Author Interview: Brian Lee Durfee


Today I am interviewing Brian Lee Durfee, author of the new fantasy novel, The Forgetting Moon, first book of the Five Warriors Angels series.

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DJ: Hey Brian! Thanks for agreeing to do this interview!

For readers who aren’t familiar with you, could you tell us a little about yourself?

Brain Lee Durfee: I am an artist and writer who was raised in Fairbanks Alaska and Monroe Utah. I’ve done illustrations for Wizards of the Coast, Tolkien Enterprises, Dungeons & Dragons, Humane Society Wildlife Land Trust (Denali National Park) and many more. My art has been featured in SPECTRUM: Best in Contemporary Fantastic Art #3 and Writers of the Future Vol 9. I won the Arts for the Parks Grand Canyon Award and the painting is in the permanent collection of the Grand Canyon Visitors Center-Kolb Gallery. I am also the author of the fantasy series Five Warrior Angels. I currently live in Salt Lake City. I work in Law Enforcement as a day job. Reading is my first passion. Writing my second. Watching the Oakland Raiders third. Painting fourth. In fact, I might put watching football first because everything stops on NFL Sunday for me.

DJ: Now, I love epic fantasy – it is my favorite genre – and The Forgetting Moon is a massive book and solely from the book’s intro, I’m getting the feeling the Five Warriors Angels series is going to be quite vast! While that is so awesome(!), that means there is so much to cover! So, I will do my best to ask you questions that will cover as much as possible😛

Let’s start with the basic one: What is The Forgetting Moon about?

Brain: I am assuming you have a link to Simon & Schuster’s description so we needn’t re-hash that here. So I am going to paraphrase what one Goodreads reviewer (a good friend of mine who gave me permission) wrote, because she did a good job of describing the novel in a different way than what you will find on the back-jacket. “It has been nearly a thousand years since the death and supposed ascendency to heaven of Laijon, King of Slaves, one of five legendary Warrior Angels; history is mute on the fates of the other four: the Princess, the Thief, the Assassin, and the Gladiator. Since Laijon’s death, nations have divided into warring factions worshipping either Laijon, his son, Raijael, or his wife, The Blessed Mother Mia. Now, prophesies near fruition as the followers of Raijael plow a bloody track across the Five Isles, and the infamous weapons of the Five Angels have been rediscovered. (The doctrines and religious fervor that fuel the war remind one of the endless schisms and wars fostered by the Abrahamic religions of our world.)

The story follows those who may or may not be the prophesied descendants of the Five Warrior Angels: Aeros Raijael, the White Prince, sociopathic leader of the invading army; Nail, an orphan from a remote fishing village; Jondralyn Bronachell, sister to a cruel and paranoid king; their sister, Tala Bronachell, who is following an anonymous assassin’s clues to save her cousin from poison; Gault Aulbrek, a disenchanted knight; Ava Shay, prisoner of war and Nail’s one-time girlfriend; Hawkwood, a deadly Bloodwood assassin; Squireck Van Hester, a political prisoner forced to fight in the gladiatorial arena; siblings Zane and Liz Hen Neville, Nail’s hometown friends; and their dog, Beer Mug. The reader should heed the motto of the Brethren of Mia: “Trust no one.”

DJ: What were some of your influences for The Forgetting Moon and the Five Warriors Angels series?


Brain: At 13 years old I read the SWORD OF SHANNARA by Terry Brooks. Ten pages in I knew I wanted to write a fantasy novel of my own. That Shannara novel hooked me on reading. I’ve read 3-4 books a week ever since from every genre: fantasy, horror, mystery, thriller, sci-fi, non-fiction, etc. As a kid I loved Lloyd Alexander, David Eddings, DRAGONLANCE, and Tolkien. But as I was writing THE FORGETTING MOON, for inspiration I purposefully studied the structure, pacing, and style of seven specific books: Ken Follett’s PILLARS OF THE EARTH, Larry McMurtry’s LONESOME DOVE, James Clavell’s SHOGUN, Stephen King’s THE STAND, Goerge R. R. Martin’s GAME OF THRONES, Robert Jordan’s EYE OF THE WORLD, & Tad Williams’ DRAGONBONE CHAIR. These are all mega-selling books and I really wanted to plumb their secrets. Luke Skywalker’s journey in Star Wars is also a huge inspiration.

DJ: Could you briefly tell us a little about your main characters? Do they have any cool quirks or habits, or any reason why readers with sympathize with them? 

Brain: 1) Nail (a seventeen-year-old boy) is our main male lead character, always brave and a bit headstrong, but prone to make mistakes because of his arrogance. He works as a gold-miner, but would rather work on the whaling ship with his pals, and he loves to draw. He dreams of designing stained glass windows for cathedrals someday. 2) Tala (a sixteen-year-old girl) is our main female lead character. She is a pampered princess and full of mischief. She won’t do what anyone tells her. If she is told to stop sneaking about the castle, you bet she will do it, even when threatened by assassins. She is just too curious, like a cat. And that leads to a whole mess of trouble. 3) Gault (a veteran knight) is our main adult character. He is weary of ten years of crusading. He misses his daughter terribly. But killing is his life, and the only way he can truly feel at peace is when he is engaged in slaughter. He is a very conflicted man. 4) Jondralyn (also a princess & older sister of Tala) is our main adult female character. She hates the ruling class of men and wants to usurp the throne form her brother. Like Nail, she is brave and a bit headstrong. She is training to be a gladiator. She always over-estimates her own skills, which gets her in trouble a lot. The story is told through the alternate POV’s of those four.

Other characters of note are, Jovan (an inept king) Squireck (a gladiator) Roguemoore (a gruff old dwarf) Val-Draekin (an elven thief and warrior) Seita (an elven princess) Hawkwood (a former assassin) Lindholf & Lawri (friends of Tala) Shawcroft (an enigmatic ex-knight) Stefan (Nail’s best friend and archer) Jenko, Ava Shay, Liz Hen, Dokie, Zane, Gisela (other friends of Nail) Aeros (a ruthless crusader) Enna Spades & Hammerfiss (Aeros’ brutal henchmen). And lastly Beer Mug (a shepherd dog). Readers who have been given ARCs and pre-release copies have all commented that they absolutely grew adore Beer Mug and grew to hate, and I mean HATE, Enna Spades. Spades is one vicious, cruel, and unpredictable warrior woman. When she walks on scene….watch out.

DJ: I love epic fantasy with multiple POV and complex plots, but I have always wondered how writers approach writing these types of stories? How did you decide which POV to jump to next when telling the story and how did you actually write the story? (Do you outline the order the POV chapters will go in first, then write it like that; write all of one character’s chapters then move on)

Brain: So a couple of things here. I wrote the first half of the novel with zero outline. Then once I saw where the story was headed, I sort of plotted out the rest vaguely. But now that I am under contract for several more books, I have a pretty good set of notes and outlines for the entire rest of the series. As for POV characters, in the beginning, those 4 main perspectives (Nail, Tala, Gault, Jondralyn) just sorta grew naturally as the story went along. I write chronologically. So I do not write all Nail chapters then all Tala chapters etc. The story flows from one character to the next. Also, I have made a promise to myself that there would be exactly 55 chapters in each book no matter what. Let’s see if I can stick to that. That’s about 750 pgs hardcover. 250,000 words. For perspective that is about 30,000 words shorter than GAME OF THRONES.

DJ: Do you ever go back and rearrange the planned order or have to write a scene over again from another character’s perspective?

Brain: No. But my editor, Joe Monti, at Simon & Schuster’s SAGA PRESS, did ask me to re-arrange the order of the first ten chapters in Forgetting Moon, and add a prologue. The prologue was a brilliant idea and I do believe one of the best pieces of writing I have ever done. It is different than any prologue you will read. And really ties the story together in a way I didn’t think possible. I am jazzed about it, and about the fact that it will be the first thing people read when they open up the book. It really sets the tone for things to come.

DJ: What is the universe/world for the Five Warriors Angels series like?

Brain: Good question. The universe is called the Five Isles, consisting of, well, five islands, each about the size of England/Scotland. The environment is very European. Think Scotland Highlands but with the mountains the size of the Swiss Alps or the Alaskan Range. The Isles are high in latitude, so it gets cold!!! On the Five Isles we have humans, elves, dwarves, and oghuls (basically orcs) all living together. Religion is split into three warring factions: worshipers of Laijon, Raijael, or Mia. And these wars have plagued the isles for thousands of years. So the Isles are very violent. And very patriarchal (which gives the female leads something to fight for—which is part of the overall theme) No technology beyond swords and crossbows and chainmail armor, straight medieval. And here is the kicker. Magic is believed in, but never seen. There are many religious holy books full of stories and prophecies of Laijon, Raijael and Mia doing magic and having magic weapons and such. But these stories are no more founded than say Moses parting the Red Sea in todays Bible. Still, these stories propel much religious strife in the Five Isles. Especially ancient stories of The Five Warrior Angels and their magical weapons…

DJ: It seems like there is going to be A LOT going on there… could you tell the readers a few specific details about Sør Sevier and Gul Kana, that may grab there attention and shed more light on them?

Brain: Sør Sevier (one of the five isles) is led by the religious fervor of the White Prince, Aeros Raijael, a direct descendant of the ancient religious icon, Raijael. Sør Sevier is the western most isles, more destitute and rocky and less-prosperous than the others. Aeros bloody crusade is to reclaim the other 4 isles under one place them all under religious rule, his rule. Aeros allows women to fight in his armies, doubling his troops, and this is a huge advantage over Gul Kana (another one of the isles about to be attacked by Aeros), because Gul Kana is led by Jovan, and Jovan is merely a puppet for the highly misogynist and patriarchal religious regime of the Church of Laijon. Jondralyn, Jovan’s sister, desperately wants her brother to allow women to fight. But his church advisors won’t allow it even to their own doom. So this looming war and all of its religious implications combined with a belief in magic sets up the main conflict. Because all sides believe that the magic weapons of the Five Warrior Angels are out there somewhere, and if they can just find them, the wars will turn dramatically in their favor.

DJ: I am also curious about Shawcroft and Gallows Haven; what’s it like over there?

Brain: Nail is an orphan boy living in the whaling village of Gallows Haven. Shawcroft is Nail’s caretaker. Gallows Haven sits on the western coast of Gul Kana, right in the sights of Aeros invading army. Above Gallows Haven is a mountain range full of old gold mines…which may or may not hold ancient treasure…

DJ: What was your favorite part about writing The Forgetting Moon?

Brain: My favorite part of writing is when it’s done. Writing can be a slog. But once you have stuck it out, persevered, and the book is in print and folks are reading it. That’s my favorite part. As mystery writer Elizabeth George said, ‘Nobody really likes writing, but everyone likes having written something.’ Seeing the end result and being proud of it is really cool. Especially because this is the culmination of an idea that began forming in my mind when I was 13 years old reading THE SWORD OF SHANNARA that first time. But in the end, I truly do love world-building and character development. I love being surprised by what some of my characters say. I love being surprised when certain secondary characters start demanding more screen time because they have made themselves so interesting.

DJ: What do you think readers will be talking about most once they finish it?

Brain: So far readers are talking about how much they loved the dog, Beer Mug, and how much they hated Enna Spades (things I was not expecting). But other feedback I have received. The pace never lets up! The world-building is detailed and VAST! The characters are diverse and distinct and interesting. The book is non-stop adventure, drama and action from the first page. Which is good, because I promised myself I wouldn’t let this series get bogged down in the endless boring political details that can sometimes drag in fantasy novels. That stuff is there, but minimal. I want the readers heart to be pounding. If anyone reviews my book and says they were bored…that would suck. And probably not be true.

DJ: What is your goal in writing the Five Warriors Angels series? The Forgetting Moon is only the first book, but is there a particular message or meaning you are hoping to get across to readers when it is finally told?

Brain: The overall theme is ‘believe in yourself’. In the end, each character is defined by how they handle themselves when everything goes wrong, when all the things and people that they believed in fail them. How do they rise up and conquer with just the strength of their own will.

DJ: When I read, I love to collect quotes – whether it be because they’re funny, foodie, or have a personal meaning to me. Do you have any favorite quotes from The Forgetting Moon that you can share with us?

Brain: The opening line “trust is fleeting, betrayal is timeless”. And I advise the reader, as you read this series, trust no one. Everything is a puzzle to be figured out. Everything is a red-herring. Everything is in there to mislead you. Or maybe it isn’t…

DJ: Now that The Forgetting Moon is released, what is next for you?

Brain: Book two, The Blackest Heart is due Jan 2017. I am nearly done with that. And then it is on to book three, The Lonesome Crown and so on…

DJ: Where can readers find out more about you?

Amazon Author Page:

Facebook: https:

Goodreads: https:

Website: *NOTE* please go here and follow the links to connect with me on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook, or Youtube. You can also purchase prints of my landscape and wildlife art here.

DJ: Before we go, what is that one thing you’d like readers to know about The Forgetting Moon that we haven’t talked about yet?

Brain: If you love GAME OF THRONES & WHEEL OF TIME, I think you will love THE FORGETTING MOON. I really think my novel is a good blend of new grimdark fantasy combined with old epic quest fantasy.

DJ: Thank you so much for taking time out of your day to answer my questions!

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*** The Forgetting Moon is published by Saga Press and is available TODAY!!! ***

Buy the Book: 

Amazon | Barnes & NobelGoodreads | Kobo

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About the Book:

A massive army on the brink of conquest looms large in a world where prophecies are lies, magic is believed in but never seen, and hope is where you least expect to find it.

Welcome to the Five Isles, where war has come in the name of the invading army of Sør Sevier, a merciless host driven by the prophetic fervor of the Angel Prince, Aeros, toward the last unconquered kingdom of Gul Kana. Yet Gault, one of the elite Knights Archaic of Sør Sevier, is growing disillusioned by the crusade he is at the vanguard of just as it embarks on his Lord Aeros’ greatest triumph.

While the eldest son of the fallen king of Gul Kana now reigns in ever increasing paranoid isolationism, his two sisters seek their own paths. Jondralyn, the older sister, renowned for her beauty, only desires to prove her worth as a warrior, while Tala, the younger sister, has uncovered a secret that may not only destroy her family but the entire kingdom. Then there’s Hawkwood, the assassin sent to kill Jondralyn who has instead fallen in love with her and trains her in his deadly art. All are led further into dangerous conspiracies within the court.

And hidden at the edge of Gul Kana is Nail, the orphan taken by the enigmatic Shawcroft to the remote whaling village of Gallows Haven, a young man who may hold the link to the salvation of the entire Five Isles.

You may think you know this story, but everyone is not who they seem, nor do they fit the roles you expect. Durfee has created an epic fantasy full of hope in a world based on lies.

5779282About the Author:

Brian Lee Durfee is an artist and writer raised in Fairbanks, Alaska, and Monroe, Utah. He has done illustrations for Wizards of the Coast, Tolkien Enterprises, Dungeons & Dragons, Humane Society Wildlife Land Trust (Denali National Park), and many more. His art has been featured in SPECTRUM: Best in Contemporary Fantastic Art #3 and Writers of the Future Vol 9. He won the Arts for the Parks Grand Canyon Award and has a painting in the permanent collection of the Grand Canyon Visitors Center-Kolb Gallery. Brian is the author of the fantasy series, Five Warrior Angels. He lives in Salt Lake City. – See more at:… and/or…


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Guest Post: Writing Through Hurricanes, Grumpy Spouses, And Maniacal Bosses: Finding Your Default Self by Edward Lazellari


Born and raised in New York City, Edward has been telling stories in one form or another since the age of seven. Comic books were an important part of his youth, and Ed believes they accelerate reading comprehension in school kids. Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot was his first self-purchased novel (i.e., not a school assignment). He wrote his first professional story for Marvel Comics Presents in the early 90s, starring Namorita (a.k.a. Kymaera) and illustrated the tale as well. After eight years as an illustrator, Edward returned to university to study English literature and creative writing at Rutgers.

His first published prose story, “The Date,” a dark comedy about a gigolo showing up for a date with conjoined twins, appeared in the October 1999 issue of Playboy magazine. This was an important boost to any budding writer’s confidence and contributed to his finishing his first novel, “Awakenings.” Edward has just completed the second book in the Guardians of Aandor series, “The Lost Prince,” which was released in hardcover in the summer of 2013.

His genre influences include: Stephen King, Roger Zelazny, Alan Moore, George R.R. Martin, Ann Rice, John Grisham, Neil Gaiman, J.K. Rowling, Philip K. Dick, Isaac Asimov, Jean M. Auel, Ben Bova, Arthur C. Clarke, Larry Niven, Frederick Pohl, Diana Gabaldon, Jim Butcher, and Glen Cook.

Literary influences include: William Shakespeare, John Steinbeck, Charles Dickens, Jonathan Franzen, J.R.R. Tolkien, Ayn Rand, Margaret Atwood, Jane Austin, Frank McCourt, Mary Shelley, John Irving, Aldous Huxley, Homer, Dante, and Voltaire.

Edward enjoys many hobbies such as poker, bike riding, playing softball, and writing about himself in the third person.

Writing Through Hurricanes, Grumpy Spouses, And Maniacal Bosses: Finding Your Default Self

by Edward Lazellari

The universe is trying to keep you from your writing. It will throw all manner of distraction and chaos at you, and bind you with obligations–girlfriends who cry neglect, boyfriends who threaten to step out on your monogamy, bosses who insist that your not getting the work done in 40 hours is your fault not the workload. You will try to reason with the universe, work out a mutual arrangement where you borrow three hours here and two hours there to ply your craft; but the universe is a fickle bitch that knows full well you need uninterrupted blocks of time with which to craft your tales–time to let your story ferment and then time for revisions. You need a thousand hours to write two hundred decent pages. Lie back to the universe, steal the time you need, sacrifice personal pleasure and socializing, and then maybe…maybe, you will have a story of note at the end of the run. Continue reading

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Author Interview: Alyc Helms


Today I am interviewing Alyc Helms, author of the new urban fantasy novel, The Conclave of Shadow, second book in the Missy Masters series.

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DJ: Hey Alyc! Thanks for stopping by to do this interview!

For readers who aren’t familiar with you, could you tell us a little about yourself?

Alyc Helms: Thank you so much for having me!

I’ll try to keep it down to ‘a little’. The thing I usually lead with is that I did my undergrad and graduate work in Anthropology and Folklore. That alone explains 75% of how my brain functions. I love stories, I love tropes, I love the structure of narrative, and I love how stories reveal both the particularities and the generalities of a cultural system. My areas of study definitely feed into my writing. I have a whole treatise on different tendencies in worldbuilding that I don’t have room to go into here. Suffice to say that I lean toward anthropological worldbuilding, which comes out through how characters view and interact with the world and the assumptions they make about it (as opposed to, say, getting your worldbuilding out via an omniscient-view history of a location or a custom – nothing wrong with that style. I love that style. I just don’t do it very often myself).

The other 25% of my brain is occupied with the various hobbies I’ve picked up over the years. I’m a big gamer–I’ve written some freelance content for Green Ronin for their A Song of Ice and Fire and Dragon Age lines. I’m a former competitive Scottish Highland dancer, and I still keep my bell kicks a’rockin’ at my local Renaissance and Dickens fairs. I’m pretty handy with a sewing machine (which helps for the making of corsets and costumes for the aforementioned fairs), and I just taught myself to crochet.

DJ: What is The Conclave of Shadow about? What can readers of the series expect in the latest installment? Anything new? Any surprises?


Alyc: Like I mentioned before, I’m a sucker for narrative tropes and structures. With The Dragons of Heaven, I played with the idea of a pulp adventure-style origin story. For the sequel, The Conclave of Shadow, I decided to write it using the structure of a caper story along the lines of Ocean’s Eleven or Escape from Alcatraz—the sorts of stories that depend on complex plans, many players, and many moving parts. Also, things going wrong, and the creative ways that the characters work around those roadblocks.

One of the worldbuilding elements I left (mostly) unexplored in the first book was the role of the Argent Aces in Missy’s world. These corporate-sponsored heroes act as a sort of private army and give the ambiguously motivated Argent Corporation much of their power. In Conclave, Missy reluctantly teams up with several Argent Aces (and drags a few of her old allies along for the ride) to investigate the theft of Argent technology by the Conclave of Shadow. But of course, there’s more going on than just simple theft, and everyone on the team has their own secrets and reasons for helping. Things get… interesting. Continue reading

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Author Interview and Giveaway: Darrell Drake


Darrell Drake was kind enough to provide three (3) free ebook copies of A Star-Reckoner’s Lot to go along with his interview! The link and details for the giveaway are located at the bottom of the post, following the interview:)

Today I am interviewing Darrell Drake, author of the new, historical fantasy novel, A Star-Reckoner’s Lot!!!

[Insert 80’s montage with guitars and fireworks and Canadian flags]

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DJ: Hey Darrell! Thanks for stopping by to do this interview!

For readers who aren’t familiar with you, could you tell us a little about yourself?

Darrell Drake: There’s one thing you should know about me above all else: that I’m fond of birds. How fond? I once let a Canadian goose eat out of my hand, and Canadian geese are nothing if not vicious. Really. Also, I regularly serenade my cat with power ballads.

DJ: What is A Star-Reckoner’s Lot about?

Darrell: The thriving, culturally rich late-antique empire of Sassanian Iran; a strong yet tragically real heroine whose illness and bereavement hangs over her like a cloud of soot and grime; a system of luck-based magic fueled by astronomy (and unpredictable at best in the case of the heroine); a companion who is, perhaps above all else, a liability, with an unconventional take on reality; and all of this inspired by classics such as the Shahnameh and Arabian Nights.

DJ: What were some of your influences for A Star-Reckoner’s Lot?


Darrell: For the execution of stories within the greater story I drew obvious inspiration from Scheherazade’s delivery of her tales in Arabian Nights—though not nearly as recursive. The tales themselves were influenced in part by the Shahnameh, Iran’s national epic, and the folklore and mythology of the region.

The setting allowed me a wealth of content to draw from, which further seeded the adventures of Ashtadukht and her cohorts. The history and multifarious lands of Sassanian Iran would be the core around which their path wound. The empire spanned four centuries; its domain stretched from Mesopotamia to Central Asia. Needless to say, I had quite a bit to work with on that front.

DJ: Could you briefly tell us a little about your main characters? Do they have any cool quirks or habits, or any reason why readers with sympathize with them?

Darrell: Ashtadukht, the heroine of A Star-Reckoner’s Lot, is perhaps the most appealing because of her flaws. She’s constantly struggling with her illness, the weight of her husband’s death (and her headstrong pursuit of the div responsible [a sort of monster]), the enormity of her title as star-reckoner, the contempt with which her peers view her (due to her unpredictable star-reckoning, and leniency toward the divs she’s meant to root out). All the while, she maintains her bearing. She is proud, intelligent, and capable—neither above her faults nor weakened by them. In her adventures, readers will come to find just how heedlessly she follows her course for justice—or what she would call justice.

Waray is one of Ashtadukht’s companions, one who has already endeared readers, and is above all else a liability. A glance at her semi-keeled scales and otherwise viper-like appearance imparts a clear impression of her terrible lineage. She is no normal div, though. A normal div would be a more straightforward problem; Waray is half-div. Her troubled state becomes immediately manifest in unusual idiosyncrasies and an unconventional take on reality, symptoms of her grim personality disorders. What’s more, she harbors a lie so great it entices her own kind to turn on her. Hunted by both sides, running from her past, Waray is in a bad … way when Ashtadukht finds her.

DJ: What is the universe/world for A Star-Reckoner’s Lot like?

Darrell: A Star-Reckoner’s Lot is based in 6th-century Sassanian Iran, an empire contemporary with Rome. With the exception of an interruption by Alexander the Great, Iran had existed as a series of empires that dominated the area. But this was before the advent of Islam, and while there was naturally turbulence, the empire generally practiced tolerance in many things. This allowed the Sassanians to embrace the many cultures their borders encompassed, and those without. They sought out the arts and sciences with open arms, and even embraced those who sought refuge of intellect when the academy of Athens was closed by Justinian on religious grounds.

The narrative takes place over the course of some 30-odd years (never explicitly stated, but those who decide to do some research can corroborate), and this period is comfortably within a golden age for Sassanian Iran. Under the leadership of the mighty King of Kings, the empire flourished. In war, it commanded respect; in peace, it thrived. It glowed with an appreciation for court, religion, king, and nature—often finding unity in depictions of the Royal Hunt.

When discussing Iran, people tend to respond with something about how arid and desolate it is. Yes, it has its deserts replete with 600ft. dunes, and wind-carved yardangs like misshapen fortresses rising from the dust. And nearby, its salt flats. But it’s also home to the lush Caspian coast. To dense forests busy with activity. To snow-capped peaks, the towering Mt. Damavand above all, and the pastureland that surrounds them. Elsewhere, marshes teem with wildlife. Fields of wildflowers bloom beautifully around salt lakes. And that’s only modern Iran. The Sassanian territory included the escarpments of Armenia, the plains of Mesopotamia, even reaching as far as Egypt at its height.

DJ: The book’s synopsis talks about “a women who commands the might of constellations.” Is this a common type of power in the world? 

Darrell: Star-reckoning is only explained in broad terms in the novel, with that information supplemented by the act itself. This intended haziness is meant to lend to the mystical, cryptic, and privileged nature of star-reckoning. But there is an underlying system involved.

Let’s back up a bit before getting into that. We must first briefly tackle matters of cosmology—the universe as viewed and explained from a mythical perspective. In the beginning, the heavens were the residence of the beneficent Ohrmazd, with the rancorous Ahriman restricted to the darkness below. Eventually and inevitably, Ahriman’s terrible host set upon the firmament. The second such attack ended in a revolving theatre: the planets assaulting the constellations.

It is this theatre that is of the utmost importance to a star-reckoner. While his or her training has imparted many ways of dealing with divs, star-reckoning is by and large the most potent, hence the namesake. Star-reckoners redirect a fraction of the power exuded by the clashing hosts of the Truth and the Lie, repurposing it for feats of magic.

When a star-reckoner draws of a lot—what star-reckoners call their foray into the heavens—there are many factors and portents to consider: falls, exaltations, conjunctions, aspects, elemental qualities, and well, let’s just say a star-reckoner’s mind is always racing when she draws a lot. These qualities are actually measured by observing the sky. The locations of the stars, the planets, and the Moon are all taken into consideration, and all have a profound effect on the outcome. And for every star-reckoning in the novel I have went through the process of conducting the ritual with the aid of planetarium software. Every lot drawn was subject to the whim of a die rolling on my desk.

DJ: There are also “creatures now believed mythical.” Can you tell us a little about these mythical creatures?

Darrell: While there are some exceptions, such as the Dourboat and Senmurv, most of the mythical creatures involved are divs. Divs are monsters that come in many forms with many dispositions. But they all are servants of evil in some manner or another. It could be something as simple as murder; it could be by coercing innocents to join the side of Ahriman; it could be by polluting nature; it could be by antagonizing the souls of the dead. There are other, more powerful divs that exist more as a hypostasis of some idea, such as disgrace, want, or vengeance. All in all, they seek to usurp the hold of order and good in the many ways they are equipped to do so.

DJ: A Star-Reckoner’s Lot was also a successful Kickstarter project. What made you pursue this path and how the experience? Would you kickstart a book again?

Darrell: I was strolling through a park with a friend who ran several successful Kickstarters for his popular Viking board game. I don’t remember how, but he convinced me. As far as choosing Kickstarter over traditional publishing is concerned, I wasn’t particularly keen on placing both my future and the future of something I’ve toiled over at the whim of a few gatekeepers.

If I had to use one word to describe the Kickstarter experience, it’d be “stressful”. Getting all of the logistics in order was, and still is, incredibly demanding for one person. But the campaign had me meeting many new folks and making worthwhile acquaintances, which was grand. What’s more, it showed that people are interested, and now allows me to operate with creative independence. I’d definitely Kickstart another book if the opportunity arises, and the luminaries align. It’s a solid, rewarding platform once you figure out how to use it.

DJ: What was your favorite part about writing A Star-Reckoner’s Lot?

Darrell: Finally getting the damn story out of my head! It wasn’t particularly fond of being locked up in there.I share the sentiment. I’d have to say the research, though. Rather than diving into the story, I devoted the first couple years to researching Sassanian Iran. It was enlightening, to put it lightly.

DJ: What do you think readers will be talking about most once they finish it?

Darrell: The twist to the story, or the characters. The cast is small, but they shine ever so brilliantly, and I’ve had nothing but good feedback from readers and reviewers.

DJ: What is your goal in writing the A Star-Reckoner’s Lot? Is there a particular message or meaning you are hoping to get across to readers when it is finally told?

Darrell: Nothing so hifalutin as a message or meaning. Just a pleasant tale that inspires that feeling of loss that a good book does when you’ve finished the last page. I do hope to inspire readers to do some research of their own, though: to spark an interest in Sassanian Iran.

DJ: When I read, I love to collect quotes – whether it be because they’re funny, foodie, or have a personal meaning to me. Do you have any favorite quotes from A Star-Reckoner’s Lot that you can share with us?

Darrell: I genuinely wish I had something to offer on that front. As many times as I’ve read through the book, I think it’s all begun to blur together. I know there are some worthwhile quotations in there. Just can’t quite reel them in. I’m sure readers will have no problem finding some of their own! Oh, here’s one: “She did not belong to the healthy group of widows and widowers who, after mourning, would nurture the seed of their grief into growing from loss—perhaps continuing the dreams of the lost, or learning to cherish alone the things they’d cherished together.

She belonged instead to the sad lot who clung to grief, who nurtured it by never moving beyond it. They’d shelter it deep inside where the years padded it in saudade layers like some malignant pearl.”

DJ: Now that A Star-Reckoner’s Lot is released, what is next for you?

Darrell: I know it’s not what I should be saying. But nothing is brewing. For now, I’ll promote the hell out of this book. It has dominated the last 10% of my life. Frankly, they weren’t the best years. I need a break. A break is next. A break and a drink.

DJ: Where can readers find out more about you?

Amazon Author Page:

Author Newsletter:








DJ: Before we go, what is that one thing you’d like readers to know about A Star-Reckoner’s Lot that we haven’t talked about yet?

Darrell: That you don’t need to be a history buff to enjoy it. First and foremost, A Star-Reckoner’s Lot is Ashtadukht’s story. Her life. While those interested in history will find themselves indulged, I’ve endeavored to weave it subtly into the tale. Besides, fantasy reflects history in so many ways.

DJ: This isn’t a book related questions, but since you are fond of birds… Why are magpies so great anyway?!

Darrell: Ohhhh, man. Let me tell you about magpies. First of all, they’re marvy. Second of all, look at this guy. Or better yet, marvel at this little fella. Magpies just wanna have fun. Sure, some breeds swoop at you because they just don’t care, but don’t worry about it.

Oh, the Eurasian magpie, that brilliant Pica Pica, is the only bird to have passed the mirror self-recognition test (which is meant to test self-awareness). The only bird. Wow! Can you believe it? That’s magpies for you. FRIGGIN’ TRAILBLAZERS!

I have a magpie feather that a chum of mine sent from Alberta. Unfortunately, we don’t have magpies in Toronto.

DJ: Thank you so much for taking time out of your day to answer my questions!

Darrell: And thank you for having me, DJ. It’s been a pleasure, and I appreciate your taking the time to tailor questions to the book!

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*** A Star-Reckoner’s Lot is available TODAY!!! ***

Buy the Book: 

Amazon | Barnes & NobelGoodreads | Kobo

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Please click on the Rafflecopter link below to enter to win one (1) of three (3) ebook copies of A Star-Recoker’s Lot! Good luck!:)

Runs through September 8, 2016 (09/08/2016)


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About the Book:

For some, loss merely deprives. For others, it consumes.

Ashtadukht is a star-reckoner. The worst there’s ever been. Witness her treacherous journey through Iranian legends and ancient history.

Only a brave few storytellers still relate cautionary glimpses into the life of Ashtadukht, a woman who commanded the might of the constellations—if only just, and often unpredictably. They’ll stir the imagination with tales of her path to retribution. How, fraught with bereavement and a dogged illness, she criss-crossed Sassanian Iran in pursuit of creatures now believed mythical. Then, in hushed tones, what she wrought on that path.

authorAbout the Author:

Darrell Drake has published four books, with A Star-Reckoner’s Lot being the latest. He often finds himself inspired by his research to take on new hobbies. Birdwatching, archery, stargazing, and a heightened interest in history have all become a welcome part of his life thanks to this habit.


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Author Interview: J.R.R.R. (Jim) Hardison

41dHsvxyUKL._UX250_Today I am interviewing J.R.R.R. (Jim) Hardison, author of the debut comedic epic fantasy novel, Fish Wielder, book one of the Fish Wielder trilogy.

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DJ: Hey Jim! Thanks for stopping by to do this interview! Before we actually start this interview, I want to tell you, that strictly from reading the back of your book, it sounds so freaking hilarious and awesome!

But let’s start off with some introductions: for readers who aren’t familiar with you, could you tell us a little about yourself?

J.R.R.R (Jim) Hardison: Thank you for the kind words about Fish Wielder, DJ. Way back in Ancient Times, when I was in first grade, my teacher Miss Rainwater (I’m not making that up) gave an assignment to write down what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down “I am gong to be a wrytr” (spelling wasn’t my thing…still isn’t). Since then, I’ve been trying to make good on that claim. While Fish Wielder is my first novel novel, over the years I’ve written a comedy horror movie (The Creature from Lake Michigan), a TV special (Popeye’s Voyage: The Quest for Pappy), the show bible and an episode of the PBS TV show SeeMore’s Playhouse (Basil’s Surprise) and a graphic novel (The Helm) which was named one of YALSA’s Top Ten Great Graphic Novels for Teens in 2010.

DJ: What is Fish Wielder about?

JIM: It’s an epically silly epic fantasy novel about a muscle-bound barbarian warrior and his talking fish who stumble their way into a quest to recover the lost Pudding of Power and destroy it before the forces of evil can use it to take over the magical world of Grome. It’s more convoluted than that, but that’s the gist of it. Continue reading

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Author Interview: Beth Cato


Today I am interviewing Beth Cato, author of the new fantasy steampunk novel, Breath of Earth.

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DJ: Hey Beth! Thanks for coming by AGAIN this month! This time, for your new novel, Breath of Earth.

So tell us: What is Breath of Earth about?

Beth Cato: The book follows Ingrid Carmichael, a secretary for the Earth Wardens in San Francisco. Unbeknownst to the wardens, she is a far more powerful geomancer than they are. When most of the wardens are killed, it falls on Ingrid to act as a buffer to keep earth energy from causing a cataclysmic earthquake in the city. At the same time, tensions are high with Chinese refugees in the city, and everything threatens to explode at once.

DJ: What were some of your influences for Breath of Earth?

BC: Foremost, my own background as a native Californian growing up with earthquakes and a great deal of curiosity about the “Big One” that hit San Francisco in 1906. I don’t hide that an earthquake happens in my book, but the reasons for it are quite different. I also harken back to the video games I loved growing up. Readers like to find the tribute Easter eggs I hide throughout my books. Continue reading

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Author Interview: Timothy C. Ward


Today I am interviewing Timothy C. Ward, author of the new, apocalyptic fantasy novel, Revolt, first book in the Godsknife series.

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DJ: Hey Tim! Thanks for stopping by (again!) to do this interview!

For readers who aren’t familiar with you, or read any our two previous interviews, could you tell us a little about yourself? What’s new since Scavenger: A.I.’s release?

Timothy C. Ward: I mean, how could someone not have heard of me? It sounds like I practically live here. To steal a line from my bio: I’ve been broke, lost and surfed with sharks on the other side of the world, but now dream up greater adventures from my keyboard in Des Moines, Iowa.

Scavenger: A.I. was my second and possibly last book in my post-apocalyptic scifi series set in Hugh Howey’s world of Sand. I published that in June, and am publishing my first fantasy novel August 22 through Evolved Publishing. It has been a crazy busy summer. I go to WorldCon in three days, where I will hopefully not let my nerves get the best of me as I stand behind a dealer’s table smiling and offering my card as I wait and pray for my stacks of books to steadily shrink into thin air.

DJ: What is Revolt about?

TCW: It is about people I think readers should love. People who have grown up in philosophical systems and imperfect family dynamics that have made them the imperfect heroes of their own story.

In more concrete terms, it’s the violent return of magic to a world like ours, set in Iowa and pieces of the Abyss inspired by my time in South Korea. Characters will fight giant praying mantises and darker corners in their hearts that make them wonder if they’re up for the battle to keep their world steady as it heaves itself end over end. Continue reading

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Author Spotlight: Famished: The Farm by Ivan Ewert

About the Book:

Destiny, manifested.

Having defeated the Gentleman Ghouls of the Farm and the Commons, Gordon Velander—and his attendant spirits, Orobias and Sylvie—head west. They seek to destroy the most remote branch of the cannibal cult that founded America and gnaws at the roots of the free world.

However, Gordon now fights a battle both within and without. His contentious allies first struggle, then revolt, following their own agendas. At the same time, Rancher Dylan Wildye has chosen a new tactic to preserve the family bloodline.

Warring for mastery of his own body, mind, and soul, Gordon must choose not only sides, but also his fate.

Famished: The Ranch is the third and final book in the Gentleman Ghouls series from Ivan Ewert and Apocalypse Ink Productions.

Continue reading

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Author Interview: Alvaro Zinos-Amaro


Today I am interviewing Alvaro Zinos-Amaro, author of the new non-fiction book, Traveler of Worlds: Conversations with Robert Silverberg.

Traveler of Worlds is a book of conversations in which Alvaro asks Robert Silverberg all sorts of questions about his life experiences, love of travel and art and music, and of course his long and prolific career, in and out of science fiction.

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DJ: Hey Alvaro! Thanks for stopping by to do this interview!

For readers who aren’t familiar with you, could you tell us a little about yourself?

Alvaro Zinos-Amaro: Thanks for having me! I’m a science fiction and horror writer. I also write nonfiction about science fiction, fantasy and horror, and like to study the history of the fields.

I was born in Madrid, Spain, went to high school in Munich, Germany, and then returned to Madrid for a BS in Theoretical Physics. I’m sure this diverse background contributed to my interest in a type of fiction that specializes in what-ifs, in the creation of alternative worlds and cultures.

DJ: What is Traveler of Worlds: Conversations with Robert Silverberg about?

AZA: As mentioned in your introduction, the book is a series of candid, relaxed conversations with Robert Silverberg. Some of the topics we discuss: Silverberg’s extensive travel and anecdotes pertaining to such, collecting artifacts, art theory and art history, painting, classical music, film, all manner of writers, Silverberg’s personal habits, his views on society and science, political positions, his youth and early pets, the “sense of wonder,” existentialism, thoughts on his long career and the meaning of awards,

his library, and the process of getting old. As I was working on the book I also solicited questions from readers and fans via Facebook, and integrated these into our conversations.

DJ: I’m going to ask the obvious question: why Robert Silverberg? Of all the sci-fi authors, what was it about him that made you want to undertake this project?


AZA: When I was seventeen years old, back in that distant year of 1996, I discovered Robert Silverberg’s work with Nightwings. The subtle melancholy of its three lyrical novellas moved me deeply and I hunted down as many books by him as I could find. Over the next two years I read fifty of his novels and non-fiction books on history and archaeology. I was bowled over by the vast range of his work, and how inhumanly prolific he was. I heard about a mysterious breakdown through overwork in the 1960s, a perplexing mid-career retirement in the ’70s, and other unusual developments that added to my fascination. And he had an uncommon persona, cool and phlegmatic, that further contributed to the intrigue.

After years of correspondence, the blooming of a friendship, and our collaboration on a fiction project, When the Blue Shift Comes, in 2012, I thought it would be enjoyable and enlightening to converse with him about a long life well spent, and record his thoughts on various subjects.

I hope that fans of his work, as well as more casual readers who wish to know about the writing life and the history of science fiction, will find the result of interest.

DJ: Why did you want to write this type of book?

AZA: I’ve always been fascinated by writers and the writing process. In addition, in the case of Bob Silverberg, I was struck by a growing number of questions. How could one person have written so much, and at such a high level? His characters seemed to express every possible view and opinion—what did he think, and why? Where had his travels taken him? What kind of music and films did he enjoy? What were his eccentricities and foibles and hobbies? Above all, wherefrom sprang the creative well that had thrust up so many works of visionary wonder?

Traveler of Worlds is my attempt to peel back the layers and connect with Silverberg the man and artist, documenting my journey of discovery along the way.

DJ: Believe it or not, I have never read anything by Robert Silverberg! What are some of your favorite novels by him?

AZA: My friend, you’re in for a treat! You can’t go wrong the following novels: Dying Inside, The Book of Skulls, The World Inside, Son of Man, Tower of Glass, Nightwings and Downward to the Earth. These are all from the late 60s and 70s; intense, and stylistically admirable. If you’re looking for something adventure-oriented, with wonderful attention to setting, and more epic in scope, Lord Valentine’s Castle is a joy to read. From the more recent novels, two of my favorites are The Face of the Waters, for its ending, and The Alien Years, because of the generational, multi-perspective approach to its narrative, and the inscrutability of the aliens’ motives.

DJ: Silverberg has quite an extensive collection of short-stories, but could you name some of your favorite from them too?

AZA: This is tricky. Silverberg has published over a thousand stories, and over the last decade or so his most important science fiction stories have been collected in a staggering nine volumes by Subterranean Press. Out of all these hundreds, here’s a baker’s dozen that I consider top-of-the-line: “To See the Invisible Man,” “Flies,” “Passengers,” “The Science Fiction Hall of Fame,” “Sundance,” “Capricorn Games,” “Born with the Dead,” “The Pope of the Chimps,” “Sailing to Byzantium,” “Multiples,” “Homefaring,” “The Feast of St. Dionysus,” and “Thebes of the Hundred Gates.” Some of these are available in the excellent career retrospective The Best of Robert Silverberg: Stories of Six Decades.

DJ: What were a couple of the greatest things (surprises) you learnt about Robert Silverberg while writing the book?

AZA: People tend to think of Silverberg as an unflappable, aloof guy with a sardonic sense of humor and highbrow interests. Fair enough; but there’s also a mischievous twinkle in the eye and a playful nature behind that persona, as evidenced by some of the anecdotes he shared.

I was surprised about some of Silverberg’s childhood experiences. For instance, he was actually extroverted at the age of six or seven, and then became shy later on, as a result of his extroversion getting him in trouble with classmates. I didn’t know much about Silverberg’s relationship with his parents and that was also fascinating.

DJ: How was the overall experience of putting this book together?

AZA: The conversations that make up the text of Traveler of Worlds happened over the course of 2015 in Silverberg’s living room. My girlfriend, Rebecca, and I drove up to visit Bob and his wife Karen Haber four times, and that provided ample time for the conversations to unfold. I then transcribed and edited them, with Silverberg’s approval, for the book. Gardner Dozois wrote an Introduction and Karen an Afterword. I was lucky enough to get some great blurbs from Nancy Kress, Mike Resnick, Kim Stanley Robinson, Sheila Williams and Jack Skillingstead. It was a delightful experience, all around.

DJ: What was your favorite part about writing Traveler of Worlds: Conversations with Robert Silverberg?

AZA: Planning the questions I was going to ask Bob was a blast, because I could roam far and wide in my research on fun subjects. The challenge of adhering to my set questions, while letting the conversations take their own natural course and satisfying my curiosity in the moment, was also stimulating. Bob was pleased with the outcome when he read the final manuscript, and that pleased me. Finally, having produced a book that I myself would have snapped up, had it been written by someone else, is also rewarding.

DJ: What do you think readers will be talking about most once they finish it?

AZA: They may meet a Robert Silverberg who doesn’t match their expectations; or they may confirm their initial impressions but glean further insights. Either way, I would be pleased if readers felt like they got a better sense of who Robert Silverberg is, and the way his mind works.

DJ: What was your goal in writing the Traveler of Worlds: Conversations with Robert Silverberg? Is there a particular message or meaning you are hoping to get across to readers?

AZA: I hope the book’s informal approach will entertain readers, providing an interesting glimpse into an unusual life and career. Silverberg has gone on record saying he will not write an autobiography, so this may be the closest thing we get. Not everything Silverberg and I talk about will interest everyone, but hopefully something will be of interest to just about everyone who is curious about science fiction and writing. And maybe some folks will find themselves creatively inspired, or will want to learn more about some of the many writers, artists, etc. we talk about.

DJ: When I read, I love to collect quotes – whether it be because they’re funny, foodie, or have a personal meaning to me. Do you have any favorite quotes from Traveler of Worlds: Conversations with Robert Silverberg that you can share with us?

AZA: Here are four of my favorites:

  • “I’ve never been an activist. I believe in the futility of marches.”
  • “The indifference of a cat is a beautiful thing to observe.”
  • “I’m a moderate man because I’m designed to be moderate. I wrote an immoderate amount of fiction.”
  • “You can look through a telescope on both ends. If you want to feel like a really big person, look through the other end of the telescope at all that small stuff there.”

DJ: Now that Traveler of Worlds: Conversations with Robert Silverberg is released, what is next for you?

AZA: I’d like to try my hand at a science fiction novel next, something short and intense, in the mode of some of my favorite works from the 1970s. I also plan to continue writing short stories, book and film reviews, and would be open to doing another book of Conversations with a different author as well.

DJ: Where can readers find out more about you?

Amazon Author Page:







DJ: Before we go, what is that one thing you’d like readers to know about Traveler of Worlds: Conversations with Robert Silverberg that we haven’t talked about yet?

AZA: I just want to thank you for your questions and interest! The book comes out on August 16th, from Fairwood Press, and may be purchased directly from them, or via Amazon, or from IndieBound. Additionally, for those folks attending WorldCon, there will be a special panel to discuss the book on Saturday 20th at 1 pm. And I hope to be able to travel to San Francisco in September for a discussion and Q&A on the book with Bob for the “SF in SF” series, on Sunday the 11th.

DJ: Thank you so much for taking time out of your day to answer my questions!

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*** Traveler of Worlds: Conversations with Robert Silverberg is published by Fairwood Press and is available TODAY!!! ***

Buy the Book: 

Amazon | Barnes & NobelGoodreads | Kobo

◊  ◊  ◊

About the Book:

In addition to exploring Silverberg’s career, now in its sixth decade, this collection of transcribed conversations delves into aspects of Silverberg’s life-such as his extensive travel, passion for film, opera and classical music-not covered elsewhere.

A decade-and-a-half-long friendship, and working together on When the Blue Shift Comes, afforded Alvaro the opportunity to speak at length with Silverberg. The result: a remarkably candid series of conversations that will be of interest to science fiction readers and anyone curious about the writing life.



AZAbioAbout the Author:

Alvaro started publishing around 2008, and has had more than thirty stories appear in magazines likeAnalogNatureGalaxy’s EdgeThe Journal of Unlikely EntomologyLackington’sMothership Zeta,Farrago’s Wainscot and Neon, as well as anthologies such as The Mammoth Book of the Adventures of MoriartyThe Mammoth Book of Jack the Ripper TalesThe 2015 Young Explorer’s Adventure GuideCyber WorldThis Way to the End Times [edited by R. Silverberg], Humanity 2.0and An Alphabet of Embers. Alvaro’s essays, reviews and interviews have appeared in The Los Angeles Review of BooksThe First LineAsimov’sStrange HorizonsClarkesworldSF SignalFoundation,The New York Review of Science Fiction and Intergalactic Medicine Show; he also edits the roundtable blog for Locus.


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Guest Post: Sweet Secrets Big Idea by Stephanie L. Weippert


Stephanie is bibliophile — full stop. Leave her alone for ten minutes and she will be reading or writing.

Stephanie is married and claims she and her husband are naturally insane in a fun an harmless way. Together they do filking and other musical hobbies. Their teen boys often drive them toward the not-fun insanity (Nature or Nurture? – you decide).

With former careers as a legal assistant and a licensed massage therapist, Stephanie now gets to make writing a full time endeavor thanks to her awesome husband.

Sweet Secrets Big Idea

by Stephanie L. Weippert

At a cloth covered table in a ballroom filled with authors eager to sign their books, I smile as a burly man with his kid in tow make a bee line for me. He drops a copy of my book in front of me on the table with a bang. “Hey,” he asks. “What’s the big idea?”

I look up from the copy of my book Sweet Secrets he’d dropped, my pen in my hand to sign it and my eyes twinkled with delight.

“Food is magic,” I say, then sign with flourish and hand it back to him with a grin. Continue reading

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