Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Dance Me To The End Of Time

This is such a magical time of the year and I have written a short story I would like to share with you.

So curl up, think of crackling fires and roasting chestnuts and pop on over to Suz deMello/Sue Swift's blog for 'Dance Me To The End Of Time'.. http://fearlessfastpacedfiction.wordpress.com/

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Happy Christmas And To All, A Peaceful and Joyous New Year


Thank you all for following me this year.

I wish you peace, joy and prosperity for this festive season and the year to come.

Monday, 19 December 2011

Vienna Villainy


 Vienna. Its name alone conjures up images of the golden statue of Johann Strauss in the Stadtpark, eternally playing his violin; the Blue Danube (which is more a muddy grey colour actually) and Sachertorte accompanied by lashings of whipped cream.







It is, without a doubt, one of the most culturally endowed, beautiful cities in the world.
It is also renowned as one of the safest. 
Ironic then, that it should possess one of the goriest museums I have ever visited in my life.
Vienna is a city well populated by museums. Not just the many situated in the MuseumsQuartier on the Ring, but down side streets, off the beaten track and down mysterious alleyways. There is a separate museum for practically everything. From tobacco to trams, Sigmund Freud to theatre, as well as military, art, science, social and natural history. In total, there are well over 100, but perhaps the most curious is a little building, tucked away down a side street in the 2nd District (Leopoldstadt).
You are highly unlikely to stumble upon it by accident, but a determined effort and a tram ride and there you are.
Although not intended to be exclusively concerned with the city’s grisliest murders, the lasting impression it leaves you with is that of skulls (of executed murderers)and images of mutilated bodies.
One such example of a skull belonged to a deceptively charming looking gentleman by the name of Hugo Schenk. He was a serial killer par excellence, preferring his victims to be female, young and attractive. In his hands, they wouldn’t stay that way for long. Rape and drowning awaited them, after he had wooed them, convincing them he was a Polish Count. Sometimes, he was even assisted in his evil crimes by his brother. 
Having apparently tired of his usual method of killing, he taught one unsuspecting victim to play Russian Roulette (with an empty gun, of course!). Sad to say, the young woman paid for her naivete with her life when she shot herself, saving him the trouble of tying a boulder to her feet and chucking her into the Danube.
When he was finally caught, Schenk was reported as having been in correspondence with at least 50 women – no doubt all of whom were destined to share the fate of their many predecessors.
This and many other stories await you within the dark and rambling confines of the Vienna Crime Museum.
Although I saw children there, I personally would not recommend it for anyone below the age of 13 or 14 or if you are of a particularly nervous or squeamish disposition.
But for everyone else, next time you find yourself in Vienna on a rainy afternoon and fancy a trip to the dark side, get yourself along to:
Große Sperlgasse 24, A-1020 Wien
(If you don't read German, you may need your dictionary as all the descriptions are in German but as the objects and images are graphic, you may find you don't need it as often as you may anticipate.)

Monday, 12 December 2011

Attila the Hun - With The Bits Your History Teacher Would Have Censored!

 An Interview with Tristram La Roche
 Today, I am delighted to be able to chat to Tristram La Roche whose novella, ‘The Hun and The General’ has just been published by Etopia Press. 

If you haven’t read it yet, here’s a bit of background to the story:

Livianus is bored and longs for action. His reward for serving Rome is the governorship of a quiet corner of Gaul, but as he whiles away his days at his sumptuous villa, his thoughts turn to Attila the Hun, the feared barbarian with whom Livianus once enjoyed an intimate friendship. When a desperate emperor asks him to return to Pannonia to broker a truce with Attila, Livianus's old passion flares.

Attila is losing the will to go on. He is tired of being a tyrant but his people's future depends on him. The arrival of Livianus renews Attila's spirit as he prepares to march on
Constantinople. Livianus has nothing to bargain with, but when the emperor's sister delivers a proposition for Attila, a new and brighter future seems to lay directly ahead. For the people, and especially for the two men.

But the deadly hand of the emperor isn't interested in peace, and as their plans are destroyed, only one course of action remains open to the Hun and the general.


Catherine:  Welcome Tris and congratulations on ‘The Hun and The General’. This is something of a departure for you from your previous books, isn’t it? What inspired you to branch into historical fiction and why these particular subjects (Attila the Hun and the Roman General  Livianus)?
Tris: You might remember that one of my characters in my very first story, On My Knees, was called Attila. That Attila was very much a modern day man but one of my fans said ‘Oh, imagine if someone wrote an MM about Attila the Hun.” Well, that was like a red rag to a bull and I immediately accepted the challenge. It came together easily as I have a very great interest in ancient history, especially Rome. A bit of research gave me the period and it all slotted into place. A Livianus existed, but in an earlier time.

Catherine: Are you planning to write any more stories centred on actual historical characters and, if so, do you have anyone particular in mind yet?
Tris: I am planning to because I enjoyed writing The Hun and The General tremendously. I really lived those characters. One day I broke off from a scene in which I’d been in Livianus’s head to go to the doctor; you should have seen his face when I walked into his surgery, raised my right hand and said ‘Hail!’ Right now I’m toying with a number of possibilities and it’s likely I will write several since wherever I look I see potential. What I like about The Hun and The General is the juxtaposition of brutality (not for its own sake, but of necessity for the characters, time and plot) with love and tenderness. I therefore can’t help but think what might happen if I went into other brutal (to our sensibilities) civilisations such as the Aztecs. The Nile during the reign of the pharaohs is tempting but would need a lot of care not to be derivative, and England in the 17th century might be fun.

Catherine:  Since we chatted in June, in addition to ‘The Hun and The General’, you have had two other books – ‘Lorenzo Il Magnifico’ and ‘Fixed’ – published. It’s been a busy six months! Do you have a pool of ideas just waiting to be written or do you have to spend time searching for your next storyline?
Tris: The one thing life has given me is an overflowing ‘experience account’. My head is awash with ideas; some vague but some vivid. I do draw on my own personal experiences, then adapt them. Lorenzo il Magnifico is partly true in that I did meet someone called Lorenzo in Florence (he wasn’t a waiter) who had inherited a flat in Via Lorenzo il Magnifico. They say ‘you couldn’t make it up’ and sometimes you couldn’t. Fixed reflects the experiences of a dear friend who lost a great deal in 2008 when the world got turned on its head; it’s a story I felt had to be told as too many people take too much for granted. So, yes, I have a lot of ideas but turning them into stories that people will want to read is the hardest part, and finding that hook can come easily or take months.
 Catherine: Your books are highly erotic. What, for you, are the ingredients that blend together to create a good work of erotic fiction?
Tris: Are they really? (blushes). You see, I don’t think about the erotic content. To me, sex is as much a part of normal life as breathing, eating and sleeping. If one writes about a relationship between two human beings – be that straight or gay – it is a fallacy to leave out the sex. In fact, there is an argument that the sex act is even more important in some gay relationships during the early stages because often sex comes first and the love develops in the aftermath. If this is all going to work, for me at least, it has to reflect reality. It’s not enough to titillate with mere physical descriptions of the various working parts, we need to know what it feels like, be it romantic love or animal lust.
 Catherine: If you had to choose only one, which writer has influenced you the most and why?
Tris: Not easy to answer, Cat. I suppose, if I have to choose one, it will have to be Alan Hollinghurst. And not for the reasons you might think. Yes, I loved The Line of Beauty but I haven’t liked anything else. In fact, I recently read The Spell and it was a chore to get through; the spoilt middle class characters came so close to getting a good smacking! So, his influence has been in the sense of encouragement - that I thought if he could write about gay lives and get recognised in the mainstream, why not me?

Catherine: If ‘The Hun and The General’ was made into a film, who would you cast as your central characters? And who would direct the film?
Tris: Erm, did you know that I am writing the screenplay as we speak? I think Brad Pitt would make a terrific Attila, don’t you? But if Brad were cast in the role then I would want to play Livianus myself. Ahem! Well, I can always hope. Assuming that was out of the question, Colin Farrell or Christian Bale would have to fight it out for the part. If I could persuade Peter Greenaway to direct it I think we would have a classic on our hands.

Catherine:  What are you currently working on?
Tris: The Hun and The General screenplay! Right now I’m not actually writing another book because I do not believe a writer can maintain quality and bash books out as if on a production line; I’m toying with ideas and plan to begin in January with a view to publishing another three or four during 2012, perhaps a full-length novel among them.

Catherine: I shall look forward to that. 2012 looks set to be another really productive year for you!  Thank you very much for joining me again today, Tris. Where can we find out more about you and, crucially, where can we find your books?
Tris: You can find me here -
Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Tristram-La-Roche/e/B0054U5A2E
/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_pop_1
Here are the buy links:

Here’s an excerpt to give you just a flavour of ‘The Hun and The General’:
Pannonia, 5th Century AD
Attila smashed his fists into the table, toppling his cup of mare’s milk. “They call me The Scourge of God and yet dare to question my orders?”
The warrior held his king’s gaze. “Your Highness—”
“Don’t Your Highness me, you blubbering fool. I’m sick of your groveling, Barbax. Speak frankly to me, without fear.” Attila rounded the huge table and brought himself up close to the trembling warrior. “Or shall I have you impaled and left out on the plains as a warning to others?”
Barbax shook his head. His lower lip trembled and his voice wavered. “N-no, Attila. I beg you, not that. If I am to die, let it be by your hand, with your sword.”
Attila flung his arms wide and Barbax flinched.
“How could I kill you?” Attila laughed and slapped Barbax on the shoulder. “Of all my warriors, you are the one I need at my side when we take Constantinople.”
“Yes, Attila. Of course.” Barbax shifted from one foot to the other, his eyes averted.
“But?”
Barbax stared at him blankly.
“I’m waiting for the but. Come on, man, show me your guts. Tell me why we shouldn’t seize what’s left of the Roman Empire once and for all.” Attila turned to the table and saw the fallen goblet, the milk dripping off to soak into the mat on the floor. He bellowed to the far side of the room. “Girl, fetch ale.” He perched on the edge of the table and smiled. “Let us drink, my friend. See if the barley loosens your tongue more than your king’s wishes seem to.”
A slave girl scurried in, carrying a jug and two goblets, which she set on the table.
“Hurry up, woman, or I’ll tear your womb from you with my bare hands.” He grabbed the girl from behind as she bent over the table to pour the beer. He pulled her by the hips until his cock pressed against her buttocks. “Or maybe you’d like us both to give you a good fucking?” He let her go and laughed. “Away with you. We can pour our own ale.”
Attila filled one silver goblet and gave it to Barbax, then shook the dregs of milk from his wooden cup and served himself. He took a long swig and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. “Well, get on with it then.”
Barbax swallowed hard. “Theodosius has made Constantinople impregnable.”
“Nothing is impregnable, except that Visigoth wife of yours.”
“The walls he’s built around the city are like nothing else on earth.”
“And nothing on earth has ever stopped us.”
“But this is different. Constantinople is weeks away.”
“We’ve marched farther.”
“But not with the machines we’ll need if we are to even break one brick. We’ll need battering rams and towers and—”
“And we’ll take them. We’ll take all we’ve got, ironworkers and carpenters too, and then we’ll take Constantinople. I’ll personally impale that snake Theodosius before I piss on his throne.” He drained his cup and slammed it onto the table. “Start the preparations. I want to leave before the rainy season.”
“But Attila—”
“But nothing! Now get out of my sight before I put you over the table and do what I should have done to that serving wench.”
Attila stroked his fine beard with his fingers and watched Barbax leave. Pillaging had served their people well, but they had need of greater wealth now. Yet despite his bravado, the warrior king hoped for an alternative to the march on Constantinople. Barbax spoke the truth. With so much to transport, they would move slowly. Word of their approach would reach Constantinople long before they did, and Emperor Theodosius would have time to prepare. What Attila needed was a miracle.


Saturday, 10 December 2011

Saturday, 3 December 2011

'An Affinity for Shadows' - an Interview with Liz R. Newman

Today I am delighted to be joined by Freelance Writer and Novelist, Liz R. Newman, whose atmospheric love story, ‘An Affinity for Shadows’ has recently been published by Gypsy Shadow Publishing. Here’s a little information about it:

‘Award-winning broadcast journalist Kate Theodore has it all under control, until she rushes to the scene of one of the greatest tragedies in American history in pursuit of the perfect story. Having pressured her cameraman into accompanying her, she feels responsible for his untimely death. Her guilt opens the door to transformation in a desperate attempt to rediscover her soul.

Brushing aside a chance meeting with a handsome Italian stranger, Kate soon becomes captivated by his charms, but he is a man whose heart is shrouded in secrets. Can she open her heart to the possibility of true love, or will she be lost forever to her past mistakes'

Catherine: Welcome, Liz and congratulations on ‘An Affinity for Shadows’. It is described as a story of ‘love and rediscovery’. Can you tell us a bit more about it ?
Liz: An Affinity for Shadows is a mainstream literary romance, and it is my first novel.  It is the dynamic story of Kate Theodore, a journalist for one of the highest rated cable news network shows around the time of 9/11.  She rushes to the scene of one of the greatest tragedies in American history in pursuit of the perfect story.  Pressuring her cameraman into accompanying her, she feels responsible for his untimely death.  Her guilt opens the door to transformation in a desperate attempt to rediscover her soul. Along the way she meets a gorgeous and sexy Italian gentleman who turns out to be much more than he appears to be.  There is a surprise ending, and she discovers although she falls in love with him, she could never have guessed just exactly what she was getting into.

Catherine:  Why did you decide to become a novelist and who or what has inspired you most?
 Liz: There's this miraculous moment in every writer's life where they just realize they have a story to tell, and they start putting it down on paper.  The words are difficult at first, clumsy and labored, but after umpteenth drafts and learning more about the craft, they simply begin to flow.  I think the greatest challenge for us writers isn't necessarily finding the stories, but recording the stories the way we feel them, see them, hear them in our imagination. We can only hope the reader sees, hears, and feels them with us.

I think the first moment I realized I had a passion for telling stories was in sixth grade.  I had this lovely teacher named Mrs. Kennedy, who was so warm and inclusive.  She read a creative writing essay I wrote for school: this somewhat corny piece in retrospect about how the wind was like the choreography of a dance.  It was autumn, the leaves were blowing around, and I just stared outside of the window and recorded that on paper.  She read it aloud to the class and gave this wonderful sigh of happiness, flashed her huge smile, and plied my writing with compliments in front of the entire class.  Flash forward a few years later and I'd won some school awards for writing.  Flash forward another few years and I was doing everything to suppress my creative voice, trying to stop writing since I was going through somewhat of an Edgar Allan Poe stage (although looking back I really wish I would've kept all of that morose stuff), and drown out thoughts which were displeasing to the overtly religious views I was raised with.  Flash forward to now and I'm at peace with who I am, and amazingly and coincidentally I completed my first novel. 

There are medical theories that say suppression of a condition will make it stronger.  Let's take, for example, the allergenic response and the popular treatments of suppressing allergic symptoms.  Discontinue the treatment and the allergies sometimes come back even stronger than before.  In some strange way, this is what happened with my writing.  Writers as well as any other artists get that reflective insight into the human condition mostly from the intense life experiences of joy, happiness, pain, love, and suffering.  Maybe not all of us do, but that's how it turned out for me.

Catherine: That’s really interesting, Liz. I can see where you’re coming from with that. Now, where can readers pick up a copy of your book?
Liz: The book is available pretty much worldwide through Amazon, and it is also at several ebook sites and on the shelves at some stores in the SF Bay Area.  The book is now on sale at Barnes and Noble and it can also be purchased through the Gypsy Shadow Publishing Company website. 
Barnes and Noble
Gypsy Shadow
Readers can find me on  Facebook or at www.lizrnewman.net.  

Thank you so much, Catherine, for having me as a guest on your blog.

Catherine: Thank you for joining me, Liz

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

'Bedevil' - An Interview with Kiran Hunter

Today, I am delighted to be able to chat to Kiran whose Erotic Horror Story, ‘Bedevil’ is published by Etopia Press.
If you haven’t read it yet, here’s a bit of background to the story:

‘A dream inheritance, a dark legacy, a new beginning...
When Gareth Balaam inherits Harbinger House, he thinks his problems are over. But unfortunately, they've only just begun. Harbinger House has a dark past. Shrouded in mystery, what may have occurred within its walls is still a matter of conjecture. The locals at the pub talk about the place in whispers. Gareth's partner, Tim, thinks the house is haunted.

Gareth doesn't believe in ghosts, but he does believe Tim is using the house as an excuse to not work on their relationship. Their trip to the country to bring them closer seems to be doing the opposite. Tensions and resentments flare, and through it all, someone is watching...

Luka is lonely and bored. Confined to the shadows of the house for decades, he has driven all the previous occupants insane with lust. Except the last. The one man Luka had loved had broken his heart and had left rather than lose his mind. The house stood empty, and Luka was alone. But not anymore. There's life in the house again, two delicious lovers, two new humans to seduce. Except one refuses to play...’


Catherine:  Welcome Kiran and congratulations on ‘Bedevil’. It’s your first published book, I believe. What attracted you to this genre and what inspired you to write this particular story?
Kiran: I’ve always been intrigued by anything paranormal – both fictional and real. I grew up surrounded by esoteric books. As a kid I’d like nothing more than reading about spontaneous human combustion, ghosts... or tales of demonic possession. I still have a fascination with the idea of thoughtforms, which I’m kind of exploring in the ‘Bedevilled’ stories.
I also have an interest in probate research, which is where the idea for Bedevil came from. People often dream of inheriting something out of the blue – money, or property. But what if that dream inheritance has a sting in the tail? 

Catherine:  On your website you say that you have been writing for as long as you can remember, can you recall who were your earliest influences?
Kiran: I was always drawn towards any book that looked ‘otherwordly’. I remember reading Mr Corbett’s Ghost by Leon Garfield at school, and then trying to write something with a creepy atmosphere. I moved on to the Pan Horror Story collections (I bought one book every two weeks. I think I had to save up for them) and James Herbert.

Catherine: You say you are attracted to the dark side of human nature. Why does this hold such fascination for you?
Kiran: I like mysteries. I like people who intrigue me...you know, there’s a hint that there’s more to them than they let everyone see. My peers growing up were very ordinary – I’d always find myself gravitating towards people with darker personalities.... or they’d gravitate towards me.

Catherine: ‘Bedevil’ is a short story, but do you have any plans for a novella or full length novel? If so, will you stay with this genre or diversify?
Kiran: I have a full length novel, which I’m about to start submitting to publishers – it still has a paranormal theme, but is not erotic. If it’s accepted it will probably be published under a different pen name.
I’d like to write novellas - I’m a big fan of short fiction. I love quick, dramatic reads. 

Catherine:  What are you currently working on?
Kiran: I have a few short stories in progress (I work on different projects according to my mood).There’s the follow-up to Bedevil and a contemporary M/M suspense, as well another erotic short. I’m mulling over an idea for a novella but it’s still just a glowing ember... 

Catherine: Who are your favourite authors and why?
Kiran: James Herbert, Stephen King and Clive Barker are the authors I ‘grew up’ with. Now, having been epublished, I’m discovering new authors all the time. The thing I like most about my own publisher is how they’ve expanded their range to include different genres. A lot of epublishers focus on romance, whereas Etopia also provide suspense, horror, YA etc. 

Catherine: What advice (if any) do you wish someone had given you before you started looking for a publishing contract?
Kiran: I think I was pretty well prepared for what I’ve experienced so far. 

Catherine: A light-hearted question now. If you could live at any time or anywhere in history, where and when would it be? Who would you be?
Kiran: Actually, I’m going to cheat – I think I’d like to be one of The Doctor’s assistants (Dr Who) and be able to nip in and out different times and places in the Tardis. I’m not sure there’s a particular time in history I’d like to stick around too long in. And... I’d also have a companion with a definite dark side with me. Of course Captain Jack Harkness would be more than welcome to hitch a ride.

Catherine:  Thank you very much for joining us today, Kiran. Where can we find out more about you and, crucially, where can we find your book? 
Kiran: You can find out more about me here:
Bedevil can be found here:
All Romance

Here’s an excerpt from ‘Bedevil’:

“Where the hell are we?”
Gareth braked hard as yet another blind bend approached. Each tight corner had him holding his breath as he anticipated a too-close encounter with a local driver hurtling the other way. He swore at the satnav, then instinctively ducked his head as the trees overshadowing the narrow road suddenly reached down even farther. Low-hanging branches tried to pluck the car from the tarmac, and rampant brambles flailed across the road as if trying to snare foolhardy travelers and drag them into their spiky embrace. For a second he wondered no traffic had actually come this way for years and nature was trying to reclaim the road.
“Not sure it’s the satnav’s fault, Gareth. You kept telling her to shut up. I think we went wrong at the junction back there.” Tim smiled at him. Gareth had bought the damn thing because it was preferable to his partner’s map reading skills, and to save the arguments. Didn’t stop Gareth from arguing with the ever-patient gadget instead, but at least it merely calmly recalculated the journey every time he ignored it, instead of throwing a terminally battered map book into the back seat and sitting in resolute silence as Tim was prone to do.
“Where in God’s name are we?” Gareth repeated through clenched teeth.
“Ask the satnav.”
“According to the satnav, this road doesn’t exist—we’re driving across a wasteland.”
“We are somewhere near Rippington.”
“And you know that how?”
“There was a sign.”
Gareth sighed and braked hard again. The trip wasn’t going well. He had hoped the day would herald a fresh start. Fingers crossed, they’d soon be moving to a new place away from the city and he would be able to spend some time with Tim without distractions. To try to get to know each other again. A new beginning.
But even with the prospect of a change of scenery, they were still bickering.
The tiny hamlet gradually staggered into being. The scattered cottages, almost hidden in the hedgerows on each side of the road, became closer together, merging into the High Street. The small and almost imperceptibly beating heart of the community sat huddled around the small village green. The place was deserted. The only sign of life was a cat wandering, tail up, across the road. No kids playing soccer on the green—no senior citizens leaning on walls and talking about the weather.
It’s almost pretty, Tim thought. Almost, but not quite. A bit isolated. Christ knows where the nearest wine bar is. Maybe that’s a good thing? The idea of moving into the country because Gareth couldn’t keep his dick in his trousers rankled—but better that than climbing into the car in the early hours to retrieve him when he phoned from a club unable to drive or, worse than that, wondering where he was when he didn’t phone and didn’t return home, either. No temptation—and no social life…
“There’s a pub,” Gareth said, as if he’d been reading Tim’s thoughts.
“Looks closed.”
“Well, it says ‘food,’ so maybe it’ll open shortly. It’s turning into a nice evening; we’ll check out the house and maybe take a walk. Kill some time before the pub opens and then get something to eat.”
“Walk where? Around the green? That should take us all of five minutes.”
“For God’s sake, Tim. At least try.”
“Okay, okay.”

Gareth slammed the car door shut and activated the central locking system. It was later than he’d hoped; the sun was setting, a flock of birds wheeling up into the sky before turning back on itself and settling in the trees surrounding the village church. Almost pretty, he thought, turning on his heels to take in the rest of the scene. Almost, but not quite… Good God. He cleared his throat. Tim wasn’t going to like this. “Well, there it is, I think. Somewhere in there,” he said.
“What? That?” Tim followed Gareth’s gaze across the road. “No! Look at the place!”
The gate squealed in protest, as if it hadn’t been opened for decades. The sun had almost disappeared, the tops of the trees surrounding the house now brushed with a pink glow and the garden beneath consumed by shadow.
“I suppose it could have been beautiful once upon a time. It’s a little overgrown,” Tim said.
“Adds to its charm.” Gareth hoped he sounded convincing.
“Erm, not sure charm is the word you’re after.”
“Let’s take a look. Reserve judgment until we’ve seen inside the place.”
With Tim a footstep behind, Gareth made his way up the path, negotiating crumbling concrete and easing past rampant shrubs. Beside the front door, a plaque was just visible through the ivy clinging on to the building. He pried the stubborn stems away from the wood to read the carved words beneath.
“‘Harbinger House.”
“Well, that’s reassuring, Gareth. Harbinger of doom, and all that.”
“Curious the place isn’t called that on the deeds…just 20 Willow Green.”
Gareth slid the key into the lock and turned it. There was a moment’s hesitation before the catch clicked and the door eased open an inch, as if the house wasn’t quite ready for them. He smiled at Tim and, with a dramatic flourish, gestured for him to enter first. Tim shook his head.
“After you. The place is yours.”
“Ours, Tim. It’s ours.”

The warning cry from the rusting gate ripped his senses awake, but his mind was slow to follow. All Luka was aware of at first was the agony of sound and the warm trickle of blood from his ears. His muscles stretched as he moved, tendons almost tearing from the bone as he unraveled his body from its fetal position. He wailed with the new pain—a feeble echo of the metal against metal outside. His first intake of breath rasped down his throat and burned into his lungs. He clamped his mouth shut and breathed in deeply through his nose. The house was different—the odor of dust and mold and damp was still there, but something else too. The protesting gate had heralded the arrival of new flesh. He could smell it.
A river of cold air flowed across his pain-wracked body, caressing his arms, his chest, his legs—the outside world finding a way through a crack in his prison and reawakening his nerve endings to remind him of what he had been without for so long.
Touch. Skin against skin. Breath on skin…

Friday, 18 November 2011

Of Devils and Dark Forces...An Interview with Steve Emmett


Today, I am delighted to be able to chat to Steve who has recently published his chilling short horror story, ‘Kid’.
If you haven’t read it yet, here’s a bit of background to the story:
‘Born hideously ugly, his mother never even named him. When illness made him deaf he was cast out to live alone in the forest. The sheriff found him ideal as torturer and executioner. Then, one night, a visitor called bearing a gift. All Kid had to do was choose.’ 

Catherine:  Welcome Steve and congratulations on ‘Kid’. It’s a very different story to your first novel, ‘Diavolino’ and is set in medieval times. Where did you get your inspiration from?
Steve: Blimey, start with a hard one, why don’t you! You know, I don’t know precisely. The thing is, my mind never stops absorbing the world around me, be it literally what is going on in my vicinity, or some news report, or some slip of the tongue by someone who should know better. Every little thing is filed away in my brain. When I’m supposed to be relaxing or falling asleep, I rummage through all the drawers and pick out bits to hang stories on. The notion of some poor soul whom luck has avoided all his life seemed a good start for a bleak tale. As for the setting, well I’ve always had a thing about medieval times and, if you remember, Diavolino opens in that period. It also seemed a very appropriate time for the story; I mean, Kid wouldn’t suffer the same now, would he? Well, maybe in some remote hellhole, just about, but the world does seem to be disposing of the despots at last.

Catherine:  Both ‘Diavolino’ and ‘Kid’ are highly visual. Do you think your experience as an actor has any influence on your style of writing?
Steve: Perhaps it would be more accurate to say my love of film and my desire to act have influenced my style, because I haven’t done a lot of acting yet (hint to all casting directors). At the same time, I am a very visual person – that’s why I was drawn to study architecture. I am very aware of my surroundings and it’s always me who notices the little things others don’t. When people read my stories I want them to see where they are and feel what is happening. At the same time, I detest over description; my goal is to paint the picture and the action with as few words as possible.


Catherine: In addition to writing and acting, I believe you are also a reviewer for the New York Journal of Books and Suspense magazine. How did this come about?
Steve: Both publications were looking for reviewers. I applied, submitted a piece of work to them and they both accepted me. I should review more books for them but time is tight.


Catherine: You are a very busy person, Steve because I also happen to know that you are a writing coach. Tell us more about that.
Steve: Oh, for a moment I thought you said ‘you are a writing couch’! Well, I have the padded seat and arms; maybe it was Freudian intervention made me name my writing website. Since I became a writer I have helped others to improve their work. It seems I have a natural ability to explain. I hadn’t thought of doing it professionally until my own tutor said to me, ‘You should offer coaching, Steve’. So there you have it; www.thewritingcouch.com was born.


Catherine:  Whose writing do you most admire and why?
Steve: It’s my lucky day that you’re not doing the old ‘yes or no’ business. The thing I find more and more is that I might love one or two works of a writer, but not like all their works. For example, when I read Alan Hollinghurst’s ‘The Line of Beauty’ I would have said that I admired his writing. Later, I read ‘The Spell’ and loathed it. I didn’t like the lack of plot or the characters (I wanted to strangle them all) but above all I found his writing tiresome and contrived. So, I can say that at times I admire Stephen King for his economy with words; Clive Barker for his ability to conjure up hell on earth; and Karin Fossum for her cool directness. James Hamilton Patterson deserves a medal; I admired him across the entire ‘Cooking With Fernet Branca’ trilogy. Patterson is a bit niche and it surprises me, because he is so incisive and makes you laugh so much you gasp for air.

Catherine: Now the great debate.  E-publishing and print publishing. Can they have a symbiotic relationship, or do you foresee the demand for print books diminishing over the next decade?
Steve: How many stone tablets or scrolls do you have at home? It’s the same. We are at the dawn of e-books, the revolution hasn’t even started. One of my friends has spent her life working with libraries, books and promoting reading. She said to me many times that she would never read e-books because she liked paper books – the feel, the smell, the interaction she had with them physically and emotionally. She called me yesterday to say she’d just unpacked her new Kindle. “I just can’t be bothered carting all those bloody books around anymore,” she said. So, I have no doubt that e-books will take over for general literature. I feel that print books will prevail for specialist graphic and illustrated works, but you never know what technological advance lies around the corner. The only possibility I can see of paper winning is if mankind ends up living in a world where electricity is a thing of the past.

Catherine: What is on your ‘To Be Read’ pile at the moment and what attracted you to those books?

Steve: My TBR pile is very small because I never know what the New York Journal and Suspense Magazine are going to toss my way. I’ve just read your own ‘Cold Revenge’ (I loved it) which was on the pile, and Kiran Hunter’s creepy ‘Bedevil’. I’ve just started ‘Lenin’, a biography by Robert Service and then I will read ‘Caligula: The Corruption of Power’ by Anthony A Barrett. Caligula is for pleasure but also research for my current novel. I can also feel myself being drawn to ‘The Borgias’ by Christopher Hibbert.

Catherine:  What are you currently working on?
Steve: If you can believe it, a vampire novel. Not sparkly, cuddly, truck driving vampires but the real blood-thirsty variety. I already gave you a clue above with Caligula. It’s very Roman, very hellish and, I hope, very different to anything you’ve read so far. At the same time I have a dark, psychological novel well underway, and the Diavolino sequel.

Catherine: A light hearted question now. If you could live at any time and any place in history, where and when would it be, and why?
Steve: But for the state of medicine and dentistry at the time, I would opt to be someone comfortable but obscure in ancient Rome. Otherwise, I’ll say 2,000 years in the future, around 4,000 AD, but I’d have to be World President so I could travel through time and space continually. Well, you asked!

Catherine:  Thank you very much for joining us today. Where can we find out more about you and, crucially, where can we find your books, ‘Diavolino’ and ‘Kid’? 
Steve:  
My website: http://steve-emmett.com
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/#!/emmett.steve
Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/chukkie58
My Publisher: http://etopiapressblog.wordpress.com/2010/11/24/meet-author-steve-emmett-2/

 Diavolino is available from:

 Amazon.co.uk: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Diavolino-ebook/dp/B004NIFIC0/

Amazon.com: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B004NIFIC0/
Amazon.de: http://www.amazon.de/Diavolino-ebook/dp/B004NIFIC0/
Diesel ebooks: http://www.diesel-ebooks.com/item/SW00000046082/Emmett-Steve-Diavolino/1.html
Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/diavolino
Kobo: http://www.kobobooks.com/ebook/Diavolino/book-o1O_cIyXOUu_GUqb864gsg/page1.html
OmniLit: http://www.omnilit.com/product-diavolino-514790-241.html

Kid is available from:

Amazon.co.uk: http://www.amazon.co.uk/KID-ebook/dp/B005HE159O/
Amazon.com: http://www.amazon.com/KID-ebook/dp/B005HE159O/
Amazon.de: http://www.amazon.de/KID-ebook/dp/B005HE159O/
Smashwords: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/82069
Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/kid-steve-emmett/1105098655?ean=2940011468988&itm=1&usri=steve%252bemmett
Sony e-books: http://ebookstore.sony.com/ebook/steve-emmett/kid/_/R-400000000000000484028
Here’s an excerpt to give you just a flavour of each:



‘Diavolino’

Before long, they were all back in the car with Paolo, hurtling down the serpentine road from Cortona to the main route that led back to the lake. Poggio del Lago rose in front of them; the sun glanced off the surrounding water and animated the pale stone walls of the old fortress.

A motor launch waited for them at the jetty. Paolo took the wheel and started up the engine. The diesel motor chugged away, and the vessel edged forward in a cloud of blue-gray smoke, forcing ripples across the otherwise still water.

“Are there any monsters in the lake?” asked
Alice, peering intently over the edge of the boat.

“No, darling,” said Tom, “there are no monsters. Only fish.”

“And not too many of those, I gather,” said Roger. “The water is shallow, about seven meters at the most, and centuries of overfishing have done nothing for the stocks, so they say.”

Tom stood in the stern and looked back. Poggio del Lago was the highest point for many miles, surrounded by agricultural lowland. The slopes below the old walls were thick with ancient olive trees that once must have reached almost to the shoreline. At some time, they’d been cleared to make way for the scattering of buildings that scarred a landscape otherwise unchanged for generations.

As they approached Diavolino, Roger pointed out the temporary landing. Paolo slowed the engine and brought the vessel alongside, leaping onto the pontoon with the agility of an athlete, securing the boat fore and aft.

“Where did you learn to tie knots like that?” asked Tom, climbing onto the pontoon.

“My father. He was a fisherman. When I was little, I used to help him.”

“You should have a talk with
Alice. She’s something of a knot expert,” said Elspeth. Alice ignored her and marched on, eyes fixed firmly on the ground.

“I thought you said something about temporary accommodation being nearly ready,” said Tom, his mind distracted by
Alice’s uncharacteristic temper. He reached out to her. “Alice, please don’t—”

“Everything we do here must be within the woods.” Roger was not to be diverted. “It has to make as little visual impact as possible. Follow me.”

Tom hesitated, distracted by Paolo, who was settling himself on an upturned log with a pack of Winston One and his mobile phone.

“I’ll be here if you need me,” said Paolo with a smile.

Tom ran to catch up with
Alice and took her hand. Dark veins laced the sand-rich earth. A fleshy, leafless weed formed a patchy covering over the surface. Tom had never seen such strange vegetation. The shadow of the towering canopy cast a darkness as they entered the wood, and Tom felt something astringent on the back of his neck, a creeping chill, like frozen pinpoints marching across his skin...



Kid
Kid watched the cart sway down the track. The driver appeared headless as he hunched over to urge the oxen along. Once the cart had slipped out of sight, Kid sat down on the fallen tree trunk and stared at his hands. The blood had dried, leaving a thin dark crust that fragmented around the knuckles and wrists like earth baked under an unrelenting sun. He flexed the joints and they worked free, dark crystals swirling in the rays of sunlight. Doom motes, he called them.
He had long ago given up asking the driver to slake his thirst with him. The old man never stayed, always in a hurry to turn his cart around and get back to town once he’d delivered Kid to the cabin in the forest. Kid had grown used to it. No one ever stayed. If anyone did happen to pass by, they ran into the woods as soon as they caught sight of him.
He sighed, dragged himself to his feet and stumbled into the cabin for a tankard of ale. The single room had been his home for almost as long as he could remember. He’d been about eight years old when he realized he was destined for a solitary existence. His father had fled the day he was born. His mother said the sight of Kid’s face had scared him off. So traumatized was she by the creature to which she had given birth, she never named him, and he had been known simply as Kid ever since. He was kept out of sight and, after long nights of fever left him deaf, moved in with the pigs down the yard. This cabin, albeit filthy and stinking, was paradise in comparison.
As he headed outside with his ale, he caught sight of himself in the looking glass he kept on the back of the door. It hung there lest he forgot what others saw. Some of the townsfolk said the gargoyles on the new cathedral were there because the head mason had stumbled upon Kid before he’d learned his way around the place. Kid smiled at the thought. Would his mother have been proud of him?
The smile faded and his lips resumed their tight line across his face. For all that she had treated him worse than an animal, she still lived in his heart. What curse had been put on him to be born this way? To be rejected by his own family? He shook his head, stepped out and slammed the door.
Kid returned to the tree trunk with his eyes fixed on the ground, raising them only when he was almost at his destination. He stopped short. His heart beat against his ribs. The light shimmered over the log and a figure appeared.
From the back it had all the semblance of a man, sitting down in Kid’s usual place. But what man, and from where?
“Come and sit with me, Kid.”
Kid lost control of his muscles, dropping his ale to the forest floor. His pants felt warm and wet and, as the sensation crept down his legs, he knew it was not the ale. How could this be? He hadn’t heard a voice for years. The singing of the birds, the clatter of the oxen, even the cries of pain as he went about his work had all been denied him. Yet now this voice spoke to him? He looked up into the trees, his mouth gaping as if to corral the sounds into his head.
Silence. The same deathly silence as always.

Friday, 11 November 2011

'The Ghost of Bluebell Cottage' - An Interview with Claire Voet

Today, I am delighted to be able to chat to Claire whose novel, ‘The Ghost of Bluebell Cottage’ has recently been published.
If you haven’t read it yet, here’s a bit of background to the story:

An eerie mist surrounds the castle. Its icy fingers are curling and lingering between each stone wall. In the village, the locals are restless as they toss and turn in their sleep. The clip clop of horse’s hooves can be heard on cobblestones and shouts of angry drunken men in the far distance. The mystery man with his dog is back again, but who is he? The village of Corfe Castle is harbouring a dark secret stemming back to the 17th Century when Lady Bankes fought to protect the Castle and when Anthony Dickinson, a follower of the witch finder Mathew Hopkins, tortured scores of unsuspecting women throughout Dorset.

Drawn to a photo of Bluebell Cottage in a real estate window, Greg has an unusual, yearning to give up his high-flying career in
London and live in the cottage. It seems that Greg is not the only newcomer to the village, as Helen, who has recently left Bournemouth after breaking up with her fiancé, moves into Lilly’s, an old 17th century cottage not far from Bluebell Cottage. She too is drawn into the past with strange dreams and paranormal experiences.

It becomes clear that three hundred and sixty seven years on, a story of love and treachery becomes hopelessly entwined with the past and present.
Catherine:  Welcome Claire and congratulations on publication of ‘The Ghost of Bluebell Cottage’. This is an atmospheric, ghostly love story, just perfect to curl up with on cold winter nights. Is this an idea you worked on for a long time or did the inspiration suddenly come to you one day? 
 Claire: Thank you Catherine.  My inspiration normally comes to me when my mind is relaxed and more receptive to ideas. It took a couple of days to pen the storyline and the rest came when I started writing it. 

Catherine: Have you ever seen a ghost – or had any paranormal experiences?
Claire: Yes twice. The first ghost I saw was about 6 years ago. A young girl dressed in 17th century clothing.  I saw her standing in the curtains.  She scared me half to death but disappeared within seconds of me seeing her.  It was a most bizarre experience.  The second time was late at night. I was living in another house then. I was in bed, rolled over on my side and a man appeared dressed in safari clothing and with a rifle gun hanging over his shoulder. I was so terrified I screamed the house down and almost gave my husband a heart attack! I don’t think I have ever been so scared in all of my life. Some would argue it was a dream but it was so real and very different from a dream. Both experiences had something in common; they were standing a few inches off the ground. It’s something that has always stuck in my mind. I have had several paranormal experiences over the years where I’ve heard and felt a presence. It’s a subject that fascinate me.

Catherine:  What made you start writing and when did you begin?
Claire: About 3 years ago I was teaching English as a foreign language in Spain and started writing short stories for my students to read during my lessons. They enjoyed them very much and encouraged me to write. Shortly after that I wrote ‘Whittington Manor’, my first book.

Catherine: ‘Whittington Manor’ is a historical novel. Can you tell us more about it?
 Claire: ‘Whittington Manor’ is based during the 2nd world war, in a small town in Hampshire. It’s a love story with a difference. The story focuses on two different families brought together by Sarah, the daughter of Lord Whittington and Joe a land worker. It becomes clear that during war time social status carries no bearing and money certainly can’t buy love or happiness. With war comes conflict and not just on the battle field. The characters have been carefully crafted and the story is packed with emotion, appealing to readers of all ages.

Catherine:  What are you currently working on?
Claire: I’m about a third of the way through my next novel “The Other Daddy.”  It’s about a little boy called Callum. His parents fail to understand his abnormal behaviour and after many medical tests, they seek help elsewhere and take him to see a parapsychologist. After spending time with Callum, Dr Andrew McGregor recognises certain landmarks in nearly all of Callum’s drawings that lead them to a little Scottish Orkney Island. In a startling turn of events an unsolved mystery prior to Callum being born is solved.  The story is very spiritual; it explores ideas about the paranormal, reincarnation and life itself. I’ve tried to express my views through characters we can relate to. It’s mysterious throughout and just as your think you know the answer of what’s wrong with Callum, there is yet another twist.
As well as writing “The Other Daddy” I’m co writing Whittington Manor as a screen play for television. Episode One will be sent out to production companies in the New Year.  Television is definitely the direction I want to follow and will be turning all of my books into screen plays over the next couple of years.

Catherine: This all sounds very interesting. You’re certainly going to be busy! Now, what advice would you give to anyone who wants to get their story published?
Claire: Be prepared for rejection. The publishing world can be unkind and unfair to new authors. In this economic climate they tend to stick to the authors they know they can make money from, but this doesn’t mean to say your work is not good enough. Always believe in yourself and never give up or let anyone bring you down. Take all criticism as positive and try to use it to better yourself.  I think it’s important to write daily and you will see your writing grow from strength to strength in the months and years to come.  Writing is not about money. As a new author you earn very little these days but it should be a way of life, a passion within you. Keep on writing until you reach your goal.

Catherine: Now a more light-hearted question. If you had your own TV chat show and could interview 3 people (living or dead), who would they be and what would you want to talk about?
Claire: There are so many people I admire and would love to interview on a chat show, although mainly in the film industry. Stephen Spielberg would definitely be on my list. He is such an incredibly talented person.  Julie Walters, a great actress and John Sullivan who sadly is no longer with us and who was truly a fantastic writer in the comedy world.  It would be lovely to chat with all 3 of them about their careers.

Catherine:  Thank you very much for joining us today. Where can we find out more about you and, crucially, where can we find your books? 
Claire: You can find more information about my work on my website www.clairevoet.co.uk
Whittington Manor is available through most high street book shops such as WHSmiths, Tescos, Waterstones also on line at Amazon and will soon be available on Kindle.
The Ghost of Bluebell Cottage is currently out on kindle and will be available through the normal channels in paper back on the 20th November 2011!
The Other Daddy is due to be released in March 2012.