Tag Archives: women authors

International Women’s Day: A Poem, A Word, A Pledge

A Step Forward

You hear our voices,
you say you stand with us,
but you should break down those walls,
and SEE us, in all our magnificence,
because we glow, yes we glow.

We are the passion of the universe,
contained within our hearts.

We are women.

– Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi, 2018

 

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Found on the Internet for WallpaperSeries.com

 

It’s #InternationalWomensDay, or #IWD2018, and people around the world are rallying and protesting against gender inequality and sexual discrimination. I’ve been promoting this day for a decade, and this is the first one I’ve seen as much movement as I have in utilizing it as a catalyst for change not just awareness. I’m glad to see it happen. Women are amazing individuals with so much to offer the world. In theory, if things were fine, I wouldn’t even have to make that claim!

In essence, International Women’s Day is the marker to honor the Women’s Rights Movement and all those who came before us who were spit on, jailed, starved, ridiculed, and more as they fought for women to have the rights to vote, own land, have a bank account, and not be locked away in asylums. I’m glad to see women are taking ownership and heading back toward making progress again. In fact, the theme this year is #PressforProgress.

On my site here, you’ll find many great articles on women in history and making history, both on the page dedicated to that series, as March is also Women in History Month, but in interviews and book reviews as well. I’m currently taking articles about these women, so please contact me to send them in. I often interview and review books by women on this site and you’ll easily see that if you take a quick perusal through the archives.

Outside of publishing, I’ve spent decades fighting for women’s causes, from when I was news editor at my college paper and I fought against campus rape and it being reported, to when I was in healthcare and became the Young Careerist representative for Ohio at the national Business and Professional Women’s organization’s annual conference where I spoke about making strides for heart health in women. I’ve sat on a sub-committee for women’s health education, primarily in regards to those underprivileged, of the board of the Ohio Governor’s Office for Women’s Initiatives (a department and program that Republican Governor Kasich did away with when he took office) and assisted with statewide events to empower women. I’ve raised funds through events I’ve put on for women’s health, women’s shelters, and those battling cancer. Currently, I am the chair of the board at a local mental health center which also oversees our local rape crisis and domestic violence shelter.

In publishing, I advocate for women in certain genres, like horror, to have their voices heard and offer platforms for them to do so. In my writing, I fight against domestic violence, rape, assault, and confinement. My collection Breathe. Breathe., of poetry and short stories, in my story within the anthology Hardened Hearts, and even my poem in Enchanted Conversation magazine have all tackled these themes. On the site, on social media, and in articles, I share the life and times of historical writers, in several genres, because often they’ve also been involved in women’s liberation.

I still feel I don’t do enough. There is always more to do. I’ll keep doing it. I promise now I’ll get back to writing more essays so my own voice is heard. I’ll keep those women in history alive, those marginalized, those without a platform. I’ll keep serving those crying out in need and the disadvantaged. I’ll keep helping women out of domestic abuse situations.

And it’s not only women need to fight and showcase women, it’s men too. It’s going to take unity of both genders to make this work.

What will you do?

 

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Found at Picsymag

 

 

 

 

 

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#HookonWiHM: Female Horror Reviewer Charlene is Interviewed by Curtis Freeman About Her Blog, What Scares Her, and What Makes a Good Horror Book

Today in the #HookonWiHM series, the honcho at Cedar Hollow Horror Reviews, Curtis Freeman, interviews horror reader, blogger, and Goodreads Horror Aficionado’s Senior Moderator, Charlene Cocrane. This is the first in his three-part series on women blogging in the horror genre. I’m glad we are getting the word out about other women in horror in addition to all the amazing authors. It takes a community to make the genre shine! Char is one of the nicest ladies working and supporting the genre.

I’m taking interviews by men and women with women in horror, as well as guest articles, throughout the month of February. You can information on this at the bottom of the post. Take it away Curtis – thanks for a great interview with Char!

char

Q: What was the first horror book you ever read?

A: Edgar Allan Poe’s The Black Cat or The Tell Tale Heart.

Q: What is the scariest book you ever read?

A: Salem’s Lot or The House of Leaves by Mark Danielewski.

Q: When did you become a blogger? What made you want to blog about books?

A: I’ve been blogging for about 3 years now because I wanted to help out independent authors and I like talking about books that I love.

Q: What annoys you the most with your blog?

A: It is easy for me to get bogged down with promised reviews and ARCS. If I’m not careful it turns something I love into work. When that happens I lose the joy that blogging brings.

Q: Do you think there is a gender bias in horror fiction? Explain.

A: There are certainly less women writing horror than men; Why that is, I’m not sure. As one of the moderators of Horror Aficionados, (the largest group on Goodreads dedicated to horror books, with over 13,000 members), I know there are a LOT of female horror fans. Most of my favorite horror reviewers are women also.

Q: Do you think there is a gender bias in horror book blogging? Explain.

A: I really don’t believe there is a concentrated effort to prevent women from blogging about horror, I just think that horror is not as popular among women as are other genres. Let’s face it-horror is not for everyone.

Q: How can we fix the bias?

A: See above. That said, I think that more women writing, reviewing and/or blogging about horror may bring more women into the horror fold, so to speak. All we can do is continue writing and reviewing about the genre that we love, and hope that our enthusiasm infects others.

Q: I find it sad that we still live in a world where women authors have to use initials to seem less female. What are your thoughts?

A: I think women have come a long way and using just their initials to get published is probably not as popular a practice as it used to be, especially with the advent of self-publishing.  I have seen so many women build a name for themselves in the past few years, it’s amazing, and that’s both with self-publishing and with traditional. I hope that more women will be drawn to the genre by reading the work of women and becoming inspired by them.

Q: What pushes your buttons with your blog?

A: If you’re asking if there’s something that makes me angry-there are only a few things. Authors being pushy about reviews and authors commenting on negative reviews. I think authors should never make derogatory comments about a reviewer or a review, even if they are right. A reviewer spends their precious time reviewing a book and as such, I believe, they are entitled to their opinions. If I see an author engaging a reviewer or even making fun of a reviewer publicly, I will make it a point not to buy or review any of their books, lest I end up in the same position.

Q: Do you think the Horror Writers Association (HWA) should start recognizing horror book bloggers?

A: No, I don’t. I think it’s an organization created to support writers. Much as I enjoy blogging and reviewing, I don’t believe that I’m a professional writer, nor do I want to be.

Q: How has the horror community treated you since starting your blog?

A: The horror community is AWESOME. On Goodreads, on Twitter, on Facebook and in person-I have met and chatted with some people that are just beautiful human beings. I have made so many friends, on line and in person and they are supportive, intelligent and creative. Every day I feel lucky to have them in my life.

Q: What makes a good horror book?

A: Scares! When you’re all alone in a quiet house reading and you jump at every noise you hear? I love that feeling!  I also have a special place in my heart for the beautiful and creative prose of writers like Shirley Jackson. Their use of words can elevate something boring and commonplace into something to be feared. For instance, from The Haunting of Hill House a perfectly chilling paragraph:

“Within, walls continued upright, bricks met neatly, floors were firm, and doors were sensibly shut; silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House, and whatever walked there, walked alone.”

Q: What scares you?

A: Not too much. To be honest, the thing that scares me the most is dementia. I can’t imagine what it would be like to not have the faculties to read and understand a book. As far as horror goes, though, I do love me a well-done haunted house story.

Q: Who’s your favorite horror author? You have to pick one or three authors, but it can’t be two.

A: Today it’s: Robert McCammon, Michael McDowell, and Stephen King.

Q: What books are you most looking forward to in 2018?

The Listener by Robert McCammon (I’ve already read it and it’s amazing!), Providence by Caroline Kepnes, and the latest John Connolly book.

About Char –

I am a happily married mother of one, (a fantastic young man), and I am a warranty claim administrator for 2 automobile dealerships which helps to pay for my book addiction.

I am one of the moderators of the Goodreads Group “Horror Aficionados” which now boasts over 13,500 horror-loving members! I am a member of the reviewing team at  Horror After Dark.

When I was young my parents used to take me to the drive in movies all the time, mostly for horror flicks. That was where my love of horror was born. These days I focus on books instead of films.

Char’s Horror Corner

GoodReads

Twitter

And thank you to Curtis from Cedar Hollow Reviews for his wonderfully insightful interview with Char! What a great addition to the women in horror series.

About Curtis Freeman-

Curtis

Curtis is a lover of horror books and films and a passionate addition to the horror genre. He reviews at his site Cedar Hollow Reviews and has just begun to interview authors via his YouTube Channel. Curtis even grilled me for over 3 hours one evening. His heartfelt excitement for the genre shows. This is the first in a series of three women horror bloggers Curtis is interviewing for my #HookonWiHM project. You can also find Curtis on Twitter.

Watch for more to come in the #HookonWiHM series….

February is Women in Horror Month! Though I agree women should be celebrated on the same level as men every day of the year, I like to partake in Women in Horror projects as a catalyst for spreading the good news and works of women in the genre in hopes that it will carry on throughout the year. It’s time to celebrate and show off what we got! For those of you reading, men AND women both, make an effort to read and watch more horror produced by women this year.

For the #HookonWiHM, or Women in Horror Month at Hook of a Book, we’ll be hosting interviews conducted by men and women with other women in horror. Watch for those spread throughout the month, and if you want in, contact me! Find more info HERE.

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#HookonWiHM: Theresa Braun interviews J.H. Moncrieff about Atwood, a Haunted Island, and Gender Roles

Today, for the #HookonWiHM project, author Theresa Braun has interviewed the Canadian author J.H. Moncrieff! I’m super excited to have both of these women on the site today in promotion of Women in Horror Month. J.H. Moncrieff writes paranormal suspense, thrillers, and horror. I enjoy following her travels especially to all the haunted places. Happily, I’ve recently met Theresa this year as we shared the TOC in the anthology Hardened Hearts together, which published by Unnerving in December 2017.

I’m taking interviews by men and women with women in horror, as well as guest articles, throughout the month of February. You can see information on this at the bottom of the post. For now, take it away Theresa. Thanks for a great interview with J.H. Moncrieff!

Cropped coat

Do you feel the feminist conversation surrounding Margaret Atwood is relevant to the issues relating to female writers and female characters? Does Atwood carry any weight for you personally, since you both happen to be Canadian? 

I have read Atwood’s defence of her stance on the firing of the UBC professor, which fanned the flames and turned even more women against her (which, as a publicist, I could have told her it would. Sometimes the best thing to say is nothing), and she raises some valid points. Movements like #MeToo do have the potential to become public witch hunts. And they are the result of a legal system failure: if women’s reports of sexual assault and harassment had been taken seriously, there would be no need for scores of women to go public about the issue on social media (or, at least, less need). However, as women, we need to be extremely careful not to re-victimize the survivors of sexual harassment and assault.

Almost every woman on the planet has experienced one or the other or both, but most of us don’t report it because we still fear the repercussions or assume we won’t be believed or taken seriously. We’re still living in an age where a man who was seen raping a woman spent only three months in jail. Where a police officer said to me that one of the strongest indications a woman was lying about sexual assault was she’d reported it, as most “true victims” don’t. And this was coming from a man most would consider sensitive and enlightened. Where people still get frustrated about the women pointing fingers at their favorite celebrities, but never once get angry at the men for the sexual misconduct and abuse of power.

Atwood argues the pendulum is at risk of swinging too far in the other direction. But perhaps it needs to. Just as many find the “zero tolerance” policy of dealing with domestic violence unfair, and it’s certainly flawed, it’s like that for a reason. Only when we’ve seen genuine progress on these issues, when women are no longer viewed as either sexual objects or prey, can people like Atwood safely call for balance. The problem is that our society has been far too unbalanced for far too long. Publicly critiquing a movement that amplifies survivor’s voices and raises awareness of just how prevalent sexual abuse and harassment are, is certainly going to be seen as anti-feminist, to put it lightly. To respond with guns blazing and a “Screw you, I’ve been called worse!” editorial hasn’t helped matters. The fact we’re both Canadian doesn’t bond us or give her opinion more weight to me, but I am more likely to see her editorials, as Canadian media have always given her a platform and will continue to do so.

Do you consciously include gender issues in your fiction? If so, what are some that you have explored? And are there any that you plan to explore in future storylines?

Monsters in Our Wake features a character who is the only female working on a drillship, and it explores some of the sexism and ostracism she suffered as a result, but on the flip side, the sea creatures in that novel live in a matriarchal society where the females are larger, more powerful, and make the majority of the decisions. Some readers have had a huge problem with this. A man accused me of being “anti-male” because of this novel, and some female readers hated Flora because she came across as weak or timid, while they’d always thrived in male-dominated environments. In City of Ghosts, I explored how women can be their own harshest critics and what can happen when they turn against each other. Again, some women really didn’t like that, and they disparaged how “girl-on-girl crime” has been overdone in fiction.

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But the truth is, I don’t set out to write with a feminist agenda, or any agenda. I write people (and creatures), and people are flawed. Sometimes they’re misunderstood or obnoxious or misguided, and sometimes they’re just plain ugly. While I’ve never been ostracized like Flora was, I have been one of the only women in extremely male-dominated professions and sports, so it was easy for me to feel for the struggles someone less assertive might have. And I’ve experienced a ton of “girl-on-girl crime” in my lifetime–in elementary school, in high school, and in the workplace, both from colleagues and from supervisors. Women are capable of being awful to other women, and refusing to be honest about that would do everyone a disservice.

You have written a lot about characters facing supernatural situations. And you have based several of these novels on real places that you have visited. Which of these has scared you the most? Why?

The scariest place I’ve ever visited was Poveglia, an island off the coast of Venice that is considered to be the world’s most haunted. I don’t spook easily, but I was terrified the entire time I was there. Not only was I completely alone on the island, I was there during a violent thunderstorm. Poveglia has a truly chilling history, which I explored in The Girl Who Talks to Ghosts. Although nothing overt happened to me–I didn’t see a ghost–there were definitely a lot of strange, unexplained sounds and a very strong sensation that something was wrong in that place. It’s very creepy.

Isola di Poveglia

From enca.com / Photo: Flickr.com / tedlum

What future project are you most excited about? Tell us about that.

While I have a lot to be excited about this year–the release of the first book in my new Egyptian series, which was previewed in Temple of Ghosts; the fourth book in my GhostWriters series; a Christmas GhostWriters novella; and a few other projects–I’m probably most anticipating the release of Dead of Winter, which Severed Press will publish this spring. It’s about a famous podcaster who ventures into Russia’s Ural Mountains to investigate what happened on the Dyatlov Pass back in the ’50s. Since The Dyatlov Pass Incident is one of the scariest unsolved mysteries of all time, it was a fun topic to explore and I was really happy with how the book turned out. Best-selling author Hunter Shea gave it a great blurb: “Dead of Winter will freeze your blood! A mystery dripping with terror, the sense of isolation and impending doom kept my heart racing right until the very last line. An instant classic.”

Has there been something that a reader has surprised you with? Something that a reader has come away with that has left you inspired? 

My readers are amazing. I’m still so grateful I get to do this that every positive review makes me teary. One reader emailed me to say Temple of Ghosts helped her get through a difficult time after her daughter’s house caught fire. Another left a review for City of Ghosts that ended with, “City of Ghosts stirs the reader’s childhood fears and mixes them with compassion for all of China’s unwanted little girls.” That really got to me, because I wrote that book for those little girls, but I didn’t think anyone had understood that. When a reader gets you, it’s the best feeling in the world. I bawled. During a recent visit to a book club, the members surprised me with a gigantic gift basket full of goodies like gourmet tea, bubble bath, candles, a hardcover book, a bookmark, pens, etc. It went on and on. It was almost bottomless. I was extremely touched. Book clubs are the best, with or without the gifts.

Check out books from Moncrieff such as:

The Girl Who Talks to Ghosts and Temple of Ghosts 

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Find Moncrieff online:

Website

Books

Facebook

Twitter

Pinterest

Thanks again to Theresa Braun for conducing the interview!

Theresa Braun, Bio –

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Theresa Braun was born in St. Paul, Minnesota and has carried some of that hardiness with her to South Florida where she currently resides. Traveling, ghost hunting, and all things dark are her passions. Her work appears in The Horror Zine, Sirens Call, Schlock! Webzine, Hardened Hearts, and Strange Behaviors, among others.

Watch for more to come in the #HookonWiHM series….

February is Women in Horror Month! Though I agree women should be celebrated on the same level as men every day of the year, I like to partake in Women in Horror projects as a catalyst for spreading the good news and works of women in the genre in hopes that it will carry on throughout the year. It’s time to celebrate and show off what we got! For those of you reading, men AND women both, make an effort to read and watch more horror produced by women this year.

For the #HookonWiHM, or Women in Horror Month at Hook of a Book, we’ll be hosting interviews conducted by men and women with other women in horror. Watch for those spread throughout the month, and if you want in, contact me! Find more info HERE.

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Poetry and Prose: Female Power Giveaway! S. Wytovich and I Share Our Words

Not only is Bram Stoker Award winning poet/author Stephanie M. Wytovich my client, but she’s my friend and I’m a big fan of her work as well! I feel so thankful to have met her and have her in my life. I’m very excited for her new poetry release and now for this announcement too! Since my collection featuring my dark poetry, BREATHE. BREATHE. (Unnerving) came out in October and Stephanie’s SHEET MUSIC TO MY ACOUSTIC SOUL (Raw Dog Screaming Press) published in December, and both largely take on the emotional wreckage of our hearts and souls and humanity, we decided we’d do a giveaway together! *Poe raises from the dead and throws up heart confetti*
It’s special to me, because I feel like both Steph and I have done a lot of purging and healing in these collections, while creating verse to make you think, but most of all, FEEL. ❤ It’s total female power, but I have been so impressed by the amount of men who have embraced our work as well. We just hope you continue to share our work with other readers.
Stephanie is a beautiful, lyrical, brutally honest writer as much as she is a gorgeous person inside and out. Enter to win even if just for a copy of her latest poetry. You won’t be sorry. If you think you don’t like to read poetry, this will change your mind.
Giveaway Steph and I
I hope that you’ll enter to win one of two prize bundles (each bundle includes both our e-books), but beyond that, enter the realms of our verse. If you don’t read poetry, here’s your chance to try something new or share this giveaway with a friend. This will be on for a week via Rafflecopter link below. I’ll post updates of the winners back here on this post. Thanks for all the support of us and of poetry! ❤
 

Enter to win–>HERE

Acoustic Nightmare Twitter

Sheet Music to My Acoustic Nightmare, Synopsis –

Roll the windows down, wipe the blood off your cheek, and turn the music up. Sheet Music to My Acoustic Nightmare by Stephanie M. Wytovich is a collection spattered with dirt and blood, sage and corpses. The poems inside are confessionals and dirges, their stories the careful banter of ghosts and sinners over tequila at the bar.

These pages hold the lyrics to the beautiful grotesque that Wytovich is known for, but here she writes with a raw honesty that we haven’t seen from her before. This new direction takes readers to hospital rooms and death beds, shows the mask that was skinned off her face time and time again. There’s a brutality to her lines that cuts with the same knife she fantasized about, her blood and tears mixed in with stanzas as she talks about suicide and abuse, heartbreak and falling in love.

Written during a time when the road was her home, these poems were sung under the stars and screamed in the woods, carved into trees. They are broken bottles and cigarette butts, stale coffee and smeared lipstick, each its own warning, a tale of caution.

Listen to them carefully.

They very well might save your life.

Stephanie M. Wytovich, Biography –

WytovichHeadshot3Stephanie M. Wytovich is an American poet, novelist, and essayist. Her work has been showcased in numerous anthologies such as Gutted: Beautiful Horror Stories, Shadows Over Main Street: An Anthology of Small-Town Lovecraftian Terror, Year’s Best Hardcore Horror: Volume 2, The Best Horror of the Year: Volume 8, as well as many others.

Wytovich is the Poetry Editor for Raw Dog Screaming Press, an adjunct at Western Connecticut State University and Point Park University, and a mentor with Crystal Lake Publishing. She is a member of the Science Fiction Poetry Association, an active member of the Horror Writers Association, and a graduate of Seton Hill University’s MFA program for Writing Popular Fiction. Her Bram Stoker Award-winning poetry collection, Brothel, earned a home with Raw Dog Screaming Press alongside Hysteria: A Collection of Madness, Mourning Jewelry, and An Exorcism of Angels. Her debut novel, The Eighth, is published with Dark Regions Press.

Follow Wytovich at http://www.stephaniewytovich.com/ and on twitter @SWytovich.

Praise for Stephanie Wytovich

“Wytovich binds wrists with her muse using a chunky chain, and together they spin in circles, hoisting poetic knifes in a fight to the death. You might think you know what you’re getting into with this collection of haunted road trips, erotic regrets and dangerous, devious desires, especially if you’ve read Wyto’s other books of poetry. But this Acoustic Nightmare feels far more personal and profound than her earlier dark works, and you can tell she’s riffing off the influences of her favorite writers — from Charles Bukowski to Sylvia Plath, Jack Keroac to Anne Sexton to Edgar Allan Poe — all of them also tied up tight, immersed in the muse she does battle with in this book.” — Michael Arnzen, Bram Stoker Award-winning poet, and author of Grave Markings

“Wytovich gives the reader an enticing mix of poems written as personal confessionals – such as a prostitute, murderess, or broken woman. You’ll find imagined scenarios like ‘Married to My Idea of Death’ with lines “So I drank myself to sleep to a world where my nightmares were kinder than the life I was given …”  A particular favorite is her poignant poem about visiting her dying grandmother, ‘Hanging Imaginary Drapes in Jefferson Hospital.’  Check it out!  -Marge Simon, co-author of Satan’s Sweethearts

“Stephanie M. Wytovich’s latest poetry collection is a mixed tape of atonement played along a roadway of righteous sin, where the crimson line of the horizon is either the dawning of redemption or the pyre of bridges set aflame. One cannot learn to write with such brutal honesty as Stephanie M. Wytovich, it must be earned. And the lessons hurt. This is the raw voice of angst and alienation from one of the most esteemed authors of dark poetry, operating at her peak of ability. Strap in and hold on. It’s a harrowing ride.” –Brian Kirk, Bram Stoker nominated author of We Are Monsters

“A heart-juddering ride along serpentine nightmares paved with intimate evocations of self-torment, poisoned kisses, and lying tongues. Wytovich writes with brutal honesty and fervour.” – Erik Hofstatter, author of Rare Breeds

“Like a candy apple wrapped in razor wire, Sheet Music will make you bleed with every bite, but you won’t be able to stop. Wytovich’s new collection is simply outstanding.”- Maria Alexander, Bram Stoker Award-winning author of Snowed and Mr. Wicker

Purchase Link –

Amazon

Want to feature this book/author?

If you are a blogger, author, or member of the media and you would like to feature Sheet Music to My Acoustic Nightmare or Stephanie Wytovich in a review or interview, please contact Erin Al-Mehairi, publicist, at hookofabook@hotmail.com. Thanks!

BreatheBreathe

BREATHE. BREATHE. Synopsis –

Breathe. Breathe. is a collection of dark poetry and short fiction exploring the surreal depths of humanity. It’s a representation of how life breaks us apart and words put us back together. Purged onto the pages, dark emotions flow, urging readers into murky seas and grim forests, to the fine line between breathing and death.

In Act One, readers are presented with a serial killer in Victorian London, a lighthouse keeper with an eerie legacy, a murderous spouse that seems to have walked right out of a mystery novel, and a treacherous Japanese lady who wants to stay immortal. The heightened fears in the twilight of your minds will seep into the blackest of your nights, where you have to breathe in rhythm to stay alive.

In Act Two, the poetry turns more internal and pierces through the wall of denial and pain, bringing visceral emotions to the surface unleashing traumas such as domestic abuse, violence, and illness.

In the short stories, you’ll meet residents of Valhalla Lane whose lives are on a violent parallel track to collision, a man who is driven mad by the sound of a woodpecker, a teenage girl who wakes up on the beach and can’t find another soul in sight, a woman caught in a time shift pitting her against the Egyptian goddess Anuket, and a little girl whose whole world changes when her favorite dandelion yellow crayon is discontinued.

Amid these pages the haunting themes of oppression, isolation, revenge, and madness unfold through folklore, nightmares, and often times, raw, impulsive passion crafted to sear from the inside out.

With a touching foreword by the Bram Stoker nominated author Brian Kirk, Breathe. Breathe. will at times unsettle you, and at times embrace you. Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi, a veteran writer and editor of the written word, offers up a mixed set of pieces, identifying her as a strong, new voice in dark fiction that will tear the heart from your chest, all the while reminding you to breathe.

Amazon  

Also available via Barnes and Noble and other fine online retailers.

PRAISE for BREATHE. BREATHE.

“Erin paints scenes and evokes emotions with precision and skill. These are the kinds of stories and poems that tighten your chest and leave you holding your breath.” – The Scary Reviews

“Breathe. Breathe. is as honest and raw as writing gets. Erin bares her soul with these poems, particularly during Act 2 in which the verses take on a much more personal and reflective nature.” -The Grim Reader

“Breathe. Breathe. is a great collection of poetry and short fiction. The poems are dark and vivid. They touch at the core of the human condition. The poems are gritty and chilling. You can feel the doom and dread in each of the poems. Breathe. Breathe. is an emotional rollercoaster. The characters are troubled, and the author gives them just enough depth.” – Cedar Hollow Reviews

“I am certain many readers {and not only female} will find themselves breathing shallower, or holding their breath, as the vividness of these scenes awakens memories. Other readers who may not have these particular types of painful memories, will nonetheless wince in empathy. I am equally certain very few will walk away untouched, and very few will forget.” -The Haunted Reading Room

“Raw, risky, and brave.” – Selcouth Station

“I feel the poems are at their best when folkloric in nature – I particularly like “Ningyo’s Misfortune”, “The Driftwood of Wishes”, and “Offerings to Nang Tani”. The short stories “Destination: Valhalla Lane Loveless, Ohio” and “Life-Giver of the Nile” are both clever and brutal, and the standout.” – Julie K. Rose, author of Oleanna and Dido’s Crown

“Wow. This collection really leaves bruises on the soul. I’m not a huge fan of poetry, yet, I found myself glued to the words and emotions pouring out of this author. The short stories were great too. My favorite was “Lunch Served at Noon”, as it had a Twilight Zone-ish quality to it. To fans of dark literary fiction and poetry, I recommend giving Breathe. Breathe. a try.” – Tim Meyer, author of Sharkwater Beach

“At times sinister, definitely dark, atmospheric and heavy with foreboding, this collection of poetry and short stories from Erin Al Mehairi touches our deepest fears. Murder, domestic violence and even an ancient Egyptian goddess all move within these pages where nothing is ever simple or straightforward.” – Catherine Cavendish, author of Wrath of the Ancients

It’s full of the unexpected – bits of lace cut through with the odd and the horrible and the beautiful. Through it all I sense the power of a survivor!! And I love that!” —Sue Harrison, internationally bestselling author of Mother Earth Father Sky (Ivory Carver Trilogy) “Breathe. Breathe. is at times haunting, visceral, bittersweet, and tender. Erin Al Mehairi bares her soul and invites readers to devour it whole.” —Hunter Shea, author of We Are Always Watching “Erin Al-Mehairi weaves a web of narrative and poetry both beautiful and nightmare-inducing in Breathe. Breathe., invoking heartache and the need to see through the shining masks life presents us to confront the darkness it truly holds.” —Michelle Garza, co-author of Bram Stoker nominated Mayan Blue

“I loved Dandelion Yellow.  I was hyperventilating at the end, but it was such a beautiful, painful and artful tale. I’ll be saying that last line to myself for weeks at least. Just beautiful.  I’m re-reading the rest.  One read just isn’t enough because DAYUM.  Beautiful.” –  Somer Canon, author of Vicki Beautiful and The Killer Chronicles

“In Breathe. Breathe., Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi employs sharp, jagged words arranged in sparse, disturbingly visceral clusters to force readers to “breathe” through the fear and pain of abuse and personal terror. It’s a sense reinforced by the deceptively quiet but disquieting story, “Dandelion Yellow.” Filled with sharp sensory detail, the highlight is “Life-Giver of the Nile,” an evocative circular time-shift tale in which an Egyptologist’s soul is required by Anuket, ancient and modern goddess of the Nile, for a greater purpose. Whether in poetry or prose, dark kernels nestled within horror tropes indicate that Al-Mehairi writes from the gut and from the heart but with the fierceness of a survivor, the soul of a fearless champion. This mixed collection is a fine introduction to a strong, intriguing new voice in dark fiction.” -W.D. Gagliani, Bram Stoker Finalist, author of Wolf’sTrap (Nick Lupo Series)

Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi, Biography –

Erin Al-Mehairi Bio PhotoErin Sweet Al-Mehairi has Bachelor of Arts degrees in English, Journalism, and History. She has 20 years of experience in the communication and marketing fields and is currently a writer, a journalist, a publicist, and an editor among many other things.

She writes fiction, essays, stories, and poetry and is an avid reader of many genres. She has edited poetry anthologies, novels, fiction pieces, and other various non-fiction and journalistic pieces. As a journalist, she’s written, interviewed, and edited for various newspapers, magazines, media outlets, and online news sources at both ends of the spectrum in media and public relations.

As an entrepreneur, she owns two businesses: Addison’s Compass Public Relations and Hook of a Book Media, in which she acts as a PR/Marketing Consultant, publicist, and editor for authors, publishers, and others. She also handles marketing and PR for Sinister Grin Press, where she is also an editor. Her third pursuit is writing her own works for publication. She volunteers her time in the community and is the chairwoman on the board of directors for a local mental health center and rape crisis and domestic violence safe haven.

She is the mother of three school-aged children and a cat. She lives with her family in rural Ohio nestled in the forest—a place just ripe for nightmares. Her passions are reading, writing, book hunting, hiking, and entertainment such as movies/film, television, and music. Oh, and she bakes, because you can’t do any of that without cookies.

Erin is a co-host with her Marketing Morsels segment on Project Entertainment Network’s The Mando Method, an award-winning weekly podcast for new and veteran writers.

Breathe. Breathe., published by Unnerving, is her debut collection and a mix of dark poetry and short stories and has been an Amazon best-selling paid title, debuting at #2 in Women’s Poetry. She is also featured in the anthology from Unnerving called Hardened Hearts, which published in December 2017. Her story “Dandelion Yellow,” from Breathe. Breathe. is also featured in the My Favorite Story anthology of the Project Entertainment Network, which published also in December of 2017.

You can e-mail her at hookofabook (at) hotmail (dot) com and find her easily at http://www.hookofabook.wordpress.com. You’ll also find her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest where she loves new friends.

Contact Erin for review copies or to feature here on your site, blog, or podcast.

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The Fairytale Keeper is an Amazing Medieval Story For Lovers of Fairytales

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Review~

Today I have a review of The Fairytale Keeper by Andrea Cefalo! You can also take the Fairytale Keeper Playbuzz quiz and enter to win a Fairytale Keeper Clutch Purse & $20 Amazon Gift Card below, following the review and the info.

I happen to love fairytales, and not just the happy ending ones, but even the true-to-form  original Grimm tales. Therefore, I love any retellings, awakenings, fracturing, or gentle nods to them as well. I like happy endings and not so happy endings. I love the history that creeps behind them and the Old World feel that resonates in my modern soul.

When I hear about The Fairytale Keeper series by Andrea Cefalo, and saw the goregous cover, I was sold on reading them. In hoping to love them, I immediately did so from the first few pages. As a mom who has loved to read fairytales to my kids since they were just very little in hopes to spark their imagination, I was touched by the beginning.

“I cannot write your story, Snow White. Only you can write your story.”

Adelaide’s mother tells her stories when she is young and calls her Snow White for a nickname. But her mother dies in medieval time from the plague, and though her father does financial better than most as a shoemaker, he still has to bribe a priest to give her mother a proper funeral and pyre. The situation doesn’t quite go so well and Adelaide is forever changed, not only by the death of her mother, but by the degradation of the body at the burial and the church’s politics and lack of compassion. We see Adelaide emerge from the reckless fire of her mother’s pyre as a Phoenix on a mission of revenge and retribution. She becomes a strong-willed, intelligent, and passionate protagonist that all young women can admire.

The real wonderful thing about this novel is how she portrays the relationships between Adelaide and others: with her father (the good and the bad feelings), Galadreil (who becomes her step-mother-see the tie-in…he’s a cobbler, she relates to Cinderella), her best friend Ivo, who becomes her Prince. In the relationships in the novel, we see where weaknesses are made strong, or people are torn apart, in each person with the accompaniment of another character. We see the loyalty, love, and dedication, yet also the tragic fight for Adelaide to receive this back, when all else in middle ages Cologne is suspect, corrupt, and falling to pieces.

If you are looking for a straight retelling of Snow White, that isn’t what this novel or series is about though. Instead the author is much more original as she takes pieces of various fairytales, the ones that Adelaide’s mother told her, and intertwines them into the story. Adelaide is called “little Snow White” and wants to save her late mother (her Queen, who dies and leaves her with an evil witch–just like in the fairytale) from the big bad wolf (taken from Red Riding Hood…the priest, the plague, the terrible burial), her dad is a shoemaker (an ode in a roundabout way to The Elves and the Shoemaker as well as Cinderella), Galadreil who has a similar story to her life as Cinderella (a noblewoman who appears in a dirty dress and has had a hard childhood- yet doesn’t becomes the witch or the evil step-mom), and Ivo who gives the novel a sweet romance to enjoy as he is Adelaide’s Prince Charming. You’ll enjoy a retelling of Hansel and Gretel as well.

You’ll find nuggets of fairytales distributed throughout if you tune in to your reading. It made it quite a fun addition to the dark back story of how awful the life, and the church, was in the 13th century, as well as the underlying “moral” of the story of what revenge can cost someone on a mission to for it. By the end, there is still anger and some dark places in Adelaide’s heart, but she does fine her solace too in regards to telling her own story and keeping her mom alive in her heart by keeping the fairytales alive. Andrea writes with a good mixture of the dark of Grimm’s tales and the more lighter side of Perrault’s versions.

I enjoyed Andrea’s fluid and decadent sentences, her historical detail in terms of setting-places, food, dress, as well as her character development, including how she crafted their emotions to make us connect to them, and her overall plot, which was Adelaide’s journey. It was original and imaginative, descriptive, and absorbing.

I felt like I was thrust back in time not only to my younger years, but to the medieval ages. I couldn’t put the book down and truly can’t wait to dive into the next one in the series. Highly recommended for medievalists as well as fairytale connoisseurs!

Read the First Chapter—> http://andreacefalo.com/book-one-the-fairytale-keeper/free-first-chapter/

Excerpt 1~

Intro: Adelaide’sbest friend and first love, Ivo, has asked Adelaide to tell him the tale of Hansel and Gretel. But Ivo, always ready to tease Addie and try to make her laugh, isn’t being the greatest listener.

“Once Gretel was inside,” I say.“The witch intended to shut the oven and let her bake in it. Then she would eat her, too. But Gretel saw what she had in mind and said, ‘I do not know how I am to do it. How do I get in?’

“‘Foolish girl,’ said the old woman to Gretel. ‘The door is big enough. Just look, I can get in myself!’ She crept up and thrust her head into the oven. Then Gretel gave her a push that drove her far into the oven, shut the iron door, and fastened the bolt. Oh, how horribly she howled—”

Ivo interrupts me with a great AWOOOO!!!

A huddle of women turn their wimpled heads, their faces screwed up.

“Are you mad?” I ask through giggles. “What are you doing?”

He laughs. “I’m howling like a witch.”

“That’s not how a witch howls.”

He stops. “Oh, then how do they?”

“I don’t know.” I grab his arm and tug him away from the on-lookers. “But not like that…not like a wolf. Come on.”

“Your cheeks are red,” he remarks.

“It’s the wind,” I lie. “It is getting cold.”

He shakes his head at me and howls again.

“Stop it!” I hiss and slap him in the stomach. “Lest I drop you off at St. Pantaleon’s with the rest of the lunatics.”

He flashes a wry smile. “Oh, if I was mad, you’d keep me. Wouldn’t you?”

I roll my eyes and heave a heavy sigh.

“So how does it end?” he asks.

“What?”

“The story. Hansel and Gretel. What happens?”

“A wolf eats them.”

“What? No. That can’t be how it ends.”

“No.” I cross my arms. “You don’t get to know how it ends. This is thrice you have interrupted me.”

“Oho,” he guffaws. “But I promise I will be a good boy if you’ll tell me the end.” He raises his flaxen eyebrows, eyes brimming with mischief. “Or I could howl some more.”

“The witch burned to death.”

“And…” he prods.

”And?” I repeat in a mocking tone.

“What about the father and the stepmother?” he asks.

“What do you think happens to them?”

He is silent for a heartbeat, squinting an eye and pursing his lips. “I think…the father and the stepmother go find them,” he says. “Gretel tosses her in the oven. They eat the house, and they live happily ever after. Am I close?”

“Close enough.”

“So what really happened?”

“Nothing really happened,” I say. “It’s just a story.”

“You know what I mean, Addie. How does it really end?”

“The children find gold and jewels, and then they make their way back to the father. The stepmother was already dead. They lived happily ever after.”

“Huh.” There is a hint of disappointment in his voice.

“I think I like your ending better,” I admit.

“Did they eat the house first?” he asks.

“No.”

He shakes his head, eyes wide with feigned shock. “I would have most certainly eaten the house.”

I give a sniff of laughter. “Me too.”

Excerpt 2~

Intro: Adelaide and her Father are imprisoned in the North Tower, where at best, men are locked away and forgotten, and at worst, they are interrogated and tortured. The Archbishop of Cologne, suspecting the beginnings of revolt in his city, comes to question Adelaide.

I do not know how long I am in the dark. Shrill screams echo through the hallway, and I shudder with fear, thinking every one of them belongs to Father. It is the most wretched feeling, worse than the last moments of Mama’s life, for I can do nothing to help him except pray. And so I do, until my knees are raw from the damp stone floor.

The cell opens, and just outside the frame of the door stands the archbishop.

It is true. He is here.

He is a slight man with icy, scheming eyes and thin lips. I sink to my knees, prepared to beg.

“I hear you make trouble in my city,” he says, his accent remarkably Roman. “I am good at dealing with troublemakers.”

“Please, I beg you to have mercy. Father and I tried to go to your cathedral, but—”

“I have not asked you to speak,” he interrupts.

“She is feisty, Your Excellency,” pipes the guard who caught me. “Kicks like a mule and bites like a dog.”

The archbishop gives a slow turn of his head, and the guard’s face goes white. “Leave us.”

The guards bow and hasten from the room. The door to my cell claps closed behind them.

The archbishop gesture languidly. “Do you know what happens in this tower?”

“Yes, Your Excellency.”

“Do you love your father?”

“Yes, Your Excellency!”

“Then you would save him—if you could?”

“Yes, Your Excellency!”

“Does your father urge rebellion upon the church?”

“Your Excellency, if I may explain—”

“Yes or no.”

“No, Your Excellency, he tries to stop them.”

He raises a silver eyebrow. “So you know of plots?”

I have said too much.

“I, I have overheard a stranger’s whispers, Excellency, but also overheard my father tell this man that he shall go to church. My father has no desire to see a rebellion.”

“Of course you would defend your father. I shall have to find ways to get the truth from him, if I cannot get it from you.” He pivots toward the door.

I surge forward, clutching his robe. “I swear it on my mother’s soul, Your Excellency! He is innocent!”

He turns, regarding me with an indifference that terrifies me. “Perhaps you tell the truth about your father’s innocence, but I know you lie of something else. You know who incites the rebellion, and yet you keep it from me. For this, you and your father shall be punished. But…I can be merciful. If you tell me who incites the rebellion, then your punishments shall be light.”

I stall, hoping a brilliant lie shall come to me. A lie that he shan’t see through. A lie that can save us all. But nothing comes.

“His name is Elias, Excellency.” I avert my gaze, wishing I had never mentioned this stranger at all, wishing I had never overheard his conversation. But more than anything, I hope I have saved my father.

“You shall confess that your father ordered you to abandon the church, and tell no one of any other story, or I shall have to change my mind about your father’s punishment.”

I wonder if he is seeking a confession in order to punish us as heretics and that all of his other promises are lies.

“But that is not the truth, Excellency. It was—”

“Ah, but, stupid, stupid girl, I do not care.” He meets my eyes, no hint of unease. “And those are the kinds of words that might make my men want to drive a hot poker up your father’s rectum and burn you both as heretics.”

I swallow hard. “Then I shall say whatever pleases you, Excellency.”

“Perhaps you aren’t so stupid after all.”

02_The Fairytale Keeper_CoverThe Fairytale Keeper, Info~

Re-Release Date: February 1, 2015
Scarlet Primrose Press
Formats: eBook; Paperback
Pages: 262

Series: Book One, Fairytale Keeper
Genre: Young Adult/Historical/Fairytale Retelling

Adelaide’s mother, Katrina, was the finest storyteller in all of Airsbach, a borough in the great city of Cologne, but she left one story untold, that of her daughter, that of Snow White. Snow White was a pet name Adelaide’s mother had given her. It was a name Adelaide hated, until now. Now, she would give anything to hear her mother say it once more.

A rampant fever claimed Adelaide’s mother just like a thousand others in Cologne where the people die without last rites and the dead are dumped in a vast pit outside the city walls. In an effort to save Katrina’s soul, Adelaide’s father obtains a secret funeral for his wife by bribing the parish priest, Father Soren.

Soren commits an unforgivable atrocity, pushing Adelaide toward vengeance. When Adelaide realizes that the corruption in Cologne reaches far beyond Soren, the cost of settling scores quickly escalates. Avenging the mother she lost may cost Adelaide everything she has left: her father, her friends, her first love, and maybe even her life.

Seamlessly weaving historical events and Grimm’s fairy tales into a tale of corruption and devotion, The Fairytale Keeper, leaves the reader wondering where fact ends and fiction begins. The novel paints Medieval Cologne accurately and vividly. The story develops a set of dynamic characters, casting the famous villains, heroes, and damsels of Grimm’s fairy tales into believable medieval lives. Though historically set, The Fairytale Keeper brims with timeless themes of love, loyalty, and the struggle for justice.

Praise for The Fairytale Keeper~

“A…resonant tale set late in the 13th century… with unexpected plot twists. An engaging story of revenge.” –Publisher’s Weekly

“Great historical fiction. Strong emotion injected into almost every page.” –Amazon Vine Reviewer

“…a unique twist on the Grimm’s Fairy Tales. Part fairy tale retelling, part historical fiction… The Fairytale Keeper is a story of corruption.” -Copperfield Historical Fiction Review

“The story that Cefalo weaves is intriguing and leaves you hanging on, wanting more.” -Hooked to Books Book Review Blog

“…it doesn’t feel like any retelling. Because it’s not. The Fairytale Keeper is its own unique story…very entertaining, containing a strong female role, a sweet romance, and much more.” -Lulu The Bookworm Book Review Blog

Buy the eBook~

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Buy the Paperback~

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Take the The Fairytale Keeper Playbuzz Quiz

https://www.playbuzz.com/andreac19/which-fairytale-keeper-character-are-you

About the Author Andrea Cefalo~

01_Andrea Cefalo_Author Pic 2Besides being the award-winning author of The Fairytale Keeper series, Andrea Cefalo is a self-proclaimed medievalist, hopeless bookworm, and social media junkie. She graduated with honors from Winthrop University in 2007 where she studied Medieval art history and children’s literature.

The next three books in The Fairytale Keeper series—The Countess’ Captive, The Baseborn Lady, and The Traitor’s Target—will debut in 2015 and 2016.

She resides in Greenville, South Carolina—ever perched before her trusty laptop—with her husband and their two border collies.

For more information please visit Andrea Cefalo’s website. You can also find her on FacebookTwitter, and Pinterest.

Follow The Fairytale Keeper Pinterest Board.

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

Hashtags: #TheFairytaleKeeper #Historical #YA #FairytaleRetelling

Twitter Tags: @hfvbt @AndreaCefalo

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Interview with Historical Author Stephanie Thornton on Women in History, Writing, and Thoughts on Ancient Desserts!

Today I have an amazing interview with debut author Stephanie Thornton, who penned one of my favorite current books, The Secret History: A Novel of Empress Theodora! If you have a love of women in history who have overcome great odds and helped change history, this book is for YOU! You can read my review from June HERE!

Now, Stephanie talks about inspiration for her novel, what other intelligent women she’s writing about, and why she’s telling aspiring writers to never give up! PLUS there is a GIVEAWAY and you’ll see that information right under the interview. Enjoy!

The Secret History

Hi Stephanie, welcome to Oh, for the Hook of a Book! I am so happy to feature you back on the site in celebration of your debut novel release, The Secret History: a Novel of Empress Theodora.  How have you been taking it all in?

Stephanie: Thanks so much for having me, Erin. The last week has been a whirlwind of awesomeness, and I’m thrilled to be here!

Erin: I can only imagine your excitement! And well-deserved!! Let’s grab some coffee and start talking about everything under the sun, or at least as much as we can get to!

Q: The Secret History is your first published novel, correct? Where did you find the inspiration to write it?

A: This is indeed my first published novel. I’m a high school history teacher and was inspired to do some more research after reading a line in a textbook about an actress-turned-empress who saved her husband’s throne during riot by giving a rousing speech. That was Theodora’s famous speech during the Nika rebellion, but I soon found out there was so much more to her story!

Q:  Given the amount of research, how did you undertake that task? How long did it take you?

A: The research never ends! (I actually found a new portrait of Theodora this week, hidden in a Roman church, and wish I could go back and write a scene about it for the novel!) I start my research by reading the available primary texts from the era, then move on to biographies of my main characters. Once I have the story, then I move on to the setting details that really make the era come to life. Those pieces tend to fall into place during my final edit, so I’m truly researching the whole way through.

Erin comments: You are very good at setting the scene with amazing details. I can picture all you write as if I am truly there.

Q:  What was the most interesting tidbit about Theodora, or the people surrounding her, that you came across in your research?

A: I absolutely love that Theodora was the daughter of a bear trainer. I’m distantly related to the Bailey side of Barnum & Bailey’s Circus, so I like that we have a shared circus background!

Erin comments: That’s so cool!

Q:  The cover art for your book is beautiful. Did you find much art, creative writings, tapestries, or the like from this time period in Constantinople? I know you described some beautiful architecture and art in your book.  What other cultures influenced that empire creatively during the sixth century?

A: The Byzantine Empire was heavily influenced by the Italian Roman Empire, but was starting to diverge from the classic forms of architecture, as can be seen by the domes of the Hagia Sophia on the novel’s cover. (Which I love, by the way. I almost swooned when I first saw it.) It’s also interesting to note that Byzantine architecture spread out of Constantinople after Theodora’s time—St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice is considered Byzantine in structure. I’m not aware of many creative writings or tapestries from the time period, but fortunately for us, many of the stunning Byzantine mosaics survive to this day—one of the lasting impacts of Byzantine art as they truly excelled at mosaic-making. In fact, if you Google “Mosaics,” the first image you’ll see is one of Christ from the Hagia Sophia and another top hit is a portion of the mosaics from San Vitale in Ravenna, the site of Theodora’s famous mosaic.

Q:  Women from these ancient cultures seemed to have great strength of mind and soul.  Many times they seemed to be even revered by their male peers or significant others intellectually, politically, and romantically. How do you think this happened, even as sometimes women still struggle today with this issue?

A: I think it took a strong man to recognize these amazing women, as that was typically not the norm. Most ancient cultures viewed women as second-class citizens, so for a man like Justinian to realize Theodora’s strengths, and even fight to be allowed to marry her, speaks volumes as to the strength of his own character. Justinian battled laws forbidding his marrying a common actress, and also feuded with his aunt, who wanted him to marry a respectable girl (despite the fact that his aunt had also once been a prostitute). I think it was difficult for men to realize that they didn’t have to give up their power to allow women to also have their say, something that still impacts women today.

Erin comments: You’d think after thousands of years, that would be a simple fix (a man feeling weak when a woman is strong) but alas….it’s still a tad bit of a struggle in the modern world as well. Also, women like Justinian’s aunt who could take their success and use it to teach or help others, but instead of point fingers at someone else just because the finger was pointed at them, aren’t helpful either. Lessons for today many times are still spoken through history.

theomosaictheodora

Mosaic of Empress Theodora

Q:  Keeping in line with that, given the major lines drawn among social classes, the poverty in the city streets, and the actresses who were paid for their bodies, how did some of these women rise to the powerful legacies they become? It couldn’t have been easy.

A: It definitely wasn’t easy, and as it always does, luck played a huge part in Theodora’s uncommon ascent from the gutters to the throne. The Byzantine Empire allowed for some upward mobility, but only for a select few people. Life in the ancient world was brutal for the vast majority of the population, and there were often few choices for women. The fact is that Theodora’s determination, perseverance, and wit would have amounted to little had she not been able to attract a wealthy patron, something she would have been well aware of. Lucky for her, she managed to catch the eye of the future emperor, and was then able to use her talents to their full advantage!

Q:  I know you also like a favorite quote of mine: “Well-behaved women rarely make history!”  Can you expound on that notion and besides the fact that drama always is memorable, what else makes this true? Do you feel it is still true today?

A: That’s one of my favorite quotes—I have it on my webpage and also in my classroom! I think that in order for women in the ancient world to stand out and be remembered, they really did have to break the rules. If they didn’t, they were relegated to the background. Women like Theodora and her friend Antonina refused to let men call all the shots—even the men they loved—and weren’t afraid to voice their own opinions (or perform salacious and daring acts on stage). For Theodora, at least at Nika, that also meant that she was able to turn the tide of history. As for whether this is still true today, I think it’s a little easier for women to get noticed, but it’s still women who break the norms—Hillary Clinton, Margaret Thatcher, Sandra Day O’Connor—who will likely end up remembered by the history books.

Erin comments: I agree. And though it’s sad that women standing up for beliefs, causes, or for their voice to be heard is considered risky, I applaud women who strive daily without fear and continue to work hard to change society

Q:  What other women in history are you writing about?  Can you talk a little about your next several books and the desire you have to bring to print “your forgotten women in history?”

A: My next novel, DAUGHTER OF THE GODS, is about Hatshepsut, Egypt’s first successful female pharaoh, and my personal idol since I was in the 7th grade. Hatshepsut financed major trade explorations, fought against foreign uprisings, and fell in love with a commoner, all while guiding Egypt into its Golden Age. My third book, THE TIGER QUEENS, will feature Genghis Khan’s first wife and several of his daughters. All of these women were integral to history, but sadly, have been largely forgotten. It seemed wrong that we all remember Cleopatra (who lost Egypt to the Roman Empire—I’ll forever hold that against her) and Anne Boleyn (who did give birth to Elizabeth I, but is mostly famous for getting her head chopped off), yet we don’t know about these other inspiring women who left such a legacy to history.

Erin comments: I agree! Hatshepsut has always been a favorite of mine and would love to see more books showing her in a positive light! Honestly, I have never even hear of Khan’s wife or family, so that will be really interesting!

Q: Besides the women you are currently writing on, what other women have you thought about featuring in a novel? Why?

A: I’m turning my eyes toward ancient Rome for my fourth novel, although I have yet to decide exactly who my new heroine will be. There are a couple of options, but I’m not allowed to start researching those women until I finish revising my third book!

Q:  What words of advice do you have for aspiring female writers? How would you motivate them to pursue their writing dreams?

A: Never give up! It’s cliché, but also so true. This business will wring the blood and tears right out of you, but if you’re passionate about what you’re writing, you have to keep putting one foot in front of the other. I believed so much in the first book I wrote that I went back and rewrote it from the ground up after finishing THE SECRET HISTORY. That book will release next year as DAUGHTER OF THE GODS, despite all the people who told me it was impossible to get a book on ancient Egypt published these days. You can achieve whatever you want to, but not if you stop writing!

Erin comments: Ancient Egypt is my favorite historical subject to read and there are so many stories of magic and wonder to be told.

Q:  What has been your biggest challenge on your writing journey? Alternatively, what has been your biggest personal success?

A: I almost threw in the towel on the whole writing business in the midst of querying DAUGHTER OF THE GODS, (and having all those naysayers tell me ancient Egypt wasn’t “in”). But I love the women I write about, (I would go totally fan girl on them if I ever invented a time machine), and I knew I had to keep going. My biggest personal success was finding an agent, and then an editor, who believed that the world would want to know about these women.

Erin comments: It seems like such a no-brainer to me! It’s so sad to hear you had so much difficulty. As a reader, writer, and history buff myself, I have been on the look-out for books such as what you are writing! At least you are making this reader happy, but I bet you will many others too. Glad you kept going!

Stephanie Thornton

Author Stephanie Thornton

Q: With a family and a career as a teacher, how do you find the time to write? Do you “schedule” writing time on your calendar or just fit it in as possible? How do you gain support from your family for your writing time?

A: My only real writing time comes at night after my daughter is in bed. I have a wonderfully supportive husband who knows that for one golden hour, I have to hide away in my writing room and get the words into my laptop. I’ve gotten into the habit of writing everything by hand first and then typing it into my laptop, so with that system, I carry notebooks with me just about everywhere to take advantage of other random writing opportunities.

Q:  How do you find your character’s voice when writing? What are some character developing tips?

A: Each character is different, which is fun, but often challenging at the same time. Theodora is pretty snarky, and it was often easy to hear her sarcastic comments in my head as I was writing. I often have mottos for my characters to help determine both their voices and their actions. Theodora’s motto was easy: SURVIVE.

Q:  What other books and authors do you enjoy personally and why?

A: I will read just about anything, but I love historical fiction. (Of course!) My all-time favorite novel is MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA by Arthur Golden and I’ve loved all of Kate Quinn’s novels since MISTRESS OF ROME came out. I love books with a killer plot, characters I love and want to throttle at the same time, and lush, exotic settings.

Q:  The major question I really want to know is if you found any ancient secret baking recipes during your work? What might Theodora’s favorite dessert have been and what is your favorite?

A: Best question ever! First of all, I think it’s a tragedy that Theodora lived in a time without chocolate or ice cream. I’m not sure I would have survived. That said, I did come across a reference to a Byzantine dessert made of cream and sprinkled with orchid pollen. I’m not sure if it would have been any good (certainly not as good as ice cream), but I managed to include a reference to it in one of Theodora’s banquet scenes with Emperor Justin.

Erin comments: Oh, I am always about the food. And your food descriptions in your book were AMAZING!! I think I might even have to try that flower pollen…

Q:  Where can readers and writers connect with you?

A: You can pretty much find me everywhere these days! I’m online at www.stephanie-thornton.com, on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/AuthorStephanieThornton, and I tweet as @STephMThornton.

Erin:  Thank you so much, Stephanie, for joining me today on the site. I absolutely adored your book and writing style and I can’t wait for your next upcoming novels! I wish you the best of luck with your writing and hope to have you back again soon!

Stephanie: Thank you so much for having me, and for asking such fantastic questions! I hope we can meet up again when DAUGHTER OF THE GODS releases next year. (That is, if you like hippo attacks, musty tombs, and Egypt’s greatest pharaoh of course!)

Erin: I am absolutely already super excited for Daughter of the Gods!! I want to be first on the reading list!!

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Giveaway~

The giveaway is for one paperback copy of The Secret History and open internationally!  To enter, please leave a comment under this post, or at the link on the Facebook page when it appears at www.facebook.com/HookofaBook. You can also email me at hookofabook(at)hotmail(dot)com. Whichever you choose, please be sure to leave your own email so I can contact you.

Extra entries: +1 for following my blog and +3 for “liking” the Facebook page mentioned above which is a hub for reviews, interviews, and book news.

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THE SECRET HISTORY, Synopsis~

The Secret HistoryPublication Date: July 2, 2013
NAL Trade
Paperback; 448p
ISBN-10: 045141778X

Where Theodora went, trouble followed…

In sixth century Constantinople, one woman, Theodora, defied every convention and all the odds, and rose from being a common theater tart to become empress of a great kingdom, the most powerful woman the Roman Empire would ever know. But the woman whose image was later immortalized in glittering mosaic was, in fact, a scrappy, clever, conniving, flesh-and-blood woman full of sensuality and spirit whose real story is as surprising as any ever told…

When her father dies suddenly, Theodora and her sisters face starvation on the streets. Determined to survive, Theodora makes a living any way she can—first on her back with every man who will have her, then on the stage of the city’s infamous amphitheater in a scandalous dramatization of her own invention. When her daring performance grants her a back-door entry into the halls of power, she seizes the chance to win a wealthy protector—only to face heartbreak and betrayal.

Ever resilient, Theodora rises above such trials and by a twist of fate, meets her most passionate admirer yet: the Emperor’s nephew. She will thrive as his confidant and courtesan, but many challenges lie ahead. For one day, this man will hand her a crown. And all the empire will wonder—is she bold enough, shrewd enough, and strong enough to keep it?

Praise for The Secret History

“Stephanie Thornton’s Theodora is tough and intelligent, spitting defiance against the cruel world of the Byzantine Empire. Her rise from street urchin to emperor’s consort made me want to stand up and cheer. Her later years as empress are great fun to read, but it was her early struggle as actress and courtesan that really had me roaring: either with rage at the misfortunes heaped on this poor girl, or with delight as she once more picked herself up with a steely glint in her eye and kept on going.”—Kate Quinn, author of Empress of the Seven Hills

“Loss, ambition and lust keep this rich story moving at top speed. Stephanie Thornton writes a remarkable first novel that brings a little known woman to full, vibrant life…A sprawling and irresistible story.”—Jeane Westin, author of The Spymaster’s Daughter

“A fascinating and vivid account; in The Secret History, the life of Empress Theodora leaps from the page, as colorful and complex as the woman herself.”—Michelle Diener, author of The Emperor’s Conspiracy

Author Stephanie Thornton, Biography~

Stephanie ThorntonStephanie Thornton is a writer and history teacher who has been obsessed with infamous women from ancient history since she was twelve. She lives with her husband and daughter in Alaska, where she is at work on her next novel.

For more information, please visit Stephanie Thornton’s website. You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter.

 Link to Tour Schedule: http://hfvirtualbooktours.com/thesecrethistoryvirtualtour/
Twitter Hashtag: #SecretHistoryTour

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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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Link to Tour Schedule: http://hfvirtualbooktours.com/cityoflightsvirtualtour/
Twitter Hashtag: #CityOfLightsVirtualTour

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The Bruges Tapestry Mixes History, Art Theft, and Secrets of the Church into Top-Notch Mystery

The Bruges TapestryI have been raving about many different books lately, I know. However, after picking up The Bruges Tapestry by P.A. Staes for a quick read over several blocks of time, I was immediately immersed, which is saying something because that doesn’t happen often for me at the beginning of the book (even if I end up loving it). I didn’t want to have to put it down. This book is top-notch, in my opinion, and it’s going to the top of my best-loved historical fiction pile!

I enjoyed the entire experience of the novel.  I loved the cover photography and design, as well as the font work inside the small cut pages which helped to set each period of time. The book flowed seamlessly between early 1500s Belgium and present day California, with completely well-developed and contrasting characters. Both engaging and dramatic, then witty and strong, this book really kept me turning pages.

The protagonist in the present day, Claire DeMaer, is a detective with the Newport Beach Art Theft Detail. A religious cynic, she’s a smart, sarcastic, independent woman who gets on the trail of a 500-year-old mystery pertaining to a Flemish tapestry. Juxtaposing, Staes gives us glimpses back in time to Beatrice, the daughter of the original weaver. That insight gives us knowledge into a secretive Roman Catholic Church and what they’ve hidden for so long.

This makes it not only a historical read, but a suspenseful mystery that I think is even better than anything Brad Meltzer decodes or Dan Brown can pen. I like Staes’ strong female lead, her gentle sub-protagonist, and her plot process.

I was amazed by the writing style of Staes so much; it was both cemented in perfect precision, but with a detail and description that read like poetry. Its flow was silky smooth and I felt very connected to the work. I would very highly recommend this book not only to lovers of historical fiction, but also those who like suspenseful thrillers, religious and/or art conspiracies, and good original mysteries.

I am now a huge fan of P.A. Staes and am looking forward to more in this series! The author states the The Bruges Tapestry is the first in the series of art theft detective Claire DeMaer.

Giveaway~

Enter to win one (1) paperback copy of The Bruges Tapestry, open internationally!

Just leave a comment with your email below, or email it to me at hookofabook@hotmail.com,  or comment on the link on my Facebook page (www.facebook.com/HookofaBook).

Please enter by 11:59 p.m. EST on April 18, 2013. For an extra entry, follow my blog. For two extra entries more, “like” my Facebook page. Please let me know you did so to get entries.

The Bruges Tapestry, Synopsis~

The Bruges TapestryPublication Date: August 29, 2012
CreateSpace
Paperback; 254p
ISBN-10: 1478155582

Following a 500-year-old mystery concerning a Flemish tapestry is routine work for Detective Claire DeMaer, since she’s employed by the Newport Beach Art Theft Detail. But, unlike past cases, this one involves arresting Paolo Campezzi, lover to her best friend Nora. Mr. Campezzi is a distant descendant of a Florentine Duke, who commissioned the tapestry in 1520 in Bruges, Belgium.

Claire finds that she must explore the true provenance of the tapestry, free Mr. Campezzi in order to re-establish her friendship with Nora and depend on the expertise of a textile expert she doesn’t know. All this must occur in 72 hours, before the Vatican takes the tapestry back.

But Claire isn’t the only one with the Vatican looking over her shoulder. Claire’s story intertwines with a 1520 diary by Beatrice van Hecke, the tapestry-weaver’s daughter. Only Claire can discover the secret that is woven in time.

P.A. Staes, Biography~

PA StaesP.A. Staes is the author of The Bruges Tapestry; the first of the Clare DeMaer series of historical mysteries. To lend veracity to The Bruges Tapestry Ms. Staes traveled to Stirling Castle in Scotland, The Victoria and Albert Museum in London, The Cluny Museum and Gobelin Factory in Paris, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art and The Cloisters to bring alive the rich and romantic world of tapestry. Ms. Staes lives in Southern California with her husband and two dogs.

For more information, please visit P.A. Staes’s WEBSITE and BLOG.

Plenty already posted for this tour! See reviews, interviews, and giveaways: http://hfvirtualbooktours.com/thebrugestapestryvirtualtour/
Twitter Hashtag: #BrugesTapestryVirtualTour

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Short Story Collection by Delancey Stewart Looks “Through a Dusty Window” to Glimpses at NYC History

Brownstone townhouseWinding down late one night this weekend, I curled up with Delancey Stewart’s short story collection Through a Dusty Window:  New York City Stories 1910-2001.  This compilation of shorts focuses on the lives of many people who all possibly lived in the same brownstone apartment, but at various decades.

When we think about that concept, we ponder what must each of their lives have been like based on what was happening during each segment of history? Her collection gives us fleeting glimpses into this question. Of course it’s the very first story, but I actually liked “1910: The Hidden Legacy” the best.  I loved this one due to the fact that I am very into social justice. I like any stories or books that deal with class distinction and issues stemming from social stigma. This story dealing with a little girl and a doll really touched my heart. I loved the ending to it. It would be great to see this story turning into a longer novella or full-length novel.

I liked some of the other stories too, of course, and their tie-in with historical time periods, though some were terribly sad. I suppose in those cases, the time periods in that New York area was….however, some of the endings of the stories I felt came to an abrupt halt. I suppose maybe I just wanted more to the story and we can’t always have happy endings.  These slices told a day in the life of her characters and captured through their sadness the faults of the world seen through their eyes, or “windows.”

I also liked “The Harbinger: 1953” though probably due to being interested in women of this time period who were actually put in very terrible situations in mental hospitals due to slight depression. Misjudged and ironic as the cases were sometimes, Stewart brings this to light in the story. A slight more lengthy, this one had well-developed characters and she rounded out a thought-provoking ending.

The collection is a very quick read. Perfect for sitting down with a cup of tea for an hour.  I loved how Stewart gave us a bird’s-eye view of each family who passed life in this New York Apartment, then tied it all together in the last story of the collection.  But I don’t want to spoil it for you by sharing how she does it. You should definitely download this short story collection and see for yourself.

Stop by again tomorrow for an exclusive interview with Delancey Stewart where we talk about her stories, history, and women in history. See you then!

Through a Dusty Window: New York City Stories 1910-2001 Synopsis~

Publication Date: November 15, 2012
CreateSpace
Paperback; 108p
ISBN-10: 0615731023

It’s impossible to live in a city like New York without feeling the presence of those who have preceded you – on those streets, in those subway cars, in that apartment. The city thrums with vibrations of lives and eras passed, and traces of that history are left imprinted in tangible ways everywhere we look.

Through a Dusty Window is a collection of ten short stories spanning a century of lives inhabiting one New York City brownstone on the Upper West Side. They are the culmination of the author’s experience in that city, during which she wondered constantly who had occupied her apartment before her, and what stories they might have lived.

Ten vignettes offer historical perspective on real events from Prohibition to World War II; the Vietnam-era Summer of Sam killings to John Lennon’s murder.

Through a Dusty Window allows us to be voyeurs, seeing the fascinating lives of others as they experience the history that New Yorkers today hear whispers of around every corner.

Giveaway~

Enter to win one (1) free Kindle ebook of Through a Dusty Window! Leave a comment below with your email or email it to me at hookofabook@hotmail.com.

Also leaving a Facebook comment on my link to this blog on my personal profile or leaving it at  www.facebook.com/HookofaBook counts too!

For an extra entry, follow this blog. Get TWO more extra entries for following the Hook of a Book Facebook page.

Enter by 11:59 p.m. EST April 16, 2013.

Praise for Through a Dusty Window

“I found this series of short stories to be delightful and read them in one sitting. I was impressed with the author’s free flowing style which captivated me and drew me into the imagery of the book. I was particularly aware of the evolution of the social culture and I felt that the transition between the times of each story was handled well.” – Jean Roberts, Amazon Review

“Every story was very well written (my favorite involved the Hindenberg) and my only complaint is that a few of them, such as the last one, ended too soon. This is a compliment, however, because it means I wanted more, much more.” – John Darling (Author Jack Point) – Amazon Review

Delancey Stewart, Biography~

Delancey StewartDelancey Stewart is a fiction writer living in Southern Maryland. She’s a military spouse and the mother of two small boys. When not writing, she can be found ballet dancing, eating ice cream, playing video games or building with Legos.

For more information, please visit Delancey Stewart’s website. You can also follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

Stop by the tour for more reviews, giveaways and fun at: http://hfvirtualbooktours.com/throughadustywindowvirtualtour/
Twitter Hashtag: #DustyWindowVirtualTour

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