Book Review: Kingdoms at War

The Audio Book

An epic series starter with nearly 1,100 five-star Goodreads ratings: Young mapmaker-in-training Jak dreams of exploring new worlds. But when he and his mother unearth the legendary dragon gate, Jak finds himself caught between his own growing power and magical enemies who will stop at nothing to eliminate him… From a USA Today bestselling author!

Purchase Link: https://www.chirpbooks.com/audiobooks/kingdoms-at-war-by-lindsay-buroker

My Review

I listened to the audio book of Kingdoms at War, written by Lindsay Buroker, and narrated by Vivienne Lehany. Buroker takes readers on a science fantasy adventure that won’t be soon forgotten, complete with her signature snark, and Lehany brings it alive with her mastery of varied character voices.

Just as Jack and his mother find the artifact his father lost his life searching for, their find is discovered by the zidar, and they are swept away with the dragon’s gate to the distant kingdom of King Yidar. But if Yidar figures out how to use the gate, it could mean distruction for Jack and all of his kind, so his mother gives the key to the Captain of the female mercenary regiment for safe keeping, this making the whole regiment a target. Can they figure out how to wake the gate up? And if they do, can they convince the dragons to help them gain their freedom from the wizard kings and their Zidar? But will they be able to get the dragon’s gate away from Yidar and prevent him from discovering it’s secrets?

Kingdoms at War is book one in Buroker’s Dragon’s Gate series, and it brings the promise of much more to come. A delightful tale which kept my full engagement throughout. I give it five quills.

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Kaye Lynne Booth does honest book reviews on Writing to be Read in exchange for ARCs. Have a book you’d like reviewed? You can request a review here.


Bowlesian! – Detective Robot and the Murderous Spacetime Schism

Detective Robot and the Murderous Spacetime Schism

by Jeff Bowles

We found victim one face down in a giant vat of beer. Red beer, frothy, churning and roiling in blood. Not precisely the best brew of the batch, I knew, but I couldn’t help wonder what it might taste like on a mechanical tongue.

“Detective Robot,” said Officer Allen, a short, stocky, often uncharitable young fellow who always seemed to smell of cooked sausage. “I can’t believe they called you out for this.”

I formed my golden jointed lips into a pleasant smile. “Why wouldn’t they have called? Rain or shine, we always get our man.”

My partner and fellow investigation consultant, Gorilla Todd, beat his big furry chest and pulled his lips back over his teeth.

“Step back, beat cop,” he said in his deep, gruff voice. “Let the man work.”

Gorilla Todd was five hundred pounds of hyper-intelligent simian. He was a post-nuclear, neuro-enhanced military lab experiment, lots of those wandering Grim Land. Bit of a bruiser, to be sure, but an honest and a loyal one.

“Thank you, Gorilla,” I said. “Officer Allen, must we really?”

Allen snorted. “Boy oh boy, you fellas need to learn your place. Are we still short-staffed on actual detectives? What’d you do to get the call on this? Grease a few palms? Robots run on grease, don’t they?”

Point of fact, we run on million-core supra-processors the size of toenail trimmings. But I wouldn’t expect a technologic druid like Allen to know the difference. We got the call because the Chief appreciated our work and professionalism. She requested us by name; the place was ours for the next few hours.

“Why a fusion brewery?” I said, taking in our surroundings.

“People don’t die in fusion breweries?” asked Allen.

“Usually not fashion models, no,” said Gorilla. “Not in the middle of the night.”

“And certainly not old women dressed up like them,” I said.

Allen blanched at this.

“Old women,” he said, scratching his head as he turned to face the vat. “Holy cow! She’s gone all pruney in the lager.”

“Ale,” I said. “Shall you fetch the net or shall I?”

* * * * *

Fusion brewing, popularized at the dawn of the last nuclear holocaust, involves the high-speed collision of plutonium-rich barley nuclei with the nuclei of hops machine grown in the atomic soils found in the ancient ruins of Hackensack, New Jersey. The resulting photonic explosion produces a bubbly, effervescent ale, light on the tongue, but with just enough zing to potentially threaten male fertility (as all nuclear beverages should).

Zippy Beer, or rather, Zippy Beer’s northeast production plant, did seem a rather strange place for homicide. Zippy was known throughout Grim Land as the safest, most environmentally conscious nuclear beer on the market. Fifty years without a tainted batch, their ocu-tisements often declared. Fusion belchers spat florid ale, sluicing through sloshers, roaring down pipeways, collecting and aging in anti-grav refrigeration closets.

I studied Allen carefully. He looked tired and overworked.

“I swear to God, she was young when I found her,” he said.

“Sure she was,” Gorilla Todd chuckled. “Makes all the sense in the world. Hey, mac, you been smokin’ them funny cigarettes?”

I tapped my chin with platinum fingers and examined the poor old dead dear. We’d pulled her from the vat and sprawled her out on the tiled factory floor. I searched and picked at her with the robo-pincers I used for toes.

“You’re having us on, aren’t you Officer Allen?” I said. “You see that high, high ceiling all those many meters up above? See how there’s no skywalk, no roof access?”

“Yeah?” said Allen.

“Now do you see this is the last vat in the line? Eleven vats down that way, but here, just the one. No ladder, either. Do you see?”

Gorilla Todd jumped to his feet and waved an arm over his head. “I know this one, robot! I know it!”

I nodded at him agreeably and opened up my chest slot with a bleep, bleep, bleep, CLACK. A high-protean banana cube flopped out and jiggled on the factory floor like jelly. All five-hundred pounds of Todd landed on it and gobbled.

“She materialized in the beer,” he said, smacking his lips. “And she aged on the spot. Some kind of schismatic time disruption, I think.”

“Very good, Gorilla,” I said. “You see, Officer Allen, once you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the—”

A hole tore open in the air above us. It went Riiiip, and then it stretched itself wide in a kaleidoscopic clash of colors and voices. Abraham Lincoln, the sixteenth President of the United States, fell through and landed on Officer Allen with a heavy thud.

Gorilla Todd shouted, “Holy cannoli! Who is that?”

“It’s Abraham Lincoln,” I said. “And he’s been shot!”

I checked my tertiary memory banks to be sure. The beard, the hat, it was Lincoln, all right. Bullet wound in the back of the head. He wasn’t dead yet. Eyes fluttering, gasping, but not dead yet. He’d arrived only moments after his famous assassination. Remarkable. His body aged on the spot, grew older by the second. Wrinkles, thinning skin, hair gone long, gray, brittle.

Allen wheezed like strangled bagpipes. He gave a final stifled groan, then he lay his head back, twitched, and went limp. I rushed over and checked him for a pulse.

“He’s dead, Gorilla,” I said. “The Great Emancipator snapped his neck.”

“Hmph. Don’t look too great to me.”

“Granted, though I’m certain he’s not at his best. Struck down by a cowardly actor. That’s democracy for you. What precisely are we dealing with, Gorilla?”

“Black magic?” said Todd.

“Doubtful.”

“Sinister Martian technology?”

“Highly unlikely, though you earn top marks for making me chuckle. No, Todd, our suspect resembles nothing so much as thin air.”

“What do you mean?”

I walked over to another vat and kicked at the release valve until golden nuclear beer gushed out and sprayed my feet. Bending low under the faucet, I proceeding to fill my robot super stomach with hoppy ale.

My jointed fingers tapped a supple syncopated rhythm on my forehead. Performed a million mental processes. A million plus fifty. The span of a single human heartbeat.

“Eureka!” I exclaimed. “The cause of the murderous spacetime schism is—”

Rather out of the blue, a naked caveman came screaming at us from the shadows. He shouted, “Gooba! Blabba!” and then proceeded to club me over the head with a tree branch.

“Ouch!” I shouted. “Help me, Todd, you great galoot!”

Gorilla Todd ripped the branch away and roared a mighty challenge. The caveman roared back. His skin rippled with flash wrinkles, hair going brittle and gray, just like Lincoln’s. Hearty fellow, he attacked Todd, ripped out a chunk of gorilla hair and fish-hooked my simian companion.

“You rotten mook!” Gorilla shouted, caveman fingers sliding in and out of his mouth. He wrapped his meaty hands round the caveman’s throat and began to throttle the poor fellow.

“Gorilla, no!” I said.

Five new holes ripped open in the air above us. One long, continuous Riiiip, and that same kaleidoscopic clash. Out of the holes fell a cute orange kitten, a young renaissance painter, a popular ancient professional football quarterback, a potted cactus, and lastly, Richard Milhous Nixon.

Nixon crumpled to the ground, got one look at Lincoln and shrieked, “Jesus Christ! What happened to that poor bastard?”

All of them aged. The kitten grew, got fat, got skinny, and died. The renaissance painter, fingers covered in vibrant red and green oils, said something in Italian about unfinished masterworks, choked on his tongue, and summarily expired.

“We gotta do something, Robot!” said Todd, still choking the dwindling, gasping caveman.

“Do what?” I said. “And stop choking that caveman!”

Nixon died screaming, gurgling, clawing at the air.

“Todd,” I said, “we have to dump the beer!”

“The beer?” said Todd.

“It’s a bad batch! It must be. There’s no murderer here. Tainted Zippy Beer has caused a schism in space and time!”

Seven more air holes ripped open. From them dropped a sea bass, the Marquis de Sade, two members of a light contemporary jazz quartet, an earth worm, Eddie Murphy, and a two hundred twenty-five foot tall California redwood tree.

The redwood thudded to the factory floor, split the concrete, rose and sprawled, broke through the high white ceiling. The factory lights flickered. Ceiling chunks rained down on us.

“The beer, Todd! Dump it!”

Todd let go the shriveled caveman. He leapt for the redwood, scaled its trunk hand-over-hand. He braced himself against the vat, pushed at it with all his might.

“It won’t budge!” he said.

Three more air holes ripped open. A snail, a circus elephant, a street vendor holding tacos.

Think. Think.

I tapped a rhythm on my forehead.

“Eureka!” I exclaimed.

I leapt for the tree, climbed for a branch, squared my shoulders, and then I dove into the beer.

In haste, I began to drink it, slurp it all up. My robot super stomach swelled. Five hundred gallons. Seven hundred, a thousand. The roiling, bloody fashion model beer, it washed down my throat at a hundred-thousand PSI. Rushing, roaring through my alloy sternum. My body rocked and strained. I groaned like industrial machinery.

“It’s working, Robot!” said Todd. “The holes are slowing down!”

A riip here, small rip there. And then it stopped.

Bodies grew old and died; the redwood rotted, split. Half fell and crushed the factory wall. In rushed the night air, our arid post-nuclear wind. Our city out there—Grim City One—twinkled like starlight. Bricks and heavy steel beams and girders fell all around us. Clouds of dust lifted and lingered until well after relative stillness had filled the factory.

Gorilla Todd gasped from exertion. He stumbled down from the remnants of the redwood and sat against its trunk, eyeing the bodies, all the destruction.

“You did it, Robot,” he said. “You’re a friggin’ genius, you know that?”

Of course I knew. I also knew I was big as a house. Big like a beer vat and just as full. Body engorged, I looked like a head swimming in sea of scrap metal, jammed into the vat like some kind of sardine.

“Tainted spacetime-schismatic beer,” I wheezed. “I might have known! Perhaps a super-accelerated atomic contaminant—a mutation in the solitary photosynthetic apparatus, for instance—exceeded localized time dilation barriers and generated contiguous Einstein-Rosen pathways. And to think, Albert Einstein believed time was non-real!”

“Erm, Ein-who?” said Todd.

“Call in a containment unit, Gorilla. Call in the best they’ve got. And get the Chief down here, too. I fear, Todd, our troubles are just beginning.”

Gorilla Todd huffed. He pondered a moment, and then his thick brow lifted as realization dawned.

“Oh no,” he said. “You don’t mean….”

“Precisely,” I replied. “In approximately thirty-nine minutes, I will have to void my robo-bladder like a racehorse. The game, as they say, my dear Gorilla Todd, is afoot.”

END


Jeff Bowles is a science fiction and horror writer from the mountains of Colorado. The best of his outrageous and imaginative work can be found in God’s Body: Book One – The Fall, Love/Madness/Demon, Godling and Other Paint Stories, Fear and Loathing in Las Cruces, and Brave New Multiverse. He has published work in magazines and anthologies like PodCastle, Tales from the Canyons of the Damned, the Threepenny Review, and Dark Moon Digest. Jeff earned his Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing at Western State Colorado University. He currently lives in the high-altitude Pikes Peak region, where he dreams strange dreams and spends far too much time under the stars. His latest novel, Resurrection Mixtape, is available on Amazon now.


Book Reviews: “The Unexpected Enlightenment of Rachel Griffin” & “Down to Dirt”

The Unexpected Enlightenment of Rachel Griffin

Hogwarts hasn’t got anything on Roanoke Academy and the magical world created by L. Jagi Lamplighter in The Unexpected Enlightenment of Rachel Griffin. Rachel Griffin has worked hard to prepare for attending, and now as one of the youngest students at Roanoke, she has a lot of expectations to uphold and her magic must be in top form to keep up with the rest of her class. But there is something amiss at Roanoke Academy; a new magic being used for ill gains, an assasin disguised as an agent, a princess who goes places whenever she touches certain people, and a raven which only Rachel can see. Rachel must figure out what is happening and how to battle the forces of evil which seem to be decending upon them and threaten to take over her magical world.

Skillfully crafted to offer up all the pieces for readers to put the puzzle together. It’ a lot shorter than the story about the kid with the owl but just as thoroughly entertaining. Rachel Griffin is a sharp young lady with magical inclinations that will win your heart and make you want more. I give The Unexpected Enlightenment of Rachel Griffin five quills.

Purchase Link: https://www.amazon.com/Unexpected-Enlightenment-Rachel-Griffin-Books-ebook/dp/B01FVJ7DAY

Down to Dirt

Down to Dirt, by Kevin Killiany is a wonderful young adult science fiction novel with an underlying social moral. after spending her whole life in space, Mara’s family decides to send her to visit her Earth bound relatives on what spacers call Dirt. She arrives on Earth fearful and a little confused, but within a few weeks she will come to question everything she has ever been taught about Dirt. With a little help from her cousin, Beth, and her friend Jael, who each in thier own way challenge the prejudices that came with her, Mara begins to see things in different light.

Down to Dirt addresses social issues via a fictional alternate timeline world to create a story which is both engaging and entertaining. I give it five quills.

Purchase Link: https://www.amazon.com/Down-Dirt-Stars-Book-ebook/dp/B01HDT14HI

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Join Kaye Lynne Booth & WordCrafter Press Readers’ Group for WordCrafter Press book & event news, including the awesome releases of author Kaye Lynne Booth. Get a free digital copy of her short story collection, Last Call and Other Short Fiction, as a sampling of her works just for joining.


Day 8 of the WordCrafter “Visions” Book Blog Tour

Visions Book Blog Tour

Today is Day 8 and we’re wrapping up the WordCrafter Visions Book Blog Tour here on Writing to be Read. We’ve had a fantastic tour for this unique fantasy, science fiction, and horror anthology. For anyone who might have missed a stop along the way, you’ll find links to each stop below. Note that they will not work until each post goes live. We’re running a great digital giveaway and all it takes to enter is a comment, so visit any stops you missed and leave a comment so I know you were there.

Monday – October 17 – Guest Post – Billie Holladay Skelley & Winning Story Interview with Roberta Eaton Cheadle – Writing to be Read

Tuesday – October 18 – Guest Post – Michaele Jordan & Review – Patty’s World

Wednesday – October 19 – Guest Post – D.L. Mullan – The Showers of Blessings

Thursday – October 20 – Guest Post – C.R. Johanssen & Review – Robbie’s Inspiration

Friday – October 21 – Guest Post – Patty L. Fletcher & Review – Zigler’s News

Saturday – October 22 – Guest Post – Jeff Bowles – Writing to be Read & Interview w/ Kaye Lynne Booth on SaraWesleyMcBride

Sunday – October 23 – Guest Post – Stephanie Kraner & Review – Roberta Writes

Monday – October 24 – Guest Post – Joseph Carabis – Writing to be Read & Review – Undawnted

Digital Giveaway

Three digital copies of Visions will go to three lucky winners.

Enter at each stop just by leaving a comment so I know you were there.

Follow the tour, comment at each stop, and learn more about this exceptional anthology.

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Visions

Grab your copy today from your favorite book distributor through the Books2Read UBL: https://books2read.com/u/49Lk28

About the Book

An author’s visions are revealed through their stories. Many authors have strange and unusual stories, indeed. Within these pages, you will find the stories of eighteen different authors, each unique and thought provoking. These are the fantasy, science fiction, paranormal, and horror stories that will keep you awake long into the night.

What happens when:

An inexplicable monster plagues a town for generations, taking people… and souvenirs?

A post-apocalyptic band of travelers finds their salvation in an archaic machine?

The prey turns out to be the predator for a band of human traffickers?

Someone chooses to be happy in a world where emotions are regulated and controlled?

A village girl is chosen to be the spider queen?

Grab your copy today and find out. Let authors such as W.T. Paterson, Joseph Carabis, Kaye Lynne Booth, Michaele Jordan, Stephanie Kraner, and others, including the author of the winning story in the WordCrafter 2022 Short Fiction Contest, Roberta Eaton Cheadle, tantalize your thoughts and share their

Visions

From Kaye Lynne Booth, editor of Once Upon an Ever After: Modern Fairy Tales & Folklore, Refracted Reflections: Twisted Tales of Duality & Deception and Gilded Glass: Twisted Myths & Shattered Fairy Tales.

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For today’s tour stop, we have a guest post by contributing author, Joseph Carrabis, here on Writing to be Read, and then over on Undawnted, DL Mullan has a review of his story, “Marianne”.

Guest Post

The Genesis of Marianne 


Marianne originally was Mitre and dealt with how grown children deal with a senile parent. It was set at an ocean front home and many of the plot points in Mitre made it through to Marianne, except Mitre presented a dim view of people professing Christianity in order to avoid unpleasant responsibilities, and Mitre – a devout Catholic and an immigrant – is senile throughout the story.
The original Mitre draft – written sometime in the early 1970s. I was a live-in groundsman/driver/bodyguard for a wealthy family who lived in a mansion on the ocean – never worked for me although I appreciated the idea behind it and most of the plot points, so into a drawer it went (we didn’t have computers back then). I rewrote it twice in 1988 (at which point it made it into a computer), twice again in 1998, then again in 2013, 2015, 2017, twice in 2018 and ’19, and remained unsatisfied although I knew each rewrite got closer to the core story. I rewrote it four times in 2020 which is when Mitre became Marianne and I realized what wasn’t working for me. It took me four more rewrites to get the characters’ voices, the fantasy concept, the myth induction, and associated elements to work to my satisfaction.
Here are some specifics:

  • What worked
    • the low character count. Good short stories are rarely Cecile B. DeMille productions.
    • The family dynamic.
    • The relationship between Mitre/Marianne and her deceased husband.
    • The oceanfront home setting.
    • Licorice.
  • What didn’t work
    • Ragging on Christianity/Christians – too easy a target.
    • The introduction of a Catholic, immigrant background – not relevant, red herrings, and weakened the story line.
    • Poor storycrafting.
  • What I liked originally – The resolution.
  • Why I couldn’t let the story go – I don’t think I’ve ever let anything go. I have close to 16G of stories, novels, plot lines, characters, settings, et cetera, on my hard disk waiting for me to finish them. Specific to Mitre/Marianne, I couldn’t let go of the victimization and abuse of the elderly idea (even though it came to me long before it was a recognized cultural concern).

About Joseph Carrabis

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That wraps up up today’s tour stop on Writing to be Read, but be sure to drop over to Undawnted for a review of “Marianne” by DL Mullan.

Also, Joseph ran his own set of blog posts on the anthology, with sixteen contribiuting authors featured. His posts can be found as follows.

Janet Garber & “The Treatment”

Michaele Jordan & “Farewell, My Miko”


Stephanie Kraner & “Here, Now, Wherever”


Jeff Bowles & “Wilding of the Painted World”


Billie Holladay Skelley & “Secret Thoughts”


Sara Wesley McBride & “The Devil’s Bridge” & “The Haunted Palazzo”


Leah Cutter & “Survivor”


Roberta Eaton Cheadle & “The Bite”

Julie Jones & “Tourist Trap”


DL Mullan & “Reality Hackers”


Christa Planko & “The Vanishing Tattoo”


Patty L. Fletcher & “The Portal Brings Christmas Love”


Kaye Lynne Booth & If You’re Happy and You Know It”

Zack Ellafy & “At the Mountains, Majesty”

C.R. Johanssen & “Her Beholder”


Joseph Carrabis & “Marianne”

Thank you all so much for joining us and I hope you all enjoyed this tour as much as I have. There’s still time to get more entries in the giveaway by visiting each stop through the links at the top of the page. I will post the winners for the giveaway tomorrow in a special announcement post.

And don’t forget to grab your copy of Visions.

Purchase Link: https://books2read.com/u/49Lk28

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Book your WordCrafter Book Blog Tour today!


Welcome to the WordCrafter “Visions” Book Blog Tour

Visions Book Blog Tour

Welcome the the WordCrafter Visions Book Blog Tour, where we are celebrating the release of the Visions anthology, which will be out tomorrow, October 18. But it is also available for pre-order now. It’s a fantastic science fiction, fantasy & horror anthology filled with nineteen unique stories and we have an amazing eight day tour planned to honor the occasion. With a guest post for each day; two seperate interviews: one with the author of the 2022 WordCrafter Short Fiction Contest, Roberta Eaton Cheadle, also known to many of us as Robbie, and contributing author Sara Wesley McBride will also interview me; three reviews; and a fantastic digital giveaway, this tour promises to be full of surprises. Join us and help send Visions off right.

Schedule

(The links below won’t work until each post goes live)

Monday – October 17 – Guest Post – Billie Holladay Skelley & Winning Story Interview with Roberta Eaton Cheadle – Writing to be Read

Tuesday – October 18 – Guest Post – Michaele Jordan & Review – Patty’s World

Wednesday – October 19 – Guest Post – D.L. Mullan – The Showers of Blessings

Thursday – October 20 – Guest Post – C.R. Johanssen & Review – Robbie’s Inspiration

Friday – October 21 – Guest Post – Patty L. Fletcher & Review – Zigler’s News

Saturday – October 22 – Guest Post – Jeff Bowles – Writing to be Read & Interview w/ Kaye Lynne Booth on SaraWesleyMcBride

Sunday – October 23 – Guest Post & Review – Stephanie Kraner – Roberta Writes

Monday – October 24 – Guest Post – Joseph Carabis – Writing to be Read & Review – Undawnted

Digital Giveaway

We’re doing a digital giveaway which offers copies of Visions to three lucky winners, and you can enter at each stop just by leaving a comment so I know you were there. So, follow the tour and comment at each stop for a chance to win or just to learn more about this exceptional anthology at the same time.

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Today’s blog tour stop is a double treat, with a guest post by Billie Holladay Skelley about her story, “Secret Thoughts”, and then an interview with Roberta Eaton Cheadle about her story, “The Bite”. So without further ado, I will turn this over to Billie. Please help me welcome Billie Holladay Skelley.

Guest Post

My inspiration for “Secret Thoughts” came from several places, but the first source was the actual history itself. The gunfight described in my story, between James Butler “Wild Bill” Hickok and Davis Tutt, actually occurred on July 21, 1865. It took place in the town square of Springfield, Missouri, and the city of Springfield has preserved the details of the fight. The actual site has become a popular tourist attraction. At the time of the duel, Hickok was not widely known, and his “Wild Bill” persona had not been established, but the shootout served to accelerate his prominence and legend.

There are various accounts regarding the source of the disagreement between Hickok and Tutt, but many believe it started with gambling debts and escalated when Tutt took Hickok’s prize watch as collateral. Tutt wore the watch in public to humiliate Hickok, and that certainly elevated the dispute.

After the duel, Hickok initially was charged with murder, but the charge was reduced to manslaughter. His trial lasted three days, and the jury decided the killing was justified—and Hickok was acquitted. Apparently, in 1865, humiliating a man by wearing his watch in public justified the deadly use of firearms.

What attracted me to this story was the actual shootout, and the fact that it was one of the few one-on-one, face-to-face, quick-draw duels that ever occurred. This type of shootout was quite rare in the Wild West—even though Hollywood movies have taken every opportunity to invent and popularize them. 

The actual shot Hickok made also intrigued me because, by many accounts, it would have been a very difficult shot to make—considering the distance and the firearms used. Hickok truly must have been a remarkable marksman.

I also was inspired by Hickok’s colorful life (1837-1876) as a whole. While several events in his life have been sensationalized, Hickok did have many interesting occupations, and he did experience many violent encounters. He also died relatively young. Eleven years after the duel in my story, Hickok was shot in the back of the head while playing poker. When he died, he was holding two pair—aces and eights—which he reportedly grasped tightly in a death grip. Ever since, these cards have been known as the “Dead Man’s Hand.”

As I researched Hickok’s life, I became increasingly intrigued by what makes a man (or woman) stand out, be recorded, and be remembered in history. I kept thinking about what spark, trait, or events align that make one person be more notable than another. Obviously, James Butler Hickok had an extraordinary life, even if some of the events in his life were sensationalized—and I started thinking, in terms of the story, what if he did have a secret advantage—or a secret talent that contributed to his success and augmented his fame.

I didn’t want to make him a “superhero” with over-the-top powers. I just wanted him to have a slight advantage that was highly useful. When I consider the paranormal genre, I usually focus on things like telekinesis or clairvoyance—so it seemed logical to proceed along those lines.

I hope readers enjoy “Secret Thoughts,” but I also hope it makes them think about what characteristics, talents, and events make a legend. What do those people have that makes them stand out from others and that makes them be remembered? It’s interesting to consider what their “secret” talents might be.

About Billie Holladay Skelley

Billie Holladay Skelleyreceived her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.Now retired from working as a cardiovascular and thoracic surgery clinical nurse specialist and nursing educator, she enjoys focusing on her writing. Billie has written several health-related articles for both professional and lay journals, but her writing crosses several different genres and has appeared in various journals, magazines, and anthologies in print and online—ranging from the American Journal of Nursing  to Chicken Soup for the Soul. An award-winning author, she has written eleven books for children and teens. Her book, Ruth Law: The Queen of the Air, was recently selected to receive the 2021 American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) Children’s Literature Award. 

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Visions

You can get your copy today from your favorite distributor at the link below.

Purchase link: https://books2read.com/u/49Lk28

About the Book

An author’s visions are revealed through their stories. Many authors have strange and unusual stories, indeed. Within these pages, you will find the stories of eighteen different authors, each unique and thought provoking. These are the fantasy, science fiction, paranormal, and horror stories that will keep you awake long into the night.

What happens when:

An inexplicable monster plagues a town for generations, taking people… and souvenirs?

A post-apocalyptic band of travelers finds their salvation in an archaic machine?

The prey turns out to be the predator for a band of human traffickers?

Someone chooses to be happy in a world where emotions are regulated and controlled?

A village girl is chosen to be the spider queen?

Grab your copy today and find out. Let authors such as W.T. Paterson, Joseph Carabis, Kaye Lynne Booth, Michaele Jordan, Stephanie Kraner, and others, including the author of the winning story in the WordCrafter 2022 Short Fiction Contest, Roberta Eaton Cheadle, tantalize your thoughts and share their

Visions

From Kaye Lynne Booth, editor of Once Upon an Ever After: Modern Fairy Tales & Folklore, Refracted Reflections: Twisted Tales of Duality & Deception and Gilded Glass: Twisted Myths & Shattered Fairy Tales.

Visions – Eighteen talented authors, nineteen unique stories

Roberta Eaton Cheadle’s story, “The Bite” was chosen as the winner of the 2022 WordCrafter Short Fiction Contest, and is included in the Visions anthology. As a special treat, Roberta has agred to answer a few questions about her story, the anthology and winning the contest, as well as her own writing pratcies. Let’s see what she has to say.

Interview with Roberta Eaton Cheadle

Where did you get the idea for “The Bite”?

“The Bite” was inspired by the Tarantella Dance which I learned about through fellow blogger, Rebecca Budd. We had a bit of a chat about this dance in the comments section on a post and I was sufficiently interested to look up the dance and what its origins were believed to be.

The Tarantella is an Italian Folk Dance that has a history and mythology that spans several centuries. One of the possible sources of origin for the dance relates to a cure for a bite from a Tarantula, Arania or Apulcian Spider. The dance was used as a cure for the poison from the bite. Town people would play non-stop music and the victim would dance to sweat out the poison and avoid succumbing to it.

I used a Wolf Spider for my story as I discovered accidently that the female Wolf Spiders eat the males, unless he is bigger.

How did you react when you learned that “The Bite” was the winning story in the 2022 WordCrafter Short Fiction Contest?

I was honoured and proud. I felt very encouraged that my short story was selected among so many excellent stories as one the judge particularly enjoyed and appreciated.

What’s something most readers would never guess about you?

Most readers don’t know that I worked as a spinning instructor in our local gym for five years before I fell pregnant with Gregory. I used to teach 10 classes a week. I also used to cycle and participated in the famous Argus Cycle Race in Cape Town a few times.

Besides writing, what are your favorite things to do?

I like to read, especially family dramas, classics, war, paranormal and dystopia. I am a little selective with horror and its sub-genres. I don’t like unnecessary blood and guts, and the plot needs to be clever for me to appreciate it.

I enjoy fondant art which is effectively the same as sculpturing with clay. I like creating art works using my fondant figurines and cake or gingerbread structures. I use these to illustrate my children’s books and some of my adult poems. Some of my cake art is a personal response to issues like climate change and the Sixth Mass Extinction which is currently taking place.

I like to cook and am currently running a series on my art and poetry blog called “Recipes from Around the World”. I am sharing my amended and personalized recipes for popular dishes like Greek moussaka and Durban Chicken Curry. I can never follow a recipe without changing it for my personal preferences.

I enjoy writing poetry and am currently judging the haiku and poetry categories for a local writing competition.

I also participate in corporate social initiatives that provide funding and other aid to charities. I am particularly interested in initiatives involving children and the elderly.

Which author/poet, dead or alive, would you love to have lunch with?

Hmmm! To be honest, I would prefer not to meet up with any of my favourite authors. I have my own mental image of what they are like as people and I would rather retain it than have it replaced with the real facts. I understand from what I’ve read that two of my favourite children’s authors, Roald Dahl and Enid Blyton, were not very nice people in real life.

You also write children’s books with your son, Michael. Do the two genres have anything in common?

I do not have one specific genre I write, although I do favour historical and paranormal with my adult writing. The Sir Chocolate Series, which I write with Michael, is fantasy and is set in Chocolate Land where you can eat everything. The lead characters, Sir Chocolate and Lady Sweet, go about Chocolate Land helping their friends put wrong things right.

My adult writing is always based on a real fact set which I either retell from a historical paranormal point of view, or weave into a fantasy setting as I did with “The Bite”.

The two genres don’t have anything in common, although my children’s books for older children, Silly Willy Goes to Cape Town and While the Bombs Fell, are both fictionalized memoirs of a part of my own life and a part of my mother’s life, respectively.

If writing suddenly made you rich and famous, what would you do?

I don’t think my life would change much if I suddenly became better know as an author. I already do many of the things I want to do and like doing, for example visiting game farms and historical sites locally and travelling to the UK and Europe to tour and visit family.

I have decided to continue in my day job for the next few years at least as I am easily bored, and don’t think writing full time would suit me. I write better when I must squeeze it in around other commitments, strangely enough. It is how I am wired.

What are your secrets for juggling writing with family?

My sons are older now, so they don’t need [read that as want] as much attention from me. I write and blog early in the morning on weekdays. I also get up early on weekend mornings and write from 6am to about 8.30am. Sometimes, I read blog posts during my 30 minutes of lunch, and I also do social media activities while waiting in queues or for various appointments or meetings. I listen to audio books while I drive and do household chores. I don’t spend as much time writing as a lot of other authors I know because I just don’t have that time.

How do you decide the titles for your stories? Where does the title come in the process for you?

Usually, I have worked out most of the details of a story, short or long, in my head before I start writing. In particular, I usually have the ending. As a result, I often have the title before I start writing, but sometimes I change it. I changed the title of Through the Nethergate, which has a double meaning, and which was deliberate. Nethergate is the street in Bungay where my mother’s childhood home is located. This street features in the story. The Nether Gate in Norse mythology is also the gateway to the afterlife, Nether being the place of the dead.

My title “The Bite” was also a bit of a deliberate deception as I knew readers would initially think my villain was a vampire…

What do you think is the single most important element in a story?

The ending. There is nothing worse than reading a wonderful book and then the ending is a let down (IT by Stephen King always comes to mind – a giant spider; come on!)

What’s the best piece of advice you were ever given?

With regards to writing, starting a blog was good advice. My brother-in-law suggested it as a good way for me to meet other writers and readers, to develop relationships in the writing and publishing communities, and to learn more. He was right. My blog has been my single most worthwhile endeavor as a novice writer, and I have developed and learned through the generosity of the blogging community.

What advice do you have for aspiring authors/poets/screenwriters?

You must be thick skinned and tenacious. You will never please everyone. Take on board constructive criticism that helps you and ignore the rest. I am of the view that some people get satisfaction from judging another person’s efforts to achieve. Jealousy is the most destructive of all human emotions in my opinion. I always keep that in mind when I do anything, be it writing, working, baking, blogging, or cooking. I’ve had people make comments about my taste in literature, some admiring, some collaborative, and some condemning. Take it in your stride and keep moving forward.

“The Bite” is a horror story and you’ve had stories in other horror anthologies, as well as some paranormal ones. Do you enjoy reading horror? And what is the attraction of writing horror for you?

I am not a big reader of horror; I prefer the paranormal history, paranormal thriller, and dystopia sub-genres of horror. I do not like mindless butchering and bloodshed in books and I don’t read that sort of horror book.

I enjoy books that have clever plots and are unique and innovative. I don’t mind death in stories, I include a lot of death in my own writing, but it must add to the story and give colour to the setting and storyline.

My favourite books are The Shining and The Stand, both by Stephen King, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and anything by Edgar Allan Poe. I also love war books and am endlessly fascinated by the psychology of war.

Do you prefer writing short stories or novel length works? Why?

I prefer short stories. Novels take too long to write as I am a slow and methodic researcher and writer. I tend to lose interest if things drag on.

A Ghost and His Gold is long at 118,000 words. I wrote that during the pandemic and lockdowns which enables for me with regards to writing time. There was nothing much else to do, no travel, no dinners out, no entertaining. With life having returned to normal now, I am finding getting a novel finished difficult.

What is the biggest challenge for you when writing short fiction?

I can’t say I can think of a specific challenge to writing any kind of fiction, short or long, other than finding time to write and edit. The story ideas come, and I keep them in my head as a skeleton until I want them. Luckily, I don’t forget things. I have an unusually retentive memory. That is also why I don’t re-read books; I always remember the ending if it was good enough for me to consider re-reading it. I sometimes re-read books for the love of the language and the writing. Dracula falls into that category for me, that book has the most remarkable descriptions.  

What is the best thing about having a story featured in an anthology?

I enjoy anthologies for two reasons.

Firstly, it is a good way of keeping my name and reputation as a writer out there in the public eye. Writing a few short stories isn’t an insurmountable effort for me (it takes me about 3 weeks to finish a short story, depending on the length, and another week to polish it up), and it enables me to add a book collection to my name and to advertise it on my social media. I view the anthologies I have participated in as feathers in my writing cap and the more I participate in, the more the writing world sees my name attached to a book.

Secondly, I like meeting new authors and writing friends. In an anthology setting, many of the contributors step up to help market the book and that means your work and name is seen by new readers who might be sufficiently interested to seek out your other works.

I also just like socializing with people who have an interest in writing and reading. This world makes me feel comfortable and happy.

Do you write with music, or do you prefer quiet?

Absolutely no music when I write. I can tolerate high levels of background noise, but music distracts me.

What goals do you set for yourself in your writing?

I am working on becoming better known as a children’s writer in South Africa and elsewhere. I have joined the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators which is international and has a branch locally. My membership of SCBWI has helped me meet other South Africans involved in writing and illustrating children’s books and I have had opportunities to profile my work, in particular my illustrations, at various events which is pleasing and helpful.

I am planning another children’s book, Dinah in Wonderland, with my son, Michael, for publication next year.

On the adult writing side, I am working on a book of poetry called Lion Scream which is about the Sixth Mass Extinction and African animals. It will also include some of my wildlife photographs and videos.

I am also working on a collection of short stories set in South Africa and have completed three stories to date. I have ideas for several more in my head.

I have written the first four chapters of After the Bombs Fell, a sequel to While the Bombs Fell, which I plan to work on next year after my December research trip to the UK.

The Soldier and the Radium Girl and The Creeping Change are both also lurking. They are each around 50,000 words to date, but my interest has flagged so they are currently on hold until my enthusiasm returns.

About Roberta Eaton Cheadle

Roberta Eaton Cheadle is a South African writer and poet specialising in historical, paranormal, and horror novels and short stories. She is an avid reader in these genres and her writing has been influenced by famous authors, including Bram Stoker, Edgar Allan Poe, Amor Towles, Stephen Crane, Enrich Maria Remarque, George Orwell, Stephen King, and Colleen McCullough.

Roberta has short stories and poems in several anthologies and has two published novels:

* Through the Nethergate, a historical supernatural fantasy; and

* A Ghost and His Gold, a historical paranormal novel set in South Africa.

Roberta has eleven children’s books published under the name Robbie Cheadle.

Roberta was educated at the University of South Africa, where she achieved a Bachelor of Accounting Science in 1996 and an Honours Bachelor of Accounting Science in 1997. She was admitted as a member of The South African Institute of Chartered Accountants in 2000.

Roberta has worked in corporate finance from 2001 until the present date and has written seven publications relating to investing in Africa. She has won several awards over her 20-year career in the category of Transactional Support Services.

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That wraps up Day 1 of the WordCrafter Visions Book Blog Tour. Join us tomorrow over at Patty’s World, with a guest post from contributing author, Michaele Jordan about her story, “Farewell, My Miko”. And don’t forget to leave a comment for an entry in the digital giveaway.


Zack Ellafy and “At the Mountains, Majesty” in Visions

Visions

https://josephcarrabis.com/2022/10/15/zack-ellafys-at-mountains-majesty-now-in-visions-anthology/

Thanks to contributing author Joseph Carrabis giving us a taste of the stories in the new Visions anthology from WordCrafter Press. Follow the link to learn more.

Preorder Now:https://books2read.com/u/49Lk28


Kaye Lynne Booth and “If You’re Happy and You Know It” in Visions

Visions

https://josephcarrabis.com/2022/10/14/kaye-lynn-booths-if-youre-happy-and-you-know-it-now-in-visions-anthology/

Thanks to contributing author Joseph Carrabis giving us a taste of the stories in the new Visions anthology from WordCrafter Press. Follow the link to learn more.

Preorder Now:https://books2read.com/u/49Lk28


DL Mullan and “Reality Hackers” in Visions

Visions

https://josephcarrabis.com/2022/10/11/dl-mullans-the-reality-hackers-now-in-visions-anthology/

Thanks to contributing author Joseph Carrabis giving us a taste of the stories in the new Visions anthology from WordCrafter Press. Follow the link to learn more.

Preorder Now:https://books2read.com/u/49Lk28


Julie Jones and “Tourist Trap”in Visions

Visions

https://josephcarrabis.com/2022/10/09/julie-joness-tourist-trap-now-in-visions-anthology/

Thanks to contributing author Joseph Carrabis giving us a taste of the stories in the new Visions anthology from WordCrafter Press. Follow the link to learn more.

Preorder Now:https://books2read.com/u/49Lk28


Billie Holladay Skelley and “Secret Thoughts” in Visions

Visions

https://josephcarrabis.com/2022/10/05/billie-holladay-skelleys-secret-thoughts-now-in-visions-anthology/

Thanks to contributing author Joseph Carrabis giving us a taste of the stories in the new Visions anthology from WordCrafter Press. Follow the link to learn more.

Pre-order now: https://books2read.com/u/49Lk28