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Monday, October 29, 2012

Speculative Fiction—What is it?

I am Linda Swift, an author of published contemporary and historical romance, women’s fiction, short stories and poetry. As if that isn’t enough to keep my readers in a state of confusion, I have recently added speculative fiction to my publishing credits. Only I didn’t know this was what my short stories were until Publishing by Rebecca J. Vickery called them by that name. In fact, I wasn’t aware this genre existed and I was more than a little skeptical to become a part of it.

Since I now have five speculative fiction stories available online, and a just-released anthology of these five stories in print, I thought I really ought to find out a little more about what this means. My first step was to check my faithful Webster’s New World Dictionary. (Yes, I still love to look up words in my hard copy reference which tells you more than I probably want you to know about my age.) None of the definitions of the word “speculative” seemed to fit the situation at all. I finally settled on “uncertain or risky” as a possible meaning. At least, I know it is always uncertain and risky to publish anything one writes.

Next, I Googled “Speculative Fiction” online. And wow! Was I impressed. The term was defined by Wikipedia as “ancient works to cutting-edge, paradigm-changing, and nontraditional intentions of the 21st Century. And the names associated with this genre? They read like a who’s who in literature. There were Greek dramatists to William Shakespeare to J.R.R.Tolkien and many more.
I won’t bore you with the long  explanation that I doggedly plowed my way through in order to become more enlightened on the subject. But I will offer one further quote which I think shows the big picture. “In its broadest sense it (speculative fiction) captures both a conscious and unconscious aspect of human psychology in making sense of the world, reacting to it, and creating imaginary, inventive and artistic expression.”

Armed with this new information I turned my attention to my stories in an effort to see if they would fit the definition. I looked first at Winner Take All, my first-written story of this genre. It is a tale of man against nature and a life-and death struggle between the two. Billy Ray Warren is a good ole southern boy who went up North to make money and comes home to fight the Kudzu that is taking the family farm. Yes, he is trying to make sense of his world and reacting to it in a positive way.   

Nathan, the Buttercups are Blooming is a story about growing old and sick; about the helplessness of losing control of our lives. But Nathan is a fighter, especially when it comes to his beloved wife and his insensitive children. And boy, does he react to the situation he is in. He does not “go gentle into that goodnight” to quote a famous poet.

The disease of epilepsy is at the center of Give It All You’ve Got. This is a tender love story set in a rural mountain school with three main characters who are as mismatched as people can be but their lives become entwined by circumstances beyond their control.  They each react to their narrow world in the only way that makes sense to them. And in so doing, a villain becomes a hero.

Three to Make Ready is a story that deals with the busing issue as it was in the early days of the mandate for US public schools. It takes a look at the situation from both black and white perspectives and further examines it from two social classes of white families. This story looks at the big picture from the author’s point of view based on personal experience and believe me, the story contains reaction in spades.

Last, I examined The Good News. Defining it is difficult even for me as author.  I think it addresses the possibility of a random occurrence that no one can foresee and the way the people involved react to it. There is a large group of characters for a short story, including young and old, male and female, weak and strong, happy and sad. But the focus is on a mother’s worst nightmare and her valiant efforts to prevent it.

Have you noticed that my brief blurbs of each of these stories contain the word “react” in them? I think we can assume that my speculative fiction involves reaction of some sort in all the plots.  But rather than dissect them in this manner, I like to think of them as stories that reflect ordinary people living their lives in the best way they can, given their circumstances. Even though you most likely have not experienced what the characters have, I think you can relate to their hopes and fears, their joys and sorrows. And it is this connection that makes a story real to you.  All of them contain a measure of suspense and uncertainty and some unexpected outcomes.  In the past, I have heard this type story referred to as “slice of life” fiction.

Frankly, I don’t care what they are called.  I only care that they are read and that my characters touch the hearts of those who read them. They are available at Amazon and Smashwords for 99cents each.

And if you’d like a complete collection in print, Take Five: Stories of Speculative Fiction was released the last week in September through Publishing by Rebecca J. Vickery and is now available in ebook and print at the above links. The price is $9.95 for print and $2.99 for ebook at this link: http://www.amazon.com/Take-Five-ebook/dp/B0096R15T8/

This guest post first appeared at BETWEEN THE PAGES, Lynda Coker’s blogspot, .and she graciously agreed for it to be reprinted here. http://betweenthelinesandmore.blogspot.com/

 Rebecca J.Vickery commented on my post there and she has also agreed to have her comments included. She has added so much to the definition of Speculative Fiction that I don’t feel this post would be complete without her words. And here they are:

‘Hi Linda and Lynda,
I really enjoyed this post and it is a very good description of Speculative Fiction. Many famous and infamous writers focused on Speculative Fiction throughout their lives. Without it we would never have had TV series such as Twilight Zone, Inferno, Outer Limits, and even Alfred Hitchcock who was a master of SF. Many of the great plays, operas, and movies are Speculative Fiction, though a large majority often label them dramas or tragedies. MacBeth, Romeo and Juliet, View From the Rear Window, and The Birds are some of my favorites.
Authors take a possible real life situation, and as Linda has pointed out, explore the reactions and ironic results. These stories aren't for everyone as they often do not include a happy ever after ending, but when written well (as Linda Swift does) they are emotional, moving, and riveting.”

Thank you for reading my post today--
Linda Swift

Saturday, October 27, 2012

A HERO FOR CHRISTMAS by Cheryl Pierson

Well, who wouldn’t want a hero for Christmas…or FOUR of them? And they’ll all fit snugly in a stocking or on your e-reader!

Yep, I’m talking about my latest release, A HERO FOR CHRISTMAS, which is a collection
of four of my Christmas themed historical romantic short stories! These are all available separately, as “single sell” short stories for only .99 through Western Trail Blazer, as well. But I was thrilled when my publisher, Rebecca Vickery, suggested putting them all under one gorgeous cover and offering them as a collection.

A Night for Miracles is the first story in the collection. It will always be near and dear to my heart because it was the first holiday story I ever wrote, as well as being the first short story (which really turned into a novelette.) I still just love the story of Angela Bentley and Nick Dalton. Angela’s a widow, alone on Christmas Eve. Gunman Nick Dalton stops at her cabin in gathering wintry twilight. Wounded, and with three children in tow, there’s no chance of Angela telling him he has to ride on. Will this be A NIGHT FOR MIRACLES for them?

Legend says that miracles happen on Christmas Eve. Can a chance encounter between a gunfighter and a lonely widow herald a new beginning for them both? On this special night, they take a gamble that anything is possible–if they only believe!

The second story is a very different kind of Christmas story, HOMECOMING. I wrote this

story long before I ever even thought of selling it. In fact, I wasn’t sure I COULD sell it. But it turned out better than I ever imagined, with so much power and emotion, I’ve had many, many compliments on it. It still humbles me, to think of this story that came from nowhere, one I wasn’t sure would ever see the light of day—has now become one that so many people have enjoyed.

A holiday skirmish sends Union officer, Jack Durham, on an unlikely mission to fulfill his promise of honor to a dying Confederate soldier—his enemy. In an odd twist of fate, a simple assurance to carry young Billy Anderson's meager belongings home to his family a few miles away becomes more than what it seems.

As he nears his destination, the memories of the soldier's final moments mingle with his own thoughts of the losses he's suffered because of the War, including his fiancee, Sarah. Despite his suffering, can Jack remember what it means to be fully human before he arrives at the end of his journey? Will the miracle of Christmas be able to heal his heart in the face of what awaits him?

MEANT TO BE is the third story in the collection. It’s a time travel story of love that crosses centuries. The heroine, Robin Mallory, is stranded on Christmas Eve and begins to walk for help, only to find that she’s walked down a road to the past and into the arms of handsome a Confederate soldier, Jake Devlin. Will she stay in 1864, or will she return to the lonely life she left behind? (If he looked like Jimmy Thomas, that would be a very easy decision!)

Robin Mallory is facing another Christmas all alone when she decides to surprise her aunt and uncle several hours away. A flat tire leaves her stranded near a desolate section of interstate. With a snowstorm on the way, Robin has no choice but to walk, hoping to find shelter before the storm hits full force. But the road she chooses leads her back in time, to a battleground she's only read about in history books.
Confederate Jake Devlin, an officer in Stand Watie's Cherokee forces, is shocked when the spy he jumps turns out to be a girl. She's dressed oddly, but her speech and the ideas she has are even stranger than her clothing. Where did she come from, and what is he going to do with her? Will he be able to hold on to his heart? Is it possible for a love this strong to span centuries? It is, if it was MEANT TO BE…

And last but not least is a story I have wanted to write since I was a little girl. If you’ve ever heard the old folk song, SCARLET RIBBONS, perhaps you’ll understand why. In the song, the singer (I love the Harry Belafonte version more than any other) tells of hearing his little girl praying for some scarlet ribbons for her hair. Everything is closed for the night, and there’s no hope of him being able to buy them for her; such a simple request and no way to grant it. All night long he’s thinking about it and finally goes to peek in on her only to find her asleep, the scarlet ribbons on her bed. “If I live to be a hundred, I will never know from where…came those lovely scarlet ribbons, scarlet ribbons for her hair…” Well, I can never get through that song without getting misty eyed, but I always wondered about the story behind the scarlet ribbons…so I wrote one.

Miguel Rivera is known as El Diablo, The Devil. Men avoid meeting his eyes for fear of his gun. Upon returning to a town where he once knew a brief happiness, Miguel is persuaded by a street vendor to make a foolish holiday purchase; two scarlet ribbons.

When Catalina, his former lover, allows him to take a room at her boarding house, Miguel soon discovers a secret. Realizing that he needs the scarlet ribbons after all, he is stunned to find them missing. Can a meeting with a mysterious priest and the miracle of the Scarlet Ribbons set Miguel on a new path?

Now you can get all these stories under one cover! The print version and digital versions are available NOW!

For all my books, short stories and anthologies, visit my Amazon author page here:

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Magic is in the air come October by: Stephanie Burkhart

Autumn is in the air. The pumpkin patches are full. It's time to mull the apple cider and dust off the pie tins. Vanilla, nutmeg, and cinnamon scents fill our houses. The leaves are changing vibrant colors – rust, purple and gold. In 2 weeks Halloween will be with us. The little ghouls and goblins will be out looking for treats.

Halloween has its roots in the ancient Celtic ceremony Samhain so I thought I'd share some fast facts with you.

Samhain is pronounced "sow-en)

Translated, Samhain means "end of summer."

The Celts lived in what is now Ireland, Scotland, England, and Wales.

Celts believed that transitions had magical properties. Samhain was a transition, creating an opening to dead which included ghosts, fairies, and demons.

All the crops were harvested for Samhain. The Celtic priests would light fires and offer sacrifices to thank the gods for harvest.

Celts lit bonfires to honor the dead, help them on their journey to the otherworld and keep them away from the living.

My short story, "Night of Magic" takes place during Samhain. Dare Finn brave the bonfires and a journey to the otherworld for a woman he's never met?

Enjoy this excerpt from "Night of Magic:"

Just as Finn blew out the candle, loud rhythmic drumming filled the air and the bright light of a high fire cascaded through the window. A shiver shot down Finn's spine, and an uneasy feeling twisted around his nerves. The smoke from the candle drifted past his nose. An odd, sweet scent overtook him and Finn swooned. Reaching out, he grabbed the table, securing his balance.

The vision of a woman appeared before him – sweet curves, long, luscious red-gold hair and moss green eyes. Around her neck was a Celtic cross on a gold chain. She peered at him intently, studying him, and then slowly, she smiled, revealing a small dimple in her cheek. His blood stirred. Every male instinct within him cried out to stake his claim and conquer.

"Finn, ye all right?"
He straightened his back and drew in a breath, instinctively placing his hands on his weapons. He had no idea who the woman was or how he'd come to see her, but she'd ignited a hunger in his loins to find her and possess her.

You can find "Night of Magic" in the 2012 VTP Fall/Paranormal Anthology along with four more sweet to sensual stories.

Question: Do you have any questions about Samhain? Ask away. I'd love to hear your comments, thoughts and feedback and find our what you're dressing up as for Halloween. smiles

BUY LINKS (ebooks)




Thursday, October 11, 2012

Ghost Girl by Karen Michelle Nutt

I have quite a few ghost stories I could conjure up for Halloween. It must be why I love the paranormal so much—it feels like home.

Today, I’d like to tell you about my family’s ghost girl. Everyone in my family has seen her one time or another and she isn’t shy about revealing herself to friends, too.

This sighting took place when I was a teen. It was late at night and my mother and I were the only ones still up. At this time my father worked graveyard and wasn’t home. My siblings were sleeping.

I was working on a report for school in the kitchen and my mother was in the bathroom taking a bath. She kept the door slightly ajar so we could chat.

As the minutes ticked by, I began to get this prickly feeling at the base of my neck and I swear the fine hairs on my arm stood at attention. This happened every time the little girl would make her ghostly appearance and I knew it was about to happen again. I was standing near the table and my gaze was locked on the dark archway where our den is located.

Any second, I’m sure she’ll materialize. Usually, she is a fleeing figure in a light colored dress. Her hair is a pale blonde and long and whips behind her as she darts away.
While I’m concentrating on the endless black void that leads to our den, in the bathroom, my mother is running the water in the bathtub. “Who’s up with you?” she calls to me.

Of course no one is with me or so I believe. “No one’s up, Mom,” I gladly inform her.
“I said who’s up with you?” My mother repeats the question, but now her voice has an edge to it. She couldn’t hear that I answered her over the running water.

If I wasn’t already freaked, I’m heading toward the panic mode now. My mother obviously sees that someone is with me, but I can’t. I backed up a few paces, before I sprint to the bathroom as if this ghostly presence is chasing me. “No one is up with me!” And I do believe I did a little dance of fright and my voice became a high-pitched shrill.

My mother’s brows furrow in confusion. “What do you mean? I saw a hand reaching for you.”
She had been sure that one of the little ones had slipped out of bed, but they were all fast asleep.

Even though I didn’t see her, I believe it was our resident ghost girl, who had appeared off and on throughout the years. She still shows up now and again. She’s the only consistent resident ghost at my parents’ home, but we’ve had others over the years, too. I sometimes wonder if she invites them over, telling them,  “Hey they’re a cool family. Come hang out with them for a while.”
I’m giving away a PDF copy of 2012 Fall/Paranormal Collection to one lucky commenter. My ghostly tale, Shattered Illusions is featured in the collection.
All you need to do is Answer: Have you ever had a ghostly experience? If so, tell us about it.
Blurb for Shattered Illusions:

Blood stained floors appear and disappear, low whispering voices greet her as a storm causes the lights to flicker. Brona must put her fears behind her and unravel the mystery that haunts the house.

Excerpt for Shattered

She entered the house with sure steps. She reached for the light switch and flipped it on, flooding the living room with light. “Tara, I’m back and cold to the bone.” Silence greeted her. It was odd how silence could clamor louder in the mind than an orchestra playing a symphony. Her chuckle died in her throat. A confusing rush of anticipation and dread whirled inside of her. Why wasn’t her sister answering? No sounds came from within as if she entered a tomb. Goose flesh moved up her spine, making her shiver.

Lightning crackled in the sky and thunder shook the windows, causing Brona to jump. She whirled around to shut and locked the door behind her. She headed for the stairs with a thought: What if she had locked the intruder in with her? She stood at the bottom of the stairs and looked up at the inky blackness waiting for her.
She had to go up there. She had to make sure Tara was okay.
She’d only taken a step when a guttural cry of terror rose above the storm’s violence.

The Oiche Sith, the blood drinkers, forged an alliance with the Lathe Sith, a neighboring daywalker clan. The Oiche Sith would protect them from invaders in exchange that one female a year wed one of their warriors for the blooding ritual. Unfortunately, the female Lathe Sith never survives for very long.

Adryanna, a Lathe Sith, mourns the death of her recently mated sister, but she finds solace in the most unlikely place—in the arms of Bram, an Oiche Sith. She should fear him, loathe his existence, but instead she longs for their twilight embraces. Bram admires Adryanna’s strength and wishes only to protect her, even if it’s from him.

If Bram cannot find a way for Adryanna to survive the blooding ritual the romance is doomed. They seek help from Sheerin, Bram’s cousin, who believes he’s found a way for the Lathe Sith to survive, but others in the Oiche Sith clan do not wish for them to succeed. I’m running a Contest at Goodreads for Print copy of Twilight’s Eternal Embrace. Contest ends Oct. 31st.
Don't forget to stop by my blog for Wicked Haunt-o-ween for author posts and giveaways everyday this month! http://kmnbooks.blogspot.com