Guest Post: Inkitt publishes 4 algorithm-picked books and launches iOS app

You’ve previously read about Inkitt on Dab of Darkness, they are the first readers-driven book publisher and a fast-growing community for readers and writers. Emerging authors share their work on Inkitt to get feedback and find an audience while fiction lovers discover new writers and ‘read tomorrow’s bestsellers today for free’. Inkitt has developed an algorithm which analyzes reading behavior: as readers read, the algorithm gathers data and analyzes to understand how strong a potential a novel has to become a bestseller.

Last week, Inkitt launched their 4th algorithm-picked book, Esper Files. Ryan Attard’s novel was the winner of Inkitt’s Sky Bound writing contest. Esper Files follows a group of supernatural people and their struggle to use their abilities for good or evil. The book launched on the 2nd of November and within hours of release became a best seller on Amazon in its genre.

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Prior to that, Inkitt published two YA books, I Was A Bitch by Emily Ruben who won Inkitt’s Grand Novel writing contest and Just Juliet by Charlotte Reagan who won the Swoon writing contest. Right after launch the reviews on Amazon came pouring in and both novels quickly became best sellers in their respective categories. Just Juliet, a coming out novel by a lesbian author, received immense support and praise within the LGBT community and remains the #1 best seller 8 weeks after launch in the Teen & Young Adult LGBT Issues Fiction category.

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Inkitt’s first publishing contest, Dreamlands, introduced Linda L. Garcia and her novel Catalyst Moon. This is the first volume in the exciting new fantasy series Incursion and reviewers on Amazon are already anxiously awaiting the release of the next book in the series.

Inkitt runs regular writing contests to help new writers get discovered and kickstart their career. They are all free to enter and all submissions are accepted as long as they fit within the respective guidelines. Their latest contest, The Novelist, just wrapped up and Inkitt will soon be announcing the three authors whose novels have been chosen for publication. Along with the release of these new novels, Inkitt is also hard at work to launch their next writing contest. Keep an eye out for the announcement here and on their Facebook Page.

Finally, for those of you who prefer to read on your iPhone and iPad, Inkitt has just launched their iOS app globally: it’s available to download on the App Store here.

The app offers a substantially better reading experience:

  • It’s fast and seamless, optimised for iOS devices
  • You can also read when offline, by adding stories to your ‘Offline Library’
  • Each user receives personalized reading suggestions based on selected fiction genres
  • You can customize the font sizes and background colors to meet your reading preferences

Other cool features: autoscrolling with adjustable speed and navigation between screens with a swipe. Really liked those two.

Here’s an intro video where you can get a taste of the app, it’s free to download too:

Introducing Inkitt for iOS: Read great novels by up-and-coming authors on your iPhone and iPad from Inkitt – The Hipster’s Library on Vimeo.

 

Guest Post: Inkitt, The First Readers-Driven Book Publisher

Discover Inkitt: The First Readers-Driven Book Publisher

By Eleanna Sbokou, Team Lead at Inkitt Publishing

Since the invention of the movable printing press back in the 13th century, the publishing industry has never stopped evolving. Especially when eBooks were introduced in the mid-90’s, things changed substantially: it was a major move aiming to satisfy readers’ changing habits and preferences when it comes to selecting and buying books.

However, if we think about the decision-making process regarding which books deserve to be published and which are left in the dark, things have remained the same for centuries. The task of predicting the next bestsellers is assigned to editors and literary agents who select books based on their experience of past market behavior, their gut feeling and personal view on whether there is an audience out there for that specific book. As a result, Harry Potter and Twilight initially got rejected 12 and 14 times respectively before seeing the light, and Carrie by Stephen King got 30 rejections. This is just the tip of the iceberg though and luckily those authors did not lose their courage; they kept trying till they made it. But think about all those new writers that send out their manuscripts and after a series of rejections feel that they’ve just hit the wall: there’s so many talented and potentially bestselling authors out there whose work never reaches the surface because they get frustrated and discouraged to keep trying to break the barriers of the traditional publishing process.

This is exactly what we’re aiming to change at Inkitt: We’re a Berlin-based startup and the world’s first data-driven book publisher, on a mission to democratize publishing by putting the decision in readers’ hands.

Predicting future bestsellers with the Inkitt algorithm

We’re living in the age of data: there’s so much information available out there that we no longer need to make unfounded assumptions and rely on hunches. If we want to find out whether readers are going to love a book or not, all we need to do is observe them while reading it: Inkitt has developed an algorithm which captures data and analyses over 1,200 reading behavior dimensions to understand how strong a potential a novel has to become the next bestseller. This is a far more objective and accurate way to predict future trends.

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Data-driven decisions can and will transform traditional processes that have so far been accepted as the standard for the publishing industry. Artificial Intelligence and algorithms like the one we have developed at Inkitt help us better understand readers’ preferences and also make the publishing process more democratic and fair, especially for up and coming authors trying to make their first steps.

Helping emerging talent get found

In just 18 months since launch, Inkitt has attracted 700,000 members: fiction lovers looking to discover great new novels and new writers who want to share their work and kickstart their career. Apart from a readers-driven publisher, Inkitt is a great platform for authors looking to find an audience for their work and get honest and constructive feedback for free. We also hold writing contests regularly where the winning authors get a publishing deal.

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In addition to the above, Inkitt offers a variety of resources to support and guide emerging writers: from AMAs with published authors, to writing groups and articles where writers can find tips and guidance on the writing craft and the road to publishing your work.

If readers love it, it gets published: The revolution has started

Inkitt’s founder and CEO, Ali Albazaz, has one vision: to make sure great books will never again miss the opportunity they deserve. And the best toolset available for that is to analyse behavioral data and understand what readers want: that’s the only way to ensure publishers will never again reject a great novel.

The first book selected by Inkitt’s algorithm, Erin Swan’s Bright Star will be published by Inkitt and Tor in 2017. Back in September, Inkitt published Charlotte Reagan’s YA novel Just Juliet and a month after that, Emily Ruben’s I Was A Bitch followed: both of them immediately became bestsellers in their respective category: a clear sign the Inkitt algorithm ‘has an eye’ for best selling novels.

And this is just the beginning; there’s many more books in Inkitt’s publishing pipeline for the next few months.

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We’ve made the first steps in our journey to revolutionize publishing. And the response we’ve seen so far from both our authors and readers gives us even more strength to carry on: It’s so rewarding to have a community of hundreds of thousands who share your vision!

Inkitt is here to help new talent rise and bring great novels to book lovers looking to discover new authors.

If you have questions or want to find out more about Inkitt, please send your email to marketing@inkitt.com. Thanks for reading!

Guest Post: Using Fiction to Interest Young Readers in Non-Fiction by Henry Herz

Hello everyone, please welcome Henry Herz to the blog today. I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing Henry in the past as well as enjoying his clever children’s rhyming book Monster Goose Nursery Rhymes. One of his other books, When You Give an Imp a Penny, was beautifully illustrated and mischievously fun! Today, we’re celebrating the release of his latest children’s book, Little Red Cuttlefish. Without further ado, enjoy the guest post!

Using Fiction to Interest Young Readers in Non-Fiction by Henry Herz

I think it’s fair to say that parents want their kids to develop both the right-brain creativity stoked by reading fiction, AND the left-brain analytical capacity encouraged from reading non-fiction. Both help round out young minds. Both improve school grades and SAT scores. Both are useful life skills.

Sadly, many young readers view only fiction as fun reading; looking down their cute noses at “boring” non-fiction. This makes fiction the chocolate pudding of the literary banquet table. History, math, and science are relegated to the role of lima beans, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts. Boy are they steamed!

Now, I love fiction. After all, I write fiction picture books – like the fractured fairy tale, Little Red Cuttlefish recently released by Pelican Publishing. And I moderate fantasy literature panels at San Diego Comic-Con. That said, I’ve also been long fascinated by history, math, and science.

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So, how do we get kids to use both sides of their brains and eat their literary vegetables? Well, as a parent, I’m not embarrassed to admit that I’ve resorted to melting cheese on vegetables so my co-author sons eat what’s good for them. And why not use the same technique with my writing?

Little Red Cuttlefish is a good example of this approach. The story is an aquatic retelling of the classic fairy tale. In the original, Little Red Riding Hood is swallowed whole by the wolf – not a very savory outcome (for the girl, anyway). In Little Red Cuttlefish, the plucky cephalopod protagonist uses her wits and natural defense mechanisms to thwart a hungry tiger shark.

Aside from a more positive message (they were called the Brothers Grimm, after all), the aquatic version is intended to spark young readers’ interest in learning about sea creatures, zoology, and science in general. Toward that end, the story showcases the superhero-like abilities of cuttlefish, and an author’s note serves up fascinating facts about cuttlefish and tiger sharks, an excerpt of which is below.

Cuttlefish aren’t fish at all. They are members of a class of animals that includes squids, octopuses, and nautiluses. They have a porous shell inside their bodies, called a cuttlebone, which is used to control their buoyancy.

Male cuttlefish have eight arms and two tentacles. Female cuttlefish have only six arms and two tentacles. The arms and tentacles have suckers for grabbing prey. And if that isn’t strange enough, their blood is greenish blue.

Cuttlefish have an amazing ability to quickly change the color, pattern, and texture of their skin. Cuttlefish can use this camouflage to sneak up on their prey, which consists mostly of crabs and fish.

The cuttlefish’s ability to quickly change color also helps it avoid being hunted by sharks, dolphins, seals, and other predators. If camouflage doesn’t work and it is spotted by a predator, a cuttlefish can squirt out a cloud of brown ink to help it hide.

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Now, what kid wouldn’t want the superpowers of changing color, squirting ink, and multiple sucker-covered arms? As if by magic, fiction can point young minds in the direction of non-fiction. “Why, yes, I WILL have some broccoli now.”

 

Places to Stalk Henry

Website

Twitter

Facebook

Pinterest

Amazon

Pelican Publishing Company and Little Red Cuttlefish

Ebook Giveaway & Guest Post: Darrell Drake on The Art vs. The Artist

DrakeAStarReckonersLotDear readers, please welcome again author Darrell Drake! Today, he has a most interesting guest post for us on the conundrum of separating the merits of a work from the vagaries of the artist. Also, make sure to check out the GIVEAWAY of Drake’s forthcoming book at the bottom of this post. Also, check out the previous interview with Darrell.

The Art vs. The Artist

Does the person behind the work really matter? In a world dominated by social media and the desire to raise luminaries to celebrity status, I’ve asked myself this question many times.

I’ve seen literary accomplishments drained of prestige—at least conversationally—because of the reputation of the author behind them. Andrzej Sapkowski’s recent World Fantasy Award is a fresh example of readers conflating the author with the author’s work. It’s not necessary to go into detail, but the award was met with some criticism due to the public perception of the man.

Rather than being concerned solely with ferrying readers to worlds fantastic and spellbinding, authors are expected to make appearances, tramp through social media, and maintain a regular Internet presence. This is all well and good, but in doing so, it’s sometimes a task of smothering personality for the sake of appearing professional and avoiding backlash.

It is the firm belief of this author that the art should stand on its own, without condemnation or praise of the person behind it. Whether an author is a philanthropist or a psychopath has no bearing on what’s been written, unless it is intentionally imposed by the reader. If the reader can separate the art from the artist, or refrain from the connection to begin with, they’re free to simply read and enjoy—or don’t, if that’s the case—unhindered by irrelevant perceptions.

Centuries from now, it won’t matter who an artist offended on Twitter, whether they kowtowed to the right people, or whose approval they lost. The people of the future may spectulate and debate, but if a work of art survives the generations, it’ll stand or fall on its own merit.

Rather than getting caught up in judging an artist, perhaps we should skip to simply appreciating their work. Because that’s ultimately why we bother at all.

 

DarrellDrakeAuthorAuthor Bio: 

Darrell Drake has published four books, with A Star-Reckoner’s Lot being the latest. He often finds himself inspired by his research to take on new hobbies. Birdwatching, archery, stargazing, and a heightened interest in history have all become a welcome part of his life thanks to this habit.

Places to Find Darrell Drake

Website

Twitter

Facebook

Tumblr

Reddit

GoodReads

Amazon

DrakeAStarReckonersLotBook Blurb for A Star-Reckoner’s Lot: For some, loss merely deprives. For others, it consumes.

Ashtadukht is a star-reckoner. The worst there’s ever been. Witness her treacherous journey through Iranian legends and ancient history.

Only a brave few storytellers still relate cautionary glimpses into the life of Ashtadukht, a woman who commanded the might of the constellations—if only just, and often unpredictably. They’ll stir the imagination with tales of her path to retribution. How, fraught with bereavement and a dogged illness, she criss-crossed Sassanian Iran in pursuit of creatures now believed mythical. Then, in hushed tones, what she wrought on that path.

GIVEAWAY!

Darrell is giving away 3 ebook copies of his fantasy historical fiction novel, A Star-Reckoner’s Lot. Open internationally. Do the Rafflecopter thing below or answer these questions in the comments: 1) Do you find it possible to separate the art from the artist? An example? 2) Leave a way to contact you. Thanks! Giveaway ends September 30, 2016.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Guest Post: Fairy Tales and Fairies and Fae (Oh, My!) by Henry Herz

Hello everyone, please welcome Henry Herz to the blog today. I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing Henry in the past as well as reading his wonderful children’s book Nimpentoad. He was also the editor for a great anthology, Beyond the Pale.  His latest clever creation is Mabel and the Queen of Dreams. Without further ado, enjoy the guest post!

Fairy Tales and Fairies and Fae (Oh,My!) by Henry Herz

Fairy tales are commonly defined as children’s short stories featuring fantasy creatures and magical enchantments. Wikipedia artfully states, “The characters and motifs of fairy tales are simple and archetypal: princesses and goose-girls; youngest sons and gallant princes; ogres, giants, dragons, and trolls; wicked stepmothers and false heroes; fairy godmothers and other magical helpers, often talking horses, or foxes, or birds; glass mountains; and prohibitions and breaking of prohibitions.” The fairy tale is such a ubiquitous literary form, that it even has more than one classification system*.

Thomas Keightley indicated that the word ‘fairy’ derived from the Old French faerie, denoting enchantment. Fae is not related to the Germanic fey, or fated to die. Some authors don’t distinguish between Fae and fairies. Other authors define Fae as any inhabitants of Faërie, be they large or small, good or evil. For them, Fae is the broader term encompassing not only fairies, but elves, dwarves, ogres, imps, and all other fantasy creatures. They consider fairies to be Fae who are diminutive and often ethereal, magic-wielding, and/or winged.

ElvesAndFairiesIdaRentoulOuthwaiteFairy Islands from Elves and Fairies by Ida Rentoul Outhwaite, 1916

Fairies of either flavor have been flitting about literature for centuries. Consider Morgan le Fay in Le Morte d’Arthur, Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queene, Oberon and Titania in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Tinker Bell in J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan, Holly Short in Eoin Colfer’s Artemis Fowl, all the way up to Bloom in Doreen Cronin’s eponymously titled picture book and Mabel and the Queen of Dreams (inspired by Queen Mab in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet).

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C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and others established fantasy as the subgenre of speculative fiction that employs magical elements set in an alternative world. Tolkien wrote in his essay “On Fairy-Stories” that fairy tales are distinct from traveller’s tales (e.g., Gulliver’s Travels), science fiction, beast tales (e.g., Aesop’s Fables), and dream stories (e.g., Alice in Wonderland). He felt that fairies themselves were not an integral part of the definition of fairy tales. Rather, fairy tales were stories about the adventures of men and fantastic creatures in Faërie, a marvel-filled magical otherworld. By that definition, The Lord of the Rings is a fairy tale.

TheBoyAndTheTrollsJohnBauerBy John Bauer from The Boy and the Trolls, 1915

Urban fantasy** is a subgenre of fantasy set in an urban setting, typically in contemporary times. This setting violates Tolkien’s definition of a fairy tale, since the story takes place in the “real” world, rather than in Faërie. Thus, Mabel and the Queen of Dreams, though featuring a fairy, is an urban fantasy rather than a fairy tale, or as Tolkien preferred, Märchen (wonder tale).

Regardless of subgenre, I hope readers will find in my story what Tolkien posited for Märchen generally. “Far more powerful and poignant is the effect [of joy] in a serious tale of Faërie. In such stories, when the sudden turn comes, we get a piercing glimpse of joy, and heart’s desire, that for a moment passes outside the frame, rends indeed the very web of story, and lets a gleam come through.”

*Two major fairy tale classification systems are Aarne-Thompson and Vladimir Propp’s Morphology of the Folk Tale.

**Some notable urban fantasy includes the Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews, Modern Faerie Tales series by Holly Black, Dresden Files series by Jim Butcher, Weather Warden series by Rachel Caine, Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare, Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman, The Southern Vampire Mysteries series by Charlaine Harris, The Hollows series by Kim Harrison, The Iron Druid Chronicles by Kevin Hearne, Feral series by Cynthia Leitich Smith, The Wicked Lovely series by Melissa Marr, October Daye series by Seanan McGuire, Marla Mason series by Tim Pratt, Simon Canderous series by Anton Stout, and Borderlands series by Terri Windling.

Places to Stalk Henry

Website

Twitter

Facebook

Pinterest

Amazon

Schiffer Publishing and Mabel and the Queen of Dreams

Of All The Perks Of Time Travel, This Has Got To Be The Best by L. K. Hill

HillLieselKAuthorDear Readers, please welcome author Liesel K. Hill back to the blog. Today, she brings us a most entertaining guest post!

Of All the Perks of Time Travel, This Has Got to Be the Best

By L.K.Hill

As a writer who tells stories across multiple genres—crime, historical, fantasy/sci-fi—I have some unique opportunities that writers who stick to only one genre don’t get.

There are plenty of readers out there that read in multiple genres—most, in fact—but not all will read the exact genres I write. This means that the number of people who read everything all write will be relatively small compared with my overall readership. As an author who loves, respects, and greatly appreciates her readers, I feel like I ought to reward that kind of loyalty in some way.

My newest book, The Botanist, is a contemporary crime fiction set in rural southern Utah. It’s not a story that has a single thing to do with time travel, even if clandestine history (my favorite kind) does play a major role.

And yet, one of my other stories (Interchron) takes place in a futuristic dystopian world. It’s a world that’s very different than our own, but it’s still supposed to be our world.

And…it includes time Travelers. Which creates a gateway for me to have all kinds of fun letting my characters invade one another’s worlds.

Even most authors who happen to write, say, both contemporary and historical would have trouble letting their characters cross paths. It’s general only done with characters in the same genre. Fantasy characters who all inhabit the same cosmos (I’m looking at you, Mr. Sanderson) or contemporary stories where characters wander into one another’s home towns (and you, Mr. King). But characters from completely different genres can’t realistically meet one another, right?

Right! Usually. But cranking out a character who can zap himself across space and time at will kind of puts a monkey wrench in the whole linear-chronology thing, doesn’t it?

My point is, The Botanist is serial killer novel with a bit of romance thrown in, and I hope all you crime aficionados enjoy it. But keep your brain peeled for a random character that might come out of nowhere to point our hero and/or heroine toward their destiny (read: true love) and then disappear again, with no other real bearing on the story.

He might just be visiting from a genre far, far away…

HillTheBotanistBook Blurb for The Botanist

In the heat of the desert, Detective Cody Oliver inadvertently stumbles upon a strange garden adorned with exotic flowers. Upon closer inspection, he finds the garden is but a cover for the scores of bodies buried below. Soon, the small town of Mt. Dessicate plunges into chaos as journalists, reporters, and cameramen from across the nation descend upon the tiny, desert town to get a piece of the action.

Along with the media, a mysterious woman appears. She may be the only person who has come face to face with the killer, dubbed the Botanist, and lived to tell the tale. If Cody can’t piece together a timeline of the land the crime scene is located on, decipher how the woman’s mysterious past is connected to the killer, and bring the Botanist to justice, he may lose the people he values most.

HillCitadelsOfFireBook Blurb for Citadels of Fire:

In a world where danger hides in plain sight and no one aspires to more than what they were born to, Inga must find the courage to break the oppressive chains she’s been bound with since birth.

As a maid in the infamous Kremlin, life in 16th-century Russia is bleak and treacherous. That is, until Taras arrives. Convinced that his mother’s death when he was a boy was no mere accident, he returned from England to discover what really happened. While there, he gains favor from the Tsar later known as Ivan the Terrible, the most brutal and notorious ruler ever to sit upon the throne of Russia. Ivan allows him to take a servant, and to save Inga from a brutal boyar intent on raping her, Taras requests Inga to stay in his chambers.

Up against the social confines of the time, the shadowy conspiracies that cloak their history, and the sexual politics of the Russian Imperial court, Inga and Taras must discover their past, plan for their future, and survive the brutality that permeates life within the four walls that tower over them all, or they may end up like so many citizens of ancient Russia: nothing but flesh and bone mortar for the stones of the Kremlin wall.

HillPersistenceOfVisionBook Blurb for Persistence of Vision

In a world where collective hives are enslaving the population and individuals have been hunted to the verge of extinction, Maggie Harper, and independent 21st Century woman, must find the strength to preserve the freedom of the future, but without the aid of her memories.

After experiencing a traumatic time loss, Maggie is plagued by a barrage of images she can’t explain. When she’s attacked by a creep with a spider’s web tattoo, she is saved by Marcus, a man she’s never met, but somehow remembers. He tells her that both he and her creepy attacker are from a future in which individuals are being murdered by collectives, and Marcus is part of the rebellion. The collectives have acquired time travel and they plan to enslave the human race throughout all of history. The flashes Maggie has been seeing are echoes of lost memories, and the information buried deep within them is instrumental in defeating the collective hives.

In order to preserve the individuality of mankind, Maggie must try to re-discover stolen memories, re-kindle friendships she has no recollection of, and wade through her feelings for the mysterious Marcus, all while dodging the tattooed assassins the collectives keep sending her way.

If Maggie can’t fill the holes in her memory and find the answers to stop the collectives, the world both in her time and in all ages past and future will be doomed to enslavement in the grey, mediocre collectives. As the danger swirls around her and the collectives close in, Maggie realizes she must make a choice: stand out or fade away…

Places to Find L. K. Hill

Website

GoodReads

Facebook

Interchron Series

 

Guest Post: Bubonicon 47 – Tea Time! by David Lee Summers

David Lee Summers with his daughter Verity at the their publishers table.
David Lee Summers with his daughter Verity at the their publishers table.

Folks, it is my great pleasure to have author and publisher David Lee Summers back on the blog. I was unable to attend New Mexico’s once-a-year scifi convention this year and asked (perhaps ‘begged’ is a better term) David to let me life vicariously through him. He was kind enough to offer up this guest post about Bubonicon 47.

Tea Time!

Who Can It Be Now: Characters With Flaws panel. From left to right: Ben Bova, David Lee Summers, S.M. Stirling (scratching his head at whatever Davids saying), Walter Jon Williams, and Caroline Spector.
Who Can It Be Now: Characters With Flaws panel. From left to right: Ben Bova, David Lee Summers, S.M. Stirling (scratching his head at whatever David’s saying), Walter Jon Williams, and Caroline Spector.

I enjoy attending science fiction conventions because they are a wonderful opportunity to connect with fellow readers and writers.  One of my longtime favorite conventions is Bubonicon in Albuquerque, New Mexico.  There are an amazing group of writers who live in or near Albuquerque and regularly attend Bubonicon including Walter Jon Williams, Jane Lindskold, S.M. Stirling, P.G. Nagle, and George R.R. Martin.  These writers, working with an outstanding convention committee, present a great set of panels and readings along with a diverse dealer’s room, art show, and gaming room.  What’s more, the convention has a great name, given when Egypt placed travel restrictions on New Mexico because Bubonic Plague had been reported in the mountains east of Albuquerque.  For most of the last two decades, Bubonicon has also been the convention closest to my home in Southern New Mexico.  That honor was only recently supplanted by Las Cruces Comic Con.

Red or Green panel.  From left to right: Dr. Catherine S. Plesko, Dr. Larry Crumpler, Christine MacKenzie, David Lee Summers, Loretta Hall, and Zachary Gallegos.
Red or Green panel. From left to right: Dr. Catherine S. Plesko, Dr. Larry Crumpler, Christine MacKenzie, David Lee Summers, Loretta Hall, and Zachary Gallegos.

The theme of Bubonicon 47 was “Women of Wonder” and featured an all-woman lineup of special guests.  The guests of honor were Tamora Pierce and Catherynne M. Valente.  The guest artist was Ruth Sanderson.  The toastmaster was Mary Robinette Kowal (in her own words, she’s a toastmaster because she’s nobody’s mistress!).  I was especially pleased to meet Ms. Kowal who, like me, had a story in the anthology of near-future stories 2020 Visions edited by Rick Novy.  Another special thing about that anthology is that it also features Bubonicon’s 2016 Guest of Honor, David Gerrold.  The convention schedule included such theme-related panels as “The Inescapable Romance Subplot: Passing the Bechdel Test?”, “Curse of the Strong Female: Pitfalls and Cliches”, and “Writing Different Genders: Your Point of View.”

Mary Robinette Kowal, right foreground. Photo credit James L. Moore and Jane Lindskold.
Mary Robinette Kowal, right foreground. Photo credit James L. Moore and Jane Lindskold.

Panels weren’t limited to the theme.  I participated in such panels as “Whither Ghost? Dancing With the Definitely Dead?” where we discussed ghost stories and stories with ghosts.  Of particular interest we talked about how ghost stories can take a science fiction twist when you imagine humans uploading their consciousness into a computer, becoming a “ghost in the machine.”  I also participated in a science panel called “Red or Green: NM as Mars Analog” in which we looked at how sites in New Mexico can be quite similar to sites on Mars, to the extent that they can be used to test Martian rovers or be used as test beds for humans traveling to Mars.  I moderated the panel, “It’s Alive: Scientists in Science Fiction” in which writers and scientists discussed how science and fiction have influenced each other.  Our conclusion was that although there is a societal perception of a “mad scientist” trope and a certain distrust of science in the media, science fiction writers generally respect scientists and the work they do.

David Lee Summers  Hillary Estell serving tea. Photo credit James L. Moore and Jane Lindskold.
David Lee Summers Hillary Estell serving tea. Photo credit James L. Moore and Jane Lindskold.

One of the highlights of Bubonicon for me is the Sunday Afternoon Author’s Tea.  The tea, which is unique as far as I know to Bubonicon, was conceived as a way for the authors to say thank you to the fans who attend the convention.  Seating is limited, simply due to limited space.  Because of that, there are sign-up sheets for the three sessions, but there is no charge.  Although there is no requirement to dress up for the tea, authors donate prizes and those who are judged to wear the best hat and glove combinations get to pick from the donated prizes.  Those fans who attend have the opportunity to sample four teas donated by the St. James Tea Room in Albuquerque.  This year’s choices included Lady Londonberry, a traditional black tea with a hint of strawberry flavoring, Black Pearl, a black tea scented with vanilla, Hesperides Golden Delight, a green tea scented with golden apples, and Daybreak in Martinique, a Rooibos scented with lemon myrtle and French lavender.  The authors also provide a range of sweet and savory snacks that range from smoked salmon and sausage balls to blueberry scones and lemon muffins.

SummersOwlDanceWhen not speaking on panels, giving a reading, or pouring tea for fans, I hung out at the table for my company, Hadrosaur Productions, in the dealer’s room.  This year, the dealer’s room was full of vendors selling books, comics, toys, and jewelry.  I found a snazzy steampunkish pocket watch to replace one I broke earlier this year along with several wonderful books.  The danger of hanging out in the dealer’s room is that my cash and I have a tendency to part company much too fast.  That said, I do like spending time there because it gives me a chance to interact with readers and writers, which of course, is the whole reason I’m there.

Places to Find David Lee Summers

Hadrosaur Productions

Tales of the Talisman

David Lee Summers: Wrong Turn on the Information Superhighway

David Lee Summers’ Web Journal

Goodreads

Amazon

Facebook

Twitter

You can also delve into David’s mine by reading his past interviews here on Dab of Darkness: 

David as an Author

David as a Publisher

SummersOwlDanceBook Blurb for Owl Dance:

Owl Dance is a Weird Western steampunk novel. The year is 1876. Sheriff Ramon Morales of Socorro, New Mexico, meets a beguiling woman named Fatemeh Karimi, who is looking to make a new start after escaping the oppression of her homeland. When an ancient life form called Legion comes to Earth, they are pulled into a series of events that will change the history of the world as we know it. In their journeys, Ramon and Fatemeh encounter mad inventors, dangerous outlaws and pirates. Their resources are Ramon’s fast draw and Fatemeh’s uncanny ability to communicate with owls. The question is, will that be enough to save them when airships from Czarist Russia invade the United States?

SummersLightningWolvesBook Blurb for Lightning Wolves:

It’s 1877 and Russians forces occupy the Pacific Northwest. They are advancing into California. New weapons have proven ineffective or dangerously unstable. The one man who can help has disappeared into Apache Country, hunting ghosts. A healer and a former sheriff lead a band into the heart of the invasion to determine what makes the Russian forces so unstoppable while a young inventor attempts to unleash the power of the lightning wolves.

HowellSummersKeplersDozenBook Blurb for A Kepler’s Dozen: 13 Stories About Distant Worlds That Really Exist

A Kepler’s Dozen presents thirteen action-packed, mysterious, and humorous stories all based on real planets discovered by the NASA Kepler mission. Edited by and contributing stories are David Lee Summers, editor of Tales of the Talisman Magazine, and Steve B. Howell, project scientist for the Kepler mission. Whether on a prison colony, in a fast escape from the authorities, or encircling a binary star, these exoplanet stories will amuse, frighten, and intrigue you while you share fantasy adventures among Kepler’s real-life planets.

SummersSpaceHorrorsBook Blurb for Space Horrors:

Space Horrors is the fourth anthology of the Full-Throttle Space Tales series. Edited by David Lee Summers, Space Horrors contains blood-chilling tales of vampires and ghouls in space, by established and rising-star authors. Terrifying tales contained in this volume: “Poetic Justice” by Alastair Mayer: Space hibernation does strange things to a man. “Listening” by Anna Paradox: It’s Halloween on the run to Mars. What could go wrong? “The Walking Man” by Glynn Barrass: A giant robot on Mars is in the hands of mutineers. “Natural Selection” by Simon Bleaken: The Zoological Institute warned Rebecca not to go study the bugs. “Oh Why Can’t I” by C.J. Henderson: The Earth Alliance Ship Roosevelt is pitted against a world swallowing creature. “Last Man Standing” by Danielle Ackley-McPhail: Mining can be hard work, depending on who – or what – is doing the mining. “Anemia” by David Lee Summers: Vampires prefer the eternal night of space, it seems. “Chosen One” by Dana Bell: A particularly unnerving game of cat and…something. “Sleepers” by Selina Rosen: Sometimes the nightmare you wake from is not as bad as the one you wake up to. “Divining Everest” by Patrick Thomas: When the vampires call for help, you know it’s bad. “Into the Abyss” by Dayton Ward: Ghosts haunting the depths of space. “Salvage” by David B. Riley: Insurance investigator Sarah Meadows is on a ghost ship and in trouble. “The Golem” by Judith Herman: A friend in need is a deadly reckoning. “In the Absence of Light” by Sarah A. Hoyt: Have you heard of the drifters? “A Touch of Frost” by Gene Mederos: Space is a hostile environment – except for zombies, of course. “Wake of the White Death” by Lee Clark Zumpe: Who will rescue the rescuers? “Plan 9 in Outer Space” by Ernest and Emily Hogan: Making bad space horror more horrible ain’t easy.

SummersDragon'sFallBook Blurb for Dragon’s Fall: Rise of the Scarlet Order:

Three vampyrs. Three lives. Three intertwining stories.

Bearing the guilt of destroying the holiest of books, after becoming a vampyr, the Dragon, Lord Desmond searches the world for lost knowledge, but instead, discovers truth in love.

Born a slave in Ancient Greece, Alexandra craves freedom above all else, until a vampyr sets her free, but then, she must pay the highest price of all … her human soul.

An assassin who lives in the shadows, Roquelaure is cloaked even from himself, until he discovers the power of friendship and loyalty.

Three vampyrs, traveling the world by moonlight—one woman and two men who forge a bond made in love and blood. Together they form a band of mercenaries called the Scarlet Order, and recruit others who are like them. Their mission is to protect kings and emperors against marauders, invaders, and rogue vampyrs—and their ultimate nemesis, Vlad the Impaler.

Guest Post: Dinner Guests by Henry Herz

HerzMonsterGooseNurseryRhymesHello everyone, please welcome Henry Herz to the blog today. I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing Henry in the past as well as reading his wonderful children’s book Nimpentoad. He was also the editro for a great anthology, Beyond the Pale. We’re celebrating the release of his latest children’s book, Monster Goose Nursery Rhymes. Without further ado, enjoy the guest post!

Dinner Guests by Henry Herz

When I interview authors on my blog, I often ask them, “If you could have any authors over for dinner, who would you choose?” With the pending release of my debut picture book, MONSTER GOOSE NURSERY RHYMES, I find myself thinking a lot about fantasy and mythological creatures. And which fantasy characters would I like to have over for dinner.

MONSTER GOOSE NURSERY RHYMES includes a hydra, which could be viewed as a multi-headed wingless dragon. And when I think dragons, I think Pern, Earthsea, and Game of Thrones. So, my first guest would be Daenerys Stormborn of the House Targaryen, the First of Her Name, the Unburnt, Queen of Meereen, Queen of the Andals and the Rhoynar and the First Men, Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, Breaker of Chains, and Mother of Dragons. An excellent choice, no? She’s beautiful, brave, and compassionate. She’s been robbed of the throne, but she’s not whiney about it. She can eat raw horse heart without complaint, so my cooking is probably safe for her. But, her dragons would probably wreck my furniture, and formally introducing her to the other guests would mean we wouldn’t start eating until midnight.

MONSTER GOOSE NURSERY RHYMES features a dwarf, and that’s just the right character to keep those pesky dragons in check. While Gimli is well-known, I have to go with The Hobbit’s Dáin II Ironfoot. He earned renown as a young dwarf by slaying the Orc chieftain Azog at the Battle of Azanulbizar. Like his kindred, the Lord of the Iron Hills is tough and battle-hardened. But unlike some dwarves of Middle Earth, Dáin has wisdom. He knew that even though the goblins were defeated, it was not yet time for the dwarves to reoccupy their ancient home of Khazad-dûm. After the Battle of Five Armies, he rules the Lonely Mountain with the good sense to keep on good terms with the Elves of Mirkwood and the Men of Dale. But, he’d probably drink all my ale.

MONSTER GOOSE NURSERY RHYMES also features a witch, an ettin, sprites, a werewolf, and a minotaur. And since the witch in Monty Python and the Holy Grail is a false one, I will instead invite Jadis, Queen of Narnia, Châtelaine of Cair Paravel, and Empress of the Lone Islands. What is it with the ladies and long names? You may recall her by the more convenient title of White Witch, played so deliciously by Tilda Swinton in the movie version of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. The seven-foot tall sorceress could teach a class on being cold and goal-oriented. She uttered the Deplorable Word in order to vanquish her sister, even though that eradicated all life in the world of Charn. She subsequently sends Narnia into a deep freeze, although that skill could turn out quite handy keeping my ale chilled (at least until Dáin drinks it all). Jadis is tall. She’s immensely strong. She’s petrifying. And I mean that both figuratively and literally. And Jadis has minotaurs, ettins, werewolves, sprites, and other assorted minions. But, she’d probably eat the Turkish Delight I prepared for dessert.

MONSTER GOOSE NURSERY RHYMES briefly mentions an elf. The Lord of the Rings offers us many elves, but none more tragic than Fëanor. Here’s a guy born with a mithril spoon in his mouth. He’s immortal, his dad is High King of the Noldor elves, and Fëanor lives in Valinor, which is THE primo real estate in Arda. He is the most gifted gemsmith to ever live. He crafted the palantíri, and he captured in the three infinitely valuable Silmarils the light of Laurelin and Telperion, the two trees that illuminate the world. When Morgoth kills the two trees, Fëanor is told he can restore them by giving up the Silmarils. But his pride, anger, and hatred prevent him from doing so. Morgoth steals the Silmarils, and Fëanor convinces many Noldor to pursue Morgoth to Middle Earth, even killing on three separate occasions fellow elves that won’t do their bidding. Though Fëanor and countless elves die in the attempt, they fail to finally recover the Silmarils. What a douche.

Hmmm. Upon further consideration, maybe I should just have some authors over for dinner…

Learn more about MONSTER GOOSE NURSERY RHYMES at http://www.birchtreepub.com/mgnr.htm

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Guest Post: Catching the Muse by Barbara Venkataraman

VenkataramanDeathByDidgeridooFolks, please welcome Barbara Venkataraman to the blog today. I have enjoyed her Jamie Quinn mysteries quite a bit. Check out my reviews of Death by Didgeridoo and The Case of the Killer Divorce. Today, Barbara is going to share a little about herself and then has a fun guest post, Catching the Muse, for us all. But then she has gone beyond that and given us Bittersweet, a short fiction piece, for us to enjoy.

Barbara Venkataraman is an attorney and mediator specializing in family law and debt collection.

She is the author of The Fight for Magicallus, a children’s fantasy; a humorous short story entitled, If You’d Just Listened to Me in the First Place; and two books of humorous essays: I’m Not Talking about You, Of Course and A Trip to the Hardware Store & Other Calamities, which are part of the “Quirky Essays for Quirky People” series. Both books of humorous essays won the prestigious “Indie Book of the Day” award.

Her latest works are Death by Didgeridoo, first in the Jamie Quinn series, The Case of the Killer Divorce, the second Jamie Quinn mystery, and, just out, Peril in the Park, the latest in the popular Jamie Quinn series. Coming soon, Engaged in Danger–the next Jamie Quinn mystery!

 

VenkataramanCaseOfKillerDivorceCatching the Muse

I wish I could tell you how to capture that vixen, the muse, the mythical creature who bestows inspiration–but it’s simply not possible.  She (mine is a she) is a shape-shifter who delights in dancing just out of reach, teasing me with fantastic tales sung in perfect pitch and enviable prose. When she does appear (and I never know when that will be), I must pretend that I can’t see her for fear she’ll leave me.

After countless attempts to conjure her, I’ve discovered that she finds water soothing and will whisper ideas in my ear when I’m swimming, or soaking in a fragrant bath. More importantly, I’ve learned what her favorite drink is. Sometimes, after a strong brew of energizing (and sleep-depriving) coffee, she will magically appear. Then, with a wink and a laugh, she will sit next to me, an ephemeral creature, her gossamer robes tickling my arm, and pluck ideas from my mind as if plucking a lute. Although the music isn’t always beautiful, or even original, it is mine and it flows like the water my muse loves so much.

 

VenkataramPerilInTheParkBittersweet

Who would have thought this could happen to us?  An economic superpower in our day and we never saw it coming.  Okay, that last part isn’t true. They did try to warn us:  the botanists and economists, the climatologists and even those pretentious foodies, damn them! But we refused to believe it.  So spoiled and gluttonous were we that we couldn’t imagine such a vacuum in our lives, couldn’t imagine that one of our greatest pleasures, second only to, well you know, could disappear so suddenly, leaving us in a glassy-eyed stupor.

At first, there seemed to be no cause for alarm.  Sure, a few high-end distributors declared bankruptcy and most of the artisanal boutiques quietly closed down, but that didn’t affect the rest of us. Even as the price started creeping up, we took it in stride, still happily gorging ourselves on a regular basis.  Every holiday was an excuse to buy new varieties created in whimsical shapes or mixed with exotic flavors like hot chili peppers, spicy ginger, aromatic curry powders or edible flowers.

People even ate it on insects!  Now, why would I make that up?  Others drank it in liquid form; some preferred it melted or frozen. Touted for centuries as an energy-booster, an antioxidant, and an aphrodisiac, it was all that and much more.  In fact, some of the wealthiest ladies went to luxury spas so they could bathe in it! Isn’t that decadent? The flavors were so rich and complex that no scientist ever managed to synthesize it in the lab. Believe me, they tried. If I told you its name meant “food of the gods,” maybe you could start to understand the depth of our loss…

In our defense, we had a lot of other problems to worry about. There were no world population councils back then so people could have as many children as they wanted. My own grandparents had twelve kids! The population climbed to 9 billion before we did anything about it. On top of that, the climate was changing and real estate which had been “underwater” due to the housing bubble was now literally underwater. Coastal areas were disappearing, Louisiana was sinking and the popular area known as South Beach was cut off from the mainland forever. At the same time, countries were locked in a massive power struggle over the dwindling supply of fossil fuels.

Is it any wonder we paid no attention to those whining foodies? I mean, they were always complaining about something.  If it wasn’t the shortage of truffle pigs, then it was the ban on pâté de foie gras or the counterfeit caviar flooding the market. Their concerns were so alien to the rest of us plebeians that we tuned them out when we really should have listened to them. Only the Doomsday freaks took them seriously and, naturally, they started hoarding the “food of the gods” because, well, hoarding was what they did best.  Always preparing for the world to end, they saw no sense in going hungry while they waited. It was the hoarding that jacked the price up enough for the world to finally notice.

Outside of our purview, the fragile crops that supplied the delicious elixir were dying from insect infestation, disease, and climate change, and demand was quickly overtaking supply.  Speculators entered the mix and real panic set in.  It became the hottest commodity in the world, even overtaking gold.  Financial markets were so volatile that in West African countries, where the crop was cultivated, ripe pods became the new currency, just like in ancient times.  Black markets sprang up everywhere and nobody could talk about anything else.  Elected officials were besieged by rabid voters demanding immediate action. Riots broke out and the processing factories were looted for raw materials. Even natural disasters couldn’t distract people for very long…

I’m sorry, where was I? You’ll have to forgive me but ever since I reached my 115th sun cycle, my mind has started to wander. Oh, yes, the governments became involved but, of course, they only made things worse. Truthfully, I don’t know if there was anything they could have done anyway. Our best agri-scientists worked around the clock but, in the end, all they could do was bank seeds in all of the master seed banks and watch it play out. In only ten years, all of the crops were utterly decimated, never to return. Even the hoarders and black marketeers eventually reached their last precious morsels. And, because they had no choice, the people of the world adjusted, but there was a sadness that permeated everything, a yearning that would never pass, a taste that could not be forgotten…

I know you’re wondering why I told you this long story, especially today, when we should be celebrating your 21st sun-cycle and eating a feast of the best synth food in town, but you’re my only great-great-granddaughter and I wanted to give you something really special. Yesterday, I went to my Cryo-storage unit to get your gift so that it would thaw out in time.  Here, please take this and remember to savor every bite:  it’s like nothing you’ve ever eaten before and nothing you will ever eat again. Yes, it is a curious shape, it’s meant to resemble an animal that’s now extinct; it was called a rabbit.  I hope you don’t mind if I watch you take a bite, it would give me great pleasure. Oh no, please don’t cry! Like life, chocolate isn’t meant to last. Only the joy of experiencing it lingers on.

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Guest Post: Christmas Wrapping the Cat by Stephen Kozeniewski

KozeniewskiBraineaterJonesDabbers, please welcome Stephen Kozeniewski back to the blog, author of Braineater Jones, a zombie mystery noir with more than one twist. You can catch my review of Braineater Jones over HERE and my interview with Stephen over HERE. Today Stephen is here to share some very funny, and perhaps incriminating, pictures of his cats. Oh, and yes, we will try to talk about his books a little too.

I was in charge of Christmas wrapping the cat….and other impossible feats by Stephen Kozeniewski

Anyone who knows me even slightly knows of my immense love of cats. Specifically my two cats, Nibbler and Felix.

KozeniewskiCats1
An Eternal Love

In fact, my Facebook profile photo is of me and Nibbler right now. Nibbler is just over one year old and still in her cute stage. This is somewhat offset by also still being in her “pooping outside the box” stage, but I digress.

Felix just turned ten, so for the vast majority of his life, he was an only fur-child, and was treated as such (and grew used to such treatment.) In fact we largely justified the second cat because we felt like he needed a playmate.

And why did our dear, beloved feline need a playmate? Well, true enough that my wife and I both work, so Felix was spending eight hours or so a day finding things to knock off of shelves instead of cuddling with his owners. So part of it was to keep him from getting bored (read: destructive.) But a second, and perhaps larger segment of this concern was the entire 22 lbs of his bulk.

More Of Me To Love
More Of Me To Love

Yes, our dear, sweet Felix is larger than most cats. And dogs. And some of the sportier European sedans. We hoped a second cat would encourage him to exercise a bit. You can imagine, I suppose, what it’s like trying to get a cat the size of a car tire to do something he doesn’t want to do.

Nevertheless, three or four times a year we go through the futile exercise of trying to dress him up for various holidays. Most times we manage to furtively jam a costume onto him and take pictures until one, usually by accident, turns out.

Rudolph was the hap-hap-happiest reindeer.
Rudolph was the hap-hap-happiest reindeer.

I think when Susan asked me to write this guest post about “Christmas wrapping the cat” she meant it as a metaphor. You know, like “don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater” or “the better angels of our nature.” Little did she realize, I suppose, that I actually DO have to Christmas wrap the cat every year.

Last year was the worst. I got a wild hair up my ass that we should have a professional photo done for the Christmas card. I take 100% responsibility for this one. The problem is that Felix does not care for other human beings. Not a one of them. And you remember what I said about trying to get 1 ½ stones of cat to do what he doesn’t want to do.

Literally, all we had to do was get Felix to sit still for long enough to get one decent picture. My wife and I were dressed up, and we decided to eschew the entire reindeer costume in favor of just the jingle bell collar, hoping it would calm him.

It did not. He did not care to sit still for even a portion of a second as our photographer friend attempted to take picture after picture.

At 220 lbs (according to my driver’s license) I should, theoretically be able to calm a cat 1/10th my size. Not so. In fact, in the following photo, you can see how badly he shredded up my hand:

Photo Credit: George Griffo (https://www.facebook.com/griffography)
Photo Credit: George Griffo (https://www.facebook.com/griffography)

KozeniewskiBillyAndThenCloneasaurusSo, yes, sadly, for me Christmas wrapping the cat is not a metaphor, but, in fact, an annual chore that results in holiday cheers of pain and colorful ribbons of blood, usually my own. Thanks to Susan for having me and I hope you’ll all check out my newest novel, BILLY AND THE CLONEASAURUS, which somehow I haven’t managed to mention this entire post, so I’ll just jam it in here at the end.

Stephen – thank you so much for stopping by the blog and sharing your fat, ornery cat story!

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