Vampirism as plot can be a tough sell, when the market is awash in tales of bloodsuckers and their effect on humanity. But, occasionally, I’m lucky enough to find a fresh take on a beloved horror staple.
Awakening of The Spirit is a new three-part, mystery/suspense series about the supernatural criminal world in Washington, D.C.
In Book One titled Blood of My Blood, award-winning writer Montiese McKenzie creates a criminal underworld with supernatural creatures, ancient and powerful. But the government has its own plans to grasp this power for itself.
Agent Alexander Rubidoux has been working kidnappings for years, but he’s never come across anything like the disappearance of wealthy financier, Paul Kirsch. He’s also never been stirred by woman like he is by Kirsch’s wife Kathryn Spencer, an Afro-Russian who requests his help to locate her husband.
During his investigation, D.C. goes from a town he’s known forever to a hotbed of paranormal creatures and abilities he’s never seen before. And he’s out of his depth. Blood of My Blood brings readers into a battle between darkness and light with a unique focus on actual historical events like The Bolshevik Revolution, the Holocaust, as well as race relations in America incorporated in a modern-day setting.
Kathryn is a multi-layered character. Exactly what we want to see, especially from a Black female protagonist, where in dark fiction the range of our emotions and responses is rarely explored. She is a vampire, a mother, a reluctant — yet loyal — wife, not always in that order. Her feelings about her vampirism, her Russian heritage, and her abusive relationship all shift with the events of the story.
And Rubidoux finds himself willing to do anything for her.
A fast-paced, well-researched read. Themes of Christianity, spirituality, and eternal life alongside race relations, and violence.
Montiese McKenzie is a lifelong Philadelphia girl, writer, who somehow stumbled into accounting. As a kid if she wasn’t writing stories exploring the human condition, she was stealing her mother’s matches to light things on fire. With a B.A. in both History and Sociology from Bloomsburg University, Montiese combined her love of the human condition, time periods, and writing to survive five years in the boondocks. A cat mom, a sock collector, and lover of MerchantIvory films with too much dialogue, Montiese is about to enter her fourth decade riding high on naps and snickerdoodle cookies.
Originally from Ohio, Paula D. Ashe resides in Indiana with her wife and is a professor of English at a community college while working on the dissertation for her Ph.D. She’s described herself as a writer of dark fiction, a black lesbian feminist, horror nerd, comic book geek, pet mom, and general shit-starter.
Authors who’ve influenced Ashe’s raw and beautiful work include Clive Barker, Elizabeth Massie, and Toni Morrison. Her award winning dark fiction has been published in several anthologies and been recommended for nomination for the Bram Stoker award. She has also had the distinction of making honorable mention on Ellen Datlow’s Year’s Best Horror list–twice. She also had stories appearing in Serial Killers: Iterum and Hell. Her stories have also appeared in the heavy metal horror collection, Axes of Evil II (2015)and the third installment of the Horror World Press series, Eulogies III (2015).
She is also one of seven contributing writers to the 7 Magpies project, the first horror film anthology written and directed by African-American women.
Ashe has said her favorite of her stories is The Mother of All Monsters, because so far, it’s the only story her own mother has really enjoyed. In Mother, an Indiana community is torn apart by the abduction and murder of three little girls. One mother is faced with the undeniable truth about her son and must choose between protecting her beloved child or punishing the monster he may have become.
For more about Paula, check out her website, and follow her on Twitter.
Now that I live in the UK, you might think I don’t celebrate Thanksgiving.
You’re right, I don’t. Well, not really. This year, I’ll be introducing my UK family to a few treats from the American South via a lovely lunch on Sunday that will also have some traditional British fare.
Today, however, I hope to be finishing up with NaNoWriMo. So I won’t be around too much until I’ve got that badge in my hand. Er…on my desktop.
In one of my recent forays onto Twitter, I came across the profile of one Auden Johnson.
I stopped because I rarely come across black female dark fantasy writers–even fewer that write sword and sorcery–and I love to talk with other female writers of dark fiction to get a feel for their experiences writing in the genre. I’m also excited that she has a dark fiction world-building guide planned. So I reached out.
Auden was gracious in responding and agreed to be a featured author on my blog. A little about her in her own words:
I am a Dark Fantasy writer. I can’t help but be one and believe me, I’ve tried. It seems no matter how far you run, your passion always catches up with you. I didn’t make the choice to be a writer, the stories made it for me. Dark Fantasy allows me to combine my two great loves–horror and fantasy.
Darkness and dark things have always fascinated me. I’ve tried to write light or “normal” stories but you can’t make the stories into something they don’t want to be. Subtle creepy is beautiful. Without meaning to, all my stories deal with darkness in some way.
Words are an escape. They somehow lift the weight of the world off my shoulders. I talk about them as though they’re alive. Well, a writer’s job is to make words come alive for you. I’ve been writing for ages and I’m still surprised by the things my mind creates. My mind has always been this vast other world, bottomless, where nothing is impossible. I love it!
Auden has published three short stories: No Vacancy, Clipped Wings,and Welcome to My World and three novellas: Visible Through Darkness, Shadows under the Light, and Devdan Manor. Her first two novels in The Merging Worlds series, The Sciell and Chains of the Sciell are now available. Her latest release is a dark fantasy/sword and sorcery novella titled, The Marked Hosts.
She should’ve left the boy to die.
Contessa Torain’s job was simple: Talk humans out of blowing up her homeworld, Devortus, because of a few rogue Brevia soul eaters. A moment of pure insanity leads her to save a child, Asamee Banks, and the brat follows her home. He smells like her kind, but different. His existence creates a mystery she must solve.
The brat is an aggravation when all she wants is a quiet life.
But more Brevia invade the human world, feeding off the residents. Contessa, and her team–along with the bratty Asamee–escape back to Devortus, but find it empty.
The Sencil, dragon-like guardians of Devortus, are dying and they now care only about getting another body as host to survive. Contessa’s only goal is to find her family. But which one of her team is marked?
If you’d like to pick up a copy of Auden’s latest release, The Marked Hosts, you can find it on Amazon here.
Auden’s bio: Lover of dark worlds. Nerdy & proud. Anime fan. Nature photographer. Sometimes silly, everyday dreamer, forever lovely. Just trying to be me–writer to the core. Find out more about Auden on her blog, on Twitter, or on G+.
I’ll admit it. I’m not a huge zombie fan when it comes to horror books. I’ve read a precious few and no standouts come to mind. Although I’m tempted to give Armand Rosamilla’s Winter of Zombie a try later this year.
Not that they aren’t a good monster; they are—ravenous, relentless, single-minded in their drive to devour you. But I tend to feel they work better on screen. In addition, I’ve noticed some publishers stating outright in their calls for submissions: No Zombies.
I understand. There is a plethora of zombie books out there and I imagine slush readers have to wade through a ton of not-so-creative stories to find any glimmer of new penny brightness.
The Misadventures of Bob the Zombie was that newness for me. While the series of novellas by Jaime Johnesee isn’t marketed as Young Adult, she crafts the character of Bob with plenty of innocence and wide-eyed discovery of the world around him, and I think this series would appeal to a young readership as Bob reacts in a way I associate with younger characters. Bob’s voice is almost light-hearted when her tells his tale of how he attained zombie status, and he doesn’t have the anger and angst you might be expecting in such a character. He also has charming qualities you might not normally see in a twenty-five year old ghoul: he embarrasses easily—especially when his body parts fall off—and he’s a staunch and loyal friend.
Johnesee’s collection includes five separate stories: Bob the Zombie, Bob the Spy, Bob the Valentine, Bob the Hero, and Bob the Mentor. Bob’s adventures are fun and funny, with intermittent moments of sympathy and the occasional groan of “Are you kidding me?” tossed in.
This series is not your typical mindless, human devouring zombie series. He wants to improve his community, keep his Mom happy, and just generally stay in one piece (which he does with the help of a stapler).
I enjoy books where the hero has good intentions, is a tad awkward, but manages to get everything sorted out by the end. How can you not like a guy, er…zombie, like that?
Jaime Johnesee is a wife, mother, zoologist, and author, who spent nearly fourteen years as a zookeeper before a debilitating illness caused her to lose that dream. Being the stubborn sort, she decided to rise from the ashes and pursue her other dream of writing full time. She’s living proof that dreams do come true if you work hard and set your mind to it — So, don’t give up.
I am pleased to have urban fantasy and horror author Amy Braun as a guest poster on the blog today. Amy was kind enough to share what she’s learned as a new author this year. Read on for some great info, even if you’ve been in the writing game for a while.
The Things a Writer Can Learn in Six Months
by Amy Braun
When 2015 started, I decided to take the leap: I would publish a full length novel by myself. I was proud of my standalone novella, Needfire, which served as a way for me to test the waters of the independent world. But of course, the next step was harder.
I didn’t go to school for writing. I don’t have any mind of independent business. Marketing and press boggle my mind. I thought I was going to gain readers and a following by continuing my method of trying my hand at short story submissions. I’ve had some great successes that way– my stories being favored by readers and even winning an Editors award for my macabre short story “Dark Intentions And Blood” in the AMOK! Anthology– but it wasn’t enough. My muse got a little greedy, and I wanted more.
Path of the Horseman became more than a standalone novel to me when I wrote it in 2014’s NaNoWriMo. I knew the moment I finished it that I wanted to share it with as many readers as I could. I took a risk with an emerging cover artist, worked with an editor I trusted, and chose to release it with a major distribution/publishing company that has helped thousands of independent authors get their work out to the world.
Needless, to say, when the release date came, I was both excited and nervous as Hell. I was given a guide about how to go about promoting my book. I learned that nothing was free, patience is an agonizing virtue, and you still have to hunt for acknowledgement.
Despite all that, I gained more positive feedback than I could have imagined, and not just from my family. People I’ll probably never meet praised my book and left reviews that humbled and honored me. I know that you can’t please everyone, and sooner or later I’ll get a negative review that will leave me doubting, but to know the risk would be rewarded brought me a joy that’s hard to describe.
So I took another risk, and released a novel that’s beyond precious to me. Demon’s Daughter, the first in my Cursed series, has been with me for years. Like Path of the Horseman, I know I’ve done something special with it and have received great feedback on it. But this series is my proverbial baby. I’m watching two of my most beloved characters– Constance and Dro– take their first steps into the literary world. I don’t know how they’ll do, and it’s a little worrying to hear what readers will think about a story I’ve poured my soul into.
That being said, I wanted to give Demon’s Daughter the release it deserved. That meant paying extra to work with a fabulous cover design company and go through the trials of printing and proofing physical copies, and learning the joys of proper book formatting. Oh, did I say joys? I meant agonies. I’m not kidding when I say the hardest part of printing paper books for me was getting the damn formatting to line up. I ordered at least two copies of each book, none of which were free. And don’t even get me started on headers and footers. So I learned the hard way to look at each book with excruciating detail before approving said proof. And if you’re going to print with Createspace, have a CMYK version of your cover available so your book cover isn’t filled with sharp, angry colors fighting to share space on the paper.
Most recently, I learned the value of media kits and submitting queries for reviews. I’m still waiting on some of them, but looking back I should have sent out requests for reviews before I started publishing. That being said, I have a couple reviewers lined up who are generally excited about reading my work and have a significant following that will hopefully trickle over to me. I didn’t choose this career for the money, but it’s not easy working for free.
These are lessons I wish I had known earlier, but I’m new to the writing world. I’m learning from my mistakes, and I know I will be better for it when my next release– the sequel to Demon’s Daughter– comes out in December. Like I said, I don’t do this for the money. While my dream is to walk into my favorite bookstore and see my book on the shelves (or even better, see someone reading that book and surprising the hell out of them by explaining that I wrote it), I would be perfectly happy writing independently for the rest of my life.
The year is barely half over, and I know more lessons, good and bad, are on the way. But the most important thing I’ve learned so far is to keep going. I’ve had days where I’ve been frustrated, days where I’ve been lazy, and days where I couldn’t find motivation to write at all (AKA the worst days ever). But when I have those days, I look up at my desk and see the two printed books resting against the wall. I think about the entire process it took to create them, and how endlessly satisfying it is to see them there, knowing I can do it again. Writing a book is a long, sometimes torturous process. But the end result, no matter how you look at it?
Amy Braun is the author of the urban fantasy novels, Path of the Horseman and Demon’s Daughter. She’s been published in anthologies by publishers such as April Moon Books, Ragnarok Publishing, Mocha Memoirs Press, and Breaking Fate Publishing. To find out more about Amy, go to her blog literarybraun. Or you can find her elsewhere online at:
Do you love the horror genre? Are normal people concerned about your love of the macabre?
Worry no more. The Horror Addicts Guide to Life is now available, chock full of horror news, reading, and scary fun. This book features articles, artwork , interviews with Midnight Syndicate, Valentine Wolfe, and The Gothic Tea Society.
Oh, and an article written by me about what it’s like to be a horror editor. *Tremble*