Computer Swap

Yesterday, out of the blue, my son offered to upgrade my computer. Shared activities have been tough with this guy, so I took him up on it. Besides which, my computer was from 2012 and overdue for maintenance.

The hardware part went fast. He gave me an updated motherboard, a solid state drive (he’s very big on solid state drives) and a better graphics card. These were parts he was salvaging from a friend’s old machine, so I didn’t even have to pay for them.

Now comes the harder part, transferring the data from the previous drive and setting it all up again. We tried to transfer my profile over, but no, that would be much too easy. Copying photos and documents is simple enough, but the most of the programs were about as old as the computer. I’ll have to go through one at a time, decide if I still need/want them, and re-install things.

Do I have discs for these? No, silly! Except, miraculously, I did find the disc with my printer drivers on it.

So that’s what I’m up to today. Visiting my usual web sites and updating bookmarks. In a few cases, I’ll have to decide whether to buy software again. It’s going to be quite a project. I hope to be done by Friday, but who knows?

Good thing I was done with Prisoners of the Wailing Tower!

Book Mapping

It kind of came as a surprise, but I have pretty much found my way to the end of Prisoners of the Wailing Tower! Lorrah distracted her mean big sister, and managed to show off her magical chops. That allowed Alemin to escape from the Larder with all his fellow prisoners. I just have a couple of wrap-up sections where the characters reflect on what they achieved. And I need a great final scene, of course.

Once that’s blocked out, I’ll get to work on revisions. Most of what I have is good, but some things need to be discovered a lot sooner. I also want to trim length; the other novellas are 30-40 thousand words, and Prisoners is nearly 50 thousand. To get a handle on that, my first step will be to make a book map.

What is that? So glad you asked.

Book maps are a way to analyze the plot and figure out where the weak points are. There are lots of methods. Some people use index cards and move them around until they like the flow. Others use storyboard software.

My method is to make a chart using my word processor, WordPerfect. For each section of the manuscript, I’ll briefly describe the action and note a few details like new characters being introduced. I’ll also color-code them to show which POV the sections are in.

With two points of view, Lorrah and Alemin, it’s important that both of them have a satisfying plot arc. So after mapping the book, I can read their sections separately. Once I have a good arc for both of them, it will be pretty easy to weave them back together and polish the sections that I just slammed out to finish the draft.

Yes, revisions are a pain. But I know what I need to do, and I’m actually excited to get this manuscript in shape. So instead of being mad at it, I can be proud to publish it.

Meanwhile, I hope you’re all having a safe and relaxing Fourth of July.

Have you read one of my books? Then it would be great for you to leave a review! Meanwhile, if you’d like to learn more about me and my work, check out my web site, Facebook, Instagram and/or Twitter.

What a rush! Queen Titania’s Court, my month-long fantasy book feature, is done for this year. I’m very happy with how it came out. Thanks so much to my fellow authors, who were great fun to work with. Thanks also to those of you who commented, shared, and helped spread the fantasy book love.

What’s Happening: I’m officially on my summer schedule. My district opted to use all of the days in our contract that were held for snow emergencies, so the last day of school was pushed back to June 19th. It was a very weird last third of the school year, but 2020 is turning out to be such a weird year that it’s hardly worth mentioning. I am still going by the school two days a week, to keep up with weeding the garden. The custodians seem genuinely happy to have someone to talk to.

Work in Progress: Prisoners of the Wailing Tower. (Still!) It’s been going slowly, what with a few distractions and all. I also began writing without having made some key plot decisions, and that always bites me in the butt. At the moment I’ve given up on polishing the prose in any way. I’m just slamming out the plot to finish the draft. I expect that to happen before the end of this month.

What’s Next: Revisions on Prisoners of the Wailing Tower. Normally I let a draft settle and go do other things. With this one, I hate it so much that I’ll probably go straight into the second draft. My plan was to publish it this November. However, it has to be up to my standards. If I’m not able to do that, I have a backup plan. That’s something I’ll get into when and if it happens.

Fun and Games: I’m currently playing Animal Crossing (for the cute/ chill/ creative/ vibe) and Dragon Age: Inquisition. Inquisition is a huge, sprawling fantasy RPG. It’s also a big inspiration for my Minstrels of Skaythe series. It’s good to go back to the well every once in a while. In addition to video games, my regular role-playing group is playing D&D Third edition online via Discord. My character is a rogue archer who scoffs at rules. I also have a stack of jigsaw puzzles that I can really concentrate on now that I’m on summer break.

I hope you all are staying safe and well.

Have you read one of my books? Then it would be great for you to leave a review! Meanwhile, if you’d like to learn more about me and my work, check out my web site, Facebook, Instagram and/or Twitter.

Cover to The Ice Witch of Fang Marsh
The Ice Witch of Fang Marsh

Meven paused at the top of a staircase, stunned by the glittering kaleidoscope of people and creatures before her. Music swirled in visible clouds above a huge assembly that danced with varying degrees of grace or enthusiasm. Meven’s sarong of pale green swamp linen seemed inadequate compared to the other revelers’ gaudy attire. Natural pearls gleamed against her brown arms and neck as she raised hand to check that her jet black hair was still contained in its tall bun.

A scornful snort drew her attention downward. “Why did we have to come here?” Ozlin, her mageling, wore a short sarong of similar fabric. An arc of pale scars crossed his dark-skinned chest. His thicket of black curls was held back by a simple headband.

“The world is wide,” she said. “You must learn to work with all sorts of people.”

The boy slouched irritably. As Meven slowly descended the steps, she looked around for something that might catch his interest. Across from the steps, a magnificent window was open to admit a stream of fireflies and tiny sprites. An elfin man, all in green, spoke seriously to a large, gray-skinned person. Another man, in a dark blue uniform, stood alone with a glass in his hand. He appeared to be watching the throng with wary fascination. Meanwhile, a gentleman in a fine black cloak lined in scarlet, bowed low before the queen of all fairies. Surely any one of them would have fascinating stories to share.

Then Meven spotted the one sure attraction. “Oz, look at all the food.”

Ozlin’s eyes brightened. Table after table was laid out with lavish fruits, meats, cheeses, pastries, and all sorts of drinks. Nearby, a young girl with silver hair and an ornate ball gown was reaching down to pet a large puppy. A ragged rabbit hovered just above her shoulder.

“Go say hello,” Meven urged, then chuckled. Her mageling had already darted off toward the feast. She hoped he wouldn’t get into too much trouble.

As for herself, Meven headed toward the reception line, so that she too could pay honor to her hostess. This was going to be a night to remember.

The Ice Witch of Fang Marsh

Meven is a renegade, hunted by the cruel regime of master mage Dar-Gothull. Her desperate desire is to lose herself in the treacherous Fang Marsh. Only there can she live the life she wants, in freedom and safety. To reach the marsh, Meven must sneak through the town of Eshur, where her old enemy, the wicked Countess Ar-Torix, commands dozens of spies and guards. It should be no problem!

What Meven doesn’t know is that she’s already being tracked. Ozlin was thrown out because of his emerging magic. Now he’s starving on the streets of Eshur. Caught stealing, he’s about to be imprisoned in the brutal temple school.

Until Meven recognizes his power and intervenes. Suddenly she has a new, desperate desire — to save this mageling boy, and maybe save herself as well.

The Author

Deby Fredericks has been a writer all her life, but thought of it as just a fun hobby until the late 1990s. Her first professional sale, a children’s poem, was in 2000. Since then she has published six novels through two small presses, and seen her work appear in magazines such as Boys’ Life and Cricket Magazine. Currently she is self-publishing a series of high fantasy novellas, Minstrels of Skaythe. Find out more at her web site, www.debyfredericks.com.

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The doors opened and Desmond, Lord Draco, strode into the hall, tall and proud. He was dressed all in black save for his white shirt and the red lining of his cape. He took a moment to eye all the attendees, then strode to Queen Titania. He pushed the cape back, then bowed low.

“Your servant, Your Majesty,” he said.

Character Questions

Is there something you are willing to die for?

As a vampire, I honestly hope I will never die. Unlike some of my brooding kindred who become bored with life, I always find new challenges and it helps that the world is ever changing. That said, I am all too aware that vampires may be killed. I have and will risk death for knowledge. I’m especially interested in the origins of humans and vampires, and whether or not there is truth behind the religions humans profess. I have seen marvels that make me think there must be some truth, but I wonder if it is a complete truth.

Would you rather sneak into a dragon’s den or attend a demonic parliament?

What a marvelous question, for you see when I was mortal, I was a “dragon” in the court of Ambrosius Aurelianus. It was a title much like “lord” or “baron” to more recent generations and the chief among us was the pendragon. What’s more, as a vampire, many say we are possessed by demons.

Alas, I have never seen a real dragon, despite carrying a banner emblazoned with one. Still, I do wonder if they exist somewhere, more hidden even than us vampires. Despite what people say, I don’t believe a demon possesses me. I have always been “Desmond” and although I have gained immortality, great strength, and a thirst for blood, I find no evidence that a demon possesses me.

So, which would I rather see? Demons to determine their nature and decide if it’s possible I am possessed by one or dragons to revel in their power and strength? It would be a hard choice if presented to me, but I think I would visit the demonic parliament because I might learn more about my origins and the marvelous, mysterious clockwork universe.

Tell us about the main religion or spirituality of your society?

I believe the religions of my world are known to you, but it has been fascinating to see how different religions have ebbed and flowed through the world during my long life. As a child we worshipped many gods, such as Brigid, the goddess of healing, and Lugh, the god of war. My birth name was, in fact Angus Desmond. Angus was the god of choice and love. Learned people called druids made it their job to understand the world around us. They told us about the gods and told us when it was time to plant and when to harvest and helped us make sense of the cycles of the world.

Even in my youth, I knew of a second religion in Britain called Christianity, which told of a god’s son and his doctrine of love and forgiveness. It’s said the religion came to Britain soon after the death of Jesus and in fact, Wolf, the vampire who brought me into the world of darkness, said he met Joseph of Arimathea who carried the cup of Christ himself. The cup captivated him and he thought it could bring forgiveness to vampire-kind but it was guarded by a powerful creature. I believe Christians call it an angel. Wolf and I engaged the help of an old acquaintance of mine called Arthur to find that cup. And you know what? We found it, but it was just an object, though it was still guarded by one of these angels. So you see, I have reason to wonder about what these religions teach.

I also know of a religion professed by the Ottoman Turks. I’m hard pressed to see many differences between their Islamic faith and Christianity. Mostly the differences are in the details and doctrines, but the two are in conflict over parts of Europe and the Holy Lands. While the conflict challenges my goal of seeking knowledge, it does keep me well employed as a mercenary.

Author Questions

If you lived in the world of your book, who would you be?

No question I would be Daniel McKee from Vampires of the Scarlet Order, the sequel to Dragon’s Fall. Daniel is an astronomer who became a vampire while working at Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona during the 1800s. He was a creature of the night before he became a vampire and the improved night vision he gained as a vampire makes his work as an astronomer even better. His fashion sense still leans toward the fashions he wore as a human in the 1880s, so in today’s world he’d fit in very well in the steampunk community!

Are your books self-published or traditionally published, and why did you choose that route into print?

The first editions of the Scarlet Order vampire novels were traditionally published by Lachesis Publishing. I submitted Vampires of the Scarlet Order to LBF Books back in 2007 at the urging of the company’s art director who had read a chapter and loved it. LBF bought the book. During my time with LBF, the company’s owner encouraged me to try my hand at NaNoWriMo. One of the NaNoWriMo novels I wrote was the first draft of Dragon’s Fall. After that, LBF was acquired by Lachesis and my new publisher asked for a new vampire novel. I returned to Dragon’s Fall, polished it according to their guidelines, and submitted it. I received a contract soon afterward.

The contracts on the two novels have recently expired and the rights reverted to me. Dragon’s Fall: Rise of the Scarlet Order Vampires is just out in its new self-published edition and Vampires of the Scarlet Order will follow soon. Self-publishing new editions gave me the opportunity to update the covers and make some revisions I felt were needed.

Have you ever been on a writer’s pilgrimage?

When my daughter went to college in New Orleans, each trip became something of a writer’s pilgrimage for me. Anne Rice, who lived there for many years, was one of the authors who inspired me to try my hand at writing vampire fiction. In fact, there are some scenes in Vampires of the Scarlet Order, the sequel to Dragon’s Fall, which are set in Louisiana bayou country, which exist as something of a tribute to Anne Rice.

During my first trip to New Orleans, I brought Anne Rice’s novel Merrick and made a point of becoming familiar with the neighborhoods in the novel. In a later trip, I made a point of visiting a bookstore that specialized in signed editions and bought a signed copy of one of Rice’s novels. What’s more, I’ve been honored that Boutique du Vampyre in New Orleans has hosted signings for my vampire novels. It’s a real honor to have my work celebrated in the hometown of one of my favorite authors.

Dragon’s Fall (Rise of the Scarlet Order #1)

Three vampyrs. Three lives. Three intertwining stories.

Bearing the guilt of destroying the holiest of books after becoming a vampyr, the Dragon, Lord Desmond searches the world for lost knowledge, but instead, discovers truth in love.

Born a slave in Ancient Greece, Alexandra craves freedom above all else, until a vampyr sets her free, and then, she must pay the highest price of all—her human soul.

An assassin who lives in the shadows, Roquelaure is cloaked even from himself, until he discovers the power of friendship and loyalty.

Three vampyrs, traveling the world by moonlight—one woman and two men who forge a bond made in love and blood. Together they form a band of mercenaries called the Scarlet Order, and recruit others who are like them. Their mission is to protect kings and emperors against marauders, invaders, and rogue vampyrs—and their ultimate nemesis—Vlad the Impaler.

The Author

David Lee Summers lives in Southern New Mexico at the cusp of the western and final frontiers. He’s written novels about space pirates, vampire mercenaries, mad scientists in the old west, and astronomer ghosts. He’s edited thrilling anthologies of space adventure that imagine what worlds discovered by NASA’s Kepler mission might be like. When he’s not writing or editing, David explores the universe for real at Kitt Peak National Observatory. To learn more about David or his books visit his website at http://www.davidleesummers.com

Fyrnux was used to maintaining self-control — but not in front of royalty. No teacher had taught how to properly enter the court of a queen. That was something for the people of the Malvin-Jullian Empire, not the Simmerian-Phi Alliance. Fyrnux hadn’t even known what to wear, but decided on a student uniform. The third-year student wore grey regulation pants and jacket, the latter with three silver pips on the left shoulder and underneath a brown and green plaid blouse. The grey-skinned Fyrnux had long straight black hair flowing freely overall, as was proper. Fyrnux had thought about marching in, but remembered this was not to be military formal, so tried walking in normally–but respectfully. “Be yourself,” Fyrnux thought, nervously.

Character Questions

Is there something you are willing to die for?

Oh my goodness, your Majesty, I really do not want to die, not yet! I am still a young student, studying to become a counselor.

I want to help people, like my new friend Oystra, who is starting as an exchange student on my world, Vonyai. Oystra is from Gepra, and is what is called a “female.” They have people there called “males,” too. I do not know how they are different, but want to live to learn! And I cannot counsel people if I am dead!

Which is more powerful – a wish or a curse?

Your Majesty, I believe a wish is for something you want that is good, a curse is for something bad. So I believe the more powerful would be a wish.

Tell us about the main religion or spirituality of your society.

Many generations ago, people on my world, Vonyai, were different, your Majesty. They had different skin colors and different genders, two, I think. Of course they did not get along with each other. After the Great Race War, people were all made the same so we could live in peace. We all have grey skin and black hair, and are all genderless. And people reproduce properly now, not like beasts do. Oh, I did not mean that as an offense to Oystra’s people!

We do have different eye colors, Yellow and Indigo, so of course we are raised separately. But both colors are allowed at my university so we can learn about each other. My world treats people fairly, so Yellows and Indigos live separate, but equal.

Author Questions

Who would be your ideal reader?

Would it be too obvious to say someone who likes what I write? That said, I like to challenge people’s thinking, and strive to challenge my own.

Most of my professional writing has been journalism in the much too rare “tell the truth and nothing but the truth” tradition. In fiction, I go back to my roots, which are tangled and interlocking. While I’m classified as a non-Hispanic Caucasian male, my three closest friends before I started school were all girls. As a boy, I learned Native American dancing on an Indian reservation and performed locally. I ran a computer lab at a school that was 80% Hispanic, tutored international students, and have a minor from my university’s Ethnic and Women’s Studies Department. So my ideal reader is one who is willing to seriously consider other points of view.

How much do you plan ahead of time, vs. following the story where it leads?

I don’t always construct a story or play in the same way. Most of the time, I create interesting characters, put them in an interesting situation in our or another world, then “record what they say and do.” My main characters are very real to me, so I know them well. I’ve even taken online personality tests as my characters to get to know them better. But even then, sometimes they do things I didn’t expect–which are almost always more interesting than what I planned.

Do you have any writing superstitions?

If I believe in them, I won’t think they’re superstitions!

Seriously, I have had the reverse, superstitions about my writing. This is probably primarily due to three things. One, I treat my characters as if they’re real people; two, I’ve written under several pen names; and three, I’ve shared pen names with others.

As a result, there are those who are convinced that a number of real people are all me. Ironically, the accused have included at least two people who were making the allegations! I supposedly have dozens of “sockpuppets.” They admin dozens of wikis and other websites, composed dozens of poems, edited dozens of magazine issues, authored dozens of books, etc. I wish I could do all that, especially when during much of the “sockpuppet” period I was working fulltime offline.

The thing that bothers me the most about it is that innocent people have been targeted in “The Loveshade Sockpuppet Conspiracy.” Fortunately, none of my friends have blamed me for the false accusations. But I still feel really bad about it. My hope is the conspiracy theorists are finally getting bored with their “theory,” and will move on to something that’s less destructive.

Exchange Students

Alden Loveshade is the author of “Orange Sun, Grey Sky,” in the anthology Exchange Students, edited by Sheila Hartney.

Study abroad! See new places! Meet new people! In our exchange student program, you can literally study anywhere or anywhen you can imagine. We’ll send you to new planets. We’ll send you to new dimensions and realms of existence. We’ll send you through time itself! Read this exciting anthology packed with twenty-two tales of science fictional and fantastic exchange students.

The Author

Alden Loveshade is a journalist, graphic designer, photographer, fiction writer, and personist. He’s enjoyed tutoring–and learning from–students of India, Mexico, Russia, Thailand, and the United States. He has degrees in humanities and theatre and a minor in ethnic and women’s studies, and has studied a wide variety of subjects including astronomy, biology, physics, psychology, and sociology. When not designing star systems for stories and GURPS roleplaying games, he enjoys historical recreation, walking in the woods, tending ponds, and trying to understand cats. http://alden.loveshade.org

Of course, when I arrived, they had to block my way, and demand to know who I was, and all that. I told them, and they laughed at me. I’m used to this. Nobody thinks an underweight female Dalmatian puppy wearing a monogrammed white T shirt is much of a threat. That is, until I start up my counterattack.

I growled very loudly at them, and they stopped.

“I was invited,” I said. “By your liege.”

They seemed confused.

“You know….Queen Titania. The woman who pays your salaries. The woman who owns this whole place, and is giving this shindig. The woman who could kill you if she so desires if you disobey her. That is, if I don’t do it MYSELF first!”

As I spat out the last sentence, I gave them a flash of my able-to-bite-through-anything-at-all fangs, and they finally got it. I was allowed to pass, and granted my audience with the Queen…

Character Questions

Is there something you are willing to die for?

I am prepared to lay down my life in practically any situation I am in, but most particularly those in which those of friends and allies are threatened. That is a burden anyone in my job must be prepared to accept if they choose to take this on.

Are there any fantastic beasts where you live?

Where I live, i.e. the community where I’m based as my secret identity, I’m the only “fantastic beast” I know of. However, in combat with some and through friendship with others, I know for certain that this is not the case elsewhere.

What is your magical weapon of choice?

It’s hard picking just one, but I would say my ability to hypnotize others, and have them act upon my commands. When my other powers fail me- and they have, sometimes — I can rely on that. Even my fellow heroine-friends are vulnerable to it, and they are, for the most part, nearly as indestructible as I am, so that’s saying something.

Author Questions

If you lived in the world of your book, who would you be?

The person the story is being told or dictated to, especially if it’s a first person narrative. In other words, a scribe, a copyist or an oral historian.

Are your books self-published or traditionally published, and why did you choose that route into print?

Both. Traditional for my non-fiction books, and largely, self-publishing for my fiction, since I haven’t had much success yet selling it in book form. The fact that I’ve made more money from my traditional book sales so far indicates that I haven’t succeeded in getting people interested in my fiction yet.

Is there a fantasy trope that you would like to NEVER see again?

I would like to see romance writers stop writing pseudo-speculative fiction narratives. Romance should just be an element of speculative fiction and not the raison d’etre.

Honey and Salt

Bravery comes in all forms: fighting bullies and fighting your own demons.
Honey and Salt is a superhero novella that will draw you in the just fight of a few super heroines. The story is packed with action and humor. Their quest against evil superheroes and against their own weaknesses is refreshing. You can identify with them and embrace their battles. Rousing fantasy action with amazing young girls ready to fight for justice and for the oppressed.

If you enjoy a good action with an unusual plot, then this is the book for you.

David Perlmutter is a freelance writer based in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. His published works include the non-fiction books America ‘Toons In: A History Of Television Animation (McFarland and Co.) and The Encyclopedia Of American Animated Television Shows (Rowman and Littlefield); as well as a number of speculative fiction collections and novellas. His short stories can be read on Curious Fictions at Curious Fictions/David Perlmutter, and at Medium. com. He can be reached on Facebook at DavidPerlmutterCanadianhistoryspecficwriter, Twitter at @DKPLJW1, and Tumblr at The Musings of David Perlmutter (yesdavidperlmutterfan), and can be supported at Patreon at www.patreon.com/davidperlmutter22 and at Ko-Fi at www.ko-fi.com/davidperlmutter.

Unsure what to expect inside the ball, Dedra pulls up the hood of the pink robe denoting her as an adherent of the Ahweian Order of Spirit. She takes a deep breath and slips inside, where she takes in the scene. She’s certain she’ll be asked to play something on the violin–she always is–but she wants to get her bearings before anyone sees her and makes a request. As she sizes up the revelers and their mood, she thinks of what piece of music would suit them best and pictures how the colorful tones would interact with the costumes and decor. After a few minutes of lurking around the edges, she feels comfortable enough to lower her hood, straighten her spine, and move forward to greet her hostess.

Character Questions

Are there any fantastic beasts where you live?

Yes, there’s one that shows up periodically in the dimension I visit (and where I hope to live out the rest of my life). It’s a bird called a chirikin. It looks kind of like a sparrow, but multi-colored like a tropical bird. In that dimension, which is called Ahwey, music is visible. It’s used for healing and all kinds of things. For everyone except chirikin, the visible aspect of music is like smoke, but the chirikin can perch on it as if it’s solid. They’ll even slide down it sometimes. It’s really amazing to see.
They’re not really from Ahwey–they just visit–but no one knows for sure where they come from. It’s super rare and special to see one. They seem to be attracted to people who can travel, so I get to see them a lot more than most people. My friends and I have even named three of them who tend to hang around me.

Tell us about the main religion or spirituality of your society

The spirituality in Ahwey is all about universal music. That’s the music that heals the body and soul, nourishes flowers and crops, and connects Ahweians to the fabric of the universe itself. All music in Ahwey is visible, but you can tell universal music from regular music by the depth of its colors and the strength of its vibration. Every evening, all the citizens play sunset music as a tribute to the universe. Each home has a room called a locus that’s open to the sky, so you can see the musical tones streaming out across the city, filling the sky. It’s spectacular.

On festival days, sacred songs and chants are performed at the Oolosian temple. The most talented musicians play, and for some traditional chants, everyone joins in and it creates the most magnificent whirling mass of color and sound you can imagine. The Order of Spirit stays in tune with universal music through almost constant song. Those at the higher levels, the Virtuosi, can interpret universal music. The highest of all, the Prima Virtuosa, holds a seat on the governing council so she can offer spiritual guidance to the leaders. Many of the Virtuosi and the Order’s lower adherents are trained in healing song and work closely with the Order of Healing to restore the patterns of those who are sick or injured. The Orders of Spirit and Healing are the highest regarded because of their ties to universal music.

Author Questions

How much do you plan ahead of time, vs. following the story where it leads?

I use a mix of planning and flying by the seat of my pants. I start with a really loose “plot outline” that’s so unstructured I hesitate to even call it an outline. Sometimes I’ll have bullet points that I want to hit at key points; sometimes it’s stream-of-consciousness notes that ramble all over the place.
I generally start knowing the beginning, the main plot points, and how I think it’ll end. The plot points usually don’t come about how I expect them to, and the climax tends to take on a life of its own, regardless of my plans.
I used to plan a lot less, but my superhero books (Hero Academy and Plague) are part of a shared world called the Just Cause Universe. Because the main author of that series needs to approve a pitch before a book is started, I had to start fleshing things out more at the beginning. I like having a better idea where things will go, but I do stay in tune with the evolving story and follow it where it wants to go. I think that’s important–no matter how well you think you know a world, a character, a plot before you start working, you get to know it better as you write. Sometimes, an idea you had just doesn’t fit anymore. Other times, the setting or characters themselves may present an opportunity you hadn’t expected. Staying open to that, I believe, helps a story grow more organically, which pulls everything together and makes it a more unified whole.

If you lived in the world of your book, who would you be?

I would be Ahlaya, the Prima Virtuosa of the Order of Spirit. She’s the one person considered equal to the secular ruler, the Grand Maestra, and she uses that power to quietly rebel against what she believes is a misapplication of law and power by the Grand Maestra and the council. She gives help and sanctuary to those who need it and works against injustice. She’s kind and frivolous and often silly, but there’s a method to her madness and a lot of wisdom behind everything she does.

Traveler Hunted

Dedra has a secret. She can escape this world—and her unhappy life—by slipping through the veil between worlds to visit Ahwey, where music is visible and underlays every aspect of life. As a violin prodigy and traveler, she’s accorded a high status; she’s in love (even if he doesn’t know it); she’s happiest there and dreams of staying in that world forever.

But then, she starts a chain reaction that damages the fabric of the universe and puts both worlds in danger. Will her talents and wits be enough to stop the strings of reality from unraveling?

The Author

Adrienne Dellwo has a BA in Journalism & Communications from the University of Oregon and worked as a TV news producer, newspaper reporter, magazine columnist, blogger, and freelance medical writer before pursuing her life-long dream of becoming a fiction author. Her primary genres are superhero, urban fantasy, and horror. She’s also an independent filmmaker, playwright, singer, and actress.

A life-long Northwesterner, Adrienne lives in Washington state with her husband/creative partner, two teenagers who double as film cast and crew, and a really spoiled cat. She’s a self-professed geek, drinks far too much tea, and frequently changes her hair color.

Fancy suits and big crowds and lots of elites. Not my idea of a good time on any side of that triangle, but it wasn’t exactly the first time I’d found myself somewhere I wanted to be. All in all, I’d take a fancy dress party to infiltrating a nest full of harpies. Still had the scars from that one. I approached the entrance and did my best tough guy act to keep anyone from bothering me as long as possible, and I made a beeline straight for the bar. Anything this fancy? They were paying for the drinks and I was happy to lighten their pockets up for them.

Character Questions

Is there something you are willing to die for?

Well I’m an OPA agent. Office of Preternatural Affairs. Protecting country and populace against the threats that the rest of everyone doesn’t want to have to deal with. When was the last time you went toe-to-toe with a sorcerer ready to bleed you out? How about a dragon? Yeah, I didn’t take this job thinking I might never die in the course of a job.

Would you rather sneak into a dragon’s den or attend a demonic parliament?

Definitely demons. They get a bad rap. The whole claws and horns thing’s a little creepy. I’ll admit my own biases. But I work with a demon every day. Bark is way worse than their bite, in my opinion. Not that dragons are all bad. But I’ve got a Glock and they can eat me. I’m not that stupid.

If you encounter a dragon, what should you do?

Dragons again, huh? Well if they’re after you, run like hell and hope that works. If it doesn’t, hope like hell you’ve got someone with magic on the way. Maybe a lesser dragon you could take on hand to hand or with a normal gun, but I wouldn’t want to dance that dance if I didn’t have to. Lucky me, that’s what they give me a paycheck to do is dance that dance. If I don’t have a choice in the matter? Aim for the eyes.

Author Questions

How much do you plan ahead of time, vs. following the story where it leads?

I’m a big-time plotter. I like to have my entire roadmap laid out. But just like when you go on a road trip with me, I sometimes take a little detour, do something, and then swing back onto the track. While I enjoy writing off the cuff, from a sheer work and efficiency standpoint, I have to do a lot less work overall if I plan out before I write the first word.

Is there a fantasy trope that you would like to NEVER see again?

There are some general tropes I’d like to see gotten rid of, but specific to fantasy, if we could possibly never have an “I’m going to stop taking my anxiety/depression/etc meds” plotline in fantasy again, I would be so down for that. It’s super lazy and cliché to have “the drugs are blocking you from the magic.” And it’s also frankly quite harmful and stigmatizing. People use those medications to be able to live their actual lives and function. They don’t rob you of magic. They keep you from offing yourself. Give me a character who finally gets help, and because they’re finally able to breathe for a second, the magic reveals itself. Or just give me a magical world where sometimes people have to take SSRIs because they just need a little hand.

Do you have a personal motto or tag line?

For writing in particular, I have “Nobody else is going to do the work for you.” But in the larger life sense, I’ve always resonated quite strongly with a quote from, of all people, Marianne Williamson. “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.” I, and most other people, have opinions on her at this point, but that quote, often mis-attributed to Nelson Mandela, was one of those rare things that simply stopped me dead the first time I saw it. I have big issues connected to success. We don’t need to go into my personal psychology, here, but I always found that this quote could speak to me in a deep, halting way that lets me change my thinking and my actions, at least for a while.

Toxic Influence (Office of Preternatural Affairs #1)

Dashiel Rourke was never supposed to join the Office of Preternatural Affairs. He was nothing but a low-rung counterterrorism agent. A cog in the greater FBI machine. But when the poison gas attacks plaguing New York City turn out to be a little more magical than anyone expected…well, desperate times. And once he gets a lungful of that poison, it becomes personal.

Now he’s suited up with a magical sidearm, a seven-foot troll for a partner, and a whole lot of questions with not that many answers to go around. One thing he does know? Whoever or whatever is behind this mess, he’s not going to stop until he can take them down. Even if that means hanging out with elves and hags for a little while.

But Dash and the rest of the OPA don’t know just how deep this goes…or how deadly the endgame is. If you like high-stakes FBI drama and higher-stakes magic, check out Toxic Influence today.

The Author

Voss Foster lives in the middle of the Eastern Washington desert, where he writes science fiction and fantasy from inside a single-wide trailer. He is the author of the Evenstad Media Presents series, as well as the Office of Preternatural Affairs series. His short work is available from a variety of publications, including Vox.com, Flame Tree Publishing’s Heroic Fantasy Anthology, and the bestselling Alternative Truths Anthology. When he can be pried away from his keyboard, he can be found cooking, belly dancing, singing, and cuddling dogs, though rarely all at the same time. More information can be found at http://vossfoster.blogspot.com

Lyan drew a deep breath and straightened, fighting back a surge of anxiety as he tucked a wisp of red hair back into his braid. He wished that Cailean had been invited as well. The human lord could have offered Lyan advice on how to act properly in a court, and at a ball. Unfortunately, the invitation had come to Lyan alone, and while he might not be versed in court protocol, he knew better than to bring an uninvited extra. He’d dressed in his best, but a glance at the people around him left him feeling horribly under-dressed. His only jewelry was an ear cuff of delicate silver wires that curled up the length of his left ear. Silver embroidery glittered on his forest green tunic, paired with black pants and a pair of short black boots. Steeling himself, he strode to the gate to present his invitation.

Character Questions

What is your role in the world of your book?
I am the astrologer of my home, Heartshrine Village. I read the fortunes of my fellow villagers at their request, and in turn, they ensure that I have food, clothing, and other necessities. I am also a scholar—the study of the stars naturally led me to the study of other subjects.

In your world, which has the most lasting impact – a wish or a curse?
A curse. A wish has no real power—I’ve certainly never heard of any being, mortal or divine, that grants wishes freely. A curse, however, can be laid by someone blessed by their god with power. The strength and effects of the curse depend on how much power the god has granted their servant.

Is there a fantasy trope that you would like to NEVER see again?
If I had my way, I’d never face the trope of “a former enemy becomes an ally to defeat some greater threat.” There are certain enemies who I never want to see again, much less be forced to ally with.

Author Questions

How much to you plan ahead of time, vs. following the story where it leads?
I generally start with a vague idea and an opening scene, then follow that to see where it leads me. However, I have also learned that if I do not have a clear idea of the overall story by the time I am about fifty pages in (often less), there’s a good chance that the story is not going to go anywhere. At least, not now.

Are your books self-published or traditionally published, and why did you choose that route into print?
At present, my books are self-published. The Chosen of the Spears series was originally being published by a small press. However, I had some challenges with that press, and we agreed to part ways, so now I am releasing them myself. I already had some experience with self-publishing with Winterlight, the first book of my steampunk-style fantasy series.

Do you belong to a critique group or other writing organization?
I am currently a part of two local groups that focus primarily on writing, and one that focuses on critiques. I’m not currently a member of any larger writing organizations.

Shrouded Sky

To fight a mad god.

Monsters stalk the paths and clouds hide the sky every night. Now Lyan, astrologer of Heartshrine Village, must leave his familiar forest and home to seek an ancient, powerful weapon: Equinox, Spear of the Stars. In the right hands, Equinox and its brother Solstice are powerful weapons against the forces of the Mad God, Murdo. In the wrong hands, they could free Murdo from centuries of imprisonment and release him upon the world once more.

In the company of the traditional enemies of his people, Lyan must solve an ancient riddle and find the hidden Shrine of Equinox to protect the Spear from the Mad God. A cunning monster stalks them, and assassins lurk in shadows. As Murdo’s forces draw close and suspicion festers within their group, Lyan and his companions must forge an uneasy truce and rely on each other. And even if they find Equinox, someone must conquer its trials to claim it, or they may never leave.

Available as an e-book or in print.

The Author

Sanan Kolva is a technical editor by day, and writer of epic and steampunk fantasy the rest of the time. She is the author of The Chosen of the Spears series and The Silverline Chronicles. Her short fiction appears in a number of anthologies. When not writing, she enjoys baking and decorating cakes, as well as appeasing her feline overlords. She can be found at https://sanankolva.com.