Story spotlight: “The Storyteller” by P. D. Cacek

Telling stories is Walter Book’s responsibility and his joy, just like it’d been his daddy’s, and his granddaddy’s and his great-great grandaddy’s before him. Because what good’s a Book without a story?

Every night he tells the children their bedtime story, and this evening he tells one called “The Princess,” the tale of a little girl named Veronica who’s waiting for her daddy to return.

Veronica is well past the mid-point of her twelfth year, and is of course no longer a child in spite of what her father thinks. So when she’s at the hotel, waiting for her father to return from his business trip on the last train of the day, she’s grown-up enough to know to ignore the voices when she hears ghosts. Her father taught her if you don’t acknowledge a ghost, it will feel so ill used that it will depart of its own free will.

But the ghosts at the hotel are restless…

“The Storyteller” is in the Haunted bundle. You can learn more on BundleRabbit, Goodreads, and the bundle’s Facebook page.


Collections With Stories by This Author


More by the Author


About the Author

P.D. Cacek originally aspired to be an actress, but her dreams were dashed when, while playing Dinosaur Number 1 in her high school’s production of By the Skin of Our Teeth, she inadvertently crawled off the stage and landed in the orchestra pit. Dinosaur Number 1 died that night, but the experience put her on the significantly less perilous path of writing horror.

P.D. is the author of over 200 short stories, and has won both a World Fantasy Award and a Bram Stoker Award for her short fiction. She’s written five novels: Night Prayers, Canyons, Night Players, The Wind Caller, and The Selkie.

“Horror is an emotion, something that reaches past all the barriers and finds the one dark corner of our self-image that has not grown up. Horror doesn’t have to include dismemberments or gushing wounds or ancient demons dredged up by a new housing development. Anything, even a simple evening’s walk, can be horrific if you look at it the right way … and I do.”


Find the Author

Goodreads | Internet Science Fiction Database

   
 

Sign up for the Blackbird Publishing newsletter!

Interview: DeAnna Knippling on “Doctor Rudolfo Knows All” (in Beauty and Wickedness)


 
“Doctor Rudolfo Knows All” is in Beauty and Wickedness, the first volume in the anthology series Ever After Fairy Tales. In this collection, sixteen authors retell and reimagine some of the most enchanting fairy tales ever told – and make up some brand new fairy tales as well. Within these pages, you’ll find beauty and treachery, magic and courage, innocence and wickedness…and at least some happy endings.

Meet DeAnna!

DeAnna Knippling is always tempted to lie on her bios. Her favorite musician is Tom Waits, and her favorite author is Lewis Carroll. Her favorite monster is zombies. Her life goal is to remake her house in the image of the House on the Rock, or at least Ripley’s Believe It Or Not. You should buy her books. She promises that she’ll use the money wisely on bookshelves and secret doors. She lives in Colorado and is the author of the A Fairy’s Tale horror series which starts with By Dawn’s Bloody Light, and other books like The Clockwork Alice, A Murder of Crows: Seventeen Tales of Monsters & the Macabre, and more.

“Doctor Rudolfo Knows All”

On a lark one Black Friday at the local toy store, teenager Connor agrees to earn a little extra cash reading tarot cards, and thus the amazing Doctor Rudolfo is born! But when the good doctor starts getting things a little too right, Connor learns that not everybody likes it when the truth comes out, especially when it involves a bank scam. Can Connor and his little brother Aiden make it back home safely? And maybe keep a little of that extra cash, too?

“Aiden,” I whispered. “Time to get up, bud.”

He didn’t answer me, and I opened the door slowly, pushing something heavy out of the way.

No sign of Aiden—or, should I say, there were about ten thousand too many signs of Aiden. The kid had trashed his room again, and trying to find him in the mess was gonna be an effort.

“Mom’s snoring,” I said, “so we’re going out today.”

He didn’t answer again, but it was a different kind of non-answer. He was considering.

“Where?” came his voice from somewhere under the mess. It could have been from under his bed or above the ceiling. He had this trick of throwing his voice. I’d taught it to him, more fool me.

“Let’s go to Epic.”

To Epic Toys & Games, that was. Which was only two steps down from Willy Wonka’s candy factory in terms of cool places to take a kid on the day after Thanksgiving. They were open early and were doing giveaways and stuff. We’d already missed out on the 6 a.m. doorbusters.

Aiden stepped out from behind the door. For a freakin’ miracle, he was already dressed and ready to go, as long as you didn’t count matching socks or a right-side-out shirt as requirements for leaving the apartment. I made him brush his hair and brush his teeth and eat his cereal while I drank the coffee from the travel mug. I barely had time to finish a third of it before he was seriously ready to go. He did not screw around when the word Epic was being thrown around. He loved that place.

– from “Doctor Rudolfo Knows All” by DeAnna Knippling

The Interview

Connor thinks he’s an average teenager in most ways, even though he can see ghosts. After he experiences what might be called “second sight,” he still doesn’t seem to think he’s exceptional. He certainly could have been giddy with power instead. Why do you think you made that choice?

I wanted to write about two incredibly talented, unique boys who were in a situation where they couldn’t see how amazing they were. A lot of people are literally like that. They feel like imposters, or like the best things about themselves are kind of a waste of time.

You’ve said you plan to write another Doctor Rudolfo story. What special appeal does Connor/Doctor Rudolfo have for you?

I finished the story; it’s called “Dr. Rudolfo Meets His Match.”

I first came up with the story for the fairy tale retelling anthology Beauty & Wickedness, just something to fit the requirements without being too predictable. But I found that Connor’s attitudes toward life—the good ones and the bad ones—really speak to me. He doesn’t believe in himself. He should. He’s finding his way through the impossible mess that is his life, believing in nothing, just knowing that he can’t give up. I think the world of him.

You explain at the end of the story the fairy tale it’s based on. I’m curious about something else in the story, too. Connor says that his grandmother put something in his and his brother’s eyes when they were babies to give them “sight.” What, if anything, was that based on?

I can’t remember now! It was one of those things where the only conscious thing I remember was, “What would really piss off the mom character here? Aha! Putting something in their eyes!” I still don’t know whether that did anything, or it was just something she did that became a family story.

Connor and Aiden are African American, but you are not. As the story unfolds, Connor is always highly aware of how the adults they interact with could assume the worst about them. That must have been an interesting “inner monologue” to explore. What can you tell us about that process?

I think the story came out of the process of re-evaluating how I was raised, in light of a lot of racism that we’re seeing today.

Here’s just one example. There used to be this thing called “the paper bag test” where you could get into a party or a club if your skin was lighter than a brown paper bag. Just…what. When I found out about it, I was ill for a couple of days, not because I couldn’t believe that it happened, but that I’d never known. I keep running into stuff like that. I’m ashamed of the things I don’t know, of the effort that it takes to keep people like me blind and comfortable.

Somewhere in my subconscious, I went, “This whole setup is a fairy tale for white people, isn’t it? Like not a real fairy tale, but an illusion of comfort and charm that has been performed for my benefit.” So putting a couple of black characters in the white-world fairy tale, as legit fairy-tale heroes trying to deal with magic and ghosts and second sight, feels a lot more right than it does wrong.

Because I live in the Denver area, I knew both the bank building you mentioned and the toy store (under a different name, of course), and had always been curious about both of them. Was there a reason you included such distinctive places in your story?

I just think they’re cool. I moved up to Denver from Colorado Springs fairly recently, and found out about both places at about the same time. I want to say that I drove past the bank a few days before writing the story, and it was on my mind.

You are a huge fan of Alice in Wonderland and Lewis Carroll, and have written two novels based on Wonderland. Why do you suppose that world has captured you so?

You may not want to know…

It didn’t come on all at once. The more you peel back from Alice in Wonderland (which I’m gonna say here is the world/series name, where Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is the book title), the more cool stuff you find. I obsessed with the movie as a little kid, more so than the book, and named our farm cat Cheshire Cat.

Then I found The Annotated Alice, which is Martin Gardner’s annotated version explaining just how brilliant the jokes are.

Then I read The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson, which is a book about a book that gets given to little girls to turn them into world-wise computer hackers, and I realized that the originals were the Alice in Wonderland books, given to the real-life Alice and other little girls.

Charles Dodgson was always training up girls in how to solve math problems and use advanced logic. Like, stuff that’s beyond me completely.

Then Pride and Prejudice and Zombies came out, and I was jealous. I was just going to rewrite Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland with zombies added, but it didn’t make sense, so I backed up a level of reality and wrote the story about how the book gets written, by a zombie. And that required a lot of research, which was completely fascinating.

Then I wrote a sequel to The Queen of Stilled Hearts, called The Knight of Shattered Dreams, covering the events behind Through the Looking-Glass. But I wasn’t a good enough writer to pull off what I wanted, so I put that book on hold. It needs a complete rewrite.

Then I got bored during Nanowrimo season (National Novel Writing Month, in November), and wrote The Clockwork Alice because I got the image of mechanical Wonderlandians in my head and couldn’t get them out again.

I have to finish up the current novel, and then I get to take another stab at Knight.

What story (or stories) are you working on now, and what’s fun about what you’re writing?

I’m working on book 3 in the Company Justice series, Thousandeyes. It’s giving me fits. I keep thinking I know what I’m doing, and the book is like, “You think too much.” It’s a cyberpunk/near future thriller thingy. I just finished the Dr. Rudolfo story—like, I literally put off writing this interview until I knew I had that done, so the questions wouldn’t affect what I wrote. Then I get to work on the rewrite for Knight of Shattered Dreams. I’m nervous about it.

On the client side, I have a cozy and two adventure stories coming up.

The Company Justice series is fun because it’s both cynical and filled with wonder. And weird murders gone amuck. I’m writing a lot of stories lately based on plans that go awry on the bad guys’ side, making everything ten times worse than it should have been. Having a dry, steady detective in the middle of that is fun. He has a self-deprecating sense of humor, which I always enjoy writing. All hell is breaking loose, and he’s like, “Then the fake elephant exploded. Maybe I shouldn’t have done that, but it was fun watching the bad guys try to cope.”

About DeAnna

DeAnna Knippling is a writer, a parent, and an overthinker who boldly paranoids where no one has paranoided before. Her superpower is speed reading. She ghostwrites novels for fun and profit. She has an essay in the award-winning Women Destroy Science Fiction! collection. She has had stories published in Penumbra, Three-Lobed Burning Eye, Black Static, and more. Her latest novel, Alice’s Adventures in Underland: The Queen of Stilled Hearts, comes out of her obsession with all things Alice. She writes books for middle-graders as De Kenyon.

Find DeAnna

 
Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Find Beauty and Wickedness!
 

Amazon ~ iBooks ~ Kobo ~ Barnes & Noble ~ Books2Read ~ Goodreads

   
 

Sign up for the Blackbird Publishing newsletter!

How-to: Set up your author profile on BundleRabbit

BundleRabbit is a story bundling platform where authors can collaborate on either bundles of ebooks or collaborations, which may be offered in ebook and/or print. A collaboration can be anything from an anthology to a book co-written by multiple authors.

One capability unique to this site is the ability to upload your stories to BundleRabbit’s Content Marketplace, which is used by bundle curators to find and request stories for ebook bundles.

Information from your author profile is be displayed in the Content Marketplace along with information about your ebooks.

Prerequisites

You’ll need an account at BundleRabbit, and you’ll need to set it up as an author account.

Configuring your author profile

  • Log in to BundleRabbit, and then click on the Dashboard link on the top right-hand corner of the page.
     

     
  • In your Dashboard, click on the gear icon in the top right-hand corner of the page. In the dropdown that appears, select Your Profile.
     

     

     
  • On your profile page, add your bio, social media links and, if you’re using a pen name, specify that here.

Your social media links and biography will now show up on ebooks you add to the Content Marketplace.
 

 

Additional information

  • You can customize your biography and social media links on each individual ebook. For example, suppose you write both westerns and contemporary fantasy, and want to use a different bio for each genre. The bio and links you add to your profile will be applied to all ebooks you create, but you can manually edit this information per book.
  • If you use multiple pen names, you’ll either need to create a separate BundleRabbit account for each pen name you use, or you can manually edit this information per ebook.
  • Changes are saved per book, so updates to your overall bio and social media links won’t propagate through to all of your ebooks.
   
 

Sign up for the Blackbird Publishing newsletter!

Story spotlight: “Skydiving to the Gods” by Stefon Mears


A beautiful sunrise over the ocean west of Hawaii. A perfect morning for a skydive. An even better opportunity for murder.Eric Jarlsson plummets toward his death. His parachute sabotaged. Two thousand feet above an unforgiving sea.

He couldn’t know a god’s net awaits him.

“Skydiving to the Gods” a contemporary fantasy short story featuring adventure, magic, romance, conspiracy and Norse gods. From Norse myth scholar Stefon Mears, author of the Ars Portlandia series and the Rise of Magic series.
 
 
“Skydiving to the Gods” is in the Beneath the Waves collection. You can learn more on BundleRabbit, Goodreads, and the collection’s Facebook page.
 


Collections With Stories by This Author


More by the Author


About the Author

Stefon Mears grew up in California, Middle-Earth, and Amber. He went to U.C. Berkeley intending to major in Genetics, but the call of storytelling compelled him to graduate with a B.A. in Religious Studies (double emphasis in Mythology and Ritual). He later earned an MFA in Creative Writing from the Northwest Institute of Literary Arts, with a Fiction major, and has published many short stories, poems and essays.

Stefon has been an invited guest at a major Vodou ceremony in New Orleans, taught classes in the Brazilian martial art of Capoeira, spoken on a panel at one World Fantasy Conference and given a reading at another, and engraved his own set of Norse runes.

Stefon has worked as a professional audio engineer and played straight pool for money. He is an avid, lifelong fan of the San Francisco Giants. He lives in Portland, Oregon, with his wife and three cats, and when not writing he can often be found playing roleplaying games.


Find the Author

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

   
 

Sign up for the Blackbird Publishing newsletter!

Interview: Chuck Heintzelman on “The Author’s Guide to Vellum: Creating Beautiful Books with Vellum 2.0”

Meet Chuck Heintzelman!

Chuck is the founder of BundleRabbit, a do-it-yourself story bundling platform that helps authors create ebook story bundles, and collaborate on collections in both ebook and print. He’s created well over a thousand ebooks with Vellum as part of his work with BundleRabbit.

Chuck is also a very talented writer, and occasionally manages to sneak in some fiction writing as well as spending time with his family, working a full-time job as a computer programmer, and enhancing BundleRabbit.

The Author’s Guide to Vellum: Creating Beautiful Books with Vellum 2.0

Take the pain out of creating books!

Vellum helps you:
– Generate high quality ebooks
– Create professional looking print books
– Assemble boxsets in record time
– Create beautiful books

“The Author’s Guide to Vellum” steps you through the software, explaining each feature, and has tips & tricks that can save you hours of time.

Don’t have a Mac computer? No worries. “The Author’s Guide to Vellum” shows you how to run this amazing software without owning a Mac.

Whether you’re new to Vellum or an Advanced user, you’ll learn something with this book:
– Why do some pages not show in the Table of Contents?
– How can I get a page to appear before the Title Page?
– How can I force my books to have blank paragraphs?
– Which pages can start on the left side of print books?

“The Author’s Guide to Vellum” answers all these questions, and more!

The Interview

What is Vellum, and why is it so awesome?

Vellum is a software package that allows you to import a Word doc and format your doc into ebooks and print books. The great thing about Vellum is it makes creating ebooks super-easy … and the resulting ebooks look simply stunning.

Vellum is Mac-only, but your book explains how to run it without using a Mac. Is this hard?

Not hard at all. There’s a service called MacInCloud that allows you to “rent” a virtual mac. You share files between your local computer and your MacInCloud using DropBox or OneDrive and use the software in the cloud to create your ebooks.

How many books have you created with Vellum?

I don’t have a clue any more. I stopped counting a few months ago when I passed a thousand ebooks created. My guess is probably somewhere between 1500-1600.

Vellum allows you to create print books as well as ebooks and print books. Do you have to set things up differently for each format?

You don’t have to, but Vellum gives you the option to have certain parts of your book only appear in the ebook version or print version. Let’s say you want the copyright page at the back in the ebook, but at the front of the printed book. You simply create two copyright pages, one that only appears in the print version and one that appears in the ebook version.
 

 
There’s a “Tips and Tricks” section in your book. What’s one of the most useful tips you’ve learned?

Probably the non-breaking space trick. Using this hidden character will allow you to add vertical spacing to your text. For instance, let’s say on the print book you want a section to appear at the top of the next page. You can hit the enter key five times to insert five blank lines, but Vellum will treat those lines as one blank line in the formated book. Simply add a non-break space character, hit enter, another non-break space and enter, and now you have three blank lines instead of one.

You’ve created a lot of box sets with Vellum. How does Vellum help make this process easier?

It’s easy as drag-and-drop. You can take individual Word docs or Vellum files and drag them into the box set you’re creating and a new volume is automatically added. With everything prepared I can easily create a five book box set in Vellum in less than five minutes.

What’s your favorite Vellum feature?

The preview. By using the Vellum Preview you can see what your ebook look like on any device. Set it for Kindle Paperwhite, and you’ll see how it appears on that device. Change to an iPhone or iPad and you’ll get a preview of those devices as well. Or, you can see exactly what the printed page would look like in a print book.

About the Author

“His short stories are stunning” — Dean Wesley Smith, USA Today Bestselling Author

Indie Chuck Heintzelman writes quirky short stories, usually with some sort of fantastical element. He’s as surprised by this as anyone. Even after dozens of stories published, he still stays up too late at night, feverishly working on the next tale. Many of his stories can be found in various issues of Fiction River or Boundary Shock Quarterly.
 
Lately, Chuck’s time has been consumed managing and enhancing BundleRabbit, a DIY ebook bundling and collaborative publishing service.

Find Chuck

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Find The Author’s Guide to Vellum: Creating Beautiful Books with Vellum 2.0

Books2Read

   
 

Sign up for the Blackbird Publishing newsletter!

How-to: Set up a Draft2Digital author page

Prerequisites

  • You’ll need a Draft2Digital account (which you can use to log in to the Books2Read site), or a Books2Read account. If you don’t have one, create a (free!) Books2Read account.
  • You’ll need to have created at least one Universal Book Link. If you haven’t done this yet, just follow these instructions to set one up.

Create an author page

  • Log in to your Books2Read account. Your Universal Links dashboard will be displayed.
     

     
  • Find the desired author name under one of the books in the BOOK column, and click on that author name. You’ll be prompted to either edit or deactivate the author.
     

     
  • Click Enter Edit Mode. Green borders will be displayed around editable areas of the page. Make sure to not click on any of the book images other than the one at the top that’s outlined in green. Each book image takes you to a page for that book, and if you click on one if you’ve edited – but not saved – your page, you’ll lose your edits.
     

     
  • Add your social media links.
     

     
  • Add an author photo by clicking on the green-outlined circle on the top left-hand side.
     

     
  • Click on ‘Follow this Author’ and enter the link to sign up for your mailing list.
     

     
  • If the ‘featured book’ isn’t the one you want to feature, click on the book image to change the book.
     
    Remember that this green-outlined book image is the only book image you should click on unless you’ve saved your edits, as all the other book images will take you away from this page.
     

     
  • Click on the green box to the right of your featured book to update the associated text.
     
  • If you want to change the color of the ‘Buy it Now’ button, click on it and select your desired color from the preset options, or enter in the HTML color code. Note that you can only change the color of the button, not of the text.
     

     
  • Add a biography in the box at the very bottom of the page.
     

     
  • Copy the URL for your page from the address bar of your browser, and share it wherever you’d like!

A few confusing things about Draft2Digital author pages

  • If an author name isn’t associated with a book, that book won’t appear on the author’s page.
     
    For example, Amazon limits each book to a max of 10 associated author names. Authors can contact Amazon and request that this book be added to their Amazon author pages, but this information stays within Amazon. This type of thing means that if your name is not ‘officially’ associated with a book, you won’t be able to add that title to your Books2Read author page.
     
  • Sometimes the same author name is associated with multiple books on Books2Read, but the books don’t show up on the same author page.
     
    For example, in this screenshot “Jamie Ferguson” is associated with both Midwinter Fae and Stars in the Darkness, but the two books don’t appear on the same author page.
     

     

References

   
 

Sign up for the Blackbird Publishing newsletter!

Story spotlight: “Snap A Trap, Inc.” by Louisa Swann


 
What do trolleys, bananas, and impudent fairies have in common? A fairy hunter named Zola and her newest blind date: Milton B. Flannigan, III. Unfortunately, dear old Miltie isn’t everything he’s been made out to be. He’s more.

Then again, so is Zola.

A laugh-out-loud tale from the streets of San Francisco.
 
 
 
“Snap A Trap, Inc.” is in The Faerie Summer bundle. You can learn more on BundleRabbit, Goodreads, and the bundle’s Facebook page.
 


Collections With Stories by This Author


More by the Author


About the Author

Growing up in the wilds of the Sierra Nevada mountains, surrounded by deer and beaver, muskrat and bear, Louisa Swann found ample fodder for her equally wild imagination. As an adult, she interweaves her experiences with that imagination, creating tales of fantasy and science fiction, mystery and thrillers, steampunk and historical fiction. Her short stories have appeared in Fiction River anthologies, including Reader’s Choice; Mercedes Lackey’s Elementary Magic and Valdemar anthologies; and Esther Friesner’s Chicks and Balances. Novels include light-hearted mysteries (It Ain’t No Bull, The Trouble with Bulldogs) and her new steampunk/weird west series, Abby Crumb and Myrtle Creek (with Brandon Swann).


Find the Author

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

   
 

Sign up for the Blackbird Publishing newsletter!

Interview: A. L. Butcher on the “Here Be Monsters” bundle

Meet A. L. Butcher!

A. L. (Alex) Butcher has a background in ancient history, mythology, and classical studies – all of which have given her an interest in the fascinating world of monsters. Here Be Monsters is the fifth volume in her Myths, Monsters, and Mayhem series. In addition to her many short stories and the story bundles she’s curated, Alex writes The Light Beyond the Storm Chronicles, a series of adult dark fantasy romance adventures set in a world where magic is forbidden.

Here Be Monsters

Here Be Monsters is a collection of 19 tales of myths, monsters, and mayhem.

We love to fear them and fight them. Monsters come in many forms, from the monsters within to the monsters outside and under the bed. Dare you venture into the caverns and the castles? Dare you enter the darkness of an accursed soul?

An eclectic collection of dark creatures and those who fight them. You have been warned.

~ Here Be Monsters is only available through September 2018 ~

The Interview

Here Be Monsters is the fifth volume in your bundle series Myths, Monsters, and Mayhem. What inspired you to create this series, and this volume in particular?

I love fantasy, and the total diversity of worlds, creatures, people and situations within. Fantasy is by far the widest and most creative of genres, and the possibilities are limitless. In my view fantasy is freedom. I love the old style myths, fairytales and bardic stories, and this series has a bit of everything. Our cultures are saturated with myth, legend and the fantastic – St George and the Dragon (see my blog for an article on the history of this); giants and fairies, even Santa Claus is a fantastical story. These are not only aimed towards children – there are 131 public houses called George and Dragon in the UK, 67 called Robin Hood (or similar), 59 called The Griffin, 51 called The Phoenix, 52 called The Unicorn and 31 called The Golden Fleece. Such tales remain popular, and most if not all countries have a mythic past which still appears in current life.

Here Be Monsters features the darker side of fantasy – those beings and beasties we all love to fear. Not all are bad – In The Stolen Tower (which features in the bundle too), two of the primary characters are Trolls – but not your usual bridge-lurker type of troll. The monsters in this one are taken from their past – at a time before the magical Fae Realm was sealed off, and should not exist in the world they currently inhabit. There’s an earth elemental too – a personification of the mountain. The Keres are nasty, nasty creatures – think harpies with an even worse attitude. But there are also human monsters, and creatures the humans fear which are the good guys.

I know some of the other stories have an array of nasties, but not always those creatures who we would assume are the monsters.
 

 
 
You’ve written a number of stories set in Erana, a fantasy world you created – including “Warrior’s Curse,” which appears in Here Be Monsters. What is it about the world of Erana that keeps bringing you back to it?

Erana is a world of magic – but that magic has been seriously beaten into submission. After years of war between elves, men, fae, trolls and various other magical creatures the fae realm is closed off, the elves fall to a mysterious plague that almost destroys their civilisation, the trolls retreat to the mountains and largely shut themselves off, and martial law is imposed. The Order of Witch-Hunters take charge and blame the elves and magic for the plague (rightly or wrongly – that will be explained in later books), and seek to obliterate magic, and enslave elves where ever they are to be found. Magic, however, refuses to abide by the laws of men, and appears in odd places, and people.

It’s a world of contrasts – magic is everywhere – albeit on the sly – but it’s usage and possession are punishable by death. A person doesn’t choose to be magical – they just are. Most people soon learn to hide what skills they have or pass them off as something else. There are temples to various gods – which not even the Order has the courage to forbid. Many people think the gods are real and it doesn’t do to take the chance they aren’t. Most of the elves live in hiding, or in Enclave (basically ghettos) and have no rights, and are owned by humans. But most humans are peasants and too ignorant, afraid or overworked to see the problems. It’s been that way for three hundred years, it must be the truth. Truth and freedom are relative terms.

Warrior’s Curse starts with some treasure hunters seeking refuge from a storm in a cave. They soon discover bags of shiny loot – but as with most things in Erana such treasure has a past, and is not what it first appears. One of the group (a Troll Past-Seer) recounts the history of the most rare and expensive item and decides she wants nothing to do with it. The menfolk are not so wise… The ‘story within a story’ is set in the past – for there are witches, monsters, and unholy magics – and none of the treasure hunters would even comprehend such things in a world where magic is illegal.

Erana draws me in time after time. It has a dark history, but there is hope for the future. The good guys are anti-heroes – they kill, steal and manipulate but for the good of others and a ‘cause’. The bad guys are bad – but many just don’t know any different or are following orders. Good and bad are not clear. But in many ways it reflects our world – there are oppressed and oppressors, the wise and the foolish, a history saturated with blood, and the indomitable spirit to survive, no matter what.
 
 
Remembering Warriors is a story bundle you organized as a commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the First Armistice Day. A percentage of the royalties goes to the Royal British Legion and Help for Heroes, two charities that support wounded and ex-service personnel and their families. What inspired you to create this collection?

This one is easy for me to answer. My father served in the Royal Army Medical Corps and was wounded in action in 1959 – he lost the sight in one eye. My mother served in Queen Alexandra’s Army Nursing Corp (fortunately she came out unscathed). The Royal British Legion helps ex-veterans and their families in a number of ways. My father currently resides in a British Legion nursing home, and all the residents there have served in the forces.
Help for Heroes is a more recent charity which also promotes rehabilitation and help for those wounded in action.

2018 is the centenary of the end of World War One – the Great War which decimated Europe and led, it’s argued, to the Second World War and the horrors there. In the last century war has continued, although thankfully not a global scale, and men and women return damaged (those who do return). I firmly believe the Great War, and World War Two shaped modern European history, and such horror should never be forgotten. There were villages in England where every man between 16 and 50 was lost. It’s very easy to disassociate oneself from war – which for most of us is fought far away against people we aren’t very familiar with – and we can become blase to it. But these soldiers, no matter whose side they might be on, are someone’s child, sibling, parent or friend. I have seen the price war can exact – and how it changes lives.

The slogan for the Royal British Legion is Live On – that is an important message as those who remain CAN live on, and those who suffer injury can now have worthwhile and valuable lives. We must as humans, as descendants, as free people remember the sacrifices some pay for freedom. I set this bundle up to try and raise awareness of these charities, to stir a thought for the soldiers past and present. The Great War was known as the War to End All Wars – sadly it did not.
 
 
In The Light Beyond the Storm Chronicles, you created a world where magic is forbidden and elves are enslaved. The series starts with Dii, an elven sorceress, fleeing for her life. How did your background in politics and mythology help you craft this series?

One only has to look back on human history to see parallels to the world of Erana – Despotic government, rule by fear, divide and rule, blaming a particular group of people for society’s ills and the list goes on. Politics doesn’t change much, oh yes new leaders and parties come and go but the machine rumbles onward nonetheless. No party/leader will change the system which got him or her elected (assuming they were in fact elected), and no party is likely to radically change the status quo. In many ways it’s a case of better the devil you know. That said there have been uprisings – the French Revolution and the Russian Revolution to name a couple, and there have been individuals and groups who have made a difference but they are few and far between. Certainly with many revolutions the common man or woman has not noticed a great deal of difference to his or her life. And many folks are content with that. Change can be frightening. But also there is always someone willing to fight for the little guy – to stand up and say no more. There is always hope and the human spirit to fight on, to live and to discover a better world. Sometimes it’s so much bullshit, but not always.

Much of the background lore for Erana is similar in form to our own mythology – and of course in myth anything is possible – from vast flying lizards, to demi-god heroes, to the lowliest beating the greatest. It doesn’t have to be true, but it does have to show us the best and worst in ourselves, and that people can be greater than they imagined. The allegories of myth hold moral, and symbolic meanings.
 

 
 
You have a background in politics, sociology, classical studies, ancient history, and mythology. How does your interest in and knowledge of these areas influence your writing?

I love the old Roman and Greek tales and I read a lot of history. Erana is mostly a medieval society, with a few tweaks. As I said earlier myth and storytelling are really important aspects to our modern society – although it’s not obvious at first. I like reading myths, fairytales and the lore-laden fantasy stories and try and style my work in that way. Sociology and politics teach one about societies, relations between classes, people and countries – how government is run, and more importantly how people THINK it’s run – which is vastly different.
 
 
How did you select the stories included in the Here Be Monsters bundle?

Some were from authors I was already familiar with, and some I read the synopsis or the look insides and decided the book was a good fit. Authors can refuse to join a bundle if they feel the vision doesn’t match their work.
 
 
 

You’ve put together a number of story bundles, and have more planned. What do you enjoy about creating these collections?

The Bundles are a lot of fun. They are also a GREAT networking tool. The idea is that readers get a bundle of books for a bargain price and find new authors and the authors get ‘cross-pollination’. I’ve found some great new authors and books to read.
 
 
What story (or stories) are you working on now, and what’s fun about what you’re writing?

Currently I am working on Book IV of the Light Beyond the Storm Chronicles, an Erana novella (currently which is stuck), an historical fiction for an anthology, and a ghost story. It’s all fun – I love creating stories. Except when the story won’t tell me where it wants to go – then it’s annoying.

About the Author

British-born Alexandra Butcher (aka A. L. Butcher) is an avid reader and creator of worlds, a poet, and a dreamer, a lover of science, natural history, history, and monkeys. Her prose has been described as ‘dark and gritty’ and her poetry as evocative. She writes with a sure and sometimes erotic sensibility of things that might have been, never were, but could be.

Alex is the author of the Light Beyond the Storm Chronicles and the Tales of Erana lyrical fantasy series. She also has several short stories in the fantasy, fantasy romance genres with occasional forays into gothic style horror. With a background in politics, classical studies, ancient history and myth, her affinities bring an eclectic and unique flavour in her work, mixing reality and dream in alchemical proportions that bring her characters and worlds to life.

Her short novella Outside the Walls, co-written with Diana L. Wicker received a Chill with a Book Reader’s Award in 2017.

She is also the curator of a number of exciting book bundles on Bundle Rabbit and frequently works with other authors.

She activity supports nature, wildlife and veteran’s charities.

Find Alex

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Blog | Goodreads

Find Here Be Monsters!

BundleRabbit | Amazon | Kobo | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Books2Read

   
 

Sign up for the Blackbird Publishing newsletter!

How-to: View images in high resolution using InDesign

It can be a bit disconcerting to realize the resolution of the book cover you’re working on in InDesign looks terrible even though you know you’re using a high-resolution image. But never fear – this is super easy to fix!

Note that the image looks fuzzy and blocky.

Display Performance

The resolution you see while you’re working in InDesign is not the same as the final product.

InDesign provides three levels of quality for viewing images. If you’re working on a slower computer, are working with a lot of images, or are running a lot of applications on your computer at the same time, you might not need to see your images in high quality.

The three levels are:

  • Fast Display: The entire image is completely grayed out. This optimizes performance, but (obviously) makes it a little challenging if you need to do any image manipulation.
  • Typical Display: Images are displayed, but look a little blocky, especially if you zoom in. This is the default setting.
  • High Quality Display: Images are displayed at their full resolution. This allows you to see the highest quality version of your images, but InDesign may run more slowly as this setting requires more system resources to display.

How to change the display performance

  • Select View > Display Performance, and then select the desired display level.

Selecting High Quality Display will show your images at their highest resolution. You can change this to ‘Fast Display’ if your computer is slow, and you don’t need to see the images for whatever task you’re working on.

Huzzah! The image looks crisp and clear!

InDesign version

The version of InDesign used for this post was Adobe InDesign CC 13.1, on macOS High Sierra 10.13.6.

   
 

Sign up for the Blackbird Publishing newsletter!

Story spotlight: “Midnight Oil” by Lisa Silverthorne


 
 
Mistaken identities, misplaced sympathies, and witches on the eve of Beltane.
 
And the man caught between Halloween magic and mayhem.
 
 
 
 
 
 

“Midnight Oil” is in the Witches’ Brew bundle. You can learn more on BundleRabbit, Goodreads, and the bundle’s Facebook page.


Bundles With Stories by This Author


More by the Author


About the Author

Writing has been Lisa’s life-long passion. She’s been writing since she could hold a pen and have published two novels and over 70 short stories in the fantasy, science fiction, romance, horror, and mystery genres.

Lisa writes about the magic of ordinary things and about things that scare or anger her. Anything that moves her in some way is an inspiration for new work. That and the Pacific Northwest, which is a great inspiration to this Midwesterner. Much of her work is dark, and it often falls between the many cracks in between genres.


Find the Author

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

   
 

Sign up for the Blackbird Publishing newsletter!