Taking a break from my Top Ten SF/F TV Shows Countdown to host Rachel Marks, author of The Dark Cycle YA UF series, which includes DARKNESS BRUTAL, DARKNESS FAIR, and the upcoming DARKNESS SAVAGE. Rachel’s list of creative inspirations includes sources that are fun, interesting, beautiful, bittersweet, and heart-wrenching. At the end of her tour (which ends today!), she’s giving away one $20 eGC and winner’s choice of one print or audio book in her series. Details below. Welcome, Rachel!

What Sparks the Flame?

Many things inspire a writer or an artist, and while most of the answers to the question of What inspires you? are similar, the reasoning behind the “why” are different. So, what inspires me? Well, here’s a few answers.

Books, Books, Books: I can’t read enough books. I love Classics, Horror, Sci-fi, Fantasy, and Romance. I read YA, NA, and AA. I didn’t really start reading until I was in high school and I pretty much only fell into it because I wanted the world to disappear. Being a teenager is tough, and those pages of worlds and loves kept me sane. Today they keep me inspired.

Movies/TV: I am in love with all things BBC, addicted to the cheese of CW (Go, Smallville!), and infatuated with Jon Snow. The thing about movies and TV that spark the inner muse, are the characters mixed with the intense emotions. I suppose it’s the same reason I love books so much, the same reason I love writing, creating. It’s the core of the stories. Watching the torment, the angst, and the falling in love. It inspires me to push further in my own work and attempt to reach that level of emotion. To impact. To tug and pull at the heartstrings. To captivate.

“I want to understand, to get to the heart of things, to search out what it means to be human.”

– Rachel Marks

Humans: There is nothing like humanity to draw in the reader. Because we all know what it feels like to be one. I think this goes to the core of why I write. I want to understand, to get to the heart of things, to search out what it means to be human (or Kryptonian). I don’t want to seem like a weirdo (people can’t know the truth!) but I really do enjoy people watching. Listening to people’s conversations may seem the crazy-lady activity, but it’s great food for fiction fodder a well.

Nature: The ocean feels like home. The forest smells like hope. The mountains remind me how small we are. There’s nothing like nature to ground me and send my imagination soaring at the same time. The colors, the sounds . . . it’s so soothing. When I’m stressed I always make my way to the sea; I watch the waves and feel the salt on my skin. The woods are magical, the trees giving me peace in the turmoil. I love nature. There’s really nothing like it for soul food, and that’s vital to keeping the muse happy.

Pain: Life will hit us. It’s a given. No matter how rich or poor, no matter our creed, we’re all guaranteed to feel life kick us sideways. I don’t want pain. But it is unavoidable. I have felt far too much of it in my life, from victimhood to cancer to the death of my amazing father. But as an artist I process it in the healthiest way I know. First I pray. Then I pour it out in images and stories. I recalled the pain of being a cutter when I wrote the teen girl struggling with self-worth in Darkness Brutal. I dug for the emotion of childbirth when I wrote the scene of Rose’s sister struggling to bring life into the world in my novella, Winter Rose. But the one thing I’ve learned about pain is that it becomes almost beautiful when counteracted with joy. Or love. Like the torment of childbirth, bringing forth a new life. Without heartache, how else could we truly understand peace?

So, these are the things that inspire me. What inspires you?

More about

The Dark Cycle Series

young adult, urban fantasy, Rachel Marks,

Darkness Brutal

Aidan O’Linn’s childhood ended the night he saw a demon kill his mother and mark his sister, Ava, with Darkness. Since then, every three years the demons have returned to try to claim her. Living in the gritty, forgotten corners of Los Angeles, Aidan has managed to protect his sister, but he knows that even his powers to fight demons and speak dead languages won’t keep her safe for much longer.

In desperation, Aidan seeks out the help of Sid, the enigmatic leader of a group of teens who run LA Paranormal, an Internet reality show that fights demons and ghosts. In their company, Aidan believes he’s finally found a haven for Ava. But when he meets Kara, a broken girl who can spin a hypnotic web of passionate energy, he awakens powers he didn’t know he had―and unleashes a new era of war between the forces of Light and the forces of Darkness.

With the fate of humanity in his hands, can Aidan keep the Darkness at bay and accept his brilliant, terrifying destiny?

Amazon   |   Listen to an Audio Sample

young adult, urban fantasy, Rachel Marks

Darkness Fair

Against the backdrop of an ancient battle between the forces of Light and the forces of Darkness, Aidan struggles to control the newly awakened powers that seem to be his only hope for rescuing Ava, his little sister, trapped somewhere beyond the Veil. As he gravitates to Kara, the beguiling and dangerously unstable girl who helped him realize his abilities, a terrible mistake of fate is revealed that points him back toward Rebecca, whose role is becoming more critical to the battle. And no matter what his heart wants, it might be too late to stop the pieces already in motion.

Without knowing the sacrifices that will be required of them, Aidan and his motley crew of friends—each with their own role to play—must face the demon threat head-on. They’re the only ones keeping the growing army of Darkness at bay, and if they fail, the future of humanity could be lost.

Amazon  |  Listen to an Audio Sample

And the upcoming Darkness Savage

young adult, urban fantasy, Rachel Marks

More about Rachel

Rachel A. Marks is an award-winning author and professional artist, a SoCal girl, cancer survivor, a surfer and dirt-bike rider, chocolate lover and keeper of faerie secrets. She was voted: Most Likely to Survive the Zombie Apocalypse, but hopes she’ll never have to test the theory. Her debut series The Dark Cycle, described as Dickens’ Oliver Twist meets TV’s Supernatural, is now out through Skyscape, beginning with DARKNESS BRUTAL.

More about the Giveaway

$20 Amazon gift card and chosen paperback or audio in the series. Click here to enter. Click here for Jill’s complete giveaway rules.

Rachel A Marks Tour Banner

Thank you, Rachel, for guest blogging today! For anyone who missed my previous posts counting down the TEN BEST SFF TV SHOWS, here are the links to the first six. Tomorrow, the countdown resumes!

10. Witches of East End

9. Shannara

8. Bitten

7. The 100

6. The Magicians

5. Blindspot