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A Conversation with Stephen C. Merlino, author of ‘The Jack of Souls’

Stephen C. MerlinoStephen C. Merlino lives in Seattle, WA, where he writes, plays, and teaches high school English. He lives with the world’s most talented and desirable woman, two fabulous children, and three attack chickens.

Growing up in Seattle drove Stephen indoors for eight months of the year. Before the age of video games, that meant he read a lot. At the age of eleven he discovered the stories of J.R.R. Tolkein and fell in love with fantasy.

Summers and rare sunny days he spent with friends in wooded ravines or on the beaches of Puget Sound, building worlds in the sand, and fighting orcs and wizards with driftwood swords.

About the time a fifth reading of The Lord of the Rings failed to deliver the old magic, Stephen attended the University of Washington and fell in love with Chaucer and Shakespeare and all things English. Sadly, the closest he got to England back then was The Unicorn Pub on University Way, which wasn’t even run by an Englishman: it was run by a Scot named Angus. Still, he studied there, and as he sampled Angus’s weird ales, and devoured the Unicorn’s steak & kidney pie (with real offal!), he developed a passion for Scotland, too.

In college, he fell in love with writing, and when a kindly professor said of a story he’d written, “You should get that published!” Stephen took the encouragement literally, and spent the next years trying. The story remains unpublished, but the quest to develop it introduced Stephen to the world of agents (the story ultimately had two), and taught him much of craft and the value of what Jay Lake would call, “psychotic persistence.”

Add to that his abiding love of nerds–those who, as Sarah Vowel defines it, “go too far and care too much about a subject”–and you have Stephen Merlino in a nutshell.

Stephen is the 2014 PNWA winner for Fantasy.

He is also the 2014 SWW winner for Fantasy.

His novel, The Jack of Souls is in its fourth month in the top ten on Amazon’s Children’s Fantasy Sword & Sorcery Best Seller list, and among the top three in Coming-of-Age.

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About the Book:

An outcast rogue named Harric must break a curse laid on his fate or die by his nineteenth birthday.

As his dead-day approaches, nightmares from the spirit world stalk him and tear at his sanity; sorcery eats at his soul.

The Jack of Souls 2To survive, he’ll need more than his usual tricks. He’ll need help—and a lot of it—but on the kingdom’s lawless frontier, his only allies are other outcasts. One of these outcasts is Caris, a mysterious, horse-whispering runaway, intent upon becoming the Queen’s first female knight. The other is Sir Willard—ex-immortal, ex-champion, now addicted to pain-killing herbs and banished from the court.

With their help, Harric might keep his curse at bay. But for how long?

And both companions bring perils and secrets of their own: Caris bears the scars of a troubled past that still hunts her; Willard is at war with the Old Ones, an order of insane immortal knights who once enslaved the kingdom. The Old Ones have returned to murder Willard and seize the throne from his queen. Willard is both on the run from them, and on one final, desperate quest to save her.

Together, Harric and his companions must overcome fanatical armies, murderous sorcerers, and powerful supernatural foes.

Alone, Harric must face the temptation of a forbidden magic that could break his curse, but cost him the only woman he’s ever loved.


A tale of magic, mischief, and the triumph of tricksters.

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Q: Welcome to Beyond the Books, Stephen. Can we start out by telling us whether you are published for the first time or are you multi-published?

The Jack of Souls is my first novel, and first in a fantasy series.

Q: When you were published for the first time, which route did you go – mainstream, small press, vanity published or self-published and why or how did you choose this route?

After years of courting agents and editors, with small success, I began entering The Jack of Souls in literary contests. It was finalist in a number of contests, then it placed, and in 2014 it actually won the Pacific Northwest Writers Association award for fantasy (PNWA is a very large competition), and a month later it won the Southwest Writers award for fantasy. Additionally, Wattpad asked if they could make it a Featured novel.

It started to dawn on me that the only people that really matter in determining if a book is any good is the reader, and if readers liked the book enough to buy it and recommend it to others, then maybe I didn’t need an agent’s blessing after all.

So I ran a Kickstarter (a TON of work and a TON of fun—met supportive and generous people from 17 different countries), found a great artist (Jakub Rozalski), hired editors and formatters, and in the space of a few months I had ebook, paperback, and hardback up on Amazon.

I am extremely grateful to report that within a couple months it appeared in the top ten of several Amazon ebook bestseller lists. It kind of floored me, actually. Turns out, fantasy readers like it! Woohoo!

Today, it has a 4.5-star rating with over 50 reviews, and recently it received a 5-star rating from Midwest Book Review. I could not be more humbled and thankful for that. Indie publishing turned out to be a fantastic decision for me. I’m finally reaching readers and hearing back from them.

Q: How long did it take you to get published once you signed the contract?

It took me maybe three months to publish it. It was a lot of work—don’t get me wrong—but three months isn’t long at all. I understand that the big five corporate publishing houses take upwards of a year to publish a book; if I’m not mistaken, a year is fast for them. They have a lot more people involved at every level, choosing, asking, seeking permissions from higher-ups, making decisions, back-and-forthing, etc., so it isn’t surprising. When it’s just me orchestrating a team of folks I hire, things are bound to move a lot faster.

Q: How did it make you feel to become published for the first time and how did you celebrate?

I felt relieved! Finally, I could move on to the second book in the series, The Knave of Souls. I aim to release it at the end of August 2015. J

To celebrate, my wife and I took the kids out to dinner, rode go-carts, and played laser tag in a fog-lit maze. Awesome.

Q: What was the first thing you did as for as promotion when you were published for the first time?

I bought a copy of The Book Reviewer Yellow Pages and started sending queries to get bloggers to review the book. Turns out, it’s a lot like querying agents, but with (for me) a lot more positive results. Book bloggers are another fun group of people to work with.

Q: Since you’ve been published, how have you grown as a writer and now a published author?

I’ve gained weight. No, really. Something had to go, and it was exercise. Publishing and publicizing is a whole other layer of work to be done on top of writing, my teaching job, and family life.

Q: What has surprised or amazed you about the publishing industry as a whole?

There is so much creativity and love of the craft in this industry! It feeds the soul. Good people, sharing information, learning together about something we love.

Q: What is the most rewarding thing about being a published author?

Reaching readers and hearing from them is the best thing about publishing a novel. Hands down. Writing can be such a lonely occupation. To reach a reader and hear an echo coming back from the void, that’s affirmation and connection. In that moment it goes from monologue to dialogue, from solitude to community, from “Sound and fury signifying nothing” to “Hey, that’s pretty good. Let’s talk about that!”

For me that’s where it’s at.

Q: Any final words for writers who dream of being published one day?

Read a lot. Write a lot. Find a good critique group so you can learn from other writers and readers. Refine. Revise. Repeat. J

Book Blast Event: A Young Girl’s Testimony by Shana Joseph

A Young Girl's TestimonyAbout The Book


A Young Girl's Testimony 

Title: A Young Girl’s Testimony: From Disastrous To Evangelist

Author: Shana Joseph

Publisher:   Xulon Press

Pubication Date: September 23, 2013

Format: Paperback – 110 pages / eBook

ISBN: 978-1628396867

Genre: Christian / Non Fiction / Autobiography

Book Description:

In this book is a powerful message that rises out of a true-life story woven in sadness, heartache, pain, joy and God working miracles. You will see lessons learned, wisdom gained, and experiences to share. It’s revealing unforgettable moments all in unforgettable testimonies.

Book Excerpt: 

From Page 30:

At the age of fourteen I got tattoos and some piercings.  People always said that I was a beautiful girl.  However, when I looked in the mirror I didn’t see what they saw at all.  When I looked in the mirror, I only saw my painful past and my mother.  I saw people I hurt and someone I hated.  I saw a disastrous person looking back at me.  I got a piercing in my eyebrow and two on the right side of my nose because I thought if I changed how I looked on the outside, then maybe I would like myself.  I had to deal with people labeling me as a conceited person because all they saw was a pretty girl with a nice complexion who had long hair, and who all the boys liked.  I never saw any of that.  Maybe if I did, I wouldn’t have gotten into so many fights and had my long hair pulled and I would’ve been full of myself.  Maybe I wouldn’t have the marks on my face from fights or the bite mark left on my shoulder from a girl whose head I was banging on a car window while fighting her.  I was never into myself because I always thought I was a worthless person.  I thought I would always be a street prisoner, is what I called it.  Would you believe a pretty girl like me pointed a gun at someone and sold drugs for a while? Well, I did.  At times I thought I would end up like my mother.

Purchase Book at: 

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Young-Girls-Testimony-Disastrous-Evangelist/dp/1628396865/ref=sr_1_1_twi_1_pap?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1427229008&sr=1-1&keywords=A+young+girls+testimony%2C+Shana+Joseph 

Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/a-young-girls-testimony-from-disastrous-to-evangelist-shana-joseph/1116970037?ean=2940148424079&itm=1&usri=a+young+girl%27s+testimony+shana+joseph

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18604658-a-young-girl-s-testimony-from-disastrous-to-evangelist?ac=1


About The Author


Shana Joseph


Shana Joseph is a young, anointed Evangelist who preaches the undiluted word of God without fear. Surrending her life to the Lord at age 16, she has been preaching for many years and has a passion for the young people, as well as those who have yet to know Jesus Christ as their Lord and savior. Shepherded and molded under the leadership of Bishop Dr. K.D. Collins, founding vessel of The Harvest Army Church International, headquarted in the Bronx, New York, Shana has grown from an ordinary Christian to a powerful warrior for Jesus.

Shana is happily married to her husband, Stephan Joseph and together they have three children, Marland, Giovonni, and Vanise.


Contact Shana at:

Website: http://www.shanajoseph.org/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/shanajosephministries
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7309438.Shana_Joseph

Contest Giveaway




Pump Up Your Book and Author Shana Joseph are teaming up to give away a $25 Amazon Gift Card!

Terms & Conditions:
  • By entering the giveaway, you are confirming you are at least 18 years old.
  • One winner will be chosen via Rafflecopter to receive the prize.
  • This giveaway begins April 1 and ends on May 30, 2015.
  • Winner will be contacted via email on June 1, 2015.
  • Winner has 72 hours to reply.

Good luck everyone!


a Rafflecopter giveaway

A Young Girl's Testimony

Book Blast: Summer Fire: Love When It’s Hot

Summer Fire Banner
About The Boxed Set
Summer Fire
Title:  Summer Fire: Love When It’s Hot (Boxed Set)
Author: Gennita Low, Stacey Mosteller, R.J. Lewis. L. Wilder, Victoria Danann, Kym Grosso, Cat Miller, Mimi Barbour, Clarissa Wild, Teresa Gabelman, Linda Barlow, Helen Scott Taylor, Victoria James, Mona Risk, Patrice Wilton, Joan Reeves, Danielle Jamie, Terri Marie, Lorhainne Eckhart, Brandy L. Rivers, Nicole Blanchard
Publisher:  dba 7th House Publishing, Imprint of Andromeda LLC
Publication Date: May 26, 2015
ISBN: 978-1507060469
Format: eBook
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Twitter Hashtag: #SUMMERFIRE
Summer Fire 3DCover

Book Description:

21 ALL NEW contemporary romance stories by New York Times, USA Today, and International Bestselling authors.

Limited Time Only!

Love when it’s hot? So do we.
Especially when we’re writing about gritty alphas, angsty bad boys, sizzling attraction, and unrequited passion. Turn the fan to oscillate, loosen your buttons,  and join us for this groundbreaking bundle of summer tales that are hot hot hot.
1. Gennita Low – Sizzle

2. Stacey Mosteller – Just One Summer

3. R.J. Lewis – Sinful
4. L. Wilder – Summer Storm

5. Victoria Danann – A Season in Gemini

6. Kym Grosso – Solstice Burn
7. Cat Miller – Sun Burnt
8. Mimi Barbour – Big Girls Don’t Cry
9. Clarissa Wild – Killer
10. Teresa Gabelman – Rodeo Romance
11. Helen Scott Taylor – Irish Kisses

12. Victoria James – Sweet Surrender

13. Mona Risk – Husband for a Week

14. Patrice Wilton – A Man for Hire
15. Linda Barlow – My Mile-High Mistake
16. Joan Reeves – Heat Lightning
17. Danielle Jamie – Tan Lines and Salty Kisses
18. Terri Marie – Someone Exactly Like You
19. Lorhainne Eckhart – His Promise
20. Brandy L Rivers – Summer Rhythm
21. Nicole Blanchard – Anchor

Preorder Book at: 

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Summer-Fire-Love-When-Its-ebook/dp/B00U1DZH7C/

Apple: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/id968862231 

Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/summer-fire-gennita-low/1121243540?ean=2940151700993&itm=1&usri=summer+fire

Kobo: https://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/summer-fire?utm_source=linkshare_us&utm_medium=Affiliate&utm_campaign=linkshare_us&siteID=je6NUbpObpQ-ZQoj0Q4emX.qbDRDn3INNQ

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/25026469-summer-fire?ac=1




May 24 – 27, 2015
Join In The Fun!
Summer Fire Book Blast Event

Interview with Russ Colchamiro, author of sci-fi comedy ‘Genius De Milo’

Genius De Milo banner
Russ ColchamiroRuss Colchamiro is the author of the rollicking space adventure Crossline, the hilarious scifi backpacking comedy Finders Keepers, and the outrageous sequel, Genius de Milo, all with Crazy 8 Press.

Russ lives in West Orange, NJ, with his wife, two children, and crazy dog, Simon, who may in fact be an alien himself. Russ is now at work on the final book in the Finders Keepers trilogy.

As a matter of full disclosure, readers should not be surprised if Russ spontaneously teleports in a blast of white light followed by screaming fluorescent color and the feeling of being sucked through a tornado. It’s just how he gets around — windier than the bus, for sure, but much quicker.

His latest book is the science fiction novel, Genius De Milo.

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About the Book:

Genius De Milo 2Best pals Jason Medley and Theo Barnes barely survived a backpacking trip through Europe and New Zealand that — thanks to a jar of Cosmic Building Material they found — almost wiped out the galaxy. But just as they envision a future without any more cosmic lunacy:

The Earth has started fluxing in and out of existence, Theo’s twin girls are teleporting, and Jason can’t tell which version of his life is real.

All because of Milo, the Universe’s ultimate gremlin.

Joined by the mysterious Jamie — a down-and-out hotel clerk from Eternity — Jason and Theo reunite on a frantic, cross-country chase across America, praying they can retrieve that jar, circumvent Milo, and save the Earth from irrevocable disaster.

In author Russ Colchamiro’s uproarious sequel to Finders Keepers, he finally confirms what we’ve long suspected — that there’s no galactic Milo quite like a Genius de Milo.

For More Information

Q: Welcome to Beyond the Books, Russ Colchamiro.  Can we start out by telling us whether you are published for the first time or are you multi-published?

Russ: I have several books in publication. My novels include the scifi backpacking comedies Finders Keepers and Genius de Milo -– think American Pie/Midnight Run meets Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy — and the scifi mystery adventure, Crossline –- think Flash Gordon meets Escape from New York. I also contributed a short story to the Crazy 8 Press wizards and demons anthology Tales of the Crimson Keep.

Q: When you were published for the first time, which route did you go – mainstream, small press, vanity published or self-published and why or how did you choose this route?

Russ: I was in deep negotiations with three mid- to large-size publishers, who all wanted Finders Keepers, but because of the economic downturn they all cut back on their production. They all said that if the economy had been better they would have signed me on the spot. So I wound up going with a small indie publisher, Three Finger Prints.

Q: How long did it take you to get published once you signed the contract?

Russ: Once we agreed, it took about six months to produce Finders Keepers and get it published and ready for sale.

Q: How did it make you feel to become published for the first time and how did you celebrate?

A: Finders Keepers debuted in October 2010, just two months after my twins were born. So the boring truth is that I didn’t do a whole of extra celebrating. I had my hands full, both figuratively and literally!

Q: What was the first thing you did as for as promotion when you were published for the first time?

Russ: Let out a deep breath!

Q: Since you’ve been published, how have you grown as a writer and now a published author?

Russ: I’m far more efficient. I have a much better sense of what the story needs and what it doesn’t need, so I’m not wasting nearly as much time with content that will never make the final version. I’m also getting much stronger at pacing, finding the right balance between pushing the plot forward but also taking enough time to develop the characters so that the readers are invested in the outcome.

I tend to write complex, interlocking character arcs and storylines into the overall narrative, so I’ve had to force myself to really focus on what’s most important, and then build around it.

Q: What has surprised or amazed you about the publishing industry as a whole?

Russ: I published Finders Keepers in October 2010. I didn’t know it then, but it was right before e-books took over the market … and also in the middle of what turned out to be the biggest economic downturn in a century. Not what I’d call ideal timing! As I said above, I originally published (print and e-book) though a small indie publisher, Three Finger Prints, but despite the economy I had success right away.

I was able to land a national distribution contract (uncommon for a first-time author), with Finders Keepers carried by several Barnes & Noble stores throughout the country. Finders Keepers also received very supportive write-ups by Publishers Weekly, and I was one of only a half dozen authors globally to be invited by Wattpad to become one of their featured authors.

And then right after Finders Keepers debuted, e-books revolutionized the way readers digest novels, and for authors it’s been an entirely new and ever-changing world since then. I wound up reprinting Finders Keepers through Crazy 8 Press so that I now have my entire catalogue under one imprint, and control all of the rights, which is nice.

Q: What is the most rewarding thing about being a published author?

Russ: I take a certain pride in having brought my ideas to the page in a way that others can enjoy. Or ridicule! Ha. But seeing my books on a shelf, in someone’s home, or in a bookstore, or available online, let’s me know that I set my mind to accomplishing something that was important to me, and that I did it as well as I knew how to do — and was able to do — at the time that I did it.

Q: Any final words for writers who dream of being published one day?

Russ: Write because you love it, write for yourself, and write every day. And if you can make money at it … all the better.

On a more technical level, work with beta readers and editors who will give you actionable feedback that helps you improve the story you’re working on — and your craft — in very specific ways.

If you’re getting feedback like, “oh, that was good,” or “it wasn’t for me,” then they’re not really helping you.

Be highly selective, choosing people who will tell you what you actually need to hear, not what you want to hear. And keep your world of trusted ‘advisors’ on the small side. Feedback from too many people will distract and confuse you.

Being an author is a lot of work, so try to have as much as you can along the way, and unlike me, celebrate every step along the way. We writers need as much encouragement as we can get!

Book Excerpt: Notorious P-Man Sam: Miami’s Urban Chronicles Vol. 1 by Thomas Barr Jr.

Notorious P-Man Sam
TitleNotorious P-Man Sam: Miami’s Urban Chronicles Vol. 1 

Vol. 1: Miami’s Urban Chronicles

Author: Thomas Barr., Jr.

Publisher: VIP INK Publishing Group, Inc. / Printhouse Books

Publication Date: April 1, 2015

Format: Paperback – 88 pages / eBook


Genre: Urban Fiction

Purchase The Book:


Barnes & Noble

Book Description:

This book is about the struggle of African American men as they traverse the perils of 20th and twenty first century life in the professional realms of the work place atmosphere. The differences in opportunities are often overlooked in comparison to other classes and among the races.

The American dream is the realization of success in the face of struggle and hard work. Is it relevant that one’s struggle is harder than the other in accomplishment of this goal? P-Man Sam is a hard look at the road to self-empowerment and what it takes to make it in the American society. The entrepreneurial spirit is one of the main roads traveled in realization of the American dream.

It takes knowledge and a fearlessness to take a chance in the ruthless world of business in this society. It’s also important to be able to effectively communicate with the modern diverse society of today through effective people skills.

The P-Man Sam story brings an awareness of how to navigate negative experiences and transform them into motivational learning blocks. Learning from experiences and moving forward is essential in life. One’s eyes must be open and naïve thought processes must be conquered in attaining the ultimate prize. The following are useful for application:

• Mentorship

• Net working

• Coalition building

• Broad-mindedness

This book is a good source for inspiration and having hope is a major force in your journey through life. Situations and circumstances should not be viewed as a hindrance, but instead a hurdle in step to the finish line. There are many instances in this story that relay the struggle against forces that present obstacles. Willpower and dedication are true factors that assist the main character in winning out against such forces.

In conclusion, the power of love and support are sustaining factors in the realization of goals in life. The act of goal-setting itself is an important factor in accomplishing anything in pursuant of ambitious dreams. This novel is sprinkled with kernels of knowledge and inspirational wording designed to give the reader insight into the motivations of the main character that can be transcending to experience.

It is beneficial and intended to identify and acquire these gems of knowledge to retain as progressive career tools.



Book Excerpt: 
In the tenth year
of the millennium, on the major Interstate of I-95 cars sped up the roadway and
zinged pass construction barriers.  Many
of the vehicles just barely swipe distressed vehicles’ parked roadside.  Sam Silvasteen drove with his windows down
taking in the South Florida breeze as his car cruised at a comfortable
speed.  A black car with a high
performance sounding engine screeched up next to Sam’s car.  The sound of gunfire erupted and peppered the
passenger’s side of Sam’s car with silver dollar sized bullet holes.  Sam jerked the steering wheel in an attempt
to dodge the spray of bullets.  The men
in the car continued to pace Sam’s car firing ruthlessly into the frame of the
automobile.  Hot lead ripped through
Sam’s flesh as he was hit with a volley of bullets.
Sam slammed into
the median and the men sped off as his car coasted to a halt along the concrete
rail.  Sam could hear the screaming
brakes of other cars on the road and smell the scent of twisted metal as he
faded out.  The Entrepreneurial President
of Bandstand Magazine lay shot along the Miami corridor among twisted metal.  His life flashed before his eyes and he
thought back on the events that led him to his current predicament.
Sam was a street
wise entrepreneur who had escaped the shadows of the crime filled eighties drug
environment of Miami.  Cocaine was the
major drug that circulated thru the community of Dade County.  He transformed his life into a respectable
businessman and attempted to help other urban youth in becoming productive
community citizens.  Within the blink of
an eye his life was turned upside down and the phantoms of his past attempted
to snatch his mortal essence from existence.
Sam was initially
raised in a single parent home.  When Sam
turned ten in the year 1977, he was placed in an orphanage by his grandparents
due to his mother’s early dementia among her other mental illness related problems.  Sam’s grandparents had six adult kids living
in their home and couldn’t afford a proper home for young Sam.
“Who turned the
damn T.V.,” yelled a burly kid his
hair dripped with Gerri curl juice.  His
voice echoed through the bare white walled dayroom of the orphanage.  Sam sat motionless as the other kids looked
around not saying a word in response to the question.  The scarcely decorated room remained silent.  Most of the juveniles were Cuban exiles and
spoke little English.  The burly kid steaming
with rage yanked the plug out of the wall and kicked the T.V. over.  The loud crash and sound of breaking glass
alerted the nearby sisters from the hallway entrance.
“What happened to
the T.V.?”  Asked Sister Alice, she was
new to Saint Joseph and relocated from Nicaragua to assist with the influx of
prospective exiled children of political patriots.  She wore the traditional long flowing robes
of her profession.  She was a looker and
it could be speculated that she had her pick of the litter before being
“Jose kicked it
over,” said the burly kid as he pointed at Jose Marti a skinny pale Cuban
teen.  Jose possessed long limbs but his
skinny frame made him look a bit goofy in appearance.
“Jose is this
true?”  Replied Sister Alice, as she
wheeled in his direction.  Jose remained
silent as Sister Alice waited for him to respond.
“Jose didn’t do it
Sister Alice,” Sam exclaimed.  His voice
was firm and controlled.  “Well it didn’t
happen on its on Sam,” replied Sister Alice in a sarcastic tone.  The burly kid cut his eyes at Sam and gave
him a hard look.
She now turned to
the burly kid, “Trey Brownlee if you’re fibbing you get twenty lashes,” She
swear….,” replied Trey before he could finish his sentence Sister Alice smacked
him in the chest with a ruler.  In a
heavy Spanish accent she sentenced Trey to spend the rest of the day in time
“Sam get
this mess cleaned up,” she said as she escorted Trey from the room.
immediately grabbed a garbage can to pick up the shards of glass that covered
the floor.  Jose found a broom and swept
some of the glass in a pile for Sam to scoop into the garbage.  The other kids resumed their activities as
the hype died down.
Sam made a friend
in Jose from the day of the T.V. incident with Trey.  They began their friendship working as
partners at anything they did together.
Sam was a husky twelve year old and Jose was three years his senior.  The two got along quite well with no regards
to their respective ages.  Lucky Barnes
was a younger kid who hung around Burt Ramos the only Puerto Rican kid at the
orphanage.  Lucky was a portly black kid
with big hands.  Burt often used little
Lucky when he was trying to hustle the other boys in marbles.
“Hey Sam,” said
Burt.  “Trey is going to be pissed that
you stuck your nose in his business.”
“Forget Trey,”
responded Sam.  “If you’re down with Trey
than forget you too,” said Sam as he flopped down onto a sofa in the dayroom of
the orphanage.  A group of boys congregated
at the corner of the day room and shot a game of marbles.
“Oh I’m down for
myself and I was just making sure you knew what time it was,” said Burt as he
made his way to the marbles game.  Lucky
gave Sam thumbs up as he shuffled close behind Burt.
Jose pulled up a
chair alongside Sam and said, “Now we have nothing to watch because of
Trey.”  The boys protested loudly in the
corner of the room while Burt tried to convince them he was not cheating.  “Hey I got ya back don’t let them get to you
about that Trey stuff,” he said.
Sam sat straight
up and replied, “I’m not worried about a thing.”  He extended his hand and slapped Jose
five.  Jose watched a lot of T.V. and was
hip to the street ways of black culture.
He understood the gesture and was happy to have made a friend in a place
where watching out for self was paramount.
Sam was also careful in not being labeled a rat while sticking up for
Jose.  He knew in befriending an older
kid his chances of survival had increased tenfold.
The females were
housed in an entirely different dorm wing as compared with the males.  The only times the two would mingle was
during mealtimes and that was usually three times a day.  All the kids in the orphanage were supervised
by nuns and the Mon Senior had final call on all activities.  Sam had his eye on this one pigtailed hair
girl named Vivian Smart.  She was a
beautiful vivacious teen who was present at the orphanage upon Sam’s arrival.
“Hi Sam,” she said
as she sat down with her lunch at Sam’s table.
“I heard what you did for that Cuban kid the other day and I think it
was courageous.”  Sam shifted in his
“No big thing,” he
replied.  “The kid looked as if he needed
help and I stepped in.”  Sam dropped his
head and continued to munch on his sandwich.
Vivian took a cookie from her tray and placed it on a napkin in front of
Sam’s tray.  Sam didn’t raise his head
but his heart quickened its pace.
“This is for your
bravery,” she replied as she slid the napkin in Sam’s direction.  Sam was at a loss of words, and before he
uttered his faint thank you Vivian had strode off and rejoined her
The cafeteria was
a bustle with kids and they were being closely monitored by the nuns for any
improprieties.  Sam sat brooding as he
finished his meal.  He missed he mother
and siblings, while the orphanage provided a vibrant surrounding it lacked
genuine personal connections.  Before his
mother’s unfortunate problems Sam was often doted on by his family.  He was the youngest and the last born of his
mother’s children.  His siblings were
years older than he was and were all away trying to establish a life for
themselves.  Sam hated being poor but
what else could he do he thought to himself.
Sam made his way
to the day room after lunch and sat looking at one of the day room
windows.  He had a second period of
classes in which he contemplated cutting.
Jose walked up to him and slapped him on the back, “What up Sam!”  He said in his best English.
“What’s up Jose,”
replied Sam.  I got a couple of classes
for second period and I do not feel like going,” said Sam with a sigh.
Jose was only a
grade higher than Sam although he was fifteen.
His problems with the language barrier relegated him to grades lower
than his normal level in Cuba.  “Let’s
hangout in the courtyard or sneak over to the girl’s dorm,” replied Jose.
“Cool,” replied
Sam.  He stashed his books under a nearby
sofa and was out the door along with Jose.
The girl’s wing
was well kept and immaculate in comparison to the facilities the boys
maintained.  When not in class the girls
milled around outside and played dodge ball on the cement courts.  The males and females rarely participated in
physical activities except when there was a yearly festival occurring.  Jose and Sam hid behind a dumpster near the
courts of the girl’s dormitory.  “Hey
there’s Vivian,” said Sam as he ducked so he wouldn’t be seen by her.
“Who is Vivian?”
Jose inquired.
“Nobody,” replied
The girls walked
on a nearby court and began their ritual jump rope Double Dutch game.  Jose whistled trying to get one of the girls’
attention, Sam nudged him in the side.
“Are you trying to
get us busted,” exclaimed Sam.
“No, just trying
to get us some trim,” replied Jose.
One of the girls
heard the commotion and walked over to where Sam and Jose were held up.  She saw them crouched behind the dumpster and
immediately began screaming.  The boys
tore out of their hiding place and ran for the nearest place to hide for
cover.  Jose laughed hysterically as he
tried to catch his breath from the sprint to the dormitory.
“You’re crazy,”
remarked Sam bending over in exhaustion.
“That was a rush,”
said Jose.
The two boys
walked back to the day room and talked about the look on the girls’ faces when
they realized they were being spied upon.
Classes were ending for the day and the dayroom was filled with
students.  Music appreciation seminars
were usually held by Sister Alice after dinner and Sam really enjoyed the
sessions.  He profiled the different
types of music genre as well as the musicians of past and contemporary
times.  “I’m going to my room before
dinner,” said Jose.
“See you later,”
remarked Sam.
Sam remained in
the dayroom leafing through his school books as he sat on a bench in the back
of the room.  Sister Alice entered the
dayroom recruiting groups to complete chores.
Sister Alice mentioned that the females were also participating and Sam
decided to volunteer.  One group of males
and one group of females were directed to the gymnasium area of the
compound.  The two groups were instructed
to scrub the floors and wash the walls.
Sam joined the chore group hoping to get a chance to be around
Vivian.  Sam began scrubbing and to his
dismay saw no sign of Vivian in the other group.
Sam continued to volunteer his services
for the chores squad of Sister Alice in hopes of seeing Vivian.  On this one particular day the squad was
tasked to clean the main administrative offices of parish officials.  Vivian was assigned to the task and Sam was
delighted his persistence had finally paid off.
Sam decided he would work closely with Vivian and learn more about her
“Hey what are you doing here?” said
Sam.  Vivian stopped what she was doing
and put her hands on his hips.
“The same thing you’re doing,” She
said.  The girls giggled as Vivian smiled
at Sam.
Sam thought to himself that was a dumb
question to ask.  He never knew the right
words to say to the members of the opposite sex.  She looked so beautiful standing there with a
twinkle in her eyes and sass in her voice thought Sam.
“Well I was offering to help but I see
you’re good,” Sam replied with a smirk.
“You’re such a good guy,” said Vivian
with a wink.
Sam continued to work while the girls
chatted about what guys they thought were cute in the boys’ dormitory.  Sam pondered his next move on how to get
Vivian’s attention without her friends being around.  He thought he would have a better chance at
an honest conversation on a one on one basis.
Sam would have to covertly recruit individuals to help with his plan and
a major part of his plan would be Sister Alice.
Sam was exhausted after his chores and
he lounged in the dayroom and watched the boys roll marbles.  A couple of maintenance men coordinated the
installment of a new T.V. in place of the damaged one.  Jose walked in and made his way over to a nearby
by sofa avoiding the guys on the floor as they shot marbles.
“So you were doing chores,” remarked
Jose.  “Did you see your sweetheart
Vivian,” he remarked with a laugh.  Sam
ignored Jose’s remark and continued to watch the boys argue over taking a turn
to roll marbles.
“When are you going to volunteer to
help out around here?” asked Sam.  “Maybe
you’ll meet a nice female.”  Sam
“My uncles say the best way to get a
fine girl is with a lot of money,” said Jose.
“Yeah that works too,” said Sam with a
Sam was intent on wining the heart of
Vivian and he assured himself that love was his reason for his
persistence.  Sam had not really known
the love of a woman outside of his mother but he could not resist the emotion
he felt when he was around Vivian.  Sam
would be careful about revealing his feelings around the people he interacted
with daily, because in his environment this could be a source of perceived
Trey entered the dayroom and stomped
through the circled marbles on the floor where the boys were shooting
marbles.  The sound of grinding glass
against the floor could be heard as Trey twisted his foot on each stomp.  Marbles shot out from under Trey’s foot
hitting the sides of nearby chairs, tables and walls.   The boys scuttled out of Trey’s path dodging
flying marbles.
“Man why’d you do that!”  One of the enraged boys responded.
“Shut your trap,” retorted Trey.
Sam knew Trey was pissed he had
challenged his rule in standing up for Jose.
Sam was ready for whatever retaliation Trey would seek to impose.  Sam continued to lounge nonchalantly on the
sofa as Trey marauded around the dayroom.
Jose remained silent as he sat on the other sofa.  Sam could see Jose was tense and his demeanor
had drastically shifted in relation to his earlier mood.  Sister Alice stuck her head through the
doorway of the day room.
“We will have no trouble out of you
today Trey,” She said as she disappeared down the hallway.
Sam sat at the breakfast table alone
and ate his bowl of oatmeal in silence.
He soon felt a hand on his shoulder.
It was Sister Alice standing over him smiling with her black nun’s head
dress draped over her hair.
“Sam don’t mind Trey much,” she
said.  “Both his parents died of aids
when he was just a toddler.”  She pulled
up a chair and sat next to Sam.  Sam
paused between spoons full of oatmeal as she continued to talk.
“He was raised by his grandmother until
she died a couple of months ago and he seems to have a hard time
adjusting.”  She said.
Sam thought to himself he was not
having an easy time here either and why is she telling this story to someone
who loathes Trey.  Sam began to fidget
with his silverware as Sister Alice told Trey’s life story.  He desperately wished Jose would appear and
interrupt her oration.  Sam could
appreciate the concern Sister Alice felt for the kids of the orphanage.  He wondered if she spoke of his situation and
issues with others as she did of Trey.
                Sam’s own home situation was what led to his current
occupancy and he felt little empathy for Trey’s story.  Sam had few adult role models; however Sister
Alice influenced the good in him.  Sam
dreamed of the day when he could stand on his own without the need of the
orphanage.  He was tired of being a kid
and was ready to venture out into the world.
Sam was in his own thoughts now and subconsciously caught bits and
pieces of Sister Alice’s conversation.
“You know Sam Saint Joseph will seek to be a solid base for your
upbringing when you grow up,” she said.
Her voice seemed to trail off as her last comment reverberated in his
                Sam desired to
make a good impression to others by making himself who they thought he should
be.  He would do tasks that made other
people happy and would go all out to fit in with others.  Sam felt uneasy in the aftermath when he
thought of this act of self repression.
His true nature was to be himself and explore who the real Sam was as an
                Sam viewed Trey
as a bully and an enemy to the free spirit of those around him.  Trey’s bully tactics blunted the freewill of
others stunting their growth.  Sam in an
attempt to be ordinary like everyone else downplayed his true abilities.  He had no desire to be recognized as
exceptional in comparison to his colleagues.
The Trey types sought to bring out such exceptional abilities which made
Sam hate him even more.
                Sam’s perceived
abandonment issues stoked his desires for the camaraderie of others and he
highly valued friendship.  Trey bullying
tampered with that concept which in turn was a source for instability in Sam’s
world.  Sam would mesh out any
instability that threatened his contentment.
Trey would be met with the harsh retaliation whenever he threatened to
disrupt Sam’s reality.
                Sister Alice
realized Sam was not soaking in her words and stopped speaking.  She looked at Sam as he sat gazing into the
distance.  She raised herself from her
seated position and stood with her hands on her hips.  She shook her head and walked away from Sam
as he continued his gaze.


                “Kids,” she said.


About The Author




Hailing from Miami Florida; Author Thomas Barr was born in Lake City, South Carolina home of the 2nd African American astronaut, killed on the Challenger space mission, Dr. Ronald E. McNair.  He is the grandson of a share cropper whom taught him the value of hard work and education.  At age 17 he began college at Bethune-Cookman University and graduated Cum Laude with honors.  While in college he was inspired to write when he read the novel, Black Boy by Richard Wright.  He began writing short stories for campus publications and won a $500 dollar publication contest in a local campus circular.  He entered the Air Force after college and spent two tours of duty in the gulf during the Persian Gulf War.  Upon leaving the Military he went back to school and completed graduate school at the University of Akron in Ohio earning a master of public administration.  He began a career in government as an Intern with the Ohio legislature and later became employed with the Florida Senate as a legislative assistant.  His current works were inspired by his work with the City of Miami as a civil servant in administration.Thomas Barr’s writings reflect the everyday struggle of the average individual trying to make something of life.  Every person has a story to tell and the job of an inspirational writer is to bring those stories to life for the good of all.  As an author Thomas Barr desires to be the chronicler of inspirational stories designed to assist dreamers in achieving.

Connect with Thomas:

Author Website: http://www.thomasbarrjr.com 

Author Blog: http://www.thomasbarrjr.com/367815247

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/thomas.j.barr.5 

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/ThomasBarrJr

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/31179667-thomas-barr-jr

Notorious P-Man Sam Banner

Interview with M.K. Theodoratus, author of ‘The Ghostcrow’

M.K. TheodoratusHooked by comic books at an early age, M. K. Theodoratus’ fascination with fantasy solidified when she discovered the Oz books by L. Frank Baum with his strong female characters. She has traveled through many fantasy worlds since then. When she’s not reading about other writer’s worlds, she’s creating her own.

Most of her stories are set in the Far Isles where she explores the political effects of genetic drift on a mixed elf human population. Lately, Theodoratus has been setting her stories in an alternate world of Andor where demons stalk humankind.

A sixth grade English assignment started her writing. The teacher assigned a short story. Theodoratus gave her an incomplete, 25-page Nancy Drew pastiche which turned into a full novel by the next summer. She’s been writing happily ever after ever since…for four or five writing careers. Most recently she’s been concentrating of her Andor stories, set in an alternate world where demons and magic plague humans.

Her latest book is the supernatural fantasy novelette, The Ghostcrow: A Tale of Andor.

For More Information

About the Book:

Seeing ghosts has plagued Dumdie Swartz since early childhood.

The Ghostcrow 2Afraid that ghost guts might stick to her if she stepped through them, thirteen-year-old Dumdie Swartz still cringes when she encounters them.

Her strange attempts to avoid spirits create a lonely life.

Her sisters constantly mock her strange behavior, her parents are clueless, and her social life is zero. Dumdie finds solace working in a shared garden with her elderly neighbor, Mr. Carson. When teens from her high school steal pumpkins from his garden, Mr. Carson is hurt during the theft, and later, dies.

Dumdie’s life takes a dark turn.

She learns there are stranger things than ghosts, when she senses something evil living in Kyle, one of the boys who had raided the pumpkin patch. Kyle bullies Dumdie to scare her into silence. The more Kyle threatens her, the clearer she perceives the evil thing possessing him. Dumdie finds support in an unlikely group of girls who befriend her when she helps them with their costumes for the Pumpkin festival. During the festival, Dumdie’s fears explode when the thing possessing Kyle decides it wants to possess her.

For More Information

Q: Welcome to Beyond the Books, Kay. Can we start out by telling us whether you are published for the first time or are you multi-published?

First, thank you for the opportunity to talk about my writing.

Nothing like stumping me with your first question. Don’t think I fit into any of the molds. I’ve been writing since the sixth grade, and we won’t go into how long that is. I sold my first short stories to the kids’ section of Sunday newspapers. Not often, but often enough to keep me daydreaming in a coherent fashion. I’ve sold both fiction and non-fiction to other publications over the years.

Q: When you were published for the first time, which route did you go – mainstream, small press, vanity published or self-published and why or how did you choose this route?

I’ve enjoyed several writing “careers”. This time around, I sold some fantasy stuff to WolfSinger Press and Spectra, but the short story I wrote for Spectra, Night for the Gargoyles, really lit the fire in my imagination. I expanded it into a novel about the demon/gargoyle battles for the city of Trebridge and was offered a contract when I pitched it at a writer’s conference to a small indie publisher.

Being a responsible citizen, I started building a writer’s platform by self-publishing other short stories and novelettes set in my alternative world of Andor. The publisher folded for a variety of reasons, not all their fault, and I was left with a bunch of self-published stories I enjoy sharing.

Q: How long did it take you to get published once you signed the contract?

See above.

Q: How did it make you feel to become published for the first time and how did you celebrate?

The first time? Don’t think I remember. I was a sour pickle-puss as a teen. Not really a loner, but I definitely preferred writing my stories and reading books to people.

Do remember encountering the English lit guys of the college literary magazine, though. Since I thought of myself as a writer, I went to their recruitment meeting where these males strutted and spouted about literature. Turned out I was the only one who had been independently published…though my stuff was beneath their notice. Dylan Thomas or James Joyce I wasn’t. I’m still not and have no ambition to become “great”.

Q: What was the first thing you did as for as promotion when you were published for the first time?

Ahh, memories of the past. I didn’t promote at all. My story appeared in the paper, and I basked in my nice letter from the editor. Probably put the check in the bank.

To promote my self-published stories now, I do the social media thing: GoodReads, Twitter, Facebook, etc. plus trying out blog tours.

Q: Since you’ve been published, how have you grown as a writer and now a published author?

Think I’m a little too old to grow. I just like to tell my stories and, thanks to the web, it’s easy to share them. Guess my craft skills have improved. I don’t have to eliminate nearly as many passive structures as I used to.

Q: What has surprised or amazed you about the publishing industry as a whole?

Nothing has surprised me, even though the industry turned rather strange with the corporate paradigm taking over. But who can say it’s worse than the old paradigm of being a gentleman’s hobby.

The web has made it much easier to get published, if you don’t mind becoming your own publisher. That means not only are you responsible for creating the story, you must get your book content edited, copy edited, put the print book together or format it as an ebook, and market it so people have a chance to notice it.

Q: What is the most rewarding thing about being a published author?

*Shrug* I have made any best-seller lists, so I have made my fortune yet. I do get to share my writing if anyone cares to read it. Is that a reward?

Q: Any final words for writers who dream of being published one day?

I’ll join the ranks of Stephen King and a host of others. In one word: write. Even if someone says your stories are junk, write. Then, write some more.

People learn the craft of writing by writing. For some, it’s a natural born talent. For others, it’s a hard row to hoe.

Another little secret, find a writers group. You can learn to improve your writing both by critiquing others and listening to the comments of others about your writing. If you meet a troll along the way, ignore them even if they say hurtful things.

Read the blogs of your favorite writers. You may be surprised to learn they have “trunk novels” which will never see the light of day because they hadn’t yet learned their craft when they wrote them.




A Conversation with Sarah Remy, author of ‘Stonehill Downs’

Stonehill Downs banner 2

Sarah RemyWe’re happy to be hosting Sarah Remy today at Beyond the Books! In 1994 Sarah earned a BA in English Literature and Creative Writing from Pomona College in California. Since then she’s been employed as a receptionist at a high-powered brokerage firm, managed a boutique bookstore, read television scripts for a small production company, and, more recently, worked playground duty at the local elementary school.

When she’s not taking the service industry by storm, she’s writing fantasy and science fiction. Sarah likes her fantasy worlds gritty, her characters diverse and fallible, and she doesn’t believe every protagonist deserves a happy ending.

Before joining the Harper Voyager family, she published with EDGE, Reuts, and Madison Place Press.

Sarah lives in Washington State with plenty of animals and people, both. In her limited spare time she rides horses, rehabs her old home, and supervises a chaotic household. She can talk to you endlessly about Sherlock Holmes, World of Warcraft, and backyard chicken husbandry, and she’s been a member of one of Robin Hobb’s longest-running online fan clubs since 2002.

Her latest is the fantasy novel, Stonehill Downs.

For More Information

About the Book:

Stonehill Downs 2Stonehill Downs follows Mal, a powerful mage who functions as Lord Vocent, the king’s personal forensic scientist and detective.  Magic and murder are his calling.  Never have the two entangled in quite as terrifying a manner as on Stonehill Downs, where Avani, a Goddess-gifted outsider, has discovered a host of gruesome corpses reeking of supernatural malfeasance.  The investigation is haunted by ghosts of Mal’s past, and the two quickly learn that they must cast aside their secrets if they are to succeed in unearthing the pervading evil—before it’s unleashed from the boundaries of the Downs, straight into the heart of the kingdom.

For More Information

Q: Welcome to Beyond the Books, Sarah. Can we start out by telling us whether you are published for the first time or are you multi-published?

Thank you! Lovely to be here. I’m a multi-published author. I’ve been writing for a long time and sold to various markets.

Q: When you were published for the first time, which route did you go – mainstream, small press, vanity published or self-published and why or how did you choose this route?

The first time I published was through a small publisher. It was a very positive experience but I felt that I could do much of the legwork myself and next time around I self-published. I continue to self-publish years later alongside short stories in small presses and a contract with HarperCollins. I think of myself as a hybrid author.

Q: How long did it take you to get published once you signed the contract?

Regarding my latest book, Stonehill Downs, I signed Harper’s contract in June and the book came out in December. It was a very professional and smooth process.

Q: How did it make you feel to become published for the first time and how did you celebrate?

I was very excited, of course, and a little shocked. I went out for Indian and champagne, and then started on my next project. I’m a firm believer that it’s important to keep moving forward.

Q: What was the first thing you did as for as promotion when you were published for the first time?

I hit up all the local bookstores. As an author, you need to personally make sure your book is ordered in and promoted in-store. In general, most brick and mortar stores are eager to support the local talent. Every store I approached set up a signing. If I hadn’t put myself politely in front of the book buyer, however, they would have never known Stonehill Downs existed, and that’s in spite of Harper’s press releases and promo blurbs. Your average author shoulders as much of the marketing work with a mainstream publisher as when self-publishing.

Q: Since you’ve been published, how have you grown as a writer and now a published author?

I think once you’ve got that first book under your belt, you’ve less excuses to waffle on the next one. You’ve done it once, you know you can do it again. You’ve got that little confidence lift.

Q: What has surprised or amazed you about the publishing industry as a whole?

It’s changed a lot over the years. Social media has made it a new animal. Luckily I’m a social media fiend, because these days you really need to be. You have to get out there and promote yourself and your work, but It’s not about sales, it’s about making connections with an audience who might enjoy you as a person and your stories as entertainment.

Q: What is the most rewarding thing about being a published author?

I really don’t think the reward is in being published. The reward is in writing a story you’re proud of, and enjoying the writing of it. The thrill is in creating, fiddling, and perfecting. I find escapism in writing almost exactly as I find escapism in reading.

Q: Any final words for writers who dream of being published one day?

Always keep moving forward. No regrets, no second-guessing. Write the story you enjoy writing, polish it up, send it out. Move on to the next one. Find joy in the process, because honestly that’s the best part.





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