Author in the Spotlight: January Bain

January BainJanuary was one of those: a high school poet. Now, married to the love of her life whom she credits for her interest in big time romance, she has combined this love with an interest in the paranormal and vampires to produce the FOREVER SERIES of books. Forever Man, Forever Woman, Forever Clan and Forever Angel are all published by Champagne books. She teaches Business, Technology, and English during the day, and can often be found engrossed in writing early in the morning and in every spare moment humanly possible. She writes in many genres: paranormal, horror, sci-fi, fantasy, and contemporary exotic romance under a pseudonym.

January enjoys blogging for Science Fiction Musings, Worlds of the Imagination, and The Writers Vineyard each month. She hopes to touch your heart with her stories and very much enjoys hearing from other writers and readers alike. She loves living in the country and communing with nature while time travelling in her mind. Oh, and she’s a firm believer in positive karma, one of her favorite quotes being, to forget oneself is to be happy by Robert Louis Stevenson.

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SEVEN SPOTLIGHT QUESTIONS:

#1: What do you enjoy the most about writing?

The actual-writing-at-the-computer-keyboard-moment when you are literally holding on for the ride created by the characters that have come fully to life in your mind. It’s those hours that make writing the most amazing adrenaline rush I have ever experienced short of falling in love.

#2: What was your earliest writing experience?

Becoming a teenage poet was my start. A special teacher I remember with great fondness would take my words and read them aloud in the staff-room giving me my first audience. What a blessing! They gave me such hope.

#3: Describe a day in your writing life:

My favorite day is Saturday or Sunday. I get to stay in bed for a few hours after waking and write to my heart’s content drinking a bottomless cup of coffee. I usually manage three or four thousand words that will need editing later, of course.

#4: What authors influenced you and how?

I had a voracious appetite for reading as a child that followed me into adulthood. I’ve read many genres and many, many authors. All have helped me in my writing journey. The running joke growing up was that I read all the available books at the public library in our town.

#5: What are some things you learned to help with your success?

I’ve learned that first class fiction is characterized by memorable characters, unique premises, story worlds instantly real, plots that grip even when slow, gorgeous writing, and themes that surprise, challenge and change us, to name just a few. It’s always about the quality of the writing.

#6: Describe your writing method:

For me it’s important to go with a story that captivates me and fills me with the driving passion to write it. Then, I write full out the first time round. I flesh out my characters as they become real for I experience them as actual people. (I see a movie unfolding in my mind and I sometimes just feel like the recorder.) I open multiples word files to fill the self-titled book folder with character names and studies, research, hook lines, plot, story arch and ending if it’s come to me yet. Often, it does not, but unfolds in real time with the characters. I think I like that best, though it’s also scary because you worry if the story will become the right one to share with others? And yet, I don’t want to lose all the spontaneity by structuring too fully before starting. And it’s always a wild, glorious ride!

#7: Tips for aspiring writers:

Write, write, write. Learn from others. Don’t be afraid to edit your words, they’re not written in stone and can always use improvement to better explain what you are seeing and experiencing to your readers. Try to say things different from other writers. Be an original. Develop enough of a skin to handle criticism, but don’t become so immune that you won’t fight for what’s right for your book. Always be kind. One of my favorite things to say to my students is, “It’s hard to be human.”

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About January’s Book Forever Clan:

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  1. Will the love of a human for her vampire mate be enough to save their child?

Sunday Rose’s soul mate is a vampire. If that isn’t difficult enough to deal with, she’s pregnant with a child that prophecy states can either help or destroy the vampire race. And there are those that fear either outcome. If she is to protect her child from those who would exploit the prophecy, she must awaken unknown abilities and call upon her guardian angels to buy the time necessary to get her family to safe harbor.

Excerpt:

“I think reading all those vampire romance novels you love so much has addled your brain, Sunday Rose St. Clair. First, it was Grandma Rose and her faeries, and now you and your vampires.” Her mother remarked without rancor as she deftly rolled out the piecrust for the fifth pie of the morning. Sunday Rose was lagging behind her mother in peeling the Macintosh apples she was in charge of, causing her mother to give her a stern warning with eyes that plainly stated to hurry it up, we don’t have all day.

She sighed, “But ma, to be able to live forever, just imagine!”

The older woman brushed back a wayward strand of still-bright auburn hair that belied her years with a backward sweep of a flour covered hand and looked at her last born child, though her expression softened as she took in her long shining titan hair and striking emerald green eyes that were the exact color of her late grandmother’s, a legendary beauty in her own right.

“I think I’ve done enough baking and cleaning and doing for others in this lifetime. No thanks to continuing this indefinitely.”

Her mother’s practical answer drew an exaggerated eye roll from her daughter who was picking up the pace on the cleaning and cutting up of the fragrant apples into the large tin basin positioned precariously in her lap. A second warning look had sent the clear message her mother was fast losing patience.

“It’s not a practical matter. It’s about being able to have endless time to live and love and learn and—to just have more.” Sunday Rose’s voice was full of yearning as she tried to explain how she felt about the subject.

“What do you know about love? You’re just a chit of a thing.”

“I know that I’m going to find someone that will love me no matter what—who’ll love me unconditionally.”

“That’s pretty hard to find child. Sounds more like the love of a parent for a child.”

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Buy Forever Clan:

Kindle: http://www.amazon.com/Forever-Clan-January-Bain-ebook/dp/B00AXVC6YE/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1392319660&sr=1-1&keywords=forever+clan

Champagne Books: http://www.champagnebooks.com/januarybain.htm

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Connect with January:

Webpage: http://www.januarybain.ca/

Twitter: @JanuaryBain

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/january.bain

Fan email address: jbain@xplornet.com

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Author in the Spotlight: Nancy LaRonda Johnson

It’s Thursday, and that means another Author in the Spotlight! My guest today is also my critique partner, so it’s a pleasure to highlight her work for you today.

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Nancy LaRonda Johnson has written short stories, poetry and personal journals most of her life, and has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology and a law degree. A probation officer by day, she strives during her off-hours to write interesting characters who make it through trying times. Her first book, the literary Christian speculative novel Anticipation of the Penitent, about a serial killer and his mother, reached the finals in the San Francisco Writer’s Conference 2012 Indie Publishing Contest. Salted With Fire, a book of short stories and poetry, is her second publication. She is working on several projects, including a sequel to Anticipation of the Penitent.

Christian speculative fiction is horror, sci-fi or fantasy written from a Christian angle. Nancy also writes poetry when it hits her, and flash fiction  (very short stories, usually under 1000 words).

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SEVEN SPOTLIGHT QUESTIONS:

#1: What do you enjoy the most about writing?

I love writing about everyday people and controversial topics with a touch of horror. In doing that, I hope to get people to question their beliefs and consider how although others may seem different, they are very similar to ourselves.  In other words, I love to “stir the pot” with my writing. Usually people who love my writing, do so even though they are disturbed by the lives they’ve encountered and the jarring roads they have to travel in the stories.

#2: What was your earliest writing experience?

In elementary school, I remember writing a story about my dog, Chico, getting lost in a regional part and how he found his way home. It was a valiant effort at a first story, but I thought it was quite bad. Even so, my teacher called me “prolific.” She told me to look the word up, which I did but still didn’t understand what it meant. It still encouraged me.

#3: Describe a day in your writing life:

A good day is when, at every free moment, during slow times at work, once home after work, or on my days off, and in between every other responsibilities I have, I’m thinking about my characters, plots and subplots, am adding on to what I’ve already written or am editing it. But, unfortunately, there are days when the document doesn’t get opened.

#4: What authors influenced you and how?

The most influential authors for me have been: Stephen King, for his always interesting characters; Octavia Butler, for her amazingly creative storylines; Gloria Naylor, for her real life, everyday strong characters; and the most influential book, the Bible, which has the most heart wrenching and uplifting stories, amazing poetic prose, and is true. Which reminds me that true stories, especially true crime books, have also influenced me greatly.

#5: What are some things you learned to help with your success?

I’ve learned not waste money, which I have done too much last year. I’m learning that if I can’t see a matching return for the money, there’s no good reason to spend it and, in fact, is the worst entrepreneurship rule you could break. So, it helps to find free services whenever possible. Then go cheap. The place to spend the most, I’d say, is with editing.

#6: Describe your writing method:

When I’m starting on something new, even when I have an idea in mind, it really helps me to do free write or use a writing prompt to get me started. Some of my subplots were developed by this method and made my books much more complete and unpredictable.

What also helps me, especially if I’m not focusing or am feeling stuck, is to open up a blank word document and just start writing. Or, I just write at any point in the story that interests me that day. For me, it’s more blocking to write linearly. Much of my writing is mood or emotion based, or character driven, so writing a scene that grabs me that day really brings the best of my writing out.

Other than that, I just keep plugging away! Even if I don’t write as much as I’d like, it will eventually get where I want it to be.

#7: Tips for aspiring writers:

So many people say that writers write. Very helpful, (not!) even if it’s true. Generally, I’m not one to sit for hours and hours writing every day, mainly because I don’t have the time. But I will push myself to write something, even if it’s a paragraph or developing or filling in an outline. Wherever you’re at with your discipline as a writer, just keep trying to increase from there, without guilt.

Another important thing to keep in mind is to get beta readers. This process has helped me greatly in my current project. Graeme has read my WIP as it developed, which meant at the worst stage, with the worst writing and incomplete storyline! But his input has been invaluable. Two other beta readers gave me wonderful input after I made changes to my first draft, which has made it so much better. With each drastic change in the book based on input I got from the beta readers, I like to get one or two other readers’ inputs. It’s amazing how much your original idea for the book develops! Since writing is subjective, readers let you know if what you’re trying to say doesn’t come through or doesn’t even make sense, and you make the changes to write what you really meant. Afterward, you realize that the book has gotten exponentially better.

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About Nancy’s Book Anticipation of the Pentinent:

Anticipation_of_the__Cover_for_Kindle

Trapped by the devil, Alezea bears Satan’s son and knows her life will never be her own. She is the mother of Thomas, a man reared by Satan to be a killer of life’s most innocent – little girls. Alezea lives detached from the horrors committed by her son and from her domination by the entity who uses her as he pleases. Until she meets Martha, who shows her a way out. Alezea will now risk her very soul to free Thomas from his father. The fight to save her son will either redeem Alezea or destroy her forever.

Rachel knows Thomas’ history, yet she believes her presence can transform him. Her belief in Thomas might send her fully into the devil’s realm or provide an opening for God’s miracles in both of their lives. In a scheme to continue his father’s line, Thomas may ruin his alliance with Rachel or rend himself from the dominion he was born to hold. The impulse to contrive his future takes Thomas to new heights in his lifework as a killer and pushes him toward maturity, while forcing him to encounter the astonishing truth of his heritage.

Anticipation of the Penitent depicts the battle between good and evil in one family until it is rendered to its destined completion. Only then will it be known whether Alezea succeeds in her struggle for a life free from Satan’s control.

Excerpt:

For the first time in twenty-seven years, Alezea looked at Thomas as a part of herself. He was human, not a pliant slave for the devil’s use and pleasure. A rivulet of shame started to stream its way into her heart for the actions she partook in with her son.

Her son. Tears manifested their way from within her soul and overflowed onto her cheeks. He was her son, not Satan’s. He lived in her world, not the underworld of the devil. Her formidable, strong, handsome son had the choice to not be the devil’s heir, just as she had the choice not to be the devil’s maiden.

It was late when Alezea finally completed her story to Martha. Alezea was amazed that Martha did not send her away forever or call the police to her home. Instead, Martha told her to go home. She told Alezea to not worry and that she would help.

Alezea reached out in the darkened room and touched her son gently on the arm, not with the initiation of demanded sexual perversion, but with the care and worry of a mother for her only child who was lost. That rivulet of shame slowly began to transform into a prospect of hope. Could her son, who had no guidance or teachings of goodness, be turned around?

This phenomenon of love for Thomas was in its infancy. But Thomas was a man in his twenties. Could he begin to see Alezea as his mother, to be respected and trusted? The immediate answer to herself was a blatant “No!” Rather or not she reached out to God previously, she knew that God was stronger than her shame, her doubts and the devil himself. She would fight for him. She would fight for her son.

She covered Thomas’ shoulders with his sheet and left his bedroom, closing the door quietly. Alezea stood, leaning gently against his door, still enjoying the emotional impasse welling inside her. For the first time ever, feeling something other than trapped, fear and shame, enabled Alezea to feel relief.

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Buy Anticipation of the Penitent for Kindle:

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Anticipation-Penitent-Nancy-LaRonda-Johnson-ebook/dp/B009ZQCEEA

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Also by Nancy: Salted with Fire, a collection of flash fiction and poetry with a theme of spiritual growth

Salted_With_Fire_Cover_for_Kindle

Black magic, murder, insanity… humor, honor and devotion. Salted With Fire is a journey of flash fiction and poetry that shows my writing transformation from worldly to wanting to please God.

Flash fiction is my passion; poetry is my release. I love creating a complete story, with a beginning, middle and end, with twists, humor, drama, compassion and horror, all under 1000 words. Salted With Fire isn’t just a book of stories and poetry, it is my journey as a writer, from writing only for the mere joy of it regardless of the message, to writing stories that highlight God’s will for people, even if the stories themselves are not religious in nature.

Inside are fifteen flash fiction pieces and twelve poems with color pictures, and short Biblical discussions after each story.

Excerpt:

Heat

Smoothly, his hand moves
and glides across my arm,
leaving a trail of humidity in its wake.

Droplets of his heat rise on my skin,
and he takes my hand,
silken and shaken, into his.

Words aren’t spoken,
it’s time to listen.

The sound of “hush” comes from us both,
quieting the vibrations of our hearts that
diminish our ability to hear.

Our hands meld into one,
knowing this is how it should be.
Our arms draw closer,
our steps align,
and we arrive.

There is nothing left,
but to affirm the commands:
Honor. Love. Keep God with.
Only after, do we vow and alight
in our first kiss as one.

nancy-hand

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Buy Salted with Fire:

Kobo: http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/salted-with-fire-6

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Salted-Fire-Nancy-LaRonda-Johnson-ebook/dp/B00DFRU6L8

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Connect with Nancy:

Webpage: http://www.nancylarondajohnson.com

Twitter: @NLaRondaJohnson

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/NancyLaRondaJohnson

Fan email address: nlarondajohnson-author@yahoo.com

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Author in the Spotlight: Susan Forest

A warm welcome to Susan Forest, my author in the spotlight guest this week!

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Two-time Prix Aurora Award finalist and winner of The Galaxy Project, juried by Robert Silverberg, David Drake and Barry Malzberg, Susan Forest is a writer of science fiction, fantasy and horror, and a fiction editor for Edge Press. You can find her stories in Analog, Asimov’s, OnSpec, Blood and Water, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Tesseracts, AE Science Fiction Review, and The Urban Green Man, or in her collection, Immunity to Strange Tales (Five Rivers Press). www.speculative-fiction.ca.

Besides writing, Susan paints (acrylics and oils) both speculative and western landscapes. She teaches creative writing for adults (the novel, speculative fiction, and some weekend courses) and goes into elementary schools as an artist-in-residence (writing).

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SEVEN SPOTLIGHT QUESTIONS:

#1: Why do you write?

Stories bubble up in me all the time. As a child, I had imaginary playmates, and I still love to play with my imaginary friends. Writing, for me, is being immersed in story–surrounded by bizarre, dangerous and exciting landscapes, interacting with surprising characters. When I was younger, I enjoyed acting in community theatre, and I directed plays as well. Writing for me is the best of theatre, because I get to be all the actors and the director at the same time.

#2: What was your earliest writing experience?

In grade two, I wrote, “Jimmy the Fish That Couldn’t Swim.” In grade six, my teacher suggested my contribution to the class talent show would be to write, and read, an original story: “The Eyes on the Wall” (my first horror piece). In grade seven, the last section of my school binder with all my subjects was my first (uncompleted) novel: “Jean-Paul Travels Twice.” I used to work on it in class, after I finished the assignments for homework.

#3: Describe a day in your writing life:

First, I get rid of my email commitments, then go to the gym. Too much sitting is not only bad for your health, but leads to all sorts of stress injuries like carpal tunnel and tendonitis; besides, I like to get the blood flowing through my brain, and I find one of the most productive places to think about my stories–and solve plot problems–is on the treadmill. The afternoon is spent writing until supper, and I do my hobbies (painting), volunteer work (I am secretary for SFWA, IFWA and When Words Collide) and prep for courses I teach, in the evenings. As well as go to book launches, of course! Reading and critiquing happens while I eat or at bedtime.

#4: What authors influenced you and how?

My earliest influences were Edgar Rice Burroughs and Walter Farley, but I love so many genre authors: Ursula K LeGuin, Sherry Tepper, Robert J Sawyer, Barbara Hambly, Connie Willis, Lois McMaster Boujold, Lois Lowry, and Margaret Atwood, and non-genre authors such as Betsy Byars, Katherine Paterson and Natalie Babbitt. Burroughs was formative–Tarzan, his Martian stories and the centre of the earth stories: his worlds were so exotic. I got to hear LeGuin speak when she came to Calgary, and I’ll never forget her advice to writers about crowding (adding all the detail to make your story as complete as possible) and leaping (cutting until what is left is only your best). Tepper created the most bizarre worlds, and Sawyer has been a personal mentor. Hambly creates the most amazing turns of phrase, and Willis can kill you with laughter and tears. Boujold integrates threads. Lowry’s book “The Giver,” is the only book I closed at the end, and immediately re-opened to read again. Atwood is the master of the telling detail. Byars captures the pre-teen voice and Patterson gets to the heart of pre-teen angst. Babbitt makes you think.

#5: What are some things you learned to help with your success?

There is no substitute for experience. Once, at a conference, I listened to a pro respond to a question from the audience by saying, “In that situation, I’d do this, then I’d do this, then I’d write the book.” Simple! But not necessarily simple for me because at that time I lacked experience. Over time, I have begun to develop those tools as a writer: you can learn and study, and people can pass on their tips, but it takes time and lots and lots of reading and writing and reflection–in other words, experience–for those skills to become so integral to your being that you use them as an artist, rather than as a craftsperson.

#6: Describe your writing method:

The opening of a new story or novel is slow for me, because I have to go back and forth between writing (pantsing), planning and research. I need to be sure the characters and setting are very clear in my head, and I take the time to go slowly, revising as I write until I get the exact words I want, to make the world, the characters and the situation very real. The draft tends to pick up speed as I write, and as the plot twists itself into knots I focus on the target: the idea I am trying to express as the sum of the story. Like a game of chess, from the opening gambit, the entire goal is the opponent’s king, and one cannot get distracted by juicy bishops or rooks along the way. I am constantly reminding myself to keep the main plot elements simple, because complications love to multiply. The end usually goes very quickly. Then the real work begins: shaping through revision. I love revision, because I can see how the story improves.

#7: Tips for aspiring writers:

Read. Write. Heard that before? It’s true: I never sold to Asimov’s or Analog until I read Asimov’s and Analog. There is no substitute for experience: write! Analyze and listen to the feedback you get from other writers whom you admire. Read the best your genre has to offer (the award winners, the top sellers) and read outside your genre. Read Donald Maass and Robert McKee.

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Check out Susan’s book, Immunity to Strange Tales, available from Five Rivers Press.

12 immunity Strange Tales

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A collection of 12 short stories by one of Canada’s rising stars of speculative fiction. Forest takes you from death-bed wishes to the eerie regions of madness employing subtle skill and fresh prose. Nine of the stories have appeared in publications such as Asimov’s, On Spec, Analog, Tesseracts Ten, Tesseracts Eleven, Tesseracts 14 and AE Science Fiction Review. Three of the stories make their debut in this collection, with an introduction by one of Canada’s respected editors and experts, Mark Leslie Lefebvre.

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Excerpt:

We made movies in those days. Lasha did everything. She woke at dawn, made lists and organized, calling people, always calling people. We lived upstairs, she and I, intimate as lovers, celibate as eunuchs, in the warehouse where the filming was done, where the fantasies played out. I did nothing but what Lasha told me to do, which was everything. I went for coffee. Answered emails. Painted sets, hung lights, sewed costumes, picked up.

Mostly, I dressed Lasha. I made her clothes. I styled her hair. Lasha had wonderful hair, then, long and kinky and willfully wild. I lived to touch it, to smell it, to adorn it. I was the only one to work with her hair. She didn’t want the natural look. No, the red was a dye, a lie, different with every mood. “Put more orange in it,” she’d say. “Streaks along the top.” Then she’d lay all the way back in the barber’s chair and give herself up completely to me. “More burgundy. More red.”

Then she would be gone.

Doing things, being with people. Because people were what Lasha was all about. Actors, designers, musicians. Long-haired technicians in ripped jeans with wrenches in their pockets climbing ladders to tighten the nuts on big tin-can lights. Makeup artists smoking Camels in back rooms, swathed in chenille and rehearsal socks. Government arts funders with pale fingers and obscure forms, rigid with ass-tight loopholes. And executive producers who didn’t really matter, because Lasha was in charge. She fought for every scrap of film that ever came out under her name. A bullet-proof vest might have helped her to bear the world.

We existed in perpetual deep night, and brilliant day. Lights seared the stage so it became a desert, barren and dry. They broiled the actors, who walked through Sandbox and Godot and No Exit. But in the cool dark, behind the sandbags and dollies, behind the folding chairs and empty beer cans, there was a richness, of furtive movement and silent cues, the smell of greasepaint and spirit gum. Costumes fluttered on racks, cigarettes glowed in ballet hands. Paper cups emoted on overturned oilcan coffee tables, and ropy wires slithered across the floor or hung like vines from impossibly high catwalks.

Lasha’s life was a spotlight. Intense. Hot. Forever struggling to spill beyond the black box eclipsing her. But, as her movies leaked into the world, cracks appeared in our warehouse, admitting strangers and fear. We saw how they knocked at the doors, and we huddled inside, in curiosity and despair, she and I.

When the work was done, and it was never done, the play began, which never stopped. The actors came off stage and into the fantasy to smoke and strip out of costume and gossip. The lights dimmed then, and candles appeared, and the bottles and joints, and the Ouija and tarot. Hands, gracefully dancing in smoky glow, gestured, illustrated, slowed. Tongues loosened and names dropped, and grand ambitions flowed. They’d trade their souls for a chance at Hollywood. And it was Lasha who summoned the séance.

Other things happened, too; secretive things, in dark corners. Love-making in broom closets or overstuffed couches or deserted kitchen tables on top of the silverware and grapes, beating the table, moaning, crying.

I watched her.

From the space between the counter and the window, beneath the hanging pots, bypassed by moonlight and candlelight, I watched her jerk to the rhythm of a faceless stunt man. She watched back, eyes on mine, fever bright. Lightning current pulsed in the space between us, sharpening, demanding, insisting, until we quivered and throbbed and burst.

Read more of Immunity to Strange Tales:

Kobohttp://www.kobobooks.com/ebook/Immunity-to-Strange-Tales/book-I1Z3p4s750Wh6HJ3dig4TA/page1.html?s=rr5LsyF3OkaCQP5L-8Ayrw&r=1

Kindle: Amazon.com, both print and digital: http://www.amazon.com/Immunity-Strange-Tales-Susan-Forest/dp/1927400147/ref=sr_1_23?ie=UTF8&qid=1366825125&sr=8-23&keywords=five+rivers+chapmanry

Barnes & Noble, print and digital: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/immunity-to-strange-tales-susan-forest/1110920009?ean=9781927400142

Five Rivers catalogue: http://www.fiveriverspublishing.com/p/fiction-adult.html

Google Play, digital: https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Susan_Forest_Immunity_to_Strange_Tales?id=w1upEh6r7UcC&feature=search_result#?t=W251bGwsMSwxLDEsImJvb2stdzF1cEVoNnI3VWNDIl0.

Indigo: http://www.chapters.indigo.ca/books/Immunity-To-Strange-Tales-Susan-Forest/9781927400142-item.html?ikwid=immunity+to+strange+tales&ikwsec=Home

Smashwords, digital: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/207720

Waterstones UK, print: http://www.waterstones.com/waterstonesweb/products/susan+forest/immunity+to+strange+tales/9246966/

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Connect with Susan:

Webpage: speculative-fiction.ca

Twitter: @susanjforest

Facebook: Susan Forest

Fan email address: go to speculative-fiction.ca

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