Riptide Publishing Author Storm Grant – Guest Post and Contest Giveaway!

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Storm Grant is here today to talk about…

Things I wish I’d known

A question that pops up a lot, and that I still read with interest is: What advice would you give to writers just starting out?

Here’s my answer that question. Not that I’m such a raving success, but I have been around the ol’ publishing block a time or two. I’ve seen huge changes in the industry even in the few years I’ve been publishing.

When you’re starting out, you will be continually told three “absolute musts.”

  1. Write what you know.
  2. Don’t write to market.
  3. Write the best book you can.

Let’s go through those, shall we?

1. Write what you know.

To this I say, bullcrap! If we only write what we know, we wouldn’t have Tarzan, Captain Kirk, or Buffy. Because I’m going to go out on a limb here and say Edgar Rice Burroughs was not raised by apes, Gene Rodenberry never boldly went, and maybe high school was hell for Joss Whedon, but probably not literally. There’s nothing you can’t research, or as I like to say: You’re a fiction writer. Make sh*t up!

2. Don’t write to market.

Again, I say, bullcrap! You should definitely write to market. Do you really want to spend weeks, months, even years writing a book that won’t sell? Most writers at any given time have a dozen ideas squirming around their brains. Keep an eye on the marketplace, watch the deal news which predicts what’s coming out in a year or eighteen months, then pick the idea that is likely to be most saleable.

If you’re writing for traditional publishers, you may want to avoid the trends since by the time your book comes out one or two years later, the trend will be over. But if you’re with an epublisher, or self-publishing—grab that bandwagon and jump right on. My last full-length novel was contracted in October, edited, given cover art and published in all the appropriate formats by December. Take that, New York!

Remember, just a few years back, vampires, and indeed all urban fantasy was considered a “trend” and we were told not to write to it. I imagine the steampunk writers would laugh and laugh at the idea of not following trends.

3. Write the best book you can.

Yes, this one’s true. Write the best book you can. Then put it away for at least two weeks before you start round one of editing.  Agents and editors won’t buy mediocre or unsellable novels; reviewers and purchasers will post bad reviews.

So write the best, most creative, most marketable novel you can.

Best of luck! Because you still need a boatload of luck.

BLURB:

 

Sparks fly between virgin teenage demon hunters when the Chosen One turns out to be… the Chosen Two?

Apprentice warrior Blake St. Blake is the Chosen One, raised by an ancient order to defend the world against evil. Well, maybe not the whole world, but at least his neighborhood in downtown Detroit.

When a dreaded reflux demon is sighted in a local cemetery, Blake is sent off to his very first battle, armed with his sword, his super-senses, his black leather duster, and a few well-rehearsed one-liners.

But another Chosen One gets in Blake’s way—an apprentice wizard named Shadow. While the boys argue about who’s the more chosen of the two, the demon escapes.

Blake wants to be angry, but it turns out he and Shadow have a lot in common. Besides, Shadow’s pretty cute, and Blake can’t help but think that the wizard’s skills (and hands and lips and other bits) might make the perfect complement to his. Blake and Shadow are brave enough to challenge the reflux demon in a second battle, but will they have the courage to tell each other how they feel?

EXCERPT

Shading my eyes against the moonlight and streetlamps, I deliberately dilated my pupils, searching the dark cemetery for movement. Or glowing eyeballs.

On my twenty-fourth sweep, I saw it: a creature moving between the headstones, barely a shadow amongst shadows.

“Time to man up,” I said aloud. My balls had another idea, though, and tried to retreat to their place of origin at the thought of facing my first demon.

“This is excitement, not fear,” I told them. “The thrill of the chase. It’s what you—I’ve—been training my whole life for.” I took a deep, centering breath as my mentor had taught me. It worked. My heartbeat slowed, my breathing evened, and my balls descended. I was ready to go find me some demon.

Shunning the elevator I had ridden up to the rooftop, I spread my leather duster like the wings of a bat and sailed gracefully to the street three stories below.

My landing, however, was less than graceful. I sprawled on my ass in the middle of the street and lay where I’d fallen, wind knocked from my lungs.

Behind me, lights caught my attention, and I leaped for the sidewalk as a speeding taxi gunned directly at me. A minion of evil, no doubt sent by my enemies.

He pulled abreast of me and signaled before pulling away. I returned his one-fingered salute and focused my attention on the greater foe.

I set off for the cemetery, leather duster swirling about my legs as I strode through the deserted streets.

Having reached the locked, spike-topped gates of the graveyard, I turned southward and circled the perimeter. I ran a hand through my curls, smoothing them into place after my crappy landing. My hair was medium ash blond this week, with electric blue streaks that looked awesome in the right light. I located the break in the cemetery wall and squeezed through, vowing to give up pizza pockets for a month.

Once inside, I froze in place, surveying the houses of the dead and their pale markers. The night seemed to grow darker still. A cool breeze brushed my cheek, which was refreshing since a leather coat really wasn’t summer-wear. Still, the coat was de rigueur. I’d say all the cool demon hunters wore them, except I was, of course, the only one. All the prophecies said so.

I’ve been training for this day as long as I can remember. I am the single line of defense between the sleeping innocents of Detroit who believe themselves safe in their beds at night, and the Hell spawn that rise to slay them all.

It is my destiny to—

A tinkly version of the theme from the Lord of the Rings jerked me from my reverie. Drawing my iPhone from my pocket, I pressed the answer icon. “Talk to me.”

The phone sighed, or rather Hadley, my mentor, did. Or maybe it was just a bad connection. “Blake?”

“Yeah, sir.”

“Are you in position yet?”

“I’m inside the hallowed ground now. I have yet to locate the target.”

“Well, be careful then. Oh, and if you pass a convenience store on your way home, we’re out of pizza pockets.”

“But sir, I’m on my first big mission. I can’t go to 7-Eleven.”

How dare he sully my noble mission with something as mundane as pizza pockets? But my stomach rumbled loudly at the thought, and I had to admit a pizza pocket would’ve gone pretty good right about now.

“Stop whining. It’s unbecoming. If you don’t want to stop for pizza pockets, then don’t, but don’t look at me when the freezer’s empty. Now, be alert and stay safe. This is just a fact-finding mission. Don’t forget that. Do not engage the demon. And remember; let’s be careful out there.” He always ended with that line which I’d been disgusted and disillusioned to learn came from an ’80s TV show. Couldn’t he be more original? Witty lines were the stock-in-trade of a good warrior. He should’ve been helping me hone my wit as well as my wits.

Oh, good one. I’ll have to remember that one for next time.

Although he couldn’t see me, I nodded solemnly. “As you wish,” I said, breaking the connection and setting the phone to vibrate before returning it to my pocket. My stomach rumbled again.

And then there was another rumble, off to my left. So, not my traitorous belly, then. I turned my head toward the sound. Not just the rustling of a squirrel or raccoon, but the rumbling, snorting, and wheezing of a demon!

Crouching low, I followed the noise toward the huge mausoleum in the middle of the graveyard. A massive demon stood before the crypt. It was like no demon I’d ever seen before. Okay, I’d never seen one alive before. The tomes and scrolls I’d studied did not do justice to my evil foe in the flesh.

Its eyes bulged from its toad-like head, which swiveled about, searching for prey. I stepped further back into the shadows. It sniffed at the air, its noseless nostrils hairy and moist. Where its bare flesh poked out of its clothing, its pink skin rippled as if walnut-sized parasites roamed beneath it. It raised a giant ax. For a moment I thought the ax was its hand, until the clouds drifted aside and moonlight illuminated filthy clawed fingers wrapped around the ax handle.

An awful grating sound echoed from the depths of its flabby belly, sending a wave of flame and noxious fumes on its putrid breath. I tried not to cough, reining in my enhanced sense of smell. It pursed its puffy red lips and horked. Where the spit landed, the earth sizzled. Only one type of demon belched fire and spit acid: the dreaded reflux demon!

According to my studies, the reflux was a crafty son of a bitch. It’d be no easy prize to be won with a few sword strokes and a witty one-liner.

I felt my phone buzz against my hip, but chose to ignore it. I knew it’d be Hadley calling to remind me not to engage.

But how could I not? Who knew when I’d get another chance? Or how much damage the reflux would do before I could dispatch it?

I rose from my half-crouch, a war cry gathering in my throat. My balls once again surged upward. Ignoring my scaredy-cat testicles, I took a deep breath, raised my sword, and rushed at it.

“Fear me, oh spawn of Satan. For I am Blake St. Blake and I have come to return you to Hell!”

I had to slow my run a bit to get that all out before I arrived.

A flicker of movement caught my eye, but it was too late for me to stop my charge.

Another creature sprang from the darkness, weapon at the ready, crying, “Yo, asswipe. I’m gonna rip off your head and spit down your throat!”

I ground to a halt in front of the confused demon. And honestly, I was as confused as it was. I didn’t know which one to smite: the ax-wielding, acid-spitting, fire-belching demon, or this other thing, cloaked in dark cloth and brandishing a glowing stick.

“Who be-est thou?” I demanded of the newcomer. I had to shout to be heard over my pounding heart. At least I’d remembered to use formal demon-hunter language like the heroes in books and movies did.

“What the fuck?” the cloaked being said, raising his glowing stick. His eyes shone from beneath his cowl.

The demon lifted its ax, orange-slitted eyeballs rolling from one side to the other.

The stick-wielder turned to face me. “Who the fuck’re you, sucka?” he asked, shaking his stick at me. A sly look grew upon the demon’s face and it shifted its weight toward the newcomer.

“Yesss,” came a hiss from the depths of its flabby body. “Who the fffuck are you, sssucka?”

So they’d either arrived together from Hell, or had decided to align forces against me. Oh, shit. I just couldn’t catch a break! I gripped my sword hilt tighter, knuckles shining white in the moonlight. I would just have to slay them both. “Nay, ’tis I who shall ask the questions. Are you two together?”

“Oh, hell no,” Stick-wielder said, moving back a step from the demon, who had sidled up close and personal. “You’re not pulling that bullshit on this wizard.” He clenched his stick tighter. “Dude, you are toast!” The stick began to glow brighter. It occurred to me that it might be some sort of oversized magic wand and not just a plastic light saber bought on eBay. Especially since he’d called himself a wizard. “It’s my freakin’ destiny to slay your sorry ass!”

Now I knew he must be delusional because I was the only Chosen One around. Nobody else got divine powers. I was the only one with enhanced senses and the ability to leap off buildings in a single bound. I would have raised my sword, but it was already up as far as I could lift it. In fact, my arm was beginning to tremble from holding my weapon aloft—these things were a lot heavier than they looked in the movies.

Having no idea if the sorry ass on the wizard’s slaying agenda belonged to me or the reflux, I decided to engage him in conversation. Perhaps I could trick him into revealing his allegiance. “So . . .” My voice broke. I coughed and tried again. “So . . . You’re a wizard, are you? What are your powers, pray tell?”

“Prey what? I ain’t nobody’s prey. Prey this, motherfucker.” He shook the glowing stick at me. “And who are you to get all up in my business, I mean, bidness anyhow? I can’t hardly see in this damn moonlight.” He squinted in my direction. “Oh, wait. I can fix this,” he mumbled.

He raised his stick higher, although not as high as I held my sword. The stick began to glow brighter and brighter, until the entire clearing lit up.

Now it was my turn to squint, before I remembered that dilating and contracting my pupils was one of my powers. The enhanced senses had come on only lately so I wasn’t used to them yet. I blinked several times and concentrated, shrinking my pupils down so the light no longer blinded me. There, now I could see again.

“So you claim to be a wizard. Can you do anything else with that stick, or is it just a fancy flashlight?”

The wizard rounded on me. I bit my tongue, wishing I hadn’t goaded him. There were always painful things one could do with a stick, magic or not.

I could barely see my opponent’s features beneath his hood, but his tone dripped venom when he said, “No, asshat. I came out to mix it up with this badass demon here with nothing more than . . . Wait? Where’d it go?”

I turned just in time to see the demon duck back inside the mausoleum, pulling the solid stone doors closed behind it. They thunked into place, barely a seam to show they’d ever been open.

CONTEST TIME!!

Play The Name Game for FEW IS CHOSEN and win a copy of ALL THREE of these entertaining books from Storm Grant’s backlist: Gym Dandy, Shift Happens, and Tart and Soul. (Two full-length novels and a novella!)

1. What is Shadow’s real first name? ___  ___  ___  ___

2. What is Shadow’s mentor’s first name? ___  ___  ___  ___  ___

3. What is the name of the Order that raised and trained Blake? The Order of the ___  ___  ___  ___

 

How to enter: DO NOT POST YOUR ANSWERS! Instead, to qualify:

1. Email your answers to the three questions, above, to storm.grant@gmail.com.

2.  Then post a comment to this blog stating that you’ve emailed your entry.

You may enter once for each stop on the blog tour, thereby increasing your chances of being the grand prize winner!

One grand prize winner will be selected March 5th.

Blog tour, details here.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Storm Grant Bio: Storm Grant is a writer of short and long tales, her work spanning both genres and genders. Storm’s stories offer titillation and merriment, and in a few cases, horror. In the last few years, she’s published with MLR, Torquere, Phaze, Blood Bound Books, eXessica, Amber Quill, and Riptide Publishing.

Storm Grant (also writing as Gina X. Grant)

Email / Website / Blog / Twitter / Facebook / Goodreads

Author Rhi Etzweiler – Contest Giveaway

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Rhi Etzweiler is back with a brand new except from her book, Blacker than Black.

Contest details are below the cut.

Enjoy!

BLURB:

Apparently, my twin and I are two of York’s most notorious criminals. We’ve been Nightwalkers in the blue-light district since the vamps took over the world. Don’t know how many years it’s been. Long enough that a stream of fellow ’walkers have come and gone. Most don’t last long selling their chi. End up face-down in the gutter, or worse.

For us, one night and one sale change everything.

Monsieur Garthelle is the first john to hunt me down. He calls me a chi thief in one breath and offers absolution—servitude—in the next. Maybe I’m a sucker, but I like living and breathing. Strange that such a powerful vamp would show leniency to a mere human. And something’s not right with the chi I took from him. It won’t go away.

Neither will he, and he’s forcing us to spy on his peers. Then a vamp turns up dead, and we go from playing eyes and ears to investigating a murder. This isn’t what I signed up for. All I ever wanted was to sell a little chi, maybe steal some in return. I should’ve kept my damn hands to myself.

This is my story. Look through my eyes.

EXCERPT:

Chapter Eight: A Little Clarification

The living space offers Jhez a myriad of new points of focus for her cleaning . . . hobby . . . obsession. I don’t see her, so she must be off poking into corners. I drop my duffel next to the plate glass coffee table and explore the couch, sitting down in the center of the brown velvet creation and bouncing to test its pliancy.

Garthelle stands there watching me, hands tucked casually into his pockets. “Do you find it acceptable?” His voice carries a thread of amusement. It tangles in my nerve endings, confusing, disorienting.

I stop bouncing, feeling a blush crawl up my neck. “It’s a nice place.” The couch isn’t as luxurious as the black one he has, which superimposes itself into my vision for a glitched moment, but it will tolerate our abuse well enough. I sit back, closing my eyes to focus on centering my chi. It’s the best way to ward off those . . . hallucinations. Energy-memories.

When the couch sinks down to my left, I drape my forearms over my face to avoid further distraction. Persistent vamp that he is, Garthelle won’t keep his eyes off me; I feel them, an intangible caress, trailing over me.

With an exasperated sigh, I lower my arms and sit up. “Don’t you have more pressing matters to occupy you?” A coup d’état to diffuse somewhere, perhaps? “When are your guests arriving?”

He angles toward me, draping an arm along the back of the couch. His hand is inches away, and the faint scent of incense floats across the narrowing distance between us. The memories send a thread of tension through me.

“They will begin arriving this evening. There was a slight shift in the itinerary, and I won’t be available to either of you as I intended. So I’m here now.”

“I see.” I don’t see. I don’t understand at all. My brain, feeding on the olfactory stimulation, is becoming increasingly muddled. Where’s Jhez? Surely the flat isn’t so large that it would take this long to choose a bedroom and toss her duffel on the floor. Hell, mine didn’t even make it that far.

Tension radiates from Garthelle, an assault crashing against my aura. He leans in toward me, fingers reaching up to rest on my chin. The pressure of his touch is insistent, forcing my gaze to meet his.

“I feel it too.” His voice is husky, strained, his brow furrowed. “If it’s any consolation, it’s ten times more difficult for me to fight against.” Yellow eyes dart frantically over my face. He must see, or sense, something of my suspicions or disbelief, because his mouth twists into a grimace. “You think I did this? You, the chi-thief. You’ve met your match, and you blame me for it?”

“I didn’t do this.” I can’t stand the accusation and recrimination in his tone. My voice is hoarse, but I’ve little idea why. Fear? Or that shot of lust, like liquor in my coffee? “Whatever I took from you, it didn’t cause this. Whatever this is.” I have no idea what’s going on. I feel trapped, unable to break away from his gaze. Strangely lacking in motivation. Lethargic. “I’ve been pulling that stunt for some time. I’m sure of my methods.” Yellow eyes widen yet again. That’s twice now I’ve caught him unprepared. Never ask a question you don’t already know the answer to. When he only continues to stare at me in silence, I gain a little backbone. “The only variable here is you.”

His attention drifts to my lips. I don’t know why he’s looking at my mouth, but just witnessing the diversion makes me shudder. Enough already. I jerk my chin from his hand and stare at the far wall, resisting the impulse to pay him any mind. Just because he’s elitist doesn’t mean I have to stand for it.

Jhez saves me. Her presence gives Garthelle something else to focus on, and he manages to regain a semblance of control.

“You two are going to receive a rather crude introduction to lyche society tomorrow evening.”

My sister perches on the arm of a lounge chair across the room and studies him. I can tell she’s not too impressed. “That’s our first assignment, then?”

He nods. “You’ll have a day to settle in. This evening is purely business.”

“How long is this entertainment of guests going to last?”

“A week at most.”

“After which we’ll be permitted to return home?”

“No.” Garthelle sighs with a note of what feels like exasperation. Watching him from the corner of my eye, I see him glance my way. He keeps his attention fixed on my twin, though. “It’s not so simple a matter as that. The duration of my need for your assistance will be partially determined by how much I can discover in the short time these individuals are in my residence.”

Oddly enough, I find myself trying to imagine a dozen or more vampires crammed into the—albeit substantive—living space in Garthelle’s flat. It’s such a cozy prospect. Not. Thirteen vampires, sitting in a circle, doped up on chi and looking like ventriloquist puppets. Marionettes of the morbid variety. Oh, the dances I could make them do. If I dared. A bark of laughter escapes me before I can even think to stop it.

They both stare at me. Jhez gives me the look she uses when she catches me ogling a random man on the street—a hybrid form of scandalized amusement. Garthelle just observes, unreadable.

 “What kind of information are you looking for?” I clear my throat and try to get serious. With him sitting next to me on the couch, it’s difficult. His proximity suffuses me with this strange sense of gratification. I feel lightheaded, unfocused. And weird. I don’t want to trust him, at least not until the hair he ripped out grows back.

“The political kind. The personal kind. Connections, however tenuous, between various individuals.” He shifts on the couch and I suddenly want nothing more than to get away from him. “It’s difficult for me to explain . . .”

He trails off as I stand up abruptly and relocate to the lounge chair Jhez is perched on. My sister drapes an arm around my shoulders and gives me a reassuring squeeze.

Garthelle clears his throat and continues. “. . . Precisely what is important, since both of you are wholly unfamiliar with the nature of lyche society.” His yellow gaze flicks over me, piercing, before settling safely back on Jhez. “Alliances take many forms. So do the demonstrations of relationships. For instance, only individuals who share a certain level of trust would deign to feed in close proximity. Mostly because of the vulnerability that comes with energy thrall. Sometimes that demonstration of trust is used as a means of forging a bond or alliance. It is akin to swearing an oath.”

“The strength of energy thrall varies depending on the level of feeding,” Jhez says, glancing down to share a look with me.

“So the less they feed in a given setting, the lower the level of implicit trust.” It makes sense that way, so hopefully I have it right. “Are we tracking properly?” Jhez and I turn to Garthelle expectantly, and he nods. “What else?”

“None of my guests will be traveling alone. They always have an entourage in tow. Lesser family relations, however distant. Their own collection of Nightwalkers as well. Observing with whom they share their resources is a good way to gauge the nature of their relationships. Sometimes lesser family members will be traded—gifted servitude for a predetermined period of time. Similar to apprenticeship, if you will.”

“So the only persons we’ll be offered to are those you possess an existing relationship with?” I fold my arms and tug on my bottom lip. “That feels self-defeating.”

The vampire shakes his head. “As host, I’m extended certain gratuities. And a level of diplomacy is required of me. In other words, I’m expected to provide unbiased entertainment to everyone. The two of you will have ample opportunity to observe each guest at least once.”

Lovely. I’m looking forward to it. I glance up at Jhez, who blows a soft sigh, arching her eyebrows.

I know that expression all too well. She’s looking forward to this even more than I am.

***CONTEST RULES***

Don’t forget to leave a comment with your email address to enter the drawings! Look for the next excerpt that picks up where this one leaves off, over at It’s Raining Men (http://rainingmenamen.blogspot.com)! Or, if you can’t wait, get your own copy of “Blacker Than Black” over here at Riptide.

Prizes:

Individual: One randomly selected commenter at each stop will receive a signed cover card and magnet. Open to all, regardless of location (winner selected from all comments posted to blog at 11:59pm EST).

Tour: Two winners to be selected at random from drawing of all comments on tour (entry ending Feb. 2nd, 11:59pm EST – comments with date/time stamps after this time will not be counted). Restricted to mainland US and Canada only, for shipping purposes. First winner will receive an autographed tote bag and pen, signed cover flat, and large magnet. Second winner will receive a t-shirt (size XL), pen, signed cover flat, and small magnet.

About the Author

hi Etzweiler spent her formative years seeped in military culture, and many of her writing inspirations bear that mark – with a definitive twist. Her main genres are science fiction and fantasy, but she enjoys spicing things up with a speculative mixture that sometimes defies an easy label. Next to Elizabeth Moon and Meredith Ann Pierce, she still counts Jane’s Defense and Popular Science among her influences. “I used to read these articles about cutting edge technology and science, and wonder what impact it would have on society and culture. How it would change us.”

Her biggest failing is the inability to write a “short” story – they may begin that way, but they rarely stay small.  “It’s like asking someone to tell you about their life,” Rhi says of her muses. “Like any real person, once you get them talking, it’s unlikely they’ll shut up any time soon.”

Where to find Rhi:

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