Saturday, March 31, 2012

Sounds of the "Hunger Games"

I must admit that I take for granted sounds in my day-to-day life.  The phone ringing, dogs barking, hum of the washing machine, the tapping of the keys on the laptop, and on and on the list could go of sounds of the mundane and ordinary.  What about the sounds that excites or inspire like a choir singing “Ave Maria,” a sonnet spoken by a lover or a baby laughing.  Sound rounds out the moments of each day. 
Filmmakers don’t just record sounds, they create soundscapes to enhance or increase tension to scenes.  The following link is an interview of the sound team discussing how they worked on making the sound on the movie the “Hunger Games.”  This is a must watch.  The video isn't available to download, so you have to go to the site.

Watching the interview gave me a new perspective on sound.  I’ll have to go back and read Suzanne Collins novel, “The Hunger Games” just to check for the sounds I can hear.

Here’s a treat, Taylor Swift singing "Safe and Sound" for the film.

Do you notice sounds in the books you’re reading?
Till next time,

Friday, March 30, 2012

Snow White x 2

This year there will be two different Snow White movies. First one is called Mirror Mirror with Julia Roberts, Lily Collins, Armie Hammer, and Nathan Lane. The second is called Snow White and the Huntman with Kristen Stewart, Chris Hemsworth and Charlize Theron. They are completely different one from another.

The first being more light-hearted than the second. Personally, I want to see Snow White and the Huntman more because of Charlize Theron as the Queen.

If you haven't done so, view the trailers and let us know which you prefer more? Or do you want to see both?  

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Guest post by Rachel Hunter: Fantasy vs. Science Fiction: The Distinction

Please join us here at The Speculative Salon in welcoming fantasy author Rachel Hunter. Be sure to mark your calendar for her upcoming book--Empyreal Fate! 

It is a pleasure to be here indeed! And while I’m here, I wish to delve a bit into the main differences between the genres of Fantasy and Science Fiction. But before I begin, I thought I’d introduce myself and my upcoming novel, Empyreal Fate. 

First of all, my name is Rachel Hunter, and I am currently attending the University of Oklahoma in order to pursue a degree in psychology and in the medical field. I am also an author and an avid reader, and my adoration for words sprouted when I was very young. As a child, I was fascinated with stories and their capability to seemingly transport me into new worlds. It was a source of inspiration and great comfort, and I aspire to bring the same powerful emotions I feltto others: to allow readers to drift into fantastical realms and truly be one with the surroundings. Thus, I am pleased to note that my first fantasy novel – Empyreal Fate – is to be released by Hydra Publications next month:

Filled to the brim with forbidden love, an ancient evil, and a nation in disrepair, Empyreal Fate is a tale of riveting bravery and mortal corruption.
The land of Llathala lingers on the brink of war between men and elves, a dark history surrounding each race. Stirred by tensions of the land, a shadow of the past reemerges, taking precedence in reality and consuming the very soul of mans’ mortal weakness. Darrion, the son of a poor laborer, is ensnared in a hostile world, forced to choose between loyalty to his king or the counsel of the elves. Yet Fate has other plans in store, tying his course to Amarya, an elven royalblood of mysterious quality and unsurpassable beauty. But this forbidden connection incites betrayal from members of their own kin, marking them as traitors to the crown. In a land torn asunder, only Fate’s decree can allow such love to coexist with an ancient enmity.

Behold: A Llathalan Annal: Empyreal Fate – Part One.

Now on to our discussion: Fantasy vs. Science Fiction:

Over the weekend, I pulled out an old computer game, titled,Might and Magic IX. The graphics are outdated, but the gameplay is one to be admired (and comes as a source of great nostalgia for me). For those of you unfamiliar with said game, Might and Magic is an RPG (role-playing game) from the makers at 3DO (a company no longer in existence... unfortunately). As a result, there have been few patches to take care of in-game 'issues', and I find myself seeking alternative routes to appease my craving for ‘fantasy gaming.’ But that is not what I have come to blog about! My point in even bringing up Might and Magic - or, indeed, any role-playing game in general - is to comment on the connection between RPGs and the fantasy/science fiction worlds. I find it interesting how many of the same themes or archetypes may be found in each: such as a main quest/story line, a hero, and a common villain. Granted, the details differ between works, but overall, the concept is almost interchangeable. As an author and gamer, I am curious as to how many writers of the fantasy/science fiction genre also take on RPG storylines - or note the similarities. For there are so many categories and subgenres; yet they all seem to intermingle in some way!

           Forgive me if I tend to roam a bit on the subject, but I also stopped to consider the role of women in such writing. For the first speculative novel (Science Fiction, in this case), was credited to Mary Shelley, whose work is the popular tale, Frankenstein. What is the difference between fantasy and sci-fi, you may ask? Well, here's how I determine the separation: Fantasy tends to deal more with the magical/fantastical elements of a particular world, in which the impossible takes place. There also seems to be a medieval underpinning with kings, peasants, knights, etc... It tends to dwell on what has happened in the past. Science fiction, on the other hand, deals with futuristic settings and with "rational" explanations - instances that do not involve magic, but instead define a world with technological or scientific reasonings. (As a basic comparison, I look at The Lord of the Rings versus Star Wars: a world of wizards and kings against a galaxy of saber swords and spacecraft)

To expand, with Fantasy, there seems to be more of a leniency toward “suspension of disbelief,” for in creating a new world with new creatures, the author is able to determine the boundaries and create the rules or laws that govern his or her universe. When I think of Science Fiction, however, I see a less flexible realm for such suspension. Even when creating a new world, the laws of gravity and physics still seem to be a crucial factor, and it would be difficult for the reader to accept conflicting elements of a world “just because” in such a case.Although I’m not a firm believer that Science Fiction must contain qualities defined by factual scientific bases, I do see it as possessing more reasonable – or “possible” - explanations, whereas Fantasy usually incorporates supernatural – or “mystical” – qualities. 

In order to help paint a visual, I’ve put together a short list of some of the more popular titles in either category:

Fantasy: The Belgariad, The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, Game of Thrones, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, The Runelordsseries, Sword of Shannaraseries, Wheel of Time series,etc…

Science Fiction: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Dragonriders of Pern, Dune, Enders Game, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Journey to the Center of the Earth, Star Wars, Star Trek, etc…

I hope this brief summary helped clarify some of the main distinctions regarding the major differences between Fantasy and Science Fiction. There are, of course, many works that overlap the two genres, but these are some common “ground rules” for quick determination. 

Author Links:

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Zombies and... Parkour?

Some of you may know that I’m a little bit obsessed with the sport parkour. Not that I’ve ever practiced it myself - I’m far too fond of my body parts to try it. However, I love to watch it, and it’s popped up in several movies the last few years, including Casino Royale, and my personal fave, District B-13 and sequel.

Recently, the word parkour has been paired with another favorite of mine: zombies. Type the two into the Youtube search box, and you’ll find a bunch of indie and homemade films. Most are great fun, but let’s face it, if zombies moved like this, no one would survive, LOL. Here’s a trailer that illustrates the trend, and I hope people continue to run with the idea (pardon the terrible pun). Enjoy!


Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Steampunk Prophets: Are there any?

Immersing myself lately in steampunk, I started wondering where to look for its prophets. Who's going to seed the ideas of the future. The potential is there. Not just the ideas about technology, though that is what initially attracted and inspired me to stage a story in the genre. Speculative fiction, in general, is idea-centered.  Each genre in spec fic focuses on a different collective of ideas. Steampunk, puts an emphasis on a particular aspect of the scientific world and makes sure we recognize how technology and politics intersect. That's one of the things we know about steampunk.

There is more.

 Steampunk, more than science fiction in general, exposes the relationship between invention and economics. Given how many inventions there were in the Victorian era, economics decided which ones ruled. That is probably some law or other. However, Steampunk can, and does in some stories, investigate and propose the advancement of alternate technologies. For example, my favorite alternate-tech, the Stirling Engine, is part of the technology featured in Benedice Te by Jay Lake (in Steampunk Tales #1),

The Stirling Engine was invented as a response to the dangers of steam. It is still used in its original capacity as a track-side water pump. However, because the Stirling is a temperature differential engine powered by heat--the temperature difference between one side an another--it is now being explored by the solar industry.

Anyone who has followed the technological influences of Star Trek knows how easy it is to use a story to not only fuel imagination but to create the market for its products. Imagination has influence, is very powerful, and can make the world a better place.

The editors of Steampunk Tales, volumes 1-6, have challenged themselves to bring out the best of what steampunk can bring to the discussion of technology and makes sure that we read what potential prophets have to offer. I'm looking forward to our reading and discussion of the stories in the initial volume. Meanwhile, I'm back in the deep end of the steampunk pool.

 Next week, from the deep end, I'll be treading water where steampunk notoriously exposes social elements that we are still wrestling with now: race, and the role of women. I'll also be looking inside Steampunk II: Steampunk Reloaded which searched out steampunk writers with views from other sides of the Empire.  Steampunk samba, anyone?


Monday, March 26, 2012

Stepping Outside the Comfort Zone! It's Bootcamp Time!

The countdown is on. If you are a member of Savvy Authors, you probably know that Liz Pelletier and Dawn McClure and running another one of their Author Bootcamps and this one couldn’t come at a better time in my life.

With my three-month old son absorbing 99.9% of my time; writing, reading and reading for my craft have taken a back seat other than the half an hour spent at bed. I’ve been tinkering with my plots and writing when I put him to bed at nights, but its not enough. The word counts aren’t anything to brag about and I’ve been reading the same craft books since Christmas.

And originally, I hadn’t thought that I would do Bootcamp this time around because I have my little pumpkin and I've almost finished a draft of one of my work-in-progresses. I’ve done Bootcamp three times before and its similar to NaNo, which I’ve also done for the past three years and won, but I’m not one of those people that can lose - I have to win - it’s in my DNA.

Bootcamp gets a little more out of you because you are part of a team. There’s no ‘reach 50,000 words like in NaNo’, instead it challenges you to write the absolute most you can everyday and you are accountable to your teammates if you decide to be lazy for the day and watch television instead of touching the keyboard.

I’m one of the procrastinator writers - I’ve been working on the same darn three stories since I started seriously writing. Each time I think I get the plot setup, I discover something different and go right back to the beginning, or I’d write the ending and not know how to fill in the middle. Pro-cras-tin-ator.

Last month I took a wonderful workshop called “Rose’s Plotting Bootcamp” with sisters Elle James and Delilah Devlin. In this workshop I learned how to setup my skeleton outline for the story with a logline, a projected theme, and all the “necessary” tidbits that I need without it taking six months to construct.  We did it in a month and I was excited to apply it to my writing last month. I learned that it actually works. I’m five scenes away from finishing an actual “full” first draft of my paranormal romance Dark Healing.

So when the advertisement for Bootcamp came around, I thought that I’d just take a month off before I start my heavy duty revision on Dark Healing, afterall I did finish a first draft, which is a Resolution of mine. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that I need that push out of my comfort zone and Bootcamp is that push for me.

I think that we all need that “push” in our lives to get us over that hump (I especially need it when it comes to laundry). It’s that little push (or big heaving push) that pushes us out of our comfort zones that makes life interesting. With my group, the Warrior Writers behind me, I am ready to take on the month of April. Is there anything in your life that you need a little or big push for you to do? Maybe April is that month.

Good luck to everyone that has enlisted in Bootcamp!


Thursday, March 22, 2012

Combining watercolor & digital painting for my fantasy book cover

In an earlier post, I talked about how excited I was to discover the world of digital painting. Today, I want to share some of my work. After lots of practice attempts with small projects and a mountain of research about technique, I began my first large project—the book cover for the first in my epic fantasy romance series—Seeking a Scribe: Enchanted Bookstore Legend One

I’ve painted with watercolors regularly for decades and wanted to combine the techniques. I began with a line drawing and a simple watercolor of the dragon figure I wanted to use. The painting was, by my standards, one-third finished. As my research guided me, I focused to develop texture with painting, which is a strength of that medium compared to Photoshop. I scanned my painting and this is the raw image.

I used a stock image for the background and added my dragon.

Then the work began, using the amazing color and shadow abilities of Photoshop.

It took several long days to get from this stage to the final look I was pleased with.

For my next cover, I want to learn new skills. The project is a big step up in difficulty with a background I must modify a lot. Also, the character will be human, a more difficult drawing/painting step that I’ll spend much more time with than the dragon. And, I have a 4-inch stack of new technique books to read for guidance. Lots of time, but also lots of fun!

Description—Seeking a Scribe: Enchanted Bookstore Legend One
Lyra McCauley is a writer and loves fantasy novels, but until she opens a selection from bookstore owner Cullen Drake, she has no idea he’s a wizard character who lives a double life inside that volume…or the story’s magic will compel her from the edge of depression to adventure, danger, and love. 

His gift to Lyra, the Book of Dragonspeir, was actually her copy, misplaced years ago. Lost in her pain following divorce and death, she fails to recognize him as her childhood playmate from the fantasyland. Friendship builds anew. Attraction sparks. But Lyra doubts whether a wizard is capable of love. She’s torn—should she protect her fragile heart or risk new love? 

Opening the book’s cover, she confronts a quest: save Dragonspeir from destruction by the Black Dragon before he utilizes power of August’s red moon to expand his strength and overthrow the opposing Imperial Dragon. Lyra accepts the challenge, fearing Cullen will perish if evil wins. Along with magical animal guides, Cullen helps her through many perils, but ultimately Lyra must use her own power…and time is running out.

Author links—

Purchase at Amazon for only 99 cents! 

Chapter One: Licorice Memories
The smell of anise greeted Lyra as she opened the door to Drake’s bookstore. It took her back to happy childhood memories. Licorice-shoe-string-rewards for following her parents’ requests to stay on the dock while they secured the family’s pleasure boat to its trailer. The aroma brought a fleeting remembrance of times long gone, a treasure now that her folks had recently passed. At ease with the familiar scent, she settled into browsing through rows of antique bookcases.
The shop owner stuck his head around a set of shelves. “Do you like tea?”
“Yes, I do.” Before she could finish speaking, he disappeared. “Is that the wonderful smell?” she called out.
Kitchenware clinked in the back room. Receiving no answer, Lyra followed the noises, scanning collections as she walked. This bookshop appeared established, but surely she would have remembered it from her last visit to the Lake Huron village five years ago. Books were her passion, especially fantasy. She paused in front of that section and studied its titles.
The owner appeared, holding a pewter tray with a teapot, two cups, sugar jar, spoons, and napkins, which he laid on the corner of an old library table. She watched him carefully pour the tea and hand her a cup. He was about her age, mid thirties or a bit older, and handsome. His medium brown hair, peppered with gray at the temples, grazed his shoulders in wavy layers, and his beard was trimmed into a neat goatee. He wore long shorts, a knit golf shirt, and sandals—typical casual attire for this island resort community.
She set down her bag from the drugstore and accepted his offer with a smile. “Thanks. My name’s Lyra.” She blew across the hot surface of the tea to cool it and then inhaled the anise-scented steam. She closed her eyes to fully enjoy the memory. “Ah!”
“Afternoons of boating and licorice with your parents? Right?” he asked.
Her mouth dropped open. How did he know that?
He slurped from his cup. “Go ahead, take a sip. My folks gave me the same reward for taking my kid sister along on bicycle rides.”
Forgetting all about the tea, she asked, “How do you know my childhood memory?”
“Taste it.” His lips curled into a sly grin as he took another gulp.
She cautiously took a tiny sip, just enough to wet her lips and the tip of her tongue.  The flavor flooded her mouth, and her mind swam with wonderful memories. The taste transformed into that of gigantic popcorn balls the sheriff’s wife down the street made for Halloween trick-or-treaters, accompanied by images of Lyra’s costume—a red, fringed gypsy skirt borrowed from Mom. Next came a pumpkin flavor and vision of holding a cold piece of “punky-pie” in her five-year-old hand. Another swallow returned her experience back to anise. “What is this? How did you know?”
“Let me introduce myself.” His grin spread into a smile as his eyes met hers. He took a step closer. “I’m Cullen, Cullen Drake, and I know many things. What I don’t know is what sort of books you like to read.”
His keen interest caused heat to rise in her cheeks. “Well, actually I have several favorites, all fantasy and magical realism. You have a number of authors I like in this section.” She turned to refer to the shelves behind her, but found non-fiction hunting guides instead. “This case held classic fantasy a moment ago!”
Cullen put down his cup. “It moved. It’s over here, and I have just what you want.” He slid an old-fashioned library ladder along its track, set the locking device, and climbed straight up to the top shelf.
Lyra followed, walking between four comfortable leather club chairs grouped on a Persian rug. A portrait of a young girl and a man wearing a cloak caught her attention. Something seemed familiar in the child’s smile.
The noise of books sliding on shelves distracted her. She moved to the base of his ladder and glanced up. The ceiling of embossed tin panels decorated with Victorian teardrop chandeliers and paper Chinese dragons made a unique combination, to be sure.
But Lyra was more curious about the strange happenings in the store and its owner.  He was certainly odd, although not the bookish, geeky sort who usually ran bookshops she frequented. He had an athletic frame and strong legs.
“Can’t find it!” he exclaimed and quickly descended. His brow furrowed, he dusted off his hands on his shorts. “I’ve got to find that volume for you. If you don’t mind me saying, there’s a sadness about you. The book will make you happier than you’ve been since those days of licorice shoe strings.”
“After magical tea and shifting bookcases, I almost believe you.” She laughed to cover her concerns. Even four months after it was final, she worried that the loneliness she felt after her divorce blazed like a beacon on her forehead. But, Cullen knew so much—it startled her…actually, intrigued her. Her ex didn’t ever see inside her, didn’t want to. This man read her as though he knew her. Did he? He seemed so familiar.
“Once I find that book, I promise, you’ll be pleased.” He stroked his goatee. “Hmm. Where did I last see it?” The twinkle in his gray-blue eyes captivated Lyra. “Will you be here for the week? I can look for it and call you later.”
“I’m staying the rest of the summer with my elderly Aunt Jean. She owns a lovely cottage at the end of Walnut overlooking Lake Huron. I thought I’d keep her company and give her time away from her nurse during my teaching break. While I’m here, I plan to write my novel.”
“Great! You’re a writer? What do you teach?”
“Yes, and I teach American Literature at Southern University in Florida. Seems like you already would’ve known that since you jumped into my childhood memories,” she stammered, attempting some humor. Taking a long draught of the tea, her mind filled with memories of her pet dachshund wiggling next to her, displacing a row of dolls. Another part of her past he knew—impossible! Her forehead beaded with sweat.
“No, only thoughts associated with a lot of emotion, like the happiness of snuggling with your dog.”
“How?” she exclaimed, shaking her head. “I don’t understand.” Her mind swam, trying to grasp what happened. She desperately needed some fresh air. With trembling hands she set the cup down.
“I realize it must seem odd, but the book I’m looking for will help explain.” He leaned closer with a smile that somehow reassured her. “This is Saturday. If you can come by next Wednesday morning, I think I should have it for you by then…if you’d like.” He paused and looked into her eyes, waiting for a reply.
“Yes…I’m curious.” In spite of the confusion, she found herself agreeing. “Wednesday will work.”
“Fine. Let me take down your number in case I can’t find it.” He walked to the counter and located a notepad and pen. She dictated her number and full name, which he repeated, “Lyra McCauley, a lovely Celtic name for a pretty lady.”
“I think I need to go now. Thanks for the tea.” With shaking fingers, she collected her shopping bag and headed toward the door.
He escorted her out and offered his hand to shake, the corners of his goatee lifting into an inviting grin. “Enjoy the rest of your weekend.”
Lyra smiled and looked into his eyes, trying to discern his unusual clairvoyant gift. “You too.” The initial touch, of his palm against hers, sent electrical shivers along her arm. She jerked, yet didn’t let go, fascinated by the strong emotions flashing through her mind—attraction, excitement, and acceptance. After an awkwardly long pause, she dropped his hand, half-stumbled over the threshold into the sunshine, and took a long, deep breath.
She ambled to an outdoor café a couple blocks farther down Tenth Street, while her mind buzzed with questions. How did he know those things about her? She dropped onto a seat at an empty table, shaded by an umbrella. He was fascinating and frightening at the same time…and familiar. Her divorce and loss of her parents left her lonely. He intrigued her.
 “May I get you something to drink while you look over the menu?” The waitress interrupted with a bright young voice, a college student working a summer job.
Startled back to reality, Lyra murmured, “Just water, please.” Alone in a crowd of lunch goers, her thoughts returned to the bookstore and many unanswered questions.
The waitress placed a glass of water in front of her.
She almost hated to drink and remove the sweet aftertaste of anise from her tongue.

~ ~ ~
Marsha A. Moore is a writer of fantasy romance. The magic of art and nature spark life into her writing. The first of her epic fantasy romance series, ENCHANTED BOOKSTORE LEGENDS, is now available--SEEKING A SCRIBE. She has also authored the Ciel's Legacy series, fantasy romance with fast action mermaid/pirate storylines: TEARS ON A TRANQUIL LAKE and TORTUGA TREASURE.  For a FREE ebook download, read her historic fantasy, LE CIRQUE DE MAGIE, available at Amazon and Smashwords.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Useful Apps for an Urban Fantasy Heroine

Urban Fantasy heroines (and heroes) have the distinct privilege of using modern technology along with various magical advantages as part of their butt-kicking arsenals. The blending of these two things in unique and fun ways is one of the coolest aspects of the genre, at least for me. Witches are skrying via the internet, wizards use drumsticks as wands, and of course, everyone loves a cutting-edge firearm with specialty supernatural ammo.

It’s also true that magic and technology are often viewed as opposing forces, and many UF characters tend to shy away from embracing the techy stuff. Aside from occasionally tapping the internet for research, you don’t see many heroines embracing neoteric advances to their fullest potential. Most only use their cell phone to (gasp!) make phone calls. Granted, it’s hard to find time for social networking when you’ve got vamps and demons knocking down your door, but there are plenty of ways that new gadgets could be a big help for a heroine on the go.

Especially when it comes to fictional worlds where the supernatural is known to the public and monsters are an everyday occurrence. I got to thinking about what types of websites, message boards and other commonly used conveniences a UF heroine could utilize. In particular, I considered all the phone apps that serve me well every day, and how cool it would be for a busy heroine to have a few on hand for when she forgets a key ingredient in her potion, or needs pronunciation guides to perform spells in ancient languages, or to look up if that particular demon has four claws or five.

Imagine my glee when I discovered that some of these apps already exist, and can be found in your app store. Check ‘em out:

Pagan Deities by Lazy Yards, and Pagan Gods by AppCore - Easy access to your favorite ancient gods

The Encyclopedia of Demons by UAKA - You never know when you might need to identify one of these pesky mooks

Jewish Magic by Qbiki Networks - For the active Kabbalist

Stones in Magic by Lazy Yards - Covers gemstones, crystals, etc. and their various magical uses and properties

Ghost Radar Classic by Spud Pickles, and Ghost Detector Pro by Purple, Inc. - Both apps are free, so I guess you just have to test each one and see which works better, LOL

Mythical Creatures by William Habdas - When you find out that they’re real, you’ll need to get the skinny on what you’re dealing with

Vampires Myths by Lan Man - If you’re new to the world of bloodsuckers and need a brief primer

Werewolf Locator by Sebastien Mougey - Don’t let that hairy beast sneak up on you, be prepared

WitchCraft Handbook, Wicca Spells, and Spell book Pro all by AppCore; plus Spells and Witchcraft Handbook by Lazy Yards - Forget that bulky handwritten Book of Shadows

There’s also a slew of Tarot, astrology, runes, and other divinatory apps to choose from, and probably a bunch more I didn‘t get to. I gotta say, even though most of these are strictly for entertainment purposes (heh), I’m still amazed that there are so many out there. Buffy would be proud.

If any of you have tried some of these, I’d love to know what you think. What kind of app would your fantasy characters like to use?


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

A Little Heat with your Steam?

In all my days I have never experienced such a thing--this feeling of someone else longing for me and wishing to touch me. It heightens every little thing--even something as innocent as two hands on my bare shoulders.

--Mr. Hartley's Infernal Device

I had this wonderful collection of responses to STEAMLUST planned until I found this wonderful animation.

My favorite story, so far, is "Mr. Hartley's Infernal Device", by Christina Stein. The language of sensation conveys the action of arousal beautifully. I wanted to be Miss Havers, opening to new and surprising experiences of the body.

My other favorite story, "Fog, Flight and Moonlight", by Sacchi Green, takes me over landscape that I am familiar with and shows it to me in a most pleasurable light. A balloon ride over the Bay Area, I've experienced the sensuality of San Francisco fog, the way it rolls so slowly over the hills. When you are above it, it looks solid enough to hold you in its folds. Even when it's cold, there is a pleasant sting that makes the body feel alive.

More stories to read. I'm taking it a little slowly. I've got another book--Steampunk Tales #1--to read for our GoodReads book club, so there will be plenty of punk to go around.


Saturday, March 17, 2012

A Cyborg Named ROSA

I guess you may have noticed I’ve fallen in love with short films, especially if it’s animation.   Short films require the same elements as a written story to work and of course, they then need the visual aspect that makes it a walking-talking story.  

Here is ROSA, the dream of one artist, Jesus Orellana.  

 The official blurb:  “ROSA is an epic sci-fi short film that takes place in a post-apocalyptic world where all natural life has disappeared. From the destruction awakes Rosa, a cyborg deployed from the Kernel project, mankind's last attempt to restore the earth's ecosystem. Rosa will soon learn that she is not the only entity that has awakened and must fight for her survival.
The short-film was created entirely by young comic-artist Jesús Orellana with no budget during a single year.”

Did you like that? What kind of short films do you watch?

Till next time,


Friday, March 16, 2012

And the Winner is....

Speculative Society's first club selection is  Steampunk Tales #1. A Game of Thrones follows in second place.

Thank you everyone! Please visit the Goodreads page on where to obtain your copy here.

We will begin on April 1st. Hope to see you there!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Guest Post--Giving the Term Alpha Male New Meaning Where Fantasy IS Reality by Terry Spear

Please join me in welcoming author Terry Spear to The Speculative Salon.  CONTEST--Check the end of the post for a way to win a copy of her new book, A Seal in Wolf's Clothing.

At The Speculative Salon we’re supposed to present a guest blog on a fantasy genre, but what if the world we think of as fantasy is real?

How many fantastical creatures have you read about that have been put on trial for being let’s say a griffon? Or a dragon? A vampire? Or a centaur?

None, right? At least none that I’ve read about. No unicorn trials or trials about trolls. None about mermaids, or elves, or leprechauns either. Not even about ogres or elementals or gnomes.

How can anyone try someone in a court who is suspected of being a mythical creature if everyone truly KNOWS they don’t exist?

We’re all in agreement, correct?

Oh, sure if legends exist all across the world in different countries, different languages about the same kind of creatures, then it makes a body wonder if there is not some small truth to the equation. But in none of the cases above has anyone involved a high court in deciding if someone is a mythical/fantastical creature.

Except when it comes to werewolves.

But if they don’t exist, if they’re only fantasy, why try someone for being a mythical creature when the person must only be mad?

Ah, yes, so though I’m supposed to talk about a fantasy genre, the high courts in England and France actually tried people who were said to be werewolves, which means werewolves have to exist. Correct?

I took elementary logic in college, so I’m sure my logic is way off. In psychology, I did great. But deductive reasoning, forget it.

Still, it does give one pause, doesn’t it?

If all these learned nobles could try a man for being a werewolf, werewolves had to be real. It only seems reasonable to assume such.

What if a man burned a couple of his neighbors’ crofts for revenge? And what if they accused him of being a dragon? Would a trial have been conducted for such a charge? Heavens no. He would have been tried as an arsonist bent on revenge. Any nobleman setting up a trial of a dragon would have been thought mad!

I work in a library and one day one of our volunteers asked where my werewolf books would be shelved, fiction or nonfiction?

See, even today, some are not sure.

I even had a werewolf comment on one of my blogs once. He told my fans if they wished to hear from a real werewolf to check out his blog.

Yep. Really.

Even my editor said once that I needed to stick with writing realistic stories, as opposed to vampires, then she smiled and said something to the effect, “Well, I know werewolves aren’t real.”

But see?

Of course, what she meant was that I make my werewolves as real as I can. When they’re in wolf form, they’re wolves, not overgrown scary dogs, or big beastly monsters, but wolves. Yet they have the human knowledge that makes them more human than all wolf, and in their human form, they still have their wolf senses and wolf loyalty and protectiveness of pack.

Which makes them feel…real. The problem with real werewolves is that someday one might find himself in a court of law on trial.

And we can’t have that. Werewolves must remain fantasy.

The medieval courts were wrong. The men they tried were not real werewolves but madmen or tortured to confess to the sins of being a werewolf. They don’t exist. They’re strictly fantasy. Fiction. On the fiction shelf.

But some of us know better.

Thanks so much for having me here today at The Speculative Salon, Marsha!

What do you think, werewolves fantasy or not?

Sourcebooks is generously giving away 2 copies of A SEAL in Wolf’s Clothing, US or Canada addresses only. I bet you didn’t know that wolves could be SEALs too. :)

Thanks again!

Terry Spear
“Giving new meaning to the term alpha male where fantasy IS reality.”
Terry Spear has written over a dozen paranormal romance novels and two medieval Highland historical romances. An award-winning author, Terry’s Heart of the Wolf  was named a Publishers Weekly’s Best Book of the Year in 2008. A retired lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army Reserves, Terry Spear is a librarian by day and spends every spare moment writing paranormal romance as well as historical and true life stories for both teen and adult audiences. Spear lives in Crawford, Texas, where she is working on new paranormal romances! For more information, please visit

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Finding Characters at the Zoo

We had a long weekend, so Hubs and I decided to take a road trip to the Memphis Zoo. I love zoos because they are such a great place for people-watching, and the animals are pretty cool, too. The large family in tank tops hauling three coolers around, that kid in the Creatures of the Night exhibit that talked way too loud, the teenagers covered in face paint and hair feathers, the little boys running wild in the Herpetarium and snapping photos of every snake and lizard with their Nintendo 3DS's - all fodder for background action in my stories.

I'm also pleased to see that the zoo's overall design is one of the few places in the city that really reflects the Egyptian inspiration of its namesake. The entrance is a colorful display of hieroglyphics and obelisks, and the shops and displays directly within continue the theme. It's a nice reminder of Memphis's roots, something I feel like a lot of people that live in the area tend to forget, or have represented poorly (I'm looking at you Pyramid Arena, aka the "Tomb of Doom"). It's a very cool place and we had a blast.

Ultimately, it's all about the atmosphere and animals, so here's a few of my favorite pictures from the day. Enjoy!

Drop me a comment and let me know your favorite spots for people-watching, or just tell us which zoo animals you love the most.


Tuesday, March 13, 2012

At the speed of Lightspeed!

I grew up with a shelf-full of Science Fiction and Fantasy magazines. My mother's favorites. I didn't read them, myself. I didn't really get it. Until now. I (horrors!) still don't read SF&F except for research. There is, however, a magazine that I like a lot, one that seems to be the contemporary equivalent of The Venerable.

Lightspeed magazine is an online science fiction and fantasy magazine that I discovered as a subscription e-book that gets delivered to my Kindle monthly.

In the issue I'm reading (I've got a few back issues on my Kindle), I started with a short sci-fi story by Kristine Kathryn Rusch. I discovered her Retrieval Artist series through the library as an audio book. If you like detective stories set in a future that have alien colonies on the moon and corporate skullduggery, head in her direction. Her short story, "The Craters", is chilling. Although set in the future and not part of her on-going novel series, its concept is based in the past as well as the present, and challenges our ideas of who is expendable and how we justify our choices.

Given my penchant for fairy tales, it took a while for me to recognize the theme of "Her Words Like Hunting Vixens Spring" by Brooke Bolander. It didn't matter though. The flow of language, the energy of characterization and landscape, swept me along like a tumbleweed in a windstorm. I have a new favored author and want to hear more from her mouth.

The most recent read, and another fairy tale reference, is "The Mermaid and the Mortal Thing" by Chris Willrich. It's not your usual Little Mermaid retelling. Darker and with a twist that makes me smile, it's one I would probably rate as retellable.

For those of you with a penchant for podcasts, Lightspeed has one of those also. And, if you are like me and like someone to read to you while you are doing something else, you can have the story read to you.

I used to package medical samples with a couple of other women when I lived in San Francisco. That is where I discovered the wonderfulness of listening to books being read. Way back then, we tuned the radio to KALW which was a public radio station. We listened to The Spider's Web and a reading of Little House on the Prairie. That was it for me. I was hooked on the sound of radio and story. I credit that time spent in company, doing work, and being serenaded by story for my continuing chase of the podcast, the aural, the voice of story,.

When did you last enjoy someone reading to you? Do you have a favorite story to tell someone else about? What story can you still tell with delight?

Monday, March 12, 2012

Fallen Angels - The New Vampire?

Two weeks ago when I was at Chapters (the Canadian equivalent to Barnes & Noble), I was walking through the Romance section of the bookstore in search of some new reads. I was there specifically to get the new Gena Showalter book, but I still like to look around to see if I can discover any "missing gems".

While I was glancing at the beautiful cover art, I realized that the covers that once featured vampires were disappearing. Yes, there were still a few (which is good for me as I am still in love with the dark, sexy vamp), but not like last year as it seemed every single cover was some sort of vampire romance novel. Replacing the ol' vampires were angels - specifically fallen angels. 

I picked up more books than I needed (they had a sale, buy three, get one free, so I bought more books than my hands could hold and snuck them into my bookshelves before hubbie could see my new purchases). 

Amongst my new pile of to-be-read books were the first books in Keri Arthur's "Dark Angels" series, JR Ward's "Fallen Angels" series and a new author that I've never heard before of Kristina Douglas' and her "The Fallen" series. I also know that Gena Showalter's first book of the "Angels of the Dark" series is set to hit stores in late-June, and yes, I will be purchasing and reading that book too. I like to consider reading them "research" as I read to see how each put their own spin on new paranormal creatures/beings.

When I came home and did some research, I learned that there are many other Best-Selling authors that are working with fallen angels. Here's the list that I found (please post if you know of anymore Fallen Angel novels):
1. Gena Showalter - "Angels of the Dark" series
2. Keri Arthur - "Dark Angels" series
3. J.R. Ward - "Fallen Angels" series
4. Nalini Singh - "Guild Hunter" series
5. Becca Fitzpatrick - "Hush, Hush" series
6. Claire Delacroix - "Guardian" series
7. Michelle Hauf - "Ashes of Angels" series (Harlequin's Angels & Demons)
8. Kristina Douglas - "The Fallen" series

Now with the explosion of fallen angel books in Paranormal Romance, what do you think would be the next PNR phenomenon? (I'm keeping my fingers crossed that it's NOT trolls or zombies as I'd love to see the Best-selling authors try to make them sexy.)

Thanks for reading!

R.J. Garside :)

Saturday, March 10, 2012

"Pure Funk"

Could you go without hearing music for a day?  How about forever?  How about if listening to music was illegal?

Here's a short animation by Marc Adamson voicing that idea. It's "Pure Funk" all the way.

Till next time,

Friday, March 9, 2012

One More Week

Our Speculative Soceity book club's poll for April/May is open for one more week. In the lead is A Game of Thrones followed by Steampunk Tales #1. If you haven't voted already, please do so here.

I started a introduction folder for everyone to post a little something about themselves before we get started. Post them here.

My excitement isn't being contained very well. Remember to vote and next Friday, the winner will be announced.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Creating a new fantasy language

Wordle: UntitledIn my current work-in-progress, the third book in my epic fantasy romance series, Enchanted Bookstore Legends, I found myself creating a new language. Although I outline my work, this was a spontaneous creation as I wrote dialog.

In the first two books of the series, I used created words only for spellwork. In book three, the fantasy characters travel to another fantasy land. To show the distinction between worlds and magical systems, varying the language provided a great tool. 

Here are some examples of my fun new words/terms. 

Afflation = having received divine impartment of knowledge and strength to endure more physical hardship than a non-magical
Effluvial magic = spells and charms transferred on streams of smoke or vapor
Flap = trail, route, tunnel
Lungshooter = person who can send effluvial magic in through the mouth of another to the lungs, where it has a quicker effect
Meddlelocket = person whose magic causes figures on the lockets and pendants of the wearer to perform certain deeds
Take down = travel, journey
Scorpent = monster that is part scorpion, part serpent

I think this book may merit a glossary!

What made-up words in your fantasy reading or writing do you especially love? Personally, I love many found in Rowling’s Harry Potter series and also in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels.
~ ~ ~
Marsha A. Moore is a writer of fantasy romance. The magic of art and nature spark life into her writing. She is the author of the Ciel's Legacy series, fantasy romance with fast action mermaid/pirate storylines: TEARS ON A TRANQUIL LAKE and TORTUGA TREASURE. Look for her first of an epic fantasy romance series, SEEKING A SCRIBE: ENCHANTED BOOKSTORE LEGENDS ONE, to be available March, 2012. For a FREE ebook download, read her historic fantasy, LE CIRQUE DE MAGIE, available at Amazon and Smashwords.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Urban Fantasy Perspectives: Laura Bickle

I am very pleased to welcome author Laura Bickle (aka Alayna Williams) to the Salon. She's the first guest in my new interview series called Urban Fantasy Perspectives, where I pick the brains of UF authors to uncover their secrets and illuminate the genre.

Welcome, Laura!

Thanks so much for interviewing me today! I'm super-excited to get the chance to meet you and your readers.

What attracted you to the urban fantasy genre?

I've always been intrigued by the idea of a hidden supernatural world existing beneath our own. Urban Fantasy allows me to explore the "what if's": What if a criminal profiler turned to Tarot card divination? What if a dragon lived in the salt mine beneath Detroit? What if the future could be told through the use of magic...and how would we try to change what we saw?

Do you read a lot of UF, and if so, who are your favorite authors in the genre?

I love fantasy, urban fantasy, magical realism, and contemporary fantasy. Some of my all-time favorites are: Robin McKinley, Ann Aguirre, Peter S. Beagle, Patricia McKillip, Jeri Smith-Ready, Jessa Slade, and M.L.N. Hanover

You've worked in the criminal justice system and studied criminology and victimology. How does that influence the way you create your characters?

I worked in and around criminal justice for more than ten years, and my educational background's in criminology. I never did any super-secret or particularly exciting criminologist things...but I picked up some ideas that I work into my stories.

I try to ground my heroines' adventures with a good dollop of criminal procedure.  My heroines are investigators, and I want to include as many forensic details that are as accurate as possible.

When dealing with the fantastic, I think a healthy dose of realism adds a counterweight to the supernatural elements. If the real-world elements are accurate, I tend to be able to suspend disbelief for the fantastic elements more easily.

Urban fantasy seems to run the gamut from super grisly and dark, to more light-hearted fun. How early on do you usually decide the tone of your books, or does it develop organically as you write?

My books are definitely on the grisly and dark side. I think that they just grew that way, out of the conflicts that I wanted the heroines to face.

What types of stories or characters would you like to see more of  in paranormal/urban fantasy books?

I like to see flawed characters and relationships. Characters who don't always make the right choices seem more realistic to me and easier to relate to. I also want to see characters and stories that challenge me and make me think, stories that have unpredictable endings.

You have written two different urban fantasy series so far. Do you consider them to be part of the same 'world', or are they completely separate constructs?

They're both urban fantasy and very much could exist in the same world, though the characters don't overlap. My Laura Bickle books, EMBERS and SPARKS, are best described as "Ghostbusters in Detroit with dragons and arson." They follow the adventures of Anya Kalinczyk, who's an arson investigator and psychic medium. She spends her days working as an arson investigator and her nights exterminating malicious spirits with an eccentric group of ghost hunters. She's joined by her faithful familiar, a feral fire salamander named Sparky.

My Alayna Williams books, DARK ORACLE and ROGUE ORACLE, are about a criminal profiler, Tara Sheridan, who uses Tarot cards to solve crimes. These books are a mashup of science and magic - similar to Fringe and the X-Files. Tara's a reluctant member of an ancient society of oracles tracing their lineage back to the Oracle of Delphi. In ROGUE ORACLE, Tara and her skeptic partner Harry Li are on the trail of a Chernobyl survivor who's selling nuclear secrets on the international black market.

Fantastic! How is the worldbuilding unique for each series?

The world in the ORACLE books is very much a mashup of magic and science, and was intended to appeal to fans of The X-Files and Fringe. The world of SPARKS and EMBERS focuses more on the supernatural side, and is centered more in the geographical center of Detroit. So, the ORACLE books border on sci-fi, while EMBERS and SPARKS are more true UF.

Anya Kalinczyk, the heroine of Embers and Sparks, is a Lantern who absorbs ghosts in order to dispel them. What inspired the idea for her unique ability?

Anya's the rarest type of spiritual medium - a Lantern. Where other mediums allow spirits to use their hands and voices to communicate, Anya devours and incinerates malicious ghosts.

I had some dreams about that that were rather persistent. It might have been the result of indigestion from too much pepperoni pizza, but they were very vivid.

Hmmm, maybe I'll try eating pizza before bedtime, LOL.

Anya works with a group called the Detroit Area Ghost Researchers, and ghost hunting has become kind of a popular hobby lately. Did you take any cues from real-life paranormal investigators, and will DAGR ever get their own reality TV show? 

I did talk with some real-life ghost hunters and did a lot of reading about ghost hunting to get background material for the story. It would be funny to imagine the DAGR folks getting their own reality show, but I suspect they're really camera-shy.

Your protagonist in the Delphi's Daughters series, Tara Sheridan, reads Tarot cards in order to solve crimes. How much research did you do on card reading, and have you ever tried it yourself?

I've been puttering around with cards since I was a teenager. I read them for myself and use them for story prompts, but have never read them professionally.

I go to the local Renaissance Festival every year and get my Tarot cards read by the same card reader. She's amazingly accurate, and I always have a good time when I go.

Sounds like fun!

Tara's divination skills derive from a magical way of thinking, yet there is also modern technology and science involved in your plots. Is that an intentional juxtaposition? 

I do enjoy the contrast between magic and science, though they each have their own challenges and research needs. I knew very little about astrology and particle accelerators, for instance, and getting the chance to research them was something entirely new.

What are you working on now, and are you planning any future UF series?

2012 is going to be an exciting year for me. In fall, my first YA book will be released by Houghton Mifflin's Graphia line. It's called THE HALLOWED ONES, and it's pitched as "WITNESS meets 28 DAYS LATER." It's a thriller about an Amish girl who must confront not only a massive disaster unfolding in the world outside her community, but also the threat of darkness in her own increasingly fragile society. I'm working on the sequel now, and that will be released the following spring.

I'm also looking forward to attending RT Booklover's Convention in April in Chicago. My critique partners, Marcella Burnard and Jeffe Kennedy, will be hosting a reader party with me called: Sidekicks - The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. It'll be wonderful to reconnect with my fellow authors and meet new readers.

Sounds great, Laura! Thank you so much for answering my questions. I look forward to reading more!

Thanks so much for hosting me! It was a lot of fun. :-)

Laura Bickle has an MA in sociology-criminology (research interests: fear of crime and victimology) and a BA in criminology. She has worked in and around criminal justice since 1997. Although she does read Tarot cards, she's never used them in criminal profiling or to locate lost scientists. She recently took up astronomy, but for the most part her primary role in studying constellations and dark matter is to follow her amateur astronomer-husband around central Ohio toting the telescope tripod and various lenses.

Writing as Laura Bickle, she's the author of EMBERS and SPARKS for Pocket - Juno Books.Writing as Alayna Williams, she's the author of DARK ORACLE and ROGUE ORACLE.

More info on her urban fantasy and general nerdiness is here

Laura/Alayna’s blogs and
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