VORTEX Cover Painting

July 7th, 2013

Posted by W. H. Horner, Editor-in-Chief

Author Lawrence C. Connolly and artist Rhonda Libbey with the painting for the cover of VORTEX: Book Three of the Veins Cycle.

Author Lawrence C. Connolly and artist Rhonda Libbey with the painting for the cover of Vortex: Book Three of the Veins Cycle.

Last week, while Lawrence C. Connolly and I were in Greensburg, PA, for the June residency of Seton Hill University’s MFA in Writing Popular Fiction program, we had the chance to meet with Pittsburgh artist Rhonda Libbey, who surprised us with the finished painting for the cover to Larry’s forthcoming conclusion to the Veins Cycle: Vortex.

I was blown away to see the art in person, and I kept staring at it over lunch. Some of the other patrons of the restaurant were curious as well, stealing glances from time to time.

We spent a couple of hours going over our list of twenty interior illustrations, hashing out details and making sure that everyone was on the same metaphorical and literal pages.

Rhonda brought a few sketches, and Larry even had the opportunity to flex his artistic muscles and transformed his words into rough drawings and diagrams that Rhonda will be able to reference in the weeks to come.

Larry doing a quick sketch while Rhonda looks on.

Larry doing a quick sketch while Rhonda looks on.

All in all, I’m very excited about this book, the fabulous art that will grace its pages, and the chance to bring another amazing tale by Lawrence C. Connolly to the reading public!


June 24th, 2013

Vortex: Where terrors converge.


Gen Con 2013

June 24th, 2013

Planning on attending Gen Con Indy this year? Author Lawrence C. Connolly (The Veins Cycle, Visions, Voices) and editor-in-chief W. H. Horner will be presenting their Fiction Fundamentals workshop series.

Fiction Fundamentals:
Author Lawrence C. Connolly and editor W. H. Horner, both lecturers and faculty mentors with Seton Hill University’s Writing Popular Fiction MFA program, will walk attendees through nine fundamental aspects of writing fiction over the course of three intense workshops roughly analogous to the three stages of writing: planning, drafting, and revising/editing. Attendees are encouraged to come with a new idea for a story, and through activities and handouts they will explore those ideas and expand upon them. While the workshops are geared towards novels, all of the skills and techniques can be transferred to short story writing. Attendance of all three workshops is encouraged, but not required.

Handouts and worksheets to be provided. Attendees should bring a three-ring notebook and plenty of paper to take notes.

Fiction Fundamentals Part 1: Plotting and Planning (Event ID: WKS1345344)
Have you ever wasted time writing rough drafts of stories as you wandered from scene to scene, unsure of how to connect the dots, and only realizing who your protagonist is after you reach what you think is the end of the story? Did you then need to go back and make massive revisions, reworking characters and scenes to make everything flow from the beginning? We can show you how to avoid much of that heartbreaking and time-consuming work. While it may seem like extra work, planning your story, its characters, and the world they inhabit from the beginning will save you time and effort in the long run—and knowing what you need to include will save you a great deal of trial and error.

Fiction Fundamentals Part 2: Creating Scenes (Event ID: WKS1345345)
You have a clear direction for your story as well as an understanding of its main characters and its world. Now it’s time to breathe life into your creation. Effective scenes need to grip the reader and keep him or her engaged. You’ll learn how to improve your pacing and how to inject your scenes with emotion. You’ll learn what constitutes quality dialogue and how it operates, and you’ll learn how to truly bring stories to life and how to fill your writing with the details that matter. Exercises will walk attendees through crafting a rough draft of a scene.

Fiction Fundamentals Part 3: Putting on the Polish (Event ID: WKS1345346)
You’ve completed the first draft of your story, and since you worked through all the steps of planning and carefully crafting each scene, that means you’re done, right? Not quite. Now’s the time to add layers and make sure that your themes ring true. Only by re-seeing your work can you discover the hidden wonders that your subconscious was working on throughout the drafting process. You probably have a fair amount of grunt work to do as well. All first drafts are littered with mistakes or weak writing. By becoming aware of common pitfalls, you can fix issues in your completed first drafts and begin to avoid them more effectively in future drafts.

VORTEX Coming Soon!

June 12th, 2013
Lawrence C. Connolly

We’re now hard at work on Lawrence C. Connolly’s latest novel.


Where Terrors Converge

The final hours have come.

Rocks burn, floodwaters rage, and serpents take wing as a storm of fire and rain threatens the world.

Amid this chaos, a young man named Axle lies near death in a shuttered bedroom. He has the power to save the earth, but to do so he must retrieve something from his dreams, an artifact of memory that he has spent a lifetime trying to forget. With a single ally standing guard, Axle’s spirit searches the terrors of his past, following clues that may unlock a second chance for the human race.

All he needs is time.

Enter Samuelle, a woman whose touch can raise the dead and kill the living. Axle’s rivals have given her a mission: find the dreamer, administer the killing touch, unleash the storm that will destroy all of humanity.

Fasten your seat belts for the concluding arc of the Veins Cycle, where cosmic forces play out on a human scale, and where the mind may yet prove to be the most powerful spirit of all.

Rhonda Libbey

We’re also pleased to be adding to the FE family with Pittsburgh artist Rhonda Libbey, whose wonderful art will help bring the final arc of the cycle to a thrilling conclusion.

Rhonda Libbey is a western PA native, best known for her work in the science fiction and fantasy genres in both games and literature. Her work has been published in numerous properties, including Call of Cthulhu, Legend of the Five Rings, Conan, Lord of the Rings, Dungeons & Dragons, Red Dragon Inn, A Game of Thrones, Starship Troopers, and Middle Earth Quest.

Rhonda has written and directed a few award-winning film shorts. In 2012 she worked as Art Director on the full-length motion picture Scream Park (Dir. Cary Hill, ProtoMedia), creating the storyboards, posters, postcards, and DVD case as well as assisting in wardrobe and makeup design. Details about the film and its Pittsburgh premier can be found on the website www.screamparkmovie.com.

When painting, she works primarily in oil paint due to the vibrancy of the color and the permanence of the paint. She believes that what she says with her art is as important as how she says it. Research, color psychology, and composition all play a critical role in every image that she creates.

Rhonda is a member of the Pittsburgh Society of Illustrators and is the current chairperson for their Scholarships Committee. Her work has been exhibited in several museums throughout the world. In 2005 her illustration and conceptual work done for Starship Troopers won the Origins award for Best Science Fiction Art.

We’ve included a couple samples of Ms. Libbey’s previous work to give you an idea of what’s in store. For more, visit her on the web at http://www.rhondalibbey.com.

The Lure

The Lure


Illustration from Badass 3: Ultimate Deathmatch

Saint Michael vs. the Dragon

Saint Michael vs.
the Dragon

Magic on the Edges

February 15th, 2013

by K. V. Johansen

Magic—not spells and hurled fireballs, but that inspiring combination of wonder, awe, and excitement that drives artistic creation—is, for me, born on the edges of things. Edges mean boundaries and borders, tension and change and flow. In the landscapes of fiction the rise of desert into mountain, the uneasy meeting of the cleared and settled with the primeval forest, the hint of island shadow on the horizon of the sea, are the sorts of places that suggest Story. They are zones of transformation where things can or might or should happen, the places where change is found, and change coming for good or ill to a character or to their world is what drives stories.

A lot of my favourite stories, the ones I read when young and which fuelled my desire to tell stories myself, start off with edges. The Shire of The Hobbit (never so named in it, of course) is a domesticated land on the edges of a great unknown, but the unknown forces its way in over the borders, prowling on the fringes of collective hobbit awareness. Wolves came out of the wild in a hard winter; goblins were fought by heroic ancestors; “lads and lasses” used to run off into the blue for adventures, and dwarves now pass through, travelling on their own mysterious business, while in The Lord of the Rings itself strangers begin to cross the southern border and like distant thunder, there are rumours of unease in the wider world, though the sun still shines on the bucolic idyll of Hobbiton. In Sutcliff’s The Lantern-Bearers, Aquila lives in an edge time and an edge place. Rome is withdrawing from Britain, the empire is failing, the barbarian raiders are settling and staying. The frontier of civilization is retreating like the tide, and an era is coming to an end. The kingdom of Damar, in McKinley’s The Hero and the Crown, has beyond its frontier an unknown land of strange and dangerous magic, out of which the hero Aerin’s mysterious mother appeared. Taran, in the Chronicles of Prydain, lives with his elderly guardian in a cottage surrounded by forest, where a straying boy can be pursued by a monstrous huntsman out of myth and rescued by a legendary hero only a few miles from the safety of his home. The known and explored universe in Cherryh’s Chanur series is revealed to share a frontier with unknown aliens; that discovery disrupts the balance of power, creating new lines of tension between the several intelligent species of ship-captain Pyanfar’s known world. In Glen Cook’s Black Company series, the political world is on an epochal edge, an empire breaking apart.

The heroes of these stories that played such a role in forming the compost out of which my own stories began to grow are on the edges themselves. Bilbo is not, at first, an edge character, but he becomes one by daring to cross over the boundaries of his illusory safety. Afterwards, he never fits properly into his former place again. “… Bilbo was cracked, and Frodo’s cracking,” says Ted Sandyman: Frodo is already regarded as odd, not quite fitting into his proper place as a moneyed gentleman of the Shire, and he is restless, hearing the call of the road. Aquila, a British-born Roman officer whose family is generations removed from Rome, stands on an edge between places and times and between duty and family. Aerin is born on the edge, child of a suspected foreign witch, never accepted, never her father’s heir. Taran, a foundling ambitious for heroism, stands at the edge of himself, always looking outwards to become something more. Pyanfar finds herself an edge person whose decisions push her out of her place and into a role where she stands between species, negotiating a new balance of power. The mercenary physician Croaker is on the edge, ever observing and recording the history happening about him, standing back from it all, until he falls into the heart of a disintegrating world and pulls the company with him into a long transformation.

In my own writing, it’s the characters who exist on the edges who most fascinate me and fire my imagination. They’re the wanderers who are not wholly of the societies through which they pass, or the outsiders not entirely at home with or accepted by the people amongst whom they must live. Wren, Rookfeather, and Kokako of the Torrie books, Maurey and Nethin from The Warlocks of Talverdin, and Moth, Mikki, Holla-Sayan, and Attalissa of the Blackdog world are all edge people, by choice or by circumstances or both. Of the nine above, only two, Wren and Kokako, are entirely human, and that’s another edge that drives my imagination when I sit down to write. By being outside of humanity, even if only a little, they are immediately set apart, and by being apart, they become the observers, the restless, the ones who will most likely be the first to notice the shadows on the horizon and decide to investigate, or who will be that shadow on the horizon themselves. It’s characters such as these who kindle my urge to find out more about them by telling their stories. In setting out to discover them through their stories, I have to build and explore their worlds, which leads to adventure, history, politics, gods and goddess and demons, battles with enemies and solitary struggles with the self in the dark, but in all my fantasy novels, it starts with that one character on the edge of being something else, and a horizon, a frontier, that must be crossed. That’s where magic lies.

About the Guest Author

K. V. Johansen

K. V. Johansen

K. V. Johansen was born in Kingston, Ontario, and is the author of numerous works for children, teens, and adults. She predominantly writes secondary-world fantasy but is also the author of some science fiction, picture books, and two books on the history of children’s fantasy literature. Johansen has an MA from the Centre for Medieval Studies at the University of Toronto. Her lifelong interest in ancient and medieval history and the history of languages has had a great influence on her writing and world-building. Aside from travelling to the Republic of Macedonia in 2010 to receive the first-ever “International Ana Frank Award for Children’s Literature [in Macedonian]”, меѓународната награда „Ана Франк“ за најдобра книга, for the Macedonian translation of Torrie and the Snake-Prince, Тори и принцот-змија, she has not done anything terribly interesting or adventurous in her life; she’s been too busy writing. Her most recent book is Blackdog, an epic fantasy for adults published by Pyr. She lives in New Brunswick, Canada, with a wicked white dog who, thus far, has not evinced any sign of being a shapeshifter, though if slipper-stealing constitutes evidence of a demoniacal nature, he might quality.

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