Monday, September 24, 2018

The Problem with Parallel Novels

The problem with parallel novels
Guest Post by David Michael Williams

Full confession: I didn’t plan to write a parallel novel.

I didn’t set out to write a series either. I thought I was working on a stand-alone novel when I first started writing If Souls Can Sleep. However, after writing the first scene from my fourth protagonist, I realized that if I were to include all of these subplots in a single book, I’d probably exceed 1,000 pages.

Worse, I’d surely bewilder the reader along the way.

Knowing serious restructuring was in order, I forced myself to choose whose story Book One would be and what aspects would have to wait until Book Two of the emerging series (The Soul Sleep Cycle).

Then, when I wrapped up If Souls Can Sleep, I had a decision to make: at what point in time should Book Two begin?

The parallel paradigm

Chronologically, most sequels take place after their respective predecessors — a day, a month, a year. Book Two typically shows what happens next; likewise, Book Three will pick up where Book Two left off. If an author wants to explore backstory, he or she can pen a prequel, which takes place before

Book One.

It’s all rather straightforward — until one introduces the notion of a parallel novel.

A parallel novel overlaps a previously published book. The two stories could unfold simultaneously, covering the exact same span of time. At the very least, there must be some portion of the stories that take place concurrently

I could have made my life easier by making Book Two, If Sin Dwells Deep, a traditional sequel. The reader could have been introduced to the characters I took from Book One through their activities following the epilogue of If Souls Can Sleep.

Instead, I decided to rewind time and pursue the plots I had originally wanted to include in Book One. Chapter 6 of an early draft Book One became Chapter 1 of Book Two. I now had the leeway to tell those characters’ stories the way I had originally wanted to, without having to worry about losing the reader.

Or so I thought.

Unparalleled predicaments

I am now convinced there’s a good reason parallel novels are the exception to the rule: they are exceptionally challenging to write.

The most obvious obstacle is time itself. If key plot points from Book One happened a week apart, then they must happen a week apart in Book Two. I might need to add a scene to fill time or remove one to condense it to adhere to the predetermined timeline.

On a more granular level, I included a handful of scenes that were shown in Book One, but in Book Two, they are reported from a different perspective. In those instances, I had to make sure words and gestures remained consistent between the two novels.

Some of you might be thinking, “Reusing scenes? That’s cheating!” Or maybe you’re recalling the time when author Stephenie Meyer decided to write a companion novel to Twilight, which would retread the same ground as the source material, only this version was to be from Edward’s point of view.

Fans cried foul, and Ms. Meyer abandoned the project.

As a reader, I wouldn’t want to revisit the same story with a slightly different bent. I wouldn’t want to as a writer either. Every sequel — whether a successive installment or parallel novel — has to walk the fine line of reviewing information and reminding the reader versus repeating content.

A parallel novel should be strong enough to stand on its own, a complete narrative in its own right. I took If Sin Dwells Deep a step further, writing it in such a way that it could serve as an alternate entry point into The Soul Sleep Cycle.

It wasn’t easy.

Parallel repetition?

One of the characters I snatched from Book One didn’t get her stage time in Book Two. Does that mean Book Three of The Souls Sleep Cycle is destined to become a parallel novel to its two predecessors?

Absolutely not.

If Dreams Can Die (scheduled for release in spring 2019) must move the story forward and present a satisfying conclusion to the series, resolving plots and subplots revealed in Books One and Two.
I’m not sure I’ll ever have a reason to write another parallel novel. However, if the narrative ever demands it, I feel better equipped to navigate the inherent hurdles. Having said that, I’m not going to exactly seek out another opportunity.

In fact, once I’m done with this series, I’d love to turn my attention to something self-contained. Sagas, like The Renegade Chronicles and The Soul Sleep Cycle, require a huge commitment of time and mental energy. It might be nice to try something simpler.

Then again, that was my goal when I started my first draft of If Souls Can Sleep, and look where that led me. That’s the beauty of writing, I suppose. Whatever comes next — even if it’s another parallel novel — it’s bound to be an adventure.

About the Author

David Michael Williams has suffered from a storytelling addiction for as long as he can remember. His published works include The Renegade Chronicles and The Soul Sleep Cycle, a genre-bending series that explores life, death, and the dreamscape.

If Sin Dwells Deep
is available for pre-order here:

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Friday, September 14, 2018

A. E. McAuley

Today's interview is with A. E. McAuley!

Can you tell me more about yourself?

I’m a fantasy writer who travels with my military husband and two dogs. I was writing as a hobby in online communities for about ten years before I decided to sit down and put out a book I intended to publish. In 2016 I finished my first novel, “Flightless” and have been working on building my platform, sending out my finished draft to agents, and writing my second novel ever since.

Are you a morning writer, afternoon writer, or an evening writer? Does the time of day you write impact your writing?

I’m definitely an evening writer, although I could argue I’m a very early morning writer. Once ten hits, I usually get a burst of energy to work on my novel, and can stay up from one to four, depending on how it’s going. It’s hell on my sleep schedule, that’s for sure, so I do wish I wrote more in the morning.

Is writing your full-time profession? If not, what else do you do and how do you manage both jobs?

I only recently decided to stay at home and work solely on my writing career, and really, I find that I was writing more when I had a job. When I was working almost full time, the hours I got to write were precious, and I could stick to a strict schedule. Now, I have all the time in the world and I’ve really had to crack down on my self-discipline. But for people who are looking for how to both work and write, I swear by daily schedules. If you know you need to write for an hour, set aside that hour and hold yourself accountable however you can.

Why is research so important for writing?

I’ve always felt like research grounds the story in reality. When an author isn’t well researched on the topic they’re writing about, chances are their readers are going to notice. To me, research is like filling in the pot holes of a road. Sure you may know how to get from point A to point B, but if you’re missing the basic structure of your world building or character creation, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

What is the craziest thing you’ve had to research?

Oh wow, I’ve had so many wild researching adventures. I think the two craziest experiences were when I went to research other people’s lifestyles to make sure I was accurately portraying their culture. I spent about a week driving back and forth to a Hindu temple in the Texas Hill country, and then a couple of hours a month talking to a Wiccan priestess, and I learned so much. It wasn’t the typical “crazy research” I normally do for my books, but it was wild in that it opened my eyes to the way other people live.

How do you create the world you are writing in?

Lots and lots of notes. I scribble down everything that looks like it could apply to my world and then come back later and piece it all together. That and I am especially a fan of looking at human psychology. How humans respond to events in our world can be used to create realistic depictions of how people handle problems in the world I create. This can be done on a large or small scale from natural disasters, to dictators taking over a country, to even parents getting a divorce and kids having to deal with the fall out. Psychology has been a life saver in my creative writing.

What steps do you take in drafting an outline?

Usually I do a stream of consciousness plot to see where I want the story to go, then I break it down in to scenes or chapters and take it one step at a time. This lets me work out any crazy ideas I may want to use, but don’t work in the grand scheme of things. Once my book is done, I usually do another chapter by chapter break down, just to look at things on a smaller scale to see where there are any holes in the plot.

Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?

I try to write stories that I would want to read, or that apply to a lesson I needed to learn in my life. If I’m taking joy in my work, it makes me hope my readers will, too.

What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?

I was in a writing group with Alexandra Burt and Robert Ashcroft about three years ago, and their tough love helped me break down my walls and learn how to take criticism. With how much time we were spending together, they were able to pin point what my standard for “good writing” was, and then hold me to it when I was below par but also encourage me to get better. It was hard, but they were constantly putting me back on my feet, dusting me off and telling me to get back in the saddle. I needed that when I first started out.

If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

To not be so scared. I was always worried I was going to offend people close to me by writing about themes they disagreed with that I hid most of my work from the world, and only shared it in private echo chambers on the internet. I was terrified that my writing would make my family upset, that I kept it to myself till my husband encouraged me to stop worrying so much about what they thought because it was holding me back from my passion.

What’s the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?

For me, it’s thinking about my character not for their gender, but for who they are as a whole. I’ve always preferred writing male characters instead of females, and most of the time when I’m struggling, it’s because I’m asking myself “How would a woman react to this”, instead of what I do for my male characters which is “How would this character react to this”. I try to stay in the character’s head space instead of doing what’s expected of them because of their gender.

Can you share an excerpt from one of your novels/projects?

Sure! I’d love to share an opening to a warm up that turned into an entire passion project. I’ve been obsessed with old magic in a new world lately, and after working with an artist to have them do some character sketches, I fell in love with an old warlock named Colvus. Hope you enjoy the first few paragraphs!


The girls in the corner booth weren’t witches, however much they pretended to be. Despite the tarot cards tossed across the table, thick makeup, and edgy tshirts declaring "moon child" or "witch bitch", they were as human as they came. If they had even an ounce of magic in them, they would’ve felt the warlock watching them.

Colvus missed the good old days, back when using magic meant whispers in the dark and coming from a magical bloodline actually meant something. Now, every normal human with a grandmother who smoked peyote 60’s was a self-proclaimed “hereditary witch”. But, oh no, they wouldn’t cause anyone harm, or use their magic for “evil”. They were good magic users.

It made him sick.

He gulped his black coffee to feel something other than anger, ignoring the burn down his throat as he watched the girls giggle over tarot cards spread across the table. It was a disgrace. If they did that when he was their age, they would’ve been burned alive. Their whole families would’ve! Nowadays, they could act however they wanted with their pretty pewter pentacles and fake crystal rings. It was a free country, and the worse thing that would happen to them would be a couple of dirty looks.

“They really should be careful.” The voice of his familiar cut into his thoughts. “We should teach them a lesson.”

Colvus put his lips to the cup again, hiding his murmur. “Not right now.”

He almost forgot the spirit was there. It was an easy thing to do, the creature had been with him since he first touched magic over ninety years ago. The weight of him on his shoulders was almost nonexistent after carrying him for so long, even as uncomfortable as it was. Tiny talons dug into his shoulders as the salamander-like spirit leaned over to lick the rim of the cup still poised in the air.

“You’re no fun.”

Of course he was no fun. He was the voice of reason; the spirit was invisible and had no consequences.

The fake witches let out another shrill burst of giggles, each high pitch laugh a knife between his ears.

Disgusting, he thought with a grimace. They are laughing on the graves of great men and women, playing at witchcraft without knowing anything about the power they were trying to tap into.
Colvus hoped they got burned by it.

Anything else you would like to say before you go?

If you’re interested in my future projects, feel free to check out my blog, or find me on Twitter! I’m still getting the hang of social media, but I’d love to hear from people.

Author Links:

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Kristen Wood

I am so excited to introduce to you all author Kristen Wood! Be sure to check out her interview below and connect with her on her social media!

Can you tell me more about yourself?

I’m a mother of two little girls, a runner, and a freelance writer. I’ve published five novels in a young adult fantasy series named Ærenden (pronounced Air-uhn-den and spelled Aerenden for Google searching). Currently, I’m mapping out another fantasy novel that takes place within the same realm as Ærenden, though it’s not part of the series, and I’m writing a short story companion book for Ærenden and a 4-book adult romance series. I’m a Mainer by heart and a D.C. area denizen by address.

What five things do you do to prepare yourself to start writing?

Grab a cup of coffee, shut off my wireless, slip on a pair of headphones, queue up music or a white noise station, and find a spot to get focused (depending on my mood, this could be my office at home or a coffee shop)

Do your characters seem to hijack the story or do you feel like you have the reigns of the story?
Both. There are some things I refuse to let my characters hijack, certain plot points I need to hit to keep the story going, but sometimes it’s best if I get out of their way. For my fantasy series, a fan favorite main character was plotted for only one chapter of the first book. He refused to leave, and he changed the entire trajectory of the series---for the better. I learned early not to argue with him.

Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?

I don’t think the two are mutually exclusive. Without originality, readers get bored, but without meeting their expectations, they get annoyed or confused. A fantasy novel that leans too heavily on romance and not enough on fantastical elements would be a disappointment for everyone. But the same novel without originality doesn’t give anyone a reason to flip the pages (nor does it give me much drive to write). So I guess the short answer is I try to strike an equal balance between the two.

What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?

My author friend list runs in the dozens, so I’m going to avoid making people fall asleep by mentioning them all (nor do I want to leave anyone out, so I’ll avoid names entirely)! My friends critique my work, help me find new avenues to explore (“hey, have you thought about trying…”), and keep me abreast of grammar and field changes (“did you see the new comma preferences in X published work?” “have you tried this new marketing site?”). They also keep me from being too introverted by chatting me when I disappear for a while, provide great sounding boards when I’m stuck, and they allow me to see their work from draft to finished, which teaches me their editing and world-building techniques. I learn as much by giving to the writing community as I do from having them help me.

If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

Don’t worry. Every author thinks their writing is insufficient. Keep trying, keep writing. Every word on the page will make you a better writer, and every year will create better stories than the year before.

What’s the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?

Getting the dialogue to sound natural. Fortunately, I have my husband to let me know when I’ve gone astray there.

Tell us about your writing style, how is it different from other writers?

This is a fantastic question. I’ve never read two authors with the same voice or style, so I feel as if every writer is completely different from another. Where I may differ from some writers in my genre is my complex themes. Interspersed among the battle scenes and romance, jokes and monsters, I ask important questions of my characters and my readers, about how perspective shapes our interpretation of the world and each other, how it creates and fosters prejudice, and how it impacts our vision of ourselves. For those who don’t want a more serious fantasy, these components are not “in your face,” but for those who like books to help them think and grow, they are present. I also scatter little keys throughout the series that often don’t become obvious until a second read through. I don’t like simple books, so I tend not to write them.

Have you ever written a character with an actor in mind?

No, and in fact, I have trouble naming actors that would play my characters in a movie or TV show. They have such distinct personalities that it’s hard to picture them with a different face than the one in my mind.

Which literary character do you most resonate with on a personal level?

Hermione Granger. I was always the loyal book nerd in school, so I felt a lot like I was reading about my high school years with her (less the magic part lol).

Can you share an excerpt from one of your novels/projects?

The following comes from The Shadow Guard, the fifth and final book in the Ærenden series. Miles, May (Nick’s mother), Neiszhe, and Cal are all Elders, rulers over a special army of magical protectors known as Guardians. Emma is May’s apprentice; both women are magical Healers.

“A Zeiihbuan?” Cal asked. “Are you certain?”

“Of course I’m certain,” Nick snapped. Cal raised an eyebrow in warning, but Nick refused to offer an apology. He had no patience for the Elders’ usual protracted discussions and debates. Two hours had passed since Meaghan’s kidnapping. Miles had made him repeat what had happened three times before going to get the other Elders, and now Nick had been forced to share his story again.

Cal rubbed a hand through his beard. “You realize what this means, don’t you?”

Miles nodded. Neiszhe blanched and sat down on the couch.

Nick lost what little tolerance he had managed up to this point. “It means Meaghan was kidnapped. Now let’s start working our resources to see where he took her. We should have done that immediately. We’re wasting time.”

“Nick, you’re acting like an ass.”

Nick’s attention snapped to his mother. Ass was strictly an Earth term. Nick had taught it to her, and now she had used it against him. He could not decide if he felt angry or impressed.

“Keep quiet. You’ve said enough already,” she ordered and crossed the room to the terrace doors. She had healed one of Meaghan’s Guardians, and now supervised the second Guardian’s healing. Emma kept her head low as she worked. Her hands shook, and Nick did not know if the nervous reaction stemmed from overhearing his conversation with the Elders or having his mother scrutinize her.

When Emma had finished, May patted her on the shoulder. “Nice work. Take our patients down to the infirmary, please.”

Emma scurried from the room, the two Guardians in tow. May crossed her arms over her chest and faced Nick. “I’ve given you too much leeway up to this point, allowing you to wallow in self-pity. I won’t put up with it any longer.”

Nick stared at her. His cheeks burned with embarrassment.

“I understand that you’ve been through a lot over the last year. I understand your frustration and your fear, but you have to understand the repercussions of what you’re saying. And you need to start acting like a king. Ærenden’s welfare matters most, even above Meaghan’s.”

“I’m only stating facts,” he argued, though he recognized the lie in his words. His love for Meaghan had always blinded him. His mother glared at him, and he glanced away from her scorn. Voices bounced around the room, echoing wordlessly in his ears. He had sunk to the bottom of the ocean. He could not breathe or hear anything beyond the whoosh of the current as it carried him farther from shore. He had to try to swim back. Duty came first, no matter how much he loathed it.

And before you go, is there anything you would like to share with us?

To keep abreast of new information, new releases, and have access to specials, contests, and short stories only available to subscribers, sign up for my mailing list on my website or at I send out a message a month (at most). And, of course, you can also follow me through my social media links and website.

Thank you for joining me, and a huge THANK YOU to Rebecca Cahill for letting me visit today!

Kristen spent her childhood at the feet of an Irish storytelling grandfather, learning to blend fact with fiction and imagination with reality. She lived within the realms of the tales that captivated her, breathing life into characters and crafting stories even before she could read. Those stories have since turned into over a hundred poems, short stories, and nine manuscripts in both the Young Adult and Adult genres. Currently, Kristen is writing from various coffee shops and public spaces in the suburbs of Washington D.C.

Author Links
Social Media
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Twitter handle – @kristentaber

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Forest Wells

Check out today's Author Talks with Forest Wells!

Can you tell me a little about yourself?

I’m from a town in the Coachella Valley small enough to let me hear coyotes actually howl sometimes. I’ve always had a passion for wild canines (wolves, foxes, coyotes, ect.), so it’s no surprise they tend to have places in my writings. I’m a gamer (mostly League of Legends these days), follower of the Chargers, the Arizona Coyotes (it started how you might expect, but the roots formed because of Shane Doan), and Counter Logic Gaming (e-sports). And yes, I’m also an assistant Girl Scout leader.

My writing thus far seems to focus on emotion. I try to make the reader feel something as they follow my characters through their journey. Be it a wolf trying to find his way back to the alpha he was born to be, a fighter crew dealing with the trials of war, a werewolf who just wants to be a farmer, or a dragon trying to hide from her scars, it’s all about the journey they take from the start of the story, to where they end up in the end. I say “seems to” because let’s face it, I’m a pure “pantser”, meaning I don’t have a plan as I write. I tried to outline once. It was utterly destroyed on the first sentence. Since then, I just let the stories do what they will, and try to nudge them in the right direction from time to time.

I’m also a writer with dysgraphia. It’s a learning disability that, among other things, makes it hard to get thoughts down on paper. The essay you took 4 hours to write, I was still fighting through the first paragraph of hours later. It’s the primary reason I can’t “just write every day”. When I try to force it like that, I end up writing worse, not better. So it’s been a challenge learning how to write around the disability, but I’m slowly getting the hang of it.

What inspired you to start writing?

It started with 9/11. I woke up to the special report about the attacks before going to school that day. I didn’t know anyone at all involved, but over the next few days, it changed everything. It’s a long story, but at that time I was one bad day from suicide. Then, my muse woke up in full when a classmate read a poem of her own in class. I had always been writing stories during “journal” time in school, but the attacks and that poem turned me into an actual writer. I began with a couple poems of my own, moved on to… a documentary that… we will never, EVER, talk about again, then finally put down the first words for my novels. Ever since, I’ve just had a burning desire to write.
I also learned how fragile life is. I started to take life by the horns, and make it work for me for a change. I haven’t always managed it, but suicide hasn’t been a serious thought for years.

Why self-publishing?

Basically, I ran out of traditional markets. Now ordinarily, that might suggest the story has issues, except my beta readers, or anyone who has read a sample chapter, have been unanimous in their praise of the novel. So, at the risk of sounding conceited or mean-spirited (which I’m not I promise), I think the traditional publishers couldn’t see the story through the wolves. This idea mainly comes from the fact that, several times at workshops or conferences, people have heard “wolves”, and gone straight to telling me how it’s a niche book. Yet for those that have read any of it, have all seen the story itself. It’s become clear that at this point, baring a major stroke of luck, self is the only way this thing will get to the masses. It’s hard enough for a new author to get in these days. Add in a story that editors see as “niche only”, and you begin to see why I’ve been unsuccessful.

Can you give us some self-publishing advice?

Well, this is my first time doing it, so I’m still kind of learning myself. But I can offer this;
Take it slow! I’ve seen too many people talk on Twitter and Facebook about how their efforts fall flat, and then they say things that suggest they weren’t fully ready when they launched. I made that mistake myself once, and saw my efforts fail as well. So take the time, do it all right, then once it’s all good and ready, start a 1-3 month timer during which you tease, and promote, and use all the ideas and resources you’ve collected. Based on what I’ve seen, it’s better to do it right, than to do it quickly. As my fighter pilot would say, “Impatience walks with disaster.”

What is your favorite genre to write in?

Speculative fiction seems to be my main wheel-house. Though my first book is a simple Young Adult story staring “normal” wolves, my other ideas are all sci-fi, fantasy, and a couple that mix the two. Then again, even that “simple story” has a fantasy feel to it, despite the fact there’s no magic or anything like that involved.

Really if I’m honest, I think I do better when I’m creating fictional worlds to play in. I find it easier to build a fictional universe, instead of trying to tell a story in the real one. Plus it’s fun writing my own “rules” for things like magic and technology. And when a species is so complicated they generate 26 pages (and counting) of notes just by themselves, you can imagine how deep they get, and how fun it is to work with them.

What genre would you like to try and write in?

I may try my hand at a murder mystery someday. I even have an idea for it tucked away on my idea pad. I’ve always enjoyed shows like Castle, Criminal Minds, CSI/NCIS, and it might be fun to do one of my own some time.

What is the most difficult part of writing?

For me, making it “work”. It’s easy to write a story, but making it flow well, and making the events “believable”, while still maintaining the journey I have in mind, has been a challenge. Plus the struggle of making sure I’m taking advantage of the days I CAN write, and not letting the dysgraphia fool me into thinking it’s a day where I can’t.

How do you overcome writers block?

By denying it battle. Because of my dysgraphia, there are times where the words just won’t come. Experience has shown that the best way for me to beat it, is to not fight it. I step away and do other things. Play a game, watch a game, pace a little, do lots of nothing, anything to get my head out of my world. Sometimes, I can settle my thoughts and come back later. Other times, it’ll be a day, or a few, before I can write again.

That said, when I can see cracks in the block, I’ll often go back a few pages from where I am, and try to get back into the flow of the moment. Kind of like getting a running start so I can charge through it. I also just focus on that particular scene. Not the rest of the book, or even the next scene. Just THAT scene I’m working on. It’s often a much smaller block to break through.

Also, when all else fails, I have a sounding board. Someone I talk with about the moment I’m stuck on. In my case it’s my mom, but it can be anyone. They just need to be willing to offer ideas, talk it out with you, or just listen to you ramble incoherently about the problem. Being able to vocalize it helps me think about it in a different way, which often leads to a solution.

What is the most important thing about a book in your opinion?
There isn’t any one part. A good book is a collection of parts coming together into a coherent whole. The setting, the characters, narration, dialogue, action, conflict, the entire list matters. I can’t really say any one thing is the most important, because nothing can survive if the others are bad. Some books do some things better than others, but no one thing is the most important part.

Do you believe a book cover plays an important role in the selling process?

Absolutely! Selling a book is a set of steps. The cover/title combine to generate interest. This sends the reader to the blurb, which sends them to the first page, which sends them to the checkout counter. If the cover, or the title for that matter, isn’t good, the reader won’t bother to look further. It doesn’t have to be a masterpiece, but it does need to tease the story and set the tone. When you see the cover of “Honor Harrington” books, you know based on the cover what kind of book you’re in for. Switch to “Harry Potter”, or “Narnia” and it’s the same thing. The cover generates interest, and gives you some idea of what lies within.

What are you currently working on?

Well, I guess technically three different projects.

1: The long process of self-publishing my first novel, “Luna, The Lone Wolf.” With any luck, it’ll be out some time in February.

2A: A highly complex military sci-fi, working title, “Gold 1”. This is the world that has a species with 26 pages of notes. Gives you an idea how complicated they are.

2B: A newer fantasy idea with a different take on werewolves. Only recently figured out it’s core theme. Now I gotta figure out how to implement it. No sparkling vampires though. Promise!

The “A” and “B” are because the two are fighting for muse attention. We’ll see who wins once “Luna” finishes its launch tour. The loser will have to wait until the other is done for primary attention.

Can you share an excerpt with us from one of your novels/projects?

Certainly. Mind you it’s still a draft, so it’s not as clean as it will be, but here’s a section of my upcoming novel, “Luna, the Lone Wolf.”

“I greet you fair alpha,” I said.

The alpha male didn’t even blink. “Who are you?”

I prayed he’d believe the lie, even as I hated offering it. “The last survivor of a pack killed by strange creatures. Please. I am young, but I learn well. Let me run with you. Let me add to your strength.”

“A fine tale pup, but it does not yet answer my question. Who are you? By what name were you born?”

“Luna. My name is-”

“Luna!” his mate echoed. “The pup that murdered his brother? You can't let him join us, Tona. He’ll kill our pups too.”

Tona’s ears turned forward, and my heart sank.

“Step aside pup,” Tona said. “Word of your crime has spread far. You’ll find none that will take you. You will have to live alone for all your days.”

Pain gave way to a growl. He can’t do this. Rajor can’t deny me everything! “For a crime I didn’t commit? Based on words three times repeated? What a fine member of wolf-hood you are.”

Tona gave a snarl of his own, which his pack echoed. “Watch your tongue pup.”

“Or what? If you’ll not have me, then you’ll not have these lands. This is my territory. Pups or not I will defend it. The risk you take is your own.”

Tona’s snarl shook the air, but his ears were back at his younger pups. He watched them and me, then his snarl faded. I raised my tail as Tona retreated with his pack, never turning away until they were well outside sprinting distance.

So be it. If I was to live alone, I might as well build a reputation as being a wolf to be feared. I left a marker where I stood before turning toward my den.
Right into Martol.

“I knew you’d be strong,” she said.

I nearly jumped out of my fur when she spoke right into my nose. I looked around for a scent mark I might have missed, or for the pack coming to kill me.

“Relax Luna,” she said. “This is not my territory. Nor has anyone else come with me.”

My insides weren’t convinced of that yet. My brain bounced around itself, unsure what to think or feel. Some part of me wondered if she had been the reason for Tona’s retreat, though my mind was too scattered to ponder that for long either. Once things started to slow down internally, my ears kept searching while I addressed Martol. I’d had enough surprises for one day.

“Wh. . . what are you doing out here?”

“After I heard what you did for Folar,” she said. “I had to find you. I had to talk with you, to say things I didn’t get the chance to say.”

I ruffed at her near another growl. Now she wants to talk? Yeah right. “Like what? Lone wolves can’t live anywhere near their original pack? No, I know. You’ve seen the light and are here to tell me all’s forgiven and I’m welcome to return. That it?”

Martol’s ears fell in pain I didn’t understand, or care to learn. “Luna. I don’t deserve that.”

“Don’t you? You stood by and did nothing. You let Toltan take the word of a bully over mine. Don’t deserve it? My sweet, sweet mother. You deserve far more.”

Her ears fell further. Tears began to form behind her closed eyes. “Do you think it was easy, for either of us? You didn’t say a word Luna. We had Rajor alone to speak for you.”

“And you didn’t find error in that? I’d just watched my brother die trying to kill me. What could I possibly say? Then there’s Wolfor. We invoke his name, and suddenly we can speak no lie. Rajor knew what he had to do, and he did it. You had your chance to do the right thing. You didn’t. Then you all watched as Toltan drove me from my home. Now I don’t know how easy it was, but I have to say, it sure looked like you didn’t mind it.”

The more I spoke, the tighter Martol’s eyes got, and the lower her ears went. By the time I’d finished, both were as far as they’d go. She was almost whimpering as tears snuck out at last. I wanted to say more, to be sure my point was made. I decided to stay silent. I knew she’d come out of it soon, and I wanted to hear her response more than I wanted to yell.

Her eyes opened to show a void where a wolf should be. My ears perked, wondering just what she had to say for herself.

Martol’s ears fell back as tears began to flow. “Toltan was right. I lost two pups that day. Goodbye Luna. May Wolfor care for you as I no longer can.”
She walked back to her home still sobbing.

I stood on trees where my legs should have been. I didn’t expect that. I’d expected a fight. I wanted a fight. In an odd way, I think I needed a fight. Instead I’d gotten a thorn in my chest the size of Wolfor’s claw.

I stood staring after her, trying to understand what just happened. For a moment, I considered chasing after her despite the risk. She was only walking, so I had a good chance of catching her before she got back inside her territory. When wisdom, or more lies, silenced that plan, I forced my way back to my den.

It was an odd constant, my rock pile. It gave me strength to deal with what I’d faced so far. Though it couldn’t protect me from what hit as I lay alone that night, for that was the problem. My den held just one wolf, and always would. My parents didn’t care, or didn’t try. Other packs would be “warned” of me. No female would want to risk mating with a “pup killer”. In simple terms, Rajor had succeeded in denying me anything but a life lived alone.

Worst of all, some of it was my own fault. Despite what I tried to tell myself, I’d chased away my last connection. I’d shunned Martol like an enemy before she had a chance to say what she’d come to say. If I had it to do over again, I might have said something else, or maybe said nothing at all. Whatever the case, I now wanted that second chance. I’d give anything to get it, even as I knew I never would.
Tears of my own dampened my fur, and the walls of my den echoed with the first adult sounding howl I’d ever given. A howl so deep, so longing, one would think I was the last wolf on Earth.

Before you go, is there anything else you would like to say?

Just this; nothing irks me more than someone claiming their way is the ONLY way to write. There’s isn’t ONE way to write. You wouldn’t dare tell an artist which brush strokes to use, so why tell a writer which methods to use?f

That said, I do think every writer should TRY them first. I know I can’t write every day because I know from trying that it doesn’t work. And every now and then, I try again, just to see if that’s changed. I’ve tried several other methods, and have found the combination that works for me. That same list will not work for many other writers, and that’s okay.

Ultimately, we all have to find our own way to write. It’s pretty rare that someone’s entire method works the same for another. So we have to try several, until we find the ones that work for us.

Forest Wells is an author with a deep passion for all things wild canine, as well as pro football.  He has authored a short story, as well as several poems, all published in the “Wolf Warriors” anthologies since 2015.  He currently lives in his home town of Thermal, California.

Author Links:

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Martine Fournier Watson

I am very excited to welcome Martine Fournier Watson on the blog! Be sure to check out her interview below and connect to with her on facebook and twitter!

Can you tell me a little about yourself?

I’m originally from Montreal, Canada, and apart from the three years I spent in New Brunswick, earning my BFA in painting from Mt. Allison University, I lived there until I was 27. In 2000, I graduated from Concordia University in Montreal with my MA in art history after spending a year in Chicago as a Fulbright scholar. You would think, with those degrees, that I would have ended up as an artist or teacher, or working in a gallery somewhere. But I followed the love of my life to Michigan after he got a job there (he’s also from Canada) and spent many years devoting myself to raising our two children. I’ve always loved writing, and had always pursued it on the side—publishing poems and short stories in literary magazines, putting out a chapbook of poetry shortly after our son was born. Once my youngest started kindergarten, I suddenly had a lot more free time on my hands, and that’s when I went back to writing in earnest. I started working on my debut novel, The Dream Peddler, eventually found an agent who sold it to Penguin, and now it’s coming out in April 2019. So, as they say, the rest was history.

What is your writing Kryptonite?

I guess it depends on whether we’re talking about the Kryptonite that takes me away from writing, or the big style flaw I always have to watch out for! In the first case, it’s got to be social media. I have a Twitter addiction, so whenever I get stuck in my work I find myself going in there and scrolling through. Very bad habit. In terms of style, my Kryptonite is definitely over-writing. I write literary fiction, so I love nothing better than a great image or an unusual turn of phrase, but I really have to watch that I don’t indulge myself too much.

What first inspired you to start writing?

It was probably that day in first grade when I noticed that my teacher had put a sign up on the wall with title suggestions for short stories we could write. It’s the first time I remember my imagination being fired by something that moved me to write. My story was called “The Magic Mittens.” It was probably about ten sentences long, but because of it I was named Author of the Month at our next elementary school assembly, and that was it. The writing bug had bit me!

What author has most influenced your writing?

This is a really tough one—there are so many authors I admire, and I hope that many of them have influenced me in some way: Toni Morrison, Daphne du Maurier, Donna Tartt, David Wroblewski, Anne Tyler, Rene Denfeld...I could go on and on, so I’ll stop there. But I also think that my writing mind was profoundly influenced by what and how much I read as a child. I read everything L.M. Montgomery wrote, and reread so many times I can practically recite from memory. I found rereading old, familiar books intensely comforting. I also adored Cynthia Voigt’s Homecoming series, and Susan Cooper’s fantasy.

Tell us a little about your plans for the future. Where do you see yourself as a writer in five years?

I think the place, or places, I see myself don’t really have anything to do with “plans.” So much of what happens to a writer career-wise is beyond our control, so all we can plan for is the content of the work. In five years, I hope to have another book or two out, but I think that will depend on how my debut goes. I’m wrapping up edits for my second book, but no one else has seen it—not even my mother, a constant source of aggravation to her! And I’ve been jotting down scenes and little bits for a third book, as well. All literary fiction. In five more years, maybe those books will be out and I’ll be working on the fourth. I’ve also toyed with the idea of writing a memoir—there was one year in my life, in particular, that might make for an interesting book, but I’m not completely comfortable with the idea of writing about all the real people involved, so we’ll have to see.

Of all the characters you have created, which is your favorite and why?

I think this changes all the time for me! Although, for some reason, whenever I’m asked about a favorite character, my mind always goes to the secondary cast. Maybe my main characters just have to take on too much in their roles to really be my favorites. Currently, I’m most in love with the younger sister of a main character in my work in progress, Darlene. Darlene is eleven years old and she’s brave, determined, obsessively neat, and forgives easily. There’s just something about her mixture of traits that makes me adore her, and adore writing her.

What literary world would you love to visit for a day?

Another toughie. I’ve always wanted to go back to the Victorian era, or maybe even a little earlier to the days of Jane Austen. I would have rocked all the things society women were expected to do—the needlework, the drawing, the music—and I would have looked great in one of those empire dresses. I’d love to spend a day on the moors in Wuthering Heights, or roaming the beautiful grounds at Pemberly.

What do you love most about the writing process?

The discovery. I’m a classic pantser—plotting would kill me. I love it when a new character pops into my mind while I’m drafting, and I love the process of getting to know them. If I tried to plot everything out, that would kill all the fun for me, for sure.

If you could spend time with a character from your book whom would it be? And what would you do during that day?

To be honest, I’ve always had a pretty big crush on my beloved dream peddler. I’d love to spend a day with him, but I think it would be inappropriate to describe what I hope we would be doing.

Any website or resources that have been helpful to you as a writer?

I loved to keep track of my queries when I was in those trenches. Along those lines, reading endless entries at was a great way to educate myself about what makes a great query. You also can’t go wrong with—it’s full of wonderful advice and information. For laughs, and to make myself feel better about my own query, I would go to And I wish I had known earlier about the podcast, which my lovely agent, Bridget Smith, puts out with her agent buddy, Jennifer Udden. They impart so much useful information about writing and the publishing business, all while sharing a bottle of wine and being absolutely hilarious.

What are you currently working on?

My current work in progress, which I’m tentatively calling Nothing Gold, is another literary novel centered on the coming-of-age of two thirteen-year-old protagonists. Lucas Miner is struggling with the abandonment of his mother, while his classmate, Caroline West, has a difficult home life with her gambling-addicted father and distracted mother. While the two forge an unlikely friendship, neither one of them realizes they are also deeply connected through their past mistakes, which may eventually threaten to tear them apart.

Can you share an excerpt with us from one of your novels/projects?

I’ll share the opening chapter of my current work in progress:

It must have been the way the truck’s front bumper was torn jagged now and hanging. It was sharp enough to slice something. They were still driving around that way as if it didn’t matter, as if this were nothing more than a dress with a fallen hem.

Lucas rode beside his father in the cab, as far away as the space would allow. His head was against the window, seat belt chaffing the right side of his neck. Every so often he yanked it away, but as soon as he let go the seatbelt slyly worked its way back, like the tight woven tail of some animal starved for affection.                        

They were heading out of town on Route Six because Lucas needed new clothes, and the K-Mart over in Silver Lake had the best deals. Whenever he grew, his body became sudden enemy, betrayer. For weeks, he’d sense his father eyeing the ankles and wrists sneaking out of his clothes, and he’d pull his arms up instinctively, trying to shrink himself. He was still shrinking now, taking up as little space as he could on his side of the cab, staring straight ahead.

Until a black shadow raced across the road in front of them. When the truck made contact the shadow hardened fast into flesh, and the impact forced a sound out of it, squealing and brief.

“Shit,” his father said, pulling onto the shoulder. “Shit shit.”

Lucas heard the driver door slam while he left his own open. The dog was lying in the road behind them, and he ran to reach it first. Nestled in the black hair matting with blood, the dog’s dead eyes were open, staring into the trees. Lucas reached down to the red grosgrain collar, shifting it gently around the animal’s neck.

“What are you doing?”

“Looking for tags.”

There were none.

The milkweed underbelly had been sliced open, and the organs flopped pale and pink out onto the asphalt like bubbles blown from gum. Around them a slick bruise of blood slowly widened, shiny with sun.

“Keep a lookout for cars,” his father said. “I’ll be right back.”

Lucas looked around. There were no houses nearby, and he wondered where the dog could have come from. The jellied stomach had burst, and a wet mound of dog chow was reeking the air. He glanced over his shoulder at his father, whose back was toward the scene as he opened the truck bed, then turned and stared again into the dog’s last meal.

There was a sparkle there, a faint glitter like a Cracker Jack prize, and he reached down and pulled it from the mud of food. A ring. He wiped it off with the tail of his shirt, then held the base by his fingertips like a tiny wildflower. Its center was greener even than the summer evening grass, greener than ocean or envy or mint jelly. It was circled with what looked like diamonds, but they couldn’t be real, he guessed. It couldn’t be valuable, but that’s how it looked. He polished it once more, and pushed it down deep into his shorts pocket.

This was a big dog. It would be as heavy as Darlene in his father’s arms, when she fell asleep on the sofa and he carried her back to her room. His father returned, and in just that way he wrapped the dog’s remains in an old tarp, and brought it over to the grass at the side of the road.

“God, what a mess.” He stripped off his buttoned shirt and used it to wipe his forearms and hands. The shirt took up the blood as he stood rubbing and swearing, then he tossed it into the truck bed. Underneath he wore a white t-shirt, its armpits stained blue from the deodorant he always used. He motioned Lucas back into the truck, and Lucas obeyed.

They drove away in silence, Lucas with his hand in his pocket, protecting his prize. “Are we just going to leave him there?” he asked.

“There isn’t anything else we can do. He’s not going to any vet. We don’t have any way to find the owner. So that’s it.” He reached over as if he might tousle Lucas’s hair, but pulled the hand back, maybe remembering the blood drying under his fingernails. “You’re sure there weren’t any tags?”                                                                                                                                         
“I’m sure.”
They stopped talking, and Lucas watched his father’s hands shifting around the wheel. Lucas was still, arms pressed to his sides. He felt something growing inside him, something he wasn’t sure he could contain, and making himself as small and tight as possible was all he could do. He stretched one finger in the darkness of his pocket to touch the ring, and its faceted surface innerved his skin with wonder. He found himself rubbing it like a talisman. He didn’t believe in luck, but he thought it might bring him something.

Anything you'd like to say before you go?

Only that it has been a great pleasure to do your interview—one of my first! Many thanks for inviting me, and I hope all your readers enjoy it.

Martine Fournier Watson is originally from Montreal, Canada, where she earned her master’s degree in art history after a year in Chicago as a Fulbright scholar. She currently lives in Michigan with her husband and two children. The Dream Peddler is her first novel.

A little blurb about The Dream Peddler:

The dream peddler came to town at the white end of winter, before the thaw . . .
Traveling salesmen like Robert Owens have passed through Evie Dawson’s town before, but none of them offered anything like what he has to sell: dreams, made to order, with satisfaction guaranteed.
Soon after he arrives, the community is shocked by the disappearance of Evie’s young son. The townspeople, shaken by the Dawson family’s tragedy and captivated by Robert’s subversive magic, begin to experiment with his dreams. And Evie, devastated by grief, turns to Robert for a comfort only he can sell her. But the dream peddler’s wares awaken in his customers their most carefully buried desires, and despite all his good intentions, some of them will lead to disaster.

Gorgeously told through the eyes of Evie, Robert, and a broad cast of fully realized characters, The Dream Peddler is an imaginative, moving novel of overcoming loss and reckoning with the longings we keep secret.

“Astonishing . . . The Dream Peddler unfolds like a gorgeous poem, leading us deep into the lives of its characters, and exploring the vast underground legacy of our own desires. This is the must-read book of the year.” —Rene Denfeld, bestselling author of The Child Finder

Author Links:

Web site:
Twitter: @MFournierWatson
Instagram: @MartineFournierWatson
THE DREAM PEDDLER is available for preorder at:
Penguin Random House: