Friday, March 18th, 2016

Writing Prompt – You Had Me at “Hello.”

Teenaged girl talking on a cell phone.Hello.

Bonjour.

Ciao.

Shalom.

Nǐ hǎo.

Cześć.

Hallo.

There are a ja-billion™ ways to say hello—and its equivalent—in a ja-billion™ different languages.

‘Sup?
Good Day.
Hey.

Greetings are a mixed bag. Formal situations call for formal greetings. (How do you do?) Early morning salutations differ between chipper folks (Good Morning!) and those who need a few more cups of coffee (unintelligible grunt). Greetings between good friends ride the scale between none at all, and hopping right into conversation (Did you see what Jenny was wearing last night? I wouldn’t be caught dead in that!) to downright insulting. (You look like shit. What happened to you?)

Here’s Your Prompt:

  • Write a short story which begins with a single word of dialogue: “Hello.” The greeting can be in any language. What happens?
     
  • Write a poem about greetings, salutations or beginnings.
     
  • We have certain expectations for greetings. What if you were greeted differently than expected? For example, your coach shook your hand, but your pastor slapped your butt? Write what might happen if this happened to you.
     
  • If you journal, write about a time when someone greeted you in an unusual way. What happened?
     
  • Good luck!

Thursday, February 25th, 2016

Audio Edition of Stoned in Charm City – Coming Soon!

A Favor for a Fiend (Charm City Darkness 2) by Kelly A. HarmonI’ve just made an official offer for Stoned in Charm City to be produced as an audio book!

I’ll be sending the paper files to the narrator later this week, and receiving an audio file of the first several chapters for review by the end of March.

Color me excited!

Barring any complications, the narration should be complete by the end of May—just in time for Balticon!

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2016

Honorable Mention – Writers of the Future

Certificate from Writers of the Future, denoting Honorable Mention for the Story Fire Burn and Cauldron Bubble.I posted this on Facebook last week, but forgot to mention it here: I just received my certificate from Writers of the Future for my story, Fire Burn and Cauldron Bubble. It’s a wonderful little tale about witches who create the best steel cauldrons in the world–but their entire operation is put in jeopardy when the dragons fail to produce fire hot enough to make the steel.

I had a lot of fun writing it.

I’ll be sending it off to other markets in hope of placement. Keep your fingers crossed!

Friday, January 29th, 2016

Writing Prompt – What’s In The Box?

Vintage MatchBox with the Cover Faded and PeelingThe blizzard dropped a lot of snow on us, and we were digging out for days. As a consequence we hadn’t had mail delivery for nearly a week. But I finally got something in my mailbox yesterday.

There was the usual accumulation of junk newspapers and circulars, but there were also two padded envelopes and a larger box.

“What’s in the box?” asked the Husband of Awesome™.

And I couldn’t remember what I might have ordered.

That’s what happens when a blizzard comes along and all you do is dig out for a week. Brain white-out. Snow blind. You forget about the things you ordered. Or the stuff you didn’t order, but you knew was coming. Or that you’re awesome enough that someone sent you a surprise. (It could happen.) 😉

Here’s Your Prompt:

  • Imagine you’ve just received something in the mail. What’s inside?
     
  • Imagine it’s spring! You’re digging in your garden, and the shovel hits something hard. You realize you’ve struck a tiny wooden chest. What’s inside?
     
  • A woman packs a lunch for her (you choose) loving/cheating/scandalous/insane/generous/abusive/virile husband. What did she pack? What happens when he finds it?
     
  • A man pick’s up his spouse’s/sister’s/niece’s purse and it accidentally empties onto the floor. What’s inside? What happens when he’s caught handling that object?
     
  • Because it’s cold outside, you order dinner and have it delivered. It arrives, you pay the delivery service and they leave. And then you open the box. It’s not what you ordered. It’s not even dinner. What’s inside? And, what are you going to do with it?
     

Good luck!

(Oh, and in the box? The Christmas-gift yarn I’d ordered to knit a cardigan–my first try at sweater making. Wish me luck!)

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2015

Year End Schedule

A photo of the Bel Air Armory.Hi All!

My schedule is filling up for the end of the year! Here’s where I’ll be, in case you’re interested.

Baltimore Book Festival
Downtown Inner Harbor, Baltimore
September 25 – 27, 2015
http://baltimorebookfestival.org/home

Hallowread
Ellicott City, MD
October 23-24, 2015
http://hallowread.com/

Carroll County Authors Day
Carroll County Farmer’s Market
Westminster, MD
November 7, 2015
http://www.carrollcountyfarmersmarket.com/page/page/7165898.htm

ChessieCon
Radisson North Baltimore Hotel.
November 27-29, 2015
http://chessiecon.org/

Bel Air Authors and Artists
Bel Air Armory
December 2015
http://md-belair.civicplus.com/361/Bel-Air-Armory

Wednesday, June 24th, 2015

Mother, Matron, Crone: The Case for Female Characters Beyond the Ingénue

A guest post from Gail Z. Martin

Granny Weatherwax, Minerva McGonagall, Polgara,

Gail Z. Martin

Gail Z. Martin

Fiction, like TV, movies and advertising has an interesting, skewed view of the human race. In general, females show up briefly as children, mostly as adolescents or lusty and busty 20 and 30-somethings, and then vanish almost completely from view. Even ads for products clearly used by people over seventy (hello, home stairway elevators!) show female models who can’t be a day over 40. It’s like Logan’s Run, only without the jumpsuits.

Now go to any suburban grocery store or shopping mall. Wow, where did all the women come from? Who knew there were women older than 39?

Hollywood–and to an extent, big publishing–buys into the Madison Avenue-fueled belief that women have an expiration date stamped on them, just like yogurt. A freshness date, after which they’re no longer saleable. For some reason, they’ve concluded that although women buy the majority of books and manage most household spending, we only want to see stories about women the same age as our daughters.

Well? Are they right? It’s said that the only genre that can successfully pull off a female character over 40 is mystery/crime. Yet I see the line between mystery and urban fantasy blurring with every paranormal crime detecting novel that hits the shelves. Does the willingness to read about a main character over age 30 end when a reader changes aisles in the bookstore?

I suspect there are several biases at work here. The first is our culture’s obsession with youth. We’ve been told that unless we’re Botoxed and face-lifted to within an inch of our lives we lack value, because young is good and old is bad. However, this obsession primarily applies to women, since Sean Connery was still getting accolades for being sexy into his seventies, when his wrinkles were considered to be ‘craggy’ and his gray hair to be ‘distinguished.’

Secondly, there’s consumers’ presumed vanity and insecurity. Madison Avenue presents us with models for everything from Cadillacs to retirement cruises who look twenty years too young because the ad-makers believe that’s what we want to see. It’s assumed that we don’t want to see women (again, never men) who actually look old enough to be someone’s parent or grandparent in a leading role except perhaps in a secondary, minor role or in something on the Hallmark Channel. And maybe consumers share some of the blame. It’s one thing to claim we want to see a full age spectrum of women characters. But it’s another thing to put our money where our mouths are and actually purchase products that live up to what we said we wanted.

IronandBloodThere have been some notable exceptions. Movies like Reds and The Expendables showed older characters kicking ass. Other stories like Momma Mia and even the Harry Potter series featured women of a variety of ages, in different life stages and roles and of differing economic classes. Arguably, all were successes. So why don’t we see more such stories, especially since in real life, real women come in all ages?

As authors, we can easily make an effort to create and develop secondary and leading characters that are not in the ‘action hero’ stage of life and make them interesting, active, insightful, complex and realistic. Populate your fantasy worlds with female shopkeepers, sorceresses, fighters, seamstresses, queens, grandmothers, sisters, aunts, mothers, neighbors, healers and others who show the same range of ages you’d see at the supermarket. Show them as decision-makers, business owners, farmers, mages, social leaders, members of educated and influential religious orders, teachers, scholars, scientists and adventurers, because women have filled all those roles and more at a variety of ages all throughout history. (This is where it helps to read real history, not just watch what’s on TV.)

Not only does developing characters like these make fantasy more faceted and realistic, it presents a much more believable world, one where more readers can see characters like themselves. It’s a pleasant departure from all the lusty wenches and brawny heroes. And before someone chimes in that older characters can’t tackle action scenes, I’d suggest you look at cultures where people are physically active in their everyday life instead of working at desk jobs, and you’ll see men and women who remain spry well into their ‘golden’ years.

In my Chronicles of the Necromancer series, my main character, Tris Drayke, gets valuable guidance from his grandmother, a mage who helped to defeat the greatest threat of her time. In the Ascendant Kingdoms series, Blaine McFadden’s mother and a number of recurring secondary characters show resilience, ingenuity and strength as they help lead a shattered kingdom back from the ashes. Mrs. Morrissey and Mrs. Teller are just two of the characters in my Deadly Curiosities books on whom main character Cassidy Kincaide relies for advice and, in the case of Mrs. Teller, magical protection. And in the Iron and Blood steampunk books, Jake Desmet’s mother, Catherine, is a force to be reckoned with.

Bottom line: If consumers vote with their pocketbooks, viewership and readership for books that showcase characters–male and female–in a wide variety of ages and stages, then publishers, producers and ad agencies will finally get the hint.

Check out my new Steampunk novel Iron and Blood, co-written with Larry N. Martin, set in an alternative history Pittsburgh in 1898. In stores July 7!

The Hawthorn Moon Sneak Peek Event includes book giveaways, free excerpts and readings, all-new guest blog posts and author Q&A on 28 awesome partner sites around the globe. For a full list of where to go to get the goodies, visit www.AscendantKingdoms.com.

Gail Z. Martin writes epic fantasy, urban fantasy and steampunk for Solaris Books and Orbit Books. In addition to Iron and Blood, she is the author of Deadly Curiosities and the upcoming Vendetta in her urban fantasy series; The Chronicles of The Necromancer series (The Summoner, The Blood King, Dark Haven, Dark Lady’s Chosen) from Solaris Books and The Fallen Kings Cycle (The Sworn, The Dread) as well as Ice Forged, Reign of Ash, and War of Shadows in The Ascendant Kingdoms Saga from Orbit Books. Gail writes two series of ebook short stories: The Jonmarc Vahanian Adventures and the Deadly Curiosities Adventures and her work has appeared in over 20 US/UK anthologies.

Larry_N_MartinLarry N. Martin fell in love with fantasy and science fiction when he was a teenager. After a twenty-five year career in Corporate America, Larry started working full-time with his wife, author Gail Z. Martin and discovered that he had a knack for storytelling, plotting and character development, as well as being a darn fine editor. Iron and Blood is their first official collaboration. On the rare occasions when Larry isn’t working on book-related things, he enjoys pottery, cooking and reading.

Find them at www.JakeDesmet.com, on Twitter @GailZMartin or @LNMartinauthor, on Facebook.com/WinterKingdoms, at DisquietingVisions.com blog and GhostInTheMachinePodcast.com, on Goodreads goodreads.com/GailZMartin free excerpts, Wattpad http://wattpad.com/GailZMartin.

Friday, June 5th, 2015

Do You Like Dragon Stories?

Cover of "The Draon's Hoard" AnthologyI’m pleased to announce that my story, “The Dragon’s Clause,” has been reprinted in The Dragon’s Hoard, edited by Carol Hightshoe.

Here’s the back copy text:

Dragons are well known for their hoards—but not all hoards are created equal.

A young dragon starts his hoard with some very precious gifts.
One dragon shares her complaints about taxes with a friend as they wait for a lunch delivery.
Another dragon defends her most precious treasures against a group of greedy goblins.
And yet another may hold the solution to saving the Earth after a devastating apocalypse in his collection of bottled treasures.

In addition to the normal gold, silver and jewels here you will find dragons who collect many different treasures.

28 storytellers invite you to enter The Dragon’s Hoard and share the treasures within.

If you’re interested in purchasing, here are the links:

Amazon Kindle: http://www.amazon.com/Dragons-Hoard-Carol-Hightshoe-ebook/dp/B00YSITPD8/ref=sr_1_7?ie=UTF8&qid=1433515171&sr=8-7&keywords=the+dragon%27s+hoard

CreateSpace Paperback: https://www.createspace.com/5542170

Friday, June 5th, 2015

Balticon was a Lot of Fun, (Despite the Mishaps)

Banner from Balticon 49 Convention
A bit overdue due to some intervening life stuff, but here’s my Balticon recap:

Totally Messed Up Registration & Scheduling
:
I’m not certain there was anyone who attended this year who was unaffected by Registration issues in what can only be kindly referred to as a Debacle.

Some people waited for over an hour to gain entrance: and these are people that pre-paid — or like myself — were a registered guest! Balticon was debuting a new system. (They probably should have tested it better prior to the first day of the con.)

Scheduling Errors, Ditto:
Closely related were scheduling errors. I was lamenting my lack of panels, and it turned out I was on one, but hadn’t been notified: mostly because our schedules were printed at registration. I was told to “come back in an hour” to get my tent card three times in a row.

Worse, the schedules weren’t finalized even up to the opening day of the con–and emails to schedulers weren’t returned. Some of my emails even bounced from the mailbox.

Sigh. I know the staff works very hard to coordinate the con.

Still, much fun was had.

Best Moment: Reading!
For me, the stand out moment was audience reaction during my reading. I shared a time slot with Vonnie Winslow Crist and we took turns reading from out work. I read a bit from A Favor for a Fiend, but with time left over, I also read from Stoned in Charm City.

For those of you who’ve read it, it’s the scene where Father Hughes is in the basement of Holy Rosary Church and, after calling on four archangels to protect him, manages to conjure up something else. I don’t want to spoil it for those who haven’t read the scene yet, but when I got to the end, there was an audible gasp from the audience.

Oh, how my heart started beating! There’s nothing better than knowing you’ve written something that sparks a response in someone else. Totally made my con! Thank you, dear listener.

Cover of The Rippers Ring by Steven R. Southard

Steve Southard’s Book Launch:
I also enjoyed attending Steven R. Southard’s launch/reading of Ripper’s Ring. Steve brought along a 3D-printed copy of the ring described in the book, and I wish I’d thought to take a picture of it. Don’t despair, I think you can find the plans for it on his blog, (linked above).

If you enjoy Jack the Ripper stories, The Ripper’s Ring is for you. It’s an interesting take on what might have happened.

And Friends, Of Course!
Finally, of course, it was great to see all those people I only seem to run into at cons…you know who you are! Wishing you well until the next time!

Thursday, May 21st, 2015

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

Wednesday, May 13th, 2015

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!