I’m always thrilled to host Merrie DeStefano, and she was kind enough to stop by to talk a bit about her new YA, Fathom! I’ll have a review for you soon, but in the meantime, you can check out Jo’s review over at Vampire Book Club and I’ve got buy links at the bottom so you can snag a copy for yourself!
Creating a new monster
All story ideas begin somewhere. Mine usually begin with a character in an unusual setting. The idea for my young adult novel, Fathom, was born from a single scene: A mother telling stories to her two young daughters, all three of them nestled in a tree house. The whole story unfolded from that one scene idea, although in the end, I removed that scene from the book.
The mother was telling her daughters myths and legends from their homeland, Ireland.
The concept of myth played a strong part in this novel. In the process, I did a lot of research—especially when it came time to create the monster. Somewhere along the way, I came across the legend of a lake in Canada, where the local people believe that if you take anything from the lake, the lake will come after you and kill you. Unfortunately, I later lost all my notes and couldn’t find any mention of this lake or the legend in any of my reference books or online.
At that point, I had to do what writers have done for thousands of years.
I just made stuff up.
In a way, losing my notes was the best thing that could have happened. I was then free to create my own legends and my own mythical beast. With each chapter, my monster—which lives in the ocean, but can also come on land for short periods of time—became more wicked and more dangerous. I was able to give this beast a mysterious back story and a nefarious purpose. As creepy as this thing was, it fit perfectly into the well-knit weave of Fathom’s mythology, just like a natural predator who serves a purpose by maintaining the balance of nature.
The monster became the dark note in the book’s score, but there are light notes as well. One of the main themes is that of coming of age. The main character, sixteen-year-old Kira Callahan, leaves childhood behind as she gains the courage to stand up to the bullies at school, and as she begins to fall in love for the first time. The mysteries of her past slowly unfold throughout the book as she discovers that her past isn’t what she thought it was.
At its heart, Fathom is book about courage and love and hope—and never giving up, no matter how fierce the monsters in your life are.
Turning sixteen can be hell, especially if everyone in town thinks your mother killed herself and your sister. All Kira Callahan wants to do is swim, hang out with her best friend, Sean, and ignore the kids who torment her at school. That is, until one day when she gets invited to a party. For three minutes her life is wonderful—she even kisses Sean. Then somebody spikes her drink and some girls from out of town lure her into the ocean and hold her underwater.
Kira soon discovers that the group of wild teenagers who have come to visit Crescent Moon Bay are not as innocent as they seem. In fact, nothing is as it seems—not the mysterious deaths of her sister and mother, not her heritage, not even her best friend. And everything seems to hinge on the ancient Celtic legends that her mother used to tell her as a child.
Purchase: Amazon | B&N
CURRENTLY A FULL-TIME NOVELIST with HarperVoyager, Merrie Destefano’s second novel, FEAST: HARVEST OF DREAMS, released in June, 2011. In a previous life, she was the editor of Victorian Homes magazine, founding editor of Cottages & Bungalows magazine, and contributing editor of Romantic Homes magazine, and as such, she wrote for a combined circulation of approximately 250,000.
With 20 years experience in publishing, she worked for a variety of publishing/broadcasting companies that include Focus on the Family, The Word For Today, and PJS Publications (now Primedia). Besides editing and writing, her background includes print buying, writing/producing radio promos, directing photo shoots, developing new products, writing jacket copy for books, creating sales media packets and organizing direct mail campaigns.
Born in the Midwest, she currently lives in Southern California with her husband, two German shepherds, a Siamese cat and the occasional wandering possum. Her favorite hobbies are reading speculative fiction and watching old Star Trek episodes, and her incurable addiction is writing. She loves to camp in the mountains, walk on the beach, watch old movies, listen to alternative music—although rarely all at the same time.
In honor of the Scare-a-Thon, I’ve got a copy of Ghost Town by Jason Hawes, Grant Wilson, and Tim Waggoner up for grabs, so check out the book and the giveaway details, and good luck!
About Ghost Town:
WELCOME TO EXETER, THE “MOST HAUNTED TOWN IN AMERICA,” thanks to a deadly flood that unleashed an army of ghosts decades ago. And when ghost trackers Amber, Drew, and Trevor attend a conference during Exeter’s spookiest week of the year, the ghouls grow restless. First, an innocent bookstore worker is mysteriously killed, setting off a string of strange deaths that point to a shadowy spirit known as the Dark Lady.
With a paranormal revolution ensuing, the team must stop the twisted bloodbath. But a past horror involving the death of a former teammate has them spinning faster than a specter in a storm, especially when they learn that it’s his ghost who awakened the Dark Lady. Now, with their lives on the line and the entire town at stake, the three must decide whether to trust the spirit of their old friend or to finally put a stake through his heart.
As you may know, I’m not a huge reader of romance, however, Claire Ashgrove’s Immortal’s series drew me in and kept me riveted (my review of Immortal Hope), and I’m always thrilled to host Claire and spread the word about her books! Her newest book in the series, Immortal Surrender, is out now, and Claire was kind enough to write about her worldbuilding for us, and there’s an excerpt too, so please welcome her to the blog!
Also, Tor has offered 3 copies of Immortal Surrender for giveaway, so check out the details at the bottom of the post!
One of my favorite aspects of writing is world building. Frankly, it’s a passion of mine, and I’m all about hearing author share theirs as well. A world that is built well, is an art form, and one I strive to meet every time I put word on paper. This may come from my background, which is in Fantasy, and frankly where I see the strongest worlds coming to life. Primarily because the genre has more freedom and allowance within it, than others. (IE Readers don’t necessarily balk at 500 page books in Fantasy, where they would in Romance).
My favorite part of the Templar world building is blending the past with the present. The Templar world is so vastly different from ours. They are cloistered, pretty much. And they are rooted in a time that many of us can’t comprehend. Yes, they’ve experienced the passing of 8-9 centuries (depending on the knight), but they haven’t been part of that, unless they absolutely have to.
Their weaponry, their lifestyle, their purpose and their very values are archaic compared to our lifestyles. They are simple – communal property, no financial dependency, eat what sustains, fight, sleep and die. And that also carries a ‘hardness’ that defies our rather comfortable lifestyles.
Just as a quick example, let’s look at how they fight. They were founded when the only successful means of fighting anything was a sword, in hand-to-hand combat, with minimal protective armor. Early, early 1100s… when gunpowder didn’t become prominent in England, until 250 years later. The first mass-produced gun didn’t happen until 1835. Naturally, the archangels created a means of overcoming evil with what the men could use at the time. And if evil was susceptible to the blade, evil would have to become susceptible to bullets in order for the knights to “come around” to modern warfare.
If what they kill doesn’t respond to modern technology, they have no need to alter their battle tactics. Add in the fact that we’re talking 600-700 years of expertise with the sword, the gun is going to be awkward when it comes around. Why fix what ain’t broke?
So blending this in, maintaining the old world form, style, and beliefs on top of the modern existence, has been a wonderfully fun endeavor! It’s allowed me to incorporate history, historical fact, and play with possibilities that defied the historical times. For a writer, it doesn’t get better than that!
Specific questions on my world building? Ask away! I’d love to answer!
IMMORTAL SURRENDER EXCERPT
In the blink of an eye, his serene expression morphed into a dark scowl. “You do not believe me.”
“No,” she answered on a chortle. “Did you really expect me to? I’m sure someone else would—you’ve put so much feeling into the tale. But I’m a scientist. I don’t even believe in God.” To soften his disappointment, she reached between them and patted his hand. “You did good though. Better than some of the things Gabriel has told me.”
He abruptly pulled his hand away. “Everything Gabriel has ever told you is true, damsel. He is an archangel. Whilst he may behave most strange, he is God’s messenger and cannot lie.”
Gabriel an archangel. Oh man, the two of them were in this together. When she saw him next, she’d buy him a drink for this. She grinned at Farran and shook her head. “You two are something else. I swear, I should have known. He tries to do this to me all the time.”
“Woman,” Farran barked. “’Tis no jest! You are branded as mine.” He grabbed the hem of his shirt and yanked it over his head. “Look for yourself.”
Noelle gaped at the vision that sat before her. Smooth bronzed muscle lacked any trace of hair and bulged even as he sat still. The chest she remembered so vividly was nothing less than a wall of corrugated stone. Thick forearms led to even thicker biceps, arms so strong she felt three times smaller than normal. He could crush a man—or so her imagination said.
Her appreciative stare dropped to his belly and stopped on her gasp. Scored into his taut abdomen, a white scar ran from his ribs down beneath the waistband of his jeans. A good three inches wide, and easily three times as long, the scarred flesh assumed the distinct shape of a ring-hilted dagger. Someone had heated metal and pressed it to his skin.
“My word,” she whispered.
Drawn to the horror of the mark, she leaned in and traced a fingertip down the length of the hilt. The pain he must have felt—her heart twisted hard. “What happened to you?” She glanced up at his face.
Eyes closed, he sat utterly still. “’Twas meant to gain my confession.”
Noelle winced. Looking back at the ugly scar she couldn’t take her hand off of, her chest tightened. What sort of person could do that to a man? His stomach bunched beneath her fingertips, mystifying her even more. As deep as the wound had been, he was lucky he could feel anything at all. Whoever had done this was sick. Sick, sick. “Were you in the war?” she asked quietly.
It’s October, and for me, that means Halloween is right around the corner, so of course I’m preoccupied with all things scary, including books. So, for the month of October, I’ll be spotlighting authors specializing in thrills and chills, as well as Bram Stoker Award winners, and there might even be some special giveaways in the mix!
To kick off this special series of interviews and giveaways, I’d like to welcome Bob Fingerman to the blog! Bob is very well known for his work in comics, but he also penned the vampire novel Bottomfeeder and the zombie chiller Pariah. He was also kind enough to answer a few of my questions!
You have a background in art and comics, but you’ve also written a vampire novel, Bottomfeeder, and a zombie novel, Pariah, as well as numerous short stories. What made you decide to write the first novel? Is it tough to make the switch in writing styles?
Not really. I’ve always wanted to do not so much straight horror, but work that is horror adjacent. I don’t think of either of my novels as pure horror. They’re much more character studies and that, I think, is pretty much the meat of what I do, generally. But dark. Much darker in those prose books than I’ve ever done in my graphic novels. I think my art style is much more suited to humor, so that’s what I tend to focus on in my comics. At least the ones I’ve drawn myself. The Zombie World miniseries I wrote for Dark Horse, back in ’97, “Winter’s Dregs,” was pretty serious. It was also commissioned as a prequel to Pariah. But the comic series got canceled before I got to do Pariah, and for that I am actually – in retrospect – grateful, because I got to push much harder, darker and deeper in the novel than I would have as a PG-rated, much sorter comic.
As for what made me decide to scrap the art and just write a novel, some of it was pure and some of it wasn’t. The part that wasn’t was seeing others doing it and me thinking I could do as well or better. Competitiveness – which is not a bad thing, per se. The purer part was just loving novels and wanting to finally take the plunge and do it. I love words. I love wordplay and constructing a good sentence. And I love a challenge, and writing novels was definitely new terrain.
Why do you think zombies and vamps are so popular lately, especially in the last 10 years or so?
Eh, lots of people have theories. Some brainier than others; some more pretentious. I don’t know if it’s any millennial terror or any of that. I think they’re just fun toys to play with. And yes, we get to confront our morality and mortality with these toys, but ultimately they’re fun. Although, for whatever strange reason, I seem to go out of my way to make them less fun. Not to read. But my dad did say, “I never saw the downside to being a vampire until I read your book.” Funny quote. Wish I could’ve used it as a blurb. But I did go out of my way to show the downside. And then hopefully made it palatable and enjoyable with lots of dark humor.
How do you think horror has changed since the 80s, when it was especially popular?
Not sure, because I don’t read enough to be a trendspotter. I read a wide spectrum of genres, so I only get samplings of each. In movies I could answer more authoritatively, I think. They’ve generally gotten meaner. The ‘80s was the decade of fun horror. When Leisure Books was still around I read a bunch of their offerings. Maybe it’s more graphic than it was in its depictions of gruesomeness.
What are some of your favorite scary reads?
Dave Wellington’s books are always a pleasure to read. His zombie trilogy is essential reading. Clive Barker, especially the Books of Blood and The Damnation Game. Ramsey Campbell is terrific, as is Joe Lansdale. Brian Keene’s work, too. I’m too old or seasoned or whatever to get scared by books any more, but I remember the thrill of The Damnation Game. I was in my very early twenties and I noticed at a certain point I had curled and hunched as I read that. My whole body contorted with tension. That was great. Invisible Monsters by Palahniuk. Is that horror? Not really, but it unnerved me a bit.
How about movies? Any particular favorites?
Too many to mention. Cronenberg is my favorite, followed by Carpenter and Romero. Before Cronenberg got “respectable,” he was, is and ever will be my evergreen. Session 9, by Brad Anderson. That one is underappreciated. Great movie. Phantasm is a top fave. But too many.
What are you reading now?
Actually, 32 Fangs by Dave Wellington. So, right on topic. And next up is This Book is Full of Spiders, by David Wong. Actually, John Dies at the End might be my favorite “horror” novel of the last decade. But part of the reason is because I’m not sure it is horror. It’s such a crazy hybrid of a book. Can’t wait for the movie. The trailer looks great.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with us about upcoming projects or events (or anything at all!)?
The sequels to Pariah and Bottomfeeder remain in mind, but as to when and if they’ll materialize, not sure. But I’d love to do them.
Totally non-horror-related, but a new, super-deluxe edition of my comic series, Minimum Wage, is coming out in March 2013, from Image Comics, titled Maximum Minimum Wage. It will be the definitive edition, with tons of bonus material and printed oversized, so the art and text will finally have some breathing room. To link it to horror, Robert Kirkman is behind this reissue. He’s a big fan of Minimum Wage and he’ll likely have some content in the book. Maybe the foreword. Not sure. So, if the man behind The Walking Dead is behind this, I think your readers will dig it, too.
Keep up with Bob: Website | Goodreads | Twitter
About Bob Fingerman(via his website):
Best known for his comic series Minimum Wage (Fantagraphics Books), as well as the graphic novel White Like She (also Fantagraphics), Fingerman’s contributions to the world of comics have been many and varied.
In 1984, while still in attendance at New York’s School of Visual Arts, he produced work for the legendary Harvey Kurtzman (creator of Mad magazine and Playboy’s “Little Annie Fanny” as well as the recently collected Humbug) on the short-lived young readers anthology NUTS! At the same time Fingerman produced a series of parodies exclusively for the European market, which ran in such periodicals as France’s L’Echo Des Savanes and Spain’s infamous El Vibora.
Fingerman toiled in the disparate realms of kiddy satire, men’s magazines, sci-fi and illustration, producing work regularly for Cracked, Al Goldstein’s infamous tabloid Screw, Penthouse Hot Talk, Heavy Metal, National Lampoon and High Times. He also worked for The Village Voice, Business Week and other periodicals.
In the ’90s he decided to focus on comics, doing a stint on the The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, as well as several adult comics titles. He also created covers and short stories for Dark Horse Comics, and DC Comics’ Vertigo imprint.
In 1993 Fingerman wrote and drew his first graphic novel, White Like She, a social satire about a middle-aged black man whose brain is transplanted into a white teenage girl’s head.
Upon completion of that purely fictional work Fingerman decided to turn his attention inward. The result was the semi-autobiographical series Minimum Wage, which charted the bumpy relationship of Rob Hoffman and Sylvia Fanucci, and was collected and extensively reworked as the graphic novel, Beg the Question (Fantagraphics Books).
Fingerman has broadened his palette, turning also to prose. His darkly humorous vampire novel, Bottomfeeder (M Press), was published in early 2007. Recent projects are Connective Tissue (Fantagraphics, May 2009), a trippy illustrated novella, and From the Ashes (IDW), a “speculative memoir” featuring Bob and his wife Michele in post-apocalyptic NYC. In 2010 the collected edition of From the Ashes was released, followed by his second novel, Pariah, from Tor (mass market edition released in 2011). He also had a short story in the popular zombie anthology The Living Dead 2 (Night Shade Books, October 2010). Next up is a deluxe reissue of his defining comic series, called Maximum Minimum Wage, from Image Comics (March 2013).
He is married to his lovely wife, Michele, and lives in New York City.
Death’s Rival (Jane Yellowrock #5) by Faith Hunter
Publisher: Roc/Oct. 2nd, 2012
Kind thanks to Ace for providing a review copy
Jane Yellowrock is a shapeshifting skinwalker you don’t want to cross—especially if you’re one of the undead…
For a vampire killer like Jane, having Leo Pellisier as a boss took some getting used to. But now, someone is out to take his place as Master Vampire of the city of New Orleans, and is not afraid to go through Jane to do it. After an attack that’s tantamount to a war declaration, Leo knows his rival is both powerful and vicious, but Leo’s not about to run scared. After all, he has Jane. But then,a plague strikes, one that takes down vampires and makes their masters easy prey.
Now, to uncover the identity of the vamp who wants Leo’s territory, and to find the cause of the vamp-plague, Jane will have to go to extremes…and maybe even to war.
Jane is working for Leo Pellesier again and he’s got her hunting down the cause of a vampire plague that’s being spread by a mysterious alpha vamp. He’s making MOCs (Master of the City) and their minions sick, and forcing them to recognize him as their master before offering them the cure. There might be a traitor in their midst too. Jane is soon thrown into a maelstrom of murder and carnage, and it’s not helping that she’s not exactly in the best place, emotionally. She’s lost two of the most important people in the world to her in one fell swoop, and feels more alone than ever. With a new bodyguard, Eli, and his hacker brother at her back, Jane prepares for war, because war has been declared, and it will be epic.
Just when I think this series can’t get better, along comes the next book. Death’s Rival is the most personal of the bunch as Jane gets to the bottom of the tragedy that happened to her as a child, and subsequently shaped her entire future. Faith Hunter packs a lot into these books and has created a rich, fully realized world for Jane and her crew. Jane’s dual nature is fascinating, and Jane may still be the star, but Beast is starting to give her a run for her money.
You won’t find light and fluffy in these books. You’ll find a very complex, strong, wounded heroine who constantly questions her own violent nature, while longing to share herself with someone that understands her. I’ll be honest, I love Ricky-Bo, but Bruiser is my number one pick for Jane, but she’s constantly at odds with his undeniable connection to Leo, but is unable to ignore the smolder between her and Bruiser. How Faith Hunter manages to make a scene that has no sex in it whatsoever so darn hot, I have no idea, but she does it, to delicious effect. Death’s Rival is full of revelations and startling discoveries, and is a game changer for Jane, and for this series. Faith Hunter just took things to a whole different level with Death’s Rival, and you can bet I’ll be there for the next book. If you haven’t discovered this superb series yet, what are you waiting for?
I’m thrilled to have Emma Cornwall on the blog today! Emma is the author of the recently released Incarnation, and is the nom de plume of a New York Times bestselling author. She was kind enough to answer a few of my questions, and we’ve also got a copy of Incarnation up for grabs, so check out the details at the bottom of the post!
Emma, your new novel, Incarnation, just came out a few weeks ago! Will you tell us a bit about it?
Gladly! Incarnation is a re-imagining of Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” told from the point of view of one of the characters, Lucy Weston, as she is known here. In my version, Lucy is a real person who has been transformed against her will into a vampire. She is stunned to discover that Stoker has authored a novel about what happened to her that is intended to mislead a gullible public. Lucy sets out to find the being who transformed her in the hope that she can regain her lost humanity. Along the way, she battles her own thirst for blood, awakens to a lost love, and struggles to prevent a war that will destroy humans and vampires alike.
What was one of your favorite things about writing Incarnation?
I loved being able to wander through a steampunk London but my favorite aspect was Lucy herself. She completely took over the story and inspired me in ways that I never expected at the beginning. Her struggles to cope with her circumstances made the book much richer and deeper than it would otherwise have been.
What kind of research did you do for Incarnation?
I’ve spent quite a bit of time in London and know the areas that I was writing about very well but I still went back through old photographs and newspaper reports–even to the extent of checking out the weather! I was particularly fascinated with the details of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee, which plays a significant part in this story.
If Incarnation were made into a movie, who would you cast as the main characters?
That’s a tough one but if I really got to pick, I think I’d like Piper Perabo as Lucy. I really enjoy her in “Covert Affairs” and she did a bang-up job in “Looper”.
What are some of your favorite vamp-centric books or movies?
“Dracula”, of course, because that’s where it all began and because the novel gives such insights into the darker corners of Victorian angst. Like so many other readers, I came back to the genre because of Anne Rice’s “Interview with a Vampire”, and I’m a big fan also of that movie. I really enjoyed the early seasons of “True Blood” but I admit that I’ve drifted away. I also loved both Gary Oldman’s and Frank Langella’s “Dracula”, very different from each other but compelling in their own ways.
If you could read one book again for the very first time, which one would it be?
My all-time favorite book is Michael Shaara’s “Killer Angels”, ostensibly about the battle of Gettysburg but really about the nature of war, the price of misguided notions of honor, and the luminous nature of true courage.
What are you reading now?
I’m reading and greatly enjoying “The Cloud Atlas” by David Mitchell.
Is there anything else you’d like to share about upcoming projects or events (or anything at all!)?
I’m currently working on an unrelated project but if there’s enough reader support, I’d very much like to continue Lucy’s story. I’d also like to mention that anyone who would like to know more about the vampire world at the heart of “Incarnation” might want to take a look at Lucy Weston’s own book, “The Secret History of Elizabeth Tudor, Vampire Slayer.
Please welcome Lisa Kessler back to the blog! Lisa is the author of Night Walker and the brand new novella, Night Thief! Lisa is giving away an ecopy of Night Thief to 1 commenter, so be sure to check out the details at the end of the post!
Hi everyone –
I’m so excited to be back on My Bookish Ways!!!
I visited a few months back with Night Walker, the first book in my new Night Series, and today I’m back with Night Thief. This novella is actually a prequel to Night Walker, so if you’re curious about the series, you can try the novella first and it won’t spoil Night Walker…
Here’s the Blurb:
After the fall of the Mayan civilization, Kane, an immortal Night Walker, has taken refuge in France for over 800 years. The modern world holds little interest for him until the night he meets the Golden Thief and is robbed of much more than his pocket watch.
Marguerite Rousseau is living a double life. By day she is the assistant to an eccentric French artist, Antoine Berjon, and by night she dons elegant evening gowns to woo French dignitaries before lifting their wallets.
Sparks ignite when Kane captures the thief, but Marguerite harbors a dark secret that could ruin them both.
So what is a Night Walker? When I started writing the series, I wanted a vampire-like race that wasn’t related to Vlad or the European vampire mythos… My researching led me to the oldest civilization in the Americas, the Maya. The more I researched, I also brought in some Native American history, and the Night Walkers are the result.
They’re immortal, and they drink blood to live, but they actually do “live”. Every night when the sun goes down, their hearts beat and they breathe. Night Walkers also have a spirit animal that they can shift into at will.
I love reading and writing about immortals because you can weave in real history with this being who actually lived in during that time. As a writer it gives me lifetimes to play with, to make this character who they are today. So fun!
What about you as readers? Do you enjoy paranormal stories with vampires or other immortals? What are your favorite traits of an immortal or vampire?
One commenter will win an eBook copy of Night Thief! (Ends 10/8/12)
Think of a Number by John Verdon
Publisher: Crown/July 2010
Arriving in the mail over a period of weeks are taunting letters that end with a simple declaration, “Think of any number…picture it…now see how well I know your secrets.” Amazingly, those who comply find that the letter writer has predicted their random choice exactly. For Dave Gurney, just retired as the NYPD’s top homicide investigator and forging a new life with his wife, Madeleine, in upstate New York, the letters are oddities that begin as a diverting puzzle but quickly ignite a massive serial murder investigation.What police are confronted with is a completely baffling killer, one who is fond of rhymes filled with threats and warnings, whose attention to detail is unprecedented, and who has an uncanny knack for disappearing into thin air. Even more disturbing, the scale of his ambition seems to widen as events unfold.
Brought in as an investigative consultant, Dave Gurney soon accomplishes deductive breakthroughs that leave local police in awe. Yet, even as he matches wits with his seemingly clairvoyant opponent, Gurney’s tragedy-marred past rises up to haunt him, his marriage approaches a dangerous precipice, and finally, a dark, cold fear builds that he’s met an adversary who can’t be stopped.
In the end, fighting to keep his bearings amid a whirlwind of menace and destruction, Gurney sees the truth of what he’s become – what we all become when guilty memories fester – and how his wife Madeleine’s clear-eyed advice may be the only answer that makes sense.
Dave Gurney is more than a little surprised when he’s contacted by an old college acquaintance, Mark Mellery. He wants to see Dave, but it’s not just to catch up on old times. Dave agrees to meet with Mellery and he joins Dave at his home. Mellery is overly familiar and his rapport seems a bit forced, but his desperation over some recent correspondence is very real, and he’s come to Dave seeking advice on how to handle the supposed threat.
Mark Mellery now runs the Mellery Institute for Spiritual Renewal, a professed oasis for people seeking spiritual guidance and healing. However, his past saw a period of alcoholism that caused destruction and the end of his marriage, and he’s worried that it might be catching up with him. Strangely enough though, he’s very reluctant to involve the police, even at Dave’s urging. Dave is stumped however, since part of the correspondence included asking him to think of a number, then open an envelope containing a number: the very one that Mark thought of. Dave knows there must be a logical explanation, that this isn’t ESP, but he doesn’t know how the trick was carried out. He does know that the letters get increasingly threatening. Turns out his instincts about the threat were spot on when Mellery turns up dead outside his home, sliced brutally in the throat. Obviously Dave must notify the police of his involvement, and he inevitably becomes tied to the investigation. His reputation precedes him, and his logical mind is just the thing they need to solve this mystifying case. As the killings escalate, Dave must not only muster every tool in his arsenal, but also confront some hard truths within himself.
Think Of a Number is the first book in the Dave Gurney series, and it caught my interest immediately. Dave is brilliant, logical, and nearly always even keeled, but he’s not without his flaws. However, that’s what I liked most about him. As talented as he is at self examination, he constantly misses cues that point to his increased tendency to push away those he loves the most. Dave and his wife, Madeleine moved to the Catskills in the wake of Dave’s retirement, and I always got the sense that Madeleine was desperate to see him take what she considered a much needed break from law enforcement, but if nothing else, Dave Gurney is a cop to the core, and even a tragedy in his past can’t pull him back from the puzzle of this newest case. One would almost think he was using the case so as not to have to deal his wife’s frustration, or the calls from his adult son whose life and career paths he doesn’t quite approve of. His wonderfully precise mind is always “on”, in working a case, in his art (manipulating the mugshot photos of some of his most notorious collars), but the things that should be closest to him seem always just one step too many away.
I dare you to start the first page of this book and not get hooked immediately. It begins with a decidedly creepy lullaby, uttered from a son to his mother and sets up this intricate puzzle mystery perfectly. When you’ve got a hero this fascinating, a villain as brilliant and cunning as he is evil, and and author whose writing pulls you in and dazzles with its smooth grasp of detail and breathless pace, and you’ve got an unputdownable mystery that you’ll stay up very late finishing. I’m looking forward to the next installment in this series. Recommended for suspense fans and puzzle mystery lovers alike!
Here are the new releases for October! However, this is by no means a comprehensive list (just ones that I especially have my eye on.) If you have any new releases that I didn’t include, and that you’d like to direct me to, please list them in the comments. Thanks!
October 9th, 2012:
After ed. by Ellen Datlow
Valkyrie Rising by Ingrid Paulson
Mystic City by Theo Lawrence
Velveteen by Daniel Marks | REVIEW
Into the Woods: Tales from the Hollows by Kim Harrison
Skies of Steel by Zoe Archer
Dracula Cha Cha Cha by Kim Newman
Red Rain by RL Stine
The Unfailing Light by Robin Bridges
October 16th, 2012:
Portlandtown by Rob DeBorde
Angel’s Ink by Jocelynn Drake | REVIEW
Only Superhuman by Christopher L. Bennett
The Shadow Society by Marie Rutkoski
Sanctum by Sarah Fine
Wild Girls by Mary Stewart Atwell
Further Confessions of a Slightly Neurotic Hitwoman by JB Lynn
Blood Lance by Jeri Westerson
ZOM-B by Darren Shan
Sacrifice Fly by Tim O’Mara
The Twelve by Justin Cronin
The Panther by Nelson DeMille
The Bone Bed by Patricia Cornwell
Cold Light by Jenn Ashworth
The Walking Dead: The Road to Woodbury by Robert Kirkman and Jay Bonansinga
Beluga by Rick Gavin
The Tangled Bridge by Rhodi Hawk
Home by Matthew Costello
Dead Asleep by Jamie Freveletti
Pandaemonium by Ben Macallan
What new books are you jonesin’ for this month?
Please welcome Richard E. Gropp to the blog today! His new book, Bad Glass, just came out this week, and he was kind enough to answer a few of my questions. Also, I’ve got 3 copies of Bad Glass up for grabs, so check out the details at the end of the post!
Richard, your new novel, Bad Glass, just came out! Have you always wanted to be a writer? Can you tell us about your journey to publication?
I’ve pretty much always wanted to be a writer. Ever since I stumbled upon the fantastic work of John Bellairs and Zilpha Keatley Snyder as a little kid, I’ve been fascinated by stories and their ability to transport and ensorcell. I wrote my first novel when I was 16 (a terrible dystopian SF story), and I’ve been writing, off and on, ever since.
My big break came when Bad Glass won the Suvudu Writing Contest in 2011, beating out nearly 700 other novels. The prize was $200 worth of Del Rey books and an editing pass from legendary Editor-in-Chief Betsy Mitchell, but Del Rey liked the book so much they wanted to publish it.
That was a pretty good day.
Will you tell us a bit about Bad Glass?
In Bad Glass, something strange has happed in Spokane, Washington, but no one knows exactly what. The government has come in and quarantined the city, locking down the borders, but strange rumors, videos and photos still manage to leak out: the mayor disappears into thin air in the middle of a televised press conference, cell phone videos show physics gone awry, and there are rumors of strange animals wandering the streets. Dean Walker, an aspiring photographer, decides to sneak into the city to document what’s going on, in the hopes of establishing a name for himself as a photojournalist. Naturally, as tends to happen in this type of story, everything goes wrong. He hooks up with a group of young holdouts and they fight to stay alive – and sane – while the world crumbles down around them.
It’s a pretty dark story. Definitely not comedy.
How did you celebrate when you found out Bad Glass would be published?
At first, I couldn’t really believe it. I figured that there’d been some kind of mistake, and Del Rey would call me back and tell me that they’d changed their minds. After the reality of the situation started to sink in, however, I think I went out for a nice dinner with friends. Pretty boring, really. I didn’t buy a private jet. No drunken debaucheries.
What are some of your biggest literary influences?
At the moment, I’d have to say my biggest influences are Raymond Chandler, Stephen King, Philip K. Dick, Samuel R. Delany, William Gibson, Caitlín R. Kiernan, and Haruki Murakami. But that list is constantly changing. Ask again in an hour, and I’m sure I’ll have some new names.
Is there anything that helps you write? Anything in particular that gets the creative juices flowing?
Hmmm … I have my habits, but I’m not sure they really contribute to my productivity. Twitter certainly doesn’t. I guess you could say I’m an early-afternoon writer – that’s when I’m at my most productive. And I need space and privacy so I can read aloud (I’m constantly reading over everything I write, listening to the sound of my words, the rhythm of the syllables). And I guess it helps to have my German Shepherd, Rebel, nearby. She’s a bit of a muse.
Bad Glass is a fusion of horror and fantasy. What do you find truly scary?
For some reason, I’m affected by weird body horror. If I looked down and saw a pulsing growth sticking out of my abdomen, maybe moving around with a mind of its own, that would probably freak me the hell out (you can see this kind of mutated body-horror in the early films of David Cronenberg, or the chest-burster scene in Alien). I also find human psychology absolutely terrifying. I’m always worried that there are strange, unconscious parts of my brain trying to sabotage my efforts, trying to lead me to my doom. (As Raymond Chandler notes, in The Long Goodbye, “There is no trap so deadly as the trap you set for yourself.”)
What are some of your favorite fantasy/sci-fi reads?
Again, this is a long, and constantly changing list. Dhalgren by Samuel R. Delany is always near the top – it’s not for everyone, I guess, but it really opened my eyes as to what SF can do. Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves is another big one for me. I’ve been reading and re-reading William Gibson’s newer, “modern day” novels (Pattern Recognition, in particular, seems to speak to me). Philip K. Dick’s A Scanner Darkly. Jeff VanderMeer’s A City of Saints and Madmen. KJ Bishop’s The Etched City. Caitlín R. Kiernan’s The Dry Salvages. Patricia Geary’s Strange Toys. Stephen King’s The Gunslinger and The Stand. M. John Harrison’s Viriconium series.
What do you personally like to see in a good book?
I love it when a book absolutely consumes me, when it sucks me in and drops me into a living, breathing environment. And the stranger, the more perplexing that place is, the better.
What makes you want to set a book aside in frustration?
The most frustrating thing for me, I think, is when clumsy writing gets in the way of a great story. I can be in the middle of an exciting action sequence, turning the pages with trembling fingers, and then hit a passage that knocks me back to the real world. I’d almost prefer it if the book were uniformly bad, because whenever that happens there’s always a sense of regret and missed potential (“This would have been so great, if only …”)
Of course, I can be a pretty brutal reader, and I’m sure my own writing suffers from plenty of cack-handed choices.
What are you reading now?
I just finished Brian Evenson’s Immobility – a sparse, bleak, beautiful book. And I’m about to pick up M. John Harrison’s Empty Space.
When you manage to find some free time, how do you like to spend it?
Lately, I’ve been honing my cooking skills. I make a mean chicken marsala, and a rather friendly bacon-wrapped meatloaf. I’m also an amateur photographer and an intermediate wakeboarder, although I haven’t been devoting nearly enough time to either of those pursuits… And then there’s bourbon, of course. (And, yes, I just stole that from Jay Kristoff’s interview. But when you’re right, you’re right.)
What’s next? Is there anything you’d like to share about upcoming projects or events?
I just got back from a research trip to Vancouver, BC, where my next novel takes place (fingers crossed). I’m still pretty early in the process, though, so I don’t want to talk about it too much. I’m also hoping to devote some more time to short fiction in the coming months. We’ll see where that goes.
Thanks a lot for having me on My Bookish Ways, and keep up the great work!
Keep up with Richard: Website | Twitter