“Cursed with undeath”: Check out this dark fantasy novel

Today, we have a dark fantasy novel for you to read!

The Vampire Masquerade: A Dark Fantasy Novel
by Virginia Rose

A princess loses her family and her kingdom when a vampire cult attacks. Now cursed with undeath, her deathless life has a single purpose: revenge.

So far, Virginia has posted 5 chapters for you to read:

Chapter 1
Lost and Found

Victoria grunted as her feet hit the ground. She steadied herself against her horse, glad to be out of the saddle. The ride back into town had been a long, slow, and bumpy trek through the forest. Riven snorted and nudged her impatiently towards the hitch outside the storefront near the water trough. She patted his flank, taking hold of his reins and tying him to the hitching post. While he drank, she unloaded the rabbits she had strung on the back of the saddle and headed into the butcher shop.

The Vampire MasqueradeThe bell on the door rang as Victoria entered the store. The butcher, a burly, straw-blond man named Louis, looked up from the chicken he was currently cutting up at the counter for a customer. He had blood spattered up his arms and in his thick mustache that hid half his mouth from view. He looked up at her and smiled.

“The huntress returns,” he said, eying the string of rabbits that she had slung over her shoulder. “A good haul this time.”

“There’s a buck out on the horse for you as well. The forest was generous this go around,” Victoria said.

Read the rest on ChapterBuzz!

The season of discovering new books and authors is in full bloom

Books & Buzz Magazine, May 2022, Volume 4 Issue 8What I love most about this time of year—on the east coast of the U.S.—is seeing trees come alive, bursting with the vibrant colors of the season. It doesn’t happen all at once, but each time I take notice, the leaves are a little greener, the flowers a little pinker.

It reminds me of something. But what?

Ah, I know! It reminds me of ChapterBuzz, our author & book discovery platform. As budding writers make progress on their debut novels, I delight in watching as new chapters appear on my feed, stories are fine tuned, and Fan Clubs grow.

As more readers and writers find a literary home there, our community blossoms like a tree in spring.

For right now, it doesn’t matter whether you write books or just want to read them, you are going to love the colorful arrangement of goodies in this issue. Let’s take a look:


This is the Letter From the Editor in the latest issue of Books & Buzz Magazine. Not a subscriber? Start getting all of our great articles by subscribing for free!


On the cover this month is award-winning fantasy author Sebastien de Castell. Yes, that’s his real name—and not a name, as he assures us on his website, that was “concocted by a Madison Avenue advertising agency tasked with devising the most-fantasy-author-name-ever.” From childhood, Sebastien has always found ways to forge his own path through life, and this is what I explore in my interview with him. You’ll also hear about the question he gets asked the most in letters from his fans, his clever trick for changing up his daily routine, and the obscure find at a library that sparked his writing career.

Next, author Natasha Deen learned to treasure her Guyanese cultural roots growing up in Alberta, Canada, even though as the only mixed-race kid in her class, she often felt different from those around her. “I quickly learned to stay quiet about my background, to laugh at the ‘jokes,’ to be invisible and assimilate—at any cost—into Canadian culture,” she writes. Find out how her journey to embrace her personal identity, along with a bold decision made by her grandmother, inspired her latest novel.

Then, Paul Bahou sings the praises of music’s influence in life and writing. Just as soundtracks make movie scenes all the more powerful, he explains, music can be the driving force that shapes your novel. “We as human beings tend to love a tasty jam,” Paul writes. “Music pervades our lives in ways both big and small, good and bad.” By unleashing your favorite beats whenever you sit down to write—and making decisions about your characters’ musical tastes—Paul insists you can weave a richer narrative, stir up readers’ emotions, and create a more memorable novel.

Finally, JP McLean has some helpful advice on how to come up with names for your characters. “A name invokes an image in a reader’s mind,” Jo-Anne writes. “The way the name is spelled, how it rolls off the tongue, how it looks visually on a page—all these things add nuance to the character.” This award-winning author adds that choosing the right name can even make your job as a writer easier, because names go a long way toward defining your character’s role and personality.

There’s so much to discover and learn in these virtual pages, so dive right in … and enjoy this month’s issue of Books & Buzz Magazine.

Happy reading,

Timothy Pike
Editor-in-chief, Books & Buzz MagazineSubscribe now for free!

The inspiration for novels is all around us

Books & Buzz Magazine, April 2022, Volume 4 Issue 7If you’re a writer, you already know the idea for a story could strike at any moment.

It could be sparked by something you saw on your way to work, a conversation with a colleague, or simply a lingering dissatisfaction with the status quo.

But no matter where it came from, the important thing is what you do with this flash of inspiration.

In that spirit, I’m thrilled to announce that our second-ever 365-Day Indie Author Challenge is now underway—a small group of writers who are embarking on a year-long journey to become published authors.

During the first month, we’ll learn how to take our rough ideas and organize them into a compelling first chapter that will send readers on a heart-pounding ride through the rest of the novel.

There is still time to register before the Challenge shuts its doors, so if you’re an aspiring novelist who has always wanted to write and publish a book—and sell it on your very own Amazon author page—then this is the year it happens.

For non-writers, I’ve got you covered. This month’s issue is a doozy! Let’s get right into it and talk about what you’ll discover in these virtual pages.


This is the Letter From the Editor in the latest issue of Books & Buzz Magazine. Not a subscriber? Start getting all of our great articles by subscribing for free!


On the cover this month is Melissa Yi, emergency physician and award-winning author, who joins us for a fascinating interview where I ask her how her career path unfolded. “I’ve written ever since I held a pencil,” she tells me. “Reading and writing are two of my favorite things in the world.” Her two other favorite things? People and science. Melissa was able to combine these areas of expertise to pen a nine-book series of medical crime thrillers for us to enjoy. Get to know Melissa as she reveals how much of herself she sees in her main character, how she balances two demanding careers, and how she got to thinking about crime and Prohibition to inspire White Lightning, the latest in the series.

Next, award-winning author Richard Paolinelli notices that somewhere along the way, the fiction works he loved had changed for the worse. “The powers that be,” he writes, “decreed that readers of sci-fi and fantasy needed to be browbeaten. Suddenly, stories became angry.” In response, Richard has taken a different approach to his own writing. “All of my books and short stories are written for the reader to have fun reading them,” he says. Hear all about how Richard is putting the fun back into his favorite genres.

Then, although mystery author Robert P. French got the idea for his homeless ex-cop character, Cal Rogan, after witnessing real-life scenes of poverty and destitution, he soon realized he was making plenty of flawed assumptions about drug users and alcoholics. “Everything I thought I knew was wrong,” he says. “Clearly, I needed to do some research.” Well, he did the research, and discovered what he believes is the simplest fix for the ongoing addiction crisis: legalize drugs. Find out why Robert insists this is the best solution, controversial as it may be.

Finally, not long ago, award-winning author Edward Willett found himself wondering why writers write, and set about to find the answer. As it turns out, there are about as many answers to this question as there are writers. “On a personal level,” he says, “I write mainly because it’s fun.” As he explores the question of why humans turn to the written word to express themselves, Edward interviews some of his contemporaries, digs up quotes from legendary authors like J.R.R. Tolkien and Terry Pratchett, and muses about the topic with his alter ego on the podcast he hosts. See if you agree with some of the conclusions he reaches.

This is the time of year where the weather seems to change every day, so bundle up in your favorite heavy sweater and snuggle up inside—or slip into a pair of shorts and bask in the sun—and enjoy this month’s issue of Books & Buzz Magazine.

Happy reading,

Timothy Pike
Editor-in-chief, Books & Buzz MagazineSubscribe now for free!

April is the month: Write the first chapter of your novel with us!

Learn more about TimWant to get that first chapter written?

How about a first chapter that makes readers forget they were doing anything else and keep turning the pages?

How about a first chapter that makes readers happy they picked up your book out of all the other books?

How about a first chapter that will make your debut novel read like it was written by a seasoned pro?

In the first 30 days of the 365-Day Indie Author Challenge, this is exactly what you’ll do as you learn the secrets of writing an outstanding first chapter.

Okay, these aren’t “secrets,” exactly. They’re valuable techniques and powerful tips you can use to write a first chapter that claws readers in and won’t let them go.

But they will forever remain secrets—to you—if you never learn them!

Join us for the 365-Day Indie Author Challenge. We’ll start by getting your ideas together, then develop them into a first chapter that readers will love.

It all starts next week! Are you in?


I’m Timothy Pike, copy editor and self-publishing coach, and I’ve been in the book business since 2014. I created the 365-Day Indie Author Challenge to help authors write and publish excellent books in just one year.

Writing a first chapter that rocks: what’s the trick?

Learn more about TimNo more excuses … it’s time to write that novel!

And now, there’s a way to do it with the moral support of a group of like-minded writers who all have the same goal:

Write a novel and publish it … within the next year.

In the 365-Day Indie Author Challenge, you’ll spend the first 30 days getting your ideas together and writing your first chapter.

It’s going to be a lot of fun, and one heck of an achievement on your part.

Here’s what you’ll learn in just the first 30 days:

  • How to craft the perfect opening sentence to hook readers from the very start
  • 7 big mistakes (like too much detail) that will turn readers off
  • Why sketching out your plot can make life much easier … or not!
  • How to write cliffhangers that will keep readers turning the pages
  • How to avoid letting perfectionism sink your efforts

As a group, we’ll give each other feedback, motivate each other, and make sure we all achieve our goals.

We’re starting on April 1st, so sign up (for free) today. Here’s some more info about the Challenge!


I’m Timothy Pike, copy editor and self-publishing coach, and I’ve been in the book business since 2014. I created the 365-Day Indie Author Challenge to help authors write and publish excellent books in just one year.

Is being a writer truly your dream life? 3 ways to know

Learn more about TimSo many people want to write a novel, but few are willing to, well, actually do it.

This is because for these fly-by-night writers, becoming a published author is not a dream, it’s something else. Maybe it’s more of a status symbol to them, a get-rich-quick scheme, or just a way to prove something.

But for the true-to-heart writer, it’s a lot more than that. It’s a vision, a dream, an entire lifestyle—all wrapped into one.

How do you know which you are? This morning, I thought of three ways you can just … tell:

1. You can practically taste it. Whenever you think about holding that published book in your hand, seeing other people turning the pages of the novel you wrote, climbing the charts on Amazon … these are scenes you can see crystal clearly in your head. It’s hard to describe, but you can almost taste that feeling of success. Have you had a sensory experience like this?

2. You’re willing to get up early … and stay up late. The daily schedule of a novelist can be a little erratic, so it’s not for everyone. When you’re writing a novel, it’s difficult to keep normal hours. You’ll need to make time for taking walks to get your ideas together, the occasional bout of writer’s block, as well as those sudden flashes of inspiration where you’re scrambling to open up your laptop to write it all down.

FYI, this means early mornings—sometimes very early—but it can also mean staying awake into the yawn-filled hours of the night to make sure you get that scene reading just the way you want it to. Coffee helps—and don’t be shy about pouring a glass of wine—but you probably already know this.

3. You’re in it for the long haul. When it comes to life goals, like getting a degree or toning that body just in time for beach weather, most people just want to skip to the part where they have the finished product. Thinking about what they actually have to do to get there makes them shudder. But when even thinking about doing the work of writing a novel makes your heart skip a few beats, you know you’ve found a home.

When it comes to writing, you’re insatiable. You have a hunger for learning your craft. You can’t wait to lay those words down, each and every day, to tell your story. (If this sounds like you, then you probably have a lot in common with the folks who are joining us for the 365-Day Indie Author Challenge.)

If you found yourself nodding your head at each of the points I made here, welcome! You’re truly one of us.


I’m Timothy Pike, copy editor and self-publishing coach, and I’ve been in the book business since 2014. I created the 365-Day Indie Author Challenge to help authors write and publish excellent books in just one year.

10,000 views: a milestone for Books & Buzz Magazine

Books & Buzz Magazine, March 2022, Volume 4 Issue 6Just this morning, Books & Buzz Magazine achieved a milestone: 10,000 views!

This is due, in no small part, to the rich palette of incredible authors we’ve been featuring in this e-zine.

Authors like award-winning, USA Today bestseller Hank Phillippi Ryan, who graces the cover this month, and who shares some juicy tidbits about her life as a thriller author—and about the tightrope she walks every day as an investigative reporter who’s in on quite a few secrets.

You’re probably already familiar with her work, but did you know about the terrifying real-life incident that inspired her latest novel, Her Perfect Life?

How about the one writing ritual Hank can’t start her day without? All this and more in our fascinating interview.

A big thank you to all of our readers for the 10,000 views … and counting!

Want to be a part of it? Join our growing audience today.

It’s a free subscription, and you’ll get interviews, writing tips, book reviews, and just all-around inspiration in your inbox every month. Subscribe here

Sincerely,
Timothy Pike
Editor-in-chief, Books & Buzz Magazine

This month, meet the authors who are making it happen!

Books & Buzz Magazine, March 2022, Volume 4 Issue 6Hear that buzzing sound?

The air is electric with excitement over at ChapterBuzz, where the 365-Day Indie Author Challenge is kicking off today. These motivated writers are pulling out all the stops to finish their novels—and publish them—in the next 365 days.

Are you an aspiring novelist? There’s still time to join us! You can register for this month’s group, or choose to start on April 1st. There are few better ways to make this coming year more productive—and writing a novel is one of the most impressive achievements you can make.


This is the Letter From the Editor in the latest issue of Books & Buzz Magazine. Not a subscriber? Start getting all of our great articles by subscribing for free!


In the meantime, whether you’re a writer or not, this month’s issue will light up your day, so let’s check it out:

On the cover is multiple Emmy–winning investigative reporter and award-winning author Hank Phillippi Ryan, who joins me for an interview where she reflects upon what her television and writing careers have in common: stories. “As a little girl,” Hank says, “I decided it might be more fun to be Sherlock Holmes than to write about Sherlock. So being an investigative reporter and a crime fiction author, I got a little of each.” As it turns out, though, digging up secrets others desperately don’t want you to have can be risky. “I’ve been stalked, followed, yelled at, threatened,” she says. Don’t miss our interview, in which Hank talks about the terrifying real-life incident that inspired her most recent thriller novel, the tightrope she walks every day as a reporter, and the one writing ritual she can’t start her morning without.

Then, indie author and podcaster Freddy Cruz gets in the face of any writer who thinks he or she doesn’t have the time to write a book. “You have the time,” he insists. “You just don’t want to make the time,” and proceeds to tell you exactly where you can find the time. “Create a hard deadline,” he advises. “Start easy. Like one page—two if you’re adventurous. Set a timeline for hitting the deadline, too.” This pep talk by Freddy might just have you sitting down to write before you even get to the end of the article.

Next, Kevin N. Garrett, author, photographer, and travel writer, treats us to the story of the time he and the late Dick Francis sat down for drinks in a hotel bar on Grand Cayman and talked writing. “I was regularly down on the islands and thought I’d look him up,” Kevin writes. “Maybe we could sit a spell, and he would share some success secrets over lunch.” Share he did, and now Kevin passes that wisdom on to us, including the time-saving trick the jockey-turned-author used to write one bestselling book every year for decades.

Finally, author Cat Rambo talks literary heroes, and puts into words just why we feel the need to become invested in their lives. Take, for example, the characters Cat created: even though every crewmember aboard the bioship You Sexy Thing has an important role to play, one among them stands out as the hero. “That honor lies with the captain, Niko Larsen,” Cat writes. “Once a military hero, then a restaurateur, and now someone just trying to keep herself and her crew alive.” Cat lays out just what it is about certain characters that makes them our favorites.

Enjoy what’s left of the cool weather this season! Lounge out in your favorite set of flannels, sip a hot drink, and enjoy this month’s issue of Books & Buzz Magazine.

Happy reading,

Timothy Pike
Editor-in-chief, Books & Buzz MagazineSubscribe now for free!

You’re invited to our writing party! Write a novel with us this year

Learn more about TimThriller author Cynthia A. Jensen is hard at work on her first novel, Starrbodies, and plans to finish it up—and publish it—in our upcoming 365-Day Indie Author Challenge.

Starrbodies is really coming along, with 14 chapters already posted for you to read.

Cover for Starrbodies by Cynthia A. JensenHere’s a taste:

Premise of this thriller
A man kidnaps a fitness guru to help his depressed sister lose weight.

Excerpt from Chapter One
“Merry Christmas, Man,” my brother, Todd, said as he walked in my bedroom carrying a breakfast tray. My given name is Amanda, but he calls me “Man” for short. On it was an overflowing plate full of eggs, hash browns, toast, and bacon. There was coffee with plenty of cream and sugar, and a large glass of orange juice. My name was Amanda, but Todd usually called me by my nickname.

I sat up, rubbing the sleep from my eyes, and smiled. “This is a nice surprise,” I said, taking the tray from him. I couldn’t fit it over my stomach or my thighs, so I placed it on the bed next to me.

Todd sat down on the edge and picked up a piece of bacon and a slice of toast. “I thought you deserved it after having such a bad week.”

It had been a terrible week. I was at my wits end with this job. I was ready to throw in the towel.

Read it!
You can read Starrbodies here … and be sure to click “Follow” on her ChapterBuzz page so you can stay up to date on Cynthia’s progress.

Join us!
Join Cynthia and the rest of us in the 365-Day Indie Author Challenge, where we’ll be writing our books with each other’s feedback and moral support.

Then, we’ll publish our books on Amazon for the world to enjoy.

All in 365 days! Join us, and you can start either March 1st or April 1st.


I’m Timothy Pike, copy editor and self-publishing coach, and I’ve been in the book business since 2014. I created the 365-Day Indie Author Challenge to help authors write and publish excellent books in just one year.

Join us for this challenge, and write your novel in 365 days!

Learn more about TimNote: I’ve added an April 1st start date to give you an extra option for joining the Challenge.

It’s finally time to get going on that novel you’ve been wanting to write!

If you’ve dreamed of writing and publishing a novel, or you’ve started but keep getting distracted, this is your chance to buckle down and get it done.

The 365-Day Indie Author Challenge is kicking off on both March 1st and April 1st. It’s a year-long writing program that brings novelists—both experienced and aspiring—together to help each other write the best books possible.

It’s free because I want everyone to be able to do this.

You’ll enjoy meeting other writers in our private Facebook discussion group as we cheer each other on, discuss ideas, and celebrate our successes.

During the first 30 days, you’ll write your first chapter.

Then, we’ll fine-tune it to make sure it pulls readers in and makes them want to read more.

To help with this, I’ll be offering a first chapter critique where I’ll personally read your first chapter and privately offer my feedback: What’s brilliant? What could make it even better? Does it set the stage for the rest of your novel?

We’ll make sure you’ve got a strong first chapter that grabs a reader’s attention.

Not to mention we’re going to have a lot of fun. Quests and mini-contests will keep you on track, so you can make sure you’re doing everything you need to do.

End the year with a terrific novel, an audience, and a newfound confidence—and even some new friends.

This is a powerful way to stay motivated and get that novel onto bookshelves … a novel with your name on it.

You will succeed as a novelist. This could be just the push you need!

Join us today, and you can get started on either March 1st or April 1st.

See you there. I’m excited about this!


I’m Timothy Pike, copy editor and self-publishing coach, and I’ve been in the book business since 2014. I created the 365-Day Indie Author Challenge to help authors write and publish excellent books in just one year.