A few weeks ago, I was thrilled to be a guest on Carolivia Herron's Epic City radio show on Takoma Radio, 94.3 FM in Takoma Park, MD.

We chatted it up about why Adem is so easy to root for despite his great flaws, what the heck the Orpheus myth is, and what kind of fantasy creature I would be.

Listen to the full interview here!

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With each day of the 12 Days of Books Giveaway, I’m sharing a little about my writing journey so far. And, of course, new ways to enter to win!

"Where do your ideas come from?"

It's one of those questions every author (no, every creative) gets at some point. For some reason, we tend to think of ideas as these magical things that you have to have something special to acquire. Perhaps because we spend so much time focused on what is around us instead of what is inside us.

But ideas aren't some sort of alchemy performed by the chosen. Ideas are everywhere. They sit all around us, waiting to be picked up. Ideas are like coins in a special level of Mario Brothers.

The real question is, "How do you choose your ideas?"

This is much harder to do. It is much easier to catch an idea than it is to develop an idea--as I explained on Tuesday, my last idea took me five years to develop, and along the way I caught a ton more ideas, both for the rest of the Chronicles of the Third Realm War series and for complete new projects.

Even at a much faster writing pace of six months per novel, I have enough story ideas to fill my next six to ten years, easily.

So how do I pick what to chase? I try to consider factors like marketability and what readers will want, but ultimately it always comes down to what speaks to me.

I mean this quite literally. When I started writing Mud, the first few chapters came out at lightning speed, because Adem's voice nudged me right along, telling me his predicament (and then I had to figure out where that took him).

The same happened Rain. I did not initially intend to write any novellas to complement the Chronicles of the Third Realm War series, but Nia and Calipher's tempestuous, tragic romance clung to me ... and it proved itself to be the perfect way to bring you back into the origins of Terath's doomed fate.

I try to use my head in choosing my ideas, but it always ends up coming from my heart. Where my head comes in is in sticking with that idea long enough to turn it into something meaningful for readers.

Where do you find your ideas? 

New ways to win, every day until Christmas Eve

Today's way to enter: Leave a review for Mud on Amazon.

Get More Ways to Enter the 12 Days of Books Giveaway:


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Over at BookRiot, I've shared a list of lesser-known "punks"--subgenres of science fiction in the tradition of steampunk--that you will definitely want to check out for yourself.

(Except splatterpunk, which, whoa, is not for the faint of heart.)

Along the way of drafting this post, I ended up making up a subgenre of my own, because there is a serious trend emerging in science fiction that I could not find a name for.

Meet metapunk.

As I describe in the post:

Metapunk is a rising trend in speculative fiction where the narrative follows two stories, one inner story, and a secondary outer one that analyzes and dissects the inner story. Think Westworld or Cabin in the Woods.

It's been a favorite of mine ever since my first encounter with it through Charles Yu's amazingly meta-minded How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe.

Yu is one of my favorite authors, and this is his only full-length novel. While dissecting genre tropes with humor and heart, the author himself slips in and out of the story's narrative in a way that lends distance and perspective, while also blurring the lines between art and life.

As we become ever more sophisticated viewers, I think this trend will continue to expand on the screen and on the page. Which thrills me, because metapunk offers a brainy, twisty layer to my favorite genre that pulls the strings of its tropes in new directions and stretches the imagination to think in new, analytical directions.

What do you think about my new genre? Where have you seen it in action?

Check out the full list of punk subgenres (and add your own!):

Well Do Ya Punk? The Emerging "Punk" Subgenres of Speculative Fiction

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So it looks like I was wrong. I LIED. Because I thought that MUD's celebratory promo pricing was going to be over after Tuesday, but OMG IT'S STILL GOING.

So holy moly guys, I don't know how long this is going to last, but you can still get MUD for just $.99. Did you buy it yet? You really should. ASAP, before this goes away for real. Because I literally have no idea when it's going to end.

Get MUD for just $.99:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | iBooks


Don't forget, MUD pairs perfectly with your free copy of RAIN. RAIN is the prequel novella to the series, and these two books share some secrets between them!

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So. Stranger Things. I know, everyone has already talked about it and I’m way behind.

I’ve been busy. So sue me.

But this show is incredible, the perfect blend of Super 8 and Fringe and Stephen King, and it absolutely must be discussed. (If you haven’t watched yet, go do it now—it’s only eight episodes. Spoilers to come.)

In particular, we absolutely must discuss the very excellent, horrifying monster of this show. Who doesn’t love a good monster, right?



But what the heck is this thing? Welp. I’ve got a theory.

What we know

The show doesn’t tell us much about the monster, but we do learn some things for sure.

  • It lives in the Upside Down.
  • It steals children (and teens).
  • It is a predator that eats meat, but not humans.
  • It hunts in our world (the Rightside Up?).
  • It can smell blood.
  • Its presence affects electricity.

So okay. That’s what the show spells out for us.

But in addition to that, we can observe a few more things. First, Eleven seems to be the first person from the Rightside Up to discover the monster. It also seems to escape the Upside Down about the same time that Eleven escapes from the lab.

Relevant themes

There are some delightfully geeky details in this show, particularly with the four boys and their play together.

First, let’s talk about one of my favorite topics ever: Comics. Specifically, X-Men #134, which Will calls dibs on after winning a bike race with Dustin on their way home, right before the monster takes him.

This issue is not a random mention.

X-Men #134 features a major moment within the X-Men universe: The one in which the Mastermind goes too far in his tinkering around in Jean Grey’s psyche, and unleashes the Dark Phoenix. Later in the episode, Dark Phoenix puts Mastermind in a coma with her telepathic powers.

Seeing any parallels in Stranger Things here? Anyone? Bueller?


So now that we’ve got that settled, let’s move on to the demogorgon. This monster is introduced right at the beginning of episode one, as the thing that kills Will’s character in the boys’ Dungeons and Dragons game.

(Tangent: So many points for positive portrayal of DnD. So many.)

What the heck is a demogorgon? Let’s turn to our handy dandy Monster Encyclopedia.

The demogorgon is a two-headed demon monster with blueish-green scales, a forked tail and mandrill heads. Depending on which head is used, the demogorgon’s gaze can charm its victims or drive them insane.

Most don’t realize, though, that the two heads contain separate consciousnesses, and that these two minds are constantly battling to destroy each other. The demogorgon is often told within the terms of a struggle to divide or unite them.

So what’s it mean?

We’ve got two metaphors here that both tie back to a duality and an inner struggle. Okiedoke. Now let’s go back to Stranger Things for a moment.

Remember when Eleven first showed Mike her powers, and then said “It’s me. I’m the monster,”?

So … what if she’s right?

I mean, Eleven and the monster are obviously the same being, as are the two heads of the demogorgon, or the two personalities of Phoenix.

But, my theory is, the monster is a psychological manifestation that stemmed from Eleven and the trauma she has suffered from the lab’s experimentation.

Beyond the thematic hints, Eleven is the first to discover the monster. As the lab begins to study the monster and its habitat in the Upside Down, the monster seems to be able to do something Eleven won’t: Destroy the scientists holding her hostage.

Add to this equation that Eleven and the monster seem to break free at about the same time, and I’m shipping this theory.

All in all, I don’t think we’ve seen the end of either of them, and I can’t wait to see what this incredible team comes up with next.


What do you think the Stranger Things monster is?


Bonus round: Get excited for season two of Stranger Things with this report of everything we know so far, and then make your own Stranger Things-style sign.

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This is a guest post from Em Shotwell, a wonderful urban fantasy author. Learn more about her debut novel Blackbird Summer at the end of this post!

Blackbird Digital MEDIUM (1)

Beware the Jabberwock, my son!

The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!

When I was a little girl, I was in possession of two things that made life interesting: A big imagination and a crazy uncle.

My imagination kept me in trouble. I would daydream through tests, tell stories to my friends as if they were the truth, and drag my little sisters from one “adventure” to the next.

My crazy uncle also caused trouble. Besides screaming contests and letting me say words like “piss” when my parents were out of earshot, his favorite pastime was telling me stories as if they were the truth. Usually I knew better than to believe him, but there was one that always got me: The Jabberwocky.


The Perfect “Bad Child” Meal

My uncle lived in the woods. Not in front of a wooded lot in the back of a subdivision. Not in a grove of trees just off the road. The real woods. A creek ran behind his house, cutting through what my 8 year old self saw as a ravine (but was probably just a big ditch). Pine trees grew high and thick between fat, vine-tangled oaks.

Outside of his yard, the forest scrub was so thick with briars that you could barely push through them. (Not that I didn’t anyway. I have a scar on my foot to prove it.) During the daylight, this was the best kind of playground. Stomping through the woods exploring, while the adults sat on the porch visiting, was the most fun a wild little girl could ask for.

When the sun began to set, the mosquitoes always forced me and my cousins back to the house.

“You better come inside before the Jabberwocky gets you,” my uncle would say, without so much as a hint of mischief in his voice. “That Jabberwocky lives in them woods. He’s big and mean. He’s got teeth the size of a man and he loves nothing better than to eat up bad little children.”

I would listen intently, practically able to see the Jabberwocky—yellow teeth and all—waking up from his daytime slumber, and ready to hunt his supper. And since I spent as much time in detention as in the classroom—I knew that I would make the perfect “bad child” meal.

You Hear That?

My uncle also had cows that lived in a fenced off portion of his wooded property. Sometimes at night, the giant orange and white bulls would bellow. “You hear that?” uncle would ask. “That’s him. That’s that old Jabberwocky! Sounds like he got someone.”

“Nuh-huh. That’s just one of your dumb cows,” one of us kids would usually answer, to which my uncle would raise his brows with a worried look. He’d jump from his seat on the sagging sofa, and rush to the window to peak through the blinds.

“Hurry. Cut off the lights,” he’d whisper. “I think the Jabberwocky must be close. Sounds like he’s done ate one of my cows!”

I’d tell myself he was lying. That it was just a story. That no one would let those poor, dumb cows get eaten by a Jabberwocky. But when it was time to leave, I always held tight to Mama or Daddy’s hand until I was safely inside the car. Just in case.

The Woods at Night

When I was a little older, I became slightly obsessed with the idea of the Jabberwocky living in the forest. I was old enough to know I should be embarrassed to still believe (I also believed in unicorns and mermaids) so I kept it to myself. I read Through the Looking Glass and memorized The Jabberwocky poem.

I would recite to anyone who asked (or didn’t ask…all I needed was an audience, they didn’t have to be willing). I repeated it over and over in my mind, dissecting it.

It burbles. It has eyes of flame. It whiffles. What is a slithy tove, anyway?

I didn’t know, but I could imagine.

When we would visit uncle, I would listen to his stories, pretending to not believe, pretending to be cool, pretending to be brave, but knowing that I’d never dare go in those woods alone at night.

The cows were probably fine.

But maybe not.


Author Photo (1)About Em Shotwell

Em Shotwell is the author of Blackbird Summer (City Owl Press, 2016). She lives in South Louisiana with a husband who spoils her and two mini-superheroes who call her mom. Em think the most interesting characters are the ones who live on the sidelines, and that small towns often hide the biggest secrets. She is inspired by tall tales and local legends.

When she’s not writing about magical misfits and lovable weirdos, Em enjoys spending time outdoors hiking, and debating Doctor Who facts with her obsessed ten-year-old.

Visit Em online: www.EmShotwell.com / Facebook / Goodreads / Amazon / Twitter / Instagram / Pinterest

Click Here to read Blackbird Summer today!
Click Here to add Blackbird Summer to your goodreads list!

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Hello, hello, readers. I've been having a jam-packed week at the Writers Digest Conference this week, but I wanted to take a moment and let you know a few things.

After about a year and a half living beachside in Florida, I'm finally heading back toward my mothership: D.C.

D.C. is often associated with transitory career climbers, hard-nosed politicians, and pushy locals. And all of this is true. But God help me, of all the different places I've lived, it's the only place that feels like home. (Judgements made on these statements are likely 100% accurate.)

This makes my first event back in DC all the more special. So I am very pleased to tell you that I have been accepted to participate in the DC Author Festival.

If you're in D.C., hit me up! I'd love to chat at the event, sign your book, or grab a drink after.

Get the deets on my Events page.

But before I leave Florida, I've got a couple more things lined up. First,  come out and see my panel about creating magical worlds at the Space Coast Comic Con! I'll be talking it up with some amazing speculative fiction authors: Janice Hardy, Jaimie Engle, D. Ryan Gish, and Keith Rommel. We'll all be selling and signing our books all weekend long, too, so if you're in the area, be sure to come say hello!

I'll also be at the Florida Writers Conference. I will have a signing at that event (time TBD--again, keep an eye on the Events page) and this will also be where I find out finally if MUD made it past its Finalist status and won an Royal Palm Literary Award.

And, New Yorkers, I'm coming back your way in November for Book Riot Live! No signing, just fangirling this time, but I'd love to meet up if you're going too.

So much excitement! I've got more coming down the pipeline, too, so keep an eye on that Events page.

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Some of you may know that I am the editor of genre short fiction website wordhaus. Well, we're doing something new and awesome over there, and readers like yourselves are the winners.

We're giving away a free, signed novel every month.


Awesome, right? Yes.

Of course, because it's totally new, I needed some guinea pigs. And if you're not willing to step up and be your own guinea pig, what are you even doing, right?

So this month, and this month only, you can enter to win a signed copy of Mud!

So ... enter the giveaway! If you already own Mud, tell your friends! Or, enter for yourself, and then tell your friends! That's fine too.

(And if you're interested in being a future featured author, email me at editor@wordhaus.com.)

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A few weeks ago, I shared that Mud  was recognized as a Royal Palm Literary Award Semifinalist. Now, I can proudly (oh, so, so proudly) tell you that Mud is now a FINALIST for this awesome award.



Look at that little award guy, standing there all casual like it's no big deal. I could not be geeking out any harder right now.


Thanks to all of you who have been geeking out along with me on Facebook and Twitter today!

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If I had a final dying wish, it would probably be to go to Comic Con. I have tried to get tickets in the past, and alas, it seems to be an impossible feat. Thus, every year, I find myself drooling over the feed on hashtag and catching all the latest action from the event that I can.

It's kind of pathetic.

But ... maybe a few of you can relate?

At any rate, let's make sure none of us missed anything with a quick recap of all the awesome we missed out on, shall we?


Obviously, there was some truly fabulous cosplay.

My storytelling hero Joss Whedon explained what’s wrong with modern movies.

And he teased us by saying he still wants to direct a Black Widow movie (pretty please???).

Meanwhile, Marvel revealed PHASE THREE.

Even more amazing cosplay.


There was a Dr. Strange trailer. 

Brie Larson revealed that she is going to be Captain Marvel, and everyone happy danced.

The Hall of Faces was real. (It looks pretty unsettling, too).

It was extremely, crazy hot there. But these Tatooine natives were so ready for it.

The Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. rode the elevator. 

There was a Wonder Woman trailer.

Ahsoka Tano wore a dress made out of Legos, and made Legos the new duct tape.

The Super Girl crew talked season 2.

There was a Suicide Squad trailer.


There was a Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them trailer.

Netflix performed the mic-drop of all trailer drops, teasing Luke Cage, Iron Fist, and The Defenders. They also confirmed new seasons of Daredevil and Jessica Jones.

The cast of Walking Dead got their revenge.

There was a Justice League trailer, and Aquaman was suddenly not so goofy.

Chewie’s Angels. Go with it.

Alllllll the cosplay! 

The Mary Sue investigated the problem with the new Killing Joke movie.

Several of my living favorite authors hung out with me.

Eddie Redmayne gave all the people wands.

wizard gif

Clark Gregg won for best tshirt.

The Flash cast revealed all sorts of spoily goodness about the Flashpoint timeline.

The American Gods trailer asked you to determine whether you are crazy, or the world is.


Benedict Cumberbatch said Dr. Strange was more important than the Avengers. (Calm down! He jests! But he might be right.)

Per standard rules of irony, the Women in Film Production panel was overrun by men who would not stop talking.

Tatiana Maslany announced a contest for a fan to win a walk-on role in season 5 of Orphan Black.


Star portraits. SO MANY star portraits.

Michael Rooker posed in full Guardians of the Galaxy makeup with director James Gunn.

Did we mention, there was cosplay?

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