Why Hallowe’en? Because we love to see fear in the mirror

Share

By Scott Bury

mage courtesy Things Gunjan Draws http://thingsgunjandraws.blogspot.com

Ebola. Totalitarianism. Pandemic. Mass migration. Climate change. Terrorism.

Judging from hyperbole in social media, we are out-and-out terrified of these things. Even to the extent of people getting angry at climate activists for “spreading fear.”

We’re afraid of fear, like Franklin Roosevelt said.

And yet, at this time of year, we choose to scare ourselves by going to movies like the latest iteration of the Joker.

What does that say about the creators of things scary?

The job we have chosen as writers of fantasy and speculative fiction is to reflect our audience’s fears back to them in symbolic way. Perhaps this is a way to help deal with them, but mostly, it’s because through fantasy, we can take some joy from our fears as well as, well, fear. It’s like riding a roller-coaster: it’s fun because it scares us, but we’re really safe.

A long, grisly, nasty yet honourable tradition

This is what fantasy writers have always done: writing stories about mythical, legendary and magical symbols and themes, stories that give us another way to look at what’s really bothering us. It has a long history in a technological era:

  • Godzilla, the monster awakened by atomic radiation and that could breathe out “atomic fire,” reflected our fears of nuclear war and radiation.
  • Zombies, like those in World War Z, Night of the Living Dead or The Walking Dead reflect our fear of incurable, virulent and especially contagious pandemics, made even more horrifying and destructive by their ability to instantly render their victims as vessels of further transmission.
  • US, Misomar, Saw and other recent horror films and books play on our current fears, sublimating everything from surveillance, to loss of home, and of course, the old standby, the Other—people not of our tribe, and therefore a threat.
  • Dracula, the Un-Dead, the progenitor of nearly all the vampire books since, plays on several fears. First is the fear of contagion—Bram Stoker’s heroes thought Lucy’s affliction was a blood disease, after all – but also the fear of being infected with something that will change your nature (becoming a vampire). There is also the fear of the Other, the foreigner, the intruder who by his very nature is dangerous. But mostly, Dracula was a sublimation of the greatest fear of the Victorian era: sex.

Yes, I am saying that sucking up blood was the only way that a Victorian era writer would portray sexual lust without getting banned or arrested. Don’t believe me? The vampire was ultimately defeated by a woman’s sexual attractiveness. Oh, sure, Dracula said he was only interested in her blood. But he was lured to his doom by a beautiful young woman, who invited the vampire into her bedroom and made him stay all night long. Now tell me Stoker was not writing about sex.

Still holding onto that argument? Watch Francis Ford Coppola’s film based on the book and try to sustain it.

Today, writing about fear of pandemic is just too easy. Vampires or zombies with ebola-like symptoms is obvious.

But what about climate change? What sorts of fantasy tropes symbolize that without being overly literal? Now there’s a challenge for this capable gang to take on.

The biggest fear, though, that I can see is the fear of change. Any new idea still evokes howls from predictable corners. How would fantasy writers deal with that? What about fantasy readers? What suggestions or challenges do you have for your favourite writers?

Leave your suggestions in the Comments.

Scott Bury

can’t stay in one genre. After a 20-year career in journalism, he turned to writing fiction. “Sam, the Strawb Part,” a children’s story, came out in 2011, with all the proceeds going to an autism charity. Next was a paranormal short story for grown-ups, “Dark Clouds.”

The Bones of the Earth, a historical fantasy, came out in 2012. It was followed in 2013 with One Shade of Red, an erotic romance.

He has several mysteries and thrillers, including Torn RootsPalm Trees & Snowflakes and Wildfire.

Scott’s articles have been published in newspapers and magazines in Canada, the US, UK and Australia.

He has two mighty sons, two pesky cats and a loving wife who puts up with a lot. He lives in Ottawa, Ontario.

Learn more about Scott on his:

Website   |   Blog    |  Facebook    |   Twitter

Share

Memory and dialog

Share

Monday musing

By Scott Bury

Photo by Max Goncharov on Unsplash

How does memory factor into my writing? Thinking about this brought me to one of my earliest memories: July 31, 1965. 

On that warm, sunny Winnipeg summer day, I was standing on the front steps of my parents’ home. My father was sitting on the top step in front of me, and around me were some other kids from the neighbourhood.

I cannot remember what the conversation was about, but I can remember that at one point, I said, “today is the first day of August.” I remember feeling that I was kind of going out on a limb; I remember not being sure that what I said was true.

“Not quite,” my father said. “Tomorrow is August first.”

And I can remember, strangely enough, feeling pretty good about that—about being close to knowing the date, because I was sure that none of the other four- and five-year olds there had any clue what the date was. I can remember at least one of them being surprised that I was as close as I was. After all, even a grown-up could err on the date by one day, right?

I was four at the time (now you know my age). There were no cell phones to check the date and time on. Phones then were heavy, clunky black things tethered to the wall by stout wires, or screwed to it in the kitchen. Actually, every family I knew had only one phone.

We also all had black-and-white television sets—huge wooden crates with a screen maybe a foot across. I remember how my parents and I used to fiddle with the rabbit-ear antennas on top, or the fine-tuning dial around the channel-changing dial beside the screen to try to clear up the image on the screen.

I remember the white stucco house with the blue wooden trim that we lived in. The front yard seemed as wide as a park, and I remember the oak tree as immense, with a canopy that gave enough shade for family picnics.

I don’t know whether this memory directly informs my writing. But I have always loved blue-and-white houses, and I was immediately taken with Cycladean architecture when I saw pictures of it during high school. 

Unsplash

But there is one lesson I think we can draw from this. Think of your own favourite memories. They’re probably not about big, dramatic events. They’re probably of quieter moments with your families, when you’re not doing anything in particular. No one says anything life-changing.

If there is something about this memory that has any effect in my writing, it’s that. People don’t usually speak in full sentences, and what they say does not seem memorable, at first. And yet, that’s what we do remember. At least, I do. 

This is where I find a lot of fiction writers go wrong. They try to pack so much into dialogue that it sounds false. Listen to some of the everyday conversations around you. People almost never speak in full sentences, they make mistakes all the time, they start sentences, change their mind part-way through, backtrack part way and substitute words. And if you ever tried to re-create the funniest, most enjoyable, laughter-filled conversation you ever had on paper, it probably came out as gibberish. This is why most politicians sound false: they’ve prepared what they say.

I know that stumbling speech with little import makes for bad reading. But still, I remember those quiet times and those gentle conversations, and to me, they’re the most real memories I have.

Scott Bury

can’t stay in one genre. After a 20-year career in journalism, he turned to writing fiction. “Sam, the Strawb Part,” a children’s story, came out in 2011, with all the proceeds going to an autism charity. Next was a paranormal short story for grown-ups, “Dark Clouds.”

The Bones of the Earth, a historical fantasy, came out in 2012. It was followed in 2013 with One Shade of Red, an erotic romance.

Since then, he has published mysteries, thrillers and a three-volume biography, the Eastern Front triology: Army of Worn Soles, Under the Nazi Heel and Walking Out of War, the true story of a Canadian-born man drafted into the Soviet Red Army in World War II.

Scott’s articles have been published in newspapers and magazines in Canada, the US, UK and Australia.

Born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, he grew up in Thunder Bay, Ontario. He holds a BA from Carleton University’s School of Journalism. He has two mighty sons, two pesky cats and a loving wife who puts up with a lot.

Learn more about Scott from his:

Share

Thursday teaser: Meant for Her

Share

This week’s excerpt is from the New Adult romance

By Raine Thomas

“There’s something invigorating about autumn in Atlanta,” she said. “It represents promise.”

“Promise for what?”

She shrugged. “Endless possibilities.”

He frowned. What the hell did that mean?

Once again, she took his hand. “You looked lost in there, Evan Dorsey. I thought maybe I could do something to help guide you on your way.”

Pulling his hand from hers, he said, “You don’t know anything about me.”

“I don’t need to.” She tilted her head to the side and looked at him with her compelling eyes. “Have you been sick?”

The question made him glance away. He supposed she hadn’t done her research before making this approach. Still, she was closer to the truth than made him comfortable.

Her voice was quiet when she continued, “I ask because your suit looks tailored, but it’s loose on you right now, as though you’ve lost weight. There are dark circles under your eyes, making me think you aren’t sleeping well and probably haven’t been eating right. And your hair is short, like it’s just growing back. Since your scalp is pale, I assume you don’t normally wear your hair that way.”

Jesus, she was observant. Shaking his head, he turned to walk back into the reception.

“I see,” she said. Her tone made him hesitate. “I’m so sorry for your loss, Evan.”

When her slender arms went around him from behind, he didn’t know what to do. No one had ever offered him such a pure gesture of comfort. Everyone who attended the funeral had been too emotionally involved to do so, not that it would have been welcome.

But this hug from a stranger was about to undo him.

He stood frozen in place as she walked around him to face him again. His gaze moved down to her bare feet and noted that her nails were the same shade of purple as the streaks in her hair. Belatedly, he considered how cold she must be.

“I can see that you’re in a dark place,” she said, touching the side of his face. It was just the whisper of a caress, but it made his throat tighten. “It’s good that you honor the memory of this person you loved. But don’t be afraid to live now. What you’ve gone through, it will bring you where you need to be. Even the stars can’t shine without darkness.”

Mesmerized, he didn’t resist when she pulled him down. He closed his eyes when her lips touched his. She kissed him, an expression of comfort more than passion. The taste of sweet champagne lingered when they parted. She smiled again, her dimples teasing him, then turned and walked back inside.

After a moment, he followed her. This woman whose name he didn’t even know had given him more to think about in their few minutes together than anyone had in a long time. For someone who appeared no older than her early twenties, she had incredible insight.

She’d given him a glimpse of light that he hadn’t even known he craved. He supposed the least he could do was thank her.

Returning to the reception, he went looking for her. He figured she’d return to the dance floor, so he started there. After twenty minutes, he had to give up.

She was gone.

About Meant for Her

Photographer Sierra Stratton views the world through a lens all her own. She has an uncanny sense about people, something that often causes her trouble. When she meets the sexy and brooding Evan Dorsey, her intuition tells her he’s suffering, and she wants to be the one to help him.

Evan isn’t open to help from anyone, however. His focus is on his Major League career and making himself as marketable as possible for his upcoming free agency. He plans to ride out the season in Atlanta and then sign with another team, away from the painful memories that haunt him.

Someone’s eager to send him on his way, too. Between anonymous threats and equipment sabotage, it’s clear he’s earned himself an enemy along the way. To him, it’s one more sign that he’s right to move on.

But Sierra threatens his conviction. Her contagious smile proves hard to resist, as does her kiss. She tempts him in ways he never anticipated, making him question his plans for the first time. If he’s not careful, she might just convince him that he’s meant for her.

Where to get it

Raine Thomas

is the award-winning author of bestselling Young Adult and New Adult fiction. Known for character-driven stories that inspire the imagination, Raine has signed with multiple award-winning producer Chase Chenowith of Back Fence Productions to bring her popular Daughters of Saraqael trilogy to the big screen. She’s a proud indie author who is living the dream.

When she isn’t writing or glued to e-mail or social networking sites, Raine can usually be found vacationing with her husband and daughter on one of Florida’s beautiful beaches or crossing the border to visit with her Canadian friends and relatives.

Connect with Raine at her

Share

Bestseller joins BestSelling Reads: Meet M.L. Doyle

Share

Bestselling and award-winning author M.L. Doyle has joined the ranks of BestSelling Reads.

Mary Doyle is the author of two memoirs, three mystery novels, a four-novella erotic romance series, and the first of a series of urban fantasy novels. Her first novel, The Peacekeeper’s Photograph, won the Carey McCray Memorial Literary Award for best unpublished novel from the South Carolina Writer’s Workshop. It has since been published and received consistent five-star reviews.

“When I published my first book in 2010, I thought writing was a solitary thing. It’s still up to me alone to put words on the page, but I’ve learned that working within a writing community means you can find the support you need when you need it,” she says. “I know and have worked with many of the authors in BestSelling Reads already and I am honored to be invited to join such a talented group.”

Mary Doyle’s first book was as the co-author of  I’m Still Standing: From Captive Soldier to free citizen—my journey home (2010, Touchstone) which chronicles the story of Spec. (Ret.) Shoshana Johnson, a member of the 507th Maintenance Company who was captured during an ambush and held prisoner in the early days of the Iraq War. The book was nominated for a 2011 NAACP Image Award in the literary category for best Autobiography/biography, a year in which the category included books about Nelson Mandela, Jay Z and Ray Charles.

Mary has also co-authored another military memoir. A Promise Fulfilled, My life as a Wife and Mother, Soldier and General Officer tells the compelling story of Brigadier General (retired) Julia Cleckley, the first African-American female general of the line in the U.S. Army National Guard. The book chronicles Cleckley’s journey from joining the Women’s Army Corps, to a position of power wearing the star of a military general. The story details her journey to success while facing the most devastating losses a woman can endure: the loss of a husband and of a child.

Originally from Minnesota, Mary Doyle served almost two decades in the Army Reserve. She was stationed in Germany, Korea and the U.S., and her career took her from Central America, the Middle East, and across western and eastern Europe.

She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in broadcast communications from Metropolitan State University and a Master of Arts in International Relations from the University of Oklahoma.

The Peacekeeper’s Photograph was planned as the first in a trilogy that now includes The Sapper’s Plot and The General’s Ambition, both featuring Master Sergeant Lauren Harper. But experience has shown that Mary isn’t done with writing about Master Sergeant Harper and her British companion, Sergeant Major Harry Fogg. Mary has written companion short stories, The Ceremony and Canceled Plans. She is planning a fourth and perhaps a fifth book in the series.

Mary’s adult romance series is called Limited Partnerships. It comprises Part I – Charlie, Part II – Luke, Part III – Wolf and Part IV – Derek, are available as individual ebooks format and as the Limited Partnerships Omnibus in ebook and paperback.

Her current project is a second novel in her Desert Goddess urban fantasy series that began with The Bonding Spell (2015). “I’ve been working on The Bonding Blade for a couple of years and I can’t wait to release it to the world,” she says. “It’s the second book in the Desert Goddess series aand I think it moves the story in a whole new direction. Ever since I released The Bonding Spell, my readers have been clamoring for the next book. I’m so happy to be closer to delivering it and can now promise that I’ll announce a release date by very soon.”

Mary loves to hear from readers. Find out more about her and her books on her BestSelling Reads Author page; check her out on Facebook.com/mldoyleauthor, or Twitter @mldoyleauthor.

You can read excerpts of all of her work on her website, www.mldoyleauthor.com.

 

Share

Thursday teaser: Wired Courage

Share

This week’s Teaser is from the latest in the Paradise Crime series. Read on to see how you could win a free e-book

By Toby Neal

Discipline was beautiful, even when it hurt.

Pim Wat stood on the stone balcony of the temple overlooking the courtyard. Rows of acolytes, dressed identically in black cotton gi, practiced before their master. The crisp movements of the closely guarded martial arts routine were already embedded in her own muscle memory, and if she’d joined the young men and women in their tidy rows, she could have performed their routine perfectly, too.

Someone missed a movement, the mistake glaring in the crisp rows of conformity, and the master raised his baton.

All movement ceased. The rows of recruits froze into stillness. The master lowered the baton, and the recruits dropped to the ground to do push-ups.

They would do push-ups until he raised the baton again.

Armita appeared at Pim Wat’s elbow. “Your tea, mistress.”

Pim Wat took the hand thrown porcelain teacup without looking at her maid. She sniffed the jasmine-scented brew, then took a sip. Scalding hot, just as she preferred. “Acceptable.”

She seated herself on one of two chunks of amethyst that had been beveled into stools. A large tiger’s-eye plinth, glowing with bronze iridescence, served as a table. Armita faded back into the building after leaving a lacquered tray holding a pot and another teacup.

Perhaps the master would join her, but he didn’t always. Pim Wat willed him to, craving the drug of his presence.

The recruits were still doing push-ups. At last, the master raised his baton, and they leapt to their feet in one accord. He barked out an order, and the routine began again. He tapped a student on the end of one of the rows with the baton, handing it over. The black-clad young man took the carved ivory cane reverently, and stepped into the leader’s place in front.

The master strode toward Pim Wat, and she smiled with satisfaction as he glanced up at her.

Moments later he seated himself on the other chunk of amethyst and picked up his teacup. He closed his eyes to savor the tea, some of the most expensive and exquisite in the world, as Pim Wat feasted her hungry gaze on the man that she loved with an unseemly and obsessive passion.

The master looked no more than thirty, though he was at least Pim Wat’s age. His long black hair was braided and decorated with carved jade. The smooth fans of his eyelashes rested against golden-skinned, high cheekbones, contrasting with straight black brows. He opened dark purple eyes that must be the result of some multi-racial encounter of ancestors. “When is she coming to us?”

Pim Wat tightened her mouth in annoyance and hid her expression behind the delicate, hand thrown cup. “My daughter is stubborn. I’ve told you this.”

“The Yām Khûmkạn requires her.”

“And I’ve told you that she cannot be persuaded. Especially now that she’s pregnant.” Pim Wat’s cup rattled as she set it on the tray. She was going to be a grandmother. What a reminder that time was passing. Despite all her efforts, she was getting old. “I have tried everything to get her to come, even threatening her lover. She has refused.”

“Does she suspect anything about what we really want?”

“No. How could she? But she does not trust me.” Pim Wat made a fist. “I cannot command her like I used to.”

“You must manage your emotions, Beautiful One,” the master said. He leaned toward her, but instead of a kiss, drew a line down her profile with a finger and tipped up her chin. He teased her, rolling the ball of his thumb across her lower lip. Pim Wat’s eyes fluttered shut in anticipation and her body trembled. “Take her, if there is no other way. Do what you must do.”

His touch disappeared.

Pim Wat kept her eyes closed for a long moment, still hoping, but when she opened them, he was gone.

“Manage my emotions, by Quan Yin’s left tit,” she snarled. “Armita! My tea is cold!”

Armita came out onto the balcony and whisked away the tea. Pim Wat looked down at the practice area, but it no longer entertained her. She followed her maid into the main chamber of her apartment.

Thick, luxurious carpets and rich silk drapes softened the harsh stone walls and floors of the ancient room. “We must prepare a plan to get Sophie Malee,” Pim Wat said.

Armita’s eyes flashed, just a tiny flare of defiance. “Are you sure that’s a good idea, mistress? She is well protected.”

“The master wants her, and thus she will come. Once she’s here, they won’t be able to take her back. The stronghold of the Yām Khûmkạn is too remote and fortified.” Pim Wat turned toward a tall, exotic wood armoire. “Back to Hawaii I must go. Such a long, tiresome flight.” Pim Wat pinched the back of Armita’s arm viciously as the maid reached out to open the armoire. “And that’s for questioning me.”

About Wired Courage

Paradise is stalked by a relentless evil.

What would you do if your family was threatened?

Sophie just wants to settle down with her unusual family—but a powerful presence sweeps in to steal her joy. At her most vulnerable physically and emotionally, Sophie must rise up to hunt down those who would take what’s most precious to her. The boundaries of love and friendship are tested as the men in her life grapple with their roles, each trying to help—but in the end, it’s Sophie who must face the darkness from her past and vanquish it.

Now available from all major e-tailers

Win a free e-copy of the first book in the Paradise Crime series, Wired In

Author Toby Neal will give away a free e-copy to one person who answers this question in the Comments, below:

Tell us your favorite thing about Hawai’i.

USA TODAY Bestselling Author Toby Neal

grew up on the island of Kaua`i in Hawaii. A mental health therapist, Toby’s career that has informed the depth and complexity of the characters in her mystery, thriller and romance books.

She writes fast-paced, character-driven stories set in wonderful places. “No one can read just one!” exclaims one fan.

Outside of work and writing, Toby volunteers in a nonprofit for children and enjoys life through beach walking, body boarding, scuba diving, photography, and hiking.

 Visit her on her:

Share

New bestseller out: Back Side of a Wicked Moon

Share

Love, Law and Justice comes to Boom Town Texas

By Caleb Pirtle III

Now available from Amazon

The discovery of oil has broken the stranglehold the Great Depression had on a dying East Texas town. Strangers are pouring into Ashland. Where there is oil, there are jobs, as well as con artists, thieves, scalawags, and at least one murderer.

One stranger drives a hearse. But who is he, and why is he found hanging from the crown block of an oil derrick.

The Sheriff might solve the mystery. It’s his job. But he’s discovered shot to death on his own drilling rig.

No one in town is above suspicion. But who has a deadly motive?

Eudora Durant is the most beautiful widow in town. She’s also the richest. With the charming con man Doc Bannister at her side, she risks everything to bring law and justice to a struggling boom town even if she has to personally keep an innocent man from being sentenced to the electric chair.

As one reviewer said about book one of the Boom Town saga series, Back Side of Blue Moon:

This story set in a small town in East Texas in the Great Depression should go down as a classic in American literature.”

Get it today from Amazon.

Caleb Pirtle III

is the author of more than seventy books, including the Ambrose Lincoln series.

Pirtle is a graduate of The University of Texas in Austin and became the first student at the university to win the National William Randolph Hearst Award for feature writing. Several of his books and his magazine writing have received national and regional awards.

Pirtle has written three teleplays, and wrote two novels for Berkeley based on the Gambler series: Dead Man’s Hand and Jokers Are Wild.

Pirtle’s narrative nonfiction, Gamble in the Devil’s Chalk is a true-life book about the fights and feuds during the founding of the controversial Giddings oilfield and From the Dark Side of the Rainbow, the story of a woman’s escape from the Nazis in Poland during World War II. His coffee-table quality book, XIT: The American Cowboy, became the publishing industry’s third best selling art book of all time.

Learn more about Caleb on his:

And follow him on Twitter @CalebPirtle.

Share