Beginning January 1, 2013

Stop by the new site and take a look around.

Monday, December 31, 2012

We've Moved!

Beginning January 1, 2013 

Stop by and let us know what you think of the new look! 
Happy New Year!

Friday, December 21, 2012

STUFF YOUR STOCKING BLOGFEST: JANALYN VOIGT

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Random Thoughts On Flying Elephants, Winged Horses, and Reindeer


I’ve always had a thing about flying. As a child I cheered for Dumbo, who proved he didn’t need anyone else’s approval or even a magic feather to soar. You see, Dumbo was a little different. His ears were too big. This made him an object of ridicule but he silenced his tormenters in the end by believing in himself, just the way he was. That’s a struggle I understand, gut level, and a path I’ve trod.

How I longed as a child to soar with Peter Pan to a land of strange and wonderful adventures where children didn’t have to grow up. Looking back as an adult with grown-up responsibilities, I sometimes wonder if Peter wasn’t on to something. There will always be a part of me that holds out for Neverland.

Oh, to ride Pegasus as he unfurled his wings across the sky! The haze of centuries gone by only added to the appeal of this bearer of thunder and lightning who had only to strike a hoof to the ground to create a spring from which ran poetry.

Perhaps with such influences on my younger self, it was inevitable I would become an epic fantasy novelist. It just naturally followed that winged horses would fly through the pages of DawnSinger, my debut novel and first in the Tales of Faeraven trilogy. In the world of Elderland wingabeasts run wild in the Maegrad Paesad, or Impenetrable Mountains. Only a very few have been captured to bond with the guardians who are privileged to ride them. It takes balance and skill to remain on one while in the air. Wingabeasts are well trained and will hold position even in great peril.

If winged horses are awesome, reindeer are even more so, for they fly without wings. My early fascination with reindeer should come as no surprise. How could I not admire these graceful creatures s they charged through the wintry night with jaunty bells jingling? At least in my imagination, and in Clement Clark Moore’s “T’was the Night Before Christmas” poem, reindeer circled the earth pulling a sleigh weighted by presents and a right jolly old elf. Each Christmas Eve, long after I should have been asleep, I laid in bed with ears straining for the tap of prancing hooves on the roof. The fact that I never heard them did not make the reindeer any less real. They were magical, you see, born of sugar-coated dreams and sprinkled with pixie dust. Just like Christmas.

In honor of Christmas, I’m giving away a free digital copy of DawnSinger (winner’s choice of ebook format). Leave a comment to this post to enter.

I have an additional giveaway going at my website worth over $50. Enter to win a free download of My Memories Scrapbooking Software Suite and an autographed copy of DawnSinger. Upon request, I will provide the winner a printable certificate for the software and novel for gift-giving purposes. Or keep the software to help you more easily save those Christmas memories. That way, you’ll have more time to curl up and read DawnSinger! Here’s the link to enter: http://janalynvoigt.com/giveaway/.

About the Author:
Janalyn Voigt's father instilled in her a love of literature at an early age by classic novels as bedtime stories. Janalyn soon began creating my own stories, and eventually wrote them down. When she was 12, a teacher noticed her storytelling ability. His encouragement helped Janalyn to later become a published novelist. Janalyn Voigt's unique blend of adventure, romance, suspense, and fantasy creates worlds of beauty and danger for readers. Beginning with DawnSinger, her epic fantasy series, Tales of Faeraven, carries the reader into a land only imagined in dreams. At her Creative Worlds blog, Janalyn offers detail from her research, travel journals, author journals, and updates about her books.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

STUFF YOUR STOCKING BLOGFEST: LOUISA KLEIN

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Christmas in Germany and German magic: the mysterious Knecht Ruprecht


I'm half German and my childhood was filled with German fairy tales and legends. Fairies, goblins and elves populated my imagination since I was little, no wonder my first book is an urban fantasy about fairies!

Anyway, of all the magic creatures of German folklore, some are good and some really bad. The most evil I can think of is the Erlkoenig, the malicious Elven king described in Goethe’s poem of the same name, where a little boy is killed by the Erlkoenig, who then kidnapped his soul.

In Germany we practically invented Christmas: the Christmas tree (Tannenbaum, in German) is a German tradition and so is Santa Claus who was originally Saint Nicholaus. Connected to Saint Nicholaus is the very positive and Christmassy figure called “Knecht Ruprecht”, which translates as Farmhand Rupert or Servant Rupert, who is a companion of Saint Nicholas as described in the folklore of Germany. He first appears in written sources in the 17th century, as a figure in a Nuremberg Christmas procession.

Although very ugly, often represented like a black man holding a big brown sack, where the toys are kept, Knecht Ruprecht is just a little grumpy but overall good. He appears in homes on St. Nicholas day (December 6), and is a man with a long beard, wearing fur or covered in pea-straw. Knecht Ruprecht sometimes carries a long staff and a bag of ashes, and wears little bells on his clothes. Sometimes he is accompanied by fairies or men with blackened faces dressed as old women. No idea who these men are, nor know why they dress in drag, but that’s tradition, so I suppose we must accept it the way it is.

Knecht Ruprecht’s job is to ask children whether they can pray. If they can, they receive apples, nuts, and gingerbread. If they cannot, he beats the children with his bag of ashes. In other, more recent versions of the story, Knecht Ruprecht gives naughty children useless, ugly gifts such as lumps of coal, sticks, and stones, while well-behaving children receive sweets from Saint Nicholas.

The companions of Saint Nicholas are a group of closely related figures who accompany St. Nicholas in German-speaking Europe .These characters act as a foil to the benevolent Christmas gift-bringer, threatening to thrash or abduct disobedient children. But it’s just an empty threat since, as I said, they don’t look good but they are good inside. Jacob Grimm associated this character with the pre-Christian house spirit (kobold, elf) which could be benevolent or malicious, but whose mischievous side was emphasized after Christianization. In fact, according to my dad and all my oldest German relatives, Knecht Ruprecht is to be also connected to the figure of Rumpelstiltskin who is the antagonist of another German tale of the brother Grimm (and the ambiguous character we all love in the super-cool Once Upon a Time). Rumpel, like Ruprecht, used to be a naughty house kobold who did some chores, always in exchange for something precious, At a point, Saint Nicholaus hired Ruprecht, so that he stopped being so naughty, starting doing some good.

Ruprecht was also a common name for the Devil in Germany, and Grimm states that "Robin Goodfellow is the same home-sprite whom we in Germany call Knecht Ruprecht and exhibit to children at Christmas..."

In spite of this in the Salzburg area, in Austria, the Knecht Ruprecht character is not only St. Nicholas' assistant, but also his protector. Saint Nicholaus has a lot of enemies, the devil being on the top of the list, and Ruprecht, who is known to be very strong and able to do some magic, keeps a watchful eye on the benevolent saint during his journey.

In the Anglo-Saxon countries, where kobolds and elves are more or less the same thing, our Rubrecht and his crew have been replaced by a bunch of cute little elves dressed in green. And the holy Saint Nicholaus has become Father Christmas in England and Santa Claus in the US. Still, good old Rubrecht hasn’t been completely wiped out and got his little ‘revenge’: in fact, you might be surprised to know that, in Germany, Bart Simpson’s dog isn’t called ‘Santa’s little helper’, but Knecht Ruprecht!

About the Author:
Louisa Klein is the author of Supernatural Freak, an action-packed, romantic urban fantasy set in contemporary London. She is 25, lives in the UK but was born in Germany and brought up by a German dad and an Italian and French mum, which made her a little confused at first. She has a degree in Medieval Studies and a postgraduate one in Marketing. She’s been working in publishing on and off since she was 17 and currently is a freelancer and an Urban Fantasy writer. At night she puts on a mask and fights British crime. She gets very little sleep.

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lost-In-Fiction/159814137389247?fref=ts



When paranormal expert Robyn Wise is offered an outrageous sum of money to cure a boy who is turning into a dead tree, she's very sceptical. A politician ready to pay that much to make his son stop growing branches instead of hair? Come on! She's more likely to be abducted by aliens. This is a trap. Or much worse. And, of course, it's much worse.

The child is turning into a dark portal, created by a powerful entity determined to absorb Fairyland's power. This means that not only queen Titania and her court are in danger, but the very balance of the magic fluxes.

She'd rather stick a pencil in her own eye, but to learn how to destroy the portal, she has to sneak into the Wizardry Council, a place full of wizards who are hiding something—though it’s certainly not their dislike of Robyn.

There, she discovers a secret that could help to overthrow Fairyland's enemies for good, a secret that puts her in the midst of an ancient and deadly war, and not as a bystander, but as the main target.
Amazon link: http://www.amazon.com/Supernatural-Freak-ebook/dp/B00A81H31U/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1355750696&sr=1-1&keywords=supernatural+freak Website: www.lostinfiction.co.uk Facebook:

STUFF YOUR STOCKING BLOGFEST: CHRYSOULA TZAVELAS

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Happy holidays! In my urban fantasy setting, the Senyaza Series, many things we're not too certain about in real life do exist... but not quite in the form we expect. Things like angels, faeries, monsters... and Santa Claus. I'm very fond of Santa Claus, you see. I'm especially fond of Santa Claus stories that present him as much more than a jolly old toymaker. There's a movie out right now that presents him as a dual-sword-wielding guardian, which I love! I, however, have my own ideas.... Read on for a glimpse:

I dug this exchange out of the archives. It takes place before and after the events of Matchbox Girls. Leave a comment below to enter a drawing for a DRM-free digital copy of the novel!

Dear Uncle Nick,
The girls have been asking about you. There have been several incidents lately that make me really hope you won't be disappointing them come December.
--Zachariah

*


Dear Z,
It's August. I get one night a year to do my magic. If they're hoping for a personal audience, you know where to find my associates.
--SC

P.S. Please don't call me Uncle Nick. It's far too close to Old Nick and I'm a reformed character. Further attempts to transparently exploit our relationship will get you on the naughty list.

P.P.S. I see you're already on the naughty list. Nice boys are more considerate of their friends. Better watch out...

*


Dear Sinterklauss,
I'm a little old to be on any naughty or nice lists. If the kids aren't satisfied come Christmas, they may do something dramatic. This isn't a threat, this is a concern. Last spring I had an egg-laying rabbit on my hands for a few days. Help me out here?
--Zachariah

*


Dear Z,
One night a year. If I had more than that you can bet your knickers I'd concern myself with adults on the naughty list, especially if they committed offenses against children. But I made my choice and I'm sticking with it. Your kids look like sweet girls but no matter how many bunnies they enchant or how you wheedle for them, they're not getting special privileges.
--SC

*


Dear Father Christmas
A lot can change in a month. How about now? They'd probably be content with Christmas Eve Eve.
--Zachariah

*


Dear Z,
What have you done?
--SC

*


Dear Saint
It wasn't me. It was them. I did say. Shall I plan on goose for dinner on December 23rd?
--Zachariah

*


Dear Z,
Oh yes, I feel it. Suddenly I have much more than one day a year to work my magic... and so much to catch up on. The naughty list must be dealt with...
--SC
About the Author:
Chrysoula Tzavelas went to twelve schools in twelve years while growing up as an Air Force brat, and she never met a library she didn't like. She now lives near Seattle with some random adults, miscellaneous animals, and two handy small children. She likes combed wool, bread dough, and gardens. She's also a certified technology addict; it says so on her (trademark-redacted) music player.

Find Chrysoula online at

https://twitter.com/chrysouladreams
http://www.dreamfarmer.net/
http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5049815.Chrysoula_Tzavelas



Marley Claviger is just trying to get her life together. Stumbling into an ancient conflict between celestial forces is going to make that a whole lot harder... When Marley wakes up to a phone call from a pair of terrified children, she doesn't expect to be pulled into a secret war.

She rescues them from an empty house and promises to find their missing uncle. She even manages to feed them dinner. But she barely feels competent to manage her own life, let alone care for small children with strange, ominous powers... And when a mysterious angelic figure shows up and tries to claim the girls, it all falls apart...

Plagued by visions of disaster, Marley has no idea what she's gotten herself into, but she knows one thing: magical or not, the kids need her.

Candlemark and Gleam Amazon Paperback Amazon Kindle

"Lovely worldbuilding and an unusual heroine surrounded by strong relationships and good intrigue kept me reading Matchbox Girls until well past my bedtime. Tzavelas has created a winning story universe and I'm impatient for the next book!"
- CE Murphy, author of Urban Shaman and The Queen's Bastard

Watch the book video:

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

STUFF YOUR STOCKING BLOGFEST:STEVIE CARROLL

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Tree Dressing at the Weald and Downlands Open Air Museum


Many winter festivals have trees and the greenwood at their heart, and this idea forms the basis of the Weald and Downlands Open Air Museum's annual festival on the first Sunday in December (at the end of National Tree Week). First held in 1990 but based on much older traditions, the tree dressing marks the climax of a full day of additional activities at the museum. These included craft sessions to make garland headdresses, jam jar lanterns, and beeswax candles; bread-making in the Tudor kitchen; roasted chestnuts; mulled cider (or apple juice) and spiced biscuits; and acorn planting. Dances, songs and plays were performed in the village's Market Square by Rabble Folk Theatre and Mythago Morris. I particularly enjoyed the 'Tale of the Oak King and the Holly King' as performed by Rabble.

At 3.45 we all assembled in the Market Square with lanterns lit, and Rabble led us In procession past some of the Museum's other buildings, through the woods and back down the grassy slope to the twin aspen trees just up from the Market Square. All those with lanterns stepped forward to dress the trees' bare branches, then as the sun went down, singers from Rabble led a rendition of the traditional 'The Trees of the Greenwood'. As the day drew to a close we all linked hands to perform what may be the world's largest spiral dance around the trees.

Photos of the day can be found on my LJ in this post or at any of the sites I've linked to above.

The Museum will be open throughout the winter, and I'll be going back one day between Boxing Day and New Year's Day when all the Museum's houses will be decorated according to the festive traditions of their period. An ideal way to walk off the overindulgences of Christmas, although the Museum does provide very reasonably-priced and tasty food if you burn off too much energy.

One commenter on this post will win both a DRM-free digital copy of A Series of Ordinary Adventures and a photo-calendar illustrated with 13 of my photos of random places in the UK.

***


Born in Sheffield, England's Steel City, and raised in a village on the boundary of the White and Dark Peaks, Stevie Carroll was nourished by a diet of drama and science fiction from the BBC and ITV, and a diverse range of books, most notably Diane Wynne-Jones and The Women's Press, from the only library in the valley.

Now based in Hampshire, Stevie somehow manages to combine thoughts of science fiction, fantasy and historical mysteries with a day-job writing for the pharmaceuticals industry and far too many voluntary posts working with young people, with animals and in local politics. Stevie's short story, 'The Monitors', was longlisted by the 2010 Tiptree Awards jury, and Stevie's first solo collection A Series of Ordinary Adventures was published in May 2012 (also available from Amazon and Amazon.co.uk, Bookdepository, and everywhere else good books are sold).

Stevie has an LJ for updates on writing and research trips, and really needs to get a website.

STUFF YOUR STOCKING BLOGFEST: J.D. BROWN

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Christmas in Finland


Hyvää Joulua, everyone! That’s “Merry Christmas” in Finnish.

Though I’m from the States, my novel DARK HEIRLOOM takes place in Finland. So I decided to research how the Finnish celebrate the holidays and how their traditions differ from ours. While the basics are pretty similar, there are a handful of fun and interesting differences that I would like to try!

First of all, Christmas in Finland lasts a lot longer than it does here. Usually we celebrate Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. In Finland, the holiday season typically begins on the first Sunday in December, called the First Advent. Formal celebrations begin on December 13th for the Day of Saint Lucia and several other Saints are celebrated during the month, with Christmas officially ending 13 days after Christmas Day!

Cleaning the house, as well as one’s self, before the holidays begin is a very important tradition in Finland. Christmas marks the end of the seasonal year for them and it’s important to start the New Year fresh with no negativity from last year! Bathing in a sauna or Finish steam house is practically a requirement. Some sources say the bath is done Christmas morning for a few hours before dinner is severed – other sources claim the cleansing begins a few days before and the Finish spend an entire day in the sauna, taking breaks every few hours and then re-cleansing.

Mass and a visit with dead relatives at a cemetery is an essential part of Christmas Eve. They also decorate a spruce tree on Christmas Eve much like we do, and gifts can be given then or on Christmas morning. However, gifts to children are typically given from the local town Santa Claus himself and a group of village elves! By the way, did you know Santa Clause lives in a castle in Lapland, Finland?

Christmas dinner is served between 5-7 o’clock and the menu traditionally includes Codfish, rutabaga casserole, oven-baked ham, and potatoes.

Sounds divine! I’ve always wanted to go to Finland. Maybe someday my vampires from DARK HEIRLOOM will take me. Please continue reading to find out how you can win a digital copy of DARK HEIRLOOM for yourself – or to give to a friend.

Hyvää Joulua!
J.D. Brown
Author of the Dark Heirloom series
www.AuthorJDBrown.com
Facebook.com/AuthorJDBrown
Twitter @AuthorJDBrown


“You’re a vampire” is so not what Ema Marx wants to hear when she wakes from a two-day coma in a cryptic yet exquisite castle in northern Finland. Unfortunately, it explains a lot. Like why she’s able to see in the dark and walk through solid objects. What she doesn’t understand is why the other vampires expect her to have all the answers. It’s their fault she turned into one of them…right?

Jalmari’s hatred for his old-man intensifies when he’s ordered to bring that troublesome girl to their castle. He has a clan to run, there’s no time for babysitting newborn vampires no matter how they were converted to their culture. But when a two-thousand-year-old premonition threatens to take the crown and his life, Jalmari sees no other choice than to take out the catalyst. Ema Marx. Fortunately for Ema, she could also be the clan’s only savior.

The race to figure out her vampiric origins is on. And maybe she’ll get the hang of the blood-drinking gig along the way…

Available in paperback and ebook from:

Amazon.com Barnes&Noble and Nook Smashwords.com MuseItUp Publishing Inc.

COMING MAY 2013 – DARK LIAISON – Book Two. Being a Romani-Vampire with an ancestor who wants you dead isn’t normal. Neither is this sequel…

WIN a free e-book or .PDF copy of Dark Heirloom by leaving a comment below with your name and email address before January 1, 2013.

Up to three lucky commenters will win!!! Winners will be chosen at random from the comments below and announced on January 2nd. Good luck!

About the Author:
J.D. Brown writes Urban Fantasy for MuseItUp Publishing as well as a monthly “how-to” newsletter column for PDMI Freelance Publishing. She graduated from The International Academy of Design and Technology with a Bachelor Degree in Fine Arts and currently lives in Wisconsin with her two Pomeranians. Growing up in the suburbs of Chicago, J.D.’s writing is influenced by the multicultural urban society of her youth along with the many travels she was fortunate to experience.

J.D. loves paranormal characters - from vampires and werewolves, demons and angels, to witches and ghosts. She’s a self-proclaimed expert in vampire mythology and Greek mythology. Her writings are often a combination of history, magic, suspense and romance brought to life in a colorful metropolitan setting.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

STUFF YOUR STOCKING BLOGFEST:C.A. LANG

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Holidays For Introverts And The Generally Cranky


Everyone knows at least one person who gets cranky about holidays. Chances are it's more than one. I think it's common enough that if it's not quite normal, at least it's widely tolerated. While I doubt everyone who doesn't like the holidays qualifies as an introvert, maybe a good number of such people are on that end of the spectrum.

In my case, I'll go with that. But this isn't a post about shopworn anti-holiday sentiments. As an often-introverted personality type, of course Christmas was never something I could get excited about. Too much noise, too many lights, too much of everything. However, in the last while I've found myself giving in to the sentimentality, as if the heel of Santa's fur-trimmed Hessian boot were at my throat, with a mere shift of the obese man's bodyweight the only thing standing between life and death.

This year especially, people seem to be tired of Christmas music in stores. Being that I've worked in such stores, I've basically experienced a lifetime of normal exposure to this hazardous radiation before the age of thirty. But then something happened.

A good friend of mine is a vocalist and just felt like singing at work over the holidays. And since apparently everyone else was cool with the idea, the two of us ended up performing. Before this, keep in mind that the only music I played on the guitar was a little bit of jazz and a lot of death metal. So I had to learn how the play some of the very songs that had been my torment for basically all of history. And get over the stage fright that had stopped me from getting anywhere with being in a band. I accomplished both of these and also learned that sometimes playing music that's so ubiquitous and part of tradition isn't as easy to do well as I'd assumed, in my arrogant prog-metal Ibanez RG-playing ignorance.

The challenge of it changed the game for me. But only initially. After a few performances, I stopped being so concerned about myself and paid a bit of attention to the "audience," which was, most of the time, perhaps two people. Even though these people had heard the same songs as muzak everywhere else, when they saw two kind-of-shy store employees inexplicably playing Christmas songs in a corner, some of them seemed to genuinely enjoy it, if only for a few seconds. The single encore request we got was even more thrilling.

That was last year. This year was when the epiphany really struck. When those songs came back on the radio, instead of hating them I couldn't help but feel sentimental about it. I missed playing those songs with my friend, and hearing them over and over for a month is all I really have of that now.

So I'm not sure if it's just that I'm the type of introvert who is difficult to get close enough to for such moments to happen, or if it's just that the holidays just don't make as much sense to me outside of playing music and so on. But a large part of my holiday crankiness seems to have been permanently cured just from that experience.

This means there's hope for all the others who become stressed over holidays. The kind of peace a lot of introverts need to feel sane still exists during the holidays, but you just have to dig to find it.

And hey, if you comment on this post, you could win a copy of my dieselpunk fantasy novel, Blightcross. It's like steampunk, only better and with more explosions. Check it out and make sure to enter!

About the Author:
C. A. Lang is a product of Nelson, British Columbia, and it shows. Growing up around Victorian architecture likely had something to do with his appreciation of steampunk, although we're not quite sure why he felt the need to ditch the steam engines and go all internal-combustion on the genre. He has settled in Kelowna, B.C., where sometimes he can be found abusing a gigantic jazz guitar in public, doing deadlifts, and running obscene distances. http://petropunk.wordpress.com
http://tychebooks.com/books/blightcross/