Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Oh, To Be the Black Geek: Q&A with Maurice Broaddus

This week’s special guest is horror/fantasy novelist Maurice Broaddus, author of King Maker, a modern version of King Arthur with a distinctive  inner-city feel. He can currently be read on his blog spot Mauricebroaddus.com or you can catch his thoughts (along with Anne Rice and other Christian fiction writers) in Out of the Darkness and Into the Light, available for Kindle on Amazon.com.

I came across Maurice’s name last year when I was trying to see how many African-American horror and science fictions there were. I already had books from Octavia Butler, Samuel Delaney and George Schuyler. But, I quickly delved into the newly discovered authors.

I contacted Maurice for an interview and he politely took time out from his busy schedule as writer, blogger and movie reviewer to answer a few questions.

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[caption id="attachment_2785" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Maurice Broaddus"][/caption]

Steven Barnes, Tananarive Due, L.A. Banks. Though the numbers of black horror and science fiction writers is growing, they still remain painfully low. Why do you think there have been so few science fiction and horror writers of color?

The numbers are painfully low, but we're making progress all the time.  I have to wonder how much of this is a social/spiritual pressure and how much of this is a matter of embracing our "geek culture".  The only group of people I dread explaining that I'm a horror writer to more than church folk is my family.  There is the automatic stigma of writing "that demon stuff" or being in league with the occult.  And that's assuming we get past the discussion that horror isn't just blood and guts for their own sake.

But, oh, to be the black geek in a group.  To revel in the latest iteration of "Star Trek," to proudly announce that my d10 goes up to 11 (and to be able to get that joke), to roll around naked on the latest issues of my comic book collection, these were not things that were nourished or even "safe" to do growing up.  Okay, it's never all right to roll around naked on your comics.

But we also have a proud tradition as story tellers.  From the griots of  ancient  Africa to the modern day hip hop artists.  And embracing genre fiction is but the latest step.

Ah, yes, I am familiar with the "griot." The Dallas/Fort Worth Association of Black Communicators' annual awards are called the Griots.

And speaking of awards and honors, your work (such as "A House Is Not A Home" and Devil’s Marionette) has been praised by the likes of Vince Laguno and Bram Stoker & International Horror Guild Award winner Gary Braunbeck. Hopefully, this hasn't given you a big head. Has it?

Child, please.  The laws of physics haven't been written yet that can measure how big my head is.  Anyway, as a writer, I'm a black hole of neediness and insecurity, so every bit of praise is taken in and never let out.

Regarding your latest book King Maker, what made you want to bring King Arthur into a modern urban setting? And why Indianapolis?

I live in Indianapolis.  I've also spent many years doing volunteer work with the homeless population, so I end up being a part of a different side of Indianapolis than many people see.  The idea started as a joke between me and a few of the kids I was working with and I wrote the book as a lark.  It grew into something a lot more.

You list yourself as a traditionalist when it comes to horror writing. Why is that?

Traditionalists tend to be more character driven, letting the horror arise from or intrude on the mundane. They are often more atmospheric, and explore the eerie or weird with a moral code. Oh yeah, traditionalists lean towards being good vs. evil moralists.  Most times when I wake up, that's the side of the bed I roll out from.

Angry Robot Books mentioned that your family had ties to "obeah," which is akin to Jamaican Voodoo. Whenever I think of voodoo, I think of Zombies. What do you think of what they call zombies today as opposed to traditional zombies?

Well, I managed to include some zombies in King Maker, but they aren't the voodoo brand of zombies.  They are somewhere between the shuffling and "fast" zombies.  I'm fine with zombies either way.  I think the power of zombies lies within their ability to be a metaphor for something else anyway (in the case of King Maker, the life of a drug addict).

You work as an environmental toxicologist. Has your work ever creeped into your stories?

I worked as an environmental toxicologist for twenty years.  I've been professionally writing for ten.  Not one story ever touched upon my work.

On second thought, that's probably a good thing. So, who are some of the authors who inspired you to write horror, fantasy and science fiction?

Oh, let's see.  (Edgar Allan) Poe was an early inspiration.  Then (Stephen) King

[caption id="attachment_2787" align="alignleft" width="100" caption="Octavia Butler (1947-2006)"][/caption]

and (Clive) Barker.  And then (Neil) Gaiman.  So, you know, the usual suspects.  These days I'm moved by Catherynne M. Valente, Octavia Butler, Walter Mosley, and George Pelecanos (I know, he's a crime writer).

You're also a movie critic. I've read your reviews on Blade: Trinity, I Am Legend and Elektra. What got you started as a reviewer?

My church had invited David Bruce, founder of the site HollywoodJesus.com out to talk about Christianity and pop culture.  Afterwards, we ended up hanging out and we got onto the topic of television.  I ranted about various shows and he pretty much drafted me on the spot.  I still write television, comic book, book, and movie reviews for the site.  Mostly though, the reviews serve 1) as my justification for how much time I spend in front of the television and 2) to allow me to write books, comics, and DVDs off my taxes.

If you had to recommend a book that could be made into a TV show to replace Lost or Heroes, which one(s) would it be?

If we're going to go fantasy, let's go high fantasy and go with N.K. Jemisin's The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms. That would be cool. 

I was going to say The Morgaine Chronicles by C.J. Cherryh, but I'll definitely have to check out Jemisin now.

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I definitely want to thank Maurice again for agreeing to this interview. You can catch some of his stories such as the eerily creepy “Hootchie Cootchie Man,” “A House Is Not A Home,“Closer Than They Appear” and “Family Business” (Weird Tales #338), at Mauricebroaddus.com.

King Maker is available at Angry Robot Books. Orgy of Souls and Dark Faith are available from Apex Books, while Devil’s Marionette can be found at Shroud Books.

Monday, June 28, 2010

From One Medium to Another

Remember the days when research was not done online but in line. Specifically, in line at the public library.

Oh, those were the good old days, weren’t they? Well, maybe not. Not if you had to walk five miles to the library and then five miles back at night (the distance from the Medford Public Library to my house on Monument Street by the Mystic River, eh, I mean, Mystic Rivuh).

Of course, nowadays, we can do all of our research online. This means we have less exercise from walking. We don’t have to leave the house. We don’t get bothered by loud library patrons. Yep, we get to be anti-social, overweight, out of shape couch potatoes.

Anyway, I guess I should get to the gist of this piece, which is that the resources are basically the same. We’ve just jumped from one medium to another.

What are the online resources I use most in my writing?

I have four online resources that I use heavily. Three of them should be pretty easy to figure out (that is, for anyone who didn’t participate in the current American educational system).

For those not in the know, this means “encyclopedia,” “dictionary” and “thesaurus.”

First up is the encyclopedia. We know it as Wikipedia. Apparently, Wikipedia has information on everything. Whereas Encyclopedia Britannica would never deign to do a write-up on Jessica Simpson’s or Paris Hilton’s younger sisters, Wikipedia will.

Another big difference is that Encyclopedia Britannica pays lots of people to verify the information it puts out. Wikipedia counts on the general public for information. Talk about being ripe for disinformation, misinformation and mistakes. Why, even a housewife from New Jersey and living in Virginia could send in something that could appear on Wikipedia.

So, why do I use it? As I said, Wikipedia will talk about Jessica Simpson’s sister and Encyclopedia Britannica won’t. I’m just looking for enough information to make my characters sound like they know what they’re talking about.

Secondly, we have the dictionary. Online, it’s dictionary.com. And while we’re at it, let’s include the third common item – the thesaurus. Thesaurus.com is the brother (or sister) of dictionary.com and both are part of Ask.com.

I like these sites. They’re way cool. Both have “Word of the Day” and “Question of the Day” features. For instance, Sunday’s question of the day is: Are book titles underlined, italicized or put in quotations?

The answer, by the way, is “for longer written works like plays and novels, italicize. Underline if you can’t italicize. Use quotes for titles within titles.”

The word of the day was “Zephyr.” The cool breeze, not the car.

Dictionary.com and thesaurus.com are full of gems like those. And they’re good for looking up word meanings or if you need synonyms, homonyms or antonyms. Some people might even use them to find a way to brutally do away with that essential part of speech called the adverb.

Last but not least, we get to the main online source I use – Google.

In order to get to Wikipedia, I Google things – Wicked Writers, Examiner.com, red herrings, Maurice Broaddus (you’ll get the reference tomorrow). You can get all your questions asked, like “Why in the hell is Chef Gordon Ramsey still alive?”

Google also brings up tons of other websites that contain the information I need (along with about 10,000 other sites nobody really needs, except the ones soon to be converted to .xxx).

Compare that to Bing. Bing is almost as good as Google, but Google windows don’t pop up every time you bump your mouse across any word containing a vowel.

I don’t know what other online resources my fellow bloggers use, but feel free to partake of mine. You have my permission.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Influence? Quelle influence?

A personal problem…?

OK, so here I am, trying to conceptualise my approach for this article on how my various hobbies and pastimes might influence my writing and… well, not for the first time on this Blog, I am struggling!

I do things. I don’t have hobbies and pastimes and work. I just DO stuff. Some stuff I get paid for, most I don’t, but all I generally enjoy doing!

[caption id="attachment_2773" align="alignright" width="150" caption="A Volvo? A Hobby?"][/caption]

Do I collect stuff? Am I creative: do I paint? Draw pictures? Write poetry? Play a musical instrument? Do I make stuff? Or do I merely enjoy tinkering with the engine of my car? (Car? …oops, Volvo …does that count? I mean... a Volvo, right? Still…)

OMG! I have a problem – it’s my problem, mind you; a personal problem! I do all of these things.

[caption id="attachment_2774" align="alignright" width="150" caption="Stading Ovation?"][/caption]

How can I possibly have hobbies? Surely a hobby implies some level of commitment to a particular pastime. But, me? Well, I do so much stuff I cannot possibly have an intimate knowledge of so many things (just listen – if you dare – to my guitar playing.)

So, that might well be considered a problem to some. But, surely, if I don’t have an intimate knowledge of certain activities that might qualify as hobbies, can there ever be a sense in which such activities can be said to “influence” anything else, such as my writing?

Not a problem… an opportunity!

So, I thought, what does influence my writing? In general?

And can I then sort out hobby from work, from life experience, from fictional idea? (There may be a few who would like to know the answer to that one! What, for example, are the real influences in my novel River of Judgement?)

I have this theory: that everything (at least all knowledge) starts out as a fictional idea! Now where does such a theory take me?

Well, as an individual, everything I do is potentially a new idea for something else.

When I do something today at work, it will give me an idea about what I might need to do tomorrow.

When I read a book (if I ever get to the end of it), it is not the book, the writer, or the genre that influences me. It is that some sentence, some phrase, some aspect of the story has become the seed of an idea. I stop reading, I develop the idea. I have started SO many books!!!

When I try to play piece of music on the guitar, I don’t tend to learn a piece by someone else. I do try… honest! But, before long, some phrase in the music has caught me and I go off on a tangent and try and develop something else out of it.

[caption id="attachment_2776" align="alignright" width="150" caption="Questions, questions..."][/caption]

When I am writing, I start with an idea and think around that idea. Before long, fiction and reality blend into a new potential reality that raises questions. Who is this? Where is this? Can this be like this? These questions require answers. So I research. And research mixes with experiences or creates new ideas and new questions and before long there is a new potential reality that bears no resemblance to anything current.

It only takes one idea to start with… but because of a rich and varied life and an eclectic and fertile imagination… I cannot stop that idea from mutating. A magazine article here, a news flash on radio there; the conclusions in a report on the future of British Policing mix with a discussion about the life and times of a great person and a chance encounter with the Prime Minister of a West African state. All of these things “influence”.

One thing I think is a surety in writing. A rich and fertile imagination, coupled with a diverse range of life experiences and a carefully honed ability to research, can only lead to a rich and fertile ground for the development of fiction. And, in that development, the seeds of new realities are created.

What, in the final analysis, influences my writing, are ideas. And ideas come from just doing stuff. The more stuff I do, the more ideas I can get… and ideas favour neither gainful employment nor passionate, unstinting devotion to hobbies and craft. What will toll the bell on ideas, however, is inactivity, apathy and indifference.

The trick, I suppose, is in coming to know when to stop filling-in the ideas; incoming to know when to stop answering questions. As my post on The Interconnectedness of Nothing suggests, the critical skill is to make my own writing act as trigger for ideas in the mind of the reader. Although I would hope my readers reach the end of the story first!!!

Happy reading and writing :)

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Which Came First? The Interest or the Research?

Today's guest on Wicked is George Allwynn! We met on a terrific site called savvyauthors.com. I was immediately captivated by his witty forum posts and eloquent conversational style in his comments. His mastery of the English language leaves me sputtering to pen an equally well thought-out response, but I'm usually left just hoping I didn't offend anyone. Please welcome this talented writer as he graciously shares his take on our topic this week.

In a world of tough choice psychological questions, people often ponder:

What is good/what is evil?

Who’s on first/what's on second?

Or the all time, gut wrenching decision: paper or plastic?

On the corner of the carpet I claim as my 'writeful' domain, the current issue boggling my brain has been: When it comes to hobbies, which came first, the interest or the research?

In all seriousness, this subject was of no consequence a week ago. Never had I given the matter a second thought. Until I was asked about hobbies and their general influence upon my craft.

After much reflection, I came to a startling conclusion.

Most, if not all, of my hobbies began as a result of intense research done out of the necessity of getting an accurate account for a story idea.

Writing has, and will always be, the testosterone that pumps through my body, compelling me beyond what I ever dreamed I'd achieve. Even when I strangled my basic urges in pursuit of religious training, the ravenous drive to put pen on paper hovered in the background, sneaking out disguised as Sunday School lessons or creative biblical sermons.

Taking into account I belong to the house of 'methodical writers', it is hard to separate the writer from the story. The discovery of 'new thought' or the perusal of a 'new idea' works like an addictive drug. I latch onto my interest, riding the adrenaline high for all it's worth, with an almost orgasmic satisfaction cresting when I feel I've gleaned enough to put the theory into practice, working out all the kinks before I add it to my arsenal of story ideas.

Therefore, I believe it is safe for me to assume my story research is a hobby in and of itself.

Beyond that, hobbies wax and wane in my life, like Grandmother Moon. Interests such as drawing, community theater, quilting, survival skills and gardening have taken a backseat for a few years, yet the internal feelings and knowledge I carry with me has, on an occasion, bled through into a story or two.

There are my current hobbies, such as tattoos (I have two and want more), quotes from writers (instant motivation), old photographs of gay or lesbian couples (a treasure trove of inspiration), anything about the Kokopelli, and things related to Ernest Hemingway which have wormed a niche for themselves as a result of story investigation.

[caption id="attachment_2767" align="alignright" width="192" caption="Mrs. Jones, George's current writing companion"][/caption]

And then there are the hobbies that, no matter how hard I try to remember, seem to have always been a part of me. Those time-honored, prized friends include reading, cats, collecting magnets and inspiring (to me) photos, green living, classic comedy/horror movies and church rummage sales.

After obtaining enlightenment on the current subject, when I look over my story portfolio it's rather strange I never noticed what is now so blatantly obvious.  Whether finished, incomplete, in letters or posts, I notice the influx of my hobbies influencing my writing.  My writing, of course, has affected the way I live life. And the beat goes on. Effect and cause. Cause and effect.

In my mind, it's sorta like the universal image of infinity represented by the Lemniscate. There is no end, there is no beginning. It's just a lazy, twisted circle, sloping down, curving up, abundance feeding, breeding a myriad of paradoxes, continuing on forever.

Isn't being a writer a delightful hobby of self discovery?

Thanks so much for joining us George! George has three holiday novellas due out later this year. He focuses primarily on GLBT romantic comedy with elements of suspense or paranormal. To learn more about George, please stop by his Twitter, Facebook, his new website (still under construction), his personal blog that will launch the end of this week, and for a variety of fun stuff check him out on you tube under ButchBluBoi.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Not Finding Myself Again

When I sat down to contemplate this week’s blog – about hobbies and how they interact with our writing – I suddenly felt like David last week. Hard-pressed to comply with C.J. Ellisson (which, in Jerseyan, translates to “she who must be obeyed”) and her topic of the week.

All kidding aside (yes, C.J., it was a joke; don’t rip my arm off and try to beat me to death with it…again), I took stock of the topic and realized, quite shockingly just how few of my hobbies actually make it into my novels, novellas and short stories.

That might sound amazing to C.J., but it’s true. She might remember when I did the interview with Harley Palmer for Labotomy of a Writer some time ago, in which I stated that a lot of my personality makes it into the personality profiles of my characters (and she commented "LMFAO").

However, my hobbies don’t. My characters aren’t riding mountain bikes. They aren’t hiking in the woods. They aren’t camped out in front of the television for a creature feature marathon. I think the only hobbies that made it into print were a library full of old books and some old music from the house scene in Land of the Blind.

I'm guessing I might want to correct that flaw real soon.


So that my characters might better find some common ground with the average reader. Right now, I think I’m getting an audience of nerds and geeks. A lot of the romance (aka "you-only-wish-it-could-happen sex") scenes in Slow Boat to China sound like what a nerd might write about the hot girl in school (if that hot girl was Heather Hunter or Mia St. John). 

I am not technologically-inclined (no matter how many times I help my mother fix a problem with her computer), yet Land of the Blind has a lot of elements of Michael Crichton in it. It seems that I have borrowed hobbies from other people.

I’ve always wanted to travel, but circumstances have, thus far, prevented anything extensive. That’s why my characters in Land of the Blind travel around the world so much.

My characters seem to be reflecting the hobbies I WANT to do instead of the ones I AM doing or SHOULD be doing.

Can someone please find Jenny Jones so I can get a makeover?

Hmm, no luck? Perhaps I should do it myself and Sunday may just have provided the spark.

When mother sister-in-law and I took my older brother to Outback Steakhouse for Father’s Day, they both had a field day ribbing me about my lack of social graces, with our waitress. Even though I did give the waitress my business card (she wants to be a writer, too), I felt as if I had worked much too hard to build a rapport with her.

Later that night, I got an e-mail from Mikaella, a girl I'd lost contact with some time ago. It seems I've become interesting again for her. And, to top it all off, I had messages on my cell phone from another hot woman whom I'd given up on. That brought some interesting words to mind (like "one lucky bastard," "dumb sap" and "you'd better sell a lot of novels to pay for all of this").

Since that day, however, my juices have begun flowing again (my creative  juices, you perverts).

My brain – now in tune with common sense – is wondering what it must do to build up more of a connection in this reawakened social situation. It must help me rediscover what might have made me attractive to them.

It is reminding me of my love for nostalgia -- old music from Doris Day and the Mills Brothers up through the nostalgic oldies of the 80s; old books; old movies. It reminds me of my Navy days -- the ones where I rode Japan's highly efficient trains just to see the countryside, not the ones where I saw burning oil wells off the coast of Kuwait during Desert Storm.

Come to think of it, my war experiences haven't made it into any stories. You'd think being sealed down in engineering while 1000-pound mines brushed alongside the ship or hearing about Iraqi MiGs armed with Exocets streaking out with orders to sink USS Blue Ridge would provide prime action. Sorry, I might get around to it someday.

Well, let me get back to the narrative; I'm rambling.

Where was I?

Oh, right. My brain.

It is telling me to remember my fondness with classic television, for reading classic novels and also for leaving myself open to learning new things.

It has even reminded me to exercise more and plan to get involved in sports and leisure again (to avoid “Dunlop” disease*) so I can keep up in...sports. Yeah, sports. That's the ticket.

And, best of all, these hobbies just might be perfect for Devereaux Marshall Fox (Land of the Blind), Cantrell Ryker (Hunters) and Pegram Kimble (Slow Boat to China).

They might also be perfect for me.


In case you were wondering:

* Dunlop Disease -- when your belly Dunlop over  your belt.

Partying, Reading, Plotting World Domination

Ever wonder at the details in a book? Most times they come from research, but sometimes they come from the personal interests of the author. We'll be sharing our interests with you this week and how they relate to our writing. George Allwynn, author of GBLT romantic comedy, will be joining us on Wednesday, please stop by and see what this incredibly witty and talented writer has to say - I know can hardly wait!

For those of you that don't know the setting of my book, Vampire Vacation, let me give you a brief run down. It's a murder mystery/adventure/sexual romp between a married couple set at a resort for the undead in Alaska, above the Arctic Circle where it's full dark most of the day in the winter.

I designed the resort in my head and will use my four years of technical drawing to draw the building and all the surrounding grounds for maps in the book. My first passion, as an adult, was not writing - but building. My husband and I flipped homes before there were TV shows about it and prior to getting sick, I was going for my contractor's license to add to my Realtor license, property management business, and seven years of mortgage banking experience.

I know homes. Sure, there are people out there that know more than me, but not many will bring my combined love of architecture, fine arts training and hands-on know-how to the table. Picturing and planning this massive southern-style plantation, complete with a basement, occupied many an hour in MRI & CT scans or other various procedures last year.

Since I love to read, I made sure to incorporate one of my own dreams in the design: hallways filled with books. I pictured a vaulted ceiling in the main lobby that has a double staircase winding up all the way to the third floor. The landings around the open space lead off to separate wings and the walls that face the vaulted area have floor to ceiling bookcases - filled with an ancient vampire's extensive collection of books in the seven languages she speaks.

Another thing I really enjoy is entertaining. Quaint dinners, outdoor bar-b-ques, cocktail parties, large and small fondue dinners, movie nights, birthday parties - you name it! I used to earn extra money in high school and college working (and later running) parties our community gourmet club and it's participants held in their homes. It was a great way to make a buck and I learned a lot about entertaining and how to do it stress-free. Which requires planning - and a lot of it.

What better way to showcase good planning and party skills than to run an inn that caters to every desire a supernatural creature could think up? I've often joked with friends I'd have made an excellent butler. The key to superb service is anticipation. If you can predict your guests' needs before they can, then you can prepare and plan for that request, should it arise.

Lastly, while this may not be a hobby, it is a big part of who I am: I have strong opinions and I'm not afraid to speak them. Growing up, whenever I felt things were somehow wrong, where they did not fit into the black and white ideals of my mind, but fell somewhere in the gray area I wasn't used to exploring, I would start a rant with the words "Well, in C.J. Land it would be like..." Enough so, that I was teased by my family at inopportune moments with something like "Yes, yes, we know. In 'C.J. Land'  it would be like... ," before I ever even opened my mouth.

Perhaps I was destined to write my own fantasy world someday. My rules, with things that interest me. Stories with people, whom I steal dialogue for in my own life, and strangely resemble people around me - I swear just because the characters slightly resemble me and my husband that does not mean it's us. I wish I could be all the things my heroine is. My imagination is pretty vivid and incorporating the hobbies I have in my own writing is thrilling.

When I started writing I did it to distract myself, trying to find something to do with my time. I had an idea and I went with it. I'm still amazed (and grateful) anyone wants to read it - let alone feels a connection to the characters I made up. Who woulda thunk it?

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Happy Father's Day!!!!

To all those wonderful dads out there!!!!

CJ, Marissa, Liz, Suzanne, Boone, Kerri and Nicole

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Am I to Succu(m)b(us)...?

I am joined, today, by my friend Paula Phillips.

Paula hails from New Zealand, is a Librarian by profession, and reads and reviews books from many different genres, from authors all around the world.

Paula reviews books for a number of web sites, including http://www.chicklitclub.com/ and her own www.paulazone.blogdrive.com.

However, today, for Wicked Writers, Paula reviews the “Supernaturally Succubus Series” from author Richelle Mead

A big thank you to Paula…

[caption id="attachment_2743" align="alignright" width="110" caption="Paula Phillips"] [/caption]

With the rise of supernatural beings in fiction, it is no wonder our readingpalettes have been obscured with V ampires, werewolves, fallen angels and demons and, if you are like me, then when you read one book or a particular author, you yearn for more; it’s like a calling for you – “I must read more”.  To me, when I hear the word series, two words come to mind “formula” and “fiction”.

For all those who don’t speak librarian lingo, “formula fiction” is when a book follows the same format in plot, and it’s what we seek as reliable, as we all know what we are in for.

Being asked to write about a favourite series of books, one of my favourites - and one that I am waiting patiently for book five to arrive - is the “Georgina Kincaid Series”, written by Richelle Mead. Richelle is more popularly known as the authoress of the “Vampire Academy Series” aimed at teens.

The Georgina Kincaid series pushes the supernatural to the next level. It moves the reader into the world of the semi-erotic, paranormal romance.

The series is based around the main character Georgina Kincaid, who is now living her life as a Succubus which, for those who aren’t sure, is a female sex-demon; and she comes complete with a mixed bunch of friends - the super-naturals - and some humans!

As in most of Richelle Mead's stories, the main character is a strong female with an attitude to boot, and whom always has a knack for finding herself in:


B) a sticky situation that results in a problem TROUBLE,

And, for Succubus Georgina Kincaid – as you readers are about to get a sneaky peek into - TROUBLE is a common recurrence and that, unfortunately, Georgina never learns to avoid.

[caption id="attachment_2742" align="alignleft" width="99" caption="Blue? ...Really?"][/caption]

Book One: Succubus Blues - Richelle Mead – 2007.

To start off this review, I thought I’d clarify what a succubus is: A succubus is an alluring, shape-shifting demon who seduces and pleasures mortal men. And, for fun, as the book says, the definition of Georgina Kincaid is "a pathetic succubus with great shoes and no social life".

However, in Succubus Blues, Georgina's social life is going to get more hectic than she realises. Georgina finds having a social life pretty hard going when you’re a succubus; but it is the way she likes it.

Georgina has her eyes firmly set on her friends: Hugh - An Imp; Jerome - a demon that has a thing for John Cusack (though no matter how much you ask him, he will deny it); Peter and Cody - the vampires; and Carter - an annoying angel.

If this wasn't difficult, she has all her mortal friends at the bookshop she works at. In this book, Georgina's favourite author is coming to the bookshop. As usual, Georgina and Seth hit it off, which would have been great if Georgina didn’t have an admirer – Roman, who happens to be a Nephilim and a killer.

As we read, Georgina hits the stacks and becomes a succubus, Nancy Drew. It wouldn’t be a book about Nephilim’s, without appreciating the verse in the Bible’s "Genesis Chapter 6", which talks about Angels and Fallen Angels.

[caption id="attachment_2741" align="alignright" width="100" caption="Yes...?"][/caption]

Book Two: Succubus on Top, AKA Succubus Nights (Depending which copy you pick up) - Georgina Kincaid Series - Richelle Mead - 2008

Love Sucks and Hurts, especially for Georgina, a succubus who has just got herself a new boyfriend in author Seth Mortensen. Georgina has to be so careful not to kiss him or get sexually involved, otherwise she will drain his life-force. Admittedly, the shape shifting and immortality perks are terrific, and yes, Georgina did choose to join the ranks of hell centuries ago. But it seems completely unfair that a she-demon whose purpose is seduction can't get hot and heavy with the one mortal who knows and accepts her for who she is.

It's not just her personal life that's in chaos.

Doug, Georgina's co-worker at a local bookstore, has been exhibiting bizarre behaviour, and Georgina suspects that something far more demonic than double espressos is at work.

She could use help finding out, but Bastien, an irresistibly charming incubus, and her best immortal friend, is preoccupied in the suburbs with corrupting an ultra-conservative talk radio star - and giving Georgina some highly distracting come-hither vibes.

If this wasn't trouble enough with the behaviour Doug is experiencing, others will soon start to have terrible consequences if Georgina, once again, can't save the day. For Georgina, who has just received a gold star certificate, this is a job she's getting used to.

Book 3 Succubus Dreams - Richelle Mead - 2008

[caption id="attachment_2740" align="alignright" width="99" caption="Dream on..."][/caption]

For some girls, especially Georgina, they just can't catch their breath, and today is one of those days; or should I say one of those books.

In Book three we are introduced to the not very nice Imp Niphon - he was the one that, way back, centuries and centuries ago, Georginia sold her soul to.

Imp has arrived in Seattle with a new succubus in tow, and a mission - or should I say a job - that Georgina, if she knows what is good for her, can't turn down! Georgina is to mentor and help break-in a new succubus, Tawny Johnson. Tawny, in Georgina's eyes, (and I agree) is a mega-slut, and Skank, with a capital S.

However, as always Georgina finds herself stuck in the middle of trouble, she has a Nyx after her - draining away her energy while she dreams weird dreams of her future, or a past that could have been.

Georgina’s home, due to Carter, the angel, has been invaded by a group of semi-ungrateful angels and, of course, Tawny and Niphon.

If this wasn't bad enough, Georgina has gotten her friend Doug's sister a job, and she and Seth have been getting more than your average cosy.

Can Georgina, with the help of friends, get out of this mess as usual, and find her Christmas/New Year spirit. And does this book signify the end of the Seth/Georgina odd no-sex relationship?

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="99" caption="Hot stuff..."][/caption]

Book 4: Succubus Heat - Richelle Mead - 2009

Georgina has been in a funk - stuck in a never-ending rut, and is really starting on a downer and is annoying all her immortal friends.

Made to go and see a therapist by her “John-Cusack-lookalike” boss Jerome - after separating from Writer boyfriend Seth – Georgina does the one thing Jerome tells her not to do. The one thing a succubus does best... You guessed it! Sleep with the poor guy.

Now Georgina has Jerome in an uproar, so Jerome has come up with a little plan to get Georgina out of his hair. Send her to Vancouver, Canada on a mission. She has to stop the so-called amateur Satanist group, "The Army of Darkness", from making fools of themselves. For anyone else this would be an easy task but, as we all know, trouble follows Georgina everywhere and she is about to find herself in the middle of a big Demon War.

When Jerome goes missing and the immortals lose their abilities, it is up to Georgina to put her human mind to work and, with the help of some friends, find out where Jerome is. Georgina restores peace and their abilities before all the immortals are stuck in a never-ending time warp.

Keep your eyes open as old characters re-appear and new ones appear, and watch out for book Five to be released - Succubus Shadows.

So next time you are browsing your shelves for a good series to pick up and read, and the supernatural paranormal romance is a favourite genre of yours, head over to the M’s and check out the books by Richelle Mead.

Other Series include: Vampire Academy (6 Books) and Dark Swan (2 Books)


Thank you for joining us at Wicked Writers, Paula...

David :)

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The interconnectedness of... nothing?

Where are James, Morgan and Kit when you want them?

Here am I, with this d**n blog post to put together… I ask you, ‘series’?

“Write about your favourite series,” said she who must be obeyed. (Sorry, C.J. – couldn’t resist that one!)

What does any boy-child (stuck in a man’s body) do in times of trouble? Call on his childhood heroes, of course!

[caption id="attachment_2727" align="alignright" width="150" caption="Classic..."][/caption]

Enter Kit – and Greg may just be with me here – Kit Kinnison, Lensman extraordinaire! Or was it Morgan, first? Morgan Kane, gun-slinger! But, hold on, talk about genre-hopping, the name may have been James, James Bond – shaken but not stirred, my dear!

Which of these classic heroes stepped into my bedroom first? Which had me marvelling at their exploits before the others? I remember not.

[caption id="attachment_2728" align="alignleft" width="130" caption="Take a break..."][/caption]

(…Pause, as the author stops to break out the supply of chocolate stashed in the ready-to-hand refrigerator! …That’s better!)

Anyway, lest I be accused of digressing – to change the subject, or otherwise play for time until inspiration about “series” strikes me – I shall continue.

E.E. “Doc” Smith’s Classic Lensman series; Kjell Hallbing (aka Louis Masterson) – author of over 80 Morgan Kane books (although my collection only got to the first 27 or so); and Ian Flemming’s James Bond, provided my principal diet of reading material, from as early as I can remember reading books without pictures, to my entry into the adult world of work. There, sadly, amongst the stresses and strains of working life, my recollection of series reading fades into obscurity.

[caption id="attachment_2729" align="alignright" width="90" caption="Norweigan cowboys?"][/caption]

Ask me what it is about those books that I should remember them and I cannot recall a single story… Concepts? Yes. That each provided me with enjoyment? Yes.

But if I were to critique them as I have come to know the word critique, then I would most probably destroy an illusion. And, besides, I would have to read a whole shed-load of books again! I can, however, remember that the Morgan Kane series, when neatly stacked in order on my bookshelf, displayed a great view of the hand-tooled leather gun belt I’d always wanted to own!

Is it simply that we always remember our first time? (Painful or not!)

There were other series, certainly. As I matured and found the odd moment of time during and between marriages… (That’s another story!)

I’m being subjective here, but let me see… There was the superb Tai Pan and Noble House of James Clavell’s Asian saga, and Eric Van Lustbader’s character, Nicholas Linnear’s various outings.

Now, my problem is that, for a writer, I actually consider myself a poor reader - at least these days.

“If you are going to write, you have to read a lot,” said the invisible age-old writing sage, hovering just behind my left ear.

Where does that leave me?

[caption id="attachment_2731" align="alignright" width="116" caption="More books?"][/caption]

My problem is that I decided, some years ago, to do some academic “stuff” – research! It got me a PhD, in which I studied a great many books – hundreds in fact - but not novels. And never cover-to-cover. Research, almost quite literally, killed my ability to sit and read a novel. Now, I am so creative with ideas that leap of pages at me that I have to sit down and write more!

So when the thought of having to write about my favourite series hit home, I said “HELP”.

And Greg reminded me of the classics – well my classics anyway.

But, being a part-time scholar, I just had to spoil things and ask myself a question. “Just what is a series,” I said.

“A number of things that follow on one after the other or are connected one after the other. The sum of the terms of a sequence,” said the great voice of internet wisdom. (Because it’s quicker to Google than to pick up a big book on words, these days – sad, but true!)

But I would like to leave you with a thought. Perhaps all that is needed to connect the books in a series is precisely what is left out of them.

It is the trail of gaps, the lack of adjectives, and the limitation of descriptions and economy of language in well written prose and dialogue that the good authors manage to leave behind. It is, what I would say, the “absent other” in the text of a well written book that allows us, as readers, to create our own interpretations, realise out our realities and place ourselves at one with the story that imbibes, in us, a desire to read the next book by the same author. We wish to experience the same feeling, again, as we read in a first book, whether or not the author has displayed an overt tendency to serialise through the continuation of an interesting character, place or time.

[caption id="attachment_2730" align="alignleft" width="150" caption="James, where are you?"][/caption]

Perhaps, what I recall from those adventures of James, Morgan and Kit, is the sheer pleasure they gave me in allowing me to find my own way into their world. What, to me, makes them a perfect series is the interconnectedness of absence!

So, as I close this post, and look to where my own writing is taking me… Will my character Finn Jackson reappear in many more books? Or will someone else step into his shoes? Only time will tell…  :)

Special X Thrillers

I met James Garcia Jr. on a vampire/horror writer's social network sponsored by Vamplit Publishing. His first published novel, Dance on Fire, revolves around the premise of a Christian vampire. Here's the short description about the book from the publisher's website:

Two Kingsburg police officers have been butchered in an attack as ferocious as it is mystifying. Now two detectives and their families are being drawn into a battle that threatens to destroy them and those around them. In a marriage of horror and Christian themes of good conquering evil and redemption, Dance on Fire is the fictional account of characters drawn into the fire by supernatural forces.

I'm pleased to have this talented writer blog with us on our weekly topic. Please read on to see who's work inspires this novelist to re-read books again and again.

“The body hung upside down from the ceiling by nails driven through both feet. The head was missing, the neck severed to expose vein and muscle, artery and bone in a circle of raw flesh. What was left of the man was still dressed in bright scarlet tunic of the Northwest Mounted Police, the arms with their sleeves decorated with gold braid, now dangling down toward the plank and sawdust floor.  A pool of blood as red as the tunic spread out beneath the corpse. There was blood dripping from the tips of the dead man’s fingers but the splash of each drop as it hit the pool was drowned out by the slow, incessant, monotonous thud of a drum beating overhead. The drumbeat came from up on the roof beyond the trapdoor in the ceiling.


Wicked Writers and Readers, it was with this beginning that my worship of Michael Slade began.

Okay, perhaps worship is a bit much.

I find it difficult to believe that very few have heard of Michael Slade. I cannot think of one friend or acquaintance in my forty-one years who has confessed to being a fan. Since I began blogging this past February I have not seen his name mentioned once, nor have I seen any of his novels listed in any “favorites” category. I don’t know whether I can do much to correct this grievous omission, but I aim to make one hell of a shot at it.

There have been thirteen Special X thrillers: Headhunter, Ghoul, Cutthroat, Ripper, Evil Eye, Primal Scream, Burnt Bones, Hangman, Death’s Door, Bed of Nails, Swastika, Kamikaze and Red Snow.

Well, did I pique you interest yet? Consider the following:
“Would make de Sade wince.” –Kirkus Reviews

“Will raise hackles, eyebrows, and blood pressure everywhere…Give you real shock value for the money…the most gruesome I have ever read.” –Robert Bloch, author of Psycho.

“Slade is warped and I love it! He builds suspense like a Chinese water torture.” – Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden.

How about now?

First of all, his name is not Michael Slade, but Jay Clarke. He has written with others, most notably his daughter Rebecca. He is a Vancouver-based trial lawyer, specializing in cases for the criminally insane. He writes about the Special X division of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. It is dark material because it exists in the real world. Because of his profession, he has no doubt seen the worst that there is. Yet, his writing is not splatter-porn. It isn’t Marilyn Manson. It doesn’t exist to make you sick or to push your boundaries. He simply takes you on a roller-coaster ride that will at times quicken your pulse; at others cause you to add another light to the room, rather than continue reading him in the dark; he will most definitely force you to spend more time checking that noise that you just heard.

If you thought Michael Crichton’s bibliographies were extensive, then you haven’t seen anything yet. Slade’s are often five pages long. He is well-read and well-researched, using history, forensics and science, extensively. He alludes to the most infamous serial killers of our time as he paints his own brutal and diabolical fiends; killers who take no prisoners and very often take out major and minor characters alike.

Just as Crichton had us accepting that dinosaurs could be brought back to life through DNA, Slade will have you believing that Jack the Ripper has come back from the dead. Like Dan Brown, he’ll have you flipping pages and, in fact, entire chapters, regardless of the late hour. And unlike any other, I guarantee that you will come back for more.

I really cannot believe that more people do not know about his body of work.

Headhunter by Michael Slade literally changed my world and helped to set me on the path that stands before me today. I recently began re-reading it and I cannot wait until this post is published, so that I can get right back to it.

I hope you will join me.

Thanks so much for joining us this week, James. Your enthusiasm for this series is clear - and if I can get past all the blood and gore, while still being able to sleep at night, then I'll be reading it soon (but if not, don't hold it against me. I get scared easily!)

Please check out James on Facebook and stop by to see his work as well.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Listen to Your Elders

I thought this week’s subject was interesting in that I had never really given thought to my favorite book series. When it came to series, I had only been thinking of how many books I wanted in my particular Land of the Blind series.

After reading CJ’s blog, I began thinking that maybe I shouldn’t get ahead of myself with a long series of books. I certainly don’t want my books to take off on an outrageous tangent like the Anita Blake series or become completely over the top like David Weber’s Honor Harrington series (although Weber sort of redeemed himself with At All Costs).

When I think back, I realize that I really got into reading through series. Isaac Asimov’s Foundation Trilogy; Arthur C. Clarke’s 2001, 2010, 2061; Ian Fleming's James Bond; Edgar Rice Burroughs' Tarzan and John Carter; Erle Stanley   Gardner's Perry Mason, etc

Series today can't hold a candle to those originals. Those originals held your interest and made you salivate in anticipation of the next book.

Today's stuff, like Anita Blake and Twilight start off good and then get off the beaten track as if their authors have run out of ideas and are just experimenting. Even the better writers have gotten long-winded and silly, like Brian Lumley's last Necroscope series (Harry Keogh died, but now his sons carry on the series that will never end).

I've learned the hard way to read the first book and skip the rest of a series, where, in the past, I got the sequel automatically. A prime example is one of my all-time faves – Marion Zimmer Bradley’s classic Mists of Avalon. So far, I haven’t bitten on any of the sequels by Bradley or by Diana L. Paxson (when Bradley passed away in 1999).

I don't want to relive my childhood, so I haven't taken advantage when I've seen the Harry Potter books at Goodwill. Likewise, I won't do it if I see Stephanie Meyers' Twilight Saga because I don't want to be a 40-something trying to be a "tween." (And because I want my monsters and bogeymen to remain monsters and bogeyman, not tween heart throbs).

I also want book series that don't strain credibility. If you've ever read the Mack Bolan series by Don Pendleton (and a slew of ghost writers), you'll understand. Over the course of 100-plus books with Mack Bolan, Phoenix Force and Able Team, I got tired of Pendleton and company trying to find new ways to kill bad guys -- for example, one of the Bolan books described a terrorist being garrotted so hard that he was decapitated and his last act was to boot his own head into the gutter. Obviously the producers of Saw and Friday the 13th were inspired by Pendleton.

So, what whets my appetite? What satisfies my craving for mental stimulation (besides Wicked Writers)?

The classics, baby, the classics.

Envelope please.

And the winners are:

J.R.R. Tolkien, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and C.J. Cherryh.

I want my stuff to be as exciting, suspenseful and character-driven as anything by those three.

I crack open their books over and over again until the pages are so dog-eared that not a single page is left untouched.

Tolkien's Lord of the Rings trilogy (along with the prequels The Hobbit and The Silmarillion) has action, romance, strong characters, suspense and excellent plotting. It should be required reading for all fantasy writers (and all writers in general if only to show how to create and sustain believable fictional worlds).

Cherryh's Chronicles of Morgaine -- Gate of Ivrel, Well of Shiuan, Fires of Azeroth and (in my opinion, the best of the series) Exile’s Gate. Stephanie Meyers and Laurell K. Hamilton could learn a thing or two about romantic angst from the friendship and companionship between Morgaine and Vanye.

Of course, Doyle's Sherlock Holmes short stories and books speak for themselves. I will read and reread them all day long.

Close behind those three are other authors of a by-gone era -- Jules Verne's Captain Nemo (20,000 Leagues Under the Sea & Mysterious Island), Octavia Butler (Lilith's Brood), George Schuyler (Black Empire, Black Internationale), L. Ron Hubbard (Mission Earth dekology), H. Rider Haggard (King Solomon's Mines, Allan Quarterman), and Fred Saberhagen (Berserker series).

If you want the best series, find the new stuff that can stand with the classics, like Koji Suzuki's Ring Trilogy. You'll know them. They'll be the ones not gathering dust on the shelves because they'll constantly be on and off and back on your nightstand or coffee table.

[caption id="attachment_2705" align="alignleft" width="150" caption=""Ring" trilogy"][/caption]

So Many Men... er... Books, So Little Time

This week the group will be sharing our favorite book series with you. We have guest blogger James Garcia Jr., author of Dance on Fire here on Friday and David has a guest for us on Wednesday as well.

I'm having a hard time choosing with this topic. A few years ago I could have told you hands down it was Laurell K. Hamilton's Anita Blake Vampire Hunter series, but after Flirt and the disappointing ending to Bullet (not to mention the laborious detail to clothing, every person's placement in the room throughout the whole book, and the multiple, group sex scenes), I think I have finally passed the point where I will no longer buy her books in hardcover.

I've bought her books for over a decade, way before her work ever went straight to hardcover, and while book sixteen looked like it might be getting back to an actual plot over constant characterization, I think I'm finally over my crush. She's a damn fine storyteller, but I'm getting a little sick of Anita with all her infinite ever-increasing powers and never-ending new bed-partners. And this latest story arc I don't really care for—saving the world from the mother of all vamps with love and sex. I get it, really, I do. She has to sleep with all these men, it's her condition. I just don't care for it anymore.

I'm a monogamy type of chick and I don't need a fantasy world to escape in where I can dream of exotic far-from-real-life partners, I like real men. Some of us don't have repressed sex lives we need to explore through the pages of a book, but I digress.

I've noticed my reading tastes have changed over the years. Doesn't everyone's? At any point from junior high through college I could have said it was tie between Lord of the Rings, Terry Brooks' Shannara series, Anne McCaffrey's Dragon Riders of Pern, or Katherine Kerr's Land of Deverry series as my be-all favorites. Or in high school it might have been V.C. Andrews' Flowers in the Attic series vying for the top with anything by Stephen King.

Jim Butcher's current hit with The Dresden Files certainly would rank up at the top of books I buy in hardcover right now—and for me, that really is the deciding factor. Do I love the story, and the world created, enough that I will spend the extra cash and get it the moment it comes out? And with Butcher the answer is a resounding yes.

The same can be said for Charlaine Harris' work - all of her work. She's done four series and stand-alone titles throughout her career and I love everything she's ever written. She has character driven plots, the best kind, but the books all make for a satisfying read and never leave you hanging, or wanting to write a "fan" letter to her and arrogantly tell her she needs a better editor and a new storyline (which I felt this last week while reading Bullet).

I'd be hard-pressed, as this rambling blog can attest, to picking one series and one series only, as my favorite. And I could go on and on and list more here that I thoroughly enjoy and do buy in hardcover - or paperback - the moment they are released. Books are my one true vice, which is also why my formal living room was turned into a library through nine months of custom carpentry work I will never do again, even if I was paid.

I may be reading a lot of NYT Bestsellers, but I also read a lot of authors who are new. Good storytelling never gets old and— no matter the medium—will never go out of style. But, like that perfect pair of comfortable high heels, you have to search endlessly in the sea of available items to find it.

Who do you read and what do you love about their books? I'm always looking for more to feed my addiction!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Just a Thought?

Well, here I go, straight into my first piece of Flash Fiction. I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed writing it. If you do, I could be tempted to write more. Though I still think a short story should last longer that a pot of coffee!


Just a Thought?

His eyes had been closed a while. Opening them slowly, he looked up. Immediately, he caught her gaze again.

She smiled. Her eyes shone with a brightness that sliced through the overcast day. They cut into his drab existence, as if a razor had been drawn quickly over the skin of a ripe peach – sweetness oozed; a perfume of palpable intensity flowed over his soul.

Who was she?

The train thundered down the track, continuing its inexorable progress. In one hour, he thought, they’d reach the end of the line... it would be over.

He smiled a short, sheepish acknowledgement, not wanting to give the slightest impression that he was consumed by her presence.

Her smile… he’d never seen such a lovely smile. He had, of course! But, right now, at this instant, he held no memory of such another. It was the only thing he could focus upon – the only thing that seemed to him to be real.

She’d entered from behind him, walking the length of the near-empty carriage, before turning. She retraced her steps in his direction and, on catching his upward glance, she took the seat opposite his. Now she sat across the small table that separated them, smiling – as if she knew something.

Earlier, as she first took her seat, he’d averted his eyes – closed them. He’d allowed the rhythmic swaying of the carriage to draw him into its succour. As the heavy engine drew forward its tail of wanton, rumbling followers, the rhythm drew him into temporary sleep – the vision of the women’s face etched into his mind.

But now, though, he was awake. Awake to her attention, awake to the caress of that smile.

The women moved her arm with graceful ease, sliding her hand deftly within her purse, withdrawing her mobile phone.

He looked on, trying hard not to stare at her perfectly painted finger nails as she tapped out a text. He wished, not for the first time since she’d joined the train – for Christ’s sake, he’d even dreamed it – he wished he could summon the courage to speak. He wished he could ask her for the number of her telephone, so that he could, maybe, call her… if she didn’t mind?

But he looked on. Her beauty, the occasion, whatever… they conspired against him. He was struck dumb. “Please…,” he wanted to cry out.

The scenario played over in his mind as the train pulled into the station, the journey over.

He sat, transfixed, as the girl with the smile rose. She collected her purse and, stopping a moment, removed a card from a discreet silver case. She placed the card carefully before him, twisting her fingers until it faced him. She paused, holding his gaze once again in hers, and smiled a last smile.

“You asked for my number,” she said, and left the carriage.

The spell broken, he glanced down at the card: DR ALICE CRAVEN, MENTALIST, and the strap line: UNLOCK YOUR INNERMOST THOUGHTS.

Q & A withKatrina Michaels

Today’s special guest is Katrina Michaels, author of Midnight Reflections. A mystery thriller involving werewolves, vampires, warlocks and…a serial  killer.

Basically, the story revolves around…well, maybe I’d better let you read Katrina’s synopsis:
Midnight Reflections introduces a society where vampires, werewolves, warlocks, and witches freely roam amongst the ordinary humans. One such human, Tara Daston, only wanted a fun night out dancing with her boyfriend. Getting killed was certainly the last thing she ever expected and waking up three days later as a vampire was the last thing she ever wanted. As Tara struggles with her death and new unlife, she also becomes involved in a hunt for a vicious serial killer. During her own investigation into the killings, she meets Tom Duncan, fellow vampire and lead agent of the Preternatural Investigation Agency, who is not at all amused at what he considers to be her interference. However, the serial killer soon takes notice of Tara and is intrigued, forcing her to work together with Tom and the rest of the agency to stop the murders.

Sounds intriguing, in the vein of Vampire Vacation and just about anything from L.A. Banks and Kim Harrison.

Fortunately, I was able to tear Katrina away from her book-supporting duties long enough for an interview. Please ignore the length of the session (that’s the journalist in me). Just read and enjoy.

An Interview with Katrina Michaels

Greg: How did you get interested in werewolves, vampires and other aspects of the supernatural?

Katrina: Well, I can’t actually pinpoint how my interest started. I’ve always been intrigued by fantasy and supernatural stories. When I was a kid, I loved the animated movie The Last Unicorn. I think my first vampire movie was The Lost Boys and I really became interested in the genre when I read the first Laurell K. Hamilton book. And, of course, there was Buffy the Vampire Slayer (TV show not the movie). I’m generally a fairly analytical person, so I think I love writing stories of magic and supernatural creatures to even myself out. We can’t be serious and logical all the time after all.

Greg: Will Midnight Reflections be the start of a series? If not, what are you currently working on?

Katrina: Yes, Midnight Reflections is the first in a series of five books. The second book -- Dead Awakening -- is currently with my editor and should be out in print next fall. However, I also have ideas for at least two other books, which might become series, outside of the Preternatural Investigation Agency series.

Greg: Sympathetic vampires seem to be the in-thing (particularly with Generations X & Y), what with Twilight, "Anita Blake," Vampire Academy, Underworld, etc...How do you horn your way into such a crowded market?

Katrina: It is becoming a crowded market so the way to set yourself apart is to try something new. Most of the books that involve vampires also deal primarily with angst and romance. Now I don’t mind either, but I like my books to also have humor, action and mystery and that is what I created. Unlike many of the novels out there, Midnight Reflections does not have any obvious romance. Yes, there are subtle hints of future romance, but nothing overt. And while Tara and Tom do have some angsty moments, they also smile and laugh and remember that life is not completely all about suffering.

My style of writing and storytelling is a bit different from what is already out there in the market, which I hope will appeal to people who are looking for something new or unique. I greatly enjoy criminologist shows (such as CSI and Criminal Minds) and books (James Patterson and Jeffrey Deaver). Which is why Midnight Reflections is more a murder mystery with supernatural characters than anything else.

Greg: How do you think vampires and werewolves fit into modern society? Why have they suddenly become acceptable and do you think we should keep at least a few bogeymen around?

Katrina: People are attracted to the dark and mysterious. In a world where science has explained many of our mysteries, we need a little fantasy. Exploring the world of vampires and werewolves allows us to indulge the dark side that exists in everyone.

To me, vampires have never been as scary as real people. It’s not the movies that involve people turning into monsters that stop me from turning out the light at night. No, it’s the movies about serial killers and stalkers that make me check my closets before going to bed. We still have plenty of bogeymen out there.

Greg: What was the hardest part about writing "Midnight Reflections"? What about the hardest part of getting it published?

Katrina: The hardest part about writing for me is that I don’t write in a linear fashion. I start to write Chapter One, but then I get a very clear idea of something that would happen near the end of the book and have to write that scene before I lose the inspiration. And then I come up with an idea that causes me to rewrite the few chapters that have already been written. Also, when I start writing, I have the general story in mind with some very clear scenes that I know need to happen, but the rest of the story develops only when I start writing. But in the end, it all comes together.

For publishing, it is the waiting. You send off to one of the few publishers that still accept unsolicited manuscripts and then have to wait around 3-6 months before hearing the response. And since you can really only submit to one publisher at a time, if you get rejected then you have to start over with a new publisher and wait some more.

Greg: Who inspires you to write?

Katrina: I don’t know if I can say that one particular person inspired me to write. I’ve always loved creating stories since I was in grade school. But I will say that I’ve been influenced by certain authors.

I’m an avid reader of many different genres. As I said, while I do enjoy books involving the supernatural, I think I have been more influenced by authors like Jeffrey Deaver and James Patterson. They both write fascinating mystery / thrillers that take the reader by surprise with sudden twists and leave you enthralled as the killer stalks his next unsuspecting prey. This is a genre that I love, but I also love creepy supernatural books and movies. When I started writing this book, the first question I asked myself was what if a vampire started hunting a serial killer, and the story progressed from there.

Greg: What was the last really good book about vampires, werewolves or other supernatural elements that you've read?

Katrina: Hmm, that’s a hard one. The book I’m reading now -- A Fistful of Charms by Kim Harrison -- is captivating, but I would say that the best I read recently was Nightlife by Rob Thurman. It’s an excellent urban fantasy with many different supernatural elements mixed together into a fascinating world.

Greg: What was the last book that really wasn't worth your time?

Katrina: That is a question I don’t think I can answer. I may not enjoy every book I’ve read, but I would never consider one not worth my time.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Again, I want to thank Katrina Michaels for taking time out of her busy schedule to chat with Wicked Writers. I also want to let our faithful fans know that Midnight Reflections is available through Amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com, and bookdepository.com.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Top of the World

Anyone who knows me (and that number is pretty low) knows that my idea of a short story is 2000 words minimum.

I've never tried flash fiction, but I decided to do it this week, simply because of the challenge -- that is, the challenge of not getting on CJ's bad side (and becoming a victim in a future "Vampire Vacation" novel).

Seriously, though, my flash fiction deals with a subject I have never written about before, in all my years of doing science fiction and horror. I won't spoil it, so you'll just have to read it:

Top of the World

Frank stood tall, stretched out his arms and let the cool breeze wash over him. It felt so wonderful against his skin. Even better was the sun’s rays as they warmed his face and he felt as if he had been born again.

He opened his eyes, gazed out over the horizon and smiled.

The sky was blue, interrupted every now and then by wispy white clouds. The sun shone brightly, the first time he had seen it in at least a month.

Somewhere a bird chirped. He turned his head and watched a red-tailed hawk soaring gracefully to the west. Wow, he thought to himself. How long had it been since he’d seen a bird?

His ears picked up the wailing. He knew he could not block it out forever. His smile faded a bit and he stepped forward, leaned out and gazed down.

They were still there. The hordes. Ashen-faced, stumbling.

Once they had been his neighbors, his friends, his co-workers. Now, they had become the living dead.

Frank didn’t know how it happened. Maybe something had come with the storm systems that had blackened the skies for the last month.

He really didn’t care. All he knew was that it had happened.

The wind picked up and he knew he was done.

But, he glanced back over his shoulder, through the valley between the mountains and saw the helicopters circling around the main airport. He knew they were dropping off the hundreds of people they had airlifted out of his town.

Frank knew it because he had been the decoy. He didn’t know why he had volunteered. Maybe because he felt he hadn’t been carrying his weight lately. Not at the job. Not in his community. He was never going to get to the top, so why not?

He had driven the truck full of rotting meat slowly through the streets to attract the living dead, who rushed after him, reaching for his cargo like dope addicts.

He had lured them all into the old National Guard armory. Had blown their brains out, even as he retched at taking the lives of so many people he had known in better times.

He had volunteered to do it, so that National Guard helicopters could fly in during a break in the rain and take his fellow uninfected citizens to safety.

Now, he was on top of the roof of the power plant, barricaded in, unable to get out, feeling the wind picking up and knowing that meant that no helicopter could risk the updrafts cycling through the mountains to get him.

He patted the pistol in his shoulder holster. He still had the one bullet left and he knew how he would use it.

Not just yet, though.

He sat down on the roof, crossed his legs, closed his eyes and let the sun warm him and the cool breeze wash over him again.

Top of the world, he thought. Top of the world.

Just One Taste

I had hoped I'd be announcing the winners to our latest contest, but unfortunately we didn't get any entries. We're not taking it personally, because some of us would rather read than write and others would rather work on current projects than do a flash fiction piece. That's just life.

Here is the winning entry I submitted over a year ago to a flash-fiction horror contest with the writing prompt: Vampire. Some of you may have read it already, but others have not and I hope you enjoy it! Let's keep in mind I was writing for only six weeks when I wrote it, so don't expect any fireworks!

Just One Taste

She watched him from across the basement studio. His sleek young body, finely muscled and honed to perfection. Vivian longed to break the supple skin at his neck and sup sweetly of his life. The urges came more strongly now, ones she thought long buried and dead. The ones that told her to hunt and claim; to take her fill and damn the consequences.

To take another mate would open her up to the hurt and pain of their eventual loss, because in the end they all died. The memories crowded her mind as she stared with hunger at the flexible body positioned in advanced yoga poses. His dark good looks and powerful form reminded her of her first lost love.

The blood and screams from the death of Ian, killed by her maker because he had to have her, still haunted her after almost four centuries. Killed when he stood up to the unknown madness that had cornered them in their village, torn limb from limb and scattered like a broken doll, Ian's life was crushed before her horrified eyes.

Eyes that now gazed upon such sheer physical perfection that every cell in her body screamed for her to take him and mark him as her own. Is this the madness that overcame her maker that night? Or was it his spoiled perverted need to take and kill that later justified his taking of her happiness and innocence? Could she hold back the same urges with better luck?

Her canines elongated and she kept her mouth closed so the humans couldn't see. She smelled him over the others in the room, the fragrance teasing and tormenting all at once. The bouquet of his blood reminded her of home, of the dreams lost and the love that died there. Sweet, young, strong and red. It called to her, beckoned her closer; lulled her to trust.

Vivian moved down the crowded studio to stand near the object of her desire. She slid in to place next to him and contorted her body to match his. The peace he radiated outward lured her like a drug. To have him as her own meant she could have that feeling everyday. No, he deserves a better life then the one I can offer.

One taste, that's all she wanted. To break his skin with a gentle nick, to drink from him in deep pulls, and to hold him close while he shivered in the joy her bite would bring. In the end, it was his innocence and happiness that saved him. The longing inside screamed in frustration as the vampire chose to take the morally high road. He is fifteen! I will not do it!

After one last pose, one long look, one last deep breath of his scent, Vivian turned to leave the basement. She knew she could not stop with just one taste.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Long live the book… A view on the publishing industry

Given the subject of our posts this week – our opinions of the publishing industry – I thought it might be a useful idea to revisit an earlier post I had placed on my own blog. (A blog which has now, to a large extent, lain fallow as I have begun to contribute to Wicked Writers!)

Here I have re-edited Part II of what was a two-part posting. I hope you find its content of interest.

Self publishing 101: Risk Management

[caption id="attachment_2658" align="alignright" width="150" caption="The book is dead..."][/caption]

The book is dead? Long live the book?

The launch of any new product into a market, and new novels are no exception, is a question of innovation. Put the hash-tag #innovation into Twitter and follow just how many people discuss this topic, and, importantly, what is being said.

Innovation is the word on the lips of politicians, businesses and consumers looking forward. And the biggest tool in the innovator’s toolbox is the opportunity presented by technology as it continues its rampant charge down the battlefields of commerce. The battlefield that is “Publishing” bears the scars of technology’s stampede! Just look at the launch of the iPad!

As any general will tell you, if you chose to fight on any battlefield you must be mindful of the terrain you face!

I covered Economics 101 for the Self-Publisher in an earlier post. Consider today’s post as Risk Management 101.

A question of risk? Really?

Of course it is. And what do we do about risk, as a budding novelist?

Launching a new product into a market is an investment. It costs. It costs to produce a book. Not just in the time to write it, but in the post-writing production process. If launching a book is to be considered as a business (i.e. authors – as well as Agents and Publishers – need to put bread into their mouths) then what strategies are available to de-risk the enterprise?

[caption id="attachment_2659" align="alignright" width="136" caption="Hi guys... look how famous I am!"][/caption]

Become a celebrity?

Indeed! Short of (accidentally?) launching one’s child, in a balloon, into the airspace over a major international airport, or entering some mindless get-rich-quick game show, genuine opportunities for gaining instant celebrity status are few and far between. Such a strategy is as useful to the budding author as is hope! And hope is no strategy!

In the risk-reward equation of a product launch, what is at stake is the investment in bringing that product to market. If the product is untried, untested – with an unknown pedigree, it is highly rational to consider only a limited investment at first. But here lies the difficulty faced by the budding new author! The investment required to produce such a seemingly small thing as a new paperback book – that can compete on cost and quality in the market of other paperback books – is out of all proportion to its size. That is, of course, unless a sufficiently large enough quantity can be produced, marketed and SOLD!

This is an economic fact of life! It should not be a surprise to any new, budding author – the economics of starting a writing career just do not add up!

…Unless, of course, you decide to enter the battle!!

[caption id="attachment_2660" align="alignleft" width="110" caption="Let the battle commence..."][/caption]

Back to the battlefield, brave hearts!

The stampede of technology has done one critical thing – it has lowered the cost of production of the book! And I am not talking, here, about the capability of digital, print-on-demand, or the use of software to layout and design books at home. No, the biggest single factor in levelling the battlefield – in reducing the costs of production – which is the real boon to the individual budding new novelist, is that technology has redefined what a book is!

The book is dead! Long live the (E)book!

A budding new author who does not consider that an e-book is THE WAY to reduce the level of investment in book production, is missing the point.

At the launch my own first novel, RIVER OF JUDGEMENT, initially on Smashwords, I was thankful that evolution is our constant companion. As our global society becomes increasingly risk averse, as investment in capital-intensive product launches (as a book most certainly is) becomes reserved for “sure-fire” bets (celebrity) and sexy, high-tech panaceas (which a book most certainly is not), evolution provides its own solution. We adapt and survive.

[caption id="attachment_2661" align="alignright" width="92" caption="Vanity, what vanity?"][/caption]

The low cost of producing an e-book provides a new author with the economic possibility to launch a new product into a real marketplace that has the potential to generate income (and put a few crumbs on the table). It is an opportunity, I would argue, not to be missed. The books of budding new authors can now exist alongside those of the established greats, and on the same terms!! No vanity press need exist in cyberspace – just good quality and bad quality.

Democracy rules, perhaps! So, publish and be damned! Go on, give it a try!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Vampire Files

This week we're talking about what we like to read and why or doing a book review. I had some grand plans on what I was going to write and what book I was going to cover, and then I read Liz's post yesterday. I don't read a lot or romances anymore and I haven't read most of the authors she listed, but the sheer number of new talent and up-and coming writers she covered was humbling (I definitely need to start reading more than one book per week again).

Next, I read the insightful and witty comment left by Harrison and again, I now doubted the latest books I read and whether or not I should cover them. I read the NYT Bestsellers in my genre, urban fantasy, plus the ones that don't make the list. I've read some incredible work over the years and I still see a diversity of plot and characters. On the other hand, I can see a lot of what Harrison pointed out as well - book series that started off great and later became slightly monotonous or pandering to the market.

Since I find it nearly impossible to do a review on one book, after all, if I like the author I will buy everything they've ever written, I will focus on a series where the first book came out in March 1990 and I discovered the series in the mid-90's: The Vampire Files, by P.N. Elrod.

The book is set in early 20th century Chicago, prohibition times, and organized crime is on the rise. A young man, and former investigative journalist, is murdered and changed into a vampire - but he feeds from the cattle in the stockyards rather than hunt from humanity. Jack Fleming comes to life within the pages-- suave, debonair, chivalrous, and out to fight crime.

He pairs up with Escott, his older human counter-part, in a private detective agency.  At times, their exploits resemble reading a Mickey Spillane novel. Each book is pretty short, almost like a cozy in size, but the characters and the story line drew me in instantly. Ms. Elrod, and yes, for a while there I thought the author was a guy, transports the readers into her world and makes the entire time frame the story is set in an absolute joy to experience. Her writing is descriptive, the pacing is excellent and her characterization has you rooting for the young inexperienced vampire as he struggles with what he's become while trying to balance it with his all too present human morals and values.

The series is listed as fantasy, but we're also talking twenty years ago before a lot of the current genre classifications had popped up. I'd say today this book would fall under paranormal mystery, and the time frame may or may not qualify it as historical. There are eleven books total in the series, the last one having been released in 2005.

This series, plus Blood Ties, by Tanya Huff, mark the turning point in my reading tastes from when I crossed over from high fantasy and contemporary fantasy to more modern monsters that go bump in the night. I've read non-bestsellers and lots of writers that became bestsellers over the past fifteen years. One thing I can say with all certainty, is I won't be reading the cookie-cutter stuff most book clubs focus on anytime soon.

I read to escape. I read to dream. I read to be transported into the magical land the author has chosen to share with me. I want the out of the ordinary, the fantastical, the sci-fi and the paranormal --and if it has some action, blood, sex and a little suspense, then I'm in heaven.

Prior to the self-proclaimed "founder" of urban fantasy, Laurell K. Hamilton, there were some amazing stories - and even afterward, there still are. Whom do you read and why? Please share. I'm always looking for some good reads - and the romance is optional. ;-)

** Don't forget about our first big contest - the winner is announced next week and you can enter again and again! Just leave a comment anywhere and subscribe to the blog - thanks!