Thursday, July 2, 2015

Guest Post by Lucy Branch - My Writing Process!


I'm pretty time poor so like many women I have to multi-task.  I’d never get as much writing done as I do – if I didn’t  visualise out my story as clearly as possible before I sat down to write it. During my day, there’s quite a lot of jobs that take up minimal brain power but use up precious time like travelling, hanging out laundry even brushing my teeth.  I always play with a scene in that time – thinking along the plot.  Often, I don't have a pen on me when I do this thinking and so I have to run over it several times in my mind so I don't forget a juicy detail.

I seldom get to write until the evening - It's my only spare time. After work has finished and my kids are in bed around 7:30pm, I go down to make myself a cup of tea. I never let myself sit down between making tea and getting upstairs to my little study in the loft. If I do – I never get up again and no writing gets done.  When I get to my desk, I start to write out what’s been playing out in my head that day by hand.  Usually, it's become so familiar it writes out quickly. I then use voice activated software to put the bulk of it onto the computer before editing. I’m very undisciplined - for me, editing is always a slow and torturous process and I usually leave it until I have nearly a full book to work on.  I love the buzz I get from writing and I need the evidence of a nearly finished book to push me to face that last hurdle. I look forward to writing all day. I love being in that other world - it's addictive and as close to childhood make-believe as adult life can be.



An enchanting patineur finds herself drawn into a conspiracy of magical realism, unchecked greed and heated passion in this stunning debut about Italy and alchemy. 

Abigail Argent stands out. Some people notice that she always wears gloves and shudder when they know why. Those who know her best observe in wonder her remarkable ability in the coloring of metal. On the brink of finishing her chemistry degree, Abigail chances upon a book that reveals a link between her own art and that of her favorite childhood fairytale: the changing of lead into gold. Delighted with her find, and reveling in the news that she has been offered a high profile restoration job in Venice, Abigail is finally on the cusp of adventure, free to explore the world and all its riches. But Abigail’s specialist talents do not go unnoticed. A dangerous and powerful organization are watching her closely, convinced that she alone holds the key to an ancient alchemist’s secret.
Through her work in Venice, Abigail’s skills attract the attention of a notable sculptor who entices her to work for him in Florence. Drawn like a magnet to this iconic city of culture, Abigail continues to uncover more about the history of alchemy and develop her artistry while making new friends. Vibrant model Therese and handsome new lover David breathe new life into Abigail’s once sheltered heart. As the weeks pass, Therese, David and Abigail’s new circle of friends will become inextricably linked to her own destiny, drawn directly into the path of the sinister forces who are stealthily closing in, threatening Abigail’s life. To save herself, Abigail is forced to call upon everything she knows - but what she discovers about herself is much darker than she could ever have expected.
A Rarer Gift Than Gold is an accomplished first novel, rooted in an authenticity derived from author Lucy Branch’s professional insight. An acclaimed specialist in sculptural and architectural restoration, working on high-profile projects including Nelson’s Column, Cleopatras Needle, Eros, St Paul's Cathedral, The British Library and Selfridges, Branch brings the mythology of alchemy vividly to life. Abigail’s story is played out against a carefully observed background of Italian culture and architecture, drawing romance and mystery into her passage through the streets of Florence. Branch was inspired by an incident in which she and a close friend were ominously warned off the materials they were studying by a stranger during a research trip to Italy to explore the works of Galileo. A Rarer Gift Than Gold will captivate fans of Kate Mosse’s Languedoc Trilogy and is set to fascinate, enlighten and leave readers guessing until the very last page.

About the author: Lucy Branch is a director of her family’s firm Antiques Bronze Ltd, one of the UK’s leading conservation and restoration companies. She has a degree in History of Art with Material Studies and a Masters from The Royal College of Art and the Victoria & Albert Museum. Branch is an accredited member of the Institute of Conservation. Lucy lives with her husband and their three children in North London. The first in the The Gold Gift trilogy, A Rarer Gift Than Gold by Lucy Branch (published by Clink Street Publishing RRP $9.99 paperback, RRP $2.99 ebook) is available to buy online from March 20th from retailers including Amazon.com and can be ordered from all good bookstores. For more information, please visit www.lucybranch.com 




Monday, June 29, 2015

Haunted - Audio.

Title/Author: Haunted (A Bishop/SCU Novel #15) by Kay Hooper.

Read by: Joyce Bean.

Genre: Supernatural Mystery.

Publisher: Brilliance Audio.

Source: Library.

Synopsis:  When Deacon James's younger sister Melanie calls him, terrified, he goes to her aid in the small Georgia town of Sociable.  What he finds is a sacred young woman in the grip of what she insists is a paranormal nightmare -- and murder.  Two local men have been killed under mysterious circumstances.  And Melanie is the prime suspect.

Trinity Nichols left a high-stress job for quiet, small-town life.  But news of the murders has left her - and the town - on edge, especially when there is nothing remotely ordinary about how the men died.  And her investigation is yielding more than she bargained for, including a group of strangers who have descended on Sociable, some with abilities Trinity finds hard to believe, and agendas she refuses to trust.  For some reason, they know a lot more than they should about what's happening in town. Ad what's is growing stranger by the minute. ~Goodreads.com

Midnyte Thoughts: I had high hopes for this book.  Unfortunately, they weren't met.  Part of it was my own fault as I didn't realize this was part of a series.  I was confused by the cast of characters and had a hard time keeping up with who was who. I see now it is number 15 in the series.  15!!!  I missed a lot.  I missed the world that was created, a lot of key plot points, history, relationships and the personalities of a few of the main characters.  However, whether a book is number 1, number 6, or number 15 in a series I would like it to engage me. Haunted did not.

I had no real interest or empathy for the characters and they seemed interchangeable at a lot of parts. There was a lot of explaining and telling in this book and while it did reference to events that happened in the past, it didn't do so in a very interesting way.  There was a lot of telling and going over the past, which while appreciated to fill in some gaps, it didn't make for a very compelling story.

I also think part of my lack of enjoyment in this book is because whenever a scary part was about to take place, I was expecting a lot more.  To me, there was nothing very frightening going on.  Just some murder and possession -- I think I'm too jaded!  But I felt there was no tension and it could have been ramped up.  I'm supposing my idea of the book being scary and gory is not the same as the author's (and that's okay).  It just simply didn't work for me. 

Narration: I felt the diction was very clear and succinct and the author managed to differentiate between male and female characters very well.  However, the voices still didn't always work.  I thought the speech was so deliberate that a lot of it didn't feel natural to me.
However, if you like an easy book to read, you may want to try this series from the beginning.  I think people who want a "safe" scare may appreciate these books.

I also love how the author advocated for animal rescue and even based a dog in the book, Braden, after a dog she "met."  Now this was part of the book that really touched me.

A light supernatural murder mystery.  

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Guest Post by Michael Aronovitz - Horrific Images


I don’t invent novels and short stories by their plot points. That would put me into a rhythm of “And then he did this and then he did that and then…” which plays falsely somehow. It lacks beauty, a word seldom used when readers refer to the horror genre, though I believe it is an essential element if we want things to have a spooky, frightening effect.
Of course, this method would eliminate splatter. Having a character stab someone FIFTY TIMES isn’t scary. After one or two good ones the victim has already shown us heart of the event, and the chance for beauty is lessened with every thrust. Good scare moments are poetry. If they just shock us, we have the thrill of release, but that’s not frightening. In a way, it is a relief. The moments that have meaning for us are the ones with symmetry, odd beauty, and staying power, affecting us long after the book is closed.
A guy awakens a spirit in the graveyard. Okay. In terms of plot, that works. But I don’t see it. I don’t feel it, under my skin, in my bones. When I conceived my first novel ‘Alice Walks’ I had a horrific image in my head, not even sketched in full sentences, just fragments of darkness and symmetry connected by commas, almost like a heartbeat. There was a ghost, a girl, tinted green somehow in her burial dress, floating a foot or so above the ground on a night of early November snow in front of her dark mausoleum on the south side of the graveyard near a scatter of woods. She was wearing a veil, trying to breathe like the living, sucking the silken material to her face briefly showing the shape of her bony features, then releasing on the exhale becoming formless again. There were boys who had raced up from the edge of the courtyard, those who didn’t understand her, and they’d brought rocks in a dented beach pail. They were throwing the stones and she got wounded, bleeding, arms stretched now like Jesus as she flies toward them hard through the semi-darkness.
At the time, I had no idea why the boys were there throwing stones, so I wrote the story around the image that would bring it to life. The novel I have coming out through Nightshade Books titled ‘Phantom Effect’ this coming February was conceived with an image in mind of a 6’5” Native American serial killer caught in a late autumn rainstorm at night out on an abandoned highway with both back tires flattened. I pictured that his huge hands were dangling down, his long hair hanging in his face, and he was staring into the trunk at a girl cut into pieces and floating in the pond, head lolling with her long straight hair matted across so her face wasn’t visible almost in a mimic of her attacker looming above her; an ankle portion was partly submerged, bobbing in the black rainwater showing the floral and ivy tattoo going up to her calf. He’d purposely slanted his blade during the dismemberment portion so he could save the pattern.
My novel that just came out this past December titled ‘The Witch of the Wood’ is loaded with images strung together so rapidly, so violently, that I was hoping the pacing itself would become a living, breathing entity. The central figure or image for this one at the point of conception made no sense in my head at the time, it had no context yet…a “vision” in its purest sense. I saw a tall figure rising above me, wearing some sort of industrial headset, with ridged goggles. He had his hands stretched up above his head almost like one of those old school vampires about to strike melodramatically, and the central visual was the black cape rising behind him, flapping in what appeared to be a hard wind and dotted with points of stabbing light that were blinding. That is the description of my “Dark Guardian” character, making his appearance at the halfway point in the text. Before him, I have scenes of intensive erotica and situations that keep working toward an ever darkening center. After him, there are visions of creepy blank slate beings trying to work themselves into the bloodline, exploding heads, witch burnings, fireworks, apocalyptic thunder as every tree in the world crashes down to the earth at the same time, and hell, at that point I’m just getting started.
I would never insinuate that my process of image first – plot second is any kind of a standard. One of the wonderful things about writing is that there really is no base script for the joy of invention. We make it up as we go. Still, I am willing to bet that Stephen King had the image of the pale, expressionless twins holding hands in the hallway and saying, “Come play with us Danny. Forever. And ever,” long before he conceived the story around them. Or maybe not.
I know that’s the way I would have done it…


Michael Aronovitz published his first collection titled Seven Deadly Pleasures through Hippocampus Press in 2009.  His first novel Alice Walks came out in hardcover by Centipede Press in 2013, and Dark Renaissance Books published the paperback in 204, and his novel The Witch of the Wood came out through Hippocampus Press recently.  Aronovitz's first young adult novel Becky's Kiss will be appearing through Vinspire Press in the fall of 2015  and his third adult horror novel Phantom Effect will be published by Night Shade Books in February of 2016.  Michael Aronovitz is a college professor of English and lives with his wife and son in Wynnewood, Pennsylvania.  Visit http://michaelaronovitz.com.




Monday, June 22, 2015

Sing Me Your Scars.

Title/Author: Sing Me Your Scars by Damien Angelica Walters.

Genre: Horror, Dark Fiction.

Publisher: Apex Book Company.

Source: This book was given to me in exchange for a fair and honest review.

SynopsisSometimes a thread pulled through the flesh is all that holds you together. Sometimes the blade of a knife or the point of a nail is the only way you know you’re real. When pain becomes art and a quarter is buried deep within in you, all you want is to be seen, to have value, to be loved. But love can be fragile, folded into an origami elephant while you disappear, carried on the musical notes that build a bridge, or woven into an illusion so real, so perfect that you can fool yourself for a little while. Paper crumples, bridges fall, and illusions come to an end. Then you must pick up the pieces, stitch yourself back together, and shed your fear, because that is when you find out what you are truly made of and lift your voice, that is when you Sing Me Your Scars. ~Goodreads.com

Midnyte Musings: Sing Me Your Scars is a well written collection of stories that can fall into several genres.  Horror, Dark Fiction, Sci-Fi, Fantasy and Speculative.  First I want to say that the style of the novella is very unique.  It is separated into three different titled parts that relate to each other, although the stories do not necessarily.  The titles of the stories themselves as well are very beautiful and some of the stories themselves are framed with originality.  I am specifically thinking of Grey in the Gauge of the Storm, which is about spousal abuse, losing yourself, being co-dependent and it is styled by using sewing terms. 

Many of the stories have a very Gothic feel which I appreciated since while it sounds easy to write, it is not always successful executed.  I also love when the story is a bit of a puzzle at first and allows me as the reader to figure things out...or maybe not.  And then I'm left pondering and thinking.  I think this attests to a good story, whether it stays with you after you read it.  And some of these stories are still with me weeks after I completed them. 

Although many stories have the thread of the same voice throughout them, there are a few stories that have a much different feel, simpler and starker writing perhaps, that matches the mood of the story more successfully than the author's more fanciful writing. 

There were only one or two stories that didn't resonate with me, but there were more that I liked and a few more that I felt were extremely imaginative and creative.  Some of the standouts for me were Glass Boxes and Clockwork Gods which to me, explored what it meant to be human.  I also enjoyed Sugar, Sin and Nonsuch Henry about a woman who buys a "Historical Companion" at a garage sale - trust me -- it's fun!  I also wanted Running Empty in a Land of Decay to be longer simply because I wanted to know what happens to the main character.  Another favorite is Scarred which combines elements of the supernatural and Horror. 

Other gems were Dysphonia in D-Minor, a story about people who could build physical structures with their voices.  The two women build bridges and it is very poignant and haunting, as well as a metaphor for relationships.  Melancholy in Bloom is about the gift of memory to an Alzheimer patient and was heart wrenching as I thought about what it is to live.  What is your life without memories?

A very enjoyable, thoughtful and entertaining collection of stories. 

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Guest Post by Spencer Blohm - Can Wayward Pines be the Next Big Book Adaption?


The big network channels like Fox, NBC, and ABC, have traditionally featured programs that were tame in comparison to the edgier programs found on cable. The networks have always tried to appeal to the most people possible, and this has kept them from pushing the envelope in the past. In recent years; however, there has been a shift in audience preference. Audiences are thirsty for shows with dynamic characters that have a dark side, rather than the typical "good vs bad" story. It is for this reason that Wayward Pines, Fox's new suspense mini-series.

Wayward Pines is based off the Science Fiction thriller novel Pines by Blake Crouch. This novel was so successful that it spawned the Wayward Pines trilogy and became an international best-seller. The plot of the book follows a man named Ethan Burke, played by Matt Dillon in the series, who is a secret service agent assigned to investigate the disappearance of two fellow agents in a small town by the name of Wayward Pines, Idaho. Burke gets into an accident on his way to town and wakes up with amnesia. Staying true to the "trapped in a strange town" genre, both the film and the movie follow burke as he slowly uncovers the strangeness surrounding Wayward Pines. Although it's too early to tell how close to the novel the series will stay, the big difference so far between the two seems to be plot vs. character.

This is the struggle that every novel that is made into a series or movie goes through. Pages of exposition describing character do not translate well to the screen. M. Night Shyamalan's specialty as a director has always been his plots. His characterization never exceeds the bare minimum necessary for the plot to work. Critics of some of his other works, like Lost, fear the plot for Wayward Pines will soon become ludicrous and the characters will be under-developed. The reality is these critics are forgetting Shyamalan is working off of someone else's script. In fact, the reason he got involved with the project is that he read a script by Chad Hodge and fell in love with the project. Also, the script is heavily inspired by the novel, especially when it comes to the characters. All Shyamalan has to do is make sure the characters are true Crouch's novel, and then he can focus on what he does best; creating drama and suspense leading up to the big reveal. It also helps that the big reveal was already worked out for him in the novel by crouch. All he has to do is focus on executing this in a way that resonates with a visual audience.

With that being said, there is some top-notch talent that should help bring these characters to life. Matt Dillon as Ethan Burke is one of those casting successes where you can feel the actor is the character. Terrence Howard, who is one of the stars of Fox's hit show Empire, plays the sinister sheriff of this small town. Mix in M. Night Shyamalan as Executive producer and director, and you have a recipe for an intriguing series. Many critics and fans alike have said the series has a Twin Peaks feel. This makes sense, as Crouch himself has admitted his novel was inspired by the plot of Twin Peaks, which involves a young FBI agent investigating strange happenings in a small town.


This 10 part mini-series is continuing the trend of Fox's shift towards edgier programming. It is a chance for Fox to wrestle away the younger demographic from popular cable shows and bring the ratings back to the networks, as evidenced by the early release of the pilot episode on-demand through DTV and Comcast. Any fans of the suspense genre should check out Wayward Pine when it airs May 14th on Fox.



Spencer Blohm is a freelance entertainment, culture, and lifestyle blogger. He lives and works in Chicago. When not working he can be found camped out in his apartment watching the latest films and newest television shows.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Author Interview with J.H. Moncrieff (The Bear Who Wouldn't Leave).


What is "The Bear Who Wouldn't Leave" about? 

Short answer? It's about a young boy's struggles with a cursed teddy bear. Deeper answer? It explores how it's human nature to be afraid of things we don't understand, and how that fear often triggers a very negative reaction.

How do you decide on a topic for one of your books?

I'm inspired by travel. Almost every trip I've taken has resulted in at least one novel idea. Often, it’s a 'what if' question that inspires me. I usually feel like I haven't chosen the topic so much as it's chosen me.
Would you consider "The Bear Who Wouldn't Leave" the darkest book you've written? Has it been the one that has affected you the most?

I don't know if it's the darkest, but it's quite disturbing in a lot of ways. I didn't expect Josh's relationship with his stepfather to get as ugly as it did. Part of me was afraid it would be too dark for Samhain, but I had to be true to the story and the characters.

What is your writing process like?

I have what I like to call an 'organic' writing process. I'll get a bit of an idea from something, and within a few days, a character will show up and start telling me the story. My job is to write down what the protagonist says as fast as I can.

What kind of research goes into it?

Maybe it's my journalism background, but I'm a stickler for accuracy, which can often mean a lot of research. Thankfully, I've found a professional researcher I can rely on, so I no longer have to spend weeks searching for details like whether or not slaves in 1700s Dutch Caribbean had pillows, or what dental care was like in ancient Egypt. From my very first professional novel, I relied on experts--I have a list of cops, firefighters, stunt drivers, forensic anthropologists, and even oilmen I can count on for fact-checking.

How did your writing evolve?

My first books were epic tales of a fish family who lived in terror of a bear that stalked them under the ocean. (Apparently I've got a thing for bears!) I was five when I wrote that series, and hopefully I've learned about a little thing we call 'suspension of disbelief' since then.

I think I used to fall into lazy writing when I was younger--characters that were caricatures, settings that were non-existent, etc. I strongly believe it's our job as writers to always push ourselves to be better than our last story--as long as we don't slip into the perfectionism trap.

What is currently on your own bookshelves? 

I love Stephen King, of course, but also Susan Hill, Daphne du Maurier, and the occasional John Saul. Barbara Kingsolver, Timothy Findley and Elizabeth Berg are my favorite literary writers, and I love Joanne Fluke's cozy mysteries. When John Douglas releases a book, I have to buy it--he's one of the first FBI profilers and one hell of a crime writer. I also love reading memoirs, non-fiction accounts about dark times and events in our history, and cookbooks.

What have you read recently that you've really enjoyed?

"The Ruins" by Scott Smith. I was surprised by how good that book was--it's simply brilliant, and very creepy. I also read a couple of short romances by Elle Rush--"Leading Man" and "Candy Cane Kisses." I don't usually read romance, but I quite enjoy her books.

Why scary stories? What attracts you to this genre?

Horror is very freeing. I've written mysteries and suspense thrillers, but in those genres, readers expect the guy to get the girl (or vice-versa) and the hero must triumph in the end. I love that calling something horror means you can do whatever you want and get as dark as you like. If a reader picks up a horror story, they know that anything can happen, and that's pretty exciting.

Since I never know how my own books will end, it's best to call them horror. That way, no one is disappointed when things get nasty.

What are you working on now?  
I'm working on a new twist on the sea-monster myth and a series of horror novels set in ancient Egypt.

Thanks for having me!

Bio:
J.H. Moncrieff loves scaring the crap out of people with her books--when she's not busy being a journalist, editor, book doctor, and publicist. In her "spare" time, J.H. loves to travel to exotic locales, advocate for animal rights, and muay thai kickbox.

J.H. Moncrieff: Website | Twitter | Facebook
The Bear Who Wouldn’t Leave: Amazon | Samhain | Kobo | B&N






Thursday, April 30, 2015

Hudson Valley YA Society: Lance Rubin, Nova Ren Suma and Tommy Wallach.


Where: Oblong Books, Rhinebeck, NY.
When: Sunday, April 26, 2015.
Who: Lance Rubin (Denton Little's Deathdate), Nova Ren Suma (The Walls Around Us) and Tommy Wallach We All Looked Up).


It was a beautiful day for a drive upstate.  The sun was shining and flowers could be seen everywhere. I had almost forgotten what flowers looked like after this past winter.

After eating a delicious hamburger at Terrapin...wait, it wasn't just a "hamburger." I usually don't eat burgers out because I never feel well after and I always think the reason is the restaurant must use cheap meat.  However, this menu boasted local Hudson Valley meat.  Not only that, you could pick your bread, toppings and sauce.  I went for the burger on a soft brioche roll, topped with smoked Gouda and Maple Mustard sauce.  Yum.  Anyway, I digress. 

The authors started the event by telling a little bit about their books and reading from them.  One astute attendee stated that all their novels have a thematic similarity of death and they were asked to address this observation.  Nova explained that she was always interested in an afterlife and ghosts and feels there is a lot of drama and urgency of those moments.  Lance said that he thinks a lot about death and time.  He often asks himself, "Where was I two years ago? Three? Five?"  He then got the idea that what if you could look ahead to a date?  Would it change your life?


The story became a metaphor for what it means to be alive. ~Lance.

Tommy admitted that everytime he does something, he thinks about how many more times he'll get to do it.  For example, he's seen Star Wars 30 times.  He'll probably only get to see it 30 more times and then...that's it.  "It makes me sad." He confessed. 

Jennifer from Oblong Books.
What was the most challenging scene to write and what was the most fun?  Nova said that the murder scene was a bit frightening to write.  However, when she did, it surprisingly became fun because it was "...so not her."  She felt like she was channeling the moment and the terror.  Her most challenging was the beginning.  The opening few paragraphs took her four weeks.  Nova said that she has a way of not being able to move on without a starting point and many times felt like a failure.  "I couldn't find my way in."


It was very interesting to see that these published authors have as much doubt as anyone.  In Lance's novel, the self eulogy was fun to write and the hardest was a part in the book called "The Sitting" which is the time you are waiting to die. 

Tommy said there is a moment in the the book where two characters spend the night together.  He had a hard time with the morning after scene until he made it just dialogue and then it became the most fun.  The most challenging was the 2nd part of the book because it is structurally complicated.

How did they get to YA?  Tommy said he wrote six books before his published one. He had no intention of writing YA, but then the YA idea came to him. Lance always thought he was going to be an actor and did some acting and screenplays.  (He is also the voice of the Berenstein Bears.) However, he eventually realized the lifestyle of an actor wasn't what he wanted. He read Hunger Games and had a "What if?" moment and he put the idea for a screenplay into his book.  Nova observed that none of them came to YA intentionally.  She had an MFA and was mostly writing short stories and adult novels (literary fiction). When she worked at Harper Collins she was a Production Editor and came across the book Feathered by Laura Kasischke and was blown away.  "This is YA?" She thought and realized that this is what she should be writing.

Their advice for writers? Lance advised that you should treat your writing as if you already have a career in writing.  Focus on the doing of it.  Tommy stated simply, "Write."  Start writing what you want to write. 

What I loved about this event was that it wasn't so much a Q&A, but more of a discussion.  The authors fed off each other's comments and contributed to a conversation that was inspiring and exciting.





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