Friday, September 28, 2018

What If...

Posted by: Cindy Spencer Pape
The first question any story starts with is "What if?" What if there was a dragon under the mountain? What if some people had a powerful force that could be turned to good or evil? What if two people who seem unlikely partners on the surface met, had to deal with one another, plus some outside conflict, and fell in love? It's constanly pondering what if that, IMO, makes an author, especially when it comes to genre ficion.

I was asking what if long before I knew I would be a writer. I would overhear one or two sentences as I passed by someone, completely out of context, and then mentally build my own idea of the story. I'd see a product ad on TV and turn it into an entire reality in my brain. I'd rewrite a movie or book if I didn't like the ending. (I had Monica and Chandler from friends married off in my version from season one!) Even as a teen, I'd take my YA books, and write up stories of the characters as adults. A few of them even ended up on paper. This was long before there was a term for fanfic, but yes, I wrote Trixie Belden fanfic, with the characters grown up and married. I was probably about 12.

I always knew I was weird. Other people I knew didn't do this. My first book was about a space fighter pilot and an infantry soldier. Otherwise known as I really didn't like the movie Starship Troopers, but did like the character concepts. Then, after I had actually written that first book, the awful one stashed in the back of a file cabinet that no one should ever see, I joined the Detroit chapter of Romance Writers of America. What I found was priceless.

I wasn't just crazy. I was WRITER crazy. That acceptance made all the difference.

50+ books and stories later, I am still writer crazy. Life has taken some rough turns in the last few years, so I've seen a hiatus in my creative life, and it's making me a whole different kind of nuts. But I know I simply won't be happy again until I'm writing again. Until I'm back to loving the What If?

These are darker times than when I started, for me personally and for my country, even the world. My new works might be a little darker, but I also think that might make them a little more important. Because, to piggy-back on the words of my illustrious colleague Jenny Schwartz, specultaive fiction specifically addresses the What Ifs regarding the essential rules of our reality. Looking at these rules, pondering how things might change if the rules do or what might happen if they don't--that's a powerful tool.

I'll always be a happy endings kind of girl. Making people smile is a big part of why I chose to write romance. But happiness between a couple doesn't mean a perfect world. It just means you have someone beside you to face the rough times. Speculative fiction or reality, I really believe that's the ultimate HEA. To not be alone when you have to face up to the universe.


For a few more days until the end of Spetember, Steam & Sorcery, my award-winning, best-selling steampunk story that kicks off the Gaslight Chronicles, is on sale from Kindle for only $1.99. Click here to have a look. This my What If there was still magic, and computers had been invented in the 1840s world.

You can also find more about me and my books at Happy Autumn!

Thursday, September 27, 2018

The Rules Have Changed

Posted by: Jenny Schwartz
I read and write a lot of speculative fiction: everything from steampunk to space opera with paranormal romance, urban fantasy and dystopian fiction thrown in.

The appeal of spec fic is both simple and fundamental. In it, the rules the world plays by are changed.

I'm very law-abiding. I'm too much of a worrier to be anything else. I like to do the "right thing" for fear that anything less will usher in the End of Days. Yep, me forgetting to rinse out my coffee mug will cause Armageddon. Bet you didn't know that? *rolls eyes at self*

But what happens when the rules change and the "right thing" becomes something radically new?

Rules (both stated in the legal sense and implicit in the form of social norms) structure our society. Change the rules and you change society.

Speculative fiction is inherently revolutionary. Being fiction, it provides a safe means to test drive dangerous notions. (The military calls it "scenario planning").

The act of reading spec fic is, therefore, political. As readers (and writers) we are choosing to explore challenges to the status quo. Consequently, it's fascinating to recall our favourite novels and analyse them for what they reveal about our political, social and personal aspirations.

My novel, The Troll Bridge, is a coming-of-age fantasy novel, and is available on Amazon and in Kindle Unlimited. Buy link: 

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

And They Lived Happily Ever After...Really?

Posted by: Linda Mooney

There’s been a question rolling around in my mind like an errant marble for some time now. Is it my imagination, or are the best-remembered, best-loved romantic movies and stories the tragic ones?
The reason I’m asking is because I’ve been told that readers want their books to end with an HEA (Happily Ever After) or at least an HFN (Happy For Now). But it makes me wonder if Romeo and Juliet, Wuthering Heights, and more recently, Cameron’s Titanic and Brokeback Mountain would have been anywhere near as popular if the loving couple had been allowed to remain together.
Why do you think these tragedies continue to be popular after so many years? Also, why don't current romances - books and movies - have more tragic endings? Would it make them more or less popular?

Other than romantic comedies, can you name a romance-driven movie with an HEA that is still popular to this day? 

I could use some good recommendations. I'm ready for a popcorn-and-tissues night.

* * *

MIRACLE Beyond Measure
Book 2
Paranormal/Supernatural/Contemporary Fantasy Romance
By Linda Mooney
Word Count: 43.1K
$3.99 e / $9.99 p

 (Note: You can get Book 1, MIRACLE Above All, for only 99c!)

Life on the run is hard. Food is limited, and clothes are difficult to come by, but I’ll keep going. We’ll keep going. We have to. The world is depending on us.

My name is Casi Clarity, and there’s a prophecy that says I will be the one to save the world, along with my protector, Coheed. But we don’t know how, or when, or why. We just will.

Our travels have taken us to New Orleans, where the demons are getting stronger, smarter, and harder to evade. With new allies and enemies alike, who can I trust? Is my protector even who he says he is?

I’m in the fight of my life, with or without Coheed, but fighting without the help of my love is impossible to fathom. I’d rather die myself. But if I did, would I stay dead this time?

My name is Casi.

The undead call me Little Mouse.

Coheed calls me his Miracle.

Warning! Contains a special tea, a trailer in the swamp, deception, bitter cold, a lost testament, a new revelation, and the loss of a loved one that tears the heart apart.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Music Man (or Woman)

Posted by: Shawna Reppert

Well, September is both National Classical Music month and National Piano Month.  Since Raven plays piano and listens to classical music, I though it would be a good time to talk about music as a tool for creating a multi-dimensional character.
Since I mentioned my protagonist from the Ravensblood series, let’s look at him first. It’s funny the tricks your subconscious plays on you.  When I first mentioned that Raven could play the piano, it was a quick, throw-away line, Cassandra thinking bitterly that Raven knew how to play her like he knew how to play his baby grand. But it got a little more mileage in the novella Raven’s Song (Ravensblood 1.5*, set between Ravensblood and Raven’s Wing) Raven had not been able to play in the years he had been in hiding with the dark mage William, the master he eventually betrayed. Raven’s struggle to re-learn piano parallels his struggle to re-integrate into society. In Raven’s Wing, an insomniac Raven has a heart-to-heart with Mick MacLean that establishes what will become an important source of emotional support for him later in the novel. And in Raven’s Heart, the reestablishment of Raven’s relationship with the piano teacher of his youth is an indication that he is ready to fully put his past as a dark mage behind him.
Raven loves symphony and opera. Not only does this underline the fundamental old-world nature of his character, but it gave me a opportunity for little side interactions with other characters. For example, Cassandra likes symphony but not opera. Because of this, Raven makes his first Mundane friend, a book store owner who plays chess and attends opera with him. Raven’s dislike and distrust of technology wars with his desire to listen to classical music on the stereo. Cassandra’s former partner, self-proclaimed geek mage Chuckie, writes detailed instructions and posts them next to Raven’s stereo system and labels the ‘on’ button with a Post-it note. He’s trying to convince Raven to try Pandora with the promise of all-classical and all-opera channels.
Of course, I am not the first person to use music as a way into character. The violin humanizes Holmes, giving him an artistic side to warm the cold logic. Tolkien is brilliant at creating very different styles of song for each of his races. Don’t believe me? Contrast the light-hearted, clever ballads the hobbits sing with the elegant, graceful songs of the elves. And to go a little more pop culture, can you imagine Tony Stark/Iron Man without his heavy metal.
What other examples can you name?

*Lest anyone go crazy looking for Raven's Song, it is not currently available but will be soon. It was originally part of the no-longer-available anthology Here be Magic and will soon be released as a separate novella.

Shawna Reppert is an award-winning author of fantasy and steampunk who keeps her readers up all night and makes them miss work deadlines.  Her fiction asks questions for which there are no easy answers while taking readers on a fine adventure that grips them heart and soul.  You can find her work on Amazon and follow her blog on her website (  You can friend her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter, where she posts an amazing array of geekery.  Shawna has on occasion been found in medieval garb on a caparisoned horse, throwing javelins into innocent hay bales that never did anything to her.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Here Be News for September 24, 2018

Posted by: Dani Harper, Author
All the latest 
from the authors at 
Here Be Magic

In Case You Missed It:

Monday, September 17 - 

"HERE BE NEWS" - All the latest from the authors at Here Be Magic - including two new releases!

Tuesday, September 18 - 
"THE MAGIC OF PAPER" - Author Dani Harper reveals one of her favorite seasons and the magical reason why...

Wednesday, September 19 - 
GUEST AUTHOR - best selling thriller writer Riley Sager is interviewed by our own Angela Campbell on HERE BE MAGIC. 

Thursday, September 20 - 

"ALWAYS LEARNING" - author Shona Husk tells how research feeds her brain. (PS - You can check out her new release too!) 

Friday, September 21 - 
"STRANGER THINGS - What authors learn while writing!" - If you live in fear of strangers reading your browser history, you just might be an author. 

Severed heads, rubber condoms, graveyard dirt - we have it all!

In this special joint article, the gang at Here Be Magic share a few of the unusual topics they've researched, or things they've learned, while writing a story


Friday, September 21, 2018

STRANGER THINGS - What authors learn while writing!

Posted by: Dani Harper, Author
If you live in fear of someone reading your browser history, you just might be an author.

The gang at Here Be Magic share a few of the unusual topics they've researched, or things they've learned, while writing a story:

PG - "The odd bit of research that has stayed with me the longest is the fact that a bullet can travel for miles before falling to earth if nothing gets in its way. I realize that YMMV and a lot depends on the kind of gun it's fired from, the angle at which it's shot, weather conditions, etc, but someday I will write a murder mystery, in the country setting, where the victim is (apparently) accidentally killed that way." ~ PG Forte

CINDY - "I had to determine when rubber condoms were introduced to see if they would fit in a story. I ended up doing an entire essay on the history of condoms that ended up in one of my publishers' newsletter and those of a couple RWA chapters." ~ Cindy Spencer Pape

JODY - "Not strange so much as fascinating – when I was writing Survival of the Fairest, I researched Area 51 very thoroughly. Not Area 51 per se, but the places that people hike to in order to spy on Area 51. What the trail was like, if there were a lot of snakes, where to park, photos taken from those vantage points, and so on. It’s been awhile since I did this research so things could have changed, but people who wrote these hike diaries talked about being buzzed by black air craft as well as how they used to be able to climb this one peak and get fantastic shots but now the protected area has expanded.

"And yes, there are snakes 😊." ~ Jody Wallace

NICOLE - "Okay, the strangest bit of research I ever had to do was for my fantasy novel Gate to Kandrith, which featured a healer character. I wanted him to heal someone who had just been beheaded, and I needed a time frame. This was in the pre-internet days, so I phoned up the reference desk at my public library and asked how long a severed head would stay alive. Unsurprisingly, the librarian couldn't help me. 

"But about a week later I got a call back. The reference librarians had a monthly meeting where they discussed hard questions and pooled their knowledge. Another librarian remembered running across a book about a patent for keeping severed heads alive (eep!), which they then put on hold for me. (The answer is about five minutes in case you're curious.) ~ Nicole Luiken 

DANI - “Dirt. Graveyard dirt to be exact. My browser history wouldn’t reveal much murder and mayhem, but it would convince most people that I’m a practicing sorcerer! I’ve had to learn a lot about the history and traditions of many types of magic in order to build worlds for faeries, shapeshifters, human witches and ghosts.

"Still, I never imagined needing to read up on “how to properly harvest and use graveyard dirt”. (Note - using a shovel is a big no-no. Trust me.) The creepy stuff has surprising uses – even "good" ones – and ended up in the novel I’m working on for my Haunted Holiday series!” ~ Dani Harper 

MAUREEN - "I've looked up some unusual things for stories, but one of the creepiest things was for my story, DESTINY CALLING. I wanted a really, old evil book within the story to be made of something that made your skin crawl. It turns out, some books actually do—kind of. Apparently during the 17th century it wasn't unusual to use human skin to bind books and that Harvard discovered a few books with these strange-looking leather covers in their library.

"So if you come across binding books with human skin in my browser history, think nothing of it. Really..."  ~ Maureen L Bonatch

Author Linda Mooney has learned a lot about bloodstains!
LINDA - "When you're maiming characters, it's useful to know the size of a hole that certain size bullets will make when they enter and exit a body.

"And after the shooting, someone always has to figure out whodunnit... It's been fascinating to learn how blood stain pattern analysis works!" ~ Linda Mooney

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