The Best Blog I’ve Ever Read

Speculative fiction tends to ask impossible what-ifs? “What if zombies showed up?” “What if SETI got an answer?” “What if your neighborhood was plagued by the serial-killing ghost of a golden retriever?” Test cases for the extreme, right?

But there are plenty of everyday what-ifs, too, because every person’s experience is different. You can always look with curious empathy toward another and ask, “What if I were more like you?” “What is your experience of being human?” Reading helps us ask these questions. These questions are the place where fiction and nonfiction come together into the seamless empathy-engine known as writing. In this sense, all writing is speculative.

There are a lot of blogs out there. The best one I’ve ever read makes me ask what-ifs like these: “What if I had an intellectually disabled adult child?” “What if that child were terminally ill?” “What is it like, as a parent, to accept that you will care for your child from birth to death?” “What is it like to do that as a single parent?”

Check out Catherine Lea’s Happiness: Optional to see how one person does these things. (With love. With exhaustion and perseverance. With humor. And with sharp-eye perception that goes right to the center of herself and others.) Start at the beginning and read to the present. You won’t be disappointed.

Then come back and tell me about the best blog you’ve ever read.

Guest Post by Vanna Smythe, Author of Protector

Can Love Bring Back The Natural Balance of Things?

Anniversary of the Veil bannerProtector (Anniversary of the Veil, Book One) is based on twin souls and the energy of love released when they find each other. The belief in twin souls, that is, a soul mate in the form of your one true love, existing somewhere in the world and pulling you towards them relentlessly and ceaselessly, is the underlying theme of Protector and the entire Anniversary of the Veil series. Only, in this world that I created the energy released when two twin souls find each other is used for purposes that are not altogether enjoyable for the pair.

In the world of the Anniversary of the Veil series, Joinings of such strong love, and the energy they release, have been used to build bridges and tall buildings, stem the flow of rivers, even change the duration and force of seasons. One thousand years ago, energy from one such pair was used to separate the world in half by a barrier only a select few can cross. On one side of this barrier, or Veil as it is called, they have continued with the forced Joinings, while on the other side the practice was eradicated. This was achieved mainly through the means of keeping the people ignorant and under the complete control of the Priesthood. The priests rule the realm from the shadows. Among other things, they also decide who can marry whom, so as to prevent any natural Joinings of love from occurring.

Protector takes place at a time when the fate of this barrier must be judged. The decision of whether the Veil should continue to stand, or if it is time to let the world be whole again, must now be made.

Princess Issa is one of a pair, called to her other half, her twin soul. She is ignorant of her true purpose, steered to go along and find her love, not knowing that a Joining waits at the end of her journey. Unbeknown to her, she is loved from a distance by Protector Kae, a soldier assigned as her bodyguard and the one whose role, whose decision, could decide the fate of all.

How long can a world where something as natural as the energy of love is twisted and used for artificial purposes exist? Will love prevail and restore the natural balance of things? What price must be paid? Answers to all these questions and more wait in Decision Maker, Book Two of the Anniversary of the Veil Series, which is already out.

You can follow Vanna on Twitter or Facebook, and visit her website.

Guest Post: How to Crack the Market in Your Own Country, by Jen Minkman

Shadow of Time book blog bannerI have been writing paranormal romance for almost three years now. When I first learned about the genre, it was through Stephenie Meyer’s books, which were a huge hit in Europe at the time, my own country, the Netherlands, included. Inspired by the storytelling and sheer scope of possibilities within the genre, I started writing my own book. The story was called Shadow of Time and it was a paranormal romance set in Navajo Nation, heavily influenced by Native American spirituality, mythology, and history. I wanted to do something that hadn’t been done yet, and in a sense, I was already doing that by writing in this genre — I was (to my knowledge) the first writer of the genre in the whole of Holland. So when I sent out the manuscript to several publishing houses, I more or less hoped they would jump at the chance to publish something in this bestselling genre which was written by one of their compatriots.

minkman_author-picI was wrong. Rejection after rejection found its way to my mailbox, and most of those rejection letters weren’t even saying I couldn’t write — they just said they couldn’t sufficiently market my book. Slowly, it started to dawn on me: why would publishers invest in a nobody like me when it was so much easier to acquire translation rights for a bestselling book from the U.S. or the UK? Goodbye, Jen Minkman, hello L. J. Smith.

Stubborn as I am, I just wouldn’t give up, though. I started sending my manuscript to publishers known for their publications of original Dutch and Belgian work. And the hard work paid off: in the summer of 2011, I found a small independent publisher who liked my manuscript enough to publish it. However, I had to take a detour. Since Ellessy Publications hadn’t published any paranormal romance books yet, they asked me to write a ‘normal’ romance first, in order to prepare their market segment for me and my work. I wrote a chicklit in one summer, and Back to School! (set in a Dutch high school in The Hague) saw the light of day in September 2012. My first book (which would be my second published book) is scheduled to follow later this year, in September 2013.

Shadow of Time coverIn the meantime, it had occurred to me that translating my own book into English might prove lucrative. At the very least, it would reach far more people than just the 23 million Dutch-speaking people in Holland and Belgium. So I took it upon me to re-write and translate my book into English (I come from a family of English teachers and am a teacher of the language myself) and asked a freelance editor from the U.S. to have a thorough look at it.

This is why the book is already available in English, but not yet in my native tongue. It turns out self-publication works a lot faster, despite all the hard work it took me to prepare the book for its international appearance.

The upside? I am already getting very good reviews for Shadow of Time, and this makes me more confident the book will sell well in my own country as well.

The downside? I feel like foreign readers will probably appreciate me and my books more than the people from my own country ever will, and that somehow saddens me. Who knows, though? They might learn about the title because of rave reviews abroad!

Evil Dragons and Other Wicked Creatures of the Enchanted Bookstore Legends: A Guest Post by Marsha A. Moore

Marsha Moore’s Enchanted Bookstore Legends series is particularly appealing to me at the moment because I’ve spent the last few months working through the idea of dragons for my own series. I’ve discovered that dragons are surprisingly complicated! I found myself wrestling with all sort of insolvable conundrums. For instance, I spent several weeks pondering wings. If dragons have wings, what skeletal structure do the wings attach to inside their bodies? Annoyingly, we don’t seem to have any real-life six-limbed reptiles to work with as models. I spent a ridiculous amount of time obsessing over what’s actually a fairly silly question. (I mean … they’re magic, right? If they have wings, they have wings ’cause they’re magic.) So then … retractable claws, like a lion, or fixed claws, like an eagle or a crocodile? (You can see how hung up I got on minutia.)

Given my own struggles with writing about dragons, I’m ever so interested in how other authors handle the species. Without further ado, here’s Marsha to tell us about the dragons and related nasties of her fantasy romance series:

Evil Dragons and Other Wicked Creatures of the Enchanted Bookstore Legends

Dragon lovers will not be disappointed with the Enchanted Bookstore Legends, my epic fantasy romance. I love dragons and have included many types, ages, and sizes. When my heroine, Adalyra McCauley opens an enchanted book she confronts a series of quests where she is expected to save Dragonspeir from destruction by the evil Black Dragon. In Lost Volumes, the third book of the series, Lyra learns residents of Dragonspeir’s Alliance are suffering with a deadly plague at the hands of the Black Dragon. She doesn’t heed the warnings of her fiancé, wizard Cullen Drake, to remain safe in her human world. After all, she’s the present Scribe — one of five strong women in her ancestry who possessed unique magic, each destined to protect the Alliance against the evil Black Dragon of the Dark Realm. With Cullen dependent upon Alliance power to maintain his immortality, the stakes are doubled for Lyra.

She puts herself at risk for the community afflicted by black magic. To find a cure, she and Cullen travel into the vile, lawless underworld of Terza to strike a bargain with an expert. Their efforts further enrage the Black Dragon, vowing to decimate the Alliance and avenge the murder of his heir.

In order to overpower his efforts, Lyra must secure the three lost volumes of the Book of Dragonspeir. Written by the three earliest Scribes, each book contains energy. Possession of the entire set will enable overthrow of the Dark Realm. Following clues into dangerous lands, Lyra and Cullen seek those volumes. His assistants, Kenzo the tiger owl and Noba the pseudodragon, prove invaluable aids. Only if they succeed, will the Alliance be safe and Lyra reach closer to the immortality she needs to live a life with Cullen.

The dragons in my fantasy world of Dragonspeir are either members of the good Alliance, governed by the golden Imperial Dragon and his High Council, or the Dark Realm, led by the Black Dragon. I’ll introduce you to the main evil dragon characters. Some are quite wicked!

Black dragons, like the leader of the Dark Realm, always seek to lair in deep dark caves. Although small, they are vile, evil-tempered, and abusive. Their hearts are as dark as their slimy scales. They are obsessed with death and take comfort in the sickening-sweet aroma of drowned, rotting carcasses. During her bloodswear quest, Lyra held her stomach with the stench when she was required to sneak into the chambers of the heir to the Black Dragon and perform fascination on him. The current Black Dragon leader prefers his drake servants leave the prey they bring him in pools within his personal cave. The victims float for days or weeks before he eats them. The dark leader, like all black dragons, is grim and skeletal. His eyes lie deep in their sockets between two great horns that curve forward and down. The flesh of his face is partially deteriorated or burnt from his acidic drool. His method of attack is spitting caustic acid. Lyra and Cullen, learned too well what that felt like in the first book, Seeking a Scribe.

Numerous types of drakes are the soldiers and scouts of the Dark Realm. Fire and magma drakes attack with burning flames, while the evil ice drakes freeze victims with contact. But the most deadly and wicked drake of all is the cimafa. It’s a black iridescent dragon, small compared to others, but size doesn’t matter. It is a stealth dragon whose aura cannot be detected by any means, not even by magic. If you are lucky enough to hear it, the only warning of its attack may be the chilling screech echoed from its gaping mouth. You will look up and be immobilized by the shadow of its umbra and rings of flame around its eyes. Between its translucent black wings sits a cloaked rider who has made a deal with this evil beast, giving it some of his or her own aura. In return, the beast will share whatever auras it harvests with the rider. Many times, Lyra is chased by a cimafa on her tail, attempting to steal her coveted scribal aura. Those who dared to step between and protect her faced death.

In addition to evil dragons in Dragonspeir, there are other fearsome creatures in the lands Lyra and Cullen visit in order to find the missing volumes of the Book of Dragonspeir. The scorpent in the mysterious, underground world of Terza is dragon-size, half scorpion half serpent beast. They have heads like cobras, mid-sections with jointed appendages, and tails with both a snake rattler and a scorpion stinger. At that gigantic size, those will sure make your teeth chatter!

Be sure to read about how Lyra and Cullen face these dangers in Lost Volumes: Enchanted Bookstore Legend Three.

About the Author

Marsha A. Moore is a writer of fantasy romance. The magic of art and nature spark life into her writing. Her creativity also spills into watercolor painting and drawing. After a move from Toledo to Tampa in 2008, she’s happily transforming into a Floridian, in love with the outdoors. Crazy about cycling, she usually passes the 1,000 mile mark yearly. She is learning kayaking and already addicted. She’s been a yoga enthusiast for over a decade and that spiritual quest helps her explore the mystical side of fantasy. She never has enough days spent at the beach, usually scribbling away at new stories with toes wiggling in the sand. Every day at the beach is magical!

You can connect with Marsha at her website, on Twitter, or on Facebook.

Guest Post by Cynthia Ravinski: Visuals, Imagery, and Crafting Story from Dream

Today we have a guest post from EmotoBook author Cynthia Ravinski. I think the EmotoBook concept is extremely cool because it capitalizes on the strengths of the ebook form. All too often ebooks are seen as a replacement for paper books. And, of course, they are that — but only in part. They’re also a new medium in their own right, and what Cynthia is doing with her books takes advantage of that new medium’s strengths. So, without further ado, here’s Cynthia:

I’m a part of the EmotoBook Revolution. Let me tell you how that happened (I’m a story teller, that’s what I do). Writing an EmotoBook changed the way I look at writing. So let’s start there.

For me, a story starts with a dream — vivid color and poignant action streaking across the movie screen of my resting mind with abstract gravitas. I think the strangest thing is that there are never any words.

If I decide an Idea is worth turning into a story, it’s usually because it has haunted me for days and I’m thoroughly mad like the Hatter about the thing. And then, I only face the task of crafting it into something intelligible to other humans. Let me step aside here to say that without an Idea no writing can be done, there is only that familiar blank, white screen with a blinking black cursor. With an Idea, I at least have something to hang some words on, from which I will shape my story.

Crafting a story is a very technical thing, and is separate from the story Idea. Simply relating events is not truly Telling a story, it misses a lot of resonance. A writer’s job is to craft a story so that black and white text creates an internal cinematic dreamscape for a reader. There are many tools a writer uses to do this. One of the most important, I think, is visual imagery. When readers look at text, all they see are black lines on white. I’ve always been completely seduced by a brief chain of words that can slip a ravishing scene into my head.

sample EmotoBook page

The idea of EmotoBooks as a literary form lodged in my mind and haunted me for days after I’d first heard of it. Using abstract imagery to enhance the reading experience tackles multiple areas of the brain, and appeals to my vivid dreamscapes that have no words. Louis Sullivan, an American architect, put it perfectly, “form ever follows function.” EmotoBooks have a unique style and structure. They are all fast-paced, imagery-heavy short stories or serial novels containing abstract, emotionally provocative illustrations to depict what characters feel during peak moments of tension. These expressionistic elements provide both a cerebral and visual stimulation, which enhances the experience.

When I began the editing process for my EmotoSingle, Lingering in the Woods, it was glaringly obvious that my instinctive use of imagery was not as effective as I would have hoped. I’ve always tried to keep my stories visually balanced, like in my dreams, but it became apparent that in doing so, I reduced the impact of important scenes. Encouraged by my editor at Grit City, I intensified the imagery in the most powerful parts of the story as a seat for the abstract artwork going into the story. Through this craft element, I added a texture to the story I wouldn’t have found before, visually highlighting the peaks and valleys of the plot.

Writing stories is a grand puzzle with no absolute solution. Trial and error is the best way through that maze. I only hope that my work’s images burn lively in the minds of readers.

Cynthia Ravinski writes EmotoBooks, among other things. From her coastal northern setting she works language into stories. She’s been an athlete, a co-pilot, and a world traveler. She’s basked in the light of great poets, and has been educated to high degrees at UMaine Farmington and Seton Hill University. To say she is obsessed with drinking tea is an understatement. You can find Cynthia  at her blog, on Facebook, and on Twitter (@CynthiaRavinski).