Tag Archives: Tina R. McSwan

Twitter Novels

Crymsyn Hart

This past weekend a friend and I were sipping coffee at our local Books A Million café. She pulled out her cell phone which is the same kind I have and asked me how I liked it. I glanced at the new EVO I’ve had and sighed. It’s a win loose battle for me. I love my Blackberry because I can write on it. The new phone being touch screen and me texting rather fast it’s a disaster. But I need the phone for other reasons for my day job. Of course my Blackberry is still nicely tucked away and I use it when I’m out and about. After the phone debacle, she suggested that I should try writing twitternovels. I’ve heard about them. A whole story in an update of 140 characters, I don’t possibly see how anyone could write a novel on twitter, but with further investigation I see there are lots.

While it’s an intriguing idea, and my friend is working at it, I’m not sure about it. Short it hard for me. I would think that 140 characters is near impossible to set the mood, conversation, tone, and have people follow it. But then again Stephen King has done it. Many others have done it. I’m sure it’s the new form of writing. It’s great to think that you can be anywhere and be writing. Walking down the street or hanging on the subway. Not tied to the desk.

What do you think? Is this a new trend that going to stick around? Anyone follow the them? What do you think that makes them good?

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


by Michael A. Ventrella


Jeremy Wembley grabbed the broom by the handle.  He took forceful steps toward the back of the room where Patrick stood unaware.   Patrick paid no notice as Jeremy shortened the distance between them, and seemed completely oblivious to Jeremy’s presence.

Jeremy raised the broom just as Patrick turned around.

“I’ll sweep the stockroom now, Mr. Brenner,” he said.

Jeremy knew that if he continued to impress his boss, it would not be long before he could get that promotion—and soon after, get the real reward he desired:  night manager of the Fredricksburg 7-11 on West Norton Avenue.

Unless his arch-nemesis, that kiss-up Eric Stoher got there first…

All the elements are there.  There is a goal the main character wishes to reach, and an obstacle that can prevent him.  There is character development and conflict.

But, you know, who gives a flying you-know-what?

The fact of the matter is that we want to read stories about people and events that are larger than life.  We want to read about heroes to do great things, make clever comments, overcome great odds.

This is nothing new.  The ancient Greeks didn’t do plays about the guy who cleaned the stables.

And I am no exception.  My books have been about wars and world-shaping events and the heroes whose presence made a difference.

However, at the same time, I have consciously avoided the standard hero that is a mainstay of much of fiction (and especially fantasy).   You know the type – the Chosen One from Prophecy who is the seventh son of the seventh son who is the only one who can wield the magic sword Noonah because he has surplus midichlorians and blah blah blah.   Maybe this hero starts off the book as a nobody, but he or she ends up as the World’s Greatest Swordsman or Most Powerful Wizard by the end and thus, being superior to us lowly humans, saves the day.

In my two published novels (ARCH ENEMIES and THE AXES OF EVIL) and in a short story in the soon-to-be-released anthology TALES OF FORTANNIS:  A BARD’S EYE VIEW, my main character is a teenager named Terin.   His problem is that, thanks to a mistake, everyone thinks he’s the Chosen One Who Can Save The Day.

By the end of ARCH ENEMIES, Terin is still running when a fight breaks out and still can barely cast a minor spell.  So what makes him the hero?

To me, what makes a real hero is someone who doesn’t have all those skills and yet, through bravery and intelligence, rises above what is expected and does the extraordinary.   Terin is the hero because he figures out a solution – he finds a way to solve the problem that is more than merely “hitting the bad guy with the weapon until he falls down.”

I like these kinds of heroes because they remind us that we all can be heroes sometimes.

Oh, I don’t mean to knock down the more traditional heroes:  I love Batman and Luke Skywalker as much as the next fan.  But when I create a hero for my stories, they tend to be average people put into extraordinary circumstances who must then find something special within themselves to make things right.

In the sequel THE AXES OF EVIL, people are now thoroughly convinced that Terin has wondrous powers, even though he doesn’t.  Now he’s confronted with a trio of barbarian prophecies which, he later discovers, contradict each other.  On top of this, his liege wants him to get all the barbarians off his land, and a bunch of silly goblins think Terin’s the one who will lead them to victory over the evil humans who oppress them.

These are problems that cannot be resolved by being the biggest fighter.  Terin solves them all by the end of the book through his cleverness and resourcefulness, and by being brave and willing to risk it all.

That, to me, is very admirable.  It’s what I admire about my real life heroes (Benjamin Franklin and Martin Luther King, to name two).   And it’s the kind of hero I like writing about, because I can identify with him and understand his fears and worries.




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Molly and Jane Revisited

by Faith Hunter


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

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

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

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

Evan: (grumbles through his mike).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Molly: And what made this job so dangerous?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Molly: Anyone you want to tell us about?

Jane: No. No way.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jane: (sounding snarky) Crowded.

Molly: Come on Jane. Give me something here.

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

Molly: How about eating?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

by James Maxey

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A Writer Remembers

by Pam Cable

Swarms of finches, wrens, and other tiny birds peck and hunt for food at feeders that hang outside my kitchen window. Even when I forget to fill the feeders, the birds arrive each morning, hoping to discover their next meal. These tiny birds never give up. They are constant, vigilant, driven. Despite the odds and possible dangers, the birds return every day.

Writers are like tiny birds. We beat our heads against one roadblock after another, writing against enormous odds, hoping and believing our next book will land in the laps of readers and on bestseller lists across the country. But even after decades into our career, we discover we must sometimes recall what made us write in the first place and the courage it took.

My granddaddy was a coal miner, but my father escaped the mines, went to college and moved his family to Ohio to work for the rubber companies. I spent every weekend as a child, traveling back to the West Virginia Mountains. My memories of my childhood run as deep as the Appalachian creeks and swimming holes I swam in as a child. My career as a writer was born in the dust laden coal towns of the early 60s.

For me, it is within sanctuaries of brick and mortar, places of clapboard and revival tents transcending time and space, that characters hang ripe and ready for picking.

From the primitive church services of mountain clans to the baptisms and sacraments of robed priests in great cathedrals and monasteries. From hardworking men and women who testify in the run-down churches of coal camps to the charismatic high-dollar high-tech evangelicals in televised mega-churches of today. Therein lie stories of unspeakable conflict, the forbidden, and often, the unexplained.

As a writer, it is my desire to transport a reader’s mind—but my deepest passion is to pierce a reader’s heart. The topic of faith, for me, has a way of doing that like nothing else.

My mother says I cut my teeth on the back of a church pew. I grew up in revival tents, tabernacles, and eventually in grand cathedrals with TV cameras rolling. In the early days, revivals were as exciting as the carnival coming to town and evangelists were royalty. I experienced a world from the sublime to the bizarre. It caused me to weave religion, spirituality, and the mysterious into my stories. Stories that hint to an ancient bridge where the real and the supernatural meet.

Many of my stories are based on truth, shreds of truth, people I’ve known, places I’ve been, and of course history plays a great part in some stories, like Coal Dust On My Feet; a love story set amidst the longest and most violent coal strike in the history of our country. It is truth and fiction.

Mother was a skilled storyteller without knowing it. All I wanted to do when I grew up was duplicate her life. I loved her southern accent and heritage and I felt neither imprisoned nor put off by it. But the most precious gift she gave me was a love for the written world, be it the word of God or of Mother Goose. Mom was my inspiration, and one day I picked up a pencil in the sixth grade and wrote my first story. I haven’t stopped since. The next forty years played into my storytelling, and after surviving life’s heartaches and hardships, it gave me plenty to write about.

A writer’s life is a solitary life. We hope we possess raw talent, unique originality, and gut emotional appeal. We raise the stakes on each and every page and hope, and pray, and believe that some day we’re blessed a bit of luck.

Is it worth the struggle? You bet it is. All you need, is the courage of a tiny bird.

Remember when you tackled that first story, essay, article, poem? That was courage. Courage is not confidence, nor the opposite of meekness. It’s feeling a measure of confidence, and then acting on those feelings. It’s a quality of spirit that enables you to face the moment, whatever comes, and keep going.

Courage allows you to see, hear, smell, and taste things as they really are. Courage makes you face facts, unfiltered by rosy daydreams. Courage frees you to be creative. It pushes you to prepare for the unknown without obsessing over it. To be open to what may come.

A writer can’t be open to new ideas if dazed and confused by fear. Courage enables you to be prepared and wide awake in every situation.

There were times in my youth I didn’t write because I was afraid of failing. I didn’t prepare for success because I was afraid it might happen. I didn’t look, really look, into my past because I was afraid of what I might find. As I grow older, I don’t give myself those options. Not anymore.

Fear is passive-aggressive. It’s the lazy writer’s excuse for not moving forward. It’s a great immobilizer, an avoidance technique. Fear puts the focus on what we might encounter, distracts us from what’s actually there. Courage empowers a writer to pay attention.

In the end, a writer can do without a lot of things. Remembering your journey is not one of them. Courage is the other.


Pam was born a Coal Miner’s granddaughter, and claims a tribe of wild Pentecostals and storytellers raised her. Her award-winning stories, articles, and essays have appeared in magazines, anthologies, and newspapers in several states. Pam’s passion and inspiration on overcoming life’s insurmountable obstacles is evident when she speaks and within the pages of her collection of short stories, Southern Fried Women, which was a finalist in Fiction and Literature-Short Story, Best Books of 2006 Book Awards, USABookNews.com, and a finalist for ForeWard Magazine’s Book of the Year 2006.

Pam has appeared on TV, Radio, and has been a keynote or guest speaker at regional and national writing groups, Rotary Clubs, Kiwanis, Women’s Centers, Junior Leagues, and many churches throughout the South. Also, in 2006 Pam was invited by the First Lady of West Virginia and the First Lady of Mississippi to speak to the people of Charleston and Jackson.

A week prior to this blog submission, she signed with a New York Literary Agent for her new novel, THE SANCTUM. Neeley McPherson accidentally killed her parents on her fifth birthday. Thrown into the care of her scheming and alcoholic grandfather, she is raised by his elderly farmhand, Gideon, a black man, whom she grows to love. Neeley turns thirteen during the winter of 1959, and when Gideon is accused of stealing a watch and using a Whites Only restroom, she determines to break him out of jail.

The infamous Catfish Cole, Ku Klux Klan Grand Dragon of the Carolinas, pursues Neeley and Gideon in their courageous escape to the frozen Blue Ridge Mountains. After Gideon’s truck hits ice and careens down a steep slope, they travel on foot through a blizzard, and arrive at a farm of sorts—a wolf sanctuary where Neeley crosses the bridge between the real and the supernatural. It is here she discovers her grandfather’s deception, confronts the Klan, and uncovers the shocking secrets of the Cherokee family who befriends her. Giving sanctuary, the healing power of second chances, and overcoming prejudice entwine, leading Neeley to tragedy once again but also granting her the desire of her heart.

THE SANCTUM is about the divine meaning of family. It is a coming-of-age Southern tale dusted with a bit of magic, and set in a volatile time in America when the winds of change begin to blow.

You can listen to the audio from when Pam was a guest of Blog Host, Gail Z. Martin’s Ghost in the Machine podcast here:  https://www.audioacrobat.com/play/WVLZM3ds

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Author Spotlight: Michael A. Ventrella, Author–Not That Guy On The World’s Biggest Loser (Part 1)

by Tracey Morris (originally published at: https://writertracy.livejournal.com/197182.html)

Author Michael A. Ventrella used to think he had an unusual name. Then a man named Michael Ventrella won a reality TV show contest entitled The World’s Biggest Loser. Now, when people see his books, they often ask if he is that Michael Ventrella.

“Such is the price of fame,” Michael said.  But unlike his reality show namesake, Michael would like to be known as the author of the novels Arch Enemies and it’s sequel Axes of Evil, which are produced by Double Dragon Press.

The cover blurb for Axes of Evil reads:

One barbarian prophecy says the legendary hero Bishortu will unite the three warring tribes. Another tribe has a prophecy that directly contradicts this, and they want Bishortu dead. And a third tribe, which may or may not be comprised of werewolves, refuses to let anyone know what their prophecy says. Meanwhile, the Duke on whose land the barbarians sit wants them all gone.

In the middle of all of this is squire Terin Ostler, who has been mistakenly identified as the great Bishortu. Under the Duke’s orders to get rid of the barbarians, he heads to their lands without the slightest idea of what to do.

Along the way, he has to avoid crazed assassins, possessed werewolves, lovesick barbarian princesses, and confused goblins while attempting to figure out the meaning of the magical and mysterious Wretched Axes. Nobody said being a hero would be easy.

Michael said that he has been pleased with the favorable reviews that fellow authors have given to the book.

Jonathan Maberry says “THE AXES OF EVIL” is a taut nail-biter of a thriller.  Edgy, funny and dark.” Gregory Frost writes “Here Michael A. Ventrella takes up the mantle of Christopher Stasheff.  Terin’s exploits are as entertaining as those of Rod Gallowglass, and fans of THE WARLOCK IN SPITE OF HIMSELF will hugely enjoy THE AXES OF EVIL.” And Gail Z. Martin says“Humor, danger and a twisted tangle of unlikely prophecies make for a page-turning adventure.”

I recently had the chance to interview Michael via E-mail. What follows is the text of that interview.

Firstly, let us know how we can find you?

Look for the short guy with glasses and the coat covered in cat hair.

Do you have a website, twitter, facebook fan page, etc?

My web page is MichaelAVentrella.com.  It helps to have an unusual name, I thought, because I was able to grab the URL.  Now if you search my name you often find it associated with “world’s biggest loser.”

I’m  Mike Ventrella on Twitter (damn character limit), and Michael A. Ventrella on Facebook, GoodreadsBook Tour, and something called My Space.

I also have a blog where I discuss writing and interview published authors, editors, and agents.

I’m not that hard to find!

What is about to come out?

My strange Uncle Rupert.  And it’s about time, too.

I have a few projects in the fire.  First is a short story about pirates and magic (Arrr!) which will be a  sequel to “X Spots the Mark” from the collection RUM AND RUNESTONES.  This new story is called “Get Kraken!”

Second is a collection of short stories that I am editing which take place in the world of my two novels.  I have a number of excellent writers contributing, and I’m very excited about it.  (I have a story in it as well, which continues the adventures of the main characters from my books).  The collection will be called A BARD’S EYE VIEW and is due out early 2011.

Third is my new novel, which is about a vampire who runs for President.  It’s the West Wing meets the bat wing!

Any upcoming appearances we should know about?

I’ll be at various science fiction conventions here on the right coast;  you’ll find me as a guest at Philcon, Arisia, Lunacon, Albacon, and Ravencon every year, and sometimes others depending on my time.  There’s a schedule on my web page.

Tell us about you as a writer.

I like fun adventure stories with humor and danger.  I make no bones about being a writer of escapist literature.  All of my work tends to have unexpected plot twists, and I love hearing back from readers who say they were surprised!

I also hate clichés. I want people to act like they really would.  My characters argue, make mistakes, and don’t always do the right thing.

More importantly, they are not superheroes.  They’re just regular folk who have found themselves in an adventure.

Many fantasy novels, for instance, involve “the chosen one” who has powers no one else has.  By using The Force or the family’s Magic Sword of Noonah, they can save the day.  I don’t like those kinds of stories.  When Superman wins the day, it’s kind of expected, isn’t it?  To me, real heroes are everyday people who rise above their circumstances and solve the problems themselves.

ARCH ENEMIES and THE AXES OF EVIL involve a boy named Terin who is not the “chosen one” – the problem is that everyone thinks he is!  So they grab him and tell him he must save the day according to the prophecy.  He gets pulled into the adventure having no great skills or super powers and is in way over his head.  He ultimately is successful by being clever and brave, and to me, that’s more heroic than seeing the hero simply hit the bad guy with the sword until he dies.

Tell me a little bit about you as a person.

Back in the 1980s, I started a magazine about film animation called ANIMATO, and I’m still fairly well known as an animation historian.  I’ve been quoted in books and magazines such as ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY.

In the 90s, I founded the first nationwide fantasy medieval role-playing group (LARP) and now run The Alliance LARP, which has chapters all over the US and Canada.  My Rule Books and Players Guides can be found in gaming stores and on Amazon and places like that.

I’m a criminal defense attorney in my spare time.

Do you have any pets?

I wouldn’t be a proper fantasy author if I didn’t have cats, now, would I?  Four at the present:  Abigail, Einstein, Tess, and McGonigal.

Have they ever found their way into your work?

They’re like my editors.  If I leave a manuscript lying around, they rip it to shreds.  And I mean that literally.

What do you do to spark your creativity?

Well, it’s more of a matter of dealing with the spark.  It’s always there.  Writing, however, is work, and really there’s no other way around it than to sit at the computer, move McGonigal out of the way, and write.

Any advice out there for people who want to get started writing?

Lots, and that’s what my blog is all about.  Please visit!

The most important is to just keep writing, and finish what you start.  I talk to lots of people who want to be writers and so many of them have half-finished works.  Don’t polish what you have, finish it first!  No editor is willing to look at a half-finished book no matter how great it is.

What are your favorite books to read?  What are you currently reading?

I like the same thing I’m writing, of course.  I’m a big fan of the Harry Potter books, and mine have been favorably compared.  But I also read a lot of biographies, political books and history – and lots of magazines.  My bachelor’s is in Political Science so I have never lost an interest in it.

I wish I just had more time to read!  Between writing books and short stories, running a law office, and heading up a national LARP organization, I’m surprised I get any sleep at —  zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

You can listen to the audio from when Michael was a guest of Blog Host, Gail Z. Martin’s Ghost in the Machine podcast here:  https://www.audioacrobat.com/play/WW8gCj6X

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Magical Words

by David Coe

The writers of the Magical Words blogsite (https://magicalwords.net) — David B. Coe, Faith Hunter, Misty Massey, C.E. Murphy, A.J. Hartley, and Stuart Jaffe — are pleased to announce the release of the first Magical Words book!

For those of you who aren’t familiar with Magical Words (and why aren’t you?!) it is a site devoted to essays on the craft and business of writing. For three years, the authors of MW have written on a wide range of topics, from refining authorial voice to worldbuilding, from finding an agent to making sense of publishing contracts.

Now, with the release of How to Write Magical Words: A Writer’s Companion, the Magical Words crew have produced what bestselling author Orson Scott Card calls “the best idea for a writing book that I’ve ever seen . . . an extended conversation with writers who know what they’re talking about.” This is a compendium of some of the best posts from the Magical Words site — nearly a hundred in all — accompanied by questions and comments from the blog’s readers and responses from the authors.

How to Write Magical Words is published by Bella Rosa Books, and can now be ordered online at https://bellarosabooks.com/Magical_Words-pre-order.htm.

You can listen to the audio from when David was a guest of Blog Host, Gail Z. Martin’s Ghost in the Machine podcast here:  https://www.audioacrobat.com/play/WXxbV5b4

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Value of Anthologies

by Danielle Ackley-McPhail

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

You can listen to the audio from when Danielle was a guest of Blog Host, Gail Z. Martin’s Ghost in the Machine podcast here:  https://www.audioacrobat.com/play/WZW7hSbx

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A Great Project

by Chris Jackson

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

Wow… this should be fun!

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

You can listen to the audio from when Chris was a guest of Blog Host, Gail Z. Martin’s Ghost in the Machine podcast here:  https://www.audioacrobat.com/play/WBhdhY3s

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Freebie Friday

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


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