Guest Blogger A. M. Manay with “A Brief History of the Universe” #RRBC

I’m delighted to turn my blog over to Rave Reviews Book Club, sister author, A.M. Manay today. I invited her to guest blog after reading her spectacular novels SHE DIES AT THE END and SHE LIGHTS UP THE DARK, the first two books in the November Snow series (look for my five star reviews on Amazon).

Set in a riveting reality where vampires, faeries, werewolves and humans interact, this series easily rivals the Twilight and Shadowhunter sagas (and yes, I read those, too). I was so impressed with the world-building and character development A.M. created, I asked her to write a post about world-building for my blog. I hope you’ll make her feel welcome and take a look-see at her engrossing novels.


“A Brief History of the Universe” by A.M. Manay

One of the most enjoyable yet dangerous things about being a fantasy author is the opportunity to build a world.  It’s fun because you get to come up with strange creatures, an imaginary history, your own rules for how magic works, etc.  It’s dangerous for many of the same reasons.  There are a lot of places where you can easily write yourself into corners, or bore the reader, or contradict yourself.  So how did I create the world of November Snow, a world in which vampires, fairies, and werewolves wander among us?   And how did I communicate my vision to the reader?

Writing the first book, She Dies at the End, primarily based on November’s perspective allowed me to present the world as she saw it, as she was getting to know the new world into which she’d stumbled.  This is, of course, a commonly used and fairy effective tack to take.  November naturally asked a lot of questions during those initial chapters, and in addition, her psychic visions helped to fill in some information for the reader.  I tried to parcel things out a little at a time and avoid exposition dumps as much as possible.  You have to trust the reader to put pieces together over time.

Book covers for She Dies at the End, She Lights up the Dark and She Sees in Her Sleep by A. M. Manay

As far as the creatures are concerned, I knew I wanted to do vampires, because I’ve always thought they were sexy and interesting.  I knew I wanted some daytime help for the vampires, and the fairies filled that role.  I wanted the fairies and vampires to have their identities as predators in common, so my fairies feed via touch on the life force of human being.  My fairy and vampire allies needed a common enemy, which is where the werewolves came in.  I wanted to make them a genuine threat, so I came up with the notion that if a werewolf kills a fairy, it extends his own life.  But I also wanted them to be sympathetic, so I could explore issues of oppression.  So I included the werewolves’ self-perception of as the protectors of human beings.  Essentially, I made the characteristics of my supernatural creatures fill the needs of the story I wanted to tell.

As far as the aesthetics of the world are concerned, I tried to take a cinematic view: what would this look like if it were a movie?  What would enhance the story, and what would detract?  For example, I gave the fairies brightly colored hair and eyes to add some cheer and brightness and to distinguish them from the vampires.  And this may sound strange for a vampire novel, but I wanted to limit the blood and avoid piles of dead bodies lying around.  Thus, when my vampires die, they turn to ash.  When my fairies are injured, they bleed light rather than blood.  When the fairies die, they explode in a blinding flash, leaving nothing behind.  In this way, it doesn’t read like a nonstop horror show, and the really bloody violence on the part of Luka, the villain, has the appropriately disturbing impact it deserves.

For the setting, I made my work easier by using a reality we’re all familiar with, the contemporary United States.  I chose to use the San Francisco Bay Area, where I have lived for over 10 years, as much as possible.  It’s a diverse place with a lot of variety, and I didn’t see any need to complicate things by choosing a setting that would come across as awkward if I tried to fake familiarity.  When they do leave the East Bay, they’re mostly on contained sets rather than exploring their surroundings.

The history of the characters and their civilization developed in a pretty organic fashion.  I found that writing short stories about them helped me to flesh things out as far as their pasts and their motivations were concerned.  Even the stories I didn’t finish helped me give my characters some depth.  On a practical note, I did make lists and charts to help myself keep track of everyone, especially during the writing of the first book.  I included them in the second novel to give my fans a refresher.  All the names do have a disturbing tendency to run together!

What are your thoughts on world building?  Where have you seen it done well?  Where have you seen it done poorly?

Author A.M. Manay in a casual outdoor pose in front of a treeAuthor Bio:
A.M. Manay is the author of She Dies at the End (November Snow Book 1), She Lights Up the Dark (November Snow Book 2), and She Sees in Her Sleep: Three November Snow Shorts.  She is currently working on the third and final novel in the series.

Connect with A.M. Manay at the following haunts:
Twitter: @ammanay
Fan email list  November’s News

Guest Blogger: J.M. Goebel on Researching Your Novel

Guess what? I’ve got a brand new guest blogger I’d like to introduce you to today. Julie Goebel and I have been blog followers of each other and Twitter friends for some time now. And I finally nagged, twisted her arm, invited her to do a guest post. I was thrilled when she consented. Julie’s got an ultra sexy muse who sometimes keeps her too focused on her WIP— when he’s not pub crawling with my own muse, Mr. Evening.

Anyway, I gave her free rein to pick a topic of her choice, and I think she came up with a subject of importance to all writers. I hope you’ll give her a friendly welcome!


Thanks to Mae for inviting me to her blog. I asked her what she wanted me to write about. She let me pick my subject.

I warned her  :)

Then my Muse warned me.

Gawd, he sure has a way of taking the fun out of mischievous intent. So, since Mae’s first Point Pleasant novel is due out soon, I thought I’d use her posts about her travels to Mothman territory for inspiration.

One of the fun things about writing is the research. Let’s face it, learning new stuff is like exploring a forest with any number of trails. You follow one path, which leads off to a different path, and before you know it, you find yourself hacking through the underbrush in pursuit of a tidbit you didn’t know you needed.

Research helps us give our stories authenticity, which gains the reader’s trust. Inaccuracies will jar a reader out of the story and create doubt about the writer. Remember the scene in Die Hard 2, where McLean lights a fuel trail from the plane? The flame raced to the plane and BOOM! Wrong. Jet fuel doesn’t burn like that—it’s more like diesel fuel or kerosene than gasoline. If I hadn’t worked in the aviation maintenance industry, I could’ve believed that would really happen

And it was a good movie–up to that point. Actually, there were a lot of aviation things the movie got wrong. On second thought, maybe not such a good movie.

Cute kitten and dachshund wearing glasses on open book with another book beneathDepending on the type of fiction, some details can be fabricated. You make the rules in fantasy and science fiction. If, however, you are setting your story in contemporary times, or a real time or place in history, research is vital to make the world of your story believable to your readers. If your small town in North Dakota is based on a real town, you’d better make sure your character doesn’t go to the mall in that town if there is no mall there in real life.

Some might say Google is a writer’s best friend. It is a great tool for conducting research, and the Internet offers more information at your fingertips than a lot of small-town libraries. But before the days of Google and Wikipedia, writers did research the old-fashioned way: interviewing people who know the subject, visiting the locations in the story, and maybe trying things out on their own.

Mothman statue located in Gunn Park, Point Pleasant, West Virginia

Statue of the Mothman in Point Pleasant, West Virginia

Going to the locations in your story allows you to see the area for yourself, taste the flavor of the area, and get a feel for the community and atmosphere. My host, Mae Clair, traveled to where the Mothman inhabits local legends when researching for her Point Pleasant series. I don’t know if she actually saw the infamous Mothman, but she’s posted a picture of his statue.

Best-selling author Christine DeSmet made many trips to Door County, WI to research her Fudge Shop Mystery series. She visited the lighthouse featured in her second book of the series, and toured the church spotlighted in the third book. One of her biggest sacrifices—she learned how to make fudge. I understand her coworkers were quite happy to help her perfect her recipes!

The vast plains of Saskatchewan, with wheat fields that stretch as far as the eye can see, have a different feel than Door County or the wilds where the Mothman haunts. Author Ceone Fenn traveled to Canada and interviewed museum curators and historians to learn the idiosyncrasies of grain elevators and trucks from the early 20th century for her story.

Researching on-site isn’t limited to books for grown-ups. Middle-grade author Bibi Belford toured the shores of Lake Michigan in Chicago for her soon-to-be released MG book about the Chicago race riots. Though the riots took place in the 1920s, the lake remains, along with memorials dedicated to those who lost their lives.

Technology these days makes it far easier to reach distant areas of the world that or connect with people who know about the subjects you need to learn. What better way to check the accuracy of a crime scene or the process of an investigation than to ask a retired detective. Need to find out what it’s like to have a pet ferret? Ask the members of your Facebook writing group (who, by the way, are very willing to help).  What about Australian slang? You could use Google to find a reference for slang, or you could touch base with a real Australian through your Facebook writing group.

Not only can you gain knowledge for your story through research, you can meet some awesome people along the way. A wonderful thing about the writing community is the willingness of writers to help each other. We have a network of resources at our disposal that rivals Google, and I’m glad to be a part of it.


Author Bio:
Pen name: J. M. Goebel  A fiction writer since elementary school and NaNoWriMo annual participant for a decade, Julie has been published in small press magazines such as “Fighting Chance” and “The Galactic Citizen”. She currently has two novels ready for the world (but without representation at this point), and a number of others waiting their turn. She writes adult mystery with extrasensory elements, mystery with a touch of romance, and fantasy (contemporary and traditional). In real life she is a technical writer with a wonderful hubby, two teenagers, cats, dogs, chickens, and more chipmunks, squirrels, and rabbits than any garden should have to deal with. Her hobbies include writing, reading, gardening, and searching for her wayward sanity.

Connect with Julie at the following haunts:
Twitter: @jmgoebel2k13

The Merchant of Nevra Coil by Charles E. Yallowitz #HighFantasy #EpicFantasy

Presenting an exciting new LEGENDS OF WINDEMERE release from author,

Cover art by Jason Pedersen

Cover art by Jason Pedersen

When the mischievous and random Goddess of Chaos gets angry, all of Windemere becomes her plaything.

It all starts with a collection of toys that have taken the populace by storm. People of all races flood the marketplaces to gather figurines of the champions whose adventures are starting to spread across the land. Stemming from the flying city of Nevra Coil, these toys bring with them a terrible curse: Fame. Every town becomes a mob of fans that hound their new idols and the delay is bringing the world closer to the hands of Baron Kernaghan. Perhaps worst of all, the creator of these toys forgot to include a certain exiled deity who is now out to earn herself a figurine.

Who would have thought a bunch of toys could cause so much trouble and lead to the breaking of a champion’s confidence?

Sound exciting?
There’s more!

Welcome to Nevra Coil Excerpt

A screeching alarm goes off inside the vessel, signaling for everyone to pay attention to the pilot. Jo flicks a few switches above her head, amplifying her voice so everyone can clearly hear her. “We’re coming to Nevra Coil. Get ready for docking at Inspiration Tower instead of one of the Ring Houses. If you want to see the city then come to the front, but you better not complain while I’m giving the tour. I’ll be going too fast to repeat myself. We’re starting with the bottom, so don’t be scared. There hasn’t been a crash in a month. Two months since a fatality.”

The champions gather around Jo’s chair and watch as the clouds part to reveal the underside of the flying city. The steel gray earth has several narrow tubes of yellow crystal spread along its gleaming surface, the enchanted objects creating a spiral that leads to a red, metal rod. An occasional spark falls from the central pole and dissipates into the clouds, giving the illusion of lightning. Jo has the vessel steadily rise to give everyone a clear view and she taps her ear to silently get her passengers to listen. Beneath the sounds of the ship’s rotors, the champions hear a dull hum whenever they pass close to a crystal. Those with keen eyes can see a sapphire orb that flickers like a flame inside the yellow tube’s core, but the strange object is definitely solid like a rock.

“The flight crystals are designed to push off and ride the waves of the ocean. The outer tube is the reflector and the ice gem is the controller,” Jo explains as they flip around the far side of Nevra Coil. She scowls at the whimpering gypsy and begrudgingly slows the vessel down. “The central rod is what keeps us in a small area as we spin like a very slow top. Without that, we’d be floating all over Windemere’s oceans. You’ll feel the rotation at first, but the awkwardness will pass within a few hours. Before you ask, the system does nothing to the ocean below. We keep ourselves at a great height to prevent that and we turn off the crystals if we have to drop. That’s only in case of severe damage, so they would probably be malfunctioning in such an event anyway. Our backup system is a small army of pedaling stone golems that we activate in the core of Nevra Coil. Let’s get to the real event. Hey! Watch where you’re going, you son of an oil slick!”

The vessel swerves out of the way of a small, windowless craft that is powered by a pedaling gnome. Once their heads stop spinning, the champions get their first look at the city of Nevra Coil. Glistening towers are everywhere with a vast collection of flying devices and beasts moving among them. Several structures are missing pieces, revealing metal beams and hardworking gnomes who are trying to finish the construction. The city is a beautiful creation of metal, stone, and glass with nothing on the earthy ground besides several colonies of orange slimes. The burbling creatures feast on the garbage that falls out of hatches, which are built into the lower floors of every tower. Compared to the enormous buildings, Jo’s vessel feels like a rowboat as it weaves among the chaos. Several times they come close to hitting another ship, their skilled pilot meeting each encounter with a slew of insults and curses. They hover when a claxon goes off and the circular tower ahead opens one of its floors to reveal another ring-shaped ship.

“This is where we would normally dock, but you’re wanted on the one-hundred and eighty-sixth and a half floor of Inspiration Tower,” Jo says while waving to the other ship. She waits for them to leave before rising to the higher sky lanes where there is more space. “If you look to the right, you’ll see the Lizard. It’s used by those of us who don’t have a flying device due to no interest, accidents, revoked license, or whatever else can go wrong. I’ll swing by to give you a better look, but don’t stare directly into the golem’s eye. You never know if it’s going to be friendly or . . . churlish.”

Dipping toward a metallic rail, the ship comes alongside a green-scaled reptile with seats grown into its wide back. A throbbing bubble covers the sitting area, the oily membrane protecting riders from the elements until the transport comes to a stop. Gnomes are comfortably sitting in the chairs, most of them reading notes or sleeping. The creature’s tail is merged with the track to prevent it from falling off while it pulls itself along using powerful front legs. A driver on its head opens a hatch in the top of its long nose to drop in a shovelful of screeching beetles. The Lizard slows down while everyone hears the insects getting crunched in the construct’s mouth. When the strange transport hisses at the ship, Jo pulls away and heads for where a trio of metallic birds are sitting on a windowless tower.


Cover Art by Jason Pedersen 3D Conversion by Bestt_graphics

Cover Art by Jason Pedersen
3D Conversion by Bestt_graphics

Click here for the $4.99 Bundle to start your journey into Windemere!

Charles E YallowitzAbout the Author:

Charles Yallowitz was born and raised on Long Island, NY, but he has spent most of his life wandering his own imagination in a blissful haze. Occasionally, he would return from this world for the necessities such as food, showers, and Saturday morning cartoons. One day he returned from his imagination and decided he would share his stories with the world. After his wife decided that she was tired of hearing the same stories repeatedly, she convinced him that it would make more sense to follow his dream of being a fantasy author. So, locked within the house under orders to shut up and get to work, Charles brings you Legends of Windemere. He looks forward to sharing all of his stories with you, and his wife is happy he finally has someone else to play with.

Blog: Legends of Windemere

Facebook: Charles Yallowitz

Finally! A Triple Crown Winner, American Pharoah, by Mae Clair

OMG! Am I the only one who was super-sonic ecstatic earlier tonight when American Pharoah won the Triple Crown? For those of you who don’t follow horse racing (and I only do from May through June each year), let me put it in perspective: There hasn’t been a Triple Crown winner since 1978 when Affirmed swept the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness, and the Belmont—the three “jewels” in the Triple Crown.

A lot of people look forward to the Triple Crown each year, but for me it holds an extra special meaning. I don’t remember Affirmed winning in 1978, nor do I remember Seattle Slew winning in 1977, but I vividly remember watching all three races of the series in 1973 and seeing Secretariat claim the ultimate trophy (including his World Record Victory at the Belmont). Why were those races and that Triple Crown victory so special?

Because I watched all three races with my parents. In 1973, my father was alive and healthy. In September of 1975, he passed away from colon cancer when I was just thirteen years old. For some reason, seeing a horse take the Triple Crown now creates a connection to that long-ago race, and the whimsy of childhood when everything was right in the world.Year after year, I have watched, hoping to recapture that magical feeling, seeing that victory.

Today, I watched the race with my husband (who never met my father). I feel like I celebrated something that connected him with the other most important man in my life. I am so thoroughly jazzed to have seen TWO Triple Crown winners in my lifetime!

To American Pharoah (and yes, the misspelling is intentional, the result of an error by the Jockey Club), only the twelfth horse (hey, twelve is my favorite number!) to win the Triple Crown—to jockey, Victor Espinoza, trainer Bob Baffert, and owner, Ahmed Zayat—CONGRATULATIONS! You have accomplished something long overdue in the annals of horse racing.

I feel privileged to have witnessed such an amazing feat today! I’m on Cloud Nine. I can only imagine what they must be feeling.🙂

Would You Review a Dragon? By Mae Clair

For authors, reviews are the equivalent of gold nuggets. We hope those who read our novels will take the time to post an online review in a public forum…preferably something like Amazon or B&N, along with Goodreads.

For my last two indie releases, I realize I should have included a standard call in the back of the book. Something along the lines of If you enjoyed this novel, please tell your friends, and consider leaving a review on Amazon. A call to action would have been so simple.

Then I wouldn’t have to squirrel out the request. I tend to be terminally shy when it comes to asking for reviews. Occasionally, I’ll work up the nerve to shoot a request to another author, especially if they’ve told me they enjoyed the book. We’re all in the same boat, so authors understand the importance. But non-authors?

When I released ECLIPSE LAKE in print, I bought a bunch of author copies and sold all but a few. A good bulk of those people contacted me later to tell me how much they enjoyed the book, even taking the time to explain specific scenes. Did I ask any of them to leave a review on Amazon? No.

I’m such a coward.

Even though I know gaining reviews will help me as an author to reach a larger audience, I feel awkward asking. Like I’m infringing. Or begging. Ack! Am I the only one who has a problem with this?

On the flip side, I write reviews for over 90% of the novels I read (I won’t leave a bad review, and every now and then if the author is well-established with a gazillion reviews already, I opt for laziness).

So what does any of this have to do with dragons?

One of the things most people don’t know about me is that I’m besotted with the How to Train Your Dragon movies. I positively, absolutely, utterly adore Toothless (and his bond to Hiccup). Not only do I own both movies, but I have the entire cartoon series on DVD. Yeah. And I’ve watched them more than once.🙂

After falling in love with the huggable Night Fury in the first How to Train Your Dragon movie, I went on a search for a plush Toothless, but there were none to be found. Anywhere. At least none that had an acceptable cute-factor. Trust me, I looked.

Then last year, I discovered the guy below on Amazon. Isn’t he adorable? He has his own special spot in my den and cheers me on when I’m writing.

A plush Toothless, from the How to Train Your Dragon MoviesSo you know how Amazon asks you to review your purchases? I do that for novels, but I buy a slew of other stuff from the ‘Zon, too, and I’ve never stopped to review any of the products.

Until I got a request to review Toothless.

Hmm. Don’t vendors count on reviews from their customers the same way I count on reviews from readers? There was simply no way I was going to let Toothless go without a review, especially after I’d looked so long and hard to find him. There could be other Toothless-obsessed zealots out there, wondering if this was the right dragon for them.

I gave him five stars and wrote a nice review.

So now I’m thinking—I should probably review all the other stuff I purchase from Amazon. Coffee mugs, rope lights, electric heaters, music, Jello molds, money clips, handkerchiefs, NFL helmets, cell phone accessories—yikes! The list is daunting. But I feel if I want readers to review my books, I should extend the same courtesy to other vendors and their products.

A plush toothless from the How to Train Your Dragon MoviesWhat do you think? Am I taking this too critically, off on a dragon flight somewhere, or are those vendor reviews important? What do you do?

Oh—and if you’ve read any of my books, it goes without saying I’d happily welcome an honest review.😀

Fridays and Good Friday Memories by Mae Clair

What do you love best about Fridays? For me it’s the adrenalin rush of knowing the week is coming to a close, that the weekend is right around the corner. Friday is the equivalent of the day before you leave on a vacation. A perpetual high.

Good Friday is a bit different, somber. When my mother was living, we often attended services together for Stations of the Cross. It’s one of my wonderful memories of her, just the two of us together on Good Friday afternoons.

To kick off this particular Friday, I’m visiting with Sarah Ballance on her blog. Naturally, I’m talking about creatures and cryptozoology in honor of my novella, SOLSTICE ISLAND.  If you’re out wandering around the blogosphere and have a moment to spare, drop over and say hello.

Whatever your plans may be on this Good Friday—whether a moment to attend church and share in the stations of the cross, or simply to rejoice over the coming weekend and the Easter Holiday—I hope your Friday is all that you desire it to be!

Author Mae Clair with her mother

Me and my mom, several years ago during a beach vacation.

I’m Back in Business with Kensington Books by Mae Clair

It’s been a long wait, but I’m pleased to announce that both of my books, previously released through Lyrical Press are now available through Kensington Publishing. YAY! I’ve really floundered not having them on the market the last two months, but everything (or most everything) has now fallen into place.

As a refresher, Lyrical Press was purchased by Kensington Publishing as a digital ebook imprint in early 2014. As a result my titles with Lyrical had to be pulled from retailers temporarily until new contracts were signed with Kensington.

I am now officially a Kensington Publishing author and TWELFTH SUN and WEATHERING ROCK are once again online at retailers. Both are available at Amazon and Kobo, with TWELFTH SUN available at Barnes and Noble as well. WEATHERING ROCK should be available on B&N within two weeks. In the meantime, I’m anxious to spread the news!

twelfthsuncoverThe hunky young PhD knows all about seduction, but what does he know about love?

Reagan Cassidy is settled in her life. She has a thriving interior design firm, an upscale condo, two cats, and a goldfish. As a favor to her uncle, she agrees to team up with his marine archeologist friend to validate and retrieve a nineteenth-century journal, reputedly that of a passenger aboard the doomed schooner Twelfth Sun. Finding a hunky twenty-five-year-old coming out of the shower in her hotel room wasn’t part of the deal, but it’s hard to complain…

Dr. Elijah Cross is cocky and he knows it. He enjoys trading barbs with the lovely Reagan. Barbs, and some innuendo. He can tell she’d rather get back home to her business than stick around for the extended treasure hunt they’ve been talked into, but he’s fine with the situation. At least, until the “clues” start getting personal.

Reagan finds Dr. Gorgeous is as skilled in matters of the heart as he is behind the lectern. Throw in a series of clues which mean more to Elijah than he’ll explain, several odd-ball competitors out to win the journal, a saboteur, and a lavish seaside mansion, and Reagan has enough trouble keeping her head straight, let alone her heart.

WARNING: Younger man, older woman, nautical riddles and romance.

Barnes and Noble
Coming to iTunes


WR Kensington CoverDrawn together across centuries, will their love be strong enough to defeat an ancient curse?

Colonel Caleb DeCardian was fighting America’s Civil War on the side of the Union when a freak shower of ball lightning transported him to the present, along with rival and former friend, Seth Reilly. Adapting to the 21st century is hard enough for the colonel, but he also has to find Seth, who cursed him to life as a werewolf. The last thing on Caleb’s mind is romance. Then fetching Arianna Hart nearly runs him down with her car. He can’t deny his attraction to the outspoken schoolteacher, but knows he should forget her.  

Arianna finds Caleb bewildering, yet intriguing: courtly manners, smoldering sensuality and eyes that glow silver at night? When she sees Civil War photographs featuring a Union officer who looks exactly like Caleb, she begins to understand the man she is falling in love with harbors multiple secrets–some of which threaten the possibility of their happiness.

 Finding a decent guy who’ll commit is hard enough. How can she expect Caleb to forsake his own century to be with her?

Weathering Rock is Available for Purchase from the following:

Barnes and Noble 
Coming to iTunes


Both of these titles will also be available in POD format within 30-60 days. And now that I’m “Back in Business” again, I’m anxious to publish my short novella, SOLSTICE ISLAND.

I hope you’ll stop back later in the week when I’ll be doing a cover reveal. I’m pretty excited about it as I designed the cover myself. If all goes according to plan, SOLSTICE ISLAND will be releasing through Amazon before the month is out. My first indie title. As a result, you’re bound to hear me screaming about it.😀