Thursday, May 31, 2012

Yoga Fuels the Creative Mind

Recently in an interview, I was asked if I did anything specific to get my creative juices flowing. As I answered, I thought this would make a good discussion topic. I’ll share my methods and hope to learn what other writers do.

Artists of all types often talk about entering a creative zone where they are inspired, focused, and do their best work—when their muse is happy. However the challenges and stresses of daily life tend to cut us off from our creative natures, making that "zone" hard to access. 

I’m fairly addicted to exercise, but not any type just for fitness. I prefer the varieties that open and calm my mind. I find when my thoughts of everyday worries quiet, the plot of my WIP swells to the surface, and I always solve whatever scene issue I need to address. 

My choices of mind-expanding exercise include yoga, cycling, hiking, and kayaking. Being outdoors is a wonderful way to allow my mind to open to a wider viewpoint. The beauty and complexity of nature is so vast, my concerns melt away. As a fantasy writer, I imagine portals to other worlds everywhere and wildlife plants and animals become fascinating characters.

Yoga also quiets my mind to foster creative thought. It can be an invaluable tool to help find the kind of internal peace that allows for inspired imagination and creativity. It’s as though the creative impulse seems to be activated as soon as there's a little breathing space in my mind. Sometimes it feels as if the idea, or the solution to some vexing problem, was waiting patiently all along, just out of reach, until my mind stopped churning in its breathless quest for an answer. I’ve never once failed to solve a plot problem using this method. 

"Creativity is actually the living, breathing essence of your Self," says Sianna Sherman, an Anusara Yoga instructor who teaches internationally. To tap into it, you simply need to make space for it. Kundalini Yoga teacher Hari Kirin Khalsa, who is also a painter, wrote in Art & Yoga: "When you're under stress, you're contracted and fearful. Everything is black and white. You're not intuitive; you're instinctive. You can't think outside the box." But by practicing asana, pranayama, meditation, or devotional chanting, she says, you can shift out of that stressful state and connect with your imaginative, spacious Self. "Yoga opens up the flow of creativity, the unfurling of the creator within."

I’ve practiced yoga almost daily for thirteen years, and I still find new things to discover about it and new ways to apply it to my life as a writer. Lately, I’ve been learning the joys of hot yoga. It cleanses the mind in a whole new way, and leaves me even more open to create. As a fantasy writer, the mystical side of yoga is especially appealing, giving me greater appreciation for the connectedness of all living energy. I definitely weave that feeling of flowing energy into my fantasy worlds.

What do you do to get your creative juices flowing?
~ ~ ~
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, May 30, 2012

Speculative Society Book Club, April/May

The first reading in our bi-monthly Speculative Society book club is officially complete, and I have a few thoughts to share. The group voted to discuss Steampunk Tales, Vol. 1, a title that seems to only be available in ebook form and was a bit of a confused effort. I should point out that while I'm very familiar with (and a big fan of) the steampunk genre, I've not read a ton of short story collections over the years, esp. those written by multiple authors.

Overall, I really enjoyed about half of the stories in the book, and there was certainly enough diversity in styles and themes to keep the reader interested. I think the main problem was that a few entries had too many genre cliches, while several others were actually excerpts from longer pieces, although some of them did a pretty good job of standing on their own. The stand-outs for me were Catherynne M. Valente's The Anachronist's Cookbook, Brian Rappatta's The Reanimation Emporium, and G.D. Faulksen's The Mask of Tezcatlipoca. The remaining entries range from fairly good to completely boring.

Considering the very reasonable price of this collection, it's almost worth it for the better tales alone. I haven't participated in a book club in several years and I do think that short stories are a trickier thing to tackle than full novels. I'm looking forward to getting more in depth with character, plot, theme, etc. in whatever we choose for next month.

Voting is underway, so sign up and join the fun in our Goodreads Speculative Society!


Tuesday, May 29, 2012

More Comics: A steampunk western and a Turkish adventure

Ok, so how did I get here... Oh, yes.  I remember.  Fellow Salon mate, Ella Gray, tweeted about a web comic she liked. And you know how that goes.  Show up on that web page and find something interesting. Follow that, and find yet another something of interest.  And so on, and so on. 

So, what was this fabulously exciting web comic?  Next Town Over, a steampunk western.  Actually, the link was to Newsarama and an interview with creator Erin Mehlos.
Newsarama: Okay Erin, I'll bite -- how did you come up with the concept for Next Town Over, and what led to the steampunk/supernatural elements seep into the story?
Erin Mehlos: I always kind of wanted to do something with a Western flavor, and I used to doodle manga girls in cowboy hats from time to time as a kid. The seed for the NTO plot, though, actually started off as a jokey criticism I was giving my sister about a story she’d written, where the action was just moving from place to place for no apparent reason as her protagonists just wrecked town after town.
Incidentally. none of the towns were developed whatsoever or even had names; the characters just referred to them as “the next town over.” I was just being a jerk, really, and said that should just be the core of the story: nemeses just destroying place after place with zero regard for all the collateral damage, and any effect it might have on the people unfortunate enough to live in their path.
And that became NTO, but obviously I’ve sort of ruined the, uh, purity of the original concept. The story got a little snarled in the writing, but three books out, I don’t know how apparent that is.

That's a great answer to the ubiquitous "where do you get your ideas?" question.   I got caught up in her comments about her process and the storytelling and never did get to the comic, itself.  Instead, I got distracted about here:

Nrama: What are some of your other favorite comics and creators, online and off? 
Mehlos: Tony Cliff’s Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant recently wrapped -- that was a phenomenal bit of webcomicking. I found him originally through the Flight anthologies; I’m a big fan of all those creators and Kazu Kibuishi especially. I really liked Daisy Kutter too, his Western

Delilah Dirk!  More great art.  Even though I don’t usually like computer generated coloring of comics, both of these artists Mehlos and Delilah’s creator Tony Cliff seem to have taken the best of the lyrical line and the consistency of color and created attractive images. 

Visual clarity. That’s what gets me.  The pages as a whole are beautiful or interesting to look at.  Both artists use framing that is as interesting as the content it frames.  And Cliff’s depictions of Turkey are delightful!  Evidently, he is trying to keep things as authentic as possible.

And if you haven’t noticed yet, No, I haven’t read the comics. Not yet, anyway.  I got distracted by more links.  The rest of the wandering was a bit more academic AND I'm waiting for a couple of paper books to come in. Like two volumes of Flight! I’ll keep you posted.  Meanwhile, check out Next Town Over and Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant.  Any other comics I should check out?

Monday, May 28, 2012

The Power of Backstory ~ guest post by Karen Azinger

Today, we're happy to welcome fantasy author Karen Azinger to the Speculative Salon. She has an interesting article to share. Be sure to check out her new book release, The Skeleton King. 

The Power of Backstory
By Karen Azinger
Author of The Silk & Steel Saga

Creating great fantasy is equal parts world building and character building. Characters are the true heart of any story. The deeper and more complex the characters, the more soul-catching the story will be. We all love to read about brilliantly strategic queens, dauntless knights, corrupt kings, and scheming princes, for it is the characters who sweep us away on tides of emotion. They make us weep for loves lost, shock us with betrayals, and thrill us when crowns are won or lost, but none of this happens unless the reader truly cares for the characters. So how does an author create characters that are both fascinating and believable? One way is by creating a compelling backstory.

Backstory is essentially the character’s background, but for literary purposes it is far more than just the character’s place of birth, his family status, or his schooling. To create a powerful backstory, a writer needs to give his characters emotional landmarks. It is the triumphs and the scars of life that forge the very soul of the character. These emotional landmarks steer the character’s choices like a relentless compass. They give the character hidden depths and make them believable and intriguing. One of the best examples of a powerful backstory is Professor Snape in Harry Potter. Until Snape’s background is revealed, he is a riddle to the readers, a character who seems to serve both the Light and the Dark. Snape’s abiding love for Lilly explains all his actions, all his difficult choices. Everything makes sense in the light of the reveal.

But creating a great backstory can have its risks. Once a writer constructs a detailed backstory, they often feel compelled to spill the beans and tell everything to the reader. Too much backstory will strangle a book to death, choking the story with meaningless detail and tiresome flashbacks. Backstory should be like an iceberg, with most of it hidden below the surface. It is only when the reader draws close to the character that they look down and see what lurks beneath…the good, the bad, and the ugly.

I’ll tell you a secret about backstory…it’s a secret! Who doesn’t love a good secret? Secrets are delicious story questions. The more secrets your characters have the more they will tantalize your readers. Give your characters lost loves, or thwarted ambitions, unfulfilled dreams, secret fears, or skeletons in their closet. Writing in the fantasy genre provides authors with iridescent dimensions that other genres don’t have. Rare magical talents, secret skills, or royal bloodlines are often hidden in the backstory of fantasy characters. But no matter the genre, backstory provides powerful questions that weave beneath the plot and draw the reader through the story.

In my epic fantasy, The Silk & Steel Saga, you’ll find characters with secret pasts, hidden powers, suppressed loves, shocking bloodlines, and buried crimes. From the brilliant Queen Liandra, to the seductive Priestess, to the cunning Lord Raven, you’ll empathize with the good and pray they prevail but you truly feast on the bad who are utterly compelling. 

By using backstory, authors can crate intriguing, multi-dimensional characters that pull readers into their books and keep them coming back for more. 

The Silk & Steel Saga - Set in a medieval world of forgotten magic, The Silk & Steel Saga is a faced-paced epic fantasy with stunning female leads. Kingdoms and characters come alive as they are woven together through twisting plots that surprise and delight the reader. You'll empathize with the good and pray they prevail but you'll truly feast on the bad who are utterly compelling.

Author Bio - Karen L Azinger has always loved fantasy fiction, and always hoped that someday she could give back to the genre a little of the joy that reading has always given her. Nine years ago on a hike in the Columbia River Gorge she realized she had enough original ideas to finally write an epic fantasy. She started writing and never stopped. The Steel Queen is her first book, born from that hike in the gorge. Before writing, Karen spent over twenty years as an international business strategist, eventually becoming a vice-president for one of the world's largest natural resource companies. She's worked on developing the first gem-quality diamond mine in Canada's arctic, on coal seam gas power projects in Australia, and on petroleum projects around the world. Having lived in Australia for eight years she considers it to be her second home. She's also lived in Canada and spent a lot of time in the Canadian arctic. She has a degree in chemical engineering from Carnegie-Mellon University and lives with her husband in Portland Oregon in a house perched on the edge of the forest. Having started as an engineer, she then became an international business strategist, and now she is an epic fantasy author and it is a dream come true!

Link to Author website

Friday, May 25, 2012

Cover Reveal: Weighted by Ciara Knight

The Speculative Salon is proud to reveal the cover for Weighted by Ciara Knight. But before we do, please read these words below from the author:

Weighted is a young adult post-apocalyptic with paranormal elements. It is a prequel novelette to The Neumarian Chronicles, and will be released August 2012. Book I, Escapement, will be released in 2013.

The Great War of 2185 is over, but my nightmare has just begun. I am being held captive in the Queen’s ship awaiting interrogation. My only possible ally is the princess, but I’m unsure if she is really my friend or a trap set by the Queen to fool me into sharing the secret of my gift. A gift I keep hidden even from myself.  It swirls inside my body begging for release, but it is the one thing the Queen can never discover. Will I have the strength to keep the secret? I’ll know the answer soon. If the stories are true about the interrogators, I’ll either be dead or a traitor to my people by morning.

                                                                        *drum roll*

                                  Be sure to add the prequel novelette to your Goodreads shelf here!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Don’t Ignore The Small Things--guest post by Cas Peace

Don’t Ignore The Small Things

Before I begin, I’d like to thank Marsha for inviting me to the Speculative Salon. Thank you, Marsha! It’s great to be here and to share some thoughts. 

I chose ‘Don’t Ignore The Small Things’ as my topic today, aimed specifically at fantasy and speculative fiction writers. Here’s why.

 As I make my slightly harassed round of the Internet each day, what catches my eye most often is the wealth of blogs, websites, FB posts and Tweets that offer advice to writers. I doubt it’s ever been easier to find the answer to any question you care to think of regarding the writing profession: from creative writing, to journalism, to essay writing, non-fiction, or how to find and submit to an agent or publisher. The ‘Net’ abounds with advice and information of all kinds and value. Anyone can offer their experiences, from lists of dos and don’ts, to ways of overcoming the dreaded ‘writers’ block’.

My own writing career began right at the start of public access to the Internet and at that time, I didn’t own a pc. I often wonder how different my path to publication might have been had I been able to use the Net as we do now. I certainly wouldn’t have been caught by the scam agent (damn her eyes!) who absconded with £300 of my – and others’ – hard-earned cash. (At least, I hope I wouldn’t!)

It’s also much simpler to find people willing to be alpha and beta readers – invaluable if you are a rookie writer seeking feedback from people other than your friends and family. And if you then decide you’d like to work with an editor or writing coach (such as myself, hint, hint), the instant communication of email makes the process more intimate and accessible.

Amongst this plethora of advice and information on how to create your fantasy world or write your fantasy novel, it’s easy to forget The Small Things. 

The Small Things are humdrum, everyday things. Things we take so much for granted, we don’t even think about them. Things like your favourite beverage: coffee, cola, or tea. Credit cards. Light bulbs. Everyday clichés. Cussing. Stuff like that.

We all write in different ways. Some people plan their novel down to the smallest detail before they write a single word. Some make outlines, write chapter précis, or use the Snowflake method. Some, like me, just start writing and allow the Muse to have her way. Whichever method you use, you will eventually end up with a personal world in which your characters live out their lives. These worlds will, by necessity, contain The Small Things. But do you pay attention to them? Do you realise how fundamentally they can affect the credibility of your world, even down to helping your reader feel a part of it? Many times I’ve begun reading a novel, one which sounded good from the cover copy, only to find that the writer has glossed over some small but vital component of their world simply because (I imagine) they felt it was unimportant. 

So, whether you have created a totally new and alien world, or have based your tale on our dear old Earth, it will still contain The Small Things. The beings that populate your novel need to take sustenance. They need to clean themselves, exchange goods or money for products, illuminate their dwellings (unless they are sightless, of course!), and cuss. I believe it enhances a novel immeasurably if the writer has used their creativity on The Small Things. For example, my own novels are set in a fictitious medieval world where coffee does not exist. I wanted my main female character, Sullyan, to be as mildly addicted to this stimulant as I am, so I had to invent a new beverage – fellan.  I am not a huge fan of clichés in writing, but people use clichés, similes and adages all the time in everyday dialogue, so why not create some that pertain to your own world? In my Artesans series, where the only means of transport is the horse, instead of saying someone has ‘a chip on their shoulder’, I use ‘a burr under their saddle’. My characters use longbows and crossbows, so instead of someone ‘going off half-cocked’ (which is a vintage firearms reference), I have ‘going off like a broken bow’. And rather than ‘flogging a dead horse’ (which would be appropriate but is overused, as clichés are) I have used ‘pissing on a dead tree’. These inventions are, in themselves, small things, but I believe they give colour and flavour and, more importantly, a touch of humour, to a novel.

I could, of course, give many, many more examples along these lines, but I’m sure you get the idea. You don’t have to go overboard with creating new clichés, inventing new foods, modes of transport, etc. in your novels, just add one or two. It makes readers take notice, and it’s fun! My advice for writers, both new and experienced, is: Please don’t ignore The Small Things.

Book Publication and availability details:
Book One, King’s Envoy, was published by Rhemalda Publishing on 15 August 2011, and Book Two, King’s Champion, will be out on 15 August 2012. King’s Artesan will appear in August 2013. For those who are animal lovers, I had a non-fiction book published in 2008, about the life of my wonderful Dalmatian, Daisy. It’s available in print both from my website and on Amazon, and also as an e-book from Smashwords (although without the lovely colour photographs). Personally signed copies of my Artesan books are also available from my website.

King’s Envoy on
King’s Envoy on Barnes&Noble

‘I was riveted from start to finish by this excellent novel. Action, intrigue, dirty tricks and humor combine to make this a great addition to the world of fantasy.’
Barry Tighe, The Spawater Chronicles, Gieves to the Fore, and Flashman and the War between the States.

‘The characters are convincing, the settings realistic and the action scenes gripping. Cas Peace's competent prose makes the reading effortless. This series will be a great hit with lovers of fantasy and adventure.’
Judith Arnopp, Peaceweaver, The Forest Dwellers and The Song of Heledd.

“Cas Peace weaves her story with the skill of the most accomplished Artesan. If imagination was an element, she’d be a Master-elite.”
Steven D Jackson, Shifter.

Cover copy for King’s Champion:
After surviving brutal torture and escaping from Lord Rykan’s dungeons, Major Sullyan is trapped in Andaryon, too injured to cross the Veils. Slowly dying and determined to find some purpose in the shattered remains of her life, she travels to the Andaryan capitol to offer the Hierarch her sword and Artesan gifts in the fight against Rykan and his vast army. Because women hold no power in Andaryon, Sullyan is met with prejudice, hostility, and suspicion.
Before she can seek vengeance on the field of battle, she must prove herself to the Hierarch’s generals. Finding support from the unlikeliest sources, Sullyan sets a plan into motion to defeat Lord Rykan and end his bid for the throne. The fate of two realms depends on her success, but her strength is fading fast and time is running out.

Excerpt from King’s Champion:
Branches whipped past Rienne’s face as she clung to the horse’s neck. The darkness and the wind of their speed were unremitting. Horse sweat slicked her fingers. Her arms and legs ached fiercely with the effort of staying on the galloping beast, and neither the wiry arms circling her waist nor the unfamiliar chest pressed into her back were helping. She wasn’t used to riding this fast and certainly not riding double.
A quick glance to her left showed Cal, his horse weaving its own hectic path through the trees. Taran should be just behind him, Robin and Bull even further back. At least she hoped they were there. She couldn’t hear them, couldn’t hear anything above the rasping breath of her horse and the rough slap of branches. She felt rather than heard the pounding hoof beats as they jarred up through her thighs and into her protesting back.
Would this ride never end?
Her laboring horse kept trying to slow, but the thin man seated behind her repeatedly dug his heels into its lathered flanks. Rienne heard the poor beast grunt as it plunged on through the trees. She grimaced in sympathy. How much more could it take? Neither she nor the Count were heavy, but even the stoutest horse would struggle to maintain this pace while carrying two riders. Rienne didn’t like to think what might happen if it foundered.
How long had it been since she, Count Marik, and Robin had brought the gravely injured and unconscious Major Sullyan out of those dreadful dungeons? How long since they had fled Rykan’s palace and the patrols sent to hunt them? Rienne shuddered, trying not to think of Sullyan’s unresponsive face as Robin took her onto his horse. Marik had kicked their shared mount ahead of Robin, desperate to lead them far away from Rykan’s palace. As she passed him, Rienne saw tears glistening in Robin’s indigo eyes. Since then, she hadn’t had an opportunity to gauge the Major’s condition. Was she still alive or had she, as Rienne privately feared, already died? Her injuries were severe; this wild, panic-stricken flight through an unfamiliar forest might be one ordeal too many.
The lack of light forced them to use the main forest trails, but Rykan’s patrols had been coming and going over the previous weeks, as had Marik’s men, obeying the Duke’s call to arms. Rienne prayed that the tracks they were making would be lost among all the others. If they could get far enough away by dawn, surely they would be safe?
She shied at shadows, her heart lurching at each unusual shape that loomed through the trees. Marik seemed in mortal fear of his life and rode hunched behind her in silence. She could almost feel him listening for the sound of pursuit and guessed he was thinking about his fate should Rykan’s men catch them. Only once so far had Bull sensed someone close on their tail. He had urged them on to greater speed, and Rienne prayed hard that her horse would find the strength to endure.
Abruptly, she felt Marik’s body tense. She gasped as a dark shape arrowed toward her. She grabbed for the reins, trying to turn the horse’s head, but unaccountably, Marik fought her.
“Let go!” she yelled, driving an elbow into his ribs. He whooshed out a breath and let go the rein, but it was too late. A large hand had already clamped onto her horse’s cheek strap and was hauling on it, slowing the frightened beast.
“It’s me, Rienne! It’s alright, we can stop now.”
Bull’s deep bass voice, harsh with strain, calmed Rienne’s shuddering heart. She managed to turn her head and smile as he brought her lathered horse to a walk.
“Are we safe? Have we lost them?” She cursed the tremor in her voice.
Bull frowned. “For the moment. I haven’t sensed anyone behind us for a while. Taran and I have dropped the shield. We’re too tired to maintain it right now. We still need to be cautious, but I think we can give the horses a rest. Killing them won’t help us.”
He left her and dropped back, presumably to continue scanning the woods. Cal took his place, nudging his horse alongside hers. “Share with me for a bit?”
Rienne nodded and awkwardly made the transition from her own mount to Cal’s. She ached in every bone and moving was both difficult and painful. Once she was sitting behind her lover, however, with her arms wrapped about his waist and her face buried in the back of his neck, she felt much better.
After a few minutes she recovered enough to look behind her. “Cal, slow up a bit more, please.”
Cal complied and they drew level with Robin’s plodding horse. Rienne glanced at the Captain, then at the limp form cradled in his arms. Sullyan lay unmoving, her head bowed against his chest.
“Any change?”
Robin raised red-rimmed eyes and she realized he had been weeping.
She nudged Cal’s horse with her foot, edging it closer. “Let me see.” Reaching across, she drew down a corner of the velvet cloak the Major was wrapped in and put her hand to Sullyan’s neck above the silver collar, feeling for a pulse. Her fingers came away bloody. Robin’s eyes never left hers.
“It’s difficult to tell,” she murmured. “The movement of the horse interferes. But I think she’s still with us. She’s terribly cold.”
“I’m doing my best.”
Robin’s voice choked. Rienne was shocked by his anguish. “Oh, Robin, I know you are. If not for you, she’d still be in that cell and almost certainly dead by now. At least she’s among friends, even if ….” She couldn’t continue.
Robin closed his eyes. “That’s no comfort, Rienne.”

Author Bio:
For those who don’t know me, I’m Cas Peace, British author of the triple-trilogy fantasy series Artesans of Albia. I was born in the lovely county of Hampshire, in the UK, where I still live with my husband and two rescue dogs, Milly and Milo. Dogs and horses are two passions of mine and when I left school I trained as a horse-riding instructor. I went on to own my own horse and to develop an interest in carriage-driving. I then trained my Welsh Cob, Lively, to pull a carriage, and together we competed in cross-country driving trials and driving-dressage. That was a few years ago and now, I concentrate on my dogs. We attend dog-agility training sessions and sometimes even compete.

In addition to my writing, I work as a writing coach and freelance editor/proof reader. Please see my website for details.

This June, I am attending the Rhemalda Publishing reading and writing conference ‘Got Stories?’, being held in Salt Lake City, Utah, on June 16th 2012. See link for more details. Along with my fellow Rhemalda authors, I will be giving a talk, on Epic World Building. The second book in my Artesans trilogy, King’s Champion, will be available for purchase at the conference, although its official release date isn’t until 15th August 2012. Come along and be one of the first to own a copy – I’d love to see you there!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Book of Imaginary Beings

My latest search through the library database for urban fantasy reference material brought to light an interesting text from before I was even born. It's called The Book of Imaginary Beings by Jorge Luis Borges, and it has been an informative and highly entertaining read.

The copy I found is a 2nd printing from 1970 and seems to be exactly the same as the original 1969 edition. However, a new version was released in 2006 that includes updates and illustrations. From what I can tell, it contains a few additional monsters, as well as the most current information and even new spellings of some creature names. Hopefully the modern printing addresses some of the confusing references and omissions from the original, and I'd love to see an artists' interpretation of the creatures.

These wonderful beasts come from stories, myths and cultures all over the world, as well as a few plucked straight out of some well-known novels. Many of the classics are mentioned in their various forms: unicorns, dragons, fairies, etc. Some are particularly unique and often quite funny. Here's a few of my favorites:

Peryton - Apparently these strange folk are basically large birds with blue or green  feathers and the head and legs of a deer and are "mortal foes of the human race", according to the 16th century rabbi who translated the information from an ancient Greek scholar. Their original home was Atlantis, and they spent their time flying around the Columns of Hercules, attacking ships and killing men. At least one oracle predicted that they would wipe out Rome, but they were last spotted in Ravenna...

Garuda - A creature that is half vulture, half man and sometimes ridden by the Hindu god Vishnu

Kujata - A great bull of Muslim mythology with 4,000 eyes, ears, nostrils, mouth, and feet. If that's not enough, this guy has a giant ruby on its back, then an angel, with the earth on top. Kujata then stands on top of a fish named Bahamut above an abyss and will possibly swallow all of creation one day.

Eight-Forked Serpent - From Japan, this maiden-eating snake has 8 legs and tails, shining red eyes, and is covered in trees and moss.

Amphisbaena - A lizard found in Africa which has two heads (one on each end of its body) that can bite you with both. It had flaming eyes and was very quick, and Pliny praised its medicinal properties.

Mermecolion - This bizarre fabrication seems to be the result of a wildly botched translation which resulted in an animal that is a lion in front, an ant in the rear, with the "organs of its sex the wrong way". Don't ask me exactly what that last part means, but it sounds awful (in the funniest way).

If you get a chance to flip through this book, you'll discover some really cool urban fantasy (or other) possibilities.


Monday, May 21, 2012

Supernatural Teen Dramas - My Weakness

I have a deep, dark secret, something that I refuse to talk about in public - with adults. And no matter how hard I try, I can’t seem to shake it - I’m addicted to supernatural teen dramas. I could hardly hold back a squeal when I noticed the advertisement for the upcoming second season of “Teen Wolf” to air on June 3rd.

I’ve been a fan of the supernatural since Buffy the Vampire Slayer and even watched the spinoff Angel that was NOT nearly as good. As much as I’ve grown out of the teen angst as I’ve hit my thirties, I am still addicted to the teen dramas as my PVR as my witness. Why you ask? I think that its the forbidden romances that are mixed in with the  storyline and throw in vampires, werewolves and witches, and I’m in.

Teen Wolf
I was too young to watch the first Teen Wolf television series, but my interest was quickly sparked in the first episode when Scott McCall is bitten by a werewolf while in the woods with his best friend. Scott’s life changes as he is forced to learn to tame the beast within, while trying to appear as a normal high school student. He also meets his love interest, a new student, Alison Argent.
As viewers watch Scott deal with his problems that keep getting in the way of his relationship with Alison, they also learn as Alison uncovers a secret from her family’s past - they are werewolf hunters. Even though Alison is sent away by her father to keep her from Scott, we all know that she’ll be back to crank up the forbidden romance.

Vampire Diaries
I have been a huge fan of the Vampire Diaries since the very first episode. I remembered reading LJ Smith’s series when I was younger. The third season really turned up the heat on the love triangle between Elena Gilbert, and the vampire Salvatore brothers, Damon and Stefan. With original boyfriend Stefan going off the deep end in the season and broke Elena’s heart, it was Damon that was left to dry Elena’s tears.
When the sensitive Stefan returned, it was only a matter of time before he wanted back with Elena, but she’d fallen for Damon. In the season finale, when it is believed that the Salvatore brothers only have hours to live, Elena is forced to choose which of the brother she will go to. She chooses Stefan. The ending was a cliffhanger when Elena wakes up on a hospital gurney after drowning. I can hardly wait for the fall for the fourth season.

The Secret Circle
This the first season for the coven of teen witches and I’ve heard mixed reviews. I struggled to really get into this one until budding romance between Cassie and Adam took center stage. While their love was said to be “their destiny”, it was also a curse as someone in the circle will die if their love was allowed to grow.
A spell was cast to make the two fall out of love with each other, but it only worked on Adam. Cassie is still in love with him. I’m behind on this series, but have a date with PVR in the near future to catch the last few episodes.

While I can justify my supernatural teen drama as "my" personal soap opera, I'm pretty certain that I'll still have to watch it in secret without my husband around to avoid his snickers, commentary and teasing.

Any deep, dark secrets that you have?


Friday, May 18, 2012

Top Five Strong Female Fantasy Novels

I found this list on Goodreads for the Best "Strong Female" Fantasy Novels.

After searching through the list, here are my Top Five Strong Female Fantasy novels:

1. The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley
2. Lady of the Forest by Jennifer Roberson (Don’t remember this book being fantasy.)
3. Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones
4. Dealing With Dragons  (Enchanted Forest Chronicles #1)
5. Harry Potter’s Series (My twin Hermione!)

What are your top five novels?

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Rumplestiltskin: The Antihero

With the season finale of “Once Upon a Time,” I was stuck by the action of the character Mr. Gold (the pawnshop owner in the real world setting of Storybrook)/ Rumplestiltskin (from the fairytale world). Throughout the series, an evil curse blocked the townspeople’s memories of their previous lives in the fairytale world. Just as Emma Swan, the “Savior,” lifted the curse as was prophesized, Mr. Gold performed an act of magic that caused a new enchantment to spread over Storybrook—the environ now supported magic. Certainly, that alters the battlefield between good and evil, putting new weapons into their hands for future shows. Besides how his act alters the plot, I’m curious about the complexities of his character. 

Mr. Gold/Rumplestiltskin is my favorite character in the series and certainly an antihero. That type is generally considered to be a protagonist whose character is contrary to that of the archetypal hero, but retains many heroic qualities. 

Emma is clearly the heroine. She is attractive, brave, and determined. She is a good person and we are compelled to root for her. Unlike a hero or heroine, an antihero is generally selfish, corrupt, and oppressive. Mr. Gold is not a true villain like Regina, the Evil Queen, but he isn’t a hero either. Antiheroes usually fight or thwart the villains, but not for any reason of justice unless by happenstance to actualize their own desires. An antihero may steal, vandalize, and perform other "bad" acts, but may do so for a cause that is ultimately good. Mr. Gold has certainly fooled Regina several times to bring a result that benefits the side of the good. This was the case when Regina attempted to frame Mary Margaret/Snow White as a murderess. At the last moment, Mr. Gold makes the murder victim appear, alive and unharmed, ending Regina’s case. The same pattern held true when Emma ran for sheriff, her campaign almost undermined by Regina, until Mr. Gold enabled a situation that made the townspeople have tremendous respect for Emma and give her their votes.

Other examples of well known antiheroes in recent works include Severus Snape (one of my all-time favorite characters) and Captain Jack Sparrow.

I love the complex role of the antihero so much, I have included one my Enchanted Bookstore Legends. Tarom the Icewalker plays the part of the Dark Realm’s alchemist, but he often aligns with my heroine for reasons that are his own and not hers. He is very much an individual and values his independence, apart from both good and evil factions. This puts him at odds with his job, working for the Dark Realm. But even that has a selfish motive which will ultimately be exposed.

Antiheroes are extraordinary individuals with layers of complexity governing their actions. 

What antiheroes are your favorites? What character in “Once Upon a Time” intrigues you the most?

~ ~ ~
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, May 16, 2012

Advice for Urban Fantasy Heroes

Today, I'm highlighting some troublesome mistakes I see urban fantasy heroes and heroines making on a regular basis, and tossing out some alternatives to these frustrating situations. Let's face it, characters have to be flawed and they do have to make mistakes sometimes. But as a UF reader and writer, there are certain scenarios that drive me crazy, and usually come off as convenient solutions to plot problems.

So here is my advice to our heroes, addressing the Top 3 Mistakes that should probably be avoided whenever possible:

1. Do Your Research. 
If our heroine is hob-knobbing with vamps, weres, fay, and all manner of supernatural folk, she should learn all there is to know about them. Instead, I see too many protags hanging out with very dangerous creatures, only to discover that they have unwittingly made a crucial faux pas and must now pay the price.

Yes, we want to cause trouble for our heroes, but that doesn't mean they have to stumble around blindly before accidentally falling into a big stinking mess. It would be far more interesting to present a situation where the heroine must make the choice to break a rule which she knows will have consequences, but she does it anyway for a good reason.

*Characters who have just been introduced to a new 'world' in an original novel get a pass on this one, but they should have things figured out by book two.

2. Don't give out key information.
Our hero is in contact with someone whose suspicious activities have put them in the middle of the mystery. A bad move is to have them tell said party what's being done to solve the case and where they can find the hero in order to get together and answer some questions, regardless of whether they've known each other for a while.

If we need the bad guys to find out certain information about the hero's activities or whereabouts, there has to be a better way. Set up a spy in the hero's camp, or have them be a tech-savvy kind of villain who has pre-set surveillance and taps into street cameras. Anything but a blabber-mouthed protag please.

3. Hold your lovin' until the appropriate time.
All hell is breaking loose, people are dying  and danger lurks around every corner. If the heroine can't figure out what's going on soon and stop it, the whole world as we know it could end. So how about a night of nooky with the guy she just met instead of searching for clues? Bad idea.

I'm not saying romance is never appropriate, even in bad situations, but I can't stand to have a lead who is more interested in her budding relationship than the crisis at hand. Worse if it turns out that the supporting cast is doing all the legwork in the meantime, or the villain has gotten away with something terrible while the heroes were, um, distracted. All I'm saying is think hard about the fallout before taking time out to do the nasty.

None of these flubs necessarily put our heroes in the category of TSTL, but why not avoid that slippery slope altogether. What are your pet peeves when it comes to characters making the wrong choices in any genre?


Tuesday, May 15, 2012

For a Rollicking Good Time...Agatha H!

It's been a bit stressful around here.  I sprained my ankle a few days before undergoing oral surgery.  It's ok!  It all worked out. Pain meds covered both incidents nicely (over-the-counter? Even better!) So, needed to recover. Needed to sit around with my foot up and just relax. For that I needed a story or several.

Enter the Kindle.

I use its text-to-speech function: the computer voice isn't that bad. Sounds like someone with a strange accent, but after a few pages I had the "accent" figured out.

I went through my Steampunk list of books. I've got a good collection.  A couple of them I got on Audible. Bacigalupi's Windup Girl, for one.  Link and Grant's Steampunk! anthology, for another.  I've finished the Anthology.  The Goodreads group read, Steampunk Tales is done, too.  Windup Girl is a little to involved for post-anesthesia listening.  So, what's left?

The Steampunk Detective by Darrell Pitt worked nicely.  As did Ekaterina Sedia's Alchemy of Stone.  Sill stressed out by physical and now family stuff, I needed still more distraction. Enter Agatha! Agatha H and the Airship City.

At first I was getting lost. Too many characters, no airship city, Agatha being a bit too ditzy for me. At first.  She was interesting enough for me to stick with her, though.  Which turned out to be the best thing.

OK, still too many characters.  They were a bit hard to keep up with.  It's a sprawling novel for taking place in so small a space. That was when I realized where I'd got the book.  It's a novel written around the characters created by the Foglios, Phil and Kaja, the creators of the exceptionally successful Girl Genius web comic.

Yup, I finally caught up with the rest of the internet!  Not with the comic, though.  The graphic style puts me off.  I'm old school and prefer the old rough, pulp look to the new, slick, computer-drawn one.  Fortunately, the novel takes me into the world of Agatha and her cronies. Fortunately also, there is another novel just released from Night Shade books!

So, another novel works its way through my Kindle.  I fell asleep before the end and woke up in the middle of an exciting bit.  Wait! Wait! What happened?  Yeah, rollicking adventure.  I'd fallen in love with the characters and their weird world. Even enough to pick up the Omnibus and enjoy the comic.  Meanwhile, gotta get back to Agatha. I left her alone in her lab with some guy. The cat didn't like him, so I gotta wonder...Should I trust the cat?

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