Saturday, September 26, 2009

A Contest! Let's Have A Contest!

Well, more of a giveaway, but it equals the same thing: free books!

I noticed the other day that we've made it past 50 posts, so to celebrate, I'm giving away one copy of 'The Vampyre: the secret history of Lord Byron' by Tom Holland.

From the back cover:

"I have written my memoirs - but omitted all the really consequential and important parts - from deference to the dead - to the living - and to those who must be both"
- Lord Byron, Detached Thoughts

What was the deadly secret that haunted the writings of Lord Byron, that most brilliant and notorious or romantic poets? Tom Holland, in this dazzlingly crafted blend of fact and fiction, offers a truly terrifying answer. Impeccably researched, vividly imagine, The Vampyre i gothic fiction at its most atmospheric, allusive and thought-provoking. As Byron himself pointed out: truth is stranger than fiction.

So, what do you have to do to enter?
Just leave a comment to this entry, telling me the last book you read that gave you a new perspective on vampires, or, if you aren't a vampire fan, other supernatural creatures.

The comment give you one entry, and additional entries can be gained from the following:

+3 for being a follower already
+2 for becoming a follower
+2 for doing a blog post about this contest
+1 for listing the contest on your blog/website
+1 for tweeting about the contest/posting on facebook

You must let me know in the comments if you are doing these things, and link to the appropriate places.

Contest is open to everywhere in the world

Contest closes end of the day, anywhere, Friday 2nd October, and winner will be announced the next day.

Friday, September 25, 2009


Elnice over at Ellz Readz very kindly gave me the Super Comments Award! Thank you!

I get to pass it on to other deserving people, so I'm going to choose Diana from Writing Roller Coasters.

Oh, and keep an eye on the blog over the next couple of days for a competition!

Interview: Ripley Patton

This Friday, we've got short story/flash fiction writer Ripley Patton. With almost 20 shorts published, she has a lot of helpful insight into this area.

1) What made you go for short stories and how long have you been writing seriously? Did you ever consider writing novels?

Ever since I could write, I have. For me writing is a necessary process in making sense of the world and my own inner landscape. I write to find meaning and, where none can be found, to create it. However, I started pursuing writing as a serious career in 2005. Stories came to me, and I wrote them down in as many words as it took to tell them. I had no real designs as far as length. If they were short, it was because they wanted to be. That being said, I have always loved short forms of both poetry and prose. There is something about capturing the precise and poignant moment; about creating the most lasting impression in the fewest words that I find wholly gratifying. I do periodically try to manifest a novel, mostly after having been asked again when I am going to write a novel. Conversely, I don't know that I have ever heard a novelist asked when they are going to start writing short stories. To date, all my attempts at novel writing have resulted in more short stories. I think if I wanted to force the issue, I could, but I doubt I'd be proud of the results

2) How do you go about finding markets for your stories? Do you start with one in mind, or look once the story is finished? If both, which do you think is the more successful method?

I write the stories that come to me, the things that inspire and interest me and clamor in my head to be told. There is a quote attributed to the Aborigines of Australia that says, "The big stories are always hunting the right person to tell them." I believe that and I tend to think of stories as gifts, rather than commodities. I always write and fall in love with my stories first. The marketing comes afterwards, and it is a matter of finding the right home for each beloved story, rather than trying to fashion a story to fit a particular kind of home

The question of success is an interesting one. I am notoriously awful at writing to a theme or to preset parameters, because for me the process of writing is much more organic than mechanical. Writing for a specific market isn't particularly successful for me because I end up with a story I'm not that passionate about. I wrote it for someone else, rather than myself, and as a result, it isn't that good.

However, when I write for myself, to tell myself the story I want to know the ending to, and then look for a market, I have great success in placing it. Initially, it may take more effort to find a market that fits, but the results are almost always a sale. I consider writing what I want and selling it much more successful than writing what someone else wants and selling it. And yes, I still feel that way even when I get paid less for not writing whatever is the trend in the more popular markets

3) Where do you get your inspiration from?

It might be easier to answer "Where don't I get my inspiration from?" I have more ideas tucked away in notebooks than I could write in ten lifetimes. It is a rare day that passes without giving me some idea for a story. However, some of my favorite sources for inspiration are my kids, life experiences, nature, fairy tales, ancient mythology, reading, travel, and my dreams

Dreams are an especially lucrative mode of inspiration for me. Many of my short stories were written after just waking up from vivid dreams. Off the top of my head, "A Speck in the Universe," "The Moth Collector's Daughter, "Sheep Women and Dog Boys," and "The Bus to Nostalgia" were all inspired by dreams. Stories born out of dreams often fall into the category of magical realism, which is a genre I very much like to read and write. Dreams work in archetypes and symbolism, just as storytelling does. Joseph Campbell wrote that "Dreams are private myths. Myths are public dreams."

4) Tell us a little bit about why you like writing about magical, mythical themes.

I think of myth and magic as the hieroglyphics of the human psyche. They are a special language that circumvents conscious thought and goes straight to the subconscious. Non-fiction uses the medium of information. It tells us what we need to know. Science fiction primarily uses the medium of physics and mathematics. It tells us how things work, or could work. Horror taps into the darker imagery of the psychology, telling us what we should fear. Fantasy, magic and myth, however, tap into the spiritual potential of the human life. Their medium is symbolism, truth made manifest in word pictures, and they tell us what things mean on a deep, internal level. I have always been a meaning-maker. I have always been someone who strives to make sense of everything and perhaps that is where my life as a storyteller first began. Life doesn't always make sense, but story must. And so I write stories, and the world comes right again.

5) Is it hard for you to keep the stories short?

No. In fact, lately I've been writing and publishing quite a bit of flash fiction, which has helped me learn to better hone and edit my longer works. I haven't yet written any twitter fiction, but there are some great new markets for it out there, and I hope to try my hand at it soon

There are those who argue that short stories and short forms are a dying breed, but I would disagree. I think with the popularity of reading over the internet, shorter forms, which are easier on screen-weary eyes and appealing to a fast-paced electronic culture, are probably more in demand than ever. I am also repeatedly told that no one can make a living writing short stories. I suppose that depends on how you define "a living." It is generally very difficult to become wealthy writing poetry, or painting, or dancing, or even writing novels, for that matter. Thank goodness artists for centuries have been ignoring that brutal fact and creating what fulfills them anyway.

Bio: Ripley Patton is an American writer of speculative fiction happily living on the South Island of New Zealand. She writes fiction because truth has always fascinated her more than fact. You can get a glimpse into her mind and writing at .

This interview was brought to you by GapYearGirl123

Thursday, September 24, 2009

How Not To Write A Novel -

Ok, i have read numerous books on writing. I have stopped midway through many, my eyes and mind drained and befuddled from terminology and small print and i walk away with a terrible feeling of trepidation - that i will never be good enough to actually write a book (and remember all this nitty things that are so important - pov, climax, development etc.)

Wandering one day, i saw this little book, i picked it up, bought it and began to read it on the train home and i didn't stop till i was completely finished. It now sits by my bed (in a very honoured position) between my Stephen King 'on writing' and 'elements of style'.

In humorous, short anecdotes and tips, this book outlines all the things a person can do WRONG, and strangely enough its one of the most positive writing books i've read because its advice is sensible, practical and the examples portray clearly what they mean.

In 255 pages, and 200 mistakes Sandra Newman and Howard Mittelmark take you from Plot to how not to sell a novel, with lots of great information in between AND with lots of humour too!

So, when i was reading through and saw about ten things that i was doing wrong, i actually laughed, and nodded my head to myself - sniggering at my stupidity because through their amazing fun and friendly style, mistakes are shown and criticism is offered in a easy to swallow form (especially to the hyper sensitive newbie).

Definitely ten out of ten and light years ahead of many 'how to' books! This book is worth every cent!

For more information :

Monday, September 21, 2009

Interview: Will Lavender

The other week, I reviewed 'Obedience' by Will Lavender. He's now very kindly agreed to do an interview for us. I asked him about things from plotting, to how he became a writer, and his new project, Dominance.

1) First off, when did you decide you wanted to write, and how did you come to write this novel? Where did you get the idea for Obedience from?
I knew I wanted to be a writer early on, after I read the Bunnicula books by James Howe. I remember thinking how cool it was that people told stories for a living, that there were folks out there who were making books and providing them to people for enjoyment. I've always had an affinity for books and an aptitude for writing--and so it was natural that I got into this. I got the idea for Obedience from the Mt. Washington McDonald's case, which was well-known in Kentucky for a couple of years earlier in the decade. The scientist Stanley Milgram's name was mentioned in the newspaper account of the case, and I got to thinking about how far someone might go only because a person in authority tells them to go there. I was a college instructor at the time, and I wondered how far I might be able to go with my students. I couldn't go that far, obviously, and wouldn't for ethical reasons--but Professor Williams does.

2) The plot twists are great - how hard was it for you to keep some information hidden, and lead the characters where they are supposed to go? I'm guessing you must have had a very good plan. Were there times when you missed things, or did most of it come out right first time?
A lot of what you see in the book came to me when I was writing the first draft. I did not have a very good plan, in fact I didn't have that much of a plan at all. I had three main scenes: the very first scene of the novel, one of the middle scenes, and a late scene that allows things to start moving toward the climax of the novel. That was it. It's an age-old battle in novel writing: Should one write with or without an outline? I always choose to write without, because I need those plot twists to surprise me. If they don't surprise me, then they won't surprise a reader. The plot twists in Obedience continued to surprise me, so I just kept on going and kept putting them in. My editor helped a great deal with consistency and coherence after the first draft was done, but at least 75% of the book you see now is pretty much how I conceived it.

3) Can you tell us a bit about your next book? Is it in any way a sequel to Obedience?
My next book is called Dominance. My deadline is October 1st. It isn't a sequel per se, but I do use some of the same themes. The book is another college novel, this one set in upstate Vermont. It's about a class of English majors that is taught via satellite by a convicted murderer. As the class gets into the syllabus, they discover that the murderer may not be who he says he is--in fact, he may not even be guilty of the crimes he was convicted of. It's been a difficult book to write, probably because I'm working with different timelines and time sequences. (Part of the book takes place in the present, with the students from the original class grown up and the novel's heroine investigating a murder that looks shockingly similar to the ones her old professor was accused of.) But if you enjoyed Obedience, you'll like this new one as well.

4) I'm dying to know - what happens to Brian after the end of Obedience?
The novel pretty much ends for me where it ends for the reader. I've been asked a hundred times about Brian, and I really couldn't tell you what becomes of him. I would hope he is granted some leniency for what he did, because he was of course driven to that point by the class. Brian was a tough character to write in general; he comes to Winchester sort of a broken soul and then has this bizarre class that he really doesn't even want to take come along. You feel more sorry for him--at least I do--than the other two main characters. But essentially he chose to do what he did at the end of the book; I believe, though, that a jury would agree that he was manipulated in some pretty profound ways.

5) Did you ever have doubts about or trouble being published? How did you get your agent & publisher?
I didn't really have too many doubts about Obedience because I knew it was different, and I was pretty sure it was a book that would appeal to people who read thrillers. I found my agent on a Web site called From there she helped me clean the manuscript up, and then she sent it off to a few publishers. Before long we had some interest and then, eventually, a few offers. The book has been published in eleven or twelve foreign countries and was a pretty big seller in China. Movie rights have been discussed, etc. None of that happens without a good agent--and I definitely have one of those.

6) What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Read. Read a lot and then continue reading and finally read some more. And not only that: read like a writer. Read with an eye toward how published writers do things. Not just big things, either--I'm talking about the "little" things as well. (Though they are in no way small.) How do writers use tags in dialogue, for instance? How do they get characters from place to place? How do they write action sequences? How do they make their characters come to life? All these things can be picked up if you go out there and try to find them. I'm not talking about stealing--I'm talking about picking up the essential pieces of writers' styles and then making them your own. I try to learn something from every book I read, good or bad.

Thank you very much, Will!
Will's website can be found here: Click, where you can learn more about him, his books, and his influences. Please leave a comment if you enjoyed this interview!

Posted by Gapyeargirl123

Friday, September 18, 2009

When Writers Blog: an Interview With Jon Gibbs

WHEN WRITERS BLOG: An interview with Jon Gibbs by gapyeargirl123

On January 11, 2009, novel and short story writer, Jon Gibbs, made the debut post on his online journal. Aside from his long-suffering wife, Denise, only one other person read the entry.

Now, thanks to features like the regular Friday links to interesting posts by writers, agents and editors; oddball competitions like the Meager Puddle of Limelight Awards, and tongue-twisting acronyms like the one for IPAFPFYOJOJB (International Pimp a Favorite Post From Your Own Journal on Jon’s Blog) Day, An Englishman in New Jersey, receives over 1,000 visitors a month. Not bad for a virtually unpublished writer.

After much begging and pleading, we finally agreed to ask Jon a few questions about his work, his blog and why he believes most writers should have an online journal too.

TBB: Wouldn’t a writer’s time be better spent working on stories and books rather than on a blog?

JON: It’s true that developing an online journal takes time and effort, but in my opinion, the benefits are well worth it. Aside from the fact that a blog can help you get your work seen by new readers, there’s a wealth of knowledge and writing know-how on the web. How much would you pay for helpful advice from successful authors, agents and editors in your genre? An online journal gives you access to people from all around the world. Many of them share their knowledge and experience on their blogs, for free.

TBB: When should a writer start blogging, and which service should they use?

JON: It’s never too soon to start. As for hosts, I use LiveJournal, but whichever provider you choose, you can keep in touch with people on other blog sites via things like RSS feed.

TBB: How often do you post entries?

JON: I try to post a minimum of four times a week.

TBB: Most entries on your blog are about writing. Where do you get your ideas?

JON: All writers have thoughts and experiences worth sharing, whether the theme is ‘Don’t make the same dopey mistake I did’ (like a lot of my own posts), or about how he/she approaches the craft. I also get ideas from my friends’ blogs. The inspiration for one of my most visited posts came from reading about someone else’s bad experience at a critique group.

TBB: What can someone do to get more people reading their blog?

JON: I’d say the most important thing is to write about what interests you. Different things work for different people, but if you have a passion for something, coming up with good posts on that subject shouldn’t be hard.

Invite discussion. Let’s say you’re a writer, blogging about your latest work-in-progress. Try adding “How about you?” at the end of the post. Those three little words make a world of difference to a blog entry. They show readers you want to talk to them, not at them.

Have fun! If you don’t enjoy writing your blog, how can you expect people to enjoy reading it?

TBB: What shouldn’t a blogger do?

Don’t be boring. Better no post at all, than a procession of uninteresting entries. That particularly applies to writers. If people find your journal dull, they may assume your writing is too.

Don’t ignore people. You’d think this was obvious, but a surprising number of bloggers seem to feel they don’t need to acknowledge those readers who take the time to post a comment on their journal. Maybe it’s just me, but for a writer, I think that’s the equivalent of saying, ‘Please don’t ever read a story or buy a book of mine.

Don’t be afraid to post off-topic once in a while. My journal is mostly about writing, but I often throw in something on a different subject.

TBB: Which of your writerly blog posts are you most proud of?

JON: Hmm, I got a lot of good feedback for ‘The Critiquee’s Charter’ so let’s go with that.

TBB: What’s happening with your novels?

JON: I’m currently putting the finishing touches to my sci-fi thriller, Waking up Jack Thunder. My MG urban fantasy, Fur-Face, is under consideration with a publisher at the moment.

TBB: Most of your short stories are flash fiction (less than 1,000 words), is that deliberate?

JON: Yes. More and more people read (or listen to podcasts) on the web. With that in mind, it’s good for writers to have their stories available at the click of a button. I do submit to print markets, but for me, I’d rather sell my flash fiction to an online publisher.

TBB: Where can people find your writing on the web?

JON: I only have two 100-word stories online at present. They’re linked from my website, A Cat Of Nine Tales.

TBB: Final question: Where do you find time amongst all the things you have going on in your blog to actually write stories?

JON: I’m supposed to write stories too?

My old gran used to say, ‘You don’t find time, you make time’. Writers make time for pitch/query letters. They do that because they want people to read their work. A good blog will help you achieve that too. Rather than ‘Where do you find the time?’ a better question would be ‘Is it worth the time?’ to which my answer is a resounding ‘Yes!’

An active member of both The Garden State Horror Writers and The Monmouth Creative Writing Group, Jon Gibbs is the founder of the New Jersey Author’s Network. He can usually be found hunched over the laptop in his kitchen. One day he hopes to figure out how to switch it on. If you decide to visit his blog, tell him we sent you.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Interview: Jocelynn Drake

I (Ailsa/gapyeargirl) was so please when Jocelynn agreed to do an interview with us! I hope you enjoy reading it.

1) Could you describe your journey, from the idea for Nightwalker to getting your agent (and maybe to getting published, if it's not too long)?

Nightwalker started a little differently than most of the other stories that I worked on. Nightwalker started as a writing experiment where I was playing with point of view. I wanted to tell a story about a vampire hunter through the eyes of his prey. Unfortunately, from the moment that Mira opened her mouth, she immediately dominated the story and it became harder to bring Danaus into the limelight.

When I started working on Nightwalker, it was nothing more than a short story and I never intended it to be more than that. However, a good friend read it and liked it so much that he demanded that I keep writing. So, I did. It took a lot of careful planning, but after getting about half of the book written I discovered that I had ideas for several other books that I was dying to tell about Mira and all the other characters in her world.

It wasn’t until I actually finished writing the first book that I considered trying to get it published. Prior to that, I was writing for myself and my friend. After finishing it, I went through several drafts of polishing it. After working on it for several months, I started sending out query letters to agents. I got a few good nibbles, but nothing definite. The most common comment was that they liked my voice, but the book just wasn’t there yet. One excellent agent complained that it was too long. I cut the book in half so that I now had what would become Nightwalker and Dayhunter already written before I even sold the series.

I remember that it had been two years of rejections and I was getting worried. It was the week before Mother’s Day and I sent out five electronic queries to agents. I swore that if I didn’t get a serious bite from this group, I was going to pack the book away and work on another project. By the following Monday, I had an agent, and she’s everything that I’ve been looking for in an agent. She’s amazing and she loves my work.

From there, we spent a week tweaking the book before she blasted it out to several publishers. Three weeks later, we had a contract offer from an amazing editor at Eos/HarperCollins. I was in heaven. It took me a while the land an agent, but getting a publisher was extremely quick.

2) Your vampires often seem quite a lot darker than in many other urban fantasy books at the moment. What led you to writing such a dark book, or was Mira's story always like that, since you first thought of her?

For me, I’ve always preferred my vampires to be dark, vicious creatures. I tend to look at the dark side of humanity when I am writing. I like to wonder what would happen if you gave a human awesome powers, strength, beauty, and immortality. Would they retain that moral fiber they had during their human years? Or would it be worn away with time? Would the power go to their heads and would they abuse it? We’ve seen that kind of abuse through the years and it’s not such a stretch to believe that vampires would react the same way.

Another thing that was key to me was that I didn’t want a bunch of sad vampires, complaining about their lot in life. “I never wanted this.” That was something my vampires would never say. Each creature had to make the conscious choice to become a nightwalker and they had to fight death for it. If the human didn’t truly want to become a vampire, he or she would just die during the process of rebirth. My vampires want to be vampires. They enjoy their powers and they enjoy the thrill of the hunt. They had strong instincts for survival, and the vampirism really taps into their more animalistic emotions and urges.

3) How has life changed for you since Nightwalker and Dayhunter were published?

I guess the biggest thing for me that has changed is writing on a deadline. Before, I wrote stories whenever I felt like it. Most never were finished. I would write until I got bored with it and then I would start something else. Now, I have a strict deadline of when I have to turn in my next book, so that means that I have to keep a regular writing schedule and I have to stick to it, even when I don’t feel like working.

The other thing is that writing used to be time for me to play and daydream. In many ways, it still is, but I am now more aware of the fact that it is also work. When I start working on a story, now I have to seriously consider whether this is something that I want to have published. If it’s not, I typically have to push it aside. My time is very limited and I have to stay focused on pieces that I think are publishable. I hope to one day get back to playing a little bit when I write.

OK, this is where the spoilery-for-book-2 questions start - you have been warned!

4) From the end of book two, it seems like we're going to be seeing a lot more of the coven now. You have some great info on your website about the formation of the coven, but I was wondering if there's anything else you could tell us about the members of the coven, maybe things that Mira knows that just won't be in the story, or a little of their history, or any stray tidbits?

Hmmm…. That’s a great question. I have to say that pretty much everything that Mira knows about the Coven has been presented in the books. The Coven takes a backseat to the story in Dawnbreaker and Pray for Dawn, but they have a larger presence in Wait for Dusk, which is the fifth book in the series.

The Coven is a dark place in my world. It is where the true violent nature of nightwalker society originates. The one thing that I’m hoping to take a deeper look at is the various alliances that exist on the Coven. By the end of Dayhunter, there is a definite shift in power that will only help to prolong Mira’s life, but the other vampires are not about to sit idly by and allow it to happen without some kind of challenge.

One character from the Coven that I haven’t had the chance to introduce is Our Liege. The true ruler of the nightwalker race has sat back and been content to watch everything that has been happening. I will admit that I’ve known this character since Nightwalker. I know his name, his appearance, his mannerisms. Unfortunately, there are too many powerful characters already in the story. I need to strike a balance and not throw too much at Mira all at once. So, I’ve put off introducing him. However. I do have plans for his appearance late in the series. Don’t worry. He’s coming and he is his own ball of trouble.

5) So, Mira is Tristan's 'owner' now. Can you tell us anything about why she was reluctant to do that to anyone before, or what it means for them now? What does it actually involve for her?

Mira has always been reluctant to be the “owner” or parental figure in a nightwalker family. Her own experiences with Sadira were extremely bleak. She lived with Sadira for several years as a human and then another hundred years with her as a nightwalker. Sadira was very controlling, monitoring all of Mira’s movements and actions. Mira is very independent creature with a mind of her own. She chafes under too much restriction, so she never wanted to be in a position where she would have to restrict the movements of another creature.

Mira and Tristan’s relationship is very relaxed. It is partially a mother-son relationship and partially a brother-sister relationship. He is both younger and weaker than Mira, so she feels the need to protect him at all time. And yet, because Sadira is their maker, she is his sister in a way. Because Mira is his “owner” she is responsible for his safety. Should he get into trouble, Mira could step in and protect him if she wanted. Of course, she could also leave it to him to take care of his mess himself.

Tristan is one of my favorite characters. His weakness is not a detriment as it might seem in their violent world. It means that he is more in tune with his emotions, with the frailty of humans, and the general frailty of the world. He had a softening effect on Mira, which she needs. When things get bleak, Mira tends to become very hard and distant. Tristan’s presence will help her retain her hold on her humanity a little while longer. On the other hand, Mira can teach Tristan to survive.

6) I don't see how anyone can read these books and not love Danaus - is there anything at all that you can tell us about him? Any teeny-tiny little bits of information?

I love Danaus too. He’s one of my favorite characters ever. I’ve had a lot of trouble getting into his mind because he doesn’t always like to talk. He’s strong, brave, honest, and reliable. He is also sarcastic, with a sharp, dry wit. I adore him.

Secret Danaus tidbits? Let’s see. Danaus was born just outside of Rome nearly two centuries ago. His mother was a witch and his father was a senator. To keep his family beyond the reach of Roman politics, he kept his wife and son outside of the city in a rambling estate. His wife didn’t like the arrangement, so she called on a demon to give her more power so she could seek her revenge on her husband. In exchange for the power, the demon claimed part of the soul of her unborn son.

Danaus didn’t discover the arrangement until he was in his early twenties. He had been mortally wounded in a battle not far from Rome. The medics looked at him and shook their heads, confident that he would die. But, by morning, he was up and walking around, almost completely healed. Everyone proclaimed that it was a miracle visited on him by the gods. Danaus was skeptical. That night, he rode to see his mother at the estate that he grew up at. She confessed that she had made a deal and that he had been blessed with amazing strength and healing powers. Danaus was enraged that his soul no longer belonged to him. In the blindness of his rage, he killed his mother by boiling her blood. Afterward, Danaus left the city of Rome and has never set foot in the city again.

7) Last one! Can you tell us a bit about Dawnbreaker, in your own words? What do we have to look forward to when that comes out at the end of the month?

Dawnbreaker takes place a couple months after the conclusion of Dayhunter in Savannah where Mira is being hunted by the naturi. They are desperate to capture and destroy the vampire, as she and Danaus are the only ones that could potentially stop the naturi from freeing Aurora, Queen of the naturi, and the rest of the naturi people. While fighting the naturi, Mira is lucky enough to take a hostage that could help her turn the tables on the naturi when she and Danaus finally go to the final showdown at Machu Picchu, Peru. The dawn lies just over the horizon and Rowe is desperate to finally free his wife-queen. The time has come to face the past.

Thanks so much for some great answers, Jocelynn!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Nightwalker, by Jocelynn Drake

Nightwalker, by Jocelynn Drake

From the website:

For centuries Mira has been a nightwalker -- an unstoppable enforcer for a mysterious organization that manipulates earth-shaking events from the darkest shadows. But elemental mastery over fire sets her apart from others of her night-prowling breed...and may be all that prevents her doom.

The foe she now faces is human: the vampire hunter called Danaus, who has already destroyed so many undead. For Mira, the time has come to hunt or be hunted.

But in a dimension just beyond the worlds boundaries, a banished race stirs dangerously, hungry for power, for domination, for vengeance. Already a protective seal has been breached: already blood flows like a river through the world's great cities.

And only the collaboration of two sworn enemies can save humankind...and its feral brethren.


I’ve lent my copy of Nightwalker to a friend at the moment, so I hope this review is still ok!

Nightwalker begins with Mira stalking Danaus through Savana, her city. You see straight away how skilled a hunter she is, and her feisty personality come through very strongly. Very quickly, Mira is forced to postpone Danaus’s death and trust him as he shows her an enemy from her past who she thought was long dead. The feared Naturi are back. Mira and Danaus must head to Egypt to warn vampires & others alike, all the while wondering whether they can trust each other.

It’s very interesting to see how being around Mira is forcing Danaus to reconsider his notions of vampires, and his agenda against them. Mira, too, is changed by being around the hunter. I loved all the interactions between them – one moment bickering, the next fighting back-to-back. It was great to have such strong characters.

Another thing that I really liked about this book was that the two main characters didn’t jump in to bed with each and fall madly in love. It’s something that really annoys me in a lot of books – characters who’ve known each other for less than a week deciding that they want to spend the rest of their lives together. There is some chemistry between Danaus and Mira, but I liked that the author doesn’t just disregard all the mistrust and stereotypes that they are carrying around with them, in the week that ‘Nightwalker’ lasts.

The plot was excellent, it pulled me in right away and didn’t let go. The ending was maybe a little abrupt, but the second book, ‘Dayhunter’, picks up right where ‘Nightwalker’ leaves off.

‘Nightwalker’ is also a lot darker than many vampire novels these days – there is a lot of fighting, and never much rest for Mira.

I’d strongly recommend this book, and the third book in the series comes out at the end of the month.

Stay tuned to the blog, because tomorrow we are very privileged to have an interview with Jocelynn Drake, the author! I was very fangirl-happy about this opportunity, and I hope you enjoy reading her answers as much as I did.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Obedience, by Will Lavender

From the back cover:

The beginning of the fall term at Winchester University in rural Indiana. On the first day of class Professor Williams presents a startling scenario to the students in his Logic and Reasoning 204 course: a young girl has gone missing and the class has until the end of the quarter to find her or she will be murdered.

The students believe Williams’s tale is nothing more than a logic puzzle, but soon three of them – Mary, Brian and Dennis – stumble upon a real-life, unsolved disappearance that sounds eerily similar to the one Williams described, the case of Deanna Ward, a girl who went missing twenty years earlier and was never found. Each of them becomes obsessed with the two women and with the professor, himself a shadowy figure. As the real world and Williams’s puzzle begin to merge, the three young people are thrown into a complex and horrifying game of deception. What’s real? What’s fiction? And how far will the students go to obey authority?

I’d been looking for this book in paperback for months, after reading a review, and it didn’t disappoint. A five hour train journey after buying it, and the only reason I hadn’t finished was because it got dark. I just couldn’t make myself put it down before that.

After the prologue, the book begins with the ominous heading ‘SIX WEEKS LEFT’. As the book goes on, these headings help increase the ever-present tension: moving from weeks into days, then finally hours. The mystery is introduced straight away: it turns out that no one has any idea what their new professor, Mr Williams, looks like – he’s somehow missing from the yearbooks, despite his name being mentioned, and the website shows only his brief CV, while the box for the photo is gray and blank. The three main characters are quickly introduced in Williams’s first class, where they are both puzzled and intrigued by the scenario he describes. The first couple of chapters follow the three students through their early classes with Williams, and we quickly learn that they have secrets of their own, some that they conceal from their friends, and others that are hinted at but left for the reader to guess about.

I think it’s very hard to talk about this book, to describe it, because there are so many twists. There is so much information that is ever so slowly revealed over the course of the story, and a lot of what Dennis, Mary and Brian are discovering throws what they’ve already learnt into question. Who can they trust? Who should they believe? It is clear that someone is lying, but whether that is the Professor himself, about who Polly is, or Orman, the dean, who claims Williams is a plagiarist, and a liar obsessed with a long-ago crime? The evidence seems to make the issue of who to believe swing back and forth between the two. But then it starts to seem like the students are being pointed in certain directions, herded to exactly the places where someone wants them to go. And the deeper they go, the darker things get.

I love how the narrative switches from one character’s point of view to the other – all three of the students have very well-defined personalities, and it adds to the general confusion that the reader never gets to see all of what is going on. Like the characters, I was hooked on finding the answer, and trying to work out what was a prop and what was real.

It was a fascinating read, with a shocking conclusion. I definitely have to re-read, knowing what's happening, to see how different it seems. If you want a book to keep you up past our bed time, and make you give strange teachers a second look, then this is definitely one for you.

Overall rating? 8 stars, I think.

Will Lavender has very kindly agreed to do an interview for us here at the Book Bundle! That will probably go up sometime next week. If anyone has any questions they'd like to ask, please leave them in the comments.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Interview: Bosley Gravel

This week we've got an interview with novelist and short-story writer Bosley Gravel. I hope you enjoy reading it!

1) How long did it take from you deciding to write with the intention of being published, to getting your first story published?

I informally studied fiction for about two years back in the mid-90s. It took about a year to publish my first short story, a literary piece titled "Stafford's Hands". I believe the magazine was called "Show and Tell" and I was paid two whole dollars plus the (handmade) contributor's copy. I was absolutely thrilled. I continued to write
for another year, I rarely submitted and no more acceptances. The pre-Internet submission process was far more involved, every submission cost you at least two stamps, and typically a sample copy of the publication. All of this works out to two or three months of time per submission. Eventually, as often happens, life got in the way and I abandoned my efforts for over a decade.

Fast forward to 2006, I dusted off some manuscripts, fixed them up the best I could, and started subbing them to on-line markets. As luck would have it, an e-zine named "The Deepening" liked my short story, "The Hanged Man" and decided to run it. That was encouragement enough to begin redeveloping my writing skills.

After some success (and a lot of failures) with the short form, I moved over to novels. Three failed manuscripts later I produced a story about an independent filmmaker in a small town. The novel is titled, "Cannibal Lesbian Zombies from Outer Space --verses-- Doctor Clockwork and his Furious Plastic Surgeons of Doom: The Movie". Despite being written in only 24 days, and starting with nothing but the title, it ended up a fun, and relevant little squib of Americana.

A year or so later, after minor revisions, I started peddling it to small presses. It was accepted on its second or third time out by Mr. Neil Marr over at BeWrite Books, an independent press based in Europe. I'm told it should be available at the end of the year as a paperback and e-book, directly from BeWrite and various other on-line retailers. The final revisions were painless, and even fun, under Mr. Marr's
expert editorial guidance.

Most of this was dumb luck, getting the right manuscript to the right publisher at the right time was crucial. In case I've made it sound like I've been magically blessed with fairy dust and all this just kind of happened, my records indicate an average of a ten to one ratio of rejections to acceptances.

2) Did you start with short stories or novels? Do you prefer one over the other? Why?

I started writing short stories with the idea that it was good practice for writing novels. It turns out, at least for me, this is really two different skill sets. Traditional short stories require tight focus on a single perspective of a theme to be satisfying. Novels, on the other hand, can incorporate multiple perspectives (even
multiple themes). This gives the reader an in-depth look at the theme from all different angles. In a novel, all those perspectives have to be subtly linked through a whole mesh of techniques. So while there is overlap, there is quite a bit of difference too; it's mostly one of scope, in my opinion.

With that being said, moving over to novels was not too difficult, just a little perplexing at first. I tried a couple of novellas, and then moved up to a short novel manuscript, then onward to full length novel manuscripts. I am still a bit intimidated by the commitment it takes to produce a novel.

As for preference, short stories are great for prototyping a concept or character, but due to their inherent brevity they don't allow for much depth. I do enjoy writing them, and will almost certainly continue to do so. However, I've focused on novels for the past year, as I continue to try and get a good grip on the form.

3) How do you go about finding places to have your short stories published? Do you write with a specific place in mind, or do you wait until a story is finished to work out where it's going?

I've always written the story first and then looked for a venue. Being something of an eclecticist (read that as hobbyist-hack), I've never learned any particular genre inside and out. As a consequence I've produced manuscripts in everything from Christian morality tales to visceral slasher horror. And because of this range, it's been difficult to chase a particular niche anyway.

There are some good reasons to write with market guidelines in mind, though. Keeping within a particular word counts and avoiding certain content makes a story much easier to place. For new authors anxious to see their stories published, it makes sense to shorten the wait by drawing inspiration from existing publications, or responding to a call for manuscripts.

4)What are the main differences, for you, between the processes for writing a short story, and writing longer pieces?

I typically produce a short story in one or two sittings. They are almost always incident driven, and show a narrow perspective on a particular theme. My habit for stories of the 2-4k word range is to write about half of it, take a break for a day or two, then finish it up. Flash, on the other hand, I write in one shot, let it rest, and then revise it.

Novels, of course, require stamina and a bit more planning. So I typically do a page or two a day, and a whole lot of day dreaming about the details. I'm much more willing to let the characters drive the story with longer fiction because there is room to guide them gently back on track if it becomes clear the story is heading in the wrong direction -- with short fiction you have no such luxury.

I follow the same pattern with novellas and novelettes as I do with novels; I rarely plan the length, I tend to go slow, and focus on staying one step ahead of the story.

5) Tell us a bit about one of your stories.

The most interesting manuscript I produced this year, I think, is a short novel titled "Servant of the Mud". The story is a dark mythic fantasy that deals with Pauly, a reluctant Christ figure, who must come to terms with not only his responsibilities as a human being, but his responsibilities as something far more. I really let my imagination go wild, and despite being somewhat out of my comfort zone
with the genre, it ended up being a lot of fun to write. The research was a blast; I deconstructed classic myths and then put them back together with contemporary twists, and what I hope was in unusual and interesting ways. The story really has it all: love, lust, betrayal, fist fights, ghosts, djinns, sorcery, angels, hidden worlds, earth, wind and fire elementals, and even a meeting with the Big Guy himself.

I was lucky enough to get Shadowfire Press interested in the manuscript, and it should be available at the end of the year as an e-book. The Shadowfire staff are a great bunch of talented, professional, and friendly folks and I look forward to seeing the final product.

6)Finally, a lot of the blog readers are aspiring authors - what advice would you give us?

You've heard it all before. ;)

Be yourself, learn the craft of fiction, don't be afraid to take chances and have some fun. The only writers I know that have failed, are writers that gave up. Read broadly, write every day, and take part in a writing community. Don't worry about rejection, believe in yourself and your stories; have fun with your fiction. Write for yourself -- don't take acceptances or rejections too seriously, after a certain degree of expertise it's all just a matter of taste anyway.
The is only one rule of writing: be engaging. Follow that and you'll find yourself with an audience.

Bio: Bosley Gravel, eclectic hack writer, was born in the Midwest, and came of age in Texas and southern New Mexico. He writes in a variety of genres. His fiction focuses on the absurdly tragic, and the tragically absurd. He likes good black coffee, nightmares, Billie Holiday, and that hour just before the sun comes up.

Coming soon: his debut literary novel "The Movie" from BeWrite Books (for pre-Christmas Release).


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Monday, September 7, 2009

Upcoming interviews

This is just a short post to let everyone know that we're going to be having some interviews on the blog soon!
We'll have several with short-story writers, and one next week with a very special guest, Jocelynn Drake, author of Nightwalker & Dayhunter!

I'm hoping to get the first interview up tomorrow or Wednesday, so please come along and leave comments!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Geektastic: Stories from the Nerd Herd edited by Holly Black and Cecil Castellucci

From The Cover:
Haven’t you heard? Geek is the new cool! Acclaimed authors Holly Black (Ironside)and Cecil Castellucci (Boy Proof) have united in geekdom to edit short stories from some of the best selling and most promising geeks in young adult literature: M.T. Anderson, Libba Bray, Cassandra Clare, Tracy Lynn, Cynthia and Greg Leitich Smith, David Levithan, Kelly Link, Barry Lyga, Wendy Mass, Garth Nix, Scott Westerfield, Lisa Yee, and Sara Zarr. With illustrated interstitials from comic book artists Hope Larson and Bryan Lee O'Malley, Geektastic covers all things geeky, from Klingons and Jedi Knights to fan fiction, theater geeks, and cosplayers. Whether you're a former, current, or future geek, or if you just want to get in touch with your inner geek, Geektastic will help you get your geek on!

After seeing all star cast of authors that were contributing stories to this book, I decided I had to read it. And, boy, did that turn out to be an excellent decision. This book delivers it all in a nifty little package. (The cover has all the authors and comic book illustrators on the front in old school video game style.)

This would be a very long post if I reviewed every story/comic in the book, but it is safe to say that this book comes with something for everyone. We’ve all gone through a point where we felt inadequate or judged for who we are, so everyone (even if you aren’t a geek) can relate to the something in Geektastic. The stories range from laugh out loud funny (“Once You’re A Jedi, You’re A Jedi All The Way”) to ones that make you remember the horrors of high school (“The Truth About Dino Girl”.) Every story gives you something, even if you don’t realize it at the time.

While each story in the book was wonderful, I believe my favorite part was the comics. In between each of the stories, there is a tiny comic. Each one made me shake with giggles that could not be stopped.

Non-Geeks and Geeks, come one, come all, for this book is amazing. Even if you don’t understand Klingon, even if you don’t have any idea what cosplay is, and even if you don’t know what a con is, you will walk away a better person from reading this book.

I give this book 10/10 stars.