Monthly Archives: February 2011

Freebie Friday from James Maxey

Our guest blogger this week, James Maxey, has agreed to share a reprint of his professional short story, “Empire of Dreams and Miracles.” Empire is set in a futuristic Atlantis, similar to the one on display in my dragon novels, Bitterwood, Dragonforge, and Dragonseed.  The link to the webpage is:

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News on The Sworn

by Gail Z. Martin

The Sworn is on bookstore shelves, and I am in bookstores doing signings and meeting with readers.  I really enjoy going to stores and conventions because it’s fun to talk with other people who enjoy reading.  It’s also fun to see how books find their way into people’s hands.  Many times, the person who will buy a signed book from me is buying for someone else.  I can’t count the number of times someone has said, “wait right here, I need to bring my {wife, sister, daughter, husband, brother, son, etc.} over to meet you—he/she likes that kind of book.”  I’ve seen people call someone on a cell phone or drag them down the mall or across the store because I’ve got “their kind of book.”  It’s also fun to think of my books being someone’s present for a birthday, Christmas, or another holiday or a care package sent to troops overseas.  I remember one man came into a bookstore just before Valentine’s Day last year with his son.  The man looked lost, and I asked if he was looking for a gift.  When I told him about my books (which I happened to be signing that day), he lit up like I had just solved his problem and bought all four that were out at the time!

Books are often considered to be less personal than a gift of clothing or jewelry, but picking the right book for someone is intensely personal if you really want to find a book that the person will care about.  It also often requires the buyer to set aside his/her preferences to get something the other person will enjoy.  The gift of the perfect book is a statement that the giver really knows you well.  It’s fun to be part of that chain!

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By Crymsyn Hart

My characters call for me to write down. But there are way too many distractions around me this past week. These past few days, I’ve decided to tackle my To Be Read Pile. I have ten different books that are in the closest stack next to my bed. The column is comprised of books I’ve yet to read and ones I have read before, but that I love. I blame my husband for the distraction because he dragged me to the bookstore last week looking for a Crime/Thriller novel to read. Oh the horror of that.

So currently I’m reading, Born to Bite – by Lynsay Sands. Of many of the other romance authors I’ve read, I rather enjoy her books. I’ll probably finish tomorrow between the edits I have to do.

The other nine books in the column are:

Hungry For You -by Lynsay Sands
Awakened by PC and Kristin Cast
The Vampire Diaries: Stefan’s Diaries: Origins – by L.J. Smith
Strands of Starlight by Gael Baudino
Wizard of the Grove by Tanya Huff
Shattered Glass by Elaine Bergstrom
Shadow Walker: A Neteru Academy Book by L.A. Banks
The Sworn by Gail Z. Martin
Evlove: Vampire Stories of the New Undead by Nancy Kilpatrick

Each is a great distraction and I can’t wait to whittle down the stack so I can move onto the next.
What’s on your to be read list?

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Still The Bestest Ever Vampire Song According To J F Lewis

I have a Gollum-loves-The-One-Ring level appreciation for this song. Heh.

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Your Book Would Make a Great Movie! (And Why I Know It Wouldn’t)

by James Maxey

My first novel, Nobody Gets the Girl, came out back in 2003. It was released by the now defunct publisher Phobos Books, run by people who had a background in the film industry. I went to the release party on the roof of a trendy Soho apartment building in NYC and literally felt like I was on top of the world. A very common compliment given to me that night was, “Your book would make a great movie!” I probably heard it a dozen times that evening. I’ve since gone on to publish three more novels (Bitterwood, Dragonforge, and Dragonseed) and with the release of each one, I’m approached by well-meaning fans who ask, “When’s the movie coming out?”

My normal response is to smile and thank people for their compliment. I know that they intend their words as praise. But, deep down, even at that first launch party, I’ve always felt the sting of an unintended insult. No longer is writing a novel considered to be an artistic achievement with its own inherent value. Now, writing a novel is merely the first step toward the higher goal of having your story turned into a movie.

This is hardly a new development. Books have been adapted into films since the earliest days of the genre. Conan Doyle published The Lost World in 1912 and in 1925 it became one of the earliest special effects blockbusters. There was a time when movies adapted novels because film was still considered a low-brow art form, and they could gain a bit of intellectual respectability by associating themselves with the more noble art of books.

But, at some point, the question of intellectual respectability became moot in the face of a much more obvious truth: Movies could rake in money that book publishing can only dream of. Many books are considered successful if they sell in the tens of thousands. Sell a hundred thousand copies of a book, and you’ve got a best-seller. On the other hand, if your novel gets adapted into a successful movie, tens of millions of people can wind up viewing it. And, there will be a spillover to sales of the actual book. If you care about having your work reach the widest possible audience, there’s little doubt that a movie release will connect you to new readers. Television and radio talk shows that would never invite on an author to discuss his or her latest work will gladly feature an author who’s there to talk about a book that’s soon to be released as a movie. No author can afford to turn down a promotional opportunity like this.

That said, there’s something kind of sad about the current state of affairs. Original works of art aren’t considered complete until the film has been made. Alan Moore’s Watchmen wasn’t even fully released back in the 80’s before I heard fans talking about how great the movie was going to be. And, after cringe inducing adaptations of Moore’s concepts like Hellblazer, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, and From Hell, I was able to breathe a sigh of relief that the Watchmen movie was relatively faithful to its source material. But, watching the film, I felt pangs of guilt. Moore hadn’t set out to write a great movie. He’d set out to write a great comic book, and succeeded. But we live in a world where it’s not enough of an accomplishment to write what some would argue is the best comic book of all time. You haven’t reached the apex of fame, wealth, and respectability until your story has hit the big screen.

Since none of my books have been adapted to film, I suppose I can be accused of crying sour grapes. So, let me admit outright that if I were offered any sum of money for the movie rights to my books, I would cash the check without the least twinge of guilt. But, also let me state that if I were interested in writing movies, I’m certain I have the necessary story-telling skills and could master the mechanics of writing scripts with a practice. The same is true of comic books: Nobody Gets the Girl was a novel about superheroes, and early on people have been telling me it would make a great comic book. Maybe, but I didn’t set out to write a comic book. I chose to write a novel because I think there are still truths of the human condition that are best conveyed via prose fiction. Films (and comic books) are visual mediums, where the story is conveyed primarily through pictures. Novels, on the other hand, are an art form that comes hauntingly close to telepathy. I’m placing thoughts rather nakedly onto the page, and another human being is able to come along and fill her head with these thoughts. Good writing is said to invoke the senses, and I do strive to fill my works with sights, sounds, and scents, but in truth good writing leap frogs right over the physical senses to engage the mind directly. In a movie, you can watch people on screen as they laugh and cry and eat and make love. With a book, you can, for a moment, become the person doing these things.

There’s an intimacy, a connection between the author and the reader, that no other medium can accomplish. I have my favorite films like anyone, but the greatest moments of artistic connection I’ve ever felt have come from reading. I didn’t just watch Winston being torn apart by Big Brother, I lived it. I didn’t just listen to Huck Finn explaining why he’d choose damnation over betraying his friend Jim; I was there inside his soul, feeling the full weight of the consequences. These were moments of connection for me, moments when I felt like I’d been freed from the prison of my own self to catch a glimpse of the world through another person’s eyes. These are the moments I’m striving to create every time I sit down to write another novel or short story. I can’t imagine even the most faithful adaptation of my work to the big screen ever achieving this.

Of course, maybe I’ve got a distorted picture of the world, living here in a small town in the American South. Maybe out in Hollywood, screen writers, directors and actors feel a certain sting as they come out of their movie premiers and fans walk up, shake their hands, and say, “What a wonderful film! Maybe one day they’ll make a novel out of it.”

You can listen to the audio from when James 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

Intelligent Haunts

Whereas last week we talked about residual haunts which are basically a past memory replayed in the present, an intelligent haunt involves the presence of a spirit. Thus, they are responsible for actual haunted houses. Said spirit may manifest itself in any number of ways. This type of haunting usually has a “personality” associated with it. Just as some living people are jovial, and some are crass; some spirits may be malevolent while others are mischievous and playful. A child’s ghost for example, would act like a child. You may hear childlike laughter or giggling, hear the pitter-patter of little feet, or a living child’s toys may get played with or moved about the room.

The “ghost” may only appear to one member of the household or may put on a show for the entire family. The family pets may react to this unseen force as well. Sometimes the entity simply wants to make its presence known. Other times it may appear as if going about its daily routine while alive. This is a probable explanation for doors being opened and closed, cabinets being opened, drawers being pulled out seemingly by themselves, or items moving on their own. The spirit is still going about his or her business as if still living in the house, or working in the office. A spirit may also manifest in defiance of changes to the property. We hear all the time of remodeling projects bringing out the past inhabitants of the home.

Whatever the nature of this paranormal activity; this type of spirit is there for a reason. Many times the person died with unfinished business, or met an untimely demise. They could have died so suddenly that they are still coming to grips with their passing. They may not even realize they have passed. They could be lost, confused, or angry about having to “leave”. They may just flatly refuse to go, wishing instead to remain in the home they have lived in during life. On occasion, some people will “come back” to watch over their relatives or their property.

Intelligent haunts take many forms; EVP or voices, certain smells like cigar smoke or perfume, footsteps, hot or cold spots, apparitions, physical movement of objects, or even touching of the living is possible. How and where it most commonly manifests is important as to who it may be. Interviews with the family or other witnesses may prove useful in identifying the entity. Research on the property can also provide clues to the identity of the spirit as well as its motives for appearing.

Documenting the presence of a spirit is easier said than done. You may employ everything from EMF detectors and audio recorders to special cameras and “trigger objects” (something the ghost may recognize and want to move). While there are many ways to coax activity from the spirit, you must remember it is an intelligent force with a mind of its own. It may or may not want to come out and play or interact with you in the way you would like. Provoking is dangerous and absolutely not recommended. Provoking, daring or belittling the spirit can lead to retaliation and escalation of activity. Something a frightened family does not need.

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Freebie Friday – Debra Killeen

Debra Killen, our guest blogger this week has graciously shared the following FREE links to her books:

Link to excerpt from the prologue to forthcoming book:

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Here’s to reinvention!

by Gail Z. Martin

Postcards from Liminal Space—As I’m beginning to work on the new series (as yet unnamed, but don’t worry, readers here will be among the first to know), I realize that my characters are also traveling through the “between” places.  They’re grappling with questions like—who are you when everything has been stripped away?  If you lost everything, what would you try to rebuild, and what could you let go of?  When all the old markers of power and position no longer exist, can you still define yourself?  We’ve certainly seen a lot of people struggling with those kinds of questions in the real world, and coming to a variety of answers.  I’m fascinated with the process of reinvention, reawakening, re-imagining.  So as January ends and I step out of liminal space, I’m excited about the insights and possibilities, and enthusiastic about diving into the new series.  Here’s to reinvention!

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Plotting and Peeling Onions

By Crymsyn Hart

The smell of burnt toast has cleared. The walls of the writer’s block have tumbled away. All of the characters who have been kept prisoner behind the barriers are finally running rampant in my mind. Voices are screaming in my head for some release. The good thing about this is all the ghosts and vampires are now free to be themselves again. Of course, they have been peeling away many of their layers these past few days and comparing themselves to that of an onion. It is rather annoying, but then again, I have been doing a lot of cooking these past few days in regards to both plotting and actually being in the kitchen since the day job has gone away for now.

Ideas strike me these days now that my mind is open to not having a day job. I find myself writing many of them on my blackberry between traffic stops or when I wake up in the middle of the night. Dreams are wonderful for great plotting tools. I’ve written some of the best things from my dreams. Other times I’ll be watching a movie and something about it strikes me then it starts to take root in my brain. The characters come to life and the plot begins to branch out. Soon smaller branches become subplots. Those subplots touch upon other characters and then they begin to take over the whole story sometimes tugging it away from me. I hate it when the characters do that, but this post isn’t about that.

Others have many different ways of how they deal with keeping their plots straight. They write down exactly what will happen and where they want their story to go. Others fly by the seat of their pants and write what comes as they write. I go between both these days. I used to just write as I went along, the characters leading me down the paths of their lives, but lately, I have started to record how I want my stories to go. Making me the master of my characters destinies. So that brings us back to the onion analogy.

I’m peeling back the layers of the plots I have circling, discovering more about the characters. The latest outline of story I’m working on has been written down, and the characters are struggling against it already. I guess they don’t like the smell of onions. Oh well, they might not like it, but they have to live with it. I do.
If you find yourself with your own onion, struggling with the plot that your characters are running away with. You have to peel another layer away and if that makes your characters cry, oh well. Sometimes you have to get the plot out the way you want and it doesn’t matter what anyone else in your head says.

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Go Write Something

by J. F. Lewis

Theoretically, I’m supposed to be writing about Little Green Note: Number Four, but I don’t want to, so NYAHH! 😉 (If you were really interested, it was “Make the Plot Work!” and my only real advice, is: Yeah, you should really do that).

The other night at a party, I had a conversation I wind up having a lot when people realize that I have a day job. They are shocked. Sometimes they exclaim, “But you’re novelist!” Other times they ask, “How do you find the time?” This dovetails nicely with another conversation I have a lot (also at parties or in training classes or standing outside of violin lessons). That conversation begins with some variation of “I wish I had the time to write a novel” with an occasional side of “Hey! Could you write it for me?”

Want to know a secret? I don’t have time to write either. Tonight, I want nothing more than to flip on my Xbox 360 and play Dead Space. I’ve been meaning to play beyond the first save point for over a year, but I just haven’t managed it yet. I’ve played several levels of LEGO Indiana Jones with my boys, but that was during their time. I’ve played a fair amount of Epic Mickey, but that was during family time too. Dead Space is creepy and first person shooter-y and… it’s something I can only play during *my* time.

I’d also like to be reading K. J. Parker’s most recent novel, THE HAMMER and… I am, but now that I’m on a deadline (and trying to write fast enough on my YA project to read a chapter a night to my boys at bedtime) I have a tendency to read it in the bathroom, unless I’m writing in there, too.

Janet (that’s my wonderful and insanely patient wife) and I tend to watch one TV show a night instead of the two we had time for previously. But you know what? As I type into the night and blank pages are filled with little black letters that make words and punctuation which help divide, shape, and convey thoughts, actions, and emotions… when I see the smiles on the faces of my sons at night and, yes, when I cash the checks my agent mails me… I’m having a blast.

So let me ask you a question. If you have a story to tell… if you have a desire to write… why the heck aren’t you writing right now? Go do it. I do.

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