Friday, March 24, 2017

Does World Shape Character or Character Shape World?

Posted by: Nicole Luiken

Many years ago, I attended a panel at World Con on world-building and heard Carol Berg (whose fantasy novels I highly recommend) talk about designing one’s fantasy world to test and shape the main character. I thought it was a brilliant approach. Prior to that, I’d always treated character and world-building as two entirely separate things, but in truth they intertwine.

When I started writing In Truth & Ashes, book three of my Otherselves series, I knew three things. First, the True World was science fantasy—a world which used magic to do highly technological things. Second, that Belinda’s first scene was of a magic betrothal going horribly wrong, and, third, that her best friend/love interest was a demi-god.

Why science fantasy? In books one and two, I established that the True World lies at a magical crossroads for the Mirror Worlds. The True World has cherry-picked the best of all four worlds for itself. In particular it has stolen a lot of technology from Water World (our earth)—with one big exception. The ecological collapse of Stone World made the True Worlders decide to shun the internal combustion engine. Instead they power their world by using geothermal and tidal energy to infuse power gems, which then act as batteries.

One of the very important pieces of magic-tech is a neural implant called a genie that Belinda uses like a sophisticated smartphone. She depends on it and is distressed when she can’t access it. Her friend Demian (yes, the demi-god mentioned above) doesn’t have a genie and this technological handicap means that he relies more on his personal magic. This is where world influenced character.

Where character had a big effect on the True World was when I was designing its system of government. Since I wanted Belinda to be torn between love and duty to her family and to her world, I needed an atmosphere of privilege and noblesse oblige. Instead of a modern democracy, the True World has something more similar to the way Britain’s House of Lords and House of Commons operated in the 1800s, with one governing body elected by the people and the other a birth-given right of the nobility. Belinda’s grandmother is the First Councillor (i.e. prime minister) and she has raised Belinda on tales of how her father’s marriage to her commoner mother was a political disaster. Belinda believes she must marry well to secure her family’s power. Breaking free of this massive guilt trip, while still keeping the notion of service to the realm, makes up Belinda’s struggle for most of the book.

So, for me, one influences the other in an organic unplanned way. 

To read an excerpt of In Truth & Ashes click here.
To buy In Truth & Ashes click here.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Paranormal, It's Ba-ack!

Posted by: Marie Harte
Everyone likes to talk about trends. What's the hottest new thing? As soon as publishers hear about it, they glut the market. And then there's nothing but the hottest new thing on shelves. The problem is that leaves eager readers of the other genres without their favorites to read.

A few years ago, paranormal was it. If it wasn't furry, fanged, or ethereal, it was a tough sell. Of course, I'm generalizing, as contemporary romance still seems to hold the biggest piece of the marketplace pie in romance genres, but it felt true at the time.

Then contemporary romance climbed back, and everyone wanted hunky brothers and families, angst, humor, you name it so long as the characters were realistic and living in "today's" world.

Fast forward to 2017, and the glut of romance books in general--thanks to so many avenues of publishing (traditional, small press, indie)--has made just about all romance genres saturated. Yet when I want a traditionally published paranormal romance, I have my tried and true authors (Feehan, Singh, Ashley), yet not many newbies publishing in the genre. Sure, in indie publishing, where authors can write anything they like, authors still produces all manner of books. But by and large, most authors are writing contemporary romances.

Except they aren't. (Thank you, Here Be Magic authors!) I watch the trends. I run a romance review site,and I can tell you what our readers want. Right now? They want romantic suspense...and good paranormal. What happened before has happened again. I think that so many contemporary romances left the paranormal readers needy for some sexy werewolves and hunky aliens. So I see paranormal romance on the rise.

Let's see how long it is until the big 6-4-3 (?) traditional publishers think the same.

Website | Facebook

You can find my own contributions to the paranormal/scifi genres this spring!

The Instinct book 1 (scifi)
The Instinct book 2 (scifi)

Circe's Recruits 2.0: Gideon (shifters)

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Five Interesting Phobias that I Didn't Make Up

Posted by: Maureen
Part of the joy I find in writing paranormal and fantasy fiction is the freedom to explore creatures and places not of this world. This opens up the ability to stretch the imagination a bit and do what I love the most—make stuff up! But in my research for my stories, I’ve discovered that often reality is stranger than fiction.

What Makes a Good Villain?

When I’m crafting a villain who plays upon the deepest fears of my characters, I strive to make one who is more than skin deep. I want the reader to be just a little sympathetic to my villain while he strikes terror into the heart of my heroine and/or hero. The process is often referred to as avoiding making cardboard characters. I like to think of it as the whole villain you love to hate.

Phobias Can Be Stranger than Paranormal and Science Fiction

Since my stories are often laced with laughter, I often like to find emotional and/or quirky methods of combat outside of blood and gore for my hero and/or heroine. In researching one of my stories, I stumbled across phobias. I realized that there were a multitude of them that I never heard of, some so unusual that it sounded as if someone made them up in a fictional story.

No Laughing Matter

Phobias are defined as an irrational fear or aversion to something, and as ridiculous as some of them may sound, they can cause true distress to the person affected by the phobia. Therefore, I don’t intend to make fun of anyone who might suffer from one of these unusual phobias, but I might occasionally utilize one or two in a story.

In fact, I used an angle on one of these phobias I listed below for a villain in a manuscript I’m working on. I’m not going to tell which one it is and ruin the surprise. I’ll let your imagination run wild with how I incorporated it into my character.

Five Interesting Phobias

1.     Ancraophobia- also known as anemophobia, is an extreme fear of wind or drafts. Apparently telling someone "Don't get blown away" is more of a concern to some than I realized.
2.     Aulophobia- an unknown, persistent fear of flutes. Luckily my daughter plays this terrifying instrument (to some) so if we’re ever faced with a villain with this phobia we already have the non-violent weapon of choice.
3.     Arachibutyrophobia- the fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of your mouth. As an avid lover of peanut butter, I’d be in trouble with this phobia. With National Peanut Butter Lovers’ Day this month (March 1st), it seems that there would be a lot of unhappy people if they couldn’t indulge in this tasty treat.  
4.     Pteronophobia-the fear of being tickled by feathers. Seems that those old cartoons had it right all along when they pulled out a feather to battle their enemy.
5.     Asymmetriphobia- the fear of mismatched or asymmetrical objects. I’d never be out of ammunition for a villain suffering with this phobia. All I need to do is pull out the mismatched sock drawer in my laundry room to strike terror into the heart of the villain who suffers from this.

These are only a few of the odd phobias I ran across in my cyberspace searches. It seems that there is a phobia for just about everything.

What’s the Most Unusual Phobia You’ve Heard Of? 

Author Bio: Maureen Bonatch grew up in small town Pennsylvania and her love of the four seasons—hockey, biking, sweat pants and hibernation—keeps her there. 
While immersed in writing or reading paranormal romance and fantasy, she survives on caffeine, wine, music, and laughter. A feisty Shih Tzu keeps her in line. Find Maureen on her websiteFacebookTwitter

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

5 Fun Facts about March 21st

Posted by: Janni Nell

March 21st is the 80th day of the year (non-leap years) and that means there are only 279 days until Christmas (Okay, we didn’t really need to know that.) March 21st is also the first day of the astreological sign Aries, which is ruled by Mars, the Roman god of war. According to Roman mythology, Mars was the second most important god after Jupiter. Mars fathered Rolulous and Remus, the twin dudes who founded Roma. Their mom was a Vestal Virgin called Rhea Silvia. The month of March is named for Mars.

Matthew Broderick was born on March 21st, 1962. He starred in the classic Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. As well as being the adult voice of Simba in The Lion King trilogy, he’s won no less than two Tony Awards (yay Matthew!). One was for Brighton Beach Memoirs (1983), the other for How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (1995). He’s married to Sarah Jessica Parker.

International Day of Forests
Who doesn’t love a good forest? You can hike in them, play hide and seek, picnic, take awesome photos. Today is International Day of Forests. The theme for 2017 is Forests and Energy.

Michael Dibdin (21st March 1947-30th March 2007) was a British author of crime fiction. He’s best know for his Aurelio Zen series, which was set in Italy, where Dibdin lived for four years. The first Aurelio Zen novel Ratking won the Golden Dagger in 1988. (Awesome achievement!)

Henry VHis father died on 20th March 1413, so Henry V's first full day as king was 21st March 1413. (He wasn't officially crowned until 9th April.) One of his greatest achievement was defeating the French at the Battle of Agincourt. In 1420 he married Catherine de Valois (daughter of French king Charles VI). They had one child, who became Henry VI, after Henry V’s death at the age of 36. Shakespeare wrote his imaginatively titled play Henry V sometime around 1599.


Janni Nell is the author of the Allegra Fairweather paranormal investigator series. She is now working on the new Bolde and Baulsey paranormal mystery series. 

Book 2, Dead Lady Vanishing is available now from:

Google Play

Sunday, March 19, 2017

What Do Readers Want From a Giveaway?

Posted by: Linda Mooney
It seems that everywhere you turn, an author is offering a giveaway in conjunction with their newest release. At first, their main freebie was a copy of their book. That soon morphed into gift cards. Sometimes it was even a Kindle.

Seriously, if your favorite author (or any author) is offering a giveaway, what could they have as the grand prize that would entice you to enter their contest?

Below is a list of possibilities. Feel free to suggest something that isn't mentioned. Authors, what do readers want from you?

* a free ebook
* a signed print book
* jewelry
* a gift card
* miscellaneous swag (bookmarks, etc.)
* a Kindle
* ___________

Note! If you comment below, you'll be in the hat for a $5 Amazon gift card! International readers are welcome!

Friday, March 17, 2017

Lucky in Love

Posted by: Jenny Schwartz
Happy St Patrick's Day, everyone! May the green beer not give you a hangover.

Being an Australian, the most memorable thing about the legend of St Pat for me is that he cast out snakes from Ireland. How useful would he be to have around the place?

At the beginning of summer , I was walking at the lake and stumbled across these two. They're juvenile tiger snakes (I think - I didn't get close enough to question them). Poisonous slithery creatures.

But snakes aren't actually what I meant to write about, today. I was thinking about love, luck and romance novels.

Us authors positively torture our characters before we let them have their happy ever after - and even then, if we're writing a series, their happy ever after will be disrupted! But all of that just makes for your intense reading pleasure.

The thrill of fear is arousing, which is why smart teenage boys know to take their girlfriends on scary fairground rides or to horror movies. There have actually been studies done and articles written on this phenomenon, such as Is It Love, or Just a Scary Movie?

But with so many books out now, one of my biggest challenges as a reader is to find the books that get this balance between fear and happiness right for me. I'm too cowardly to enjoy horror novels, but at the same time, I appreciate a bit of an edge to the books I read. (Not always, sometimes I'm in an LM Montgomery mood and a book like The Blue Castle is perfect).

Recently I've found myself enjoying:

Born in Fire by KF Breene
House of Bones by AJ Brahms
The Big Book of Post-Collapse Fun by Rachel Sharp
Call to Quarters by Honor Raconteur
Dance by Demelza Carlton
Etched in Bone by Anne Bishop
and (not scary, just funny) the Union Station series by EM Foner

Have you read any great books lately? What do you recommend I read next? Luck these days really is finding books you love, so hit me with those recommended reads. I'll even shout you a virtual green beer ;)

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Shamrocks and Clovers - Are you feeling lucky?

Posted by: Dani Harper, AUTHOR
When I was a kid, I used to hunt for four-leafed clovers in the belief that they brought good luck. I didn’t know then that one was only considered lucky if you found it by accident – the clover was useless if you looked for it on purpose! No wonder I didn’t get the pony I was hoping for….

The ancient Celts of Wales carried sprigs of clover as a charm against evil spirits, particularly faeries. The clover might be tucked in one’s hat. Or multiple clovers might be sewn into a tiny bag and hung around the neck. This would enable the wearer to see through faery glamor – but it would only work once for each clover that was in the bag.

The faeries couldn't hide from you if you were
carrying a four-leaf clover.
Photo licensed from
Druids esteemed the four-leafed clover as a source of protection, because holding one would allow you to see not just faeries, but many other supernatural creatures. A salve was sometimes made of four-leafed clovers and applied to the “third eye” area of the forehead, to bring out psychic abilities. And in the Middle Ages, a four-leafed clover worn inside your shoe was believed to lead you to either love or treasure! (If you put one in each shoe, did you find both?)

Both shamrocks and four-leafed clovers come from the 
same plant: Common White Clover (Trifolium Repens).
Photo licensed from

The four-leafed clover is a symbol of good luck in many countries, but is most often associated with Ireland. The Irish claim that they have more of them growing there than anywhere else in the world. Maybe they do, since BOTH traditional Irish shamrocks and four-leafed clovers come from the very same plant:  Common White Clover, also known as Dutch Clover (Trifolium Repens). That’s right, it’s the same stuff that sometimes takes over the lawn on this side of the Atlantic. Irish botanist Caleb Threlkeld verified this when he wrote about Trifolium Repens in his 1727 book about local flora: “This plant is worn by the people in their hats upon the seventeenth day of March yearly.”

True, there are some pretty potted plants sold around March 17th that claim to be official shamrocks, but they’re usually oxalis or wood sorrel. The leaves occur in a variety of colors, but apparently aren't brimming with good fortune. (I enjoy them anyway.)

The shamrock and the four-leafed clover are both
commonly associated with Ireland.

Photo: Public Domain
The Irish word for shamrock is seamróg, referring to the trefoil leaf of the clover plant. St. Patrick allegedly made it famous by taking an ordinary three-leafed clover and using it as a metaphor for the Holy Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Ghost. This is an excellent example of Christianity adopting Рand changing Рthe symbols of ancient pagan faiths. The three leaves had previously been known as the three phases of the Goddess РMaiden, Mother and Crone!

So why are there four-leafed clovers if clover naturally has three leaves? Long thought to be a simple plant mutation, scientists have now found a recessive gene for the anomaly. In fact, there are no known limits as to how many leaves a clover can have. According to Guinness, the world record for the most leaves on a clover stem has been held by Shigeo Obara of Japan since 2002 when he discovered a clover with 18 leaves. He bested his record a few years later with a 21-leafed clover (see photo on this site - And in 2009, just before Obara died, he was credited with finding a clover with no less than 56 leaves!!!

Rabbits LOVE clover.
I wonder how many four leaf clovers
this little guy has eaten?

Photo licensed from
In Ireland and a few other places, a clover bearing more than four leaves is said to bring BAD luck. In other countries, however, there are different meanings according to leaf number:
  •      Two-leafed clover = love
  •      Four-leafed clover = luck 
  •      Five-leafed clover = attracts wealth
  •      Six-leafed clover = fame
  •      Seven-leafed clover = long life

So just how rare are clovers with more than the standard three leaves? Estimates place them at about one in 10,000 when naturally grown. Because the four-leafed clover is such a well-known symbol of good fortune, an entire industry has sprung up around them. You can buy genuine four-leafed clovers pressed between glass, embedded in resin, made into jewelry etc. But to get enough of them, some horticulturalists have refined the clover plant using the newly-discovered genes. In their specialized plots, four-leafed clovers occur about once in every 41 plants!

However, the luckiest man in the world just might be Edward Martin Sr. of Alaska. Guinness certified Martin's collection of 111,060 four-leaf clovers in 2007, and it's reported he has well over 160,000 now! 

(See how all those clovers were counted in this article in the Peninsula Clarion News - )


I grew up on Celtic faery stories. Not the ones where faeries are tiny beings with delicate wings, and as sweet-natured as they are pretty. Nope, I teethed on the ones where faeries come in every shape and size. Dark or light, terrifying or beautiful, sensual or cold, indifferent or cruel ... all are dangerous!

My Grim Series is based on one of my favorite fae legends (with thanks to my Welsh grandmother). The Grim is also known as the Black Dog, and his role is to act as a herald of death and misfortune. But how did he get a job like that? And what if he doesn't want it?


Watch for the upcoming release of STORM CROSSED, Book 4 of the Grim Series!

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