My interview with MA Ray

1. How do you dream up your characters and situations?Every character comes from a different place! For example, Dingus Xavier was my husband’s first Dungeons & Dragons character. In a way, all of the characters in Menyoral, and some of the ones in Steel for the Prince, grew up around him. I’d say to myself, “I need a character in this role,” or “I need a character who’s like this,” and I’d be off. The situations, it’s tough for me to say, other than that they seem to be “these characters, at this time.” I always save the stuff I cut/replace, but so far I haven’t been able to use a scene intended for one book in another.


2. What are your quirks, so readers can understand you as a writer more than your advertising spiel.

Well, I’m utterly obsessive—does that count? I do a lot of drafts, and I mean a lot. Usually my finals don’t resemble the first drafts, or very little. I’m always thinking about Rothganar, I’m always there, and I’m always talking about it. I have a couple of close friends who like it, though…

I guess I write like a woman in love. I’m in love with the people in my stories. I’m in love with the settings. Most of all I’m in love with words. I hope it shows.


3. How do you develop your characters?

Easy (but also the Hard Way, because reasons, okay?). I write them. They don’t breathe for me until I get them onto the page and see what my brain does with them.


4. What are you reading now?

Right now I’m reading Heresy, by S.J. Parris. I’m not very far! It’s “An Historical Thriller.” An apostate monk is looking for a very rare book. I think he wants to astrally project to prove his cosmological theory. It’s weird, but what book doesn’t sound weird? I have a real weakness for historical murder mysteries and the like. If I could find similar in a fantasy, I would read the hell out of it.


5. Why do you write and what drives you?

I write because I love words, and for the sense of personal achievement I get from it. It’s really satisfying when I can learn to do something effectively: a good character people connect with and enjoy, a certain effect with a scene, you name it. I like to be good at things, and people say I’m pretty good at this. It’s hard for me to separate the Prime Mover from the general motivation.


6. Who inspires you?

Everybody I meet or talk to. My family, which I know sounds trite, but clichés are clichés for a reason. When I write little kids I think of my own two. When I write Dingus I think of my husband: what would he do? What would he like to do?


7. What inspires you?

Reading! Every book I read. I don’t watch a lot of TV, I don’t guess, but when I do it’ll inspire me to some degree. When I read a book, though, it pushes me forward, because either “I can do better!” or “I’ll learn to do it that well.”


8. Is there a single thread/ idea/ belief which appears everything you write?

I don’t know. I’d like to think I’m asking a lot of questions. There’s this question of sex and consent that won’t let go of me, and that appears in most everything: Menyoral with Kessa, Steel with Fox, even in a couple of my short stories.


9. What book/ story/ movie do you wish you’d written?

I can’t really think of any. Maybe Uprooted, by Naomi Novik. So much beauty. I’m in awe of the skill she’s built since His Majesty’s Dragon (which I also loved), but I could never have written what she did. It’s hers.


10. How often do you think of an idea, but see it’s been done? What do you do?

Write it down for later. Maybe it’s been done, but not by me, or by you either, for that matter. Even if you wrote a book like Dingus’s books, it would never be Dingus’s books. Even if I wrote a book like Tabia’s, it would never be Tabia’s. “Originality” is a construct. Everybody’s part of the Great Conversation, responding to what’s gone before: what they’ve read, what they notice. Fantasy has its own conversation, epic/heroic fantasy another yet. It’s a matter, I think, of reading enough to respond effectively and writing enough to develop a voice of your own, of adding your ideas to the Conversation. Nobody brings the same thing to the table, not if they’re being genuine. People say “write what you know.” I say, “Write honestly.”


About me:

I live in Wisconsin, which I love, with my two kids, my husband, and a crazy little cat. As you may be able to imagine, we share space with a lot of printed matter. I like comics, power metal, and pickled Brussels sprouts. You can find me at

Night Witches first chapter

Chapter 1 
 I brushed the hair out of my face with the back of my hand and listened to the distant explosions. The acrid smell of gunpowder laced the insides of my nostrils. It was all I could smell, all I’d been able to smell for days. That and smoke pluming from burning roofs, set on fire by the German bombs. No one slept. The noise and fear kept us awake; the crying of children and screams of the wounded, the tanks rumbling closer, our own jangled nerves.

 I bent to jam the shovel into the autumn mud. My shoulders and back ached, but when I wanted to give up, I worked faster, dug deeper. I had the blood of workers in my veins, and we worked while we still had strength to stand. Men were dying. A few aches, a blister or two and bleeding skin were all nothing. Stopping even for a little while might be all the enemy needed. 

 I had only seen a tank from a distance; the solid outer shell and massive gun like a giant eye. It was a thing to be feared, a harbinger of our death. I visualised, in my mind, an enemy tank trying to roll over the ditch we were digging. Instead of moving on, it would slide inside, its treads stuck irreversibly, churning fruitlessly, until Russian soldiers came along to kill the men inside. The thought filled me with such a savage delight that I surprised myself with the viciousness of the thought. For a moment, the poor mud became the head of the enemy, yielding under my cold steel. 

 “You’re going to hurt yourself,” the woman beside me remarked, smiling at me over a shovel that looked too long and heavy for her to handle. 

 I frowned at her at first, mistrusting her motive for speaking words like that to me. I hated the thought that anyone would think me weak. But then I smiled.  

 “It’s not myself I want to hurt, ” I said. “I’d like to use this to kill a few Nazis.” I raised my shovel and wielded it like a club. “Since they won’t give us guns.”

 “What would you do with a gun?” she asked, laughing at me and my fierce stance. “Don’t you know, war isn’t women’s business.” She said the words as though she were quoting and rolled her eyes skyward. Her mouth became a smirk of derision. I knew she’d either read them or been told them, but didn’t believe them herself, any more than I did.

 “My city is my business, as it is yours,” I replied firmly. I lowered my shovel quickly and went back to digging. “Our motherland is my business.” Since childhood, I had been aware of the importance of my home, like all Russian children, but war has a way of making us see and value what we have even more. It makes us want to stand up and defend every blade of glass; every last bit of dirt; every drop of water or blood. And more, we may not have a perfect way of life, but we would defend our right to live it to the death. 

 The young woman, she wasn’t much older than I was, nodded and smiled again. “I wanted to be a sniper, but they wouldn’t take me. Maybe now they will.” She nodded in the direction of the advancing German army.

 My eyes widened. A sniper? Would she even be as tall as the rifle? 

 She took in my expression and laughed again. “What? You don’t think I can shoot? My father taught me. He was a sniper in the Civil War. And this one too, until he was killed. A plane strafed his unit.” Her expression clouded and for a moment I thought she might cry. She didn’t though; she bit her lip and drew in a loud breath, then exhaled mist into the cold afternoon.

 I nodded. There wasn’t a person amongst us who hadn’t lost people they knew or loved.

  “I had two brothers. One was killed on the first day, the day the Germans invaded. My other brother is missing. I think he might be dead too.” I felt treacherous voicing that fear out loud. Until now, I hadn’t. My mother would have scolded me for saying it. She’d have shaken her wooden spoon at me. The woman would cling to the hope he’d return home until she knew for certain that he wouldn’t. My mother’s tenacity was matched for size only by her big heart and generous hips, slimmed down now from months on increasingly meagre rations. She didn’t want to think he was dead. Neither did I. 

 “My mother is in the city,” I jerked my head back toward it. My father, I would not discuss. I still had nightmares occasionally about him being arrested and taken away. We had no word from or about him for weeks afterward, but I’ll never forget my mother’s anguished face when a government official had told her he’d been executed as an enemy of the state. That was three years ago. I loved him, but we lived with the same shame every day, even though none of us knew what he’d actually done.

 “She refuses to leave.” I muttered something about stubborn people, but I didn’t blame her. I had also refused to leave. How could I go when I could be of use? The Germans would learn; we Russians don’t give up so easily. 

 “And here we are, digging ditches when there are Nazis to be killed,” she leaned down to pick up a rock and tossed it aside. “I think, when I’m done here, I’ll go and ask again and not leave until I’m accepted.” She wiped mud from her hand onto her trousers and squinted at me. 

 “What about you?” she asked. “What would you do, if they let you?” 

 Hours and hours of digging had given me a lot of time to think about that. So much time that I’d gone over and over the question in my head, mulling the various options that made up the Soviet war machine, and coming up with a conclusion.

 “I want to fly,” I declared. I had asked when the Germans first violated us by invading our motherland. I had gone straight down to the recruitment office and I stood in line and waited. I was the only woman in the line and I waited for hours, while the line moved as slowly as a stream in winter. I hadn’t cared. I’d have waited for days, if it meant defending my homeland. 

 Eventually, it had been my turn to speak to the recruitment officers. They had looked me up and down, and one gave in to a thinly veiled attempt not to laugh. 

 “What are you doing here, little girl?” The other one asked, his brown eyes looking derisively at me. He had a cranky face, a bulbous nose, and I was not a little girl. I was twenty years old. I knew I would only get off on the wrong foot if I pointed that out to them, so I decided on politeness. 

 “I want to join the PVO or VVS.” Both were aerial defence forces and either were my first choice, but really, I’d have done anything that was asked of me, as long as I got to the front to fight. 

 The laughing man laughed even harder. I couldn’t stop myself from giving him a scowl. The fascists were not only on our doorstep but had crossed over the threshold and this man could only laugh as though I’d told some great joke.

 “Go home, we don’t need the help of girls.” The cranky-faced man glared at me, as if appalled that I dared to ask. Then he was the first to tell me those words, “War is not the business of women.” 

 “If it is not the business of people to fight for their motherland, then whose is it?” I argued, but they’d stopped listening. I’d found myself pushed aside and back out onto the street. The line was longer now, men, men and more men, and boys, all willing to die for Russia. I should have applauded them, but instead, I trudged off in humiliation. 

 That was June, now it was October and the war wasn’t going well for us. I’d left college, where I had been studying to be a teacher and waited, as everyone else had, for the victory that hadn’t come, or to help when needed. The Germans kept on winning and we kept on losing and now they were all but at our gates. 

 “I want to fly, I want to bomb the fascists and shoot down their planes before they can bomb our cities and towns.” I knew I sounded dogmatic, but I prefer to think of it as passionate. In spite of that, I half expected the woman to laugh, as the man at the recruitment centre had laughed. Instead, she nodded. 

 “Why don’t you then?” she asked, as if the answer was so obvious. She must have noticed my look of confusion, because a smile broke out on her face and I knew she was about to say something I’d like to hear. 

 “You haven’t heard? Marina Raskova herself has asked for volunteer recruits to join a women’s regiment.”

 My heart skipped a beat, maybe several. I hardly dared to breathe, in case she told me she was joking. Marina Mikhailovna Raskova was a hero of mine, of many women. She’d already been awarded a gold star, a Hero of the Soviet Union medal for her accomplishments before the war. Her flight with Ospienko and Grizodubova in the Rodina was the stuff of legends. The three aviators had set out to break a record in 1938. Their plane had crashed, but Raskova had bailed out first. She’d parachuted into a swamp and had walked for ten days, hungry, tired, with injured legs, and alone to find her plane.

 Every young woman, and many older ones, idolised her. If she were organising regiments of airwomen, then women would come. I would go; I’d apply right away.

 A distant explosion rudely reminded me of where I was and what I was supposed to be doing. The cold shovel in my hand, precious dirt under my feet. I would dig this ditch and then I’d go and sign up. I’d defend the soil beneath my feet and the people who walked upon it.

 I washed and changed into my best dress, one made of simple blue wool that fell past my knees, and my nicest leather shoes. Neither was anything grand, but I wouldn’t embarrass myself or my family. I might have wanted to fight and maybe kill, but I was still a young woman, with some small measure of vanity left. 

 I brushed my long dark hair and tied it back off my face. Glancing in the mirror I practiced my stern expression in the old, mottled glass. The man in the recruitment office had had a stern expression on his face when he’d told me ‘no’. I wanted to have one as well so they knew I wouldn’t listen to another refusal. I smiled at myself, seeing a young woman in the mirror, but one who wouldn’t be pushed aside quite so easily this time. 

 I marched out the door and onto the street. It was getting quieter in Moscow as the days went on. The feeling of fear and desperation rose with the scent of gunpowder. It was getting dark too, every night passed in blackout. We hoped to thwart enemy bombs by making fewer targets for them to see. 

 I scanned the sky, but only saw wafting smoke. Perhaps we’d be lucky tonight and they wouldn’t come. Of course, they probably would. I sighed heavily, making an old man turn and look at me as he walked by. Rather than thinking me odd, he nodded his understanding and shuffled on his way. Of course, war has a way of binding people together, giving us a single purpose, a common enemy. 

 The sky was golden and red by the time I reached the recruitment office. War was hell, but it made for pretty twilights and sunsets. I decided there must be some meaning to it, some sort of indication I’d succeed. I’m not usually superstitious, but I could use all the confidence I could get. 

 The line was much smaller now than it had been in the early days of the war. Anyone who had been allowed to fight had gone, apart from a few who had been too old or perhaps too young and hadn’t succeeded in lying about their age, and women, like me. The laughing man and Cranky-face were gone. In their place was a man with only one arm and a haunted expression in his grey-blue eyes. His face and posture spoke of a man who had been to the front, and had returned, but just barely, and who now spent his days sending others to the front in his place.

 “Good afternoon,” he greeted me with a weary tone. 

 I’d thought about what I wanted to say over and over on the walk here. How I’d be insistent and firm. But it when it came time to speak, the words I’d rehearsed just didn’t seem right. 

 “I would like to apply to join Marina Raskova’s regiment,” I replied, simple and to the point. I waited for him to laugh, but he didn’t. Instead, he grabbed a sheet of paper and slid it over the tabletop to me. His hand was scarred, the tips of two long fingers were missing. He was probably grateful he had a hand left at all, even damaged as it was. I had seen a few people return from the fighting, but not this close up. It should probably have scared me, but it made me more resolute. Why should anyone sit back and watch while the Germans were doing this to our people?

 “You’re the fifth one today,” he told me. I thought he was going to smile, but he didn’t do that either. He handed me a pen and a small bottle of ink. “Fill that out and I’ll send it off.” 

 Surprised into silence, I nodded and hurriedly wrote, dipping the nib into the ink every few seconds. My name, Nadia Valinsky; my address; my qualifications; the names of my mother and brothers (in case any were also considered enemies of the state). I picked up the sheet, held it pinched between my thumbs and forefingers and waved it to dry the ink. Even a tiny smudge might render it unreadable enough to disqualify me. 

 Satisfied, I handed the paper back to the man. He glanced at it and nodded, then placed it at the top of a neat pile and turned to the person next in line behind me. The dismissal this time was as sudden as the first, but a little more positive. It wasn’t a ‘no’ this time, just a ‘wait and see.’ 

Read more here 

My Interview with Michael Schutz

1. How do you dream up your characters and situations? 

Every once in a while, the situations come from dreams. My latest novel, EDGING, started as a dream about a bus crashing into a house. The initial spark of a character comes from a guy I see standing on the road, an old friend, quirky neighbors. I use them as springboards, take some quirk or deformity that I see as a hook, then extrapolate what I think their life might be like.


2. What are your quirks, so readers can understand you as a writer more than your advertising spiel.


First off, before I start my morning work, I need to have my writin’ juice—coffee with lots of cream, no sugar. That jumpstarts my brain. Then I need my cats around me. They storm on in and lay on my desk or my bed—my office is a corner of my bedroom! Another quirk is that I cannot listen to music while I write. So many authors talk about making playlists suitable to their work and pump those tunes to set the mood. I can’t concentrate with that going on. Although, I’m actually listen to a live performance of Led Zeppelin’s Kashmir at this very moment. I’m training myself to tolerate a soundtrack to my writing!


3. How do you develop your characters?


I’ve been a rabid fan of Stephen King since I bought The Stand at a garage sale the summer after 6th grade. I love how he gives even his ancillary characters a backstory. A life. Taking a cue from the King, I develop my characters through vignettes or anecdotes about their past, mini-stories that reveal who they are, what motivates them.



4. What are you reading now?

I just started Ramsey Campbell’s short story collection, Waking Nightmares. I love Campbell’s work. Jason White and I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing him for our podcast, Darkness Dwells.



5. Why do you write and what drives you?


Recently I suffered a bout of insomnia and stared up at the ceiling, asking this very question about myself. God knows my life would be so much easier if I didn’t put myself through the stress and turmoil of self-imposed schedules, submissions, reading rejections, and endless promotion. But if I didn’t write, I’d be miserable. When I go for a day or two—or a couple weeks if I’m in a bad place—my mental state collapses. As for the driving force, I crave that feeling of finishing a story—novel, novella, short story, no matter—and knowing that every aspect clicked. It’s that rush of hitting a fastball just right and knowing it’s a homerun as it comes off the bat, or feeling that strike as soon as the bowling bowl leaves your fingers.



6. Who inspires you?


In life, my mom and dad. I dedicated my new novel EDGING to them. As I write there, they gave me my first typewriter; basically a fully functioning toy. I pounded out so many stories on it, that it wore out. Next Christmas, they gave me a top-of-the-line electric typewriter. I’m dating myself with that story, huh? They guided me in many ways—my mom turned me onto The Twilight Zone and Tales from the Darkside. From my dad I discovered a passion for books—he introduced me to the local used book store, and I never turned back!


In my writing, the first novel I read, Walter Farley’s The Black Stallion lit the spark to write. I read my first Ray Bradbury in 5th or 6th grade—buying The October Country from that used book store. Shortly thereafter, I found that beat-up copy of The Stand. I devoured everything King wrote over three or four years. Those are my biggest influences to this day.



7. What inspires you?


Everything that scares me. Everything that worries me. Every incident that broke my heart or spun me into a rage.



8. Is there a single thread/ idea/ belief which appears everything you write?


I’m from Wisconsin, as is Peter Straub. I’m a huge Straub fan. If You Could See Me Now and Julia changed me forever. One of his recurring themes—expressed brilliantly in the former novel—is that reality is like a piece of fabric, and over the Midwest that cloth is stretched to the point of thinning, coming apart. That the Midwest is the closest gate to the horrors and dread behind what we think of as everyday life. I love that. I agree with that and have adopted that theme in my own work. Just think about it, the Midwest bred some of the most infamous serial killers: Ed Gein, Dahmer, John Wayne Gacy. Do you think that’s a coincidence? I don’t.



9. What book/ story/ movie do you wish you’d written?


Short answer: Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House. Long answer: Stephen King stole my ideas! I had a Carrie-ish girl in my high school, weird mother, outcast but really smart and sweet, but when I looked into her eyes I saw a darkness smoldering.Most high schools have one or two of those, though. But my dad’s favorite mechanic just outside of town had this huge dog—a German Shepherd. So there’s Cujo right there. That damn Stephen King!



10. How often do you think of an idea, but see it’s been done? What do you do?


Three or four years ago, a thunderbolt idea struck me. A million-dollar idea: a series of bestsellers that would turn into a successful movie franchise. My own vampire chronicles! I thought about how the Twilight Saga has a decent gay following. What if I made my own version explicitly for gay readers? A main character, a young gay man who joins a vampire academy. His loves, his losses, his journey into the unlife of the undead. I wrote the first novel and outlined the next two. Then my husband said, “Hey, come look at this.” Author Michael Griffo wrote the Archangel Trilogy, about gay vampires at an academy. I read it, and one would think I’d read it before and rewrote it for my own purposes. So many similarities, including the use of A Separate Peace as a metaphor. No more million-dollar idea. But I am working on something big right now…




Author Bio:
Michael Schutz was born and raised in the frozen tundra of Wisconsin, where the macabre tales of Ray Bradbury and Stephen King kept him warm at night. He’s seen way too many horror movies to be healthy and blogs and podcasts about them on Darkness Dwells. He is the author of the novels Edging and Blood Vengeance and the novella Uninoch. His short fiction has been featured most recently in Crossroads in the Dark II: Urban Legends, Dark Moon Digest, Sanitarium, and the anthologies Beasts: Revelations, Beyond the Nightlight, and Cranial Leakage: Tales from the Grinning Skull. He lives with his three naughty cat-children in northern California. You can keep tabs on him at:


My interview with Jesse Frankel

1. How do you dream up your characters and situations?—I always begin with the “What if” premise. That is to say, if situation A happens, what’s going to happen to the main character(s) and what will they do in response? Everything that results in every chapter of every book I write is a what-if scenario. 

     I like to take the average person who’s living a mundane kind of existence and drop them in at

at the deep end. They have to adapt, have to sink or swim, and I take them on a journey to discover that they can, indeed, survive and thrive.


2. What are your quirks, so readers can understand you as a writer more than your advertising spiel.—I’m pretty quirkless. That’s a word—is that a word?—I put in one of my novels, and it sort of describes me best. I don’t chug coffee by the gallon, don’t nibble on chocolate. I do confess to running downstairs in between writing jags and sneaking a cigarette or three. That’s really my only vice, as I don’t drink.


I do, however, watch a lot of YouTube music vids to get myself in a positive frame of mind. Various groups and singers do it for me, so I get my vid-fix on, and then get to writing. I sit my butt down, type away, take breaks for Facebook and other social sites every now and then, but I have to get my ‘X’ number of words in.


3. How do you develop your characters?—I write YA Fantasy for the most part, so my characters are your average teens who have their own problems. The one thing that drives them—and I’ll touch on this in point #8 at bit more—is that they’ve all suffered loss of a family member or members.


I give my characters tics, quirks, and habits, either hobbies that they do solo, such as stargazing or fixating on television shows or what have you, and take it from there. I don’t make them neurotic, just people who tend to go solo in life as opposed to being in a group.


I also try to imagine myself in their situations. A lot of writing coaches say not to put yourself in their shoes, but I know of no better way to do it. I do what works, and this works. For me, the most important thing is that my characters grow during the course of the novel. If they adapt and change for the better and continue to adapt, then that, to me, is a most positive thing.



4. What are you reading now?—I’m doing the final edits of The Titans of Ardana 3: Interstellar, my final novel in the Titans trilogy. I want to get it done. Before that, I did read Crimson Fire, a very solid novel.


5. Why do you write and what drives you?—Writing allows me to explore the mysteries of the universe, the human mind and the human heart. I can, to borrow a line from Star Trek, boldly go where no writer has gone before. I can write what I like, take my readers on an adventure, and hopefully leave them on that world I create.


What drives me? I want to write a good story—period. I don’t do message pieces. Writing polemics is a sure way to drive anyone off, so I never preach this or that. Instead, I attempt to show the whys and the hows instead of telling people this or that is wrong. I can only hope I do a good job.



6. Who inspires you?—No one, really, save me. I know that sounds arrogant, but it’s true. I admire certain writers—N.K. Jemisin, Neil Gaiman, and Robert McCammon—but I wouldn’t say they have inspired me, except to try and be as good as they are. Maybe one day I will be.


7. What inspires you?—Life in general, everything that I see. Music I listen to. People around me. Videos, news, a word or phrase I read or hear. All of those things make me think of an alternate reality, one that I shape, me, and me alone.  



8. Is there a single thread/ idea/ belief which appears everything you write?—As previously mentioned, in pretty much every novel I’ve written, the main characters experience loss of a family member or members. It gives the MC a burden to work under, but it also forces them to push themselves to achieve.


Of course I throw in fantastic elements, such as transgenics or aliens or monsters. They’re pretty much de rigeur these days. But the main element, that of growth, is always present. My characters have to adapt to their new surroundings, whatever they may be or wherever they are. Life is really all about adaption, anyway. That’s how we’ve survived for so long.



9. What book/ story/ movie do you wish you’d written?—Hmm, good question. I really can’t say right now. I’ll have to get back to you on that.


10. How often do you think of an idea, but see it’s been done? What do you do?—There are no new ideas under the sun. I’d like to say there are, but there aren’t. And if you look at my novels, you’ll see there is nothing new idea-wise. It’s what you do with the idea that counts.


As examples:



Catnip—deals with transgenics (or chimeras, if you prefer).

The Nightmare Crew trilogy—teen falls in with a group of lab-created monsters, ends up being a hybrid himself.

Picture (Im)perfect—boy meets girl, boy falls in love with girl, loses girl, gets girl back. The only difference is, she wasn’t born a girl.

Star Maps—boy meets new girl in class, finds out she’s not from around here…or this world…

The Titans of Ardana trilogy—Aliens, there be aliens! Of course there are…


Not one of these has a new idea. It’s how you, as the writer, shape it to your own view of what reality is, or should be. It’s a singular vision. That’s what I hold onto and try to develop in everything I write. I can only hope I do a good job.
Amazon page:



Night Witches release!

I am celebrating the release of my historical fiction novel Night Witches. Here is some background into these incredible women and their story. 

Nadia Valinsky is a young female pilot and university education student from Moscow. When the Germans invade the Soviet Union in 1941, she wants to fight to defend her country. In October of 1941 Marina Raskova, a famous female aviator, asks for volunteers, Nadia signs up. She is accepted for an interview and offered a place in the training regiment as a navigator.
Following rigorous training at Engles Air Force base, Nadia is assigned to the Night Bomber regiment. She and her crew fly multiple missions on the front lines and are regularly under fire from anti-aircraft guns. The Germans give them the nickname Night Witches, because of the sound their aircraft make as they sweep overhead. 
The Night Witches flew in planes made from canvas and balsawood. For the majority of the war, they had no radios, or parachutes. The latter was considered to take up too much space needed to carry bombs. Of three women’s regiments, theirs was the only one who consisted entirely of women through the duration of the war. 
They lived together, fought together and died together. 
Buy Night Witches at:
Barnes and Noble-

Author bio
Mirren Hogan lives in NSW Australia with her husband, two daughters, dog, cat, rabbits and countless birds. She has a Bachelor of Arts (English/ history), a Graduate Diploma of Arts (writing) and a couple of degrees in education. She writes fantasy, urban fantasy and science fiction, as well as historical fiction.
Her debut novel —Crimson Fire— was released in October 2016.
Burning Willow Press will be releasing Nightmares Rise – co-authored by Erin Yoshikawa – on April 8.
Sands Press released historical fiction titled Night Witches On March 15.
Mirren also had several short stories published and has co-edited two charity anthologies; for breast cancer research and Plan Australia.

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Follow on Twitter: @MirrenHogan

Official website:

My interview with Veronica Smith

1. How do you dream up your characters and situations? 

My ideas come up at the strangest times. Sometimes when I’m driving home from work (it’s an hour commute each way) I’ll think of something. It happens so often I bought a little audio recorder in my purse. When something hits me I pull it out and dictate my info. Then as soon as I get home I put it to Word as a summary. Sometimes I just start the story right then and there, other times I let it stew.


2. What are your quirks, so readers can understand you as a writer more than your advertising spiel.


I’m serious OCD when it comes to lists. I use OneNote to work on my books. It uses tabs and I can keep track of character info, dates, anything I want. I can even drop pictures and spreadsheets in it. I’ve got to have timelines laid out or I’ll have consistency issues. I even made a spreadsheet with columns set up like my grocery story. Now that’s pretty weird. I’ve never heard of anyone else doing that.


3. How do you develop your characters?


I’m working to better myself in my character development. I tend to leave it vague because I find myself and some other imagine a character in their head their own way. But that backfires and one critic really hated it so I’m trying to improve. I want to description them without putting too much boring descriptions. That’s a fine line.


4. What are you reading now?


A book called Sick to Death by Greg Levin, an author I’ve never heard of, but was recommended just last weekend. I am completely hooked on it. If you follow my author page, I’m sure you’ll hear about it as soon as I am finished with it.


5. Why do you write and what drives you?


Horror of all kinds. Some of mine have monsters in them and others are horrific as in real life. One story is about a woman who is carjacked and what she has to go through to survive. I love to write any kind of horror.


6. Who inspires you?

I don’t know that any one person inspires me. I’m not doing it for the money (it’d be nice but I still have a day job), I just love to write. If no one likes my book or story then I’m okay with that. You just have to get it out of your head.


7. What inspires you?


Being able to write whatever I want. Just because something can’t happen for real doesn’t mean I can’t write about it and won’t make a good story.


8. Is there a single thread/ idea/ belief which appears everything you write?


Survival. Whether it’s surviving a car jacking or a zombie attack. Ever since reading Island of the Blue Dolphin as a child, I’ve been hooked on any kind of survival.


9. What book/ story/ movie do you wish you’d written?


Event Horizon. Horror and Scifi mixed. What a great combination and one of my favorite movies.

10. How often do you think of an idea, but see it’s been done? What do you do?

Once in a while I do see that. If it’s been overdone then I’m not going to write about it. If it’s a vague idea that can be turned into my own direction, then I’m going for it. I have the start of a zombie book (about 10K words in) that I haven’t finished. My idea of how the zombie infection starts is completely original and I’ve never found anything close to it. But after that, it’s survival and bad humans and zombies. There are so many zombie books out there already, I’m not sure if I’ll ever finish that one.



Umbrae release!

Vienna, October 20, 1941
Today was Celia’s tenth birthday. This was not how she’d expected to celebrate it. She felt the silver chain around her neck, the cat charm just above her heart. Mama had given her the charm, and now it was getting warmer and the cat’s eyes were glowing green. 

“I love you Mama…”

Max scrambled out of her arms and gazed up at her, his yellow eyes burning with understanding. Celia didn’t understand. What was happening? Where were they taking her family? Little Sara was crying. Her mama clutched her to her breast as they followed the Gestapo soldiers out of their home on Grosse Spielgasse.

Still, Celia didn’t understand. She tried to follow them. No, Max put a paw on hers. His brown tabby fur felt warm and urgent on her silver grey paw. How? How had she changed so fast? She remembered the sensation, her body contracting, as if she was shrinking away, becoming invisible to the Nazi soldiers. The silver cat charm had glowed. Its eyes had shone green like emeralds and the warmth of the charm had permeated her body. She looked at Max. He was a brown tabby with amber eyes, and she was a small silky grey cat. No, not grey, silver, her coat was the color of argentum.

“We have to go,” said Max, after the soldiers and Jews had left on the truck. How could she hear his voice? How could she communicate with a cat? “Quickly Celia, there’s no time to waste.”

He pushed her out of the house and into the cobble streets. The sun was setting, a warm red glow. The streets were almost peaceful. These buildings that just hours before had housed the last few Jews of Vienna now lay empty. Celia felt tears form in her eyes. Mama, would she ever see her mama again?

Around her neck hung the silver chain. The cat charm comforted her. Max beckoned her forward, and she followed him through the twisted streets of the neighborhood. He seemed to understand where they needed to go. And then without warning, he ran and she struggled to keep up with him. Out of the corner of her eye she saw them, two young soldiers standing on the corner of the street, guns in their hands. One young man laughed to his friend as the cats ran past. He raised his rifle, aimed, and fired. Celia cringed as a yowl rang out through the air. 

“Max, oh Max!” She rushed to his side. There was blood oozing out of a bullet hole in his hind leg, and his breathing was labored. 

“Go on Celia. Go to the warehouse, they’ll help you,” he said.

“No,” she replied. “I’m not going to leave you.

Buy your copy from AMAZON

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Like a Woman anthology

Like a Woman: An anthology of speculative fiction inspired by women, would like to invite authors to submit stories for publication.

All submissions need to be in the speculative fiction genre and reflect the theme- like a woman. This includes fantasy, science fiction, paranormal, horror, steampunk, dystopian, etc. If you’re unsure, please feel free to ask.

Submissions need to be between 3,000 and 7,000 words in length, but we will consider stories which are a little shorter or longer. We prefer good stories over precise word counts!

We would love submissions to be aimed at a largely adult audience, but if your story has broad appeal, that’s great too.

We’re not looking for stories with erotica, but mild sex scenes are fine. We would also prefer stories not be overly gorey.

We’re open to submissions from both women and men, as long as they’re well-written.

We will not accept stories featuring incest, child porn, beasiality, etc.

The anthology editors, proofreaders, cover artists, etc, are volunteers. All stories included in the anthology will also be donations, and thus authors will not be paid. Proceeds will go to a charity which supports women who are survivors of domestic violence.

Like a Woman anthology will be published by Burning Willow Press, and requests the rights for all stories for 12 months from the date of publication.

Please submit in .docx form, as an attachment, not in the body of the email, and include a short bio with your submission.
Submissions can be sent to –

Submissions close August 6, 2017.

The Monster that Lives Under Your Bed

From Lara Hogan, age 14
The Monster that Lives Under Your Bed

By Lara Hogan


Do you know what hides under your bed at night, or what lurks around when you stumble through the dark? Do you know what waits for you to step on to the ground to take you away? 

No, you don’t know what lives in the darkness.

“They live under your bed at night and wait for you to fall asleep. Then they make their move. If you scream they get more powerful and if you don’t and just cry or be brave they take you too. And you never know they’re coming,” Dad tells me as I hide under my bedcover, now afraid of the night. 

I only peer my head out to look at a picture next to my bed of my little brother Sam who went missing a couple of years ago ‘I miss you so much Sam please come back’ I think to myself. 

Dad gets up and turns out the light. “Good night monkey,” he says as he turns and walks away. 

I try my hardest to fall asleep, but I can’t stop thinking about the monsters.

Finally, I do get to sleep, but I’m woken suddenly when I hear the noise of my door creaking shut. 

I peer into the darkness and see a black figure that stands tall in the ray of moon light coming through my curtain. It lurks around my room. 

I tremble.

“Hello Mr Monster. Please don’t hurt me,” I say in fear.

The figure turns and looks at me with big glowing red blood-shot eyes. It creeps up to me. I open my mouth but I don’t scream.

“Dad help me it’s here with me in my room! One of the monsters that lives in the dark!”

The monster glares at me then sinks under my bed. 

My Dad runs in. “Hey what’s all the yelling for?” he says frantically as he turns the light on. 

“The monster that lives in the dark, it was here! It wants to take me. Daddy please don’t let it take me away! Daddy please help me I don’t want to go!” I plead as the tears of fear roll down my cheeks 

“Hey it’s okay. You can come sleep with me and Mum,” he says protecting me with his hugs. 

I go into their room and straight under the covers. 

Mum comes out of the bathroom “Hey my little darling, what’s going on?” she asks.

“She saw the monster that lives in the dark,” Dad says as he climbs into bed.

 “You told her that story why?” Mum asks as she pulls back the covers. She sounds cranky at him. 

He doesn’t answer.

We cuddle up together and fall asleep.

I awaken to the first peeking rays of sunlight on my face. I sit up and look around to find my parent are gone. But how, they were there all night. Weren’t they?

“Mum, Dad where are you? Please don’t hide, it’s not funny.” I gasp as I struggle to say anything at all. 

I hear footsteps and my heart races before my babysitter comes into the room, followed a moment later by my dog Bear. “Hey Lila are you okay?” Mandy asks as she sits on the end of the bed. I tell Mandy everything that happened the night before.

 “Your Mum and Dad got an emergency work call and had to leave straightaway but they’ll be at home when you get back from school. Okay?” She hugs me, but I still feel uneasy. I hadn’t even heard them leave.


 I go and get ready for school, then walk to the bus stop and hop on the bus. 

When I get to school my friends notice something is off about me.

“What’s wrong?” they ask, but for some strange reason I can’t talk. I try, but nothing comes out. My lips won’t even open.

 They give me a snotty look and walk away.

 “Wait” I can finally speak but it’s too late, they are all angry with me. I run after them. I try to yell but it feels like my mouth is sewn shut. I get out my mirror and stare at the stitches binding my lips. Before I can even blink they disappear. 

I start to think to myself, ‘So I try to talk about what happened last night, and I can’t. But why?’

I spend the rest of the day being shunned by my best friends. 

On the bus ride home it was like no one even knew I was there. Tired, I walk home from the bus stop. 

I am relieved to see that Mum and Dad are there but they did not say a word to me, or even turn to look at me.

 “Hey Mum, Dad are you okay? Have I done anything wrong? Please talk to me,” I say trying so hard to get their attention.

They turn around slowly and their faces are blank. Their eyes are black — all black and they hiss at me. 

I recoil. 

Then they start to speak, “You will surrender to the monster that lives in the dark. You will be taken. You will.” They speak in unison, while at the same time walking toward me. 

What has happened to my parents? I stagger back and shrink away.

Before I can take another breath, their eyes go back to normal and they look at me curled up in the corner crying. 

“Hey monkey what’s wrong?” Dad says as he kneels down next me.

“You. You’re what happened,” I say as I back deeper into the corner. “Ever since you told me about what lives in the darkness it’s been following me around all day. I keep hearing voices telling me to surrender.”

I sob as I stand on wobbly legs 

“You should get some rest monkey,” my parents tell me. 


I walk up to my room and lie down. Then I hear it 

“Lila you will find out what lives in the darkness. You will become the darkness itself,” the voice says. I look around to find were the sound is coming from.

I look out the window and there is the shadow from last night 

“You!” I yell, “what do you want from me? What is it about me that you want?”

“Your power. You have all the power. The darkness wants your power. You have more power than anyone can posess and we need it,” the shadow says. Then it walks away into the night. 

Before I could stop to think, I climb out the window and run after the monster. “What do you mean?” I shout.

 The monster turns and walks through a wall and out the other side. The darkness starts to run.  

Then I hear it. 

Wait what is that?

It’s the sound of millions of giant footsteps.

I look around to see millions of monsters coming from every house, running at the darkness that I have been following. The sounds of terrified children echo through the air.

I remember something. The more the kids scream, the more powerful the darkness gets. That’s why they want me; I never scream in the face of fear.

I follow the shadows as they run to a giant graveyard. They all suddenly stop. 

As I step closer they all turn to bow to me. 

I climb on top of the largest tombstone I can find; one that looked hundreds of years old, but strong enough to hold me.

 “Hey listen here monsters,” I call out, feeling strangely calm. “You may lurk in the darkness and you may hide under the beds of children waiting to snatch them, but you don’t scare me!” I yell at the top of my lungs 

“You see my master we don’t want to hurt you, you know what great power you have and what you can do with your power,” says the monster that lives under my bed.


 I grin. “Sit,” I yell. 

All the monsters sit. 

“Well this will be fun,” I chuckle.

I think to myself what can I do with all this power?

I know.

“Listen here monsters. I want to become the darkness. I want it all: the power, the joy of the sound of the terrified screams of kids. I want it. Give it to me now!”

The darkness disappears only to return with a staff as tall as me. “You are now the darkness. You are the queen of the dark.

“Well what are you waiting for? Go scare the kids. Oh, and go get me the most terrified kid you can find,” I demand. I am finally powerful and have control over something. I can do anything I want. I can hurt anyone I want. I am what every kid fears. I am what lives under your bed ready to make my move. I am what lurks in the darkness.

I am the darkness.


I return to my house and find my parent lying on the floor screaming. Standing over them is the monster that scared me.

 “Please monkey, help us. Save us from this thing,” my parents plead. 

“It’s not him you have to worry about,” I said coldly, “it’s me. I am the darkness. The more scared you get, the more power I have, so go for it, scream but just remember no one can hear you over their own fear.” 

I go outside and climb on to the roof and look over out at the city. “Isn’t that sound beautiful? You know, the sound of scared children” I say to darkness that is sitting next to me.

“Not to be mean — your greatness — but don’t you think you are taking this too far,” he says tentatively. 

“No I am not,” I say. “But you know what would be fun? Catching those who have ever been mean to me, and giving them a taste of my power. 

“I say yes, but only because I am afraid of what you will do to me if I say no,” the darkness replies. 


We go door to door taking all those kids who were ever mean to me, and those who dared doubt I could do great things. We take them to my favourite spot — the cave off the beach. We hang them by chains to the ceiling.

“Hey who has power now” I laugh as I poke them with my staff. 

“Why are you doing this Lila, what did we ever you do to you?” one of the girls cries. 

“Lila I know you’re still in there. This is not the real you. The darkness is just using you for your power. Please Lila come back to me. I am sorry I walked away from you!” My best friend Taya explains. 

A piece of me knows I have to fight the darkness. I have to fight the greed for this power. I have to beat it, but I love the power.

“Never,” I say coldly. My voice doesn’t sound like mine. “Your friend is not here anymore it is only me, the black shadow now. There is nothing you can say to make her come back. She is lost somewhere in the dark.

The feeling of the power is great I have to hide from nothing now. I can take over the world and put it into eternal darkness. Then no one will know what really lurks in to the dark. They will never know. 

Slowly but surely I will start to take over towns, cities, countries. 

But a small part of me knows this is not who I am. It knows who I really should be. I try to ignore it, but the feeling grows bigger inside me.

“I should not be here. This is not me. I don’t need all of this power. I should be at home with my Mum and Dad. 

I force myself to drop the staff and run as fast as I can until I get home. When I get there I see it is too late. My parents have become part of the darkness. Their faces and bodies are completely black and their eyes are glowing red. The darkness must have come. They must not have screamed in fear. 

The darkness took them too.    

“No, what have I done! I never wanted this to happen! All I wanted was to not be scared anymore. I just don’t want to cry, I want to be happy”. Then I cry.

“There is a way to change this you know,” a voice says. 

I turn around and there — hiding in the dark — is the biggest monster of them all. “You fight me and win, and everything will go back to normal and if you lose it will stay the same forever,” the dark says. It walks around me, brushing my hair in its long ghostly fingers. 

I shiver.

“So what will you do? You know you’re happy like this, “the darkness whispers in my ear.

“I want it to go away. You have to let everyone I captured go right now,” I say. Regret fills me up inside. 

We walk to the graveyard again and he says, “Do you have any questions before we begin” 

“Yeah I have one question. Why does everyone have their own darkness? And why does it follow them everywhere?” I ask trying not to sound too curious.

“Well when a child is taken by a monster that lives under their bed, they then become a monster and get given a child to scare. They follow them around so that if the kid goes into the dark the monster strikes,” it says as it walks around the graves rubbing its fingers over the stones.  

We look into each other’s eyes. I see something past the glowing redness, something strange; the face of the darkness look like someone I know. Someone I love. I take a step closer.

 “Sam is it you? Are you the darkness too?” I say as the tears roll down my face again. It’s my little brother who disappeared so long ago.

“Lila help me please,” he says, imploringly, “I don’t want to be in the dark anymore, please get me out” He cries, and the more he cries, the smaller the monster gets. Soon, his small, weak, defenceless body lies on the ground and shivers.

“Sam, Sam! Are you okay? Hey, can you hear me?” I say whispering into his ear.

He looks up at me, blinks slowly then he jumps up and attacks me. “I will never leave the darkness” he roars, “I have power here.”

I try to push him off of me, but he is determined to make me lose so that the world would stay in eternal darkness. 

We fight for what feels like hours on end, but was probably no more than several exhausting minutes. I manage to push him until he falls and hits his head on a gravestone. His cold half-lifeless body lies on the ground. He lies they still and silent. The darkness in him is gone. For now at least.

I scoop him up in my arms and carry him off to the hospital.

 I look around to see I am being followed by the darkness. They are all walking around me, their long, giant, black ghostly legs and bodies walking into buildings and coming out the other side. 

We get to the hospital and I lie there next to him as he is barely alive. I hear a hiss and under the bed is yet another monster. It crawls out from under the bed and stares at me, turning its head to the side. It walks around the room, not breaking eye contact as it comes closer to me 

I scream in fear, hold my brother and cry, “What do you want from me? I have given up on being brave. I have given up. Please just leave me alone!”  

As I cry, the monster turns its head to me and a sorry look crosses its face. It roars at me, before disappearing into the cold dark rainy night filled with others that lurk around every corner of every street. 


I get home to find my Mum and Dad lying on the floor. They’re back to normal.

“Mummy, Daddy.” I cry as I hold them close. I can fell they their soft warm breath against my face as I hug them tight.

“Hey monkey,” Dad whispers. Sometimes I wonder if he even knows my name or if he only knows me as monkey. 

I should tell them about Sam. Instead I fall I sleep.


I wake and realize I am still on the floor curled up to my Mum and Dad and my dog Bear, who was licking my cheek.

“Hey sweetie are you okay?” Mum says softly.

 I roll over to face her. “Yeah I’m okay, how are you felling?” I ask hoping for a good response 

“I am fine dear,” she says as she kisses my forehead. She tells me the news I already know and we cry. Happy tears this time. 

“I love you guys,” I say as I get up off the floor. I want to tell them about Sam but the words don’t come. How do I explain it anyway? Their son was some kind of evil demon all this time? 

 I go and have a shower and as the steam from the hot water fogs up the glass, I see the words ‘I am sorry’ appear.

“Hello, is someone here” I ask.

 ‘Yes it’s me’ is written in the glass 

“What do you want?” I ask.

 ‘Everything that has happened is my fault’ appears in the steam. 

“That’s nice but can you get out, I have no clothes on,” I say.

They write ‘sorry’ again and I hear footsteps, then the door open and closes. I start to wonder if that was the leader — the one in charge of the darkness — that I talked to while I was in the shower. 



When I get to school my best friends approached me and they all started to hug me 

“We are so sorry about yesterday, please forgive us,” they all say at the exact same time.

“Did you guys rehearse that?” I ask. 

They all nod and we giggle, then I tell them everything that had happened — without my lips being sewn shut. Then we all walk to class. 

Half-way through the day, I am pulled out of school by my parents who take me to the hospital to see my brother. The hospital told them he’d turned up, but no one could tell them how or why. Maybe that’s for the best. 

On the way there, they tell me of how they thought he was dead. Then they tell me stories about us playing together when we were younger. 

We got there and we laughed and talked for hours. My parents left the room for a few minutes. Sam turned to me and said, “The darkness will one day return and take over the world and put it into eternal dark forever so that the monsters can roam free, scaring who ever walks past without being burned by the light.” 

As soon as my parent step back into the room, he’s back to his old, sweet self. 

I feel bad, but I wonder if the world would be safer if he hadn’t survived.


Back at home that evening I manage to fall into an exhausted sleep. It lasts for about three hours, until I hear my door creek. 

I awake in fear

“What do you want now,” I say, as I squint into the darkness.

I see glowing eyes and the shape of a familiar face.

 “You will become the darkness and that is your fate,” he keeps saying over and over and over again. He walks closer to me, grabs me up out of my bed and carries me far into the night as I scream, “Let me go, let me go, please, please just let me go!” 

I look down at the house to see all the lights turn on and people start to look out of their windows screaming. 

That was the last of me anyone ever saw.

Well now you now know. 

I lurk in the dark, I hide under your bed at night, I wait for you step on the ground to take you away, 

I hide in the darkness and strike when no one even sees me coming. 

The Rise of Umbra – review

Wow, what a fast-paced ride. This book grabs you by the (eye)balls and drags you kicking and screaming right to the end. You’ll scream at the end because it’s finished and you’ll want to read more.

The Rise of Umbra is about a group,of criminals sent to Mars on a suicide mission. What could go wrong? Pretty much everything!

If you love Killjoys, Dark Matter and Firefly, you’ll love this. It reads like an episode of any of these shows. Wright is an author to watch.
Buy Here