Friday, January 22nd, 2016

Writing Prompt – The Big Snow is Coming

Grace, a solid-white German Shephard, stands in the snow.

This is Grace. She loves the snow.

Winter storm Jonas is coming tonight.  I’m one of those lucky people whose area is likely to received more than a foot — quite possibly two feet — of snow, if the forecasters are correct.

I’m looking forward to sitting by the fire, sipping martinis, and plotting out my next novel.  I’ve also got a “snow to-do list” to tackle:

  1.  Build my first snowman of 2016
  2. Try out my new snow shoes
  3. Bean the Husband of Awesome™ with a snowball before he gets me
  4. Get in some snowy-wildlife photography
  5. Build an igloo

Okay, that last item on the list is pure dreamery. It’s possible—my siblings and I built a HUGE one when we were kids. But there were three of us, and I don’t think I can scrounge up that many willing folks in the neighborhood to lend me a hand this weekend.

Still, I can hope. That long-ago igloo takes up a lot of real estate in my fond memories.

Grace, a solid-white German Shephard, stands in the snow.Here’s Your Prompt:

  • The obligatory easy prompt: write an essay — My Favorite Snow Memories, My Least Favorite Snow Memories, etc.
  • Write about a snow-related accident: avalanche, skiing accident, fifty-car pile up on the highway–even getting lost in the snow. Write how the snow makes things worse. Is there a way the snow ameliorates the problem? Can you use this sketch in your current WIP? Or write a short story based on it? How about a poem?
  • Will you be in the snowfall area today? If you can, find a protected area where you will be out of harm’s way. Watch and listen to the snow fall. How does it sound? What other things do you hear, or not hear? What do you observe about how snowfall changes nature? Write your observations and your feelings.
  • Will you be alone and isolated this weekend? (If not, can you pretend?) During your isolation, write your Personal Manifesto for 2016. If you’re not feeling that ambitious, take the time to jot down goals and aspirations for the year. (It’s proven that people who write down their goals are more likely to achieve them!)
  • Good luck!

Friday, January 15th, 2016

Writing Prompt – Prohibition

New York City Deputy Police Commissioner John A. Leach (right) watches as Prohibition agents pour illegal liquor into a sewer in 1921.

New York City Deputy Police Commissioner John A. Leach (right) watches as Prohibition agents pour illegal liquor into a sewer in 1921. ~ Photo from History.net.

On January 15, 1920 the “Dry Law” went into effect in the United States. It was the 18th amendment to the Constitution and banned the production and sale of alcoholic beverages.

The law was intended to reduce the crime rate. But there were several loopholes. For instance, manufacture and sale of alcohol were prohibited, but drinking was not. A person could obtain a prescription from his doctor which allowed him to get and drink alcohol. Alcohol could also be consumed in church for religious reasons.

The law brought about the “unintended consequences” of the rise of bootleggers and gangs. These gangs hired “rumrunners” to buy rum in the Caribbean and bring it back to the US. Or, they brought in whiskey from Canada. Al Capone created the largest bootlegging operation in the US.

Thirteen years later, the law was repealed, and cities all over the US erupted into riotous, joyful, celebration.

Here’s Your Prompt:

  • Write about a time when you were prohibited from doing something. Had you always been able to do this, but were suddenly stopped? Or, did you want to try something for the first time, but a parent–or employer–told you no. What happened?
  • Drinking in the US is prohibited until age 21. Write about your first time having a drink. Did you over do it?
  • Write about a time you prohibited yourself from doing something. Why did you do this? Did the prohibition work for you? Why or why not?
  • Write about the last time you were tanked, inebriated, foxed, sloshed, intoxicated, under the influence, or blind drunk.
  • Have you ever been forced to throw something away–like when prohibition agents poured beer into the streets to get rid of it? Write a poem about your feelings on the matter. Did your feelings change over time? How do you feel now? Have you ever forced someone else to discard anything? Why, or why not?
  • Write about the time you were the lone, stone-cold-sober person surrounded by drunks. Why were you there? How did you feel?

Have fun!

Friday, January 8th, 2016

Writing Prompt – New Beginnings

Colored PencilsIt’s still early enough in the new year to be thinking about new beginnings. I don’t know if its my innate love (obsession?) for office supplies, but new beginnings make me think of sharpened pencils and blank spiral notebooks. Or, blank, pristine papers waiting for me to desecrate them with words.

I try to do my organizing in December:

  • clearing off the desk to start the year fresh
  • reviewing all the notebooks page by page:
    • making to do lists for things which never got done
    • copying ideas into my Ideas Folder (adding as much detail as possible, so I’m not left with cryptic phrases later)
    • Adding phone numbers and addresses to my Contacts
    • etc.
  • Organizing the to-do lists
  • Creating a “master plan” of what I want to accomplish for the year
  • Scheduling the time on the calendar now, so I can’t complain about not having time for it later.

Here’s Your Prompt:

  1. Write the “new year” scene of the main character in your book. Or, write the “new year” scene of a brand new character you intend to use in a story. How does the new year affect him or her? Does he buy fresh stationery? Does she regret the passing of another year and nothing to show for it? Does your character have some annoying (or meaningful, silly, prolonged, secret) ritual he must accomplish before the new year starts?
  2. Write your own new year scene. How does the new year affect you? Did you accomplish what you set out to do? Are you wondering how you’ll make this year better than last? Are you chomping at the bit for a fresh start?
  3. Write a poem: Ode to the New Year, or, Good Riddance to the Past.

Enjoy!

Friday, January 1st, 2016

Writing Prompt: What Would You Give Yourself?

Pile of wrapped gifts.Happy New Year!

It’s been a while since I’ve added any writing prompts to these pages, and I hope to get back to doing them weekly as I’ve done in year’s past. I hope today’s is as thought-provoking for you as it was for me.

Since it’s the holiday season, my mind has been on gifts lately: what should I purchase for whom? I’m still in that frame of mind, since I still have celebrating to do. Most of my gifts have been purchased, wrapped and given, but there are one or two more items that I still need to attend to.

When I was driving to work the other day — in silence, as I’ve been trying to do lately (more on that later, I think) — a thought popped into my head: If you could gift yourself anything, what would it be?

And there’s your prompt: if you could gift yourself anything, what would it be? Why that? Here’s the catch: you can’t answer with something obvious: a new car, more money, a different job. What’s your true heart’s desire? What would it take to realize it? What steps could you take today to make it reality?

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!