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Guest Post – R. J. Blain – Inquisitor Book Launch May 17, 2014

Posted by techtigger in Uncategorized.
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Inquisitor - RJ BlainI’ve decided to start doing regular shout-outs for indy/self-pub authors. Why? Because they’re cool and groovy people, and I adore their writing! I’m definitely looking forward to sharing more of their work. 🙂

This week R. J. Blain is celebrating both her birthday, and the launch of her urban fantasy novel, Inquisitor.  Here’s a quick peek at the story:

When Allison is asked to play Cinderella-turned-Fiancee at a Halloween ball, the last thing she expected was to be accused of murder on the same night. She has to find the killer and quick, or she’ll be put to death for the crimes she didn’t commit. To make matters worse, the victims are all werewolves.

On the short list of potential victims, Allison has to act fast, or the killer will have one more body to add to his little black book of corpses.

There’s only one problem: One of the deaths has struck too close to home, and Allison’s desire for self-preservation may very well transform into a quest for vengeance…


R. J., like so many of my writer friends is addicted to moleskine’s and pens.  And telling bad puns.

When she isn’t playing pretend, she likes to think she’s a cartographer and a sumi-e painter. In reality, she herds cats and a husband. She also has a tendency to play MMOs and other computer games.

In her spare time, she daydreams about being a spy. Should that fail, her contingency plan involves tying her best of enemies to spinning wheels and quoting James Bond villains until she is satisfied.

If you’d like to own a copy of Inquisitor, you can find it by clicking here.


Nox and Grimm – A Convocation of Elements, Part 3 May 3, 2014

Posted by techtigger in flash fiction.
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(Picking up the story where I left off last November… sorry for the long gap, it was a rough winter! And I’m a little rusty, so comments will be very welcome!)


Nox was a daughter of the House of Ice. She was supposed to be calm, steady, immovable in the face of adversity. Giggling like a loon was just not done. She struggled to keep a straight face while Grimm threatened to toss the assembled nobles ‘off his lawn’ if they didn’t behave.

“How am I supposed to follow that?” she whispered.

Loki leaned over and whispered back, “I don’t know luv, but you’d better do something soon. This crowd is starting to get ugly.”

She looked at the faces of the men and women standing around her, gauging the best way to address them. They were angry, obviously. They’d been scolded like children and told that the youngest, and yet-to-be-confirmed representative in the Convocation was to enter the Hall before them.  To say that they were pissed off at her was an understatement.  The fact that every one of them was both physically larger and more powerful than she was should have had her shaking in her boots.

But Nox was a true child of Ice. She’d be damned before she let a crusty old pack of politicians intimidate her. It was time to follow in her father’s footsteps, and take charge.

She put a finger and thumb into her mouth and let out a whistle so piercing that the nobles standing nearest to her all jumped, with several of them landing in a heap on the lower stairs.  “If you want answers, I will give them to you.”  She gave those standing in her way the same cold, measuring look that her father always used, and the crowd reluctantly parted.

When she gained the top stair, she gestured toward the entrance to the Convocation hall. “You need look no further than the Ward stone at the end of this passage. All the sigils of the Houses are there, in the order that they swore fealty to the House of Winds when the Convocation was formed. As you can see, Ice is the next in line.”

This was it. The moment she’d prepared for her whole life, to be confirmed as heir to Ice. Nox fought past the brutal heat of the day and focused on summoning the sliver of pure elemental Ice she would need to activate the Ward stone. For a brief moment she thought she’d failed, but then her palm tingled and a tiny shard formed. With a triumphant cry she flung it down the hall, letting loose the Air casting she’d prepared to speed it on its way.

She had not, however, taken into account that this building was designed by the Wind Lord himself, to enhance the works of his people.

Casting marks that summoned the North Wind lit up along the entire length of the hallway as her Air casting moved past them, glittering cold and white.  Their energy touched the little Ice shard and sparked off a howling gale, coating everything in an inch-deep layer of frost and slamming into the Ward stone with enough force to make the entire building ring like a bell.

Nox covered her mouth with one hand. “Oh dear. That was a little bigger than I expected.”

Loki grimaced, radiating heat to melt the frost from his jacket. “That’s the least of your worries, luv. Take a look at the Ward stone.”

It was only then that Nox noticed that everyone else was staring at it in shock.  Not one, but three sigils were lit on the stone pillar.  One for Ice. One for the Northern Air tribes, and the first mark on the pillar glowed brightest of all – the sigil for Wind Lord Galen’s House, Zephyr.

Grimm’s deep, rumbling voice echoed outwards from the heart of the Convocation Hall.  “All Hail the Lady Zephyr, heir to Ice and Winds.”

This was not in the plan. Loki kept a wary eye on the crowd, waiting to see who would be the first to pick a fight over Grimm’s pronouncement. Not surprisingly, it was Lord Snow. He’d already challenged Nox once that day, and now he looked like he was in the midst of an apoplectic fit.

“Black hair,” he sputtered, jabbing a finger at Nox. “Every damned one of your family has black hair!  You lying bastards, you have no right to rule Ice! You’re Air kin!”

Nox gave him an innocent look. “We have never hidden the fact that we summon the North Wind.”

“That doesn’t matter!”

Loki put a restraining hand on Lord Snow’s arm. “You are forgetting, the sigils for both Air and Ice lit for her.”

Nox nodded, as unruffled as ever. “Galen’s wife, Elenna remarried into the House of Ice when Galen died. Her children were adopted as the heirs, and the Houses of Ice and Winds have been joined as one ever since.  Legally that gives us every right to rule.”

A commotion to their left caught Loki’s eye.  The representative from the House of the Sun moved forward, and the crowd shifted nervously away from him.

Loki ignored Nox’s protest and moved to stand protectively in front of her, the dragon tattoo coiling restlessly on his forearm.

The Sun priest stopped in front of him and raised his voice to make it carry.  “All that has been proved here today is that this…abomination,” he said, pointing at Nox, “is more of a mongrel than we already thought. Do we allow a half-blood freak to enter these hallowed halls?”

Dragonfire coiled around Loki’s fists. “Watch your tongue, lackey, or I’ll remove it.” He turned his burning gaze on the crowd. “I doubt there’s a one of us here, outside of Grimm that has a single element. The Houses have been inter-marrying for years. Anyone want to deny that?”

The priest sneered at him. “My element is pure.”

Loki gave him a disgusted look. “Mutilating yourself to replace your true element with another doesn’t make you pure; it only makes you a fool.”  He leaned in, until he was an inch from the priest’s face. “What will you do when night falls, Sun worshipper?  The fires of earth will still answer my call when your distant star has fallen below the horizon.”

A trickle of nervous sweat rolled down the priest’s brow. “Do not question the power of the all-conquering Sun!”

Loki leaned back, and crossed his arms. “Wrong answer, priest. But while we’re questioning things, I’d like to know why you’re here.  I don’t seem to remember acknowledging your right to break away from Fire, and form a new House.  And since you murdered my father before the House of the Sun was formed, he couldn’t have done it.”

“You would cast us out?” The priest looked oddly triumphant.  “Is that it, boy?  You want to start a civil war? I assure you, we will be glad to give it to you!”

“No. I want justice, for everyone you’ve killed.”  The dragon tattoo flowed down into Loki’s hand to form an obsidian blade, and he held the tip to the priest’s throat.  “Kneel, you bastard.”

The priest let out a harsh laugh, and raised his voice once again to play to the crowd. “War is coming! Think hard on which side you choose, for there will be no middle ground.”  Then he dropped a small coin to the ground, and fell backwards into the portal that it opened beneath him, and was gone…

<–Previous   ~~Go to Beginning~~

Guest Blog by Johanna Harness – Writer Shaming May 2, 2014

Posted by techtigger in Uncategorized.

In honor of the release of Johanna’s book “Spillworthy,”  the Soapbox is proud to share her story –  a very brave, and candid look at the choice to self publish.

writershameComing from a traditional, big-publishing path, I believed agents and editors spent their time making books better. When books were good enough, they’d be published.

I feel somewhat naïve for believing this. In truth, big publishers focus on making books marketable. Better and marketable are not synonymous. If they were, celebrities who make us cringe would not be offered massive book deals. If they were, Firefly would not have been cancelled after season one. Sometimes we don’t get what we want.

I had a good agent. She was doing her job well when I fired her.  Like many relationship break-ups, we just didn’t want the same things anymore.  I hired her to sell my work to a big publisher and she gave me the advice needed to make my work more marketable. I decided to go another direction.

If authors don’t want to change their writing to fit the market, we’re called bad names. After all, a real writer would do it. A writer with enough talent would think nothing of it. If a writer won’t change, she’s either too proud or too arrogant. She shows a lack of respect for everyone ever published by traditional publishers, and risks the possibility her friends inside the industry will quit talking to her.  She’s not willing to play by the rules. She must want publishers to fail, and by association, libraries. She wants to put independent bookstore owners on the street.  And probably she doesn’t care about the coffee shops where they buy their mochas. She’s committing career suicide.  She’s such a loser she has to self-publish.

Writer shaming.

Just change the book.  Sell your rights. Ignore the cover with the black kid set in shadow. It’s not like you had any say in the matter. Don’t make the kids so smart. You’d do it if you were a real writer.  You’d do it if you were hungry.  There are a lot of people who will do it if you won’t.

Yeah.  That’s me. I’m taking my writer shame, boxing it up, and setting it on a shelf.  There’s a door to the side of the room, the one that leads to self-publishing, the one that everyone says not to open. Sometimes it glows white hot with possibility and that’s when we’re told to fear it the most.

I’m tired of fear and shame.  I need to know for myself.

I walk through with the worst expectations.  I accept the future predicted for me and, instead. . .

I find a world good, and sweet, and generous.  I cry when readers write to me and tell me they loved my book.  I cry when I get good reviews. I cry when people tell me they love my cover. I cry when they ask about my next book. I cry when I am loved.

I cry even more when someone says I’ve inspired them, that they’ve come to believe they might also be worthy of love.

Writer shame be damned.

“It’s good?” they ask from the other side of the door.

“Yes.”  My answer is unequivocal. “It’s very good.”

– – –

Johanna Harness lives in Idaho in a life filled with beauty and generosity. The corners of her world are filled with chickens, cats, guinea pigs, sheep, and children.  Her debut, middle-grade novel, Spillworthy, is independently-published. It contains smart kids thinking smart thoughts, homeless people who are not burned out with despair, and caring adults who don’t die in the first chapter.

You can buy her book here: http://www.amazon.com/Spillworthy-Johanna-Harness-ebook/dp/B00JZ6PHKI

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