Today’s Featured Author – Brian Barr

Today I welcome author Brian Barr to my blog. His debut book, Carolina Daemonic, Book 1: Confederate Shadows was released earlier this year.

Interview

Tell us a bit about yourself.

My name is Brian Barr and I am an American author. My first novel, Carolina Daemonic, Book 1: Confederate Shadows, was published on August 14th of 2015. I co-created and co-write for a comic series called Empress with Chuck Amadori, alongside artist Marcelo Salaza and colorist Geraldo Filho. I’ve published a number of short stories in anthologies and magazines, namely NonBinary Review, New Realm Magazine, Dark Chapter Press’s Kill For a Copy, and Nebula Rift.

What or who inspired you to start writing?

I’ve always loved telling stories, ever since I was a kid. It’s a part of my nature as a human being. I’ve always been creative, but writing is where I’ve been able to grow and develop with more drive than art or music. Even before I wrote stories, I use to share stories with friends and relatives, particularly ghost stories, growing up. I always liked the fantastical, and being scared.

Many authors inspire me to write, from novelists to comic writers, and I have a great deal of respect for all of them. Tad Williams, Clive Barker, Stephen King, Walter Jon Williams, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Anthony Burgess, Jim Starlin, and Alan Moore are the ones that immediately come to mind.

Please tell us about your current releases.

Confederate Shadows is the first book of my Carolina Daemonic series, which was published by J. Ellington Ashton Press. JEAP has been a great publisher, featuring many of my short stories in their anthologies, so I’m happy to have my debut novel published by them as well. The novel is an urban fantasy-horror with occult, steampunk, and science-fiction elements. Carolina Daemonic takes place in an alternative timeline, where the Confederacy won the Civil War, later achieving manifest destiny in a similar fashion to the U.S. of our real timeline. The novel has multiple characters from various backgrounds, and portrays a dark world filled with political, sexual, and racial conflict. Carolina Daemonic also looks at corporations, cults, and various social issues, all under the thrill of terror and suspense in a macabre storyline.

The ongoing comic series, Empress, that I co-write with Chuck Amadori is a supernatural noir mystery, mixed with horror and dark fantasy. The comic revolves around Zia, a famous actress who was a star in the silent films of the 1920’s and found transitioning to the “talkies” (movies with sound) difficult when the 1930’s came around. She suddenly ends up missing and Zia’s movie company hires a private investigator to find her. As the private investigator searches for Zia’s whereabouts, the truth of what happened to the actress suddenly becomes stranger with each unraveling mystery.

For Empress, Chuck and I collaborate go back and forth, every four issues, as writers for the project. Chuck will write four issues, then I’ll write four. Every four issues also comprises an arc of the comic series. Chuck’s first written issue was the debut issue, and my first issue was #5. Currently, we’re working on the sixth issue, and we have many scripts already written and waiting in line. Marcelo Salaza’s art is brilliant and he really brings our work to life. Matheus Broncas did colors for the first four issues and they were amazing. Geraldo Filho does colors now, which also blow me away. I’m thankful to work with these guys who really love comics and really care about making a story great.

Have you started your next project? If so, can you share a little bit about your next book?

Yes. The two main novel projects I have are Carolina Daemonic, Book II: Rebel Hell, and Serpent King: Smoke, Fire, and Ash. Rebel Hell is an intense continuation of the Carolina Daemonic series, with war and destruction abound. Serpent King: Smoke, Fire, and Ash is a dark science-fantasy featuring Zian Ur the Serpent King, a character I created years ago when I first got back into writing. I plan to finish Serpent King by the end of the year, and I want to put out at least one novel in between all of my Carolina Daemonic books, in order to stay diverse as a writer.

In Carolina Daemonic and Empress, which of your characters is your favorite? Do you dislike any of them?

In Carolina Daemonic, my favorite character so far is Zevulon Khodorov. Zevulon is a Russian-Jewish American from Charleston, South Carolina, and a Kabbalist. I loved the research that went into making him a believable Jewish mystic and magician in a fantastical setting. I like his personality, which is quite calm and relaxed for someone facing heavy conflict. Zev was hired by the Union, along with other magicians, to fight against black-magic sorcerers hired by the Confederacy, only to suffer once the Union lost the war. Now, he has to do everything in his power to correct the wrongs that have been done, and the disasters awaiting Earth over a century later.

Empress has many characters as an ongoing comic series, but my favorite so far is Krummi. Krummi is a lesbian shieldmaiden, a female Viking from Scandinavia, possibly over a millennium ago. She’s honest, strong and confident. Although she’s only appeared in one issue so far, I liked her character so much that I wrote some short stories based around her character. One of the stories, Krummi in Helheim, is slated to come out in Mantid Magazine’s debut issue.

I can’t really say I dislike any of my characters, though I dislike much of what they do and what they represent. All of my characters, from the most genuine to the most disturbed, have flaws. There are characters I feel sorry for, like the cult leaders and racist characters in Carolina Daemonic. They represent a lot of what I feel is destructive to the world, a lot of human pain and hatred that merely keeps humanity from growing and helping each other.

If you could be one of the characters from any of your books, who would it be and why?

Zevulon Khodorov in Carolina Daemonic, because he’s a skilled magician with a heart of gold.

Did you base any of your characters on real people?

Empress’s main character, Zia, was inspired by Emelia Earhart, the aircraft pilot who when missing when she tried to fly across the Atlantic in the ‘20s. Her disappearance captured my imagination since I was a kid, and I always wondered what happened to her.

I have a fictional inventor in my Carolina Daemonic series who is based on Nikola Tesla. Whether he becomes a major character in the series or not, I don’t know, but he’s mentioned briefly in the first book.

Did Carolina Daemonic’s first book turn out the way you planned from the beginning? If not, what change happened that you didn’t expect?

When I started Carolina Daemonic, I was curious about writing steampunk. I was reading China Mieville’s Perdido Street Station, a great book, and researching steampunk at the time, so I wanted to have fun in that genre. I ended up writing a mixed genre book, and steampunk became a minor element to Confederate Shadows. I believe the occult horror stands out the most with Carolina Daemonic, along with the urban fantasy.

What fuels you as an author to continue to write?

I have a genuine love for the craft of writing. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve loved storytelling, and as soon as I learned to write and read, I was ready to put my own stories on paper. That love continues to drive me to this day.

Do you have an all-time favorite book?

Otherland by Tad Williams is currently my favorite book series of all time. All four volumes read like one huge book, and together, they are all the best to me.

What books are you reading right now?

I’m reading The Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula Le Guin, and nearly done with the third Fire and Ice book from George R.R. Martin. Love Game of Thrones.

If you could meet two authors, who would you pick and why?

I would only embarrass myself, but probably Tad Williams and Clive Barker. Alan Moore if I was lucky enough to meet a third. I like all of them equally.

 

 

Book Blurb

Carolina_It’s 2020. The South won the Civil War and achieved manifest destiny in the United States. Great Britain, known as Victoria, and China, have maintained their empires. American slavery was abolished in the late 20th century instead of the late 19th century. Steam powered machinery and electricity make up the bulk of modern technology.

In the shadows of the Confederacy, there is magic. Esoteric sciences arcane and archaic survive from forgotten times, and strange demonic creatures wander through the slums of Charleston…

Enter Carolina Daemonic. In an alternative timeline, see a dark world not too far removed from our own- religio-political cults, racism, sexism, homophobia, corporate takeovers and corruption are abound. Witness the strange and mysterious beyond the familiarity of our ordinary world as well- godly avatars, lustful demons, necromancers, and the undead.

About the Author

Brian Barr is a speculative fiction writer who enjoys writing science fiction, fantasy, and horror stories that are imaginative, macabre, fantastical and strange.  Along with novels and short stories, he has written comic books, including the Empress series with Chuck Amadori. His debut novel, Carolina Daemonic Book I: Confederate Shadows, was released this year. He has also published books under the name Aghori Shaivite. Brian is a member of the South Carolina Writer’s Workshop.

You can find out more about Brian on his website.

Carolina Daemonic can be purchased on Amazon.

Today’s Featured Author: Anne Michaud

Today I welcome author Anne Michaud to my blog. She recently released her Urban Fantasy series. Here is an excerpt from Book 1, Whispered Echoes, of the five book series. (All 5 books are out and on sale for a limited time!)  

Excerpt

A slither, a hiss like hot blood hitting the snow. I stare at their broken forms on the ground, and something dark leaks into the ground, looking very much like Shadowmen. It only lasts a few seconds, but I wait for more to come.

“The bad left, leaving their bones to dust.” Kat speaks close to me, like whenever we’re out in the open. Maybe she’s afraid the wind will take her away or the rain will wash her soul until nothing remains. “We should go. They’re gone too.”

“Just like that, one moment alive, then the next…” Swallowing hard, I turn away from them. These guys had families, people waiting for them to come back home tonight. Something I don’t have. “Rest in peace, for the little you had here.”

Together, we race to the back of the parking lot, where the garage stretches as far as the shallow woods circling the hospital. My sister’s light guides me to the hole in the fence—the same I’ve been using for two months straight trying to escape—and just as I reach it, the garage door clicks open by itself. I hide in the shadow of the wall, but no one comes out, no headlights either. My sister scares the shit out of me at times.

“Please tell me that electric trick of yours will get old soon?” I ask. Katrina stands by the garage door to lure me in, and when I won’t move from my spot, a car honk comes from inside. “Curiosity killed the damned, Kat. Stop playing games. Let’s go.”

Only the soft hits of ice falling on the tin roof next to me answer back, and so I go to the opened door to have a look-see. Last time we played hide and seek, I’d just come in the hospital. I’d just turned nine; she was forever sixteen.

“Surprise!” Kat glows next to a huge SUV, smiling so bright it’s hard to look at her. The driver’s door is opened, the vents throwing up so much hot wind inside that fog comes out in clouds outside. My sister invites me to step in, but it’s probably more trouble than it’s worth. Stolen property is much worse than just running away, no? Oh, and driving into people and cars and killing everything—much worse. “It’s Docteur Lise’s,” I tell her, as if she doesn’t know. I clutch my coat. The ceiling light almost warms me up just from looking at it. A car is faster than legs, but… “I can’t drive and I don’t have a license.”
“It’s too cold. You won’t make it alive to Close Falls.” Katrina never lies. She never plays pretend to get her way. She’s not like me. “And hurry, because the others have seen and they’re not happy about the massacre.”

Voices echo all the way from the second floor of the building, the door hanging open above nothing, the stairs twisting on the ground. From this distance, white lab coats flap in the wind, which means the nurses are back to themselves. Whatever that means, because frankly, they haven’t been themselves for a while.

“You’d be better at this driving thing,” I say to Kat, who brought me all the way in here when I could be running outside. Well, stuck in high winds and freezing pellets falling from the sky, but still out of here. “Oh wait, is that why you got me in here? You want to test it out?”

“Only if you let me in,” Kat says, getting ready to plunge into my body. “You don’t have to—it might not work, but we have to try.”

“OK,” I say, not fighting as her ghostly shape becomes mine.

It’s like sitting in the backseat, really. She moves my body and she guides my movements, with no struggle on my part. I trust her; she’s my sister—even if it does feel like I might vomit. The intrusion feels so weird.

“No wonder my friends are all possessed,” I whisper. “This is easy peasy.”

I sit down behind the huge steering wheel, and the letters BMW stare back at us. Then I watch my hands on the steering wheel, the motor roaring from within. OK, I’ll admit that my sister controlling electricity that easily is kinda cool.

“It’s wicked cool,” Kat says, her voice coming from inside instead of my side.

As the SUV rolls out in the rain, the pellets come down harder than before on the hood, and on the roof they sound like gunshots. A flash of white comes from the second floor and then nothing: they spotted our runaway car, so they know we’ll be harder to catch.

“What are you doing?” I ask my sister, as she turns the wheel to stay in the parking lot instead of racing out of here. Oh no, I think she’s losing control of our vehicle: she’s driving directly toward Nurse Ruth’s tiny red car. “Careful, you’ll wreck everything!”

“Quiet, sis.” I feel a smile cracking my cold skin as our huge SUV rams into the car and pushes it to the deep ditch at the end of the lot. A final slip and it’s gone from view. And a bit of Kat logic, “If they don’t have anything to follow us with, they just won’t.”

“Um, maybe the cops will?” I don’t need to fight my body to point at the boulevard below the long driveway of the hospital park. Red and blue lights glitter in the dark, far away, but still too close for my liking. “Step on it, Kat.”

Book Blurb

Whispers of death keep her sister alive.

Echoes of ghosts warn her danger is near.

WE_Book1_ebook_HIGHRESAlyx lost everything in the fire, her family, her home, her freedom, but she discovered something, too: something lurking in the darkness. To protect her from harm, the ghost of her dead sister haunts the walls of the mental institution holding Alyx captive for the last 9 years. But even she can’t help when patients suddenly act possessed and turn against Alyx, who must find the strength and knowledge to rid them of evil and save their lives.

After a narrow escape from the institution, Transcend welcomes Alyx in with opened arms since she’s the daughter of a former star agent; her mother. They hope to teach her ghost seer abilities to help them keep the leaders of the world in check and give her a normal life. With her friends and newly acquired knowledge, Alyx prepares to battle against evil, but when facing her greatest enemy yet, everything she knows might not be enough to save the people she loves. No matter what her choices, the consequences will be paid in blood – maybe her own.

About the Author

Author_AMichaudAnne Michaud is an author of many talents, especially getting distracted by depressing music and dark things. She likes to write and read everyday, and speak of herself in the third person.

Since her Master’s degree in Screenwriting from the University of London, England, Anne has written, directed and produced three short films, distributed internationally after being shown on a selective festival circuit.

And then, after hundreds of hours spent on studying and making films, she changed her mind and started writing short stories, novelettes and novels. Some have been published, others will be soon enough.

Keep your eyes open, she’s behind you.

You can find out more about Anne on her blog or follow her on Twitter or Facebook.

You can purchase Whispered Echoes (and the rest of the series) on Amazon.

Blood Family Blog Hop: Author Mark Knight

Author Mark Knight is on a blog hop tour to promote his latest release, Blood Family: Quest for the Vampire Key. This isn’t your typical vampire novel…

Interview

Tell us a bit about yourself. 

My name is Mark Knight, London-based, American-born author of paranormal fiction and urban fantasy for Young Adults and anyone of any age who wants to come along for the ride. I have four novels that I will be releasing in 2013. Vampires, the undead, angels, psychic humans – all covered. But I tackle it my way. Realistic characters, real emotions.

Where were you born and where do you call home?

Well, I grew up in America, living everywhere from California to Boston, son of an Irish father and a British mother who had immigrated to the US shortly before I was born. It was while I was still a young teenager living in Massachusetts that I discovered that I wanted to write, because I loved strange tales, be it science fiction, ghost stories, or horror. I started with short stories, then novels. Of course, those early ones were dire. But I knew I wanted to be a published author one day. Our family moved to Ireland where I finished school and also completed my first novel, a space adventure. In the early 80s I moved to the UK. Since then, I have been writing novels, screenplays, and the occasional short story. Now I concentrate mostly on Young Adult urban fantasy, which I found to be the most fun to write.

What or who inspired you to start writing?

That is actually a difficult one, because anything can inspire me to write. It could be a film, or book, or an idea. Or I could be just walking along and my mind goes travelling and next thing I know I have a sequence of events that could be a plot. Dreams often inspire me, as with that very first attempt at writing I spoke of in the last question. I guess the real answer is that life inspires me.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

Been writing since early teens. In my 40s now so…gulp…quite a long time! Always knew I wanted to be published, but never knew what a circuitous journey it would be. But, over the years, I had things accepted. First, a comic strip. Then a short story. Then, more short stories. And also a couple of things which I scripted for British television.

As to what made me decide to write, I think it was my love of stories and my desire to make my own, to make my own world and characters. I grew up in America and in the 6th or 7th grade we were given a short story to read in class – about a vampire, as it happened! I thought, ‘I can do this; it can’t be much more difficult than figuring out a comic strip’. I drew a lot of comic strips in those days. I wrote my first short story but it was more like a mini novel, with chapters. It was Sci-Fi, about telepathy – only about 20 pages long, but it was so satisfying. I knew then what I wanted to do.

How much of yourself, your personality or your experiences, is in your books?

I always see myself in my characters; they are all facets of myself, especially the main character. I guess, in a way, you are living vicariously through them. There are things which you fantasize about, powers you would have. But ultimately you end up creating avatars of yourself where you throw obstacles at them and see how they—you—overcome them. It is very therapeutic. Isn’t there some weird theory that says that we are all characters that someone else is writing about? That would explain a lot of the obstacles in our lives!

Have you started your next project? If so, can you share a little bit about your next book?

I have actually written quite a bit of the next book in the Daniel Dark series, which is entitled Full Blooded. It takes place not long after the events of Blood Family. Of course, its release depends on how well the first book does. But as I write this, preview copies have gone out and the feedback has surpassed all my expectations. I am really quite gobsmacked by the positive response I am getting – which just blows my mind. I am so glad people seem to like it.

Do you write full-time? If so, what is your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?

I am aiming at writing full-time, because I really do need the whole day to write, blog, promote and research! As it happens I write for a living, though in a very commercial sense – it is for a marketing company so some of what I learn I employ in my promotion of my books. But writing novels is really the only thing I want to do.

What is the best and worst advice you ever received? (regarding writing or publishing)

I have been writing since I was in my very early teens. I started with short stories, and then tried my hands at novels. I was 16 when I tried my first novel – a Star Wars sequel! Gosh, it was terrible. I think, really, I wanted to make my own Star Wars movie; I couldn’t really do that at 16, but I could write one down. My mother urged me to write original stories, and told me of an author she had read an interview with, who gave the simple advice ‘don’t never give up!’. That deliberate double negative has stayed with me.

As for worst advice, I can’t say I have had any bad advice, as I believe that every choice you make is actually neither a right or wrong one – because it is about how you adapt to whatever happens, what you make of it.

What is the best thing about being a writer? The worst?

I love the fire and enthusiasm you get when you hit upon a new idea. For me, it has to be a storyline that gets me excited as to where it could go. If I wouldn’t want to rip a book like that from the shelves and devour it, then I don’t write it. That is the litmus test.

There is also the mapping out of the story. I create a Word file and hammer out whatever ideas on plot and character that come to me. I allow this to happen over weeks or months if need be. I add images plucked from the internet to make my world ‘real’ in my mind. Photos of actors or models who look like how I envision my characters. Photos of real towns, houses, mountains – anything which relates to where the characters live. What cars they drive. Their house. Their school. Anything that features in the story, and some that don’t.  It helps make it real. When I know my characters, and feel as though I have been to their street and stayed over at their house, and hung out with them, I then concentrate on the plotting out of the tale.

What do I like least? Writers block does rear its ugly head now and again! The internet is a distraction, albeit a great tool. I guess my pet hate is when I have a descriptive word I need to use in a sentence and just can’t wrench it from out of the ol’ gray matter. Especially words for specific objects. ‘What do you call that thing that catholic priests put incense in?’ That kind of thing. Maddening! But it is fun to track it down. It is like a treasure hunt.

Do you outline your books or just start writing?

Every novel I write is planned out meticulously in notes. I begin making that document months before any actual story writing. It is kind of like a scaffolding of the story, complete with photo reference and other references. Sometimes it is chapter by chapter. I write directly from that guide, but still leave a lot of room for spontaneity. So, I always have a fairly detailed knowledge of where I’m going, but often I surprise even myself with things that my characters end up doing or saying!

I usually like to have the ending all mapped out, so I then have something to write towards. But things can change. As you write the tale, you may come up with a better ending than you had. But so far, I have the climax of the book in my head well in advance. In some cases, I envision it before I decide on anything else.

Please tell us about your current release.

Blood Family is a different kind of vampire book. I wanted to write about vampires, keeping all the tried-and-tested cool elements intact – the vampire’s strength, blood-lust, etc – but adding new elements to the lore, especially to what vampires were, their origins. The theory of other dimensions have always fascinated me.

What if, I thought, vampires were interdimensonal creatures that took over the bodies of humans, transforming them and making them into the fanged bloodsuckers we know and love? And what if one of those bloodsuckers then sired a child with a human? That half-vampire child would have quite a life, especially if he knew nothing of his true parentage. Daniel Dark starts off that way, a normal teenager.

Then he finds out what he is, and everything changes. That sets him on a quest, and an extremely perilous one, to confront his vampire father and find his birth mother, utilizing his emerging vampire powers along the way.

What inspired you to write this book?

I have always loved vampire stories; one of the first stories I ever read was a short story about a vampire.

I knew I wanted to write a tale about a normal teen who found out that he was different, that something amazing and terrifying lurked within him, that only emerges after a key event. That way, the reader can relate with the main character from the get-go, and then discover his or her emerging powers as the character does.

What kind of research did you do for this book?

I travelled to Mexico in the mid 2000s and was inspired by its beauty and the way it different from the US and the UK. I explored the Mayan ruins of the Yucatan and heard many stories about witches, ghosts, and other supernatural beings who the locals swear are real and not imaginary.

On my second trip there, I visited some caves, where local witches had left black candles, having used the cave as way of connecting to the ‘otherworld’. I had already hatched the idea for Blood Family by this time, and wanted my main character, seventeen-year-old Daniel Dark, to go on a journey that would reveal secrets about himself and his vampire origins. I love tales that take you to other countries. You travel to intriguing places, seeing them with the eyes of the characters. I knew Chiapas had supernatural depths to its culture, and felt compelled to incorporate those aspects into Blood Family.

After Daniel goes to Mexico he travels to Devon in England. Although I reside in the UK I had only been to Devon once, and so made a special trip to basically walk in Daniel’s footsteps. I stayed in a creepy old Inn and explored the windswept plains of Dartmoor. After those few days, I had plenty of notes for those sections of the story, and a lot of new inspiration!

Tell us a random fact about you that we never would have guessed.

I have had quite a few paranormal experiences myself in my life. UFO sightings, ghostly presences, weird voices. And I am pretty skeptical – most of the time you can explain stuff away, but there are times when you just can’t. When I was researching Blood Family, I stayed at a 14th century inn located in Devon, which was the basis for the Old Rectory Inn which Daniel stays in. At night, while trying to sleep, I could feel someone close to my bed, moving about. I turned on the light and – no one there. Later I found out that not only was the Inn reputed to be haunted, but my room was the haunted one. If I weren’t so into this subject, I might have freaked. But really I just become intrigued and want to know more!

Book Description

mark knight book picLife as part of a debt-free, middle-class family in the New England suburbs should have been heaven.

But when your father is a Man of God and you’re a vampire, it sure can be hell.

Until the age of seventeen, Daniel Dark had no idea of his true origins. Something was ulcerating deep inside him, striving to claw its way free. Pastor Nathan Dark and his wife, Annie, had adopted him and brought him up as their own. But Daniel always felt that there was a secret they feared tell him…

Everything changes the day a mysterious package arrives at his home. It contains blood – human blood. It is a message from his true father – a vampire named Dominus. Daniel’s vampire half awakens and takes its first step out of the shadows. Vampires, Daniel learns, are not like in the movies. They’re worse, much worse, and cannot be killed by sunlight or stakes.

The once lazy, goalless youth transforms into sharp-sensed killer. Now, there is no turning back. On his trail is Pastor Nathan Dark, obsessed with destroying the boy he’d adopted as his own…

Armed with ever-evolving powers, Daniel sets off to find and free his birth mother, imprisoned by Dominus since the day of his birth.

It is a journey that takes Daniel to Mexico and the mysterious Mayan shaman woman, Xochil, guardian of Vampire secrets. From there the trail leads to misty moors of southern England, where he joins forces with Logan DuPris, a vampire hunter as attractive as she is deadly. Together they piece together the weird clues that lead to…

The Vampire Key

About the Author

Mark Knight authorMark Knight grew up in Massachusetts, USA. Settling in the UK, Mark continued to write novels of differing genres, including horror and television scripts. Mark has worked on scripts for Hollywood’s Little Slices of Death production company and one for Illusion Studios, for which he has recently signed an Option Acquisition Agreement. He also won several short story competitions, and has had his work featured in published anthologies. Mark concentrates now on Young Adult urban fantasy novels.

Find out more about Mark on his website or his blog. You can also follow Mark on Facebook and Twitter.

You can buy Blood Family on Amazon and Amazon UK.