Tuesday, October 26, 2010

New Fang

You always know more about your story than what winds up in the final version. With Bring on the Night, I knew how Jessie got her name - her full name, Jessamine. Also, there was a character mentioned a few times but who never made an appearance, the King of Vampires. His name was left out altogether. In my head, I knew how Jessie became a vampire, how she met the king, and how she became the kind of vampire she was. For Bring on the Night, though, all of that wasn't part of the story. I never wrote any of it down, until recently. In the mood to write some flash fiction about Jessie, I told the story of how she got her name. Take a look -

Monday, October 25, 2010

Hellhound On My Trail

When you feel like there are stones in your passway, the best thing you can do is go back to the source of your inspiration. For me, that is music.

Several of Robert Johnson's most well-known songs are about him having a conversation with his private demons. We know the metaphors - hellhounds and devils, the persistent itch of restless travel, the occasional comfort of women - but we can only guess at what lay beneath the surface. A dead wife and baby, dissatisfaction with life as a farmer, desire for something other than the cards he'd been dealt. We can guess these things haunted him but we don't know. He wanted to record, but beyond that what did he want for his music? There's speculation he played some gigs with a band before dying of poisoning but nothing certain enough to be called fact. We can speculate all night long that had he lived, Robert would have transitioned to jump blues, maybe midwifed an earlier birth for rock and roll. Perhaps his music would have taken him as far as touring Europe, something many later blues musicians enjoyed. Or maybe he would have faded into obscurity. Death at the young age of 27 helped assure his legendary status. He left behind 29 songs and an invitation for obsession. I am not unique in my acceptance of that invitation.

The picture in this video is one of two of Robert that are available to the public. It's likely there are one or two others hidden away in the files of a musicologist, but that's another story. Take a look at the young man in this picture as he sings about hellhounds on his trail. Robert wasn't a big guy but maybe he didn't need to be with the attitude you see in those eyes. The don't f*ck with me look is unmistakable. In the other picture he's in a sharp suit and smiling, looking like he owns the world. This picture looks like a man intent on not being owned, by anyone or anything. Look at the hand on the fretboard - those unearthly long agile fingers that look like they were designed expressly for playing the guitar. To have devoted those hands to any other pursuit would have been a waste.

Blues falling down like hail is a stark, lonely feeling. Knowing someone walked that road before can be a comfort. Knowing they didn't make it out alive makes you understand why people turn to frothy pop confections and top forty country. Slamming a door on the uncomfortable truth is the only way some people make it through the night. If you're made of sterner stuff and can handle sitting down for a chat with whatever private demons haunt you, Robert Johnson is damn good music to keep you company.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Interview with author Vanessa Morgan

This week I have an interview with author Vanessa Morgan.

Tell us about your novel Drowned Sorrow.

Drowned Sorrow is the story of a remote New England village where water has become a supernatural element that can move, think… and kill. A mother who has lost her son in a family tragedy travels there with her daughter, but by the time she realizes that her daughter’s life is in danger, it might already be too late.

Tell us about your favorite scene in the story, without giving too much away, of course.

There’s one scene where the walls of the hotel start to leak profusely – not just drops, but heavily rivulets, as if someone has turned on a faucet. The water creeps onto a boy, onto his legs, arms and torso as if he were invaded by millions of insects. The boy struggles against the water as it starts to move into his mouth and into his nose. Even before the twitches of his dying body stop, every cell turns into water. When his body has become completely liquid, the water creeps back up into the walls. The boy is part of Moonlight Creek now, part of its water.

What draws you to writing horror? 

I was already fascinated by the horror genre and the paranormal when I was just a toddler. It’s a passion that has always been there. When I was a kid, I used my Barbie dolls to act out horror movie scenes and I loved to look at horror book covers and movie posters and think about all the possible story lines. I think I’ve seen almost every single horror movie that exists, even the obscure ones that no one ever even heard of, so I think I know pretty well what works and what doesn’t when it comes to writing horror.

Tell us a little bit about your writing process. For instance, are you a pantser or a plotter? If you’re a plotter, what method do you like to use?

 For my first novel, Drowned Sorrow, I was a plotter because there were so many different characters that were all connected. For my second book, The Strangers Outside, I just started with the beginning without really knowing where I was heading. I didn’t have any idea who those mysterious figures from my story were and what they wanted. I think that second tactic works better for me because it’s a more exciting and relaxed way to write. I work quicker that way too; it’s the rewriting process that is more time consuming.

What are some of the writers and books that have inspired you? 

One of my favorite writers in the genre is John Saul. His books might be a little superficial, but he has a writing style and plot that capture the reader. Otherwise, I’m more inspired by visuals and movies such as Let’s Scare Jessica to Death, The Fog, The Shining, The Uncanny, Dead and Buried, etc.

Tell us about yourself. Do you have a day job? Do you have any hobbies and interests outside of writing, and if so, do they ever find their way into your writing? 

Apart from writing I’m passionate about animals, movies, spicy food, tea, city trips and my cat Avalon. I owned a pet supply store before, but I stopped with it in order to start writing full time. The main character in the novel I’m writing now works with animals. It’s the story of a haunted village with more cats than one can handle. Also, I have an upcoming comic book series starring my cat Avalon (who had his first movie appearance in the film adaptation of my book The Strangers Outside, by the way).

Tell us about your novel The Strangers Outside, which is being made into a movie. That must be very exciting. What can you tell us about that? 

The Strangers Outside is about two sisters that are being stalked by dark figures in their remote holiday cabin. Filming started even before the book was released. If everything goes well, the film should be finished by the end of the year. In the film, the two sisters have been replaced by a man and his daughter. The ending too is different, much more visual.

What’s on the horizon for you? Any future projects you’d like to talk about?

 I’ve already mentioned the comic book series with my cat Avalon and the new paranormal thriller. There are also two new horror film projects.


You can learn more about Vanessa Morgan at her blog and follow her on Twitter.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Review: A Safe Harbor

A Safe Harbor: Building Sanctuary, Book 1 - by Moira Rogers

Find out how it all began... 
During the bite of the Great Depression, sole female dominant Joan Fuller struggles against the rise of cruelty among her alpha counterparts. The men tolerate her interference--until she breaks from the pack and allies with a witch and a vampire. Now the Boston alpha intends to bring them all forcibly back into the fold--and teach her a lesson she may not survive. 
Seamus Whelan and his werewolf bootleggers intend to retire from smuggling and savor their fortune, but first they must do a favor for an old friend: escort some female wolves to safety. An easy job, if their leader wasn't a prim ex-debutante with enough power to challenge Seamus himself. Chance makes them allies; powerful need makes them lovers. 
Together, they have the opportunity to build a sanctuary for their kind, but first they must free themselves from Joan's past, and the powerful man who would see her destroyed. 

My thoughts:

A Safe Harbor is a promising start to a series of prequels to the Red Rock Pass series. Having enjoyed that series, I liked this different glimpse into the same werewolf world. I especially liked that it's a historical set in a time period not seen often in romances - the Great Depression. The 1930s were a frightening time and it makes for a great setting for a  group of wolves who have hit bottom and are trying to rebuild their lives on their own terms, in safety and security. Joan and Seamus lead her pack to an island sanctuary. I'm hoping at some point in this series we get to read about the founding of Red Rock Pass as a werewolf sanctuary. This story runs a little on the short side, but it may seem that way because I wanted a bit more detail. Joan and Seamus make for a compelling couple. The couple dynamic I keep finding in books by Moira Rogers is one of the things that I enjoy most about their stories. Joan is strong and brave, and Seamus is secure enough within himself to let her be that way and fight her own battles when she must. That's my favorite kind of romance novel hero - one that isn't afraid to let a woman stand side by side with him as an equal.

4  out of 5 stars on Goodreads.

Review: Crux

Crux (Book One of the Southern Arcana series) - by Moira Rogers

Jackson Holt makes a decent living as a private investigator in New Orleans, home of one of the largest underground supernatural populations in the United States. He and his partners have never met a case they couldn't crack...until a local bar owner asks him to do a little digging on her newest hire. 
New Orleans is the fourth destination in as many months for Mackenzie Brooks, a woman on the run from a deranged stalker. After all, any man who shows up on her doorstep claiming to be her destined lover has more than a few screws loose. But crazy doesn't explain why he always finds her no matter how far she runs. 
When her well-meaning boss puts a PI on her case, Mackenzie comes face to face with the incredible truth: magic is real, and whatever spell has kept her hidden and separate from the paranormal world is rapidly deteriorating. 
With time running out, she has no choice but to trust Jackson as he struggles to uncover the truth of her past-and her destiny.

My thoughts:

Crux is the first book in the Southern Arcana series and I enjoyed it from start to finish. For me, it's got the perfect blend of urban fantasy and paranormal romance - a little more on the UF side than PNR, but still a great romance between two charming characters. Much like with their Red Rock Pass series, writing duo Moira Rogers have created an entire cast of terrific characters that I want to know more about. The world-building is solid and intriguing. I'm looking forward to learning more about this world's intense shifter politics and how it affects the character's lives. Book two, Crossroads, is on my "to buy" list and I'm really hoping a future book will focus on Jackson's friend and business partner, Alec. Though Jackson made for a nice hero, something about Alec made me hope he gets his own story. And I have to admit, living in the South myself (Tennessee) I'm a sucker for paranormal stories set here in the South.

4 out of 5 stars on Goodreads.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

On Writing: Your Ideal Reader

Cross-posted from Frightening Journeys.

First of all I have to apologize for missing last week. Our internet went down Friday night and we couldn't get a repairman until Monday morning. Not having internet access didn't bother me as much as I thought it would, that is until Sunday afternoon. By then I'd had enough of being unplugged from the world. But I did read two books last weekend, plus we watched a few episodes of Firefly so that was good.

In Stephen King's On Writing he talks about having what he calls your Ideal Reader. He's not talking about a critique partner here, though that's certainly something a writer needs. A critique partner can help you break down your story and find the problem areas, whether it's grammar or characterization or a million other things. Having a critique partner is invaluable and when you have the right one, you can help each other and learn a great deal from each other. It can enrich both your writing itself and your life as a writer.

An Ideal Reader is something different. King is talking about the person who will read your work strictly as a reader, for the journey and the pleasure of the story. He mentions watching his wife read his work, eager for her reactions. I've done exactly that with my husband and it always makes me feel like I'm going to twist myself in half. On the one hand I want to watch over his shoulder and see if he laughs at what is supposed to be funny, does he cringe at what's supposed to be cringe-worthy, does he cringe at a paragraph I thought was really good. But on the other hand I can hardly stand to see his reaction. Usually I'm so nervous I have to be in another room while he reads something I wrote. He's always sure to tell me what I need to know the most: I like it, I don't like it (that's only happened once), and the response I find most nerve-wracking - what happens next? That's always exciting to hear, because it means he wants to know what happens next, but it can also be stressful because sometimes I don't know what happens next and it may be awhile before there's more for him to read. This is why I've gotten to where I finish a story before letting him read it.

While your ideal reader doesn't have to be your significant other, it should definitely be a person who enjoys reading whatever genre you write in. I'm lucky in that my husband enjoys urban fantasy and isn't phased when a vampire turns up in a story. If he hated paranormal, though, I'd have to find a different ideal reader. After all, we write for an audience that will enjoy our books, so our ideal reader should, too.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Interview with author Ashley M. Christman

Author Ashley M. Christman is here to talk about her new release, Requiem.

Tell us about your book.

Well, Requiem is the story of Kate, vampire succubus, who has wandered through life feeding on both the blood and sex of mortals--with an utter disregard for life--for over 5000 years. However her life takes a turn for the complicated when she meets new Hollywood Heart Throb, Aidan Cross.

Aidan is  human, which normally puts him on the menu. Kate finds herself attracted to him in more ways than one and decides to wait before she kills him to see if the allure is something more than his irresistible charm. This further gets compromised when Jack, the main object of her affections comes to town.

Jack and Kate have a very complicated relationship dating back to the fall of Rome. He’s an angel, she’s not. One night with her will make him fall and be damned to life in the demon ranks as upper management. Jack’s reappearance in her life becomes the catalyst for bigger things to come.

With Aiden, she gets a chance to play human. One night with Jack and she’ll actually be human, but that also means giving up everything she loves.

Tell us about your favorite scene in the story, without giving too much away, of course.

I don’t know if it’s so much my favorite scene as it is close to my heart. Requiem, in many ways is a very personal book. I began writing it after the death of someone very dear to me as a way to explore some of the darker feelings I was experiencing.

So the scene in question is Kate’s feelings after her sire and mentor Quintus decides that he’s tired of life after ten thousand years. It really touches on her grief and pain as well as the feelings of abandonment she experiences—feelings I think everyone can identify with at some point in their life.

What draws you to writing paranormal erotic romance?

To be quite honest, I don’t normally write in this genre. But, with Requiem, I found myself writing for this character who was nothing like any other character in my imagination. What started out as therapy, began to take on a life of its own and when it was done, it became this particular book and it happened to be this particular genre.

Tell us a little bit about your writing process. For instance, are you a pantser or a plotter? If you’re a plotter, what method do you like to use?

I’m a mixture. I usually start by pantsing, but as the story progresses, I come up with mini chapter outlines (usually no more than two). It’s hard for me to do an entire book outline since I tend to let the characters do the driving. It’s their story, I’m just recording it.

What are some of the writers and books that have inspired you?

There are honestly too many to name. And I have quite a strange mixture. Just to throw out some: Shakespeare, Marlow, John Keats (poet), Bram Stoker (the very first vampire novel I ever read was Dracula when I was eight—I was seduced), Anne Rice, Laurell K. Hamilton, Neil Gaiman, Terry Prachett, Douglas Adams, and Toni Morrison.

That’s just the short list.

Tell us about yourself. Do you have a day job? Do you have any hobbies and interests outside of writing, and if so, do they ever find their way into your writing?

Well, when I’m not writing, I enjoy reading. I read practically anything I can get my hands on. I’m also into paranormal investigation. I have a current WIP where the main character gets to do some, so it’s fun to talk about the tools of the trade and the general skepticism most investigators have. I also enjoy theater arts. I’ve auditioned for a few plays and performed in a couple. My day job is freelance editing so that leaves me time to write. I’ve also worked in health care for a few years now.

And for extra credit if you’re interested: (Feel free to pick one, or answer all briefly.) Team Angel or Team Spike? Bill or Eric? Edward or Jacob? River Tam or Buffy Summers? And why?

Team Angel (Post Buffy—liked him better on Angel). Team Eric because Bill is a lying scum bag and in the show he’s just way too much of a pansy. Besides, who doesn’t like vamps that accept what they are and just move on. As far as Edward or Jacob, I’m going with neither.


Thank you Ashley!

You can find Ashley on the web at her website, Twitter, Facebook, and Goodreads. You can read an excerpt of Requiem and purchase the novel here.