Friday, January 30, 2015

Guest Blog and Giveaway: Blood and Spirits by Dennis Sharpe


The Life and Times of a Modern Bloodsucking Sex Worker 
– or – 
"Why is Veronica a Madam?"

By Dennis Sharpe


The voices in my head have names. No, really. They do.

I hear them as loudly and clearly as I hear anyone who talks to me from outside my own mind. My characters talk to me in their own voices. They have their own accents and a tempo to their speech. They are fully formed, very real, people… who just happen to exist only in my head (and then by extension in my works of fiction). It's my madness. Does that mean that I can't distinguish fantasy from reality? No. I just have characters who tell me their stories… and I write those stories down.

Veronica Fischer – or "V", as she prefers to be called – is one of those characters. And like all of the characters in my fiction, she is a person first, even if she doesn't happen to be human. She has a solid core. She had a childhood, with parents and problems. She has wants, desires, needs, likes and dislikes. Like every other character that talks to me – be they aliens or monsters, astronauts or politicians – she is a person, she has a soul.

I find far too many fictional characters (in printed words or up on a screen) are only what they are – vampire, robot, or what-have-you, or they are only what they do – a pilot, detective, or whatever the plot or setting call for, they aren't people outside of that. That seriously limits where their story can take them, and it seriously limits my interest in their story. I think that means I'm an elitist. I don't know. I've never been too keen on labels… especially the ones I'm given.

See, I make things up. Sometimes I write those things down, or type them up, so that other people can read them. I'm happy when those things are read by others. I'm even happier when people have an emotional reaction (positive or negative) to the things I've made up; because it means that I've connected to that person in some way. I like the idea that people I've never met – may well never meet—are experiencing an emotion because of me. I think the label for that, in my mind, is legacy.
I'm drifting from topic…

Characters. I was talking about my characters. I was talking about V. When I begin to tell a story I always have to look for a window. A way in, if you will, to the story that I can use to show my reader what it is I need to show them. I have no less than one hundred stories in my head that I'd like to tell, I just haven't yet found the window through which to tell them to my readers. The best window for the way that I write is generally the main character.

With V my first window into telling her story was the fact that she was afraid of crickets. No lie. Spider crickets, actually. Back in 1997 she told me (in my head, not out loud) that she was afraid of spider crickets because of the ones in the basement of her house on Summit drive, in Pekin. I started asking her questions about that, and she began to tell me more of story. Her childhood became my way in, and thus the way I could tell her story. A lot of that got moved out of the first book, but it's still a big part of her story… part of who she is. That informed so much of the way the story unfolded. Knowing all about her made it a lot easier to explain what she was going through to other people, to write it out for other people to read. Ya know?

So when I was asked, during the release of Blood & Spirits, "why is Veronica a madam?" it seemed like an innocent question. In fact, though, the answer is a little more involved than can be explained (or even summed up) in a tight one sentence answer.

V came to me as a fierce and strong voice. She was independent, self-assured, vulnerable at times, but always in control of her life. She suffered nothing stupid lightly, and she was a very feminine and sexual creature. I was not at all surprised when she told me she was a madam. I was equally unsurprised when she told me about her childhood, and her mother being a working girl who was a little too pushed around by the men in her life. V just made sense to me, and the fact that she was a madam was such a small part of who she was that I never gave it all that much thought, really.

As I said, V’s mother was a sex worker, and she saw a lot of what can go wrong when she was growing up. She started in the industry as a worker as well, and fought her way up to a place of control even before she was made an all new and different kind of ‘creature of the night’ by Jules. It, for her, was all too logical a next step that she should seek out other girls in the same line of work and offer them the protection that she could, once she was relocated out of the city. In doing that she was befriended by Lucy, a ghost who had also worked in the sex trade back in the 1880s.

If I had to venture a guess, and really you’d have to ask V about it, I’d say that she does what she does because A) she enjoys it, and B) because she’s a bit of a control freak. Being a madam affords her an even more elevated control over what goes on with her, and with the girls in her house. Men, being so easily led around by their sexual needs and desires, are usually all too happy to give her the control she seeks (and pay well for it) without a problem because of what is being sold. Talent, skill, and enjoyment… right? Men who aren’t happy with the arrangement are free to move along, or be dealt with swiftly. Again, she suffers nothing stupid lightly… and she can flip trucks, being a bloodsucker and all… so…

I could get more in depth, I suppose, on the psychology of V… or on my own, as she came from my mind… but I really don’t see how much good that would do. She is what she is. She enjoys it. She owns it. I’m not complaining. So there you go. As it turns out, Vampires make good madams. They can give what’s paid for, and ensure that nothing happens that a girl doesn’t want to happen… and they can do it without guns, goons, thugs, or being out more money. A good fit, for a great character, in my opinion.






Blood and Spirits
The Coming Storm
Book One
Dennis Sharpe

Genre: Paranormal Thriller

Publisher: Booktrope Publishing

ISBN: 978-1-62015-595-0

Number of pages: 220

Cover Artist: Shari Ryan

Book Description:

Small-town life can be hard for a dead girl…

For Veronica Fischer the night to night life of a bloodsucking madam in Middle America is tough enough before she adopts Rachel Gregory, an eight year old ghost.

After her house is set on fire and Rachel disappears, all signs point to foul play. When she finds herself with a hit out on her unlife and warrants for her arrest, it becomes clear she’s going to need help.

Now she has to contend with horny zombies, violent spirits, and murderous grave robbers if she’s ever going to find Rachel and discover the awful truth of the coming storm.

A raucous ride through the dangerous lives of the lecherous undead.




Excerpt:
Chapter 1

I’m told it’s an oddity that I still sleep.  It only comes in short bursts, no more  than forty-five minutes at a time. Most others with my condition, and I have only known a handful, tell me they don’t sleep anymore. Some of them haven’t in more than five decades. I can’t imagine the hell that must be. Even in my brief moments of rest, I still dream and in that I find relief. Even if the dreams aren’t what I like, they are still an escape.
The soft thickness of my comforter envelops me as I relax back into bed. Before I’m completely awake, my mind begins to unfold, opening to the world around me. In the distance, the fog is rolling in off the river, dense and blanketing, its vaporous fingers right there on the edges of my consciousness. The night is cool, and the last lights of the dying day dance across my ceiling, reflected from the crystals hanging in my window. The light tinkle as they sway into each other is a reassuring sound; the beautiful prisms they cast, a blessing. Not one night comes that I don’t wake to thank Jules for having the windows in this house ‘treated’. I can actually see the sun, even if I can’t be out in it.

I am now completely aware for miles around me. I’m awake, and not even grudgingly so. Not tonight. He’ll be here soon. I look forward to it and fear it all at once, but I ask myself ‘why dwell on what we can’t change?’
A soft breeze blows across me as I slip out of my bed, making the hairs on the back of my neck stand out. My mind recognizes the sensation as a chill, even if my dead flesh can’t feel as it once did.
Rubbing a hand down from the base of my skull, in a futile attempt to warm myself, I open the lid to the old steamer trunk Julie brought up from the basement today. She aired out everything in it while I slept, and the interior smells as though she even put some of my perfume on a few of the choice garments. I breathe in deeply and can the corner of my mouth turns up slightly. Time may have dulled Jules’ scent, but it’s still unmistakable, mingled in with the fragrance in the clothing.
Clothes have always held memories for me. The crimson silk of a dress drops down over me and it’s as though his eyes were on me again. The mirror reveals the garment to be no more out of place, for its slinky cut or lack of length, than it did when I first wore it a  lifetime ago, when I could still remember being a girl. I first put it on in front of him and twirled around to raise the hem, hoping to entice and astonish with my feminine wiles, foolish enough back then to believe that because I loved him, a creature like him was even still capable of love.

I’ve learned from his example and years of my own mistakes – emotion is a weakness to be managed.
Yet, here I am, slipping into this dress that I haven’t worn since he left, simply because I know he’ll remember it.
Stepping out into the thick evening air, the raw power of the river hits me with the force of a freight train. Even from this distance, the power is unmistakable. Tonight, though, it has an odd feeling, as though it were restrained.
Standing still with my eyes closed, I concentrate and listen to the pulse of the water rolling heavily over the rocky bed, feel the lapping, almost angry waves against the shoreline. I don’t know why closing my eyes helps me bond to my surroundings, it just always has. It must be another facet of my insanity.
I’ve never met someone with my affliction that was as sane as they had been when they were alive. I wasn’t ever all that sane, either, but I’ve grown more detached as time has gone by. Too often these days, I feel like a spectator. Maybe that’s just my ‘coping mechanism’. My therapist would love to know about this fabulous train of thought. Prick.
As I enter the garage, it occurs to me that I’ve only got two cars at this house. Frank was to take Julie back to town with the Charger this afternoon to keep up the appearance that everything was normal. I’m certainly not taking my old Volkswagen Beetle to go bar hunting, so the flat black Eclipse will get a work out tonight. I hate this car, but she’s been fast enough to outrun a lot of demons I didn’t feel like facing.
Pulling out of the driveway, I already wish I’d stayed at the other house today. The drive into town is only thirty minutes, but I’m tense enough tonight and don’t need the wait. Telling myself that I needed to be here, for safety’s sake, only makes me feel more upset at my fear and lack of control.
Six months ago, I’d have talked to Lucy; she’d have taken the edge off. If she were here, though, I’d have had no need to contact Jules. Now I get to feel like a failure and look like one, too.
The tires scream as I kick the car almost sideways, narrowly avoiding a deer. My lack of focus is getting worse. As much as the idea repulses me, tonight I’m actually going to have to go look for food instead of letting it come to me. I haven’t had to do that in years. On one hand, it’s a fitting start to the night, but on the other, I had really thought I’d outgrown eating out.
I always forget how much sensory input I lose when I spend time around all the steel and pavement. The dark moonless drive down rural roads is a blessing, putting me more in tune with the land, at once one with the leaves on the trees, the bats overhead, and the rocks around the base of the roadside.
The sound of the insects in the high grass is comforting. Their flittering finds my ears even over the engine noise. They are mine as much as everything else here; as much as I am a part of them. It took more than twenty years to reach this level of awareness, and I’m still not foolish enough to believe I’ve mastered it.
I used to be able to spend time expanding my mind. I used to do a lot of things I haven’t been able to do lately. Everything has devolved so fast and I’m  still reeling.
The past year I’ve been so caught up in the life of a dead girl, I’ve dealt with little else.
Rachel died eighteen months ago at the ripe old age of eight; I met her after that. She was hanging around the Jefferson House, where my girls work. If she hadn’t picked that place to haunt, I doubt I’d be in the mess I’m in now.
The town springs up slowly. Houses begin to sit closer together, then nearer to the road. Side  streets appear, and businesses start to intersperse among the spider web of tight residential development, obviously undertaken with no real planning or forethought. Then, at last, the glow of the streetlights tells me I’m back where I’m in control. This is the town I run, inside and out. Or I did.
Passing the street that leads to the Jefferson House, it takes will not to turn. I want to check up on things, but personal priorities come first and I  have to trust Julie has everything well in hand.

The dulcet tones of a southern rock cover band blare from six blocks away tingling my eardrums. The music is louder than usual. It should be a fun night, or at least a packed house. Either way, I’m content.
The transmission voices its complaint as I downshift onto the access road. I’ll never really like this car, but she does get from A to B more quickly than most. I still wish I’d driven something nicer tonight, something with a top I could put down. But, in the end, the car I’m in is the least of my concerns right now.
The lot isn’t full yet, leaving plenty of  good spaces, but rock star parking wasn’t really a concern of mine to begin with. This just means that after I eat and pick him up, I should be able to get back here to a manageable crowd.
If I’m lucky, he’ll want to be social tonight. If not, then I’ll be too busy to make it back here at all. I really want to show him that the biggest part of my life is still under control, so he won’t only see the little girl that has to call him in as her savior. Again.
Why do I need so badly for him to be proud of me?
As I cross the parking lot,  the lingering scents of sweat, cheap beer, and longing hang heavy in the air already. This might be a little too easy. Though catching a fresh meal has never been really what I’d call difficult. That’s why the small town, Midwestern life suits me; I usually get what I want and rarely have to work that hard to have it. Hopefully, years of having my food delivered hasn’t left me too out of practice.
Someone sees me coming and opens the door and holds it for me. That’s the thing about being a regular in a small town rural bar – you are a known commodity, more or less. This helps and hurts when you have to hunt for food where you also gather socially. Like a balancing act. Some are good at it; some are not. Those who have been less than good at it around here, I’ve had to deal with. No one pisses in my pool even once and gets to do it again.
There’s a big cowboy at the end of the bar, a couple bikers near the pool tables, and a few burly construction workers at a table. After only the briefest pause, my route is clear in my mind. The first taker is my next victim. I really love playing this game. Maybe I’m not so rusty, after all.
I don’t get the chance to make it very far. As I pass the bar, in my peripheral vision, the dark brown of the cowboy hat moves in my direction.
“Now this is why I came out tonight. A good looking girl in tight fitting dress!”
The booming words come projected from the stout bear of a man standing at the end of the bar undressing me through his beer goggles.
The cowboy it is; he’ll make a full meal.
I do my best to fake a blush, while acting interested  and  offended  all  at  once.   Pretending  to care what men think is an art. It takes moments to learn, but lifetimes to master.  I’d like to believe I’m an expert.
I walk over to him smiling but with my eyes downcast. “My name’s Veronica. Who are you, handsome?”
He puffs up in his detail-stitched denim shirt, pushing out his barrel chest in a vain attempt to hide his well-tended gut. He’d be fairly good looking if he didn’t obviously take such pride in how good looking he thinks he is.
“They call me Buck, and if I could I’d like to do a lot more than buy you a drink.” he slurs slightly at me.
He motions to the bartender for another round and I do my best to blush again, this time giving a halfhearted laugh at his insipid comment.
“Here ya go, darlin’.” He hands me a J├Ągerbomb and tries to force it to my lips “Bottoms up, baby!”
He reminds me why I live in a small town; this corn-fed hick really thinks he’s irresistible. Well, who am I to disappoint? I down the drink like a good girl going bad, exhale deeply, and lean over into him, letting my neckline plunge as it was designed to do. As old and tired as this dance is, I really do love his eyes on me.  Some things never change.
“Now, that was worth it, wasn’t it?” he asks me proudly. “Buck won’t steer ya wrong.”
“We can go somewhere more private if you’d like…Buck,”  I  whisper  softly  in  his  ear,  pulling back almost as slowly as the wicked grin spreads  across my face. His perverse smile hides nothing. I have him now – hook, line, and zipper.
Money changes hands as we exit the bar. I laugh a little out loud while remembering the lack of faith I’d had in my abilities. I try to lead him to my car, but he’s intent on going to the alley behind the building. I try to convince him, sliding my hand slowly down over the large oval belt buckle with his name on it. But he’s convinced the alley is what excites him, and I don’t want to take the time to change his mind so I follow along.
It begins subtle and playful, but it’s clear that’s not what he’s in the mood for. He pushes me down onto my knees in a matter of seconds, quickly wrapping a hand in my hair and beginning to jerk my head back and forth violently.
He couldn’t hurt me if he tried so I let his game continue on his terms. Using my mouth like a cheap sex toy is a bit insulting, I guess, but I don’t need to breathe so I’m not gagging or choking. As always, I’m here to get what I need, and so I’ve gotten used to allowing them what they need. I look at it like my public service, or my good deed.
I could just take what I want and be done, but that generally leads to more problems than I want to deal with. I’ve even grown bored with the games of superiority and subservience. I let them feel dominant, and powerful. It’s the least I can do, really.  Besides, the heightened state of arousal makes them taste better, even if most of them could use a lesson in hygiene.
It’s been so long since I did this in public. It might even be a little exciting if I weren’t so anxious, or if Buck were more attractive.
I’m only vaguely aware of the fact that he’s calling me a dirty whore. A little laugh flitters inside that he would call me dirty; the irony is lost on him but not me. I’ve almost completely tuned him out, focused on the job I’m here to do.
And then he makes a mistake; he hits my face, hard. If I were still alive, it would have done some damage, broken bone, maybe even knocked me out.
This isn’t playful anymore – this bastard actually likes to hurt women – now, I’m done playing.
I pull back slowly from him, looking at his fist wrapped around what looks like a roll of quarters. He’s using every ounce of strength and leverage he has to try to hold me on my knees. He has no more effect holding me down than the weight of my clothes. His eyes begin to widen and he lets go of my hair as I rise slowly and determined. His fist is still drawn back, but we both know he’s not going to swing. I’m going over all  the painful ways I can drive home the point that he doesn’t get to hurt the girls he plays with, all the while considering  how much I love this dress and don’t want to ruin it.
Standing in front of him I wipe his liquid from the corner of my mouth and stare deeply. I can see the panic in his eyes. I can smell his fear, deep, rich and growing, and for the first time tonight, I’m actually aroused.
“Now, Buck, what could possibly have made you think that was a good idea?” I ask in a cool and controlled voice.
“Get back on your knees whore! I ain’t paying you to fucking talk!” He spews the words out loudly, in a vain attempt to regain control as he tries to force me back down with one hand, while still menacing with his fist. He only succeeds in ripping my dress.
Not this dress, not tonight. He’s decided it for me; tonight is the end of his story.
“I’m used to the rough stuff, Buck.”
In an instant, I have his throat in my hand and his back against the wall. He’s beginning to shake as he draws back to swing.
“I was just going to let you off with a little pain and a warning about hurting working girls, and look what you’ve done.”
The fear pours off of him in waves as I disregard his raised fist and calmly show him my torn dress. It’s enough to make even my body react involuntarily to the stimulation. “You want a pretty girl to throatfuck, you pay for it. We’re all good. You like it a little rough, that’s fine. But slapping a girl around hard enough to actually hurt them? We just don’t do that,  Buck.  You’re incredibly lucky I don’t bruise easy.”
 I flash him a smile and for just a moment I can see he thinks it’s all going to be okay.
“We had a perfectly good deal worked out, and now you’ve ensured that I’m the last thing you’re gonna see, and given me the extra work of dealing with your corpse.”
He shudders and wets himself.
It really is dirty how hot this has gotten me. I’ll blame it on my state of mind, certainly not wanting to give this bastard any credit.
I peer deeply into his eyes, and his mind unfolds to me. I see all that he had planned for me; I know all that is ‘Buck’. The last restraint I had left is gone. He’s from out of town, no one here knows him, and only his trucking company will miss him.
I apply just a touch more pressure, and  with a flick of my wrist, he goes limp. I let go and he crumples to the ground in a heap. Quick and painless is better than he deserves, but I’m pressed for time.
I drink from him what I need and leave him piled up behind the dumpster. At least he’s served his purpose, even if he was more trouble than I’d planned on.
Why this dress? Any other dress he could have ripped and he’d still be breathing. Clearly, I’m too stressed out.
I dial my cell and wait, more than a little irritated when  I  get voicemail. “Frank, you  really  need  to call me back. I have a pick up for you and it’s time sensitive. Remind me again why I keep you on payroll?”
I walk back up to the end of the alley and wait for my phone to ring. The straps on the left shoulder of the dress are ripped completely out of the back and there are two deep tears where they had been attached. This is what happens when you have to rush. Things don’t go as planned, and then shit gets broken.
“Can I help you with that?”
His voice is steady, soft, and scares me almost out of my skin. This is why I pay him so well.
I turn to face him and am a bit taken aback to see him dressed in jeans and a wife-beater. He’s never this down-dressed, even when I tell him to be.
“Not with my dress, but you can wrap that up,” I fume, nodding my head back down the alley to what remains of Buck. “And make it disappear.”
Frank O’Leary looks like what a Greek god should look like. Chiseled out of stone; an example of everything that makes a man attractive. His mane of auburn hair, always perfectly messy, hangs down between his shoulder blades. Like all men who look this good, Frank has no interest in women. He also has very few morals, a deviously creative mind, and an unequaled love for money. That serves to make him an irreplaceable asset. I keep telling myself I can never trust him completely, but he’s too smart to bite the hand that pays for his lifestyle.

Also, despite my attempts to keep him at arm’s length, I’ve grown attached to him over the years.
He stares, one eyebrow raised, at the boots jutting visibly out from behind the dumpster and nods. “Any particulars on how he disappears or just ‘out of sight  out of mind?’”
“Just make it fucking happen, Frank! I don’t have time for bullshit tonight!” As soon as the words escape me, I’m aware they’re harsher than he deserved.
The look on his face says it all. He understands. He’s not happy about it, but he knows why I’m stressed and he’ll accept it for now and hope that things will get better.
“He is coming in tonight, then?”
“Should be here in about an hour.”
I really have to get back to the old me, and soon. I know better than to kill this close to where I go to relax. I know he knows that, too. It felt good to destroy that piece of shit, and save generations of women from having to deal with him, but I still know better.
Frank looks down the alley again, then back to me and holds out a set of keys with a silver skull keychain. He knows me too well. I take the keys to the Charger and hand him back the ones to the little flat black speedster.
“How much gas does she have?” he asks, still looking down the alley, sizing up the job.

“You need to get some.” I call back at him, already walking toward the emerald-green muscle machine. “You’re on fumes.”
He’s muttering under his breath as I get in, but his voice is less than a whisper and it gets lost under the deafening roar of the engine coming to life. I put the top down and back her out slowly while checking my watch. Not much time left.
I leave the lot and the mess behind me, able to count on Frank. I have to get to the airport, and make sure everything is secure before his plane lands.




About the Author:

Born and raised in the middle of the American Midwest, Dennis Sharpe has been a writer as long as he can remember. His mother has told many people about the fantasy and science fiction stories he'd write on scraps of paper, and staple together as his 'books', before he'd attended his first day of formal education.

He has spent many late nights at diners and dives, drinking coffee with a tattered notebook to put a voice to his feelings of himself and the world around him, and other worlds that can exist only in fiction. The voices in his head don't ever stop talking to him, and so sooner or later he has to get out onto a page all that they've filled him up with.

Inspired by Neil Gaiman, Kurt Vonnegut, Frank Miller, Chrissie Pappas, Charles Bukowski, Stephen King, Issac Asimov, and countless classic literary influences, Dennis continues with the ability to write what at a glance might seem absurd, but quickly begins to resonate with our own thoughts and emotions. He writes people we know, love we've known and lost (and found again), and places we've been in our lives and in our heads. Even his fictional characters and worlds carry enough of the grey areas we experience in day-to-day life, to let us find the truth in his words, no matter how fantastic.

These days he can be found still writing, drinking coffee with friends, or spending time with his children (the true joys of his life), in Western Kentucky.


Twitter: @witlesslackey


a Rafflecopter giveaway







Guest Blog and Giveaway Drain Me by Lana Sky


Hello!  Lana sky here, and thank you, Roxanne, for having me as a guest today! 

As a writer, I tend to rely on a few quirky tricks to help motivate me through various stories.  One of those tricks is to compile playlists that I believe fit the “tone” of each book.  Considering that it is a vampire novel, my playlist for Drain Me is rather….interesting, but I would love to share it with anyone who might appreciate a glimpse at what inspired Dublin and Ellie’s crazy corner of the universe. 


Drain Me
Ellie Gray Chronicles
Book 1
Lana Sky

Genre:  Paranormal Romance

Date of Publication:  November 28th 2014

ISBN:  150275438X
ASIN: B00OW46BD0

Number of pages:  550
Word Count: 38k

Cover Artist:  Imogenary Designs

Book Description: 

When diagnosed with a fatal illness at the age of twenty six, Eleanor Gray is resigned to her fate—at least until the enigmatic Dublin Helos appears and makes her an offer she knows she should refuse:

Life or Death?

With a decision as harmless as checking the wrong box on a mysterious questionnaire, Ellie is plunged into a dangerous world where souls are sold to the highest bidder and pleasure is fueled by pain.

The rules of this new life are simple: submit everything—mind, body and soul. But the further Ellie falls under Dublin’s control, the more she comes to realize that it’s not just her sanity at stake, but her heart and a whole lot of blood too.

Available at Amazon
Excerpt:

The fact that he knew my name didn’t alarm me.
My family owned half the city, including a good portion of this very hospital. Considering that my sister’s escapades were constant fodder for the tabloids, I would have been more insulted if he didn’t know who I was.
But once again …it was that look in his eyes. It chilled me right down to the bone; I know you, Eleanor Gray, it said. Way more than just a face from the Society Pages.
Before I could choke out a reply, he smiled—for real this time—and my poor brain struggled to find the right words to describe it. Dazzling. Magnificent ...
The flash of pearly white teeth nearly knocked me senseless. I lost my grip on the handkerchief for a split second, sparking the taste of copper over my tongue. 
“Word travels fast around here,” he said, voice traveling down my spine.
I felt my nose wrinkle as I frowned. Apparently news of my terminal illness had spread before I’d even left the damn hospital. How long before my picture ended up splattered over the front of some tabloid beneath the headline, Heiress given weeks to live?
I didn’t answer. Instead, I willed my nose to stop bleeding, though I had a feeling that I was quickly becoming in danger of needing transfusion number four.
I felt so dizzy all of a sudden. As if, at any moment, I could pass out. Faint.
 “What do you see?”
“Huh?”
The question threw me off and had me turning to face him before I could help it. Wordlessly, he inclined his head and my eyes automatically followed.
The hall we were in opened onto a causeway, where patients and visitors alike wandered the pristine floor.
The sight reminded me of a hotel—albeit minus the IV poles some people sported instead of suitcases. The air was the same: that busy, ‘places to go, people to see, get the hell out of my way’ vibe that made everyone seem closed off, further away.
Without meaning to, I found my gaze settling over a young girl who had her head wrapped in a polka dot headscarf. Beside her, a man I guessed to be her father pushed an IV pole that rattled over the floor.
She was almost as pale as I was, with dark, bruise-like circles underneath her eyes—but that wasn’t what stood out to me the most.
She was smiling. Walking, talking and …smiling. Despite the obvious physical signs, if you went off that expression alone, you would have never guessed she was sick at all. My gaze remained glued to her, even as the mysterious doctor spoke up again.
“Mortality,” he said grimly. “It’s the most precious commodity in the world, don’t you agree?”
I nodded. I may have not been that invested in my own life, but I could read the fervent desire on all the other faces—from the new mother carrying her infant in a car seat, to the elderly man clutching a newspaper to his chest.
The lust to live was always the same.
“There are some who would do anything for another chance at life, for more time.”
He spoke so matter-of-factly that it wasn’t until my mind processed what he was really saying that his morbid tone struck me like a blow. 
“I-I don’t know what you’re talking about.” I sounded like I was under water.  My nose was still dripping. Even the pressure of my hand wasn’t enough to staunch the blood flow. 
 “You wouldn’t,” Mr. Gray Eyes said with a shrug. “Immortality doesn’t interest you, does it, Eleanor?”
Alarm raced down my spine—no longer was I convinced that this was just a random chat with a stranger. It was all in his tone.
“I have to go.”  I clutched the now bloody handkerchief and tried to stand. My legs felt as flaccid as limp noodles. Sweat poured down the back of my neck, and the erratic beat of my heart quickened and then faltered. Thump, thump, th-ump.
“You’re not afraid of death,” the man—though I was now seriously doubting that he was a doctor—continued. “You welcome it; or so you tell yourself. But, I’m here to offer you a choice—”
“I think …I need a real doctor.”
I was through humoring him. Without bothering to be polite, I attempted to stagger in the direction of the activity, grasping onto anything to steady me. My hands were slippery and my once-burgundy peacoat was now soaked scarlet. 
Hemohemorrahgia kept haunting me in Doctor Wallis’ curt tones. 90% fatality!
“Mortality can be a hindrance of sorts.”
The man was still talking, only I had no idea just what he was getting at. More importantly, why hadn’t he gotten a doctor or flagged down a nurse? I clung to the wall and scanned the crowd of blurring faces, desperate to catch sight of another white lab coat.
“I think I …need …help.”
It took all my strength just to get the words out. And he only ignored me.
“I’m here to offer you a choice, Eleanor: accept your impending death, or …something else.”
What else? I struggled to ask but was only greeted with silence. It stretched on for a good five minutes before I realized that he had finally left. That strange vibe was gone at least, but so was any sensation or feeling in my limbs. Or sound. My vision was an inky shade of gray, nearly black, but …

When I finally gave into the darkness, I swore I could hear him whisper one last time, “It’s your decision, but if you’re smart, you will make the right one.” 

 About the Author:

Lana Sky is a reclusive writer in the United States who spends most of her time daydreaming about complex male characters and legless cats. She writes mostly paranormal romance, in between watching reruns of Ab Fab and drinking iced tea. Only iced tea.



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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Interview and Giveaway with J Tullos Hennig





Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

Messages can be a slippery slope.  I don’t feel it’s necessarily my place as an author to tell people what to think.  Challenge them to think, yes.  But every reader will have a different takeaway from every book, and find their own message in that.  Don’t get me wrong; it’s terrific when a reader’s experience jives with what I discovered on my own journey whilst writing the book.  But my foremost job is to provide readers with an evocative and authentic experience—hopefully one that lingers even after they’ve turned that last page.

Is the book, characters, or any scenes based on a true life experience, someone you know, or events in your own life?

I would have to say mostly not.  Experiences inform the writing, no question.  Something as simple as being a left handed archer, for instance, is invaluable when writing about left-handed archers!  Or having shot that bow and arrow from a galloping horse. The old saw ‘write what you know’ is true in this much: it is difficult to write with authority and confidence if you don’t have the faintest idea of what you’re talking about!

But it’s not so immediate a process as direct transference.  More like an hyperactive awareness that chops and processes everything as fodder for the muse—and often not anything like expected.

What books/authors have influenced your life?



I should have to say hail to the three Marys: Mary Renault, Mary O’Hara, and Mary Stewart. Very different, but alike in that their command of language, emotions and imagery is superb; their work, even the lighter fare, I can read over and over again. Parke Godwin, who by sublime example taught me two things: it’s all right to write thick, evocative prose, and that writing as a craft is neither quick nor easy. James Goldman–anyone who can write dialogue like The Lion in Winter needs to be emulated, and often! LeGuin. Poe. Felix Salton. Robert Heinlein. L.M. Montgomery. Virginia Woolf. Robert Graves. Ray Bradbury, who has never made the mistake of equalling short with shallow or undemanding.


If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?

I don’t like picking favourites in anything, but a writer whose talent and work ethic I have admired for years is Ursula LeGuin.  Her prose is evocative.  Her worlds don’t subscribe to the easy way out; they make a reader think, and wonder.  And the speech she recently made when she accepted an honour at the National Book Awards… just brilliant.  There’s a message!  And one to which every single writer should pay attention.
 
What book are you reading now?

Pagan Britain by Ronald Hutton

What books are in your to read pile?

Beyond Belief by Elaine Pagels, another re-read of several outlaw ballad books including Rymes of Robyn Hood… basically a whole stack of research.

What is your current “work in progress” or upcoming projects?

I’m presently hard at work on the remainder of the Wode books.  In the pipeline are several historicals, a contemporary fantasy and an SF/Fantasy series.


Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?


Starting a new project and thinking of the possibilities in it, hoping my skills will be up to the task and I can weave a proper tale… that always brings a mix of terror and wonder—and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Do you have to travel much to do research for your books?

I’m always glad of an excuse to travel. J  Despite the tools with which the internet now provides us, I find incomparable benefits in travelling.  Not only through the research, but through different points of view, cultures and language, surround and landscapes.

Who designed the cover of your latest book?

Shobana Appavu drew the cover for Greenwode, and she is bloody brilliant!  I am constantly humbled and overjoyed by the lucent quality of her work.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

One thing that’s important to remember, particularly in today’s market:  success doesn’t mean talent and talent doesn’t mean success.  Do the work, because craft and artistry do matter, if you want that work to live past the moment.

(People rarely take advice even when they solicit it.  But I’ve taught for long enough that I can’t fight the occasional urge to hold forth.  ;) )
-----
And let me say many thanks, Roxanne, for welcoming me to your blog!

Thank you for being a guest :-)


Greenwode
Book One of The Wode
J Tullos Hennig

Genre: Historical Fantasy, Robin Hood

Publisher: DSP Publications

Date of Publication: Oct. 28, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-63216-437-7 Paperback
ISBN: 978-1-63216-438-4 eBook
ASIN:  B00NPD85GU

Number of pages:  350
Word Count: 151,000
Cover Artist: Shobana Appavu

Book Description:

The Hooded One.  The one to breathe the dark and light and dusk between....

When an old druid foresees this harbinger of chaos, he also glimpses its future.  A peasant from Loxley will wear the Hood and, with his sister, command a last, desperate bastion of Old Religion against New.  Yet a devout nobleman's son could well be their destruction—Gamelyn Boundys, whom Rob and Marion have befriended.  Such acquaintance challenges both duty and destiny. The old druid warns that Rob and Gamelyn will be cast as sworn enemies, locked in timeless and symbolic struggle for the greenwode's Maiden.

Instead, a defiant Rob dares his Horned God to reinterpret the ancient rites, allow Rob to take Gamelyn as lover instead of rival. But in the eyes of Gamelyn’s Church, sodomy is unthinkable... and the old pagan magics are an evil that must be vanquished.

Available at Amazon     BN    Kobo    iTunes    Audible   OmniLit


Readers love
Greenwode

Winner in the 2013 Rainbow Awards: First: Best LGBT Novel, Best B/T & LGBT Debut, Best B/T & LGBT Fantasy, Paranormal Romance & Sci-fi / Futuristic


“I loved this story for taking a legend and giving it a twist … I have to recommend this to those who love folklore, mystical legends, historicals, fighting for a love against insurmountable odds, danger, betrayal and an ending that is devastating while giving you faint hope.”
—MM Good Book Reviews

“This is a gutsy twist on a major classic that works.”
—Gerry Bernie

“There is so much good about this book I'm not even sure where to start. … This one is a highly recommended read. Just read it. It blew me away.”
—Better Read Than Dead

“Greenwode is legend. It is epic storytelling. It is fantasy and history. It is religion and spirituality. It is a world in which faith is a weapon, faith is a tool, faith is the enemy, and faith is the last vestige of hope… when there seems nothing left to hope for. If you love epic fantasy, I can’t recommend this book highly enough.”
—The Novel Approach

“I can assure you the weaving of themes and legends in GREENWODE is mesmerizing. … This novel will always be the one against which I will judge all the others.”
—Christopher Hawthorne Moss

“…an interesting, spellbinding read.”
—Rainbow Book Reviews

“I highly recommend this any fan of an epic fantasy with historical settings. It is long but worth it. I can’t wait for the second book to come out.”
—Hearts on Fire Reviews










a Prelude b


In the Deeps of the Shire Wode
1175 ACE

Wind and water, stone and tree….”
Firelight flickered against rock, as if in time to the low melody. Both light and song wavered as they traveled into the depths. Not that the voice was not strong or the fire not warm—the caverns were that deep.
An old man, lean and crystal-eyed, stared into the fire. Every now and then the fire would jerk and start, as if some giant had spat upon it, but the cause was natural enough. Thunder rumbled in the forest above, sending puffs of wind through unknown entrances into the caverns. The old man could hear the stones embedded in the earth above him creak, almost in reply; he tuned his low voice as if in reverent time. Those rocks that formed the circle above him might be a tiny imitation of the ring stones on the plain of Salisbury far to the south, but no less eternal in their observance of the powers that he, too, had served for….
How long had it been? Stubble had scarce grown on his now leathern cheeks when he’d first taken up the mantle of the god. He had put aside his real name when, on a midsummer night not long after King Stephen had taken up another, more politic authority, a peasant gathering had crowned a young man with antlers and cried the god’s name:
Cernunnos. Horned One. Green-Father. Hunter.
Cernun.
Stephen had relinquished his crown to his nephew Henry even as Cernun had groomed his own successor, moving from Hunter to Hermit’s guise. It was the way of things. Shaking a twisted lock of silver from his eyes, Cernun grumbled to himself again, stirring at the fire with a long stick. He was old, but not infirm. The Sight was still strong in him, his body still hale and sound of limb; the forces of nature had rewarded him well for his service. Most men who had seen over fifty winters were bent and aged, senile from hard, miserable lives. The blood of the Barrow-lines ran strong. And he had been lucky.
He could only wish his successor such fortune.
The fire sparked. Cernun leaned closer, scrutinizing the writhing embers, watched them swell then flare white, reaching for the low limestone overhead. Yes? he asked, silent beneath the swell of power. You speak, Lord?
Images assaulted him. He saw what had been: the midsummer madness of dancing and singing, the rejoicing in rites, which, for a short, sweet time, took his people from the harsh reality of toil and hunger. Saw Horned Lord take Lady, clothed in Hunter and Maiden, horns and moon-crown.
Saw children born, Beltain-gotten, and the sweet green Wode prosper. As above, so below.
The fire damped, the vision strayed. Cernun spoke a low, guttural word, grabbed a handful of herbs from the cauldron at his side, and threw them onto the fire. The past was a given—to what future led this vision?
Scented smoke rose. It blossomed, damp cavern mists and heat writhing, tearing into wisps then coalescing.
A scream. The Mother’s face reflecting flames and terror, the woods aflame, and the Horned One on the Hunt. Downed in snow, horns broken, wolves with blooded jaws snapping and snarling….
“No!” Cernun hissed. He caught his breath as more shapes danced in the smoke, dissolving then coalescing….
A cowled figure draws a freakishly long bow, the arrow’s flight swift and sure, to split another arrow already in the black… a sister of the White Christ bends over a kneeling soldier… clad in the red and white of the Temple, he raises his fair head to let her make the sign of the Horns upon his brow… a booted foot stomps the long bow, shattering it….
Cernun blinked, shook his head. It made no sense, none of it. Smoke hissed, twisted into a pair of cowled figures locked in struggle….
One slams the other up against a tree, yanks his head back, and brings a drawn sword against the exposed artery, only to have the sword fall from his hands, to stagger back as if he has seen some demon… or ghost….
Another twist of smoke, and abruptly the flames flared high, gusting char against the old man’s face. He didn’t move, in fact bent forward.
A figure, crouching naked in the fire, a silhouette amidst burning ruins. The fire rises again, a spiral of sound and wind, and the figure rises with it, backlit, stepping barefoot over the coals and extending pale arms as if clothing itself in fire.
And, suddenly, it is. Flames whip, clad and cowl the figure in brilliant scarlet that ebbs to black… then gray-ash rags. Winter blows through, snow hissing in the coals and covering the figure. It walks back and forth, and in its footsteps ice crystals form. Green, sharp-edged leaves unfurl amidst the winter ice, revealing blood-red berries in their depths. The figure turns to him, eyes glowing within its cowl, still pacing, like to a wild animal caged.
Wolf, it says, but does not speak. Witch. Hawk.
Wind gusted through the cavern in a bank of noise and cold. The fire pitched down from copper into indigo, sparks flying, smoke rising.
Cernun did not bother to stir it. Instead he closed his eyes, tried to make sense of what he had seen.
Wolf. The most skilled of hunters, yet hunted throughout the land by another, even more treacherous predator. Or… outlaws were known as wolfshead. Perhaps? But not likely. Cernun would tolerate no outlaw within his covenant.
Witch. What the White Christ’s followers called those who followed the old ways of the heath and Barrow-lines, a calling turned to hatred by outside forces, even as the Romans had done with another naming: Pagani.
Hawk. Proud birds, another hunter/predator forced to perform beneath nobleman’s rule, barely tamed and kept from free flight, jessed, hooded.
“Hooded.” It came out in a soft rush of breath. Not only the hawk but wolf and witch—predators cornered—the struggling figures, the flame-gotten one… all cowled. By fire, by ash, by blood. “Great Lord who lies incarnate in us. Has it come to this?”
He stared at the dying embers, not wanting to believe. But the image persisted.
The one to walk all worlds, to breathe the fates of dark and light and dusk between, male and female; the Arrow of the goddess and the Horns of the god. The champion of the old ways—and the beginning of their ending.
The Hooded One.





About the Author:

J Tullos Hennig has maintained a few professions over a lifetime--artist, dancer, equestrian--but never successfully managed to not be a writer. Ever. Since living on an island in Washington State merely encourages--nay, guarantees--already rampant hermetic and artistic tendencies, particularly in winter, Jen has become reconciled to never escaping this lifelong affliction. Comparisons have also been made to a bridge troll, one hopefully emulating the one under Fremont Bridge: moderately tolerant, but. You know. Bridge troll.

Jen is blessed with an understanding spouse, kids, and grandkids, as well as alternately plagued and blessed with a small herd of horses and a teenaged borzoi who alternates leaping over the furniture with lounging on it.

And, for the entirety of a lifetime, Jen has been possessed by a press gang of invisible ‘friends’ who Will. Not. S.T.F.U.




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