Writing for a YA Audience: Romance Darkly

Writing for a Y.A. Audience

My mom and uncle are obsessed with Westerns. They grew up watching Westerns and still make time for them every weekend. While watching a Western with my mom, I had the idea of writing a young adult Western…with a steampunk twist. I brainstormed a ranch with a family secret. Along came TREASURE DARKLY.

After the first draft, it was recommended I add in a romantic theme. Thus, Clark and Amethyst fell in love. It worked. I didn’t have to force them together. They were already best friends, and it flowed that they should develop romantic feelings for each other.

treasure darkly

Then came the challenging part. My first editor for the story wanted more romance.  I wasn’t a romance writer.  Sure, my main characters each had a love interest, but I wouldn’t call my early works romances.

I set out to read romance novels to get a feel for the genre. I read some young adult romances, some Harlequins, and then I discovered a love of paranormal romance. I devoured those and wanted more. Eventually, I felt ready to write my own romance.

Young adult romances are tricky. Some people don’t want any sex in YA novels; some people say its okay. I struggled with that fine line before firmly stepping onto the “no sex” side. Yes, the book does get a bit steamy, but there is never explicit sex.

“But teens already know everything about sex,” I’ve been told.

Okay, that might be the case, but it doesn’t mean every young adult book has to contain graphic sex scenes. I want my books to be more about the adventure and setting than erotica.

man and woman embracing each other

Photo by Anderson Weiss on Pexels.com

Jordan Elizabeth is a young adult fantasy author who dapples in the steampunk realm.  You can connect with Jordan via her website, JordanElizabethBooks.com.


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Chatting with the Pros: Interview with romance author Maya Rodale

chatting with the pros

Today on “Chatting with the Pros” my guest author is a historical romance novelist, Maya Rodale. She writes strong female characters who stand up for themselves and still manage to maintain their feminity. Her books have appeared on the USA Today bestselling list and have been published in several languages. Her novel, The Wicked Wallflower won the RT Reviewer’s Choice Award for best historical hero, and What a Wallflower Wants was labeled as a romance novel for the #MeToo movement. I’m pleased to have the opportunity to chat with her today and learn her thoughts on romance, female authors and women’s place in the world.

Maya Rodale Framed

Kaye: Your stories favor strong heroines for your main characters. Do you think romance is usually a female domain?
Maya: Romance has been traditionally a female domain, though 18% of readers today are men! I would love to see more men openly reading romance, but I also hope it never loses it’s focus on the female experience and the empowerment it brings to so many women in publishing. 
Kaye: Perusing your website and checking out your book covers, one gets the impression that your romances are a bit risqué. How steamy can you get before you cross over into the land of erotica? Do your books cross that line?
Maya: Romance Writers of America provides the best succinct definition of erotica: “Romance novels in which strong, often explicit, sexual interaction is an inherent part of the love story, character growth and relationship development and could not be removed without damaging the storyline.”
So it’s not a matter of how much sex is portrayed but how the sex engages with the plot. My historicals definitely have some steamy sexy times on the page, but I wouldn’t classify them as true erotica.
The Tatooed Duke
Kaye:  How do you decide the titles for your books? Where does the title come in the process for you?
Maya: A title needs agreement from both the publishing team and myself; sometimes the title I pitch is the one we go with. Sometimes the story is nearly done and we’re frantically brainstorming at the last minute to find something that works.
Fun behind the scenes story: I wrote The Tattooed Duke thinking the title would be Brave New Lord which I LOVE but my pub team thought The Tattooed Duke had better sales potential, so that’s the one we went with.
Kaye: Your books feature strong female heroines, who stand up for themselves and what they believe against the men around them and societal beliefs. Why do you think your readers relate to them?
Maya: I think this is the experience for most women: we are constantly having to stand up and assert our humanity. I like to think that my heroines help real women have the courage and confidence to do this. And for those readers who don’t feel it’s necessary, I hope they see that it is.

Kaye: What are some tips for writing strong female characters in a time period when there weren’t many to be found, and making them believable?

Maya: The more I dig deeper in my research of history the more I believe that this is a myth. Women have always gotten out of the house and done great, wonderful, terrible things; but it hasn’t been recorded, or their stories haven’t been told, or (male) historians deemed it unimportant. Women have never been boring, silent bystanders to the world. 

I think we’ve been (maybe deliberately) shut out of history books and as a result we don’t know the long and full history of women being active participants in the world. Start with a look at the New York Times Overlooked Obituaries, for example. 

The problem isn’t that strong historical female characters aren’t accurate, the problem is that we have been made to believe they are. And in the name of “historical accuracy” we unwittingly perpetuate that in our novels. 

My tip for writers: find those stories, write those stories! And then explain your research in the author’s note. And my advice for readers: check your biases and preconceived notions and let yourself get swept up in the story. You may just learn something new about history too. 

Kaye: What’s the biggest challenge in writing romance for you?
Maya: Protecting my time! It’s my day job and still there are so many demands on my time and energy that make it hard to focus on my books.
Dangerous Books for GirlsKaye: You wrote a nonfiction book titled Dangerous Books for Girls: The Bad Reputation of Romance Novels Explained. Can you explain briefly why romance has a bad rep and it is justified?
Maya: Romance novels have a bad reputation because they’re so powerful—they are the only art that consistently portray women triumphing in a world that doesn’t want women to triumph. Mocking them as “trashy books” or just “mommy porn” or “unrealistic” is a way to diminish their power. If we valued women and women’s work more, we’d value romance novels more!
Kaye: How many different countries and languages are your books sold in?
Maya: Many! A list of covers for foreign editions is on my website at www.mayarodale.com/books
Kaye: What’s the most fun about writing romance?
Maya: I do love being the all powerful Goddess of fictional worlds. And not having to get dressed up for work 😉
Kaye: What do you think is the single most important element in a romance story?
Maya: The development of the romantic relationship! And the happy ever after, of course.
Kaye: Where does inspiration for your stories come from?
Maya: Story inspiration is everywhere if you open your heart and mind to it! Right now I’m finding the New York Times “overlooked obituaries” of historical women to be a gold mine of story ideas for historical romance. I just need more time to write them…
Some Like It ScandalousKaye: You have a new book in your Gilded Age series coming out in June, Some Like it Scandalous. Would you like to tell us about it?
Maya: Longtime enemies embark on a sham engagement and end up falling in love! The only way for society darling Theo Prescott to survive his most recent, unspeakably outrageous scandal is marry someone respectable. Someone sensible. Someone like Daisy Swan. But she has plans that do not include a loveless marriage to anyone. Instead, she aspires to sell cosmetics that she has created. But this brainy scientist needs a smooth talking charmer’s flair for words and eye for beauty to make it a success. Before long, Daisy and Theo are trading kisses. And secrets. And discovering that despite appearances, they might be the perfect couple after all.
Read more at www.mayarodale.com/scandalous
Kaye: As a romance writer, what kind of research do you find yourself doing for your stories?
Maya: I do A LOT of research. Everything from reading biographies, non-fiction, histories, other novels to trips to the library or visits to museums. Or just googling. There’s general research to do about the time period—for example, I had to learn all about the Gilded Age (1860-1900) in Manhattan for my new seriesThe Gilded Age Girls Club.And then there’s research necessary for each particular book. For the next book in the series, Some Like It Scandalous I had to do a deep dive into the invention and popularization of cosmetics, since the heroine launches a cosmetics company with the hero.
Kaye: What advice do you have for aspiring romance authors?
Maya: My best advice I think comes from Nora Roberts: “Ass in the chair. Words on the page.” Also, my friend once told me “If you’re not getting a rejection once a week you’re not trying hard enough.” Brutal, but effective. 


I want to thank Maya for joining me today and sharing her views with my readers. I think some may walk away with a different perspective on the romance genre. You can learn more about Maya on her very creative website: http://www.mayarodale.com/ and on her Amazon Author page, her Goodreads Author page, or on her Fantastic Fiction Author page.


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“The Christmas Tour”: A science fiction time travel romance

The Christmas Tour

The Christmas Cruise, by Tammy Tate is a really cute romance story which could have been so much more. This story combines romance with science fiction when the two main characters, who are attracted to one another but won’t admit it to themselves, both happen to be swept from their Christmas cruise in the Burmuda Triangle onto a deserted island from the past.

It’s a good plot and it could work if the characters were more developed and didn’t just accept what was happening without a second thought. The story moves from point A to point B in a fairly straight line, at a fairly quick pace, lacking any real twists or surprises. Just the fact that they are the only two to be swept away gave me trouble buying in, and when they return without any logical explaination as to how it happened, it lost me totally.

If the author had taken the time and effort to expand the plot, and portray believable reactions to absurd circumstances, The Christmas Cruise could have been a really entertaining story. As it is, it lacks depth of character and is difficult to swollow. I can only give it three quills.

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Kaye Lynne Booth does honest book reviews on Writing to be Read in exchange for ARCs. Have a book you’d like reviewed? Contact Kaye at kayebooth(at)yahoo(dot)com.


How reading encourages diverse thinking

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We all want our children to grow up to an environment free from bias and discrimination. We want them to have opportunities to achieve their dreams and to believe they can accomplish anything. We also want our children to feel included and loved in all situations, from school, to home to religious institutions.

The best way to achieve this is to weave diversity into the fabric of our children’s lives. We can do this in many ways, one of which is by providing our children with a selection of multicultural books which allow them to imagine experiencing life in a different way and from a different perspective.

When you read multicultural books you are transported to a different culture and are exposed to new ideas about housing, food, schooling, transport and religion. I always remember when I read the books written by Charlotte, Emily and Anne Brontë as a teenage girl. These books were my first real exposure to the poor treatment of children and women during the Victoria era. I was horrified by the terrible conditions the orphaned girls experienced at Lowood School and the terrible illnesses that ravaged the learners. Later on in my life I read books about the lives of several female Victorian writers and I came to realise just how restricted their lives were. Female’s were not considered to have the intelligence or seriousness necessary to write novels. My own mother experienced discrimination as a young girl when her father refused to buy her a school uniform when she won a scholarship to attend a local grammar school. He didn’t believe in educating girls.

As I have walked my path as a reader, I have read a wide variety of books about life in numerous countries from the great cities of the USA, London and Paris to country towns and rural villages in Africa and Asia. Through reading, I have experienced life in Japan, China and Chile. I have tried to share these experiences with my own children by reading them abridged versions of classic stories like The Story of Doctor Dolittle by Hugh Lofting, a story of an empathetic doctor who travels to Africa and has adventures on this great continent, The Last of the Mohicans by James Fennimore Cooper, set in Upper New York State during the French Indian wars, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee set in Alabama and Oliver Twist set in Victorian London. They have also read a number of more recent books set in various countries.

Multicultural books teach us about other peoples cultures and religious beliefs and helps to instill positive attitudes about acceptance and tolerance. Some of the books that spring to mind that I read to my pre-teen boys are Fattipuffs & Thinifers by André Maurois which teaches children about segregation in an entertaining and light hearted way, I am David by Anne Holm, the story of a boy who escapes from a Bulgarian communist concentration camp and makes his way to Denmark, and The Diary of a Young Girl written by Anne Frank, that tells of her life as a young Jewish girl growing up in the Netherlands during the Nazi occupation. These sorts of books help teach children that while we all have different religions, celebrations and traditions, we are actually all the same. We all need to eat, drink and sleep. We all aspire to an education, job and happy family life.

While it is good for children to understand history and learn from the mistakes of the past, it is best to select titles that present a variety of points of view so as to prevent stereotyping.

The modern world is becoming more cosmopolitan and diverse due to the ease with which people can travel and communicate. My son plays computer games with friends from all over the world including India, the UK, the USA and Dubai. His school provides a boarding option and caters to boys from all over the world and a variety of different backgrounds, including Chinese, American, British, German, French and a number of African countries. There are Jewish, Muslim, Hindu and Christian boys all attending classes together, doing activities and sports together and enjoying themselves as a group. Diversity is a popular topic with many modern authors and I have recently read three lovely picture books aimed at teaching children about acceptance in a fun and simple way.

Myrtle the Purple Turtle by Cynthia Reyes is about Myrtle, a turtle who is purple and, as a result, she and her family are different from other turtles. You can read my review on Goodreads here: Goodreads review of Myrtle the Purple Turtle.

Kids get it by Sally Huss is a story about self-worth and the equality of all children in the eyes of God. You can read my Goodreads review here: Goodreads review of Kids Get It.

The cover of Who do I see in the Mirror? by Vese Aghoghovbia Aladewolu shares “the important message relayed to children is to love the skin they’re in.”. You can read my Goodreads review here: Goodreads review of Who do I see in the Mirror?

There are also a large selection of non-fiction books for children which describe the cultures and lives of the people of the world.

What do you think about the role of books in promoting diversity? Let me know in the comments.

About Robbie Cheadle

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Hello, my name is Robbie, short for Roberta. I am an author with six published children’s picture books in the Sir Chocolate books series for children aged 2 to 9 years old (co-authored with my son, Michael Cheadle), one published middle grade book in the Silly Willy series and one published preteen/young adult fictionalised biography about my mother’s life as a young girl growing up in an English town in Suffolk during World War II called While the Bombs Fell (co-authored with my mother, Elsie Hancy Eaton). All of my children’s book are written under Robbie Cheadle and are published by TSL Publications.

I have recently branched into adult horror and supernatural writing and, in order to clearly differential my children’s books from my adult writing, I plan to publish these books under Roberta Eaton Cheadle. I have two short stories in the horror/supernatural genre included in Dark Visions, a collection of 34 short stories by 27 different authors and edited by award winning author, Dan Alatorre. These short stories are published under Robbie Cheadle.

I have recently published a book of poetry called Open a new door, with fellow South African poet, Kim Blades.

Find Robbie Cheadle

Blog: https://bakeandwrite.co.za/

Blog: robbiesinspiration.wordpress.com

Goodreads: Robbie Cheadle – Goodreads

Twitter: BakeandWrite

Instagram: Robbie Cheadle – Instagram

Facebook: Sir Chocolate Books


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The Making of a Memoir: Obstacles and Roadblocks

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Losing Michael: Teen Suicide and a Mother’s Grief

 

“The Making of a Memoir” is a bi-monthly blog series which explores the stages of writing a memoir as I write the story of losing my nineteen year old son, Michael, to suicide, through his story and the tale of a life without him and the grief I experience every day, even after he’s been gone for a decade. Some progress has been made toward the actual writing of the book since the last segment. I made a final decision on the title above for the book, and work on the cover is in progress with Art Rosch at Starrts Creative. Although there is still a lot of material still to sort through and compile what I want to include, I managed to work through a considerable amount. The going is slow, as I knew it would be, due to the emotional nature of the material and the memories some of it awakens.

In the last segment, “Stage 1: Prewriting Tasks“, I said I expected this book to be the most difficult story I have ever attempted to write, and that has proven to be true. In fact, it has proven to be difficult in more ways than I had imagined. This segment was supposed to be titled “Stage 2: Selling the Story”, but alas, unexpected “Obstacles and Roadblocks” has become a more appropriate title. Over the past two months, I run into several and I’m still trying to find a way around, over or through one huge one in particular – legalities.

Memoir can and should be a work of creative nonfiction. It is a true story told creatively, so as to capture and hold the readers’ attention. What memoir is not, is a work of fiction, with fictitional characters and places. You are telling a true story, something that actually happened, something in which other real people played different roles, and to tell the story, their parts must be told as well, even if the tale doesn’t portray all of them in a positive light. A good memoir must be told with honesty, from the heart.

As I sorted through the plethora of material I have gathered and saved since my son’s death: his poetry, writings and artwork; my poetry and writings; and oh so many photos, I couldn’t help but think about the other people involved, directly or indirectly with the story of the events leading up to Mike’s death and also the events that came after, and I realized that there were more than a few, people associated with Mike, and law enforcement officers, who might not want this story to come out because of the manner in which they might be viewed for their parts in his death.

It normally wouldn’t be a problem at all. I’m writing the story of events as they happened to the best of my knowledge. Many facts surrounding Mike’s death were suspicious, and for a time I believed that Mike might have been murdered. Things didn’t add up, but the proof to back up what I know to be true was withheld from me by local law enforcement. I no longer entertain the idea that Mike’s death was anything other than suicide, without the proof that the events happened the way I claim they did, I could be open to liable in telling this story.

The individuals involved wouldn’t really be a problem. The obvious solution is to change the names. Even in a true story, real people can have fictitious names, without damaging author credibility. Authors do this all the time; you just state that some names have been changed and readers won’t feel cheated.

The law enforcement agency and certain individual agents present a bigger problem. Do I change the names of the law enforcement agents? Do I change the name of the area they represent? How much can be changed before a true story becomes a work of fiction? The proof I lack wouldn’t portray the local law in a positive way and they know it, so they aren’t likely to have a change of heart about sharing it with me for the book. They play major roles in the events leading up to Mike’s death, and the story really can’t be told without their inclusion.

Although this issue has presented a roadblock that appears it might be unsurpassable, I have a couple of ideas on how I might be able to get around it. I need to let it play out and see. If not, I’ll look for a way to go over, or under if I have to. This is a story that must be told, and I’m determined to tell it.  By the next segment, in June, I should be moving forward once more. I’ll let you know how it gets resolved. I do hope you’ll join me then.


Join me in my writing journey through “The Making of a Memoir” the second Monday every other month on Writing to be Read: February, April, June, August, October and December. To be sure not to miss one segment, subscribe to email or follow on WordPress for notification of new content.


“Ripper”: Not your typical historical romance

Ripper

Romance author Amy Cecil writes both contemporary and historical romance, but her latest release, Ripper, is like no historical romance I’ve ever read. Set in London, during the times of the Jack the Ripper roamed the streets of White Chapel, this story explores possibilities and throws in more than a few surprising twists.

Life is looking up for Marie, with a new client turned lover, it looks as if she might be able to leave behind her life of poverty. But Jax’s behaviors cause suspicions she can’t ignore, suspicions that, if proven true, might make it impossible to follow this dream life she’s found. What’s a girl to do when she learns the man she loves might be Jack the Ripper?

A cleverly-crafted tale that will keep readers guessing until the last pages. I give Ripper five quills.

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Kaye Lynne Booth does honest book reviews on Writing to be Read in exchange for ARCs. Have a book you’d like reviewed? Contact Kaye at kayebooth(at)yahoo(dot)com.


Jeff’s Pep Talk: Back in the Saddle

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Back in the Saddle

By Jeff Bowles

The first Wednesday of every month, science fiction and horror writer Jeff Bowles offers advice to new and aspiring authors. Nobody ever said this writing thing would be easy. This is your pep talk.

If you’ve been following the Pep Talk, you know I’m big on writers cutting themselves some slack. Burnout kills creativity and breeds writer’s block. So while I’ve always been a fan of the idea that we need to keep working in order to evolve, grow, and succeed, I’m incredibly cognizant of the ever-present reality most writers hit a wall every now and then, and that it’s okay to admit and even embrace that.

Now, a bit of an admission. The past two years or so, I’ve been struggling to rebound from my own slowdown. This decade has been intense for me, particularly on the creative front. I went from earning my MFA in a very hard and fast environment, to publishing short stories at a fairly decent rate, to suffering some unfortunate circumstances in my personal life, to not writing a single word for several years.

Really, this has been the worst burnout phase of my life. I’m in my mid-thirties now, so it stands to reason that ten years of working, practicing, and publishing finally caught up with me. Furthermore, we can’t stop living very human lives under very human circumstances. If I hadn’t experienced such a shake-up on a personal level, I might have been able to keep working. But things being what they were…

So this Pep Talk is not about showing yourself some love when you’re slowing down. It’s about being eager and ready when you’re speeding back up. I recently started a new writing project, a novel, and I’m pleased to report I’m about 9,000 words in. If that doesn’t sound like much of an achievement to you, it’s probably because you’re a hard-nosed writer who puts in your time, come rain or shine. And before my productivity started to drop off, I was right there with you. But the truth is we all need a break sometimes. All of us. Actually, very often life forces us to take breaks, and we can bemoan, resist, and condemn them, but it doesn’t change the fact that a career in the publishing industry is—in its most ideal form—a long-term project. As such, detours are something of an obligation.

For several years on end, my average yearly wordcount was around 120,000. And that was after a few years of maybe 75,000 to 100,000 words. Really, I was ramping up to something big. I’m a short story guy with some long-form publications in the indie realm. Not precisely a best-seller, but not a newbie either. And as I said, grad school was intense. I think a lot of people who go after an MFA have a similar experience, right on down to needing time off after graduation. The sad and torrid fact of the matter is I haven’t attempted a book-length project since I completed my thesis novel four years ago. That’s a huge dry spell for me, so I’ll take that nice 9,000-word head start, thank you very much.

If being kind to yourself in the face of writer’s block is about realizing you’re not a story machine (no matter how much you want to be), booting up your systems after some downtime requires acknowledging any fears or insecurities that might come up. It’s scary getting back in the saddle, or at least it can be. It’s also pretty exciting, isn’t it? Maybe, like me, you started wondering if you’d ever be productive again. Am I finally done with this whole writing thing? Where are my abilities?! Why don’t I feel like telling stories!? WHY, GOD, WHY!?

Got a flair for the dramatic? Well step right up, ‘cause this next one could be a doozy: in almost any case, we need to be able to accept the fact we might be rusty. Now I took a break of a few years, but I’ve known authors who went ten, fifteen, or twenty, and who were startled to encounter really crummy writing on their part. I know, it’s disappointing. Turns out none of us is a miracle worker. So a little piece of advice, maybe start slow, a short story or two. Heck, start writing blog posts or flash fiction or maybe even try your hand at a new genre, like creative nonfiction or poetry. That’s actually a good place to start. Writing truth is, in my experience, almost always easier than writing fiction. The point is you need a jumping on point, something you can sink your teeth into that doesn’t require you to … well, break your damn teeth.

And respect yourself enough to know when it’s time to work and when it’s not. Again, I really do appreciate the workhorse model of writing. That’s how the beast feeds itself. It’s the lifeblood of what we do. I just think it’s a bit self-deluded and unkind to think you can go on like that forever. Maybe some of us can, but for the majority, it does no good to crash and burn. Don’t knock yourself for it, man. And don’t let colleagues or friends and family make you feel bad or lazy or lost.

When it’s time to get back to work, it’s time. You’ll know you’re ready because—hey, here’s a nice big no-brainer for you—you’ll actually feel like it. Don’t push yourself too hard too soon. It’s a pretty organic process when it comes down to it. You can’t get blood from a stone, though I’m sure if you hit yourself in the head enough times with said stone blood would ensue. Never imagine yourself to be something you aren’t, a literary god, born of good fortune and the primal mud from which warriors emerge, Achilles of the word processor, Odysseus of plot structure and acute character psychology. Nah, you’re just a humble guy or gal who likes to crank out some good writing every now and then. Maybe you thought this day would never come. How do you feel now that it has?

I believe that life is almost always a matter of two steps forward, one step back. It’s how we progress as human beings. So two steps forward, one step back, two steps forward: hey look, the math checks out. You’re one step ahead of where you were last time. It’s like a Jacob’s ladder, right? You zig left, zag right, but you’re always climbing higher. Don’t feel like writing today? Consider, if you will, investing in some fun. Watch a few old movies that always manage to inspire you. Read a good book. Listen to some music, or try your hand at painting, sculpting, songwriting, video production, anything that engages your creativity and that doesn’t have all that unbearable weight built up behind it.

This is a fun job. Remember that. It’s fun. We get to tell stories and entertain people with our words. If you’ve been at this a while, and you’ve done silly things before, like attempting to quit but finding it quite impossible, then consider the possibility you’re meant for this life. You shouldn’t shirk being meant for something. Any way you slice a lifelong love affair, it’s fate, my friends. It’s kismet. Maybe you aren’t a literary god, but rest assured, the real gods up on Mount Word-lympus have plans for you that go back eons. One last time, do however much you actually feel you can do, and get excited about the prospects. If, lord forbid, you someday end up in a terrible driving, skying, skydiving, or rogue spelunking accident, you’re going to want a surgeon who can put you back together with slow and steady hands. Do yourself a favor and be that surgeon for your writing.

Until next time, everybody. The straightest line between two points is … wait, you guys are using straight lines?!  So that’s why my writing is so crooked.


Jeff Bowles is a science fiction and horror writer from the mountains of Colorado. The best of his outrageous and imaginative short stories are collected in Godling and Other Paint Stories, Fear and Loathing in Las Cruces, and Brave New Multiverse. He has published work in magazines and anthologies like PodCastle, Tales from the Canyons of the Damned, the Threepenny Review, and Dark Moon Digest. Jeff earned his Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing at Western State Colorado University. He currently lives in the high-altitude Pikes Peak region, where he dreams strange dreams and spends far too much time under the stars.

Check out Jeff Bowles Central on YouTube – Movies – Video Games – Music – So Much More!