Category Archives: Guest Posts

Guest Post: Researching the Paranormal by Carole Ann Moleti

fantasy herb kitchenI write a lot for my day job, as a nurse-midwife in New York City. Ten years ago, bored by academic and professional writing, I began a string of creative nonfiction projects, including two memoirs. One chronicles my career in The Bronx, Harlem, and Washington Heights. The other explores the trials and tribulations of motherhood.

But there is only so far you can go with nonfiction. Sometimes you don’t know where the story ends, or it doesn’t end in a way that lends itself to good storytelling. Fiction, paradoxically, requires a greater amount of universal truth to allow a reader to enter into what Gardner called the “fictional dream.” Then, there remains a challenge of creating characters with the goals, motivation, conflict–and context– to carry a story forward.

In the speculative genres, the writer must develop an entire world–be it science fiction, fantasy, or supernatural horror–to support extrapolation of current scientific realities, provide a plausible magical system, or justify the macabre and murderous whims of magical and mythic beings.

Midwives have long been associated with the use of herbs and potions, as well as with witchcraft. Most of my colleagues are not witches, but before the advent of modern medicine, women were called upon not only to assist with childbirth, but also to use their knowledge to heal any number of ills, both physical and psychological, in men, women, and children. When the outcome was not good, or the one expected, the midwife was often accused of witchcraft or sorcery.

Modern midwifery practice embraces all belief systems and incorporates the use of herbs and alternative medical practices and, as such, Wiccans and those with less mainstream religious and spiritual practices often seek our services. Though divination and connection with ghosts and spiritual beings lies outside the grasp of my mind and abilities, watching those who have the gift do their work has convinced me that all humans have the capacity to use parts of their brain in the same way, but few have developed it.

The first step is opening one’s mind to the possibility, then embracing it with a peaceful, accepting attitude. But in order to transfer that into credible fantasy and paranormal fiction, writers must, at the very least suspend disbelief and, at best, understand and accept it themselves.

In addition to mining my experience and harvesting story ideas from dreams, I’ve applied my research and journalistic skills to writing paranormal romance and urban fantasy. I begin with the facts. Huh? We’re talking paranormal, right?

Herbology, alchemy, astrology, tarot, and divination are as old as history. Prayers and offerings to deities in exchange for favors, intercessions, and miracles are part of most religions, as well as the belief in an all-powerful being or beings that manipulate events. My grandmother was a devout Catholic but lit candles in her home and in church invoking the saints and asking for special favors. Her favorite was Saint Anthony.

I value among my friends and clients many witches, energy healers, and spiritualists who have taught me much about their beliefs, and allowed me to experience how rituals (including births conducted in settings where the space is conducive to spiritual and metaphysical connections) generate energy, and how it is channeled to produce the desired effect or outcome. To research the paranormal elements in my fiction, I perform a type of research known as ethnography, where one enters the culture and environment as a participant, not simply an observer.

I’ve carefully followed the instructions of a santera on the use of teas, banishing and cleansing, potions, offerings of fruit and burning scented candles to heal both physical and emotional distress (much the same way people use aromatherapy and many Catholics light votives and pray to saints). I found my way to a gifted Chinese acupuncturist and energy healer who blew the “black smoke” of bad energy off me before, after and during my treatments, during which I feel the Qi hissing out of the needled sites like champagne bubbles. She meditated at my side during the sessions and saw things in my past that haunt me—and that only I could know—before she dispersed them.

Natural phenomena, like observing a woodland full of blinking fireflies, gave me pause to consider the possibility that fairies really do exist. I’ve talked with ghost hunters about their research and practice and learned how to monitor for electromagnetic activity. I attended Faerie Fest in upstate New York, which was a truly magickal experience. Even before I had a statue of St. Francis of Assisi in my yard, strays of every ilk regularly showed up on my doorstep looking for help.

Ethnographic research allows me to create more truthful and meaningful memoir and personal essays, which bridges the gap between academic and creative non-fiction. It gives me an endless supply of story ideas—and I can decide whether to embellish them with fantastical elements or to post them on my Twitter meme #petitemeetstreet to show off the best and the worst, the craziest and the saddest New York City moments that get my op ed juices flowing.

Ethnographic research and writing also make me a more empathic nurse midwife—since I can better understand the influences affecting my patients– and convey that to students and the many new nurses and doctors I teach and precept. While making my rounds, dashing between jobs and assignments, all my senses are in high gear, taking it all in, dictating notes into my phone, scribbling phrases onto scraps of paper and the back of the collection of parking meter payment receipts on my dashboard.

I approach research for my paranormal fiction as a traveler who wants to enter the culture to best experience it. Showing up with a camera, pad, and pencil will not allow you to obtain the information you need, nor the context required to translate it into a compelling plot with believable characters. If you’re going to ask readers for leaps of faith, you’ll need to take a few yourself.

Carole Ann MoletiCarole Ann Moleti lives and works as a nurse-midwife in New York City, thus explaining her fascination with all things paranormal, urban fantasy, and space opera. Her nonfiction focuses on health care, politics, and women’s issues. But her first love is writing science fiction and fantasy because walking through walls is less painful than running into them.

The first book in Carole’s Cape Cod paranormal romance novel series, The Widow’s Walk, was published by Soulmate. Her urban fantasy short stories have appeared in the Toil, Trouble and Temptation Anthology and Haunted, Bites, Beltane, and Seers, all part of the Ten Tales series. Carole’s review and commentary pieces have appeared in Lightspeed, The Internet Review of Science Fiction, Tangent Online, The Portal, and The Fix. Her creative nonfiction has been published in a variety of literary venues.

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Guest Post: Meanwhile, In The Serengeti by Barbara Ann Wright

WildebeestStraight people are my wildebeests. I watch them from the grass, waiting. One little noise will send them into a stampede, hooves kicking the dirt into a cloud, making them harder to catch.

I creep forward, silent, downwind from them. I must catch them off guard. I take a deep breath, stand up, let them have a good look at me, and say, “I write fantasy novels about lesbians.”

Okay, maybe it’s not exactly like that, but pitching a novel starring LGBT characters to a straight audience has its pitfalls, but if I want the widest readership possible for my work, it’s something I have to do.

I love all my fans. From the LGBT crowd to the pansexuals and asexuals, those who are intersex, and those who eschew labels. And there are straight people who seek out diverse books. I love them, too. I usually don’t have to sell so hard to any of them. They’re the reason I wrote The Pyramid Waltz. Well, them and me, of course. It used to be that most LGBT characters in fiction faced horrific persecution and a tragic end. So I wrote a fantasy romance where being a lesbian was no big deal. It was just another kind of love.

A lot of straight people have to ease into the idea, though. They know of the books with horrific persecution and tragic ends. They cringe when they hear there are lesbians in my fiction, expecting characters who are beaten bloody by the very society they live in. “Don’t be scared,” I’ll say. “Being gay in my worlds is no big deal. It’s important to read fiction starring all kinds of people. The more diverse characters we see, the more our culture will come to see everyone as just another part of society. So don’t be afraid of the gay king, the lesbian princess, the trans wizard, or the bisexual knight. It’s still your kind of book.”

I go to quite a few science fiction and fantasy conventions, and the bulk of the people I’ve spoken to identify as straight. I’ve seen some people squirm when I tell them that my stories star women who love women. I’ve seen the occasional eye roll, like I’m trying to sell an agenda. I have to keep my cool, keep describing the book, be as funny as I can be, and assure them that it’s all right. The other shoe will not drop. It’s really no big deal. Lucky for me, many people believe me, read the book, and see for themselves. I’ve overheard some conversations where someone reassures someone else about the book by saying, “It’s not really about that.”

And it’s not, not for them, at least. But for those of us who don’t often see ourselves in fiction, it’s very much about that. It gives me joy to see someone who feels the way I do on the page. Anyone who has ever felt excluded knows what I’m talking about. Most of the lesbian, gay, or bi people I know learned long ago to enjoy fiction starring straight characters. Trans people are used to not seeing themselves on the page. Most LGBT people I know don’t look at straight fiction and assume, “That’s not aimed at me,” or have to reassure each other with, “The characters are straight, but it’s not really about that.”

So the next time you see a story starring a character with a sexuality or gender identity different than what you’re used to, go ahead and pick it up. It’s not a lion waiting in the grass. See if you like the story. Read a few pages. See what you’re in for. Go online and peruse the ratings. You might discover a new author to follow, a new world and characters to love. You might expand your horizons. You might join me in calming the wildebeests.

Author Barbara Ann WrightBarbara Ann Wright writes fantasy and science fiction novels and short stories when not adding to her enormous pen collection or ranting on her blog. Her short fiction has appeared twice in Crossed Genres Magazine and once made Tangent Online’s recommended reading list. Her first novel, The Pyramid Waltz, was one of Tor.com’s Reviewer’s Choice books of 2012, was a Foreword Review Book of the Year Award Finalist, a Goldie finalist, and won the 2013 Rainbow Award for Best Lesbian Fantasy. One of its sequels won the 2014 Rainbow Award for Best Lesbian Fantasy Romance. Her newest work, Thrall: Beyond Gold and Glory, is a standalone fantasy starring lesbian and trans characters in a Viking-esque world.

Guest Post: An Interesting State of Mind by M. Garnet

Fantasy Woman

Being an author is an interesting state of mind. As I give talks or meet people, I am asked the same questions. Where I get my ideas? How do I write a whole book? How did I get my books published? There are none who ask the important question. What are the technicalities in writing a book?

WHAT A BORING QUESTION.

Being a published author I can say with a big sigh that the whole process is a learning business, a learning business that never ends. Let’s start with the easier questions.

Where Do I Get My Ideas?

I treat this as a serious question so I give a serious answer. I get ideas from the very people who ask me that question. I have a wild imagination. I am one of those people that look up at clouds and see rabbits that change into dragons. The guy sitting next to me just sees the clouds.

For me, to be an author or to write a full book, you have to take an idea such as a storm planet and then not only put people on it, but decide how those people would have survived as indigenous natives in such a harsh environment that led me to wonder what kind of plant and animal life would also cling to this harsh world. There it is folks, one idea leads to another idea and then to a whole book full of ideas.

My thought and what I share with my listeners is that if you can’t take a single cloud and see several shapes you are going to have a hard time taking an idea and finish a book. Now remember I am talking about fiction not reality topics.

How do I write a whole book?

This was partially covered in the paragraph above. You need to expand on your idea and take your characters into situations that you enjoy writing about. Did I mention that you had to enjoy writing?

You need to look forward to getting your fingers on a keyboard, to add to those ideas. If you get tired or bored, you need to talk to someone else, to see what is the problem with your writing ability.

Books come in all sizes from all authors with only a few exceptions. I do know of one who only writes very short novellas. We all know of a couple like Hemingway who only wrote very long books. Still most authors write both sort and long stories.

How did I get my books published?

Here is where I wish I had a fairy godmother. I can tell you that a small author like me and a big time author like Stephen King had the same problem, that very nice refusal letter.

You are never going to be published until you have written a book, edited it, re-edited it, asked for help on editing it and then submitted it. Like all the rest of us you will submit it to every publisher you can find on the Internet, through Google and by reading the NY Times or Reviewers in California. You will get the same nice refusal letter back. I got enough to cover the walls in my bathroom, that is where I began to hang mine. Not as regret, but to remind me to keep trying.

So can we believe some of the words in those refusal letters? This leads to the boring last question.

What are the technicalities in writing a book?

Good English learned in Lit. 101. When we write, most of us are using the English language where there are rules. We can break those rules when our characters talk slang, but when we are describing plants clinging to a storm chased planet, we must use proper English.

We also have to very careful how we use proper names or refer to brands. A number of those refusal letters were because the editor that looked at the first Chapter found so many errors in punctuation, quoting, numbers, and most important POV (Point of View).

Writing the story with your idea was fun, it was for all of us. Then reality hit us all as we went back to school to write our books correctly, so we could get past that editor who kicked out the first Chapter.

Get your story down and then find some help on the editing before you go back and re-submit it to all the same publishers. You might have a surprise, I did.

Author A. GarnetAfter raising a daughter, running an International Business, traveling the world and only finding time to write a few minutes in any twenty-four hour period, I now am retired in Florida and can write all day and all night, which I often do. Under the pen name of M. Garnet (Muriel Garnet Yantiss) I use all the experiences I gained and without any hesitation draw information from my long list of friends and acquaintances worldwide.

With over 30 books published through two active publishers and a couple of independent books (indies) at Amazon I love the email that the Internet brings me from all over the world.

I write SciFi, Fantasy and Contemporary Mystery. But I like my stories to end happy ever after.

A fan wrote me about liking a planet I wrote about in TWIN’S SLAVE so I dedicated the second story about the planet AN ASSASSIN FOR THE SLAVE to her. I have had others writing me about this storm planet and am now working on my third novel about the water and caves and intrigue that tempest brings to the planet of GigasVenee.

Just to make sure I am really busy, my other publisher has put in a request for a contemporary story with the same type of turmoil but between two people. I just can’t resist a challenge. Visit my web site at www.mgarnet.com to see other books I’ve written.

Guest Post: Bonesaws and Bloodletting by Catherine Curzon

Old Time Medicine

Bonesaws and Bloodletting: Medicine and Folk Remedy in the Eighteenth Century

Many years ago I put the final full stop to a timeslip novel that catapulted its characters back from twenty first century Yorkshire the the 1950s. The novel was quite unlike anything I had written before and remains so to this day, fantasy not a genre that I would usually find working in. Fantasy, however, is not so easily defined as one might think and even in a work grounded firmly in the real world, we might find an element of everyday magic among the mundane.

My timeslip novel was a departure for me in more ways than one and, as some people may already know, I can usually be found settled squarely in the coffeehouses and gin salons of the long eighteenth century. On my daily blog, I share true stories of the Georgian and Regency era, whilst my fiction is set in that same period and is rooted firmly in the sometimes seedy underbelly of the eighteenth century world. My fictional companions are decadent playwrights and flamboyant whores, debauched hellfire patrons and, just occasionally, the Prince of Wales and his illustrious family. There might not seem to be much room for fantasy there and yet, in a world where the furies of the guillotine sell sleeping drafts by the banks of the Seine and an erstwhile Edinburgh physician mixes mysterious powders and tinctures in his St Andrew Square home, the line between medicine and folk remedy is perilously and, on occasion deliberately, blurred.

I strive for reality and accuracy in my fiction as much as I do on my blog yet, as a person who has always had an interest in the esoteric and those things that exist slightly outside of our comprehension and belief, the chance to mix in some folk remedies is irresistible. The question is, of course, where does the line between magic and remedy begin? In the world my characters inhabit, explicitly magical happenings would be jarring and unconvincing, let alone utterly out of place. Instead, it was important to me to take the folk remedies that I have known of since my childhood and place them in a milieu where their use and success was neither noteworthy nor unlikely. In fact, in the long eighteenth century, it could even be the physicians themselves who were viewed suspiciously by some of the populace, with doctors and surgeons in particular on occasion believed to be playing God. In the Age of Enlightenment, science and belief were constantly vying for the upper hand and for an author, this opens wonderfully dramatic possibilities!

Happily, this means I am able to show the dichotomy between the old and new ways and reflect the truth that both folk remedies and those taught in the medical schools of London and Edinburgh had their benefits and followers. it is a world where people are just as likely to follow their parents and grandparents in turning to the local healer, with the people of Paris turning to Madame Girard as she pedalled foul smelling bottles and mysterious powders from her single room on the banks of the river just as those well-helped Edinburgh souls put on their finery and take a trip to see Doctor Dillingham in his Edinburgh consulting rooms. Indeed, Dillingham’s own repertoire includes many a folk remedy cleverly repackaged to look like the latest in modern medicine. To Dillingham more than any other character, the latter is simply the next step in the former, in an evolution that has been ongoing for centuries. It is particularly fitting that he should embody this dichotomy most of all because he is a character whose public face is very much at odds with that he presents to those who know him personally.

The line between medicine and folk remedy is one that my characters tread carefully and allows me the chance to explore the best of both worlds. Because I honestly believe that approaches have their benefits, it’s a pleasure for me to delve into scenes of gruesome surgery and esoteric remedies and give both the reader and the thankfully fictional patients one or two surprises. It might not all be leeches, bloodletting and bonesaws, nor is it all cauldrons, herbs and muttered incantations but, where there’s a healthy mix of the two, I’m happy and my characters are, hopefully, healthy and well!

Madame Gilflurt aka Catherine CurzonGlorious Georgian ginbag, gossip and gadabout Catherine Curzon, aka Madame Gilflurt, is the author of A Covent Garden Gilflurt’s Guide to Life. When not setting quill to paper, she can usually be found gadding about the tea shops and gaming rooms of the capital or hosting intimate gatherings at her tottering abode. In addition to her blog at www.madamegilflurt.com, Madame G can also be spotted on Twitter, Facebook and Google+. Her first book, Life in the Georgian Court, will be published by Pen and Sword Books.

Guest Post: 6 Lessons For Making It As An Indie Publisher by Daniel J. Dombrowski

Nonlocal Science Fiction Magazine

Next month, the first issue of Nonlocal Science Fiction, a quarterly short fiction anthology, will launch. Publisher Daniel J. Dombrowski has been working on the project since last summer, and finalizing the last piece of the puzzle for Issue #1 is a Kickstart campaign currently underway. I’ve asked Daniel to come to No Wasted Ink and tell us a little about what goes on during a kickstarter to fund a magazine.

During the first half of 2014, I was floundering. I had been working on starting a topical editorial magazine with a nonprofit in Pittsburgh, PA for about four months. Long story short, the whole thing fell apart because my partner, who had come up with the idea and recruited me in the first place, had failed to find any funding while I had managed to assemble about 70% of the first issue without spending a penny.
I walked away from that project with one thing: knowledge. I would never again throw myself at a project without fully knowing what I was getting into.

It has been a long and winding road since that miserable day when I was forced to shelve a project on which I’d spent hundreds of hours. I’ve detailed that journey on my blog and elsewhere, but the point for today is that I didn’t let my initial failures stop me. The only way to truly fail is to stop trying. And that isn’t just some stale platitude. It’s the nature of working with startups.

Doing things my way

I knew that if I was going to be successful, I’d have to take full possession of a project. Maybe that sounds controlling or egotistical, but it’s harder than you’d think to find a reliable partner. If you don’t have a history with someone or they don’t have past experience on similar projects, you probably don’t want to jump into a long-term project with them.

I thought about what I wanted to do, what I thought I could do. I toyed with a few different ideas before settling on Nonlocal Science Fiction as an initial project of a new digital publishing company, 33rd Street Digital Press, a decision that seemed fairly safe at the time as I knew the genre and I’d been working as a freelance editor for a large self-publisher for six months by that time.

The important bit here is that I didn’t try to identify a project that I thought would be instantly popular. I didn’t try to adopt someone else’s idea as my own to try to duplicate success. I came up with an idea that I liked, and I ran with it.

Success by any means necessary

Every person who starts something new hits the same wall eventually. It happens when you realize that no one else (or at least not that many) has ever really done what you’re trying to do. There’s no manual, no how-to book, no helpful blog post. There’s just you, and you have to be able to improvise while acting like you know exactly what you are doing. I had a boss as a crumby sales job years ago who used to say it as, “You’ve gotta’ fake it ‘til you make it.”

So I threw up a website and posted a call for submissions anywhere and everywhere. My biggest success was with Craigslist, where I had a daily ritual of canvassing half a dozen “Writing Gig” pages across the country. The submissions were a trickle at first. Then they picked up speed. My best month was November when I averaged more than one submission per day.

And some of it was good. Really good. At that point, I began to think that my plan might actually work.

Crossing the finish line?

All told, I received close to 60 submissions before I filled the slate for Issue #1. Once the stories were collected, I moved onto the hard bit, the stumbling block I’d hit once before: funding.

It remains to be seen whether or not the Kickstarter will go anywhere. Perhaps by the time this article is published, the outcome will be a bit easier to predict. Online crowdfunding is a marvelous modern invention that has helped many thousands of projects get off of the ground, but you can’t just expect a project to take off on its own. Nothing worth having is ever gifted to you. You have to go out and earn it. (Another platitude, I know. But it’s true.)

DanProfileDaniel J. Dombrowski is a writer, editor, and upstart indie publisher. He studied anthropology at Penn State, graduating with an MA in 2009 and for some reason believing that “Indiana Jones” was a valid career path. He got married to his high school sweetheart, moved to Pittsburgh, and decided he would be a writer while stocking shelves at a Petsmart at 5:00 A.M. to pay the bills while his wife finished grad school.

He has written for startup magazines and entertainment websites, edited thousands of pages of raw manuscripts from self-publishing authors, and worn out three keyboards in five years. He is a halfway decent blogger, recently a podcaster, and a student of Guerrilla Marketing. His long-term goal is to impact digital publishing in some meaningful way and to help indie authors thrive.