Category Archives: Guest Post

Author Guest Post: Alex Bledsoe on World Building!


by Alex Bledsoe

World-building is a cornerstone (heh; building pun) of fantasy. Starting with the assumption that something unreal exists—vampires, dragons, elves, whatever—we then expand into the ways it influences the world in which the story happens. I’ve done it in three different ways.

The most obvious way, in my Eddie LaCrosse novels and stories, is to create an entirely new world from scratch, one that has no connection with our own, either in history, culture or religion. It’s called a “secondary world” in fantasy-speak, a term coined by Tolkein to differentiate a setting from the real, or primary, world. I’ve always disliked that term, because it implies a diminution, as if the fantasy world was somehow less than the real world. Granted many times it is, but when it works, it’s as real, as primary, as the one I’m sitting in as I type this.

When I created the world of Eddie LaCrosse, I made a couple of decisions up front. People would have regular names (i.e., Eddie), they would not speak in either faux Shakespeare or cod-Bilbical (“Behold, he is the Chosen One, who will fulfill yon Prophecy!”), and that the characters would all have identifiable jobs. I chose all this because I wanted to write the series in a voice similar to the great noir writers (Chandler, Parker, Vachss). It’s hard to do that seriously with Tolkein-ish names (“Eowyn walked into my office with a stride like a prize Rohan filly”—see?).

My Tufa novels take place ostensibly in the “primary” world, but deal with a unique fictional culture that exists within it. To make that work requires a balancing act between things the reader knows (cars, farms, families, et al.) and things they likely don’t (fairies, dream time, etc.). There’s no guide for this sort of thing; it either feels right, or it doesn’t. Sometimes it feels right at first, then goes wrong as you develop it further.

This is very close to the concept of “magical realism,” a term often used by literary writers who don’t want to be classified within a genre (i.e., “speculative fiction” instead of “science fiction” [I’m looking at you, Cormac McCarthy]). It was first used to describe the work of Latin American authors such as Isabel Allende, and has an appropriately nebulous definition. But I read a great description once (don’t ask me where) that said, in paraphrase, “It takes the world as everyone knows it, except for one aspect that’s slightly askew.” Think the magical cooking in Like Water for Chocolate, or the clairvoyance of The House of the Spirits.

This approach has the beauty of maintaining the sense of wonder that sometimes get lost when “paranormal” elements are accepted as part of the world, as in much of urban fantasy. The lack of overt explanation for either the reader or the characters means that they share the surprise at any “magical” occurrences.

I wrote two vampire novels set in 1975 Memphis, and that presented a challenge not unlike building a fantasy world. Although I lived through that period as a child, I wasn’t attuned to the subtleties of it; my memories are mostly of pop culture references. I had to research events, attitudes, even Seventies clothing (AGHHH!) in order to create—or in this case, recreate—the world. And as Michael Cimino said about Heaven’s Gate, “One uses history in a very free way,” so there is one glaring (to me, at least) anachronism that so far no reader has mentioned.

I’ve written about other “worlds” in various short stories, including westerns, horror, and of course, fantasy. Through all this, I’ve learned one thing: you can’t take the world for granted. Even in an entirely contemporary, entirely mundane story, you may be creating a world that a potential reader has never seen. It’s your job to figure out the details that will conjure that world in the reader’s mind so that they can inhabit it as fully as your characters. If you achieve that, then you have built a world.

Author Guest Post and Giveaway: Joshua Palmatier

Joshua Palmatier author photo

“Apocalyptic Fantasy”
by Joshua Palmatier
I’ve been reading fantasy for * coughcough * number of years and in a good portion of the novels I’ve read there are hints—or sometimes even blatant references—to “the world before the Cataclysm”! It’s a common theme, one that’s basically a trope now. I think there are many reasons for this, the most obvious being that if the reader thinks this strange new world they’re reading about is connected to their own world in some way, they’re going to connect to the story more as well. But I always wondered about that Cataclysm. What could bring about such significant change? And if the Cataclysm referred to our own world, how did the disaster itself bring us from our current world to this fantasy world I’m now reading about?

This of course got me thinking . . . never a good thing. How DID the apocalypse come about? I’ve always loved reading apocalyptic novels, and yet I’d never seen a fantasy novel where the characters actually live through the apocalypse. They’re always set hundreds of years later, when the world has changed and magic has been activated or reborn somehow. (Not that there aren’t such books out there; I just never ran across them.) So why not write a fantasy novel—not sent in our world, but a true secondary world—and tell the events that led up to the apocalypse and what comes after? This, along with the conjunction of a few other ideas, such as using ley lines as a power source, birthed the “Ley” series.

Also, I really like to blow s#&% up. * grin *

The premise is that, in this secondary world, society has evolved around using the ley lines in a way not unlike how we use electricity. Rather than having the society rooted in some kind of medieval setting, I decided that the world should be more advanced. So, imagine New York City or London, but instead of electricity, everything is being powered by the magic of the ley lines. Light, heat, transportation, etc.—all of it controlled by the Prime Wielders and their closely guarded Nexus. And the Wielders are controlled by the Baron, who’s using the Nexus and the advantages of the ley to rule the Baronial Plains with an iron fist. What could possibly go wrong?

Everything, of course. But the main point is that I wanted to write a novel where the reader experiences what the fantasy world was like BEFORE the Cataclysm that changed it. And then I wanted to explore what the world was like afterwards with the survivors. These are those two novels—SHATTERING THE LEY and THREADING THE NEEDLE. If you’ve ever wanted to experience the Cataclysm that so many fantasy novels refer to, here’s your chance.

Courtesy of DAW, I have a copy of Threading the Needle by K. Eason 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 July 15. I’ll draw a name on July 16, and notify winner via email.


Good luck!

Continue reading Author Guest Post and Giveaway: Joshua Palmatier

Blog Tour: Ada Palmer Guest Post

Ada Palmer

Author Ada Palmer joins today to talk about the world from her latest release Too Like The Lightning!

Too Like the Lightning: A World of Diaspora

The flying cars on the cover of my science fiction novel <em are more than just a promise that this will be a classic, energetic science fiction setting, with dazzling futuristic cities reminiscent of golden age SF. They’re also the center of the political system in my version of the 25th century. This future is linked together by a system of flying cars so fast that you can commute from anywhere on Earth to anywhere else in two hours, close enough to bring the whole planet into practical commuting distance.

Imagine if such a system came in as suddenly as smart phones, and within a few years it came to be effortless to commute from continent to continent. There would be political and even military consequences (we hear about that phase of history in the background of the story), but it’s easy to see how it would also revolutionize lives, and families. No one would have to choose where to live based on a job anymore, since you could in Bermuda, work in Tokyo and lunch in Paris while a spouse or roommate worked in Buenos Aires and you met for dinner in Antarctica. It’s easy to imagine the real estate upheaval as people rush to buy homes to the most beautiful and exciting parts of the Earth, but that generates another political consequence: a world of expats.

With these flying cars, suddenly living in another country wouldn’t be any impediment to still working and socializing primarily in your birth nation, and a huge portion of Earth’s population would suddenly start living in another country. Or is it really living in another country when you spend only a third of your time there, another third working in a second country, and the rest having fun in every corner of the Earth? And what about children born of parents who are Japanese but bought a home on the French Riviera to grow the view? This happens today with expat couples and immigrants, but if the flying car system came in it would suddenly happen to half or more of all the children in the world, within a generation.

This is the birth of the world of Too Like the Lightning, a world of diaspora, in which all cultural groups are spread all around the Earth, and living in the region where your ancestors lived is the exception, not the rule. It is a world of diaspora, much like the world of the internet where we have friends scattered around dozens of cities, and many of our most important relationships are unrelated to geography. In this 25th century, nations as we know them—geographic nations—are a thing of the past, since now that virtually no children grow up in a place that corresponds to their languages and cultures, a fully mobile global population finds it absurd that, in the olden days of people were governed by the laws the splotch of dirt where they happened to be born. Instead, as part of coming of age, young adults choose freely among several globe-spanning borderless nations, selecting the ones whose culture, policies and ideology are most personally appealing. Adults live by the laws of their chosen nations no matter where on Earth they reside, and what is legal or illegal in one house may be completely different from the house next door, depending on the choices of the family.

This world of diaspora is a fantastic place to explore political interaction, and especially cultural interaction. When you start Too Like the Lightning you’re plunged into a whirlwind mix of different races and languages, a detective from Alexandria investigating a break-in in Chile affecting a family with Chinese, Indian and Mestizo members and political effects on Japan and Paris. But this isn’t an exotic jet-set, this is normal life in this world of diaspora, when there are no majorities anywhere on Earth, just dozens of minorities mixing coequally in every space. It’s an amazing plunge, and an amazingly dynamic space in which to see how one mystery can sweep through and touch every corner of such an interconnected world.

About the author:
Ada Palmer is the author of the recently released sci-fi novel Too Like the Lightning and a professor in the history department of the University of Chicago, specializing in Renaissance history and the history of ideas. Her first nonfiction book, Reading Lucretius in the Renaissance, was published in 2014 by Harvard University Press. She is also a composer of folk and Renaissance-tinged a capella music, most of which she performs with the group Sassafrass. Her personal site is at, and she writes about history for a popular audience at and about SF and fantasy-related matters at

Author Guest Post and Giveaway: Chris Howard’s NIGHT SPEED


Chris Howard joins today to talk about what super power he would chose to have and what he would do with it…

Pick your own super-power!?

If I could have any super-power at all?! Whoa. For a long time, I’d have said “flying”. Kinda obvious… but, come on, flying! How awesome?! But we all kinda know how that would work. So I’m gonna mix it up and say the super-power I pick is… the “ability to freeze time”.

I’d love this. Heck, I’d never run late again! Well, I would run late, because I always seem to push it so I can get more things done before I set off wherever it is I’m trying to go, but now I’d just freeze time, and go zipping through the static world (on my bike, I guess, or I could just walk because there’d be no hurry). That’s the beauty of this super-power… there’d never be any hurry. At all.

So let’s think about this…

Continue reading Author Guest Post and Giveaway: Chris Howard’s NIGHT SPEED

A Truly Horrifying Blog Tour and Giveaway!


Lori Goldstein joins today to share her High School Horror Story on this stop of Chandler Baker’s blog tour!

Lori Goldstein’s High School Horror Story

Here’s the thing about horror stories. Sometimes, it’s all about perspective.

What seems like a huge deal at the time might not be all that horrific in hindsight and vice versa, something that is entirely de rigueur might come back to bite you in your older keister.

My older keister has a big chunk missing. Because of this.

Lori Goldstein Photo 1

Permed, teased, curling ironed, I owe my high school horror story to a monster can of Aqua Net.

But it’s not really my fault. See, I grew up in New Jersey. And if you don’t know anything about New Jersey, think Jon Bon Jovi pre haircut.

Lori Goldstein Photo 2

I’m not looking so bad now, right?

Living in the shadow of New York City, we Jersey girls had to find ways to stand out. Or in this case, up. Way, way up.

Flipping through my high school albums proves it wasn’t just me. We were all doing it. That doesn’t make me want to whisper, “the horror, the horror” any less.

Though there was one benefit. For once in my life, I easily clocked in at five feet without heels.

Born into an Italian-Irish family (hence the short temper and the freckles), Lori Goldstein grew up in a small town on the Jersey shore and now makes her home outside of Boston in a place close enough to the ocean that on the right day, she can smell the sea from her back deck, and yet it still takes an hour to get to the beach. She earned her bachelor’s degree in journalism and worked as a writer, editor, and graphic designer before embracing her love of fictional people. Lori is the author of the young adult contemporary fantasy series Becoming Jinn (Feiwel and Friends/Macmillan, out now; Circle of Jinn, May 17, 2016). When not writing or reading (preferably from a sandy local), Lori can be found chatting books and perfecting the art of efficient writing through Twitter (@loriagoldstein). You can visit her online at, Tumblr and Instagram:, Facebook:, and Goodreads:

Courtesy of Macmillan Children’s Publishing, I have a copy of Teen Frankenstein by Chandler Baker 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 February 5. I’ll draw a name on February 6, and notify winner via email.


Good luck!

Continue reading A Truly Horrifying Blog Tour and Giveaway!

Blog Tour: Monsterland Guest Post

Monsterland Blog Tour Header Image

Self-Publishing Versus Traditional: A Discussion with Award-Winning Author Michael Phillip Cash

Self-publishing versus traditional. It’s a question every writer faces at some point or another. For me personally, I’ve never even bothered submitting a manuscript to a traditional publishing house. First off, I’ve heard horror stories. Just with marketing, after your book comes out and it’s marketed as best as they can, they no longer market it any further. My book Stillwell is out four years already, and it’s still a best seller on Amazon, all because my team continues to market it to different audiences.

I am a huge believer in the self-publishing model. Yes, could traditional houses get you into Costco and Wal-Mart…the answer is yes. However, a friend of mine from high school was published through Simon and Schuster. His book came out 10 years ago and he has 30 reviews on Amazon. My book Witches Protection Program has 160 reviews, and it’s been out for 4 months.

If you are just starting out, I say self-publish. You have control over your work. Hire a good marketing team, a social networking guru and a publicist. Concentrate on writing excellent stories and have your team market the hell out your brand. Also, get familiar with the differences between traditional and self-publishing. Read A.P.E. – Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur. It’s the bible for Self-Publishing that I live by.

About the Book

Monsterland Michael Phillip CashMonsterland

Written by Michael Phillip Cash Welcome to Monsterland – the scariest place on Earth. All guests can interact with real vampires in Vampire Village, be chased by an actual werewolf on the River Run, and walk among the dead in Zombieville. Wyatt Baldwin, a high school student and life-long movie buff is staring bleakly at a future of flipping burgers. Due to a fortuitous circumstance, Wyatt and his friends are invited to the star-studded opening of Monsterland. In a theme park full of real vampires, werewolves and zombies, what could possibly go wrong?

Monsterland contains solid ingredients for a horror feast: stupid teens, smart teens, a little challenged romance, family dynamics, action, blood and gore. Will civilization ever be normal again? You’ll have to read it to find out. We dare you!”—The Children’s Book Review

Ages 14+ | CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform | 2015 | 978-1517180676

Add this book to your collection: Monsterland

Available Here:


About Michael Phillip Cash

Michael Phillip CashMichael Phillip Cash is an award-winning screenwriter and novelist. He’s written eleven books including the best-selling Brood X, Stillwell, The Flip, The After House, The Hanging Tree, Witches Protection Program, Pokergeist, and Battle for Darracia series. Michael resides on the North Shore of Long Island. He writes full-time with his screaming monsters in the background. Website | Facebook | Twitter

Monsterland Tour Giveaway

Monsterland, by Michael Phillip Cash | Giveaway

Would you rather be a werewolf, a zombie or a vampire? Enter to win an autographed copy of Monsterland, by Michael Phillip Cash; plus a living dead themed travel mug and a $50 Amazon gift card!

Giveaway begins November 14, 2015, at 12:01 A.M. PST and ends December 16, 2015, at 11:59 P.M. PST. US addresses only.

Monsterland Tour Dates

Thursday November 12 2015
The Children’s Book Review

Tour Kick-Off & Giveaway

Tuesday November 17 2015
The Review Wire
Book Excerpt from Monsterland

Tuesday November 24 2015

Guest Post written by Michael Phillip Cash

Tuesday November 17 2015
Suz Reviews

Author Interview with Michael Phillip Cash

Sunday November 29 2015
The Cover Contessa

Guest Post written by Michael Phillip Cash

Tuesday December 1 2015
DCC Mealy

Author Interview with Michael Phillip Cash

Wednesday December 2 2015
Once Upon a Twilight

Book Excerpt from Monsterland

Saturday December 5 2015
The Fairview Review

Monsterland Book Review

Tuesday December 8 2015
Just Another Mom

Monsterland Book Review

Monday December 14 2015
Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers

Monsterland Book Review

Tuesday December 15 2015
Inspired by Savannah

Author Interview with Michael Phillip Cash

Author Guest Post: Gerrard Cowan

My Experiences as a Debut SFF Author
by Gerrard Cowan

The day I got my book deal is one that will stay with me forever. I remember I was sitting in work, minding my own business, when my phone buzzed. I looked down, and there it was: an email from HarperVoyager, saying they wanted to publish The Machinery.

I came into publishing through a slightly unusual route: the HarperVoyager Digital Submissions programme. This was launched back in October 2012, and allowed writers without agents to submit their novels to the publisher. I had finished writing the book about three months earlier, and had been firing it off to various agents, with little success. I thought, ‘what the hell,’ and sent the book in.

I honestly did not expect to get it. My thinking, rightly or wrongly, was that I could use the experience to judge how good the story and the writing were. If HV knocked it back straight away, I would think it needed a lot more work, but if it got quite far along, I would know I was onto something, at least in the eyes of this publisher. But then I got that email, and I almost fell out of my chair. That is not a joke.

So what’s the experience been like? What have I learned? It’s been overwhelming, exciting, and educational. It’s also been a lot of hard work. I probably shouldn’t boil it down to a handful of key points. But I will.

1) SFF writers are fantastic …

I have heard before that publishing is a fiercely competitive, dog-eat-dog world, where it’s each person for him or herself. OK, yes, of course it’s competitive, like all professions. But other writers are amazing. I’ve befriended a fair few through social media, and they have always helped me out with queries, from the mundane to the complex. That also goes for writers at the very top, many of whom offer opportunities for new authors to blog on their site: John Scalzi is a good example. The SFF writing world is a welcoming place.

2) … and so is the wider SFF community.

Honestly, if you’re a new writer or you aspire to be one, reach out to bloggers and journalists in the SFF world. You couldn’t find a nicer bunch. They really care about the genre, and welcome anyone new with open arms, in my experience.

3) The art of editing

I’ve only had one book go through the editing process, so I might not be the best to judge, but I’ve found it a great experience. My editor made suggestions – never orders – and they really made a big difference to the book. More than anything, they got me thinking about the story in a way I hadn’t before, and led to me making some pretty big changes that I think made it much better. Editing is a real art.

4) You have to let go

Editing is great, but it can take over your life. You have lived with this book for a long time: seven years in my case, from the day I first had the idea to the day I sent in the final proof. When it’s just you and your novel, you can tinker away at your leisure. When there’s a deadline hanging over you, things get more serious; you find yourself flicking through pages late at night, staring at the same sentence for the ten thousandth time, worrying about characters and descriptions and even individual words. But there comes a point when you have to let it go out into the world, to see what others make of it. That’s coming for me soon, and I feel a mix of excitement and apprehension. I imagine the second book will be very different and I won’t be quite so obsessive. I hope not, anyway.

5) You shouldn’t judge a book by it’s cover … but …

One of the great things about releasing your book through a publisher is the cover they make for you. OK, everyone knows the old saying about covers and judging, and it is of course absolutely correct. But they are important, particularly in this digital age where they have to look good in a tiny thumbnail. I didn’t really have anything in mind for mine, and was delighted with what they came up with. The Machinery follows a society whose leaders are chosen by an omnipotent machine, but there’s a prophecy that claims the next leader selected will bring ruin to the world. The cover they went with shows a mysterious figure, bathed in a spectral light. I loved it, and would probably have tattoed it to my forehead by now if it weren’t for SOCIETY, man.

So overall, I’ve found only upsides in being a new writer. Obviously I would love my books to do as well as possible, but even if everything was to fizzle out from here, I’ve very much enjoyed it so far. I’ve made great friends and I’ve learned a lot. The main thing I would say to people who have just got a book deal, or who are working towards one, is this: listen to the experts. Things might not go exactly as you expect, but if you have good people on your side, they will probably go better.

The Machinery by Gerrard Cowan is available on ebook now, and paperback in 2016.

Exclusive Author Guest Post: Katherine Harbour

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)