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Talking With Lizzie Borden

by C.A. Verstraete

Vogue Magazine has an interesting question-answer format it does called 73 Questions where it asks celebrities questions on video, while giving a glimpse of their home. It’s an interesting exercise, so I decided to share some questions I have for a famous person, namely Lizzie Borden. (And if you’re interested, Lizzie’s home, Maplecroft, which she bought after the trial ended in 1893, is up for sale. Interior photos can be found on Google or see

Why Lizzie? Well, if you could travel back in time wouldn’t you want to know the answer to that burning question: Did She or Didn’t She? (You can read more about the crime at my website,

Ironically, when she was on trial for the murders of her father, Andrew Borden, and stepmother, Abby Durfee Borden, Lizzie was portrayed as being far from a fashion doyenne, with one newspaper even calling her “a plain old maid.” (No matter what, that had to hurt.)

There have been some new insights into Lizzie’s character published by historians at the Fall River Historical Society, but other than the few letters and the still-enduring skipping rope rhyme that Lizzie Borden took an axe, mystery still surrounds the real persona of Lizzie Borden.

So, let’s see what she might say if interviewed…

* Eight Questions for Lizzie Borden *


I used to be afraid of being alone. I’ve gone past that. I realize there are much worse things to be afraid of and that sometimes those really bad dreams can seep into real life.


I like to read, but I especially enjoy going to the theater. I would say it takes a special talent to be able to make words on a page come to life.


If I am still thinking of the theater, then I do admire the stage actress Nance O’Neil. She is a wonderful actress and also a very nice person.


I admit I haven’t been keeping up with all the news. I’ve been staying away from newspapers lately, which was hard to do. I so like to be informed. If I had to pick one thing, it might be the telephone. Amazing thing that is, and so helpful.


I think no matter what I would say, people will think what they will, rightly or wrongly. I will say I’m not the person they make me out to be.


That is an odd question. Don’t we all have something we regret?


I do enjoy sitting out on my porch in the summer. It’s pleasant hearing the birds sing and sitting quietly with the dog, a good book in hand.


My freedom.

I think that’s as many questions as I’d like to answer now, if you please. Thank you for taking the time to talk with me. – Lizzie Borden

* C.A. (Christine) Verstraete is the author of the books, Lizzie Borden, Zombie Hunter and The Haunting of Dr. Bowen. Learn more at her website, or visit her blog,

A Reader to Know

by R.R. Virdi

You readers are the lifeblood of authors, comic creators, and the literary arts overall. Understanding you and your tastes is just as paramount as understanding what we, the writers, yearn for. We want to make art, we want our voices to be heard and, we want to entertain you! It’s a trifecta. It’s not about us. We’re not ego-driven monsters.

Well…not all of us. I can’t speak for everyone. There’s always that one person somewhere, isn’t there?

But, this relationship hinges on understanding what authors can do for you, the readers. How can we make our words and spin our stories in a way that you enjoy them as we do?

This isn’t saying we’re going to change our voices and suddenly start writing what you want and what we don’t. No. But there are sweet spots. It’s true. This is a craft as much as it’s an art and a calling. There’s a science, practice, to this medium. That involves knowing you.

This isn’t aimed at getting down to the specifics of what exactly you want. It’s a piece to make you respond, to consider, and share. It’s about wanting to see how broad and diverse the readership of the world is. Some people like gripping, challenging, complex pieces that toe the lines of morality, personal issues, and push you to new limits of introspection. Some people love things that are reminiscent of the pulps: high action, fun, tropes run abound (not a bad thing if you do it right), hyper competent characters, maybe a degree (quite possibly a large one) of wish-fulfillment.

Everyone is different. Tastes vary and that’s a good thing. It creates an endlessly open market for authors of all walks of life to flourish in. But we need your help, readers. Talk to us, to me. Tell us: what do you crave?

What makes you want to keep turning the pages and invest in us?

Do you love something that may not be an action packed thriller all the time, but might make you lean back, reflect, wonder about your life and the lives of the characters? Do you want something heavier on the action and pacing, no reprieve, wonderful magic, lore, fights? Do you want some semblance of blend?

Since the advent of self-publishing, we’ve seen countless works flood the market. This is wonderful. We’re seeing the resurgence of the pulps across the SFF genres. We’re seeing people playing with things, twisting and making new genres, things never done before. So, what about you?

Where do you fall?

Do you choose by genre? If so, where do you fall? Do obsessively read everything published in those certain genres? Do you have a type you like to read: more action, less complexity, give me a fun, fast, popcorn read now! Or, do you want something that might slow, might twist and turn, explore things you’re uncertain about? Neither is wrong, and so long as you walk out happy, you’re right!

What is it about stories that keep you invested? Are you driven by fun, strong, broken, complex, or wish-fulfillment characters? Do you not care if they come out a little flat and you’re more interested in a gripping plot, a winding shocker of a maze that leaves you surprised by the turns, regardless of the character going through it? Does none of that matter and complete bore could lead you through an endlessly magical world, lush with lore and magic, an epic quest that takes you along for quite the ride? Blends of those? None of those? Are you into hard science and math? Do you need a problem in a hard sci fi, that with enough numbers and clues, you yourself could solve before the story is over? What do you need? What do you want?

Tell us.

Writing is fluid. So is language. And, believe it or not, so are tastes. What are some of yours? Comment below.

The World of The Children of Clay

by Ono Ekeh

The Children of Clay series is about a god, Queen Nouei, who is desperate for the respect of the other god in this world, Ryna. The series begins with the Queen declaring her intent to travel back in time, by reincarnating as a young woman, Bridget Blade. Her goal is to rewrite a few thousand years of history in two weeks (her time) to prevent her humiliation at the hands of the worshippers of Ryna.

The world of CoC series is very similar to ours. Queen Nouei is a god in a dystopian future, a couple of thousand years from the present. The world for much of the story, when she reincarnates, is the contemporary world. But if you look closely enough, you’ll see it is a very different world.

First, I should note that Ryna is the creator. But Nouei has done something ingenious. She has splintered Ryna’s world into millions of parallel worlds. Each world is indexed to different probability distributions. What does that mean?

In Icon of Clay, the third book of the series, Sister Kaypore explains the general idea. She asks Khzir Khan, what would be the probability of flipping a fair coin to get heads or tails. Khzir responds, “70-30”–a clue that this world is different. What this means is that if you flipped a fair coin a million times, you would get heads/tails seventy percent of the time and the other, thirty percent of the time. This is a 70-30 world. Which means the physics differs slightly from ours and the people are a little different.

The series begins with someone from the world of 100% probability index coming through to the world of zero-probabilities. I try to capture the uniqueness of the personality types of these separate worlds. The series, though moves quickly to the 70-30 world and that’s where most of the story will take place.

In terms of geography and culture, the countries are similar, there is a United States, China, France, etc. However, the history of the world is different, because in this world, there are two gods that are worshipped. At this point, Nouei/Bridget is not even on the radar as a god. Ryna is the god who’s been worshipped for millennia now, and in the past five hundred years, a new god has arisen, called Thysia. Ryna is a blood thirsty god in contrast to Thysia. So the series will see the decline of the worship of Ryna, whom the reader knows to be the actual true god.

Science and religion have no conflict in this world. In a 70-30 world, the people are more apt to be sure of themselves than not. For us, much of the conflicts between science and religion have to do with the degree to which evidence justifies belief in anything. In the world of this book, evidence functions differently. It is not necessarily a precursor to belief. So one does not need evidence to believe which means that there aren’t the sort of competing authorities claiming to be the source of knowledge.

The science and technology in this world is comparable to ours. In Books 4, 5, and 6, which are all partially written, we’ll see some significant technological differences, especially with autonomous vehicles and the infrastructure for such in place. The mathematics and physics differ from ours. I don’t address the physics much, but in Book 4, I hope to talk about the mathematics of the world a little more.

The series in the later books will move far into the future and there I’ll have to figure out how to create a highly sophisticated technological world in a dystopian context with its limited resources.

So this is the world of The Children of Clay series. I hope you’ve found it interesting.

Author Interview: LC Champlin

What genre do you write?

I like a lot of genres, so I tend to blend them when I write. My current book series is sci-fi, action-adventure, dystopian, thriller. There are creatures like zombies in it, but they’re not really zombies in the classical sense, so while I classify it as zombie fiction, it’s not your average hack- and-slash zombie series. The thriller-genre elements like the ticking clock and the web of intrigue surrounding the outbreak make the story appealing to more than just zombie fans.

Is dystopian and zombie apocalypse (zompoc) really sci-fi?

That depends. I think it’s subjective, but if you focus more on the science end rather than just gore and scary zombie attacks, it falls into sci-fi rather than horror.

Why do you write?

Well it’s certainly not to pay the bills! The series I’m writing now, I’m writing because I had a story I wanted to tell. It’s not going to appeal to everyone, and that’s fine. I think as a writer, there are primarily two reasons to write. One is you are trying to write the next hit. Two is that you’re writing a story you would like to hear and would like other people to hear.

When I write, I can make worlds how I like. Of course, it’s easier to base the story’s world in reality, the present day, and America, since that’s what I’m familiar with. As a writer, I have full control of what my worlds do. I just don’t have full control of what my characters do!

That’s another good reason to write: to see what your characters will do, how they’ll react in situations, and who they will become. I don’t know many authors who have a story and characters planned out from the get-go, then follow that plan to the letter. Even if they do, it’s after the plot outline went through a lot of evolution. When I write, it’s almost like I’m reading someone else’s book. Except I’m the one in charge of making sure everything makes sense, so I can’t take the easy way out and read the end!

What genres do you read?

I used to read primarily fantasy. But somewhere along the way, probably around when I was in college and didn’t have time to read anything but textbooks, I lost a lot of interest in the sword and sorcery genre. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I still love the classics, such as Dragonlance and Lord of the Ring, but I prefer sci-fi. While I will read some “space sci-fi” from time to time if the characters are the source of the plot (“space opera”), rather than the tech (“hard sci-fi”), it’s not my real love. I like stories set on Earth, preferably close to the present day. It’s interesting to see how the world could be different, even in small ways. I like dystopian sci-fi as well. It shows where the world could go if left to the dark side. Then again, what we call dystopian, most of the world calls every-day life.

How likely is it that the zombie apocalypse could happen?

Depends what you mean! If you mean walking dead — as in animated corpses, not the series — then not likely. Scientifically it would be difficult to have a corpse behave in the way zombies do. While you can make muscles contract with electrical stimulation, they won’t do so indefinitely. But if you mean is there technology or organisms or medications out there that could turn people into a zombie, of course. Illicit substances already do it, just look at drugs such as Flakka. Certain brain injuries can reduce people to zombie-like behavior. And I have no doubt that at some point, scientists will invent a device that can control how the brain operates.


Writer, traveler, adventurer, prepper. Lover of all things Geek and Dark. INTJ. I write the Wolves of the Apocalypse series.

I write fiction because the characters in my head have too much attitude to stay in my skull, I want to see the world through different eyes, and I want to live life through different souls.

Reading Science Fiction and Fantasy Makes Your Kids Smarter

by J. Philip Horne

Do you want your children to expand their vocabulary and, more importantly, learn to continue to expand their vocabulary in the normal course of life more rapidly? Give them science fiction and fantasy novels to read. Science fiction and fantasy novels overtly place demands on readers that are implicit and beneficial in all literature: namely, the skill of learning word meanings from context.

Children reading a novel set in a familiar time and place may gloss over words they don’t understand because the general setting and flow of the story isn’t compromised. The story, even the specific sentence, still makes sense to them, or makes enough sense, even if they don’t know the meaning of a particular adjective or even verb. The story remains enjoyable and engaging despite words passing by, unknown. Though they will still benefit from the gradual expansion of their vocabulary, they won’t necessarily be overtly challenged to wrestle with the context to find the meaning.

Science fiction and fantasy novels are in your face. They focus on strange new settings and employ vocabulary that is often new or even made-up. If the reader is unwilling to puzzle out the meaning of words from their context, the story will simply drag to a halt and the enjoyment of the story will evaporate. Young readers want to enjoy books and will find their natural curiosity pushing them to decipher these strange or made-up words.

Like any skill, the ability to learn word meaning from context improves with practice. In my experience, the overt practice of this skill forced on readers by science fiction and fantasy translates into an improved passive ability to harvest new vocabulary from other literature. The child practices the skill on behalf of their enjoyment of the The Hobbit, and goes on to more effortlessly expand their vocabulary when reading Where the Red Fern Grows.

You can find endless, helpful lists online of great SFF books for kids. Probably the most important series to me as a child was the Chronicles of Narnia. The seven books in the series get sorted in two different orders based on publication date and the chronology of the stories themselves. I strongly recommend starting with The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. From there, either order will work.

Beyond that, I read voraciously from authors such as J.R.R. Tolkien (have you heard of him?), David Eddings, Terry Brooks, Robert Heinlein, and others. As I’ve read books along with my own children, I’ve come to love J.K. Rowling (you may have heard of her as well), Eoin Colfer, Margaret Peterson Haddix, and many more.

The goal is not to convince your child to read so that they improve their vocabulary. Rather, help them find books they love, and the process, particularly with science fiction and fantasy novels, will happen organically. Good luck!

You can check out J. Philip Horne’s books here.




Aurora’s Tips for Naming Characters in Science Fiction Stories

by Aurora Springer

Starship Vista SP3 by Veronica Electronica

Some of the tips are recommended to make your writing more accessible to readers and apply to all genres, while others give suggestions for inventing names for characters from other worlds.

Tip 1: The names of main characters should be easy to pronounce in English. This suggestion will make your stories easier for readers to follow. An exception might be when you want to emphasize an alien’s differences from normal humans. For example, txolixi or 2xnl.

Tip 2: The main characters should have names look and sound distinct. Avoid using names like Sam and Sal, especially for a romantically involved couple. Again, following this tip will improve the readability of your story. An exception might be when you have a set of clones with similar names, or twins where you wish to confuse their identities. I prefer to indicate gender with the name, unless the character has a reason for an ambiguous name. Is Samantha called Sam because she is a feisty independent female? Does Salvatore hate Dali and prefer to be called Sal?

Tip 3: Alien names ought to look and sound unusual. When the aliens have two sexes, I prefer to use names with feminine or masculine sounds or endings, like Suzzaine (female) or Radekis (male) in my series Atrapako on Eden. You can use a similar designation for aliens from the same world or culture. The Zarnoths in my Secret Supers Series have names beginning with hard consonants, like the villains, Rigel Zentor, Croaker and the ambassador Zharkor. Names can reflect societal differences. Clones might be designated by numbers. Some siblings in my hive society of A Tale of Two Colonies are named Flower-one, Flower-two, etc.

Tip 4:
Names can be cues to the personality of characters or describe key features. For example, the Zarnoth assassin in my Secret Supers Series is called Karockis or Croaker. The giant planetoid in the Grand Masters’ Galaxy is called Amarylla after the flower. Amarylla is a pink, flower-shaped alien female. Names can add comic effects, like the villain, Mr. Sunshine, in Super Starrella.

Tip 5: You can use names derived from different countries or cultures to indicate diversity. You can find lists on the internet. I use names to suggest a multicultural society. For example, Lira Tong and Srinivasan are two friends of the heroine, Violet Hunter, in the Grand Masters’ Galaxy, and Veena Chandra is a friend of Estelle Wright, the heroine the Secret Supers Series.

Tip 6: You can create unusual names by modifying names of characters or places in real life or from other books. For example, I took the name Athos from the Three Musketeers, and adapted it into Athanor for the Griffin Grand Master.

Tip 7: Ask your readers to suggest names.

Tip 8: Keep a list of names you like or you think would make interesting characters.

You can find a list of Aurora’s books here.