Thursday, October 23, 2014

Italics or Quotes?

Titles in a Manuscript
Take a Tip from Helen #14

by Helen Hardt

Use the following rules when a title of a work appears in a manuscript:

Titles of books, newspapers, and magazines should be italicized.
I heard that the book A History of Princess Crowns is fascinating.

The astronaut had a subscription to the newspaper Mars Daily.

Marsha likes the magazine Cats Monthly because it has cute photos.

Titles of movies, television shows, radio programs, and plays should be italicized.
The gardener’s favorite movie is the documentary Plants are Awesome.

The scientist watches the television show World’s Weirdest Germs every Tuesday night.

Sally’s mom loved listening to the radio show Stuff Old People Like.

The little girl’s favorite play was Cute, Fuzzy Animals in the Forest.

Titles of articles in newspapers or magazines and chapter titles in books should be in quotation marks.

Did you read the article “Fun with Flesh-Eating Bacteria” in the magazine?

My favorite chapter in the book was “Germs are Gross.”

Titles of poems and songs should be in quotation marks.
In high school, Sally wrote a poem called “Johnny Is Cute.”

She also wrote a song called “I Think I’m in Love with Johnny.”


To read excerpts from Helen Hardt's books please click a vendor's name.
Musa Publishing - Amazon

Helen Hardt is the Head Line Editor for Musa Publishing and a freelance editor. She is also an award-winning author. Helen writes contemporary, historical, paranormal, and erotic romance for several publishers. Her non-writing interests include Harley rides with her husband, attending her sons’ sports and music performances, traveling, and Taekwondo (she’s a blackbelt.)

Learn more about Helen Hardt and her editing service on her website.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014


Essential Oils for Writers
by Elizabeth J. M. Walker

As greener products and lifestyle choices become more popular, so do the ancient practices of yoga, meditation, and homeopathy wellness choices – such as aromatherapy.

Aromatherapy has been practiced since ancient times and is making a big comeback in the twenty-first century. While the use of concentrated scents can be used for general health and well-being, writers can attempt to harness the benefits of aromatherapy to enhance their writing.

Peppermint oil is great for awakening and clearing the mind. If you need some added pep in the morning (or after a nine hour day at the “real” job) adding peppermint essential oil to an oil diffuser near your writing space can waken your senses and help your mind focus on writing. It’s also great for clearing up headaches and nasal congestion.

Citrus essential oils, such as lemon and sweet orange, are also great “pick-me-up” scents. The bright citrus scents are perfect for uplifting your spirits after receiving yet another rejection letter from a publisher or an agent. Lemon essential oil is also great for strengthening the immune system during cold and flu season – the last thing you want is to be stuck in bed with a cold when you have a deadline looming!

Lavender, one of the most popular essential oils, is perfect for calming the mind and retaining focus. It is also commonly used for insomnia – if you can’t sleep because you have too many story ideas or are nervous about some final edits, sprinkle a few drops of lavender oil on your pillow at bedtime. Soaking in a bath scented with lavender essential oil can also be mind-calming – if you can fit it into your busy schedule.

Romance writers take note – patchouli essential oil is regarded as an aphrodisiac. Patchouli is also recommended as an antidepressant and anti-stress essential oil. Bergamot is another highly recommended essential oil when it comes to relieving stress, anxiety, and depression.

Rosemary essential oil is great for boosting brain power and is often recommended for students taking exams – or writers who need some extra focus on their latest project. It is said that rosemary is a good essential oil for combating mental fatigue and forgetfulness.

It is important to note that essential oils are meant to be gently inhaled or used in a diffuser to fill the room with scent – and not ingested. While some well-practiced homoeopathists may ingest essential oils or recommended this to others, it’s best for newbie essential oil users to only use them as scents. And of course, not all people react the same to all essential oils. While these scents are recommended for the above reasons, it’s best to play around and find out what works best for you. I personally love combining peppermint and lavender in my diffuser for a combination of clarity, wakefulness, and stress relief – I also just really love the way the two essential oils smell together.

Next time you’re writing into the wee-hours and are dangerously close to a deadline – try reaching for an essential oil or two instead of stressing out and brewing another pot of coffee.

I used essential oils when writing my YA fantasy and they helped to keep me focused. Here is a brief intro. I hope you like it.

Trina is more likely to set the palace on fire with her powers than be a princess – could a dragon mage be the next ruler of the magical kingdom of Dorlith?

Trina is a fifteen-year-old dragon mage in a kingdom ruled by witches and wizards – the same people who have brought dragons and other magical creatures near extinction. Trina can barely control her fire powers and is desperate for an apprenticeship, but finding a fellow dragon mage to be her teacher is proving more difficult than coming across an actual dragon.

Then there’s the Royal Tourney – a competition presented by the Queen to find a successor to the throne. Trina heads to the competition in the hopes of sparking some interest in the mage society and earning herself an apprenticeship.

She never intended to be a frontrunner in the competition.

She never meant to catch the attention of the evil witch trying to take over the throne.

She never expected to fall for a wizard.

Now Trina must face tough decisions about who she is and who she could become. Trina must ask herself: Can she really win the Royal Tourney?

To read an excerpt please click a vendor's name Musa Publishing - Amazon

Elizabeth J. M. Walker has published zines for over a decade and lives in her hometown of Windsor, Ontario, Canada. She Dreamed of Dragons is her first novel.

Learn more about Elizabeth J.M. Walker on her website. Stay connected on Facebook.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014


by HL Carpenter

Now that cooler weather has arrived in the Northern Hemisphere, the human residents of Carpenter Country have started thinking about soup. And quackers too of course. We’re duck fans, and ducks generally show up in our neighborhood in the fall. However, much as we like both, we restrain ourselves from combining soup and quackers.

Speaking of combining things, did you know January is national soup month in the US? What we don’t understand is why April is national grilled cheese sandwich month. Those two celebrations belong together. Someone should right this wrong.

We think we’ll have soup while we work up a petition.

Won’t you join us in a bowl? It’s big enough for all.

Easy Potato Soup
1 tbsp. butter
4-5 potatoes, peeled and diced
1 small – medium onion, chopped or diced
1 tbsp. cornstarch or flour
¼ cup water
2 cups of water
1 cup milk (whole, evaporated, or 2%)
1 tsp. salt
1 packet chicken bouillon

Melt butter in 2 quart saucepan. Add onions and potatoes and cook until soft, 5-10 minutes.

Mix cornstarch with ¼ cup water (pre-mixing prevents annoying lumps). Add cornstarch mixture, remaining water, milk, salt, and bouillon to softened potatoes mixture.

Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 20-25 minutes.

Serve with a topping of shredded cheese or a chunk of fresh bread.

Bonus goodness:
Crave added richness? Substitute ½ cup of whipping cream for half of the milk.

Are you a vegetable fan? Toss in the veggie of your choice, either frozen or fresh, when you add the milk and water. We like frozen carrots and corn. They add color and they cook right along with the potatoes.

Like things meatier? Put in leftover ham or chicken.

Bland potatoes? Mix in sweet pickle juice. Six teaspoons give the soup a little zing.

Want some zest? A ½ teaspoon of dry mustard provides zip.

Need more soup? Add more stuff. The converse works too.

Fighting off vampires? Switch out the regular salt for a teaspoon of garlic salt. If you have a bad infestation, add ½ teaspoon crushed garlic to the soup and serve with a wood spoon.

Looking for a no-calorie accompaniment? Read an e-book while you’re enjoying your soup! We recommend our latest young adult novel, Walled In.

When her father is accused of fraud, seventeen year old Vandy Spencer discovers her entire life has been built on a heart-shattering deception.

Seventeen year old Vandy Spencer lives like a princess. Sheltered by her wealthy family, she happily makes plans to spend a fantasy before-college gap summer with her gorgeous boyfriend.

Then her dad is accused of a huge financial fraud. Vandy is thrust into a frenzy of media attention as accusations and innuendos pile up daily. The victims of her dad’s swindle vow revenge, and her dad flees.

As her perfect life disintegrates, Vandy struggles to separate reality from lies. Was her perfect life truly so perfect? Did she ever really know her father?

When family secrets come to light, revealing an unimaginable betrayal, Vandy learns to appreciate the simple richness of sincerity and truth.

To read an excerpt from Walled In please click a vendor's name. Musa Publishing - Amazon

To read excerpts from the other books by HL Carpenter please click here.

HL Carpenter is a mother/daughter writing team. Their latest young adult novel is Walled In, the story of Vandy Spencer, who discovers her entire life has been built on a heart-shattering deception when her father is accused of fraud. Learn more about HL Carpenter on their website.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Can I Call You Mom?

by Anne Montgomery

A painfully thin boy-child sat in the passenger seat of my truck. Close-cropped dark hair, brown skin, crooked teeth. He squinted at the windshield, watching the road that would take us to the Title I high school where I’d been a teacher for eleven years. I noted that he needed glasses. Shocked at the sudden change in my status as a childless adult, we rode in silence.

My inner-city school in the heart of Phoenix, Arizona, has a population of students who primarily live in poverty. The Title I designation, among other things, guarantees that the children can eat a free lunch at school and often a free breakfast, as well. Besides hunger, many of our students deal with a plethora of other conditions that plague the poor – drug and alcohol abuse, gang violence, teen pregnancy, neglect, physical abuse, and sadly – for hundreds of them – homelessness.

I teach in a program that allows me to have the same students sometimes for three or four years. So, I get to know some of them well. When summer break roles around, I find myself anxious. I worry about what might happen to them without the structure the school day provides and the meals many of them depend on to survive. On the last day of classes, I always put my phone number on the board. I tell my students that, if they find themselves in a difficult situation with nowhere else to turn, they should call me and I will do what I can to help.

Early one summer I got a call from a student I hardly knew. I had the child for just one semester. We spoke a number of times, chatting about nothing in particular. I sensed there was something specific he wanted me to do. But when I asked if I could help him in some way and he always said no. Before hanging up, he often reminded me that he would be in my class again in the fall.

When the school year got underway, his name was on my roster, but he did not appear for class. I called his number. The phone had been disconnected.

Several weeks went by.

Finally, he called me. He was in a new high school, near the group foster care home in which he now lived: the result of a harrowing family story, the particulars of which are not important here.

“I’m hungry,” he said.

“Hungry? Surely they feed you.”

“The refrigerator and cupboards are locked. And the school won’t let me eat there.” His voice was small. “They said the paperwork would take two weeks.”

“Two weeks!” I was horrified.

Later, I complained bitterly to a woman I work with. “How can they do this?” I said stomping around the hallway like an angry mother bear. “How can they let a child go hungry?”

“Do something about it then,” she said.

“Do what?”

“Call the foster care people and tell them you’d like him to live with you.”

I stopped stomping, frozen in place. “Me?”

I’d never had any children, though I’d tried over the years. Sometimes, I’d felt badly about my inability to conceive, especially when faced with baby showers and children’s birthday parties. I still don’t hold babies. However, I was no longer tormented by the fact that I wasn’t a mom and I’d long ago given up on the idea.

Still, I made the call to the foster care folks. Then, I spoke with the boy on the phone and asked if he’d like to come live with me. After a brief pause, he said yes. I also called a judge I know to expedite the process. Since I was a teacher, my fingerprints and background check were already on file with the state.

Two weeks later the child was placed in my home. Ten Saturdays of foster care parenting classes followed, then braces and homework and house rules and laundry – teenage-boy socks were a shocking revelation – and conversations about curfews and girlfriends and part-time jobs and life after high school.

Three years flew by at a manic pace, making me marvel at the incredible stamina parents must maintain while rearing their children. Strangely, at almost the exact moment boy-child number one headed off to college, boy-child number two appeared. Now, he too has been safely launched. I keep my fingers crossed that we’ll celebrate their college graduations in the relatively near future: an almost unheard of event for children who’ve spent time in the foster care system.

My only problem with my parenting turn is how to explain it.

“Do you have any children?” Well-meaning strangers sometimes ask.

I used to answer by saying, “Yes, well, sort of…” and I’d mumble my way through the details.

Then, I remembered that day in the truck, when I sat silently with a small, frightened boy-child. Wanting to fill the empty space between us, I said, “You know, you can’t keep calling me Ms. Montgomery. The kids in the neighborhood all call me Annie.”

He didn’t speak for a long time. Then, still staring out the windshield at the road before us, he said, “You know, I’ve never had a mom. Can I call you Mom?”

Both of my boys call me Mom. And today, when anyone asks if I have any children I simply say, “Yes, I have two sons.”

Here is a short introduction to my historical novel. I hope you enjoy it.

The past and present collide when a tenacious reporter seeks information on an eleventh century magician...and uncovers more than she bargained for.

In 1939, archeologists uncovered a tomb at the Northern Arizona site called Ridge Ruin. The man, bedecked in fine turquoise jewelry and intricate bead work, was surrounded by wooden swords with handles carved into animal hooves and human hands. The Hopi workers stepped back from the grave, knowing what the Moochiwimi sticks meant. This man, buried nine hundred years earlier, was a magician.

Former television journalist Kate Butler hangs on to her investigative reporting career by writing freelance magazine articles. Her research on The Magician shows he bore some European facial characteristics and physical qualities that made him different from the people who buried him. Her quest to discover The Magician’s origin carries her back to a time when the high desert world was shattered by the birth of a volcano and into the present-day dangers of archeological looting where black market sales of antiquities can lead to murder.

To read an excerpt from The Magician, please click a vendor's name.
Musa Publishing - Amazon

Anne Montgomery has worked as a television sportscaster, newspaper and magazine writer, teacher, amateur baseball umpire, and high school football referee. Her first TV job came at WRBL TV in Columbus, Georgia, and led to positions at WROC TV in Rochester, New York, KTSP TV in Phoenix, Arizona, and ESPN in Bristol, Connecticut, where she anchored the Emmy and ACE award-winning SportsCenter. She finished her on-camera broadcasting career with a two-year stint as the studio host for the NBA’s Phoenix Suns.

She has been a freelance and staff writer for six publications, writing sports, features, movie reviews, and archeological pieces. Her first novel, The Jerusalem Syndrome: The Wreck of the Sunset Limited was published in 2004 and took second place honors in genre fiction in the 13th Annual Writer’s Digest International Self-Published Book Awards.

Anne currently teaches journalism and history at South Mountain High School in Phoenix and is an Arizona Interscholastic Association football referee and crew chief. When she can, she indulges in her passions: rock collecting, scuba diving, and playing her guitar.

Stay connected with Anne Montgomery on Facebook.

Sunday, October 19, 2014


by Chris Pavesic

Recently Dianna Gunn asked me to write a blog post for Musa’s Anniversary celebration. I am delighted to be part of the celebration for this wonderful company. Anniversaries are important; they let a person not only look to the past, but also provide an opportunity to consider the future.

Dianna and I both started with Musa at Penumbra. She was an intern who acquired posts for the Penumbra blog and marketed the e-magazine. I had two short stories published in Penumbra, (“Going Home” in Volume II, Issue 9 and “The World in Front of Me” in Volume II, Issue 11.) I worked with Dianna on a few blog posts for the Penumbra blog.

Through writing for Penumbra, I also had the opportunity to work with Celina Summers. She had created a shared world with Richard C. White—The Darkside Codex—and invited Penumbra authors and readers to take a look at the new series. It is set in a world with a steampunk foundation. They created the basics but let the authors submit works that explored the fictional word. Open to many different genres—including science fiction, fantasy, urban fantasy, horror, romance, and noir—the shared world is a playground for a writer’s imagination. Celina sent me The Darkside Codex bible (which is a text that sets up the basics of the shared world) and I felt my creativity stirring.

Steampunk is my favorite speculative fiction genre. As dedicated readers of my blog will know, I have loved Victorian era literature since I read Great Expectations as a child. The combination of idyllic pastoral life and overcrowded cities, of horse-drawn carriages next to steam-powered trains, of personally crafted goods next to mass-produced work, created a dramatic tension in the literature of the day that is mirrored in modern steampunk stories. The nostalgia and idealization of the past mixes with the ideas that industry and innovation are the only ways to improve the human condition and creates a powder keg in the society that figuratively can explode at any moment.

To me—this dichotomy is fascinating. To have two world views so diametrically opposite share the same “stage” openly in the world of Southwatch creates a wonderful opportunity for fiction to thrive. My own novel in the series, The Caelimane Operation, (set for publication by Musa in January, 2015) includes a clash between the industrial and the pastoral life along with a healthy mix of fantasy and horror.

Here is a short introduction to The Caelimane Operation. I hope that you enjoy it:

When the Temples to the Goddess north of Southwatch are burned and followers of Dione are murdered, Hierocrat Catherine, a bard of the Caelimane Temple, sets out to find those responsible and to bring them to justice. With only the help of a traveling group of minstrels and a retired fae investigator, Catherine must solve the mystery before more people are killed, but will she succeed when she finds herself pitted against members of her own Temple, rogue members of the Seelie Court, and a seemingly unstoppable army of undead?

Once again I find myself working with Celina and Dianna, who is now a promotions specialist with Musa. The journey that, for me, started with writing short, speculative fiction in Penumbra continues with writing somewhat longer (but still speculative) fiction for Musa in the world of The Darkside Codex. This is a relationship I hope will continue far into the future, both with Musa and Penumbra. There are so many more stories to tell!

Chris Pavesic lives in the Midwestern United States and loves Kona coffee, fairy tales, and all types of speculative fiction. Her stories, “Going Home” and “The World In Front of Me,” have been published in Penumbra EMag. Her first novel with Musa, The Caelimane Operation, will be published in January, 2015. Between writing projects, Chris can most often be found reading, gaming, gardening, working on an endless list of DIY household projects, or hanging out with friends.

Learn more about Chris Pavesic on her blog. Stay connected on Facebook and Twitter.

Saturday, October 18, 2014


Where did you get the idea for Merm-8?
I can't remember what exactly sparked the idea. I know that I had a very powerful image in my head of an anime-like/Han Solo-type man, with mismatched clothes and pockets in odd places. He was standing in front of a giant aquarium with his hand on the glass. Inside was a large beautiful mermaid with an eight foot serpentine tail. I love stories that have a future vs. fantasy dichotomy, and that image fascinated me. Who was the man? Where did the mermaid come from?

From there, the work of world-building and characterization began. The story bounced around through a few high concepts (including erotica!) until it became a kind of Waterworld meets The Little Mermaid story. Again, future vs. fantasy. Two great tastes that taste great together.

The best part was figuring out how a mermaid could/would technically exist in the real world. Most mermaid stories involve convenient magic or deus ex technologic to keep the two leads together. I decided I wouldn't take any shortcuts. I wanted to see what would happen with a real, dyed-in-the wool mermaid.

How did you develop your lead characters?
Gene started as a classic loveable rogue the likes of Robin Hood or Malcolm Reynolds from Firefly. But where those people had a war to fight, I wanted Gene's struggles to be more personal. That helped flesh out Stitch, an artificial intelligence/snarky companion who would provide a foil.

I've always had a fascination with boxing, so I included that as part of Gene's past. Boxing led to ties with organized crime and a need for "connections". That helped create the characters that would drive the plot forward.

What drives you to write science fiction?
I've always been an escapist -- books, video games, movies. Anything that takes me away from here. Not only that, but books a great way to enter a dangerous or intense reality from a safe location. I'm quite the introvert, but no man is island. Writing and reading science fiction allows me new life experiences, while learning about humanity and science in new, complex ways.

Also, it's easier than having to do actual work.

Here is a brief intro to Eric's science fiction novel.

It doesn't matter if you believe in mermaids. She believes in you.

Gene is a rogue-for-hire, using his one-man ship to make a decent living on the flooded Earth. Most of the population has been driven out to Seaplexes--artificial islands glutted with poverty, commercialism, and organized crime. His AI companion, Stitch, does most of the work of their salvage and smuggling jobs. Life is good.

Until a mermaid crawls into his ship's exhaust port.

Now it's not enough for Gene to avoid the mafia he's in debt to, enforced by bio-engineered hulks. Everyone wants to know what this fantasy creature is doing on a dying planet. Corporations want to exploit her. Old friends want to capitalize on her fame. Gene has to choose between protecting her and keeping himself safe. And all she wants is to return home.

Please click a vendor's name to read an excerpt.
Musa Publishing - Amazon

Eric J. Juneau is one of America's most prominent up-and-coming writers. He lives in Minnesota with his wife, two daughters, and a dog that's either very smart or very dumb. He writes science fiction and fantasy and received an honorable mention in the 2010 "Writers of the Future" contest.

Learn more about Eric J. Juneau on his blog Author Quest. Stay connected on Twitter and Google+.

Friday, October 17, 2014


Musa Publishing is excited to announce Epidemic, Book 8 of Spire City: Season 1 Episodes 7-13, by Daniel Ausema is now available for purchase.

Targeted by a mad scientist's deadly serum, these outcasts band together to fight back.

Spire City is home to mighty machines of steam power and clockwork, and giant beetles pull picturesque carriages over cobbled streets, but there is a darker secret behind these wonders. A deadly infection, created by a mad scientist, is spreading through the city, targeting the poor and powerless, turning them slowly into animals. A group of those infected by the serum join together to survive, to trick the wealthy out of their money, and to fight back. This collection brings season 1 to its dramatic conclusion

The days were getting longer as spring approached, but the faint light of the sky did nothing to lighten the shadowed street. The nearest working streetlight was more than a block away, so outside the Weave was pitch. Black as a beetle’s carapace. No one would see her carting the coal across the street. A lingering spire song drifted across the city, as if one singer had suddenly gotten it in his mind to sing a few notes after everyone else had stopped.

The way into the Dust Room was a bit of a maze. Not the only way in—they’d directed the delivery into the front entrance that faced a neighboring street. But weaving through back hallways and empty storerooms was quicker, for anyone who knew where to go. Chels carried a small lantern, one with a rigid handle that she could hook over her shoulder for when she was pushing the loads of coal. Sometimes other squatters left debris in the maze of rooms, but this time she made it without mishap.

Just outside the back door to the Dust Room was a wheelbarrow. Chels grabbed the handles and backed into the room, as she always did. The door clanged open. Poor Tinnesz. She couldn’t get his question out of her mind. There ought to be something they could do or say so he wasn’t always thinking about it. She pulled the wheelbarrow through and turned around, the lantern waving its erratic light around the room. The deliverers had left the pile of coal directly inside the front door.

Chels grabbed a shovel from beside the back door. Maybe it was a simple matter of giving the boys more to do. Like shoveling coal. No, not just chores. More games and playtime. And reading. They were making some progress with that. With the shovel over one shoulder, she approached the coal.

The lantern light played over a figure seated on the pile, pointing a gun at her. Chels froze.


Chels’s muscles twitched as she stared at the cold eyes. No, not possible. Not here. His gun didn’t waver.

“My name is Mint.”

The voice made it real. All the terror, the fear she’d felt each time she’d seen him. The sickening twist to her stomach when she recognized him at the coal seller’s. The months of wondering where he’d be, when he might find her next. It all came together, at first keeping her frozen, but then triggering her into motion. Chels threw the shovel at his face and ran the other way. Expecting to be shot down. Expecting him to surge to his feet and run after her. The shovel struck something soft and fell with a clatter. Mint cursed her. If he got a shot off, it made no noise and missed her fleeing form. As she passed through the door, she pulled the wheelbarrow across the entrance and didn’t look back. Mint’s swearing shifted to laughter, laughs that followed her, even with no sound of footsteps to accompany the noise.


To read excerpts from the other episodes of Spire City or Daniel's other work, please click a vendor's name. Musa Publishing - Amazon

Daniel Ausema is the creator of the Spire City serial fiction project. His short stories and poems have appeared in Penumbra, Daily Science Fiction, The Journal of Unlikely Stories, and many other places. He has worked as a journalist and educator and is currently a stay-at-home dad. He lives in Colorado, where May blizzards, September floods, and summer wildfires engage in a never-ending war.

Learn more about Dan on his website Twigs and Brambles.