Please welcome Gail Z Martin back to the blog as part of her Days of the Dead blog tour, and be sure to check out her links below the post for tons of goodies!
Keeping the Supernatural Real
By Gail Z. Martin
Ghosts, magic, vampires, and freaky supernatural creatures abound in my books. Whether it’s a main character who is a necromancer, a shop owner with the ability to read the history of an object by touching it, or an ancient and deadly ghost menacing a steam-era city, my stories are full of things that go bump in the night.
How do you make supernatural elements real enough that readers suspend their disbelief? Where’s the line between fantastic and fake?
For me, any time I create magic and use the supernatural, there have to be rules and limits. This keeps the story within bounds and keeps it from jumping the shark. When magic has rules and power comes at a cost, then practitioners in the story are going to be careful about how they use their skills and they won’t be able to take on god-like superpowers (or at least, not for very long). Invincible characters aren’t much fun because they’re never at risk. Rules and limits provide boundaries beyond which characters risk damage, death or worse.
Rules also mean that magic doesn’t become the cheap fix for plot problems too tangled to resolve. If we’ve clearly stated that magic can’t do certain things, or can only work within limits, then it doesn’t turn into a cheat or an easy out.
Halloween is tomorrow! Yay!! To get you in the mood, and to usher in the weekend, I’ve rounded up a TON of horror and dark suspense titles that will give you chills, and they’re all under $5 (Ritual is right at $5 buckaroos).
As always, doublecheck before you click the BUY button, and if Kindle isn’t your preferred format, be sure to check other formats, since quite often the prices are universal. Enjoy!
I’m very excited to have Kim Zupan on the blog today. His debut novel, The Ploughmen, came out last month, and he was kind enough to answer a few of my questions!
Your new book, The Ploughman, features a very unlikely friendship between two very different men. Will you tell us more about John Gload and Valentine Millimaki and what you think makes them so compelling?
What I hope makes them compelling—and what I believe drives the novel—is that their relationship, their friendship, is built upon the frailest foundation—an act of kindness, a morsel of respect for another human being. In the most difficult times, under the most trying circumstances, one embraces warmth wherever it is to be found. In the case of Gload, like a vicious dog who’s been addressed with a kind word, he’s at first perplexed by Millimaki and then compelled, finally, to loyalty and love. Millimaki finds solace in a voice from the dark of a cell as his life begins to waver and darken. The relationship is unlikely, of course, but makes sense in that two souls, adrift in a dark vacuum, will move inevitably toward one another.
Why did you decide to set the book in the 80s? What kind of research did you do for the novel?
The book is based very loosely on events that occurred during that time. There was an old killer loose in the west during the 60s, 70s and 80s and a friend of mine had been a sheriff’s deputy who was to sit with him. The book didn’t require much in the way of research. There was no GPS then or cell phones, no digital cameras and I had to be careful some of these things, so ubiquitous and taken for granted today, did not show up in The Ploughmen. Further, I made a couple of trips to the old Montana State prison at Deer Lodge, which is now a kind of museum and I spent some time driving around in the country north of Great Falls by way of getting a better feel for that place. An abandon farm house with a forgotten orchard that I stopped to photograph became in the book John Gload’s home and sanctuary. I still have that picture in a drawer around here somewhere.
Please welcome Jeyn Roberts to the blog as part of her tour for her brand new book, THE BODIES WE WEAR! Also, courtesy of the nice folks at Knopf, we’ve got 2 copies to give away to 2 lucky readers (US/Canada)!
Congrats on the new book! Will you tell us a little about The Bodies We Wear and what inspired you to write it?
Thank you! Faye was only eleven when she and her friend, Christian, were forced to take Heam, a deadly and highly addictive drug that allows the users to catch a glimpse of heaven. She survived, Christian didn’t. Now, six years later, she’ll stop at nothing to get revenge against the men who killed Christian and left her with the scars and addiction of a Heam abuser.
I was inspired to write this novel after the death of my father. I was questioning what happens to us when we die. I remember thinking at one point, imagine if there was a drug people could take that would allow the user to see heaven. How would people react? What sort of stigma would that have on society? On religion? On faith? The idea grew from there.
What did you enjoy most about writing Faye, and why do you think readers will root for her?
Faye is far from perfect, the exact quality I love writing about. She’s been through some terrible times, but she has this amazing determination to rise above. She’s both strong and vulnerable, which I think all great characters should be.
What kind of research did you do for the book?
Not a whole lot. The majority of research was my own brain trying to work everything out. I did do a little reading on different types of religion and their views on heaven. I also worked with my friend who is a personal trainer to help create Faye’s workout routines.
Maddy Black is pregnant with Gabriel’s child and could give birth any moment (seriously, this kid is growing much faster than a human baby), and her hopes of a peaceful birth with Nathaniel are unfortunately not to be. Lucifer and Evangeline are getting married, and Maddy Black must put in an appearance at the wedding, but Lucifer is known for his machinations, and she’s worried that she and her friends will be vulnerable, especially with so many of Lucifer’s enemies in attendance. And, although he tends to favor Maddy when it benefits him, it’s no secret that he’s after Maddy’s baby, and she may not be safe from him either. There’s also a shapeshifter on the loose that can look like anything or anyone, and it seems to be going after people that Maddy cares about. Keep in mind, Puck is still running around out there, and he’s certainly no fan of Maddy’s, and after what Maddy did to Evangeline, well… It’s sure to be one heck of a wedding.
What could possibly be better than a wedding with Lucifer, all of his minions, and nearly every enemy of Maddy’s? Evangeline is a whole lot of crazy, and it ticks her off to no end that she has to share his attention with anyone else, and that includes Maddy. Maddy, as usual, just wants to be free of Lucifer’s attention and his constant attempts to control her, and her eventually, her child. She’s also still being hounded by Jack Dabrowski, a very determined blogger that seems intent on chronicling her every move for the world to see, and the city is threatening to round up all supernatural creatures into a camp (at the direction of Lucifer’s bro, Alerian.) The book starts off with a bang and pretty much doesn’t stop rolling until the end, and in addition to threats all around, Maddy’s still figuring out her feelings for Nathaniel, who will protect her at all costs. Nathaniel sure has come a long way, yeah? Remember loathsome Nathaniel? Well, he’s no longer loathsome, and he loves Maddy with all of his heart. She cares for him deeply too, but she’s still smarting from Gabriel’s death.
I’ve been a big fan of Sophie Littlefield’s for a long time, and I’m thrilled to have her back on the blog to talk about her brand new book, THE MISSING PLACE!
Will you tell us more about The Missing Place and what inspired you to write it?
I was inspired by an article in People magazine several years back that depicted the harsh and lonely living conditions of oil rig workers in modern-day boom towns. I was fascinated that people were being drawn by the promise of high salaries from all over the country, that they were leaving behind families and spouses and the homes they’d lived in, sometimes for their whole lives, to take a gamble on a better life in the future. I wanted to see first-hand the trade-offs they had made and how they endured the isolation and hard physical labor. It seemed like a very human story of sacrifice and hope. I had a feeling that if I spent some time there, a story would come to me—and that is exactly what happened.
What kind of research did you do for the book?
In addition to reading all the articles and watching all the news items about the oil boom that I could find, I traveled to North Dakota in the dead of winter and slogged around town in the middle of a snowstorm to learn all I could about what it was like to live and work there. I got permission to stay in a “man camp,” the temporary housing provided by oil companies for their workers, and shared meals and conversation (and a bathroom!) with rig hands. I pored over maps and demographic statistics so that the fictional town I created would be as realistic as possible, and read through reports of lawsuits brought against oil companies and mineral lease holders.
Tony Park is Australian, his books are huge in the UK (he’s published 11), and take place in Africa. Confused? Don’t be, it’s all part of his awesome, and he just made his US debut with The Delta, featuring mercenary Sonja Kurtz. He was also kind enough to answer a few questions about the new book, his love for Africa’s beauty, and more!
Tony, you have many titles already under your belt, but I can’t wait to dive into your US debut, THE DELTA. Will you tell us a little about it and about Sonja Kurtz, your very unusual protagonist?
I’m really excited about my US debut. The Delta is set in Botswana’s magnificent Okavango Delta, wildlife paradise that was, bizarrely, threatened in real life several years ago by a plan to build a dam on the Okavango River, which would have starved the wetlands of water. The dam didn’t go ahead in real life, but I resurrected the plan for my novel. The dam is built and a group of environmentalists and land owners hire mercenary Sonja Kurtz to blow it up! Sonja was quite a departure for me – my first female principal lead character. She’s ruthless, intelligent, and tough as nails, but she’s also a single mom with some serious relationship issues. She may be a bit of a softy at heart, but never let her hear you say that.
You have a very interesting background and have worked as a freelance writer, but have you always wanted to write books? Will you tell us a little more about yourself?
The one thing I always wanted to do in life was write a novel. I enjoyed writing at school and worked as a journalist, but fiction was always my passion. I left full time work in 1996 to try and write a novel and after one unsuccessful attempt I found my true inspiration in Africa, a continent I’d begun exploring as a tourist in 1995 and was fast becoming addicted to. Since my first book came out in 2004 my wife, Nicola, and I have spent six months of every year in Africa, where I research and write my books, and the other six months back in our native Australia. We have an unusual life but we love it.
Black Road by Tania Carver (Pegasus, Aug. 2014)-The Black Road (Choked in the UK) is my first thriller by Tania Carver (the British writing duo of Martyn and Linda Waites), and it won’t be my last. It’s actually book 4 in the series featuring DI Phil Brennan and his now wife, criminal psychologist Marina Esposito. The focus in this one, however, is on Marina, because in the first scene, the cottage that they’ve been vacationing at is set on fire and Phil is seriously injured, along with Phil’s mother, and the subsequent blast actually kills his father. Marina, somehow, ends up outside of the cottage, and when she comes to (after being “rescued” by a mysterious stranger), her first thought is of her 3 year old daughter Josephina, but no sign of Josephina is found in the cottage. Then, in the hospital, Marina gets a phone call from someone claiming to have her daughter, but she’s prohibited from telling anyone and must follow the caller’s instructions herself in order to get Josephina back, but this is no simple kidnapping, and it may have to do with a case that Marina handled a long time ago, at the beginning of her career.
Sometimes, I need a fast paced procedural to scratch my thriller itch and The Black Road was just the ticket. I identified with Marina’s desperation and willingness to go to just about any lengths to get her little girl back, and Carver serves up a “family” of criminals that will make your skin crawl. Their henchman, who they only call The Golem (he’s huge, has grey skin, is preternaturally quiet, and prefers to use his hands to do his dirty work), is very, very creepy, and although he does get a bit of a backstory, it doesn’t really alleviate that creepiness all that much (maybe a little, but not too much.) I actually found him quite compelling and think they could do quite a lot more with his character, but I digress. Back to Marina. While she follows the kidnappers’ directives, her husband Phil lies unconscious in the hospital, which only serves to ramp up her desperation, and although this is outside her department’s turf, it doesn’t keep her fellow cops from helping in any way they can, while DS Jessica James and her partner DC Deepak Shah (I want more of the enigmatic Shah), are following leads stemming from the explosion. To be clear, there’s no new ground being broken here, where the genre is concerned, but you won’t care, seriously, because things move so fast, and the bad guys (and girls) are so damn weird that you’ll be hooked.
Bring Me Flesh, I’ll Bring Hell, the new horror novel by Martin Rose, will be out next week, and he kindly answered a few of my questions about the book, and more!
Congrats on the new book! Will you tell us a little about Bring Me Flesh, I’ll Bring Hell, and what inspired you to write it?
Thanks. Bring Me Flesh, I’ll Bring Hell is a hard-boiled detective, zombie, horror novel. Vitus has the misfortune to trust his brother, a military doctor, and that trust is repaid when his brother infects him and turns him into a zombie. The good news for Vitus, is they have a pill for everything these days. Unfortunately for him, that’s also the bad news. It’s about a person who wakes up a monster and has to keep on living, keep on working, and keep on paying the bills without losing his head, if you’ll pardon the pun. It started out as a short story for an anthology, but the character required a distinctive style and voice that was easy for me as a writer to hook into, less easy to unhook from, and it very much wrote itself.
Tell us more about yourself! You’ve got a graphic design degree, but what made you jump into writing? Have you always wanted to write?
That’s a long story; too long to tell in one sitting, but I can hand off the short version. I’d been encouraged to engage in the arts from an early age. I started writing around twelve or so. Around thirteen and fourteen I started sending stories out to magazines, garnered my first rejections. Around twenty-one, things changed, got a little tumultuous. So writing wasn’t possible for a long period of time, due to a number of unexpected, personal responsibilities. I went into visual arts, and then earned my degree in graphic design. In a way, this was quite a boon – the folks at Skyhorse/Talos were nice enough to allow me to dictate the direction of everything from the cover design to the typography and interior layout. A graphic design degree gave me the full understanding of book design and construction. If the world fell apart tomorrow, I’d be the lone survivor putting together a Gutenberg press and binding books by hand. After I graduated, the job market in New Jersey was quite poor – and that was before the economic bust. So instead of sending out my umpteenth unanswered resume, I started sending out stories again. It was 2007, 2008 and I couldn’t afford an internet connection. I typed up stories at my apartment and then took them to the library and used their internet connection to send them. Later on, I started using the telephone line for the dial-up when I couldn’t reach the library. I wrote a novel while working two jobs, and that’s still sitting in a trunk somewhere. Bring Me Flesh came about a few years later. In retrospect, I don’t know if I’ve always wanted to write. More accurate to say that the writing has always wanted me.
Today’s round up focuses on the mysterious and thought-provoking, with a few detours into scary territory. I’ve curated carefully, because I love you, and all books are $5 and under (as always, doublecheck before you click the BUY button.) You’re sure to find something here to fatten up your TBR!
Now, I have a Kindle, but if that’s not your jam, do check out other ebook platforms, because these discounts are frequently universal!