Monday, May 31, 2010

Mystery conference inspires thought

I returned last night from a wonderful mystery conference: Mayhem in the Midlands. What a fantastic way to spend the weekend!

As a new author, I spoke on two panels.

The first was "Putting the SUPER in Supernatural." It was wonderful to hear author Lee Killough's thoughts on the supernatural, since her works are so different than mine. If you haven't had the chance to pick up one of her books, do it! She has a fresh take on vampires and werewolves. I have added her Killer Karma book to my "to be read" pile -- though that pile has suffered a population explosion in the past week.

The second panel made me much more nervous, since it covered religion in mysteries. I really wasn't comfortable with the topic, nor was I overly familiar with the other authors on the panel. Sharan Newman writes both historical mysteries which take place in the middle ages and non-fiction titles dealing with some pretty controversial topics. Marilyn Meredith has thirty published titles, including one series featuring a Native American deputy sheriff and her pastor husband. Shannon Baker's debut novel covers the three "big religions": Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. And the entire panel was moderated by David J. Walker, a former priest turned author. No pressure, right?

(By the way, they were all super nice people, and each of their books are now gracing my "to be read" stack.)

I think a good part of my nervousness can be attributed to the fact I don't see Ghost Mountain as being a religious book. There is some spirituality there, of course, but I don't think there's much religion. To me, religion is the big umbrella. It's the rules we, as lowly humans, are supposed to follow. It's the list of d0s and don'ts and cans and can'ts. Spirituality, however, is the way we follow those rules. It's the feeling we get when we know we're on the right path, or when we witness a beautiful sunset. The experience works best when a person is both religious and spiritual, but I've know religious people who weren't very spiritual and some deeply spiritual people who avoided religion like the plague.

That sort of leads me to the question I have: Are you religious or spiritual? How do you combine the two?


P.S. I think I'm more spiritual then religious, for those who are wondering.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Using research as a springboard

I love reading paranormal stories, and discovering new worlds full of magic and monsters. But I hate it when I start reading a new book and it seems like the only research the writer did was watch a cheesy move like The Craft, or even worse, a few episodes of Charmed. If your fictional magical system is based on a lot of extravagant hand waving and liberal doses of deus ex machina, some readers may accept that but many will want to throw the book across the room. Since I don't want any of my books thrown across the room, I do my research.

One of the best resources for research into magical systems paranormal writers might want to use in their fiction is the Internet Sacred Text Archive. It's a free online resource I first found several years ago when surfing the net for my own curiosity. I've found myself coming back to it again and again when I want to give my fictional worlds a more solid grounding. For one recent novel I pored over the archive's section on Chaos magic, using what I learned there as a jumping off point for a character who is a Chaote. What I learned there, and the questions I learned to ask for further research, helped me to shape both the character and the kind of magic he practices. More recently I've been looking through the section called Grimoires and starting to read some of the magical texts there, for both general research purposes and because of a story idea I've got floating in the back of my head. There's lots of other stuff in the archive, too, including a section on Tarot that I need to delve into one of these days.

For me, research is one of the most fun things about writing paranormal fiction. It can take me to places I hadn't considered the story might go and enrich both characters and plot in ways that might otherwise have never happened. Think of it this way: even the best high-diver at the pool, capable of doing all sorts of amazing twists and turns before reaching the water, needs a solid surface from which to jump. Research gives me, and my fiction, that solid surface. Sometimes it can inspire some pretty crazy leaps too, but then, what's why it's fiction.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Please allow me to introduce myself

I’d like to thank everyone here at Frightening Journeys for inviting me to join them. Though I’ve been maintaining my own blog for a while now, this is my first time being part of a group blog. I’m a little nervous about getting started so I thought I would use this first post as an opportunity to introduce myself.

My name is Sonya, and I live in Tennessee with my husband and our Yorkie. I was born here but I didn’t grow up here, what with my father being career military. The longest we ever lived in one place while I was growing up was two and a half years. Books were one of the few constants of my life. I don’t remember the first paranormal story I ever read, but I do remember it was always my preferred genre. From an early age, I loved all things that go bump in the night. Ray Bradbury, Anne Rice, and Stephen King were my favorite masters of the macabre, and I scoured libraries at Army bases all over the world for any and every of their books I could get my hands on. The eternal twilight of Bradbury’s evocative prose, King showing the horror found in broad daylight and everyday things, and Rice’s existential vampires provided a home I never had to pack up and leave. At thirteen I knew I wanted to be a writer, thanks in part to obsessive multiple readings of Bradbury’s Death is a Lonely Business. I never seriously considered writing anything but paranormal fiction. For me, magic and monsters is where it’s at.

Now years later, those midnight dream are coming true. I’ve finally started my own frightening journey as a published author with the release of my first novella, Bring on the Night. It’s a monster story with a vampire named Jessie as the main character. Here’s the blurb:

Only a vampire can own the night.

If there’s one thing Jessie hates, it’s going after her own kind. She may be used to taking a bite out of human killers, but she leaves her fellow immortals alone. It’s only after a series of gruesome murders have her suspecting vampires and werewolves are going after innocents does she set out to put a stop to it. It’s not long that Jessie finds herself racing against the waxing moon to stop an ambitious gang of monsters with a sinister agenda.

Bring on the Night was released this past Monday by Lyrical Press. Seeing it out in the world for sale and review may be the culmination of one journey, but I’ve realized it’s really just the beginning for me. I have a lot more stories I want to tell, about vampires and demons, witches and sorcerers, magical artifacts and hidden worlds. There may be a lot of aspects about publishing that are frightening, but that journey into the dark, full of wondrous magic and mythical monsters, is one I relish.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Some news...

Like Nerine, I must apologize for my lack luster blogging. I have a bad habit of tunnel vision. I tend to focus on a project and become obsessed with it until its done. Wait for the Wind is one of those things. It's due in a little under a month and so not where it needs to be. I've been setting aside basically everything to push through and get it finished. I solemnly promise to do my best to be here, but sometimes just those few blogging minutes are a battle hard fought and not always won.

Some changes are definitely in the air at Frightening Journeys. Please give a warm welcome to Lyrical Press, Inc. author Sonya Clark. Her new release Bring on the Night is already getting great reviews, and I know she'll be a credit to the team.

I hope all of you have a blessed week,


Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Something to sink your fangs into

I apologise profusely for being a very bad blogger. If anyone could have predicted how absolutely bizarre, busy and exciting my life would have become over the past year or so, I wouldn't have believed them.

Not only do I celebrate the release of the sequel to my debut novel, Khepera Redeemed, next month, but Khepera Rising (book one) releases in print the same month. But more about that later.

The idly curious are welcome to stop by my Lyrical Press author page for buy-links, excerpts, cover art

What many people don't realise is that on top of having a demanding day-job in the "exciting and fast-paced" world of newspaper publishing (insert picture of author pulling a rude face here), I also edit fiction, which often is the reason my word-count isn't as high as I'd like it to be when it comes to my own writing.

But I am passionate about what I do. There's nothing that gives me more thrills than having one of my authors go on to having a contract offered for her writing, or see her writing improve as the books continue. Or, even better, see her sales do well.

But, as if this is not enough, I have been running a genre fiction writers' group in my home town of Cape Town for the past **gasp** three years and, since last year, have been running the literary component of the SA HORRORFEST.

To add some madness for giggles, my husband, when he's not busy with his freelance glam, fashion and alternative photography, makes award-winning indie art movies and, invariably, I get dragged along for the fun and games.

But I digress. What I really want to give you all a heads-up about today is a call for submissions for BLOODY PARCHMENT, the literary component of the aforementioned SA HORRORFEST. Last year we hosted a very successful reading event at The Book Lounge, an indie bookshop in Cape Town. This year I sat with the SA HORRORFEST organisers and we were in agreement that we'd like to run a short story competition, on top of another reading event.

So, what we want to see is short horror or dark fantasy fiction in three categories: drabble (no more than 100 words); flash (no more than 1 000 words); and short (no more than 3 500 words).First prize is a full round of edits on your novella or novel-length work of fiction, and a few tips on what to do next. The organisers will also have prizes lined up for the best runners-up.

All the details with closing dates are here:

Monday, May 10, 2010

Researching the paranormal

I firmly believe that research is important to any work. But how do you research things which aren't easily proven?

Let's take fairies, for example. My current work in progress has some fairies in it. My deleima becomes how to portray the fairies. Do I use the popular "Tinkerbell" model? Or do I go more traditional with the belief that not all fairies are good or cute or sparkly?

It would be easy to go the Tink route. Who hasn't heard of Tinkerbell and her friends? Fearless, determined, a little bit spoiled -- that would be easy to write. Add in that they are cute and not a bit scary, and why not pick them?

What about a species of fairy covered in course brown hair who love to help, but aren't all that smart? Sea monsters thought to be fairies? One that can only be seen right before you die? According to A Witch's Guide to Faery Folk by Edain McCoy those are just three of the real fairies.

Having never actually seen a fairy (that I know of), who's to say which idea is correct? And if I haven't seen a fairy, how will Cerri? Should it be a talent she has? Are there "spells" or "potions" that could help her?

When building a paranormal world (or a world where paranormal is a little more normal) it's important to make each scenario believable within that world. It requires the author to know what's what in that world and stick to the rules already established. I might not have all the answers, but in Cerri's world I have a pretty good idea of how everything works.

By the way, I've opted for a more traditional fairy.


Monday, May 3, 2010

Nichole's rant of the day....

I really struggled with what to blog about this week. There was just nothing "worthy" of the space, I thought.

Early this morning, though, it came to me. I would blog about this particular Monday.

I've mentioned it before, but I'll do it again. I spent seven years in the United States Air Force. The joke is that the military taught me to "BS" my way out of anything. (Hey, I worked public relations....) My husband is retired Air Force. My uncle was a lieutenant in the Army during Viet Nam. Both of my grandfathers were in the Navy during WWII. My blood doesn't just run red, it's red, white, and blue.

And all those rights we have as U.S. citizens to speak our mind, worship how we want, vote for our leaders... well, they won't be worth the paper they're written on if someone before us hadn't fought for those rights and someone behind us is willing to make sure they're defended.

Today, I was able to welcome home one of those heros who put his life on the line to ensure my freedoms. And I do mean literally put his life on the line.

Specialist Branden Stackenwalt and his vehicle were hit with a roadside bomb in Afghanistan in September of 2009. Branden just came home today.

But he came home.

And I was there to see him as part of the Patriot Guard welcoming him
home. By the way, he's a great kid -- just 22 years old. He yelled at the riders without helmets (South Dakota doesn't have a helmet law) and then asked if we could find a spare one for him. He actually rode with a guy to his hotel as part of the convoy. I'm not sure he stopped smiling.

It doesn't matter to me if you think our troops should be where ever they are. Frankly, I don't care. It doesn't matter to me if you think our government is full of liars, crooks, and cheats. You're probably right. It doesn't matter to me if you voted for the other guy. I may not like what you have to say, but I will defend your right to say it.

The US military has a tough job. One they can't quit whenever they want and they can't complain about in public. They give up some of their rights -- willingly! -- to defend ours. The least we can do is let them know we appreciate what they've done.