The Darrell Awards Approach

Congratulations to When Dragons Sleep by Steven Glen Baird for being a finalist!!!

2016 Darrell Awards Finalists — And Two Winners — Announced

It gives us great pleasure to announce that the following outstanding authors were chosen by the 2016 Darrell Awards Jury as Finalists for the Best Published Midsouth Science Fiction, Fantasy, and/or Horror.

Short Stories
Zedhead by Victor Lorthos
The Ones Who Remember by Robert J. Krog
Memphis BBQ by Cat Rambo
Sentry by Herika R. Raymer

Young Adult Works
The Old Blood by Tim Bohn
All The Turns of Light by Frank Tuttle

When Dragons Sleep by Steven Glen Baird
Lincoln’s Bodyguard by T. J. Turner
The Darker Carnival by Frank Tuttle

The Jury is also pleased to announce that AARON CHRISTOPHER DROWN is our newest winner of the Dal Coger Memorial Hall of Fame Award for his outstanding body of work, including many excellent short stories.

In addition, the Jury has chosen Brielle and the Alien Geek by JESSICA COULTER SMITH as the Winner of the 2016 Darrell Award for Best Midsouth SF/F/H Novella.

Congratulations to all of the Finalists!

The 2016 Darrell Awards will be presented during the Banquet at MidSouthCon 34 on Saturday, March 19. Please see the convention’s website at for details of that event.


Guardian Angel Warfare

OOTS Front Dark OakThe prophecy Davian’s people had forgotten has been fulfilled; Elysia is now slave to a tyrant. His mercenaries, the dreaded Black Guard, kill at will, casting a shadow of terror wherever they tread. Elysia’s enemies, the mornachts, have overrun Earth, and the human child prophesied to rid evil from both worlds may not survive their attacks-or impending world war.

Elysia’s only hope for freedom lies in Davian. Once a decorated officer, Davian now roams Elysia’s outskirts as an escaped fugitive. Armed with only a stolen sword, he and three loyal soldiers vow to somehow return to Elysia through a wilderness full of mornachts, Black Guard, and a nameless evil that slithers in the darkness, watching Davian’s every move. For Davian to succeed, he must gather an army and somehow convince the neutral races of dragons, unicorns, and gnomes to help him along the way. The closer Davian gets to Elysia, the more one thought haunts him: To free his countrymen, he must betray his country.

New Release!!! Get Your Dragon On!

dragonssleepxlgDragons Reign Supreme

Mankind had no place in a world where dragons reign supreme. In fact, they were considered little more than a distraction for the young or bored, insignificant insects to be manipulated for entertainment or destroyed as pests. All that changed when Thytira, one of the greatest mages of dragonkind, discovered that the magic of man may have merit after all. After living among humanity for centuries to learn their lore and increase his own power, he emerged as the most powerful dragon of his generation. But all knowledge has a price, and years spent among mankind cursed Thytira with the greatest liability a dragon can have: a conscience.

Now as war drums sound and a new, terrifying threat arises from humanity, Thytira alone stands between the wrath of dragonkind and the total destruction of humanity. However, the fate of men and dragon alike may ultimately depend upon the decisions of a young woman who long ago denied the birthright of her race. But that is only if Thytira can find her …

Author Interview: M. B. Weston

OOTS Front Dark OakDark Oak Press author, M. B. Weston, gave us an interview about not only her current fantasy series, The Elysian Chronicles, but also on her writing style and other things she has going on.

What genres do you enjoy writing? I started out with fantasy, but I’m also enjoying writing paranormal, suspense, urban fantasy, Steampunk, and I’m working on some pulp now. I also see a bit of mystery writing in my future.

Tell us about your latest book: My latest book is Out of the Shadows, the second book in the Elysian Chronicles series. The Elysian Chronicles is military fantasy about guardian angel warfare and treason with a lot of action. In the first book, A Prophecy Forgotten, my hero Davian must keep a young boy prophesied to save the world safe while at the same time stop a conspiracy of his fellow soldiers from taking over his home government. In Out of the Shadows, the scoundrels have successfully taken over, and Davian must do everything he can to bring them down, despite the fact he only has a few soldiers at his disposal.

What inspired the story? Where did you get that first bit of “ah ha” inspiration? Out of the Shadows is a sequel to A Prophecy Forgotten, and I have to admit that it was quite easy to come up with the idea for it since I knew what would happen once I started developing APF. It all began when I was imagining a scene with little boy drowning in a river. A young woman rescued him, but she ended up hitting her head on a rock and getting amnesia. When she woke, I thought, “Wouldn’t it be funny if this boy thought she was actually his guardian angel?” Then I thought, “What if she was?” At that moment, the entire story changed into epic fantasy, and the angels–cherubians, I call them–became the central culture instead of the humans.

Give us an insight into your main character. What does he/she do that is so special? Davian is a special operative in the guardian angel military who excels at leading black ops against the angel’s greatest enemies–mornachts. (If I’ve got angels, I’ve go to have some demons, right?) He’s a hard core soldier with a tremendous amount of focus on his mission–often at the expense of other aspects of his social life. I think my favorite thing about him is that he would really just rather live in peace in the country with a vegetable garden. In Out of the Shadows, Davian is imprisoned for 10 years and then finds himself with a chance at a new life when he escapes. Unfortunately, his loyalty to his country overcomes his desire for peace. He decides–with prodding–to free his country from the new dictator who rules it.

How about your least favorite character? I don’t have a least favorite character because all of them are vital to the story. However, most of my readers seem to hate Loraine, Tommy’s mother, the most.

How much research did you have to do for this book? Any travel involved? I did a lot of research on Delta Force, Green Berets, and Navy Seals to come up with the culture for my special ops team. I tried to blend the idea of navy-seals meets Roman soldiers with wings. The earth sections of Out of the Shadows take place at the United States Naval Academy. I was fortunate enough to be able to travel there for a weekend, and it really influenced my writing.

What was the hardest thing about writing your latest book? Trying to coordinate the battle going on in Heaven’s Realm (the name I have for the dimension the guardian angels live in) and the battle on earth. I had to make sure the timing fit into the appropriate parts of the Naval Academy’s academic schedule. (I used their 2006 calendar.) I also ended up dealing with two sets of characters on both earth and in Heaven’s Realm, and that meant I had to track each one’s development and make sure each was given his or her fair amount of time.

Which writers inspire you? Tolkein, C. S. Lewis, J. K. Rowling, and in this one I used a lot of Tom Clancy.

What does your writing process look like? Are you a plotter or a pantser? I’m a modified pantser, meaning I write by the seat of my pants–mostly. I start out with a story idea. I do a bit of brain work to give myself a big picture concept of where I want the story to end up. Then I just start writing it. I’ve tried an outline, but using an outline takes me double the time because the story always changes once I get into the scene and into the characters. To keep from writing too much that might be deleted during the editing process, I write in layers. My first draft is really more of a rushed, bare-boned pre-draft with dialog and stage directions. I go back in and fill in the details, which means that if I delete a scene or change things around, I’m messing with something that only took me five minutes to jot down instead of a highly edited bit of writing that took a day.

What are you working on at the minute? In order of timing:

  • The Lodestone Series: This is an urban-fantasy, pulp novella series for ProSe Press about an immortal wizard named Michael Lodestone who sets out to free the world from his nine, more evil immortal counterparts who are bent on taking over. Basically, he knows he has to kill them, and the process of killing an immortal wizard is quite complex. I’m going to deal with one wizard or witch in each novella. In this first story, he faces off with the evil queen from the Snow White tales. I based it on a short story I wrote called, “The Witch Hunter,” which is featured in The Big Bad II short story anthology.
  • Unleashed (Working Title): A paranormal suspense thriller about a woman who discovers the person stalking her is 1) responsible for 90% of the world’s unsolved serial killings and 2) isn’t human. I’ve got the rough draft done and I’m in the middle of the 2nd. I was asked for a pulp novella, so I put this one on hold in order to finish the fist Lodestone book.
  • The Elysian Chronicles: The Sword of the Vanir (working title): I need to get this done before I start getting death threats from readers. I have some reasons it has taken a while, but I have to keep those to myself.


Why do you write? Because I have to. I know, silly answer, but it’s true. I have stories in my head, and I need to get them out.

Where do your ideas come from? Everywhere. Anything can spark an idea. That’s why its so important for writers to pay attention to everything.

What is the hardest thing about writing? Making sure the plot feels organic instead of contrived. The plot needs to feel seamless and real, and as odd as it seems it takes a lot of behind-the-scenes organizational work to make the story feel like it’s just unfolding effortlessly in front of you.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers? Well, most of the advice we all hear all the time is pretty relevant: don’t give up, keep writing, etc. I guess to be different, I would say to learn how to really edit. Learn the craft of writing. Don’t just think that because you’ve got a great story you can rush through and be done. Learn about style and grammar. Make your manuscript sparkle before you turn it in to a publisher. There is no such thing as good writers, just good editors. The ones who make it to the top are the ones who edit their own work the best.

Michelle-021 MediumFind out more about M. B. Weston at these sites:

Be sure to check out M. B.’s books:

Author Interview: Kathryn Hinds


Dark Oak Press recently released Kathryn Hinds‘ latest young adult, fantasy novel, The Healer’s Choice. She was kind enough to sit down with us for an interview about her writing process and her works.

What genres do you enjoy writing? Fantasy (mainly epic fantasy and historical fantasy/alternate history), steampunk, poetry, and nonfiction

Tell us about your latest book: The Healer’s Choice is an epic fantasy novel that might be described as Game of Thrones meets The Mists of Avalon. It’s a very human-based fantasy (no elves, goblins, or dragons) with a naturalistic approach to magic—in fact, the characters who use magic don’t even think of it as such. The story centers on a healer and a warrior, both driven by ideals of honor and commitment to duty, whose countries are at war. Under other circumstances, these two might be friends, or more, but the war stands between them. Moreover, the war forces each of them into unfamiliar and uncomfortable roles. The healer in particular must confront aspects of herself that she has long buried, and she learns that unless she can reclaim these lost parts of her identity, she will never be able to achieve the one thing she desires above anything else: to save her people.

What inspired the story? Where did you get that first bit of “aha” inspiration? In a lot of ways, the original Star Wars movie was the initial inspiration. My favorite character was Obi-Wan Kenobi, but I really wanted him to be a woman! I felt much the same way about Merlin when I read Mary Stewart’s The Crystal Cave. My teenage musings over what if Obi-Wan or Merlin were female eventually joined with another what-if (a result of some of the Women’s Studies classes I took in college): What if there really was a functional matriarchal society; how might it run? Then there was a period in which I found myself copy-editing a lot of books on World War II and came to the realization that I was not, as I’d always thought of myself, a pacifist, and my ponderings on the limits of pacifism combined with the other threads to manifest my protagonist, the Kel Nira, and the situation in which she finds herself.

Give us an insight into your main character. What does she do that is so special? As chief of the Healers’ Order, the Kel Nira is a member of her country’s ruling council, but she’s not all that interested in ruling–her devotion is to her Order and its compassionate mission above all. She has defined herself completely in terms of this vocation for a long time, and it’s a shock when circumstances awaken her to a new understanding of herself. So not only does she have to contend with the invaders of her country and conflicts with other members of the ruling council, but she also finds herself facing some very uncomfortable personal truths.

Who is your favorite character from your book and why? Definitely the Kel Nira. She embodies a lot of the qualities I admire (but don’t actually possess, at least nowhere near as much as I’d like)–emotional and physical strength, grace under pressure, discipline and dedication–but she also has vulnerabilities and challenges ranging from dyslexia to workaholism to major identity issues.

How about your least favorite character? What makes them less appealing to you? My antagonist, Prince Dursten, has an extreme us-versus-them worldview (among other issues). If you’re part of his “us,” he is the soul of charm, generosity, and nobility. The problem is that his “us” is very small–and that, I think, is the reason for so many problems in the real world, too.

How much research did you have to do for this book? Any travel involved? I had already done a lot of research on pre-industrial cultures, since I’d written a number of nonfiction books about various ancient and medieval societies, and that research definitely fed into The Healer’s Choice. None of the peoples in the book are entirely analogous to any specific historical groups, but the Kel Nira’s people have some similarities to ancient Germanic and Celtic cultures, while Prince Dursten’s have elements drawn from the Roman Empire, ancient India, and a few other times and places. Most of these similarities, however, were not included deliberately; they just filtered through my subconscious as I was writing. The two areas I did have to deliberately research were medical procedures and military techniques, neither of which are areas in which I have any sort of expertise.

What was the hardest thing about writing your latest book? Aside from just sticking with the whole process, I think the most challenging thing was the world building. Perhaps because of my background of researching and writing social history, I always thought of The Healer’s Choice as a historical novel in a way–and it really would have been one, if I had been able to find a historical time and place in which my characters could have played the roles they play and been in the situation they’re in. It would have been much easier for me to research a particular culture’s games, dances, funeral practices, and so on, than to have to make all of that up!

Which writers inspire you? The big three for me are Terry Pratchett, Jane Austen, and Shakespeare; after that, in no particular order (except that I’m listing novelists first, then poets), are Charlotte Bronte, Tolkien, Patrick O’Brian, Elizabeth Peters, Lois McMaster Bujold, Isabel Allende, Philip Pullman, Marian Zimmer Bradley and Diana Paxson, Marie de France, Sir Philip Sidney, William Butler Yeats, Emily Dickinson, Walt Whitman, Langston Hughes, Dylan Thomas, and A.E. Stallings.

What does your writing process look like? Are you a plotter or a pantser? If I’m writing nonfiction, I do quite a bit of planning and formal outlining. My fiction, though, generally starts with some situation with a character or two and then grows from there. It’s a kind of organic cinema: after the initial idea grabs me, I see various scenes playing like a movie in my head, and I do my best to transcribe the dialogue and describe the action. I often have an idea of the direction the characters are going, but I frequently have to run to keep up with them, and they sometimes head off in directions that completely surprise me.

Do you have any strange writing habits (like standing on your head or writing in the shower)? I drink a lot of coffee while I’m working, which is not so strange for a writer, except that I stick with mostly decaf. Also, I tend not to visualize the physical appearance of my characters in detail, but I do “voice-cast” most of them–for example, I hear the Kel Nira’s voice as Cate Blanchett’s in the Lord of the Rings movies or as Mira Furlan’s in Babylon 5.

What are you working on at the moment? My main project is a follow-up to The Healer’s Choice, currently titled The Healer’s Curse. I’ve also got a few steampunk stories in the works.

How important are names to you in your books? Do you choose the names based on liking the way it sounds or the meaning? Do you have any name choosing resources you recommend? I have always loved names–their meanings, their history, their connotations, their sounds. As a grade-schooler and teenager I checked baby-name books out of the library all the time, just because I was so fascinated by names, and I was always envious of the girls in my class who had unusual ones (Zane, Darcy, Chloe, and Eleni are some I remember). It’s not surprising, then, that I take a lot of care with naming my characters. In my epic fantasy, part of the world building I do is setting up language parameters and naming conventions. Within those guidelines, I then create names that I like the sound of. For example, one of the cultures in The Healer’s Choice has an important legendary figure named Vallar, and so “Val,” from his name, turns up as an element in the names of my secondary protagonist, Corvalen, and his heir, Torval. Names are also significant in The Healer’s Choice by their absence: the leaders of Sharhaya, the country at the center of the novel, relinquish their names and go by title alone, similar to the Dalai Lama and Panchen Lama in our world.

When did you decide to become a writer? I started writing poems and stories when I was seven because I just couldn’t help myself, and I’ve never stopped. As with most writers, I think, there are stories and characters in my heart and head that I’ve just got to get onto paper (or into pixels), or I feel I’ll burst. At some point, though, I suppose we do make a more or less conscious decision to publish our work in some form. With me it started by passing out stories to my friends in junior high and then submitting to magazines in high school. In college I had an interdisciplinary arts major with a dual concentration in music and writing, so I suppose that’s when I really decided that writing would form a major component of my professional life.

Where do your ideas come from? I get ideas from all over the place: history, folklore and mythology, dreams, random encounters with strangers, odd situations with friends, interesting quotations, overheard conversations, works of art, and all manner of musings on what-ifs.

Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just see where an idea takes you? I generally have some sense of where the plot is going to go, or at least I have certain “marks” that I think I want to hit as the plot progresses. Mainly, though, I focus on developing the characters and their relationships, and let the plot take shape as a result.

Which famous person, living or dead would you like to meet and why? I really wish I had been able to meet Terry Pratchett. His Discworld novels have meant so much to me, in so many ways, and I would have liked to thank him in person.

Tell the readers something about yourself that has nothing to do with writing. My favorite desserts are creme brulee, tiramisu, and key lime pie. If a dessert menu has all three, I will never make up my mind.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers? Keep reading, both inside and outside of the genre you’re writing in. And while the only way to get a book written is to sit down and write it, you do need to get up out of the chair and go out into the world, too. Pay attention: to nature, to landscapes and cityscapes, to current events, to weather, to words, to history, and, above all, to people and what makes them tick.

KHinds(color)scaledDo you have any tips for readers or advice for other writers trying to get published? Write the stories you need to tell; don’t worry about labeling or selling them until later. Get the story down, get it polished (revise, revise, revise!), and then you can deal with the rest of the process.

How can readers discover more about you and you work? Visit my website ( and follow me on social media–I’m currently on Facebook, Goodreads, and Pinterest, and maybe one of these days I’ll finally start Tweeting, too.


The Healer’s Choice by Kathryn Hinds Receiving Good Reviews


If you haven’t yet checked out Kathryn Hinds‘ new young adult fantasy novel, The Healer’s Choice, please do. Christy English, author of the SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE series, has given The Healer’s Choice a wonderful review on Amazon and Goodreads:

“This is the kind of book that I not only loved, but that stayed with me long after I put it down. The best way I can express it is to say this beautiful novel is like the best of Marion Zimmer Bradley. Though set in a fantasy world with a fantasy war, THE HEALER’S CHOICE could easily have been Britain as it fell to Roman occupation. A lovely, well-written novel with fascinating characters on both sides of the war. I want to read it again. I want to read the next one in the series. I love it so much, I am buying copies for my friends. It’s just that good.”

Creiton’s Sword

creitonsxlg  Amazon Best Sellers Rank:

#29 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Teen & Young Adult > Historical Fiction > Medieval
#47 in Books > Teens > Historical Fiction > Medieval

Creiton’s Swords were legends in their own lifetimes. The tales of Duke Creiton’s personal guard were known in every tavern and alehouse, but for Bryant they were just stories. He had no time for stories. It was all he could do to carve a place for himself among the guard of Bren while coming to terms with guilt for the family he’d left behind. But then the bells of Bren pealed out the warning of war, and there was only time for survival.

Bryant’s first taste of battle was nothing like the ballads. He saw no glory or honor in the butchery, and instead of riches there was only terror and ignoble death. But as he buried his closest friend, Bryant made a simple promise that would change his life. Never again would he stand idly by when he had the power to act. Never again would he hide behind the lie of helplessness. And when his first act on that promise led to saving a powerful nobleman’s life, Bryant found he’d started down a road with no way back. For Bryant had gained the attention of Creiton’s Swords, and no one who did that was ever the same again…