Monthly Archives: October 2013

Goosebumps Month ends with Free True Paranormal Stories

Closing out Goosebumps Month at Rita Bay’s Blog (http://ritabay.com) with several authors contributing more true stories of the paranormal. Today, CELIA BRESLIN sent shivers up my spine with her family’s true tale of “The Banshee’s Wail.” Already posted are LYNN RAE’s true story of her OJT scare at a haunted museum and ALLSION KNIGHT’s true story of her home that the previous owner (deceased) wouldn’t leave. Also meet new Champagne author ALAN KEEN who dropped by “An Author’s Desk.” If you haven’t been following Goosebumps, there’s a dozen or more free and true stories of the paranormal contributed by authors..

Finally, Goosebumps ends with my account of the four under-five-years-old neighborhood helpers who assisted with carving the pumpkin (a terrifying Screamin’ Demon), cooking the pumpkins seeds, making pumpkin bread (recipe shared), and making caramel apples. Halloween features a pic of my home in all its terrifying Halloween grandeur.

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Visit Rita Bay at Rita Bay’s Webpage & Blog
“Finding Eve” Champagne Books, September, 2013
“Nimue’s Daughter,” Shared Whispers, Champagne Books, September, 2013
“Search & Rescue” Secret Cravings Publishing, July, 2013
“Her Teddy Bare” Carnal Passions, May, 2013 “The Aegis” Champagne Books, April, 2013
“Ely’s Epiphany” Secret Cravings Publishing, December, 2013
“Into the Lyons’ Den” Champagne Books, August, 2012
“His Desire” Siren BookStrand, May, 2012
“His Obsession” Siren BookStrand, April, 2012
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Guest Post with T.K. Toppin – 10 Things that would have been Science-Fiction in our Grandparent’s Era

Our Guest Poster today is T.K. Toppin, a science-fiction author hailing from Barbados, here to talk to us a little bit about how the things that were science-fiction a few generations ago have come to pass. You can learn more about her works by clicking on the covers.~L.T. Getty

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My grandparents, if they were still alive today, would be—more or less—in their 110th year. Like, wow, right?

 

I was offered the blog post prompt of 10 things we have now that would’ve been considered science fiction in their generation. In order to do that, I had to do a little research—as in what was around in their time.

 

A quick Google search showed that in the early 1900s, when they were born, already there was electricity and telephones (though, not everyone had use of it), piston-driven engines that ran on gasoline (again, not for everyone and mostly for the affluent), phonographic recording, cameras/film for stills and silent movies, telegraphs, rapid-fire firearms, gas bombs, and the very first airplanes.

 

By the time my grandparents hit their twenties, there were more cars, airplanes had most of the kinks ironed out, and World War I. In the 1940s, World War II came about and they too would’ve been in their forties. Google notes that Velcro was invented then, and I suppose in their generation, that was akin to sci-fi.

 

Jump a mere twenty years, and you have the 1960s. It seems the 60s brought with it incredible leaps and bounds in the technological arena. From TVs in almost every home, Polaroid cameras, air-conditioning, robotics, the first computer, pocket radios, lasers, video, and rocket science. Fast forward another twenty, into the 1980s, and personal computers were more accessible, CDs, VCRs, Walkmans, cable TV, camcorders, answering machines, portable and cordless telephones, and the very first cell phones were emerging (Remember those bricks? Literally.).

 

And now? What do we have? Here’s my list of 10, just a few of many, and what these items would mean to, and do to my grandparents.

 

  1. Computers

Let’s face it, every house has one, every workplace, even your car. We in live an abundantly obscene techno generation. These days, what doesn’t have a computer chip inside it? My grandparents would’ve goggled at seeing words typed across a screen as you type it, or witness real-time live motion, graphics created at your fingertips. I remember my mother marveling at the very fact of realizing what an email was all about.

 

  1. Handheld Devices

From portable credit card machines to scanner, cell phones to iPods, which are really computers squashed into extremely small packages. In the age of convenience and on-the-go necessities, we have all these little gadgets. Were my grandparents to witness these, things only once seen in movies or read about it in books, they would be gobsmacked. For one thing, they’d have no idea how to work them, let alone know what they did. I vividly remember trying to teach my father how to work the VCR. Up to his dying day, I doubt he fully understood what all the buttons did, let alone how to work the remote control.

 

  1. Organ Transplants/Medical Advancements/Emergency Medical Services

I think that all speaks for itself. Death, while it cannot be averted, can be delayed or the inevitable prolonged for a very long time. The advances we’ve made in medical sciences are incredible and everyday, new advancements and discoveries are made. Emergency response teams can arrive and deliver medical care in even the most remote areas on the globe via fast vehicles on land, air, and sea. My grandparents grew up in the generation where new vaccines were still being discovered for diseases and viruses that are now curable. Even X-rays were still primitive and more harmful than good. If I were to explain to them about heart transplants and pacemakers, genetic research or even stem cell growth, I’m pretty sure my grandparents would disbelieve every word I said.

 

  1. Digital Imaging and 3D

Come on, we take all this for the norm now. What movie isn’t out there that isn’t in 3D? (Personally, it makes me feel slightly barfy. I suppose I’m from a slightly older generation. Shh.) The very concept of digital imaging (from moving pictures to special effects, oh, and those holographs!) would boggle my grandparents mind. To think they were around when honking huge TVs made it from black and white to colour and the first VCRs were just emerging. If they saw all the flat screen TVs from the wall units to the tiny ones in your cell phones they would be mesmerized, you know, like how those babies are with watching TV. In this age of digital, it has also brought with it a vast array for different imaging systems, from video chatting, home and public security monitoring to movie magic.

 

  1. The Online World

This techno-generation, we live straight out of a SF imaginings. The online world has birthed a multitude of amazing and sometimes scary manifestations. We don’t think twice about Skyping with friends and family, having video messaging, instant messaging, Twitter, Facebook, Google hangouts and the numerous other social networks. The entire world brought closer at the touch of the ‘send’ button. I doubt my grandparents could even begin to grasp it in its entirety. As I said, even my mother marveled at the idea of emails, and fax machines. Theirs was the age of snail mail and long distance telephone calls, where one shouted down the speaker and the receiver had to strain their ears to hear. Where costs to make these calls were horribly high and no ‘long-distance-dialing’ discount numbers to call beforehand existed. The idea of ‘free’ chatting would be mind-blowing. Sometimes, even I wonder about the magic of it all because I am really living IN a SF world. It’s really sad when even my brother, who lives far, far away, can share an amazed laugh that we can instant message each other while he goes cross-country via train as if we were in the same room. Like, wow! This IS science fiction. And it even has its own language. Talk about alien-speak.

 

  1. Instant Food, Convenience Items

We live in a disposable world and nothing lasts as long as it used to. Food being one of them. Gone are the days when the average person spent laboriously long hours conjuring up a masterpiece feast that could be savoured for days. We now have the option to make instant food from frozen dinners to ordering take out. From the instant gravy packets to the dehydrated bouquet garni that comes out of the shaker, nearly half of everything in our cupboards are convenience items. I can name a number of items in my very own kitchen: dried Italian herbs, Bisto gravy mix, Ramen noodles, frozen desserts, frozen hamburger patties, pre-sliced packaged deli meats, corned beef and baked beans and soup tins, frozen veggies. Wow, I have quite a bit more but am too embarrassed to keep going. In my grandparents time, they would’ve carefully selected every single food item and used it wisely, making whatever delicacy from scratch, from flavour to next week’s sandwich from the same hunk of meat.

 

  1. Solar Cells

It speaks for itself. But considering in their generation wind technology was used (and still us), I’m pretty sure the idea of ‘trapping’ the sun’s rays to create energy would be a marvel. But think about it. Solar technology has and is changing the world. It not only can provide electrical power to light up the universe, when you look carefully, it can power anything, from your watch, calculator, hot water systems, even cars.

 

  1. Recycling

As I said before, we live in a disposable world and we’ve filled it with the excesses of our disposable junk. Thankfully recycling emerged and now practically anything and everything is recycled and spat out again for us to consume like vultures. Gone are the days when things were made to last for generations, from canning jars to furniture, toys to buildings. If it breaks, if it stops working, if it tears just a little…we throw it away. But now, what was once unthinkable, all the parts used to make these disposables are sucked back in and remade, maybe into the plastic dinner plate at your next picnic (Eww, just had an image of an old toilet seat made into a plate…)

 

  1. 3D Printers

Well, I’m still trying to wrap my head over that one. But they are here, they exist, and they are very real. I’m sure my grandparents will tell me to “git outta here!” (or the Japanese equivalent of it).

 

  1. Nanotechnology

Now, I know this is a term that really is science fiction, popularized by scientists (click here), but let’s face it, there are things being created—some in use—that a few decades ago were unheard of, because of nanotechnology. Now that is science fiction! Check out this article, and I am pretty sure my grandparents would have those cartoon question marks over their heads. When you really think about it, without this technology, a lot of the items I listed would not be around.

 

Well there you have it, a bit long and wordy. I’m sure my grandparents would feel utterly out of place, like fish out of water. But had they lived through all these new developments, I’m pretty sure, like everything, they would’ve learned to adapt. I know I am…still.

 

Cheers!

T.K. Toppin

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Storybuilder Inc. — Step 9: A Cold Read

When to stop writing

When you are finished writing your draft, you might want to take a vacation from writing. Many writers work on something else then come back to their older manuscripts. While it’s true that this alternation creates much-needed distance, it’s not necessary. What is necessary, however, is for you to switch gears from creator to appreciator.

One way to achieve this is by doing a cold read of your manuscript. I’ve written about cold read revision already. If you want a play-by-play, visit The Writer’s Vinyard, here (though I will repeat the content of that post here for convenience). Otherwise, if you want more about the rationale behind it, you can visit my guest post on Scarlett van Dijk’s blog, here.  What the cold read allows you is the chance to rest from writing and the chance to get a different perspective on your work, without unplugging you from your project.

Of course, you might just want a break, in which case that’s fine. I took a one week break when I finished my current novel. After one year of hard work, every day, I couldn’t think about writing at all. I enjoyed the sense of accomplishment, and slowly built up the urge to jump back in to the next stage.

Whether you write something else or jump in right away, doing a cold read as a first step is a great tool for restraint. Revision is a difficult process in that it involves making small alternative decisions long after you made your original ones. Often, the best changes made in revision are very subtle and have more sway than large ones. How do you appreciate what changes to make? You need to see your story as a whole, and that’s where the cold read comes in.

Getting started:

1) Save your story in .epub format, then put it in your Kobo or Kindle. (If you don’t have an eReader, this would be a good reason to go and buy one.) Reading your story like a book allows you to get comfy in a chair, in bed, or wherever you’d otherwise read a book. You can take it with you, read it on the bus, while you’re waiting two hours at your doctor’s appointment, etc. Most importantly, having your story in an eReader gets you away from the computer where, even if you read it in .pdf, you might be tempted to open the Word file and make changes to a part that bothers you.

2) Have a notebook or notepad ready, and take notes as you go through, in the form of a checklist. Ideally, have a small one that’s easy to tuck away with your eReader.

Once you are ready to go, here are some tips to help you stay on track:

1) Take a break from writing while you are reading. Don’t open the file. Let it rest. If you don’t, then such revising detours will slow the process down, and reduce the vantage point you have of going over your story at reader-pace.

2) Don’t worry about typos or mistakes. This will just bog you down. You will be going over the manuscript later and weeding them out.

3) Avoid writing out the solution to problems in your manuscript. Every time you stop to take notes, you stop reading, which you normally wouldn’t do when reading a book, so it’s important to be taking notes just to stop and give yourself reminders of things you will have to address when you begin revising.

Some good things to take note of during your cold read:

“The pacing is slow here”

“This character contradicts what she said three chapters ago”
(You appreciate this because as a reader it didn’t take the 3 months to get from chapter 5 to chapter 7 it took you as a writer)

“This scene doesn’t add to the story and can get cut back”

“Wait a minute…now that I know what this character does in the end, his actions 3/4 through make no sense at all”

“I’m rambling”

“Info dump!”

“This conversation is stilted and unrealistic. Rewrite.”

“My protagonist complains a lot. Yikes. Annoying! I’m going to have to change that. How can I make her more likeable? Simple fix, doesn’t have to be complicated. Brainstorm 3 ideas, 1), 2), 3)”
(Leave space and fill in those 1, 2, 3, slots later)

Some effective note-taking strategies to speed up revision:

1) Write 4-6 words in succession from the spot in question so you can get there using the “find” feature. I like to put quotations around them to differentiate from notes. I.e. “slammed on the table, churning”. That should take me to the spot in question, and if I have more than one place in the manuscript where I use those words exactly like that, I’d better go and revise that too!

2) Ask questions. This will give you fodder for later and inspire some at-the-keyboard creativity during polishing. I.e. “What does she hope to gain over Gordon? Isn’t she supposed to be high-society? Think about her upbringing…”

3) Suggest later or earlier spots in the manuscript where the issue you are addressing might rear it’s head so you can hop there as well when you get to that part on your checklist. For example, if you are dealing with an explanatory passage and there is another one at the end, as well as some foreshadowing in chapter 2, you will want to go between all of these places to make sure it is all balanced.

Do not revise just yet…

I mentioned that outlining and drafting are parts 1 and 2 of a larger storytelling cycle. There are four total, that being 3, the post-draft integrated outline, and 4, revision. That’s right, revision does not come after drafting! Instead, we resume outlining, now that we have a story told, and will use this post-draft outline as a framework for revision, the same way we used the pre-draft outline for drafting.

And, just as the first step of pre-draft outlining is to think about your story idea through the development of a premise, the first step of post-draft outlining is to read the actual story it became and think about how that story can be refined.

Then, when your cold read is done, you will be ready for the next step: creating subframes.

out_of_the_darkness_300sigRita

Graeme Brown has been writing epic fantasy since he was a child and continues to develop his stories every day. His his first story, The Pact, is now available for

KoboKindle, and other ebook formats through Burst Books.

You can follow Graeme on Twitter (@GraemeBrownWpg) or on his blog:

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That Mysterious Place Where Writer’s Ideas Flow From (At least mine!)

Readers (and other writers) have been known to ask where the ideas come from. In my case, they can come from almost anywhere. Using what I have published so far as examples, here are samples of the sources of some of my muse and my imaginative worlds.

The Dark Lady. I looked up at the TV and caught a glimpse of an actress’s face. I thought, she could play the part of an evil queen with that look. My mind then wandered off to, I wonder how evil queens get their reputation, followed by, how would I write that story? The plot came from there, although I admit that the mediaeval fantasy novel subsequently became more inspired by the life of the young Queen Elizabeth the First rather than the evil witch out of Oz.

Housetrap. I wanted a change from writing swords and magic and decided to venture into the fantasy detective genre. I thought it might be amusing to take an established mystery or thriller title, mangle it, and create a plot out of the wreckage. The longest running murder mystery play is The Mousetrap by Agatha Christie. I decided mine would be The Housetrap. When I started I had a detective and a title. All I had to do was figure out what a Housetrap was. The result was the first in the series of novellas under The Housetrap Chronicles. Sort of a Sam Spade meets every fantastic character or creature you can dream up.

Knight’s Bridge. I go for a walk almost every morning before breakfast, usually with my mind set in neutral, sometimes day-dreaming. Somewhere I came up with a scene of a jaded knight fleeing a lost battle, nothing more. This became a short story as told by the knight. When I was finished I decided I was curious as to what might have happened next. The result was a novella-length piece in four parts as told through the eyes of four different characters.

The Queen’s Pawn. Another case of where my day-dreaming conjured up a single scene, a young man fleeing a burning city. I don’t remember what triggered it. I may have just watched the movie Troy, or read a book around the life of Helen. In any case, I had the opening, and one character. Once I started to write the novel, the plot and other characters came to life quickly. My hero had to rescue the queen and her spoiled daughter, and get them to safety against overwhelming odds and assorted villains. From that birthing, the medieval-style fantasy adventure began.

Dial M for Mudder. I returned to my fantasy detective. In Housetrap I opened with a search for a missing boyfriend, in Mudder I paid homage to the traditional detective story by having a missing statue, then running off and messing up the tale.

House on Hollow Hill. Back to the Housetrap Chronicles again, this time I decided to do a take- off on a traditional mystery setting, the big house in the country filled with strangers, theme.

Hounds of Basalt Ville. You don’t need an encyclopedia to figure out where I mashed up this title from. The novella comes out in November 2013. Again, following the format I have used in others of the Housetrap Chronicles, for me it is a simple matter of coming up with the title, then building a plot around that. Perhaps a bit backwards when compared to the normal method of, write the story and then add a title that fits, but it works well for me.

A final, as yet unpublished example of the birth of a novel. I read a brief newspaper article commenting on how the Europeans mistreated the aboriginal population. This triggered the thought, I wonder what would have happened if the shoe had been on the other foot and the North Americans discovered Europe first, and arrived with an advantage. That set me off on…how would I go about writing that? I’ve finished this adventure into the What If of Alternative History and am still mucking about with the beast of a manuscrpt.

I have no shortage of ideas. When something I find interesting forces its way into my brain I will often jot down a sentence or two and file it away for future references. I doubt I will ever find the time to write all the stories lounging there. Between my mental slush pile, and some of my earlier, and in bad need of re-writing, efforts, I will never find enough hours in the day to visit all my imaginary worlds.

Where do you find the Worlds of your Imagination?

R.J.Hore

http://www.ronaldhore.com
http://www.facebook.com/RonaldJHore
http://www.burstbooks.ca

The Dark Lady – Feb 2012
Housetrap – Dec 2012
Knight’s Bridge – Mar 2013
The Queen’s Pawn – Apr 2013
Dial M for Mudder – July 2013
House on Hollow Hill – Sept 2013
Hounds of Basalt Ville – Nov 2013

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A Balancing Act for Writers

Do you find it as tough as me to balance writing and marketing? I would imagine that most writers just want to write. It’s the stories I get to watch unfolding in my mind that brought me to writing, and it’s what keeps me here. I’ve told myself tall tales since I was a child to help put me to sleep at night. Though it’s not working quite the same anymore as it just makes me want to jump out of bed and continue writing! So I keep a notepad by my bed to jot ideas down in for the next day.

I’ve gone about my writing in different ways over the years. Tried first person past, third person in all the ways imaginable, and now I’ve created a story that’s first person present which is about as immediate as your writing can get. I’ve tried all kinds of loveable and less loveable characters, storylines and still I come back to the paranormal. It just speaks to me more intensely because I get have my kind of magic in the form of insta-love (how my husband and I got together, but that’s a whole other story!) and fantastical things happen, or at least that’s how it works for me. I would never presume for anyone else as we all experience things through the kaleidoscope that is our life: Past, present and future.

Marketing, while I work away at it in off-hours, is a little harder for me to find the enthusiasm for, unless it’s writing blogs which I do enjoy for the obvious reason: I get to write! The best thing I did for myself was hire an expert recommended by my esteemed publisher to set up my virtual blog tour for each book’s release. For a reasonable sum you get some great marketing done for you; reviews, interviews, and your blogs posted by knowledgeable promoters available to help writers.

I do admit to reading a fair lot on the subject of marketing and know where others think your time is best spent, according to polls and the like. This only seems reasonable to me as why spend time on things not proven to make a whit of difference to writers. Facebook comes highly recommended though Twitter a little less. A website is seen as crucial. Well, that’s become a whole lot easier these days and they’re free on weebly and other sites. And of course, choose your publisher well! J. Ellen Smith at Champagne Books and all her wonderful staff make the journey a whole lot easier, providing solid help to authors.

And so I’m come full circle. Knowing that I have to balance the two competing fields for my time and attention and knowing which one will win out most often. And that’s okay. Writing is what writers do!

Best,
January Bain
Storyteller
Forever Series

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Working Wicca Into My World – Jessica Aspen

Today’s guest post is another great one from Jessica Aspen and it’s on the perfect subject as we approach all Hallows Eve. From Jessica:

Witches are everywhere. Sexy witches, scary witches, I wouldn’t even be surprised if we see superhero witches soon. If you haven’t caught on to this new trend, all you need to do is turn on the TV. The last few years a tsunami of fairytale programs has led to dark, witchy tales on practically every network. If you’ve missed them this fall, then check out the smash hit Sleepy Hollow, American Horror Story: Coven, or Lifetime’s Witches of East End.

If we’re seeing witches in TV, you know we’ll be seeing them in books. Oh, wait. We already have. There are some smashing series ranging from funny to scary to super sexy. One of my favorites is Kimberly Frost’s Southern Witch series that starts off with Would Be Witch. Funny, romantic, and it has witches.

I love witches so much that in my new fantasy romance series, Tales of the Black Court, I’ve incorporated witches into my twisted fairy tales. Now, witches and fairy tales go together like frogs and princesses, but I’ve added distinctly Wiccan traits to my witches and left the fairy-spells to the evil queen and the fae.

What is Wicca? Why is it different from snap-your-fingers magic? And why incorporate it into a fantasy romance anyway? Let’s start with a quickie Google definition:

1. Wic·caˈwikə/noun The religious cult of modern witchcraft, esp. an initiatory tradition founded in England in the mid 20th century and claiming its origins in pre-Christian pagan religions.

Wicca is a religion. While it’s based on what modern neo-pagans have researched, it is essentially new. So you’ll find every branch is different and unique. But some commonalities are: worshiping of a Goddess and or a God based either on nature or on an older pagan religion. Lots of communing with nature. And a responsibility for one’s own actions.

How does an author take a religion with so much flexibility and work it into their fictional world?

My fae are based on ancient Irish history, so I’ve used the goddess Danu in my books. The fae heroes, and the gypsy witches, call on Danu for help. The witches call on her in their spells, asking for her guidance and protection. When the magic rises (and in my books it has color, scent, and tangibility) Trina (the heroine in The Dark Huntsman) can feel the Goddess in the magic, helping her and sending her energy and power.

This is much like Wicca today. Modern witches may set sacred circles, call on goddesses and gods for protection, light candles, and call on the four directions to aid them in their spell-casting. They use tools such as carved wooden wands or white handled knives called athames. My witches use some of these methods and tools to summon and manipulate power to aid them in their quests. The difference is that in real-world Wicca, results can be slow. If you ask for help at your job, or dealing with a personal issue, results might take days, weeks, or even months. In the fictional world results are immediate.

dark_huntsmanHere’s an example of Trina working magic from The Dark Huntsman, A Fantasy Romance of the Black Court:

Trying not to rush her steps, the wind lashing dirt against her bare skin, she walked the perimeter of the small labyrinth heading sunwise.

North, East, South, West. She set candles into lanterns at the four corners and lit each one with a prayer to Danu. With each step, apprehension uncoiled in her stomach, radiating out and shaking her hands until it was near impossible for her to light the last candle.

She shoved her anxiety back into her aching stomach and pulled her white handled athame out of the duffle. Breathing deep, she moved the ritual knife, sharp double-blade point up, between her breasts. Energy skidded across her skin. Small hairs on her body rose and her nipples puckered tight.

Time to begin.

Earth magic throbbing under her feet, Trina took the first step into the labyrinth to walk the outer circle and set the wards. Her Gift opened wide. The darkening valley glowed magical colors as the earth’s swirling energies, the soft green of growth and the rich brown of decay, flowed up her legs and into her solar plexus.

She used her body, her anger, and her fear. Anger at the Faery Queen for the constant harassment and extermination of her family and her tribe. Fear of what came next, what might be riding on the coattails of the sunset.

Pulsing with power, she paced deeper and deeper into the labyrinth, static lifting her long black hair into a crackling wild nimbus. She pulled and twisted the vibrant orange and red of her anxiety into the alchemy of the earth’s brown and green energy, weaving them together into an invisible net.

Each measured step layered power into the fabric of her spell. Each movement of the athame directed the energy where it needed to go. Just as darkness dipped its toes into the valley, she turned the last curve into the double spiral’s center.

Her rage and fear coalesced into the final strands of the spell leaving her shaking and exhausted as the last of the afterglow faded from the sky, a stunning show of deep purple on grey. A sonorous quiet descended. No birds, no coyotes. Just the wind sending small trails of skittering leaves through the labyrinth. Prickles of anticipation trembled on her bare spine.

It would be here soon. It was coming fast. And it was coming for her.

As you can see I’ve woven in pieces of Wicca; the calling of the four directions, use of a sacred knife/athame, and of course, magic. Here, it’s live and immediate. It springs to Trina’s call. Real Wiccan magic can be subtle. A message on a piece of paper burnt over a sacred flame. A song, or a recipe, or a poem. Even a box filled with wishes can be a magic spell.

Do you have any experience with Wicca? Do you like realistic touches of magic in your fantasy romances? Are you excited to see that witches may be the next big thing?

To celebrate the release of The Dark Huntsman I am giving away ten print copies on Goodreads. Click HERE to enter to win. Closes October 22nd.

The Dark Huntsman:

A fantasy romance of the Black Court

An evil queen, a dangerous man, and a witch, tangled together in a tale of Snow White…

Desperate to save the last of her family from the murderous Faery Queen, Trina Mac Elvy weaves a spell of entrapment. But instead of a common soldier, the queen has released the Dark Huntsman, a full blooded fae with lethal powers.

Caged for treason, Logan Ni Brennan, is ready to do anything to win free of the manipulative queen, even if it includes running a last errand for her…murdering a witch. The sight of Trina, ready to fight despite the odds, gives him another option: use the witch as a chess piece, put the queen’s son on the throne, and bring down the queen forever.

As the queen slides into insanity and her closest advisor makes plans to succeed to the throne, Logan secrets Trina away in the enchanted forest and makes a decisive move in his dangerous game of manipulation. But the gaming tables of fate turn on him, and when Trina’s life is threatened he discovers he risks more than his freedom…he risks his heart.

Dare to enter Jessica Aspen’s world of steamy, fantasy romance in her new twisted fairy tale trilogy: Tales of the Black Court…

Available today on AMAZON KINDLE or PRINT

JessicaAspenAuthor Bio:

Jessica Aspen has always wanted to be spirited away to a world inhabited by elves, were-wolves and sexy men who walk on the dark side of the knife. Luckily, she’s able to explore her fantasy side and delve into new worlds by writing paranormal romance. She loves indulging in dark chocolate, reading eclectic novels, and dreaming of ocean vacations, but instead spends most of her time, writing, walking the dog, and hiking in the Colorado Rockies. Sign up for Jessica Aspen’s new release email here.

Find Jessica at: www.jessicaaspen.com

or: Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads | Pinterest

To sign up for Jessica Aspen’s non-spammy, new release email please go to: http://eepurl.com/zs4Sj

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5 Mythic Norse Beasts

Norse Mythology is full of incredible supernatural creatures– though there are creatures ranging from the giants (jotunn) of Jötunheimr to the conflict of the two types of Norse gods, the Vanir and Æsir, the inhuman monsters found in Norse Mythology reoccur throughout the heroic legends of the Poetic Edda and Prose Edda. Here are five creatures you might stumble across if you were to look up Norse Mythology :

5) Fenrir – a monstrous wolf, the Æsir decided to bind up Fenrir before he grew to full size. When he was chained, he bit off the right hand of the god Tyr. In the events of Ragnarok, it is said Fenrir will kill Odin, however, in turn will be slain by one of Odin’s sons, Víðarr. Fenrir is claimed to be one of the trickster god Loki’s descendents, as well as the father of wolves.

4) Sleipnir – an eight-legged horse. Before the building of Valhalla, a builder came and offered to build the Æsir a city in which to keep out tresspassers – if he completed the task before a set time, in payment, he would be given the goddess Freya, as well as the sun and moon. The gods agreed, but he had to do the work alone. The stranger asked for the help of his horse – which the gods allowed. The horse proved to be a great help to the builder, and the gods still decided they didn’t want to pay for the work. So Loki changed himself into a mare, and seduced the horse away, thus the builder lost the payment, and Thor ended up killing him anyway. Sometime later,Loki gave birth to the eight-legged foal Sleipnir. And Odin thought to himself, “Yeah, I could ride that.” Sleipnir is often depicted with Odin in art.

3) Draugr – I took many liberties in my own book with draugr, and the warriors that try to destroy the tower are far different then the beings I researched. Draugr are similar to ghosts, they are animated corpses that lie in their graves, able to change size at will and have super-human strength. They were said to be extremely hard to kill, typically, the average hero would have to cut off its head, burn the body, and throw the ashes into the sea to ensure that the draugr was gone.

2) Huginn (thought) and Muninn (memory) – two ravens, that flew the world and reported back to Odin all that they saw. Ravens have a special place in numerous types of mythology – in the Greek tradition, it was said that they were the god’s messengers to the mortal world, whereas in many aboriginal legends from North America, the raven typically takes on a trickster role. In the Norse tradition, it tends more towards shamanistic practice. Ravens still have a huge impact on modern fiction – just ask Edgar Allen Poe.

1) Jörmungandr  – The Midgard Serpant – The offspring of Loki and the giantess Angrboða. Loki is said to have three children by Angrboða; of which he threw his giant serpent son into the ocean. It grew so large, that it could consume it’s own tail. It was said that when it let go, the world would end – there are three legends, including Ragnarok ,where the god of thunder, Thor, would battle this snake. Effectively in the last tale, Thor would kill the great serpent, and then Thor would walk nine paces, and fall dead himself.

These are just five beasts you can find in Norse Mythology – we can find great beasts and monsters central to other mythologies the world over. What are some of your favorite mythological creatures – and, any favorite spins on the not-so-harmless?

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Storybuilder Inc. — Step 8: Drafting 4, Alpha Readers

This is the last step on drafting. In the previous step, I talked about ways to make your draft deep, complex, and easy to traverse. This week I will discuss the final component to the drafting phase, an element that helps you see outside yourself.

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Team Alpha

In video game design, the development team will have alpha testers who work with the things they are producing to give them ideas as they go along. Maybe they’re making a troll for a castle attack level and they want to see if the way they’ve put it in looks believable. Whatever it is the developers want tested, the alpha testers are often aware of how things are being developed and what flaws to look for since they work closely with the development team and may have some background in the development process. The developers aren’t expecting perfect reports either. They have some ideas where they have gone wrong, but recognize things work efficiently when they are critiqued by individuals who aren’t saturated by the development process.

Take the analogy and extend it to alpha readers. While you write, you are immersed in your prose. You’re unfolding your draft, going over your frames, leaving “finished” pieces behind. Maybe something’s not quite working, but you know better than to stop and obsess over it (as we discussed two weeks ago). So, you get a few critical readers who agree not to expect perfection. You tell them not to worry about typos and grammar but instead to look at faulty constructions. Maybe a sentence doesn’t quite fit. Maybe a character doesn’t talk properly at one point. Maybe a paragraph about this picturesque hill you decide to carry on about stops the narrative and doesn’t have the reflective effect you thought it did.

These are all things someone else who’s not wrapped up in the same intense creative process can point out. However, they’re also things someone who has a fair bit of knowledge in storytelling would notice; you want your alpha readers to give you useful information that will help not only with revision, but with ideas for continued development.

These readers can be anywhere from writing friends who agree to do an exchange (also known as critique partners) to a content development editor who works with you as you go. You might not even use alpha readers, but instead use beta readers after you’re finished. However, note that the benefit of feedback while you’re writing can be useful to push your manuscript to a greater edge, and prevent the many checkmates that lurk along the way.

Alpha Dont’s

Some writers do not like to let anyone read their work while they’re writing. Others do and end up never getting to the end because they’re forever changing things, or they get exasperated because the comments they receive make them think it’s just not going to work out. Whatever the case, alpha readers can be as detrimental to your writing process as they can be beneficial if you don’t take care both in how you choose them and in how you interact with them and their comments.

First and foremost, remember (and this goes all the way to the final editing stage) you are the sole authority on your story and on what you want to do. Your alpha readers, no matter how skilled they are, are not you, and this is not their story. Their comments serve as an opportunity for you to engage your story once again from a different angle, to question your intentions and, if you missed something, to go in and discover it (and if you haven’t, then to appreciate all the more why you did what you did and how that makes your story well-told).

I have several alpha readers, and I am grateful for their feedback. That said, when I receive a chapter back, I only look over it to get an overall sense of the comments, and in particular to see how certain trouble spots fared. In fact, I will often prompt my alpha readers before sending a given passage what sort of things I’m struggling with. But I don’t touch any of the comments or alter my story one bit after I receive them, unless one of the comments makes me aware of something I missed. It’s important, when you receive your alpha reader feedback, to file it away and prioritize the information. For example, if there is a chapter you know just didn’t work out, you might look at your alpha reader comment to see if it sparks an idea for how to resolve it. If there’s a comment about a passage being confusing and you don’t know why, leave it be and keep it in mind as you write, but plan to go back and think more about it during revision.

The other thing to watch out for is how you choose your alpha readers. If you are an epic fantasy writer and your alpha reader loves spy novels and hates detailed writing, then you might not want to have them as your alpha reader. Personality is another thing to note. If your alpha reader is a know-it-all who knows everything about writing, then their comments (usually unfounded) are going to inundate you and stress you out, which is counter-productive. If, on the other hand, your alpha reader is just reading and saying, “that’s good,” or “misspelled this word”, etc., then they’re not really doing anything you can’t do during revision.

Sometimes you have to experiment a bit to find suitable alpha readers, but regardless of how you figure this out, always show grace when receiving feedback and do express your gratitude for the time any alpha reader has given you. After all, they are looking at your story in a way that only someone other than you can do.

Alpha vs. Beta

In video game development, there are beta testers that test during later stages of development. These are often gamers who will push the game to its limits and report anything that goes wrong. If you have heard of beta readers, then perhaps your impression of them is similar. After all, it is also common for a writer to give his or her finished draft to a series of readers to get input. The difference here is that the writer is done. Revision might follow, but they aren’t staring at a blank canvas anymore.

We will talk about beta readers later, after the various revision steps to follow over the next few weeks. While you’re writing, though, think about ways you can use outside feedback to help with the process. It serves not only as a source of insight, but also sometimes of inspiration, since your alpha readers might comment on things they really like, and some of these may be things you didn’t expect.

Getting to the end

In four weeks I’ve talked about Step 8: Drafting. This is a huge step. For some it will take more than a year. Now I’m going to zip ahead, and many of you might bookmark these posts and the posts ahead for reference when you’re finished. Keep writing, and keep developing your stories. Most importantly, discover what works for you as you develop your process. It’s the only way to ensure your story will be as great as it can be.

Next week, I begin with part 3 of the storybuilding cycle: the post-draft integrated outline.

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Graeme Brown has been writing epic fantasy since he was a child and continues to develop his stories every day. His his first story, The Pact, is now available for

KoboKindle, and other ebook formats through Burst Books.

You can follow Graeme on Twitter (@GraemeBrownWpg) or on his blog:

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WELCOME AUTHOR DIANA GREENE – Space Western…What’s That?

Welcome author, Diana Greene. Diana is the author of the romantic space western, New Sion, that was released this month by Champagne Book Group. I’m looking forward to reading it because it’s in the same, seldom-seen genre of Firefly, a personal favorite.

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Space Western…What’s That?

If I get a dollar for every time this question is asked, eventually I might be able to replace my fourteen year old station wagon. Unfortunately, space western is not a common genre. People usually picture little green aliens in cowboy hats…or worse.

To me, the blending of western and sci-fi genres seems like a natural. Both share expansive frontier settings, a sense of possibility, exploration, and the opportunity for characters to test themselves against extreme environments.

The television show Firefly is a great example of what this genre can accomplish. It feels futuristic and rustic at the same time, striking a marvelous balance between the two. Interestingly, I’d never heard of it, back when I wrote my romantic space western, New Sion.  It was a comment from an agent, noting the Firefly “vibe” to my manuscript, which first piqued my curiosity. After watching a single episode of Firefly I was hooked, and it became one of my favorite shows.

My goal, with New Sion, was to create a unique alien world, which was also reminiscent of the American west. I wanted it be familiar enough to ground readers into a tangible setting, yet intriguing and original at the same time. I suppose you’ll just have to read it for yourself, to see if I was successful. Hopefully, you’ll decide that space westerns deserve a spot on your bookshelf…or e-reader, as the case may be. Happy Trails.

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New Sion

new sion cover trimmedPretending to be a man isn’t easy. Finn Colville has pulled it off for years, but things get complicated when she falls for her new bounty hunting partner, Eamon Sullivan. On the planet New Sion, it’s against the law for a woman to wear pants and carry a gun, much less shoot people for a living. What will happen if Eamon discovers her secret?

On a backwater planet, at the edge of a galactic war, one man, one woman, and one desperate alien cross paths. Together they embark on the road trip of a lifetime, bound for revelation and redemption.

Available at Champagne Books, Amazon, and most other online retailers.

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Diana at Bay cropped 1Author Bio  Since her childhood, growing up in New Zealand, Diana has been an avid storyteller. For years she enjoyed teaching art and special education, while continuing to write as a hobby. After she developed chronic fatigue syndrome, a career change was necessary, but happily this led her to become a professional author.

Diana’s favorite genres are fantasy, science fiction, historical, and romance. She currently lives in beautiful Washington State where she writes for Champagne Books and The Wild Rose Press.

Visit her website at DIANAGREENBOOKS.COM

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Interview with Barb Taub, author of ONE WAY FARE

This week’s guest is co-author Barb Taub of One Way Fare, an Urban Fantasy novel brought to you by Taleisin Publishing and was published just this past September.  Barb’s co-author is Hannah unfortunately too busy to join us this week – but we wish her all the best as she’s busy in school. 


What makes your fantasy world different from ours? 

My daughter and I have this tiny little life-altering addiction to superhero movies. Okay, we’d probably starve to death with chocolate only a room away if a Marvel hero was in front of us. (Except Hulk, of course, because that movie was just too painful.) But in general, give some guy a spandex outfit and a mask and he owns us.

One night we started talking about superheroes with awkward powers. Let’s say you are the Man of Steel, but you don’t dare have sex with Lois Lane because your LittleMan of Steel would probably split her in two. (And we’re not even going to discuss the havoc your Swimmers of Steel could wreck on Woman of Not-So-Steel…) 

The point is that when you think about it, most people with special powers would be lining up to get rid of them and get their normal lives back. That’s where Null City comes in. After one day there, those with extra gifts turn into their closest human counterparts. For example, imps become baristas. (Of course, they’re now ex-PhD candidates in literature or classics who claim to be experts on third-world coffee blends and obscure world music groups. But hey – there is only so close to human that hellspawn can get…)

So the point of Null City is that it takes our fantasy worlds and turns them into normal life.

What inspired this book?

Hannah and I spent months telling each other the stories. Her gift is world-building and she’s got a real flair for characters. I’m the responsible grownup who worries about little details like plot and whether we have an actual big-enough, bad-enough wolf. And I write things down, which turns out to be an important element of making a book. Who knew?

 


Are your characters human? What talents do they have?

Gaby starts as a human. Her OCD need to see pattern and structure in everything around her is tied to her family’s heritage. They are harmonia, gifted with seeing hidden patterns in the actions of others. Leila, an orphan adopted as an infant into a loving human family, has a tougher time coming to terms with her demonic heritage. Both young women struggle to integrate their gifts within their developing relationships – Gaby with the human Luic, and Leila with the Nephilim (descendants of angels) Thomas.

 


Is this part of a series?

Yes, One Way Fare is the first book in the Null City series. Don’t Touch, a non-series book in the Null City world, comes out in December. Book Two of the five-volume Null City series is due out in March. A different character takes the lead each time, the stakes get higher, and the overall story takes on much darker overtones. At least that’s the plan.

 


What’s your process like when it comes to worldbuilding? Any tips for other fantasy authors?

So you want our worldbuilding tips? Get an obsessive co-author, spend every free moment of her last year of high school discussing what each character would do/say/look like, where they would live, what surrounds them. Have said co-author keep a huge notebook full of her drawings as you refine characters and settings. Have her hold imaginary conversations with the characters on random topics. Research the time-travel bits and keep enormous files of photos, historical notes, bookmarked links, etc. Send your co-author off to college – with that damn notebook – and then start writing. [Insert many, many Skype/FaceTime/GoogleTalk sessions] And voila – you’ve built a world.

 

 

Superpowers suck. If you just want to live a normal life, Null City is only a Metro ride away. After one day there, imps become baristas, and hellhounds become poodles. Demons settle down, become parents, join the PTA, and worry about their taxes.

Null City is the only sanctuary for Gaby Parker and Leila Rice, two young women confronting cataclysmic forces waging an unseen war between Heaven and Hell. Gaby and her younger brother and sister are already targets in the war that cost their parents’ lives. Should they forsake the powers that complete their souls and flee to Null City? Meanwhile, Leila has inherited a French chateau, a mysterious legacy, and a prophecy that she will end the world. Gaby and Leila become catalysts for the founding and survival of Null City.

It just would have been nice if someone told them the angels were all on the other side.

 

 

Excerpt

Some days it just didn’t pay to be dead.

“It’s not fair,” Gaby panted as Leila pulled ahead on the hillside. All those hours as the victim of Bill-the-Hun on her BodiesByBill exercise tapes and she was eating Leila’s dust? Of course the hole in her side wasn’t helping things. And—was blood squishing into those over-priced new running shoes Leila had insisted they buy?

Behind them, she could hear the disciplined beat of pursuit. Well, sure they can concentrate on chasing us; they don’t have to worry about how to get blood out of $240 sneakers.

“Do something,” begged Leila.

“I’m an accountant,” gasped Gaby. What does she want me to do? I could give the IRS an anonymous tip, but satisfying as it might be to contemplate those guys having to cough up receipts for our murder during the audit, I don’t think it’s going to get us out of this.

Leila was several yards ahead of her by now, the trees giving way to the sheer drop of the cliff ahead, with the roar from the falls just beyond.

“I’ve got you Leila.” The voice echoed from beyond the cliff face. “Trust me.”

“Thomas!” Without breaking stride Leila ran straight for the cliff edge and leaped.

Come on. Who trusts someone enough to leap into space?

“Gaby-mine.” Luic’s smoky velvet voice called out as the first shots kicked up the dirt beside her. Without thought, Gaby dove for the cliff edge. She almost enjoyed the moments of free-fall before his arms surrounded her.

“Hell agrees with you,” he grunted. “I think you’ve gained weight.” He went into a swooping glide before his wings pumped, pulling them upward.

“If you do that again,” Gaby warned, “I’m going to be lighter after I throw up. And, come on, Luic. Wings? That’s just so wrong.”

“I got them when I was commissioned.” He spread them for another showy glide. “What do you think?”

“I think the puking sounds better and better.”

His chest shook with laughter under her cheek. “You’re taking this a lot better than I expected. I’m surprised you jumped to me.”  

“Two reasons,” she muttered into his neck. “First of all, I’ve been dreaming of falling for the past five years. And usually I die in those dreams. Again.”

“And second,” Gaby pointed out, “if you can’t trust the angel you killed, you might as well give up.”


Where can readers find out more about you and your books? 

One Way Fare is out from Taliesin Publishing and available on their website. There are several distributors, but here is a short list of links where One Way Fare is now available for download:

·Taliesin Publishing

·Amazon (Kindle)

·Barnes & Noble (Nook)

·OmniLit

·Kobo

 

You can also find more about both the book and the series at the following sites:

 

·Website

·Facebook

·Goodreads

·Twitter: @barbtaub

·YouTube: (book trailer) http://youtu.be/6pkRsXD9vZQ


Thanks for joining us this week Barb! 

 

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