Thursday, December 26, 2013

Jaq Hawkins, From Occultist to Novelist...

From Occultist to Fantasy Novelist - An Inevitable Journey

I have always been a writer. From when I first learned to tell the sounds of letters as a small child, the need to write has found ways of expressing itself. By the time I was fourteen I was writing short stories prolifically and at that age, decided that my life goal would be to become a professional writer.

Exactly what I would write had not yet been carved in stone at that age. Fiction seemed an obvious choice, but my storytelling skills had not yet been fully developed. A good English teacher helped me to learn to recognize where edits would be required, especially on run-on sentences, and the mind of a dedicated professional began to form.

At an age when many new writers self-publish their first novels these days, I was experiencing life. I had been told that a writer must live first to have something to write about, though advice of that sort would never have stopped me from writing. However, I wrote only for myself during that part of my life. Many adventures later, I settled down to a less transient situation and the idea of writing professionally returned.

The question was, what did I want to write? There was much to choose from; Fiction, stories based on my real-life adventures... but the decision was given direction when a magazine editor asked me to write something specific for his publication. I had taken an interest in esoteric subjects at a very young age and the old adage, 'write what you know', came into play.

So, I wrote an explanatory article about chaos magic - a subject that was of great interest to a special niche of readers at the time. This sparked additional articles for magazines in the same subject area and I became a regular contributor to a glossy magazine called Mezlim, often writing something offbeat about their monthly themes. It was always a personal imperative for me to find a unique angle to the issue topic so that I wouldn't be writing the same sort of thing that everyone else would write about the subject.

In the 1990's, I decided it was time I wrote a book. By then I had developed a certain reputation in the esoteric market and had an extensive track record of articles in print. I finished the first book in 1994 and began to look for a publisher. In those days, traditional publishing was still the only choice (apart from vanity publishing, which I wouldn't touch) and my subject matter was usually handled by small niche publishers.

Over the years I had learned a lot about the writing business, including how to prepare a proper manuscript. It all helped. I was given encouragement by the largest occult publisher in the U.S. that they would be interested in my book, but they wanted certain changes. The one that made me hesitate was a formula they wanted to impose to make the book fit into a how-to series they were producing at the time. I felt that it would compromise the intent of the book rather far, but still hadn't made a final decision when I was introduced to the owners of Capall Bann publishing in England.

Capall Bann had a very different criteria. They told me that if I could get the manuscript into ascii file compatibility, they would publish the book. Now days people might ask what that means, but in the mid-1990's I was writing on a word processor and computer compatibility was not automatic. Things have changed in the technical world.

A solution was found for the technical requirement and my first book was released in 1996. Naturally, I immediately followed it
with more in the same subject matter and even before my Spirits of the Elements series had been completed, I had developed a solid reputation in occult writing. After eight books had been published, the desire to write fiction began to nag at me again.

This is the part of my writing history that many readers of my early published material will not have known. I was writing fiction at the rate of two or three stories per day at the age of fourteen and my love of reading Fantasy fiction in particular made me want to create my own world... one as wonderful as Darkover or Pern, or even Amber with its attendant horrors. The Fantasy writer had simmered beneath the non-fiction writer for long enough.

I had even attempted to formulate an alternate world for a story on more than one occasion, but I found that trying to force or consciously outline a Fantasy world just wasn't working for me. When the world that would become the backdrop for my Goblin series came to me, it crept in unexpectedly on the shirttails of political theory. It was the year that Bush the younger was about to be re-elected under the shadow of questionable vote counting practice and I had dipped my toe into activism enough to find that most activist groups had their own agendas and lacked willingness
to work on a larger co-operative scale.

The thought of how things should have worked led to a dialogue exchange that went through my head between an anarchist and someone who simply couldn't understand the concept of a leaderless society, and suddenly I had a conflict between a world of goblins who have no formal hierarchy and humans with their various government structures. I wrote it down and the world grew into a post-apocalyptic feudal society of humans with a shamanic, very tribal people living underground to avoid war, though conflict was inevitable.

By the time I was a few chapters into the first novel, I had notes for two more and the story had grown into a series. I decided at that early stage that three was enough for a single series, but I would keep an open mind on additional 'side stories' or even the possibility of additional contained series like the early Pern books, which started with a trilogy and was followed by another trilogy.

At some point I was inspired by a Steampunk song to write a story about airship pirates in that genre, which gave me a chance to write in an alternative Victorian England for a change of scenery. The
Wake of the Dragon is also destined to have a sequel, but probably not an extensive series, though an idea for a Khempunk novel in a similar vein is kicking around in my writing notes.

Ideas have flowed ever since and I cannot keep up with them. They include other alternate worlds as well as variations on real world themes. It seems that once the floodgates of world building were open, there could be no stopping the possibilities. At present I have a science fiction novel involving a moon colony slowly developing, though my intent in the coming year is to go back to my publishing roots and write some new titles in the Mind, Body, Spirit category as it is now called. My traditional publisher of that kind of material has not yet joined the digital age and the freedom to control my own output in the world of indie publishing has brought a desire to bring that side of my writing into the ebook market, after receiving several requests to do so from readers of my early books.

As I said at the beginning, I have always been a writer. Writing fiction and non-fiction have both become inherent parts of who I am. Finding a balance between the two may be a challenge while I catch up with some of the ideas I have waiting for their turn to be written, but the journey from esoteric writer to fiction novelist was not so far after all, because it was always a part of me.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

The Carpenter's Wife By Mysti Parker

Merry Christmas from all of us at The Creative Muses and to celebrate, here is a special Christmas gift to all our readers from the one and only Mysti Parker.  Thanks Mysti for sharing and for allowing us to post your beautiful Holiday story!

The Carpenter's Wife 
by Mysti Parker
     Her screams jarred the peaceful night. A donkey brayed. From the rafters overhead, startled doves flew away in a burst of annoyed coos and wing beats. The young woman was no stranger to childbirth, having assisted her own mother on many such occasions in their village. But here they had no one to call upon for help. The thought occurred to her that she might die, that the stunning proclamation had been a dream, that their little family was no more important than any other.
     Her husband knelt in front of her, holding her knees apart. He didn’t flinch at her cries, nor did he look her in the eye. Only a brief crease in his brow indicated any concern on his part.
     She treasured that one gesture, listening to his monotone instructions, straining to hear the slightest hint of his love. “Push. Good. Now breathe.”
     The contraction eased. She allowed her head to fall back on the rolled-up horse blanket he’d provided when the pains began. The months had crept along until this night. She thought about the quiet dinners they shared back home. About all the times when he caught her staring at him while he focused on his bread and lentils. Their stagnant marriage teetered on this one event.
     She had known all along the doubt remained, but she was so grateful for this man who had taken her in despite everything. He worked tirelessly until his hands blistered and bled. His furniture was highly regarded, yet he never boasted. She admired the pride he took in his creations, and she loved to watch him work. Wood surrendered to his skilled touch. Chisels and saws were like an extension of his limbs. She wanted nothing more than to be the wife he deserved, yet the desire to pick up a doll or chase her younger siblings down the dusty streets still pulled at her heart. And, of course, people still whispered.
     Another pain. Then another. Wave after wave. Sweat poured from her brow. The surroundings blurred with every excruciating squeeze. She felt the baby leaving the warmth of her womb, coming closer to the chilly night. Would he be all right? What if something she did while he was in her womb caused him to be stillborn or crippled?
     “Push! I see the head. It’s almost over.”
     His voice was louder, his eyes wider, sparkling with more excitement than she’d ever seen before. She focused on his face, on the promises of God, and pushed with all her might.
     The child came in a sudden whoosh, leaving her weeping with relief and a feeling of emptiness. Her husband caught the baby in the softest bit of cloth he could find, supplied by the innkeeper, perhaps out of guilt for their lowly accommodations.
     “It’s a boy!”
     “Is he all right?”
     The baby cried, easing her fears. Her husband nodded. “Yes, he’s beautiful, like his mother.”

     She smiled through her tears at the joy in his voice and his beaming smile. He cut the cord and swaddled him as gently as if he were his own child. Then, he handed the tiny infant to her. She took him in her arms, astonished at how insignificant the boy felt within his wrappings. Red, wrinkly, and bald, he didn’t look like anyone that could save the world. Yet, as her husband wiped tears and nestled close to her side for a better look at their son, she knew that this tiny babe had already resurrected Joseph’s heart. The rest was up to God. 
This story was published in the anthology Christmas Lites. All proceeds go to the NCADV (National Coalition Against Domestic Violence). Grab your copy on Amazon Kindle for just $3.99. Also, be sure to pick up Christmas Lites II and Christmas Lites IIIThey make great gifts!!!
  Buy it HERE!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

A Christmas Tale

 From our very own fantastic and inspirational Author Paula Shene, here is a special Christmas treat!

The K-9 Boys and Girls are a pack of rescued dogs that discuss serious problems but with the wry wit of the 7-12 year old.


A Christmas tale

From the

Chronicles of The K-9 Boys and Girls on Locus Street

It was a mere week before Christmas as Mandy and her Pack lay sleeping in their home on Locus Street... while up in the North Pole, Santa goes about making Mandy’s dream, a reality.


“Front and center, Head Elves.   We have a large dream to fulfill, and I will need you all, young and old alike, to keep your pointy ears open and be on your toes.”

“Santa... are you talking about Mandy The Alpha Dog?  That is a big, big dream and I’m not sure we can do it all by Christmas Eve.”

“When have you ever failed me, Gunter?  Surely, Master Gunny, you will not fail me... no, not this year, please.  You need to get all your Merry Band of Artisans together and get them on the road.  There are thousands, no hundreds of thousands and we have little time to waste.”

"I totally am on this, Dude... umm... Santa, but sometimes we need more help, like, say, miracles... something we usually leave to the Big Guy.”  Seeing Santa’s eyebrow raised, he quickly says, “All right, all right.  I won’t tell you, I can’t.   I’m just saying this is going to be hard.”  

As he turns to go, he hears Santa murmur, ‘Don’t I know it.  It was easier making the toys march.’’


“Master Gunny?  How are we going to change people’s hearts?  Most think this type of present is too much bother... and then they throw it away,”  Pariel Serago muses.

“Ours is not to do or... well... there just is no ‘or’ in our case.   We will do this, Pariel.  Tell your wife to be ready to go in ten minutes.  I have the rest of the troops to round up. I will be in the last sleigh when we take off.  I’ll be seeing to it so we have no stragglers.  You will be the lead sleigh. See you at the stable in ten minutes.  Oh, and bring your young ones.”

Gunter, or Master Gunny as everyone calls him, shoves his hands deeply into his pockets, pulls his hat down over his pointy ears, and with his head down, walks into the whirling snow.  

The drifts look like swirls ... icing on a cake fit for a child’s birthday. Beautiful... a white Christmas for all the boys and girls.  But, he thinks, better find my gloves and scarf before take off. It's beautiful but wow, it is cold!

Ten minutes later, he watches as the Serago family rush through the stable door.  Pariel is prodding his two younger sons while his wife, Pinde holds onto Maro’s hand.  The daughters are poking and shoving behind their parent's backs until Pinde turns and gives them her special Mama Elf stare.

“Okay line up.  Fin!  Isil! Maro! Luti! Lari! Twee!   No more time for foolery.  We’re in the head sleigh and I don’t want to catch any of you falling off.  The team of reindeer picked may be second stringers, but they're swift in their strides and tomfoolery will send you tumbling!”

“Yes, Papa but who will pull our sleigh tonight?” the children sing out, in perfect harmony...

"Dear for deer, "Papa sings back, “My little dears may each pick a deer of their own.” The children run, elbowing and poking, towards the reindeer.

“I’ve got Morwa,” sings Fin, “Ha, ha,ha!”

“Holi is my pick,” trills Twee.

“Nappe!,” Isil holds the high C note on the ‘e’ until Papa bellows, “ PLEASE pick a pack of pullers peacefully!  All this peeping and piping is p... p...”

"Positively un - pleasant?" offered Pinde.

"Preee - cisely!  Papa patted her on the back.  "Proceed, my dears."

“I have Reni,” twitters Luti.

"Mine is Rane,” chirps Lari.

“Latte” croons, Maro, as he leads her to the sleigh.

"Dear wife, will yours be Zindal?"

"Of course, Sweetheart.  Just as yours will be Sari, his mate.  These two shall lead the others."  She scans the stable area where the reins are kept, but does not see them. "Isil Aen Serago, where are the reindeer leads with the bells?  It was your responsibility to put them away."

"Oh,oh... be right back," Isil yells as he bolts out the door, running for home where he had thrown the leads under his bed for safekeeping, thinking, I'll put them away tomorrow.  Then he had started reading that interesting story on 'Reindeer in their Natural Habitat' and completely forgot the leads under his bed.  Good thing I'm the fastest runner on our track team 'cause Mama used my whole name. And when she does that, I know she's annoyed.


"Finally, they're all asleep.  It'll be a couple of hours before we reach our first center for pickup.  If there aren't too many to pick up, we could let them sleep for a bit longer."

"Are we going to take them all or only the ones with problems?  You know some people only want the perfect ones, Pariel."  

"I know, my sweet Pinde, but Mandy's dream is about the 'dinged' ones this year.  Don't worry, there will be more than enough to go around.  Unfortunately, there always is more than enough.  Just relax, the reindeer know where they're going.  

If you want to nap too, while the little ones are snoozing, here's your chance." But, Pinde stays awake as their sleigh weaves the winds in the ways of heaven, trailed... by hundreds of sleighs dotting the air between the sparkling night lights of the stars.


"Okay, everyone, wake up.  We've got a load and half here to pick up and get back to Santa."  As all his darlings rub their eyes, Pariel continues, "Now, kids, I want you to be quiet.  Mama says you are like that sometimes, though I've yet to see it, so now it is time to show me, because our pickups will be scared and need you to be gentle.  Noises will scare them.  And another thing, these all have homes already so no, you can't keep them."

"Yes, Papa.  We know how to touch gently and speak softly. We promise." said the children, very, very quietly.

Night after night, for a week, until Christmas Eve finally arrived - when they turn back to Santa with their last precious load, if you had looked just right, at just the right time, you might have seen that caring caravan crossing the quiet heavens.

Christmas has come early to some of the children expecting their gift.  Each night, when the Serago family along with the hundreds of other Elfin families returned to the North Pole, they found Santa awaits them.  He took each load and fit it into his magic sleigh.  It looked just like any of the other transports the elves used, but its magic was that it could easily and comfortably fit everything inside - from the hundreds of regular sleighs that arrived! Hundreds... ... to their forever homes, well, forever!

Each one of these precious presents, pets that had been 'dinged' by carelessness, cruelty or simple neglect, loving animals that had been victims of hurt they never deserved,  every one of them now got a second, a better, chance at finding, at having and keeping... love.  

They were going to homes where the children wanted them and would love them, taking care to feed and play and walk and sometimes clean up after because they were, after all, dogs and cats and birds and rats and bunnies, hamsters and all sorts of pets that children love.  


"Mandy, was that Santa I saw leaving?"

"Yes, Sophitia, it was.  He stopped for cookies and milk and to tell me it took a week for my dream present to happen."

"Did you ask him again for forever homes for all the abused animals?"

"Yes, Shadow.  This year took a lot more time and he told me a secret but I can share it with you all."

"Mandy, a secret is something you're not supposed to tell, otherwise, it's not a secret."

"I know that, Snooper.  But this is a different kind of a secret.  This is a secret that needs to be told.  Black animals OR white animals have a really hard time being adopted.  People like animals with lots of different colors but not those colors."

"Well, Mandy, that ain't true.  It can't be true. I mean, well, I'm black and white, and everybody loves me."

"Because you're so modest, Shadow?  I didn't say black AND white, I said black OR white.  Santa said he kept a white cat and a black dog.  Also, a lot of the Elfin families took in bunnies and hamsters and snakes and rats and Guinea Pigs, Salamanders, and Geckos and some dogs and cats, too."

"Did you happen to notice, Mandy, Santa left three dogs in the living room."

"Three!?  That means, we're seven now."

"Wake up Mandy, wake up!  Are you okay? You fainted. You've been wanting more pups in our pack so I told Santa.  I thought you'd be pleased.  It was my Christmas present to you.  Are you happy?"

"It was just a bit of a shock, Snooper, but this does make it a MERRY CHRISTMAS for all. You better take me to them.  It's time for them to meet their leader."


For the further adventures of The K-9 Boys and Girls on Locus Street, meet us at



Sunday, December 8, 2013

The Return, by Melissa Douthit

This week The Creative Muse is featuring The Return, by Melissa Douthit, the last installment of the Legend of the Raie'Chaelia trilogy.  It is currently on tour with Premier Virtual Author Book Tours.

Book Summary:
After the fall from the Maaldan cliff, Chalice is reunited with her friends on a journey that takes them to the coastline of Ielieria.  Little do Vlaad and his Fierain know what is in store for them as, bit by bit, their plans are thwarted by this blond-haired, blue-eyed beauty. 
The small band of rebels then travels across the Realm, preparing it for war, while Chalice herself is brewing plans of her own that may just land her in the hot seat.  What will happen when she returns her father to the throne?  What will happen when he finds out what she has done?  And ... what will happen once Dar’Maalda learns of the rebels' location? 
In the third and final novel of the trilogy, The Legend of the Raie’Chaelia, you find out.  It is a dramatic finish to an epic story of action, adventure, betrayal, forgiveness and love.
What the tour hosts are saying:
"I really enjoyed The Return by Melissa Douthit. It reads like great epic fantasy despite being a post-apocalyptic, dystopian fantasy. The world building is extremely intricate and the laws under which the world functions are well defined. The main character, Chalice, is gutsy, brave, daring, flawed, has a temper that often gets the better of her and is so genuine that she shines forth from the page. The cast of supporting characters is equally interesting. I found myself amazed at how many varied storylines Douthit was able to keep apparently seamless track of and weave together into the intricate tapestry of this story. I recommend this series to a broad scope of readers, those who enjoy dystopian literature with a mix of magic and standard warfare, those who like post-apocalyptic literature, those who like epic fantasy, and those who enjoy paranormal romances. I feel it has appeal to a broad scope of readers and offers a piece of literature that may well stand the test of time and one day appear beside the likes of Tolkien even though it is set in the future, not in some distant and forgotten past. It is still a wonderful fantasy in the truest sense of the word."
~ Tracy Riva, Tracy Riva Books & Reviews 
"The world building and under-girding science, character delineation and dialog all remain strong and even show significant growth.  I continue to be enthralled by this world and its characters and creatures and lore.  I wish there was more to come ... If the pace of Melissa's improvement continues, she is going to be a force in the fantasy genre (or any other she wishes) before too long. She most definitely has the gift of storytelling and I'm eager to follow her career." 
~ Joy, Joy Story 
"This is a fun book and a good read. Lots of action — magic, young love, battles and war — and one amazing horse. Don’t underestimate the horse; she’s a major character. There’s a lot to like, memorable and sympathetic heroes and heroines. Plus some very sinister bad guys. This is a young book, aimed at a youthful audience though suitable for adults too. For all practical purposes, it’s one book broken into three parts … like Lord of the Rings. I don’t suggest reading this as a stand-alone. If you haven’t read the first two books, read them before you read this." 
~ Marilyn, Serendipity 
The Return is on sale on Amazon, Kobo, and Melissa's online bookstore.  The two prequel short stories, as well as the first book to the trilogy, are available for free here.

To give you a taste of the story, below are excerpts from The Vanishing (the hero's story) and The Journey Begins (the heroine's story):

The Vanishing, pages 53-54
She eyed him curiously.  “You say you’ve seen me.  Have we met before?” 
“You don’t remember?” he asked with raised eyebrows.  He was puzzled that she didn’t remember something that was so clear to him.  Nine years earlier, when they were children, he had spent three years in Canton with her and her grandparents.  His parents had had to leave on a search mission and his brothers had gone to stay with the Corbins.  There had been no room for Jeremiah there and as Sebastian Pandretti had been in town visiting at the time, it was, according to his father, the best solution for him.  He suddenly remembered Canton and the games she and he played when they were young.  It seemed as if it were almost yesterday.  “Ghost-in-the-Graveyard,” he continued, “in the wine cellar of the Inn?  You cheated all the time.”  He laughed.  “You really don’t remember?”  Sighing, he finally said: “Ah well, you were pretty young then.” 
She studied him for a moment and then, suddenly, her face lit up in recognition.  “Oh my gosh, no, I do remember!” she exclaimed.  “Jeremiah?!” she asked and he nodded.  “Jeremiah Maehbeck!  How could I have forgotten?!?” 
He smiled as she said the words and caught a twinkle of joy in her eye at seeing him again.  Then he suddenly realized what had been missing in his life this whole time.  After all these years, he finally understood the emptiness inside of him and realized what could fill it – the only thing that could fill it.  It was her.

The Journey Begins, pages 33-34
A pained expression contorted her face.  “I’m not going to leave you!” she shouted. 
“Go!” was Papa’s last word to her before he slapped Sunny on the rear and sent him bolting toward the trees.  The horse ran like the wind and it was all she could do to rein him in.  Finally, she pulled him to a halt just at the edge of the tree line and spun him around, searching desperately for her grandparents.  She saw Papa running toward the back of the inn where the pigeon cages were.  What is he doing? she wondered.  Why aren’t they coming with me?  Should I disobey and turn back?  A blood-curdling scream caught her attention and she saw a woman fall from the second-story window of a building on the east side.  The woman’s body slammed to the ground and lay crumpled and motionless in the street as chaos reigned around her.  Dark figures scrambled back and forth and flames roared in the distance, consuming everything in their path.  Suddenly, Chalice heard hoof-beats and shot a glance down Canton Run.  In between the buildings, she could see that dark riders were rapidly approaching the inn, and in a few moments would see her at the edge of the forest. 
“Go!” she heard Corin yell fiercely from the cottage door and knew that she had no choice.  In one quick motion, she dug her heels firmly into Sunny’s side and had to hold on tightly as he sprang forward and flew through the trees.  He galloped swiftly through dark smoke that stung her eyes.  Painful tears blurred her vision and streamed down her cheeks.  She wiped them away and concentrated on the path that lay ahead, the terrified shrieks of the villagers still ringing in her ears.