Friday, October 26, 2018

Book Review of Ragnarok Unwound by Kristin Jacques

Prophecies don't untangle themselves.

Just ask Ikepela Ives, whose estranged mother left her with the power to unravel the binding threads of fate. Stuck with immortal power in a mortal body, Ives has turned her back on the duty she never wanted. 

But it turns out she can’t run from her fate forever, not now that Ragnarok has been set in motion and the god at the center of that tangled mess has gone missing. With a ragtag group of companions—including a brownie, a Valkyrie, and the goddess of death herself—Ives embarks on her first official mission as Fate Cipher—to save the world from doomsday.

Nothing she can't handle. Right?

*We were given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review*

Ragnarok Unwound was an interesting read, and definitely different than what I usually go for.  If follows the story of Ives, a Fate Cipher, who, unlike those in the past, is mortal; however, despite her morality and inexperience, she is still responsible for helping to stop the coming of Ragnarok. 

There are gods, magic, and faeries.  Everything is woven together with humor and human-ness that make the characters seem real.  It also offers very cool visuals, including fate being threads connected to each individual, all woven together until death.

That being said, it does lack a bit of depth and reads like it is a sequel instead of the first book in the series.  I would've liked to know more about the main character, her family, and her companions outside of fighting for the world to not be destroyed so that I could've cared more about whether they lived or died.

If you like fantasy stories that have mythical gods cracking jokes and trying to save the world,  this is for you!

Goodreads   Expected Release date of January 8, 2019

This review was done by MJ. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

Mother of two, caffeine addict, sleep deprived book eater.
Kristin Jacques writes primarily speculative fiction, dabbling with dark adventures, monsters, mayhem, and the occasional sarcastic zombie.

When not at her computer spinning tales she is generally herding cats or snuggling with her gremlins. 

Twitter  Website   Facebook   Instagram 


Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Rhythmic Storytelling by Alice Cotton

Part I: The Mouths of Babes

Who better to tell a children’s story than the children themselves!  So in my class, we are storytelling with music/rhythm, art, and writing. Here are the characters my 8 - 11 year olds have come up with thus far:

See the picture below:
It starts with Bella, the singing dog, then you see Vincent, the odd one.
They don’t all have names yet but you can see the beginnings of Ming, Roy, Isabella, and Zoey.

Students are in the process of writing the rhythms, the stories and the scenes that will be presented. How will they do it? The results of all this will be in the next article. In the meantime, here are the characters. We are starting with rhythm stories to learn things like a quarter note, eighth note, half note, etc. and how to play them.

Examples of rhythmic storytelling can be found using the African talking drum. Here are some places to hear talking drums:

So what will my students come up with? STAY TUNED to see what happens next!

Monday, October 22, 2018

Book Review of Quick Fix (The Reluctant Hustler Book 1) by J. Gregory Smith

Military contractor Kyle Logan’s luck has gone from bad to worse ever since he returned home to Philadelphia following an injury by an IED in Iraq. First, his marriage crumbles, then his career after he’s pushed to the brink and assaults his wife’s lover, who is also her divorce attorney. 

When Kyle’s shady best friend turns up and offers him a “once in a lifetime” chance to regain his job and his life, all for just a couple night’s work, Kyle figures he’s got nothing to lose. The police, Philly Irish Mob and a couple of drug cartels all think otherwise. 

Now forced to fight for his life, and those around him, Kyle must turn to allies from his old neighborhood in a desperate effort to stay alive and out of prison. 

Quick Fix is one man’s fall into a world of unintended consequences that seeks to tread the razor-thin lines between right and wrong, loyalty and treachery. 

*We were given a copy of this book in exchange for our honest review* 

This book was such a pleasant surprise! It read like an action movie, everytime you thought Kyle was going to have a win something would come up and take him deeper into this world he was so reluctant to get into in the first place. 

This is a wonderfully well-written novel, the pace and voice were right on point. Kyle, though maybe rough around the edges, is a very likable and relatable character and you feel for him as bad thing after bad thing happens. 

This is a wonderfully woven story of trusting the wrong people and ending up getting the short stick and working your way through it. Kyle is always fighting for those he loves and trying to protect his close friends. He is a mix of good and bad, which makes for a compelling protagonist. 

If you enjoy action or thrillers than you will totally enjoy Quick Fix. This book will keep you on edge the whole way wishing for more. 

Amazon   Goodreads 

Greg Smith is the bestselling author of the thrillers, A Noble Cause and the Flamekeepers as well as the Paul Chang Mystery series including his breakthrough novel, Final Price and the sequels, Legacy of the Dragon and Send in the Clowns all published by Thomas & Mercer. 

Prior to writing fiction full time, Greg worked in public relations in Washington, D.C., Philadelphia and Wilmington, Delaware. He has an MBA from the College of William & Mary and a BA in English from Skidmore College. 

His debut novel, Final Price, was first released as a self-published work before being signed to Thomas & Mercer and re-released. Greg is now working on new thrillers as well as a YA fantasy series.

Greg currently lives in Wilmington, Delaware with his wife and son.


Friday, October 19, 2018

Author Interview with Kesten E. Harris

What is your definition of a writer?

I believe that a writer is someone with a story to tell. Their creativity is something that they need to express. The worlds they create need to be shared. Writing is something that makes them feel alive. I think people can be born to be writers, but I also think the art of storytelling is a skill that takes time to master.

In your opinion, how does an author draw a reader into their story?

An interesting concept is a good first step to drawing someone in, but a good opening is the best way to make them stay. I think a lot of series starters are plagued with expositional openings, and it's something that pushes people away. Openings should just throw people into the world and explain along the way rather than all at once. That way questions are answered as they pop up. That's not to say expositional openings automatically make for bad stories, of course. In the end, I guess it all depends on the skill of the writer.

Why did you write The Blue Barricade?

I've known for over a decade that I wanted to write but with so many ideas in my head, I didn't know where to start. Eventually, I got to thinking about the acronym "AI." I wondered if it could stand for something other than Artificial Intelligence while maintaining the intent behind those words. I settled on Aggressive Intellectuals, which became the name for the antagonistic alien race in the story. I built the story around them.

Were there any modern or current events that inspired your story?

I think we've reached a period in life where Science Fiction is taking the first steps in becoming reality. Virtual reality, trips to Mars, and self-driving cars all used to sound ridiculous. Used to. I wanted to write my own take on what the future would look like, based on the milestones of today.

What aspects of your own life influenced The Blue Barricade?

There's a little bit of me in each of the characters. That's what makes it so easy to write the story. Wander has my snarkiness and creativity, Laura has aspects of my occasionally harsh yet kind personality, and Manning has something that's a bit of a spoiler, but it's inspired by my relationship with one of my family members. 

What was your biggest obstacle to writing The Blue Barricade? How did you overcome it?

I wouldn't say there was anything that straight up made me stop working on it for a while, but I'm constantly plagued with doubts that it's a story worth telling. The initial draft of the story was much different, but after I paid a lovely editor named Kate Angelella for a developmental edit, everything changed. I think that without that developmental edit, the story would have been much worse. With the way it is now, I find that it's easier to build off of it and write the second, third, and fourth books. 

Tell me more about Wander’s personality. Who is he as a person?

Wander was intentionally written to be a flawed, inexperienced person with loads of potential. He's snarky, intelligent, and he's got a good heart, but there's a lot he doesn't know about his own galaxy. I wanted him to be a bit of a jerk at the beginning of the book, and someone totally different by the end. He's a bit of a pacifist, but obstacles that force him to act are constantly thrown in his direction.  When he refuses, he suffers for it. At its core, his journey is a series of lessons that bring him to a surprising ending that makes him reconsider everything he's been trying to accomplish. His future developments are ten times more extreme than the ones he goes through in The Blue Barricade, so look forward to them!

Laura is also a mysterious character of intrigue. Please tell me about her.

Laura is someone stifled by a lifetime of unfortunate circumstances. She didn't have a good childhood or a family that cared enough about her. Her parents got together for a specific purpose and birthed her only to accomplish their goals. She was never meant to have a life of her own. That changed when she befriended Wander, who showed her kindness and treated her like an actual person. Now Laura isn't sure what to do with her life, because as much as she hates her parents, part of her still wants to make them proud. Somehow it's a goal even more ridiculous than Wander's. I'm glad you're interested in her because one of my goals when writing the second book was to give Laura a lot of focus, so keep reading!

I noticed there wasn’t much “shipping” going on in your sci-fi novel. In your sequels, can we expect Wander to finally make it out of the “friend-zone”?

Haha, that's a good question! The reason why there won't be much romance in these books is that I wanted to focus more on familial relationships. The concept of family is a big theme in the series. That being said, the next/second book of the series (The Gray Raid, working title) will dip into the romantic lives of these characters a bit. I wouldn't say Wander has much interest in dating Laura at the moment, but he might meet someone else who catches his eye and challenges him in a way that makes their relationship a complex one.

And finally, without giving us too many spoilers, what other exciting elements in general can readers expect from your future sequels?

I'd consider The Blue Barricade to be the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the series. You can expect many more twists, turns, and exciting developments in the future books. Look forward to the concept of Hybrids and their abilities getting explored. You should also be excited to watch Wander's team grow. He won't be stuck with the same two teammates.

This interview was done by Brandi Peterson. You can connect with Brandi on FacebookTwitter, and her blog that focuses on early childhood literacy and writing tips for kids.

Kesten E. Harris was born in California, which is why he melts every summer. He loves video games, the internet, and books. He didn't realize his love of books until a difficult period in his life drove him to read every single Harry Potter book. Multiple times. When he was eleven. Now he's the author of The Blue Barricade, The Explorer series, and many more to come. 

You can sign up for his mailing list on his website:


Thursday, October 18, 2018

Book Review of The Blue Barricade: The Explorer by Kesten E. Harris

Wander Locke didn’t think the AI War would affect such a small town on this side of the Moon. The smoldering remains of his house proved him wrong, taking his parents down with it. 

Hope lives on in the form of his missing sister, whom he believes to have been captured by the Aggressive Intellectuals themselves. For the chance to rescue her, he'll chase an elusive band of rebels to New Earth, a planet where humans and martians seemingly live in peace. The secrets he uncovers about the planet are rivaled only by the secret he’ll learn about himself, and his family’s history with the AI.

*We received a copy of this book in exchange for our honest review*

Kesten Harris is a brilliant author. That is the word that kept coming to my mind as I was reading through his novel The Blue Barricade, brilliant. This one is a real page-turner with many plots twists and just the right amount of action to keep a reader obsessed with finishing the book.

 Wander is very relatable as a main character. He is flawed and makes mistakes, but he is always fighting for what he thinks is right. In this story, he finds out the hard way, as so many of us do, that things are not always as they seem and that can lead to some big disappointments. But through it all, he is really just doing his best as his main goal is to protect and fight for those he loves.

 My only real complaint about this book is that it does have quite a few grammar mistakes. While I did not find it too distracting from the overall story, such mistakes are at least minor a distraction and can affect the overall performance a book has in sales. So, my recommendation to the author is to clean up those errors and then I don’t see why this book would not go flying off the shelves.

 If any of my personal friends were to ask me for a book recommendation, I would confidently tell them that Kesten Harrison’s The Blue Barricade is definitely worth picking up. It was very entertaining and a pleasure to read. I look forward to reading the sequels that I hope are coming. I can’t wait to see how the story continues!

Amazon   Goodreads 

This review was done by Brandi Peterson. You can connect with Brandi on Facebook, Twitter, and her blog that focuses on early childhood literacy and writing tips for kids.

Kesten E. Harris was born in California, which is why he melts every summer. He loves video games, the internet, and books. He didn't realize his love of books until a difficult period in his life drove him to read every single Harry Potter book. Multiple times. When he was eleven. Now he's the author of The Blue Barricade, The Explorer series, and many more to come. 

You can sign up for his mailing list on his website:


Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Release Day Celebration of The High Court by Chris Ledbetter with GIVEAWAY!

Welcome to the Release Day Celebration for
The High Court by Chris Ledbetter
presented by Month9Books!
Be sure to enter the giveaway found at the end of the post!


High atop Mount Olympus, dawn breaks on a new academic term. Normalcy has returned to campus following a harrowing expedition into The Underworld to rescue kidnapped students by Zeus and his fellow Olympians. Now, as they prepare to testify in The High Court, Hyperion will be tried for the attack on Crete and death of Anytos. Kronos will stand trial for the murder of Mount Olympus Prep’s Headmaster Ouranos.
As the trials draw near, Mount Olympus Prep students and faculty are besieged repeatedly by a race of gargantuan stone and earth giants. Under heavy assault, the Olympians are forced to flee to the volcanic island of Limnos to regroup.
Meanwhile, a toxic poison Zeus has carried with him since a prior fight with a dragoness, creeps toward his brain.
In a race against time and beasts, Zeus and his friends must find a way to survive not only the toxin ravaging Zeus’ body, but also the giants who grow stronger after every attack, and somehow make it to the The High Court alive.
The High Court (The Sky Throne #2)
by Chris Ledbetter
Release Date: October 16, 2018
Publisher: Month9Books


Chris Ledbetter grew up in Durham, NC before moving to Charlottesville, VA in 11th grade. After high school, he attended Hampton University where he promptly “walked-on” to the best drum line in the conference without any prior percussion experience. He carried the bass drum for four years, something his back is not very happy about now.

After a change of heart and major, he enrolled in Old Dominion University and earned his degree in Business Administration. He’s worked in various managerial and marketing capacities throughout his life. He taught high school for six years in Culpeper, VA, and also coached football.

He has walked the streets of Los Angeles and New York City, waded in the waters of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, and climbed Diamond Head crater on Hawaii and rang in the New Year in Tokyo, Japan. But he dreams of one day visiting Greece and Italy.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Original Short Story: Ravenous by The Aspiring Author Blog Contributors

Sitting down after his long day at work, George Thanatos wanted nothing more than to sit by the fire, smoke his pipe, and sip brandy as he read the newspaper. He let his body sink into the antique club chair that had been in his family for generations. Its worn leather felt like home, and as his slippers warmed his feet, he was finally beginning to feel the familiar, relaxing, end-of-the-day calm he so enjoyed.
         “Did you remember to take out the trash? They come by in the morning you know,” his wife bellowed from the kitchen.
          George sighed. When he was younger he might have picked a fight about this, with his hard-earned enjoyment being postponed. Instead, he made his way to the kitchen where his wife gave him a curt smile and busied herself washing the dishes. Without a word, he took the trash bag out of the can, tied the strings, and carried it out to the garage.
          Cold air flooded the garage as the automatic door slowly made its way up the pulleys. The smell of fresh rain hit him and he sighed once again, going back inside to grab his raincoat and boots.
          “Don’t forget to put out all the junk by the side of the house. I did some yard work today and they’ll take all the branches and stuff with the trash,” his wife reminded him on his way back out. “I don’t want that raccoon digging and making a mess. Go on, now.”
          The thought of his cigar and brandy kept him from griping as he threw his hood up and entered the night air.
          While maneuvering the trash cans toward the curb, he noticed a streetlamp down the way flickering in the rain. The hair on his arms stood up against the cold and he shivered, glancing around to confirm that he was alone.
          The branches his wife had mentioned were stacked in a tidy pile by the far side of the house. He bent over and began picking them up, cursing that he’d forgotten a flashlight. While carrying his final load, a sudden movement tickled his peripheral vision. Turning around in a circle, he searched for the raccoon that had been dining on their trash for the last few weeks. He hoped that throwing a nice sharp stick its way would teach it a lesson, but the night was quiet except for the steady patter of rain falling around him.
         George held still, listening for whatever had skulked into the shadows at the back of the yard. He could feel his heart pounding and cursed under his breath, annoyed with his childish fear.
         “Hogwash,” he said loud enough to build his courage.
          As he walked back toward the curb with his load, a growl rolled out of the darkness and brushed against his eardrums with a snarl.
          George dropped the branches. All he could hear was his heart beating inside his skull, isolating him in the dark. He swallowed hard and willed himself to turn around.
          As his eyes pierced the shadows, searching for the source of the growl, a small black Volkswagen stopped along the curb in front of his house. The back-passenger side door of the car swung open. George glanced over his shoulder to see a pair of large red shoes emerge from within, followed by a short, plump clown in a ruffled white shirt. The clown was waving at him, calling, “Yoo-hoo!”
          George’s eyes widened at the clown’s striped blue and red pants, held up with silvery, glittering red suspenders. A crown of short orange curls fell around its head and bounced as it started to leap about. Two clowns soon followed, then another, and then several more came after, bounding out of the tiny black vehicle, all covered in white face and adorned in bright colors. As they waited for more companions to emerge from the back of the Volkswagen, a clown wearing a purple and green polka dotted skirt twirled around the others, collapsing down in a series of somersaults.
          George just stared. He didn’t know what to make of it. How in the world did they all fit into that tiny car? And who were they?
          Suddenly, a clown jumped up right in front of him. He held out a large bag and asked, “Where do we go to do tricks and get treats?”
          “Over there,” George managed to utter. He pointed to the house across the street where a group of children dressed as Disney characters stood waiting with their Halloween bags open.
          “Well, you should know! It’s Halloween after all…” a clown in a white and lavender striped blouse and lime green pants said as it rolled out of the car.
           The clowns stood together and stared at the group of Disney characters across the street and yelled, “Trick or treat!”
           With gleeful delight, they ran across the street to join the children on the porch, doing backflips and cartwheels along the way. In unison, they stopped at the top of the porch and held out their matching red Halloween bags.
           “I sure hope they have enough treats,” George muttered as more clowns emerged from the car.
            He counted each one as they appeared. When the twenty-seventh clown exited the car, it slammed the door shut and joined its companions in a game of leapfrog, following the collection of Disney characters to the next house.
As the merry gang proceeded on its way, George noticed three of the clowns suddenly start walking in a different direction. His curiosity stirred. Briefly glancing back at his cozy den window, he debated his next move. The brandy could wait.
            He took off in a slow jog to follow the trio. Their destination was the ancient, eyesore of a house on the next street over. George settled himself behind some bushes in the front yard as the door creaked open. He’d speculated for years at who lived in this mausoleum masquerading as a Victorian mansion.
          Through the opening of the door, George glimpsed a dark figure backlit by flickering light. The figure leaned forward, ensuring that no one but the clowns was in sight. The rain fell heavier now, and the clouds transformed the sky into a patchwork of black and charcoal grey.
          As George squinted through the streaks of cold rain blurring his vision, the moon broke through the clouds just enough to reveal what appeared to be a man wearing a cloak. The man waved the clowns inside. After they entered, the man looked once more to ensure they were alone. A flash of lightning tore across the sky, and in that moment of illumination, George saw the man in full and questioned if it was a man at all.
          Patches of long, wispy hair blew over the figure’s lumpy forehead. What he presumed to be a nose was more like a snout with elongated nostrils stretching upward and back. None of this disturbed him more than what took the place of a mouth. The creature—as George was now sure that what filled the doorway could not be human—had a pincer-shaped mandible that cracked open horizontally, revealing razor-sharp teeth. George’s feet were frozen in place, but the rest of his body was awash in icy tremors. The chill that penetrated his bones gave way to the warmth that filled his pants and ran down his legs. Just before the creature retreated into the house, it stopped and cocked its head in George’s direction while sniffing the air.
          George scrambled backward and fell, but the creature gave no pursuit. Instead, it stepped inside, closing the door behind it. Returning to his senses, George stood covered in mud from a puddle of piss and rain. Everything inside him told him to go home. Now. Clean up and bury the night in a bottle of brandy. Despite this, his feet betrayed him and drove him closer to the house.
          The windows were darkened by heavy curtains, save for a small patch of light flickering from a tear in the fabric. Through this, he could now see a fire dancing behind the hearth. In the foreground, the clowns stood excitedly around a table adorned with an elegant, lace tablecloth, topped with crystal cake stands and silver platters covered with treats. Rather than fill their bags, the clowns ate ravenously of the fare that laid before them. All the while, the creature stood to the side, patiently observing their gluttony till suddenly, one by one, the clowns started to collapse.
          When the last clown had fallen, the creature pushed the table aside to reveal an opening in the floorboards. One by one, the creature dragged the clowns to the opening. They were met by a jagged, insect-like leg that protruded from below and stabbed into them before pulling them under.
          Before George could turn to flee the horror, a serrated claw burst through a basement window and swept his feet. George’s head struck hard against a rock in the violent and sudden fall, rendering him halfway unconscious as he was pulled through broken glass and into the basement.
          When he blinked his eyes open, his vision was doubled and blurred. The world tilted around him and he moaned in pain, slowly raising his fingertips to the wound on the back of his head. His hair was sticky with blood and filth.
          As his vision cleared, he saw that the underground den looked more like a cave. The air was thick and musty. The walls appeared to be made of stone and the floor was damp. The wooden floorboards overhead stood in stark contrast as the only sign of manmade construction.
          George frantically searched for the beast, scanning what he could see of the lair, but the creature was nowhere in sight. Whether from the cold damp or from sheer terror, he began to tremble, uncertain of what was coming next. As he pushed his body off the floor to stand, he heard a crack beneath his palm and immediately stopped moving, afraid to alert one of his captors.
          When nothing happened for several moments, he lifted his hand to see what had made the noise. His fear only intensified as he realized what it was.
          Human teeth of different sizes and shapes. The light was dim, but the view was unmistakable. The pit of his stomach began to churn as he realized his fate. Whatever this beast was, it enjoyed the taste of human flesh.
          George sprung to his feet, looking for a way out. Gazing up, he found the window he was pulled through, only to realize that it was too high for him to reach. He needed something to boost him.
          The clowns.
          George hadn't thought about the clowns since seeing them dragged through the floorboards. They might be able to help each other out. He would just have to find them first. It couldn’t be too hard to find a few bodies in this cave, now could it?
          Keeping his back against the wall, he tried to brace himself for the search. A shiver racked his spine. Something was watching. Was it the beast here below or the creature that cared for it from above?
          As his eyes adjusted more to the dim light, he noticed the floor was scattered with teeth and bones. They were small, like that of children.
          The more he wandered, the more he could see of his surroundings by the flickering light that streaked through the floorboards above. The cave extended beyond the walls of the house, the darkness cloaking the fullness of its dimensions.
          Finally, George saw the sparkly suspenders from one of the clowns laying several feet before him. Without hesitation, he darted toward it to see if it was alive. Checking for a pulse, he realized the clown makeup hid a lithe young man, likely in his late teens. The clown car was probably a college prank—a genius idea born of energetic youth from one of the fraternities at the local university.
          The young man appeared unconscious from whatever he’d eaten at the creature’s banquet table. Frantically, George slapped his face, hoping for a sign of life. From the shadows, a prickly voice said, “He won't be much use to you now. He’s already been tasted.”
          Scrambling away from the voice, George dragged the body with him back toward the window.
          The shadow cackled till it was racked with a hacking cough. “Run, little man, if you must. Scamper back to your wall, but there isn’t any use. You’ll still die afraid, covered in your own blood and piss. They all do.”
          “Who are you?” George stammered.
          “I am the first.”
          “The first what?” George’s eyes were wide with fright as he searched the darkness for the source of the laughter, seeing only bones and blood and filth.
          “Oh, young one,” the voice sighed in condescension. “That is the wrong question. Your first question was better.”
          “What are you?” George asked. The boy in his arms moaned and rolled onto his side, curling around his stomach in distress. “What did he eat?”
          “That was two questions,” the voice replied. “The first of which is the best one yet. Shall I answer you?”
          “What did he eat?” George demanded.
          “An herb. A mushroom. A sweet that he shouldn’t have tried. Greedy, greedy boy.”
          The boy’s body seized, and his back arched up off the floor as if on command. Bloody spittle foamed at his mouth, making him choke and gag. As the boy gasped for air, a feather wisp of light flowed from his nostrils towards the shadows.
          The shadow groaned in ecstasy and sighed, “So young. So fresh. First taste of erotic flesh. I just love college boys, don’t you?”
          A sliver of pale flesh emerged from the darkness as the boy’s breathing slowed. His body stilled, and George suddenly felt very much alone. Tears stung at his eyes and he shoved them away with the back of his hand.
          “Is he dying?” George asked, his voice breaking, betraying his grief.
          “No,” the voice replied. “He’s dead.”
          “Why?” George whispered.
          “I ate his youth, dined on his love, devoured his hopes and dreams. Killing him was a kindness.” The voice was different now; husky and rich where it had been weak and quivering. A long, sensuous curve of a female leg appeared from the shadows. “You wouldn’t have liked him. He was a twit. All bravado and ambition without any talent. The world is better off. As I said, killing him was a kindness.”
          The voice grew near as the rest of her body slipped into the light. She stood before him, naked. Her long legs stepped carefully through the wrack and ruin of skeletal remains that carpeted the floor. Her pale skin glowed in the flickering light from overhead. Long, dark curls caressed her shoulders as she moved nearer one languid step at a time.
          George was in awe of her. This creature of beauty and destruction.
          “Please,” he murmured.
          She gave him a gentle smile and knelt before him, straddling his lap to cradle his head against her breasts.
          “Shhh,” she soothed. “Ask me your question?”
          “Who are you?” he whimpered.
          “I’ve already told you, child. I am the first.”
          “What are you?” he gasped in veneration.
          She cupped his face in her hands and turned it up to regard him. “Hungry.”

Friday, October 12, 2018

Author Interview with Ajinkya Bhasme

1. What made you decide to write a novel? What inspired you?

My mother, who is a lawyer, used to tell me stories from her work which always thrilled me. I loved to hear how people responded differently in different situations. It got me attracted to human psychology and my life started revolving around these stories. I was always fairly reclusive and selectively socially, but later I had this realization that my introverted character is because I loved to live my life in stories. I started writing short poems to express myself more. I had my family and teachers read them and give me criticism. Once, my school principal asked me to try to write a short story instead of a poem. I tried my hand on it, and between us, the story was nauseatingly unscrupulous and terribly crafted. My principal read it with negative criticism and asked me to never write stories again. I took it as a challenge and wrote my first fantasy fiction when I was 12-years-old. The book was well appreciated by a lot of people and their love and support made me believe in myself. And that is how I began to write.

 2. What is your favorite part of the writing process?

As I mentioned before, I am particularly introverted. Even as a kid, my entire life revolved around fictional characters and their stories. I chose literature, dance, theatre and any other art form that I could, to do justice to these stories. I felt more alive playing some other character, to be in several different shoes than I felt being myself. For me, words are like songs, they have an aura. I don’t believe that I write these words, I believe that the words sing to the reader through me. I am a mere medium for these words and characters to tell their stories. My favorite part of writing is how I get so lost in the story that my surrounding evaporates for me. The world becomes my laptop and my paper-pen. Every jiffy of the day becomes role-playing. It is fun to play the characters and think in the way they would in certain situations. You know what is more fun? When you have to delete the entire thing that you wrote because you have suddenly imagined a better scenario. 

3. Were there any areas in writing where you found yourself struggling?

The worst nightmare of an author that happens way too often is lack of right inspiration. It can get very frustrating to stare at a blank page/ screen with no story at the back of your head. And if you force yourself to write- like a compulsory job, you know it will be disastrous. I took 4 years to write this novel just because I did not want to haste it. The story had to be told with ease. You will realize that through my writing style as well. As you reach the end, the style has become better in a way. I did not want to re-write the beginning because to me it felt like cheating. The passion of the words that spoke to me that time would be lost and be replaced by new words. My biggest struggle, however, was my research. The topic that I chose to write on was quite sensitive and buried well in the past. To meet people afresh and ask them the story was very difficult. There were hundreds of lives involved and I knew I would face a lot of resistance from people to share their personal life with me. So I had to first befriend them, gain their trust and note everything in confidence that I will never reveal anyone’s identity no matter what. There were so many perspectives of the story involved, that it ultimately came up to me to decide which perspective resonated the most with me.

4. What sparked the idea for When the Devil Whispers?

A few years ago, when I was sipping coffee, my memory suddenly sprinted to the time when my mother narrated the most horrific story that she had witnessed in her career, the story that scared me so much as a kid that I refused to step out of my house alone for days. That particular thought covered my entire body in chills and I immediately took a paper and pen and wrote the words- “To err is human; to forgive, divine. And then there are crimes that are so cold-blooded and harrowing that even the devil is terrified to walk alone in the dark”, which 4 years later became the book called- ‘When the Devil Whispers’. This story had to be told because it is so uncommon in India to have serial killers and on top of that, serial killers who are women. India is a very tolerant country and our law believes that people can change, so capital punishment is extremely rare in the country. When the women in the story were announced to become the first women to be sent to the gallows, it sent shivers across the country. Every aspect of this story in a way harmonized with me and I decided to write this book.

5. What advice do you have for aspiring authors?

Most of the times, we, as artists, get scared of negative criticism. I strongly suggest to take all criticism with a pinch of salt and if you internally feel that the criticism is apt, you improve. My mother shared this words of wisdom with me when I was a kid- “Your art is an opportunity; not everyone is blessed with it. Go on this beautiful journey and accept this opportunity. Because, you will either succeed or learn. You can never fail.” Get out there, do what you do, tell your version of the best story and find your clan that will support you. The world has enough hate, support each other and help each other. Throw so much positivity in the universe that it is bound hit you back hard. Haters gonna hate and potatoes gonna potate- write your stories for yourself, not for others, you will definitely find your clan. 

6. Do you have plans to write another novel? 

I Scooby dooby doo ☺ The upcoming novel is also based on a true story and is going to be a psychological thriller about how a mother and her son reunite with his dead father 18 years after he has been cremated. The man behaves and knows exactly what the father knew, everyone else thinks it is a miracle but the mother is convinced he is not the real father. He is not a ghost, so, how did he come back? Or was he ever dead?

A 26-year-old hot-blooded Indian artist on the constant lookout for stories.
Ajinkya is a Chemical engineer graduated from one of the most premium institutes of the world- Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay. After his graduation, he landed a job as a scientist in a global pharmaceutical company where his knack for writing was first boosted. 
Ajinkya’s mother practices criminal and consumer law in India and used to narrate stories from her work ever since his childhood. He developed a particular interest in one of the most horrific cases that his mother had witnessed in her career. A decade later, he decided to write about that case.
Ajinkya works as an HR performance coach now in Mumbai training people on various aspects of corporate life. 
Outside of work and literature, he is a professional dancer and choreographer. He is proficient in 26 international dance forms like modern dance, jazz, latin ballroom etc. He teaches kids and adults and trains them for reality shows. 
His interest in psychology encourages him to take multiple academic courses and work with differently-abled kids. His love for music, dance, and psychology allows him to interact better with children with schizophrenia and epilepsy with dance therapy sessions. 
Ajinkya is a passionate artist at heart and keeps striving to both preserve the history and modernize the future. 

Website   Twitter   Facebook   Instagram   Amazon Author Page   Linkedin

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Book Review of The Devil Whispers by Ajinkya Bhasme

Inspired by real events; the grimmest tale in the history of the Indian judiciary.
Trust no one; the devil walks among us.
She sees everything and hears everything.
And if She ever whispers to you, you must obey.
Shalini now knows that death is not the worst that can happen.
Why did a tolerant country like India sentence two women to be hanged to death for the very first time?
Will Shalini survive the wrath of her kidnapper or will death greet her early to relieve her from her misery?

*We were given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review*

This story is fast paced and keeps you guessing the whole way. It did take me a bit at first to get a feel for the rhythm of the book and structure. Once I was able to adjust to this though I found myself engrossed in a story of mystery that kept me on the edge of my seat. 
What I liked about this story was how it changed point of views, giving the reader insight into the different elements going on in the story. The story also jumps around somewhat, so that keeps the reader guessing and problem-solving. 
This story takes on some dark issues, bringing light to some of the dark corners of society. While it has violence, the story itself shows how staying strong can help you get through many situations. 
If you are a fan of mysteries and enjoy stories that are fast-paced, then you will enjoy this novel. 

Kindle   Paperback US   Paperback UK   Paperback Europe   Paperback Japan   Paperback India

A 26-year-old hot-blooded Indian artist on the constant lookout for stories.
Ajinkya is a Chemical engineer graduated from one of the most premium institutes of the world- Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay. After his graduation, he landed a job as a scientist in a global pharmaceutical company where his knack for writing was first boosted. 
Ajinkya’s mother practices criminal and consumer law in India and used to narrate stories from her work ever since his childhood. He developed a particular interest in one of the most horrific cases that his mother had witnessed in her career. A decade later, he decided to write about that case.
Ajinkya works as an HR performance coach now in Mumbai training people on various aspects of corporate life. 
Outside of work and literature, he is a professional dancer and choreographer. He is proficient in 26 international dance forms like modern dance, jazz, latin ballroom etc. He teaches kids and adults and trains them for reality shows. 
His interest in psychology encourages him to take multiple academic courses and work with differently-abled kids. His love for music, dance, and psychology allows him to interact better with children with schizophrenia and epilepsy with dance therapy sessions. 
Ajinkya is a passionate artist at heart and keeps striving to both preserve the history and modernize the future. 

Website   Twitter   Facebook   Instagram   Amazon Author Page   Linkedin

Monday, October 8, 2018

The Breadcrumb Trail

Once, a brother and sister got lost in the woods. In order to make sure they wouldn't get lost, walking in endless circles, they left a trail of breadcrumbs. Little did they know that as soon as they were out of sight, a murder of ravens followed behind them, snatching up the breadcrumbs and erasing the path the children had created.

Of course, we all know how that story ends. With the two children viciously murdering the old witch who kidnapped them, held them against their will, and threatened them with cannibalism.

Stephen King has nothing on the Brother's Grimm.

When crafting a good mystery, you must leave a breadcrumb trail for your hungry readers to devour as they follow the characters through the story. But, being the cunning creator that you are, you must also obscure the path at the same time. Make the crumbs too big, and the reader will fill up too quickly, get bored, and flit off to the suspenseful stylings of P.D. James. Make the crumbs too small, and the reader will feel tricked because there was no path to follow.

In this Mystery Monday post, we will be talking about crafting clues and planting them in plain sight. Whether through dialog, setting, description, or action, planting clues is a serious mind game designed to manipulate the reader and it needs to be done with purpose and planning.

When I was a child, my favorite riddle went a little something like this:

Sally came home to find Bonnie and Clyde lying dead in a puddle of water on the dining room floor. Broken glass was scattered around the bodies and a cat sat on the chair, flicking its tail. Sally screamed. 

How were Bonnie and Clyde murdered?

This simple riddle is a master class in providing all the clues you need to solve a mystery without providing the one piece of information that would make it obvious.

When my mama told me this riddle at the dinner table one night, she let me ask a series of yes or no questions:
  • Did Bonnie and Clyde drown? No.
  • Were they stab with the glass? No.
  • Were they poisoned? No.
What makes this riddle so devilishly clever is the way the murderer is described: as part of the scene. 

"A cat sat on a chair, flicking its tail."

Sounds more like an evocative description to make you imagine the room a little better, doesn't it?

Most people already know this riddle, and if you don't, I'm sorry to spoil it for you, but it's either a clever riddle or an amazing book, so I'm picking the lesser of two evils.

You see the question that I finally asked after a frustrating, teary-eyed eternity was this: 
  • Are Bonnie and Clyde human? No.

And just like that, I figured it out. Bonnie and Clyde are goldfish and the cat is the killer!!

On a larger scale, you want that light bulb moment to hit the reader as an audible gasp, at just the right moment and with a little bit or a lotta bit of tension crackling all around.

This riddle also demonstrates how burying clues about your killer as part of the backdrop of your story can be so effective. 

Say your victim was killed by a hit and run and the killer is the next door neighbor. Your investigator can meet this same neighbor while riding the bus and say something like, "I haven't seen you on this line before."

To which your killer says something like, "Yeah, I'm just sick of sitting in traffic, I see you hop on it every day, figured you must know something I don't. Besides, did you hear about what happened to [the victim], streets just aren't safe."

Now that nice juicy breadcrumb is just a piece of scenery. A way to breathe life into a description of a morning commute, or as a literary device to allow our MC investigator to do more than just "think" about the case.

And this is how all clues should be peppered through your story. Unless it's something you need to spoon feed to your reader (and you probably don't), hide it.

It's amazing how far you can push this technique. You just need to give your killer a function within the story. They can't be that creepy dude lurking in the corner. They have to be a minor character with a nice little side plot going on, something that makes your investigator/MC more human and the world you've created more real.

Because if they're serving an actual purpose in the story, your killer won't stand out. Let's go back to our riddle and I'm going to tell it to you another way.

Sally came home to find her cat sitting next to Bonnie and Clyde; both of whom were lying dead in a pool of water. "Bad, kitty!" Sally screamed.

A little more obvious this time, isn't it? Now, the cat isn't part of the backdrop; now, it's part of the foreground. You're focusing on it. It still might take you a minute to guess, but it's not going to stump you.

The important lesson here is that the richer and more real you make your world, the more hiding places there are for all kinds of delicious clues. Places for your killer to fade into the background noise. Places for your murderer to just sit and wait to be discovered.

This is also why I'm a fan of the ensemble cast. Clementine Toledano Mysteries have a lot of characters and side plots. The reason it's endearing to the reader and not annoying or confusing is that the side plots exist for a purpose. They're not just there for misdirection, they move the story forward in other ways. Same with the cast of characters. They all have a purpose and they all have a voice. Granted, usually one of them is a cold-blooded killer, but we all have our flaws, don't we?