Saturday, August 30, 2014

#Book Spotlight: Traveling Left of Center @NChristie_OH

The Book
There are some people who, whether by accident or design, find themselves traveling left of center. Unable or unwilling to seize control over their lives, they allow fate to dictate the path they take—often with disastrous results.

TRAVELING LEFT OF CENTER details characters in life situations for which they are emotionally or mentally unprepared. Their methods of coping range from the passive (“The Healer”) and the aggressive (“The Clock”) to the humorous (“Traveling Left of Center”) and hopeful (“Skating on Thin Ice”).

The eighteen stories in TRAVELING LEFT OF CENTER depict those types of situations, from the close calls to the disastrous. Not all the stories have happy endings—like life, sometimes things work out and sometimes they don’t.

In these stories, the characters’ choices—or non-choices—are their own. But the outcomes may not be what they anticipated or desired. Will they have time to correct their course or will they crash?

The Stories
ALICE IN WONDERLAND—Alice is constrained by circumstances and unwanted obligations to live an unfulfilling life. Books are her only way to escape, serving as sustenance to feed her starving soul. But what will she do when there are no more pages left to devour?

ANNABELLE—A lonely young woman, all Annabelle wants is to love and be loved. But she’s fighting by the twin emotions of fear and guilt, unable to let go of the past and embrace the possibilities of a future.

ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN—Sometimes, what one fears most comes to pass because of those fears. If Charlotte hadn’t been so afraid, would the outcome have been the same?

BEAUTIFUL DREAMER—For Eleanor, it was becoming increasingly more difficult to tell the difference between being awake and dreaming, reality and fantasy. The boundaries were blurring. Would she be able to see clearly again?

EXIT ROW—He wanted an escape. After all these years, he was ready to go. But could he get away before it was too late?

MISCONNECTIONS—Anna’s recurrent dreams echo through her day, as she attempts to reconcile her inexplicable feelings of loss with what would appear to be a “perfect life.”

OUT OF SIGHT, OUT OF MIND—Despite being more than three steps over the mental health line, he’s holding fast to his belief in his own sanity. Or is the rest of the world crazy?

SKATING ON THIN ICE—Is it possible to overcome childhood trauma? And, even if you do, are you ever really “cured” or simply skating on thin ice, waiting for it to crack? Sarah is trying to skate across the thin ice. Every day, she makes a new path on the surface of her life. So far, the ice has held.

STILL LIFE—Mirror images of her life: how she wants it to be and how it is. Which one would be her true reality—and does she even have a choice?

THE CLOCK—Everyone has a breaking point. For Harold, it came one fateful evening when the clock once again stopped ticking.

THE HEALER—Cassie didn’t ask for the gift. She didn’t want the gift. For all the good it had done other people, it was killing her. All she wanted was her own healing.

THE KINDNESS OF STRANGERS—Mona was relying on the kindness of strangers to rescue her. One stranger, in particular. However, thanks to the interference of others, her plans keep going awry. But she’s not giving up yet.

THE SHOP ON THE SQUARE—His attitude of superiority had gotten him quite far in life. Until a chance stop at a small Mexican town illustrated that he had much to learn.

THE STORYTELLER—Connie makes up her stories as much for the children’s sake as her own. But even her stories can’t stop the pain of reality from hurting her listeners—or herself.

THE SUGAR BOWL—Although Chloe’s life story changes with every listener, each time her tale has achieved its intended purpose. Until she chooses the wrong person to tell it to.

TRAVELING LEFT OF CENTER—Her mama was forever telling her that, on the highway of life, she was always traveling left of center. She wasn’t a bad girl, mind you—just incapable of looking down the road and seeing where her actions are taking her.

WAITING FOR SARA—Her daughter Sara is gone, and while it was by her own choice, it was a decision ill-conceived and poorly executed. And so Sara’s mother waits, alone and fearful, hoping against hope that someday her daughter will return, safe and unharmed.

WATCHING FOR BILLY—Agnes was all alone until Billy came to stay. Would he bring new purpose to her life? Or take what little hope she had for companionship?

Nancy Christie is a professional writer, whose credits include both fiction and non-fiction. In addition to her fiction collection, TRAVELING LEFT OF CENTER, and two short story e-books, ANNABELLE and ALICE IN WONDERLAND (all published by Pixel Hall Press), her short stories can be found in literary publications such as EWR: Short Stories, Hypertext, Full of Crow, Fiction365, Red Fez, Wanderings, The Chaffin Journal and Xtreme.

Christie’s essays have also appeared in Woman’s Day, Stress-Free Living, Succeed, Experience Life, Tai Chi and Writer’s Digest. She is currently working on several other book projects, including a novel and a book for writers.
Visit her website at or connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or at her writing blogs: Finding Fran, The Writer’s Place and One on One

Check back on September 15th to meet Nancy Christie and receive a free story! And of course, keep your eyes open for her new release, September 9th :) 

Friday, August 29, 2014

#Goodreads #Giveaway for #NewRelease Dying by the Hour

Two lucky winners will receive signed paperbacks of Dying for a Living, and its sequel, Dying by the Hour. (Kindle version on sale for 99 cents). The giveaway is international and I'll also throw in a little author swag ;)

So help me celebrate my new release and play. Just click the button on the right to enter.

Good luck!


P.S. For those of you who dislike/don't use Goodreads, no problem! My blog tour kicks off Tuesday, culminating in an Facebook afterparty (Live Q&A, prizes, games, and more). Join us! There will be plenty of stuff to win, so I hope I see you around! :)

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

This One Is For the Fans: #NewRelease #urbanfantasy #sale

Fellow Necronites!

Book 2 is available for pre-order NOW!

While I’m still working out the kinks of the Amazon page and compiling editions, you CAN buy Dying by the Hour: A Jesse Sullivan Novel for your kindle. 

If you purchase the pre-order for $2.99, it is my understanding that it will be delivered to you at midnight on September 2nd, when the book is officially released.

Dying for a Living on sale now.

In honor of the sequel's release, I've dropped the price of Dying for a Living to $0.99 from now until the end of Dying by the Hour's blog tour (September 16). So if you know a friend who would love Jesse and the gang, gift that *&^%.

Don’t have a kindle?
No problem! I’m currently working with Smashwords to expand distribution for both books, Dying for a Living and Dying by the Hour. Once we sort out the formatting kinks, the books will be available everywhere! Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Apple, you name it. :)

Prefer audio?
More good news! I’m working with narrator Hollie Jackson and we are wrapping up production of Dying for a Living now and it will be available through Amazon, Audible, and iTunes soon! And once that is done, we will immediately start production on Dying by the Hour.

Like to win stuff and socialize with me and other fans?
Pending approval, a Goodreads giveaway will run this weekend up until the release day with signed paperbacks for both Dying for a Living and Dying by the Hour available, as well as other fun swag.

Also, the Dying by the Hour blog tour will run from September 2nd-September 15, hosted by 17 great bloggers. Lots of prizes! Not to mention the Facebook afterparty hosted by ½ of the Dark Moon Series duo, Shelly Burrows. This afterparty on September 16th will have its own prizes/giveaways as well as a Live Q&A with yours truly. You can join us here. If you're free that night, I'd love to see you there! :)

There will also be all kinds of guest appearances and interviews throughout September, into October, and I’ll try to keep you updated on my progress.

But not TOO updated ;)

Until next time,


Kory M. Shrum,
Jesse’s handler

Thursday, August 21, 2014

"Where Do You Get Your Ideas" #amwriting

“Let’s get one thing clear right now, shall we? There is no Idea Dump, no Story Central, no Island of the Buried Bestsellers; good story ideas seem to come quite literally from nowhere, sailing at you right out of the empty sky; two previously unrelated ideas come together and make something new under the sun. Your job isn’t to find these ideas but to recognize them when they show up.”
                                                              ---Stephen King, On Writing


I’ve been told that I have original, fantastical ideas—which is always nice to hear. But even when I hear it, I can feel something inside me tightening, hardening, bracing for the question that will most definitely come next.

Where do you get your ideas?

I refrain from grabbing the person and shaking them, screaming I don’t know! I don’t know damnit! Because in doing so, I would have to admit to the person asking that I just work here. That I am not, in fact, a mythical, magical creature who can conjure awesomeness simply with willpower alone (though I convince myself otherwise when it’s editing time).

But I have learned that there are ways to improve my chances that a good idea will be captured. Because that’s all I’m doing really, capturing the idea. And then laboriously pinning that writhing sucker to the page.

So here are the TOP THREE ways that I  improve the chances that I’ll snag those great ideas out of the air before the little sucker flies past me and on to a better writer.

Keep a notebook handy. This might sound dumb, but I can’t tell you how much brilliance I’m squandered simply because I forgot to write the *&^$% down. My best ideas come to me in the most inconvenient of times: showers, jogging, walking, or on the verge of sleep—all of which aren’t really times I’ve got a notebook on hand. But when I was in Europe in January, I DID carry a notebook everywhere and it made all the difference.

Property of the The Oatmeal

             If you don't have time to read, you don't have the time (or the tools) to write.   
                       Simple as that. – Stephen King

It never fails to surprise me how many writers tell me they don’t read. I understand, of course. When life gets busy, finding time to lay (lie?) about and read seems absolutely impossible. The dishes?! My mind says. All those essays to grade!?! Just an extra 30 minutes of sleep!  But reading is really conducive to generating ideas. How many of us are writing because we read something amazing? Because a story or character came alive for us? Reading breeds ideas. Read more, and more ideas will come to you.  This can also be said of movies, TV, or anything else that you feel invigorates your mind, rather than dulls it.

Write. Yes, actually write. Many writers make the mistake of waiting for the inspiration to come.  But that simply isn’t how it works. Take it from someone who has done a lot of waiting... Sometimes the writing will be so hard that it is like you’re learning to walk all over again, except you don’t have feet, or knee caps, and you’re just wobbling all over the place. But you need to sit down and do it anyway.

                 Keep working. Don’t wait for inspiration. Work inspires inspiration. Keep working.

                                               –  Michael Crichton

This might all seem like common sense to you, but you’d be amazed how often (myself included), we forget our sense when it comes down to doing the actual work. All I can say to that is to just try again.

          “Write. Rewrite. When not writing or rewriting, read. I know of no shortcuts.”

                                                          ― Larry L. King, Writer's Digest

…and perhaps also have a little faith—that the ideas will come. That if you're doing all this, the right idea will find you.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Building Characters #Writerprobs #amwriting

We've all heard the phrase "Character Driven" the beautiful, brawny cousin to "Plot-Driven". I've had students and writers alike ask me how to write good "character driven" fiction and I tell them the same thing: character interviews--before the story is ever written.

I like to interview people for the jobs I’m going to give them. Even Jesse Sullivan, star of Dying for a Living, was interviewed before I started putting her to work ;) Of course, a real job and a character job is different. When your boss interviews you, they are making sure that YOU are the right fit for the job. However, when I interview a character, I’m getting a sense of their story. I won’t NOT hire them—but I know that depending on who they are, the plot will play out differently because of it. So here are some traits to consider when building your character and getting a sense for how they will act in a certain environment. So "ask" your character's these questions and get to know them before you ever put them to the page:

Age (and how they feel about it)

Gender/Gender Identity (and how they feel about it)

Occupation (and how they feel about it)

Current living conditions (and how they feel about it):

Approach to people  (outgoing, shy, awkward, a kidder, etc.)
Approach to problems—whether you realize it or not, you’ve got style. My style is pushing
              through—I’ll break both arms if I can do the grocery bags in one go. My partner has the
              good sense to take as many trips as necessary. Everyone has a style when dealing with
              *&^$#. And if you’re writing a story, I assume your character will face problems and it’ll be
              helpful to know how they’ll react.
Where did (s)he grow up? Do they consider it home? And how do they feel about it?

Parents/siblings/family (alive, dead, etc. BONUS ROUND: Interview the parents too and see how
              that affected your character’s development
The BIG ones: We’ve all got those life events that changed us. What are your character’s big ones?
The inner lion: What is the one thing (or things) that sets your character on edge and makes them
           defensive, protective, territorial, etc.—basically, what is guaranteed to get a rise out of them?
           For Jesse, if you threaten Ally or Winston, you better be prepared for the consequences!
Coping mechanisms: We all have them. Kory plays Sims, reads, takes long baths, eats chocolate and
           junk food. What does your character do when they need relief? More importantly, what will happen when they don’t get relief when they need it?
Soft spot:      we all have them. I get all sad and mushy about animals. What will your character
                    “stop the car!” for?

Hubris:  We’ve all got that trait that gets us into trouble. I’m a showoff, which means I often put
           myself in physical danger unnecessarily. Harry Potter felt like he had something to prove so
           he was always running the danger, wand waving. What’s your character’s flaw? It will govern
           the action of the story.
Education (including performance and how they feel about it)
Others think of your character as:   and no, this shouldn’t really match up with what your character
                                                       thinks of his/herself—in real life it almost never match—for
                                                       one reason or another.
What does (s)he like to do in their free time? Guilty pleasures?

What do they want? What do they not want? This is super important. Everything we do is to gain or
                           avoid something. It’s called motivation. It can be money, fame, recognition,                
                           revenge, guilt, happiness, peace, resolution—it can be a lot of things. But it is
                           there. And you better know it up front because all of your character’s actions (and
                            your plot!) will be affected by it. So be sure you know what they fear most (what’s
                           the worst thing that could happen to them) and what they desire most (more than
                           anything else).  Later you can worry about how torture your characters with each in
                           turn. But first, you need to know, what is the stick, what is the carrot?

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Book Spotlight and #Giveaway: "E" by Kate Wrath

Find it on Amazon

A poignant tale of love and friendship in a world beyond hope… Outpost Three: a huddle of crumbling buildings choked by a concrete wall. Cracked pavement, rusted metal, splintering boards. Huge robotic Sentries police the streets, but the Ten Laws are broken every time one turns its back. Eden is determined, smart, and a born survivor. Stripped of her memories and dumped on the streets of the Outpost, slavers and starvation are only the beginning of her problems. A devastating conflict is coming that threatens to consume her world and tear her newfound family apart. Life is harsh. It makes no exceptions. Not even for the innocent. 

“Absolutely heart-stopping! Grizzly, dark, haunting and gripping in a way that kept me glued in to the very end. If you are looking for a strong and smart heroine in a kick butt dystopian world, this is the book for you.”

- Leti Del Mar, author of Land of the Unaltered

 “The characters are fascinating, especially the enigmatic love interest Jonas, and his threatening rival, the dark and sizzling Matt.”

 - Pol Blaze, author of Pan-Dim.


Chapter 1: Iron Womb

I wake up in a box of iron.  I know nothing, remember nothing.  There is one thought imprinted on my consciousness:  You have been erased.
Disoriented, I’m swimming in warm darkness.  Tepid air.  Tepid metal.  The inability to move.  Limbs pressing outward, ineffective.  My ribcage curled in on itself.  No room to breathe.  The back of my skull smashed against the box.  Neck and spine aching.  Heavy limbs.  Not enough space.  Not enough air.  Suffocating.  Dying.
There’s no way out.
I scream.  It’s a girl’s voice.  Am I a girl?
Flailing.  Pounding.  Hot blood under torn nails.  Dry, shredded throat.  I scream until everything stops.
An eternity later, I awaken in the warm darkness.
It's happened so many times, I’ve stopped counting.  I’ve stopped asking why.  Dry snot on my face.  Hollow insides.  Despair.  I decided long ago to give up and die.  But it continues.  Now I lie still in the dark.  Floating.  Drifting.  Time malfunctions.  My body winds down.  I’m fading.


Cold air wisps across my cheek.  The touch of death?  I open my eyes and shut them as the light skewers my brain.  Tentatively, I crack my lids open again.  The image sharpens with each blink, a water-blurred lens coming into focus.  Brown dirt in a vertical plane bisecting my vision.  Eventually I realize I'm lying on my side.  My cheek presses into cold earth.  My right shoulder is crushed under my body, my limbs sprawled haphazardly.  Who knows how long I've been like this.  I lie blinking, unable to move, strangely fascinated with the colors and textures of the ground.  Small stones and twigs rise dramatically out of the landscape from this perspective.  Beyond them, only a few paces away, is a concrete wall.
I struggle to upright myself.  Three attempts later, I manage to sit up, which I immediately regret.  Starbursts chase black spots across my eyeballs.  My stomach turns over.  Heaviness sits on my chest.  Each breath takes the efforts of my entire body.  I'm certain I'll fall over, but it passes, resolving in a dizzy, drifting haze.  I blink and cast my eyes around, wondering where I am and how I got here.
Dirty walls of buildings, rusted corrugated steel panels and splintered, rotting boards make up most of my surroundings.  An alleyway leads away from this enclosed area.  Trash whirls across its opening and collects in a huddle against one wall.  More is piled against a building next to a dumpster.  A few feet away from me, the bleak grey sky is reflected in a puddle, oily patches on the water's surface obscuring the shapes of the clouds.  I scramble for the puddle on hands and knees, moving faster than I imagined I'm capable of.  Thrusting my hands into the dirty water, I scoop it up and drink.  Some of it runs down my chin and neck, soaking whatever garment I'm wearing.  It tastes foul, smells of something wrong, but I don't care.  It's liquid.  I drink handful after handful, then sit back on my knees, my shoulders slumping, hands dropping slack to my sides.  I pant, then take deeper breaths.  I sigh, a long, trembling sigh that releases all the tension from my body.  Tipping my face to the open sky— as dark and cold and uninviting as I can possibly imagine it— my heart embraces it as a thing of utmost beauty.  Open air, the ability to move— I am utterly thankful for these things.
There's a noise from down the alley.  Fear coalesces out of nowhere, seizing hold of me, compelling my body to move despite its weakness, its stiff joints.  I thrust my feet under me and will myself to standing.  Reeling against the dizziness, I throw my arms out and widen my stance to keep from falling.  I have to get out of here.  Now.
I'm only beginning to move when my mind starts translating what I hear.  Footsteps.  Male voices, low and laughing.  There is nowhere for me to go.  I force down a scream.  My eyes fall on the trash piled next to the dumpster.  I hike up the brown shift I'm wearing and wade into the heap of boxes and rags, sharp-edged tin can lids, moldy coffee grounds, greasy bones, and other rotten, rancid things.  Sinking down in the filth, I draw it over my head.  Something cold and slippery hits the skin of my neck, its stench filling my nostrils.  I make myself still, hold my breath.  And then the voices are right there, a few paces away from me.
Their cheerful conversation ceases.
"Nothing again today," one of them says.
There is the sound of a boot scuffing the pavement, then the faint splash of water as it hits the puddle. 
A second voice answers darkly, "Matt's gonna think we're slacking or something.  Take the loss out of our pay."
What loss?  In the silence that follows, I feel my face turning red, my lungs wanting to explode.  The sensation of suffocating seizes me again, the sharp memory of metal walls closing me in.  I need to breathe.  Need to scream.  I have to dig down into the fear and extract every drop of willpower to remain still and quiet.  The beginnings of a whimper stir in my belly, but I shut them down.  Only a moment more.  Only a moment.
"Nah," a third voice finally says.  "He knows we don't miss any.  If they haven't dropped here in two days, we'll surely get something tomorrow."
The others make noises of disgruntled agreement, and the footsteps move away, down the alley.
I try to last as long as I can after they're gone, but they've barely left when I lose the ability.  Gasping in air, I gag at the smell that assaults me.  I launch to my feet, trash falling from my hair and shoulders.  Scrambling from the pile, I press myself hard against the wall, farthest from the alley.  The ragged breaths I rake in are thick with a stench that clings to me.  My back is wet.  My skin crawls at its own filthiness.
Forcing my disgust away, I plunge into the puzzle amassing in my mind.  These men were looking for something that wasn't here, though they expected it to be.  Something that would be dropped here.  Something that would profit them, or the man they work for.  What could possibly be dropped in an alley?  What kind of coincidence is it that I am suddenly here?  Dropped here.  Me.  They're looking for me.  Slavers.
I repress another scream, clenching my fists, squeezing my eyes shut.  The darkness sends my mind involuntarily back to the box.  My body convulses.  As my eyes fly open, the words appear in my brain, burned there, like the ones before them:  You have been warned.  With them, a gate opens in my mind.  I can place myself in this world.  I know its laws.  I know its ways.  As for myself— everything that was me— it is gone.  Forever.  I have been erased.
I run my fingertips lightly over the center of my forehead, exploring the mark there, its edges swollen and raised, my skin tender and stinging with the newness of it.  My hand trembles.  I take it away from my face to look at it— long, slender fingers.  Pale skin.  Fingernails blackened with blood.  My palms are blue and bruised from pounding against the metal.  But it's a young hand.  That's one strike against me.  Please, please, don't let me be pretty.
I tear into the pile of trash until I find a piece of broken glass.  Wiping it with the hem of my shift, I notice my long, shapely legs.  Does my face even matter?  I tilt the glass in the grey light, repositioning until the surface collects my image.  I stare at it— a transparent rendering of myself.  Large, dark eyes.  Clear skin.  Full lips.  I hurl the glass away from me with a cry of frustration.  It splinters into a thousand shards against the concrete wall. 
I'm shaking from my core.  My body and mind want to collapse in on themselves.  That is the last thing I can allow.   
I find myself counting slowly backward from one hundred.  Ninety-nine.  Ninety-eight.  I must calm myself.  I must think.  Ninety-five.  Ninety-four.  If I do something stupid now, I'll regret it, probably for the rest of my life.  Ninety-one.  Ninety.  Eighty-nine.  I must form a plan.  Eighty-seven.  I need food, and shelter.  A place to hide until I can regain my strength.  Eighty-two.  Eighty-one.  Anyone who sees me could sell me out as likely as help me.  Slavers reward handsomely for pretty girls like me.  Seventy-two.  Seventy-one.  Seventy.  Sixty-nine.  I need to disguise myself.  Need to make myself unappealing.  More trouble than I'm worth.  Sixty-five.
I stop counting and consider the pile of trash.  Before I can balk at the idea, I begin pulling out any rags I can find.  There's a good mess of them, stained with things I'm sure I don't want to identify.  They are damp in places, stiff in others.  I find a large piece— it looks like a torn and stained bed sheet— and make a sort of robe out of it.  Smaller bits I wrap about my head, catching my hair up in them.  As I do, my fingers pause, briefly rubbing one silky lock.  It falls just below my shoulders.  I hold it in front of my face.  Dark brown, the color of coffee beans, or bitter chocolate.  I wrap it up tightly in the piss-scented rags, carefully covering the mark on my forehead, then smear my face and pale arms with dirt.  At the bottom of the pile I find something sticky and red.  I paint blotches on my exposed skin.  On my face.  On my long fingers. There are slight calluses along my fingertips, running all the way down my pointer finger, and across the top ridge of my palm.  I will never know how those calluses got there. 
Grief hits me for the first time.  But I cannot afford it now.  Later, it can come, when I'm away from here.  I'll allow it then.  The sorrow curls up inside me and settles down to sleep, waiting for its time.  I focus on this moment, this task, checking myself.  My brown shift is covered.  I cannot see my face, but my hands look positively frightening.  Small strips of rags are all that's left in the pile, so I tie them around my legs, stacking them to make fake pant legs.  I add dirt and gunk to my feet, then drape an extra piece of rag over my head like a hood to hide my face.  Cocked head.  Crooked posture.  Surely anyone who looks twice at me will find themselves moving in the opposite direction.  I practice a wet, throaty cough to go along with the blotches.  When I'm happy with it, I steel myself to move on.  I step toward the alley looking a hundred years old.  I feel a hundred years old.  Yet, I am born today from an iron womb.

Image of Kate WrathKate  Wrath is a science fiction and fantasy author. The first book in her series, E, debuted in May 2014. The second book is anticipated later in the year. You can find Kate and her work everywhere:
Amazon (eBook and print version)
Goodreads (5-stars!)

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Saturday, August 9, 2014

It's My Birthday #Giveaway!

As I sit here stuffed with cake in my swanky new house, I'm feeling pretty good about life. Add that to the fact that it is my birthday and that my next book will be released in 24 days, I'm thinking a giveaway is in order :D

So, I'm offering author swag and a signed paperback as the grand prize, but I'm also going to give away three eBooks of Dying for a Living--one for each decade of my life ;)

So let the party begin!!!


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