Saturday, November 18, 2017

Interview with Robb White

Please welcome to Nifty Newly our newest Class Act Books author, Robb White!

Under the names Terry White, Robert White, and Robb T. White, Robert White has published dozens of crime, noir, and hardboiled short stories, and three hardboiled private-eye novels.  A lifelong reader of crime fiction, he published his first story in Gary Lovisi's Hardboiled magazine. Since then, he has published several dozen crime stories, and a collection of mainstream stories in 2013. An ebook crime novel, "Special Collections," won the New Rivers Electronic Book Competition in 2014.

White was born, raised, and continues to live in Ashtabula, Ohio.

Hi Robb! Let's get started...

If you got a catapult for your birthday, what's the first object you would launch with it? 

This question really appeals to my darker nature.  I think of plague-riddled corpses launched over medieval battlements in a siege. I do have two or three personal candidates I’d love to see strapped into such a device, but I’ll let my better angel dictate a different answer. A pumpkin.

When did you first discover you were a writer? 

I know it smacks of false humility to say I don’t consider myself a writer, but the truth is I’m reluctant to attach that honorific to my name. I don’t deserve it.  When I think of the writers I have read and admired deeply over many years, I cannot put myself in their company. For a while, I had an agent in New York City who valued my writing—or at least a couple of the characters in a thriller manuscript I’d sent her, and she embarrassed me by calling me a writer. I’m happy to be considered a producer of “entertainments,” and if my novels are liked, that’s all very nice. But real writers are another breed altogether. I’m not obsessive about my writing and that should disqualify me. 

If you crawled into a chrysalis today and began to metamorphose, who or what would you be when the chrysalis opened?

You might guess I’d say “writer” after that prior response, but the truth is I’d be the quarterback that would finally save the Cleveland Browns.

What invention do you most appreciate? 

The remote. The inventor should be given a Nobel Prize.

If you were a superhero, what would be your weakness? Your personal kryptonite? You can tell us what your powers would be too. :-)

I grew up on Superman comics and sat glued to the tube when George Reeves played him. I would possess all his powers except X-ray vision—who needs that? But boring through mountains with my fist, grabbing twenty-foot crocodiles on the Zambia River just when they go to snatch a zebra, that’s my idea of a great time. Sorry to say, I’d allow humanity to continue its backstroke in the cesspool, which is all we seem able to do as a species. I wouldn’t hurt those crocs, by the way. I’d swing them by the tails and skip them like stones gently across the surface.  I would fly all over the world, mostly avoiding people and cities. I’d see every place in 501 Must-Visit Destinations. My kryptonite would be my self-confidence: when would my magical powers fail? What if they failed at the moment I grabbed one of those killer crocs by the tail or just as I was about to chest-bump a hippo? Besides, I’m afraid of plane travel. I could never feel secure flying at 30,000.  Self-doubt’s a weakness Superman never had.

Let's talk about your new book! 

When did you first start working on Dangerous Women

It never occurred to me at first to write stories specifically for a collection like this from a woman’s point of view. Most of my characters are male since I began writing in 2011.  But if you’re thinking of crimes as plotlines for your characters, how do you not have women involved, and not for mere “relationship” purposes?  I grew up with five sisters, so I have no illusions about women. Take away the biological differences, maybe a small subset of genetic differences—for example, spatial perception which favors males or early communications skills which favors females—and we’re the same in our beings. The long and short is two years ago I realized I had enough stories for a collection and so I decided to shop them and was fortunate to find Anita York of Class Act Books.

What sort of books and other media have influenced your writing and storytelling? 

At two different times in my life I was influenced by specific kinds of novels—mainly, the novels of Dostoevsky.  The Possessed even more than Crime and Punishment or The Brothers Karamazov had a great influence on me as far as portraying evil goes.  Stavrogin and Svidrigailov are two of my all-time favorite amoral characters.  The other belongs to a certain summer when I came under the influence of the existentialists, especially Camus. The Stranger is a work that doesn’t age even though existentialism as a philosophy belongs to another time.  As for other media, I’m a devoted crimedog when it comes to shows like 48 Hours, Dateline, or the programs on Investigation ID. I like to observe the mannerisms and speech habits of real cops.

Do you have a favorite character in Dangerous Women

Regina Frontanetta in the first story is a prizefighter and private eye, two occupations I admire and could personally never have succeeded in. First, her courage is self-evident; most people in life think they have a certain amount of it, but in fact few people do.  We’re mostly sheep when it comes to risking life and limb. Getting hit in the face takes a special kind of person and she’s very smart, which is a quality I also admire. A close second is Natalie Sparks in the final story “Huffer Girl,” but she’s young and facing her first real test of courage.

What character would you consider most like you? 

I hate to say it but some of the male characters in my stories who wind up getting their butts handed to them by women or their own stupid decisions are most like me.  I’ll pick one.  The clueless narrator in “Diana’s Perfect Patsy” will do.

Writing a book is a big accomplishment. What do you like most about this book? What drew you to write it? 

I like the idea that my female characters can be as greedy, carnal, and interesting as males, and I hope I portrayed some of those characteristics throughout the stories. What drew me to write it is, in part, a desire to balance the opposites in my own nature. My “good” female character first appeared in some of my hardboiled stories alongside Thomas Haftmann, my series private eye.  Annie Cheng, an FBI agent from an earlier work, is a “good” character, as is Jade Hui, a protagonist from a forthcoming novel. I took the former’s name from a young woman in China who had impressed me when I was visiting Beijing in 1999, and I meant her to be good, intelligent, resilient. I wanted to balance the Annie/Jade type with some other types who were not so good and a few who were corrupt or downright evil.

Thank you so much for your time! 

My thanks, Jeremy.

Blurb for Dangerous Women

Weaker sex?  Not hardly!

The female is definitely deadlier than the male.  Short stories about ladies who can hold their own.


Be careful what you wish for, Regina.
Her mother’s words. Sometimes she could hear her mother’s voice in the house.
The Vindicator piece on Bodycomb’s death was two paragraphs.
He was found floating in Lake Milton, a popular summer resort area for fishermen seventeen miles east of Austintown just off the Interstate 80 overpass. Shot by a small-caliber weapon in the back of the head. The important information was in the second paragraph: Bodycomb, it noted, was running a dog-fighting network among three states: Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia for a loose-knit West Virginia crime family connected to the Pittsburgh LaRizzo family.
Damn you, Leo.
She was blowing through caution lights, ignoring the honking of cars, as she beelined for the office on Market.
Like a script from a cheap thriller, he was there, wearing the same clothes and unshaven, big jowls dark with stubble, pong of body odor in the overheated single room.
“You promised me full disclosure, total honesty,” she said.
She threw the paper across his desk.
“Here it is in case you missed it.”
Be calm, Regina, she told herself. She wasn’t going to lose her temper and a new job in that order.
“I did and I meant it, Baby,” Leo said.
He glanced at the paper sideways and pushed it back to her. He’d obviously read it.
“You asked me—no, you demanded I call somebody. I did,” he said.
He disgusted her with those wagging jowls and big stomach. She noticed his belt was undone and a patch of curly belly hair exposed.
“I suppose you’ll tell me when the mood strikes.”
“I meant the second case—your next case,” Leo said. “Full disclosure, just like you want.”
Her indignation petered out at the prospect. “So tell me about it,” she said.
Bodycomb was moving in on Donnie Bracca’s territory with his dog-fighting, Leo said.
“He can kill all the dogs he wants in West Virginia,” Leo said. “But Donnie B. controls gambling around here.”
“Donnie Bracca was your real client all the time,” Baby said.
“It’s like this, kid. They don’t blow each other up in cars no more. Gentlemen’s agreements, all nice and polite. But rules have to be followed. Bodycomb went rogue.”
She bit back a retort: You mean, like your own father?
Leo went on, waxing large, a hopeless Mafioso lover, although a real mafia man, a made man, could see Leo couldn’t be trusted. But even the Aryan Brotherhood used outside associates to get things done. Leo could be useful if you couldn’t buy a cop or scare off an investigative reporter snooping in shady politics or business deals.
She didn’t feel bad about Bodycomb’s death. After all, she'd wanted to kill the guy herself.
“Damn it, Leo,” she said. “You should have told me this in the beginning.”
Baby moved in the direction Bodycomb’s vehicle had taken. After a couple hundred yards through meadow grass up to her knees, she stopped and listened. Moving on, she dodged stunted bushes that popped up out of nowhere to snag her clothing. The foliage grew less dense. She found the parallel ruts of the Road Runner’s tracks and kept moving, straining her eyes to see light ahead. If Bodycomb was hiding assets from his soon-to-be ex-wife, he was taking a lot of trouble over it.
After five minutes of faster walking in the grooves, she heard barking coming from the right. She saw the first glimmer of light in the distance. The terrain was sparse but small slopes refracted the light source so it appeared and disappeared with every rise of the ground. A single dog barking became two, then three and finally a pack. Beneath their howls, men’s voices.
When she got close enough to make out words, she lay flat on her belly and put the binoculars on a cluster of men beside a ramshackle barn surrounded by cages of dogs in the beds of trucks beside a squared string of light bulbs a dozen feet from the ground. It looked like a crude boxing ring for backyard brawlers.
Its purpose became clear in the next few minutes. It was a dog-fighting pit.

Buy Link:

Publisher’s website (for paperback):
Amazon (for e-books and Kindle):

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

My sisters wrote and performed this piece! Happy Halloween!

It might interest you to know that in the world of Duskain, the god of death is named Heem. He sends fiery snakes to gather the souls of the dead who are unwilling to go east to Haven and face judgement.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

If you've ever played Dwarf Fortress, you're familiar with the crazy things that can happen when you let loose a team of dwarves in a randomly generated fantasy world. The goal of the game is to establish and maintain a fortress, keeping it alive, healthy, and wealthy for as long as possible. The simulation of the world around and inside your fortress is intensely detailed, even insanely so. To get an idea, just keep reading. My first experience with Dwarf Fortress was an exercise in wonder, and I'd like to share it.

Also, please keep in mind the one motto that all Dwarf Fortress players eventually learn: "Losing is fun."

Part 1: The Reign of SenseSaint the Giraffe

RoastedTreaties was my first fortress. It was built in a hot jungle climate, with stagnant surface water and a lot of fruit trees. I tried to follow the wiki's suggestions for a first fortress closely, and things went quietly for the first several seasons. So quietly, in fact, that when I first started engraving tombs for my dwarves, one of the first carvings was of a legendary meal that the cook had made the previous winter. My engraver had exquisite taste.

Another interesting side-effect of following the wiki, though perhaps it was just a quirk of my own luck, was the way dwarf children were born in RoastedTreaties. Almost every baby was born while his mother was climbing the long central staircase that connected every level of the fortress. The baby would inevitably fall down the flight of stairs to the very bottom floor, and the dwarf mother would have to go chasing after him.

I was inexperienced with the game, so when a dwarven teenager went into a fey mood and took over a workshop I was confused and uncertain. What was I supposed to do about that? I let him work for a while, and built a second workshop so my other dwarves could continue crafting mugs and bracelets to trade with. I finally looked up what was going on, and was shocked to learn that if the fey dwarf didn't get all the materials he needed he would go insane. I checked the workshop. He wanted glass? How do you make glass? I scrambled to get the right materials, but I was too late. The teenager went insane, and started wandering the fortress, harmlessly babbling to himself. I felt bad, so I tried to make sure there was always sufficient food and drink for him. It didn't matter. He died of dehydration a month or so later, all while sitting at a dining table next to dwarves who were eating and drinking to their hearts' content.

This whole time the fortress was under a sort of siege by giraffes. They were not being violent or anything, but I had a number of dwarves gathering plants who would run away the moment they saw one. My inexperienced hunters would shoot off a couple bolts in their general direction, invariably missing, and then run for their lives. The big, brooding ungulates were distracting and unnerving everyone.

Everyone, that is, except for one ambitious farmer. Apparently he was sick of planting plump helmets. So, one day he threw away his shovel and picked up a tin crossbow, ready to catch him some giraffe for dinner. I don't remember this dwarf's name, but the battle that followed was certainly unforgettable. I read the report at length. After shooting, and missing, the farmer threw down his crossbow and began punching, kicking, and biting the giraffe. He beat the poor thing until it was a mess of bruises. After three days of endless punishment, the giraffe finally snapped. It vomited all over the dwarf, coating him thoroughly, and then kicked him three times. The farmer died immediately, his chest a gory mess.

The giraffe, however, went on a rampage. Three kills later, he had earned himself the name of SenseSaint, and RoastedTreaties truly was under siege. Dwarves could not go outside without SenseSaint trying to run them down and trample them to death. Though food stores were plentiful for now, I knew this could not continue indefinitely. I trained up a military, with the sole purpose of tracking down and killing SenseSaint the Giraffe.

I decided to err on the side of overwhelming force, and trained up ten marksdwarves. The result was a bit anticlimactic. They shot at SenseSaint from a safe distance as the beleaguered giraffe ran for his life. Sure enough, not a single bolt hit. I think one might have grazed the animal's cheek. He ran off the board and never returned, so I sent the dwarves back to train until their archery skills improved.

Part 2: Attack of the Pristine Bean

With this crisis ended, another began. The mother of the dwarven teenager who had died, a cook named Mosus, fell under a similar spell of obsession. She took over a workshop, and this time I made sure to check on her and get all the materials she needed. I like to imagine she continued the work where her son had left off, though she ended up needing very different materials. The result of her efforts was a wooden bracelet named StilledTattooed. At first I was excited to see my dwarves' first artifact. Then I saw the engraving. A large, sleeping forgotten beast.

To this day I'm unsure whether the game mechanics actually include prophetic warnings, but I took this as one. I trained up the military some more, preparing for invasion. Sure enough, not a year after the prophecy of Mosus was given, an enormous one-eyed lizard Titan showed up on the edge of the map.

By this point I had built an enclosing wall around my fortress, complete with mechanical drawbridges at each of the cardinal points. I sent a dwarf right away to push the lever in the dining room that would lift the bridges and secure the fortress, but he was too slow. The Titan was within the walls of the fortress, slowly plodding around, as if looking for prey.

Well, I hadn't trained up this military for nothing. I mustered the troops. The first bolt actually hit! And then chaos broke loose.

For some weird reason, this Titan could spit spider webs. He could also run really, really fast. My troops were overwhelmed, and quickly slaughtered. There was so much blood that a bystander named Ingus Sterusfikod turned vampire and made her first kill in the middle of the fray. In front of ten witnesses.

The battle raged from the surface down to the third floor. Citizen dwarves rushed from the dining room to join the fight, including the cook, Mosus, who it turns out was quite handy with a mace. Finally, after the stairwell was literally rolling with severed pieces of dwarf, a lucky dwarf landed the final blow. Bostu Berrydives the Pristine Bean (that's what the dwarves named him) shuddered, took his last breath, and died.

Part 3: Mayor Vampire

The death count was around 30, about half the fortress's population, and cleanup was complicated by depression, a shortage of coffins, and the spiderwebs clogging up the stairway. The new mayor had fallen prey to a cage trap, and when he finally went insane (I never could convince the dwarves to free him), Ingus Sterusfikod became the next mayor. She was killing a dwarf every couple months at this point, and though I made sure she was convicted for every kill, even the ones without witnesses, the worst punishment she ever received was a beating. Thinking her political influence was preventing her from being executed (I've since learned that dwarven justice requires a prison and a hammerer), I replaced her as mayor and assigned her to the military.

I had smelted a lot of gold at this point. I was making toys out of the stuff, for the thirty or so children to play with. I knew that sooner or later goblins would come, so I carved fortifications into the walls and prepared for the assault.

I was not disappointed. Unfortunately for my plan to get rid of Ingus, she had fallen into a trance a month or so before the invasion, and was still finishing up as the first goblins climbed over the walls. My soldiers performed admirably, though I was shocked to discover my walls were not keeping them out very well. I determined I needed to improve my defenses. I decided to build a moat.

The problem with the moat was that my fortress was much bigger underground than it was on the surface. The moat penetrated the first level at several points, so I dug it deeper so any goblin trying to jump in would fall to his death. It was not a foolproof plan, but I didn't know how to undig a moat. By the second invasion the moat was ready (or so I thought), and my tenacious vampire friend Ingus was on the front lines (or so I thought).

The discovery of the weak point in my defenses was quite comical, looking back. Just before the goblins made it to the walls, I found a miner stuck in the moat and instructed him to dig his way out and head inside. He did, and then went straight inside through an entrance I hadn't known existed. The moat had exposed a ramp, straight down into the training rooms on the first level, and I had completely missed it. I scrambled to move my armies in that direction, but the goblins were not so courteous as to attack in one place. They split up and attacked from multiple directions, some climbing down the deep pits to the second level, some climbing over the southern wall, and the largest contingent going straight for the unnoticed ramp after my homeward bound miner.

Ingus Sterusfikod ended up seeing very little of the battle that followed. She stuck around the southern wall, killed one goblin, and then stopped fighting in horror at the blood she had spilled. Why this disturbed her so much I'll never know, as she had already drained the blood out of enough dwarves to make Snow White a single woman, but her delicacy probably saved her by keeping her on the surface. The bloodiest part of the battle took place on the first and second floors, with dwarves who had no business being involved. My population of 150 dropped down to about 70, 40 of whom were children.

Roastedtreaties was winding down. I doubted they could survive another invasion of that magnitude. I built a wall to block off the ramp into the training room, and constructed a platform along the wall with ballistae. Ingus kept working with wood when she wasn't training with the rest of the militia, and for the time being she wasn't killing anyone. I knew it couldn't last, but I was grateful for the reprieve. If she survived another invasion, maybe I would give her a chance, find some way to isolate her from the rest of the dwarves so she could keep working on the things she loved.

The next invasion came like clockwork.The drawbridges went up. My militia deployed. The ballistae were loaded. Though all the preparations were in place, I had little hope for my fortress. I had only twenty half-decent troops against an army of at least 80 goblins, trolls, and beak dogs. The fortifications would not hold.

In the end, they didn't have to. Possessed by a sudden and unexpected battle lust, Ingus ran up the ramp to the ballista platform and leapt off into the midst of the goblin army. The fight that ensued was the stuff of nightmares. The report describes her biting into the heads of trolls and shaking them until their spines snapped, then tossing them aside. She fought like a tiger, destroying well over a third of the goblin army, including all the captains, all by herself. She finally collapsed on top of her own personal pile of corpses, unconscious, and bleeding from every single part of her body. The vampire had turned mayor, then soldier, than craftsdwarf, and now, finally, into a war hero.

The rest of the goblins who managed to infiltrate the fortress were picked off by the remaining militia, the traps, and some tavern-goers who happened to have their weapons with them. After I'd organized a quick civilian militia to pick off a couple stragglers still loose in the fortress, I went to check on Ingus. Miraculously, she was still alive. I deliberated over helping the dwarves find her. I had been trying to kill her, after all. My better side won out in the end, and I sent the doctor to go rescue her.

Part 4: The End of Roastedtreaties

Unfortunately, the battle did not turn things around. My fortress was just as vulnerable as ever, and more goblins would be coming soon. Ingus was lying in a hospital bed, attended to by dwarves who had no thread or soap with which to help her (my bad; it has taken me an embarrassingly long time to figure out what sheep are for in this game). The walls of the hospital were quickly covered in blood and pus from ruptured infections, then vomit from unprepared visitors, then miasma from the decaying bodies of those who didn't make it, and for whom I could never build coffins fast enough. Ghosts of the unburied wandered the halls. When Ingus died a few days later though, a crippled mess of wounds and infection, I made sure there was a coffin open for her burial.

There were only fifteen or so adult dwarves left, a small squadron of survivors. The forty children played with their gold toys, running back and forth among the rows upon rows of filled coffins on the fifth level. Perhaps I could have fended off one more invasion, for their sake, if it hadn't been for the werelizard.

I'd never seen, or even heard about werebeasts in Dwarf Fortress. I worried I was facing another titanic monster like Bostu, so I quickly threw up the drawbridges when I saw him enter the map. I mustered the military, in case he decided to attack the fortress. He didn't, though. Instead, he found two dwarf children playing in the only pool of water left on the map, far outside the city walls. He killed them mercilessly, and though they fought him tooth and nail and injured him severely, the end result was unavoidable.

I was mad. I'd seen enough misery among my dwarves already. I threw open the drawbridges and sent my militia out to face this child-killing freak. My dwarves wrestled him to the ground as he bit and tore at their arms, and then they crushed his skull with their fists. The injuries (on their part) were minor. I imagined I was ready for the next invasion.

I was so blind.

The next invasion came, and with it, the full moon. Two of the dwarves who had been bitten turned into werelizards themselves, just after I had mustered the militia to the surface. With all the soldiers busy fighting monsters among their own ranks, the fortress stood no chance. The goblins rushed in and laid waste. Unwilling to watch all those children die, I ordered the survivors to abandon Roastedtreaties and flee into the wild.

I decided I would build another fortress, a safer one. One that wouldn't rely on external fortifications, spaced out so far as to be indefensible. One with multiple stairways, so my dwarves would never be stuck in the lower levels because of spiderwebs or monsters. One with a proper hospital, so dwarves could be healed properly after bloody battles with the enemy.

And, preferably, one without any giraffes.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

New interview!

Beverly Bateman just published an interview with me on her blog! She wanted to know my thoughts on animals and their place in literature. I had fun with it, so please come check it out!

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Dragon Born

A new dragon was born in Duskain last night...

What should we name him? Comment below!

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Nifty Newly, featuring Juanita Aydlette

Juanita is a fellow author from Louisiana. Her first novel, It's in the Blood, is a paranormal fantasy/romance released by Class Act Books in 2016. She loves dogs, and is excited to be working on the sequel to her first book. Please welcome Juanita Aydlette to Nifty Newly!

What's the title of the book you're working on?

I am working on part-2 of It's in the Blood, entitled Blood Ties.

How many books have you written? Published/unpublished? What genre? 

I have actually written three novels—published one. I love romance, fantasy, suspense, thrillers, paranormal and whatever. The other two books are a paranormal, and a suspense. After working with my editor from Class Act on my first book, I'm going to re-work them before submitting them. I wrote them a long time ago and put them on the shelf.

What inspires you, as a writer? 

I lived in my own fantasy world as a child, and now I'm bringing that world to life.

How do you come up with names? 

Wow! They sort of pop up most of the time. I do try to pick names from a certain era or culture that I'm writing about.

How do you come up with ideas? 

A good question. I read a lot, trying to come up with something that I think would be different. Some of the ideas, however, might offend my church, so I try to be careful about what I write. I like to take past events, sometimes, and extend on the actual facts, you know—take them in a different direction from the original story. Not always does it work...

Why is originality important in fiction? Or is it important? 

I think originality is important, because it brings out the real creative mind of the author—really tests your skills.

What would you consider a good example of originality in your fiction? 

Most fiction I feel is combined with true facts, and there will be a pinch of my life story in all of my future fantasy books, whether it's a wish or and actual fact. Since I've traveled a bit and experienced how people of different cultures live, I feel I can possibly bring something different to my stories.

Thank you so much for your time, Juanita. Happy writing! 

Thank you for having me. It's been great talking to you.

To support Juanita, check out this excerpt from her first book, followed by links to purchase her work and explore her websites. 


Never stare at a green-eyed, shirtless hunk. Gabrielle Madsen is drawn in by such a pair of eyes that captures her soul and leaves her a prisoner of an addictive kind of love--not that she's complaining. But her educational trip turns out to be more than just a fun-filled summer escapade.

She’s faced with a life-changing decision that could affect the world around her. Her discovery of this ancient, legend-come-to-life proves to be deadly, but her heart can’t break away. She and Josh Van Ness fall in love and must battle the forces that want to keep them apart.

Excerpt from It's in the Blood:

“This is the Kikuyu tribe,” Josh explained. “They live isolated from the outside world and they’ve hunted successfully in this area. They have practically no contact with the world beyond this jungle.”
“How did you find them?”
“They found me,” he said. I wasn’t quite ready for an explanation, so I decided to save all my questions until after the adventure.
“We made it just in time,” Chris shouted. She took my hand from Josh and led me over to a group of women who were carrying bowls made of mud. They smiled as they reached for my hands.
“Don’t be afraid, they only want to paint us.”
I looked around for the guys and they had a head start—already being slathered in red and green. They had removed their shirts and were wrapping themselves with garments made of hides. Josh had a tattoo of a tiger over his heart. I tried not to stare at it when I gave him my dad’s shirt. Chris handed me a straw skirt, and the ladies proceeded to cover us with mashed berries. It turned our faces and arms a pretty shade of purple.
“How will we get this off?” Chris didn’t answer. She simply laughed and removed her blouse—exposing her breasts.
“Oh, no! I’ll do the paint thing but that’s as far as I’m going.”
“Suit yourself.” She shrugged. “Maybe next time.”
“Maybe not.” We were nearly unrecognizable when they finished our makeover and so were Josh and Mike.
After our severe camouflaging, the natives formed a circle around a pile of smoldering branches. Drum beats echoed, splitting the air. The women began a sensual dance, swaying their heads back and forth with their hands placed on their sides. They lowered themselves into a squatting position, singing and moving their midsections in synchronized rhythm. Though it was all foreign language to me, their song was soothing to my ears. Their nimble bodies made contact with their partners while never breaking the rhythm of the drum beats. The men cradled the women as they succumbed hypnotically to their harmonious chants.
Without warning, Josh joined the circle and danced with them. His movements were perfectly in sync with theirs. His skin glimmered with perspiration, and his pierced navel ring circled with an embarrassing invitation. I glanced away. He then ran over and grabbed my hand, pulling me back to the circle of entranced dancers.
“No!” I shouted above the drum beats. Mike and Chris were right behind me, prancing and following Josh.
“Come on Gabby, have fun. We come here all the time,” she said. “Josh sometimes spends the night here.”
Josh was then holding me close—my stomach smashed into his—a little closer than I had planned to be. With his face just inches from mine, he held his mouth open, inhaling deeply and sucking the breath right out of me.
“Do you?”
“Do I what?” he asked. He bit down on his bottom lip.
“Spend the night here sometimes.”
“I have, a few times—when I needed to get away from things.”
“You’re not afraid at all, are you?”

Find out more about Juanita at:
Twitter: @Juanita Aydlette

Buy Links: 

Publisher’s website:

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Nifty Newly, featuring Rick McQuiston

Rick is a lifelong horror fanatic who also enjoys music and movies. He's been writing seriously for over 20 years, and plans to continue churning out horror fiction as long as he's able. He loves anything horror-related. Please welcome to Nifty Newly, Rick McQuistion

What's the title of the book you're working on? 

Tentatively: novel -- Things that Bite, anthology -- Through the Cemetery Gates

How many books have you written? Published/unpublished? What genre? 

Ten horror anthologies (self-published) and five horror novels (two self-published- three published by Class Act Books).

What inspires you, as a writer? 

Man's oldest emotion: fear, and how each individual character deals with it.

How do you come up with names? 

I have a running list that I keep. When I think of a character I try to affix the name that best suits him/her.

How do you come up with ideas? 

I like to take everyday situations and twist them into something completely different. However, I do feel it's important to adhere to a sense of realism, thus selling the supernatural aspects that much more easily.

Why is originality important in fiction? Or is it important?

Originality in fiction is very important, particularly in horror. Any genre, however, needs at least some sense of originality, otherwise a reader can guess what direction the story is going in.

What would you consider a good example of originality in your fiction?

"A Slave to my Passion," "Writer," "A Brief Eternity," and "A Tense Situation."

Thank you so much for your time, Rick! You can learn more about Rick McQuiston at: 

Publisher’s website:
Author's website:

And you can experience more of Rick's fiction with this excerpt from his new monster story, Eat the World. Purchase links follow. 


In picturesque Mackinac a growing army of rats are beginning to seep into the community of tourists. They seemingly appear out of nowhere, and it is up to ordinary people to gather their courage and battle the hordes.

But there is something more frightening beneath the surface, something that was born from the accumulated depths of Earth's creatures, something that can threaten the entire world.

Excerpt from Eat the World:

The rodent scurried through the narrow channel. It barely managed to squeeze its lengthy bulk into the tight aperture, but by inhaling a deep breath of warm, salty air, it was able to reduce its girth enough to allow it somewhat comfortable passage. A cursory glance to either side after it cleared the opening revealed nothing predatory or dangerous.

The rodent then scrambled into the brush.

In its wake was a vicious, gray-green substance that loosely resembled hydraulic motor oil left in the sun too long. It was thick in consistency, yet still transparent enough to allow the dozens of tiny organisms swirling within it to be seen. It bristled with unnatural life.

The small grass snake slithered through the brush. Its brown, speckled hide gave it perfect camouflage in the wild. It melted into its surroundings, becoming for all intents and purposes, invisible to both predator and prey. It was its natural defense mechanism as well as aiding it with tracking down prey.

The snake's belly convulsed with hunger. It hadn't eaten in days and was in danger of starving. It scanned the woods for any sign of movement, anything at all that it could inflict a bite on and swallow whole.

There was no movement whatsoever. Not even a stray beetle or ant scuttled by. The snake was completely alone in the vast wilderness of the island. It laid perfectly still, both to conserve energy and to avoid detection. It sensed that something was watching it from a darkened crevice nearby. Something bigger than it was and undoubtedly just as hungry.

The snake didn't move a muscle. It hoped that whatever was hidden in the crevice wouldn't notice it. The strange substance on the ground bristled beneath its body, but it had more pressing matters to be concerned about. Flicking its tongue, the snake tasted the air. Far below, the cold waters of Lake Huron washed up against I-67. Being the only state highway in the US without motorized vehicles, the pristine ribbon of asphalt circled the entire island.

The movement caught the snake's attention. It swung its conical head in the direction of the sound: the dark crevice. Whatever was watching it had moved. Several quick tongue darts picked up a scent, causing the snake to recoil back into itself. It could defend itself if need be, but if its adversary was larger it would quickly opt for retreat. Self-preservation was perhaps the only instinct that overrode all others, including hunger and the need to mate. When faced with a threat, survival was paramount.

The snake hissed in a feeble effort to ward off its potential adversary. It reared up then to display its size. It did not know if it was larger, or smaller than the other creature, but it was one of the few weapons it possessed.

The rodent poked its pink snout out of the crevice. It sniffed a few times, and satisfied that suitable prey was within striking distance, settled back on its haunches as it prepared to attack.

With a blinding ferocity beyond any member of its species, the huge, bloated rat launched itself out of the crevice and sucked down the too-slow grass snake in one violent swallow.

The reptile never had a chance.

With its hunger temporarily sated, the rat lumbered away into the brush. It left copious amounts of the strange substance behind, leaving a sickly trail leading into the woods.

The substance squirmed with minuscule life.

Buy Links:  

Publisher’s website:

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Nifty Newly, featuring Tony-Paul de Vissage

Tony-Paul de Vissage is a Southerner of French Huguenot heritage, whose first movie memory is of being a six-year-old viewing the old Universal horror flick, Dracula’s Daughter, on television. He was subsequently scared sleepless—and that may explain a lifelong interest in vampires.

He is now paying back his very permissive parents by writing about vampires. Before the screaming starts, let's welcome Tony-Paul de Vissage to Nifty Newly. 

What's the title of the book you're currently working on?

I’m currently struggling with a little paranormal tome entitled A Single Shade of Red. It’s a sequel to The Last Vampire Standing, which was published by Class Act books in 2012. It’s taking quite a while because the main character Vlad Chemare is being difficult.

How many books have you written? Published/unpublished? What genre?

I’ve written a total of 25 novels, including the aforementioned Single Shade.
Sixteen were paranormal/vampires novels; three were M/M romances; two were historical horror; and three were short story collections, now out of print.

What inspires you, as a writer?

Being a writer of supernatural stories, I’m inspired by nearly any novel, movie, TV episode, legend, myth, or anecdote in the same vein (no pun intended).☺

How do you come up with names?

I have several books on names, and if I can’t find one to suit, I do a search on names from the particular country where my novel is set. I try not to use ones which are difficult to pronounce or which might be pronounced incorrectly by the reader, however.

How do you come up with ideas?

I’m afraid I have a quirky imagination and it has a habit of twisting the endings of stories I’ve heard onto new and bizarre paths.

Why is originality important in fiction? Or is it important?

Well, we certainly don’t want the same thing being churned out day after day, do we?  Occasionally, we need something to wake us up and stir our imaginations, not simply SO-SO…same old, same old…cookie-cutter assembly-line narrations.

What would you consider a good example of originality in your fiction?

My series the Second Species. I thought I was being exceptionally original by creating a group of beings who weren’t really vampires but sufferers of the genetic disease X-P in which a person’s DNA can’t repair the damage done by ultraviolet light. I thought I was being very clever.  Time will tell if I was.

Thank you so much for joining us, Tony-Paul! We've attached a selection from Shadow Lord, as well as links to Tony-Paul Vissage's website and where you can purchase a copy of Shadow Lord. Have fun exploring, and be sure to bring a friend! 

Blurb for Shadow Lord (Book 1 of the Second Species series):

While Humans multiply into Earth’s dominant life-form, the Tree of Man sprouts another prolific branch—the aventurieri, winged, nocturnal hunters with a dietary need for blood. As legends evolve about them, Mankind's half-brothers live their twilight lives in the Carpathians’ shadowed heights, where they develop their own civilization, laws, and religion—and a prophecy of a savior paradoxically betraying his people.

When Janos Strigoi is murdered by Mircea Ravagiu, his son’s demand for revenge expels him into the outside world of 18th century Europe. Marek Strigoi’s existence, as well as that of his species, will be forever changed as he seeks his father’s killer.

When both the hunter and the hunted are vampires, not even Hell can stand in the way.


Though the sun had been down for many hours, Elsabeta Suvoi was still abed. Her lover liked her that way, wanting his woman where she was convenient whenever his lust seized him. Elsabeta was slavishly in love with Mircea Ravagiu. He was violent and insatiable, as cruel in bed as out of it, but she worshipped him. It had been so from the moment they met, after her father’s reluctant invitation to a banchet at his castel. Elsabeta had taken one look at the black-eyed warrior, saw the lustful gleam in his eyes, and left with him that night against her parents’ wishes. She’d sullied the Suvoi name to become his iubita...and she didn’t care.

He never spoke aloud that he loved her, though often he praised her body for the satisfaction it gave him. He said straightaway she should never expect marriage or offspring, but Elsabeta was a female of her time from a family of women considered mere chattels to their males, so she accepted his domination without argument. Running away with Mircea was her one independent act.

At first horrified by the bloody orgies and attacks upon the deomi, the humans living on the edges of his estate, she now ignored his rapaciousness and his brutal games, letting his prowess in bed distract her. When her lover and his soldati returned from their hunts, she locked herself in her bedchamber, its thick walls drowning out the screams from below. It was the cries of the children that cut most into her soul. At those times, she thanked the Oracle Ravagiu swore he’d never get her with child, for it came into her mind should it happen, it might be her own infant shrieking out its life in the castel banquet chamber.

To Elsabeta, Mircea Ravagiu was like one of the dreadful Ancient Ones who devoured its own offspring. She truly believed he wouldn’t hesitate to rip out his own child’s throat and drink its blood should the thought come to him. Yet, with that perversity Nature renders some, she loved the man and never thought to leave him.

She was jerked from her semi-slumber by the chamber door being kicked open, sat up to stare at the figure in the doorway...Mircea, upper body bare, wings hovering around him. They were still quivering, evidence he’d flown rapidly and had just landed. From where she sat, she could hear his harsh panting. He held something in his arms.

“Get dressed.” No words of greeting or love. Just an order.

“Why? What’s the matter?” A loud crashing came through the doorway, voices crying out. “What’s that noise?”

“My men are disposing of the vanjosi.” He answered as calmly as if merely announcing the moon had risen. “Strigoi’s freak’s on his way here and we have to go.”

“You should’ve expected this.” She dared remind him of what he’d done, though it jeopardized her own life. “Did you think you could slaughter his family and he wouldn’t retaliate?”

She’d been horrified when he returned from his brother’s castel announcing they’d been executed by the Prince’s Taietor, didn’t believe it when he said he planned to kill the Shadow Lord and his family. She hadn’t thought he’d succeed and waited to be told he was dead, resigned to living the rest of her days as an outcast for the choice she’d made. And then, Mircea returned, bloodily triumphant...and Janos Strigoi and his wife were dead and their children carried away to be tortured before their blood nourished their father’s enemy.

“I never thought that book-bound scholastic’d have balls enough to take a sword in his hands.” He stalked into the room. The sounds from below got louder, women screaming, men shouting, voices abruptly cut off to be replaced by others just as terrified. “Get up or you’ll join my servants.”

Sliding from the bed, she hastened to obey but as she reached for her chemise and overskirt, he said, “We’re flying. Make certain your wings are unhampered.”

The bundle he held began to move. It squirmed, kicking itself free of the swathing
blanket. A plump little leg, an arm...a baby, a little girl-child, tiny and out of place in Mircea’s deadly embrace.

“Dear one.” Elsabeta stopped with the garment in her hands. A sick dread twisted inside
her. “Wh-who’s that?”

“My daughter.” His answer was as short as if he’d bitten the word. “Now.”

Daughter? How can he have a child? Hadn’t he told her he wished no brats, that the only thing he wanted from them was their sweet, immortality-laden blood?

Shrugging her wings out of their concealing pouches, she peered at the infant. The child
whimpered, turning her head and holding out her hands. She was blond and blue-eyed, not quite a year old. This is Janos Strigoi’s child. Elsabeta’s heart felt as if it had been wrung dry.

“What are you going to do with her?” Even as she asked the question, she knew she had to prevent it. If she had to risk her own life and finally brave Mircea’s wrath, she couldn’t let him harm this child.

“It’ll be fitting, don’t you think?” His laugh was harsh. “Raising the Shadow Lord’s brat as
my own? Teaching her how to be a Ravagiu and some day, letting the survivors know?”

“No! Please…” A woman’s scream floated up to them, dying away in a bloody wail.

“Are you ready?” He thrust the child into her arms.

Elsabeta cuddled it against her naked breast, holding the little body tightly. I must do whatever it takes to protect this baby. If it kills me.

He held out his hand.

“Where are we going?” She placed her own in it. He led her toward the window.

“I’m fortunate my brother saw fit to have holdings in other countries and I’ve traveled to them.” One fist struck the shutters, sending them flying. He climbed upon the sill. “We’re going to Budapest. Hold tight to the brat. If you drop her, I’ll kill you.”

He flung himself through the window into the air. Naked as she was, Elsabeta was pulled along, clutching the child. Releasing her hand, Mircea circled and rose swiftly, his body completing a graceful curve as he aimed himself over the trees, Elsabeta trailing after him.

Below them, the killings continued for another hour.

Find out more about Tony-Paul at:

Twitter:  @tpvissage

Publisher’s website:
Amazon author’s page:

Buy Link for Shadow Lord:

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Nifty Newly, featuring Toni V. Sweeney

Toni has lived in the South for 30 years, the Midwest for another 30, on the pacific Coast for 10 years, and she's now trying for her second 30 on the Great Plains.  Presently, she lives in Lincoln, NE. She works as a promotions manager for Class Act Books, and has published 74 novels in fantasy, science fiction, and other genres. I've worked with her for almost a year now promoting my first book, and she has been a joy and an amazing resource. Please welcome to Nifty Newly, speculative fiction author Toni V. Sweeney.

What's the title of the book you're currently working on? 

I’m currently putting the finishing touches on Retribution, the 13th entry in the Arcanian Chronicles series, a sci-fi/fantasy which is written in two parts and will have a total of 16 novels.

How many books have you written? Published/unpublished? What genre? 

Counting reprints, I’ve had around 74 novels published. I have 2 that are WIPs and therefore not published yet. One is a paranormal, the other a contemporary romance.  I’ve a list of 56 novels I want to write and I’m working my way through the list. I’ve already written 22 of them.

What inspires you, as a writer?

Just about anything.

How do you come up with names?

Since a good many of my novels are fantasy/sci-fi, I like to take the original forms of names and use them. When I do that, I’ll write in a scene somewhere when a character mentions his/her name and how to pronounce it to help the reader along if the name looks difficult.

How do you come up with ideas?

Someone may say something to trigger a thought; I might see a movie and decide I could make a better ending. Once I dreamed of a character and ended up writing a horror novel called Serpent’s Tooth.

Why is originality important in fiction? Or is it important?

Someone once said there are no original ideas. They all boil down to the same theme. It’s what the writer does with that theme, where he gives it that little twist making it different enough that it stands out or makes the reader coming back for more.

What would you consider a good example of originality in your fiction?

I’ve two I consider originals.  One is the Adventures of Sinbad, where I took my favorite (at that time) tv show Beauty and the Beast (1980’s version) and transformed Vincent into Sinbad sh’en Singh, a humanoid feline smuggler who becomes the eighth richest man in the galaxy. That was to be a one-shot story and ended up as a series of 8 novels.

The other would be Bride of the Beast.  From the title, it sounds as if it’s going to be a Grade-B horror movie (actually there was a Grade-B horror movie by that name), but in reality, it’s the story of the Golden Calf…or, in this instance, the Golden Lion.  When Moses went to receive the Ten Commandments, the Israelites made a golden calf, the Egyptian goddess Hathor.  My question was:  What if there was a second faction within the camp who made a different statue, that of Maahdes, the lion king? What would’ve been their punishment?  Something much worse than being forced to wander 40 years in the wilderness, you can bet.

That involved a great deal of research, both into ancient Egyptian as well as Judaism. I guess I managed what I intended because one of my reviewers was Jewish and she said I was spot-in in my portrayal of Judaic custom and ritual.

Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and your work with us, Toni! Her most recent novel, Sinbad's War, was released April 15 by Class Act Books. We've included an excerpt from the novel for your enjoyment. 


Sinbad sh’en Singh, smuggler-turned-shipping magnate, has become quite the family man, knee-deep in offspring and complacent with his life...but Fate is about to interfere...

Terra is again at war, attacked by the Severani, members of an aggressively militant planet daring to challenge the Federation.

That was the enemy’s first mistake.

Bombardment of other Federation planets follow...then they invade Felida, and among the casualties are the people Sin holds most dear...

...and that is the final and fatal mistake.

The hostile Severani are about to discover there’s nothing quite so dangerous as a Felidan who’s lost his mate...especially if his name’s Sinbad sh’en Singh.

Excerpt from Sinbad’s War:

The young man jumped to his feet, staring at the tall figure who stopped, looking down at him.

Nils Van Lewen considered himself tall, but the man coming through the door was a giant. He was also the first Felidan Nils had ever seen. Nothing had prepared him for this…

The creature said, “I’m Sinbad sh’en Singh. You wanted to see me?”

Nils stared up at him.

Before he realized it, he stuttered, like a fool, “G-G--, you’re tall!”

More than once he’d used his own height to intimidate someone and now he knew how that felt.

“We all are.” A slight smile touched the giant’s mouth, revealing another shock.

Pointed canines.

He leaned against the desk, arms crossed over his chest. “What do you want…” Green eyes flicked to the insignia on his right shoulder. “…captain?”

Good G--, they looked like a cat’s. The young man’s thoughts were a jumble.

“Van Lewen…Nils Van Lewen, Captain, Federation Armed Services.”

Thank God, he sounds like a Terran, speaks Inglaterre well, too. No accent at all.

“I don’t want to seem rude, but I’ve a business to run. I’d appreciate it if you’d state your purpose in being here so I can get back to it.” Sin stared at Nils expectantly.

Nils stared back.

“Well?” There was a hint of impatience in the deep voice.

“I’m sorry, but I was told you were paraplegic,” the young officer began, then shook his head as he realized the statement came out sounding like an accusation.

His assignment seemed so easy. Go to Felida, talk to the invalid owner of sh’en Singh Shipping, an old man partially paralyzed, dazzle him with Federation authority. Already nothing was going as it should.

“You are Andrew Malcom McAllister? Sinbad sh’en Singh?”

“I am,” Sin answered, a little brusquely. “And all that moving around you’ve witnessed is merely the work of a very finely-programmed micro-computer implant.”

For another minute Nils continued staring before bursting into explanation. “I’m going to get right to the point, Mr. McAllis…uh…sh’en Singh…sir.”

“I’m waiting.” Sin didn’t hide his sarcasm.

“Terra’s at war.”

“Am I supposed to be surprised? What else is new?” Sin shrugged. “Who’s the unlucky aggressor this time?”

“A planet called Severan.” Nils ignored his sarcasm.

“Never heard of it.”

“Not many people have. It’s a small world in the Drexus Cluster. A petty bunch of blackbirders barely surviving in the slave trade until about fifty years ago, when a dissident faction overthrew the emperor and set about establishing a military-controlled planet.”

“And they’ve been stupid enough to attack Terra? I doubt Earth attacked them.” Sin went on, before Nils could answer. “Tell me, has there ever been a conflict in which Earth was the aggressor? Still, fifty years isn’t long enough to get the military power to attack a planet that size.”

“That’s what the Federation thought when it was told a fleet of Severani warships were headed toward Terra, but they were wrong.” Nils shook his head. He got to his feet again. “The Severanis have devoted themselves entirely to building up their armed forces, sacrificing public welfare and natural resources to achieve their goal…and they succeeded. The attack on Earth was not only successful, but there was a sixty-five percent destruction rate in the areas hit and a severe loss of life. They fire-strafed both coasts. If the Federation hadn’t had that brief warning of the attack, the war might’ve been lost and won right then.” He shuddered.

“Damn.” Sin breathed the word. “I never thought I’d hear anyone say that. But they retaliated?”

“Of course, what else could they do?”

“Of course.” Once more that ironic tone.

“Nevertheless, this fight’s going to be a bad one. The Severanis are well-trained, dedicated, and fanatical in sacrificing for the Mother Planet.”

“This is all very interesting, Captain Van Lewen.” Sin went around the desk, dropping into the chair behind it. He frowned at the look of wonder still lingering in the young man’s eyes. “But what exactly does it have to do with me and mine?”

“The Fed’s sending officers like myself to members of the Federation, setting up enlistment stations.”

“I see.” Those two words weren’t encouraging.

“We’re going to need all the man-power we can get for this one. If we don’t get volunteers, we’ll have to start inductions, and they don’t want to do that. We haven’t had a true draft in three hundred years.” He carefully omitted mentioning the conscription in effect during the Terro-Felidan War.

“Quite frankly, with so many worlds involved, I doubt it could be effectively enforced.”

“You want to set up this enlistment station in Khurda?” Sin struggled to glean information from what Van Lewen wasn’t saying.

The young man nodded.

“Why come to me?” Sin spread his hands. “I’m merely a humble merchant. You should be talking to the emperor.”

“I have, sir, or at least his representative. Before I landed. His Excellency gave his permission, but told me since Khurda, as the largest pride on Felida, was chosen as the site, I had to get the Pride Chief’s permission also. You’re anything but a humble merchant, sir.”

And you damn well know it, Nils thought.

Sinbad’s slight smile said so.

“So, here I am,” Nils finished.

 “I’ve very little love for the Federation, Captain Van Lewen, and consider myself having no loyalty to it, either.” His answer was short and sharp. “This business now called sh’en Singh Shipping was originally a smuggling operation illegally supplying goods while we thumbed our noses at the Fed.”

“I’m aware of that, sir.”

Damn, the kid’s so polite, I want to deck him. How can I continue being rude to someone sounding so respectful? 

 “We…” Van Lewen’s expression changed to one of absolute terror. He swallowed convulsively and cleared his throat. “We were hoping you’d volunteer your ships, sir.” It came out in a near-whisper.

My ships?” Sin’s exclamation exploded into the air.

Nils jumped, knowing his reaction wasn’t very officer-like. “Y-yes sir. You see, your darters are nothing more than modified Federation Thunderbolts, and your pilots are already combat-trained and if we had them…”

Sin glared at him.

“…we wouldn’t have to waste time training a Felidan Defense Force…to…” His voice trailed away.

A Felidan Defense Force.” Sin laughed. “Isn’t that contradictory? According to the Peace Proclamation between Terra and Felida, we aren’t allowed to have a defense force. I suppose technically, my having these darters to protect my cargo ships is also in violation of the Treaty.”

“That part of the Proclamation’s been amended, sir,” Nils answered.

Sin frowned. “And…?”

Nils shook his head as if he didn’t understand.

“…do I need to remind you Felida isn’t a member of the United Terran Federation?” Sin’s voice went bitter. “No animals are allowed.”

“A special act of the PanGalactic Congress was passed before I left Terra. It also revoked the Federation Edict declaring Felidans non-humans, giving them First Class citizenship and bringing Felida into membership.”

“That generous move wouldn’t be just to get my ships, would it? Well, you can’t have them.”

Realizing he was wringing his fingers in a completely unofficer-like manner, Nils looked down at them and forced their nervous movement to cease.

The Felidan stood up, towering over him again. His ears seemed to flatten slightly, eyes narrowing.

Nils wanted to cower against the wall, but managed to stand still. His reactions had probably already disgraced the Federation and the uniform he wore. He hoped he wasn’t about to void his bladder, too. He definitely felt weak in the belly-region. Trying to do so without being obvious, he pressed his thighs together, grateful his tunic-tail covered that area of his body.

“I’m overjoyed I’m now a true citizen of the Federation.” Sin’s reply was deep and sarcastic. “I’m certain my wife’ll be greatly relieved to know she’s no longer sleeping with an animal, but you aren’t getting my ships, Captain Van Lewen. You’re here on sufferance, so be thankful you’re being allowed to stay at all.”

Buy Links (check 'em out!):

Publisher’s website:

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Nifty Newly, featuring Linda J. Burson

Linda Burson started out writing non-fiction stories, but now focuses her time and energy on writing contemporary fiction novels. Though she never published any non-fiction works, she has multiple fiction novels published and is working on another romantic suspense novel. This genre is what motivates her now, but that may change at any time. Please welcome to Nifty Newly, author Linda J. Burson.

What's the title of the book you're currently working on? I'm writing a short story at this time and as of this interview, I do not have a title for it. Usually, the title is the last step for me after I finish the end of the story.

How many books have you written? Published/unpublished? What genre? I have written 13 books for my Marcy series which is a romance thriller/suspense. Six of those books have been published so far. The balance, though already written, need editing. I have a stand-alone novel that was just published this month called The Colors of My Life; I have a murder mystery completed called Murder Between Friends which I'm hoping to have published sometime in 2017, and I have a suspense/mystery short story that is completed.

Rage (The Marcy series Book 1) by [Burson, Linda]    Confusion (The Marcy Series Book 2) by [Burson, Linda]    Agony And Ecstasy (The Marcy Series Book 3) by [Burson, Linda]   

The Agreement (The Marcy Series Book 4) by [Burson, Linda]    The Past Returns (The Marcy Series Book 5) by [Burson, Linda]    The Colors Of My Life by [Burson, Linda]

What inspires you, as a writer? Inspiration comes when I least expect it. It can be from something I see or hear or remember from long ago, but they all usually come to the forefront of my mind when I'm alone and it's quiet. Sometimes, just taking a drive in the country gives me a peace which lends itself to ideas, which gives me the passion to go home and begin another story or continue with one I've started.

How do you come up with names? I try as much as possible to use first names of people I do not personally know. As for last names, I play around with sounds and repeat the first name I've chosen to see how it fits. Also, I try to remember street names I've seen and sometimes use those. If I want names to direct someone to a specific nationality of my character, I learn how those names are spelled be it ending in a vowel, etc., and then play with the sounds out loud until I find something that I like.

How do you come up with ideas? Ideas come to me from a variety of ways. Maybe I reminisce about an event from years prior; or I think about a situation in my life that I can exaggerate or expand on. I've even thought about incidents in the news that I can take and twist into a different kind of story, but it gives me the basic idea.

Why is originality important in fiction? Or is it important? Originality is important for most stories; however, it most likely will not be achieved. I personally, do not believe there is anything that can truly be original. No matter what we write, it has all been done in some form or another. Maybe a novel isn't repeated in its entirety, but you can bet each part of a story is most likely to be found in a multitude of other stories.

What would you consider a good example of originality in your fiction? The biggest original part may be that I have a triangle marriage; a woman married to two men, having children and all living in the same house. I know it's been done with a man having multiple wives and children, but I haven't read anything where there was one woman with multiple husbands--but who knows. It may be out there somewhere.

Thank you so much for your time, Linda. Happy writing! If you would like to learn more about Linda Burson as an author, or more particularly her romantic suspense novels, check out the bio, links, and book excerpt below. We've labelled them all for you. :-) 

Author Bio:

Linda is an author from Connecticut.

After years of writing and editing for others, raising a family, and over twenty years of running her own businesses, Linda decided to tackle her first fiction novel entitled Rage, which began as a single book. Eventually, the novel became a trilogy, and finally a much longer series. All the books are a part of The Marcy Series, a romantic suspense series.

There are thirteen novels in the series, five of which have been published so far.

Links for more Linda: 

Website is
Amazon Author Page:
Twitter: @lindaburson23

Blurb for The Agreement, Book 4 of the Marcy series:

After the perfect honeymoon, Brad and Marcy return to reality to begin their new life together. Unfortunately, Brad and Marcy’s wedded bliss runs into complications. Brad seems distant and cold, and Marcy is confused by his unexpected behavior.

When Marcy goes into labor, Brad is by her side. Later, Marcy confronts Brad about their crumbling marriage and decides it may be better for them to separate. Brad begs Marcy to reconsider, pleading with her not to leave.

For now, Marcy agrees to stay put with their son. Brad and Marcy reconcile. Brad forms a surprising and unexpected friendship which changes the course of their lives.

Excerpt from The Agreement Book Four (Marcy series)

“I wonder why they came after you now. Do you think they know he’s dead?”

“I don’t think so. Maybe they were watching me, or they just happen to find me alone and vulnerable and took the chance. They did say something about me finally being there. It’s like they were waiting for me to return one day.”

“Maybe, but still something’s different. If they were scared enough of him that night, they must’ve thought he could find them anytime.”

“He could have, especially with Will’s help.”

“So, he’d have gone after them?”

“I don’t know. It was probably just a threat.”

“Marcy, the only thing that would scare someone that much is proving you can get to them anytime and threatening to kill them.”

I don’t say anything.

“Marcy, would he have killed them?”

“Bradley, why are you asking me this? How am I supposed to know?”

 “I think you do know, and you’re protecting him.”

“Protecting him from what? He’s dead.” I start to cry so I turn away from Brad.

“Marcy, why are you crying?”

“Because you’re being cruel.”

“No, I’m not. I asked you a question, and I didn’t yell. You’re crying for him, aren’t you?”

I can’t answer that because he’s right. I’m still grieving, and saying the words he’s dead after talking about him and remembering him all evening is too much to bear.

“I’m just feeling the effects of the night, that’s all.”

“Please, Marcy, don’t lie to me. It’s okay to cry because he’s dead. I know you loved him. You never lied about that, and you’re more emotional and sensitive being pregnant.”

“If I say that’s why I’m crying, you’ll think I don’t love you enough.”

“That’s not true. I know you love me very much.”

“Do you?”

“Yes, baby, I do. Come here. Turn back around to me, please?”

“Please don’t be mad at me. I can’t take it when you’re mad at me, Brad.”

“I’m not mad at you, sweetie. I’m just a little jealous that this man always seems to be your hero.”

“Brad, that’s what he does. He protects people. He was in the military for twenty years. He couldn’t protect his family from being murdered, so he protects others. You asked me if he would’ve killed them. If they hurt me, yes, I think he might’ve. What would you have done if they’d hurt me tonight? Shake their hands and forgive them?”

“You’re right, baby. I’d probably do the same thing he would’ve. I’d never let anyone hurt you, not ever. In fact, that’s probably the one time when he and I would be on each other’s side, working together, protecting you.”

Buy Links:

Agony and Ecstasy:
The Agreement:
The Past Returns:
Also available at the publisher’s website:

Friday, May 19, 2017

Nifty Newly, featuring Michael D. Smith

Michael D. Smith was raised in the Northeast, then the Chicago area, finally moving to Texas to attend Rice University, where he began seriously working as a writer and visual artist.  He's been writing science fiction since he was seven, extending a branch into literary fiction along the way. "Childhood writing energies seem to linger in my modern writing," he explains.  "I’m very much into humor as well as the exploration of psychological themes; somehow these disparate forces work together for me."

His day job is Technology Librarian for McKinney Public Library in McKinney, Texas.  His work includes assistance to the public with eBook and eAudiobook content and devices, and he's done extensive programming for adults, including book talks and author presentations. He'll be in charge of the library’s National Novel Writing Month activities in November, also known as NaNoWriMo. Please welcome to Nifty Newly the accomplished and deep-thinking Michael D. Smith!

What's the title of the book you're currently working on? 

I have three novels in different stages of development:

Sortmind, which chronicles a start-up company’s invention of an app that provides all known information telepathically to any subscriber, and the urban riots which ensue in response.  Somehow the book also manages to include two sets of aliens with opposing ideas about dealing with this malfunctioning human race.  I'm up to Draft 8 on it, and I certainly hope it comes together soon.  In any case I wound up naming my website for this novel.

Jump Grenade, about a psychopathic but supernaturally gifted fourteen-year-old basketball player.

Akard Drearstone, about the rise and fall of a rock group in a commune north of Austin in the seventies.  I guess this qualifies for “historical fiction.”  I left the novel in the past so I don’t have to worry about things like smartphones with GPS, which can definitely play havoc with a murder/kidnapping plot.

How many books have you written? Published/unpublished? What genre? 

I’ve written sixteen novels, of which six are published, with an additional one now under contract.  Then three novellas, one of which is published.  Most of these are science fiction of the space opera variety, but several are literary. CommWealth from Class Act Books is literary/dystopian/black humor.

I also just completed a fun project which I self-published on  I recently rediscovered my sixth grade science fiction story which, strange as it may seem, introduced several of the main characters of my later published science fiction series.  The urge then struck me to illustrate the story and make it into a paperback picture book.  That was quite a bizarre experience, another psychic bridge between childhood energies and the present, but the final result is more like a satisfying piece of visual art than a “publication.”

What inspires you, as a writer? 

Things that make deep emotional and thematic sense, almost like a dream or déjà vu; or the eerie sense you sometimes get that you’re in fact living in a novel right now.  I’ve always been drawn to the concept of the psychological novel.  I'm not sure how well I’ve lived up to that genre, but I keep pushing on it.  And as I mentioned, somehow “humor” and “psychological novel” flow together for me; I don’t think I’ll be writing grim investigations like Crime and Punishment.  Then again, never say never.

How do you come up with names? 

Usually character names emerge on their own as I’m preparing notes or during actual fiction writing; it’s funny how sometimes a tossed-in name for a minor character in Book One can show up as a major figure to be developed in Book Five.  I respect whatever force throws the character names at me.  However, there have also been times when I’ve glanced up at my bookshelf and taken some author’s last name off the spine of a book.  I recently used an anagram producing website for a few character names (; beware—you  can waste a lot of time here).  I can also recall in the fifth grade looking through the phone book as I sought character names; I remember how professional I felt that evening, researching character names for a story.

How do you come up with ideas? 

As plot and character notes drift into my head over time, I jot them down on slips of paper and chunk them into an “ideas” folder.  Later on, sometimes years later, I harvest these ideas and though most prove too vague to be writable, I often feel fresh reverberations from a few and I write these up and add any new notions that arise.  Sometimes I take a batch of notes and arrange them across a large table and sort them, but while I’ve had some amazing syntheses and whole novels come out of this process, I’ve also had several notable failures where I finally realize, months later, that all my sorted notes are just “interesting concepts” and not a writable novel.  But even in that case, I chuck the whole sorted notes failure back into the ideas folder for recycling.  Who knows what might come up six years from now?  I also get ideas by working from existing characters and considering what they might do next.

Another method that can work quickly, and which I know many authors swear by, is the “What if?” scenario.  As in CommWealth, what if there were absolutely no private property?  The “What if?” for Akard Drearstone was: “What if I had gone straight from Rice University to a rock commune north of Austin?”  Often entire plots and subplots emerge from the simple “What if?”  Of course the “What if?” needs to be personally important to you, and if you bring your full energies to it, I think it will be important to your readers as well.

Dreams are another source of ideas and are often the core of my novels, though I’ve learned I can’t force dreams into novels.  If they fit in and work, great.  If not, try something else.  CommWealth in fact sprang almost fully formed out of a dream—which  also brought up the “What if? question.  I posted this dream on my blog at

Why is originality important in fiction? Or is it important?

I think you should tell your own story, work your own themes, and not worry about how “original” your book may be considered by others.  It can be argued that nothing is truly original, yet it’s also true that we see many new adaptations, that each person brings a unique perspective.  Startling new ideas or plots may come and they may not.  Trying to conjure up "originality" as a means of standing out, of inflating your ego against other writers, or of marketing your book is futile; it comes across as cheap and flashy.

What would you consider a good example of originality in your fiction? 

The outrageous dream logic of CommWealth’s propertyless society, in which there is no legal claim to any kind of private property, and any object from your house to the clothes you’re wearing can be demanded by anyone, to be enjoyed for thirty days before anyone else can request it.  The fact that this plot came from a dream was a factor in whatever amount of “originality” is in the novel.  Also, within the novel, a drunken character is inveigled into revealing the plot of his secret play, “Hiding the Hitler,” in which an app is invented for hunting down Hitler’s next reincarnation.  I don’t think I’ve ever heard of anyone proposing to hunt Hitler down in his next lifetime.

Thanks for visiting Michael, and for all the thought and effort you put into your work. I hope we get to work together again sometime! To experience more of Michael's fiction, read through the blurb and excerpt below from his upcoming novel, CommWealth. Links to his website, blog, and websites where you can purchase CommWealth are all included after the excerpt. 


The CommWealth system has created a society in which there is no legal claim to any kind of private property. Any object from your house to the clothes you’re wearing can be demanded by anyone, to be enjoyed for thirty days before someone else can request it. As actors in the Forensic Squad theatrical troupe attempt to adapt to this chaos, their breaking of the Four Rules sustaining the system, as several members navigate betrayals, double agents, and murder to find themselves leading a suicidal revolution.

Excerpt (with minor edits for language):

Rule One - You are free to enjoy the chosen object for thirty days. During this period no other person may request it.

Rule Two - The requestor is untouchable for thirty days by the person asked. Attempts at retaliation, such as demanding unusually large quantities from the original requestor after the thirty-day period, carry stiff penalties.

Rule Three - Once you ask somebody for something, you can never ask him or her for anything else again.

Rule Four - You can never ask for the same thing back from the person who got it from you, not even after his or her thirty days of enjoyment.

Allan shivered at the reflection of his black overcoat and his striding legs on the wet sidewalk. Up ahead someone with a DreamPiston Electronics bag opened a shiny red Porsche glistening with thousands of water beads.

“Okay,” Allan said, “I’ll take your car here.”

The mustached little twerp looked up. “Ahhh, crap...”

“C’mon, don’t give me any trouble. Gimme the key.”

“Look, it’s raining. And I just got these MP3 players and the new Fappy tablet—”

“Not my problem. Fork the damn key over.”

“Look, my umbrella’s in the car—can I just get my umbrella so my stuff—”

“Forget it. The umbrella’s part of the car as far as I’m concerned. Anything in the car. Besides, I just lost my umbrella a couple blocks back. I’m soaked.”

“C’mon, I just got this car the other day!”

 “Don’t hand me that. The sticker on the plate says you got it a month and a half ago. You’re overdue, buddy. Now hand me the key.”

“Dammit! Dammit!”

“Got trouble there?” A bright blue City of Linstar police car idled in the rain. “Got a Hoarder there?” a huge officer grinned.

“Uh, no... not at all...” said the twerp. “I just—I just can’t find the key—”

“Yeah, right—you just unlocked the damn car with it,” Allan said, turning to the policeman. “He is giving me a lot of crap about it.”

“C’mon, sir, you know better than that.” The officer’s name tag read BARCLAY.

“Dammit!” the twerp snarled. He separated the Porsche key off his key ring, thrust it at Allan, then spun around and fastened on a man coming down the sidewalk. “Give me that umbrella! Right now!”

“---dammit...” the man grunted, surrendering his umbrella to the twerp, who grabbed it and hoisted it above his DreamPiston bag.

“We really got the Christmas spirit here, don’t we?” Barclay said.

“Really,” Allan said. “Some people...” He examined the Porsche key in the rain. “Thanks for your help, officer.”

“Oh, I’m sure it wasn’t really necessary. People are basically good, you know. Give ’em time to adjust and all, that’s what I say.”

The twerp leapt into traffic with his new umbrella and his bag, waving his free arm. A little green car skidded to a halt. The twerp ran to the window and pounded on it. “Give me this car! Right now! Damn you!”

“-----...” Allan said. “What a bastard!”

Barclay was out of his patrol car in a second, hand on his holster. “Sir, that’s not the right way to go about it. We need to be respectful. That’s the CommWealth way.”

Find out more about Michael D. Smith at:


CommWealth is available at:

Publisher’s website:


Barnes & Noble:


Also available from