Category Archives: Guest Post

Author Guest Post: Gail Z. Martin

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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

The Girl at Midnight Blog Tour

Echo’s Top Five Heroines
by Melissa Grey

In The Girl at Midnight, my seventeen-year-old protagonist, Echo, lives in the New York Public Library and has since she was seven years old. Naturally, she’s spent a good chunk of her wild and reckless youth reading. Here’s a list of Echo’s favorite heroines from fictional worlds, in no particular order.

1. Claudia, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler – Echo’s original role model. She came across this book in her elementary school library and she loved it so much she may have “forgotten” to return it (every thief starts somewhere). Claudia runs away from home to live in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which inspires Echo to take off on her own and set up camp in the gorgeous main branch of the New York Public Library on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan.

2. Hermione Granger, Harry Potter – Sometimes, brute force isn’t the best way through a problem. Sometimes, the best solution is a combination of books and cleverness. Like Hermione, Echo enjoys devouring knowledge from all across the spectrum, because hey, you never know when you might need to whip up a Polyjuice Potion to save the day.

3. Éowyn, The Lord of the Rings – A woman born into a world of suffocating expectations who defies convention to become a warrior so fearsome not even the Witch King stands a chance? What’s not to love?

4. Katniss Everdeen, The Hunger Games – The benefit of living in a library is that you get to read all the best books before they’re checked out forever (seriously, try borrowing The Hunger Games these days, you’ll be on the wait list for ages). Katniss scrabbles together a meager survival and goes to the ends of the earth to protect the people she loves, something Echo knows a thing or two about.

5. Morgaine, The Mists of Avalon – This Marion Zimmer Bradley classic has it all: action, adventure, romance, heartbreak, and of course, complex, nuanced female characters. Morgaine, also known as Morgan le Fay of Arthurian legend, is a powerful priestess fighting to preserve’s her people’s place in the world against the overwhelming tide of patriarchy. And that’s something Echo can get behind.

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Courtesy of Random House Children’s Books, I have a copy of The Girl at Midnight by Melissa Grey 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 June 5. I’ll draw a name on June 6, and notify winner via email.

ENTER DAILY TO INCREASE YOUR CHANCE OF WINNING!

Good luck!

Continue reading The Girl at Midnight Blog Tour

Josh Vogt Guest Post and Giveaway!

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Not the Face! – Making Fight Scenes Mean Something
by Josh Vogt

Confession time: I love writing fight scenes. Why is that something necessitating a confession? Well, I guess I’m saying it in a “sorry, but not really sorry” manner, but there are both readers and writers out there who tend to see fight scenes as little more than fluff—non-essential or cheap ways to add tension and conflict to the tale. They’re the skimmable portions of the prose, and you might as well just flip to the end to see who survives and move on to the actual important parts.

Are there books where the fight scenes are nothing more ways to pad the novel or bridge the gap between Point A and Point B? Sure. But they don’t have to be that way, nor does a fight scene have to be the answer to [INSERT CONFLICT HERE]. So how does one keep a fight scene from being nothing more than page and plot filler?

Make it About More than the Violence
Violence for violence’s sake gets boring fast. It becomes mere spectacle, like the endless explosions and pointless clashes in the Transformers movies. You have to answer the question, “Why are they fighting? What’s the point?” If you can’t answer that, even on a base level, your scene may be in trouble. Give the fight a purpose and, when possible, make it more than just simple survival. Yes, living is a good thing, but at least look at what instigates the conflict in the first place and have it hold substance.

Give it Real Stakes
If your characters get tossed into fight after fight without any real consequences—physical, mental, emotional, or otherwise—then your readers are going to quickly learn that the fight scenes don’t actually matter. Everything will return to the status quo as soon as the last enemy is laid low. I’m not saying you have to go to G.R.R. Martin lengths and slaughter half your cast in the first chapter, but at least consider what the cost of those fights is going to be in both the short and long-term.

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Use it to Spur Change
What changes about your character in the midst of a fight or in the aftermath? What realizations do they have about themselves or others when in the heat of a battle? Are they aware of what they’re truly fighting for? Are they using the physical outlet as a way to vent or process inner pain? Is winning (or losing) the fight going to give them the chance to grow or overcome a personal failing? Fights are dynamic events, and so can inspire new perspectives and attitudes in participants.

Know When to Skip the Action
Wait, if we’re talking about writing fight scenes, why am I suggesting we jump past them? Because sometimes the action doesn’t have to be directly shown. Fight scenes can be too heavily choreographed, denoting every twitch and touch back and forth. Yet this can bog down story pacing and become more about the author showing off than actually moving the plot forward. A fight might be conveyed in a mere line or two, or the scene can jump directly to the fallout without running the risk of getting lost in unnecessary details. Start asking yourself if seeing the whole fight is actually essential or if anything would be lost if most or all of it was cut.

And yes, I will argue that fight scenes can be worth writing purely for the fun of it! Just like we can sit back and enjoy a good action sequence in a movie, there are those who enjoy well-crafted fights in books. However, if the story relies on little more than constant fighting to keep things moving, then it may be time to reconsider what missing elements those scenes are trying to compensate for or distract from.

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About the Author:
Josh Vogt has been published in dozens of genre markets with work ranging from flash fiction to short stories to doorstopper novels that cover fantasy, science fiction, horror, humor, pulp, and more. His debut fantasy novel, Forge of Ashes, adds to the RPG Pathfinder Tales tie-in line. WordFire Press is also launching his urban fantasy series, The Cleaners, with Enter the Janitor (2015) and The Maids of Wrath (2016). You can find him at JRVogt.com or on Twitter @JRVogt. He’s a member of SFWA as well as the International Association of Media Tie-In Writers.

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Courtesy of the author, I have a copy of Enter the Janitor 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 June 5. I’ll draw a name on June 6, and notify winner via email.

ENTER DAILY TO INCREASE YOUR CHANCE OF WINNING!

Good luck!

Continue reading Josh Vogt Guest Post and Giveaway!

The Novice Blog Tour: Guest Post and Giveaway

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Creating Fantasy Worlds
by Taran Matharu

Writing in a fantasy world is no easy task. World building is tricky – too much too soon and you’re info dumping. Too little too late and the reader will have very little idea of what the world is like.

But that’s not what I’m here to talk about. Instead, I want to talk about creating the world in the first place, before you write it all down. In fantasy, the world is often the first thing readers look at when deciding if it’s a book they would like to read, so it’s important to make it a good one.

So here goes. My five stages of creating a new world:

Step 1: The Premise

Very often, you will know what the premise is already; otherwise you would not be writing a book. Maybe you want to write about dragon riders vs. necromancers. So drill down into these things first. Is there a military element to the dragon riders and if so, what’s it like? How many types of dragon are there? Are necromancers born with the ability, or is it taught?

Step 2: The Wider World

Once you have the main stage set, ask yourself, how does this affect the day to day of the wider world? Are there dragon transports, carrying goods back and forth? Do people no longer fear death, knowing they can return as the undead? Is this a medieval fantasy, or are there gunpowder weapons powerful enough to take down a dragon? These are the things you need to explore before you begin writing. It will add detail and colour to the world you build, and the story will be all the richer for it.

Step 3: The People

Quite simply, a world is only as good as the people in it. It is somewhat an extension of Step 2, with more focus on the different groups of people who populate the world. Using the same example, you might ask yourself, are there undead slaves and manservants doing all the work? Perhaps there are activists, campaigning for undead rights. What are dragon riders like? What weapons do they use? Do auxiliary troops support them, or do they fight alone? Again, these questions will not only allow you to build a more coherent world, but also allow you to develop the characters that will feature in your book.

Step 4: The Geography

The fantasy map is always fun to design. But it also serves as an important backdrop for your world. Is it a tropical paradise, full of mountains for dragons to roost in? Or is it a flat wasteland, perfect for roving hordes of zombies.
The landscape the world takes place in is important. Although great swathes of purple prose describing the landscape can be irritating. Find the right balance and your work takes on a cinematic quality. Laying this all out early will help you when developing your world and the plot itself. Do the distances involved have an impact? Are some places impassable, requiring the hero to take a certain route?

Again, Step 2 comes into play here. With zombies everywhere, you might have enormous walled cities, the last bastions for humanity’s survival. Or maybe it is the dragons that are the real threat, scaring people into living in underground cities.

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Step 5: Choosing What Belongs and What Doesn’t.

Be ambitious, but realistic. At the same time, try to stay flexible.

If you’re anything like me, you’ll have more ideas than you can count. Keep them all in the back of your mind as you write, but always be aware of one thing:

Sometimes, a world can be too complex and creative. You’ll find yourself bogged down in lengthy explanations, or exploring some aspect of the world’s intricacies that throws the plot off course. Be wary of your book becoming an encyclopaedic exploration of a world, rather than a story.

Finally, don’t be afraid to adapt as you write. Maybe some aspect of the world doesn’t fit, or you can’t do it justice in the text you can spare to feature it in. Perhaps it has no relevance to the story, serving as a distraction rather than a backdrop. When writing, it’s important to keep to the core of the world first and filter in the rest when it feels natural. Your writer instincts might warn you that something isn’t quite working. Listen to them if they do.

I hope these tips help you when you set out on your own writing journeys. Does a world full of orcs, elves and dwarves with an academy for summoning demons tickle your fancy? If so, feel free to check out my debut novel, Summoner: The Novice. Thanks for reading!

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Courtesy of Macmillan, I have a copy of Summoner: The Novice 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 May 29. I’ll draw a name on May 30, and notify winner via email.

ENTER DAILY TO INCREASE YOUR CHANCE OF WINNING!

Good luck!

Continue reading The Novice Blog Tour: Guest Post and Giveaway

Emma Pass Guest Post

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What Inspired Me to Write The Fearless
by Emma Pass

I first got the idea for The Fearless when I attended a workshop run by YA author Julie Bertagna back in 2011. She told us she often got ideas for her books from newspaper and magazine articles, and handed out some articles which she asked us to use to come up with story ideas.

The article my group was given was similar to this one, about scientists developing a drug to prevent Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). PTSD is an anxiety disorder caused by traumatic events, and causes serious problems such as flashbacks, aggression and insomnia. It can start many years after the event that triggered it, and is particular problem among military personnel, who witness many terrible things while on active service. According to this article in the Telegraph, one charity expects PTSD rates to rise by up to 12% each year until 2018, so any drug that could help reduce this rate is surely a very good thing indeed. But as our group discussed the article, I started to wonder what might happen if the drug stopped people from feeling any fear at all – or love – or empathy. These questions became the basis for the new novel I started writing shortly afterwards.

The Fearless imagines what happens after a drug given to UK and Allied troops to stop them suffering from PTSD and make them into more effective fighters is discovered to have a terrible side effect – it strips them of any humanity or empathy. By the time people realise what’s going on, the enemy have managed to get hold of the formula and strengthen it so that the side effects start immediately, and then they start forcing it on the civilian population. Country after country falls to these super-soldiers, known as the Fearless, until at last, they invade the UK. Cass, the protagonist, is just ten when this happens, and after her father is taken by the Fearless, she flees with her mother to an island off the south coast of England, where her little brother, Jori, is born. Seven years later, Jori is snatched by a Fearless too, and Cass must return to the mainland for the first time since the Invasion to try and rescue him, helped by a mysterious boy named Myo who seems to know more about the Fearless than he’s letting on…

The Fearless
The Fearless was a lot of fun to work on. I love playing around with ‘what if’ scenarios and I’ve always wanted to write a post-apocalyptic novel, imagining what the UK would be like after a disaster has wiped out most of society. How would people survive? What would places familiar to me look like once they were abandoned? As with my first novel ACID, many of THE FEARLESS’s settings are based on places I know, in particular Sheffield railway station and Meadowhall shopping centre (I considered using London, but as that was such a major setting in ACID, I decided to go somewhere different). I was also hugely inspired by reading blog posts and articles about urban exploration, and places like Hashima Island in Japan, upon which I based Hope Island, the refuge Cass flees to at the start of the book.

But most of all, I wanted to write a book where the monsters might not really be monsters after all – where the good guys could turn out to be the bad guys, and where nothing was quite what it seemed… It took several drafts and lots of hard work on both mine and my editor’s part to get it right, but I’m pretty happy with the results, and I hope people enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it!

The Water and the Wild Blog Tour: Guest Post and Giveaway

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Spaceship in My Basement: How My Trekkie Dad Inspired My Writing
by K.E. Ormsbee

K. E. OrmsbeeThere is a spaceship in the basement of my childhood home. My dad, a civil engineer and hardcore scifi nerd, built the aforementioned ship when I was a toddler. It’s a glorious amalgamation of 2x4s, dental chairs, slide projectors, and dozens of lite-brite pieces. From the pilot’s seat, you can click through various lunar phases, watch the IMAX classic The Dream Is Alive, and command the ship using an MS-DOS shuttle launch program. In this ship, you can pay a visit to the moon, Jupiter, or the farthest reaches of deep space. And believe me, as a kid, I did all of the above.

I can’t remember a house party at my place that didn’t involve a quick trip to the moon. The spaceship was a magical experience, a talking piece, and the obsession of every childhood friend my sister and I brought home. Later, it became my go-to fun fact so often required by summer camp icebreakers. It’s saved me from many a conversational rut and even found its way into my official author biography. But only recently have I begun to contemplate the long-term effect that spaceship and my dad’s general love of scifi had on me and, by extension, my writing.

My personality is a carbon copy of my dad’s. I inherited his melancholic disposition and his obsession with all things theoretical. Growing up, he and I debated everything from Plato to predestination to the legalization of pot. He taught me the fundamentals of calculus, logic, and rhetoric. And he instilled in me an abiding love for Star Wars, Star Trek, Lost In Space, Battlestar Galactica, and The Twilight Zone. Looking back, I realize that those philosophical debates, differential equation lessons, and Friday night family movie dates all shared a common theme. They were all about asking big questions and looking for answers. (It’s just, the questions The Twilight Zone asked were way more fun to answer than the questions found in my Calc 101 textbook.)

My dad and I didn’t watch all those scifi shows and films for the special effects. (I mean, have you seen tribbles?) We watched them because their screenwriters weren’t afraid to explore difficult issues in unique ways. I remember staying awake in bed after our movie nights, brain whirring through questions about mortality, mob mentality, eugenics, treatment of “lesser” sentient beings, addictive behavior, vigilante justice, justice versus revenge, and harmful measures taken in the name of “the greater good.”

Continue reading The Water and the Wild Blog Tour: Guest Post and Giveaway

Author CT Adams Guest Post and Giveaway!

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Creating a Unique Fantasy World
by CT Adams

I love world building. It’s fun to me. And while working out the details can be painstaking, a lot of it really just makes sense to me. I have this character. He/She does things. WHY? WHERE? There is always a why. And any action takes place somewhere. And the whys and the wheres tell you a LOT about the person, and the world they live in.

When I’m really lucky, it all comes to me in a huge data dump. That was what happened with the Celia Graves stories. I saw a photograph in the dealer’s room. It was of blonde woman with a black daisy in her vampire fangs. I looked at it and knew instantly: who she was, what she was, how she got those fangs, how she felt about it. I even could hear radio commercials from their world running through my head.

I must’ve looked as if I’d been clubbed upside the head because my co-author at that time, Cathy Clamp, looked at me and said. “Go up to the room. Write it down. All of it. Now!”

“But the picture . . . “ I started to protest.

“I’ve got this. GO! Before you forget it all.”

She knows me so well.

The dual worlds of The Exile are complicated because there are worlds plural. Oh, our side of the veil is as it really is, which makes it a bit easier. But Faerie is a complicated place with as many different kinds of animals and beings as we have over here. Think about that for a second. We have how many species here? I can’t even count them all. And Faerie has just as many. And they’re magical to boot. Which means there are not only laws of physics to contend with (Yay gravity!); but also laws of magic too.

As a writer I have to create the laws; know them; use them; and REMEMBER them all. And I can’t break them—not without breaking faith with the readers and losing their belief in me and the worlds I’ve created. It’s a big job, and can sometimes feel overwhelming. But done right it is so worth it. Because the world building in the background makes the story, and the characters, seem real enough to touch, real enough to care about. And that is the key to everything.

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Courtesy of Tor, I have a copy of The Exile by CT Adams 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 April 3. I’ll draw a name on April 4, and notify winner via email.

ENTER DAILY TO INCREASE YOUR CHANCE OF WINNING!

Good luck!

Continue reading Author CT Adams Guest Post and Giveaway!