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Category Archives: Behind the scenes for Readers

Conspiracy Theory, Anyone?

Our answer to the raid.

By now, most of you have probably heard about the Raid on Area 51. Supposedly it all started as a joke, but it has now developed into a possible festival of some kind.

The locals are apparently not amused and neither is the military.

Regardless of intent, attending the raid may end up being more hazardous than heroic, so the delightful Terri A. Wilson had a better idea;

  1. Gather some of the best indie authors anywhere and prompt them to write their best short story – any genre – any style – based around the mysterious desert outpost known as Area 51.
  2. Donate all proceeds to a reputable charity benefitting U.S. Veterans.
My answer to the call.

And it worked! Twenty-five authors answered the call, lending their pens and plot lines to create a wide variety of stories. From romance to adventure, to horror, we have all the relevant details on Area 51, past, present, and future. Now you don’t have to go to the raid to enjoy it. Just pick up the book, kick back, relax and read.

To celebrate the launch on September 20th, we gathered some of our favorite bloggers for a hop. Blog links can be found here. Plus, we’re having a Facebook party at the Red Hatter’s Book Hangout on the 22nd. Come and help us celebrate the raid from the comfort of your own home. (Hint: It’s sure to be fun, and there might be surprises!)

Meanwhile, keep your tinfoil hats handy and carry on.


XX Author Interview Featuring: Olivia Hardin

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

“Women are fantastic creatures and I love writing them.”

OH: In 2011 I published my first book, Witch Way Bends, the series starter for my (currently) 12-story Bend-Bite-Shift Paranormal Romance series. Since then I’ve dabbled in contemporary romance and urban fantasy genres. I also write erotic romance as Lili Von and I’m just launching a brand new cozy mystery brand as C.H. Sessums!

CLR:  How do you feel about female characters?

OH: Women are fantastic creatures and I love writing them.  With my female characters, I tend to write what I know, focusing on the characteristics I’m familiar with. My first few stories I think there was a lot of me in those women. Devan in Witch Way Bends didn’t realize her own power and strength and had to be taught how to channel it for good. In my contemporary romance All for Family I even touched on my own body image issues by writing a woman who was self-conscious about her weight. I think as long as I’m listening to the characters and learning who they are, it is all good!

CLR: Male characters, same question.

OH: I tend to go with what I know. All the males in my stories have tidbits of the men in my life. They’re strong yet flawed and my favorite thing about writing them is revealing how they open up their female counterparts and encourage her to get out of her safe zone to grow.

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

OH: I don’t imagine being a female author is any harder than being a male. The business itself is tough and learning how to muddle through writing a great story, packaging a great story and then selling a great story isn’t easy. I write romance and I’d say that the greatest majority of my fellow authors are also female (and frankly the majority of my readers tend to be as well.) I have seen though, with my husband who is also an author, that he tends to be a lot more secure in his writing than I am. He’ll talk to anyone about his books and a lot of the time he’ll sell them one. And I seem to see that with other male authors too. It’s hard for me to tell a stranger about my books, to essentially brag about myself and when I’ve talked to my female author friends they say the same thing. Thankfully for me though, my fantastic man will tell everyone about my writing for me!

“I can shoot a gun and I’d step into a fight if I had to.”

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

OH: I don’t. The definition of feminism has been changing so I’m not sure I even clearly know what that is. In my stories, the partners—men and women—are better because they’re together, either as friends or as lovers. They have different strengths, but none of them are better than the other. Equity and not equality because in my mind equality doesn’t really exist. I’m a true southern lady (at least the hubby tells me I am.) I can shoot a gun and would step into a fight if I had to. I don’t necessarily believe I can do anything a man can do. Some women can, yes. Some men can do things just as well as women, but not always. I think we expend a lot of energy trying to bridge gaps and break through glass ceilings. Now don’t get me wrong. If a woman has a passion to do something and has to fight her way through discrimination to get there, I applaud her and will lift her up. I just don’t think we all have to do those things to prove our strength. Men and women are inherently different. I don’t “need a man” because he’s a man. I need a partner who has strengths in areas I don’t. I try to do that with my characters too when I’m writing.

Author Bio:

Olivia Hardin always realized how strange she was to have complete movie-like character dreams as a child. Eventually, she began putting those vivid dreams to paper and was rarely without her spiral notebooks full of those mental ramblings. Her forgotten vision of becoming an author was realized when she connected with a group of amazingly talented and fabulous writers who gave her lots of direction and encouragement. With a little extra push from family and friends, she hunkered down to get lost in the words. She’s also an insatiable crafter who only completes about 1 out of 5 projects, a jogger who hates to run and is sometimes accused of being artistic, though she’s generally too much of a perfectionist to appreciate her own work. A native Texas girl, Olivia lives in the beautiful Lone Star state with her husband, Danny, and their corgi pup Bonnie and their brand new hound Heidi.

For more on Olivia and her books, check out her links:

WEBSITE | NEWSLETTER | FACEBOOK | BOOKBUB | GOODREADS


XX Authors Featuring Julie Morgan

Today, we take a look behind the scenes with best-selling author Julie Morgan. Welcome to the Pages, Julie. Let’s chat!

Best-selling author Julie Morgan

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

JM: I’ve been writing almost my entire life. I started with songs and poetry as a child, then moved into storytelling, and eventually, my first novel. The first-ever book I wrote was never published. I wrote it 14 years ago and it still sits away, nice and neat. Never to see the light of day lol!

CLR: What made you choose paranormal and contemporary romance?

JM: I’ve always had a fascination with all things paranormal. I can remember back to reading about demons and vampires as a child through our encyclopedias. Back then, we didn’t have internet so it was the big books and the library card catalog. I’ve enjoyed all things dark as far back as I can remember. As for contemporary, I love this genre as well. For me, the only difference is the universe the story is told in.

CLR: How do you feel about female characters?

JM: I love them and all of my stories focus around a strong female.

CLR: What are the dos/don’ts of writing them for you?

JM: I don’t make them weak, need to be rescued, need a man in their life. I do make them strong, make them the dragon rather than the damsel, make them beautiful. I don’t make them unrealistic. I make them relatable.

CLR: Male characters, same question.

JM: I love strong male alpha characters, but I do NOT enjoy assholes. Give me strong, focused, and fierce, but dammit, be a nice guy. No woman wants to be talked down to. Put me on a pedestal and whisper me sweet nothings!

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

JM: Not wanting to eat all the things in my house when I write! LOL!

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

JM: Having my female and male writers support.

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

JM: It doesn’t affect my writing.

CLR: What do you think about the “strong female character” trope in literature?

JM: I don’t necessarily find it a trope. I find writing strong female characters gives you a chance to be something you’ve always wanted to see in yourself. Not having to rely on anyone but yourself, being able to walk away when sometimes it’s the most difficult thing to do, and giving your heart fully knowing the character she’s giving it to will accept it without pause… because I’m writing him/her.

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

JM: I don’t.

CLR: Are there any special challenges to writing female characters in your genre? If so, what are they?

JM: There can be. Writing a slim female vs full-figured. Sometimes I write a character so flawed and relatable, then turn around and write someone thin, strong, and someone who needs serious redemption.

CLR: What does your writing day look like?

JM: It all depends on when I can get time. I’m married and have a daughter. My schedule revolves around them.

CLR: Do you think the industry treats male and female writers differently?

JM: Yes, from romance to non-fiction, each genre is treated differently.

CLR: Do you think the market treats male and female protagonists differently?

JM: That honestly depends on the author creating the story/world.

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

JM: Everything around me influences my writing. From a kid in a candy store to a woman praying over a headstone. Everything around us can become a story.

CLR: Favorite author? Why?

JM: I have too many to list!

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

JM: No I do not. It’s not who I am and I don’t put anything like this in my stories, feminist or any other topics of this nature.

CLR: What themes are your favorites to include in your writing?

JM: Angst! My favorite! Steamy, romance, second chance romance, starting over, girl/boy next door, forbidden romance (also a fav!)

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

JM: Find your tribe. Find people who will have your back and support you. Never be afraid to ask for help. Not everyone will have your best intentions so be careful who you give your time to when starting out. Research, get a GREAT editor, great beta readers, and people who are not afraid to tell you the truth.

CLR: What are you working on now?

JM: I just wrapped up my first story for Waterhouse Press in the Misadventures world. It’ll come out Spring 2020! Misadventures of a Firefighters.

CLR: What are your “next steps”?

JM: Next I’ll be outlining my second Waterhouse book, Misadventures with my Lawyer, plotting out Enzo, book two with Gracen Miller in our Private Dick series, and I’m starting a collaborative effort with someone new. We haven’t shared details formally yet, so look for news of this, and who it is, coming soon!

Julie Morgan is an award-winning USA Today best-selling author. Her forte is writing strong heroines who are more likely to be the dragon than the damsel. Julie reads a wide array of genres from paranormal romance to horror, and her writing reflects that variety. She lives with her family in Florida and loves playing board games and reading.

To find out more about Julie and her books, visit her website. Other places you can find Julie:

Book bub | Amazon | Facebook | Twitter | Newsletter

Hint: signup for her newsletter and receive a free book!


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.


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Gaia's Rebellion
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