Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Story Spotlight #10: Angela Brown's A Diver's Ball

Here it is. The final story spotlight. Angela Brown is here to tell you about how her story "A Diver's Ball" came to be.

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My contribution to this year's IWSG Anthology almost didn't exist. I sat on the story idea - inspired by Ready Player One - until about nine days to the deadline. While work demanded too much of my time and my daughter deserved way more of my time, I carved moments in between those two important forces in my life to write, revise, and haphazardly edit my short story, sliding it in on the day of deadline.

Yeah, I cut it close.

And I'm so glad I shared this story. Being a part of this anthology is such an honor. Sharing the tale of a young girl's brush with love in the online world of Cumulus is timely. We can be anything and anyone we want to be in the masquerade this is the online world, from keyboard smacktalkers to word vixens with an extra-sassy-sauce-twist. With role play games (RPG) and virtural reality (VR) diving growing more fantastic, who knows if a real life Cumulus will evolve into being, where daily life, and love, are all characters of the masquerade.

Here's a little about my story, A Diver's Ball:

What’s a gamer girl to do when her first chance at love collides with a once in a lifetime quest?

You can be anything you want in the online world of Cumulus. A human. An elf. A powerful beast mutation from your wildest imagination. But can you be in love?

Sixteen-year-old Alyssa hopes so.

Alyssa is stoked she's finally of age to attend the granddaddy of online parties: the Diver's Ball. And wonder of all wonders, her online gamer crush - erm - bud, Irv, asked her to go with his date!

Before her avatar can don the perfect corset and dress in honor of the ball's Steampunk theme, a once-in-a-lifetime quest barges in on her plans. Then the sudden onset of parental controls threaten to ruin everything.

Faced with these dilemmas, Alyssa makes a decision that impacts not just her online, but her real world life as well.

And oh the consequences...

Here's a short blurb:

After the greeting, the black screen behind Alyssa’s avatar transformed into a three-dimensional blue sky. Fluffy clouds moved gingerly above, below, and around her, as if she stood in the sky itself. Had she donned her full-body haptic suit, the gentle breeze spurring the clouds along would cool her skin with a grazing kiss and sweep through the locks of her hair. Only her haptic gloves were allowed for this dive. She held her hands toward a cloud, giggling at the cool, wet sensation that lingered on her fingers.

“This never gets old,” she said aloud.

“You have returned. So glad you are back.” This voice differed, understandably more purr to the words. Alyssa designed her simulated assistant, or SA, as a lithe black cat with piercing green eyes. It hopped from one cloud to the next until landing on her shoulder. Every Cumulus user had a SA assigned as a method of making interaction with the system more personable. She’d always loved things that went unloved or misunderstood. A black cat fit her.

“Yes, Baxter. You know what day it is?” Alyssa all but sang the last few words. She could finally attend the Diver’s Ball, the granddaddy of all online parties. This year’s theme: Steampunk Masquerade.

“Of course, I do.” He licked his paw and groomed his whiskers. “You are of age now and can go to the Yudarian-verse for the Selection. Finally, a winged Traveler all your own.”

“That’s right. I’ve got my corset and…wait, what? Oh no. The Selection? Today? No, no, no. Baxter, home.”

And make sure you go out and order your copy of Masquerade: Oddly Suited today!

Haunt us @
Purchase your anthology @ one of these universal links:

Find love at the ball…

Can a fake dating game show lead to love? Will a missing key free a clock-bound prince? Can a softball pitcher and a baseball catcher work together? Is there a vampire living in Paradise, Newfoundland? What’s more important—a virtual Traveler or a virtual date to the ball?

Ten authors explore young love in all its facets, from heartbreak to budding passion. Featuring the talents of L.G. Keltner, Jennifer Lane, C.D. Gallant-King, Elizabeth Mueller, Angela Brown, Myles Christensen, Deborah Solice, Carrie-Anne Brownian, Anstice Brown, and Chelsea Marie Ballard.

Hand-picked by a panel of agents and authors, these ten tales will mystify and surprise even as they touch your heart. Don your mask and join the party…

Angela is a gladiator-in-business-casual battling giants in the world of IT by day and mom to a teen and a tiny fur baby 24/7. A devourer of books, chocolate, and Hot Tamales, Angela uses words to build bridges for readers to escape, to feel, to explore, and to know they are not alone. In the Masquerade: Oddly Suited IWSG Anthology, she is the author of A Diver's Ball.

Haunt her here: Blog | Twitter | Instagram 

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And now, before you leave, I'd like to let everyone know that the Masquerade Ball Bloghop kicks off tomorrow!

Each day leading up to release day, excluding Sundays, each of the ten authors featured in Masquerade: Oddly Suited will host a masked guest. This guest is a character from one of the stories in the anthology, though you will not know which one. You will also be treated to a small scene that relates to but does not appear in the story. Remember, the mystery is part of the fun! It is a masquerade, after all.

Return to each post on April 30th (release day) to learn who each character is and where they come from!


Thur. April 18th: L.G. Keltner

Fri. April 19th: Jennifer Lane

Sat. April 20th: Deborah Solice

Mon. April 22nd: CD Gallant-King

Tues. April 23rd: Elizabeth Mueller

Wed. April 24th: Chelsea Marie Ballard

Thurs. April 25th: Carrie-Ann Brownian

Fri. April 26th: Myles Christensen

Sat. April 27th: Anstice Brown

Mon. April 29th: Angela Brown

Tues. Apr 30th: Book Release and The Unmasking (Just follow links above)!

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Story Spotlight #9: Anstice Brown's Sea of Sorrows

Now it's time for our ninth story spotlight! Let's hear from Anstice Brown and how her story "Sea of Sorrows" came to life!

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Writing, like reading, has always been pure escapism for me, which is why I gravitate towards speculative fiction. Writing fantasy and science fiction allows me to explore different belief systems, ancient mythologies, alternative realities and future possibilities. It’s my way of attempting to answer the pesky “what if?” questions that come to me in the middle of night or while I’m taking a shower.

But despite my love of world-building and storytelling, I’ve never had much confidence in my ability as a writer. I never thought anyone would be interested in reading what I affectionately refer to as my “brain vomit”. Being part of the Insecure Writer’s Support group has encouraged me to engage with the writing community and start putting my work out there for the first time.

The theme of the IWSG anthology competition sparked my curiosity immediately. Masquerade. That one word conjured up countless symbols and creative avenues to explore. Masks, disguises, tricksters, secrets, spies, mistaken identity.

But for weeks, I ignored the call. How could I enter? I didn’t have enough time. I didn’t have enough energy. I didn’t have a good enough idea. It was only when the deadline loomed before me that I realised my inner saboteur was talking nonsense again. I was going to write this story! What did I have to lose?

I started with the faintest hint of an idea; a fleeting, intangible thing that I tried to hold onto long enough to immortalise on paper. A shapeshifter who had never been seen by mortals in her true form. She longed to be released, so I presumed she was som kind of genie at first. But her desperate loneliness kept conjuring a remote Scottish island and a wild, stormy ocean. I fell down a Wikipedia rabbit hole filled with creatures from Scottish mythology like selkies, kelpies and finfolk. Before long, my protagonist shaped herself into a siren named Mairg.

I set my alarm for 5:30 every morning and got up to write before getting ready for work. I knew straight away how the story needed to end, but I had no idea how I was going to get there. I just let the emotions of my main character lead me. She wrote herself into being, refusing to be ignored. I hope you’ll enjoy her story.

Excerpt from Sea of Sorrows by Anstice Brown

When I reach the clifftop, I almost weep with relief. I let the sack thud to the ground and my heart stops for a moment, but of course, he won’t wake. I take a moment to gather my strength before dragging his body across the damp grass, my back screaming in protest.
I’ll leave this one in the churchyard. People avoid the place out of fear that the Slaugh will swoop down from the trees and snatch them away. I remove the sack and prop Jamie’s unconscious body up against a headstone, positioning the empty bottles around him.
A flash of movement over by the church door causes me to duck. No, too late, I’m tingling, flickering. My olive skin pales, my voluptuous body stretches and sharpens. I clutch at the soft, flame red curls tickling my neck.
“Who’s there?” a young man shouts. I jump up and hurry back toward[A1]  the steps.
“Wait! Wait! Ailsa?”
I freeze. My heart hammers in my chest, urging me to flee, but the way his voice cracks makes it impossible for me to move. When he reaches me, my gaze fixes on his wild green eyes and he turns whiter than bone, his mouth forming a perfect ‘O’.
“You’re alive!”

Short Blurb

A shape-shifting siren named Mairg sets out to reunite a handsome young man named Erik with his missing fiancée, but she soon finds herself falling for him. Will Mairg fight against her own kin to save the girl Erik loves? Or will she embrace her monstrous nature and keep him for herself?

Author Bio

Anstice Brown has had her nose in a book and her head in the clouds for as long as she can remember. A geek/hippie hybrid with a love of all things retro, Anstice enjoys doodling, gaming and raving about books on her blog, Dusting the Soul. She adores speculative fiction and is currently working on a science fantasy novel.

Anstice has a BA in Literature and Philosophy and currently works as a school administrator. She lives on the East coast of England with her wonderful husband, daughter and their mischievous cat, Magical Mr. Mistoffelees.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Story Spotlight #8: Myles Christensen's Flower of Ronda

Hello everyone! It's time for another story spotlight! We only have a couple of these left as Masquerade: Oddly Suited comes out at the end of this month! Where has the time gone?

Today Myles Christensen is here to talk a little about how he came up with his story "Flower of Ronda."

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As I began brainstorming what to write for the IWSG Anthology contest, I knew I wanted to do something in historical fiction. Very soon after that, I decided that I wanted the story to be about escape and disguise--perhaps a soldier lost behind enemy lines who needed help making it back to safety. The story needed an aspect of romance, but that wouldn't be a problem. I've always been a sucker for sweet, happily-ever-afters. The biggest challenge was deciding where to set the story. I needed to find a setting that was historical but not overdone. There also needed to be a war happening, but it needed to be a war where the protagonists could easily fit in among either side. So I did a quick search on Wikipedia for civil wars. That's when I discovered the perfect setting.

In my early twenties, I spent two years in southern Spain. I absolutely loved the beauty and simplicity of life there. And I loved learning about the local history, in particular, the Moorish influence that was a result of their conquest of the Iberian peninsula during the middle ages. I decided that southern Spain during the Reconquista was a perfect place for my story. It had the warfare aspect that would land the protagonist on the wrong side after a battle, but it also had the possibility of hiding in disguise in plain sight because these people had been coexisting for years.


A mountainous road in war-torn medieval Spain is no place for a delicate young lady. But for Zahra, that road leads to her only hope for a new life. With her pursuers closing in, she must rely on a wandering enemy soldier to help her escape. Can she hide her crime—and her true identity—long enough to find safety?


The rough cloak shook in Zahra's hands as she drew it around her shoulders. With a final glance at the body of Hamet Zeli lying inert on the hearth, she pushed through the heavy door out into the dark streets of Ronda. The warm breath of the Al-Andalusian Mountains filled the air.
Zahra crept across the bridge, pausing among the sparse dwellings of the plateau to listen for the cry of alarm which would announce her treachery.
The bruise on her arm throbbed in pain, and the memory flashed again through her mind. Uncle Hamet's talon-like fingers dug into her flesh, the smell of the food on his breath stung her nose, and the look of wicked desire burning in his eyes had filled her heart with terror.
Zahra shuddered and hastened her pace down the outer banks of the mountain city.
A few hours of walking down the lonely path to Benaojan and she would be safe with her friend, Madiha.
She stumbled on an unseen stone.
Perhaps more than a few hours.


Myles Christensen writes exciting adventures in a variety of genres. His characters rarely avoid falling in love (or at least crushing on each other).  For each new story, he makes a music playlist to match—and inspire—his writing. His mild-mannered alter ego is a product development engineer, university professor, and game inventor. He lives in Utah with his wife and children.