Monthly Archives: April 2011

Freebie Friday from Jennifer St. Giles

Guest blogger, Jennifer St. Giles, wants to share the first three chapters of Collateral Damage on her  website:

Or get a short excerpt at:

Leave a Comment

Filed under Freebie Friday, Guest Blogger

The Graying of the Fan—Or Not

by Gail Z. Martin

I attend more than a dozen sci-fi/fantasy conventions each year, mostly along the East Coast. One of the topics that comes up often in conversation, if not as the actual topic of a panel, is the fear in some areas that fandom is graying and that young people aren’t embracing the genre.

I just don’t see it.

If anything, the Millennial generation—those folks now in their teens and twenties—are the most sci-fi saturated generation in history. They teethed on Buffy, came of age with Harry Potter, immersed themselves playing Final Fantasy, navigated the Twilight phenomenon, and exist in a world where a huge percentage of the books, movies and TV shows have a supernatural/paranormal bent. It’s almost impossible for them to avoid the genre. These young people played with light sabers as kids and went trick-or-treating as anime characters.

But here’s what over-40 fans need to accept—the next generation of fans are a multi-media fandom raised in a multi-media world. Few of them are going to go back and read pulp stories from the 1930s or 1940s—why should they? Not only were those stories, however much they may be revered as classics of the genre, written fifty years before they were born, but the sci-fi in them isn’t amazing to people who played with computers in day care, are indigenous citizens of the Internet and navigate iPads, iPods and cell phones with the fluency of a Borg.

I’ve found that when people lament the decline of fandom, there’s really a wish for fandom to remain primarily book oriented, and, if truth be told, on books published a while ago. Yet, as futurists should know better than anyone, time marches on.
I’ve been to cons that eschew media and gaming where people ponder the lack of young fans. Then I go to multi-media cons like DragonCon, and I see where all the young fans are. The next generation of fans want to celebrate the genre as they’ve come to love it—and that goes beyond books to gaming, anime, movies, TV and the Web. Speak their language, honor their interface with the genre, and they will come—in droves.

Something amazing happens at multi-media cons. Older fans discover elements of the genre that they’re surprised to like. Younger fans get switched on to authors who were published long before the fans were born. And just like on a Star Trek episode where two alien races have a positive first encounter, the whole thing works surprisingly well.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Books, Fandom, Gail Z. Martin

Damn the Consequences! Full Speed Ahead!

by Jennifer St. Giles

That was Sergeant First Class Jack Hunter’s only viable option in Collateral Damage, the first book in my Silent Warrior Series.  These books are romantic thrillers featuring military heroes and heroines with extraordinary hearts.  Collateral Damage starts two weeks after Jack has been seriously wounded on a FUBAR mission in Lebanon.  Jack sees the picture of prominent American businessman, Bill Collins, on the news, who he swears he killed in Lebanon two weeks ago, but nobody believes him, especially since Collins reportedly died in Brazil just yesterday.  Leaving the hospital, Jack goes AWOL to uncover the truth.  Instead of answers, he gets assassins, more questions, and a terrorist plot that threatens to ignite a world war.  As Jack fights to keep Lauren Collins, Bill’s estranged widow and her twin sons alive, he lays more than his life on the line and stands to lose everything when the truth behind Bill’s death comes to light.

There is an interesting story behind Collateral Damage.  In early 2001, I read a magazine article about mining from asteroids in the near future and being the writer that I am, my mind whirled with “what if’ questions.  What if a new or highly concentrated element was discovered?  What if that element became the basis for a new super fuel?  What if someone or group of someone’s decided to use that new fuel to gain world-wide power?  What if?  What if?  What if?

I sat down and wrote the proposal for the story then.  I set the story ten years in the future and used the world’s dependency on oil and inflamed religious factions to bring about global chaos as the backdrop for the story.  I chose an extraordinary soldier for my hero and an ordinary mom for my heroine and threw them into the deep end of trouble where they uncover the truth, conquer the odds against them, and fall in love with the best and worst of each other.  I sent the proposal out to agents and editors.

Then 9/11 happened and no one wanted to touch the story.  Al-Qaeda and terrorists were issues too sensitive to use, especially for a romance writer.  I went on to become published in the historical and paranormal suspense markets and Collateral Damage sat in my file cabinet for nine years.  But the way the real world events kept playing out since 9/11, I couldn’t get the story out of my head.  I kept seeing how ripe the world was for this “what if scenario” and I finally decided in 2010 to write the book.

To make the story less sci-fi and more realistic, I went from a space mined fuel to an algae-based biofuel and I went from generic American businessmen to a ruthless environmentalist as the mastermind behind the plot.

My next problem was to bring the big world plot down to a personal level.  In the book, both Jack and Lauren, my every day hero and heroine, are affected by collateral damage from the choices other people in the story make.  They learn from each other that how they deal with the fallout is what determines the quality of their future.  In fact, I think that in one way or another everyone becomes a victim to collateral damage in their life.  What do you think?

This is my first military inspired thriller and my first e-book release.  I would love to hear from you on your opinion of the book and also the e-book format.

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

Leave a Comment

Filed under Guest Blogger

Native American Entities

By Tina R. McSwain

These spirits are as diverse as the many Native American tribes themselves. This is a very broad category that cannot possibly be covered here. My intent is to but introduce the concept.

In this country, some people have had what they consider very real encounters with what they believe are Native American “skin-walkers”. The term “skin-walker” has variable meanings depending on tribal affiliation. While some describe these creatures as something close to a werewolf, others consider them witches with a supernatural ability to transform into various animals. Most Native Americans typically have a positive attitude towards “magic” and its practitioners, but these are thought of as “witches” who have honed their abilities through acts of evil. This twists them into something more than human.

The powers they possess can only be obtained by killing another member of the tribe. This disrespect for the basic morals of tribal society and human decency turns skin-walkers into outcasts. They are feared and hated by the other members of the tribe. It is said that their animal forms are slightly deformed because of their evil nature.

In recent years, some paranormal places have been considered hotspots of skin-walker activity (the most famous being Utah’s “Skinwalker Ranch” or Marley Woods). The otherworldly goings-on include everything from apparitions, cryptid creatures, UFO sightings and cattle mutilations.

Native American culture also brings us the “chindi”, a sort of avenging spirit, released at death to attack those who offended the deceased. Chindi are dangerous, single-minded entities. It is said that even being near one can cause “ghost sickness”; a sometimes fatal wasting away of the infected person.

Many people believe that the phenomenon of “shadow people” is somehow related to Native American mythology. These shadow beings have been witnessed in cemeteries, homes, and even in the vicinity of Indian burial grounds. At this point no one is sure of their exact origins. Some believe them to be evil-natured while others consider them protective spirits. Some even claim they are from another dimension.

In the folklore among many Native North American tribes, appear water babies that are small in human form, and inhabit lakes, streams, springs, and other bodies of water. They are not malicious, but do at times play tricks on humans, and are feared.

There are countless culture-specific supernatural creatures; the more familiar you are with the culture and beliefs themselves, the more you can understand the various entities the people fear.

1 Comment

Filed under Tina R. McSwain

Freebie Friday – Tony Ruggiero

Our guest blogger, Tony Ruggiero, is kind enough to share some excerpts, audio and written, on his web page at:

Leave a Comment

Filed under Freebie Friday, Guest Blogger

Gimme That (Really) Olde Tyme Religion

by Gail Z. Martin

Last week I mentioned that it was nice to see the swell of books dealing with parapsychological abilities (clairvoyance, psychics, etc.).  Another trend I find exciting is the more nuanced way authors are presenting Wicca, Magick and Paganism.

There’s been  a definite evolution in the way the Craft is described, and the care taken to differentiate Wicca and White Witchcraft and Magick from the negative stereotypes.  I’m pleased to see that the Craft is presented in a positive, balanced way that clearly differentiates it from the bad spin haters have given it over the centuries.

With the growth in the number of people who are reexamining the Old Ways, whether that is the resurgence of Norse practice to the wide range of Druids, goddess-worshippers and others, it’s important for authors to get the details right.  The wealth of excellent handbooks available from publishers like Llewellyn make it inexcusable for an author to “just make stuff up” instead of being grounded in a firm understanding of how magical systems and ritual works.

Getting it right doesn’t require that the author be a practitioner; however, it does require approaching belief systems with enough respect to be accurate so as not to perpetuate misinformation.  If you know practitioners well enough to be able to ask questions and confirm interpretation, all the better.

Dealing with any religion in fiction is always tricky, especially if an author who is not a practitioner is trying to describe someone else’s beliefs.  When that’s the case, it’s especially important to tread carefully, research, and try hard to put yourself in the mindset and worldview of a practitioner even if it’s just for the duration of the writing project.  Make sure you understand the role of ritual and ceremony, especially if your own tradition does not value those elements.

It’s easy to spot writers who have very little experience with religious traditions other than their own.  (If an alien race that has never had contact with Earth has a religion where everyone goes to a white, pointy-roofed building on one day of the week and sit in rows to listen to someone up on the stage, you’ve just described Presbyterians in space, not an alien religion.)

Leave a Comment

Filed under Gail Z. Martin


by Crymsyn Hart

Over the weekend, I was doing a lot of cleaning, getting down and dusty. While I was cleaning, I came across some of the stories that I had written in high school. I took a moment to go through the short tales. It got me to thinking about the people in my life who had been influential in helping me write and encouraged me to do so.

During middle school and through high school, writing was a way for me to cope with the reality of the my chaotic environment. My friends always lent me a kind ear. My teachers always told me I could do what I wanted. My family stood beside me through the years, but it was my grandfather who really encouraged me to keep on going.

When I was twelve, he set up a small space for me in his office, in the attic, so that I could write during the weekends that I would spend with them. So during the hot summer hours, I’d retreat up there with his electric typewriter and start tapping away at the keys. He would read everything I wrote and kept on encouraging me even though much of my stuff was about vampires. He asked me once when I was twelve, why I loved vampires so much. I shrugged and told him I didn’t know. I just loved them and I would keep writing about them as I got older. He dutifully told me that my likes would change as I got older and I would probably move out of the faze. After I had several works published that he had read, he told me he didn’t mind reading what I was writing, but he just couldn’t stomach any more vampires. That was something I brought up again a few months before he passed away. He chuckled and said that he really wanted me to finish this one piece that I had done when I was in high school. Out of everything it was his favorite. A young adult fantasy novel about a girl who steps into another world and discovers that sorcerers and unicorns are real.

Well, this was the very thing that I had come across when I was cleaning this weekend. Years ago, he had printed out the massive volume and went through and edited it for me hoping that one day it would see the light of day. It was up on my shelf in two huge three ring binders. Before he passed away, it was the one thing he insisted that I really focus on.

So these past few days, I’ve been flipping through the pages he marked and am finally seeing where the story should go from here. It’s been collecting dust for way too many years to count and I pluck at it once and a while. But for him, I’ll finish it and see it done. All because he was the one who was there for me and always encouraged me to keep on writing. Vampires or not.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Books, Crymsyn Hart

Techno Babble For the Modern Vampire


J. F. Lewis

Dracula never had an app for that.

He simply didn’t. If you’ve ever read Les Klinger’s Annotated Dracula (and you really should. Les is frick’n awesome… read his Annotated Sherlock Holmes while you’re at it) you already know that Dracula by Bram Stoker was a techno thriller. Shorthand was cutting edge stuff. Train schedules were mind-boggling. And when Van Helsing told Nina that she “had the man brain”, it was a compliment about how intelligent she was. After all, only Nina could keep anything complicated straight in that bunch of vampire hunters.

In the Void City series, though. Eric does keep up with the times. He can’t remember how to check his voicemail, but he does check email, surf the internet, and play the occasional video game. (Les has not yet had the occasion to do an annotated version of my books, BTW. Though if he did, there would no doubt be a great wealth of information about old movies, bands, and slang terms from various eras) And if Marilyn were to tell Tabitha that she “had the man brain”, it would be an insult.

But back to Dracula… the struggle to keep up with the mortals (but not the Joneses… them you just eat) has always featured in vampire novels to one degree or another. Dracula struggled with the way the world was changing from an era of more brutal politics and less civilized war. (Isn’t that an oxymoron?) Feminism was slowly rearing it’s head in Dracula’s time. Religious ideals were being brought into question.

Then again, jumping back to Void City, the same kind of struggle is taking place. There is a distinct societal clash for a World War II vet who is still “dating” (or hunting) in a post Y2K world. And in Book 4 (Eric will even have an app for that… though you’ll have to wait several more months to know what I mean by that). What is your favorite modern idea or device an eighty year old vampire (or 100 year vampire? or a 200 years old vampire?) would face in the world of today? What situation would you put them in if you could?

Leave a Comment

Filed under J.F. Lewis

Something old…Something new

by Tony Ruggiero

The final installment of the Team of Darkness vampire series is on its way to bookstores for the Halloween release. Book four, Operation End Game, is the much anticipated story where readers learn what happens to Commander John Reese, Christina and Dimitri. Does Reese become a vampire? Will he be with Christina? Will Dimitri come between them or will he help them?  Will the secret government Agency leave them alone? Knowing Tony Ruggiero’s penchant need for realistic vice happy endings, many readers are on the edge of their seats waiting to see what happens. All of the questions do get answered, or so Tony Ruggiero says they will. Tony gives us his thoughts on ending the series:

“Saying goodbye is always tough even when it is a fictional story comprised of characters we have made up from our imagination and even some which are non-human like vampires. Yet this miraculous transformation happens. We come to live and breathe with the characters, we take meals with them, we feel what they feel and hope for their success as much as we hope for own. They do what we cannot and thereby give us hope in our own meager lives. When the series ends or our characters die (no spoilers here—I swear, well maybeJ) they take with them a piece of us, but they leave something in return. The memory of them and what they are/were but more importantly— what we can be.

I heard a line in a movie once that summed this up quite well. The character said something along the lines of how it didn’t matter if the event/story was true or not. What mattered was if you believed in it. Belief comes in many shapes and forms and as long as it gives us hope—I guess that’s a good thing. That to me is the value of reading fiction and that’s the way I will always remember Commander John Reese, Dimitri and the others. They gave me hope that I could write this series…and I did. Now I hope that they have given you something as well to remember them by.  As to will we see any of these characters again…well that part is still up in the air…maybe even orbiting Earth (yes…that is a hint).

Thanks to DragonMoon Press for having given me the opportunity to share this story with readers everywhere. And thank you—the reader for taking this one last journey with me and the Team of Darkness.”

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

Leave a Comment

Filed under Guest Blogger