Guest Posts

Guest Post by Gail Z Martin: Creating Fictional Holidays

Posted by on Oct 28, 2013 | 0 comments

Today I’ve got a special world building treat for the writers out there. Gail Z. Martin stops by my blog to talk about making holidays in fictional worlds. Without further babbling on my end, here’s Gail: Creating Fictional Holidays by Gail Z. Martin One of the things I love about world-building is the chance to create entirely new holidays.  I personally believe that you can never have enough holidays, so the chance to invent a few of my own is really too much to resist. As with any world-building, holidays need to fit into the belief structure of the place and people you’ve created.  I’ve found that it helps a lot to read about holidays, feasts, and celebrations world-wide and throughout history in order to get a feel for the kinds of things that people commemorate with a special time set apart. If you’re writing a militaristic culture, it’s likely that they will commemorate great battles, both wins and losses.  The losses are likely to be solemn occasions, while the victory remembrances may include feasting, storytelling, gift-giving, dances and music.  It may be a time when mayhem is permitted and even tacitly encouraged.  Or it could be the time when young warriors are presented for initiation. In an agricultural culture, holidays are likely to follow the seasonal cycle of planting and harvest.  There will be times when people are too busy to celebrate, and other times when it’s possible to take a day to enjoy the harvest.  Foods will be what are seasonally available.  Spring will focus on new life, and may be the time for handfastings.  Fall is a time for counting stock and preparing for the cold dark winter. Holidays play a big role in my Chronicles of the Necromancer series.  Not only do they provide a window into the cultures of the different kingdoms in how they are celebrated, but the characters’ attitudes toward the holidays also provide an insight into who they are and what they have experienced.  In my most recent novel, Ice Forged, even exiles in a harsh arctic colony find a way to make a celebration out of the beginning and end of the “white nights”. Holidays are also a great way to provide a view of the economy of your fictional world.  Are special goods required for a celebration?  How far in debt will people go to acquire them?  What trade is necessary to supply them? Can they be obtained illegally?  How do celebrations differ between the rich and the poor?  Slave and free? People of different races or kingdoms? Make sure to study folklore and world customs to avoid just copying the holidays you might be most familiar with.  Throughout history, people have found a rich variety of ways to honor their deities, so you’ve got a lot of inspiration to pull from beyond our modern culture. Holidays are a lot of fun to write.  Invent a good one, and you may be able to make it an annual celebration with your readers.  Adding holidays to your writing creates a whole new layer of believability and texture to your world.  Try it and see! Come check out all the free excerpts, book giveaways and other goodies that are part of my Days of the Dead blog tour!   Trick-or-Treat you way through more than 30 partner sites where you’ll find brand new interviews, freebies and more–details at Ice Forged will be a Kindle Daily Deal with a special one-day price of just $1.99 only on October 31!  Get it here: Reign of Ash, book two in the Ascendant Kingdoms...

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Amazon to Local Writer: “Neener Neener.”

Posted by on Oct 12, 2012 | 0 comments

A guest post from obscurity by Anne Holly Amazon taunts me. I know if I close my profile page, it will laugh behind my back. Thus, I must keep staring at it, just to make sure. As I write this, it happens to be October 10, 2012, exactly two years since my first book went up for sale. By some standards, two years is a very short time in a profession. By others, two years is nearly an elder. By Kindle author standards, I feel like I’m settling into middle age somewhere. But I’m rather letting myself go, I admit. Since 2010, I have released two romance novels, five erotic-romance shorts, a romance novella, and one paranormal erotic story, and a few collections, and all have been greeted by the public with resounding yawns and/or complete disregard. It’s been a heady couple of years, basking in my own obscurity, let me tell you. If anyone needs a method for counteracting all that “I’m Special!” optimism instilled in people during grade school ribbon ceremonies, I highly recommend publishing to Kindle. A few years of that, and you might never feel special again. So, okay, I might be cranking up the bitter here a little, for emphasis, but it’s my anniversary so I’ll give myself a chance to wallow. Frankly, you’re lucky I’m not drunk blogging this. If this were a football game, would this be the time for a halftime speech? What should I say to myself? The way I see it, there are two options – “We’re not licked yet!” or “Screw this, let’s forfeit and go for pizza anyway!” I remain perpetually on the fence when it comes to these two possible paths, so I have no idea what to make my little Mind Coach say. But, whichever way I go today or tomorrow, or next week, I can honestly say I don’t really regret giving this a go. I’ve enjoyed writing every one of my titles, in different and surprising ways, and I’ve loved hearing people say they enjoyed them. I might not be making any money at this (at all), but I am doing exactly what I always hoped I’d do – getting my words polished, published, and in front of readers. And that part is rather delightful. However, I have one question: Did Amazon really have to debut its new “Author Ranking” system on my anniversary, just to make it was even more clear how much I suck at this business? Really, Amazon, if I didn’t know any better, I’d say you had an evil sense of humour! * Anne Holly is a Canadian writer and teacher, and author of eleven titles currently available on Amazon, B&N, and elsewhere in both ebook and paperback. You can get to know her on her blog (, and  follow/befriend her on GoodReads, or on Facebook or Twitter. Check out her books on Amazon, if you’d like, and help keep her profile there from being overrun by cobwebs and squatters: Anne’s most recent novel is Textbook Romance: Chase after love? As a single mother, Professor Liberty Sullivan knows better. Between her flighty mother and a disastrous history with men, she’s pretty much soured on the whole concept of romance. Personal freedom and self-reliance are her new guiding mantras. Raising her son and being a career star are the most important things now. Then she meets Seth. An ex-cop who’s making a new life for himself and his daughter, Seth Webster has every reason to play it safe. Then he meets Liberty. Prickly about love, following some crazy anti-romance...

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Guest Post by Michael Lee: On Creating Talbot

Posted by on Nov 7, 2011 | 1 comment

Today I’ve got a guest post from Michael Lee, who has a paranormal book called From Russia with Blood. Here’s the blurb: 400 year old vampire Ian Redd joined British Intelligence during the Cold War. But after the Berlin Wall came down they decided they no longer needed his services. He was retired, almost permanently. Ian escaped and has lived the quiet life in a small town until a professional hit team arrived at his doorstep. Who sent them? That’s a question that will lead Ian into the arms of a beautiful woman named Larissa Barton and into the most dangerous operation of his unlife. Larissa Barton’s life has barely begun and it’s already gone off the tracks. She’s back in her hometown working as a barista. But things change when Ian Redd enters her life. Dark, mysterious and gorgeous, Ian is her only protection from the people and creatures who suddenly want her dead. With Ian by her side Larissa plunges into a world of magic, werewolves, vampires, spies and assassins and discovers her own secret past. “One part James Bond, one part Dracula, and a whole lot of action and adventure. From Russia with Blood kicks ass!” – Vivi Anna, award winning author of the Valorian Chronicles Now I’ll let Michael tell you about the idea behind the werewolves in his book (for more information about him and his books, check out his blog): I first got the idea when I was watching Van Helsing starring Hugh Jackman. Still with me? Good. Let me explain. Van Helsing is a terrible movie. I knew that going in. In those days I loved going to bad movies. Bad movies got my creative juices pumping. I’d look for missed opportunities, for alternate routes the creators might have taken. With Van Helsing it was too easy. Just about anything would have been better than what they chose. But I came away thinking, you know what, they should have just run with it as a James Bond like adventure. Make Dracula the Blofeld and give him a werewolf henchman. The idea of werewolf henchman serving a Bond super villain stayed in the back of my mind until I wrote From Russia with Love. In it Talbot is the main antagonist for much of the book. He’s in charge of the hunt for Ian and Larissa and he is single-minded and savage in his pursuit. Having him be a Lycan suited his function in the story. But having a werewolf villain poses one particular challenge; how much of a threat is he if he only transforms during the full moon? Now of course the full moon hasn’t always been a part of werewolf lore. Lycans are often depicted as being able to transform at will. That sounded like a good idea but I wanted Talbot to be a little more dangerous; someone who was barely in control and could go wild at any moment. So I made him change during the night, any night regardless of the phase of the moon. There are a few myths that support this interpretation but it really works in the novel. Talbot isn’t just a hitman out to get the heroes; he’s a time bomb set to go off as soon as the sun sets. As Larissa describes him he’s only barely human, like the human guise is just a mask, one that slips off very regularly. There is some precedent for this in the folklore. A self professed werewolf once claimed to have wolf skin lying just beneath his human skin. In future books I hope...

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Guest Post by S.J. Davis: The Gears and Gadgets of Steampunk

Posted by on Oct 20, 2011 | 10 comments

Boy do I have a treat for you today. What, I ask you, is better than vampires? How about vampires and steampunk. See, I knew that would get your attention. I have a guest blog today from author S.J. Davis, who wrote a book called Invisible Sun that features both! Check out the description: In Victorian London, at the beginning of the Industrial Age and the height of man’s obsession with alchemy, scientists gave birth to the foundation of modern genetic science. As steampunk airships cut across the foggy city of Gravesend, vampires are brought to life. But instead of scavengers prowling the fringe of society, these creatures have evolved to be the respected organizers of the Society, a universal religion, and the Guardians of Science. One stray drop has spilled from the vein. Draegan, heralded from birth as the genetically perfect vampire, has turned rogue, attacking the women of London’s East End. Only his brother, with the help of Lady Astrid West, can hunt him down before he is able to unleash his full insanity upon the helpless city. And only another birth, the birth of yet another perfect vampire, can stop his madness. And now, S.J. Davis, with a little bit about the gears and gadgets of steampunk: What is Steampunk? I bet that even if you have never heard of Steampunk before, you have some limited experience in the genre without even realizing it. Steampunk has slipped noiselessly into our culture. You might be surprised to learn that perhaps your favorite book, movie, or band has steampunk influences. Steampunk is often referred to as the “greatest era that never was.” Set in the span of the 19th century, it encompasses all of the romanticism of the Victorian Era with all the dystopia of the Industrial Revolution. And what does that entail exactly? A world in which corset clad ladies sail the skies on steam driven airships!  Steampunk ‘Rules’ The largest thing to remember about the genre is that there are no set rules, Steampunk is so anachronistic it can’t settle on a fixed standard, but there are a few unspoken guidelines you should look at when working within the Steampunk genre. Traditionally, Steampunk usually occurs in the Victorian era, and many people have taken Steampunk out of England and into the Wild West. Some have ventured into the far-flung space operatic future. However, the technology inside the narrative should reflect some sort of steam powered gadgetry, the more fantastical and imaginative the better. Some writers focus more on the characters, others focus mostly on the technology and leave characters more as a backdrop. Did I mention multiculturalism? Because multiculturalism is GOOD! It’s not just about Great Britain. The Victorian Era happened across the globe. I’ve seen Steampunk cowboys, Steampunk pirates, and Steampunk Samurai. The most fun part of Steampunk for me has to be the accessories! They are to die for!! Goggles, corsets, parasols, airships, time machines…there is no end to the imagination! When I started to outline INVISIBLE SUN, I wanted to incorporate vampires into a Steampunk story filled with imaginative but plausible science.  I began with the perils of the Industrial Age and man’s obsession with alchemy, an area ripe for steampunk devices and fantastical inventions. But my Steampunk vampires are genetically altered. They are not scavengers prowling the fringes of society. They are highly evolved and respected organizers of law and also the guardians of science. Of course there must be an obstacle! An unforeseen circumstance, right? Well, a vampire genetically designed to be perfect, turns rogue, attacking the women of London’s East...

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Guest Post by Ashley M. Christman

Posted by on Oct 11, 2011 | 0 comments

For your reading pleasure today, I have a guest post by Urban Fantasy/Paranormal author, Ashley M. Christman. Here’s the blurb for her newest offering, Nightingale: Being Sidhe is hard, but a Sidhe without a heartbeat? Life is lucrative and easy for Dr. Grace Caldwell–daughter of vampire father and fey mother–until her ex-boyfriend, FBI agent Jack Montgomery, blackmails her into helping him solve a prostitute’s murder. If only she wasn’t as attracted to Jack as ever, she could concentrate on finding the murderer and get back to her regularly scheduled life. And then there’s the vampire Constantine, seductive and powerful, a family friend she’s supposed to marry… Not much of a vampire, and clueless about her fey powers–if she has any–Grace must journey to the Sidhe and enlist the help of the fey to unravel the riddle of the murder. She and Jack might just get killed, but then, two worlds depend on her success. If she fails, both her worlds and all of humanity will descend into chaos of epic proportions. Without further rambling from me, here’s Ms. Christman: Tales of vampires have been around for centuries. Slowly, they’ve evolved from tales of horror to tales of sensuality and sexuality because vampires are monsters. Beautiful monsters that look like human beings. This sensuality began with Bram Stoker’s Dracula with the title character and his seduction of Lucy, Mina, and of course the brides who seduced and fed from Jonathan. The thing that has never changed with vampires was that they represent death. They are affiliated with something so unnatural that they strike fear. They feed on the living to maintain their static state. In my novel, Nightingale, the character of Grace Caldwell is a vampire. Where she’s different is that she came from a vampire father (death) and a sidhe mother (life). She’s grown, matured and changed as a living creature ought to, but she’s so intimately connected with death that it frightens her. The first in the Nocturne series, Grace Caldwell creates a juxtaposition even in her own world. Vampires are afraid of her and the Sidhe are confused by her. In the faery world, vampires are walking abominations and reminders of death and she is one of them. By making my main character a vampire-faery mix, I had to explore weaknesses and strengths. She does need blood to survive, like all vamps, but she doesn’t need it as often. Sunlight doesn’t affect her, like a fae, but neither does cold-iron (very unfae-like). I think readers will be interested in a world where faeries, vampires, werewolves, and other manner of supernatural cross on a daily basis. Grace Caldwell walks these worlds not like a pro, but struggles through them, and struggles to find herself in them. I think people can identify with it. I think readers will enjoy it as much as I enjoyed writing it. Thank you. Visit her website at and catch up with her on Twitter @AMChristman The Witching Hour available from Lyrical Press| Requiem available in print and ebook from Noble Romance| Nightingale, Nocturne Book 1 available...

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Guest Post by Laura Bickle: Old Ghosts

Posted by on Aug 23, 2011 | 4 comments

Today I have for you guys a guest post by author Laura Bickle. Here’s the description for Sparks, the second book in her Urban Fantasy series about medium Anya Kalinczyk: WITHOUT A TRACE… Anya Kalinczyk is the rarest type of psychic medium, a Lantern, who holds down a day job as an arson investigator with the Detroit Fire Department—while working 24/7 to exterminate malicious spirits haunting a city plagued by unemployment and despair. Along with her inseparable salamander familiar, Sparky, Anya has seen, and even survived, all manner of fiery hell—but her newest case sparks suspicions of a bizarre phenomenon that no one but her eccentric team of ghost hunters might believe: spontaneous human combustion. After fire consumes the home of elderly Jasper Bernard, Anya is stunned to discover his remains—or, more precisely, a lack of them; even the fiercest fires leave some trace of their victims—and she is sure this was no naturally occurring blaze. Soon she’s unearthed a connection to a celebrity psychic who preys on Detroit’s poor, promising miracles for money. But Hope Solomon wants more—she’s collecting spirits, and in a frantic race against time, Anya will face down an evil adversary who threatens her fragile relationship with her lover, her beloved Sparky’s freshly hatched newts, and the wandering souls of the entire city. Embers, the first book, is available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble Sparks, the second book in the series is available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Get a free excerpt here. Please welcome Laura, with a post about the history of ghost hunting. Old Ghosts and New Methods By Laura Bickle Ghost hunting isn’t new. Modern ghost hunting involves investigating haunted sites in search of proof of life beyond death. Ghost hunters and other paranormal investigators often attempt to record data from their experiences using a variety of equipment beyond personal anecdotes. Such investigations can make use of EMF meters, thermometers, cameras, motion detectors, and audio recordings to capture evidence of paranormal activity. There’s a plethora of new evidence-collection devices available, with more invented and adapted as time goes on. With all the technology used by ghost hunters and the recent popularity of such investigations, it may seem that such activities are a new phenomenon. In fact, organized attempts to contact ghosts have their roots in Spiritualism, a movement that peaked in popularity between the 1840s and the 1920s. As a belief system, Spiritualism assumed that spirits of the dead could be contacted by humans. Spiritualism relied on mediums, living people who have the special ability to communicate with spirits, to bring the words and deeds of the dead to the masses. In 1848, two sisters, Kate and Margaret Fox, claimed to contact spirits through rapping noises. The experience of rapping by their audiences was considered to be vivid evidence at the time. Their experiences and the experiences of other mediums in the movement sparked widespread public interest in the afterlife. Seances, table-tipping, Ouija boards, and automatic writing became popular entertainment, even parlor games at parties. Communication with the dead became democratized, in a sense. It could be witnessed by ordinary people. The movement began to wane under accusations of fraud. In the 1920s, stage magicians such as Harry Houdini campaigned to expose mediums defrauding grieving families. As analysis began to replace belief, many efforts to contact spirits were exposed as delusional or predatory. Still, the interest in life after death is perennial; across cultures, it‘s a topic for philosophers and theologians. But the Spiritualist movement brought the search to the masses. Ordinary people were able to touch and see evidence...

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