Author Interview: Ashley Chappell

AshleyChappellAshley Chappell is the author of the young adult fantasy Dreams of Chaos series (Alice WillTilt, and A God of Gods). She is also the author of the irreverent paranormal romp Of War and Taters, a satire set in the fictional deep south.

Upcoming releases include The Hotting, a Dreams of Chaos spinoff adventure for younger readers; The Rimguard, a new adult urban fantasy; and The Harrows, a gritty adventure in which Hell is a job for life. Or rather, a job for the afterlife.

Ms. Chappell currently resides in Huntsville, AL. When not writing, reviewing, or burying her nose in one of her well-worn Terry Pratchett or Neil Gaiman novels, she can be found sailing with her husband on their boat ‘Dupracity’ (Fans of Kurt Vonnegut will want to ask her what that means).

Alice WillFourteen-year-old Trotter was still just trying to get the hang of the demi-godding business when the apocalypse began. In a world where the gods have withdrawn from humanity, leaving mortals bitter toward magic, she finds herself constantly torn between her human and goddess sides. When the world begins to fade away and she becomes the prime suspect, her search to find the cause and prove her innocence ends up revolving around a mysterious little girl named Alice. Then Trotter discovers that not all of the gods had been as distant as they seemed… Now, with everyone against her and the gods fighting amongst themselves, Trotter is on her own to save her world and stop a vengeful god from using Alice to destroy everything.

TiltTwo years ago Trotter saved her world and the entire pantheon of Realm from a dark god. Unfortunately, gratitude didn’t stop the gods from banning her from Realm when she refused to declare her dominion as a goddess. Now even her lonely refuge in Aevum is destroyed as something violently tilts the world away from the sun, plunging it into permanent night. Once again on her own to save her home, Trotter uncovers a hidden world forgotten by the gods that faces a similar fate. Unable to turn to Realm for help, Trotter will be forced to finally choose a dominion that will let her save both worlds, even if it means losing one forever. However, throughout her journey she is unaware that the terrifying darkness growing within her means another dominion has already chosen her…

AGodofGods_smAfter stripping Trotter away from the Noevans, the race of people she’d sworn to protect, Chaos forced her into the mythical role of the God of Gods. It is now her job to bring Death to all Creation. But something else is planning to use Trotter’s dominion over Death to alter the ending Chaos chose…
The gods of Realm, terrified of Trotter’s new power, are manipulated into making a deal with devils from their ancient past. After thousands of years of imprisonment, however, the Undreams will stop at nothing to exact revenge on the gods and turn the universe back into a nightmare without end.

Treasures of Dodrazeb: The Origin KeyMy novel Treasures of Dodrazeb: The Origin Key is an historical sword-and-science fantasy adventure. Click here to read an excerpt.
An invading Persian warrior becomes obsessed with Dodrazeb, a strange isolated kingdom that possesses incredible technology. Ancient Dodrazeb’s puzzling choice to hide from the world pulls him deeper into layers of mysteries as its sly princess does everything she can to expel the invaders. What are the Dodrazebbians so desperate to keep hidden?
Get your copy on! Available in both e-book and paperback.

Q. Your Dreams of Chaos series is a young adult fantasy that centers on Trotter, a young girl “torn between her human and goddess sides.” Tell us about Trotter and her story.

Trotter is right at the age of puberty when teens mature mentally so much faster than emotionally, and is driven by a combination of the two that makes her responses and decisions as a character much more unpredictable. She is exceptionally bright and fiercely independent, having been largely on her own for so long already, but she struggles with a dark side born of feelings of abandonment, a lack of identity, and a resentment for the powers that she can’t control. Specifically, that itchy smiting finger that keeps making her life so much harder. She’s torn between worlds and angry at both, but when it comes to facing up to playing the role of heroine, she finds that her life as a human has made her love her world desperately and gives her the strength she needs to be the goddess that she needs to be.

Q. So far you’ve given us Alice Will and Tilt in this series. What more do you have in store for readers in the Dreams of Chaos world?

Well, it’s funny you should ask that! I have “A God of Gods: Dreams of Chaos Book 3” coming releasing October 24, 2017 followed by “A Mother of Gods: Dreams of Chaos Book 4” in Spring of 2019. The Dreams of Chaos series was originally planned to be a trilogy, but with the story arc spanning three realms and over 40 primary characters, it was too much to stuff into three books without making the last one almost 1,000 pages. So my trilogy became a tetralogy and now I just have to hope people don’t think that’s a kind of fish

Q. Do you find it more fun to write heroes or villains? Why?

My personal favorite – the Anti-hero. Part of this may stem from my preference for writing humor and satire even within my fantasy series, but a character that might fall on the Chaotic Good-Neutral end of the scale has so much more potential and versatility (especially for comedic interplay). Their development can so often be unexpected and feel so much more relatable. Think characters like Tyler Durden from Fight Club, Rincewind from the Discworld series, Artemis Fowl, Dexter, Severus Snape even

Q. What do you like most about Trotter? What do you like least about her?

Believe it or not, I actually designed Trotter to be somewhat hard to like for the first part of the series. That darkness and resentment in her makes her far more cynical, untrusting, and much more likely to expect the worst from everyone. It makes it harder to like her or feel sympathy for her sometimes, but for anyone who’s ever been a teenager, however, her feelings aren’t unrelatable. What I do like about her and what I tried to instill in her character is a resiliency and an unwillingness to accept injustice when she knows she can make a difference. She may be more negative and expect the worst from people, but she’ll fight to the death to protect them

Q. Why did you choose to write fantasy? What draws you to that genre?

I honestly can’t remember a time that I’ve ever not loved science fiction and fantasy. There was always something magical to me about using fantastical creatures and worlds and using them as a mirror for our own societal issues and paradigms. Sometimes it’s far easier to convey ideals through this kind of medium where you would otherwise be criticized for being overly moralistic in others. But also…. Dragons.

Q. What’s different or unique about your story from other fantasies?

I think a part of the uniqueness of the overall story arc isn’t fully revealed until later in the series. It begins with a bit of a chosen one theme, but the reader finds out by the end of Book 2 that Trotter’s tale is actually more of an “anti-chosen one” story. And I can’t give more information than that without spoilers 😉

Q. Readers may not realize that writers do lots of research, even for fantasy stories, before they complete a book. What kind of research did you do for this series?

This series actually wasn’t as research intensive as some of my other works, but it did lead me on an oddball collection of Google searches. For instance: “What really happens in a tsunami” and “What do drowned corpses smell like” were two searches from the same day. As always – writers should never have their search history too accessible

Q. Which works and authors would you say influenced the book? How?

Oh, that’s an easy one! Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman were my primary influencers for the air of absurdity and utter irreverence that pervades this series. Brandon Sanderson and Robert Jordan were strong influences on the creation of a mythos and centralized conflict that spanned eons and was driven by actors on both mortal and immortal realms reaching even beyond the gods and into Chaos.

Q. What was your favorite scene to write?

Hard to say across the series. But if I were to narrow it down, my favorite scenes involve interactions between my favorite characters. Any scene featuring the Erwins/Pratts, Ursula the Bear Goddess, or Ali and Andi (coming in Books 3&4) were usually scenes that had me the giddiest.

Q. What was the hardest part of the book for you to write?

Fight scenes. Any and every fight scene. This is something that I agonize over for AGES every time.

Q. What inspired you to write this story with these characters?

Surprisingly, when I first started thinking about this series, Trotter wasn’t even the main character. It developed through a combination of brainstorming activities that included fake conversations with characters, what roles would have the greatest impacts in their lives, who they would interact with… etc. It was a very organic process.

Q. Tell us about your other books. Do you plan to write primarily YA in future or branch out into other genres?

I do love YA, but I expect my future works to be 50/50 YA vs. Adult. Not for any reason other than that’s just how my ideas have developed. My next work outside of this series is more of a “New Adult” age range and is also an urban fantasy.

Q. What made you decide to get serious about writing? How long were you “dabbling” before you felt the time was right to publish your work?

I dabbled for give or take 25 years 😉 It was never a question for me that it was what I wanted to do. I just didn’t focus on truly making the time for it until around 2009.

Q. A lot of writers seem to despise the editing process. Do you like it or hate it? How do you approach the task of editing?

I definitely have a love-hate relationship with editing. There’s something supremely satisfying about perfecting your project, but at the same time it can be so hard to finally say ENOUGH and call it ready. I have to step back for a long while until after I have feedback from all my betas just so I can come at it fresh again.

Q. Most of us authors don’t make enough money from writing – yet – to pay the bills. Do you have a job other than writing?

For now 😉 I work at NASA by day which does at least give me plenty of fodder for stories.

Q. When you aren’t crafting amazing stories, what do you do for fun?

I like to keep myself busy! In addition to my own novels, I’ve also joined the writing team on the Blood Crow Stories Podcast for Season 2 “Blackchapel.” If you haven’t checked it out, I totally suggest it for any horror enthusiasts. And of course I read every spare second I have, but we also spend a lot of time out on our property that we named the Hundred Acre Wood. We’re working to build our off-grid dream in a micro-modern homestead that we’re naming the Minimum Falcon.

Q. What advice do you have for writers who want to become published authors?

It will sound cliché, but it’s tried and true. Don’t give up. Keep writing, keep networking, and keep querying.

Q. Is there anything about the writing life that you think is misunderstood by the public?

Oh yes… that we make any money at it! This is quite definitely a labor of love.

Q. As a reader, what about a book turns you away?

Inconsistent characters or ill-defined primary conflicts. If characters suddenly start acting contrary to their development, I’ll usually get bored quickly. The same if the conflict seems to be a moving target. If I can’t define what the MCs are trying to overcome or figure out, then why am I reading their story?

Contact Information:

Author Name: Ashley Chappell




Book Links:

Author Interview: Amanda Porter

AmandaPorterA.G. Porter is the author of The Darkness Trilogy, a YA Paranormal Thriller, and Pieces of My Heart, a book of poetry. She is currently writing a spin-off of her Darkness Trilogy characters, as well as her next poetry book. When she isn’t writing, she’s either busy being the coolest librarian on the planet or spending much needed time with her family. Ms. Porter lives in New Hope, Alabama with her husband, Billy, stepson, Brenton, and their 4 dogs.

1TheShadowThe Shadow Rayna Stone is an eighteen-year-old girl from a small Alabama town that just wants to save a little money for college. A summer job at an upscale resort surrounded by snobby, rich folks isn’t her idea of fun—until she meets eyes with the owner’s son, Liam and things begin to look brighter. But then she starts seeing things that she can’t explain and having dreams that are haunted by a being she calls The Shadow. The Shadow shows her things about some missing girls that she wished she had never seen and her dreams seem to be coming true. As if that isn’t enough, she learns that her ability gives her an insight into the feelings of others around her. When Rayna learns that Liam does feel something for her, she wants to tell him she feels the same, but something is warning her to stay away. Not because he is dangerous, but because she is.
2TheForsakenThe Forsaken Six months ago, Rayna Stone came face-to-face with a demented serial killer and survived, but not unscathed. Everyone knows that she is the “girl who almost died.” She’d rather hide, but she tries to live her life, go to school, get a job, and try not to let her Gift overwhelm her. Her nightmares have changed, but they’re still trying to show her something. All she can see are The Eyes and they must be watching her for a reason. Ron is still out there and The Shadow still haunts her dreams. Her Gift is getting stronger and she has obtained very powerful and more deadly abilities. While this might sound desirable, Rayna can’t help but think that means her Gift is preparing her for a war.
3TheRedeemedThe Redeemed Nightmares. The oncoming war. More Gifted emerge and not all of them are on her side. Secrets about her father are revealed. Who are The Children of The Light? Will Rayna be able to resist the powers of The Shadow with Jayce’s help? She had planned to face down her demons with Liam by her side, but now that he’s lost his soul, is he really lost to her forever?
Question after question, obstacle after obstacle present themselves in the last installment of The Darkness Trilogy. It’s coming to an end—the battle, the war. The only question Rayna Stone wants answered is whether she and her friends make it out alive.

Treasures of Dodrazeb: The Origin KeyMy novel Treasures of Dodrazeb: The Origin Key is an historical sword-and-science fantasy adventure. Click here to read an excerpt.
An invading Persian warrior becomes obsessed with Dodrazeb, a strange isolated kingdom that possesses incredible technology. Ancient Dodrazeb’s puzzling choice to hide from the world pulls him deeper into layers of mysteries as its sly princess does everything she can to expel the invaders. What are the Dodrazebbians so desperate to keep hidden?
Get your copy on! Available in both e-book and paperback.

Q. The Darkness Trilogy is a scary young adult paranormal thriller. Tell us about the story and its main characters.

It all starts with my main character, Rayna Stone, when she attends a summer internship at an upscale golf resort in Guntersville, AL. It’s there that her supernatural abilities awaken, putting her and her friends down a very dangerous path with a being known as The Shadow.

Q. Why are you drawn to frightening themes?

I think it stems from my love of the paranormal genre. I’ve always been drawn to it.

Q. Why did you choose to write in the YA genre?

Because I love it. Even when I finally made it into adulthood, I was still reading in that section.

Q. Do you find it more fun to write heroes or villains? Why?

I love my heroes, but villains are fun as well. I think villains are much more intriguing for an author because we are not and never will be, or at least I hope so, that horrific. Especially supernatural villains. They are able to do some very terrifying things and not care about the consequences.

Q. What’s different or unique about your story from other YA paranormal tales?

For one thing, my story takes place in Alabama and there really aren’t many southern YA paranormal thrillers. Rayna is also a Christian so she utilizes her faith to help her in her quest to defeat the bad guy.

Q. Readers often don’t realize that writers do lots of research, even for speculative and fantasy stories, before they complete a book. What kind of research did you do for this story?

I did a lot of research in the geography of Guntersville. It’s a real place! I spent a lot of time on the campgrounds as a child, but Guntersville is huge. I wanted to make sure I got the area I was talking about right. I also research myths and legends of different spiritual beings.

Q. Which works and authors would you say influenced the book? How?

Definitely R.L. Stine and Dean Koontz.

Q. What was your favorite scene to write?

Oh, wow. I’m not even sure. I really like writing a certain character’s scene. Jasmine is this snarky, sassy girl with zero filter. I want to be like her when I grow up so I definitely enjoyed writing any scene with her. Besides that, the epic fight scenes!

Q. What was the hardest part of the book for you to write?

The end of the trilogy! It was bittersweet.

Q. What inspired you to write this story with these characters?

I actually had the idea for this story beginning in the 9th grade. It evolved when I started to experience sleep paralysis. Look it up!

Q. Do you have plans for more books in this series? Other books possibly in a different genre?

I do. I’m writing a spinoff right now.

Q. What made you decide to get serious about writing? How long were you “dabbling” before you felt the time was right to publish your work?

I seriously think I just woke up one and told myself that if I ever wanted to finish a book I better start now. I wrote off and on again for years, but that bug bit really hard one day.

Q. A lot of writers seem to despise the editing process. Do you like it or hate it? How do you approach the task of editing?

I’m with the despisers. I hate doing it. I will read through my own works to see if I catch anything and just to make sure I didn’t go off the deep end somewhere, but I don’t edit my own writing.

Q. Why did you decide to self-publish?

I went round and round with Literary Agent. It didn’t work out, but I’m thankful for the experience. After that, I decided to go it alone. I have learned so much along the way. I would highly recommend a new author to reach out to other self-published authors so they avoid all the pitfalls. Network! Go to conventions and book festivals. I wish I knew someone when I started out!

Q. You seem to have a dream job for a writer—you are the manager of a branch library! Tell us how being a librarian has impacted your writing, and how your writing has influenced your career.

I think just being reminded on a daily basis that there are people out there who genuinely love a good story, a book, keeps me motivated.

Q. When you aren’t crafting amazing stories, what do you do for fun?

Sleeping. LOL! I spend a lot of time reading and just being with my family. I also volunteer a lot so I normally stay pretty busy. I have a little one on the way (yay!) so my schedule isn’t going to slow down anytime soon.

Q. What advice do you have for writers who want to become published authors?

Just write and write what you want to. It’s OK if the first book you write isn’t great. Write another one. It’s like anything else in life, the more you do it, the better you’re going to be. It’s that simple.

Q. Is there anything about the writing life that you think is misunderstood by the public?

The amount of time, money, and our souls we put into our craft. We don’t just sneeze out a book. It takes years for some of us and a lot of hard work.

Q. As a reader, what about a book turns you away?

Anything that’s over-the-top explicit just for shock value.

Q. What’s your all-time favorite book? Why?

This is an impossible question to answer! I can name a few series I’ve gone back to and read several times, but to pick one? I can’t. The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Odd Thomas, and the list goes on. I like them all for many different reasons.

Q. What’s your all-time favorite TV show? Why?

There are so many! Doctor Who, Supernatural, The Walking Dead, GoT…

Q. What’s your all-time favorite movie? Why?

It’s probably Jurassic Park or Edward Scissorhands or Terminator 2 or Aliens or A Nightmare before Christmas or anything Disney…see, I can’t pick just one.

Q. Where is one place you’d like to visit that you haven’t been before? Why?

Ireland! I want to go on a castle tour.

Contact Information:

Author Name: A.G. Porter

Facebook: @TDTAGP (A.G. Porter, Author)

Twitter: @agporter1

Book Links: A.G. Porter’s books are available on

Author Interview: Terry Maggert

Terry_Maggert_sq.jpg“Left-handed. Father of an apparent nudist. Husband to a half-Norwegian. Herder of cats and dogs. Lover of pie. I write books. I’ve had an unhealthy fascination with dragons since the age of— well, for a while. Native Floridian. Current Tennessean. Location subject to change based on insurrection, upheaval, or availability of coffee. Ten books and counting, with no end in sight. You’ve been warned.”
–Terry Maggert

A history professor with an awesome sense of humor and equally good taste in television viewing (he chose to start the first day of the semester by discussing the Targaryen succession), Terry’s novels explore dark fantasy, immortality, and the nature of love as we know it.


Treasures of Dodrazeb: The Origin KeyMy novel Treasures of Dodrazeb: The Origin Key is an historical sword-and-science fantasy adventure. Click here to read an excerpt.
An invading Persian warrior becomes obsessed with Dodrazeb, a strange isolated kingdom that possesses incredible technology. Ancient Dodrazeb’s puzzling choice to hide from the world pulls him deeper into layers of mysteries as its sly princess does everything she can to expel the invaders. What are the Dodrazebbians so desperate to keep hidden?
Get your copy on! Available in both e-book and paperback.

Q. Dystopian sci-fi with dragons. Paranormal urban fantasy. Young adult fantasy. Time travel. Sword and sorcery. You are a most prolific writer. Tell us briefly—if that’s even possible—about your books. Do you have a favorite?

My favorite book is whichever one I’ve just finished. That gusty sigh you hear is me getting ready to crack my knuckles and start again, however—I have a favorite character. I love Tammy Cincotti, from the Halfway series. She makes me laugh out loud every single time I write a scene with her from the fingers guns to her hairdo to her unapologetic use of perfume. I love everything about her, right down to her weirdly intense loyalty and affinity for acid washed jeans. She’s a female version of me if I had a nuclear libido and still thought big hair was the only way to go.

Q. Do you have a new book or series in the works? How will it differ from your other novels?

I’ve got two series and five novels in the works, and they’re all over the place. One of them (out in Spring 2018) is quite a departure for me in the sense that it’s a male antihero who has a basis in truth. I read an incredibly sad story about hundreds of children being found in a grave behind an Irish orphanage, and something clicked in my head. As a father, the story made my stomach flip with rage and sadness, and I created a character who is the lone survivor of that orphanage. As he turns eighteen, he realizes that he isn’t crazy—he is hearing voices, but they’re the children who came before him in that sad, lonely place. I think it’s going to be visceral, sad, but oddly beautiful, too, because despite all of this, he’s going to survive.

Q. Do you find it more fun to write heroes or villains? Why?

VILLAINS. Oooooooo, they’re delicious to write. I lift my lip in a sneer, imagine myself glaring at someone while holding a glass of scotch, and write the most glorious insults. As a history professor, villains are everywhere—I just put them in front of my heroes, and the good news is their pride will always cause them to lose. Almost always, that is.

Q. Why did you choose to write science fiction and fantasy? What draws you to those stories?

I was a strange, dreamy kid who liked fishing, sports, and books. I was always off in my head, thinking about dragons or light speed spacecraft or long lost treasures. I think that the larger part of my brain never matured. If you ask my bride, she will confirm this.

Q. How do you write such amazing and strong female characters?

First: thank you! Second: write real people, and then make them women. That’s it. The details are things that real people experience, like Carlie’s short girl problems and morning hair, or Risa’s hatred of socks and sandals. I give them personalities based on who they are, not just what they are. Characters react, and denying that a female character may react differently is being dismissive of their reality. I’m proud of them, and can say that to me, they feel real.

Q. What’s different or unique about your stories?

I like to think that my readers feel like they’re in the moment with me. If Waleska is sad, so are you. If Aurelia kills someone who deserves it, you cheer. Their emotions are three dimensional and present. Also, waffles. We’re going to talk about waffles and pie. A lot.

Q. Readers may not realize that writers do lots of research, even for fantasy stories, before they complete a book. What kind of research do you do?

45 years of rabid reading. A relentless curiosity about everything except butter beans, which are of the devil and should be removed from the planet. A Master’s Degree in History. That’s the start. The rest is filled in by a passion for simple questions, like, “What would happen if a demon went to the beach? Do Vikings like jokes? What kind of dog would be friends with a ghost?” These are the simple seeds of stories that I love to write.

Q. Which works and authors would you say influence you the most? How?

Anne McCaffrey taught me to love dragons, and the unknown. Ernest Hemingway taught me that a simple sentence can make you cry for days. Robert Frost showed me that a poem can take me there. These are just a few, but the simple truth is that writers are the sum of their experiences, shaped by the voices that have made them feel something in their heart.

Q. What is your favorite type of scene to write?

Two people, in a room, being uncomfortably honest. Think of something that makes you feel like you’re intruding—that’s where I want the reader to be.

Q. What is the hardest portion of a novel for you to write?

THE MIDDLE OH PLEASE MAKE IT STOP. The middle. It’s just so far from the beginning that I’ve forgotten things like they hair color of characters. And their gender, sometimes. And why they hate each other. So, yeah. The middle.

Q. What made you decide to get serious about writing? How long were you “dabbling” before you felt the time was right to publish your work?

I was sitting up with my son (I took night shift when he was a toddler) and started writing a novel. I wrote 88,000 words with one hand while holding him, more or less. After the first sentence, I realized I had found my true voice. This is not to say it was perfect, but for the first time, it was me. I’m also responsible for some truly dreadful poetry, thus I write books now.

Q. A lot of writers seem to despise the editing process. Do you like it or hate it? How do you approach the task of editing?

I don’t mind, because I’m ashamed of the idiotic errors I make. It’s like the ability to take back dumb things you’ve said. Who wouldn’t love to do that? Okay—maybe I say more dumb things than the average person, but you get my point.

Q. Most of us authors don’t make enough money from writing – yet – to pay the bills. Do you have a job other than writing?

History Professor, but I treat my writing as a business. I have a written plan, goals, and hit them in my third year. Candidly, the first two years made me better, the third year taught me to write efficiently. In year four, I’ve come to the conclusion that I don’t just love writing; I need it. I’ve never been happier, and am an author coach as well. I love working with young writers who are talented but might need a bit of guidance.

Q. When you aren’t crafting amazing stories, what do you do for fun?

I eat, I bake, I run, I drink alarming amounts of coffee, and read. We have a lot of animals, so rescue is a big part of our lives. Our son is nine, and he’s the best thing on the planet, so the simple truth is that enjoying our family helps me get over the fact that my bride won’t let me have a giraffe. I’m not happy about this.

Q. What advice do you have for writers who want to become published authors?

1. Get a great cover. 2. Get a great cover. 3. After you get a great cover, get advice from someone you trust. I’m an author coach (mostly first time novelists) and our concern is always being professional and avoiding fraud.

Q. Is there anything about the writing life that you think is misunderstood by the public?

I don’t wear tweed. Ever. Oh, and writing from one to three in the morning while cats make biscuits on your head is hardly dignified, but it IS accurate.

Q. As a reader, what about a book turns you away?

When the author is more concerned about politics than a great story, I close the book and walk away. Every single time. If you’re not writing the best possible book, then I’m not devoting my time to it.

Q. What’s your all-time favorite book? Why?

The White Dragon, by Anne McCaffrey. It’s the distillation of her series “The Dragonriders of Pern” and I’ve had my copy for more than thirty years. It’s part fable, part sci-fi, and just perfect to me.

Q. What’s your all-time favorite TV show? Why?

Magnum, PI. Thomas Magnum was the picture of honor, and I value that. Also, he rocked Hawaiian shirts all the time, and I value that, too.

Q. What’s your all-time favorite movie? Why?

A strange film titled, “The Big Blue”. It’s about the sport of free-diving, and as a kid who grew up on the water, it’s a sort of love letter to the mystical quality of the ocean. Also, I love dolphins, so it’s almost a fantasy set in the modern era.

Q. Where is one place you’d like to visit that you haven’t been before? Why?

I travel a lot, but I must go to Africa because there’s a hotel where you can have breakfast with giraffes. I wasn’t kidding earlier; one of them is coming home in my carry-on. It’s going to happen.

Contact Information:

Author Name: Terry Maggert



Twitter: @TerryMaggert


Find Terry Maggert’s books on

A “Real” Book


Ashley and I will be at the Catfish Literary Festival in Athens, AL on June 4.

Today’s post is by Ashley Chappell, a lovely human being and author of YA Fantasy.

What follows might come across as a re-hashing of an old topic, but since it seems to keep rearing its ugly head I’m not going to apologize for making you read it yet again.

Disclaimer: This is only one awful encounter out of a million WONDERFUL encounters that I’ve had since I began my journey as an author. The people in our profession are 99% of the time simply the best people. Same goes for the readers. But this one tiny experience really got my hackles up and after I heard similar stories from other SFF and YA authors while I vented on writing forums, I made this my ultimate story of caution to new writers. Wait until the end – there’s a moral to this fable.

What happened? On my honeymoon back in 2014, we were on a cruise with some of the most well-educated and interesting people that I’ve ever met. Keep in mind, we were the outliers in average cruiser age by about 35 years, but these people have done everything – taken over banks, vacationed in Antarctica, built working test farms in drought-ridden African settlements, the list goes on. And I could have listened to the stories of 90% of these brilliant people until the sun rose. But that other 10% – pardon me while I take a drink for courage – were entrenched academics in primarily liberal arts disciplines.

Let me clarify here: The liberal arts are my lifeblood and where all of my passions go to snuggle up with a book, a surrealist painting, and a tangy wine and cheese pairing. But, in the darkest and narrowest parts of that arena, you can find the most immovable and pompous know-it-alls in the entire population of people with heads up butts.

You guessed right. This is the embodiment of the 10% I’m talking about here. These were the people who, despite the gloriously diverse selection of wine bottles paraded by our dinner table every night, tut-tutted with disapproval over every sip. Somehow conversation at these tables was always eventually guided to the topic of literature, an arena in which our resident academics were practically frothing over with wisdom they were dying to share. Whether we wanted it or not. And, without fail, they drew their prim little lines in the sand and placed fantasy, SF, and all popular fiction on the opposite side from ‘Real Literature.’

The incident that got under my fur the most (and the one that left me lying awake in bed wishing I were more confrontational and not just a passive-aggressive blogger), was the dinner with the lady I will refer to as the I-can-quote-articles-I-read-on-Slate-Lady. Maybe I’ll just call her Slate Lady for brevity.

This time the topic came up before I could even wave my Author Flag (they have those, right?), and Slate Lady made it clear immediately that she only read ‘Real Books.’ This, it turns out, is a literary unicorn of non-fiction and obscure authors who devote their lives to developing dark symbolism that would be a wet dream for any classic Russian novelists. I couldn’t help myself. I asked the question:

Me: “What about Fantasy and Science Fiction?”

Slate Lady: *Sniff* *Derisive laugh* “Um, just no.”


That was mere moments before she launched into her tirade of shaming adults for reading YA that came almost verbatim from this Slate article that ticked off readers and writers of all genres that same summer.

And no, *sigh*, I didn’t call her out. I didn’t acknowledge the immediate surge of brilliant rebuttals including this one from the Washington Post and this one from CNN. I did at least turn to another lady at the table (one of the sassiest and my favorite from the trip) and started talking loudly about how awesome it is that popular fantasy and even comic books are bringing a new generation of previously non-readers, especially among young boys. Remember that passive-aggressive thing I mentioned before? Damn it.

Eventually, that same awesome lady (an angel, she is) next to me pointed out to Slate Lady that I was an author.

Slate Lady: “Oh? And what do you write?”

Me: “Young Adult Fantasy and Satire.”

Slate Lady: “Hmm.”

I didn’t say a word. I’d love to say it was because I just didn’t want to spend the rest of the cruise on a small ship with someone at whom I’d thrown my glass of wine, but I just plain suck at confrontation. With or without alcohol. Eventually I’d have just gotten emotional and flustered and ended with an eloquent “Up yours,” so I decided to save my venting for you lucky readers on the blog.

What I WISH I could have said to her is something along these lines:

I write a series about a young girl who was abandoned by her parents and forced to discover who she was all on her own in a world that wasn’t forgiving of her ‘gifts.’ It’s about a child in what amounts to slavery who’s never known a life outside of abuse and neglect, but who overcomes her pains and heartache by retreating into her imaginary world.

It’s about laughing at ourselves and the empty traditions we value without knowing why and taking stock in our instincts before we let our fickle brains over-rationalize us out of the right choice.

It’s about learning the hard way that maturity, at any age, is no match for experience.
And finally, it’s about remembering that the right thing to do is still the right thing to do when no one is looking. It’s a novel for anyone who’s struggled with how they identify themselves and learned to define their own niche in a world that doesn’t have a place for them.

It just happens to be set in an alternate universe filled with magic, gods, and creatures. But yes, it is a REAL book. 

 So this post, I suppose, is as much about venting as it is a rallying cry for all of the writers and readers who’ve faced the accusation that fiction has nothing to offer because it “isn’t real.” This is where that moral I promised you comes in: DON’T BELIEVE THE “EXPERTS.” Authors might seem magical to those who don’t write, but we don’t have wands that create mystical social, family, financial, or political situations that could never exist. It’s pure insanity to think that our stories, whether in space or on Middle Earth, are anything other than an honest reflection of the world we live in, with the good and bad of actual human experience all rolled into one literary package.
And yes, Ms. Slate Lady, I used the word ‘literary,’ because whether you believe it or not, I write real books, too.


Ilsa J. Bick: Award-Winning Author or Renaissance Woman?

Last week I had the opportunity to attend a talk by another successful, well-known author. My local library does these events as a fundraiser, so it was a low-key evening full of wonderful gems of writerly wisdom. This time it was Community Conversations: Ilsa J. Bick. What has she written? Well, most recently, award-winning YA apocalyptic thrillers and sophisticated horror for older teens including Draw the Dark, Drowning Instinct, The Sin-Eater’s Confession,  the Ashes trilogy, White Space, and The Dickens Mirror. But before Ilsa settled into YA, she wrote Star Trek, Mechwarrior, and Battletech, among others.


First and foremost, Ilsa is simply one of the most interesting people I’ve ever met. (That says a lot, because I’ve met a lot of people, including astronauts. Trust me, astronauts have an interesting job and that does not necessarily make them interesting people.) Her bio should be titled “True Renaissance Woman” because she is also a well-traveled child psychiatrist, a former forensic psychiatrist at a women’s prison, a trained psychoanalyst, a surgery intern, a film scholar, and a former Air Force major. Fortunately for those of us who love to read, she discovered her passion for writing.

At her Community Conversation, Ilsa was introduced as one of the “most underrated YA authors writing today.” Her cinematic style of storytelling appeals to fans from 12 to 88 years old, proof that a story with a young adult protagonist can be enjoyed by anyone of any age.

As a psychiatrist with a love of film, she wrote scholarly papers analyzing movies such as Alien, Back to the Future, Peggy Sue Got Married, and television shows The X-Files, and Star Trek. It’s no wonder I feel some kind of kinship with this woman—our favorite cinematic and televised entertainment align very nicely. I even like to analyze themes and symbolism in movies, though I wouldn’t call my dabbling in it “scholarly.” Her favorite author is Stephen King. I agree completely that he’s such a good storyteller, even when he’s bad, he’s better than lots of others.


Me with Ilsa. She is welcome to Captain Kirk. I’ll take Mr. Spock any day.

Ilsa explained that she got her start writing fan fiction. In fact, she’s likely the biggest fan of William Shatner’s chest on the planet. Okay, not exactly… She’s the world’s biggest fan of Captain James T. Kirk’s shirtless escapades on Star Trek. In her words, “That’s some serious beefcake!” Ilsa shared a hilarious story about an opportunity to actually meet Shatner in person. It didn’t go quite as she had hoped, but neither did it dampen her enthusiasm for that magnificent chest. We can agree to disagree about the attractiveness or desirability of Kirk/Shatner’s chest because I was always, and forever shall be, a Spock girl.

When Ilsa’s husband challenged her to write for “real,” she found a contest for Star Trek fiction calling for short stories of 7,000 words or less. With a 10-day deadline, most writers would have reluctantly passed up the opportunity. Not Ilsa. She wrote her story, submitted it, and won the grand prize, enough money to buy a refrigerator. That appliance, she says, still holds great sentimental value and is one of her dearest possessions.

She continued to enter contests and learned that she had to have a deadline, had to write fast, and had to get out of her own way. Ilsa won so often, she soon became ineligible for contests, so she turned to writing for magazines for hire. When her writing had gotten a little too edgy and dark for Star Trek, she began writing Young Adult fiction. She was trying to write a mystery that was going nowhere when she brainstormed a YA novel. She finished the paranormal mystery in a mere eight weeks and has been admired by a growing fandom ever since it was published.

Ilsa offered several pieces of advice for writers learning the craft.

  • Don’t be reluctant to enter contests.
  • When you are writing genre fiction, you must read widely in that genre, analyzing the structure of the story to find the points where the plot lunges forward and where it slows slightly.
  • Learn to weave in a secondary plot that can allow the reader to get to know your characters a little better.
  • Attend workshops taught by pros who make a living at writing. Anyone who makes their living by teaching workshops—not writing—won’t have the same insights and or the same passion for the craft.
  • Learn to outline. The one time she didn’t begin a novel from an outline, the manuscript ended up at 1,000 pages because she had no clear idea where it was headed.
  • Do your research! Don’t make egregious mistakes that will turn off readers who know something about what you are writing.
  • Lie with authority.

How about your own writing career? What lessons are you learning, or have learned, on your journey to publication? Has a successful author made an impression on how you approach the craft? Leave a comment below.



I am freshly done, having stayed up late to finish. I am just hanging on a cliff’s edge. What a book! What a ride! It just goes from bad to worse, yet I kept hoping, fearing for Alex, our brave heroine.
I ran across the term “unputdownable” when I read a blurb about this book. I have to agree. It is stuck. In. My. Head. WHAAAAAAAT happens next!?!?!?!

Here’s the rundown:

Alex has a terminal brain tumor. She’s been through treatments and is on a last round of experimental attempts to save her life. She can’t smell anything, feels terrible and is just ready to be done. So she takes a few meaningful items on a final camping trip. She won’t proceed with the experimental PEBBLES. She’s tired. She says good-bye to her aunt and goes on to say goodbye and battle some personal demons.

She meets an elderly man, his granddaughter Ellie and their dog, Mina on the trip. Like Alex, Ellie has lost her parents and her only tie to her dead soldier father is his bomb-sniffing dog, retired from the war. All is going well until something happens. Something terrible.

In the horrific aftermath of what appears to be an attack by EMP, all Alex can do is try to survive. It’s not the same world: modern electronics have been utterly destroyed, including medical devices like the pacemaker that killed Ellie’s grandfather. No phones, no iPod, nothing. Faced with keeping Ellie safe and enduring the wilderness on dwindling supplies, Alex makes a horrifying discovery. Hint: the kids are NOT alright. And few other people are. And Alex is not the same.

I don’t want to give too much away, but Ashes will be a trilogy. The second is Shadows and the third is Monsters. I. Can’t. Wait.

A Discovery of Witches (All Souls Trilogy, #1)

Reviewed by Mandy

Written by Deborah Harkness (Goodreads Author)

As a librarian, I could immediately appreciate the major role that the library played in the book. Seriously, people, take care of ancient tomes!

Diana Bishop is a powerful descendant of a powerful familial line of witches. After the death of her parents, she shuns the art and practice of witchcraft, though the power courses through her veins, demanding to be released. Losing herself in history and scholarly research, she lives as human a life as possible. Everything is going well, until one day the air shifts around her as she opens a long-lost and enchanted book from deep within the library.

Suddenly creatures from all around are drawn to the library, and to Diana. She has unwittingly found a very powerful, very old and infinitely desired secret amongst creatures. The only person who makes sense to Diana is Matthew Clairmont, a gifted and well-respected geneticist and scholar at Oxford. He’s also the only person who SHOULDN’T make sense: he’s a vampire, and a natural enemy of witches, practicing or otherwise.

Thrown in to an ever more dangerous conflict, Diana and Matthew must fight against not only other creatures but their growing attraction to one another. As more secrets come to light, the danger mounts and both will have to challenge not only societal pressures from the magical community, but their own deepest feelings and fears.