Monthly Archives: May 2011

Value of Anthologies

by Danielle Ackley-McPhail

You know…I hear an awful lot that the major publishers don’t do anthologies because there is no money in them. Well, if I’ve said before I’m saying it again, I’m not in this business for the money (saves on a lot of disappointment. For me, the value in anthologies is their promotional opportunity. In this age of the growing list of extinct genre magazines there are not as many ready sources for print publication of short stories. Okay…let me amend that, there weren’t as many ready sources for print publication of short stories. That is rapidly changing to the extent that even the major publishers are scrambling on to the anthologist’s wagon.

But back to why I’m doing this. From a promotional standpoint, for the amount of time it takes me to key a short story I have the opportunity to group my work (assuming it will be accepted) alongside a variety of other authors, each of which have their own dedicated fan base. That means all of my fans that pick up the book because I haven’t finished the next novel yet, and all of their fans that pick it up for their various reasons all get to read—I hope—my story.  Now, let’s ramp that up a bit. Let’s assume that at least one of those authors is a “name”. All of a sudden the scope of the exposure is exponentially increased.

Now, given that anthologies are these days generally themed in addition to all those theoretically amassed fans of specific authors, we also have all the fans of whatever particular genre or theme the anthology in question is targeting. For example, my story In the Runes was accepted for the anthology Rum and Runestones, a collection of pirate-and-magic stories. Pirates are very popular. So is magic…with the fantasy crowd, anyway. This means that a story that might have been hit-or-miss in a general fantasy anthology will be more likely to find its target audience because the readership already knows what to expect when they pick up the book.

So you see, anthologies hold quite a bit of benefit to those that write short fiction.

For me, however, there is even more to it. I am also an editor of anthologies, or in probably more accurate terms: an anthologist and packager of anthologies. The difference? I do all the work and simply turn in print-ready files to the publisher. The reason I embrace the stress and strain of this when I could be writing quietly in my own little world? I LOVE to create books from concept to completion. I get ideas…lots of ideas…and then I run with them! Anthologies let me do that a lot quicker because others have to do most of the writing. Currently I am senior editor of both the Bad-Ass Faeries anthologies (Mundania Press) and the new Legends of a New Age anthology series (Dark Quest Books).

But the best reason of all for my particular insanity? I want to help those who are where I used to be; those just getting started, those not quite sure how to go about climbing that ladder to stand beside me. If I can help other aspiring authors get their start and avoid some of the pitfalls I encountered along the way, then I have done a good thing and I can be more than happy about all the effort I put into creating and promoting these anthologies.

If you would like to learn more about my novels or the anthologies I have been a part of, please visit or


Award-winning author Danielle Ackley-McPhail has worked both sides of the publishing industry for over fifteen years. Her works include the urban fantasies, Yesterday’s Dreams, Tomorrow’s Memories, and The Halfling’s Court: A Bad-Ass Faerie Tale. She has edited the Bad-Ass Faeries anthology series, and No Longer Dreams, and has contributed to numerous other anthologies and collections, including Dark Furies, Breach the Hull, So It Begins, Space Pirates, Barbarians at the Jumpgate, and New Blood.

She is a member of The Garden State Horror Writers, the New Jersey Authors Network, and Broad Universe, a writer’s organization focusing on promoting the works of women authors in the speculative genres.

Danielle lives somewhere in New Jersey with husband and fellow writer, Mike McPhail, mother-in-law Teresa, and three extremely spoiled cats. She can be found on LiveJournal (damcphail, badassfaeries, darkquestbooks), Facebook (Danielle Ackley-McPhail), and Twitter (DMcPhail). To learn more about her work, visit or

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

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Fandom needs its Glee

by Gail Z. Martin

Thanks to Glee, American Idol, Dancing with the Stars and Guitar Hero, my kids know the words to all the songs that were popular when I was in high school, and quite a few songs that made the charts when I was still riding a tricycle.

These TV shows, plus Karaoke and dance video games and the ubiquitous Rock Band have made the hits of the 70s and 80s—and some of the 60s—cool again.  Sure, the songs have an updated sound (no chord organs), and they’re not the original artists.  But as covers go, they’re pretty damn good.  Better than many cover bands I’ve heard.  But what really matters is that these shows and games managed to make songs that were meaningless to teens and  twenty-somethings relevant and relatable.

So how does fandom go about doing the same thing for the favorite books that aren’t on the radar of anyone under 50?

I think one thing that’s important to note about the Glee phenomenon is that no one lectured viewers about the relative merit of the old songs.  Not only that, both artists and performers had to be willing to bend to update the sound.  And it doesn’t work for every song.  I don’t think we’ll be seeing the car crash ballads of the 1950s revived, unless they’re updated for drive-bys. (It’s possible.)

What does this mean for fandom?  Instead of bemoaning the dearth of young people at (some) cons, perhaps some bending is in order from the old guard to entice young fen into the flock.  Media cons certainly have young fans in droves, because they like the fames and the TV/movie tie-ins and the costumes.  How is that a bad thing?  These don’t diminish books; they extend our audience.

At the same time, it’s important to recognize that some stories won’t resonate with readers outside of the time period of the story’s creation because the world has changed too much, even for sci fi.  Stories that are overtly sexist, racist, jingoistic or otherwise exclusive will feel like ancient history, not futuristic tales.  Some stores, beloved as they may be, outlive their time.

The artists whose work has suddenly become relevant to a whole new generation are profiting from the exposure.  The original fans find themselves smiling and singing along, much to the amazement of their kids.  (If you’d have asked me if someday my teenagers would know the songs from Rocky Horror Picture Show, I wouldn’t have bet money on it, and I’d have been wrong.)  In fact, by closing the musical generation gap, these shows have opened a door to a whole new form of togetherness.

Cons can be a terrific forum for shared interests across generations.  I’ve seen it happen.  If it’s not happening at a con near you, tune in to an episode of Glee or fire up Guitar Hero and see if you don’t get a few ideas on how to bridge the gap.


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Steampunkery and Finished Drafts

What is that guy talking about with a post title like that?

I don’t know, and I *AM* that guy.

Seriously though, as much as I want to impart revealing secrets about writing and set fire to the hive mind of the internet with knowledge of the ages, what I really want to do is bounce around like a happy puppy. The first draft of Hunted (Void City, Book 4) is done!

But also, I gotz magic cats and crazed scheming steam punk robots!

For a while now, I’ve been working with the guys over at Ignitus Innovation, Inc (formerly The Wandering Men) on a web comic idea. At Crisis Con last year, I was talking to Ashy about wanting to write comics (Marvel Comics, if you’re out there, I have the first three issues of a Devil Dinosaur and Moonboy miniseries already written) and Ashy mentioned that they were interested in doing a web comic that tied in to the their Untold RPG. I asked what the setting was like and he asked me to sit in on a demo later that evening. I did and as a result, GEARLESS: A UNTOLD COMIC was born.

It all seems innocent enough at first: D3rr0 (pronounced Derro) is a Klik Roller trying to help his buddy Kiern (a L’na Dawn, but for our purposes think flying talking magic cat with heavy mystical firepower) find her missing mate Rior. Heh. Yeah… really, that’s all the story is about.

*cough* undead monster *cough*

*cough* hidden agendas *cough*

The first page goes up in a week or so, but in the meantime here is the cover Aviv Or did for the piece:

The logo is changing a little so the “G” is more obviously a “G” and our names will actually be on the next version, but what do you think? You can follow all the future developments over here. Or my Facebook page or @JF_Lewis on Twitter. I pretty much can’t shut up about it.

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Paranormally Speaking

By Tina R. McSwain

(My apologies, the Paranormally Speaking segment is running behind from Friday due to illness in the family)

The Second Instance of a First

Last week, I spoke about firsts in my paranormal career and how they are few and far between. Well lo and behold, I have had another. I was performing a cleansing or spirit rescue and had almost finished the house. When I got to the last room, I felt a heaviness or uneasiness coming from the closet. I went over to start my procedure and actually got grabbed by the arm. I have been grabbed before, so this was not unusual. What was disturbing was that I got scratched. For the first time, I had a physical injury from an entity (albeit rather minor).  Undaunted, I continued my quest to cleanse this home, and put the fears of the homeowner to rest.

I succeeded in the end.  I shall chalk this up to a learning experience and revel in the knowledge that no matter how long you do something, you can always learn something new.

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A Great Project

by Chris Jackson

We did a great talk at Ron Russell Middle School in Portland, Oregon yesterday. I did a talk on writing, and we brainstormed on a short story project – they provided the ideas, characters, genre, plot and setting, and I get to write it! Awesome fun! I’ll be doing a Science/Fantasy/Horror/Humor story about a cemetery-space station orbiting Saturn where a genetically modified Sasquatch and a talking monkey find a magical tome that animates a dead veteran soldier, who then raises an army of undead and must be placated by being married to a kidnapped rock star.

Wow… this should be fun!

Update: This awesome project has been percolating in my mind for a few weeks, now, and it came to me that it could be expanded to other schools in other states. How about this: a whirlwind tour of the US, and ideas for short stories from schools in several cities. Write them all up and put together an anthology! Proceeds go back to the schools for their Lit programs.

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

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Freebie Friday

Our guest blogger, Lori Handeland, is giving away magnets and bookmarks for joining her Full Moon Club at:

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The Holy Terrors

We call her Gizmo for short.

by Crymsyn Hart

If my pets had voices they would say, “You’ve done enough writing for the day” after only five minutes on the keyboard. “Come out and play with us. Throw the ball so I can catch it. No throw the Frisbee so I can catch it.”

I can already hear them barking at me to get my attention and pull me away from the computer. And if it’s not my two dogs, then it’s the bird screeching at such an insane volume that even with music blaring, earplugs in, and me in the other room with the door closed, I can still hear him.

I love my pets very much, but they run the house. Now that I’m working from home, I get to spend my whole day snuggling with my black Lab, Morrigaine or fighting with my Border Collie/black Lab mix, Cadence. Both of them are my babies. Morrigaine makes a wonderful footstool as I recline on the love seat and she takes up the other cushion. While I do that, Cadence is jumping by my head so her two front paws land on my laptop and press a whole bunch of keys and gibberish appears on the screen. She has already victimized my laptop and my v, b, & n keys have been sacrificed to the writing gods. Luckily the sensors are still intact so I can still write.

If Cadence isn’t jumping on my keyboard, she accidentally steps on the power cord and with one wrong move pulls it out of the laptop therefore leaving me gasping for my lost words because I hadn’t pressed save in the last couple of minutes or ready to throw the laptop across the room because it needs a new battery. Once Cadence pulls the cord out and that doesn’t get my attention, she then pokes her wet nose into my arm. I think this is the worst of her actions to interrupt my writing day. Because she seems to do it right when

Lapdog, foot warmer, and great Frisbee catcher.

I’m in the zone. Of course, there’s nothing I can do except look longingly at the screen, and pray that my characters will talk to me once I’m done being the slave that my dogs have trained me to be.

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Keeping the Fandom Flame in a Sci-Fi World

by Gail Z. Martin

What do you do when the fantastic becomes commonplace?

Back in the day, early in the 20th century, sci-fi had a lot of ground to cover. Rocket ships, ray guns, space travel, light-up gadgets—there was no limit to what could be imagined.

A funny thing happened on the way to the future. Reality caught up—and sometimes passed—sci-fi. Space shuttle launches became ho-hum. Middle school kids carry cell phones far more advanced that Uhura’s entire communication panel, let alone Kirk’s communicator and Bones’ tri-corder put together. Our cars not only talk to us, they plan out our route, dial our phones and can call for help if we get stuck. The Internet happened.

Personally, I think that the closer reality became to sci-fi, the harder it’s gotten for the genre to keep up. Maybe that’s why fantasy does so well—it’s easier to surprise us in the past than to predict a future more mind-boggling than the one in which we already live.
There’s a hidden benefit to this shift. Long ago, it was difficult for the average person to imagine a ray gun future because it was so vastly different from what someone living in a rural community in the pre-World War II world experienced, a world that for many people still lacked indoor plumbing and electricity. As sci-fi converged with the real world, it became mainstream.

One quick run through the programming on TV shows plenty of plots hinging on scientific thrills and wonders—as well as fantasy elements and the paranormal—that are on every network and channel, not just Syfy. Books that at one time would have been considered “fannish” become mega-bestsellers, like Harry Potter and Charlaine Harris’s Sookie Stackhouse books. Role-playing games broke out of the basement thanks to video gaming and took over every living room in America. Thanks to Cartoon Network, anime elements are as accessible as sushi at your local supermarket.

How do you keep the fandom flame? In my opinion, fandom wins when it embraces this new crop of readers, gamers and movie-goers and includes programming to attract them. Instead of considering mass-media newcomers as second-class, value their perspective and create ways to draw them further into other elements of fandom by exposing them in positive ways. Put the “fun” back in “fan” and stop taking fandom quite so seriously. Realize that the passing of the torch is inevitable, and is best done with grace and humor.
Older fans often remember the sting of exclusion from the “mainstream” culture. Let’s make sure fandom shows a more welcoming face now that we have seen the future….and they are us.

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Kevin Hearne’s Hounded is Out!

Given that I’m on a deadline (Void City Book 4 is due in to my editor by May 31st) and Kevin Hearne’s new book is out, it seemed like the perfect time to give another cool author (because he’s cool ya know) a little web love, but not the paid site sort of way or the… yeah.  So, before I embarrass myself further… Here’s Kevin:

First, I must thank J.F. for letting me hang out on his blog. Like all of the Reluctant Adults, he is a bag full of Awesome to go. Plus, he and I share the same cover artist, Gene Mollica.

As part of the publicity for my urban fantasy debut, I’ve written a series of guest posts that are droppin’ all over the place. You can see a full list of the posts over at my blog. The big, ginormous one is over at John Scalzi’s Whatever’>”>Whatever blog, where I’m featured on his recurring feature, The Big Idea.

Some of my Twitter peeps wanted to hear about my path to publication, so I’m going to cover that here.

I was raised on a diet of comic books and Hamburger Helper, and in my teen years I mixed things up a bit by adding Van Halen and Mountain Dew. I was (and am) a guitar-rock nerd. My reading tastes outside of comics were largely sci-fi and fantasy.

In college I got the writing bug after reading Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. The voice of Chief Bromden was so compelling to me and I wanted to do something like that. I spent the next ten years failing—as in, I started novel after novel, but never finished one. I read a bunch of “how-to” books but never attended a class or a convention. Maybe those how-to books messed me up a bit; I kept trying to write things the books said made a good story, but I didn’t really like those kinds of stories.

Once I decided to chuck their advice and write to please myself, I finished a novel called The Road to Cibola. It took me six years and it’s a steaming pile of pig shit, but it was an invaluable experience because it taught me exactly what it took to write a novel and I knew now that I could finish one. The Road to Cibola had a rambling mess of a plot and wasn’t really marketable—as I discovered once I tried to write a query letter for it—so I turned my efforts to writing an epic fantasy. That only took me three years. I sent it out for submission directly to a publisher and got a response in two weeks that I’d passed the first round of edits. I couldn’t believe it! While I waited to hear more, I kept busy with other projects. I’d been reading lots of urban fantasy and lots of Vertigo comics written for aging fanboys like myself, and I came up with an idea for a comic about a Druid who could talk to his dog. I was focusing primarily on the magic system and making things look cool, but as I got a few pages into it, I realized it might make a decent urban fantasy novel. I mentioned this to some nerd friends of mine and got shot down (which is the subject of The Big Idea post), and after that I wrote Hounded in eleven months as a defiant gesture. Nerds do that.

All this time I was waiting to hear more from the publisher who was sitting on my epic. Seeing that submitting without an agent was ridiculously slow, I decided to try to get an agent by querying the urban fantasy. I sent my query out to twelve

agents I found on Out of that first round, I got two requests for partials, one full, and nine form rejections. The partial and full requests also ultimately rejected me, so I tweaked things some more and sent out another round to twelve more agents. Almost the same thing happened—one partial request and one full. The agent who made the full request ultimately offered me representation—Evan Goldfried at Jill Grinberg Literary Management. (To see my successful query, head over to the’>”>the blog of Leaguers Jeanne Stein and Mario Acevedo.)

Evan had me had me fiddle with the manuscript a wee bit and then he sent it out to nine publishers after Labor Day. Two weeks later, September 25, 2009, four of them bid on Hounded and two sequels at auction. What a difference an agent can make, eh?

I chose Del Rey and couldn’t be happier with the way my covers turned out and all the support they’ve given me. For any of you trying to get published now, I’d recommend getting an agent if possible—but go about it carefully, please, do your research and follow their submission guidelines! Most importantly, don’t give up. Keep writing and learn from your failures. I’m not a prodigy by any means; it took me twenty years of trial and a whole lot of error before I got it right.

I hope you’ll give The Iron Druid Chronicles a try—it’s full of nerdy goodness, plus action and naked death goddesses and a talking dog. You can read the first 59 pages of Hounded here for free if you’d like, and of course it’s available wherever books are sold. Thanks again to J.F. for letting me say howdy to you. Please say howdy to me on Twitter @kevinhearne or on my author page on Facebook!

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I Can’t Remember The Last Time I Had a First

By Tina R. McSwain

At this point in my life and paranormal career, it is rare that I experience a “first”. This past week, I had an exceptional one on Monday night. I had completed a speaking engagement in Fort Mill, SC and was returning home. All of a sudden, I noticed the car lights behind me were being blocked out. I thought to myself, “the lid on my travel box must have come off and I am seeing it in the back window”. As I continued down the dark road, trying to see through the back window into the truck bed behind me, I realized it was not the box lid. Instead, it was an unearthly passenger riding along with me in the backseat. Now, this is not the first I am talking about, I have had ghostly hitchhikers before. What happened next was.

I picked up my cell phone to call my CAPS colleague who was driving behind me to advise her that someone had apparently left the speaking venue with me. I dialed the number and waited for her to answer. She has one of those phones that play music before she answers. I heard this music, then nothing. I said her name over and over again but did not get a response from her. What I did get was a response from an elderly lady’s voice saying “help me, I need your help”. That was the first.

I had heard of spirits using the phone lines to communicate, but I had never had this happen to me until Monday night. Quite surprised and somewhat taken aback, I thought about pulling over. It was about this time that my colleague called me. She asked, “Tina, did you call me? I saw the number, the call connected, but I couldn’t hear you”. Excitedly, I began to explain the reason why. I quickly concluded our conversation, and turned my attention to the lady in the backseat. I could now feel her presence as well as see that she had dark gray hair and was wearing a blue blouse or jacket. While driving north on I77, glancing in the rear view mirror from time to time, I began to speak to her directly. And in case you’re wondering, as a Spirit Rescuer, I did give her the aid that she had asked for, and helped her to move on.

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