We've Moved!

The authors of FaE have relocated to the Beyond the Veil castle keep. BtV is now your one-stop blog for Samhain Publishing's paranormal and fantasy romance authors!

Come on over! Just be careful when you cross the moat. The mermaids are still getting settled in with the Cracken. The drawbridge might be a little slippery.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Creature Feature: Selkies

Selkies are a mythological race of seals who shed their skin to take human form. According to one website, they are gentle creatures, with the ability to transform from seals into beautiful, lithe humans. Some tales say they could transform only once a year, usually Midsummer's Eve, while others state it could be “every ninth night” or “every seventh stream”.

One thing common in most of the legends is the power of their seal skins. If the skins were stolen or lost, the selkie could never return to the sea. The hansome selkie males were blamed for a lot of dallying about with mortal maids and were said to be very handsome indeed. Selkie women were often the tragic figures of trickery where a mortal man would steal her seal skin and force her to marry him. Often those legends ended sadly when one of her children would return the stolen skin and either return with her to the sea or stay with the human father on land forevermore.

Either way, selkies in human form were said to be beautiful and almost irresistable to the opposite sex. Maybe that's why there have been a few romance novels with selkie heroes of late. Writers looking for new kinds of shapeshifters to write about have rediscovered the selkie and all the magic they possess.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Thirteen Ways to Leave Your Fantasy Lover

Thirteen Ways to Leave Your Fantasy Lover

This is a public service announcement for all fantasy and paranormal romance heroines and heroes. We realize you believe you’ve found your Happily Ever After with the (insert supernatural species here) of your wildest dreams. However, we at the Paranormal Extended Romance Protection Society (PERPS, for short) know that not all human/other relationships perform as advertised. (If they did, we wouldn’t have sequels, now would we?)

With that in mind, the governing bodies of PERPS prepared the following handy guide for ending unwonted relationships with a person or persons of Otherworld origins:

1. Vampire - Stake the heart. (The wooden kind is best. Steak on the heart only makes them more amorous.)

2. Werewolf - Shoot with silver. (A sterling dinner fork may be used as a projectile, but make sure the tines are pointed away from you. Do not use knives, except per 5. below. The blades are invariably cold steel.)

3. Selkie - Burn the pelt. (The order is crucial here. Pelting with Burns will only compound the problem. Robert will want to write a poem about it, and George is simply too nice.)

4. Angel - Tear off wings. (Practice on flies and work your way up.)

5. Fairy/Elf - Cold iron on the pillow. (Preferably the skillet you used to bash the fae’s head in.)

6. Devil - Douse with holy water. (Bathtubs with tile surrounds are ideal for containing the combustion but require large quantities of blessed water for optimum performance--which can be difficult to procure beforehand, given this subject’s well-deserved reputation for paranoia.)

7. Dragonslayer - Feed to dragon. (Serve raw.)

8. Enchanted Beast - Trash the rose garden. (If you choose to pursue a chemical solution, avoid commercial preparations that target only the weeds.)

9. Dragon - Feed him/her a fire extinguisher. (Also serve raw.)

10. Merman - Surround the bed with dehumidifiers. (Remove all moisturizers from vicinity beforehand.)

11. Frog Prince - Introduce him to the cook. (A nice butter sauce is always a good choice.)

12. Gold-spinning Dwarf - Announce his/her on The View. (Remember to obtain free samples for producers and hosts before filming.)

13. Change the Locks - The governing bodies of PERPS neglected this critical step. That’s why they’re bodies…
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Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Judging Books By Their Covers

What do editors talk about when nobody’s around? If they’re anything like Paula Guran (editor of Juno Books) and me (former editor of Crescent Blues) they talk art, specifically cover art.

Granted, with any kind of fiction, the words between the covers ultimately determine whether a book rises up the bestseller charts, falls into the remainder bins or hangs around forever to plague generations of defenseless high school students. But it takes years to become a classic on word of mouth and only an instant for a buyer to pick up or discard a book based on visual impressions.

A good cover provides a snapshot of the contents. Dragons and pointy-eared types typify high fantasy. Urban fantasy covers come in dark blues, grays and reds -- with a generous dash of man titty or bun-age if they’re shooting for the erotic market. Other genres show their colors in similar ways. Who can forget the cartoon-style covers used on a decade’s worth of comic romances? Cozy mystery covers feature pets or inviting interiors, while thrillers showcase empty street scenes with lots of shadows.

A striking cover draws the reader’s eye, inviting the reader to pick up the book, check out the back cover, maybe scan a few pages. In the absence of a major review or personal recommendation, the lure of the cover is a book’s single most important selling point. Michael Whelan’s art, for example, is credited with boosting more than a few writers’ careers. Rowena’s art is closely associated with Anne McCaffrey. Charles De Lint and Jacqueline Carey both benefited from cover art by John Jude Palencar. Stephanie Pui-Moon Law’s covers helped make visual sense of the complex world Catherine Asaro created in her Aronsdale romantic fantasies. Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman swear by Larry Elmore.

Covers are a major selling point for booksellers too -- and they’re even pickier than readers. Their cover commandments come down to a list of no-s. No white covers -- they get dirty too fast. No step-backs or cut-outs -- they tear. No sealed packaging -- people won’t buy the book once the cellophane’s torn. A bad cover (by their definition) won’t necessarily prevent a bookseller from ordering a book. But it will work against re-orders and increase the number of returns -- something writers and publishers would really like to prevent.

Covers do more than just define a book, however. They also make an important statement about the publisher. A professional looking cover equates in readers’, booksellers’ and distributors’ eyes to a professional publisher. Nothing -- not even bad editing -- says “amateur” as fast as the dead mannequin stare of an un-retouched Poser(TM) image.

At the American Library Association conference Paula and I were congratulating ourselves on having lucked out in the cover department. Timothy Lantz has done fabulous work for Juno, while Samhain Publishing artist Anne Cain gave With Nine You Get Vanyr a cover equally attractive to men and women. This is the second time I’ve been blessed with cover magic. My nonfiction book, Illumina: The Art of J.P. Targete, featured J.P. Targete's fabulous painting of a woman turning into a cat. Women take one look at the cover and immediately want to know where they can buy the model’s dress. Men want to buy the model a drink. But regardless of gender, once somebody sees the cover, the book is halfway to the cash register.

Not only that, the way J.P. finessed the transformation of woman to cat became a model for the metamorphoses in Vanyr. For me, that’s the best part of the whole deal. Cover and book become part of a larger conversation between writers, artists and our audiences. Inspiration flows in all directions. Artists draw from our word paintings and, in turn, give us ideas for more stories, which hopefully inspire readers and viewers to become creators themselves.

J.P. saw this firsthand when Ace Books commissioned him to paint the cover for Douglas Niles’ The Circle at Center, the first book in Doug’s Seven Circles Trilogy. J.P. took the guidelines provided by Ace’s art department and created a luminous, magical landscape people by the non-human races described in the publisher’s material. The cover was an instant hit and won him a Chesley, the highest award presented by the Association of Science Fiction and Fantasy Artists.

There was just one (not really) problem. Aside from the woman who is the painting’s focus, Doug didn’t recognize any of his characters in the creatures J.P. painted. But he liked J.P.’s critters so well, he used them as the basis of a new race, which played a key role in the final book of the trilogy.

Now that’s what I call a positive feedback loop.

[P.S. The lovely painting, which I can't seem to figure out a way to write a cutline for is Shared Dreams, (c) Anne Cain, 2007, coming soon to the WardSmith web site. But you saw it here first.]

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Torc's Salvation Win

My co-written author ego, Melany Logen, won 3rd place in the futuristic/sci-fi/fantasy category of the 2006 Passionate Plume for Torc's Salvation.

Congrats to all the winners and finalists in the 2006 Passionate Plume! *Tosses colored confetti*

Until later~

Saturday, July 21, 2007


In the middle of chapter 4 of "HP and the Deathly Hallows", my laptop beeped at me.

It was a reminder that I was supposed to blog today! Uh... [glancing regretfully at the book, which already holds the imprints of my clutching fingers on the cover]

Christine Norris has a lovely post over on the Beyond the Veil blog today, and expresses my feelings about the books much better than I could.

How dorky is my family about these books? Um, well, I, my daughter and my husband each have our own copies. In the past we bought one copy and passed it around. Not this time!

Last night was kind of bittersweet. As we stood in line at Meijer's (a big grocery/discount store chain) with three carts of groceries worth $30 each - we got a dicount on the book if we bought groceries - it was a lot less fun than past HP releases. Although the store had a party, a cake, a costume contest, etc., it wasn't the same.

In the little town where we used to live, we had an independent bookstore on the quaint town square that threw a big party with every release. It would close early that day in anticipation of re-opening at midnight. I, my daughter, and her three closest friends (I call them my auxiliary daughters) always set up camp at some ungodly early hour, like 7 p.m., right outside the front door.

For three straight HP releases, we were first in line. We spent our time cautiously sampling Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans (actually, soap isn't half bad), handing out samples of warm butterbeer to other people who showed up (I found a recipe - disgusting), waving at truck drivers who honked, dancing, playing HP board games, listening to the HP movie soundtrack on my van's stereo, watching the movies on someone's laptop, and running across the street to get coffee and hot chocolate.

We would press our noses against the bookstore's decorated front window, dark except for a single candle which illuminated the waiting stack of books. So close, so far away!

This is the miracle of JK Rowling's books. For any other book release, would multiple generations of families have come together to party and celebrate like this? Does any other book series in recent memory have the ability to provide a common ground for families to come together. Who can watch a mother and her normally-sullen teenage children discuss the books with equal excitement, and not realize what miracle this is?

OK, enough of this. I really must get back to reading now... my daughter is already a hundred pages ahead of me!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Becka's World Building Workshop ~ Post #4

This is part FOUR of my SEVEN part World Building Workshop. This series will be posted every two weeks. If you've missed the previous issues, here are the links to them:

World Building Workshop Post #1

World Building Workshop Post #2

World Building Workshop Post #3



For those making a Sci-fi world, this section might not be as important to you, but you might want to read along regardless.

In your world, you might want to create unique crops or creatures. You might have orchards of white apples or elves and fairies. Do unicorns exist? Dragons? Orcs? Goblins? What about other strange creatures? How about extremely large birds? Harpies?

Maybe you could have mutants as well. Could centaurs be the product of magic gone awry? For those doing a Sci-Fi, you could have mutant people or maybe even creatures in the same way the movie "Total Recall" had. Remember because they were breathing tainted air they became mutants? Has that happened on your isolated lunar colony?

Now the fun with this section is if one of your characters somehow get sucked from our present day world into this strange new fantasy world you've created. How would someone react to seeing a faun for the first time?

Create creatures and plant life to thrive in your world and put them in regions on your terrain map. Perhaps your white apples only grow in a small isolated orchard high in the mountains. Now why are these apples special? Because they provide long life to any who eat them. So they would probably be in high demand at the royal court, right?

Well, you can see where the imagination might run away with you on that. But go with it! Whatever creatures or plant life you create can be easily written into the history of your world which is one of the upcoming topics I'm planning on talking about later on.What makes your world unique? Is it filled with magical creatures? Mutants? Strange creatures that might 'almost' look like our own terrestrial animals?

Believe it or not, once you have this outlined, a history is much easier to write, as you can weave the creatures into the background of your world. You can weave folk tales around the unicorns that live in the forest. Legends surrounding the elusive white apple. :)

You never know. So be fruitful and multiply! :)


Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Fair Folk

Did our ancestors call these mythological creatures "fair" because they were beautiful or because our ancestors were begging them to be fair in their dealings? That's kind of a tricky question that popped up while I was doing some research for my next Dragon Knights novel. Perhaps I'm sheltered, but I always thought the term "Fair Folk" was simply another name for elves, fairies, and the like. I thought it had something to do with their reputed beauty, or maybe their complexion - which might be a holdover from Tolkein's elves in my mind.

I've come to find that the term might actually be a bit more sinister in nature than I believed. By naming them "fair," perhaps our ancestors were employing a bit of wishful thinking. They hoped calling them "fair" would make them deal fairly with the human population. There are so many legends about changling babies and fey folk playing tricks on humanity, this explanation of the name bears some thought.

Still, I think I'd rather live in my little Polyanna world and believe the word "fair" refers to their coloring and/or countenance. In my books, at least, that's the way I'm going to take it. You heard it here first - and it's something of a spoiler - the next Dragon Knights novel, FireDrake, will feature a race of magical warriors known as the Fair Folk. Mine will be easy on the eyes and lethal - a fascinating combination. As to how they deal with humanity? Whether it's "fair" or not, remains to be seen...

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

From Sanbao to Sinbad: China’s Contribution to the Arabian Nights

If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck and lays eggs like a duck, why do some people insist on telling you it’s a turkey?

No, this isn’t a political rant. I post very few of those, and never here. This has to do with my love-hate relationship with academia, specifically academic tunnel-vision. For every scholar like Adrienne Mayor, who actually reads what ancient and medieval writers wrote, there seem to be a thousand who are more interested in pedantry than possibility.

Case in point: Sinbad--he of the Seven Voyages, not the stand-up comedian.

Everybody knows the basic outline of Sinbad’s story. Starting from nothing, a young man becomes a wealthy and respected merchant after seven fabulous voyages take him to the ends of the earth--with a lot of stops for gold, girls and monsters along the way.

The accounts of the individual voyages show a variety of influences, from Greek mythology to Islamic theology garbled accounts of African and Asian fauna. But according to all “serious” scholars, the origin of the name Sinbad and why he had seven voyages (and not three or nine or fifteen like other Arabian Nights’ tales) is “lost in the mists of time”.

Of course, doesn’t stop scholars from trying to sell etymologies based on the old name of the Indus River, the Persian word for “region” and lots of specious Sanskrit. Not to mention lengthy articles on the mystical significance of the number seven. (Lesson to remember: whenever a scholar drags out the Sanskrit and numeric symbolism, run. He or she is trying to sell you the post-doctoral equivalent of land in the Florida swamps.)

This is where the duck quacks in. In 2005, “China’s Great Armada”, a National Geographic article by Frank Viviano, suggested the great Ming Dynasty admiral Zheng He might have been one of the prototypes for the character of Sinbad.

At first the idea seems absurd. Then the facts roll in. Despite the name (which was given to him by a grateful emperor after he reached adulthood), Zheng He was not Chinese. He was a Central Asian Muslim captured and enslaved as a child by the Chinese army, who rose on his own merits to become one of the principal advisors of Emperor Yongle.

Zheng He’s main claim to fame are the seven voyages he undertook in his emperor’s service, voyages which sent him--like Sinbad--to the fabulous lands of Sumatra, Java, India, Ceylon and East Africa. These voyages were designed to “show the flag” and obtain treasure through trade and diplomatic maneuvering, not conquest. The main object of the sixth voyage, for example, was to secure that rare and most fantastical animal, the ultimate harbinger of peace and prosperity in Chinese folklore of the time, a.k.a. the giraffe.

Zheng He also used the voyages to spread Chinese culture in all its stunning diversity. He commissioned statues of Buddha and the Taoist goddess of the sea. He served as a benefactor to Chinese Muslims, settling large communities in major ports of call along all his routes. His adventures so captivated so many people he remained a folk hero to Chinese communities throughout Asia even after he slipped from the rolls of most official histories. You couldn’t ask for a more fertile breeding ground for legends and tall tales. Think of all the other popular heroes you never read about in school--Robin Hood and King Arthur, for example.

But oddly enough--other than the fact he made seven voyages--the best, most telling connection to Sinbad is Zheng He’s original name. In Pinyin, the simplified Chinese phonetic alphabet, it is rendered "Ma Sanbao".

Roll “Sanbao” around your mouth a couple times. Next, imagine a transcontinental game of telephone, where everybody’s doing their best to repeat the same word but nobody has quite the same set of phonics.

The idea that over time names slip and slide into something which only faintly resembles the original is a well-known literary phenomenon. It’s one of the things that make it so difficult to parse out the historical bases of the Arthurian legends. For example, one of the few touchstones of Dark Age British history is the man Gildas and Bede call Ambrosius Aurelianus. He plays a major role in all the Arthurian legends, but unless you understand how the early Welsh mangled--er, transmitted Latin names, you might night recognize him. They call him “Emrys”.

Sanbao. Sinbad. Starts to look a lot better, doesn’t it?

But…but…Sinbad lives in Baghdad during the time of the great caliph Haroun al-Rashid! So does nearly everyone else in the Arabian Nights--including characters based on real people who lived in entirely different centuries. The Baghdad of Haroun al-Rashid was the Camelot of the medieval Arabian world. If it was fantasy, it had to be set there. No other place or time would do.

What about the roc and the Cyclops mentioned in Sinbad’s Third Voyage? I didn’t say Zheng He was the only model for Sinbad, just that he’s the most compelling and provides the best historical precedent for the Seven Voyage structure.

The great compendiums of folklore and legendary material--such as the Arabian Nights, the Brothers Grimm and the Matter of Britain--seldom derive from a single literary or oral source. They are the distillations of popular culture. The stories they encompass are constantly evolving and moving back and forth between literary and oral traditions.

Terri Windling’s "Folkroots" feature in the August 2007 Realms of Fantasy shows how this plays out in the story of Rapunzel. In the 19th century, the Brothers Grimm presented the story as a German folk tale. But in fact, the current form of the story derives from “Persinette”, an adult fairy tale written by Charlotte-Rose de la Force in late 17th century Paris.

According to Daniel Beaumont, the same forces were at work in the creation of the Arabian Nights. His introduction to Slave of Desire: Sex, Death, and Love in the 1001 Arabian Nights cites several examples of fables being transformed into fictions which are later quoted as “true events”, which happened to someone with a distant connection to the writer. (Urban legends, anyone? There really isn’t anything new anywhere under the sun.)

In addition, the story of Sinbad’s Seven Voyages doesn't appear to have been part of the earliest versions of the Arabian Nights. Most importantly for the Ma Sanbao/Sinbad connection, it doesn’t appear in the 14th century manuscript which leading Arabian Nights' scholars consider the definitive medieval version of the collection.

But then few of the best stories do. Certainly not the ones (like the story of Aladdin and his Wonderful Lamp) which display a distinct Chinese connection. Those stories don’t appear in Arabian Nights’ manuscripts until the 16th or 17th centuries--more than enough time for storytellers to embroider the original source material almost beyond recognition.

So why is it only the non-academic writers who admit the connection? Why does the theory appear to have no credibility among serious academics? Where is the scholar--or student or demented amateur with way too much time on their hands--to run all the tantalizing bits of evidence to the ground? Won’t somebody please take up the challenge of identifying all the ingredients in the glorious stew, how Zheng He’s treasure fleet--complete with concubines and Chinese marines--took a left turn at some medieval Arabic version of Albuquerque and wound up sailing with Odysseus?

I want to read it, dang it. I don’t want to have to go out there and write it myself.

Though the part about the Chinese marines and the concubines shows definite promise. Maybe on the island that’s also a whale…

Additional references (from Wikipedia):

Arabian Nights


Zheng He

Monday, July 9, 2007

Balancing writing with life?

Now, I must admit completing stories is where discipline comes in. Over the years I've gotten into a groove. If I'm at the computer...75% of the time I'm trying to write. The other 25% I'm dealing with e-mail, promotion, blogging, critiquing, or checking out what's going on in my groups. If I'm not dealing with writing I'm not in my computer chair.

For sometime now, I've been writing with goals and unless a writing project gets shuffled around I stick to them for the most part. I have two goal buddies. Mechele Armstrong http://mechelearmstrong.com/ and Rebecca Airies http://www.rebeccaairies.net/ . Once a week we check in to announce our goals and then we tell one another how we did on them. If we don't make the goal, we explain why. I sometimes feel more obligated reporting into them. I've gotten a lot out of my goal buddies We cheer one another on, and encourage one another when it's needed.

I'm one of those writers who works around the needs of others. Some days I can be in and out and back into my chair several times during a session trying to get some word count down. I have four children and two parents I police. So, finding writing time isn't easy, but I manage around my family. My husband is a huge help, especially when he knows I'm under a deadline or have edits. I couldn't write without his support.

What's your schedule? Do you have a routine or simply plug along?

Until later~

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Mexican Witches

Hi! I’m Margo Lukas and I’m subbing for Carolan today. I hope she’s having fun doing what she’s doing, because I’m spending the day in 90 degree weather selling Gatorade at a livestock show! Ugh.

I’m a fellow author over at Samhain and my book Half Moon Rising came out in ebook this past March and will be out in print in October. But enough about me…

This is a bizarre video I found that supposedly shows a witch circling a Mexican cemetery. It’s crazy. http://www.neatorama.com/2007/07/04/witch-caught-on-video-terrorizing-mexican-town

It’s at a site called “Neatorama”. Of course it’s going to be good!

I’m doing some preliminary research on an upcoming book and here are some things I found out about Mexican witches:

They are mostly men, but there are some women.
They practice one of these types of magic: white, red (the good ones) or black (the bad one).
Good witches heal.
They can’t wear gold.
They can’t get married, but they are allowed to have as many girlfriends/boyfriends as they want.
Tuesdays and Fridays are the best days to cast spells.
Their roots go back to both Mayan and Aztec lore.

I’m not sure if all that will find its way into my book, but it’s interesting stuff to read. Sela Ward did an interesting blog on Central American myths on Beyond the Veil. If you liked this post you might want to check it out.

Happy Saturday and best of luck to the legions of people getting married on this luckiest of days :)

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Becka's World Building Workshop ~ Post #3

This is part THREE of my SEVEN part World Building Workshop. This series will be posted every two weeks. If you missed the previous issues, here are the links to them:

World Building Workshop Post #2

World Building Workshop Post #1



Once you have your world's name, your government, your terrain, and map all planned out, its time to think of your economy. I'm not necessarily talking about stocks and all the good stuff going on at Wall Street, although you are certainly welcome to implement that idea if you want to.

I'm simply talking about where does your country get it's goods? Do the local farmers supply fruits and grain? Do your spices come from overseas? How do goods travel from town to town? Are there trains in your world? Magical portals? Advanced "Star Trek" technology such as "beaming" and whatnot?

What kind of money system do you have in your world? Paper dollars or just coins? While this might not enter into your story too much, it's still a good idea to think about this, as you can add it in for extra "flavor" to bring a “unique-ness” to your story, or you can make mention of it.

In my world, they only have coins. Copper, silver, and gold. Ten copper = one silver. Ten silver = one gold.

These coins are known as "ladies", a term I *coined* (pun intended haha) after I thought that the face of Lyndaria's first queen was embossed on them. So they are copper ladies, silver ladies, and gold ladies. But think of money in our world. We have dollars, pounds, pesos, Euros... So to make your money system unique and believable, try to think of something similar. You could even do something akin to credit cards, which would make sense in a Sci-fi.

Once your trade routes and money are established, then we're going to move on to fleshing out your world a bit. So tell us all what your thoughts are for money in your world and we'll move on in a little while! :)


My example of Lyndaria comes from my fantasy/romance novels The Legends of Mynos, currently published at http://www.SamhainPublishing.com.

Fourth of July & Fantasy?

Tomorrow is the Fourth of July, and so I feel the need to go just a little off-topic and wander through some of the mythology that has arisen around the founding of our country. One of the ideas made popular by recent works of fiction is that Freemasonry played a pivotal role in the birth of the United States. I have an interest in this because my own dear ol' dad is a Master Mason and we've always talked about the various Masonic symbols that crop up in everyday life - like the all-seeing eye on the dollar bill, for example. I also saw a really interesting engraving of George Washington on exhibit during a recent visit to the New York Public Library where our first President was shown surrounded by Masonic symbols, wearing his apron. Fascinating stuff!

But it's really hard for us to know in this day and age just how much of an impact Masonry had on the founders of our country. Like the mythology surrounding the Knights Templar, it's intriguing for those of us who write fiction, but it's a fine line between fiction and fact.

One interesting site I found stated: "Benjamin Franklin was a Freemason whose unique socializing skills included attending gatherings of the English Hell Fire Club, a secret society focused on sex, pornography and politics." (Darn, talk of the Hell Fire Club gives me ideas! But I digress.) ;-) So, according to legend, one of our best-known founding fathers was not only a pious Freemason and serious student of the sciences, but also a bit of a bad boy. Interesting. (Thanks to the Unencyclopedia for the hilarious image.)

Now I have to admit to not having read the Da Vinci Code. Mea culpa. I figure I'll catch the movie when it hits cable. (LOL) But I did read Two Crowns for America by Katherine Kurtz a long time ago. She's not the first, nor the last I'm sure, to intermix real history with interesting ideas that came from the writer's imagination. I think some of the best fantasy mixes real history - or ideas from it - with fantastical ideas straight out of the imagination. Hence the success of things like the Da Vinci Code, Kurtz's Adept series (which I love) and so many other works of fiction.

So in that spirit, Happy Birthday America!