Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Paranormal Everlasting

When I was a teen I read gothic romances. Victoria Holt, Barbara Michaels. I especially love Barbara Michaels. Hers were spooky with nice sexual tension. Malevolent ghosts wrecking havoc and bringing a couple together...very near to the paranormal romances we now read. In those books the supernatural was the antagonist, evil forces, possession, the setting swamps, haunted mansions--and the library was full of them! I might have to read one again.

The TV show Dark Shadows played in the late afternoon at my house, and we would watch it with my dad, who would leave for work as a bartender after an early supper(Yes, back in those days a bartender could make a living, raise four kids, buy a house and even take vacations! But I digress...)

Then there was a smattering of vampires. I read all the Maggie Shayne books. Buffy the Vampire Slayer became my favorite television show. It was my show, my daughter were supposed to leave me in peace for that one hour a week(rarely happened) so I could enjoy it. The witty, amusing dialogue, deadly demons, hot vampire boyfriends...

I wrote children's books and Ellery Queen mysteries(all rejected) before Buffy. But with a computer I soon found fanfic, where Buffy's romantic woes would be cured! I started writing Buffy fanfic for the fun of it and then slid into paranormal romances.

What is it about supernatural characters that so holds my interest after all these years? I know part of it is the escape...My real world demons are so much more boring than something from the Underworld. Also, my demons tend to be around for years and years and eat up time and money. In a paranormal romance, the demon can be destroyed, if you are brave and lucky and have chosen the right partner.Sometimes circumstances make you feel helpless. It is refreshing to see Buffy grab the ax a little tighter and win the day.

By the way, there is a new Joss Whedon online show, a paranormal love story. I haven't seen it and note right now that love story doesn't equal romance. Still, I will watch it!  

Monday, April 28, 2014

Are you Dreaming of Castles?

Veronica Scott sez: A fun one from the Archives:

I know a lot of little girls dream of living in a castle when they grow-up. But what does it mean if you dream of castles as a grown woman?  It actually means you’re refusing to develop rewarding relationships with others.  You have ‘thick’ brick walls keep people out.  But if you dream of a palace (not really sure what the difference is) it’s a good thing – what does it mean if you dream of castles as a grown woman?  It actually means you’re refusing to develop rewarding relationships with others.  You have ‘thick’ brick walls keep people out. It may also be a warning against adopting a false façade. But if you dream of a palace (not really sure what the difference is) it’s a good thing – you feel secure in the security of the family or you seek a little 
less stress in your life.

Do your dreams bring you locked up in some tower with a knight riding in to save you? The meaning isn’t as romantic as our daydream – it represents our desire to shut ourselves away above the world – a form of isolating. It can also symbolize the oppressive influence of an authoritarian figure.

Personally, I like the ‘cotton candy’ of version of my dream of living in my castle with my prince charming – I have a maid to do laundry.

Or is there a Castle in your Cards?

At its simplest, the castle as a Tarot symbol represents a goal - an ideal of achievement usually after a long quest. How do I come up with this simplified symbolism? A look at all the Rider-Waite cards featuring the castle reveals almost all them are set in the back ground of the card. Far off into the distance we see a the glimmer of the castle as a tribute of what awaits us after we have been upon a quest for higher knowing or advancement.
In almost every card the castle looms far in the distance from the central character of the card - it's a reminder of our reward (and delayed gratification). Whether it be monetary, spiritual, romantic or otherwise, the castle is an end-result of the investment made on the journey of life. And, even where it is featured prominently (in the seven of cups), the castle still hints to goal-oriented focus.
In the Cups 7 the castle is an option to be chosen, but what kind of option? This is where we can expand our intuitive ideals about the castle as a Tarot symbol. This is a very good thing because a broader view of castles makes us realize they are symbolic of far more than just obtaining a goal. Castles are also symbolic of:
·         Protection
·         Wealth
·         Strategy
·         Defense
·         Structure
·         Strength
·         High idealism
·         Dreams/Fantasy
·         Comfort
·         Sanctuary
In the final analysis a castle is a home, and in their golden era in history the castle was a grandiose symbol of protection. Everyone took shelter within the thick stone walls of the castle - from royalty to cattle - all sought refuge within the fortress.
So, when the castles of the Tarot cards come calling out to your awareness, consider all these potential symbolic meanings in conjunction with the rest of the cards in your spread.
Give pause and allow your intuition a chance to roam the halls of the castles in your own understanding to gain a broader perspective of this intriguing Tarot symbol.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Guest Author Jodi Vaughn VEILED SECRETS

Veronica Scott: It’s our pleasure today to have Author Jodi Vaughn as our guest. Her most recent book is VEILED SECRETS and we have a few questions for her!

 What prompted you to start writing? I was going through a difficult time.  I took all that pain and frustration and poured it into my book.

Which five people (real, fictional, historical) would you invite to dinner and why?
    Jodi Thomas – Her words of inspiration and encouragement have kept me writing instead of giving up.
   Sherrilyn Kenyon – I’m a diehard Kenyon minion. I adore her! 
 Mr. Darcy – He was my first fictional boyfriend.
 Norman Reedus – You know why. LOL (VS sez: May I tag along as his date ;-) ?
 A solder from Special Forces  – They are the ultimate alpha hero.

 Which word or phrase do you most overuse in a manuscript? (VS confesses to “that” being her worst word LOL): Growled. I write paranormal, what can I say?

Quickfire Questions:
Must watch  TV Show: Walking Dead
Music  on repeat: Dark Horse by Katie Perry (VS sez: I LOVE the music video for that! All that Egyptian magic wonderfulness going on…great choice!)
Favorite Movie: Pride and Prejudice
Cats or Dogs? Dog
Favorite Flower: Daffodil
Tea or coffee:  Tea
Sweet or spicy: Sweet
Morning person or evening person:  Morning
Last meal on Earth would be: Wine and chocolate
Favorite Perfume: Chanel
Book I Wish I’d Written: Acheron by Sherrilyn Kenyon

What are you working on next? I am finishing up my third book in the paranormal trilogy of VEILED SECRETS. I have also written a paranormal romance series about Arkansas shifters. I hope to have them out next year.

What one question do you want to ask your Readers today?  What do you look for in a paranormal book? Story line and plot or engaging characters?

Where can your Readers find you online?
Follow me on Twitter @ JodiVaughn1
Find me on Facebook
Check out my website for upcoming books and appearances

Here’s the story for VEILED SECRETS:
“When Fairies and Demons collide, all hell breaks loose.”
Celeste Hart has never been accepted by society because of her dark visions and has vowed to let nothing stop her from uncovering what she is, good, bad or evil. But she is distracted from her quest when sexy Eric Nordstrom charms his way into her heart and into her bed. He leaves her even more confused by her intense feelings for him and she soon realizes their one night of passion has resulted in something that will change them forever, a child.

CEO Eric Nordstrom has no interest romance and even less in a relationship. His company has always been his mistress, but he can’t stop thinking about the elusive Celeste, who has made him feel more in one night than he has in his entire lifetime. When he learns of the pregnancy, he convinces Celeste to marry him on the pretense of keeping the company from another scandal while trying to seduce her back into his arms.

While Celeste tries to fit into Eric’s elite world, she discovers her visions are a result of having Fae blood. When the vengeful Queen of the Fairies sends a demon army to take her unborn child, Celeste must embrace her fairy heritage and enlist Eric’s help in her fight. Thrust into a world he doesn’t understand yet determined to protect the woman he loves, Eric joins forces with Celeste to protect their unborn child from the evil that has invaded their home.

Fate brought them together, will destiny rip them apart?

Buy Links for book:

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

You Shift into WHAT?

Over the years I've seen a lot of shapeshifters claw and bite their way into our lives. Wolves, obviously... but there's been a plethora of other creatures sneaking in on the edges, digging for our attention. It's interesting to see how other animals have come into their own as options for writers looking for something a bit off the beaten track, as it were - after all you can only write so many werewolves before it becomes bothersome. And once you've been bitten and clawed by one hot alpha wolf you've been... well, you get it. There's a challenge in writing something that's not going to go over well-trod ground and going to appeal to you as a reader.

The obvious is to find another animal. Something else for your poor hero or heroine to be cursed with, some other creature for them to shift into and to deal with both the positive and negative aspects of. But where to go?

Let's look at what other animals have made it onto the shifter list:

Bears. Lions. Tigers. Oh, MY....

Dragons. Bulls. Cats. Hedgehogs... wait. Hedgehogs?

*flips through book listings*



So I'll make this short and sweet - what's the strangest shifter story you've read, seen, written or would WANT written?

Griffin? Unicorn? Snake? Dinosaur? Poodle?

Let's do some brainstorming and maybe some lucky author will fulfill your shifter dream!


Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Paranormal Weather

by Stephanie Beck

The last few weeks, Minnesota has gone through what I call a paranormal phase. That or menopause. Or maybe it tried some experimental drug that had unforeseen side effects.

I know we're not the only ones getting the crazy weather, so, my heart goes out to those who also got a foot of snow in mid-April. I think if we hadn't gotten a few really nice days, maybe, I would have been fine with the temperatures dropping again. But no. We had 70 degree days, followed by snow. And then more snow. But this weekend was beautiful and the rest of the week is supposed to be warm, sunny and very spring-like.

Ah, the kicker: This sort of thing is very normal in Minnesota. Last year, we had snow in late May. We catch all these weather systems coming from the west and because we can still get cold fronts from the north, bam, snow later in the season. Every year, we claim we are 'surprised' when really, we're ticked at ourselves for not moving to a warmer climate when we had the chance!

So, what is the paranormal element in Minnesota weather? I'm going to say it is the situational amnesia the Minnesota humans employ when that first blast of warm air blows in and we all think it is really spring and we put away snow boots in favor of flip flops...only to have to get the boots out the following week so we can shovel. Good thing, for the most part, Minnesotans are hearty people. We can handle the disappointment--the dollop of chocolate and family at Eastertime really helps with the lingering blahs as well.'

But not what it is 'late' April, this Minnesota girl is ready to get her yard cleaned up, pull out the capri pants, and open all the windows. If next week I need to get out the snow shovel, put on snow pants and turn the furnace on again...well, I'll fall back on Minnesota Nice and grin and bare it.

All the best,
Stephanie Beck

Is it cold where you are? Need something to warm you up? Try Unraveling Midnight by Stephanie Beck!

An entanglement with a werewolf brings unexpected turns.
Scott, a lone werewolf expelled from his pack, bends over backward to give his kids everything he can—including knitting lessons for his daughter. Learning to knit becomes much more appealing with Lucy Jamieson as the teacher. His heightened senses tell him the compassionate and beautiful human might be what he and his little band need, yet getting involved with Lucy means exposing her to his paranormal reality. Although Lucy’s childhood skewed her expectations of family, she recognizes and respects Scott’s desire to protect and provide for his kids. When Scott is hit by a truck, Lucy offers to help with the kids--and gets more than she bargained for after learning Scott’s true nature...

Buy Now: Amazon   B&N

Monday, April 21, 2014

Lessons from Twisted World

Just this past month I was a guest at The Twisted World: Vixens and Villains. Fantastic three day event, this year located in Valley Forge.

During the event, I found myself on a pair of panels, and I wanted to point out an interesting thing they had in common. The first panel, on alternative lifestyles; and the second, on antiheroes, villains, and how to kill characters, might not sound similar at first, but bear with me.

Gypsy from Karnevil dominated the first panel; we didn't have a moderator so she sort of took over. Not surprising given how much she's on stage, and it also gave me a chance to throw cookies to the audience. Don't give me that look, you'll have to pay attention and come see me in person if you want cookies. Anyhow, after an hour of spirited discussion and audience participation, what all of us on the panel agreed to is that no matter what lifestyle you're leading, making relationships work is a matter of rules, trust, and honest communication. Now, that doesn't mean blurting out every detail of everything that happens, but it does mean everyone involved trusts everyone else to tell them anything important, and trusts everyone else to follow the rules.

The other panel, remarkably, was less coherent even if we had a moderator. No less fun or informative, but the group of us on that panel were a bit more rambunctious, and we refused to stick to topic. At the same time, we did get the questions answered, albeit without nearly as much coherence. The thing that struck me afterward was that again, the difference came down to rules (both anti-heroes and villains break them), trust (we sort-of trust anti-heroes, we don't trust villains), and honest communication (the levels of which are why we sort-of trust anti-heroes, but not villains).

Finally, the second part of the panel, about killing characters, really pushed things home. We talked a lot about how to do it right, which deaths we liked, which deaths we hated, and why. Again, we rambled, but it turned out the ones people liked least were those where the authors broke some of the fundamental rules of writing. In doing so they lost the trust of their readers, and often weren't honest about killing the character off. I'm not just talking about the 'no, I'm not dead!' dishonesty, I'm also referring to the ones where you can tell it wasn't driven by the story or any kind of character development, but by the author's need to have that character dead.

So... rules, trust, and communication. Interesting theme when talking about Villains and Vixens, really. No stinger or zinger, this time, I'm afraid. Just had a moment of satori and introspection and wanted to share.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Celebrate Easter Loose Id Style!

From Selena Illyria:

Eostre’s Baskets is a new, hot series from Loose Id!

Series Overview:
When you order an adult Easter Basket from Sundae's, you might not get what you’re expecting, but Essie guarantees you’ll get exactly what you need. No relationship problem too big or too small; this Easter, Essie Sundae fixes them all.

The books in this collection are linked by the gift of a basket from Sundae's Custom Easter Baskets. Beyond that, they all stand alone and may be read independently from each other without missing anything.

Eostre’s Baskets Website, Sundae’s Biz, Eostre’s Baskets FB Page

Authors in this smoking hot series besides myself include Cheryl Dragon, Iris Astres, Whitley Gray, Draven St. James, Pia Veleno, Mychael Black, Lily Edwards and Allie Berg. "Hop" on over and check the other books out - here are the details on mine:

(Covers done by the fabulous Syneca Featherstone)

Stacking the Deck by Selena Illyria
Bounty Hunter and Dragon Dean returns home hoping to spend some time with his office manager and new mate Carrie. What he gets is confusion. He’s confronted with communication and connection issues. He feels attacked and backed into a corner with no direction to go in. To find a place to start he turns to Sundae’s Adult Easter Baskets hoping that this will give him a handhold to grip as he tries to break through the walls both of them have erected due to their pasts.

Carrie has missed her mate but can’t take the lack of communication she feels when he’s on the job. For the longest time she’s been alone. Now that she has a mate she wants to feel that connection to another person. She doesn’t know why Dean holds himself back from her, both on the road and while at home. She needs him to be present and here, to open up to her. But if she pushes too hard she could lose him forever. Can Sundae's keep it's sexily ever after guarantee?

Author Bio:

Multi-Published Author, part vampire, part pixie, Selena Illyria was born with a need to write and enable. Her imagination takes her into the paranormal, sci-fi and fantasy genres and all sorts of mischief. When not writing she enjoys catching up on her TBR pile, watching some of her favorite programs and listening to her favorite music as well as teasing people with posts on decadent food and plot bunnies.

Friday, April 18, 2014

What Highlander tells us about info dumps, ye ken!

I recently rewatched the original Highlander movie for the tenth time or twentieth, but who’s counting? The significance of this screening? Well, it’s the first time I’ve watched it since writing my breakout novel (ha) and instead of simply watching the movie for pure entertainment purposes, I had all kinds of things swimming around in the deep crevasses of my mind: world building, dialog, action sequences, etc. Sigh. Is this writing thing completely taking over? Maybe hubbie can answer that.
Previously, I remember wondering why the filmmakers never tell us WHY the immortal men are immortal. (Worthwhile to note, as far as we know, no women were immortal…maybe they’ll remedy this in the proposed remake. It would be cool to see a badass Ninja woman a la Michelle Yeoh.)
At the scene when Connor McCloud asks Ramirez played by Sean Connery why, WHY didn’t I die? Why did my clan toss me out like so much putrid sewage and the woman who supposedly loved me shunned me, a zealous madwoman who screamed I’d been possessed by the devil?
Ramirez explains or rather responds with questions: Why does the sun come up? Or are the stars just pinholes in the curtain of night? Who knows?
Whaaa? Excuse me, but whaaat? Ramirez, what kind of la, la, hippy-dippy explanation is that?
But hold on. Before writing a novel, I found myself somewhat frustrated by not knowing WHY. But, and here’s the kicker, it never took away from my enjoyment of the movie. Not one bit. But it’s world building!
So let’s break it down.
It doesn’t diminish the characters. Ramirez is still the flamboyant Egyptian mentor, McCloud still the hero, and Kurgan is still the nasty safety-pinned villain.
Doesn’t diminish the main plot. These guys are still going to have to slice one another’s heads off. There can be only one! That wonderful line that has dug its way into Geek-dom, fanboy consciousness (I include myself here) and is a wonderful summary of the whole darn movie.
Doesn’t diminish conflict. Not knowing why these men are immortal doesn’t take away from the fact they must fight each other. They are compelled to fight the final battle in New York City. Background knowledge on why they are immortal won’t change that fact or the eventual conflict.
I really hope when they do the remake, they don’t go into a long explanation of how the universe began and show the big bang and how a race of giants who now live under the earth created the immortal men, and they’re all related to midichlorians.
Now I have what I call my Ramirez litmus test: if I find myself getting carried away with explaining how someone got this or that power or how the gods went crazy, I step back and ask myself: is this explanation related to what’s going on right now in the scene and is this information necessary to move the plot forward or to explain something the character does? Or give depth to conflict? Or will a simple, why is the sky blue, suffice? Okay, I wouldn’t go that far.
Just take it from Ramirez. Who knows?
Mimi Sebastian

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Dissecting Fight Scenes (Luke vs. Vader)

For the past couple months, I've been doing a series on fight scenes and how to make them more effective:
Part One (Will Turner vs. Captain Jack)
Part Two (Black Widow vs. Hawkeye)

And, in case you don't have time to read those other posts, what IS the secret to a really great fight scene?


Fight scenes, really good fight scenes, are all about character.

Today we're going to talk about probably my favorite fight ever...

Luke vs. Vader from Return of the Jedi.


I've said it before and I'll say it again: a fight scene without character stuff is meaningless: it's just pretty choreography, and this scene, even though the fight choreography isn't wicked intense (like in, say, the mediocre prequels with their lava battles and such) is still a totally riveting scene. Luke is trying to redeem his father; Vader is trying to push Luke to the dark side and, meanwhile, the Emperor is just being a jerk to everyone in a sort of "Let the best minion win!" kind of thing.

If Luke wins, the Emperor wins because he'll have pushed him to the dark side.
If Vader wins, the Emperor still has his trusted right hand henchman.

This is one of the few fights I can think of where the stakes are this high, and the outcome of the fight is actually really crummy for the two combatants no matter who wins. Conflict! Character! Story! Awww, all the ingredients for a really great fight.

But, of course, one of the best moments of this fight is the moment where Luke stops fighting, where he throws away his lightsaber and says "No, this isn't who I am". His line, "I am a Jedi. Like my father before me" is one of my favorite parts of the movie, and it's a really powerful choice. Story-wise, character-wise. Sometimes choosing not to fight can say everything you need to about your character.

The moment Luke chooses not to fight he wins. Because this isn't really a lightsaber duel, it never was. The duel is just a physical symbol of the greater struggle for Luke's soul. Luke surrenders in the lightsaber duel but triumphs in the larger battle. Even if the Emperor had killed him Luke would have won by staying true to himself. But then that choice to step back, to surrender, ends up saving not only Luke but Vader as well, when Luke's bravery inspires his father to turn from the Dark Side and save himself as well.

You know you have a really great fight scene when the choice not to fight is just as riveting as the actual fight itself. :)

E.D. Walker

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Feline Heroine

Today I'm celebrating the release of a new Urban Fantasy, NIGHTMARE INK, written by my friend and critique partner, Marcella Burnard. Please give her a warm welcome for her guest post!
Hatshepsut wants you to know that she is the model for the cat in my Urban Fantasy novel NIGHTMARE INK. Isa, the heroine of the book, has a cat, Ikylla, and a dog, Gus. I introduced Gus and the real life inspiration for him yesterday. Today, it’s Ikylla and Hatshepsut’s turn. 

Hatshepsut is my real life, youngest feline. She lives aboard our sailboat with me, my husband, and two other cats. She is the queen, and she has very specific notions about how she is to be treated. Adoration is fine, thank you, so long as you aren’t too forward and obtain her permission to touch the sacred fur, first. However, your veneration and offerings of cheese are preferred.
Ikylla is meant to be a long haired version of Hatshepsut. Same regal bearing, same ‘you will worship me’ attitude, even if she lives in an apartment rather than on a boat. She’s also forced to share her living arrangement with a dog, an indignity that Hatshepsut has been spared. If only because I’m allergic to dogs and my heroine, Isa, is not. This may make NIGHTMARE INK a bit of pet ownership wish fulfillment. 

Writing Ikylla was easy, easier than writing the dog, Gus. My parents had cats before they had kids, so I grew up having to learn cat language. My folks insisted. They were spectacularly, and rightly, unsympathetic when I’d come crying to them because one of the cats scratched me. “What’d you do to the cat to deserve that?” I might have whined, “Nothing!” but I always slunk away because we all knew that our cats didn’t lash out for no reason and that meant I had earned my results. It made me motivated to learn how to read every twitch of whisker, ear, and tail if I wanted the cats to like me and still play with me. (They were great playmates with wicked senses of Siamese humor. I was invested in making myself likeable.)

The result, I think, is a stronger sense of Ikylla’s body language in Isa’s story. The cat speaks volumes more than the dog simply because I have a much stronger grounding in feline behavior. Funny. I’d always wanted to be bilingual. It hadn’t occurred to me that, after a fashion, I might be. I understand cat. Not that I speak it all that well, according to my three. They consider me a particularly dense kitten. Until they want to eat. Then I’m the light of their lives.

I didn’t want the animals in NIGHTMARE INK to be ornamental. I wanted them to be characters in their own right. They have roles to play in the story. No spoilers, but there is a scene where Ikylla goes hunting. That, too, is based on Hatshepsut, who is a great hunter. In her own mind. She prides herself on bringing me freaking huge spiders. We live in Western Washington. Dangerous spiders are thin on the ground in these parts, but Hatshepsut is so proud to bring European Brown Spiders (2” leg span! Yay!) to drop before me so that I may praise her prowess. O_o I will say that Ikylla’s prey is significantly more dangerous and challenging, but the last time Hatshepsut brought in a spider at 5am and dropped it on my bed? It’s possible I levitated straight out of sound sleep to get away. I could hear that spider crawling up the bed clothes. Shudder.

What about you? What stories do you have about your animals that you’d work into a book? Would your pets sue for defamation? Could you buy them off with a few pieces of cheddar the way I’ll be able to do with Hatshepsut?

NIGHTMARE INK is available in E-format

With the needle of a tattoo gun, Isa Romanchzyk has the power to create and destroy. In her shop Nightmare Ink, Isa helps those in need by binding the powers embedded in their Live Ink—the magical tattoos that can enhance the life of the wearer, or end it.  But binding tattoos has earned Isa the contempt of her fellow artists—including her former lover Daniel.

When a friend comes to the shop with a tattoo on the verge of killing him, Isa can’t turn him away. For the first time in years, she works Live Ink into someone’s skin—something she swore she’d never do again. But breaking her vow soon becomes the least of her problems.

Isa is horrified to discover her friend’s body in the shop, but the real nightmare begins when she’s abducted and inked against her will.  Now, as she seeks retribution from the man who betrayed her, Isa must figure out how to bind her Living Tattoo before it consumes her completely…


Marcella Burnard graduated from Cornish College of the Arts with a degree in acting. She writes science fiction romance for Berkley Sensation. Her first book, Enemy Within won the Romantic Times Reviewer’s Choice award for Best Futuristic of 2010. The second book in the series, Enemy Games, released on May 3, 2011. An erotica novella, Enemy Mine, set in the same world as the novels was released as an e-special edition by Berkley in April 2012. Emissary, a sword and sorcery short story released in the two volume Thunder on the Battlefield Anthology in the second half of 2013. Nightmare Ink, an Urban Fantasy novel from Intermix available April 15, 2014

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Live Long and Prosper

A long, long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…

This was my first science fiction memory, the beginning of my journey on a path toward space ships, aliens, and a sense of open-mindedness.  Let me put on my geek hat. *dusts it off*

I am a trekkie, brown coat wearing whovian. I can’t speak Klingnon but when my oldest was two he seemed fluent. My youngest owns the one ring and will one day rule us all. At least once every few days the words “You shall not pass” are cried out in my household.

My husband, who was raised by normal people, is somewhat naïve and will declare he is the red shirt of the family. When I’m feeling trapped by mundane life I singing

Take my love, take my land
Take me where I cannot stand
I don't care, I'm still free
You can't take the sky from me
.” (Theme song to Firefly)

I find it helps me pull the ball and chain of reality.

If aliens landed would I run to their ship to say welcome them? No.  I think we would be the Native Americans to their European colonist. I do get really excited when I hear things like NASA is working on a faster than light engine! Will I be alive when they use it? I doubt it but I’d sure love to retire on the Moon.
Life on the run can be very lonely.
Hunted to near extinction by an alien race called the Ko, my people have run from Earth and drifted so far among the stars we can’t remember the way back. We live everywhere, but call nowhere home. The Ko want us erased from existence and memory. They don’t even want our DNA in the space dust. Humans disguise themselves as other alien species and hide in plain sight. It’s the only way we can survive.
I believe in the myth of Earth. I’ve even discovered a bona fide book written in the dead language of my people. My man, Brody, dreams of a secret human colony. He’s searched for years, hunting any rumor we’ve run across, and finally he’s made contact. Usually, he’s the one grounding me to station and keeping my head out of the atmosphere. Time for me to return the favor…that is, if I can ditch the Ko who’ve discovered me, thanks to my incessant artifact-hunting. If we don’t make our rendezvous, and the Ko don’t kill me, Brody just might…
CONTENT WARNING: Aliens, cargo ships, and a fast paced race against all odds.

Annie Nicholas

Monday, April 14, 2014

Spoilers, spoilers everywhere

Spoilers are everywhere online: for books, movies, TV shows. Maybe even video games, heh. Sunday nights on Twitter, it's nothing but Walking Dead or Game of Thrones. Episode recaps of just about any and every kind of TV show can be easily found. Within days of a movie's release, you can find all kinds of details about the plot, even if you're not looking. Spoilers for books can sometimes be found in reviews, though on Goodreads there's a way for reviewers to hide spoilers behind a cut and many bloggers do that as well.

Here's my tale of spoiler woe: I haven't seen Captain America: The Winter Soldier yet. If that's not woeful enough for you, I was actively avoiding spoilers online. I knew who the Winter Soldier is, which wasn't really a spoiler if you recognized the actor, but there are other things that happen in the movie that are big. Like, really, really big. Massive gamechanger for the Marvel Cinematic Universe big. And I stumbled across that spoiler online. I gasped audibly and pushed away from my desk, horrified. Not horrified at the plot point that would now no longer be a surprise whenever I do get to see the movie, but horrified that I'd been trying so hard to avoid spoilers only to have such a big one wind up on my Tumblr dashboard. Even when you try, if you're online, it is really hard to avoid spoilers.

But what does a spoiler really spoil? By knowing in advance, you've already lost that moment of surprise, of delight, horror, shock. But does that really lessen the experience for you? It may depend on the spoiler itself, how much you care about the story, and of course *you* personally. I recently read the Fever series by Karen Marie Moning. I bought the ebook set of all five books and read them one after the other, finding them utterly unputdownable. They were a blast to read. I was very, very careful about what reviews I read on Goodreads, not wanting to know too much. But if I had stumbled across something spoilery, I still would have been up way too late reading night after night until I finished the series. Just like I'll still watch Captain America. I love to be surprised by those great "a-ha" moments, but the journey is what I'm really there for. All the big moments are great for a highlights reel, but it's the little moments that tell you more of the story. Tell you who these characters are, and what they stand for.

So I'm not all that bothered by spoilers. What are your thoughts?

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Was The Nebula Dream Jinxed? Deleted Scene

April 14 is the 102nd anniversary of the “unsinkable” Titanic hitting an ice berg, foundering just two hours and forty minutes later, with a tragic loss of life.

It was always rumored that men had died during the construction of Titanic and that perhaps one unfortunate soul was actually entombed within the hull, thus cursing the ship and all who sailed upon her. You can visit the Snopes urban legend website to read more about this and other similar stories.

In WRECK OF THE NEBULA DREAM, my award winning SF Adventure novel loosely based on the events of Titanic, the heroine tells the hero at one point that there were rumors the spaceship had been jinxed by an accident during construction.

Originally I’d written a short prolog for the novel, showing the reason the ship was jinxed, but I deleted the scene. Here it is now, taking place in the massive outer space shipbuilding yard. I have shared the scene once before, on my own website:

“Come on, Frazet, you’re gonna cost the whole team its bonus, man.”
The foreman stood over him, mercilessly berating his decision. “You don’t finish installing that damn upper engine interlock adapter this morning, they can’t keep schedule for installing the engine itself either. Then the whole thing goes to hell, we get fired – you’re critical path, man, don’t you get it?”
Methodically, Frazet continued fastening the closures on his zero grav construction safety suit. He didn’t look up. “Can’t install no damn adapter if I ain’t got one that works, Jonzile, now can I?”
Throwing his hands up in the air, the foreman glanced around at the rest of the crew for support. Mostly the men avoided his eye. Lowering his voice and leaning closer, Jonzile asked, “How much out of tolerance is the adapter? I know the backup was a piece of shitty scrap but what about the main unit?”
Frazet considered.  “It barely passed acceptance testing.”
“But it did pass?” The foreman was eager.
“Once. Out of three times I checked it,” Frazet said, reaching for his helmet.
Jonzile put out a hand, holding the helmet down on the locker shelf. “But it did pass, you’ll admit that?” His tone changed, became friendlier again. “Don’t you want the bonus? Don’t you need those extra credits, like the rest of us? Heard your wife was gonna have another baby. That makes four kids, right? On your wages, her not working, that’s a tight orbit.”
Frazet sighed. Jonzile’s right, things are tight. And just yesterday the company doc said there might be complications with this baby. The bonus would sure come in handy. And after all, as Jonzile kept saying, the part was within tolerance. Just over the line into the green. But that was all the manual called for, so why am I holding up the entire crew on this job? Sure, I can sign it off in good conscience.

Decision made, Frazet yanked his battered helmet away from the foreman and stood up. “Quit your complaining, would ya? We’ll make schedule today.”
Patting his shoulder, Jonzile nodded. “Good man.”
The immense spaceyards of Baktanir & Fox hummed with activity. Construction was ongoing for several military jobs as well as the Nebula Dream, designed to be the biggest, most advanced spaceliner ever. Dik Frazet was just one of thousands of sentients on the payroll that month, a skilled worker at all the trades involved in engine installation; experienced, careful, good safety record. Right after the midshift break, he finished the last connection holding the adapter device in place, where the new Yeatter hyperdrive engines developed especially for the Dream would fit.

Dik stowed his tools, moving gracefully and economically in the absence of gravity. Powering up his suit’s maneuvering nozzles, he transmitted the sign off for completion of the install, preparing to cross the yard back to the lockers. He needed some fresh supplies before switching to the next job on the new battleship across the yard.
Halfway to his goal, Dik couldn’t shake the nagging feeling that he’d overlooked something, forgotten some detail, back in the half finished engine nacelle on the civilian liner. He finally swung around and returned to the site of his previous task. Taking out his field test kit, he ran a few checks on the troublesome adapter. It failed the first time, passed the second, was borderline on the third. Swearing to himself, Frazet made the decision to yank it out.
Critical path be damned, I’m not going to sign off on the install of an intermittently malfunctioning part and just hope for the best. Hell, my family might travel on this ship someday.

“Shoulda done this in the first place,” he muttered, working to undo the adapter from its fasteners. “Damn supplier must be on the take, substandard parts half the time, don’t work right.”
He knew he’d better report this decision to the foreman first and hunker down while the man went interstellar over the delay. Preoccupied with worrying over the loss of the bonus, maybe even the job, if the team couldn’t make up the schedule, Dik Frazet never saw the massive engine swinging in above him, moving into its tightly fitted place in the nacelle, right on schedule.
The Company arranged a very nice funeral. Mr. Baruc Baktanir the 12th attended and personally gave Frazet’s wife a generous amount of credits to make sure she could return to her home world, far across the Sectors. Jonzile and the rest of his crew received their bonus, tripled, before being reassigned to other shipyards.

The accident was treated by the Sector’s media as routine, mundane, a common enough event in the perilous world of spacecraft construction. Basically a nonevent in a week when there were enemy incursions in the neighboring Sector and a major vid star was caught in bed with highly outlawed feelgoods and an underage co-star.
The Company was satisfied that the Customer, never heard about the incident. The impression was carefully cultivated that poor Frazet had been crushed by drifting debris in the middle of the spaceyard, nowhere near the hull of the Nebula Dream, much less inside the hull. Foreman Jonzile had been only too happy to sign off on the safety report, exonerating him completely in the loss of life on his crew.

But the rumors spread anyway, in the bars where the spaceworkers gathered after long shifts.
It was said the Nebula Dream was cursed….

So there you have it….Nick, the hero of the novel, isn’t wrong about his uneasy feeling early in the voyage that something or someone may be haunting the Nebula Dream. Of course, I’m not saying that’s the only reason for all the things that go wrong, leading up to the disaster! 

The story:
A reimagining of the Titanic disaster set in the far future among the stars…
Traveling unexpectedly aboard the luxury liner Nebula Dream on its maiden voyage across the galaxy, Sectors Special Forces Captain Nick Jameson is ready for ten relaxing days, and hoping to forget his last disastrous mission behind enemy lines. He figures he’ll gamble at the casino, take in the shows, maybe even have a shipboard fling with Mara Lyrae, the beautiful but reserved businesswoman he meets.
All his plans vaporize when the ship suffers a wreck of Titanic proportions. Captain and crew abandon ship, leaving the 8000 passengers stranded without enough lifeboats and drifting unarmed in enemy territory. Aided by Mara, Nick must find a way off the doomed ship for himself and several other innocent people before deadly enemy forces reach them or the ship’s malfunctioning engines finish ticking down to self destruction.
But can Nick conquer the demons from his past that tell him he’ll fail these innocent people just as he failed to save his Special Forces team? Will he outpace his own doubts to win this vital race against time?
2013 SFR Galaxy Award and Laurel Wreath Winner
Audiobook, narrated by Actor Michael Riffle – Available Now at Amazon and iTunes