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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

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

The Lure

The Lure


Illustration from Badass 3: Ultimate Deathmatch

Saint Michael vs. the Dragon

Saint Michael vs.
the Dragon

The Virtual Real

August 23rd, 2012

by Lawrence C. Connolly

I am inspired by the curvature of space. Not necessarily by the vast, physical manner that Einstein postulated early in the last century, but in a more personal, immediately perceivable way. There is something in each of us that allows (and sometimes forces) us to bend the hard-edged realities that we move through and interact with every day.


Surely you’ve experienced this. Fall in love, and the world seems brighter. Smells intensify. The most mundane things become wondrous, and the world’s ugliness melts away. This is the condition that philosopher Slavoj Žižek refers to as the virtual real. It’s what gives Fred Astaire the ability to dance on the ceiling in Royal Wedding, and if you haven’t experience it at least once, you need to get out more often.

The converse happens when we experience pain, whether physical or emotional. On painful days, reality curves like a funhouse mirror, distorting our perceptions so that the ugly things of life become disproportionally large, and beauty and joy shrink or vanish altogether.

I’ve written about such things in a number of stories and novels, and it seems to me that such magical transformations lie at the core of all fantasy—whether it is the kind we encounter in our daily lives or in the worlds of fiction. Thus, when Fantasist Enterprises asked me to ponder where I encounter magic in my daily life, I began wondering where it was that I first realized that my sense of wonder is rooted in the real. That’s the nice thing about writing prompts. They help you discover things you don’t know you know, and I’ve evidently known about the virtual real for quite a while.

Here’s a story.

Levittown, Pennsylvania.

Aerial view of suburban Levittown, Pennsylvania.

I’m nine years old and living in Levittown, Pennsylvania, sitting around with my friends Tommy and Tommy. We’re sitting on the sidewalk outside one of our houses. It doesn’t matter whose house because the houses are all the same in Levittown, just as all the mothers and fathers and siblings and pets are all the same. Just like Tommy and Tommy are the same. There’s not much variety or excitement in that ticky-tacky town circa 1960, but there are Popsicle sticks, and if you rub them just right you can turn them into swords.

We used to chase each other all over the neighborhood with those sharpened sticks, playing Count of Monte Cristo, poking and parrying and pretty much ignoring our moms when they shouted: “You kids are going to jab your eyes out.” We knew that couldn’t happen. Nothing like that ever happened in Levittown. At least, we never imagined it could, and that counted for a lot. See, we lived in a world of imagination.

Here’s another.


Television in the late ’50s and early ’60s was a lot more interactive than it is now. These days, it’s all there for you in a million pixels. Back then, an old black-and-white cathode-ray set with a pair of rabbit-ear antennae was more like radio than television. You couldn’t see for crap when the reception was good. And when it was bad, say when an airplane was going over the house or someone was running a vacuum cleaner, all you got was static.

To give you an idea how bad it was, one of my Tommy friends used to play superman by stripping down to his underpants, tying a sheet around his neck, and drawing an S on his bare chest. I can still hear his mother shouting: “Get in here before you get arrested!”

Back then, I remember thinking that the costume looked pretty authentic. Later, I was surprised to learn that George Reeves had actually been wearing a unitard (a wrinkled one at that), and that the big bullet-repelling S on his pecs was not tattooed directly onto his skin. Somehow, realizing that made him a bit less super.

Likewise, it was years before I really knew what Godzilla or King Kong were supposed to look like, and then I was amazed to discover that the images I’d imagined were so much better, richer, than the ones that were actually in the movies.

So how do these things play into my creative process?

I suppose it’s that my friends and I learned early on to find wonder in sticks and static. We learned that the things we could create on our own were as good as or better than the ready-made wonders the world served up. Knowing that set me on the course to being a guy who bends reality and writes stories.

What awakens my wonder? That’s easy. It’s knowing that I have the ability and license to transform the ordinary.

It’s imagination.

About the Guest Author

Lawrence C. Connolly

Lawrence C. Connolly

Lawrence C. Connolly’s books include the novels Veins (2008) and Vipers (2010), the first two books of the Veins Cycle. Vortex, the third book in the series, is due to be released in 2013. His collections, which include Visions (2009), This Way to Egress (2010), and Voices (2011), collect his stories from Amazing Stories, Cemetery Dance, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Twilight Zone, and Year’s Best Horror.

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