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KEEPER OF THE GOLDEN DRAGON’S HEART debut and giveaway with Gemma K. Murray

I’m Gemma K. Murray, author of Keeper of the Golden Dragon’s Heart, a paranormal romance set in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.


I’ve always been a writer. From poems to stories, I’ve covered it all. It started at the age of twelve when the onset of teenage angst began. The things I wrote just seemed to evolve as I grew older.

You may ask, “Why write a paranormal romance?” Well, let me tell you, that was never my intention. I love to read paranormal romance. I just never dreamed I had enough imagination to create these wonderful worlds filled with supernatural beings. Then, I had a dream. It began with a beautiful man who would shift into a golden dragon and a curvy woman who was the child of a witch and a puma shifter. It was a dream where I didn’t want to wake up. In one night, I saw this entire story unfold. I chose to ignore the gift I had been given. That was my first mistake!
Anastasia (my heroine) began to scream at me (in my mind) day and night. Any dream I may have had when I closed my eyes never came. Instead, I heard her voice in my head. My husband suggested I sit down and write it out. “Who knows what will come of it?” he said. So, I sat at my computer and began the story. I tried to make Ana a wolf shifter (this was my second mistake) and it came to a screeching halt. Without sounding too crazy, I’ll just say there were some horrible arguments between Ana and myself. I erased forty-five pages of work and started it all over again. This time, I made Ana exactly as she wanted to be. It was around this time that the second voice appeared…the voice of Bowie (my hero). With his voice, the story flowed across the keyboard. The research was relatively easy and I simply wrote what I was shown. I don’t sound too crazy, right? *grin*

When it was finished, I really liked the story. I sent it out to a few publishers with no luck. There was one, however,who loved it and here I am. The Upper Peninsula of Michigan is filled with so many interesting places and people. This village of shifters just seemed to fit here. I hadn’t ever visited the U.P. when I had this dream. That was over a year ago. Before I began to write the story, my husband got a job in the Upper Peninsula and now I get to see this piece of heaven every single day. I fell in love with this place and the characters who first showed me what is possible.

Since the floodgate has been opened, there are three more Cedar River series books waiting (not so) patiently to be written with a spin-off series in the works as well. If you feel like taking a trip, come on up for a visit or you can always just pick up a copy of Keeper of the Golden Dragon’s Heart.
If ever I’m starved for inspiration, I simply look out my windows. With Lake Michigan in the front and forest behind my cottage, I can find a story often hidden away somewhere beneath the water or under the cover of the trees.

Gemma is kindly offering 2 copies of her e-book, Keeper of the Golden Dragon’s Heart, in either Kindle, Nook, or .PDF form (winners’ choice).  Contest ends @12am est April 6th.

Gemma’s blog 

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The Upper Peninsula of Michigan seems like it is another country. The rawness and beauty of the land draws people from every walk of life. What most people don’t realize is there is a little town nestled on the banks of Lake Superior that an entire group of supernatural beings call home. Shifters of every shape and size live there. They raise their families there. Tourists come from near and far to visit the quaint town of Cedar River, Michigan. The tourists never realize they are walking among some of the most unusual beings on earth.

Bowie Golden is a dragon shifter who is in charge of Cedar River’s safety. Until now, the biggest threat to anyone’s safety was Anastasia Plum, a witch/puma-shifter. She has been the town hellraiser since she was a teenager. Now someone has discovered the secret the residents of Cedar River keep for one another. These radicals are determined to eradicate the entire town. It’s up to Bowie to keep them all safe.

Ana has always idolized Bowie. She may have stirred up trouble from time to time, but Bowie or one of his brothers would always get her out of the trouble she was in. One day, it happened. The unthinkable, the unimaginable occurred. Anastasia Plum fell for the “golden” boy. What an unlikely duo- the sheriff and the hellraiser!

Just as these two discover their passion for one another, a group of people is determined to keep them apart. It’s up to Ana to prove that she is the only Keeper of the Golden Dragon’s Heart.

 

 

 

 

 

Xavier Axelson returns with EARTHLY CONCERNS

Good to see you again, Xavier!

Glad to be here!

You’ve been a busy fella.  Can you share what you’ve been up to since you visited last?

Trouble, anarchy, and villainy.  Wait is that what I’ve been up to or the title of my autobiography?  I’ve just been writing, writing and oh yeah, writing!

Willing to bet that suits you to a tee..
What about your erotic collection, MENAGE?

Menage is a print collection featuring three of my novellas with Seventh Window Publishing; Dutch’s Boy, The Incident and The Birches.  There are three new covers and other new stuff!  Here’s a link to the press release and where to buy:

Menage


You have a paranormal out now, Earthly Concerns, do tell…

Earthly Concerns is my latest novella and I am calling it an erotic nightmare with fable elements.  Wow, even I’m intrigued by that!  It’s all about the choices we make and the consequences of those choices, and it’s a little creepy.
It really is a story about the power of generosity, generosity of spirit and the price of selfishness.  While there is an erotic romance involved, there are forces at work in the story that scare me and hopefully will frighten readers too.

That is intriguing..More info at the end.
Was it hard to transition to the paranormal?

No!  I actually have always been a magical realism kind of writer, it was harder to transition into erotica!

Have you always wanted to write in the paranormal genre?  Thinking about Urban Fantasy now maybe?  Possibly horror?

I love horror; but creepy horror.  My favorite horror book and movie is The Other by Thomas Tryon.  My goal is to write something that spooky.  My next piece is completely different, I’m going in a direction no one will see coming.  Keep your peepers peeped!

I will!  Can’t wait to see what you get up to next, fella.
Are you still cooking up a storm?  Always seeing the yummy looking pictures you post.

I actually have a massive pot of Irish beef stew on the stove as I’m writing this, my place smells ahhmazing!  So yes I am cooking up a storm, when are you coming over for dinner?

The next time I’m on the left coast I’ll be taking you up on that invite!
You’ve been having quite the time at your column with guests ranging from Pia Zadora to Emilie Autumn.  How much fun have you been having with that?  Any interesting tidbits you can share comfortably?

My column has been an adventure.  The funny thing about it is I never get the people I think I’m going to, but always get the guests I’m sure I won’t.  It’s a bizarre and wonderful experience.  As for tidbits?  Hmm, I print everything they say, so what you see is what you get.  I’m also not an exploitive type of reporter, there’s enough of that without me stirring the pot.

Aint that the truth…I was thinking more along the lines of,  “she sounds like a lil girl over the phone.”  kinda thing.
What’s next for you, Xavier?  Anything special you’d like us to know?

I’m working on a new piece now that started as a novella but is turning into a novel.  I’m a little nervous as it seems to have a life of its own, but I am in love with it!  I have a non erotic zombie short story out and a short erotic story awaiting its fate and a full length novel on its second submission.  Fingers and legs crossed.


If you could choose a song or album to currently describe your life, what would it be?

Plan 9 by The Misfits or Live Through This by Hole.

Thanks for coming back to Manic Readers, Xavier. Always enjoy your visits.  🙂

Always a pleasure to be on Manic Readers!  Thank you!

Xavier on Facebook
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Examiner
Xavier’s site

 

Between love and loss, there is obligation…

It was a peaceful night when Barrett and his daughter were driving home… then something happened.  Something sinister.

Between shadow and light, there is uncertainty…

Now the only person Barrett can turn to for help is Anson, a man gifted with psychic abilities beyond reason. But Anson is also his ex-boyfriend, a man whose heart he’d already broken.

If you can see, you have to help.

As Anson delves deeper into the circumstances surrounding Barrett’s accident, he begins to realize that he’s not only in a race against time, but in a battle against his own broken heart and the terrifying understanding that whatever has taken Barrett’s child is a force of evil beyond anything either man has ever encountered.

And between decision and consequences, there are… Earthly Concerns

 

How could I just go over, and if I did, would I just be stumbling back into the pit of snakes I had just narrowly escaped the first time?  I thought this and a hundred other dangerous thoughts until I saw him begin to stand up. I waved him down, then went over and sat down.

Apparently, I thought the best course of action was to dive right in, avoid any further uncomfortable thoughts from belching up from the cesspool that I was creating in my skull.

“Tell me everything,” I blurted, trying to avoid looking into his eyes.

“You look good, all hot and cute,” he said, trying to maintain his smile, but the weight of his sadness was too intense. Instead, he managed a pained grimace.

“Thanks.” I wanted to say more, return the compliment, but found I couldn’t; he was a keen listener and would be able to detect any false sentiment I might throw out. I stared down at the menu and tried to ignore my heart, which had once again taken up its incessant thrumming.

“Thanks for coming,” he said.

I didn’t look up, but could feel him staring at me.

When the waitress came over, we ordered. Without the menu to stare at, I looked up and past him.

“Anson.” He said my name like it was some sort of invocation.

Did he believe he was dreaming?  I could only imagine the nightmare of not knowing where your child is and if she would ever come back.

“Tell me everything,” I repeated, my voice steady. I lowered my eyes and faced him; and seeing his sadness, I swallowed hard.

“It’s unreal,” he said, this time looking away from me, his eyes glistening. “I’m not sure I know what’s happened.”

The waitress arrived with two small cups of clear broth with some vegetables in them and refilled our waters.

“I’m sorry,” I said, my eyes riveted on him. I couldn’t believe I was sitting across from him in the same place I had met him once before; the day he wanted to return a t-shirt I had left at his place after one of our interludes.

Even now, looking beaten and tormented, the man somehow managed to provoke me in ways other men hadn’t. I saw him as beautiful and felt my stomach lurch. I looked at his brown eyes that I remembered looking gold in the sun, and his oddly handsome face. Not a traditionally good looking face, but handsome in a bookish, learned way. I felt my body begin to respond.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 


Worms Crawl In and Worms Crawl Out----Death Superstition and Cemetery Folklore with Amanda Stevens

                                                                                                                                                             

My protagonist in The Graveyard Queen series is not only a cemetery restorer, but something of an expert in symbolism and folklore. So here are some things I’ve learned from Amelia Gray:

 

Bottle trees once found in Southern graveyards and still prevalent in rural Southern landscapes originated in Arabia over three thousand years ago with legends of bottle imps and magic lamps. In the Deep South, we use primarily cobalt bottles because blue is a natural ghost repellant. We even have a special color of paint for trimming doors, windows and porches called “haint blue.” Side benefit, it also keeps away the wasps and carpenter bees.

 

White sand sprinkled on graves will thwart dead relatives from rising to interfere in the lives of the living. Thorny yucca in and around graveyards will inhibit the movement of ghosts (and sometimes vandals). To be on the safe side, place a maze at the cemetery entrance to prevent spirits from returning to the living world because everyone knows that ghosts can only travel in straight lines. Also, placing a tombstone on the grave will keep the spirit weighted down. The bigger and heavier the stone, the better.
Avoid removing a corpse through the front door of a house. Instead, cut a hole in the side of the structure, then close it back up so that the spirit of the deceased can’t find its way back in. Remember to remove the deceased feet first to prevent the spirit from looking back and beckoning another member of the family to follow. Mirrors should also be covered so the soul doesn’t become trapped in the house.
The headstone of a witch should be set backward on the grave and the body must be buried face down to prevent further supernatural mischief. If this doesn’t work, then desperate times call for desperate measures. Dig up the witch and turn her clothes inside out, then rebury her face down. Good luck with that one.

So long as the funeral bill remains unpaid, the corpse cannot rest. (Believed to have originated from Morticians Association of America.)

And there you have it. More than you ever wanted to know about death superstition and cemetery folklore. But in case you do want more, check out The Restorer on sale now, followed by The Kingdom in April and The Prophet in May. And watch my book video on YouTube.

Happy restorations!
Amanda Stevens
…………………

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Bottle Tree Photo courtesy Zen Sutherland (http://www.flickr.com/people/zen/)

Creating THE VOYNICH CYPHER with Russell Blake

Thanks for inviting me to your blog to share with your readers the story behind the story of The Voynich Cypher. I appreciate it, and hope you’ll all find it interesting.

I started thinking of writing the book back in June, 2011, when I was writing a completely different kind of thriller – The Geronimo Breach. I’d written several thrillers that used conspiracies as their basis, but I wanted to do something more adventure driven. One of my favorite movies growing up was Raiders of the Lost Ark, and one of my favorite authors was Umberto Eco, who writes marvelously erudite mysteries, like The Name of the Rose, and Foucault’s Pendulum. I remember when I first read Foucault’s Pendulum, I thought, “Wow, if I ever write a book, I want it to be something like that.”

Fast forward thirty years, and there I was, writing my second or third conspiracy thriller, but while I was doing it, thinking, “What about the adventure/treasure hunt book?” So I started looking around for a suitable foil for the basic plot, and through a convoluted set of highly unlikely circumstances, arrived at a place where the Voynich Manuscript just seemed to make the most sense to use as a basis. It had everything I was looking for. Mysterious authorship, unknown history, written in a language nobody could decipher, covering topics that nobody could agree upon, for unknown purposes.

The Voynich Manuscript was discovered by Wilfred Voynich in 1912, in Italy, in the belongings of a Jesuit General who had recently passed away. Voynich was a rare book dealer, and announced it to the world shortly thereafter, to the consternation of most of the best and brightest minds in cryptology. The entire document is written in glyphs that are highly organized, with elaborate illustrations, but which nobody can make heads or tails of. That was true then, as it is now. Even with super computers and huge advances in decryption technology, we are no closer to figuring out what the Voynich says than we were 100 years ago.

Carbon dating puts the parchment at the mid-1400s. And frequency analysis of the glyphs have debunked theories that it’s written in some sort of a hoax language. That’s about all we actually know about it, and it holds a similar fascination for many as it did when Wilfred Voynich brought it into the modern light of day.

I wanted to write the end-all, be-all of novels that tipped its hat at Clive Cussler’s better work, Dan Brown’s, and of course, Umberto Eco’s. I wanted something highly plausible, that raced and twisted, and that was intellectually engaging. I knew going in that to do so would involve many, many hours of meticulous research into a host of topics that I knew little or nothing about, and would require elaborate plotting so that nobody could see the next surprise coming. I also wanted to avoid being in any way formulaic. Put these criteria out there together, and you quickly see that it’s a tall order to write that kind of a book.

I took a few weeks to think through the basics of the plot and wrote a three paragraph synopsis, and then began writing, but put the book aside to write several others. In December, I picked it back up, and just committed to sit down and write the damned thing. I’d spent months doing the groundwork, reading all the books I could find on the Voynich Manuscript, Catholic history, cryptography, Italian history and geography, secret societies, Middle Eastern geography and history….now it was time to write the book.

The protagonist was the same as from Zero Sum, my Wall Street thriller trilogy. Dr. Steven Archer Cross, amateur cryptographer and adventurer. I loved his character from Zero Sum, and wanted to hear more from him, so I plunged him into this situation to see how he’d handle it. I couldn’t have picked a better protag. He’s layered and complex, and completely unlike the typical bulletproof superman found in many works in the genre, and also unlike the highly cerebral professorial types that have been staples for other authors.

I’ll leave you with the synopsis I came up with for Amazon, as I think it hits all the high notes and cuts to the chase. My parting observation would be that if you liked The Da Vinci Code, you’ll love The Voynich Cypher, and won’t feel like your intelligence is being insulted or that you’re reading something derivative or banal. I’m happy and proud with how it turned out, and think that most will find it an engaging, exciting, fresh take on this genre.

When a sacred relic is stolen from its subterranean guarded vault, Dr. Steven Cross, amateur cryptographer, becomes embroiled in a deadly quest to decipher one of history’s most enigmatic documents – a 15th century parchment written entirely in unbreakable code; The Voynich Manuscript. Stalked by secret societies, and aided by the daughter of a murdered colleague, a trail of riddles catapults Cross from England to Italy to the Middle East, where a Byzantine web of ancient secrets leads him to a revelation so profound it will change the world order.

Buy THE VOYNICH CYPHER

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Seeing the future…..Mary Eason

 

 

If only I’d known that accident was up ahead. I’d have taken a different route and not been late for work.

If only I’d known that guy was going to break my heart. I wouldn’t have given him a second look.

If only I’d known I would lose my job. I would never have bought that house.

If only I’d known that rock was loose. I would never have stepped out on that overhang and broken my leg.

If only…

Have you ever wondered what your life would be like if you could have seen the dangers that were ahead of you and prevented them from happening?

But what about the darker things in life? Things like the death of someone you know? A dangerous situation facing a loved one. A killer’s stalking?

Well, that’s the premise of Killer Moves.

Six years ago, Kara Bryant tapped into the mind of a serial killer—and nearly became his last victim. Her FBI colleague and lover, Davis Martin, put the murderer behind bars, then devastated her with his abrupt rejection. Worse, the vivid nightmares that followed her to her desert retreat have recently taken a fresh, frightening turn.

She should have foreseen that Davis would turn up. She’s just not sure her still-broken heart can take the strain.

Davis thought he’d made the right decision for everyone involved in a case that almost ended in disaster, thanks to his mistakes. But with a new string of killings that one by one is taking out the women of his past, suddenly he wonders if he let the real Death Angel get away. Kara is the only one who can help him nail the bastard for good this time—if she can forgive him.

He wasn’t expecting the woman he never stopped loving to love him back. Nor is he prepared to come face-to-face with Kara’s secret. One that raises the stakes impossibly high.

Read an excerpt:

Buy the book:

So what do you think? Is it worth it? Would you like to see into the future or are some things best left alone?

All the best…

Mary Eason

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David Lee Summers, steampunk-scifi-paranormal author and astronomer

David, thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to stop by Manic
Readers.
For those unfamiliar with you and your work, could you please tell us a bit about your
Steampunk titles OWL DANCE and THE SLAYERS?
Owl Dance is a Wild West Steampunk Adventure set in the mid-1870s.  In the novel, Sheriff
Ramon Morales of Socorro, New Mexico meets Fatemeh Karimi, a healer who has the
uncanny ability to communicate with owls.  She’s been accused of witchcraft, but in fact is
simply a person the power brokers in the community don’t like.  Ramon and Fatemeh escape
the town and begin a series of adventures where they encounter mad inventors, dangerous
outlaws, pirates, and an alien on a quest to understand the nature of intelligence.  Ultimately,they must face a pair of Russian airships that have been dispatched to invade the United States.
The Slayers is a short story that first ran in Realms of Fantasy magazine in 2001 and was
released as a stand-alone ebook on its tenth anniversary.  I would say it’s more
proto-Steampunk than true Victorian-era Steampunk.  It tells the story of a young man named
Rado who signs aboard an airship to hunt dragons.  As they travel, he learns the captain is
obsessed with finding the elusive golden dragon.  Essentially the story is a retelling of Moby
Dick but with more of a focus on Rado’s coming of age than the captain’s obsession.
Your SciFi works, THE OLD STAR SAGA Series, THE SOLAR SEA, SPACE
PIRATES and SPACE HORRORS?
The Old Star Saga is a space opera trilogy consisting of The Pirates of Sufiro, Children of
the Old Stars and Heirs of the New Earth.  In it, a mysterious and powerful entity called the
Cluster has appeared in our galaxy, searching for a particular lifeform by destroying space
vessels and sorting through the wreckage.  Captain John Mark Ellis, who is conflicted about an
ancestry that includes both heroes and pirates, unravels the mystery over the course of the three
books.  As the mystery unfolds, Ellis learns from his pirate ancestors that the path to being a
true hero doesn’t always mean playing by the rules.
The Solar Sea is a prequel to the Old Star Saga.  In the novel, mysterious particles that appear
to travel through time are discovered in abundance around Saturn’s moon Titan.  Thomas
Quinn, the bright young heir to the Quinn Corporation persuades his father to build a spacecraft
to investigate the particles.  As they travel, the crew discovers that humans may not be alone in
the universe after all.
Space Pirates and Space Horrors are both anthologies in the Full-Throttle Space Tales
series.  Each book features approximately fifteen short stories by established and
up-and-coming authors centered around the title theme.  My story in Space Pirates tells the
story of how pirate captain Ellison Firebrandt met his lover Suki Mori while fencing stolen
goods on a world where criminals rule.  My story in Space Horrors tells the story of a lonely
vampire who has stowed away aboard a space vessel in order to escape the perils of sunlight.
Your Paranormals, VAMPIRES OF THE SCARLET ORDER, THE DRAGON’S
QUEST and BLOOD SAMPLER?
Vampires of the Scarlet Order tells the story of a group of vampire mercenaries who have used
their strength, stealth and telepathy for kings, princes, and the church since the Middle Ages.
As the twenty-first century dawns and new technologies are developed, the United States
Government discovers that it can genetically engineer more reliable super soldiers than
vampires.  The problem is that they’re dabbling in science the human race isn’t ready for and the
vampires themselves must become the saviors of humanity.
The Dragon’s Quest is actually part two of a novella series called Dragon’s Fall.  Starting in
ancient Greece, moving to Arthurian Britain and ultimately winding up in Vlad the Impaler’s
Transylvania, Dragon’s Fall tells the story of how Draco, Alexandra, and Roquelaure formed the
Scarlet Order.  We also learn about their tumultuous romantic triangle and how it nearly
destroys the Scarlet Order.  Right now, the first two parts of Dragon’s Fall – Bondage and
The Dragon’s Quest – are available as 99-cent ebooks at Amazon.com.  My understanding is
that the complete Dragon’s Fall will be released in print and as an ebook this year.  People can
keep up with developments about the series at http://dlsummers.wordpress.com
Blood Sampler is a little collection of vampire flash fiction.  Most of the stories were written for
a small zine called Blood Samples nearly ten years ago.  Lee Clark Zumpe and I were both
frequent contributors and we combed through the published material and found our favorite
vampire flash fiction and put it together with some new material to form the book.  It’s a fun,
sexy book of stories great for couples to share.  It also provides some insight into the creation
of the Scarlet Order vampires because Blood Samples Magazine was where I first
experimented with many of the ideas that would become part of Vampires of the Scarlet
Order and Dragon’s Fall.
You also edit Tales of the Talisman magazine?
Yes, Tales of the Talisman is a quarterly magazine of science fiction, fantasy, horror, and
steampunk.  We are currently in our seventh year of publication under the name Tales of the
Talisman.  Before that, the magazine ran for ten years as Hadrosaur Tales.  Over the years we
have featured works by such renowned authors as Neal Asher, Richard Harland, Ernest Hogan,
and C.J. Henderson.  Each issue is lavishly illustrated by our stable of talented artists under the
direction of Laura Givens.  Not only do we feature short stories, but we also have a diverse
selection of poetry in each issue.  We have received several Rhysling nominations for best
speculative poem of the year as well as honorable mentions in Ellen Datlow’s Year’s Best
Horror.  You can learn more about the magazine at Tales of the Talisman
In addition to all the literary work you’re an astronomer at Kitt Peak National
Observatory (outside Tuscon, Arizona).  How do you find time to fit all this in?
I was a full-time writer and editor from 2001 until 2008.  At that point, the observatory
management asked if I would come back to astronomy because they were facing a lack of
qualified applicants in the observing support area.  Basically, I operate the 4-meter and
3.5-meter telescopes at the observatory and serve as on-site technical support for astronomers
from around the world who come to use the facilities to gather data for their research projects.
My schedule is such that I’m at the observatory for a week and then I get a week off.  I do the
majority of my writing and editing work during the weeks I’m at home.  Also, it’s about a
five-hour drive from my house to the observatory, which I do once a week.  I use that driving
time to plot stories and work out character details.
I saw the photos you took of your ghost tour on the Queen Mary during Her Royal
Majesty’s Steampunk Symposium in Long Beach, Ca. in January.  Pretty interesting
stuff.  Do you believe in ghosts, think it’s all horsefeathers, or not convinced but open
minded?
I presume you’re referring to the events I wrote about at:
In answer to the question, I’m a skeptic when it comes to the paranormal.  The existence of
ghosts has never been demonstrated in a scientifically conclusive, rigorous way.  That said, I
have seen odd things and heard stories over the years that make me think there could be ghosts.
In the specific instance of the Queen Mary Ghost Tour, I photographed and briefly saw
something I can’t easily explain.  I captured a photo of what appeared to be a full ghostly
apparition or what’s often known as a “shadow person.”  When I walked to the place where the
figure had been standing, I didn’t see anyone, but it was dark and there were several people in
the tour group around me.  My flash did not illuminate the person who appears to be in the
photo.  Could someone have been playing a hoax on the tour group?  Possibly.  Could I have
captured some weird shadow?  Possibly.  Was I freaked out when I looked closely at my
photo after not finding anyone ahead of me in that corridor?  Definitely.
These are some pretty interesting pictures, y’all should check them out.
Can you share a bit about Her Royal Majesty’s Steampunk Symposium with us?  Your
favorite event/part?  Least favorite?
The Steampunk Symposium was a wonderful event.  There were panels on writing, history and
technology.  There was music and dancing.  There was magic and a falconry group.  Almost
everyone who attended was dressed in Victorian or Steampunk clothing.  It was a delightful,
immersive experience.  I think my truly favorite part was getting to share the whole experience
with my family and two dear friends who flew down from Seattle to Long Beach just to take
part in the event.  Beyond that, I loved getting to hear Unwoman play the cello and sing.  She is
absolutely fabulous.  Another wonderful group there was Steam Powered Giraffe, who perform
old-fashioned songs while dressed as steam-powered robots.  They’re both funny and musically
talented.
My least favorite part really had to do with the fact that this was the first year for the event.
There weren’t many signs.  The dealer’s room was in a hard-to-find ballroom.  There wasn’t
always great communication about where to find equipment for presentations.  Despite these
glitches, I have to say the staff were all fabulously helpful and did their best to help the
presenters and attendees.  I had the sense they would do their best to make sure these glitches
don’t happen again during the second year.
Which came first for you, writing or astronomy?
In terms of interest, writing definitely came first.  I have been creating stories almost as long as I
can remember and I wrote all through high school and college.  However, when I first
announced to my parents that I was interested in being a writer, they encouraged me to pursue
something else, something I could make money at!
I eventually fell in love with science because of science fiction.  I was in love with science fiction
because I loved the idea of exploring the universe.  I learned that through science I actually
could play a part in exploring the universe.  So, after giving it thought, I decided to pursue a
degree in physics.  Even so, I kept practicing my writing.
I got my first job in astronomy in 1987.  I sold my first story and also my first novel in 1995.  So
from that perspective, astronomy came first, even though my interest in science actually sprang
from an interest in being a writer.
Has the area you live in, Southern New Mexico, inspired any stories?
Absolutely.  I love New Mexico and I think that comes through in many of my stories.  One of
my first story sales was called “Vampire in the City of Crosses” which was inspired by asking
what would a vampire make of Las Cruces, New Mexico – literally the city of the crosses.
That story eventually became part of Vampires of the Scarlet Order.
Much of Owl Dance is also set in Southern New Mexico.  In that novel, my characters spend
time in Socorro, Las Cruces and Silver City.  They meet such historical figures as Billy the Kid
and Sheriff Mariano Barela.  They travel through dramatic countryside such as the rugged and
beautiful Rio Grande Valley near Elephant Butte.
New Mexico’s nickname is “The Land of Enchantment” and all through my years here, I’ve seen
a lot of beautiful and dramatic scenery and met many people from different cultures who interact
and work well together.  It’s hard not to want to share that enchantment with others.
Have you spotted anything interesting or any anomalies in your time at Kitt Peak
National Observatory?
I have actually seen a lot of interesting things at Kitt Peak.  I saw Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9
before it collided with Jupiter in 1995.  I have seen a multitude of supernovae – essentially
exploding stars.  These are the largest explosions in the universe, often outshining entire galaxies.
I have seen breathtaking views of Jupiter through the WIYN 3.5-meter telescope.  All of it has
been fascinating.
Although I have seen flying craft around the observatory, they’ve all been manmade.  I haven’t
seen anything to make me think there are UFOs.  That said, I did see one nebula that was really
stunning and makes you wonder if it’s completely natural.  It looks very much like a bird in flight
and you can see a photo of it here:   vdB141 South
What exactly is a 4-meter class telescope?
The size of a telescope refers to the width of its primary optics.  It’s basically a measure of how
much light a telescope can gather.  The bigger the telescope, the more light it can gather and the
more detail can be resolved.  Most telescopes today utilize curved mirrors to capture and direct
light.  So, a 4-meter telescope is one with a  4-meter wide primary mirror.  The telescope itself
is actually about seven stories tall and people can climb into parts of the telescope to work on
instrumentation.
For those like me, who are woefully uninformed, could you please explain an exoplanet
and dark energy if it isn’t too hard to do briefly?
An exoplanet is any planet that goes around a star other than our sun.  The Kepler Space Probe
is currently one of the most important satellites looking for exoplanets.  At Kitt Peak, we have
followed up some Kepler planet candidates to find out if they are, in fact, planets.
Dark Energy is a term used to explain a strange observation.  If we assume the universe was
created in a big bang, physics would suggest that it should slow down with time – or stay very
close to the same speed.  What we see is that galaxies in the universe appear to be speeding up
with time.  They seem to be flying apart faster now than when the universe was first created.
That means some kind of energy is making that happen.  That energy is called “Dark Energy”
because we don’t see what’s causing it.  At Kitt Peak, we use certain types of supernovae –
exploding stars – to tell us about distance and how fast galaxies are moving.  By observing
them, we try to understand how this mysterious “Dark Energy” is acting on the universe.
Are you a reader?  Favorite genres or authors?
I am a reader.  Of course I love the genres I write – science fiction, fantasy, paranormal, and
steampunk.  Favorite authors in those genres include Robert A. Heinlein, Steven Brust, Cherie
Priest and Chelsea Quinn Yarbro.  There are a lot more I could name.  I also love
Southwestern fiction.  John Nichols, Rudolfo Anaya, and Tony Hillerman are authors I really
enjoy.
I’m a huge fan of Chelsea Quinn Yarbro’s St. Germaine series.
As a reader do you prefer print, ebook, or both?
I love the tactile sensation of books and the feeling of progress as I move my bookmark further
and further through a print book.  That said, after I moved into a new house almost two years
ago, I wasn’t so excited about moving all the books!  I recently acquired a Kindle and I love the
e-ink and the fact that most ebooks are very inexpensive and take up no space!  In short, I still
prefer paper, but ebooks are rapidly growing on me.
As a writer?
As a writer, I’m all in favor of having my books available in as many formats as possible.  That
just means more choice for readers who might want to discover my books.  At this point, it
does seem like my ebook sales outnumber my print book sales, so I have to confess that I really
like ebooks as a writer!
Do you need anything special to write?
The only real requirement for me is quiet and something to write on.  I prefer composing on my
laptop computer, but a pen and paper will do.  I really like having a pot of coffee available and
often I write to music.  I have a collection of soundtracks and classical music that I like to write
to.  The music can help me get into the right frame of mind.  However, I don’t absolutely need to
have the music and even when I have music, it can’t be anything with lyrics.  The words distract
me from the words I’m trying to set down.
You also write poetry and shorts in addition to the genres previously mentioned.  What
do you find the most creatively challenging, among those, to write?
They’re all challenging in different ways.  Poetry is all about capturing a moment in time or an
image through the lyricism of the words.  It sounds challenging, but when it comes together,
composing a poem can actually happen very quickly.  It almost certainly takes more time per
word to write a poem, but there are a lot fewer words!
Short stories require getting a complete incident down in a relatively small number of words.
You have to create characters, events and set a scene that someone will care about in a short
amount of time.  Moreover, you have to grab the reader within a page or else they’ll move on to
a new story.  Because of that, I think short stories are the most challenging to write.  I spend a
lot of time thinking about short stories before I even begin to compose them, then spend a lot of
time thinking about the words I set down as I work at the computer.
Favorite part of writing?
My favorite part is when I’m at the computer and the words are flowing freely and easily and it
feels like I’m watching a movie in my head as I’m writing.  That’s the moment when it feels like
the story is writing itself and I’m not really doing any work, I’m just along for the ride.
Least favorite?
The panic right after someone has invited me to do a project and I have no idea what I’m going
to write, especially if the project sounds really cool.  The only way to cure that is to have some
quiet time and think through what I’m going to do.  Reading bad reviews is right up there.  I’m
learning that bad reviews often reflect the fact that the writer and the reviewer just weren’t on
the same wavelength.  Despite that, I think a good writer is able to spin their words in such a
way that most readers disappear into the created world and love the result.  I keep writing
because I want to get better at doing exactly that!
With so much going on, what do you do to relax?
I like walking and biking.  I live in a beautiful, old quiet neighborhood in Las Cruces, so getting
out for a little while can be really invigorating.  When I can, I like to go on hikes in more remote
areas.  Arizona and New Mexico both have some fabulous trails with great places to explore.
I make time to spend some time with the kids each evening I’m home – often watching an old
TV show or a movie.  Another thing I enjoy is building scale models.  As a fan of technology
and science fiction, it’s another way to explore those interests, but purely for fun.
Is there anything special you’d like us to know?
I have a brand new vampire short story coming out soon in Cemetery Dance Magazine.  I’ll
announce that on my blogs when it’s available.
My regular writing blog is David Lee Summers
My vampire/paranormal blog is DLSummers
I love hearing from readers and making new friends.  Feel free to look me up on Facebook or
Twitter I’m davidleesummers both places.
Thank you again, David, for taking the time to visit Manic Readers.  It’s been really
interesting!
Thank you!  This has been a fun interview.

Why I'm Inspired to Write Historical Romances by Catherine Kean with giveaway

I’m often asked why I write historical romances—specifically, books set in the Middle Ages.  Quite simply, I love that historical era.  I adore castles and the romanticism of chivalry.  And, dare I say, I love bold, sexy, alpha male knights whose heroics make ladies swoon.

Is it any wonder that when my British husband and I married close to twenty years ago, our song was the theme to the movie Robin Hood; Prince of Thieves?  My heart still flutters when I hear Bryan Adams singing “Everything I Do, I Do it For You.”

My love of all things medieval began as a child, when I listened to fairy tales.  My dad, who is British, often took my sister and me to England during our summer vacations to visit relatives, and he took us to many historic sites.  We visited awe-inspiring churches built centuries ago, ruins of Roman baths, Stonehenge, The British Museum, old graveyards, and other places that left upon me a lasting impression of how fascinating the past can be.

After graduating from university, I further enriched that fascination through a one-year course with Sotheby’s auctioneers in London, England, where I studied silver, glass, porcelain, furniture, jewelry, paintings, and more from the Middle Ages through the 20thcentury.  It was an amazing year.

An added perk?  I met the tall, dark-haired, charming Brit who became my husband.  And yes, he loves castles, too.

When I started writing medieval romances, I wanted to bring the past I’d experienced to life in a way that was meaningful to me and hopefully other people, too.  To do that, I had to make my characters and story settings three-dimensional.  I needed vital emotional conflicts for my heroes and heroines to struggle to resolve.  I needed to know what foods were cooked, what the different social classes wore, what weapons were used, how a man trained to become a knight, and how wounds were treated.  More simply, I needed sounds, smells, tastes, and textures.  Easy peasy, right?

Um…  No.

I spent many, many hours doing research on the internet.  I brought armloads of books home from the library and jotted pages of notes.  I accumulated a small library of books on kings and armor and medieval recipes (one day, when I’m feeling really ambitious, I’m going to try making a few dishes).

I also bought CD’s of medieval-era music and listened to them while I cooked dinner.  One of the songs started out slowly and then sped up to a vibrant melody accented by drums.  I was captivated.  Immediately I had an idea for the opening chapters of Dance of Desire, a fast-paced, emotional story of a proper noblewoman desperate to save her younger brother who is imprisoned as a traitor and the “barbarian” sheriff she is coerced into marrying to help rescue her sibling.  Dance of Desire was my first novel published in paperback and it won numerous awards.  My daughter, in elementary school at the time, proudly announced to her teachers that her mom was “a published romance author.”

 

With each book I penned, my love of the Middle Ages grew.  A Knight’s Vengeance, my very first medieval that I wrote when my daughter was a baby (and I revised from start to finish about seven times, because I was still learning how to craft a book) had several secondary male characters who deserved to be heroes of their own books.  The idea of connected novels, all set in the fictional county of Moydenshire I’d created, took seed in my mind.  The Knight’s Series was born.  Originally published in paperback, the first four books will be available again as eBooks on Kindle (two are up now, the other two will follow later this year).  My goal for the next year is to write the fifth and final novel and to wrap up the series the way I always envisioned.  And then…  I already have ideas for more medievals.

                                                                                                                             

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On trips back to England, my husband and I have taken my daughter sightseeing at some of the historic sites, including ones I visited with my father.  A few years ago we toured Warwick Castle, magnificent to this day.  One of my clearest memories is of standing in an interior room, putting my hand on the smooth stone wall, and just listening, to the voices of modern-day visitors drifting in from outside, but also to the ancient pulse that still seemed to flow within the stone.  It was an amazing moment that snatched my breath away.

When I sit down to write, I feel again that ancient pulse.  It inspires me.  It breathes new life into my words.  And the writer in me is happy.

Catherine is generously offering two (2) Kindle copies of  A Knight’s Vengeance ~ Bk.I and two (2) Kindle copies of A Knight’s Reward ~ Bk.II from her Knight’s series!  Ends @midnight est 3-29-12.

Award-winning author Catherine Kean has always loved tales of heroic knights and stubborn damsels. Her debut medieval historical romance, Dance of Desire, was the launch title of Medallion Press’s Sapphire Jewel Imprint. Dance of  Desire won two Reviewer’s Choice Awards, Best  Medieval in industry review magazine Affaire de Coeur’s 2006 Reader-Writers’ Poll, and finaled in four contests for published romance novelists.

 

Her other medieval romances have also garnered accolades.  Among them, My Lady’s Treasure won the historical category of the 2008 Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence Contest and finaled in the 2008 Next Generation Indie Book Awards.  A Knight’s Reward was a 2008 National Readers’ Choice Awards finalist.

Catherine also writes contemporary romances under the pseudonym Cate Lord.

 

When not writing, Catherine enjoys cooking, baking, browsing antique shops, shopping with her daughter, and gardening. Busy working on her next novel, she lives in Florida with her husband, daughter, and two spoiled cats.  For more details on her books and appearances, please visit her website

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For the Love of a Series with Ava March

Like a lot of readers, I have a thing for related series books. I enjoy getting to know characters, then seeing those now-familiar characters pop-up in other books. They become like old friends, and it’s nice to check in with them and see how they’re doing after their happily-ever-after.

In the past, I’ve written a few direct series with the same couple featured throughout all the books. As a reader, I enjoy those types of series as well. I get to stick with the same couple for a longer period of time, watch them work through more challenges and watch them overcome those challenges.

The BROOK STREET trilogy is my first related series. It features a group of friends who live along Brook Street in Mayfair in Regency London. In a way, writing a related series was similar to a direct series. From a technical standpoint, I needed to keep track of the characters so eye color, habits and likes/dislikes, for example, don’t miraculously change in the middle of a series. There’s also that wonderful sense of familiarity when I began to work on another book in the series. But unlike a direct series, I found advance planning was very important in a related series.

BROOK STREET takes place over the span of a few months, during the 1822 social season in London. I needed to keep track of each character in each book so that everything would jive, rather like putting together a big puzzle. Which meant I needed to have all the books plotted before I wrote the first book. If the books had taken place over a longer time period, the advance plotting likely wouldn’t have been as necessary. But since days separate the end of the first book and beginning of the second, the plotting became critical.

I had a lot of fun writing the BROOK STREET trilogy, revisiting characters with each book and giving readers a peek into some of the characters’ lives after their HEA. And I hope readers enjoy the series as well.

Some of my favorite related series include:
– Julia Quinn’s BRIDGERTON series. Love the Bridgerton siblings, and I love Simon *sigh*. THE DUKE AND I is one of my fav books of all time, and began my love for the Bridgerton siblings.
– JL Langley’s SCI-REGENCY series. You might think sci-fi & regency?? Oh, it works, and JL Langley makes the mix of future conveniences and Regency customs work so very well.
-Tere Michaels’ FAITH, LOVE & DEVOTION series. This series is smoking hot, not necessarily because of explicit content, but more for the blazing sexual chemistry between the characters.

What’s your favorite related series, and why is it your favorite?

——————-
Regency London—where polite manners and spotless reputations reign supreme. Yet behind the closed doors of three elegant town houses along Brook Street, passion and lust rule as gentlemen dare to risk scandal by falling in love…

                                                                              Discover Ava March’s Brook Street Trilogy


In THIEF, a lord intent on his first decadent night with a man finds love when he picks up a thief in a gambling hall.

In FORTUNE HUNTER, a man determined to marry an heiress instead falls in love with a wealthy young gentleman.

And in ROGUES, two of London’s most notorious rakes are about to find out if their friendship can withstand the test of turning into something so much more.

Brook Street: Thief – Now available from Carina Press
Brook Street: Fortune Hunter (#2) available April 9 from Carina Press
Brook Street: Rogues (#3) available May 7 from Carina Press

Ava March is an author of smoking hot M/M historical erotic romances. She loves writing in the Regency time period, where proper decorum is of the utmost importance, but where anything can happen behind closed doors.

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Real life to fiction with Thea Harrison

                                                                                                                                                      

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

No doubt every writer or artist has been asked where they get their ideas, and I’m no exception.  I’ve specifically been asked about how I create the alternative universe of the Elder Races series, and most recently I’ve been asked about taking our Earth’s real myths and turning them into stories.  These questions led me to the idea for this blog.

I have three examples of real life to fiction that I would like to share with you.  The first is the Oracle of Delphi.  You can read about the Oracle on Wikipedia here:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Delphi#Oracle and here:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pythia.  The Oracle was the Priestess at the temple of Apollo at Delphi.  When I was reading about the Oracle, I took some key elements and transposed them onto my world.  I especially took Python (mentioned in the first article) and wove the creature into both Serpent’s Kiss (October 2011, Berkley) and in Oracle’s Moon (Available now, Berkley) to explain the origins of certain dynamics in the Elder Races.

                                                                                                                                                         

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My second example has to do with women in the military.  In 1994 the Defense Department ruled that women may be barred from certain combat positions which were too “physically taxing” for women.  For those interested in recent information, The New York Times posted an article in February, entitled “Pentagon Allows Women Closer to Combat, but Not Close Enough for Some” which can be found here:  http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/10/us/pentagon-to-loosen-restrictions-on-women-in-combat.html?_r=1

When I was writing my second Elder Races e-novella, “Natural Evil” (March 20, Samhain) I thought a lot about this 1994 ruling and how it might or might not fit in my universe.  I decided it didn’t fit at all, so I quite gleefully abolished it.  Readers can find the result of that in “Natural Evil’s” heroine Claudia.

My third example of taking real life into fiction has to do with a personal memory.  In Oracle’s Moon, the four year old girl Chloe watches an old Christopher Reeve Superman movie and decides she might be able to fly too, so she climbs on top of the kitchen table.  Her aunt Grace catches her just before she jumps.  I decided this might be especially apropos for a small child who lived in a world where magic was abundant.

The idea sprang from my own childhood when I watched the Olympics gymnastics competition.  They made their springs and backflips look so delightful and effortless, I was convinced I could do the same thing.   I was roughly four years old, the same age as Chloe.  So I took myself out to the yard and threw myself backward—and gave myself a good lump on the back of my head as I landed hard on the back yard.  This was a literal example of what Khalil mentions as learning from the School of Hard Knocks!

I was most amused and delighted when Serpent’s Kiss came out with the Oracle’s Moon teaser, because I was contatcted via Twitter by a reader who had done the exact same thing when she was small that Chloe had!

Question for readers:  do you have memories from your childhood when you thought you could do something that you couldn’t?  What did you try?

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HEART OF THE EARTH with giveaway by Miriam Newman

HEART OF THE EARTH is the much anticipated follow-up to THE KING’S DAUGHTER…

BLURB:
Robbed of her husband by the arrows of assassins, Tia must flee to the Northern Prince who has always wanted her.  But the price of Hilgi’s protection is too high.  Separated from her land and her Goddess, can Tia find a way to return to them…and to a love that may redeem her?

Light flooded through the opening.  Hilgi’s tread was heavy upon the stone floor; he was a big man.  He looked just as I had seen him some months earlier.  He still wore the circlet of a Northern prince, the gold armbands of a Chieftain’s son, and his Havacian battle axe strapped to his chest.  His furious expression was the same, as well.  So he had looked the day he clove our mutual enemy King Edred of Tumagia in twain with that axe or its twin.
“What have they done to you?” he asked in Omani.  It was the only language we had in common.  But I did not care to speak on that day and I was the Queen and could do as I liked, so I kept silence.
“What have they not done to you?” he demanded again, wrenching open the drapes.  I flinched as he sank into a knee-bend beside my chair, taking my chin firmly inhis big hand and looking into my face.  “When did you last eat, Tia?  You look like death!”
I made no reply and he backhanded me.  I blinked.
“That’s the first one,” he said.  “Every time you ignore me, you’ll get another.” I was more shocked than hurt and the hot seep of rage began to fill me like water soaking through a sponge. “Bad enough I was beaten by King Edred and a slave dealer in Omana…but you?”
“That’s better.”  Tipping me forward to wrap the quilt from my bed around me, he lifted me, effortlessly.  The world spun when he changed my position and I clutched him in panic as he bore me from that chamber, pausing only to kick my chair across the room so hard I could hear the solid oak splinter like kindling.
“That was a perfectly good chair,” I objected.
“I’ll make you another.”
In the hallway, Alcinic guards were deep in conversation with some of Hilgi’s Ancient Order fighters–men feared throughout the world for their habit of cutting out their enemies’ hearts still beating.
“No crying, little Tia,” Hilgi said softly.  “If you want your men to live, be silent.”
I was weak from starvation, grief and near-madness and it took me a few moments to realize that Hilgi and his men had not come from the last fighting in Tumagia to pay honor to my dead husband.  They had come for me.
That is why the Prince of Havacia carried me like a doll into pounding surf to one of the oiled leather skiffs Havacians used for passengers.  Other craft would not attempt to come past the offshore island called Lady’s Weeping for its habit of causing wrecks, but the red and white striped sails of King Maruk’s fleet bobbed there on a fierce undertow and men took me speedily to Hilgi’s ship, the Boar’s Head.  Ships of the Ancient Order–their macabre prows carved in the shape of gods and demons–surrounded it, but only skeleton crews were aboard.  The other men who had sailed with Hilgi held my soldiers at swords’ point while their Prince absconded with me.

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Miriam is graciously offering a pdf. or Kindle copy of HEART OF THE EARTH to one lucky commenter.  Giveaway ends @12am est 3-26-12.