. 
“Here goes nothin’.” He reached for the doorhandle, bronzy and rusted with age, then swung the door open. The hinges groaned, and the door stopped about halfway, probably warped from years of abandonment. It was dark inside the shack, only a thin sliver of light seeping through a thinly draped window. 
Cole gave the door another shove and this time it banged into the connecting wall. We both stared inside.
“So what’s inside?” Jenny called from her place at the bottom of the stairs.
“It’s…” Cole began.
“Empty.” I finished, staring into the dusty shell of a room.
“What? You’re kidding!” The stairs groaned as Jen hurried up them, taking two at a time. “Wow, you really weren’t kidding.” She slipped passed us and into the shack. Cole and I followed. 
The floor and walls were paneled with the same wood and painted in peeling gray paint. Aside from a single light hanging from the ceiling and the tattered curtains over the shack’s lone window, the place was completely empty. 
“So, what, the previous owner either took all of their belongings or the place was never used to begin with.” Jen scraped the toe of her shoe against the peeling paint.
“If that were the case, why bother putting a curtain in the window?” I glanced toward it, gauzy red and green plaid.
“Let’s try the light.” Cole suggested. He reached up to pull the cord, but instead of the room filling with light, it dimmed with a purplish glow. My eyes widened in surprise. 
“What the—” Jen began, but her sentence broke off when she spotted what Cole and I had already noticed. Splayed across the floor in a bold, eerie script were these words:

The gifted will fall.

And then the floorboards gave out.

Interview with Author Hope Ann



This is Hope Anne, the author of the Legends of Light series. She is an inspiring author, and I am so excited to share this interview with you! With our Fantasy Contest underway, I think that her advice on Fantasy will be very helpful. Enjoy!

Can you tell us about your latest book, Song of the Sword?

Song of the Sword is a retelling of Rapunzel and the second novella in my Legends of Light series. Though history progresses the series, each story stands alone and focuses on one aspect of the Fruit of the Spirit. In Song of the Sword, Evrard is a wingmaster, a warrior in the alternate dimension of the melody realm most people discount as legend. But even as the war about him seems to draw to an end, another battle rages through the Melody, one Evrard knows he doesn’t have the power to win. And he’s not the only one who will suffer if he fails because he’s made a discovery. He has a sister.

 

Why do you write fantasy?

I love swords, bows, griffins, and the freedom to create whole worlds. I also enjoy the allegory aspect I can use in fantasy; the ability to delve deeper into some topics without being preachy, or giving readers a fresh look at other topics without the emotional views they may take on the subject.
When you are lacking motivation, what do you do?

 

Work through it. There are plenty of times I don’t feel like writing, but I set deadlines for myself and force myself to keep moving even when I don’t want to. Because I know the lack of motivation won’t last and, when I’m excited about writing again, I’ll be further on in the story and able to press on with more vigor.

 

When did you first start writing fantasy? What prompted that first story?

 

I’ve written on and off since I was around eight. My first stories where short, mainly based off the world around me. I was fifteen or sixteen when I began writing fantasy. I’m not sure what I wrote first, or why. I enjoyed reading fantasy whenever I could. I liked the sword fights and heroic knights and archers and rescues. Somewhere along the way I switched from reading to writing fantasy…and I’ve never stopped.

 

What is the first thing you do, when you come up with an idea?

 

Write it down, because I will forget it if I don’t. I have several documents full of ideas. Generally I’m working on a few projects at one time while other ideas sift around in my brain…sometimes for a few years before I actually do anything with them.

 

Do you plan and outline before you start writing, or write some first?

 

I outline. All the time. If it’s a novella, I might just write a basic outline. If it’s a novel, I write an extended chapter by chapter outline along with character profiles and (sometimes) bits of backstory.

 

Some people say that young people don’t have experiences needed to be successful as a writer, as a young author yourself, what is your take on this?

 

Well, most writers don’t go through what their characters go through. They haven’t fought in battle or traveled through space or led a rebellion. If we were limited to writing about just what we’d experienced, we’d be very limited indeed, even as we grew older. But writers, no matter their age, can research to make sure their stories are grounded in reality. We can read well-written books and ‘experience’ things that way. Experience might deepen your writing, but if a writer understands emotions and can show them well, then they should be able to write about almost anything. Having said that, I personally write very little romance even as subplots and don’t intend to write much about characters getting married until I’m married myself. Though not impossible, marriage and romance, for me, is one thing I find hard to just ‘make up’ realistically.

 

What is your advice for young people, thinking about getting published?

 

Don’t cut corners. If you’re self-publishing, make sure you get a good cover. Make sure you proofread and proofread again and again and again. Make sure you format your book correctly. You’ve spent a lot of time creating it. You don’t want to put off readers due to a rush to get it published.

 

Alright, to wrap it up, what advice do you have for your fellow writers?

 

Spend a little time thinking about your purpose for writing. Is it a hobby, for personal enjoyment? There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. Is it to spread a message? Is it to earn a living? Nothing wrong with that either. But once you know your purpose for writing, that knowledge can help you relax or help you set deadlines and figure out how you want to go about your writing.

Interview with Rachel Wollaston



Can you tell us about your newly released book Kingdom?

Kingdom is my debut novel; a contemporary fantasy story based on the concept of an enchanted manor which brings story characters to life. I had been playing around for some time with the idea of sentient characters, and the basis for this story came to fruition when I merged it with a dream I had back in the summer of 2015. It is an action-packed story following the adventures of 18 year-old Pepper Fairfield after she realises her new job isn’t quite what she expected! 

Which authors inspired, and influenced, you the most?

Growing up, a firm favourite of mine was The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett.I just love all the ideas behind it and the way it combines real life with a slight flavour of fantasy. Nowadays—and I largely have the online writing group, WriteOn, to thank for this—I tend to veer towards books written by authors similar to myself: comparatively lesser known writers, often independently published. I enjoy giving thorough reviews and feedback which, in turn, allows me to develop my own writing. I’ve never been a big reader of the ‘classics’, so working like this give me a unique outlook on the literary world.

How would your writing be different, if you hadn’t read their works?

Reading and reviewing works by these wonderful, undiscovered authors offers me a much broader look at what is out there, and I feel there is a lot to be learnt from working closely with other writers. Sure, I may be unconventional in my approach, but who knows? Maybe it’s the future of writing! 

How old were you when you started writing?

Honestly, I find it difficult to pinpoint the exact moment I started to write. It has been a hobby of mine pretty much entire life, but I guess I only really started taking it seriously when I started work on Kingdom just over a year ago when I was seventeen.What? You didn’t know I’m still a teenager? But, as I said, there really was no exact moment when I decided that I wanted to write. I often joke that I might have been an author in a previous existence!

Do you have a favorite time of day to write?

In the evenings is always a nice time to write. I like to work in my bedroom, which is filled with strings of twinkling fairy lights. When it’s dark outside, it looks like you’ve stepped straight into a fantasy world! Great for finding inspiration!

When you have an idea for a story, what is your first step in writing it?

I grab my beautiful fountain pen and whichever colourful notebook I happen to be using at the time, and jot the idea down. I’m more of a panster than a planner, so I will begin writing pretty much straight away, allowing the ideas to unfold as I go, but referring back to my notebook whenever a concept requires more thought.

Was there ever a time when you felt like quitting writing at all? If so, what motivated you to keep going?

On the first day after Kingdom was released, I sold far less copies than I expected to. There was a moment then where I felt like all my efforts had been in vain. Thankfully, the sales picked up throughout the week but, even if they hadn’t, I wouldn’t have quit—giving upsimply isn’t in my blood. Besides, I love writing too much!

What do you do to combat writers block?

I have many techniques—taking a break, re-reading what I’ve written, ploughing through until I break the block—but my favourite method is to make a mental list of all the worst things that could possibly happen. Oftentimes, when I’m stuck in a rut, it means that my storyline has become bland and I’m losing interest. The only way to bring back the spark is tomake something crazy happen! Which character’s appearance would cause the most mayhem? What if something were to set on fire?

Is there a certain person you turn to when you lack inspiration, or just want to brainstorm?

My younger sister, Claire, is as crazy and insane as I am. When we’re not arguing, we get along extremely well. While I’m drafting my ideas, I will tell them to Claire. I admit, she’s not always that interested, but just the act of explaining the whole idea to someone else really helps me to find any major plot holes and flesh out the story.Sometimes, telling the story to my cat works just as well.Can you remember any specific milestones in your life as a writer?
Publishing my first story on Wattpad. In retrospect, it was absolute pants, but it was the first step I ever took in sharing my stories with other people. Before then, I was terrified of people judging my efforts, being the definition of the word ‘introvert’. That first movement inmaking my work public was a huge step for me.To wrap it up, can you tell us your advice for your fellow writers, new or otherwise?Be open to criticism, don’t be afraid of letting yourself fall before you fly and, above all, WRITE! Write because you love it, and because the world will be a better place once it hears your story.

Fantasy Contest



Calling Fantasy Writers of all ages and abilities! As of today, the first of August, through the twelvth, we are allowing submissions for our latest contest.

We are looking for short stories, scenes, or even excerpts from previously written works, between 250-3000 words.

We will pick three winners, all of whom will have their stories featured on the website, and will be given shoutouts on instagram! 

To send us your entry, just email it to us at rabbittrails@yahoo.com