Monthly Archives: January 2015

Q&A with Megan O’Russell – Part Two

Megan Orlowski Headshot Reduced Size

1. What’s your favorite part of writing a new book or story? What do you like the least?

My favorite part of writing a new book is learning the rules of the world. Figuring out what the rules of society or, in the case of The Tethering, the rules of magic are is fascinating to me. I love finding a problem and creating a whole new way to solve it while getting to know my characters better.

My least favorite part is teaching my fingers to type a new protagonist’s name. I’m not the best typist, and teaching my fingers to type Margret quickly was terrible.

For The Tethering I did a lot of research on old fables of magic. I also climbed a mountain to make sure it would work for the story and did a lot of research on Latin roots of words with my husband, who is chief spell linguist for The Tethering.

2. Who are your favorite fictional characters—your own, and from other books, TV shows and movies?

My favorite fictional character of my own would have to be Jacob Evans of The Tethering Series. He is the heart of the story. However, Claire is another favorite just for her snarky sense of humor. She is from The Tethering and featured in my short story At the Corner of the Garden Wall in Athena’s Daughters 2.

As for favorites in others works, I love Lucy in The Chronicles of Narnia. I adore Septimus and Niko in the Septimus Heap series. And I really love Balthazar Blake in the Sorcerer’s Apprentice and Hiccup and Toothless in How to Train Your Dragon.

3. What do you read for fun?

I usually read fantasy and mystery, but I really love a good sci-fi or romance as well. It’s really just whatever catches my interest at the moment. Right now, I’m reading a novel from the Star Trek Universe.

4. Was there a book you read in your childhood or teen years that changed your world? Tell us which book and how it made a difference for you.

I would have to say The Chronicles of Narnia. I read them every few years and gain something new from them every time. Seeing how much a book can affect someone made me want to write, and I find new wonder in the series every time I go back to it. Further up and further in. Let the world grow with each step forward.

Click here to listen to a reading of The Tethering on our sister site.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Books, Guest Blogger

Q&A with Megan O’Russell

Megan Orlowski Headshot Reduced SizeWhat is the title of your newest book or short story? What’s it about? Where can readers find it?

My newest short story is At the Corner of the Garden Wall, which is a part of the Athena’s Daughters 2 anthology, currently up for preorder on Kickstarter.

How did you choose to become a writer?

I really didn’t. I’m an actor by trade, so I spend all my time living in imaginary worlds. During a not so artistically-fulfilling production, I began to write a story. It was about a boy who was all alone, waiting for a girl to come back. Finding out who that boy was and helping him became The Tethering. The same sort of thing has happened with all my projects. I write because I want to tell a story.

What inspired your new book or story?

When I found out about the open submissions for Athena’s Daughters 2, I knew I wanted to write something from the world of The Tethering. Figuring out who to write about was a challenge. I was afraid of creating spoilers in the series, and that left me with very few choices. My favorite character in the series is Claire, a twelve-year-old witch who is sarcastic, funny, and loves all things pink. I was afraid that she wouldn’t fit in with the rest of the characters in Athena’s Daughters 2, but a good friend encouraged me to write about her anyway. I did, and At the Corner of the Garden Wall was born. All about Claire, and a pink cat.

Where can readers find you on social media? (Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Library Thing, Redd It, etc.)

On Facebook at

On Twitter

My website and blog


And on goodreads

What advice would you give to an aspiring writer?

Sit down and write. Don’t worry about commas or where in the room the couch is. Just tell your story. Get it all out. Then either you’ll feel finished (getting a whole story out is a huge accomplishment), or you’ll want your characters to go out into the world. If you want your story read, then you begin revisions and edits. But that’s a problem for another day. First, just write.

Click here to listen to a reading from Megan on our sister site.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Books, Guest Blogger

Q&A with Tish E. Pahl

crow_smWhat is the title of your short story?  What’s it about?  Where can readers find it?

My new short story, Crow Bait and Switch, is part of the Athena’s Daughters, Volume 2 anthology to be published by Silence in the Library Publishing.  Athena’s Daughters, Volume 2 is a collection of short works of science fiction, fantasy, and speculative fiction written by women, edited by women, illustrated by women, and about women and girls.  The diverse stories, written by very diverse authors, celebrate women and girls of all ages and races, abilities and physical attributes.

Athena’s Daughters, Volume 2 is being funded via Kickstarter.  We are at the end of the campaign and we really hope that you will support this fantastic anthology that gives under-represented characters a voice in exciting stories.  Our Kickstarter page is here.

What inspired Crow Bait and Switch?

My last published fiction was in Star Wars Gamer over ten years ago with my awesome co-author, Chris Cassidy. Though I have written lots (and lots and lots) of derivative work for 20 years, my last original story was for a writers’ workshop with the late Aaron Allston. Aaron was very much on everyone’s mind at Origins 2014 and, while there, I summoned his positive spirit (and my courage) and participated in a writing seminar with Mike Stackpole and Tim Zahn, who had both been so supportive when I was writing and working with them in Star Wars.  Also at Origins, Janine Spendlove, one of the editors of Athena’s Daughters, Volume 2, told me that Silence in the Library Publishing had an open call for short stories for the anthology and encouraged me to submit something.

With this collective encouragement, I began Crow Bait and Switch by dusting off the story I had written for Aaron’s workshop. The USDA Beagle inspector with a nose for maggots and rotten Sicilian cheese became a bossy, genetically engineered Border Collie. In addition to loving dogs and enjoying giving a literal voice to them in my writing, I am also very fond of the family corvidae, to which crows, magpies, and other canny birds belong. I have seen these advanced tool users steal car keys and flashing lights. As such, it was not surprising that, in the tradition of her astonishingly clever forbears, Morgana, the Jurassic Park-quoting, talking crow, flew into Crow Bait and Switch and stole it from everyone else.

Who are your favorite fictional characters—your own, and from other books, TV shows and movies?

Although I have many favorites, across many genres, examples of some of my favorite fictional characters are on display in Crow Bait and Switch.  I love talking sentient animals, like the dragons in Temeraire and Dragonriders of Pern, the Looney Tunes Bugs Bunny, the talking dogs in 101 Dalmatians, and the birds and beasts in the Chronicles of Narnia.  Science fiction also gives us genetically modified, fully sentient animals in stories like the Planet of the Apes, the Island of Dr. Moreau, and Startide Rising.  In Crow Bait and Switch, the animal tricksters of folklore, like Coyote, Reynard, Anansi, and Brer Rabbit,  are as much Morgana’s forbears as the velociraptors in Jurassic Park.

With these many favorites and inspirations, what I especially wanted to do in Crow Bait and Switch was to write characters like Morgana, not as a human with feathers, but as a real bird who also happens to be fully sentient.  In the story, the main protagonist, Dr. Jesse Harris, will realize that though Morgana speaks like a human, nothing about her is the least bit human. Morgana is a bird, truly alien, and far closer to dinosaurs than to any humans.  Morgana will prompt a crisis of conscience that will force Jesse to decide whether she stands with the Pan-Laurasian Fleet or with those who don’t have opposable thumbs.

Thank you again and I hope you’ll support the Athena’s Daughters, Volume 2 Kickstarter!

Listen to a special reading of Crow Bait and Switch on our sister site by clicking here.

* * *
Tish E. Pahl is a principal in a law firm.  At her day job, she advises on the federal regulation of drugs, dietary supplements, cosmetics, foods, and medical devices and regularly teaches a crash course in drug law.  With Chris Cassidy, Tish wrote for Star Wars, with stories published in the Tales from the New Republic and Star Wars Gamer magazine.  Tish is also a prolific producer of derivative genre, fantasy, and science fiction content.  She lives in the Washington, D.C. area with her husband, son, and two demanding dogs.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Books, Guest Blogger

My Wild, Wild Weird Wild West Secret Connection

I write epic fantasy, urban fantasy and steampunk. So what am I doing in the Weird Wild West Kickstarter anthology?

neon cowboy


Well, technically, the Wild West happened during the ‘steampunk’ years—our Civil War era and Westward expansion happened while England was having its Victorian period.

And the two Department of Supernatural Investigation agents you may have met in my stories in Clockwork Universe: Steampunk Vs. Aliens and Dreams of Steel 5, who also play a big role in Iron and Blood (our new steampunk novel coming in July) would have been out West during part of the Cowboy Era.

But here’s the real connection—my parents were Sioux. No, really—I know I don’t look it, but it’s true. And here’s the story about how a city kid from Reading, PA fulfilled a life-long dream to witness a vanishing history, meet survivors from the Battle of Little Big Horn and get adopted into the Standing Rock Sioux tribe.

My parents on their adoption day

My parents on their adoption day

My dad, Dr. Luther R. Zehner, was born in 1923, and he fell in love with Native American lore when he was growing up in a row house in the textile mill town of Reading.  Wild West stories like the Lone Ranger and books by authors like Will James and Frank Linderman sparked his imagination.  He was inspired by tales of adventurers and explorers who left the cities of the East and learned the ways and language of Native Americans, and that inspiration changed the course of his life.

Dad graduated from Juniata College and earned his medical degree from Hahnemann Medical College of Philadelphia.  He finished his residency in Surgery at Harrisburg Hospital, Dr. Zehner married his college sweetheart, Frances—my mom–in August of 1949.  Together, they headed for Standing Rock Reservation near Fort Yates, ND, where Dad had received a staff appointment as a physician in the reservation hospital, and Mom had been hired to teach in the reservation school. (This was 13 years before I was born, so I missed it!)

Mom and Dad fully embraced the culture of the Lakota (Sioux) with whom they worked.  Dad learned to speak the Sioux language, and forged deep friendships with tribal elders Alex Sage, Patrick Rattling Hail and Judge Francis B. Zahn.  It was at Standing Rock where they also met and became close personal friends with photographer Frank Bennett Fiske and he and his wife, Angela.Collector

Dad sought out the oldest members of the tribe, and recorded their oral histories, encouraging them to recount legends and stories and to talk about life before the reservation. He recorded their songs and drumming on audio tape and with a film camera, and interviewed the survivors of the Battle of Little Big Horn, who were by then in their 90s. One of the most thrilling moments of his life was going out to the Custer battlefield with an elderly Native American battle survivor who gave him a first-hand account of what it was like on that day long ago.

Members of the tribe noted the passion and respect Dad and Mom had for their culture.  Dad was also deeply aware that the legacy of the elders seemed to be slipping away in the busy post-war period.  He began to purchase artifacts, documenting the history of the pieces in his journals and with his camera.  He was particularly interested in pieces from the late 1900s and the early part of the Twentieth Century, and in items made according to the old ways by contemporary craftspeople.

In July of 1950, my parents were adopted into the Sioux tribe in a formal ceremony.  Frank Fiske took photos of them dressed in full authentic ceremonial clothing. Custer battle survivor Spotted Bear “gave” Dad his tribal name so that Luther became “Spotted Bear.”  Mom’s new name translated as “Morning Star.”

Mom passed away in 2009 at age 89, and Dad died at age 90 in 2013. He passed away just three weeks after a Native American delegation came to the nursing home where he resided to honor his birthday with drumming and dancing.

You can see the photo of Dad and Mom on their tribal adoption day , along with some fun graphics about the Weird Wild West anthology. And here’s the interview I did with the Weird Wild West publisher about my inspiration:


By the way—there’s still time to fund the anthology and get 12 extra rewards, including a sneak peek chapter from our new Iron and Blood novel, my Deadly Curiosities Adventures story Collector and The Final Death, as well as a 400 pg. steampunk & zombie book!  There’s still time to jump on the covered wagon and pony up a couple of greenbacks!

Here’s the Weird Wild West Kickstarter link to learn more, see the rewards and become a backer:

Steampunk & Cowboys!

Leave a Comment

Filed under Uncategorized