Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Elements of Modern Storytelling: Romance, Part 1 of 2 by Christopher Nuttall

by Stephanie Osborn

Starting today, and for the next two weeks, I'd like to welcome indie best-selling author Christopher Nuttall to Comet Tales! He sent me some wonderful stuff, enough for two whole blogs, and so I decided not to overwhelm my readers by cramming it all into one. Part One goes live this week, and Part Two, next week.

Chris is a very successful writer of indie (aka "self-published") books in the science fiction and fantasy genres. He has also written for Twilight Times Books, where I believe a book is shortly forthcoming, and Elsewhen Press. Born in Edinburgh, Scotland, he now resides in Malaysia, so contacting him is occasionally interesting!

[ALERT: The following is a very frank, straightforward discussion of historical attitudes
toward sex and marriage, which were not necessarily considered interchangeable "back in the day." This includes consideration of modern taboos and references (but not obvious descriptions) to dominant positions during sex. It is extremely enlightening, and you will learn something. But if said frankness causes offense, then this particular article is probably not for you. My younger fans may want to skip over it also, as this is probably PG-13 or slightly above. --S.O.]

Welcome, Chris!



Thoughts on a Regency Romance

The past is a foreign country, as the old saying goes.  They do things differently there.

I mean it.  It always surprises me how many people look at the past and ask, quite reasonably, why modern values weren't considered by the denizens of the past?  Why couldn't Queen Elizabeth marry when her father had six wives?  Didn’t she need to have an heir?  But if Elizabeth had married, she would have conceded a great deal of power to her husband, as both Mary Tudor and Mary Queen of Scots found out to their cost.

To us, this seems absurd.  We live in a world where a woman has held the highest elective position in Britain and Germany, while another woman made a determined run for the White House.  A married woman in the West doesn't have to give up her name, share her property  or accept her husband’s every wish as a command.  But that wasn't true, even for noblewomen and princesses.  To marry was to concede independence.

Indeed, the very idea of marrying for love would have seemed strange to our ancestors.  How selfish, they would say, for someone to marry for love!  They would have condemned emotion as a driving force, insisted that their children marry someone suitable for them, someone who could  bring much to the family.   Who would want to marry a pauper, no matter how handsome, brave and kind, when there was a chance to marry the rich town miser, even if he was a jerk?

I first came across this when I read Romeo and Juliet at school.  My first thoughts, upon concluding the play, was that both Romero and Juliet were idiots.  Why didn't they just run off together or simply tell their parents that they were married?  But, if you look at the play through the attitudes of the time, that simply wasn't an option.  Juliet was semi-betrothed to Paris, her parents had certainly not consented to her marriage to Romeo ... and, in making love to Romeo, Juliet had defiled herself forever.  It would be quite easy for Juliet’s father to assume that Romeo had set out to damage his family (and succeeded magnificently) or that Juliet had shattered her family’s honour.  Of such viewpoints are honour killings made.

It actually grows worse when you realise that, in the original play, Romeo and Juliet would have been thirteen.

But this too wasn't uncommon.  Our time points to a certain age as the division between childhood and adulthood.  Their time decreed that a girl was marriageable as soon as she started her periods, when she was capable of bearing children.  Our time would see this as paedophilia, all the worse because the girls were not required to give their consent.  For an author, depicting this can be one hell of a challenge. 

This is not the only disconnect between our world and the attitudes of the past.  The Greeks had an open and semi-tolerant attitude to homosexuality.  The Romans, on the other hand, only considered homosexuality acceptable if the Roman Citizen was doing the penetrating, rather than being penetrated.  (The suggestion that he had been deflowered by a foreign king haunted Julius Caesar for his entire life.)  Later generations raged against homosexuality, while accepting childhood marriages and relationships we would probably consider incest.  Even today, sex and relationships can take very different forms around the world.

And now I come to talk about one of my characters and her first true romance...


To Be Continued next week!

-Stephanie Osborn

Monday, May 26, 2014

Our Lives, Our Fortunes, and our Sacred Honor: Memorial Day 2014

by Stephanie Osborn

Today is a day for remembering our honored dead, and our honored living. Today is Memorial Day.

This day was first set aside after the Civil War, in memoriam for the soldiers of both sides who fell in that dreadful war of brothers.

Since that time, the United States has been involved in numerous conflicts: The Spanish-American War. World War I. World War II. The Korean War. The Vietnam War. The First Gulf War. The Second Gulf War. Bosnia. Iraq. Afghanistan. Pakistan. Somalia. And more. With each successive conflict, the fallen have been remembered on this day. 

And, like Veterans' Day later in the year, on Memorial Day we also remember and honor those who returned. 

There was a gentleman named Francis Scott Key. He was a poet. He is best remembered for penning the words that later became our National Anthem. But he wrote much more. I use his words to honor those veterans who came home alive, though not necessarily whole; and for those who have yet to come home.

When The Warrior Returns
- Francis Scott Key
When the warrior returns, from the battle afar,
To the home and the country he nobly defended,
O! Warm be the welcome to gladden his ear,
And loud be the joy that his perils are ended:
In the full tide of song let his fame roll along,
To the feast-flowing board let us gratefully throng,
Where, mixed with the olive, the laurel shall wave,
And form a bright wreath for the brows of the brave.
Columbians! A band of your brothers behold,
Who claim the reward of your hearts' warm emotion,
When your cause, when your honor, urged onward the bold,
In vain frowned the desert, in vain raged the ocean:
To a far distant shore, to the battle's wild roar,
They rushed, your fair fame and your rights to secure:
Then, mixed with the olive, the laurel shall wave,
And form a bright wreath for the brows of the brave.
In the conflict resistless, each toil they endured,
'Till their foes fled dismayed from the war's desolation:
And pale beamed the Crescent, its splendor obscured
By the light of the Star Spangled flag of our nation.
Where each radiant star gleamed a meteor of war,
And the turbaned heads bowed to its terrible glare,
Now, mixed with the olive, the laurel shall wave,
And form a bright wreath for the brows of the brave.
Our fathers, who stand on the summit of fame,
Shall exultingly hear of their sons the proud story:
How their young bosoms glow'd with the patriot flame,
How they fought, how they fell, in the blaze of their glory.
How triumphant they rode o'er the wondering flood,
And stained the blue waters with infidel blood;
How, mixed with the olive, the laurel did wave,
And formed a bright wreath for the brows of the brave.
Then welcome the warrior returned from afar,
To the home and the country he nobly defended:
Let the thanks due to valor now gladden his ear,
And loud be the joy that his perils are ended.
In the full tide of song let his fame roll along,
To the feast-flowing board let us gratefully throng,
Where, mixed with the olive, the laurel shall wave,
And form a bright wreath for the brows of the brave.
And for those who went to a far better Home, we remember, and we honor. And we hear them speak, thus:

Do Not Stand At My Grave And Weep
- Mary Frye (1932)
Do not stand at my grave and weep,
I am not there, I do not sleep.
I am in a thousand winds that blow;
I am the softly falling snow.
I am the gentle showers of rain;
I am the fields of ripening grain.
I am in the morning hush;
I am in the graceful rush.
Of beautiful birds in circling flight,
I am the starshine of the night.
I am in the flowers that bloom,
I am in a quiet room.
I am the birds that sing,
I am in each lovely thing.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there. I do not die.

On this day that, to most, marks the beginning of summer, on this day of cookouts and gatherings and baseball games and celebrations, let us not be so caught up in the celebrations that we forget those who enabled us to celebrate.

"And he will judge between the nations, and will decide concerning many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more." ~Isaiah 2:4, ASV

Amen. This can't come soon enough to suit me.

If you are a soldier, a veteran, or the family member of one who gave his or her all for this nation, for our liberties, I salute you. Stand tall this day. You have my eternal gratitude.

God bless you all.

-Stephanie Osborn

Friday, May 23, 2014

New Book by Sara Stamey!

by Stephanie Osborn

One of my Modern Storytelling authors has a new book out! Islands is a romantic suspense adventure by Sara Stamey! 

“Welcome to Paradise!” is what archeologist Susan Dunne hears on arrival on a Caribbean island to research petroglyphs and solve the mystery of her brother’s drowning. This sunny tourist paradise conceals shadowy secrets—violent native unrest, sunken treasure, and a bloodthirsty cult masquerading as Voodoo.

Despite threats, Susan literally dives into her investigation of the sunken treasure ship where John drowned. To find the truth, she must work with her number one suspect—Vic Manden, the troubled salvage expert who worked the site with John. Attracted to the unpredictable Manden, Susan is soon in over her head. 


Inspiration for Writing Islands

Since the new ebook edition of my romantic suspense novel Islands was released by Book View Café publishing this month, everyone has been asking if the free-diver on the cover is a photo of me, and I wish I could say yes. If I had pics of my underwater explorations from my time teaching scuba in the Virgin Islands and other Caribbean locations, this could have been me. In those hot, tropic days, I practically lived in the sea, and like my character John in the novel, I wished to be reborn as a dolphin.
The question raises the issue of inspiration for my stories, and place has always been a big one. I’ve traveled and lived in a number of exotic locales, and my fascination with the geography and culture of foreign places stirs my writing muse. The Islands storyline started with my journals while living in the Virgin Islands – the diving and sunken treasure angle pretty obvious, since I did some diving on wrecks and found a lovely antique perfume bottle exactly like the one my archeologist Susan Dunne inherits from her brother John.
I’ve been accused of having a “Hemingway Complex” in needing to actively explore the world in order to write about it, and my literal immersion in the tropic seas permeates the story of Islands – crucial to both the plot and the rebirth that Susan undergoes. I will probably never succeed in capturing with words the magic and mystery of gliding weightless in the shimmering clear depths among fish and coral, but I hope I give readers at least a taste of it.
After moving to St. Thomas, I started research in the island archives, and pieced together bits of actual ship logs for the “Parker Manuscript” that starts Islands. And yes, crew of ships caught in storms or pirate attacks actually did seal notes or pieces of their logs in bottles or tubes and toss them into the sea, hoping they’d be found! The story blossomed with the colonial history of the slavers and African religion as the roots of Caribbean Vaudun (Voodoo). In one of the St. Thomas “jungle towns,” as the native quarters were called by many locals, I stumbled upon a funky little hole-in-the-wall café, Le Lambi’s, pretty much like the one where James takes Susan for lunch. And there I noticed some interesting décor suggesting the owners might have connections to the Vaudun, which officially didn’t exist in the formerly Danish Caribbees.
I started hearing references to “Jumbies” (mischievous spirits) and “power spots,” and some of these seemed connected with the petroglyphs Susan is researching in the novel, so of course I checked out any sites I could find. I also delved into the local herbal lore, and while on my petroglyph hikes tried to find some of the plants used for healing and protective charms. When I learned about two very similar, shiny red seeds – “crab eyes,” a nasty poison, and “Jumbie seeds,” a protection against tricksy spirits – they ended up playing a role in the plot.
In addition to working as a scuba guide and instructor, I also did some cruising through the U.S. and British Virgin Islands as deck hand on a yacht, absorbing the larger expanse of sea and islands, and I try to impart that glorious, sensual paradise that exists beyond the frantic pace of tourism taking over some of the more developed islands. There are so many contrasts of people and place, and that tension helps drive the plot and character issues for me. Susan is a fish out of water when she first arrives in the tropics, and part of the story concerns the unraveling of her preconceptions about the native society, as well as her ideas about “reality.” A scientist and self-described “logical person” from the cool, laid-back Pacific Northwest, she’s jolted by the unexpected fast pace of the tourist town and in-your-face locals, some of whom scoff at her quest for “the truth” about her brother’s drowning as well as possible pre-Columbian contact from Africa evidenced by the petroglyphs.
As a side note on creating characters: I must admit I enjoyed basing a flamboyant  anthropologist character, rejected by academia for his radical theories, on a real-life professor I had interviewed years ago about the theories of pre-Columbian contact in the Americas. He was insufferably arrogant and scoffed at the theories that, these days, are pretty much universally accepted by scholars. Just one of those little pleasures for authors!
People have asked for a sequel, and Susan and other characters clearly have issues and further adventures to explore. I’ve started the next novel, set in southeast Mexico, Belize, and Guatemala, drawing on my travels in those areas. Happy trails and pages to you!


Novelist Sara Stamey’s journeys include treasure hunting and teaching scuba in the Caribbean and Honduras; backpacking Greece and New Zealand; operating a nuclear reactor; owning a farm in Southern Chile; and now teaching creative writing at Western Washington University. Resettled in her native Pacific Northwest, she shares a backyard wildlife refuge with a menagerie including her very tall husband Thor. Follow her blog at

You can purchase her new ebook edition of Islands on or (formats available for both Kindle and epub readers)

-Stephanie Osborn

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Archon Does Itself a Disservice by Disinviting Tim Bolgeo

by Stephanie Osborn

The Elements of Modern Storytelling series will resume next week. Meanwhile, there's something else I wanted to touch on.

See, there's been another little "kerfuffle," I guess. 

Only this one hit close to home. I watched, helpless, as a dear friend's name and reputation were dragged through the mud.

I've known Tim Bolgeo for some years now. He is often called "Uncle Timmy" in Southern SF fandom, and for a reason: he's just an absolute sweetheart that everybody knows, and everybody loves. He's a diehard SF fan, has started more conventions around the Southeastern US than I can name. He's a gruff teddy bear of a man that I hug every time I see. He is a very special friend, an advisor in my writing career, and has helped me, an older handicapped female (with Cherokee as well as Celtic antecedents) get established as an author.

Yet this same man has been called racist, misogynist, and worse, and then the invitation for him to be the Fan Guest of Honor at Archon in St. Louis was revoked, and his name and image erased from their website as if it had never been.

For more details, and the general reaction among the writing community, Jason Cordova has probably summarized it best on his blog here. (Jason is a friend and colleague also. We've been on a few panels together at conventions.)

Uncle Timmy is not some redneck unlearned hillbilly. He is a nuclear engineer who made a successful career at the Tennessee Valley Authority, working on nuclear reactors, only recently retired. He is a thinking man. He puts out a newsletter of information, jokes, and other such that he and his readers (I'm one) run across, and he discusses them, and he invites and prints discussion by his readers on that information. Sometimes this involves putting a distasteful story into the newsletter so that he can point out a fallacy. Somehow some anonymous person took a couple of these and twisted them around to make it look like Uncle Timmy believed that tripe AND AGREED WITH IT.

Nothing could be farther from the truth -- I've had any number of conversations with Timmy, and he is fair-minded, "color blind," and I have never, EVER, heard the word "bigot" used in the same sentence with his name until today. And yes, I said today. Insofar as I have been able to determine, from the original protest to the revocation of the invitation took less than 24 hrs. To say that I am dismayed and dumbfounded is a massive understatement. To say that I am disappointed in Archon's convention committee is putting it mildly.

This, combined with similar events of the last year, would indicate to me that science fiction fandom seems to be tearing itself apart. To see Uncle Timmy thus smeared demonstrates to me that there is some bizarre kind of ideological zombie apocalypse occurring. 

AND, given the fact that the same person who did this diabolical twisting has threatened to provide the same "scrutiny" to every guest in future, means that MY future may lie in staying home and writing, and not bothering with going to cons to visit my fans anymore. I really don't have the time or the energy to waste on vain attempts to disassemble some outre strawman effigy of myself that some "fans" (oh how I use that word loosely here) seem intent upon creating of all public figures, just before burning them on a pyre. Don't get me wrong; I like interacting with my fans. But if some little subset of the attendees is more interested in trying to tear down people they don't even know, and if their voices are heard more than the people who know better? Yes, it may well come to that. I already know that I have no interest in attending this Archon. I have no intention of subjecting myself to such abuse and hate.
Reputation is what other people know about you. Honor is what you know about yourself.
~~Lois McMaster Bujold, "A Civil Campaign", 1999

Don't worry, Uncle Timmy. They may have slung mud and worse at your reputation, but those of us who know you know that your honor is firmly intact.

~Stephanie Osborn

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

A Case of Spontaneous Combustion, Book 5 of the Displaced Detective Series!

By Stephanie Osborn

I am pleased to announce the release of book 5 of the Displaced Detective Series, entitled A Case of Spontaneous Combustion!

This book continues the science fiction/mystery adventures of Sherlock Holmes, who has been yanked from an alternate reality in the which he exists, into our modern day reality by Dr. Skye Chadwick, chief scientist of Project: Tesseract. Unable to return to his own place and time, Holmes is forced to adapt, learn, and grow. With Skye's help, he succeeds admirably.

But when an entire village west of London is wiped out in an apparent case of mass spontaneous combustion, Her Majesty’s Secret Service contacts The Holmes Agency to investigate. 
Once in London, Holmes looks into the horror that is now Stonegrange. His investigations take him into a dangerous undercover assignment in search of a possible terror ring, though he cannot determine how a human agency could have caused the disaster. 
Meanwhile, alone in Colorado, Skye is forced to battle raging wildfires and tame a wild mustang stallion, all while believing that her husband has abandoned her.

Who — or what — caused the horror in Stonegrange? Will Holmes find his way safely through the metaphorical minefield that is modern Middle Eastern politics? Will this predicament seriously damage — even destroy — the couple’s relationship? And can Holmes stop the terrorists before they unleash their outré weapon again?


Prologue—Changes in Routine

Stonegrange was a little old English hamlet in the County of Wiltshire in the Salisbury Plain of England, much like any other such ancient British village: a tiny central square in the midst of which crouched a hoary, venerated church, surrounded by a few small shops, and residences on the outskirts tapering off into the surrounding farmlands. On Sundays the church was full, and on Thursdays the outlying farmers brought their produce in to market. The occasional lorry carried in other supplies, and the Post Office ran every day but Sunday. So small was the village that the constable wasn’t even full time.
Still and all, it wasn’t very far from a main thoroughfare, the A338, that ran through Salisbury and on down to Bournemouth and Poole, and it wasn’t uncommon for lorry drivers to stop for a bite in the local pub, or even park their rigs in an empty lot just off the square for a good, safe night’s rest. Sometimes they even used the lot to hand off cargo from one freight company to another.
So no one thought twice when a flat-bed trailer showed up overnight in the lot, a large wooden crate lashed firmly to its middle. The locals figured it was either a hand-off, or someone’s tractor rig had broken down and been hauled off for repair, while leaving the cargo in a safe place.
* * *
Dr. Skye Chadwick-Holmes, horse trainer, detective, and one of the foremost hyperspatial physicists on the planet, answered the phone at the ranch near Florissant, Colorado.
“Holmes residence,” she murmured. “Skye speaking.”
“Hi there, Skye, Hank Jones here,” Colonel Henry Jones, head of security for Schriever Air Force Base, greeted the lady of the house from the other end of the line. “If you don’t mind, grab Holmes and then hit the speaker phone.”
“Oh, hi, Hank,” Skye replied warmly. “Good to hear from you, but I’m afraid I can’t oblige. Sherlock’s not here right now. Billy Williams called him down to the Springs to update him on some new MI-5 HazMat techniques; I completed my certification last month, but Sherlock had a nasty little cold and missed out.”
“Oh,” Jones said blankly. “Well, are YOU available?”
“Um, I guess so, for whatever that’s worth,” a hesitant Skye said. “Depends. Whatcha got?”
“Murder in the residential quarters at Peterson,” Jones noted, grim. “Suspects and victim were all Schriever personnel, though, so I get to have fun with it. Joy, joy.”
“And you could use a bit of help?”
“‘Fraid so,” Jones sighed. “As usual, I’m short-handed right now. The Pentagon never seems to get the fact that ‘Security’ means ‘document control,’ ‘police force,’ ‘guard duty,’ ‘investigation,’ and half a million other different jobs all rolled together, on a base like this.” He sighed again. “Listen, is there any chance you could meet me down there in about an hour or so, have a look around the crime scene yourself, then call your husband in when he’s available if you need to? As a favor to me? I need to get rolling on it A.S.A.P.”
“Um, okay,” Skye agreed after a moment’s thought. “Yeah, I can at least get started on it, and collect the initial data for Sherlock. Maybe even come to some basic conclusions and formulate a theory for us to work on. Gimme the address and I’ll buzz on down…”
* * *
The trailer remained where it was, off Stonegrange’s central square for two days, and still no one thought to question. After all, tractors had mechanical difficulties just like the residents’ own autos and lorries, and sometimes those difficulties took a few days to repair. So no inquiries were made. The trailer was ignored.
Until, at precisely 11:02 p.m. three nights after its arrival, the crate emitted a soft, reverberating hum. No one was near enough to hear it, however—at least, no one curious enough to bother checking it out. Exactly five minutes later, a loud zap! sounded from the box.
Stonegrange was as silent as the tomb the rest of the night.

~~~End Excerpt~~~

The official release date for A Case of Spontaneous Combustion is tomorrow, 15 May, in all ebook formats! Trade paper will be available mid-June.

If you've enjoyed reading the adventures of Sherlock and Skye as much as I've enjoyed writing them, hurry out and get your copy of their latest adventure!

-Stephanie Osborn

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Elements of Modern Storytelling: Romance, A Guest Blog by Dina von Lowencraft

By Stephanie Osborn

Today we welcome Dina von Lowencraft to the party! Dina's current book is Dragon Fire, a fantasy with plenty of mystery and suspense thrown in. (Have you noticed how many of our authors tend to cross genres? I have. And I'm one of them.) Publisher's Weekly says, "In Lowenkraft’s science fantasy novel [Dragon Fire], the Draak, alien shape-shifting dragons inhabit the Earth unbeknownst to humans, whom they regard as cattle to be exploited. Though nearly driven to extinction by war, the Draak are still consumed with old vendettas. ...Lowenkraft seasons her tale with a critique of the abusive relationships seen in popular works like the Twilight series." 

So now let's see what she has to say!



Certain themes always come back in my writing  whether I set out to write about shape-shifting dragons, cyborgs or steampunk assassins. And one of those themes is romance. So when Stephanie asked if Id be interested in writing a guest post on romance as an element in modern storytelling, I jumped on the chance!

When I first began to write, I just wrote. I didnt think about the themes I wanted to write about or even what genre I wanted to write. But after trying my hand at a few manuscripts, it became clear that the themes I write about are all YA (young adult) themes. I dont consider a book to be YA because the protagonist is a teenager, but rather because the issues (and/or the manner in which those issues are dealt) are in keeping with what young adults are going through. The late teen years are full of change and development – emotionally, physically and personally. It is a time of questioning  of personal identity, of parents, of the society at large, etc. Teenagers are constantly re-making their world, destroying one and creating another. As a young adult I loved that feeling of power, of endless possibility, of freedom. And I still do.

As young adults discover the world, they discover who they are and what they believe in. The sense of time, of perspective, of what love is, is not the same for a Young Adult (first loves, hormonal changes, endless possibilities for the future, etc.) as for a New Adult (probably once hurt and more cautious in love, about to start a job, set up their own house, focus is generally more on pragmatic questions etc.) or an Adult (either in or out of a relationship, but with responsibilities and external demands on their time, and often with a set view of the world and their place in it).

The passion of the young adult protagonist, mixed with the desire to create a better world for themselves or for others, is explosive. I love writing about characters who are forced to choose between what they have been brought up to believe and what they see elsewhere  especially if that choice means giving up something significant such as true love or their future in their community. The choice can be to stay or to change, but it always costs them something. This passion to live, to be true to oneself, to discover new aspects of oneself and others is an obvious opening to romance.

Which is perhaps why romance is often an integral part of the YA genre, even if it isnt the primary focus of the book. Think of Twilight where the story wouldnt exist without the romance between Bella and Edward versus The Hunger Games where romance is not the focus of the story, but it lurks in the background as Katniss deals with a world gone wrong and how to make it a better place. Although there are a few YA books that dont touch upon romance or sexuality, most do.

Emotions and convictions are strong for young adults, and death is so far away that they feel invincible. Everything is fresh and new  and meaningful. First love, first sexual experiences, first heart break…the power of those first relationship(s) is enormous. Whether they last or not, are pleasant or unpleasant, they are likely to color how that person sees the world thereafter. It is part of what will shape their world view, and perhaps even the view they have of themselves. This makes it an intense and powerful element of each characters plot arc. In my YA fantasy, Dragon Fire, my main protagonist, a shape-shifting dragon, falls in love with a human. This changes his view of humans, and his willingness to accept that they are expendable. Which then forces him to go against his community, jeopardizing both his own life and that of his human love interest. The story is not only about this forbidden cross-species love affair, but it is a major element of the plot and of my main characters development as a sentient being.

Although I dont write romances per se, all of my stories have romance as a major or minor plot element. Romance flows as naturally from my characters into their plots as it does in young adults everywhere as they discover who they are, what they believe in and who they want to be with.

Thank you, Stephanie, for asking me to write about this element of modern story telling that is such an integral part of my manuscripts  I have enjoyed reading everyones take on it and look forward to the next installment where another aspect of writing is discussed!

Author Bio:

Born in the US, Dina has lived on 4 continents, worked as a graphic artist for television and as a consultant in the fashion industry. Somewhere between New York and Paris she picked up an MBA and a black belt. Dina is currently the Regional Advisor for SCBWI Belgium, where she lives with her husband, two children, three horses and a cat.

Dina loves to create intricate worlds filled with conflict and passion. She builds her own myths while exploring issues of belonging, racism and the search for truth... after all, how can you find true love if you don’t know who you are and what you believe in? Dina’s key to developing characters is to figure out what they would be willing to die for. And then pushing them to that limit.

Dina is repped by the fabulous Kaylee Davis of Dee Mura Literary.


Thank YOU, Dina! This is a fascinating take on romance from the mind of a YA writer! Folks, Dragon Fire has had RAVE reviews, and it's well worth your while! Go have a look!

-Stephanie Osborn

Friday, May 2, 2014

Book Bombing Christine Amsden's New Cassie Scott Book!

by Stephanie Osborn

Today we are book-bombing Mind Games, the third book in the Cassie Scot series by Christine Amsden! What is a book bomb, you may ask? A book bomb is when fellow authors show their support for another author by providing free publicity and urging their fans to support that author by purchasing their latest book on Amazon! The idea here is that the sudden spate of purchases pushes the book higher in the rankings, which in turn will cause Amazon to make it more available and appear in their promotions, exposing it to more people, which generates more sales, which pushes it higher in the rankings, causing even more visibility, and on and on. With luck and persistence, it can become a continuous feedback loop, taking the author into the realm of best-sellers!

Christine Amsden is a fellow author at Twilight Times Books, and her new book is being released today, a fine day for a bomb! Christine has been writing fantasy and science fiction for as long as she can remember. She loves to write and it is her dream that others will be inspired by this love and by her stories. Speculative fiction is fun, magical, and imaginative but great speculative fiction is about real people defining themselves through extraordinary situations. Christine writes primarily about people and relationships, and it is in this way that she strives to make science fiction and fantasy meaningful for everyone.

Now let's hear from Christine!

The Science of Mind Magic
by Christine Amsden

The trouble with mind magic is: How do you know if someone's controlling you?

You could drive yourself crazy wondering if your thoughts are your own or the product of someone else's superior will. In the world of magic, there is something inherently sinister about the idea that one person can mess with someone else's thoughts, feelings, and desires. This is a theme I've been building from the first book in this series, Cassie Scot: ParaNormal Detective, when Edward Scot says:

“Magic itself is never black, only the uses to which it is put, but mind magic is already tinted a deep, dark gray.”

Matthew Blair, a telepathic mind mage who takes center stage in Mind Games (Cassie Scot #3), disagrees. His response to this statement is:

“Any kind of power is already tinted a deep, dark gray. Haven’t you ever heard that power corrupts?”

Of course Matthew would say that. He's a mind mage and he's actively trying to manipulate our heroine, but as with all skilled manipulators he understands the power of truth and subtlety.

Mind control is not a uniquely magical phenomenon. People try to influence us wherever we go in subtle and overt ways. When you go to the store, the packaging of the products you browse screams at you, “Pick me! Pick me!” Retailers know how to use product placement to maximum affect (as every mother who has ever taken children through a candy-filled checkout knows). Advertisers bombard you with messages that work on your mind even when you don't know it. Drug companies fill the airwaves these days with medicine most of us don't need at any given moment, but they know you'll remember when the time is right.

There are people in the real world who possess charisma – a trait I've lent a quasi-magical aspect to in my series. But you know what I mean. Some people just exude charm and grace and a little bit of “trust me.” Trendsetters. Natural leaders. Born politicians. Shapers of men and of the minds of men (and women). These people fill our minds with thoughts we embrace as our own, sometimes without our even realizing we have done so.

Before you ask – no, I'm not one of those people. I could wish, but in person I tend to be a little bit
awkward. I'm much better at expressing myself through the written word.

One of the pointless (circular) existential questions I sometimes like to ask myself is: What do I fervently believe that is simply not true? And since I am so certain of this truth, why would I ever seek to correct that impression? I don't consider myself to be a close-minded person (who does?) but I can only be open-minded when I am aware of a possible discrepancy. I must see that something in the world is inconsistent with my core beliefs. I have to get caught in a lie.

Getting back to the world of magical mind control, I often see authors going to extreme lengths when it comes to mind magic. Direct, obvious controls that the hero is just strong-willed enough to throw off because he or she has a superior... spirit? Intellect? Force of will? A little bit of all those things, I suppose.

In this story, I wanted to show how hard it would be for even a strong-willed individual to throw off competently woven mind magic. This isn't about strength at all, but skill. Matthew Blair tells Cassie
in chapter one that he is a telepath and “hears” everything she thinks. He says this to her because he senses that Cassie will be drawn to the truth, and drawn to the genuine sense of alienation he feels because of his power. Cassie has always been drawn to help people in need. Matthew knows this about her, and he uses it against her.

To beat Matthew, Cassie will have to learn things about herself that make her stronger. She is going to have to face certain truths that she has been running from for two books.

Ultimately, she has to figure out that it's happening. How can you change your mind if you don't know it needs changing?

If that's too heavy for you, feel free to enjoy this book as a fun magical mystery.

Would you want to be a telepath? Why? [Please feel free to discuss this in the comments section! ~~Steph]


The second Cassie Scot book, by the way, is Secrets and Lies.

An additional tidbit of information about Christine Amsden that never fails to impress me is this: At the age of 16, Christine was diagnosed with Stargardt’s Disease, a condition that effects the retina and causes a loss of central vision. She is now legally blind, but has not let this slow her down or get in the way of her dreams.

I cannot imagine being able to write while being legally blind! Christine is an amazing woman, a fantastic writer, and I'm proud to call her colleague and friend.

-Stephanie Osborn