I so seriously need to get a less sucky title for this novel, but jawellnofine, I finished the manuscript in the wee hours last night. Mainly in a fit of pique. See the pretty picture? That's all 189 pages printed out and the happy new red pen I bought to do the job. Our plucky griffin, Silas, will undergo the red pen. I'm trying something a little different with this novel and printing out the pages so feel more inclined to edit the living hell out of the manuscript.
Oh, and yeah, I have to have this ready by January 14 since I'll be entering this into ABNA next year. 'Cos that's just the way I roll. Current state of the MS stands at 55 000 words. It will be interesting to see what it's going to look like once I'm done.
Now go forth and add my books to your TBR pile or, even better, leave a review for the ones you've already read and ping me the link on Twitter or Facebook.
Friday, December 28, 2012
Tuesday, December 25, 2012
Title: Alabaster: Wolves
Author: Caitlin R Kiernan
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics, 2013
This is my first encounter with Dancy Flammarion, and possibly the first comic book I’ve read since I last read through the entire The Sandman series by Neil Gaiman. The artwork is well-executed and evokes the disintegrated landscape.
A drifter, Dancy Flammarion holds onto her religious background as a moral compass while she goes about slaying such monsters as she encounters. Much like Joan of Arc, this teenage girl is guided by a vengeful, fiery seraph which may or may not exist as a figment of her imagination.
In Alabaster: Wolves, written by Caitlin R Kiernan and illustrated by Steve Leiber, we join Dancy as she waits for the bus in an abandoned Southern town. Almost immediately she is beset upon by a young girl who’s a lot more than what she appears—and Dancy is pressed into a game of riddles that has dire consequences.
Abandoned by her angelic guide, Dancy must face a great evil, ultimately coming to terms with deeper issues, such as whether she acts on her own will or remains a pawn of others. I’m reminded of the quote of Friedrich Nietzsche: Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.
Who is the real monster? Dancy, or the creatures she kills? Either way, readers will be drawn into a world that hints at yet never full explains darker, blood-drenched mysteries. Not for the fainthearted, Alabastar: Wolves has tantalised me just enough to want to delve further into Kiernan’s creations. If you loved The Sandman, then go pick up this offering. It leaves you feeling somewhat scratchy behind the eyes, and piqued because you feel like you’ve only had a glimpse at a small fragment of the bigger story.
Sunday, December 23, 2012
The Emerald Forge queued up as a soon-to-be read title on my list.
But, over to Manda, who's taking over my blog today...
The Emerald Forge is the second book in the four-volume Pilgrennon’s Children series of technothrillers aimed at the YA age group and above. If I had to compare ideas in The Emerald Forge with other books, I suppose I could call it a near-future portmanteau of The Island of Dr Moreau (HG Wells), The Birds (Daphne Du Maurier), and Frankenstein (Mary Shelley). The book’s central plot is driven by the appearance of animals and alarming artificial creatures coming from somewhere to attack people.
In Pilgrennon’s Beacon Dana succeeded in tracking down her genetic parents, Jananin Blake and Ivor Pilgrennon. Ivor went missing at the end of the first book, whereas Jananin, the unwilling donor of the ovum Dana was conceived from, considered the revenge she’d set out to enact complete, and left to rebuild her life. The series sets the characters’ struggles against a backdrop of political upheaval, so the second book needed to continue Dana’s story as well as progressing this setting.
In The Emerald Forge, a year or two has passed since Pilgrennon’s Beacon. As a result of the events in the first book, democracy as we know it has fallen out of favour and a new form of government has risen to power, the Meritocracy. The Meritocracy is rather a complicated concept and I didn’t want irrelevant explanations forced into the book for the sake of it, so The Emerald Forge I suppose comes across as a sort of introduction to the idea via what’s going on in the background. The gist of it is there is no parliament and no politicians, and every law and matter to be decided upon is voted for by the Electorate, and the results handled by massive interconnected supercomputers called ANTs (Arrays of NeuroTechnology), but — and this is the crucial part — some people’s votes have more weight than others, depending on tiers calculated from their qualifications, how much voluntary tax they pay, and other matters used to determine how much they contribute to society.
Dana has been adopted by the foster parents she was living with in the first book, and in them she has a loving and supportive family. However, she’s still having problems due to bullies at school and puberty, and she has no closure on what happened to Ivor, and lives in hope he might still be alive. Jananin, an eminent scientist and Nobel laureate, has been elected as a Spokesman for the Meritocracy (a Spokesman is a prominent public figure chosen for their judgement and opinions by the Electorate to vote on their behalf at times of national emergency, when there’s not time for a referendum to be held on an urgent matter) and because of this, writings and speeches by her frequently appear on the Internet, television, and radio. This false proximity makes Dana’s relationship with and rejection by Jananin even more difficult for her.
At the start of the book, Dana and a boy are attacked by a construct — half beast, half machine — designed to resemble a wyvern, a creature from mythology. Dana succeeds in defeating the wyvern, and discovers it was being controlled by a remote signal. She needs somewhere safe to hide the wyvern, and tries to contact Jananin, hoping in addition she will get help finding out who made the wyvern and why it was sent to attack her. Unfortunately, this doesn’t go quite as she hopes, and she ends up trying to work out the mystery without Jananin. Dana’s biggest concern is that it was Ivor who made the wyvern and sent it after her, and the thought of this being evidence that he is still alive is worrying to her, although she longs to find out he isn’t dead. Around the same time, she’s also started being troubled by disturbing dreams about someone trapped in an abusive psychiatric hospital. She deduces that the wyvern came from the east, and travels that way to eventually come across an abandoned foundry, the ‘Emerald Forge’ where someone is carrying out very unethical experiments. Dana has to stop what’s going on in the Forge and find out why it is happening.
One of the major themes I’m trying to develop in this series, as it is aimed at young people, is putting across controversial topics and trying to give a balanced perspective. I’m concerned that extremist ideologies tend to target the young, people who don’t have a great deal of experience or theory to defend themselves with. The first book concerned itself in this respect with nanotechnology and genetic engineering. These scientific fields are frequently reviled as being wrong and dangerous by people with no real understanding of what they actually involve. Dana as a character was in an unique position as these technologies are an innate part of her and are the reason for her existing at all. A lot of tension in the book stemmed from Jananin and Ivor’s disagreement over what was unethical and what was permissible for the greater good, and I hope that encouraged readers to research these topics and develop more informed opinions.
In The Emerald Forge, the theme this time is animal experimentation. On the one side are ruthless people who will inflict all manner of suffering on animals that could be avoided, and use them as weapons for their own ends. On the other side are terrorists who think animals are better than humans, and that no person has the right to do anything that affects an animal, including owning pets as well as killing animals to eat or using them to test medicines and surgical procedures on. In the middle are people who want to know their dinner was reared and slaughtered humanely, and people like the police who use dogs and horses to help them do their job, and people who believe some animal testing is necessary for the greater good, as long as the animals are treated humanely. I hope this gets people thinking about aspects of this argument they might not have considered, and encourages people who might have already developed an opinion to perhaps re-examine it.
Significantly to me, The Emerald Forge was published on 12/12/12. This running joke started out with The Weatherman’s Niece on 10/10/10, mainly because the month and the day are the same, so people don’t get confused because of date-writing conventions, which vary internationally. Sadly, this is the last date of this format we’re likely to see in our lifetimes (the next will be 01/01/2101) so the joke ends with The Emerald Forge. As with the first book, I’d originally intended to include bonus material in the electronic version and had an idea for a piece of short fiction, but unfortunately there wasn’t time. The e-edition does have an ‘Easter egg’ not included in the paperback, though, and I may include more bonus material in a later updated edition.
I’m taking a break from this series for now to catch up on some other projects I write under different names. I hope to publish the third book in the Pilgrennon’s Children tetralogy, The Lambton Worm, some time in late 2014 or early 2015.
The first two books of the Pilgrennon’s Children series, Pilgrennon’s Beacon (978-0-9566080-2-4) and The Emerald Forge (978-0-9566080-7-9), are published by Tangentrine Ltd in paperback and electronic format.
What an eventful year. And busy as all hell. Somehow I made it to December without a) defenestrating myself or b) defenestrating other people. Though for some reason it doesn’t feel like it, I’ve had quite a bunch of releases this year.
I kicked off 2012 with a stay in hospital, but that didn’t stop me and Carrie Clevenger from releasing our next collaboration, a novella featuring a mash-up of two of our favourite characters, her Xan Marcelles of Crooked Fang fame, and my Ashton Kennedy from my novel, Inkarna. If you’re looking to dip into both our writing to see what sort of chemistry the two of us can cook up, go check out Blood and Fire. It’s kinda Indiana Jones meets the X-Files.
Not to be outdone, I also had a release of a standalone novella entitled What Sweet Music They Make. It’s a paranormal romance-ish kinda story about a vampire named Severin, who’s chafing at being the cat’s paw for more powerful vampires, and the sweetly sad Tersia whose musical talent hints at her greater potential.
My big release for 2012 was, of course, Inkarna. It was my “heart” novel that I wrote the year before, and is the first in what will most likely be a series of adventures for Ashton Kennedy. In short, I tell folks it’s a story about an ancient Egyptian reincarnation cult in Cape Town, and about returning in the wrong body. Ashton, or Ash, as he’s known, seems to be stealing hearts, and if you’re looking for something that’s a little different as a stocking filler, then do indulge.
Wearing my editor hat, I’ve successfully worked on the third South African HorrorFest Bloody Parchment short story competition and anthology. This year, we had eKhaya, the digital imprint of Random House Struik, come on board for Bloody Parchment: Lost Things, Hidden Things and Other Stories, and are proud to present a selection of tales from all over the world. Here’s a chance to take a peek at some of horror’s fresh voices.
Last but not least, I had the rights of my debut novel, Khepera Rising, return to me. Working with the incredibly talented Daniël Hugo (illustrator) and the super-accurate Donnie Light (designer) I’ve rebooted the first of the series, which is now available electronically (most devices supported, including kindle) and in print. For those who know nothing of Jamie and his doings, here’s a bad-boy black magician and occult bookshop owner who’s everything your mother warned you about. In Khepera Rising he gets his ass handed to him by a bunch of Christo militants.
As for works in progress, I’ve been finalising edits for Camdeboo Nights, my YA urban fantasy novel that releases early next year. It’s one of the earliest novels I wrote, and I reckon it’s about time that it sees the light of day. It spent more than two years on the submission mill, and made it to the quarter finals of one of the ABNAs (I forget which). Then, all I can say about Dawn’s Bright Talons is that it’s on sub. Nothing concrete yet, but then hey, this is how it goes. Lots and lots of waiting.
Manuscripts that are sitting half-done include Khepera in Shadow (#3 of the Books of Khepera), Thanatos (#2 of Those Who Return) and Blackfeather. The latter looks like it’s going to be my next manuscript to see completion. It’s about a (very) chatty griffin who inadvertently sets empire-shattering events in motion. Oh, and it’s about true love. And stuff. If I’m a good little poppet I’ll have it done in time for the 2013 ABNA.
Plans for next year definitely entail trying to finish the aforementioned MSes in progress, and I’ll be looking at rebooting Khepera Redeemed (#2 of the Books of Khepera). As always, these well laid-out plans are subject to change pending chaos. Not to mention that I’ve the Dark Harvest anthology to bring out, and possibly one or two novels I’ll be editing.
I am still available to edit indie authors, so feel free to enquire about my rates at firstname.lastname@example.org. My preferred genres are horror, urban and dark fantasy, but will take on romance and BDSM from time to time. Publishers and authors are welcome to contact me with regard to hosting for blog tours and releases, as well as reviews.
And that’s that… for now. Have a wonderful festive season and if you’re going on holiday, travel safe.
Friday, December 21, 2012
The Taker by Alma Katsu and fell in love with the writing immediately and irrevocably. Katsu hit the mark with lush, evocative prose and dark tragedy. Supernatural elements that were present did not overshadow the narrative... So I'm naturally pleased as punch to have the lady in question visiting here today. Welcome, Alma!
The first thing that went through my mind when I read The Taker were a couple of novels I've enjoyed in the past. Anne Rice's Interview with the Vampire, Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights...
What evoked the spirit of The Taker for you?
I’d say those two stories match up pretty well with what I had in mind. I wanted to write a big, sweeping, tragic Gothic love story. It’s the kind of story I love to read, but it seems (to me anyway) that there aren’t enough of them out there. If anyone’s seen the movie Orlando, directed by Sally Potter—it came out quite a few years ago now—it’s like that movie but with more naughty parts in it. The Taker a dark, star-crossed love story that spans time, where something fantastical and unexplained happens, and as amazing as the fantastical thing is, it still can’t saved this doomed love. And it has a great villain (if I say so myself) so is so drop-dead sexy but dangerous that he’ll make your toes curl.
This is a very telling quote:
Nearly every person who came to know Jonathan tried to possess him. This was his curse, and the curse of every person who loved him. But it was like being in love with the sun: brilliant and intoxicating to be near, but impossible to keep to oneself. It was hopeless to love him and yet it was hopeless not to.
Lanny puts Jonathan up on a pedestal, and I'd be tempted to say he's not deserving of her affections. Tell us a little more about the dynamics between Lanore and Jonathan. It would almost seem as though he's incapable of truly giving of himself to anyone. Lanny's love is more a dark obsession which cripples her.
I got the idea for Jonathan for my experience as a music critic watching women throw themselves at rock stars, many of whom were married. The attention was relentless. The wives were at home with the children, knowing that their husbands were sleeping with groupies on the road. It was a trade-off for the wives: if they wanted to be married to these men, it was something they had to accept. Or get divorced, or abandoned.
That’s Lanny’s dilemma. Jonathan is a rock star of his time and place. He’s the handsomest and richest eligible bachelor in his small hometown. Most women of that time (early 1820s) would understand that marriage to Jonathan would mean accepting that he would have mistresses, but Lanny can’t accept this. Her problem is that she wants Jonathan, but she also wants their relationship to be perfect. She wants to be Jonathan’s complete world, for him to love no one but her, and that’s not going to happen. Before she accepts this, she’s going to try everything in her power to make him hers—and goes all the way into the supernatural.
The story changed a lot over in the ten years it took to write the first book. It changed in some ways to which I’ll never admit! The biggest change, though, happened with Adair. Because of his strong force of will, I saw that there was more to the story. Adair is the one capable of loving Lanny with this fierce passion that she wants—but he’s a monster. He’d have to change for her to be able to love him and for him to be worthy of her love. That’s what we see over The Reckoning and The Descent. Plus we learn what his story really is, where his power really comes from. Hint: he doesn’t even really know himself.
Immortality, as you envision it, is more a curse than a blessing. What are some of the greatest challenges faced by your creations?
Perhaps because I was raised a Catholic, I see immortality as a punishment, where you’re forever chained to your sins, reminded of them yet helpless to change the things you’ve already done. There are several references throughout the books to Marley’s ghost, from A Christmas Carol and that the characters in my books feel like ghosts drifting through the lives of normal people, unable to make them change their destructive ways. They’re unable to inspire others to change their ways because they haven’t been able to, yet. Only Jonathan, at the end of book one, has repented for his sins. He’s become a doctor and tends to the ill in remote places. Because he’s atoned, Lanny can’t refuse him when he comes to her to be released from this life. Of course she’d like him to stay with her forever, but because he’s not the shallow boy she knew and he’s made all these sacrifices, she can’t bring herself to deny him peace.
None of your characters are wholly likable (which in my mind makes me love this story even more). How do you balance out their negative qualities?
First, I think all the characters are people we recognize from real life—even Adair. Jonathan is the boy who is phobic about commitment—maddening when he’s the one you want. Lanny is the girl who wants to be loved, perhaps a little too much. Adair is the bad boy who is caught unawares when he’s loved for the first time.
Too, it helps me to remember that there’s negative and positive in everyone. Nobody is perfect. We all go through phases when we might be more selfish or self-centered than usual. We all have done things that we wish we could take back. What I tried to do was catch the characters in moments of weakness and to dangle temptation in front of their noses, then sit back and see if they make the moral choice. As in real life, in most cases, they don’t and they rationalize why they don’t have to. But it comes back to haunt each of them until they learn their lesson or get their comeuppance.
And now, for the lighter side of the questions:
Which three books do you constantly find yourself recommending others to read?
David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas used to be one but with the movie just out, I don’t think he really needs any more publicity so let me say: Into the Darkest Corner, a debut psychological thriller by Elizabeth Hayes. It’s very well-written but comes with a warning: it’s pretty disturbing. I’m also a fan of Audrey Niffenegger’s Her Fearful Symmetry. I know it wasn’t as beloved as The Time Traveler’s Wife but I thought it was a really interesting, an inventive take on ghost stories. The third would be my perennial favorite, Sandor Marai’s Casanova in Bolzano, probably the ultimate look at love.
Soundtrack or not? Do you find yourself drawn to music when you write?
I listen to music to pump me up for a big, emotional scene or to drown out the background in noisy places. Other than that, I prefer total silence while writing. As for songs, let me say that I turned to Iris by GooGoo Dolls a million times to put me in Lanny’s frame of mind.
Destinations... Are there locations that crop up in your writing that you yourself would love to visit?
That’s the case with almost all the locations in The Taker books, because I haven’t traveled nearly as much as I’d like. St. Petersburg is probably top of the list of places I’d like to do. I’ve been to Hungary but would love to go back. I’ve never been to Morocco even though it’s come up several times in The Taker books. Mongolia—which got cut from The Reckoning—is another place I’d love to travel to. Anywhere on the Silk Road, really.
Visit Alma Katsu's website or sign up on her mailing list. Alternatively, follow her on Facebook or Twitter.
Sunday, December 16, 2012
Inkarna and my very first novel, Khepera Rising. First off, here are the rules for the competition to win the kindle. Please note that the competition is only open to those of you currently residing in the US and Canada (who are 18 and older). Do go check out some of the other blogs, as the authors are giving away lots of cool loot, so even if you don't get the main prize, there's stacks of other goodies to win.
The give-away for the two ecopies is open to anyone anywhere in the world, to the first three entrants, but what you'll need to do is answer a question based on an excerpt from Khepera Rising below, which will appear at the bottom of this post. Then email me the answer at email@example.com (remember to put "Secret Santa" in the subject line).
* * * *
An excerpt from Khepera Rising, where Jamie's being a complete arse-hat, in my opinion.
The Event Horizon is busy by ten-thirty. I make a point of arriving fashionably late and Simon, the car guard, has kept my parking spot just outside the venue.
The venue is a hole. It used to be a sports bar in the late nineties until the Goths took over. They painted the old Victorian structure with its gables and small round tower black with purple highlights. It hulks on the corner of Shortmarket and Long. Outside on any given day, one can find the choppers and Harleys of Lilith’s Dogs, the resident motorcycle club. During the afternoons, students from the assorted colleges hunch over trestle tables, indulging their penchant for bitter weed and draught beer. The walls inside have been painted purple and are plastered with posters depicting Gothdom’s musical heritage where floor-to-ceiling mirrors don’t reflect the faces of the children of the night. Black-and-white faces with teased hair stare with empty eyes. Magical names, like Bauhaus, The Cure, Sisters of Mercy and others, act like talismans, triggering memories for those old enough to remember the bad old days.
Tonight the place already seethes with a press of black-clad bodies. I search faces for someone I know, not knowing exactly whom I’m seeking. A girl looks up from the dance floor and turns my way. She seems familiar. She wears her hair coiled in two tight buns on either side of her head, making me think of a certain Lucasfilm character. I smile. Should I? She couldn’t be older than fifteen. What on earth was Pierre thinking, letting her in?
I don’t catch her name because the music is too loud. As it turns out, she’s eighteen. By then I’ve already changed my mind. We make connections and I figure out she has just discovered Goth and Wicca all in one month. To make matters worse, Katie, one of my adoring kindergoths, seems to have told her more about me than I’d care to have shared in the first place.
She gushes on about how she’s so ecstatic about a course on witchcraft she’s going to do and that Katie said that she could ask me “stuff”. She’ll probably show up at the shop at some point within the next week, adding to my usual gaggle. Some of her questions I answer in what I hope is a polite fashion, but I am just a little concerned when she lets spill how the high priestess of her soon-to-be coven was involved in a hit-and-run accident earlier this week. This so-called “high-priestess” is none other than Mariaan Coetzee, an old—how shall I say it?—acquaintance of mine. Currently she’s going by the name of Gisela Silvermoon and has pretensions of Wiccan grandeur while passing herself off as the local media darling for pagans. The news of her accident shocks me.
On and on the little twit prattles. Her blond roots are showing and she mistakes my smile for genuine interest. Her body is soft. Puppy fat. She probably hasn’t even smoked marijuana, let alone schnarffed a line of coke before. The nose candy is oh-so-trendy for the Goth girls who depart for the bathrooms in little groups of twos or threes. Once I must have been like this, brave, plunging headlong into the subculture.
After buying her another drink, I move away upstairs to a dark niche on the balcony while she goes to check on her makeup. It will be a while before she figures out where I’ve gone.
* * * *
So the question is, what's the club called where Jamie likes to hang out? Email me the answer at firstname.lastname@example.org (remember to put "Secret Santa" in the subject line).
Friday, December 14, 2012
Today I welcome author Pamela Turner, whom I've known for a good number of years now, and turn over my blog to her pen...
This year, I published five short dark fiction stories. Anyone who knows me will tell you I’m influenced by shows like Night Gallery, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Twilight Zone, Thriller, or any of the other anthology suspense shows prevalent in the 1960s and 1970s. Add to that the writings of Shirley Jackson (particularly The Haunting of Hill House and The Lottery), Ray Bradbury, HP Lovecraft, Edgar Allan Poe, Algernon Blackwood, Stephen King, August Derleth, and Robert Arthur, among others, and it becomes clear that dark fiction has had a profound influence on me.
Another reason I write dark fiction is because I’m interested in what makes people embrace the shadow side of their natures. My characters are often obsessed with someone or something, which compels them to do things they might not have otherwise. In “Obsession” (Spells – Ten Tales of Magic), Corinne cannot accept the fact her dead boyfriend had another girlfriend, and decides to use necromancy to find out who he loved more. In “Family Heirloom” (Scared – Ten Tales of Horror), John becomes obsessed with stealing a kris, a weapon said to kill on its own, and soon regrets his decision.
Then there are the characters who are unwitting victims, drawn by fate or circumstance into situations often beyond their control. In “It’s in Your Blood” (Bites – Ten Tales of Vampires), Anna struggles against her true nature as she tries to retain the last vestiges of her humanity. And, in “Family Tradition,” artist Rick Stanton finds himself lured to a house with a sinister past.
I read somewhere that horror stories, like fairy tales, can sometimes take the role of morality plays. If you’ve ever read the original Grimm fairy tales, you know they’re filled with violence, including murder and abuse. Of course, in such stories, evil was punished and good rewarded. In my stories, I sometimes like to be ambiguous, simply because good and evil are not always easily delineated. To give an example of an ambiguous ending, in “Mermaid’s Scar,” a horror manga by Rumiko Takahashi, Masato, an eternally youthful eight-year-old boy, murders people without compunction. Although he’s involved in a fiery crash, one has the uncanny feeling that, after surviving 800+ years, Masato isn’t going to die that easily. And anyone who’s read The Haunting of Hill House probably wonders how many more victims the house will claim.
But why read or write stories with unhappy endings? I know some of my fellow romance writers are probably shaking their heads at me. Real life is replete with misery, why drag it into the fictional world?
My answer is simply this: It’s because that’s who I am. Growing up bullied, and emotionally and physically abused, writing dark fiction is a catharsis, a way for me to confront my demons. Even my first stories, written at age 11, were horror and suspense. In middle school, I read Stephen King, John Saul, Poe, and other authors of the macabre. Maybe I related more to the characters in those books, people struggling against their own demons. And now, years later, although the scars remain, the monsters have been vanquished, sent back into the abyss.
But my love of dark fiction remains.
The Ten Tales anthologies are available from
Barnes and Noble
Family Tradition is available from
Coffee Time Romance (40% off through December)
Family Tradition Blurb
Artist Rick Stanton needs a commission. He faces eviction from his apartment and his latest project is on hiatus. Worse, his muse refuses to cooperate. A recent letter may contain the inspiration he needs. Inside is the photograph of a mysterious woman, her face hidden by an umbrella. But there’s no identification, no way for him to contact her. A month later, another envelope arrives, this time with a phone number. Realizing this may be his last chance, Rick calls her. The woman introduces herself as Elizabeth and tells him she wants him to paint her portrait.
Rick agrees, only to learn there are conditions. Elizabeth is a recluse who lives with her two servants in a Victorian manor. She never allows her face to be seen. Not only must he stay at Elizabeth’s residence while painting her, he can’t leave, nor can he ever tell anyone about the portrait.
Sensing something isn’t right, Rick is even more disturbed by the sinister undercurrent beneath the household’s genteel façade. It’s somehow connected to the family portraits hanging in Elizabeth’s living room. Could they be haunted? And why doesn’t Elizabeth’s housekeeper want Rick to finish the painting?
Family Tradition Excerpt
The housekeeper waited for me in the corridor. “The mistress requests your presence.” She pressed her hand against a panel and a heretofore-unseen door swung outward to reveal a narrow, dark stairwell. I’d no idea if this hidden room was a common feature of Victorian houses, but given Elizabeth’s mysterious photograph, a secret room seemed to fit.
“Through here, sir, and up those steps. The mistress is in the room at the top.”
Hand pressed against the door, I looked up the narrow stairwell. Once the door closed, I’d be in total darkness. I swallowed, apprehension tracing the back of my neck with icy fingers. Not that I was claustrophobic, but the thought of being surrounded by such gloom unnerved me. I turned to the housekeeper. “Don’t suppose you have a light?”
“You’ll be fine.”
What then? I wanted to ask, but the door had already started to swing shut. I made a grab for it. Too late.
I fumbled for an opening, some notch for my fingers to grasp—a knob, latch, anything. Nothing. Not even a light switch.
Inside the passage, the musty odor of old wood and stale air assailed my nostrils. Tattered cobwebs brushed against the top of my head. Had this stairwell ever been aired out? Probably not. I guided my hand along the wall as I edged my toe forward until I touched a riser. I stepped up and repeated the process, counting twenty steps until my hands pressed against what felt like wood. I pushed and whatever was in front of me scraped open.
I recognized Elizabeth’s voice, but her head and face were concealed by a hooded cape.
She stepped past me to close the door. I looked back and bile rose in my throat. Grotesque demons, carved in the wood, glared and leered at me in various stages of agony and bestial ecstasy. What the hell had I gotten myself into?
Author Bio: Pamela Turner drinks too much coffee and wishes she could write perfect first drafts. Writings include reviews, articles, poetry, screenplays, plays, and short fiction. Her 10-minute play “Brides of Deceit” was part of a local performance and “Cemetery” placed second in The Writers Place short/teleplay screenplay competition. Publications include “A Girl Like Alice” (Taproot Literary Review), Death Sword (Lyrical Press), “It’s in Your Blood” (Bites – Ten Tales of Vampires), “Family Heirloom” (Scared – Ten Tales of Horror), “The May Lady Vanishes” (Beltane – Ten Tales of Witchcraft), and “Obsession” (Spells – Ten Tales of Magic). She’s a member of RWA, Sisters in Crime, EPIC, and a supporting member of HWA. Besides coffee, she likes cats, cemeteries, and old abandoned buildings. You can find her at http://pamelaturner.net
Thursday, December 13, 2012
Under normal circumstances, the DH and I *don’t* do music festivals. Beyond the expected glut of inebriated youngsters, dust, excessive UV radiation, lack of civilised ablution facilities and typhoid-inducing food, we’re also not great fans of roughing it in a tent. The list goes on…
But on Saturday, December 1, we were tempted from the comfort of the Treehaus and indulged in a mini road trip to Theewaterskloof Dam to attend part of Synergy. Of course it helped that we had VIP media pass status thanks to the fact that we were, technically, working. (Or at least the DH was – put to work filming Th’Damned Crows perform on the LMG stage early that evening.)
Me? I went along for the ride. It’d been more than a decade since I’d last attended any sort of big live music festival (not since Wingerdstok 1997, if my half-addled brain serves to correctly inform me).
|Very happy to reach Strandfontein intersection...|
But first, the detour…
The southeaster, our wonderful summery prevailing wind, was howling. This meant that half the beach on the False Bay Coast was crawling across our intended route. The result: road closed. The way the husband figured it, we had two options: backtrack up along the M5 north then join the notorious N2 where the two intersect or… Google Maps! Yay! And uncharted territory for us through the Cape Flats.
|The main stage at Synergy|
The logical wifely suggestion was: “Dear, it might be a longer route to go via the M5 but it’s a highway, and we’ll be on the National Road soon enough, and then we can drive like all the demons of hell want to drink our blood quite happily.”
The DH knew better, of course. So in the time that it took us to sit in the traffic *trying* to get into Fifth Avenue from the M5 (where we could already have made it to the N2) we sat in bumper-to-bumper traffic through Grassy Park’s CBD… Then in the detoured traffic trying to get into Strandfontein. A word to those who try the same: the outlying areas outside Strandfontein are still agricultural. They farm onions and cabbage, and fertilise with pig shit (or human shit). Either way, it was 36ºC outside, we didn’t have aircon, and we sat in congested traffic next to these wonderfully fragrant fields… For a long, long time.
|These guys had the greasy food vibe totally pegged|
Anyhoo, we took the scenic route via Grabouw, through apple country and into the Hottentots-Holland mountains. [Cue the soundtrack to the Lord of the Rings films.] Yes. It’s that pretty. Try to contrive a visit here during spring when the orchards are in blossom.
Of course the weather wasn’t really playing along. Though iGoogle lied and said we’d have thunderstorms, the Cape weather said it’d only go halfway, so we had messy, bruised clouds and a howling southeaster which whipped up dust and was hell on my sinuses. Husband and I parked the car and ventured forth, obscenely glad we were not camping because hell, it was broiling hot.
|Theewaterskloof Dam looking suitably gloomy|
Apparently the ablution facilities were aces (which was a big improvement on past festival experiences for me), and there were loads of vendors supplying all manner of culinary treats. The DH and I had calamari burgers from the one, and were impressed by the size of the portions, and also the price (student fare, if you ask me). I noted that the vendor also sold painkillers and coffee (reckon he’d cornered the market). Lots of greasy, greasy food to make up for that morning after the night before, hey.
|The LMG tent with The Dollfins on stage|
I must make mention of my new discovery, The Dollfins, a three-piece female-fronted punk band from Cape Town. I’d love to see them again and was glad to make their acquaintance. They played before Th’Damned Crows and got the crowd all worked up.
|The marketplace... Lots to buy|
|Zoltan, Liam and Ronnie showing some muscle.|
Tuesday, December 11, 2012
Title: Forever Werewolf: Forever Werewolf/Moon Kissed
Author: Michele Hauf
Publisher: Harlequin, 2012
If stock-standard paranormal romance is your kind of thing, then this two-in-one special featuring the writing of Michelle Hauf will most likely be your cuppa joe.
The first novel, Forever Werewolf, is the story of Trystan, whose mixed race means he’s always been considered an outsider among his own kind – werewolves. With a vampire mother, and a half-vamp/werewolf father, Trystan protests a lot that he’s no “longtooth” as his race is wont to name vampire-kind. Enter Alexis, who’s rare for her breed – a female werewolf. Which basically means she and her sister are cosseted to within an inch of their lives, and there’s no way in hell daddy’s going to let her date someone unsuitable.
And due to his heritage, Trystan is very much unsuitable.
Of course the chemistry between the two is undeniable, even though Alexis pulls a spot of tsundere. Throw in a few dark secrets which create minor obstacles for the characters, and a mystery related to solving the illness of the pack leader’s father, and you’ve got the basics for what’s primarily a heated coming together between the two protagonists.
I’d have liked to have seen a little more depth in the world-building with this one. The setting is very much French/Alpine, yet the characters’ names and outlooks are all very much Americanised, which struck me as a little odd, because this was a prime opportunity to add extra dimension with an international flavour.
Moon Kissed brings the werewolf Severo into the up and until then relatively uneventful life of Bella, who’s passionate about dancing. Severo is very much the loner/alpha type, and Bella’s used to living according to her own terms – so to have this overbearing male insert himself into her world is quite an adjustment, to say the least, and a transition that is anything but smooth.
At times I found Severo’s alpha personality a bit too overbearing, and felt that Bella gave in to his attentions a tad bit too easily. [WARNING] Later, some of the sexual encounters went a bridge too far with my sensibilities when it comes to shifted werewolf-on-human intercourse. The fault most likely lies with the reader, but it honestly *did* make me uncomfortable.
If I have to compare the two books, I can see a definite improvement on Hauf’s early writing compared to her newer offering. A concern that I have with both novels, however, is that they’re a bit light on plot development but have to concede for what they are – erotic paranormal romance – that this in all likelihood wouldn’t provide a stumbling block for the target readership. Hauf has populated her world with a large cast of characters and has clearly put a lot of thought into the rules applying to her supernaturals. At times she could do with a bit more developmental editing but overall delivers a perfectly enjoyable paranormal tale for lovers of perennial favourites – vampires and werewolves.
These two landed on my desk this morning and I'm looking forward to cracking them open. Am currently reading The Emerald Atlas by John Stephens, Mark of the Gladiator by Heidi Belleau and Violetta Vane, Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence, and The Pirate Queen Queen Elizabeth I, Her Pirate Adventurers, and the Dawn of Empire by Susan Ronald.
Edit: Oh, I forgot to add that I'm also FINALLY getting round to reading The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley. Yes. Shake your head. I really don't care.
Yes. I know I suffer from OH LOOK BRIGHT-SHINY...
Authors and publishers are more than welcome to approach me to do book reviews (email email@example.com). I post to Amazon, Goodreads and run reviews here on my blog. Occasionally I will review for the Pretoria News, The Star and Cape Argus.
I'm more than happy to conduct author interviews or host you on my blog if you have a new release if your book piques my interest. Preferred genres are fantasy (dark and urban), horror and science fiction, though I do occasionally roam into the realms of erotica and paranormal romance.
Monday, December 10, 2012
While some of you might've heard of Sylvia Shults's The Taming of the Werewolf, I'd like to draw your attention to two of her other works, which might just appeal to those of you who like their fiction a wee bit on the dark side.
Borrowed Flesh: A woman weighed down with the secrets of her past meets the young girl who will teach her to love again. But something inhuman is watching them both...
Being laid off sucks. But now Claire has the time to do her friend Darlene a favor. Darlene's kid, Melody, has been coming home with some pretty wild stories about the Catholic grade school she attends. And when Melody goes missing, Claire knows she needs to be the one to find her.
The demon Araknagoth knows all of Claire's secrets. It knows about her weaknesses. And it knows about her desperate search for Melody.
Borrowed Flesh ... a story of demonic dopplegangers, the dusty shadows and forgotten sins of a repressive Church, and a kidnapped little girl. Open the book, turn the pages, and shiver your way through Borrowed Flesh.
The Dreamwatcher: It all started when they moved...
Ryan Alldred knew that moving several states away from where he'd grown up would be hard.
He had no idea.
He didn't know about the ghosts.
He didn't know about the bloody dreams that would terrorize his twin sister Stephanie.
And he didn't know about the butcher knife ...
But he's going to find out.
Thursday, December 6, 2012
I never get enough of having Amy Lee Burgess over on my blog. While I may no longer be editing at Lyrical Press, I am still more than happy to beta-read Amy's writing, and am so pleased to see how well her The Wolf Within series is doing. Welcome, Amy!
|Amy Lee Burgess|
For centuries the Great Pack has existed hidden in plain sight from the Others, normal humans. The Great Pack, wolf shifters, live in packs both small and large, spread all over the world, but they are careful never to reveal themselves to people who cannot shift.
The Great Council, with the help of Regional Councils, rule the Great Pack and settle territory disputes, interpersonal problems, violence within packs and murder.
Constance Newcastle is a woman who has lost everything – her bond mates and her pack, and yet she is not beaten. She wants to find happiness again even though she is haunted by her past. Stanzie has been on her own for two years of self-imposed exile. Her pack believed she was drunk the night of the car accident that killed her bond mates, but she knows she wasn’t. When the invitation to attend the Great Gathering arrived, she didn’t have to think twice to know she would attend.
Liam Murphy was Alpha of the largest pack in the world, Mac Tire, when his pregnant bond mate fell down an office staircase and died. Consumed by guilt and grief, he left everything behind to grow vegetables in the back garden of a small cottage in Belfast until his former pack mates convinced him to attend the Great Gathering in Paris.
If not for Councilor Jason Allerton, one of the most powerful members of the Great Council, Murphy and Stanzie may never have met, but they did and that fateful meeting set off a series of events that included murder, intrigue, betrayal, conspiracy and maybe even love.
Each novel is a mystery which builds upon events that happened in previous books. Stanzie and Murphy become Jason Allerton’s Advisors and he sends them to investigate missing persons, strange occurrences in small packs, and conspiracy within the Great Pack.
As Stanzie and Murphy learn more about each other, they also come to know themselves.
Stanzie's personal growth has been amazing to watch. We begin with a very withdrawn woman who's reluctant to reach out to others, who faces so much judgment from her peers, to the Stanzie at present, who constantly finds herself in predicaments yet with the strength and resolution to work through it. Was this always your intention, or did you just let her bloom?
I did want to show Stanzie on a journey of self-discovery. She started out as a lonely woman cut off from her friends and family – desperate to belong again and has gradually rebuilt her life with the help her boss, Councilor Jason Allerton, her bond mate, Liam Murphy, and some pretty amazing friends and family she’s either met along the way or has reunited with after a period of estrangement.
One thing I knew I wanted was to make sure that Stanzie never got too bitter about the less than ideal circumstances of her life. I wanted her to always be willing to reach out, even if she got burned. But she’s taken over her own story at this point. I’m finding out new things about her every book in the series. Oh, my God, the shoes. They have taken over.
Stanzie's and Murphy's relationship is, as always, not plain sailing, and in that sense its status always feels a bit ambiguous. As a tension-building device, this is excellent, keeping readers on their toes. Can you shed a little more light here? I gain the sense there's constantly a "happy for now" rather than "happily ever after" in store for Stanzie.
At first I had intended to write about two people who meet after losing the loves of their lives – how would that play out? Could they find love again together? Would the new love be more powerful or not as strong as the firs t time around?
So Murphy and Stanzie have both suffered tragic losses in their past (and along the way in the series) and their love is of the second chance flavor rather than the boy meets girl and live happily ever after sort. I’m not sure I intended their relationship to be quite as ambiguous as it eventually became but that is where their characters led me.
Stanzie has a huge heart and I think she bends over backwards sometimes too much to accommodate Murphy’s insecurities when it comes to relationships.
Stanzie’s backstory with Grey and Elena has evolved so that everyone knows she was blissfully happy with her bond mates and it was rather like a fairy tale they were so happy.
Murphy’s story is darker and more complex and he has secrets about his relationship with Sorcha that Stanzie can’t even imagine. So he’s not as trusting as she is and yet he wants to give Stanzie everything but sometimes he doesn’t know how.
Each book they get a little closer only to have things blow up in their faces. I’m not sure they will ever have a happily ever after, but I hope that each book ends on a positive note, each one becoming a bit stronger and more confident.
We get a much-deeper glimpse into Pack dynamics with Inside Out. Some difficult scenes to write here too, I'm sure. Which scene did you struggle with? And the one that you enjoyed writing the most?
There were a lot of scenes that were difficult to write in this one because Stanzie goes home to her birth pack, Mayflower, to help her cousin Faith, the current Alpha female, figure out what is wrong with the pack. On the surface, the pack is fine, but beneath it is festering with a terrible secret. Stanzie is great at unearthing secrets which generally blow up in her face and sometimes become life threatening. The secret she uncovers in this book is not so much life-threatening, as life-altering. It changes everything.
So it was a difficult book to write because she has to confront her past and dredges up all sorts of old grudges and toxic mental sludge that she tries hard to overcome so she can work in the present. It was difficult to keep her as open and self-honest as I’ve tried to do in the past because she is just so bitter about aspects of her child- and young adulthood and I didn’t want her to come off as petulant child since she is thirty-two years old!
There was a scene I struggled with where Stanzie helps to initiate a young man’s wolf. In her world, people can only shift after they’ve had sex with other Pack members and they can’t shift until after puberty. So there’s a period of time in a young Pack member’s life between the ages of 17 and 20 usually, where an older member of the pack initiates the younger. Sounds sexy but I didn’t necessarily want it to be something only erotic, but also something honorable and sacred. The initiator was usually someone from the same pack who had been like an aunt or uncle or even a brother or sister and that can verge into incestuous if it’s not written right.
So Stanzie is asked to initiate a young man’s wolf. She used to babysit this young man when he was baby and a young child and so there was a delicate line I didn’t want to cross. Now in this novel Stanzie is in her thirties and the young man is twenty-one and they haven’t seen each other in ten years, but it was still a difficult scene to write. The most difficult sex scene I’ve ever written. The Great Pack doesn’t have the same cultural rules as the Others (regular humans) so they’ve been brought up with the notion that aunts and uncles become lovers when people grow up and can shift, and I wanted my readers to go on that journey with Stanzie and Alan and not get weirded out. I hope I succeeded.
The scene where Stanzie decides she will initiate Alan’s wolf is one of my favorites. She initially is against it because of her wolf. (Stanzie’s wolf is not like other Pack wolves. She’s very childish and obsessive – more wild than anyone else’s.) She is heartbroken she can’t help Alan – considering how brave he was to ask her with all the strange things going on in the Mayflower pack – but she turns him down.
The male Alpha of the pack, Scott, tries multiple times to get her agree to do it and offers to be there with his bond mate, Faith, during the actual shifting so that Stanzie’s wolf doesn’t have to guide Alan’s.
Scott Charest is probably my favorite character in this novel and the scene where Stanzie agrees to initiate Alan’s wolf illustrates why. He is a great Alpha and yet he is also vulnerable too. The relationship he develops with Stanzie is one of my favorite plot lines in the book.
Here's your chance to tell readers what other reviewers have said: give us some quotes from reviewers who wax lyrical about your stories.
For Beneath the Skin: Long and Short Reviews says:
Ms. Burgess has written an amazing take on being Pack. From shifting abilities, to their history and even their future, I was captive and intrigued. I was in utter awe of her ability to expand on a well used subject matter and make it all her own. This is her first published novel and all I can say is WOW!! Her storytelling abilities are fantastic, the pace of the book was perfect and her continuity was spot on.
For Scratch the Surface: Night Owl Reviews says:
The way the relationship between Liam and Constance grew throughout the story was done brilliantly as was how they were both able to move forward with their lives and leave behind all of the pain and loss.
For Inside Out: Dark Kiss Reads says:
What amazes me about Amy's writing is the way she tosses in a throwaway remark that almost gets missed and yet proves integral to the story. It’s why her books are such fun to read over and over, still revealing unseen things on second and third readings
Beneath the Skin picks up two years after the accident when Stanzie goes to a Great Gathering in Paris to meet a potential new bond mate and rejoin the Great Pack. An old boyfriend of hers dies during the Great Hunt and suspicion is cast upon Stanzie. Liam Murphy, another Pack shifter with an equally sad past, steps in to defend her. So does a Councilor named Jason Allerton, who asks Stanzie and Murphy to investigate not only the death at the Great Gathering, but other suspicious deaths, which have taken place in packs worldwide.
Scratch the Surface deals with Stanzie coming face to face with her old pack, Riverglow, and what really happened the night of the accident that killed her bond mates.
Hidden in Plain Sight, the third novel, sends Stanzie and Murphy to Vermont to find a missing sixteen year old girl from a pack called Maplefair. The possibility she was abducted by a serial killer adds tension and danger to the investigation.
Inside Out concerns a situation where members of Stanzie’s birth pack, Mayflower, in Massachusetts are acting very strangely and the Alpha, Stanzie’s cousin, Faith, calls Stanzie in to get to the bottom of everything,
Today I hand over my spot to Lee Pletzers, author of a book I'm rather keen to read: Resurrection Child. Thanks for stopping by, Lee, and over to you...
I didn’t set out to write a Cthulhu / Book of Revelation novel involving a neo-Nazi as the lead character.Yet the first sentence in the book was Damon. His role in the book is major, he has many hurdles to overcome and I got to see him as a different type of person. I realised he wasn’t a standard thug and truly believed in his cause. But he was also conflicted and going through a belief change.
Roy has been hearing voices since he first read: The Call of Cthulhu. He read everything he could find on the High priest and The Great Old Ones. In every book, story there was a piece of information the voices told him to write down. In his teenage years he pieced all the pieces of information together and realised he had a plan to bring Cthulhu back to Earth and awaken his slumber in the process. He couldn’t do this alone, he needed people – recruits – to create a group of other believers. But how could he find other believers? The voices taught him the language he needed. Believers would follow him, non-believers would think he was a salesman and walk away.
The above is a break down of the two main characters of this novel that provide the background information and the engine for the book to run fast and smooth towards its terrifying conclusion.
Starting this book I didn’t know what it was going to be. I didn’t know I was going to write a novel either. I was just emerging from a dry spell (moved back to New Zealand, found a job, touring to show my wife the country and discovering stuff myself) where I was either too tired to write or I just couldn’t be arsed doing more than a 6 000 word short story every now and then. During this time I had to read anthology guidelines of what they wanted just to give me an idea and from there I wrote a story, most got published (several didn’t – thankfully). So I wasn’t thinking a novel was going to come shooting forth, yet I did have an idea all on my own. This impressed me and got me excited.
Had the well finally filled back up? Had the muse returned?
Thinking back I recall deciding to write a Cthulhu-based book. I’ve never read HP Lovecraft (I did try as a teenager but the books were boring as fuck) but I have read a lot about him and a few of his movies really excited me (Midnight at Witch House is amazing). I decided to give this Cthulhu story a lot of action. Warring cults, Moles in each organisation and a plan to bring Cthulhu back, this naturally lead me to The Book of Revelation. The Great Red Dragon. All this came to me part way through chapter two. For my plan to work, I had to add a new chapter one. This chapter would not affect the story I had started, in fact, it turned out to be a catalyst for Damon’s later actions.
I added several characters, some were key to the plot, so were stepping stones for Damon’s development and his growth within the story. Hell, if he’s the main character and readers need to want him to succeed, then they have to like him. He started out as a character most people hate and he turned into the hero.
Nearing the end all the storylines converged perfectly and one of the most violent stories I had ever written was completed nine months later.
It took a year to self edit.
It took a year to find a publisher willing to take on such a book.
It took a year from post production to published and released.
What about the re-write, I hear you ask. Well, I don’t re-write. The words I first pen are the words the reader gets to enjoy. I do take note of professional editors comments and may rework a section or two to make it flow smoother but that’s it. Same for my short stories. I have a tale to tell, and I tell it. Simple really. My first draft is my ‘near’ completed draft. I have no outline (I did write one once and it was quite detailed and was a damn good tale, but once the outline was done, the fire to write the story was gone). I sometimes envy people who have five or six outlines fully fleshed out and the fire to pump out book after book, but that’s just not me. I need the fire and the question: What’s coming next? I have no idea. Excite me, my sexy muse, and excite my readers at the same time.
Here’s the ad copy I made for Resurrection Child:
Cthulhu introduced himself to a writer in the eighteenth century, with the full knowledge that more people would investigate the Cthulhu myth and soon a belief would spread. Like a virus it would infect millions as others learned of the old gods and their imprisonment. These writers wove more stories into the minds of millions, until one person discovered the hidden clues in all the stories, pieced together the ‘voices’ and understood what needed to be done.
The Old Ones will return.
Damon Hutter is a neo-Nazi thug going through a belief change. But when he witnesses the seeding of Caroline for the Old Ones, Damon realizes he must protect her from Roy and the rest of the Cthulhu cult in order to correctly bring forth the dawning of a new age: Cthulhu’s birth. Now it’s a race against time, the police, and two warring cults to get to Carol first.
His life change is the will of Cthulhu.
The killings are the will of Cthulhu.
Everything is the will of Cthulhu.
Carol...is the will of Cthulhu.
And the birthing of the Resurrection Child will be available this coming November.
Resurrection Child is currently for sale in eBook format for most eReaders and tablets. You can find the novel at Amazon / Kobo / Drive Thru Fiction / soon at Smashwords, Nook and other places. The paperback, I’m told is planned for release within the next two months, so keep an eye out for it between now and January.
For direct links, please visit my website: http://kobefiction.we.bs and if you want to see the book trailer and hear the freaky music that goes with it, please visit my blog, it’s on the front page. Can’t miss it.
Thanks for taking the time to read this. I look forward to your comments if you have any.
Tuesday, December 4, 2012
Title: The Sea of Wise Insects
Author: Terry Westby-Nunn
Publisher: Jacana Media, 2011
Some would say that Alice Wolfe has been plagued with unusually bad luck throughout her life. After all, she has countless scars thanks to all manner of mishaps. She’s fallen out of trees, tripped over dogs, landed on picket fences, and even lost a finger.
Think of every truly Eina! experience you’ve had, and multiply it by 10, and you have an idea of what this woman has gone through. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that Alice believes she’s cursed.
But things are about to get a whole lot worse for her. The Sea of Wise Insects opens with a terrible accident, only this time it’s not Alice who is hurt.
Instead it is her brother Andrew’s girlfriend, Veronica, and she dies as a result of Andrew’s negligent driving. Alice takes the rap for her brother, which could lead to a prison sentence. At any rate, she’s in trouble with the law, and her predicament has undoubtedly complicated her life.
A Sea of Wise Insects is a multi-layered novel that explores the past as Alice remembers it, but also a past loosely based on reality, in the form of a novel written by Alice’s former boyfriend. In essence, it’s a novel about perception, and how a person’s apprehension of that which has shaped them, may contrast with the opinions held by others.
Hinting at an almost William Burroughs-esque cut-up technique, the narrative leaps from past to present to fictional account in a series of episodes, and presents readers with a slideshow of snapshots that are held together by recurring themes.
Running through everything is the theme of insects, which suggests observation of Alice’s life from a distance, reduced to clinical analysis. Alice is paralysed, held hostage by events over which she had no control, and through her own inaction, she damns herself for most of the story.
But it’s through the gradual unravelling of her past, even though it is fictional and recounted by an unreliable narrator, that Alice is able to gain acceptance, not only of herself, but of those close to her.
It is a beautifully crafted novel, exquisite in detail. It is dark and dreamy and definitely one of those, stories I’ll be dipping into again.
Westby-Nunn is a masterful storyteller and a keen observer of the beautiful flaws she portrays in her characters, and I look forward to seeing future titles from her. This is a worthy addition to a collection of great contemporary South African fiction.
December's a busy month, it would seem. Today I'm celebrating with one of my favourite authors, Sonya Clark, with whom I've worked on a number of titles. Her novel, Red House, the follow-up to Mojo Queen, has released this week. Over to you, Sonya...
Music serves as a gateway when I write. It's how I enter the world of the story, how I get to know the characters. It helps shade in the colors I see in my head so that I can (hopefully) bring the story more fully to life on the page. Like the first in the Mojo series, MOJO QUEEN, my latest release RED HOUSE is built on a foundation of Southern music. Blues, soul, and classic country were the primary genres that played in heavy rotation while writing this book.
Paranormal investigator Roxie Mathis is also a hoodoo practitioner. She didn't start out that way, but as my own love of blues seeped deeper and deeper into the story I changed her generic magical practice to hoodoo. Her vampire ancestor Daniel is more of a classic country fan and loves to belt out Conway Twitty tunes at karaoke. They both love Memphis soul. Roxie's maybe-boyfriend Blake is usually more of a Nine Inch Nails kind of guy but even he is beginning to develop an appreciation for artists like Roy Orbison and Elvis Presley.
There are three specific songs that were important to the writing of RED HOUSE. Bob Dylan's High Water (For Charlie Patton) matched Roxie's experience of losing her home in a devastating flood and the constant hum of dread and trauma that stayed with her afterward. Charlie Patton's original High Water, about the Mississippi flood of 1927, is mentioned in the book. Dylan's version is one of his more haunting songs, which is saying a lot. There's a relentlessness to it, much like a flood itself, that makes you want to grab onto to whatever you can as the guitar threatens to pull you under. Roxie's holding on as tight as she can but the loss of her home and her business may prove too much for her.
Blake Harvill has been a tough character to crack since the beginning. Originally intended to be a bad guy, somehow he wound up the love interest. In RED HOUSE I had to find a way to bring out his humanity. He may be a dangerous sorcerer but as he tells Roxie, he can't be Master of Darkness all the time. So I had to figure out some things about Blake, like what he wanted and why. Roy Orbison's In Dreams helped me do that. The song's melancholy wistfulness is a perfect fit for the parts of Blake he tries to hide.
The third song is a version of an old blues song that's been recorded by countless artists under various names, usually either Stagger Lee or Stack-O-Lee. The version I latched on to is one I discovered in the underrated movie Black Snake Moan, in which Samuel L. Jackson channels the late bluesman RL Burnside. Jackson gives a blistering performance of Stack-O-Lee that is also extremely not safe for work, kids, and probably pets. I would love to talk about why this song is important to the book, but it would pretty much spoil the ending. I will say this: every time I had doubts about the plot line this pertains to, I would turn it on and play it loud. Stack would chase those doubts away. Er, shoot them, actually.
The Mojo playlists I have saved include some of my favorite songs. It makes it easy to slip back into that world. Almost like conjuring a spell.
There's high water everywhere and she's about to drown on dry land.
Roxie Mathis lost her home and her livelihood to a devastating flood. She's lucky to be staying with her vampire ancestor Daniel but she wants to put the pieces of her life back together. Trouble is, Roxie's lost her mojo. The trauma of almost drowning and losing her home left a deep mark on her.
Blake Harvill left a mark on her too and she's been missing him in the four months since he left town. Now he's back with plans to stay. Roxie wants him like she's never wanted anyone else but can she trust the sexy sorcerer with her guarded heart?
Hired to evict ghosts from the bed and breakfast called Maple Hill, her confidence takes another hit when she encounters a violent spirit she's crossed paths with in the past. When the spirit traps innocent people in the house Roxie's going to have to tap reservoirs of magic she's never touched before. Like physics, everything in magic has an equal and opposite reaction, and Roxie can only hope her desperate spellwork won't kill her--or conjure up something even more dangerous.
Learn more at http://lyricalpress.com/red-house and www.sonyaclark.net.
Sonya will have a Twitter release party on December 5 from 8 to 10pm Central US time where she'll be playing the soundtrack, talking about the book, answering any questions about it, and giving away a copy. She'll use the hashtag #redhouse and her Twitter handle is @sonyabclark.
Sunday, December 2, 2012
Today I give Cristal Ryder, author of BDSM erotica, an opportunity to chat about her writing and her two titles, Being Ariana and Being Bound which have recently been rebooted with fresh cover art. Welcome, Cristal!
A facelift. Could we all use one? Sometimes when I look in the mirror I think “yes!” The same can go for books too. A favourite storyline of mine that is published with Lyrical Press got a dusting off and new look. Being Ariana and Being Bound have been re-released with wonderful new covers. I had cover love with their old cover but these ones are well….pretty damn sweet!
These are my first two books. It’s so nice to come back to a story that warmed my heart a while ago. In Being Ariana, we meet Ellie, she masquerades herself as Ariana so she can fulfill her sexual fantasies. But, when she meets Rourke, things take a delicious and unexpected turn. We follow Rourke into Being Bound, a darker, sexier and more intense story that catapults him into the Heather’s erotic web.
I’ll leave you with blurbs from both stories and an excerpt from Being Bound.
Ellie Taylor lives her erotic dreams by masquerading herself as Ariana and visiting the Black Phantom. In this club where anything goes, she plans to perform onstage before an audience, building her sexual excitement to a fever pitch before selecting her man. But Ariana is sidetracked by a tall, blond masked maitre-d. He captivates her and all thoughts of performing are forgotten. He's every bit as domineering as Ariana and pushes her to her sexual limit. Their true identities concealed, they set out to use each other for pleasure--no risk of entanglement or commitment...but that may prove easier said than done.
A man used to getting what he wants, Tom Rourke doesn’t take being discarded lightly. Smarting from rejection, Rourke decides the complication of women is distracting him from his goal. He refocuses his energy into ownership of the Black Phantom, where he meets Heather Canyon. Drawn into her erotic web, he can’t get her out of his mind. But can he trust her? The only way to know is to experience her first hand. Dominatrix Heather Canyon is looking for a new beginning, and a safe place where she can let her talents shine. Rourke’s proposition is the perfect opportunity. She must test him to ensure they are the right fit for each other and challenges him at every turn. She isn’t looking for a partner, but has she found her match with Rourke?
Excerpt – Being Bound
Heather sat her coffee on the table and crouched to reach the arm of the chair, swinging it so the back was to the corner between the window and wall. It would offer prime vantage of the room and door. She settled into the leather and crossed her long legs. The skirt rose past her knees and the flash of pewter on the shoes contrasted nicely with her black silk stocking-clad legs.
Heather gazed around the room, letting her vision slide across the men trying to make eye contact with her. She had them figured out and watched for him. Another glance at the time caused her a brief sense of frustration. It wouldn’t do if he was late and in another minute he would be.
Heather left the coffee on the table and lifted her gaze. This time it met that of a man sitting across the shop. His blond hair reflected the sun and she was surprised at herself for not noticing him initially. But he had a half-empty cup in his large hand, which meant he had been here for a while. She pulled her gaze away from the magnetism of his and focused on the door.
But she was drawn to him and glanced back. Her heart thumped with anticipation at his predatory approach to her.
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