Tag Archives: France

Kleenex for Your Valentine: February Reminds Me of My Writing (and Tainted Love)

I meant to feature a post for Valentine’s Day on the site, but last week ended up intense and busy in the indie horror world and other work priorities took up my time, as well I had been pretty ill the days before and was still recovering. Certainly, February (as a whole) is available for talking about love, is it not? Even love gone awry? I suppose we can talk, read, and write about it any time, I know I do, so it’s always a good time in my book (well, IN my writings, if you read them, love is not always a good time). Whether you spent Valentine’s Day happy in love, alone and happy, or crying, I’ve got something myself to say about love. It takes on many forms and is often fodder for writers like me to explore.

First, I’d draw attention to my poem “Chained by Love,” which was featured in the February 2018 issue of Enchanted Conversation: a fairy tale magazine. My poem showcased the love between moral Raymond and sea serpent/mermaid Melusine in medieval France folklore. You’ll see their happiness takes a different turn. You can read it for free in the magazine HERE. I’d like to again say thanks to them for choosing my piece to publish and for putting out such a gorgeous edition.

“A beautiful, tragic fairy tale.” – Author R.J. Crowder

“Very powerful, Erin. I loved it.” – Bram Stoker Nominated Author Jeremy Hepler

“Well done. Enjoyed it!” – Illustrator and Writer Michael Mitchell

ChainedByLove-AL-MEHAIRI-ArtAmandaBergloff

On a different note, I failed to announce on my site here at the end of the year, but I have a story called “The Heart of the Orchard” featured in the anthology HARDENED HEARTS, which released from Unnerving in December 2017. It’s been widely reviewed, shared on social media to high regard, and I’m pleased that my story has been doing quite well. My story is like a crime/serial killer/revenge story wrapped up with a fairy tale vibe. It’s a little bit of something I’ll always do to have a bit of the feel of grim fairy tales in my work. I grew up with Brothers Grimm, Hans Christian Andersen, and other folklore inspiring me and it’s not unusual it transferred into my work. The darker the better, but for me, it’s a way of dealing with trauma and fears.

In this anthology there are all types of stories from love that hurts, to love gone wrong, to weird love, to the love of something unusual, to the loss of a loved one, but always each will get you feeling. Here is the synopsis and list of authors:

“40 Ways to Leave Your Monster Lover” by Gwendolyn Kiste
“It Breaks My Heart to Watch You Rot” by Somer Canon
“What is Love?” by Calvin Demmer
“Heirloom” by Theresa Braun
“The Recluse” by John Boden
“Dog Tired” by Eddie Generous
“The Pink Balloon” by Tom Deady
“It’s My Party and I’ll Cry if I Want To” by J.L. Knight
“Consumed” by Madhvi Ramani
“Burning Samantha” by Scott Paul Hallam
“Class of 2000” by Robert Dean
“Learning to Love” by Jennifer Williams
“Brothers” by Leo X. Robertson
“Porcelain Skin” by Laura Blackwell
“The Heart of the Orchard” by Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi
“Meeting the Parents” by Sarah L. Johnson
“Matchmaker” by Meg Elison

17 stories of difficult love, broken hearts, lost hope, and discarded truths. Love brings pain, vulnerability, and demands of revenge. Hardened Hearts spills the sum of darkness and light concerning the measures of love; including works from Meg Elison, author of The Book of the Unnamed Midwife (Winner of the Philip K. Dick Award), Tom Deady, author of Haven (Winner of the Bram Stoker award for Superior Achievement in a First Novel), Gwendolyn Kiste, author of And Her Smile Will Untether the Universe and Pretty Marys All in a Row (and Bram Stoker Nominated Author) and more. Hardened Hearts dips from speculative, horror, science fiction, fantasy, into literary and then out of the classifiable and into the waters of unpinned genres, but pure entertainment nonetheless.

Praise for my story in Hardened Hearts, “The Heart of the Orchard” –

“The Heart of the Orchard by: Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi – Loved, loved, loved this one—the setting, the tone, the writing—all of it was great!” – Literary Dust

‘The Heart of the Orchard’ by Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi is another of the strongest works in the anthology. A dark fairy tale focussing on a young woman with a scarred past who is offered help in her quest to succeed with her fruit orchard by a character known only as The Orchard Man. She gratefully accepts his assistance in the form of herbs for her sleeplessness and fertiliser for her peach trees.” – This is Horror

“THE HEART OF THE ORCHARD by Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi. This read almost like a warped fairy tale, and as we all know, fairy tales can often be quite grim.” – Char’s Horror Corner (in listing the tales that stood out for her)

“THE HEART OF THE ORCHARD by Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi – This one deserved its own book also! A+” – Book Dragon Girl (in listing her favorite stories)

Praise for Hardened Hearts anthology overall –

“…consistently strong gathering of tales which will elicit a number of different emotions. Highly recommended.” – The Grim Reader

“I believe the fact that the authors decided to mix love and horror into the mix was a brilliant idea. The literature was varied but strong, and each to its own was enjoyable to read.” -Happy Booker

HARDENED HEARTS is a collection of love at its best and worst from a group of authors who make an art out of storytelling. There is a story for everyone from fantasy to dark horror and they prove that love makes the world go ‘round and ‘round and ‘round. From the fascinating foreword to the very last word, prepare to be entertained through a myriad of your own emotions and reactions to each tale, all in the name of love.” – The Tome Tender Book Blog

“Love and horror are the very best of bedfellows if done well. “Hardened Hearts” by Various Authors goes far beyond that. These are not your everyday kind of love stories (or maybe for you they are). They are dark, twisted and disturbing. Love will be redefined from one story to the next. 17 brilliantly written short stories by some very talented word artists.” – Books in My Library Blog

“Nearly every single story by this group of majorly talented authors, is unique, horrific, and thought-provoking. There were a couple that were just kind of meh for me, but they do have great merit and deserve a read too. With this eclectic bunch, there really is something for everyone.” – Reeds and Reels

“A brave anthology which does away with binary concepts of gender, love and sex, instead presenting the reader with love that is realistic, heartfelt, though at times, naturally, stepping into the fantastical.” – This is Horror

I was also thrilled that for some, my story resonated, or they found it worthy of special mention. I know that my story, besides having some fantastical components, can also be unsettling because it’s based on some trauma I experienced in my own life. I channeled this into my character, and though she was not privy to it herself (and you’ll see why if you read the story), it had wreaked havoc on her soul and she sought out revenge. I think it is the ultimate in hardening a heart and it was what propelled me to write it when Eddie, the editor/publisher, told me the theme.

 

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In my dark poetry and fiction collection, BREATHE. BREATHE., being in relationships is explored because I wrote my emotions about living in a domestic violence situation for many years into some of my poems. I know they are quite heart-wrenching, but keep in mind, I did live this too. It’s been a process, but nothing has worked quite as good for me in healing over these last 14 years than in finishing this collection and sharing it. If you like love gone wrong, stories about domestic relationships, whether to connect or get a bird’s eye view or for suspense, and you like books like Gone Girl, Dolores Claiborne, Rose Madder, Big Little Lies, and other such, you may want to give some of the poems and stories in my collection a try. For the stories, I’d especially recommend my “Vahalla Lane” mini-series of fiction.

BreatheBreathe

And I just want to say after all this darkness, I did have a very nice Valentine’s Week, spoiled by time with my kids and making unicorn Valentines, lots of hugs, kisses, and love from both Tim and the kids, and some chocolate and a beautiful flowering rose cactus. I am happy to have a family understand love gone wrong, but also love done right.

As much as I love dark fiction, I also love good suspense thrillers, historical fiction (including some with romance, especially if they are biographical about women in history), and mysteries. I’ll have some posts about those coming up soon.

If you have some good book suggestions in this realm, or comments on any of the above, please feel free to comment. I love them!

Love to you all,

Erin

 

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Mayhem in Margaux is Another Great Cozy Winemaker Detective Mystery from French Duo

Mayhem-in-Margaux

Mayhem in Margaux, by Jean-Pierre Alaux and Noël Balen, is another great episode from the television series airing in France, and in the line of novels based on the shows, featuring the winemaker detective Ben Cooker, his sidekick Virgile, and other members of his friends and family. I’ve not seen the episode of course, but I just read the book.

In this novel, which is number six, it’s even more personal for Ben. The book takes right off with the mystery without much delay other than for setting the scene. As always, it’s a cozy mystery full of beautiful scenery of France and mouth watering descriptions of delectable food and wine. An added plus in this edition is that we also visually tour several wine estates.

Action ensues when a car accident occurs, almost killing Ben’s daughter, Margaux, who has come from New York to visit her family in France. But someone in the car is murdered, and so Ben and Virgile set out to find why. In addition to this mystery, there is also the underlying issue with the vintners at the vineyards, which are having difficulty enduring the heat wave. The heat could cause them to lose their vines. Both of these issues within the book are related and you’ll have to enjoy the book to see how it all intertwines as I don’t want to give away any spoilers. These books are little pocket sized quick reads and perfect for an evening at home with a glass of your favorite wine.

The characterization of Ben is ever increasing, as we get to know him in more connective fashion, as well as with this book, his family members too. We meet Marguax for the first time, as well get to know his other immediate family on a more intimate level. I appreciate that. The authors filled this book well, for its size, with a well-rounded mystery plot and background character development that left me fulfilled and entertained. They kept me guessing until the later chapters and perked my interest in the mystery.

I’m interested to see where the next book takes us, especially in regards to his relationship with Virgile. I still think the wine detective series is a unique and fun idea and look forward to continuing on in reading the rest of the series.

Mayhem in Margaux

Release date: May 14, 2015
at Le French Book

153 pages

ISBN: 978-1939474384

Website | Goodreads

Mayhem in Margaux, Synopsis~

It’s summer in Bordeaux. There’s a heat wave, the vineyards are suffering, vintners are on edge, and wine expert Benjamin Cooker’s daughter is visiting. A tragic car accident draws the Winemaker Detective and his assistant Virgile into a case where the stakes are very personal, and they uncover the dirty secrets hiding behind some of Bordeaux’s finest grand cru classé wines from Margaux. [provided by the publisher]

An episode in a long successful French mysteries series that is a hit television series now in its fourth season
and attracting an audience of over 4 million. The series is a huge success in France, Belgium and Switzerland.

Jean-Pierre Alaux and Noël Balen, Biographies~

Alaux-Balen

Jean-Pierre Alaux and Noël Balen, wine lover and music lover respectively, came up with the idea for the Winemaker Detective series while sharing a meal, with a bottle of Château Gaudou 1996, a red wine from Cahors with smooth tannins and a balanced nose.

About the Translator~

Translator Sally Pane studied French at State University of New York Oswego and the Sorbonne before receiving her Masters Degree in French Literature from the University of Colorado. She has translated several titles in this series.
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M. J. Rose’s The Collector of Dying Breaths Left Me Mesmerized by the Scent of Obsession

Gorgeous Cover!!!

Gorgeous Cover!!!

The Collector of Dying Breaths, by M.J. Rose, Review~

Completely absorbed in exquisite storytelling, reading M.J. Rose’s The Collector of Dying Breaths kept me captivated to the point I didn’t want to have to go to sleep, and in the morning, I forgot to eat breakfast.  I did have my coffee though, the steaming red cup held in one hand, while the other held the book with the gorgeous, also red, cover open to where my eyes were glued. Transported to another world, I didn’t even smell my usually glorious creamy and pungent aroma, but rather was intoxicated by the words within the  novel, and her description of flowery scents, of her newest story.

The novel juxtaposes between the mid-1500s with the story of Italian orphan Rene le Florentine, who first is the apprentice of a highly-regarded monk and then the perfumer of Catherine de Medici, and a modern day story of Jac L’Etoile, a single woman who is mourning her brother and has inherited the prestigious L’Etoile perfumery.  It brings the obsession of the past, as well as its mysteries, to the future in a very calculated, yet seemless way that entranced me from the start.

The modern story is set in Fontainebleau, France, but the past begins in Italy and descends into the time that Catherine de Medici becomes Queen of France. It begins with a monk who is trying to capture dying breaths in little glass bottles in hopes of bringing a person lost back to life. When the monk dies, Rene is passed on the desire, and soon it becomes his only thought, to attempt and succeed at this experiment.  In the meantime, after Catherine saves his life he is put to the task of also creating perfumes-and poisons-for her.  His most fervent work, though, is with reanimating the dying breaths and this creates a suspenseful mystery that centuries later ensnares our modern era mythologist Jac to become involved in also. Suddenly the thought of past lives and our associations with ancestors become not so hard to understand or believe.

I was absolutely enthralled by this story and didn’t want to stop turning page after page, even to get anything done on my busy to-do list. It was truly an escapist type of book–you know, one that allows you to forget reality and immerse yourself in the story and the mystery as the suspense builds. The beautiful imagery and descriptions of smells added to the endearing quality of the book, as well as wonderful character development. M.J. really set the scene well on every page of the book so I felt completely lost in the story–both time and place.

Earlier in the year her novel, Seduction, was Suspense Magazine’s book of the 2013, but I think that The Collector of Dying Breaths is even better. Well, to me, I know it was better. I am happy to read this book again, even considering the fact that I rarely want to read a book twice.

By intertwining mythology, alchemy, passion, and lush prose she brings an underlying eerie feel to the book that kept my arm hair standing on end in anticipation and a desire to peek deeper into the story. As readers, we are compelled to see that there is a fine line between obsession and passion. Throw in all the thrilling mysteries that Jac set to uncover as she also rekindles romance with Griffin, a man she’s always loved but had let go, and the novel can’t be more well-rounded or complete.

M.J. Rose writes a MUST HAVE book if you want an excellent one to dive into for a weekend you expect to not come up for air. Her work of introducing us to new, modern gothic tales of reincarnation and connections of past lives to present lives, as well as spirits of our ancestors connecting our own puzzles, is amazing. She offers us tangible stories that allow us to really think about the world around us and the legacies we leave.

The House of L’Etoile might hold fast on not using vanilla so that the perfume isn’t like candy, but The Collector of Dying Breaths was certainly like melting a decadent caramel on your craving tongue. 5 stars!

The Collector of Dying BreathsThe Collector of Dying Breaths, Synopsis~

Publication Date: April 8, 2014
Atria Books
Hardcover; 384p
ISBN-10: 1451621531

From one of America’s most imaginative storytellers comes a passionate tale of love and treachery, spanning the days of Catherine de Medici’s court to the twenty-first century and starring a woman drawn back, time and again, to the past.

In 1533, an Italian orphan with an uncanny knack for creating fragrance is plucked from poverty to become Catherine de Medici’s perfumer. To repay his debt, over the years René le Florentine is occasionally called upon to put his vast knowledge to a darker purpose: the creation of deadly poisons used to dispatch the Queen’s rivals.

But it’s René’s other passion—a desire to reanimate a human breath, to bring back the lives of the two people whose deaths have devastated him—that incites a dangerous treasure hunt five centuries later. That’s when Jac L’Etoile—suffering from a heartache of her own—becomes obsessed with the possibility of unlocking Rene’s secret to immortality.

Soon Jac’s search reconnects her with Griffin North, a man she’s loved her entire life. Together they confront an eccentric heiress whose art collection rivals many museums and who is determined to keep her treasures close at hand, not just in this life but in her next.

Set in the forest of Fontainebleau, crisscrossing the lines between the past and the present, M.J. Rose has written a mesmerizing tale of passion and obsession. This is a gothic tale perfect for fans of Anne Rice, Deborah Harkness, and Diana Galbadon.

Praise for The Collector of Dying Breaths

“History, mystery, ambition, lust, love, death and the timeless quest for immortality…a riveting tale of suspense.” – B.A.Shapiro, New York Times bestselling author of The Art Forger

“Mysterious, magical, and mythical…what a joy to read!” – Sara Gruen, New York Times bestselling author

Buy the Book

Amazon US
Amazon UK
Barnes & Noble

Author M. J. Rose, Biography~

M.J. RoseM.J. Rose is the international best selling author of fourteen novels and two non-fiction books on marketing. Her fiction and non-fiction has appeared in many magazines and reviews including Oprah Magazine. She has been featured in the New York Times, Newsweek, Time, USA Today and on the Today Show, and NPR radio.

Rose graduated from Syracuse University, spent the ’80s in advertising, has a commercial in the Museum of Modern Art in NYC, and since 2005 has run the first marketing company for authors – Authorbuzz.com.

The television series “PAST LIFE,” was based on Rose’s novels in the Renincarnationist series. She is one of the founding board members of International Thriller Writers and runs the blog- Buzz, Balls & Hype. She is also the co-founder of Peroozal.com and BookTrib.com.

Rose lives in CT with her husband the musician and composer, Doug Scofield, and their very spoiled and often photographed dog, Winka.

For more information on M.J. Rose and her novels, please visit her website. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads.

Tour Schedule: http://hfvirtualbooktours.com/collectorofdyingbreathstour

Tour Hashtag: #DyingBreathsTour

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Exclusive and Magical Interview with Talented & Creative Melika Lux on Much More than Her City of Lights Novel

Today, we have a special treat  because we have an exclusive interview with a very talented and sweet person, author Melika Lux. You can read my review of Melika’s book by clicking CITY OF LIGHTS.

Our interview is VERY in-depth and you will marvel at Melika’s original personality, including how a trained stage soprano has such an addiction to Great White Sharks!!

Melika LuxI am pleased to have you stop by for a visit today, Melika! You sound like a fabulously creative person. How are you?

Melika:  I am great, Erin, and thrilled to be here!  

Erin:  So happy!  Let’s move on and learn more about you and your writing!

Q:  When did you first begin to write? What gave you the inspiration?

A:  My love for writing grew out of an early love for reading.  I think what led me to this point, what essentially caused the inspiration to germinate, was that my mother started reading to me when I was in the womb, and my father told me wild, not-exactly-verifiable tall tales while I was still in the cradle.  I remember writing little stories and vignettes when I was a very young child and also staging my first play (an adaptation of King of Kings) when I was eight years old.  The budget was nonexistent, so my family was conscripted into the production, with my dad and mom playing six parts each.  I think that was when the writing bug first reared its head and bit me squarely on the heart. I felt a little like Cecil B. DeMille after that.  There is a VHS of the play floating around somewhere.  It is one of my first memories of writing.

One turning point I can recall was when I was about eleven or twelve.  I wrote a very short story along the lines of Jurassic Park.  It was about a brother and sister being chased to the edge of a cliff by a T-Rex.  The kids gave the Rex the old “one-two-jump!” fake out and the dinosaur tumbled over the cliff.  End of story—happily ever after for everyone except the Rex. But the point was that it was fun! I had actually finished something I’d set out to write! It was great, even though it was only six pages long! You have to start somewhere, right?

Q:   What inspires you currently in your overall writing?

A: What began to stand out more and more to me as the years wore on, and what I think was the real reason I truly grew to love writing so much, was the freedom it gave me to be able to get lost in a different world.  I love creating characters and their individual stories.  Everything that a person experiences in his or her life affects the person they become and how they react to situations, so being able to explore this with my characters is something I am always eager to do—uncovering what motivates them, what drives their worldview, why they would make a decision in a particular situation, what makes them tick, etc.  It is thrilling when characters develop so fully that they essentially start to write the stories themselves.

Currently, I’m most interested and inspired by trying out different storytelling mediums and POVs. My preferred method of telling a story is first person, but in my latest works, I’m using third person limited and also third person omniscient, which presents a whole heap of challenges! I’m also experimenting with short stories. You would think this would be easier, but I’m finding it an exciting challenge to tell a complete and gripping story in 40 pages or less rather than having a broad canvas (my last novel, Corcitura, was 700 pages long) on which to paint, essentially, the characters’ lives.

My last two novels were primarily historical fiction, City of Lights: The Trials and Triumphs of Ilyse Charpentier being an historical fiction/family saga set in Paris in 1894, and Corcitura  being an historical fiction/supernatural thriller, complete with hybrid vampires, which takes place over the years 1888-1895 in locales across Europe and in Gilded Age New York. I have felt very comfortable writing in this era due to the fact that I read a tremendous amount of fantastic Victorian literature during my high school and college years and fell in love with the period. However, I am now transitioning into dystopian, horror, comedy, and fantasy. Talk about freeing! I no longer have to worry about when a word came into the vernacular! Huzzah! Besides that added bonus, I love to genre-hop and not confine myself to one particular time period. It keeps thinks exciting.

Q:  Did your musical background play any part in your writing? Also, explain your musical background for our readers.

A: Definitely. I’ve been surrounded by music since I was born and have been singing, dancing, and playing the violin and piano since I was three years old. I was part of a children’s performing group for most of my childhood and was also a member of a local youth symphony orchestra from the ages of 8-18. In addition to singing throughout my community and state, I also performed the role of Meg Giry in a college production of The Phantom of the Opera. What a blast! 😀

In regards to my writing, I draw a lot of inspiration from certain pieces of music, especially movie soundtracks and instrumental numbers, which I love to have playing in the background as I write. Currently, for the dystopian/fantasy novel I’m writing, I keep epic music/soundtracks looping at a low volume in my ear buds. It really spurs my imagination and helps when trying to strike the right mood in battle and intense scenes, especially when there are “creatures” involved.

For City of Lights, Hanging by a Moment by Lifehouse was a huge inspiration and a song I kept looping in the background as I wrote the novel:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ESWjziG5B54

To me, this song epitomizes Ilyse and Ian’s love story, and remains a favorite of mine to this day.

Q:  Have you ever danced or been on the stage? If so, explain and if it helped in the writing of your book. What inspired you to write about a Parisian chanteuse in City of Lights?

A: Yes! As I mentioned above, I was part of a children’s performing group from the ages of 3-11. Additionally, I am a classically trained soprano. My most recent performance was in February 2012, at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustine, FL. You can view the entire concert or excerpts of my solos by clicking on the following link: http://booksinmybelfry.com/music/

Music has always been inextricably linked to City of Lights. The entire novel was actually inspired by a song. One night in December 2002, I was puttering around in my room when I suddenly started singing verses of a song I had made up in that moment.

“Tonight’s the last time that I’ll see your face, my love. This dreadful moment has finally come to be. Tonight the passion ends for you and me, my love. I’m traveling to a place where life will be hell for me…good-bye.”

My mind exploded with questions. Who was this girl? Why was she being forced to give up her love? Why would her life be so awful?

From that song, City of Lights: The Trials and Triumphs of Ilyse Charpentier was born. The song became Tonight, the lyrics directly inspiring the novel and making their way into a pivotal scene toward the end of the book. Now, the only thing remaining was a setting. I’m a singer, a Francophile, and a devotee of fin de siècle culture and literature, so the idea of Paris, a cabaret, forbidden love, and the added tension arising from my heroine being estranged from her brother (her only living relative) was too exciting not to pursue.

My grand plan all along was (and still is) for City of Lights to be a musical.  In addition to Tonight, I wrote eight other songs that inspired further chapters and the overall story arc, the lyrics of those songs also being adapted into dialogue and scenes. Even though the musical is still on the distant horizon, the spirit of the songs thread through the entire novel. And in case you were wondering, the recordings are securely stored in an undisclosed location, waiting for the day when they will see the light once again.  😉

In May 2003, at the age of eighteen, I began writing Ilyse’s story. Eight months later, City of Lights was complete, and another four years later, it was published. Now, it has been given a new look and is being made available to an entirely new readership!

COL Cover

Q:  Myself, I love books and information on the late 1800s to early 1900s in Paris. The entire ballet scene and its behind the scenes drama can be an infuriating tale to tell. Apparently, women still endure the dealings of men pulling their strings so to speak. What interests you most about this time period? Any further thoughts on the performance industry?

A: I’ve been interested in the fin de siècle for as long as I can remember. I think I first became cognizant of how exciting this time period was when I was about 8 or 9 and had just learned to play Orpheus in the Underworld with my local youth symphony orchestra. The Galop Infernal in that operetta became, of course, the Can-Can theme. That piece stayed with me over the years and led me to do research when I got older. As I learned more about France and the culture surrounding the cabarets and dancehalls, I was hooked and became a confirmed Francophile. Since writing City of Lights, I have become increasingly interested in that whole milieu and have since read Camille (A brilliant and tragic novel about the lives of the demimondaine—highly recommended!) and a few novels by Colette. I’m always on the lookout for new reads from or about that fascinating time period when securing the right patron could either make you a star or confine you to the gilded cage, as was the case with Ilyse.  

As for the performance industry, the main facet that I culled and incorporated into City of Lights was favoritism. Ilyse, although she is talented and the best singer to have graced the Parisian stage in years, is Sergei’s favorite. He “plucked her from obscurity” (a fact he never lets her forget) and made her a star. Without him, she most probably would have starved or been forced into a life of squalor, but given how controlling and suffocating Sergei’s hold over her is, accepting his patronage is a choice Ilyse regrets almost immediately.

Q:  I read the biography on your website and laughed to myself because in high school I decided I was either going to school to be a writer or a marine biologist (same as you)!!! I decided I was not cut out enough for the math and just loved the ocean and animal cause, so I went to college for Journalism instead so I could write all about all the many things I love. I came away also with English and History degrees. That all said, besides being afraid of sharks, what really did pull you towards your creative pursuits as compared to science? How do you feel about your decision?

A: Haha, what a coincidence!!! I’ve been obsessed with sharks from a young age. I remember going to Sea World as a three-year-old and spouting off names of all the sharks in the little pond outside the Shark Encounter ride. I also literally started watching Shark Week at the age of two during its inaugural season 26 years ago (dating myself here ;). I still remember them flashing the poster of an enormous Great White shark with a Bermuda-shorted surfer inside its gaping mouth. Fun stuff! 😉   

Then came Jaws—the movie, not the book. Let’s not even go there in regards to the book. I’ve never been more disappointed with a reading experience in my life! But I digress… I became fascinated with Jaws around the age of five when I went to Pic ‘n Save and saw the movie poster. What is it with me and posters? Anyway, I now make it a point to watch the movie twice a year, once on my birthday and once on the last day of Shark Week.  You probably wouldn’t want to watch the movie with me because I know practically all the lines and usually say them in the same voices the characters use. My favorite, obviously, is Quint. “I’m talkin’ about sharkin’!” I sing his little sea shanties with him, too. 😉

What made me consider a career change, however, probably had something to do with Nigel Marvin and the premiere of Air Jaws around the year 2000. The fact that sharks could rocket out of the water was a paradigm shift for me and sort of tilted my world off its axis. Breaching sharks! It was a literary goldmine! Not to mention that it scared the wits out of me to think that I could be quietly minding my own business in a nice safe boat when Mr. Whitey would suddenly decide to go airborne and take me along for the ride. So that was when I knew I’d have more fun writing sharks into my stories instead of sharing the water with them. Strangely enough, though, a small insane part of me would still love to go cage diving with them in South Africa. We’ll see… 😉

As far as creative pursuits in comparison to science, I still love the minutiae of marine and ocean studies, but I now find it much more exciting to be able to do the research or incorporate what I know about sharks and their behavior into my writings. In the dystopian epic I’m working on, white sharks play a huge role as one of the main antagonists (technically, a race of antagonists, because there are a lot of them!) of the story. They have their own species name, stratified society, unusual sharky abilities, and rather wicked roles to play in the oppressive world I’m creating. They are the toothed enforcers of the realm and have a symbiotic relationship with the undead soldiers who train them. They also get to wear steel helms and are so fierce you honestly can’t help thinking they are just a little bit awesome, as all Great Whites generally are. 😉 If I say any more, I’ll be giving away the plot, but suffice it to say that sharks are fascinating in real life and in literature, so I’m having a tremendously fun time giving them their own personalities and storylines and writing about their undeniable appeal in the new book. By the way, I’m a bit of a shark snob, so pretty much the only species of shark I’ll ever write about are Great Whites—my favorites. I tend to view every other shark as a poser. 😉

As a side note, I recently took the Discovery Channel’s shark personality quiz and was matched with, you guessed it, Carcharodon carcharias. I always had a feeling… 😉  

Q:  What do you feel was an interesting or important point in history in regards to women and women’s history?

A: I’ve often wondered how I would have fared as a woman writer if I had been born a few centuries ago. When I think about this, the person who always comes to mind in regards to the restrictions on women and how they were looked down upon for being writers (as were women who chose to go on the stage; the horror! Remember the scandal with Nell Gwyn?!) is Charlotte Bronte and how she originally signed her name to Jane Eyre as Currer Bell. I know the novel had been rejected many times and she was listening to the advice of Wordsworth and others, who claimed that “novel-writing wasn’t the proper pastime of a lady,” but it must have been infuriating to not be able to lay claim to your own work, especially a work as brilliant as Jane Eyre. It’s infuriating to me nearly two centuries later! In my own writing, particularly in the first book of my fantasy duology, I have a character who looks down on his fiancée because she reads too many novels. Can you imagine that kind of attitude today?! So, as far as women’s history goes, I believe that when we started to take charge of our writing careers and not care what men and other women (who could be just as spiteful and controlling, if not more so) or society thought of our chosen profession, this was a giant leap forward and an important advancement, at least to my thinking, for the suffragette movement and ensuring the right to vote.

Q:  Do you feel women should “schedule” time for themselves as writers? Do women sacrifice too much instead of pursuing the muse inside them?  How do you make time for writing?

A: I think it depends on your situation in life. If you’re single, of course you should have more time to write, or at least I would hope so! If you have family and job obligations, however, it becomes much more difficult to carve out pockets of time, but still not impossible. If you’re driven enough and passionate about your writing, though, you can find time to write in just about any instance, even if it’s only a few seconds to scribble down ideas on the corner of a napkin. I’m speaking from experience here. 😉

I do think, however, that women should try to set aside some quiet time (easier said than done!) where they can be alone and just let inspiration flow onto the page. I have a friend who designates specific days during the week where she will not take any phone calls or make appointments and just dedicates those set times to writing, so you can make it work; you just have to be creative about it.

I try to carve out writing time at least every day. Sometimes I’ll have a span of maybe four or five hours in the evening, and sometimes weekends are totally devoted to writing. It depends on family obligations and other things that are going on, those so-called “life interruptions” that can be so detrimental to letting the muse have its day! 😉

Q:  Where are some grand places you’ve traveled, or would like to travel? And why?

A: To date, I’ve been to Switzerland, England, Wales, France, Belgium, Germany, the Czech Republic (visiting Prague was a great help in setting the scene for the latter part of Corcitura), Austria, and Hungary. In addition, I’ve been to several Caribbean islands and 25 of our 50 states, my favorite being Hawaii, which I had the opportunity to visit eleven years ago. I do not have an ounce of Hawaiian blood, but my first name is Hawaiian (it means Melissa), so I’ve always felt an affinity for the islands.

I would love to visit Ireland and also Russia one day—Ireland because my paternal grandmother’s family is from there and I’ve always been fascinated by the country (most recently by the entire Home Rule debate—thank you Downton Abbey! ;), and Russia because I’ve been a Russophile since I saw the animated movie Anastasia when I was twelve. The viewing of that film also engendered in me a fascination with the Romanovs that continues to this day.

Q:  Do you have some favorite authors? Some authors who have mentored your thoughts?

A: Yes, several! Some of my particular favorites would have to be P. G. Wodehouse, Jean Plaidy, Georgette Heyer, Daphne Du Maurier, Agatha Christie (I can never get enough of her mysteries! So entertaining!), Alexandre Dumas, J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, Jane Austen, Louisa May Alcott, and Sarah Rayne for her riveting novels of psychological suspense! Wilkie Collins is my wild card in there, too, and I also love everything I’ve ever read by Shannon Hale. Her novels are pure magic. 

As far as mentoring, it would have to be Dumas for his amazing ability to write action scenes, Wodehouse for showing me the trick to making people laugh in fiction, Jane for the effortless way she writes the “dance of romance,” and Tollers and Jack (Tolkien and Lewis) for being the standard by which I measure all fantasy and motivating me to always be original.

Q: What other writings have you done? What’s next for you?

A: My latest novel, Corcitura, was published last year. Here is everything you need to know about the novel in a nutshell: Two vampires…one victim…endless trouble. Beginning in London in the year 1888, Corcitura tells the story of best friends Eric Bradburry and Stefan Ratliff, two eighteen-year-old Englishmen who are experiencing their first taste of freedom by setting out on a solo, grand tour of Europe. But what begins as the adventure of a lifetime, quickly explodes into a twisted untangling of centuries-old secrets as our protagonists are forced to flee from people who turn out to be much older—and somehow possess alarming otherworldly powers—than they originally appear. I am talking, of course, about vampires, and the two progenitors of the Corcitura are the stuff of nightmare: a half-wolf, half-vampire Vrykolakas and a five-hundred-year-old Upyr with an uncontrollable desire to create a hybrid creature to use as his own personal agent of destruction.

But vampires are just one facet of this story. Not only are the vampires horrifying, and their trickery something I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy, but they have fascinating backstories that are inextricably linked with one of the main protagonists and his family—especially his sisters, who have a crucial role to play in how this story works itself out. If you love seeing female vampire protagonists having a major role in the outcome of the story, then you will love the two in this book. Let’s hear it for the girls! They have enough history and chutzpah to fill volumes more—which is my intended plan. They also happen to be werewolves. And if that duality doesn’t intrigue you, I don’t know what will!

My current project is the book with the sharks that I was talking about before. It is a complete revamping and reworking of my original first novel that I began at the age of fourteen, but abandoned for school, life, and other projects. I have been working on it since July of 2012 and have been totally transforming it into a dystopian epic set in a brutal and lawless world. The entire theme and outcome of the story have changed drastically (the sharks were always there, although they are a much bigger part of the story now), but all the exciting bits (mythical beasts, hidden identities, battles, political intrigue, and some truly horrifying and treacherous villains) are still part of the fabric of the story. With the passage of years, however, everything within the story seems to have more meaning and gravitas to me now. It is definitely not the same book I would have written as a fourteen-year-old, so I am very happy I put the novel on hold.

Additionally, I am mapping out and reworking my fantasy duology (which I’ve also been writing since 2003—that was my banner year for creative ideas, it seems!) and am currently finishing up a collection of short comedy/fantasy/horror stories set in Eastern and Northern Europe in the 1800s. It has been an exciting challenge to essentially create mini-novels in 40 pages or less for this collection.   

Q:  How can readers connect with you?

A: I would love for readers to connect with me on any or all of the following sites:

My website:  http://www.booksinmybelfry.com/

Goodreads:  http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/950456.Melika_Dannese_Lux (Books are my passion. I love discussing great novels and non-fiction/history with other readers, so feel free to send me a friend invite!)

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/BooksInMyBelfry 

And if you want to contact me directly, here is my email: booksinmybelfry@hotmail.com

Erin:  Thank you so very much for sitting down and talking with me today. We wish you much continued success in all your creative pursuits!  It was so nice to get to learn more about you.

Melika:  This has been so much fun, Erin! Thanks for letting me share a bit of myself and my work with you and your readers! 😀

City of Lights, Synopsis~

COL CoverPublication Date: October 23, 2012
Books in My Belfry, LLC
Paperback; 166p
ISBN-10: 0615708269

What would you risk for the love of a stranger?

Ilyse Charpentier, a beautiful young chanteuse, is the diva of the 1894 Parisian cabaret scene by night and the unwilling obsession of her patron, Count Sergei Rakmanovich, at every other waking moment.

Though it has always been her secret desire, Ilyse’s life as “La Petite Coquette” of the Paris stage has turned out to be anything but the glamorous existence she had dreamt of as a girl. As a young woman, Ilyse has already suffered tragedy and become estranged from her beloved brother, Maurice, who blames her for allowing the Count to drive them apart.

Unhappy and alone, Ilyse forces herself to banish all thoughts of independence until the night Ian McCarthy waltzes into her life. Immediately taken with the bold, young, British expatriate, Ilyse knows it is time to choose: will she break free and follow her heart or will she remain a slave to her patron’s jealous wrath for the rest of her life?

Melika Lux, Biography~

Melika LuxI write historical fiction, suspense, supernatural thrillers, horror, fantasy, sci-fi, short stories—you name it, I write it! I love to read just about anything and everything and am particularly fond of historical fiction, the classics, mysteries, epic fantasy, history, and non-fiction. I am also a classically trained soprano/violinist/pianist and have been performing since the age of three. Additionally, I hold a BA in Management and an MBA in Marketing.

I am a HUGE fan of Psych, most British drama, comedy, and mystery shows, and am always up for a movie quote challenge. Jaws is my favorite movie of all time, with The Lord of the Rings being a very close second. Tell me something about yourself, and I’ll most probably be able to “Six Degrees of Separation” it back to Gandalf.

Lastly, I love to spend time with my family and friends, and I absolutely adore traveling. Not only is it great to experience other cultures, but travelling expands my horizons as a writer and sets my imagination reeling with a million different ideas for stories. If I hadn’t decided to become a writer (And there’s a Gandalf story for that, too.), I would have become a marine biologist, but after countless years spent watching Shark Week, I realized I’m very attached to my arms and legs and would rather write sharks into my stories than get up close and personal with those toothy wonders.

I am currently working on the sequel to my supernatural thriller/historical novel Corcitura, a collection of comedy/horror/fantasy stories set in Eastern Europe in the 1800s, and the first book of a planned fantasy duology. To learn more, please visit www.booksinmybelfry.com.

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A Fresh Telling of Rapunzel, You’ll Definitely Want to Let your Hair Down for Kate Forsyth’s Novel

Bitter GreensI must say that Bitter Greens, by Kate Forsyth, could possibly be the front-runner for the best book I read this year. It’s still early in 2013, but I can’t imagine falling in love with a book as much as I’ve fallen in love with Bitter Greens. It most certainly will go on my final list of most cherished and loved books of all time.

Of course, there is the point that I am a perpetual lover of fairy tales, vintage mostly, but also various adaptations and re-tellings. So because this novel is a re-structuring of Rapunzel, one of my favorite stories, I was already bound to have a desire for this book. However, it was more than I had expected as Forsyth has an original voice that worked to create an amazing imaginative world that one could slip into and dance around in forever. (review continued after synopsis)

Intrigued? Here’s the synopsis for Bitter Greens~

Bitter Greens is a historical novel for adults which interweaves the Rapunzel fairytale with the true story of Charlotte-Rose de la Force, a 17th century French writer who wrote the version of the fairytale we know best, while locked away in a convent by the Sun King, Louis XIV, for her bold and unconventional views on love and society.

Charlotte-Rose has scandalized the court by falling passionately in love with a young nobleman, then dressing up as a dancing bear to rescue him from imprisonment. Banished to a strict Benedictine convent by the king, she remembers her life and loves at the magnificent and corrupt court of Versailles. Charlotte-Rose is filled at despair at her imprisonment, but she is comforted by an old nun, the apothicairesse at the convent, Sœur Seraphina, who tells her the secret history of a young girl in 16th century Venice, who is sold by her parents for a handful of bitter greens …

Margherita’s parents love her dearly but the penalty for stealing in Venice in the late 16th century is cruel, and so they agree to give up their child at the age of seven to Selena, a courtesan whose walled garden is famous for its herbs and flowers. Selena is the famous red-haired muse of the artist Titian, first painted by him in 1513 and still inspiring him at the time of his death, sixty-one years later. Called La Strega Bella, Selena is at the centre of Renaissance life in Venice, a world of beauty and danger, seduction and betrayal, love and superstition. Selena is determined to never surrender the power that her beauty gives her, and so she turns to black magic and a spell that requires the blood of a virgin. Yet in the decadent world of Renaissance Italy, where courtesans supped with kings, where convents were hotbeds of illicit love, and where a girl’s virginity was sold many times over, how was Selena to ensure her spell would work, not just once, but over and over again? The only way was to build a tower without door or stairs, deep in the forest … and this is where she locks Margherita at the age of twelve. As Margherita grows into womanhood, she sings in the hope someone will hear her. One day, a young man does and climbs her rope of hair into the tower … and so begins a beautiful love story that retells one of the world’s most mysterious and enduring fairy tales.

The story of Margherita’s escape from the tower is interwoven with flashbacks that recount Charlotte-Rose’s tragic childhood and her scandalous life at the Sun King’s glittering court, and also the dark and tragic story of the courtesan Selena and how she came to be Titian’s muse. Three women, three lives, three stories, all braided together to create a compelling story of desire, obsession, black magic, and the redemptive power of love.

Review continued~

Using books as a magical way of escaping the stress and dealings of life, I let them carry me away in my mind. As one of Forsyth’s main protagonists, writer Charlotte Rose de la Force, also creates her own worlds in Bitter Greens by pushing open the imagined door into fantasy realms where any lovely place can be found.  This is a tactic useful whether it’s 17th century France or modern times.

However, this book doesn’t just lead us on a frivolous walk of enchantment and fantasy. It carries a message about women living their dreams and hope, overcoming the gender role, being courageous and bold, and most of all love, but beyond that, also the darker emotions and desires that lead us to bad decisions and situations and how we can be redeemed or doomed.

And yes, it transported me away when I needed it most. It lead me to deeper parts of my own motherhood, womanhood, and mortal desires. It wasn’t a book to be put down, and in fact, I had to be reminded that I actually had a life outside of reading the book…..I was swept away.

I can barely begin to give this multi-layered and multifaceted novel the justice it deserves. It is just THAT good and beyond a normal review. The author may be pursuing a degree in fairy tales, but she needs to be the one being taught to those pursuing creative writing courses and literature.

In Bitter Greens, Forsyth introduces us to Charlotte Rose de la Force’s adaptation of Petrosinella from 1697, while also making our acquaintance with de la Force’s own life by making her a part of the story.  Yes, it’s several stories interwoven with delicacy and grace; it’s smooth, seamless, and highly evolved.  Petrosinella, with maiden Persinette, would later be adapted in German and picked up by the Grimm Brothers in the 1800s, by that time known as Rapunzel. However, the novel is not just another re-telling of Rapunzel, but an even deeper look into society and how vintage writing defines history.

Since my five-year-old is also a lover of classic fairy tales, and we’ve read as many adaptations of Rapunzel over the last few years as we can find while embracing their similarities and differences together, Bitter Greens is a novel I’ll put on the shelf to share with her when she’s old enough to read the adult content. It’s one book that will always have a place on my bookshelf and hopefully hers too. It’s timeless.

Forsyth’s subtle dissection of the culture, art, storytelling and emotions of the time within her fiction, coupled with how we retain and retell stories today, is in a class all its own. Her creation is a masterpiece of art to not get lost in a sea of ever published books. Forsyth could quite possibly be one of the best story tellers of our modern age.

Please stop by again tomorrow as I have an exclusive interview with author Kate Forsyth in which we talk about fairy tales, her writing, her poetry, and much more!!

Click on the link for Forsyth’s “behind the scenes” look at her inspiration for Bitter Greens~

http://www.kateforsyth.com.au/Inspiration_Behind_Bitter_Greens

Kate’s blog about researching Charlotte Rose de la Force~

http://www.kateforsyth.com.au/_blog/Kate’s_Blog/post/BITTER_GREENS_The_Facts_behind_the_Fiction_of_Charlotte-Rose_de_la_Force’s_life/

Bitter Greens~

UK Publication Date: February 25, 2013
Publisher: Allison & Busby
Hardcover; 350p
ISBN: 0749013621
(Also published, Random House Australia)

Praise for Bitter Greens~

“Kate Forsyth’s Bitter Greens is not only a magnificent achievement that would make any novelist jealous, it’s one of the most beautiful paeans to the magic of storytelling that I’ve ever read.” – C.W. Gortner, author of The Queen’s Vow and The Confessions of Catherine de Medici

“History and fairytale are richly entwined in this spellbinding story. Unputdownable!” – Juliet Marillier, author of Daughter of the Forest and Heart’s Blood

“In Bitter Greens, Kate Forsyth delivers a tale of beauty, strength and gravity. Her fierce respect for the art and power of storytelling shines through every page.” – Booklover Book Reviews

Kate Forsyth, Biography~

Kate Forsyth 2Kate Forsyth is the award-winning and bestselling author of more than 20 books for adults and children , translated into 13 languages. She was recently named in the Top 25 of Australia’s Favourite Novelists. Since The Witches of Eileanan was named a Best First Novel by Locus Magazine, Kate has won or been nominated for many awards, including a CYBIL Award in the US. She’s also the only author to win five Aurealis awards in a single year, for her Gypsy Crown series of children’s historical novels. Kate’s latest novel, Bitter Greens, interweaves a retelli

ng of the Rapunzel fairytale with the scandalous life story of the woman who first told the tale, the 17th century French writer Charlotte-Rose de la Force. It has been called ‘the best fairy tale retelling since Angela Carter’ and ‘an imaginative weaving of magic, fairy tale and history’. A direct descendant of Charlotte Waring, the author of the first book for children ever published in Australia, Kate is currently studying a doctorate in fairy tales at the University of Technology in Sydney, where she lives by the sea, with her husband, three children, and many thousands of books.

Please visit Kate Forsyth’s WEBSITE and BLOG for more information. You can also find her on FACEBOOK and follow her on TWITTER.

For more reviews of Bitter Greens as well as guest posts and interviews with author Kate Forsyth, click below:

Link to Tour Schedule: http://hfvirtualbooktours.com/bittergreensvirtualtour/
Twitter Hashtag: #BitterGreensVirtualTour

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