Monthly Archives: June 2011

Molly and Jane Revisited

by Faith Hunter

Evan: Today at Witch Central, the interview/blog spot for all things witchy, hosted by the Everhart sisters, we are posting an interview with Jane Yellowrock, the Cherokee shape-shifter / skinwalker who hunts rogue-vampires for a living. This is from a taped interview, transposed to type for the blog, and where possible, parenthetical comments will be included for clarity.

Our interviewer is Molly Everhart Trueblood, a moon witch, and because of the sensitive nature of some of the questions—and answers—this blog will be a closed interview, available to only the supernatural community. No humans have been sent the password to the interview site, and if you have access, remember to share it only people who will appreciate paranormal! I’m Evan Trueblood, Molly’s husband. Welcome Molly and Jane. Take it away ladies.

Molly and Jane (speaking at once): Thank you Evan. Glad to be here.

Molly: And I have to give a special thanks to Evan Trueblood, for producing us today. The rumors circulating in the witch community that Evan is unhappy because of my friendship with Jane are well founded, as noted in the plot of BLOOD CROSS. His generosity today is exceptional.

Evan: (grumbles through his mike).

Molly: Jane, not everyone here knows what a Cherokee skinwalker, also known as a shape-changer or shape-shifter, is. And the myths that surround the Native American skinwalkers are violent and gruesome. Can you enlighten us?

Jane: Most of us prefer to be called American Indian, or AmIn, or by our tribal name, not Native American, which is a moniker probably dreamed up by some D.C. bureaucrat. I like to be called Cherokee. I haven’t done a lot of study about the western AmIn shape-changer mythos, like the Hopi tales, but what I’ve learned about the Eastern Cherokee skinwalker can be pretty awful, with age-related changes in dietary habits that are gruesome, tending toward … um … the consumption of human meat.

Molly: (groans in horror) So, they get old and start eating people?

Jane: Yeah, the tales are pretty nasty. But according to the oldest traditions of many tribes, skinwalkers were originally the tribal protectors and warriors. It was only after the white man came that their numbers began to decrease, and they started acting nutso, which makes me think that my subspecies of human may have been decimated by illness brought by Europeans.

Evan: (interjecting, sounding stern) Our apologies to the mental healthcare professionals and those suffering from any form of mental or emotional anguish.

Jane: Yeah, yeah, sorry. I guess there might be a more medically and socially acceptable diagnosis than nutso, but to get one, a shrink would have to spend time with someone who wanted to eat him, and in a lot less entertaining way than some Hollywood-created Hannibal Lector.

(Jane leans in, intent.) Skinwalkers are a magical subspecies of human, Evan, Molly. Very different from the were-creature mythos, who can adopt only one animal shape. Skinwalkers can adopt the shape of many different animals if certain conditions are met. For me to shift, I have to have some genetic material of the chosen animal, bones with some marrow is best, but teeth with some soft tissue works. And it’s easier if the genetic guidelines for size and mass are equal to the human making the change. Meaning that if the shifter weighs 125 pound in human form, then it’s easier to shift into a wolf or big-cat or other animal that weighed 125 pounds in real life.

Molly: But if you wanted to fly, to be a bird, and it weighed only 40 pounds, or if you needed to be a horse, and it weighed a thousand, what then?

Jane: (sounding hesitant) It’s possible to take mass from, or leave mass with, anything that contains no genetic material, like stone. But it’s dangerous. I don’t like to do it. When I dump mass, I leave something of myself behind, and not just body mass. The smaller brain capacity of smaller animals means that I have to store part of my consciousness—memory, spirit, whatever—in other parts of the animal or leave it behind in the stone. I never know if I’ll get all of myself back. And when I take on mass to change into a larger animal, I always wonder if I’ll drop it all, or get stuck with an extra hundred or so pounds of, well whatever I’d get stuck with.

Molly: Like an extra hundred pounds of stone. Well, if you get stone hard abs and bones hard as stone, it might be worth a little extra weight. (The girls laugh.)

Jane, you had a financially lucrative relationship with the Master Vampire of North Carolina, where you became the only vampire hunter to take down an entire rogue-vampire blood-family—that’s a mouthful, isn’t it?—as told by your writer, Faith Hunter, in the anthology titled Strange Brew. Tell our listeners what took you from your home in the Appalachians Mountains, near Asheville, North Carolina to New Orleans, Louisiana?

Jane: First, let’s clarify that I don’t kill just any vampire. I’m licensed to kill rogue vampires, and there are two kinds. Young rogues are vamps who were turned and not kept shackled long enough to cure, or ferment, or whatever they do to find sanity. This usually takes 10 years or so, during which time they’re under the care of, and dependant upon, their maker or sire. Old rogues are vamps suffering from the vamp form of dementia, which makes them a lot more dangerous than a young rogue, because an old vamp still has his mental functions, but his predatory instincts have gone whacko, and he—or she—has taken to violence.

There aren’t many people willing to take on the job of rogue-vamp hunter. I’d hazard to say that there aren’t 25 in North America and Central America together. And there aren’t that many sanctioned vamp-hunting gigs to be had. For a hunt to be legal, the local vamp council has to sanction the hunt and then call in a licensed hunter. So when the New Orleans council asked me to come for a job interview, I took the chance and made the trip. Katie Fonteneau conducted the interview for the vamp council and hired me. It was a lot of money, and it was a dangerous job. I earned every red cent I made on that one.

Molly: And what made this job so dangerous?

Jane: Whacked out vamps don’t usually eat their victims. This was an old-rogue with a preference for organ meat, livers were his cut of choice.

Molly: Eeeew. (more laughter) But that wasn’t all that made this job dangerous, was it?

Jane: No, there was a lot more. Spoilers, so skip the next sentence if you haven’t read SKINWALKER. The vamp in question turned out to be related to one of the most powerful vamps in the city.

Molly: And the whacked-out vamp, well, he wasn’t a vamp at all, was he?

Jane: (voice firm) I was hired to kill a vamp. The vamp council has issued a statement saying it was a vamp that got sick, and I took him out.

Molly: (Presses the point.) But it wasn’t a vamp, was it?

Jane: If I killed something that wasn’t a vamp, then I could, possibly, be accused of murder. So, it was a vamp, Molly, and that’s all I’m gonna say about it.

Molly: Okay, okay, but for our listeners and readers, there have been hints in this interview that tell exactly what the vamp turned out to be.

Change of subject. Tell me what happened in the vampire hunter community after you killed the vamp who was eating people—and vampires. Y’all. It was eating vampires too—in the party capital of the nation. And don’t fidget as if you won’t answer the question. Come on, Jane.

Okay. Our guest is never one to brag, so I’ll say it for her. There’s a website online for vampire hunters, and it lists contact info, number and difficulty of kills, website addresses, and a scorecard of sorts for each of the licensed hunters out there. It’s managed by a guy called Reach, or Reacher, a mysterious personage in the vamp-hunting community, who has his fingers in a lot of pies.

Our guest, Jane Yellowrock, hovered in the top three vampire hunters nationally for years, but after the photo of the thing she killed for the Vampire Council of New Orleans was posted to her website—and went viral, I might add—she moved firmly to the number one spot, and the price to hire her, moved up accordingly, am I right, Jane?

Jane: (mumbles) I knew I shouldn’t have agreed to do this interview. You’re going all Nancy Grace on me here, girlfriend.

Molly: But—another spoiler—the word in the supernatural community is that Leo Pellissier, Master of the City of New Orleans, is claiming that you, well, you murdered the insane vamp.

Jane: I didn’t murder anyone. I killed the vamp the council hired me to kill. If you read Skinwalker, you know the truth.

Molly: Okay, don’t get grumpy. Lets talk about your love life.

Jane: (laughing, covering her eyes) Oh, God. I knew not to do this interview. Let’s not talk about my love life. It’s so mixed up right now.

Molly: We witches are a predominately female community because our males don’t usually survive the childhood cancers they’re so prone to. So, we’re accustomed to marrying into the human community, having children with our human husbands, and passing along the witch gene only occasionally. With so few shapeshifters around, do you date humans?

Jane: I like humans, and yes, I’ve dated a few. Right now, I’m talking to a human, a blood-servant, and a vamp.

Molly: Anyone you want to tell us about?

Jane: No. No way.

Molly: Okay. Then tell us how the vampires relate to your scent.

Jane: (sounding relieved) Rogues recognize me as a fellow predator right off. I seem to provoke a response that’s primarily aggressive in them. But if they’re young enough, all they can think of is food, so they attack, wanting to kill or subdue and feed. Katie Fonteneau was the first sane vamp I ever met in person. When she got her first, good whiff of me, she attacked. Ditto with her boss, Leo Pellissier, Master of the City of New Orleans. But once he accepted me, the rest of them accepted me, and their perception of my scent changed. I’ve guessed it’s like a pride of lions. Once the alpha accepts the outsider, then the others will too. Now they say I smell like a combo of dessert and sexual challenge. Dangerous. They seem to like it.

Molly: (teasing) Tall, dark, and deadly. For our readers, Jane Yellowrock is six feet tall, has hip-length black hair, amber eyes, wears leather, and is armed and dangerous. Vampires like the way you smell. Okay, moving back to the subject of men. There are hints scattered about that Rick LaFleur is not quite human. Or more than human. Or maybe he is human and you liiiiike him. May we expect further enlightenment?

Jane: The answer to that question will be partially addressed in Mercy Blade, and will be addressed again in Raven Cursed. My writer is still working on that novel. Which means that I don’t know the answer, and for all I know, she might not know. She’s bad about leaving me hanging, you know?

Molly: So there’s a chance he is a skinwalker!

Jane: I didn’t say that, Molly-girl. Ricky Bo smells totally human, not like me, and not like what I remember of my kind, at all. Delectable to my Beast, but totally human.

Molly: I know some of us will be disappointed to hear that. But, that brings us to Beast. Jane is a being with two souls, one a skinwalker, one a mountain lion. What’s that like?

Jane: (sounding snarky) Crowded.

Molly: Come on Jane. Give me something here.

Jane: (sighs) It’s complicated. I have two conscious minds, each very different, trying to, learning to, get along in a body built for shape shifting. When we … merged, I guess is one way to put it … I got some of Beast’s strength and speed, even in my human form, and she got some of my language abilities. She talks to me inside my head when we’re in human form, and I can talk to her when we’re in cat form, though one of us is always alpha. It’s kind of … schizophrenic, I guess. But it works for us.

Molly: How about eating?

Jane: You’re not gonna like this. Especially your vegetarian listeners and readers. I like my steak rare. Beast likes hers on the hoof and freshly dead, raw, and still warm.

Molly: And your writer? The woman who tells your stories?

Jane: (sounding snarky again) Faith Hunter? She likes leafy greens and bean soup and yogurt. Wimp. The only thing we have in common is a love of fine teas, though I may let her teach me to whitewater kayak. It looks like fun, especially the Class III rivers. Oh – and she said to tell you that RAVEN CURSED, the fourth Jane Yellowrock novel, will be out in January 2011.

Molly: (laughing) Perfect timing for a plug Jane! I think that’s enough for today.

Jane Yellowrock, thank you for coming to talk to us. Evan Trueblood, producer extraordinaire and best hubby in the world, thank you.

Evan: It’s been a pleasure. And enlightening. And to all our listeners and readers, we hope you have a good witchy evening, and a good book to enjoy!

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Why Published Writers Love Cons

by Gail Z. Martin

Go to any literary or multi-media convention and you’ll see a slew of published writers.  Now everyone knows that writers are shy and introverted (or not), so why do they brave the crowds to spend precious weekends hanging out with total strangers?

Certainly the visibility doesn’t hurt.  With today’s decreased book sales, writers have a real economic reason to go out and make new friends who will hopefully try their books, and to remain visible to long-time readers to remind them of new books to come.  Publishers are less and less able to do much in the way of marketing for the average title, so writers are left to create their own visibility opportunities, and cons are certainly a great way to be visible to the core fan audience.

Believe it or not, many writers also just plain enjoy meeting readers and fans in general.  It’s just plain fun to go sit on panels and talk about fandom-related stuff, favorite books and movies and the kind of geeky technicalities that makes other people roll their eyes.  Most, if not all, writers are also fans themselves, so they get a kick out of all the things that make a good con tick—panels, costuming, celebrity guests, etc.

Writers also enjoy networking with other writers at cons.  Since writing is a largely solitary activity, writers enjoy the chance to connect with their writer friends, and it’s easiest to do this at a con.  Look around and you’ll see writers holed up together at meals, over drinks and during parties talking shop.  It’s also good business—at my last convention, I was invited to appear at three different conventions plus asked to send a short story for an anthology.  Lots of writers can tell you how they got an invitation to submit a manuscript or some other project by networking at a con.

And another reason–It’s a day away from the keyboard but related to the genre, so we don’t feel guilty.  It’s work related, but also fun.  Maybe that should be reason #1!

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Favorite Character

Crymsyn Hart

Who is your favorite character? What actor would you see playing that favorite character? What makes one of your characters so endearing to you that you always mention them or write about them? Who, as a reader, do you love in your favorite book?

Those are questions I’ve gotten in regards to some of the characters who keep popping up in my books. I’ve always asked other authors those as well. My favorite character is my Angel of Death, Azrael. He started off being a fly by angel and then demanded being a central angel. Then he makes guest appearances in other series and some random standalones I have.

As a reader, my favorite character is Damon from the Vampire Diaries by L.J. Smith. I’d love to have him running around in other books that I read. Damon would add a great discourse to Twilight. I can only imagine him trying to win Bella over from Edward. Lol. He is just so sassy with the edge of evil that you can’t let him out of your sight or he’ll do something evil.

If I could choose an actor to play Azrael, I’d probably pick Hugh Jackman. But there are so many possibilities that all make me go yum.

Those characters that become our favorites, whether you are writing or reading about them, have to have that certain thing about them. That small edge that want to make you revisit them over and over again. I reread books just to read about one character because I enjoy their small quirks. How they laugh or how they interact with other characters. Or just in general how they love to kill people because they do it with a sense of humor.
What do you love about the characters you enjoy so much?

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Filed under Books, Crymsyn Hart, Gail Z. Martin, J.F. Lewis, Tina R. McSwain

The Time Traveling Vampire

By J. F. Lewis

Time travel for the average vampire presents certain obvious problems, depending on how the vampire actually accomplishes the task. With minute and effective control over the exact time (ie. via some sort of H. G. Wells-style apparatus or even Doc Brown’s DeLorean) the vampire’s time travel issues are minimized, but even then, there are problems.

When are sunrise and sunset?

A simple Internet search could provide that information, but if I have my druthers, the idea of a Victorian or Edwardian era time traveling vampire is far more appealing. Picture him:

The pale gentleman looked up from his charts, and made a note in his personal journal, the bright red leather of the book standing out in a contrast to the vampire’s otherwise darker toned hues. Garret preferred to dress in grey. It matched his eyes and his moral compass. Garret could recall a time when the idea on feeding upon another person, draining their vitae (even in the limited capacity he currently allowed himself), would have been unthinkable. Still, the future was populated with so many who found the prospect alluring and, even if Garret himself could not stand to dwell overlong in their presence, it was a necessity.

“Mrs. Garret,” he said to his wife, “I’m afraid I must sojourn once more.”

“Be safe, Mr. Garret,” answered the woman in blue.

Eyes softening, he touched his mustache absently as he stood.

Of course a more modern time traveling vampire might be interesting, too. A vampire with high tech and flashy gizmos, but I’m still drawn to the idea of a well-meaning vampire who leaves his wife behind to feed only to encounter his wife in the present: as something supernatural herself.

And maybe one day I’ll write more about Mr. Garret.

So why talk about time traveling vampires?

Why not?

And why not is a very important question for a writer… Almost as important as why or who or how. It’s about not limiting yourself and your ideas. If you want to have a flesh eating car or a time traveling vampire and they fit in your world and iyour rules and in your setting… Then do it. Write them!

Make your stories vividly different. If that means your vampires time travel or are alien space fish who live in Venice, then so be it.

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Fights, Perils, Barriers, and Annoyances: The art of the middle

by James Maxey

So, I’m currently well past the halfway mark of the first draft of my tenth novel, Hush. When I started the book, I knew exactly how it began, since it starts just a week after my novel Greatshadow ends. At the end of that book, one of the surviving characters has made a vow to a dying friend to return a sacred weapon to a temple in a faraway homeland. The book starts with her gathering things she’ll need to make this trip. I also knew exactly how the book ends. The weapon needs to end up back in the hands of its rightful owners. So, I have a first chapter, that should be good for 5000 words. And I have a last chapter, good for another 5000 words. I’m under contract to turn in a novel approximately 110,000 words long. What the hell do I put into the middle 100,000 words?

I wish I could claim to have some systematic approach to logically filling in the giant gap between the beginning and the end of my books. My real approach is to just dive in and start making up stuff, then keep on making up stuff, then make up more stuff. So far, this approach has worked for me. But, somewhere around chapter 10 of Hush, I’d written two fight scenes back to back and I realized I couldn’t immediately use another fight scene. But, it was also too early just to have everyone settle down and talk about the weather for a chapter or two. What I needed, I thought, was a peril. I settled on the ship being damaged in the course of the last fight, and now it’s sinking. Once they saved the ship, there would be time for a talking scene. Then I’d throw in a big obstacle for my characters to get around. Then, it might be time for another fight. I realized as I was thinking through all the upcoming turns of events that I do have a few standard categories of events that my chapters follow. I don’t present these as formulas, but as a potentially useful tool for the next time you are writing a book and you’ve just had your characters jump out of the frying pan, escape the fire, and are now staring at a blank screen wondering, “Okay. Now what?”

1: Fights. Since I write action adventure fantasies, the first thing standing in my characters’ ways are ordinarily other characters. While in a perfect world they could resolve their differences with a friendly smile and a handshake, in my books someone almost always winds up throwing a punch. Fights tend to be inherently interesting, and I sprinkle them liberally throughout my books, but too much of a good thing gets tiresome. So, when even I’m tired of my characters fighting, it’s time for:

2: Perils. The ship is sinking! The building’s on fire! A tornado just picked up the house! Perils are obstacles that threaten the lives of the characters. They can’t be solved by punching someone. Perils are handy in their neutrality. The same hurricane that is dashing your ship against the rocks is also scuttling the zombie pirate ships that were chasing you. Or the evil space tyrant who was going to delight in torturing your heroes flees in his escape capsule as the space station gets too close to the black hole.

3: Barriers. What you need to succeed is someplace you ain’t, and getting to it won’t be easy. The medicine you need to halt the zombie plague is in a locked bunker in Antartica, and you’re on the side of the road in the Arizona desert with an empty gas tank and no bars on your cell phone. Or, maybe the floor plans you need to get past the bank’s security system are in a safe on the 99th floor, guarded by sharks with laser beams. Which leads to:

4: Puzzles. A subcategory of barriers. You’ve captured the Nazi attack plans, but they’re in code. What’s the key? They dying man’s last words were a cryptic quote from Shakespeare’s “Tempest.” What was he trying to tell you? Puzzles can sometimes be large enough to last an entire book, but if you scatter smaller ones throughout your plot they are useful in demonstrating that your hero has virtues other than tough fists and a heart of gold.

5: Tests. Not SAT type problems, but moral tests. The mob boss has just called your cop hero into a private meeting. Call off the investigation, turn over the hard drive with the evidence, and whoah, where did this suitcase full of hundred dollar bills come from? Or, the lead vampire has just pulled off her hood and, gasp, it’s your own mother! You aren’t going to stake your own mom, are you?

6: Annoyances. Of course, if every problem your character faced was some life altering choice or unstoppable foe, you’d burn out your readers pretty quickly. Sometimes it’s out of the frying pan, into the fire, then back into the %$#&! frying pan because the hero dropped his damn car keys. Other times, the good guy is just about to charge into the demon lord’s throne room when his kid sister taps him on the shoulder and asks what he’s doing. He was sure she’d been asleep when he slipped out the bedroom window!

7: Chats. No matter how gung ho your characters are, there are going to be scenes in your book where your characters do nothing but stand around and talk. Frequently, these scenes serve to advance the plot. After a fight, your heroes interrogate a captured guard and learns that the kidnapped princess is locked in the north tower. Now they talk through a plan on how to get her out. Later, they talk through what when wrong when they rescue not the princess, but her hairdresser. Stuff happens. People talk about it.

8: Respites and interludes. Finally, sometimes the world just gives you a break. Right in the middle of Greatshadow, I have a chapter where the characters meet the long lost grandfather of the narrator and are invited back to his jungle village to rest and recover from their wounds. The characters had just survived a long string of fights and perils, and it was a welcome break to have the characters sitting around debating philosophy while dining on an exotic jungle buffet of mystery fruits, raw snails, and katydids. I’ve made this a separate category from the previous one because other talking scenes can unfold while danger is imminent. With a respite, you and your readers can take a deep breath and relax for a moment and find out what your characters are like when they aren’t killing people. These peaceful scenes also help to establish a sense of what might be lost if Evil Triumphs.

Of course, all of these categories are amorphous, and frequently overlap in the course of a single scene. And despite the fact I’ve numbered them, I wouldn’t advise digging out your 8-sided dice from your D&D set and trying to plot a book by rolling random numbers. There’s an ebb and flow to these events that feels natural that you can only develop by actually writing. Still, if you do find yourself wondering “What comes next?” I hope this list helps jog your imagination.

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by Casey Daniels

It’s no secret that I love old cemeteries. After all, it was in a cemetery that I originally got the idea for my Pepper Martin mysteries. As to why I was in that cemetery in the first place . . . .well, like I said, I love ’em. I love the history that’s evident in every inch of an old cemetery. I love the art, and the architecture, and the stories that automatically start spinning in my brain when I read names and dates on a family monument, or see a single, small marker set off from the rest and begin to wonder who and what and why.

So if I tell you I spent one day of my Memorial Day weekend in a cemetery,
it should come as no surprise. But if I told you I have relatives who are
not as enamored of cemeteries as I am who came along for the ride, cheese
and crackers, long-dead ancestors, and oh yes, Bailey’s shots . . .

Ah, now we have a story!

It started last fall when some of my husband’s cousins, visiting from
Montana, talked about getting a family reunion together for 2012. Usually
not one to open my mouth without thinking, I opened my mouth without
thinking. (This might have had something to do with the quantities of wine
that were being consumed at the time.) “I,” I announced, “will research
family history.”

And research I did. What I discovered along the way is that I love digging
into family history, even a family that is mine only through marriage. So
far, I’ve uncovered (figuratively speaking, of course!) David’s family back
to the great-great grandparents who arrived from Germany in the 1840s. And
this Memorial Day, I convinced the family to go visit them.

There were seven of us on the adventure. Seven. That’s me, my husband who
tolerates my affinity for graveyards, and five others who (to coin a
phrase) wouldn’t usually be caught dead in a cemetery. We began by visiting
the cemetery where their grandfather, his first wife, and their
great-grandparents are buried. To help things go smoother, I prepared
family trees for everyone, and I was glad I did. It helped explain
relationships and kept who was who straight, especially when we ran into
(another turn of phrase, but since I write the Pepper Martin books, it’s
important to make that clear), great-great uncles, aunts and other assorted
relatives. We trimmed grass, left flags and potted marigolds, and drank a
wee Bailey’s toast to all of them.

Then it was on to visit one set of great-great grandparents at Riverside
Cemetery in Cleveland. Riverside is privately owned, a well-cared for and
beautiful burying ground full of gorgeous trees and pristine paths. I’d
called ahead and the nice lady at the office had a map all ready for us.
Fortunately, Charles (who, in 1890, was run over by a freight train-yikes!)
and Wilhemina Schwendeman were easy to find, buried close to a main
cemetery road. Unfortunately, though Charles’s headstone was fine, Minnie’s
(as the old family documents call her) had fallen over.

Enter my husband and his brother who managed to lift the old granite stone
and get it back into place. A small kindness to do for a woman who traveled
from Germany to Michigan in the 1850s, then came to Cleveland when her
daughter married Bernard, one of the men whose graves we’d visited at the
first cemetery. Another Bailey’s shot, more marigolds left at the graves,
and we were on to our last stop.

These great-great grandparents are the ones who brought my husband’s name
(and my children’s) to this country. They are buried at a city-owned
cemetery tucked at the back of a residential neighborhood. Odds are, most
of the people in the area don’t know the cemetery is even there. Too bad it
hasn’t escaped the vandals.

Headstones are toppled and broken, section and grave numbers are nearly
impossible to find. While the rest of my fellow explorers went off in one
direction, I headed in another and following the cemetery map (it’s not
very good), I found what we were looking for, the graves of Phillip and
Katharina. He was born in 1816 and lived until 1901. Think of the changes
he saw in his lifetime! Another toast, more flowers.

It was an amazing day, even those non-cemetery-lovers admitted it. Sure, we
had plenty of laughs, a chance to chat, and our little cheese-and-crackers
picnic. But we also had the opportunity to pay tribute to people who left
their families, their homes and their native languages behind so they could
come to this country and make new lives for themselves. That took a lot of
guts, and I hope those marigolds let them know how much we appreciate it.

Next year, we do the Irish side of the family. No doubt there will be more
Bailey’s involved!

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Paranormally Speaking

By Tina R. McSwain

Physician, heal thyself.  How many times have we heard this metaphor?  Why is it that the caretaker often forgets to care for themselves?  In the case of a “Cleanser” such as myself, this can become downright annoying at best, dangerous at worst. 

After a recent investigation, I was so busy making sure my team was protected and free of any spirit attachments, that I forgot to take care of myself.  Luckily for me, my Mother acts as a backup.  For you see, she sees dead people, and is quick to point out that I have someone hanging around.  In this particular case, she brought up the subject at dinner.  She said, “I have been meaning to tell you for about two weeks now, you brought something home with you.”  So, I immediately begin to think back, where was I two weeks ago?  What was I doing?  As I begin to check my calendar, I ask her, “what did you see?”  She answers, “well I don’t rightly know, I don’t think its human, and it definitely is not good.”  The phrase “Oh crap” leapt to my lips, but I did not let it free.  I grabbed my phone and went outside to make a call to my support system.  After a few minutes of discussion, I had made a battle plan to rid my home of this entity.

I grabbed my “jump box” as I call it.  It has all my oils, salts and herbs and cleansing supplies.  I began to gather my items in earnest.  I grabbed a bottle of this, a sprig of that, and soon had concocted a mixture sure to remedy the situation.  I than begin to cleanse my home and myself.  I enlisted my Mother to help me.  She is amazed at the ability I have to do this type of thing. 

After a rocky start (I was made to feel lightheaded and we both heard a series of growls), I succeeded in riding my home of this unwelcome presence.  My Mother said she watched “something” leave out the front door. 

I learned a valuable lesson from a mistake that I will never make again.  In my line of work, one cannot afford to default on their spiritual maintenance.  Live and learn, as they say.  I’m just glad I lived through this one and emerged healthy and better equipped with one more piece of knowledge under my belt.

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Cons 101

by Gail Z. Martin

If you’ve never been to a sci-fi convention, you’re missing the heart of fandom.  Conventions (referred to as “cons”) are gatherings devoted to books, movies, gaming where likeminded people can get together and have a good time.

There is a con somewhere in the U.S. pretty much every weekend.  On several weekends, especially Memorial Day and Labor Day, you’ll have to choose which con to attend.

Cons come in every size and flavor.  Some cons are very small, with only a few hundred in attendance.  These cons have a warmth and intimacy that is hard to find in larger gatherings, but depending on the culture of the sponsoring group, they may seem a little cliquish to outsiders.  Small cons offer a great opportunity to get to meet other fans, have fairly in-depth conversations, and even get face time with the author and artist guests.  Costuming may range from non-existent to intense, depending on the con’s focus.  The vendor room at small cons may not have a wide range of goods for sale, but you’ll have the chance to talk to the vendors and learn more about the products.  Small cons are usually priced inexpensively, and if you’re local and can avoid needing a hotel room, you can further reduce your costs.

Other cons are huge, like Dragon*Con in Atlanta with over 40,000 people and ComiCon in New York and San Diego with well over 100,000 fans.  There’s so much going on at these cons that you won’t build a lot of new relationships.  On the other hand, these cons draw major media stars, bestselling authors, and big-name artists.  Costuming at the big cons is a high art, and you’ll be swiveling your head to see thousands of people who look like they just walked off the set of your favorite movie.  The vendor areas are packed with a huge variety of items for sale ranging from collectible art to pricy costumes and weapons, but it can be difficult to see the merchandise for the crowds.  Because the largest cons draw such a huge attendance, hotels in the area often charge premium rates.  Ticket prices also reflect the scope and depth of the offerings at the event, meaning that the cost to attend the bigger events is understandably higher than for a local con.

While some conventions are multi-media events, catering to books, movies, TV, costuming and gaming, many cons focus on a single specialty.  There are book-only literary cons, all-gaming cons, and cons just for media or costuming.  Make sure you know the focus of the con you’re considering attending before you go so that you’re not disappointed.

If you’re a fan of the genre, you owe it to yourself to try going to a few cons just for the experience.  It can be a wonderful way to discover that you’re not the only one who enjoys certain books, movies or games, and many people have forged new friendships at conventions that last for years.  Give it a shot, and enjoy the experience of having your favorite stories come to life in a whole new way.


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The Writer’s Soul

by Crymsyn Hart

This past weekend I took the day and drove up to
ConCarolinas here in Charlotte to say hello to my fellow bloggers, Tina,
Jeremy, and Gail. It was great to see them. I was also there to hang out with fellow author and film maker, Stephen Zimmer. I’ll also be hanging with him in July at FandomFest in Louisville, KY.

Hanging out with the other authors is also great and makes
me feel right at home, but it was something that Stephen said that got me to
thinking. As an author, I write because it’s my passion, just like all authors
write because they love to do it. You want to reach the fans and hope they like
your books. But when I came home and looked over what I have available, it got
me to realize that I write. A lot. I’m currently hanging around fifty books published. Some are large and some are small. But over the past decade that is a lot of word count. The first book I published was based on my senior project I had written for college. Then I took it and rearranged it, added a few more characters based on friends, and over time it became the work that got me started.

Even after writing seriously for the past decade, I wasn’t picked up for publication until five years ago with a small, now defunct, e-publisher that accepted four of the books I had at the time.  From there, I also worked with three other presses that have now disbanded. For each, I would write something new and I’ve met a wonderful group of people that from five years ago has grown into authors now owning their own small presses. I’ve found a home among them and feel more comfortable there then with the big e-publishers.

Taking into account everything, that still doesn’t make me get to a
point where I just want to throw in the towel and quit writing all together.
There have been many times over the years, frustration has set in and damn my
characters or not, I’m going to stop listening to them and take up another

The longest I’ve stopped writing for is three months, by far the worst
period I had. But then something clicks and I get back on the horse. So
far, I’ve had one episode this year that I wanted nothing to do with any of it.
It’s a different feeling than writer’s block, being frustrated with characters,
or the world in general. For that short period of time, something inside of me
dies and I’m ready to bury it. However, something reminds me that I’m not
writing for money, or to keep pumping out stuff because there is a demand for
it. Heck, there are thousands of books coming out every year. That something is the Writer’s Soul in me that wants to be revived and spin new stories. It’s friends and others who give me encouragement. Loved ones who read stuff that they can’t stand, but do it anyway because they support me.

So no matter how much you might want to bury the writer in
you, just remember it will come back from the dead. I’ve learned that from experience. I guess

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The Words Escape…

By J. F. Lewis



Blog. Blog. Blog.

It seems simple. From mind to fingertips then out onto the white expanse of nothing, generating words which will be of use to aspiring authors, amusing to readers, and please your fellow bloggers.

Some days it’s easy.

Yet other days…


The words escape.

Of course, no deadline was ever satisfied by writer’s block.

So what do you do? I’ve tried all sorts of things during my stint as a professional filler of blank pages: walking around the block with the dog, bouncing tennis balls off the wall, listening to a playlist (that one actually helps some times), lying down on the chaise lounge for exactly fifteen minutes… even reading a book, but do you know what works best of all for me?

Powering through it. Sure the words might get erased the next day, but momentum is important. Next week, I’ll be blogging about vampires and time travel, but this week, take a thirty minutes and just write, even if you’re normally a reader. Write about your day, the dog, the cat, or even write about lunch. Let me know how it went, okay?

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