Category Archives: Guest posts

Guest Interview: Denise Tanaka

Today I have the pleasure of interviewing Denise Tanaka, the talented writer of a delightful fantasy novel, Truth in Cinders.

Denise is a lifelong writer of magical beings and fantastic worlds. Her short stories have appeared in issues of SQ Mag (edition #17), of New Realm (Vol. 1 No. 12 and Vol. 2 No. 6), in the annual anthology Once Upon A World No. 7, and her latest story appears in the AlternaTEAS anthology edited by Elizabeth Gilligan. In her spare time, she creates historical and fantasy-based costumes. Her live spin transformation Diana Prince-to-Wonder Woman costume won Honorable Mention (Journeyman) in the masquerade at Sasquan the 73rd World Science Fiction Convention.


Welcome, Denise, and thank you for talking with us today.  Let’s jump right in.  
Is there a difference in your short stories and your novels, other than length?

Yes, my short stories tend to be contemporary urban fantasy and my novels are epic other-world fantasy. One reason is that short stories don’t give a lot of space for elaborate, original world-building. I need to dig right in to a short story whereas a novel has more room to explore. Short stories focus on a moment, or a single revelation, and a novel is a longer journey with a sequence of many moments leading up to a conclusion.

What’s one of the first books you remember reading or having read to you?

One of my earliest memories is sitting on my mother’s lap while she read The Gingerbread Man. I still have the book, though it’s a bit tattered by the years. It has colorful illustrations. I recall feeling a bit sad in the end when the gingerbread cookie meets his untimely demise.

What attracts you to the fantasy genre?

Fantasy has the most possibilities. It can have the most unique, imaginative creatures or events. It is not constrained by the laws of physics. The hero and heroine don’t have to wind up happily-ever-after together. Literally anything can happen! Frankly, I am often bored by mainstream fiction or romance-for-the-sake-of-romance type books. If I weren’t writing fantasy I would probably write detective mysteries. I love unlocking secrets and discovering surprises in the end.

What do you feel like when you are writing?

I feel removed from the real world yet still a part of it. I am in a semi meditative state, almost hypnotized, yet lucid and aware of structure and grammar. I swim in and out of my own imagination.

Can you tell us about your new release? What inspired you to write it?

I’m a fan of old t.v. shows like, “The Immortal,” “The Invaders,” “The Fugitive,” and “The Incredible Hulk.” I wanted to tell a story from the point of view of somebody who lends assistance to the lone man on the run. In the t.v. shows, the people who shelter the hero seem to accept his innocence pretty quickly. But if you’ve just met this guy, how can you be sure he’s telling the truth? That he didn’t do it? I overlaid some fantasy elements, tied it into my original universe, and I was off!

If I could add one more thing? I wrote the first draft of this novel many years ago when I was part of a writer’s group with Elizabeth Gilligan, Teresa Edgerton, Kevin Andrew Murphy, and others. I got some great feedback but, at the time, my writing skills were not yet developed to the point where I could implement their advice. Then, I reconnected with Beth Gilligan at a local convention and she asked about this story. After all these years, she still remembered some elements of the plot. It inspired me to dig it up out of the drawer and do a fairly extensive rewrite of the magic system and the events of the second half. I’m glad that I put it aside while I built up my skills on other manuscript drafts. I’m pretty happy with how this final version turned out.

Which of your characters do you feel closest to or enjoy writing most?

In this novel, I feel closest to the main point of view character. You can’t write 400+ pages in a fictional person’s head without getting to feel close to her! I slipped in a lot of my own insecurities and awkwardness. I also gave her a speech impediment, and although I never stuttered quite this badly, I’ve always had trouble expressing myself verbally. I used to dread speaking out loud in class. If I get nervous or if I’m put on the spot, I can easily slip into mild stuttering where I’ll hesitate, repeat a word several times, or fill in gaps with “ummm.”

Which scene was particularly hard to write, and why?

The opening! That first page needs to grab the reader’s attention while relaying information about an unfamiliar world. Originally, I had a couple of pages watching Condrie the tavern maid go about her morning chores and thinking about her life. I put it up for critique in an online forum and they convinced me to shave it down.

How do your hobbies or real-world passions and projects show up in your writing?

For most of my life, I’ve pursued a hobby in historical or fantasy costuming. I am a member of the Greater Bay Area Costumers Guild When I describe my characters’ wardrobe, I am very conscious of the materials and fashion.

Do you write full time, or do you have another role? If so, what?

My day job pays the bills. I work as a paralegal in an immigration lawyer’s office. I’ve in this field for about 12 years.

If you could go anywhere in the world, all expenses paid, where would you go, who would you take with you, if anyone, and why?

Easy! Viña del Mar in Chile. A few years ago, I researched a non-fiction true crime story that happened 100 years ago. One of the key personages came from Chile and I became fascinated with the colorful history of the area. I would love to explore the amazing sights of Easter Island, Patagonia, and the Andes mountains. Whoever wants to come along is welcome.

About Truth in Cinders by Denise B. Tanaka

Condrie the tavern maid befriends a man on the run only to discover he is a firebird disguised in human form. Together they must elude the tyrant king’s relentless forces while seeking the truth of who massacred other firebirds enslaved to the king.

Truth_in_Cinders-400jpg.jpgAvailable from Sasoriza Books at

Available from Amazon (print and Kindle) at

Available in other formats (Nook, iBooks, Kobo, etc.)

Visit Denise on Facebook




The First Sentence (free!)

Are you in the mood for a sweet treat, a romantic novella that won’t cost you a penny?  How about five sweet treats in one package?   Check out The First Sentence!  Download for free now.


A Collection of Romance Novellas

a collection of romance novellasPut five authors together in a bar and give them a challenge. The premise: That if five authors start with the same sentence, they will all write vastly different stories. The results: made of awesome. From contemporary to futuristic, these novellas have a little bit of everything, but most especially—love-filled happy endings.

Rebound by Allison B. Hanson
After wallowing in agony for weeks after a bad break-up, Reese is set up on a blind date. Reluctantly, he goes and meets the girl of his dreams. The only problem? He was at the wrong place and met the wrong girl. Now, desperate to find her, he scours the campus as fate weaves an impossible journey.

Lost and Found by Misty Simon
When Mike Emory sees his ex’s post on social media that she’s looking for her lost dog, he’s out the door in a flash. Their break-up was not amicable, but he loved that dog and can’t imagine him on his own. Elsie Hews has been scouring the streets for hours when she runs into the last person she wants helping her—the guy who never seemed to think she was capable of doing anything herself. This is her dog, though, her baby, and she’ll accept Mike’s help to find him, then say goodbye again. Or that’s the plan, at least…

Frozen Dreams by Victoria Smith
When a dangerous weather anomaly strikes, Jane will do whatever it takes to travel to be with her family. Even if it means getting stuck with her husband, Adam. Instead of talking to him about how they will never have a family, she took the chicken route and left, despite being deeply in love with him. Now they must face the storm and their emotions.

Through the Void by Natalie J. Damschroder
There’s only one thing Vix can do when she finds out about the secret life that has led to her husband’s coma—make that life hers. When she goes on her first mission through the void, however, she finds not only a new self-purpose, but her lost husband, as well. She did the impossible once. Can she do it again, and bring him home?

A Real Boy by Vicky Burkholder
Jillian Night is on the hunt for inter-planetary kidnappers. Her bosses demand she have a partner, but Jillian has had enough of human ones. She prefers to work alone so Fleet assigns her one of the new androids. Zeus is a little too real for Jillian’s comfort and she finds herself attracted to him—until she meets the real man pulling the strings. Maybe having a real, live partner wouldn’t be so bad after all.

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Guest Blog: Teresa Edgerton

cover-goblinmoonTeresa Edgerton began telling stories as soon as she learned to talk; she began scribbling them down as soon as a teacher put a pencil in her hand; and luckily for fantasy readers, sixty years later she is still inventing them.  Teresa has published many short stories and novels full of wit and charm and intriguing creatures and characters. Her latest releases are Goblin Moon (being rereleased by Tickety Boo Press), and The Queen’s Necklace (being released by Harper Voyager on Kindle for the first time and currently available for preorder on Amazon). Also look for her work under the pseudonym of Madeline Howard. 


by Teresa Edgerton

I am a bit of a magpie, collecting things that catch my eye. I like the bizarre, the grotesque, the unexpected. In that I am rather like the seventeenth century natural philosophers who liked to collect curios and display them on shelves behind glass, or in small rooms set aside for the purpose. These they called their cabinets of wonder. Some collections were so large they took up several rooms and were open to the public as natural history museums, though many, many of the items were artefacts rather than natural oddities, and some were not at all what they were reputed to be. (Unless you believe in vitrified thunderbolts, in which case, maybe …)

For instance, “Tradescents Ark,” a London natural history museum of the era, included among its other displays, a bracelet “made of the thighs of Indian flyes,” a set of chessmen turned in ivory, so tiny that the entire set fit inside a peppercorn, “Blood that rained in the Isle of Wight,” a two inch “natural dragon,” and “two feathers of the Phoenix tayle.”

And this is the kind of thing I like to collect — not the fly bracelet, or the bloody rain, but these odd little bits and pieces of history, curiosities, the kind of things you don’t find in the usual sort of history book that concentrates on kings and parliments, wars and treaties. I find these scraps and slivers and morsels sometimes in books devoted to the minute details of life in the eras that I study (these are often bursting with the sort of information I love), in books on food, fashion, medicine, magic, and philosophy. Then I type them up and put them in ring binders that I keep on the shelves in my home office. These shelves make up my personal cabinet of wonders.

Researching these topics, I come across a multitude of facts that charm me, which I am never quite able to work into the novel I am working on at that time. But into the notebooks they go, just in case I find a use for them later.

Along with the historical tidbits, I store up examples of prose that delights me, phrases, sentences, paragraphs that are so vivid I couldn’t bear to lose them. I take these out when I am writing my own books and need inspiration, something to remind me of the pictures that writers can create with their words, of how trancendent and transformative prose can be, which gives me the courage to keep on trying.

If I were an artist who worked in pen-and-ink, watercolors, or oils, I would illustrate some of these more improbable curiosities, and pin the pictures to the walls in my office, and so create a visual cabinet of wonders.

If I had more expertise at storing and organizing information on my computer, no doubt I could find a better way to organize these collections, but the truth is I rather like the opportunity to get away from my desk for awhile. And then, too, the pleasure is not only in having these curiosities at my finger-tips, but also in the hunt.

My hunting grounds are my own collection of books and the public libraries, starting with my local library system, and branching out into neighboring towns. There is a thrill to scanning the shelves in a library I’ve not visited before and finding the book that I’ve been searching and searching for. And as much as I love my own shelves of books and notebooks, I have to admit that libraries are the true cabinets of wonder, filled as they are with small books crammed with texts on customs, folklore, and superstitions; costumes, cosmetics, perfumes, and poisons; the progress of science and medicine; natural wonders, man-made wonders, and so much more. And books so large that the only way to look through them is to place them flat on a table, admiring the colored plates inside: pictures of distant lands (real and imaginary); art and artefacts; portraits of great men and women; stars, planets, seashells; exotic birds, beasts, and fishes . . . more than a single person could collect in a lifetime, in several lifetimes. It’s all there free of charge for us to wonder at and think about.

It’s surprising how many people, when they want to research something, rely on the internet (that trove of misinformation), and never think once about a trip to the library. I can’t count the number of times when people have asked me for research resources, and when I said, “Have you tried the library” it turned out they’ve never even thought about it. In fact, the idea is so foreign to them, I doubt that many of them will take my advice. But if you have a library card (and how easy it is to get one!) you can take the books home and study them at your leisure. And even without a card you can browse, select any book that captures your interest, find a seat, and spend a whole day examining such treasures, without anyone giving you that look you get in bookstores, the one that says, “pay for the book or go home.”

But increasingly, as local governments have less and less money to spend, public libraries become less and less of a priority. Where I live, they have plenty of money to spend when it comes to municipal sports fields and basketball courts, but they’ve cut the operating hours at our city library and closed it two days a week. To do them justice, our libraries are always buying new books, and they hold book sales to make ends meet — selling books, CDs, and DVDs donated by the public, materials that might have ended up in the libraries themselves if they had room to put them. It is our money the counties and cities are allocating, money we pay through sales tax, so we have a right to speak out.

Yet in Texas they are opening new libraries by buying up empty retail spaces —abandoned department stores and supermarkets — and converting them into libraries, thereby saving construction costs and acquiring spacious premises at the same time. After the economic down-turn, there are many of these empty retail spaces in my own area, left behind when chains like Mervyn’s and Border’s went bankrupt, but I have yet to hear that any of them are being used to expand our libraries. It is disheartening to think that here in the San Francisco area — where we pride ourselves on being a center for arts and culture — we’re not keeping up with those towns in in Texas. Who knew that Texans had more regard for books than we do (so much for stereotypes!)

It is time to stand up for our local libraries, our very own cabinets of wonder, not only for the pleasure they bring us, but so that we can share those pleasures with our children, nieces, nephews, grandchildren, and all the generations to come.