dark fantasy

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SJ Reads: Courtney Crumrin and the Night Things

Published September 4, 2017 by admin

 

courtney crumrin

So since September is my birthday month (I will take your adulations in the form of praise, reviews, and other related worship), this month’s SJ reads will cover stories that have really reached up through the nostrils and grabbed me by the soul.

Today, we look at the Courtney Crumrin series by Ted Naifeh.

It took a few years of reading book one, not finding it again, and tracking down the actual title to read the rest of the series to really figure out what this is. And wow. Just…wow. Although its aim is a YA audience, I fell in love.

The plot is Courtney and her yuppie moves in with her Uncle Aloysius, who lives in an upscale town. She’s the typical new kid being bullied up until the moment she tries to take a shortcut through the woods and her only friend gets eaten by a goblin.

Obviously, this thing was meant for me.

You see, Uncle A is actually a warlock, and through her own explorations, Courtney learns magic, herself.  There are a lot of fun tropes explored in new ways, and a lot of heartbreaking stories, as well, like Courtney trying to protect a simple forest creature caught between the woods and Faerie, a human torn between her own life and the one her heart yearns for, and the complex relationship between Courtney and her uncle. The whole town is secretly prosperous because of the witches and warlocks who run it, and there’s a lot of internal politics that are fascinating, too. The stories are grounded in amazing folklore, from changelings to Tommy Raw-head, to Goblin Town/Faerie, to a trip to eastern Europe where we run into werewolves and vampires. Everything slowly winds things up a notch and throws the relationship between Courtney and her uncle and their abilities to deal with emotions into question.

I love that a lot of different kinds of people are represented in this. I love that Courtney is somewhat unlikeable and you still pull for her. I love that a lot of your assumptions in the first book are suddenly turned in the last. I love that there are actual high stakes and permanent consequences. I love all the little asides that you catch if you’ve grown up reading folk and faerie tales. I just plain love it.

I also love the art and if I had money would totally have Ted Naifeh draw on all my walls, because now I want nothing more than to hang out with Butterworm and run around Goblin Town. I love most of his work, but he really, truly shines when he’s illustrating his own stories. It’s just such a whole other level it isn’t even funny.

Totally recommend this for middle school on up. If all you can find is the first volume, Courtney Crumrin and the Night Things, it actually reads pretty much like it’s own thing. The other volumes run the gamut between being episodic and arcing more together as you go along.

Find the first volume here!

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SJ Reads: The Unwritten

Published August 21, 2017 by admin

Today’s SJ reads is another graphic novel/comic series, since that’s our theme this month. I’d heard the title The Unwritten kicked around for a while, but not really taken the chance to investigate it. Then, when I had worked my way through a two-month long manga binge and was craving something else, I checked out the first couple of volumes from the library.

Holy. Guac.

I mean, it’s Mike Carey, so it’s not going to be bad, but seriously, guys, this series is amazing. Picture Harry Potter mixed with Christopher Robin mixed with every genre ever (including children’s lit), mixed with conspiracy theory, mixed with Jung, and you might come close to describing The Unwritten. Maybe.

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So we open with Tom Taylor doing conventions, because his dad is a famous author noted for writing a series that would be similar to Harry Potter in our world, and the main character coincidentally is named Tommy Taylor and looked like him as a boy. Things really get going when an audience member questions if he’s really who he thinks he is during a panel (welcome to every panelist’s worst nightmare). What follows is a long, winding story where Tom struggles to figure out if he’s real or fictional, how his world crosses with the literary or how that’s even possible, all while fighting a strange cabal of people known as the Unwritten, who have lived throughout history making sure that only the write message gets written. He also has to deal with what his father did to him and turned him into. Helped by the questioning lady in the audience who may or may not be sane (or real), and a reporter, and a few other people who may or may not have his interests at heart, this is a fast-paced, intricate romp through not just fantasy, but also a lot of really interesting literary paths. We fall into Moby Dick and other titles, go back and forth in history, go to Hades, go to a kid’s world that is reminiscent of Beatrix Potter or the Hundred Acre Wood – there’s even a crossover with Fables (admittedly, since I’m the one person who absolutely isn’t a fan of Fables and since that volume really didn’t affect the plot one way or the other, that’s the one weak part of the series for me).

Also, this series has balls. I will warn you, there is language, there is violence, stuff gets dark. If you’re going into this expecting Not!Harry Potter fanfic or happy fantasy time, this is not that. At all. The stakes are high. If you ever wondered what would happen if your YA fantasy friends grew up and had to play their adventures straight, this is definitely the series for you. I can’t say much or I’ll give it away, but the ending is also one of the best series endings I’ve ever read. As I went along, admittedly I began thinking that there was only one real possible exit if things were being played out to their logical conclusion…but no way a series author would go there, right?

Oh, he did. He goes there. And it is magnificent.

So yeah, if you want something different, if you feel like you’ve aged out of Harry Potter or want some dark fantasy that also explores some high concepts, check this one out.

You can find vol 1 here

 

New #Horror: Gods & Monsters by SH Roddey

Published August 17, 2017 by admin

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What can I say, it’s just a promote-y kind of week. Today I’m not talking about myself, though (for once). When one of my co-conspirators has something awesome out, it makes me want to cheer and smash it in everyone’s face. What can I say. So yeah, S.H. Roddey is writing again, which makes me incredibly happy. And her

new one looks awesome.

 

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Title:         Gods & Monsters
Subtitle:   A Shadow Council Case Files Novella
Author:    S.H. Roddey
Genre:      Dark Fantasy, Historical Horror
Buy Link: https://www.amazon.com/Gods-Monsters-Council-Archives-Novella-ebook/dp/B0745XLWSN

Series Info

They have worked behind the scenes of society for centuries, protecting humans from threats beyond their understanding. They are The Shadow Council, and these Archives are the stories of their members and adventures throughout recorded history. From folk heroes to monsters out of darkest nightmare, the Shadow Council Archives explore the world beyond mundane understanding.

He is the original horror novel. He is the first science fiction hero. He is Adam, creation of Victor Frankenstein, and he is more than dead, but less than alive. And he is being hunted.

From the pages of the Quincy Harker novellas comes this original tale of Adam, Frankenstein’s monster, in his earliest days. Wandering Europe shortly after the death of his “father,” Victor, Adam encounters a secret society determined to unlock the mysteries of life and death. He’s seen this obsession before. It never ends well.

Blood, lust, life, death, and friendship are all explored in this incredible look into the mind of the original monster.

This Shadow Council urban fantasy novella comes from the world of Quincy Harker, Demon Hunter. Similar in length to Bookshots, these novellas provide a glimpse behind the curtain at an urban fantasy world where demons walk the earth, and the monster may well be the hero.

Cover Blurb

“My scars, my disfigurement…those were things I could not change. But who I was? That was entirely up to me. I, Adam, Son of Frankenstein, could, at long last, be a man.

Decades after the death of Victor Frankenstein, Adam returns to Ingolstadt in search of answers and acceptance.  What he finds is not what he expects: a beautiful woman spiraling into insanity, a murderous cult determined to harness the power of creation, and his worst fears coming to fruition. An offer of assistance from a mysterious stranger turns his world on end and sets him on a path toward both salvation and destruction.

 

First Chapter

 

Victor Frankenstein is dead.

This startling revelation settled in my mind on a clear day in February as I sat atop a snow-capped mountain and watched the lights of Selfoss wink on in the evening gloom below. Iceland as a whole slept under cover of darkness, soft and secure in the thoughts that monsters did not exist. If only they knew… Though to me it seemed the true monster was gone at last. It had been some time since I looked over my shoulder in search of his maddened visage, and longer still since word of his pursuit reached my ears.

With the revelation came a near-crippling release of emotion. Relief flooded my senses, and had my tear ducts been operational, I might have shed tears of joy. My long-suffering countenance could finally clear, and I might, for the first time in my miserable existence, have the opportunity to experience life without the specter of my past. Time was no longer my enemy. My father could no longer hurt me. I could accept my beginnings and move on from them. In that instant, I made a series of choices.

I chose, to the best of my ability, to integrate myself more with the creatures from whose stock I was built. I chose morality. I chose humanity. I chose to let my demons lie and embrace the things I could be. My scars, my disfigurement…those were things I could not change. But who I was…that was entirely up to me.

I, Adam, Son of Frankenstein, could at long last be a man.

I stood and crept down the mountain. The tiny hamlet contained roughly a dozen buildings, all in varying stages of disrepair. Many had roofs made of straw and thatch; others bore wood plank walls with large pockmarks packed hard with ice. In very few windows did lanterns burn. The only building that could, in fact, be considered habitable by European society’s standards was the inn. A puff of white smoke billowed from the chimney, and inside sat the majority of Selfoss’ inhabitants.

I’d watched them for weeks now from a cave above them. They were an industrious people who rarely saw outsiders. These men and women were isolated from the world by the ice, the mountains, and the waterfalls. It seemed as good a place as any to begin my attempt at humanity.

I took a deep breath and entered the inn. My hood was pulled tight around my face to hide from the occupants. As I crossed the room, I pulled a purse from the pocket of my coat. The innkeeper smiled as I approached, but when I stepped up to the counter, I pulled back my hood. All movement in the building halted as three dozen pairs of eyes turned curiously toward me. A woman’s frightened gasp filled the air as she leaned into her husband’s side.

“A room for a weary traveler, please,” I said in their brusque language. Eyebrows rose in surprise.

The innkeeper—though disturbed by my excessive height, the sharp angle of my jaw, and the angry scars bisecting my face—nodded, accepted my money as if I were an average man, and handed me a key.

“Upstairs,” he replied, then hesitated. He glanced around at his patrons, then back up at me. “There’s stew in the kettle if you’re hungry.” He pointed to the heavy cauldron hanging in the fireplace.

“Thank you,” I said with a nod. “Perhaps soon. I am still frozen from my travels.”

He nodded and gave me a tentative smile. “Of course. Enjoy your stay.”

The ice in my chest thawed a bit at this man’s show of kindness. I would not tell him I did not require sustenance, but to know that it was possible to be treated as any of his other guests was enough. And because of his unexpected kindness, I allowed myself to feel at ease. And because of my ease in this place, I slept. For the first time in my miserable existence, I found myself able to slip into unconsciousness with absolutely no fear of attack.

I should have expected the worst.

 

*****

 

I woke with a start well after midnight to a series of bindings crossing my body. Cold hands scrabbled at my wrists and ankles, tying ropes and anchoring chains. Hushed voices whispered around me, frantic, frightened, and deadly. Undoubtedly, I’d slept harder than I thought, as I found myself completely immobilized.

My back hit the floor, knocking the wind from my lungs, and I was dragged from the room. They pulled me down the stairs, my head banging against each step as I coughed and gasped, no doubt carving out divots with the impact. Tables and chairs flew aside, bouncing against my legs and arms as my captors struggled to move me through the deserted tavern by the ropes around my ankles. I didn’t fight. I’d promised myself I wouldn’t hurt anyone else unnecessarily. I wanted to know their plans before I retaliated.

So, I allowed these terrified men to drag me into the cold, through the uneven and sleeping streets to the edge of town where a copse of snow-capped trees stood. The crunch of dirt and gravel muted as they pulled me off the path, their boots sinking deep into the drifts of snow collected at their feet. Even from this distance, I could hear the water rushing over the falls. The air around us was calm and quiet, devoid of any sound except that of the water and their labored breaths. I did not struggle as they dropped me into the muddy snow and kicked at me—I would not risk breaking my promise to myself and injuring another man. I accepted that they were frightened of me, of my face and my size, of the scars and waxiness of my skin. A booted foot crashed down on my nose, breaking the cartilage and sending warm, thick streams of blood across my face. My sinus cavity filled with blood, and I coughed it away involuntarily, holding in a cry of pain as another landed a blow in the soft meat between my ribs and my hip. Perhaps they meant only to drive me from their sleepy, little hamlet. I was an interloper, a thing to be feared. I would allow them to run me away.

Then the rope came around my neck. Boots continued to connect with my chest and ribs. Blood poured from my ruined nose. My bones ached. My skin burned. Then they pulled—six men it took to drag me from the ground—and I realized their true intent: they wanted to kill me. They feared me so greatly that they could not suffer me to exist a moment longer.

My airway constricted under the pull of the rope as my feet left the ground, inch by torturous inch. It was not the first time I’d been hanged, and though I knew it would not kill me, it hurt nonetheless. I had done nothing to these people!

My anger boiled. I wanted to destroy them all, yet I remained motionless and allowed the noose to tighten. I would hold onto my convictions, anger be damned. I would not become the monster they saw.

“Why won’t it die?” one of my attackers asked.

“Because it’s a demon,” another said.

“It’s not a demon,” the first replied.

“It is! Why else won’t its neck break?”

“How do we kill it?” another asked, this voice young—no more than a teenager by my estimation.

“Do we burn it?”

“Stab it!”

“Cut its head off!” came another voice, and the cries of assent rallied around this call to action.

Then the branch snapped, and I collapsed to the ground. Pain flared through my feet and ankles from the impact, and all six men fell backward with a series shouts and grunts. The others moved backward as a single unit, afraid of being within my reach…as they should. The noose loosened, and I flexed my arms, breaking the bindings around them. Even the chains they’d used to drag me fell away. I jerked my legs free and planted my bare feet on the snowy ground. Metal and rope pooled at my feet as I stood, towering over the cowering, crying men. They backed up farther, those with torches holding them toward me as if to ward off an attack. I laughed.

“Shoot it, Agnar!” one screamed, and I heard the cock of a revolver’s hammer.

“Yes,” I replied in their own language, turning toward the gunman. Those who had not been present for my arrival gasped in surprise. I imagined they did not think me capable of intelligent speech. I took the barrel of the gun in my hand and stepped forward, pressing it into my chest to mark my heart. Should it work, I would be out of this eternal misery…and if not, I would continue as I always had: alone.

“Shoot me. End my existence. Prove me human, Agnar.”

The man’s hand shook so violently he could not keep the weapon trained on me. I stared down at him, still as stone as tears poured down his face. His lip trembled. Mucus ran from his nose in slimy strings, and saliva dripped from his bottom lip. He wiped a gloved hand across his face, smearing the mess to his cheek. He blinked away tears, and the trembling intensified. Finally, unable to hold my gaze, the terrified man threw down the gun and turned to run.

I caught him mid-stride, my hand closing around his throat. His windpipe collapsed as I squeezed. His eyes bulged, and when I released him, he fell to the icy ground, dead. Sightless eyes stared up at the canopy of trees. Blood leaked into the soft white snow from his nose and the corner of his open mouth. The rest of the mob remained motionless, stunned into silence as they stared at their dead comrade. The gun lay between them and me, and had any of them thought to grab it, the battle may have ended differently.

Then again, perhaps not.

A new combatant appeared from the mass of trembling men, brandishing a knife. A second followed him. One after another they attacked, driven out of fear—knives and guns, sticks and rocks. Each man charged, fueled entirely by the instinct to destroy, and each died with a look of shock upon his face. I crushed one man’s skull in my hand, broke another’s neck. A third I slammed face first into the very tree from which they’d attempted to hang me. One fired a round at me and missed, hitting his comrade in the chest and knocking him backward into a snow drift. I tore those men apart, leaving their bloody carcasses scattered beneath the trees. Still, the rush of water over the falls in the distance sang out, uncaring of the carnage.

At last I stood in the grove, the powdery, white ground stained muddy red beneath my feet. Blood soaked into my clothing. I needed to return to the inn and retrieve my boots and coat. I needed to leave this place before I was found.

It wasn’t until I started to walk away that I recognized the face of the innkeeper among the dead.

Author Bio

South Carolina native S.H. Roddey has been writing for fun since she was a child and still enjoys building worlds across the speculative fiction spectrum filled with mystery and intrigue.  She brings to the literary world a unique blend of humor, emotion, and wild ideas filled with dark themes and strong characters. In her spare time, she offers professional book formatting services and writes romance as her imaginary friend, Siobhan Kinkade.

In addition to writing she is also a voracious reader, wannabe chef, and video game addict with two full-time jobs: administrative social media professional, and mom to a cat, a young twenty-something, and a pair of precocious youngsters with an affinity for computer keyboards. She also works as the formatter and cover artist for www.ClickingKeys.com and enjoys the perks of being married to her best friend and full-time muse.

Author Contact Info

Website: http://www.shroddey.com
Blog: http://creepyauthorgirl.wordpress.com
Facebook Author Page: http://www.facebook.com/AuthorSHRoddey
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/draickinphoenix
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/draickinphoenix
Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/author/shroddey
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/draickinphoenix
Spotify: http://open.spotify.com/user/1235345680

As Siobhan Kinkade:
Blog: http://siobhankinkade.wordpress.com
Facebook Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorSiobhanKinkade
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/siobhankinkade
Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/author/siobhankinkade

 

 

 

 

 

 

SJ Reads: Lucifer

Published August 14, 2017 by admin

At this point I figure most of the people who are reading this are going to at least be aware of Sandman. If you aren’t, let me know, and I’ll cover it in a later post. I’ve found, though, that at least within my own friend/writing circle, not as many people are familiar with Lucifer.

 

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Okay, calm down. Here’s the thing. If you’re familiar with the show, this is not that. If the whole religion in fantasy gets you hepped up, that’s perfectly cool. You don’t have to read it, like it, or agree with me. If that’s the case, you may want to skip this one.

For those who really are into dark fantasy and want a longer title that will take a while to get through, especially if you’ve already done Sandman and loved it, you’ll want to check this out. Picking up where Lucifer is running a piano bar with his Lilim companion Mazikeem, continuing the theme of being bored with the role he’s been cast in.

Things to know:

He is still manipulative and scheming and there is a lot of magical politics and entrapment, so he’s not altogether a hero in this series, even though he’s a protagonist. He definitely does things his own way and plays things hard and fast, and has to deal with the complications of that, even when he wins.

He’s less of the booga booga destroy humanity figure and more along the lines of trying to prove his views to his brother angels and God. At one point, they have to band together to save reality, which is an interesting experience.

Basically, through various machinations, Lucifer creates a side universe parallel to ours which has a lot of consequences and effects. The series also explores what machinations other angels have gotten up to, along with the desires of a living deck of tarot cards and the daughter of Michael, so there’s a lot going on. This is less good vs evil and more free will vs predestination and a whole lot of various characters trying to find their place in the universe(s). There’s a lot of separate adventure arcs, mythological figures, and a lot of interlocking pieces. People that show up in the beginning that you think are gone reappear, and the ending truly had me turning pages at a mad pace.

If you like how detailed and rich Sandman is, you’ll love this. If you like various mythologies being played with and combined, you’ll love this. If you like super entwining plots and really vivid art and dream-like storylines, this is for you.

This has been published in several forms – you’ll find volumes and books on amazon. I prefer by book because you have a lot of content that interconnects, and it’s easier to flip back if you think you’ve missed something.

Find book one here

Have you read this series? Like it better or less than the TV show? Who’s your favorite character or what’s your favorite part? Let me know!

 

 

Calling all Bloggers and Reviewers!

Published March 21, 2016 by admin

Wanted to give props to some blog tours coming up – if you’re a reviewer or a book blogger, you’ll want to get in on these! Just click the link to go to the respective tour page.

Bob Freeman’s Carinwood Manor Series – Horror/Dark Fantasy

THE VAMPIRE MACGREGOR LIVES…

“Foolish pup,” MacGregor chided the werewolf, “you don’t get it. Laddie, if water were evil I’d be but a drop. What lurks below is an ocean.”

From the haunted halls of Cairnwood Manor to the bowels of Rosslyn Chapel, Bob Freeman hurls you into the very heart of the eternal conflict between the forces of darkness and the forces of light.

It’s fang versus claw, spell versus steel, and love versus death in an epic battle of blood and thunder.

When a sinister cabal converges to unleash the ultimate evil against an unsuspecting world, only the combined strength of the Wolves of Cairnwood Manor and the Circle of Nine Skulls offers up a glimmer of hope as werewolves, vampires, witches, immortal warriors, and an army of the undead collide in a battle of epic bloodshed.

Southern Haunts 3 – dark fantasy/horror –  Magic Between the Moonlight. The Southern Haunts Anthology series is back, and this time it’s featuring all stories and folklore about witches. Not to be missed.

Georgia L Jones – Remnants of Life series – paranormal/urban fantasy

Dangerous Saviors…what would you do if your life rested in the hands of something that really wanted to EAT YOU…

Come journey through the realms of the next world where everything you know about Good and Evil are put to the test.

Samantha Garrett lives and dies a good life in the human world. She awakens a new creature, Samoda, a vampire-like warrior in the army of Nuem. She is forced to realize that she has become a part of a world that humans believe to be only “Legends of Darkness”. Samoda finds her new life is entwined with the age old story of Greed, Love, Betrayal, and Vengeance.

Join our Heroine as she battle’s not just for her own existence, but for entire human race’s future.

TCM Presents: Nocturne Infernum by Elizabeth Donald

Published October 1, 2015 by admin

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I wanted to kick off October with something awesome, and when I found out Elizabeth Donald was touring her latest book, I definitely wanted to be part of the tour. I had a blast doing panels with her at Imaginarium, and she’s a fantastic author with a lot of insightful things to say.

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Print            Kindle          B&N

Nocturne Infernum includes the original three chapters in the Nocturnal Urges series, an alternate version of present-day Memphis in which vampires walk among us, but are not treated as our equals. They work the night shift, the jobs no one else wants, and they’re not too happy about it. Meanwhile, humans take advantage of the pleasures vampires can provide, but call them friends? Lovers? The gap between human and vampire stretches wide as death rises in the streets of Memphis.

Nocturnal Urges. It’s the most popular club in the Memphis nightlife. Part legal bordello, part feeding ground for the city’s vampires, Nocturnal Urges offers pleasure and pain in one sweet kiss. It’s the ultimate addiction: both drug and sex at once. For the vampires, it’s the only way to survive in a world where the creatures of the night are a dark underclass, ignored until the humans need another fix.

Into this world comes Isabel Nelson, a young woman seeking only a night’s pleasure. But after Isabel’s lover takes her to try the bite, she cannot stop thinking about Ryan, the dark vampire with whom she shared her lifeblood – and who is now suspected of murder. Isabel falls into a world where passion and love are miles apart, where life and unlike have little meaning… and someone is hunting in the shadows.

A More Perfect Union. Samantha Crews has lived a long time in the shadows of Memphis, working at Nocturnal Urges and hiding from the vampires that darken her past.

Det. Anne Freitas is stuck with a new partner, a young woman with a chip on her shoulder. Now they’re assigned to investigate a series of threats against congressional candidate Robert Carton, for whom Samantha volunteers.

But Samantha is falling for Danny Carton, the candidate’s son – an idealist who wants to make life better for humans and vampires alike. But there’s a lot Danny doesn’t know about Samantha.

He doesn’t know she’s a vampire.

He doesn’t know she works at Nocturnal Urges.

He doesn’t know his own father is one of her clients.

And he doesn’t know what’s stalking her…

Abaddon. The Lady Zorathenne requests the honor of your presence at a celebration. A toast, if you will. Followed by a feast.

Beneath the dark Memphis streets, something is stirring. Filled with ancient fury. Seeking revenge on the ones who live above. A revenge born in fire.

The fires are ranging in Memphis and no one is safe. Ryan and Samantha must descend into darkness beyond their imagining to find answers to the mysteries of the past, as Detectives Freitas and Parker seek the truth about the present.

And the return of an old foe could make the future a dark place indeed… save for the flames of Abaddon.

**

SJ: Every writer has some sort of process. Give us a glimpse into yours. Do you meticulously outline? Do you write depending on what calls are out there?

ED: There is an anthology for absolutely everything, from climate change speculative fiction to Christian inspirational werewolves. So I will frequently write to a call. Some of the calls are truly creative, and spur an idea. Other short stories are inspired by life, random thoughts or weird dreams after too much wine at dinner.

The novels, on the other hand, are self-generated. I never used to outline, but publishers are remarkably picky about knowing what the book is about before they’ll offer a contract, the twerps. So I started to outline, and found that it sometimes helps keep me on track when I get stuck. However, I have no problem whatsoever with flinging the outline into the nearest fan if I decide the story needs to go in a different direction.

SJ: Bonus question – Do you put on a cape and do a chant before hunkering down to work? Sacrifice anything? Along with your process, what’s your quirkiest writing habit?

ED: My quirkiest writing habit is probably my wrap ceremony. When I have finished a story or novel, I break out my authentic replica White Star Line wineglass and have a drink. I picked it up at a Titanic exhibit shortly before I finished my first real novel. I celebrated that accomplishment by drinking wine from that glass, and since then, I only drink from it when I finish a piece.

SJ: Are you a meticulous planner or do you believe in the muse? Where do your ideas come from? Do they filter in through your dreams? Do they show up at inopportune times and whap you upside the head? Do they result in a shady deal with a dark power?

ED: I see no difference between believing in the muse and being a meticulous planner. I plan my work carefully, and then that wench shows up and throws live snakes into the plan. I used to transcribe conversations with my Muse, who is a chain-smoking, angry woman in a black leather jacket with a knife scar on her arm and lives in the basement of my mind, using a heavy bag whenever she’s not screwing up my stories. It’s really annoying that her occasional swings through the story generally make it much better than my meticulous plan.

Where do my ideas come from?

Schenectady. There’s an idea service there that sends you a six-pack of ideas every week. That smartass answer is to be attributed to Harlan Ellison, who uses that answer every time he’s asked where his ideas come from. As he says, “Aristotle can’t answer that question.” They come from the ether, from Neverland, from the place between awake and asleep. I believe just about everyone gets ideas – random creative thought-balloons that float through their minds. The trick isn’t getting ideas. The trick is grabbing hold of them when they come, winding the ribbons around your hand and letting them carry you off to Neverland. When you learn how to harness ideas and turn them into stories you can share with others, you’ve become a writer.

SJ: What’s the book/story that’s closest to your heart? Is there a piece that you clearly feel is a piece of you? Do you play favorites?

ED: You might as well ask me to pick a favorite child! Certainly I feel as though some of my books and stories are better written than others, and some were more fun to write than others. But I will say that the best book I have ever written has not yet been published, and I am committed to getting that book out someday.

SJ: If you could only write one genre ever again upon pain of being sacrificed to Cthulhu, what would it be and why?

ED: Horror, I suppose. Everything I write has a little bit of horror in it, whether it’s science fiction or fantasy or mystery or even romance. That darkness flows into everything I write.

SJ: What’s your biggest frustration as a writer? What do you consider the downside, or is there one? Is there any cliché that makes you want to wring people’s necks?

ED: My biggest frustration is probably time. I am a newspaper reporter, which is a job I truly love and requires a great deal of time, energy and dedication. I am a wife and a mother. I am also chapter president of a journalism organization, on the vestry of my church and sing in the church choir, serve on a national ethics board, advisory board for a campus newspaper and am a team captain for the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life. That’s in addition to running the author cooperative Literary Underworld, a separate local writers’ group and side work as a nature and art photographer. The downside of being a writer is that all these projects eat up an enormous amount of time and energy, and sometimes there simply aren’t enough hours in the day and enough of me to go around. But I suppose everyone feels that way at some point or another. The cliche that writers – especially writers who work at home – do nothing but sit around and eat bonbons all day, that’s probably the one that drives me mad. As Harlan Ellison says, actual foot-pounds of energy are expended in writing, whether that writing is in the form of news, blogs, articles, essays or novels. It is hard work, and should be treated and respected as such.

SJ: If you had to be stuck in one of your own books/stories for the rest of your life, what would it be and why? If you had to stick a loved one in one of your own books, what would it be and why? An enemy?

ED: I wouldn’t mind living in the Blackfire world, if the zombies weren’t rising. It’s not the easiest life, working for a paramilitary organization to fight supernatural beasties and keep the general public safe. But I loved writing that team, and delighted in coming up with new critters for them to face – nearly all drawn from real myths and legends from various cultures, which is a fascination of mine. Things don’t often turn out perfectly for my Blackfire team, but I rather like their adventures. At least until the zombies show up.

My friends are pretty resourceful folks, so I might put them in the Sanctuary stories about Earth after we are occupied by an alien force. The resistance movement needs them. My enemies, if I have any, can go to Dreadmire. The undead cannibal elves will be pleased to make their acquaintance.

SJ: Do you think it’s possible to develop a sure-fire recipe/formula for success as a writer? Would you want to, or does that compromise the art or the fun of it?

ED: If you’ve got that surefire recipe for writing success, please share! For James Patterson, it seems to be hiring a staff of co-writers and giving them outlines so he can put out 20 books a year. That works for him, but I wouldn’t trade writing my own books for… um, most of his money. Sure, you can package yourself and sell the sizzle instead of the steak. And you might make money that way. But then you have to ask yourself, why are you writing? For me, and for most of the writers I know, we’re doing it because we love the written word and we hear music that calls us to dance. The best thing about becoming a runaway financial success would be the time and freedom to write whatever you want, publish it, and still pay the rent. Once you’ve reached that point, why would you stop doing the writing part? Wasn’t that the whole point?

SJ: Everyone has words of wisdom for young writers, so I’m not going to ask you about that. With a few unknown writers becoming success stories, a lot of people seem to think it’s an easy career choice. What would your words of wisdom be to these people?

ED: I’ve said this before: the biggest challenge for beginning writers in this modern era is impatience. The ability to toss a book out onto the internet the instant you type THE END has put a lot of aspiring writers on fast forward, and the temptation to skip all that bothersome editing, submission and working with a publisher is very real. The problem is that most aspiring writers have a lot to learn, and we learn a great deal from the process, including rejection and wrestling with a recalcitrant editor over a comma. Skipping that process is generally the biggest mistake they can make, and so many of them do. Patience, grasshopper. Good writing eventually finds a home, and at the end of the marathon, it’s going to be a book you’ll be proud to call your own and a launch to a writing career.

SJ: It seems like everyone likes to gang up on certain genres as being inferior, less meaningful, or cheap entertainment (especially if it’s speculative in nature). Make a case for the genre you write.

ED: I hardly need to fight for horror; the monsters just eat those who would mock us. There generally seems to be a preconception that people who write horror are bent or twisted in some way, and that’s only partly true. But there’s also a preconception that science fiction writers are nerds, that romance and erotica writers have actually done all the perverted things they describe, that mystery writers are obsessed with murder. None of that is actually true. We write what we love, and clearly there are a lot of people who love it too. If there’s a genre I think doesn’t get enough love, it’s science fiction. It is the genre that forces us to look in a mirror, that uses other worlds and other times to show us things about ourselves that might be hard to face. Those who dismiss it as mindless ships banging into each other in an improbable future are missing the point.

SJ: What do you want people to instantly think of when they hear your name or your work mentioned?

ED: I hope they have come to expect a story that pulls them in through the hole in the paper and puts them in another place or time, with interesting people doing exciting things. I hope they laugh and cry and throw the book (but not the iPad!) and that they forget to stop reading so they can get some sleep before work the next morning. Or that they can’t sleep, because the teddy bear under the bed might get them. What I hear from my readers is that they expect to come to care about my imaginary friends, and then watch them die horribly. For a horror writer, that’s high praise. But it’s that first part that counts: They care. That means I’ve done my job.

SJ: Please tell us about your latest/favorite work or a little bit about what you’re working on right now. It’s plug time, so go for it!

ED: My latest release is Nocturne Infernum, a compendium that collects my three Nocturne vampire novels into one volume for the first time. It’s a trio of mysteries set in an alternate-history Memphis in which vampires walk among us, but they are treated as second-class citizens without the same rights as full humans. It’s a world based on the Jim Crow laws, and the vampires are getting peeved at their treatment. In the first part, a serial killer seems to be knocking off the clients of a vampire-run sex club in the seedy part of Memphis. In the second, someone is threatening members of a Congressional candidate’s staff as the debate rages about whether vampires and humans should be allowed to marry. In the third, someone is killing the human half of vampire-human couples with fire. It’s not easy stuff, not happily-ever-after romances despite the, er, occasional naughty sex scene. It was delightful fun to revisit those stories, and reminded me how many more stories wait to be told in the Nocturne world.

In the meantime, I’m working on a pulp space action-adventure novel, and I’ve recently finished compiling a short-story collection that should come out sometime next year. If only I can find the time…

 

 

ElizabethDonaldAuthorPhoto

Elizabeth Donald is a writer fond of things that go chomp in the night. She is a three-time winner of the Darrell Award for speculative fiction and author of the Nocturnal Urges vampire mystery series and Blackfire zombie series, as well as other novels and short stories in the horror, science fiction and fantasy genres. She is the founder of the Literary Underworld author cooperative; an award-winning newspaper reporter and lecturer on journalism ethics; a nature and art photographer; freelance editor and writing coach. In her spare time, she… has no spare time. Find out more about her at elizabethdonald.com.

Website:  http://www.elizabethdonald.com

 Facebook:   https://www.facebook.com/Elizabeth-Donald-147651731911508/timeline/

 Twitter:  @edonald

Excerpt: Real Wilde Child

Published February 25, 2015 by admin

So to round out everything about The Big Bad anthologies, I thought it would be fun to take a look back…and forward. While this story takes place after A Family Affair, it actually appeared in the first Big Bad anthology. This story follows Rave and Asha as they attempt to get away from Amanda, meet a strange human that’s more than she seems, and try to deal with Rave’s impending unlife crisis. Sound typical for a vampire story? Trust me, it’s not.

***

There was a certain feeling of accomplishment Rave got every time he watched a victim’s corpse crumple and fold in a trash compactor. The teen perched carefully at the edge of the contraption and watched it go to work while he fished a cigarette out of his pocket. It had been a blessing when the Addington city council had the machines installed at key points throughout the town. Below him, the girl’s arm snapped and twitched with the compressions. Probably should have stuffed her in better, he sighed and ran a gore-drenched hand through blood-slicked hair. Between his tall and lanky build, his long chestnut curls, and his tattoos, he looked like just another disenchanted youth looking for a good time. It was the truth, but he wasn’t after the type of fun the cops approved of.

The girl had been a real beauty. Her camisole top barely held her in, and her shorts left little leg to the imagination. If only she hadn’t layered on the body splash and self-tanner; things like that wrecked a good feed with a foul aftertaste.  It’s not like she got shortchanged, the vampire reasoned. He’d picked up the coed in a local diner and mistakenly let her talk him into going to a movie. After two damn hours of that lame-ass excuse for vampire romance, I’m entitled to a little of my own. Not my fault she didn’t think my way was romantic. Rave grinned down to his fangs as he recalled how the glazed look in her eyes turned to all-out terror when their little session up against the back theater wall turned into mealtime for the night crawler. It was a good memory that he’d look back on and smile over for at least a week. He wasn’t particular about his company or his meals, but he got a certain thrill from wrecking a vampire fangirl’s fantasies.

Part of the chick’s scalp jabbed up through the top of the juggernaut, putting a bad taste in Rave’s mouth when he recalled the sticky feel of hairspray against her neck when he’d bled her out through the jugular. Still, her blood was hot, young, and did the job. Rave leaned over lip of the dumpster and admired his handiwork like an artist appraising his own masterpiece. “Not bad for a night’s start.”  The damaged body of such a young woman, the shocked surprise that was her final expression—both had been gorgeous and almost as succulent as the hot copper taste that coated his throat. Twenty minutes ago she was a stacked blonde in the prime of her life. She just wanted someone more exciting than her boyfriend, just wanted some validation. And then she met me and all she got was a quick round up against a dirty wall. Now she’s a discarded human fast food wrapper. Her blood’s in my stomach and her spirit’s probably all huffy and feeling betrayed somewhere. It was a heavy thought that came out of nowhere.

“Awesome.” Rave laughed around the cigarette and wiped his hands on his hole-riddled jeans. It’s little moments like this that make the whole undead lifestyle choice worth it. I can lay who I want, eat who I want, and no human can stop me. I don’t have to answer to anyone!  The body lowered into the trashy stew in the dumpster, taking the remnants of the girl out of sight. He sighed and stretched, determined to enjoy the last few moments of what had been a good appetizer.

“Are you done yet? I swear, you’re worse than a twelve-year-old boy with a porno,” a quiet voice sniped from the alley’s shadows.

Rave bristled and silently jumped down to the concrete. And it was looking to be such a good night, he thought. “I thought you had plans.”

Asha sidled out from the theater’s back doorway with a put-upon sigh. Although she’d been eighteen when she was turned, she’d always been able to pass as younger. Her wide blue eyes drew attention to the round, innocent-looking face that hid the demon that lurked under her skin. Her long hair was up in a ponytail, but she flicked it in indignation anyway. Blood droplets flung from the dirty blonde mane and spattered across Rave’s nose. “I have to run an errand and I need you to come with me.”

“You’re a big girl. You don’t need a chaperone,” he huffed and blew a thin tendril of smoke up toward the flickering streetlamp that lit the dismal inlet. His jeans and band shirt were drenched with blood. Not only was it hard to move once it started to turn brown and crusty, but he’d be noticed the minute he walked out onto the main drag. Humans never thought about what was under their nose, but walk around covered in blood and suddenly they made it a thing. Luckily, Asha’s cami top and fluttering summer skirt were plastered to her, as well, and it wasn’t from jumping in a pool. “How much did you feed, anyway? You look like you’ve been in a serial killer’s wet T-shirt contest.”

She rolled her eyes and fisted her hands on her hips. “Two, but they were taller than me.” It was easy to believe; everyone was taller than Asha. “And you’re changing the subject. C’mon, bro. I need you to take me shopping.”

Rave groaned and fell against the wall. “It’s nearly midnight. No place is gonna be open.”

“I need a new outfit!” his sister pouted. The tilt of her head and the little bat of her eyes probably worked for most of her victims, but he knew better. If he gave her an inch she’d take everything she could get and then some. He’d suffered at her hands for over sixty years and her tricks hadn’t changed that much.

“You should’ve thought of that before you rolled around in a pile of frat boys!” he shot back.

“Don’t be disgusting. I was hungry; there’s no way they could’ve kept up with anything else,” she snickered and her eyes glittered orange at his reaction. “You play with your food enough. Why is it a problem when I do it?”

“Because you’re my baby sister and I don’t need those gross images tainting my brain,” he growled and busied himself with the task of scraping the drying blood where it had nearly covered the intricate tattoos that ran up both arms. The dark ink was starting to fade, an expensive quirk of being a vampire who’d been turned before tattoos became acceptable. He’d have to get them redone soon.

Asha smirked. “Then take me shopping and I won’t describe what all went on…or mention the slut in the trash compactor.”

Rave sighed and ran a hand through his hair. The metallic smell of lingering gore in his curls didn’t make him feel any better. When she was feeling high and mighty or wanted something, his sister could be a pain in the ass. She wasn’t going to let his habits or her mission go, which meant she wouldn’t let him bust out of there. “You have enough clothes. It’s a pain to move them when we have to skip town.”

He knew he’d hate her reply when her grin nearly blinded him. “A new outfit will fix that problem. I need it for Amanda’s party.”

Rave’s irritation blazed to all-out fury. “No.” His arms folded tight over his chest and he fought the urge to eviscerate her. Fat lot of good that would do; she’d heal overnight, sulk about it for a month, and then try to castrate him in his day sleep. Siblings who could heal catastrophic wounds had no business living together.

Asha raised a delicate eyebrow. “You thought by hiding the invitation I wouldn’t find it?”

Well there goes that hope. “It’s too dangerous.” He’d learned about Amanda’s incoming presence only a few weeks ago, not that there’d been anything he could have done to stop it. Addington only had about seven thousand people at most; a vampire turf war would immediately draw suspicion. Besides, being on the run made it hard to even declare town ownership, even if it was a boring excuse for a town.

“She’s caught up to us, bro. She’s just gonna keep following. She knows we’re here,” Asha insisted.

He turned away and tried to ignore her. “We’ve been running from Amanda since what, the eighties? What’s a few more decades—?”

Before he could blink she had stepped in front of him. Not for the first time he cursed her equal speed and agility. Little sisters were irritating enough, but give them preternatural powers and it was taken to a whole new level. “That’s bull and you know it!” she snapped, expression so intense that her features twisted into her true vampire face. “I’m tired of squatting in warehouses and storage units, Rave. I want to actually have a place. We aren’t getting any younger,” she reminded him. “We may look like teens, but we shouldn’t have to live like them! Besides, Amanda has allies in the large cities. How long do we have before one of her friends stakes us as we’re passing through? We have to deal with this.”

The older vampire rolled his eyes. “Has it occurred to you that she invited us so she could get rid of us?”

Asha’s features slowly faded back to her human form. “You don’t know that.”

“I think I know our sire pretty well.” His throat contracted around the words. There wasn’t a cigarette in the world that could take away the bitter taste of calling Amanda by her title. “If she doesn’t kill us, she’ll try to take us back. And I’m not going back. You’re not going back.” It had been hard enough on him. Amanda’s expectations and jealous tendencies had been ten times worse for Asha.

Amanda had ruled over Asha with an iron fist, making sure the teen girl behaved like the charming lady heiress their sire imagined her to be. It got to the point where neither one of them could function in their roles, so they ran and tried to keep a few towns ahead of their maker. Neither one had expected her to give chase and keep it up for a good twenty years.

And now she’s found us. His skin had crawled when Amanda had sent the invitation to her upcoming shindig via human messenger. She must have promised to pay him a lot, because the guy’s grimy skin and dirty clothes weren’t her usual immaculate style. Maybe she’d anticipated that her childe would gut the Renfield as soon as he saw who the invite was from. What kind of lunatic throws a house-warming party for themselves, anyway? It’s just like her to be arrogant enough to welcome herself to the neighborhood. He could already feel the tie around his neck and the walls of her house closing in.

“You think I want her arranging my whole life for me? Please, I don’t need to be told who to feed from and who to get on. There’s a third option,” Asha pointed out. “If she’s throwing a party, then she hasn’t officially declared Addington her territory yet. There wasn’t any real opposition when we first pulled into town, so it’s probably just going to be whatever lackeys she’s dragged with her.” Rave already knew where she was going with it. It wasn’t anything he hadn’t considered and battled with before. “You could easily rule this town. Our bloodline’s good, you’re old enough, savvy enough—”

“Sure, put it all on me. I don’t want that kind of responsibility. That’s why we left in the first place!” Unfortunately, it was still the best way to finally be left alone.  He sighed and shook his head. His cigarette was finished, and it had been his last one. Wish I had somethin’ stronger, he lamented. “I’d have to take her down to do it. How the hell am I supposed to get rid of a two- hundred-year-old, let alone our maker…” he trailed off at Asha’s smug expression. She loved that she could get in his head and bend his thinking to what she wanted. “You’re such a bitch.”

“I’m tired of living like animals, Rave,” she sighed. “Please. Let’s just end this.” He started to voice his apprehension, but she brushed him off with a wave of a sticky hand. “You’ll think of something. You know what always helps me think?”

His growl would have terrified the most badass human. It didn’t even make Asha blink. “Shopping.” The hated word was strangled out of his throat despite his attempt to swallow it down.

“What a great idea! I know just the place!” she laughed and stretched her lean arms over her head. As a warm breeze ghosted between the looming buildings, the girl’s skin dissolved into a tan haze. Soon, her silhouette was nothing but a dust cloud and she was fast on her way to riding the wind to her destination. It was the only real way for them to travel safely. Any vehicle could be traced, a wolf would be noticed in the small Indiana town, and turning into a bat took a lot more skill than most assumed. Since it was relatively warm out, dust was a lot less conspicuous than mist. “Hurry up!” her voice snapped as the wind carried her away.

Sighing, Rave closed his eyes and relaxed his mind. Soon, his own body was nothing more than a mass of tiny particles that reluctantly rose up to catch the breeze.

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Everybody loves bad guys, and these are some of the baddest of them all. Forget the rules. There aren’t any heroes. No one is going to save you from the wickedness in the darkness. Monster hunters can easily become the hunted. Twisted perverts can find themselves on the receiving end of their own deviant desires. No matter how big and bad someone or something may be, there is always something bigger and badder just waiting. Even the classics like a dragon, werewolf, or supernatural being can fall victim to something even more evil. Take a peek, if you dare, inside the malevolent world of super-villains, monsters, demons and just plain evil folk. Be careful, what you see there might be disturbingly familiar …

Real Wild Childe

Rave isn’t interested in examining his soul or atoning for his misdeeds. He’s a bad-boy vampire and determined to enjoy every kill. The only romance he’s interested in is the kind that gets him laid before getting his fangs into an artery. Unfortunately, he and his sister, Asha, are on the run from someone older, someone that they barely escaped once. To make matters worse, Asha is determined that they settle down in Addington, Indiana, once and for all.  When an unfortunate invitation leads them to Sin, resident outsider and human seamstress, Rave’s life is about to get a lot more complicated as he struggles to sort out his feelings and decide if he’s finally ready to grow up and stand his ground.