Guest Post: Cara McKinnon on Alternate History


I’m pleased to host author Cara McKinnon today for a discussion on alternate history. And it’s a special occasion! Today marks the release date of the second novel in her Fay of Skye series, A Theft of Magic.

I’m a huge fan of the alternate history version of Victorian England McKinnon has created, as evidenced by my 5-star review of book 1, Essential Magic. I can’t wait to read this next installment of the series to see where McKinnon takes her world next!

Alternate History: One Alteration Changes Everything. Or Does It?

When writing any sort of speculative fiction, the accepted wisdom is that you get a single “buy in” for your world-building. Maybe time travel works, or FTL travel is a thing. You don’t need to explain it (unless you want to). Your audience will accept that change from the world as they know it. The more you add to your world after that, the more you will need to elucidate. Continue reading

Review: ESSENTIAL MAGIC (Fay of Skye #1) by Cara McKinnon

essential magic

Disclaimer: The author and I attended the same graduate school program and participate in group promotional tours for our books. However, I purchased my hardcopy version of this novel for full price.

For a person who doesn’t claim to be a “romance book” reader, I seem to keep lucking out with some amazing speculative fiction romances. In this case, I enjoyed a lovely historical fantasy romance (or is that a historical romance fantasy?) that takes place in an alternate version of Victorian England. Magic is both real and expected in this world, and our heroine has returned to her English roots to find training for her supernatural gifts. Continue reading

Review: A SECOND CHANCE (Chronicles of St. Mary’s #3) by Jodi Taylor


You could read this as another installment of a series that only brings you time travel adventure (and misadventure). And if you read the book that way, or if that was all you were looking for, you’d still be in for a great ride. On the surface, this book doesn’t bring anything to the fuller meta plot of rogue time travelers and how the St. Mary’s Institute of Historical Research fits into the grand scope of St. Mary’s Institutes up and down the time line.

But that is a rather simplified view, when this isn’t just an exciting science fiction time travel series, but also a well-rounded saga of a woman’s life. Continue reading

Con Report: TridentCon 2016

I’ve been to a lot of conventions, from tiny little things hosted at the local mall to the epic scale of DragonCon. I’m not at the point in my career where I can afford to turn down invitations, and I’m so pleased that I accepted the opportunity to sell books at a local gaming convention known as TridentCon. I thought it was brilliant that the organizer invited local speculative fiction authors rather than having an entire slate of games dealers. It is the rare table-top gamer who is not also a science fiction and/or fantasy fan. Continue reading

Review: A SYMPHONY OF ECHOES (Chronicles of St. Mary’s #2) by Jodi Taylor


There’s always a vague worry when picking up the second book in a series that it won’t quite measure up. That the first amazing novel was a flash-in-the-pan fluke, sucking up all of the author’s creativity and leaving only the dregs of inspiration for future installments.

Luckily, I loved A Symphony of Echoes at least as much as Just One Damned Thing After Another, if not more! Continue reading

Con Report: DogCon 5


Steel Magic makes for lovely beach house decor.

It’s kind of crazy to think that it’s been 5 years since I’ve been involved with Raw Dog Screaming Press. There are other dates to mark that anniversary that might be more “official,” such as the date my first book with them was announced (at DogCon 3), but I quietly mark the beginning of this journey from my official invitation to the very first DogCon. That was when the Dog Star Books SF/adventure imprint was announced, and when I started to get the idea that I might have found a home for my urban fantasy/alternate history novel.

Funny story: I wasn’t even at the first DogCon! (Even though lots of people seem to think that I was.) I received the invitation after I’d already scheduled the housewarming party for my new home, and since I had not yet met John Edward Lawson or Jennifer Barnes in person, I thought it was weird that they were inviting me to their house. But that invitation started a lovely social media correspondence that has since blossomed into an amazing friendship and working relationship. I haven’t missed a DogCon since, and this most recent was definitely one for the books.

This year, DogCon was an event designed to bring authors in the RDSP family closer together and held at the amazing Broadkill Writer’s Resort in Milton, Delaware. Continue reading

September Wrap-Up & October Goals

I know the month isn’t quite over, but I’m off to Broadkill Resort for DogCon V tomorrow, so let’s do this thing!

September Wrap-up:

  • Words were written in book 4! Specifically, 15k of them, so the goal was officially met. I’m in the swing of things now, and doing that thing where I look at the rest of my outline and panic that the book is going to be over 100k long.
  • Book reviews were completed! Not many of them, but I think the quality of my reviews is going up as I get more practice at it.
  • Speculative Chic was contributed to! This month featured more group participation along with my debut solo post.
  • I haven’t yet been to DogCon, but I did get to spend a glorious week with my husband at the not-so-glorious place where he is training! Teleworking and writing with a view of the beach for a few days was so tough.


October Goals:

  1. Write words! Specifically, 20k words.
  2. Write book reviews! There are currently 11 in the queue (I also did a lot of reading at the beach).
  3. Participate in DogCon V! Please continue to keep all fingers and toes crossed for Steel Victory in the Reader’s Choice Award. Less than 48 hours until it’s announced!
  4. Sell books! I will be in the Dealer’s Room at TridentCon with copies of both of my books (Oct 8-9). I have no panels or presentations to attend, so this is a great chance to come hang out and chat with me about writing and gaming.
  5. Travel! I’ll be going to Denver for work and spending back-to-back weekends in Pennsylvania and Ohio for two weddings. On the plus side, my husband is meeting me in Ohio for one of the weddings and afterward I get to bring him home for good.


Review: HIDDEN DESIGN: THE PROPHECY by Tia Tormen & C.K. Stone


Sex sells.

Everyone knows that. Marketing professionals especially know that. But does the inclusion of sex necessarily make something better? Erotica has become more mainstream in popular fiction within the past few years and can make any genre book more appealing to the right audience. In some cases, however, the sexual element can detract from what would otherwise be a great story.

Unfortunately, I think that Hidden Design: the Prophecy, marketed as an erotica dark fantasy, is a perfect example of this. Continue reading

Review: A WIZARD’S FORGE (Woern Saga #1) by A.M. Justice

wizard's forge

Disclaimer: I received a free ebook of this novel from the author in exchange for an honest review.

It’s no surprise that I was drawn to this book immediately, considering it’s fusion of fantasy and science-fiction elements, it’s excellent world-building, and its awesome protagonist named Vic (short for Victoria). But I’ve been burned by free ARCs before. I’m so pleased to report that this novel met all expectations, and in many cases, far exceeded them. Continue reading

Author Interview with A.M. Justice: Parallel Paths Redux

A few weeks ago, a lovely speculative fiction author contacted me out of the blue with an interesting proposal. She had stumbled across me on the Internet and thought it would be fun if we did a bit of cross-promotion since we had so much in common. She featured me with an interview on her blog and today I’m happy to return the favor! Check back here next Tuesday for my review of A.M. Justice’s excellent fantasy novel, A Wizard’s Forge.

How much do we have in common, exactly? Besides both being medical writer/editors and military brats, today we even discovered that we share the same wedding anniversary and are married to men with the same name!

As someone who also writes crazy genre-bending speculative fiction, I’m always interested in other author’s perspectives. What made you decide to introduce elements of science fiction in a story that could easily stand alone as high fantasy?

In my day job as a medical writer, I’m required to back up every statement with documented evidence. I want what we call an evidence base to exist in my fiction too, because I like to understand why things happen. Setting A Wizard’s Forge on an alien planet rather than a fantasy world allowed me to give the humans who live among weird creatures like the Kragnashians a “documented” reason for being there. It also allowed me to let my imagination run wild and invent whole new species, rather than populate the world with elves, dwarves, and the other usual suspects of fantasy. Finally, a science fiction setting lets me play with science and religion as belief systems as Vic, the atheist, argues with her religious friends about human origins.

The next book, A Wizard’s Sacrifice, dives deeper into some of the science fiction elements. Readers will learn the biological nature of Vic’s power, which involves neurological parasites called the Woern. The fact that wizardry comes from an infection has major implications for Vic’s developing romance with Ashel, as well as her relationship with his family members. In fact, how the Woern are transmitted and their beneficial and negative effects on people is a main plot driver in Sacrifice. Readers will also see the Devices used a lot more, and will glimpse something of the nonmagical origins of these transporters. There will be a lot more interaction with the Kragnashians, Knownearth’s indigenous and highly intelligent giant insects, and lastly, there will be time travel! Continue reading