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Category Archives: Guest Post

How to Twist Tropes for Fun and Profit by Delilah S. Dawson

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I didn’t get psychic powers the day I got my period, which really disappointed me. Stephen King’s Carrie was the first book that made me realize there was a really slim possibility that when one became a woman, one could also become a pyrotechnic mutant capable of exacting revenge. That was one of the first tropes I remember seeing twisted in a story, and I found it very satisfying. Instead of menstruation causing panic and fear, it could trigger empowerment—and someone was actually talking about it instead of acting like it was some shameful secret. That’s why I covered the trope of First Period Panic in the Upside Down: Inverted Tropes in Storytelling from Apex Book Company, although my protagonist’s new powers further twist the trope in a different direction from Carrie.

The goal of Upside Down was to bring together a wide variety of writers working in fiction and nonfiction and let them twist the tropes that we see so frequently—or discuss and define the tropes. For many of us, it was a delight to take an annoying literary conceit that usually makes us roll our eyes– a chainmaille bikini, really? And turn that on its head. After writing their story, each author was asked to explain their trope and why they chose it, which further enhances the reading experience. It’s almost like reading secrets. It’s got great stories on the Damsel in Distress, Yellow Peril, The Chosen One, The Super Soldier, The Black Man Dies First, Manic Pixie Dream Girl, Blind People are Magic, and so many more, often written by people who have experienced these tropes first hand.

I love twisting tropes in my books, and here’s how I make sure the story is about more than just a single twist.

  1. Decide on a trope to twist, usually in a fit of anger. Wake of Vultures, for example, is based on watching Lonesome Dove and being annoyed that women in the Wild West could only be portrayed as whores, martyrs, or lunatics, and also that people of color had very little power during that time of history.

  2. Craft a protagonist who embodies the twist and will be uniquely challenged by the world. In Wake of Vultures, that’s Nettie Lonesome, a mixed race girl raised as a slave who longs to be a cowboy.

  3. Create a rich world that offers tons of possibilities while uniquely challenging the protagonist. I wanted Nettie Lonesome to be more than just a regular cowboy, so I turned mid-1800s Texas into Durango, an alt version of our own history that’s full of monsters. Vampires, werewolves, shapeshifters, harpies. Taking it a step further, I looked at the Texas Rangers and their spotted past and turned them into a monster hunting outfit … that sometimes performs atroticities in the name of what they consider public safety. And then I made Nettie become a monster-hunting Ranger. So … instant conflict.

  4. Begin the book just before the moment when everything changes so that we see where the protagonist begins and go with them on their journey. Wake of Vultures starts when Nettie is awakened from her nest of rags and goes outside at midnight to find … well, the beginning of her story.

  5. Find places in the plot where the protagonist will fail, nearly fail, or make stupid mistakes. I was also sick of women in stories being simpering and polite, so I made Nettie rough, rude, and violent, which gets her in plenty of trouble.

  6. At any point where you must make a decision, don’t go with what’s expected. Part of twisting tropes is to delight the reader by doing something new. There was one point where Nettie was feeling sick, and instead of having her be super tough, I decided she would be the victim of a troublesome digestion. She threw up on a coyote … who was actually a person. They had lots of arguments, from then on.

  7. Discover new tropes to twist along the way. In Wake of Vultures, a shapeshifter named Coyote Dan shows up to help Nettie and seems like he might be playing into the “Magical Negro/Native” trope, but he busts up that trope pretty fast.

  8. Remember that every character is the hero of their own story. Each character needs motivation, a reason to be near the protagonist or to push them away. The villain needs to have good reasons for what they’re doing. Ultimate Evil is just another crappy trope. Real people are ambiguous, not all good or all evil. The bad guys Nettie fights are never just in it for the hand-wringing Dr. Evil of it all.

  9. Have fun with it. Part of the joy of twisting tropes is to explore new ground. Everybody else went down the trope path, but you’re forging a new trail. If you get bored writing it, the reader will get bored reading it. So spice is up. When in doubt, throw in some sex or violence, I always say. Nettie agrees on both counts.

For more ideas on how to twist tropes, pick up a copy of Upside Down: Inverted Tropes in Storytelling. Believe me: You’ll find plenty to love. And plenty of blood, at least in my story.

delilahauthorpicDelilah S. Dawson is the author of the Blud series, the Hit series, Servants of the Storm, Star Wars: The Perfect Weapon and Scorched, and Wake of Vultures and the Shadow series, written as Lila Bowen. Her first comic, Ladycastle, is out in January with BOOM! Studios. She teaches writing online at LitReactor.com and lives with her family in the north Georgia mountains. Find her online at www.whimsydark.com.

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Posted by on December 20, 2016 in Guest Post

 

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Guest Post: Stay Crazy by Erica L. Satifka

Today I’d like to welcome Erica L. Satifka to the blog, chatting about her new release STAY CRAZY, which releases August 16 from Apex Publications.

stay crazy

After a breakdown at college landed Emmeline Kalberg in a mental hospital, she’s struggling to get her life on track. She’s back in her hometown and everyone knows she’scrazy, but the twelve pills she takes every day keep her anxiety and paranoia in check. So when a voice that calls itself Escodex begins talking to Em from a box of frozen chick nuggets, she’s sure that it’s real and not another hallucination. Well … pretty sure.

An evil entity is taking over the employees of Savertown USA, sucking out their energy so it can break into Escodex’s dimension. Escodex needs Em’s help to save his dimension and to keep hers from collapsing. But Em isn’t certain she wants to help Escodex. She has other things to worry about, like staying off the Savertown USA bowling team, busting her sister’s chops about her new found religion, and getting out of Clear Falls, PA.

When her coworkers start mysteriously dying, Em realizes that she may be the only one who can stop things from getting worse. Now she must convince her therapist she’s not having a relapse and keep her boss from firing her. All while getting her coworker Roger to help enact the plans Escodex conveys to her though the RFID chips in the Savertown USA products. It’s enough to make anyone StayCrazy.

Behind the Scenes of STAY CRAZY by Erica L. Satifka

I came up with the story of Stay Crazy while working at a certain small town big-box store that I’d rather not name, but just think of the most obvious American possibility. And while the aliens and interdimensional beings that infest the fictionalized big-box store of Savertown USA are pure speculation, essentially everything else about the store arises from real life. 

Stay Crazy revolves around Em, a young woman with paranoid schizophrenia who goes to work at Savertown USA but gets more than she bargained for when paranormal beings start speaking to her. Because she also experiences voices and delusions unconnected to the store, she’s unsure whether these happenings are even real. The book takes place in Clear Falls, Pennsylvania, a fictional small town whose dying economy revolves around Savertown USA and other service industries. Em hates both the store and the town, but feels herself trapped, unable to return to college due to her illness. When the alien being starts killing off workers, she must join forces with a voice from another dimension to keep this universe from destruction.

My time working at the Store That Shall Not Be Named wasn’t nearly as eventful as that! Like Em, I worked in the frozen food section. The job was monotonous, involving the opening of large pallets of merchandise and the placing of said items on the shelves. Every day started with a corporate jingle, which I’m proud to say I never participated in. Just like at Savertown USA, the store manager read the stock report for the day and congratulated the workers, as if (to paraphrase Em), the work effort of a bunch of small-town rubes would impact the stock price. And as in the book, there’s intense rivalry between the workers in the grocery side of the store and the ones in general merchandise. (The feeling, both in the book and in reality, is that GM workers are a bunch of slackers.)

While Stay Crazy has a lot of important stuff to say about neurodiversity, it’s also intended to be something of a critique of capitalism. Whereas a town like Clear Falls may have supported dozens of small businesses once upon a time, the advent of Savertown USA with its unbeatable low prices directly caused the downtown stores to shutter. Local businesses gave way to one single megacorporation that funneled its profits not to members of the community, but to stockholders that wouldn’t even be able to find Clear Falls on a map. The workers, especially Em’s supervisor Judy Nguyen, realize on some level that the store is evil even if they can’t see the same monsters Em does. But what can they do? There’s nowhere else to work. This is a common situation in real life small towns.

Working at Store X was dreary and dehumanizing, but I’m glad I did it, and not just because Stay Crazy wouldn’t exist without that experience. Before I worked there I was political, but not really political. Over my six months with the store, I saw first-hand what happens when unions crumble and profit reigns over all. While I did escape from the store and the town, my hatred of big-box stores remained. I hope that readers of Stay Crazy who didn’t grow up in small towns can recognize the authenticity of Clear Falls and have empathy toward people caught like cogs in the corporate machine.

About the Author
Erica L. Satifka is a writer and/or friendly artificial construct, forged in a heady mix of iced coffee and sarcasm. She enjoys rainy days, questioning reality, ignoring her to-do list, and adding to her collection of tattoos. Her short fiction has appeared in Clarkesworld, Shimmer, Lightspeed, andIntergalactic Medicine Show. Originally from Pittsburgh, she now lives in Portland, Oregon with her spouse Rob and an indeterminate number of cats. Stay Crazy is her first novel.
Twitter: @ericasatifka
~Suzanne~
 
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Posted by on August 2, 2016 in Guest Post

 

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Gail Z Martin Guest Post: Days of the Dead Blog Tour 2015!

Hey folks, Dave here, and though I’m a bit late to the proceedings I’ve got Gail Z Martin’s guest post for her awesome Day of the Dead Blog Tour – the 2015 edition! 🙂

Gail Martin, Dreamspinner Communications

Gail Martin, Dreamspinner Communications

Gail Z. Martin is the author of the upcoming novel Vendetta: A Deadly Curiosities Novel in her urban fantasy series set in Charleston, SC (Dec. 2015, Solaris Books) as well as the epic fantasy novel Shadow and Flame (March, 2016 Orbit Books) which is the fourth and final book in the Ascendant Kingdoms Saga. Shadowed Path, an anthology of Jonmarc Vahanian short stories set in the world of The Summoner, debuts from Solaris books in June, 2016.

Other books include The Jake Desmet Adventures a new Steampunk series (Solaris Books) co-authored with Larry N. Martin as well as Ice Forged, Reign of Ash and War of Shadows in The Ascendant Kingdoms Saga, The Chronicles of The Necromancer series (The Summoner, The Blood King, Dark Haven, Dark Lady’s Chosen) from Solaris Books and The Fallen Kings Cycle (The Sworn, The Dread) from Orbit Books and the urban fantasy novel Deadly Curiosities from Solaris Books.  

Gail writes four series of ebook short stories: The Jonmarc Vahanian Adventures, The Deadly Curiosities Adventures, The King’s Convicts series, and together with Larry N. Martin, The Storm and Fury Adventures. Her work has appeared in over 20 US/UK anthologies. Newest anthologies include: The Big Bad 2, Athena’s Daughters, Realms of Imagination, Heroes, With Great Power, and (co-authored with Larry N. Martin) Space, Contact Light, The Weird Wild West, The Side of Good/The Side of Evil, Alien Artifacts, Clockwork Universe: Steampunk vs. Aliens.

The Days of the Dead Blog Tour happens every year (check out what’s already been happening at the main website), and during this time Gail shares excerpts from her books, has plenty of giveaways and always manages to come up with excellent guest posts, among all the other things happening. 🙂

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This year, Gail wrote a guest post that plenty (if not ALL writers) will want to read; one of the biggest problems we face as writers is making sure that readers know about our work, where to get it, and a bit about ourselves, too. We may not be offering products like BluRay players, cell phones and smart cars, but we still need to market our works and ourselves. In short, if a writer struggles with marketing, that writer struggles more and longer than those who don’t.

So here’s Gail’s guest post, focusing on Marketing for Writers:

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Selling Your Soul – By Gail Z. Martin

It’s a deal you can’t refuse. Everything you’ve ever wanted. The man making the offer is dressed in black with a tall top hat, and you had to meet him at a crossroads at midnight, but that’s okay. It’s going to make your dreams come true. You don’t even realize, until later, that the pen that signed the contract wrote in blood.

Welcome to book marketing. Otherwise known as, the things we do for love.

Once upon a time, writers just wrote. Publishers took care of everything else. The mechanism by which a book became a bestseller—or a good-enough-to-get-more-contracts seller—was a black box, somewhere between alchemy and Voodoo. The book went in, the wheels went around and around, a bestseller came out. Like sausage—don’t ask what’s in the mix. But for a long time, that system worked, so I’m told.

It’s a brave new world these days. Even the most committed big publishers can only spare a small amount of promotional mojo for new authors or rising mid-listers. Most of the energy and the big bucks go toward recouping the large advances paid to the superstar authors. That means less effort and energy spent developing new talent, creating breakthrough opportunities, and developing visibility. Small presses are doing a great job bringing new authors to market and serving niche markets, but they have very little marketing muscle to offer aside from social media.

The work still has to be done. Guess who does it? Yep—you, the author.

We could talk all day about book promotion (and I have), but let me highlight the five most important tools every writer needs to compete in today’s very cluttered publishing environment. These five are essential whether you publish with a big traditional publisher, a small press or whether you self-publish. They’re the backbone of your marketing efforts. When you want to get fancy, you can add all kinds of bells and whistles, but without these five elements, you won’t have a foundation on which to build. Ready?

No. 1—A good author website.  Buy your domain name, don’t settle for a freebie site that is just a meaningless jumble of letters. First choice would be www.yourname.com or www.yourfirstnameinitiallastname.com. If those are taken, try www.yournameauthor.com. Avoid picking a domain for a character’s name or a series if you intend to be in the game for a long time. (If you’ve already done that and have an investment in your site, see if you can get your name as a domain and redirect the URL.)  I’m not a fan of .net or the other extensions because no one thinks of them—they go straight to .com.

If you do your website in WordPress, you can make most of your updates yourself. I’d suggest paying someone who is better at web design and web graphics than you are to do the layout. After that, you can probably keep up with it yourself. This is your home base. It should be on all your bookmarks and on your email signature, on the back cover of your books and on your blog posts—literally everywhere.

No. 2—An email newsletter. But wait—haven’t you been hearing for years that email newsletters are dinosaurs? That was before Facebook got greedy and suppressed organic post reach to around 1%. Social media site algorithms determine how many of your fans actually get to see your posts, but you own your mailing list. Facebook’s recent moves have sent everyone scrambling back to building their newsletter lists. And as fans realize that they aren’t hearing from the authors they signed up to hear from on social media, well-done newsletters are gaining popularity.

A few key notes—don’t spam your readers. Send out at most once a month, maybe less, and make it worth their time or people will ignore you or unsubscribe. Offer trivia questions, contests, etc. to keep it fun. Build your list with Rafflecopter contests and by doing drawings at conventions and book signings when guests put their email info into a fishbowl and you pick the winner.

No. 3—Social media. Hey, didn’t I just say social media isn’t delivering the results it used to?  Yep. But it’s still the best way to reach a global audience for free, and it’s still a good channel to update your fans on what’s going on and coming up—it’s just not as great a channel as it used to be. At a minimum, you need to have a Facebook fan page and a Twitter account. Beyond that, I’d suggest Goodreads, Wattpad, Pinterest as core sites. Add YouTube if you’re into video, and consider Tumblr or Instagram if your audience skews young and female.

No. 4—Blog.  This could be part of your main website, or you could have a separate blog. If you can create a blog with a handful of other dedicated authors in a similar genre (so your audiences are likely to overlap), that can make it easier to keep up a steady pace of blog posts. The more regularly you blog, the more readers you’ll get. What to talk about? I recommend staying away from hot-button controversies (since 50% of your readers are likely to disagree but you still want them to like you), but otherwise, muse about life, talk about cooking, or vacation, or your cat/dog, upcoming book events, how the book is going, etc.

No. 5—Get out and meet people. Go to genre conventions and meet readers and other authors. Do book signings and get to know the local bookstore managers and staff. Go to book clubs and library events and Meetup gatherings. Be personable and polite, don’t try to hard sell, just get to know people and let them get to know you. Relationships matter!

Remember that you want to win readers for life, not just for one book, so while marketing takes effort, time and some cash, it’s a long-term investment–and it’s more important than ever in today’s publishing environment.

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My Days of the Dead blog tour runs through October 31 with never-before-seen cover art, brand new excerpts from upcoming books and recent short stories, interviews, guest blog posts, giveaways and more! Plus, I’ll be including extra excerpt links for my stories and for books by author friends of mine. You’ve got to visit the participating sites to get the goodies, just like Trick or Treat! Details here: http://www.ascendantkingdoms.com/2015/10/22/days-of-the-dead-blog-tour-tricks-treats-and-scary-good-stuff/

Book swag is the new Trick-or-Treat! Grab your envelope of book swag awesomeness from me & 10 authors http://on.fb.me/1h4rIIe before 11/1!

Trick or Treat! Excerpt from my new urban fantasy novel Vendetta set in my Deadly Curiosities world here http://bit.ly/1ZXCPVS Launches Dec. 29

DEADLY CURIOSITIES-VENDETTA

More Treats! Enter to win a copy of Deadly Curiosities! https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/160181-deadly-curiosities

Treats! Enter to win a copy of Iron & Blood! https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/160182-iron-blood

I&B final cover

No Tricks! Here’s an excerpt from my Jonmarc Vahanian Adventure Raiders Curse http://bit.ly/12s119H

Halloween goodies! 2 FREE complete haunted novellas! The Final Death, set in my Deadly Curiosities world http://w.tt/1jsKqLL & Grave Voices http://w.tt/1kapSrn set in our Iron & Blood world

More Halloween loot! An excerpt from John Hartness’s Bubba The Monster Hunter series, Hall & Goats – http://bit.ly/1Lok7PC

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Massive thanks to Gail for the opportunity to host her here once again, and for the excellent guest post. 🙂 Remember to check out the entire blog tour for all the goodies! 🙂

Until next time,

Be EPIC!

 
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Posted by on October 30, 2015 in Blog Tour, Guest Post

 

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Guest Post: Literary Social Science Fiction

Today I’m handing over to Robert Eggleton, the author of the satirical Rarity from the Hollow, discussing Literary Social Science Fiction.

Robert Eggleton has served as a children’s advocate in an impoverished state for over forty years. He is best known for his investigative reports about children’s programs, most of which were published by the West Virginia Supreme Court where he worked from 1982 through 1997, and which also included publication of models of serving disadvantaged and homeless children in the community instead of in large institutions, research into foster care drift involving children bouncing from one home to the next — never finding a permanent loving family, and statistical reports on the occurrence and correlates of child abuse and delinquency. Today, he is a recently retired children’s psychotherapist from the mental health center in Charleston , West Virginia , where he specialized in helping victims cope with and overcome physical and sexual abuse, and other mental health concerns. Rarity from the Hollow is his debut novel and its release followed publication of three short Lacy Dawn Adventures in magazines: Wingspan Quarterly, Beyond Centauri, and Atomjack Science Fiction. Author proceeds have been donated to a child abuse prevention program operated by Children’s Home Society of West Virginia. http://www.childhswv.org/ Robert continues to write fiction with new adventures based on a protagonist that is a composite character of children that he met when delivering group therapy services. The overall theme of his stories remains victimization to empowerment.

rarity

Saving an entire universe is a big job for anybody, though. It takes more than just magic. Lacy Dawn needs a team and a very strong sense of humor. First, she motivates the android into helping her fix her family by putting her foot down and flat out telling him that she won’t save the universe unless he helps her first. The android agrees to the terms.

After Lacy Dawn’s father is cured of his mental health problems and stops being so mean to Lacy Dawn and her mom, Lacy Dawn next arranges for her to mother get her rotten teeth replaced, pass her GED, and to get a driver’s license. The mother feels so much better about herself that she also joins the team. By this time, the android has fallen so deeply in love with Lacy Dawn that she has him wrapped around her little finger.

Add a pot head neighbor who sells marijuana and has a strong sense for business transactions, Brownie, a dog who proves to have tremendous empathy for the most vile occupants of any planet, and Faith, the ghost of Lacy Dawn’s best friend who was murdered by her own father — the team is ready to embark on a very weird off-world adventure.

Working together, the team figures out how a few greedy capitalists had made such a mess of the entire universe and how to prevent its destruction without intentionally killing one single being.

Rarity from the Hollow is a Children’s Story For Adults. The content includes serious social commentary and mature satire. There are graphic scenes in the first chapters before Lacy Dawn’s family is fixed.

 

“…You will enjoy the ride with Lacy Dawn, her family and friends, but don’t expect the ride to be without a few bumps, and enough food to last you a long time.”

— Darrell Bain, Award Winning Author

Literary Social Science Fiction

Life can be tough, that’s for sure. Most of us need a break from reality at least every now and then, in one way on another, and to some degree. Of all addictions, reading is probably the least harmful, and sometimes it may be healthful or beneficial during our individual pursuits of happiness. Books present a terrific way to temporarily escape from the stress of real-life. Many people read “genre” fiction, like young adult, mystery, fantasy, or romance novels. Other people choose to read “literary” fiction. It is less about escaping from reality and more like escaping into reality, if that makes sense. Real-life issues, like racism or poverty, are often part of a character driven literary fiction story. Genre fiction tends to leave out such issues and is more plot driven with action and imaginary detail. While these two may sound very different, they share a common function — entertainment. Different strokes for different folks, right? I read both literary and genre fiction.   

Of course, some books don’t fit neatly within this or that box, literary or genre. Plus, there are a zillion subgenres, like paranormal romance or young adult science fiction and some of them may very well address the human condition, a criterion that some apply to distinguish literary from genre fiction, such as dystopian or utopian adventure stories. Sometimes critics will use the term, “popular” in reference to genre fiction. What about The Color Purple?  Few would argue that this story was both literary fiction and very popular literature. Plus, nobody really cares because it was a GREAT story, regardless of where it fits within the schematic. What the heck does “highbrow” mean? Is it a story with excessive adjectives and adverbs with a few big words thrown in? In my opinion, nobody writes any fancier than Ursula K. LeGuin, a genre fiction writer, and if someone does, I’ll just call it something that I don’t want to read, or write.

For me, if I privately reflect on the words of a story long after the last page has been turned, experience the magic of the story over and over again, I’ve just read a “literary” work. On the other hand, if I give a story little deep thought after I’ve finished it, that book may fall within “genre” literature. Any fiction story can have great (or poor) writing. Commercial or “the-most-popular-kid-in-school” type of fiction may not have anything to do with quality. Originality of ideas may set literary fiction apart from some genre fiction because genre fiction may be more likely to have fan bases, such those readers who are so in love with Harry Potter that no other boy will do.  

You know how two biological species cannot successfully mate? That’s not the case with book. Another animal exists. Its first name is “literary” and its middle name is the genre of the story. As examples, there is literary science fiction, literary fantasy, and, conceivably, any other genre. A story that falls into the “western” genre could have the first name “literary” if it has strong characters who address sexism in the Wild West instead of just more gunfights at the OK Corral.

I selected the SF/F backdrop for my debut novel, Rarity from the Hollow, because it was the best fit by process of elimination. While it is a fun read, the story does include early scenes and references to tragedy: child maltreatment, poverty, domestic violence, and mental illness in contemporary America . As such, it was not a good fit to the historical or western genres, although the social problems addressed in the story have existed throughout history, and are not restrained by our world’s geography, cultures, or religions. I felt that biographical and nonfiction wouldn’t work because the story would have been so depressing that only the most determined would have finished it. The story had to be hopeful and I especially wanted it to inspire survivors of child maltreatment toward competitiveness within our existing economic structures, instead of people using past victimization as an excuse for inactivity. I didn’t think that anybody would bite on the theme of a knight on a white stallion galloping off a hillside to swoop victims into safety, like in the traditional romance genre. That almost never actually happens in real life, so the romance genre was too unrealistic as the primary. There was already enough horror in the story, so that genre was out too. What could be more horrific than child abuse?

The protagonist and her traumatized teammates needed fantastical elements to achieve empowerment. But, as in life, one cannot overcome barriers by simply imagining them away. That’s where the science fiction came into play. It provided a power source. I tied the science fiction to Capitalism because in today’s reality it will take significant financial investment by benefactors to improve the welfare of children in the world, and to invest in economic development. As symbolized in the story, I feel that our governments are unlikely to fund effective solutions to social problems in the near future because of the politics. The systems in place to help victims of these types of problems are woefully inadequate.

At the 2013 International Skoll Forum, Nobel Laureate Muhammad Yunus of Bangladesh reportedly said something like, “We have science fiction and science follows….” He heads a company that loans money to entrepreneurs who live in impoverished areas and who would not otherwise qualify for financial assistance. Dr. Mark Manary of America headed a scientific breakthrough in the processing of peanut butter that is having a significant impact on the social problem of child malnutrition. It’s called a ready-to-use therapeutic food (RUTF) and is made in Malawi , Sierra Leone , and Ghana . The lives of thousands of African children have already been saved by RUTF. In the 1970s, Ursula K. LeGuin was credited with coining the term, “social science fiction.” It’s just my opinion, but I don’t think any of these famous people are talking about new cell phone technology.

Since Rarity from the Hollow has been pegged as drama, comedy, satire, horror, romance, paranormal, science fiction…I decided to tell the world the proper term for the kind of writing that I enjoy — literary social science fiction cross genre. How’s that for a mouthful? Despite the use of colloquialism, I consider my novel to be literary because there’s enough food for thought to last a long time. So what if there ain’t no fancy words in the story? I consider it to be social science fiction because the story not only includes social commentary, but needs science fiction to pull off its mission — to raise funds for the prevention of child abuse, yes, real-life kids, as real as world hunger. Author proceeds have been donated to child abuse prevention programs operated by Children’s Home Society of West Virginia. Maybe I should call my writing science faction instead of science fiction because the correlates of society’s failure to help maltreated children are fact: addiction, poverty, crime, divorce, suicide, mental illness…      

Read the 1st Chapter here!

Buy the book here: Amazon | Doghorn Publishing

An Excerpt from Chapter 13

Jenny (the mother) walked up the hill to Roundabend. She called Lacy Dawn’s name every few yards. Her muddy tennis shoes slipped and slid.

            I hear her voice. Why won’t she answer me? 

            “Sounds like she’s talking to someone,” Jenny said to the Woods. 

            Nobody responded. The trees weren’t supposed to since Jenny was no longer a child. Her former best friends had made no long-term commitment beyond childhood victimization. They had not agreed to help her deal with domestic violence in adulthood. She hugged the closest tree.

            I will always love you guys. 

Jenny quickened her pace, stopped, and listened for human voices. A few yards later, she stopped again.   

            Now it sounds like she’s behind me instead of in front. 

            Jenny looked to the left of the path.

            There ain’t no cave Roundabend, but there it is. 

            She walked toward the entrance. The voices grew louder and she looked inside. Lacy Dawn sat on a bright orange recliner. Tears streamed down her face.  Jenny ran to her daughter through a cave that didn’t exit and into a blue light that did.

            “All right, you mother f**ker!”

            “Mom!” Lacy Dawn yelled. “You didn’t say, ‘It’s me’ like you’re supposed to (a traditional announcement mentioned earlier in the story).”

            DotCom (the android) sat naked in a lotus position on the floor in front of the recliner.  Jenny covered Lacy Dawn with her body and glared at him.   

            “Grrrrr,” emanated from Jenny.  It was a sound similar to the one that Brownie (Lacy Dawn’s dog) made the entire time the food stamp woman was at their house.  It was a sound that filled the atmosphere with hate.  No one moved.  The spaceship’s door slid shut.

            “Mommmmmy, I can’t breathe. Get up.”

            “You make one move you sonofabitch and I’ll tear your heart out,” Jenny repositioned to take her weight off Lacy Dawn.

            Stay between them.

            “Mommy, he’s my friend. More than my friend, we’re going to get married when I’m old enough — like when I turn fourteen. He’s my boyfriend — what you call it — my fiancé.” 

            “You been messin’ with my little girl you pervert!” Jenny readied to pounce. 

            “MOM!  Take a chill pill! He ain’t been messing with me. He’s a good person, or whatever. Anyway, he’s not a pervert. You need to just calm down and get off me.”

            Jenny stood up. DotCom stood up. Jenny’s jaw dropped.

            He ain’t got no private parts, not even a little bump.   

            “DotCom, I’d like to introduce you to my mommy, Mrs. Jenny Hickman. Mommy, I’d like to introduce you to my fiancé, DotCom.”

            Jenny sat down on the recliner. Her face was less than a foot from DotCom’s crotch and she stared straight at it. It was smooth, hairless, and odor free.  

            “Mrs. Hickman, I apologize for any inconvenience that this misunderstanding has caused. It is very nice to meet you after having heard so much. You arrived earlier than expected. I did not have time to properly prepare and receive. Again, I apologize.” 

            I will need much more training if I’m ever assigned to a more formal setting than a cave, such as to the United Nations.

            “Come on, Mommy. Give him a hug or something.”      

            Jenny’s left eye twitched. 

            DotCom put on clothing that Lacy Dawn had bought him at Goodwill. It hung a little loose until he modified his body. Lacy Dawn hugged her mother…    

            …(scene of Dwayne, the father, overheard by those in the spaceship while talking to himself)… “Besides, the transmitter was part of Daddy’s treatment. There’re a lot of other things that he did to help fix Daddy. DotCom is like a doctor. You can see that Daddy has gotten better every day. And no, there ain’t no transmitter in you. DotCom figured you out like a good doctor and the only things wrong are a lack of opportunity and rotten teeth that poison your body. You don’t need no transmitter. He just gave you a few shots of ego boost. I don’t know what medicine that is, but I trust him. You ain’t complained since the shots started — not even with an upset stomach.”

            “He’s a doctor?” Jenny asked.

            “What’s your problem anyway?” Lacy Dawn asked. “I know.  You’re prejudiced. You told me that people have much more in common than they do that’s different — even if someone is a different color or religion, or from a different state than us. You told me to try to become friends because sometimes that person may need a good friend. Now, here you are acting like a butt hole about my boyfriend. You’re prejudiced because he’s different than us.”

            “Honey, he’s not even a person – that’s about as different as a boyfriend can get,” Jenny said.

            “So?”

            Mommy’s right. Maybe I need a different argument.

            A fast clicking sound, a blur of motion, and a familiar smell assaulted them.

            “What’s that?” Jenny asked. 

            She moved to protect her daughter from whatever threat loomed. Brownie, who had been granted 27 / 7 access to the ship, bounded over the orange recliner, knocked DotCom to the floor, licked DotCom’s face, and rubbed his head on Jenny’s leg. He then jumped onto the recliner and lay down. His tail wagged throughout. Jenny sat down on the recliner beside Brownie and looked at Lacy Dawn.

            “But, you were crying when I first came in. That thing was hurting you.” Jenny shook her finger at DotCom to emphasize a different argument against him.

            “Mommy, I’m so happy that I couldn’t help but cry. My man just came home from an out-of-state job. I didn’t talk to him for a whole year. Before he left, he told me that he wasn’t even sure if he’d be able to come home. I still don’t know what happened while he was gone. We ain’t had no chance to talk. All I know is that he’s home and I’m sooooo happy.”

            “Your man came home from an out-of-state job?” Jenny patted Brownie on his head, some more and some more…. 

            It’s unusual for a man to promise to come back home and ever be seen again. Brownie likes him and that’s a good sign. Maybe she’s right about him helping Dwayne. Something sure did and it wasn’t me. It is a nice living room. They’ve been together for a while and I ain’t seen a mark on her. That’s unusual too. He ain’t got no private parts and that’s another good thing. Hell, if I get in the middle, she’d just run off with him anyway. Id better play it smart. I don’t want to lose my baby. 

            “What about his stupid name?” Jenny asked.

            “I’ve got a stupid name, too. All the kids at school call me hick because my last name is Hickman.”

            “My name was given to me by my manager a very long time ago. It represents a respected tradition — the persistent marketing of that which is not necessarily the most needed. I spam…,” DotCom said. 

            They both glared at him. 

            “Dwayne is sure to be home. I don’t want him to worry. Let’s go,” Jenny said. 

            “Okay, Mommy.”

            “I love you, DotCom,” Lacy Dawn stepped out the ship’s door, which had slid open. Brownie and Jenny were right behind her. 

            “I love you too,” DotCom said.

            Lacy Dawn and Jenny held hands and walked down the path toward home. The trees didn’t smile — at least not so Jenny would notice. On the other hand, no living thing obstructed, intruded, or interfered with the rite.   

            Jenny sang to the Woods, “My little girl’s going to marry a doctor when she grows up, marry a doctor when she grows up, when she grows up.  My little girl’s going to marry a doctor when she grows up, marry a doctor when she grows up, when she grows up….”

 
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Posted by on September 15, 2015 in Guest Post

 

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Guest post: The Difference Screen- and Novel-writing

Today I’m handing over to Glenn Benest, an award-winning horror writer whose screenplays have been directed by the likes to Wes Craven. Now Glenn Benest has teamed up with Dale Pitman, co-writing a horror novel called Ink. Here’s the blurb:

 

His studio has become his refuge and his prison – a place of boundless imagination and lonely isolation. Brian Archer, creator of a series of successful graphic novels about a vengeful supernatural being called “The Highwayman,” 
has become a recluse after the adoration of a female fan turned to rage and violence.
 
But all that changes when he meets a renowned and beautiful illustrator, A.J. Hart, who carries emotional scars of her own. Their work together is fueled by the unrequited passion they share and a mysterious bottle of black ink that arrives one day at Brian’s doorstep.
 
The impossibly dark liquid has mystical properties, making their characters appear so real they eventually come to life, reigning terror on those who mean them harm and if not stopped—threatens to unleash an apocalypse on all mankind. Brian must break free of his self-imposed exile and solve the mystery that allowed these terrible creatures into the world.

 

art1

Buy the Book

The difference between writing for film and writing fiction
by Glenn Benest

 

As you may know, I’ve been a professional screenwriter for many years with seven produced screenplays, including two scripts I wrote for acclaimed horror director Wes Craven.
 
We started this project as a screenplay and though we won a number for awards for the screenplay we never seemed to get it over the finish line. Our manager, Mary Louise Gemmill at Writers Ascending, thought all along it was better suited as a novel and with her encouragement, that’s what we did.
 
The difference between these two art forms is enormous, as my writing partner, Dale Pitman, and I discovered. For one thing you have to decide who is telling the story. Do you do it in the first person, the 3rd person, an omniscient point of view? This takes time and probably some failed attempts until you get it right.
 
But the great joy of writing fiction is that you can delve much deeper into the characters you’re writing about. You can expose their thoughts, something you don’t have the luxury of doing in film.  As a result, you really can get under their skin, what they’re really thinking when they might be doing completely the opposite of what they’re really feeling or contemplating. 
 
The other great luxury you have in fiction is that you can delve into the characters’ backstories in a way you can’t in film and television. We call this in screenwriting – exposition. And it is the hardest thing in the world to hide the exposition you’re trying to get in (i.e. what happened five years ago).  The reason for this is that screen story really bogs down when you go into some long-winded explanation of the backstory of your characters. You have to keep the story moving.
 
But in fiction you don’t have that problem. The reader is much more willing to let you write a chapter about what happened five years ago as long as it’s interesting and has conflict. The backstory brings so much more dimension to the characters than you will ever achieve in film.
 
This is probably why most people don’t like films made about their favorite books. It’s because the books were so much richer and had greater depth of character and texture than you can achieve in a film.
So was it hard to go from screenwriting to the writing of a novel? Absolutely. Was it rewarding? More than I can say.

 

Get in touch with the authors:
Glenn Benest
Twitter: @glennbenest

 

Dale Pitman
Twitter: @DalePFT
 
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Posted by on August 4, 2015 in Guest Post

 

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Days of the Dead Blog Tour – Guest Post: Gail Z Martin

Hey everyone, Dave here! 🙂

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It’s that time of the year again – Gail Z Martin, author of many novels -including those that make the Chronicles of the NecromancerThe Ascendant Kingdoms Saga, The Fallen Kings CycleDeadly Curiosities and plenty of short stories– is preparing us all for a massive 2015 by taking over the blogosphere with guest-posts, giveaways, excerpts and much more!

So, let’s welcome Gail once again, with a guest post exploring characters… 😉

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What Characters Do Between Books By Gail Z. Martin

Have you ever wondered what characters do on their days off?

What I mean is, do you ever think about what characters might be doing between books, when the author isn’t looking?

Those of us who live with multiple casts of characters in our heads think about strange things like this. Often, we are faced with characters who might be ready to mutiny on a moment’s notice if they thought it would get them a new book contract or a series of short stories.

Really, it’s not easy being in character limbo. And to tell the truth, that’s not how I think of my characters in between the tales I tell.

For example, my Chronicles of the Necromancer series is on hiatus as I write the Ascendant Kingdoms Saga. I have six more books I plan to write in the world of the Winter Kingdoms, but there is a natural seventeen-year break in the action in the books, and it was a good resting place for me to go off and do some other projects for a while.

That doesn’t mean the characters are resting on their laurels.

In my mind’s eye, I can tune in and see what my characters are up to while they wait for their next book. In my Chronicles of the Necromancer series, King Martris Drayke and his queen, Kiara of Isencroft are busy chasing two young boys, one with special magical needs, while rebuilding two kingdoms—Margolan and Isencroft—torn by war, famine, plague, and invasion.

Meanwhile, Lord Jonmarc Vahanian and his wife, Carina, are busy with twin girls, and Jonmarc must juggle the demands of his role as Lord of Dark Haven against his responsibilities as Champion to Queen Berwyn and her consort, Gethin of Eastmark. In Dhasson, newly-crowned King Jair struggles to lead his kingdom after the death of his father while grieving the loss of his wife and trying to raise a son who is both the rightful heir to the crown and the next shaman-chief of the nomadic Sworn.

Those are just a few of the characters readers got to know in the series, but as I go through the list, I can tell you how the others are doing, what their recent triumphs and trials have been, and what’s next for them.

From a storytelling perspective, these character-years aren’t important to chronicle because they fall between the big events. They’re the normal time, the breath between the storms. Yet for the characters themselves, the time is filled with personally momentous occasions as children grow, kingdoms rebuild, communities knit back together. The business of waging peace isn’t as exciting as conducting war, but it is demanding and busy, just the same. And even my characters know in their hearts that the good times must also come to an end someday…

My Days of the Dead blog tour runs through October 31 with never-before-seen cover art, brand new excerpts from upcoming books and recent short stories, interviews, guest blog posts, giveaways and more! Plus, I’ll be including extra excerpt links for stories and books by author friends of mine. And, a special 50% off discount from Double-Dragon ebooks! You’ve got to visit the participating sites to get the goodies, just like Trick or Treat! Details here:

www.AscendantKingdoms.com

Trick or Treat: Enjoy an excerpt from The Sworn, Book One in my Fallen Kings Cycle here: http://www.ascendantkingdoms.com/books/the-fallen-kings-cycle/the-sworn/the-sworn-chapter-one/

And a bonus excerpt from Ice Forged, Book One in my Ascendant Kingdoms Saga here: http://www.ascendantkingdoms.com/books/the-ascendant-kingdoms-saga/ice-forged/an-excerpt-from-ice-forged-book-one-in-the-ascendant-kingdoms-saga/

And a second bonus excerpt from Raider’s Curse, the first of my Jonmarc Vahanian Adventures short stories here: http://www.ascendantkingdoms.com/short-stories-and-more/the-jonmarc-vahanian-adventures/raiders-curse/excerpt-from-raiders-curse/

***

I’ve never regretted letting Gail take over the blog, and this post is a prime example why- always interesting and illuminating! Don’t forget to check out the full list of celebrations as listed on Gail’s official site; there is a massive amount of things going on! 🙂

Many thanks to Gail for writing this excellent guest post, and for coordinating this post along with Gemma at Orbit – I’m definitely looking forward to the next Days of the Dead, as I’m sure you are!

Until next time,

Be EPIC!

P.S. You wanna see something EPIC? Follow this link. 😉

 
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Posted by on October 29, 2014 in Book Tour, Guest Post, Spotlight

 

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Guest Post: Gail Z Martin – Why Book Covers Still Matter

Morning! 🙂

I’m honoured to have Gail Z Martin -author of Chronicles of the Necromancer (Solaris), The Fallen Kings Cycle (Orbit), The Ascendant Kingdoms Cycle (Orbit), Deadly Curiosities (Solaris) and numerous shorter tales-  back on the blog with another guest post. This time she’s  talking about a topic very close to both reader’s and writer’s hearts – book covers. Over to Gail!

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Back when the only place to get books was in bookstores, browsing the shelves for new and interesting covers could be a pleasant Saturday afternoon pastime. Even before bookstores added coffee shops, it was easy to while away several hours just perusing the covers of books, looking for a hidden gem, a new adventure, or a tempting tome.

Now, much of our book buying has moved online, either to purchase paper books via Internet booksellers, or to download ebooks. It’s gotten harder to leisurely browse, in part because there are fewer brick-and-mortar bookstores than there used to be, and in part because those physical stores that do exist have often cut back on their range of books in order to feature profitable extras like gifts, music, movies and coffee.

So in an age when shoppers may only see the cover as the size of a webpage thumbnail, do covers really matter?

I believe they do. I know that some people lament the death of book covers in the same way they lament the passing of music album covers in the age of CDs and iTunes. And I agree that books do face some of the same threats that music has faced, although there are significant differences. All the same, I think that the reports of the death of book covers, to paraphrase Mark Twain, has been greatly exaggerated.

We’ve often been exhorted to not judge a book by its cover, yet covers are often the first connection an author makes with a reader. This is especially true if the author has not yet reached the superstar ranks of name recognition, or if the reader has never read anything by the particular author in the past.

It does appear true that the better known an author is, the less effort goes into their covers. Make it to the pinnacle of success, and covers often feature only the author’s name and the book title with a solid color background. But for most books, the cover signals the reader that this book is part of a particular genre, like other books the reader has enjoyed, and begins the job of shaping expectations before the book even gets lifted off the shelf.

A good cover–one that accurately signals the reader as to the genre and type of story–plays a major role in attracting an audience for the book. The quality of illustration and bookbinding also tells a reader something about the book, as many small press and self-published authors will attest. Watch readers move through a book festival or the vendor room at a genre convention, and notice which books get handled more often, and which ones never get picked up. Good covers make a difference.

What makes a good cover? It’s a complex mix of elements that starts with a professional quality illustration. Poor art is a stumbling block few books can overcome. Appropriate illustration is the next hurdle. Readers understand the visual shorthand that signals mystery, thriller, urban fantasy, epic fantasy and other genres. Send a miscue, and you’ll lose many potential readers while disappointing those who buy expecting a different sort of book.

Type font, placement and color matter, just as it matters to have a catchy title for the book. I’m not a graphic artist, but I can tell when the placement of the words on a book cover doesn’t look professional. Traditionally published authors don’t have to think about these things, but it’s a detail that many small press and self-pubbed authors struggle with as they strive to gain legitimacy in the reader’s eyes.

The back cover matters, too. I have my books face up on the table at signings to attract readers, but when I engage prospects in conversation, I’ll hand the book to them back cover up, encouraging the person to read the book summary and endorsement quotes. A gripping teaser of a recap goes a long way toward pulling in a reader and building a hunger to read the rest. If the reader has never read a book by a particular author, endorsement quotes by familiar authors or publications decreases perceived risk. While not every reader is swayed by blurbs, those quotes matter a lot for a certain type of book purchaser, and as an author, we want to send good cues on as many different levels as possible.

Authors like to believe that it’s the words between the covers that really matter, and they do. But without a cover that grabs the reader’s attention and makes them pick up the book, those words never get read. I can’t count the number of times a reader has told me, “Your cover made me buy your book.” I make sure to profusely thank my cover artists, and I work as closely with them as possible to provide the details necessary to do justice to the story inside. Covers matter!

***

About the Author: Gail Z. Martin writes epic and urban fantasy, steampunk and short stories. She is the author of the Chronicles of the Necromancer series, the Fallen Kings Cycle series and the Ascendant Kingdoms Saga series of epic fantasy books, as well as the Deadly Curiosities urban fantasy world and coming in 2015, Iron and Blood, a Steampunk novel, co-written with Larry N. Martin. Gail is a frequently contributor to US and UK anthologies. She also writes two series of ebook short stories: The Jonmarc Vahanian Adventures and the Deadly Curiosities Adventures.

Find her at www.ChroniclesOfTheNecromancer.com, on Twitter @GailZMartin, on Facebook.com/WinterKingdoms, at DisquietingVisions.com blog and GhostInTheMachinePodcast.com. She leads monthly conversations on Goodreads and posts free excerpts of her work on Wattpad. An original novella set in the Deadly Curiosities universe, The Final Death, is available free on Wattpad here.

Reign of FINAL

Massive thanks to Gail for this excellent guest post, and to Anna Gregson for arranging it! 🙂

Wishing you all a kickass weekend!

Be EPIC!

 
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Posted by on June 13, 2014 in Guest Post

 

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M.D. Thalmann

M.D. Thalmann, a novelist and freelance journalist with an affinity for satire and science fiction, lives in Phoenix, Arizona with his wife, children, and ornery cats, reads too much and sleeps too little.

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