Category Archives: Guest Blogger

The Other End of the Situation–A #HoldOnToTheLight guest post by Stuart Jaffe


When I was first asked to write this blog post for #HoldOntoTheLight, I agreed without hesitation. Then I tried to write this thing. But it hurt, so I put it away. I tried again, sitting in my office, thinking, staring at the screen. But I couldn’t. Not yet. Put it away, I thought. I’ll get back to it. By the time other authors had started posting, I should have had this done. I read their blogs, saw how open and honest many of them were, but still, I couldn’t.

I finally decided that hey, I’m a writer. I should be able to do this in some form that works for me — like fiction. So I wrote a thousand-word piece about a man and a woman reaching the point where they realized they had a trauma to deal with.

And I shelved it.

See, the problem here isn’t that I’m embarrassed or ashamed or anything of the sort. The problem is that the depression I deal with on a daily basis is not mine. I don’t want to betray a trust. I don’t even know if I have to right to discuss the issues of a depression that isn’t mine.

What I can discuss, however, is what it is like to be on the other end of the situation. I can reach out to the spouses, parents, and friends of those who suffer.

Because we suffer, too.

We are just as caught in a world of silence and sadness. We are the ones making excuses for our loved one’s absence at parties, events, and family gatherings. We are the ones running interference between our loved one and the demands of the world. We take on the tasks and burdens of two. And we hurt when we see the dark place our loved one has gone to, when we reach out to help and nobody reaches back, when day after day turns to year after year and it gets harder to maintain a connection.

It’s like watching an enormous ship — a life — slowly sinking in the ocean. We want to help. We try to help. But we rarely have the ability to jump aboard and patch the holes. Even when it seems like we can succeed, those holes reopen the moment we step away.

We’re stuck watching.

I’ve been fortunate, so far. My loved one is still alive. But for many, that ship sinks. Many watch as depression ends in suicide. And regardless of what outcome we find ourselves in, we feel guilty. Because no matter what, we always think we can do more than watch. No matter how often we try, no matter how often we are rejected, no matter how many slivers of good days we cling to, in the end, we can only stand there, hold out our hands, and hope that our love will raise a hand to reach back. We can watch and wait.

And we do.

That is the thing I want those of you with depression or PTSD or any mental illness to understand. We are there for you. We are holding your hands. We want you back. So much that we’ll suffer for you, too. We don’t give up on you. Ever. So, you shouldn’t either.

Because that’s the way love works.

About the campaign:

#HoldOnToTheLight is a blog campaign encompassing blog posts by fantasy and science fiction authors around the world in an effort to raise awareness around treatment for depression, suicide prevention, domestic violence intervention, PTSD initiatives, bullying prevention and other mental health-related issues. We believe fandom should be supportive, welcoming and inclusive, in the long tradition of fandom taking care of its own. We encourage readers and fans to seek the help they or their loved ones need without shame or embarrassment.

Please consider donating to or volunteering for organizations dedicated to treatment and prevention such as: American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Hope for the Warriors (PTSD), National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), Canadian Mental Health Association, MIND (UK), SANE (UK), BeyondBlue (Australia), To Write Love On Her Arms (TWLOHA) and the National Suicide Prevention Hotline.

 To find out more about #HoldOnToTheLight, find a list of participating authors and blog posts, or reach a media contact, go to and join us on Facebook

stuart-jaffe-headshot2014About the author:

Stuart Jaffe is the author of the Nathan K fantasy-thrillers, The Max Porter Paranormal-Mysteries, The Malja Chronicles, a post-apocalyptic fantasy series, The Bluesman pulp series, the Gillian Boone novels, FoundersReal Magic and After The Crash as well as the short story collections, 10 Bits of My Brain and 10 More Bits of My Brain. Numerous other short stories have appeared in magazines and anthologies.

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One Rock at a Time–A #HoldOnToTheLight guest post by Danielle Ackley-McPhail

In ancient times one form of execution was to pin the accused down and pile rocks on them until they died. Until they were literally crushed and the breath squeezed out of them.

This is an excellent analogy for depression. Elements of life pile on to a person until they just cannot bear up anymore. It isn’t always constant, and for each person the “rocks” are something different, heck…for the same person the “rocks” can be different each time, but the one consistent factor is the lack of control. The inability to cast those “rocks” aside or get out from under them.

It is akin to someone suffering chronic pain. You might learn to adapt, to function past the pain, but there are times it is just too much for you and no amount of “pain” killer helps. Because it is not the “pain” that is the main problem. It is the sense of hopelessness. The persistent fear that absolutely nothing will ever change to take that “pain” away. The knowledge that people or circumstance—either knowingly or unknowingly—continue to pile on those rocks until you cannot breath.

Until you have no inclination to breath. That you are certain you are a failure at the most basic function – Living.

It is irrational, but unavoidable.

I’m going to share something with you. One rock in my cairn. Something no one would ever guess about me. Something completely at odds with anyone’s perception of me. I do not want to grow old.

Let me ‘splain.

I don’t write poetry very often anymore, but here is one I wrote about five years back that lays out my meaning in implicit detail, so there is no confusion, so there is no doubt, exactly how heavy depression can be, and how hard it can be to recognize from the outside. All but one of my friends will be blindsided by this.

May I die young and quickly
That I may never know
The burden I would be, unwanted
Were I to grow so old
Alone and not what I once was
Needing another’s care
A duty…obligation, to those not e’en my own.

May I die young and quickly
At once here, then gone.
That I be remembered fondly,
Rather than endured.
Better that than linger long,
Unwanted or alone,
Marking time upon this earth until I can go home.

Now if you know me, don’t panic. I don’t believe in suicide. I would not want to cause such trauma, pain, or heartache to those I love—or even the perfect strangers—who would potentially find me or have to deal with the aftermath. I would not be one of their “rocks”. But you know, I truly do not desire a prolonged life. Because I am terrified of being that person someone else is forced to take responsibility for. Someone else’s children, or worse, a stranger overworked and underpaid. I have seen this up close and personal, and terrified may not be a strong enough term for what I feel at the thought of ending up that way.

See, I have no children. I have a loving husband and plenty of family and I have never felt unloved. I have no doubt they will rally around me if needed, but I have always felt different and not quite connected. Always on the outside. Things would be even more uncomfortable if I were to become dependent as I wouldn’t only feel out of place, but a burden. I am sure some of them might read this and be hurt, and I’m sorry if that is the case. It is not my intention. Please recall, depression is nothing if not irrational. Again, I will repeat, I do not and have never felt unloved. That is not what this is about.

Now, I don’t share this with you because I need reassurance. That isn’t what this is about and to go there would be to overlook the importance of our message. Believe it or not I have faith that God will provide for me, though I may not be able to see the how of it right now. At the risk of being repetitive, depression IS irrational. You can’t control it. I am lucky. My depression is not a constant and is mostly hormonally triggered. We only do battle occasionally, and it has a loose enough grip I need only ride through it and remind myself the hopelessness is an illusion. This isn’t true for everyone. They face the darkness every day. Sometimes it can be managed with medication, or therapy, but many people never get help. Maybe they are ashamed, or they do not have the means, or they just don’t know where to turn. Maybe they feel they should be able to handle this on their own, or that they are weak and deserve to suffer. Maybe they just feel it won’t do any good. I know…that’s a lot of maybes, but depression is a very personal thing, each experience unique to the individual. There are as many potential reasons as there are sufferers. For me, I have remained silent to all but a few because I didn’t want to make anyone feel bad, or make them uncomfortable, or maybe, if I’m honest, because I didn’t want to appear like a failure. For whatever reason way too many do battle alone until they can battle no more.

That is what this message is about. We need to increase awareness. We need to form ranks around those we care about. The most important weapons against depression is awareness and support. Understanding from friends and loved ones, not admonitions to snap out of it. Not impatience or annoyance or platitudes that do nothing to strike a blow against the darkness. Are you ready to fight?

In the TV show Firefly there is a scene where Tracey, a character who served under Malcolm Reynolds during the Unification Wars, recounts what a soldier must do to go on:

Tracey: “When you can’t run, you crawl. And when you can’t crawl, when you can’t do that … ”
Zoe: ” … you find someone to carry you.”

danielle-amMake no mistake, depression is something people do battle with every day. Let’s be a part of their support, not a part of the problem.

Danielle Ackley-McPhail is a fantasy author, editor, and publisher of eSpecBooks. Her published works include the urban fantasy, Yesterday’s Dreams, Tomorrow’s Memories, Today’s Promise, The Halfling’s Court, The Redcaps’ Queen, A Legacy of Stars, The Literary Handyman, the chapbook, Children of Morpheus, No Longer Dreams, and contributions to numerous anthologies and collections worldwide, including The Defending the Future series, The Fantasy Writer’s Companion: The Author’s Grimoire, For Better or Worse and Passings, Dark Furies, and Hear Them Roar. She is also the senior editor of the award-winning Bad-Ass Faeries series, as well as several other anthology projects.

About the campaign:

#HoldOnToTheLight is a blog campaign encompassing blog posts by fantasy and science fiction authors around the world in an effort to raise awareness around treatment for depression, suicide prevention, domestic violence intervention, PTSD initiatives, bullying prevention and other mental health-related issues. We believe fandom should be supportive, welcoming and inclusive, in the long tradition of fandom taking care of its own. We encourage readers and fans to seek the help they or their loved ones need without shame or embarrassment.

Please consider donating to or volunteering for organizations dedicated to treatment and prevention such as: American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Hope for the Warriors (PTSD), National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), Canadian Mental Health Association, MIND (UK), SANE (UK), BeyondBlue (Australia), To Write Love On Her Arms (TWLOHA) and the National Suicide Prevention Hotline.

To find out more about #HoldOnToTheLight, find a list of participating authors and blog posts, or reach a media contact, go to and join us on Facebook

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Filed under #HoldOnToTheLight, Guest Blogger

The Ship ‘Cruelty’–a #HoldOnToTheLight post by Wendy S. Delmater


The ship “Cruelty”

Leaves selfishness as its wake

It swamps your boat. Swim.


In 1989 I was diagnosed with chronic depression. And I had no idea I was depressed. I just thought I was sad, and lonely, and lazy.

My mother was ill most of the time I was growing up. As the eldest, I bore the brunt of the extra housework she could not handle and childcare for my sisters and brother.  My father was a teacher, who tutored in the evenings—and he got mad a lot. He drank a six-pack of beer every night,  an alcoholic who kept a steady job but terrorized his family on the emotional downswings of that addiction cycle. He’d moved us away from when I was a toddler. The move hid his addiction from family members. It isolated us.

So my mother slid further into depression. And we children were not only terrorized and abused by an active drinker but could not get what we needed from a depressed mother. I think it would have been enough to trigger depression in a healthy person.

Of course, I had no friends. When I played over another  child’s house I was expected to eventually ask them over my place. But I could not bring them home: Mom was sick and dad worked two jobs and was tired was my excuse.  We were also poor—“debt poor.” Much of that was the fault of my father’s inadequate  insurance, but even more of it was due to my parents’ overspending. Mom bough clothes to make herself “feel better,” and dad bought big-ticket items we could not afford, like new cars.         

At an early age I found I could not make my parents happy, and I could not make my peers happy. So I stopped caring what anyone thought of me.


You can’t do a good job

When you are constantly panicked

Always looking over your shoulder

For the next shoe to drop.


Shoes were dropping

The whole time you grew up

Paranoid defenses were a necessity then

But they get in your way now

And old habits die hard.


Constantly worried


“Did I do something wrong?

Will I be yelled at?”

Probably not,

But that’s what you’re used to.


The hell of it is

That you feel more at home

In abusive companies

Than in ones that treat you well.

The more unpleasant the circumstances

The better your coping skills work.


You can set yourself up,

Thinking you heard what you didn’t hear

Worried that the rug will be

Pulled out from under you.

(But it always has been before)


Emotional paraplegic—

You haven’t a leg to stand on.


My isolation got worse when I hit puberty. And I wonder how differently my life would have gone if I had gotten a straight answer out of the Sunday School teacher when we were studying the 10 Commandments and I asked, “What’s adultery?” She was too embarrassed to tell me. I was 12.

I was a victim of sexual abuse by a relative for three years.

You stole my smile, and

Left staggering darkness,

Then blamed me for it.


All of this caused me to shut down, to sleepwalk through the motions of living and be emotionally “dead.”  We lived in constant fear of my father’s temper. Dad would break things to hurt our feelings and control us. I learned not to tell my parents when I wanted something because it would get used against me. (Eventually, I learned to stop wanting things at all.)

My parents’ chaos still infiltrated my life; I managed to get away from them for a year of college, but dad lost his tutoring due to a bad economy and mom nearly died, so I came home and paid their grocery bills and nursed her back to health. I cried every September—school meant so much to me. But I was unable to get back to college for 20 years.

I was still damaged by my past, and it mostly manifested itself in my relationships. I carried this into my first marriage, where I married a man who had been raised by the daughter of two alcoholics. My ex-husband was not Darth Vader, but he taught me that the opposite of love was not hate, it was apathy.

Then my ex abandoned us. My doctor finally diagnosed depression. I  spent about seven years using Prozac, and then Zoloft, until 1996 when I finally beat depression and my body started making the correct neurotransmitters on its own. And counselor finally told me that my father dinking a six pack of beer a night was not normal. He had been an alcoholic, and I should join Al-Annon’s Adult Child program because I needed to deal with something called codependency.

I tell you all this so you will not dismiss the symptoms of depression as mere “sadness.” You or the person you love may not have been through things like this, but I want to state that the biochemical disease is the same. It’s an invisible illness, but an illness nonetheless. Just like a diabetic lacks insulin, depressed people have neurotransmitter chemicals out of whack. Telling a depressed person to cheer up is like telling a quadriplegic to stand. But you can get better, and life will go on, beautifully.

(All poems from Plant a Garden Around Your Life, by Wendy S. Delmater.) Wendy S. Delmater is the long-time editor of Abyss & Apex Magazine of Speculative Fiction. Poetry quoted is from her chapbook about dealing with depression, Plant a Garden Around Your Life.




Filed under #HoldOnToTheLight, Guest Blogger

Turning Back to Epic Fantasy

by David B. Coe

Like Gail, I have written in several fantasy subgenres over the course of my career, most recently taking on contemporary urban fantasy (with my Case Files of Justis Fearsson trilogy) and historical urban fantasy (with the Thieftaker Chronicles, which I write as D.B. Jackson). I started out, though, writing alternate world, epic (or high) fantasy. Multi-book story arcs, set in created worlds, with lots of magic and castle intrigue, and with larger-than-life villains who threatened All That We Hold Dear. Fun stuff.

coejacksonpubpic1000I’ve recently returned to these early works. The rights to my first several series have reverted to me, leaving me free to do with them as I please. And I have chosen to reissue what I am calling the “Author’s Edits” (think Director’s Cut) of the books. For obvious reasons, I’ve started with my first series, the LonTobyn Chronicle, which I published back in the late 1990s. These books established me commercially and critically, and won me the Crawford Fantasy Award as the best new author in fantasy. They’re as close to my heart as any books I’ve written. But they were also my first efforts and they suffered from many of the flaws one finds in first novels. Hence the Author’s Edit. I haven’t changed any of the plotting, world building, or character work. But I’ve tightened the prose and eliminated unnecessary dialog tags, adverbs, and expository passages. The books now read better than they ever have.

In reading through and editing this first series, I realized that I miss writing epic fantasy. It’s not that I’ve come to dislike urban fantasy. Far from it. I believe the Fearsson and Thieftaker books represent the best writing I’ve ever done. But I had forgotten how much fun it can be to write those huge, sprawling epics on which I cut my teeth as a writing professional.

To my mind, the biggest differences between writing urban fantasy and writing epic boil down to the related issues of point of view and plotting. Urban fantasy, as I’ve approached it in my career and experienced it as a reader, tends to be more streamlined. The cast of point of view characters is usually limited to a single protagonist, or perhaps two or three narrating characters. The plotting can be twisty and intricate, but it’s also focused. Much of urban fantasy pays homage not only to its fantasy roots, but also to noir mystery. It’s not surprising then, that some of the best books in the subgenre are lean, fast-paced, and tightly constructed. As I say, I love urban for just these reasons.dcoe1

But for me, the allure of epic fantasy, both as an author and as a fan, lies in its embrace of very different attributes. My favorite epic fantasies, and all the high fantasies I’ve written, braid together many seemingly disparate storylines that coalesce as the novel and/or series progresses. By necessity, these plot threads are presented through a pantheon of point of view characters, who give the reader dfferent perspectives on the story, and bits of information that form a sort of narrative mosaic.

In some respects it’s less efficient story telling. On the other hand, when done well, epic fantasy can take on a richness and texture that make it unique among all forms of speculative fiction. I enjoy writing it because I can lead my reader through a labyrinth of plot points, hinting at key moments to come, feinting at possible paths my story might take, and telling the tale through a collection of voices, each one unique and, I hope, engaging. I can give my readers more information than any one of my characters has at his or her disposal, thus ratcheting up the tension by, for example, sending my protagonist into a trap of which my readers are aware, even though she is not.

We writers can be a fickle bunch. When I shifted from epic fantasy to urban, I did it, in part, because I was tired of writing the multi-POV, multi-plot-thread, multi-volume stories that I’d written throughout the early years of my career. I longed for that leaner voice of urban fantasy. I wanted to write stand-alone novels that more closely resembled whodunits, but with a magical twist. The Thieftaker and Fearsson books were exactly what I was after.

dcoe2Now, I find that I’m ready to turn back. Reading and editing Children of Amarid, my very first novel, as I prepared for its re-release, I found myself transported back to those days when I was writing the book without a contract, dreaming of one day becoming a published author. I had read many of the great epic fantasists of my youth: Tolkien and Donaldson, Kurtz and Kerr, McCaffrey (yes, I know — she considered herself an author of Science Fiction; I thought of it as fantasy), LeGuin, Brooks, and Eddings. Those were the authors who attracted me to this career, and when I wrote the LonTobyn Chronicle, I tried to draw upon what I saw as the finest qualities of their work. I’m not so full of myself as to claim that I succeeded with this first effort. But they were my inspirations, and fantasy, as they defined the field, was my first love.

So, now I’m back to it. I have more of my backlist to release in coming years: my five-book Winds of the Forelands series, my Blood of the Southlands trilogy. And I’m eager to try my hand at writing new epic fantasy, blending my lifelong passion for the genre with the knowledge of craft I’ve accrued during my twenty years in the business. I don’t yet know exactly what this new project will look like. But those elements of the genre that I love — magic, of course, the more wondrous the better, as well as intrigue, action, and maybe a sprinkling of romance — will all be there, along with the rich complexity that makes reading and writing high fantasy such a joy. Stay tuned!

About the Author

David B. Coe/D.B. Jackson is the award-winning author of nineteen fantasy novels. As David B. Coe, he writes The Case Files of Justis Fearsson, a contemporary urban fantasy from Baen Books. The first two books, Spell Blind and His Father’s Eyes came out in 2015. The third volume, Shadow’s Blade, has recently been released. Under the name D.B. Jackson, he writes the Thieftaker Chronicles, a historical urban fantasy from Tor Books that includes Thieftaker, Thieves’ Quarry, A Plunder of Souls, and Dead Man’s Reach.

David is also the author of the Crawford Award-winning LonTobyn Chronicle, which he is the process of reissuing, as well as the critically acclaimed Winds of the Forelands quintet and Blood of the Southlands trilogy. He wrote the novelization of Ridley Scott’s movie, Robin Hood. David’s books have been translated into a dozen languages.

He lives on the Cumberland Plateau with his wife and two daughters. They’re all smarter and prettier than he is, but they keep him around because he makes a mean vegetarian fajita. When he’s not writing he likes to hike, play guitar, and stalk the perfect image with his camera.



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Filed under Books, Guest Blogger

Jumper–A #HoldOnToTheLight post by Chris Kennedy


I watched in horror as the girl slid between the rails of the 10th floor balcony, looking at the ground far, far below.

It was my third year of college at the University of North Carolina, and I had come back to school early after the summer break to be an orientation counsellor for the new freshman class. I had just gone to bed when one of my counselees started banging on my door. “You’ve got to help me!” the guy outside the door exclaimed when I opened it. “Sarah was drinking at one of the parties, and now she’s up on the 10th floor talking about killing herself.”

We ran up the six flights of stairs (I was in much better shape then) to find one of my other counselees forcing herself between the rails of the railing. As I raced to her, she made it the rest of the way through. I don’t know if she would have jumped or not, and looking into her eyes as her head turned back to us, I’m not sure she did either, but I could tell she was seriously contemplating it (as if being on the wrong side of the railing wasn’t giveaway enough.) It was probably the scariest moment of my life.

I grabbed her through the rails, pinning her to the railing, and after several minutes of talking convinced her to come back through to our side. While the other counselee ran to call the hospital, I talked with her to find out what drove her to step outside the rails.

She was alone at school, away from home for the first time, and her boyfriend of several years had broken up with her. She didn’t have anyone she thought she could talk to and she had several drinks at one of the parties that were being held that night. It was a bad combination, and almost a fatal one for her.

At the time, I didn’t understand why she would want to throw it all away. She was just starting college and was an attractive young lady; she would have had a number of folks interested in her. Back then, I didn’t know anything about depression…how it eats away at you from the inside, causing you to think that no one cares until you finally believe it. How the world would be better off without you. How it would be better to end it all and make the pain go away.

Having had a serious bout of depression since then, though, I do understand those things, and here’s what I know. Depression isolates you from everyone else. You don’t think that anyone else could ever understand what you’re going through. This deprives you of the one thing you need: someone to talk to. I didn’t have anyone I thought I could talk to, for a number of reasons, so I kept my problems bottled up. I could deal with them myself, I thought; better that than worrying anyone else. And that’s when the first tendrils of depression started working their way into my mind. And once they’re in, they strangle off all reason and eat you from the inside out, until you give up hope.

Alcohol is no help. As Sarah found out, it only removes that last bit of rational thought keeping you from doing something really stupid. Having seen it in action once, I knew better than to drink…even though I wanted to really badly. That kept me together, barely, until things changed a little and I found someone to talk to. Just the simple act of talking about part of my problems let me release enough of the stress to start on the way to recovery. I survived, but it was a lot closer than I liked. I heard the voices…whispering, urging…but was able to keep them at bay. I still hear them, sometimes, when things aren’t going well. Once they’re in, they never completely go away.

Not everyone is able to keep the voices at bay, though, and the only way they’re going to get better is to talk to someone. A professional, if possible, but any outlet helps. If you see a friend withdraw from society, be there for him or her; talk to them. You never know, you just may save their life.

chris-kennedyChris Kennedy is a  bestselling Science Fiction/Fantasy author and speaker, a former naval aviator and elementary school principal. Chris’ stories include the “Occupied Seattle” military fiction duology, “The Theogony” and “Codex Regius” science fiction trilogies, and the “War for Dominance” fantasy trilogy.

About the campaign:

#HoldOnToTheLight is a blog campaign encompassing blog posts by fantasy and science fiction authors around the world in an effort to raise awareness around treatment for depression, suicide prevention, domestic violence intervention, PTSD initiatives, bullying prevention and other mental health-related issues. We believe fandom should be supportive, welcoming and inclusive, in the long tradition of fandom taking care of its own. We encourage readers and fans to seek the help they or their loved ones need without shame or embarrassment.

Please consider donating to or volunteering for organizations dedicated to treatment and prevention such as: American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Home for the Warriors (PTSD), National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), Canadian Mental Health Association, MIND (UK), SANE (UK), BeyondBlue (Australia), To Write Love On Her Arms and the National Suicide Prevention Hotline.

To find out more about #HoldOnToTheLight, find a list of participating authors, or reach a media contact, go to


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Filed under Fandom, Gail Z. Martin, Guest Blogger

Revealing the Magic Trick

by Stuart Jaffe

From time to time, I get asked how something like the Max Porter mysteries came to be.  How did I come up with the idea of mixing true, odd, North Carolina history with witches, ghosts, curses, and such? And, over that time, I had developed a standard response. I had been living in Winston-Salem for several years and was curious to know more about it. My wife was a grad student at Wake Forest University, so one day, while stuck there waiting for her, I decided to hang out at the library. It was there that I stumbled upon a bit of WWII history I had never heard of before (that we shipped German POWs onto US soil to labor for the tobacco industry), and it screamed for a story. Max Porter was born.

That is the truth. But it’s also not.

See, it depends on who you are and why you’re asking. If you’re a reader who just wants to know what sparked this ever-growing series that has (hopefully) thrilled you, then yes, the above answer is the truth. And if that’s who you are, if you don’t like to know how a magic trick works or how the sausage is made, then I urge you to stop right here. Because there be dragon below.

Now — and this part took me years to figure out — if you’re a new writer, then you mean something quite different by the question. What you’re really asking me is how the Max Porter mysteries came to be — as in, the entire series. I see this when new writers discuss any long-running series. They marvel at the complex interplay between characters, how fully-developed each personality is, and how little details in an early book become massively important later on. How, they wonder, did the author know to do that?

My standard answer above does not answer that question.  Because no writer, no matter what PR line they spout, has an entire series fully formed in his or her head. Doesn’t happen. She might have the beginning, some key points in the middle, and a killer ending in mind, but the entire run of a 7 + books series?  Nope.

Those characters you marvel at were not so well-developed in the beginning. The complex interplay grew over the course of all those books. Each mystery they solved, each baddie they vanquished, each love they cherished and loss they endured, all built upon each other so that when Heroine nods with narrowing eyes at Hero, we all know what that means — all the history behind it — which sends chills through our delighted reader hearts. And that little detail which became huge later on — well, the author didn’t plan it that way when she wrote that detail in. But four books later, when she needed something to call back from a previous book, she read over her work, found that detail, and neatly clicked into place.

It’s part of how a writer’s mind works. We are constantly putting together the puzzle pieces that make up a novel, and sometimes we set a piece aside based on nothing but gut reaction, only to discover later exactly why we did it. We know that if we’re patient and consistent, our books will build upon themselves and create that full-world experience you crave. That’s why Book 1 or Book 2 of a series can be so much more difficult than Book 5. But it can be super-exciting too!

It’s all part of the magic trick that we perform.

What’s really cool is that with the Modern Magic deal, you get 12 novels that are almost all Book 1 of a series. You can start now and see how the groundwork for the trick is being set down. Then keep reading those series you like and watch the magic!

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Filed under Books, Guest Blogger

I love superheroes.

By James Maxey

I love superheroes.

Like most people, this started when I was a kid. I’d watch the Superfriends on Saturday morning. I got excited at the I Love Lucy episode that guest starred Superman. Later, the Hulk and Wonder Woman had their own shows. I watched every episode.

Then I picked up actual comic books and things got seriously geeky. If your knowledge of superheroes comes from TV or even movies these days, you can name, what, fifteen superheroes? A couple of dozen, tops? Dive into comics and there are enough superheroes to fill encyclopedias. I used to make lists in alphabetical order cataloging all the members of the Legion of Superheroes, the Avengers, the Defenders, the Justice League. Teen Titans. X-men. Doom Patrol! Outsiders! Invaders! All-Star Squadron! Holy moly, the rosters were endless. In the days before Wikipedia, you had to really work to figure out who some obscure character appearing for a single page on the Avengers might actually be. (Jack of Hearts, anyone? Dr. Druid?) I would dig through boxes of musty, torn up comics at flea markets trying to assemble the various universes.

Unlike most people, this interest in superheroes didn’t vanish as I grew up. Instead, when I got to college, I started to place these heroes into a broader context of historical literature. Superheroes were the foundation of a modern mythology, a worthwhile evolution of the fairytale. The Justice Society used to sit around a round table; they were Arthurian Knights in a modern context.

Despite occasional tip toes into television, superheroes wound up identified with a single medium, the comic book. In the era of pulp fiction, superheroes could be found in prose, headlining their own magazines, like the Shadow. Once comic books came around, the costumed heroes packed up their bags and moved to the new, more visual medium, where their bright colors and miraculous feats found a natural home.

By the 1950s, prose super heroics had almost vanished. By the end of the millennium, only a few licensed properties, like Batman and Spiderman, still appeared in the occasional novel.

Which provided me with a dilemma when it came time for me to write my fourth bookl. The most fundamental advice for any writer is, write what you know. I knew superheroes. But superheroes didn’t appear in prose, and I wanted to write a novel, not script a comic book.

I finally obeyed an even more fundamental rule than “write what you know.” That rule is “do what you love.” So, with no hope whatsoever of seeing it in print, I sat down and started writing a superhero novel. I wrote the book I wanted to read that no one else had yet taken the time to write for me.

The main reason I wrote it was, when you really love something, you hate seeing it done badly. Let me be blunt: the vast majority of superhero fiction in any genre is pretty crappy. Characters that belong to the major publishers are property, and can never truly grow or change. The monthly nature of comic books means they get cranked out on a deadline whether the writers and artists feel inspired or not. They sell to a closed circle of readers, so there’s not much reason to change what they’re doing. The readers already know the characters, so there’s not that much exploration of character’s inner lives, and what little there is superficial. Most characters motives gets summed up in a single sentence: Batman fights crime because he watched his parents die. Wonder Woman was sent to man’s world to bring a message of peace. Aquaman… um, actually, I’m not clear on what his deal is. I know his powers. I don’t know his angels or his demons.

Of course, during the 80s and 90s, there was an effort made in some comics at treating superheroes as real people, peeling back the masks as it were. Unfortunately, treating heroes seriously somehow translated into treating them grimly, stripping away all joy, taking all their bright colors away to paint them in shades of dark gray and even darker gray. Every seemingly good action was shown to have some dark motive. We finally saw the demons on their shoulder, but the matching angels on the other shoulder were missing.

Having had my fill of heroes who were either two dimensional or joyless, I wanted to try my hand at a middle path. I wrote Nobody Gets the Girl treating the characters as realistically as possible, given that some of them fly, some are invisible, and others juggle tanks. But realistic doesn’t have to translate as grim. The hero, Richard Rogers, has his life erased by a time machine accident, trapping him as a ghost in a world where he was never born, a literal Nobody. Having your life erased would be a good excuse to spend the whole book moping, and he does have to deal with the grief over all he’s lost. But, he also takes spark as he begins a new life as an invisible, intangible spy for a family of superheroes. He processes his tragedy with humor and stoicism, working hard to find a path forward after encountering the worst roadblock ever thrown into a person’s life. Like most people, he stubbornly struggles toward joy.

More than joy, I also wanted to capture a sense of wonder. Superheroes are friends with gorillas and robots. They routinely talk to aliens and travel through time. For the heroes, the extraordinary becomes the mundane, but I want my readers to sit back from time to time and think, “Holy cow! That’s cool as hell!”

In the years since Nobody Gets the Girl first saw print, superheroes have become even more culturally dominant than they were. But I hope readers still find it to be a fresh experience, a balanced blend of the everyday and the miraculous, a perfect framework, I think, for understanding life as it truly is.

I’m pleased that Nobody has found a home in the new Modern Magic collection. Hopefully, it will open the door for readers to delve further into my weird and wondrous worlds.

For my excerpt, I going to break from my usual pattern of previewing the first chapter and instead preview something a bit closer to the middle of the book. I like this section because it has most of the major players on the stage. For the good guys, there’s Nobody (our invisible man), the Thrill (Sarah, who can fly and has mind control powers), and Rail Blade (Amelia, who’s ferrokinetic). Also, lots of UN Peacekeepers. Representing the forces of evil are the Panic (an unassuming looking teenage boy who causes panic in anyone who sees him), Sundancer (a woman who controls heat and radiation), and Pit Geek, who’s powers are just too weird to go into now and don’t really play much of a role in this passage anyway. You should also know that the bad guys can teleport away at any time just by saying “exit.” Finally, there’s a whole army of terrorists with stolen tanks, helicopters, etc., showing up to rain death down upon the crowds gathered to celebrate the signing of a peach treaty in Jerusalem.


“LIVE FROM THE Apocalypse!” said the Panic, facing the camera. “Citizens of Earth! Rise up! It’s time to riot in the streets! It’s time to take what you deserve! It’s the End Time, Armageddon, the Great, Big, Final Smackdown! Waaaaa­hoooo!”

Nobody’s stomach twisted in knots. All around him, panicked people were stampeding, trampling those too young or too old to move out of the way. Sundancer rose into the air, flinging glowing balls of plasma at the United Nation guards, who screamed as their weapons melted in their grasps. Pit Geek belched, bringing up a buckle to his lips. He tugged on the buckle, and dragged out a bandolier of hand grenades.

“Crap,” said the Thrill, her voice crackling over the radio. “Trouble. A dozen helicopters just popped up from nowhere. They—shit! Missiles fired! Missiles fired!”

“On it,” said Rail Blade.

In the distance, loud explosions could be heard. “Sarah, get down here and calm the crowd,” said Nobody. “People are dying.”

“Oh no,” said the Thrill. “Tanks. We have tanks moving in on the edges of the Old City.”

“Do what you can with the crowd,” said Rail Blade. “I’ll stop the hardware.”

High overhead, a glimmer of light, a daytime star, grew brighter and larger. In seconds, the image had resolved itself into the Thrill, clad in mirror armor, wielding her glowing sword.

The Panic looked up.

“Ex—” he said, and vanished, just as the Thrill reached him, slashing the air where he had stood. With grim satisfaction, Nobody noted a stream of blood whip from the sword as the Thrill pulled from her dive and shot back into the sky. Apparently, the Panic had been a little slow.

“Think I got him,” the Thrill said, her voice strained. “Felt like I got a solid hit.”

“Watch out!” said Nobody.

Sundancer blazed a trail behind the Thrill, slamming into her back with a hard tackle. The Thrill went into a spin but pulled up before hitting the ground.

“Monday’s pulled out all the stops,” Rail Blade complained over the radio. “Every tank I tear apart, two more pop up. I’ve never seen him use his teleporter so aggressively.”

Nobody wasn’t exactly focused on her words. Even with the Panic gone, the crowd was still going crazy. By now, Pit Geek had strapped on the bandolier and stood on the edge of the stage, lobbing grenades into the mob, laughing.

Nobody raced onto the stage, banging his fists on the treaty table to get Pit Geek’s attention. It didn’t work.

He noticed the treaty on the table. The formal, gold-rimmed parchment had vanished. In its place was a sheet torn from a notebook, with words written in red marker: “Screw it! Let’s just fight!” Beneath it were three neat signatures.

“Doc,” said Nobody. “The clerics. When Monday teleported them, could you follow them? Can you track them?”

“They reappeared beneath the ocean,” said Dr. Know. “They died in seconds.”

The platform shook as though an earthquake had struck. Nobody was thrown from his feet. The Thrill lay beside him, among shattered boards, shaking her head. She still had her shield, but had lost her sword.

“I’m so sick of this bitch,” she grumbled.

Nobody rolled aside as a ball of flame smashed into the Thrill’s shield. The Thrill flew into the air, deflecting another ball of flame, then buzzed over a UN guard who was trying to carry a wounded child to safety.

“A little help here,” she yelled. “Shoot her.”

The guard dropped the child and placed his rifle to his shoulder, unleashing a stream of bullets toward Sundancer. Sundancer motioned toward the gun, melting its barrel, causing it to explode in the guard’s hand.

The Thrill swooped in, using the momentary distraction, screaming her best kung fu yelp as she delivered a powerful kick to Sundancer ‘s head. The burning woman spun backward, looking surprised and disoriented. The Thrill pressed forward with her attack, continuing to deliver savage kicks with her metal boots. The boots glowed red hot, but if the Thrill felt any pain, she didn’t show it. Instead, her features locked in an angry grimace as she struck Sundancer again and again.

“Come on, Sunny,” Pit Geek screamed. “Take her! You’re making us look bad.”

Sundancer didn’t have anything witty to say in response. Instead, she crashed to the ground, hard, rolling to a stop on the pavement stones. The Thrill swooped down, continuing her assault.

Pit Geek pulled a pin on a grenade and lobbed it toward the fighting women. It bounced on the stones, and burst open in a loud flash. Nobody ducked and covered his eyes as shrapnel ricocheted around him.

He blinked, trying to make sense of the smoking aftermath. The Thrill had been thrown back, lying still against the pavement, though her armor appeared to be intact. Sundancer was screaming. Her left leg was gone from the knee down, and jets of flame spurted from her wounds with each heartbeat.

“Oops,” said Pit Geek.

Nobody spun around, running toward the filthy bum. Pit Geek didn’t notice him. Nobody passed through him, and turned around. There were grenades on the back of the bandolier as well. Gritting his teeth, he pulled one, two, three pins, then ran. He was knocked to the ground by the explosion seconds later. Pit Geek’s head bounced to the ground in front of him, his eyes blinking wide, his lips mouthing words that Nobody couldn’t make out.

Then, the head vanished.

Looking back, Sundancer was gone as well.

Nobody raced over to the Thrill, who had risen to her hands and knees.

“You all right?” he said. “Are you hurt? Burned?”

She shook her head. “Amelia makes good armor.”

He helped her to her feet.

“No rest for the weary,” she said. She rose into the air, two dozen yards over the platform.

“Listen up!” she said. “Yo! Look at me!”

In unison, the hundreds of people within the sound of her voice stopped their panicked flight and looked to her. “We’ve got a lot of wounded people here. I don’t know how long it will be until help arrives. I want everyone who knows anything about first aid to stay and help those too hurt to walk out under their own power. Everyone else, I want you to leave, slowly! Stay calm, don’t step on anyone, and get to safety. Let’s move it, people.”

A pleased murmur came from the crowd, a chorus of “Great idea,” and, “She’s so clever!”

“Ground zero’s locked down,” the Thrill said, dropping down to grab Nobody. “Let’s see if Amelia needs a hand.”

It quickly became evident that things were even more chaotic outside the plaza. Everyone in the streets appeared to be armed, and firefights were blazing from every window and doorway. A millennia’s worth of frustrations and anger had apparently boiled over, and the ancient buildings of the Old City were slowly being chipped to gravel by the relentless spray of bullets.

“Stop shooting,” the Thrill said, flying low and slow over the streets. “Go home! Be nice!”

She left a small wake of peace and quiet, but the sound of gunfire was still omnipresent.

“It’s hopeless,” she said. “We’re never going to put a lid on this.”

“Don’t say that,” said Nobody. “I signed on as one of the good guys. We don’t give up.”

Ahead of them, a tank flew into the air and disassembled itself, sending its astonished crew screaming toward the ground.

The Thrill darted forward, placing a free hand on one of the falling men, and lowered him to the ground. He stood, staring at her, his eyes wide.

“You’re welcome,” she said.

Then he pulled a pistol and thrust it into her stomach.

He pulled the trigger. His hand dissolved into red mist as the gun disintegrated. The bullet flashed backwards with a loud crack, punching a jagged hole through the man’s chest. With a gurgle, he toppled.

“Don’t show them mercy,” said Rail Blade, sliding up behind them on her gleaming steel beam. “Everyone signed on for this intending to kill or be killed. I say we don’t disappoint them.”

“How many more tanks?” the Thrill asked.

“None. I’ve taken apart over fifty of them. All the helicopters are down. I’ve detonated all the missiles.”

“Then all that’s left are the small weapons,” said Nobody. “It’s down to people shooting people now.”

Rail Blade’s track crumbled to rust, dropping her to the dusty street. “You have no idea how tired I am,” she said.

Nobody knelt beside her, placing a hand on her shoulder. “You’ve done good work. You’ve saved a lot of lives. Maybe we should go. The peacekeepers can get all this under control. Eventually.”

“No,” said Rail Blade. She sucked in a deep, long breath. “No. I’m the only one who can stop it. I just need to catch my breath. Just need to think.”

“What—” Nobody cut his question short as Rail Blade closed her eyes. Her body trembled, as if about to explode.

Suddenly, the cacophony of nearby gunfire dimmed.

“I can feel them,” Rail Blade whispered, opening her eyes. “All around me. The guns. I can feel the atoms, agitated and hot. They’re singing to me. Can’t you hear the singing?”

“Um,” said Nobody.

“And I can silence them.”

She breathed deeply once more.

“Triggers snap,” she whispered.

The gunfire lessened further.

“Barrels snake into knots,” she said, sweat beading on her brow. The gunfire grew even dimmer. Angry and confused shouts could be heard.

“Bullet jackets rust,” she said. And all the gunfire stopped. But the shouting continued.

“They… they pull their knives,” she moaned. “So many knives.”

Nobody placed his arms around her as she tried to sit up. She slumped against him, her eyes focused somewhere he would never be able to see.

“And the knives crumble to dust,” she whispered.

Suddenly, even the shouting began to calm. Nobody could see men stepping from their hiding places, looking down at their empty hands, their faces confused.

Rail Blade went limp, her face falling against his shoulder. “It’s over,” she said, quietly. “That’s all I have. It’s over.”

He stroked her hair. “You did fine,” he whispered. “You stopped it. You just stopped the Apocalypse.”

“Wow, Sis,” said the Thrill. “You kicked butt.”

One by one, the confused men in the streets looked at one another, bewildered. Then, with growls, they lunged at each other, fists flying. They lifted paving stones and hurled them with angry curses.

“No,” whispered Rail Blade. “No.”

“Don’t sweat it,” said Nobody. “They can only do so much damage. You’ve stopped the killing.”

“I haven’t stopped the hate,” said Rail Blade, pushing him away. She rose on wobbling legs. “I’m too tired now. I could slap everyone in handcuffs, I guess, but I’m beaten. I don’t care anymore. Let them kill themselves. I’ve done all I can.”

Nobody nodded.

“Don’t beat yourself up,” said the Thrill. “What you did was amazing. You did good.”

Rail Blade’s shoulders drooped. “I’m so tired.”

Nobody looked at the fighting in the streets. In a way, it was comical—the flabby, middle-aged men kicking and cursing, slapping each other like children on a playground.

From the crowd of men, an actual child appeared. He looked to be about ten years old. His features were dark, his eyes red, as if he had been crying. He wore torn, tattered, dirty clothing, and he walked slowly toward them, his eyes focused on the two colorfully garbed women.

Nobody started to point the boy out to Rail Blade, to let her see that her work had possibly saved this boy’s life. Perhaps that would make her feel better. But something about the boy’s eyes made him think differently. They were too hard, too full of hate. The madness that had infected the adults also seemed to be gripping him, though he was too small and powerless for his anger to find any outlet.

He kept walking, until he was only a few yards away. He reached into his coat and pulled out a hand grenade.

Nobody’s mouth dropped open as the boy pulled the pin.


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Beneath the Surface

JenniferStGilesby Jennifer St. Giles

What lies beyond our ability to see and touch? Have you visited a spirit laden battleground? Have you sensed the ghosts in a haunted house? Have you seen an aura of goodness glowing around a person or a place? Have you felt the chill of evil in the air?

If you can answer yes or even a maybe to those questions. Or if you’ve had a different experience with the beyond-our-world mysterious, please share with me here. Whenever I am writing in my Shadowmen Series, paranormal romantic thrillers, I get to dive beneath the surface of life and let my imagination go free. I can explore things we miss in the world around us because of our limited knowledge or narrow perspectives.

In my Shadowmen world, I can explain spontaneous combustion. I can give reason to the violent forces of nature like tornados and hurricanes. I can delve into the different ways the battle between good and evil might play out in heaven and on the earth. I can create my own lore behind warring factions of werewolves and vampires. I can enter the realms of heaven and the depraved recesses of hell. But more than all of these things, I can create a new story about the redeeming power of love—the greatest gift to be given or received.

I love writing and the magic that story brings into people’s lives. I love the connection that story brings to all of humanity. Another aspect of life that lies beneath its surface is the untold story of each person’s life. My grandparents and great-grandparents have passed and never wrote the story of their lives down in any sort of journal or other communication. Their amazing stories departed this world when they did. I will never know the depths of their hearts and the truths of their journeys. Those will forever remain below the surface of life, lost in time. So I always encourage people to write for themselves and for their loved ones. Share your story in life because you matter. No, I am not suggesting every person become a writer. I will explain why in the next paragraph. I am suggesting that every person shouldn’t be afraid to put their own hearts and thoughts and experiences on a page where those treasures can be found and not lost.

touch a dark wolf jenniferstgilesWriting, the creation of story that drives a book or inspires a movie is a solitary, painstaking task. We pull words from our hearts and we figuratively bleed on the page for months at a time to write a book. Not necessarily for any real monetary gain. Very few writers achieve financial success with their efforts. Because even in this digital age where the cost of a book can be relatively low, most people will spend more for a cup of coffee than a book. Writers write because they are compelled to create story. And our reward is learning our story touched another person’s heart, for therein is the true measure of success. So share your appreciation by letting your favorite authors know if they’ve touched you. Give a shout out to their hard work in a review. And if their story wasn’t your cup of tea, then be kind.

Touch a Dark Wolf, book one of the Shadowmen Series, is a quick plunge into a unique world that lies beneath the surface of our own world today. I begin my take on how vampires, werewolves, and otherworldly beings might exist and what role they could play in the battle between good and evil. So even if creatures of lore aren’t your thing and the label of romance makes you shake your head—I won’t tell you that almost every story ever told is a romance at heart—I encourage you to delve beneath the surface of the story and connect to the truths that play out in the series.

Don’t forget to share your beneath the surface experience here.

Happy reading
Jennifer St. Giles/ Jennifer Saints/ JL Saint
Reach me at or on twitter @jenniferstgiles

Link to excerpt.

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Q&A with Jean Marie Ward

JMWard-WRW150What is the title of your newest book or short story? What’s it about? Where can readers find it?

My next release will be “The Clockwork Nightingale” in the Steampunk fairy tale anthology Gaslight and Grimm, coming from eSpec Books in May 2016. It’s currently available for pre-order at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and your local bookseller. Starting at Balticon, which will be held in Baltimore over the Memorial Day weekend, you’ll also be able to buy it directly from eSpec Books at selected SF/fantasy cons.

How did you choose to become a writer?

It happened so early, I’m not sure it was a conscious choice. Part of it was my parents’ love of reading and the scope of things they read me at bedtime—everything from army regulations to Greek mythology to Shakespeare. Part of it was certainly my dad’s unrealized literary ambitions. He was a born storyteller, but he never got the chance to write professionally. In any event, I started inventing my own fairy tales before I hit kindergarten. I wrote a play about the theft of Thor’s hammer in fourth grade. Then I discovered Brenda Starr in the newspaper and Lois Lane in the comics, and my fate was sealed.

What’s your favorite part of writing a new book or story?

Seeing all the parts of a shiny new story come to life in my head.

What do you like the least?

Trying to get all that shiny on the page. Somehow, it never reads the same as they did in my head. In addition, as I’m slogging my way toward “The End”, I always reach a point where I’m sure my current effort is the worst story ever written. It’s so bad, somebody’s going to sneak into my house in the middle of the night and take away my writer card. And maybe my cat.

They haven’t succeeded yet, but I suspect it’s only because the cat hides from strangers.

What inspired your new book or story?

Equal parts desire and desperation. I knew I wanted to write a story for Gaslight and Grimm from the moment I heard about it. Unfortunately, my first choice for a story had already been taken…and my second…and my third. Then co-editor Danielle Ackley-McPhail said she was open to classic fairy tales from other sources, at which point my wayward brain proposed setting Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Nightingale” in a frontier saloon, complete with bare-knuckle bullies, love-struck engineers and a singer with a diamond heart. Somewhere along the way a little Casablanca crept in there, too. I’m still not sure how that happened.

How do you research your stories?

Like a sponge—no kidding! Once I have a vague idea of the story I want to write, I’ll grab everything that looks fun or useful from the internet, my local library, TV, radio, the movies, my bookshelves and local color. I take notes and photos, assemble electronic and hard copy files. I’ll even draw maps. Then I’ll start writing, discover I’ve missed something, and back to the books and Internet I’ll go. I won’t say research is the best part of writing, but sometimes it comes close.

Where can readers find you on social media?
Twitter: @Jean_Marie_Ward

Jean Marie Ward writes fiction, nonfiction and everything in between, including novels (2008 Indie Book double-finalist With Nine You Get Vanyr) and art books. Her stories appear in numerous anthologies, such as The Modern Fae’s Guide to Surviving Humanity, The Clockwork Universe: Steampunk vs. Aliens, and Tales from the Vatican Vaults. The former editor of Crescent Blues, she co-edited the six-volume, 40th anniversary World Fantasy Con anthology Unconventional Fantasy and is a frequent contributor to Her website is

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Making a Connection to Fairy Tales via Steampunk

Steampunk-Dave-2-150by David Lee Summers

Grimm’s Fairy Tales were among the first stories I remember hearing.  My grandmother read me such stories as “Hansel and Gretel,” “The Elves and the Shoemaker,” and “Rumpelstiltskin.”  Among the first movies I saw were Disney’s Snow White and Cinderella.  Of course, I can’t forget The Bullwinkle Show whose “Fractured Fairy Tale” segments featured delightfully twisted versions of “The Fisherman and his Wife” and “Rapunzel.”  The problem is, timeless as these tales were, I always felt separated from them by the gulf of time and space.  I grew up in a land with no kings or princesses, much less enchanted fish or cobbler elves.

Fairy tales have a long history. When first told, the people hearing them could relate to the pastoral settings.  Relatives might know characters like those in the stories.  “A long time ago, in a land far away” is a phrase invented to connect those of us who don’t have those experiences back to that distant time.  However, the original audience of fairy tales didn’t need that link.  For all they knew, the time was only a generation or two ago and the land of the story could be just over the hill.  The stories were meant to be relevant to the audience.

My paternal grandfather was a World War I veteran. I inherited the pith helmet he wore in the service.  After the war, he went to work for the railroad during the last years of the steam era.  My maternal grandparents homesteaded in Northeastern New Mexico. They worked on ranches and in a general store, living in the real Wild West.  I spent time on that land as a kid and I’ve ridden on trains pulled by steam engines through the mountains of Northern New Mexico and Southern Colorado.  The steam era is not my era, but I feel personally connected to it.

Steampunk is a genre that looks at the not-so-distant past through a magical lens.  Some authors invoke literal magic while others imagine technology taken to such an extreme it becomes magical in its own right.  Either way, it’s easy for me to imagine those steampunk worlds as ones that existed just over the hill from the places my grandparents experienced and shared with me through their stories.  My Clockwork Legion steampunk series which begins in the novel Owl Dance and continues in Lightning Wolves is set in a west inspired by the west my grandparents homesteaded.

G&GRed-Gold Leaf-150When Danielle Ackley-McPhail asked me to pitch a story for the collection Gaslight and Grimm, one of the stories I suggested was a steampunked retelling of the Grimm Fairy Tale, “The Dragon and his Grandmother.”  It was the story of soldiers escaping a terrible war through the aid of a duplicitous dragon. I easily imagined soldiers in pith helmets like my grandfather used to wear.  A huge dragon belching smoke and fire, reminded me of a powerful locomotive and I had a flash of a mechanical monster that could have been.

Steampunking a fairy tale might not bring it completely up to date, but it brings it up to my grandparents’ generation.  I can imagine the stories in Gaslight and Grimm taking place in a world parallel to the one they inhabited.  As a result, those stories give me another connection to my grandmother and allow me to smile again as I remember her telling me those stories.  I honor her memory by continuing the tradition and telling you stories.  I hope you’ll drop by my website at and learn more about the stories I tell.


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