Tag Archives: Guest blogger

Something Nasty This Way Stumbles

The-Final-Formula-1600-Barnes-and-NobleI’m dedicating this month on my blog to zombies to celebrate the release of my book Waste Not. Thus, I was super pleased when Becca Andre offered to do a guest blog here today. I “met” Becca on Twitter through Beth Cato (who will have a guest post or two here next week :)) and have always found her to be friendly, professional and well-spoken. So I won’t hold it against her that she’s blogging about why she doesn’t like zombies 😉

Also, the fabulous book covers you see scattered throughout this post are Becca’s but I’m the one who decided to use them to decorate the text here, because I think they are gorgeous 🙂

Something Nasty This Way Stumbles
by Becca Andre

Zombies. It seems they’re everywhere. I run across them in the books I read, the movies I watch, and the games I play. But I don’t understand this obsession with the undead. I find nothing appealing about these rotting husks of humanity. I put them in my own stories because they disturb me. That’s what authors are supposed to do, right? Dig deep, mine your fear. Well, dead things creep me out. Dead things that can get up and move around? Now that’s shudder-worthy!

I’ve always been drawn to creepy things. There’s just something about being afraid that makes me feel alive. I love haunted houses, nighttime walks in the forest, and cemeteries. While on vacation, I seek out hotels that are reported to be haunted, and once my family and I accidentally got locked in a cemetery after dark. (The family freaked on that one, but we were in a rental car, 800 miles from home. Even so, I thought it was cool.)

But back to the reason I’m here. Zombies. To me, the true power of the zombie is the infection story. Losing a loved one is hard. Having said loved one get up and need to be killed all over again, that’s the stuff of nightmares. The horror compounds when everyone you know becomes witless, brain-slurping monsters that chase down anyone who still has a few firing brain cells. (Zombies never seem interested in chomping on each other or the wildlife.) The zombie infection story is rife with conflict and emotion, but to me, the zombie in and of itself is just, well, gross.

I guess gross is the point when it comes to zombies. You are literally staring death in the face, witnessing the decay and the loss of humanity. The outward human resemblance is just a sad reminder of the person it once was. A twisted memory.

The-Element-of-Death-1600-Barnes-and-NobleI think death fascinates and horrifies us in equal measure. I suspect that’s where my interest in ghost stories and cemeteries comes from. Which might explain why death and immortality are major themes in my current series. And you can’t explore death in a work of fantasy without zombies. (I’m pretty sure that’s a rule.)

In my fictional world, necromancers rather than infection animate the dead. Zombies make decent minions if you have the power to control them. They have superhuman strength, they run in packs, and they’re expendable. The problem is, that like a group of hyperactive preschoolers, zombies require constant supervision. You won’t be sending them off to complete missions on their own. Bank robbery? Nope. They’d eat the teller long before she could sack up the cash. But if you’re looking to strike terror in your victim, a pack of mindless flesh-eaters are sure to do the trick.

Zombies aren’t the only undead in my world. You’ll also stumble across the zombie’s twisted cousin, the lich. An animated corpse with his intellect attached makes a far more formidable opponent. If the lich is an undead necromancer who can in turn make the protagonist into a lich, that’s even better. Spending eternity bound to your rotting corpse would not be a pleasant way to go—or stay.

So no, I’m not a zombie enthusiast per se, but I do enjoy exploring the themes they represent. They also work great in black comedy (Zombieland, anyone?) and video games (I’m strangely obsessed with zombie-themed video games). But the zombie’s true horror is the mortality they force us to face.


Becca Andre is author of The Final Formula Series. It’s a story about a smart-mouthed alchemist who may or may not have found a potion that grants eternal life. In a modern world where magic has only recently returned, she must rely on her wits and a talent with explosives to discover the truth about a past she doesn’t remember. (The occasional zombie that stumbles into her path just makes things more interesting.)

You can find Becca at www.beccaandre.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/AddledAlchemist
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorBeccaAndre


Guest Blog: Simon Kewin ~ Words

I first “met” Simon over at Write 1 Sub 1 and then from there I began to follow his blog. He is stopping by today to talk about his newest release, a YA steampunk novel titled ENGN. I was lucky enough to win a copy of ENGN from a giveaway over at Librarything and though I’m only about 25% of the way through right now I’m really enjoying it. Because of that (and also because he’s just a genuinely nice guy) I was more than happy to open up my blog for him today.

Thank you for coming by Simon 🙂

ENGN by Simon Kewin

Finn’s childhood in the valley is idyllic, but across the plains lies a threat. Engn is an ever-growing steam-powered fortress, that needs a never-ending supply of workers. Generation after generation have been taken away, escorted into its depths by the mysterious and terrifying Ironclads, never to return.

The Masters of Engn first take Finn’s sister, then his best friend, Connor. He thinks he, at least, is safe – until the day the ironclads come to haul him away.

Yet all is not lost, Finn has a plan. In the peace of the valley he and Connor made a pact. A promise to join the mythical Wreckers and end Engn’s tyranny.

But now on his own, lost and thwarted in the vastness of Engn, Finn begins to have doubts. Is Connor really working to destroy Engn?

Or has he become part of the machine?

Purchasing Links:
Google Play

Guest Post by Simon Kewin ~ Words

Like any book, Engn is constructed from words. But certain words are more important than others – and some were crucial to the novel, helping me to imagine the world of the novel as well as some of the people within it. Two obvious examples are “naphtha” and “Ironclad” – both good, steampunky words. These, and a few other words like them, allowed me to envisage the vast, steam-powered machinery that is Engn.The process is an entirely rational one, I’m sure, words triggering associations and connections in the brain. But it feels like something magical, as if these simple words are summoning the beings and settings into existence. “Line-of-sight” was another one: I heard the phrase somewhere as I was working on early versions of the novel, and suddenly I could see this communication network, all these telescopes flashing messages around like a steampunk internet. Again, these became essential to my imagining of the novel. Whether or not they would actually work in our universe…

People, too, were sometimes born out of words. The obvious example is Mrs. Megrim, who started out as just that word, nothing more, but who became perhaps my favourite character in the book. A megrim is an old word for a migraine. I came across it somewhere and immediately imagined a scowling, black-clad woman who won’t stand for any nonsense. But who – without giving anything of the story away – has a lot more going on beneath the surface.

Perhaps the most significant word, of course, is the title itself. “Engn” is pronounced like “engine” (at least in my head), because it’s the name of a vast machine. But it also has that strange abbreviation as if worn away by long use, or as if parts have been lost, so that it barely makes sense now. Because that’s how it is with my machine: it’s been working for a long time in one form or another, its original form and function altered or lost (or is it?) A simple, odd four-letter word that, once I’d thought of it, had to be used. Again it felt like an invocation. With the word Engn in my head I could suddenly see the great machine stretching across the horizon, pumping away, smoke rising over those towers and wheels, the people crawling in and around it like ants.

Words are wonderful things. The simple act of spelling out a few letters can work magic…

Simon Kewin – Biography

Simon KewinSimon was born and raised on the misty Isle of Man, but now lives and works deep in rural England. He divides his time between writing SF/fantasy fiction and computer software. He has had around fifty short stories published in a variety of magazines and anthologies, along with a similar number of poems. He has a degree in English Literature from the Open University.

He is currently learning to play the electric guitar. It’s not going that well, frankly.

He lives with Alison, their two daughters Eleanor and Rose, and a black cat called Morgan to which he is allergic.

Simon’s Blog: http://www.simonkewin.co.uk/
Simon’s Twitter: @SimonKewin

W is for Woman

This is my husband Jo. I call this picture of him ‘Gameface’ because when I took it we were in the lab and he was doing all sorts of science-y stuff with like test tubes and pipettes and stuff. I think Jo is pretty freaking awesome, (so much so that I commissioned a theme song for him a couple years ago for Christmas. Much of it won’t make sense unless you played WoW with us, but it’s still worth a listen :)). We’ve been married for about 7 years now and together for closer to 11.

We talk about a lot of things around our house but a theme that recurs again and again in our conversations is gender. The perceptions of gender, the portrayals of it in fiction and popular media, that sort of thing.

When I asked Jo to do a guest blog this month he said he had just the thing, and that it had something to do with chickens. Turns out, we don’t get to hear about chickens, but his post does include turkeys, which are almost as awesome, so that’s okay 🙂


I was asked to do a guest column focusing on the letter W, and I wasn’t sure where to settle. I am a scientist, a biochemist specifically, but my interests extend beyond that. The first thing that comes to mind (that is science related) with this letter is tryptophan. This is an amino acid—an essential amino acid famously mentioned on Seinfeld!(1)—but the relationship to the letter “W” comes from the shorthand notation we use to refer to it. As I often point out to student in my classes, biochemists are lazy and would rather write three letters—or maybe just one, if they can get away with it—instead of the full name for something. Tryptophan is typically written as either Trp or W (T was already taken by threonine)—and you can remember this if you pronounce the word “twyptophan”, as if you have some kind of speech impediment. Ha ha, such laughs we have in science! That said, the extent of my dialogue is only as long as a Kilgore Trout novel.

So that got me thinking about W in other ways. W is for “Woman”, both as the straight up letter thing, but also in a more obscure way. Tryptophan, as Seinfeld implies, is abundant in turkey, which leads me to the other way that W and Women come together. In humans, at the genetic level, women are homogametic (XX) for the sex chromosomes while males are heterogametic (XY); the Y chromosome is a degenerate version of the X chromosome and that of course leads to a wealth of joke material regarding remote controls and sexual relations in general. But in turkeys (also other birds, insects and other species) the males are homogametic (ZZ) while females are heterogametic (WZ). This has an immediate repercussion—particularly if someone makes a joke about roosters having inferior chromosomes based on them having an X/Y chromosome system instead of the W/Z. Not that I think hens are inferior to roosters because they have degenerate chromosomes!

Variations on this occur, which leads to one of my other interests regarding sexual ambiguity. It is never as simple as having two options—and in moths and butterflies the difference between females and males may extend from WZ/ZZ to Z/ZZ or WZZ/ZZZZ or further, Jo's Tattoomaking the situation much more interesting. The lines between woman and men are never as clear as we like to think, not even at the genetic level.

Kate Bornstein is one of my heroes, and if you have never read the book “Gender Outlaw” I can’t recommend it highly enough. I have loathed gender-based generalizations for as long as I can remember; awareness of the genetic spectrum as well as the phenotypic spectrum of gender/orientation is a huge eye-opener for tolerance and awareness. When I was a grad student I wore skirts regularly; I have never minded being mistaken for a woman; and although I have never identified as female I was always a little jealous of the clothing options (especially formal wear!). One of my tattoos revolves around gender ambiguity and combines male and female symbology as a core part of the design. I do not considered myself “straight” but as slightly bent.

So what is the end message here? “W” is for women—no matter what their chromosome composition—and I love them all.

(1) Seinfeld script for episode 162 “The Merv Griffin Show” http://www.seinology.com/scripts/script-162.shtml
Kate Bornstein’sWeblog: http://katebornstein.typepad.com/


In case you didn’t catch the mouse over, that picture up there? That’s one of Jo’s tattoos.

Did you see how he ended his post with ‘I love them all’? He did that to drive me bonkers. Anytime someone says they love/hate/whatever all of anything (including groups of people) that I’m like ‘Argh! You do not! You don’t know them all! Rawr! Rage!’ Well, okay, not so much the rage, but definitely the rawr ;0)

Anyway, I love Jo’s point about how there is a spectrum of gender identities (and sexuality) even at the genetic level. You can’t just put people into box #1 or box #2 and expect them to fit. I feel like that idea is beginning to creep more and more into my work. For example, I had a lot of fun when I was working on See The Sky Again (an Aphanasian novel that is still very much a WIP) in taking the usual gender roles, standing them on their heads and then turning them inside out.

If you haven’t quite heard enough from Jo, you’re in lucky. Last night we went to the premiere of the documentary ‘Always Forward‘ by PhotonMotion. The documentary is about the Biochemistry department at the University of Alberta, which happens to be where Jo works and teaches. He’s featured in the movie (mostly near the beginning) with his super awesome 3d models making appearances throughout. I thought he looked a little un-used to being in front of the camera, but the footage of him lecturing his class really shows the Jo I know.


This blog post is part of the Blogging from A to Z challenge over the month of April and was brought to you by Jo Parrish and the letter W. I can’t believe the month is almost over (though I’m pretty thankful LOL). Tomorrow I’ll be tackling the letter X.



So, I’m cheating a little bit today, but only sorta. As you can see, I’m still writing part of this blog, so I am not actually counting this as a cheat, but, at the same time, the bulk of today’s content isn’t coming from me, it’s coming from my daughter, Danica.

F is for family, and my family are the biggest supporters of my writing. They put up with me living in my own head far too often, they don’t mind when I bounce ideas off them (and they don’t take offense when I shake my head and say ‘No, no, that will never work’). They contribute ideas to my fishbowl. They don’t complain that our house isn’t spotless, or that our income isn’t higher (as it would be if I had a paying job). They are always there for me and if it weren’t for them… well, let’s not go there.

I asked Danica if she’d like to write about what it’s like to have a writer for a mother for my blog. Her response? “You have a blog?”

LOL Okay, so they are super supportive, but that doesn’t mean they follow my blog :-p After I told her that yes, I did have a blog, she was happy to complain about me in public on it.


Hi, I’m Danica, Rhonda’s daughter. I really have no idea what to write about in this blog, so I guess I’ll talk about writing, and how living with a writer can sometimes suck.

My mom, as you can tell is a writer, and I’ve picked up a few things from her. For instance, if you have writers block, just write. What you write may sound stupid, but it usually helps to get rid of that pesky writers block.

One horrible thing about living with a writer is: If I say something  that is not grammatically correct, my mom corrects what I say. Or, if I’m just being silly she’ll correct what I say anyways. It can be pretty annoying, but you learn to live with it.

Here’s another thing: My mom said I have to write a conclusion for this, but I don’t want to. So here’s my ‘conclusion’. Don’t live with a writer unless you love them a lot, like how my dad and I love my mom.


Short and sweet, eh? This blog post is part of the Blogging from A to Z challenge over the month of April and was brought to you by the letter F. Please pop by tomorrow when I’ll be talking about… um… something… something Grrreat! My schedule says Goodreads, so maybe… 🙂

Guest Bloggers

I mentioned a while back that I was going to try and have more guests on my blog, and I am, but so far I haven’t actually gotten around to organising that in any sort of proactive way. This post is meant to change that. I thought it might be nice to have one blog post I could point to when I ask on social media sites and the like for people to do a guest blog spot here.

One thing you should know is that I can’t stand blog posts, and especially guest blog posts, which are actually blog-sized book advertisements. They drive me bonkers. That’s not what I’m looking for here. Guest blogs on my blog can be about pretty much anything related to writing (there’s even some flexibility toward gaming and/or crafting as we’ve seen me leaning that way a bit these past few weeks) but they have to have some content other than ‘This is all about my book. Here’s the blurb for my book, and the cover for my book, and look down here, it’s the links for where you can buy my book!’. That is actually pretty much the only ‘rule’ I have, come to think of it.

You have to promote your book, of course you do, but don’t look at my blog as just a giant infomercial. Write a blog post like Jon Pinnock did, which is about his book (Mrs. Darcy Versus the Aliens) but relates that book to something else. Or write a blog entry like Charlotte English‘s, which was on a topic she truly cared for, and was well-written and interesting enough that you wanted to follow the link to her own blog at the bottom of it.

I am happy to do guest blog exchanges if that works out better for you, but it’s not a requirement, I’m very happy to share your words with my readers either way.

For my part I promise to do what I can to make sure the greatest number of people possible see your post. My readership isn’t huge, but it’s growing. I’m happy to share more details via email if you’d like, but I don’t want to post them here because then it would be extra work to keep them up-to-date. In addition to the traffic I receive here directly, this blog is mirrored onto LiveJournal. I also tweet about each blog post (usually twice) and those tweets are mirrored to my Facebook account. Yay mirrors!

If you’re interested in making a guest appearance on my blog, for whatever reason, just let me know. There are loads of ways to contact me. A comment here, on on my LJ, a message on Twitter or Facebook, or good old fashioned email (rhonda@jofigure.com).

Finally, in case you were curious about my choice of photograph… I’ve been trying to include a photo with every blog post, but I didn’t have a clue what to put to go with this topic, so I just picked a picture from my Flickr account that I liked. It’s my blog, I can use random photos if I wanna :-p

Guest Blogger: Jon Pinnock

Are you kidding me? Take a look at that cover right there. How freaking amazing is that? I love it. Seriously. And I know, I know, you can’t judge a book by its cover, but dude! Also, I know Jon and happen to think he’s a pretty awesome guy and a skilled writer, so, ya know, that helps…

Right. I should start at the beginning, I suppose, instead of just sort of gushing randomly.

There’s this guy, right? Named Jonathan Pinnock and he submitted a story to Niteblade. It was a great story and I happily accepted it. I enjoyed working with him and followed him on Twitter. I have since gotten to know him better and consider him a friend.

His novel, Mrs Darcy versus the Aliens was recently released and though I haven’t yet read it (It’s sold out on Amazon.ca at the moment) I am seriously looking forward to it.

When I learned he was doing a blog tour, I invited him to make a stop here. I think Jonathan is my first ever guest blogger on this blog, and what did he chose for his topic? Um, in part, me. O_o

Give it a read and then please check out the links at the bottom, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.



Hello everyone. I’m supposed to be here to say a bit to publicise something I’ve written, but I really think I ought to say a bit about Rhonda instead. Because Rhonda is one of a very special bunch of people that keep writers like me going: small press editors.

In case you don’t know, Rhonda edits a Horror and Fantasy magazine called Niteblade. It’s a reasonably challenging publication to get into: according to Duotrope, only 7.5% of submissions get accepted (and you can bet the real figure is considerably lower than that). So for an aspiring writer, to get accepted by Rhonda is pretty encouraging.

Back in 2008, when I was struggling to make my mark on the world, I had stuff published in a number of small press magazines, including Niteblade (with a rather odd bodyswap story called “An Unsuitable Replacement” if I remember correctly). I think a clocked up somewhere between 30 and 40 hits that year, and each publication felt like another step along the very long and twisting road towards becoming a writer.

The editors of magazines like Niteblade aren’t in it for the money. It really is a labour of love. Again, according to Duotrope, rejections are sent out an average of 18.5 days after receipt and acceptances an average of 23.5 days. If you stop to consider the amount of consistent effort required to keep up that quality of turnaround (and also imagine what some of the rejected pieces must actually be like), you realise why so many of these magazines fold. But some of them, like Niteblade, keep going, publishing stuff from the likes of you and me.

So here I am, with my first novel in the shops. It’s called “Mrs Darcy versus the Aliens”, it’s a comic sci-fi sequel to “Pride and Prejudice” and it’s very funny if I say so myself (but I’m kind of biased, I suppose). If you want to read more about how it came to be written and published (by Proxima, an imprint of the extremely respectable Salt Publishing), please do take a look at some of the other posts on this blog tour (check out www.jonathanpinnock.com for more details). For now, I’d just like to salute the heroes of the small presses and thank all the folk out there like Rhonda who keep on doing it for the love. I wouldn’t have got to this point without you guys.

Important stuff about the book: the website for it is at www.mrsdarcyvsthealiens.com and it’s available in all the usual online places (including, amazingly, the Jane Austen Centre Online Giftshop, where they have some signed copies). If you’re in the UK, it’s still on promotion in WHSmith, so you can actually buy it in a high street store. How about that?


Thank you so much for stopping by Jonathan, and best of luck with Mrs Darcy versus the Aliens and all your future projects 🙂