Realm Makers 2015 Audio is Here!

11204938_10207290185318025_6172293894525377565_nThe day has finally come. Over the last month and a half, we’ve had question after question, reminder after reminder. Well, folks, it’s finally here. We have the audio content from Realm Makers 2015!

We had many amazing workshops at our conference this year led by some pretty fabulous professionals in the publishing and spec worlds. From writing to marketing to the spiritual aspect, there were classes for everyone. If you didn’t get a chance to attend, here’s your chance to get a sample of the awesomeness. If you did attend, well, maybe there’s a few classes that you weren’t able to make it to in our list!

This year’s audio set includes 11 of the workshops from Realm Makers 2015 in St. Louis. For just $20, you get access to over 13 hours of learning, inspiration, and fun.

Workshops Included:

Accounting for Authors: Chris Morris

Collaborative Writing: Torry Martin

Fabric of the Cosmos: Steve Laube *attendee favorite*

Marketing 1: Amanda Luedeke

Marketing 2: Julie Gwinn

Marketing 3: SuzyQ

Marketing 4: SuzyQ

Q&A with Dave Long

Show, Don’t Tell (Sharing the Gospel Message without Preaching): Morgan Busse

Theology of Horror: Mike Duran

Worldbuilding 1: Evangeline Denmark (partial)

To Purchase:

Price: $20

Head to our website The Realm Makers: 2015 Audio page and look for the PayPal button. Use the button to complete your purchase via Pay Pal. Once we receive your payment, we will send you an e-mail with a link to the Dropbox folder where you can download the MP3 files. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us!


BIG NEWS: Realm Makers 2016

Once upon a time, in the place of St. Louis, friends of the Realm Makers gathered together in an event like none have seen before. Knowledge and inspiration were shared among the clan openly and freely. Relationships were formed, enriched, and sealed. Each person finding a place to belong. As we all said farewell to return once again to our homes, one question remained.

“Hey, do you know where and when Realm Makers will be next year?”

Well, we finally have an answer. Roll up your sleeves, start digging through the closet for stuff to sell, look under the couch cushions for that loose change–we have the first major details, folks!


Exact venue negotiations are ongoing, but will be tightened down shortly

Now that YOU are in the know, help us get the word out! Feel free to copy the picture above (or look for it on Facebook) and then share on your social media and blogs. We have some exciting ideas for next year, and we hope to see a lot of old faces AND as many new ones as we can bring into the fold. There are other writers like us out there–let’s help them find their home!

For all those newbies who may be stopping by, how about some testimonials from the alumni? Leave your best Realm Makers experience in the comments!

T-shirt Winners!

11953231_984148801615432_4415547999162681810_nLast month, Realm Makers hosted a giveaway for those who attended this year’s conference and then filled out the evaluation afterwards. Winner would get a choice of a Realm Makers T-shirt OR an Authors Assemble T-shirt. To add to the fun, Ben Wolf threw in another Authors Assemble T-shirt.

First, we wanted to thank everyone who filled out the evaluation survey. Over Labor Day weekend, the Realm Makers Advisory Board had a planning retreat. We went over the survey responses piece by piece. You all provided some wonderful feedback that definitely helped us in making some important decisions for the upcoming year. Give yourselves a round of applause!


Now, on to the winners . . .


The winner of the Authors Assemble T-shirt is . . . 


Nadine Brandes!


And the winner of the CHOICE of a Realm Makers T-shirt or Authors Assemble T-shirt is . . .


Lauren Brandenburg! 


Congrats to both ladies! We expect to see pics of you sportin’ the T-shirts when you get them.


Next Monday, we’ll continue on with Ralene’s series on saving money for next year’s Realm Makers conference.

4 Ways Money can Add Depth to Your World

file2891273090130Most speculative fiction worlds seem to skim over currency and miss an opportunity. Usually, in fantasy, the currency is based on one or more types of metal: silver, gold, or platinum. And your classic science fiction fare will have some form of paperless credits or universal currency.

And somehow, most characters seem to have the money they need, or they never run out of supplies. Unless it’s a convenient plot point for a hobbit to be blamed by Gollum of eating all the food; then, of course, there is none left.

In other words, a great opportunity is missed. A creative author can use money as a way to introduce the intricacies of the world they have created. Currency can also shine light on the motives of a character. So long as we stick to the mantra of “show, don’t tell,” economies can serve as much more than background.


1. Political unrest

Imagine a world where a usurper just commandeered control of the kingdom or world where your story takes place. As an indication of his newly established dominion, he mints new currency with his face on the coins and issues an edict that all commerce must be conducted with his coins only.

Those who support the usurper will gladly comply, while those merchants with less than loving feelings toward him will be inclined to continue to accept the “old money.”

Placing your protagonist in the midst of this political intrigue gives you as the author a number of different avenues to travel down as your build your world.


2. Bartering with a twist

This idea is one I would particularly enjoy seeing teased out. Picture a universe where a horse with a lame leg has more value to a merchant than a healthy horse. There are a myriad of reasons this could be the case, each giving you the chance to expand your world. Perhaps the sacred texts of this world include this proverb: “The favor of the gods will shine upon the man who cares for a lame animal, for his heart is pure and worthy of reward.”

This uncommon bartering system would create some particularly memorable scenes in a time travel plotline like Outlander, where your protagonist is not familiar with the world. Your readers would then be able to experience confusion with your main character, which creates further connection with your story.


3. Black market

It would be easy to “play the religion card” again in this scenario. To use an example that could potentially occur in our actual world, consider what the market for hamburgers might look like in India.

But religion is not the only reason a black market might exist–there are so many creative concepts that could be applied here. As just one example, the monarch of a kingdom could be deathly allergic to nuts, so they are banished. But there are certain indigenous tribesmen who still rely upon the sale of brazil nuts. Welcome to the brazil nut black market.

Your protagonist can enter this black market for a variety of reasons, ranging from an insatiable desire for brazil nuts to a need for extra income.


4. In a universe where multiple currencies exist, money exchangers can provide insight into the prejudices that exist amongst the races.

[Warning: I am going to show off my inner Trekkie for just a moment]

Consider for a moment what it would be like for a Romulan in the 24th century to work at a currency exchange for a Klingon world? Try as he might, his strong prejudice against Klingon would come out. This can be brought into the narrative using a short dialogue scene:

“We don’t want to exchange our money now. Let’s wait until Sbardi is working. Like all Romulans, he hates Klingons, and gives a better exchange rate.”

In two sentences, the readers are clued into racial tension, and see how it impacts the protagonist. The possibilities are endless when you introduce money exchange as a component of your universe.

Even though I am a CPA, I know that most would not want to read a treatise on the economic conditions of Diagon Alley. I’m not suggesting the focus on your stories be on the intricacies of how goods are bought and sold.

Instead, I’m pointing out the opportunities that exist in the context of money exchanging hands. Instead of quickly moving over these exchanges, and treating money as a non-entity in the stories you craft, you can add depth and vibrancy to your world.


What other ways could you see currency being used to open up your world to your readers?


ChrisMorrisFINAL (83 of 94)ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Chris Morris is the founder of the creatively named CPA firm Chris Morris CPA, which focuses on helping creatives and other entrepreneurs manage their tax and accounting needs. Because he is a writer himself, and over 1/3 of his clients are writers, he is very familiar with navigating tax laws for this industry. He is a fan of stories with dragons, warp drive, or epic sword fights, though he does not write speculative fiction himself. He also feels very awkward writing about himself in the third person.

Realm Makers is Looking for . . .

PrintRealm Makers has grown so much in the last year and half, with the number of attendance this year almost doubling that of last year. It’s a very exciting time for the conference! Of course, with much gain comes much responsibility–more than just 3-4 people can handle.

So we’ll be adding some positions as needed.

Right now, we’re looking for a Sponsor Coordinator.

This is an important position as sponsor money help us with the extra bells and whistles that make Realm Makers so awesome.

Skills needed:

  • Friendly and personable
  • Familiar with sales tactics
  • Detail-oriented
  • Organized
  • Able to use Excel and Word

Sponsor Coordinator reports to the Marketing Director.

Responsibilities include:

  • Research companies/individuals who could sponsor
  • Extend invitations to potential sponsors
  • Coordinate the sponsor benefits according to their level
  • Field any questions via phone or e-mail within 24 hours

We are looking for a 2 year commitment, but that is not necessarily a deal-breaker. If you are interested, please send your resume to Ralene at raleneburke [at] gmail [dot] com. In the e-mail, also let us know WHY you want to be the Sponsor Coordinator for Realm Makers.

We look forward to hearing from those of you interested. From everyone else, please be praying for us to find the right person for this position. Let’s work together to make the next Realm Makers just as fantastic! 

Upcoming Blog Series


If you’ve been following our Facebook page, you know that our Advisory Board has been very busy this past weekend. You know, there’s nothing like a planning retreat to help clarify vision and prepare for more awesomeness. We have lots of exciting events and opportunities planned for the rest of the year and for 2016.

The bottom line is you won’t want to miss Realm Makers 2016–that’s a given.

But, Ralene, I can’t afford the conference!

Oh, my dear spekkie, let’s do some planning!

Over the next four weeks, I’m going to be featuring some spectacularly easy, fun, or lucrative ways for you to earn some extra dough–just for Realm Makers. Get our your pen and paper and get ready to take notes! Well–you’ll have to wait until next Monday, but you get the picture.

In the meantime, what kinds of things have you done to earn some extra money? Did they work? 


5 Tricks to Add Humor to Speculative Fiction

by Janeen Ippolito


IMG_7637Humor. Some people say you have it or you don’t. And if you don’t, trying to acquire humor is like trying to eat Jell-O with a fork. On a camel. In the rain. Wearing a fez, because fezzes are cool.

You get the picture.

I take a different approach. And not just because camels spit and I don’t have a fez.

Humor is just too valuable a tool to fiction writers, especially speculative fiction writers, to be shoved off in a corner with abstract symbolism and the Oxford comma.

People like to laugh. Readers like to laugh. Humor is another tool in your writer’s kit to keep readers engaged. This is especially true if you write darker stories with heavy themes. While there are times to keep the mood serious, humor is often a coping mechanism for people in dire situations. Even a few quips or a moment of situational irony can add a necessary bit of levity that keeps a scenario from being so intense that the reader can’t bear to continue.

Humor is also a great way to deal with romance. If you want two characters to meet and end up together, without turning your story into a mush-fest, banter and contrasting temperaments are the way to go. Just look at Shakespeare’s comedies, especially The Taming of the Shrew and Much Ado About Nothing. Good modern-day examples are Castle and Beckett from the TV show Castle and the romantic relationships in Joss Whedon’s Firefly.

Now, on to the tips! I’m not going to give you hard and fast rules. Humor doesn’t work like that. What works in one specific situation won’t have a prayer in another. However, here’s a list of things that you can do to increase your overall humor quotient and maybe even sneak some into your writing!


DO Read or Watch Funny Things


Read humor books–spoofs, satires, and books written by humorists. Watch comedy TV shows and movies. Watch actual comedians–both good and bad–to get a sense of what works and what really doesn’t. Some people shy away from the humor genre because of risque content, but there is clean comedy out there. Try older classics like The Marx Brothers, Abbot & Costello, or Lucille Ball. Search YouTube for comedians like Tim Hawkins. Try reading some of the online articles of Dave Barry or John Acuff. Just be aware that humorists are the court jesters of the world, pushing boundaries to make the audience think as well as laugh. If you’re offended, it might not always be their fault. This leads me to my second point.


DO Laugh at Yourself


Part of humor is about looking at life and realizing how ridiculous it is. One way someone can do this is by constantly pointing out the flaws in others and the system. However, this is a form of aggressive humor and often isn’t that much fun. The most successful humor writers make fun of themselves, which shows humility and grace.

Fortunately, as fiction writers, we can pass on the joy of our own mistakes–to our characters! This means the next time something really weird or crazy happens to you? Write it down. Any bit of funny dialog your kid says? Write it down. Anything you perennially forget? Write it down. Have a handy journal of all of these moments (or a stack of napkins and receipts, if you’re like me) and then pull them out as you’re writing and need a funny moment.

Example: I lock myself out. Of everything. You name the location, and I’m pretty sure I’ve managed to be stuck on the wrong side. I’ve gotten locked out on patios and locked out of apartments (I had to call the police once and break the door down . . . did I mention it wasn’t my apartment?), I was even locked in a giant freezer that didn’t HAVE a lock. So of course, somewhere in my stories? There’s a character who has issues with locks, or a situation where the locks are evil. I understand the humor, I’m familiar with the situation, and I figure if I had to suffer through it, the character can too.


DO Go Random (and then go even MORE random)


Everyone can think of normal situations to laugh at. However, we’re speculative fiction writers. Our humor can be out on a limb just as much as our characters, plot, and everything else. Don’t have the lights go out in your house because of a maintenance failure or a dark, evil bad guy. Have the lights go out because a corgi chewed on the wiring and then peed on it, because your character’s irresponsible brother forgot to take the dog outside.

That’s a scenario from my book, The Eimiror Accords: Reckoning. Why did I write it? First, I’m laughing at myself. I’ve had dogs and know what they do if you ignore their pleas to go outside. Second, I needed the lights to go out for that scene. Third, my main character is coming in from a really hard day at work, so I wanted a humorous tweak to lighten the mood–if not for her, then at least for the reader. Now, can dog urine really short out the wiring in a house? Probably not. But it’s speculative fiction, and it’s more random if that happens.


DO Use Contrasting Elements


One easy way to add humor is through contrasts. This is often seen in a “odd couple” pairing. One character is structured, the other is disorganized. One character is from the streets, and the other is from the upper class. One character is American, and the other is Japanese. These contrasts will add layers of conflict as the two characters worldviews clash–which can lead to really funny material.

Another contrast is the character versus their situation. One example I love is in Disney’s Tarzan, where an elephant is hyper-concerned with the cleanliness of the water. Of course, the contrast is that a wild animal would never care that there’s bacteria in the water. Another example is in the movie The Pacifier, where Vin Diesel plays a hard-edged Navy seal who has to protect a family, including singing them bedtime songs and even directing the school musical.

Contrasts can also work with magic and superpowers. In my fantasy/fairy tale series, I have a character who can fly–but wait! She happens to be terrified of heights. This both allows for a certain kind of humor, and also introduces obstacles for the character to overcome and grow.


DO Edit and Rewrite Humor Scenes


Writing humor is like any other part of writing. The only way to get better is to practice. Draft and then edit. Have a friend read it, and then edit it again. Check your audience and understand what they think is funny, because a joke might work for your friend, but not for your audience, or vice versa. Go back to the humor segment. Check the wording. Edit again. While some people might have an innate talent for humor, the only way to really improve is to just put yourself out there and try. And probably fail, but try again. And maybe offend somebody and then decide whether you need to drop the joke, or if they need to lighten up. After that? Try again.

Because we are writers and this is what we do.

When all else fails? Put aside your work and watch or read something funny. If anyone calls you out on not writing? Tell them that the Tim Hawkins videos are research. Totally.

Here are some good links to the technical sides of humor:

j.ippolitoAuthor Bio:

Janeen Ippolito is an English teacher by day, a sword-fighter by night and a writer by heart. She has a B.A. in Cross-Cultural Studies, Writing, and ESL and has a passion for using humor and cultures in speculative fiction. She is the author of Culture-Building From the Inside Out, an eBook how to write cultures in speculative fiction, and the upcoming Character-Building From the Inside Out, which features quick tips on solving common character issues. In her spare time she makes brownie batter, reads, and grades papers while watching speculative television shows. She loves connecting with, supporting, and promoting fantastical fiction on her blog, so feel free to visit and get in touch!