FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Clouds Gathering in Vermont –
Always Darkest, Book I in the Arbitratus Book Series Premiers
Paranormal dark fantasy brings Heaven and Hell to your doorstep
Jess and Keith Flaherty, Vermont authors, just released Always Darkest, the first book in a series called the Arbitratus.
Always Darkest follows the adventures of a demon looking for redemption in the middle of an otherworldly war, as he enters the fray on the side of the one woman he should never have fallen for. The young woman in question faces a terrible confusing choice that could either save the world or destroy it.
From the back cover: “Ronoven, a demon dreaming of an escape from Hell, finds an excuse for an extended vacation on Earth, where he pretends to be a young drifter called Ben. Everything is going great – until he meets Chris. This unassuming teacher is using an assumed identity, too. Cursed with immortality and named in a prophecy Ben thought was fake, Chris becomes an unlikely friend. Together the two of them discover the main subject of the prophecy, Mal, a young woman not only fathered by an angel, but also the last in the direct line of Jesus and Mary Magdalene. Mal learns her true identity but is determined not to be forced into a corner by circumstances or some ancient scrap of paper. Falling in love was never part of Ben’s plan, but together he and Mal are drawn into conflict that could destroy them. Slippery ancient gods, as well as angels and their fallen siblings bring to bear all of their power to force Mal to their side. With the help of a small band of allies, Mal tries to shake free of the cage of prophecy and end Hell’s hold on Ben. Will any of them find the future they desire?”
Fantasy icon Piers Anthony, author of over one hundred sixty books including the popular Xanth Series, calls Always Darkest a “solid fantasy novel”. The book is garnering terrific reviews on Amazon already and readers are clamoring for the sequel.
Keith and Jess reside in the beautiful mountains of Vermont with their two children, three cats, a dog, and an immortal guinea pig. Jess has worked in newspaper and art publishing, freelance writing, cake decorating, and presently works as a special education teacher. She enjoys playing the ukulele badly, reading, and binge-watching unhealthy amounts of TV. Keith spent many years as a chef and business manager and now runs a quaint country store. He can often be found writing poetry, reading, or cooking something amazing. They love co-authoring above all their other shared interests.
Jess and Keith Flaherty, firstname.lastname@example.org, facebook.com/jkf.demonsrunlit/
About the Book
By Jess and Keith Flaherty
Book I of the Arbitratus Trilogy
Love Supernatural? Or maybe you miss Buffy and Angel? Check out the story of a demon looking for redemption in the middle of an otherworldly war as he enters the fray on the side of the one woman he never should have fallen for. Ronoven, a demon dreaming of an escape from Hell, finds an excuse for an extended vacation on Earth, where he pretends to be a young drifter called Ben. Everything is going great – until he meets Chris. This unassuming teacher is using an assumed identity, too. Cursed with immortality and named in a prophecy Ben thought was fake, Chris becomes an unlikely friend. Together the two of them discover the main subject of the prophecy, Mal, a young woman not only fathered by an angel, but also the last in the direct line of Jesus and Mary Magdalene. Mal learns her true identity but is determined not to be forced into a corner by circumstances or some ancient scrap of paper. Falling in love was never part of Ben’s plan, but together he and Mal are drawn into conflict that could destroy them. Slippery ancient gods, as well as angels and their fallen siblings bring to bear all of their power to force Mal to their side. With the help of a small band of allies, Mal tries to shake free of the cage of prophecy and end Hell’s hold on Ben. Will any of them achieve the future they desire? What side will help them find it?
Good or evil? The choice is yours.
Join the fight.
Title: Always Darkest
Genre: Fantasy, paranormal
Authors: Jess and Keith Flaherty
Publisher: Crimson Cloak Publishing
Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches, Trade paperback; 1095 KB (E-Book)
Pages: 282 (paperback); 319 (E-book)
Price: $13.99 (paperback); 3.99 (E-book)
Publication Date: June 21, 2017
Stockists: Crimson Cloak Publishing, Ingram
From Chapter 33 – He didn’t turn around. He knew his eyes were glowing and he didn’t seem able to pull back on the energy. He just answered her coldly; fear making him aloof, “Fine. I’ll walk. But if you’re not going to leave, you need to go take that thing away from those kids and burn it before someone gets hurt, especially you!”
“Ben, c’mon! It’s like twenty below out here!” Staying for cake was not too much to ask and she didn’t intend to back down because he was in a snit. He responded by darting a wide-eyed glance at the house that she saw enough of to have the fleeting thought that he looked strange. Then he was stalking off across the back yard, his long legs covering ground quickly. In less than half a minute he had disappeared around the corner of the house into the near-arctic dark.
She knew better than to think she could live with him walking home in this cold, even if he was being childish. She went back inside to get her coat and keys and apologize to Petra for needing to leave. When she walked into the dining room it was dark, save for a few flickering candles. Everyone was around the board, about half with fingers resting lightly on the little pointer. There were guilty Catholic-schoolkid glances, some nervous giggles, and everyone was ready for some old-fashioned spooky fun. The room felt cold and she glanced over her shoulder to make sure she had closed the door behind her as she pulled out her phone to text Ben.
I’ll drive you home.
That’s too far.
She sat on the bench near the table and waited. He always texted back right away and when he didn’t she was immediately worried. He’d finally bought a jacket but it was just a wool pea-coat. Those weren’t meant for weather like this and the wind off the water was like knives. He didn’t have a hat and she didn’t think she’d seen his running gloves on him either. She could picture him collapsed beside the road from hypothermia, extremities black with frostbite. People weren’t rational when they were afraid and Ben had obviously been scared stiff, for whatever reason. She was ready to just leave and look for him when Emily cried, “OHMYGOD! What’s wrong with Teddy?”
Mal’s head snapped up and Teddy was staring intently at her, but instead of his softly grey-green irises, there were only bloodshot whites and his normally tiny Cupid’s bow of a mouth was spread into a wide grin that stretched his round face unnaturally until the corners of his lips bled. His fingers curled around the edge of the table so tightly there was no color in his hands. A monstrous roaring, so different from Teddy’s earnest not-quite-done-changing-voice, came out of his mouth.
YOU WILL ALL DIE IN FIRE …
“Always Darkest … ranges from Heaven to Hell, with most of the action in between on contemporary Earth … This is a different story … A solid fantasy novel.” ~ Piers Anthony
Read the whole review at www.hipiers.com/17june.html
Five Star Customer Reviews from Amazon.com
You too, will hate having to wait for the sequel!
This book has the wit of Christopher Moore, the dialogue and character development of George R R Martin, and is as fun for me to read as Douglas Adams. I await book 2 with bated breath.
A definite movie in the making!
This was a well-researched and well-developed character and storyline. It should be the hottest item and I see a movie in its future. Don’t miss it!
Loved it! It’s highly engaging and brilliantly written.
Loved it! It’s highly engaging and brilliantly written. I can hardly wait for the sequel!
Pulls you right in!
Solid story in an immersive world, with characters you fall in love or hate with. Looking forward to the second book eagerly!
Interview with the Authors
What is your most recent release?
Jess and Keith: Our novel Always Darkest, which is the first in a planned trilogy, came out on June 21, 2017. It’s the story of Ronoven, a demon dreaming of an escape from Hell. He finds an excuse for an extended vacation on Earth, where he pretends to be a young drifter called Ben. Everything is going great – until he meets Chris. This unassuming teacher is using an assumed identity, too. Cursed with immortality and named in a prophecy Ben thought was fake, Chris becomes an unlikely friend. Together the two of them discover the main subject of the prophecy, Mal, a young woman not only fathered by an angel, but also the last in the direct line of Jesus and Mary Magdalene. Mal learns her true identity but is determined not to be forced into a corner by circumstances or some ancient scrap of paper. Falling in love was never part of Ben’s plan, but together he and Mal are drawn into conflict that could destroy them. Slippery ancient gods, as well as angels and their fallen siblings bring to bear all their power to force Mal to their side. With the help of a small band of allies, Mal tries to shake free of the cage of prophecy and end Hell’s hold on Ben. It’s a story about a coming war, about choosing sides, about good and evil. And more than that, it’s about remaining who you are even when you are faced with things that are that much bigger than you.
What makes this genre you are involved in so special?
Keith: Fantasy in some way, shape, or form has always been my favorite thing to read, regardless of the subgenre involved. It’s an escape, to a degree, a place where you can leave the world you know behind for a while. I’ve always wanted to be a part of that.
Jess: I’ve also been a fantasy fan my whole life. The first book I remember reading on my own was The Hobbit and no matter what else I’m doing, what phases I’m going through, I always come back to fantasy. I’m particularly excited about dark and urban fantasy because it takes the mundane things of the world we live in and makes them something new.
How important is research to you when writing a book?
Keith and Jess: It’s tremendously important. We can get a little obsessive. There’s no name, no symbol, no mythology in our books and stories that doesn’t have some basis in real history, mythology, or art. We take creative license with all those things certainly, but for us that grounding in the real world is so important because our story is contemporary, and features mythological and historical characters, so it has to ring true, to feel familiar.
What works best for you: Typewriters, fountain pen, dictate, computer or longhand?
Jess: I have an ancient desk top with replicas of various space craft from some of my fandoms on it. I like to sit at my desk in my beat up old office chair in the dark and clack away on my keyboard, usually with music much too loud in my earbuds, or if I’m home alone, on the big speakers from the TV.
Keith: I’m a paper and pen kind of guy. I like to sit on the corner of our couch, when it’s quiet, or as quiet as a busy household ever gets, and write long hand, preferably with a clicky-topped pen. I can write without the clicky top, but being able to fidget with that always helps me think.
Keith and Jess: We do a fair amount of collaborating aloud, in addition to passing our written work back and forth. So sometimes our writing process involves long conversations in our favorite chairs in our living room, but the real meat of the work has us separating to actually write, albeit in vastly different ways.
How long have you been writing?
Keith: I’ve only been writing seriously for about two and a half or three years.
Jess: I’ve been writing since I was a kid. I wrote pretty seriously in college for a while, then I got out of the habit, sort of lost the spark. When Keith and I started writing together a couple of years ago, I found that passion for words again.
Do you think writers have a normal life like others?
Keith: What’s normal? I don’t think I’m abnormal. I tend to prefer more quiet, more time alone, than a lot of other people, but I do what the people do; go shopping, out to work, return phone calls, play with my kids. And I’m happy. Whether it’s normal or not, doesn’t really matter to me. We place too much of a premium on normal.
Jess: I’ve never aspired to be normal. Well, that’s actually not true. I was never much like other people my age, was considered strange, overly quiet, intellectual, and I was always scribbling in a notebook. And knowing that I wasn’t ‘normal’ bothered the hell out of me until I was in my twenties. Then I realized that all the people all admired, all the ones who had done things I considered great, weren’t normal either. And the ones who wanted everyone to be the same, to create a homogenized world were the bad guys. So, maybe I’m not normal, but I’m pretty sure I’m one of the good guys and that’s enough for me.
Do you read much and if so who are your favorite authors?
Keith: Both of us read all the time. I think we have a lot of favorites in common, too. I love Tolkien, David and Lee Eddings, Piers Anthony, Terry Brooks. But I love a great spy novel or war story, too; Tom Clancy for example. And I read a fair amount of non-fiction; I always enjoyed Richard Ketchum, in particular, for historical writing. I tend to read a mix of things for pleasure and to learn, particularly about military history.
Jess: We always have books at hand. I usually have one going in every room of the house and my Kindle in my purse when I’m forced to leave it. We share a lot of favorites in common, definitely all the fiction writers already mentioned, and Neil Gaiman, Patrick Rothfuss, Douglas Adams, Lovecraft. We pass books back and forth a lot. Harry Potter was on a scheduled rotation when Book Seven came out. I’m a pretty big fan of Stephen King, too, myself. I admit I’m not one for The Classics, as they say, or anything too lofty. I’ve read all the expected titles over the course of my academic career, but I don’t enjoy it, with the exception of Shakespeare, which I love. I read to have fun or to fall into a different world and see it though the characters’ eyes.
Do you proofread and edit your work on your own or pay someone to do it for you?
Jess: I’m also a professional editor, so it’s very much part of the fabric of how I work. And I proofread and edit a little obsessively. However, I cannot overstate the importance of having a professional editor (who isn’t you) look at your work. It’s difficult to be objective about something you love, and it’s also easy to miss mistakes you made because you know what you meant.
Keith: It’s also critical to have beta readers who aren’t afraid to be honest with you about the work, and to take their feedback seriously. If you want to show the world your best work, sometimes that means going back over it more than once.
What do you love most about writing?
Keith: I love the telling of the story. I played a lot of Dungeons and Dragons when I was younger, and I think that’s where it started. Whether I was the DM and leading other people through a story or playing a character myself, I loved the creation of it, the details, watching in unfold.
Jess: I like meeting the characters, figuring out who they are and how they’ll react to events, seeing them grow. I like to joke when I go to my desk that I’m going to go hang out with my imaginary friends, but in a way, it’s not a joke at all. Our characters are, after a fashion, some of the best friends I have ever had or will ever have.
What is your take on the importance of a good cover and title?
Keith and Jess: A good cover and title are critical. They are the first way your readers meet your book, their first glimpse of your world. The cover and the title are that smile and handshake that either gets you the job or they don’t.
Have you ever designed your own book cover?
Jess and Keith: We did the concept art for the book cover of Always Darkest, but we put the final cover design in the hands of a professional cover artist who took our very rough visuals and written explanations and brought them to life in a way that surpassed our imaginations.
Do you believe a book cover plays an important role in the selling process?
Keith and Jess: A great cover is like a great movie poster. It stops you, makes you wonder about what inspired it. Nobody is going to open their wallet, or their heart for that matter, when their first impression wasn’t a positive one. Like we said before, it’s all about that first meeting. If you want to sell it, people must want it.
Do you have a day job other than being a writer? And do you like it?
Keith: I do have a day job. I’m a general manager and chef for a little country store in southern Vermont. As to the second part of that question … Yes and no. There are aspects of the job that I like a lot, and I really like who I work for, but my goal is to be able to work with Jess and write full time.
Jess: Outside of writing and editing, I used to be a special education teacher. On the one hand, that was great because it’s important work and I was good at it. I also got to do a lot of project based learning and since I am a passionate science nerd that means fun stuff like dropping things off the roof and making enormous messes, which is always fun, classroom or not. But, on the other hand, my real passion is writing. It has been for most of my life. I now work teaching creative writing and managing the house for a young adult transition program, which I love. I look forward to a time when writing and working with Keith is my day job.
Does your day job ever get in the way of your writing?
Jess and Keith: Always. Time is always at a premium.
Is it true that anyone can be a writer?
Keith: I’m not sure if anyone can. Not everyone has a talent for expressing themselves and communicating through the written word.
Jess: And not everyone is willing to do the work to develop and refine that talent.
Keith: Like any profession you need talent, then application, then practice, then the ability to keep going back to it, even when it’s not going great.
Jess: Writing is also one of those professions where it feels personally risky, emotionally anyway. To succeed you really have to put yourself out there.
Keith: It’s a ten thousand hours kind of a thing.
Is it true that authors write word-perfect first drafts?
Jess: Is bwahahahaha an acceptable answer?
Keith: Anyone who tells you their first draft was perfect is lying to someone, either you, or themselves.
Jess: There’s a quote from Terry Pratchett that sums this up. “The first draft is just you telling yourself the story.”
Keith: Exactly. If you want anyone else to read it, you better take a second look and set your ego aside.
Did any of your books get rejected by publishers?
Jess and Keith: Boy did we. That’s writing though. You’ll get a lot of rejections. Stephen King’s first book was rejected over thirty times before it got picked up. I think we were somewhere around that lofty number as well. But what we did with that is took the feedback people were willing to give us, reworked the novel, changed our pitch, and just kept at it.
Do you enjoy book signings?
Keith and Jess: We absolutely love meeting and talking to our readers in person.
Do you reply to your fans and admirers personally?
Jess and Keith: We definitely do, as much as possible. That’s one of the wonderful things about social media. A reader doesn’t have to travel or stand in line or find an event we’re doing to talk to us about our stories. A tweet, Facebook message or post, an email, and we can have a conversation.
They say books die every time they are turned into a movie; what do you think?
Keith and Jess: That’s nonsense. Universal statements with ‘every’ and ‘always’ are treading dangerous ground. There are plenty of lousy movies supposedly based on books that have only passing similarities other than maybe the title or possibly some imagery. Then there are others that are faithful adaptations that bring fans even further into that world in wonderful or surprising ways.
How did it feel when your first book got published?
Keith: Not much is up there with your wedding day or holding your firstborn in your arms for the first time, but publishing a book makes the top five, for sure.
Jess: There was a lot of singing and dancing around the house on my end. That can randomly happen anyway, but this was a particularly joyous bout of it. And I don’t think that will diminish over the course of my career. We’ve had a few short stories come out since and it’s the same feeling of elation.
How big of a part does music play in creating your “zone”?
Keith: I find inspiration in music quite frequently, but for writing I prefer silence.
Jess: I’m a music person; I sing, play some instruments with questionable skill. So, music is part of how I think. I like to be inspired by it and to write to it, even if it’s just way too loud in my earbuds.
Keith and Jess: Florence and the Machine played a huge role in writing Always Darkest and it continues to be some of our musical inspiration as we continue to expand our universe; although Warren Zevon, Hozier, Langhorn Slim and the Law, Devil Makes Three, Nathaniel Rateliff, and even Johnny Cash have all had at least guest appearances on our creative playlist.
Where do your ideas come from?
Keith: I get ideas everywhere. I have diverse interests and I really enjoy reading about and researching them. The idea for our novel Always Darkest came from some research I had been doing into demonology. I read about a demon called Ronoven and thought he’d be a really cool figure to base a character on. So, Ben was born, and from Ben flowed the rest of the story.
Jess: I know a lot of writers like to give clever or glib answers to this question, but I think what readers want is something more honest than that. Like Keith, I read a lot; fiction, non-fiction, weird and wild tales on the web, so some of it comes from reading, research. I also people watch a lot. And I love seeking out new experiences. Something as simple as a great meal has given me a story idea. Granted the last time that happened it turned into a flash fic about cannibalism, but that doesn’t make it less true.
Have you ever written a character with an actor in mind?
Keith: The one character we talked about an actor in conjunction with as we developed him was our character Cain. He’s ancient and full of secret knowledge and magic, and we just liked the idea of him not coming across that way. We wanted sort of an affable cowboy who’s obviously a lot smarter than he lets on. Woody Harrelson, who we are both real long-time fans of, was who we kept coming back to as we wrote Cain.
Jess: I had a moment where an actor sort of leapt off the screen at me as one of our characters, after we had finished the first draft. We were taking a night off from revising and just watching a movie. We’re both X-men fans, and X-men First Class was available On-Demand so we rented it. Neither of us were overly familiar with the cast. The minute the audience is introduced to Alex Summers – Havok, my jaw absolutely dropped. Other than his eye color, Lucas Till, who I had never heard of before seeing him in First Class, looked so much like I pictured our character Ben it was almost scary. I’ve become a bit of a fan as the result of that.
Do your characters ever seem to have a life of their own or an agenda of their own?
Keith: For me, I wouldn’t say that they do. Sometimes the story takes turns that I didn’t expect it to take and that impacts the characters in ways that I maybe didn’t expect or don’t necessarily like the outcome of. But the story is at the heart of that, not the characters.
Jess: I can’t give a solid yes or no answer to this. For me that characters are so very much their own people sometimes it feels a little like maybe they do. You know how when you’re watching a movie and sometimes you just can’t help yelling at the screen to try to get the character not to go down those basement stairs? Sometimes writing is like that for me. But ultimately, those basement stairs are there for a reason, and the character has to go down them.
What’s your favorite part of your book?
Jess: I’m trying hard not to give too many spoilers with this, but there’s a scene between Mal and Ben in Always Darkest where they are lying in bed together and the truth of who they are and where they are headed sort of starts to come out. Their reaction to the situation, to each other, to an uncertain future is so perfectly … them. I love it because, in essence, it tells you everything you really need to know about them as people.
Keith: My favorite part, now at least, is in Always Darkest when our characters Chris and Ben meet a certain biblical figure who finds his way into the story. It was so much fun to write.
Do you encourage your children to read?
Jess and Keith: When they were small we read aloud to them every night. That went on until not all that long ago. We always make sure they have access to books, magazines, comics, whatever keeps them reading. And when we are out shopping, books are the one thing we just never say no to. Not only are they both still avid readers as teens, but our eldest is even one of our beta readers.
Do you have a library at home?
Keith and Jess: Our whole house is sort of a library. There isn’t a room where there aren’t books spilling out of or stacked on top of something. In addition to that, we have an entire closet (a big old-fashioned hall closet) entirely stuffed with books and board games.
What is your view on co-authoring books; have you done any?
Jess and Keith: Co-authoring is kind of what we do. Not that neither of us are interested in pursuing our own projects, but we find we write really well as a team, with both of us bolstering the other’s strengths and shoring up weaknesses. It makes for a great story and a lot of fun.
Do you enjoy discussing upcoming ideas with your partner? If yes, how much do you value their inputs?
Keith and Jess: Collaborating is invaluable. We talk endlessly about our books and stories, ideas, research we are doing. It’s how we start and end every day.
Can you tell us about your current projects?
Jess and Keith: We have a few things going on. One is called Something’s Gotta Give and it’s a story about our character Ben years before the events of Always Darkest. We are giving that away as a promotion for our email subscribers. Another short we are excited about is Fare Thee Well in an anthology called Crimson Endings. That one is about Mal’s parents and the events leading up to her birth. We have really been enjoying doing some world building through our short stories, just giving readers more of the characters they are responding to that wouldn’t necessarily fit with the main series. We did something we called the Twelve Days of Fic-mas on the blog for the holidays that was a lot of fun and we think readers will enjoy what is sure to become an annual tradition for us. And of course, we are working on the rest of the series in which Always Darkest is just the first part. The sequel Before the Dawn will be finished this Fall, the first draft of it at least. That’s when the real work begins; getting it ready for our readers!