Guest Post I’ve Done:
Hello everyone! I am so honored to be able to give back to “Enchanted Book Promotions,” the book tour group that sponsored and set-up my “New Beginnings,” blog tour last year, but by being a tour host for them now! ^_^ And what an amazing way to start this journey! As you know, I have always had a connection to the stars, between my love of the night sky and obsession to my first anime/manga, Cardcaptor Sakura, and my beloved Sailor Moon. In fact, many of you know this simply by the fact that the main character in my book series, “Spirit Vision,” is named Stary Moon. Conscience? I think not!
Today, I have a treat for all my star-gazers and dreamers: a guest post and excerpt from Mr. Reuben Miles’ work: “The Boy Who Spoke to Stars.” In this guest post, he explains to us how stars influenced not only his YA book, but his life. Take it away, sir!
P.S. His last name is my brother’s first name: it’s fate! =D
There’s this place I like to go with my closest friends. It’s miles away from any town or city, where the air is fresh and the night sky is the deepest, darkest black. I’ve been going there since I was a little kid. We wait for the sun to go down and build up a fire, and just sit and gaze on the stars. Even from a young age I was staggered by the enormity of it. Impossible distances. Impossible possibilities floating above my head. We would make up stories about all the things that might be happening.
My favourite thing about science is how freely it admits to not knowing everything. I’ve always been suspicious of anything that claims to know the absolute truth. There is still so much we don’t understand about the universe, about galaxies, about stars. Why pretend we have all the answers? If we had all the answers, we’d just stop asking questions. Imagine how boring that would be. Some people say ignorance is dangerous because it’s a fertile ground for mistakes to grow in. I think that depends entirely on what you plant in the soil.
In The Boy Who Spoke to Stars I try to fill some gaps in our current knowledge with imagination. That’s where I think the best stories come from – they attempt to explain things we don’t yet fully understand. We learn a little bit about what stars are in Kasper’s world, but there’s much more to say as the story unfolds. There’s a quote from one of my favourite authors, Paolo Coelho that puts it better than I ever could:
‘Forget everything you’ve ever learned about the stars and they’ll once more be transformed into angels, or into children, or into whatever you want to believe at that moment. It won’t make you more stupid – after all, it’s only a game.’
Excerpt from “The Boy Who Spoke to Stars.”
It felt like a good dream turning sour. Kasper stood in the field at the back of Malt Wood, blinking. Something wasn’t right. The grass was knee-high, and motes of pollen spun in the evening light. Pine and larch edged the meadow along the north side. Their roots and trunks were blue with shade. The low sun cast a long shadow off a distant sycamore, its boughs groaning like cellos as they swung in the breeze, calling sorry warnings.
… And a gloom roamed underneath the larches, drumming on a carpet of dead pine needles.
Thud, thud, thud.
Like a tiger’s purr.
And Kasper knew it wanted him. The darkness wanted him. It always did.
About the Book:
Author: Reuben Miles
Genre: YA Urban Fantasy
Book 1 of The Astral Strings Series
Secrets. Forgiveness. Death.
Nothing has been right in Kasper’s life for quite some time. Then the eclipse comes, and his father is stolen away. When the police arrive, instead of trying to help, they drag off his mother too. Down at the station later, the desk sergeant claims to know nothing about Kasper’s mum, and insists that the detective who arrested her doesn’t exist.
Loki, Kasper’s cousin, is the only one who really understands him. Her parents promise to keep him safe until his mum and dad return, but soon they are gone as well. There’s no-one for Kasper and Loki to turn to – except Tenrō, a dangerous older boy who knows more than he should, and claims to be a star…
As they set off into the night, they have no way of knowing what they will have to face. The secrets they are about to uncover will change their lives. Their actions will seal the fates of every living thing in the universe.
Somewhere in the dark, the truth is waiting. And the stars are watching.
About the Author:
Reuben Miles grew up in London until his parents decided that they needed fresher air. They bundled themselves up and drove to Devon, which is in the South West of UK. He spent the rest of his childhood climbing trees and telling stories and writing music in a tumbledown cottage with friends.
Reuben studied Artificial Intelligence and Psychology in Bristol, followed by a degree in Music and Engineering. In 2008 he moved to Brighton to play in a band. When it became clear that no one really wanted to listen to their music, he started working for Children’s Centres and writing stories instead.
Reuben is a dog person. He thinks that if you prefer cats there is probably something very wrong with you. Possibly the cat has brainwashed you, in which case it’s not really your fault, but you should seek help all the same.
Ghostwood Books: http://gwdbooks.com/books/the-boy-who-spoke-to-stars/
Reuben Miles’ website: http://www.reubenmiles.com/
Click on the banner for a list of all the previous tour spots:
It gives me great pleasure to introduce my very special guest, my Paper Crane press mate, the amazing Mrs. Holly Barbo! Enjoy her insight on steampunk and how it influenced her latest novel, “Sunstone.”
Geared for Steampunk
Hi everyone. Morgan asked me here today to discuss what is Steampunk and why I chose to write a book in this genre. Hmmm.
There are delightful aspects of steampunk that draws interest. If you are into cosplay nothing beats a fantastic steampunk outfit: Corsets, brass goggles, top hats or newsy caps, pocket watches and fascinating sci-fi level gadgets. A blend between the Victorian steam-powered world and advanced machines. Wow what a combination!
There was the Wild Wild West series and decades later a movie with the same name. Both fit the above description but when I began reading steampunk, I realized it really is poorly or loosely defined. Some were labeled steampunk but had little of the four core elements. So today I’m going to take a crack at defining it for you.
Let’s start with the fact that the world has to run on steam: cars, dirigibles, trains, factories all steam powered. That places the general era as sometime from 1870 to 1915, roughly, if the story takes place on Earth though it’s really an alternate timeline or history. It fits as a sub-genre of science fiction or science fantasy so it can take place on another world as long as all other characteristics are correct.
Elements of that time period set the society in an early industrial frame complete with the tug of the problems that era had. It was gritty with old social standards yet going against convention (which is the PUNK in the title).
The era had the very rich and the very poor. Factories were becoming the main working situation but regulations were not necessarily in place. It was free-wheeling and fanciful yet at the same time outlandish, dangerous and possibly grotesque. Sometimes the change is handled through the players of the story. Kick-ass heroines step out of the Victorian norm to be cutting edge, society changing characters. Other times the culture itself is on a pivotal point of transformation.
The birth of the change between the old and the emerging new opens up with the fantasy inventions that are liberally sprinkled in the stories. Steampunk could be seen as Victorian science fiction. Believe me, that’s a fascinating part of it’s charm!
Steampunk has the romance of that bygone time yet has incredible, futuristic inventions and mechanicals that run with gears, clockworks, primitive computers and pressure plates. It can have robotics from household helpers to war machines and these inventions are woven into the life and story line.
A FANTASY MIX?
There can be magic (shades of Harry Potter) or can have elements of Sherlock Holmes. Fantasy creatures can be present as can elements of the occult but these are secondary to the above core elements: steam, change and fantastic mechanicals.
As to the question of why I chose to write Sunstone in this genre? Well, it was a matter of changing gears. I’d just completed a five book sci-fantasy series on a low-tech bucolic world called Ose. It was a good series but the setting had limitations built in and I wanted to explore topics that couldn’t happen there. I looked at steampunk as well as futuristic sci-fi. In the course of my research I was intrigued with the possibility of steampunk even though I found several books labeled as that genre which didn’t fit… so I dug deeper. I decided my story would fit the above four points and began to write.
The steam power and inventive clockwork mechanicals enhanced the story without overpowering it. After all it is the way of life on Myrn not the prominent driving force of the story. Being an eco-aware person I built a world that had an abundance of geothermal vents so the steam power is cleaner than our gritty early industrial time but that was the only concession I made. Still vapor filled the air above factories and aether lamps were set on every street corner. The characters struggled with some bad situations that came with the times but did so with touches of fantasy and creative mechanicals while wearing victorian style clothing. What’s not to love about that?
I hope that helps. I’d love to hear your input as it is a fascinating genre. Go forth and read Steampunk! 😀
Living where the scenery is incredible with a rich abundance of wildlife “is so special and soothing that it feels like a quiet kind of magic,” according to Barbo. She is drawn to creating stories where there is just a bit of something unworldly, perhaps it is magic or psychic skills. Her stories are mostly in non-urban settings and usually have some focus on nature, building a discordant drama inside the peaceful frame.
A steampunk thriller
Before there was a history, the sun goddess Navora visited a moon within her realm that held primitive ocean life. She dipped her staff of power into the primordial sea and stirred. Pleased with what she had wrought, she departed, not at all troubled that a divine spark had touched two small dying sea creatures.
As centuries pass, life on the moon develops into a geothermal steam-powered industrial age. A triumvirate of politicians, banks and corporations bring strain and suffering to the masses they rule over. Unbeknownst to the people of the moon, there may be help. With the gears of time evermoving and trouble spiraling to a crisis point, can three individuals and a handful of fossils prevent a violent revolution?
Hola peeps! Que pasa?! I hope everyone is having a magical day. Speaking of magical…I think it describes my special guest to a T. I first met Ms. Jennifer Sights at Cosplacon in July 2014. She and her special someone (^_^) were selling copies of her book at a table in the Vender’s room. I was drawn to it because I saw Samurai Dan talking to her a few hours before and my mind was jumbled in an amazed and fearful mess that I was so close to another real author and how I felt so unworthy. I introduced myself, timid, but her fella was so bright and supportive of her that I was able to talk freely before Jennifer arrived at her table. We chatted lightly and she just SCREAMED cool! Her attire, her hair, her smile, her manners…she truly was a sight and I felt like a child in comparison dressed as Sailor V or in a Sushi shirt with Glecon ears. I was nervous, honestly, that I would not be up to par with her during the writing panel I had with Dan that Saturday, where Jennifer was our special guest. She was so kind and through it, I had a lot of fun. ^.^ It was nice to have another female to tag-team the comical Dan Coglan with! Jennifer has been so sweet to be since, answering my nagging author questions and agreeing do this guest post for me along with more in the future. To be so successful as a self-published writer is incredible and her fans truly adore her. I hope one day, I can be as cool, refreshing, and inspirational to others as she is to me (plus, her Disney inspired outfits are DARLING). Enough gushing! Truly, she is an amazing author and I recommend her works (I purchased “Divided” at the con and she was grand and signed it). Now, on to the wise words of Ms. Jennifer Sights!
Hey everyone! I want to thank Morgan for sharing her blog space with me today! I met her this summer at Cosplacon and sat on a panel with her, and am so happy to be partnering with her again! If you don’t know me, I’m Jennifer Sights. I’ve published 3 novels and am working on my fourth.
Dealing with Doubt.
I’ve learned a lot about writing and publishing over the years, and today I want to talk about perhaps the most dangerous part of the writing process there is – doubt.
Doubt can kill any project if you let it. It’s almost killed 2 of mine. I almost didn’t get my writing career started because of doubt – I don’t even know how many rounds of editing I put Divided through before I finally said “Enough! It’s time to let this book out into the world!” But once I made that decision, the rest of the publishing process was fairly easy. The entire process for Ravaged was also fairly easy. (As easy as writing can ever be, anyway.) So when I started writing Burning Darkness, I was surprised at what a huge struggle it was. I first had the idea for the story over 5 years ago. I was listening to the song “Perfect Surface” by Sinfinis. The first line of the song is, “I don’t want to wake up.” It was one of those stories that hit me hard and in living color. I could SEE it – a girl wakes up, trapped in an abandoned insane asylum, strapped to the hospital bed. She has no idea why she’s there, and there’s no one who can tell her what’s going on. She first has to figure out how to escape, and then try to discover who left her there and why. I’ve been fascinated by the mental health system and its history for ages. I immersed myself in books and movies – both nonfiction and horror – to set my mental mood for writing this story. It percolated in my brain for a few years, but I knew it had to come out. I finally set about writing it for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) in 2010. It was a colossal failure. Aside from the research I’d done, I didn’t do any planning for the story itself. I had no idea what the plot really was, just the premise. It quickly derailed and turned into something that will never, ever see the light of day. At 30,000 words in, I gave up. This story still needed to be written. It sat in the back of my head for a few more years, and I decided to give it another go for NaNoWriMo 2012. This time I planned the story. I made a loose outline so I knew the beginning, middle, and end. I created a playlist of the creepiest music I could find (Mothman Prophecies and Silent Hill soundtracks mostly.) I was ready. That planning paid off. By the end of November I had a rough draft of a story that, while it needed a LOT of work, I didn’t hate. But by this point, I was deep into preparing Divided for publication, so it once again got set aside. Another year went by before it was time for Burning Darkness to make its way into the world. I created a schedule for every phase it needed to go through to reach publication. I edited it a couple times then sent it to beta readers. This is when doubt began to creep in. It wasn’t “psychological” enough. It wasn’t “thriller” enough. It was a good story, but was it scary? I didn’t think so. And I was aiming for a story that would get into your head and make you peer around corners before proceeding at night. I continued on with my preparation, but all the while kept looking for ways to make it creepier. I came up blank. My story consultant gave some great feedback, but provided no suggestions on how to intensify the atmosphere of the story. As the publication date neared, I doubted the quality of the book more and more. I was terrified it was going to be a flop. I envisioned getting loads of 1 star reviews from people calling me a fraud and saying the book was nowhere near the “psychological” or “thriller” as I claimed it to be. I almost didn’t publish Burning Darkness. But I forced myself to move ahead. I’d banged my head against the keyboard searching for ideas to make it better, and still came up empty. Maybe I should just get it out there and be done with the story once and for all, and let the reviews come, no matter how bad they might be. It’s natural for authors to have at a flop once in a while, right? I sent the manuscript to my dad, who owns a Kindle Fire, and asked him to load it up and tell me if the formatting looked right. That’s all I wanted, but he proceeded to read the story and give me feedback. “It reminds me of Stephen King. Is that what you were going for?” YES! Yes it was! Finally, my doubt started to ease. Just a little. Because it’s my dad – he’s kind of biased, I think. But still, that was some of the best praise I could hope for, biased or not. So I let Burning Darkness out into the world. The reviews started coming in. And guess what? They were all great! Burning Darkness was, in fact, both “psychological” enough and “thriller” enough. Powering through the doubt, ignoring it, and telling it to bugger off had proved to be the right approach. Here’s my favorite review so far: I REALLY DON’T KNOW HOW TO RATE THIS BOOK BECAUSE IT SCARED TO SH– OUT OF ME IT IS SO MIND BENDING AND DARK. IF YOU LIKE THIS TYPE OF THING THIS IS YOUR BOOK AND ENJOY BEING SCARED EVEN AFTER YOU’VE FINISHED BECAUSE IT STAYS WITH YOU AND HAUNTS YOU. Yes, Burning Darkness had turned out exactly how I’d envisioned it.
Jennifer Sights is the author of the Elena Ronen, Private Investigator series and the psychological thriller Burning Darkness. She is also a writing coach at www.DominateYourDream.com. She has been writing since she was a kid, but veered off track for college and a more traditional office job. Thanks to National Novel Writing Month, she has found her way back to her true love of writing, and losing herself for hours at a time working on various stories.
Jennifer lives in St. Louis, MO, with her black lab mix, Tiberius. When she isn’t writing or reading she loves riding her motorcycle, learning about the mysterious side of our world, going to concerts, and traveling. She loves to hear from readers. You can find her at www.JenniferSights.com.
Cowabunga dudes and lady dudes! 🙂 Morgan here! I apologize for the absence; I started teaching College for Kids two weeks ago and I have one more full week of classes. It’s been enjoyable, but between that and deadlines for the press (AKA writing mostly), my time has been limited. After College for Kids is over next week, I will update the site, most likely Saturday or Sunday. Likely for me, my dear friend, fellow writer, mother, Missourian, and my April Aspiring Author Spotlight, Mrs. Casey Blumenstock, is here to entertain and education you guys on what gets her writing juices to flow in the form of music. Without further ado and a wave until next week, I want to give the floor and mic, so to speak, to the lovely Mrs. Casey Blumenstock and her guest post! =)
Music and Writing
By: Casey Blumenstock
Every writer has a different method to their madness. Their particular writing process is what makes their work unique, and what works for one writer may not work for another. I’ve spent countless hours scouring the internet for tips on how to better my writing process. How can I better organize my current work? How can I plan and outline more efficiently? What word processor works best for a writer? These are all questions that I’ve researched and found great responses to. I’ve found ways to improve my organization by using Scrivener and I’ve also learned how to phase my outlines for optimal productivity. The one thing that can’t be taught, however, is how to connect with your imagination and how to ignite your creativity. Sure, there are tips out there like meditation, yoga, solitary walks, but none of these things ever worked for me personally; and chances are, if you’re not someone accustomed to those types of activities, they won’t work for you either. So, what does work for me? The one constant throughout my entire life has been music. It’s only natural that my constant while I’m brainstorming and plotting would be music, too. 90% of the time, a single song will invoke an idea. (This is why it’s imperative as a writer to carry something to take down notes! I use the Evernote app for both my iPhone and my computer.) From that idea, I’m able to branch out and come up with my key plot points, all while listening to that one, single song. Once I’ve gotten my bare-bones plot written down, I begin to attribute certain songs to certain key events in my plot. Sometimes even two or three songs help me flesh out a particular scene. I choose my music based on the lyrics for similarity and meaning, tempo to set the pace of the scene, and the emotions that the song invokes while I’m listening to it so that I can convey those emotions to my characters. My stories play out in my head like a movie and every movie needs a soundtrack. That’s why I keep a playlist with every song used during the writing process. In a separate file, (for me a separate note in Scrivener) I also keep a running list of specific lyrics that apply to what I’m writing. After the lyrics I describe why they spoke to me and what character/scene/metaphor it applies to. I then make a note brainstorming on how I can subtly incorporate the message of those lyrics into my writing. My current work in progress is about a dystopian American government set in the near future. The genre of music that seems to ignite me and make my brain race with this plot is alternative rock and some metal. This playlist is in your face, fast-paced, take no prisoners and fight, which is how the plot is written. I use Spotify as my music hub. The great thing about Spotify is that if you find a song that works with what you’re writing, they have the Radio feature that will play similar songs! I’ve discovered so much great music by using that feature and have gotten myself out of many writing blocks by using it. If you’d like to check out my Spotify playlist, it’s here: http://open.spotify.com/user/1226576403/playlist/3JaJa4NrHoLEZQqQ37w8S6 (And yes, my playlist is titled #AmWriting. If you’re not using that Twitter hashtag to promote yourself as a writer, I suggest you start! It’s a great networking tool that’s completely free.) So, if you’re still trying to track down your muse, try my method of blaring headphones. If it works for you, let me know! If not, keep searching! Every writer has one, go find yours! And when your creative juices start flowing, don’t waste the moment. Get everything on paper; even if it sounds stupid at the time, write it down! You never know when it will mean something later on.
Bio for Casey:
I’m 26 years old and I’ve lived in Missouri my entire life; born and raised in Park Hills, but currently I reside way out in the boonies of Farmington. I’ve been married to my police officer husband for almost 6 years and together we have 2 ornery little girls with another little one on the way. Being a mom and a writer are my full-time jobs, but I do work part-time as a 911 dispatcher and attend school part-time earning a bachelor’s degree in English. I love to read and listen to music. You’ll rarely find me without my headphones attached to my head.
Please welcome my very special guest, Ms. Emily Wenstorm, from her blog Creative Juicer! 😀 Emily is here to teach us more about the transformation of vampires from the Lord of the Night himself, Dracula, to the perfectly boyfriend, Edward Cullen! Read her amazing guest post below!
Vampires from Dracula to the Cullens
As a fantasy writer, I love monsters. Why write about reality when absolutely anything is possible on a blank page? So I pay a lot of attention to them in pop culture. You may have heard: vampires are in. But we’ve come a long way since Dracula. Dracula was, of course, the most famous classic vampire. Known for his isolated castle and predatory behaviors toward women who he preys on, kills, and then turns into vampires, too. But Dracula was hardly the first of his kind. Various myths about vampires as far back as ancient history, including the Egyptians, Chinese, and much more. The vampire myth rose in Europe in the Middle Ages, in large part due to a combination of superstition and lack of understanding about the decomposition process. Vampires were a common scapegoat for unexplained bad occurrences. When graves were dug up to investigate, natural symptoms of decomposition sometimes looked like signs of vampirism—for example, a body in a sealed coffin buried in winter will not decompose as quickly, and decomposition of the intestines can force blood into the mouth. Gross? Yes, fine, it’s gross. Gross and awesome. Altogether, vampires’ reputation, at least through Europe, was traditionally of a charismatic, sneaky and predatory creature that spread bad fortune, and in many cases, death. From this came the tradition of staking a vampire to its grave. Originally, the idea was not necessarily that a wooden stake could kill a vampire, but that it would pin the vampire to down so that it could not rise and execute its evil deeds. Other such efforts to stop vampires included decapitating the corpse and burying it face-down, and stuffing the mouth with garlic or bricks. However, Anne Rice introduced a new kind of vampire in her 1976 novel Interview with a Vampire—a sympathetic one. Rice’s antihero, a sensual and charismatic aristocrat, was a vampire for whom his immortality had become a curse. The vampire was not inhuman but rather had superhuman abilities. From this new mold stemmed a myriad of more modern-day vampire models. Joss Whedon turned the myth on its head—in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, a teen girl is bestowed with the power to hunt and kill vampires instead of the other way around (except for a “good” few who have souls—likely the first time a vampire was considered boyfriend material). Then of course there’s True Blood, where vampires are extremely strong, predatory sexual beasts—not a far cry from the classic myth, except that they don’t have to be predators anymore now that a synthetic blood is available for them to eat instead of humans. Now, like any human, they can choose to be good or bad, but with more power and stronger lusts. And at the extreme end of the spectrum, we have the vampires of the Twilight series. These vampires don’t burn in sunlight, they sparkle. And they may have super abilities and some of the natural feral tendencies of their predecessors, but it seems they can be tempered with practice and refraining from consuming human blood. And, of course, they make the most courteous, most romantic boyfriends. Of course, even Edward Cullen had a dark streak: sneaking into Bella’s room to watch her sleep and making it so her car won’t start to “protect” her have landed him in the creeper category for many who are not so hot on Stephanie Meyer’s twist to the vampire myth. These are only a few of the most popular examples of vampires through the history of pop culture. The new fall 2013 TV show Dracula, the classic character is remade in a steampunk that explores the tension between the mystic and the rise of science. In the comic book The New Deadwardians, a post-Victorian upper class voluntarily turns vamp to avoid pursuit from a lower class whose all become zombies. All in all, vampires have come a long way over the ages. Today they seem more an enticing adventure for those brave enough to seek it. For Bella in Twilight, turning into a vampire is a way for her to embrace her full power. But true to their origins, vampires also still give us a way to look at some of humanity’s ugly side—predatory, animalistic behaviors, and our own inescapable dark side … and the thirst to explore it.
Fun bonus fact—The classic symptom of vampirism can also be found in a handful of real human diseases. Rabies, for example, triggers an impulse to bite other people, as well as damages the nervous system in a way that can lead to oversensitivity to sunlight and other stimuli such as mirrors.
About the Author:
Lit addict, movie geek, writer. Emily Wenstrom is a public relations professional who blog about creativity in art and work at Creative Juicer and runs the short story zine wordhaus. In her alleged free time, she writes fantasy fiction.