2015 Balticon Schedule (And Announcement!)

Baltimore Science Fiction Society LogoIt’s that time of year again! Balticon.

I’m looking forward to a really special Balticon this year. Many friends are in town just for the event and I’m attending quite a few book launches and parties.

Here’s my schedule:

Saturday, May 23

2:00 PM – Autograph Session – At the Autograph Table
4:00 PM – Reading with Vonnie Winslow Crist – Parlor 1041
7:00 PM – Launch Party: Gail Z. Marting (Attending) – Frankie and Vinnie’s
9:00 PM – 15th Anniversary Broad Universe Party – (Attending/Possibly Reading) – Frankie and Vinnie’s

Sunday, May 24

11:00 AM – How to Start Writing – Derby (Tentative)
12:00 PM – Broad Universe Reading – Concierge Lounge (Attending)
1:00 PM – Broad Universe Reading – Concierge Lounge (Reading!)
7:00 PM – How to Incorporate Critique – Chase (Tentative)
7:00 PM – Dark Quest Book Launch Party – Frankie and Vinnie’s – (If Critique Panel is pulled from the schedule)

Announcement

I’m pleased to announced that A Favor for a Fiend is now out! This is the second book in the Charm City Darkness series.

Yay! I’ll be reading from Favor and there will be copies in the dealer’s room for purchase.

::: So excited! :::

favorforafiendfinal-print-04102015-2-400px-e

Purchase at:
Amazon Kindle
Nook
Barnes & Noble Paperback
Kobo Books

2015 Reader Survey – Let Your Voice Be Heard!

Man reading a book outside with a mountain view in the distance.Romance Author Marie Force is hosting a reader survey, which I hope will become an annual thing.

Take This Year’s Survey

The first survey concluded in June 2013, with about 2,950 participants. Here are the results: http://e-bookformattingfairies.blogspot.com/2013/08/the-readers-sound-off-how-they-read.html

Most of the participants were mainly romance readers–which is to be expected, since that’s Ms. Force’s fan base–but readers are readers (I think), so there should be some common stuff across the grid.

For instance, according to the survey:

  • Readers prefer e-books to paperbacks (77 to 52 percent). However, the question allowed readers to choose all formats that apply, and there appears to be crossover between the two most popular formats, indicating some readers buy books in multiple formats when the paperback is available.
  • Nearly 80 percent buy their books from Amazon, with Barnes & Noble scoring a distant second at 23 percent and iBookstore/Apple coming in third at nearly 13 percent.

(Where do you buy your books?)

See full results here – including a complete list of questions and how people answered them.

I encourage you to take the survey (only open for the remainder of May):

Take This Year’s Survey

Happy Reading!

Guest Excerpt from Rachel Rawling’s Latest: Ill Fated

I met Rachel Rawlings in October for Hallowread and picked up her first book in the Maura Kincaide series. I couldn’t put it down. I immediately bought the boxed set.

This book sounds like it will be as exciting as the others. Check out the awesome back cover copy and the excerpt below! (I can’t wait to read it!)

Back Cover Copy

Some things are destined to end in death. After the first attempt on her life Maurin wasn’t scared. Hell, she was almost flattered. But someone put a price on her head and things are getting complicated. Trouble is brewing in the fae courts and it’s spilling over into Salem. The UnSeelie Dark Guard have answered the call for her head on a platter and people closest to her are disappearing.

Can Maurin master court politics and find her missing men before someone claims the bounty on her head?

Author Photo: Rachel Rawlings

Rachel Rawlings

Excerpt from Ill Fated by Rachel Rawlings

“You’re awake?” He sounded more than a little surprised.

“I’m not really sure the state I’m in qualifies as awake.”

“Here I was, terrified to poke the dragon, and you’re already drinking coffee and talking in complete sentences.”

I snorted and took a sip of the aforementioned liquid gold. “Are you always like this in the morning?”

“If you’d let me sleep over you’d already know the answer to that question. Why aren’t you asleep?”

In general or just tonight, I silently wondered. “Bad dream. I’ve been tossing and turning all night. I finally gave in and got out of bed.”

Papers rustled in the background and when he spoke again, his voice was lower, intimate.”You want to talk about it?”

“Something tells me my nightmares are the least of our problems.”

“You have no idea. I need you to come down to my office.”

I sighed. “Can it at least wait until after sunrise?”

“Would I be breaking the no phone calls before noon policy if it could wait?”

“There really is no rest for the wicked, is there?”

He laughed and the sound warmed me more than a hundred cups of coffee. “Apparently not, in your case. Now, there’s a dirty chai latte and a croissant for you if you’re here before Amalie. I can’t promise real coffee and pastries will survive beyond five minutes of her arrival.”

“It’s four-thirty in the morning, Mas. If you know what’s good for you, you’ll make sure at least one dirty chai and croissant remain unmolested.”

“I’ll see you soon.” He was laughing as he hung up the phone.

Three hours ago I’d practically crawled through the doorway, exhausted from cleaning up after a newbie vamp who’d broken the Jus Sanguinis Intergentes when she killed her donor. The blood pact between people and vampires had a clear no killing, no exceptions clause.

It was up to the maker to ensure their child was ready to feed unsupervised. If something went wrong and the Council found out about it, we cleaned up the mess and the sire was subject to heavy fines and possible revocation of their rights to expand their blood lines. She’d been quite literally a bitch to track and take down.

Cover of Rachel Rawling's Book, Ill Fated.It had been a long night and it was shaping up to be an even longer day.

I wasted little time getting dressed, opting for a slip on black jersey dress, eighteen hole Docs and a leather jacket. Jewelry was a hindrance in my line of work. My meeting with Mason could easily turn into a run. Choked with my own chain? No, thank you. Unclasping the necklace, I set it in a glass dish on my bathroom counter. I ran a brush through my hair, a toothbrush over my teeth and slipped into the between. I stepped out of the alley two buildings down from the station and walked the last block and a half.

Amalie was swarmed by detectives trying to get at the goodies she brought over from the Daily Grind. She greeted me with a warm smile, shaking her head when I offered to pull her out of the fray. She had managed to endear herself to the entire department in record time. All it took was real coffee and fresh pastries. I pointed to Mason’s office. She’d make her way over once the starving masses had their fill.

Mason was so engrossed in the file on his desk he didn’t hear me come in. He looked as tired as I felt – too many double shifts. Despite an uptick in activity, SPTF was short staffed due to budget cuts. Without enough man power to staff the shifts properly overtime was mandatory.

“Is that for me?” I pointed at the to-go cup and white paper bag on his desk.

He finally looked up and gave me a smile which lit up his whole face. “As promised.”

I stole a quick kiss, grabbed the coffee and croissant, and settled in the chair across from him. I took a long sip of my latte, savoring the delicious mix of tea and espresso. “Man, I needed this. Is that the case you’re working on?”

“Yeah, we’ve got a real problem on our hands.”

“Don’t we always.” I tried to peak at the file.

Mason closed the manila folder. “I’d rather wait until everyone is here.”

“Who else is coming besides Amalie?” My curiosity was definitely peaked now. I reached across his desk, hoping to grab the file.

“You look exhausted. Tell me about your dream while we wait.”

I narrowed my eyes and glared at him. “I see this for the obvious distraction it is but you’re right.” Sighing, I rubbed my temple.“However, I’m exhausted, too exhausted to argue. So I’ll tell you. Prepare to be confounded.”

He listened intently as I filled him in on the nightly visits from the weathered old woman who washed my clothes and hauntingly called my name. I expected him to laugh and tell me it was just a dream, that I had nothing to worry about.

I didn’t expect him to look so stricken.

“Bean Nighe.” He all but whispered the name.

“You’ve heard of her?”

“Of course I’ve heard of her. How long has she been coming to you?”

I stared at him curiously. “A few weeks. Why?”

“A few weeks and this is the first I’m hearing of it?” He closed his eyes and took a deep breath, obviously struggling to control his temper.“We talked about this. No holding things back, remember?”

“I thought it was just a dream.” I shrugged.“Honestly, I didn’t think it was a big deal.”

“It was a big enough deal for you to research it.” Agitation rolled off him in waves.

When I agreed to give this thing with Mason a chance I also agreed to some conditions. No more flying solo, no more rash decisions or rushing off to play the hero. We were a team, in everything. This was just one of many set-backs.

“I got curious, did a little digging. Until tonight, everything I found pointed to deep seated family issues, particularly with a mother figure. I’ve told you about my childhood, does that dream analysis surprise you?”

His growl told me he wasn’t in the mood for reasonable—at least to me—explanations. “When did you discover the true meaning of the dream? How long have you known about the Bean Nighe?”

“Tonight. This morning. Before you called me.” I held up a hand to stop the tongue lashing I knew he wanted to give me. “I would have told you. I got the impression on the phone there were more pressing matters than my insomnia.”

“Is this why you won’t let me stay at your place?” His gaze roamed over my face, searching.“Why you never stay at mine?”

“Is that the real reason why you’re so upset?” I arched my brows. “Because we’re not having sleepovers?”

“I stayed at your lovely apartment the first night we met.”
I turned to watch Aidan glide into the room, stopping behind my chair. Rolling my eyes, I snorted and muttered, “In the closet.”

Mason’s jaw twitched but he didn’t take the bait. “Aidan.”

“It’s almost sunrise. Shouldn’t you be hunkered down for the day?” I sighed, wondering what he was doing here. I was too tired to deal with Aidan and Mason and their combined testoserone.

Putting the three of us in a room together was like throwing lit matches at sticks of dynamite – eventually one of them will explode.

Buy Now! This link takes you to all of Rachel’s Books!

Learn more about Rachel Rawlings, an author of Dark Paranormal/Urban Fantasy and Horror at:

http://www.rachelrawlings.com/
www.facebook.com/TheMaurinKincaideSeries
twitter: @rachelsbooks
www.tsu.co/rachelsbooks

Bel Air Authors and Artists

Bel Air Authors and ArtistsIf you have any holiday shopping to do, why don’t you join me in downtown Bel Air, MD tomorrow from 10 until 3?

I’ll be at the Bel Air Armory for an Authors and Artists event where we’ll be showcasing our art and selling it.

There will be live entertainment all day–and food! (If for nothing else, come for the food!)

I’d love to see all my old school buddies. If you’re around, please stop in and say, “hello!”

Chessiecon 2014 – Had the Best Time!

The logo for "Chessiecon" - a pencil sketch of a fictitious seasmonster from the Chesapeake Bay.

Chessiecon

I just wanted to take a moment to thank everyone associated with Chessiecon, from organizers to volunteers to attendees. I had such a blast!

I had a table in the dealer’s room, too, this year–so I got to see a lot more folks “regularly” as they passed on through to peruse various wares. I had a great time chatting with everyone.

Total squee: all those folks who asked for Book 2 in the Charm City Darkness series. You guys made my day! (Note: It will be out soon! :))

I have one more public event this year, next weekend at the Bel Air Armory for their annual “Artists and Authors” day. It’s my old stomping grounds, so I hope to see a lot of folks I went to school with (hint, hint). Please stop by and say hello!

Chessiecon, Anyone?

The logo for "Chessiecon" - a pencil sketch of a fictitious seasmonster from the Chesapeake Bay.

Chessiecon

Chessiecon is a new convention in the Baltimore area, rising from the ashes of Darkover, which has ceased to exist.

I’m pleased to say that I’ll be at the first Chessiecon next weekend. I’ll be doing a few readings, teaching a workshop on novel writing, and sitting in on some interesting panels. When I’m not doing that, I’ll be hanging out in the dealer’s room.

Here’s my schedule:

Friday, November 28, 2014

4PM-5PM Reading: Broad Universe, Timonium Room

6PM-7PM Workshop: Write a Novel in a Year in Just 15 Minutes a Day, Boardroom
Dreamed of writing a novel, but don’t have the time? It can be done in just a few minutes a day, and you can still take time off for vacation! Discuss the things that prevent writers from producing words, and learn tips and tricks to be more productive while you’re staring at the screen.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

11AM-Noon Beyond Christianity: Rituals and Religions in Speculative Fiction – GS3-5
Some novels integrate non-Eurocentric belief systems into the world of their characters.How does the integration of a non-Western value system affect the formation of a fictional speculative world? Does it affect plot? Who has written this well? How does the inclusion of different belief systems serve to bring more diverse sensibilities to the genre?

Noon-1PM Where are Your Gods? – GS3-5
Do you choose to publicize your beliefs or do you keep them private? Do you choose to risk alienating more traditional readers by an alternative spiritual path or do you stand up as an example? Do you feel ostracized for holding more traditional or conservative beliefs? Does your spirituality inform your writing? Can you be a monotheist but build a world of many gods? Join us for a discussion of the role of personal religious beliefs in your writing.

10PM-11PM Sex and the Believable Alien – GS1
When reading or writing SF erotica or romance, how alien can the aliens get before the story stops working for the reader? Do they have to be humanoid to make the story work? Why or why not?

Sunday, November 30, 2014

11AM-Noon Reading: Vonnie Winslow Crist and Kelly A. Harmon

Send me a note or comment below if you’re going to be there. I’d love to catch up with you over coffee!

Guest Post by Sandra Ulbrich Almazan: Adapting Ancient Settings

Please join me in welcoming Sandra Ulbrich Almazan talking about adapting ancient settings in her new novel, Seasons’ Beginnings.

I’m captivated by the ancient setting of her book, and even more so by her character, Kron Evenhanded–a mage of the type artificer–who takes on the role of finder! (Sound familiar?) :)

If that rocks your boat as much as it does mine, be sure to click over here for a sample once you read what Sandra has to say. (It’s fascinating!)

~ kah

Sandra Ulbrich Almazan

Sandra Ulbrich Almazan

My son went through a stage where he was obsessed with ancient Egypt. We read lots of books about it, watched documentaries, and visited the Field Museum and the Oriental Institute in Chicago. I picked up a lot of knowledge about the culture (and other ancient Middle Eastern cultures) myself. Since Seasons’ Beginnings, the first book in my Season Avatars series, is a prequel and set several hundred years before the rest of the series, I wanted to incorporate some of what I’d learned about ancient cultures in the setting of Seasons’ Beginnings. However, although the country I’d developed has a river snaking through it, it has a more temperate climate than Egypt. How could I adapt ancient Egyptian and Middle Eastern cultures for my world?

There are no pyramids or animal-headed gods in my world. The climate wouldn’t permit hippos to swim in my river or camels to travel across my land. Instead, I focused on areas that I thought would translate better to my setting. These areas include food, politics, and technology.

Grains are a staple in many cultures, and their uses are also similar. Women have to grind grain at home before they can cook with it. My characters eat flatcakes made from ground grains and drink beer. There’s a scene where my main character visits a brewer, and she has to strain the solid material out of the beer before serving it to him, just like an ancient brewer would have. Wine is also available, although it’s imported from across the sea by ship. Just like in Egypt, my characters obtain fish and greens from the river.

Although ancient Egypt is known for its pharaohs and the division into Upper and Lower Egypt, other ancient cultures, such as the Hittites and the Babylonians, organized around city-states. The city-states, ruled by kings, could conquer other lands to form empires or gain power when an empire collapsed. Most of Season’s Beginnings takes place in the city of Vistichia, which is initially ruled by a city-king. The Oriental Institute has on display reliefs from the courtyard of an Assyrian king. The magnificence of this exhibit inspired me to create a mosaic for the courtyard of the Magic Institute, another setting in Seasons’ Beginnings. This mosaic has a different design and a different purpose; it’s a memorable image magicians can use as a guide when transporting themselves to the Magic Institute.
Seasons_250
Although magic plays an important part in my story, my main character channels his magic through man-made objects. The technology level (Bronze Age) of the story therefore is important. As my main character must face someone who has time magic, he needs materials that don’t break down easily and goes to desperate lengths to get them. He also uses water clocks and sun dials to counter the time magic. Some of the other things my hero uses for his magic are necklaces (their materials and designs are inspired by ancient cultures), weavings, and clothing.

Borrowing from other cultures may not always be overt. There are many aspects to a culture, such as language, religion, customs, and more, that can be used as is or adapted to a different setting. The key is to make sure these borrowed items are a natural fit to the setting or can be imported from contact with another culture. With a little thought, any culture can be based on another yet still unique.

Buy Seasons’ Beginnings at Amazon

Buy Seasons’ Beginnings at Barnes and Noble

Sandra Ulbrich Almazan started reading at the age of three and only stops when absolutely required to. Although she hasn’t been writing quite that long, she did compose a very simple play in German during middle school. Her science fiction novella Move Over Ms. L. (an early version of Lyon’s Legacy) earned an Honorable Mention in the 2001 UPC Science Fiction Awards, and her short story “A Reptile at the Reunion” was published in the anthology Firestorm of Dragons. Other published works by Sandra include Twinned Universes and several science fiction and fantasy short stories. She is a founding member of Broad Universe, which promotes science fiction, fantasy, and horror written by women. Her undergraduate degree is in molecular biology/English, and she has a Master of Technical and Scientific Communication degree. Her day job is in the laboratory of an enzyme company; she’s also been a technical writer and a part-time copyeditor for a local newspaper. Some of her other accomplishments are losing on Jeopardy! and taking a stuffed orca to three continents. She lives in the Chicago area with her husband, Eugene; and son, Alex. In her rare moments of free time, she enjoys crocheting, listening to classic rock (particularly the Beatles), and watching improv comedy.

Sandra can be found online at her website, blog, Twitter, Facebook, and Goodreads.

Guest Post: Gail Z. Martin, Mercenaries, Mayhem and Murder, Oh My!

DaysofDead_Banner_V1-300x104Start with a young man whose family is murdered by raiders. Throw in a cursed amulet and a vengeful blood mage, magicked monsters, bounty hunters and a nomadic caravan, and you’ve got the backstory for the Jonmarc Vahanian Adventures series of ebook short stories.

Readers first met Jonmarc Vahanian in my Chronicles of the Necromancer series, where he is a strong secondary character but not the main protagonist. Even so, he’s always been a favorite of mine, and he was certainly a reader favorite as the series progressed. In those books, we meet him at age 29, a wary and bitter smuggler with a mysterious and disreputable past who is hired as a bodyguard and guide by four young noblemen who have witnessed the murder of the king and need to get out of the kingdom fast.

Of course, Jonmarc becomes much more than a guide, playing a role as friend, king-maker, lord of Dark Haven and Champion to the Queen of Principality. Over the course of the Chronicles of the Necromancer books and the Fallen Kings Cycle, we watch Jonmarc grow and change, confront enemies from his past, fall in love and step into roles he would never have believed possible.

But the readers always wanted to know—what about before? How did Jonmarc end up becoming the best swordsman in the kingdom? Why did the king of Eastmark place a bounty on his head and issue a death mark? And how did a guy who grew up in the Borderlands, far from the palace in Shekerishet, end up with a blood grudge against a powerful dark mage like Foor Arontala?

Gail Z. Martin

Gail Z. Martin

I’d always had three books in my head of Jonmarc’s story. So I decided to serialize the books as a progression of short stories. Each story is complete in itself, but taken together, eventually readers will have Jonmarc’s whole saga. The stories run around thirty pages or more, so there’s time to tell a complex tale. Raider’s Curse, the first story in the series, was an immediate hit.

Fast-forward nearly two years. There are ten stories in what I think of as “Season One” of Jonmarc’s adventures, taking him from the death of his family through his time with Maynard Linton’s caravan, and up to the point where he joins a mercenary group in Principality. Readers of the Chronicles series will recognize the key events, but the short stories tell the full story from Jonmarc’s point of view, giving insights into Jonmarc and other familiar characters like Linton and Alyzza the mad mage that you won’t find in any of the other books.

I’m now working on “Season Two,” which starts off with the story Bad Blood. This group of ten stories will take Jonmarc from his time with the mercenaries through his stint in the Eastmark army and into Nargi. If you’ve read the Chronicles series, you know what that means, but this is your chance to experience it through his eyes.

I am having a blast working on the short stories. It’s a lot of fun to be back in my world of the Winter Kingdoms, since the series is currently on hiatus while I write the Ascendant Kingdoms Saga. (I have six more books planned for Tris and his friends. They will get written at some point.) Serializing the Jonmarc books as short stories is a little different way of writing, since instead of chapters that lead up to a big climax as you’d have in a normal book, each short story is complete on its own yet linked to the others. But it’s been great to revisit old friends and reveal a lot of secrets I’ve kept for many years about who these familiar characters really are.

The short stories are available on Kindle/Kobo/Nook for .99 each, and I post a new short story each month. I hope you’ll check them out, and discover the Winter Kingdom’s most intriguing rogue!

My Days of the Dead blog tour runs through October 31 with never-before-seen cover art, brand new excerpts from upcoming books and recent short stories, interviews, guest blog posts, giveaways and more! Plus, I’ll be including extra excerpt links for stories and books by author friends of mine. And, a special 50% off discount from Double-Dragon ebooks! You’ve got to visit the participating sites to get the goodies, just like Trick or Treat! Details here: www.AscendantKingdoms.com.

Trick or Treat: Enjoy an excerpt from Dark Haven here: http://www.ascendantkingdoms.com/books/chronicles-of-the-necromancer/dark-haven/dark-haven-chapter-one/

And a bonus excerpt from Caves of the Dead, one of my Jonmarc Vahanian Adventures short stories here: http://www.ascendantkingdoms.com/short-stories-and-more/the-jonmarc-vahanian-adventures/jonmarc-vahanian-adventures/an-excerpt-from-caves-of-the-dead/

And a second bonus excerpt from Blood and Iron by my friend Jon Sprunk here: http://www.blackgate.com/black-gate-online-fiction-an-excerpt-from-blood-and-iron/

And a third bonus excerpt from my friend Danielle Ackley-McPhail’s Badass Faeries series here: http://www.badassfaeries.com/excerpts.htm