Author Interview: The Badass Bella Roccaforte

As most people’s thoughts turn to warm weather, bright flowers, and outdoor vacations, there are those of us who enjoy the Addams Family or Munsters-kind of life regardless of the season. I am one of those Autumn People, always with one foot on either side of the Veil. Paranormal writer Bella Roccaforte is part of our worldwide creative carnival as well. This legitimate badass is literary and quite lively, unlike some of her creepy crawlers and haunting hunks. I have the privilege of sitting down with her to find out what steered her toward the world of spooky fiction.

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J:  Let’s start with something simple. How long have you been writing? And what led you to “go pro”?

B:  In a former life, I was a professional musician and used to write poetry for as long as I can remember. But as far as writing stories, I started in December of 2012. My husband had been talking about writing a novel for as long as I’ve known him. So I challenged him to write for an hour and I would do the same. 

At the end of a week of doing that he asked how many words I had. I didn’t know, because I wasn’t paying attention to that. Turns out I had 30k words. When I asked him how many he had, he just told me that wasn’t important right now. He asked to read what I had written and after he did, he told me it was good and I should publish it. So I finished and here I am now eight novels later.

 J:  Whoa! That’s an impressive start. If you can type 30k words in a week, I should hire you to write my novels, if I could afford you. Broke Guys Productions is no euphemism. Hehehe!

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J:  What genre(s) do you prefer to write? Do you prefer to read those genres too?

B:  I prefer to write in paranormal. I’m having a blast with my latest series which is a paranormal romance. I’m not typically big on romance, but this story was scratching to get out.

I also love to read paranormal, pnr is okay, but I don’t need a lot of sexy to enjoy a story.

J: Personally, I’m fine with scary, sexy, or both, as long as it’s well-written and edited.

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J: Speaking of your reading habits, what are your five favorite novels?

B: Inferno by Dante Alighieri

The Beautiful Demons series by Sarra Cannon

Elfhunter series by C.S. Marks.

The Celestra Series by Addison Moore

The Art of War by Sun Tzu

J: Both 1 and 5 are great choices. I’ll have to check out the rest. You’re not the first person to recommend Elfhunter.

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J: What writers have influenced you the most over the course of your life?

B: Addison Moore and Sarra Cannon. I would not be a published author without both of them!

J: I feel similarly about those who helped me along the way, writers, editors, publishers, and artists. Part of why I started this series of interviews was to showcase them as well as others.

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J: Let’s turn back to your writing process. When you set out to create a new story, do you jump right in to the tale (pantster) or plan it out for ages beforehand (plotter)?

B: Gosh, this is a tough one because I usually have the basics down for the story in my head before I jump in. But as the words flow, they create their own little ripples in the story line. I have been known to come out of my office with wide eyes and say “Whoa, I didn’t see that coming!”

But I don’t create an outline, or write down the plot. My latest series actually grew from a series of paintings I had done. Originally, there were three paintings, now there are nine. But the original three served as beginning middle and end. The story has grown beyond that at this point.

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J: Are there common themes, topics, or tropes that you use or explore in your works of fiction?

B: Oh yes, I have all kinds of little Easter eggs or private jokes all throughout my work.

In the INK series, there are a ton of The Walking Dead Easter eggs. I have a character named Carl who’s always getting lost. Things like that.

In Paranormal Transmissions, many of the towns/cities they go to are named after the actors from The Walking Dead (I’m a huge fan if you can’t tell.)

In Moon Crossed (The Crescent Hunter Series), my “hero” is named Cole Jackson. Jackson is the name of the hero in Sarra Cannon’s Beautiful Demons series and last night I needed a list of casualties. Characters we’ve never really met that died in battle. At first, I was thinking I could name them Kenny (South Park), Rory (Doctor Who), Red (Red shirts from Star Trek), you know characters that always die. But I couldn’t come up with enough names, so I decided to go with a list of all my exes.

J: It’s nice to know that I’m not the only writer here who has killed an ex or two in fiction. Or loves #TWD!

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J: Judging by our previous conversations, it sounds like you have had a rough life, one that has helped build you into the badass you’ve become. What real life events have most shaped your writing?

B: Whoa, so yeah. If we were sitting face to face, I’d be making that face that Peta Mellark made when asked on stage if there was anyone special at home (Hunger Games). 

Okay, so yes, probably the one thing in my life that has shaped and driven my writing in one specific way is heartbreak. In the INK: Series, the two heroes are based on exes. They are both aware and think it’s pretty cool. I did have one of them apologize to me for being such an ass hat. 

Moon Crossed is the product of a difficult time when life had just fallen to pieces for me. I’m a people hoarder, and for whatever psychological issues, I have one of the coping mechanisms is to create an extremely tight knit circle of friends that I would kill or die for. The circle broke, we all fell away, and I felt like my heart had been dug out of my chest with a rusty spoon. Thus, the painting outlet, and subsequently telling a part of that story. I, of course, had to spice it up and throw in some romance. But all of the characters with the exception of the love interest/hero are based on my boys from The House of Brotus (our little cult). 

It has been therapeutic, but still on a level while going back and doing revisions and re-feeling some of those emotions, it’s so raw. Most of us have all reformed the circle, it would seem there was only one permanent casualty of the fallout.

J: Pardon to tough question, but I find that many writers tend to be survivors and fiction makes wonderful therapy for us. But it also showcases our pain as well as our hope for a better tomorrow. That can make it daunting to delve into such personal stories on occasion. Glad you’re working through it all and finding catharsis bit by bit with each tale.

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J: Do you find that your real life struggles make it easier or more difficult to put your characters through a fictional baptism by fire?

B: Depends on the character and the mood that I’m in. Sometimes it’s so nice to just rip someone’s intestines out and eat them while they watch. Other times I’ll be like, “I’m so sorry, but we really had to do that. It hurt me more than it hurt you.”

 In general, the heroine always gets the shitty end of the stick. I love to torture her to see how amazing she’ll be when she rises from the ashes.

J: What’s the common quote about fiction? Put your characters up a tree and then throw rocks at them. Writing 101. I think some of us enjoy the experience entirely too much though. Yes, I’m talking to you, G.R.R. Martin.

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J: What writing project are you working on at the moment?

B: I’m currently putting the finishing touches on the first book in the Crescent Hunter Series, Moon Crossed. I’m releasing it in serial format and three episodes are already available on Amazon. I’ll continue to release them weekly until April 15th.

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J: What upcoming releases do you have slated for 2015? When and where can we find them?

B: Moon Crossed #1 (Crescent Hunter Series) April 15 – Amazon and my website (BellaWrites.com for the paper back)

INK: Bold Strokes (Book 5) – Final book in this series. All digital retailers by the end of summer.

Three more installments of Paranormal Transmissions – supernatural/paranormal serial. All digital outlets and I’ll be releasing them over the course of the next year.

And who knows what else might come from my crazy brain. If you had told me three months ago that I was going to write a shifter romance, I would have said, “Shut up, I’m not.”

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Thanks for the lively, intriguing answers, Bella. I’ve come to expect no less from you. Good luck on your future endeavors and upcoming releases. Stay weird. Stay fun. And most important of all, keep writing!

Author Interview: Traumatizing Minds with Alexander S. Brown

When I first met Alexander S. Brown at a fandom convention, I had no idea that I was meeting the scariest man to pass through Vicksburg, Mississippi since General Grant. But after reading “Traumatized”, his self-published horror anthology, I was convinced. I was no longer just a friend or colleague but a fan as well. Today, I am happy to be able to shine some light on the dark, fruitful imagination of this wonderful writer and what he has in store for his fans in the future.

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When did you know you wanted to be a professional writer? And how long did it take you to make that dream happen?

My senior year of high school was when I decided to be a professional writer. Although I have written books through the ages of 18 and 29, my actual dream hadn’t reached fruition until the last year. Although I was overly thrilled to produce short fiction for anthologies: Dreams of Steam, Clockwork Spells and Magical Bells, Luna’s Children, and Capes and Clockworks, it wasn’t until I helped produce Southern Haunts volume 1 and 2, and published Traumatized and Syrenthia Falls that I finally felt my career had begun.

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Which writers have influenced you the most along the way?

My biggest influences have been Stephen King, Clive Barker, Dean Koontz, Chuck Palahniuk, Anne Rice, H.P. Lovecraft, Edgar Allan Poe and the list continues.

If you could talk to any of those writers, living or dead, which one would it be and why? What would you want to discuss?

I would pick Clive Barker. He is a brilliant name in the horror genre that provides a great diversity of being poetic and horrific. I also admire his fantasy themed horror: Imagica, The Thief of Always, Weaveworld, etc. I would want to discuss with him how different scare tactics captivate audiences. I would also enjoy speaking of story ideas.

Good choice! Barker’s Weaveworld is one of my all-time favorite novels. Ranks up there with Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and Dune. Poe, Lovecraft, Kind, and Palahniuk have influences me as well. Koontz and Rice have too but to a lesser extent. I’m more of a fan of Rice’s works written under the Rampling pseudonym than her vampire novels.

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How did growing up in the Deep South affect the content and style of your writing? Have you worked any of those real-life experiences into your stories?

A lot of what I have written about has been inspired by actual places, events, or southern folklore. Growing up in the South has provided a great deal of opportunities for my writings, especially by living in a secluded, wooded area for the majority of my life. The Southern culture can be seen most in these following pieces: Syrenthia Falls, Southern Haunts 1 & 2, and Traumatized.

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What genre(s) do you prefer to write? Are there any that you avoid entirely?

I have no problems writing in any genre as long as I can keep the genre themed with suspense and horror.

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You started out as a self-published (or indie) writer but have transitioned to traditional publishing with the Southern Haunt anthologies from Seventh Star, the new edition of Traumatized from Pro Se, and your first novel (Syrenthia Falls) released by Dark Oak Press earlier this year. In your experience, what are the pros and cons of self-publishing versus the traditional route?

To say being self-published is the greatest nightmare alive would be untrue. When Traumatized was first published, I had no one to help or represent me in the world of publishing, so I used a vanity press that charged its authors to get published.

The only good thing that came from this was I now had a product that I could sell and I could attend conventions and promote myself. Had I never done this, I would have never learned about the con circuit and I would probably still be in the dark. With that said, I gained placement in three publishing houses: Seventh Star Press, Dark Oak Press, and Pro Se Press (Pro Se Press is now in control of Traumatized as it was pulled from the original press).

In this interview, my goal with this question is to direct unpublished authors to attend conventions and converse with other authors and publishers. If you are serious about your work, then this will give you the opportunity to fish it around.

I am in complete agreement there, Alex. Attending conventions is what led to me being published. Without the networking opportunities facilitated by conventions, namely meeting authors and publishers face-to-face, we’d never have hooked up with Dark Oak Press, much less Pro Se. In fact, this very interview series is a direct result of meeting authors, editors, artists, publishers, and others at these fandom conventions.

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Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing (or the process of polishing, editing, and publishing your stories), and how do you deal with this?

Writing isn’t the hard part, editing is. There are so many ways a sentence can be structured. Also there are plenty of times where less is more and I overdo it. Sometimes cutting multiple paragraphs to pages from my stories are necessary when I finish writing.

In my opinion, editing is what separates the amateur from the professional. Anyone can write. Anyone can write a story. But very few people are willing to take the time and effort, much less spend the money on a professional, to whip their story into shape for publication. Those of us who can slog through it, take the criticism from ourself as well as others, and make the changes necessary to turn out a polished product are the real professionals, whether we are published traditionally or self-published.

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What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Write your entire manuscript and while you’re writing it look for publishers who are small or medium sized. After you finish writing your manuscript, edit, edit, edit, and start building an audience on social media sites. Also, write blogs in regard to the subjects that focus on your writing genre.

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Are you working on anything currently? Can you provide a snippet from it?

I am working on a few things that are top secret, if I shared them with you, I would have to kill you. However, I’m happy to share a segment of the last ebook that Pro Se Press published and a segment of Syrenthia Falls.

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From Outhouse published by Pro Se Press, Story 3 in the Night the Jack O’ Lantern Went Out series

I crossed tha kitchen floor and gazed out left and right. I ain’t seen nothin’ scary and nothin’ ain’t sound spooked. Tha night was calm. Although that shoulda made me feel better, I wondered how fast I could run ta tha outhouse and back.

I took a deep breath and opened tha door. Tha rusted hinges hollered. Once I was on tha porch, tha cool wind blew in my face, causin’ my bonnet ta tickle my forehead and tha sides of my cheeks. I shivered out of fear and coldness, and also tha pressure in my bladder.

Tha screen door done slammed behind me, causin’ me ta jump. Then I shot off tha porch like lightenin’. I went left, round tha back of tha house that looked over some of our crops and that hill where Poppa and me done flew kites. In tha dead night, I heard it. It was a growl, lot like a riled mongrel.

I looked ta tha crops. No more than twenty feet away, thirty at best, was somethin’ that struck fear in my soul. Hidin’ in ‘em crops out yonder, crouched close ta tha ground was two eyes as big as saucers. And they were glowin’, jus’ like Poppa said. And they were red, jus’ like tha tobacco in his pipe when he smoked it.

Not far down from ‘em spaced eyes was a pulled back meat eatin’ grin. In that moonlight, I could see its teeth and theys were jus’ like a bear trap. Its skin was withered like Poppa said. It also had a saggy chest, remindin’ me of some of tha old ladies of our church, where ‘eir breasts dropped when they lost tha perk. Its stomach was a gross pot belly that dropped between its squattin’ legs. When tha wind blew, it caused its thin hair ta sway in tha night like moss.

Fer what seemed seconds, we stared at one another. It let out a tongue tha size of a cow’s tongue and lapped its lips. Not wastin’ anotha second, it charged at me.

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From Syrenthia Falls published by Dark Oak Press

“You guys are good storytellers,” chuckled Syrenthia.

“Speaking of which,” mumbled Blake with a mouthful of taco salad.

Blake swallowed, then chugged the carton of milk as if he had gone the whole day without a drink. He wiped the milk residue from his upper lip with an open hand as Syrenthia listened in anticipation.

“Okay, there’s a place called Owen Falls, it’s in the northeast part of town. You take Old Foster Road. After you hang a left, you’ll come to a concrete bridge. After pulling over, you follow a trail under the bridge into the woods, and then you see The Falls,” explained Blake while Syrenthia yearned for the punchline.

“Five years ago was when the murders started, and it only happens on nights of a full moon. But these aren’t just murders, they’re mutilations. Most bodies have been found so shredded that it takes dental records to identify them,” continued Blake as Lynn stopped eating.

“You’re joking,” claimed Syrenthia. “It’s an urban legend right? No bodies were really found were they?”

“No, it’s true. My cousin’s friend was one of the policemen that restricted the area,” insisted Danny.

“Isn’t that how urban legends start?” Syrenthia quizzed. “It always happens to a friend of a friend?”

“Yeah,” Danny agreed, “but the area is restricted.”

“That’s a useless defense,” interrupted Sarah.

Syrenthia’s eyes widened and her desire for more information grew. Blake returned to eating his food as if the story had no effect on him and Danny began speaking.

“You see, three months after the murders, a warden staked out the area. Story goes, the watchman for that night rigged up a hunting stand so he could see everything… What he saw made him stay in that tree the whole night. The next day, investigators came for him. When they found him, his hair had turned white and since then he has never said another word.”

“Why didn’t he radio for help?” Syrenthia questioned.

“The story is bullshit,” added Sarah.

“Does anybody know what caused the murders?” Syrenthia asked.

Lynn shivered. “No. Two summers ago, a couple went to The Falls on the night of a full moon. Story has it that when the police found the couple, every single body part had been mauled or ripped from their bodies.”

Danny interrupted. “They were some of the last victims, but the police discovered something. You see, out of the five years the murders happened, the victims had either slash marks or were mutilated beyond recognition. The murders could have been done with a machete or knife, but the couple that was ripped apart had something strange left with them.”

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Thanks, Alex. Let’s hope those teasers send our audience scrambling to order a copy of both from Amazon.

Do you have a new or upcoming release you want to plug here? If so, when and where can we find it?

Pro Se is publishing a short story monthly from my collection The Night the Jack O’ Lantern Went Out. I’m writing Traumatized 2, editing Southern Haunts 3, and writing a sequel to Syrenthia Falls called Starla’s Moonlight. Southern Haunts 3 can be expected out in 2015. My other works such as Traumatized 2 or Starla’s Moonlight will hopefully see publication in 2016 or so.

I appreciate you sitting for the interview, Alex. I’m sure the readers enjoyed learning more about you, and I hope aspiring writers out there appreciate the advice. Best of luck with the next edition of Southern Haunts, your Pro Se Digital Short Series, and the sequel to Syrenthia Falls. Look forward to all of them. Thanks again and keep on writing, my friend.

For more about Alexander S. Brown and his works of fiction, check out his Amazon author page HERE.

To follow his blog, click HERE.

Author Interview: Dark-eyed, Light-hearted A.G. Porter, Author of The Darkness Trilogy

For my first author interview in December, I have the pleasure of sitting down with A.G. (Amanda) Porter, indie author of The Darkness Trilogy. On her blog, she lists writing as her favorite past time; and in this writer’s fortunate experiences with Amanda, she makes a great beta reader and an even better friend. Like me, she grew up in the hilly countryside of Alabama, where she resides today with her husband, stepson, and self-described furbabies.

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Could you tell us about your journey to the exciting, fast-paced world of writing fiction?

Oh gosh, where do I start? As cliché as it sounds, I know it began when I was just a little girl and I watched my mom typing away at her typewriter. Yes, a typewriter. She would writer the scariest stories! She still does and I can’t wait for her to put them out for the world to read!

I had always been an avid reader of R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps and Fear Street Series. In high school, I carried around a 5-subject notebook that I would use to write my stories in. I wonder if my parents still have them because I’m sure those stories would be so funny to read now and probably really embarrassing!

After graduating from school I thought I had to get out in the real world and get a real job. I went to school, got a degree in business, and went into the corporate world. All the while, I was still writing. It hit me one day that I was never going to know if anyone would be interested in reading my books if I didn’t put them out there. Then in 2012, after being told “No” for the millionth time by literary agents, I decided to just do it myself and I’ve never been happier.

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Did you have someone helping you along the road to self-publication or was it an entirely self-taught experience?

I had plenty of encouragement from family and friends, but most of the process was just me. I had to figure things out on my own. For example, where to find a cover artist, how to convert the Word document into an ebook, etc. I thought once I was finished writing then that was it. I was so wrong. There is so much more to being an Indie Author than just writing a book. You don’t realize that you’re actually a small business and you’re not only an artist, but you’re a marketer, a personal assistant, a promoter and the list just goes on.

It would have been nice to have a mentor to help, you know, someone who had been through it before. I know many self-published authors who are more than willing to help now, but back then I didn’t know anyone! Ha! That is why if I see someone who I know is new I try my best to reach out to them or if someone reaches out to me I will drop whatever I am doing and help them.

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What have you learned about the rigors of the writing, editing, and self-publishing process from Book One of the Darkness Trilogy to Book Two?

Don’t rush it. Yes, you will have readers that want you hurry up and get those books out and that is get, but you will be doing them a disservice if you rush the books just to get them out of the door. Also, you can’t edit your own stuff. Let someone else look over it. Be prepared to pay a pretty penny to make your stuff look good, but not just to anyone. Do your research! There are some people out there who just want to take your money.

If you want to use Beta Readers, please, please, for the love of all that is holy, please make sure this person is trustworthy. I have heard so many horrors about Beta Readers being Book Pirates. I can’t imagine seeing my work online for sale by someone else just because I thought I could trust someone to read an ARC. Again, do your research.

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Do you have a preference in genres that you prefer to write? Any that you plan to avoid?

I have always loved the paranormal, so I will probably stick to that most of the time. One day I would love to try a Sci-Fi story. I love that genre, but we’ll see. I plan to try my hand in fantasy as well. I have a dragon rider series that I have been working for about 10 years that my stepson wants me to finish. We shall see!
I’m not too much into Romance. There are romantic elements in my books because I believe that people love to be in love, but I couldn’t write a book that is entirely centered on someone’s romantic relationship.

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You mentioned that you weave your faith and beliefs into your storytelling. How do you go about it without coming off like you’re proselytizing to your audience? Have your received any feedback, positive or negative, about it?

My faith is just a part of who I am, I suppose. It just automatically comes out into the words that I write. I’m not sure about most authors, but for me, my books reflect my mind when it comes to my faith. I’ll also say that my books have a lot darkness in it, but that isn’t me at all. I’ll put it this way because someone else approached me with a similiar question. This is how life is; you have goodness and darkness. Sometimes they come at you at the same time and you have to fight with all you have in you to hold on to the light. For me and my writing style, I fight with my faith.

However, I know that there are people out there who do not share my beliefs so I would never want to come across as shoving what I believe down their throats. The main character of my book, Rayna, is dealing with an evil presence, a darkness, so she clings to the light, her faith, to fight it off. She also knows that she has to find her inner strength as well. There isn’t one time in the book that she or anyone else says, “You better go to church or you’re going to Hell.” Haha!

There are many characters in the book that have no religious upbringing and mention nothing about faith because, again, we’re all different. I’ve just created a world where (think Supernatural or Buffy) demons roam the earth so you better watch out. So Rayna uses her gifts and her faith to fight that evil off. So far, the feedback has been positive and I think it’s because the readers know it’s a work of fiction.

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As with any discussion of faith and religion, my mind drifts to sin, to guilty pleasures. What book is your guilty reading pleasure? Why?

Hmm. I would probably have to Anne Rice’s Interview with a Vampire and all her other vampire books. I guess it’s a guilty pleasure because Ms. Rice can get pretty dark. I started reading those books when I was pretty young and they were darker than anything I read at the time. So I felt like I being mischievous. Haha!

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Bringing the conversation back around to your writing, could you tell us a bit about your creative process? Are you much of a “plotter” or do you write by the seat of your pants…or tights as the case may be? 😉

Haha! I am not a plotter. I sit down and let it fly, for the most part, when it comes to my paranormal books. The fantasy book is something different though. That series has so many characters that I’ve had to create a list and have even drawn a map. It’s a terrible map because I’m not a cartographer! I wanted to draw it though so I could have a visual of the world I was creating. I haven’t really created an outline for it, but it’s more preparation than I’ve ever done for a book.

What other authors have influenced you the most as a writer?

R.L. Stine and Dean Koontz for sure are at the top of my list. I love their writing style and the strong careers that both of them have had. If I ever get the chance to meet them, I think I might just pass out. 😉

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The Geek Gathering 2014

Are you working on anything currently? Would you provide a brief excerpt from it?

Why yes, I am working on book three of The Darkness Trilogy. I’ll be glad to share something. Here you go:

He didn’t get to finish his sentence. An ear splitting sound ripped through the night sky and blinding pain stabbed me in the back. A force, stronger than I had ever felt, kicked me in the spine and threw me across the yard. I landed hard on the gravel, skidding for a while before I stopped.

My back felt hot and my face was raw. I was fairly certain that more than one bone in my body was broken. I tried raising my head, but the muscles in my neck didn’t seem want to work. My eyelids were heavy and I really wanted to sleep. Something was telling that I shouldn’t, that if I did, I wouldn’t wake back up.

The Shadow descended on me, crushing my will to stay awake. He held me underneath his power, wrapping my broken body in his powerful arms. Using his strength, he pulled me up into the sky where I had a bird eye view of the carnage below. It was hard to look at, like something from a war zone.

Up here the air was cold and my breath turned to mist as soon as it left my mouth. My fingers and toes were numb and my nose started to run though I was unsure if it was blood or not. Tears turned to ice as they stung the corners of my eyes.

I saw my body lying on the ground; my left leg was twisted at a grotesque angle. My right arm was underneath my body and it looked as though I wasn’t breathing. A large chunk of my hair was burned and the back of my shirt was scorched off, revealing red flesh that would take time to heal if I lived that long.

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Is there an upcoming (or recent) release that you’d like to promote here? If so, what’s it about and where can we find it?

My most recent release is Book 2, The Forsaken, of The Darkness Trilogy. You can find it on Amazon here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00IP1DBCA

Thanks again, Amanda. Let’s hope the new year brings with it the final installment of The Darkness Trilogy. Best of luck on finishing it. I’m sure your fans are as eager as your friends to see this project brought to fruition.

For more about A.G. Porter and The Darkness Trilogy, check out her blog at the following URL:

https://agporter.wordpress.com

Stay tuned to this blog for more interviews. My next author interview is Alexander S. Brown, author of Traumatized and Syrenthia Falls. Plus, we’ll talk more with the sexy dolls of Cherry Sparkle Burlesque.