Category Archives: Guest Post

Exclusive Author Guest Post: Katherine Harbour


VINTAGE ‘80S FANTASY: FEMALE WRITERS
by Katherine Harbour

The 1980s, for me, was the perfect decade for fantasy, and not just because that’s when I discovered it as a teen (fantasy, not the ‘80s). I’d already read Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, the Oz books, and Peter Pan. When I was nine, I’d picked up The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe from a library shelf and opened it to the illustration of the White Witch about to sacrifice Aslan, and hastily set it back on the shelf because it looked too scary.

The first fantasy book I bought was Riddle of the Wren by Charles de Lint. The Secret Country by Pamela Dean followed, then Barbara Hambly’s Time of the Dark.

I was hooked.

Glancing at my bookshelves, I am surprised to see that most of the books are by female writers. Many of them are books I bought in the ‘80s. I didn’t seek out women writers—it just happened. Here are some of my favorites:

C.J. Cherryh is known mostly for her SF, but it was her fantasy books—The Tree of Swords and Jewels, Rusalka, The Books of Morgaine, and the swashbuckling Angel With the Sword that I loved. All of them had strong female characters.

Tanith Lee wrote some strange dark fantasies, otherworldly or contemporary. Her characters were archetypes made human and I found her writing language lyrical and dazzling. The Silver Metal Lover was the first SF book I ever read. Her Secret Books of Paradise were disturbing. The Flat Earth series was mesmerizing. And her retellings of classical tales—Sung in Shadow (Romeo and Juliet) and Red as Blood (fairy tales) made me want more.

Nancy Springer’s Books of the Isles blended elves and an almost Arthurian romance mythology with brutality and grim reality. (Also, one of the characters on the cover of The Silver Sun resembled Matt Dillon, whom I had a raging crush on at the time.)

Judith Tarr. Once again, elves! Only the elves in The Hound and the Falcon existed in history, incorporated into the chaotic time of the Crusades. They were dangerous and beautiful and more human than some of the humans they dealt with. She also wrote a series called Avaryan Rising, about empires, young kings, and magic.

Jennifer Roberson’s unique Chronicles of the Cheysuli books were about a tribe of shapechangers inspired by Celtic and Native American culture.

Sheri S. Tepper’s whimsical and darkly original world of The True Game was the setting for her tales of young Peter the shapeshifter and Jinian Footseer.

P.C. Hodgell wrote one of the best trickster anti-heroines I’ve ever read in her Godstalk series, set in a fantastical, Dickensian land of dark magic, old gods, and warring clans.

Ellen Kushner’s Swordspoint series was romantic and also very Dickensian, combining intrigue, swordfighting, and sexy, damaged characters.

Jane Yolen’s fairy-tale fantasies, like Briar Rose, some modern and some traditional, were classical and elegant.

Anne McCaffrey. Dragons! Bonding with dragons! Dragonriders! Sex! (Not with dragons.) But my favorite books were the YA DragonSong, DragonSinger, and DragonDrums.

Katherine Kurtz’s Deryni Chronicles novels were set in a world similar to England’s era of The War of the Roses, where magic is considered illegal and a magical race called Deryni must tread carefully. There were betrayals at every turn and a young man seeking to be a good king.

Barbara Hambly’s books about another world, beginning with The Time of the Dark and continuing with The Ladies of Mandrigyn and Dragonsbane, were medieval and amazingly detailed, filled with dangerous magic (I loved her scholarly outlaw wizards), horrifying creatures, and some awesome dragons. There was the added bonus of two people from our world being dragged into that fantastical realm.

Terri Windling’s classical fantasies. She also co-edited the Bordertown series about the Elflands returning to the modern world. It was brilliant, and is still being carried on nowadays. Faery and Elfland in our world was a popular theme in the ‘80’s, with Emma Bull’s War for the Oaks and Diana Wynne Jones’ Fire and Hemlock.

There was also Andre Norton, Louise Cooper, Patricia McKillip, Janny Wurtz, Joan D. Vinge and I’ve probably left out others.

I do wish more of these writers could be found in libraries and bookstores. They were the writers I spent my teen years with, lost in a variation of extraordinary worlds, with fascinating characters. They’ve been read again, and consulted, and skimmed through. They were the stories that made me want to create other worlds and the people who inhabited them. And they’ll always have a place on my bookshelf.


Katherine Harbour (author of Thorn Jack and Briar Queen)
www.katherineharbour.com

Book Giveaway: Voyagers

Courtesy of Random House Books for Young Readers, I have a copy of Voyagers: Project Alpha by D. J. MacHale for one (1) lucky winner!

Contest is open to US residents only. No PO Boxes please. To enter, just fill out the form below. Contest ends September 25. I’ll draw a name on September 26, and notify winner via email.

ENTER DAILY TO INCREASE YOUR CHANCE OF WINNING!

Good luck!

Continue reading Book Giveaway: Voyagers

FORBIDDEN Blog Tour: Cathy Clamp Guest Post and Giveaway!

Logic in Urban Fantasy – Making the Unreal seem Real
by Cathy Clamp

Urban fantasy has become such a popular subgenre of fantasy because it takes our real world and imposes fantasy elements into it—allowing heroes and/or heroines to use their humanity to solve otherworldly problems. It’s fun for readers to vicariously live through the characters, who have to deal with things like monthly rent, sucky jobs and annoying families. Plus, when the real world gets involved, so does the reality of legal red tape, smart cops who can also figure things out, and physics. Nothing can be more frustrating to a paranormal hero/ine than to be outsmarted at their own game. So they have to be smarter, quicker and more dangerous than those around them. Anything that keeps the characters on their toes makes it all the more fun for the reader. But it also keeps us authors on our toes, which isn’t as much fun.

See, it’s much easier to set a story in a paranormal reality because we don’t have to answer annoying questions, like “why” and “how” things happen. But in the Sazi shapeshifter reality, featured in both my new book FORBIDDEN, and the Tales of the Sazi series that preceded it, is stuck square in the middle of our current world, so I can’t escape asking . . . and answering, all the tough questions.

What sort of questions? Here are a few that were dealt with early on that have served the characters well:

How could a shapeshifter really exist today, when there are cameras everywhere, social media rules the world, and persistent people go out of their way searching for weird things?

Answer: Well, it’s tough to be Sazi. No question. When the full moon rises, a shifter has to shift and hunt. Fortunately, people are still people. They’re a tad self-absorbed and if given a little incentive, will avoid an area. What sort of incentive? Well placed growls coming from a darkened path certainly help send people the other way. And who hasn’t avoided an area when the hairs rise on the back of your neck for no apparent reason? Maybe there is a reason. A little well-timed aversion magic can change the route home.

How do shifters find other shifters when everyone stays hidden?

Answer: Scents, of course. Just like dogs and cats and wilder animals, shifters have uncanny noses. Every person has a personal scent, and a wolf can smell where another wolf has been. Or a cat, or a bird or a snake. The nose knows. Even emotions have scents to the Sazi. Fear is a jaw tightening scent that smells a lot like Worchestershire sauce. Open a bottle and take a deep whiff. Feel that sensation at the back of your jaw? Makes you want to bite down on something, doesn’t it? Happiness smells like bursts of citrus, and if you lie? Oh, they know from the smell of black pepper that seeps from your pores.

A human shifting into an animal would have density issues, or at least size ones. How could people not notice a bird or snake the equivalent size of a human?

Answer: Predators are BIG. Great cats dwarf standard size humans, weighing upwards of 200 pounds, birds can have wing spans of 8 feet, pythons have been found that eat humans for lunch, and even wolves can weigh around 125 pounds. And with a little misdirection, plus speed and shadows, a person wouldn’t think anything other than, “Damn! That was a big cougar!”

Wouldn’t people notice if one particular person was always missing on full moons? For years on end? The excuses would eventually run out and cause suspicion, right?

Answer: Sure. Absolutely. Without a really good reason, people would definitely notice. But what if the shifters worked for family businesses? Multi-generation owned businesses are the heartblood of commerce. And people in small towns in rural areas might all stay and live there for a very good reason.

Believability. That’s what it takes to make an urban fantasy story come alive to a reader. Ask the hard questions, and then answer them with sound logic, and the reader will come along for the ride. Dive into FORBIDDEN. Smell through the nose of a shifter, feel the snow on your fur and the tickle of dangerous magic in the air. Come along for the ride!


Courtesy of Tor Books, I have a copy of ForbiddenForbidden by Cathy Clamp for one (1) lucky winner!

Contest is open to US residents only. No PO Boxes please. To enter, just fill out the form below. Contest ends September 11. I’ll draw a name on September 12, and notify winner via email.

ENTER DAILY TO INCREASE YOUR CHANCE OF WINNING!

Good luck!

Continue reading FORBIDDEN Blog Tour: Cathy Clamp Guest Post and Giveaway!

Author Jeff Pearce Guest Post

Jeff Pearce in Ethiopia
WINDOWS AND DOUBTS, LEGENDS AND HOPES
by Jeff Pearce

As I write this, I’m in the middle of a depression. I’ve had worse. I’d rank this one a “five,” meaning that I can reasonably function, even if there are days when I feel like jumping out the nearest window. In fact, I just scared myself by checking to see if the one nearest to me opens. It does, but it would mean a tight fit climbing out. The least you should settle for in a dramatic plunge to your death is to be comfortable as you shove your way through the aperture. The urge is still there, but meh. If this is published, it means I got over it. I do know that all this is tied to The Work.

Karma Booth coverI am one of those who want to write because after so many years, I just have to—stories will spill out, fiction or non-fiction. But I can’t pretend I don’t have the selfish urge to be successful. I don’t “write for me”—screw that. I write so that hopefully, you’ll read me. You’ll be entertained. You’ll want to read me again. And maybe you’ll enlist others. If I’m not going to last on a shelf, what was I here for? What did I do it all for? Of course, this is irrational. So is Olympic bobsledding.

The novice aches to be published. The mid-lister is already published, but pines for a breakthrough book. And in the current publishing climate, we as writers have to prove ourselves over and over. It’s not enough to have a track record, what were the sales from your last book? Who are you again?

I don’t find inspiration lacking or revision difficult. What wears me down is the number of doors closed today for unagented submissions, the perpetual, relentless search for a home for your work, the grind. I was comparing notes via email with a long-time non-fiction writer recently (who obviously shall go nameless) who confided to me how they were disillusioned by their imprint’s complete lack of interest in marketing the book in the U.S., despite glowing reviews; they clearly felt hurt by the shameless lack of courtesy when the publisher didn’t even bother to explain why a paperback release was never issued. Now if that can happen to them (and that person is very good), it makes me second-guess my own efforts to pitch, to put together those polished sample chapters, the synopsis, etc.

There are those out there who might justifiably shoot back, Boohoo. Cry me a river. That’s the biz you chose, and if you drop out, there will be others with the stamina, not to mention the talent, to rush on—marketing support or not, good manners from imprints or not, pitiful advances or not. Dedicated newcomers and other old pros won’t give up, and they shouldn’t. And those who point this out will be right. In fact, they’ll be damn right.

I am just throwing things out there, trying to take the temperature, wondering if it’s just me, or if I’ll hear the ping back across the void, the mournful song across the ocean.

I’ve had 15 books published in different genres, both under my own name and pseudonyms, but science fiction is the only one for which I question my right to work. I don’t necessarily need to work in it—I can write other things, and I have. History. Thrillers. Really dumb erotica. But I feel about science fiction the same way I do about karate. Years ago when I was training hard in a dojo. I worked with remarkable athletes, and I had to make peace with myself that I would never be in their class, not even close. They were scary good. And so I humbly loved martial arts, even if I could never reach these individuals’ level of greatness.

I live in the same city as Robert Charles Wilson and Robert J. Sawyer, but if I met either of them on the street, I don’t think I could hold an intelligent conversation with either of them. Yeah, sure, maybe in the technical sense, all three of us are writers, but if this were an evolutionary scale, I wouldn’t even share the category of “Primates” with them—I’d be down there with “plankton.”

Reich TVAnd I have only myself, of course, to blame for that. My scientific literacy is embarrassingly abysmal. I can read Spin and love it, but there’s no way I could ever write something that spectacularly good, either in terms of its literary level or its scientific plausibility.

Continue reading Author Jeff Pearce Guest Post

David B. Coe (D.B. Jackson) Guest Post

CoeJacksonPubPic1000Hi, I’m David B. Coe. I also write as D.B. Jackson. Under my own name, I am the author of The Case Files of Justis Fearsson, a contemporary urban fantasy set in modern day Phoenix. The newest book in this series, HIS FATHER’S EYES, will be released by Baen Books a week from today, on August 4. As D.B. Jackson, I write the Thieftaker Chronicles, a historical urban fantasy set in pre-Revolutionary Boston. The fourth and (for now) final Thieftaker book, DEAD MAN’S REACH, came out from Tor Books a week ago, on July 21.

200DeadMansReachI’m very excited to be here today, especially because I’m joined by my two protagonists from these series, Justis Fearsson and Ethan Kaille. I’m particularly pleased that Mister Kaille could join us, since he not only had to travel some distance, but also across nearly two and a half centuries. Gentlemen, welcome to you both.

Fearsson: Thanks, it’s good to be here.

Kaille: Aye, it is. Although I will admit to feeling a bit like a fish out of water. What is that contraption on which your fingers are tapping? For that matter how have you managed to illuminate this room without benefit of a single candle flame or hearth fire?

Well . . . You know, I’m afraid that in order to use our time most wisely, I’m going to have to skip the explanations. Suffice it to say that we’ve had a few technological breakthroughs in the years since the American Revolution.

Kaille: There’s been a revolution?!

Um . . . yeah. You and I can talk later. For now, allow me to ask the two of you some questions. I’d like to begin by asking how you enjoy being in my books.

Fearsson: You mind if I go first?

Kaille: Be my guest.

Layout 1Fearsson: Frankly, it’s kind of a mixed bag. You’ve given me some nice stuff. Love the car. I mean LOVE it. A ‘77 280Z, and silver no less? That’s a sweet ride. And you’ve given me some nice weaponry, too. As a former cop, I appreciate that. On the other hand, I tend to get the crap beaten out of me on a pretty regular basis, and it’s starting to get a little old. Also, the moon phasings and the whole temporary insanity thing — that’s no picnic. I could have done without it.

Kaille: Moon phasings?

Continue reading David B. Coe (D.B. Jackson) Guest Post

Author Guest Post and Giveaway: J. Kathleen Cheney


Courtesy of the author, we are giving away a copy of The Golden City and The Seat of Magic by J Kathleen Cheney for one (1) random commenter! Leave a comment below to enter!


shoresofspain
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Leaving One World Behind for Another
by J. Kathleen Cheney

While I’m writing this, the last book of my Golden City series, The Shores of Spain, is poised to debut. If you count the three novels, the two novellas I’m working on putting out, and the notes for the third novella (or possibly fourth novel) that’s currently waiting in a file on my desktop, I have written nearly 500,000 words in this setting—an alternate 1902 Portugal.

Because it’s Historical Fantasy, I’ve spent the last few years researching for this series. I’ve studied history, language, and customs. I’ve learned to cook some of the local food (I’m a terrible cook, though.) I’ve actually traveled to Portugal and spent a couple of weeks there. For years it seemed that every spare moment was spent researching Portugal, and every spare penny was put toward period maps, travel videos, and relevant books.

And now that’s all over. Or is it?

It’s been hard for me to stop researching. I’ll see an article on one of the Portugal Facebook groups I follow, and find myself falling down the rabbit hole of research again….for no good reason. Am I ever going to put that knowledge to work? I don’t know.

Did you know that the Agramonte Cemetery in Porto is overrun with cats? Someone even took the time to set up a Reddit for pictures of cats at Agramonte, although no one has ever posted on it. Apparently, setting up a “cat in the cemetery” Reddit is common—there seem to be a lot of cat/cemetery pictures there. I don’t know how much time I spent down that particular rabbit hole, but it was far more than I needed because I only went there to make certain that Agramonte was opened before 1903.

The problem with stopping one’s research is that the setting doesn’t stop being interesting.

So I’ve had to remind myself not to purchase more books about Portugal. I’ve tried to limit my time on webpages about the setting. I’ve even let my language practice lapse, one thing I actually should not give up.

But the issue here is time. Because I only have a finite amount of time to get the next book written, I have to hustle to get my research done. I’m researching underground building design, Scandinavia, India, Persia. I’m having to consider new languages and peoples and I’m fleshing out a whole new world…in a matter of months, not years.

And just as I did with Portugal, I’ve fallen in love with this new setting. It’s a second world fantasy, which means I’m building it from the ground up. Or from under the ground and up.

I’ve had to do this before. I wrote three novellas before the Portugal books that were set in Saratoga Springs, New York. I accumulated what feels like a ton of research info on that location. Many of those books are still on the shelf behind me. Will I ever write something set there again? I certainly hope so.

Because we never truly forget our older settings. We will always love them, like a friend that we haven’t seen in years but with whom we still try to keep in touch. We know them. They’re familiar. Comfortable.

But for writers it’s always on to the next thing, always with a prayer that the next thing will be even more fun, and more successful. Fingers crossed!


Courtesy of the author, we are giving away a copy of The Golden City and The Seat of Magic by J Kathleen Cheney for one (1) random commenter! So, leave a comment below to enter!

Continue reading Author Guest Post and Giveaway: J. Kathleen Cheney

Author Guest Post: Gail Z. Martin

I&B final cover

Gail Martin, Dreamspinner Communications
Gail Martin, Dreamspinner Communications

Mary Sue Must Die!
By Gail Z. Martin

Imagine a character who is extremely attractive, in excellent physical condition, has but to look at a member of the opposite sex to successfully seduce that person AND is an expert with weapons, covert operations, all forms of martial arts. Everyone wants to either be this character or sleep with this character.

A real ‘Mary Sue’–right? Must be the writer projecting onto a character, living vicariously, building a fantasy alter-ego instead of crafting a realistic character.

Wrong. The name is Bond. James Bond. And I’ve never yet heard anyone describe Bond as a ‘Gary Stu’ (the male equivalent of Mary Sue) even though Bond’s creator, Ian Fleming, was a former spy and had a lot in common with good ol’ 007.

The term ‘Mary Sue’ gets used a lot, and most of the time, it’s used improperly, even by book reviewers, in ways that are overwhelmingly, if not exclusively, aimed at female writers and female characters. Maybe that’s because there are three meanings for the term, only one of which is technically correct. Too often, the term is used incorrectly and translates into a generic put-down of any interesting and talented female character written by a female author.

Mary Sue #1–The Original. The term ‘Mary Sue’ comes out of Star Trek fan fiction, and describes an early story with Lt. Mary Sue who was braver than Kirk, smarter than Spock, better at everything than anyone, loved by everyone and desired by every man on the ship. It was a charicature, not a real character, and a cautionary example of bad writing by an fan author. I’ll argue that this–and only this–is the way the term ‘Mary Sue’ or ‘Gary Stu’ should be used.

Mary Sue #2– The Put-Down. As already noted, men can create superheroes and ace detectives, fearless warriors and super-spies with nary a charge of wish fulfillment. But too often, when professional female writers have characters who are 1) exceptionally good at anything, 2) good at more than one thing and 3) not ugly (horrors!) there’s likely to be charges of Mary Sue-ism. Why? Who says that a woman can’t be an astrophysicist and good at martial arts and be pretty? Or any other combination of accomplished, awesome and attractive? How does it add up that if a female writer creates such a character, she is obviously living out her fantasies as opposed to just writing an interesting protagonist?

Continue reading Author Guest Post: Gail Z. Martin

Mysteries of Cove: Fires of Invention Cover Reveal

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Author Spotlight and Cover Reveal: J.Scott Savage
Author Note:
Like many of my books, the inspiration for my new series Fires of Invention came from the collision of two ideas. The first time the story occurred to me was while I was watching the musical Wicked with my wife. The moment I walked into the theater and saw the huge mechanical dragon above the stage, I thought, Wow! I have to write a story about that! A few weeks later, I was talking with my nephew, who is probably the most creative kid I know, but whose inventiveness often gets him into trouble, and I thought, What if a kid who had the talents of my nephew lived in a world where creativity was against the law? What if the kids were building . . . a steam-powered dragon? Bam! I had my story.

Powered by great feedback from my agent, Michael Bourret, my good friend and author James Dashner, my publisher, Chris Schoebinger, and the song “Warriors” by Imagine Dragons, I wrote the entire first draft of the first volume in the series, Mysteries of Cove in four weeks. This book is unlike anything I have ever written. There are elements of City of Ember, Dragon Riders, and Hugo in it all mashed up together in a world I fell in love with from the moment I started writing.

I think what’s most exciting to me about this book is that it’s about giving yourself the freedom to imagine. To take chances. Too often we limit ourselves by only trying things we’re confident we can succeed at when what we need to do is give ourselves permission to fail. Often it is when we attempt things with no idea of how we can possibly pull them off that we achieve our greatest successes.

Book Description:
STEAMPUNK! Plus Dragons!
Trenton Colman is a creative thirteen-year-old boy with a knack for all things mechanical. But his talents are viewed with suspicion in Cove, a steam-powered city built inside a mountain. In Cove, creativity is a crime and “invention” is a curse word. Kallista Babbage is a repair technician and daughter of the notorious Leo Babbage, whose father died in an explosion-an event the leaders of Cove point to as an example of the danger of creativity.

Working together, Trenton and Kallista learn that Leo Babbage was developing a secret project before he perished. Following clues he left behind, they begin to assemble a strange machine that is unlikely anything they’ve ever seen before. They soon discover that what they are building may threaten every truth their city is founded on-and quite possibly their very lives.

Author Bio:
J. Scott Savage is the author of the Farworld middle grade fantasy series and the Case File 13 middle grade monster series. He has been writing and publishing books for over ten years. He has visited over 400 elementary schools, dozens of writers conferences, and taught many writing classes. He has four children and lives with his wife Jennifer and their Border Collie, Pepper, in a windy valley of the Rocky Mountains.

FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/pages/J-Scott-Savage/55805743891
TWITTER: https://twitter.com/jscottsavage
INSTAGRAM: jscottsavage
WEBSITE: www.jscottsavage.com