Join me as I chat with ES Fein about his psychological thriller which released on May 6, 2022. Interested in lucid dreaming and existential discussions? Then check out his podcast.
Helen: Welcome Eric. I am so happy to be speaking to you today about your new book. It sounds so cool, and definitely a little mind bending!
Eric: A Dream of Waking Life is a philosophical, psychological thriller that tells the story of one man’s journey through space, time, and mind to not only discover his true identity but also the love of his life—a woman who keeps slipping through his fingers and into another reality. A thought-provoking meditation on the thin line between what is real and what is not, A Dream of Waking Life will leave readers questioning how far they would go to understand the nature of their own existence and how much they would sacrifice for love.
Helen: Oh, that sounds deep and very intriguing. As is your cover. Can you tell us a bit about it?
Eric: The cover represents the three predominant dreams/worlds/realities (part of the grand mystery of the story is the uncertainty of what is real) that the protagonist is stuck in. I wanted the cover to appear as if these realities are blending into one another. The two figures standing and looking at the large tower, called “The Tower of God” in the story, are the main characters. You will also notice a small figure in the sky watching over them. I won’t say who that is. You’ll have to read the story to find out!
Helen: It is an interesting cover, you want to flip it around and inspect the alternate view to see what is different, because it is not a true reflection. What made you write such a complex and thought provoking book?
Eric: I wrote this book as a reflection on my lifelong experiences with lucid dreaming, existential confusion, bipolarism, thousands of psychonautical trips using DMT and other potent psychedelics, and the most important thing in existence: love.
Helen: I’ve never even heard of lucid dreaming, so colour me interested. I’m definitely going to be checking that out, when I find the time lol! I’m knee-deep in editing at the moment and my deadline is looming. You have some great reviews for your book already, and ‘unputdownable’ is the clear message. What genre does this book fit into?
Eric: I predominantly read and write scifi. A Dream of Waking Life isn’t pure scifi, but it definitely fits into the category. I love scifi stories because they are constantly forcing readers to wonder about reality and ask the big questions of existence: Who are we? Why are we here? What’s the purpose of reality? What the heck is going on?
Helen: Congratulations on the release of your latest book, it is such an achievement. What made you first put pen to paper and write a book?
Eric: I’ve been writing and telling stories for as long as I can remember. I remember in preschool, I used to have kids laughing and jumping in excitement as I made up wild and zany stories about what I had gone through on my way to school. The other kids called it “Eric story time,” and it felt as natural as breathing to me.
Helen: When writing do you prefer silence? or do you surround yourself with music?
Eric: Always! I listen to jazzhop or lofi hip hop when I write.
Helen: Is there anything random you would like share about yourself?
Eric: I was born without a right pectoral muscle. It used to cause incredible depression and self-hatred, even leading me to attempt suicide several times when I was young. Now, at 33, I see it as a blessing that has taught me how to accept imperfection and find beauty in all forms.
Helen: I am so sorry to hear you had to deal with such issues, but really happy that you found your way out and have embraced who you are and can appreciate all that is around you, and that you channelled your emotions and creativity into writing. What is the most useful piece of advice you have found about writing?
Eric: The author, Robert Heinlein, said in a book of writing tips something along the lines of: “Throw it all up! The only way to write is to throw up everything until it’s a complete mess. Once it’s all out, then you can go back and sift through the barf to find the actual story you’re looking for.”
Helen: Thank you Eric, for spending time with me today, I’ve loved chatting with you. Just to close out, is there any advice you would like to share with any aspiring writers?
Eric: Don’t expect to succeed in the traditional sense. If you aren’t writing because you enjoy writing, this will almost undeniably be a heart-breaking experience for you.
About the Author:
Reader, author, and purveyor of top-shelf science fiction, speculative fiction, and fantasy. My favorite subjects to read and write about include transhumanism, esotericism, cosmological ontology, existential ontology, Eastern philosophy, hard sci Fi, soft sci Fi, time travel, space exploration, psychological exploration, pansexualism, religion, mythology, space opera, experimentation with entheogens, and more. I like strange characters dealing with strange situations. Check out some free short stories on my site: Officialesfein.com
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If you enjoy fantasy books then you will love my epic fantasy Sentinal series. As a new threat against Remargaren is discovered, only one man can wake the ancient guards who can protect them, only he doesn’t know how. Start the adventure and stay for the journey. Sign up to my newsletter and download a free novella called Sentinals Stirring and keep up with progress on my next books are published.
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Reviewed: January 24th, 2022 Released: August 16th, 2020 Genre: Science Fiction
Rule number 1: Whatever you do, don’t open the box.
Well, that’s rule number two actually. Rule number one is don’t take salvage jobs from people who’ve tried to sell you to an Antillian bug salesman.
Neara “Tink” Bell is used to a life of odd jobs and even odder crewmates, working as the engineer and all-around fixer on the cargo ship Lyra. But when the ship picks up two new crew members and a salvage job on a third-rate space station, things go sideways in a cosmic way.
Alek Wa is on the run. And he’s pretty sure he can hide amongst the motley crew of Lyra. But that’s not the only reason he’s on-board. He has a mission. If only his minders had told him what it was.
Captain Rebeka Mino just wants to retire with a whiskey and a steamy novel. She’d even let the ship’s cat sit on her lap, provided he keeps his claws to himself. Too bad the ship keeps getting shot at. And when they arrive at the coordinates for the salvage job, they’re confronted by a dead ship in the deep black.
Can Tink keep the Lyra running despite unexplained accidents? Can Alek outrun the people hunting him? Can Rebeka prevent their pursuers from blowing them up? Most importantly, can they keep their curiosity in check and not look in the box? Read My thoughts…
Reviewed: October 30th, 2021 Released: October 25th, 2019 Genre: Science Fiction
With the fate of his people on the line, the truth is his greatest weapon…Eighteen-year-old Dante refuses to let evil conquer the galaxy. And the fact that his own father acts as the instrument of a dark lord’s unrelenting destruction only makes it harder. But when Dante learns a mysterious warrior has strange visions of his family, he discovers she may hold the key to defeating his father.
As sinister attacks threaten more and more planets, he fears their purpose is to prepare for an ultimate showdown. But with clues scarce and the girl’s mission to help him turning deadly, Dante might be running out of time before those he swore to protect are doomed.
Can the young hero unravel the mystery and win freedom for the universe?
The Spinning of Deception is the enthralling first book in the Sunspear science fiction series. If you like epic tales of the battle against darkness, intriguing characters, and dangerous adventures, then you’ll love Elizabeth Lavender’s star-spanning saga. Read More…
Joining me today to chat about her fantasy Sunspear series is Elizabeth Lavender. Welcome Elizabeth. Please tell us a little about your novels.
Elizabeth: My fantasy/sci-fi series is the Sunspear Series. I’m currently in the final revision stages of the 3rd book in the series. The first book in the series is The Spinning of Deception and the second book is Deception’s Hold. Our journey begins with meeting 18-year-old sunspearbearer Dante and a mysterious female sunspearbearer the same age who has been secretly trained. The reason why she’s secretly trained becomes apparent in the story. A powerful force led by the Dark Lord and his Black Dragon Commander threatens the galaxy; the Black Dragon Commander also is Dante’s father. Dante and his companions lead in the fight to stop the colonies from being massacred by the Dark Lord’s forces. In other scenes, our mysterious girl’s gift of visions from the Ancient One reveals a truth about a past event that could be key to breaking the Dark Lord’s hold.
The second book, Deception’s Hold, continues right where the first ended. Dante and his companions are told the truth of the past event, provided proof of it, and sets up a deadly task for Dante to undertake. Success could mean ending the Dark Lord’s power finally and much more. Failure would mean a much worse fate than even a blade for him. Even as they try to defend the colonies, they’ve come to understand something horrible is at work at Black Dragon headquarters. A race begins for the girl and her comrades to discover it and stop it in time. The girl knows though how short their time really is. She fears for Dante’s fate because she’s discovering her visions have created an unexpected connection to him and losing him isn’t an outcome she can accept. Too, she may be the only one that really knows the darkness he’s about to face.
Helen: This sounds like an amazing series, and I just love your covers, they are so complex, so many elements, tell us the story behind them.
Elizabeth: All of my covers have to do with that specific part of the storyline. So, for the first cover, there is a cloaked figure, two sunspears (one on either side), a dagger, and a blue eye. The cloaked figure represents the Dark Lord or darkness in general approaching. The two sunspears are for Dante and the girl. The dagger is directly related to the event from the past that has such a bearing on the present situation. It also has to do with an event in the girl’s past that happens in the book that will continue to haunt her through the series. The blue eye is referring to the girl’s eye as she sees visons, which play an important role throughout the series, but her visions of the one event set off a whole chain of actions.
The second cover shows the Black Dragon Commander who is also Dante’s father. On one side is the Black Dragon Helmet showing his allegiance now to the Black Dragon and on the other side is Ethan, the person that Dante once called Father. Through the middle is a sunspear, separating the two sides. The Black Dragon Commander/Ethan are on the cover because it ties into the task that lays ahead for Dante, which is at the heart of book 2.
Helen: With so much detail behind the cover design, I imagine as much thought went into the titles?
Elizabeth: The titles for both books are central to the story (The Spinning of Deception and Deception’s Hold). The power of deception is at the heart of both books and it’s how the Dark Lord has done what he has. While many of the battles in the books are the traditional swords, blasters, tanks, sunspears, and other cool technology to which you’ll get introduced, those aren’t the hardest battles fought. Many of the hardest battles fought in the book are these ones where being able to decipher truth from lie is the key. Otherwise, your fate is sealed. The Dark Lord has deceived before and he continues to do so. His mastery of it is how we find the Black Commander is at his side now. That’s the main way the title comes about. However, it’s not just the Dark Lord using it. You will see deception also used in other forms, but sometimes not for bad. Like I said, it’s a constant theme in the series.
Helen: It is so nice to learn the reasoning behind the covers and titles. It makes the book richer. What made you write this series?
Elizabeth: It was finally time to put it down on paper instead of bouncing around in my head. LOL. Seriously I’ve had pieces of it coming together since high school (that was over 20 years ago). There’s a point when you have a story, you have to tell it. It’s the writer in you.
Helen: Yes, as some point you just have to put pen to paper, you can no longer resist the urge! I don’t know why we resist, but sometimes we do. Why did you choose to write fantasy?
Elizabeth: This is my only series and it’s sci-fi/fantasy. I guess it’s the one I primarily read in myself and love, so I don’t know how much I would enjoy writing in another genre. Also, the story in my head ended up falling in this genre.
Helen: You have two books in the series published, I’m sure your die hard fans want to know when the third will be released. Tell us a little about your WIP.
Elizabeth: My current work is the 3rd book in the series. I’m in the final revision stage and hoping to have it published by the end of summer at the latest. This one shares the same things readers have come to love about the series. The characters haven’t changed with the way they face whatever the threat may be, while finding the opportunity to bring humor into even the most challenging situations. There are battles and close calls just like we like them to have too. However, there are some differences because we are in a different place in the storyline. The battlefields are a smaller scale to an extent. We’re getting to see the internal battles of one character in particular in book three and how it manifests itself outside. Also, the third book is a great deal about relationships being built between characters, ones that will take them through the entire series. For many of these characters, it’s the first time they’ve had a chance to actually meet in person and work/fight side by side. So, there are a lot of places in book 3 that read like a romance between certain characters, but for those who have been reading the series they will say it’s long overdue. It is where we find ourselves in the story.
Helen: I think as you write a series, and you live and breath the story, certain characters begin to resonate. Do you have a favourite character in your series?
Elizabeth: I have two favourites. There’s no way I can choose between them. It has to be Dante and the girl (yes, she is called that until book 3 because her identity has to remain hidden). Dante fights with all his heart to defeat the Black Dragon, and he’s already lost so much. As the series opens, his mother and brother are counted in those losses and his father now fights on the other side, causing the destruction he now sees around him. Yet somehow, he fights on even with that always there and as the series continues his incredible heart and spirit that make him a hero will shine through in the battlefields he’ll be put through. Then there’s the girl who fights just as hard, but between her own internal “demons” and the visions rest doesn’t come easy for her. There are moments she can’t move beyond, that still hold sway over her. She can give grace to others, but not to herself. We’ll see her be forced to take on many roles, play many parts to help win against Black Dragon. Even as she does it, it all adds to the turmoil that’s already creates such a nightmare for her at times. Yet despite all that, she has a spirit and heart that matches Dante’s, and she’ll need it to manage the battlefields that lay ahead for her.
Helen: You are well into your series, and have heroes and villains who are well defined. Who do you prefer to write?
Elizabeth: Heroes probably. I like seeing them going through whatever trial or battle I put them through and hopefully come out alive, even if barely. I like to delve into their emotions and their mind as they struggle with whatever they get thrown. I think too we can identify in real life with the hero and the challenges they face and how they struggle with them. I’ve said many times the struggles in my Sunspear world are not so different than those in our world. The battlefields may appear different on the surface, but they’re not. One of my characters says it better though. Here’s a quote from book 3 of the Sunspear Series (still under revision) “”I can’t tell you what happened, because it’s a part of my past. I found myself at a juncture which many do at a point in this life, many of us more than once, Dante. It’s a scary, lonely place to dwell. Everyone faces this Darkness. In reality daily. There are times though the battle is one not forgotten, leaving such a mark on one…” “Those are the ones that stay with you because you come face to face with how powerful the Darkness is. How quickly it can take you and destroy you and all those around you before you realize what is done. Yet you also discover how strong the One is who stands beside you, and that must be your refuge.” So, heroes are my favorite to write about as I think they inspire us to see that no matter how hard it gets or imperfect we are in our struggle, we can emerge victorious. We may have our body battered, our heart broken, and our face streaming with tears, but we come through. We need our heroes.
Helen: I agree. This sounds amazing. It is inspiring to see how people can survive what is thrown at them. We are often stronger than we realise are. Of course as authors we make it especially difficult for our characters. Author life can be just as challenging! Tell us a little about your writing process. How does writing fit into your daily routine?
Elizabeth: With great difficulty! I work fulltime during the week and there’s always stuff with the kids/school and just family stuff with the kids/husband. So, most of my writing stuff comes in the evenings and on the weekends. I don’t do mornings at all, unless I have to get up to go to work/take the kids to school. However, I’m a night owl, so most weeknights I’m until close to midnight and the weekends I’m routinely up until at least 3:00 working on stuff. Sometimes that’s good, but sometimes that can be bad especially if I’m writing a villain scene. You can get strange inspiration at that time of night. That could be the reason my characters have such close calls and end up in such bad shape at the end of those scenes when facing the villians. LOL. They have to be pretty tough!
Helen: I often go to sleep thinking about a scene or a sticky situation. Often as not, I wake up with the solution in the middle of the night and I have to dictate it in to my phone and hope I understand it in the morning! When you are writing do you know what the story will be and have a plan? or do you let it unfold as it will?
Elizabeth: I’m definitely the pantser. I know how the last battle of the whole series will go and the dialogue has written itself in my head for a while. I know there are certain events and conversations that have to be revealed to get me there. I have a good idea of how those events need to unfold and probably how the dialogue will go, but that’s because I’ve been in my characters’ world for so long now. I just know what they would say and do now. It’s not because I sat down and outlined how it’s going to go or plotted it out. I can’t even imagine writing like that. I know my eventually endpoint and the dots in the middle to get me there.
Helen: I know fantasy is all made up, but do you find you have to do much research?
Elizabeth: None really. For the first book, I did some on names. The character names were not chosen randomly and neither were the places. I wanted them to mean something. I do make sure when I’m writing I have a copy of the other books in the series next to me in case I need to look something up. I have to be sure to keep my story straight throughout the series. I have plotlines that are unanswered or left mysterious in the first two books that will be answered later, some not until the last book in the series. That’s the other reason it’s essential I have the others nearby.
Helen: Ah yes, keeping track of all the threads! That can be challenging at times. What is your working environment like? Do you need music to inspire you, or is silence king?
Elizabeth: Actually, I don’t listen to music. Once I start writing, I’m in a zone, so I don’t know that I would even hear it anyway. When I’m revising, it’s the opposite. I really hate the revising process, so the music would probably distract me. I need quiet because I honestly welcome distractions then. I think my revising actually takes longer than the writing for that reason.
Helen: Which do you prefer, the creativity of writing or the polishing up of editing?
Elizabeth: LOL. I answered this on the music one, I guess. Love the writing part, detest the editing part. I know the editing part of the process is necessary, but I still can’t stand it. It’s like the 6-month check-up to the dentist or when we get a recall notice in for something on the car. Necessary, but it doesn’t mean I have to like it. Writing on the other hand is awesome. I love going into their world, and it doesn’t even feel like I’m doing the writing anymore. I know what they would say and do because I know them now. It really writes itself.
Helen: If you didn’t write fantasy, what genre would you like to write?
Elizabeth: That’s tough. Mine is sci-fi/fantasy, so it covers two genres. The current book has felt more like a romance in places, but long-term I don’t think I could be comfortable going there. Probably psychological/suspense thriller I could see. I have a counselling background and that influence is seen in my current series as many of the battlefields aren’t the traditional ones as we said earlier. I like delving into what they are thinking and feeling and making them struggle with their internal “demons.” So, I could see trying my hand at a suspense/psychological thriller.
Helen: I hope you do, that would be amazing! Most writers are great readers, after all, reading gives us insights into a well written book. What are some of your favourites?
Elizabeth: That’s too difficult. I have several favourites. One of my favourites is Les Misérables by Victor Hugo. I read it in 10thgrade and I’ve seen it on stage like three times now. It’s a beautiful story of redemption and grace. The main character ends up spending 19 years in jail for stealing a loaf of bread to feed his sister’s family. When he gets out, he’s as you would expect, but a priest shows him true kindness, the true love of God in a sense. The rest of the book is the convict’s story of how he demonstrates the grace he was shown. Another favourite is The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas. That one is kind of the other extreme in the beginning. The young sailor is naïve and gets falsely accused and thrown in jail. Circumstances allow him to find a treasure and when he gets out, he gets revenge on everyone that put him in prison. However how he did it was what made the book, finding the secrets of each one and exploiting them to destroy them. In the end, he realizes he went too far and has to deal with and we see the young sailor re-emerge in a sense. I think the reason I always liked that one was how carefully he crafted his revenge. It was amazing all the pieces Dumas had going at once, but he made it work. The main character was only able to destroy them because he brought to light their dark deeds, things they thought they hid and no one could uncover. It’s just a well-done story. Some other favourites are The Star Wars Trilogy (A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi). It has everything. I love the battles, the dialogue between the characters… The story though can’t be beat. The epic story between good and evil, of redemption and sacrifice, and the triumph of light over the darkness. Another couple series are Lord of the Rings by Tolkien and the Narnia Series by CS Lewis. Okay, I’ll stop now because I could keep going.
Helen: I can see how these have influenced your writing! What books have you read recently?
Elizabeth: There are quite a few. Generally, I read at least two a month and post the reviews on Amazon, Goodreads, and Bookbub as well as my Facebook and Twitter account. I also have a section in my newsletter that I post to. However, recently I finished Rise of Tears by Brand J Alexander, Dreamstate by Toni Cox, (Her Elemental Trilogy is the other one I read and it’s excellent too), A Twist of Night and Day by Aubrey Winters, The Enchanted Dagger by Vonnie Winslow Crist, Sentinals Awaken by Helen Garraway, Flames over Frosthelm by Dave Dobson, The Threat of Shadows by JA Andrews, First Earth by Cami Murdock Jensen… LOL. You can look on Goodreads account and check out my reviews. There are just too many awesome books out there!
Helen: It’s so cool to see my book in your list. It’s nice to see it is out there being read. Just to close us out, what advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Elizabeth: Just write the story that’s in you. The passion for your world and your characters will come through on its own. Have readers fall in love with your world and your characters as much as you have. Don’t let anyone discourage you. Surround yourself with people that will keep encouraging you to keep the journey going. You never know if your story is what someone needed to hear.
About the Author:
Elizabeth Lavender is the author of the Sunspear series. The first book in the sci-fi series is called The Spinning of Deception and the second book is Deception’s Hold. Originally from the Alabama coast, she currently lives in the Dallas area with her husband, Jeff, and her two children. She has a Master’s degree in counseling from Dallas Baptist University and has studied psychology and English. She enjoys science fiction and fantasy and hopes to bring some of that same enjoyment to others. She also enjoys suspense novels as well. However, as long as the storyline is intriguing, she will give it a try. Her reading spans from Les Miserables to Shakespeare to the Percy Jackson series to anything written by Ted Dekker or Frank Perretti. She works full-time and has been at the same company for over twenty years happily. She is a huge football fan and has a decent throwing arm, despite what her oldest son says when he practices throwing the football with her. Although she enjoys Texas, she does love going home to Alabama to visit. Besides visiting family and friends, it is nice to be back near the water again, where the seafood is the best.
Joining me today to chat about her new novel, Twin Flames, which releases today, May 31st, 2021 Is fantasy author Nicole Wells. TwinFlames is the third novel in Nicole’s Science Fantasy romance series, The Five Elements. Welcome Nicole. Congratulations on releasing your third novel, quite an accomplishment. You must be so excited! Please tell us a little about your novels.
Nicole:TwinFlames is a science fantasy romance that follows Maia, who is seeking revenge for her identical twin and discovers she can teleport. Gabe is a renowned MMA fighter who falls hard. He was my attempt at an alpha male (yes, he turns into a giant teddy bear, what can I say?).
It’s book three in the Five Elements series. The series can be started with this book, although it’s best to read book one first since there are spoilers. These books are based on the Five Elements of Chinese philosophy and culture. I also work in indigenous culture and history (for this book, Nez Perce). There’s also an inspirational aspect to the series. In TwinFlames, Maia has to work on anger and forgiveness.
Helen: I read the book blurb and this sounds like a great series, so I am off to find book one, UpSpark! Tell us about the title, what made you call this book TwinFlames?
Nicole: It’s funny, because I set out to do five books in the series and this book ended up being Books three (WildWood) and four (BareEarth) combined: the Wood and the Earth powers. I like the idea of twins, showcasing both elements and also highlighting the destined mate aspect to the word “TwinFlames.” There’s a focus on those people in our lives that feel like they are a part of us, friendships that are bound to happen. It turned out perfect, because Earth’s story is best told this way. I still have each “book” as a Part One and Part Two (Part Three is TwinFlames), so the symmetry was beautiful, especially as the prior two books also had three parts.
With this addition, each title has some theme of fire and light: UpSpark, StarDust, TwinFlames. Taking a step back, even before there are five elements, there is Yin-Yang. These books are the Yang–the light. The last book, World of Water, is the polar opposite. It is the Yin, the unknowing, the fear, the dark, and the possibility. That is the epitome of Water energy.
Helen: Incorporating the natural elements and their meanings sounds so interesting. It seems to be human nature to understand where we fit, and what we resonate with. For example, our star sign, our birth stone, our personality. What made you write this particular book?
Nicole: Did I mention how much I love putting real life knowledge into science fantasy fiction? I have a Masters in acupuncture, and the gifts of the elements, the relationships between the elements (the Shen and K’o cycles), the way they manifest in a person, etc — it’s all real. Feng Shui, Chinese medicine, and more are based on this paradigm that’s over two thousand years old.
For example, a Water energetic is not likely to have their back to the door in a room, and they probably know a bunch of esoteric facts. They have innate skill, and can pick up things that it takes others years to master. They might have a love/hate relationship with salt. Wisdom and stillness resonate with them, but so does fear. There’s a tendency towards long earlobes and large noses.
An Earth will have a sweet tooth and full lips and is someone you definitely want as a friend because she’ll get you and be there for you. This is the quintessential “mother” energetic, full of sympathy and understanding. But she’ll certainly have problems with boundaries.
Metal tends to have good posture and dry skin, enviable complexion and great boundaries. There can be a spaciousness to their words and an almost otherworldly presence; you tend to listen when they talk. But they can be perceived as cold or distant. The sensations in their body ground them, so they might gravitate towards piercings or tattoos. Their connection to spirit is automatic, and they’ll know grief like no one else.
Fire is more prone to stuttering and flushing. When a Fire looks into your eyes, they can look straight into your soul. They connect with you, and can be the life of the party not because they are trying to but because there’s this magnetism and draw, like moths to a flame. Similarly, they can have issues with burning out.
Wood has strong nails, tendons and muscles and is probably having a really hard time with isolation because they need to interact with people. They are immensely creative and can also be competitive, although at heart it’s all about benevolence–they want everyone to win and just like to play. Their edge is with anger.
I could go on forever! I’ve practiced acupuncture for about fifteen years and I love incorporating it into these stories. I also have a strong science background and love weaving that in too.
Helen: This is amazing. I am trying to figure out which one I am already! Maybe Water? I’m not sure. What made you begin writing?
Nicole: I am a voracious reader, but started having a hunger for books that were a little more complex, deep and less predictable. I read in the magical genres I loved, but I wanted something that left me feeling more complete, like I was better for having read it. I was probably battling some mom guilt, too, and wanted my reading to be “productive” because I had “shoulds” hanging over my head, like I “should” meditate. So I set out to write a book that felt like that, one that was all about the present moment. That book was UpSpark.
Helen: I believe you’ve written a few books now, not just the Five Element series; which genre would you say you write in?
Nicole: Ha! I wish I knew! I think all my books will have some touch of romance and magic, but beyond that all bets are off. I’ve published books with spiritual, humorous, paranormal, magical realism, mystery overtones. My current WIPs include YA, dark fantasy, science fiction, epic fantasy, steamy adult reads and a children’s picture book.
Helen: Wow! How do you come up with all these ideas?
Nicole: I exercise. Seriously, I run on the treadmill in the dark with my music blasting. Other times stories strike as just idle thoughts. My biggest problem is having to cull all these ideas! There’s so many books I want to write.
Helen: So you’ve written quite a few books, but I know you’re also a mom of three. How do you fit writing into your everyday life? I’m sure there are a lot of writer’s who want to know the trick!
Nicole: Far too often I stay up until one or two am. Then my daughter wakes me up every two hours until I finally get up for good around six or seven. This I do not recommend.
I wrote Upspark in three weeks. Sometimes I would write a few sentences on my phone when I literally had five minutes of downtime, back when my baby was a newborn. I do not recommend that either.
Now I try to write primarily in the evening and weekends, but it takes a toll on family time. Brandon Sanderson recommends set boundaries. I’m working on that.
Helen: Yes, I am not so good at boundaries, I grab the time I can. So in your hectic life, with your brain on overdrive, do you plan your books, or are you a complete pantser?
Nicole: Okay, full disclosure. I have a book. A trilogy actually. I have been harboring this baby for thirty long years. She has become so built up in my mind, I can no longer craft the words into existence. So I outline. I have outlined the hell out of that story. There is now a whole network of twists and turns, like alternate realities to the same story, and I can’t make heads or tails of it. I have a smattering of non-temporal chapters, ill-fitting jigsaw puzzle pieces. I know what I want to do, and I look at that beast of a mountain built of notes, and instead sit down and gorge on chocolate instead.
I will write her one day, but in the meantime, I am a hardcore pantser.
(Total aside–is it just me or does that sound naughty?)
For someone who would plan every minute of the day (who am I kidding, for someone who does plan the day to the second), sitting down in front of my computer with nothing but the opening and end scenes and going on a merry ride to fill in the middle is exhilarating! I don’t know if it’s just me (probably is; I’m thinking a virtue of prosopagnosia?), but I often don’t recognize what I’ve written. So when I write and then edit (if enough time has passed) it’s like getting to enjoy someone else’s story!
Helen: I agree. Sometimes I’ll go back to one of my drafts, and I’ll think, Did I really write that? And then I get lost in the story again and forget I am supposed to be editing!
It’s been such a pleasure finding out about you and your books. Thank you for joining me. Congratulations again on the release of TwinFlames. Just to close us out, can you tell us what advice you would give other writers?
Nicole: Don’t compare. Don’t compare yourself to other writers. Don’t compare your works. Don’t compare how you were to how you are to how you want to be. Be in the present moment. Enjoy the journey and see if you can let go of attachment to outcome, at least most of the time. Stay open-minded, which will help you hear the things you need to and learn the skills to improve. Being free in this way lets you flow on your path, versus bucking and forcing and constantly “trying.”
I did not do these things. I suffered. I know better now, and that’s what I’d pass on so you can skip straight to the awesome parts of writing!
About the Author:
In the ethos where herds of story ideas run wild and free, I am known as the Devourer of Books. A voracious predator, I–
Okay. I’m a mom of three young children. And I spend way too much time in the fantasy world in my head. But, hey, in this world I’m still supernatural. I channel the powers of my insomnia for good. I’m impervious to kid whining and insults (well, mostly). I have a second sense for cereal disasters and broken toy catastrophes. They call me Mom, which is code for You’re-Awesome-We-Love-You or Stop-Writing-On-Your-Computer-and-Play-With-Me. I’m not sure which. My kryptonite is my pet peeves: water running down my elbows, food stains on papers, and losing the little plastic tethers when you remove the tags off new clothes.
So, yeah, that’s me. Your average superhero mom. Oh, and I’ve got three eyes (one in the back of my head).
Joining me to talk about her novels is the multi-genre author A.R. Grosjean, author of the newly released The Great Dark Witch which is the sixth book in the Peterson Estate series. Welcome Amber. Congratulations on the launch of tyour latest novel, and thank you for joining me. Tell us a little about your novels.
Amber: The book I just finished writing/editing is called Peterson Estate 6: The Great Dark Witch. It was released on April 23, 2021. This book is different from the others in the series because the MC is evil. John will become the Great Dark Witch and his goal is to open up Hell and set the demons and bad spirits free. Basically, bring Hell on Earth, literally. The only person who is strong enough to stop him is trapped in Hell and she’s Emily Peterson. He was born and lived in England hundreds of years before Emily was even born. This is his story and how he became the Great Dark Witch, and how his battle with Emily was foreseen by angels who created him.
My current WIP is called Murder Through Time. It is a science fiction thriller with time travel and murder. Have you ever heard of a serial killer who only killed one person? The idea came to me about 20 years ago and it was on my to-be-written-list for a long time. I finally caught up to it and began writing it this year. The MC is Marcus from the year 2244. He was sent back in time to detain a suspect. He was given the case because of his history with the suspect—they grew up together and were old partners. The suspect was framed and now the real killer is loose and aims to kill the woman Marcus needs to protect. The murders have caused what’s called time quakes which threatens to rip time apart—past, present, and future. If Marcus fails to protect Billie, he may not have a home to come home to. I’m planning on releasing this book between July and August, 2021.
Helen: Your series sounds intriguing, and now I want to find out why Emily is trapped in hell! How did you come up with the titles of your books?
Amber: With Peterson Estate 6, the title just made sense. The series title was already there, and that was had changed a lot over the years as I continued writing. Long story lol. Since the MC was going to become the Great Dark Witch, it made sense to give it that title.
Murder Through Time is the WIP’s title. I wanted something that said time travel without saying time travel but also wanted a ring to it. I went through a lot of different titles before I came up with this one, over the years. Sometimes the title is the hardest part and sometimes it’s the easiest. This one happened to be one of the hardest because each title was sounding corny to me. Then this one hit me and I liked it.
Helen: It’s nice when the titles just make sense. What was the inspiration behind these books?
Amber: Murder Through Time was one of those books that stuck with me over the years. I was taking a break while sitting under a bridge and I saw a skeleton hand sticking out of some rocks. Of course, that was my imagination, it was a twig, but it inspired a story that wouldn’t escape my mind, even with my bad memory. When a story stays with me like that, I HAVE to write it.
With Peterson Estate 6, I wanted to show how strong Emily Peterson is by showing how strong her counter part was. It really was the only way. And he did deserve his side of the story being told, I guess lol. I’m sorry but I’m on Emily’s side here lol.
Helen: When did you start writing? Was their a specific trigger that made you put pen to paper?
Amber: I was bullied growing up and still live with some mental abuse as an adult. It was hard going to school and living at home. When I was 11 years old (a year after trying suicide), writing came into my life and touched me in a way nothing ever did (before my husband), and it literally saved my life. It gave me a place where I finally belonged and explained why my imagination was the way it was. It explains other things too lol. But once I picked up that pen, I haven’t put it down. Not for long anyhow. I did take breaks along the ways to raise my kids but now they are grown and I’m not letting anything stop me from writing what comes to me.
Helen: Writing can be an amazing release and support, when life proves to be difficult. I am glad you found it in a time of need. You write fantasy and sci fi, would you put your hand to any other genres?
Amber: I write in most genres lol. The first time I attempted Horror, I was trying to write like Stephen King because he was my mother’s favorite author. I wanted to be her favorite author. I thought if I wrote something she would like, she’d have to like my writing. Didn’t work that way and I am glad. I had to learn that there’s nothing I can do to make someone that should like me, like me. I’m not going to keep wasting my time on that kind of stuff anymore. I’m going to be me—if no one likes it, their loss not mine. But as it did turn out, there was too much romance in the story to be under the horror genre. It ended up being rewritten although the horror elements in the story did remain. Just made for an interesting read. That was Cursed Blood which was renamed Cursed Blood: Bloodline Curse (and its sequel)
Helen: How did you come up with your cover designs? I must admit I like the cover for Murder Through Time; it is very atmospheric and seems apt for the story.
Amber: I’m learning all about cover design right now so I can make my own. I’ve been talking to other designers who really helped me. I was told this……Know your genre and the audience first. Go to Amazon’s top 100 for other Indie Authors in that genre and audience and look at those. Choose the image, colors, and font style based on what you see. Never use more than 2 different fonts because too much isn’t good. And remember, out of all the images that are out there, it is possible that other writers are using them too so play around with them. Subtle changes can make all the difference between your cover and someone elses using the same graphic. Or hire someone else to do it (either by trade or financial payment).
Helen: Covers are so important. You have such a short timeframe to grab a readers attention. It is the only way to make your book stand out. I am jealous of the fact you are going to design your own covers. I just don’t have the artistic ability or the time to do it myself! Staying with Murder Through Time, who is your favourite character?
Amber: Originally, Billie was going to be my MC in Murder Through Time, then it changed to Marcus. Of course, there are 4 POV characters in the story—Marcus, Billie, Ryan, and Charles. My favorite has to be Marcus right now. He had a bad childhood and became a detective to save lives and help people. Then he has to bring in Ryan because he’s a suspect in Billie’s deaths. He says he was framed. And then they are thrown into another time because of a time quake, so now Marcus has to save Billie before she becomes a victim again. It is a complex story but I’m truly enjoying this story! The twists keep running at me and I’m taking it in with so much awe. And Marcus is such a hunk.
Helen: It does sound like like a story which will keep the reader engrossed. Where do you get the ideas for your books?
Amber: The Peterson Estate series just hit; I was 12 years old so I don’t remember the exact inspiration other than the fact I love castles. Same with Mother of the Dragons although I was much older lol. Cursed Blood and its sequel, Spawn of the Curse were inspired by a nightmare which was triggered by my real life (I thought I was cursed). Murder Through Time was inspired by the moment under the bridge when my imagination got the best of me (it happens). Fairytale’s Truth was inspired by my granddaughter and youngest daughter. Stolen was inspired by a book on writing that had ideas in it. I just took the ideas a little further. It was also rewritten from Stolen Identity (some of it was changed and it was made clean). And I’m still being inspired.
Helen: Which characters do you prefer to write about ? Heroes or villains?
Amber: Heroes for sure but I could end up changing my mind later down the road. It would take a special villain to like him/her lol. I’m a happy ending type of woman so yeah. Heroes take chances, they fight for what they believe in, they are extraordinary even when they don’t have powers. I love a good hero.
Helen: Let’s talk about your writing environment. How do you fit writing in your daily life?
Amber: Every day is different. Some days, I can’t write because the day is just too short. Other days, I’ll spend most of the day working on a book. I don’t have a day-to-day job so I’m lucky about that part because it does give me more freedom. But I also have “chores” to do at home so that takes the front burner. I am a mother and grandmother too. When the kids come over, I can’t write. Sometimes I babysit for one of them and sometimes one will stay over all night—can’t work on my writing on those days. So, each day does vary.
Helen: So, on those days you can write, do you prefer to work in silence or do you surround yourself in music?
Amber: I’m one of those types of people who will type what they hear so I cannot listen to music while I write. I can watch a little TV sometimes, so go figure. I don’t know why I can tune the TV out but not the music lol. Of course, I tend to dance in my chair while I listen to music too so maybe that’s it. When I am marketing, planning my posts for the week, I listen to music. I like some rock, pop, country, etc. I love variety, just like in my writing.
Helen: Do you find yourself spending a lot of time of research?
Amber: That’s hard to say because each book is so different. I have one book that I put the brakes on for a little while because there was so much research to do. Of course, that one is nonfiction so the research is vital. There’s another book that is fiction that has a lot of research to make it work and it’s on the list to be written as well. I know nothing about trains and wanted the story to be more believable so it’s on hold for the moment. Once I get ready to write that book, I’m giving myself extra time to work in all that research but it’ll be a couple years before I get to it.
Helen: Do you find yourself planning every stage of your book, or do you like to let the story take you where it will?
Amber: I like to allow my characters guide me while writing so I am a pantser 100%. I do stop to write things down in my notes though. And even though I am letting the characters guide me, I generally know the big picture. Of course, many times the characters will throw me a loop and everything that I thought I knew would be totally changed. They throw me a twist and my eyes bulge out of my head and I’m like, I did not see that coming, in a pleasant excited way lol. I love twists! And I think my characters know that.
Helen: Do you have a special place where you like to write?
Amber: At the moment, I have a room where I can write. I call it an office space; my roommate calls it the den lol. Either way, it’s my space to write. I have a desk and a little space on the wall for all my crazy note taking. I write on my laptop but I have notebooks everywhere, where I keep my notes and stuff. And I do prefer night time but my daily life is different so as I said before, I write when I can so that varies between mornings and early evening, and even sometimes in the afternoon lol. But I do prefer to write at my desk because everything is handy for me.
Helen: You are such a prolific writer, is that what you prefer over editing?
Amber: I prefer writing, for sure, but I’ve learned to respect editing over the years because through editing, my writing has become better. The first draft is the story you’re telling yourself so it’s going to be packed with errors, missing pieces, and a lot of over-used words. Through editing, I can make a good plain story into something wonderful. But I love the writing process, diving into the story with uncharted territories, and learning about the characters. I get so involved that I lose time lol. So, I really do prefer writing before editing.
Helen: I know it’s like asking you to choose between your children, but do you have a favourite book out of those you have written?
Amber: For the longest time, my favorite book I’ve written was Peterson Estate because it had been with me for so long. But now, Fairytale’s Truth is my favorite because I see my granddaughter in the MC, Maria. I wrote her based on my 4-year-old granddaughter. The story is so magical and it pulls you in like no other fairy tale that I’ve ever seen before. And it’s not a fairy tale, it has fairy tale characters in it.
Helen: Most writers are also great readers, can you share what you are currently reading?
Amber: I’ve been rereading a lot of favorites because of the pandemic, I think, with so much out of my control. I am reading Creating Characters from the editors of Writer’s Digest. I needed to make my characters better so I thought I would reread these books on writing to relearn what I already knew, improve my writing. And I can feel it’s working because Murder Through Time is so much better than I would have written it before reading that book. Creating Characters talks about names, the personalities good and bad, making your character larger than life with imperfections, etc. It talks about POV in different styles too which is why I have more than one POV character even though there is only one MC.
Helen: Thank you so much for joining me today, it has been a pleasure chatting with you. I wish you all the best with the launch of your book. Final question, I promise! What advice would you give other writers?
Amber: Hang in there, don’t give up. No matter how bad it seems, it will always get better. Keep reading, keep writing. Don’t listen to those who tell you—you can’t make it as a writer. I’ve seen too many writers succeed so you CAN make it as a writer. It won’t happen overnight but it can happen. If you are writing your first book, begin getting to know the market before you’re finished writing that book. Start manufacturing word about that book now. Make business accounts on social sites and stir the pot so to speak now. You want to be friends with other writers. Don’t compete with each other, support each other.
About the Author:
My name is Amber aka A.R. Grosjean. I’ve been writing since I was 11 years old. I grew up on a small farm in Monroe, Indiana and moved to Fort Wayne, Indiana my junior year in high school where I continue to live with my husband. We’ve been married since 1996. We have 3 children who are now grown and 4 grandchildren. For my full bio, please visit my website where you can also sign up for my bi-weekly newsletter. Thank you!
Reviewed: April 2nd 2021 Release Date: July 13th, 2020 Genre: SciFI
Lazarus Hawk, ex-soldier and ex-mercenary, convicted of a crime of terror he did not commit, and sentenced to life on an airless prison moon from which there is no escape, has been offered a way out. It’s a chance. A good chance. To accept the offer, all he has to do is die.Forced to undertake a mission against his better judgment, Hawk finds himself teaming up with the locals of a small, backward world, and Abbie Renner, a young Guarda officer searching for the source of the drug Hellfire, and prepared to go to any lengths. Read More…
Reviewed: March 28th, 2021 Release Date: February 9th, 2021
Shawn Muller is a prodigy and he knows it. It is 2051 and the militarized AI he created to hunt terrorists has begun to dominate the network that controls everything from traffic to climate. Fearful of the power of the AI he calls “Lazy Jack” and the politicians who will use it, Shawn installs an algorithm to give his creation a system of ethics.
But when that very ethical standard causes Lazy Jack to declare Shawn a profound threat to society, he is forced into terrified flight to avoid summary execution as a terrorist.