Publication date: August 31st, 2021 Links:  Amazon  |  Goodreads In a quest to set himself right with the universe, Marcel travels cross-cou...

Book Blitz || The Chapel St. Perilous by Michael Rands


Publication date: August 31st, 2021



In a quest to set himself right with the universe, Marcel travels cross-country, finding himself in a small town in Alabama, rife with political tension surrounding a mysterious cult and a sheriff's election that may very well decide the fate of the country. Marcel struggles to uncover the secrets of the cult, the town, and the world itself—all while facing criminal charges for a murder he can't remember committing.

Part Southern Gothic, part metaphysical noir, with a touch of magic realism and a dash of dark comedy, the Chapel St. Perilous dares the reader to take a chance with fate.


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    Chapter 1

I don’t remember coming home. I recall the morning clearly, but the rest of the day comprises flashes, and then a long darkness that starts around midday. When I woke this morning to the sound of heavy knocking on the door, I was completely naked. 

Antoinette and I had not been lovers. She was my housemate, or more accurately, my landlady. The tension had been there from the outset. Good sense had prevailed for the first few weeks, but a pair of clowns can only walk along a tightrope for so long. And as I lay in bed, listening to the sound of beating fists on the front door, I assumed that in a state of blackout drunkenness we’d crossed the great divide. 

I pulled on my pants, put on a t-shirt, and looked out the window onto the small street next to our house to see two, three, four police cars. Even though everything else in Chickasaw is old, the police cars are brand-new. I washed my hands, splashed my face, went down the stairs, and opened the door. Two large male officers stood there. 

“Marcel Swart?”

“Uh… yes, sir.”

They’d found Antoinette’s car, they said, down by the swamp, and clothes, or pieces of clothes, and blood. 

“Do we have your permission to search the house?”

They moved into the doorway with such authority I felt incapable of resistance. I stepped aside, mumbled yes, certainly, come in. 

With gloved hands they invaded every corner of the kitchen. As I watched them rifle through drawers, I kept wondering if I should stop them, demand they leave. But I was a tenant, after all, and my only thought at the time was—do not get yourself into any trouble; make them believe you’re a good person, then they will like you, and they won’t harm you. 

Upstairs a young officer dug through my underwear drawer. He found a packet of unopened condoms, held it up, turned it about—to make sure, I assume, that none had been used. If you’ve ever been singled out for a bag search at customs you know what it feels like to suddenly doubt everything about yourself, to wonder, if just for a second, Am I carrying drugs? 

Only here the fear ran deeper. There was something in my drawers, something beneath my bed, or in the bags I had not yet fully unpacked, that marked me not as a drug user, but as a murderer. There was something about a murderer’s socks, or his underwear, or the stain on his shirt pocket, invisible to most, but to the trained eye as clear as surveillance tape footage and a signed confession.

“Would you be willing to come to the station, to talk to us?” the young officer asked me. He looked to be in his early thirties, neatly shaven, hair trimmed. I could see beneath his jacket he had the kind of body that comes only through daily workouts, through a disciplined lifestyle. “Sir?” 

“Umm. Why do you want me to come down to the station?”

“Like to ask you a few questions. You’d drive yourself down there.”

I agreed  

I wished I’d asked for time to shower, eat breakfast, change into something that made me look less destitute. As I brushed my teeth I noticed all our toiletries had been unpacked, left lying on the bathroom counter, and spread across the table next to the window. 

A Northern Cardinal landed on the branch just a few feet from me, separated only by a thin pane of glass. I wished to be that bright red bird. Then I remembered for the first time since I’d woken that morning—I am a wealthy man. I have money. But the thought brought me no comfort as I walked down the stairs, into the living room, out the front door. 


It was cool outside, the road damp. It must have rained the night before. Droplets lined the dark windows of my 1970 Ford Torino. The leather seats were cold this morning, and as I started the engine, that awful smell of burnt flesh filled the car. He was warning me of danger; I hadn’t heard from him like this in a while. My chest tightened; my arms and fingers were cold. 

I followed the police cars down Grant Street, past the public swimming pool, the library, the white, wooden Episcopal church, the park, the rows of wooden houses, some well-kept, others falling into ruin, past the old trucks parked on the lawns, past the cats, always the cats, everywhere, and the park, and the trees that reach across the street, leaves touching in the middle. There was a sign: Re-elect Sheriff Jones. Directly across the road, in front of one of the better preserved houses in the neighborhood, stood a campaign poster for his rival: Jefferson Lee III, whose eyes stared out from beneath his black hat and clawed into my soul. The smell of burning flesh was so strong I almost retched. 


I followed the cops right onto Route 43 and up to the humble station, faded redbrick, like an old schoolhouse, better suited to this time-forgotten neighborhood than the shiny cars now parked in front of it. 

Inside the station I was asked to sit on a wooden bench. 

“Do you want a coke?” Sergeant Alexis, the younger officer, asked me. 

“Sure.” I tapped my pockets to show I was up for it. 

“Don’t worry.” 

He paid close attention to how I pulled back the tab, my hand trembling slightly. I looked into his light blue eyes, smiled. 


The interview room was tiny, more like a cubicle. A single surveillance camera in the top right-hand corner peered down at me. When the door opened, a different, older man—with gray hair, a gray goatee, a silver cross around his neck, podgy in the way men over sixty often are—came into the room, I saw the road that lay between me and the needle. Alabama’s black soil would be my rest.  

“Detective Drew Franklin,” the older man said, as he sat down. “You’ve met Detective Alexis.”

“Yes, sir.” 

“You don’t come from ‘round here,” Franklin said.

He had a deep Alabama accent, and there was something awful about the man’s eyes, as if they’d been whisked up from hell, burned by the fires. 

“No, sir.” 

I didn’t feel obliged to give him more than that.  

He put his fist beneath his chin. 

“You live with Antoinette Dubois?”

“I do. She’s my housemate. Landlady.” 

I took a sip of coke and watched his eyes as they watched my hands. 

“Just a landlady?”

“How do you mean?” I took another sip. Something shifted in both of them, like dogs who smell fear. 

“Did you two ever get intimate?” Alexis asked me.

“Did you have sex with Antoinette Dubois?” Franklin leaned in closer.

I saw my fingers as these two men saw them, fumbling, playing with themselves, fidgeting. 

“We wanted to be together… sometimes…” I stammered. I heard myself as they heard me, a guilty man, caught in his lies. 

“You wanted to be with her?” Alexis asked. 

Then Franklin: “But she didn’t want to be with you.”

“It drove you crazy.”

“No, no, no.” I tapped the desk with my knuckles, a sudden rush of anger fueling me. “You don’t know anything.”

“Then tell us.”

“Educate us.”

“You don’t even know that she was… that she is dead.”

“Nobody said she was dead.”

“You’re treating it like a murder. You’re treating me…”

“We’re treatin’ you like what?”  

“Nothing.” I looked down. 

“Her car,” Franklin continued, “was found down by the Chickasaw creek. Blood. Pieces of torn clothing. Her panties were found in the car. All been sent to the crime lab. Soon, we’ll have DNA. We’ll know everything we need to know. But by then it’s gonna be too late. So you got somethin’ to tell us, tell us now. Then we can help you.”

“I would never.” I partially crushed the coke can. “I could not do, whatever you’re thinking. You haven’t found a body.”

“Are you concerned about us finding that body?” the younger man asked.  

“Does that worry you, son?”

“No, it doesn’t worry me.”

“You don’t care if she’s alive or dead?”

“Of course I care. I hope you find her alive.” I looked up from the can, stared into the older eyes, the younger eyes, back. I could not outstare them; I looked down. 

“Would you be willing to submit to a DNA sample?” Alexis asked. 

“Yes, I would. I want to help you.”

“Good,” Alexis said. 

He exited, leaving Franklin and me alone. The older man wrapped his right hand around his clenched, left fist, and squeezed.

“If Antoinette Dubois is alive, we want to find her. And we need to find her soon. If she’s dead, we gotta find the son of a bitch that done this.”

“Yes, sir. I want to help you.”

“What kind of animal does somethin’ like this? Murder a young woman, and throw away her body like a piece a trash?”

“Why do you keep talking about her body, like it’s already been found?”

He twisted the thick gold ring on his finger, moved it up and down. 

“Clock’s tickin’.” He placed his hand on my wrist. “If she’s alive, we need to find her now. Sometimes these sickos hold onto their victims for a while. Or, she may just have had an altercation, but managed to escape. If you know somethin’, you need to talk.” He pointed his finger at the space between my eyes, leaning so close to me I could feel his breath. “What you not tellin’ us?”

“There’s nothing… sir.” I felt the back of my head shake. 

“You know what’s going on here at the moment?”

“Sir?”

“Sheriff’s election one week today. I know I shouldn’t be talkin’ about this. But the stakes are too high. The soul of our town’s at stake.”

“I understand, sir.”

“And you know the politics here, what’s going on here now, extends way beyond this little town.”

“Yes, I know, sir.” 

“You part of that cult, son?”

“It’s not a cult.”

He grabbed my wrist and slammed my arm against the table.

“Goddammit. You know Maggie?”

“Never met her.”

“You know what these folk think of her, don’t you?”

I looked up at the camera. What kind of game was this old man playing? Was he trying to create a faux-intimacy with me, to trick me into giving him what he wanted to hear? Or was he really on the side of re-electing Sheriff Jones? 

“They can’t hear us.” He glanced up at the camera. “They can only see. Now you need to speak and you need to speak quick before my partner gets back in here. I’m the only pro-Jones man in this building. You understand?”

“I hear you, sir. But what do you want me to tell you?”

“You know how they gonna make this look. Media gonna be all over this, like flies ‘round shit. They gonna say you done this ‘cuz you part of that cult. You know how things work round here, huh? Folks don’t take kindly to nothin’ that smells like… voodoo or black magic.”

“I didn’t come here to be a part of that…” 

“What else would some outta towner like yourself be doin’ here?” He stared at me for a long time, and I did my best to hold his gaze, certain now that this was all an act. He was no more for Jones than was anyone else in this building. He wanted to drive Maggie and all her followers out of town. “Well, did you do it?”

“Did I do what?”

“Kill her?” My hand shook as I reached for the coke can we both knew was empty. “If you killed her you need to tell me, so we can protect Maggie. And cut you a deal.”

“I didn’t…” My voice trembled.

“You looking at the needle, son. If you fess up, we can save you from that.”

“I didn’t do it.”

Alexis reentered. He wore blue plastic gloves and held a long cotton-tipped swab, which he inserted into my mouth. The tip brushed against the soft wall. 

“You drinkin’ last night?” Franklin asked as Alexis left the room. 

Telling the detective I couldn’t remember what had happened since sometime around midday would be as good as signing my own death warrant. I knew I had to start talking, but the longer I waited the colder my mind grew. I had to invent. If I’d woken up at home, in my bed, then I must have been at home in the evening. And we may very well have done what we often did.

“We drank in the lounge. After dinner. That was common.”

“You drank in the lounge?”

“Talking; listening to music. That was very normal for us. That was how I, how we, often spent our evenings.”

“How much you drink?”

The back of my neck tingled hot; spots of sweat pierced the skin. 

“A few glasses.”

“And then?”

“We finished up. We went to bed.” 

“You went to your bed, and she went to her bed?” 

“We didn’t have that kind of relationship, sir. We were friends.”

“It ain’t no crime sleepin’ with your landlady. ‘Specially not if she’s young, and you’s young. I don’t see no ring on your finger.” 

I held up my hand to show him he was correct.

“Means you were sleeping with her?”

“No, sir. I didn’t say that.”

“Mr. Swart, last night, you and Antoinette Dubois, by your own admission, were alone in the house you shared, drinkin’ into the night. Next mornin’ she’s missin’, and her car’s found down at the Chickasaw Creek, bloodstained clothes. You understand how this looks, son?”

“Of course I understand, how it looks. But I didn’t do anything wrong.”

I looked up at the camera in the corner and pictured the other room full of cops, watching me, trying to decide if I sat like a killer, drank coke like a killer, spoke, breathed, moved like a killer.  

“I’m the most senior detective in this station. If I tell ‘em I want time alone with you, cameras off, you better know they gonna listen.” 

I looked up at the ceiling. Closing my eyes, I tried to recall the events of yesterday, but the last images I could access were on Maggie’s island. 

“You want me to turn off the cameras? We can talk alone, if you got something to say.”

He dragged his chair across the room, climbed onto it, and fiddled with the wires at the back of the video camera. For all I knew, this was just another trick, another attempt at creating intimacy. But as his hand rested on my shoulder, I felt genuine comfort for the first time since I’d woken up that morning. Sitting opposite me again, he asked: “Cigarette?” He took a pack from his pocket and held it toward me. He had thick fingers. 

“I wouldn’t mind one, thank you.” 

“I love these things.” He lit one and handed it to me; lit his own. “I don’t care what they say. I’ll go to an early grave a happy man ‘fore I give these up.”

I wanted to say something clever, but nothing came to mind. 

“Maybe you want to back up a little bit. Tell me about yourself. How you come to be in this part of the world?”

“How far back do you want me to go, sir?”

He took a drag of his cigarette, resting his elbows up on the table. 

“I want to help that girl. I want to find her. You want to find her too, don’t you?” He pointed at me with his cigarette finger.

“Of course. I haven’t lied to you.”

“I ain’t here to call you no liar. But if you won’t tell me what happened last night, then maybe you can tell me what happened to bring you to this little town of Chickasaw. Outsiders like you, they come here for one reason.” He raised his index finger. “And that reason is Maggie. And anyone who comes to be with Maggie, well, they had something go wrong in their life.”

“Ha.” I laughed involuntarily, put my cigarette on the edge of the table, wiped my sweaty hands on my pants. “That’s a bit presumptuous, isn’t it?”

“Tell me I’m wrong.”

I sat back, crossing my arms over my chest. 

“How do I know that camera’s not filming us? How do I know you really side with Sheriff Jones?”

“We can go someplace else, where there ain’t a camera. We can take a drive, if you like. My colleagues here, they know I got some… how d’ya say? Unconventional methods.”

I didn’t know what to make of that. Had he just confessed to me that this was all an act, a way of getting me to drop my guard?

“I’m the only Jones man in this station. I want to keep Chickasaw unique. I know some folk say Maggie does weird things, but she does good work. She helped me.” From his wallet he took out a lottery ticket, which he placed on the table in front of me. “Won a hundred fifty thousand dollars on this one.” 

“Things went bad for you after that?” 

“Didn’t understand why.”

“And she helped you?”

He nodded slowly, pursing his lips into an inverted smile. 

“How much time you got?” I asked him.

“As I told you, son, time is tight. But you our best hope at this moment of figuring out what’s going on. Now, I know I was pushin’ you earlier. That’s my job. But I trust my gut. And my gut says you ain’t harmed that girl.” He took my arm and held it tight. “But I’m the only one on your side. And I tell you for certain, I’m the only one who want to help keep Maggie safe. That election’s in one week.” He got up and walked to the door. “Come on. I’ll tell ‘em we’re takin’ a ride, just you and me.”

“Okay. Let’s go.” 


“1970 Ford Torino,” he said, running his hand over my car. “A true classic.”

“Sure is.” 

“But we gonna take a ride in my car,” Franklin said, pointing at an unmarked black truck. “We can smoke in here. We’ll take a drive down to the water, to where they found her car this mornin’.”

“Sounds good to me.” 

We pulled out onto Route 43.  

I took a deep drag on my cigarette and looked out the window at a white house rotting in the ground, a dog chained to a tree, barking at us as we went by. Calm settled over me as I exhaled. I was an innocent man, and soon enough I’d be able to prove it.





Michael Rands is the author of the satirical, dark comedy, Praise Routine Number Four, co-author of the economic satire The Yamaguchi Manuscripts, and Kamikaze Economics (a story of modern Japan). He’s co-author of the humorous dictionary Stay Away from Mthatha. He co-created the audio drama The Crystal Set, and is one of the hosts on the podcast Detours Ahead. In South Africa he worked in television as a writer, director and producer. He taught English in Japan. He holds an MFA from Louisiana State University, and currently teaches English and Creative Writing at the college level. He lives with his wife and toddler in Alabama, not too far from a bayou. The Chapel St. Perilous is his second published novel.

Publication date: September 14th, 2021 Links:  Amazon  |  Goodreads Welcome to the decrepit Woodmoor Manor…where something in the woods is a...

Review || What Lives in the Woods by Lindsay Currie


Publication date: September 14th, 2021


Welcome to the decrepit Woodmoor Manor…where something in the woods is always watching. From the author of Scritch Scratch comes a chilling middle grade story about a creepy mansion and sinister creatures in the woods

All Ginny Anderson wants from her summer is to relax. But when Ginny's father—a respected restoration expert in Chicago—surprises the family with a month-long trip to Michigan, everything changes. They aren't staying in a hotel like most families would. No, they're staying in a mansion. A twenty-six room, century-old building surrounded by dense forest. Woodmoor Manor.

Locals claim the surrounding woods are inhabited by mutated creatures that escaped a mad scientist over a hundred years ago. And some say campers routinely disappear never to be seen again.

When the creaky floors and shadowy corners of the mansion seem to take on a life of their own, Ginny uncovers the wildest mystery of all: there's more than one legend roaming Saugatuck, Michigan, and they definitely aren't after campers.

They're after her.

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This is my second book by Lindsay Currie and I absolutely love her style. (You can read my review of Scritch Scratch here.) Her books so far seem to follow a pretty basic formula: preteen gets to head into some spooky sites, manages to find herself mixed up in a Scooby style mystery, and does some sleuthing into the past to discover exactly why what's happening is happening. Though just because something is formulaic doesn't have to mean it's boring or predictable. There's plenty here to draw you in and get you invested. 

Ginny is a great character with relatable worries and fears. Of course, part of that is moving out to the middle of nowhere into this ginormous mansion while her father discovers what it will take to rehab the old place. Especially when she hears that there may be more to Woodmore Manor than she expected...a lot more. Ginny also happens to be very smart and curious about things that she doesn't already know about so it's not long before she's researching its history. She's a huge Agatha Christie fan so figuring out the mystery is completely her thing. She also manages to drag her brother and a newfound friend into helping solve the mystery. Family and friendship feature front and center in the relationships that Lindsay Currie creates. 

If you think middle grade can't be spooky, there are plenty of chills in this haunted house story. The author starts slowly with a few unnerving encounters that could easily be brushed off, but as the story proceeds, those moments become more and more startling. As with Scritch Scratch, there are some pretty terrifying moments that our protagonist Ginny encounters. One in particular probably would have pre-teen me sleeping with the lights on. I love that she doesn't hold back with the scares. However, by the end of the book, she also manages to make it all okay or at least manages to make it all make sense. Sometimes just knowing why something is happening makes it less scary. 

This is one of those books that keeps you turning pages until the very end. The pacing is fantastic and once it starts rolling, this story doesn't slow down. I couldn't wait for Ginny and the crew to figure things out. While there are some things that might seem a little predictable, it's almost in that yell-at-the-characters-on-tv way. You might have figured it out watching from the outside in, but they haven't and you can't wait until it all clicks for everyone. What Lives in the Woods was a treat and I can't wait to read whatever comes next. 



Today's Author Spotlight is author Frank Winter! Read on for the full interview. Publication date: September 18th, 2021 Links:  Amazon  ...

Author Spotlight || Frank Winter, Author of Homecoming


Today's Author Spotlight is author Frank Winter!
Read on for the full interview.




Publication date: September 18th, 2021


One last dance... Homecoming was going to be the best night of their lives for the students of Villa Vista High School, but instead it became their last. Love was in the air as several couples among the crowd found themselves at a crossroads. Expectations were high, but the future was less certain than they could ever imagine.

Death was not the end. The students found that Hell looks a lot like high school. The afterlife only offered more questions than answers, but one question took center stage. With grief and anger consuming them, the search for the killer began.

Now the accused must survive the wrath of their classmates, while continuing their own search for atonement and escape. Their Limbo could give way at any moment, and they have no idea how far down the Circles they might fall.

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What's your latest release? 

"Homecoming" is my debut novel. It's a 571 page, 196K word Thriller / Murder Mystery with strong Supernatural Romance themes. The Amazon blurb really gets the plot synopsis across.

Can you start out by telling us a little about your latest work? 

"Homecoming" is the story of several high school couples at a crossroads of their relationship when they are suddenly murdered a the titular high school dance. They must navigate the strange afterlife they wake up in to not only solve their own murder, but prove their own innocence to their vengeful classmates. As all that unfolds, they must escape from Limbo and find their killer.
It's "John Hughes meets Stephen King" or "'Heathers' meets Tim Burton". If you enjoy any of those creators, you should check it out.

Where did you get the inspiration to write this story?


One very specific and very real incident that happened to me back in high school. Our school was threatened by an *accidental* event, which if left undiscovered could have turned out like the disaster described in "Homecoming".

When you developed the characters, did you already know who they were before you began writing or did they develop organically?


I had a basic outline of who each of the characters were going to be, influenced somewhat by the part they had to play in the story and by some of the real life people and characters that inspired them. However, everything after that was much more organic. The nuances and quirks of their personalities showed up in the little interactions they had with everyone else.

Which of your characters was your favorite to write and why?

For "Homecoming", the main character, Blaire, for sure. I feel like I put small (but different) parts of myself into all of the main ensemble. In my high school days, and probably even now, I'd relate to her the most.

What was more important to you when you were writing: character development or plot?


Without sounding like I'm trying to have it both ways, the interaction of both. "Homecoming" has an ensemble cast so it cycles between five groups of two people (most of whom are couples). So the major plotline advances with the development of each of their individual/couple arcs. I do already have the basic story framework in place before they get fleshed out as characters though, so I would say plot, ultimately.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned (about your story, about yourself, etc.) while writing?


One thing I learned, which I already sort of suspected, is that my emotions can be heavily swayed by the seasons, and that my most creative writing months are in the ... Winter. That is actually only the fourth reason why I picked that pen name, but it's absolutely true. Between the Solstice and Spring Equinox I can churn out 25K words per week of raw manuscript.

The first chapter of "Homecoming" actually played out for me in a dream on Christmas morning 2020. It was the closest thing I've ever felt to divine inspiration. From that experience, I learned to simply "go with it.

In your opinion what makes a good story?


Probably a basic answer, but a good story is one that is compelling for you as a reader. A lot of subjectivity is involved. Taste in genre, length of the work, pacing, format (Book vs TV/Movie) all play a part in how its valued by you as a person. There are definitely some objective measures that come into play, but a great deal of what makes a story uniquely good are those qualities that are beautiful in the eye of the beholder.

How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?


Just the accomplishment of crossing the finish line was a big moral booster for me. While the seed of the idea came to me over a decade ago, actually transforming that into a finished novel has been a very gratifying experience.

Do you read your book reviews? What do you consider "good" /"bad"?


I definitely read my reviews, even the bad ones, at least once. It's like Pandora's Box. I have to look inside, even just that first time. Every author needs to learn to deal with negative criticism in their own ways. The key is properly processing constructive/legitimate criticism and filtering out the toxic or vacuous reactions which lay more in the personality or preferences of the reviewer.

And of course, you're not going to complain about good reviews. The best ones are the long ones, very drawn out explanations of exactly what someone liked about your work and how it was meaningful to them. Not only is it emotionally edifying, but it's a great indicator of what to keep doing in the future.

What led you to start writing?


I mention this in the book's Acknowledgements, but I had an English professor in my first semester at University who was very inspirational. She was a Ms. Frizzle type, very eccentric and enthusiastic. I started writing fiction on a weekly basis, even after I passed her G.E. class. Despite my dozens of engineering classes, she had the single most important impact on my life.

Do you have any writing superstitions?


I'm very paranoid about losing progress after a big writing session. I will email copies of the latest version to myself through several separate email accounts, and save local file copies to several different hard drives.

What attracted you to the genre(s) you write in?


I've always been a fan of Thrillers, the Supernatural, and Romance. In the case of Thrillers, my favorite author, and the one whom my writing style or "author's voice" is most heavily influenced by, is Michael Crichton. I was a dinosaur kid growing up, and the Jurassic Park film was the pinnacle of that childhood pastime.

In the case of the other genres, I've described "Homecoming" to friends and family as "John Hughes meets Stephen King" or "'Heathers' meets Tim Burton". All of those creators and properties were major influences on me as a writer and this novel in particular.

What is one of your favorite words? OR Is there a word you find yourself using too often?


"Absolutely" and "Of course" are turns of phrase I default to a lot. It's how I talk in my daily life, so it sounds like the most natural dialogue to me. I always have thesaurus websites open to mitigate some of those crutches. Plus I try to give each character their own default phrases to help individualize them better.

What are you currently reading?


I'm currently re-reading one of my favorite non-fiction books. "The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind" by Julian Jaynes. It is a mindblowing collection of theories by the 1970's psychologist about how he believes consciousness manifested in Homo Sapiens. Anyone with a passing interest in Pop Anthropology or want to dig into something that makes you question your own humanity and agency should check it out.

A lot of authors have a soundtrack while writing. Are there are songs you had on repeat?


Yes, definitely. Music is a big part of my life, almost as big as writing. I'm always listening to songs, soundtracks (such as film, TV, & video game scores), and a variety of other things while I write. With this first book, "Homecoming", I have a playlist of nearly 300 tracks that could almost be considered an unofficial OST.
I also commissioned a theme song for the novel which will play prominently in the audiobook , but can already be heard in the promotional video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E56VcaH42Y8

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


Self-publish something sooner. Just take the shot, give it a try and put something out there.

What are a couple of your favorite movies to kick back with to relax?


I love vegging out to old 80s and 90s TV shows and movies I watched as a kid. I'm currently re-watching The X-Files.

Which animal would you say is your spirit animal and why?


We did a family tree history once, and found that our family name was once associated with the stag (hooray House Baratheon). More specifically, the reindeer. That definitely played into the pen name. As far as my personality goes, I think its a wise animal. You have to have the strength to fight if the need arises (with 8-point antlers in this case), but you can be smart enough to run when it isn't necessary.

It's like the Sun Tzu quote: "He will win who knows when to fight and when not to fight."

Would you rather live in a haunted mansion or a cottage surrounded by fairytale creatures?


Haunted mansion. The ghosts would be much less annoying.

What is something about the genre that annoys you?


I think the issue with any genre that an author focuses on is genre norms and expectations. Often you can have a lot of fun with those, by subverting tropes or exploring them in unique ways, but they can be limiting if you color too far outside of the lines. With my stories, I mostly write them as they come to me and then apply the genre labels at the end. Settling on a BISAC code took me a while.

What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?


I don't really have an ideal "writing hour." Just like my sleep schedule and many other things in my life, I'll write pretty much whenever the inspiration (and energy) come to me. That can be in the evenings, midnight, the witching hours of 2:00 a.m. to 4:00 a.m., early mornings, or afternoons. It really all depends, and I've never noticed any difference in my writing quality or variety regardless of when it was penned.

Are you on social media and can your readers interact with you? What are your links?


My main hub is going to always be my website: www.frankwinterfiction.com. I have a blog there that I'll update every few weeks. It's worth subscribing to, but I won't spam you.

Then I have a Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/FrankWinterFiction

Twitter: https://twitter.com/FrankWinterFict

And YouTube channel with the fantastic "Homecoming" promo: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E56VcaH42Y8

Do you have a favorite line that you've written? What is it and why do you like it?


I think my favorite lines from stories are the very quotable ones that you would expect to hear in a trailer or read on a promotional poster. While I didn't use this line for either of those kinds of advertising, one of my favorite ones from "Homecoming" is: "Life will usually give you a second chance ... but never a third."

How that figures into the story is where the real depth and meaning come into play though.

What advice would you like to pass on to aspiring writers that is unconventional but true?


Don't second guess yourself too much. Just write something down, even if you think it's bad. By just "fighting through the pain", not only will you keep making progress, but the inspiration to improve that bad section will come to you eventually and you can go back to fix or reinforce things.

Do you have a WIP? If so, can you tell us anything about it?


Yes. My plan since college was to eventually reach the point of releasing an annual novel. 2022's novel is already well underway with 50K words and 150 pages. I really love the character ensemble so far. I think fans of "Homecoming" will really enjoy it once it's finished.



Frank Winter is a native of Northern California who was born into a wonderful family that supported his passions and aspirations. He grew up loving the performing arts, inspired by the animated musicals of the 1990s. During his university days, he dabbled in local theatre as well as productions put on by his church. At the same time, he expanded his interests to include creative writing. This quickly evolved from lyrics to short stories to long-form fiction.

After graduation he pushed forward in his career as a mechanical engineer while continuing to moonlight in writing and music. Following years of honing his craft, he finally decided to pursue an old story idea to be released as his debut novel.

"Homecoming" is now available on paperback, and releases for Kindle on September 18th.




Publication date: April 7th, 2018 Links:  Amazon  |  Goodreads Grolar: half grizzly bear, half polar bear Jon lost his job in Vancouver and ...

Guest Post || Thorston Nesch, author of Grolar


Publication date: April 7th, 2018

Grolar:
half grizzly bear, half polar bear

Jon lost his job in Vancouver and finds work at a small gold mining camp. His wife and his young son join him. When the toddler shows them what he had found near the tree line, they know, there is something dark waiting for them.

The author Thorsten Nesch lives in Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada. He is an award-winning and traditionally published author. His novels are read in schools in Europe.





Environment is the new horror

By Thorston Nesch


Going back and drawing from the past when writing genre fiction comes with a secure background on the topic—if it is a vampire, a zombie or anything in between. If I ever wanted to play it safe, I'd have stayed in my comfy office job for the public health insurance.


The uncharted challenges of the future interest me, mostly surrounded by more or less vague theories and wild speculations. This is the place for the jester.


The modern artist has to assume the role of the jester in front of the king: holding up a distorted mirror to the society of today in order to provoke a reaction, ideally with the result people questioning themselves and their doings.


Recently the environment assumed a center role in contemporary horror scenarios (versus the threat of the nuclear apocalypse of the the cold war). So far it is the weather: storms, rain, droughts and rising sea levels.


But what if the weather brings together what should never have met in the first place? Bacteria, viruses, insects or … bears?


Because of the rising temperatures, grizzly bears migrate further north, into old polar bear territory, and they mate … oh, you think, that is just the fantasy of a jester?


Think again.


When I heard about that problem I remembered an article about Ligers—half lions, half tigers, man made, out of a sick egocentric notion, but nevertheless two species foreign to each other. And they grow way bigger than a tiger or a lion alone. Fact.


What if that could be true for Grolars?


The amount of food the animal would need … and imagine a gold digger camp would be in its hunting grounds … 




Since 2014 I live in Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada.

My stories received literary grants and awards nationally and internationally. In the last years I did more than 1500 readings in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Netherlands, Denmark, Italy and on two cruises.

My first novel was nominated Best German YA Debut and I won the Hans-im-Gluck-Award 2012

Jury: „His style is a stroke of luck for literature“

Today's Author Spotlight is author Lisa Hofman! Read on for the full interview. Publication date: April 5th, 2021 Amazon |  Goodreads A...

Author Spotlight || Lisa Hofmann, Author of Artemis' Wings


Today's Author Spotlight is author Lisa Hofman!

Read on for the full interview.


Publication date: April 5th, 2021

An Island in the lake. A curse. A stargazer's daughter whose time is running out.

The girl in the tower watches the stars from her window – and the black waters of the lake below.

Monsters thrive between the rocks and the fouling weeds, guarding the cursed shore. Her people seem to have forgotten her. It’s easier to forget than to fight.

Only Elnathan still knows she’s there on that island. He would fly on broken wings to the ends of the earth just to be near her, but the dark spell Abaddon cast could cost him everything, and time is against them both.

Enjoy this new magical, thrilling shapeshifter love story by Lisa Hofmann!



What's your latest release? 

Artemis' Wings - a raven shifter love story. It's one of the series of shapeshifter stories I published over the past year, and it probably has the most fairytale-y feel about it.

Can you start out by telling us a little about your latest work? 

It's a collection of short shapeshifter stories with unusual shifters. I loved writing it because they have a sprinkling of fairytale about them all, and they're set in the deep, dark forests of medieval Europe.

Where did you get the inspiration to write this story?

I have always loved fairytales, and that's where a lot of the ideas for the shapeshifters we have today originated, so I decided to write a few of my own. I've published four over the past year, and I'm going to publish a collection of five in a single volume in September.

When you developed the characters, did you already know who they were before you began writing or did they develop organically?

I'm a planner through and through, so I knew my characters well. They'd been churning inside my mind for some time.

Which of your characters was your favorite to write and why?

I loved writing Willa from the dragon shifter story Amberflame, because she is so gutsy!

What was more important to you when you were writing: character development or plot?

Both, really. They had to fit together to make the pacing work. In a novella or anything shorter than a novel, both have to be well-managed.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned (about your story, about yourself, etc.) while writing?

Over the past years, I learned that I can actually be patient! With myself and with the process. And I also learned to love editing, which is kinda weird, but here we are.


In your opinion what makes a good story?

Good character development, a steady pace that doesn't kill me, and a few good twists along the way.


How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?

It changed everything about my writing process up until that point because I began working with a very cool and competent non-eye-rolling editor, who taught me a lot about finding out what's important and what isn't, and how to further develop my voice and style of writing.


Do you read your book reviews? What do you consider "good" /"bad"?

I do - I don't think any of us can afford not to. I don't think in terms of good or bad reviews - I'm always hoping for the helpful ones. 

I want to know what my readers think and how to improve what I'm doing if something was genuinely off. 

I recall one reviewer telling me they didn't like the book cover, so 2 stars for that, despite the fact that they weren't into fantasy and hadn't read the free book they'd gotten from me... That's what I mean by not very helpful. 

But I also generally get a few that I can really work with, and the ones that are posted to Amazon definitely help me promote my work. 

What led you to start writing?

My love for reading and history, I think. Plus, I've been accused of having an overactive imagination.

Do you have any writing superstitions?

I have to have my cat nearby. She's probably the one who's really working all the magic.


What attracted you to the genre(s) you write in?

Everything. In Fantasy, you can be anyone or anything and go anywhere in a thousand worlds. So much to explore there! 


What is one of your favorite words? OR Is there a word you find yourself using too often?

Shenanigans. I don't think I've ever actively used it, but I just love it. It's cheeky.


What are you currently reading?

Spinning Silver by Noami Novik


A lot of authors have a soundtrack while writing. Are there are songs you had on repeat?

Not really - I need quiet to really get into the deep of things while I write. Sometimes I have music with no lyrics on while I'm still drafting, though. First drafts are always quick and non-wordy.


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

Be a bit more brave and start publishing earlier.


What are a couple of your favorite movies to kick back with to relax?

I like shark movies, which - again - is weird and so not what I write. Whenever I'm ever really stressed out, though, I don't watch a lot of TV. I try to get out and about and into the woods.


Which animal would you say is your spirit animal and why?

The blue-and-gold-glittered Middle-European Coffee Sloth


Would you rather live in a haunted mansion or a cottage surrounded by fairytale creatures?

I'll take a haunted mansion surrounded by fairytale creatures.


What is something about the genre that annoys you?

I love that women play a bigger role in Fantasy now than ever before, but think there are a lot of very similar  characters and story arcs being written, which makes some of the series that started out great quickly become a bit dull. 

I don't like formula-writing because I like the unusual twists and turns that a story can take. I wish there was more of that out there.


What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?

In terms of my writing process: I tend to slash and burn my way through my finished manuscripts while revising to the point where my editor shouts stop. In terms of my style: what I hear a lot from others is that I do well with my prose. I like atmosphere, so I try to create one for the reader that's relatable - if you like my type of stories.


Are you on social media and can your readers interact with you? What are your links?

I'm mostly only on Facebook because I can't really deal with more than that between the busy day job and the writing and my family. 
I also have a website, on which you can find a newsletter sign-up. My newsletters are practically non-existent, though, because I have to admit I'm really sloppy about sending them out to people. I never remember... 

But here are the links:
https://www.facebook.com/authorlisahofmann 
https://www.facebook.com/groups/LisasBookdragons (the group is worth joining because here's where you get ARCs and other freebies, as well as some good bookish discussions)
https://www.lisahofmann.net


Do you have a favorite line that you've written? What is it and why do you like it?

I couldn't really pick one because my favorites are always the ones I'm currently working on.


What advice would you like to pass on to aspiring writers that is unconventional but true?

Do your thing and write that book you've always wanted to write - but remember that you're not writing to entertain only yourself. When you finish it, others are going to want to read it, so know who your readers are going to be, and what they would like you to present them with, or you're going to set yourself up for a heartache.


Do you have a WIP? If so, can you tell us anything about it?

I'm currently working on two novels. One is a fourth in a series, and the other is a standalone fantasy novel that is set in the 1920s.

Thanks so much for participating in the Author Spotlight! Anything you'd like to add?

Thanks for having me on your blog! 



Lisa Hofmann's debut novel, Stealing the Light, received top star ratings and reviews on the Writer's Digest and Publisher's Weekly platforms for independently published works.

Lisa is a European-based writer, born in 1975. She was educated in the nerd factories of Germany and the mystery moors of Ireland. Before she began writing medieval and shapeshifter fiction in her late thirties, she worked internationally as an interpreter, translating specialized publications on early education and literacy.

She is a genuine Dr Jekyll and Mrs. Hyde: a teacher of multilingual children by day, and producer of character-driven fantasy novels by night. Since Stealing the Light, she has published three other novels and several shorter works. She writes predominantly in English and works with a weather-proofed Pennsylvania-based American editor.

Lisa lives in Germany with her husband, three outrageous children, and a house full of exceptionally vocal pets. Whenever she finds herself teetering on the brink of boredom, she will generally resort to exploring old towns and castles, walks in the woods, and reading anything that other people throw at her.


Craig, thank you so much for taking the time to be my guest on Cats Luv Coffee! Be sure to check out Human Tenderloin when it releases on the 15th!