Category Archives: Guest Post

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!

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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!

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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…

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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.”

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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!

Guest Post: Author Sarah Remy

Guest Post by Author Sarah Remy

Are you watching ABC’s Agent Carter? I am, with great interest. I’m also paying very close attention to the show’s ratings. Not necessarily because I’m attached to the story – although I do love Hayley Atwell as Peggy Carter – but because so many people out there seem to think ABC’s offering is a sort of 21st Century litmus test: is the comic book culture ready for a woman in the lead role of a super hero series?

I’m honestly not a huge comic book geek, but I happen to be married to someone who is, which means I know the comic book industry does not in fact rely on Marvel’s Peggy Carter as an example of a minority main character written right. Have you met Natasha Irons? Kate Bishop? Have you read Strangers in Paradise, a classic and one of my all time favorites? And surely you’ve fallen into the pages of Jeff Smith’s Rose?

I’d like to suggest that the question is not really is the comic book culture ready for a woman in the lead role of a super hero series? but is the MAINSTREAM MEDIA culture ready for a woman in the lead role of a super hero series?

In spite of Hayley Atwell’s fine performance in the lead role, Agent Carter’s ratings are steadily dropping. Do I find this concerning? Yup. But I’m not quite ready to point a finger and blame latent misogyny for the dip in viewership. Could be the writing’s faltering some. Could be Agent Carter’s suffering from new kid on the block syndrome, just as its predecessor, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., did in 2013. Only time will tell.

Yeah, I’m not a huge comic geek but I’m watching Agent Carter very carefully. Why?

Because I write stories about minorities in a genre (like the comic book industry) that has been – in general and up until some years ago – heteronormative white male dominant. I write about princesses that don’t grow up and marry the prince. I write about Latino boys who kill the dragon and save the kingdom. I write about non-binary characters in traditional fantasy and scifi roles. And I write about CIS adults who fall in love and realize that maybe romance won’t secure the throne after all, and hey, let’s put work before family even if that’s not necessarily the ‘best choice’.

I write real people into unlikely worlds because I think that’s what the next generation of scifi and fantasy wants to be.

And I’ve got fingers crossed that Peggy Carter will prove the point.

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About the Author:
Sarah Remy is a proud hybrid author. She writes for herself, for various small presses, and for HarperCollins.
Sarah can be found at www.sarahremy.com
Her latest HarperVoyager release, Stonehill Downs, debuted in December 2015.
Art for The Manhattan Exiles courtesy of Taija Kovalainen.


About Stonehill Downs:
Malachi is the last of his kind—a magus who can communicate with the dead, and who relies on the help of spirits to keep his kingdom safe. When he’s sent to investigate brutal murders in the isolated village of Stonehill Downs, he uncovers dangerous sorceries and unleashes a killer who strikes close to home.

Avani is an outsider living on the Downs, one of the few survivors from the Sunken Islands. She has innate magics of her own, and when she discovers the mutilated bodies of the first victims, she enters into a reluctant alliance with Malachi that takes her far from home.

But Mal is distracted by the suspicious death of his mentor and haunted by secrets from his past. And Avani discovers troubling truths about the magus through her visions. She could free Malachi, but first they must work together to save the kingdom from the lethal horror that has arisen.

Eric Walters Blog Tour: Guest Post

Popularity of dystopic fiction
by Eric Walters

Dystopic fiction has recently become very popular . . . well, recently if you consider 3000 years, give or take a few decades, as recent. Go back to the beginning of recorded time and story – think of Noah’s Ark, Sodom and Gomorrah, and the parting of the Red Sea. This type of writing is the foundation of our civilization, the beginning of who we are and what we think. Some sociologists see it becoming stronger and more pronounced when there are questions about civilization and our survival. I’m just assuming that we’ve always had these doubts.

I’ve been reading about the end of the world since the beginning of my world. From 1984 to War of the Worlds to Brave New World, to so much of Isaac Assimov and Kurt Vonnegut Jr., these incredible stories have always drawn me in. It was not, however, until I’d written over 50 novels that I felt I had the necessary background to try writing one. Imagine the writing necessary in not only creating characters but having to craft the entire world those characters inhabit.

In writing The Rule of Three I wanted to create a world that was our world, but wasn’t really our world. I took what was around me – and it is my actual neighborhood in the story right down to Adam living in my house – and portrayed it as to how I believe it would be if suddenly everything went dark and all the computers became inoperative.

This is one of the things that separates my novel from many others. This isn’t sometime in the future, on another planet or because of some strange phenomenon or set of circumstances. If the power went down today I believe this is how it would all be, what would happen, what would evolve – or devolve, and how we would, as individuals and a society, react.

As with all genres of writing, there is good and bad sci-fi. Bad sci-fi, in my opinion, often spends so much time on the science that it fails to capture the magic of the fiction. It’s that balance, of creating a credible world and credible situations, without losing track of the story that needs to be told. I believe that people are people – regardless of when or where they are. My background is in education, social work and psychology. I worked to have my characters react as they would, given the circumstances that they faced.

The greatest compliment somebody can give me after reading this story is how disturbed they felt by it, that they had an urge to stockpile water, peanut butter or considered getting a gun. It’s rather strange that I’m pleased when my story provokes the need to obtain weapons but that shows how the story seemed real enough to them to want to do something about it.

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About the book:
After sixty-six days of a catastrophic global blackout, life in the suburbs is not what it used to be for Adam and his fortified neighborhood of Eden Mills. Although an explosive clash has minimized one threat from outside the walls, Adam’s battle-hardened mentor, Herb, continues to make decisions in the name of security that are increasingly wrenching and questionable. Like his police chief mom and others, Adam will follow Herb’s lead. But when the next threat comes from an unexpected direction, nobody is ready for it. And someone is going to pay the price—because of Adam’s mistakes and mistaken trust.

Author Kristi Charish Guest Post

Edutainment: Science Literacy Hail Mary or Slippery Slope of No Return?
by Kristi Charish

How do we learn?

It’s one of those questions constantly floated around academic educational circles in an attempt to determine how best to teach students and it’s a particularly charged topic around the subject of science literacy.

Science literacy is loosely defined as the knowledge and understanding of scientific concepts and processes. More specifically, The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) defines scientific literacy as “the ability to engage with science-related issues, and with the ideas of science, as a reflective citizen.”
This requires a scientifically literate person to:
• Explain phenomena scientifically – recognize, offer and evaluate explanations for a range of natural and technological phenomena
• Evaluate and design scientific inquiry – describe and appraise scientific investigations and propose ways of addressing questions scientifically.
• Interpret data and evidence scientifically – analyze and evaluate data, claims and arguments in a variety of representations and draw appropriate scientific conclusions.

So how do we match up against these criteria? Available statistics vary – remember we’re dealing with a qualitative assessment of skill which is trickier to do that determine if someone can read or perform math but in general they suggest North Americans are doing about as well as everyone else. In other words, not great (For more detail on the data start with Science Daily News via John Miller at Michigan State University back in 2007 and in an 2010 article on Science News). One finding from 2007 that stuck out was that although Americans scored marginally better than their European counterparts, 70% of American were still unable to read and understand the science section of the New York Times. On many levels that could pose a serious societal problem on our horizon. Does it matter how many scientific wonders and advances you achieve if 70% of the population in unable to comprehend how we got there and what we’ve actually done?

How did our science literacy end up here? At what point does a society whose very existence depends on the scientific advances of the past 150 years and which is in the throws of unprecedented technological advances get to the point where a majority of the population is no longer literate enough to understand a report in a newspaper?

Theories range from the acceleration of scientific discoveries making it impossible for the general public to keep up to the deterioration of public science education, and the failure of scientists and news to properly communicate and decimate accurate information. Take your pick. I’m not certain it really matters what the cause is at this point, the outcome is the same. We’ve got more wonders of science around us then at any other point in history and some of our reactions mimic those of dark-age townspeople on a witch-hunt (Vaccinations and genetically modified organisms anyone?). Any solutions to the above problems posed would require a major shift in societal behavior- something we as humans aren’t particularly good at.

There is a possible Hail Mary for science literacy that doesn’t necessitate the engineering of massive social change, an area of educational research that has gained some attention in academic education and science literacy circles, and not always for positive reasons. Learning through narrative.

Learning through story narrative (whether it’s novels, TV, or videogames) isn’t anything new; it’s a process that’s been going on for millennia. Ever since we started painting hunting scenes on caves depicting how, where, and when to hunt, we’ve been telling stories through narrative. Humans like stories. We remember things told in a narrative better than something told as a singular fact. Stories give ideals and detail context, and the more entertaining the better. Good stories engage us by resonating on an emotional level, and that in turn brings details to life.

Continue reading Author Kristi Charish Guest Post