Halloween Extravaganza: INTERVIEW: Rachel Aukes

Meghan: Welcome to Meghan’s House of Books, Rachel. Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Rachel Aukes: I’m a science fiction/apocalyptic fiction writer who loves telling stories! When I’m not writing, I’m either chasing after my very spoiled 50-pound dog or flying old airplanes across the Midwest US countryside.

Meghan: What are five things most people don’t know about you?

Rachel Aukes: Here goes… 1) Nearly all my clothes are black or gray, because I’m horrible at coordinating colors. 2) I love video games, mostly old school RPGs since I feel like an old lady playing alongside the young whippersnappers on some of the new ones. 3) I’m a big fan of the KonMari method of tidying up. My life and home are so much more peaceful since I cut out everything that didn’t bring joy. 4) I collected comic books as a kid, and I still love them as much as ever. 5) I love cheesy sci-fi movies. The crappier the special effects, the more fun.

Meghan: What is the first book you remember reading?

Rachel Aukes: Hmm… One of the first books I remember reading is The Haunted House, which was a children’s book (with pictures) on kids going into a scary haunted house, which turned out to be not quite so scary after all. I wish I remembered the author’s name!

Meghan: What are you reading now?

Rachel Aukes: Titan’s Fury by Rhett Bruno. I’m so in love with this series!

Meghan: What’s a book you really enjoyed that others wouldn’t expect you to have liked?

Rachel Aukes: I like all types of books, so I can’t think of one that stands out that would surprise others.

Meghan: What made you decide you want to write? When did you begin writing?

Rachel Aukes: I love writing as a child. Then life and the need to pay bills got in the way until one day I realized I needed to write again, if even just for fun. I’ve never looked back.

Meghan: Do you have a special place you like to write?

Rachel Aukes: I have a home office, where I write. It’s cozy and perfect for me!

Meghan: Do you have any quirks or processes that you go through when you write?

Rachel Aukes:I have pictures of my characters sitting along the edge of my computer screen as I write. For each character, I find an actor or movie character who most represents one of my characters.

Meghan: Is there anything about writing you find most challenging?

Rachel Aukes: The actual writing part. When I begin a new story, I love jumping in, but the words sometimes get so hard to pull about midway through!

Meghan: What’s the most satisfying thing you’ve written so far?

Rachel Aukes: So far, it’s always the book I’ve just finished. With every book, I feel like I grow as a storyteller.

Meghan: What books have most inspired you? Who are some authors that have inspired your writing style?

Rachel Aukes: I was reading Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Dream Chaser the day I decided I needed to start writing again. That book will always hold a special memory for me because of that!

Meghan: What do you think makes a good story?

Rachel Aukes: A complete story arc with a fulfilling ending. None of that cliffhanger crap (by cliffhanger, I mean a book that ends without wrapping up its story arc; I’m not referring to series arcs). Beyond that, all stories depend on its characters to drive it.

Meghan: What does it take for you to love a character? How do you utilize that when creating your characters?

Rachel Aukes: I have to be able to connect with a character. They must have human traits—both strengths and weaknesses—or else they feel like Gary Stus or Mary Sues. I spend a ton of time on my character biographies before I begin writing a story, so they are real people to me by page 1.

Meghan: Which, of all your characters, do you think is the most like you?

Rachel Aukes: All my characters share certain traits with me, though Cash, the protagonist of the Deadland Saga seems to share the most. We’re both nerds on the introverted side but want to do the right thing.

Meghan: Are you turned off by a bad cover? To what degree were you involved in creating your book covers?

Rachel Aukes: Yes. We’re human. We all judge a book by its cover. I’ve bought books purely by their covers, and I’ve skipped books with horrible covers. For my traditional published books, I had minimal to some involvement, depending on the house. For my self-published books, I have complete control, but I always try to trust my designer’s expertise and advice whenever possible.

Meghan: What have you learned creating your books?

Rachel Aukes: I used to create detailed outlines, or storyboards, for each book. Then I’d begin writing and everything would change. Now, I spend less time on creating high-level outlines, which gives me more time creating characters with full, 3D backgrounds.

Meghan: What has been the hardest scene for you to write so far?

Rachel Aukes: Writing the death of a loved character. There was one supporting character in the Deadland Saga that I absolutely hated to see killed but saving his life would’ve gone against the personalities of other characters, and I had to stay true to the story.

Meghan: What makes your books different from others out there in this genre?

Rachel Aukes: My books tend to be on the shorter side since I write tight and straightforward. Even so, the most common feedback I get across my books is on how well my characters resonate with readers.

Meghan: How important is the book title, how hard is it to choose the best one, and how did you choose yours (of course, with no spoilers)?

Rachel Aukes: I spent too much time up front thinking of a cool title, and it seems like at least half the time, the title changes! For example, my working title for my upcoming novel was The Black Sheep of Starbus Route 128b. My editor guided me into a simpler, catchier title: Black Sheep, and there you have it!

Meghan: What makes you feel more fulfilled: Writing a novel or writing a short story?

Rachel Aukes: Writing a novel is a deeply fulfilling exercise. During the time I write a novel, I am fully immersed in that world day and night.

Meghan: Tell us a little bit about your books, your target audience, and what you would like readers to take away from your stories.

Rachel Aukes: I try to keep my stories PG-13 rated, so that they are accessible to a wide audience. I’ve written in multiple genres, so my audiences are quite different. My romance targeted adult females while my science fiction targets adult males. My apocalyptic fiction is most popular with teenagers (both male and female). The only commonality you’ll see across my stories is a sense of hope against all odds.

Meghan: Can you tell us about some of the deleted scenes/stuff that got left out of your work?

Rachel Aukes: I wish I could say my deleted scenes are gold nuggets that sit in my drawer, but they’re really crap. Mostly, they’re “day in the life” stuff that doesn’t move the story forward. As I mentioned above, I write shorter than many writers, which means I like to keep my stories as tight as possible.

Meghan: What is in your “trunk”?

Rachel Aukes: I have a OneNote section dedicated to my trunk of ideas! There are so many stories I want to write that I don’t have time or now’s simply not the right time.

Meghan: What can we expect from you in the future?

Rachel Aukes: I have a new series called Flight of the Javelin coming out soon from Aethon Books. This series stars Throttle, the paraplegic pilot in the Fringe series. She’s leading a colonization mission and lots of crazy happens!

Meghan: Where can we find you?

Rachel Aukes: You can learn more about my books and where you can get them on my website. I can also be found on Twitter and Facebook.

Meghan: Do you have any closing words for your fans or anything you’d like to say that we didn’t get to cover in this interview?

Rachel Aukes: Thanks for staying with us through the whole interview. Happy reading!

Rachel Aukes is a science fiction writer with over twenty books in print, including 100 Days in Deadland, which made Suspense Magazine’s Best of the Year list. She is also a Wattpad Star, her stories having over six million reads. Her popular Tidy Guides series covers tips on writing, editing, and publishing your first novel. When not writing, Rachel can be found flying old airplanes with her husband and an incredibly spoiled 50-pound lap dog over central Iowa.

Fringe 5: Fringe Legacy

It’s an age of heroes and sacrifices. 
The colonies won their independence.
But they are not at peace. 

New enemies come at the fragile Alliance of Free Colonies. Assassination attempts. Kidnappings. Murder.

When Aramis Reyne is nearly killed, he turns the tables and hunts the hunters. He learns things are not as they seem. When Critch disappears, he must make an impossible rescue. 

If Reyne fails, the Alliance will fall. War will claim the colonies once again. 
The race is on and time is running out.

The Tidy Guide to Writing a Novel

Learn to write a novel in 30 minutes!

Do you dream of writing a novel, but not sure where to start? Have you been working on a book for ages but feel stuck? Despite all your best efforts, do you feel overwhelmed? The Tidy Guide to Writing a Novel brings you a no-nonsense approach to write your book right the first time. 

In this guide, you’ll learn how to: 
• Plan and organize your story ideas by breaking them out into easy, digestible bites 
• Use the simple yet mighty Little Ups approach to confidently write your first draft and subsequent drafts 

The Tidy Guide to Writing a Novel is a 30-minute read that’s jam-packed with information essential for writers at any stage in their careers.

Halloween Extravaganza: INTERVIEW: Kyle Alexander Romines

Meghan: Hi, Kyle. Welcome to Meghan’s House of Books. Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Kyle Alexander Romines: I’m a writer from the hills of Kentucky. My debut novel, The Keeper of the Crows, appeared on the Preliminary Ballot of the 2015 Bram Stoker Awards in the Category of Superior Achievement in a First Novel. Since then I’ve published 10 books, with many more on the way.

I’m also an unlicensed medical doctor. My first novel was published during my third year of medical school at the University of Louisville School of Medicine.

Meghan: What is the first book you remember reading?

Kyle Alexander Romines: Vampire Breath, one of R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps books, is one of the first chapter books I remember reading. I devoured those books as a kid, and they had a huge impact on my development as a writer.

Meghan: What are you reading now?

Kyle Alexander Romines: The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery by Ian Cron. It’s a fascinating book about the enneagram personality types.

Meghan: What’s a book you really enjoyed that others wouldn’t expect you to have liked?

Kyle Alexander Romines: Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice would probably be an unusual pick for a horror writer, but it’s been one of my favorites since high school.

Meghan: What made you decide you want to write? When did you begin writing?

Kyle Alexander Romines: I’ve been writing since I can remember! I completed my first novel in college and finished three more books to hone my craft before pursuing publication. I learned a lot from those initial drafts.

Meghan: Do you have a special place you like to write?

Kyle Alexander Romines: Anywhere dark, quiet, and free of distraction.

Meghan: Do you have any quirks or processes that you go through when you write?

Kyle Alexander Romines: I sometimes use dictation software to speak my stories into life. It seems to make the story flow better and the dialogue sound more natural.

Meghan: Is there anything about writing you find most challenging?

Kyle Alexander Romines: Editing! I’d much rather start on the next book, and I hate reading my own writing.

Meghan: What’s the most satisfying thing you’ve written so far?

Kyle Alexander Romines: My fantasy series, Warden of Fál—over 1,000 pages written over a year. The characters and plot of those books are closer to my heart than any others.

Meghan: What books have most inspired you? Who are some authors that have inspired your writing style?

Kyle Alexander Romines: R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps novels left a strong impression on me as a kid. The fast-paced storytelling full of cliffhanger chapter endings stayed with me. The James Patterson and David Baldacci thrillers I read when I was younger helped me flavor my stories with unexpected twists and turns. Other authors who have inspired me include Jeff Smith (the author of Bone) and Pierce Brown (the author of The Red Rising series).

Meghan: What do you think makes a good story?

Kyle Alexander Romines: What a great question! Everyone has their own answer, but I favor dynamic characters and interesting plots. I try to make my stories lean, fast-paced, and full of twists and turns.

Meghan: What does it take for you to love a character? How do you utilize that when creating your characters?

Kyle Alexander Romines: I’m very interested in human psychology. People are fascinating! (It’s easy to see why Psychiatry was my favorite rotation in medical school.) When I create characters, I start with an interesting backstory. Then I give them a distinct personality type, sometimes based on enneagram personality types. Then I like to give my characters internal and external (plot-based) objectives to further their arcs.

Meghan: Which, of all your characters, do you think is the most like you?

Kyle Alexander Romines: I based Thomas Brooks, the protagonist of my first book, off my physical appearance, but I’d say Thane Ramsay (an antihero in my fantasy novels) is most like me.

Meghan: Are you turned off by a bad cover? To what degree were you involved in creating your book covers?

Kyle Alexander Romines: From a sales standpoint, the cover is one of—if not the—most important parts of the book. If a customer is browsing for books, it’s usually the cover that draws their eye first, followed by the description. That’s why for my traditionally published and self-published books, getting the cover right is essential. I’ve worked with several professionals to design kindle, paperback, and audiobook covers that are representative of what’s selling in the current market. It’s essential.

Meghan: What have you learned creating your books?

Kyle Alexander Romines: Becoming an author has helped me grow as a person. On the self-publishing side, I’ve learned how to manage my own business. That means paying for cover art, copyediting, proofreading, and formatting, as well as advertising and marketing. It’s difficult work at times, but I love being my own boss and setting my own schedule.

Meghan: What has been the hardest scene for you to write so far?

Kyle Alexander Romines: There’s a scene in an upcoming book where one of the protagonists loses everything that was very difficult to write. I’m someone known for killing and maiming my characters, but it can be tough growing close to my characters and then doing bad things to them.

Meghan: What makes your books different from others out there in this genre?

Kyle Alexander Romines: I’ve incorporated what I learned writing horror and thrillers into my fantasy novels. Normally, fantasy books are very detail-oriented—sometimes to the point of excessive worldbuilding or overly flowery language. I tell lean, fast-paced stories full of twists and turns set against a fantasy backdrop. For my horror and thriller novels, I work hard to put the reader into the seat of the action to make them feel for the characters.

Meghan: How important is the book title, how hard is it to choose the best one, and how did you choose yours (of course, with no spoilers)?

Kyle Alexander Romines: Apart from editing, coming up with titles is usually the most difficult part for me. My western Atonement began as “The Rider” and became “The Man with the Silver Pistols,” and at one point was “Salvation.” That’s four title changes! I want the title to capture the book’s content or theme and be catchy as well. Sometimes that’s easier said than done, but from a sales POV, next to the cover, the title is one of the most important parts of the book.

Meghan: What makes you feel more fulfilled: Writing a novel or writing a short story?

Kyle Alexander Romines: A novel, hands-down. There’s nothing like the feeling of watching your characters grow and take shape over time, or the feeling of completing a full novel-length manuscript with complete plots, arcs, and subplots.

Meghan: Tell us a little bit about your books, your target audience, and what you would like readers to take away from your stories.

Kyle Alexander Romines: I write in multiple genres—thriller, horror, mystery, fantasy, and science fiction. Regardless of the genre, my novels are fast-paced, character driven, and full of twists and turns. I write books for a broad audience; everyone from adults to seventh eighth graders have enjoyed my stories. I try to tackle important themes in my books—overcoming fear, struggling against dark impulses, and atoning for mistakes, to name just a few. I hope that readers will connect to my characters, enjoy the stories, and come away having learned something about themselves in the process.

Meghan: Can you tell us about some of the deleted scenes/stuff that got left out of your work?

Kyle Alexander Romines: Another great question! Mostly prologues and epilogues have a tendency to get removed in the editing process. I sometimes touch up the endings to books in series to make each novel more self-contained if I feel there’s too much bleed over.

Meghan: What is in your “trunk”?

Kyle Alexander Romines: I actually have a literal trunk full of completed manuscripts. I have over 10 more books waiting to be edited and revised. These include three fantasy novels set in the same world as my Warden books, a horror novel about a banshee set in Ireland, a horror werewolf novel, and a sequel to my western Atonement.

Meghan: What can we expect from you in the future?

Kyle Alexander Romines: At the moment, I’m going over edits to the next two books in The Keeper of the Crows series—The Whispers of the Crows and The Vengeance of the Crows. Those books, published by Sunbury Press, should be out later this year. I’ve also contributed two short stories to an upcoming horror anthology for Sunbury Press. I’m in the process of writing a fantasy trilogy for Aethon Books that will serve as a prequel to my Warden of Fál series. After that, I plan to pen the final two books in my Warden series.

Meghan: Where can we find you?

Kyle Alexander Romines: Interested readers can find my books on Amazon. You can also reach out via email.

Meghan: Do you have any closing words for your fans or anything you’d like to say that we didn’t get to cover in this interview?

Kyle Alexander Romines: Thanks for reaching out! If you enjoy horror, thrillers, fantasy, science fiction, westerns, or mystery, I hope you will check out my books!

Kyle Alexander Romines is a teller of tales from the hills of Kentucky. He enjoys good reads, thunderstorms, and anything edible. His writing interests include fantasy, science fiction, horror, and western.

Kyle’s debut horror novel, The Keeper of the Crows, appeared on the Preliminary Ballot of the 2015 Bram Stoker Awards in the category of Superior Achievement in a First Novel. He obtained his M.D. from the University of Louisville School of Medicine. 

You can contact Kyle via email. You can also subscribe to his author newsletter to receive email updates and FREE electronic copies of his Warden of Fál prequel short, The Path of Vengeance, AND his horror/science fiction novella, The Chrononaut.

The Keeper of the Crows

No evil can remain buried forever, as disgraced journalist Thomas Brooks discovers when a wave of death grips the rural Kentucky town of Gray Hollow in terror.

Following a very public humiliation, Thomas is looking for a story to get him back on the map-and free of the small town newspaper where he serves out his exile. The apparent murder of a stranger seems to be just what the opportunistic reporter needs, until he discovers the death is merely the start of something bigger.

Also investigating the murder is Sheriff Jezebel Woods, who doesn’t approve of Thomas’ sensationalist intentions. Mounting deaths force the pair to set aside their differences to confront a force that threatens to destroy the entire town.

At the center of the mystery is the disappearance of a boy named Salem Alistair, who designed a series of grotesque scarecrows for his parents’ farm-scarecrows that are turning up at each subsequent crime scene. Thomas begins to doubt his uneasy alliance with the sheriff when he realizes Jezebel has her own secret history with Salem Alistair.

Thomas and Jezebel are completely unprepared to face the supernatural force at odds with Gray Hollow. As the killings continue, and the town slowly begins to yield its dark secrets, the truth will pit Thomas and Jezebel on a collision course with true evil.

The Chrononaut

The future. Millennia of scientific discovery have led to mankind’s greatest feat: the invention of time travel, a technology with a potential for learning and scientific advancement rivaled only by its potential catastrophic consequences. To prevent such outcomes, the world government has carefully restricted the technology, limiting its use and study to a selected few. 

Dr. Amelia Lewis is a temporal historian charged with uncovering humanity’s greatest unsolved historical mysteries during her voyages into the timestream. It is on one of these missions that she witnesses something more terrifying than anything mankind has ever encountered—a monstrous entity that exists outside of time itself. Amelia’s journeys into the past have drawn its gaze, and now it seeks to devour her. 

As she desperately seeks a way a to save herself, Amelia discovers that everyone she cares about is being erased from existence. The fabric of her life is beginning to unravel. Soon, there may not be anything to go back to.

A Sound in the Dark

For Zack Allen, it was supposed to be a chance to get away and relax. A weekend camping trip with a small group of friends seemed like the perfect distraction from a messy personal life, but as Zack and his friends made their way to the camping ground at Drifter’s Folly Memorial Park, he couldn’t shake the feeling something was terribly wrong. 

Zack should have listened to his gut, because he and his friends aren’t the only ones in the forest. Someone else is watching—someone with dark intentions. And he wants to play a game…

Bride

The year is 1795. Frankenstein’s monster has given his creator an ultimatum: Victor must build the creature a mate, or watch as the monster destroys everything and everyone he has ever loved. 

You know their story. 

You don’t know hers.

She is born into darkness, her destiny entwined with an unspeakable evil. Her sole companion is her creator, the inscrutable Victor Frankenstein, gatekeeper to a life she has never experienced. As her understanding of humanity takes shape, she must contend with the horrific nature of her intended mate and conflicting feelings for her creator. 

She wants more from life than to be the bride of Frankenstein’s monster, but will she seek freedom, vengeance, or something else entirely?

Atonement

In the years following the Civil War, lawlessness and corruption reign across the United States and its territories. 

The West is the most dangerous place of all. 

When a deadly gang overruns the small community of Casper, Wyoming, the townspeople find themselves forced to live in constant fear. 

Then a stranger named Christian wanders into town with nothing but a horse and a pair of pistols to his name, and everything changes. Wanting nothing more than to restock on supplies and leave, he soon finds himself reluctantly drawn into the conflict between the outlaws and the townspeople. 

Christian will be faced with the choice to continue running from his past, or to stay and fight and confront his demons.

Drone

After the emergence of the destructive, godlike Titans, the world is more dangerous than ever. 

When drone pilot David Hunter is recruited to join a top-secret military program, he learns the government has captured the Titan Prometheus. Once considered a hero by many, Prometheus is now an empty shell, retrofitted with technology to serve as a new kind of drone—and it’s David’s task to use the Titan’s powers on the government’s behalf. 

David has his own reasons to distrust Titans, but when he discovers some vestiges of Prometheus’ consciousness remain, it sets in motion a course of events that will cause him to learn what it means to be a hero.

Warden of Fal 1: The Wrath of Lords

The job sounded simple enough.

Rid the village of an ogre and rescue the girl. In return, the local lord would overlook that ugly business in the church.

It was nothing he hadn’t dealt with before.

That was before he heard the howls coming from the Bog of Móin Alúin. Before he crossed paths with the headless rider. Before he woke to find the witch’s crooked fingers on his face.

Now Berengar must unravel the labyrinth of secrets and lies surrounding the village before a deadly curse claims his life, all while a darker evil looms in the shadows…

Warden of Fal 2: The Blood of Kings

Being a warden is tough work at the best of times. Keeping the tenuous peace between the five kingdoms of Fál is a difficult business, especially in a land of monsters and magic.

Esben Berengar, the realm’s most feared warden, relies on his wits and his axe to deal with unscrupulous rulers, bloodthirsty outlaws, and the occasional witch.

When the king of Munster is murdered, Berengar is called upon to investigate. Many had cause to want the king dead, and treachery lurks behind every corner.

As tensions between humans and all others threaten to boil over, the warden finds himself reluctantly partnered with Morwen, Munster’s court magician, to solve the murder before the killer strikes at the royal family again.

Waden of Fal 3: The City of Thieves

Years ago, when violent purges plunged Dún Aulin into chaos, Warden Esben Berengar was sent to restore order by any means necessary. He did so with such brutal efficiency he became known throughout Fál as the High Queen’s Monster.

All is not forgiven.

When the hunt for a mysterious enemy leads Berengar back to Dún Aulin, an old friend’s request thrusts him headfirst into danger. In the Ceremony of the Cursed Blade, the sword used by the Lord of Shadows in his conquest of Fál will change possession, and it’s up to Berengar to keep the blade from falling into the wrong hands.

To do that he’ll have to survive vengeful goblins, bloodthirsty monster hunters, Leinster’s powerful Thieves Guild, and worse.

Much worse. 

Warden of Fal 4: The Will of Queens

For Esben Berengar, the road home is paved in blood.

Twenty years ago, Berengar left the Kingdom of Ulster and never looked back. But when another of the High Queen’s Wardens vanishes in the icy reaches of Fál’s northernmost realm, only Berengar can find him—even if it means returning to a place he thought he’d left behind forever.

But Ulster is more dangerous than Berengar remembers. Outlaws roam the countryside in open rebellion against the Ice Queen’s reign, while neighboring giants and trolls stand on the brink of war. It isn’t long before Berengar finds himself ensnared in conflict, even as the hunt for his missing friend leads to a far greater threat—one that could mean the destruction of Fál itself.