Thursday, October 4, 2012

Fraterfest 2012: Name That Vampire! on The Fabled Crossroads!

Hello everyone,

This is Kody Boye, the editor of The Fabled Crossroads. I'm posting this quick notice to let you know that Fraterfest, the October read-a-long of author Rhiannon Frater's books, has officially begun! From now until Monday the 8th, sixty bloggers (myself not included) will be taking part in a blog tour dedicated to Rhiannon's books. To find out more information, please click on the button below.


Now, without further ado, my challenge is...

NAME THAT VAMPIRE!

The goal of this challenge is to try and correctly name as many of the vampires or vampiric figures in this list as possible. There is only one right answer for each question.

In a TV series or film...

1. Who is the vampire that is named off of a winged creature?

2. Who is the vampress who was driven to insanity before she was killed and brought back to life as a vampire?

3. Where did the film 30 Days of Night take place?

4. What is the name of the foreign vampire film (and now the American remake) that was based off a Swedish novel?

5. Who wrote the novel that inspired the film Interview with the Vampire?

You thought fictional vampires were scary? Well, think again -- there were actually people in history who claimed to be vampires, who drank their blood, or whose habits resembled those of the undead.

In history...

6. Who was the man that inspired Bram Stoker to create Dracula?

7. Who was the woman who was called a vampire after she bathed in the blood of virgins?

8. Who was the Russian man (famed for his association with a royal family) who was rumored to be a vampire due to his supposed healing abilities after he cured a young boy of hemophilia?

9. What and when was the first vampire movie made?

10. What God in Greek mythology created the first supposed ‘vampire’ by cursing him so that his ‘skin would burn should it ever touch sunlight again?’

Now if you've got those questions answered, let us know a few things about vampires only you would know...

A. Who is your favorite vampire and why?

B. If you had to pick to be in a world where vampires were violent and eagerly hunted and killed humans, which would it be and why? (Can be any fictional world from a book, movie, TV series, play, etc.)

C. If you had to pick only one traditional item to protect you from a vampire (cross, garlic, holy water, etc.,) what would it be and why?


You may leave all your answers below with the corresponding numbers in your comment below.

Thank you for participating in the Name that Vampire! challenge on The Fabled Crossroads for Fraterfest 2012! If you love horror fiction with vampires, zombies, or any matter of creatures, consider purchasing some of Rhiannon Frater's novels on Amazon.com! For your participation in this event, one winner (chosen at random via a number generator) will receive their choice of a copy of Pretty When She Dies, The Last Bastion of the Living or The Tale of the Vampire Bride in their preferred format. Winners will be announced on Tuesday, October 9th.

Tweet about Fraterfest with the hashtag (#) #Fraterfest and follow Rhiannon at @RhiannonFrater.


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Review of PRETTY WHEN SHE KILLS and interview with Rhiannon Frater

A few weeks back, I took part in the cover reveal for Rhiannon Frater's The Tale of the Vampire Bride series. Now, with the release of her novel Pretty When She Kills (the second in the Pretty When She... series,) she leaps forward several centuries from the old Regency era and into the present -- most specifically, Austin, TX and its surrounding areas. After her climactic battle in Pretty When She Dies, Amaliya, our heroine, seems to be living a casual and normal life, albeit with some minor disturbances. But when a new individual comes into play that has not only been captured by Amaliya's enemy, but is also reaching out to her, the tables are turned and a whole new battle begins to unfold.

As part of the Pretty When She Kills blog tour, I decided to interview Rhiannon about her book and about varying aspects of vampires in general -- from their evolution, to the destruction of certain elements and the addition of others, and about how they interact with other creatures within her universe.  You can find the interview below the review of the novel.



Pretty When She Kills
(Pretty When She... #2)
by Rhiannon Frater

In Pretty When She Dies, average alternative college student Amaliya Verozak was viciously murdered. The only problem was, she came back to life—buried in a shallow grave beneath the ground. After rampaging across east Texas and making her way to Austin, she becomes a dominant force within the central Texas vampire hierarchy and establishes herself as a force to be reckoned with when she destroys a malevolent force that has been feared for centuries.

In Pretty When She Kills, a new threat arises, one whose powers the most devoted and sincere of its creator's servants is willing to harness and use to their full advantage.

The world has become a much more dangerous place—not only for the humans, but for Amaliya Verozak, who has since stopped believing in happy endings.

We came to learn in the first book in the Pretty When She… trilogy that this series was not going to be like what we’ve come to learn from the vampire universe. Set in Texas, including some of the more rural parts, and featuring a character who identifies with the alternative Goth/Rock lifestyle, the series takes place in and around Austin, the capital of the state. The arrival of a new creation by one of the most feared vampires in history is not at first apparent and immediately sets things on edge. When Amaliya’s grandmother is visited by a girl named Bianca who claims she is being tortured, and when Samantha, the ex-fiancĂ© of the vampire master of Austin, begins to develop sensitivity to the undead, lives are shifted and turned upside down, especially when someone from Amaliya’s past plots to ‘free’ Amaliya from damnation and a rival cabal attacks the city.

Like its older sibling, Pretty When She Kills is filled with the sort of dark atmosphere that many fans of the horror community have learned to love but have lost in recent years due to the recent romanticism of the creature. Though still beautiful, these vampires are more than willing to rip your throat out if they get hungry, maybe even if they get bored. This makes it especially fun to read, and returns the reader to a time where vampires were dangerous – and, shall I say, still are.

Along with the increased ferocity within the vampire mythos, one of my favorite things about this novel was how Texas-specific it was. Rich in atmosphere from not only the widespread culture but the intimate little details that Frater adds, it’s easy to lose yourself in a world that most people aren’t particularly familiar with and often have preconceived notions of. Anyone who’s lived in or is at least familiar with Austin will find themselves traveling through a city they know and love, and quite possibly even seeing a local legend or two. The love and care that was put into the thought behind these places truly make this book shine. It’s not like many books where you’re just walking through a city that has no real description. Instead, Frater captures everything – from the streets, to the lakes, and even the individual shops themselves.

One thing people may experience difficulty with in this novel is its pacing. Though it is not necessarily a problem for me, as I have known that Frater has always been known for her fast-paced writing, some might be discomforted by the fact at how quickly the novel moves along. Do not go into Pretty When She Kills expecting there to be a buildup of backstory that takes several pages or even chapters of development to unfold. The past is revealed in bits – fragments that have been broken off and allowed to fall into play when necessary. The romanticism within the vampire genre is also present here, but only slightly. Be warned – this novel is violent: very violent. It’s definitely not  for the faint-of-heart.

While I have no real criticism of the novel, and though I will not be rating it due to the fact that I personally took part in the production of the book as its copyeditor, I am happy and more than eager to say that Pretty When She Kills is a return to the old, vicious vampire. It rings of The Lost Boys in suspense, of True Blood in its urban southern appeal and of Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles in its use of its tragic pasts, its wicked betrayals and its sinister evils. Pretty When She Dies is a true vampire novel. These monsters aren’t just people – they’re predators.

(No Rating)

INTERVIEW WITH RHIANNON FRATER


Pretty When She Kills (Pretty When She... #2)
The Pretty When She… series begins in a way that not many contemporary vampire novels do – by having the main character wake up, dead, after she’s just been brutally murdered and turned into a vampire. In the sequel, Pretty When She Kills, another woman is shown waking up in the exact same manner. These openings are unusual, especially considering we normally see the hunt and then the kill that leads to the individual becoming a vampire. What made you want to return to the more horrific roots of the vampire legend when the more romanticized bloodsuckers have become so popular?

First off, the story was born out of a very vivid nightmare that opened exactly like the book. It was so powerful, I knew I wanted the book to start the same way.  Also, I realized that the story should just be about Amaliya as a vampire and her struggle to survive.  It felt more powerful to start with her rebirth than to roll back a few months and begin with her as a human. Besides, I think Amaliya becomes a much more interesting person once she becomes a vampire. She was terribly unhappy as a mortal. 

Throughout the series (but most particularly the second book,) you make mention of the fact that vampires seem to be more widespread when they are usually more localized in certain parts of the world. In Pretty When She Kills, you make mention of vampires from Mexico and Central America. What did you take into consideration when you decide to create the ‘origins’ of your vampires, if you even created them at that?

I’ve always been intrigued with the idea of unknown humanoid species living in our world.  Would they want to reveal themselves to the powerful majority?  The vampires are still a very small population compared to humanity and they are predators. It’s better for them to remain hidden than expose themselves and risk extinction.  At the same time, in the world I created, the vampires aren’t very organized. There are pockets all over the world that are all doing their own thing, which causes conflict sometimes. There is a vast difference between Cian and Santos of the San Antonio cabal. Cian has been killing or driving off any vampire coming into his city to retain full control of it. Meanwhile, Santos has built a very large cabal to maintain dominance of his.

Pretty When She Dies (Pretty When She... #1)
There is a strong bond between several different types of peoples within the novels – not only between vampire clans, but also between human factions, werewolves and even witches. Is this common, or something that is just shown between certain groups of people?

In the PRETTY WHEN SHE DIES trilogy there are plenty of supernatural creatures in the world, but they don’t always get along or agree on how things should be handled.  Witches are considered a great asset to vampire cabals, and shifters serve their purpose as bodyguards.  Yet, those allegiances are not easily made or embraced. Cian has a very antagonistic relationship with Eduardo, the coyote shifter, that is part of Jeff’s vampire hunter group, yet they have an alliance. But Santos has absolutely no shifters serving him and he is not always very smart about what he does with his witches. Each vampire deals with their domain very differently.

It’s become increasingly apparent that vampires are rapidly evolving. No longer are they creatures bound to the darkness by damnation and the eternal need to feed. Now we see them in the modern world. They date fellow humans, go to high school, hold regular night-time jobs. Some can even walk during the daylight. While similar traditional monsters have managed to maintain a strong resemblance of their former selves (werewolves turn on the full moon, are killed or weakened by silver bullets; zombies are made by disease or curses and are most often portrayed as mindless,) the vampire has undergone a near-constant metamorphosis over the past several years. Do you think this is to keep them interesting, or are they, like the rest of the world, just evolving to make them more acceptable to non-horror audiences?

The intriguing thing about modern vampires (the ones after Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla novel in the 1800’s) was that they were beautiful, but deadly. They were seducers of the innocent and difficult to resist. The idea of being lured to your death by beauty and sexual seduction is pretty terrifying, yet enthralling.

Somewhere along the way, we lost the deadly and dangerous aspect of the vampire and just concentrated on the beauty and sexuality of the creatures. In essence, we defanged them and made them pretty immortals. Maybe it’s because we have difficulty accepting that sexual desire could result in death.

I like returning the beautiful and deadly monsters. It creates a whole different atmosphere in the book when you realize even the “good” vampire does ghastly things.

The idea of a higher power, or even faith in general repelling vampires seems to have slipped away from the more contemporary ideal of the monster. Why do you think this is?

For a while several authors tried to create “realistic” or “scientific” reasons for vampires. This happened a lot in the late eighties and nineties. I think we have a tendency to want to rationalize the “scary.” We want our “big bads” to be something we can dissect and understand. If we strip a vampire of its supernatural nature it becomes a lot less scary in many regards.  If the vampire is a supernatural creature, it pulls in a lot of difficult to address questions about faith, spirituality and religion.  Why does the cross work? Why does the garlic work?  Yet, I feel every time these things are taken away from the vampire, they lose their mystic all that much more.

Which is scarier?  The handsome man with a virus that causes immortality that occasionally takes a sip of blood, or the handsome man outside your window who wants to crawl into your room and drain you of your blood but is only held at bay by the garlic and crosses nailed to the frame?

Do you have any other favorite types of vampires in mythology (i.e, China’s ‘leaping’ vampire, etc.)?

I have read many, many vampire legends, but my favorite remains the gruesome seducers of 19th century gothic literature. The idea of a beautiful, yet cruel and deadly vampire is much more appealing to me as a writer. It allows me to delve into questions about sexuality, lust, desire, religion, social ethics and the such.

Is there a particular ‘vampire’ story from history you are fond of?

There are tons of really creepy ghost stories with vampire overtones that really enthralled me when researching vampires. I can’t say one in particular stood out though.

Buffy from Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Do you have a favorite vampire slayer or vampire?

My favorite slayer will always be Buffy. I adore her.  As for my favorite vampire, that would have to be Lady Glynis Wright from my gothic horror series, The Vampire Bride.

Do you have any other vampire novels you plan to write after the Pretty When She and the Tale of the Vampire Bride series?

I found a really old book on my hard drive this summer. It’s a fun story with really scary elements, but I think I need to retool it. It’s a bit dated. I may put it out at some point.  But I have no plans for anymore vampire stories at this time. I am writing a side novella set in the PRETTY WHEN SHE DIES world centering around Aimee and Cassandra, the witch and dhamphire in PRETTY WHEN SHE KILLS. If it has a good reception, maybe I’ll spin them off on their own series.

And finally: What happens next in the Pretty When She universe?

Amaliya either saves the world or destroys it. I’m not saying which.

A huge thanks to Rhiannon for participating in this interview! My review of Pretty When She Kills will follow within the next few days.

If you would like to learn more about Rhiannon, visit her at any of the links online.

Rhiannon Frater

If you would like to purchase Pretty When She Kills, you may do so by visiting Rhiannon's website at RhiannonFrater.com.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

THE CRIMSON BATTLE AXE by Curtis Oddo

The Crimson Battle Axe
THE CRIMSON BATTLE AXE
by Curtis Oddo

A great evil is rising. From the heights of his throne in the Desolate Lands, the Dark Lord Nobis, long-exiled and contained by the use of powerful magics, plots to take control of the human kingdom by first weakening its defenses with a creature summoned from an alternate dimension, then by overwhelming its armies once their defenses are down. In this all a plan has been hatched to defeat the entity known as the Great Beast that the Dark Lord has summoned—whom, in less than a day, destroyed a major fortification that protected the human lands. Four grand individuals from the world’s peoples have come together—one a creature with metal for blood, who can bend it to his will; another a cat creature from the far islands with a penchant for potions and poisons; and two of human descent, one a famed wind wizard with a sad past and the other a noble night with a troubling lineage. Together, they seek out the one person who can bring to them the one person they believe can defeat the Dark Lord Nobbis—Gnarl, the legendary, hundred-year warrior and the wielder of the Crimson Battle Axe.

The Crimson Battle Axe, the debut novel by fantasy author Curtis Oddo, is, as I could describe, a throwback to the sword and sorcery tales of old. Within its pages are a plot that has often been seen but not done in an as imaginative of light. There comes a group of individuals in search of a grand warrior, who seek to destroy a dark lord to save not only the humans, but their world, and through it all there begins a quest which sprawls a grand world in which much danger has come as a result of misunderstanding, betrayal, war and the conceived lust for revenge. Such turmoil that has existed before the bulk of the novel makes for true tension not only within the broad scope of the story, but the inner dynamics of the characters, and where Oddo succeeds in creating within the early parts of the story is the dynamic that exists between the main party itself.

I started reading this novel without much knowledge of its plot or what the majority of the story was about. This, while somewhat-daunting to some readers, gave me ample opportunity to go into this world blindly—which, I believe, made the experience so much more enjoyable.

There are a few key points I would like to make in regard to specific aspects about the novel that stood out to me—some good, some bad.

THE WORLD

The majority of the novel takes place on a continent that is simply described on the map as ‘Gnarl’s World.’ A first impression of looking at the world would indicate that this locale is sprawling—massive, it seems, by just how many peoples seem to inhabit it. In the world there are a number of races—including, but not limited to: the metal people of the frigid lands, the cat people of the distant islands, the ferocious and often-misunderstood Biroc, as well as the human peoples and other lesser races. There are also a number of fantastical creatures that exist both within the world and in the alternate dimensions that exist around it. The geography and the layout of the land, as well as the diversity within the flora and fauna, creates a true impression that this place is unlike anything you have ever seen, and Oddo describes it just enough to where you can allow your mind to fill in the blanks. This adds to the magic of the novel, as well as its often=overwhelming nature in terms of histories and cultures. However—as sprawling as this place seems to appear on the map, it becomes apparently within the course of this novel that the world has to be relatively small. When placed on a timeframe in which to kill not only the fearsome creature that threatens the human lands, but also to stop the Dark Lord’s armies from amassing, travel between point A to B comes in days when it would seem as though it would take much longer to travel across these lands if only based on the size of the map. While this in itself is not a criticism, per se, it is a bit misleading, especially to readers who expect a broader world over a seemingly sized-down one.

THE WRITING

The writing is, for the most part, very well-done. It was obvious this book was edited and was done so with care, as there are very few mistakes that can be found within the actual text itself (and even then they are little.) However – from a technical standpoint, there are problems with repetition that come in the form of either repeated usages of a character’s name or even their action. While this would not be such a problem if there were other characters of things present, there are often many cases where the author repeatedly used the character’s name. We would see ‘Gnarl did this,’ ‘Gnarl did that,’ ‘Gnarl’s sword,’ etc. several times within the space of one paragraph, if not one sentence. The final notion is especially prevalent when mentioning specific weapons, which are quite obviously character-related and do not necessarily need description of their ownership to know just who they belong to. Said repetition also appears in parts of the novel not related to the novel – when, in fighting the ferocious alternate-dimension creature, the monster is referred to as the ‘Great Beast’ and nothing else, and later, when a falcon appears, it is called ‘the bird’ far more times than ‘the falcon’ or other things (i.e, the avian creature, the creature, the winged being, etc.) This in itself is more of a writing quirk than anything and, I understand, could be the result of over-editing. There are also minor issues with dialogue continued over paragraphs improperly laid out and sometimes placement of terms that are far too modern for this world (mainly the point of the element of lightning being called ‘electricity.’) The most daunting fault in the writing comes with the final act of the book, which I will continue to expand upon in the final point.

THE ENDING

The most important thing I want to specify about what ultimately led me to rate the book as I did was the ending. Three-fourths of the way through, I was more than willing to add a star because up until that point things had been going very smoothly. The last fourth of the book, however, resulted in problems for me, most specifically due to a deus ex machina-styled series of events that made little sense and seemed to have been pulled out in an attempt to save characters and to keep things from happening that would have otherwise happened in a realistic scenario.

Without giving too much away, the following occurs:

- An anti-magical element that was brought into the story beforehand but was discarded by the main cast due to not wanting to abuse and/or harm it was brought into play by a messenger who was told to find the main character by looking for him based on his appearance. While that in itself seems somewhat-plausible considering said character’s visage, it does not explain how a bird that seemingly has no sentient intelligence found said character, as it was implied that the bird was told to look for said character based on that. I seriously considered the idea that it could have used magic to find said character, but even if it was using magic, it would have been nullified due to the anti-magical element it was delivering, thus making it impossible. Through this method, a ‘safeguard’ was delivered in order to secure the main character’s safety.


- Gnarl, our main character, is described as a super-warrior. Over one-hundred years old, trained in the art of battle, a veteran war hero famed for his violence, strength, intelligence and ability and wielding a fabled weapon, he is a force to be reckoned with. Little seems to stop him throughout the course of the novel until the very end, when a poison brings him to his knees. This would have been appropriate had it kept him in place, but over the course of the next several pages Gnarl recovers, fights, falls, fights again, is knocked back and nearly killed (to the point where he nearly dies,) then is miraculously able to fight again. This, again, would have made sense had the superhuman quotient been more prevalent. As it was not in the end, it jarred me from the story and made things make little sense.


- The major female character of the story, Thelady, saves Gnarl in the end through her use of ‘goodness,’ which drives off the evil entities from fighting him. This threw me off immensely. There had not been up until that point any mention of the virtue of good being able to overpower the darkness of evil (i.e, in a magical way, or in a physical manner.) Thelady was also not described as any sort of Paladin, Priestess or anything of that sort, so that idea I quickly tossed out. This, again, leads into my point that I previously mentioned above – that elements were thrown into place to ensure the characters’ survival.


- And finally, there comes a final showdown in a place that ‘bridges the worlds.’ I can’t explain it in detail without giving it away, but I’ll say this: the creatures that lie within this place are known to kill any who enter it and spare no mercy. When an object they deem inappropriate is there when Gnarl enters this place, they let him be because they want him to ‘take said object’ from the world. This made little sense, as it had been implied that this was a world between and little the ‘normal’ world could offer would have any effect on it, and also because on several occasions Gnarl had almost been killed by these creatures.

IN CONCLUSION

To summarize my thoughts, I have to say that The Crimson Battle Axe is not a bad book. It is anything but. Having not read a major fantasy work in a while, it was refreshing to see the lack of constraints within the mythology as well as the idea of a fictional world explored in ways that most people might have been afraid to try. It’s fantastical, has great and exciting action, a common but classic and well-loved plot and a troop of heroes that you can sympathize with in one way or another. While it is, in some ways, the classic ‘sword and sorcery’ novel, it is done so with a sense of adventure and dread that make it enjoyable every step of the way. The Crimson Battle axe is an epic, small-scale fantasy story that leaves you wanting more. With a haunted past, a character in turmoil, a land besieged by the evils of war and sentient nature, The Crimson Battle Axe is a masterwork in world-building and imagination.

* * *
3 stars!

Get The Crimson Battle Axe in paperback below!
(Note: The link below brings you to the hardcover edition, but a paperback is available)



Reviewer's Notation: I received The Crimson Battle Axe  for review by the author.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Teaser Tuesday with Rachel Hunter, author of EMPYREAL FATE

Hello everyone,

I'd neglected to post this at the beginning of the month due to my bout of sunburn. However -- while this isn't specifically a 'Trailer' for Tuesday, this is somewhat of a Teaser, so I thought I'd share.

Rachel Hunter is a young author whose debut fantasy novel Empyreal Fate was published by Hydra Publications. Her backstory includes winning Minnesota state's Promising Young Writer's program in 2007, winning the Oklahoma Young Writer's Competition in her senior year of high school and having her first short story published in March of this year. Oh, and did I mention she's only eighteen? Empyreal Fate is the first in her Llathalan Annal series and judging from not only her previous accolades, but the attention she's getting from the media, she's a promising up-and-coming writer not only in the fantasy genre, but in fiction itself.

A few weeks back, she was interviewed on a local TV station in the state of Oklahoma. See what the hosts and Rachel had to say below. 



Rachel also wrote a guest blog on Indies Unlimited talking about her experience leading up to and during the interview. You can find that on the Indies Unlimited blog here.

If Rachel's story has peaked your interest, if her novel sounds interesting to you or you would just like to learn more about her, you can find her online at the various links below.

- Rachel Hunter -

If you would like to purchase a copy of Empyreal Fate, click on the links below (eBook: left; Paperback: right)

Monday, August 20, 2012

Cover reveals for THE TALE OF THE VAMPIRE BRIDE and THE VENGEANCE OF THE VAMPIRE BRIDE by Rhiannon Frater

Hello everyone,

I apologize for my absence from this blog for pretty much the whole month. Long story short is that I got second-degree sunburn and was out of commission for two weeks recovering (I'll spare the grizzly details,) then I ended up having some other minor medical issues that were related to my preexisting condition, but I won't go into that either.

Anyhow, we're doing something different today -- a cover reveal! Exciting, huh?

The books in question are from the Vampire Bride series by Rhiannon Frater, explicitly for the first two novels in the series (The Tale of the Vampire Bride and The Vengeance of the Vampire Bride.) The books have had a long history with different covers (the first book had two covers before this change, the second had one.)

Upon its initial release, The Tale of the Vampire Bride had cover art created by Detra Munster.

First cover by Detra Munster
After some complaints from readers (which was specifically geared toward the first cover, which was deemed as looking like a 'young adult novel' or even as a 'comic book or manga,') she commissioned the services of Philip R. Rogers for its second reincarnation.

Second cover by Philip R. Rogers
The Vengeance of the Vampire Bride went through only one cover before the change. After Philip R. Rogers created the cover for The Tale of the Vampire Bride, he did the cover art for Vengeance.


Second cover by Philip R. Rogers
Regardless of the fact that the covers were done in a more traditionally-Gothic feel (without the stylized appearance that Detra Munster's artwork conveys to great and adored affect,) potential readers were again complaining about the cover and said they would not pick up the books because of it.

So... in late 2012, Rhiannon Frater decided to commission the services of photomanipulatory and digital artist Claudia McKinney of Phat Puppy Art. At Claudia's recommendation, Rhiannon arranged to have original photos taken for the new covers. I personally assisted Rhiannon in San Antonio, TX, where we met with model Megan Young and photographer Helena Cruz to create the new, re-envisioned versions of the Vampire Bride series. Witnessing the creation of the new covers (from the preliminary work of tailoring two dresses to fit the model, to driving to the location, to taking the pictures and then suggesting poses, lighting and other things for our very-skilled photographer) was an amazing experience. It's not very often you get to see the invention of a book's cover, much less the process that precedes the final creation of the cover.

So... you're probably wondering... what do these covers look like?

Look no further.

The Tale of the Vampire Bride

The Vengeance of the Vampire Bride

The recent trend in urban fantasy, paranormal and even some Gothic horror fiction has been the photomanipulated stock art covers. Claudia McKinney has made huge strides in the field of publishing by creating covers like the above, and along with Ashley Dawn of the Bookish Brunette and Brunette Designs (who did the cover artwork,) they have created a completely-overhauled exterior to the Vampire Bride series. From the moody backgrounds that are lush with mist and dark Gothic castles, to the exquisite model (Megan Young) who exudes an innocence found only in few, to the dominating force of the male model who portrays our ultimate hero on the Tale of the Vampire Bride cover, these books ooze Regency-era Goth, horror, mystique, fear and, most of all, capture the essence of what a novel about vampires really is.

But what about the inside, you ask?

Along with being a writer, a book reviewer, a website designer and a PR agent, I also format books. I have taken up the responsibility to redesign the inside of the Vampire Bride series to create a more old-world Gothic feel to them. Though these are not the final designs, these are close to what the inside pages will look like.
Title
 Diary
 Chapter Starts
A lot goes into the creation of a book, and that's not just the writing or the editing. From the preliminary cover ideas, to the actual design, to (in this case) finding a model and photographer and the actual photography that is involved, to the labor the cover artist has to do and then the design the formating artist has to do, creating a book is a lot of hard work, and to completely rehaul an entire series (even if it's only just two books as of now) takes a lot of effort on everyone's part.

The eBook covers for The Tale of the Vampire Bride and The Vengeance of the Vampire Bride go live today, August 20th. September 1rst will see the release of the paperbacks with not only the new covers, but the new formatting.


To purchase The Tale of the Vampire Bride and The Vengeance of the Vampire Bride , click on the links below.



If you enjoyed this post and are interested in commissioning the services of the artists above, or if you just want to see who they are and what their work is like, you may visit them at their own respective websites by clicking on their names below. Please consider visiting the website of each person that has been involved in this process. Who knows: you might even end up working with them yourself!






That's all for now, everyone. Thank you for reading this post! I hope to see you again soon!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Wonder Wednesday: Myke Cole, author of CONTROL POINT (Shadow Ops, #1)

Hello everyone, and welcome to Wonder Wednesday! Today I have a special treat for all of you. As you all have probably already seen, I reviewed an excellent military fantasy novel called Control Point by author Myke Cole last week. (You can read the review by clicking here.) I have to say that this is one of my favorite science-fiction/fantasy books I've read within the past few years. The magic system is great, the main character is perfectly flawed, and the world-building is absolutely amazing. I was more than honored to give it five stars.

Today, Myke is stopping by the blog to answer some questions about his writing, his novel Control Point, and what the future holds for his career.

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Fabled Crossroads: The opening scene in your novel details two children (Selfers who, in this case, are considered terrorists by the United States military) wreaking havoc upon a school. What inspired this grisly opening image, and were you hesitant to write it given horrific events like Columbine, the instatement of the Patriot Act, etc.?

Myke Cole, author of Control Point
Myke Cole: High school aged kids are just beginning to come into their own and developing the power to genuinely defy adults who can no longer physically restrain them. It's also the age where kids develop enough brain power to perceive adult hypocrisy and to truly question authority (teachers, police, the government). National Geographic recently published a great article (opens new window) about how the makeup of the teenaged brain makes adolescents more prone to risk taking.

What happens when you add magic to that mix, especially under a military regime that forbids its practice outside of extremely controlled conditions? Wackiness most definitely ensues. I wanted to explore that. I didn't hesitate at all. I wrote a few different prologues and opening chapters for CONTROL POINT, and all of them centered around Sarah Downer going Selfer in the middle of her high school.

FC: Your debut novel features a powerful authoritive black military officer named Oscar Britton. What inspired him, his ethnicity, his backstory and his position in the military?

MC: I never conceived of Britton as "powerful" and certainly not "authoritative." I get tired of heroes who are always certain, always strong. Real people blunder through to success. They try, then fail, then try something else. One of the most common answers I get from mentors when I ask how they made it to where they are now is: "Honestly? I have no idea." I wanted to portray that. I wanted Britton to be a *genuine* hero - a man with good intentions, conflicted, confused and making mistakes as he pushed his way toward the ultimate goal of what he knew in his heart to be right. Real heroism comes from messing up and course-correcting as you go. There are people who get it right the first time, I suppose, but they bore the hell out of me.

His ethnicity was inspired by the need for him to feel unmoored. I needed him to really be invested in the army so that it would a devastating loss to him to have to go against it. He already had a rough relationship with his family, and I was considering what else I could do to make him feel disconnected from his surroundings. Growing up African-American in Vermont would definitely have that effect. And once I imagined him as an African-American, that was it. It crystalized and became who he was.

What gave you the idea to combine military fiction and fantasy fiction?

It grew naturally out of the the two great loves of my life. I have served either as a mercenary, government civilian or uniformed officer for almost the past fifteen years in a range of warfighting, law-enforcement and disaster response roles. At the same time, I am an avid science-fiction and fantasy nerd. I never grew out of my love of gaming, comics, novels and nerd TV and movies. Blend those two and it's no surprise that I came up with the SHADOW OPS universe.

US Cover
What inspired the ‘Source,’ and why did you choose to make the technology and aesthetic of the world more like medieval fantasy than that of something more modern?

I was reading Bestiaries based on the writings of Pliny the Elder and Isidore of Seville. Like any good nerd, I kept wondering "What if these creatures were real? What if those ancient/medieval writers were accurately describing what they saw?" They would have had to have . . . migrated onto our world from some parallel universe and that universe would have to now be cut off from us. I began thinking of that universe as a fantasy land where all the medieval monsters of legend were real (and thus, existing at a medieval level of technology). And when you think of it logically, magic does a lot of things that technology does for us. When you can heat your home with Pyromancy, there's less of an impetus to develop steam heat. When your village Physiomancer can heal with a touch, you're not as pressed to come up with modern medicine. When Aeromancers can fly, you don't need to come up with an airplane.  

Within the ‘Source’ are a multitude of different fantastical creatures which appear to have been inspired by or are taken from various mythologies. Did you go about choosing a particular mythology or group of mythologies to base your groups around, or did you just use what you thought worked with the world?

Every creature you meet in CONTROL POINT is taken directly from medieval or ancient bestiaries inspired by Pliny or Isidore as I mentioned above. FORTRESS FRONTIER expands into Hindu mythology. I deliberately only selected creatures that I felt would have been observed by "naturalists" during the last Reawakening around 1000 AD.

If you had to Manifest in any of the magic classes in your novel, what would it be?

None. To Manifest in a magical school is to be forever outside society. The SOC is revered and respected, but also feared. To be a Selfer is to occupy the same social strata as a member of al-Qa'ida. I am an incredibly social person. I couldn't function as a pariah.

If you were forced to Manifest as one of the four ‘forbidden’ classes in your novel, which would you prefer and why?

That would be my worst nightmare. To be a Probe is even worse than a regular Latency, as you are now beyond even the embrace of the SOC. I suppose I'd have to learn to Whisper (a Probe discipline inside Terramancy). At least then I'd have animals for company.

UK Cover
What kind of fiction did you grow up with? What inspires you as a writer? Any particular methods you go about using when sitting down to write?

That's three questions. Let me try one of them: I draw my inspiration mostly from other media. It also informs my craft. The downside is that it seriously dampens my enjoyment of books, film and television. When you're consuming media analytically, looking for the HOW and WHY of the work, it kills the sense of...  transportation, of getting lost in the story, that happens when you're just letting it carry you along. But it's the only way I can really see what other writers are doing, and how they're doing it. In the worst scenarios, it leaves me discouraged, feeling like I'll never equal the best writers out there. In the best scenarios, it gives me ideas and shows me the way forward.

Do you write while you’re on duty? If so, how do you manage recreational/hobby time with your professional working life?

I wrote every night during all three tours of Iraq, even though I was only sleeping a few hours a night. When you want something badly enough, you find a way to make it happen. I just got off a stint of active duty time (4th of July is a busy time for the Coast Guard in New York City), and even when I was exhausted, I found time to write in the barracks before hitting the rack for the night. Finding recreational/hobby time is easy. Science-fiction and fantasy *is* my recreation and hobby. Going to cons, reading books, gaming, etc . . . all those things *are* my job, so there's no conflict with finding the time. I used to go to cons as a fan. Now I go to cons as a pro. I'm still going to cons.

Do you see yourself continuing the world of Control Point beyond the projected trilogy, or do you plan on moving on to other types of fiction once you finish the Shadow Ops trilogy?

I have a new series pitch that my agent is very excited about that I am in the process of refining, and hope to get it to the point where he'll take it out to market soon. It's modern (AKA urban) military fantasy, but lower magic than the SHADOW OPS series, with more of an occult feel. I think it should appeal to fans of the SHADOW OPS series and hope it will bring in new readers as well.

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About the Author: As a secu­rity con­tractor, gov­ern­ment civilian and mil­i­tary officer, Myke Cole’s career has run the gamut from Coun­tert­er­rorism to Cyber War­fare to Fed­eral Law Enforce­ment. He’s done three tours in Iraq and was recalled to serve during the Deep­water Horizon oil spill. All that conflict can wear a guy out. Thank goodness for fantasy novels, comic books, late night games of Dungeons and Dragons and lots of angst fueled writing.

Myke Cole Online

Get Control Point in paperback (left) or on Kindle (right)!
   

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Hater by David Moody

Hater
REMAIN CALM
DO NOT PANIC
TAKE SHELTER
WAIT FOR FURTHER INSTRUCTIONS
THE SITUATION IS UNDER CONTROL

HATER

Them or Us, #1 by David Moody


In the post-apocalyptic world of Hater, there are two groups of people: 'Us' and 'Them.' This striking contrast between the 'Haters' and the ones who are being 'Hated,' while initially something that seems very simple, creates for very dynamic tension early on in the book.

Hater begins as most apocalypses do—before all hell breaks loose. Our main character, Daniel, is a government worker who hates his job, hates his position in life and is constantly having to deal with his oftentimes-overbearing children. He and his wife's relationship is suffering, his relationship with his father-in-law in less-than-stellar, and his overall quality of life is plummeting due to his living situation. A house too small, a job too mundane, and a family almost in constant turmoil serves to make life one thingmisery.

However—when a calamity strikes the world, thrusts the populace head-over-heels and creates a violent strain of violent outbreaks that may or may not be disease-related, Daniel, and his family's, world changes—for the worse.

Hater is everything that anyone could ever want in an apocalypse novel. Fast-paced, intense, visceral—there's no lack of violence and tension in this book. It moves at a breakneck pace that makes it almost impossible to put down. I found myself glued to my seat (while at the airport) and transfixed (while reading before bed) at the brutal world that David Moody created. The speed of which the novel moves is, in my opinion, probably the best thing about it. Unlike a lot of apocalypse novels, which slow to a low lull in order to introduce certain aspects of the apocalyptic scenario, Hater never stops. The world, and the condition it is in, is quickly revealed in a rapid-fire succession, making the book constantly exciting and engrossing. My only qualm about the book is more of a personal one than one that stabs at Mr. Moody's writing. There comes a point in the novel where we are introduced to a Hater's psychology, and though the transformation from one who's Hated into a Hater seems to be a quick and sudden process, the act in which it happens is never really explained. As someone who loves reading about that sort of transformation, I would have loved to see that expanded upon. That still may happen in book 2 and 3 though, so I'm not going to discount it as a possibility.

In a nutshell, Hater is brilliant. Fast-paced, utterly-engrossing, absolutely-terrifying--this book is impossible to put down. A definite to-read for any apocalyptic fiction fan.

* * * *
4 Stars!

Get Hater in paperback (left) or on Kindle (right)!


Reviewer’s Notation: I purchased Hater via Amazon.com.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Magic Monday: When "Common" Shouldn't Be Common


Hello everyone! Here on our first Magic Monday we have an article from Gwen Perkins, author of The Universal Mirror, on language-building in fantasy fiction. Here she discusses something many of us are all aware of (the infamous 'common' word in fantasy fiction) and details how, with a little work, an author can truly magnify their fiction by adding just a little more spark to their writing.

“Common Language in Fantasy” by Gwen Perkins

The Universal Mirror
Anyone who’s ever read more than a handful of fantasy novels or played D&D is likely to be familiar with the term “Common.” In many fantasy settings, Common is used as a term for a language that all characters and races have the ability to speak. Is this a convenient tool for writers to use? Yes. But that doesn’t mean that it’s the only option available to writers, even those who don’t want to spend all of their free time writing a new language.
Language is a great way to indicate culture, particularly how people communicate with one another. Think about cultural stereotypes that emerge from the sound of an accent to your ear. How do accents affect you personally and/or emotionally? I know when I hear a Scottish or Welsh accent, I automatically think the speaker is attractive. (Don’t lie–at least one reader agrees with me.) On the other hand, growing up with Swedish relatives, I hear Scandinavian accents and think of easygoing people, often associating my own childhood memories with the speaker.
Using different languages (or accents) gives you, as the writer, a way to further develop your character. It might be that your jaded rogue thinks of all speakers from a certain region as manipulative. Other accents might give the impression of that speaker possessing certain characteristics (romantic, hot-tempered, slow-witted…the possibilities are endless). And how much more naive does your innocent farmboy seem if every foreign accent he hears automatically makes him think that the speaker is exotic?
Language also reflects its culture. There’s the popular misconception that the Inuit have 400 words for snow–imagine if your fantasy race has another concept that is just as spoken of. If someone tells you that the man you’re speaking to is from a culture with 400 words for war, for instance, what might you think of that person? How might that have changed his outlook on the world? Alternately, what is a culture like if it doesn’t have a world for a specific concept or idea? (Many ancient cultures did not have the word “zero”…ponder that for a moment.)
It may be unrealistic to showcase a number of languages in your fantasy story. There are a number of ways to hint at this without having to develop languages in full. The easiest, of course, is to give the characters knowledge of foreign languages and simply use a phrase/description here or there to give a sense of what they are speaking. Alternately, they can be utilizing the services of a translator or, if the entire story takes place in one area where one language is spoken, this issue doesn’t apply.
Can you use Common and not have it seem unrealistic? It’s possible (and in fact, quite interesting) if you think about it as a trade language or jargon. Trade languages have been utilized throughout time as a way for multiple cultures to communicate. The trick with using one is to define what the language was used for and what words it might not have. Most trade jargon is focused on terms that are used in negotiating–higher-level concepts and philosophy are not likely to be easy to discuss. It’s also likely that two characters using the same jargon might have great misunderstandings based on the language that they’re trying to communicate in.
Thinking more specifically about your use of language in worldbuilding can lead to great ideas (and consequences) for your characters and story. Feel free to share your thoughts and any examples of great use of language in fantasy worlds below.


bwgwenGwen Perkins is the author of The Universal Mirror, a fantasy novel published in 2012 by Hydra Publications. Read more about this book and her upcoming projects at theUniversalMirror.com.


Get Gwen's novel The Universal Mirror in paperback (left) or on the Kindle (right!)

 

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Contact by Carl Sagan


Contact
By human stands it could not possibly have been artificial: It was the size of a world. But it was so oddly and intricately shaped, so clearly intended for some complex purpose that it could only have been the expression of an idea. Gliding in polar orbit about the great blue-white star, it resembled some immense, imperfect polyhedron, encrusted with millions of bowl-shaped barnacles. Every bowl was aimed at a particular part of the sky. Every constellation was being attended to. The polyhedral world had been performing its enigmatic function for eons. It was very patient. It could afford to wait forever.
—Excerpt from Contact, chapter 1

CONTACT

by Carl Sagan

Contact begins with the greatest idea of them all—that somehow, someway and somewhere, life exists beyond the small blue world called Earth. It is in these moments of the beginning of this novel that a grand adventure begins to be spelled out. In that adventure rests none other than Doctor Eleanor Arroway, a woman whose intelligence and drive magnifies her far beyond those of her peers.

It is one day, after an extremely-difficult line of work and a declaration that her SETI project will be shut down, that an unknown message begins to come from the Vega star in distant space—a message bearing, what appears to be, schematics for something far greater than anyone could ever possibly imagine.

As a reader of speculative fiction, and a fan of the science-fiction genre as a whole, I jumped into this book with excitement shortly after viewing the movie adaptation that features Jodi Foster and Matthew McConaughey for the second or third time. Thinking that it would be vastly different than the original movie, I ventured forward believing that the book would offer its unique, original interpretation--something that, regardless of its genre's tenants, would absolutely blow me away. To say that I was underwhelmed would be an understatement, and for that I sadly have to say that I did not enjoy this book as much as I could have.

With science-fiction, there is always a bridging line between the actual science and the fiction itself that can either make or break a book for a particular sub-sect of readers, mainly those who enjoy the idea of far-off worlds and alien civilizations but are not, in the least, intelligent enough to know specifics details about astronomy, radio waves and other technological jargon (this isn’t to say that readers are stupid; I merely mean that most ordinary people don’t have knowledge of such things.) Being a reader following into that sub-sect, I have to say that much of the time, I found the book doing just what it was I feel many science-fiction novels do in order to make up for the fact that there seems not to be enough `science' and too much `fiction'—mainly, of course, making the science much too heavy a role in the story. While I don't necessarily feel that this book lacked the essentials needed to make this a realistic story, I do feel as though the book (and its now deceased author) went to strong lengths in order to make this as set in stone as possible. For that alone I found myself cringing over three-page-long descriptions of certain scientific actions, theories and equations, and while that may have been beneficial to the story in a technical scientific standpoint, I feel as though Contact could have done without so much of the science and more of the fiction itself.

To say that the book is bad would be wrong. The writing is, at times, beautiful; eloquently strung together and written in a way that marks Sagan as someone who also, along with his astounding intelligence, had the ability to write. (Read the opening excerpt I provided and you’ll see what I mean.) While reading certain passages, I found myself blown away at how they were strung together, worded, and ultimately assembled to create the overall mood of the science in the story. To say this is a smart book would be like comparing an apple to a seed, and while the scientific endeavors that line this book is great, I have to say that I felt little emotion connection to the characters—particularly Arroway, who, as our main character, should have had a stronger focus within the overall story—which dealt a huge blow to the fictional connection between reader and main character. It’s dangerous for any writer in any genre to create a character that you can’t sympathize with, understand, or at least be fascinated by, and while Arroway was an intriguing character, that usually is not enough to make the reader like her. In this case, this is where a more emotional connection should have been used.

While I would not recommend the novelization of Contact to most everyone, given its scientific-slant, I can honestly say that the writing itself is beautiful and, if only for a few chapters alone, should be given a chance. While I may have felt a bit disappointed with the novel, that doesn't mean others will follow my path.

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3 Stars!

Get Contact in paperback below!

Reviewer’s Notation: I purchased Contact at a Half-Priced Books in Austin, TX.