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November 30, 1835 was the birth date of Samuel L. Clemens, known by most by his “writing name” – Mark Twain.

He was a favorite author of mine as a younger reader, and continues to be one of the writers I revisit on a regular basis. In my mind’s eye, I picture the episode in Tom Sawyer where Tom feeds Aunt Polly’s cat some medicine – and I still laugh out loud! And though the book has become controversial due to its language, I’ve always felt the complicate portraits of Huck and Jim and questions put forth about slavery in Huckleberry Finn make it a must-read book.

I had the pleasure of visiting Hannibal, Missouri this year and seeing many of the locations made famous by Mark Twain’s books. The town was charming, and its museum on Samuel Clemens/Mark Twain fascinating.

I think Mark Twain deserves the label “Father of American Literature” which is often attached to this son of Florida, Missouri.

For more information, here’s the link to a video about his life.

Today, of all days, it seems a difference of opinion is what it’s all about. But I’m not here to talk politics!

I did get drawn into a Facebook conversation about unicorns and Pegasus. (I know — my geeky side is about to shine).

Someone argued that a winged unicorn must be called an alicorn. I beg to differ. Alicorn is indeed a term sometimes used for a winged unicorn, but I believe the word means the horn of a unicorn. Originally, it appears alicorn comes from the Italian alicorno, alicorne meaning “unicorn.” And alicorno, alicorne appear to have their origins in a Latin word for unicorn: unicornis. (And I just confirmed what many have thought, I was one of the weird kids who chose Latin as my “language” in middle school and high school).

Alicorn remains a really cool word, just as the idea of a unicorn’s horn as a cure for poison is most magical. Alicorns or unicorn horns also appear on various coat-of-arms and other insignia, as well as in spell books and healer’s journals of long ago.

catseye_final-72dpi Which brings me to the first review of “In a Cat’s Eye,” the marvelous anthology of cat stories I recently edited (with Kelly A. Harmon) for Pole to Pole Publishing. I’m delighted with the review, and thank NerdGirl and NerdGirl Vamp for a wonderful review.

Alas, one of my favorite stories in “In a Cat’s Eye,” the reviewer, while saying it was good, didn’t really get. Oh, no!

But then I pause — language, politics, editing, and reviews all benefit from a difference in opinion — even if we don’t see it at first. For how boring this world would be if we were all alike.

 

I fondly remember the card catalogs in the libraries of my younger days. The sound of the drawers being pulled out, the feel of leafing through the manila-colored cards, and the smell of recently oiled wooden cabinets when I looked for a book I wanted to locate among the aisles of shelves are burned into my memory.

I even knew the Dewey Decimal System somewhat –  due to volunteering hours and hours to help out at the school library of Perry Hall Elementary when I was in the fifth grade. Many of you at this point will exclaim out loud: “Card what? Dewey who?”

It seems in this age of computers and instant answers, the time it takes to search through a drawer of cards each labelled with information about a particular book – is wasted time.

Sigh. I beg to differ.

The quiet of the library, the dust motes floating in the light which entered from windows at the rear of the room, the feeling of anticipation as I gazed at books on shelving units taller than me, and the eagerness with which I flipped through those card catalog cards cannot be replaced by an online experience.

So fellow book-lovers, let us mourn the passing of the card catalog! Read more here.

794 Halloween has passed. The Day of the Dead is over. And so, for lovers of the macabre, new sources of the weird and dark need to be found!

As both an avid reader and author, I thought it appropriate to give fans of the strange a little creepy book trivia. Oddly enough, several of the entries on this list are about my favorite authors hugging dead spouses, carrying around hearts, visiting morgues, and participating in other eccentric behavior – including Charles Dickens, Mary Shelley, and Ralph Waldo Emerson.

So fellow readers, here’s the link to an article on Creepy Bookish Trivia from Bookriot. Enjoy (I think!)

Happy Halloween

cf700a30f62287ca72ceb1211de418e6c3e5ed78-thumb October 31st has arrived in rural Maryland. It’s cool and clear with a bright blue October sky contrasting with the remaining orange and gold leaves on the trees in our woods. There are a few roses left on the briars and a hardy marigold still blooms. But mostly, the yard and woods are folding into the bare-branch, dead-looking garden days of late autumn.

Halloween, the time of trick-or-treating, costumes, and a thinning of the barriers between the living and the dead, is upon us. I will, per usual, hand out goodies to fairies, pirates, stormtroopers, wizards, and small witches. Luckily, one of my paintings was used on the October 2016 issue of Spaceports & Spidersilk and a hauntingly good Halloween story was published in the most recent issue of Unoriginal – A Science Fiction & Horror Magazine.

For those who’d like to visit spooky places, here’s a link to Haunted Places in Maryland. I’ve visited many of these locations, and felt appropriately “creeped out” – though a photographable ghost never manifested itself within camera range. Living so close to the Pennsylvania line, I’ve also visited a number of the locations which made it onto the Haunted Places in Pennsylvania list.

Spaceports and Spidersilk 10-14 But sometimes, the scariest experiences aren’t at famous locations, but happen in unplanned moments at random places. I can remember a long-ago attempt to scare others in which I hid in a cemetery that turned out to be quite frightening for me!

So whether you’re a fan of candy corn, haunted houses, ghostly encounters, or watching scary movies – have a Happy Halloween! (And enjoy last year’s cover of Spaceports & Spidersilk featuring one of my paintings with a few trick-or-treating dwarves).

 

0061-eWomenNetwork Thanks to Gail Z. Martin for stopping by and sharing a little bit about getting pigeon-holed as far as writing genres.

Defying Categories by Gail Z. Martin

“Writers, like actors can get pigeon-holed.

If you’re very successful writing one type of fiction, publishers, agents and readers want you to continue to write that same type of fiction, sometimes indefinitely. While it’s great to have ongoing series, most creative people like to experiment, stretch their wings, try something new. Creating a new series that is in the same genre is often an easy sell, because since you’ve succeeded with that genre before, people expect continued success.

But what if you’ve got ideas for other types of stories, outside that genre? Then it can get dicey. Publishers and agents worry about risk. Readers of one genre might not read the other genre. Even your gender might be an asset in one genre and a liability in another. Some genres are considered to be more competitive than others, and certain genres have overall higher sales figures/readership than others. All of those things factor in to potential profitability of a new series, the impact on your track record/reputation, and future opportunities.

Ideally, you want to have the freedom to keep doing what made you successful, while being able to risk venturing into new territory. Some authors achieve this by writing in the other genres with separate publishers, or by working with a small press. Others use indie publishing to bring out series in genres where they haven’t previously made a name for themselves. Still others choose to use a pseudonym, either to separate their sales in one genre from those in another, or by or because they don’t want to confuse readers whose preferences might not cross over. Lingering stereotypes about author gender lead some writers to assume one persona for one genre (like romance) and a different personal for another genre (like suspense). I’m looking at you, Nora Roberts/J.D. Robb.

I’ve been very lucky to have had supportive publishers who have enabled me to write epic fantasy, urban fantasy and steampunk. I’m currently working on new books that fall into the horror, dark urban fantasy and space opera categories. I don’t know whether those will find a home with a publisher or whether we’ll bring them out indie, but they are tales I want to tell. I know up front that not every reader will follow me across the genres, but I believe there will be some degree of overlap, and welcome the chance to develop relationships with new readers.

Writing is about creativity as well as earning a living. If you keep writing the same kind of things without a chance to explore new ideas, you’re likely to get bored, resentful or stale, none of which will do good things for your fiction. So write what you want, and eventually those stories will find a home and an audience. They might not succeed equally, but you’ll learn something in the process, have some fun, try out new skills, explore new place, meet new people. That journey is just as important as the destination.

DaysofDead Banner V1 copy My Days of the Dead blog tour runs through October 31 with brand new excerpts from upcoming books and recent short stories, interviews, guest blog posts, giveaways and more! Plus, I’ll be including extra excerpt links for my stories and for books by author friends of mine. You’ve got to visit the participating sites to get the goodies, just like Trick or Treat! Get all the details about my Days of the Dead blog tour here: http://bit.ly/2eC2pxP

holdontothelight-fb-banner Let me give a shout-out for #HoldOnToTheLight–100+ Sci-Fi/Fantasy authors blogging about their personal struggles with depression, PTSD, anxiety, suicide and self-harm, candid posts by some of your favorite authors on how mental health issues have impacted their lives and books. Read the stories, share the stories, change a life. Find out more at www.HoldOnToTheLight.com

Book swag is the new Trick-or-Treat! All of my guest blog posts have links to free excerpts—grab them all!

TrickOrTreat excerpt from Caves of the Dead in my Jonmarc Vahanian Adventures

Enjoy an excerpt from Coffin Box, one of my Deadly Curiosities Adventures short story

Hot stuff! Look at my video for Ice Forged and Reign of Ash

Hey! My Ascendant Kingdoms series is on Audible! Start with Ice Forged here

Treat yourself with an excerpt from Leona Wisoker’s Guardians Of The Desert

TrickOrTreat DoubleDragonSampler#1 

About the Author:

Gail Z. Martin is the author of Vendetta: A Deadly Curiosities Novel in her urban fantasy series set in Charleston, SC (Solaris Books); Shadow and Flame the fourth and final book in the Ascendant Kingdoms Saga (Orbit Books); The Shadowed Path (Solaris Books) and Iron and Blood a new Steampunk series (Solaris Books) co-authored with Larry N. Martin. A brand new epic fantasy series debuts from Solaris Books in 2017.

She is also author of Ice Forged, Reign of Ash and War of Shadows in The Ascendant Kingdoms Saga, The Chronicles of The Necromancer series (The Summoner, The Blood King, Dark Haven, Dark Lady’s Chosen); The Fallen Kings Cycle (The Sworn, The Dread) and the urban fantasy novel Deadly Curiosities. Gail writes three ebook series: The Jonmarc Vahanian Adventures, The Deadly Curiosities Adventures and The Blaine McFadden Adventures. The Storm and Fury Adventures, steampunk stories set in the Iron & Blood world, are co-authored with Larry N. Martin.

Find her at http://www.GailZMartin.com, on Twitter @GailZMartin, on Facebook.com/WinterKingdoms, at DisquietingVisions.com blog and GhostInTheMachinePodcast.com, on Goodreads and free excerpts on Wattpad .

Thanks again to Gail Z. Martin or her guest post. Watch Whimsical Words for more guests, quotes, blogs from me, and more. Have an inspired day – and Hold onto the Light. – Vonnie 

 

 

51q9gur7vpl Just in time for Halloween and Day of the Dead, my Day of the Dead story (actually Night of the Dead in the tale), Gifts in the Dark, has been published as an eBook by Digital Fiction Publishing Corp as part of their Digital Science Fiction line.

And Gifts in the Dark is science fiction, since the story is set in the far future on a distant planet that humans have settled on after a long voyage in deep sleep. But even in this far-future setting, people remain people, sisters remain sisters, and the Day of the Dead traditions still ring true. Yes, there are fantastical supernatural elements and superstitions, but as in all stories, there are people at the center of the tale.

For in the end, the story, no matter its genre, is about its characters – their lives, loves, fears, and struggles.

Ready for a little Day of the Dead reading?  Gifts in the Dark is only 99 cents – so why not give it a look!