Thursday, October 31, 2013

I'm blogging at The Popculturedivas

Friday, October 25, 2013

5 on Friday -- Set 194

Travis at Trav's Thoughts invites everyone to lay down a short set of music that takes their fancies for his 5 on Friday meme.

I've just wrapped up my second annual Spooky Stories Author Series here at A Piece of My Mind. In case you're just finding out about them now, here are the links to this year's interviews with authors who write stories that tend toward the spooky side of things:

Thanks to all the writers who shared their shivery tales and favorite scary movies, and who answered my favorite question from this series of interviews: Why do you think people like to be scared?

As we head ever closer to the spookiest night of all, let's enjoy some tunes that have eerie themes or which have videos with a decidedly Halloween feel to them.

1 - Wide Awake - Katy Perry 

2 - What You Waiting For? - Gwen Stefani

3 - Li'l Red Riding Hood -- Sam the Sham & The Pharaohs

4 - I Put a Spell on You - Screamin' Jay Hawkins

5 - Burning Down the House Talking Heads

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Thursday Thirteen -- 295 -- 13 Questions for Norah Wilson, Co-author of Enter the Night

It's my great pleasure to welcome fellow Maritimer Norah Wilson to A Piece of My Mind.

Norah's visit wraps up this year's Spooky Stories Author Series. Be sure to check back next October when I ask a whole new crew of writers about what sends chills down their spines...

1 – Norah, your Casters series is a writing team effort with Heather Doherty. How did your partnership start?

Heather told me a number of times about this idea she had for a young adult novel. I’m a little slow on the uptake, but finally, I said, “Hey, we should write it together!” That project was The Summoning, the first book in our Gatekeepers series, for which we’ve plotted seven books. We never did get to write them, since at the time we were submitting to New York publishing houses, and you always have to be moving on to the next idea until something sells.

But when we wrote the first book in the Casters world, we knew we had to stick with it until we got all four books out. We haven’t looked back since. In addition to other YA paranormal, we’ve gone on to jointly write a launch book for Kindle Worlds (in the Pretty Little Liars universe), and some seriously funny cozy mystery.

2 – Tell us about your latest release, Enter the Night.

In Comes the Night, our girls (Alex, Brooke and Maryanne) learned to escape their troubles—and their actual bodies—by casting a dark piece of themselves out into the night.

We explore that further in Enter the Night, which is essentially Maryanne’s book. (Comes the Night was Alex’s book, and Embrace the Night will be Brooke’s. The final book, Forever the Night, will provide resolution for all of them.) Maryanne, who is by far the most wholesome of the three, nevertheless has a very dark secret, one that is tearing her apart. So when she takes up with Bryce Walker, son of the famed (or infamous) “Heller” hunter Ira Walker, we’re left to sort out how deeply rooted that attraction is in self-destruction. And if it’s self-destruction she wants, she just might get it.

3 – When writing spooky material, do you ever scare yourself?

When Heather (who is crazy intuitive) first got a ‘flash vision’ of the Casters, she started flipping emails to me as the ideas rushed in. Days later, as we were fleshing out the story in a quiet cottage at a nearby lake, we did succeed in scaring ourselves. A lot!

LOL! Awesome.

It was isolated and dark out there on the lake’s edge, and by the time we went to bed, I was afraid to look out the window in case I saw a Caster!

But normally, I don’t usually scare myself while I’m writing this stuff. Unless I’m home alone at night and there’s a branch knocking against the window and my dog starts growling low in her throat… In which case, I’d probably be scared no matter what I was writing!

4 – Did you watch spooky TV shows or films when you were young?

Oh, definitely!

What were your favorites from those?

Remember The Twilight Zone? Night Gallery? And of course, old Vincent Price movies. Gosh, I’m a bigger horror fan than I knew!

5 – As a reader or as a viewer, do you prefer spooky/scary, or do you delve further into horror?

I think I like spooky/scary better than flat-out horror. You won’t catch me at the movie theatre, or even in front of the TV, for Friday the 13th or Saw or the classic horror gore-fests. I don’t mind some violence, but I don’t want to be completely traumatized.

I'm more for spooky myself, although I totally get into the sword swinging of Vikings and Spartacus. That can get pretty gory.

6 – If you had to name your top three supernatural creatures, what would they be?

I do love my vampires.

I’m kind of picky about my shifters, but I do love dragons!

And demons. I do love a demon done well. Or a Djinn!

7 – Have you explored these character types in your fiction so far?

I’ve written vampires for the adult paranormal romance market, and Heather and I have written demons in the Gatekeepers story (The Summoning).Given time, we’ll probably get around to some more. Or we’ll just create a new one, like our Casters or our Fleshers (yes, they are just as scary/creepy as they sound!).

8 – Are there some earthbound, everyday aspects of life that you find scary?

Honestly, the scariest thing I know of is human greed and corporate pillaging. The wars that have been started over it, the people who’ve died for it, our ecosystem poisoned over it, species killed, our own health eroded. Way scarier than a zombie apocalypse.

9 – Where is the spookiest place you’ve ever been?

A taxicab in Boston.

What made it so scary?

No seatbelts, and a maniac for a driver.

LOL. But seriously? I think any place is spooky in the dark. My imagination just goes crazy. I once watched the movie Alien late at night by myself. That short trip from the living room down the hall to my bedroom was the perhaps the scariest one of my life.

10 -- Why do you think people like to be scared?

I think it’s largely the younger crowd who enjoys being scared. The older we get, the more saturated we become with all the “real life” scary stuff we’re bombarded with in the news. But I think lots of younger adults seek out those scary thrills because they don’t have occasion to experience them in their normal lives. It’s a safe way to live through a really intense, cathartic experience.

11 – You began your publishing adventures as a romantic suspense author. How hard is it to switch gears between genres?

I still write romantic suspense, and yes, it’s a big shift in mindset when I switch over from one to the other. I don’t find it particularly difficult, once I get going. You just fall into the right “voice”. But it can be a little tricky when I come to a romantic interlude. We write toward the upper end of the YA market, so the stories might not be squeaky “clean” (I hate that word, because it suggests anything sexual is dirty), but neither are they remotely like an adult romance. I just have to be extra careful to make sure the voice and the emotions stay true to our teenagers.

12 – Do you use your suspense skills when you switch over to paranormal stories, or is that sense of suspense just a part of your writing voice?

I think suspense is just part of my writing voice. I’ve often said that my adult paranormals are just romantic suspense with vampires. I write them exactly the same way!

But truthfully, I have to give Heather all the credit for injecting the suspense into our YA stories. She has such an innate sense of story structure that I rarely feel the need to interfere with her plotting magic. At first, when there’d be a dramatic development or complication or something happened to drastically increase the stakes, I’d be a little, “Okay, are we over-promising here? How are we going to get our characters out of this corner we’re painting them into?” But she’d be all, “No, really, it’ll work.” And it always does, because she is the plotting queen.

13 – This has been so much fun, Norah -- thanks for dropping by. Could you tell us a bit about this excerpt from Enter the Night?

Happy to oblige! This one takes place when the girls come back to Harvell House after the Christmas break.

On their first cast out, they revisit some old haunts and find themselves out at the Walker farm. Bryce Walker is working in a lighted shed beside the barn, and Maryanne wants a closer look. The other girls try to talk her out of it, without success.

“It’s too dangerous!” Alex protested, but Maryanne ignored her. A quick look wouldn’t hurt anything.

Reaching the window, she hovered in front of it, peering in. Bryce Walker stood with his back to her, his tall frame stooping over an old fashioned workbench. With two portable hanging lights shining down on his work area, the room was well lit. As long as it was brighter on the inside than the outside, he wouldn’t be able to see her. Well, see them. Alex and Brooke had joined her now and stared in, too.

She looked around the room. It was like stepping back in time. A small, pot-bellied stove squatted in the corner, a full wood box beside it. The unfinished walls were lined with old license plates, discolored calendar pages, and rusted saws, some of them the largest Maryanne had ever seen, obviously used in the forest industry before chainsaws took over. High on the wall just above Bryce’s head, on a slightly off-kilter, plain board shelf, sat some small sculptures. They were not especially well done, but the subjects were recognizable. A brown owl, a green-shelled turtle, a leaning, peg-legged pirate with a parrot on his shoulder. Then there was the last thing resting on that crooked shelf. Or rather hanging from it.

A dark caster, about seven inches tall with a long neck and outstretched arms and legs. Around its neck was a length of rope from which it dangled. As if alive, the caster—the Heller, as Ira Walker would have called it—seemed to sway and twist on the rope ever so slightly now and again, whenever Bryce nudged against the workbench, sending vibrations up the wall.

“Oh, God! You’ve got the hots for Bryce Walker!” Brooke accused.

“What’s this?” The frown was clear in Alex’s voice. “No way!”

“Haven’t we all had enough trouble from the Walkers?” Brooke’s voice rose again. “All those damn Walkers!”

Maryanne didn’t miss that—we all. They all. Legends and hunters. They all had legacies.

Nor did she answer. She kept staring in through the window, her eyes riveted on Bryce.

“What’s he doing?” Alex asked, her curiosity apparently trumping her anxiety, at least for the moment.

“I don’t know.” Maryanne said. “Something…something for shop class maybe?”

“Right, Maryanne,” Brooke said. “Bryce Walker is in there finishing up that smokin’ bird house he’s been working on over the Christmas holiday! Give me a break! He’s just—”

“Standing too still.” Maryanne’s words were a whisper, even to the casters’ ears. They all watched, silently now, as Bryce stood there, stone still and tense. He didn’t even seem to be breathing. Then he did move, and suddenly. His right hand shot sideways to an electrical outlet just above the table, below the shelf. With one quick snap of the electrical cord, the shed was in darkness, and then the casters were not.

As Maryanne processed what was happening, Bryce flew to the door and snapped on the yard light. The three of them were suddenly bathed in brilliant white light.

“Go, go, go!” Alex shouted.

            They tore away from the window, just as the door flew open.

© Norah Wilson and Heather Doherty, 2013

Friday, October 18, 2013

5 on Friday -- Set 193

Travis at Trav's Thoughts invites everyone to lay down a short set of music that takes their fancies for his 5 on Friday meme.

Oh joy! Oh bliss!

It's writer retreat time again. At this very moment I'm happily settled amongst the early arrivals at the cottage which my writers' group has rented once a year for nearly a decade now. Up soon: lots of conversation, laughter, walks in the gorgeous autumn woods and by the Atlantic ocean, good food, good wine, writer-ish activities like our yearly brainstorming sessions, and timed-writing sessions where we each work on our individual works-in-progress for a set time (often an hour.)

Until then, enjoy these songs which have all became part of the spooky soundtrack landscape after their appearances in these films and television shows:

1 - Carry On My Wayward Son - Kansas - from Supernatural  

2 - Bad Moon Rising - Creedence Clearwater Revival - from An American Werewolf in London

3 - Don't Fear the Reaper Blue Oyster Cult - from Stephen King's The Stand

4 - Mad World - Gary Jules and Michael Andrews - from Donnie Darko

5 - Twin Peaks theme - composed by Angelo Badalamenti - from Twin Peaks

This piece is a straightforward soundtrack theme written specifically for the series, but it's one of my favorite themes, and one of my favorite shows. The main villain Bob goes down in my personal history as SCARY as heck.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

I'm blogging at The Popculturedivas today

Friday, October 11, 2013

5 on Friday -- Set 192

Travis at Trav's Thoughts invites everyone to lay down a short set of music that takes their fancies for his 5 on Friday meme.

The month marches onwards towards spookier celebrations -- but before we get there, this weekend in Canada it's Thanksgiving.

I'm taking part in a 99 cent e-book sale -- check out the titles written by ten Atlantic Canadian Indie Authors:

And now -- time to celebrate October birthday girls!

1 - I Could Have Danced All Night - Julie Andrews  

2 - Over at the Frankenstein Place - birthday girl Susan Sarandon with Barry Bostwick and Richard O'Brien

3 - Firework Katy Perry

4 - Bathwater - Gwen Stefani and No Doubt

5 - Real Love Mavis Swan Poole

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Thursday Thirteen -- 293 -- 13 Questions for Sherri Browning Erwin, Author of Jane Slayre and Grave Expectations

It's a great pleasure to have multi-genre author Sherri Browning Erwin here at A Piece of My Mind for the second in this year's Spooky Stories Author series, running all month on Thursdays.

Every place is Down Home once you get to Canada's east coast -- so come right in, Sherri. It's really cooling off out there, all of a sudden.

Just kick aside those little mounds of leaves collecting on the front steps. Today's a perfect day to chat about your two horror mash-ups, Jane Slayre and Grave Expectations.

1 – How did you first get involved with the classic horror mash-up series?

The idea for Jane Slayre came about when I was joking around with friends.

I shared a blog, the Whine Sisters, with Kathleen Givens and Julia London (and many other authors, but it was just Kathleen and Julia with me at that point), and I wrote a blog that was a book blurb spoofing the Pride and Prejudice and Zombies book based on Jane Eyre, called Jane Slayre.

Kathleen called me and said, “Get that off the blog! Someone will steal your idea. You need to write that book!” At first, I thought, no way, it was only a joke. But then I realized that I could really do it and it might actually sell.

I took her advice and it all worked out. I meant it to be a one time thing, but my publisher asked me to do a second, Grave Expectations, based on the popularity of Jane Slayre.

2 – Has your collaboration with Charlotte Bronte and Charles Dickens influenced your own writing style?

I’m a more careful writer now. I take more time to self-edit.

I’m not sure I learned to become a better writer from working on the mash-ups, but I did learn to be a better editor, which makes a better writer in the end.

What do you think they would have learned from you?

From me, they might have learned to edit more as well, to write tighter. Modern readers prefer a faster-paced story and don’t often take time to stop and admire a well-constructed sentence.

3 – Some writers might have become blocked when asked to merge their own writing with that of two authors who have scholars and university courses devoted to their works. Did that rear its head at all for you?

The process was often daunting. I would worry about changing key elements and adding in my own. How dare I suggest changes to such esteemed works?

Did you embrace this chance to take these two stories down whole new pathways?

I would remind myself that it was all in fun, and that the originals would stand beloved for many hundreds of years to come. Now it’s very exciting when high school teachers and college professors contact me on occasion to tell me that they are teaching my versions with the originals in courses dealing with adaptation or parody.

4 – Clothing designer Lizzie Norris chose your Jane Slayer world as a springboard for her graduation project. How did that come about?

I found out about Lizzie by accident, when I was looking up Jane Slayre on Twitter to see if anyone was still buzzing about the book. Lizzie apparently read Jane Slayre and felt inspired to take on the project of creating costumes for the characters.

How did it feel to see her interpretation of your characters?

When I found her blog and saw her work, I was blown away. She did such an incredible job of bringing the characters to life. It was quite a thrill and an honor to see her costumes and realize that I’d provided inspiration to a clearly very talented designer.

5 – You have short stories in the Mammoth Book of Vampire Romance and in the Mammoth Book of Paranormal Romance. How did your involvement in these anthologies come about?

The editor of the anthologies, Trish Telep, read my paranormal romance To Hell with Love and felt I would be a good addition to her Vampire Romance anthology. She wrote and asked if I could do a vampire story for her. And then she asked me for a story for one of her follow up anthologies, paranormal romance. I was pleased to be included, and it was a great chance to stretch my imagination and write something different for me at the time (vampires).

Do you naturally gravitate towards shorter fiction? (My husband is a big fan of horror and fantasy anthologies.)

Writing short fiction is quite a challenge for me, actually. The pacing is completely different and it takes some adjustment from my normal instincts to write full length novels.
6 – You’ve written in the historical romance / historical paranormal / contemporary paranormal genres. Is it difficult to switch hats?

I have so many ideas in all different areas of fiction. It’s difficult for me to pick one genre and stick with it.

I read all kinds of things, and then I’m inspired to write something new and different from what I’ve done previously. Picking one genre and sticking with it is much more challenging for me.

7 – When writing spooky material, do you ever give yourself shivers?

I have made myself laugh, cry, cheer, jeer, and have scared the jeepers out of myself. I always think it’s a good sign. If I have a reaction when I write, it seems more likely that my readers might feel it when they read. At least, I hope so.

8 – As a reader or a TV and film viewer, do you prefer spooky/scary, or do you delve further into horror? How far do you go as a writer?

I love psychological thrillers best of all. The idea that the scariest things might be in our own heads, or someone playing with our minds, that scares me more than a physical threat, for some reason.  I’m not sure I’m quite skilled enough to write a really good psychological thriller, though.

9 – If you could visit three hair-raising destinations, where would you go? Or perhaps you’ve already sampled a few…?

I would love to tour some old haunted castles.

I’ve done ghost tours in Salem and New Orleans.

I’ve visited dorms that were supposedly haunted on Mount Holyoke’s campus back when I was in school. Currently my daughter lives in a dorm that is supposedly haunted by a man-hating ghost, and I’ve warned her boyfriend and my son, who attends the same school, but no sign of ghosts yet.

10 – If you had to name your top three supernatural creatures, what would they be?

Ghosts, witches, vampires.

As far as ghosts, what would keep a soul here? What’s the backstory? So many possibilities.

Witches are also intriguing. The idea of casting a spell appeals, but the potential of any harm coming back to me turns me off of trying any spells.

With vampires, immortality might be a gift, but is it worth preying on others? All three inspire my imagination.

11 – Have you explored these character types in your fiction so far?

 I’ve explored vampires, but I’m not done with them yet. So much more to explore.

 I’ve never written ghosts or witches, but both fascinate me.

12 – What are you working on now?

For now, I’m taking a break from thrillers and horror stories to return to my first love, historical romance. If you love Downton Abbey, you might like my Edwardian romance, Thornbrook Park, coming out in June 2014. But I’m also itching to expand the series I started in Fade to Black, my short story for the Mammoth Book of Vampire Romance.

13 – Thanks for dropping by today, Sherri!

CLICK HERE to read an excerpt from Jane Slayre

"Reader, I buried him." -- Sherri Browning Erwin

"If [Seth] Grahame-Smith can be said to have kicked the whole [mash-up] thing off [with Pride and Prejudice and Zombies,] the benchmark has been set with Jane Slayre...Not only is [Erwin] an accomplished writer, but she demonstrates a good appreciation of Bronte's novel, a mastery of its language and its aesthetic...I would recommend Sherri Browning Erwin's Jane Slayre as a great way to enjoy the best the genre currently has on offer." -- Gerard Wood, Science Fiction World

"I am a sucker for dark and gloomy novels, so one would think I adore Dickens, but oddly enough I do not. I do not actively dislike Dickens, I just find him difficult to read. So thank goodness for Sherri Browning Erwin. Her gothic revision of Great Expectations made me love this story. Once again, she proves that literary mash-up genre can be something magical when done correctly; sadly, few authors are as adept at the genre as she." -- Tiffany's Bookshelf

Friday, October 4, 2013

5 on Friday -- Set 191

Travis at Trav's Thoughts invites everyone to lay down a short set of music that takes their fancies for his 5 on Friday meme.

Only nine more 5 on Friday's to go before I hit the magical 200th set here at A Piece of My Mind. Much rejoicing will take place throughout the land.

A few heads' up notices first --

Coming up in one month's time, Blog4Peace is an international peace event held online on Nov. 4th. Join me and hundreds of other peace-spreading bloggers by typing the words 'Dona Nobis Pacem' on:

Your blog
Your Facebook page
Your Twitter account
Your Pinterest page

Anywhere you like to hang out online, please join our day of peace by saying 'Grant us peace' with one voice. Sign up at Mimi Lenox's linky on the big day so you can find the other peace bloggers and they can find you. Travel the world from your computer screen and feel the love.

Coming up a few days after Blog4Peace -- I'll be appearing at Hal-Con from Fri Nov 8th to Sun Nov 10th at the World Trade and Convention Centre in Halifax. I'll be hosting a panel with angels-and-demons author Shawna Romkey on Heroes and Villains. More details on time and location as soon as I have them.

Warp Speed Passes are already sold out. Weekend Passes, Day Passes and Family Passes are still available.

In celebration of all things spooky during October, I'll be featuring interviews with paranormal authors for my Thursday Thirteen series. The first one launched yesterday with Spooky Screenwriter Stephen MacLean. This is my second year for the Spooky Author series which is turning into an annual event. Coming up next week: Jane Slayer and Grave Expectations author Sherri Browning Erwin.

And now, onwards to this week's musical set. The beginning of this spooktacular month brings preparations for haunting trick or treaters and Halloween party-goers. These videos feature costumes as their central focus. Will you be dressing up this year? 

1 - No Rain - Blind Melon  

2 - Paradise - Coldplay

3 - The Fox (What Does the Fox Say?) Ylvis

4 - Truth Faith - New Order

5 - Mr. Roboto Styx