Thursday, August 27, 2015

Paranormal Spookiness: Bring it on!

Posted by: Angela Campbell
Confession time: I’m a little down in the dumps today because I’ve been so busy and mixed up that I’ve been thinking for a month that today is the day I was supposed to leave for my annual pilgrimage to Dragoncon in Atlanta, only to realize — last night actually — that Dragoncon is next weekend.


So as I glumly sat down to devour a cupcake in front of the TV last night, pouting and moping, I got sucked into watching “Paranormal Witness” on Syfy. It’s a creepy show. I don’t recommend watching it alone at night with only your cat to protect you. Then again, I’m weird, so of course that’s exactly what I did.

“Paranormal Witness” is one of those reality-scripted hybrid shows where actors reenact supposed real-life ghost stories while the real people narrate their stories.

You would think that someone who writes about ghosts and hauntings and paranormal spookiness wouldn’t be bothered by such things, and you’d have been right a year or so ago. I don’t really know why, but these days, I get spooked a lot easier than I used to. I was raised on horror movies because my older brothers were sadistic. My best friend growing up lived in an honest-to-God haunted house and I saw things I, to this day, still can't explain. When I put flowers on my mom’s grave, I generally go at night, er, sometimes after midnight because of my work schedule, and I’ve never been scared to be in a graveyard after dark. I will admit I’ve seen some freaky things there though. Hey, I already said I was weird, remember? 

To be frank, I guess I was pretty desensitized to spooky stuff at a young age. A friend once told me if I opened the door and a man in a mask was standing there holding a knife, I’d probably look at him, shrug, and think “Meh.” Weirdo — that would be me, remember?

Anyway. The episode of “Paranormal Witness” that was on last night was about these people who moved into an abandoned motel that was haunted. Naturally, the husbands on these shows never believe that something spooky is going on because, well, men. Basically it always goes something like this:

Woman: I saw a woman’s head floating in the bathtub!

Man: Are you on your period?

The episode went on to feature creepy shadow men, black-eyed killers, and little ghost girls — gah, I hate the ghost kids, they always creep me the eff out! — and people who had previously been murdered there. As they do.

The point of all this is, I slept with a light on last night. That never, well, rarely happens with me. But I also started thinking of possible plots to use in a future book.

Because that’s not weird either, right?

Halloween is right around the corner — rubs hands with glee — so tell me. Are you a wimp when it comes to the paranormal, or do you love all things spooky like I do?


Angela Campbell is the author of the psychic detectives series from Harper Impulse. Learn more about her and her books at

Who knew pet sitting could be so dangerous…or so sexy? 
Socially awkward Emma “Spider” Fisher prefers her laptop to people, so she’s more than happy to oblige her boss when he asks her to pet- and housesit while he honeymoons in London.

It doesn’t take long for accident-prone Spider to lose a dog, get locked out of the house, and set off the house alarm. Thankfully, her hot new neighbour is more than happy to come to her rescue.

But Noah West is a mystery to Spider—and one she intends to solve.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Name That Fantasy Land

Posted by: Joely Sue Burkhart
I'm having a blast writing up a fun little wizard BDSM story for our Here Be Magic anthology. I haven't settled on the title yet, but I'm thinking either "Greeneyes" or "Nightgazer."

The characters tickle me. The worldbuilding and magic system have come together pretty well. But I'm having a problem with names.

Specifically, my main fantasy land or country name. I have no idea what it is!

So I thought I'd give you a chance to name the country and win a cool prize.

This story has a "Howl's Moving Castle" vibe with some elements of BDSM that are crucial to the magic system. The wizard hero is named Oyrin Nightgazer.  His heroine is Matilda the Twenty Third heir to King Harald the Tyrant, but she's better known as Matilda Greeneyes, the cat shapeshifting familiar who brings the obstinate wizard to heel.

A few place names I've created so far:  Willow on the Green and the Grove. The wizard council is called the Stone Circle. So you can see I've tried to stay with "standard" names - e.g. without really weird spellings or extra punctuation.

If you have any ideas for the name of the country these characters might live in, shout them out in comments. If I pick your name, I'll send you a $10 gift certificate to your favorite online book retailer and also name you in the story's acknowledgements.

Fire away with your best creative recommendations!

~ * ~

Joely Sue Burkhart has always loved heroes who hide behind a mask, the darker and more dangerous the better.  Whether cool, sophisticated billionaire, brutal bloodthirsty assassin, or simply a man tortured by his own needs, they all wear masks to protect themselves.  Once they finally give you a peek into the passionate, twisted secrets they’re hiding, they always fall hard and fast.  Dare to look beneath the mask with delicious BDSM in a wide variety of genres with Joely on her websiteTwitter and Facebook.  Be sure to check out her free reads!

Monday, August 24, 2015

Here Be News

Posted by: Eleri Stone
Releasing August 25th  Blood Slave: Realm Walker #3

Can she find a killer in a town where the basest desires are allowed to run free?

There are zombies in the Dead Zone and Juliana Norris is sent to take care of the problem. And for there to be zombies, there had to be bodies. When vampires are found to be the culprits, Juliana is sent undercover in the red light district of Kansas City. Lying to her mate, Thomas Kendrick, isn’t something she wants to do, but she’s in another vampire’s territory and Thomas would not be pleased. Besides, she’s more than capable of doing the job and she needs to prove it to everyone. Most of all herself.

Charles Morgan is in control of the Kansas City area, making a rich living off his various enterprises. Juliana goes undercover at the strip club Lust and gets sucked into his dark, decadent world. More victims turn up and the Agency is positive they’ve got their man, but Juliana is not so sure. When the Agency refuses to listen, she reluctantly turns to Thomas for help. He intervenes but finds Juliana unaware of the danger she is in and discovers she may just be too deep for him to save.

Amazon   Barnes & Noble

Sunday, August 23, 2015

The Fantastic Four and Feminism

Posted by: Nicole Luiken

The Fantastic Four and Feminism

For our 24th anniversary, my husband and I went out to the movies. We wanted to see Ant-man, but ended up seeing Fantastic Four instead. In general, I liked the movie’s first half, but felt that it’s second half, once they receive their powers, had too much crammed into it. But that’s not what I want to talk about here.
I want to talk about the women in the story.

First off, Sue Storm is great. I REALLY LIKED the way her character was treated for the most part. She was clearly a scientist and valued member of the team (she designed the suits). She didn’t play the role of a damsel in distress or  prize. The fact that if the writers follow the comics Sue and Reed are destined to marry was barely alluded to at all. We have a vague impression that Reed likes her and a brief scene with Victor telling Reed to back off that makes us suspect Victor has a crush on Sue, too. But there is no indication that Sue returns either of their feelings and no kissing. Sue has just as many relationship moments with her brother, Jonny, and her father, Franklin, than she does with Victor or Reed.

My husband (a comics fan) tells me that in the original comics Sue started out with only invisibility as her power, which was clearly the weakest of the four. I SO APPRECEIATE the fact that movie Sue is given her full powers right away: invisibility, force pushing and force fields. This makes her a combat-effective valuable member of the team.

So far, all is good. And then we hit the scene when the travelling-to-another-dimension project is taken away from the young scientists. Reed, Jonny and Victor get drunk together and decide to do a secret solo journey to the other dimension so they’ll be famous like Neil Armstrong. Reed calls up his childhood friend, Ben Grimm, (whom we’d met in the prologue) and asks him to come along, too.

And they don’t call Sue to join them.

That’s right. Reed calls his childhood friend, but not Sue, who has been working shoulder to shoulder with them for months.

This burns me. Yes, it later becomes useful for Sue to be back on earth so she can do hacker things and get Ben, Reed and Jonny (but not Victor) back from the other dimension. But Franklin could have filled that role just as well. Yes, it could be argued that the boys knew Sue would be smart enough to stop them from going in the first place—because she isn’t drunk off her ass. But that just brings up the other question: why didn’t the boys invite Sue to their pity-party in the first place? She’s equally devastated at having the project taken away.

And the only answer is because she’s a girl.

How much better would the scene have been if Sue had also been there and drunk off her ass, too? (Shockingly, girls can also get drunk. Remember Kara “Starbuck” Thrace?) Sue deserved her trip to the other dimension, too. 

Secondly, let’s talk about the other women in the story. Except, oh wait, we can’t BECAUSE THERE AREN’T ANY. 

Now I realize that if the moviemakers wanted to honor the original comics, they pretty much had to stick with the original skewed male to female ratio of the fantastic four themselves: one woman, three men. So let’s talk secondary characters. Villain: Victor von Doom –male. Project leader: Franklin Storm –male. Board of director spokesperson –male. That’s pretty much it for people who influence the plot. Everyone else is basically a spear carrier. None of those roles had to be male. All of them are.

Even among the spear carriers only three women get lines (that I recall). Ben and Richard’s moms in the prologue have brief appearances (along with their dads). A female military officer confers with Sue on how to track down Reed. That’s it.

I never used to notice things like this until I had a daughter. (Don’t even get me started on the Penguins of Madagascar movie.)

And if you’re wondering if I can walk the walk here’s the gender breakdown of my latest novel THROUGH FIRE & SEA:

Main characters: Leah (f), Holly (f), Gideon (m), Ryan (m)
Villains: Duke Ruben (m), Qeturah (f)
Elementals: Goddess in the Lake of Fire (f), Grumbling Man/Isaiah (m), Thunderhead (m), Poison Cloud (m), Cinders (m), Cauldron (m), Smoking Cone (m), Ocean Elemental (m)
Minor characters, female: Holly's mother, Dorrie, Yudith, Jehannah, Beulah, Shannon, Ms. Prempah, Eleanor, Dana, Paige, Niobe, Zamara, Sabra, Nimue, Cassie Burns, Councillor Ellona, Cook, Belinda, Gilda, Officer Pratt, Samantha
Minor characters, male: Joseph, Kyle, Captain Brahim, Saul, Duke of Poison Cloud, Duke of Cinders, Duke of Smoking Cone, Emman, Daniel, Officer Dunne, Yakob, Chad, Jason, principal, Malachi, ferryman
Women: 25   Men: 26

And no, I didn't deliberately balance the numbers beforehand. When I write both male and female characters naturally spring into my head. The only characters I deliberately gender balanced were the two police officers, Pratt and Dunne.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Creating New Worlds

Posted by: Caitlin Sinead

The two speculative novels I’ve written took place in our world…well, technically. Of course, our world doesn’t have telekinetic teenagers who are trained by a secret society or healing diseases that turn college students’ eyes purple. I also made up an island off the coast of Maine (Nashquittin) and a college town nestled in the mountains of Virginia (Allan). So yeah, I took a lot of liberties with reality with those books. But, they’re based in our world. The environment, cultures, and politics around them were, for the most part, real.

Recently I embarked on my first full-fledged fantasy. I am working on creating an entirely new world, and, whoa, it is tough! How would a country by the sea relate to a neighboring mountainous country? What’s more valuable, fish and goods from the sea or the minerals mined in the mountains? Who has the upper hand? And what about that largely urban country to their south? What’s going on there?

Our own world’s geopolitical situations are often difficult to keep up with and have many nuances and different perspectives. To make a world feel authentic, it too needs nuance. The relationships need to be complicated and derived from hundreds, if not thousands, of years of history. Perhaps there are even generational divides that work in. And the geography needs to match the culture. Cities should probably be near natural resources, because that’s how populations naturally develop. Or maybe your world has its own Las Vegas or Washington, DC, towns that were intentionally designated and built. But then those histories need to be nodded to as well.

Any who, I’m definitely enjoying thinking through all of these intricacies, but I’m still very much a newbie to all this. I’d love to hear if you have any thoughts or resources related to this? How do you create entirely new worlds?

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Not a Cover Reveal

Posted by: Janni Nell
I had planned for this post to be a cover reveal, but since I don’t have a cover yet, I can’t exactly reveal it. So, instead I thought I’d share a short excerpt from the first chapter of my new novel. It’s called Darkwood and it’s about magic and witches and finding your true self. Enjoy!


As I thought about the possibility of being married in just over a year, an icy wind blew over my bare toes. That was strange. We were on the south side of the island and inside the cave. This was not a place of icy winds. Not on the last day of summer anyway.
“Did you feel that?” I asked.
“Feel what?” Finn’s voice was husky as his fingers stroked the skin of my belly.
“The wind.”
“There’s no wind tonight.” As he nuzzled my neck, my eyes were drawn to the mouth of the cave.
By the light of a full moon, I saw a dark shape near the place where the waves met the sand. At first I thought it was a trick of the light. Then the dark shape began to move and change. First it appeared to be a huge butterfly, then a billowing sail, then a sinuous curl like the black smoke from a fire. Had one of Matilda’s shadows escaped? No, impossible, I’d seen her pack them away. Perhaps she’d come down here to practice, although why she’d do that I couldn’t imagine.
I wriggled out of Finn’s arms and, after pulling on my clothes, scrambled out of the cave. Half expecting to see Matilda, I glanced up and down the beach, but she was nowhere in sight. I moved closer to the water’s edge, curious to observe this strange shadowy phenomenon. It now appeared more like a lava lamp, with dark blobs expanding and contracting to their own rhythm.
“What is it?” asked Finn, who had also pulled on his clothes before coming to stand beside me. “Something your cousin made?”
“I don’t think so. It doesn’t have enough substance. It’s the sort of thing Matilda might’ve made when she was starting out, before she really knew what she was doing.” I looked up and down the beach again wondering who was playing with shadows, but we were the only ones on the small expanse of sand.
Finn slipped his hand into mine. “Is it dangerous?”
The mention of danger reminded me of Amalina’s prediction, but so far as I could tell the shadow didn’t pose a threat. It was just twisting around at the water’s edge, morphing from cloud-shape to butterfly to lava lamp, and back again.

Darkwood — coming Fall 2015

Ellie Oxrider doesn’t like being the only “normal” member in her family of witches. But Ellie’s life is about to change. First she meets Saxon Darkwood, who claims to be an accountant but knows an awful lot about magic. Then she’s stalked by a shadowy figure that may or may not be real. Plus her aunt’s having premonitions of danger and her grandmother is warning her to stay away from Saxon. Suddenly normal doesn’t seem so bad.

Now it’s Ellie’s job to discover the identity of the shadowy figure, and the truth about Saxon Darkwood. And that’s going to take all the skill and courage she can muster. Things will never be normal again.


Janni Nell has traveled extensively, living and working in London, before settling in Sydney, Australia. She has worked as a personal assistant, receptionist, sales clerk, and even cleaned a very spooky old building. One of her favorite things is growing and cooking her own vegetables. When she isn’t writing, you can find her line dancing, on the yoga mat or walking the dog.

Janni is the author of the Allegra Fairweather series of humorous paranormal mysteries.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Magical Writer Brain

Posted by: Jenn Burke
One of the things I get asked most frequently when people find out I’m a writer is, “Where do you get your ideas?” I think every writer hears the same, though I have a hard time comprehending how someone could not have story ideas brewing in his or her brain all the time. Doesn’t everyone see tales in mundane, every day things?

Or maybe I’m just afflicted with Magical Writer Brain™.

Okay, so the term Magical Writer Brain isn’t really trademarked (I should remedy that), but I think every writer’s got one, even those who don’t write speculative fiction. It’s the kind of brain that looks at the world a little differently, asking why and what if and, most importantly, what then.

It’s a brain where imagination is allowed to ramble when it sees a cop car stopped on the side of the road—and throws out possibilities that may or may not reflect reality. Has the cop pulled over a speeder, or is it a fugitive? Why is he a fugitive? Did he actually commit the crime he’s accused of? Maybe he’s taking the fall for his younger brother, because he’d promised their mother he’d protect him. And so on.

The great thing about Magical Writer Brain is that anyone can develop one. No purchase required! You simply need to feed the brain you’ve got—and food is everywhere. Books, articles, blog posts, pictures, people watching at the mall, news shows on TV, publicized editor prompts…anything can feed your imagination. Start asking yourself questions about these things—why, how, what comes next?

The smallest thing can spawn an idea. Even something as inconsequential as an autocorrect—and I’m not joking. The next series Kelly Jensen and I will be working on came about while we were chatting one day on our phones and a word was unexpectedly autocorrected. It prompted the creation of a new world that we can’t wait to get to.

Another question I hear is, “How do you come up with new ideas?” And the answer is…well, you probably don’t. Don’t get hung up on trying to tell a story that’s never been told before—the likelihood of that is slim. Focus instead on telling your story. Even if it has a tried-and-true trope like “farmboy is a hidden prince” (a story that’s been told in Star Wars and the Belgariad series by David Eddings, and many, many tales in between), no one has ever told that story quite like you would tell it. Trust me.

Be open to ideas, actively seek them out in your everyday life, and when you get them, don’t strangle them with fear of repetition—that’s the key to Magical Writer Brain.
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