Meet Holden Sheppard

First I’d like to apologize for my absence last week. I decided to take an internet break for the holiday, but forgot to let everyone here know beforehand. I’ll try to do better about that in the future and hope those of you who celebrate Thanksgiving enjoyed your holiday. And now to the next interview!


This week I’d like to introduce you to Holden Sheppard, the author of several deep, thought-provoking YA short stories, including The Black Flower, and the upcoming novel Invisible Boys.

The Black Flower - COVER

Nick’s a binge-drinking redneck; Ashlea’s a wild party girl. It’s a perfect match – until it isn’t. When tragedy strikes, Ashlea grows up fast. But Nick can’t escape the booze – or the ghosts of his childhood.

With Nick out of control, Ashlea delivers an ultimatum – with deadly consequences.

THE BLACK FLOWER is a raw portrait of teenage chaos. It was originally published in Page Seventeen.

holden sheppard - sideways profile oct 2017

Holden Sheppard is an award-winning Young Adult author from Geraldton, Western Australia. Holden’s work focuses on coming-of-age themes and issues such as anger, isolation, masculinity and sexuality.

Holden’s debut YA novel, Invisible Boys, won the ASA’s 2017 Ray Koppe Residency Award, which involves a 2018 residency at Varuna, the National Writers’ House. Holden’s short stories have been published in Indigo Journal and page seventeen, and he has also written for the Huffington Post, the ABC, DNA Magazine and FasterLouder.

After graduating from Edith Cowan University’s Creative Writing program, Holden received a prestigious ArtStart grant from the Australia Council for the Arts. During 2016, he undertook an ASA mentorship to develop his first novel.

Holden is represented by Haylee Nash of The Nash Agency.

1. Tell us a little about you and what you’re working on.

Well, I’m a YA author which kind of makes sense, since I started writing back when I was a kid myself. I think there was some point in my childhood – growing up in a small town in the Midwest of Australia – where I realised boys weren’t supposed to have feelings – definitely not painful ones. I learned by osmosis that articulating these feelings was verboten, so I began to lose myself in writing instead.

I’m currently doing some revisions on my debut YA novel, Invisible Boys, which is a story about gay teenage life and is a hard-hitting manuscript. It recently won the 2017 Ray Koppe Residency Award from the Australian Society of Authors. I’m doing some revisions now and then again in January, when I will be taking up a writing residency at Varuna House, which is the national writer’s house in Australia.

You As A Reader

2. When did you first fall in love with books?

Really, really young, and I’m talking two or three. My Mum read to me a lot, and I was totally rapt with books from about that age. It started off with those simple Cocky Circle books for little tiny kids, and I think books really got their hooks into me when I started reading chapter books (Enid Blyton, Emily Rodda) around six or seven.

3. What’s your favorite book from your childhood?

Depends on which year of my childhood we’re putting under the microscope, to be honest! As a kid, The Horse and His Boy by C.S. Lewis. It was the only book in his Narnia series that didn’t focus on English children visiting Narnia, but rather on one of the characters born in that world, and it is amazing. I could write an essay on why I love this one.

And as a teen, Tomorrow, When the War Began by John Marsden. I would argue it’s his masterpiece. It had an enormous impact on my writing and my thinking.

4. Of the books you’ve read, which one changed you the most?

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, without a doubt. I had big dreams of becoming an author from when I was really young, but reading this novel when I was sixteen made me turn those dreams into goals. In fact, this novel is almost a bible to me: it really shaped me as a man.

5. What’s the last book you read and your current favorite?

The last book I read was either No Worries by Bill Condon (excellent Aussie YA with a rare male protagonist I felt I could really relate to) or World War Z by Max Brooks (very deft storytelling and an interesting approach to the zombie subgenre).

As much as I love Rowling’s Harry Potter series, I think The Alchemist will always pip those books at the post in terms of being my favourite book.

6. If you could meet any author, alive or dead, who would it be?

You know what? I’d love to meet Walt Whitman, partly to suss out whether he actually was a gay bloke or not. Failing that, I reckon it would be cool to meet someone like Banjo Patterson to see what the man was like versus the myth.

You As A Writer

7. When did you first know you were a writer?

Age seven. It hit me like a thunderbolt when I was staring at the full moon during a night-time road trip through the Midwest. It really was a magical moment. Just like that, I knew what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.

8. Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?  If so, what was it about?

Yes. It was a classic British boarding school story about a twelve-year-old boy named Jake. He went to a stuffy boarding school and got up to a whole bunch of 1940s-style adventures that were incredibly retrograde given I was writing it in the 90s.

9. What has been the most difficult part of your writing journey?  The best part?

Man! Just about everything about being a writer is difficult, to be frank. Being poor sucks, but it’s a necessary result of giving up a good job to pursue my career as an author. That’s probably not as hard as feeling wildly misunderstood, which I know is a cliché, but you know, clichés exist for a reason. I’ve faced a lot of naysayers in the past, too, who wanted me to get a real job and give up this fanciful and whimsical author stuff, to whom I gladly say, ‘Piss off.’

10. Of all the writing advice you’ve received, what helped you the most?

On Writing by Stephen King kicked me up a notch from amateur to serious author. If you’re a writer, read it. If you want to be a writer, read it. If you are a human being with a pulse, read it.

It might be a bit dated now, but almost everything I know about publishers and agents, I learned from Miss Snark’s infamous blog. It is a work of art and it taught me so much; I am incredibly grateful to her for sharing that.

11. Tell us about your current project and any others you’re working on.

My current project is a YA novel called Invisible Boys. My agent has described it as “a work of raw, heartbreaking honesty that is both brutal and beautiful”. It is pure fiction but thematically it is super close to the bone – about gay teenage life. I’d say more, but my agent would want my head, so keep an eye on my social media for more news about this book.

Fun Stuff About You

12. Besides writing and reading, what are some of your other interests?

I am a massive gym junkie, so I’m always lifting or running or working up a sweat at my local gym. When I’m actually chilling out, I like reading, video games (I play both Pokemon and COD), catching up with mates and family and good TV show binges on the couch with my fiancé (anything from Game of Thrones to Will & Grace).

13. If you could become an instant expert at any one thing, what would it be and why?

Understanding other people’s feelings and motivations. You know, like when someone reacts with anger or bullies you or lashes out, or withdraws, it would be incredible to be able to know somehow what kind of pain or trauma or vulnerability belies that reaction.

Maybe this is less a case of expertise and more along the lines of a magical superpower?

14. You’ve just won an all expenses paid trip to anywhere in the world.  Where would you go?

Somewhere in Italy. I spent five weeks there a few years ago and loved it, especially as I am half Italian and speak a little of the language. I’d love to find myself in Positano or Cinque Terre again, or even in my family’s native (and beautiful) Sicily.

Final Thoughts

15. How can people connect with you?

Definitely follow me on Twitter @V8Sheppard: if you’re a writer, I always follow back, unless you write about something crazily abhorrent like running over puppies or enjoying films with Ryan Gosling in them. I tweet daily and love connecting in that space; I know it sounds a bit naff, but I really enjoy making new mates, especially fellow writers.

I’m also on Facebook regularly @HoldenSheppardAuthor and I have a regular blog at

16. Anything else you’d like to tell us?

My short stories are available as free downloadable e-books, ranging from gritty crossover YA to epic fantasy, so head over to and have a read!

Thanks for sharing a little about you! I’m impressed by the tact with which you’re able to write about these sensitive issues.

If you’d like to read Holden’s short stories, you can find them for free through his website above, or on Amazon.

The Black Flower

The Scroll of Isidor

A Man

Meet Sean R Frazier

This week I’d like you to meet the hilarious Sean R Frazier, author of The Call of Chaos and The Coming Storm, the first two books in the fantasy series, The Forgotten Years.

The Realm has been torn asunder. With the forces of Chaos having overrun the land, besieging cities and infesting them, Cor’il and his friends know the truth—that history has been a lie, that balance must be restored, and that it will all get worse before it gets better.

Magic has returned to the Realm, and not just for the Threadweaver to command. Threadspinners of every variety have emerged, using magic with neither skill nor knowledge, and adding to the chaos. Meanwhile, the Red Swords hunt all magic-users, determined to scour them from existence.

Can Cor’il and his friends restore balance before the Realm erupts in strife and destruction? And, if so, what happens from there?

When Sean Frazier was growing up, he never really paid attention to the written word. It wasn’t necessarily something he enjoyed at the time. Once he graduated college, however, the spark ignited and he decided to write something and try to get it published.

And it was…well, not-so-great. Truly, it wasn’t the highest caliber material ever produced. But the spark was still there, even if it was simply buried deep within.

Eventually, that overly-loquacious, meandering work of wordsmithing became his first book, “The Call of Chaos”. It took many, many years, but Sean finally rekindled that drive and found that he did, indeed enjoy writing.

When he’s not writing, Sean enjoys running, playing video games, and spending time with his family. He is a bona fide Halloween zealot, loves hot wings, is a grand master at telling terrible jokes and, oh, his cat can beat up your cat.

(He’s a total dork.)

1. Tell us a little about you and what you’re working on.

I’m a runner, a gamer, a husband, a father, and an author (which STILL makes me grin when I say it). Currently, I am currently working on the third Forgotten Years book, Descent Into Madness. I also have a side project going which is not really going very quickly.

You As A Reader

2. When did you first fall in love with books?

I read Stephen King’s Skeleton Crew during a vacation and couldn’t get enough. My problem with books is that, while I love to read, I don’t read as much as most people. I think my attention span is shot.

3. What’s your favorite book from your childhood?

I will always have a soft spot for The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.

4. Of the books you’ve read, which one changed you the most?

I’m not sure if a book has changed me, per se, but I do know that Nine Princes in Amber and The Eye of the World placed me on the path to writing.

5. What’s the last book you read and your current favorite?

I last read Alice: The Wanderland Chronicles. I am slowly making my way through The City Stained Red. My absolute favorite from the last couple of years is Ready Player One.

6. If you could meet any author, alive or dead, who would it be?

I think it’d be pretty great to hang with Brandon Sanderson.

You As A Writer

7. When did you first know you were a writer?

I didn’t really know what being a writer meant until I had already been a writer for years. I started writing in junior high but it was merely something I played with. I didn’t consider it “writing.” Turns out, it was! To be a writer, just write stuff. Boom! You’re a writer! It wasn’t until maybe 10 years ago that I realized I LOVED writing, and it was much more than just dabbling.

8. Do you remember the first story you ever wrote? If so, what was it about?

It probably would’ve been for a school assignment. I recall a brief retelling of Cinderella. Skateboards were involved.

9. What has been the most difficult part of your writing journey? The best part?

I went into the whole author/indie pub thing knowing next to nothing. Figuring everything out has been the most difficult part, and I am nowhere near feeling like I even know what I’m doing. The best part has been connecting with so many wonderful people and joining them in their journeys alongside mine!

10. Of all the writing advice received, what helped you the most?

I take all writing advice with a grain of salt. What works for one person may not work out for someone else. The ONE bit of advice that helped me the most, however, would be “get an editor, you dingbat.”

11. Tell us about your current project and any others you’re working on.

Descent Into Madness is the third book in my Forgotten Years quadrilogy (if that’s not a word, it is now). It continues the story of Cor’il and his friends as they unravel a hidden history that nobody knew existed. My side project is called “The Last Available,” and it is a comedic take on traditional fantasy. It’s moving pretty slowly, however, because Cor’il and his friends are very demanding.

Fun Stuff About You

12. Besides writing and reading, what are some of your other interests?

I love gaming (tabletop and videogames), hanging out with my family, and running. I used to play the guitar quite a bit but that’s taken a back seat to other endeavors.

13. If you could become an instant expert at any one thing, what would it be and why?

I would become an instant expert in figuring out how to make writing a well-paying career!

14. You’ve just won an all expenses paid trip to anywhere in the world. Where would you go?

I know you said “anywhere in the world,” but I’d kinda like to go to the moon. But if we’re talking Planet Earth, then I’d probably have to say Europe. There is a lot to see and a bunch of different cultures packed into one area.

Final Thoughts

15. How can people connect with you?

There are several places you can catch my idiocy:



Twitter: @TheCleftonTwain

16. Anything else you’d like to tell us?

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to ramble on your blog!

Thanks for sharing a bit about you Sean! I can’t wait to dive into The Forgotten Years books!

If you’d like to read Sean’s books, you can find them both on Amazon.

The Call Of Chaos: The Forgotten Years Book 1
The Coming Storm: The Forgotten Years Book 2


I recently took part in a fun game on Twitter called #WriteWars.

How it works is the organizer, Sam Baker @SamBakerWrites, has sorted the contributing writers into three different groups (Yellow Faction, Blue Faction, and Green Faction). On predetermined weekends she gives us a prompt with which to build a story.  For the next two days each group writes their own story on Twitter. At the end, whichever story is shown to be the most popular wins that individual battle. When the last battle is over in December, all the wins will be tallied and the #WriteWars champion crowned.

I’m one of four writers in the Yellow Faction and I was so proud of the story we put together (in two days, no less!) that I thought I’d post it here for all of you to enjoy. And if you’re on Twitter, be sure to show some love to Jack @MrGuiver, Laura J @ljrwritenow, and Laura G @LauraKudey whose contributions were invaluable. It was a group effort and wouldn’t have come together this well without them. And yes, our story won the first battle!

A bit of context before we begin:

I’ve written the story here as close to what it was on Twitter as I can, which means that nearly every line break indicates a new tweet. Some lines were split into two tweets though, so I’ve combined those. Otherwise it should read just like it does on Twitter.

I’ve also done a little editing to fix concessions made toward fitting tweets into 140 characters (this was before Twitter gave everyone 280 characters). That is the only editing I have done though, so each writer’s unique voice is still evident in their lines.

Lastly, remember that this story’s most impressive feature is the fact that four people wrote it from conception to final form in two days, and in an unconventional format. It’s not perfect, but given the circumstances I find it an impressive effort!

Now to the story.

#WriteWars Battle 1

The dawn broke through the rich velvet drapes, casting distorted shadows on the stirring figure buried in comfort.

Kelsea tucked the down comforter tighter as she tapped at the tiny screen, desperate to save her comrade before the day demanded her return to normal life.

Normal life? Kelsea considered her life. Is this normal, she wondered? How normal is it for a seventeen year old’s life to be in the hands of parents?

She heard a gentle knock on the door. “Kelsea, your dress fitting is at 10:00. Would you like breakfast in the dining room with your parents?”

I’d like to not go to a dress fitting for a wedding that shouldn’t ever happen! She wanted to scream. Make that, won’t ever happen.

She pounded the screen, slicing her lightning sword through the shoulder of the 10 ft. Mechdroid cornering Daewon.

The blade melted through metal. The robot’s arm fell, vibrating her screen as it hit the ground.

At least Daewon and his world allowed her moments of escape from her own disappointing existence. “Take that filthy beast!!”

The mechdroid fell at her feet and she let a cry of triumph pass through her lips. “Kelsea!!” Her mother shrieked.

Kelsea was strong enough to defend herself in one world, yet powerless in another. She needed to apply her battle skills on the home front.

Kelsea planted her feet on the floor and straightened herself, bracing for the real battle with her parents and their plan to marry her off.

“What’s for breakfast then?” Any starter that took the conversation away from ‘that dress’ would do for now.

“We need to keep your figure flat for the fitting, so your dad made a one egg white omelet with spinach and half a grapefruit.” Kelsea grimaced.

She stomped down the stairs with a grumble. The sooner she got it over with, the sooner she could get back to her conquest with Daewon.

“Nate, sound the horns and ring the bells, our daughter is up.” Shar called out in derision.

Nate turned to his daughter. “You look lovely honey, our young bride.” Shar wasn’t in such good spirits. “You’re late! Breakfast is cold.”

“It’s spinach and grapefruit mother. For pancakes and bacon I’d have moved a little quicker.” Her dad’s favourite might keep him on her side.

“Well, stop complaining and hurry up. Your sisters have left without you already. What good are bridesmaids without a bride?”

“That’s true though, Shar,” Nate offered with a chuckle. “It feels like a pancakes and bacon kind of day.” Kelsea smiled as her dad diverted.

Shar gave him a look Kelsea still couldn’t decipher and her dad clammed up. So much for him being on her side.

“You know mom, maybe it’d be best if I skipped that fitting today …” Her mom gave her a menacing glare. “Ah … well … I can do some some work here.”

Kelsea choked down the disgusting calorie counted meal and wondered how her virtual life had come to feel more real than this nightmare.

Suddenly she was startled by the phone ringing. Her dad answered, then quickly hung up. “Well, it looks like you’ll get your wish Kelsea. Your mom and I are needed to deal with a … well it’s an emergency, we’ll leave it at that. The fitting will have to be postponed.”

A triumphant shout leapt to her throat, but she clamped it down. “Oh? That’s too bad.” Her lips trembled.

Her parents pulled on coats, muttering about unmarked packages and incompetent mailmen. The door clicked shut and Kelsea raced to her room.

Kelsea raced through the castle, back to her beloved game, whispering, “Daewon, I’m on my way. Wait for me.” She had dodged the bullet of her parents, the dress fitting, and a future in a merged kingdom where her powers would be diluted for now.

Daewon greeted her warmly as she entered the game. Before she knew it they were assaulted by a hoard of green and blue cannibals!

“What took so long?” Daewon asked as he blasted another green droid. “Your parents still being pieces of goh-se?” Kelsea gasped.

“Language, Daewon!” He just chuckled and pounded a blue cannibal in the jaw.

Satisfaction filled his body as he saw the blue cannibal slump to the ground.

Warmth grew as the blue cannibal fed the flames of the battlefield. Kelsea’s cheeks changed from pink to red. She considered the reasons.

It was more than the heat of the rising blue-tinged flames. Her eyes met with Daewon’s dark chocolate eyes, the flames flickering nearby.

“Kelsea.” The name came out rough. That world might be virtual, but his fingers grasping for hers felt more real than the carpet beneath her feet.

“Hey,” came a voice from above. “In case you two lovebirds hadn’t noticed, we’re in a war here!” Kelsea looked up and smiled. Their golden angel had arrived.

At that moment they were snapped back to the fight as the drumming of blue hoards cresting the hill on the horizon echoed through the valley.

Only this time their golden angel had their back. The enemy surely didn’t have a chance with the three of them charging together!

Deawon thundered brazenly beside her and their friend, the golden angel, beat his wings fiercely from above. Kelsea gave a war cry, but then she saw it…to her right a second hoard appeared on the horizon. This one painted with green war paint. “Don’t worry, Kels, we’ve got this.”

“Which of them is closer?” Daewon asked, knowing that charging one hoard would expose their backs to the other.

Kelsea scanned the area, looking for anything that might help. Her smile grew mischievous as she spotted the droid arm she’d chopped off that morning. “I’ve got an idea.”

Grasping the droid arm with each hand, she split it into equal shards of metal. Tossing one to Daewon, eyes locked on his, they yelled “Yes!”

Together they were stronger. There’d be time for exploring that strength later. After defeating the blue cannibals and the green mutants.

The three chose to charge at the blue hoard first. Thunder clapped as armor met the enemies’ metallic scaley skin. Victory seemed eminent but Kelsea’s hope soon plummeted as green mixed with blue and red flashed before her eyes.

“Daewon!” she shouted. Before she could leap to his aid, Golden Angel dove. Time slowed as the blade aimed at Daewon sliced into the angel’s side. “No!” With her agonized shout, brilliant golden light exploded around her.

Green and blue melted away against the onslaught of her awakened power. Kelsea fell to her knees, nearly every drop of energy depleted.

The enemy finally ran in defeat, but instead of feeling the joy of victory Kelsea was consumed with anguishing pain and sorrow as she beheld her fallen friend. Daewon ran to her side and propped up the golden angel to help ease his wheezing lungs. “Why, why why!?” She shouted.

Golden angel grasped her hand and smiled through the pain. He whispered “I’m not going anywhere until we feast on those pancakes and bacon.”

Kelsea gasped. “Dad?” His smile turned sheepish. “Hey, sport.”

Golden Angel’s eyes blinked slowly, as if in Morse Code. Kelsea couldn’t decipher the message. Daewon crouched nearby, his eyes like saucers.

“Golden Angel is your father?” Daewon touched an escaping curl from Kelsea’s blonde braid. The angel’s eyes fluttered shut, he fell asleep.

Kelsea knew the healing power of rest. She leaned over, kissed her father’s cheek, & turned to face Daewon. Smoldering fires surrounded them.

What had once been bright blazes of blue & green, were now only crushed embers. In contrast, the fire between Kelsea and Daewon grew hotter.

Kelsea reached up curving her fingers around his neck, pulling his lips to hers. Their first kiss! The rest of the world faded for them both.

Until it invaded again. “Hey!” her father interrupted. They broke apart like they’d burst into flame. In some respects, they had.

“You couldn’t wait until I left first?” He shook his head, then stopped with a groan. “Dad?” Concern quickly replaced embarrassment.

“I’ll be fine, Sport. You two can close up the game.” He winked at Daewon. The boy rubbed the back of his neck as his cheeks reddened.

“I’ll head out and get this taken care of at home.” Kelsea frowned in confusion. They usually returned to base to refuel for the next battle.

“Sport, this isn’t just a game. It’s never been just a game.” He winced. “Sir?” Daewon sounded just as confused as Kelsea.

“I’ll explain everything when we all get back home. Now get on with it already.” Her dad gave them both another wink then faded away.

Alone together again, Kelsea wanted to kiss Daewon again. She reached for him but he grasped her hand and started walking. They felt crunching underfoot as they marched over the traces of blue and green burnt shards. They climbed together, matching steps up the mountain.

At the top he dropped to one knee to profess his love. Tears rolled down Kelsea’s cheeks. “My parents have promised me to Little Peter in marriage.”

Daewon should’ve been angry but the name Little Peter made him laugh. “Is that his name or a description?” Daewon smirked, still holding on.

Kelsea’s tears stopped as they laughed together. “I’m not marrying him! I won’t! And BOTH, to answer your question. Come back with me.”

“What do you mean by ‘back’?” Daewon stated with confusion. Kelsea’s face fell. “I thought, I hoped when I saw my dad … aren’t you real?”

“Of course I’m real! I’m as real as the blood on your chest, as real as the armies we just vanquished. I’m as real as the three moons there!”

Kelsea dropped Daewon’s hand and backed away. “No, don’t do this to me. I was sure of our love! How could you be simply a part of this game?”

With that, Kelsea removed her virtual head set and collapsed in sorrow and a flood of tears. She longed to die and be reborn into the game.

“Kelsea! If you don’t get down here and try on this dress right now, there will be hell to pay!!” Couldn’t her mother give her one moment?

She pounded the carpet, cursing whatever higher power had decided to torture her. Little Peter didn’t deserve her, no matter how advantageous the match might be. Kelsea stood and scrubbed the tear tracks from her face. She was done being her mother’s plaything.

Kelsea steeled herself to face her mother. If only Daewon was here for moral support. She only had two weeks until impending doom – the wedding.

“Where’s Dad,” Kelsea asked. She stood in front of her mother, hands poised on hips looking ready for another life-or-death battle.

“On an errand, I expect him back any time. Peter will be here for dinner.” Kelsea glared. “Fine, we can tell him over dinner – no wedding! Mother, I’m not letting you ruin my life. Little Peter may be coming for dinner, but that will be the end of this immensely awful idea!”

“Not this again. You know what this marriage means for our country.” Shar’s voice dripped with derision.

“I know it means becoming someone else’s slave and I’m not doing it.” The door banged open and her father stepped into the hallway. “Change of plans, dear.

“Shar, Kelsea doesn’t belong with Peter.” Kelsea looked like a death row inmate who had been pardoned by the governor. “Daddy! Thank you!”

“There’s someone else we all need to thank for his part on the battlefield, keeping Kelsea and I safe today,” Nate added, looking at the door.

Kelsea couldn’t believe her eyes as she followed her dad’s gaze. A rugged, tall, and familiar looking gentleman walked through the door.

His clothes looked foreign on him. She was used to battle armor. But the green tunic brought out his chocolate brown eyes. “Daewon?!?”

Daewon’s grin lit up Kelsea’s world like a Christmas tree. “But, how?” She exclaimed in rapturous joy.

“Your father is a true Golden Angel,” was his simple response as he produced a wrapped package from behind his back. “I have something for you.”

“Your presence is gift enough!”

Nate piped in, “I think you’re going to like this gift, Kelsea. Daewon found this on the corpse of a blue cannibal. A lost Christmas gift.”

He winked. “This present suites you immensely more than whatever girlish monster the intended target was.” He chuckled while Daewon waited.

Nate looked at him, got the message and nodded. Daewon took Kelsea’s hand. Shar began to weep as he got down on bended knee and opened the box.

Kelsea covered her mouth and began nodding before he could even ask the question. “Kel, will you -”

“Yes!” She threw her arms around him and sealed the promise with a fierce kiss. For the first time, her future was in her own hands. And it was bright as gold.

The End

I hope you enjoyed reading this story as much as we enjoyed writing it. It was an exhilarating experience, for me especially because I’m such a hardcore outliner. I’m not used to starting and just seeing where the story takes me, so I learned a lot and look forward to seeing what we come up with in the next battles.

Did you like the story? Let me know what you thought in the comments!

Meet Melanie Thurlow

This week I’d like you to meet my good friend Melanie Thurlow, author of regency romance Rose By Another Name, the first book of The Blythe Series.

Her marriage has been arranged since her infancy…

Her worth decided over a game of cards, Lady Rosalyn Hayes has accepted her future. She will marry a duke she doesn’t know to protect her sisters’ reputations. But when a year of preparation for her debut vanishes in the blink of an eye, Rose flees her gilded cage in search of unrestrained adventure.

Lord Robert Phillip Clarence, Duke of Brighton, lives a life of debauchery far from his country estate, and even farther from the lady he must marry in order to restore his family’s ancestral lands. But when he is summoned home to meet his future wife, he realizes he hasn’t lived at all. 

Rose and Robert do not meet when their eyes lock across a ballroom swathed in candlelight. They do not meet amid fine clothes, genteel manners, debonair charm, and chaperones. They meet, alone, upon Rose’s near death. It is this near-death experience that catapults the two nobles, disguised as servants, towards a romance that seems destined for failure.

They think they know each other. But when their true identities are revealed at a house party, will they live happily ever after or will the ton be shocked to see a lady run?

Melanie received a Bachelor’s degree in Business Management from the University of Maine Augusta in 2014 before deciding to pursue a career in writing. As the seventh of nine children, and an avid storyteller from an early age, Melanie has never lacked for inspiration. She lives in her family’s country home in Maine.

Melanie finds the time to write in between being a full-time, homeschooling mom of one and working part-time as a administrative assistant.

Oh, and she enjoys long walks on sandy beaches, and tea. Lots of tea.

1. Tell us a little about you and what you’re working on.

Hi, I’m Melanie Thurlow. I would like to start off by thanking McKenzie for inviting me do this interview. It is very much appreciated. A little bit about myself. Well, I live in Maine. I work part-time as an administrative assistant and full-time as a mom to a lively five-year-old. Right now I am editing the second book in my regency romance series.

You As A Reader

2. When did you first fall in love with books?

I first fell in love with books the year I graduated college, so 2014. I remember kind of being lost with what to do with my free-time and then my sister recommended I read some book that she had just read, and so I did. And then I became addicted. At first it was with audiobooks. And then all books.

3. What’s your favorite book from your childhood?

There isn’t one singular book from my childhood that I could single out as my favorite, however, the Boxcar Children and the Magic Treehouse series both stand out. Those were the years before boys and clothes were important and before reading became a grade and thus a chore.

4. Of the books you’ve read, which one changed you the most?

Oh, man, which book changed me the most? That’s a hard one. I would have to say The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom. It’s a story about a Christian family living in Holland during the German invasion. Their home, the Beje, was properly named as the “Hiding Place.” In the book, as in real life, Corrie and her family develop a network, turning their home into a shelter for Jews trying to escape persecution. It’s an incredible true story in which the ten Boom family helps countless Jews. And then, after several successful years, the Beje is raided and the ten Boom family is arrested and sent to prison, and eventually are sent to a concentration camp. But despite this tragedy happening to this family, incredibly, the six Jews that they were hiding in their home at the time remain safe, and Corrie eventually learns that they were able to escape without detection. It’s an amazing story about faith, perseverance, tolerance, and survival. I cannot recommend it enough.

5. What’s the last book you read and your current favorite?

The last book I read was Lottie Loser by Dana Brown. I really loved the story line. Dana did a great job keeping me intrigued and making me want to keep reading. My current favorite would have to be Unsanctioned Eyes by Brianna Merritt. The first book is a gripping, action-packed thriller and I just can’t wait to see what happens to Quinn and her assassin friends next.

6. If you could meet any author, alive or dead, who would it be?

I would love to pick the minds of some of the “greats.” William Shakespeare would be really interesting. I don’t know, I don’t think there is just one that I could pick though. I would love to meet some of the authors that didn’t really get recognized in their lifetime, only achieving fame after their death. The people that persevered despite their lack of success in life. Someone like Edgar Allen Poe, Henry David Thoreau, Emily Dickinson, and so many more. I think they would be really inspiring to meet.

You As A Writer

7. When did you first know you were a writer?

I first knew I was a writer in 2014. It was shortly after I had graduated college (about 6 months later). I had been reading like crazy but I couldn’t find anything that completely fit the bill of what I wanted to read. Then one night I was getting my daughter ready for bed and this story started running through my mind. I stayed up almost all night typing out pages of every and all thought that came to my mind. I ended up abandoning the project after writing two and a half books in that dystopian series, but I have every intention of going back to it and one day publishing them.

8. Do you remember the first story you ever wrote? If so, what was it about?

The Order was the first book that I wrote, but the first story I remember writing was in 3rd grade when we had to do a project about the Mayflower and I decided to make a book. It was almost more of an art project than a writing one, as I’m pretty certain I spent more time trying to make my cardboard cover look like leather than I did actually writing the story. But I got an A on it so it couldn’t have been half bad!

9. What has been the most difficult part of your writing journey? The best part?

The most difficult part of the writing journey has had nothing to do with writing itself, and had everything to do with querying. I spent about 6 months sending out queries for The Order and I had some interest and requests for my manuscript, but ultimately I always ended up with that standard reply rejection email. That was really hard, because I created something that I absolutely loved, it was (is) like my baby and it was hard that I couldn’t find an agent right off that loved it the way I did. So dealing with that rejection was definitely a struggle for me. For the book I recently published, Rose by Another Name, (a Regency Romance novel and a 180 degree turn from the dystopian series I had been working on) I set myself a timetable. I gave myself three months to send out queries and told myself that if I didn’t gain any interest by the end of those three months that I would begin the process of self-publishing, which is ultimately what I did.

Self-publishing was definitely one of the best parts of the writing journey for me. Being able to hold in my hands something that I created was a dream come true. And being able to read these words and know that I wrote them, that I created this story, it’s remarkable, there’s no feeling like it.

10. Of all the writing advice you’ve received, what helped you the most?

The advice that helped the most was to write every day, whether you want to or not. Write. I don’t write every day of my life, but those are words that I live by when I am writing a novel. It just keeps me focused. I have a tendency to procrastinate and so when I am writing a novel I have a schedule and I stick to it. Every morning I write for an hour, and every evening I write for two. And at that rate I’m usually able to finish the first draft in a month. Right now I’m editing and I really need to set myself a schedule because I’ve been procrastinating hard-core.

11. Tell us about your current project and any others you’re working on.

So many projects! The novel I’m working on right now is currently untitled. It is the second book in the Blythe Series, my Regency Romance series. It is about the third eldest daughter in the Blythe family, Isabelle, after her sister Rose has run away. She is dealing with the aftermath of losing her sister and is facing a new, completely foreign reality for herself. She’s feeling abandoned, dealing with death, is facing new life and the prospect of marriage, and it all just piles up. She ends up running away—for a specific purpose and with every intention of coming back immediately—but suffers a tragic accident and loses her memory. Lord Thornton, the cause of the accident, unwillingly becomes her benefactor as she attempts to restore her memory so that they can restore her to her family. However, dealing with his own baggage from his time at war, makes him a volatile caretaker. It’s the story of overcoming odds and terrible circumstances. The characters’ personalities I’ve loosely based on Beauty and the Beast, Isabelle being very bright and yet kind, and Lord Thornton being more than just the demons that haunt him and his grizzly exterior.

That’s my main WIP at the moment. But I have also written the third novel in the series which is now waiting it’s turn to be edited, and the fourth has about 15,000 words and probably won’t be completely until mid/late 2018.

Fun Stuff About You

12. Besides writing and reading, what are some of your other interests?

Besides reading and writing, I love hiking. I don’t do it nearly enough, but I do truly love it. I love the fresh air and the feeling of exertion. Plus, the sights and scents are incredible. And I know this is also technically writing, but I love making up songs. I have absolutely no aptitude for singing (take my word for it) but I am always writing lyrics in my mind. My mom laughs and says that I’ve been singing (to my parent’s great dismay) since I could talk. Maybe someday I’ll put the lyrics to music and sell a song, but for now it’s just fun to have fun with it.

13. If you could become an instant expert at any one thing, what would it be and why?

An instant expert. Oh my! There are so many choices. I would have to choose writing. It’s my favorite thing to do, and who doesn’t want their work to be read by the masses? That would be a dream come true.

14. You’ve just won an all expenses paid trip to anywhere in the world. Where would you go?

Everywhere! Is that an option? No? Okay, I would have to choose Italy. There are so many sites and historical places. I would absolutely love to visit there. I’ve also always really wanted to go on a humanitarian mission, so that would be pretty amazing too.

Final Thoughts

15. How can people connect with you?

The best way to connect with me is through Twitter. My handle is @MelanieAThurlow. I also have an Instagram account, melanieannthurlow and my website is

16. Anything else you’d like to tell us?

Aside from writing, I spend quite a bit of time on my hashtag, #WIPTruthOrDare, which is a daily hashtag game in which the participants choose between a truth or dare about their WIP.

This December I’m also bringing back #DecTheShelves. Basically, it’s an open invitation to all indie/self-published authors to post links to their books to the hashtag. I have committed, as I did last year, to buying 1 book per day throughout December until December 25th. Last year it was mainly me and one other who actually committed to buying books and this year I’m looking to expand it’s reach a bit and get more people on board to commit to buying one book per day in December. So anyone who is interested in participating as a buyer just send me a direct message through Twitter. It’s just a fun and easy way to help support other authors during the season of giving, so to speak. So I’m really excited for this to be coming back this year!

Thank you again so much for the interview, McKenzie!

Thanks for telling us about you! I’m already crushing on Robert pretty hard, so I’d say job well done there! I can’t wait to read the next book!

If you’d like to read Melanie’s book, you can find it on Amazon. And if you’d like to take part in #DecTheShelves or have a book you’d like her to get, just send her a message on Twitter.

Rose By Another Name

Meet Paul E. Petty

This week I’d like you to meet Paul E. Petty, author of The Legacy Is Born, the first book in the Shadows Of Light  series.

Edgar Freeman never thought that turning 15 would cause an ancient seal to break, making unnatural powers emerge from within. After a series of accidental events, he learns that he was sent a thousand years through time to be hidden from an evil king. And as if he wasn’t already busy enough struggling to fit in with school bullies, he discovers a lost prophecy that he must play a role in. As Edgar and his friends find the surrounding darkness closer than they think, they must stand together and destroy the one named Henry before they are all overwhelmed.

Custodian by day & writer by night, Paul E. Petty is a Young Adult author from the small town of Ore City, Texas. He is a Grammar Nazi and has a habit of buying books faster than he can read them. When not writing or being a responsible adult, he can usually be found wasting time on Twitter. He currently resides in Gilmer, Texas.

1. Tell us a little about you and what you’re working on.

I’m a custodian at New Diana High School trying to survive this world as I strive to finish the book series that started me out as a writer.

You As A Reader

2. When did you first fall in love with books?

When I was in 2nd Grade I was addicted to the Goosebumps books by R.L. Stine. I’m not sure why, but something about his writing style, I guess.

3. What’s your favorite book from your childhood?

The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton. It started as a required book in junior high and easily became a favorite.

4. Of the books you’ve read, which one changed you the most?

I may have to say the first Percy Jackson book. After all, it was from there that I really became obsessed with books.

5. What’s the last book you read and your current favorite?

Mourning Reign by Edward Hancock II was the last book I completely read. Currently, I’m really enjoying Sam Baker’s first book in her Variant Wars series.

6. If you could meet any author, alive or dead, who would it be?

George RR Martin, because while he may not be my favorite author, he’s the most famous with the most negative critics, so it’d be great to hear how he deals with it.

You As A Writer

7. When did you first know you were a writer?

I didn’t know until the moment my friends uttered the words “you should turn this into a book”.

8. Do you remember the first story you ever wrote? If so, what was it about?

Not really. Most of my early stories were related to schoolwork. But the first one I intentionally wrote was when I was writing about my friends and I as kids, back when we pretended we had super powers. And that’s the one they begged me to turn into a book.

9. What has been the most difficult part of your writing journey? The best part?

Finding an illustrator was easily the hardest part. I’ve gone through so many covers by multiple people it’s not even funny. The best part is having something to be proud of myself for.
10. Of all the writing advice you’ve received, what helped you the most?

The first draft is as bad as the book is ever going to be. There’s flawless logic in it.

11. Tell us about your current project and any others you’re working on.

I am currently rewriting the 2nd book of Shadows of Light from scratch while also working on a newer series, The Chronicles of Achora.

Fun Stuff About You

12. Besides writing and reading, what are some of your other interests?

I like to cook and make YouTube videos.

13. If you could become an instant expert at any one thing, what would it be and why?

I’d be an expert at NOT procrastinating. Why? Because I’d probably get 3 books written every month. Hahaha.

14. You’ve just won an all expenses paid trip to anywhere in the world. Where would you go?

I would go all over the country meeting all my favorite Twitter people in person.

Final Thoughts

15. How can people connect with you?

I’m on Twitter @paulepetty pretty much 24/7. Oh, take out 5 hours tops for when I sleep. 19/7. That sounds more like it.

16. Anything else you’d like to tell us?

 I think I have a coffee addiction. Also, I own over 200 hardback books because I have a horrible habit of buying books faster than I can read them.

Thanks for sharing a bit about you, Paul! I’m looking forward to getting to know Edgar and the whole group more!

Interested in his book? You can find it in Amazon now!

Shadows of Light: The Legacy is Born