Monday, April 30, 2012

Scratch the Surface with Amy Lee Burgess

Today I welcome Amy Lee Burgess to my blog. She's recently celebrated the release of Scratch the Surface, the second of her series featuring Pack--people who shift into wolves.

ND: Who is Constance Newcastle? Tell readers a little bit about her and what has led her to the point where Scratch the Surface starts.

ALB: Constance Newcastle is a member of the Pack--a subspecies of humans who can shape shift into wolves. She’s had some bad personal tragedies in her life--the worst of them being losing her bond mates, Grey and Elena, in a car crash on her birthday. She was driving that night and the only one who walked away. As a result, she was kicked out of her pack, Riverglow, and moved to Boston where she bought a condo and tried to live life among the Others--humans--for two years.

The first novel in the series, Beneath the Skin, chronicles her decision to rejoin the Pack and find a new bond mate. She attends a Great Gathering in Paris and bonds with Liam Murphy, a former Alpha of the largest pack in the UK, the Dublin-based Mac Tire. He also lost his bond mate to tragic circumstances.
Together they solve the mystery behind a series of Pack deaths, including the deaths of their own bond mates. As Advisors to Councilor Jason Allerton, who serves on the Great Council, they discover a conspiracy within the Pack. Some Pack members don’t want to move into the modern world. They don’t want Pack going to college, getting high tech jobs, or anything that will cause them to work more closely with Others. They prefer to live in the shadows.

Constance realizes that a beloved grandfather of her former pack was responsible for her bond mates’ deaths. He tampered with the brake line on their car. Scratch the Surface starts with a New Year’s Day phone call during which Constance finds out that this grandfather, Tobias, has confessed and has been judged guilty by a Pack tribunal. She also finds out that her former pack wants to see her. They’d once been her family and best friends and they’d turned on her viciously. She doesn’t know if she has the strength to face them again after everything she’s gone through, but as an Advisor, she must do what Councilor Allerton asks of her and he wants her to talk to them.

ND: Stanzie has a difficult choice to make in Scratch the Surface. How does she justify having to act as executioner for the Pack?

ALB: Stanzie know it’s her right under Pack law to be Grandfather Tobias’s executioner, but when it comes time to actually administer the poison, she isn’t sure she can do it. She stays with him while the poison takes hold because she tells herself if she’s brave enough to give him the poison, she’s brave enough to see it through and stay until he dies. She reasons she was with Grey and Elena when they died and she needs to be with Tobias when he does. She’s hoping this will give her closure, but I’m pretty sure she’ll suffer nightmares and guilt over it for years to come.

ND: The path to true love is hardly smooth. Tell us more about the dynamics in Stanzie and Murphy's bond.

ALB: Stanzie and Liam bonded under difficult circumstances. It was not a love match. Liam has always been something of a knight in shining armor to Stanzie. He saved her at the Great Gathering and I think there’s a bit of hero worship going on. In her eyes, he’s got most of the power in the relationship. When she realizes she loves him, she doesn’t think she’ll ever compare to his former bond mate, Sorcha, or that he’ll ever reciprocate, so she doesn’t tell him.

Meanwhile, Liam has secrets he has yet to reveal. He’s helping Stanzie reach out to her wolf and work to bring her from a childlike playful creature to self-awareness, but he feels guilty about doing it because Stanzie’s wolf had always been such a joy to her and the new changes are difficult for Stanzie to deal with. Not to mention Stanzie’s wolf who is a very stubborn creature!

I think they both rely on the friendship bond they’ve forged and have no clue how to handle deeper feelings. Stanzie looks to Liam to make the first move, he waits for her, and the tension mounts between them until it threatens the foundation of their friendship.

In Scratch the Surface, they discover new, potentially devastating things about each other and have to deal with really stressful situations. They both have their less than shiny moments dealing with each other.

One of things I find interesting about Stanzie is that she usually calls Liam by his last name, Murphy. It’s only when she’s feeling very intimately connected to him, either through fear, fury, or passion, that she calls him Liam. One of my readers told me she thought Stanzie called him Murphy to keep an emotional distance between them since she was afraid to reach out and be as potentially happy again as she’d been with Grey and Elena. It’s the whole “I don’t know if I can handle losing everything again” thing. I think that makes a lot of sense.

ND: What makes your Pack different from regular wolf shifters one encounters in fiction?

ALB: I think my Pack differs from most wolf shifters in fiction today in several ways.

In order to shift, they need to have sex and then the window to shift is 24 to 48 hours. They can’t just shift whenever they want.

Packs are loosely ordered and instead of an Alpha pair that rules the rest of the pack for years until death or a takeover, reproduction is the main reason to become Alpha. Only the Alpha female can have a baby in a pack, so the Alpha status changes more frequently than in other books.

I don’t have betas or omegas, my shifters don’t have super strength, although their senses are elevated.
Packs are pretty autonomous. There are Regional Councils made up of members of local packs and these positions are like the Supreme Court, once appointed, they are on it for life unless they resign or move up to the Great Council, which oversees all the Regional Councils and the Great Pack in general.

While they believe the lead their lives with minimum interaction with Others, in fact, they are pretty integrated. They have day jobs. They own houses. They pay taxes (well, some of them). They lead pretty normal lives. Yet they have very close bonds and ties within their packs and it’s more than just friendship and lovers, it’s a loyalty to the pack and to the Great Pack. They rarely leave their packs to live life as “loners” even though many of their life choices are dictated to them by the packs.

For instance, they can only attend college, even public school in general, if the Alphas allow. They contribute a decent amount of the money they earn to the pack for use by all. As I’ve mentioned, they can’t even plan families unless they become Alphas. Most of them never question this because their loyalty and devotion levels are so high.

Another crucial difference: Others can never become Pack because being bitten by someone Pack does not turn them into a shifter.

Also, I think their wolves are fairly different than most shifter novels. There is a theme of self-awareness that runs through my novels. Stanzie looks at her wolf as a different entity from herself although others will say their wolves are their shadow selves, or a different aspect. They can think and reason, but they are not simply the human shifter in wolf form.

My shifters are not as violent and aggressive as many I’ve read about. They definitely have their politics and their rivalries and in-fighting, but they settle disputes with the help of the Councils versus staging duels or fighting for dominance.

I think of them as a small sub-culture co-existing with the rest of mankind. They have their own customs and rules, but they blend in so well with mainstream civilization no one suspects they are there.

ND: What was the most difficult scene for you to write (without giving spoilers)?

ALB: There’s one scene between Liam and Constance that becomes a little violent. It was very difficult to write because I’ve emphasized that people in the Pack don’t generally resort to violence. I thought I might be treading a fine line between dramatic tension and domestic violence and I very much did not want to fall on the wrong side of that line. I guess reader feedback will let me know if I succeeded or not.

ND: What can readers expect from Scratch the Surface?

ALB: An exploration of obsession. Many of the characters come face to face to the objects of their obsession in this novel. How do they handle either getting what they thought they wanted or being thwarted in their desires?  How far will they go?

Here’s an excerpt I hope you’ll find entertaining!


 “You were acting as the Hand of the Great Council,” Allerton explained to me.

“I heard all this upstairs from Councilor Manning. You can make it sound as flowery and noble as you like, but it doesn’t change the fact I killed him.”

“It’s our law. It’s our way.” Allerton sighed and set aside his book. He picked up his wine glass and walked toward me. I had nowhere to go--my back was literally against the wall.

“You accepted the task, Constance.” His handsome face loomed closer and closer until I felt trapped and wanted to hit out and scream, but instead I took another big sip of wine.

“He said he was grateful that he got to die with someone he loved. Can you believe that shit?” I muttered, swiping my free hand across my eyes. They burned with tears but I did not want to cry. I so did not want to cry.

 “You were compassionate, Stanzie,” said Allerton and that did it. I had not been compassionate, I’d been awful and paralyzed and accusatory and bitter and mean and, shit, the man had killed Grey and Elena. He’d been lucky I hadn’t torn him apart with my fingernails.

I burst into ugly tears. Allerton took my wine glass away and put it somewhere. The next thing I knew he was holding me, his arms strong and supportive around me while I wailed into his shoulder.


Here’s where you can buy my book:  Scratch the Surface at Lyrical Press 
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Monday, April 23, 2012

Ray Garton drops by

Probably what I appreciate the most about Ray Garton is his way with words, and that's exactly why I'm suitably piqued to go read his novels after I first encountered him having his say on his blog. Today I welcome this very prolific author to my world.

ND: You're one of the rare breed who boasts being a full-time writer. This is no mean feat. What does your day entail and what sort of writing puts bread on the table and a roof over your head?

RG: I know a lot of writers say they have a schedule they stick to each day, and I'm sure a lot of them do, but I've been writing my whole life, long before I ever sold anything, ever since I was a little kid, and writing has always been such a basic part of my life that I've never had to set up a schedule to follow.

If I don't write every day for a little while, I start getting awfully cranky. Back in the '80s, Stephen King was asked what his writing schedule was like, and he answered by saying he wrote X number of hours every day except on a few holidays and his birthday. Decades later, he said that answer was bullshit, that he wrote when it came, and it didn't always come, and sometimes when it did come, it wasn't very good. That sounds a lot more authentic to me. Full-time writers don't have time to indulge in things like "writer's block" for extended periods of time, but there are days when the writing is easier than others, and some when it's harder than others.

These days, I divide my time between writing and self-promotion, something I've never been terribly comfortable with or good at, but I've gotten better in recent years. I was out of commission for the better part of a decade (from 1999 almost to 2008) with a bad hip that required a few operations and endless medical procedures. When I came out of that, I found that publishing was not the same business I'd entered back in the 1980s, and I've been adjusting ever since.

For the past year, I've been doing a little of everything. I'm working on a new novel, but I've also sold a lot of short stories and novellas. I have a new collection coming out called Wailing and Gnashing of Teeth, a book of horror stories about religion. My novella Threesome was published last year, and I have a new novella coming later this year called Dereliction, which is kind of a departure for me --- I suppose it qualifies as horror, but it's not the kind I typically write because it has none of the usual violence or sex and is much more emotional and psychological.

ND: 60 novels and novellas. Can you tell us a little about your chosen genres? The road to getting published... Was it bumpy? Which route did you follow?

RG: I think I'm up to 63 now, or something like that. I've had a unique experience in publishing in that getting published was really quite easy. Staying published hasn't always been a breeze, though. I was spoiled in the beginning, I think. In 1983, I found an agent who showed some interest in my work. I sent him a few stories, but he said he couldn't sell stories very easily--did I have a novel he could see? I told him I was halfway through a novel and would send it to him as soon as it was finished. I lied.

I did not have a book in the works at the time, and none of the novels I'd written up to that point were good enough to show to anyone. I had to come up with something new. The result was a horror novel called Seductions, which I wrote quickly, in a matter of weeks. I sent it to the agent, he said it was pretty good and he'd shop it around. That was during the horror boom of the 1980s, when publishers were snatching up all the horror they could find. A few weeks later, he called and told me he'd sold the novel and it would be published the following year.

I was 20 at the time. I stupidly thought to myself, I've found my career. This is what I'll do with my life. And I never looked back . That was not a wise decision. I had dropped out of college the year before and all I knew how to do was write, because I'd been doing it my whole life. So the reason I write full time is that I can't do anything else! It's been really tough at times, with plenty of dry spells. I never expected to get rich, and I haven't. But I still love what I do and consider myself enormously fortunate. I was in the right place at the right time in 1983--something that plays a much bigger role in our lives than we care to admit, I think. I wrote horror fiction at a time when it was terribly popular, and that got me in. And since then, I've simply refused to go away.

In addition to horror novels, I've written some more mainstream thrillers (Trade Secrets, Sex and Violence in Hollywood, Loveless, Murder was My Alibi, and my most recent novels, Trailer Park Noir and Meds), several short story collections (Methods of Madness, Pieces of Hate, Slivers of Bone, The Girl in the Basement and Other Stories, The Disappeared and Other Stories, etc.) and in the 1990s, I wrote a number of young adult novels under the name Joseph Locke (Kill the Teacher's Pet, Petrified, Game Over, Vengeance, etc.).

I was afraid if I used my real name, the young readers for whom my YA novels were intended might seek out my other books, which definitely aren't for young readers, so I decided to use a pen name. I've also written a number of movie novelizations (Invaders from Mars, Warlock, Can't Hardly Wait, etc.) and TV tie-ins for young adults and children (Sabrina the Teenage Witch, The Secret World of Alex Mack, Buffy the Vampire Slayer).

And I wrote one book that was published as nonfiction called In A Dark Place: The Story of A True Haunting, which covers the story that later became known as The Haunting in Connecticut. But it wasn't nonfiction, it was all a very cynical hoax and I was told to make it up. Don't believe everything you read. In fact, don't believe anything, period, unless you can check it out yourself.

ND: If someone approached you out of the blue and asked you to recommend three of your works that best represent you, which would they be and why?

RG: I would recommend my 1987 novel Live Girls, which is still my most famous. It's an erotic vampire novel that doesn't bear any resemblance to what vampires have become in fiction these days (it was followed by a sequel, Night Life, in 2005). I think it represents a lot of what I've tried to do in the horror genre, which is blend some of the traditional aspects of the genre--like vampires--with a more modern sensibility that's very urban, sexually charged and a rather twisted sense of humor.

I would also recommend my darkly comic thriller, Sex and Violence in Hollywood, which is my personal favorite of all my work. I always wanted to be a writer, but as a boy, I wanted to be a comedy writer when I grew up. Somehow, I ended up being primarily a horror writer. When I told that to stand-up comic Emo Philips, he said, "Thank you for taking comedy writing to its logical conclusion!" Sex and Violence in Hollywood gave me a chance to cut loose a little and be funny--but it's a dark funny. It also gave me a chance to write about movies, which I love.

Thirdly, I would recommend something that's representative of the directions I'm taking now--like my latest novel Meds, a thriller, or my upcoming novella Dereliction.

ND: Some sound advice for those who dream to be full-time writers? With the explosion in social media, what in your mind are the more effective ways in which authors can promote themselves?

RG: The best advice I could give would be to approach it realistically. It's okay to work toward writing full-time as a goal, but don't just fall face-first into it the way I did. Get an education, have another field in which you can work successfully, something that will provide a steady income. With that, work toward writing full time. I honestly wish I had done that. Don't do as I do, dammit, do as I say!

I'm still learning how to promote myself, but I've learned quite a bit. A lot of writers throw themselves into self-promotion and kind of become promotion machines. That's all they do. That's fine, but I don't think it's enough. If all you do is promote your book, people are going to get tired of it. I think it's important to show readers that there's a person behind what you write.

Make yourself as accessible as possible to your readers and don't be afraid to be yourself. I was afraid of that. I couldn't imagine doing nothing but promoting myself online, but at the same time, I couldn't imagine that anyone would have any interest in anything I'd have to say, or in me personally.

That was wrong. I've found that readers love interacting with the writers they read, and I think they enjoy it when they find out who that person is. I've set aside a little time each day, for example, to interact with people on my Facebook page. When I finally started a Facebook account and started posting, I was kind of surprised that so many people had been reading my work!

Locked up in an office writing for so much of my life, it's easy to forget that people read the work, as silly as that might sound. Not only has the internet allowed me to connect with readers, I've attracted a lot of new readers, and I've met some wonderful people. Some of my readers have become "real life" friends.

Use every tool the internet provides. Social networks, blogs, anything you can find. Get a decent website. I waited a long time on that, but I have one now:

A writer should never say no to an interview (or, for that matter, to free food). Watch out for trendy traps. Book trailers have been popular for a while, but I've found no evidence that they help sell books, and keep in mind that a trailer is not going to appeal toeveryone, no matter how good it is, and will even turn some people off--people who very well may have liked your book had they read it.

You want to succeed (or fail, as the case may be) based on how good your book is, not your book trailer. Book trailers don't seem to be as popular now as they were for a while, but some other trendy form of self-promotion will come along, followed by another. I'm not saying trailers don't work at all, but I don't think they've lived up to the hype that's surrounded them.

If you write for free to get started, expect to write for free for the rest of your life. As the old saying goes, nobody's going to buy the cow if they can get the milk for free. If you don't think your work is worth payment, neither will anyone else. I just wrote a blog about that, in fact.

ND: Are there any of your current projects you'd care to spill the beans about?

RG: Just the usual--a new novel, a thriller in the same vein as Sex and Violence in Hollywood. I do hope everyone will check out my latest novels, Meds and Trailer Park Noir. Meds is a book that sprang from a personal experience of mine, and what I learned while researching it has made me approach my own healthcare very differently. I wrote a blog about the story behind the book.

Both novels are available from E-Reads, my current publisher. They're releasing much of my backlist as well as publishing my new work. Like all my other titles, it's available as a trade paperback, or for Kindle from Amazon, for Nook from Barnes and Noble, and it's available in several ebook formats from

In short:
Design your ultimate killer milkshake
Chocolate, chocolate, and more chocolate. Dark, darker and darkest.

What song would you put on repeat and sing along with loudly when you think no one's listening?
Frank Sinatra's recording of New York, New York.

Dream holiday destination?

If you weren't a writer, what would you do?
I would probably be something that's just as financially insecure as a writer--like a stand-up comic, or something.

Your all-time favourite movie?
It's a toss-up between Citizen Kane and The Wizard of Oz.

* * * *

Follow Ray Garton on Twitter, check out his website, follow his blog or Facebook.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Welcome to Cristal Ryder

Today I welcome Cristal Ryder, one of my fellow Lyrical Press authors, for a little Q&A. Welcome Cristal, and thank you for stopping by!

ND: Being Bound and Being Ariana have a venue that is central to both stories--the Black Phantom. Can you tell us more about this club?
CR: Black Phantom is a club that allows you to express your innermost desires, either by performing in front of a audience, or watching the performance. Back rooms are also available to take activities behind closed doors.

ND: How much research goes into creating your characters and setting? How do you bring across that ring of authenticity?

CR: Most of it was imagination. But I did talk to someone that lives the lifestyle so I could bring reality to the scene at the end of Being Bound and for a few other scenes in the book like the taxi ride and what Heather wears. There is a website I visit that gives me great ideas for clothing.

ND: Is there a favourite scene for each of these stories you'd care to share? Something that is pivotal to the main characters in each?

CR: In Being Ariana I think my favourite is when Ellie meets Rourke in real life and of course the last scene in Being Bound. No spoilers here!

ND: Which, of these two stories, had the most difficult scene to write, and why?

CR: I think it was the last scene in Being Bound. It had Rourke's POV and I'm not a guy so it was a challenge to bring his feelings forward realistically. To accomplish this I spoke with my guy :) to get his take on it and he gave some amazing insight.

ND: The temptation to slip a few real-life scenarios into a novel is always there for most authors. Are there any scenes from your own experience that you've reworked into your tales?

CR: Shhhhh :) I try to bring in feelings - like how would I feel if it were me. Actaully, what I will say is I'm writing an erotic horror right now that is based on actual events. Something I experienced years ago and it was very freaky.

In short:
Your favourite erotic read - Wow, so many. But It had to be my critique partner's 2nd book in her new line at Ellora's Cave. I believe the title will be Stone-Hard Love (not 100% sure) It had some HOT loving between and ogre and a Jinn.
Your sexiest song - quite a few. I used Leave Your Hat on in No Fantasy Required, when Kelly danced for Brian and Tauni.
Devilishly seductive food - this has me stumped. You can do so much with melted chocolate. And almost anything goes with wine.
Your dream location for a seduction - either a snowy mountain cabin ( like in my next EC release Elemental Heat) or a tropical lagoon, ringed in white sand and palm trees.
Your favourite perfume - I don't wear perfume but I adore Victoria's Secret Love Spell lotion.
Find Cristal at:
twitter @cristalryder
facebook Cristal Ryder


Tuesday, April 17, 2012

#Review: Giving up the Ghost by Melissa Ecker

Title: Giving up the Ghost
Author: Melissa Ecker
Publisher: Turquoise Morning Press

Fans of light paranormal romance should keep an eye out for Melissa Ecker. In Giving up the Ghost, she brings readers a warm and engaging tale about transcending deep, personal loss and finding love, despite great evil.

Kylie and Jackson have the kind of marriage one can dream of, and a beautiful daughter, Abby. A bright future lies ahead of them, or so it seems. A tragic accident changes all of that in a heartbeat, and Kylie finds herself in the unenviable position of widow and single mother.

All is not lost, however. Kylie has the support of her loving family, as well as Jackson’s best friend, Ryan, who steps into the breach. He’s never settled down and it’s while he spends time with Kylie and Abby, that he grows into the realisation that he wants more than just friendship, and that fatherhood appeals to him.

Unfortunately Kylie’s grief is still fresh, and her love for Jackson threatens to turn into an obsession as she hangs onto his memories. Symbols of this include his wedding ring, which she wears on a chain around her neck, or the fact that she goes to bed wearing one of his sweatshirts.

This fixation on her lost husband offers a malignant spirit—an incubus—the opportunity to latch onto Kylie and feed off her vitality. At first she welcomes this intrusion, confusing it with her husband’s spirit, but its presence in her life soon displays a darker side. Kylie begins to weaken physically and emotionally, and cut herself off from the ones closest to her.

In order to recover Kylie literally needs to give up the ghost that’s haunting her, and it’s touching to view her transformation from grief-stricken widow, into a radiant, confident woman, despite the grave danger in which she’s placed.

Stylistically I had a few quibbles with regard to the editing, which could have called for better layering and a tighter pace. Certain key scenes were a bit too short while others could have benefited from trimming, especially near the end where some of the tension could have been ratcheted up. I had some issues with regard to motivations, in that I felt Kylie’s and Ryan’s acceptance of supernatural events was a bit too convenient, but this did not detract much from my overall enjoyment of the novel.

Giving up the Ghost is, on the whole, a satisfying read within its genre, and if I had to highlight my favourite scene, it’s definitely the one where Kylie and Ryan make love out in the woods while it’s raining—incredibly sensual.

Monday, April 16, 2012

SA Partridge swings by...

Many South African readers are already well acquainted with SA Partridge, who writes edgy and somewhat dark YA fiction. Her novels, The Goblet Club, Fuse and Dark Poppy's Demise deal with a range of subjects, from premeditated murder and bullying, to stalking.

So, without further ado, welcome to Ms Partridge!

ND: You write stories for teens/young adults. How do you stay current with the trends that are popular? Especially when it comes to issues that are pertinent to youngsters.

SP: I spend an inordinate amount of time online, trawling Tumblr and Twitter and also Goodreads, so I’m pretty in tune with the current YA trends, and what people are reading. I also use the opportunity of school visits to pick the brains of the students to find out what’s hot on their radar. When it comes to writing about issues, it’s tricky as most are done to death. I tend to focus more on plot and worry about the rest later. That said, I’m keen to see race and homosexuality tackled more in YA. I recently finished Death of a Saint, the second in Lily Herne’s Mall Rats series, which features a young lesbian as one its protagonists. It was really refreshing to read and a brave step on the author’s part.

ND: How do some of the issues you faced as a teen compare to what youngsters experience now?

SP: Well everyone comes with their own baggage. My experience as a teenage outcast is my own history. Everybody’s is different. Part of being a writer is putting yourself in other people’s shoes and anticipating how you would react to different situations. Also, if you’re writing about a sensitive subject its best to spend some time with someone who’s been there, so you’re doing their experience justice, rather than merely assuming.

ND: Are there any present issues that jump out now that you feel could/should be treated in literature?

SP: As I mentioned above, racial identity is an important topic for YA. I would love to read the account of a young Muslim growing up in present day America or anywhere for that matter. Homosexuality is another as is women’s rights and what that means to some girls growing up in country’s where those rights are not guaranteed. I’m currently obsessed with the idea of identity so anything that ties in with that is something that I would like to read about.

ND: Your most recent work, Dark Poppy's Demise, engages the idea of stalking. How far did you go with the research with this? Any behind-the-scenes sharing you're willing to do?

SP: A lot of people ask me that. The book is partly autobiographical, but mostly fictional. I have had a relationship with someone I met online, so writing about a young girl falling in love with someone via Chat wasn’t hard at all. I’ve made some very good friends online, but not all the encounters were pleasant so I have experience of both. I interviewed someone who was the victim of stalking, which was an eye opener for me, as I didn’t know how harrowing it actually is.

ND: Your characters--what do you do to imbue them with the breath of life? What makes them real people to you?

SP: As crazy as this sounds, seeing them as real people helps a lot. Make lists of their likes, their dislikes, what amuses them, what are their defining characteristics, what their friends like about them etc. Imagine them doing stupid things like going shopping and writing down all the things that they do that makes them unique. Imagine them having a conversation. What do they sound like, what do they look like when they laugh, what slang do they use? You can’t convince anyone that they’re real unless they are.

ND: Care to spill the beans on any future projects?

SP: I am currently revising a manuscript that is sitting with my agent, another is sitting with my South African publisher that I’m keen to maybe add another 20 or so thousand on. Both are set in the here and now as I believe the very worst horror is the horror of real life. I have no idea if and when anything is going to be published. The revision process takes time and I’d rather not release something into the world until it’s the very best it can be.

In short:
What are you reading?
Tooth and Nail by Jennifer Safrey
Current favourite musician?
Jack White
Best eatery in your home town?
When I eat out it’s for mostly ice cream so Haagen Das or Sinful
What film are you dying to see?
Dark Shadows
Where do you want to go on holiday this year?

My blog


Thursday, April 12, 2012

But it’s my last one…

When Carrie and I wrote Blood and Fire (our Crooked Fang and Inkarna mash-up) we had originally intended to bring the title out on our own, as a treat to our readers before the release of the two solo novels featuring Carrie’s vampire, Xan Marcelles, and my Inkarna, Ashton Kennedy.

When the chance came to release via Dark Continents Publishing’s Tales of Darkness and Dismay collection, we grabbed it with both hands. By that time, however, we’d already commissioned cover art created by the very talented Daniël Hugo. Based in Cape Town, South Africa, he is known for his comic-book illustrations, and has worked on numerous projects, including a movie poster for the award-winning indie film, Regression by BlackMilk Productions.

We were (and still are) so over the moon with the final results that we had 10 full-colour, limited-edition prints made of the cover before we had the typography added by Dr-Benway (also a stunning artist, go check out his work). We got Daniël to sign and stamp these and, would you know, I have one left (without typography on it).

One, which I will give away to one lucky sod who mails me at nerinedorman (at) gmail (dot) come to tell me who the two characters are in the illustration. (Put “Xan and Ash pic” in the subject line.)

So, here’s your chance to own a piece of memorabilia that will look absolutely fabulous in a nice frame. Plus it’s signed and stamped. And it’s the last bleeding one. You know you want it. And I don’t mind mailing it to the Outer Reaches of Mongolia, either.

Then follow Carrie and me on Twitter @CarrieClevenger and @nerinedorman
If you want to score even more brownie points, go like Crooked Fang on Facebook and my author page too, while you’re at it.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

#Review: Across the Way by Lux Zakari

Title: Across the Way
Author: Lux Zakari
Publisher: Smashwords edition

Under normal circumstances, Sam probably would never have danced around her apartment in her underwear, but too much cranberry schnapps leads to her moment of indiscretion, and her discovery of the young man she affectionately names The Boy. And so begins her obsession, if not an addiction. Sam soon spends more time spying on and taking photos of The Boy than going out, and lives herself entirely in his world to the detriment of her own, up until such time that their paths eventually do cross.

Of course how does one explain incriminating evidence once the cards are on the table? Sam as a character is self-aware in that she knows her behaviour isn’t healthy, but she can’t help herself and in that Zakari salvages what could be quite a creepy story of stalking if not so sensitively handled.

Sam could be any one of us, and I can safely say very few of us haven’t experienced unrequited love. To a degree there is some sadness to Across the Way if one considers how modern city living isolates people and often makes it difficult for us to meet new people. Or indeed to reach out to them. Isolation is a big theme in this story.

My verdict: if you’d like a small taste of what Zakari is capable of before you commit to one of her longer works, give Across the Way a try. She writes the kind of erotica I like to label as “hot writing for chicks who like to think”. The characters are not larger-than-life as one would find in standard romance and erotica examples. They’re real, three-dimensional people in what feels like authentic situations. She doesn’t fall into the trap of hyper-reality, and therefore leaves readers feeling that they too, have had a voyeuristic peek into the lives of others.

Her story-telling leaves me thoroughly satisfied, and Zakari’s characterisation lets me feel as though for a short while I visited in others’ lives, and for a brief time shared in their loves and losses.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

A Little Doom, Anyone?

Today I welcome Malcolm Burger to my world to chat about his latest event, Symphonaire Infernus. For those of you who move around in the South African metal scene he'll be no stranger. He runs a blog--The Monster from the Blog--but he's played in a few bands and he's also known for arranging charity events.

Tell us a bit more about your event. Why doom metal? And to the uninitiated, what sets doom apart from regular metal?

Symphonaire Infernus is a little bit of a sinful indulgence on our part. The League of Doom is a small group of like minded Doom Metal aficionados that formed in order to preserve and grow interest in a very marginalised sub genre. As most of the members are musicians we decided it would be fun to pay homage in the form of a live show to those bands we hold dear, and to share it with anyone else who is interested. Doom Metal is a slower, more ornate form of regular metal that grew our of the early 90s death metal when bands like My Dying Bride and Paradise Lost started adding instruments like violins, pianos and other more classical instruments. The use of pseudo-operatic female vocals also lent an extra air of beauty to the style. The genre is typified by the use of a more poetic lyric as well.

You used to play in a band called Grämlich and had quite a following. Are there any projects you're currently involved in?

Yes, along with some of the musicians involved in Symphonaire Infernus, an original Doom Metal band is pretty much up and running. Called Ashes At My Grave, we have written approximately 16 songs and are currently working on lyrics and production. Similarly, other bands I’m involved in include Goth/Rock/Metal outfit, SubVerS and an Industrial band known as Axxon. Members of The League Of Doom are involved in all of these.

Which bands are you paying tribute to? Any particular favourite songs?

It’s kind of a secret for now, but it’s not the most difficult thing in the world to work out... We’re posting a cryptic clue per title on the event’s Facebook page. See if you’re up to the challenge!

Type O Negative fans will be remembering the late Peter Steele on April 14. Did you pick this date on purpose?

Yes, very much so. We may even have a nice little surprise for you all...

What's the outlook for the metal scene in SA? Are things looking up? Are there local bands you recommend?

Rosy! There are a lot of quality bands working hard and doing well. Institutions like Metal4Africa are doing wonders for the local metal scene. Personal favourites of mine would include A Walk With The Wicked, Warinsane, Bulletscript, Cold Hand Chemistry and, of course, the ever popular Mind Assault. And many more.

Details: 14th April 14, @ ROAR – Free entry (Cape Town)

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

#Review: Incident at Hawk's Hill

Author: Allan W Eckert
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 1995

Allan W Eckert plunges readers into times gone by in the Canadian prairie with this story about a young boy, Ben MacDonald, whose uncanny ability to empathise with animals results in him forming a strong bond with a female badger. Smaller than most children his age, Ben also has issues communicating with other people. The fact that his parents live on an isolated farm doesn’t help either, and the child spends many hours on his own, following animals around and mimicking them—often with uncanny precision.

William MacDonald doesn’t understand his son, and this leads to most of the tension in the family. Considering the time period in which the novel is set, these concerns of William are quite valid in a society where being “different” can cause problems. In addition, the MacDonald family have a new neighbour, George Burton, a ne’er-do-well trapper who’s decided to try out farming instead. Ben and Burton are guaranteed to come into conflict.

And problems soon arise when Burton gains permission to set traps on the MacDonald farm. At this time, Ben has his first encounter with a large badger sow, but it is her mate who is caught and killed by Burton, who then sets another trap when he realises there is another badger in the vicinity.

On one level this is a story about a boy who survives in the wild for two months thanks to his unique bond with a badger. On another, it is also an examination of empathy. It’s Ben’s sensitivity which ironically creates barriers between him and his family, and it’s only once his family look beyond their comfort zones that they begin to understand their troubled brother and son.

Burton remains the outsider. I did feel that Eckert’s treatment of his personality to be a bit stereotypical: the dirty, callous brute who traps and kills beautiful wild animals in a most cruel fashion. While it is true that nature is red in tooth and claw, I felt just ever so slightly manipulated into hating Burton, as though the author had an agenda. And, while I don’t agree with trapping animals for their fur, I nonetheless didn’t really like having the author play to emotions to that degree.

Nevertheless, there’s a reason why Eckert is considered a master storyteller. He is a keen observer of man and nature, and his gift for narrative description is second to none. If you’re looking for a book to gift a young reader (or a reader who’s young at heart) who’s interested in the natural world, Incident at Hawk’s Hill will be spellbinding.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Sandra Sookoo's Cairo Nights

ND: A very big welcome to a regular here on my blog, Sandra Sookoo, who's got quite a number of releases under her belt!

SS: Thank you for having me on your blog today!

ND: Egypt is one of my favourite topics. What made you decide on this as a setting and how did you go about picking the era? Were there any specific resources you found especially useful?

SS: Well, Egypt has always been an interest of mine since an early age. Since I haven’t yet visited this location, I thought writing about it was the next best thing. And yes, a lot of research was involved before penning the first word in the story. I set Cairo Nights in the late 1880s because it’s a grand time in history around the world when everyone is sitting on the cusp of great things. I did heavy research on the hotel featured in the story, the tombs, the area, etc. In a few places, a sprinkling of creative license was taken to make things “gel” a bit better.

ND: Which historical sites did you feature in the story?

SS: I featured the pyramids, of course, since those are what people think of when they think of Egypt. The Great Pyramid comes into play in a couple of scenes, along with one of the lesser or minor pyramids you can no longer access in modern times. I could have written about the wonders of Egypt forever, and I may come back and revisit the country for a future story.

ND: You've got a fascinating clash of motivations happening for your main characters. How does the conflict affect their fascination with each other?

SS: Well, Joy’s a mix of motivation. She’s the daughter of a zealous missionary, but she’s seen how that fervor affected her parents’ relationship. While she wants to find love, she can’t let herself trust. Of course, there’s a huge reason she feels so passionately about Cairo’s children, but I’m not giving that secret away. When Quinn comes swaggering along, with nothing more than wanting to make money, her ire’s up. All of this works together and as the layers peel away while the story unfolds, you find these two characters are more like real life than you’d want to admit. Life goes on after tragedy or setbacks and you have to take happiness when it comes.

ND: What was your favourite scene to write? And your most difficult?

SS: My favorite scene? Hmm, that’s a hard one. I’d say the first time we see Joy in one of the tombs. I can very well image what it felt like to be in that windowless place with the dust of ages stirring in the air. My most difficult scene? Also hard, but I’d say the climactic scene where Joy comes clean and reveals her most painful truth to Quinn. Again, I can’t give it away…

Excerpt from opening of the book:

A fine pink haze settled over the Giza plateau, softening the late afternoon sun’s glare. The majestic pyramids sat stately and eternal in the near distance, symbols of power, authority and mystery for centuries, their dun colored bricks a stark contrast to the robin’s egg blue of the sky. The black shapes of tourists milled about the pyramids’ base. She could only hope this batch would be respectful and leave the natural wonder as they found it. Below, the jovial chatter of the Mena House gardeners reached her ears and brought a smile to her lips. Egypt, in all its many facets, never ceased to be a source of amazement.
Perfection. Glorious. Humbling.

Joy Debinham leaned out farther over the railing. Her gaze fell on a tall man, his long legs encased in khaki trousers. The sleeves of his white work shirt were rolled to his elbows revealing deeply tanned skin, while brown leather braces crisscrossed his back. As he gestured to his male companion, the fabric pulled taut across a pair of broad shoulders. From her perch on the second floor, she admired his thick black hair, parted on one side, and the wink of the sun on his spectacles. She'd not seen him around the hotel grounds before, but he had potential to be devastating to any female he came into contact with. She couldn't stop a sigh of appreciation from escaping.

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So what about you? Is there an exotic port of call you want to see before you die? Tell me and I might write about it!