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Archive for October, 2015

0061-eWomenNetwork Thanks to author Gail Z. Martin for stopping by and sharing tips on how to make epic fantasy epic. And lots of links to free reads. Enjoy!

Making Epic Fantasy Epically Epic By Gail Z. Martin

By definition, ‘epic fantasy’ deals with sweeping storylines, plots that involve the rise and fall of kingdoms and dynasties, the fates of empires and massive battles. There are a lot of moving parts in a good epic fantasy, but if you do it right, it purrs along like a race car, taking you on a breathless journey.

That requires a lot of engineering under the hood—or between the covers, as the case may be. I’ve written two sprawling epic fantasy series (The Chronicles of the Necromancer/Fallen Kings Cycle and The Ascendant Kingdoms Saga). They involve a large cast of characters, a big map, lots of battles, and complicated magic—which is a lot for an author to keep straight!

Shadow and Flame, the fourth (and final) book in the Ascendant Kingdoms series comes out in 2016, wrapping up that series. I found in this book that it’s as complex to wind down an epic series as it is to ramp it up. (I didn’t have quite that challenge with The Dread, the last book–for now–in the Chronicles series, because in my head, it’s not really the last book. There’s a seventeen year break in the action where the characters get to rest up and drink some beer, and then there’s more action coming their way in six more books I haven’t written yet. But since it’s not over for me, it’s not over. )

DEADLY CURIOSITIES-VENDETTA Which got me thinking about how epic fantasy works under the hood. No matter how big and sprawling your series will be, in your first book you’ve got to get people to care about your main characters or they won’t get to the truly epic part. It usually starts in one of two ways (or you can combine them if you’re tricky!) Either a person has a big problem, or a person has the chance to go on an adventure. Let’s look at both.

Sometimes it all begins with one person who has a big problem. If that problem could have been dealt with before it got out of hand, the world might have been able to stay as it was. But because the main character has to do something dangerous or brave or reckless because of the problem, the wheels begin turning and nothing will ever be the same again. Only of course, at this point, he/she doesn’t know everything’s about to change. Your protagonist only knows that he/she’s gone from having a big problem to having an even worse problem with no resolution in sight.

In hindsight, once everything blows up, you see that had the powers-that-be been a bit more fair, a tad less heavy-handed, a smidge less ruthless or greedy, they might have gotten to hang on to their status quo. But no, they had to piss off the wrong man (or woman) who then sets in motion the events that lead to the fall of the bad guy’s power base. That’s because whatever it was that cheesed off the hero, it wasn’t really an isolated problem. It was part of a larger, systemic rot that had been going on for a long time, getting more and more out of control, in a system unable or unwilling to reign in its abuses. And finally, they screw over the wrong person, who decides that he’s mad as hell and he’s not going to take it anymore. Cue epic movie score.

Martin_WarOfShadows-TP[1] In other cases, the protagonist gets sent on a journey. It’ll be fun, they said. You’ll see new things and meet new people, they said. Instead, something goes wrong. The simple journey ends up drawing the protagonist into bigger issues that have their own ramifications. Things go from bad to worse, usually involving magic or soldiers. Companions are found along the way with the skills to get out of one jam, but those same companions often create the next dangerous situation. And all the while, the protagonist is being drawn into a funnel of events whose scope and ramifications just get bigger and bigger until the young person who was sent to market to sell a goat ends up fighting off the armies of evil or winning the throne.

A lot has been said about epic fantasy embodying Joseph Campbell’s hero’s journey, and that is at the heart of many stories, with plenty of twists and embellishments. But I think that’s because Campbell really described a process that happens in real life—at least, in a life where someone is seeking something better, maybe even enlightenment. We all in our heart of hearts want to go on an adventure that awakens greatness within us, connects us with people who are loyal friends, triumph over adversity and return home victorious, wealthier and wiser.

Two of the other pieces that need to come together include imagining the villains and the problems that confront the hero. Usually, the hero doesn’t start out intending to fight the Ultimate Bad Nasty of Evility. It starts with a corrupt guard, a thief, a garden-variety bully. But as the hero gets more enmeshed in the situation, the stakes rise. Larger and more dangerous villains appear. That means the author has to plan the story to escalate, envisioning how and why the small problems become big ones, how the small bad guys become big villains, how the forces against the hero and the forces on the hero’s side coalesce.

There’s a lot more that goes into making an epic fantasy epically epic, but these are a few of the big pieces. The next time you read epic fantasy, ask yourself ‘what’s going on under the hood and how did the author do that?’ You’ll have double the fun!

Print My Days of the Dead blog tour runs through October 31 with never-before-seen cover art, 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! Details here: www.AscendantKingdoms.com

And now, readers, the good stuff:

Book swag is the new Trick-or-Treat! Grab your envelope of book swag awesomeness from me & 10 authors before 11/1!

Trick or Treat! Excerpt from my new urban fantasy novel Vendetta set in my Deadly Curiosities world. Launches Dec. 29

More Treats! Read an excerpt from Bounty Hunter a Jonmarc Vahanian Adventure.

Epically epic treats! Here’s an excerpt from The Summoner.

Lots of Tricks! New Blaine McFadden (Ascendant Kingdoms) short story set in Velant Prison No Reprieve.

Trick Or Treat with an excerpt from The Raven’s War.

Treats not Tricks! Excerpt from Creiton’s Sword.

About the Author:

Gail Z. Martin is the author of the upcoming novel Vendetta: A Deadly Curiosities Novel in her urban fantasy series set in Charleston, SC (Dec. 2015, Solaris Books) as well as the epic fantasy novel Shadow and Flame (March, 2016 Orbit Books) which is the fourth and final book in the Ascendant Kingdoms Saga. Shadowed Path, an anthology of Jonmarc Vahanian short stories set in the world of The Summoner, debuts from Solaris books in June, 2016.

Other books include The Jake Desmet Adventures a new Steampunk series (Solaris Books) co-authored with Larry N. Martin as well as 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) from Solaris Books and The Fallen Kings Cycle (The Sworn, The Dread) from Orbit Books and the urban fantasy novel Deadly Curiosities from Solaris Books.

Gail writes four series of ebook short stories: The Jonmarc Vahanian Adventures, The Deadly Curiosities Adventures, The King’s Convicts series, and together with Larry N. Martin, The Storm and Fury Adventures. Her work has appeared in over 20 US/UK anthologies. Newest anthologies include: The Big Bad 2, Athena’s Daughters, Realms of Imagination, Heroes, With Great Power, and (co-authored with Larry N. Martin) Space, Contact Light, The Weird Wild West, The Side of Good/The Side of Evil, Alien Artifacts, Clockwork Universe: Steampunk vs. Aliens.

Thanks again to Gail Z. Martin for her guest post. Watch Whimsical Words for more guests, Quotable Wednesdays, blogs from me, and more. Have an epic day! – Vonnie

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794 Little Orphant Annie by James Whitcomb Riley was one of the scariest poems read to me as a child. Perhaps its dire warnings and promises of goblins lurking near helped me behave when I was young. Or perhaps they influenced me to write dark stories when grew older.

I remember decades ago, at the annual Halloween poetry reading held for years at Liriodendron Mansion in Bel Air, Maryland, members of the Harford Poetry Society and others would turn the lights down low, light a candle, and read in unison Little Orphant Annie. One year while reading the poem, with no windows open and no living person nearby, the candle’s flame wavered and went out when we reached “A-listening to the witch tales that Annie tells about…”

Here for your reading pleasure, in anticipation of Halloween, is today’s quote, Little Orphant Annie by James Whitcomb Riley.

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A Night Sky with Moon and Trees

A Night Sky with Moon and Trees

Broad Universe, an organization which supports and encourages women writers of science fiction, fantasy, and horror, is sponsoring the Full Moon Blog Tour from October 25th until November 7th. As a member of Broad Universe, I’m delighted to participate, and encourage you to visit the other posts. There are prizes to be had, stories to be read, and new writers to meet.

And now, to my post, Owl Moon:

The moon holds a special place in myth and legend. Wolves, coyotes, and dogs howl at the mirror in the sky. Werewolves and other shape-changers are influenced by the moon and its mystical light. Gazing up at the moon, humans see Swiss cheese, a man, an old woman (Grandmother Moon), a rabbit, a dragon, and other images in the darker gray areas caused by craters. Beings of Faerie dance in moonlight (and lure the unwary to dance with them until they are either spirited away to Faerie or drop from exhaustion). And legend holds if you stare into a moonshadow, you can see the past.

So it’s little wonder that the moon and its magical light play a part in my collection of speculative stories, Owl Light. In fact, “owl light” is that period of a day from dusk to dawn when owls and their nighttime companions live their secret lives.

Maybe6 owl light cover Owls populate every story in Owl Light. “The Clockwork Owl” is a time-travel, steampunk story with a automaton owl who is made to save a life in the past and the future. Owls hoot from the trees in some of the stories like “Bad Moon Rising,” “Gabeta,” and “The Burryman.” Owls huddle in the corners of burial caves in ” Pawprints of the Margay” and serve as the companion of the daughter of winter in “On a Midwinter’s Eve.” In “Feathers,” not only do owls serve as mounts for fairies, but they’re able to talk and they attack an executioner ready to kill a condemned woman.

One of the stories in Owl Light where owls, the moon, folklore, and magic are pivotal is “Gifts in the Dark.” For those who’d like take a peek, here’s the Wattpad link so you can read the full story.

When it came time to paint a cover for Owl Light (yes, I am an illustrator, too), I found myself returning again and again to the image of a barn owl before an orange full moon.

Many cultures name full moons: The Harvest Moon appears in fall at the time of the harvest. Cold Moon appears, of course, in the depths of winter – as does Hunger Moon. Strawberry Moon is the full moon which appears in June when strawberries are ripe for the picking. One of my favorites, Worm Moon, is in the spring when the earth thaws and the worms become active again.

owl light cover 300 Therefore, it comes as no surprise that I named the cover painting, “Owl Moon.” What better creature to name a full moon after?

So as Selene (the moon goddess) rises into the night sky in a few days, go outside and listen to the nocturnal sounds. Perhaps there will be neighborhood dogs barking or crickets chirping, unless heavy frosts have silenced their songs. Or perhaps (if you’re lucky) you’ll hear the haunting call of an owl. Then you, too, can witness an Owl Moon.

Thanks for stopping by, Whimsical Words, and a shout out to Greta van der Rol for organizing the Full Moon Blog Tour.

Now, here’s the fun part – I’ll be sending a PDF of one of my books to one of the people who comments on this blog post.

untitled But wait, there are other prizes to be had – including books and gift cards via the Rafflecopter, and other goodies offered at other Full Moon Tour sites.

And here’s the link to visit the Rafflecopter for this tour.

Keep reading, visit my Broad Universe friends (see chart below), listen for owls beneath this autumn’s full moon, and maybe even purchase your copy of Owl Light. – Vonnie

Welcome to Broad Universe’s Full Moon blog tour, offering you a selection of the very best speculative fiction. Whether your taste is paranormal, space opera, high fantasy, gothic horror or something else altogether, please visit the participant’s sites for a taste of moonlit magic – and a chance to win some great prizes.

1. Jennifer Allis Provost 16. Once in a Blue Muse
2. The Multiverses of Liza O’Connor 17. Words from Thin Air
3. With What I Most Enjoy 18. Balancing Act
4. Life Happens. A Lot.  19. Sandra Ulbrich Almazan
5. Pippa Jay 20. Shauna Roberts’ blog
6. I Bleed Ink 21. Ripped from the Headlines
7. Clay and Susan Griffith 22. Ann Gimpel’s Blog
8. TW Fendley 23. Disquieting Visions 
9. Because quirky characters fall in love, too… 24. Bits of This & That
10. Carole Ann Moleti 25. Alma Alexander
11. From the Shadows 26. Darksome Thirst
12. The Far Edge of Normal 27. Kate’s blog
13. The Writing of a Wisoker on the Loose 28. Alexandra Christian: The Southern Belle from Hell
14. Melisse Aires ~ Romance with Infinite Possibilities 29. Whimsical Words
15. Fantasy, Science Fiction, Epic (R)evolutions 30. Musings From the Underworld

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weston201415 365 Thanks to author Neil Weston for stopping by and sharing the inspiration for his story, “The People of the Tower.” Enjoy!

From Poem to Story by Neil Weston

‘I’m one of these writers who wants to write stories with a flowery, poetic form as their backbone. Not an easy combination to pull off, as witnessed by a well of rejections! After getting my story, “The People of the Town,” accepted into Pole to Pole Publishing’s Hides the Dark Tower anthology, using a similar format, I was finally able to breathe that this style could work. It was only my second short story acceptance and, more importantly, was an experience in patience and belief.

The story originally started as a short-form poem and was inspired by my earlier poetic creations of servile/servant, warrior Japanese Kimono Droids (soft-faced, androids wrapped in colorful, steel, Kimonos and impervious to almost any munition) and a fascination with Japanese culture, history and mystery. A Kimono Droid inspired poem can be found in issue seven of Eye to the Telescope online.

My imagination is bleak, and I wanted these droids or variations of them to be the only things to survive an apocalyptic scenario. When I hit upon a near future destroyed by over industrialization, the shaping of the tale became evident. I have a penchant for irony and was keen to see the ending reveal painfully downbeat. My favorite poets are Bukowski, Plath, Shelley and of the modern crop of speculative poets, Alicia Cole. I think they all impacted on my vision and approach and to take a chance on some beautiful, brutal words, which then inspired the shape of the landscape in my head. Thanks as well to the Internet and multitude of websites for slowing me to fine tune dress and language and food.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000039_00001] I like my poetry to be self-contained tales, and I think practicing Twitter fiction was a perfect form by which to learn to choose words carefully. With the editorial expertise of F.J. Bergmann, you can find one of my favorite creations in Mobius: the journal of social change, Vol 24, No 1 (under Neil Weston), which provides an insight into how and why “The People of the Town” evolved in the manner it did. Even though I’m always eager to finish one tale and tell the next, from poem to short story was about a calendar year of adding, subtracting words. This was truly a tale that refused to be rushed into being, much to my frustration! But I think the end result delivers my vision…’

To learn more about Neil Weston, visit his Facebook page.

If you’d like to read more of his work, you can check out a story in Forging Freedom Dimensions and a piece of flash fiction in Big Pulp.

Thanks again to Neil Weston for his guest post. Watch Whimsical Words for more Guest Authors, Quotable Wednesdays, posts from me, and more. Have a fascinating day – Vonnie

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On Back to the Future Day, I’ll share my favorite Marty McFly quote: “If you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything.”

In my opinion, that goes for art, writing, and life. Enough said!

So turn on your VCR or DVD player, or find a Back to the Future movie on Netflix or Amazon, and watch one of these fun movies from the past (or future depending on which Back to the Future you choose).

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jgottwig Thanks to author Jeremy Gottwig for stopping by and sharing the journey from inspiration to published short story of the science fiction tale, “Who Abandon Themselves.” Enjoy!

Inspiration to Story by Jeremy Gottwig

‘Years ago, my wife (a religious historian) told me the story of the Abelard and Heloise. I’m not sure why it came up. Knowing her, it was probably just bouncing around in her mind.

Either you already know the story or you can use Wikipedia, so I’ll spare you my three penny synopsis. I will say that the story of Abelard and Heloise is sad, scandalous, sexy, and a little bit painful. It stuck with me, and years later it inspired my piece, “Who Abandon Themselves”, which is now available in the Hides the Dark Tower anthology.

Being the science fiction junkie that I am, I plucked these characters from Medieval Europe and dropped them onto different planets in a star system very unlike our own. In other words, I was not kind to these characters, but nor was their own time. “Who Abandon Themselves” focuses on a brief, fictional moment near the end of their relationship, but I envisioned a backstory that resembles historical reality. I recommend that you read my story before you dig into the facts. You shouldn’t encounter too many spoilers, but I suspect the story will be more enjoyable if you encounter these characters without context and fill in the details later.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000039_00001] I would like to end on a personal note.

The title of my story, “Who Abandon Themselves”, is taken from a quote by Peter Abelard in one of his letters to Heloise: “The men who abandon themselves to the passions of this miserable life, are compared in Scripture to beasts.”

I love this quote, but I have to be honest: being married to a religious historian doesn’t make me a genius at deciphering religious texts. This quote feels like a moment of raw clarity in the middle of an otherwise unrestrained rambling. I encourage you to seek out the letter in its entirety if you want to see what I mean.

This reminds me of the process of writing and editing stories.

I rewrote the ending to “Who Abandon Themselves” half-a-dozen times. It had stagnated, and my cosmetic changes had little effect. My wife listened to me read and reread the thing after each little tweak. She provided honest (and brutal) feedback. My own moment of clarity came while reconsidering the relationship between my characters. Something clicked, and everything changed. I rewrote the entire ending from scratch. My wife liked it, and I submitted the story to Kelly and Vonnie.

employee01 And so I dedicate this story to my wife. She inadvertently gave me the idea, she loaned me her expertise as a historian when I had questions, and she listened to me read and reread the thing until we were both satisfied.”

To learn more about Jeremy Gottwig, visit his website or follow him on twitter and Pinterest.

And here’s where you can find his book, Employee of the Year.

Thanks again to Jeremy Gottwig for his guest post. Watch Whimsical Words for more guests, Quotable Wednesdays, blogs from me, and more. Have a fantastical day! – Vonnie

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IMG_2395 Only 2 weeks until Halloween and 6 days until HallowRead. So I decided to share with you one of my favorite readings of Edgar Allan Poe’s poem, The Raven. Actor Christopher Lee is the reader.

A bit of background: Christopher Lee began his film career in 1947 in the Gothic romance, Corridor of Mirrors. Lee co-stared in classic Hollywood horror films with Peter Cushing, Boris Karloff, and other well-known horror actors. He also played Sherlock Holmes in several movies. Star Wars fans will recognize him as the villainous Count Dooku.  Fans of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies will remember him as the wizard, Saruman, Interestingly, he was the only member of the casts to have actually met JRR Tolkien. Other recent films he appeared in include: Sleepy Hollow, Corpse Bride, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, Alice in Wonderland, and Dark Shadows.

The Raven is a long poem, so be prepared to lean back, relax (if you dare), and listen to a marvelous Raven recitation by British actor, Christopher Lee.

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