Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Alien Art & The Loss of a Sci-Fi Hero

Earlier this month, amateur pilot Matthew Williams captured images of a freshly-made crop circle in a British wheat field. The pattern is an endless knot that represents the wisdom of the Buddha, and I have to say, I think it's quite a lovely design.

Of course, crop circles themselves are considered a bit of a mystery. Some people believe they are the creations of extraterrestrials, while others throw them in the grab bag of hoaxes and pranks. Either way, I would say the general idea is all about communication, from above or below.

Crop circles naturally bring to mind the Nazca lines in southern Peru. Similar theories have been attributed to these ancient geoglyphs. A popular guess is that they were made by the Nazca culture to be seen by their gods in the sky. But there are a few who think these images are markers for alien runways, although considering there are hundreds of them, it would have to have been a very busy landing site, heh.

So, are we sending messages towards the heavens, or are the watchers above giving us clues to the universe? I’d like to think it’s both.

Last Friday, Marilyn reminded us that stargazing can be a great way to be inspired, and the night sky can offer the promise of endless imagination. Even more amazing is that we can turn that around and make our mark on the stars in turn.

Heroes like Neil Armstrong, who passed away on Saturday, are a real live source of inspiration for the billions of people here on Earth. We may dream of alien possibilities and epic space sagas, but he lived that dream. More than that, he kicked-ass at that dream.

When their mission to the moon was over, Armstrong and Aldrin sealed themselves into their lunar module and prepared for liftoff, only to discover they had broken the ignition switch. They activated the launch sequence that brought them home by fudging the circuit breaker with a pen. Tell me that’s not worthy of science fiction hero ingenuity.

RIP Neil.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Anticipating September's Songs of Inspiration

I'm still recovering from August. For the last few years I've been keeping the home fires smouldering for the family I work for while they negotiate their music festival season. So, August is hectic, silly, inspiring and, well, hectic.  Everyone is home now and it's back to life as usual.  Music students coming and going.  Me on the laptop in-between feedings and diaper changes.

As a way of getting myself back into the flow of words, I want to introduce you to someone that has been keeping me company for a few years now with her pictures. Welcome to the world of Geninne Zlatkis.

  I'm not sure what it is about her work, or her blog, that is so soothing.  I just know that I feel fortunate to have found her and that she continues to post her work, her life, and her processes.  I want to learn from her, but I'm not sure what it is that I see or feel as a writer.  The photograph reminds me of her paintings. The colors.  So, maybe that's it.  I guess it's easier for a visual artist to "write what you know" since some of the time, at least, we draw what's in front of us.  We are deliberately trying to make the world we know fit a page or less than life-sized space.  As writers, we are free to create worlds much larger and more fantastic than the ones outside our windows.

So, I guess I'm looking for how Geninne turns what she sees every day into her own story.  How does she isolate this texture, that form, those colors, and compose a coherent and fascinating tale. 

One of the things she does is create calendars.  This is is from 2006.

And her journal...

Since I gave in and gave myself a new laptop, I've also surrendered and started using the calendars Geninne creates for the desktop.  This is what has been greeting me all through August.

And this was the one for July.

Keep an eye out to see if she posts one for September!  Meanwhile, who or what inspires you?  What makes you stop and notice, or wonder?

Happy Tale Telling!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Not Enough Hours in the Day

Now that the month of August is coming to an end and September is fast approaching, for me, it means the end of the summer and the beginning of the fall and also a time to reassess my goals for 2012, with four-month remaining in 2012. Yikes! That sounds even scarier when you say it out loud.

This year has been especially a challenge for me trying to keep up with my writing as I had made a commitment at the beginning of January to have the three manuscripts that I had been working on ready for submission.

I had a beautiful baby boy at the end of 2011 and Jack has kept me very, very busy to say the least.  realized at the time it was a lofty goal of getting manuscripts ready, but I'm a determined and dedicated person. And who needs sleep? Sleep is for the weak (says the very blurry-eyed mom that is on her fourth cup of coffee by 10 a.m.)

I've learned to the multitask, and type with one hand on the keyboard and one hand on the bouncing baby in my lap trying to grab my coffee or bang on the keyboard or rip the papers from my desk. Needless to say my productivity drops with him in my lap. I actually caught myself typing my hero saying, "No Jack" that point, it was time for both Jack and I to have a nap.

Last week we watched "Finding Nemo" as Jack now likes the colors and sounds from animated television shows or movies and my new favorite motto is "Just Keep Swimming". Unfortunately I'm not going to reach my writing goals this year, but I'm going to keep plugging away.

I am in complete awe of mothers and fathers that still find time to write publishable novels. Being a parent is a full-time AND a part-time job at the same time. There also aren't any days when you can call in sick or take a vacation. I absolutely love being a mom and for now I get spare moments of time when he's napping or sleeping for my writing, which is what I am going to be happy with.

But I am always open for tips on balancing motherhood and writing!

Thanks for reading!


Friday, August 24, 2012

Endless Stories

The night sky weaves many tales together. Whether watching from the ground or those who live in the stars, they are independent of each other but share one common space between. The wonder of lights and colors spread out the stars has always fascinated me. But more so others how others tell their own story.

I want to hear your favorite story while watching the night sky. Maybe it's someone else's story or a scene from a novel. Or maybe one that just came to you. The forum is now open.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

SAMSARA—an amazing sensory journey film opens tomorrow!

A fascinating movie experience opens tomorrow—SAMSARA. From the previews and reviews, it looks to be an incredible sensory journey, filled with powerful images that are intended to lead the viewer through a visual meditation. As a fantasy writer and reader, I’m always keen to find natural and safe ways to open and engage my imagination.

This movie would be categorized as an art film, since it’s entirely lacking dialogue, led only by a compelling musical score that encourages the viewer to use his/her own inner inspiration, imagination, and interpretation. The word “samsara” is a Sanskrit world meaning “the ever turning wheel of life” and is what the filmmakers set about to capture—the current of interconnected energies that flows through our lives. The purpose of the film is to illuminate the links between humanity and the rest of nature, showing how our life cycle mirrors the rhythm of the planet.

Director Ron Fricke and producer Mark Magidson worked previously on similar award-winning projects, BARAKA and CHRONOS, both films of visual and musical artistry.

SAMSARA was filmed over a period of almost five years and in twenty-five countries, at sacred places, disaster zones, industrial sites, and natural wonders.  The movie was photographed entirely in 70mm film, utilizing both standard frame rates and motion controlled time-lapse. That allowed perspective shifts to reveal extraordinary views of ordinary scenes.

Unfortunately, there are showings scheduled for only about forty US cities. SAMSARA will definitely be on my future DVD shopping list. I’m looking forward to using this as inspiration before I create fantasy storylines, to get my imagination firing on all cylinders!

Do you use movies or documentaries to help expand your creative imagination OR just to relax and take a mental vacation OR a bit of both?

For a preview of SAMSARA, please sample the trailer below. For more information, visit the website for the film.

~ ~ ~
Marsha A. Moore is a writer of fantasy romance. The magic of art and nature spark life into her writing. Read her ENCHANTED BOOKSTORE LEGENDS for adventurous epic fantasy romance: Book One, SEEKING A SCRIBE, and Book Two, HERITAGE AVENGED. She has also authored the Ciel's Legacy series, 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, August 22, 2012

Ghosts of Salon Posts Past

I was feeling a bit nostalgic, so I decided to take a walk down blog memory lane. I've only had the pleasure of blogging since the Salon went up last year, and it occurred to me that having a blog is a lot like having a (very) public diary. We're keeping a digital record of whatever we're thinking and doing, at least the stuff we feel is worth sharing. Now, I can go back any time and browse through all the fun we were having.

Click and enjoy a few Salon classics from August of last year:

Just like this year, R.J. was buzzing about the Savvy Author's Summer Symposium.

Marsha shared her love of Magical Fantasy Creatures.

Elizabeth featured some of her favorite Best, Last, and Memorable Lines.

Marilyn explained how she got Recharged and Refreshed, and back on track with her WIP.

Melanie reviewed the historical novel, Peony In Love, set in 17th-century China.

Former Scout Stacie had nothing but praise for her Alphasmart.

As for me, I shared some of my best Vacation Photos, raved about my Writing Space, and planned a rather ambitious September Reading List. Out of eleven books on the list, I only got around to reading three, LOL.

Blogs are more than just a way to connect with others, but also a great way to stay connected with ourselves. What will you find when you take a look back at posts past?


Monday, August 20, 2012

Reading on the Fly by Guest Author Kristi Jones

The Salon is very pleased to introduce today's guest, Kristi Jones. Her new urban fantasy is called The Corpse Goddess, about a woman who discovers that she's a Valkyrie. Enter for your chance to win an ebook copy at the end of the post. Welcome Kristi!

Yesterday I went to my daughter’s gymnastics class and realized I’d left all of my electronic devices at home. Even my phone! Oh, the horror! I had a full hour of free time and nothing to read! Luckily I found an old paperback stuffed into the side pocket of my car.

I confess, I’m a bit of a techno junkie. I rarely buy paperbacks anymore. The last hardcover I bought was Stephen King’s Under the Dome and my wrists ached for a week. Every now and then I check books out from the library. For old time’s sake, I guess. Even my kids read most of their books on their e-readers. (We are a mixed family. My daughter and I have Nooks, my son has a Kindle.)

Sitting in the parent’s room at gymnastics, I was surprised when a woman next to me asked what I was reading. It was an old Dean Koontz book and I wasn’t all that impressed with it, but we got to talking about books. We swapped book recommendations. We exchanged ideas about the Fifty Shades of Grey phenomenon. We discussed favorite books and hated books. Before we knew it, the hour was up.

As much as I love my Nook, I left that evening feeling a little conflicted. Despite my love of technology, there is a drawback to reading on a screen. Nobody asks what you’re reading. You might as well be going through emails or reading marketing reports, for all passersby know. Impromptu book talks generally do not occur.

I love my devices. I love reading a page or two of a book on my cell phone while waiting in a long line at the grocery store. I love reading 900 page books without getting sore wrists. I love stirring a pot of spaghetti sauce with my right hand and holding my Nook high with the left (so as not to get it splashed with said spaghetti sauce), and finishing that awesome chapter I couldn’t put down the night before. But last night I realized that I also love seeing the dip of someone’s head trying to see what I’m reading. I love talking about books with a stranger who becomes a friend. I love hearing what people around me are reading, what they like, what they hate.

I think I’ll pick up a paperback next time I’m at the grocery store. I think I’ll savor the feeling of paper in my hands and the smell of newly cut pages. Maybe it will lead to a conversation. Maybe it will lead to a great new book recommendation. And maybe, every now and then, it will lead to a new friend. Because really, book people are the best!

The Corpse Goddess
By Kristi Jones

Genre:Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Evernight Publishing
Number of pages: 274
Word Count: 79,034

Blurb/Book Description:

Party girl Meg Highbury wakes up the morning of her twenty-first birthday with one hell of a hangover – and a walking corpse in her apartment. Meg turns to her straight-laced neighbor Armando for help and together they discover that Meg is a Valkyrie.

What’s more, her first duty is to trade places with the corpse. But Meg is being sent to her Death Duty too soon. In a race against time, Meg frantically tries to find a loophole to her gruesome fate, but while Meg is determined to live whatever the cost, Armando's strict moral principles keep getting in the way of her plans for escape.

Can Meg walk the 'right' and narrow path, possibly sacrificing her mortal life, for love? And if she can, will Armando have the stomach to love a rotting corpse of a girl who is falling apart in more ways than one?

Evernight Publishing


Author Bio:

Kristi Jones spent her childhood exploring European castles, crumbling manor houses and ornate cathedrals, always looking for secret passages and hidden rooms. She holds a degree in European history and loves to throw ‘ordinary’ characters into extraordinary circumstances. 

She currently lives in south Texas with her husband and two children, who inspire her daily. She is a member of the Writers’ League of Texas and Romance Writers of America. She loves old movies, being a Mom, the feel of paper in her hands and things that go bump in the night.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, August 17, 2012

Mists of Pandaria Opening

Mists of Pandaria Opening Cinematic is below. It is awesome and I can't wait until 9/25. But I promise writing will be done before I start to play. :)

Thursday, August 16, 2012

What does it mean to be a writer? ~guest post by Tom Barczak

The Speculative Salon is pleased to feature fantasy author Tom Barczak as our guest today, explaining that incessant need of a writer to put words down.

My name is Tom Barczak, and I am a writer.

What does it mean to be a writer? Simply, it means I write. But more important for me, is the question, how do I do it, because frankly I really don’t have the time. Yet, still, I do write. I do it because I can’t not do it.

And to do it, I have to have balance.

Specifically, I’m a single father of three boys, an Architect during the day, along with some other things as well.

One thing I learned a long time ago, is that there is always enough time to do the things I’m supposed to do. If there’s a conflict, it’s usually because I’m doing something I’m not supposed to do, or maybe too much of something else. So I’ve got to have balance. 

I also try not to make excuses. My big one that has slowed me down in the past, is having unrealistic goals: The perfect space to write, enough time to write, the right mood to write, the right words to write. They’re all garbage.

What I’ve learned instead, is that I can write anywhere, on anything, I can write, yes, even five minutes at a time if I have to. I’ve learned that feelings mean nothing to my Muse as well. She can be tough, and if she doesn’t give me the words in front of me, then I’ve found she often gives me the ones before them, or behind them. I’ve learned its ok for me to bounce around. 


Because I personally believe that the story is already written. I’m just the translator. My Muse is my guide, who leads me down those paths I could never go down alone. So she shows me the words, the colors, the scents, the touch of a fabric that’s already been woven. 

So I can tell them to you.

So what do I write? Fantasy specifically.

I have 7 works published to date, with an eighth due out any day now.

My first six compose an illustrated Kindle serial called Awakening Evarun

Awakening Evarun presents the story that leads up to the seventh work, my debut illustrated novel, Veil of the Dragon, available in Trade Paperback and on Kindle. 

The eighth is the first part of my new illustrated Kindle serial, Fall of the Chosen.

Each of them share the same narrative, that of the Evarun, and of the Dragon, and the souls that both of them long for.

You can find out more about my work at

I would really like to thank Marsha A. Moore for the opportunity to be here, and to share a little bit about my writing.

I do hope you enjoy it. 

My Muse picked out the words just for you.

God Bless.
Tom Barczak

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

An Urban Fantasy Chat To Remember

I would normally hesitate to post a video for the blog that's over an hour long, but this is a special case. Last week, the heroes over at Geek and Sundry debuted a new show called Story Board with Patrick Rothfuss. Happily, the first discussion held was all about Urban Fantasy, and featured some amazing guests: Emma Bull, Jim Butcher, and Diana Rowland. *swoon*

This webisode has popped up on several blogs over the last week (hey everyone!), but it's so fantastic that it deserves all the press it can get. Plus, anyone who has never checked out the Geek and Sundry site or watched their other shows really should get over there and browse through all the awesome. I'm a particular fan of Felicia Day, so be sure to tune into the Flog and catch up on The Guild.

Anyway, this authors chat is a real treat for writers and fans of the genre. I'm looking forward to seeing more episodes and there's even a forum on the site where you can make suggestions or requests. As a bonus, you can visit Pat Rothfuss' blog where he answers many of the questions that didn't make it on the show - it's some funny stuff. Enjoy!

What did you think of the show and what would you like to see them talk about in future episodes?


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Picking the Brain of Romance Fantasy Author Jeffe Kennedy

I am very excited today to have my first interview and it is with a fellow author that I love to read and also admire! I was so excited that Jeffe Kennedy accepted my offer to "pick her brain"!

Welcome to the Speculative Salon, Jeffe!

Book One in A Covenant of Thorns
Tell us about your latest book, including its genre. Does it cross over to other genres? If so, what are they?

JK: Rogue’s Pawn is about a neuroscientist who accidentally winds up in Faerie. Once there, she discovers she is a sorceress and, to save her own life, gets herself into a series of bargains – one of which is to give a manipulative Fae lord her firstborn child, which he intends to sire.

Yes – this novel took me a long time to sell because it crosses the genres of romance, fantasy and urban fantasy. For a long time I called it an urban fantasy that takes place in a non-urban landscape – but all the industry people would get really annoyed with me for saying that! I’ve also heard it described as classic sword and sorcery fantasy, but from a completely female point of view.

How do you come up with ideas?

JK: Rogue’s Pawn came from a dream, which a lot of my stories do. Those are the free gifts. Otherwise, my stories always start with characters or feelings. I know who my heroine is first (so far it’s always the heroine first) and I have an idea of how she feels and what she’s facing. I discover the rest from there. That’s actually true of the dream stories too – I know a scene or a snippet, a fragment from a dream and I build from there.

Where do you start when writing? Research, plotting, outline, or...?

JK: Or none of the above? I start with thinking about the character and her feelings. I kind of daydream a lot before I ever start writing, but it’s all just feelings and images. Maybe I get fragments of dialogue. I always start at the beginning of a story and write through to the end, even if the scene or moment I have in mind is farther down in the story. I just ride along in my characters’ heads and discover things as they do. If I need to do research, I flag it as I write and do that at other non-writing times, so as not to get distracted from drafting.

What did you learn from writing your first book?

JK: Technically Rogue’s Pawn is my first book – my first novel, anyway. I have written other novels and novellas since, some of which were published before Rogue’s Pawn. In writing this novel, I learned to write long. Before that I had always written short – essays, short stories and poems. Short is a natural form for me and it took me a long time to learn how to hold a whole novel in my head and parse out the writing of it. I could write an essay or story in a day, at the longest. Sadly this does not work with a novel.

Are your stories driven by plot or character?

JK: Absolutely by character. I always feel lucky if a plot appears.

How do you balance a life outside of writing with deadlines and writing muses?

JK: For me it takes a lot of discipline and adherence to ritual. I’m kind of demonic on the topic. I have a full-time career at an environmental consulting firm, which keeps me on the road a lot. (In fact, I’m doing this interview on an airplane.) I believe strongly in writing every day, even if for only a short time, to keep the novel or story alive in my head. I also believe that inspiration only shows up if I’m already writing. If I waited to write until I felt excited or inspired, I wouldn’t get much done. Outside of writing and the day job, I keep my life pretty simple. It’s just my husband and I, and we both like a quiet home, a peaceful life. That’s key for me – a lot of peace and quiet.

What do you hope readers take with them after reading your work?

JK: I think just a sense of pleasure and excitement, that sense of having traveled in another world and seen through someone else’s eyes. That’s how I feel after reading a really good book.

List two authors we would find you reading when taking a break from your own writing.

JK: Well, let’s go with the two authors I’m reading on this airplane. That seems like a fair sample. On my Kindle, I’m reading Deanna Rayburn’s Lady Julia Grey bundle of three books and, for when they make me turn my Kindle off, Sarah Monette’s collection “Somewhere Beneath These Waves.”

Thanks so much for answering these questions for us. Best of luck!

Thank you for hosting me – this was a fun interview to do!

RJ Garside for The Speculative Salon
Happy writing!

Here's a sneak peak at Jeffe's Rogue's Pawn that was released mid-July 2012.

This is no fairy tale… 
Haunted by nightmares of a black dog, sick to death of my mind-numbing career and heart-numbing fiancé, I impulsively walked out of my life—and fell into Faerie. Terrified, fascinated, I discover I possess a power I can’t control: my wishes come true. After an all-too-real attack by the animal from my dreams, I wake to find myself the captive of the seductive and ruthless fae lord Rogue. In return for my rescue, he demands an extravagant price—my firstborn child, which he intends to sire himself…
With no hope of escaping this world, I must learn to harness my magic and build a new life despite the perils—including my own inexplicable and debilitating desire for Rogue. I swear I will never submit to his demands, no matter what erotic torment he subjects me to…
About the Author:
Jeffe Kennedy took the crooked road to writing, stopping off at neurobiology, religious studies and environmental consulting before her creative writing began appearing in places like Redbook, Puerto del Sol, Wyoming Wildlife, Under the Sun and Aeon. An erotic novella, Petals and Thorns, came out under her pen name of Jennifer Paris in 2010, heralding yet another branch of her path, into erotica and romantic fantasy fiction. Since then, an erotic short, Feeding the Vampire, and another erotic novella, Sapphire, have hit the shelves. 

Her contemporary fantasy novel, Rogue’s Pawn, book one in A Covenant of Thorns, will be published in July, 2012. Jeffe lives in Santa Fe, with two Maine coon cats, a border collie, plentiful free-range lizards and frequently serves as a guinea pig for an acupuncturist-in-training. Find her on Facebook ( and Twitter (@jeffekennedy) or visit her at her website

Friday, August 10, 2012

Recommend Friday

Due to moving and other personal issues, I haven't read a book in a few weeks. Our Speculative Society is currently reading A Discovery of Witches and I'm eagerly await my library copy to arrive. In the meanwhile, I'm looking for recommendation as I wait for my copy.

What have you read recently? Did you read outside your preferred genre? Any must reads for fantasy lovers?

Leave a comment and I'll check back after my bookcase is put together.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

DRALION—Eastern Dragon & Western Lion—Fantasy Theme of Cirque Du Soleil’s Show

A week ago my husband and I went to see the Cirque Du Soleil Dralion show. It was a delayed celebration of our June thirteenth wedding anniversary, and it was a wonderful treat to have tickets in the front row.

The experience was truly magical, combining spectacular acrobatics, dance, drama, live music, costumes, lighting effects, and set design. The huge metallic set suggested a futuristic Chinese temple or a giant plate of medieval armor, depending on the lighting and use. Time after time my breath caught, feeling like I was flying with the crossed circle performer, Kala, the graceful circle hoop dancer in the Hibana aerial act, or many others.

There are 21 different shows, but many are resident shows in Las Vegas, and one remains in Disneyworld. Dralion draws heavily upon Eastern philosophy and the quest for harmony between the human world and nature. The show's name is derived from its two emblematic creatures: the dragon, symbolizing the East, and the lion, symbolizing the West.

In Dralion, the four traditional Chinese elements (air, water, fire, earth) that govern the natural order take on human forms. In the show, each element is represented by its own evocative color: air is blue; water is green; fire is red; earth is ochre. In the fantasy world of Dralion, diverse cultures blend, Man and Nature become one, and balance is achieved.

I was swept up by this theme, which coincidentally forms the framework of the magical systems in my current fantasy romance series, Enchanted Bookstore Legends. Many fantasy fiction works are created against a backdrop of this Eastern philosophy for good reason. The dream of unity among all elements of the physical and spiritual worlds is a compelling goal in the battle between good and evil, a requisite for any fantasy plot.

In Dralion, four characters exist outside the representation of Chinese elements and guide the performers of the four elements toward unity. The Little Buddha is the chosen child, possessing special powers that allow him guide the others. Later, that child will grow to join the L'Âme-Force . That force includes the two vocalists of Dralion, who sing an invented ethereal language, modeling and guiding the harmony between the four elements. The fourth guiding character is Kala, performing in the crossed wheel, symbolizes time and the infinite cycle. His internal propulsion of the double wheel makes time evolve. From moment one, I wanted to fly inside that wheel. The second video below gives a sample of his spectacular skill and artistry.

If you get a chance to enjoy one of the Cirque shows, it is a real treat to see fantasy come to life before your eyes.

~ ~ ~
Marsha A. Moore is a writer of fantasy romance. The magic of art and nature spark life into her writing. Read her ENCHANTED BOOKSTORE LEGENDS for adventurous epic fantasy romance: Book One, SEEKING A SCRIBE, and Book Two, HERITAGE AVENGED. She has also authored the Ciel's Legacy series, 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, August 8, 2012

Cover Characteristic: Masks!

I haven't done a meme in a while, and when I saw this one hosted at A Muggle's Magical Book Blog, I couldn't resist joining in. The Cover Characteristic meme is where you showcase your 5 favorite book covers that highlight the characteristic of the week. This weeks's subject is something I'm particularly fond of: Masks!

Masks are just cool. They are associated with several of my favorite things, like superheroes and comics, steampunk, Halloween, masquerades, and Carnival. I have a small collection of decorative masks that started when I was a kid and have picked up some wonderful additions from around the world. Hubs and I honeymooned in Venice and one of the many amazing things about the city is their assortment of shops which feature the most beautiful and haunting masks.

I also noticed recently that several upcoming releases I'm looking forward to have masks on their covers, so it was even more fitting to participate in this fun meme. Here we go!

#5 - The Stone Demon by Karen Mahoney

#4 - Red Dawn by J.J. Bonds

#3 - The Inexplicables by Cherie Priest

#2 - Fury by Shirley Marr

#1 - The Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch

Follow the link at the top of the post to join in the fun, or just stop in and let me know if you have any other mask-related covers to share.


Monday, August 6, 2012

Worldbuilding ~ guest post by Robin D. Owens

The Speculative Salon is pleased to host Robin D. Owens as our guest today. She's talking about worldbuilding in fantasy and in her new book, Heart Secret. Please join us in welcoming her.

Worldbuilding.  Everyone has a unique world within us.  After all, we are all the center of our own universes (if no one elses), and everything we are is processed through our own experiences and perceptions.

But enough of philosophy.  Writers have individual worlds, too, that they make up, whether it's historical London or contemporary urban fantasy with elves and dwarves...or a pagan society founded by Earth people with psi powers (and with telepathic animal companions) on a planet named Celta.  Like my "Heart" fantasy romance series. :)

Most writers I know put a lot of thought into the worlds they build, whether it's how to name their characters, or how a shapeshifter actually DOES change shape, or whether vampires can walk in the daylight or not.  There is an underlying magical system that the author knows, but might not ever lay out in depth because it could be deadly boring.

And once you craft that basic world and spend time in it, it's extremely difficult to walk away from stories set there...and you add a little bit (or reveal a little bit more) with every book.

On Celta, I have fated mates and it's always a challenge to think of conflict that will keep my hero and heroine apart even though they are made for each other: class structure, reverse snobbery, people with a lot of magic vs. people with none, prophetic dreams that they will die in the future and take their mate with them...I've used all of those, and manage to keep coming up with ways for men and women to complicate their relationships.

Heart Secret, out August 7, is my eleventh book set on Celta, though each couple has their own story.  The hero is Garrett Primross, a private investigator that life has scarred.  He's the sole survivor of the most virulent case of the plague and the Healers want to study him.  The heroine is Artemisia Mugwort, the Healer assigned to observe him while they introduce the sickness back into his body.  And after Garrett and Artemisia both manage to survive that, there's the murdered victim they find, who has ties to the heroine.

So, a little bit of building, fated mates, sidekick cats with attitude (redundant), and a lot of romance, goes into writing a story set on Celta.  I hope you enjoy it.

Purchase Links:


and Kindle:

Barnes and Noble:

Author Links:

Old website in the midst of being redone, but with a great many excerpts, maps and general information on my past books:

Blog: On Writing & Publishing

Find me at facebook and twitter under robindowens.

Excerpt of Heart Secret:

Nightmares and a sense of foreboding woke him, so Garrett Primross walked to work as dawn broke . . . hoping that the rare uneasy feeling of doom was wrong for the first time in his life.  In his career as a private investigator he felt in control.  He knew what he was doing.  And at work he might be able to avoid or mitigate any disaster that might be looming that day.

As he approached the back entrance of his shabby office building located in a lower middle-class neighborhood, he heard a cat hiss.

A group of seven intelligent feral cats slipped from the shadows within the alley.  Animals that Garrett used as observers and informants.  They were able to become Familiar companions to people if they'd wanted.  Most didn't.  They preferred the wild and free life – with regular meals and occasional petting.

Garrett had contacts within the fox dens and with the rare wild dog.

Gar-rett! the current leader of the rag-tag band of ferals shouted loudly in Garrett's mind.

I hear you, he broadcast to the group.  Their milling around slightly decreased.

You promised first thing at office We get FOOD! Black-and-White tom insisted.

I haven't broken that promise, Garrett said.

There is a MAN on OUR front stoop.  He has big magic-Flair.  He looks like he belongs around here, but he wears clothes that don't smell of him.  He wants to talk to YOU.

At a little after dawn, septhours before Workbell?  Not a good sign.  How do you know? Garret asked telepathically.

He said your name to the door, but the door was quiet.  Then he looked at Us and told Us, but We ignored him.  You can talk to him, but We get Our FOOD first!

That's the deal, Garrett agreed, though his curiosity was ruffled.  But so were the hairs on the nape of his neck that warned of trouble.   

The young and slinky short-furred black cat slipped around the corner of the building at the end of the alley.  I got close.  He did not see Me.

Maybe not, but if the man had great psi power – Flair – Garrett would have bet that the guy had sensed the intelligent animal.

He did NOT sense Me with any of his Flair, the cat, also a tom, insisted.  He smells like rich.

Garrett grunted, probably a nobleman.  A spot between his shoulder-blades twitched and the damn foreboding increased.  Sounded like a man with a problem.  A high-class client usually meant a tough problem.  The last one had included theft, kidnapping and murder.

And he smells like a long-eared, ball-tailed housefluff Familiar companion, the black cat that Garrett called Sleek Tom continued.

More interesting, but still not enough data for Garrett to figure out who the guy might be.

And he smells like RESIDENCE.

Only the greatest nobles on the planet lived in Residences – houses as intelligent as these animals, and a lot longer lived.  Interested, Garrett asked What do Residences smell like?   

Cats would sometimes answer, but usually not unless they wanted something from him.  He made it a point to always be in the credit column with intelligent cats, giving them information without expecting payment.  It had irked him at first, then he'd shrugged and accepted it as a cost of doing business.

This time, again, there were many replies.

Special housekeeping spells for pee, said the brindled tom.

And for puke, said the fat brown tabby female.

Thick, rich, nose-stop smoke smells for rituals, said the leader.  Sniffing lustily as if proving he could.

Expensive incense, Garrett translated.  The twenty-five FirstFamilies – descendants of the colonists who had funded the trip from Earth – all resided in sentient houses.  Garrett ran through the lords mentally, but didn't come up with any reason why a person so powerful would want to hire him.

A yowl went up, followed by more.  We get Our FOOD!

Garrett winced.  FINE! he yelled back at them telepathically.  Stop that caterwauling, NOW.

They did, having learned by experience that when he gave such an order the consequences of disobedience could be major.  Like a delay in being fed.

Now they ringed his feet, staring up at him narrow-eyed.

Author Bio:

RITA® Award Winning novelist Robin D. Owens credits the telepathic cat with attitude in selling her first futuristic/fantasy romance, HeartMate, published in December 2001.  Since then she has written eleven books in the series.  Her five book Luna series included average American women Summoned into another dimension to save a world.  Her new Mystic Circle series is a mixture of contemporary urban and romantic fantasy set in Denver.  She is profoundly thankful to be recipient of the 2004 Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers’ Writer of the Year award as well as the 2011 Writer of the Year Award, the Colorado Romance Writers Lifetime Achievement Award and the 2010 Best Paranormal and Best of the Best Daphne Du Maurier Award.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

The Making of a Legend

I am not a sports fan at all.  But, if you saw me this past week with my nose glued to the TV as I jumped and hooted for my favorites in the Olympic games or cringed when they faltered, you might think otherwise. 
As I watched the athletes, I was fascinated by how they work under pressure.  What’s behind their game face?   What makes them push beyond their fears to achieve their dream of winning the gold?  It’s true writers are people watchers, but we usually observe ordinary people going through a normal day doing every day stuff.  We make up back story for these people and what’s going to happen next.  But it’s usually all in our head.
Clearly, each athlete has their own back story about how they got to the London Olympics.  Watching the games, I can easily see a story unfolding for each participant I have picked to follow.   And it happens right before my eyes every high tension point, the dark night of the soul and the climax.  It’s thrilling, because nothing is hidden and it’s real life. 
Think of it, you have worked for years, probably every waking hour of your life for a single moment of glory.  Then because of bad luck, the will of the Gods, having a bad day, a wrong position, the sun in your eyes, the wind against you…whatever, your hope is dashed.  Gone.  Your world comes to an abrupt stop.  But, you have one more chance to change the outcome.  Redemption is possible.  Your muscles know the routine, it’s all up to your mindset.  Will you cave to the emotions of the earlier loss or triumph over yourself and your opponents to become a legend.  These are all elements that make for an emotional ride in a good story.  And without any gimmicks, I am hooked and competing in the games.
Needless to say, I’m in awe of these Olympians.  The games are more than competitive sports it’s about the courage to be the best.  Personally, I think modeling their power of discipline, dedication and mindset can help anyone to be the best they are meant to be.  One of my favorite quotes from Galaxy Quest is “Never give up. Never surrender.”  I can see the champions have taken this thought to heart. 
Till next time,

Friday, August 3, 2012

The Altai Princess

              The Salon is proud to welcome Irina Lopatina

When creating a fantasy reality, the authors of fantasy books tend to be very careful. They harmoniously blend fiction with elements of real life for the purpose of bringing the most incredible miracles as close to the readers as possible. But the intelligent and sensible reader knows that these characters and their magical abilities and characteristics were invented by the author! Indeed, there are no any magi in the world; nobody knows how to control the elements, how to turn into animals or how to turn ordinary stones into gold. That is the belief that modern civilization stands on, what science asserts, and what every child understands. But the fact is that there are people who are firmly convinced otherwise.

When I was a student-historian and our group went to the Altai Mountains to participate in archaeological excavations, we all had only one wish. We were literally dreaming at night about the recent success of our colleagues who had discovered an ancient high-altitude burial place of exceptional value. A perfectly preserved burial chamber of a young woman had been found at a height of 3000 meters above sea level on the Ukok Plateau. The contents of the chamber had been kept, as if in a refrigerator, in an ice lens (many highland plateaus are in the permafrost), and the archaeologists had to melt the ice using warm water to extract the findings.

The woman seemed to simply be asleep, lying on her right side. Her clothes – a skirt, a silk blouse, and a fur coat – looked absolutely new. According to the most conservative estimates, this lady was two and a half thousand years old. But further discoveries forced the archaeologists to freeze in anticipation of a sensation. A huge tattoo of a griffin – a keeper of treasures and supernatural knowledge – was on the shoulder of the stranger. In her hand she squeezed tightly a stick made of larch (it is a pre-Buddhist symbol believed to have been somehow used in the creation of the world), and her clothes were girded by the red belt of the initiate. Moreover, four red horses were buried together with the woman. These horses, according to legends, embodied the earthly image of the griffin and were able to deliver a person to the next world. So, the scientists had no doubts – they had found a burial place of an ancient high priestess, and even a lady of royal blood.

However, the euphoria quickly gave way to nervousness for some reason, and the same day the expedition was brought to a close, the findings were loaded onto a helicopter and sent to the institute that had financed the excavation. No one knows what prompted the archaeologists to do this so quickly, but Altaians (indigenous people of Altai Mountains) immediately raised the alarm. They argued that something terrible had happened. The restless scientists had unearthed the Altai Princess – the keeper of the local land – who had been buried at the border between our world and the next.

“Bring the princess back, otherwise there will be a disaster!”, Altai shamans begged of the scientists.

“Oh, please, eliminate your prejudice,” the scientists answered them. “We simply try to explore the history of your land.” This dialogue continued for several years, and then earthquakes began.

This is unbelievable, but true – our region, which had never before been distinguished by seismic activity, was shaking with amazing regularity. Entire villages fell in the gaps of the mountains, and grade 6 earthquakes reached even the central city of the region. I remember very well the moment when a multi-story building was bouncing beneath me during such an earthquake. It is an unforgettable feeling.

“It’s the Princess’ revenge, she cannot wait any more!” the Altaians tried to convince.

“Nonsense! You might blame us for the tsunami as well!” the archaeologists answered back.

Each side still has its own truth and its own faith. Everyone looks at the world from a different point of view, and the world continues to give us new food for thought. Maybe, the point is that we still don’t know everything about the world, and perhaps not every “fiction” is absolutely unreal.

White Raven: Sword of Northern Ancestors
By Irina Lopatina

Genre: Fantasy

The fate of Areya rests with the lost sword Urart. Will White Raven retrieve it before it's too late?

In the kingdom of Areya, humans, animals, and the magical creatures that inhabit the Eternal Forest have long coexisted peacefully, but now something is horribly wrong. A terrifying stream of monstrous creatures has begun to emerge from the secret depths of the earth, terrorizing all of Areya's native inhabitants. From the tiny, wise drevalyankas to the bellicose cave-dwelling gnomes to the devious kikimoras who gather roots and herbs in the marsh, everyone is in danger.

With the aid of Urart, the magical sword that has been passed down from the time of the ancient northern ancestors, Grand Duke Vlady can offer temporary protection to his people. But Prince Vraigo, Vlady's nephew, who is endowed with magical power himself, understands that the source of the evil monsters must be found if there's any hope of survival. Along with a motley crew of his forest-dwelling friends, Vraigo sets off on a perilous quest in search of the koschei, the powerful, corrupt Archmagus whose mission is the destruction not just of Areya, but of the entire world.

As if this weren't bad enough, Urart disappears from the duke's stronghold. Without it, Areya is doomed, and only Vraigo, the White Raven, can possibly get the sword back. This journey requires Vraigo to use all of his keen wits and magical abilities, as well as to ally himself to dangerous creatures like yagas and werewolves, natural enemies of man, and precipitates the young prince into the most bewildering, complex challenge he has faced yet: life in the twenty-first century.

About the Author: 

Irina Lopatina lives and works in Siberia, Russia, but her homeland has an even more wonderful and exotic name: Altai. It is a unique place where old Altai Mountains rise high up to the sky, centuries-old forests stretch out as in ages past, and mighty Siberian rivers flow along the plains. Altai is one of the few places in the world where huge, densely populated cities coexist with pristine wild places. Moreover, this is an area of the earliest human civilizations, through which the great migration of people from eastern lands to Europe once took place.

While studying at the Altai State University, Irina devoted much attention to the past of her native land. As a student, she went to the archaeological sites of ancient settlements located on the mountain plateau, where it was only possible to arrive on foot. She remembers moments when it was quite easy to imagine how the ancient people had lived, what creatures neighbored them, and what adventures took place in these vast spaces. Irina needed take only a small leap from there to White Raven, his friends, and his enemies who were ready to begin a journey through the Eternal Forest of Areya.

Of course, it would have been much more difficult for her to create her stories if Irina had not been inspired early on by the works of many excellent fantasy and science fiction writers such as J.R. Tolkien and Ursula Le Guin, the Russian authors Nick Perumov and Svyatoslav Loginov, as well as the wonderfully charming Russian fairy tales where a brave prince, his faithful grey wolf and the evil koschei always live. And so it happens that Irina's novels are the stories of a distant, semi-fantastic land which, who knows, may still exist next door to us.

Orders placed through the Light Messages will be 30% off up to 14 days after this post. Just mention the post from Speculative Salon  in the notes field and also receive this special blog tour offer: a PERSONALIZED, signed post card from author Irina Lopatina. Postcards feature landscapes from Altai, Siberia––the inspiration for White Raven's Kingdom of Areya.

Visit Light Messages to order and receive the special offer.  

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Safe Places: Guest Post By Laura Bickle

We are incredibly pleased to welcome Laura Bickle back to the Salon today. Be sure to check out her new YA novel, The Hallowed Ones, as well as the rest of her fabulous titles.

Safe Places
By Laura Bickle

We all need safe places.

When we’re growing up, we crave places of security. Places that are havens where we can test ourselves without fear of the consequences of failure. Places where we can plan our futures under the wings of people who love us. Katie, the heroine of THE HALLOWED ONES, lives in a place like that. She’s grown up in a peaceful Amish settlement. She lives with her parents and sister in the house where she was born. Church services take place in members’ backyards. She knows every other person in the settlement. Crime is unheard-of. Though she has many responsibilities, Katie has always been free to wander about the rural settlement.

And she is free to daydream. Katie is looking forward to her Rumspringa, a time when Amish youth may test their boundaries and taste the English world before choosing to be baptized in the Amish church. She intends to explore the outside world with her childhood friend, Elijah. She knows that this is the man she will marry, but she wants to see the world beyond the fence before returning to the nest of her community as an adult Amish woman.

But Katie’s plans are shattered when a helicopter crashes into the field near her home. The pilot is killed, and Katie sees red eyes in the burning wreckage. Something not human. For the first time, she feels that her community is no longer the sanctuary it was.

Something is devastating the outside world. Something violent, something that has inspired even the ravens in her fields to flee in terror. Unsure why they haven’t yet been attacked, the Amish Elders make a decree: no one goes outside their community, and no one is allowed in. But when Katie finds a gravely injured young man lying just outside the boundary of their land, she can’t leave him to die. She refuses to submit to the Elders’ rule and secretly brings the stranger into her community—but what else is she bringing in with him?

Katie must decide when safety must be sacrificed in order to serve the higher virtue of compassion. She will learn how to create her own shelter, as an adult woman. The safe place she knew in her childhood is gone, and she must struggle to protect those she loves from the gathering darkness.

Laura Bickle
Reading level: Ages 12 and up
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Graphia
(September 25, 2012)
ISBN-10: 0547859260
ISBN-13: 978-0547859262

If your home was the last safe place on earth, would you let a stranger in?

In this captivating thriller, an Amish settlement is the last safe haven in a world plagued by an unspeakable horror…

Katie is on the verge of her Rumspringa, the time in Amish life when teenag-ers are free to experience non-Amish culture before officially joining the church. But before Rumspringa arrives, Katie’s safe world starts to crumble. It begins with a fiery helicopter crash in the cornfields, followed by rumors of massive unrest and the disappearance of huge numbers of people all over the world. Something is out there...and it is making a killing.

Unsure why they haven’t yet been attacked, the Amish Elders make a de-cree: No one goes outside their community, and no one is allowed in. But when Katie finds a gravely injured young man lying just outside the boundary of their land, she can’t leave him to die. She refuses to submit to the Elder’s rule and secretly brings the stranger into her community—but what else is she bringing in with him?

About the Author

Laura Bickle's professional background is in criminal justice and library science. When she's not patrolling the stacks at the public library, she can be found reaming up stories about the monsters under the stairs.

She has written several contemporary fantasy novels for adults, and THE HALLOWED ONES is her first young adult novel. Laura lives in Ohio with her husband and five mostly-reformed feral cats. For more about Laura, please visit her website at:

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Rachel McClellan: Conquer the World with Confidence

Our guest today is Rachel McClellan, whose new book, Fractured Light, is available now. Visit the Dark Minds Book Tours website and enter to win some wonderful prizes during this tour. Welcome, Rachel!


It's taken me a long time to get the confidence I have now. It all began when I was a teenager with a fear of being an unknown smudge on a wall. This fear made me into a very awkward teenager, and believe me when I say awkward. I wanted desperately to be different. I was always wearing funny-looking hats, crazy peace necklaces, and one time I even designed my father's shirt into pants.

Even though I may be remembered as "weird" by those who knew me, my desire to be different had bought me a ticket on the confidence train. Since then, the train has sluggishly tooted its way down life's tracks stopping along the way in hopes I'll take advantage of certain personal-growth moments. Sometimes I jumped and other times I cowered in the corner.

Some events that have helped me become confident over the years are starting a business at the age of 23, public speaking, sky-diving, and writing my first novel four years ago. This was the biggest confidence boost. Matching it was developing a love for running. Very little can compare with the feeling of crossing a finish line after running for miles and miles.

Sometimes my confidence-train derails when doubt-demons try to hijack it, but I always do my best to get it back on track, because I haven't quite conquered the world yet.

What have you done in your life that has helped you build confidence?

Excerpt from Fractured Light:

I’m dying, I thought. This was unexpected and not at all how I envisioned my death. I was supposed to die gardening in a flowerbed as a hundred-year-old woman, not as a seventeen-year-old trapped in a lake beneath inches of ice.

Llona Reese is used to living on the run. After a Vyken killed her parents, she knew they would eventually come for her too. She can’t take any chances. But when she starts to make friends for the first time in her life, she gets careless and lets her guard down. Big mistake. As an Aura, Llona can manipulate light and harness its energy. But if she wants to survive, Llona will have to defy the Auran Council and learn to use her power as a weapon against the Vyken whose sole desire is to take her light. 

Now she’s caught in something bigger than she can understand, with a power she can’t wield, and no one she can trust, except, just maybe, a mysterious stranger.

Purchase Links
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Rachel McClellan was born and raised in Idaho, a place secretly known for its supernatural creatures. When she's not in her writing lair, she's partying with her husband and four crazy, yet lovable, children. Rachel's love for storytelling began as a child when the moon first possessed the night. For when the lights went out, her imagination painted a whole new world. And what a scary world it was...

Where you can find Rachel:
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