Thursday, March 31, 2016

Special Sneak Peek of Harlan!

Posted by: Jeffe Kennedy

Vote for Harlan!

The publisher of my Twelve Kingdoms and Uncharted Realms books is hosting their annual Ultimate Hero Showdown. Harlan, the hunky and infinitely patient hero of THE TALON OF THE HAWK, has made it through two rounds so far.

(Mostly thanks to passionate fans who stayed up clicking away until midnight!)

Voting in round three starts at midnight, March 31 and goes until midnight - all U.S. Eastern Daylight Time. You can click as often as you like! (Hence the aforementioned Harlan fans clicking away.)

Harlan also appears in THE PAGES OF THE MIND, out May 31 (finally!). So, to give you a little extra Harlan love, here's an excerpt from PAGES, which is in Dafne's point of view. Here he's helping Ursula teach Dafne self-defense.


Ursula rolled her head on her shoulders. “All right, librarian. We’ve no time to teach you Danu’s forms, which would be the foundation of what you need to know as a fighter. Instead we’re going to show you the tricks—all with the intent of you gaining time to escape should you be attacked. For the most part, your aim will not be to kill or permanently disable an attacker. You don’t want to be that close for that long. Instead you will focus on hurting a person enough that they can’t chase you. We’ll lay the groundwork this morning and then Jepp will take over after you leave tomorrow, helping you refine the skills and build on them. Does that make sense?”
“You’ve no time to teach me the entire alphabet so you’re giving me the equivalent of conversational phrases that I can practice and add to as I learn this language.”
Her frown cracked and she laughed. “Exactly. You’ll do just fine. I know you will.”
I knew she meant more than just with knife work and I nodded, hoping to reassure her.
“The first thing you’ll learn is what to do when someone grabs you. Jepp, demonstrate. Let Harlan catch you, and break free.”
Jepp sauntered up to Harlan and gave him a saucy grin of challenge. “Captain Harlan can catch me anytime.” She turned her back, and he launched himself at her, dwarfing her slim form, muscles bulging in his sleeveless shirt as they flexed to restrain her. She seemed to fold in, then burst out, spinning in place and halting with a sharp blade at his throat.
He grinned at her. “Lucky indeed would be the man who could both catch and hold you.”
“Stop flirting, you two,” Ursula said. “Now you try it, Dafne.”
“I can’t do that!”
“You can and you will.” She pressed a short knife into my hand, much like the daggers she and Jepp habitually carried, but made of wood with blunted edges. “Harlan?”
He advanced and I took an automatic step back. “I can’t get away from a man that size!”
“You’re going to a place where they are all that size,” she emphasized. “Better to learn with someone you know and trust.”
“Maybe I should start with Jepp?” I offered weakly, but Ursula shook her head, a determined set to her jaw.
“Jepp is here to see what we teach you. Today you’re working entirely against Harlan and me. You have to experience what it’s like to be up against someone bigger and more skilled.”
I wished for some of the thrill I’d felt yesterday when I accepted this mission. Being called to adventure turned out to involve a great deal of unpleasant challenges.
I nodded in resignation and turned my back. Harlan’s big arms closed around me, trapping my arms against my sides, sending a flutter of panic through me. Trapped in the dark. Unable to move. My throat on fire. Can’t breathe. I whimpered and his arms loosened.
“Tighter than that, Harlan. Don’t go easy on her,” Ursula’s voice whipped out.
“She’s afraid.” His voice rumbled against my back, an oddly comforting sensation that worked some to lessen my rising fear, but only a little. “She doesn’t like being trapped.”
Of course he’d remember, from that story I’d told him, of the fall of my family’s castle. Ursula bent over so her eyes were level with mine, bright steel. “Use it,” she commanded. “Everyone feels fear at some point. That’s healthy self-preservation. It’s also the fuel that will drive you to survive. You’ve called on it all these years. People underestimate you—use that, too. Now, let him think he has you, collapse a little, like you’re fainting. He senses your fear so he’ll believe it. Let your weight sag, so he’s forced to support you, then call on that will to survive. Picture it like a sun burning in your heart. Push up from the ground and rise. Burst up and out. Do it.”
It helped not to fight the panic. Use it. I let myself collapse as she said, feeling Harlan’s arms tighten to keep me upright. That dark space. Trapped. The fear burned like a sun indeed, and I wondered how Ursula knew. It wanted to break free, so I let it. Harlan grunted, his hold breaking.
I’d done it!
“Good,” Ursula said, “but don’t just stand there. Break, stab him with the knife, and run. Hold her again.”
Ursula was a relentless taskmaster. I’d seen her badgering Andi all those years to learn to defend herself and also witnessed Andi’s wary attempts to avoid the lessons. Ami had stubbornly refused and appealed to Uorsin, who had, of course, indulged her. Which was no doubt why she found herself needing lessons from Ash so many years later.
Over and over, Ursula made me break free, showing me which vulnerable spots on Harlan were in easy reach of my short blade. Due to my much smaller stature, that usually meant somewhere in his groin area. Ursula made me put my hand up between Harlan’s massive thighs, to feel for myself the hollows where the arteries ran shallow and where his man jewels hung heavy and vulnerable. Harlan stoically endured it all, but I blushed furiously.
“Get over it,” Ursula ordered. “This isn’t about niceties. This is about saving your life. Now, break away, and if your position is good, shove your blade as hard as you can up into his balls.”
“I don’t want to hurt him.”
Harlan gave me a reassuring smile. “It won’t be the first time—and I’ve been hit there by people much bigger than a nyrri.”
He called me that deliberately, to make me mad, but it worked anyway. Experimentally, I called on that, too. When I broke away, I did as Ursula bade me and brought the wooden knife up hard between his thighs, slicing edge up.
To my shock, Harlan dropped to his knees gasping out a Dasnarian curse. Ursula surveyed me with a delighted grin. “Excellent! Imagine if that had been a sharp blade. He’d be bleeding out. But you still forgot to run. Do it again.”
Harlan gave her a sidelong look. “This time, I’m wearing protection.”
“I’m sorry,” I told him.

“Don’t be.” He held out a hand for me to help him to his feet. A gesture of courtesy, as he surely didn’t need it. He inclined his head. “Be proud of besting me.”

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Sore Musers

Posted by: CobraMisfit
Sing in me, Muse, and through me tell the story
of that man skilled in all ways of contending,
the wanderer, harried for years on end,
after he plundered the stronghold
on the proud height of Troy.

- Homer, The Odyssey

Since the earliest writings of Greek literature, Muses have been credited for inspiring some of the greatest artists of the known world. 

Or, in many more cases, blamed for the lack of inspiration. 

Which is unfair. There are only nine of these daughters of Zeus and each with a certain specialty: Calliope (epic poetry), Clio (history), Euterpe (music, song, elegant poetry), Erato (lyric poetry), Melpomene (tragedy), Polyhymnia (hymns), Terpsichore (dance), Thalia (comedy), and Urania (astronomy). They were busy deities, so it was always a roll of the dice whether or not the goddesses would come to the aid of an artist. 

Take a moment at re-read the lines above from the Odyssey. 

Note the tone. Homer is calling out to the Muses, asking for inspiration. Not to help him tell a great story of his own, but for him to be the conduit through which a great story is told. 

That's a vital distinction because it underscores the relationship between the poet and the Muse. They were sources of inspiration, but didn't work for the artist. Instead, the poet would "invoke" the goddesses. Homer, like many who came before and after him, was asking for assistance in telling a tale. He was seeking the right words, the right emotion. 

Ancient epic poetry always began with an Invocation of the Muses.

It's also important to note that this was during a time when much of the populace was illiterate and oral storytelling was the standard. Tales like the Odyssey, the Aenied, etc, were heard, not read. Bards recited them from memory. It's why so many Greek poems have repeated lines or "stock" phrases. It's also why these poems are so song-like. The poem was as much a performance as it was a story, so getting the tone and emotions correct was crucial because an audience needed to experience the tale. 

And the Muses helped to ensure that the poet didn't screw up the message.  

The modern interpretation of the Muse is quite different. Many writers often joke that the Muse is silent or that the Muse has hit us with too many plot ideas. It can certainly feel like divine intervention/avoidance when you're at either extreme, but an understanding of the genesis for the Muse helps to drive home the reality that we, as artists, don't have Muses working for us. Some may call out in earnest for inspiration, but the question is always: Who owns the story? 

Again, it's an important distinction. Remove the divine nature of the Muses and what you get at the core is responsibility. Inspiration can come in many forms: nature, music, even the opening lines of a story. All writers seek inspiration to help them get the creative juices flowing. But are we crediting “someone else” when it hits us? Or worse, blaming them when the well runs dry?

The world is vastly different than it was during Greek times. Some tales are still heard, but many more are seen. And the written word is a staple of everyday life. Illiteracy is still an issue in many areas, but millions now have access to various mediums for storytelling. Movies, books, audio, dance, etc, the world of art is limited only by our own imagination.

Yet, we, as artists, still struggle to find inspiration at times. And while it’s easy to say that it’s the Muse’s fault for abandoning us, even the ancient Greeks understood that the goddesses were merely there to help when and if they had the time. Because, in the end, it was the artist who was ultimately responsible for the creativity and execution of a tale. The Muse was merely there to get the ball rolling.

So what is your relationship with “your Muse” – your inner creativity? Is it supportive or is it adversarial?


Joshua Roots is a car enthusiest, beekeeper, and storyteller. He enjoys singing with his a cappella chorus, golf, and all facets of Sci-Fi/Fantasy. He's still waiting for his acceptance letter to Hogwarts and Rogue Squadron. He and his wife will talk your ear off about their bees if you let them.

Paranormal Chaos, the final book in The Shifter Chronicles, is available wherever digital books are sold.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Saying Goodbye

Posted by: PG Forte

I don't know how George Martin does it--or Nicholas Sparks either. How does one stand to kill off character after character after character? Call me a wimp, but I die a little inside each time one of my characters passes awway. The Children of Night series sees a lot of characters dying. There's a death on the first page of the very first book!

Arguably, however, Paul's death in Ashes of the Day was the hardest for me to write. Paul was a sweetheart. A human with a not-quite-requited passion for a vampire several hundred years old. It was doomed from the start.I struggled for ways to keep him alive, but as Paul was as much in love with Damian as Damian was in love with Conrad, eventually I had to concede. There was no help for it;he had to go. 

Here's a little excerpt from the start of the scene.

Paul was asleep when Damian entered his hospital room. He crossed quietly to the bed then stood there for a moment, studying his friend while he slept. Paul had lost so much weight he appeared practically skeletal. Yet there was such a harsh, ethereal beauty to his face it all but stole Damian’s breath. Paul’s head had been shaved at some point recently. It was covered now with a downy layer of reddish-brown fuzz. It looked fragile and much too delicate, like an overripe peach. A single vein pulsed at Paul’s temple, beating out such a rough, erratic tempo that Damian could only stare at it in fascination as fear and a desperate sort of hunger warred within him.

How little effort it would take to tear that vein open; the merest brush of one fang would do it. As it was, he half-expected to see it punch right through the thin skin all on its own. Or perhaps the bleed would be subcutaneous, and Paul’s life would rush out in an unstoppable wave, blue blood spreading like a lake beneath the pale, translucent surface.

He couldn’t bear the thought, couldn’t stand to see Paul’s lifeblood wasted like that. The end was drawing near; Damian could sense it. Paul’s body was nearly worn out. Once the blood currently flowing in his veins was gone, there’d be no more to take its place.

It was all Damian could do to keep his fangs sheathed and not drain Paul dry, take his essence inside himself and preserve what he could of it. Perhaps that’s what he’d really come here for. Perhaps it was what Paul would have wanted him to do…

But no, he’d given up his right to claim anything more of Paul the night he let him go.

“Oh, Pablito.” It seemed ironic and unfair, counter to all the laws of nature that Paul, who was still so young, should look so old—especially when Damian considered his own appearance. But what about their situation had ever been fair? When had Fate, that cruel mistress in whom Paul had always put such child-like faith, ever not mocked them? For twenty years Fate had been leading them here—to this room, this moment, this final good-bye—along a road that they themselves had paved with foolish hopes and broken dreams. 

Only blood can break your heart.

Children of Night, Book 4

New Year’s Eve, 1999. The world is braced for Y2K, but that’s not the only ticking time bomb in Conrad’s life. Damian wouldn’t be the first vampire to find a way to die, but Conrad is determined he will not be one of them.

Present day. Damian struggles to trust that fate could possibly be kind enough to give him a love as perfect as Conrad’s. Conrad balances on the keen edge of his own fear that one more slip of his formidable control could drive his lover away—permanently.

Julie learns the hard way it’s not just interspecies relationships that seldom work out. Even between vampires, love is not a smooth course.

Meanwhile, intrigue and conflict within the nest continue to grow, fueled in no small part by Georgia’s slipping hold on a deadly secret. Marc works to consolidate his position as leader of the ferals—and discovers that being a walking anomaly has certain advantages. Including some that are totally unexpected.
Product Warnings
Contains more love triangles, more power struggles, more tears and teeth gnashing, and even more graphic scenes of manlove between moody, domestically inclined vampires than in previous editions. Definitely not recommended for anyone suffering from ALSSD (Auld Lang Syne Sensitivity Disorder) or with aversions to ballrooms, evening clothes, sarcasm, or close-quarter stiletto combat. 

Monday, March 28, 2016

Here Be News

Posted by: Unknown

New Releases

The Rim of the World, Book 3
Sensuous Sci-Fi Romance
Word Count:
$3.99 e / $9.99 p

Just when they thought surviving on a strange half world couldn't get more difficult...Kyber, Kelen and the crew are proven wrong once again.

Aliens and humans living together and surviving, it is possible. But with the food and water going bad, new deadly creatures attacking, and old enemies coming back into play, the odds just keep getting worse. The group knows their days are numbered if they don’t figure something out fast.

It's no longer a battle for survival; it has become an all-out war. And there's nowhere left to go where they can be safe.

Or so they thought.

Warning! Contains death and near death, nasty oatmeal, hallucinations, tip-toeing, new discoveries, mama bears, THREE, and an attack on a loved one that could spell the end of a relationship.

Excerpt and buy links.

Other News

We need some cool words to use as Flash Fiction story prompts in April. Leave us 4 to 6 challenging words in your comment and enter to win a $10.00 Amazon gift card. (Winner will be randomly selected on April 3, 2016 and announced here on April 4th.)

NOT the ones we put here as examples!


Sunday, March 27, 2016

Blasters, Phasers and Starships, Oh My!

Posted by: Steve Vera
What is it about science fiction that captivates so many people?

Is it because it instantly conjures images of deep space and swirling galaxies? Or perhaps it's because it appeals to those deep recesses of every person's innate sense of imagination? Aliens maybe? Bright green turbolasers in outer space? I could go on, and I really could, but the bottom line is that sci-fi fans are no joke. (Say that three times real fast)

Interestingly enough, for every devout sci-fi wanderluster walking this earth, there is an obverse science fiction disdainer. We all know these people, they are our girlfriends (or boyfriend), parents or the couple sitting one booth over at the local tavern. They give a little roll of their eyes, a shake of their head, or that polite smile you know instantly to mean, "Oh, you're one of them." Most times it's good-natured, other times not so much, but rarely will you hear a person say they could either take or leave science fiction. People either love it or run screaming for the hills with their hands on their ears.  Swatting at the air.

That's why it's so delicious when a wanderluster can convert a disdainer. I have a friend, true story, who thought Lord of the Rings was boring.


After I was able to suppress the twitch that developed instantly in my left eye, I suggested we keep an open mind and try a different approach. Mind you, I know this is fantasy and we're doing sci-fi this week but bear with me just a moment more. It'll make sense. I was committed to getting her to see the awesomicity of fantasy so I did what any other self-respecting disdainer converter would do: I introduced her to GAME OF THRONES.

And then I sat back and cackled maniacally as she binge-watched every single season.

The thing is, I've never been able to actually do the same for sci-fi. As nerdy as I am, I only minored in sci-fi, I'm a fantasy major. I need help. One of my best friends in the universe has never seen Star Wars, never seen it! And she has no desire to. I want to convert her very badly, but she's a millennial, and millennials can be funny when it comes old school movie wizardry. What once were dazzling special effects to a sixth grader who would have sold his best friend's left arm for a lightsaber is merely quaint to her.

She must be converted.

I need a movie or a book or a something, there's so much to choose from, so much that I'm paralyzed by limitless options. I need help. This is your mission if you choose to except it. She's open minded. You're computer will self-destruct is seven seconds. Just kidding. Your computer is not going to self-destruct in seven seconds.

Steve out.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Spoofing SFR: An Incomplete List of Mocked Properties

Posted by: Jody W. and Meankitty
I'm some kind of heretic. I don't love all things SF. I don't even love all things SFR. Don’t get me wrong -- I love SF and SFR, but ALL things? Come on! There's a lot to love in the SF/SFR genres, but there's also some content that's worthy of finger-pointing and butt-kicking.

Granted, it was more my love for SF/SFR that led me to begin my choose your own path spoof series, the Adventures of Mari Shu, but being an equal opportunity mocker -- I like to think of myself as the Weird Al of SFR -- I figure I manage to make fun of at least one different SF/SFR/Popular Media commodity per badly-written page.

Here's just a short list of properties I jigged around on like a demented leprechaun during the 3 volumes (so far) of Mari Shu's adventures. The first volume, by the way, is FREE.

50 Shades of Grey
The 100
2001: A Space Odyssey
2002: Bad References In This Book
Across the Universe
All BDSM Romance
Are You Serious?
Battlestar Galactica
The Beyond Series
Doctor Who
Dragon Bound
Forest of Hands and Teeth
Harry Potter
Hunger Games
I, Robot
I, Don't Even Know
James Bond
Jurassic Park
The Last Hour of Gann
Logan's Run
The Matrix
Maze Runner
No Way That's Really In There
Old Man's War
Pirates of the Caribbean
Scooby Doo
Shadow Fires
Sherlock (Cumberbatch version)
Some random book where there's a bride auction that I can't remember
Something with foretold mates and alpha males
Soylent Green
Star Trek
Star Wars
What Is This Crap?
Who Framed Roger Rabbit?
Wizard of Oz
Wreck of the Nebula Dream
Y Did You Write This?

Please enjoy this much too long excerpt from the beginning of FAR GALAXIES (#3). Can you spot the references in this classically painful example of Maid-And-Butler dialogue in SPACE?


The Relocation Committee (RLC) employees herded Mari Shu and her two sisters through the opening in the high fence around the landing port. Electric spits and barbs lined the top of the fence in an ominous fashion Mari Shu failed to note until she was on the other side of it.

Almost as if…they were prisoners.

“Have a good trip!” Just Right Hair said. “Your meager belongings are already on the SS Rentaprise.”

“Wait…how did you know which ship we’d choose?” Mari Shu asked.

Instead of responding, the RLC workers slammed and latched the final gate behind her and her sisters as if dusting their hands of the problem. Considering they proceeded to literally dust their hands, Mari Shu wondered at the author’s ability to come up with fresh descriptions.

A horn blared from the SS Rentaprise, proceeded by mechanized loudspeaking. “Departure for the final frontier in five minutes! All aboard!”

Mari Shu and her sisters raced up the gangplank of the SS New Terra. She ignored the flash of the Rentaprise’s engine glow on the silver hand of the cybermech, watching her from the ramp of the other ship. Good riddance. She didn’t want to associate with criminals. Unless they were her treasured sisters. Voyaging into skies unknown was such a better choice than breaking her unbreakable vow to her sainted grandmother about becoming a sexxorer.

On New Terra, there would be no boundaries! No barriers! No drudgery! No crime after dark! They would have a real shot at happiness! And the chance to eat grass, like people on Mars! Perhaps there would even be unicorns and snowflakes of the special variety!

Mingling among the other thousand passengers, give or take, in the long corridors, the sisters located their assigned bunk, denoted by their names on the door panel. Inside, the tiny room featured a sonic shower and shitter, three narrow beds, and their possessions in a pitiful heap. Their new quarters were smaller than their flat, barely large enough for all three of them at the same time.

A screen above the door scrolled constant announcements and helpful factoids, such as, “Passengers will report at six am and six pm to the mess hall for nutrition. Lights out at eight pm. Peak fitness will be maintained. Jobs will be assigned for New Terra training. Violators will be spaced. Unless they’re below the age of consent. Then they’ll be put in cells until they turn twenty, at which point they’ll be spaced. Also, don’t have babies. We have to keep our population stable until we get to New Terra due to oxygen constraints.”

“Spaced? I’d like more space,” Cassie said. “As well as new pants. I seem to get bigger every day. Luckily, sturdy females are all the rage. What do we have to violate to get this space?”

“That’s not what spaced means, goo for brains,” Trish said. “It means shoved out an airlock.”

Mari Shu stiffened in horror at the thought. It was one thing to be sent to a Venusian penile colony for committing felonies, but it was another to simply be killed! What kind of extremist ship had they boarded? What kind of freedom was this?

“How long does this trip take if having babies would disrupt it?” Perhaps they’d only be on board a few days. They could follow yet more rules for a few weeks. The trip to Mars only took a couple hours.

“Approximately ten Olde Earth years. I saw it on the data scroll,” Trish answered.

“So we’ll be decrepit hags by the time we get to New Terra?” Cassie shrieked. “My glowing orange skin wrinkled like a peach pit, which I’ve never seen but the readers have, so they’ll know what I’m talking about? What kind of joke is this? I want off this ship!”

“We can’t go back. We’re already billions of light years from Olde Earth since we passed through the gatestar technological device that enables transport between far-flung galaxies,” Trish said. “I saw it on…”

“The data scroll?” Mari Shu guessed, wishing she’d paid attention, too. However, she’d been stiff with horror, which wasn’t conducive to observing pertinent details like a device that provided whatever information the characters needed to move the scene forward. “If our people invented these convenient gatestar devices, why does it take years to get to New Terra? Why couldn’t they slingshot us into the proper galaxy?”

“That I don’t know.” Trish shook her head. “I’m not an astrophysicist.”

“What’s an astrophysicist?” Cassie asked.

All three women looked at each other and shrugged.

“It probably doesn’t matter,” Mari Shu decided. “We’re merely passengers on a pilgrim-filled ocean liner through the stars. We don’t need to know anything about astros or physics. It will never affect us. We’ll never be asked to emergency land a ship or navigate through a wormhole.”

“That’s a relief,” Trish said. “I’m sure the jobs we’ll be assigned on New Terra will be modest, productive occupations with zero chance we’ll be auctioned off to rapacious, extremely patriarchal lizard men waiting for their promised human concubines to arrive. I’m also sure our ten-year journey will involve some type of cryosleep so the readers don’t have to endure such a lengthy segment without any action.”

“Unless,” Mari Shu hypothesized, “I were to wake up halfway through the trip and find out someone was secretly killing off the cryosleeping passengers. I mean, it really depends on what the author’s going to spoof next.”

“There’s no guarantee of cryosleep,” Cassie argued. “A wreck is more likely, with the three of us plus a few eligible male passengers and at least one annoying child forging an intrepid path through the titanic vessel that was billed as the ship that couldn’t possibly fail. We’ll have to race against time to the lifeboat pods before we drift into a star or self-destruct.”

“If we don’t wreck, my money’s on New Terra being a backwater mining planet.” Trish smacked her fist into her palm. “I foresee low tech crime capers with a dose of bad weather, corrupt drug lords, and some kick-ass lesbians in hard hats.”

“Silly. You don’t have any money. Nobody’s going to take that bet,” Mari Shu pointed out. “We’ll probably get blown off course by a stellar tornado or mistimed gatestar explosion into a quadrant where no human has e’er ventured, with no way to contact our scientists back on Olde Earth and Mars. Talk about getting stuck in the boonies.”

“We should totally call it the boonie quadrant if that happens,” Cassie said. “I call dibs on the hive-melded hunk we rescue from the Galactic Bee Queen and attempt to waken back into individuality.”

Mari Shu threw up her hands. “Have you considered we might accidentally time travel into the Earth’s past where we must ponder the ramifications of the butterfly effect weighed against the fact that the future we’re building toward kind of sucks anyway, and that we’d be better off altering the space time continuum?”

“Timey wimey stuff.” Trish nodded wisely. “One practically has to be a doctor to understand that. However, I really don’t think that’s the way this segment is going.”

“What makes you say that?” Mari Shu asked.

“Because a space cowboy’s sneaky ferret class vessel has uncloaked right outside our tiny porthole. And look, it’s called the Quietude. I get the feeling it’s ironically named.”


I think the segments where I spoofed on Sherlock might have been my favorites. No, wait, the appearance of my version of Ben Kenobi was pretty hilarious too. And I can't forget the epic spurt off during the bride auction or the billionaire Dom, Master Jannifer! Oh, God, that Transformers reference, though...

I guess I'm saying it's hard to pick a favorite, just like with the SF/SFR properties themselves.

Jody Wallace
Smart. Snarky. Seductive. And that's just the books.  *  

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Should the Alien Be the Love Interest or the Enemy?

Posted by: Linda Mooney
I like to push the envelope when it comes to my sci-fi romances. Although I've had human-looking aliens as love interests, I've also had alien aliens as the hero or heroine. In the case of my Neverwylde series, that includes fur, fangs, and claws. In Captive Surrender and His By Right, we looking at horns and some rather "interesting" physical properties. (There's also the odd shapeshifter, like in my Runner's Moon series, who can seesaw back and forth from human to their real selves.)

So here's the question: does a non-human creature work for you, the reader, as the main love interest? Or should they all be relegated to being the enemy?

Is there an "ick" factor involved if one of the pair doing the horizontal tango doesn't resemble us? Or does it not matter, as long as you can relate to him?

We've grown up in the age of Star Trek, Superman, and Star Wars. With little exception, the good-looking alien hero or heroine from other worlds could pass for one of us. (The only exception to that is Chewbacca, who I always thought of as one hawt furball.)  Our movies and TV shows are filled with aliens, but in every single case where the alien does not look human, that alien is the enemy.

Are you like me, and believe it's time we gave the creatures equal opportunity for some lovin'?



The Rim of the World, Book 3
A Sensuous Sci-Fi Romance
Word Count: 43.2K

Just when they thought surviving on a strange half world couldn't get more difficult...Kyber, Kelen and the crew are proven wrong once again.

Aliens and humans living together and surviving, it is possible. But with the food and water going bad, new deadly creatures attacking, and old enemies coming back into play, the odds just keep getting worse. The group knows their days are numbered if they don’t figure something out fast.

It's no longer a battle for survival; it has become an all-out war. And there's nowhere left to go where they can be safe...

Or so they thought.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Binge Watching SyFy's Face Off

Posted by: Veronica Scott
This was supposed to be science fiction romance week and I'll share an excerpt below, I promise, but lately I've been obsessed with the SyFy reality show "Face Off."

Here's what the SyFy website says about the program: “In this competition/elimination series, special effects make-up artists participate in elaborate challenges for a grand prize and the honor of being Hollywood's next great effects artist.”

How in ten years have I NOT watched this? I love reality shows like “Project Runway” and “Top Chef” – the ones where you have to have a skill set to win. I’m a huge fan of science fiction obviously and many of the challenges on this program skew in that direction. Aliens. Zombies. Post apocalyptic fairy tales. Toys come to life. Creating alien beings from a fragment of their speech, or from a ‘found artifact.’ Many other types of challenges as well, of course! The series judges are top notch experts in their fields, with a slew of awards (the Oscar, Emmy, more) and don't pull their punches on substandard work. The guest judges are amazing – Gale Anne Hurd for example. I hyperventilate, so you can imagine how the contestants react, getting feedback from their idols.

And currently the mentor is Michael Westmore of the famous Hollywood makeup Westmore Dynasty. His daughter McKenzie is the host. It’s amazing to me how Mr. Westmore can take one look at someone’s fledgling effort and with a few well chosen words take it to a new level. Or tell them they probably want to start over.

I’m riveted by the mad skills of the contestants, able to create all these sculpted face and body pieces, do the face painting, assemble costumes, know things (how to make blood that looks realistic for example – it’s said at one point every makeup artist has their own recipe for blood)…and all in a short, intense time frame. I’m in awe and I love seeing how these things are done for movies, TV, cosplay and more.

HOW do the models stay so patient and how do they keep their skin from being permanently inflamed by all that glue and paint?

I chewed through the episodes of this season so far and then went to Season One to start catching up.

It’s mildly fascinating to watch the show evolve. So far I’ve binge watched my way through only a couple of the older seasons so my remarks shouldn’t be construed to be about any one season, person or episode. Although it has been interesting watching Ms. Westmore’s dresses for the finale evolve from the kind of everyday simplicity of Season One to the more Vanna-like (but short) blinged out garb she wears in Season Ten. Hey, I’d love a job where I could wear binged out dresses!

I have NO sympathy for a reality show contestant who isn’t ready for surprises and twists in the challenges. Have they never WATCHED the program they’re trying to win? (OK, Season One people get a pass on this.)

Why is there always one person in a season who takes it upon themselves to be wayyy too helpful to someone who’s struggling? The struggler inevitably wins that challenge with the idea or concept or actual results the ‘helpful’ person gave them, no credit to Helpful One, and then sometimes Helpful One even gets eliminated! I’m not talking about the genuinely-nice but quick moments when someone gives an opinion if asked (too symmetrical, too out there, too much foam, too little paint) or helps with opening a balky mold. I mean when the Helpful One actually does stuff for the struggler, or gives them the entire idea for the challenge. This is a contest, people! $100K is at stake! You don’t even know this person you’re screwing yourself over to help!

And no judges on any reality show ANYWHERE want to listen to you either make excuses or throw your teammates under the bus. You will not win or save yourself. Or look good.

Don’t aim for being safe, being in the middle or trying to coast.  If you didn’t come with your A game, why are you there? Someone else didn’t get picked and you did so we don’t want to see you phone it in.

There will be team challenges and there will be incredibly annoying people nobody wants to be teamed with. Get over it!

In Season One they had wayyyy too much of the personal drama back at the contestant house. That seems to be diminishing slowly in the later seasons, and there’s none in Season Ten that I saw. I prefer it that way. I like the focus to be on the challenges. People will reveal their true self over time through their work.

So, I’m having fun. Is there a reality show you can’t get enough of?

Here’s a quick excerpt from Star Cruise: Marooned, where the enemy aliens have captured the hero, Red, and some of the passengers. I’d love to see the Face Off contestants create my alien pirates! I’ll be releasing the sequel Star Cruise: Outbreak in late April 2016:

“What are the pirates doing?” Callina asked, breaking into his thoughts.
                Stretching, Red stood to see how their captors were passing their leisure time. The beach was literally crawling with Shemdylann now. Some were engaged in mock battles, cheered on by throngs of their comrades. Others were splashing in the lake. A fire pit had been dug and a crew of five aliens was doing some serious cooking, as if catering a banquet. Many of the aliens were basking in the sun, extended neck frills pulsing in the heat. And a few were entwined in clusters of four to six, tentacles and other sinuous organs busily at work.
                “I think the pirates are on shore leave,” he said, hardly believing it. There’d never been any record of such activity, but what other conclusion could he draw? “Hey, pal,” he yelled at the guard standing by their cage. “What brings you guys here?”
                The guard was watching the cluster of copulating Shemdylann, his neck frill extended and pulsing red. Apparently, no one had told him not to talk to the prisoners because he said, “We’ve been in heavy combat, penetrating this Sector. Our officers said this planet was a fabled human resort and he would bring us here for a day or two of reward, if we defeated the enemy ships. We’ll regain energy for the next assault, on your Sector Hub, to be launched when we receive further orders from the Mawreg.”
                Red affected astonishment. “You brought everybody here to party, leaving your ship uncrewed?”
                “Fool, of course not.” The coarse spines covering the alien’s carapace bristled and he stood taller. “You ask too many questions.” He sidestepped, pivoting in the sand to watch his fellow pirates cavorting. In Shemdylann, he grumbled to himself. “Five ships and a battle cruiser full of troops, lots drawn across the fleet for who would be lucky enough to enjoy the day on the planet. I pay a hefty bribe to win a spot and now I must stand here, watching over vermin, while my fellow soldiers shi tangor dunac midtahnn.”
                Red gave no outward sign of comprehension, although he spoke fluent Shemdylann. Leaving the increasingly agitated guard alone, he retreated to the rear of the cage and pondered the intel he’d gathered. Not that there was any way for him to pass the information to the Sectors’ military authorities.
                “Please, isn’t there something you can do to help us?” Eyes wide, Callina pleaded with him. “Isn’t there some way we can escape? Can’t you get us out of here?”
                He tried to be polite. “Lady, these are the Shemdylann, in case you haven’t noticed. They only respond to overwhelming force, or heaps of credits.

The Story:
Meg Antille works long hours on the charter cruise ship Far Horizon so she can send credits home to her family. Working hard to earn a promotion to a better post (and better pay), Meg has no time for romance.

Former Special Forces soldier Red Thomsill only took the berth on the Far Horizon in hopes of getting to know Meg better, but so far she’s kept him at a polite distance. A scheduled stopover on the idyllic beach of a nature preserve planet may be his last chance to impress the girl.

But when one of the passengers is attacked by a wild animal it becomes clear that conditions on the lushly forested Dantaralon aren’t as advertised – the ranger station is deserted, the defensive perimeter is down…and then the Far Horizon’s shuttle abruptly leaves without any of them.

Marooned on the dangerous outback world, romance is the least of their concerns, and yet Meg and Red cannot help being drawn to each other once they see how well they work together. But can they survive long enough to see their romance through? Or will the wild alien planet defeat them, ending their romance and their lives before anything can really begin?

Buy Links: Amazon     iBooks     Kobo     Barnes & Noble

Monday, March 21, 2016

Here Be News

Posted by: Unknown

New Releases

Jeffe Kennedy's HEART'S BLOOD is now available as a stand-alone novella!

A Twelve Kingdoms novella

A dark fairytale retelling of a princess robbed of rank, husband and even her name.

Nix is nothing. The Princess Natilde—her former waiting woman—attacked her on the journey to wed Prince Cavan, stripping her of everything and taking her place. With no serving skills, Nix becomes a goose girl. Perhaps if Nix keeps her promise never to reveal who she really is, Natilde won’t carry out her vile threats. Prince Cavan entered his arranged marriage determined to have a congenial, if not loving relationship with his future queen—for the sake of both their kingdoms. But, his wife repels him more each day and he finds himself absurdly drawn to the lovely Nix.

With broken vows, anguish and dark secrets between them, Cavan and Nix struggle to find the magic to restore what’s gone terribly wrong… if it ever can be.

(previously released in the anthology Dark Secrets)

Buy the Book!


Other News

Now Available as an Audiobook!

Sensuous SciFi/Fantasy Romance
by Linda Mooney
Narrated by Stephanie Conard
Length: 7 hrs, 32 min.

Annie Mayall was a young bride, brought to Montana in 1940 by her new husband to start their new life soon as he struck it rich in the promised silver mines. Abandoned for three desperate and lonely years, Annie was forced to survive by herself in the wilds of the mountains. Until one stormy night brought a severely wounded stranger to her tiny one-room cabin. A stranger both mystical and fascinating. A stranger who not only brought her happiness, but a kind of love she never knew existed.

A stranger who was not of this earth.

Warning! Contains mutilation, abandonment, total isolation, harsh and unbearable weather, blood-letting, attempted homicide, attempted angelcide, snoopy but concerned neighbors, close confinement, promises kept, and unusual uses for a feather.

Excerpt and buy links.

Jeffe Kennedy's THE TALON OF THE HAWK won Best Fantasy Romance of 2015 in the RT Book Reviews Reviewers’ Choice Awards!!! Big congratulations to all the nominees and winners. We'll be reading for a LONG time! 
Veronica Scott has released Healer of the Nile as a standalone novella for $.99 (Was originally released in the Here Be Magic box set.)

The story: 

1550 BCE

When Pharaoh sends injured warrior Tadenhut home to die, his noble family asks Mehyta, the local healer, to ease his path to the Afterlife. Mehyta discovers he’s trapped between Life and Death, caught in the dreamspace. Touched by his fighting spirit and will to live, Mehyta vows to use all the powers Shai, god of fate, gave her. Together Tadenhut and the brave healer battle to overcome his injuries, as well as threats from devious family members. While struggling to rescue her patient, Mehyta comes to realize he matters more to her than any man ever has before. But even if his life can be saved, what do the omens say about a match between a highborn soldier and a simple healer?

Buy Links:

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Archive Post: Reading fantasy in other languages

Posted by: Angela Korra'ti
Veronica sez: Here's a fun post from the Archives!

Hi all, Angela back again, this time to chat with you all about reading fantasy in languages that aren't your own!

If you follow my blog or my social network accounts, you'll have seen two things about me. One, I'm a huge Tolkien nerd--I had quite a lot to say about The Desolation of Smaug, not to mention the character of Tauriel. And two, I'm also working on learning two languages at once, French and German!

Put these together, and what do you get? My slow-going Trilingual Hobbit Reread!

When I first learned that the movies were coming out, that seemed like an excellent excuse to re-read The Hobbit. But since I'm also interested in languages, it also seemed like a great chance to try to improve both my French and German vocabulary. I'd already previously purchased a German translation that I happened across in a Barnes and Noble, and once I also acquired a French translation, I was ready to go.

I've been re-reading each chapter of the book in English, and then reading both of the translations. It's been great fun, not only refreshing my memory of the events in Tolkien's original prose, but also seeing what the translators do with his work. In particular, I've been intrigued by the differences in how the two translations handle songs. The French translator does a straight translation of the various songs and riddles, without worrying too much about whether the same rhythm of syllables is kept, or whether things still rhyme. The German translator, on the other hand, makes a distinct effort to rearrange the scansion and rhyming schemes to get something that still adheres to the overall concept of the song or riddle--but which makes more sense to a German reader.

Doing this with a book I've known all my life--I first read The Hobbit in sixth grade AP English--has been huge fun, and I'm looking forward to proceeding into The Lord of the Rings in French as well. But what I'm really looking forward to is getting enough familiarity with French to be able to read original works in that language!

I've discovered several authors in Quebec in particular whose works I'd like to read, notably √Člodie Tirel, author of the Luna Elfe de Lune series--YA-level fantasy, where the language is somewhat simpler for me and my beginner's level of French. And also, when I'm better at French, Esther Rochon. I've had the pleasure of reading one of her stories translated into English, and I'm very much looking forward to reading her in her actual language.

Likewise, I've found several other interesting names to explore courtesy of reviewing the award winners for Canada's Prix Aurora awards, in recent years.

Why read books in other languages, you might ask? Partly because I'm a language nerd in general. But also because I feel it'll broaden my horizons as both a writer and a reader, to take the time to explore science fiction and fantasy works from a non-Anglophone perspective.

Even reading The Hobbit in other languages is getting me a little of that, given that every so often, in both of the translations I own, I run into things that make sense only to speakers of those languages. I've been telling people I'm fantasizing about owning a copy of The Hobbit in all the languages I eventually would like to study. And I'm only half-kidding!

So how about the rest of you? If language barriers were no object, what other languages would you like to read urban fantasy, fantasy, or paranormal romance in?

Alternately, if you're a language nerd who's read genre works in other languages--or better yet, a native speaker familiar with works in your language--what titles would you recommend to readers who'd like to broaden their linguistic horizons?

Talk to me in the comments!

Angela Korra'ti, a.k.a. Angela Highland, is the author of the Rebels of Adalonia series from Carina Press. Book 2, Vengeance of the Hunter, is forthcoming in April 2014! Come say hi at, or follow her on Facebook or Twitter.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

My Planner Craze

Posted by: Joely Sue Burkhart
I follow lots of smart and creative people, who've been talking about planners lately in social media.  I resisted, I really did.  I don't have a good track record with a formal planner.  I'm much more likely to buy one, make it all pretty, and then never actually use it.  (The one I made in that link?  I think I wrote in it maybe 30-40 days in the entire year.)

Part of my problem is that I wear so many different hats.  It's hard to gather all the information I need in one place, that's easy to keep up-to-date, easy to use, and scan at any moment to see what's coming up.  

I have the Evil Day Job with a bazillion to-dos at any one time.  My writing career and another bazillion things, which are all completely different from the more technical stuff at the EDJ.  Blog posts that are due (ironically, I didn't get the reminder for this post, so it wasn't on my list today!).  Edits that will be coming next month. A new idea I had in the shower.

Sometimes I want to brainstorm or jot notes.  Sometimes I want to journal because I'm not feeling good about something.  Then add in three kids and their band practices, basketball practices/games, school functions, concerts, spending the night, birthdays, holidays... 

Oh and add in meal planning because I'm the cook.

And a cleaning schedule, because I'm the maid.

Dogs to the vet.  Dogs need their heartworm meds.  Dogs need to go to the kennel.

I need to exercise more.  If I don't put it on the calendar/to do list, I'll never actually find time to do it.

Not to mention this third cleaning job twice a week I've somehow been sucked into with That Man.

It's crazy!  

So what's a stressed-out person to do?  I've found that the key for me is to keep trying, even if it's a complete failure.  Don't be afraid to scrap an idea and start over again.

I've tried formal planners (the one in the crafty planner post is from Tools4Wisdom).  I bought a Passion planner earlier this year, took one look at the inside once I got it, and said nope.  I don't think this is for me.  I think part of my purchase planner issue is I don't want anything too rigid or structured.  I don't always need lots of daily time tables to fill out.  Sometimes I just want to glance at it and see when my next meeting is.  Or if I have practice tonight, so I need to make something really quick/easy for dinner.  I don't want to flip through a bunch of pages I don't use effectively to get to the ONE page I really need.

I tried printing off my own, even buying pretty digital papers for inspiration.  They're still sitting in a stack.  By the time I actually went to use the pages -- I didn't have any interest in them any longer.  There wasn't any "at a glance" capabilities - just daily sheets that I really don't want to have to fill out every single day.

I tried the bullet journal last year to some success (the StarWars Moleskine above).  I like that it's unstructured.  If one day needs a lot of detail, but the next only needs a few lines, that's totally fine.  I don't have whole tables of times for each day that hold one appointment, or blank pages because I got so busy I literally lost my mind, let alone remembered to write something in the planner.  But where it failed for me is the "at a glance" capability.  I didn't understand the calendex at all and I didn't know how to do weekly or monthly spreads.

In talking with my boss at the EDJ, I came up with the idea of doing a small weekly table with only my core work hours.  Then I color coded every hour of the day for a certain task.  I started with meetings (that I couldn't ignore), slotted in a few times to check email, and then laid over the top specific time slots for each thing on my task list.  This let me plan ahead and think about the non-urgent but still important things like growth plans.  It's so easy to get wrapped up in "this project is behind and we're throwing all our bodies/hours at it until it's done!"  and then end up at the performance appraisal time and go huh, I didn't actually do a single thing on my overall growth plan. 

But I don't want to write that in my bujo every single week!

The system I'm attempting now is using that weekly at-a-glance table for the EDJ, printed small enough to fit on a single page in my bujo.  Then I can list out my dailies as I need/want to.  I can also make notes, brainstorm, etc.  I'm still working on getting up the nerve to draw a spread in my pretty new Royal(s) blue Leuchtturm1917 journal without ruining it.

Other resources:
How do you keep up with your commitments and make plans for the day/week/month/year?

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Cavern of Gargoyles

Posted by: Nicole Luiken
Dear Reader:

I have a terrible cold just now. My head feels ten feet thick and thus I am not up to the task of creating a clever blog post. So instead here is an excerpt from my latest novel YA fantasy novel:

Dorotea took a step forward and gasped when a single light snapped on, casting a halo of illumination. How—? Why—? Her heart thudded, and she flinched away from the figures that loomed out of the darkness. She tensed to run, then noticed they were all still. Silent stone statues.
Rebels. Traitors.
Limbs trembling, she forced herself to step onto the stone plinth where the gargoyles stood.
The first light winked off, but a second, nearer one blazed to life as if the lights were chasing her. It made her skin creep, but she forced herself to keep breathing, keep going.
The nearest stone figure was pale yellow, shading into beige, speckled with black. It held a large stone knife, upraised, as if the spell had caught it mid-attack. It stood seven feet tall, with a neck so thick, she doubted her father’s collar would even fit around it.
How could she possibly control something so large and elemental?
After the rebellion, the gargoyles were deemed too dangerous to be controlled with the collars. The Elect and Stone Heart Clans working together had devised the spell that now held them here, frozen in stasis.
And now Dorotea meant to wake one. Uneasiness crawled through her, making her shiver. But she’d do anything to save her sister.
Dorotea approached a white marble gargoyle. A mining pick was embedded in its marble side. She studied the wound dubiously. An injury might weaken the gargoyle and make it easier to control, but it might also die on her as soon as it came out of stasis.
The next one was a female gargoyle. All the gargoyles were roughly humanoid in form, with bald heads, beast-like pointed ears, fangs, and sharp talons, but somehow, the fact that this one had jade breasts along with fangs and claws made it look even scarier than the others. Dorotea hurried past.
Another light switched on and illuminated a gargoyle who stood off in the corner. He appeared to be smaller.
Well—she swallowed—smaller in comparison, at least. The red jasper gargoyle might have stood only six feet tall, but he still towered over her. Black stripes on his red face gave him a menacing aspect.
But, unlike the others, he didn’t seem to be armed. And his rough-hewn expression was one of stoicism instead of mindless rage.
Dorotea circled the male gargoyle. He seemed younger, less ancient, than the others. Was that good? Would it mean he was less evil? Or more volatile? Gargoyles were reputed to have raging tempers.
She’d intended to wake a female gargoyle, in the hopes that a female would be less aggressive. But they all repelled her. The red jasper youth attracted her. No, not attracted—she shied away from the word—but he seemed less vicious.
Her belly rumbled, reminding her that she’d been too upset to eat breakfast. She had to make a decision. There were no good choices, just as there were no good gargoyles, so she might as well follow her instincts and wake the red jasper boy.

Behind the mirror lies your otherself…

There is one True World, and then there are the four Mirror Worlds: Fire, Water, Air, and Stone.

Audrey and Dorotea are “otherselves”—twin copies of each other who live on different Mirror Worlds.

On Air, Audrey has the ability to communicate with wind spirits. As war looms, she’s torn between loyalty to her country and her feelings for a roguish phantom who may be a dangerous spy.

Blackouts and earthquakes threaten the few remaining humans on Stone, who have been forced to live underground. To save her injured sister, Dorotea breaks taboo and releases an imprisoned gargoyle. Brooding, sensitive Jasper makes her wonder if gargoyles are truly traitors, as she’s always been told.

Unbeknownst to them, they both face the same enemy—an evil sorceress bent on shattering all the Mirror Worlds.


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