If the Baby is Ugly….

You know that thing you do, that thing where you justify the reactions others have to your work?

I wrote a book once. Well, actually I wrote several books. None of them sold very well, and I took to saying “It is because my genius is not knowable.”

Have you ever said that? Really, now. You know you have. Maybe not in those words, and maybe not aloud, but you know what I’m talking about. People just don’t get it.

You know what that is? It’s the use of self-affirmation to ease the pain of what you perceive as different from what you expected. We practice this technique quite a bit, but some of where it starts is with the dissonance we feel when what we say may not be what we really mean.

Cognitive dissonance, defined, is “an internal state that results when individuals notice inconsistency between two or more attitudes or between their attitudes and their behavior.”

In English, man!

In simple terms, it’s that slightly uncomfortable feeling you get when the baby is ugly but you say “He’s soooooo cute!”

uglybabyIf the baby is ugly, the baby is ugly. Why do we say it’s not? Because the parents are friends and we don’t want to upset them? Yes, that’s probably the motivation behind the lie.

It’s the same with reviews, you know.

Think about that for a moment: Why say “This book is the greatest ever written!!!!1!” when you know the writing is horrible, the story doesn’t go anywhere, and you would rather watch paint dry than read another chapter?

You know why.

It’s cognitive dissonance and what you’re saying right now (“They are writer friends and I want to help”) is self-affirmation. You’re saying something to cover your butt, to make yourself feel better for leaving that five-star review on Amazon for a book that should be one (or fewer stars).

Who are you helping with that?

Are you disillusioning the writer or are you making yourself feel better by “helping” someone else out who is an independent like you?

If the baby is ugly….

Bruce Blake, who might be known to some here (*wink*), once edited a manuscript of mine. It had errors. There were problems and inconsistencies and “farthers” where there should have been “furthers.” Between his edits and Scott Bury’s (who might also be known to some here (*wink*)) were kind enough to say “you know, this baby is ugly.”

You know what I did with that knowledge? I edited my manuscript, breathed a little, and still published it. The book sold little, and in my head I thought “it is because my genius is not knowable.” So while there was honesty in the reviews, I still thought what others had to say was off the mark and practiced self-affirmation when I should have practiced rewriting draft 52 (or 53…I lost count).

So what is needed in our industry? What is needed, I think, is a bit of honesty. If a manuscript sucks, regardless of how many other published manuscripts an author has or the size of their publishing house, the writer needs to know their baby is ugly.

I wrote a two-star review of a David Morrell book once. It felt good. I didn’t lie.

Will he care? He’s Rambo. Of course not.

But if an up-and-coming writer really wants to improve, if they really want to give the baby plastic surgery so-to-speak, they need to know the truth and we (as readers and writers and reviewers) need to be able to tell them that truth.

Cognitive dissonance is a thing. Self-affirmation is what helps ease the discomfort.

In the words of Bob Newhart: “Stop it.

If the baby is ugly….

Benjamin X. Wretlind ran with scissors when he was five. He now writes. He is the author of A Difficult Mirror, Castles: A Fictional Memoir of a Girl with Scissors, and Sketches from the Spanish Mustang.

He also gets up before 4am to milk (words, not cows).

Celestrial triple-play



By Scott BuryMoon-2yq73kbrcl45nwdwuk0t8q

Today, March 20, 2015 is a rare day in celestial events. It combines the spring equinox, a “supermoon” and a solar eclipse in northern Europe—a total eclipse in some areas.

The confluence of these three events opens up vast possibilities for the fantasy writer.

When I was writing my first novel, The Bones of the Earth, I created a character who was special in many ways. First, Javor is autistic. (And no, it had nothing to do with being vaccinated—it’s set in the sixth century CE, long before vaccinations.) For magical associations, I decided to make him the seventh son of his family. I also thought it would be cool to have him born on the summer solstice.

Then I decided to open the story on Javor’s sixteenth birthday, the day that he would become a man in his culture. I also decided to begin the tale with a full-moon fertility ritual.

Why? Because the sun and the moon are powerful, central figures in almost every mythology. They’re powerful symbols and give rise to so many tropes, ideas and possibilities for stories.

FULLMOON-MUFFINTOPMOMMY-204x300Many fantastic animals are associated with the sun and moon. Griffons are often seen as solar symbols; werewolves, of course, link to the moon. And there are many, many more.

The sun and moon imbue scenes with portent. A sun-drenched plain, glistening after a rain, or a wind-swept coastline intermittently lit by a full moon obscured by low, scudding clouds. They evoke completely different modes and prepare readers for different kinds of stories.

And think of the power when the full moon and the brightest sun are together in the sky. How could I resist that?

It wasn’t easy

But how do you get the solstice sun and the full moon together? I had to figure out when a full moon happened the night before the summer solstice in central Europe. Oddly enough, it doesn’t seem to recur all that often. Not even every 28 years, because both events drift in the calendar from year to year. Add to that the fact that, to go back to the sixth century, the Dark Age, meant going back to when history recorded according to the Julian calendar. That threw some doubt into the calculation of the date. But I had to start somewhere.

I found an online lunar calculator, which I cannot find now. And according to that, the closest the full moon came to the summer solstice was the year 593 CE, when Maurice was the Roman Emperor in Constantinople.

A new opportunity today

Through history, solar eclipses have been feared even more than comets as omens of doom. The ancient Greeks said it meant the gods were angry.

Of course, solar eclipses can only happen during a new moon, when the moon is not visible from the earth. Today is a new moon that coincides with the closest approach of the moon to the earth, called perigee-syzygy, or more popularly, Supermoon. Today, the moon is a mere 357,000 kilometres away.

Unfortunately, as it’s a new moon, rather than a full moon, the Supermoon won’t be visible to us. But it’s still pretty cool.

And it’s the equinox, when the length of the day equals that of the night. Even today, it signals the beginning of spring, of new life after the dead of winter. Many cultures and mythologies place mother-earth celebrations on or near the equinox. There are traditional celebrations for Astarte, Isis, Cybele and the Virgin Mary. And of course, the Christians will celebrate Easter soon. Many writers have pointed out the similarity of the Easter myth with older myths about the sacrifice of a god or demi-god, who returns to life in the spring.


Many Christian traditions around Easter derive directly from the northern European myth of Eostre, including rebirth of a sacrificed god and rabbits laying eggs.

Putting these three elements together should be an irresistible temptation for a fantasy writer. Combine angry gods, rebirth of a sacrificed child of a god and virgin human, and increased lunar power. It’s a heady mix.

So, here is a chance for readers and writers to get together and suggest a new myth, a taking-off point for a fantasy story. I’ll start with this:

Some celestial gods of something are angry with a group of humans, who have been consorting with a demon of the underworld (who may or may not be evil). This causes the eclipse as a sign that they are about to unleash some kind of vengeance on humanity.

However, as it’s the equinox, the power of the earth-bound gods is waxing, and a god or demon once punished by the celestial gods is about to come back to life.

What happens next? Readers, that’s up to you. Leave a comment below that brings the story one step forward. The next reader should write the next step. We can keep this going as long as we have fun with it.

And for an extra incentive, I’ll give the first five commenters who add to the story a free copy of my fantasy novel, The Bones of the Earth.

Let’s see where this takes us.

Scott BuScottry is the author of fantasy tales Initiation Rites, The Bones of the Earth and Dark Clouds. His non-fantasy titles include One Shade of Red and Army of Worn Soles.

Visit his:

  • blog, Written Words
  • website

And follow him on Twitter @ScottTheWriter


Welcome Back to the Blog

by Bruce Blake

The time has finally come…the return of the Guild of Dreams.

After a lengthy hiatus (if you choose to read that as ‘Bruce got lazy for an extended period of time’, I would probably be hard pressed to argue the point), the motley blog crew have returned to entertain and enlighten. Returning to the Guild are myself, Autumn Birt, Chantal Boudreau, Scott Bury, Joshua Johnson, AM Justice, Steven MontanoGuild-wglow 300, and Benjamin X. Wretlind.

So here’s the set up: we’re paring things down a little, with regular posts scheduled for Mondays and Fridays. That’s not to say you won’t see the occasional post on other days…special guests, book announcements, cover reveals, and the like may pop up at any time, so be sure to sign up for email updates over there on the top right if you haven’t done so already.

And what can you expect from the posts you’ll find on the Guild? The easiest way to figure that is to have a look back through previous posts. If you’re too lazy or preoccupied to find the time to do that, then let me fill you in: you’ll find pointers on writing, editing, formatting, publishing, and the like; you’ll find out where ideas come from, how characters are developed, and how to promote your own work. If prior patterns hold, you will likely also get to see some cool pics Steven uses to draw inspiration, stories of Autumn’s travel adventures, Chantal’s artwork, and Scott’s perspective on what the hell is wrong with the publishing industry and how to fix. Throw in Amanda’s writing chops (and Game of Thrones analysis), Benjamin’s creativity, and Joshua’s love of the writing process and tools, and I know there will be something here for everyone.

So sit back, pull up a chair, and the let the Guild of Dreams take you to worlds you never knew existed.

Fantasy needs some science

By Scott Bury

Good fantasy writing has to maintain a strange tension, a balance that makes fantastic elements that are patently impossible believable.

The weekend before last, Chantal Boudreau wrote about basing her fantasy worlds and mythologies on the mythologies of Sami, Thracian, Serbian and Native American people.

I think this is a great idea for any writer of fantasy, because it adds many layers of meaning and symbolism to your writing. And it inspires a lot of ideas, too.

I did the same with my first published novel, The Bones of the Earth. While I made up the cosmology, all the mythology expressed by the characters, and many of the characters themselves, come from the mythologies and religions of ancient eastern European peoples, including the Greeks, Slavs, Germans, Celts and Scythians. Doing this also helped me choose names that didn’t sound like I coughed them out.

This helps maintain that balance and sustain the believability of fantasy because it adds some consistency. Any believable world-view has to have internal consistency. The readers have to be able to observe (through reading) causes and effects, and from those make predictions about further effects. As in, “Vampires don’t show up in mirrors, so this victim won’t see Dracula behind her as she applies makeup.”

In other words, a believable fantasy world needs some science.

Way back in the late 1970s, Larry Niven’s The Magic Goes Away applied the most basic law of the universe in creating a fantasy world: conservation of energy. The reasoning was this: magic required energy, so if there are witches and wizards who can, say, fly or animate a statue, where does that energy come from? Sure, the idea was sparked by the energy crisis of the time, and the story was pretty basic (a quest and a beautiful princess), but it was a refreshing take on the fantasy theme.

While I would never recommend that anyone do something similar to an existing work—I’m all about original ideas—I really like the idea of some kind of consistent underpinning, a single idea or a set of immutable laws governing the fantastical world. Sure, you can have monsters and wizards, magic spells and reanimated corpses, but there have to be limits, boundaries—rules.

Because if literally anything can happen, readers feel cheated. Even Superman has kryptonite.

Archetypes, with a dash of numerology

Icarus falling from the sky

Daedalus and Icarus

By Scott Bury

In the last couple of blog posts, Autumn Birt and Joshua Johnson have been writing about archetypal characters in fantasy. As this will be my I thought I would take the opportunity to delve a little deeper into one particular archetypal character: the father.

As much of a planner as I am, one thing I have learned from writing fiction is that your characters teach you. Another is that the archetypal role a character begins with can change, depending on circumstances and the needs of the plot.

The father figure is very important in every genre. The good father, bad father, the limited, damaged, drunken, evil or absent fathers all have a distinct yet equally vital impact on the hero and on the development of the story.

Three parts, three fathers

In my first full-length novel, the historical fantasy The Bones of the Earth, the number three plays an important role in its own right. I originally envisioned the book as the first volume in a trilogy called the Dark Age. Each book would be divided into three parts.

In each part of the first book in The Bones of the Earth, a different character is a father-figure to the protagonist, Javor. In Part One, Initiation Rites, Javor’s literal father is the father figure.

I presented Swat (all names are historically accurate) as realistically, rather than mythically or fantastically, as I could. Javor’s father is gentle and kind. He raised his last surviving son more by example and demonstration than through instruction or command. He’s also practical, instead of heroic. He literally holds Javor back from a fight he cannot win.

I this sense, Swat is the opposite of the legendary heroic father figure, the kind who, like Zeus, sets up challenges that will reveal his son’s heroic nature. Instead, Swat acted like I hope I would if my son wanted to attack armed men with nothing but his bare fists (formidable as they may be).

Finally, Swat dies—typical for a fathers in fantasy—defending his family against a foe he could not ever hope to match. But literally backed against a wall,he had no choice. So that part was true to character as well as to archetype.

A character’s shift

In Part Two, Tests, the character introduced in Part One as the Mysterious Stranger, the interloper with arcane knowledge who is both a threat and a guide, fills the father figure role. Photius guides and instructs Javor in fighting, languages, philosophy and in knowledge about the world. He also imparts his own values.

Image of the mysterious stranger

The mysterious stranger

At the end of Part Two, Photius dies protecting Javor. Hmm. I seem to be very hard on fathers. Nothing personal, Dad!

The father-figure in Part Three, The Mission, is the most aloof and formal of all. Austinus is the head of a religious order and, despite objections of his advisors, accepts Javor into this faith family. He is protective of Javor and spends a lot of time teaching him philosophy, history and religion.

Austinus is also closest to the archetypical father-figure of legend and myth. He ensures that Javor learns military fighting skills and brings Javor into danger, putting him in a situation that will bring out Javor’s true heroic nature.

Three stories, three different takes on the father character. They in no way exhaust the subject of the father-son relationship, but I found their creation rewarding.

In my next contribution to the Guild of Dreams blog, I am going to ask the bigger question: do we need archetypal characters, or should we be reaching further and digging deeper when creating characters?


Independent authors are making progress

By Scott Bury

‘The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore’, Moonbot Studios, William Joyce, Brandon Oldenburg, made available to Europeana through Ars Electronica and Kulturpool, CC BY-NC-ND

I don’t know what, specifically, is going on, but my admittedly very slow sales have picked up since mid-January.

My sales numbers are still far from huge, but I’m not complaining. I’m seeing daily sales numbers for The Bones of the Earth, Initiation Rites (which is Part 1 of The Bones of the Earth), and even my short story, Dark Clouds, rise almost each day. Most of this is happening in the UK, but sales are up strongly in the US, too.

Naturally, I’m happy. I might attribute it to the general improvement in the economy, six long years after the “financial crisis.” Maybe it’s Obama’s doing. Or maybe a post-Olympic high.

Seriously, though, I am sensing a surge in mainstream acceptance of the independent author and e-books.

Yes, e-books are mainstream. And independent, self-publishing authors are mainstream, too. The commercial publishing industry just hasn’t figured it out, yet.

I may feel chuffed by a relative, if absolutely tiny, increase in sales over the past six weeks. But then I see something like independent publishing machine, Russell Blake’s

Writing machine Russell Blake

post on Facebook, and I get depressed.

Wow. Just doing the accounting for January and February. Looks like a milestone. 500K books sold! Woohoo! How the hell did that happen?

How indeed?

Russell’s not the only one. Toby Neal, independent author of thrillers, published candid numbers on her blog. She invested $12,000 in the editing, design, production and marketing of her first book, Blood Orchids, and netted over $100,000 over the last three or four years.

Now, thrillers are the second-biggest selling genre, after romance, and far ahead of fantasy in the overall book sales picture. But paranormal author Jami Gold pulled together some analysis by other authors and found that writers who treat publishing as a business and keep putting out good product are more likely to make a living at it. More than half of authors who have written more than 12 books are making over $50,000 a year or more, she found.

Probably the best-selling self-published novelist of all, Hugh Howey, author of Wool, has stirred up a lot of dust by publishing an analysis of sales numbers posted by Amazon and major publishers. When it comes to genre fiction, e-books account for 86 percent of books sold, and independent authors outsell the Big 5 commercial publishers combined.

Writing is an art, but publishing is a business

As I mentioned in my December post on this blog, we independent authors of genre fiction need to approach publishing as a business. And since we individually don’t have the depth of pocket to compete with the Big 5 in marketing, we need to find other ways to reach audiences.

We need to work together in a coordinated way to raise our profiles and promote books. Together, we can provide all the functions and intelligence that a commercial enterprise can bring to bear.

I recommend to anyone who wants to know how to reach a wider audience to read Martin Crosbie’s excellent book, How I Sold 30,000 EBooks on Amazon’s Kindle — An Easy-to-follow self-publishing guidebook. It’s exactly what it promises: a step-by-step guide on establishing relationships with authors and audiences, building goodwill and promoting your book. He also spells out in detail how to use Kindle Select, free promotions and discounts to boost sales, and on what techniques work and what don’t.

Maybe we should prevail on Russell Blake to detail “How I sold half a million books in two months.”

How do we reach wider audiences? The answer is obvious: treat selling your books like a business. Have a strategy that involves cooperating with other independent writers. Cross-promotion, group sales events, using social media effectively.

So what do you say, fellow authors? Who is ready to spend their promotional time more effectively by coming together and working strategically

Based in Ottawa, Canada, Scott Bury is author of Initiation Rites, The Bones of the Earth, Dark Clouds and One Shade of Red.

By Scott Bury

This week, my contribution is an excerpt from my novel, The Bones of the Earth. This is a historical fantasy, set in eastern Europe in the 6th century CE, the darkest of the Dark Ages.Bones Cover FINAL FOR WEB

This excerpt  is from Part 2, Tests. The hero, the socially inept Javor, and Photius, the mysterious traveler from Constantinople, have found a village called Bilavod that had been attacked by Avar raiders, and stayed to help them heal and rebuild. On the second night there, the Avars attack again:

Javor swung his sword, but the raider was quick and skilled and engaged him in a terrifying bout. Time after time, Javor barely dodged swipes of the curved blade. He couldn’t connect and was conscious of his own lack of skill and experience.

The other man knew he had the advantage. He hit Javor on the arm, then on the head with the flat of his blade. He drew no blood, but the pain slowed Javor down. He swung his blade again and missed again. His opponent seemed to go for his chest, but suddenly swiped savagely at Javor’s legs, tripping him. Javor went down hard. The amulet fell out of his jerkin then, but its chain was still on his neck, and Javor grabbed it unconsciously. The curved sword struck his back, ringing on the armour, but it didn’t penetrate.

Javor rolled on top of his sword. He tried to get out his dagger, but the raider brought his down on Javor’s chest. The blow winded Javor, but the armour held, ringing.

He sat up and leaped forward at his opponent’s legs, bringing the man down, and drove his dagger into the man’s face and up into his brain. The raider spasmed, then slumped, dead.

Another blow took off his helmet and blinded Javor. He scrambled to his feet, clutching at his amulet. A huge raider, almost a head taller than him, swung a huge sword at his neck, aiming to take his head off, but missed; Javor felt the wind as the blade swept past his face. He lunged forward, using the dagger-to-the-brain strategy again, and it worked again. He picked his broadsword off the ground and ran to a knot of villagers who were trying to fend off ten or more raiders. From the corner of his eye, he saw yet more climbing the walls. It’s hopeless.

Javor reached the knot of fighters and ran his sword into one’s back, pulled it out and slashed at another raider who was about to decapitate Slawko, the refugee from Kletka. Allia was behind him, brandishing a small knife used for filleting fish. She looked terrified and grateful at the same time, but then Javor jumped past her and killed another raider coming up from behind. It’s no good. There are too many of them.

Photius and Mstys were beside him, then, and pulled them toward one of the buildings where a group of people from Bilavod and Kletka had grouped to make a stand. They had bows, long knives, a scythe, axes and a few captured swords. They stood against the low wooden wall of a store-house, facing ten armoured raiders. Most of them were wounded; Mstys was bleeding from his face, another man—Lesek?— from the leg.

Then Javor became aware of something that had been bothering the back of his mind for some time: it was getting darker, but the time couldn’t be past noon. Dark clouds had covered the sky, which had dawned clear and blue. The light grew dimmer and dimmer. It seemed to be bothering the raiders, who hesitated to attack the villagers.

Photius muttered and the end of his staff started to glow again, but before he could do anything, a cry like a huge raven’s came from overhead. There was a rushing sound, and something huge with wings swept above them.

The raiders looked up, yelling in dismay. The raven’s scream came again, and the villagers cowered, looking skyward. Photius and Javor kept their eyes on the raiders. Then came the rushing sound and something big as a large dog with wide feathered wings dove out of the darkening sky and knocked down a raider.

The thing settled on the ground and folded its wings. It looked at first like a monstrous eagle, but it had four legs: the forelegs were like the legs of an eagle, too, but thicker and more powerful than any bird’s, and its body behind was like a huge cat’s. A hooked beak terminated a feathered head on top of the long neck, also covered in golden feathers, but long ears like a horse’s stuck out on the sides. The beak opened and it uttered a loud, harsh scream.

The raiders ran, scrambling over the stockade, leaving behind their fallen fellows. Someone groaned on the ground, but the villagers were frozen with fear.

The creature looked straight at Javor with huge, yellow, intelligent eyes. It took a step toward him and Javor reached his left hand toward the amulet that hung from his neck against his breastplate.

The creature slowly walked to Javor until he could have touched it with an outstretched hand. It reached a front claw out in an oddly human gesture toward Javor’s chest. Javor clutched the amulet in his left hand and drew out his great-grandfather’s dagger with his right.

The creature jumped back, screeched again and launched itself into the air. With two flaps of its wings it disappeared into the lowering clouds. Rain began to fall. Allia, still holding her filleting knife, fainted behind him.

Javor realized his mouth was hanging open. He stared where the creature had disappeared. “What the hell was that?”

 “A gryphon!” Photius exclaimed. “I thought they were extinct since the Scythians were conquered.”

Gryphon in medieval tapestry in Basel, Switzerland. Source: Creative Commons.

Javor turned to him. “What?” he and Mstys said at the same time.

“A mystic creature, guardian of treasure, servant of the sky gods,” said Photius, still gazing at the clouds. “They lived on the broad steppes. I had thought they disappeared centuries ago. And they have never been heard of in these lands.”

“Well, it’s gone now. I suppose we should be thankful that it came at all,” said Mstys. He looked around at the devastation that had been his village.

“They’ve gone!” called a sentry. “The raiders, their horses, all gone! The creature drove them away!”

Javor and Photius slumped down. “Are you hurt, boy?”

Javor checked. “No, other than a few bruises. No cuts, though.”

“I daresay your amulet protected you again. It seems to like you.” He smiled a little.

“That thing—what did you call it?”

“A gryphon. A creature of the sky. A servant of Zeus. Part lion, part eagle …”

“What did it want?”

Photius looked at Javor. “What else? The amulet. But the amulet did not want the gryphon. And your dagger scared it off. Those items have great power, my boy.”

Javor didn’t know what he meant.

Liked it? Hated it? Leave a comment!

Fantastic Fantasy Freebies!!!

To celebrate Thanksgiving, the Guild of Dreams are offering you extra reasons to be thankful!

For two days only–Nov. 20 and 21–choose one or all of 4 great fantasy novels to help celebrate the season!

November 20 and 21 only: 

You can download four fantastic Guild of Dreams fantasy books for FREE!


By Scott Bury

The Dark Age, eastern Europe: theearth has decided to rid itself of humanity with earthquakes, volcanoes and new plagues. Civilizations, even the mighty Roman Empire, crumble under the pressure of barbarian waves that are fleeing worse terrors.

Rejected by his own people, pursued by a dragon, young Javor heads for Constantinople, the centre of civilization, looking for answers to the puzzle of his great-grandfather’s dagger and the murder of his family.

On the ancient, crumbling Roman highway across haunted, deserted Dacia, Javor rescues the beautiful Danisa from a human sacrifice. He cannot help falling in love with her. But Danisa has her own plans, and when she is kidnapped again, Javor has to wonder: what is the connection between his dagger, his lover and his enemies?

Download FREE from Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/The-Bones-Earth-Dark-ebook/dp/B006PI0NRG/


An Icarus Fell Novel

By Bruce A. Blake

Icarus Fell’s life sucked. Then he died and things got really bad.

After muggers killed him, Icarus became a harvester, his job to help souls on their way to Heaven, and it turned out he possessed as little talent for this as he did for every other job he lost. People are dead. The deposed Angel of Death nearly took his teenage son. The Archangel Michael is angry with him and the police think he is a serial killer.

The only one left on his side is his guardian angel, but when he asks her to help him get to Hell to rescue the souls wrongly condemned because of him, she refuses to go against Michael’s wishes.

Then another guardian shows up. Piper is beautiful, mysterious, and willing to help. Having her around turns Icarus’ afterlife upside down. But knowing how to get to Hell is only half of the problem.

Getting back with your soul is the real challenge.

Get All Who Wander Are Lost for free from Amazon.


by Steven Montano

Free on Smashwords through November 25th!

In the time after The Black, human survivors of the Southern Claw Alliance clash with vampire legions of the Ebon Cities in a constant war for survival. Earth as we know it has been forever damaged by an arcane storm that fused our world with distant realms of madness and terror. Things that once existed only in our nightmares stalk the earth.

Now, humanity is threatened by one of its own.

Eric Cross, an enlisted warlock in the Southern Claw military, is part of an elite team of soldiers and mages in pursuit of a woman known as Red — a witch whose stolen knowledge threatens the future of the human race. The members of Viper Squad will traverse haunted forests and blighted tundra in their search for the traitor, a journey that ultimately leads them to the necropolis of Koth.

There, in that haven of renegade undead, Cross will discover the dark origins of magic, and the true meaning of sacrifice…

Experience a dark and deadly new world in the debut novel of the “Blood Skies” series from author Steven Montano

Get Blood Skies for free at Smashwords http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/64748

Enter Coupon Code: EL47N in the Shopping Cart.


By Autumn M. Birt

In the buried archives of the Temple of Dust may lie the secret to defeating the Curse, a creature which seeks to destroy 16 year old Ria for the forbidden gifts she possesses. But it is from among the ranks of those who control the Curse where Ria will find her best chance of success. Only the Priestess Niri can save Ria from the forces that hunt her, if Niri doesn’t betray the girl first. Along with Ria comes Ty and his sister, Lavinia, both bound to defend Ria from the Church of Four Orders and Niri, if they must. However, Ty has been living a life less than honest and keeping it from his sister. To survive a journey that takes them across the breadth of their world, the four must learn to trust each other before pursuit from the Church and Ty’s troubled past find them.

Download Born of Water for free from Smashwords at http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/220915

Enter Coupon Code SQ46H in the Shopping Cart.

Or from Amazon.


Character interview: Vorona, Shaman of Nastaciu from The Bones of the Earth

For the Guild of Dreams feature this week, I’m interviewing a popular fantasy character: Vorona, the shaman of the village of Nastaciu, the home of Javor, the main character from The Bones of the Earth.

The Bones of the Earth is set in the sixth century CE, the darkest of the Dark Age. The place is eastern Europe, on the southern slopes of the Carpathian mountains.

Vorona is described as young and beautiful, incongruously voluptuous where everyone else is too thin following repeated famines and years of poor crops. She has some magical abilities, after all. What would be the first thing you would do with magical powers?

As the shaman, it’s Vorona’s role to communicate with the spirit world to bless the crops and animals, as well as to cure disease and bring luck to the villagers.

Vorona lives alone in a hut a little separate from the rest of the village. I visited her there for this interview.

Vorona: Welcome in. I’ve been expecting you. Tea?

Guild of Dreams: No, thank you. It’s too hot today for tea. Perhaps we could sit outside, where there’s a breeze?

V: All right. Make yourself comfortable.

GD: Isn’t it unusual for the shaman to be a woman in this era?

V: No. Traditionally, women have a closer connection to the other world than men do. As the sex that brings life into the world, we also have a closer affinity with Moist Mother Earth.

GD: As the village shaman, it’s your job to communicate with the spirit world to help ensure fertility of crops and your village’s livestock. But the whole region has suffered from repeated crop failures for years, if not decades. Does that mean you’ve failed in your job?

V: Not at all. I have communicated with the spirits, particularly the kupalo, who bless the fields. For the past two years, since I have been shaman, the crops have been returning, slowly. But the spirit world is unhappy with humankind overall, particularly with Rome and Persia and other so-called civilizations. They have turned away from Moist Mother Earth in favour of the sky gods.

The spirits and the gods are also troubled. There seems to be a great strife among them, and the troubles in our world are but a trembling caused by the great forces in conflict.

GD: A war among the gods?

V: Yes: between the celestial forces, the sky gods, and the chthonic, or earth gods. The main civilizations of the world largely worship the celestials now. However, a generation ago—in my time, that is—the earth belched forth a great cloud that hid the sun from view for over a year. It caused great hardship on humans and other animals, but it showed the power of Moist Mother Earth.

GD: In my time, we know that as the great volcanic eruption of 535 CE. Now, tell me, how well did you know the hero, Javor?

V: I knew him very well. He does not know me as well, and he does not appreciate how I watched over him as he grew up.

GD: Did you have a great role in his upbringing? Were you close to him?

V: I was close, yes, but he did not know that.

GD: That seems to be characteristic of Javor — that he doesn’t understand other people very well.

V: He does not understand other people’s masks and pretensions. But he perceives their hearts keenly.

GD: Would you describe Javor as unusual?

V: He is exceptional: very intelligent, very quick and very courageous.

GD: Yet, in his home village, he was thought of as an imbecile.

V: Yes. Mainly because he does not respond in the way that others expect. He does not understand the difference between what people say and what they really mean.

GD: That sounds like it could be a problem for him.

V: Javor had a great difficulty making friends as a child. Usually, the others shunned him and made fun of him. Fools have no capacity for appreciating his unusual gifts.

GD: Did he have any friends?

V: He had one or two. Hrech is a kind boy and rather low in social standing, himself. And some of the girls took pity on him. Javor, being Javor as well as hopeful and in many ways a typical teenage boy, mistook pity for love.

GD: It sounds like he had a difficult childhood.

V: Yes, and a sad one. All his siblings died, the last two in a pestilence — I believe you call it the pneumatic plague — during a particularly difficult winter. Then when his parents were killed, Javor was alone.

GD: Is there any hope for him?

V: Javor has a great destiny. I cannot see it, but I can tell that his life-stream extends far into the future and is filled with great deeds. He will face dangers that few men could comprehend. But he holds gifts from several … I suppose the closest word would be “gods.”

GD: So, you can see the future?

V: In a way. And for a short time.

GD: Can you tell me next week’s winning lottery numbers?

V: Turn off that recorder and get out of here!