Tag Archives: Tina R. McSwan

Glamorous Life

by Lori Handeland

I used to go to work wearing make up, with my hair “done,” wearing skirts, hose, heels.  I had manicured nails.  Those days are done, and truthfully I don’t mind.  But I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had people upon hearing what I do comment,  “What a glamorous life!” after which they usually ask my husband why he’s still working for a living.

My day always begins at 5:30 am when I roll out of my canopied princess bed, complete with filmy harem curtains—ahem—I mean my king sized bed, of which I sleep on about ¼ because my husband and his dog hog the rest, and hit the shower.  In my mansion there is only one shower and if I don’t get it before the teenagers, forget about hot water.

For the next hour I masquerade as an alarm clock, routing teenage boys from their rooms, pounding on the bathroom door so the next guy can get his turn, feed, clothe, find lost homework, books, wallets and cell phones.  By 6:45 I shove them out the door and say, Whew!  The mansion is mine until 3 pm—in theory.

Since I am the queen of my castle, I do not wear make up; I do not do my hair.  For work I wear flannel pajama bottoms and sweatshirts, no shoes, just slippers.  It is heaven.

Until the doorbell rings and the Fed Ex man asks if I’m home sick.  Is that a comment on my appearance or just that I appeared?

Next I grab my coffee and sit at my computer to read over what I wrote yesterday on my latest work in progress.  I make some headway before my husband returns and sets up shop at the kitchen table.  His phone rings, the fax machine buzzes, the doorbell blares and his employees tramp in and out dropping off time cards and picking up materials.  I slam the door to my throne room and put in my ear plugs.

I return to the world of the Nightcreatures where kick ass heroines fight deadly monsters and survive.  Someone taps me on the shoulder and I shriek.  Luckily I can’t hear the shriek because of the earplugs.

My husband has just taken the new puppy for a walk.  He hands me the adorable ball of fluff.  As soon as I’ve enfolded him in my arms hubby says, “He rolled in poop.  Gotta go.”

Puppy and I take a shower.

Since I’ve been torn out of my imaginary world for the time being, I run to the drycleaners figuring no one will be there in the middle of the day.  The clerk says, “I’ll be right with you, Mrs. Handeland.”  The customer in front of me turns, looks me up and down and with a wrinkled nose says, “You’re the writer.”

Uh, no.  That would be another Mrs. Handeland.

When I get home, it’s time for lunch.  But the cupboard is bare.  The servants are really slacking off.  I partake of the last few grapes in the bag and some cheese.  That should get me through until the chef makes dinner.

The cover for my next book arrives via e-mail attachment.  “How do you like it?” my editor asks.  I stare at the beach scene they’ve put on my jungle book and wonder if I got someone else’s cover.  I point out that there is no beach in this book.  “Can you put one in?” my editor asks.  I spend an hour creating a dream sequence for my heroine, complete with a walk on the beach.  By the time I’m done, they’ve changed the cover to a jungle.  But they like the beach scene so much, they leave it in.  I can’t decide if that’s good or bad.

I manage a few more pages in the Nightcreature world before my younger son calls to be picked up from school.  I drive there in my work clothes, then spend the return ride hunched over like a crone wishing I had long hair to cover my face since my darling son neglected to mention I was also giving 6 of his friends a ride.   “Dude, is your mom sick?” one of them asks.  “No,” he answers, “she always looks like that when she’s writing.”

Like what?  I think, but I know better than to ask.

At home, the chef has not shown up.  The servants have not returned from the grocery store and the dusting fairies haven’t arrived yet either.  I mix a casserole with noodles and whatever is left in the house—noodles will cover a multitude of sins around here–then return to Nightcreature land where my heroine never has to make dinner, run errands or pick up a truckload of teenagers.  Her puppy doesn’t poop (because she has no puppy, although werewolves are another story) and if someone recognizes her when she’s out and about it’s usually to say “thank you for saving my life” unless of course, that person, or creature, has been sent to kill her.

Come to think of it, even with the puppy poo, I like my life so much better.  I get to visit other worlds every single day, and in my imagination I can be anyone and still return to my glamorous life whenever I want.

So tell me, what’s the biggest daily interruption to your glamorous life and how do you cope?

For more information on my paranormal romance series, The Nightcreature Novels go to:


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

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Freebie Friday – Janny Wurts

Guest blogger, Janny Wurts, shares an excerpt of her latest book:


Readings from her books can be found here:


For folks unfamiliar with her work, To Ride Hell’s Chasm is a standalone fantasy with a plot that wraps up in four and a half days. It is available in print and e format.

An excerpt can be found at:


A readng from the book can be found at:


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by Janny Wurts

In celebration of the delightful thrill of seeing my Cycle of Fire trilogy released in audio format, the moment seems ripe to share some of the helpful particulars of my experience – which, with a bow to my editor at Audible in London, was lovely all along the way.

Calmed down from the giddy dance, just after signing the contract, my overloaded brain realized: wow, for a  fantasy story, no question, the right reader will be essential. If the listener doesn’t follow the magic – they’ll become horribly lost. First thing, I wrote to my audio editor and asked how the narrators were chosen. The correct term, from their side, was ‘casting the narrator’ –  but, would I have any input?

I was invited to submit a suggestion list: which narrators were my favorites? That stumped me. I am writing all day, not listening to books – how could I choose among the constellation of talent, heretofore outside my bailiwick?

First, I asked everyone who liked audio books who they loved to listen to. I lurked audio forums and took down favorite narrators. I asked a prominent internet reviewer at https://fantasyliterature.com (a review site I respect) who was on the hot list of their favorites. This gave me a list of 20. A subsequent search of audio sites’ ‘sample’ clips from the computer allowed me hear them.

Two stood out, with the qualities I felt suited the story. I reported those names back – and was told one was booked, and the other did not work for Audible. However, I was assured, this bit of homework mattered. And in fact, it did! The talent that Audible cast, David Thorpe, was so close to the mark, I was ecstatic.

Second, I fretted over all the strange names and places I had put in the book. It’s one thing to spell them out in print, but how might a narrator pronounce them in recording? After the first gulp of panic, I grabbed the books, paged them through, and  wrote down every single made up name in the trilogy. The table function in my word-processor let me compile them into a neat, alpabetical list. Then I flipped on the MAC laptop and (thank gosh for podcasters who taught me the works) fired up GarageBand, which let me record a very clear audio file.

As an aside, I’d used this software, before. A simple mixer and mike makes it easy to create reading teasers in MP3 format for free download. The idea that readers can sample a book on their morning commute is a no brainer, to widen exposure.

I sent the text file and the little audio file of my recorded pronunciations over to Audible in London and suggested it might be helpful.

The result has me transported – not only does the narrator’s gifted voice suit the story, but every single strange word carried the nuance and inflections I had envisioned.

Once the books were released in audio, it was evident that listeners needed a map, and more, a print glossary helped the reviewers get the names spelled right. So an area on my website now holds these resources to complete the listening experience.

Here are the links to each of the books. Sample clips on the page will demonstrate the result.



My sincere thanks to David Thorpe and the production staff at Audible in London for a superb job!

You can listen to the audio from when Janny was a guest of Blog Host, Gail Z. Martin’s Ghost in the Machine podcast here:  https://www.audioacrobat.com/play/W6KBrnCk

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Freebie Friday – Michele Lang

Guest blogger, Michele Lang  shares a free story titled “The Walled Garden” — it’s a re-release of a story she wrote for the Mammoth Book of Time Travel Romance:


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Word Alchemy — Writing Historical Fantasy

by Michele Lang

Writers of historical fantasy face so many pitfalls.  We have to get our historical facts right, and capture the truth of a place we can never visit – the past.  We have to build a believable world that incorporates both the historical setting and the fantastical elements we interweave.  We must create convincing characters that embody both the historical milieu and their own peculiar magic — and most difficult of all, we must make this multilevel process look effortless or we lose our readers.

By trial and error, I’ve developed some moves designed to balance the historical and fantastical in my work:

*Escape the Research Bog:  I am a history freak who would gladly stay stuck in the research phase forever, but I have to stop research at some point to write.  Some people recommend you do all of your research up front; others say that you should search for information only after you’ve dug your characters into a deep hole.  Why not do both?  Get oriented, and when you think you know enough, follow your characters.  And when you come up short, dip back into research to get clues that will help you advance.

*Secondary Sources:  History is written or other documentary evidence of past events.  Secondary sources of evidence – scholarly historical works, essays, biographies – will give you the best overview of a particular historical period.  To get up to speed quickly, I suggest starting with middle grade or YA histories – they tend to present the facts in a straightforward way.

*Dig Deeper with Primary Sources:  Once you have a feel for the major events and geopolitical forces at play, you need to hunt out primary sources.  Diaries, newspaper articles, and letters will give you the voices of people who lived through the period.  Their biases and unspoken assumptions will tell you a lot more than a scholarly history, but remember that these individual voices are not objective.  It’s good to read a number of them, and see where they disagree.

Where to find good primary sources?  A well-researched history will list primary sources in its Bibliography; costume books and cook books can also give you some insights into the clothes and culinary delights of a place.

*Metabolize the Past:  To get a flavor of a place and time, go deeper still and listen to the music, wear the costumes, eat the food, smell the spices, drink the libations.  The Internet is a great place to find organizations devoted to exploring and recreating historical periods.  Obvious places to start are groups like the Society for Creative Anachronism. https://www.sca.org/

*Some Dangers and Opportunities:  Beware travel guides!  They are a good introduction, but guides are themselves a product of a particular place and time.  No location is static, and some places transform more completely and abruptly than others.

For example, I write about 1930s Budapest in my LADY LAZARUS series.  Budapest entered its Golden Age before World War I; by the end of World War II the gilded city was blasted into ruins.  When I first visited Budapest in the 1980s, the city was a muted gray, and the people never stopped moving.  During Budapest’s heyday, the city had a thriving café culture, where lawyers, photographers, moviemakers, and poets plied their trade, debated the politics of the day, and made loitering an art form.

And yet, details bring the soul of a setting to life.  At a bakery in the old city of Buda, I bought a hard, heart-shaped cookie with a mirror stuck into it, the stiff black icing spelling out “From My Heart” underneath the mirror in Hungarian.  I still remember the quail eggs floating like eyeballs in my soup, can almost taste the hot coffee served alongside pitchers of hot milk.

Travel can’t give you a city as it was decades or centuries ago; still, nothing is better for capturing ephemeral sensory details, the telling details that will sometimes give you the essence of a place.

*Magic in History:  My favorite part of writing historical fantasy is discovering the point of departure from the bare historical record — where the fantastical elements begin to grow organically from the place and time of your story.

Here’s another example from LADY LAZARUS.  In my preliminary research I learned that the Werewolves  https://www.answers.com/topic/werwolf-1 were partisan units trained by the SS to keep fighting after the war was lost in 1945.  In the world of LADY LAZARUS, these partisans are actual werewolves, and the Wolf’s Lair https://www.polandforall.com/wolfs-lair-hitlers-headquarters-gierloz.html , where Hitler commanded the Eastern Front, becomes the headquarters of the werewolves and their pack leader supreme.

A great historical fantasy illuminates the past by embellishing it with magic.  To achieve this balancing act and tell a compelling, believable story is a kind of magic in itself.

Here are some links for your own writer’s grimoire:

Article by Elizabeth Bear – “Achieving Freshness in Fantasy.”  How to put original spin on material that may have been mined by other writers before you. https://www.reflectionsedge.com/archives/dec2004/afif_eb.html

“Historical Research for Fiction Writers” by Catherine Lundoff.  A nice overview of historical research, with a list of internet resources at the end.


For inspiration, check out the website of the PBS series “History Detectives” – the show itself is fun to watch, and you might get story ideas from watching the investigators hunt down clues about the past.


You can listen to the audio from when Michele was a guest of Blog Host, Gail Z. Martin’s Ghost in the Machine podcast here:  https://www.audioacrobat.com/play/Wrc6sYjX

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Freebie Friday from Jennifer St. Giles

Guest blogger, Jennifer St. Giles, wants to share the first three chapters of Collateral Damage on her  website: https://jenniferstgiles.com/content/bookshelf/collateral-damage/#more-87

Or get a short excerpt at:

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Damn the Consequences! Full Speed Ahead!

by Jennifer St. Giles

That was Sergeant First Class Jack Hunter’s only viable option in Collateral Damage, the first book in my Silent Warrior Series.  These books are romantic thrillers featuring military heroes and heroines with extraordinary hearts.  Collateral Damage starts two weeks after Jack has been seriously wounded on a FUBAR mission in Lebanon.  Jack sees the picture of prominent American businessman, Bill Collins, on the news, who he swears he killed in Lebanon two weeks ago, but nobody believes him, especially since Collins reportedly died in Brazil just yesterday.  Leaving the hospital, Jack goes AWOL to uncover the truth.  Instead of answers, he gets assassins, more questions, and a terrorist plot that threatens to ignite a world war.  As Jack fights to keep Lauren Collins, Bill’s estranged widow and her twin sons alive, he lays more than his life on the line and stands to lose everything when the truth behind Bill’s death comes to light.

There is an interesting story behind Collateral Damage.  In early 2001, I read a magazine article about mining from asteroids in the near future and being the writer that I am, my mind whirled with “what if’ questions.  What if a new or highly concentrated element was discovered?  What if that element became the basis for a new super fuel?  What if someone or group of someone’s decided to use that new fuel to gain world-wide power?  What if?  What if?  What if?

I sat down and wrote the proposal for the story then.  I set the story ten years in the future and used the world’s dependency on oil and inflamed religious factions to bring about global chaos as the backdrop for the story.  I chose an extraordinary soldier for my hero and an ordinary mom for my heroine and threw them into the deep end of trouble where they uncover the truth, conquer the odds against them, and fall in love with the best and worst of each other.  I sent the proposal out to agents and editors.

Then 9/11 happened and no one wanted to touch the story.  Al-Qaeda and terrorists were issues too sensitive to use, especially for a romance writer.  I went on to become published in the historical and paranormal suspense markets and Collateral Damage sat in my file cabinet for nine years.  But the way the real world events kept playing out since 9/11, I couldn’t get the story out of my head.  I kept seeing how ripe the world was for this “what if scenario” and I finally decided in 2010 to write the book.

To make the story less sci-fi and more realistic, I went from a space mined fuel to an algae-based biofuel and I went from generic American businessmen to a ruthless environmentalist as the mastermind behind the plot.

My next problem was to bring the big world plot down to a personal level.  In the book, both Jack and Lauren, my every day hero and heroine, are affected by collateral damage from the choices other people in the story make.  They learn from each other that how they deal with the fallout is what determines the quality of their future.  In fact, I think that in one way or another everyone becomes a victim to collateral damage in their life.  What do you think?

This is my first military inspired thriller and my first e-book release.  I would love to hear from you on your opinion of the book and also the e-book format.

You can listen to the audio from when Jennifer was a guest of Blog Host, Gail Z. Martin’s Ghost in the Machine podcast here:  https://www.audioacrobat.com/play/WyZgXJ7k

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Freebie Friday – Tony Ruggiero

Our guest blogger, Tony Ruggiero, is kind enough to share some excerpts, audio and written, on his web page at: https://www.tonyruggiero.com/sampleaudiodatafiles.html

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Gimme That (Really) Olde Tyme Religion

by Gail Z. Martin

Last week I mentioned that it was nice to see the swell of books dealing with parapsychological abilities (clairvoyance, psychics, etc.).  Another trend I find exciting is the more nuanced way authors are presenting Wicca, Magick and Paganism.

There’s been  a definite evolution in the way the Craft is described, and the care taken to differentiate Wicca and White Witchcraft and Magick from the negative stereotypes.  I’m pleased to see that the Craft is presented in a positive, balanced way that clearly differentiates it from the bad spin haters have given it over the centuries.

With the growth in the number of people who are reexamining the Old Ways, whether that is the resurgence of Norse practice to the wide range of Druids, goddess-worshippers and others, it’s important for authors to get the details right.  The wealth of excellent handbooks available from publishers like Llewellyn make it inexcusable for an author to “just make stuff up” instead of being grounded in a firm understanding of how magical systems and ritual works.

Getting it right doesn’t require that the author be a practitioner; however, it does require approaching belief systems with enough respect to be accurate so as not to perpetuate misinformation.  If you know practitioners well enough to be able to ask questions and confirm interpretation, all the better.

Dealing with any religion in fiction is always tricky, especially if an author who is not a practitioner is trying to describe someone else’s beliefs.  When that’s the case, it’s especially important to tread carefully, research, and try hard to put yourself in the mindset and worldview of a practitioner even if it’s just for the duration of the writing project.  Make sure you understand the role of ritual and ceremony, especially if your own tradition does not value those elements.

It’s easy to spot writers who have very little experience with religious traditions other than their own.  (If an alien race that has never had contact with Earth has a religion where everyone goes to a white, pointy-roofed building on one day of the week and sit in rows to listen to someone up on the stage, you’ve just described Presbyterians in space, not an alien religion.)

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Something old…Something new

by Tony Ruggiero

The final installment of the Team of Darkness vampire series is on its way to bookstores for the Halloween release. Book four, Operation End Game, is the much anticipated story where readers learn what happens to Commander John Reese, Christina and Dimitri. Does Reese become a vampire? Will he be with Christina? Will Dimitri come between them or will he help them?  Will the secret government Agency leave them alone? Knowing Tony Ruggiero’s penchant need for realistic vice happy endings, many readers are on the edge of their seats waiting to see what happens. All of the questions do get answered, or so Tony Ruggiero says they will. Tony gives us his thoughts on ending the series:

“Saying goodbye is always tough even when it is a fictional story comprised of characters we have made up from our imagination and even some which are non-human like vampires. Yet this miraculous transformation happens. We come to live and breathe with the characters, we take meals with them, we feel what they feel and hope for their success as much as we hope for own. They do what we cannot and thereby give us hope in our own meager lives. When the series ends or our characters die (no spoilers here—I swear, well maybeJ) they take with them a piece of us, but they leave something in return. The memory of them and what they are/were but more importantly— what we can be.

I heard a line in a movie once that summed this up quite well. The character said something along the lines of how it didn’t matter if the event/story was true or not. What mattered was if you believed in it. Belief comes in many shapes and forms and as long as it gives us hope—I guess that’s a good thing. That to me is the value of reading fiction and that’s the way I will always remember Commander John Reese, Dimitri and the others. They gave me hope that I could write this series…and I did. Now I hope that they have given you something as well to remember them by.  As to will we see any of these characters again…well that part is still up in the air…maybe even orbiting Earth (yes…that is a hint).

Thanks to DragonMoon Press for having given me the opportunity to share this story with readers everywhere. And thank you—the reader for taking this one last journey with me and the Team of Darkness.”

You can listen to the audio from when Tony was a guest of Blog Host, Gail Z. Martin’s Ghost in the Machine podcast here:  https://www.audioacrobat.com/play/WyX6tk0s

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