Author Interview….Erika Swyler, author of “The Book of Speculation”

erika author photo bj enright

I’m a in love with learning. I’m happiest when I’m figuring out how to do something new. Sometimes that means I know just enough to get myself in serious trouble. Generally, it means I’m looking at something and thinking of how I could make it myself, better, and on the cheap. That’s probably how I wound up being a writer who draws, bakes, binds books, and does calligraphy.

Sierra:  When did you first start writing and when did you finish your first book?

Erika:  I’ve always been writing. I recently unearthed a pot boiler thriller I wrote in the third grade. I didn’t start pursuing writing as a career until my twenties. Final edits on The Book of Speculation were completed in 2014, though you never really stop working on a book. Every time you pick it up to read, you change a word. I’m still writing it, though no one’s paying attention to my little edits.

Sierra:  Tell us a little bit about your first book or the first book in the series.

Erika:  The Book of Speculation is about a librarian who receives a mysterious book that reveals a curse that’s been killing women in his family for 250 years, including his mother. His sister is poised to be its next victim. It follows Simon as he tries to break the curse, and his ancestors—a mute tarot card reader and a carnival mermaid—who live and work in a traveling circus in the 1790s. It’s a book about the magic of books and families.

Click on the book to see my review!


Sierra: How did you choose the genre you write in?

Erika:  I tend not to write in a single genre, instead pulling elements from many. I like the romanticism of fantasy, the pacing and thought that comes with mystery, historical fiction’s escapism, family saga’s emotional intensity, the allegory of fairy tales, pretty much everything magical realism does, and literary fiction’s devotion to language. I read all over the map, so it only made sense to try to use what I like best in what I write. I find the idea of trapping something in a single genre to be more limiting to readers than helpful. The word genre also comes with a stigma. To me, labeling something as a particular genre is the best way to ensure that lots of people who might otherwise enjoy a book won’t find it. That’s a shame.

Sierra: What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write?

Erika:  I got to write some truly terrible weather in this book. Writing bad weather is a joy. When you’re writing terrible weather you know you’re writing something everyone can connect with, because we’ve all suffered through it. Weather spares no one. Essentially, huge storms or weather events are scenery chewing, going-for-the-Oscar moments. Late in The Book of Speculation I decimate a historic building, which was deeply satisfying in a way I shouldn’t examine too deeply.

Sierra:  Is anything in your book based on real life experiences or purely all imagination?

Erika:  The fictional town of Napawset draws heavily from the area around where I grew up. If you drive along Long Island’s North Shore after reading the book, it will feel achingly familiar. The contemporary storyline has emotional roots in my own experience of growing up in a small shore town. The 1790s narrative is entirely imagined, save for the historical details. Much as I wish that I’d run away with a traveling circus, I haven’t. I’d still like to though. Desperately.

Sierra: Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult?

Erika:  Geek Love is the most influential book in my life. I picked it up in college and was totally smitten. To this day I haven’t encountered another book like it. The voice is fierce, unapologetic, and bawdy. Olympia is the boldest narrator—male or female—I’ve ever read. It’s impossible to read it without having a very strong opinion about it. That’s what I want from every book. I’ve been known to judge whether or not I can be friends with someone based on their opinion of Geek Love. I like to gift it to people and watch them squirm as they read.

Sierra: Do you ever experience writers block?

Erika:  All the time. There are plenty of days when I sit down and it just won’t happen. I swear a lot. I try to do other things, draw, read, take walks, anything that will get my brain moving away from feeling stuck. The antidote to writers block is change. And forgiveness. You have to forgive yourself for not being brilliant. That said, working on those two things is as difficult as the writing process itself.

Sierra: Is there an author that you would really like to meet?

Erika:  I’d very much like to meet Kirsty Logan. The Gracekeepers was recently published and it’s perfect. I’d love to be able to tell her that in person. In my imagined meeting there is tea, and we get to talk about folklore, fairy tales, and trashy television. Sadly, there’s a large ocean preventing that meeting.

Sierra: Will you have a new book coming out soon? If so, can you tell us about it?

Erika:  I’m in the very early stages of my next book. I can tell you that I’m exploring concepts of time, that it’s set in Florida, and it revolves around a young girl and science. Everything else will shift as I go. Books have a way of turning themselves inside out as you write them.

Sierra: If you could go back and do it all over again, is there any aspect of your first novel or getting it published that you would change?

Erika:  I wish I could have worried less. It’s so easy to become neurotic during editing and prepublication. I wore myself out with worry. During revisions, editing, and the period before launch you get these intense fears that you’re letting people down. It’s easy to lose sight of the fact that your book isn’t just yours anymore. It belongs to you, and everyone who works with you. The sooner it becomes less me and more we, the better.

Sierra: Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?

Erika:  Get off the computer and write longhand when you can. You’ll worry less and write more. You’ll edit when you type it up later. If you write longhand, you’re far less likely to lose a draft to a ham dinner colliding with a keyboard.

Sierra: Is there anything you would like to say to your readers and fans?

Erika:  Thank you. May you all one day write books and have people be as kind to you as they’ve been to me. It’s humbling, and I’m profoundly grateful.

Author Interview with Michael Pang, author of “In the Eyes of Madness” – *BOOK GIVEAWAY*


Michael is 31 years old and is married with two kids. He was born in Hong Kong and moved to the US when he was about 3 years old.  Michael grew up in Central Florida and went off to Atlanta for college. He graduated from Georgia Tech back in 2005 and worked for an energy company as a project engineer up through 2013.  In 2014 he started working for an IT company as a project manager.

“I am a person that gets bored extremely quickly, so I like to dabble in a lot of different things.  I have many passions in life that keep me from being idle.  Writing and reading, of course, being two of my passions, have taken up much of my time.  Other passions that indulge upon are Cooking, Eating, Singing, and teaching.”

Sierra:  When did you first start writing and when did you finish your first book?

Michael: I’ve always been very addicted to reading urban fantasy novels.  After a long day at work, it feels great to be able to dive into a book where I can be drawn into a world that parallels my own, but filled with magic and wonder.  If I had a good book in front of me, I used to be able to stay up all night reading (gone are those day though; I have kids now and I try to get as much sleep as I can get).

Although, I’ve always wanted to pursue writing, I didn’t really attempt writing a book until one night when I had a very strange dream about 4 years ago.  My wife and I had our first baby. Months of sleepless nights went by and we both looked like zombies. Then, one night a very strange dream (more like a nightmare) came to me about a teenager working in a mental asylum. The patients there were all gaunt and ghastly with very abrupt demeanor changes. Some of the things the patients were doing were fairly odd and supernatural (like levitating, retrieving objects via telekinesis, and speaking with multi-vocal projections). And I remember wandering to myself, are these people all just insane or demon possessed. Then the teenager went into a room and called the patient residing in the room, “mom.”  She turned around abruptly, and the expression on her face was terrifying as she pounced on him. I woke up immediately. As shaken from the dream as I was, I couldn’t help wanting to find out what happened to the teenager.  I tried to go back to sleep in hopes of getting the dream to continue.  But it didn’t work.  The next morning, I told my wife about the strange dream and how I had hoped that it had continued when I went back to sleep.  So my wife told me that it sounded like it would make an excellent novel and that I should write my own ending.  And I did.

It took me about two and a half years to finish the story.

Sierra:  Tell us a little bit about your first book or the first book in the series.

Michael: .It is a Young Adult Paranormal Urban Fantasy that is book 1 of a book series called Declan Peters Chronicles.  The story is about a 17 year old boy who had an traumatic experience when he was seven.  His mother went insane and tried to drown him.  Now that he’s graduated from high school, he starts working for the institution here is mother is being cared for.  Strange things start happening around him, and he afraid that he might have inherited his mother’s mental illness.  The story surrounds all the different discoveries that he makes about himself during this time.  Are there really supernatural things happening around him, or has he truly inherited his mother’s condition.  You’ll have to read the book to find out.


Click the Photo to see A Simple Taste for Reading’s Review!

Sierra: How did you choose the genre you write in?

Michael:  Since the whole story came about from a nightmare I had, I’d have to say that I didn’t choose it; it chose me.  I hope I didn’t sound too much like a mystic there.

Sierra: What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write?

Michael: My favorite part in the book (without giving too much away as a spoiler) is the scene where Declan comes to a realization about his own state of mind and what he can really do.  That feeling of being free from all the baggage that he had been carrying for 10 years, made me leap a little bit as I was writing it.  I’m sure that there is always something about yourself that you are self conscious of or you don’t like (whether it is something that has happened in your past or something about yourself physically).  And sometimes, you can get obsessed about it so much that it consumes you. But learning to like yourself for who you are and how you got there is probably one of the most freeing experiences of your life.

Sierra:  Is anything in your book based on real life experiences or purely all imagination?

Michael: The story is mostly imaginary, being that it originated from a dream.  However, there are a lot of moments throughout the story that has very intense emotions, that are reflections of the emotions that I’ve had in different parts of my life.
Sierra: Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult?

Michael: I’m a big paranormal fiction fan. A few of my favorite writers are Jim Butcher, Simon R. Green, Cassandra Clare, and Rick Riordan. Jim Butcher has definitely influenced some of the ways I write my fight scenes in the book as his books are always so packed with supernatural action.  And Simon R. Green always has such witty characters that are very unique.  And Cassandra Clare and Rick Riordan simply have a way of creating a world that draws you in.  These are all amazing writers and I really hope that one day I can attain their level of excellence.

Sierra: Do you ever experience writers block?

Michael:  I’m not sure if it really counts, but I honestly cannot sit and write for more than two hours at a time.  My brain feel like a bowl of pudding after that.

Sierra: Is there an author that you would really like to meet?

Michael: Jim Butcher!  The Dresden Files is my absolute favorite book series of all time.  I’ve probably re-read the entire series at least 4 times.  The world that he built in his book series is so intricate that every time I re-read it I realize that I had missed something important the previous times.

Sierra: Will you have a new book coming out soon? If so, can you tell us about it?

Michael:  Not quite in the near future.  I’m still in the beginning stages of writing book 2 of the Declan Peter’s Chronicles.  And concurrently, I’m working on a spin-off book series that goes back to the genesis times, starting with the first Nephilim.   And yes, there will be crossover characters.  You have to read it to find out how.

Sierra: If you could go back and do it all over again, is there any aspect of your first novel for getting it published that you would change?

Michael: No, I like the story as it is.  However, I’d like to believe that my writing has improved since then, and just rewrite the whole thing!  Haha!  But I feel like, I’m always going to feel that way as I continue down my writing journey.

Sierra: Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?

Michael: As my wife was reading some of my first drafts, I kept hearing sighs and grunts.  And I ask her what was her deal, and she told me “Don’t just flat out tell the readers what is going on all the time, you have flirt with them.”

You don’t’ want to be so cryptic where you readers are confused about what’s going on in the story, but also don’t just give it all away!  Tease them! Make them work for it! 😉

Sierra: Is there anything you would like to say to your readers and fans?

Michael:  I’d just like to thank all the readers for their support.  I know that some of the topics touched upon in the novel can be quite taboo in certain arenas.  But, I feel that it’s what makes for an intriguing tale!  I hope you enjoyed the first book enough to continue with the series because it’s really about go deeper into the madness!

Click On the Book Cover to Enter to Win a  Digital Copy of “In the Eyes of Madness”!25466295

*Author Spotlight – Carian Cole*


The calm before the storm…

I lived in the quiet stillness.
I felt the wind rustle, warning me, telling me to get out of its path.

But I didn’t.

I never stood a chance.

A series of weather and road mishaps leaves me trapped in the middle of a blizzard with a complete stranger. In the back of a pickup truck. For forty-eight freakin’ hours.

A stranger with long hair, tattoos, and rippling with muscle.
A stranger with an insanely sexy voice and a wicked smile that turned my insides to jelly.
A stranger who held me in his arms, calmed me, and then set a fire in me that I couldn’t put out.

Storm lives up to his name. Beautiful. Dangerously inviting. Tumultuous. Dark. A clash of hot and cold.

He’s used to getting everything he wants.

And now he wants me.

Some people chase storms for the beautiful thrill. What happens when the storm chases you?

***Warning. This is an adult romance book and is not intended for anyone under the age of 18. It contains graphic sex scenes and explicit language.***



I have a passion for the bad boys, those covered in tattoos, sexy smirks, ripped jeans, fast cars, motorcycles and of course, the sweet girls that try to tame them and win their hearts. My debut series, Ashes & Embers, follows the lives of rock band members as they find, and sometimes lose, the loves of their lives.

My first novel in the Ashes & Embers series, Storm, was published in September of 2014. Book 2, Vandal, is expected early 2015.

Born and raised a Jersey girl, I now reside in beautiful New Hampshire with my husband and our multitude of furry pets and spend most of my time writing, reading, and vacuuming.

*Author Spotlight – CiCelia Jackson*


This volume is the 1st of 4 in the Expression’s Embrace poetry series. From Roses to Sparrows is a collection of expressions geared towards women of all ages, Queens and Princesses, but specifically written to give our blooming youth of little women something to ponder upon during their life’s journeys. It is also meant to speak to mature women to embrace the treasured privilege held in teaching them, thereby being dedicated to the integral communication between older women (Roses) and young ladies (Sparrows).

From Roses to Sparrows incites self expression, inspires, encourages, comforts, makes you laugh and smile…or just gives you something to think about. “We, each of us, are someone’s Rose and/or Sparrow and, at times, I think we need to be reminded of such.”


CiCelia Jackson is the Author and Poet of the Expression’s Embrace poetry series: Love of Love. Love of Life. Love of Word. Love of Mind. These poems are meant to incite self expression, to inspire, to encourage, to comfort, to make you laugh and smile…or to just give you something to think about. The 1st volume, released in Spring 2013, is “From Roses to Sparrows”, dedicated to the communication and interactions between older women (Roses) and young ladies (Sparrows). The 2nd volume is entitled “Revolutionary Revelations” and these selections will be more spiritual related. The 3rd volume is entitled “Love to Love What Love Can Be” and that’s pretty self explanatory, speaking on the different levels and boundaries of love and hate, and the emotions in between. The 4th and final volume in the series is entitled “From Redwoods to Eagles” and these expressions are dedicated to the communications and interactions between older men (Redwoods) and young men (Eagles).


*Author Spotlight – John Peter Jones*


One hundred years ago, a mad Russian billionaire unleashed the Animalis. Their intelligence and rough humanoid forms granted them basic human rights, and humanity seemed willing to share dominance over the Earth with them. But when the economy crashed the Animalis became an easy victim to blame and hate.

Now, Earth is in turmoil. A deadly conflict rages between humans and the genetically engineered Animalis. Jax Minette has followed in his father’s footsteps and joined the army. However, unlike his father, Jax plans to be a hero.

When Jax is sent to recapture the machine that created the Animalis, he finds himself following Hurley Grimshaw, a red-head who has her own plans, and envisions what Jax thinks is an impossible future: one where the Animalis and humans live together in peace.

To save the future of mankind, Jax must understand the motivations behind the Animalis. Every human who gets close to the Animalis has met a terrifying fate: the arena. In the arena, the strong devour the weak. No human has ever stood a chance.

Until now.

Animalis is a sweeping young adult futuristic action adventure. John Peter Jones’ first novel is an imaginative and hopeful vision of the future, saturated with deep moral questions that will leave readers thinking for years to come.



With a background in art, animation, film, and video games, John Peter Jones brings a unique and refreshing perspective to the science fiction genre. He studied computer animation and traditional art at Brigham Young University’s award winning Animation Program and helped in the production of two Student Emmy award winning shorts.

John Peter Jones (Peter) was born in Rigby, Idaho and grew up roaming the desert country by his house with his siblings. At the age of eight, after breaking his leg while taking on two friends in a game of chicken on the monkey bars, he dictated a short story which his mother dutifully transcribed. It was a horror tragedy that required the best of his monster drawing abilities to illustrate.

Peter is currently twenty eight years old, is happily married to the love of his life, Kathleen Petra Jones, and is working from home as a part-time stay at home dad with his four crazy kids. His first full length young adult science fiction novel, Animalis, went on sale October of 2014, and hopes to some day be a best selling author!

*Author Spotlight – Justin Swapp*


Marcus Fith doesn’t believe in magic. And why should he? Marcus and his twin sister, Ellie, live in the loft above their grandparents magic shop, and he’s all too familiar with the hand buzzers, card tricks, and fake vomit kits. So, imagine his shock when he stumbles upon his grandfather hiding something in a secret room in the magic shop — the one that all the rumors are about.

Join Marcus and Ellie as they unravel a laundry list of family secrets, and are thrown into a world they never knew existed. Not only is the family business is a front, but Marcus has to develop his powers before the Dun-Bahr find him and assimilate the magic he was born to protect.

Will they survive?


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Born: October 5, 1975

Place of Birth: On a military base in Rota, Spain (Province of Cadiz)
Languages: English and Spanish

Education: This is where you might expect me to write that I ran a news paper at Layton High School, or that I at least put together the Yearbook, but I didn’t. I’ve always loved learning, but my eduction took me in the direction of business. I love being creative, and it took me a while to realize that. I’ve always loved writing, but I kind of suppressed it. So, two degrees later – A Bachelors in Business Marketing from The University of Phoenix, and an MBA from The University of Utah – I have to say that my education has served me well, but it’s also helped me realize that I need to be creative.
Childhood influences: The first book I series I ever read was the Lord of the Rings. I laid on a mattress in my room and devoured the pages. I had never read like that before, especially given that I had a harder time reading when I was younger. There was something about the story that compelled me to keep going. I didn’t know it at that time, but I wanted that power

As I grew up my love for writing was there, but it largely went unrecognized. It was when I entered my MBA program at the U of U that I decided to write a book (yeah, I know, strange timing.) Things accelerated quickly as I remembered the joy good reading brought me, and how I wanted to write what would be deemed as good reading.

Other influences came flooding back to me – movies, other books; people I had met, and various things I had experienced. I had resurrected something I loved, and my mind knew it was time to let everything loose.

Work experience: I traveled the world for work – mostly Latin America. For me, it was the various cultures and cities I lived in that helped form part of my writing. There is so much to see, and wonder about when you leave the USA, and I like to be held in wonder. I learned that part of my writing style is to try to hold the reader in suspense this way – with wonder.

Oh yeah, and the food is REALLY good outside the country too. Don’t get me wrong, I love the USA – we’re blessed to live here, but there is more for your plate than burgers and hot dogs.
Family: I live with my wife and four children, Braydon, Ashlee, Ellie, and Xander.

Pets: Currently no pets, but my children have been known to hide under the bed.

Favorite story I wrote: That’s tough. I’ve given each story I’ve ever written a piece of me.

Favorite character in my books: Elba from The Magic Shop. You’re just never sure which side she’s on.

In my spare time: I like to daydream, consume anything about the paranormal or mythical, play the guitar, and various games.