Category Archives: guest authors

Author Interview: Kimberly Emerson

PepperWords is pleased to feature the author of No Accounting for Destiny

PepperWords: Easy stuff first: Who are you and what should we know about you? Where are you from, etc.?

KE: I’m Kimberly Emerson, a lifelong writer and newly published author. I live in L.A. with my cat Zoe, who loves me but still needs her space.

PW: Tell us a bit about your writing history. Have you been doing it long? What inspired you to start writing?

KE: I’ve been writing for most of my life. I remember doing my creative writing assignments in fifth grade as a series, basing characters on myself and all my classmates. In sixth grade I started a new series, using the daughter of the character I created in fifth grade. I don’t think I was actually trying to be clever—I seem to remember it was a way to use the same characters over and over so I didn’t have to make up new ones.

PW: Ha! It was a generational saga!

What about this book? What sparked it? What genre is it, and what draws you to that particular genre?

KE: This book is based on a plot that’s been in my head for probably thirty years. I fell in love with London many years ago and was sure I was supposed to spend the rest of my life there, and of course that I would meet someone incredibly famous who would be so impressed by how unimpressed I was by his fame. I live in Los Angeles and I’ve never lived in London. Maybe I got the first letter right but got distracted during the rest of the prophecy? The book is a mystery because those are my favorite kind to read. I love puzzles and logic problems. Plus, it gives me an excuse for anything weird in my browser history.

PW: I’ve always wanted to live abroad, and London is one of my favorite cities. Alas, it’s never happened for me either. Maybe that’s one of the things I love about this book, that I identify with it.

Speaking of famous people and Los Angeles, in Hollywood we write log lines for scripts—one sentence that sums up the story, a bit like the write up in TV Guide. For example, the log line for Back to the Future might read: “A teenager gets sent back to 1955 where he must contrive to get his parents to fall in love else risk never being born.” What would the log line for your book be?

KE: Hmm… Maybe: “An accountant and an earl find out getting kidnapped isn’t as much fun as you think.” I’ll keep working on it.

PW: And if you were casting your book as a movie, are there any particular actors you’d envision as your main characters?

KE: If I had to cast this book as a movie, I’d put Reese Witherspoon as Emmy. The problem is I’d want to play Jane myself.

PW: What are some of your favorite books? Favorite authors?

KE: So many favorites. My favorite genre is mystery, but if I had to pick one book to read for the rest of forever it would probably be William Goldman’s The Princess Bride, so I guess my taste is a little eclectic. Well, Princess Bride or Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express. I love Jane Austen, with the favorite being a toss-up between Pride & Prejudice and Sense & Sensibility. I also read just about every book Erma Bombeck ever wrote and I own about eight books of Fox Trot comic anthologies. (Bury My Heart at Fun-Fun Mountain is a pictorial account of my childhood.) J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books are a nearly perfect series. Oh, and I will always have a special place in my heart for L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables stories. I could go on.

PW: I should know better than to ask authors to name favorite books. My oldest son is a huge Fox Trot fan, and I love me some Agatha Christie and L.M. Montgomery, so we have that much in common. What are you currently reading? What’s on your TBR list?

KE: Right now, I am re-reading David Casaret’s The Missing Guests at the Magic Grove Hotel. It makes me want to visit Chiang Mai in Thailand. I love novels that teach me about new places. The book also makes me wonder if I missed my calling as a medical ethicist. I can imagine myself spending my days scouring patient records to figure out whether the right ethical choices were made. After I finish that, I’d like to read Anne Lamott’s Almost Everything: Notes on Hope. Her blend of spirituality and self-deprecating humor inspires me, and I think we all need more hope in our lives these days.

PW: Tell us about your writing process. Is it very structured? Do you have a favorite place to sit and write, or a favorite food or drink while writing?

KE: I wish my writing had something as sophisticated as a process. Usually, I start with a snippet of dialogue that pops into my head. I work outward from there. It’s kind of like I can hear the sound of a movie and gradually I can start to see the picture. Once I’ve started on a story, I try to carve out time every day to write something, even if it’s lousy. Sometime my discipline fails me, though. Writing is like trying to exercise and eat right. It’s a commitment you have to make over and over again. I just remind myself that any little step I take in the right direction is better than nothing.

PW: I think most writers would say discipline is the most important thing. Alas, we all need undisciplined days. Except maybe Stephen King. I hear he never takes a day off. Guess that’s why he’s so prolific.

How long does it take you to write a book? How do you know a manuscript is ready to send out to agents and publishers?

KE: The length of time to write a book depends on the book. With No Accounting for Destiny, I started and stopped a lot, so it took me a couple of years. With the book I wrote after that, I finished the first draft in four and a half months. It depends somewhat on the story and somewhat on what else happens in my life at the time. I try to make time whatever else is going on, but sometimes life gets in the way. The important thing is just to try to get back to it again once you get your head back above water. After I finish the first draft, it needs to go out to my critique partners and then the beta readers. Then once I feel content with it, it needs to go to the copy editor for spelling and grammar checks. If I didn’t work full-time, I think I could do a book a year. As it is, it takes at least two years. I try to start on the next one before the last one is completely done, in order to tighten things up.

PW: What are you working on now?

KE: I’ve started working on Fate & Other Terrorists, the sister novel to No Accounting for Destiny. I’m looking forward to calls from the FBI once the title makes the bestseller list. Together with my mystery writer’s browser history, I expect to spend a lot of time in conversation with government entities. Please start collecting bail money for me.

PW: We’ll start a crowdfunding campaign! Aside from not getting arrested, what advice would you give to young writers, or writers who are only just starting out?

KE: The only advice I can give to any writer, to any kind of creative person, really, is to know your own worth. Fame and fortune land where they choose to land, and if there’s any logic to their destinations, I haven’t found it. As one of my mentors at acting school used to say, “If you’re not enough without success, you’ll never be enough with it.” You have something to say. Say it, the best that you can. That’s all you can ever do.

PW: I really like that quote from your mentor; I’ll need to keep that written down somewhere… Where do you see yourself in five years?

KE: In five years, I see myself buying a lake house, ideally with proceeds from my books. I write better at the lake.

PW: I do love lakes and lake houses. My best friend’s grandparents had one and… Oh, but this isn’t about me! Now a little about you in general. Favorite quote or inspirational saying?

KE: My favorite quote is from theologian Frederich Buechner: “The grace of God means something like: Here is your life. You might never have been, but you are because the party wouldn’t have been complete without you.” There’s more to the quote than that, but that’s the part that sticks with me. The idea that I in my insignificance bring something irreplaceable to the world has gotten me through some dark days.

PW: Favorite color?

KE: I love lavender. I also love sea green. My house has a lot of both. They make me feel creative and relaxed at the same time.

PW: Favorite TV show?

KE: My favorite show changes, depending on the day. All-time favorite is probably Murphy Brown. Current favorite is The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.

PW: Okay, weird confession from me: I used to have a crush on Jim from Murphy Brown. That’s right, Jim. Maybe I have a thing for older guys? But I married someone younger so… ??? Oh, and I adore Kimmy Schmidt. What a great show.

Favorite movie?

KE: My favorite movie is The Princess Bride. I had to stop watching it because I could say virtually every line along with the actors. Second place is Clue. For things I’ve watched lately, Ali Wong & Randall Park’s Always Be My Maybe made me laugh so hard I almost broke a rib.

PW: Clue is so quotable, and a perfect stormy night movie.

Someone (living, dead, or fictional) you’d like to meet?

KE: Eleanor Roosevelt has always fascinated me. She came from privilege and spent her whole life working to use that privilege to make everyone’s lives better. She also dealt with a monumental amount of judgment from people who disagreed with her. I would love to have a cup of coffee with her.

PW: I always wondered how she felt about her husband’s infidelities. She certainly seemed to handle things with true grace.

Last but certainly not least, where can we find you and your book?

KE: Please find my book, No Accounting for Destiny, on Amazon! You can also find more of my thoughts on life at (where there is also a handy link to Amazon to buy my book).

Guest Post: Kai Raine

My Stumbling Block in Writing: Forgetting Heteronormativity


About a month ago, I wrote a short literary story titled “Valence.”

“Valence” is about a character who has trouble discerning emotions: she can feel the strength, or valence, of an emotion—without necessarily being able to identify what said emotion is. It’s the story of how she falls in love with a man named Victor who doesn’t return those feelings, and they maintain a very close relationship before, during and after. My protagonist fails to notice when the love turns toxic and comes closer to loathing—and so it ends in tragedy.

The story is written in first person, entirely from my protagonist’s perspective. It jumps back and forth between her past with Victor, and her present, where she’s on the opposite end of the same thing, as a friend of hers named Victoria mistakes a toxicity in their relationship for romantic love.

The Cycle of Bewildering Feedback

I wrote a draft, edited it, and sent it out to beta readers, feeling pretty happy with the story. When the first beta reader said she liked it but was confused about the perspective shift between Victor and Victoria, I figured she simply hadn’t understood the story. It happens sometimes. I told her that the perspective was neither Victor’s nor Victoria’s, but a nameless third person, and went back to my manuscript to make a few minor edits.

To my surprise, she began to argue with me, insisting that the perspective did shift between characters. She could see that there was a third person there near the end, she said, but this was definitely a story about how Victoria and Victor had a convoluted relationship and Victoria killed Victor. Why was there a third person there? And why was the end so confusing? And did I know that I was using past tense sometimes and present tense at others?

I realized my mistake: because I jumped around in time, only one of the eight segments of the story referenced both Victoria and Victor near the end. Most of them had only a “me” and a Victoria, or a “me” and a Victor. I added a few more mentions of Victor in the Victoria segments, and felt satisfied that I’d solved the problem.

Yet my next few beta readers said the very same things as the first. They liked it, but were very confused by the sudden appearance of a mysterious third character near the end. One even mentioned that she was confused about why Victor occasionally seemed to refer to himself in the third person.

I resigned myself to giving my main character a name. I named her Chen (an androgynous Jewish name more often used for girls, pronounced “Ken”) and inserted her name in one strategic place. I added references to her background that would distinguish her from Victoria.

Imagine my frustration when my next reader was still confused.

I had to take a step back and take a long, hard look at the story. The story never made sense if it was from the perspectives of Victor and Victoria; it was even worse now, after all my edits. There were so many plot holes, so many inconsistencies if the story was interpreted that way. So why did people keep insisting on reading it that way?

The Source of the Problem—At Last

My greatest weakness in writing is knowing exactly how much to say in order for my meaning to be conveyed to the average reader. Too often I’ve written stories where beta readers are confused because they missed one line somewhere early on, and the information from that one line was crucial to their understanding of the whole story. This is to say nothing of the passages that I’ve written with one meaning in mind, only to learn later that they are most often read with a very different meaning that makes less sense in the context of the story overall. I’m much better at catching these and compensating for this than I used to be.

“Valence” proved that I’m very much still learning, because when I finally realized my mistake, it was astonishingly simple. Victor and Victoria were of opposite genders. If I’d made both of them men, or both of them women, this would never have been a problem. But because they’re of opposite genders, it simply doesn’t immediately register with most readers that there could be one person having these convoluted relationships with both of them at different points in time. The easiest, most natural reading for most people is that these two characters of opposite gender have a convoluted relationship with each other.

I inserted Chen’s name in prominent parts of conversation in the first scene with Victoria, and the first scene with Victor. I inserted headers over each part, dividing the story into 4 segments:

0. Before Victor
1. The Beginning of Victor and Me
2. The End of Victor and Me
3. After Victor

Surely now, finally, there could be no more confusion.

My first beta reader after this change was still confused, and I nearly despaired. I went so far as to linearize the storytelling to make it as clear as possible. But as I was doing this, I got feedback from a few more beta readers, overwhelmingly positive and with comments that made it clear that at last they had been able to follow the story.

I went back to the a-linear storytelling structure, reassured.

“Fray”: My Experimental Story

My difficulty with “Valence” is actually not the first time I’ve had this sort of problem with people’s interpretation of a work of mine. The difference is that last time it was entirely on purpose.

About five years ago, I wrote a short story that I called “Fray.” At the time, I used to regularly enter my story into consideration at Sixfold. (In case you are unaware: Sixfold is a literary journal without an editor choosing which stories make it. When you enter your story into consideration, you also commit to reading, rating and reviewing 6 stories each for 3 rounds: a total of 18 stories. If you miss the deadline to rate the stories you’re assigned for any of the rounds, your story is pulled out of the running. You rate the stories by ranking: you rank the 6 stories that you had to read from your favorite to your least favorite. You can also offer the author feedback if you like; something I always tried to do, as this was the reason why I liked submitting my work here.)

For some reason, I never submitted a normal, simple story to Sixfold—not that I write many normal, simple short stories to begin with. But I always submitted the weirdest things I had, the most bizarre writings of mine that I was nonetheless ridiculously fond of. (If you’re interested in seeing what I mean, the stories “Maple Wood” and “Flight” are among ones I submitted to Sixfold.)

I don’t know what made me decide to deliberately screw with my readers.

I had this little short story called “Fray.” It was about a closeted bisexual man and his out-and-proud best friend. This protagonist has been dating a woman he doesn’t really care for, and at the start of the story their relationship falls apart. He takes comfort in his best friend and finally admits his dirty secret: he’s in love with him. The best friend, in a loving and committed relationship, is sympathetic but unreceptive. The main character accepts the heartbreak but finds that perhaps because of his new self-acceptance, his strained relationship with his family isn’t as difficult as it once was.

So here’s what I did: I took “Fray,” and I removed as many gender indicators as I realistically could.

The only person it was impossible to make un-gendered was the best friend. He was too central to the story—trying to avoid using pronouns for him would have been entirely unnatural. It was in first person, so the protagonist’s gender was already obscure. The girlfriend at the start and the best friend’s boyfriend were given gender-ambiguous names and never referred to using pronouns.

For the final touch, I added one solitary reference to the protagonist being a man: this line I placed at the end of the middle, where the relationship dynamics of all the characters are already clear.

Then I stuck it into the running at Sixfold and waited and watched.

To my amusement, one of my reviewers was outright frustrated. He couldn’t tell which characters were what gender, he said, and that was distracting and frustrating. Another reviewer left me a stream-of-consciousness review that showed me that he was frustrated through most of the story—until he hit the mention that the main character was male, at which point he had to go back to the beginning, apparently fascinated by the “gender-bending” and now concluding that they all must be gay men.

I smiled to myself. I thought, “How interesting,” and went on with my life. This story was discarded and forgotten until recently, when I decided to try submitting it to journals for real. (Fingers crossed that it gets published in the next few months!)


Even in this day and age, readers don’t see gay and bisexual characters unless your writing forces them to see it. Perhaps this is obvious to people who are not me, but it’s already surprised me more than once. It’s a recurring anthropological lesson that I keep on forgetting.

Most recently, a short story of mine where sexuality wasn’t even an issue (I thought) got a teasing comment from a reviewer. After the death of a woman, her widower marries a man—not a big event, just something that happens in the background—and a beta reader commented on how he hadn’t been open about his sexuality until that point. I snarked back at her, referencing the Kinsey scale. She apologized, saying she didn’t know why she found the character’s bisexuality jarring in that story, when she hadn’t had that problem in another story of mine.

The problem was simple. I hadn’t introduced this character as bisexual in the text at all. So when the character formerly exhibiting heteronormative behavior suddenly exhibits homosexual behavior, a reader doesn’t have to be homophobic to find it jarring.

There are many writers who forget to humanize a gay or transgender or colored character beyond personality traits that are somehow related to those things. I have read many such stories. I’m in the opposite camp: I keep forgetting that this is still not quite a societal norm, so I must ease my readers into it—or at least make sure that everything is explicitly stated.

Does this mean I’ve been doing something fundamentally wrong, that I’ve hit this one stumbling block multiple times from different angles? No, I don’t think so at all. In fact, I’m a little happy to discover that my brain apparently has been living in a world where heteronormativity is an oft-forgotten afterthought. However, as a writer, I feel that I must be able to convey my meaning to people whose minds don’t necessarily work the same way as mine. I might choose not to do this from time to time; but most of the time, I want a story to at least be comprehensible to the average reader. So I have a lot more learning to do.

About the Author

Kai Raine is a writer and cognitive scientist who believes in thinking outside the box and questioning assumptions. Kai reads and writes to experience lives and opinions and possibilities beyond her own. She has lived a relatively nomadic life, being born in the US, then growing up mostly in Japan, and spending most of her early adult life in Europe. She has a BA from the University of Alaska Fairbanks, and MScs from the University of Trento and the University of Osnabrück. Kai is the author of the fantasy novel These Lies That Live Between Us. Visit her at

Author Interview: Elizabeth Spencer

Today I’m welcoming Elizabeth Spencer to my blog as part of my ongoing Author Interview series!

PepperWords: Easy stuff first: Who are you and what should we know about you? Where are you from, etc.?

justice_unending_cover_largeElizabeth Spencer: Hi! I’m Elizabeth Spencer, and I’m a bit of a nerd. A nerd who likes to make stuff. So it’s no surprise that I spend a lot of time writing YA fantasy—but also baking, crocheting, sewing, and pretty much anything else that involves making cool things. (I’m currently working through the entire World of Warcraft cookbook!) I also play a lot of video games, particularly RPGs. I live in New England, but I’m a very new transplant and I haven’t really settled in here yet.

PW: I lived in Massachusetts for 12 years myself. Tell us a bit about your writing history. Have you been doing it long? What inspired you to start writing?

ES: I’ve been writing since I was in grade school, but it took me a long time to muster up the courage to try to publish something. I started writing seriously about nine years ago, and wrote five full-length novels before Justice Unending. Justice was the first book that I really made me stop and think, “Wait. What am I doing? This is good. I could query this.” I’m glad I did!

PW: What about this book? What sparked it? What genre is it, and what draws you to that particular genre?


Justice Unending is an action-adventure-style YA fantasy with some light steampunk elements to it—so while there are corsets and trains and at least one giant steam-powered laboratory, the story’s main focus is an insular group of bodiless immortals and the conflicts between them and the people they possess.

Justice was the product of this persistent, half-formed idea that haunted me for most of a year, where I wanted to write some kind of fantasy about people marked with tattoo-like symbols on their body that gave them certain magical powers. But that wasn’t an idea as much as it was a magic system, and I had no idea what kind of story should go with it. I was on a long plane ride when it finally all came together—what if these people were possessed by some sort of spirit, and the symbols on their bodies were the marks of whoever was inside them? And, hey! I love Victoriana and steampunk, but I hadn’t actually written anything but high fantasy. So why couldn’t I throw in some corsets and big hats in this one? By the time that plane landed, I had the setting, the main conflict, and most of the main plot points and characters worked out.

PW: Oh my God, I am so in! This book sounds amazing. Okay, in Hollywood we write log lines for scripts—one sentence that sums up the story, a bit like the write up in TV Guide. For example, the log line for Back to the Future might read: “A teenager gets sent back to 1955 where he must contrive to get his parents to fall in love else risk never being born.” What would the log line for your book be?

ES: A teenage girl is possessed by the spirit of an ancient assassin who wants to use her body to take down the kingdom—and to right an ancient and terrible crime.

PW: And if you were casting your book as a movie, are there any particular actors you’d envision as your main characters?

ES: Is… is this the time to admit that I don’t watch a lot of movies?

PW: LOL! Fair enough. What are some of your favorite books? Favorite authors?

ES: Ahhh, I can never pick a favorite! The Seraphina books by Rachel Hartman are some of the best YA books I’ve read in the last few years, and Catherynne Valente’s Fairyland books are my new favorite MG series. But Patricia McKillip will probably always be my favorite author, though—I started reading her books when I was very tiny, and read all of her books throughout my teens and early twenties. She’s probably the reason I became so determined to write my own books.

PW: What are you currently reading? What’s on your TBR list?

ES: I just started on the first Mistborn novel! It’s amazing, and there are tons of them, and I can already tell that this is going to be a series I’m going to be reading for a very long time. I also want to check out Martha Wells’s Ile-Rien books, if only because I have been completely obsessed with her Raksura series, and the next one doesn’t come out until mid-2017.

PW: Tell us about your writing process. Is it very structured? Do you have a favorite place to sit and write, or a favorite food or drink while writing?

ES: I’m definitely a plotter! But recently, I’ve found that something halfway between plotting it and winging it seems to work best for me. I go into my first drafts with about four or five major plot points and a lot of world building—I like to have my world, characters, and magic systems figured out in advance. But then I just loosely follow the outline, point my characters toward the next big plot point, and see if I actually end up there. When I hit the end of a writing day I’ll write a quick “mini-outline” of the plot points that feel like they should happen next, and then use that as a guide the next day.

I write in a seldom-used guest room that I’ve crammed a desk into. I’m a bit ritualistic about it—that room is only for writing, and the internet is only for accessing my files and doing research. There are very few distractions in there, except a bunch of warm blankets and a pair of speakers for background music. Alas, while I’d like to say my writing drink is “hot chocolate,” if I make some before I write I’ll forget about it until it’s ice cold. I just wait until I’m done to treat myself now.

PW: How long does it take you to write a book? How do you know a manuscript is ready to send out to agents and publishers?

ES: I am extremely neurotic about tracking how much I write—I have an Excel spreadsheet that tallies up my totals by day, week, month, and story. So I can say with complete confidence that it takes me 4-5 months to write a first draft, about two to do the first edit, and however many more months it takes to drum up some beta readers and work through their changes. Thus far I average about a year to a year-and-a-half from starting to being query-ready.

Justice was a bit of a mess, though. I started querying it before it was ready and had to stop, get some new betas, and rewrite some of the story before I tried again. The first version I queried was only proofed by me and my beta friend who reads everything I do. And while they’re a fantastic reader, I needed the cold, hard, dispassionate gaze of a perfect stranger to figure out which things really weren’t working. After getting three new betas and rewriting the first fourth of the story, Justice was finally ready to go. That took nearly two years. Goodness!

PW: I’m a slow writer myself, which agonizes me since so many people say you should put out several books a year. How did you get the publisher for this book? How long did it take, and how many queries or submissions did you send out?

ES: I queried 30ish agents, stopped, then rewrote. Then I queried 93 agents over the span of (again—crazy detailed Excel spreadsheet here) 10 months. That resulted in 5 full requests and 1 partial, but no one ultimately offered me representation. And while that was very disappointing, I knew by the end of it that I probably had something special if I was getting this much interest.

I later submitted it to nine publishers and got two full requests and two contract offers. That took another 10 months—although most of that time was spent trying to get my first contract offer to work out, and then having to hunt down and negotiate a second one. But this is my first published novel. Now that I know the ropes, I hope the next ones will go faster!

PW: I’ve had similar experiences in querying and submitting. It does (usually) go faster once you get the hang of it. That said, never a good idea to rush it, right? What are you working on now?

ES: A YA high fantasy about an impenetrable fortress in the middle of the ocean that is said to be home of the gods—until a ship full of starving and half-dead children crash-land on the shore, bearing a curse that’s slowly killing them. I’m about 85K into it and am hoping to be done with the first draft by the end of the month.

PW: Yow, sounds intense. What advice would you give to young writers, or writers who are only just starting out?

ES: Start a writing habit. Don’t worry about being good. Don’t worry about publishing or getting an agent. Worry about establishing a habit where you write on a schedule—whether it’s every day, 3 times a week, or whatever makes sense for your schedule. Then learn how to finish projects reliably and on a decent timeline. It took me wayyyyy too long to learn that it didn’t matter how good my writing was or how interesting my ideas were if I was unable to finish a first draft in a reasonable amount of time—or if I never did at all.

PW: Where do you see yourself in five years?

ES: I’m hoping I’ll get an agent sometime in the next five years. Fingers crossed! But even if I don’t, I intend to keep publishing books. It took me a long time to decide to publish something. Now I need to get my butt in gear and actually start building a library!

PW: Now a little about you in general. Favorite quote or inspirational saying:

ES: I’ve always been fond of “A goal without a plan is just a wish.”

PW: I’ve never heard that one, but I really relate.

Favorite color:

ES: Plum-colored purple!

PW: Favorite TV show:

ES: Is this a bad time to say I don’t really watch TV, either? Uh. Can I do my favorite video game?! I’m a diehard fan of the Castlevania series (before they rebooted it with the Lords of Shadow spinoff), and while Symphony of the Night is probably the best game in the series, my favorite story (and cast of characters) will always be Aria of Sorrow.

PW: Works for me! (I know nothing about video games except what my kids and husband try to explain to me.)

Favorite movie:

ES: I’m not sure I have one! I’ve enjoyed a bunch, but claiming a “favorite” seems like a pretty big burden. And I’m not sure I’m ready to make that sort of commitment.

PW: Someone (living, dead, or fictional) you’d like to meet:

ES: It’d be so lovely to have a chance to talk to Tolkien about how he came up with his ideas and built his worlds. World building and linguistics fascinate me!

PW: And last but certainly not least, where can we find you and your book?

ES: My website is at, and you can find Justice Unending on Amazon and the Evernight Teen website!


Within the walls of the Bastion, it’s an honor to become a host for an Unending—the bodiless, immortal spirits who rule the country.

But for Faye, it meant her sister would have to die.

When Faye sneaks into the Mother Duchess’s manor, she just wanted to see her sister one last time. Instead, Faye finds a manor in chaos, a murdered man, and an Unending assassin named Aris who needs a new body—Faye’s body—to bring the Bastion to its knees.

Now Faye’s harboring the Bastion’s most wanted criminal. And if she wants to live, she’ll have to escape the Duchess and her immortals, all while keeping Aris from harming anyone else.

There’s just one problem—Aris is not the villain. And now Faye is the only one who can help her stop the Duchess before anyone else—and especially Faye—has to die for the Unendings’ whims.


Trays rattled. A half dozen women gasped. Justine was on her knees and forearms, her head inches away from the tiles. Her fingers clawed at the grout.

It happened so quickly Faye was left standing with her hand in the air. She dropped to her knees and put an arm gently on her sister’s back, her voice shaking so hard she had to force herself not to yell, “Why didn’t you say you felt this bad?”

“I—” Justine croaked. She clenched her eyelids shut, clamped her arms against her chest, and bent over herself, folding her body into a tight ball of pain.

The maids crushed around them. Olivia crowded up behind Faye, sounding worried. “We’ll have to carry her to her room. Two or three of us can do it. Faye, tell your father—”

“No,” Justine whispered. “No.”

Faye watched Justine’s back rise and fall with every unsteady breath. “Oh. Oh. Me? You want me.”

“What?” Faye asked.

“I can’t… I’m sorry. Please, one moment… I…”


Justine didn’t answer. Slowly, unsteadily, she pushed herself up to her knees. She was still shaking as she pulled her arms away from the curve of her stomach, lifted them, and showed their backs to her sister.

Thin black sigils ran all the way down her arms, spiraling and looping from her knuckles to her elbows. They looked like stylized flames.

Those were the sigils of an Unending.

Faye stiffened. The maids sucked in a collective gasp of surprise. Only Olivia managed to croak, “Whose are they?”

Justine stared at her own hands like they belonged to someone else and cocked her head to the side, as if listening to a voice only she could hear. “Belisama.” She paused a moment, dreamlike. “The Mother’s guard? I would imagine that she’d choose someone big, someone strong, someone who can…” She fluttered her eyes weakly, and it sent tears sliding down her cheeks. “I am admirably responsible? Duty? Is that enough?”

Faye wished Justine would stop talking. Her sister did not ramble. Her sister was proper and well spoken, and this … this was terribly, desperately wrong. Faye stared at the sigils as her stomach shuddered like a pot in rolling boil.

Justine pulled herself away from Faye as she rose to her feet. Olivia offered her a shoulder, and Justine leaned against it before she tried to speak again. “We need to send a message to the Mother Duchess. I’ll have to go there, talk with her, be Fixed.” Her eyes widened, as if she only then realized what she was saying. “I have to tell Mother and Father. I have to get my things in order. I have to make sure the maids know what to do. I…”

No one said anything, even as Justine trailed off into silence. The maids looked at her achingly. Olivia shot Faye a concerned glance, then gently took Justine by the arm. “Come, miss. Let’s tell your parents the news.”

Faye tried to breathe and choked on a sob. No one seemed to notice. The maids stepped around her, their skirts rustling against the tiles as they followed into the hall, leaving the half-finished dinner still bubbling and popping on the stoves.

Faye couldn’t move. She was trembling, she realized, trembling so hard her fingers were numb. Her brain looped wildly, madly, hysterically through a pair of awful, unbearable thoughts.

Her sister had been chosen by an Unending. Her sister was going to die.

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About the Author:

Elizabeth Spencer is a YA fantasy author who writes action-packed adventures about magic, mystery, and very brave women. She also writes steampunk, although that’s mostly because she really, really loves big hats. Her first novel, Justice Unending, was released by Evernight Teen in November 2016. She otherwise has a very normal job as a professional editor and project manager. She lives in New England with her husband and an extremely fluffy cat.

Author Interview: Sarai Henderson

Today I’m welcoming Sarai Henderson to my blog as part of my ongoing Author Interview series!

PepperWords: Easy stuff first: Who are you and what should we know about you? Where are you from, etc.?

hunter-evernightpublishing-2016-ebookSarai Henderson: My name is Sarai Henderson. I live in Oregon, in a small town south of Portland. I’m the mother of three young boys who keep me busy and the author of HUNTER, a YA urban fantasy/paranomral about bounty hunter telepaths who work for a ruthless telepath faction.

PW: Tell us a bit about your writing history. Have you been doing it long? What inspired you to start writing?

SH: My writing started after my ballet career suddenly ended when I was 18. I had always enjoyed writing when I was young, but didn’t truly come to life until that was all that was left. I wrote my first novel in my early twenties (House of Chaos) but didn’t publish it until this year, 2016. After I had my third son, I decided to write Hunter, my most recent novel and my first to be published. It took me a year of lunch breaks from work and a Twitter pitch party to land my publisher, Evernight Teen.

PW: ET is the publisher of my YA novel Manifesting Destiny! What about this book? What sparked it? What genre is it, and what draws you to that particular genre?

SH: Hunter is a YA urban fantasy/paranormal. I love urban fantasy because I can describe the world around me, so people can see what I love and hate about places I’ve been. In Hunter, I describe how the rain falls here in the NW. Its something I actually love, but I let my main character in the book loathe it. I wanted her to portray misery in that moment and the rain really helps with that (even though it truly is a beautiful thing).

PW: Nice use of imagery and symbolism. In Hollywood we write log lines for scripts—one sentence that sums up the story, a bit like the write up in TV Guide. For example, the log line for Back to the Future might read: “A teenager gets sent back to 1955 where he must contrive to get his parents to fall in love else risk never being born.” What would the log line for your book be?

SH: Sixteen-year-old Hunter is stuck between her telepath world and the strong arm of the government where she must choose between trust and loyalty.

PW: And if you were casting your book as a movie, are there any particular actors you’d envision as your main characters?

SH: I’ve always loved Emma Stone and her big eyes. She would be a perfect Hunter and I think I would make Chris Pratt Seeker. He has the big brother kind of vibe that Seeker is known for.

PW: I love Chris Pratt, would watch him in just about anything.

What are some of your favorite books? Favorite authors?

SH: I’m a huge fan of Garth Nix and his Old Kingdom series. He was what drew me to epic fantasy, magic and the paranormal. Everything he writes is unique and creative. He is my favorite author.

PW: What are you currently reading? What’s on your TBR list?

SH: I’m reading Allegient right now, finishing up the series before I see the last movie. I’m also working through the Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan. I’ve been reading those books for 10 years now and I’m only on Book 4. That’s some deep stuff.

PW: I read the first couple Wheel of Time books but felt overwhelmed, not up to the task. I think it takes a special kind of person to be able to read something so densely, lushly written. I stand in awe of Jordan’s world building, and in awe of you for attempting to read it!

Tell us about your writing process. Is it very structured? Do you have a favorite place to sit and write, or a favorite food or drink while writing?

SH: My process is pretty much word vomit. I sit in my car on my lunch break from work and write until my hand cramps. I can usually come up with a pretty good plot in my first draft that needs some small tweaking in the next draft. Its worked for me so far.

PW: How long does it take you to write a book? How do you know a manuscript is ready to send out to agents and publishers?

SH: My first draft takes me about a month and a half, but the following drafts can take me another six months or so. I usually consider a novel done when I can’t stand reading it any longer.

PW: How did you get the publisher for this book? How long did it take, and how many queries or submissions did you send out?

SH: This book was unusual when it came to the submission process. I finished it just in time to participate in Pit2Pub, a Twitter pitch party by Kristin D. Van Risseghem. My first 40-character pitch received eight requests, one of them happened to be my current publisher, Evernight Teen. I was researching all the publishers that had shown interest in my novel when I got a message on Twitter from Evernight Teen saying that they were really interested in my novel and how much they wanted me to submit to them, so I did. They were the second query I made with this new manuscript. A few months later, Hunter was published.

PW: I had a similar experience with Manifesting Destiny. What are you working on now?

SH: Right now, I’m working on the sequel to Hunter called Seeker. It’s going to be telepaths against telepaths with a new threat and blast from Hunter’s past. Who knows what will happen? Well, I guess I do 🙂

PW: What advice would you give to young writers, or writers who are only just starting out?

SH: Don’t give up. I spent several years trying to publish my first manuscript and only two tries to publish my second. Anything can happen. You never know.

PW: Good advice. Seems like if the first book doesn’t sell, write something else and try again.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

SH: I dream big and want to have my Hunter series turned into a movie, but in reality, I think I’ll have my current series done and started on another. Hopefully, a little better known than I am now.

PW: I’ve been trying to get one of my novels turned into a movie for over three years now, but the industry is a tough nut to crack. Good luck with your work!

Now a little about you in general. Favorite quote or inspirational saying:

SH: My favorite quote is from the movie ThorL “You want me to put down the hammer?” I use it for everything. “You want me to put down the tuna sandwich… Laundry… Three-year-old child.” It works for everything….

PW: Ha! Love it! Favorite color:

SH: Orange!

PW: Favorite TV show:

SH: The Walking Dead

PW: Favorite movie:

SH: Fifth Element… Lelu Dallas, multi pass.

PW: Oh my God, we say that around our house all the time! Okay, someone (living, dead, or fictional) you’d like to meet:

SH: My favorite Chrises: Pratt, Evans, Hemsworth, Pine.

PW: Good taste! And last but certainly not least, where can we find you and your book?



Sixteen-year-old Hunter belongs to the Telepathic Alliance for the Latent or Newly manifested, otherwise known as Talon, a bounty hunter community known for their ruthless tactics. Her latest mission in San Diego was supposed to be a piece of cake, but when the job takes a treacherous and deadly turn, not even her telepathic abilities could have warned her of the dangers lurking around the corner.

There is only one place for Hunter to go, and that is straight into the hands of the government and their Psychic Intelligence Team, but even the “Normal” world isn’t safe. With each passing hour throwing her deeper into the game of life and death, Hunter must decide who to trust before this mission becomes her last.

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saraihendersonAbout the Author:

Sarai Henderson is a retired ballerina from Oregon City, Oregon, where she spends most her time chasing down her three rambunctious boys and writing on her lunch break at work. She enjoys DIY projects, Photography and writing on her blog about life as a mother of an autistic son. Find her online at or on Twitter @Shendersonbooks.

Spotlight: Deadly Alliance by Kathleen Rowland

Check out this romantic suspense novel by fellow Tirgearr author Kathleen Rowland!

deadly_alliance_by_kathleen_rowland-200Finbar Donahue, former Army Ranger, walked on the wild side in Iraq, but now he lives in the shadows. After his evasive partner, Les, was shot in a random drive-by, Finn discovers cash is siphoned monthly. He fights to keep his investment company afloat. When the late partner’s girlfriend, Amy Kintyre, applies for his bookkeeping job, Finn suspects she knows about his company drain and hires her.

Amy needs a nine-to-five with free evenings and weekends to get her fashion design business back on track. She unearths Les’ s secret bank account and alerts Finn. Freezing of the money laundering account sets off havoc within an Irish gang. Amy witnesses a gang fight between a brutal ISIS fundraising organization and the Irish. Desperate to escape a stalker’s crosshairs, she seeks refuge with Finn. As danger heats up, sparks fly hotter.


Chapter One

“You know I love your sportswear designs, right?”

“I’m glad you do.” Amy Kintyre sat opposite a buyer, none other than Kira Radner, at a coffee shop in Lake Arrowhead, California. This sudden opportunity to re-launch her sportswear designs gave rise to the jitters, and Amy clutched her hands under the table.

Kira pressed her face forward, Amy’s sketches drawn on figures in action poses. With the portfolio spread between them, she flipped it sideways to examine the fabric swatches stapled along the sidebar. Their earthy tones blended with the marred wooden table.

Amy stilled the chatty urge.

“You know your presentation is in two weeks.” Kira was giving her the green light with Recreational Sportswear, Incorporated.

“I appreciate this, Kira.” To get her business back on track, she needed blocks of time to sew mockups. Amy inhaled the spicy aroma of the raw cedar wood. The under-construction décor of wide, timber planks on the walls made her think of her new self. Crazy how thirty felt like seventeen when embracing life and freeing her artistic side.

“Then I beg you,” Kira said, “please, please, please have your product samples ready. Deadline is the first Monday of November.”

“Got it.” Fear over the tight time frame tasted sour in her throat, but this break called like no other.

Kira leaned forward. “Impressive functionality with the shorts. Who would have thought this pocket holds a Swiss Army Knife!” The buyer’s fingertips traced the pick-stitch hem, made with thread matching the fabric, appearing invisible. “Nice detail.”

Amy’s only mock-up kept their face-to-face meeting running like the hum of the fluorescent lights above.

“Oooo,” Kira said and raised both her eyebrows. “Classic nostalgia with a twist. A pocket knife for hikers!”

“Useful, I think.” The bright light flickered over associates who’d worked together in the past, but Amy didn’t share the difficulty of making the deadline. Her breathing shortened, and panic carved a hole in her chest.

“Gotta bounce,” Kira said. “Get to work.”

“I will.” She pulled out a notebook and jotted down a to-do list ending with the file with various size patterns. After a half-hour of regrouping and rethinking, she stopped tapping her pen. Kira Radner took a chance on her, but to turn this chance into a reality, she needed evenings and weekends to make the deadline.

Last Sunday while pouring over Craigslist classifieds, she’d zeroed in on Finbar Donahue’s bookkeeping ad. After her inquiry, his head accountant sent her a message. She still favored the toe she stubbed after her in-box pinged.

Thanks to what happened, the call from Kira, she needed Finn’s job. Her mind raced to her third interview for his nine-to-five. Tomorrow morning, if all went well, she’d land the regular-hours job, tailor made for her time frame. She ran a hand through her hair, picturing the arrogant know-it-all with a never-ending string of women hanging on his arm.

Handsome wasn’t the word to describe Finn, her late, ex-boyfriend’s partner. She’d been around Finbar Donahue enough to know he looked at his world as if he were the Almighty himself. The former Army Ranger made her way too nervous. She tensed up to such an extent, her voice broke.

Romance wasn’t part of this equation. Her dream to launch herself, stitch by stitch, came down to landing the job. On a mission, her goal was simple. She closed her eyes and prayed tomorrow she’d nail it.

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[ File # csp7850808, License # 1386192 ] Licensed through in accordance with the End User License Agreement ( (c) Can Stock Photo Inc. / Elenathewise
[ File # csp7850808, License # 1386192 ]
Licensed through in accordance with the End User License Agreement (
(c) Can Stock Photo Inc. / Elenathewise
How about romantic travel to Lake Arrowhead, California, where Deadly Alliance takes place? Fall colors mix with evergreens around this pristine mountain lake. Bring a picnic basket and rent a pontoon!

Book Buyers Best finalist Kathleen Rowland is devoted to giving her readers fast-paced, high-stakes suspense with a sizzling love story sure to melt their hearts. Lily’s Pad and the Intervenus Series: A Brand New Address and Betrayal at Crater’s Edge are sweet. Deadly Alliance and her work-in-progress, Unholy Alliance, are contracted with Tirgearr Publishing and written for adults.

Kathleen used to write computer programs but now writes novels. She grew up in Iowa where she caught lightning bugs, ran barefoot, and raced her sailboat on Lake Okoboji. Now she wears flip-flops and sails with her husband, Gerry, on Newport Harbor but wishes there were lightning bugs in California.

Kathleen exists happily with her witty CPA husband, Gerry, in their 70’s poolside retreat in Southern California where she adores time spent with visiting grandchildren, dogs, one bunny, and noisy neighbors. While proud of their five children who’ve flown the coop, she appreciates the luxury of time to write. If you’d enjoy news, sign up for Kathleen’s newsletter at

Find Kathleen online at these sites as well:

Author Interview: Kristen Morie-Osisek

The-Sixth-Event-evernightpublishing-JayAheer2016-finalimage Today I’m welcoming author Kristen Morie-Osisek to the blog as part of my author interview series!

PepperWords: Easy stuff first: Who are you and what should we know about you? Where are you from, etc.?

Kristen Morie-Osisek: My name is Kristen Morie-Osisek, and I’m currently living in Connecticut. I have a Ph.D. in psychology, but I’ve also long been interested in prehistory and paleontology, which is what led me to write my book, The Sixth Event.

PW: Tell us a bit about your writing history. Have you been doing it long? What inspired you to start writing?

KMO: Back in probably fourth or fifth grade, I was bitten by the writing bug. I had always been a voracious reader, and it was around the time I discovered the fantasy genre that I realized I could write stories of my own. I started trying to write by hand, and because I have a very hard time doing that, it didn’t really go anywhere. Once I learned to touch type, though, I began writing short descriptive scenes and short stories. Finally, once I had free time in college, I finished an entire novel. From there, I just kept going. I have to say that it all started through reading—I don’t think I would have begun had I not been a huge reader as a kid.

PW: I think many writers do begin as readers, or at least good writers do. Writers who don’t read don’t write all that well in my experience.

What about this book? What sparked it? What genre is it, and what draws you to that particular genre?

KMO: The Sixth Event actually started life as a short story. I had always had the idea of someone waking up at a previous moment in their life at much younger age and trying to change something that will happen in the future. I brought a draft of that story to a creative writing class in college, and while it needed work, everyone really liked the concept, so I kept it in my back pocket. In addition, I’ve always been fascinated by extinct animals—everything from the dinosaurs to giant mammals in the ice age. I combined the two ideas into one in The Sixth Event, where the main character gets thrown back in time to prevent another planet-wide extinction event. The idea evolved from there.

PW: Sounds fascinating. In Hollywood we write log lines for scripts—one sentence that sums up the story, a bit like the write up in TV Guide. For example, the log line for Back to the Future might read: “A teenager gets sent back to 1955 where he must contrive to get his parents to fall in love else risk never being born.” What would the log line for your book be?

KMO: Hmm… probably something like “This time, extinction isn’t the end.”

PW: And if you were casting your book as a movie, are there any particular actors you’d envision as your main characters?

KMO: This one’s a toughie since I don’t know actors or actresses very well. I would probably want new talent to come in! The characters are very down-to-earth, so it’d be neat to get some new up-and-coming actors to play the roles.

PW: What are some of your favorite books? Favorite authors?

KMO: My favorite book of all time is TailChaser’s Song, by Tad Williams. Its animal fantasy about a cat and cat society. Think Warriors but darker and more fantastical. As for favorite authors, I love Mercedes Lackey and Anne McAffrey. Sci-fi and fantasy are my favorite genres.

PW: Oh my God, I love Tailchaser’s Song! I read Watership Down and then Tailchaser and just love them both. What are you currently reading? What’s on your TBR list?

KMO: At the moment, I’m reading The Storyteller Trilogy by Sue Harrison, which is fiction that follows Native American tribes that takes place in Alaska during the ice age, 800 years ago. It’s a really fun look back at the past. Up next, I intend to read some more YA, including the Maze Runner series, which I haven’t gotten around to reading yet.

PW: Tell us about your writing process. Is it very structured? Do you have a favorite place to sit and write, or a favorite food or drink while writing?

KMO: I tend to write as inspiration strikes, sitting on my couch in between playing video games. I don’t have a set schedule, but I try to write at least 400 words a day.

PW: How long does it take you to write a book? How do you know a manuscript is ready to send out to agents and publishers?

KMO: I’m a bit on the slow side—a book a year is my likely rate, with novellas or short stories added in on the side. As for readiness, I typically will finish the book, then take a break from it for a few months before going back and editing. Once a beta reader takes a look and I do one last editing pass, I call it ready.

PW: How did you get the publisher for this book? How long did it take, and how many queries or submissions did you send out?

KMO: The Sixth Event had a lot of near misses before I heard the unfortunate news that no one wanted dystopian or apocalyptic books any longer. After about a hundred queries and 25 or so full requests, and two editor requests, I went with small presses. Evernight Teen snapped it up very quickly!

PW: I had a similar experience with Manifesting Destiny. What are you working on now?

KMO: I have a YA portal fantasy series called A Ring of Stones in the works. Book 1 is complete and Book 2 is in the works, out of what will likely be three or four books. In Book 1, a young girl, Ryn, discovers she can walk through the veil between worlds and enter the fairy realm at will. The fairy world was closed off from the human world centuries ago, and Ryn has to figure out why she can travel the two worlds and how to protect the human world from powerful fairies who want to harm it.

PW: Cool! I keep hearing “portal fantasy” getting thrown around these days and had to look it up. Seems to mean a story that involves a magical doorway of some kind (in case anyone else was wondering).

What advice would you give to young writers, or writers who are only just starting out?

KMO: Every writer has their strengths and weaknesses, so it would depend on the person, but the old clichés still work. Practice makes perfect. Write every day. And most importantly, keep reading! Reading and enjoying other people’s books is the best way to keep your own creative juices flowing.

PW: Where do you see yourself in five years?

KMO: Given academia these days, probably scrambling for grant money. 😛 Seriously though, I hope to keep finding success. I want to put out my YA portal fantasy with Evernight Teen, and hopefully have the whole series out by then!

PW: Now a little about you in general. Favorite quote or inspirational saying:

KMO: This was said at my middle school graduation (class of 2000!). It’s a cliché saying, but I love it. “Shoot for the moon, and if you miss, you’ll still be among the stars.”

PW: Favorite color:

KMO: Probably green.

PW: Favorite TV show:

KMO: I love The Simpsons, but the TV show that will always give me warm fuzzy nostalgic feelings is Dinosaurs. Yep, the old puppet show. And if we include anime, Trigun! I love space westerns.

PW: “Not the Mama!” (Nod to those who get it.) Favorite movie:

KMO: There are so many good ones! I think the most recent would likely be Rise of the Guardians.

PW: Someone (living, dead, or fictional) you’d like to meet:

KMO: Einstein. I’d love to chat about the history of the universe with him.

PW: And last but certainly not least, where can we find you and your book?

KMO: My website, which I should update more often, can be found here:

The Sixth Event can be bought from Evernight Teen here:
Or at Amazon:


During Raquel’s first semester of college, she witnesses the end of the world, only to wake up in her old room at her parents’ house two years in the past. Even worse, it seems she’s the only one who remembers—until Chris Lyley, a boy Raquel always thought was a loser, tells her he remembers the catastrophe.

Before long, they both discover new abilities. They’re able to understand any language and teleport through time and space. If Raquel and Chris can figure out what caused the end of their world, maybe they can stop it.

Guest Post: K. H. Mezek


My drawing, inspired by the kids I worked with in juvenile hall.

Introducing Ruben, a street-smart kid with a dangerous (to himself) knowledge of Los Angeles’s underground tunnels.

In Book of Angels, a favorite scene of mine takes Sera from the exclusive world of Oak Haven into a desolate and dangerous area of factories and abandoned buildings by the Los Angeles River. Her intent is to destroy the two remaining nightmarish masks.

In this scene, readers are introduced to Ruben, an inner city, street-smart kid. Sera sees Ruben surrounded by a Florenicia 13 gang. Sera saves him and they become friends.

Ruben was inspired by my years teaching creative writing to youth in juvenile hall. In 1995, I went into Central Juvenile Hall in Los Angeles with the desire to volunteer to teach creative writing to incarcerated youth. Although I had no experience, the principal of the school, who looked like an older version of the Nutty Professor, kindly let me in. The teacher in the girls’ school allowed me to teach three sessions in her class and I was hooked. I started coming twice a week. I taught boys and girls, but mainly girls. My very first group of eight girls, one just fourteen, were all facing life
sentences for serious crimes. All of them had been in abusive relationships. All of them came from poor, inner city families.

Other writers started volunteering and the program grew into a nonprofit called InsideOUT Writers that now serves youth in detention facilities all over Los Angeles. Here is a Los Angeles Times article about my work:

That fourteen year old girl, Erika, was sentenced to what amounted to life in prison. Recently, she was about to be released, due to a change in the laws. She committed suicide. She couldn’t handle the thought of living outside the walls of the prison. Another girl who became a good friend, Silvia, was sent to prison for twenty-five years to life, for a murder committed by her older, abusive boyfriend. She is getting out in November.

Through happiness and tears, good can arise, like the wings of angels.

I hope readers will love Ruben and his courageous spirit as much as I do—and as much as Sera comes to love him. Here is the scene where Sera first meets Ruben.

I saw a flutter of movement and reached out like lightening to catch the boy before he could escape. For the first time, I turned my full attention on him. He was squirming and swearing as I held him by his jacket.

“Stop!” I said, and he did.

Small and scrawny, he looked up at me with wide, dark eyes, trying to be brave. A knife slash, not too deep, ran the length of his forearm. His nose was bloody and a shiner was developing on one eye. Nothing that his frail human body couldn’t repair.

But it was the spirit that never got better. The image of my brother, Salem, pinned against the oak tree in the park, beaten to a pulp by Gus, filled my vision and I ground my teeth in anger. I mustn’t think about that.

“What’s your name?” I asked the boy.

“Ruben,” he said.

I was glad he hadn’t come back with some stupid gang name. “Well, Ruben, how old are you?”

He drew himself up and squared his shoulders, trying to look bigger and taller than he was. “Old enough.”

“For what—to get yourself killed?”

“By you?” he said.

I let go of him, pointing an accusing finger. “I just saved your ass, remember?”

He folded his arms and cocked his head to one side skeptically. “You look like a demon.”

“Excuse me?”

“You’re covered in blood and…” He squinted. “Is that skin? Gross!” He wrinkled his nose. “Stinks, too.”

“Hey, don’t try and make this about me. Why don’t you run along home?”

“You gonna tear my liver out if I don’t?”

This Ruben was something else. I didn’t know whether to punch him or hug him.

“I will if you grow up like them.”

His mouth became a thin line of determination, too old for his age. “I’ll never be like them.”

“Easy to say. So what did Luis and his gang have against you?”

“Nothing,” said Ruben. “They just want to jump me in. Florencia. You know it?”

“Heard of it,” I said.

“I keep telling them, no. But eventually…” He shrugged. “Everybody joins, you got to.”

“Says who?”

Ruben’s eyes flashed. “What do you know? You’re not from my barrio.”

Suddenly, this all felt ridiculous. What was I doing, standing in this no man’s land, arguing in the middle of the night with a street kid?

“Maybe you’re not a demon,” Ruben said, sounding almost disappointed. “If you were, you’d know how it is.”

I sighed. “You’re right.”

“I want to go home now,” he said, looking worn out.

On a sudden impulse, I asked for his address, picked him up, and flew so fast, I doubted he even realized we were in the air. I dropped him at the front door of his apartment building.

Ruben didn’t question how he got there. But before running off, he shot me a thoughtful look, the ghost of a smile flitting across his blood-smeared face.

“Maybe you’re an angel!” he said.

And before I could even think of a response, he had climbed up the drain pipe and onto a balcony. He crawled through the open window and was gone.


book-of-angels-evernightpublishing-2016-ABook of Angels, volume two in the NIGHT ANGELS CHRONICLES

Buy it on Evernight Teen:
Buy it on Amazon:

All Sera ever wanted was to solve the mystery of her dad’s death and find out whether or not the Night Angel, Peter, really loved her. Now, there are bigger issues at stake. After being saved from death by the Night Angels, Sera returns to Oak Haven to find her brother, Salem, has been saved by her nemesis, the sinister Los Angeles mayor-to-be, Fabian Gore. Sera and her brother meet again in their hometown of Oak Haven as powerful denizens. And as enemies. Someone is channeling power to the Queen, imprisoned in St. Catherine’s Monastery. If she escapes, the Ancient Ones will rise up from their sarcophagi beneath churches throughout the world and wreak vengeance on denizens and humans alike.  

To thwart the Queen, Sera has no choice but to form an uneasy alliance with Gore. Meanwhile, Sera’s power and her connection to the Key of Mystery is growing. Only she can open the Book of Angels. But whoever does that will become something that Sera never wants to be: the Seventh Angel. How can Sera solve her own problems when everyone else wants her to solve their problems as well?

KH Mezek Karen HuntKaren Hunt aka KH Mezek is the author and/or illustrator of nineteen children’s books. She is the co-founder of InsideOUT Writers, a creative writing program for incarcerated youth, and the founder of the MY WORLD PROJECT, connecting youth in remote areas through art and writing. She is a 2nd degree black belt in Tang Soo Do, a first degree brown belt in Eskrima, and a boxing and kick-boxing trainer. As a child, her family escaped out of Egypt right before the 6 Day War, lived in a 17th century castle in Switzerland and smuggled Bibles into communist countries, to name a few of her adventures. As an adult, she continued her adventures, living between London and a village in Yugoslavia. She is the author of Key of Mystery and Book of Angels, volumes one and two in the NIGHT ANGELS CHRONICLES, are published with Evernight Teen.

Guest Post: Danielle Belwater

Danielle Belwater’s book Of Blood & Snow was recently released by Evernight Teen. It’s the second in a series, and being that I am also now writing a second book in the Changers series, I was curious how Danielle found writing sequels versus writing a first-in-a-series or standalone novel. Here is what she had to say:

Book 1 of The Erlanis Chronicles, Of Fire & Roses was published two years ago. I hadn’t intended it to be so long between books, but throw two babies into the equation and all timelines, deadlines, planning and motivation went out the window.

But! I persevered and refused to give up and bit by bit Of Blood & Snow came to life.

The difference between releasing book 1 and the recent release of book 2 have been worlds apart.

I’m two years wiser, and also have two years of book 1 being out there, having readers get to know my name. While it hasn’t made the top of New York Times Bestsellers just yet, for me, it’s more about the accomplishment. If you decide to become an author for the money, you might want to rethink it.

When you only have on book out, whether it’s a series or a standalone novel, until you get your second book out (unless you’re Paula Hawkins of Girl On The Train fame) you’re not taken seriously. While getting a book published is a feat in itself, readers ultimately want an author with longevity, someone that will continue to deliver books that they can love and cherish.

With book 2, I already knew the characters. I know who they are, what their likes and dislikes are and how they act in certain situations. They are like close friends. I was able to dig deeper into their personalities and motivations and play a bit more with the story and perspectives.

One thing I haven’t done nearly as much of, is not stress as much. You’re first release you’re about as organised as a chook without a head. You’ve gone full deer-in-headlights as you hit refresh on your release to check your rankings every 2 minutes. That’s not to say that I’m not checking my second release for rankings, but I certainly am not stressing about it. I’ve just allowed it to go out there and make its way in the world.

I feel a sense of belonging now. A part of a community of friends, authors and readers alike.

I still have a lot to prove, but writing has become a part of who I am and what I do. When I’m not writing, I’m usually thinking about writing and it’s now automatic to be thinking about my stories and where they are going to next.

So watch this space!


Chronicles, 2)
Danielle Belwater
Teen Publishing/63K
Blood is thicker than water, or so
the story goes…
fast as Cora can run, there is no escaping the blood that ties her to an
ancient, evil past.
Amongst the
bitter cold and driving snow, Nate must find a way to protect the love of his
life, before the darkness falls and Cora is lost to him forever.
Buy Links:  ARe 
Evernight Teen
14+ due to adult situations
Why? Why did I need to go home? Other than for shelter, no one needed me there. Nate was all I had left. He was my reason for breathing and now the sole reason I got up every morning. The thought of harm coming to Nate made my heart hammer in my chest even harder. I jammed my hands deep into my coat pockets and focused on letting oxygen flow into my lungs.
In a single moment of clarity, I knew. I mean, I knew I loved Nate; that was without question. But if I didn’t have him in my life, it would be nothing but vacuous space.
I brushed snow off the fallen tree trunk and sat down. My thinking tree. Nate and I came here often to sit and talk, read, or watch the day simply pass us by. I piled up handful after handful of snow, heaping them on top of each other until a small avalanche rolled off the log and into a heap on the ground.
You are the key.
I leapt off the log landing two feet together, crushing the peak of snow beneath my shoes.
“Who’s there?” I shoved my fists into my hips and squared my shoulders. If there was someone there, they didn’t know who they were messing with.
The rustling of leaves came from above and a sprinkling of disturbed snow flittered down in front of my face. The flapping of beating wings and the call of a solitary bird echoed overhead. I caught sight of white feathers tipped with black before they disappeared above the trees and out of sight.
“Is anyone there?” I called out again, but I had a feeling I wouldn’t get a response.
The softness of the voice rolled around my head as I lingered amongst the tall trees on my way back home.
I am the key. The answer is within my blood. What did that mean?
About the Author:

Danielle Belwater adores the concept of true love and that everyone has their Prince Charming or Snow White out there somewhere, even if they have to fight demons, ghosts, and wizards to find it.

Danielle has been having a love affair with words since she was young and in primary school, writing some rather imaginative tales. This love has followed her into adulthood. 
She lives in rural South Australia with her husband, young daughters and way too many animals to mention. She spends most of her time dreaming up characters, stories, ghostly tales, and watching Firefly re-runs.  She also cooks the odd meal for her family to avoid them looking like skeletons at official author functions!  
Danielle is passionate about reading and her interests include pretty much anything with words from rolling four volume epics to the daily newspaper. 
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Author Interview: Stacey Bryan

#6 in my author interview series. If you’d like to participate, please send me an email at the Contact link at the top of this page.

PepperWords: Easy stuff first: Who are you and what should we know about you? Where are you from, etc.?

Stace Bryan: I was born in San Francisco but raised from age 6 in the San Fernando Valley. I was extremely embarrassed when Valley Girl came out in the ‘80s because I recognized myself in there—at least a little bit. I’m mixed race and was adopted as a one-year-old, and I write about those issues a lot. I was a tomboy and have never grown out of it. I wiped out on my bike in Griffith Park a few years ago and have a nice scar on my left forearm that makes a good conversation starter. I met my husband in Brooklyn when I lived in NYC for several years. He’s also a writer but more of a film guy, and we both love movies.

PW: Already I’m fascinated, and since I also have a film/screenwriting degree, I totally dig that you guys love movies. But I’ll try to stay on topic here. Tell us a bit about your writing history. Have you been doing it long? What inspired you to write?

SB: I don’t remember being inspired, per se. I just remember being alone a lot—my choice—and reading all the time. I loved stories so much, I started to write them myself. I sort of just moved into it as the natural course of being a hermit. I also love the sound of words and love it when words and/or images that don’t ordinarily go together are forced together in a sentence.

PW: And what about this book? What sparked it? What genre is it, and what draws you to that particular genre?

DayForNightFinalRETAILCover700x1066p96dpiRGBSB: Day for Night is an urban paranormal comedy that I was inspired to write because of all the “serious” vampire/paranormal literature. Not that serious is bad, but I like to laugh. I had to work up the nerve to read “The Lovely Bones” because it’s about a serial killer, a monster which is all too real. In the paranormal, nothing is real. And anything can happen. I also thought all the non-ethnic 25-year-old protagonists in general needed some variety, so my protagonist is an “older” mulatto wannabe actress.

PW: You’re hitting a lot of my sweet spots here. I love stories about actresses and Hollywood. Plus an urban paranormal comedy?! That sounds too awesome to miss.

Speaking of Hollywood, do you have a log line for your book? (A log line is one sentence that sums up the story.)

SB: A 39-to-40-something wannabe actress walks in on an alien abduction taking place in a laundry room and turns to supernatural means and a little Jack Daniel’s in order to fight back.

PW: And if you were casting your book as a movie, are there any particular actors you’d envision as your main characters?

SB: Thandie Newton or Sherri Saum as Rae, the lead character. Raul Bova as Rex, her long-time-and-lots-of-sexual-tension-friend. Luca Calvani as Giancarlo, her date.

PW: What are some of your favorite books? Favorite authors?

SB: I’ve read The Descent by Jeff Long three or four times, A Certain Age by Tama Janowitcz three or four times, and all of T.C. Boyle’s short stories three or four times. I love Cormac McCarthy (The Road) and Diana Gabaldon (Outlander).

PW: I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be able to stomach The Road, though I’ve heard it’s wonderful. How about current reads? Your TBR list?

SB: A hilarious novel called Blood Sucking Fiends by Christopher Moore to counteract the gloom and doom of the novelization of Alien. I’d love to get more of Richard Kadrey’s stuff and I’m always looking for really good time travel romances.

PW: Tell us about your writing process. Is it very structured? Do you have a favorite place to sit and write, or a favorite food or drink while writing?

SB: I need to be completely isolated with maybe only instrumental music playing when I’m in the early stages of planning and writing. So that’s the bedroom with the door closed and the soundtrack from The Hours playing in my headphones. Once everything’s laid out or I know where I’m going, I can go to a library or coffee shop with the laptop and not worry about distractions; I’m beyond them at that point. I usually don’t eat or drink while I’m working. Except for potato chips.

PW: How long does it take you to write a book? How do you know a manuscript is ready to send out to agents and publishers?

SB: I haven’t written that many, but the ones I have completed have taken six months or under. Once I’ve shown it to writing friends and rewritten it to the point where I can’t stand the thought of it anymore, I basically regard it as ready.

PW: How did you get the agent/publisher for this book? How long did it take, and how many queries or submissions did you send out?

SB: Day for Night is the first novel I’ve attempted to publish, and the road has been long and frustrating for me. I spent over a year querying agents and got two responses back. At some point I found a handful of publishers that accept un-agented manuscripts and began querying them, which is how I found my publisher. I wrote to the self-published author of the Breakers series a few times, and he told me he got so frustrated querying agents, he just gave up and did it himself, and he’s achieved a nice amount of success all on his own!

PW: What are you working on now?

SB: I’m planning the sequels to Day for Night. I was working on the novelization of a sci-fi screenplay (which is why I’m reading the Alien novelization; to see how Alan Dean Foster did his) but I think I have to put that on the back burner for now.

PW: I’ve found it’s good to have something simmering so that if you get stuck on one thing, you’ve got something else to jump to. What advice would you give to young writers, or writers just starting out?

SB: I hate to be a cliché, but try to write every day. And if you can’t write every day, try to do it every other day. And if you can’t do that, do it several times a week. Or at least once a week. Until you can get back to several times a week and then back to every day. I’m saying this because I stopped writing for a long time and then wrote intermittently, and I regret having lost that time. You can never get that time back, so keep writing. I have nothing to say about too many adjectives or get life experiences or write what you know. I say just do it. The rest will fall into place.

PW: Where do you see yourself in five years?

SB: In the best of all possible worlds, living on Maui with my husband, freelance captioning for chump change, and writing for a living.

PW: Sounds divine! Now a little about you in general. Favorite quote or inspirational saying?

SB: When I die, I want to go peacefully like my grandfather did–in his sleep. Not yelling and screaming like the passengers in his car. —Bob Monkhouse.

PW: Favorite color?

SB: Aquamarine!

PW: Oooh! I love that color, too! It figures as the wall color in a number of my novels. Okay, back to business. Favorite TV show?

SB: Man Seeking Woman

PW: Favorite movie?

SB: Your Highness

PW: Someone (living, dead, or fictional) you’d like to meet?

SB: Octavia Butler

PW: And last but certainly not least, where can we find you and your book?

SB: Please visit me at:

PW: Thanks so much to Stacey Bryan for taking part in this interview! Go check out her book!

When reality TV star Rae Miller is kicked unceremoniously to the curb by her back-stabbing cast mates, she quickly realizes that revenge fantasies and unemployment are the least of her problems after she witnesses an alien abduction in broad daylight. Worse, after escaping a terrifying almost-abduction herself, Rae succumbs to a sexy Nosferatu’s silky assurances, becoming undead in order to up her alien Ultimate Fighting skills. Life is hard as a 38-to-40-something aspiring actress in L.A. Thank God for Jack Daniel’s and denial.

About the Author:
Stacey was raised in the San Fernando Valley but born in San Francisco, where she left part of her heart. She has worked on a dude ranch, coached gymnastics, and captions for the hearing impaired. Her work has appeared in several literary magazines in New York and L.A., including Ginosko and The Rag. She is currently working on the sequel to her novel Day for Night. She lives in “beautiful downtown Burbank,” as Johnny Carson used to say, with her husband who is also a writer. Visit her at
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