Tag Archives: indie fiction

6 Weeks til Minstrel

Minstrel Cover

In exactly 42 days, Minstrel will be available in eBook and print formats. Now that I type that out, it feels a lot longer than saying “six weeks.”

However, with projects going on like the Fall Flash Festival, AMMC, and the Jingle Bells anthology, those six weeks will probably fly by as we rush to make these deadlines. But these six weeks are going to be full of excitement and anticipation.

In two weeks, I’ll have a surprise to offer. This surprise will only be free on specific days. (No, it’s not Minstrel. We all have to wait until November 5th for that.) To keep updated, and know when you can snag this surprise, “like” and follow my Facebook page. I will only be posting the links on there!

Thank you! Now go out and enjoy those fall leaves.

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Grandma’s Christmas Sweaters

This story is for AMMC: A Merry Minion Christmas (AMMC-DFQ). Details and submission guidelines can be found here:

  • Grandma’s Christmas Sweaters by Marissa Ames
  • Ebook: YES

 This story is dedicated to Ralinda, Kaylee, and Andee. Merry Christmas! I send you joy, love, laughter, and reasons to never wear those sweaters.

ugly sweater cookies

Grandma knitted sweaters every year, from January to November, and gifted them in December. She intertwined yarn into elaborate Christmas trees, stars, and snowy woodland scenes. Grandma’s sweaters reminded me of Care Bears spreading Christmas love with bedazzled belly magic.

Every year, I got a sweater from Grandma. Knowing what lay inside, I tore into the box with practiced enthusiasm. I pulled out the mass of festive yarn and held it up to the light of the Christmas tree, gushing about the love and attention she must have taken, just for me.

Then I tucked the sweater back in the box. Twelve boxes sat in my closet, neatly stacked in the far corner behind my old stuffed animals.

“Grandma’s visiting for a week,” mom told us. “It would be nice if you wore one of those sweaters while she was here.”

I groaned and slumped, but Sarah agreed. Nine-year-olds know nothing about making a stand for fashion.

When Grandma arrived, Sarah waited at the door in a red and green monstrosity. Grandma’s hot pink lips stretched taut over her dentures as she pinched Sarah’s cheeks.

Sarah grabbed Grandma’s wrinkled, spotted hand. “Wanna bake cookies, Gramma?” With that pink smile in place, Grandma waddled into the kitchen after Sarah.

“Where’s your sweater?” mom asked from behind me.

“I’ll wear it closer to Christmas,” I promised.

The second day, Sarah wore a fuzzy white garment bedazzled with blue rhinestone snowflakes as she held Grandma’s yarn. Mom raised her eyebrows as I passed in my t-shirt. I shrugged and moved into the yarn-free zone.

“You’re going to disappoint her,” mom accused the next morning.

I shrugged and continued texting.

“Sarah’s learning how to knit, and you’re ignoring your Grandma. Just wear the sweater, just once.”

“I will,” I whined, annoyed that I had to look up from my phone.

On the fourth day, I lacerated my foot in Sarah’s room. “You left knitting needles on the floor,” I said, picking up the bloody awl. “Where did you get these needles?”

“From Gramma,” she said, coiling yarn around her wrist. “What should I make with this?”

I shook my head. “You’re getting weird,” I said, hobbling away to find a Band-Aid.

Mom wouldn’t leave me alone. “Wear a sweater,” she said, grabbing her hem and stretching it down for emphasis, warping the snowman on the front. “Honestly, what harm could come of wearing one?”

“I don’t know,” I argued between texts. “I can’t risk it.”

Mom rolled her eyes. “Come to dinner.”

“What are we having?” I asked without looking up from my phone.

“Something soft, with lots of fiber,” she said as she shuffled out of my room.

I woke at 4am to the aroma of chocolate chip cookies. I rubbed my eyes and followed the smell to the kitchen. Decked in boughs of sweater holly, Sarah removed a tray from the oven. On the table, hundreds of cookies cascaded onto the lace runner. She had to have been baking for hours to acquire that many.

I squeaked, “What are you doing? How long have you been baking?”

“Oh, don’t bother her,” Mom said from behind me. I turned to see her sway past me, wearing slippers and a housecoat, with a red Santa sweater overtop of the coat.

Sarah set the cookie tray on a trivet. “Eat some,” she said. “You need some meat on those bones.” I flinched back as she tried to pinch my cheek.

On day six, I opened Sarah’s underwear drawer to borrow a pair of socks. She wouldn’t miss one pair, and I’d have it washed and back in the drawer by tomorrow. The drawer rattled as I pulled it out. My mouth fell open.

Instead of socks, Sarah’s drawer was filled with knitting needles of assorted sizes. Hundreds of needles, jammed tightly. I pulled out other drawers to find the same thing: hoarded knitting needles.

“Mom!” I called, wandering about the room.

All of Sarah’s clothes sat in a pile in her closet. On her hangers, bags of yarn dangled. A housecoat draped over her headboard. Eight pair of slippers peeked from beneath the bed.

“Mom!” I yelled again, hustling out of the room.

Mom sat in the living room, entwining two long, slender sticks into a network of yarn. Sarah sat on one side of her, and Grandma sat on the other. Reindeer pranced across their chests, ending in a knitted sleigh on Sarah’s sweater. On the coffee table sat glasses of Metamucil.

Mom looked up from her knitting. “Do I have to tell you again?” She glared at my designer shirt. “Go put on a sweater!”

I sprinted to my room and yanked my phone out of my pocket.

“911. What is your emergency?”

“Um…” It sounded stupid even before I said it. “My Grandma’s Christmas sweaters are turning my family into old-person zombies,” I blurted out.

The operator paused. I heard snickering in the background. In a professional and appropriately prudish voice, she said, “Miss, abuse of the 911 system is a crime. If this is not a real emergency, you need to hang up right now or I will inform the police.”

Tears stung my eyes as I watched my thumb hover over the touch screen. The police would not believe me. I lowered my thumb to the “end” icon.

That night I fell asleep with the light on as mom, Grandma, and Sarah baked fruitcake until dawn.

“Wake up,” Sarah called, shaking my shoulder. “It’s Christmas!”

I groaned and rubbed my eyes. Exhausted, I had fallen asleep in a chilly room and had woken up cozy and comfortable. I folded my wool-covered arms and sighed.

Mom, Grandma, and Sarah all hovered above me.

“Merry Christmas!” Mom greeted me, pinching my cheek. “What do you want for breakfast?”

I ran my hands over my belly, feeling the texture of miniature plastic lights beneath my palms. Sitting up, I adjusted the green sweater over my chest and said, “Stewed prunes.”

Read other stories from this project here:

A Merry Minion Christmas: The Evolution of a Fantastical Anthology

On behalf of LauraNick & Ruth & myself (Missy) I’d like to introduce (drum roll please……)

red dragon

Photo Credit: zazzle.com

AMMC-DFQ – Rules and Guidelines

A Merry Minion Christmas: Assorted Tales from the Realm of the Dark Fairy Queen

In the style of the #DFQWBS that brought many of us together, we’re now collaborating on a Christmas anthology. This project is open to members of the Facebook group Dark Fairy Queen and her Brilliant Minions. If you are not a part of this group and would like to contribute, please contact the owner of this blog for details. This is a free publication, with no royalties. However, an eBook will be available for download upon completion. If we receive over 50 contributions, the book will be available for print, for only the cost of printing and shipping. By submitting to the project, you agree to these conditions.

1. The submissions may begin on September 23rd with a final deadline of October 28th. This deadline is critical to produce a book by December.

2. The theme is a “Fantastical Christmas.” Use fantastical elements, even if they’re elements you believe in but someone else doesn’t. Examples include dragons, monsters, angels, fairies, magic, etc.

3. Tales must be between 500-1000 words in length. If necessary, we can allow some leeway, but no more than 50 words to either side.

4. Stories with dark, gory, romantic, or religions tones are all allowed and encouraged. Soapboxes are not. You are welcome and encouraged to write within your genre or religious element. However, if the editors feel you have slandered another culture, religion, or lack of religion, we will politely ask you to change the focus of your story.

5. Because this book may be read by younger children, keep your story within PG-13 guidelines. No f-bombs, sex scenes, or explicitly gory details, please.

6. You may make up to three submissions. Each submission must be a separate, complete story within 1000 words.

7. Each submission must be “satisfying,” i.e. a complete scene, leaving no unanswered questions or cliffhangers.

8. You may dedicate each story to someone as a Christmas gift, using up to two lines for your dedication.

9. Stories should be posted on your own website, or hosted on another writer’s website. If you would like to keep your dedication a secret, approach someone else within the #DFQ group about hosting your story. If you do not have a blog or do not know someone willing to host your story, message us – Laura James, Missy Ames, Nick Johns, Ruth Long via the FB group AMMC.

10. Each story must have a Title and Author Name, and “eBook Yes (or No)” to indicate your willingness to have it included within an eBook.

11. By tagging your story with #AMMC-DFQ and indicating “eBook Yes,” you agree to the publishing conditions mentioned above.

12. We will create a Facebook group (AMMC) to contain discussion of this anthology until its completion. Follow us on Twitter using the hashtag #AMMC-DFQ. Soon, a link code will be added to this post, which will connect all of our contributions.

13. Please use the following formatting, to make editors’ lives easier:

• Use double quotes for speech
• Use a blank line after each paragraph

*****

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We are pleased to announce that Blue Harvest Creative is on board to for our cover design and formatting! This will be a beautiful finished product. So start thinking up your Christmas tales! We look forward to reading about your romance, mystery, crimes, dark tales, and passion. About fairies, angels, dragons, zombies, elves… or zombie elves! About the beginnings of your traditions, or the nuances of them now, through a fantasy element. We’re excited to see what everyone brings to the book!

To #Free or not to #free – the question with varying answers

Today, author Ashley Fontainne illustrated her experience with a self-publishing option that may sound too good to be true.

free sign

She writes,

I have been asked this question so many times during the last two years that I’ve lost count (math is not my forte). The variable that dictated my response was when the question was posed to me. Confused? I know, so please let me explain…

When Amazon first started the KDP (Kindle Direct Select) program in December of 2011, I was still a fresh faced recruit in the publishing world. My first novel, Accountable to None, hit the virtual shelves April 22, 2011. Since I was a newcomer with no audience yet, sales were slow.

Imagine a turtle crossing the frozen tundra in Alaska during a blizzard–that slow.

(Okay, so I know that’s a turtle in the sand, but I couldn’t find an actual turtle in the snow–use your imagination).

By the time the announcement of this new option from Amazon arrived in my inbox in early December, I believe the tally of total book sales was less than four hundred. I had joined a few author/reader groups on Facebook, started accounts on Twitter, Goodreads and LinkedIn, etc., and generally just stumbled my way around while I watched and tried to learn from more seasoned authors.

So, the day the offer to sign up for the KDP program arrived, I read through the email to learn more about the program. You sign up for 90 days with your book, agree to allow Amazon to be the exclusive online retailer and in exchange, allow your books to be “borrowed” by Amazon subscribers of the Prime program. For each “borrow” you are in the pot for (at the time) a share of $750,000. Plus, you get the chance to list your book for FREE for up to 5 days during each 90-day period of enrollment. Sounded like a great program to me! Unknown authors such as myself would be afforded the opportunity to get their books in front of potentially millions of Kindle users when their book went from “paid” to “free.”

How did Ashely’s work do on the KDP program? Read her post here…

Why Fantasy?

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We’ve heard it all. You can’t be a hardcore fantasy fan this long without hearing it.

“You’re just trying to escape.”
“You live in a fantasy world.”
“Oh, you’re one of them.”

(I’ll take that last one as a compliment.)

It’s not about trying to go off and live with dragons and princesses. I got over that when I was ten. It’s not about wishing I had a different life. My life is very blissful, though perhaps just a tiny bit boring. As most long-term fans of fantasy will tell you, it’s not about any of that.

We all have our ways to divert ourselves. Television and movies, sports, and family outings all give us moments above our daily tedium. On television, the escapism can range from train-wreck reality shows to watching chefs create amazing masterpieces, to the HBO re-creation of the latest popular author.

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Have you noticed how many of the new movies and series are fantasy? A Game of Thrones. Lord of the Rings. Harry Potter. The Avengers. We want to imagine these possibilities, even if we know they could never come true. Just as people in perfectly happy relationships can enjoy romance stories, fans of fantasy can appreciate the blissful escapism of magic or imaginary worlds without any big, cathartic reason.

We simply love fantasy.

Someone weaves a story. Someone takes the elements of plot, characterization, and setting, and creates worlds where imagination is crucial. It fires up neurons that might have gotten a little flabby from misuse. It invites in the research to temporarily place someone in a setting he may never see in person.

And we eat it up!

Medieval_Town_By_Water

I write fantasy because the amount of imagination necessary thrills me. This is coupled with the necessary knowledge and research. I once heard someone say, “Fantasy is the easiest to write, because it doesn’t have to be accurate.” I disagree. True fans of fantasy can pick out every little inconsistency and inaccuracy. Our details haven’t been predetermined by history, science, or modern architecture. We can’t just look them up in an encyclopedia. Writers have to create them, and convince readers that it could have happened. If I chose to write about dragons, and appealed to a true dragon lover, any laziness in my details would be ripped apart in a review.

I write fantasy because it’s what I know best. Growing up in rural Idaho, we had one movie theater and no local TV stations. The internet was just a lofty concept back then. Mainstream literature bored me, so I read fantasy. I read about the young girl who became a knight. About the king who tried to rescue the princess from the dragon, only to find out the princess and dragon were friends. As I matured and the fascination with medieval times faded, the knowledge didn’t. I still knew the difference between a gauntlet and a greave, between a houppelande and a cotehardie.

I write fantasy because I love it. I like writing nonfiction, if it’s a topic that interests me. Horror interests me, and I like romance if the story has an original concept. But as I have the choice of what to write what I want, I choose to write what has fascinated me since childhood. I write what I know.

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And so I do.

Come celebrate #INDIEpendence with us! Enter Blue Harvest Creative’s giveaway to win many prizes, including an eBook copy of Minstrel upon its release.

Visit our #INDIEpendence event on Facebook today, for a live author chat with me. I’ll be announcing Minstrel’s release date and having a cover reveal.

Marissa_Author_Talk

Zombified Release Party!!

My good friend Jean Booth is proudly releasing her eighth book!

Join us on Friday, June 21, for the release of Zombie War: Zombified, the final in the Zombie War Trilogy by Jean Booth!

zombified cover art

Zombie War: Zombified

Supporting her brother during his experimental treatments, Jessica finds herself betrayed by the one person she loves more than anything. Now she’s forced to either give up, or find a way to survive with what he’s done to her. Craving things she never imagined, her body has transformed into a killing machine, bent on consuming the one thing she can’t live without – brains.

After months of killing, Jessica searches for a way to either end her existence or continue on without having to constantly kill others. She hears of a group of survivors and knows this is her chance. Now she’ll either live or die. The choice would be Sarah’s, the leader of this band of survivors.

Wounded from the fighting, infected blood mixing with hers from the slaughter, Sarah finds herself fighting for her life. Will her boyfriend, Matt, help her end it all, or will she become the monster they’ve been fighting against and devour all those she’d come to protect?

While watching Sarah struggle with the infection, Matt wonders, “Could I kill the one I love, to survive?”

On Friday, June 21, there’ll be a crazy fun blog party going on – The Zombified Release Party!  Jean will be hosting on her blog that day and is inviting anyone who’d like to participate, to join.

Here’s all you need to do –

Stop by Jean’s blog on Friday, June 21 and leave a comment – this’ll enter you in the drawing for signed copies of any two of Jean’s books – your choice!

Post a picture on your blog of you dressed up for Halloween and tell us a little about that fun time in your life, link it to Jean’s blog and you’ll be entered into the drawing for signed copies of any three of Jean’s books – your choice!

jean booth book banner

On Friday, June 21 post a review of any of the Zombie War books (Zombie War: The Beginning, Zombie War: Little Apocalypse on the Prairie, or Zombie War: Zombified) or an interview of Jean on your blog and get entered into the grand prize drawing for a $50 Amazon gift card!

the beginning cover art

As a nurse in the genetics department, Sarah witnessed firsthand the mutation of the AIDS vaccine. The affected patients attacked other people, craving the power of the human brain. The vaccine turned viral, spreading quickly. Sarah was among the few survivors of the initial attack, quickly learning how to defend against the undead horde. Would she make it in time to save those she loved? Even if she did, how would they survive in this horrific new world?

laotp cover art

It’s been six months since the vaccine went bad and introduced zombies into the world. Matt and Sarah have gathered all the survivors they could find, protecting and teaching them how to survive in this post-infected world. They’ve arranged for one last raid into town to try and survive through the oncoming winter. Trouble is, no one could truly prepare them for what they encounter once they arrive.

Those remaining on the farm have been trained and organized into a cohesive unit. Would they be strong enough together when it really matters? Would any of them survive the Little Apocalypse on the Prairie?

jean booth bio photo

Jean Booth was born in the sweltering Vegas desert. She moved about during her childhood until returning to her roots in Northern Nevada. She’s happily married with 9 cats as her children. For the entirety of her adult life, she’s worked in healthcare, battling insurances and poor staffing to provide great care to those who need it. Her greatest escapes are the stories found in books and in her head that she’s finally decided to share. She can be found at http://www.JeanBooth.com

Connect with Jean on:

Facebook

Twitter

Blog

Goodreads

Dead Sea Games

The zombie apocalypse has happened, but society has not yet recovered. In lower Manhattan, survivors have secured sixteen apartment buildings, which they now call the Colony, their sanctuary above the sea of zombies at ground level. Adults, who had their worlds figured out before the Emergency, grapple to reclaim any normalcy. Teenagers never had it figured out in the first place.

Jeremy, known on the street as Deathwish, is a fairly good kid. But even good kids turn desperate when their parents can’t even survive. Fifteen years old with a bad attitude and a reckless streak, Jeremy learns parkour from Master Chueng. He accompanies teams into the abandoned parts of Manhattan to bring back supplies. And though his mother chooses to look the other way, Jeremy plays The Game: fighting zombies in the streets, gladiator-style, as others bet on him.

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So far, I’ve read some indie books that aren’t too bad. I’ve read some that I’ve really enjoyed. But none have earned my rave approval like Dead Sea Games. I’m not the only one who loves DSG. On Goodreads, the Dead Sea Games books have rated 4.73 out of 5 stars for Dead Sea Games: Adrift, and 4.70 out of 5 stars for Dead Sea Games: Exiled. Adrift has 4.6 stars on Amazon, and Exiled has 4.7.

In Dead Sea Games: Adrift, Jeremy knows the Colony is a cruel joke. Just existing isn’t enough. But when two of their own go missing on an excursion, Jeremy is determined to bring them home.

Dead Sea Games: Exiled picks up exactly where Adrift leaves off. He doesn’t even have time to heal before he’s accused of murder and runs to save his own life. Facing the Sirens, an all-girl gang, he decides what he’s willing to sacrifice for an even greater cause.

DSG-Exiled-280px

J. Whitworth Hazzard has published these two of his Dead Sea Games quartet. Top secret intel has informed me that he’s currently writing the third book. His established fanbase is already gnashing its teeth in anticipation.

This is big, people. If you’re reading this and you happen to be in the publishing industry, do yourself a favor and look into these books. Mr. Hazzard has caught the fad while it’s big, and has taken it in a completely new direction.

Mr. Hazzard doesn’t try to retell the beginning of the Zombie Apocalypse, as nearly every other zombie work has done. This story starts mid-apocalypse, right after the survivors have stopped running. It takes a completely different viewpoint: that of a 15-year-old boy running around with gangs, intent on survival. The reader jumps into the mind of that boy who has been forced to grow up far too fast, seeing the other teens, whom have made some rather mature decisions in the absence of their role models. The action begins at the breakfast table as he hides the day’s plans from his mother, and continues on all the way until…

 Until you’re downloading the next book because you can’t stand it any longer! You have to know what happens next!

I honestly don’t know why these books aren’t more known. Obviously, word hasn’t gotten out about them. They aren’t your average self-published novels. Sure, they’re not for all audiences. Seen through the mindset of a hardened teenager, they have mature language and situations that aren’t appropriate for younger audiences. Mr. Hazzard doesn’t sweeten it for anyone. I can’t imagine many kids in that situation watching their language or acting puritanical around the gang leaders.

The writing is tight. The books avoid two things I hate: deus ex machina, and clichés. Even Master Chueng (first name is Carlos) is half Chinese and half Filipino, skilled in Eskrima and Kali fighting styles. Extra time isn’t spent trying to explain why zombies happened, or what the government is doing about it. That story has already been told again and again. These books aren’t really about the zombies; they use zombies as the backdrop. Mr. Hazzard tells the inner story, from one person within that sea of walking dead.

Right now, each book is only $0.99 on Amazon, and they are worth much more than that. They’re quick reads which will leave you satisfied.

Give it a try. I dare you.

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To read more about author J. Whitworth Hazzard, visit his blog Zombie Mechanics

My First Reading Challenge

Alright, it’s scheduled and it’s going to happen!  Our first reading challenge (of many.)  The first will take place during the month of May, with all entries due by midnight, Pacific time, on May 31st.

You may get an early start on your reading!  Just get your entry in by May 31st.  Our first book will be Edgar Wilde and the Lost Grimoire, by Paul Ramey!

(See that link?  It takes you straight to Amazon.com, where the book is only $1.99.  Or you can go to Nine Muse Press‘ site itself for a free sample chapter, and the book at the same price in Kindle and non-Kindle formats.)

Rules:

1. Read the book assigned, in whichever way is compatible with your lifestyle and e-reader.

2. Review your book on Amazon or Goodreads, or both!  An additional review on your personal blog earns you an additional entry.  (This can be a cut/paste review.  It just needs to be there.)  3 reviews posted… 3 entries.

3. Link to your reviews by the end date, so we can count your entry.  Post your link either on my Facebook author page, the Facebook event page, or in the comments to the contest post on this blog.

4. Refer the contest to friends.  If your friend posts a review, then messages me on my Facebook page saying, “‘Your Name’ sent me,” you get yet another entry for each friend referred!

Prizes: These will vary from contest to contest, but you can expect things like future e-reading material from other very worthy authors!

Ask all the questions you want!  If you would like an invite to the Facebook event, and a chance to win Edgar Wilde free to the first five people to respond, simply “Like” my Facebook page and type “EW Contest” on the wall.  You will then receive an invite, a day before the contest is underway.