Here There Be Monsters

Barbara Custer included lots of zombies in When Blood Reigns.The traditional zombie is a mindless creature that knows nothing except an insatiable craving for human flesh. Perhaps a virus or chemical destroyed key brain cells, the ones that control reason and decision-making abilities. Perhaps a robotic implant causes a dead body to get up and attack. Jonathan Maberry’s Rot & Ruin series features a killer virus that turns the victim’s skin gray. He wakes up from the dead and goes after humans. I read all the books in the series and loved them. Now I’m contemplating books from other authors.

Stephen King knows how to turn the most ordinary things into monsters. If not a monster, it becomes a tool. The beloved balloons I can’t resist turn into a monster’s tool under the influence of King in his story It. Pennywise the clown uses balloons to entice children to the graveyard.

When I was younger, I thrived on the Hammer films, but now, vampires are portrayed as another race of people with good and bad in them. This is good because the old-time vampire meets human-vampire drinks his blood tales have gotten ancient. Woe betide the person who crosses a villain vampire. He’s got fangs, strength, and brains to go with his blood lust. Books featuring great vampire tales include Passion in the Blood and Bloodstorm.

Some people return from the dead to terrorize the living, as in City of Brotherly Death and Blue Plate Special. They might look like shambling zombies, but they know full well what they’re doing and why. They’ve got scores to settle with people who didn’t treat them right. These zombies—a better term would be revenants—are particularly dangerous because they crave flesh and blood, and they’re able to plot and scheme to get it.

The human monsters (Reapers) in Maberry’s Rot & Ruin series frightened me a lot more than the zombies did. Like the traditional beasts, they delight in the thrill of the kill. What’s more, they can scheme, use sophisticated weapons, and employ muscle power to wax people they consider liabilities. A love triangle might incite a psychotic human killer, as in JoAnna Senger’s Betrothal, Betrayal, and Blood. The Mob breeds and trains assassins who thrive on the kill, especially in Tom Johnson’s The Spider’s Web and Tales of Masks & Mayhem V4.

The vampire, revenant, and zombie are monsters to be reckoned with, but humans can be the most dangerous killers of all.

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One randomly drawn commenter will receive a signed copy of Steel Rose and a $10 GC for Starbucks.

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Also click on the red links on the bottom – these are the links to fellow members of the Coffinhop.  This Coffinhop will run October 24 to 31, including the release of Coffinhop: Death by Drive-in to benefit Litworld.org.

  

 

The Elusive Ending

Barbara Custer struggled with an elusive ending in some of the tales in City of Brotherly Death.Recently, I received a jewel of a submission for Night to Dawn. Every word counted; every line urged me to keep reading. I was revving up to write a nice acceptance letter. Then the story ended, but the ending stopped me. A part of the plot was left unfinished. I wondered, where’s the rest of the story? So I emailed the writer, requesting a revision. Most of the time, when I request a rewrite, it involves the ending.

What makes the ending so tough to write? Because sometimes our characters take us in unexpected directions, and so the perfect ending we had envisioned doesn’t sound so good after all. For my WIP, I cheated and wrote the ending, but something tells me I’ll need to revise because of the changes in my characters. It means tying up the subplots and showing that my character has changed. “Twist” endings are nice, but they have to be believable. The ending has succeeded when, upon arriving at the last word, you and your reader feel satisfied. I once read a complaint about a book, saying that the author must have been awfully tired when he wrote the ending. I admire writers with published anthologies because they’ve had to come up with a passel of meaningful endings.

Beginnings and endings can be a bear to write. My worst experience with endings happened with “One Last Favor,” one of the stories in City of Brotherly Death. That book went to an editor. “One Last Favor” had a less than satisfactory ending and she called me on it. A flurry of emails went back and forth with the editor making suggestions. I still felt lost, so I took the ending pages to my writers’ group. More suggestions. I decided that characters Tara and Chris were going to marry. The editor did another read through, and noted that I had to tie up Tara’s pursuit by the revenants stalking the town (“One Last Favor” is a zombie tale). Back to the writers’ group again, and another round of emails with my editor. We finally reached a conclusion that worked. Toni demonstrated the patience of a saint, helping me improve my ending.

It took almost a month plus three of my best curse words to get through the ending of “One Last Favor.” I can empathize with people who struggle through the ending pages. So when an author submits work that has an unsatisfying ending, I’ll work with them to help make it better.

Do you find yourself struggling to get an ending that works? I’d like to hear about your experiences.

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You can watch a Steel Rose video here.

One randomly drawn commenter will receive a signed copy of Steel Rose and a $10 GC for Starbucks.

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www.coffinhop.com

 Also click on the red links on the bottom – these are the links to fellow members of the Coffinhop.  This Coffinhop will run October 24 to 31, including the release of Coffinhop: Death by Drive-in to benefit Litworld.org.

Where Paul DeBlassie III, Author of The Unholy, Gets his Ideas

UnholyThe_Unholy_Banner_copyIdeas come from the deep repository of the collective unconscious mind that inspires images and symbols during the fantasies of waking life and during dreams and nightmares. Mainly, it’s the nightmare stuff that bodes best for writing psychological thrillers and dark fantasy such as is in The Unholy. When I wake up in a cold sweat with the characters of the novels threatening me (I remember when Archbishop William Anarch, sinister prelate in The Unholy tormented me for nights on end, demanding that I not write the story) that’s when I know that real inspiration is flowing and that to listen to it and follow the images and symbols that emerge from my deep, unconscious mind during sleep and during the reverie of writing the story will end up in the development of spine tingling realities that jettison both me as the writer and the reader into phantasmagoric realms that have a way of shaking up conscious mindsets and get our heads blown out in a very, very unsettling but ultimately useful way. My writing, in other words, comes from an inner place of torment that needs to be let out so it can be set right. When mind stuff is set right inside me I can feel it by sensing a quality of being at peace, that I’ve written to the best of my ability and been true to the deep, archetypal energies swirling through my mind during the narrative. It really is a trip to listen to ideas, let them become images, and suddenly have them take over a page. It’s like the pages catch fire and everyone has come to life and things become disorderly, fraught with conflict, and danger looms.

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The Unholy contains psychological suspense.

BLURB: 

A young curandera, a medicine woman, intent on uncovering the secrets of her past is forced into a life-and-death battle against an evil Archbishop. Set in the mystic land of Aztlan, The Unholy is a novel of destiny as healer and slayer. Native lore of dreams and visions, shape changing, and natural magic work to spin a neo-gothic web in which sadness and mystery lure the unsuspecting into a twilight realm of discovery and decision.

Excerpt:

Lightning streaked across a midnight dark sky, making the neck hairs of a five-year-old girl crouched beneath a cluster of twenty-foot pines in the Turquoise Mountains of Aztlan stand on end. The long wavy strands of her auburn mane floated outward with the static charge. It felt as though the world was about to end.

Seconds later, lightning struck a lone tree nearby and a crash of thunder shook the ground. Her body rocked back and forth, trembling with terror. She lost her footing, sandstone crumbling beneath her feet, and then regained it; still, she did not feel safe. There appeared to be reddish eyes watching from behind scrub oaks and mountain pines, scanning her every movement and watching her quick breaths. Then everything became silent.

The girl leaned against the trunk of the nearest tree. The night air wrapped its frigid arms tightly around her, and she wondered if she would freeze to death or, even worse, stay there through the night and by morning be nothing but the blood and bones left by hungry animals. Her breaths became quicker and were so shallow that no air seemed to reach her lungs. The dusty earth gave up quick bursts of sand from gusts of northerly winds that blew so fiercely into her nostrils that she coughed but tried to stifle the sounds because she didn’t want to be noticed.

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Paul De Blassie is the author of The Unholy

Author Information:

Paul DeBlassie III, Ph.D., is a psychologist and writer living in Albuquerque who has treated survivors of the dark side of religion for more than 30 years. His professional consultation practice — SoulCare — is devoted to the tending of the soul. Dr. DeBlassie writes fiction with a healing emphasis. He has been deeply influenced by the mestizo myth of Aztlan, its surreal beauty and natural magic.  He is a member of the Depth Psychology Alliance, the Transpersonal Psychology Association and the International Association for Relational Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy.

One randomly drawn commenter will receive the choice of a $50 Amazon/BN gift card.

Buy Links:

http://www.amazon.com/The-Unholy-Novel-Paul-DeBlassie/dp/0865349592

The Unholy contains psychological suspense by Paul De Blassie

 

Angel of Syn Author Shares Thoughts on Outlining

Angel of Syn features paranormal thriller.Outlines are the Zombies Eating my Brain

As a writer, I’m constantly striving to improve my craft. There’s a ton of information and advice out there. But it seems everywhere I’ve looked lately has led to experts and/or seasoned writers talking about outlining stories. They lecture the need to lay the bones of the plot in the right sequence so elbows are attached to arms instead of legs and heads sit atop necks, not hip bones. I have no doubt that this is very desirable when building a person-shaped thing. But what if the thing is story-shaped?

I confess to being the type of writer than sits at the keyboard with only the barest wisp of an idea before plunging ahead. The voices in my head tell me what to do next. Wait. That didn’t sound right. My story characters’ voices in my head tell me what to do next. Better.

My attempts at outlines feel like Doctor Frankenstein’s creation but not as handsome or talented at tap-dancing. I’ve tried to create outlines. Really. Many times. In different mediums and multiple colors. I’ve built my skeletons, even grown some flesh on them. But what comes shambling out is not what I intended at all.

And they all want to eat my brain.

Okay, maybe it just feels like they want to chomp on my gray matter. The theory of outlining a story is a solid one. It makes perfect sense, and seems like an exceedingly logical way to proceed. The problem is that, like zombies, outlines are scary, partially formed things chasing after you with serious noshing on their minds or stomachs, whatever. To me, the thought of writing to an outline is like that of a zombie eagerly sucking brains through a straw sticking out of a hole in my head – akin to a coconut husk cocktail on Tiki night at the Luau.

So why even try to outline if it doesn’t work for me? I have a guilty little squirmy feeling that I haven’t really given outlining a chance. And I might be missing out on a really good thing. The zombie might not be irredeemable. Like the zombie guy in Warm Bodies, there might be a heartbeat under the disintegrating skin of its chest. So, I want to believe. I want to believe that the magical properties of outlining will be able to transform the zombie into a hot guy, uh, I mean, into a useful member of society (no, I really meant hot guy). I’m going to try outlining my third novel to the Synemancer trilogy (tentatively titled Dark Syns). And if I have any brain matter left after that, I’ll call it a success and be enlightened to the joys of outlining. Unfortunately, just typing that last sentence made something dribble out of my ear. Well, let’s see what happens.

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Angel of Syn features a paranormal thriller.BLURB:

Contemporary witch Cara Augustine goes international and inter-dimensional, from San Francisco to France to an alternate Eden-like dimension, in this second book of the Synemancer series.

Cara is a fugitive, pursued by the Portalkind police for breaking a major covenant. When she accidentally made a werewolf her witch’s familiar, it amounted to enslaving a human. And the punishment is death. On the run for her life, she and her companions stumble into a strange paradise dimension. But they quickly find the dangerous world is filled with strange creatures, deadly and beautiful. And, because she’s quickly learning a Synemancer’s life is never simple.  Cara has to deal with an amorous Nephilim (half-angel half-witch), a dangerously deranged French werewolf, and the darkly handsome Nightkind she just might love. Each powerful supernatural man has his own reasons for wanting to possess Cara, body and soul. But if the Portalkind police catch her, she’ll be in a fight for her life.

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The Angel of Syn features a paranormal thriller.I currently live with my husband and dogs in northern California.  I have a son who attends college in San Francisco. After years of working in the business world while secretly wishing I could be a writer, I finally took a leap of faith and started writing. My first book, SYN IN THE CITY, was published in 2010 and I haven’t looked back since.  Well maybe a few glances in the rearview mirror, just to see if anyone was tailing me, but not many.

Website:  www.mertianna.com

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/pages/Mertianna-Georgia-Books/155028037896400?fref=ts

Buy Links:

Amazon Print:  http://www.amazon.com/Angel-Syn-Mertianna-Georgia/dp/1610261186/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1359358824&sr=1-1

Amazon EBook:  http://www.amazon.com/Angel-Syn-Synemancer-Series-ebook/dp/B00B5EGYA0/ref=tmm_kin_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1359358824&sr=1-1

Mertianna will be awarding a canvas tote bag printed with the book cover on one side and a saying on the other (“Are you a syn-er?”), and filled with goodies plus a $20 Amazon gift card to a randomly drawn commenter during the tour (S ONLY).

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Excerpt:

Bart straightened from his defensive semi-crouch, still eyeing the Hounds warily. I glanced around the room to see if the orbs were here, but they were nowhere in sight. The mirror chimed and shimmered for the umpteenth time since I’d come into the room. A tall, pale man dressed in black and wearing a black backpack walked into the room. Azrael stood silently on Amelia’s hardwood floor, and by the expression on his beautiful face, he was angry enough to chew spells and spit out hexes.  He quickly scanned the room.   His ice-blue eyes focused on me and I had his full attention.  All Hades was about to break loose.  With two weres, two Hellhounds, and a Nightkind in the room, the situation was about to get bloody.

Angel_of_Syn_Book_Cover_Banner_copy

 

Critique Groups: Debra Dunbar, Author of Eleven Blood

Elven Blood is Debra Dunbar's answer to fantasy fiction.I’ve never been in a traditional critique group, but last year I signed up for a short-term one at our local college. The class met for four session, one each week, and we discussed the first twenty pages of each student’s novel of their choice. We wound up with 2 critiques per week, so there was a bit of work involved.

The appeal was that the class gave me feedback from a broad swath of readers – all ages, both male and female, writers of fiction and non-fiction. I was finished with the draft of my second book in the Imp series and hoped this would be a great opportunity to have fresh eyes give the novel a review. My hope was that other writers would be articulate enough to let me know any issues they had with the early part of the novel.

And, of course, there is the dreaded “series” conundrum. Is the recap too much? Does it read like an info-dump of what happened in the first novel? Is it too little? Are readers thrown unprepared into a new world and characters, drowning in references they don’t understand? What is critical to bring readers up to speed in the first few pages, and what can be sprinkled in throughout the latter parts of the novel?

I went into the critique group thinking to learn more about my own novel, but it was reading and giving feedback on everyone else’s work that really brought me the most value. I tend to be a rather forgiving reader, skimming over the rough spots and concentrating on what works well. Having to comment on these other works helped me to look closer, to realize that each word, each sentence provides a sense of unity to the flow and tone of the book.

Among the many novel excerpts I read a funny memoir, a promising quirky thriller, a rather convoluted dark drama, and a stream-of-consciousness psychological fiction. And I got feedback on Satan’s Sword– feedback that helped me tighten up the beginning, give my characters more emotion, and balance action with a slower paced descriptive scene. Not bad for a four-week class and a twenty page review!

I’m again taking the class, this time with many new authors participating. Personally, I like this type of critique group far more than the dedicated participant model. I love that each time I get a whole new perspective on my writing, and I love exploring and learning from another author’s work.

Others may work better with a set group that sees their novels and writing style as they evolve, but, for me, this was the best model. Maybe your local college has one, too. If not, perhaps you’re just the person to set one up!

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Author’s Biography and Links:

Debra Dunbar lives on a farm in the northeast United States with her husband, three boys, and a Noah’s ark of four legged family members.  Her urban fantasy novels feature supernatural elements in local settings. In addition to A Demon Bound, Satan’s Sword, and Elven Blood, she has also published a short story erotica series titled Naughty Mom. Connect with her on Twitter @debra_dunbar, on Facebook at debradunbarauthor, and on her website at http://debradunbar.com.

A Demon Bound:  http://amzn.to/MK6nxD

Satan’s Sword: http://amzn.to/Tsi1Wr

Debra will be awarding an e-book copy of A DEMON BOUND (book 1 in the Imp Series) to a randomly drawn commenter at every stop, and a grand prize of a Kindle Fire with an ELVEN BLOOD book cover skin to one randomly drawn commenter during the tour (US ONLY). E-book copies of A Demon Bound and Satan’s Sword and a basket of awesome swag will be awarded to a randomly drawn host.

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Elven Blood is Debra Dunbar's answer to fantasy fiction.

BLURB:

Sam may be the Iblis, but she is also an imp with a price on her head.  The powerful demon Haagenti won’t rest until she’s dragged back to Hel for “punishment”.  Sam knows she can’t face Haagenti and win, so when an Elf Lord offers to eliminate the demon in return for her help, Sam accepts.  It’s a simple job – find and retrieve a half-breed monster dead or alive.  But finding this demon/elf hybrid isn’t proving easy and time is running out.

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EXCERPT:

The hiss of Wyatt’s shower penetrated through the fog of my pre-caffeinated brain.  I was still sprawled on the bed, hidden under a heap of covers, wondering whether I could sneak in a few more minutes of sleep. It was rent day, and I was already late in making my collection rounds.  Stretching, I poked my head from under the blanket and watched a small lizard cross the floor.  It had a scorpion tail, pointed ears and crimson eyes that darted intelligently across the room.  Those red eyes locked onto the bed just as I realized this wasn’t a lizard.  It was a demon—and not the usual Low one either.

There was a flash, and I rolled across the bed and onto the floor just before the mattress sliced into two smoking sections.  Unfortunately I was trapped in a tangle of sheets.  Instinctively I converted my form, deconstructing my usual human one into basic atoms and re-assembling into a creature that was small and hard to kill.

I heard a muffled curse, and I felt the sheets snatched from above me.  The demon was no longer a lizard; he was bipedal with furry, clawed legs and a scaled torso.  Arms hung down past his knees, ending in sharp hooks.  His head twisted and turned, forked tongue tasting the air as he searched for me.

Elven Blood is Debra Dunbar's answer to fantasy fiction.

Store Brand versus Name Brand…when Best Laid Plans Float Away

Recently I tried to shave my grocery bill by buying store brand cereals and other items. With cereals, I didn’t notice any difference in the consistency or taste. The store brand ice cream had a flat taste, however, so I continued to pony up the money for name brand. Most store brands are no-frills. You get the same quality and ingredients, but you lose the pretty packaging and designs, especially with paper products. As for tissues…well, my nose didn’t notice any difference. I was able to get manila envelopes at the dollar store for a fifth of what I’d pay in a stationary store. For medications, I’ve stayed with the name brand Allegra because there’s something reassuring about the orange color of the pill. Otherwise, the generic medicines work just as well.

Sometimes, when the store’s offering a great sale and a coupon, I find it cheaper to stick with name brands. At the Giant last week, I bought a box of Eggo Waffles for seventy-five cents. Because I had a decent coupon, I got two Venus disposable razor packs for the price of one. Allegra’s always on sale, and with a generous coupon, too. Today, I found HP paper on clearance, and got two packs for $5.00 each. I recommend sticking with HP or other name brand computer paper and ink because the wrong paper / ink can damage or jam your printer.

Why do I go through all this trouble to save money? Because I have Walter Mitty dreams of getting my bedroom redone. Perhaps I want to save the money for jewelry or a trip. Maybe I saw a Coach purse with my name on it. So the question is, did I succeed in saving money at the supermarket? So far, no.

This past shopping expedition was a case of best laid plans floating away…literally. When I walked into the Giant, a glittery Mylar balloon with bows blocked my passage. I tried running the other way and bumped into a Mylar planter. Going sideways, I headed straight into a Mylar heart with butterflies – all Mother’s Day balloons and pricey ones at that.

“Why?” I gazed at the balloons helplessly. “I’m not a mother. I don’t have any children.”

“Of course, you do.” The balloons smiled at me. “You’ve got 68 balloons and you’ve been a great mother to them.”

So the glittery balloon with the bows went home with me. Cost: nine dollars. What’s more, I drove home with the AC on because I didn’t want the balloon to overheat. I remember shaking my head, thinking I was the first person on this planet to use air conditioning for a balloon’s comfort. But this one is a real beauty and well worth it.

Mylar balloons always find their way into Barbara Custer's zombie fiction.

I couldn’t resist tempting Barbara!

This got me to contemplating my character Alexis of Steel Rose and her buying habits. If Alexis could jump out of the pages, she’d brain me for spending nine dollars on a balloon. She and I make the same salary, but she takes a plethora of expensive medicines that insurance doesn’t cover well. She’s got to stick with store brand items so she can pay for her treatment, although in a weak moment, she might indulge in a CD. In the sequel, When Blood Reigns, things are getting ugly fast. Because of the zombie invasions, traditional mail and FedEx have ceased services to Philadelphia.

Because of this a zombie invasion may preclude balloon offerings at any supermarket. Fewer stores would remain open, if any, and soldiers would police the aisles for walking dead. In Alexis’ world, I’d buy whatever brands I could get and thank God I made it to the store alive. I’d hope I had plenty of food at home because shopping might mean a longer drive. The balloon with the bows might be available through the black market, so I’d better prepare to spend twenty dollars.

This is assuming I can get to the supermarket and back unharmed.

Zombies aren’t choosy where they feed, especially if they’re hungry. A bunch of them might gang up on my car while I’m heading to the store. My option? Shop at a local deli or learn to use a gun. I tried picturing myself shooting zombies so I could get to a supermarket. Yeah, it could happen. You always find a way when you want something badly. An image formed in my mind of me staring at the gun, and thinking, good grief, I’m the first person in creation who shot zombies so she could buy a balloon.

So, do you find buying store brands have saved you money? How would a zombie invasion affect your hobbies and shopping habits? I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

How would this zombie affect Barbara Custer's purchase of Mylar balloons?

How would this monster affect Balloon Lady’s shopping habits?

 

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