Thursday, February 28, 2013

Early American Colonial Rice and Slavery: An Interview with Historical Fiction Author Dorothy K Morris

1) Please tell us about your book. 

DIRTY RICE is a novel set in the early 18th Century in the Low-Country of the early South Carolina Colony. It tells of love, passion, adventure and cruelty with totally believable characters. It is the first prequel to the four books of the Mockingbird Hill Series.

The early 18th Century saw vast expansion into the New World from England, the European Continent and from Africa, and the establishment of rice plantations in the coastal regions of South Carolina and Georgia, long before cotton was king. Set against this background DIRTY RICE sweeps us away to a bygone era of adventure, romance and brutal reality.

This is the story of African rice and African people, their knowledge, expertise and their forced labor that made the Carolina Colony the wealthiest colony in colonial America. It takes us from the plush parlors of aristocratic English absentee land owners, who set policy in the Colony to maximize profit, to the swampy shores of Carolina amid the mud and muck of rice fields, where people kidnapped from West Africa because of their knowledge and expertise in the growing of rice, were forced to work to fill the coffers of the landowners with wealth. It is a story of exploitation by some and compassion from others; the emphasis on the people who lived and were forced to cope with what life sent their way.

The Gullah people and their culture that remain along the coastal regions of South Carolina and Georgia are the remnant of these people.

2) Tell us a bit about your main characters.

There are several main characters. Among them are English and Colonial Lords and Ladies—the Talleigh family. The main people are Captain Fredrick Talleigh, Lady Corina Talleigh, Lady Agnes Talleigh Grenville and her brother in England, Joseph Talleigh. They are the power and the money behind the plantation and other land holdings in the South Carolina colony. There are indentured servants and slaves. There are freemen, both black and white.

Roundale, Harvey and Hunter are the household indentured servants.

Convicts sent by the Crown to the Colonies work the rice fields until they are replaced by slaves.

Among the free blacks are Ben Talleigh, who was purchased by Fredrick’s father and reared along with young Freddy aboard the ship, The Allegience. He was given the same education as Freddy and allowed to earn his freedom. Fredrick, absolutely against slavery, and one of the forerunners to the idea of equality in the new world, considers Ben his brother.

Edriam and Fulani are free black women who were captured and then rescued. They are given to the care of Lady Corina Talleigh, who is destined to marry her cousin, John Grenville, even though she loves Captain Fredrick Talleigh, another cousin.

Reginald Upton, a free man born in the Virginia Colony, is the overseer of Grenville Plantation.

Yosie is a slave woman who causes herself much trouble by just trying to help herself.

Sir John Grenville, the son of Lady Agnes, has returned from Harvard College determined to replace all the convict labor with as many slaves as he can, as soon as he can. He has fallen under the influence of his peers at Harvard and has become quite unruly.

The lives of these people are woven together in an exciting and compelling story.

3) If you ask the typical American, regardless of their race, about slavery, the first thing that will likely pop into their head is cotton, not rice. What got you interested in writing a book with a rice plantation background?

I chose the rice culture for several reasons. Some of my ancestors who help to settle the colony were rice planters in the island and coastal regions of South Carolina Colony. I wanted to explore the beginnings of the colony and the deeper I got into research the more I realized the importance of rice, not only for the wealth it brought to both England and the colony, but because it was the impetus for bringing more and more slaves, who were deliberately brought into the colony from the rice culture on the West Coast of Africa. The coastal land in both places was so similar and no one knew how to prepare land for rice growing like these West Coast Africans.

4) Please tell us about your research for this project. Sometimes research centering on the African and African-American point of view in this time period can be difficult given the nature of the records of the early colonial period.

My main source of research, besides the many, many papers published on the web, was a book by Judith A Carney, called BLACK RICE, published by Harvard University Press in 2001. In this book she explores in depth the African origins of Rice Cultivation in the Americas. It is a book I recommend for anyone who is interested in the history of slavery in America, whether black or white. It was a revelation to me.

On the Web, I read articles by experts on the Gullah people, the Gullah culture and heritage. I read about the different practices of dealing with slaves in different time and places. I read about the task work system that obtained in the early colonial period in many areas and that died out as time passed.

5) What do you hope readers will get out of your novel?

First of all I hope they will enjoy the read and enjoy meeting my new characters. Second I hope they will have a better understanding of the reasons for the slaves being brought here, as horrible as those reasons are. Third I want them to understand the great gap in knowledge that was not passed down from that time to us. We never knew the knowledge, the expertise and the skills that these West Africans brought with them and that these things were the exact reasons they were brought. We were only left with the knowledge that they were mindless laborers. Reading Carney’s book brought up quite a bit of indignation and even anger at this lack and omission on the part of my teachers and historians, who are only now beginning to catch up.

Even though slavery and rice growing take up a great portion of the story, I write mainly about people. I hope they will understand the foibles, the courage, the evil, the good, and the challenges, resolutions and sometimes non-resolutions that beset these characters.

6) Do you have any links you’d like to share?

www.dorothykmorrisbooks.com

www.amazon.com/author/dorothy_k_morris

7) Please tell us about your other projects.

My original four books constitute a series called the Mockingbird Hill Series. They cover the time from 1849 through 1868, set in the Low Country of SC, some in Boston and Texas. The titles are:

SECRET SINS OF THE MOTHERS

COYOTES OF CREEK CROSSING

THE EIGHTH EVIL

THE TIME IN BETWEEN

When I began to write the next book, I was inclined to begin before 1849 and my research resulted in going back much farther. My next book will be a sequel to this one. The title will be TALLY’S NOOK.

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Thank you, Dorothy.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Why We Love Making Connections One Year Anniversary Blog Hop Plus E-reader Giveaway!


So, I about a year ago I joined a group on Goodreads called Making Connections, which is dedicated to connecting authors, publishers, reviewers, and book bloggers. The group was very helpful when I was trying to find reviewers for The Emerald City.

For February, as part of their one-year anniversary,the group is having a mostly A-Z We We Love Making Connections" blog hop, where a given blog is responsible for a letter and a related statement about Making Connections. In addition, stops and comments at these various blogs, among other things, can get people entered into a Raffle for three e-readers (Kindle, Nook, and Kobo).

I'm not the last stop on this hop, but I am the anchor in this relay responsible for Z:

I'll go with Zany. I've met quite a few people on Making Connections. Many of them are zany folks (in a good way). Zany is fun.

Please check out other blogs involved in the hop both to A) find new book blogs you might like and B) earn entries in the drawing:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Please note that this giveaway ends in a day, so get your final entries in quickly.


This list is arranged in chronological order of their blog hop entry, so you may need to scroll back to earlier in February for some of them.

www.makingconnectionsgroup.blogspot.ca/
www.tana-someofmyfavoritebooks.blogspot.ca/
http://www.evapohler.com
http://tometender.blogspot.com
www.mariarden.blogspot.com
http://www.writergirlinla.com/
http://archiestandwoodsreviewsandwritings.blogspot.com/
http://writesbymoonlight.wordpress.com
www.passionatebookdivas.com/
http://purejonel.blogspot.ca/
http://darkerpassions.net/
http://wynnechanning.wordpress.com/
http://meredithbond.com/blog/posts/
www.donnagalanti.com
http://bookloverscozycafe.blogspot.com
Http://stephsbookretreat.wordpress.com
http://darkobsessionchronicles.blogspot.com
www.CKennedyAuthor.blogspot.com
http://santaflash.wordpress.com/
http://thinksbooks.blogspot.com
http://magluvsya03.wordpress.com
http://amethysteyesauthor.blogspot.ca/
http://reviewingshelf.wordpress.com
www.tana-someofmyfavoritebooks.blogspot.ca/
www.makingconnectionsgroup.blogspot.ca/

Monday, February 25, 2013

A Fragile Peace on a Divided Mars: An interview with science fiction author Cindy Borgne


1) Please tell us about your book. 

Visionary of Peace is the second book in the “The Vallar Series.” It starts two years after the first book ( Available for free download on the day of this posting). Here is the blurb:

Ian Connors had planned to use his visions to spy on Marscorp in order to maintain peace, but flashbacks and nightmares make it impossible. Since two years of peace have passed due to a stalemate, Ian decides to try and live a normal life, until one day he has a vision so horrifying he has no choice but to become the seer he once was or Vallar will have no future. While he struggles to regain his ability, the Marcs plot to capture him alive in order to complete a deal for their return to Earth.

2) Please tell us about your main characters.

Ian Connors is trying to live a normal life on Mars, however, he’s a psychic. He killed Admiral Beacon, the antagonist from the first book, and he lives in fear of being captured by his enemies the Marcs. He also has visions of the future that haunt him. This time he sees a war that will destroy his people unless he finds a way to stop it. When he’s not completely stressed out, he spends his spare time repairing ships.

Kayla Merceir has been a diplomat, a spy and now she is engineering contained biospheres. She has a lot of trouble admitting she loves Ian because of a prior relationship that went wrong. From her spying experience and other training, she is a strong woman who joins Ian in stopping the war. She loves to paint pictures of oceans, forests, and other Earth-like places.

3) Was there anything you encountered during the course of research that altered how you decided to lay out your story?

One of the goals in the story is to generate a wormhole so the people of Mars can reach the Earth-like planet of Hinun. I did a lot of research about how to generate a wormhole and how they react. Also, I was looking for the newest ideas regarding wormholes because in real life we don’t have this technology. So yes, I was constantly tinkering with wormhole details.

4) This book alternates between two first person POVs. Why did you choose to do that, and did you encounter any special challenges with it?

Seer of Mars (Vallar 1) is written entirely in first person from Ian’s point of view. I found myself wanting to bring in another viewpoint, but I didn’t want to switch to third person. A few years ago, I would have never considered two first person POVs, but I had recently read some good books written the same way. I found out it could work, so I went with it.

5) This is a sequel. Did you always intend a sequel? Were there any special challenges you faced writing a sequel?

The first book has a definite ending. However, I did leave a few hints that there could be a sequel, even though I wasn’t sure if I would write one at the time. A lot of people asked me about a sequel, so I ended up writing one. Then the struggle began. There were two other versions written halfway through that I scrapped. However, being stubborn, I pressed on. I feel pretty satisfied that I finally finished it.

6) Do you have another book planned for this series?

Yes, but I want to switch to a different project for awhile. The third book would involve settling on the new planet.

7) What sort of future projects do you have planned?


I have two ideas. The first one is something post-apocalyptic, except the disaster would most likely be man-made, rather than from zombies. A possible title is The Middle of Nowhere.

Then I would like to do something historical, yet have something scientific involved. Most likely it would involve Native Americans obtaining some sort of technology before its time.

8) Where can people find more from you?

Readers can find everything on my blog. http://dreamersperch.blogspot.com/


Thanks for having me today, JA.

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Please note that Seer of Mars is free today (Feb. 26, 2013) for download on Amazon, if you haven't had an opportunity to read Cindy's first book.



Thursday, February 21, 2013

Opposing the First Emperor of China with Magic: An interview with historical fantasy author Troy Jackson

1) Please tell us about your book.

My novel, The Elementals, finds actual events that occurred some 2200 years ago in ancient China colliding with a supernatural twist. The First Emperor of China, Qin Shí Huangdi (pronounced CHIN-SHHR-HWANG-DEE) has united a region of the world that has not known peace for many hundreds of years. Some viewed him as a savior, but many saw him as a tyrant bent on furthering his own power. Upon the backs of those he conquered he began numerous projects, including the first Great Wall, the Linqu Canal, a standardized system of writing and money, and a highway system of roads. Overtaxed and overburdened, the citizens were powerless to stand up to the Emperor. However, a handful of brave men and women rose up in an effort to overthrow him. One such group is the Dragon’s Spite who must gather their strength before confronting what they view as the forces of pure evil. But first they must locate three young teenagers who hold vast supernatural powers that could bring balance to the region. Can they do so before the agents of the Emperor capture them, thus ensuring total victory?

2) Please tell us a bit about your main characters.

Unfortunately I cannot tell you much more than what I have below, or I may give away too much!

Protagonists:

Cai – a young orphan who has bounced from town to town most of her life
Shí Lin – eldest daughter of a prominent merchant
Jiao Ai – the third teenage girl who travels around with her reckless, uncaring parents
Li Jun – co-leader of the Dragon’s Spite tasked to find the three anomalies and keep them away from the Emperor

Antagonists:

Qin Shí Huangdi – the First Emperor of China who views himself as the Son of Heaven and righteous ruler of all
Li Si – the Emperor’s Prime Minister; the force behind the strict code of Legalism and many of the efforts to standardize everything in life
The Triad – three brothers, Meng Na, Meng Fei, and Meng Wen, who have declared their allegiance to the Emperor and will defend him to the death

3) What got you interested in writing a centered around China in the time of Qin Shi Huang?


I have always enjoyed history, even as a child. So it was no surprise that I latched on to it in college and received a degree in it. I have read many books and watched numerous movies and shows regarding various periods in history. But I always found myself engrossed in Chinese history. It is one of the oldest and most fascinating cultures that have ever existed on this Earth. I remember hearing about the First Emperor during a class in college and I never forgot about him. When the idea first popped in my head years ago about writing a book I thought back to a period of history that it would fit well in. Not to give too much away, but during the reign of the First Emperor, he and his Prime Minister (Li Si) hated and feared free-thinking, believing that it could lead citizens to rise up against the Qin Empire. And so they mercilessly cracked down on those they viewed as a threat, including Confucian scholars. They also burned nearly all texts that existed during that time period, and is why there is very little actually in print about the reign of the First Emperor. As a writer, it gave me a lot of “wiggle room” to implement my own twist to the story.

4) Many of the elements that Western people associate with China, even ancient China, are associated with somewhat later eras in Chinese history such as the Tang and Qing Eras. Did you have any concerns about setting accessibility when developing this title?

It is true that when most people think of ancient times, they think of the Egyptians, Romans, and Greeks, and generally not the Chinese. Throughout writing The Elementals I viewed it as a way of introducing Chinese history to the readership. Very little is actually known about them except maybe in the last 1,000 years, and I found it as a unique challenge to not only better educate people but to do so in an entertaining fashion.

5) What sort of research did you do when writing this book? Is your formal history background in ancient Chinese history? Was there anything particular fascinating you learned that challenged your preconceptions about this era?

In preparing to write this novel (and the subsequent novels that will hopefully be out in the next couple of years) I did a great deal of research. I’d conservatively say I put in 100-150 hours of research, including midnight shows on the History channel, seeking any website I could find on the time period, and reading several novels (including Records of the Grand Historian by Sima Qian, Tales of Emperor Qin Shihuang by Yuan Yang and Xiao Ding, and The First Emperor of China: The Greatest Archeological Find Of Our Time by Arthur Cotterell).

I received a Bachelor’s Degree in History, but there was no specific time period that I focused on. That is typically done for higher degrees in History.

As I read more and more about the First Emperor and events during that time it read to me like a TV mini-series. It had everything that today’s shows include and what audiences demand, from political intrigue to betrayals to a grand sense of good versus evil.

6) Do you have any links to any excerpts you'd like to share?

If by excerpts you mean from my book, I would direct anyone to Amazon or Barnes and Noble, where they can view the first eight chapters of The Elementals to get a taste and feel for it.

7) Please tell us about your other projects.

Currently I am plodding along in writing book two of The Elementals. It progresses the story and sets things up for the climatic conclusion set for the third and final book. I am hoping to have book two out by the end of 2013 or early 2014, and book three by the end of 2014 or early 2015.

I am also getting the word out on The Elementals. As a new author I am starting from the very beginning and having to really work to get my name and my work out there for people to see. Hopefully enough will enjoy it and spread the word. After seeing reviews on it I can say, “So far, so good!”

Finally, I am busily working on my website, Tempest Works (http://www.tempestworks.com), which is meant to not only introduce people to The Elementals, but all of my future works, and also keep readers in tune with the publishing world. Since I first launched it last year I have posted a great many interviews on my blog for people to check out.

Thank you for your time!

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The Elementals can be purchased at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Because There Is No Polite Way Of Asking a Handsome Gentleman If He Sent a Magical Wooden Man To Kill You: My Regency paranormal release, A Woman of Proper Accomplishments

Helena Preston, the eldest daughter of a Bedfordshire gentleman, would rather risk spinsterhood than marry a man unwilling to accept her for who she is, much to the consternation of her mother and sister. She feels marrying an ugly or poor husband would be a mere inconvenience; marrying an irritable fool would be a genuine tragedy. Intrigued more with books and scholarship than finding a husband, the young woman has yet to attract any interest from eligible bachelors.

Joseph Morgan is a scholar who studies spiritus, the rare ability to imbue life into objects. With his arrival, Helena finds herself in the delightful position of having the attention of a handsome, educated gentleman of status, but she begins to worry Mr. Morgan is more interested in seduction than marriage. Soon after meeting the scholar, an unfortunate encounter with a sinister highwayman ends in rescue by the stoic and handsome Captain Thomas Southward.

As bothersome as juggling the attention of two potential suitors can be, Helena is still the target of a criminal. When evidence suggests her assailant is a wooden man created by spiritus, Mr. Morgan falls under suspicion. Unfortunately, she can think of no polite way to accuse a gentleman of sending a pile of animated wood to kill her.

A Woman of Proper Accomplishments is currently available at Amazon, Barnes and NobleSmashwords, iTunes/iBooks and Kobo.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Paranormal vs. The Skeptic: An interview with author Corinna Underwood


1) Please tell us about your book.

A Walk On The Darkside is a collection of stories. Pearl Blackthorn is a novelist and investigative reporter for Darkside paranormal magazine. Armed with her digital recorder and accompanied by her friend and photographer Harry Raymond, Pearl is sent by her editor J.J Benson - affectionately known as Benny - to the four corners of Great Britain, (and sometimes further), to investigate stories of spirits and specters, demons and doppelgangers, prophecy and possession. The problem is, Pearl doesn’t believe in the supernatural; her creative imagination is tempered by a strong skepticism. She is immovable on her stand that there is always a simple, rational explanation behind every report of paranormal activity. But Pearl soon realizes that the intricacies of paranormal events are often far from simple and not always rational. This is the first book in the Pearl Blackthorn series.

2) Please tell us about your main character.

Pearl Blackthorn grew up an orphan in a series of foster homes and knows nothing of her parents. She befriended Benny, her editor, when she was a teenager and after graduating university began to write fiction for his magazine Darkside. Now he is sending her to check out a series of strange events. They range from a haunted building, to a poltergeist and a voodoo curse. At the outset Pearl refuses to believe that there is anything but a rational explanation to these occurrences, but as she investigates deeper, she begins to see that this may not always be the case.

3) What inspired you to write this novel?

I have had a fascination for the paranormal since I was a teenager. More recently, I was the feature writer for Art Bell’s paranormal magazine After Dark, so I got to talk to many interesting people about paranormal research and strange encounters. I think it was a combination of these that led me to write the Darkside stories.

4) In your book, a skeptic confronts the paranormal. Do you believe in anything paranormal, or are you more a skeptic?

Like Pearl Blackthorn I have a healthy skepticism, but I also share something with her sidekick Harry, and that is I have had experiences that would count as supernatural. I do believe that there is more to this world, and between worlds, than science can currently account for.

5) Please tell us a bit about your literary influences.

Many of my favorite authors write in the style of magical realism, such as Italo Calvino and Isobel Allende. I also like supernatural/horror writers Dean Koontz, Clive Barker, Neil Gaiman and Stephen King.

6) Do you have any excerpts links you'd like to share?

You can read an excerpt of A Walk On The Darkside here.

7) Please tell us about some of your other projects.

I am currently completing a novel entitled Elsewhere. It is a magical realist tale of an ancient island, its inhabitants and its mythology. You can read chapter one here .

I am also working on a sequel to A Walk On The Darkside. In this novel, entitled Darkside And Back, a woman is found wandering through the underground caves of Nottingham in England. She has no recollection of who she is or how she got there and is carrying no identification. Amazingly, she looks exactly like Pearl Blackthorn. Before Pearl and Harry can find out more from the woman, she becomes the victim of a macabre murder. This leads Pearl to delve reluctantly into her past, and what she discovered is more disturbing than any story she has ever written.

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Thanks, Corinna.

You can see more from Corinna at http://www.ambiguousmedia.net/.

Monday, February 18, 2013

The Great War and the Homeland: An interview with historical fiction author Diana Jackson

1) Please tell us about your book, Ancasta: Guide me Swiftly Home. 

In Ancasta we live with our family from Riduna my first novel, in Woolston, Southampton from 1910 and through the Great War, but it’s an unusual story. We witness first-hand the early flight of flying boats which changed the lives and economy of the local people, but it is the women whose lives are altered forever. Ancasta means 'The Swift One,' and is allegedly the Anglo Roman Goddess of the River Itchen. There is a sense of prayer through the ages as my characters, like the Roman's before them, looked out towards Southampton Water and pray for with swift and safe return of their loved ones.

2) Please tell us a bit about your characters. 

Harriet the recently widowed matriarch of the story has an energy for life and enthusiasm. In the war she turns her guest house into a convalescence home for recovering wounded. She is still the one who calmly holds the family together through crisis and loss. Sarah her daughter is more headstrong. She relishes her new freedoms and changing status as she begins to work at the new flying boat works, Supermarine, but there is a price to pay.

Two of Harriet's sons led me, not to the muddy fields of France, but to India and Turkey. Happy go luck Jack is full of adventure and joined the newly formed RNAS whereas Tom is dismayed to find himself journeying so far from home. The third son Ernest continues as a foreman of Supermarine throughout the war, taking on the responsibility of the father role within the family as well as looking after his own young family. One character whose presence is ever felt but rarely present is Edward, Harriet's sweetheart from the island of Riduna where she was born.

3) Three important centenaries of events involved in your book are coming up. Please tell us a bit about those. 

The RNAS Calshot was first opened in March 1913 and Jack volunteered to work there as a civilian engineer before joining up at the start of the war.

The first Schneider Trophy Contest, a speed flight competition of amphibian aircraft was in April 1913. Although not directly part of my novel, Supermarine went on to win the competition outright in 1931 and the earlier event of 1919 in Bournemouth was discussed by Ernest and Harry Harper, the air correspondent of The Daily Mail who is staying in Harriet's guest house.

The Supermarine Works were opened in October 1913, better known, of course, for RJ Mitchel's development of the Spitfire for WW2.

4) What inspired you to write about this time period? 

My first novel was set between 1966 and 1910. Ancasta is a sequel to Riduna although it is written to stand alone but my own family lived in Woolston at that time and my Great Grandmother did have a guest house at the time of the Schneider Trophy. This formidable lady inspired my writing.

5) Please tell us a bit about your research process and tools.

Whereas with Riduna I researched from books in libraries and museums, for Ancasta I continued to do the same, but I also reached out to experts in their fields. It is their support an enthusiasm which has made the experience so enjoyable and many have checked chapters for accuracy in the historical content. I wanted the novel to be believable, for the author to live life at the times through the eyes of my fictional characters, who led me on many merry paths I had not imagined when the novel was conceived. I tried not to rely on the internet but to find a primary source where I could.

6) Is there anything surprising you learned about this period when doing research?


Lots. I expected Tom to go to the Western Front as a cyclist messenger - he worked in a bicycle shop before the war you see, but discovered that The Ninth Hampshire Cyclist's Regiment went to India. I had already drafted the chapter so that meant a total rewrite. Also, if someone had told me ten years ago that I would be spending days researching about flying boats I would have laughed. Of course, only a small part of research actually ends in the novel but I was hooked. To learn that many in England expected Flying Boats to be the mainstay in Civil Aviation because, as an island passengers felt safer if they could land on sea, was a bit of an eye opener too!

7) Please tell us briefly about your other works.

While researching the third in the Riduna Series set between 1020 and the early thirties, I have two projects on the go. I've recently finished compiling the memoirs of a 103 yr old. Norman shared the story of his life on Video. Watch this space!

I'm also two-thirds into completing a murder mystery set locally here in Bedfordshire, but there's a bit of history in it too. It's been a challenge to write, keeping all the threads going, but the research has been less intensive.

-----

Thanks, Diana.

If you'd like to learn more Diana, please visit http://www.dianamaryjackson.co.uk/.

Diana's books are available for sale at Amazon.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Photographic Evil: An interview with paranormal novelist Christopher Savio

1) Please tell us about your book. 

The Daguerreotypist is a book that is much more than your typical paranormal romance. Don’t get me wrong, it has its fare share of romance and has the ability to scare the pants off most any reader. Mostly the book is about what happens when people don’t realize the wonderful things they have in life. Too many times we all wish we had something or someone else. Often we think that our lives are much too boring. After reading The Daguerreotypist, you will be grateful for what you have and hug and kiss your significant other.

2) Please tell us a bit about your main characters.

The antagonist, Isaiah Whitfield, is a loner who wants to change the world by eliminating its sins. He believes that in so doing he can and will bring about the Second Coming. In the 19th century, he bounced around from one job to the next before finding himself in business as a daguerreotypist (photographer). Taking pictures of the rich or other people he loathes drives him wild with frustration. They don’t listen to him and continue their sinning. Due to his anger and failed attempts to get people to change, he devises a crusade to kill the sinners and scare people into changing their lives. His favorite hangout or place to go and people watch is a coffee house around the corner from his 1842 New York City apartment. Here in an attempt at human contact and to spread his message of eradicating sin, he often gets into political and religious debates. To everyone but him, it is blatantly obvious why he has few people who can tolerate his presence.

The protagonist, Rachel, is a beautiful photojournalist who lives in Isaiah’s apartment in the year 2012 with her fiancée Brian. Rachel is outwardly brave, successful and happy. On the inside, she yearns for something else. She needs something a bit more exciting than her safe and loving life with Brian. Once she finds Isaiah’s Daguerreotype in her wall, she finds herself obsessed with him, despite his horrific history. It turns out to be an obsession that may ruin much more than her safe and loving life she has found with Brian.

Brian, Rachel’s fiancée, is a high school history teacher who recently has mustered up the guts to move into New York City with Rachel. He is Rachel’s safety net and rock. Brian is loyal and devoted and is the kind of guy who will stick by here through thick or thin. Given this is partially because he believes himself to be out of her league and endures much more than most men will to stay with his true love.

The Devil, for the most part is only visible or seen by Isaiah. Once he is revealed for what he really is, he appears sporadically through the book to antagonize Isaiah and drive him even madder. The Devil pushes Isaiah to do his bidding, which appears to be solely for his own amusement. As the story unfolds, amusement may not be his sole motive. The reader may have to read the sequel to find out the true evil of the Devil’s true motives.

3) You have a background in, among other things, teaching criminology. How did that inform some of your character development in this novel?

In teaching criminology I have learned much about serial killers and their behavior. (It makes watching shows like Criminal Minds much more interesting.) I have blended that into my character Isaiah Whitfield. The dementia of a serial killer can be seen when the reader is shown his inner most thoughts. The reader will see him acting erratically and desperately. He clearly displays the actions of a paranoid disorganized killer who is fighting for his survival with the Devil biting at his heels. I believe it only adds to frightening and disturbing actions of my antagonist. It may also lend itself to the reader almost feeling sorry for him. Well, maybe for a moment until the reader continues on with the novel.

4) Why do you center certain elements of the plot around an daguerreotype? Have you always had an interest in the history of photography?

One of my favorite scenes in movie history comes from The Dead Poet’s society. When Robin Williams asks his students to listen to the pictures on the wall in order to hear what they are saying. Well, my imagination did not hear “seize the day” it heard something far more sinister or downright odd. It wondered what could happen if the people could come out of their pictures and time travel back and forth between our world and theirs. What would they do? Would we want them here? Those thoughts are what eventually gave me the idea to write The Daguerreotypist.
I have always loved history and looking at old pictures. I often thought of what if the people in them could come out of them. (A vivid imagination I know, but to be a writer you have to be a bit different.) Although, I am not really into photography, I have always been captivated by daguerreotypes and the story of the people in them.

5) Books featuring serial killers, paranormal or otherwise, continue to draw in readers. Why do you think people are so interested in engaging with some of the darkest creatures that can still be called human?

It is a basic human instinct. People say they hate the sight of blood or horrific scenes, yet they slow down at every accident on the highway to get a good look. Although many love to think of sunny days or utopian existences, people can’t get away from their own dark sides. Reading books about it is a safe way to feed that part of themselves,

6) Do you any links to any excerpts you'd like to share?

I would love to do so. My website Scaryreads.com is currently on the fritz. I will post them as soon as I can get word press to get me up and running again. Please stay tuned.

7) Please tell us briefly about your other works.

I currently have one other book, The Beckoning, out on the market. That book is about a young girl of fifteen finding her inner strength and coming of age. Rest assured however that this is not your typical coming of age story. Forced to relocate to a rural Virginia plantation house, my main character Marissa soon finds herself haunted by a demon who is trying to kill her family. All alone, except for her dog Max, Marissa almost falls victim to despair. That is until the ghost of the fifteen-year-old boy who used to inhabit her very room over a hundred years befriends her. Not only does he hold the key to getting rid of the demon, but he also leads her down a path to understanding her family’s mesmerizing yet eerie past that she never knew. Falling in love with the ghost, Zachary, Marissa not only learns about true loves powers, but gains bewildering powers of her own. Can she use these powers to free her family and the souls of her long lost relatives from the demon who is desperately trying to kill her?

I am currently working two other books, the prequel to The Beckoning and another involving vampires and Billy the Kid. I hope to have these two works hitting the market during 2013.

The Daguerreotypist is available for sale at Amazon.


Tuesday, February 5, 2013

A Cornucopia of Mysterious Creatures: A Review of Carnival of Cryptids

So, last week I interview several of the authors associated with the Kindle All-Stars Carnival of Cryptids anthology, but I hadn't a chance to read through t thoughts on it he entire anthology and give my thoughts on the ARC I received from a representative of the authors. For full disclosure, I am also friends with one of the authors, though I didn't know any of the others until interviewing them last week.

I always approach anthologies with trepidation. If an anthology is remotely worthwhile, it won't be filled with the same sort of story over and over. I typically expect a sort of normal distribution of story quality and interest, whether they are by one author playing around with style or a multi-author affair where the differences in stories often are even more extreme. Accordingly, I usually find a few stories I adore, a few that were okay, and a few that just plain annoyed me. Surprisingly, that didn't happen to me with this anthology.

In Carnival of Cryptids, the unifying concept of the anthology is that each story contains a cryptid in some way. A cryptid is a creature that is alleged to exist yet is not recognized to exist by the general zoological community. Although in the early days of zoology, this applied to a lot of creatures, advances in technology and science over the years have winnowed most cryptids down into a smaller group of legendary monsters. The Loch Ness Monster and Sasquatch/Bigfoot are perhaps two of the most well-known cryptids.

Given the subject matter, it would have been far too easy for the various stories to end up some sort of feeble X-Files clones where various mysterious monsters are encountered in roundabout places doing the sort of spooky-boo things that people often associate with mysterious creatures of legend. It is a testament to the imagination and quality of the anthology writers that, instead, these variety of creatures are approached in radically different types of stories. Indeed, there's no real general style, theme, or approach used. Some stories are rousing tales of action and pure-fun; others are thoughtful meditations on the nature of existence. Even style is played with rather widely, and the anthology is almost worth checking out for the various approaches to writing used alone.

Admittedly, it's hard to love every single story in an anthology, depending one's personal tastes in terms of content and style. That said, this is the first anthology I've read in a while where I didn't dislike any of the stories. I have my personal favorites, but, in general, enjoyed all the stories, albeit for different reasons.

I'll also note that though I have a particular interest in cryptids, I don't actually think that knowledge or previous exposure to the concept or creatures is necessary to enjoy the stories. In fact, several of the stories involve some pretty obscure creatures that aren't as famous as something like the Loch Ness Monsters.

So unless you positively hate the very idea of stories featuring cryptids in some manner, you should check out this anthology.

Carnival of Cryptids is available for purchase at Amazon.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Death Is Just The Beginning: An Interview with Paranormal Author Michelle Muto

Today I'm talking with paranormal Michelle Muto about her dark YA paranormal book, Don't Fear the Reaper.

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1) Please tell us about your book.

It's a novel about a 17-yr-old girl who finds herself trapped in purgatory after her suicide and her determination to find her deceased sister. In the afterlife, she meets a bounty-hunting reaper and sarcastic demon, both of whom have a hand in how and where she spends her eternity.

2) Please tell us about your main character.

Keely Morrison is a girl lost. She's overwhelmed with grief over the murder of her twin sister. But, she's is also tough and resilient. I think readers can relate to her if they've ever lost someone they loved.

3) What inspired you to write this particular book?

When I was querying agents with a different book, they asked for something darker, more edgy.

4) Your book is initiated with a character so overwhelmed by loss that she commits suicide. This is dark emotional territory. Did you find it difficult to plump these depths when writing the book?

Very difficult. To authentically write Keely's grief, I had to look into my own despair of having lost much of my family. While I was never suicidal during those times, the emotional pain was immense. Reliving those memories opened up old wounds.

5) What primary themes do you feel your book explores?

Grief, friendship, love, devotion, coming of age.

6) How is this book similar and different from some of your previous work?

Don't Fear the Reaper is similar to The Haunting Season in that it's for a more mature young adult audience. Both books are drastically different than The Book of Lost Souls, which is more upbeat, humorous.

7) Do you have any links to any excerpts you'd like to share?

People can read the entire first chapter of Don't Fear the Reaper on my blog.

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Thanks, Michelle.

If you'd like to learn more about Michelle, please visit her at http://michellemuto.wordpress.com/.

Don't Fear the Reaper is available for purchase at the following vendors:

Amazon US
Amazon UK
Barnes & Noble
iTunes
Smashwords
Sony
Kobo
Createspace (Paperback version, if outside of North America)

Friday, February 1, 2013

Caging the Yeti: Introducing Simon John Cox

The Kindle All-Stars Carnival of Cryptids interview week continues! The anthology is available from Amazon. Please note that I've only interviewed half or so of the authors, so there are even more cryptids, subgenres, and styles on display in the anthology than I've shown this week.


This will be my last interview, but this weekend I'll be reviewing the anthology.

The Kindle All-Stars are a select group of authors from around the world who donate their work in the name of charity. All profits from Kindle All-Stars anthology are donated to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

Today I'm talking with Simon John Cox, author of the "The Cage" in the anthology. He was born in Tunbridge Wells, England, has a degree in chemistry, a job in marketing, and a black belt in Taekwon-Do, and has been writing fiction for as long as he can remember. He has had various short stories published and is currently focusing on writing novels.

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1) Please give a brief blurb about your story.

A ringmaster in a travelling circus is quickly making his fortune from a captive yeti, but when he discovers something shocking about the creature his plans - and his perspective - are thrown into disarray.

2) The Yeti is among the most famous of cryptids. Even people who otherwise have no clue what a cryptid is probably have heard of it. Do you feel this added any pressure to your story depiction that may not have been felt by some of your fellow authors who wrote about cryptids  that are a bit more obscure?

I don't think so - at least, I didn't feel it - as for me the story isn't really about the yeti being a cryptid, it's more about the idea of keeping an intelligent creature in captivity. Rocky isn't really about boxing - it's the same kind of thing. Except that the yeti is a better actor than Sylvester Stallone.

3) One of the interests of this anthology is the varied tones and angles the various authors utilize in their stories. You went for a more philosophical approach. Tell us a bit about why you decided on that course and a story featuring a cryptid either facilitated that or made the task more difficult?

As I alluded to above, what interests me most about the yeti is that it could feasibly be a "missing link" or a near relative of homo sapiens (I have a deep affection for Tintin In Tibet, which also makes that point), and as a result I think the approach wouldn't have worked with most other cryptids. I couldn't see it working with the Mongolian Death Worm, for example.

4) Do you feel your particular setting was critical for the themes you were exploring, or was that more an aesthetic choice on your part?

It was mostly an aesthetic choice, as I just think that something that sets up for one day and then disappears the next is somehow magical and unreal. That said, the circus has traditionally been a place for freaks and sideshow acts, so the yeti seemed to fit nicely into that as well.

5) Please give us a brief overview of your other works.

All of my other works are linked to on my website, www.simonjohncox.com, but the one I'd most like to draw attention to is my novella The Slender Man, which is a horror story based on an internet meme - and what could be more exciting than that?

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Thanks, Simon.

Check out www.simonjohncox.com for more from Simon.

The Carnival of Cryptids is available from Amazon.