Wednesday, November 2nd, 2016

Blue Collar Proposition - Featured Over at Novelisty

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000039_00001]A Blue Collar Proposition–the third book in the Charm City Darkness series–was featured over at on October 1 as part of their 31 Days of Halloween!

(It’s lovely to be featured, but I wish I’d known about it! I’d have dropped a link here much sooner!)

Novelisty featured a “heat-rating” and a few pertinent details about the book, as well as included the back cover copy and an excerpt. If you want to read the first chapter or so, head on over to Novelisty’s 31 Days of Halloween.

Sunday, October 26th, 2014

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:

Trick or Treat: Enjoy an excerpt from Dark Haven here:

And a bonus excerpt from Caves of the Dead, one of my Jonmarc Vahanian Adventures short stories here:

And a second bonus excerpt from Blood and Iron by my friend Jon Sprunk here:

And a third bonus excerpt from my friend Danielle Ackley-McPhail’s Badass Faeries series here:

Sunday, September 15th, 2013

New Story Available: Lies

Lies by Kelly A. HarmonI wrote a story a while back called Lies. It shortlisted for the Aeon Award, but I never did anything with it.

Now, Lies has been published and is currently available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

The wheels of distribution grind very slowly in some parts, but it should soon be available via Kobo, XinXii, iTunes and elsewhere very soon. I’ll let you know when that happens.

In the meantime, here are the links to:

Friday, March 16th, 2012

Writing Prompt: Check Your Morgue or Trunked Files

Virginia Pilot Ledger Newspaper MorgueMy background is journalism, so naturally I have my own morgue.

The “morgue” in newspaper parlance are the file cabinets holding all the research materials, notes and photos that went into producing a news story. All the pieces are usually filed together in a single folder by year or story. Sometimes the photos have their own morgue. Depends on the newspaper.

Pretty inefficient, really. While a lot of those records are filed electronically now, most of it still goes down the same way because who has the time to turn scribbled notes and library research into electronic documents when you’ve got to write the next news story?

And really, that stuff almost never gets looked at again unless it’s a really big story that has repercussions years later and needs to be referenced again. Or, the newspaper runs one of those “Five years ago, Ten years ago, etc. columns.

Writers tend to have ideas folders (stuff where they put ideas they’ve had, but aren’t ready to be written yet, snippets of overhead conversations, inspiring photos, etc.) and “trunked” files: a place for those stories that were written, but never got sold for whatever reason.

I have another file I keep, my “Culled from ‘XX Manuscript'” file: this is the place where I copy and paste the stuff edited out of my manuscripts. It contains idle scenes, verbose paragraphs, misplaced character thoughts in long and short phrases.

It’s a file that makes me feel better when I’m editing: I can take all that “hard work” which should never see the light of day, and keep a record of having written it. I tell myself I’ll go back there one day and make use of it.

I’ve never, ever done so (unlike my morgue or ideas folders…)

But this past week while I was doing some major edits, I realized that that file contains a lot of good stuff even if it wasn’t polished enough — or well thought out enough — to use in the current manuscript.

It’s plenty good for inspiring ideas when you need a kick.

Here’s Your Prompt:

  • Raid your ideas folder or junked stories for a snippet, phrase, paragraph, description, etc. to get your juices flowing: we’re not looking for an old idea to use here, we’re reading until you find a phrase that sparks a new idea. Find it and write.
  • Kill two birds with one stone: edit something that needs to be polished. Take all those words and phrases you cut away and save them into another file. Likely, they won’t be ‘sparkers’ this early: they’re too fresh in your mind. Set them aside for a few weeks and then revisit. In the meantime: you’ve polished up some writing. Send it out!
  • If you don’t have ideas folders, trunked files, or writing that needs some editing (Welcome, beginner!) pick a book off your shelf — something you haven’t read in a long time, or something you’ve never read — and open it to a random page. Read until an idea is sparked.
  • If none of these ideas appeal, here area a few very short phrases from my latest edits. Feel free to use them for your own stories:
    • “I’m damn tired of not getting my money’s worth.”
    • So, what did he want me to do about this?
    • It didn’t matter why the old man told him the story: he didn’t want to hear it.
    • …stiff and away from the window…
    • Chasing women was something he’d never had to do
    • Convinced he could do no more for the creature than make her comfortable, he…
    • The priestesses had long controlled the northern parts of the continent because of…

Good luck!

Photo Credit: A story about the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot and the Norfolk Ledger-Dispatch newspaper morgue.

Thursday, February 23rd, 2012

Latest Manuscript Takes a Surprising Turn

Bugs Bunny on MarsBugs Bunny fans will recognize the phrase, “I knew I shoulda taken that left turn at Albuquerque.”

I’m sitting here saying the same thing as my current manuscript is no longer recognizable: It’s taken a left turn into erotica.

You regulars will know that I write dark fantasy and science fiction. (Those of you who came here after googling “erotica” know that now, too.)

So, it’s as surprising to me (as you) that I’ve written three complete — and soon to be four — scenes in my current manuscript that are so steamy, I had to step outside in the cool air for a minute before I sat down again to finish them. (And nobody’s even had sex yet!)

I was reluctant to release them to my critique partners for their review. (But they enjoyed them — even the men — so that’ll show me to want to hide my work.)

What’s strange to me is that I think the male lead in the erotica section is going to become a major character. At first, he was a walk-on. In the second scene he tempts the book’s main character, not only with the promise of really good sex, but with heart’s desire: healing a demonic wound which will not heal.

I can’t decide if she’ll go all the way with him in this next scene. If she does, she damns her immortal soul. But she’ll be whole again, gain a huge amount of knowledge about something, and have incredible sex all night long.

She just might be tempted. After all, her immortal soul is only lost to her if she dies. There are ways to cleanse it before that happens, right?

Yeah, I’m still working out the sticky bits of the plot. This is what happens when the characters start talking to you and they refuse to play the roles you’ve cast them in.

I can’t wait to see how this turns out.

But I’m curious: as a reader, would you be willing to pick up a book not quite like the last you read by an author, or would you bypass it in favor of something else?

Friday, January 27th, 2012

Writing Prompt: Tall Tales

Geese Postcard by W. H. Martin - 1909
“Taking Our Geese to Market”
W. H. Martin

Decades before the software program Photoshop was a gleam in anyone’s eye, photographer W.H. Martin was creating photo montages. Judging from the few postcards I’ve seen, his themes were mostly agricultural, with some based on “old wives tales.”

All the ones I’ve seen tell a tall tale.

According to Wikipedia:

“A tall tale is a story with unbelievable elements, related as if it were true and factual. Some such stories are exaggerations of actual events, for example fish stories (‘the fish that got away’) such as, “that fish was so big, why I tell ya’, it nearly sank the boat when I pulled it in!”

Other tall tales are completely fictional tales set in a familiar setting, such as the European countryside, the American Old West, the Canadian Northwest, or the beginning of the Industrial Age.

See Wikipedia for more information about tall tales.

Here’s Your Prompt:

  • Write a tall tale about what happened to you today.
  • If today is too hum-drum :(, write a tall tale about another day in your life.
  • Re-write a tall tale you already know with yourself as the main character, and using modern day events.
  • Like Martin, create a visual pictorial of a tall tale: draw it, use photography software to create it, or tear pictures from a magazine to make a collage.
  • Write an exaggerated poem about something that happened to you yesterday.
Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011

Giving Up Hope – Or Faking It Until I Do

Image of painting called My Lost Hope by Freida.Wherein I whine just a little bit after having done a stupid thing…

Writing fiction is hard.

And starting over from scratch is even harder, I’ve found.

Except for some free writing in class the last few weeks, I haven’t written anything on my work in progress: not since I lost 25 pages of the manuscript.

I’ve been in a terrible funk. And hopeful.

Hope is a terrible thing sometimes…and crippling.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve tried to recreate my lost work, but the words just aren’t flowing.

In the back of my mind, I’ve constantly been thinking:

  • It’ll turn up.
  • It’s got my name on it. Some kind soul will drop me an email to let me know they found it.
  • It’s not really lost, it’s misplaced…
  • I just haven’t looked hard enough for it yet.

And as long as there’s been a smidgeon of hope in my mind that the dratted pages will turn up, I haven’t been able to write a word…because why should I re-write these chapters when I know they’ll appear at some point?

But the fact is, it hasn’t turned up. No one’s called me about it. And I’ve looked high and low, and called a lot of places and dropped in on several more (some more than once) and so I know it’s it’s worse than misplaced:

It’s lost and I’m never getting it back.

(Okay, I said the words. Maybe, if I say them enough times, I’ll believe it.)

Yeah. I’ve not quite given up hope. But I’ve got to fake it, or I won’t be able to move on.

It’s not like this writing should be hard. I know what happens. I know where the plot turns. I know about that secret reveal in Chapter 15.

And this version will likely be better since I’ve already written it once. It’ll be the second draft, for 25 pages, halfway through the novel.

I’ve written a few hundred words between yesterday and today. Not great progress, but it’s more than I’ve done in a month.

Have you ever been paralyzed by hope? How do get past it?

“My Lost Hope” image by Freida. Not used by permission, since I’ve been unable to contact the artist. See more of Freida’s work at RedBubble. Freida, if you see this, please drop me a line so we can talk about the use of your gorgeous painting. Thx!

Tuesday, September 20th, 2011

Nine Ways to Tighten Up Your Writing

Word count meant a lot more to me when I worked for the newspapers. I hated being assigned “20 inches” to write a story, and then having to cut it down to 15 when a fire broke out on Broadway and that story required some of my space.

But word counts are important in non-fiction, too (even if the advent of the ebook has us writing longer and longer works.)

I’m currently working my way through a finished manuscript that’s about 125,000 words long. Ideally, I’d like to cut it back to the 85,000 – 95,000 word range, but I’d be happy with 100k.

So, after debating about several scenes which I removed, I’m left with tightening up the manuscript’s wordiness to pull it together.

To tighten it up, I’m omitting:

  1. Adverbs, and replacing the modified verbs with more specific ones.
  2. “To be” constructions: sentences that start with “It is…” or “There are…” can usually be reworded in a shorter form.
  3. “To be” appositives. (An appositive is a noun that names another right beside it in the sentence.) For example: Reliable, Diane’s eleven-year-old beagle, chews holes in the living room carpeting as if he were still a puppy. Example (and more information available) from:
  4. Possessive Constructions. (Too much use of the word “of.”) Reword or turn phrases around to get rid of it.
  5. “Excessive” mood setting, scene setting, internal and external dialogue. (Chop! Chop! Chop!)

Here are some things you can do to tighten up non-fiction:

  1. Make contractions. (I used to feel this was cheating, but I don’t anymore.) 🙂
  2. Similarly, get rid of coordinating conjunctions between complete sentences. For example: I hate to waste a single drop of squid eyeball stew, for it is expensive and time-consuming to make. When every word counts, deleting these words works wonders. More about coordinating conjunctions here. (The cool example came from there, too.)
  3. Get rid of rhetorical comments, parenthetical statements, and/or your own editorial comments*.

* Unless it’s an opinion piece, of course!

What tricks do you have to tighten up your prose?

Friday, May 20th, 2011

Writing Prompt: What’s Happening Here?

I’ve hesitated to toss up a photo to use as a prompt because it’s just too easy to get into the habit of doing something lazy, but I just couldn’t pass this up.

The most recent edition of Imker Freunde Magazin (Bee Keeper’s Friend) from Germany wafted pass my day-job desk this week and the cover photo caught my eye.

The object on the right in the photo is some kind of beekeeper’s post, covered all over in bees. The swarm is so large, that the bees have even pooled on the ground around the post. The little girl on the left has attracted the bees’ attention, and some have come to investigate her. One looks like it’s trying to crawl into her pocket. A few are close to landing on her.

The second photo is from inside the magazine, taken from another point of view. The bees are closer, and the child looks…excited? Frightened?

Here’s your prompt: What’s happening in this picture? Write a poem, a song, an essay, a news story. Anything. Just tell us what’s happening.

Bee Keeper's Friend Magazine Cover
Bee Keeper's Friend Magazine  - Inside Photo
Friday, May 13th, 2011

Writing Prompt: Attack of the Phobias!

Calendar Page with Friday the 13th CircledIn honor of Friday the 13th, I think a writing prompt on phobia is in order.

Fear of this day is so large it’s got TWO Greek names. You may refer to it as either Friggatriskaidekaphobia or Paraskevidekatriaphobia.

A few of my favorites from the wikipedia list of phobias:

  • Halitophobia – fear of bad breath
  • Ablutophobia – fear of bathing, washing, or cleaning
  • Agyrophobia – fear of crossing roads

The wikipedia entry also contains a list of phobias related to animals (such as Ichthyophobia, the fear of fish) and biological instances (such as Hydrophobia, the fear of water, which is a a symptom of rabies). Very informative.

It’s fun to joke about phobias, but for some, they’re true fears which interfere with a way of life, often for the worse.

In college, I had a friend who developed a pervasive fear of social situations (Sociophobia), so bad, that by the end of the semester she could not leave her dorm room. She had to be medicated to be removed, and never completed her degree.

George Lucas’ famous character Indiana Jones has a near-paralyzing fear of snakes (Ophidiophobia) which often hinders his heroic exploits. It’s a great plot device: his fear has a tendency to get in the way of the action, causing tension and raising the stakes, as well as adding depth to the character.

Keep this in mind while you’re working through this exercise.

Here’s Your Prompt: Today’s prompt is an exercise in character building/story planning which is a large part of writing. Choose a plausible phobia from the wikipedia list (or any other resource, or even make up your own) and apply it to a character your currently writing about, or one you’re thinking of starring in your next story or novel.

Think of the possibilities that phobia has for influencing your character’s actions, both within the framework of a tale, and as backstory. Is it possible that an entire story can be created from the fear?

Make a list of how your chosen phobia can interfere with every day life, make is plausible, but stretch.

For example, what if your character, like Indiana, suffers from ophidiophobia, but she lives in New York City?

There aren’t many snakes to be found in the city, so how can her fear affect her? Maybe she walks to her job every day, but the zoo has erected a tremendous billboard on her route with the photo of a large, striking rattle snake. She can’t even look at it.

Her fear is so strong that she needs to find another route. And taking that route starts your story in motion. What happens when she has to find another way to work?

After you’ve made your list, determine which items or situations can be used as scenes. Then, get to work writing them!


* Photo by W.J.Pilsak found at Wikipedia.