Sunday, July 31, 2011

BLOOD AND SUNLIGHT - One-Year Anniversary Extravaganza

Time flies whether you’re having fun or not. What a wild ride! It’s been one year since we published Jamie Wasserman’s horror romantic paranormal vampire novel, BLOOD AND SUNLIGHT - A Maryland Vampire Story. To celebrate, we’re launching a First Anniversary Extravaganza for the month of August.

● 99-cent ebook on Amazon Kindle, good through August 31
● One FREE ebook copy given away per day through August 31
● One FREE print copy given away on August 31

To enter for a chance to win a free ebook or the print copy of Blood and Sunlight, you gotta email us and be a follower of our blog. Questions? Email us at Let the fun begin!

All winners chosen at random from emails sent by followers of this blog. One entry per blog follower. Thanks to everyone for participating. You’re all winners in our book!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Author Nova Sparks' DOME PARTY Wrap-up

Last Day of DOME PARTY Today...

Book giveaway ends, drop by for last chance to win an ebook copy of the sci-fi novel THE DOME.

TO WIN - follow one of Nova's blogs (addresses below her interview) and email us at so we can notify winners. Up to five copies of THE DOME will be given away to lucky responders chosen at random!

Title – THE DOME
Author – Nova Sparks
Genre – Science Fiction
Content – Language, drug references, sexual references

What if you knew the exact date and time the world will end, what would you do? Sam Tucker was faced with that dilemma when he began getting visions of the Earth's demise. Luckily for him, he was able to save his family and as many people as he could before the tragic event occurred, and he did so with the help of unknown visitors. With Earth now destroyed, Sam, his family and thousands of other lucky survivors must live the rest of their lives on a faraway planet in a Dome that simulates life on Earth. But Sam's mind can't seem to rest as a few questions arise. Why did the aliens save them? How did they know about Earth's sure fate? And exactly what are they hiding?

Emma Tucker begged for an escape from her boring life but never in a million years did she think it would come at the destruction of Earth. Living on a new planet and finding it difficult to get rid of her rebellious habits, Emma finds herself making friends with a member of the alien race and it soon develops into an unexplainable love; a love that is more dangerous than she could ever imagine. While her father is searching for his own truths, she has no idea that she is stumbling on a truth of her own.

Nova Sparks, author of The DOME

Sample or purchase The DOME (Book One of The DOME trilogy):

Sentence Sampler #4

She shook her head in dizzying confusion. Whatever the truth was, she probably would never know. But one fact remained ... a fact she couldn’t deny. Slowly she looked up at Nick. “You knew,” she whispered. “The whole time you were with me, you knew.”

Dark Crescendo
by Lucille Naroian
Contemporary Romance
Rating: Language and some sexual content.

At the funeral of her famous pianist husband, Joanna Reed Dalton is stunned to see her former lover, Nick Jordan. For the last three years of her loveless marriage to Steven, she has dreamed of being with Nick again - and finally, he's back. As a pianist in her own right, Joanna now has a chance to enjoy life. The question is, will Nick be a part of it - and will her father allow it? Joanna's bid for freedom and love could end in heartbreak or happiness. Tension and uncertainty build in a dark crescendo, with the outcome unknown until the final notes.

Buy at Amazon

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Nova Sparks' THE DOME - Blogfest & Dome Party day 3

DOME PARTY AND BLOGFEST continues, Day 3...

● Author Interview
● Book Summary and Excerpt
● Chances to win copies of Nova's ebook, The Dome, through July 30

TO WIN - follow one of Nova's blogs (addresses below her interview) and email us at so we can notify winners. Up to five copies of THE DOME will be given away to lucky responders chosen at random!

Summary of The Dome by Nova Sparks

Genre – Science Fiction
Content – Language, drug references, sexual references

What if you knew the exact date and time the world will end, what would you do? Sam Tucker was faced with that dilemma when he began getting visions of the Earth's demise. Luckily for him, he was able to save his family and as many people as he could before the tragic event occurred, and he did so with the help of unknown visitors. With Earth now destroyed, Sam, his family and thousands of other lucky survivors must live the rest of their lives on a faraway planet in a Dome that simulates life on Earth. But Sam's mind can't seem to rest as a few questions arise. Why did the aliens save them? How did they know about Earth's sure fate? And exactly what are they hiding?

Emma Tucker begged for an escape from her boring life but never in a million years did she think it would come at the destruction of Earth. Living on a new planet and finding it difficult to get rid of her rebellious habits, Emma finds herself making friends with a member of the alien race and it soon develops into an unexplainable love; a love that is more dangerous than she could ever imagine. While her father is searching for his own truths, she has no idea that she is stumbling on a truth of her own.

Nova Sparks, author of The DOME

Sample or purchase The DOME (Book One of The DOME trilogy):

Author Interview with Nova Sparks

Recently Penumbra Publishing had the privilege of talking with author Nova Sparks about her first book in The Dome trilogy, The Dome. Here’s what she had to say about her writing and her book.

PP: What were you trying to achieve when you first started work on THE DOME trilogy?

NS: I wanted to write stories where humans are taken out of their comfort zone and forced to recreate what it means to be human. Too many times I’ve read a book or seen a movie or TV show where aliens come to Earth and invade, or there is a UFO sighting. I wanted to write a story where humans are taken from Earth and have to live on an alien planet with nothing but their memories to start over with. This forces humans to figure out what really makes them human, and if that’s all worth fighting for. It really makes us look at ourselves through the eyes of another species.

I wanted this trilogy to shine light on human potential and the human purpose. I really believe that we are a ridiculously cocky and arrogant race of people, and we are never really shown how small and insignificant we are in the larger spectrum of things. But, at the same time, I want this book to show how rare and precious we are as well.

PP: Explain how THE DOME trilogy got from idea to published book?

NS: THE DOME trilogy started out as a television show treatment that I tried to have produced on HBO. When I first wrote the treatment, I wanted it to contain elements of romance, mystery, thriller and urban fantasy all mixed up into one story. As far as the content, I think I’ve succeeded. Many of my readers have told me that the genre, although obviously sci-fi, seems like a hybrid of a bunch of other stuff.

The idea definitely didn’t hit me all at once. I started out wanting a sci-fi story about aliens taking humans away from Earth to a distant planet. That’s all I had for a while. Then I wanted to have this big mystery behind the aliens’ intentions, so I started giving my alien characters a bigger voice. I thought it was weird that humans were on an alien planet and barely spoke of any aliens. Of course, I’m a huge romance fiend, so I added the romance element between my main character Emma, and an alien boy, Ked. Emma and Ked were inspired by complex relationships, but with an added twist. In the end, I really wanted to write a book that, for once, made humans the weaker species.

I started thinking about the concept for THE DOME in 2009. A few months later into the year, I started writing a loose outline that was really basic. Periodically throughout the months ahead, I would go back and change some stuff or add some stuff until it became a fairly complete story line. Some time during 2010, I started writing it as a treatment for a TV show. When my efforts to make my dream into a reality failed, I started expanding on the idea a little more. I began doing pages of character profiles and then pages upon pages that broke down every episode from Season 1 until Season 3. I really worked hard on this because I believed in it so much. Then I heard about self-publishing (didn’t even consider traditional publishing because the process seemed all too similar to trying to get a TV show picked up), and I decided to make THE DOME into a book trilogy. That didn’t take very long because everything for the book was already done. I had the character profiles, their back stories, and the complete story line. I knew exactly what I wanted to do with it. The most difficult part was deciding who would be the main character between Sam (the father) and Emma (his daughter). I decided to do something a little unorthodox and make it a two-point-of-view story because main characters are just another way of saying this person is more important than everyone else. I didn’t want to make that decision – both Sam and Emma are equally important.

After about three months of converting the treatment into book form and editing, I was finally ready to publish in March of 2011. The book cover art took about a month to do, so that was the delay, and I published officially in April of 2011. So, all in all, it took a total of two years for the idea to produce itself into a book. I was also working on five other books during the same time period, so that interfered a lot.

PP: Book 1, THE DOME, is out now. Tell us a little about Book 2.

NS: Book 2, THE DOME REVELATION, basically picks up where the THE DOME (book 1) left off. I’ve gotten some really great feedback about the first book, so I’m really excited about putting out Book 2. Emma, one of my main characters, has evolved into a mature woman. She’s still the same Emma, but after reading Book 1 and then going into Book 2, readers will see a change in her personality and how that reflects in the decisions she makes moving forward.

Sam, Emma’s father, has some serious issues that he has to work through. This book starts off with him and Emma being bonded by a bone-chilling secret, and they are both torn about whether or not they should tell people what they know.

Kris, Emma’s mom, has a much bigger voice. She actually becomes involved in this world instead of always being oblivious and left out. I was excited about giving her a chance to show what she is made of. Of course, I introduce a few more human characters. Their purpose is to remind Emma of what she is missing from the human world, and to give her the opportunity to experience something other than her ‘new-found norm.’ Her interactions with these humans plays a big role in a lot of the decisions that she makes throughout the book. And the lovely alien boy, Ked, will definitely return.

Now I have to stop myself; otherwise I will tell everything. All I will say is that I’m very excited!

PP: Thank you, Nova, for sharing your writing experiences and insights with our readers.

NS: Thank you for the opportunity.

Excerpt from The Dome by Nova Sparks

The best thing about school is that even though it’s boring as shit, I always manage to make a quick buck. About two years ago after watching a documentary in school called Cocaine Cowboys, I got the idea to start making and selling my own drugs.
I live in a small town surrounded by bored white kids just looking for a way out. And I’m more than happy to give it to them. For five bucks a pop I can get you high as a kite and keep you coherent enough to make it through a full day of school without anyone so much as looking in your eyes for signs of intoxication. I’m that good. Becca and Tim are cool, but if it was up to me I would’ve never included them in this. But like any good operation, you need people to keep it going.
Becca can get the supplies we need because her father works at a hardware store, and Tim (since he is a wee bit older than me) has his own spot with his brother so I have a “warehouse” to operate from. Other than that, Becca is an idiot. You never get high off your own supply. That is dealer 101. Ask anyone who knows and they’ll tell you. But Becca can’t seem to keep her fucking hands out of her own shit.
“Yo! Are you gonna help me bag this up or are you gonna sit there and watch me do everything?” I yell across the room. Becca and Tim get up and start slowly walking over to the table. Sweat is pouring down my back because of the heat coming from the Bunsen burners. This only infuriates me more because it reminds me that not only am I the only level headed one here, but I’m also the brains of the whole operation. Becca doesn’t even understand math let alone science so I wouldn’t dare let her anywhere near my lab.
“Babe, relax. You’re too young to be stressing yourself out.” Tim says, with a fake ass Italian accent. Tim and I go way back to my freshman year of high school. When I was fourteen he was seventeen and should’ve been in his senior year, but he dropped out in the tenth grade, before I ever met him. If his parents weren’t dead, I’d imagine they wouldn’t like that. He never talks about them but when I saw his house for the first time I came up with the conclusion that they had money. His older brother never encourages him to do a damn thing with his life and I hate the way he just sits around not saying anything like a deaf mute. He just stares at Becca with those piercing gray eyes. I swear if he ever gets a chance, he would have his way with her.
“Okay so if we’re done here, I’m going to go to school.” I say to no one in particular.
“Okay well…I’m going to stay here for a while and then head back home.” Becca says looking at the ground.
I turn to leave but Tim grabs my arm and twirls me around so I fall into his chest.
“Come over later okay? Becca’s gonna leave soon and Thom is working tonight.”
I smell marijuana and mint on his breath and wince at the odd combination.
“Yeah sure, I’ll be here.” I reply, instantly regretting it. He kisses me rough and hard and let go of my arm to release me. I walk out of the garage, grab my bike and head down the street. When I’m sure no one can see me, I wipe whatever is left of Tim’s dried spit off my mouth.
I’m not exactly sure when, but all my feelings for Tim started to fade away a little while ago. All the things that drew me to him in the beginning now seemed to get on my nerves. I hated his knack for skinny jeans and message shirts like, Your Girl Thinks I’m Hot or Everything’s Bigger in Texas. I hate how warm his skin always feels even in a well air conditioned room.
I hate how his breath always smells of marijuana. I think he’s starting to notice because he always pops an Altoid in his mouth right before he kisses me. But that just makes it worse. Even more, I hate the way he touches me. His touch isn’t like a boyfriend who loves and needs me. It’s weird because I’ve never really been in love or felt like I needed someone before, but whatever it’s supposed to feel like isn’t happening between me and Tim.
I mostly get the vibe that he desperately wants to take my virginity, like I’m some score and the past three years have just been a really patient game he’s been playing. Although he never really made any promising advances in that way, I figure it’s only a matter of time before he either leaves me or fucks Becca. But after coming to terms with everything I feel, I never could muster up the courage to break up with him. My parents hate him and I do enjoy pissing them off so maybe that’s it.
After a long day of school, making money and sitting through lectures about shit I already know, I hop on my bike and head home. I know I told Tim I would come over but I don’t feel like it, not tonight. When I get home I drop my backpack on the floor by the front door and head straight to the kitchen for some orange juice. Coming home from school is so peaceful because no one is ever home and I have the house to myself. My mom works at an elementary school near the city and Sam leaves for work at an engineering plant about an hour before I get out of school so I’m always coming home to an empty house.
After I finish drinking I head up to my parents room to see if there is any money lying around and I’m shocked to see Sam sitting at the edge of the bed.
“Oh- what are you doing home?” I ask trying to seem genuinely concerned.
I wait a second for him to answer and turn to leave.
“Hey, Emma.” He stops me in my tracks.
“Hi, Sam. What are you doing home?”
“Emma, would it kill you to refer to me as Dad?”
“When you treat me like a prisoner instead of your daughter, it does become a little difficult to call you Dad.”
I start to say something else but I notice he hasn’t looked up at me once. The dude was seriously starting to freak me out so I decided to end it there and take Tim up on his offer. Anything would be better than being stuck home alone with Sam acting all weird.

Nova Sparks, author of The DOME

Sample or purchase The DOME (Book One of The DOME trilogy):

TO WIN - follow one of Nova's blogs (addresses below her interview) and email us at so we can notify winners. Up to five copies of THE DOME will be given away to lucky responders chosen at random!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Sentence Sampler #3

Look at him, Joanna! Take a really good look at him! He’s nothing but a vampire in a tuxedo. Give him six months, and he’ll suck the life right out of you.”

Dark Crescendo
by Lucille Naroian
Contemporary Romance
Rating: Language and some sexual content.

At the funeral of her famous pianist husband, Joanna Reed Dalton is stunned to see her former lover, Nick Jordan. For the last three years of her loveless marriage to Steven, she has dreamed of being with Nick again - and finally, he's back. As a pianist in her own right, Joanna now has a chance to enjoy life. The question is, will Nick be a part of it - and will her father allow it? Joanna's bid for freedom and love could end in heartbreak or happiness. Tension and uncertainty build in a dark crescendo, with the outcome unknown until the final notes.

Buy at Amazon

Monday, July 25, 2011

Author Nova Sparks DOME PARTY and BLOGFEST


Nova Sparks, author of the sci-fi DOME trilogy, launched her blogfest Monday, July 25, which will continue through the end of the month. Here's the schedule...

25th-Guest Blog at My Neurotic Book Affair

26th-Giveaway and Excerpt at Paranormal Wire

27th-Book Feature at Penumbra Publishing Blog

28th-Dome Party at Natasha's Author Site

29th-Interview at Independent Paranormal

30th-Last Tour Stop-Bundle Giveaway-Penumbra

There'll be blog articles, book giveaways and a DOME PARTY. Go to Nova's blog site at for more info!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

New Book Release - COLORS by David Berardelli

by David Berardelli
Paranormal Suspense

Twenty-three-year-old Lindsay Foreman's life was normal and boring until a few days ago. Now she's seeing things ... weird things ... things normal people don't see. Wisps of color above people's heads ... and flashes of images she couldn't possibly have seen herself, as if someone is sending these images to her mind. She has no idea what's happened to her, but realizes this all started after she tried to help an old homeless woman struck down by a hit-and-run driver. Before dying, the woman told Lindsay she needed to give her something. And now Lindsay's got this ... gift of vision beyond the normal. She doesn't know what it means, but she needs to find out.

The problem is, somebody out there doesn't want her digging around in the truth, and they'll do anything to keep her quiet. Anything. And then suddenly a man named C.C. Cross comes to her rescue. But she's not exactly sure he's there to help her. Lindsay needs to figure out what's going on before it's too late - and time's running out!

Sentence Samplers #2

Oops, we missed First Sentence Fridays this week, so we're starting a day-late trend on Saturday. Tell us what you're reading ... open the book and pick the second sentence of any page, or the second sentence on the very first page. Or any sentence, for that matter. It's a fun Sentence Sampler - open Saturday and every day of the week - to let other people see what's available in books they may not have read yet! If you find a different sentence that's not a second sentence, that's OK - this is a sampler, so pick one sentence, two, or three and show us your Sentence Sampler! Be sure to include the title and author of the book.

Here's our Sentence Sampler for Saturday...

The neon lights flashing Pleasure Palace splashed onto the hectic crowd bullying its way through the front doors.

Escape Clause
by David Berardelli


Hank Lee, a field representative for a large construction corporation in Orlando, Florida, is having a drink in a bar one night when he spots a woman who reminds him of Sally Burns, the love of his life he’d foolishly let slip through his fingers seven years earlier. Before he can find out if it is truly her, the chain of events quickly turns chaotic, and Hank fears the woman of his dreams could be in grave danger.

Following the trail she’s left behind, Hank discovers Sally is now married to one of the richest men in the state. But when he goes to tell the software king Sally’s turned up missing, he finds the man oddly unconcerned, and wonders if he knows more about the situation than he pretends. As Hank digs further to find out what happened to Sally, he suddenly finds himself in danger too, and realizes corporate politics can be murder – literally.

Sally’s fate depends her wits and ability to survive, and on Hank’s tenacity to find out the truth and find her before it’s too late. If there’s a contract on her life, what she needs – what they both need – is an escape clause.

Available at,,, and other online retailers. Also available for order from your local bookstores.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Best Time to Write

Best Time to Write?
Eddie Says – Break the Rules!

By Robert J. Wetherall

“Any time is the best time for writing,” so celebrated writer, welder, and my close friend, Eddie Salinski, proclaimed one Sunday when I found him at home in his trailer. I had brought up the subject of creative timing after I developed a profound case of writer’s block. It was only natural that I seek sage advice from Eddie, as he has seen practically everything there is to see in the ups and downs of writing.

Eddie was busy giving his pet raccoon, Petey, a bath in an old galvanized wash basin. The poor little beastie looked at me with his sad burglar-in-the-night eyes, as if imploring me to free him from the realm of soapy water and let him return to his usual resting place atop his master’s bed.

“You gotta realize,” Eddie said, vigorously lathering the top-knot on Petey’s head, “when the muse strikes, you go with it, no matter what the clock in the kitchen says. Hell, I get my best ideas about two in the morning, usually after a bad dinner. All kinds of wild and woolly stuff pops into my head – most of it sheer crap, but worthy of being sorted out when I get up. Of course, I usually forget a lot, but more often than not, I’ll remember a little jewel, just a little sparkling thing that I can use to goose up a scene or two.

“And forget that stuff about writer’s block. No such thing. Just grab that cheap laptop of yours and start pounding away. Like a good BM, you’ll start loosening up, and before you know it, that so-called block is history.”

Eddie picked up Petey and a thick towel and began rubbing the two together like he was trying to light a fire. Petey’s little paws flailed this way and that as Eddie tousled his furry friend to a fair-thee-well.

“Sometimes I like to just sit myself down and start writing, not knowing where I’m going or why I’m going there. That’s when it’s really fun, when you find yourself drifting into all kinds of unexpected places. Kinda like Alice in Wonderland. My best stuff comes when I can’t tell you how or why I got there.”

“But that’s your style,” I said. “It probably wouldn’t work for me or anyone else.”

“Jeez,” he exclaimed, “don’t take everything I say so literally. Get with the concept, Bobbo.”

“What about all those writers who have certain personal writing rules, who get up every morning and, like clockwork, write from seven ‘til noon, and never miss a day?”

“Their pants are too tight,” Eddie said, hitching up his faded Wranglers.

He kind of shook Petey as if he were going to hang the little guy out to dry, but the raccoon, all fluffed up and cute as the dickens, squirmed loose and jumped onto the nearby bed. The raccoon looked at us suspiciously with his little brown bandit eyes and promptly fell asleep.

“Another thing,” Eddie said, dumping the wash basin in the front yard, “you don’t have to be around the house to write. Be mobile. Put that idea down inside your damn head. Carry it around for a while. Tinker and toy with it. Bounce it around a little. Squeeze it like Charmin. You’ll have a lot more fun that way. Then, when it’s convenient, slam it into the old Magic Box.”

Eddie glanced over at Petey. “Christ almighty, he’s on my pillow again. He knows better.” He gently lifted the sleepy raccoon and placed him at the foot of the bed.

“Rules,” he said.

Robert J. Wetherall

Last Flight Home
The Making of Bernie Trumble
Forever Andrew

Available at Amazon

Friday, July 15, 2011

Sentence Sampler #1 First Sentence Fridays

When I opened my eyes, I found myself standing on the lid of a casket in an open grave.

by David Berardelli

Crossing the street to get his mail, thirty-six-year-old Jake Mild is run over by some idiot in a tricked-out truck and wakes up standing in an open grave. Figuring he must have died, he hurries back to his apartment to keep his ex-wife from cleaning him out, but instead meets Sierra, a young girl with a black eye and split lip, walking along the road. Jake tags along, discovers he can do a cool vanishing thing and move stuff with his mind. But will all his new abilities as a ghost give him the power to rescue a living girl who desperately needs help?

Join our FIRST SENTENCE FRIDAYS and tell us the first sentence of a book you've read lately. Would you recommend it to others? We want to know!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Eddie – The People’s Choice?

By Robert J. Wetherall

What’s more fun than watching a bunch of public servants sitting around a big oak table, scratching their collective heads and searching for ways to prevent constituents from pestering them about things like housing, education, taxes, infrastructure, safety, and so forth? Okay, yes, I’m pretty negative on the subject, much to the dismay of my friend and mentor, Eddie Salinski, a celebrated writer and welder and also an old hand at politics.

“You’ve got to look at things from the perspective of the office holder,” Eddie told me one day while I was helping him tow his rusty Chevy Suburban out of the swamp behind his trailer. “You’ve got to remember that certain things are taken for granted when a person runs for public office.”

“How so?” I asked, as just then the top of the vehicle reappeared on the surface of the swamp.

“For one thing, always remember that candidates for public office will promise virtually anything if it will help them get elected. So when they fail to deliver on these bullshit promises, don’t hold it against them. It’s in their blood, kind of leukemia-like. And, once in office, they have to feed their families just like you do. So, naturally they look for ways to augment their income without robbing Seven-Elevens or rolling helpless old ladies in dark alleys. Bribes, shakedowns, backroom deals, and fancy bookkeeping are to be expected.”

“But you can’t condone the things these crooks pull off!” I exclaimed.

“Listen, Bobby-boy, have you ever wondered why so many of these vipers are re-elected by their voters, even after they’ve been caught with their fingers in the public cookie jar?”

“Yeah, I’ve thought about that.”

“Well, it’s because voters instinctively know that a crooked politician won’t get them into war or something really serious like that. They’re too busy chiseling the local treasury.”

Blackish water poured out beneath the suburban’s doors as the winch hoisted its backend onto solid dry ground. A little green frog leaped out through the open driver’s window and hippity-hopped back into the dank ooze.

“I ran for office once,” Eddie said.

“Really? I’m surprised. Somehow I can’t picture that.”

“I was elected Mayor of a little community in Mississippi. Mudhole Corners, population 458. Voters knew I was a writer and rightly figured I didn’t have enough brains to do too much damage. As it turned out, they were wrong.”

“What happened?”

“Well, there was this old earthen dam that needed fixing real bad. In a regrettable lapse of ethics, I decided to use the repair money to buy a nice little business jet to help me travel around the country. Strictly business, you know.”

“Of course.”

“Wouldn’t you know, we had six weeks of heavy rain. The old dam burst its seams, and a gazillion tons of water surged into the town. Damndest thing you ever saw. Dogs, cats, horses, and people watched it all from the safety of high ground outside of town. Lots of damage. No one hurt. Mudhole Corners just floated away into the next county where the Post Office gave it a new zip code. Of course, the kindly local folks re-elected me. I served another couple of terms then threw in the towel. Got tired of chiseling, I guess.”

“That doesn’t say anything good about you.”

“I know.” Eddie hung his head down for a moment. “But you know,” he said, quickly assuming a brighter mood, “When you start being a public servant, you start changing. I mean, you start believing you’re some kind of tinhorn god. Like, if your supporters were dumb enough to elect you, then they actually deserved to be cheated, lied to, ignored, bamboozled, and cornholed.”

“What made you change?”

“I was talked into joining a twelve-step program for politician s called Assholes Anonymous. Made a new man out of me, for sure. Still go to meetings every Tuesday night.”

Eddie unhooked the winch cable from the old truck’s bumper and, hands on hips, inspected the vehicle now clad in a thick coating of mud from stem to stern. “Ought to clean up real nice,” Eddie said.

“How’s Tessie doing?” I noticed his pet goat was stretched out flat under a nearby willow tree, her fur all muddy and messed.

“Oh, she’ll be fine,” Eddie said. “Just has to dry out a bit. Guess that’s the last time I’ll try to teach a goat to drive.”

Robert J. Wetherall
Last Flight Home
The Making of Bernie Trumble
Forever Andrew

Available at

Tuesday, July 12, 2011


Another TUESDAY TIPS AND TIDBITS from Paranormal Wire...
Rules. Rules of writing. Rules of submitting. Punctuation, sentences structure, modifying clauses, past participles, beginning-middle-end, who-what-when-where-why-how, submit only manuscripts of this or that type, don’t exceed X-word-count, use only X-typeface, wait a year to find out if you’ll get published, blah blah blah blah blah...

What writer wants to worry about rules? Writing is supposed to be fun. And it is fun for those who truly enjoy writing – until rules start to overshadow creativity. Then the fun of writing can quickly turn into an arduous chore, with The Little Editor on one’s shoulder trying to take over and bring everything fun to a screeching halt. Rules can be stifling. Rules can pen up a story instead of allowing the pen to scrawl freely. Never start a sentence with a conjunction like ‘and’ or ‘but.’ Never end a sentence with a preposition like ‘about’ or ‘for.’ XYZ Publishing only wants happy endings. ABC Books only wants heroines under thirty. So why do writers need rules anyway?

For consistency, and to make life easier for those making the rules.

But Ralph Waldo Emerson warned, ‘A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.’ Note the qualifier, ‘a foolish consistency.’ That refers to adherence to consistency (dictated by rules) that is counterproductive or simply doesn’t make sense – foolish. The smart writer is going to learn the rules so that they can be ignored for a good reason – not out of ignorance or laziness. This does not mean that every writer has to be a grammar expert or memorize The Chicago Manual of Style, or reformat a manuscript fifty different ways to submit to fifty different publishers.

What this means in regard to writing rules is the writer should have enough basic knowledge of standard writing rules (or be able to look them up) so that when she writes, everything works as expected, and a typical reader will understand what the author is trying to convey. This is a basic covenant, as in driving. You stay on your side of the road, and I’ll stay on mine. When we meet at an intersection, we both stop because there’s a stop sign for each of us. You use a turn signal so I’ll know which way you want to go. That way everything works as expected, and unhappy confusion and accidents can be avoided.

In the case of submissions, yes, it’s always good to know what a publisher (or agent) expects to see. And if you submit something that is totally inappropriate (like sending your poetry to a publisher who flatly states they don’t accept or publish poetry) then you are going to be wasting your time and the recipient’s. So it’s best to find publishers whose ‘rules’ can conceivably encompass what you’ve written. In that case, rules are in place to keep everybody busy doing productive work instead of wasting time shuffling through inappropriate material that can’t be used.

But rules can oftentimes be a big bore, resulting in boring writing. Like, following the rule of telling what-when-where-why-and-how, using a straight timeline to tell your story from A to Z, with no surprises for the reader in between. And sometimes publishers’ submission rules seem really stupid. Like, if you don’t follow a certain format exactly, and use ‘smart quotes’ instead of ‘straight quotes’ then your manuscript will get rejected.

Remember, rules, especially basic writing rules, are provided as a safety net for the beginning writer to use until a certain confidence is achieved. After the writer understands why the rules are in place and what functions they serve, those rules can (and many times should) be ignored to break out of the box and achieve something possibly extraordinary. To test your wings, try writing in a stream-of-consciousness style and let your emotion burst forth. Break out of the norms you are comfortable with, to find yourself charting new writing territory. At that point, you may end up with a nonsensical mess, or you may have a great story on your hands. But you won’t know until you break free of those constricting rules and try.

Submission rules, on the other hand, can also be ignored, and possibly result in a rejection. But sometimes ignoring the rules can actually get your work attention it might not otherwise have received. For example, one of Penumbra Publishing’s most successful series authors sent all the books of the series attached to the query email, rather than following our guidelines at the time, which asked only for the first three chapters of one book at a time. At first we thought it was a joke, but then realized all the attachments were complete and separate books. If we’d seen only the first three chapters of the first book, we might possibly have passed on the submission, but after seeing the author’s complete work, we ended up accepting it for publishing. And, in hindsight, we’re glad we did. The author’s audacity in ignoring our rules resulted in a publishing contract.

For publishers who have a standard policy of ‘no unsolicited manuscripts accepted,’ there are ways to get around that. One is to establish personal contact with an editor from that publisher through a writing conference or book convention. At conferences, authors can make appointments to pitch their work to editors and possibly get an invitation to submit their work for consideration. With an invitation to send the manuscript to a specific editor, the manuscript is ‘requested’ rather than ‘unsolicited’ – and the envelope or email should say ‘requested.’ Of course conferences can be expensive in travel costs and fees, and there’s not always a guarantee that the author will even get an appointment with the desired editor.

Another avenue might be a recommendation from a fellow author who is already published with a publishing company. Of course invitations to submit that result in acceptance contracts will depend greatly on the author’s quality of work. Recommendations from well-known authors can also help garner reader attention for an unknown author’s work. For instance, the same author who submitted an entire series to us also got a famous author to review the first book in the series, which helped boost attention for this author’s work. So contacts, networking, and just plain audacity in cold-contacting ‘famous’ or hard-to-reach folks can oftentimes work to the author’s advantage. The dark side of the scenario is that the author can be branded as a pest and get banned from forums or alienate folks who might otherwise have been willing to help further the author’s agenda. So good manners and respectfulness are requirements when boldly breaking rules.

The trick, then, for writing or for submitting – or anything in life – is to first know the rules, and then decide which of those rules can be broken to achieve a desired effect without causing harm to yourself or others. Take the time to learn why you need rules, then figure out how to ignore them graciously to get what you want!

Patricia Morrison, Penumbra Publishing

Friday, July 8, 2011

Dust-Off Challenge Number 3


The Newfoundland Vampire by Charles O.
Genre: Horror (Vampire)
80,200 words

***Penumbra Publishing’s Summary Critique***

Note: Query packet excerpts are provided below the critique for reference

A. QUERY LETTER. Overall, the query letter follows an expected format and content, with the exception of telling what the story is about. The letter starts off giving the story statistics and title at the very beginning, mentions some outside editing on the story, some online marketing avenues, lists the author’s background and education, mentions some more marketing objectives, then ends. The storyline itself is not mentioned within the query letter, but a synopsis outside the body of the letter is attached at the bottom.
1.      STORY STATISTICS. An RE (regarding) line at the beginning, that contained all the story statistics such as title, genre, and word count would be more helpful than burying that information in the first paragraph.
2.      BACKGROUND. The author’s writing background could be summarized more positively by removing or rewording negative references such as, ‘This is my first novel so I have not had anything else significant published.’ Alternative wording might simply mention this is the author’s first novel.
3.      EXPERIENCE. References to review and newsletter writing experience could be condensed and summarized with less specific detail. For example, instead of saying, ‘I used to write for a student newspaper in at [XYZ] University and had music and movie reviews published. I also wrote for, edited and produced a newsletter for a Star Trek fan club also at [XYZ] University.’ this information could be placed immediately after the educational information and reworded as, ‘Several of my music and movie reviews were published in my university’s newspaper. I also produced and edited a Star Trek fan club newsletter.’
4.      WEB PRESENCE. This author states he did not feel having a web site before getting published was necessary. However he did note two author friends and gave their web site URLs, suggesting they might help him develop a web site later. We recommend the author have an active web site for his writing before contacting prospective agents or publishers. There are several reasons for this. The author can have others give him tips on how to improve his web site and make it look as professional as possible. Fellow authors can help with this. Then when the author contacts prospective publishers, they’ll be able to see what kind of self-promotion activities the author has already been doing. For authors short on funds or web savvy, we recommend a ‘starter’ site, maybe a free hosted site with a subdomain. Free templates and easy user interfaces make this a simpler job than it may seem, and we do recommend that every author have some kind of rudimentary web site so readers and publishers and other professionals can go take a look and ‘meet the author.’ The author can always make changes/improvements later.
5.      STORY SUMMARY. The story summarized within the query letter should be very brief, no more than two or three short paragraphs, and should give a general idea of what the story is about, with just enough specifics to sound enticing or at least interesting. A typical query letter gives story statistics then dives right into the introduction and overview of the story, giving the writer’s background and marketing ideas last. This query letter deviates from that format by barely mentioning the story and focusing almost exclusively on the author. The purpose of the query letter is to introduce the book as well as the author, and to give an idea of the story’s appeal as well as author’s credentials. It is a ‘first contact’ selling tool that must sell both the story and the author, and do it in as little space as practical. An overly detailed story summary tacked on at the end of the letter after the closing signature but included as part of the letter bogs down the ‘first contact’ query letter with too much detail and information. A better approach is to supply the lengthier and more detailed story summary in a separate document as requested.

B. THE STORY. This author provided the entire story for review as part of our regular submission process but gave us permission to use the submission as a Dust-Off Challenge entry as well.
  1. WRITING TECHNIQUE. The story is told in third-person past-tense, (he saw the dog and then ran), the usual method used by the majority of novelists. Technically the author’s writing is readable despite numerous and pervasive punctuation errors, mostly in dialog. The sentence structure follows expected standards with few surprises – and thus, unfortunately, offers little noticeable variety in sentence structure that would, if present, give the story a needed boost. Additionally, the inclusion of minute details that seem overall to be irrelevant to the story, are included in such a way that the writing quickly becomes pedestrian and tiresome to read. Below is an excerpt from one paragraph as an example to illustrate...
Joseph’s parents believed in ownership of multiple cars and vans but this one was principally his. It was a four-door blue 2000 Neon Sport. Joseph had just received it a few months ago as a birthday present and he dearly loved this car. It had nothing automatic but it had a spoiler on the back and could go fast. Joseph had almost lost his license from a large speeding ticket but had since slowed down. He pulled out the key chain and unlocked the driver’s side door and slid into the front seat. Immediately Joseph looked for his mp3 player and was annoyed when he realized he had left it in his room. He was never a big fan of the radio but he could handle a little classic rock so he turned on the OZ FM station. He started the car and pulled a left to get out of the car lot. It was 4:30pm and Joseph thought once off the Prince Phillip Parkway and onto the outer ring road he should be able to avoid some of the five ‘o’clock traffic. Newfoundland, aside from the weather, was ideal for Joseph. He hated crowds and traffic, which are two things Newfoundland had very little of compared to most places in the world. Joseph read on the Internet once that typical L.A. traffic lasted anywhere from two to three hours if you tried to get anywhere around 4pm.
These types of mundane details give the reader very little useable information that moves the story forward or even hints at critical character details. Really, no reader is going to care whether Joseph likes the car he’s driving or prefers MP3 players and is annoyed that he left his in his room. On the other hand, if he does something unexpected or exciting with the car or the MP3 player, then that would be information the reader would gladly want to read about.
  1. STORY TIMELINE AND PLOT DEVELOPMENT. The timeline of the story is uncomplicated, moving forward from a period when the main character is a teen to the time he is in college. There are no revelations presented in a way that surprise the reader. Instead, the surprise happens only to the main character as the story progresses. This is a direct result of the straightforward way the story is told. We recommend the writer retool the opening chapter and its scenes to create a sense of suspense that makes the reader want to continue turning pages to find out what happens next. There is no incentive whatsoever to find out what this apparently nerdy boy is going to do next. And the author gives too many hints about the woman who watches him, so it is no surprise to discover she is a vampire who is planning to meet up with him when he’s a few years older.
  2. THE CHARACTERS. The main character Joseph is obviously a nerdy thirteen-year-old. And, oddly enough, his age is never mentioned in the prolog but is revealed only in the story summary, so the reader would have to read the summary to know this detail. Joseph prefers playing with superhero action figures over socially interacting with other kids his own age. He’s a constant victim of bullying and recedes into role-playing games and comic books for solace. While the author does a good job of showing what a pathetic boy the main character is, he does nothing to interest the reader in this boy or what happens to him. The author may have hoped that the reader would feel sorry for the boy, but in fact failed to show the boy possessing any spark of inner strength or backbone that seems essential for a main character to succeed in a story. The only thing of interest that the vampire lady who was watching Joseph did was to leave her kitten where Joseph could find it, in the hope the cat would bring the boy some happiness. This plot device fails to engender any interest in the characters or the ongoing story. We actually found that act of leaving the cat a bit weird, even though it is clear it plays out later in the story – or at least is discussed again.
  3. HOOK AND SUSPENSE. The story opening lacks a hook or something to draw the reader in and proceeds in an anticlimactic fashion. By the end of the prolog chapter, the biggest suspenseful revelation is ... Ultimately Ginger became Joseph’s cat and she brought him much joy and comfort as the years went by. Never did he suspect that he was meant to find this particular cat. The cat perhaps plays a bigger part in the rest of the story, but really, by this time, a typical reader isn’t going to care enough to read further and find out just how this cat figures into the story. The reason for this is mostly because of the way the story is told in a straightforward style without holding enough back from the reader to create a suspenseful setup.
  4. POINT OF VIEW. Another inherent problem is the treatment of the story from a detached viewpoint. Statements like the excerpt above (Never did he suspect that he was meant to find this particular cat.) are disruptive to the reading flow and create a distance between the reader and the character. The revelation of Joseph’s future, which he cannot possibly know, is told to the reader by someone other than the character. The intrusion of an omniscient godlike invisible narrator who steps between the reader and the character to tell things about the character the reader could not otherwise know is a sure way to stop the reader from bonding with the character. Bonding with the character is essential if the reader is to care about what happens to the character throughout the story.
  5. BELIEVABILITY. Inclusion of unrealistic or hard-to-accept details or situations in a story will make the reader doubt the validity of the story and the author’s ability to deliver a believable story. For example, the fact that Joseph puts his winter coat on upside down and inside out without noticing it is quite unbelievable. A winter coat is bulky and tailored to fit the body in a specific configuration. With the bottom hem hunched up around his neck, how could Joseph not know his coat was on upside down? A thin nylon jacket ... maybe ... but not a thick winter coat. We recommended the author try putting his own winter coat on upside down just to see how it feels before including that kind of absurd detail in his story. While not every reader would question a minor detail like this, the fact that we noticed it is warning enough that one slip of disbelief can undermine the reader’s confidence in the author.

C. IN SUMMARY. While the story mechanics and writing style are acceptable, they are not exceptional in the current state. Our recommendation is that the author take this very competent first draft and tweak it in a number of ways to add some intrigue and interest to the storytelling itself.
  1. First, delete an overabundance of nonessential details. Include only what is necessary to directly show characterization or to set the mood for the story. Do include enough detail so that the reader can figure out the basic who-what-when-where-and-why of the story as it unfolds.
  2. Second, create more suspense, especially at the beginning, by not telling too much up front and by working in some intrigue for the reader to discover. Doing this will subconsciously pick up the pace for the reader by making the reader more eager to read what happens next, thus making story seem to move along more quickly.
  3. Clean up punctuation, especially for the dialog in the beginning several chapters.
  4. The storyline deals with a sensitive young man trying to come to terms with the violence and death inherent in being a vampire. This story treatment is not new and has been literally done to death. This novel, if it is to garner any interest at all from readers in a genre overflowing with vampire stories, needs to run deep as far as character arc is concerned. Either the character interactions must be unique, or the experiences the characters undergo must be unique. To ensure this isn’t more of the same old thing already out there, the author should read as much vampire literature of the same type as he is writing, to make sure his book brings something new and different and interesting to the reader.
  5.  It is not enough to slap a location title on a story and put it in a locale different from that expected for a vampire tale. We’d like to see a real sense of the area with more references to what makes Newfoundland a unique place in the world to live.
  6. The epilog ending seems ripe for a sequel but is rather anticlimactic. It should be shored up with the same suspense techniques listed above.
As always, we genuinely and deeply appreciate each author’s willingness to allow us the opportunity to review their work. While we do not always accept for publishing every submission we receive, we are always happy to review a manuscript again once it has been modified. This particular story appears to have great potential but does need some reworking to reach that potential. We invite the author to contact us privately with questions if further clarification is needed.


[portion deleted for privacy concerns]

Please find attached a copy of my manuscript, The Newfoundland Vampire, for publication with Penumbra Publishing. It is a work of fiction and would be considered in the horror/vampire genre. It is 80,228 words. I hired a local editor, [portion deleted for privacy concerns], to look at my manuscript twice before submitting it. You may notice my Facebook and Twitter pages are personal ones, I know that both pages can be made for a book but I saw little point in doing so until it becomes published (or is about to). Also I will make a website once I know the book will be published.

 I used to write for a student newspaper in at [portion deleted for privacy concerns] University and had music and movie reviews published. I also wrote for, edited and produced a newsletter for a [portion deleted for privacy concerns] fan club also at [portion deleted for privacy concerns] University.

I have a BA in [portion deleted for privacy concerns] and a Masters in [portion deleted for privacy concerns]. Currently I work as [portion deleted for privacy concerns] but I have plenty of free time and I am prepared to fully promote my book. First off I would be able to sell copies at my workplace. I would also do all the traditional activities such as book readings, book signings, conventions, conferences, writing workshops, a booth at a trade show, a booth at a flea market, spots on radio, interviews with papers, radio and television if possible along with Facebook, Twitter and a website with a blog. I am fortunate to have two author friends who can help me in this regard. Both of whom you can look up at [portion deleted for privacy concerns] and [portion deleted for privacy concerns]

The ideal audience would be 20-45 year old males and females. I think a combination of history, nature and culture combined with the vampire myth makes this novel unique. I peppered the book with humor and try to show the comical aspects of vampire life as well approaching it in a serious manner. I put a lot of myself into this work and I did the best I could with it, I think that’s all any writer can do. I have spent over a year writing it and I believe through careful editing (and plenty of feedback) that I have written a good story that many readers will enjoy. I also think that Ebooks are the future of the industry and I hope this book can be a part of it.

Please do not hesitate to contact me at the above listed number or via e-mail [portion deleted for privacy concerns]. Thank you for your consideration of my novel and I hope to speak with you soon.

yours truly,



The Newfoundland Vampire explores the vampire myth in a modern day setting with often serious but sometimes comical results. The prologue shows Joseph at 13 and introduces the second main character, Cassandra, as she starts to impact his life. Initially Cassandra sends Ginger, her cat, to comfort Joseph. In the first chapter Joseph meets Cassandra at university (10 years later) and is secretly turned by her that night. Soon afterwards they go on several dates and many hints are given as to what Joseph has become. We are also introduced to several of Joseph’s friends when they get together for a board game and they ask about Cassandra. Joseph has the strangest craving to drink blood from his cat and friends but he resists. By the end of chapter six Joseph can resist no longer and drinks blood for the first time, from a moose. He knows what he has become. He confronts Cassandra and learns she turned him into a vampire. He also learns how vampires can share each other’s blood through a blood embrace. This blood embrace allows Cassandra and Joseph to share thoughts, ideas and memories. Joseph in turn learns who Cassandra really is, [portion deleted to protect author’s story idea] and how she was turned. Once the transformation occurs the book examines how a good person copes with an unholy thirst for blood. A major aspect of Joseph’s personality is that he is an animal lover and vegetarian, as a vampire these things are both a challenge and a blessing for him. Joseph asks many questions about a vampire’s nature as they continue to build their relationship. Joseph then explores his powers by playing poker (learning he can influence people’s minds) and practicing sword fighting with Cassandra. Soon the temptation to seek out a criminal and deliver justice becomes his obsession and he is given that chance when a woman dies at his feet. The twist is that Joseph must drink human blood to [portion deleted to protect author’s story idea] and he regrets this action terribly. He is also horrified when the dead body must be [portion deleted to protect author’s story idea]. Joseph is threatened by Cassandra and their relationship is tested. Cassandra, meanwhile, has her own secrets and often manipulates Joseph to her own ends.

As the book progresses they find the woman’s killer and deliver a brutal beating to him. Joseph has more regret and has concerns about the way Cassandra has treated him. Cassandra shares memories with Joseph of how she met [portion deleted to protect author’s story idea], the twist that he too is a vampire, and was once [portion deleted to protect author’s story idea]. John Snow (Cassandra’s estranged vampire husband) has his own chapter where we learn some of his past and see the pleasure he takes in combat with other vampires. Cassandra, meanwhile, makes their training sessions more intense as she strongly suspects John will soon return but does not tell Joseph. Joseph and Cassandra, however, dream of John Snow as he approaches on the ferry to Newfoundland. Joseph is also given an offer to join with John in his dream but he only considers it for the briefest of moments. Joseph maintains his contact with his friends and Cassandra is brought along to meet them for a game of Dungeons and Dragons, despite the impending danger. After a climactic battle, where Joseph uses a moose to turn the tide of battle, they defeat John and it is revealed that Cassandra had another creation before him and that they are being watched. Joseph and Cassandra have an argument where more truths are revealed; she gave him Ginger ten years ago and did once make another vampire to defeat John. Joseph is shocked by these revelations and tells Cassandra that he can deal with no more secrets. He is hurt and his trust is shaken but ultimately he has come to love Cassandra and he decides the vampire world is too dangerous for him alone. While Joseph is out for a walk to think he finds a stray cat in a parking lot. He is confronted by another vampire, the same who watched their fight, sent by a [portion deleted to protect author’s story idea]. The epilogue features Donald Rathmore, John Snow’s secret creation and his brutal killing of a girl in Mexico. Donald senses his creator’s death and decides he would like the challenge of fighting vampires for a change as the story ends.