Wednesday, 16 March 2022

An Interview with Rayne Hall

I'd like to thank Rayne Hall for agreeing to share insight into her writing process with us. 

To celebrate the launch of the new edition of Storm Dancer, the ebook will be on special offer (99c for the Kindle ebook) until 30 April 2022. After that date, the price will go up.

How do you develop your plot and characters?

I often start with a location – an intriguing, scary, creepy or puzzling place. In the case of Storm Dancer, it was a desert landscape with a violent storm approaching on the horizon. I ask myself, who would come here, and why?” This gives me a character to start with. With Storm Dancer, I chose a character who was fleeing into the desert to escape her pursuers, not realising the threat of the approaching storm. Then I ask, “What do they want here? What are they going to do about it? What challenges do they face?” This gives me the beginnings of a plot. I add more characters whose goals conflict with what the main character wants. In Storm Dancer, the second character is hunting down the fugitive. Those two goals conflicted right away. I continue asking more questions, especially questions starting with “What if…?” What if one of the two enemies knows local conditions and realises that the storm will kill them both, unless they cooperate and find shelter together? 

I freewrite in longhand in a notebook, jotting down ideas and letting my creativity flow. When I feel that I have a good grip on the main plot and the core conflicts, I develop a basic plot structure and sit down at my laptop to start writing in earnest. Having a structured plot keeps me focused and helps me complete the book faster than if I just meander along. However, I allow myself to deviate from the plot if I get better ideas along the way, or if my characters take the story in a different direction. Sometimes, the finished story is very different from the one I set out to write. This happened with Storm Dancer which I intended as a straightforward epic fantasy filled with swashbuckling adventures and romance. It wasn’t until I had nearly finished the first draft that the main character, warrior Dahoud, revealed that he was possessed by a demon. This changed the whole story, made it much darker, and forced me to rewrite everything. Towards the end of the second draft, Dahoud shocked me yet again: he confessed that he was the Black Besieger, the monster everyone feared and hated. He was hiding his identity from everyone - including his author. I had to start the book over again, this time with a Jekyll/Hyde character, a noble hero who fights against his dark side. The resulting book is much better, darker, with more depth and meaning. The swashbuckling fantasy I had planned would have been a forgettable piece of fluff. But the dark novel about the conflicted hero stays in readers’ minds.

How many books have you written and which is your favourite?

I write fiction in several genres, as well as non-fiction books. If I include my unpublished early works and the books I have co-authored with other writers, the number is over 100. Of my Gothic Horror story collections, the favourite is The Bride’s Curse: Bulgarian Gothic Ghost and Horror Stories. In the Writer’s Craft series, I think Writing Vivid Settings: Professional Techniques for Fiction Authors is great. Among my novels, the Dark Epic Fantasy Storm Dancer is definitely my favourite.

What was your hardest scene to write, and why?

Several scenes in Storm Dancer were hard to write, in the sense that they didn’t work and I had to rewrite them complete many times until they finally clicked. The scene were the citadel collapses into the sinkhole, and Dahoud and his arch rival need to work together to rescue people trapped in the abyss felt shallow - until I realised that it’s about trust and wrote it that way. In one of tensest scenes of the novel, the two main characters want each other dead, but can only survive by sheltering together from the storm. This scene became even tenser when I added Dahoud’s demon stirring up their evil desires. When magician Merida dances on a roof in a burning town, desperately trying to call rain, the scene came to life when I brought Dahoud into the scene to drum for her dance. The scene where Dahoud delivers himself into the enemy’s hands as a human sacrifice became more meaningful and scary when I made the torturer female. The final versions of these scenes don’t even resemble their first drafts.

Have you ever travelled as research for your book?

I like to visit locations similar to those where the story plays out, and I also immerse myself in the characters’ activities. While I was working on Storm Dancer, I used my holidays to travel in North Africa, Turkey and the Middle East, because those regions resemble the fantasy world I’ve built for the novel. I absorbed visual details of the wild landscapes, the deserts, the mountains, I listened to sounds and inhaled the smells, and I talked with people about their lives and the problems they face. Since the main male character has a secret fantasy about wrestling females, I joined a mixed-gender wrestling club to learn the basic skills and understand what makes those guys tick. (The men were all perfect gentlemen, very considerate)

Have you ever tried to write a novel for a genre you rarely or never read?

When I was fifteen, I tried to write an erotic novel. I hadn’t really read much in that genre. This was in the days before the internet, so there were no discreet downloads, you had to furtively buy erotic books in a railway station bookshop where no one knew you. The only erotic literature I had read were certain stories from the unabridged Arabian Nights, and a porn novel a classmate had smuggled into school and shared under the desk. Not only did I lack knowledge of the erotic fiction genre; as a fifteen-year-old virgin I also lacked insight into what it was all about, so my tales about a courtesan’s erotic adventures in historical Venice were not very plausible.

Would you share something about yourself that your readers don’t know (yet)?

I used to perform professionally as a bellydancer - of the very respectable kind, I hasten to add - entertaining audiences in Persian restaurants, at church fetes and in Women’s Institutes. I loved feeling the rhythm of the drums pulsing through my body and converting this energy into movements, with hip drops, shimmies, figures of eight, and transmitting my joy of the dance to the audience. While I wasn’t a stunning beauty, I had the ability to enchant people, stirring them, arousing in them an energy that filled the room like an aura of happiness. The owner of a restaurant once told me, “When other dancers come on, people clap politely. When you enter, they go wild.” I drew on my experience for my novel Storm Dancer. During her months of captivity in the harem, Merida learns bellydancing basics. When she escapes, she evades her pursuers by pretending to be tavern dancer, and has to use her skills to entertain an real audience. I thoroughly enjoyed writing this scene.

What authors did you dislike at first but then develop an appreciation for?

I tried several times to read Emily Brontë’s novel Wuthering Heights, but couldn’t get into it. I found the characters’ names confusing – two women named Catherine are both crucial to the plot – and I got muddled over who was who. On the fourth attempt, I suddenly got it – and the book took my breath away. Once I grasped what a piece of sheer evil Heathcliff is, I understood the story’s scope, meaning and message. Emily Brontë created a person of such evil, so realistic and believable, that I consider him the most evil villain of classic literature. The movie versions all show Heathcliff as a romantic, dark and brooding anti-hero, completely missing the point. Now that I understand the plot – and the scope of Heathcliff’s machinations – I consider Wuthering Heights a masterpiece. No other work of literature delivers such a meaningful message about the power of forgiveness transcending evil.

You can find Rayne Hall on Amazon and her website:

Books on Amazon: viewAuthor.at/RayneHall

Website: raynehall.com



Thursday, 3 March 2022

An Interview with Deborah Sheldon

Deborah Sheldons new collection, Liminal Spaces, is now available, and Ive interviewed her to the mark the occasion. You can also read my five-star review on Goodreads.

Thanks for agreeing to be interviewed, Deborah. The most important question first of all - what’s your favourite writing snack or drink?

While writing, I favour sparkling chardonnay pinot noir. While editing, black unsweetened tea. Oh yes, I’m a fan of Hemingway, all right – in more ways than one.

 

How do you celebrate when you finish your book?

My husband and son took me out to dinner when I finished my collection Liminal Spaces: Horror Stories. Every time I finish a book, my celebrations centre around food. If not at a restaurant, then at home with a special meal such as lobster bisque, or a treat like a layered cake with fancy piped icing. Actually, I celebrate every event with food. Christmas, Easter, birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, career successes, whatever – you’ll find me in the kitchen trying to whip up something tasty to mark the occasion.

What is your kryptonite as a writer?

Boredom. Over the 36 years of my professional career, I’ve found that feeling “safe” is the fastest way to kill my enthusiasm. I need the anxiety of the unfamiliar. How thrilling to face down a new writing medium and have no idea if I’m capable of doing it! Uncertainty and challenge seem to jump-start my creative brain.

What risks have you taken with your writing that have paid off?

All of them. Back in 1986, while at university, I began my career as a feature writer for magazines. Then I moved to TV script-writing. After that, to medical writing and non-fiction books. Followed by fiction and horror writing. And now I’m dipping my toe into the untested waters of poetry. It’s like refreshing myself as a writer every time I experiment with a new medium. Whether or not the risk pays off professionally doesn’t negate the personal benefit.

When was the last time you Googled yourself and what did you find?

The last time I Googled myself I found a book review, and promptly shared it on social media, my website, and newsletter. Actually, I Google myself every month or so. I cultivated this habit when I stumbled across a book review some two years after it had been published! Which, yeah, felt way too late.

Are you active on social media? How do you use it?

I’m on social media, yes, but not in a participatory sense. For example, someone else runs my Facebook author page, and while I’m a member of Goodreads I don’t belong to any groups or interact in any significant way. I’m in poor health, so fatigue and chronic pain force me to be miserly with how I spend my time. While I’d love to muck in with horror writers on Facebook, Goodreads and other sites, and network and attend conferences and so on, the reality is I don’t have the physical capacity. My concern is that people in the industry might dismiss me as snobby or standoffish, but the truth is, I’m unwell.

What’s the trickiest thing about writing characters of the opposite gender?

My whole life long, I’ve believed that humans are essentially the same regardless of sex, race, religion or era. A person from 3000 years ago would understand my fears, joys and concerns as if I were their contemporary. I must admit, however, that I’ve never been a “girly” girl. I don’t wear earrings, eyeshadow or perfume, have no interest in fashion, own three pairs of shoes and one handbag, and I’m typing this interview wearing an old t-shirt and my husband’s tracksuit pants. Perhaps my lack of interest in stereotypical “feminine” pursuits helps me write male characters that feel authentic.

Have pets ever gotten in the way of your writing?

On the contrary! For the past decade, I’ve had a budgerigar in my study to keep me company while I write. Our first budgie was Atlas and now we have Zeus, who is gutsing seeds and watermelon even as I type. I’ve got into the habit of discussing my writing issues with our birds. Often, I read out my drafts. Zeus is an attentive listener. His feedback includes wise nods, whistles, chattering, and occasional flurries of cursing that he’s picked up from me. (Fun fact: Zeus inspired one of my best-loved characters, the police dog in Thylacines.)

Animals – particularly birds – play an important and generally terrifying role in your fiction. Why?

I wrote the stories in Liminal Spaces over the years 2017 to 2021, sprinkled between longer-form projects including my bio-horror novella Thylacines, zombie novel Body Farm Z, bigfoot novella Man-Beast, and the anthologies Midnight Echo 14 and Spawn: Weird Horror Tales About Pregnancy, Birth and Babies. It wasn’t until I was compiling the collection and laying out my TOC that I noticed – with surprise – how many of my stories involved birds! No, this wasn’t a deliberate symbolic device. I honestly did not realise. Some people call themselves dog- or cat-people, and I guess I’m a bird-person. Birds have a fascinating duality about them. Beautiful, friendly and playful Australian varieties like budgerigars and lorikeets can remind you of their dinosaur genes every time you look at their claws and the scaly rings about their eyes.

Your fiction is rich in Australian lingo and traits, and that’s bloody awesome! Is this a conscious decision or just natural for you?

Yes, it’s very much a conscious decision. What I’ve always admired about storytellers from the United States – across prose fiction to films to TV – is their love of writing US-centric stories filled with US locations, characters and language. So, I’m a flag-waver for Australian locations, characters and language. Not for me the generic “set anywhere” type of story. I don’t like that as a reader, and I won’t do it as a writer. That’s why my first anthology with IFWG was open to submissions only from Australian citizens, residents and ex-pats – and why my second anthology (with the same press) will do the same. One’s culture deserves to be celebrated: I’m not a fan of “cultural cringe”. 

Thanks, Deborah. 

You can buy a copy of Liminal Spaces on Amazon or through IFWG Australia

 


***

Deborah Sheldon is an award-winning author from Melbourne, Australia. She writes short stories, novellas and novels across the darker spectrum of horror, crime and noir. Her award-nominated titles include the novels Body Farm Z, Contrition and Devil Dragon; the novella Thylacines; and the collection Figments and Fragments: Dark Stories.

Her collection Perfect Little Stitches and Other Stories won the Australian Shadows ‘Best Collected Work’ Award, was shortlisted for an Aurealis Award and longlisted for a Bram Stoker. Deb’s short fiction has appeared in many well-respected magazines such as Aurealis, Midnight Echo, Andromeda Spaceways, and Dimension6. Her fiction has also been shortlisted for numerous Australian Shadows Awards and Aurealis Awards, and included in various ‘best of’ anthologies such as Year's Best Hardcore Horror.

As editor of the 2019 edition of Midnight Echo, Deb won the Australian Shadows ‘Best Edited Work’ Award. Her anthology Spawn: Weird Horror Tales About Pregnancy, Birth and Babies was a flagship 2021 title for IFWG Publishing Australia.

Deb’s other credits include TV scripts such as NEIGHBOURS, feature articles for magazines, non-fiction books (Reed Books, Random House), stage plays, and award-winning medical writing. Visit her at http://deborahsheldon.wordpress.com

DEB’S AMAZON AUTHOR PAGE https://www.amazon.com/~/e/B0035MWQ98

 

Tuesday, 22 February 2022

Introducing Oscar Tremont, Investigator of the Strange and Inexplicable

Join Oscar Tremont on his first four cases as he tackles mysteries too strange for the police and assures his clients that a rational explanation lies behind what at first appears to be impossible. You will find clues, question suspects, don disguises, break into abandoned houses, solve codes and puzzles, and if you really have your wits about you, crack the case before our hero.
Oscar Tremont, Investigator of the Strange and Inexplicable consists of two novellas and two short stories that display the keen intellect of a private investigator who is bound to make a name for himself in the mystery genre.

◆ The Hunt for the Stayne Fortune
◆ The Ghosts of Walhalla
◆ The Witch at the Window
◆ The Secret of the Severed Hand

These four mysteries will challenge and surprise even the most experienced armchair detectives.
Order the print book today or pre-order the ebook for just 99c before it increases to $2.99 USD RRP on the 25th of February. Please also note that the ebook will be available with Kindle Unlimited.






Saturday, 15 January 2022

Haunted: Crossing the Line

It's not every day (or indeed year) I have a ghost story published, but my spooky tale, Crossing the Line, is included in Specul8 Publishing's "Haunted" anthology, which was appropriately released on Christmas Eve. It's only available in print, but it's a beautiful product and well worth it if your bookshelf needs a little haunting!

As long as people have drawn breath, they have pondered the divide between the world of the living and the realm of the dead. From the grief-stricken to the grotesque, the haunting to the humorous, stories about those who have crossed back through the veil between worlds have frightened, inspired, and awed humankind for countless centuries. Featuring poetry and short fiction from 29 Australian and New Zealand authors, this collection begs to ask the question: Is death truly the end?

Click the cover image to visit the purchase page.

I grace the pages with an amazing cast of talented writers. Here's the full list:

Mike Adamson
KM Campbell
Simon J. Plant
Chris Moss
Anthony Ferguson
Belinda Brady
Tim Borella
Cameron Trost
Karen Bayly
Matthew R. Davis
Narelle L Noppert
Taine Andrews
Issy Jinarmo
Lana Lea
Ashley Read
John Brandt
Adelae Guevara
Louise Zedda-Sampson
BG Hilton
Leanbh Pearson
Carmen Tudor
Nandi Samuel
Rainie Zenith
Kate Maxwell
Barbara Smith
Prema Arasu
LJ McLeod
Bronwyn Todd
 
Order a copy today and get ready for a spooky time!

Monday, 3 January 2022

Among the Headstones - Interview with Pamela Turner

I’ve interviewed fellow contributor to Among the Headstones: Creepy Tales from the Graveyard, Pamela Turner, as part of the preparations for the release of the anthology early next year. Full details about the haunting anthology are provided at the end of the interview.

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How do you feel about cemeteries? Do find them creepy?

When I was growing up in my hometown, I believed the local cemetery was haunted. No one had told me it was. I believed it because I read horror anthologies in elementary school, and it fed my imagination. I remember thinking how scary it must be for those living near the cemetery, especially after dark. Now cemeteries are some of my favorite places to visit. I like learning about the different symbols, looking at the statues, and even discovering a unique headstone.

How would you like to be buried?

Since my husband was a veteran, I will probably be buried with him in the veterans’ cemetery. On Veterans Day this year, I met a veteran who told me that when a spouse dies and is buried with the veteran, his or her information is engraved on the other side of the veteran’s headstone. Next time I go to the cemetery, I’m going to look for this.

What scared you when you were a child?

Dolls. Believing my dolls would steal my soul, I made them face the wall before I went to bed. And one was a Raggedy Ann doll. At the time, I didn’t know about the infamous Annabelle, which was probably a good thing. I’ve since read Algernon Blackwood’s short story and watched the Night Gallery episode.

What’s your favourite horror book? What do you like about it?

The Shining by Stephen King is my favorite horror novel. A family is trapped in a hotel during the winter with the father/caretaker slowly going mad and threatening his wife and son. But his wife fights back to save her family.

Who is your favourite Gothic author? Why?

Shirley Jackson is my favorite Gothic author. Her novel The Haunting of Hill House is, along with The Shining, one of the creepiest stories I’ve read. It impresses me how she made the house itself a character and a sinister one. Also, I’ll never forget the ending. What I’m curious about is what happened in Hill House to cause the haunting, although I don’t think that’s ever explained.

For readers who are new to your fiction, which of your books would be a good start?

My novella The Ripper’s Daughter, which takes place ten years after the Ripper’s murder spree. Prostitutes are showing up dead in Louisville, Kentucky, and a former detective inspector turned vampire/tavern owner fears Jack is responsible.

ABOUT PAMELA TURNER

Pamela Turner’s love for the paranormal began in elementary school, where she discovered anthologies filled with ghosts, witches, vampires, and other creatures that go bump in the night. Then there was Rod Serling’s Night Gallery and that creepy doll. Fearing her Raggedy Ann doll would steal her soul, Pamela made the doll face the wall before she went to bed.

Despite this, her interest in the supernatural continued. In middle school, she penned her own tales of terror. Fellow students enjoyed them, and she dreamed of becoming a published author.

After a short stint as a freelance magazine writer, she decided to return to writing fiction. She's also an award-winning screenplay writer.

Currently, she writes paranormal suspense featuring vampires, dragons, angels, and demons. Just don’t expect her angels to always be good or her demons to always be evil.

Many of her stories are set in Louisville, Kentucky where she lives with her daughter and herds three rescue cats. When not writing, she enjoys anime and manga, weaving, aviation, cemeteries, and abandoned buildings.

You can find her at https://pamturner.net

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/PamelaTurnerAuthor

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/pamturner97/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/pamelaturner


ABOUT THE BOOK

AMONG THE HEADSTONES: CREEPY TALES FROM THE GRAVEYARD

This anthology, edited by Rayne Hall, presents twenty-seven of the finest - and creepiest - graveyard tales with stories by established writers, classic authors and fresh voices.

Here you will find Gothic ghost stories by Robert Ellis, Lee Murray, Greg Chapman, Morgan Pryce, Rayne Hall, Guy de Maupassant, Myk Pilgrim, Zachary Ashford, Amelia Edwards, Nina Wibowo, Krystal Garrett, Tylluan Penry, Ambrose Bierce, Cinderella Lo, Nikki Tait, Arthur Conan Doyle, Priscilla Bettis, Kyla Ward, Edgar Allan Poe, Paul D Dail, Cameron Trost, Pamela Turner, William Meikle and Lord Dunsany who thrill with their eerie, macabre and sometimes quirky visions.

You'll visit graveyards in Britain, Indonesia, Russia, China, Italy, Bulgaria, Thailand, USA, Australia, South Africa and Japan, and you can marvel at the burial customs of other cultures.

Now let’s open the gate - can you hear it creak on its hinges? - and enter the realm of the dead. Listen to the wind rustling the yew, the grating of footsteps on gravel, the hoo-hoo-hoo of the collared dove. Run your fingers across the tombstones to feel their lichen-rough sandstone or smooth cool marble. Inhale the scents of decaying lilies and freshly dug earth.

But be careful. Someone may be watching your every movement... They may be right behind you.


Purchase Link: mybook.to/Headstones

The ebook is available for pre-order from Amazon at the special offer price of 99 cents until 31 January 2022. (After that date, the price will go up.) The paperback is already published.