Category Archives: Behind the scenes for Readers

Boldly Exploring Audio Space

Guest Post by Bria Burton

My first foray into audio began many years ago as a listener of speculative fiction podcasts, and an eventual participant (more on that shortly). Some stories have a single narrator while others include a full cast production of voice actors, music, and sound effects. The more I listened, the more the itch intensified within me to hear one of my own stories produced on a podcast.

Some examples of speculative fiction podcasts include Escape Pod, Podcastle, Pseudopod, Clarkesworld Magazine, Lightspeed Magazine, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Dunesteef Audio Fiction Magazine, Journey Into, Starship Sofa, Cast of Wonders, and many more.

Fast forward several years and I’ve now done voice acting for podcasts. On one occasion, I produced a story with sound effects, music, and my own narration. In 2014, I received my first speculative fiction acceptance from a podcast, and it was thrilling to hear my sci-fi story as a full cast production. An upcoming publication will appear on the Journey Into podcast this month. The short story is called “Journey Into the Dying Light of Stars.”

How did I go from casual podcast consumer to amateur voice actor and producer? I started with voice work. Podcasts featuring stories need narrators and/or voice actors, and when a casting call was made on one of the podcast forums I’d been perusing, I thought, why not?

Through the advice of the podcast host, I downloaded a free, open source software program called Audacity where I could do my recordings. Next, I purchased a $35 mic from Amazon. There are much better mics out there, but the one I use is decent enough for amateur voice work. Plus Audacity has some useful editing tools to help with things like removing background noise. If I decide to narrate my own audiobooks, I’ll probably buy a better mic.

One of the great things about podcasts? Many of them are completely free to listen to, such as the ones I listed above. If you’re interested in checking out free stories where I’ve been a voice actor, or free stories I’ve written that have been produced on podcasts, here’s a list:

Stories by Other Authors

Journey Into IFC by R.C. Anderson

The Dragon Muse by David B. Coe

Journey Into the Cosmic Lottery by Emily Asad

Like a Good Neighbor (Part One and Part Two) by Rish Outfield

Beggar’s Canyon by Rish Outfield

A Slight Delay by Rish Outfield

Hope on the Rocks by A.W. Gifford

Wikihistory by Desmond Warzel

Stories by Bria Burton

Journey Into the Dying Light of Stars – Coming Soon!

Switching

A Dream Within A Dream

Questions for the reader: what podcasts do you enjoy? Have you ever considered narrating for a fiction podcast?

Award-winning author Bria Burton lives in St. Petersburg with her wonderful husband, her darling son, and two wild pets. Her fiction has appeared in over twenty anthologies and magazines. Her novelette, The Running Girls, was a 2017 Royal Palm Literary Award Finalist. Her novella, Little Angel Helper, won a 2016 RPLA and earned high praise from the 25th Annual Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards. While she writes, her dog and cat do their best to distract her, which is why they star in her family-friendly short story collection, Lance & Ringo Tails. She writes under pen name Shayla Cole for her epic fantasy trilogy, Livinity (awarded a First Place RPLA in unpublished fantasy). At St. Pete Running Company, she’s a blogger and customer service manager. A member of the Florida Writers Association, she previously led the St. Pete chapter and served on the statewide FWA Board. She’s also a member of the Alvarium Experiment, a by-invitation-only consortium of outstanding authors who created The Prometheus Saga Volumes 1 & 2, Return to Earth, and The Masters Reimagined anthologies.

You can find Bria on Amazon or on her website.


XX Authors: Featuring C.L. Roman

XX Author Interview

I am starting a series of interviews with authors of the female persuasion. In some cases, this may be the only thing they have in common. As the instigator of this endeavor, I thought it only fair that I start with myself.

BRP: Give us the deets – genre(s), length of writing career, how long you’ve been writing – all the basics.

CLR: I’m an indie author. Been writing my whole life, but my first book came out in 2013. Several others are gathering dust in a drawer somewhere. Thank goodness.

BRP: What made you choose Sci-fi and Fantasy?

CLR: I’m not sure I chose them so much as those genres chose me. I love the world building aspect, especially constructing the rules for the magic in a fantasy world. And, with both SF and Fantasy, you have so much scope. Anything is possible, which makes for some wonderful story opportunities.

Coming soon to a platform near you.

BRP: How do you feel about female characters?

CLR: I am definitely pro-female characters. (Grins.) There is such a lot being said about how women are portrayed in books and movies. I think its important to simply let them be who they are. Strength or weakness should be an aspect of the character without regard to gender. The same is true for honest/dishonest, honorable/dishonorable and all the rest. I build my characters from the ground up starting with whether, at their base, they are a good person or a bad person, then progressing to how good/bad, how strong/weak, etc. Gender factors into that, but it does so as a separate issue.

BRP: What is the hardest thing about being a female author?

CLR: I think balancing work and home life continues to be a bit more difficult for women than it is for men. Maybe that’s a sexist view. I don’t know. I can only speak from my own experience. When I’m working, and something needs to be done (care for children, mess to clean up, meal to be made, whatever) I used to have to battle within myself the idea that I should automatically be the one to do it. Sometimes I still do.

Let me be clear. Neither my husband nor anyone else in my family “makes” me feel this way. It has a lot to do with the way I was brought up. The roles in family life were unspoken, but clearly defined nonetheless. So, when I’m working and something needs to be done, I am learning to ask myself, is this something I, specifically, need to take care of, and if not, I let someone else handle it. It doesn’t work that way all the time, of course. It’s a work in progress, like most of life.

BRP: What is the best thing about being a female author?

CLR: In some ways, being an author may be easier for women than being in the corporate world, because to a huge extent we are our own boss. We choose who we work with, which offers us a huge advantage that women in the corporate sector don’t have. When I was a secretary, for instance, I dealt with sexual harassment on a daily basis, and more than one instance of gender discrimination. Keeping my job meant putting up with it or finding a way around it. But as an indie author, if I have a bad experience with an editor or a cover artist, then I have a hundred others to choose from. (Luckily, the ones I’ve worked with have been awesome.) The competitiveness of the field tends to weed out those who make things difficult.

BRP: How does being female affect your writing – or does it?

CLR: Never having not been a female I don’t know how to answer that. I know that probably sounds like it was intended as a joke, but the truth is, I have nothing to compare it to. I think all of us wear these lenses through which we view the world but, most of the time, we aren’t aware of wearing them. So, it’s really hard to set them aside. It is only when we intentionally remove the lenses, or something happens that knocks them off, or at least sideways, that we can see things differently. And that isn’t just true for women. It’s true for all of us. All we have is our first-person perspective, unless we make the effort – and it is a large effort, make no mistake – to see things from someone else’s viewpoint.

BRP: What do you think about the “strong female character” or STF, trope in literature?

CLR: In as much as it suggests that the “strong female” is a distinct subset, somewhat unusual and rigidly defined, it worries me a little. Everyone has strength. Sometimes that strength comes from gender, but far more often it comes from the totality of who one is: personality and life experience. Some are stronger than others, or strong in different ways. Some don’t access it as often or as readily as they might, but that comes back to character and choices.

On the other hand, I do like the STF as an alternative to the submissive stereotype that used to be more common in literature. The funny thing is, those types of characters are forgettable. They have no staying power. Who do we remember from literature, and why? Do we remember Diana Barry or Anne-With-An-E? Hint: I had to Google Diana. I had no trouble remembering Anne.

BRP: How do you treat misogyny in your writing, or do you?

CLR: It would be foolish to ignore misogyny. As Elie Wiesel said, silence helps the oppressor, never the oppressed. There are people in the world who do bad things out of a warped worldview that sees women as less than.  But I try hard not to glorify or reward it in my writing. And I try not to lean on it as a trope either.

BRP: Do you think the market treats authors, and/or protagonists, differently based on gender?

CLR: I have heard it said that in certain genres, readers accept authors of one gender more readily than they do authors of another gender. I have no idea whether this is accurate, and no interest in testing the theory. True or not, I can only write the best stuff I can write, and let the pages turn as they may.

I think readers are looking for someone they can identify with. Gender is part of that equation. To that extent, maybe the market, or rather the reader, wants or expects different things from a protagonist. Whether or not that is based on gender? In part, yes, I think. But there are other components as well that are just as important.

BRP: What outside influences, if any, do you see having an impact on your writing?

CLR: The nightly news has a significant impact on my writing. Things that are happening in the world today – climate change, the #metoo movement, political weirdness – it all shows up one way or another.

BRP: Favorite author? Why?

CLR: As a young girl I loved Anne McCaffery. Her Dragon-Riders were everything I aspired to. Brave, tenacious. Then, as I grew older, I discovered Bradbury and Atwood. Now I don’t try to pick favorites. I just read what appeals to me.

BRP: Do you make a conscious effort to include feminist themes in your writing?              

CLR: Not really, but I’m finding they show up more and more. Probably due to the question above about outside influences.

BRP: What advice would you offer to new women authors coming up?

CLR: Don’t give up and don’t listen to anyone who tells you that you should. Regardless of what field you’ve chosen to rest your passion in, pursue it with everything you’ve got. Even if you don’t meet the world’s definition of success, you may find it better to write your own anyway.

BRP: What are you working on now?

CLR: I am working on the third novel in my Earth Prime series, Gaia’s Revenge. Humans have been evacuated from Earth and are trying to find a new home, or regain the one they lost.

C.L. Roman

Author Bio: C.L. (aka Cheri) Roman, writes fantasy and sci-fi with a paranormal edge. You can find her at www.clroman.com and on Facebook. Cheri and her ever-patient husband live in the not-so-wilds of Northeast Florida with Jack E. Boy, the super Chihuahua, and Pye, the invisible cat.


From Zombies to Darwin’s Radio: Guest Post from Alice De Sampaio Kalkuhl

Genetics in Science Fiction

As a Genetics student, I often sit in a lecture and think to myself: this would make for a really good science fiction story, and apparently, most of the stories that could have been inspired by the latest paper Nature Reviews Genetics have already been written. Genetics as a discipline is very much a point of view on many other sciences. It’s the perspective of the genes. The following examples are all books based on topics that are regularly studied in different aspects of a genetics degree.

Human Evolution

The question of what would happen, if there was a new species of humans has inspired many authors. Here, I want to draw your attention to the likes of Nancy Kress and Greg Bear. Especially in Beggars and Choosers by Nancy Kress, the ethical questions of Genetics are made pat of the plot, rather than just something that is simply disregarded. Usually, retroviruses give you cancer, but in Darwin’s Radio by Greg Bear, they give you new humans. Both books show the implications of introducing a new human species to society.

Blast From the Past

Jurassic Park is the best example how genetics is used in science fiction to showcase evolution and palaeontology. Dinosaurs, both their recreation or discovery, are a great plot point, which has been shown not only by Michael Crichton, but also by Bernhard Kegel and many more.

Epidemiology

Epidemiology (the study of infectious diseases) relies heavily on genetics and when I first read The Girl with All the Gifts, by M.R. Carey, I immediately remembered the lectures I had attended during first year about ophiocordyceps unilateralis (a parasitic fungus) in the context of biodiversity and parasitism. Epidemics like the ebola outbreaks were also part of other courses. The more I learn about epidemiology, the more I get to appreciate zombie stories with realistic outbreaks like The Girl with All the Gifts.

Every time there is a new method in genetics, there is a potential for a thriller. Mýrin by Arnaldur Indriðason is a brilliant thriller featuring the Human Genome Project.

Genetics is a very complicated subject, and there are a lot of misconceptions in science fiction about it. Sometimes, authors will make an effort to stick to the current state of research, but there are many controversies in the field and many books don’t display those sufficiently or use disproved interpretations. Genetics in science fiction provides the possibility to create hard science fiction by gambling on a certain interpretation to be true. 

Author Bio

Alice de Sampaio Kalkuhl is an author and Genetics student. She was born in Cologne, Germany and lives in Manchester, England now. Her debut novel Energy equals milk times coffee squared was published in 2017 by Champagne Cat. In research, she focuses on phenotypic plasticity.

For more from Alice, check out her website or her latest release, Preach On Havoc.


Angels in Paranormal Romance Novels: Guest Post by T.K. Lawyer

My genre, paranormal romance, is very popular; however, I find that most of the characters in these novels revolve around vampires, shifters, or dragons.  One of my author friends ran a survey asking her readers which supernatural characters were their favorites.  I was shocked to find that only 33% of her readers liked angels.  I can’t understand why when angels are so fascinating.  They are loving, multi-dimensional, powerful creatures and you can do all kinds of things with them in books.  I like to put my angels into normal, human situations to discover how they handle it.   

            Angels are so versatile; you can carve a scene around an angel or place one directly in the middle of a completed scene and the book changes in front of your eyes, adding dimension and depth you never considered.  Angels are as powerful and creative as you make them.  The possibilities are endless when it comes to these radiant characters.

            My angels have a variety of abilities. Pascalis can create music out of words — helping to soothe human beings with soft, warm lullabies they feel directly in their heart.  Pascalis acts as an open channel to impart love and strength to humans in need. 

            Another ability my angels have is that of selective amnesia. They can command humans to forget an experience for their own benefit and well-being.  Other angel characters are able to create a sound barrier for protection or privacy, or freeze a human to prevent them from engaging in something harmful.  All these acts are done out of love, and with the best intention for the human, because angels are all about love and  have the best interest for their charges and the general human population.

            For instance, in my Guardian League series, the angels who volunteer their time in the League are all Guardians by trade.  As part of the voluntary sub-set group, they proactively assist other angels in their missions, and with tragedies all around the world. 

            Angels are the most loving, fun, and generous population to write about.  They exist, unseen, all around us, so to write about their intimate worlds is an honor.  I try to use a bit of realism with this population based on general knowledge regarding angels but my books have an unexpected twist. All of my angels come to Earth and find human mates.  This aspect of my books has been controversial but, since angels are all about love and the books are purely fantasy, I figured why not?  If given the opportunity to be in a loving, committed relationship with an angel, I think most of us would jump at the chance.  I know I would.

            Another great thing about angels is they pair for life. These beings are dedicated and committed to everything they do.  Plus, in my books, angels can create anything out of nothing, so if you’re hungry they can create a meal, or money, out of air.  Orion, the main character in my latest and final book in the Guardian League series, takes his love traveling around the world.  For an angel, being in another location can be done as quickly as the blink of an eye so he takes Zoe, the woman he loves more than life, to locations she can only dream about solely to bring her joy because he desires her happiness. 

            That’s another thing about writing about this population — they are a positive and uplifting subject.  Everything the angel does is solely for the purpose of joy and comfort for their humans.  They love us so much, they will do just about anything to see us happy and that is one of the reasons why I love writing about these remarkable beings. 

About the Author:

Passionate * Playful * Paranormal

Award Winning Paranormal Romance Author, TK Lawyer has been writing since high school but it was sometime in 2011 when her writing blossomed into a career.  Craving excitement and adventure, she jotted down a few notes and never looked back.

She writes what she loves with a realistic twist:  fiery paranormal romance with curvy girls and alpha, protective, possessive males.  Each unique tale is standalone with a guaranteed HEA.  She loves to hear from her fans and invites them to contact her.  New readers are encouraged to open one of her books and dive in, enjoying the fantasy worlds she builds solely from her imagination.   

You can connect with T.K. here:

Amazon | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest | Google | Goodreads | Smashwords | BookBub | YouTube


The #1 Most Important Question for World Building: Guest post from E.J. Wenstrom

From Hogwarts to Middle Earth, the most compelling speculative fiction worlds are not just believable, but make readers want to envelope themselves between the pages and inhabit that world.

…A new story almost always starts not with the world, but with the character.

The devil, as always, is in the details. When it comes to developing a world that comes to life in full color for my novels, I always find myself coming back to a single question:

Why?

For me, a new story almost always starts not with the world, but with the character. Everything else fills out as an extension of that initial voice.

The beginnings of the world, therefore, are filled out to help me understand who the character is and how they became that way. The why behind it all.

When I started writing my first novel, Mud, I started with little more than a mood and voice from the golem who became the story’s antihero.

Why is this character on the streets?

Why is he hiding from everyone in a shuttered building?

Why does his soul feel so desperate?

These are all questions I asked myself at the earliest stages of the story’s development, and the answers heavily influenced the shape of the world that I built around him from those small nuggets.

Incredibly, before I knew it, I had not only a voice but a complicated character rich in history and shrouded in mysteries driven by the nature of the world he inhabited and its terrible history of wars between the gods and rebel demigods determined to overthrow them.

Why does the why method work? It is a flexible approach that you can put to work from any starting point for any project. The open-ended approach prompts your creativity to reach for the answers and encourages deeper thinking automatically.

Most importantly, it inherently encourages logical cause-and-effect worldbuilding that builds an internal logic to your world as organically as a sapling grows from a seed.

So the next time you find yourself stuck in your worldbuilding, keep this simple word in your pocket and give it a try! I hope it stretches your creativity as much as it has mine.

E. J. Wenstrom believes in complicated heroes, horrifying monsters, purple hair dye and standing to the right on escalators so the left side can walk. Her award-winning fantasy series Chronicles of the Third Realm War (City Owl Press) includes Florida Writers Association’s 2016 Book of the Year MUD (#1), RAIN (#0), TIDES (#2), and more books to come.


Writing What I Know: Guest Post by Leslee Hare

Writing what I know. That tired writer’s adage has taken on fresh meaning for me over the past couple months. I’ve been working on a memoir for a few years, and last fall I published two children’s books. These contain things I “know”, for sure.

But lately, my imagination and fingers itch to try something new. Up popped short stories.

I’ve had enough drama in my life to keep friends amused (or irritated) for hours with tales, so finding familiar material isn’t an issue.

Here’s the kicker: I’ve only recently learned that my “normal” is “paranormal” to most people.

You see, I’ve got a very active inner world. Stories arise out of it and float on a whole other plane of something. I learned in 2018 that this is unusual. In fact, it played a large part in my receiving an Autism Level One diagnosis from my therapist.

I had no idea that most folks don’t experience the sensations that play a central role in my life. I just thought I felt them more than most people. On one level I still wonder if my therapist was playing a cruel joke on me. This is the only reality I know. But a dear friend, who’s also a therapist, corroborated it.

So, I’ll take their words for it, like a blind person trying to understand another person’s description of the color blue.

In light of that, “writing what I know” comes into play in the new ways I’ve been craving. Plenty of folks enjoy paranormal fiction. It occurs to me: instead of keeping my stuff bottled up inside because people might think it’s too weird, I can just write it into paranormal, sci-fi, and fantasy stories. Relief.

Why am I just now figuring this out? Because I’ve been self-conscious about being thought “weird” since I was a little kid, like Allie.

Allie’s Roses, a new short story I just published on my website, illustrates this. It’s based on several autobiographical elements, and weaving these into the story brings healing and reconciliation that I’ve longed for. It celebrates the intense bombardment we feel on the spectrum: anxiety, racing thoughts, and a blurring of dimensions that calls to question what makes things “real” for us.

Writing this way eases the pressure of the emotions and over-stimulation that come with sensory issues. I highly recommend it to anyone with similar tendencies.

So now I’m working on stories that enlist characters, places, and concepts I’ve known for what feels like ages. And you, the reader, get to speculate about what parts I consider real and true versus totally made-up. And we’ll call it fiction, just for laughs.

Author Bio:

When she was a child in Alabama, Leslee Hare would lie in the grass and wonder how an entire universe could fit into those radiant blades hit by the sun.  And what happened to all the life that was once in the parts now hinting at a brown edge?
From those early years, her vivid dreams took her to worlds and people she’d never seen before, even in books and movies.
Where did they come from? Were they real?
Curiosity spurred Leslee to ask an annoying number of questions about why this world seems the way it does. And why different people see it differently.
Writing and creating images have been her most passionate creative outlets since childhood.
Leslee draws upon her experiences as a Buddhist, a teacher of kids’ Dharma classes, an Architect, a Writer, an Illustrator, and a participant on the Autism Spectrum to share her insights and view of the world.
You can see more of her work on her website.
These days, Leslee lives in Pine Lake, Georgia, with Lucas the Game Designer, Sylvie the Cat, and as many flowers as will fit.

Image credits: Image by Leslee Hare, using files from Wikimedia Commons:

By Erixsen – Own work by uploader: ok, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7051077 andhttps://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/5e/Writing_hand.jpg


Origin Story: Guest Post by Tracie Roberts

After listening to a couple of podcasts on the topic and with the release of Aquaman last week, I thought I’d share my own author origin story.

I’m not one of those writers who always knew I wanted to write. I never had this burning desire to record all of the stories I made up when trying to trick my cousins when I was little or to impress friends at school. And, TBH, I’ve always been a pretty truthful, forthright person. If I fibbed about an accomplishment, the lie would eat at me until I admitted the truth. Now, honesty is one of the qualities I most admire in others, so I try to display it in myself.

Writing fiction, by definition, is lying. It’s making up stories to entertain others, and though I was okay at telling some wild stories when I was younger, I never wrote them down until I got to college.

At FSU I took a lit class where we were expected to write fiction – poems, short stories, and character bios. This was my first foray into fictive writing and, honestly, I sucked. I wrote a short story, “Control,” about an abused wife who was contemplating suicide only to be confronted in the woods by her husband. He almost talks her into coming back in the house with him, but somehow she finds the courage to knock him unconscious with the same shotgun she was going to use on herself. With him unconscious, she is able to consider a life free of him and that’s where the story ended.

I never had any experience in the topics included in that first story. I hadn’t been married or abused—not even by a boyfriend. I’d never contemplated suicide and didn’t know anyone who had. What I did have experience in was strong female role models to base my main character on. That is something I still utilize in my stories today—women who can stand on their own two feet, but prefer the balance and support of a loving partner.

One of the criticisms of “Control” that I received from a peer review was that the abused character wasn’t realistic. The critic’s sister had been in an abusive relationship and, after I volunteered to read my story to the whole class, he announced that battered women don’t behave like that. They’re too frightened of and brainwashed by their abusers to fight back.

That criticism has stuck with me for twenty-four years. And that may be why, when I started writing seriously five years ago, I chose to write a series that included a number of strong, realistic female characters. My lead characters are flawed. They harbor self-doubts and make mistakes, but they’re determined to live their truth while finding a partner that will support and love them for who they are.

You can read the short story “Control” here on my blog. And you can find my first series, The Destined Series, exclusively on Amazon. If you’d like to receive Spirit, The Destined Series Prequel, for free, sign up for my newsletter The Circle here.

The Destined Series

Author Bio:

Tracie Roberts is a native Floridian who laughs loudest at her own jokes, ODs quite frequently on 80s nostalgia, and eavesdrops on perfect strangers to glean story ideas. She’s been writing for all of five years but has been telling stories since she was old enough to realize she could make people believe her lies. She writes all shades of romance—sweet to steamy, contemporary to paranormal—all with happy endings.

Find out more about Tracie’s future works at tracieroberts.com or connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.


Sharks for Christmas ~ Guest Post from John Hope

Sharks! Often, the terror of the ocean. One of the greatest fears of mankind is being eaten alive, especially underwater, whose darkened mysteries can tickle the imagination, conjuring up horrific and frightening scenarios. But consider this: in the past sixty years there have been 2,785 confirmed shark attacks throughout the world, yet in the past year alone about 100,000,000 sharks have been killed by people. Makes you wonder how much sharks fear humans.

When I was a kid, I loved sharks. Every time I’d visit the public library, I’d dash to Dewey Decimal section 597.3­­­––the shark books. Even as a kindergartener when reading was still new, I’d carefully flip through the pages, my eyes raking over the deep blue photos like a fat kid in a bakery window. At night, I pictured myself swimming with sharks or sometimes being a shark myself, majestically gliding through the ocean in search for my prey. Being a small, quiet kid, I’d slip away from my mother’s hand in the mall and carefully weave through the unsuspecting shoppers like a trolling tiger shark selecting the perfect victim.

My biggest problem with finding more shark literature to appease my cravings was fiction. The nonfiction books were great. They cut to the chase and focused on what was cool about sharks.The fiction books that had sharks, however, always showed the sharks in anegative light. They were the bad guys, the daemons, the evil presence that ourheroes had to eradicate. The more I learned about sharks and how cool theywere, the more this bothered me. Why couldn’t sharks be the good guys? I wantedto root for the sharks, not against them.

As a writer, I finally got my chance.

Silencing Sharks, my first and likely NOT my last shark novel, portrays sharks as the good guys. In this book, the main character, Peter lives in a silent world. Thirteen, deaf, and tormented by neighborhood bullies, Peter seeks solace in summertime snorkeling outings with his eccentric Viking-horn-helmeted Uncle Sverrir. But after a dangerous encounter with a giant hammerhead predator, Peter discovers he has a unique gift; he can talk to sharks.

Peter quickly learns that the sharks near his Florida home are being mysteriously killed off. They need his help. Thrust into a scary but exciting adventure, both above — and below — water, Peter is distressed to learn that his dad, a chef, is connected to the crime — being blackmailed by his boss to cook up illegal shark-fin soup. Peter sets himself  the daunting task of saving both the sharks and his father, butto do so, he must rely on the very bullies who have tormented him.

This is the book I’d been searching for my entire childhood. As a young boy, I would have loved this story. In it, the main boy swims and works together with sharks to fight off the real bad guys –– thieving, money-grubbing adults. In the process, I get to have the adventure of a lifetime.

Book available here: www.johnhopewriting.com

John Hope is an award-winning short story, children’s book, middle grade, young adult, and nonfiction writer. His work appears in paperback, hardback, audiobook, and short story collections. Mr. Hope, a native Floridian, loves to travel with his wife, Jaime, and two kids. He enjoys suffering through long distance runningadventures with his friend Ben Brown. He gives informational and inspirationalpresentations to schools, writing groups and clubs, and various conferences.And in his spare time, he sings in his car. 


A Revolutionary Heroine With a Sci-Fi Twist by Bria Burton

“Her Midnight Ride” is a Kindle Single Story as well as a story featured in The Prometheus Saga Vol. 2

The name Sybil Ludington may not conjure up a daring, sixteen-year-old revolutionary for most Americans today, but I hope that will change. In my short story, “Her Midnight Ride,” featured in The Prometheus Saga Vol. 2, Sybil is the main protagonist fighting for American Independence.

While the story is based on historical facts, the premise of each short story in The Prometheus Saga revolves around the idea that an alien presence is observing humanity throughout history, watching how we evolve over time and intervening when desired. The collected stories are part of a science fiction anthology created by the Alvarium Experiment.

The Prometheus Saga Vol. 2 is available on Amazon

In “Her Midnight Ride,” history dominates and the science fiction is subtly woven in. My goal was to shed light on who Sybil was while telling an entertaining story with a sci-fi twist, but I didn’t want the science fiction aspect to overwhelm the facts. Readers seem to have responded well. The Single Kindle Edition was a #1 New Release on Amazon One-Hour Sci-Fi & Fantasy Short Reads.

More people are becoming aware of Sybil Ludington, and thanks to the efforts of the Enoch Crosby Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, Sybil’s legacy in the American Revolution has not been forgotten.

 

Statue of Sybil Ludington on Gleneida Avenue in Carmel, New York by Anna Hyatt Huntington. Image licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. Anthony22 is the original photographer.

While Sybil didn’t have the privilege of being immortalized in a poem by Longfellow like Paul Revere, her midnight ride was no less important, and nearly twice as long.

On April 26, 1777, at nine o’clock at night, a messenger arrived to inform Sybil’s father, Colonel Henry Ludington, that the British were burning patriot military storehouses and patriot homes in Danbury, Connecticut. Ludington’s regiment was scattered throughout two counties, and Sybil rode from her family farm in Fredericksburg, New York (now called Ludingtonville) to alert the militia, who would meet their colonel back at Ludington farm.

Sybil rode through 40 miles of dangerous countryside in a severe thunderstorm. Her horse, Star, is equally heroic as he braved the treacherous landscape at his mistress’s bidding. Sybil had a stick to knock on doors, and it was believed that she fought off a highwayman.

There is progress in terms of Sybil’s increased recognition. Books have been written about her. A large statue commissioned by the Daughters of the Revolution depicts Sybil riding her horse, Star, in Carmel, NY. The inscription below the statue honors her as a Revolutionary War Heroine. A board game was created where players followed Sybil’s route. An episode of Drunk History highlighted her story. She was once honored on a postage stamp.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Alvarium Experiment, a by-invitation-only consortium of outstanding authors, has produced two volumes of The Prometheus Saga, and there will likely be more. My American Revolutionary War story, “On Both Sides,” appeared in Vol. 1. “Her Midnight Ride” is a companion piece.

 

For further reading on Sybil’s life, I suggest starting with the many websites dedicated to honoring her legacy. One site claims to be her personal blog: www.sybilludingtonblog.weebly.com. It includes a short animated film that aired on PBS Kids TV. And here is an article from Equitrekking that acknowledges her and her amazing horse, Star: www.equitrekking.com/articles/entry/sybil-ludington-and-her-horse-star-heroes-of-the-american-revolution.

Author Bio:

Award-winning author Bria Burton lives in St. Pete, FL, with her wonderful husband, darling son, and two wild pets. Her short fiction has appeared in over twenty anthologies, magazine, and podcasts. She is a member of the Alvarium Experiment, a consortium of writers working “independently together” on an anthology of short stories, reinventing the short fiction experience.


Using Science Fiction Conventions to Inspire Ideas

By Leslie C. Halpern

As if attending a Star Wars Celebration, Worldcon, Dragoncon, Necronomicon, Comic-Con, MegaCon, or other similar event weren’t inspiring enough, these conventions can inspire out-of-this-world ideas for your writing. The trick is combining your powers of observation with your powers of imagination.

 

It’s taking a step back and becoming an observer instead of a participant and using your senses to take in the entire spectacle for a different take on what’s happening around you. It’s making connections between dissimilar things that momentarily create meaning. Writing sci-fi convention previews (such as scheduled special guests and presentations) and reviews (including panels, lectures, and exhibits) are standard ways of writing about these events. Try taking it one step further into “What if” territory by elevating the experience to inspire new fiction and nonfiction writing ideas.

 

A World of Inspiration  

Take Worldcon, for example. I was lucky enough to attend the 1992 World Science Fiction Convention (MagiCon) in Orlando, Florida in 1992. I was on assignment for an entertainment publication to cover a meet-and-greet with director Francis Ford Coppola about his newly released movie, Bram Stoker’s Dracula. In addition to the assigned film article, the dynamic atmosphere inspired years of writing ideas, including an article about screenwriting for a writer’s magazine.

The quotations and observations also came in handy when I recently wrote the book Scantily Clad Truths (where I wrote a humorous personal essay describing my weekend at MagiCon), and in my previous books Dreams on Film (where I discussed Dracula’s ability to make victims sleepwalk in a trance) and Passionate About Their Work: 151 Celebrities, Artists, and Experts on Creativity (in which I used Coppola’s direct quotations).

 

Photo copyright 2009 Leslie C. Halpern. MegaCon costume contest.

Sources for Ideas

  • People Watching: Regional fan-based science fiction conventions may attract 5,000 or more people while major international events such as Stars Wars Celebrations often bring in 70,000 fans. Either way, that’s a lot of potential people-watching. Each person has a story – whether you ask for the real one or imagine your own version of it.
  • Costume Contest: Sometimes there’s an official contest, and sometimes people just dress up for fun. Does the personality of the character seem to match the person? Does the outfit go with the body type? How much craft went into making the costume? How much creativity went into the concept and design?
  • Exhibit Hall: When the event is in full swing (typically on a Saturday), shoppers, sellers, and celebrities (selling their photos, books, and autographs) are most abundant in the exhibit hall. Exhibitors become increasingly desperate to sell their wares as the final day draws near so they can avoid shipping costs and transportation hassles of unsold merchandise. This is the perfect setting to observe, listen, take photographs, jot down notes, ask questions, and talk to as many people as possible.

 

Science fiction conventions provide terrific sensory stimulation – amid a temporary mass mingling of diverse segments of the population – for generating book, short story, article, essay, and poem ideas. See what inspires your writing at the next convention you attend.

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Leslie C. Halpern is an award-winning poet and author of several books, including Scantily Clad Truths (2018), 200 Love Lessons from the Movies (2016), Passionate About Their Work (2010), and Dreams on Film (2003). She has written more than 4,000 articles, reviews, essays and poems for a variety of publishers such as The Hollywood Reporter and Daily Variety. Leslie also teaches a film course in the Senior Tars Enrichment Program at Rollins College.

 

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