Guest Post: ‘Food, Family, Friends, & Football: An Introduction to The Winning Ingredient . . .’ By Kelly Swan Taylor

Introducing Kelly Swan Taylor who shares the story of her upcoming novel.

My upcoming contemporary novel is a story of unwavering friendship through loss and triumph and was born out of a love of baking, family traditions, and (of course) my passion for sports. It’s as eclectic as I am and holds a special place in my heart. And I hope it will in yours.

Each fall, for a while now, I pull out my recipe book and prepare for a long season of baking from Halloween through Christmas. What started with a simple (well, not really ingredient-wise) gingerbread recipe turned into at least a dozen different varieties of cookies, now carefully placed between wax paper and packaged inside colorful tins. I tie them with a bow of red and white baker’s twine and ship them off to friends and family. This tradition is my personal version of a bakery and became the catalyst for my debut young adult novel.

As a former laboratory scientist, recipe experimentation is what fueled my enjoyment of baking. That, and sharing the unique results with others. This is something my protagonist, Mia DeSalvo, and I have in common. Bringing new life to old family recipes keeps these cherished memories alive. And it does help to have a wonderful treasure trove of recipes from which to choose. I’m lucky in that department. From my Slovak great-grandmother’s apple streusel to my grandmother-in-law’s “Oatmeal Crispies,” my cookie tins are overflowing.

But it was the stories that my husband told about his Sicilian roots and warm dinners around the Italian table growing up that prompted me to create the DeSalvo Bakery. It was inspired by my husband’s great-grandmother, Antoinette DeSalvo, who immigrated to this country in the early 1900’s. I will never forget my own experience visiting Italy a few years ago and feeling the comforting warmth of delicious food and drink, including sampling several cannoli in each city.

Of course, no sweet teen story would be complete without a fun group of tight, loyal friends. I chose to huddle them around the emerald turf of a football field. While I hadn’t initially intended for football to play such an integral role in the novel, I couldn’t imagine my own high school or college experiences without it and loved the instant action and drama it brought to the story. Whether as supportive teammates or dedicated fans, participating in sports emphasizes teamwork, dedication, and goal setting — all wonderful lessons for the young and old alike. And, while the teenage characters take the lead in this story, the diverse multi-generational cast is included and respected as an important part of their world.

Finally, there is a distinctly American feel to The Winning Ingredient that was intentional. And it isn’t just the all-American football theme. It is scattered throughout the book, from the school’s name and mascot to the hard-working people, who care about their community. The story is a shout-out to immigrant families who own small businesses and came to this country to achieve a dream and share their legacies. Their many recipes and traditions are now weaved into the fabric of our one flag. And I couldn’t forget the essential Gold Star and Blue Star families of our military, who sacrifice so much to keep us safe and allow us the freedom to achieve our dreams.

The Winning Ingredient by Kelly Swan Taylor will be available from the 22nd of September. You can find Kelly on Twitter and for information check out her website.

‘Nevada Noir : A Trilogy of Short Stories’ by David Arrowsmith – Review

A brief but deeply descriptive brush with the dark…

Deep description and pace take centre stage in these three interconnected tales that act like a brief encounter of the dark and enjoyable kind. Shorter stories and books don’t get nearly enough credit and this one certainly deserves it for the small amount of time you spend, you get the maximum experience.

Balance is the key word here as each story is atmospheric and vivid in equal parts where life, death, greed, crime and the many elements of human nature are represented in that unique noir style. There’s intrigue everywhere as these tales are set in the moment but stir the imagination for where the characters came from and where they will ultimately end up. For someone looking to be whisked away for a few hours this is the book for you. Having been recommended this from the vibrant and supportive writing community on Twitter I’m glad to have discovered ‘Nevada Noir’ and I’ll be sure to look out for more works by David Arrowsmith.

4 Stars – Thank you to the Twitter writing community for the recommendation.

Weekly Ramble #118

I’m warming to the idea of starting a Patreon for my writing and self help social media guides. My overall ambition is to make writing my primary occupation and this year has proven that I can take strides from this being a hobby to something much more serious. From having 10,000 people download one of my books in a single day to exceeding that same number in follows over on Twitter, maybe it is time to monetise my content.

Of course the concept of monetising isn’t just about me. I intend to very much make it worthwhile for my patrons by rewarding them not just with content but hopefully other stuff like social media shout-outs, guidance, and even author spotlight stuff on here – a place where I know book folks and good readers are. And this won’t be monetising all content all the time – there is value in our words and with the right following it can be perceived that way.

Something seems to have aligned quite well with the content I create and the readers who appreciate it. You can see for yourself the plethora of social media, blogging and author guides I’ve put together over on the resources page to back that up. Not only do I have content, but a following who appreciates it and this is only ever going to be a career option if I take strides towards setting it up for that. By no means is this a cash grab because as I said there will be incentives for supporters that I will work for so to me, this is merely an opportunity for my words to support themselves and seeing that I have the infrastructure, perhaps Patreon is the way forward.

Already I have a content plan – much of the stuff you have become used to seeing on here will remain on here but will most probably premiere on my Patreon first. I’m committed to creating content that helps others and so the idea would be to make my Patreon an intimate way of passing on knowledge not just through posts but with perhaps one on one coaching – this will all depend on the level of membership available. I am also envisioning to release exclusive fiction stuff to patrons as a further reward for their support. Watch this space.

Guest Post: ‘A Teen Assassin with a Heart of Gold’ by Dan McKeon

Introducing author Dan McKeon who shares the story behind his writing journey and book ‘Wonder Rush’

“I think we figure out who we are based on our life experiences and the different people that impact us. People who come in and out of our lives shape who we are, even if we don’t realize it.”

This quote from my debut novel, Wonder Rush, sums up Wendy Lockheart’s struggle. She is a seventeen-year-old girl fighting to discover who she truly is and the adult she desires to become. Wonder Rush is a coming-of-age tale under the most extreme circumstances. A story about a girl with no identity of her own. A girl fighting for not only a stable home, but for survival.

Abducted at birth, Wendy was raised by an agency of assassins. She was never given a name of her own, but was bounced around from one foster family to the next, assuming a new identity each time. She was brainwashed, tortured, psychologically manipulated, all to carry out the will of “the agency”—a group of assassins that communicates with its teen operatives using randomly flavored, encoded sticks of Wonder Rush Happy Funtime Bubblegum.
After carrying out a hit on an alleged drunk driver, Wendy suspects corruption within the agency. Her ultimate betrayal makes her the agency’s next mark. As Wendy uncovers the agency’s twisted intentions, she realizes she must destroy the organization that shaped her in order to discover the person she truly wants to be—that is, if they don’t kill her first.
I began writing Wonder Rush with a seed of an idea—what if the unassuming new girl in school was secretly an assassin? What a perfect cover. Who would ever suspect a sweet, innocent girl? As the concept took shape, I was inspired by my own teenage sons and their individual journeys into adulthood. I recalled the struggle of personal growth I experienced at that age, and I wondered how much different that road to self-discovery would look if a person never had an identity of her own to begin with. It was that underlying universal theme of identity that got me excited about this story. It is what elevates it from a high-octane thriller to something deeper and more meaningful.
I did not write Wonder Rush with a target age group in mind, and I think some of the best stories transcend age. Upon completion of the novel, I understood it fit best under the young adult category, given the age of my main character and the coming-of-age theme. However, what has made me happiest about the release of this book is the overwhelming connection it has made with teenagers, young adults, and mature adults alike. I think we all remember that internal conflict we felt when we balanced the thin line between childhood and adulthood. We may not relate to a teenage girl killing people in various and sometimes gruesome ways, but we can all relate to that child fighting to do better, to be better, and to grow into an adult that she can take pride in.
My initial spark of interest in creative writing came during a film analysis class I took while I was an undergraduate at Villanova University. It was the first time I realized that film was more than just entertainment. It was a literary and visual art. I learned all I could about screenwriting. I read books, attended seminars and workshops. I ultimately enrolled in a Professional Screenwriting course at UCLA. I complete four screenplays over the years, but I always wanted to write a novel.
I found the rigid structure of screenwriting to be beneficial in novel writing. Additionally, the visual storytelling nature of writing for the screen was beneficial when painting mental images and developing characters in Wonder Rush. I enjoy the more flexible nature of novel writing, but I will always appreciate my screenwriting roots.
Through my journey to publish Wonder Rush, I discovered the great difficulty in getting books into the hands of readers. There are literally millions of books published each year worldwide. Even though the reaction to Wonder Rush has been overwhelmingly positive, it is still a herculean task to deliver it to a wide audience. I am so grateful for bloggers and indie author advocates like Lee Hall for giving new writers an avenue to reach the readers these books deserve. There are some amazing stories out there, we just need to find them. I hope you all find Wonder Rush, and I hope you have as much fun reading it as I had writing it.

You can read more about ‘Wonder Rush’ here and Dan McKeon can be found over on Twitter

Book Review: The Teleporter by Lee Hall

Hello everyone, today I would like to share this wonderful recent review of The Teleporter…

From Fan to Pro

The Superhero we need!

Drinking. Hangovers. Fist fights. A clingy ex. A sketchy corporate biggie. An annoying neighbor who just happens to be an investigative reporter (and where are all these reporters when I need one? Huh?) Add a posse of unlikely vigilantes and a soupcon of sudden but inevitable superpowers and you’ve got a heck of a story.

Kurt Wiseman isn’t some stale wide-eyed teen trying to romance the school hottie with his super suit. Or a scientist accidentally becoming a green rage monster. The Teleporter isn’t the sad tale of a down-on-his-luck ex-Army Ranger who is determined to help the little guy. Oh, no. If you’re looking for the same old origin story, turn away now.

Wiseman drinks too much and does as little as possible at work to get by. This guy literally falls into his destiny without a clue. He’s doesn’t have ninja moves or high…

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‘Fear Farm No Trespassers’ by S.J. Krandall – Review

Immersive page-turning horror stories full of thrills and chills…

S.J. Krandall delivers a delightfully chilling collection of page turning, fast-paced horror stories that will keep readers on the edge. All of them are linked and have that similar theme of something lurking in the shadows or the feeling of being followed. That sensory type of immersion is what I enjoyed the most – this is the stuff that will keep you up at night or if you are inclined to a good scare, perhaps the opposite.

Good horror takes a lot of work and imagination to balance and you’ll find it here paired with a style of writing that feeds the imagination.

While our imagination is given room to breathe these stories all start out with a slower pace which quickens as they unfold. This tempo makes for a dramatic thrill ride where the stakes unfold each time for different people who all seemingly succumb to similar gruesome ends. Based in countryside that is equal parts beauty and full of mystery that’s lurking for the next victim. Highly enjoyable and recommended for anyone who does enjoy horror with pace and a little blood.

5 Stars – Thank you to the author who provided a free copy in exchange for a review.

Guest Post: Excerpt of ‘Killer Coffee Beans’ by Shaun Young

Author Shaun Young shares an excerpt of his soon to be released book ‘Killer Coffee Beans’

Via Shaun Young’s Twiiter

Guatemala Countryside – 6:09 P.M. (7:09 P.M. Kansas City)

Sabi followed Vane through the front door of the house, out to the porch. She placed herself in the rocker then watched him. Vane cradled the gun in her lap then crossed her hands over it as though she was trying to hide it. Sabi leaned against the post next to the steps facing her.

“Go ahead. Who is Sabi and why does he need to hide at my house?” She asked while lazily rocking in the chair.

“Okay. I’m not sure where to start.”

“Why don’t you start by telling me why a guy that drifts in and out of British accent. Sometimes sounding European and sometimes sounding American is in Guatemala? And why that guy is lugging around all this computer equipment?”

“If I answer questions for you will you answer questions for me too?”

“We’ll see. Get started,” she said as a light breeze blew her hair moving it gently.

“Okay. I was staying at a resort on the coast.”

“I knew that.”

Sabi shot her a look, telling her not to interrupt him with his eyes before he continued. “I’d only been there a few days. Before that, I was in Bolivia, before that, Sierra Leone and before that, Togo.”

“Togo? You’re making that up.”

“No, it’s a real country. Look it up. It’s in Africa on the west coast, very small. Nice on the coast, but when you get inland a little, there’s not much and it’s a lot warmer. Anyway, you are starting to get the picture. I’m always moving. I’ve been home three times in the last two years. I go from one hotel to the next.”

“Why?” She asked. She had stopped rocking and scooted forward in the rocker.

He held up a finger, “I’m trying to explain. I’ve never told anyone this story. I have one friend that knows parts of what I do and other than that, it’s my boss and Momma.” Sabi stopped talking, moving from the post he was leaning against to the opposite side of the steps. He sat down leaning back against the other post. “I was educated in England then went to university in America. America is where I received my degree in international finance. My dad was a big wig in the Ministry of Finance at home.”

“Where’s home?”

“Oh. Turkmenistan. So I get home, dad gets me a good job at the biggest bank in our country. In less than two years, dad is convicted by the government for a bunch of crap. Basically dad was on the take. The trial is like the first one ever in our country to be televised. Within a week of his conviction, I’m fired.”

“I guess I can understand that, but it doesn’t seem right.”

“I knew it was coming. There was a lot of talk at work during the televised trial. Not much I could do about it. So I’m out of work. The government took everything from my Momma and dad. Momma moves in with me and I’m now the man of the house with no way to support her. Two weeks later, I’m down to next to nothing in money. A guy shows up in front of me on the street, asking if I want a job in international banking. “Sure,” I say. He tells me to be in front of my building the next morning at nine and someone will pick me up. I’m out there a little early, waiting and right on time, this limo pulls up in front of me and this man tells me to get in. I get in, there’s another guy in there. I’m thinking he’s interviewing too when the first guy hands me a hood and tells me to put it over my head.”

“You get into a limo and they want you to put a hood over your head?” She says not really asking a question.

Sabi nodded his head. “Yeah. So, I have to wear this hood the whole time. And it wasn’t really an interview. Basically, the guy tells me that he was friends,” Sabi used his hands to make air quotes as he says friends, “With my dad. He says he will give me a job and he’ll make things easier on my dad. He says Momma will be taken care of. And he will even make sure my two brothers are able to stay in school, one in England, one in America. I have to do what he says.”

“Shit. I thought I got dealt a bad hand. Go ahead.”

“So it turns out, this guy is a big-time opium smuggler. He needs to be able to launder his money now that the government threw all his contacts in jail. I spent about three months, traveling all over the world to conferences. I learned how to catch money launderers. Then I came up with a system to use, to beat their system of catching people like me. One of the things involves me moving all the time. Hence, I’m in your country.”

“Okay, that explains why you’re in Guatemala, but not why you’re at my house.”

“You don’t think I’m a bad person after hearing that, do you? I did what I could to help my mom, dad and brothers. I never planned to be involved in something like this.”

“No, I don’t think you’re bad. You’re not doing good things, but…” Vane shrugged her shoulders.

“I know. Sometimes I’m not happy with myself. I don’t like what I’m doing now, but I don’t know another way out. Momma. My brothers and dad. I didn’t want to steal the money, but I don’t know any other way to get out and save my family.” Sabi hung his head down between his knees.

He started sobbing quietly and turned away from her. Vane moved from the chair and knelt behind, him placing her hand on his back. She rubbed his back in a circular motion, “Sabi, you’re not a bad person.”

“You don’t understand.” He said between sobs, his shoulders heaving up and down. “I haven’t had anyone to talk to in so long. Always being careful what I say. Looking over my shoulder. This is the first time I’ve been able to let my guard down with anyone in-” He trailed off, trying to remember the last time he openly talked to someone.

“You want to take a break for a little bit? I could tell you my hard luck story if you’re interested…

This is an excerpt of ‘Killer Coffee Beans’ by Shaun Young which will be released on August 1st. You can find more information via Shaun’s Twitter.

IG Interview with Emma Jean

Today I would like to share with you all a recent interview I did with Instagram Superstar and fellow author Emma Jean. I had a lot of fun talking about social media, authoring and of course Consistent Creative Content. For anyone who wanted to know me a little better or to get an insight into Emma’s awesome content then do check it out.

Click on the graphic below for the link via Instagram.

Via Instagram Emma Jean Author

Guest Post: ‘The Story Behind The Story’ by Micah Kolding

Author Micah Kolding shares his story which led to his first published children’s book.

It starts with my community theater work. My voice qualifies as “true bass”, which is rare enough to be in high demand among local musical productions. I therefore find something of a niche as “the guy with the deep voice”.

Something I realized over the course of my theater experience is that the kids tend to find it fascinating that I’m part of the cast by choice. There are occasions when I’m the only straight guy who isn’t one of their dads, and they gravitate to me to talk about things they probably don’t feel like they can talk about with the rest of the cast. They ask if I like geckos, they want to discuss Star Wars, they need to recount how they got in trouble at school… a lot of topics that are, on some level, too “boyish” for much of the musical theater environment. And it’s very often the girls who most need to talk about this.

I’ll always remember one girl in particular; a true tomboy, she once showed up before a show in a pink dress and revealed that she was only wearing it because she lost a bet. When much of the cast reassured her of how pretty she looked, she shouted, “I’m going to sit with Micah, because he won’t judge me!” She did, and I told her she looked like “a pink nightmare”. She said “Thank you!”, and we fist-bumped.

My takeaway from this experience is just how little people understand tomboys. More girls than we realize are not buying into the culture of constant sensitivity and validation; they want to be challenged, they want to compete, and they want to be “one of the guys” without having adults ask if they’re pre-op. You look at how tomboys are depicted in most stories, you see hostile weirdos who are content to be the one sporty friend in a cast of near-identical bratz-dolls, and I wanted to write something that rang truer.

The plot of “The Fellas, the Mermaid, and Me!” came to me while I was serving as Lurch in the Addams Family musical. It’s a story about a mermaid named Kris who hangs out with five human friends, all of which are boys. I remember realizing how perfect it was to depict a composite of every tomboy I knew as a gritty, gap-toothed mermaid; people expect mermaids to be quintessentially girly, but they’re ultimately an apex-predator sea creature, making them necessarily a sporty, adventurous, competitive friend.

Indeed, when I first sent out the story to beta-readers, I got a few comments opining that Kris shouldn’t be the only girl in the group. It was enough that I actually ran the idea past my wife; “Should I change one of the boys to be a girl?” Speaking from quite a bit of experience herself, her reaction was an insistent “NO! She’s a TOMBOY! She doesn’t hang out with GIRLS!” So “The Fellas, the Mermaid, and Me!” went to self-publication as-is.

You can find author Micah Kolding on Twitter and his books via Amazon

‘Wonder Rush’ by Dan McKeon – Review

An immersive and suspenseful teen spy thriller with some darker edges, a positive message, originality and depth…

Dan McKeon delivers an immersive and suspenseful tale of one teen assassin who has always followed orders and never questioned those giving them. When things don’t go to plan ‘Wendy’ finds herself facing a rabbit hole of questions as she deciphers what’s good and bad while coming to her own conclusion. It’s part- coming-of-age part-morality check as the ‘agency’ giving the orders begin to reveal themselves as not so reputable.

Through the multiple missions and names she takes ‘Wendy’ begins to realise even if you eliminate bad people, there will always be someone else innocent effected by it. That is without mentioning if the target even is bad in the first place.

“Even those who do bad things have people who care about them, and their loss effects them…”

There’s a certain depth to that morality where choice and accountability of one’s actions make you as a reader question everything. It’s immersive and dark sometimes – death always is but our main character keeps things light hearted and you find yourself rooting for her because she is a force for good. You can give a person all the assassin training in the world and try to engineer out all human elements but they are still human and perhaps that message is at the centre of a great story that I took my time reading.

While there are plenty of concepts that are original and they merge with others that we’ve seen before in spy thrillers; it’s always the abandoned warehouse for a meeting point but the bubble gum idea is genius and of course fun. Although there is some violence there isn’t anything too graphic so I’d recommend this book to older teens and above and to anyone who enjoys a spy thriller with a difference. Highly enjoyable.

5 Stars – This Review First Premiered via Reedsy Discovery