Author Archives: danicollins

Go Go Nano!

I’ve been a terrible WOTI member lately. I blame the fact I have a multiple personality disorder writing-wise. (Don’t we all, I hear you say.)

In this case I’m talking about what I choose to write. Back before I  published, out of a certain frustration with the industry, I began writing whatever I darned well pleased. One of those manuscripts was The Healer, which has landed me here, with this wonderful group.

Most of my other work is contemporary romance for Harlequin which has kept me crazy busy lately and thus unable to pursue the fantasy writing I also love.

I would be thrilled if I could say, “But that’s okay, I’m writing one for Nano.” For those of you who haven’t heard of NaNoWriMo, it’s short for National Novel Writing Month, where writers accept the challenge (for bragging rights and the satisfaction of a completed manuscript) to complete a fifty-thousand word novel in the month of November.

I think you can also do one in April. You know what? You can do one whenever you want. The word Nano is a commonly accepted, writing-related noun these days. Eg. “I’m doing a mini Nano until I finish this book.”

Sadly, I’m not doing any kind of Nano at this time, but I did want to cheer on those who are and point to the upper left of this post as a brass ring  NaNoWriMongers can reach for.

The Healer is a lot longer than fifty thousand words. (Um, 120 plus, I think. Yeah, you get your money’s worth on that one.) But it sat on my hard drive in bits and pieces for a long time until I gritted my teeth and finished it one snowbound November about six years ago.

Today it is a 2014 Epic eBook Awards Finalist and–even though I can’t take any credit–happens to also be a Finalist in their Ariana cover contest as well. The genius cover artist, Petra Kay, would probably have other awards without my taking up the Nano challenge, but she wouldn’t have this particular one, so maybe I can take a little credit.

What I’m really saying is, if you happen to be one of those keeners who took up the challenge this year and are now a week in and your courage is flagging… Hydrate, eat something healthy, do some jumping jacks in the cool, fresh air, then get thee back to thy writing desk.

Great things can happen, I promise you. At the very least, you will have finished a book and let me tell you, that in itself is enormously satisfying.

Go Go Nano!


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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:

or: Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads | Pinterest

To sign up for Jessica Aspen’s non-spammy, new release email please go to:


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Shared Whispers – Dani Collins

I admit it, I completely dropped the ball on my post. It’s been insanely busy at the day job and last night, Thursday, when I got home from work and had a few hours, I made the executive decision to spend them with my husband. If I had entered my office, I would have seen my giant note that said, WOTI BLOG. As it was, I got up this morning and went straight to work and the company golf tourney. Blog, sadly, was overlooked.

However, I’ve been longing for my turn to talk about how I was roped into doing the Shared Whisper project. Mike Davis, a fellow author at Champagne Books, suggested this theme for an anthology. It was an opportunity to showcase author voices, provide a sample of our work, and the idea was to offer it as a KDP Select title, for free, simply as a promotional tool.

All of the stories are full, original stories, not excerpts that demand you buy the book to find out what happens. I didn’t have any books out yet when I wrote my contribution and it seemed like a wonderful way to reach readers. (Still seems like it.)

After we did our ninety day stint with KDP Select, Mike–who is a Godsend–sent it along to Champagne Books, who snapped it up. This was very heartening as, even though I don’t expect to make a mint of my one-sixteen of the profits, I believe their improved distribution will help us find our readers.

As for my actual contribution, I agonized when writing it. I’ve never written shorter formats than fifty thousand words and this was more like twenty. I wanted this story to evoke something of The Healer but it was due to come out with Champagne at the time and Shared Whispers was an independent project. That meant I couldn’t parasitically adapt the exact world of The Healer for my short story.

I came up with Saratta. And Magi and Vilander. It was fun! Not nearly enough room to explore all that I wanted of their world and characters, but someday I hope to get back to it.

Meanwhile, I hope you’ll visit their troubled country and enjoy it enough to consider purchasing The Healer, which is the kind of world building and character development I wish I could have accomplished with Heart Of A Rebel.

Here’s a quick excerpt from Heart Of A Rebel:

Vilander found his arms going around Magi’s womanly shape, pulling her close as he absorbed that he was inordinately glad to see her.  Despite the chaos the bird had caused, he’d been gripped by an urge to laugh from the moment she had walked in.  She looked the same as he remembered, only mature and prettier.

Her breath clouded against his neck in a suppressed sob and his happiness took a dip into something disturbing.  It had been a long time since he’d held a woman and she was receptive and warm and smelled clean and sweet.  Her hair tickled his jaw in the way only a woman’s could do.  Her breasts flattened on his chest, making him want to cup and test their weight and seek the hardened tips with his thumb and mouth.  Her skirts tangled his legs while her limbs trustingly parted for his own.  It was too much to bear.

He ground his teeth against his natural reaction.  He didn’t have time for a tryst.

And she wasn’t the kind who welcomed them.


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Running Low On Ideas?

Today’s guest, T. Rae Mitchell, offers a terrific post on sparking ideas. Take it away, T.Rae:


Nothing makes you feel more like a god than the ability to create fantastical worlds with your mind. That being said, nothing makes you feel like the mere mortal you truly are after the endless hours of strain and thinking you put into imagining unique and interesting scenarios readers will want to experience. The pressure to dream up brand new concepts or invent surprising twists on classic fairy tales, myths and legends can be overwhelming.

Thankfully there are some effective ways to jump-start the old idea factory. One is to stir up a sense of magic and wonder in yourself about the characters and world you’re creating. If I’m unable to slip into Wonderland, I can often get there by reading a few pages from my favorite authors. Or sometimes I’ll run a fantasy movie I love in the background, allowing the music, sound effects and dialogue to recharge the excitement I felt the first time I saw the film. Plugging into this head space will often spark ideas I may not have thought of or help me recall ideas forgotten along the way. Also, I think going to your happy place (even if it’s a sinister oak grove full of carnivorous pixies) is essential to the writing, because this spirit of wonder is what readers crave from fantasy. If you’re not feeling the magic, most likely no one else will.

Another trick is to pour through lots of fantasy art. You’ve heard the saying, “A picture’s worth a thousand words.” Well I say there’s a story in every picture. Looking at an otherworldly scene and imagining what is happening in that frozen moment in time is a great idea generator. And because the emerging story is in the eye of the beholder, it will be unique to your way of thinking.

FatesFablesCoverTo a large extent, this is how I came up with several of the fables from my YA fantasy, Fate’s Fables. The premise of my book is about a girl named Fate who’s cast into a Book of Fables. Her only escape is to turn each dark fable into a happily-ever-after, or she’ll remain trapped inside the book forever. Before I could write a single word about Fate’s perilous journey through this magical book, I needed to first create eight fables that read as if they’d been around forever, but were completely new. Talk about the terror of staring at the blinking cursor on the blank white screen of my computer. It wasn’t until I began immersing myself in fables, folklore and myths to get a feel for how they were written, that I discovered how much old fairy tale illustrations sparked my creativity. I remember as a kid how the pictures captured my attention and carried my imagination far beyond what was actually written in the classic tales.

One of my fables, The Goblin Queen, was inspired by Arthur Rackham’s illustration, The Magic Cup. This scene portrays an entranced girl staring at a gleaming goblet held in the hands of slithering green creatures coming up out of a murky pool. I wanted to know if she was under their spell. Were they giving her a gift, or luring her into danger? As soon as I began asking questions, the answers formulated into an entire story.

Questions are one of the most powerful methods for activating ideas. I think this is because our brains are wired with a need to know the answers. By asking questions, we automatically slip into filling in the missing pieces of information. In fact, asking a question is how I came up with the idea for Fate’s Fables. I was upset about my favorite bookstore closing, a quaint little place full of eye-catching book displays and book ladders rolling along its century-old brick walls. So one day as I thought about the sad, empty store, I wondered what I might see if I peeked through the windows. Had anything been left behind? Strangely enough, my crazy imagination offered up a giant ten-foot-tall book––a magic Book of Fables to be exact. And then a girl named Fate came to mind and I knew she was destined to plunge inside that big bad book.

So whenever I’m running low on ideas, I remind myself to return to what inspired me to write fantasy in the first place and then I begin mining the deep deposits of creativity that’s literally at my fingertips until I strike another golden vein of magic.

ImageT. Rae Mitchell is an incurable fantasy junkie who spent much of her youth mesmerizing her younger sisters with stories sprung from her crazy imagination. Over the years, her craving for the rush of being transported to fantastical realms became more acute. So it was only a matter of time before her habit got the best of her. Grief stricken one day upon discovering that her supply had dried up (her favorite bookstore had closed), she decided she’d had enough. Abandoning her career as an award-winning graphic designer, she entered a fantasy world of her own making called Fate’s Fables. She lives in British Columbia with her husband and son who are helping her cope with her addiction. Fate’s Fables is her debut novel.

Find out more about T. Rae and Fate’s Fables here:



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Can You Believe That?

The title is apt on two levels. It was the original title to this article, which talks a bit about how I developed the world for The Healer, but it’s also a nice gasp at my audacity in recycling material.

I apologize if you read this on one of the forums our gang posted to back in February. I don’t usually repost something that’s already out there, but I figured many of our readers here are new and frankly, after pushing out more than 12000 words on my latest tome in the last three days, my brain has gone dry with regards to genius tips on How To Write.

What I need to do is refill the mental well. Without further ado, here’s a shortlist on how I topped it up in the first place:


I should have acknowledged two unknowing contributors to The Healer: Stephanie Bryant, author of 30 Days Of World Building exercises associated with Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month) and Conrad Phillip Kottak, author of Anthropology: The Exploration Of Human Diversity.

Stephanie’s brief lessons encourage you to look at aspects the average writer (me, for instance) doesn’t consider when developing a story setting, particularly when said writer usually writes contemporaries. Full disclosure: I don’t read a ton of fantasy. I’ll read anything with a great romance and I follow some of my favorite authors wherever they go—although not too dark—but The Healer was a departure for me as far as writing goes. My worst nightmare was that purists would point and laugh at the author trying to write a fantasy.

Stephanie saved me by forcing me to look at layers of economy, politics, recent history, cataclysmic events, sky, land, resources, religion, language…

And then dear Conrad stepped in, or rather, my husband rescued Conrad’s text book from a garage sale and I said, “Why on earth would you buy that?” He said, “It might be interesting.” I rolled my eyes and ignored it until I needed it.

At which point I opened it and learned that humans are kind of predictable in the way our civilizations evolve from hunter-gatherer tribes to chiefdoms to fiefdoms, all with common hierarchy types and pretty soon you have a King and the only entity that can be higher than a King is, of course, a god.

Interestingly enough, the looser the organization, ie, nomadic tribes, the closer and less defined their gods are, like in the water and the trees and the wind. The Greeks and Romans were pretty complex and they had quite a cast of thousands with their belief system. Their gods and goddesses had specific jobs to oversee: war, harvest, the underworld. Same goes for the Egyptians and Aztecs.

Belief systems are all about explaining the world to ourselves. (Why does the sun rise? Why did my child die?) By the time a civilization reaches empire stage, they tend to have a single god that is eternal and omnipotent.

Fascinated by this, I decided to have three distinct cultures in each of these stages: the Shotes are highly evolved and expanding under the will of their single god, Whirla. The Kerfs are agrarian, wanting their gods of harvest and fertility to keep them safe and fed. The Alvians I made tribal, no real belief system because they’re in tune with nature.

I forgot to mention John Vaillant in my acknowledgements above. He wrote The Golden Spruce, which I read in Book Club a few years ago. In it, he talks about the Hawaiians having songs that belong to a particular tribe in exactly the way we accept ownership of land. The Haida people of The Queen Charlotte Islands (now called Haida’gwaii) have stories that only one tribe may tell. It’s like trespassing. (Or pirating against copyright, I suppose.)

This was such an interesting perspective, I had to touch on it with my healers. You see, the Alvians are as human as the rest of us, and began growing jealous when one tribe had stronger healers than another. To defuse infighting when marriages were arranged that tied up the strongest lineages, they began to broker mating deals.

Alvian customs don’t allow them to marry and Athadia is meant to rejuvenate her race by making herself available to the best Alvian men she can find. This goes directly against the way Vaun was raised. Conflict! I love conflict.

Finding a workaround taxed my tiny brain and none of my unknowing mentors stepped in to help. Luckily, Fate had a plan.

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World Building or World Changing

Today’s guest post is from Jessica Aspen, author of The Dark Huntsman, Book One in the Tales Of The Black Court trilogy.

When authors create new worlds from scratch they are able to create vocabulary words, new animals, and world-rules without offending anyone, but what about when authors use traditional well known fantasy creatures but change the rules?

Ever pick up a book and are wowed by the creative amazing world that the author has created? From making vampires sparkle to making motorcycles fly authors are taking our classic fantasy lore and making it better, bolder, and just plain different. How does an author take a classic tale and change it up so that it will be its own world and yet be believable to a fantasy audience? Because let’s face it, fantasy readers are picky. They’ve read it all from Tolkien to fairytales and they know their stuff. So how does an author stay true to their theme and make it their own?

First of all authors need to know their world. If their elves are tall and warrior like, they’d better be consistent and not make them tall in one chapter and small in another. And if they do, they need to explain it. Savvy fantasy fans know that there can be trolls that talk in one world and trolls that are so stupid they do nothing but grunt and growl in another world, but if it happens at the same time in the same world, you had better have a good reason for it.

I’ve done this in my upcoming fantasy romance trilogy, Tales of the Black Court. I’m working within a Tolkienesque world, but it’s not Tolkien. My world is our modern world, with warring clans of what we humans call elves, but they call themselves elvatians. Like many fae they live in Underhill, but are able to cross through time and space to new worlds through portals. Do you see how that works? I’ve kept the word elves, but I’ve changed their universe, their skills, even their history. It’s fresh and new and different so as a reader you want to learn more, but it stays close enough to the boundaries of what elves would do in other stories to not make you take a total leap of faith into unknown territory.

A skilled author brings the reader with them, looking out for speed bumps in their world building. Something that jars the reader out of their imagination and back into the real world and makes them say “Hey! Wait a minute!” No author wants that. We want for our readers what they want for themselves: to stay cocooned within the storyline. To never want to put the book down, so that when the book is over all the reader wants is book two in the series.

That’s the goal, anyway. That’s why we take well known creatures and tales that we know and love and twist them with our imaginations until they form a new shining story with its own world, magic, and rules. Rules that eventually the readers know better than we do and can possibly become new classics for a new generation.

Coming September, 2013:

The Dark Huntsman, book one in the fantasy romance series, Tales of the Black Court

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, a witch’s murder. 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, making 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 gambles more than his freedom…he risks his heart.

Excerpt from The Dark Huntsman by Jessica Aspen 

 A sudden light burned into Logan’s face and his eyes flinched shut. He forced his shaking arm up and hid behind it as he tried to remember where he was. Cold seeped into his aching body from the uneven stone floor as he stayed under his arm and hid from the torchlight, staggered at the realization that he was alive. Weak, wobbly, and defenseless. But alive.

A heavy hobnailed boot kicked him in the side. “Here ‘e is sir.”

He groaned and curled into a ball, peering up through long matted and tangled hair at a heavyset chuckling troll with only one working eye. “I got ‘im out of the hole yesterday, but ‘e’s still not in good shape.” Another rusty laugh came from the troll. “But I guess that’s to be expected after fifteen year’n the hole.”

Fifteen years. Had it been so long?

Logan barely heard the troll’s dissertation on oubliettes, prisoners, and rates of death. Had he been in hibernieth, the Elvetian form of stasis, for fifteen years? What had happened to his friends and family? What had happened to the prince between now and the day their world had collapsed? The day he’d been stuffed into his tiny damp prison?

He pushed up on burning arms, collapsing in a panting heap. The troll laughed and kicked him again. Logan lay on the hard stone mentally apologizing to his clan and liege for his weaknesses. He had no strength to face whatever death was to come. His fate was sealed.

“Is this the best you could do?” A sharp male voice cut into Logan’s ears, too used to the sound of silence. “He doesn’t even look like a lord, let an alone the murderous Huntsman. The queen thinks he’s a fricking miracle worker.”

“Nope. No way.” Another chuckle wheezed out. “If you send me down a healer, might be we could get ‘im fixed up by afternoon, good as new. Then the queen can do with ‘im as she likes.”

“Hmph” came from beyond the glare of the torches. Then a sigh.  “All right. I’ll send someone. Fix him up.” The voice curled in disgust. “And be sure to wash him. He reeks.”

“Yes sir.” The troll dragged Logan across the floor by one arm. He hummed a tuneless something that screeched into Logan’s ears but couldn’t cover the sound of Logan’s shoulder joint popping out of place.

Pain ripped through him. He struggled to stay conscious and ignore the excruciating messages shrieking in his arm from being hauled like a sack of grain along the rough floor. The troll dropped him on the stones, paused and opened an iron bound door. Logan tried to make his stiff muscles work, managing only to scrape and bang his limbs on the doorframe as the troll seized him and shoved him into the cell. He landed hard, his face grinding into the slimy stones. Curling instinctively into a ball, he managed to protect his gut from the last hard kick of the troll’s boot landing on his dislocated shoulder. His lungs seized up, his vision went black, and his head exploded into bright white stars.

The cell door clanged shut.

He sucked in slow aching breaths as the heavy footsteps receded down the corridor and reminded himself that he’d be out soon. And then he’d face the queen.

Fifteen years in this hell hole and the bitch thought he’d bow to her wishes.

He worked at unclenching his muscles. First his fists, then his jaw. Then each sore and aching muscle until he could sit up, his left arm hanging at an awkward angle. He guessed he wasn’t as ready to die as he’d thought. His body might be in terrible shape, but his mind was still sharp. He’d do what he had to do. Kill, cheat, steal. It wasn’t as if he hadn’t crossed lines before. But this time…

This time he would take down the Faerie Queen of the Black Court. No matter the price he paid. He reached up with his right arm, got a good grip on his left triceps and pulled. The shoulder ground and popped back into place, and Logan passed out from the pain.

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jessicaaspenJessica 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.

The best place to find Jessica during the week is online at

To sign up for Jessica Aspen’s new release email please go to:

Author web links:

Discover Little Red Riding Wolf, Jessica Aspen’s spicy new adult novella, book one in the Twisted Tales: Come Into the Woods Series

Available at: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Passion in Print, and All Romance.



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The Healer 7,7,7 Challenge

We’re cooking along with our 7,7,7 challenge, but I have to admit I’ve lost track of who tagged me in.

Also, I’m cheating. My next fantasy project is still in my head so my snippet is from p.7 of The Healer. Vaun has discovered a camp of Shote traders. They appear to have one of his Kerf women captive.

For a Kerf, however, all men would fight. And if she happened to belong to one of the families wavering between Shote and Kerf loyalty, her return would draw her people closer to his. Yes, they needed to free her, but after nightfall. He and Chador would do it. A raid it would be, but a stealthy one.

Below, the Shotes shuffled over the loose red stones, creating flat beds, coming to the woman for their meal and making remarks in lewd tones. 

You can find buy links off my website here and I believe I’m tagging R.J. Hore for the next 7,7,7.

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A Brave New World

Today’s post is an article by, and interview with R. Ann Siracusa, author of All In The Game. The premise sounds fantastic, but first a few words of advice on building a world. Take it away, Ann.



“Naw. I write contemporary. I don’t need to world build.”

Even though most people define world building as the construction of an imaginary world, all writers deal with world building. It’s a necessity if a writer hopes to produce a novel, in any genre, that is consistent, real, and believable.

Establishing the setting of a novel is a form of world building. The difference is that novels set in contemporary times and in familiar places don’t require as much time, research, or as many words. A writer often sets the stage in a few words or sentences. That’s all the reader needs to understand where and when the novel takes place, how people dress and act, and the laws of physics that apply. The reader can rely on what he/she knows of that time and place and the planet we live on.

But despite the advancements in communication, the world is still a big place. Even though we all have many things in common, such as cell phones and automobiles, there are still differences–accents, language, customs, dress, food, climate, housing–just to name a few. Even if your novel is contemporary, you need to pinpoint those things that are different about the particular setting. But there are no big surprises.

And isn’t writing a historical about rebuilding the world that existed in a specific time and place on earth? More differences will exist, and you can’t have a Roman soldier wearing a wrist watch or using modern slang; but still, no big surprises.

So, contemporary and historical require some world building, but you can always count on one moon in the sky, gravity, rotation of the earth around the sun, ocean tides, and human nature. The laws of physics are the laws of physics, even in a time when they weren’t understood.


When a writer takes on science fiction or fantasy, all bets are off. These genres take more time, research, and words to create a world that the reader understands.

“Why do I need research? This is fantasy. I can make up what I want.”

Right…but not totally right. The key to world building is making your story believable. Even though the author is writing the rules of this new world, there still have to be rules…and the author has to follow them. And as the author, you have to know, at least generally, those rules that exist in our universe in order to decide which of them you’re going to break when you create the new one.


Author Holly Lisle suggests there are three varieties of writers in relation to world building for fantasy and science fiction genres.

“Those who really have no idea what world building is or why they should bother with it.”

“Those who do know, but figure they’ll wing the details as they go.” and

“Those obsessive folks who secretly believe that they can’t start a book until the whole planet is in place.”

My preference and the general recommendation of most of the writers on this subject is: Don’t do too much at the beginning. Focus on putting the big ticket items (the core principles, as Victoria Strauss puts it) in place and develop a solid concept, then deal with the more detailed issues when they come up. Deal only with the parts of the world you need for the plot of your story.

● Develop a well-thought-out concept of your world.
To get the fantasy alive in the minds of readers so they can visualize it, it has to come alive in the writer’s mind. It has to feel tangible and real to the writer before it can be tangible and real to the reader. There are tricks to do that, including drawing maps of the world and figuring out the geography, for certain types of novels.

● Develop the Core Principles.

Anchor the world with humanity and things human that the reader knows.
Even if this is a Star Wars type world not based on humanity or our universe, your readers are human. Where is doesn’t matter to the storyline, ground the story in earth, humanity or things that readers are familiar with, like an equivalent for coffee, booze, or expected human reactions.

An example given by A. Wrighton is that in the movie Star Wars, which is not related in history or development to earth, still has a senate. People know what a senate is. You could call it a derfloppengut, but senate works just fine. Don’t make the world any more complicated than necessary.

Don’t overwhelm the reader with too much
Don’t explain everything up front in the first chapter. And, of course, the author should show the reader, rather than explain.

Establish the basic rules and make the limitations seem real
Because fantasy and science fiction ask the reader to suspend their beliefs, the work needs to be consistent internally or the reader loses faith in the author. Like any novel, something can change…but only if there is a credible reason. Most readers will spot the inconsistencies and be jarred out of the story.

● Know history, ours and that of the imaginary world
Is any part of the story based on real history, or is this an alternate world? A fantasy with magic in it could easily be set on the earth and be subject to real history…or it could be on earth, but with a completely different history. If you are using real historical events, they better be correct within the rules of the new world. And, of course, the rules need to be clear.

You don’t have to overdo it at the beginning and know everything about the world, but do your prep work, or you can paint yourself into a corner with no way out that doesn’t break the rules of your new world.

Rebecca Zanetti lists the following five blunders in world building:

“● Making the world faaar too complex right at the beginning
Avoid trying to explain everything up front in a information dump.”

“● Forgetting to look ahead and giving all the rules in book one, leaving no wiggle room in the next book.”

“● Forgetting even the characters may be new to the world and should react believably to the strange new world.

“● Forgetting to relate the world to the one the readers live in.
Even paranormal creatures need humanistic flaws, goals, weaknesses. Give the readers something to hold on to that they understand.”

“● Holding ourselves back and not putting bizarre ideas out there.”
Rebecca says she writes every scene like she’s the only person who is ever going to read it.


Not only can you create your own species, strange sentient life forms, and wild beasts that fly, you can also create a language or languages to be spoken in this new universe. But be careful. The people who read your work are going to speak English (or another earth language). They won’t want to learn a whole new one, which most of us aren’t capable of creating anyway, just to read your fantasy novel.

Tip the reader off that the characters are speaking another language, but use made-up, new-universe words sparingly, just as you would to give the flavor of a foreign language or an accent without making the dialogue unreadable. Here’s a line from my sci-fi romance All In The Game:

The voice sounded familiar. So did the language, but not the English Shauna knew. A strange, stilted dialect. Yet, she understood perfectly.

An A. Wrighton example of the same thing.

Dref rubbed his antennae and sighed. He looked at his mother and spoke to her in their native Huvlovian tongue, the only way he knew how – while whining.

I would suggest limiting the number of words in your new or futuristic language, and explaining them (preferably, showing the reader what they refer to) the first time used. After that, the reader has to remember. Or you can put in a glossary of words at the back.

Just put this issue on your radar screen.


What makes your fantasy world different from ours?

The fantasy world in my science fiction romance All In The Game is different from our real world in a slightly different way than a novel crafted to be set in a paranormal or futuristic world.

The novel is set in contemporary San Diego, CA, with nothing paranormal about it. In this totally real setting, a contemporary romance writer is helping a computer-game nerd design a computer game to appeal to the women’s market…but, she finds out later, the computer nerd (who isn’t that nerdy, after all) is a real physicist doing research, which combines the latest artificial intelligence and virtual reality technologies, for NASA. The computer game itself is set in a futuristic world which has been programmed by a contemporary human with an imagination, but also with personal issues and limitations due to his age and lack of experience.

The hero and heroine (the physicist and the writer) become physically trapped in the game and have to play it from the inside as the game characters. To get back to their own reality, they must work cooperatively to win the game…a daunting task when they find themselves as leaders on opposite sides of a military conflict, not to mention dealing with an artificial intelligent unit, which has a crush on the heroine and a different agenda.

What inspired this book?

I’m not sure. For years I’ve had the idea kicking around in my brain: two people being caught up in a computer game. At the time, I’d never heard of the movie Tron, but after I finished writing the book and was explaining it to other writers, someone said, “Oh, sort of like the movie Tron.”

Well, darn! I still haven’t seen the movie, so I don’t know if it’s similar or not.

● Are your characters human?  What talents do they have?

The hero and heroine are humans who have been sucked into a computer game world. The other characters are game characters developed as part of the computer game…except they don’t know that, of course. Some are quite incomplete, others one dimensional. The hero and heroine share the same bodies with the major game characters, so they have access to the game characters’ memories and skills, but they have no superhuman powers.

But the artificial intelligence unit controlling the game…well, that’s another matter. Of course, it’s not human, right?

● Is this part of a series?

No. At least I didn’t plan a series. It might be interesting, though, to see where the game characters would go on their own.

● Excerpt?
In this excerpt, the hero and heroine are doing a trial run of the partially designed computer game in a simulator.

Okay. Here goes.
I lowered the stereoscopic eyepiece.

Awesome! Now it seemed as though I huddled on the cliff. Cool moist air dampened my cheeks. I put down one hand to balance myself on the soft ground, and dirt, and wet grass stuck to my palm.

As I watched the shoreline, flat, sleek submarine tanks forced their way to the surface of the sea like huge alligators, and then sprouted wheels and glided onto the beach. The low rumble of their engines hummed in my ears, and the ground vibrated.

This virtual reality technology is amazing.

Unexpectedly, my eyepiece filled with jagged blue lights slashing back and forth across my line of vision. “Oh!”

Before the cry of surprise left of my mouth, the blue lightning dimmed into wiggly lines of static. After that, everything turned gray.

Staring into the colorless fog, I shifted in the seat. “Don, did you see that? Everything flashed blue and my eyepiece went blank.”

Don’s voice came from beside me, not through the helmet speakers. “I saw it, but that’s not part of the game. There must be a malfunction somewhere.”

I reached up to lift the eyepiece and stopped. “No, wait. My picture’s coming back. I think—”

Zing. A projectile skimmed through the air inches above my head.

“Yikes.” I tried to throw myself prone, but something wedged against my side kept me from dropping. The arm of the seat. Between the sounds of laser fire and distance cries, I still heard the faint grinding of the simulator’s air conditioner. “Don?”

“I’m right next to you.” He patted my arm, but his voice sounded unsteady. Not reassuring in the least. “There’s something strange going on. I don’t know what.”

Smoke burned my eyes, making them water, and clogged my chest. I coughed.

Zing. Zing. More bolts of pure energy whizzed past, so close they seemed to disturb the air and ruffle my hair. Unable to feel Don’s hand anymore, I hunkered lower.

“This is too real.”

Another explosion threw me to the ground, the impact forcing the air out of my lungs. I collapsed face down in the wet grass. Red spots danced in my eyes. Adrenaline tingled through my body. Ugh. I spit out a bug.

Warning bells sounded in my head. Danger. Danger. I have to get out of here.

I scrambled to my feet, then ran, moving from bush to tree to rock, taking cover wherever I could. The weight of my body armor slowed me, my boots stuck in the soft earth and sucked me down. I felt like a sitting duck. A target. The lightweight assault weapons I carried were no match against lasers, sonic blasters, and plasma cannons.

As I dodged between trees and brush, a hand shot out of nowhere and grabbed my ankle.

“Eek!” Shrieking, I plunged into a trench and slid to the bottom on my butt.

“Shh. You’ll give us away,” Don whispered. “This isn’t the way I programmed the game. I need some time to figure it out what’s wrong.”

“Don?” I blinked my eyes, and my jaw slackened into flycatcher mode for a moment. The man beside me had to be Don, but he looked…different. With his hair buzzed, his face seemed leaner, more masculine, the stubbornness and strength in his jaw more prominent. In the camouflage uniform, he looked muscular and strong. And no thick glasses.

This was Dangerous Don, the-Delicious-and-Dreamy. The game character. But he seemed so real. I touched his hand.

Warm textured flesh. He was real.

I jerked my hand away and hollered. “What the hell is going on?”

“I don’t know. But you don’t have to shout.”

His voice sounded the same. Cool, analytical, and distant, as though he was lost in thought. Still all genius, all physicist. Deeper in tone, perhaps, but Don’s voice without a doubt.

I shook my head to clear it. Where am I? Who am I? My heart thumped against my rib cage like a trapped bird. Shauna. I’m Shauna.

But which Shauna?


● Buy Links for All In The Game

Breathless Press Buy Link
Amazon Buy Link
Barnes & Noble Buy Link
All Romance E-Books Buy Link
Reader Store Buy Link
BookStrand Buy Link


● Social Media Links for R. Ann Siracusa. (I’d love to hear from you.)

Google Plus:

Resources for World Building

Wow, Ann, thank you so much for joining us today. You’ve given us a ton of great info and a super-fun read to look forward to. Best of luck with  All In The Game.

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Seeing Things Differently

Sci-fi and fantasy writers are a special breed, in my opinion, creating magic and gadgets and possibilities out of pure imagination. But the inspiration does come from somewhere and we’re often asked where this mythical well is located.

Well, for me, it’s like a rainbow. (You’ll see what a brilliant analogy that is in a moment.) Snippets of inspiration arrive unexpectedly like light through clouds at just the right angle so you see something that isn’t actually there. If you’re lucky, you follow it to a conclusion that is writer gold.


Let me give you an example: the mantis shrimp.

A few weeks ago, my daughter’s boyfriend had us in stitches as he related all he knew about the mantis shrimp. It has two appendages that shoot forward at bullet speed (not an exaggeration). If they miss their prey, the force still causes a shockwave that stuns their prey and the speed boils the water around them. They’re ocean ninjas from the fourth dimension.

But that’s not what got my spidey senses tingling. They also have sixteen colour-receptive cones in their eyes. Humans have three.

Actually, thanks to high school biology my daughter was able to educate me further on this topic. What, you think I took biology? You’re funny. No, I’m a writer. I dropped science for English Lit.

So, according to my daughter, men are more likely to be colour blind than women. It results from their having two ‘good’ receptor cones and one that is mutated and thus limits their ability to differentiate colours. They tend to see only greens and blues or in shades of grey. (Yeah, there’s a joke there, but we’re going to stay on topic.)

Here’s the intriguing part (to me, anyway.) These same men are more likely to have daughters who have four receptor cones. Three normal ones and the mutated one. Sometimes the fourth one works and they are able to see colours the rest of us can’t.

That means where most of use three-receptor people see seven colours in a rainbow, those four-receptors girls see, um, way more. (I also dropped math for poetry, which qualifies me to name those new colours, not count ’em.)

Going back to the mantis shrimp, their world is so psychedelic it’s a wonder they’re moving at all and not just on their backs on the ocean floor listening to Pink Floyd.

And whether it’s two, four, or sixteen, it’s different from my perception of reality and right there becomes something I want to explore. I start looking at existing stories that are composting in the back of my mind and wondering if such a detail could fit into one of them and–the bigger question–how?

So far I haven’t figured out where to use it, but it’s in the primordial soup that is a writer’s imagination. For now, I’m just thinking about supper. Seafood, maybe.




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Laws Of The Land

The Healer came about accidentally, and I guess was inspired by character—Vaun, to be precise. I had an image of a primitive Celtic-like warrior leaping off a cliff and I went from there.

Of course he dropped into the fray immediately and of course there was a woman involved because I’m all about the romance. But I quickly stalled, not knowing what kind of book I was writing. Highland historicals were popular, but that sounded like a lot of research for someone with little kids and very little writing time. Plus, my heroine had just started healing the wounds of the men who were fighting so…yeah, I had something else on my hands.


It sounds like a cheat to just make up a fake world, and yes, I was looking for a shortcut, but I quickly realized it’s not as easy as it seems. For starters, you still need rules that govern the world, similar to our irrefutable physical laws like gravity.

So right away, I was forced to decide whether the heroine heals involuntarily, in which case she can’t control who she heals and therefore neither can I. (What a pain.) Or is it voluntary, in which case she could withhold her power—so why is she valued as a slave and why are they using her to heal themselves in the middle of the opening battle scene?

I settled on making the healing a conscious effort, a skill that it takes practice to hone and govern, and because Athadia is very learned and powerful, she takes vows to make herself stronger. Therefore she is compelled to heal anyone who wishes it—and she can’t heal anyone who refuses. Haha, now I had some plot control.

The vows became very convenient since breaking them weakens the Alvians. And Vaun, being a half-blood with no awareness of his talent was a lot of fun to develop.

The ability to heal is actually the only fantasy element in my story—aside from the ore that also acts on the strength of their gift. But there were still a million and one decisions in terms of geography, culture, level of technology (I chose medieval—historicals are still popular, wink!) and politics.

Fortunately, the one thing I didn’t have to invent from scratch was the romantic conflict. Seems no matter what kind of world humanoids populate, they manage to carry emotional baggage that prevents them from falling in love without a few travails along the way.

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