Guest blogger


Rowena Cory Daniells has written several great epic fantasy series which I’ve enjoyed a lot. Today she’s here to talk about her King Rolen’s King series and has exciting news:

As a writer, you never know when a small scrap of information will wedge itself in the vault of your mind and one day prove useful.

books2

Back when I first left school I had a secondhand book shop. This was the perfect environment for an avid reader. In the days when the average novel was around 50,000 words I used to read a book in the morning, one in the afternoon and another after dinner. Reading at this rate meant there were days when I simply couldn’t find a book (even in a bookstore and even with very eclectic tastes).

Faced with this dilemma I would prowl the shelves looking for obscure interesting things. At the bottom of a shelf was a stack of dusty National Geographic magazines. Long before the days of the internet, this mag took the reader into homes and work places across the world. I’ve always been fascinated by people and how they live. I guess it is part of being a writer — that drive to understand why people do what they do. And then there were the photos. Unlike most writers I’m visually oriented so the photographs and illustrations in glorious colour fed that side of me.

Back in those days I devoured all the National Geographic magazines that made their way into my shop, including old black and white copies which I regarded as ‘time capsules’. What I didn’t realise was that my search for the obscure and interesting was laying down a rich groundwork for the books I would eventually write.

Sometimes a picture was enough to inspire me. This particular National Geographic cover struck chord with me.

I only ever saw it once and didn’t save the magazine but the feel of the photo remained with me and I used the boy’s style of clothing for the Utlanders in King Rolen’s Kin. (Turns out this was very appropriate since he was a Norwegian Lapp).

Because I couldn’t remember the year or month, I thought I would never find the image again. And I wouldn’t, if I hadn’t been wandering through a thrift store with my sister. (I love thrift stores, but that is another blog post). Sitting on the end of a rack, cover out, was this issue of National Geographic. And they were selling it for only one dollar. Naturally, I grabbed it and went over to the counter where I discovered all reading material was 50% off so I reclaimed a cherished image for only 50 cents. Made my day.

Then there were the first-hand accounts that I found particularly interesting. At the time I didn’t realise that this kind of research is called going to the primary source.

Back when I was a child I read an account of how a man and his two children were walking in a US national park when a snow storm came up suddenly. He built a snow cave and the children survived. In this case there were no photos and I had to research to find out about snow caves. But the idea that you could survive extreme conditions by building a snow cave stayed with me and I used it in King Rolens Kin. When the first book opens it is midwinter and Byren builds snow caves to camp while travelling.

snow-cave-pair
Snow cave from Adventure Out

The King Rolen’s Kin series covers from midwinter to midsummer so it ranges from snow covered fields where Byren skates on canals and lakes to fetch help when his father’s kingdom is invaded, to the midsummer celebration when Byren hopes to reclaim the throne.

kiing-rolens-kin-all

The KRK series has had a good run since it was first released with these beautiful illustrations by Clint Langley. I was surprised and delighted when my publisher contacted me to say they were going to re-release the KRK series to launch their Solaris Classics line.

These books have touched many readers who have reached out to me. And I think this is, in part, due to my fascination with the obscure and interesting. (Here’s what Mervi thought of the first book.)

Yes, I love fantasy. Yes, I love a rollicking tale. But I also love the obscure and interesting details that stick in your mind.

I hope the launch of the Solaris Classics line will enable King Rolen’s Kin to reach new readers.

The King’s Bastard on Kindle

The King’s Bastard Solaris Classic edition

Blog: http://www.rowena-cory-daniells.com/

Twitter: @rcdaniells

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Please give a warm welcome to guest blogger Adam Shepard.

I left home at 29, just for a year, to travel around the world. I didn’t leave angry or lost or on a search for meaning. Likewise, I returned energized and inspired after having spent the greatest year of my life on the road. I learned Spanish, I went hang gliding, I ate way too many banana splits, and I grew a mustache and a mullet (on separate occasions, of course).

And now, I’m left with the photos of my experiences, the slight aftertaste of duck embryo in the Philippines still lingering, and memories of the wonderful people I met along the way.

The people. I think that being out in the world to see that good and evil exist everywhere, and that good exists in far greater supply, has validated many things for me. But mostly it has allowed me to stay on edge, to always be open to the possibility that, despite my experiences with those whose path I just crossed, the next person I meet could be a jerk or a wonderful new traveling companion.

And no lesson solidified that for me more than the immigration officer I met at the border heading from Honduras and into Nicaragua:

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000038_00028]

So I finished volunteering in Honduras. The next stop beckoned, and besides, this country I’d spent the past two months in was becoming increasingly dangerous. Peace Corps volunteers had been beaten and robbed over the last couple of years, two of them killed. Then, one more was shot in the arm during a routine bus robbery, and the director of the Peace Corps, completely fed up, ordered the extraction of all of their volunteers from Honduras.

I took a ferry to Útila, one of the Bay Islands snuggled in the Caribbean, and after four days, earned my scuba certification. I started introducing myself in social settings as “Adam Shepard, certified scuba diver.”

Then I caught the bus for Nicaragua. An oversold bus schedule left me stranded in Tegucigalpa for a three-day layover. Tegucigalpa: the Honduran capital, the pit of the earth and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. If you ever find yourself mad at your life, fly down to Tegus, that bustling, decrepit place, and you’ll come to appreciate everything you have back home. The people are nice enough, but you’ll have a hard time noticing them over the odious city landscape—the dilapidated buildings almost leaning against one another as they decay, the grimy sidewalks, the pungent market stalls.

Then, to escalate my troubles, as I finally crossed the border from Honduras to Nicaragua, the immigration official at the window frowned and signaled me to a back room. Confused, I followed him back to a cramped office. He preferred to remain standing as he informed me that I’d overstayed my visa by five days. Despite his otherwise aggravated tone, I caught a flicker of sympathy on his face as I stared down the barrel of a very fat fine.

“You understand,” he said with a sigh, a placid demeanor now, frowning down at my passport as if it was just as much at fault as I was, “that this is a very big problem.”

There were no shady side rooms with men wearing latex gloves; he wasn’t going to lock me up in a dank prison cell for the weekend or call in his superiors to give me a shakedown. His tired eyes said he knew I wasn’t deliberately doing anything illegal; he knew my pack wasn’t stuffed with sacks of marijuana. But matter-of-factly, I’d overstayed my welcome. I’d misunderstood the CA-4 alliance among Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Guatemala, and I’d been in the region five days past the allotted ninety.

“Hm. I don’t understand,” I said sincerely, leaning forward and pointing to my passport. I was prepared to pay a fine and any other punishment as long as I could understand what I’d done wrong. “I was in Guatemala for thirty days, and then I came into Honduras. I thought my ninety days started over when I entered Honduras.”

Fidgeting with the shiny badge attached to his breast pocket, he explained the precise legalities of the CA-4 alliance, and I pondered about how the precise legalities of the CA-4 alliance were a bunch of bullshit. But so are all short-term tourist visas. “Get serious!” I wanted to scream. “I’m spending my money here, fine sir! So you want to limit my time and how much money I can spend here? I’m having fun! You want me to take my money elsewhere? Get serious.” I was baffled. I stared out the window at a flat, dry land giving way to rolling hills demanding yet more exploration. I blew a frustrated sigh through my lips. Why do they want me to leave? Do they think I’m going to hang out too long in Central America because I’m illicitly stealing someone’s job?

“I’m an American citizen,” I said, searching for some tactic that would get me out of this dingy back room. “Does that count for something?”

He said, “Buddy, your mom smells like the poo of an African gray parrot, and your dad herds Peruvian goats for a living. I don’t give a turd if you are the most valuable batsman on Sri Lanka’s national cricket team. You have violated the CA-4.” At least that’s what he might have said. I couldn’t be sure. Dozens of Spanish syllables rolled off his tongue at a blistering pace, and I’m best with the slow-motion variety of Spanish.

I told him he had to ease up if we had any chance of sorting this out. Or, at the very least, provide subtitles.

“Well,” I offered. “I’m not sure exactly what to do. I obviously didn’t understand the rule here, and for that I’m sorry.”

I’m sorry. That’s what I said. I’m sorry. As if I’d dribbled mustard from my hot dog over the bleachers’ edge and onto his crisp, clean replica jersey at a soccer game. I’ll pay for the dry cleaning, sir. I’m sorry. This hombre, as affably as possible, was explaining to me that I’d broken international law, and I shot him a little “whoopsy daisy.”

“Yes, I understand that you’re sorry,” he pronounced with authority, “but you have to understand that this is a very big problem.” These security people live to give others a hard time. This is how it is all over the world, of course, but Latinos love being hard on Americans especially, because our visa policies for them are much, much stricter than the CA-4 is for us.

But I’d broken the rules, and this was a problem. “A very big problem,” he kept telling me. I limped along in conversation, steadily: “Well, I do understand that, but I’m not sure exactly what to do here. It appears that my options are limited.” I wasn’t mad or hostile. My tone, though laced with suppressed frustration, came out as calm as I could make it. I knew this wasn’t going to end well for me, but I also knew it wasn’t going to end with me sitting in a cell with a hole as a toilet, fighting for elbow room amid a gang of smutty outlaws. I’d resigned myself to the hefty penalty that loomed ahead, money shaved from my funds, which would likely land in the border official’s motor scooter fund, and then I’d be on my way. A day ruined, a lesson learned. “I thought I understood the law here,” I continued, “but I guess I didn’t. Listen, I feel bad. All I wanted to do was come to Honduras and visit and be a volunteer, and—”

“Volunteer? You’ve been volunteering?”

“Yes, sir. Two months in El Porvenir, and now I’m going down to volunteer in Puerto Cabezas, Nicaragua.”

“Well, son,” he said, nodding. “All I can say is thank you for the service you have done for my country.” He reached his calloused hand out to shake mine. He scribbled something in my passport—which I couldn’t read then, nor can I now—signed it, and ambled off to help the next person in line.

I couldn’t believe it. The nominal per capita GDP in Honduras is just over 4 percent of what it is in the United States. Four percent! Put another way, it takes a Honduran citizen twenty-five years to earn an average U.S. citizen’s annual salary. That guy, that pudgy junior-grade border patrol agent, with his glossy badge and his fancy pleated pants and his lazy Friday nights at home with TV dinners, could have eaten heartily for three weeks on the money he knows I was getting ready to pull out of my pocket. And nobody would have known.

But he didn’t care about that. He smiled, shook my hand, and he let me go.

Adam Shepard’s first book, Scratch Beginnings, was featured widely in the national media and thenceforth chosen on the curriculum or as a common read at over ninety colleges and universities across the United States. His newest book, One Year Lived, recounts the year he spent out in the world: seventeen countries, four continents, and one haunting encounter with a savage bull. More information (and a picture of the mullet that Adam grew on the trip) are available at http://www.OneYearLived.com.

Please give a warm welcome to guest blogger Paul Byers. I’ll review his science fiction short story collection Act of God in a few days.

Paper or Plastic

This is a question we get asked every day and as a writer, having written both novels and short stories, I often get asked the paper or plastic equivalent of which I prefer to write; full length novels or short stories?

There are pros and cons, similarities and differences between writing short stories and full length novels, and as a writer, I enjoy both. Both must have a good storylines and both should be built around honest, believable characters.

From the practical standpoint, short stories are popular for our busy lifestyles, allowing the reader to enjoy themselves without the commitment of a novel. As a writer, it is quicker to write, though not necessarily easier, plus it gives us a chance to break out of our usual genre and try something different.

I also like short stories because these days everything is go, go, go. You can take a moment to relax, escape the fast pace of life and be entertained without a big time investment. Shorts also let you travel to many different places, if you will, in a small amount of time.

For me, I find that one of the biggest draws as a writer for the short story is that you can take greater risks with the story line and get a greater pay off at the end. With the short, you can built it up relatively quickly and at the last possible moment, hang a sharp right with a surprise ending that you couldn’t do in a full length story. In a novel, you would either see the twist coming a mile away or else it would lose much of its punch.

As a writer, you also have more freedom in the short story when working with your characters. For example, you can kill off a main character, not necessarily for the shock value, but to put a greater twist to the story that the reader wouldn’t expect and that you couldn’t get away with in a full length novel.

But on the other side of the coin, one of the biggest drawbacks to some short stories is that you don’t have the time to fully develop your characters. You know who they are but not always what makes them tick. The novel, however gives you the room and freedom to fully develop your characters with backstories and motivations. It gives the reader the chance to connect with the characters, which gives the reader an emotionally stake in their lives.

Another drawback to the short story is that sometimes there is little room for a back story or painting descriptions that can really add and help set the mood of the story. Sometimes the surrounds the characters find themselves in is just as important as the characters themselves.

One thing that is the same when writing a story, whether long or short, is that the research is always very important and it has to fit the story. I love digging and poking around, finding little tidbits of information to throw into a story. For me, the hardest part is deciding how much to put in and how much to leave out, what is necessary for the story and what I think is just plain cool.

For example, in the short story, Shooting Star from Act of God, I discovered that the Saturn V rocket used to launch the Apollo Moon Missions and also our hero, Captain Grant weighs in at an amazing 5-6 million pounds. Now, contrast that to the Wright Brothers, Flyer which topped the scales at around 625 pounds. Another interesting fact is that it takes the space shuttle about 90 minutes to orbit the earth. The astronauts would see a sunrise or sunset every 45 minutes. Important to the story, some of it yes, most of it no, but all of it interesting.

So the question of paper or plastic, short story or novel is not a question of which is better, it’s more of a question of what you’re in the mood to read.

Paul Byers
Author of Arctic Fire and Catalyst
http://www.paulbyersonline.com/
Contact email: info.paulbyersonline@yahoo.com
Act of God on Amazon.com

Today I have a wonderful guest post from Australian author Rowena Cory Daniells:

Are we Hard-wired for Violence?

Years ago I read a book by Barbara Ehrenreich, titled Blood Rites. One of the things that I found fascinating was the concept of violence as a communicable disease. If you were peaceful and you came up against a violent people, they either wiped out your village (and all your genetic off-spring) or you became violent in self-defence, in which case you were now primed to use violence to protect those you loved.

Which brings me to zombies… stay with me, I do have a point.

I was thinking about the popularity of Zombie movies and TV shows. I used to think it was because zombies were already dead so you could kill them without guilt. But after reading an article the other day I think that is only part of the appeal.

It all boils down to survival pure and simple. Them and us.

Modern life is too complex. People feel like they are a very small cog in a very large machine and they can’t affect things. Politicians and big business prove corrupt and no one seems to want to make the ‘brave’ decisions that our world needs.

Bring on the zombie apocalypse and suddenly, life is simple. Protect the people you love, food and shelter. Wipe the board clean to start again and maybe this time we’ll get it right.

After we’ve wiped out all the zombies, (they’re dead already remember so we can shoot them without guilt) we can start again, so get out the machine gun and mow down those zombies.

The very act of violence can be hypnotic, as Jeff Sparrow puts it in an article in the Overland ‘the attractive power of deadly violence itself.’ In When the Burning Moment Breaks: Gun Control and Rage Massacres, Sparrow said:

‘Much of the most overt writing about the pleasure of violence, about the attraction of war, emerged from the First World War. Indeed, the outbreak of the Great War led to mass celebrations, in almost all of the combatant nations. How to explain that enthusiasm?

… historian Eric Leeds explains, ‘It was commonly felt that with the declaration of war, the populations of European nations had left behind an industrial civilisation with its problems and conflicts and were entering a sphere of action ruled by authority, discipline, comradeship and common purpose.’ The pleasure of war represented, in other words, an indictment of the peace that it shattered.

Peace meant that men and women were atomised, alienated and alone, impersonal cogs in the gears of industry; war offered an organic collectivity in which there would be a meaningful place for everyone. Again and again in the literature of 1914, you come up against a perception of modernity, with its factories and its technology and its bureaucracy, as soulless and anti-human: a world that was ‘old and cold and weary,’ as Rupert Brooke says. Battle, by contrast, was thought to restore the values of an age that was passing, understood (in idealised terms) as honour and purpose and camaraderie.’

And it is these very traits which fantasy is famous for. It has been suggested that people turn to fantasy because of its purity of purpose. In a fantasy epic you will find a battle good against evil. In fantasy the smallest of people (the orphan or the hobbit) can make a difference. But fantasy is also evolving.

In a post on Fantasy Faction Douglas Smith writes about the popularity of gritty fantasy.  He mentions authors like Abercrombie and multi-layered books, movies and TV shows like Breaking Bad and Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy. Douglas says: ‘I personally read all kinds of fantasy – the “Farm boy versus Dark Lord”, the “bunch of heroes on a quest”. But I am consistently drawn back to (gritty fantasies). I don’t expect these stories to drop the classic concepts in fantasy, but rather take them and put a new spin on them. For me, these authors are keeping the fantasy genre fresh and exciting – they are touching on concepts which are important in a real-world way.’

All of which brings me back to my original question. Are we hard-wired for violence? As a student of history, I find the same problems arising generation after generation. What is this fascination for power? Why do people fear what is different? And why is violence so much easier than negotiation?

In my new trilogy The Outcast Chronicles, I created a world just so I could explore these questions. There are a minority gifted people, who those without gifts fear. Power attracts the ruthless, who would be classified sociopaths by today’s standards. Poor Sorne is born a half-blood mystic so his father, the king, disowns him and rears him to be a weapon against the mystics.

But the mystics aren’t ‘noble savages’, they have their own problems. Rivalries between the males and females lead to paranoia. When Imoshen is born to the leader of the brotherhood, he hides her meaning to use her against the sisterhoods.

Sorne and Imoshen have to examine their world and their places in it and ask themselves what they really believe and what they value. Is violence the only way?

Rowena has a copy of Besieged to give-away (world-wide) to one lucky commenter.

The give-away question: What’s your favourite zombie movie or TV show and why?

OC  Trailer embed

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=NDfjjKVn96Q

Rowena’s Blog

Catch up with Rowena on Twitter: @rcdaniells

Catch up with Rowena on GoodReads

Please give a warm welcome to my first ever guest blogger: Linda Hawley.

Today in this guest blog, I’d like to talk about my use of current events in Dreams Unleashed (book one of The Prophecies trilogy).

Here is one of the greatest aspects of being an Indie author: short lead-time before publication. Once I complete a manuscript, it goes to four test readers, who have a week to read, review, and fill out a survey. When they return them, I do a rewrite that takes about a week. Then, the new version of the manuscript goes to my content editor. The editing process takes about one month, and I do two rewrites. Publication preparation takes about a week or so. Therefore, from the time I complete the manuscript, I can be published in seven weeks. In comparison, publishing in a traditional route (i.e. New York publishing houses) takes 1 to 1 ½ years…yes, I did say years…before the novel is published. Because of the short lead time in Indie publishing, I can include current events in my novels that draw readers into my stories.

Let me give you an example. During the recent Tsunami in Japan, Dreams Unleashed was in the editing process. Since I was doing a rewrite, I decided to create a natural consequence (four years into the future) to the Asian fishing industry, as a result of the nuclear meltdowns caused by the Tsunami. Readers like to consider how current events may play out in the future.

In my first version of Dreams Unleashed (before it went to test readers or was edited), I had a many more current events in the manuscript. So much so that it became distracting to the reader. In the editing process, I lost 20,000 words! My editor made sure that if the event didn’t move the plot forward, or improve the characterizations, it had to go. So every current even in the novel now are all critical pieces that will unfold as the story does in the trilogy.

I see the trilogy as a way to voice some of the frustrations of the citizens of the world. In weaving those current events into the plot and subplots, I believe that I am making a bit of difference in the world. That is very satisfying for me, in a fictional story. It will be interesting to see what world events will be revealed as I finish writing book two of The Prophecies trilogy (to be published this summer).

I hope that you—the reader—will appreciate how I have fleshed out the characters in Dreams Unleashed, and that you will be hooked enough to want to read the rest of the trilogy.

Thank you for reading my stories,
Linda Hawley

Dreams Unleashed synopsis:
It’s the future year of 2015, where technology governs life. No one on the globe is free from being tracked through government RFID. The worldwide underground organization, GOG, is the one group equipped to fight against citizens’ loss of privacy. Ann Torgeson is a technical writer working for a tidal energy company—living a seemingly normal life in the Pacific Northwest—when her vivid dreams turn real. Is her training as a paranormal CIA agent when she was nineteen years old now altering the doorway between her subconscious and reality? When Ann starts to dig into her past, her present begins to unravel, leading the reader through events that twist and turn everything upside down. Question everything you know is essential in this dystopian trilogy.

You can read a free sample of Dreams Unleashed at Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0051VDGJK

The eBook version of Dreams Unleashed is available for purchase now (for all eBook readers) at Smashwords, link: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/61373 and of course at Amazon, link: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0051VDGJK

My website is: http://lindahawley.com/
My blog is: http://lindahawley.com/b2e/blog5.php
The print copy of Dreams Unleashed is due to be published about June 10th.

My first guest blogger will be Linda Hawley and she will be talking about her first book, Dreams Unleashed, which is a paranormal thriller. One lucky commenter can also win the book either as an ebook or print!

I’ll review Dreams Unleashed soon. The synopsis: “It’s the future year of 2015, where technology governs life. No one on the globe is free from being tracked through government RFID. The worldwide underground organization, GOG, is the one group equipped to fight against citizens’ loss of privacy. Ann Torgeson is a technical writer working for a tidal energy company—living a seemingly normal life in the Pacific Northwest—when her vivid dreams turn real. Is her training as a paranormal CIA agent when she was only nineteen years old now altering the doorway between her subconscious and reality? When Ann starts to dig into her past, her present begins to unravel, leading the reader through events that twist and turn everything upside down. It’s the not-so-distant future, and question everything you know is the theme of Dreams Unleashed, book one of this paranormal trilogy.”