Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Never Say Never

As part of the Besieged by Rain tour promo, I did a blog post about the reasons authors should never say never.

I have learned that I need to follow my own advice more often.

I am currently doing something I said I'd never do. I'm polishing one of my fanfiction stories with the potential for publishing it as an original. Although "polishing" is probably being polite. The more accurate way to say it is probably that I'm completely dismantling it and reassembling the pieces to make a better, more cohesive whole.

The new story will follow the love and loss between Declan Reede and Alyssa Dawson. I can't wait to share it with you all . . . eventually.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The Horror of Children’s Stories

Today, I have the honor of hosting a guest post by Russell Proctor, author of The Red King, on horror in Children's Stories. I hope you enjoy, I certainly did. 

Picture this: a little girl has just thrown a bucket water over a Witch. What happens next is quite disturbing.
With these words the Witch fell down in a brown, melted shapeless mass and began to spread over the clean boards of the kitchen floor. Seeing that she had really melted away to nothing, Dorothy drew another bucket of water and threw it over the mess. She then swept it all out the door. After picking out the silver shoe, which was all that was left of the old woman, she cleaned and dried it with a cloth, and put it on her foot again.”
Now let’s get this straight… a little girl calmly melts an old woman, sweeps the gooey slime she has become out of the door like so much swill, and then calmly cleans her shoe like this sort of thing happened every day.
You might thing the extract is taken from the latest gore-filled treat from Permuted Press, but it’s actually from L. Frank Baum’s children’s classic The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, published in 1900. A children’s book. Of course, if you are only familiar with the 1939 Judy Garland film, you may remember the witch-melting scene was a little more wholesome. Certainly in the movie Dorothy didn’t have to clean up the disgusting sewage of what used to be a human being like she was doing a simple household chore. And in the movie version Dorothy felt pretty upset about the whole thing as well, even though the witch was evil and had tried to kill her.
Take another story: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. Now there are no violent scenes in that timeless classic, surely? Admittedly the Queen of Hearts threatens everyone with having their heads chopped off, but no one is unfortunate to actually have it done. But most of the violence of the Alice books is more subtle. According to Hugh Haughton in his introduction to the Penguin Classics edition of Carroll’s books (1998), there is an underlying theme of eating and being eaten in the book. The characters are in more danger of being consumed by other characters than anything the Queen of Hearts might threaten. Alice eats and drinks various substances and changes size; the baby oysters are consumed by the Walrus and the Carpenter; the Hatter is obsessed by tea and bread and butter. There is also, of course, more overt violence: the Duchess physically abuses her baby son, the March Hare and the Hatter try to drown the Dormouse in tea, and the terrifying Giant Crow threatens Alice in the forest.
It doesn’t end with those books. In Peter Pan by J.M Barrie, the fairy Tinker Bell is a right bitch. Her first act on seeing Wendy is to get Tootles to shoot her with an arrow in an attempt to kill her. He almost succeeds. Tootles is so distraught he asks Peter to kill him.
Now, the point is that these are probably not events most people recall when remembering these tales. But they are there in the original books.
There have, of course, been many criticisms of traditional fairy tales as being too violent. Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel and so forth contain considerable murder and mayhem. The difference between them and the more modern stories I’ve referred to is that these stories are folk tales, handed down over many years and added to, extended and changed over generations before being recorded by people like the Brothers Grimm. They were not written specifically for children. The adventures of Alice, Dorothy and Peter Pan were.
So what do we make if this? Are these stories in their original forms just too violent? I say “in their original forms” because each of those I mentioned has been “toned down” when made into films. Disney and Warner Brothers made a point of changing things so the stories were more wholesome for tender readers (or, in their case, viewers). Dorothy melts the Wicked Witch, but feels bad about it at least. Admittedly, modern versions of Alice (I refer specifically to the recent Tim Burton CGI extravaganza) may take liberties with the plot in which they do present a more dangerous version of Wonderland than the Disney version. But this is a modern trend, I submit, and I’ll mention it again later.
My point is (and I’ve taken a while making it) is that there is a wealth of trauma available to writers in children’s tales. Quite often where you wouldn’t expect it. In The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame, Toad not only steals a motor vehicle, he is actually in involved in numerous car accidents and is thrown in prison as a result. And I’m sure most of us remember the Narnia series by C. S Lewis, which tells of children not only fighting in wars but killing their adversaries with barely a nod at any feelings of guilt afterwards.
Writers might well find ideas in these tales. And that’s a good thing. While I’m not condoning the exposure of children to violence, death and horror, it certainly can entertain the adult reader and inspire the adult writer.
Back when these stories were written, I submit the world was a more violent place. There was no such thing as being an adolescent. One went from the caterpillar stage of childhood to the butterfly stage of adulthood without any inconvenient chrysalis stage of adolescence in between. People grew up earlier. Children’s books were violent because life was violent. It still is these days, but we don’t like to admit it and try to protect our children from its excesses. An example of this is the scene in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland where the Duchess throws her baby boy to Alice (who only just manages to catch him) after singing a song about how beating a child was a justifiable punishment for it sneezing. This would hardly have raised an eyebrow back in 1865. Children were beaten. The world was perhaps no better or worse than it is today, but violence was condoned more and seen as an acceptable solution to social and domestic problems. Carroll was using violence as nonsense, and perhaps as a comment on the philosophy of child-rearing at the time: the air in the Duchess’s house was full of pepper, the baby sneezed as a result, and so the Duchess beat him. Problem solved.
We would not condone such a practice today, even as nonsense, which is why this incident has not, my knowledge, been incorporated into any film adaptations of Alice so far ( I don’t include the Burton film there, as it is so far removed from the original story as to be a separate entity).
Burton’s film does, however, seek to make an adult vision of Wonderland (with a bit of Looking-Glass Land added into it). And that is how the horror of children’s stories can be used to good effect. Tales like Frank Beddor’s The Looking-Glass Wars is a classic use of a classic to create something new and insightful.
So horror is there in children’s stories. If you sit and read the originals and wonder why they all seem so different to what you thought they were about, or what you remembered when you read them as a kid, then I hope you can take a whole new delight in these children’s stories for grown-ups. And, as a writer, that they inspire you in your own tales of horror and fantasy.

Russell Proctor is the author of The Red King, out now from Permuted Press. It is a mash-up of Alice from the Lewis Carroll books and Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz battling a supernatural serial killer in Edwardian London. It is the first of his horror/fantasy series The Jabberwocky Book. Coming soon is his science-fiction novel about terrorism 400 years in the future, Days of Iron. Further information about him and his other novels and short stories can be found at his website, Facebook page and Goodreads profile.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

All Amity Allows Excerpt

The denizens of Hell were gunning for Amity.
At least, it felt that way to her. It was easy for her to believe that for the last few days, all the creatures from the pit were working as hard as they could to invade the semblance of peace she’d forged for herself on Earth. One thing was clear to her—someone was determined to mess up her “life,” such as it had been. At first, it was just little things: the spaghetti strap on her blouse snapping; finding a streak of black grease marring her long blonde hair; and the bouncer at her favorite nightclub refusing to allow her through the velvet rope—not that his words had stopped her from getting inside, but it was an unusual and unexpected frustration for her.
What topped it all off though—what made her week truly terrible—was the three-inch scratch along the side of her Corvette. The car had been immaculate when she’d left it to go spend a few precious hours hunting for her latest look from her favorite designers. It should have been pristine when she returned. She’d only conjured the damned thing a week earlier, so there were no excuses for any damage on the beautiful body. With her angelic protection around it, it should have still been perfect when she’d returned to it. Instead, there was a blemish in the baby blue paint.
She swore under her breath and then cursed at the sky. Tipping her head up, she let fly a stream of invective that looked out of place from her plump, pouted lips. As the words flowed from her, calling out each of her many brothers in turn—warning them what she might do if she ever found out they were responsible—she paced along the sidewalk beside her car. Three steps, turn. Three steps, turn. Three steps . . .
“You have got to be fucking kidding me!”
The heel had just snapped clean off her favorite pair of designer shoes. It was something that had never happened in all her years of loving designer items—something which made her certain the cause of her heartache could only be coming from the demons of Hell, or her meddling brothers. It was hard to tell the two apart sometimes.
“Michael, if this is your doing, so help me . . .” she muttered under her breath as she ripped off the once exceedingly expensive heels and threw them onto the passenger seat of her now-ruined convertible. He honestly seemed like the most likely candidate for the trouble in her life. She tossed her waist-length platinum hair over her shoulder. The small action resulted in a round of hollers and catcalls from behind her. In her current state, she was unable to ignore the noise like she usually would.
She closed her eyes as her frustration bubbled over and lightning crackled between her fingertips. The three men calling to her from the cafĂ© were blissfully unaware just how close they were to dying in that instant as they shouted names such as “baby” and grossly complimented the way her legs looked in her skirt. The base, disgusting things they said were enough to send even the most pious angel to the edge of vengeance.
Sucking in a breath and shaking the tingles out her hands, she reminded herself that the men were only human. Mortal males were attracted to her curves and hair, to her boobs, and her thin waist. It was just the way of the world, had been for as long as she’d visited Earth. It wasn't as if she hadn’t used that attraction to her advantage when it had served her purposes. Long ago, before it was frowned upon, she’d even had a couple of dalliances with human lovers. Back when angels were openly permitted to show their true form as they walked among mortals, and regularly interacted with them.
As she calmed herself with a few more deep breaths, she decided there wasn’t really any point in smiting the poor humans who thought it was their right as men to shout obscenities at her. They deserved her forgiveness. Her pity. Not her wrath.
With a sharp exhale, she decided to save all of her anger for her asshole brothers, especially if she found out any of them were in fact responsible for the little trick with her shoes or the scratch in her paint job, as she suspected. There were a few angels who would have done it to her just for a laugh, and others still who would have done it as a perceived justice for her not-so-angelic ways.
When her eyes fell on the scratch again, her certainty grew that someone from Heaven or Hell was punishing her for some reason. After all, she’d picked the color purely because it perfectly matched her eyes. Adding the fact that someone broke through her defenses, it was only logical that the wound in the paint was a personal attack.
With a sigh, she bent over and rubbed a finger over the scrape, all but erasing it completely. The car was almost pristine again, but it didn’t erase the knowledge of the scratch. She would never be able to look at that spot again and not see the injury inflicted upon her car—and therefore against her. That alone was more than enough reason to conjure a new one before too long.
Maybe I’ll get a pink one next time.

Pre-order now. 
US: www.amazon.com/dp/B00UPXINFG

UK: www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00UPXINFG
AU: www.amazon.com.au/dp/B00UPXINFG

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Easter Eggs

One of my favorite things about the Marvel studio movies (Iron Man, Thor, Captain American, The Avengers etc etc) is the clever use of Easter Eggs. If you don't know what I mean, check this:

Now, why am I talking about Marvel on my blog?

Just because it is one of the easiest and most instantly recognizable source of Easter Eggs to date, except maybe Pixar:

The reason I'm talking about this is because I've been a bit cheeky and hidden Easter Eggs into my own stories, not necessarily referring to one another (although there is a bit of that between the Daughter of Fire and Son of Rain series), but as little nods to shows that I've loved, books that have inspired me to write, or people that I wanted to give a little nod to. Not all of these are obvious, some of them were purely for fun. Maybe one day, if enough people ask, I'll point out a few. In the meantime, have fun guessing what places, names, people, or events are my own little private Easter Eggs.

If you guess right, I'll definitely give you props.

Friday, April 3, 2015

All Amity Allows Paperback Teasers (and scavenger hunt phrase)

Amazon ebook pre-order link: 

Scavenger hunt phrase is; "She may be an angel . . . but she's no angel."

Indie Author Spotlight: Miranda Shanklin

Miranda Shanklin is a new adult paranormal romance author. Here's what she had to say: 

I live in Central Illinois with my husband, our two kids ages 13 and 11, two dogs, a cat and two turtles. I work a day job as a paralegal and I am the assistant coach for my daughter's competition dance team. 

I love to read and have a TBR list a mile long! I read all genres but paranormal and contemporary romance are my favorites. 

I have one full series out, the Soul Series. The books in this series are Soul Journey, Soul Redemption, Soul Knowledge, Soul Freedom and Soul Discovery. I have put the buy links through amazon below. I am currently working on a spin-off trilogy titled The Guardians of the Origin Trilogy. I plan to release all three books close together closer to the end of the year.