Monthly Archives: January 2011


by Marc Bilgrey

Do you worry about the economy, politics, crime, pollution? Do you sometimes feel like getting away from it all and having some laughs? Me too. That’s why I wrote my humorous fantasy novel, And Don’t Forget To Rescue The Princess. (Now available as an ebook from Amazon’s Kindle Store). I wanted to write a book I’d like to read. A laugh out loud funny fantasy with likable characters and a good story. The kind of book that you could escape into and have fun reading. What’s it about? I’m glad you asked. The novel is about Al Breen, an unemployed actor who wants to spend a quiet summer on Cape Cod writing a play. But his plans are interrupted by a talking cat who zaps him into a medieval world where Al is mistaken for a brave warrior (hey, it could happen to anyone.) Al is then forced by a king to go on a dangerous quest to rescue a beautiful princess. (Why don’t beautiful princesses have better security?) Al and his new partner, Nigel, an inexperienced knight, must battle a whole host of horrifying creatures, including evil trolls, a monstrous dragon, and other scary things too numerous to mention. All of this leads to a fast paced climactic conclusion that you’ll never forget. (Well, at least for an hour or two).

The book was originally published in hardcover, by Five Star,in 2005,and got good reviews, (Publisher’s Weekly, said, …”a series of amusing adventures involving trolls,dragons, elves, wizards and dental floss.” And William F. Nolan, author of Logan’s Run, said, “Laughs, thrills, suspense, and the product of a truly wild imagination. You’ll love the book.”) I’ve always loved fantasy and humor, so I thought, why not combine them? My serious fantasy, SF, and mystery short stories have appeared in numerous anthologies and magazines, but my background is in comedy writing. I’ve written for comedians, syndicated comic strips, and television.

Product Details
Now available as an ebook from Amazon’s Kindle Store:

You can listen to the audio from when Marc was a guest of Blog Host, Gail Z. Martin’s Ghost in the Machine podcast here:

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Freebie Friday by Jean Marie Ward

Jean Marie Ward, our guest blogger this week, is kind enough to share the following free goodies:

Ward Theater (flash fiction slide shows)

“Duzell’s Due” <>

“Green Eyes” <>

Short Fiction
“About the Flies” – The Devil’s in your freezer and he’s ready to deal.

“Clear as Glass” – Rita meets the man of her dreams…over her husband’s dead body.

“The Kitty at the Edge of Forever” – Who knew a Star Trek/Tolkien cross-over could be so wrong?


Everyday Haunts: A Real Life Ghost Story

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Paranormally Speaking

Paranormally Speaking

By Tina R. McSwain

What are the different types of hauntings? 

Last week,  we talked about what a ghost is (or isn’t).  This week, we will begin to delve into the different types of hauntings.  Some paranormal enthusiasts would argue that most hauntings would fall into one of about four categories.  After being in this field for over fifteen years, I would have to say there are many more.  Over the next several weeks, we will explore these various manifestations in depth.  My categories would go something like this:

Residual Haunt
Intelligent Haunt
Demonic Haunt
Metaphysical Entity
Native American Entity
Crisis Apparition
And, my favorite category, Other, which would include Cryptids and Aliens.

First up, Residual Haunts.  Stay tuned…


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Postcards from Liminal Space

by Gail Z. Martin

Postcards from Liminal Space—I am trying to open up some new ideas, not just for my writing, but for my vision of the future.  So in this first month of a new year, I am trying to be open to subtle nudges from my intuition, to dreams and memories, and to nature as it prepares for rebirth.  There have been times in my life when I felt so clearly that I was standing in-between what was and what would be, but I couldn’t see far enough to know what was going to happen, only that something was about to.  I have that sense now.  I think it’s a good thing, but any time your routine gets knocked topsy turvey there is an in-betweenness that is awkward.

I’m just finishing up The Dread, which is either book 6 in the Chronicles series or Book Two in the Fallen Kings Cycle, depending on which reader or publisher you talk to.  I’m going to take a bit of a break from the world of the Winter Kingdoms and Tris and the gang after this book, so finishing it makes me a little sad.  I have many other Winter Kingdoms stories in mind that I hope to write, but I’ve got a brand new series that I’m excited to write, and so that’s going to consume the next few books.  It’s definitely luminal space for me—one thing drawing to a hiatus while something else opens up.

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Shape shifters and why we find them so riveting

By Crymsyn Hart

Admit it. Shape shifters come in all shapes and sizes. From the enormous, hulking dragon, to feisty werewolves, perfectly proportioned cats, be they large or small, down to those sex snake shifters who love to slither along their mate’s body.

It seems that all animals are being written into the two skinned hunks we all love to read about. My personal favorites, besides the werewolves, are the large cats. From the roaring king of the jungles or sexy tigers along with the large birds of prey. I love my shifters with a little tail or a smattering of feathers. But I think what draws the reader into the shape shifters’ world is that element of danger that having a relationship with a shifter entails.

Get them angry enough or on the right phase of the moon and bam! There goes the man and out pops the beast. Or when there are two, three, or four main characters all end up in bed tougher, depending on what sub-genre of paranormal romance you’re reading and the shifter accidently bites or scratches the other human characters. Then you’re in a butt load of trouble, because what if the other character turns into an animal. What if they don’t want that? Does the shifter want his or her love interest to be like them? What a plot twist if that is the case?

But I think it is in the wild, untamed sides of ourselves that lures the reader in. We want to touch the sleeping beast that lives inside of all of us. To be able to run through the wilderness and have there be no consequences. The shifters survive on instinct. They embrace the animal inside of them and let it roar. Not many of us can claim such abandon, of giving up ourselves. How many of you can truly break away from the ties that bind us to our humanity and become something else? No one to control them or nothing that holds us down.  To me that is why we enjoy reading about shifters. We love them to brood or be unpredictable, just as long as they are hunky and will let nothing stand in their way.

Pick your animal and run, fly, or swim with it.

What do you prefer? What do you want to see more of from authors? What have you read and it just didn’t work for you? Do you think there are some animals that should stay animals? We’re dying to hear about it.

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Little Green Notes – Part Two

Posted to the wall of my office are seven green post-it notes.  I put them there in 2007 while working on the revised draft of Staked (then called Welcome to the Void).  In my last post, I think I wrote that the second post-it note didn’t really apply anymore.  I lied.

Little Green Note number two:

2) More Roger.

Okay, so I didn’t really lie exactly, I clarified and hemmed and hawed a bit.  Roger’s gone, but the note still applies.  In fact, my second little green note can be the difference between engaging fiction or lifeless crap.  In the initial draft of Staked, the reader barely met Roger (Spoiler Alert: He’s the bad guy).

Roger was thought to be dead very early on (in one draft, it was Roger who died in the first sentence) and only shows up again only for the “big confrontation” at the end.  Where’s the fun in that?  Roger is not only a particularly backstabbing villain, he also used to be Eric’s (the protagonist’s) best friend. In the rewrites, I added whole chapters that existed just to let the reader see more of Roger, so that when the “big confrontation” occurred, it meant more.

Of course, going forward the note can be read differently:  Let the reader see the villain.  Villains are fun.  They strut.  They say great and horrible things.  The more we understand them, the better.  If we know that the antagonist wants to kill the protagonist not just “because” but for reasons we might even understand…  Well, that works better.  That pops.  And more importantly, it rings true.

Though villainous, when Lord Phil shows up in Staked, he seems to be clearly on Eric’s side.  As he shows up more and more in ReVamped and in Crossed (which was officially released today, I might add), the reader slowly gets to see how dangerous and twisted good old “Uncle Phil” actually is and how his antics aren’t limited to having a creepy vibe and ungentlemanly bedroom habits.

Of course, another great thing about showing the villain interacting with the hero (or even the anti-hero) is how great the Protagonist looks when compared to them.  Good villains provide the reader and opportunity to explain away the hero’s bad traits with thoughts like: Sure, Eric kills people, but only to eat and, besides, he makes it quick.  Those other vampires play with their food.  And Eric never hurts children or forces himself on his prey.  And he’s been hunting less and less lately.  And look how nice he is to his little girl!

If the readers know the person the main character is sinking his fangs into is the bad guy, then by default, that makes the main character the good guy, whether he’s all that “good” or not.

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Stealth Guest or How to Succeed at Cons with a Cunning Plan

By Jean Marie Ward

(This blog was originally published in the Samhain Publishing Blog, but the subject is always appropriate for writers looking to market their work and connect to fans—and for fans who want to learn a little about what happens “behind the curtain” at their favorite conference.)

The email from RavenCon’s assistant director of programming was polite but not encouraging:

“Right now our guest list is full, but I will put you on our short list if a guest cancels…”

A lot of writers would take that as a hint. In other words: “Stay home, little girl, you’re not big enough/you’re the wrong genre to play in our sandbox.” But I’m evil and wise in the ways of science fiction/fantasy conventions. And I had a cunning plan.

First, I ran the numbers on RavenCon, and they were good:

– Less than two-hour drive from the house—Check.

– Inexpensive membership fee—Check.

– New con with good reports from writer friends—Check.

– Reservation at the con hotel and great roomie—Check.

– Stellar pre-con programming—Check.

The last two were the clinchers. I was especially intrigued by the pre-con programming.

Tee Morris, a fantasy writer who grew up in the Richmond VA area, had arranged two days of writer-based programming at his old high school. He figured more of the students at his alma mater read science fiction and fantasy than would ever be caught dead at a geek fest—er, a con. So the thing to do was to bring the con to them.

Tee is also one of the friends who shared glowing reports of the first RavenCon. Which meant I could probably weasel my way into the pre-con programming and start warping young minds—er, engage in meaningful outreach with readers and writers who will still be buying books long after I fretted my hour upon the writing stage.

It didn’t hurt that my roomie, award-winning author Jana Oliver, had inadvertently signed on for a two-hour seminar on history in science fiction and fantasy. She felt she needed help pulling examples for the program, because she reads more nonfiction and mystery than fantasy. I believe I waited until she issued the invitation to help before volunteering, but it was a near thing. Like I said, I had a plan.

I think the con’s programming director had an inkling of what was up when Tee presented him with the participant list for the pre-con program at Monacan High School. Tee assured him I was cool. After all, I planned to buy a ticket for the con. Tee, bless him, thinks the best of everyone.

Returning to the con hotel, I had the good fortune to run into one of the con volunteers. She provided two important pieces of information: the location of the con operations suite and the fact the registration packets had yet to be stuffed.

Mwahahahaha! My plan was working, and I hadn’t even started yet.

Traveling with Jana to lend an air of legitimacy, I arrived in the con suite with a box of six hundred bookmarks and my most harmless expression. I used to be a master at “pretty and harmless” but now I have to make do with “friendly and harmless”. The programming director still wasn’t buying it, but I fooled everyone else, including the con director. More probably, my bookmarks fooled them. Lots of guests had brought freebies, but very few had brought enough for the estimated six hundred attendees. Having the cunning—er, foresight to bring more bookmarks than I could ever hope to hand out worked in my favor, big time.

Step one in my cunning plan was now complete. My bookmarks would be in the hands of every person who registered for the con. Steps two and three consisted of connecting with the volunteer coordinator and the con bookseller, respectively. Folding the restaurant flyers as they exited the printer, I promised the volunteer coordinator to help monitor some programs as soon as I was sure which ones I planned to attend.

She smiled at the programming director. He grumbled over his schedule. Seems several guests had canceled at the last minute. I practiced looking perky and really, really harmless. Apparently I looked so harmless Jan Howard Finder (a.k.a. wombat, the fan guest of honor) decided I was safe for a chat. Ooooh, more legitimacy! More importantly, he’s a funny, charming guy.

I registered as soon as Tee, Jana and company returned from the Monacan program the next day. Then I headed back to con ops to volunteer. While I was signing on to monitor panels, the volunteer coordinator pointed out the sign-in sheet for open panels. I was in! My plan was a total success.

Not wishing to appear greedy, I only signed on for two: “Creating a FanZine” and “My Lover Is a Vampire…or Maybe a Werewolf”. I wound up with four panels and a signing. I could’ve had more panels. Science fiction and fantasy cons always have drop-outs. They always need guests, and if you demonstrate helpfulness and a lack of diva-ttitude, you’re in. By the time RavenCon was over, I was firmly ensconced in the guest line for the following year (thank you, Mr. Programming Director!) and I’d nailed down an invitation to another Virginia con where they promised to feed me. (Considering I’m a four-star foodie, this could prove to be more than their budget can handle. But I’ll be good. Mostly.)

If you’ve stuck with me this far you may be wondering what relationships this has to Samhain or its other writers. Plenty. Just look at the second panel I signed up for— “My Lover is a Vampire Is a Vampire…or Maybe a Werewolf”. Does that sound like a Samhain-style panel or what? My pick-up two panels were “Shaken, Not Stirred—Sex in Science Fiction and Fantasy Films and TV” and “Vice in Science Fiction and Fantasy”.

Paranormal romance writers could have a field day on any of those panels. Paranormal romance readers would have just as much fun sitting in the audience.

The organizers would love to see Samhain writers and readers there too. Con organizers may not always know it heading into the home stretch of con preparation, but once the show begins they need you.

They need paranormal romance writers on their panels. Urban fantasy/paranormal romance is one of publishing’s great cross-over success stories. Futuristic romance is turning into a gateway into traditional science fiction. Fantasy and science fiction readers want to hear what you have to say, even if they don’t know it yet. It’s a wonderful promotion opportunity–even in the absence of related outreach programming.

If you have to pay the membership, it’s still no big. Membership fees for science fiction and fantasy cons are typically low. The fees for RavenCon were $40 at the door for all three days. Even added to the shared cost of a room, my total con costs came to no more than the registration fees for my favorite RWA conference.

Science fiction and fantasy cons need paranormal romance readers in their audiences. It’s a great opportunity to meet some favorite authors up close and personal — and an even better opportunity to learn about more. I came home with a shopping list, and I know I’m not the only one.

Even the “Con Crud” sinus infection that followed me home turned out to be a plus. After deciding I needed antibiotics after all, my health care professional asked me, “Book signing? What’s your book? You have it with you?”

I couldn’t believe my ears. “You do know it’s a fantasy, right? Comic fantasy—Robert Jordan meets Sex in the City with a little help from Lucille Ball.”

“Yeah. I love that stuff. What’s the title again?”

Science fiction and fantasy cons. Con crud. It’s all good.


Originally published at the Samhain Publishing Blog, April 25, 2007,

You can listen to the audio from when Jean Marie was a guest of Blog Host, Gail Z. Martin’s Ghost in the Machine podcast here:

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Paranormally Speaking

By Tina R. McSwain

What is a Ghost?


The above question has many answers. Those answers will depend on your personal perspective of life and death, religious beliefs and practices, cultural influences, and even your nationality.

From Webster’s Dictionary, the word “ghost” is defined as the apparition of a dead person, a specter, a disembodied spirit, semblance or shadow”. It can be viewed as the immortal part of man that remains once the body dies. The soul that has stayed on earth rather than journeying on to the next plane of existence. I believe it is possible to answer that question with one word…Energy. This view can be explained by science using The Law of Conservation of Mass which states that energy cannot be created or destroyed, but it can be rearranged or converted into a different form (i.e. water changing form from a solid (ice) to liquid or gas (water vapor). The human body is basically a battery. We are made up primarily of water. Our brain sends electrical impulses, fires neurons, in order to make our body operate. The food we eat is metabolized to create the energy required within our bodies to live. We undergo chemical processes such as digestion and respiration. Does the energy of our bodies carry on after death in some new and different form to become the spiritual energy of the soul?

Some may try to use other terms in answer to the question of what constitutes a ghost. Even Webster’s has listed various synonyms as definitions of a ghost. Often these terms are used erroneously. Take the word Demon for example. This is not a ghost. A demon, from a religious point of view, is a minion of Satan. Just as an Angel would be a messenger of God. These entities are far beyond the scope of a ghost. One may say a ghost is a Banshee (but only if it is a wailing woman spirit from Ireland) or a Poltergeist (German for “noisy ghost” which may not be a ghost at all). Someone in a predominately Islamic country may call it a Jinn (a fiery spirit created by Allah that dwells in unclean places and plots the ruin of man) or a Ghoul (a sand dwelling evil spirit who robs graves and consumes the flesh of the dead). Followers of the various nature religions may deem it an Elemental (an entity composed of one of the four elements of earth, wind, fire or water). Certain Native Americans may call it a Chindi (an avenging spirit, released at death, to attack those who offended the deceased). More accurately, the following words could be used to describe a ghost: apparition, bogey, entity, haint (an antiquated term), haunt, phantasm, phantom, presence, revenant, shadow or shade, soul, specter, spectre, spirit, spook, or wraith.

The nature of a ghost is truly an age-old question. The Ancient Egyptians made a distinction between the soul and the spirit. They believed that, at the moment of death, the consciousness split into two different forms. The Ba represented the soul that continued on through reincarnation. The Ka represented the life force created at birth and released at death, and was considered the psychic residue of the previous human spirit. The Ka was left behind on earth.

Now, after all is said and done, my answer to this query is energy, or more aptly, spiritual energy. What is yours?

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Freebie Friday from Gail Z. Martin

Enjoy a sneak peek of The Sworn: Book One in The Fallen Kings Cycle, available from Orbit Books in February, 2011.

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Midwinter Solstice

by Gail Z. Martin

We’ve just come from the midwinter solstice, which is a time of year that has captivated human beings since people began keeping records and noticing the stars.  There’s something very magical about the struggle between day and night at this time of year.  It’s no wonder that the tension between daylight and darkness was retold in epic terms throughout mythology, as a battle between gods and other supernatural creatures.

So I’m working on reawakening my sense of awe in these dark days of the New Year.  I’ve seen articles that suggest that when we experience something greater than ourselves—call it awe, reverence, mystery—it activates different portions of our brains from what gets used on an everyday basis.  Pretty cool.  I’ve always been drawn toward awe and mystery—if you’ve read my books, you know I like the rituals that are involved with creating a place where magic can happen.  The trick is to create a space where “magic” can happen in the real world—where possibilities can unfold, dreams can take shape, and visions can manifest.  I want to dwell in “luminal space”—the term for the places where the veil between one world and the next is thin.  Liminal space is a place of possibility.  I want to start my New Year’s journey there.

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