Friday, 30 September 2011

Paradise 21 - An Interview with Aubrie Dionne

Today I am delighted to be joined by prolific author Aubrie Dionne who is here to talk about her new book, music – and why she’d invite Luke Skywalker onto her TV show…

Firstly, here’s a little information on Aubrie’s latest book Paradise 21:

"Aries has lived her entire life aboard mankind’s last hope, the New Dawn, a spaceship traveling toward a planet where humanity can begin anew—a planet that won’t be reached in Aries’ lifetime. As one of the last genetically desirable women in the universe, she must marry her designated genetic match and produce the next generation for this centuries-long voyage.
But Aries has other plans.
When her desperate escape from the New Dawn strands her on a desert planet, Aries discovers the rumors about pirates—humans who escaped Earth before its demise—are true. Handsome, genetically imperfect Striker possesses the freedom Aries envies, and the two connect on a level she never thought possible. But pursued by her match from above and hunted by the planet’s native inhabitants, Aries quickly learns her freedom will come at a hefty price.
The life of the man she loves."

Catherine: Congratulations on your new book, Paradise 21. This is Book One in a series called ‘A New Dawn’ and is a Sci-Fi Romance. Could you tell us a bit more about it and how the idea developed for this story and the series?

Aubrie:  Sure, great question! I’m a big worry wart, and I find myself worrying about what will happen to the human race after the planet becomes uninhabitable or when our sun burns out. Now, I know this is millions of years from now (or not by the way things are going), but I worry all the same.

I wondered if people could live their whole lives on ships, passing our history and DNA to generation after generation until we reached another planet capable of sustaining life. This is where the idea for the New Dawn series came from. There’d be a lot of colony ships, probably all going to different planets, so then I thought I’d write a book for each ship.

Catherine: Your writing is highly visual. If a film were to be made of Paradise 21. who would you cast as Aries and Striker?

Aubrie:  Aries: Evangeline Lilly (from LOST). Striker: Clive Owen. But I could never actually *talk* to him in real life. I’d blush and giggle all over the place.

Catherine:  Readers may not know that you are also a professional flute player, teacher and own your own music business. How do you balance all these elements of your life and which, would you say, presents the greatest challenge?

Aubrie:  I love careers so much that I wanted two of them! I don’t have any kids, so I have a lot of free time. I make sure I get up every day and work on both careers to keep up. At the end of the day I ask myself what I did to progress in each career.  

The hard part is when they come up against each other: One Saturday I had to cancel my flute lessons to go to a book signing. That’s always tough, and it’s hard to decide which one to follow.

Catherine:  As a highly prolific and successful author, who has crossed genres, what advice would you give aspiring new writers?

Aubrie:  Keep writing. Write a lot. Try different genres, styles, POV’s until you find your own voice. It took me four books to get an agent, and many, many nights of typing story after story on my computer. It’s not like you’re going to write one book and be famous. (Well, it is for some people, but not most.) You have to work at it, just like all the hours I practiced my flute. 

Catherine: Sounds like good advice to me.  In your opinion and experience, in order to be successful, how much responsibility for marketing rests with the author and how much with the publisher?

Aubrie:  I think they have to meet halfway. The publisher should be promoting on their end, but the author has to put herself or himself out there as well. I signed up for four book tours and three signings for Paradise 21 alone. I’m on Twitter and Blogger, connecting to readers every day.

Catherine:  Now a fun question. If you were hosting a TV chat show and could invite 3 guests (living or dead) to intervew, who would they be and what would you want to talk to them about?

Aubrie: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart- although I’d probably need a German translator! I’d play one of his flute concertos for him and see what he thinks.

Luke Skywalker- I’d ask him to teach me something about the force. Maybe even learn to use a light saber!

Data from Star Trek The Next Generation- I’d like to know where he ended up in his process to become more human. I had a bit of a crush on him growing up, so maybe I’d give him a hug, too. 

Catherine:  Finally, what’s next for Aubrie and where can we find you?

Aubrie:  I just finished edits on the sequel to Paradise 21, Tundra 37. This story is about a ship that crashes on a barren ice planet. I love it. It has woolly mammoths, cyber women, and lots and lots of laser fights.

I’m currently working on the third book in the series: Haven 6. This takes place mainly on a jungle planet.

Where can you find me?

Catherine: Thank you for taking the time to join me today. I’m looking forward to the new books!

Aubrie:  Thanks so much for having me, Cat!

To whet your appetite for this riveting story, here’s an excerpt from Paradise 21:

Aries sped through space in her escape pod as if she fled the event horizon of a dying star. The controls blinked warnings around her, but she ignored them, pressing the touchscreen to fire the engines to full capacity.

Let’s see how fast this antique can go.

Her sweaty palms slipped on the cold metal as she clutched the restraining bar across her seat. Freedom intoxicated her, coursing through her veins like she drank liquid fire.
She squeezed her eyes shut and screamed, releasing raging emotions held back from years of conforming and keeping her true thoughts silent. Many times Aries had thought her head would implode from the pressure, but instead she’d schemed, plotting the day of her departure down to the last water bottle. As the sound of her voice dissipated, she opened her eyes and peered at the stars as they blurred into streaks of shimmering light.

The time flashed on the screen in fluorescent green: 1638. Aries committed the numbers to memory. She’d have at least three hours before the ceremony and reception ended and her fellow Lifers began searching for her. Her shipmates would check her cell first, then activate the locator embedded in her arm. When they realized she’d jumped ship, they’d stop the engines and count the escape pods. By then, Aries would be a parsec away from the New Dawn.

Maybe they wouldn’t come. Giddiness bubbled in her throat with the thought of the ship coursing away without her, but she knew better. They’d turned the New Dawn around before, and knowing Lieutenant Barliss, he’d have it no other way. Not only was he a high-ranking officer, but she was his chosen mate, scheduled to be bound to him in ceremony next month. Her escape would prevent Barliss from passing on their combined genetic code. There was no doubt that a man who followed the Guide to the letter would come after the woman whose DNA he needed.

The orange bulk of Sahara 354 claimed the horizon on the main sight panel. Aries soaked in the sight of the small, forgotten planet, like the first time she’d seen pictures of old Earth. Although the conditions of life on Sahara 354 were reportedly bleak, to Aries it looked like a haven. Blue and red lights flashed on the panel in front of her, warning her of the change in trajectory as the pod entered the planet’s gravitational pull. Aries shut off the thrusters and allowed the vessel to sail into orbit. She glided in space, using the pod’s sensors to complete a full scan of the surface, searching for signs of resources or life. Although she had enough food and water for days, they’d only delay an inevitable death if she couldn’t find further sustenance.

Time ticked away, seconds she knew she couldn’t waste. The New Dawn traveled much faster than an escape pod, and she needed time to fake her own death and disappear. The vast wasteland stretching before her only had small pockets of water and plant life. If she didn’t choose her landing spot wisely, she’d be plummeting to a real demise.

The sight panel for the exterior cameras beeped, letting her know the pod now glided close enough to visualize the surface. Aries drew up the suggested location with the tip of her finger. The screen displayed a smear of sand cut with jagged protrusions of rock, but the life-form locator told her more. A conglomeration of several beings inhabited the area, and not mere insects or microscopic fungi: human-sized creatures. She dismissed the thought of Outlanders; the New Dawn had traveled too far, too fast, for any straggling humans to have made it to this planet ahead of her. Whatever form the creatures took, if they could survive down there, then so could she.

Aries triple-checked her readings before entering the coordinates. She wasn’t going to make the same mistake as the last escapee. She blocked a vision of Tria’s grotesquely dehydrated skin from her thoughts. Her friend had made a run for a different planet without testing it for compatibility. In Tria’s mad rush to get away, she’d landed on a barren rock with a vacuum atmosphere that had sucked her lungs dry in seconds. The New Dawn had gone all the way back to find a corpse.

With a nervous touch on the control panel, Aries retested the quality of the atmosphere, the pull of gravity, and the radiation levels. Scouts had explored the territory centuries before astrophysicists had fused together the first chrome plates of the New Dawn. Their historical readings had proven accurate for other planets, but Aries still verified the findings for herself. The 354th known desert planet ranked close enough to Earth. Not adequate to sustain a large population or major colonization effort, but adequate to keep a 120-pound woman alive.

Taking a deep breath, she punched in the coordinates. The panels went wild, compiling the information. The computer estimated a new trajectory, and she turned on the thrusters once again. The engines rumbled, pounding deep within her stomach.

The inside of the pod rattled. Lifers never used or maintained the flight pods, so she felt lucky the one she’d chosen worked at all. Would the metal skin on this pod hold together as she entered an alien atmosphere?  She could either take the risk, or circle this planet until the New Dawn came back to get her–the New Dawn with Lieutenant Barliss aboard. Holding her breath, Aries activated the final landing sequence. Even if the descent killed her, she’d rather perish on an alien planet than complete her ceremonial obligations.

The restraining bar of her chair shook violently, and she lost feeling in her arms. The air boiled in the small compartment, and her face burned. If she didn’t disintegrate, then her head would burst from the pressure. Tears flicked backward from her eyes while she held on, gritting her teeth. An alarm sounded, reminding her to release the parachute. She tried to move, but the force of gravity glued her hand to the armrest, stretching her skin taut. After counting to three, she took a breath and grunted as she yanked her arm up and pressed the touchscreen, hoping the chute would work.

A bright flash of light blinded her, and splotches exploded under her eyelids. The pod hit the ground, and her world went black.

Monday, 26 September 2011

Just Published! 'Say A Little Prayer'

 Today I am delighted to announce the publication of my lighthearted short story 'Say A Little Prayer':

Every night, Jane Furnival prays for the souls of the dead celebrities she most admires. Somewhere, in a parallel dimension, those she prays for must gather and it’s an odd assortment of stars – from Jim Morrison, John Lennon and Marilyn Monroe to Agatha Christie who’s still writing plotlines in her notebook. But can they help her resolve the biggest crisis in her life? Her formidable, long-dead Aunt Margaret decides if anyone can, Jim Morrison’s her man, so accompanied by Marilyn Monroe in a skin-tight gown, the two set off on a mission to find $5000 before breakfast.

Here's an excerpt:

Jim Morrison leaned back and stared out at the young woman as she knelt in prayer. It was early and she had only just begun, so the small room was quiet and still. Soon, if this was a typical night, others would join him. He sighed. God, some nights you could hardly breathe in here there were so many of them.

Suddenly the irony of his last thought struck him, and he laughed. Breathe; yeah man, that’s a good one. Haven’t drawn a decent breath since 1971!

Why did she do it anyway? I mean, it wasn’t as if she had ever met him. Sure, she loved his music, although she wasn’t even born when he had joined Jimi and Janis on the other side. Come to think of it, where were they hanging out these days? Jim shrugged. Maybe the girl would pray for them tonight. Hell, she pretty much went through the whole back catalog of music legends—not to mention Marilyn Monroe—and Jim was sure he had caught a fleeting glimpse of a rather bemused JFK the other night. Probably couldn’t understand why he was rubbing shoulders with a sexually frustrated Mama Cass. Jim shivered as he remembered his last encounter with her. Even in her current state she was a big force to be reckoned with and didn’t take rebuttal graciously.
He shifted position and heard sounds behind him.

“Evening Jim.” The familiar nasal
Liverpool twang of John Lennon greeted him. “Has she got to George yet?”

“Forgotten him tonight, I think.”

“He won’t be very chuffed.”

“She’s forgotten Janis again, too. Thank God. Can’t stand the woman.”

“Thought you and her had a bit of a thing going.”

“Too much like hard work. She throws things, and I tell you man, those bottles still hurt—even here.”

“Shouldn’t do. This is supposed to be heaven. It only hurts in the other place.”

“I’m telling you man, if Janis Joplin throws a bottle of Southern Comfort at your head, you’re gonna know about it.”

“You two boys arguing again? Honestly, what does a girl have to do to get a little bit of attention around here? Move up, sugar.”

Jim did as he was bid. He had never managed to get the hang of saying no to Marilyn Monroe and, anyway, what man in his right mind would want to?

“She looks so lonely out there,” the honeyed voice of his Chanel-scented neighbor washed over him. Behind him, John Lennon was chatting to some new arrivals. Two deceased Beach Boys, three-quarters of the Mamas and the Papas, Freddie Mercury and, for some unfathomable reason, Agatha Christie joined some bemused members of Jane Furnival’s family.

“She’s going through the lot tonight,” Jim sighed, letting his hand travel toward Marilyn Monroe’s silk-covered knee.

“Later, sugar, and not here,” she whispered as she gave his hand a squeeze and returned it to his own knee.

“She’s crying,” Jim said.

“Poor kid!” John said, with feeling.

“Isn’t there something we can do to help her?” An elderly woman with a determined air tapped Jim on the shoulder. He turned his head. “Young man, you seem to have a bit about you. Can’t you do something for her? After all, she prays for you every night.”

“Look—whoever you are . . .”

“I’m Jane’s Aunt Margaret.”

“Okay, Aunt Margaret, what can I do? What can any of us do? We’re all dead.” 
'Say A Little Prayer' is available now from the publishers, Gypsy Shadow Publishing

STOP PRESS: Now available from  Amazon on Kindle and from Smashwords, AllRomance/Omnilit, Book Strand, Books on Board

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Coming Soon - A Ghost Story to Make You Smile

First the Blurb:

Every night, Jane Furnival prays for the souls of the dead celebrities she most admires. Somewhere, in a parallel dimension, those she prays for must gather and it’s an odd assortment of stars – from Jim Morrison, John Lennon and Marilyn Monroe to Agatha Christie who’s still writing plotlines in her notebook. But can they help her resolve the biggest crisis in her life? Her formidable, long-dead Aunt Margaret decides if anyone can, Jim Morrison’s her man, so accompanied by Marilyn Monroe in a skin-tight gown, the two set off on a mission to find $5000 before breakfast.

 I am delighted to announce that 'Say A Little Prayer' will be published later this year by Gypsy Shadow Publishing.

This is a short story to put a smile on your face. A lighthearted romp featuring the ghosts of Jim Morrison and Marilyn Monroe at their most gorgeous, supported by a cast including John Lennon and Agatha Christie. Nothing heavy about this one, just a story to curl up with and take your mind off the cares of a busy day.

Actual publishing date to be advised. Watch this space! 

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Lilith - The Demon Diva

As any writer of paranormal/horror stories knows, nothing beats a good demon. And there are plenty to choose from, drawn from every religious tradition known to mankind. Of course, picking your demon carries with it a responsibility of a similar nature to that held by a writer of historical fiction. While you can bend history, distort it and use a modicum of poetic licence, no historical fiction writer worthy of the name would create a Vlad the Impaler who was a sweet, socially reforming angel, kind to small furry animals.

So it is with demons. Readers of the genre don’t want them to be the sort of beings they could take for tea at Claridge’s or even down to their local pub for a pint of Guinness.

Worse than that though, would be to commit the grievous sin of taking a famous demon and having them behave contrary to widely held myth. Take Harpies, for example. There are three of them – no more, no less. Introduce a fourth one and you are entering the Zone of Disbelief. We even know their names (Aello, Celaeno and Ocypete) As far as their characteristics are concerned, you have a couple of options. At one time, they were described as beautiful, winged maidens. Later they became winged monsters with the faces of ugly old women and equipped with crooked, sharp talons. They carried people off to the underworld and tormented them. Those persons were never seen again. You can write a great story featuring Harpies but change any of the known details at your peril.
 If you want to play safe, you can always create your own demon because the rules are then pretty much what you make them. I have done this and I know many others have too.

And then there’s Lilith.
Lilith features in practically every ancient tradition from the Hebrew, to the Babylonian, Sumerian, Assyrian and ancient Greek. Her name is thought to mean ‘female demon’ or ‘wind spirit’ or more particularly, ‘female night demon’ and she is probably best known for her role as Adam’s first wife. Unlike Eve, it is said,  she was created out of the dirt, as Adam was, and was intended to be his equal. She refused to lie with him because she would not take the expected recumbent position. Yes, move over Jennifer Lopez, if you want a real diva, Lilith’s your woman.

And, if you want plenty of variety in your demon’s story, she is also well worth  a  closer look.
 In some traditions, far from being created after Adam, she is portrayed as having been created before him, or at the same time, or indeed to have been created within Adam. Another states that she was attached to his side and when God separated them, she flew off to the Cities of the Sea and began to attack humankind. She is also said to have been the first of the four wives of the demonic archangel Samael. There are any number of permutations and that is just a small selection.
A commonly held tradition is that she and the serpent in the Garden of Eden were firmly linked (maybe even one and the same) and pictures of Lilith often show her entwined with a snake. As a result, she is said to have tempted Adam into evil by whispering words of encouragement to Eve about the beneficial effects of a certain apple.  When Adam separated from Eve for 130 years, Lilith lay with him each night.  

She was said to visit men sleeping on their own at night and have her wicked way with them. She was also said to steal and kill babies. Another tradition has it that she gave birth to thousands of her own little demons. Yet another, that she was the handmaiden to the Goddess Ishtar. The Kabbalah says that she could transform herself into a beautiful blue butterfly. She was even purported in some traditions to have vampiric tendencies. And, by others, to be able to enter women’s bodies through mirrors.

King Solomon even suspected the Queen of Sheba to be Lilith – because she had hairy legs!

So there you have it, a versatile demon diva who can enchant, possess, tempt, corrupt, steal, kill and possess. Just pick your tradition – or even mix them up a bit – and away you go.

Just don’t make her subservient to any male – demon or otherwise. That is likely to make her angry.

And all the traditions agree about one thing. An angry Lilith is never a good thing…

Friday, 9 September 2011

Hundertwasserhaus, Vienna

Who Lives in An Apartment House Like This?

Around 200 council tenants – that’s who!

When you visit Vienna, the dilemma is always not what to see, but what you can afford to miss in the limited time at your disposal. But if you are an art lover, a writer, or possess imagination or creativity, you can’t miss this incredible building.

Hundertwasserhaus started off its life in 1977 as an invitation from the then Mayor of Vienna to its most prominent living artist – Friedensreich Hundertwasser – to design and build a council-owned apartment house.
The artist himself is a fascinating subject. Born Friedensreich Stowasser in Vienna in 1928 (he changed his name in 1949), he made his name as an artist,creating vivid spirals and animated paintings influenced by Klimt, Schiele and Klee. Influenced he may have been, but his style – and his ideas were radical and they were his own.
He loved the irregular patterns and shapes of nature and found straight lines abhorrent. This led to arguments with the state appointed architect whose original designs were for a building built on a regular grid-like pattern. The project stalled for some time until eventually a way forward was found and this amazing, irregular, forested building was erected in one year. As you stare up at it, you are looking at 52 apartments and 4 offices, but you are also looking at around 250 trees and bushes. Can we call Hundertwasser the first modern ecologist? Probably not, but he was certainly one of them!

Shops at Hundertwasserhaus
As a visitor, you are struck by the unevenness of everything, both inside and outside the building and its little array of souvenir shops. The walkway undulates, every window is different, the colours demand your attention. You may love or hate Hundertwasserhaus but you will never ignore it. Or forget it.

 Getting there: It is within walking distance from the Wien Mitte train station and Landstraße Underground station which is served by lines U3 and U4 and is located in Vienna's Landstraße district at the corner of Kegelgasse and Löwengasse.

While you are there, visit the Kunst Haus Wien – the museum dedicated to Hundertwasser where you will see many of his amazing spirals and designs for ecologically friendly living. It is situated just a short walk away. There is also a lovely café where, in autumn, you can get the most delicious cream of pumpkin soup. You’ll find Kunst Haus Wien at Weißgerberlände 14, and you won’t miss it. By now, Hundertwasser’s distinctive style will tell you that you’re in the right place.