Monthly Archives: March 2012

Who are your favorite heroes?

by Gail Z. Martin

I did a post recently for Orbit’s blog about some of my favorite SF/F heroes.  You can read it here:

Of course, there’s not enough room in one blog post for all my favorites.  I’ve been a Batman fan since I was a kid (goes with the vampire thing, I’m sure).  And along with that certainly goes other favorite vamps like Lestat (because Louis is too whiny), Barnanas Collins (the Jeremy Iron’s version), Acheron,  the Count Saint-Germain and even Sinclair from Mary Janice Davidson’s Undead series.

Big surprise that mages also turn up on my favorites list.  I was pleased to watch Harry Potter grow into a strong heroic character.  I liked Belgarion from the David Edding’s series, pretty much all of Mercedes Lackey’s main characters, and Camber of Culdi.

I like heroes who have self doubt, who aren’t arrogant in their power, who are conflicted and question themselves, which keeps a hero from becoming a vigilante.  I want heroes who are believable as real people, not just cardboard cutout, square-jawed action figures. I also want to see heroes who have meaningful personal relationships, someone who has people he or she truly cares about, who has a reason bigger than him/herself to act.

That’s what I try for in my own heroic characters, although I think each of them would try to wiggle out of the term “hero.”  So here’s where I’ll turn it over to you.  What makes your heroes tick?

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Where fact & fantasy meet: Remote viewing

By T.W. Fendley

I love to read stories that explore possibilities, which is why speculative fiction is my favorite genre. I get a kick out of following someone’s journey to a place only their imagination could take them. I’m also fascinated by the scientific and metaphysical underpinnings–that’s what makes these tales “snap” for me. What I’ve discovered is that reality is often stranger than we think.

The thrill of walking the narrow and sometimes muddied path between reality and imagination is what keeps me writing speculative fiction. I wrote most of my historical fantasy novel, ZERO TIME, in 2007, after I took early retirement. With more time to do things that interested me, I also took a more hands-on approach to studying metaphysical concepts.That included becoming more involved with an Edgar Cayce book study group I had joined a couple of years earlier. If you’re not familiar with him, the “sleeping prophet” was America’s most documented psychic. My mother had told me about Cayce when I was a teen, but this was my first chance to talk with people who studied his work. In my book, I patterned much of Omeyocan culture on the metaphysical concepts I was learning from them and the books we read.

My first attempts at remote viewing were during an online course offered by the Association for Research & Enlightenment (Cayce’s organization) in November 2007. Which brings me back to my comment that reality is often stranger than we think. Remote viewing (RV) provides a perfect example.To give you a non-technical definition, RV is a scientific protocol developed by the military during the Cold War. Viewers learn how to enhance communication between the conscious and subconscious mind, and develop their skill at describing places and events across time and space. It’s an ability most people have, but some are more talented than others. Here’s what remote viewing looks like when someone really good does it: Pam Coronado

Remote viewing inspired parts of ZERO TIME. For instance, early in the book, the expedition leader Xmucane is trying to find her mate, Xpiyacoc, by teaching others how to use crystals to enhance telepathic communication.

“You can’t just think it, you have to feel it. Communication flows through dimensions that don’t follow linear time or geographic limits that we perceive … Now focus on the [crystal] orb you just created and clear your mind of all thoughts … It’s hard to receive messages that don’t make sense to you. You have to overcome the doubts expressed by your own inner voice to get to the true guidance of your higher self.”
‘But a rainbow-colored serpent?’ Starry Skirt asked.
‘Even that,’ Xmucane said.”

My studies of remote viewing continued in 2009 with a weekend workshop at the Monroe Institute on “intuitive investing” using a technique called Associative Remote Viewing (ARV). I’d also been looking into quantum entanglement and wondering what it would look like in practice. ARV gave me the chance to experience some of those connections across time and space, ones I’d only imagined in ZERO TIME. Since 2009, I’ve documented more than 700 viewing sessions with statistically significant results showing a higher than random rate of success. Some sessions by me and others are shown on a blog I host,

I’d love to hear about situations you’ve encountered that defy conventional explanations. Do you write about them?

Thanks, Gail, for being a Party Host in my Virtual Book Tour Party!

The ZERO TIME 2012 Virtual Book Tour Party is here!

To celebrate, T.W. Fendley is giving away a Maya-Aztec astrology report, a Mayan Winds CD, ZERO TIME tote bag and fun buttons. Check out the prizes and other posts on the Party Page.

3 ways to enter  (multiple entries are great!)

1) Leave a comment here or on any of the other PARTY POSTS listed on the Party Page.

2) Tweet about the Virtual Party or any of the PARTY POSTS (with tag #ZEROTIME2012)

Example: Join the Virtual Party for historical #fantasy novel ZERO TIME by @twfendley for a chance to win prizes! #ZEROTIME2012

3) Facebook (tag @T.W. Fendley) about the Virtual Party. (NOTE: tag must have periods to work)

Example: Join the Virtual Party for historical fantasy novel ZERO TIME by @T.W. Fendley for a chance to win prizes!


You can find ZERO TIME at:

Ebook $4.99

Paperback $16.95


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It’s the end for me…


Crymsyn Hart

…now what the heck do I do?

Well congratulations, the first think you need to do is take a moment and breathe. You did it. You made it to the end of the book. Bet you never thought you would because your characters wanted to keep talking until they were blue in the face. Well you finished the story and are left with the question of where do I go from here?

The first thing you want to do is think about editing. If you’re a first time writer, then  you can think about hiring someone to edit the book for you. Of course that can cost a lot of money. Or maybe you have friend who is an English major and is good with grammar. Have them look it over. However you go about this, make sure you do your very best to polish the manuscript before submitting it to publishers or agents, depending on the route you want to go.

Polishing the manuscript of course is spell checking, punctuation mistakes, and even deleting some of the scenes you have written. Or adding them in.  It all depends on where you are going with your book. Personally I put on Track Changes in Word when I start self-editing so I can see what I’m deleting. I normally end up cutting out more than what I put back in. I have a tendency to sometimes overwrite and then have to delete the repetition. But editing is hard work and takes time, then again so does working over a book to make it the best that you can before you send it off.

I warn you ahead of time.

Your brain will hurt when you are done.

Happy Editing.

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Paranormally Speaking

From The Mad Monster Party

By Tina R. McSwain

The first time I attended a horror convention has me hooked.  Not my normal “con”, but a lot of fun nonetheless.  The celebrities were plentiful and a diverse group.  The vendor room drew alot of lookers, as well as buyers, so the merchants looked happy.

Then, there were the costumes.  I saw various versions of Freddy Kruger, Jason from Friday the 13th, pinhead, rogue vikings, a pair of dragons, and enough zombies to officially announce that the apocalypse has begun.  People watching is a favorite pastime of mine, and there were some interesting characters here.

If you’re local, the Con is still in Charlotte at the Blake Hotel.  Go ceck it out.  I on the otherhand am going to Kenturcy to investigate Waverly Hills Sanatarium again.




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Adding Texture To Your Writing

by Gail Z. Martin

Does your fictional world have texture?

By texture, I mean details that make your world immersive for your reader, engaging all their senses as well as their imagination.

Think about the “texture” in your everyday life.  That includes things like the weather, background noises, ambient scents, and the colors, people and landmarks you see each day.  How would your world be different without those things that form the setting for your life?  Now think about your writing.  Without those textural details, what’s missing from your characters’ world?

Without texture, our fictional worlds and characters seem flat and unrealistic.  When we don’t work those details into our writing, our readers lose out on the feeling that they have truly visited.

How can you add texture to your world so that readers can recall not just what happened, but the sights, sounds, smells, feeling of the world itself?  If you’ve ever visited someplace on vacation that was very different from where you live, you know that years later, you recall not just what you did or saw, but the food you ate, the color of the light itself at different times of the day, the smell of flowers, the feel of bed linens, the voices of people you met.

Make your fictional world come alive in a whole new way when you add texture to your writing, and make your story memorable for your readers!

“Like” my WinterKingdoms page on Facebook and enter to win a prize package of signed books, foreign editions and rare Advance Review Copies

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I’m in the middle…


Crymsyn Hart

…of the book and I’ve come to an impasse. What do I do now?

It’s a logical question that any author has when they get to the middle of a book and all of a sudden your characters stop talking to you, or your muses decide to go on sabbatical. Do you force the characters to do what you want and hope they don’t hate you for it? Or do you sweet talk your muses and hope they talk to you again? I’ve come up against those very questions and if you’re a first time writer these can be daunting.

The best thing that I’ve found to do is take a step back and give it a rest. It will be there when you get back. Your character just might need to figure out where they’re going. They just might surprise you. But while you leave the manuscript behind, then you might find yourself coming up with other ideas. So remember to write those down so you don’t forget them.

I’ve had this very situation happen to me. At the moment I have three books I’m halfway done with, but other books take shape in between so I gradually work on the ones I’m in the middle of. Don’t get discouraged. Give it a couple of days and clear your mind. Then you can work on the other half of the book and write toward finishing your story. Because once you get over the hump it’s clear sailing from there. At least until you get to that final chapter.

Then all hell breaks loose.


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In Defense of the Unhappy Ending

by Jennifer Pelland

I was recently on a panel at the Boskone science fiction convention titled “Optimism vs Darkness in Science Fiction” where I came down squarely on the side of darkness. Much to one audience member’s dismay, I declared that there could be no suspense unless there was a real possibility that things might not work out in the end. She felt there was suspense enough in seeing specifically how the happy ending came about. Good for her, but frankly, that’s not enough for me. From time to time, I need to read about people crashing and burning and not getting back up again at the end.

What this really boils down to is this: are you an escapist reader, or a catharsis reader? Neither is better than the other, neither is deeper or more meaningful, but it’s difficult for a catharsis reader to really understand an escapist reader and vice versa. I, not surprisingly, am a catharsis reader. I don’t pick up a book to escape to another world, I pick up a book to help make more sense of the world I’m in. Yes, the book can do this even if it’s set in another world or another time. It can make me laugh, make me ponder something I’d never thought of before, or put me through an emotional wringer, but if I don’t come out the other side feeling changed, then I feel cheated.

At this point, I imagine the escapist readers are all scratching their heads and saying, “Yeah, but you can do that with a happy ending.” True, you can. But life isn’t all happy endings, and I sometimes desperately need to read about other people whose stories end badly. To give a concrete example, my father died a year ago after a brief battle with cancer. None of the treatments worked, and his death was so horrible that I wouldn’t wish it on any but the most monstrous of people. So when I read stories about people bouncing back from cancer and going on to a full recovery, or read news pieces on wonderful new cancer treatments that are in the pipeline, I don’t feel uplifted — I feel cheated. And yes, an unhappy ending to a cancer story absolutely guts me, but when I read it, I don’t feel so damned alone. And that helps me make sense of the fatherless world that I currently live in.

And yet, I do still need some happy endings. I was sobbing wreck ten minutes to the end of last year’s Doctor Who Christmas special, and I vowed that if it didn’t have a happy ending, I would fly to the U.K. and personally smack Steven Moffat. But if he hadn’t already had a few episodes earlier that season where things hadn’t turned out well, the Christmas episode wouldn’t have hit me so hard. My inner cynic would have kicked in and told me, “Oh, he’s just pulling your strings — of course everything will turn out fine!” Presto — no waterworks, no catharsis, no point. So because I knew there was a chance that things wouldn’t work out in the end, I was so much more invested in the characters’ struggle than I would have been without that uncertainty.

Am I advocating that everyone run out and start reading stories with unhappy endings? No. I’d never do that. We all read for different reasons, and there’s nothing wrong with that. It would be a boring world if we all had the same brain, and it wouldn’t leave much to write about. All I’m asking is that escapist readers extend a little understanding to those of us who need some stories to end badly, and maybe that they buy a few books by us Debbie Downer authors for their catharsis-reader friends.

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Paranormally Speaking

By Tina R. McSwain

Happy St. Patrick’s Day

In honor of this Irish holiday, let’s talk about the most popular Celtic legends.  The most prominent are the will-o-the-wisp, the leprechaun, and the banshee.  The most terrifying by far is the banshee, a female entity whose wailing is a warning of something bad to come.  Customarily, the foretelling of a death.

The will o’ the wisp are mysterious lights that were said to lead travellers from the well-travelled paths into treacherous marshes or bogs where they met their deaths. They are thought to be malevolent spirits either of the dead or non-human intelligence. They have a mischievous and often malevolent nature, luring unwary travellers into dangerous situations, by enticing them with their light.

And, finally, the leprechaun who hoards and hides gold from man.  He is a type of faery in Irish folklore, and is usually seen as an old man, wearing a red or green coat, who enjoys partaking in mischief. Like other fae, leprechauns have been linked to the Tuatha De Danann (the people of the goddess Dana/Danu) of Irish mythology. Leprechauns spend their time making shoes, and store all their coins in a hidden pot o’ gold at the end of the rainbow. If ever captured by a human, the leprechaun has the magical power to grant three wishes in exchange for their release.

Therefore, may Irish eyes smile upon you, may you find your pot of gold, do not follow the will o’ the wisp, and beware the banshee!


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Paranormally Speaking

By Tina R. McSwain

A Different Kind of Convention

We are so used to the various science fiction, gaming and horror fantasy conventions out there.  This weekend in Charlotte, there is a different kind of convention.  A metaphysical convention called Shift Charlotte.

This convention will still have its vendors, its programming, and its interested clientele, but what you will find here are those folks who are Reiki healers, psychics and readers, tarot readers, and other practitioners in the metaphysical arts.

Why not check it out.

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Now What…


Crymsyn Hart

…do you do after you’ve gotten your momentum going and you’ve come to the end of your first chapter?  Questions run through the author’s mind. Where do I go from here? Where are the characters going to take me? Can I run with them? What the hell am I doing? Why did I ever think I could write a book? Should I continue writing?

The first thing to do is take a breath and congratulate yourself. You’ve gotten this far. The first chapter might be a thousand words, five thousand, or somewhere in the middle. There is no perfect word count that has to be in a chapter. (If there is somewhere, please let me know.) My normal word count for a chapter is 2500-3000 words. Sometimes they run shorter or longer. It depends on where I get that happy feeling where the scene should end. But that is just me. The one rule you do want to follow no matter where the chapter ends is that you want to have a hook.

The main character could be hanging over a cliff, getting ready to be eaten by demon-possessed zombies, or maybe they were getting ready to eat a piece of cheesecake and you don’t know what flavor it is.

Whatever the hook might be, it is important to keep the reader interested.

Then you get into your second chapter and figure out where to go from there. Some people make writing look easy. I love it because I escape from reality, but over the years I have learned through trial and error the work behind the writing. And I’m still not an expert, but I hope my perspective helps.


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