A century’s old grudge. A burning desire for revenge. A hunger for carnage and chaos... For years, the Mercier family has despised Elsbeth, the Red Witch. Now, with her entering their town, Melisande Mercier feels her chance for a long-awaited vengeance is finally at hand. Yet before her plans can be put into place, the sexy sorceress finds trouble snaking its way through the halls of her manor. Downtrodden by the fact that her overwhelming desire for her cousin, Kenrick Locke, can never be, she unknowingly invites evil into her bed. As the son of one of the Horsemen of the Apocalypse, her new lover seeks to unleash Hell on Earth with the Mercier family as his sacrificial pawns. Melisande’s only hope to save her family is to put aside her hatred and join forces with Elsbeth. Can the flames of their age-old rivalry be snuffed out for the greater good? Or will their failed alliance cause the world to burn? From the world of Falls Creek comes Book Two in The Spell Caster Diaries; a paranormal suspense series by author SF Benson!
It's definitely a tie over which witch I liked writing the most. Elsbeth is ancient evil with roots that trace back to a Celtic heritage (her mother was Irish). Melisande is nouveau witch. Her roots intertwine with French Gothic and African slaves. It's a heritage that has a layer of funkiness to it. And I liked the funk!
Although my current books are set in a timeline BEFORE Covid-19, they don't always adapt well to change. Take Marsilius (aka Mars) Mercier. Ever since his father went to Hell (literally), he's been misbehaving--staying out too late and drinking excessively.
When I planned the Spell Caster Diaries, I wanted to pen something that made readers salivate for more. I wanted them to question and think about the words I wrote. Well, Dark Intent pushes the envelope. There are almost-taboo moments and dark situations.
Ever read the Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis? It was required reading in my high school religion class (I went to a Catholic school). Anyway, I actually liked the book. Who knew that years later it would become the inspiration for the prologue of my latest story?
A kid from the right side of the tracks veers left. According to Asher Jones, time doesn't dull pain. It intensifies it. The only things that numb his grief are weed, booze, and petty crimes. Asher has some serious soul-searching to do. The path he's on leads directly to jail if he doesn't make some changes. Soon. Rihana Fakhoury is doing some hard thinking as well. She wants a better life for herself and her family. When their paths cross, redemption becomes real. Nothing else matters in their war torn world. Release, set in the world of The Alliance Chronicles, is the tale of a kid on the edge as the country goes into battle. If you like coming of age tales with a good dose of grit and heart, then you'll love Asher's story.
While soldiers fought in Vietnam, Black Americans fought for their civil rights in the streets of America. No, I was too little to know about that bloody summer firsthand. Years later, when I wanted to write about rioting in my series, the Alliance Chronicles, I referenced the time period. I spoke to with my husband (who was born in 1962), and he told me what the '67 riots were like in Detroit (I was safely stashed at my grandmother's house in Cedartown, Georgia during the time). I also watched numerous news films of the time period. And I have my memories of what my city (Detroit) looked like when we returned. Little did I know that there was war fought on two continents during the sixties.
Scare or be scared… Lorelei’s School of Deviltry is home to some of the most arrogant and frightening supernatural teens in the world. When you’re a supe whose goal is scaring humans, attending the legendary academy is a must. Lilith Martin, a succubus, needs to win a seat on student council because she believes all supernaturals should have a say at the legendary school. But when a bloodborne vampire, Kamila Tesarova, decides to run for the coveted seat too, Lilith is met with trouble. Someone is reporting her actions with Milos Petrovich, another royal vampire, to the headmistress. Lilith needs to secure the vote before Kamila convinces the student body to vote against the succubus, or Lilith’s relationship with Milos gets her expelled. But there’s a conspiracy on campus. How can Lilith win the election, and get to the bottom of what’s really going on? From the world of Falls Creek comes Lorelei’s School of Deviltry; an exciting paranormal academy series by author SF Benson!
Anyone who has read my stories has come across passages using foreign words and phrases. When I wanted a name for a group of nefarious demons from the Japanese Underworld, I looked up what triad (associated with organized crime) would translate into. The name had the right sound for me!
When I first imagined Lilith and Cyrena Martin in Cursed Hearts, I didn't know what to do with them. They were sisters with different fathers and were as opposite as night and day. Immediately, I had no tolerance for Cyrena Martin. She seemed too happy to follow the status quo while Lilith was the rule breaker. Thankfully, their personalities survived my morphing them into teens.
I loved writing about supernatural teens dealing with the same emotions humans do. What happens when you have feelings for someone not of your own species? Same thing as falling in love with someone outside of your ethnicity, culture, or race. You take it slow. You wonder what others will think. You struggle with your own upbringing. If you're like Lilith, you put it all behind you. Eventually.
How does a supernatural stand up for what's right? By going against the norm. Milos took a huge chance going against the other vampires, namely Kamila. Making matters worse, he aligned himself with someone Kamila hated. I loved how Lilith stood up for what she believed--inclusivity for all races/species. Not once did she back down, regardless of what it might cost her.
Seriously. Welcome to the new normal! Poor Lilith Martin. She had plans for her junior year of high school, but then her mom ripped the rug out from under her. Sort of like what happened with the pandemic. We all had big plans for 2020. Thanks to a little virus with a big name (and even bigger power), everything changed. All of my marketing plans for my publishing schedule had to be altered. Even my schedule had to be dismantled. What about your plans? How drastically have you changed your life because of COVID-19?
Sometimes actions can be more poisonous than any fruit, especially when dark magick is involved… Arabella Cuthbert lives in a magickal world where females aren’t valued. Her future includes a husband, children, and endless days tending house unless Arabella can prevent it. When the young Spelltwister stumbles across a name in an ancient tome, it leads her to the crotchety proprietress of White’s Antiquities and her malus malum. Esther White reveals a way for Arabella to have everything she’s ever wanted—fill the bad apple with the souls of seven evil men. The task makes Arabella question everything she’s worked for, but has she bitten off more than she can chew from the rotten apple? Is it too late to change things again? All Things Dark & Magickal is a young adult series featuring time travel and retold fairy tales.
In Bitter Fruit, Arabella learned how far her magick could go. Even Lance found out how strong--or weak--he could be when things became too tough. We're experiencing some difficult times. Each day, I learn how important my family is to me. I couldn't imagine being isolated from the world and not have them with me. How about you? Who is keeping you strong through this historical event?
As a reader, I love getting so immersed in a story that I can see it like a vivid picture. If I can practically smell or taste what the characters are experiencing, it's even better. I loved fleshing out the world of Crowley, England. I wanted to give readers a visceral experience as they read about Trevor's and Arabella's journeys. How about you? Do you love stories filled with details? Or do you just like enough to give you an idea?
Many of the scenes in Bitter Fruit required me to be highly creative. The best way to write those passages? Let my imagination run free. I had to think about other stories and movies I'd seen with time travel and what certain periods of history looked like. It was actually fun to just sit back and dream. Yes, it was time consuming and made drafting this book longer than I'd originally anticipated, but it was so much fun.
As much as I loved writing Bitter Fruit, it was a hard book to pen. I knew I wanted to include an alternate history of World War 2. It needed to be emotional and really twist reality. My version of the facts were difficult to imagine, let alone write. This scene with Lance and Arabella was the first gut-wrenching one.
Arabella Cuthbert is far too sophisticated to crack jokes, but her manner of speech leaves plenty to ridicule and laugh about. A fopdoodle was a common term in Victorian England. The fact that she found her young suitor foolish wasn't the funny part. It was her general description of him. Somehow, Arabella elevated her own status while diminishing his.
Trevor Cuthbert had always wanted to attend the Academy on scholarship, but when he received the opportunity, he turned it down. It takes a lot to give up something you love for the sake of another. Kind of like the doctors, nurses, and first responders giving up their time with their families (some of them living away from home) just so that those they've sworn to help can be saved. Much thanks to all the men and women on the front lines of battling the virus!
I enjoyed writing these altered historical moments. I envisioned the worse possible scenarios and tried to describe them on paper. The world I imagined had to be scary for my characters and so utterly depressing. How did I do?
Merritt and Trevor get to witness firsthand how Arabella changed the world. Her recklessness altered the state of the world. Nothing was as it once was. Her tinkering could very well undo the relationship Trevor had with Tamara. If he didn't stop his sister, all would be lost.
Arabella had more than one opportunity to do the right thing with her magick. In this scene, she even had a slight suspicion about her aunt, but as usual, Arabella didn't act. She always seemed to go along with whatever was happening until it was too late.
In retelling a fairy tale, I wanted to make sure there were traits that would help readers relate to the original tales. Bitter Fruit is a twist on Snow White, but Arabella's not a nice girl. As a matter fact, she's practically wicked. Esther White is equivalent to the Evil Queen. The two characters aren't like their original counterparts, but they have admirable intentions. On the surface, they're just two females who aren't respected for their abilities in Victorian Crowley. Peeling back the layers, you uncover their deceit and wickedness. Fun characters to write!
One of my all-time favorite subjects in school was history. I loved learning about the past. As an adult I love watching movies where historical facts are explored and bent to fit a story. Being a writer gives me the opportunity to give my tales a historical treatment. Writing Bitter Fruit allowed me to explore an alternate history involving World War II.
Trevor Cuthbert had no choice but to go forward although his stepsister had created an arduous situation. The odds seemed stacked up against him, and Merritt was telling why he had to press on. Ever feel that way? I do when I'm reaching the point of burn out. When I've spent too many hours locked away in my office... When I haven't taken a break to do something not related to writing... But just like my character, I press forth and finished whatever the task is. I do it with the knowledge that something different is waiting for me.
The characters in Bitter Fruit do not purposely resemble any living person. Usually when I create characters, they have traits from various people I may have met or even seen on television. It's like crafting a new recipe--add a pinch of this and a tad of that until I get the right persona.
For those debating whether or not to join the world of indie authors, I'd tell them you need a certain level of fortitude. You have to be willing to not quit. The road will get rough. There will be obstacles to overcome. Sure, there are those select few who don't seem to have to work so hard. But like everything else in life, hard work will eventually pay off. You just have to keep at it. Arabella learned the lesson of fortitude. When she discovered her blunder, it would have been too easy to quit. She knew she had to correct her mistake regardless of what must be done.
I totally enjoyed writing Arabella's story. It gave me a chance to research feminists during the Victorian era. Arabella's desire to be respected and taken seriously as a Female Spelltwister seemed to be a very modern position to take. I discovered that there were quite a few women who sought their independence at the time. Sadly, we still have quite a ways to go in that department. But it shouldn't come by thinking men are the enemies. Yes, there are those who have done wrong against women. But we need to seriously evaluate each case and not jump to conclusions.
One of my favorite things about writing is creating worlds. It's probably why I don't write a lot of contemporary. When I wrote the first book in the series, The Glass Watch, my husband said he could imagine it on the big screen. Bitter Fruit gave me a chance to expand on locations and scenes to make the story more vivid.
If you could have a second chance to discover your true love, would you choose the same person? It all begins with a thirty day punishment in Hell for a very bad succubus. When Sybil Najex asks her father-in-law, the King of Hell, for a demonic absolution, he gives her a different option—a Do-Over. It’s a chance for Sybil and her husband, Khan, to rediscover love. But things don’t go as planned when random males from her past display their affection for her. Then, Khan Najex garners the attention of a siren who is up for a challenge. In the end, they both must make a choice. Will Sybil choose Khan again, or will she opt for the life of a free spirit with a different male each night? Will Khan conquer his insane jealousy and allow Sybil to have her happily ever after? Sybil’s choice risks her marriage and her family, but it could also give everyone true happiness and…love. Unexpected Love (Another Falls Creek Romance Novel, #6) combines the stories of Sybil and Khan Najex. In Part I, The Do-Over, find out whether Sybil gets her demonic divorce. In Part II, The Challenge, learn what the future holds for Khan.
Thankfully, I know no one who is like Khan Najex. The man was vile to the bone. In writing Unexpected Love, I wanted to give him a little redemption, but that's a hard one with someone as despicable as Khan. The man drove away his wife, and hated his own son. Not the time of person you're supposed to love. Glad he only exists in a book.
Although my family can be a little crazy, I'll admit I've never experienced anything as wild as Sybil's engagement dinner. In all honesty, I've led a very normal life without any devastating reveals. Perhaps that's why I add the unexpected to my stories.
Isn't that what we all love about the beginning of a year? It's a chance to wipe the slate and start over. It's what motivated me to write Unexpected Love. Technically, it started out as two novellas--The Do-Over and The Challenge. Then, I had the bright idea to combine them into a longer book (just in two parts). My characters get sort of a clean slate, a little redemption if you will. It's why I write broken characters. I love finding them at their lowest point and building them back up. Usually with the love of a good man or woman. In 2020, I have more characters to rebuild. And at the end of the year? I'll be doing it all over again. Hopefully, there will be more people who can say they've read my stories.
As much as I loved writing Sybil's story (the first half of the book), I enjoyed Khan's so much more. He was the character nobody was supposed to like--let alone love. Just as New Year's marks new beginnings, so does Khan's story.
I love dabbling bread crumbs throughout my Another Falls Creek Romance series. Besides the main characters, I like to introduce side characters who may eventually appear in their own books. This excerpt mentions Nico Constantine's partner, Becca. It also mentions the boarding school they attended. Both will be books in 2020.
When I first Khan Najex, I merely had him as the bad man who thought he was in charge of everything. Then, I brought his character out again for my male/male romance. Khan Najex suddenly had more depth--he was a royal incubus who didn't approve of his son's life choices. But why? I answered that question and more in Unexpected Love. Trust me, by the end of this book you'll have a new fondness for a character crafted for hatred.
The fact that life threw a major curb ball at Sybil Najex reminded me about how sometimes things don't go as planned. In my world, it's usually a dinner that didn't quite go the way I thought it would. Or the tree that didn't happen. Yes, we've had those times. When the paycheck came too late to purchase one... or the apartment was just too small to put one up. It does make us appreciate the times that do go right .
Torin Murphy participated in Sybil Nakamura's Do-Over not for his benefit but hers. In this excerpt, he's going over the reasons why he had to do it. Kind of makes me think about why I've done certain things in 2019. I spent the time pumping out the words, self-editing for hours before handing off manuscripts to editors, and making sure my formatting was good for one reason. I wanted to share my stories with those who would appreciate them. Sure, it's nice to make a profit, but even without much income from my work it's all good. I'm getting to leave something behind. A legacy for my daughter.
Unexpected Love is both a second chance romance and a reverse-harem style story. It's what happens when a supernatural is forced to marry to fulfill an obligation. This moment between Torin and Sybil is just a hint at what could have been had her parents not interfered.
Sybil Najex is a succubus, and her father-in-law is the King of Hell. She's in the Nether Region being punished for a misdeed. It was only supposed to be a month, but the female is having far too much fun in Hell. Even the King recognizes that she's a little too comfortable. When she refuses to go home to her husband, the King makes her a deal.
Known throughout history as the Red Witch, Elsbeth is responsible for introducing supernatural creatures to the New World. For seven hundred long years, she’s dealt with everything from plagues and witch hunts, to a crushing lost love. Yet none of that prepared her for the betrayal of the Blue Moon Coven rising up against her. Unsure of who to trust and second guessing every decision, Elsbeth gathers a crude team of witches, sorcerers, and a demonic incubus to prepare for the upcoming battle. The stakes are higher than ever before. Not only would failure mean death for countless numbers of supernaturals, but Elsbeth’s escalating feelings towards the incubus have tied her immortality to him. Now, whatever fate she suffers befalls him as well. Eager to claim the happiness that’s eluded her for centuries, can Elsbeth face her past before it costs her everything? From the world of Falls Creek comes The Spell Caster Diaries; a gripping new paranormal suspense series by author SF Benson!
What is it with witches and cats? Practically every book I've ever read about a witch had a cat as her familiar. So I flipped the script in Inception. Instead of the cat being a familiar, it was a sorcerer in disguise attempting to spy on a witch. Trust me, it doesn't go well for the cat.
I absolutely loved writing The Red Witch--Elsbeth Beckworth. She's one of those characters who starts out unlikable. But she has an edge to her that kind of grabs you. The more you get to know her, the more certain you are that she shouldn't be someone you care about--but you do. Elsbeth goes through some major changes in Inception, and will continue to evolve by the end of the trilogy.
The historical chapters of Inception grew out of the back story I created for the Red Witch. Those details were written approximately two years ago when I created the world of Falls Creek. I'd alluded to them, but never did much with them. When I conceived The Spell Caster Diaries, I thought about how I could tell Elsbeth tale. Expanding her back story became a necessity. She's lived nearly seven hundred years--there's a lot to tell!
Elsbeth was at her wits end. Everything was conspiring against her cause. Those in a position to help, wouldn't. No one would even listen to her. Been there. Done that. If you've ever been in a disagreement with a loved one, you've been there before too. No matter how hard you try to get your point across you just can't. Eventually, you give up (or give in). It's at that moment, when things fall into place. Cooler heads prevail and words can be heard. It's a worthwhile lesson that even fictional characters have to learn.
Every now and then, I create a character who has a little of myself tucked in for good measure. No, I'm not a witch. And no, I didn't bring evil into the world. But I have made decisions in my life that made me sit back and re-evaluate my choices. I gave this retrospective nature to Elsbeth throughout Inception.
Just like Elsbeth, we all make mistakes. If we pay attention, they teach lessons. We have to be open to learning from them. What mistakes can an author make? Launching too soon. Launching too softly. Not seeking feedback for cover ideas. Not researching keywords. The list grows. The important part is to take something away from each and every book launched. If it seems successful, still study it. There's bound to be something you can learn from the experience.
Inception was a fun story to write bringing in a little history with the overall story. If you're a fan of paranormal stories, this one had something to appeal to all readers of the genre. There was intrigue (paranormal suspense), a little romance, and historical references. Out of all the paranormal romances I've written, this one stuck to a small circle of beings--witches & sorcerers, demons, and incubi.
As a kid, one of my favorite subjects in school was history. There were certain parts that just had me enthralled. Writing Inception, however, was not the first time I wrote a little history into a story. The fun part is always finding a way to bend the details to fit the narrative.
Inception without a doubt was my biggest challenge to write. I had to weave in a historical story with a paranormal suspense. I also added a healthy dose of romance. It was also the longest story I'd written. Challenges are good for the mind and the soul. It's why some people look forward to making resolutions. I prefer goals. I have a writing goal which I'll start assembling in 2020--writing a dark fantasy. A few years ago, I wrote a paranormal romance during National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). When I went to revise it, there was so much I needed to do that I shelved it. I knew I'd get back to it, but I wasn't sure how to fix it. Then, I stumbled across the term dark fantasy. When I looked it up, I knew it was something I wanted to do. It was the perfect vehicle for my shelved story too!
Oh, it's confession time in Falls Creek--or should I say Hell? Claudius and his father, Ashmedai, are busy airing their differences and learning some truths along the way. When I first toyed with the idea of giving Elsbeth her own book, I considered making Ashmedai her love interest. But he dynamic between her and his son made for a much better story. It also gave me a chance to let Ashmedai reveal his feelings without destroying his status as the King of Hell.
When I first created Elsbeth Beckworth, there was nothing admirable or likable about her. But I love finding redemption (and love) for despicable characters. After her appearance in Unexpected Love, I thought it was time for Elsbeth to rethink her life and decisions. So far, the best one she made was freeing the incubus from her attic.
I absolutely loved writing the historical portions of Inception. I got to marry my love of history along with the back story for a complex character. This scene gives you a glimpse at what Elsbeth encountered coming to the New World.
Much like Elsbeth's life, it seems that things are just bound to go wrong at the holidays. Years ago, long before we had a daughter or pets, my husband and I decided to spend Christmas without the annual road trip home. So we went out to buy a tree. We ended up with an artificial one that was barely four feet tall. Our decorating was last minute, and it was tough trying to find what we wanted. But what we couldn't see in the moment, was that we were blessed. We had each other. We had gifts to exchange and food to eat. It wasn't about all the extras. That's a lesson that Elsbeth Beckworth has yet to learn.
Elsbeth does a lot of looking back in Inception--the perfect thing for this time of year. I've been very busy for 2019 writing and publishing. I'm still waiting for it to pay off. In the meantime, I've met a lot of great people (other authors and readers included). It's been a fun ride so far, and I'm looking forward to seeing what 2020 can bring.
By the time Inception is done, readers will learn why Claudius was a necessary force in Elsbeth's life. Leading up to that conclusion are moments like this one where the Red Witch is questioning herself instead of merely acting.
Throughout Inception I mention the relationship between the Red Witch and the King of Hell. They have a mutual 'understanding' between them where boundaries are easily blurred. There are times, like this one, where Elsbeth pushes too hard with Ashmedai and he strikes back. Honestly, the King of Hell has been my funnest character to write.
Even evil characters should have a soft side. Thankfully, Claudius is responsible for Elsbeth getting in touch with her own. He gives her so much: the gentleness Elsbeth needs, and the understanding that no one else (not even the King of Hell) has given her. Most importantly, Claudius loves her in a way that no has ever done.
What's darker than Hell? According to Elsbeth, it's not a realm easily endured by supernaturals either. I guess it helps that the King of Hell has a thing for her. I first wrote a similar description in Blessed Hearts (Hearts Duology, Book 2). Even without the same level of detail, writing about the Nether Realm is always a bit on the creepy side.
This opening scene, one of the hardest for me to write in the book, is pivotal. Elsbeth is no ordinary human. She's something more, and by the time you reach the middle of the story you'll have an idea about her ancestry. I loved writing the historical chapters. They were like a story within a story, giving you insight into my main character.
Part of Elsbeth's problem (and her charm, if you will) is her wholehearted belief that she is right in all that she does. Inception is full of moments proving otherwise. Will Elsbeth learn before it's too late?
Inception is a story within a story. The historical chapters are told by an observer from Hell. The other chapters are set in present day and are told from the POV of Elsbeth (the Red Witch) and the incubus she freed from an attic, Claudius. This excerpt is told by the demon from the 8th level of Hell.
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