I like my villains smart, sexy and devious

For dark fiction I like handsome, dashing villains. And I tend to like them almost better than the good guys. They need to be every bit as shrewd as the heroes. Because if they’re not, it’s too easy a struggle to overcome them, and we want the battles between protag and antag to be hard won, bloody, and brimming with breathtaking plot twists.

Why sexy, you ask? The real question should be, why not? All the more intrigue and eye-candy to capture your imagination! The hero shouldn’t hog all the good looks and muscles. Besides you never know when a bad guy might turn into a flawed yet alluring anti-hero and actually win over the fair lady’s heart. Sexy rogues abound: the Joker from Dark Knight, Loki in Thor, the Avengers; Khan in Star Trek into Darkness and Alex De Large in a Clockwork Orange. The list goes on and on.

From the very early days of badassery, both real and fictitious villains like Dracula, Jack the Ripper and Blackbeard the Pirate were outsmarting god-fearing folks all around them, and doing it with magnetism and edgy swag. Here’s a telling quote about piracy from the Smithsonian:

“Out of all the pirates who trolled the seas over the past 3,000 years, Blackbeard is the most famous. His nearest rivals—Capt. William Kidd and Sir Henry Morgan—weren’t really pirates at all, but privateers, mercenaries given permission by their sovereign to attack enemy shipping in time of war. Blackbeard and his contemporaries in the early 18th-century Caribbean had nobody’s permission to do what they were doing; they were outlaws. But unlike the aristocrats who controlled the British, French and Spanish colonial empires, many ordinary people saw Blackbeard and his pirates as heroes… fighting a rear-guard action against a corrupt, unaccountable and increasingly tyrannical ruling class.”

Part of the allure is the vigilante or outlaw aspect—the baddie gets to do all immoral, outrageous things and totally get away with it, at least for a while. Often the villain truly thinks he’s doing a service—like Dexter, ridding the world of even worse killers, or Robin Hood, stealing from the rich to spread the wealth around. Another part of the allure is a villain’s pure audacity, and let’s face it—his fabulous capes, scabbards, leather boots and gold earrings! Outsmarting someone this devious takes masterful strategy and is not for the faint at heart. 

In my YA horror, DORIANNA, the villain is Wilson Warren, a tall, raven-haired stranger who claims to be none other than a Prince of Darkness. He’s also a videographer who, in minutes, edits a compilation of Dorianna so supernaturally beautiful it has her gasping. He paints his nails black, wears Victorian style silk shirts, and black skinny jeans to show off his long legs, and impressive physique. The possible tip-off to his degenerate side is his necklace with its mournful, spooky glass doll face staring out. Well, also his top hat and Voldemort cape he favors when the boardwalk in Coney is windy. Here’s a short excerpt showing just how charismatic he is to Dorianna:
  As I watch the video compilation, what really throws me is that Wilson has magically changed me out of my school clothes—the pencil skirt and simple top—and into a yellow fringe bikini, barely covering my thighs. 
  An immediate protest boils up. How dare he virtually strip me. But as I stare longer at the image, I realize how stunning he’s made me. This is no porn slut image. This is the masterful, painstaking work of a cutting-edge filmmaker, amplifying tenfold the glory of his muse.
  “You like?” Wilson asks, clicking stop.
  Muse—I roll the word silently in my mind, taste its honeyed essence. All the concerns that crowded my mind minutes ago drift off. Things like morality and conscience seem like dirty rain clouds bumping by. Life is good, I am awesome, and Wilson’s video kicks serious butt.
  Placing my hand on his long, curiously delicate fingers, I whisper, “Am I your muse?” I remove my hand only when it starts to heat up, and before he gets the wrong idea that I want more. 
  Or do I?
  He shifts slightly in his chair, in order to line his eyes up with mine. “You could say that you’re my muse,” he admits. In his gaze, I know I could have him right now, in this room, as easily as he’s captured me on video. I could rip off his shirt and run my hands through his forest of hair. Plant a firm kiss on his lips and force them open. His tongue would taste of smoke, of musk, of infinite need.   For that second, I see past his charming façade into the hunger, lodged in his soul. A lonely, desperate soul that seems to have lived for centuries, yet not quite at all—stuck in some netherworld where a virus might exist.
  It takes real effort to pull away. But I have to. This is dangerous, this audacious forgetting. 

Bad guys are masters of deception, manipulation, and pure wickedness. That’s why, when the good guy finally triumphs, we truly admire and love him.            
(Find Dorianna eBook here & here)

Who’s your favorite baddie and why? Do you think villains are sexy?


All Aboard for The Turnagain Arm

The Turnagain Arm on Kindle
The neighborhood where I live is situated along the Ohio River, directly up a very steep hill that ends at the train tracks that run along the riverbank. On clear mornings and nights, we can hear the whistles of the trains as they make their way along the river. I've always found the whistles eerie and for whatever reason the empty tracks have always been a bit creepy to me. An old abandoned train station used to sit along the tracks and when I was a kid I always imagined all kinds of scary things going on in that deserted station and on the tracks behind it. It seemed to me that station probably had lots of tales to tell.

I got the idea for my latest tale, The Turnagain Arm, after hearing a train whistle coming up from the river while I was walking my dog Clancy early in the morning. Later, I heard another whistle to end the day. It was fall and the night was crisp and chilly, and the whistle lingered in the air long after the train had moved past us. 

I wanted to write a story about what my Polar Night vampire Aleksei Nechayev was up to before the events of that book and after his human experiences as a Russian soldier in World War I. When I read that the Alaskan Railroad construction began in 1914 and reached its peak in 1917, the same year Aleksei became a vampire, my interest peaked. When I then learned that the Trans-Siberian railway from Aleksei's home of St. Petersburg to the far east town of Vladivostok was completed in 1916, I knew I had the beginnings of my story. Suddenly it became crystal clear how Aleksei left the ravages of World War I in the Russian West for a new start in Alaska, as freighters regularly went from Vladivostok to the Western United States and to the Alaskan territory. Like the day that gave me this idea, the story begins and ends with the haunting whistle of a train. 

While researching the time period and the area, I found this great video put out by the Alaska Film Archives showing early footage of the rail's construction, which started in a tent camp that is now the city of Anchorage. 

There are also great historical photos of the early days of the railroad camps, such as this picture of two women who ran their own waffle house. I was so intrigued by the thought of two women running their own business in those days that I created a character who ran a waffle stand of her own.


About thirty miles south of Anchorage was the most difficult stretch of the railroad's construction, the area known as the Turnagain Arm. The tracks had to be constructed at the base of steep vertical cliffs that ended in the body of water that gave the area its name.

This is what the tracks at Turnagain look like in the present day, so it's impossible to imagine how difficult and dangerous it must have been to construct them back in the 19-teens.

Source: alaskarails.org
This photo from the Alaska Digital Archives gives some idea of the conditions the rail workers were working under.

I loved the idea of setting my story in such a hostile and forbidding place. The characters who live and work in the Turnagain Arm camp are a hearty and tough lot by necessity, but they also find time to relax and enjoy themselves in the Turnagain Arm saloon.

Unfortunately for them, the vampire named Aleksei Nechayev finds himself drawn to the saloon as well. And the workers who call the camp home soon learn that the brutal conditions of the Alaskan wilderness are nothing compared to the danger they face now.

Want to take a trip to The Turnagain Arm? Find the novella on Amazon Kindle and on Goodreads


Happenings in the Realm: Huzzizzle October 2014 #SpecFic #SciFi #Fantasy #Horror

Twisted Earths is HERE!

Nine twisted stories from nine twisted worlds.

Purchase from: Amazon / iTunes / B&N / Kobo

Only 99 cents for a collection of fantastic stories!


Contributing authors:

Angela Brown

River Fairchild

Gwen Gardner

M. Gerrick

Graeme Ing

M. Pax

Christine Rains

Cherie Reich

Catherine Stine


Twisted Earths is a collection of tales from Untethered Realms, a group of speculative fiction authors. The stories are as varied and rich as the types of soil on this and other planets—sandy loam, clay, knotted with roots and vines, dreaded paths through unexplored planets, and in enchanted forests, lit by candlelight and two moons.

M. Pax, author of the series, The Backworlds and The Rifters spins a tale called Patchworker 2.0. Specialists with digital interfaces are the only ones who can distinguish between biological energy and mechanical pulses, and “patch” AIs, which hold the world together. Patchworker Evalyn Shore meets up with an AI with deadly intent.

Cherie Reich, known for her epic fantasy series The Fate Challenges and The Foxwick Chronicles, presents Lady Death. Umbria, a beautiful and powerful swordsmith, is given an impossible task by her brother Leon when he asks, “You are the assassin. Are you scared to destroy Death when you are up to your elbows in it?”

Angela Brown is the author of the paranormal Shadow Jumpers and NEO Chronicles series. In her story, In The Know, Jacob, a loyal family man is struggling to stay out of debt when he’s hired to report on big plans for a future Detroit. He’s given a mysterious manila envelope with instructions to “open it alone” or pay the price. With switchback twists you won’t see coming, a debt of a much steeper cost is what he just might end up paying for his involvement.

Catherine Stine, author of the futuristic thrillers, Fireseed One and Ruby’s Fire, offers The Day of The Flying Dogs, a sinister tale of brilliant, troubled NYC high-school student, Theo. He experiences a day at Coney Island that includes drugs, delusions, a lonely capybara, Nathan’s hotdogs and a mind-bending lesson in our very twisted universe.

Christine Rains, known best for her paranormal series The Thirteenth Floor, gives us The Ole Saint, a story at once sweet, horrific and heartrending. Ezra longs to fit in and have boys stop calling him witch and freak, yet his unique supernatural skill sets him apart, and the last gift from The Ole Saint cinches the deal.

Graeme Ing, known for his young adult fantasy, Ocean of Dust presents The Malachite Mine, a gripping, scream-inducing ride. Whatever was Mary thinking when she accepted her husband’s gift of a most terrifying twenty-first birthday celebration in an abandoned Russian mine?

River Fairchild, author of her Jewels of Chandra series, presents A Grand Purpose. Rosaya and her cousin, Drianna are soon to be married off, but Rosaya is unhappy with her assigned match. She’s much more intoxicated by the older Firrandor, a wizard she hardly knows. When Rosaya is accused of killing an oracle boy, all bets are off, not only for her love, but her freedom.

Gwen Gardner, who pens the cozy paranormal mystery series, Indigo Eady, adds to her collection with Ghostly Guardian. Indigo and her rib-tickling ghost-busters must travel to a dangerous pirate-laden past in order to unearth a curmudgeonly eighteenth century spirit that is plaguing the Blind Badger Pub.

Misha Gerrick, whose War of Six Crowns series is forthcoming, gives us a story called Red Earth and White Light. Emily, a young ghost bride has long haunted a house. She longs to cross over into the afterlife, but she’s trapped in memories of lilies and betrayal.


Calling All Authors and Writers

I could use your help in getting the word out about this year's Realms Faire. The faire is about you and helping you gain some visibility for your work. It has several opportunities to help you do that. 

  1. Be a sponsor and donate prizes. This gets you listed on the Realms Faire scrolly and pages. The events giving away your swag will mention you. 

  2. Test your mettle in the joust. People will be cheering for you for five days straight. You will get a spotlight on one of the five days. You get a nifty badge. Limited to 10 knights.

  3. Duel with words in Dueling Bards. You and your work are spotlighted on one day. Limited to 10 bards.


Be a sponsor  /  Be a Knight  /  Duel as a Bard


Get The Rifters and The Initiate while they're hot off the press!

The Rifters is a FREE download until 12/31/14The Initiate is 99 cents on preorder until October 20, 2014!


Download The Rifters from: Amazon / AmazonUK / B&N/Smashwords /Googleplay /

iTunes / Other

Preorder The Initiate from: 

Amazon / Amazon UK / AmazonAU / AmazonCA /AmazonDE / iTunes / B&N Googleplay / Other

  The Afterlife Series is online!
AMAZON - Available Now

AMAZON - Available Now

AMAZON - Available 10/20


The Turnagain Arm, a prequel to Polar Night which takes place in 1917 during the building of the Alaskan railroad, is now available on Amazon for just 99 cents!  Find out what vampire Aleksei Nechayev was up to when he first made his way to Alaska. It's safe to say it wasn't anything good. 

DORIANNA Launches OCT 24!

Dorianna, Catherine Stine's YA horror/paranormal launches with Evernight Teen on October 24. You are invited to Come join the fun at the release party. Catherine, with Bewitching Book Tour's help, is throwing a Facebook party on OCT 29 with fun games, and two guest authors writing dark YA. 

Also, stay tuned for the tour, with a Rafflecopter chocked full of UR and other authors who write amazing dark fantasy!


Where's the Beast?

Beasts can take a speculative fiction story from good to great. They come in all shapes and forms: alien, robot, rogue computer, vampires, rabid dogs, vampires, etc...

Here are some of my favorites:
  1. Aliens always pique my interest, especially those in Stargate and Dr. Who
  2. Mbwun in Relic, one of my favorite books
  3. T. Rex in Jurassic Park
  4. Sharks stuck in a SharkNado
  5. Big Foot

A beast needs to
  1. steal the show
  2. have some mystery
  3. add to the suspense
  4. be a big part of the plot
  5. be a star
I like it when I can feel the beast even when it isn't on screen, that it makes my hair stand on end throughout the whole story/film.

What beasts make you all tingly?

Get The Rifters and The Initiate while they're hot off the press!

The Rifters is a FREE download until 12/31/14The Initiate is 99 cents on preorder until October 20, 2014!


Download The Rifters from: Amazon / AmazonUK / B&N/Smashwords /Googleplay /

iTunes / Other

Preorder The Initiate from: 

Amazon / AmazonUK / AmazonAU / AmazonCA /AmazonDE / iTunes / B&N Googleplay / Other


Ghostly Gallows: Just Hanging Around

Ghostly Gallows is launched and now I'm just "hanging" around.
Hehe, just a bit of "gallows" humor.
Alrighty then. Moving on.
I luurve the Ghostly Gallows cover. Corona Zschusschen illustrates all my covers. The problem we had with this one is that the subject matter sounds darker than it really is. Although this series is darker than my other Indigo Eady series, it's still upper MG to YA. My original idea was to have a gallows from which three ghosts would be hanging. Corona pointed out that she'd have a difficult time illustrating what I wanted and still make it appropriate for the age group.
Such a good point!
Hannah, the ghostly seventeenth century serving-wench-turned-investigator, turned out to be an excellent alternative. In this scene on the cover, she is prowling through the archives of the old city hall records room. She's just floated through the wall and what do you see? A gallows poster for a witch hanging. A Tryal of Witches is how the poster reads. And that's how Corona cleverly tied the title of the novella to what was on the cover and still make it appropriate for the age group.
Check it out...

Ghostly Gallows
(Book II - Afterlife Series)

Here's an excerpt from the cover scene. To set it up, the ghostly records clerk, George Fielding, agrees to lead them to the documents they're looking for...

“Do pardon me,” he said, clearing his throat. “It has been a very long time since I have had dealings with the living.” He shivered, as if it had been a bad experience. He glanced up and down the aisle, as if getting his bearings. “This way.”

We wound through passage after passage. I knew I was hopelessly lost and a miracle would have to occur in order to find our way out again. The one bright spot was that the clerk, the living one, knew we were down there. He’d find us or send someone after us. Wouldn’t he? In any case, I found myself sticking close to the boys. Together, we were strong.

Finally, when I was sure we were about to reach a dead end, the clerk stopped. “The seventeenth century witch trial journals are here,” he said.

“Thank you, George!” said Hannah. “My friends and I, we appreciate it ever so much.” It was touching the way Hannah made sure he knew we were all friends, but I was feeling far from sentimental at the moment. I did not have a warm fuzzy feeling in my gut.

George nodded. “I must go now, Miss Hannah. There is much to do, erm, with filing and such, and, um…”

I frowned. Why did it seem as if George Fielding were prevaricating? Stuttering and lack of eye contact could only mean—

“George?” I said. Finally the ghostie looked at me and I knew he was lying about something. What’s more, he saw that I knew.

“Must go! Ta!” And just like that, he disappeared.

“Drat!” I shook my head, the thought at the back of my head that if I could only figure out how to contain ghosts, I’d finally get some answers.

“What is it, Indigo?” Badger was already looking for the journal, shining his torch as he walked along.

“The rotten little spook was hiding something,” said Simon. “He couldn’t wait to abandon us down here.”

Tweets from this scene if you feel like sharing: 
"I did not have a warm fuzzy feeling in my gut." Ghostly Gallows https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00NUKB498 #Supernatural #GhostStories #ebook @UnRealms

“The rotten little spook was hiding something,” said Simon. ~Ghostly Gallows #Supernatural #novella  https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00NUKB498 @UnRealms


Ghostly Gallows:

The case of missing paranormals is far from solved.
Hundreds of Sabrina Shores’ spirits are still missing.
In Second Death, Indigo and her friends escape an eternity underground in evil clutches. Back aboveground with a few missing ghosties happily in tow, one truth is painfully clear: the size of their problem is bigger than the village cemetery itself.

Now in Ghostly Gallows, new information leads Indigo and her fellow investigators to the ruins of Gallowsgate Prison, long abandoned by everyone and everything except malevolent spirits. It’s not called Gallowsgate for nothing when the noose swings a little too close to home.
Indigo Eady:

Much to her chagrin, Indigo Eady is a celebrity among spirits. She’s the girl who can see and speak with them. She has a proven track record in helping spirits find their murderers, so it’s no surprise when she’s drafted onto the Missing Paranormal Committee. Who better to help them than the experienced teenage ghost whisperer- investigator and her friends?
Blog Tour Schedule:
(Come hang with me here!)
  1. Everyone who comments here or at any of the stops during my Afterlife Blog Tour will be put into a drawing for FREE ebooks of Second Death, Ghostly Gallows and Secret Keepers. Five copies will be given away during the two week release period of each book.
  2. Everyone who leaves a review of any book in the Afterlife series by October 31, 2014 will be put in a drawing for a $25 Amazon gift card.
  3. Everyone who purchases the complete ebook set or boxed ebook collection set by the end of the Afterlife blog tour (by October 31, 2014) will be put in a drawing for a $25 Amazon gift card (boxed ebook set available October).
  4. A print book giveaway of the series will also be up for grabs - stay tuned for more details!
Send your purchase links with the heading "AFTERLIFE" in the subject line to GwenMGardner@cox.net to be entered into the drawings.

Available Here:
Amazon / B&N / Google Play / iTunes

Connect with Gwen here: