Author Spotlight: A.F. Stewart

  • a fantasy and sci-fi fan obsessed with action movies, who is also a dark fiction author and poet.

Readers! Let’s give a good, hearty welcome to A.F. Stewart

A steadfast and proud sci-fi and fantasy geek, A. F. Stewart was born and raised in Nova Scotia, Canada, and still calls it home. She favours the dark and deadly when writing—her genres of choice being fantasy and horror—but she has been known to venture into the light on occasion.

A.F., thanks for agreeing to be here today. While most interviews start off with bios and such, and while I’ll get to that as always, let’s start with the important stuff!

If you could have any pet (real/fantasy/no-allergies/no worries about feeding it) what would it be?

It’s probably a bit cliché, but I would definitely love to have a dragon. I mean, who wouldn’t want to be dragonrider and fly through the skies on the back of one of those legendary creatures?

Never apologize! It’s a classic for a reason. I mean, who wouldn’t want to befriend and ride a dragon!

What do you write? And how did you get started?

I write horror and fantasy, mostly inspired by different mythologies and folklore, although with my horror I sometimes delve into true crime for my muse. I’ve been writing for as long as I’ve been able to hold a pen and scribble down coherent words. I started with poetry and short stories before I wrote my first book, making up fantastic tales and strange poems. As far as publishing my writings, I started that back in 2007, in the very beginnings of the indie publishing movement.

I feel such a kinship with all writers who’ve held the storytelling dream from that start. It’s awesome to hear about indie authors who are still going strong!

What do you like to read?

I read across several genres including fantasy, science fiction, mystery, thrillers, and historical fiction. I’ve even been known to read historical romance on occasion. Some of my favourite authors are Guy Gavriel Kay, Neil Gaiman, Ray Bradbury, and Agatha Christie.

For me, what I’m reading depends on what mood I’m in and where I want a book to take me. My reading preferences are a bit eclectic, and that’s why I love a good genre mashup. Basically, if a book sounds good to me, I’ll read it.

Lovely variety and some of my own favorite names in there.

Name one commonly accepted piece of writing advice that doesn’t work for you.

You must write every day

That is a ridiculous piece of advice. Yes, some people can write each day, have a disciplined routine, and that’s terrific. For them. That doesn’t work well for me, and I had to accept that and to stop feeling guilty about not writing every day. Some days I don’t feel like writing, so I don’t. Some days I want to do my art instead, so I do. Then some days I sit down and the words flow. I may not be the most consistent writer, but I get it done.

So true! Especially for the majority of writers who have day-jobs. Life happens and writing works better when it’s at your own natural pace.

Name one commonly accepted piece of writing advice that they can pry out of your cold, dead hands.

Don’t edit as you write the first draft.

I look at the first draft as the bare bones of a book. Craft the skeleton of the plot and characters and get the pages written. It doesn’t have to be pretty or perfect, just finished. The second round is where you start the editing and add
all the good details.

Well, I know I don’t write sparse, but this is something I usually follow. My current work-in-progress is suffering a little because I’ve changed my aim a few times since I started though.


Shameless Self-Promotion time!

Saga of the Outer Islands is a dark epic fantasy series with a dashing ship captain, high seas magical adventure, sea monsters, and vengeful gods.

Book One: Saga of the Outer Islands

In the Outer Islands, gods and magic rule the ocean.

Under the command of Captain Rafe Morrow, the crew of the Celestial Jewel ferry souls to the After World and defend the seas. Rafe has dedicated his life to protecting the lost, but the tides have shifted and times have changed.

His sister, the Goddess of the Moon, is on a rampage and her creatures are terrorizing the islands. The survival of the living and dead hinge on the courage and cunning of a beleaguered captain and his motley crew of men and ghosts.

​​​​​​​What he doesn’t know is that her threat is part of a larger game. That an ancient, black-winged malevolence is using them all as pawns…

Come set sail with ghosts, gods and sea monsters.

Past Legends: An Arthurian Fantasy Novel


The Camelot Immortals is a contemporary Arthurian fantasy series inspired by the tales we all know and love with strong snarky heroines, wizards, and witches.

Book One: Past Legends

An immortal witch. A looming magical crisis. A destiny she’s willing to reject.

After centuries of dealing with trouble, Nimue, a former denizen of Camelot, wants a peaceful life. Just a quiet cottage nestled in England’s Lake District and a nightly glass of mead. Too bad her past won’t leave her alone. 

When her friend Iseult appears, bringing news that her old rival Morgawse has been abducted, an impending catastrophe lands on her doorstep. And worse, the wizard responsible is Nimue’s ex, Nostradamus.

Dragged into another adventure despite her misgivings, Nimue confronts her former flame as he wages a desperate quest, only to be thrust deeper into escalating problems. As Nimue struggles to unravel what is happening, she discovers dark secrets that threaten the heart of magical energy. Now it’s her fate to rescue magic for every witch and wizard, including her friends. Except she’s not sure she wants to be magic’s saviour.

Will Nimue step up as champion and save the day? Find out in Past Legends.


Check A.F. Stewart out across the web!

Website | Amazon | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | Goodreads

Author Spotlight: Kevin Buckner

  • author of dark fantasy and technical consultant for a clinical laboratory

Readers! Let’s give a good, hearty welcome to Kevin Buckner

Kevin is certified as a Medical Laboratory Scientist who enjoys writing fantasy and sci-fi in his spare time. He is a devoted husband and father whose interests include playing guitar, zombies, knitting, playing video games with his kids, and listening to heavy metal.

Kevin, thanks for agreeing to be here today. While most interviews start off with bios and such, and while I’ll get to that as always, let’s start with the important stuff!

If you could have any pet (real/fantasy/no-allergies/no worries about feeding it) what would it be?

Dungeons and Dragons has what I would want. It’s a creature called a Psuedodragon. They’re basically playful, cat-sized dragons.

I love them! The joy of a dragon, the mischief of a cat? You’ll be getting into plenty of hijinks with that one!

What do you write? And how did you get started?

I mostly write fantasy but also do a bit of science fiction. I got started writing stories in elementary school and found I liked it. I took a creative writing class in high school, in addition to AP English Literature. I graduated with a diploma of merit (slightly more prestigious than lettering) in English and Science. I knew at that point that I wanted to be an author, but chose a career in science because it had the promise of a steady paycheck.

I don’t think NPR is against covering genre fiction! It’s been known to make it’s way on there from time to time. From avoiding literary academia, I’ve yet to actually encounter genre-shaming in real life, just a lot of writers with trauma from their time there. I hope we’re in a better time now, where things aren’t derided as “not real literature” because people want to read them — outside of classrooms and people wanting to say they read something to impress people.

What do you like to read?

Fantasy, science fiction, classics, and horror.

Well, that sums up your reading pretty quickly. A lot of variety there.

Name one commonly accepted piece of writing advice that doesn’t work for you.

Limit dialogue tags

A lot of people say to limit dialogue tags in writing. I have a hard time doing this because I find it frustrating when I’m reading a book and have to re-read a section in order to figure out who is saying what. Some say that including multiple dialogue tags in a conversation between two people pulls the reader out of the story and interrupts the flow; I find the opposite to be true.

I’ve definitely heard push-back on this lately. There’s a growing opinion that “she said/he saids” are skimmed over and don’t slow the reading. Although, even without dialogue tags, “they” usually suggest having an action attached to the speaker in that paragraph.

Name one commonly accepted piece of writing advice that they can pry out of your cold, dead hands.

Write the book you want to read.

It’s the only way I can be satisfied with what I’ve written. I know there are authors out there who write books that they don’t particularly care for because they know they will sell, but if I don’t like it, there’s no way I’m going to finish it, let alone publish it.

I’ve one-hundred percent there with you! I *am* my target audience. Fortunately for my future publishing hopes, my tastes aren’t too far off from things I can find being published (and winning awards… hey. If you’re gonna dream, might as well dream big. Right?)


Shameless Self-Promotion time!

The Advent of Zón : Book one The Cudomerie (epic dark fantasy)

Several years after a demon prince is summoned to the terrestrial world, a respected politician is found murdered in his home. While the hunt for the killer is on, a secret society of necromancers discovers that the artifacts of their legends are real.

As they search for these artifacts, their enemies gather to fight against them in an effort to prevent the necromancers from taking over the world. All the while, neither side knows about the demon prince, who is still at large, manipulating people and events to stir up trouble wherever he can in a city that holds a dark secret.

(Book 2, coming early 2022)


Check Kevin Buckner out across the web!

Amazon | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | Goodreads

Author Spotlight: Nikki Nelson-Hicks

  • a writer of weird fiction in multiple genres

Readers! Let’s give a good, hearty welcome to Nikki Nelson-Hicks

Nikki Nelson-Hicks is honored to be described as ‘the lovechild of Flannery O’Connor and H.P. Lovecraft’.

She is often found with too many empty wine glasses for one person.

Nikki, thanks for agreeing to be here today. While most interviews start off with bios and such, and while I’ll get to that as always, let’s start with the important stuff!

If you could have any pet (real/fantasy/no-allergies/no worries about feeding it) what would it be?

That’s an easy answer. If I could have any animal sidekick, it would be Gef the Talking Mongoose.

Are you familiar with Gef?

A quick lowdown: in 1931, the Irving family moved into a derelict farmhouse near Cashen’s Gap on the Isle of Man. The family began hearing weird noises in the walls. At first, James, the father, thought it was rats and tried to poison it.
And then it started talking. It told the family that his was Gef, he was born in New Dehli in 1852 and was an “extra clever mongoose” with human hands.

Gef would kill rabbits and leave them as a form of rent.

He also was very protective of their daughter, Voirrey, and threw rocks at bullies.

The story eventually made it to the newspapers and soon psychical investigators from England came to research the phenomenon. Harry Price was one of them and so was Nandor Fodor.

Gef kept up his antics until the death of the Father in 1945. Until her death in 2005, Voirrey Irving maintained that Gef was real.

Now, frankly, I have my own theories as to what Gef was BUT that doesn’t really matter here.

What I want is to live in a world where Gef the Talking Mongoose COULD exist. I think that would be awesome!

That is a totally new one. But with my current binging of Ursula Vernon stories, I’m 100 percent behind a world with talking animals that aren’t necessarily ones that humans have tamed.

What do you write? And how did you get started?

First, how I got started:

I started writing to win the love of a man.

My freshman English teacher, Mr. Shearer. I loved him with all the passion a fourteen-year-old virgin could muster.

I started writing stories and would leave them on his desk. Or under the windshield wipers of his truck. To channel my passion in a more constructive way, he got me involved in theatre, specifically in an afterschool program for gifted and talented youth. From there, I went on to another theatre class where I met the boy who would become my husband and father to my children.

So, Mr. Shearer not only ignited the flames of writing but also set me down the road to meet my future family!

Now, what do I write?

I write fantastical stories in all sorts of genres. Horror, science fiction, murder mysteries, pulp noir, steampunk, romance…all the good stuff. Nothing that is ever going to be covered on NPR but…hey. I really believe that genre writers are extremely important in keeping the sanity of our fellow humans. We provide a blanket of comfort, an escape from the hard rocks of reality. I think it’s a sacred duty. We are the Divine Clowns.

I don’t think NPR is against covering genre fiction! It’s been known to make it’s way on there from time to time. From avoiding literary academia, I’ve yet to actually encounter genre-shaming in real life, just a lot of writers with trauma from their time there. I hope we’re in a better time now, where things aren’t derided as “not real literature” because people want to read them — outside of classrooms and people wanting to say they read something to impress people.

What do you like to read?

I’m a voracious reader. I love fiction, non-fiction. Anything, really.

When I was a kid, reading for me was a defense mechanism. I could escape from a home that was, in a word, tense. I could find friends when I was lonely. And I could ignore my pain when I was sick.

Reading to me is magic.

I’m glad that you found a home in books, even when your own home was less inviting. I’m pleased that you’ve stayed friends with them. I’m a huge fan of escapism, and befriending my books.

Name one commonly accepted piece of writing advice that doesn’t work for you.

Write what you know

How boring! I want to explore certain subjects and themes along with my reader. I want to experience it alongside them. We’re both in this ride together.

I completely agree. I’m a *huge* fan of science-fiction and fantasy, so people who stick too close to this mantra are probably not going to be my jam. Then again, imbuing your writing with grains of reality help ground your readers — to some extent.

Name one commonly accepted piece of writing advice that they can pry out of your cold, dead hands.

HAVE FUN! DON’T THINK! DON’T CARE!

The Ferret Chronicles, Writer Ferrets: Chasing the Muse by Richard Bach

I stole this one, but Richard Bach’s novel is a wonderful book about finding and accepting your voice.

Definitely something many writers struggle with! We love overthinking and worrying about what everyone else will like.


Shameless Self-Promotion time!

Nikki’s latest work is a collection of short horror stories:

Stone Baby and Other Strange Tales

This is a collection of short stories that involve murder, lies, ghosts, and the apologetic thing that lives under your bed.

Jake Istenhegyi: The Accidental Detective Vol 1 & 2.

This is a pulp noir series set in 1930’s New Orleans with an occult bent.

Jake finds himself fighting voodoo priestesses, golems, cannibal fishmen, boodaddies, blood thirsty alchemists and zombie chickens.

Sherlock Holmes and the Shrieking Pits

Watson comes back from a conference to find that all of London is abuzz about the mysterious disappearance of Sherlock Holmes while on a case. Waiting in Watson’s office is a young man and his assistant who believe they know what happened to Holmes: he was taken by fairies! Watson has other ideas.

The Galvanized Girl is a steampunk alternative history story set in Victorian England.

A mad scientist under the instructions of voices he calls “Angels” uses a destitute crippled orphan to create a Super Soldier. She might have other plans.

RUMBLE – is an action adventure story.

A sketchy corporation has been mining in the Gobi desert. Communications suddenly stop and satellite photos show that the site looks like it has been destroyed. A mercenary group is sent it to find any survivors and to find out what happened.

The Problem at Gruff Springs – is a Weird Western story.

Alan Pinkerton is sent by President Grant to retrieve Confederate gold that has been stolen by Confederate sympathizers who want to restart the war effort. The leads all end in a small desert town known as Gruff Springs, a hole in the wall that has been suddenly revitalized as a miracle mineral water spa. Pinkerton thinks there is something more than water up in those hills and is determined to find out what.

Revenge of the Blood Red Maid

Two actors use their theatrical talents to make a living by performing seances for aristocrats. They are hired by the family friend of an old blood family to rid them of a family curse, The Blood Red Maid. Unfortunately, it turns out the curse is truer than the pair were led to believe.

The Perverse Muse

People often point to the mysterious death of Edgar Allan Poe but the question that Amy Angler has is why do all the women in his life die? She thinks she has the answer but needs one more piece of the puzzle to be sure.


Check Nikki Nelson-Hicks out across the web!

Website | Amazon | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

Author Spotlight: E.W. Cooper

  • an audiophile, author, and destroyer of holiday cookies

Readers! Let’s give a good, hearty welcome to E.W. Cooper

E.W. Cooper is the author of the Penelope Harris historical mystery series – The Jade Tiger (2020) and Murder at the Met (2021) – and is the 2020 Booklife Prize Finalist for Mystery/Thriller.

A lifelong fan of classic mysteries and Grand Opera, Ms. Cooper is hard at work on the third book in the series. She lives quietly with her partner, children, three dogs, and one cat in a very noisy house in South Texas.

E.W., thanks for agreeing to be here today. While most interviews start off with bios and such, and while I’ll get to that as always, let’s start with the important stuff!

If you could have any pet (real/fantasy/no-allergies/no worries about feeding it) what would it be?

A dragon. That answer requires zero thought on my part. I know I write mysteries but, yeah, dragon. DEFINITELY.

A classic choice for a reason! Who wouldn’t want one?

What do you write? And how did you get started?

I write historical mysteries set during the Roaring Twenties and Prohibition.

I was a reader before I was a writer which is how I got started – I ran out of books to read. I really needed a distraction at the time, and since there were no books I decided I should just write one. I had several completed manuscripts and dozens of short stories but to be truly distracted I decided to write something entirely new. At the same time, I was very ill (hence the need for the distraction). My medication had the side effect of vivid dreams. One of these was a dream about a young woman at a house party in the 1920s that was so vivid it felt like a memory. I started there. After several years and some arduous editing, The Jade Tiger was born.

I think most writers were readers first. My first manuscript was dream inspired as well! It’s always exciting when that happens.

What do you like to read?

I will read almost anything but automobile manuals and poetry. But my daily reads are historical mysteries, noir thrillers, YA speculative fiction, and science fiction. I am also a lifelong fan of comic books which has led me to online comics from all over the world. Good storytelling is what enthralls me, not the genre, so I will read anything. My favorite mystery author is Italian author Andrea Camilleri. My problem is once I start a book I can’t stop until I finish and that can keep me up all night. I have to do my new reading on the weekends as a result.

I hear that! Although, occasionally I need to check my recommended tire pressure, and my local writer’s open mic night has exposed me to far more poetry than I’ve ever read. Are you sure you’re not me? I’m a genre-hopping sucker for a good plot, and am pretty unfamiliar with quitter-strips… er, I mean, bookmarks, myself.

Name one commonly accepted piece of writing advice that doesn’t work for you.

There is one right way to tell a story and one right way to publish.

I’m dyslexic so there are a lot of writing rules that don’t work for me. But if I had to choose just one it would be that there is no one way to tell a story and no single way to publish that story. Books in general are at an exciting point where traditional and independent publishing are offering a wealth of new voices and talent.

So true! Do what works for you is the only golden rule. As my blog followers will know, I babbled about that exact thought last week.

Name one commonly accepted piece of writing advice that they can pry out of your cold, dead hands.

Don’t give up.

Don’t give up. Don’t ever give up. Take a break, set it aside, but don’t ever give up completely. Some things take time, and effort. Writing well can be discouraging but the results are worth it.

One-hundred percent! It seems to be that perseverance is the one trait that separates the aspiring writers from the published writers.


Shameless Self-Promotion time!

The Jade Tiger

1928 New York dazzles with extravagant parties and illegal liquor. It is the perfect place for Penelope Harris to start over and leave her sordid past behind. But beyond the flow of champagne, murder is afoot, with all clues leading back to the notorious Shanghai nightclub, The Jade Tiger.

Can Penelope Harris find the killer before her past catches up to put a noose around her neck?

Murder at the Met (Penelope Harris Mysteries Book 2) Kindle Edition

Murder at the Met (Publishing Spring 2021)

November 1928 – There are two things Penelope Harris would rather do than get involved with another murder—sing opera and flirt with Thom Lund. When two tickets ensure Penelope and Thom get some precious time together at the Metropolitan opera, neither believes another murder will interrupt their romantic evening. As Penelope pulls back the cover on a diabolical murder, Lund rushes to complete the investigation of a suicide on the Gold Coast of Long Island.

What they find will uncover the sordid underbelly of high society and put Penelope on the wrong side of her own gun.


Check E.W. Cooper out across the web!

Website | Amazon | Facebook | Instagram | Bookbub | Twitter | Vendors

Author Spotlight: Poppy Kuroki

  • writer and D&D fan living in Japan, who plays too many video games

Readers! Let’s give a good, hearty welcome to Poppy Kuroki

Poppy Kuroki is a professional ghostwriter and editor. She loves books, Dungeons & Dragons, and playing video games.

She currently lives in Enoshima, Japan with her husband and dreams of owning a dog.

Poppy, thanks for agreeing to be here today. While most interviews start off with bios and such, and while I’ll get to that as always, let’s start with the important stuff!

If you could have any pet (real/fantasy/no-allergies/no worries about feeding it) what would it be?

I’d love a dog, but since there are no restrictions, I’d say an alpaca. They’re so cute and floofy!

I mean, since it’s part of your bio and all, I can’t say that ‘puppy’ was a big surprise. Alpacas are VERY awesome and floofy.

What do you write? And how did you get started?

Like many writers, I’ve been writing since I was a kid. I got a publisher for a fantasy trilogy I wrote when I was seventeen, but it didn’t work out. I gave up after that, writing for fun and then taking up ghostwriting as a job. When I had so many lovely reviews complimenting my writing style and creativity, I thought, hmm, maybe I can do this after all. Since you have to promote yourself whether you’re traditionally published or indie, I decided to go indie. It’s been a lot of fun so far. I have two published books, Oath: A Black Diamond Novel and A Bard’s Lament, and a free short story, Rhoda, is on the way.

I’m so sorry that your earlier publisher fell through. It’s a story that happens more often than any of us would like. I’m so glad you found your way back to it, with your name on the cover.

What do you like to read?

I sometimes read debut fantasy, but I often like going back to old favourites like Jacqueline Wilson for nostalgia. I like Darren Shan’s vampire saga, Stephen King, and James Herbert. Newer authors I like include Jay Kristoff and Rebecca Ross.

Oooh. I don’t know that I’ve tried any of those but Stephen King. I’ve got a few new authors to add to my ever-growing to-read pile.

Name one commonly accepted piece of writing advice that doesn’t work for you.

Never use dialogue tags

While I do use ‘said’ a lot, sometimes others like ‘asked,’ ‘suggested,’ ‘screamed’ etc. have their place.

 I’m with you one-hundred percent. There’s definitely been some discussion about dialogue tags making things easy on the reader, with the ‘she said’ just fading from any sort of story distration and better for pacing than action tags.

Name one commonly accepted piece of writing advice that they can pry out of your cold, dead hands.

Showing, not telling.

I once bought a whole trilogy and never got past the first page because it was a big, huge info dump. A lot of readers who liked Oath said they appreciated that the world-building was shown throughout the story rather than a big, long explanation.

What a lovely compliment. That’s what most of us aim for, these days, I think.


Shameless Self-Promotion time!

A Bard’s Lament a novella

The town of Veilig is burdened with a terrible secret.

Ella is a bard, her sister a prostitute, working in a tavern to pay off their late mother’s debt. But Ella has a secret of her own. Her music carries codes for spies to decipher, working to undo Veilig’s horrific crimes.

Then her sister is taken captive.

Can Ella save them both, or will their tale end in darkness?

Oath: A Black Diamond Novel

“Only through death may I leave the Black Diamond’s side…”

Tired of scraping for food in her war-torn homeland, Colette sneaks aboard a ship to Ranigh, the prosperous Empire capital, to seek her fortune. When she’s caught stealing, she is forced to pledge an Oath to a life of assassinhood.

When she’s bid to kill someone she cares for, what will Colette choose?

Obedience or love?


Check Poppy Kuroki out across the web!

Website | Amazon | Facebook | Instagram | Youtube