How Location Creates Stories (Venice)

by A.L. Knorr

The Entrance to the Grand Canal, Venice (1730)
by Canaletto


I moved to Italy (by accident, but that’s a story for another time) in June of 2015, and since then, one of the things people at home are most curious about is what it’s like to live and work there. When I first arrived, I had stars in my eyes, just like anyone who steps into the Italian life for a short time. The Italy in the imagination of someone who has never been there is an Italy of fantastic works of art, thousand-year-old churches, fine cheese and wine, and villas built into cliff faces over teal seas. That is all true. Whatever your taste, Italy can meet expectations. But after a time you begin to notice other, not so obvious, traits of the culture which could easily feed the appetite of an author looking to create conflict and tie in elements of the supernatural and fantastical. Italy is rife with conflict, danger, corruption, not to mention a rich history of unexplained and paranormal events. Rich ground for a storyteller.

Specifically, it was living in Venice for 8 months that yanked the rip-cord on my creativity and led to a work called Born of Fire. The story is a fantasy about a young woman who goes through an intense and dangerous elemental transformation. I had the idea for the story for a while, but the setting for it didn’t materialize until I spent time walking the canals and islands of Venezia. At first, I rejected the idea of setting it in Venice, after all, it is a city built on water, how could I possibly tie it into the element of fire? But as I toured the Palace of the Doge, visited underground prison cells, the bridge of sighs, and walked the uneven marble floors of the basilica and saw the true cost of building on top of a lagoon, I learned that Venice had a torrential relationship with fire and many boroughs had been completely destroyed by it. I was surprised by this, the city appears not only to be surrounded by water but to be made of stone, which doesn’t burn easily.

In actuality, the stone faces of the beautiful architecture in Venice are a facade. Underneath is brick, which is lighter and keeps the building from sinking but is also much more flammable. There were so many deadly fires that by the mid-sixteenth century, the Venetian government moved all of the glass-blowers along with their dangerous ovens north to the island of Murano. I suddenly had a relationship between fire and Venice. A setting for Born of Fire had been found and with the selection of a setting, so much of the story just fell together. I hope that, in addition to enjoying a fantasy story about a girl who finds herself in desperate need to take control of the fire raging inside her, readers who have never visited Venice will also feel like they’ve been transported to one of the most unique cities in the world.


You can check out A.L. Knorr’s books here.

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Why Time Travel Is So Much Fun

by Paul Levinson


Time travel is my favorite kind of science fiction – precisely because it’s almost certainly impossible. And because it’s so likely impossible, seeing how time travel stories can work, can make sense, is a special kind of fun.

Why is time travel impossible?

Well, if you travel to the past to change whatever event, and you succeed, how would you have had knowledge about the event you went back to change in the first place? This is often called the grandfather paradox – if you go back in time and accidentally kill your grandfather, then you wouldn’t have been born, so how could you have gone back in time in the first place – but there’s no need to kill anyone in your family for this paradox to be upon you, the time traveler. Anything you do, when you travel back in time, that invalidates the reasons or necessary ingredients for the trip, would trigger the paradox.

There are lots of ways out of this, such as the multiple words interpretation, which works like this: Time traveler 1 (TT1) from World 1 travels back in time, and accidentally prevents either set of grandparents from meeting. So TT1 is never born. And in that world – call it World 2 – since TT1 doesn’t exist, there may never be any time travel. But that’s ok, because we could day TT1 from W1 went back in time, stopped the grandparents from meeting, which resulted in W2 with no TT1 or TT2. No paradox at all with these multiple worlds.

But if our existence really consisted of an infinite number of multiple worlds or realities, with a new one triggered with every action of the time traveler, that would make for an existence far more insane than just our normal world with time travel, right?

Ok, but what about travel to the future? No grandparent paradoxes there, but we run into other problems. If I travel one day into the future, and I see you wearing a blue hat, what does that mean for you? That you have no choice but to wear a blue hat? Well I don’t know about you, but I think I have a choice about what color hat to wear tomorrow, or not wear any hat at all. We call that free will. Don’t you think you have that ability too, or do you think everything you do from now on is available to the scrutiny of anyone in your vicinity who travels into the future, which would result in your doing just that, and only that, whatever other ideas you might have right now about what to do tomorrow?

Time travel is such an enjoyable exercise for the mind that I get a kick just thinking about it, and writing about those paradoxes and loops. But reading a great novel like Isaac Asimov’s The End of Eternity, or seeing a movie like 12 Monkeys, or a new television series like Travelers – well, that’s always a rare treat indeed. If you’ve read this far, I’d bet that at least some part of your brain agrees….


Check out Paul Levinson’s books here.

The Science of Magic in Fantasy

by Andy Peloquin

The Flying Carpet (1880)
by Viktor Vasnetsov


We’ve all read books where magic is used as a tool to accomplish the impossible. The hero finds himself in peril or the heroine is confronted with insurmountable odds, and magic saves the day!

What rubbish. That sort of magic is unbelievable, not to mention lazy. To be realistic, magic has to be more of a science.

In truth, magic is sort of a pseudoscience. Well-crafted magic systems have their own very clear rules. For example, take Brandon Sanderson’s Three Laws of Magic:

  1. An author’s ability to solve conflict with magic is DIRECTLY PROPORTIONAL to how well the reader understands said magic.

  2. The limitations of a magic system are more interesting than its capabilities. What the magic can’t do is more interesting than what it can.

  3. “A brilliant magic system for a book is less often one with a thousand different powers and abilities — and is more often a magic system with relatively few powers that the author has considered in depth.”

Magic varies from book to book. What one fantasy author writes may be disdained by another. But a well-presented magic system is as clearly-defined (at least in the author’s mind) as the laws of gravity. If X happens, Y is always the reaction. Combine X and Y, and Z will always happen. There is a certain raw, elemental force to magic, but just like fire, water, air, and gravity, it must be understood in order for it to be effective.

As readers, we’re being asked by the author to suspend disbelief long enough to believe that magic exists. Fair enough, right? It’s why we love fantasy in the first place. But if the author doesn’t give us a sort of magic we can wrap our head around, it’s TOO unbelievable.

We may not understand how the magic works, but we have to understand how the magic works! Sounds silly, but let me explain:

  1. We don’t understand how the magic works – We don’t know where magic comes from. It could be wild magic from the earth, innate sorcerous abilities, mutant powers, or any number of magical sources. Seeing as we don’t have access to that magic, we don’t really know how the magic works. We just know that it does because the author has told us it does.

  2. We have to understand how the magic works – We have to know that when the mage waggles his fingers just so, it’s channeling magic from his mind, from the earth, from his deity, or from some talisman. We may not understand exactly where the magic comes from or how the person taps into it, but we understand their struggle with it, their limitations, their abilities, and their strengths and weaknesses.

It’s easy for an author to say, “Magic works” and trust that we’ll accept it. But that’s not the case! Magic needs to be as well-defined as the science of the world we’re reading. Just like we know that “what goes up must come down”, so too there have to be constants in the magic systems, something we can wrap our minds around. The more defined, the easier it is to suspend disbelief of what we know to buy into the premise of “magic”.


Check out Andy Peloquin’s books here.

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J.K. Riya’s Top 5 Fantasy Reads of 2016

by J.K. Riya

 


Wish you all a very Happy New Year!

I thought its best to start 2017 with a favorites list. But that proved to be a tough choice to choose just five books out of the 30+ awesome books that I read in 2016. Well, the books may have been published before 2016 but they are in this list because I read them in 2016. Without any further delay, here’s the list of my favorite books for 2016 by Indie authors!

1. Dragon’s Gift: The Huntress Series by Linsey Hall

This five book series is a great YA urban fantasy read packed with supernatural beings, action, romance and thrill. I thoroughly enjoyed this series as it helped quench my never-ending thirst for magic, strong female leads, a strong plot and unique settings (in this case ancient archeological sites sprinkled with magic and supernatural beings).


2. Timeless Fairy Tales series by K.M. Shea

Timeless Fairy Tales is an ongoing series of fairy tale adaptations. The unique and original touch that author K.M. Shea has weaved into the known fairy tales is truly amazing. If you’re looking for clean, sweet, fun reads with loveable characters and interesting plots then this series is a must read.


3. The Ugly Stepsister (Unfinished Fairy Tales Book 1) by Aya Ling

The Ugly Stepsister is a fairy tale retelling and as the name implies, it is Cinderella’s story from the Ugly Stepsister’s point of view. But the ugly stepsister is our modern-day Kat cursed and whisked away to Cinderella’s world. This is again a clean and fun filled ride for fairy tale lovers.


4. Armor of Magic Series by Simone Pond

This is a fantastic action-packed urban fantasy series for new adults. Fiona, the protagonist, is a sassy and tough female lead who captured my attention right from page one with her wit and courage. I finished reading all three books in this series in one sitting and was absolutely thrilled. Author Simone Pond’s other on-going series, The Coastview Prophecies, is a great read too.


5. Elizabeth’s Legacy (Royal Institute of Magic, Book 1) by Viktor Kloss

The Royal Institute of Magic is an ongoing series and all the books in the series are Amazon best-sellers, competing against each other to be in the top 20 spots in Children’s category. Though the books were written for children, I thoroughly enjoyed this spectacular world with unique magic, intriguing characters and amazing world building. All Harry Potter fans will definitely fall in love with this series.


Bonus pick: The Evil Twin’s Diary by Addie Abbati

This is not a traditional fantasy but geared more towards philosophy with a supernatural element which I loved. I found the concept to be unique that provides food for thought. It’s an interesting short read that would spark thoughts about our economy and society.

I hope you enjoyed reading about my favorites. Now it’s your turn! What are the books that blew you away and transported you to a new different world? What you liked the most about them? Was it the characters, the plot, the magic system, the world building, the settings or a combination of some or all?

Check out J.K. Riya’s books here.

Interview with Alasdair Shaw

What genre are your books?
The overall genre is science fiction.

OK. What about sub-genre?
Now that’s a bit harder. Choosing a sub-genre is very subjective. Most books will have things which identify with several different categories. Sometimes I wish I could do a word cloud or heat bar for how much a book fits each sub-genre.

Sometimes I call my work military scifi, other times I call it space opera because there are elements that aren’t battles and strategy. Amazon puts my books in space marine, space fleet, and galactic empire. I guess they also fit some of the criteria of post-apocalyptic as there has been a planet-wide nuclear strike, but I really don’t think that is the right category given what most readers understand by it.

What draws you to this genre?
I have enjoyed reading SF for a long time. Iain M Banks’ Excession converted me to a fan and inspired much of the world I have created.

What is the easiest thing about writing?
The easiest thing for me is the world-building. I’ve had the background, technology, etc. in my head for years. I work out the history, rank structures, politics, and so on whenever I’m at a loose end. When I started writing the stories it just flowed.

One problem is trying to strike the right balance between info-dump and vacuum. Of course, different readers have different preferences, but I know that my love of long lectures on historical details is not shared by many.

One day, I might even write a ‘history’ of the Two Democracies universe.

What was your hardest scene to write?
There’s a scene where one of my main characters realises she is being sexually discriminated against. I haven’t written it yet as it will take place in a prequel series to the one I’m writing now, but having her remember it in a scene in my latest story was bad enough. Not only is putting myself in her place harrowing, more so than any of the combat or other horrific scenes I’ve written for her, but it is also very difficult to pitch correctly. She is the victim, but not a victim.

How would you react if a film were made of one of your books?
I’d be stunned. It would be really cool. To see “Liberty, the new movie by Stephen Spielberg” or something like that would be a mark that I had made it as a writer. I’d certainly go to see it.

One worry would be that it wouldn’t match what was in my head. Many of the scenes have detailed descriptions of actions, but a lot of what happens is going on in the characters’ heads and that is hard to do in a film.

If you could spend time with a character from your books, which would it be?
Now that’s not fair. I don’t think I could single one out without upsetting the others.

I’m going to have to insist on an answer.
Hmm. It’ll have to be a group outing: Prefect Olivia Johnson, Pilot Legionary Anastasia Seivers, and The Indescribable Joy of Destruction (well, its primary personality at least).

And what would you do on that outing?
Go for a walk in the mountains. Discuss things. Set the world to rights. Oh, and gang up on Johnson to try to get her to try reading more fiction.

What’s your favourite under-appreciated novel?
The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde. It is incredibly witty and clever, as well as being a great story. I also love the power he gives to books in it. The lead character is a Spec Ops 27 agent, responsible for policing crimes involving literary works (other than Shakespeare, of course, which is covered by Spec Ops 29).

Which famous person, living or dead would you like to meet and why?
Aristotle. I’d like to see if I could convince him of the Galilean/Newtonian understanding of the laws of motion.


Alasdair Shaw grew up in Lancashire, within easy reach of the Yorkshire Dales, Pennines, Lake District and Snowdonia. After stints living in Cambridge, North Wales, and the Cotswolds, he has lived in Somerset since 2002.

He has been rock climbing, mountaineering, caving, kayaking and skiing as long as he can remember. Growing up he spent most of his spare time in the hills. Recently he has been doing more sea kayaking, running and swimming.

Alasdair studied at the University of Cambridge, leaving in 2000 with an MA in Natural Sciences and an MSci in Experimental and Theoretical Physics. He went on to earn a PGCE, specialising in Science and Physics, from the University of Bangor. A secondary teacher for over fifteen years, he has plenty of experience communicating scientific ideas.

The Two Democracies: Revolution science fiction series starts with Independence, and continues with Liberty. The third story, The Perception of Prejudice, is released this month. Equality will hopefully be released in summer 2017, followed by Fraternity the year after.

You can see what else he gets up to on his website at http://www.alasdairshaw.co.uk.

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.

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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.

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Is it Science or is it Fiction?

by Robert Scanlon


What do you prefer in science-fiction? Do you lean toward the science, or do you like the fiction more?

Of course, it’s all fiction. But some people prefer their science-fiction closer to the hard science and to what is hypothetically possible, or just a small stretch from what is possible given our current knowledge.

And then there are some who prefer to have their science-fiction completely imaginative — which some say is merely swords and sorcery, or pure fantasy, but in a space setting.

Take Star Wars, for example. It’s a combination of some science (maybe not much), and a lot of fantasy. I mean, Jedi mind tricks, lightsabers, improbable aliens, and plenty of planets all of which seem to have the same gravity as Earth. So Star Wars is a lot of fun, but certainly not hard science.

Contrast that to Star Trek. Although it appears to be just a low-budget Space Opera TV series from the 60s, the writers did try to get some of the science correct, especially in the modern movie adaptations. Although once again, we do seem to be visiting an awful lot of planets with the same gravity as Earth.

Some of the sci-fi classics have taken a hard science approach to developing an imaginative setting. For example, Larry Niven’s Ringworld. In Ringworld, an entire ring-like structure encircles a star at roughly the distance of Earth’s orbit from the sun. It spins or “orbits,” and generates gravity in this fashion. Niven built an entire spectacle from one premise.

Having said that, Niven was then taken to task by fans, possibly physicists themselves, who pointed out many flaws in the hard science, and Niven was forced to rewrite his premise in the second book, The Ringworld Engineers. Nonetheless the hard science behind Ringworld and its sequel makes it a much more curious read, where much of the conflict is driven by the science.

And perhaps that’s what it comes down to, a question of what generates the conflict. Does the conflict in the story arise because of the science, or does the conflict simply come from the interplay of characters and plot, and it wouldn’t matter whether the setting was science or fantasy, it just happens to be set in “space” or some futuristic setting.

Perhaps you’re like me, and you sit somewhere in between. You don’t mind if some of the science is at present impossible; for example, faster than light drive. Or hyperspace. Or galaxies peppered with multiple types of aliens, all of whom are able to converse with each other. Somehow this tickles my imagination. I enjoy being transported into a future where perhaps this is all possible.

It’s not too much of a stretch to take ourselves back into the medieval world, show the people of that time our cars, planes, computers and iPhones, to have them exclaim that it is simply magic and not provable by science.

Perhaps so, but it does seem as if it would take someone to completely bust Einstein’s theories to get us to faster-than-light drives. One day, I hope.

But I do like some of the science in my science-fiction to be reasonably accurate, particularly where it is portraying something we know to be true today.

For example, if your spaceship does not have artificial gravity (yet another functionality that has yet to be developed without the use of centrifuges or rotational space stations), then it makes sense that people should be floating around the spaceship, using anchor points or magnetic boots or some form of device to allow for easy movement. When a fight breaks out on board, it should be realistic and believable within the zero gravity setting.

We shouldn’t be expecting folks to be running along the ship’s passageways as if they are on Earth. So if they do, it does tend to take me out of the story a little. But if the story has already grabbed me, my mind will somehow switch over to thinking, “well it’s just swords and sorcery in space and that’s okay.” As long as it is consistent I guess!

Equally, acceleration, relative speed, gravity (I seem to be fixated on gravity) and other current-day physical science should be realistic and reasonable, or within reason in a science fiction story. We shouldn’t expect that every planet visited in a science-fiction Space Opera epic would have identical gravity to Earth’s.

Nor should we expect that every alien being is bipedal. (Though I am guilty of this in my stories.)

At the end of the day, whether you prefer hard science or speculative fiction or something in between, it’s all about believability. Any science-fiction is going to require the reader to suspend their disbelief for some period of time, because after all it is science-fiction and it is meant to represent something that isn’t possible today, but only possible in our heads.

And is that the fun of science-fiction?


Robert Scanlon is the author of Constellation, a Space Opera Science-Fiction Epic with plenty of debatable science, some hard science, and of course the obligatory bipedal aliens. Constellation is a fast-paced adventurous galactic escapade, featuring a daring female space pirate.

Fantasy Built on the Religions of Our Ancestors: The Historical Context of Mythology

by USA Today Bestselling Author, S.M. Schmitz

Ossian on the Bank of the Lora, Invoking the Gods to the Strains of a Harp by François Gérard

Ossian on the Bank of the Lora, Invoking the Gods to the Strains of a Harp (1801)
by François Gérard


With hugely successful series like Percy Jackson & the Olympians and Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard, Rick Riordan has brought mythological fiction into the mainstream. While his middle grade books might typically find younger audiences, mythological fiction is an exciting fantasy subgenre for adults as well.

I began writing mythological fiction because of my background as a world history instructor. One of my areas of interest is social history, and religion and belief systems are a significant aspect of all cultures throughout history. Those beliefs have shaped gender relations, education, class divisions, politics, foreign policies, and systems of alliances.

What we now label as mythology isn’t just a collection of interesting stories; they are little windows into the pasts of our ancestors, snippets of their lives, their beliefs, their fears, and their hopes.

My first mythological series is The Immortals, which is loosely inspired by The Book of Enoch. This non-canonical text describes the fall of a group of angels after seeing some of the beautiful women on Earth. Pieces of the mythology from this Ethiopian script are found throughout The Immortals series as those humans who have been conscripted by Heaven to fight on its behalf combat demons on Earth.

One of the many things world mythologies can teach us is about gender norms and roles. The story of Lilith is a perfect example. According to some other non-canonical texts (which are also used for The Immortals), she was the original wife of Adam, but “refused to lie beneath him.” The implication is that Lilith refused to be subservient to a man and instead demanded to be regarded as his equal. She was cast out of Eden and in some texts, partnered with a fallen angel (perhaps Azazel or Samael). This union then produced all the demons that would plague mankind forever.

The moral of the story, of course, is that of expected gender roles. Lilith is punished for not fulfilling the role expected of her and is exiled, while her partnership with a fallen angel and the subsequent birth of thousands of demons firmly places her existence as a malevolent one for having failed to behave as a subordinate to man.

The Unbreakable Sword series is a multiverse world in which all pantheons from every civilization coexist. Although it has a contemporary setting, many of the most famous gods and goddesses from the most popular world mythologies are still alive and can be found in this series. The primary focus, however, is on the Tuatha Dé of Ireland.

The stories contained within the early Irish myths not only give us fascinating tales of heroes like Cú Chulainn who must overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles to marry Emer, the romantic tragedy of Deirdre and Noísiu, and one of my personal favorites, “The Wooing of Étain,” but can teach us about pre-Christian Ireland’s social and legal structure as well.

Because no written language existed before the Christianization of Ireland, we sometimes have to read these myths with the understanding that they were transcribed by monks and are almost certainly altered and, sometimes, Christianized (for example, I’m almost positive that in the original legend of Caoranach, St. Patrick didn’t spend two days and two nights in Lough Derg battling the mythological serpent). But the original legends still provide insight into early Irish rituals (for example, the concept of the gessa or the celebratory feasts that accompanied traditional changings of the seasons) and laws (inheritance rights, and the responsibilities and duties of a king).

While we fiction writers often leave out the historical context of the myths we’re adapting since we are, after all, crafting entertaining fictional stories inspired by the religions of our ancestors, the historian in me invites readers to explore the legends of our ancestors more fully, to see their worlds through their tales that have survived the millennia and entertain us still.

Whether it’s Magnus Chase or Cameron and Selena from The Unbreakable Sword series, if you find inspiration in their adventures with the gods, then let the gods inspire you to journey with them into the past.

For more information on S.M. Schmitz’s books, please visit smschmitz.com.

Discover the Secret Supers Series

by Aurora Springer

This year, I published three novels in the Secret Supers Series. The third book, Gargoyle Hunt, releases on December 6th.

Blurb

Danger is the last thing on Estelle’s mind when she visits the University of Oxenford for a summer course. But, mysterious thefts and shadowy figures spur her into action. With Toby five thousand miles away, Estelle and her winged horse must hunt for the culprits alone. Soon they are embroiled in a mixed bag of aliens and ancient magic. Toby’s unexpected arrival throws her into turmoil and spurs events into a climax. Under pressure to succeed, Toby is trapped in a web of deceit. The two supers have a week to catch the crooks and salvage his reputation.

The Secret Supers Series follows the adventures of Estelle Wright after she is transformed into a superhero in her freshman year at college. In the first book, Super Starrella, a weird serial killer is terrorizing the streets of Atalanta. Estelle must solve the murder mystery and discover her fellow supers, while pursuing her biology major and a couple of romantic entanglements. She scours the city at night, while overtly obeying her mom’s strict curfew.

Several lines of thought led to this series. I have a fondness for superhero/ine stories and one or two readers have accused me of a comic book style. So, why not create unique superheroes and throw them into adventures? My superheroes are aliens or genetically transformed humans like Estelle. Then, I had a vision of people flying through space on different animals. If you have read the intriguing book, Star Rider by Doris Piserchia, the influence of her animal steeds will be obvious. In my series, each super bonds with a telepathic animal companion. Ordinary Estelle Wright transforms into Super Starrella and rides her snarky winged mare, Rockette. As an added twist, Rockette can morph into a pigeon. The villains begin as comic characters with bombastic Mr. Sunshine in the first book, Super Starrella, and deadly Croaker in book 2, Starrella Falls. The third book, Gargoyle Hunt, has a subtle British twist and the distinction blurs between good guys and villains.

People say you should write what you know. So the main characters are students at Goldman University in Atalanta, a sunnier southern Gotham City. Many of the scenes occur in or near Atlanta where I live. One of my favorite scenes takes place at night in an alligator-infested swamp in Starrella Falls, Book 2. I am a professor at one of the local colleges. Most students are unaware of my fictional creations, although some of the professors have read my novels.

Gargoyle Hunt, Book 3, is set in Oxenford, the famed center of academia for centuries. Estelle is visiting St. Swithin’s College for a summer program when the appearances of spooky live gargoyles coincide with mysterious thefts. Yes, I have studied at Oxford and punted on the Cherwell River. Avebury stone circle is one of my favorite destinations with lunch in the village pub followed by a hike on footpaths to other Neolithic sites.

The first books are set firmly in contemporary Earth with the authorities stymied by alien killers and hi-tech hackers. In future books, I hope to take the characters on a series of adventures, inflicting different villains on Atalanta and other locations. It is not as simple as I had first imagined, however, since I have to describe aliens living among us, various superpowers and animal companions as well as researching police procedures for homicides.

I wanted a romantic arc. In Super Starrella, I introduced a wobbly triangle of Estelle and two attractive men with their own secret agendas. Toby Ryan, a hot biker with a cat tattoo on his bulging biceps, and handsome Mark Copper in military intelligence. When she meets them at Goldman University, Estelle suspects they are spying on her. She gradually uncovers Toby’s secret life during her first semester at college in the first book. She will learn more about the alien factions in the second book. In Starrella Falls, Toby and Estelle have separate adventures initially, but they work best as partners and tackle a succession of villains through the final chapter. The backlash from alien allegiances heightens the mystery in Gargoyle Hunt.

Secret Supers Series

Super Starrella, Book 1, 99c
Starrella Falls, Book 2, $2.99
Gargoyle Hunt, Book 3, on 99c pre-order for release on December 6th

Bio:
Aurora Springer is a crazy scientist by day and invents adventures in weird worlds at night. She has a PhD in molecular biophysics and discovers science facts in her day job. Her fictional works are character-driven adventures and romances sprinkled with humor. Some of her published stories were composed thirty years ago. She was born in the UK and lives in Atlanta with her husband, a dog and two cats to sit on the keyboard. Her hobbies, besides reading and writing, include outdoor activities like gardening, watching wildlife, hiking and canoeing. Her books are listed here.

Social Links:
Blog: http://AuroraSpringer.blogspot.com/
Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Aurora-Springer/e/B00K2C4NL8
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Aurora-Springer/885945434752937
Twitter: http://twitter.com/AuroraSpringer
Google+: https://plus.google.com/u/0/101087717415198221200/posts

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