Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Call for Submissions: Meet me at Dusk

And *drumroll please* Here's my pet project, indefinitely, under the theme of Meet me at Dusk. Yes, it's all about dark fantasy.

As Edgar Allan Poe once deep into darkness peered, to wonder, fear and doubt, he also dreamed dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before. And Nietzsche, while warning against hunting monsters, was quite fond of that abyss which gazed back.

The light of our hearts' delight can only shine sweeter against a backdrop of despair. Darker stories swirl and fester in the midst of the mundane; mysterious creatures prowl at the edge of awareness to seduce and devour.

Conflicts bleed into our world, to snare unwary mortals; tantalize us with hints of magic and enigma beyond our ken. Love is lost and found, empires rise only to crumble, and few dare to step beyond the threshold.

Did you grow up reading Poe, Burroughs and Lovecraft? Do Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere and The Sandman graphic novels languish on your bookshelves next to Poppy Z Brite's Lost Souls and Storm Constantine's Wraetthu novels? Lyrical Press is looking for works of dark fantasy that explore the contrasts of modern urban living with that of the supernatural, expressed in a gritty tone redolent with pop culture references and noir elements.

See the submission guidelines at http://www.lyricalpress.com/submissions.php and email nerine@lyricalpress.com with your query.

Call for Submissions: LGBT fiction

I have my own Call for Submissions happening fairly soon, but I'm sharing the shout-out for one of my fellow Lyrical Press editors.

Lyrical Press is seeking gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender stories that are lightyears outside the proverbial box. Dark and stormy nights full of deep and steamy romance. Sleek and edgy sci-fi with savvy, sexy characters. Suave swashbucklers who capture more than ships—they capture hearts.

Lyrical Press is accepting all forms of LGBT, with a focus on romance and erotica. If you've got a story that'll steam up the windows and steal the reader's heart, we'd love to hear from you.

Sensuality level: All – with a focus on romance/erotica
Length: 30,000 – 80,000 words
Key Characteristic: Central romance must be LGBT.
Deadline: None

Please follow Lyrical Press' guidelines found here: http://www.lyricalpress.com/submissions when submitting. Send submissions to carinbrumal @ lyricalpress (dot) com.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Guest blog: Tony-Paul de Vissage: Vampires are Forever

This week I welcome Tony-Paul de Vissage to my blog, who drops by to share a little about my favourite fanged creature of the night. Welcome, Tony-Paul!

* * * *

Romania—specifically that section of it called Transylvania—isn’t the only place having vampires. It’s just the main place people think of, thanks to Bram Stoker’s little epic. In point of fact, the first vampire novel to gain attention in the literary world was set in England.

Now for the Pop Quiz section of my blog. All those knowing the name of that novel, raise your hands? Hmm…more than I expected. How about the author? Non? Would you believe Lord Byron? If not, good for you. Byron didn’t write The Vampyre though he was blamed for it for many years. John Polidori, Byron’s physician wrote the story, patterning his villain after his employer. Generally that’s not such a good concept but I have a feeling Byron loved the idea.

After all, the man lived for scandal and it probably didn’t hurt book sales a bit. Good PR. Nevertheless, today, except for we vamp-aficionados, the name of the world’s “first” literary (as well as how to pronounce it) is fairly forgotten. Who knows Lord Ruthven? Dracula wins that title, fangs down!

When I wrote Vampires are Forever, I decided to ignore Transylvania in lieu of Ireland, which has its own special vampire. Oh, my hero/villain hails from Hungary but that’s only mentioned briefly. And the city he says he comes from actually does exist. It’s called Lugos (pronounced Loo-Gowsh), and is the town from which Bela Lugosi took his stage name. Appropriate, non?

The Irish town—Balleywalegh—is a place knowing what you do with vampires and it doesn’t involve giving them the key to the city, unless it’s presented on the end of a well-sharpened stake.

I also chose to set my story in a slightly inappropriate era…the Twenties. 1929 to be exact, when the movies were just becoming the rage, automobiles were still fairly rare, and any woman showing more than an ankle was considered “fast”…or worse…a flapper. My vampire drives a Stutz Bearcat. He dances the Charleston, smokes “coffin nails”—appropriate, don’t you think?

And he takes the lass he’s pursuing to the flicks to see Richard Barthelmess and Lillian Gish in Broken Blossoms.

The time is just enough of a blend of the old century and the new to make it different.

Now, as to that vampire…

Like a thousand other countries, Ireland has its own home-grown version. The dearg-due (pronounced drag-dul). Though the vampire in Vampires are Forever is male, the true dearg-due is female, a cross between the succubus and the vampire. Her story is typical legend-material…romantic and tragic. A young woman forced into a cruel marriage, she kills herself, then rises to exact revenge upon men, enticing and draining them of blood…and life. The only way to prevent a dearg-due from rising and creating its special havoc is to pile the grave high with stones. Their weight holds the evil spirit inside. I imagine that hold-over is one reason most graves today have slabs over them. (Ce qui? You never wondered about that?)

Don’t think my tale of a vampire descending on a little Irish village is a tragic one, though. Nor is it bloody. It’s more whimsical…uh…fang-in-cheek, if you will, filled with Irish lilts and brash Gaelic characters…though it does have its shivery moments. And I think the ending will give everyone a bit of a laugh as well as leaving them satisfied.
EXCERPT:

There was a rattle of keys, a click of a lock. Slowly, the door swung open. Everyone prepared to run. Even Seamus tensed, though he would never have admitted it.

“Yes sir?” A man stood there. A very dignified man, dressed in dark, conservative livery. He blinked slightly as the sunlight struck him directly in the eyes. “May I help you?”

“Oh…uh… Right.” That brought Seamus out of his trance. “We—that is, th’ others an’ I—” He gestured behind him at his mates. “We’re from Balleywalegh an’ we saw th’ light last night, an’—”

He stopped, uncertain of what to say.

“Yes, sir, you’re from the village, and—?”

By now, Seamus had gotten a good gander at him and decided he didn’t look as he thought a vampire should, especially a dearg-due. Hadn’t they always been described as extremely ugly, having fiery eyes and the palest of skin and rows and rows of sharp teeth like those piranha-fish he’d read about as lived in South American rivers? This fella… Why, he looked to be about as old as Seamus himself, and certainly neither pale nor fiery- eyed. And definitely not ugly. Pleasant-looking, as a matter of fact. Blond and fair, with blue eyes squinted in the sunlight. And his teeth? They might be a trifle large—what Seamus considered English teeth—but there were no more than the usual number. And they certainly didn’t look sharp.

“—an’ we saw th’ light an’ thought we’d stop by an’ offer a welcome to th’ village.” Conor had finally come out of his daze and managed to speak up, if a trifle weakly.

“Oh. I see.” The man smiled and that transformed his face to something totally human and completely harmless.

“So if your master’s around,” Seamus picked up the thread again. “We’d like to extend an invitation—”

“I’m afraid that’s impossible at the moment, sir,” the man interrupted.

“But—”

“The master is unavailable. He’s out for the day.”

“Out?” Conor spoke up again. “We haven’t heard any motors passin’ by, an’ anyway, his car’s still here, so how did he travel? Did he fly?”
Conor, you idjit! was all Seamus could think.

The butler—for that’s what Seamus had decided the man was—didn’t appear insulted however. In fact, he smiled again, though his answer was a trifle frosty, this time. “Master Novotny has several motor cars. He occasionally drives himself, Mr—?”

“—Leary. Conor Leary.” It was a moment before Conor spoke, reluctantly supplying his name, then adding, “Mayor o’ Balleywalegh.”

“Mr. Leary.” The butler acknowledged this with a nod. “If you’d care to come back this evening, I’m certain the Master will—”

“We wouldn’t mind waitin’,” Seamus put in quickly, knowing it would take a team of horses and a blast of gunpowder to get Conor or any of the others back here again. Even in daylight. “Until he returns.”

“I’m afraid that wouldn’t be proper,” came the answer, as he expected. “I’ve no authority to allow anyone in without the Master’s permission.” He was pushing the door shut as he spoke. “Just come back this evening.”

The door was closing fast. Seamus attempted to insert one of his Size 13 brogans into the still-open space. “Wait—”

“Good day, sir.” It was said with finality. The door was nearly shut.

“What’s the problem, Steven?” The question came from behind the man, somewhere far inside the house. Asked with a slight accent.

“Sir? W-when did you get back?” There was bewilderment in the question.

“I never went out.” Footsteps came down stairs. The door was pulled open again, the butler looking back. Once again, those on the stoop braced themselves.

The man standing beside Steven couldn’t have been more different. Seamus felt his heart sink as he looked at him. Now here’s what a vampire should look like, was all he could think. Tall, longish dark hair, very much out of style—more like what one of them stage actors would sport, Seamus thought—framing a pallid, narrow face contrasting with the lightest of blue eyes, so pale they appeared nearly colorless… Handsome, yes, the Master of the house truly could’ve graced the screen of any cinema.

As a creature of the night.

“Karel Novotny.” It was an introduction as he peered out at Seamus, blinked as Steven had done, then took a step backward out of the doorway and into the shadows inside. Seamus nodded an acknowledgement and offered a hand.

After a moment, it was accepted, Novotny stepping forward and clasping it in his own. Seamus was surprised at how warm it felt.

“You must excuse Steven,” Master Novotny said, releasing Seamus’ hand. Not much of an accent, Seamus decided, but enough to give his speech an odd melody. His voice was well-modulated, carrying all the way to the men standing on the steps though he wasn’t speaking loudly. “So…you’re a welcoming committee from Balleywalegh,” he summed it up with a smile revealing another set of white teeth. But no pointed ones, as far as Seamus could see. He’d like to get a closer look at those eye-teeth, however. Master Novotny glanced out at the others, as if assessing whether they might be carrying flaming torches, pitchforks, or crucifixes. “And you’ve come to…?”

“—to invite you to th’ Fall Fellowship Festival. To be held this Sunday at th’ town hall.”

“A festival? How interesting. At what time?” That was asked a little quickly.

“Starts at six in th’ afternoon,” Conor spoke up. “So’s we all have time to finish our chores aforehand.”

“Six in the afternoon…” He appeared to consider that. A bit of a scowl appeared on the smooth forehead. Caused by the sun slowly creeping over the threshold?

He’s going to decline. Seamus could tell. He felt his heart sink a little. He was startled to find himself actually believing that nonsense Conor and the others were spouting the night before. He’s goin’ to give us some song-an’-jig about bein’ too busy when in reality, he can’t come out in daylight. ’Tis just a fluke he’s awake now at all.

He was surprised, therefore, when Novotny asked, “And what does one do at a Fall Festival? Will there be food?” Did he imagine it or was there a quick flick of a tongue across a pale lower lip? “And drink?”

“Anything you could want,” Seamus forced joviality into his reply. Aye, the treacherous thought wiggled through his mind, an’ which o’ us will you be wantin’ to sip from? “’Tis to celebrate all th’ good Lord has given us in th’ way o’ bounty this past year.” Was there a slight cringe at the mention of God? If so, it was so brief, he wasn’t certain. Perhaps Novotny’d simply shifted his weight a bit. “There’s be plenty o’ good cookin’ an’ beer an’ even some home-brew…” He let his voice trail away because Novotny was speaking again.

“I’m certain I can make it, Mr…?”

“Flannery. Seamus Flannery.” Now why did I give him my full name?

“…Mr. Flannery. I definitely wish to meet everyone, though I hadn’t expected to quite so early.” Did this second smile hide a secret meaning, some darkness?

“Sir? Y-you’re going?” The butler turned to stare at his master, looking astonished at his acceptance of the invitation.

“Of course!” Novotny looked almost gleeful as he answered.

But sir. What about…?” Steven looked from him to the interior of the house, nodding slightly.

“Any tasks here can wait, I imagine.” Steven’s concern was dismissed with a shrug and a third smile, this one slightly wolfish. “Have you ever known me to turn down a chance for a good dinner…or liquid refreshment? Home brew, you say, Mr. Flannery? I’ve found homemade drink the best kind.”

Now Seamus was certain of it. There was a hidden meaning there. Without meaning to, he shivered. It didn’t go unnoticed. The smile eclipsed a moment, then was back in place.

“I’ll see you all there. On Sunday. Around six.” The door was closing again. Seamus turned away. The door reopened. “Ah…Mr. Flannery…?”

“Yes?” He looked back.

“I was wondering. Could you possibly refer me to a good carpenter? There’s been some damage to one of the rooms. Looks like a fire. Vandals no doubt.” He paused slightly.

“Aye,” Seamus replied. “Vacant houses do invite such.”

“So I supposed. But it will need to be repaired. So…?”

“Ah…well…Sean Sweeney does most o’ th’ carpentry work around here. You might ask after him. If ’tis not too big a job…”

“Sean Sweeney. Excellent.” The dark gaze swept past Seamus to the men on the stoop. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, gentlemen, I’ve some things to attend to.”

With a click of finality, the door shut.

Vampires are Forever has been available since May 15 from Class Act Books, www.classactbooks.com.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Dead in Time with Anna Reith


Today I welcome Anna Reith to my world. Those of you who know me have a good idea that I'm a sucker for stories involving musicians, and when Anna's Dead in Time landed on my desk as a review book, I just about had kittens the moment I started reading. Anna's writing hits all the right spots. Part murder mystery, part paranormal thriller involving the ghost of a glam rocker, it's one of the best novels I've read in a long while, and I'm not joking when I say I rate Anna as highly as some of my permanent favourites, like Neil Gaiman, Poppy Z Brite and Storm Constantine.

But, without further ado, thank you to Anna for dropping by for a little Q&A...

What is it about the glam era that appeals to you? Did you have a soundtrack you listened to while writing the novel?

I think it’s hard to explain why you love any particular style of music or culture, and glam can be a pretty wide-ranging term, running from the absolutely quintessential and commercial 1970s bands – T. Rex, Sweet, Mud, Suzi Quatro – to acts who incorporated elements of the style into something broader, such as Alice Cooper, David Bowie, Nick Gilder, or the much-maligned Jobriath.

What appeals to me, I think, is the sheer sense of unrepentant fun in so much glam music. I listen to a lot of classic rock, rock ’n’ roll, rockabilly and blues and, for me, glam is often the place where those things intersect. In a lot of cases, you can really hear the roots of earlier music coming through, but approached in a very off-the-wall way. I’d point readers towards T. Rex’s Electric Warrior album for an ear-candy explanation: songs like Mambo Sun, Lean Woman Blues, Monolith and Raw Ramp (available on the album reissue) are not the chart-busting hits the band are best remembered for, but they are awesome… and very, very glam.

As for a soundtrack… I have to confess it probably wasn’t much different to what’s usually playing while I write! However, there are a lot of nods to songs in the book, as well as several bands and artists; John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers, Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith and, of course, the legendary Marc Bolan, to name but a few.

Damon Brent, on many levels, is a totally self-centred character one cannot help but be fascinated by. Tell us a little about the character and his creation process. If they had to make the movie for your novel, which actor would you cast?

Damon is, in a lot of ways, an irrepressible child. He’s passionate about his music, and sees the world through it, usually while completely failing to consider anyone else. Essentially, he’s a cheeky South London boy who struck it lucky a little too young. He’s been terribly na├»ve sometimes, but he’s not above being a manipulative little toerag when he wants something… and, as we discover, his charm has never saved him entirely from trouble.

Damon’s character is very rooted in the Bermondsey area of South London (non-UK residents are probably best off thinking of Michael Caine as a reference point.), and in both the whole Zeitgeist of glam as a means of escapism, and the cultural revolution it was set against. The 1970s were, in many ways, an incredibly bleak and difficult time in Britain – both economically and socially – and Damon represents that determination to break free with some colour, noise, and, yes, sequins… yet he’s never quite managed to leave his background behind him.

As for actors… I always say the same thing when asked this question. What I would love most, apart from actually seeing a film made (there’d be so much music! Oh!), is for a complete unknown to get a break and make the part his own. That said, I wouldn’t say no to Johnny Depp playing under his age in a blond wig, either. *grin*

Who are some of your literary influences, and which three novels will always have a space on your shelf?

If I had to whittle it down, I would probably say – in no particular order – Terry Pratchett, Edmund White, John Steinbeck, Iain Banks, and Jeannette Winterson although, to be honest, I pull influences from all over the place, all the time.

Books I couldn’t be without, however, would have to include The Lord of the Rings, for its breadth and detail, Of Mice and Men, for its elegant, lucid simplicity, and Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay, for reminding me that – contrary to popular belief – a little ambiguity is usually a good thing.

How did you approach the creation of Dead in Time? It's clear you had to do a fair bit of research. What particularly struck me was your knowledge of the music industry. Care to elaborate?

Frankly, once I had the basic shape of the plot, it was a case of just immersing myself in everything I could get my hands on from the time… concert footage, other people’s reminiscences and anecdotes, archives of newspapers and music publications like NME, and anything else available. The only material I purposely steered away from was biographies of or lengthy interviews with specific artists, so that my characters would never be based too closely on any one person. That said, plenty of allusions to well-known rock anecdotes and running jokes have wormed their way in there (M&Ms, anyone?), and there were some pieces of the history of that particular time and place that I wanted to celebrate, such as the role of Eel Pie Island, and the whole Ladbroke Grove scene.

The internet is an amazing resource for this. I doubt I would have been able to get access to so much archive material without it. As for personal experience, I have plenty with London (and Brighton), and a fair amount with the banality of green rooms and Continental hotels, but less so with the music industry itself. It is a hugely different business today, compared to the way it was, so much of my research was paper-based – although you can never underestimate the importance of plying every musician you know with beer until they spill their embarrassing stories.

You've elected to self-publish. How do you approach this process? Do you have any advice for authors considering to do the same?

This is an interesting one. For me, it boiled down to being the quickest and simplest way to get a book that I believe in out into the marketplace, even at the potential cost of lower returns. I had been told by several different agents and publishers that Dead in Time was "not commercial", but I wasn’t prepared to drastically alter it, or rewrite it as a paranormal romance – although I actually do write romance under a couple of other pen names.

Again, the internet is an amazing thing. It opens up so many opportunities for authors to either go it completely alone, or make use of the numerous print-on-demand and distribution services that are out there (such as Lulu, Createspace etc.). I’m still on something of a learning curve here, but I’d recommend authors considering going indie do as much research as possible before making decisions. Joining discussion communities and reading others’ experiences are great ways to get some information on services before you purchase – although I do think that some of the packages targeted at authors are ridiculously overpriced. Yes, self-publishing can be expensive, but hiring a good freelance editor or cover artist instead of being persuaded to a package deal can save you money without sacrificing results. (Of course, as I offer a range of freelance services myself, I may be biased!


Ultimately, it is complex. Expect to spend a lot of time formatting, particularly if you want to get your books into distribution channels such as Kindle and iBookstore. Start with a firm idea of how many skills you’re prepared to master for yourself, and don’t be afraid to outsource when you need to, or to keep redrafting and redrafting until you get it right.

Distribution is a key point. Just because your book has been published doesn’t mean anyone will actually buy it, and so many people seem to feel that the most important thing an author can do is promote their work. I believe that’s true to an extent, but I pretty much fail on that point myself. I have an intermittent presence on Twitter and Facebook, and I occasionally guest blog, but I tend to feel that – if you are producing the best work you can – you don’t need to shove it down readers’ throats.

I would much prefer my books to stand on whatever merit they have, than be associated with me as a brand. Of course, it is possible I’m just lazy.

Are there any upcoming releases folks can look out for?

There certainly are! I have a number of short ebook-only titles due out over the next few months, which will be collected in a print edition of creepy horror, paranormal and ghostly stories, released in October.


I’ll also be releasing some sci-fi and fantasy stories produced in collaboration with AD Leland, a great friend and author of fantastic gothic and cyberpunk fiction. She sadly passed away in 2005, leaving a large quantity of unfinished work which it has been my privilege to edit and recompile.

The first of these, a short novel called Battlefront, is due out this summer:


with the first of AD’s highly anticipated Sparhaven Chronicles following later.

Further linkage:
As ever, readers can find the latest news, reviews and releases on my website –http://www.annareith.co.uk – or catch up with me on Twitter http://www.twitter.com/anna_reith or at my brand new Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/pages/Anna-Reith/121801701219794

Friday, May 6, 2011

Link round-up, Friday, May 6

Well, some news from my side. What Sweet Music They Make got its arse submitted to my editor at Lyrical. Hold thumbs, cross horns or do whatever it is you do when you wish someone luck. In the meanwhile, here's the blurb:

Severin never exactly signed up willingly to number among the undead, and now he finds himself playing nursemaid to two younger vampires. Filled with a gnawing sense of dissatisfaction, he goes through the motions of pleasing his masters, and takes refuge in the music he makes.
Tersia has no idea how special she is to Cape Town’s shadowy undead lords. That is until a chance encounter at a gig with her Irish group leads her to cross paths with Severin, who fascinates her despite her initial misgivings. After all, she’s just had one disastrous relationship and she’s sure as hell not looking for another.
Severin finds himself a pawn, as always. And no one has shared the game's rules. Tersia offers him the opportunity to right decades-old wrongs and grab his destiny in both hands. Is he willing to take the chance or will he bow to his lord’s will? And will darkness extinguish Tersia’s bright flame for eternity?

Then, onto LINKAGES!!!

In which I apologise for the lack of communication... Kinda like Metrorail does for the inconvenience caused, only I didn't make you late for work.

Then, in which I chat about the cover art for What Sweet Music They Make, and you get to see some of the fun, after-shoot visuals.

Toad's Corner features Singaporean urban fantasy author J Damask. Really, I well and truly fell in love with her wolves. If you want an Eastern adventure of mythic proportions, look no further than her tales.

This week also saw me featured at The Slaughterhouse. Do drop in for a bit of my views on the topics near and dear to my heart.

And last, but not least, I chat about the concept of the monomyth applied to plotting a novel. If you're an aspiring author, here's some advice I wish I was given when I first started out.