Posted in authors, books, challenge, conflict, fiction, mystery, paranormal, romance

Writing Mystery novels, with a twist

Patty Brant

Patty Brant

Hmm . . . It’s a little difficult for me to categorize my genre – maybe I’m too close to it. I have now published two books – Bitter Secrets and its sequel Full Circle – which I feel are mainly mysteries, incorporating a smidgeon of romance and the paranormal.

Not sure if I have a real “method” for writing, but this is how I’ve worked it out so far.

The concept of Bitter Secrets began with three words that just popped into my head – “I see faces.” That triggered weeks of mental development – who were these people . . . where were they . . . what was their story?

I settled on the most basic characters and a rudimentary story line when the first couple paragraphs formed in my mind. I liked what I had and decided it was time to start writing it down.

For years the thought of writing a book would sort of drift through my head, followed immediately by “Shoot! You need to know something to write a book!” And that was the end of that.

So, this time, I called a friend – an excellent author I knew who has since passed away. I knew she would help keep me on task and that was exactly what she did. Bless her heart, she never let me down. She’d read my latest effort, make suggestions and generally be my cheerleader.

I’m a natural born foot dragger, so I’m sure it wasn’t easy for her.

Anyway, I know you’re always told to make an outline first, and I’ve tried that. Trouble is, I change my mind too much. I rearrange. I think of something I like better than what I have and there goes my outline!

So, I’ve pretty much decided that my “process” is no process. (Not very helpful, is it?) I think lot about the story I’m working on. Do a little research when I need to so I can develop authentic background, then start to write. Mostly by that time it just begins to flow.

My biggest stumbling blocks to this point  – besides my propensity to drag my feet and let other things get in the way – have been writing about traumatic incidents that I have not experienced personally. I know you’re always told to write about what you know and that’s good advice, I’m sure. But you can’t possibly experience everything personally.

For instance, in Bitter Secrets I came to a place in my story where a young girl was about to be raped. It was 1927, the girl was 15 and alone with her favorite uncle in an isolated farmhouse. He was drunk and there was no one there to help her. The story was flowing, my fingers were racing across the keyboard almost ahead of my mind. The scene was unfolding pretty much by itself. I kept thinking as I typed, “This can’t happen. I can’t write this.”

Bitter Secrets Patty Brant     Full Circle Patty Brant

So I forced myself to stop writing and just think. I was very reluctant to write about this very sensitive subject. After all, I have never been in that position and I was very concerned that, if I didn’t get it right, it would be like a slap in the face to the thousands and thousands of young girls and women who have.

Who was I to write about this kind of horror? How could I write a realistic scene and do it with objectivity yet sensitivity?

I had to reaffirm that I truly wanted to be an author, that I wanted to write stories that are realistic, with emotional depth but not “soap opera drama.” I was not at all sure I could do that without somehow disabusing real victims.

I did some soul searching and finally decided that an author can’t possibly know everything.

As a reporter for many years, I have done many interviews with experts and various victims. I decided I have to rely on what is MY personal experience and on my understanding of human nature. If I was going to be a serious author, I’d have to step off the cliff and just do it.

So I started typing again and let it flow – all the while checking myself to be as sensitive as I could. I think the “process” has worked pretty well for me.

I came across the same problem when writing about one of my characters who is a Viet Nam veteran in a wheelchair and one who is an old black man. – two characters I truly admire. (Is that even possible? Can you admire “people” who aren’t real!?

Well, I guess it is for me. I’ve actually come to tears thinking about another one of my characters whose life had been a living hell for 40 years. I like characters who meet immense challenges with human strength and frailty.

For me that’s a tall order. I guess doing justice to their stories – even if they aren’t “real” – is my challenge.

Thanks Patty, for the great post. Readers, click below to order your own copies of Bitter Secreats and Full Circle.

Bitter Secrets 

Full Circle

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Posted in books, fiction, ghosts, novels, writers, writing

The Bonnie Neuk Tea Room: Friends and Uninvited Guests (Ghosts) by Connie Hope

the Bonnie Tea room

 

Welcome Connie.  You are a versatile author, writing cook books and then a paranormal ghost  book.  When did you first know you wanted to be a writer and was there a particular inspiration to get started?

I was ten years old and won a writing contest for the C.A.R.(Children of the American Revolution).  I knew that I loved to write and was fair at it.  My mother said you need to find a profession to make money at not play.  I went to college for Elementary Education.  I should have done English.  But it took 50 years for me to have the time—kids, work, life.  I remember the day, we had moved to Florida to retire.  I figured I’d take 2 months off then go look for a job. I was a mortgage closer at the time.  You remember what was happening in 2007 and 2008 the housing market was going into the toilet.  I was sitting on the lanai with my eyes closed.  I felt this tap on my shoulders, looked around saw nothing. I closed my eyes again and something said to me, “You now have time to write your cookbook and novel, go to it NOW.” I got up and started putting together the outline for my cookbook—In Addition…to the Entrée.  Three years later it was done and printed.  Now a year later, I have my novel completed and being edited and hopefully printed in October.  The Bonnie Neuk Tea Room:  Friends and Uninvited Guests (Ghosts).

Do you have a background in writing or take any special writing courses that helped you along the way?

I have a degree in Elem. Education with a minor in Photography.  The Photograph helped me with the cookbook.  All 200 photos were taken by me. I have taken several courses in writing, character development and plot.  I still am taking course now.  I always think you can learn something new.

How long did it take you to publish your fist manuscript?

I self printed my first book, the cookbook.  My son has a printing company in China so I printed through him—PRC Book Printing. jacob@prcbookprinting.com  It took me a year and a half to write, photography and get it edited. Then about six months to have a book design work with me on the layout. It was a back and forth for 10-15 hours for 5 days a week.  I knew just what I wanted the book to look like. It took time.

ConnieCover1a

 The novel took about a year of writing, re-writing and re-re-writing.  I would write a chapter, then wait a day and print it out and edit it, then re type it and them re-edit it and change things, then re type it. Now I am having it professional edited.  I’m not the best person in grammar.

Do you always write in the same genre?

I do not always write in the same genre.  My first book was a cookbook.  My second is a novel—paranormal mystery.  Who knows what the next will be.

Many of us cross over genres and it is difficult to pinpoint one to fit our books. For the book we are promoting today, what shelf would we find it on if it were in a bricks and mortar bookstore?

You could find it on the mystery section, but maybe in the paranormal also.  Although this is not like some of the paranormal violent novel, it’s just a friendly ghost or two.  

Are you published through a traditional publishing house? If yes, how did you find your agent and   publisher?

 No, I self printed my cookbook.  The novel I am self publishing through Create Space.

Author, Jennie Nash was quoted on Writer Unboxed that she reads other novels to study structure. Do you follow a structure pattern such as staying in chronological order, or alternating points in time or different POV’s.

 I do not follow a structure pattern.  I write from the heart and see where it takes me. I do outline each chapter, but I also change the outline as I get into the story.

What was the hardest part for you in the writing process; the outline, synopsis, query or building the  story itself?

 I can’t say which was the hardest—they are all challenging as you are writing. As I said I make an outline, but change it at times as I am writing and get another twist in.  Building the story is the fun part, not necessarily the easy part.

It is not enough to write a book and wait for the money to start rolling in. What marketing techniques do you implement to increase your sales?

Writing the book was the easy part, marketing it the challenge as in trying to sell the book and get it to an audience.  I still need help with that part.

Are you a pantser or a planner?

I am definitely a planner.

What advise would you give to new writers just getting started with their first manuscript?

My advice is to keep writing.  Write everyday and edit the next.  Then write again.  It doesn’t have to be a long period of time, but do it everyday. Not everyone likes to write, then edit, I just find it more rewarding to complete a chapter that I am comfortable with, then move on to the next.  Not saying, I haven’t writing two or three chapters at a time because I get on a roll before I go back and edit it.

What is the premise of your novel we are promoting today? The Bonnie Neuk Tea Room: Friends and Uninvited Guests (Ghosts)

Victoria Storm, divorces her husband of twenty five years, takes her comfort, stuffed bear and starts out on a new life’s adventure.  One day her phone rings and someone tells her that her grandmother owned a tea room in 1932.  Who was this anonymous caller?  She returns to her hometown of Metuchen, New Jersey, buys and renovates an old house, and creates a tea room called the Bonnie Neuk—named after her grandmother’s tea room.  She meets new friends, shares new experience and finds out that her tea room has some unexpected guests from out of this world!  The adventures with these uninvited guests go on all while serving tea, scones and homemade soup to her guests.

Can you share a few paragraphs from your book to whet out appetite?

Here is a page from my novel:  The Bonnie Neuk Tea Room:  Friends and Uninvited Guests (Ghosts)

Working hard until late in the evening after moving in to my new home, I wanted to unwind.  The best way is to make a cup of Rooibos tea and relax in Auntie’s chair that enveloped me with its sturdy arm. It made me feel secure. These herbal leaves or tisanes are from Africa.  Tisane is a catch-all term for any non-caffeinated beverage made from the infusion of herbs and/or spices.  It is naturally caffeine free,  with a rich red color and a sweet nutty flavor.

Closing my eyes to inhale the fragrance of the nutty tea, I felt a cool breeze and a hint of lavender.  Suddenly, the room became extremely cold and the hairs on the back of my neck stood up.  Despite my fear, I looked up to see in the far corner of the room what looked like a person—a young man, his body image not defined, but rather fuzzy. I stared at the figure until I gathered enough courage to speak.  “I pray for the white light to protect me.  My name is Victoria Thorn Storm.  Having bought this house as a means to a new start for my life, I mean you no harm and come in peace. My dream is to remodel this house into The Bonnie Neuk, a tea room similar to the one my grand mom Thorn had in Metuchen many years ago. Who are you? What is your name? What do you want?”  The room remained deadly cold and quiet.  His shape became more defined, and I noticed he was dressed in a WWII Army uniform.  I sat still for what seemed like hours. In reality only minutes had passed.

The voice said with surprise, “You can see me?  Time is irrelevant. I have been drifting in this house for many years.  I can’t leave. Most people don’t see or hear me, and some tried to ignore me. I want to be known and looked upon with respect.  I am a soldier and have fought for the honor of my country. I was one of the twenty-seven killed many years ago in a freak bus and train accident. We were returning to the base from maneuvers.  I was the oldest soldier.  The young man sitting next to me was twenty one.  Your name sounds familiar.  Did I know you?  My name is Derrick,” he stated in a scratchy, but audible voice.  “I hope to be friends with the owner of this house.”

On a hunch, I asked him, “Did you move a lunch bag of one of the workers the other day?”

“I could have…  It did make everyone laugh.”  After a long pause he said, “I will return.”

The air turned warmer and the room silent.  The voice, fuzzy figure, and the smell of lavender vanished as quickly as they had appeared.  It’s un-nerving from the get-go to realize that you are seeing a ghost let alone talking to one.

 

Thank you Connie. Where can readers buy your books?

My website is www.thebonnieneuktearoom.com You can buy my book on my website and I will sign it for you.

You can buy my book on Create Space using this link.  https://www.CreateSpace.com/4775503. Click Add to Cart and Check Out.

Or you can order on Amazon on the following links.

http://www.amazon.com/Bonnie-Neuk-Tea-Room-Paranormal/dp/099165384X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1410882393&sr=1-1

http://www.amazon.com/Connie-Hope/e/B00LD8117Y/ref=dp_byline_cont_pop_book_1

 

 

Posted in authors, books, characters, fantasy, fiction, mystery, novels, sci-fi, Young Adult

Young and fearless, author, Shannon Thomspon

Shannon

I would like to welcome back Shannon Thompson, who was on Author Interview Friday when I first started my blog about a year ago. This young lady is an inspiration to everyone, and especially to the young people that are contemplating starting into a career as a writer.

Shannon, complete this sentence….. My first ever published piece of writing was November Snow. It was a dystopian science-fiction novel for teens. It was published in 2007, but I hope to re-publish it one day. (It’s still available as a paperback, but I was 16 when it was published. I would love to send it out in the world again.)

How long did it take you to publish your fist manuscript? November Snow was completed in 2005, but it wasn’t published until 2007, so two years. I didn’t get published again until 2012, but since then, I’ve had a steady stream, so never give up – it might take a few years, but it’s worth it.

What advise would you give to new writers just getting started with their first manuscript? During your first manuscript attempt, don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Just enjoy the writing, feel the story, and if it works out – great! – if it doesn’t , that’s okay, too. I believe I wrote two novels almost to the end before I finished November Snow. Sometimes, artists have to create a lot before they finish what they want to share with the world.

Do you have a background in writing or take any special writing courses that helped you along the way? Sure! My mother was a writer, so she taught me a lot. After that, I was taken under the wing of T.L. McCown, and then I went to the University of Kansas where I studied poetry, fiction, screen writing, and many kinds of literature.

Do you follow a structure pattern such as staying in chronological order, or alternating points in time or different POV’s: My published novels alternate between a boy and a girl telling the story. My upcoming novel that releases March 27 also alternates, but my NEXT novel is only told from one perspective, so I’m excited to share it with everyone.

Many of us cross over genres and it is difficult to pinpoint one to fit our books. For the book we are promoting today, what shelf would we find it on if it were in a bricks and mortar bookstore? Minutes Before Sunset and Seconds Before Sunrise in The Timely Death Trilogy would be in the Young-Adult section for sure, probably in paranormal romance.

Do you always write in the same genre? Actually, I’m a firm believer in writers exploring other genres, even if they don’t plan on publishing it, because we learn by pushing through our boundaries.  I’ve written in many genres, and I was amazed that I ended up getting some of my “outside” genres published, such as military fiction and poetry.

 covers for Shannon

Here is her synopsis for her 2nd book, Seconds Before Sunrise

Two nightmares. One memory.

“Chaos within destiny. It was the definition of our love.”

Eric has weeks before his final battle when he’s in an accident. Forced to face his human side, he knows he can’t survive if he fights alone. But he doesn’t want to surrender, even if he becomes the sacrifice for war.

Jessica’s memory isn’t the only thing she’s lost. Her desire to find her parents is gone and so is her confidence. But when fate leaves nightmares behind, she decides to find the boy she sees in them, even if it risks her sanity.

Thank you Shannon. I can’t even imagine having enough of my head together to write a novel at sixteen. Good luck in your career. I know you will go far. I expect to see your books to be equal to the Harry Potters and Hungers Games of the world  very soon. Readers, go to her website below to get more information and to buy her books. 

Website:   http://shannonathompson.com/novels/

Posted in authors, characters, children, conflict, fiction, friends, Paranoraml, romance, writers, Young Adult

Exciting Young Blood in the Publishing World

Shannon Thompson is an inspiration to all writers, but most definitely among the under twenty five age group. It is my great pleasure to have her with us today on Author Interview Friday.  Shannon, why don’t we start with you telling our readers a little about yourself.

Shannon Thompson

Shannon: At sixteen years old, I became the published author of November Snow. At twenty-one, I was featured in Poems: a collection of works by twelve young Kansas poets. On May 1st,  my paranormal romance, Minutes Before Sunset was released by AEC Stellar Publishing. It’s the first novel in A Timely Death series.

I’ve lived in five states and moved over fifteen times, which I use as inspiration for writing. I have  dedicated all of my published works to lost loved ones, and I encourage everyone to find their passion, whatever it may be.

I am currently finishing my bachelor’s degree in English at the University of Kansas. You can visit my website at http://www.ShannonAThompson.com

Joanne: Thank you Shannon. Your story is passionate, heart-breaking and inspiring. Can you share with the readers how you started writing?

Shannon:   I’ve been writing as long as I can remember, but my mother taught me to write in order to cope with nightmares and night terrors. After this, I began writing stories in order to understand them since I struggled to differentiate between reality and fiction. Because of this, I mainly wrote for me, but then I began writing stories for friends. However, I didn’t take it very seriously—it was merely for fun. About this time is when my life changed. My mother passed away on March 13, 2003 suddenly and without notice. I was eleven years old, and her death forced a sense of mortality onto me despite my young age. I decided to take my writing very seriously, because I realized death could happen whenever and I wanted to live life to the fullest by pursuing my dream. My mother was also a writer, so—in a way—I’m pursing our dream, and I am very proud of keeping the dream.

Joanne:  You are so young to be such an accomplished writer. How long did it take you to publish your first manuscript?

Shannon:  My first published manuscript was young-adult science fiction novel, November Snow. I began writing November Snow shortly after my mother died. I finished writing it on December 4, 2006, and it was published by Golden Eagle Publishing under author, T.L. McCown in July of 2007. Fun fact: it was originally titled “It’s Only a Matter of Time.”

Joanne:  Many of us cross over genres and it is difficult to pinpoint one to fit our books. For the book we are promoting today, what shelf would we find it on if it were in a bricks and mortar bookstore. Also, do you also write in other genre?

Shannon: Minutes Before Sunset would be on the young-adult paranormal romance shelf. It’s the first in A Timely Death trilogy. I love writing in almost every genre. My poetry has been published, and the two novels I have published are young-adult science fiction and young-adult paranormal romance. I also have three personal (nonfiction) essays available on my website.

Joanne:  Tell us about your experience with traditional publishing.

Shannon:  AEC Stellar Publishing is my publisher for Minutes Before Sunset. In a unique situation, they found me and asked me if I had a publisher, because I was originally self-publishing the novel for fun. (I already had November Snow out, but I wanted a more recent novel for my followers to enjoy.) When they asked, I told them how I was self-publishing, and they asked me to apply, so I did, and we had a deal within the week.

MBSFinalCover (2)       November Snow

Joanne: Can you tell us a little about your style or narrative of writing?

Shannon:  I switch it up for different stories, but in terms of my two young-adult novels: both are told by two perspectives. November Snow is told by Daniel and Serena while Minutes Before Sunset is told by Eric and Jessica. I enjoy writing from one male and one female, because I think two people can bring different aspects of the story out in positive and negative ways that brings believability to a character. Minutes Before Sunset is a young-adult paranormal romance revolving around a dark fate contrasted with the choice of hope. One of the things I love (and have learned) from studying poetry is what my professor and poet, Megan Kaminski, would say: “You may have a plan, but let it be what it wants.” Basically, even if I have a plan, I am always willing to change it, and I almost always do. In terms of my published novels, there isn’t a structure to whom tells the story (meaning I do switch perspective, but it isn’t back and forth. Sometimes Eric tells three chapters in a row before Jessica tells one.)

I like to think about finding your “voice” as finding your character’s voice rather than my own. To me, characters are in charge. If I try to force them into something, I automatically get writer’s block, and that’s because I’m not being true to them. So my voice is their voice. This is one of the reasons I want to complete a memoir, because I want to practice my life’s voice and see what I can learn from that. I’m also a huge advocate of journaling for this reason, and I have written in a journal every day since July of 2008.

Joanne: What was the hardest part for you in the writing process; the outline, synopsis, query or building the story itself?

Shannon: Every individual novel has been different for me. November Snow was the hardest, because it was my first. It took years to write and publish, and I’ve even rewritten it in a more adult fashion with the plan of getting it published again in the future. In terms of Minutes Before Sunset, I think planning the trilogy was the hardest part. I had to make sure the foreshadowing—along with everything else—linked up in three novels rather than one, and that took a lot of planning and checking to achieve that goal in order to be accepted for publication. Fun fact: all three were written before it was accepted for publication. This happens a lot, because publishers want to know you will finish the series if one book comes out.

Joanne: What do you do to promote yourself and your novels?

Shannon:  I spend every day connecting with readers. This is vital. I often have friends say I never work, but it’s nearly the opposite. I’m constantly on the computer. I’m always on my phone. And I’m prepared to reply to an email or phone call in seconds. Because of this, I have to carry everything with me physically and mentally. I almost cannot take a break, but I do love it—don’t get me wrong. I love nothing more than reading, writing, dreaming, and sharing it with the world while helping others do the same. But I don’t want to get off the topic. In terms of marketing, I update my blog—ShannonAThompson.com—every other day, and I read other blogs every day. I have three Facebook pages—one for November Snow, Minutes Before Sunset, and me—Shannon A. Thompson. These help a lot, because I can track my followers and sales, but I can also connect in an honest and supportive manner.

Thank you Shannon. You are truly an inspiration to other young writers and a testament to what dedication and hard work can achieve.

Readers, here is your sneak peek into Minutes Before Sunset. You get to jump in on Chapter Two. If you HAVE to read Chapter one and  can’t bear to stop reading, you can buy Shannon’s novel by going to  http://www.amazon.com/Minutes-Before-Sunset-Shannon-Thompson /dp/098931281X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1374075813&sr=8-1&keywords=minutes+before+sunset

Chapter Two: Eric:

I was raised with three simple rules:

.      Fight defensively and offensively.

.      Under no circumstances is it safe to reveal your identity. (Unless it’s Urte, Pierce, Camille, or anyone else the elders deemed an exception.)

.      Win.

The last rule is my favorite, because of the dishonesty. Win didn’t mean win. It meant murder. It meant I had to kill the second descendant, the power of the Light, and I had no choice. I would get blood on my hands.

I brushed my hand along the shivering trees as my gaze darted around the darkening forest. I rarely had time to leave our underground shelter and use my powers, and I didn’t feel like wasting my night chasing Camille around in the dark.

I threw my senses out around me. The forest reeked of evergreen and pine. I could feel every prickly leaf and see every shadow. From stump to stump, I searched the darkness for Camille’s body heat. No one could avoid my radar.

Bingo. I grinned as I locked onto a girl by the river. I sprinted through the thicket, pushing past scraping branches and leafless oak trees. As I neared the forest’s opening, my body sunk into the shadows, and my skin tingled as it morphed into the chilly air. It was the greatest feeling—other than flying, of course—and I relished in the moment. The blackness of night flowed with me as I floated along the trees, the leaves, or snow. I was enveloped in silk.

I only solidified when I reached the forest’s edge. Just as I thought, a girl stood on the river’s guardrail, but she wasn’t Camille.

She didn’t have Camille’s white hair or mischievous dark eyes. In fact, this girl didn’t even look Camille’s age. She was my age, and she had the dark hair, pale eyes, and the pale skin complexion that our sect had.

She was undoubtedly a shade, but I didn’t know her.

My fingers gripped my jacket as I moved backwards, trying to conceal myself in the darkness, but the girl spun around and stared at me. She was perfectly still when her purple eyes met mine. She didn’t budge. Instead, she pointed at me, and the dark magnetically trailed her fingertips.

“Who—” She stepped off of the railing, and her eyes widened. “Who are you?”

I put my hands in front of me and stepped out of the forest. This must be one of Camille’s illusion jokes.

“Who are you?” she asked, backing up against the river’s guardrail.

I didn’t respond. Instead, I flew through the shadows and reappeared in front of her. My body heat escaped me, and she froze, completely petrified by my closeness. I laid my hand on her cheek, expecting her to disappear like any of Camille’s illusions, but she didn’t. She was real, and we were centimeters apart, teetering over the edge of the river.

She didn’t move. I had the ability to hypnotize any shade, but I hadn’t used any power. She was shaking—shivering—beneath my touch, and her heartbeat thundered her energy through my veins.

How odd. She was powerful, yet fear suffocated every bit of her being.

“Shoman!”

A shout split the air, and I sensed a body rushing through the forest. Camille was coming for me. “Where are you?”

Reflexively, I released the girl and turned to the forest, waiting for Camille to appear. Over here, I said, sending her a telepathic message. Immediately, she appeared in a beam of light.

Her dark eyes were ablaze as she picked sticks and dried leaves from her glittering hair. “What the hell, Shoman? At least tell me where you are going if you want to be alone.”

“I was with—” I closed my mouth as I waved my hand towards the nameless girl, but the ground where she once stood was empty. Nothing. No marks or anything signifying her leave. She was gone.

Impossible. No shade had ever been able to stay off my radar, yet I hadn’t felt her leave. It was as if she had never been there.

“With who?” Camille asked, trudging up to me.

“Shh,” I held up my hand and threw my senses out.

Camille tensed, and her black eyes darted around. “What are you looking for?”

“Be quiet,” I said, spinning in tight circles. My senses were useless. Nothing was there. Not even a bat or a plane. I was being blocked.

I grabbed my guard’s boney shoulders. “Camille, who else was out here tonight?”

“No one. Everyone is at the Naming,” she said, rolling her eyes. “If you haven’t forgotten, you’re supposed to be there.”

“I don’t care,” I said, ignoring the ceremony of the last harvest. It was hard to forget. A thick layer of frost coated the dying grass, and I knew that the first layer had fallen yesterday morning. As the first descendant, I always went, but my father hadn’t in years, and I was beginning to forget the point.

Camille touched my arm. “Is something wrong, Shoman?” she asked, widening her eyes. “Was someone here?”

“No,” I lied, patting her palm. “Let’s go,” I said. I dissolved into a shadow.

Posted in authors, fiction, support, writers

Beta reader needed

Okay readers. Calling on all your knowledge out there. A very dear friend of mine has written what I believe to be a most amazing story. The problem? I don’t know what I am talking about. This story is far out of my realm of understanding that I fear I may be giving him all wrong advise. It is what I call modern mythology or a form of sci-fi/ fantasy/ with a lot of historical elements. It is a novella of about 25k words.
He needs a beta reader to take a look-see before he starts querying to agents. If anyone out there would like to be his beta reader, for free, I might add, please email me or leave a comment here. You would be expected to sign something protecting his story from someone stealing it— although I know none of you would really do that. Would you? Help please.