Friday, October 24, 2014

Halloween Meme #4 (10/24/14).

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Welcome to my Halloween Meme! Each Friday in October I will be asking a Halloween or Horror related question.

Feel free to simply answer the question in the coments below OR grab the button to create a post on your blog and don't forget to come back and leave your name/url in the linky.

Check out other blogs for their posts as well.

Question: Do you feel that today's political, cultural climate has changed the Horror genre?  Why or why not?

Answer:  Definitely.  I think that the Horror genre is dictated by society.  In ancient times it was fairy tales, in the 50s it was a nuclear, alien vibe, today scary stories are utilizing more technology.  And, during Halloween, we see costumes based on popular culture whether it be political or relating to celebrities.  I have seen hints of people utilizing the recent Ebola scare as well, which yes, is frightening, but I happen to think it's kind of in poor taste. Anyway, to get back to the question I think in order to scare people you have to tap into their fears, no matter the time period.   Most are basic - safety, losing yourself, being out of control, death, but with every era, these are reached in a different way.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Feature & Follow - Resurrection! (10/24/2014).

Feature and Follow is hosted by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read.  Click on the links to visit their blogs and find out more about this great meme.

This weeks Question:
Characters:  Sometimes our favorites, die during books. If you’d get to choose, who would you bring back? 
Warning:  These answers will contain spoilers!

This is easy.  Nick from The Stand by Stephen King.  A little piece of me died with him.  I don't think I ever got over it.  Also, Tommy from Dust & Decay by Jonathan Maberry.  I was so, so, soooo disappointed to lose him.  And of course, Fred Weasley from The Harry Potter series.  I am angry with J.K. Rowling to this day.  And Sirius Black.  Very angry at J.K.

How about you?  Who would you want to bring back?  That might be a loaded question, because there are SO many books I still haven't read yet!

Author Interview with D.J. Donaldson.

What inspired you to start writing, and when?

Oddly, the thought that I wanted to become a novelist just popped into my head one day shortly after my fiftieth birthday.  Part of this sudden desire was a bit of boredom with my real job.  I was an anatomy professor at the U. of Tennessee and had accomplished all my major professional goals: course director, funded NIH grant, teaching awards, and many published papers on wound healing.  So I guess I needed a new challenge. And boy did I pick a tough one. 

I wondered, how does a novice like me learn to write fiction? Taking a few writing courses is an obvious answer. But I had the vague feeling that there were a lot of unpublished writers teaching those courses and I worried that all I’d learn was how to fail.  I’m not saying this was the best way, but I decided to just teach myself.  I bought ten bestselling novels and tried to figure out what made each of them work. What tricks were the authors using to hold my attention?  What made these books so popular?  In a sense then, maybe I didn’t teach myself.  Maybe Steven King, Robin Cook, Pat Conroy, Michael Palmer, Larry McMurtry, and James Michener did.  In any event, eight years later, I sold my first book.  So, it took me about as long to become a published novelist as it did to train for medical research and teaching.

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
There’s nothing easy about any of it. But titles are a particular challenge.  I often can’t figure out what the title of a book should be.  Oh, I know when a title is great and so do you… It’s like the dealer at a flea market who once said to me when I picked up an expensive item to look at more closely…”You have good taste.”  Then, while I was secretly preening at his compliment, he added,  “Of course, it’s not that hard to spot quality.”   It’s the same with book titles.  Here’s a test:  What do you think of this title?  THEY DON’T BUILD STATUES TO BUSINESSMEN.
To me, it’s awful.  I’d think so even if I’d been the one to come up with it.  Actually, it was the famous writer, Jacqueline Susann, who crafted that one for a book that eventually became a mega best seller as VALLEY OF THE DOLLS.  Could there be anybody who likes the first title better?  Okay…. there’s always someone who enjoys being a contrarian.  But that still doesn’t make the first title any good.
Let’s try another.  How about ALL’S WELL THAT ENDS WELL?  That’s actually not horrible.  But it doesn’t sound like the sweeping saga the author wrote.  I certainly think the title it was eventually given, WAR AND PEACE, is far better.
So, it’s easy to know a great title when you see it, but boy is it hard to come up with one, especially when you’re writing a New Orleans series that needs to have a title that reflects the locale.  I usually sit for hours playing with words and rearranging them in what I hope are creative ways.  No matter what title I eventually settle on for a book, I have this nagging suspicion that even if I really like the one I pick, there was a much better one I could have used.  I just couldn’t find it.  My WAR AND PIECE was out there, just beyond reach. 
Of all my New Orleans books, I’m the most satisfied with the title for LOUISIANA FEVER. Although the title doesn’t specifically mention New Orleans, it lets readers know a lot about the locale. It also strongly suggests that the story involves some kind of contagious disease.  The fever part of the title actually refers to Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever, a bleeding disease similar to Ebola. Most writers would be thrilled to have written a book that could be related to unfolding world events.  Normally, I’d be among them.  But in this case, I’d much prefer that there be no reason for Ebola to be in the news every day. I hope this threat is contained soon.

What was the hardest part of writing LOUISIANA FEVER? 
Did you learn anything from writing that book and what was it?
My intention in each book is to reveal more about my two main characters, Andy Broussard and Kit Franklyn by putting them in situations that cause them to change and grow. And the more books I write about them, the harder it is to develop these little character arcs. LOUISIANA FEVER was number four in the series, so my two protagonists were already fairly well fledged out when I began work on the book. At that time, I had no idea what would face them in the new story, or how they would react. But as pieces of the project took shape, opportunities appeared, as they always seem to do. In fact, those arcs for Andy and Kit turned out to be more significant than I ever expected. Strange as it sounds, in each book my characters teach me something new about themselves.

Why New Orleans?
When I first started writing, I had no idea if I could produce a book good enough to find a publisher.  That’s of course the big question in anyone’s mind when they think about writing a novel. But I figured I could improve my chances by setting the book in a place that provided a lot to write about and could be used to give my story a palpable atmosphere. I had lived in New Orleans for five years during graduate school, and even though that was a long time before I got the urge to write, those years remained burned into my memory. Is there any other city in the country that better served my objectives for a setting than New Orleans? I thought it was the perfect choice then, and I still do.  Also, coming from a biology background, swamps and bayous hold a natural attraction for me.  Whenever I see an interesting body of water, I want to get out of the car and walk the bank, looking for wildlife.  Maybe one day I’ll tell you how that kind of curiosity once resulted in me heading over to pick my wife up after work with no knowledge that there was a live cottonmouth moccasin loose in the car.

Do you have any advice for other writers?
Don’t write for wealth or fame because most writers in the world, even those who have sold books to major publishers, can’t claim either of those status symbols.  There’s an old quote that says, “You can get rich in this country by being a writer, but you can’t make a living.”  Write because you love it.  If you don’t love doing it then you can be crushed by the difficulties inherent in the pursuit. 

D.J. (Don) Donaldson is a retired medical school professor. Born and raised in Ohio, he obtained a Ph.D. in human anatomy at Tulane, then spent his entire academic career at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center in Memphis. In addition to being the author of several dozen scientific articles on wound healing, he has written seven forensic mysteries and five medical thrillers.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Halloween Hootenanny Black Coffin Bracelet Contest.

I decided to try a bracelet using all black beads.  
I made this using ceramic coffin beads, Swarovski black crystals, and black spacer beads.  This has been strung on Stretch Magic and just slides on your wrist.

~Leave your name (use what I can announce on the blog if you win) and e-mail address on the Rafflecopter form.
~Leave a comment below and tell me your favorite Fall food.    
~That's it! No need to follow, tweet, or like unless you want extra entries.

~Winner will be chosen by Rafflecopter.
~This contest is international!
~Please see my contest policy HERE.
~This contest ends on October 29, 2014 at 12:01am.
~If winner does not contact me within 72 hours (3 days) of my first e-mail, unfortunately another winner will be chosen.

Good luck and thanks for visiting my blog!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Tangled Roots of Urban Fantasy and Horror (Guest post by Jamie Schultz).

Sometimes I think it’s kind of funny that “Horror” gets its own section at the bookstore. I mean, you don’t see a “Sadness” section in the bookstore or an “Unbridled Joy” section. Horror is more of a mood or an effect than anything, and it can be found in such a broad range of genres (serial killer horror, supernatural horror, alien horror or existential horror in some kinds of science fiction—I could go on and on) that trying to wrangle all that stuff and corral it in one place seems like a strange exercise. I mean, I’m glad it does get corralled, to some extent, because sometimes that’s just the thing I’m looking for. I just think it’s odd, and maybe a little futile, given how that mood creeps out to other genres.

Take urban fantasy, for example, since that’s the field I’m currently tilling. Urban fantasy might be considered one of the more bizarre, wayward offshoots of the horror-as-a-genre family tree. It’s not hard to see where some of the genre’s horror DNA comes from. Long before vampires and werewolves came to be regarded as odd classes of deviant superhero (I can fly! Hypnotize people! I’m super strong and ultra-hawt! Of course, sunlight is kryptonite and I have an odd dietary requirement that we shouldn’t look at too closely, but every superhero has a weakness or two—see what I mean?), they were monsters pulled straight from horror, personifications of humanity’s sexual neuroses, fear of our more unruly passions, and, hell, the straight-up visceral fear of getting fucking eaten.

(Here at the top of the food chain, we don’t think too much about getting fucking eaten anymore, but devote a few moments thought to it, and I bet you’ll be hard pressed not to shudder.)

The amazing thing about urban fantasy is that it has taken its branch of the horror tree and fanned it out into an impressively wide array of moods using, in many cases, the same raw material. At one extreme, you have what amounts to heroic fantasy wearing a horror scarf and gloves as a bare nod to its forebears—adventure stories that happen to share some of the same monsters. Even in the cases where the monsters of old have not become superhero protagonists, they are less objects of dread than straight-up foes to be vanquished on the battlefield. The Dresden Files books are a pretty good example of this.

At the other extreme, you have what amounts to straight-up horror wearing a fantasy hat and sunglasses as a nod to the other part of its parentage. My favorite example of the kind is the John Constantine: Hellblazer comic. It’s fairly bleak and frequently gruesome, populated with damaged characters put in horrible, impossible circumstances. It achieves its effect using a setting steeped in magic and sorcery, but it’s hard to mistake its aim as anything but horror. Another great example is Harry Connolly’s Twenty Palaces series, where the monsters are Lovecraftian horrors from beyond, and they are explicitly treated as such.

There’s a lot of middle ground between the two extremes, but rather than a tidy spectrum, it’s more of a big ambiguous swamp. Occupying some acreage in the middle is T.V.’s Supernatural. On the one hand, it uses a lot of urban fantasy tropes—magic, demons, angels—but it treats its monsters as genuinely scary. Maybe more to the point, while each overall plot arc is heroic in tone, the show doesn’t shy away from showing that exposure to constant awfulness leaves the characters psychologically damaged to the point where they are often barely able to function. If that’s not horrifying, I don’t know what is.

As for me, I tend to wallow in the end of the swamp closer to Castle Dracula, in both my reading and writing habits. As much as I enjoy a good adventure story, I find the pull of those darker elements impossible to resist.

Jamie Schultz has worked as a rocket test engineer, an environmental consultant, a technical writer, and a construction worker, among other things. He lives in Dallas, Texas. His first novel, Premonitions, received a starred review from Library Journal, who called it “a sterling urban fantasy debut with a great cast of characters.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Ghost Story by Peter Straub - Guest Review by Kimberly Griffin.

A group of four elderly men who refer to themselves as “The Chowder Society”, in a small town called Milburn, have a secret they’ve kept to themselves for the past fifty years.  They fear this secret may be coming back to haunt them.  There were five of them, but Edward Wanderley died at a party a year ago.  The four that are left have been different since that night.  Now when they get together for their Chowder Society meetings, they all feel compelled to tell each other ghost stories.  It started when one of them asked the other, “What’s the worst thing you’ve ever done?” and the other answered, “I won’t tell you that, but I’ll tell you the worst thing that ever happened to me” and proceeded to tell a ghost story.  Now they take turns, each week they meet and one tells a ghost story to the others.  They all have had nightmares since the death of their friend, Edward, and they now are feeling apprehensive and fearful that something really bad is going to happen to them and to the town. 

I first read Ghost Story when I was in college.  Late at night, alone in my single dorm room, it scared the daylights out of me.  I remember reading it one night, on the train that would take me from my college town to the town my dad lived in, on my way home for a visit.  It was dark outside, and before too long, I was half expecting to see some specter suddenly appear in the window beside my seat.  I have good memories of reading this book.  I enjoyed the re-read too, though it did not scare me as much as the first time around.
Ghost Story is, in my opinion, a timeless classic.  It scares you in a subtle kind of way.  It draws you along at a comfortable pace and then everything starts to fit together in a very disturbing way.  There is no man with a saw going after everybody, no ghost children popping up here and there in a haunted house; this ghost story is more eerie than that.  You can have the children exorcised, the saw man set on fire or blown up.  Ghost Story is more about an ancient and powerful evil.  That’s what scared me the most about it, and what stays with me after I’ve read the book.  Can that kind of evil really be defeated if it exists?  The ending leaves you with just a little question in your mind.
Ghost Story is one of my favorite horror books.  It does have a few weaknesses though.  It moves pretty slowly for the first half of the book, but after that it picks up speed.  The characters can get confusing sometimes.  The townspeople are brought in sometimes with little or no introduction and it would leave me confused for a while.  Usually it turned out to not be important; they didn’t usually stick around long anyway.  Still, it was somewhat annoying.  Despite these weaknesses, I still think it’s a great read, just don’t give up on it until you’ve at least made it halfway.  The best is yet to come, and it’s worth it.

Kim Griffin is a lover of all things book related, whose favorite holiday is not Christmas, but Halloween! Oh, how she loves Halloween! Of course, October is her favorite month; the smell of burning leaves in the air, the colors on the trees, the cooler air…it all means Halloween is coming. She spends all of October reading nothing but horror books and watching scary movies that she wishes were even scarier. If she doesn’t feel frightened to go to the bathroom by herself, then it just wasn’t good enough. You can visit her blog to find book reviews of mostly YA and PNR type books (though some horror, fantasy, sci-fi and mystery are mixed in too), as well as reviews of movies that were based on books, and other book-related features at Bookworm Book Reviews.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

House of Night

Barnes & Noble:

Excerpt #1
…Neferet beamed a smile at her Dark minions that was both exquisitely beautiful and terrifying. “I have an answer to our dilemma, children! The cage we created to hold Redbird was a weak, pathetic attempt at imprisonment. I have learned so much since that night. I have gained so much power—we have gained so much power. We will not cage people, as if I am a gaoler instead of a goddess. My children, we are going to blanket the very walls of my Temple with your magickal, unbreachable threads so that my new supplicants will be able to worship me unhindered. And that will only be the beginning. As I absorb more and more power, why not encase the entire city? I know it now—I know my destiny. I begin my reign as Goddess of Darkness by making Tulsa my Olympus! Only this is not a weak myth passed down as trite stories from schoolchildren to schoolchildren. This will be reality—a Dark Otherworld come to earth! And in my Dark Otherworld, there will be no innocents being abused by predators. All will be under my protection. I hold their fates in my hands—they have only to look to my welfare to be fulfilled. Ah, how they will worship me!”
Around her, the tendrils writhed in response to her excitement. She smiled and stroked those nearest to her. “Yes, yes, I know. It will be glorious!”

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