Saturday, December 31, 2011

Facing the Inner Lesbian with Lawrence Block


Some time back, dear friends, I invited vintage erotica writer, Lawrence Block/Jill Emerson to contribute and share a little bit with my former blog.  I've decided to transplant the post here so that my newer readers can enjoy it as well. You're in for a real treat with this. I've reviewed Jill's work myself, and I'm happy that Lawrence agreed to share her with us.
Thanks, Lawrence! ~Rhiannon Mills
STAYING IN TOUCH WITH MY INNER LESBIAN

By Lawrence Block 





Jill Emerson was born in 1963, when I was a twenty-five year old guy with a wife and two kids and a mortgaged home in a suburb of Buffalo, New York.  For several years I’d been supporting all that by writing—crime stories for magazines like
Manhunt and Trapped and Guilty, crime novels for Gold Medal and Belmont, psychosexual case histories for Monarch Books, and a ton of soft-core sex novels for Nightstand and Midwood.  
Then my agent and I had a falling out, and my most important source of income, Nightstand, turned out to be a closed shop, committed to buying only from that particular agent.  I had to scramble to make ends meet, and in the course of so doing I decided to develop a new persona and write a lesbian novel.
So I sat down and wrote a book called Warm & Willing,  very generously reviewed not long ago on this very website, and sent it in over the transom to Midwood Books.  The byline was Jill Emerson, and that was also the name on the cover letter.  They bought it by return mail, and I wrote a second novel for them, which I and they called Enough of Sorrow.  (I’m not sure what my title was for the first book, but I know it wasn’t Warm & Willing.)
And Jill Emerson was born.

This was not my first contact with my Inner Lesbian.  My very first novel, completed within a few days of my twentieth birthday, concerned a recent college graduate’s sexual identity crisis in Greenwich Village.  It, too, sold to the first publisher who saw it, Fawcett Publications’ Crest imprint.  I called it
Shadows, and had a female pen name picked out.  Rhoda Moore, I think it was. But the publishers changed the title to Strange Are The Ways of Love, and slapped the name Lesley Evans on it.  (Strange are the ways of publishers, believe me.)
So here I was, five years later, back in touch with my lesbian self.  I very much enjoyed being Jill Emerson, and the editors at Midwood never found out I was anybody else. That’s how they addressed mail to me, and that’s the name they put on my checks.  (Those were more innocent times.  I could endorse a third-party check, simply by writing Jill Emerson on the back, and then deposit it in my own account.  Nowadays the whole business would be a lot harder to manage.)
I know I got a real kick out of the deception involved.  Years earlier, I’d written eight or ten books for Midwood, and it would have been much safer and more certain to approach them under my own name;  they weren’t a closed shop, and they’d have given me a warm welcome.  But Jill Emerson was a character I was creating, as much as any of the characters within my novels, and I was having fun.  

Cut ahead a few years.  I was living in Racine, Wisconsin, when I wrapped up
Enough of Sorrow; we’d moved there when I took a real job as editor of a magazine for coin collectors.  I was there for a year and a half, writing nights and weekends and getting a couple of books done.  And then I resigned to return to the New York area; by then I had a new agent and a couple of book deals, and concentrated largely on crime fiction.
I guess it must have been 1969 when Jill got back in the game.  Another paperback publisher— Berkley Books, a cut and a half above Midwood—was starting a new line of well-crafted erotic novels, and my agent got me a deal. The money was decent—$5000 a book, if I remember correctly—and what they wanted was not Nightstand-type sleaze but literate erotic realism.
From a sexual standpoint, the late 1960s was an interesting time in American fiction.  A lot of silly taboos were lifted, and plain speech and candid description were suddenly to be found in novels that got reviewed in The New York Times.  
Everybody’s books got hotter, and a writer like John Updike could suddenly write a book like Couples.  
And Jill Emerson wrote Thirty and Threesome and A Madwoman’s Diary.   
These books were not specifically lesbian fiction, although I’m certain each had a lesbian component.  Nor was the publisher under the illusion that the books were written by Jill Emerson.  (Or indeed by a woman at all; my agent had made up a male cover name for me.)
There was almost a fourth Jill Emerson book for Berkley.  I wrote, in a Dexedrine-fueled four-day stretch, an epistolary novel consisting of the letters from and to the lead character, one Laurence Clarke.  I got various friends to read the manuscript, and they all found it screamingly funny and insisted it was too good to waste its fragrance in the paperback-original desert.  My agent sent it to Bernard Geis, who brought it out in hardcover as Ronald Rabbit is a Dirty Old Man, by Lawrence Block.
That made a sort of sense, actually, in that all of the Jill Emerson books had female protagonists, while both Laurence Clarke and Ronald Rabbit were unmistakably male.  But in another sense it was very much a Jill Emerson novel, in that I wrote it with utter certainty that it would bear that name when it saw print.
Ronald Rabbit didn’t sell many copies, but it represented a triumph of another sort.  As I noted in the copy I inscribed for my mother, “for years I’ve written dirty books under pen names.  Now I’m able to present you with a dirty book with my own name on it.”

Jill Emerson, however, was not to be denied a hardcover novel of her own.  Berkley, Putnam’s paperback line, had decided to spin off its own hardcover imprint---called, imaginatively, Berkley Hardcovers.  And someone there remembered Jill (whom they thought to be some guy) and called my agent.  They wanted a Peyton Place-type novel, a hot multiple-viewpoint book set in a small community somewhere.  
I proposed Bucks County as a setting.  My then-wife and I were living nearby, in New Jersey, and for a year I’d had an art gallery across the river in New Hope.  The place was hip and trendy, and a writer named Edmund Schiddel had spent some time on the bestseller list with The Devil in Bucks County, a novel rather like the one they wanted me to write.
It was something of a departure for Jill---and for me as well, a big sprawling book, longer and more complex than anything I’d written.  Looking back, I think it’s rather like the curate’s proverbial breakfast egg:  parts of it are very good.

If Jill was edging toward respectability (and I suppose that depends how you define it) she got there with her seventh book,
A Week as Andrea Benstock, published in hardcover by Arbor House and serialized in Redbook Magazine.  It was technically ambitious, telling the story of ten years of a young woman’s married life in seven chapters, each chronicling the events of a single representative day during that decade.  And it was artistically ambitious, in that Andrea was a Jewish girl living in Buffalo, and I was using my own background as I had never done before.
Don Fine owned and ran Arbor House at the time, and my agent sold him the book, and he thought he was going to meet Jill Emerson only to have me show up.  He tried his damnedest to get me to put my own name on the book, insisting that critics would take it more seriously if it was a man’s work.  (I always felt this said more about Don and his own personal feelings about women writers than it did about the business.)  My own opinion, which I was not at all shy about defending, was that, Madame Bovary notwithstanding, a book about a woman would get a more sympathetic reading if people thought a woman wrote it.
I believed what I said, but looking back I think it had little to do with my insistence.  This was, you see, a deeply personal book---and I felt more comfortable being somebody else when I published it.

All seven of Jill’s books vanished over the years, pretty much without a trace.  But now, through the genuine miracle of ebooks, they’re all available again.  
And come September they’ll be joined by a brand-new novel.
Curiously enough, a couple of years ago I thought I was finished with book-length fiction.  I’ve been writing the stuff for half a century, and the sixty-plus books published under my own name are only a fraction of the writing I’ve done.  I figured enough was enough; I’d go on writing the occasional short story, plus the columns I do for Linn’s Stamp News and Mystery Scene, but maybe it was time to leave the heavy lifting of novels for the boys and girls with stronger backs.  
Well, shows what I know.  In May, a new Matthew Scudder novel is due from Little Brown, and a scant four months later, in September, Hard Case Crime will publish Getting Off as its first hardcover book ever.  The subtitle is “A Novel of Sex & Violence,” and the byline reads “By Lawrence Block writing as Jill Emerson.”
I like the idea of a transparent pen name; that same byline is the one I chose for Open Road’s ebook editions of Jill’s first seven works.  And I like very much that Jill’s name is on this new book, because it is very much a part of her oeuvre.  
The protagonist is a bright and attractive young woman who meets men, goes home with them, has highly enjoyable sex with them—and then takes great delight in killing them.  She is the sort of girl who ought to have a curl in the middle of her forehead, because when she is bad she is very very bad indeed, and you might even call her horrid.  But I have to tell you I flat-out love this girl, and never had more fun writing about anybody.  Getting Off is blazingly erotic and furiously violent, and I blush to admit how much I like it.
Jill Emerson.  Will there be more books from her? Well, I dunno.  I never know what I’m going to write next, or, at this stage, if I’m going to write anything at all.  But I hope we’ll hear more from Jill.  I for one would love to hear what she has to say.


                           

LAWRENCE BLOCK is a Mystery Writers of America Grand Master, with a string of awards to show for his efforts.  His Jill Emerson novels are all newly available as Open Road ebooks for all major platforms:  Kindle, Nook, Apple, Kobo, Sony Reader, etc. 

Friday, December 30, 2011

Ask Me Why I Write...The Answers May Surprise You...

Yup. This is what the species known as "writer" looks like.
I read a very interesting blog post today that another writer had posted some time back and the topic was whether or not you tell people that you write.  I have several sordid thoughts on this subject because it seems that different people have different reactions when I say, "I write books."

I think that the funniest reaction that I ever got from that simple, three word statement was in comment form and it was simple.  The guy looked at me and said, "Like Stephen King?" He had a puzzled expression and was very confused at this.  I've said it once and I'll say it again.  I think it would be easier to tell people that I was a prostitute for a living than telling them that I WRITE BOOKS and, frankly, the reaction would be more positive.

Sometimes it's also hard for people to understand that just because I write doesn't mean that I'm a millionaire.  I'm not a millionaire.  My husband drives a coal truck and I'm a housewife who writes in spare time while he's either sleeping through the day or working at night.  I'm also a mother, so I have four children to look after.  Writing time is precious.  I just started writing professionally a few years ago and have yet to have a bestseller.  I'm okay with this.  Greatness takes time!

And before anyone else asks me, the answer is no.  I am not like Stephenie Meyer, nor will I ever be.  Sure, I write vampires and quite love them, but mine will not ever sparkle and they will never leap through trees giving piggy back rides to mortals.  Really, that's a terrible idea.

I've also never understood why, when people learn that I'm a writer, they assume that I know Stephenie Meyer, J.K. Rowling, Stephen King, Anne Rice, and other big names in the publishing industry.  No, I've never met any of those people, though there are two in that list that I would give my left leg to meet.  One of them, I'd give BOTH legs to meet (giggles). 

It bothers me that some people assume that writers are all crazy.  The truth is, we all are a little crazy to a certain degree (writers, that is), but we're not so stupid that our thoughts will become actions.  As writers, we understand that there can sometimes be horrible consequences to acting on our crazy thoughts and wants.  Instead of acting them out, we just write about them.  That's why we're not that crazy.  We're just crazy enough.  And if I've offended any other writers by this statement, my apologies. . .but, I feel that it's true.

The best part of telling people that I write is when I actually stumble upon a reader who would love to read more of my work.  Those people are my biggest inspiration.  I don't have as many readers as Anne Rice, but I do have a good group of faithful readers who tell me on a regular basis that they can't wait for the release of The Demon King or ask me when my third Immortal book will be out.  For these people, I feel that my hard work actually paid off, even though it hasn't paid out much yet. 

I've even had people tell me that my books aren't "real books" because the pages are filled with monsters and demons and vampires and the like.  Ouch...

Lastly, I HATE when people find out that I'm a writer and ask me why I do it.  They'll stare at me and ask me, blatantly, why I write when it's not making me millions.  The answer is simple.  I don't write because I want to.  I write because I have to.  I write because, if I don't, the stories in my head will cause an aneurysm and my brain will explode and there will be brain tissue and guts splattered all over my computer monitor (and possibly my children, since they hang out next to my computer sometimes while I write). And I write because The Demon King says I have to.  There.  Now you all know.

And in answer to the original blogger's question, YES.  I do tell people that I write.  Their reactions, if not nice ones, are always at least entertaining. 

Thursday, December 29, 2011

**Excerpt from Chapter Two of INTO THE UNDERWORLD, the sequel to THE DEMON KING**

This is a very small piece of the book, but thus far is probably my favorite little scene because it really introduces a bit of Anna, one of my favorite new characters. :) ~RM


The little girl snickered and reached her hands up to straighten the blue bow that held her ponytail full of blond ringlet curls together, then looked back at Willow once more before grabbing Willow’s hand again.  “Now that you’re here, would you like to see my dollhouse?”

    “S-s-sure.”  Willow’s brown eyes bulged in their sockets.  The little girl’s face lit up with excitement as she led Willow down the hall several paces.  She stopped in front of a door that looked exactly like all the other doors and then twisted the knob until the door opened.

    Inside was a small bedroom.  The walls were dark, but the inside was happy.  There was a small bed with a small doll cradle at the end.  Inside the cradle was a small stack of porcelain dolls and a ribbon dangling over the side.  There was a bookshelf against one wall that housed several old volumes in leather bindings.  A window was there, but the sky was black outside and you couldn’t see anything out of it. 

    In the floor was a wooden dollhouse full of old wooden furniture and a few small dolls that were carved from wood and dressed in scraps of material.  The little girl was all to happy to flop down into the floor, spreading her tattered blue dress out around her legs, and motioned for Willow to join her.

    “This one is Melanie.”  The little girl told Willow as she held out one of the wooden dolls.  “She’s my favorite because my mother made her dress special.” 

    Willow nodded and sat down in the cold floor next to the little girl.  The wooden planks below her felt as though they’d been sitting against a freezer.  She could see her breath when she opened her mouth to speak.  “And where is your mother?”

    The little girl shrugged.  “I think she’s sleeping, but they won’t tell me here.”

    Willow nodded and accepted the doll.  She ran her fingers over it’s small details and then returned it to the little girl.  “What’s your name?”

    The little girl narrowed her brows and stared down into her lap and the dolls that she’d laid out in front of herself.  “I think it’s Anna, but they won’t tell me that, here, either.” 

    “What happened to you, Anna?”  Willow asked her, referencing the gash on the girl’s forehead.

    “What do you mean?”  Anna shrugged again.

    “Why are you here instead of with your family?”  Tact, Willow thought.  Tact would get her further than hasty stupidity. 

    “Oh.  Well, I don’t know much about this place except that there are certain doors that you really shouldn’t open and that you can’t really get out too easy.”

    “Oh.”  Willow sat back and felt slightly defeated. 

    “But, don’t worry.  I’ve been here for a while now and I can tell you all I know.”  Smiling ear to ear, Anna jumped up from the floor and darted across the wooden floor to her bookshelf.  “I’ve been here since, um, well, it was April I think.  At any rate, I have some old newspapers in here and we can make dolls!” 

    Willow smiled.  “Sure.”  What else was she going to do? 

    Seconds later, Anna had produced a small stack of old, tattered newspapers from her bookshelf and had plopped them into the floor between herself and Willow.  With a pair of scissors, Anna carefully cut out the shape of two feet and then worked her way around to an arm.  Then, she cast the materials aside and pushed a folded newspaper across the floor towards Willow and said, “It’s okay. Mother won’t mind at all.  She keeps the papers just for me.”

    With a deep sigh, Willow picked up the newspaper and the spare scissors and began to cut out the shape of a person when something in the old print caught her eye.  At the top of the page that she was cutting, a headline immediately snatched her attention from cutting the paper.  The date was January 1814, London.

    Something told Willow that Mother simply wasn’t coming…How long had this child been here?  Perhaps she really was stuck in purgatory.

    “Anna?”  Willow smiled as sweetly as she could, though she really wanted to get up and run out of the room.  If the walking corpse of a small child didn’t scare her enough, the walking corpse of a child that’s been dead over a hundred years certainly did!

    “Yes?”  The little girl peered at Willow over her freshly cut newspaper doll and blinked her yellowing blue eyes. 

    “What else is there to do here?”  Willow narrowed her eyes innocently and smiled again.

    “Not much,”  Anna started.  “There are others here, though, you know, but not all of them are as nice as I am.  Some of them are downright nasty.  You‘d think their mothers never taught them any manners at all!”

    “Ah.”  Willow nodded and licked her lips.  She had to get out of purgatory and this little girl might only be a small one, but she may know the way out without realizing that she knew it.

    “Who isn’t so nice?”  Willow asked her.  “Do you want me to have a word with them on your behalf?”

    The little girl’s face filled with horror.  “Oh, no, Miss.  You mustn’t do that!  He’ll be angry with me if you do.  He’ll know that you were with me and he wants to hurt you.  He’s had us all looking for you all week long, now.”

    Willow nodded and the color drained from her face.  “Who?”

    “Lord Zieren.”  The little girl sighed.  “He’s the one that’s in that room you were about to go into.  The door I told you not to knock on?  Well, that’s his room.  He’s in there with all the demons.”  Speaking matter-of-factly, the little girl sniffed, then returned her attention to the paper dolls again.  As she moved, the wet mass of body tissue and broken skull pieces swayed to one side and more blood poured from her forehead.

    “Do you know why he’s looking for me?  Why he’s here?”

    “We all know why he’s looking for you.  He wants you out of here so he can take you home with him, I think.”  This time, the little girl whispered.  “He’s got a drink for you, too.  I don’t know what it is, but he says he has something for you to drink and that you are the one person that exists that should die in order for him to claim his throne. Ya know, the dark throne…”

    “The dark throne?”  Willow clapped a hand to her chest and immediately thought of the last dream she had about the beast.  The beast, in this dream, had a double, or a twin.  They were arguing and Willow didn’t understand much of it, except that they were coming for her.  If she didn’t get out of purgatory soon, they would have her and depending on which one got a hold of her first, she may die or worse.  That much she completely understood.

    “Yes, Miss.  The dark throne.  I don’t know a lot about it, but it’s what Lord Zieren wants most in his life.”

    “Does he ever come in here?  I mean, does he ever come to check on you?”  Willow asked.
 
    “Sure.  Every now and then he does.  He probably already knows that you’re here, though.  He knows everything.” Anna shrugged, then looked up at Willow.  “He says that you’ll set us all free if you escape and that we can all go back to where we belong.  I can go back to my mother.”

    Willow stiffened.  “And how do I do this?  Do you know?” 

    The little girl shrugged again.  “I don’t know how you can escape, but I think I know of a man who might know the way for you.”

    Willow swallowed.  “Where is this man?  Who is he?”

    The little girl smiled.  “My younger brother, Maxwell. He’s in the next room, but I have no idea why he ended up here.  He should already be with mother.”

    Taking a deep breath, Willow hoped upon hope that Maxwell was at least a teenager.  Perhaps she would get lucky and Maxwell would actually be a young adult.  Anything but another child who just wanted to play with paper dolls and speak in circles.  It didn’t take Willow long to jump to her feet and smile down at Anna.  “You are most helpful, young lady, but if your brother can help me get out of here, so that you can be with your, er, mother, I should go and speak with him.”

    “I’ll take you over.”  The little girl smiled up at Willow and took her by the hand again. 

    Chills shot through Willow’s body when the little girl touched her, but she was comforted knowing that for whatever reason that this little girl had been stuck in purgatory for over a hundred years, she was about to be released if this Maxwell person could help her figure out how to get out of there.

    Anna walked slowly towards her door, still clinging to Willow’s hand, and as she walked, she straightened her dress.  “I want to look nice when I see Mother again.”  She grinned as she turned the doorknob and pulled it open again.

    Immediately, the low hum of the air conditioning unit (the one that Willow hadn’t seen in the entire three hours that she’d been there) struck Willow’s ears and she could hear faintly elsewhere a low chuckle. 

    “We always hear that,”  Anna said, “But, no one knows where it’s coming from or who is laughing.  Must be awfully funny, though, because it’s non-stop sometimes.”  Shrugging, Anna knocked on the door next to hers and stood back to wait.

    Willow sucked in a breath and readied herself for the arrival of yet another child when the door swung open and a rather striking young man filled up the frame.  His hair was blond-white and his pallor was near gray, but Willow could tell that he must have been something during his time as a living person.  His blond hair fell just over his eyebrows until he swept the locks out of his way.  His face was masculine and chiseled as though cut from stone.  His body was strong and his muscles were very visible through the thin cloth of his clothes. 

    Maxwell folded his two strong arms over his chest to greet his sister and Willow and then stood back.  “If you don’t stop it, I’m going to tell Mother,”  He started, staring down at Anna.  “And if you’re naughty, you won’t get any pudding after supper, Anna.”

    For a moment, Anna pouted, but then she quickly lit up again and defiantly stared up at her brother.  “She won’t punish me!  I’ve found our way out of here!”

    With that, Maxwell’s attention was drawn down to Willow.  “You’re not dead.”  He told her.

    “We’re not dead, either, Maxwell.  What sort of thing is that to say to a guest?”  Anna interrupted, then looked up at Willow.  “He’s a cranky sort and I apologize for his lack of manners, Miss Willow.”

    Willow stiffened and looked up at Maxwell.  “So, Maxwell…Your sister tells me that you know the way out of here.”

    He rolled his eyes.  “I have a theory.”

    “A theory?”  Willow raised an eyebrow.  Wonderful.  At this rate, Maxwell, Anna, and herself would not be meeting up with Mother anytime soon and that would mean that Lord Zieren, whoever that is, might end up getting his hands on the lot of them.  “Well?”

    Anna huffed and then ran to her brother’s side.  “Tell her! It’s a brilliant theory, Maxwell.  And besides, what choice have you got?”

    Maxwell’s deep blue eyes met with Willow’s with an apologetic sigh and then he nodded for her to enter his room.

    This room was different than his sister’s room.  It was an office with very nice mahogany furniture and the walls were lined with leather bound books.  In the center of the room sat a globe and as Maxwell past, he gave it a quick spin with the tip of his fingers.  “Sit.”  He told Willow as he gestured to the seat opposite the one behind his desk. 

    Willow did as instructed.  Then, he turned to his sister.  “Anna, you should go get that paper picked up in your room.  I know you’ve been making dolls again.  Get it up before you get in trouble for making such a mess.”

    Anna swiped a finger through the blood that was matted in her hair and then complied with her brother’s demands.  As she shut the door behind herself, Maxwell began to speak.

    “You do realize that you’re not dead and the rest of us are, right?”  He asked her.

    “Of course.  How could I not have realized that?”

    “Some don’t, you see.  Some people come in here and think that they’re alive.  Like Anna.  She believes that she’s still alive.  That’s what happens to children, most of the time, when they’re sent to purgatory.”

    “Why is she here?”  Willow sniffed back a tear.  It was a horrible thought.  Young, alone, and not a clue at all that she’s dead…

    “Souls come here because there either hasn’t been a ruling as to where they should go yet-and sometimes that takes a while-or because they have unfinished business that they simply cannot finish because everyone else that is involved is also dead.  That’s why Anna’s here.  She should still be on earth in our house, but there’s nothing left for her there.  So, she’ll remain here until further notice.”

    “Forever?” 

    Maxwell blinked his eyelids in a quick repetition for a moment, and then said, “Possibly.  We may both be here forever.”

    “How did she die?”  Willow turned her head to one side.

    “Obviously she was killed.”  Maxwell sighed, then shrugged. 

    Willow nodded.  “Yes, obviously.  But, what about you?” 

    “Smallpox.”   

    Nodding, Willow sighed.  “And your mother?  Did she survive the smallpox?”

    Maxwell nodded.  “As far as I know she did.”

    “So about this theory of yours-,”  Willow continued, “How should I try and get out of here and set you free?  And if I set you free, where would you go, then?”

    “I don’t know where we would go afterward, but anywhere has got to be better than here.”  Maxwell laughed and then folded his arms over his chest again.  “You’ve got to understand that we all want out.”

    “Can’t say that I blame you much.” 

    “The living don’t come to purgatory.”  He added.  “Ever.”

    “Then, how is it that I got here?”  

    “You must remember where you came in at.  Wherever you came in at is where we can leave from.  I can find Evelyn and Anna can find Mother again.  It’s that simple.”

    Willow took a deep breath and shook her head from side to side.  “No, that won’t work.  It can’t work.  There’s no way that you can make it back to Earth from the way I came in.  I barely made it myself.  I don’t even think that I could get you to wherever it is that I entered from.  This entire place looks exactly the same.  The doors don’t even have numbers on them!” 

    A snide smile curled over Maxwell’s lips.  “Well, if it’s a cakewalk you’re looking for, you should have gone to Heaven instead.”

    “Oh, yes.  I should have thought of that.”  Sarcastically, Willow sneered.  “Do you know anything that might actually be useful?”  

    “Yes, I do.  You’ve met Death, right?” 

Monday, December 19, 2011

Z-Boat by Suzanne Robb

I had heard over and over about the impending release of this book through facebook posts by the author, Suzanne Robb, and each one was like slow torture.  Zombies? In water? WOW.  I'm pretty sure that's a new concept for my brain to wrap around, but it's a concept that I'm glad Ms. Robb tackled.  I'm conflicted a bit about the book because I'm primarily a vampire reader (or at least I WAS until recently) and a great part of me feels like I've betrayed my first love...vampires.

And then I realize that vampires and zombies have a lot in common and both of them have similar goals...ravage the living for consumption.  So I'm good with this change in reading material.

Moving on to Z-Boat....

I enjoy Suzanne's writing quite a bit and I feel like if I were to sit down to a hot cup of coffee with her, we'd have a lot to talk about.  I like when I read someone else's books and can immediately get a feel for what the writer might be like.  This tells me that she really put her heart and soul into the work and that also means that since she cared about her book so much during the writing process, she covered every nook and cranny of the story with warrior-like precision.  After I finished the book, I found that this assumption is very true of Ms. Robb.  She did a fantastic job.

Suzanne Robb's descriptions were spot on and her imagination is phenomenal. The characters in this book are all believable.  I just love it when I can read a book and find that the characters within its pages all remind me of people I've known in my own lifetime, both good and bad.  She has written her characters to be personable, likeable, detestable, good, bad, and a well mix of other things.  Kudos to her for that.

One constant thought that I had while reading the book was that if Z-Boat were a movie, it would appeal to lots of different audiences.  Syfy people, zombie lovers, horror lovers, mystery lovers...all types of movie goers would enjoy it.  So, in that line of thinking, all types of readers will enjoy the book.

Z-Boat was very entertaining also.  And after all, if a book isn't entertaining, no matter how well written, it goes into my never-to-be-read-again pile. 

Unfortunately, I'm not giving away any spoilers.  I won't tell you a lot about the plot and I won't give away the ending of a book in one of my reviews.  You'll have to read it for yourself.

BUT, if you wish to know a bit more about the book, here's what the description on Amazon says:

"The Earth has been pillaged and polluted; the sun has not broken through the smog for over a decade. The oceans and rivers have all turned toxic. Man's last hope for survival is to search the ocean depths for alternative fuel, food, and clean water sources. If they fail, mankind will die. The Betty Loo, a search and rescue submarine, captained by Iain Kingston, is hired at a price no one could refuse. The crew must deal with distrust, sabotage, and spies willing to do whatever it takes to get what they want. What they find on board The Widowmaker the submarine they have been dispatched to help will test each person's will to survive and force enemies to work together. If they don't they will all die, and what rises to the surface will bring hell to Earth."

My advice to you is that you do buy this book because whether you love zombies, mysteries, thrillers, horror, or a combination of all of these things, I promise that the book will appeal to you...and it looks nifty sitting in the bookshelf.  The cover is pretty great.  I do believe that it was designed by none other than the talented David Naughton-Shires...and for those of you who don't know this, he also designed the cover for The Demon King (along with a lot of other awesome covers).

Rhiannon's Rating:  <3 <3 <3 <3 < Five hearts! :) So I guess that makes a grand total of four books/comics in the history of my writing reviews that have made it to five entire hearts. Go Suzanne!




Friday, December 16, 2011

Hand Puppet Horror by Benny Alano

I'm not much for kids books at all, even though I have four little yard apes of my own.  I do read with them and we have fun doing it, but I can't say that I enjoy kids' stories if it's not a classic like Peter Pan or stories written by The Brothers Grimm. 

I was given a copy of Hand Puppet Horror for review, though.  I agreed to this because the author is a great guy and someone I consider to be a positive acquaintance.  I decided that the best way to go about reviewing a book that I normally wouldn't review would be to enlist the help of a seven year old boy.

On Amazon the description for the book is as follows:  "When Jay’s hand puppet, Yeti Booger, comes to life and defends him against Greg, the school bully, he thinks it’s the coolest thing in the world, but after the creature becomes more than he can handle, Jay must figure out how Yeti Booger came to life and stop him before anyone else is hurt. It truly is a HAND PUPPET HORROR."

I never tell too much about plot in my reviews or what happens when and why because I don't like to give out spoilers in my blog or wherever else I might post the review.

Getting back to my point, my seven year old son, (Allen) Booger, was as giddy as can be because the puppet in the story was also named (Yeti) Booger. We read chapter by chapter, little at a time, because he has a very short attention span.  My son is not your average kid.  He hates to read.  He likes to be read to, but only in short bursts.  He also loves Cake Boss, but that's another post...

Having this book on my computer screen every other day or so was fun for both my son and myself.  He enjoyed the pictures in the book as much as the story and he asked me questions all through the process about the content AND the pictures and just about everything else, so there were a few pit stops during each chapter...lol...

All together, the story is well written, well thought out, imaginative, bright (in a dark, creepy, childlike sort of way), and best of all, the story is a real story.  It's not the kind of children's book about a kid who does this and that and then this happens and that happens.  There's a REAL story there.  Sometimes children's authors forget to use their imaginations when they write, which is a real pity.  This author not only used his imagination, but he let it take over.

Well done.

Rhiannon's Rating: <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 Five hearts for Benny Alano!

According to my Spam...

Every now and then, though not nearly often enough, I get just bored enough to clean out the spam box in my email.  It's always a hoot.  I learn something new every single time.

So, here is the first item in my spam folder that I wanted to share...

Apparently, horny housewives all across America are just dying to get their hands on me.  I'm a hot commodity, you know.  I can't say that I blame them...

Also, I've won three million dollars!!! YAY!!! Jahit, from some country I'm not sure that I've heard of, says that I'm the long lost ancestor of a man he worked for.  The man is dead, and I'm the dead guy's heir.  I think I'm going to invest in a good, sturdy, tudor style house somewhere first.  Then I'm going to hire someone to cook and clean and wash dishes...But, first I have to send Jahit an email that includes all of my personal information, like my social security number, birthday, phone number, address, etc.

I have also learned through my spam folder that if I had genital warts, I wouldn't be alone.  In fact, a lot of young people today have warts and for the low LOW price of $59.98, I could cure the genital warts FOREVER. 

I just can't wait until I find what awaits in my spam folder next week...

IN OTHER NEWS-

I'm taking a writing break until further notice.  I'm probably not going to be writing ANYTHING until after the holidays are officially done and over.  I won't write another word until the last bit of wrapping paper is safely deposited into the trash can.  I feel like my nerves are frazzled and I'm just worn out, so this break is a very positive thing for me.  

After the holidays, though, I have several projects to work on.

#1-  Elizabeth Bathory.  I'm seven and a half chapters in.  I have many, many chapters to go and I've given myself a goal for completion.  Hopefully, I'll have it done and handed in to Knight Watch by late spring, so that aims for maybe a summer release, depending on how things go.

#2-  Into the Underworld.........  For those who are following progress on The Demon King, you should know that it will be released sometime within the next bit.  No date yet, but it will happen quickly when it happens, I think.  I've written a chapter already for the second book (if Knight Watch decides to take it on too lol) and thus far, I have plans to send our dear sweet Willow into purgatory, on a journey deep into the depths of the Underworld, to places that weren't described at all in the first book.  Places that would make your skin crawl.  The fire wraiths will play a bigger role in this story and there will be a few new faces as well as a few known ones, too.  I have big plans for this story, but no deadlines set in stone since I'm also working first and foremost on Elizabeth Bathory.  

#3-  Vampyres:  A History Written In Blood-- The deadline for submissions is in February and that's right around the corner, so if you haven't submitted yet and you'd like to, you still have plenty of time to do so.  




Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Part One: Thanksgiving Dinner


Hey guys.  I started writing a zombie short story a few days ago and below is part one of the story.  I haven't finished part two yet but might do this as a weekly story thing here in my blog.  What do ya think? Leave me your comments, good or bad.  This is my first attempt at zombie writing, so be gentle with me lol.  -Rhiannon M.


Part One: Thanksgiving Dinner



 It is bitter cold and the sun has darted behind a thick mass of white-gray winter clouds, leaving not even temporary relief from the harsh snowy weather.  I keep telling myself that when I get home, I’ll just make some hot cocoa and drop some marshmallows in the cup.  That would warm me up, I say to myself as I tug on the load I‘m dragging behind me.  That would make the cold go away and after I finish warming myself, I can curl up on the couch with an electric blanket and watch a few saved episodes of Golden Girls with my German shepherd, Zoe, in my lap.


    I could take a hot shower and put on my flannel pajamas, too.  That would help.  After that, I could read a book or wash the dishes in hot, soapy water to warm my hands and make sure that they’re done before Mike gets home from the late shift at the mine.  We could go to bed together and I could sleep with him spooned to my back all night, nice and warm and safe until the sun came out again and it was time to make a late morning breakfast together.

    Of course, none of those things that I could be doing were ever going to happen.  Not today, not tonight, not ever again. 

    There is no more hot chocolate to be found unless, of course, I were to stumble upon a grocery store somewhere and get brave enough to go pillaging alone.  There were no golden girls because it was rare that we had electricity.  I can’t wash dishes because there is no sink of hot water to wash them in and no reason to have dirty dishes if there isn’t any food to put in them and I haven‘t cooked yet.  My dog was gone and I had no clue where she went or what happened to her.  As for my house, I had left it behind six months ago or so. 

    And right now I’m not going to talk about where Mike went or how he got there.

    Right now, I’m going to walk out of the bushes I’m sort of hiding in and make a beeline for the only building in this area that I know to be safe enough to sleep and eat in by myself.  It’s not as safe as I’d like, but it’s in the middle of nowhere and there’s a very old wood stove and some cast iron skillets that I can use to prepare a nice dear stew with.  It’s not the Hilton, but there are clean linens, a well out back for water, firewood stacked out back, and a few books in an old bookshelf.  It’s sustainable living at its simplest.



    The deer, unfortunately, is a problem.  It’s not too heavy for me to carry or anything, but I think I shot an artery right in half or something because the doe is bleeding an excessive amount and the blood just might smell enough to lure a stray walker.  I’m not sure because I don’t know if they go for animal blood.  I’m sure that if they get weak enough and hungry enough they just might…

    I decide to hurry up a bit because darkness falls in just a few hours and I have a deer to chop up and cook.  While it’s cooking (and burning) I have to go clean up the mess I made dragging it home.  I take a moment to ponder whether or not bleach and water really help to disguise the smell of blood from the deer from zombie noses and then decide that it may not even be the smell of dead deer (or whatever my catch of the day is) that they come after.  It might be the smell of living human being that lures them.  I don’t know which it is and I don’t try to take all day figuring it out.  I’m not a zombie expert and it doesn’t matter to me what they’re after as long as I can keep my self safe.  Still, I’m not taking chances and I set out to get things done.

    I am fast to get the deer skinned. I don’t waste time by throwing the skins into a big tub full of water and bleach that I’d prepared before I went hunting.  Next, I slice away as much meat as I can, not paying any attention to what cut goes where.  I’m just trying to get it done so that I can go outside and pour gasoline all over the bloody spots and light it on fire.  I’m not worried about a forest fire, though, because it’s too wet out.

    I go about my tasks and don’t see a single walker outside.  I do hear a bear, but I’m not worried about him.  I am relieved that my day is going so well.  For three days, I’ve not seen a single dead guy.

    Five hours later and I’m eating the deer stew that I made out of deer meat, a few cans of vegetables that I’d found in a cellar a week ago, and some potatoes that I dug up from somebody’s forgotten garden. 

    I am thankful to live in a rural area and even more thankful that the rural area just happens to be in the mountains.  It’s relatively safer than cities right now.

    Suddenly I realize that the stew sucks, but I pretend it’s Thanksgiving dinner anyway.  I think today just might actually be Thanksgiving, but I can’t remember.  I think I may have lost count of a few days on the calendar.  Nonetheless, I declare today to be Turkey Day anyhow and I finish my deer stew and then have a helping of odd-tasting mashed potatoes that I’m pretending is pumpkin pie.

    Best damn pumpkin pie I’ve ever eaten, I decide as I spit some of it right back out.

    While I am pretending, I also pretend that is just at work and that he’ll be coming home soon.  In anticipation, I grab my shotgun and look out the window next to the door.  It’s possible he may show up after all and I know that when he does, there’s a good chance I might die.

    On the flipside, death might not be so bad if I get to be with Mike’s reanimated corpse.  Our corpses could run off together and do whatever it is that zombies do when they’re not tearing human beings to bits and shreds.  And if we decide to eat out, we’ll just go human hunting somewhere we’ve never hunted before.

    Did I really just imagine being dead with Mike?

    I take a deep sigh and close my eyes as I keep staring out the window, chastising myself silently for having such silly fantasies.  Mike would kill me.  He wouldn’t give three shits less if we spent the rest of our time on earth as happy corpses together or not.  A walker doesn’t care about other people and from what I’ve gathered they really don’t care about other walkers either, not really.

    I take another deep sigh and sink down into an old wicker chair that sits by the window. Pulling the lacy white curtains back, I shake my head in disbelief. 

    Three days without seeing a walker was a record, but now it’s nothing because there’s about four of them coming out of the woods.

    Damn deer blood…I chastise myself again, then hold my rifle close to my chest as I count to ten as loud as I can. 

    I know they can hear me because they all look like they still have their ears attached and as I count, I swear one of them cracked a rotten smile my way.  Then again, that may have been just some flesh rotting and moving around on its face. 

    I pretend he was smiling anyhow because I think to myself that it would be fun to shoot a smiling revenant.  With that thought in mind, I cock my rifle and kick the door open with the notion that I just might return the zombie’s smile with one of my own. 

    And by the way, about four actually means seven and counting
.
    I widen my smile and as I dart down the three front steps, I open fire.  They keep coming at me, gnarling and growling and whining.  I call it whining because that’s basically what it is.  A low, fierce, hungry whine, very similar to a child who wants a toy that he knows he can’t (or shouldn’t) have. 

    After shooting and killing three of them, I miss the fourth, then hit the fifth and sixth.  That leaves two walkers chasing me while I reload and curse to myself for wasting bullets on missing.

    Over the last six months, since the outbreak happened, I’ve gotten incredibly good at running while reloading.  Or running while thinking of where to go next or what to do when I got to wherever it was that I was thinking of going. 

    One of the walkers, a male, probably dead only a week, grabs me out of nowhere.  I had thought I was further ahead than what I really was.  I turn around and ram the rifle through his somewhat soft chest and pull it out again, but he’s so close and his fingers are digging into the sleeves of my hoodie.  Miraculously, I get away with my rifle and shoot him between his filmy eyes.  He falls and the other one catches up to me, but I quickly shoot him, too.

    I spend the rest of my night decapitating the fallen walkers and burning their bodies with my rifle at my side.  I don’t see any more of them all night long, so I take that as a good omen and I lock up and go to bed for a few hours.  Tomorrow I might look for any other survivors, but I have a horrid feeling that I'm the only living human being left on earth...Everyone else is a zombie or dead. Or both. Whatever.

***