Author Spotlight – Connie Cockrell

I had the pleasure of running into Connie Cockrell a little while ago, and we’ve been talking back and forth about setting up an interview swap. What I didn’t realize when we started talking is just how many genres this amazing woman manages to write in.

I know just how difficult it can be to write different genres, but Connie Cockrell seems to find it effortless. Maybe she’ll give us an insight into just how she does it in this interview. How about it Connie?

[Update: I just found out that this post coincides with Connie’s birthday, so please show her some love]

Introducing Connie Cockrell

A 20-year Air Force career, a manager at a computer operations company, wife, mother, sister and volunteer, provides a rich background for Connie Cockrell’s story-telling.

She writes about whatever comes into her head so her books could be in any genre. She’s published sixteen books, has been included in five anthologies and been published on EveryDayStories.com and FrontierTales.com. Connie’s always on the lookout for a good story idea. Beware, you may be the next one.

 

Why don’t you begin by sharing a little about yourself.

I grew up in Gloversville NY and joined the Air Force at eighteen. Lots of life happened the next 20 years, marrying, having a daughter, travelling around the world with the Air Force and retiring after 20 years in the service. Then we retired back to Northville NY where I worked for a computer company then, tired of the snow, moved to Payson AZ. That’s where I started writing on a challenge from my daughter in 2011. I haven’t stopped writing yet!

Could you tell us a bit about your latest book?

My very latest book is a cozy mystery, Mystery at the Book Festival. It’s book 3 in my Jean Hays series. My last science fiction book is Troubled Streets, book 1 in my Zoe Ohale series.

Zoe Ohale has had a hard life on the streets of Baia Mare, and it’s about to get a whole lot harder.

For Zoe Ohale, life on the streets is hard. Maybe too hard. She is one of the lucky few in the gang to have a place to lay her head, but for the rest an old abandoned warehouse is the best they can hope for to keep out of the rain.

Zoe has debts to pay. On the one side, the Lees are pressuring her to be an informant; on the other, the criminal underworld threatens to swallow her whole. But Zoe would do anything for her gang of orphans, so she shuts up and straddles the line of loyalty between night and day, always teetering on the edge.

But when a new gang of credit thieves comes to Baia Mare, everything is thrown into disarray, and Zoe’s precarious balance starts to crumble. With lies, kidnapping, corruption and even worse in the mix, the city is bound for a descent into anarchy.

Will Zoe find a way to help right a few wrongs? Or will she be the one who ends up needing help?

Who is your intended readership?

Women and girls who are looking for a smart, tough, yet sensitive main character. In the first book, Zoe is 17, so it could be considered a YA story though adults have enjoyed the story, too.

When did you realize you wanted to be a writer?

I’ve always dabbled at writing. Mostly just a few chapters then I’d toss the whole thing. Then when my daughter challenged me to participate in National Novel Writing Month, she loaned me her copy of Story Engineering by Larry Brooks. He laid out everything in a way that made total sense to me. I started plotting out my story in mid-October and finished that first book by the end of Nano. I was pretty pumped and I’m still going strong.

Do you have a favorite author, or writing inspiration?

I’ll have to say the classic scifi authors like Heinlein, Asimov, Clarke and others. Female authors too, C.J. Cherryh, Elizabeth Moon, and so many more. All of my favorites tell compelling stories and with every book, take me on a vacation to far away exotic locations. What’s not to love!

What advice would you give beginning writers?

I’d say find what works for you and follow that. There’s a lot of advice out on the internet about how to be a writer. Some say you need to plot everything out, some say you should work by the seat of your pants. Other advice is to write every day, or edit as you go or don’t edit as you go. All I can say is I know authors who break one or more of all of those rules. Take classes, read craft books and figure out what works for you. You should find joy in writing. If you aren’t, perhaps you’re doing it wrong.

Do you have any amusing writing stories or anecdotes to share?

Once when my husband I were travelling west along I40 from Flagstaff, I saw a highway sign for Devil Dog Road. What a great name! I had to write a story based on that and I did. It’s in my collection of Halloween Stories, available on most book retailers

What do you like to do when you’re not writing? Any hobbies?

I like to hike. I belong to a group that goes out and about central Arizona every Tuesday. I also belong to a monthly Bunco group and I started an annual book festival here in Payson.

What’s your next project? Any upcoming book secrets you care to reveal?

I have several projects in the works. I have completed a first draft of the second Zoe Ohale story, Troubled Campus. It needs a lot of work so I probably won’t publish it until 2018. Coming out soon, though, is the 4th book in my Brown Rain series, Tested. A dystopian scifi series, the books are novelette or novella length so they’re great fast reads.

Mystery at the Fair

Welcome to Greyson, Arizona. Population: One less than yesterday.

When Jean Hays moved to Greyson, Arizona, she thought she’d found the perfect place in which to get away from her sleazy ex-husband and start over, a fresh beginning far from the big city.

But when she discovers the desiccated corpse of local quilting legend Ina Grange in a storage container on the fairgrounds where she’s volunteering, she inadvertently starts uncovering a deadly conspiracy just under the surface of the sleepy town.

Between managing the annual Greyson fair and pursuing the shadowy trail of destruction left by the murderer, Jean has her hands full dealing with drunken brawls and nasty falls, suspicious ex-wives and keen-sharp knives. And that’s not to mention the stubborn Police Chief himself.

Will Jean find the truth before the killer decides enough is enough?

Troubled Streets

Zoe Ohale has had a hard life on the streets of Baia Mare, and it’s about to get a whole lot harder.

For Zoe Ohale, life on the streets is hard. Maybe too hard. She is one of the lucky few in the gang to have a place to lay her head, but for the rest an old abandoned warehouse is the best they can hope for to keep out of the rain.

Zoe has debts to pay. On the one side, the Lees are pressuring her to be an informant; on the other, the criminal underworld threatens to swallow her whole. But Zoe would do anything for her gang of orphans, so she shuts up and straddles the line of loyalty between night and day, always teetering on the edge.

But when a new gang of credit thieves comes to Baia Mare, everything is thrown into disarray, and Zoe’s precarious balance starts to crumble. With lies, kidnapping, corruption and even worse in the mix, the city is bound for a descent into anarchy.

Will Zoe find a way to help right a few wrongs? Or will she be the one who ends up needing help?

First Encounter

Seventeen years ago, the brown rain started falling without explanation, without excuse. It killed everything it touched.

Then, after four years of death and destruction, it stopped just as inexplicably.

Now Alyssa and Kyra, two young women from a surviving community, are sent out into a desolate world to look for other survivors. Between Alyssa’s unique power and Kyra’s roguish skills, they might just succeed. But what they end up finding in the outside world, despite its veneer of civility, may be slightly less human than they had been expecting.

Book Buying Links:

Amazon, iTunes, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Smashwords

Where to find Connie Cockrell:

Website, Amazon, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Tumblr, Facebook

Author Spotlight – Andy Peloquin

Over this coming week, I’ll be introducing you to Andy Peloquin, and his works. He’s one of those authors that is very active online, especially in the writer communities. It’s my pleasure to be featuring him over the next few days, as he builds up to the release of “Thief of the Night Guild”, which you’ll be finding out more about below… And lucky you, that’s several days ahead of it’s official release date, of July 18th 2017.

So, without further delay, it’s time for you to meet the wonderful Andy Peloquin…

Introducing Andy Peloquin

I am, first and foremost, a storyteller and an artist–words are my palette. Fantasy is my genre of choice, and I love to explore the darker side of human nature through the filter of fantasy heroes, villains, and everything in between. I’m also a freelance writer, a book lover, and a guy who just loves to meet new people and spend hours talking about my fascination for the worlds I encounter in the pages of fantasy novels.

Fantasy provides us with an escape, a way to forget about our mundane problems and step into worlds where anything is possible. It transcends age, gender, religion, race, or lifestyle–it is our way of believing what cannot be, delving into the unknowable, and discovering hidden truths about ourselves and our world in a brand new way. Fiction at its very best!

Why don’t you begin by sharing a little about yourself.

I was born in Japan to French and American parents, and have lived abroad (Japan/Mexico) my entire life. I’m an odd mixture of bodybuilder/fitness nut and fantasy nerd/comic book geek.

Here are a few more things:

  1. Hot wings, ALWAYS!
  2. I never forget a face, but rarely remember a name.
  3. I’m a head taller than the average person (I’m 6′ 6″)
  4. Marvel > DC
  5. I was born in Japan, and lived there until the age of 14.
  6. Selena Gomez, Skrillex, Simon & Garfunkel, Celine Dion, and Five Finger Death Punch are all in my writing playlist.
  7. Aliens are real, but it’s self-centered of us to believe that they would come to visit Earth.
  8. Watching sports: suck. Playing sports: EPIC!
  9. I earned a purple belt in Karate/Hapkido/Taekwondo.
  10. I dislike most Christmas music, aside from Trans-Siberian Orchestra.

Could you tell us a bit about your latest book?

Thief of the Night Guild is the second book in the Queen of Thieves series. The first book (Child of the Night Guild) examined the sort of traumas, abuses, and trials that would turn an innocent child into a hardened thief and killer. This second book answers two questions:

  • How does a woman survive in a society dominated by men?
  • What is a mother willing to do to protect her child?

The story follows Ilanna, a third-story thief (cat burglar) in the Night Guild (thieves’ guild). She pulls off her world’s first bank heist by breaking into a secure vault and stealing a fortune in gold and gemstones. It has the feel of a classic heist novel, but with the dark fantasy flair that I love to add to my stories. There’s death, loss, sorrow, betrayal, murder, mayhem, mystery, thieves, assassins, and poisoners—the best of fantasy!

Who is your intended readership?

The target audience is definitely mature adults. The themes in the book are dark and grim, but presented in a fascinating story.

Both men and women will enjoy the story of Ilanna. I wrote her as a character I (a man) would want to read, yet one women of all ages would be able to identify with. She’s definitely more confident in this second book than in the first, as she’s “come into her own” as a thief.

When did you realize you wanted to be a writer?

I, like so many other authors, spent a lot of time writing during my childhood and teenaged years. However, it wasn’t until my mid-20s that I realized that it was what I wanted to do with my life. Not just to piddle around and put together a story, but actually turn it into a full-time career.

Do you have a favorite author, or writing inspiration?

I try to “model myself” after Brandon Sanderson and Scott Lynch. Scott Lynch’s characters are so rich and bold and alive, his worlds and stories so rich. There’s an excellence, professionalism, and gravitas to Brandon Sanderson’s writings that I try to infuse into my own.

What advice would you give beginning writers?

Be ready for A LOT of work. The writing process is no more than 20% of what needs to be done to publish a book. There’s the editing, drafting, formatting, cover creation, and all the rest. Then there’s the marketing, outreach, advertising, and everything else that goes into getting your book in front of the right people. Prepare for a solid 10-year investment to turn it into a full-time career. That way, if it happens more quickly, it’ll be a “win”.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing? Any hobbies?

I’m a pretty hardcore (Marvel) comic geek. I like to get my hands on the latest comics and stay abreast of the latest developments in the story lines of my favorite characters (Deadpool, Wolverine, etc.). I also hit the gym/run daily, LOVE to cook, and enjoy puzzles, watching TV, and reading.

What’s your next project? Any upcoming book secrets you care to reveal?

In addition to finishing the third book in the series (titled “Queen of the Night Guild”), I’ll be finishing the fourth novel in my The Last Bucelarii series. I’ll also be releasing a collection of short stories titled “Different, Not Damaged”—all featuring different disorders (PTSD, autism, fibromyalgia, etc.) in a fantasy context. Basically, the disorders are what make these characters special, hence the name of the book.

#1 : Child of the Night Guild (Queen of Thieves Book 1)

“They killed my parents. They took my name. They imprisoned me in darkness. I would not be broken.”

Viola, a child sold to pay her father’s debts, has lost everything: her mother, her home, and her identity. Thrown into a life among criminals, she has no time for grief as she endures the brutal training of an apprentice thief. The Night Guild molds an innocent waif into a cunning, agile outlaw skilled in the thieves’ trade. She has only one choice: steal enough to pay her debts.

The cutthroat streets of Praamis will test her mettle, and she must learn to dodge the City Guards or swing from a hangman’s rope. But a more dangerous foe lurks within the guild walls. A sadistic rival apprentice, threatened by her strength, is out for blood.

What hope does one girl have in a world of ruthless men?

Fans of Sarah J. Maas, Scott Lynch, and Brent Weeks will love Queen of Thieves…

Buy now: Ahead of the release of “Thief of the Night Guild” – Kindle

Where to find Andy Peloquin:

Website, Amazon, Twitter, YouTube, Facebook

Oh and one more thing…

Get a sneak peek of “Thief of the Night Guild”

B2BCyCon Fantasy Genre Tour: Behind The Scenes Showcase – Stop #4

 Fantasy “Behind The Scenes” Tour – Stop #4

“The Occult and Magic” by Stephen Morris

I first became interested in the occult and magic when I was very VERY young and saw The Wizard of Oz on television for the first and second times. The first time, my mom says I was terrified of the Wicked Witch’s appearance in Munchkin Land amidst smoke and flames and ran straight to bed! (I must have been 5 years old or so.) The next year I began watching the movie again and made myself stick with it past the appearance of the Witch and after that — I was hooked!

The Wicked Witch of the West became my favorite character because not only is she the most interesting but she is the only one who wields any real power in the movie. She became my idol for years and years! (When a major storm recently struck Manhattan, I made a comment on FaceBook about the wind picking up our house and depositing it atop someone wearing peppermint stripped stockings and glittering red shoes and my cousin responded: “You’ve been chasing those shoes for YEARS!” LoL!)

But the Wicked Witch of the West was my favorite not just because she was powerful. She was also struggling to achieve something, the same way Dorothy was struggling to achieve something. Dorothy wanted to get home to Kansas and the Wicked Witch wanted the shoes of her sister. Were the shoes a sentimental memento? Or were they dangerous weapons? We don’t know. We only know that the Witch wanted those shoes more than anything and was willing to go to any lengths to get them. Just as Dorothy was willing to do anything to get back to Aunt Em and Uncle Henry on the farm in Kansas. The struggles of both the Witch and Dorothy were familiar because they were the same basic struggle. Their struggle was the fundamental human struggle familiar to anyone who desperately wants something—a job, an education, artistic expression, survival or a new life—and will do anything to achieve it.

As an author of contemporary and historical fantasy, I try to introduce readers to characters that are fascinating and powerful yet familiar in basic, fundamentally human ways. No one is perfect. They struggle to achieve their goals. Their experiences with the supernatural ring true because all the magical or fantastic elements in my books are rooted in authentic folklore, legend, or medieval-Renaissance occult beliefs and practices; the experiences of my characters ring true—I hope!—because they engage with the world in the same ways that our grandparents and ancestors did as they struggled to achieve whatever goals they had.

I listen to the characters and help them to discover who they are and what journeys they are on. I share aspects of myself with each of them and they share themselves with me; if I am quiet and listen, I can share not only their joys and frustrations and despair myself but communicate their experience to my readers. My characters interact with those authentic pre-modern beliefs and practices, retelling and reshaping them for modern audiences. I introduce characters to each other that might not have met in their original settings but that have stories and experiences to share with each other. By sharing their experiences, they enrich each other and the readers who can eavesdrop on their conversations or thoughts.

In writing, I try to be my truest self and attempt to build bridges between cultures and histories, practices and experiences, characters and readers.

Find Out More

Website, Amazon

Previous Stop | Next Stop | Tour Index | Genre Index

B2BCyCon Fantasy Genre Tour: Behind The Scenes Index

Welcome to the Fantasy Behind The Scenes Showcase

(Brought to you by the Brain To Books Cyber Convention & Book Expo)

As part of the Fantasy Genre Tour, many of the authors were kind enough to give us some insights into why they love writing, and reading fantasy. Others gave us insights into what goes into putting a fantasy story together. So dive into the tour, and get a sneak peek into the minds of some great authors.

(Links coming as I get them back from the hosting bloggers)

  1. TOUR INDEX
  2. “World Building: It’s Not Just About Drawing A Map” by Stephen Pearl
  3. “Urban Fantasy, Vampires and Anti-Heroes” by Rosemary Johns
  4. “The Occult and Magic” by Stephen Morris
  5. “Fantasy: The Great Escape” by Andy Peloquin
  6. “Behind the Scenes: Lizzie Borden, Zombie Hunter” by C.A. Verstraete
  7. “Why I Love Fantasy” by Toi Thomas
  8. “Realistic Fantasy” by Suzanna Linton
  9. “Fantasy Made Real” by Alex Carey
  10. “Making Magic 101” by C.L. Schneider

B2BCyCon Fantasy Genre Tour: Showcase & Giveaways Index

Welcome to the Fantasy Showcase & Giveaways

(Brought to you by the Brain To Books Cyber Convention & Book Expo)

As part of the Fantasy Genre Tour, some of the authors asked that we feature books and anthologies that they had contributed to, so that’s what you’ll find here.

  1. Introducing the Prophecy of Hope Saga by Sarah Kennedy
  2. Hell Holes: What Lurks Beneath by Donald Firesmith
  3. Introducing the Spellbound Collection featuring Ash Krafton

B2BCyCon Fantasy Genre Tour: Book Expo – Stop #1

Introducing the Prophecy of Hope Saga by Sarah Kennedy

A deep and far-reaching Fantasy series with unraveling depths and dark story arcs
An ancient evil
A Promised King
A world besieged
The Age of the Prophecy has begun.

Do you remember that singular moment when your life began? Do you remember the first drop of blood to course in your veins? Do you remember being an active participant in the great mystery of your own conception? Few are cursed with such knowledge but I am a rarity of existence though existence and life are not equal. Time has always meant very little to me. Your frailties have always been my strength yet here, now, I fear what may be coming and I fear what has already been, because I remember my beginning—and all beginnings since! I remember when I was no more than an errant thought. I remember being the wretched stain marring the glory of the Kingdom. I remember tasting the life of a god just as I remember being cast down. I am Darkness, and in the utter abyss, which is who and all I am, I begin to feel time reaching inside me, reaching for that one drop of golden life whose taste haunts my every moment, and I remember what it is to burn…

 

Find Out More

www.sgarrwrath.com

Previous Stop | Next Stop | Tour Index | Genre Index

B2BCyCon Fantasy Genre Tour: Book Expo – Stop #2

Hell Holes: What Lurks Beneath by Donald Firesmith

It’s August in Alaska, and geology professor Jack Oswald prepares for the new school year. But when hundreds of huge holes mysteriously appear overnight in the frozen tundra north of the Arctic Circle, Jack receives an unexpected phone call. An oil company exec hires Jack to investigate, and he picks his climatologist wife and two of their graduate students as his team. Uncharacteristically, Jack also lets Aileen O’Shannon, a bewitchingly beautiful young photojournalist, talk him into coming along as their photographer. When they arrive in the remote oil town of Deadhorse, the exec and a biologist to protect them from wild animals join the team. Their task: to assess the risk of more holes opening under the Trans-Alaska Pipeline and the wells and pipelines that feed it. But they discover a far worse danger lurks below. When it emerges, it threatens to shatter Jack’s unshakable faith in science. And destroy us all…

Excerpt

Though the sun had finally dipped behind the rounded mountains of the Brooks Range, the temperature remained well above freezing, leaving the ground moist from the morning’s rains. It was quiet except for the soft sound of the breeze blowing through the short shrubs and sedges that covered the tundra of the North Slope.

An arctic fox silently patrolled his territory. He sniffed the ground, following the scent of a female that had passed by earlier that evening. She had brushed against a bearberry bush, and he stopped to breathe in her enticing smell. She was in heat, and he hoped to father her second litter of the season.

Though the fox occasionally heard the distant rumble of big rigs driving north along the Dalton, carrying supplies to Deadhorse and the oil fields around Prudhoe Bay, he paid them no mind. The humans were several miles away, and unlike wolves and wolverines, they posed no threat.

The fox abruptly stopped, turning his head to the side in puzzlement. He heard a faint hum that seemed to come from the ground below him. It was a new sound, one that he had not heard before. It rapidly increased in volume until it became a piercing, high-pitched whine, far beyond the dull hearing of the humans in their trucks. In agony, the fox rolled on the ground, desperately pawing at his ears in a vain attempt to stop the pain. He yipped and whined, adding his voice to the faraway howling of wolves.

The sound suddenly stopped, replaced by a deep rumble as the ground beneath the fox began to shake. Slowly, foot by foot, a huge circle of tundra the size of a large pond began to push itself above the surrounding tundra. Carrying the fox upward, it rose until it reached the height of a caribou’s antlers. Along its circular boundary, loose wet dirt and ragged patches of plants fell off, forming a ring-shaped pile that surrounded the rising ground.

With a sharp jerk, the massive cylindrical plug of earth underneath the fox stopped rising and began sliding downward. No longer incapacitated by pain, the terrified fox sped across the quivering ground, running for his life as it continued its unrelenting collapse. He ran toward the edge, arriving just as the ground beneath him slipped below the short ring of loose and muddy soil that marked its circumference. With a desperate leap, the fox jumped up, landing on the ring’s slippery slope as the ground continued its collapse into the rapidly deepening crater. He slipped, sliding perilously backwards before desperately pawing his way back up and over the top. Once down on the solid ground surrounding the huge hole, he ran away as if he were chased by a pack of starving wolves.

The frightened fox was several hundred yards from the hole when the rumbling stopped. Still running for his life, he did not see the brilliant blue burst of light that shot skyward out of the huge crater. But he did see dozens of similar blue beams briefly light up the northern horizon. As suddenly as they appeared, the lights winked out. The fox did not stop until he had placed several miles between himself and the pit. Silence returned to the North Slope, while the scent of sulfur and decay filled the air above the newly formed hell holes.

 

Find Out More

http://donaldfiresmith.com

Previous Stop | Next Stop | Tour Index | Genre Index