Category Archives: Guest Posts

Guest Post: Virtual Reality Ain’t What We Thought It Would Be! by Nick Cole

soda pop soldier

Remember all those really cool movies from the 90’s and some from the 80’s that told us VR was coming and we’d basically be living out our fantasies inside a computer? Cool kids hacking their grades and the local bank in some alternate low-speed Mission Impossible setting. Or a big giant corporation that wasn’t just greedy, they were power mad.

All the SFX promised us was that we needed to be either suited up or digitally trapped inside these crazy worlds. Well, I think they got it wrong. Virtual Reality is here now and you don’t have to wear a full body suit and dorky helmet to participate.

Those movies kept trying to tell us that the VR experience would be total, immersive, better than life, and oftentimes quite dangerous. Even the breakout hit novel Ready Player One contemplated that people would be laying around in their own filth getting fatter and fatter while their online lives got wookie wielding a double bling light saber phat.

In books and the movies, I’ve always found the VR experience to be a bit of a rip off. Seriously, a guy is going to get downloaded from a computer into an immensely cool world for the old fish out of water “you can teach us what it means to be human” scenario? It felt like a too-easy plot device to tell that type of story.

The one in which a radical shift from the mundane to the fantastic takes place almost immediately. But that’s not the kind of Virtual Reality I wanted to write about in my new novel Soda Pop Soldier. But let me back up a sec… First off, Virtual Reality is here now.

That Ranger in WarCraft you’ve been levelling alongside your guild buddies, that JRPG you’re spending all your free time collecting power jewels in, even that smartphone game you’re tapping at furiously or competing with someone named NikkeiCutie on Words with Friends, that, all that is Virtual Reality.

Out there, in the datasphere, the interwebz, call it what you like, you’re living a whole life based on competence and reputation. You’re having shared experiences that are meaningful and affecting. You even have friends. That my friends, is a type of reality and it’s not just virtual. It’s a very real reality.

So I didn’t want to cop out easily and make my main character, PerfectQuestion, slink into a VR suit so he could dominate the digital version of a land war in South East Asia that I had set up for him in my book.

No, I wanted him to play games and compete the way I play games: Hunched over a computer, eyeballs screaming blue murder, and fighting for his life because in this future world where video gaming is a job, it means money and rent and a relationship, and some people might just want to kill you if you mess up their game.

Soda Pop Soldier is a noir ride through a future where games are more than just fun. Games are a way to control the power to tell people what to buy next. That is a very powerful power to wield.

PerfectQuestion fights by day in a Modern Warfare style digital battleground, and by night he’s logging into an illegal open source tournament called The Black. Think Diablo meets the seedier parts of Vegas. The superheated battlefield Question fights in by day, along with the gothic gloom of the fantasy World of Wastehavens at night, are as real as it gets for our hero.

There’s love, betrayal, loyalty, and friendship, and all of it’s attached to some pretty big motivations. For PerfectQuestion, gaming is as real as it gets. Check out Soda Pop Soldier this August 12th and come spend a few hours in the future of virtual reality video gaming. I think you’ll have as much fun there as I did.
Game On!

About the Author: Nick Cole is an Army veteran and working actor living in Southern California. When he is not auditioning for commercials, going out for sitcoms or being shot, kicked, stabbed or beaten by film school students, the author of The Old Man and the Wasteland and The Wasteland Saga can often be found as a guard for King Phillip II of Spain or a similar role in the Opera Don Carlo at Los Angeles Opera.

More about Soda Pop Soldier:
Soda Pop Soldier
by Nick Cole
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Release Date: August 12, 2014
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books A Million | Indie Bound
Pages: 368

Guest Post: Get More Done by Lee Thompson

a beautiful madness book cover

 
Welcome to Lee Thompson’s A Beautiful Madness blog tour!
Darkeva’s Dark Delights, and the others participating blogs, will receive a paperback copy to give to a random reader who leaves a comment and shares this post. Throughout the book tour, Lee will be sharing fun facts about his first Mystery/Thriller, and also offering dubious advice to novice writers. Lee also thanks all the bloggers and readers who participate.


Get More Done

Unless you’re a blockbuster author, you’re going to have to get a lot done if you want to write full-time. For me, being excited about the novel I’m writing is enough to keep me on track and I don’t put anything before it. But listening to a lot of other writers I know, it seems they get distracted by tweets, and likes, and this, and one of those.

If you want to write, if the story you’re telling truly excites you, I think you’re going to make time for it. You’ll be thinking about it all the time, you’ll be eager to get back to the keyboard to lock more of it down so it can’t get away and you can get it out of your head and into other people’s.

It’s not terribly complicated is it? It sounds like a lot of excuses to me. I know plenty of mothers who are raising children and still knocking out the work. My buddy Shaun drives truck seventy hours a week and still makes it happen. I’m pretty certain that those who cry about not having enough time waste a lot of time even if it’s under the guise of being busy, which isn’t the same as completing your most important tasks.

What’s holding you back? Do you think it’s all the activity around you or all the activity you create? Maybe a little of both? A lot of both?
If ten other things take up more of your time than writing, are all ten of them more important to you? Are they essential? I know writing a novel doesn’t always have the immediate gratification that online activities seem to have, but the long lasting gratification is surely, for me at least, much greater in completing and selling a novel.

Maybe it’s different for you. Maybe talking about writing instead of doing it is what gets your rocks off. Maybe you like to whine about how hard it is, we all need to vent our frustrations sometimes, but big whoop. That’s not some startling revelation.
And writers write through the hurt and the agony, don’t they? They use it, don’t they? Ask Stephen King, William Faulkner, James Lee Burke, and Dennis Lehane.

Accepting responsibility—that it’s all up to you and nobody else—you make the time to read, write, edit, learn—is more of a help than hindrance. It is more freeing than anything to admit you put everything else before writing. You do realize it’s your responsibility, don’t you? If you blame your spouse, or your boss, or your kids, or your mother-in-law, or your favorite television show, just quit. People will laugh at you less. If you want to tinker at writing, go for it. But if writing is really your dream, work that imagination muscle. It needs exercise to stay in top shape. Are you talking about writing more than engaging in the act of it? It’s silly to do that isn’t it? Look at the mechanic who never works on cars. Look at the pianist who never touches the keys. Look at the carpenter who never lifts a tool. Is that you?

This also applies to characters in your novel. It’s very easy to spot a timid writer by the characters he creates. They’re always on the verge of doing something but only act when they’re forced into a corner. Everything in their head is way worse than reality could ever be. They walk through the story world without making any commitments because they’re afraid (nothing wrong with being afraid, the courageous are often afraid, they just act in the face of it.) A timid writer who finally develops a character usually develops a weak character arc, because deep down they know their character has just been going through the motions and hasn’t really overcome anything. Bah. There’s not much of a story in that, at least for genre fiction.

So if you claim to be a writer, prove it.

Get writing.

I challenge you.

It kills me to spend time writing non-fiction when I could be spending that time working on a novel, but I’m hoping some of the insights I’ve gotten over the last few years will help someone on their way up. Sadly I don’t think it can make much of a difference. If you’re going to write, you’re already doing it. If you’re not, you won’t. Nothing I say can change either.

In A Beautiful Madness, my protagonist Sammy has to get a lot done in a short time because he believes someone is out to destroy what’s left of his family. Like me, he’s all about addressing the important things immediately, which is nice because immediate choices propel the story forward, create tension, and sometimes back fire, causing collateral damage.

See below for information on how you can win a free copy of A Beautiful Madness and have a chance to win more Darkfuse titles. Thanks to those who participate.

Happy reading!
–Lee

Amazon Kindle | Paperback

More about A Beautiful Madness, and a link to the Goodreads giveaway to maximize your chances of scoring a free copy (giveaway goes until August 5, 2014).

Author bio: Lee Thompson is the author of the Suspense novels A Beautiful Madness (August 2014), It’s Only Death (forthcoming, January 2015), and With Fury in Hand (forthcoming, May 2015). The dominating threads weaved throughout his work are love, loss, and learning how to live again. A firm believer in the enduring power of the human spirit, Lee believes that stories, no matter their format, set us on the path of transformation. He is represented by the extraordinary Chip MacGregor of MacGregor Literary. Visit Lee’s website to discover more.

Enter to win a paperback copy! There will also be a grand prize at the end of the tour where one winner will receive Lee’s novel and four other DarkFuse titles in Kindle format! To enter: Simply leave a comment on this blog and share the link.

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Guest Post: The Balance of History and Fantasy Writing by Craig Cormick

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The Balance of History and Fantasy Writing
by Craig Cormick

So I’ve been set a challenge: to talk about how I balanced the need for convincing and accurate historical research while maintaining an exciting fantasy narrative in my novel The Shadow Master.

First a quick description of the novel. It’s a kick-arse tale of alternative history, love and conflict, madness and magic, with sword fights and mad clerics and assassins and bombs and magical shape-changers and dark catacombs and tall towers and an army of plague people – with everything except a car chase. And through it all is this mysterious figure, the Shadow Master, who is manipulating everyone towards his own ends. Sound interesting? I hope so. I know I’d read it (!)

Anyway – the story is set in Renaissance Italy – and never having lived in Renaissance Italy that presented a few challenges. You know that author’s mantra – Write about things you know. Well I dived into this book with opposite approach – Write about things you don’t know.
Here’s a story about how inspiration struck me to write the book to explain this.

My day job is as a science communicator, and I’ve been lucky enough to travel to lots of interesting places, including Antarctica for work – but a few years back I was at a conference in Florence in Italy, and while walking around the Galileo museum I got this idea – like one of those serendipitous moments that just appear in your head – pow! I thought, what if science behaved like magic?

I mean, what if, when Galileo invented the telescope, it actually transported you across to what you were looking at. And what if the early chronometers actually slowed down time? And what if when you strapped on Leonardo da Vinci’s flying harness you actually transformed into a giant bird?

And that became my vision – to create an alternate history world that was fairly similar to the world that readers knew from history, but was also different enough to be intriguing – but to work within itself.

But that meant learning a whole lot more about the Italian Renaissance than I knew about it.

And here is the historical novelist’s dilemma. You need to do a lot of research so that the era you are writing about is credible and accurate – but when do you stop researching and just sit down and write. It’s a bit like baking a cake – don’t do enough research and it’s like taking the cake out of the oven before it’s done (half-baked novels, we’ve all seen ‘em), but if you do too much research – it’s like leaving a cake in the oven too long, it gets overdone and you just can’t resist putting every fact you’ve discovered into the book and weigh it down with them (I’m sure we’ve all read a few of those too).

Fortunately most of my books to date have dealt with history and I think I’ve gotten the balancing act sort of worked out – but this book had another element to juggle – being a fantasy book dealing with an alternate history I had to make sure those elements worked.

And that’s the tricky thing with alternate history – the whole thing has to be believable, even though it’s playing around with known realities. And if you read some alternate histories you quickly find it’s another balancing act. If you tip too much to one side, then it starts becoming too far off the path from history and you lose people who want that element of historical certainty, and if you tip too far the other way, you’re seen as not being alternate enough and not challenging the reader.
I’ll tell you another story to explain this.

When I was studying music growing up, my jazz teacher used to tell me that you need to learn all the rules of music before you start breaking them and improvising. So you really need to do enough research to find out what the world was actually like in the time era you are writing of, and then you can start breaking the rules and introducing new elements.

It also gave me quite a bit of freedom. So when I found that dates clashed – such as Leonardo da Vinci’s life and Galileo’s – it didn’t matter. In my world they could live at the same time.

So I did a lot of reading and watched a lot of documentaries about the Medici’s and the Church and the artists of the Renaissance, but I looked at everything with a critical eye, thinking, how can I use that? Or can I turn that so it works in my alternative world?

There were times I was tempted to wander quite off the track and go into some far-fetched ideas (not quite as bizarre as Leonardo da Vinci being an alien shape-shifter from the future, but ideas that clashed just as much with the world I was creating). If it didn’t feel like it belonged it this world, I left it out.

There’s another instructional story to share: Michelangelo supposedly once said that to make a sculptor you just took a hammer and chisel and chipped away all the bits that didn’t look like the end shape you were after. I threw away a lot of really good ideas, that just didn’t look like they belonged in the alternate world I had created.

So hopefully all those facts give the book some credibility – capturing the atmosphere of the era, and the fantastical elements give it intrigue and creative satisfaction for the reader.
You’re going to be the judge on that one though – not me. Though I’d love to hear if you think I got the balance right.

Incidentally a highlight of the Galileo museum in Florence, if you ever get to go there, is finding Galileo’s mummified middle finger in a glass jar, turned to point at the main cathedral in the city. Payback for all the persecution he received from the Church. Check it out!

shadow-master-bp-pic

About the author:
Craig Cormick is an award-winning author and science communicator who works for Australia’s premier science institution, the Commonwealth Science and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO). He is a regular speaker at science communication conferences and has appeared on television, radio, online and in print media.

As an author he has published over a dozen works of fiction and non-fiction and over 100 short stories. His awards include an ACT Book of the Year Award and a Queensland Premier’s Literary Award. His most recent book is the young adult novel Time Vandals (Scholastic, 2012). You can find Craig online at his website craigcormick.com.

Author blog
Goodreads

Buying info:
UK Print & Ebook
Amazon.co.uk | Book Depository | Waterstones | WHSmith

North American Print & Ebook
Amazon.com | Amazon.ca | BarnesandNoble.com | IndieBound.org

Global DRM-Free Epub Ebook
On-sale 24th June from the Robot Trading Company.

Read an extract!

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Guest Post: Sephera Giron

weird tales of terror image

The following is a guest post from horror scribe Sèphera Girón, whose chilling novel Mistress of the Dark was the first modern horror novel penned by a woman that I read, featuring one of the most sadistic, twisted, and memorable female protagonists in the form of Abigail Barnum. Sephera and I were on the “Social Media for Writers” panel that I moderated this past June in New Orleans at The Bram Stoker Awards™ Weekend 2013 incorporating the World Horror Convention, which she added many great insights to.

Here is a guest post detailing her experiences at this year’s con and some good advice for those who are thinking of attending future ones.


The Bram Stoker Awards™ Weekend 2013 incorporating the World Horror Convention

When I heard that World Horror and the Stokers were going to be combined in New Orleans, I knew I had to go. After all, I was born in New Orleans and had never been back since I was an infant. I attended the very first World Horror in Nashville in the nineties. In fact, I attended pretty much every World Horror except a couple right up until I was a Toastmaster in Toronto in 2007. I even went to one pregnant with my second son, Dorian. They were such a blast and the only reason I’ve not attended in recent years has been because of finances.

I’ve also attended many Stoker banquets and award ceremonies over the years. The last Stoker Weekend I attended was in Burbank in 2010 to receive the Silver Hammer Award.
So it’s been a very long time since I’ve been able to see my friends, peers, editors, and publishers. All of these exciting ideas combined into a fabulous weekend experience for me. It was a tough juggling act to attend the convention and see the sights of New Orleans but I believe I managed to fit a lot in.

My main con duties involved working registration for a few hours, being on a Social Media panel, working the HWA booth for an hour, reading my poem from The Haunted Mansion Project: Year Two, autographing books at the mass signing, attending the Samhain cocktail party, rocked rocking out to Heather Graham’s band and party, attending part of the HWA annual meeting, and watching parts of other panels. I also hung out at the bar to network before the siren song of Bourbon Street lured me back out again. I also went on a graveyard tour Friday morning that consisted mostly of con attendees.

Outside of the con, I spent the rest of my waking hours exploring the neighbourhood, something that isn’t always possible at cons. At some cons, you are put into a hotel far from anything and you really can only do the con. This con was the type where you are plunked right in the center of a cool city so you tend to only do the most important con things while taking in the sights and sounds of a new city.

You may have relatives and friends who wonder why you would invest so much money into a con. There really is nothing that can compare to putting names to faces. Even when I was sight-seeing, I mostly went out with a pack from the con, and different people every time. Bonding over graveyards and dance clubs also makes for building relationships that you will carry forward for years. You can’t share those kinds of experiences through email.

In looking back over more than twenty years of World Horrors, it’s no wonder that I knew so many people and fell into a step that felt so familiar despite my many years away.
Conventions offer a chance to network with working professionals and learn how to carve out your own niche in your craft. You can go to pitch sessions, attend panels, learn skills at workshops, get autographs from your favourite authors and even talk to them for a while.

Having drinks with famous editors and agents whether at a party or a bar can’t be beat. When you attend cons, you will meet many people who may or may not be able to help you propel yourself forward. The aspiring little fan you meet this year might become head of a major publishing house in five years. However, the best outcome from a con is creating memories and relationships that will last a lifetime.

Always be polite, try not to harass your idols but don’t be afraid of them either since most people in the horror field who attend cons are friendly and approachable.
Another interesting element of this con was the haunted hotel where we stayed. The Hotel Monteleone is a notorious hotspot for spirit sightings and most con guests had some sort of story to tell. There were shaking beds, shaking chandeliers, laughter and screams, foggy patches, and I myself even caught a glimpse of an apparition on the rooftop level at dawn.

You can find my stories on my blogs and I’ll likely be adding a few more. Here are links to the stories I’ve posted so far: link 1 | link 2 | link 3 | link 4 | link 5 | link 6

On Bourbon Street, I discovered my roots. I finally understood why I like to dance all the time. How civilized to have live bands playing constantly so that you can go in and dance as you wish and then get on with your day. You wouldn’t need to ever go to the gym. I returned to several bars to dance, sometimes by myself, sometimes with a pack.

The draw at the end of every evening was The Dungeon which was decked out like a dungeon but laughable compared to the hard core fetish dungeons in Toronto. It had two floors and loads of heavy metal. There was a jukebox where you could pick a tune or you could make a request from the deejay. We all danced and swooped and bonded in a way that isn’t possible on Facebook.

As well as understanding my urge to dance, the tarot readers also intrigued me. The voodoo shops, vampire store, and more all rendered various vibrations through me. There was one voodoo shop I visited the first night while wandering around with a giant cup of bourbon sour that I wanted to return to in order to purchase a couple of small items.

When I returned the next day, I had to leave the shop quickly. A wave of nausea and a pounding headache had suddenly befallen me. It cleared up after I left the shop and wandered around some more. At the time, I figured it was a long delayed hangover, after all, I’d seen the sun come up that day, but the way it vanished again led me to believe it was related to the voodoo shop. I had browsed several voodoo shops before that one with no ill effect. So I wasn’t certain what it might have been that was in there that I shouldn’t be around.

Each time I passed that shop on my adventures over the next few days, I’d get an uneasy sensation, of someone or something watching and waiting for me. I attempted to enter one more time but partway up the steps, I decided to turn away.

Ask anyone who knows me what I’m all about and how I’m perfectly matched with my birth city. I’m the girl who loves to dance and throw beads, have a few drinks, hang out with friends, read tarot, cruise graveyards, bond with ghosts and my son could tap dance on the streets to earn a living as well. Living in New Orleans would not be a stretch for this fun-loving city girl.

The vibe in New Orleans is different than any I’ve experienced. I’m not a huge traveller but I’ve been to Manhattan and San Francisco many times and they too, have a distinct vibe. The vibe in New Orleans was a familiar echo that called to me. My birth place was resonating with my bones. Business connections went smoothly, although I didn’t see everyone I wanted to which happens when there’s hundreds of people to see.

Magic connections were made, like minds dancing together in lively conversation and then flitting off to meet with another. Coincidences and kismet abounded. The karma wheel turned. I lost my favourite sunglasses and lo, there they were at the front desk lost and found. Combining a horror convention with the carnival atmosphere of Bourbon Street was a great idea. So much has inspired me, from the ghost sightings to panels to cocktail parties with friends that I’m going to be drawing from the resonance of this fabulous experience in many stories for years to come.

Next year, The World Horror Convention is in Portland, Oregon. You really should attend if you are serious about building connections in your career. Sign up for as many pitch sessions and workshops as you can. When you get there, talk to everyone about everything. If you see me, talk to me! Go to as many panels as you can and take notes. Your experience will be priceless. You will build memories and new friendships that will last you a lifetime. Most importantly, you will realize you are not alone in this crazy business. You do indeed have a tribe.

sephera gironBio: Sèphera Girón is the award-winning author of over 15 published novels and many short stories. She received the “Marty” in Established Literary Category from the Mississauga Arts Council and a “Silver Hammer” from the Horror Writers Association.

She’s a professional tarot counsellor and writes horoscope columns. Her latest hobby is paranormal investigator! Sèphera also dabbles in acting and appears as “Ruby” in the movie, SLIME CITY MASSACRE. You might also catch a glimpse of her as an extra in THE LOVE GURU and a few other movies. One of Sephera’s day jobs is editing books for other people. Her books include House of Pain, Mistress of the Dark, The Birds and the Bees, Borrowed Flesh, Eternal Sunset, The Witch’s Field, Weird Tales of Terror and many more. For more information, you can visit her website, find her on Twitter, or find her on Goodreads.


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Guest Post – Author Marie Brennan

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Guest Post – Marie Brennan

I’ve always listened to music while writing, because it entertains the part of my brain that has the attention span of a ferret on speed, leaving the rest of me free to focus on actual work. That advice they gave you in school, about how you should make sure you’re in a quiet environment when you study, without the radio or anything to distract you? Terrible advice for me. When it’s quiet, every little sound breaks my concentration.

But it wasn’t until I found myself accidentally completing my first novel that I started being systematic about it. (How do you accidentally complete a novel? Write a chunk of stuff, figure out it isn’t the beginning of the story, write a beginning, notice you have half a book now. Decide that at this point you have no excuse not to finish it.) I was playing around with this idea — our world plus psychic gifts, with people studying magic in college — when my sister loaned me the soundtrack for a stage production she’d just been in. The play was a cracked-out interpretation of Waiting for Godot, and for the overture music, the director had taken a ten-minute mix of the Pet Shop Boys song “Red Letter Day” and overlaid it with the voice of one of the actresses reciting quotations from the King James Version of the Book of Revelation.

Did this have anything to do with what I was writing? Not in the slightest. The setting is a couple of generations past a mild apocalypse (the advent of all those psychic gifts didn’t go well), and the characters face some disastrous events of their own, but there are horsemen, no sun becoming black as sackcloth of hair, etc. Not even much Christianity, since the most religious characters in the story are Wiccan. But that didn’t matter: I fell in love with the song, and, as I am wont to do when I fall in love with a song, I put it on repeat.

All summer long.

Okay, that’s an exaggeration. But not by much, because after a while, I noticed something. I had the song on repeat while I was writing . . . and after a while, when I thought about the book, the song started playing in my head. And then I noticed that the reverse was true, too: if I heard the music, I started thinking about the book.

Hey look, I had re-invented Pavlovian conditioning! Which turned out to be useful, for endurance projects like novels. I ended up with two songs for that one (the other being “The Order of Death,” off Josh’s Blair Witch Mix), and two songs for my next novel; eventually it grew into me making full-blown soundtracks for each book, some of them multiple CDs long. They’re built out of the playlists I listen to while working, as I’ve transitioned away from listening obsessively to one piece for hours on end . . . but each book ultimately has at least one piece that’s the Pavlovian one, the song that drags my brain straight to the story the instant I hear it. “Kara Remembers,” from Battlestar Galactica — that one’s a particular scene in With Fate Conspire. Also “Death Is the Road to Awe” from The Fountain, which insisted it was the music for the end of that book before I even knew what the ending was. “Running to the Rain,” from Long Walk Home (Peter Gabriel’s score for The Rabbit-Proof Fence) cues my brain to A Star Shall Fall; the overture from Shekhar Kapur’s film Elizabeth for Midnight Never Come; a piece called “Pageant” from the Cirque du Soleil show for A Natural History of Dragons.

And “Red Letter Day (Schwa’s Shiny Holographic Cover remix)” for Lies and Prophecy. It turns out there’s a secondary benefit to attaching a song that firmly to a story: when you come back, years later, the association is still there. It took me over a decade and more revision than I care to think of before the book was ready to be published, but every time I sat down to work on it again, no matter how many years had passed, all I had to do was hit “play” and my brain was ready to go.

Dear Schwa and my sister: thank you. Who knows whether that book would ever have been finished, were it not for you and the Book of Revelation.

marie brennan

About the Author:
Marie Brennan is the author of eight novels, including A Natural History of Dragons, the Onyx Court series, and the urban fantasy Lies and Prophecy. She has published more than forty short stories in venues such as On Spec, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and the acclaimed anthology series Clockwork Phoenix. More information can be found on her website.

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