Sunday, March 28, 2010

Guest Blogger: Linda Acaster

The winner of Linda's book is: Julia Rachel Barrett. Congratulations, Julia! Send me your contact info and I'll pass it along to Linda. Thanks to everyone who participated.
What are we doing when we toss a coin into a fountain in the middle of a noisy shopping mall? Making a wish? Trying to change our luck? How does this work in our cynical rush-rush world of the 21st century?

The simple answer is that it doesn’t. What we are subconsciously doing is enacting a rite at least 3,000 years old, invoking the female deity of the pool to remain benign and keep producing life-giving, drinkable, water.

Here in the British Isles, long before the introduction of coinage, items of wealth were being cast into sacred pools: exquisitely decorated swords, helmets, dishes and torcs – the twisted gold neck-rings that were the emblem of authority in Celtic Britain – sacrificed on behalf of the extended family, or people of the tribe.

The larger, tribal sacrifices tended to be clustered around the year-end festival of Samhain, when the crops were in, the land was dying back for winter, and it was believed that the barrier between this world and the Otherworld was thin enough to allow the dead, and Otherworld beings, to impart wisdom to the living. When Christianity sought to extend its influence, the churches built on known sites of these divination rites were not named for individual saints, but for All Hallows, or All Saints & All Souls, so that their annual celebrations would eventually obliterate the pre-Christian rites which had taken place there at the time of year we now know as Halloween.

But not every site was obliterated by a Christian church, though many springs were made into Christian pilgrimage sites, their waters often attributed with medicinal qualities, and nearly always presided over by the Virgin Mary – Christianity’s female deity.

Springs in smaller communities became first the village pond, usually with a church close by, or eventually the village pump. But not all. Close to where I live in East Yorkshire a boggy field was excavated on the hearsay of the oldest residents remembering tales from their grandparents. Beneath the silt a stone well-housing was uncovered, its spring still producing clear, drinkable water. A picture-book roofed cover has been erected over it, and a thorn hedge planted nearby in recognition that this was once a rag well, where maidens ventured late on midsummer’s night to circle the spring while reciting a charm in the hope of seeing the face of their husbands-to-be.

Not all springs have been rendered quaint. On the North York Moors, near the village of Stape, is what is now referred to as Old Wives Well. The moor would have been a treeless place when the Sixth Legion Victrix laid a Roman road beside it, but the road has long returned to nature, and Britain’s modern Forestry Commission has covered the surrounding land in quick-growing pine – except that the glade surrounding the moss-covered well-housing is all deciduous woodland of birch and alder, ancient species native to these islands. Hanging in their thin branches are offerings of ribbon, charms and tiny bells, augmenting the coins pressed into the moss shrouding the well-housing.

The glade is hidden from the modern road, only findable with an Ordnance Survey map. It’s a place for contemplation, for drinking in the quiet and the myriad tones of green. Which begs the question… does a religion remain potent as long as one person believes, as long as one person cares enough to invoke its spirit?

This was my starting point for Torc of Moonlight, a paranormal thriller set in the verdant university campus of my home city of Hull, with its museum of Celtic reconstructions and excavated Romano-British mosaics. Alice is obsessed with uncovering the shrine to a forgotten Celtic water goddess she believes lies on the Moor close to the Roman road. Nick is obsessed with her, and keeps rationalising the disturbing changes in himself until his dual personality splits away and he realises that his sports training regime is not to hone his rugby skills.

Torc of Moonlight explores belief and betrayal across history and carries a triple storyline, including a Celtic why-dunnit. It’s the first in a trilogy set in university cities surrounding the North York Moors. Visit to read an opening extract and the growing reviews under its blog, and for up to the moment info.

The paperback is available from Amazon, with the Kindle version coming soon. There is also ePub format from Book2Book, and PDF format from Linda’s blog.
Linda will be giving away a copy of her book to one commenter. The winner will be selected and posted on Tuesday evening. Stop back by to see if you won.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Guest Blogger: Erin Kellison

The winner of Erin's book is: MarZel. Congrats, MarZel! Send me your contact info and I'll pass it along to Erin. Thanks to everyone who participated.

When I was a kid, my bedroom had a wide closet with accordion doors. And inside that closet was a little white door that led to the unfinished, dusty, spidery attic space under the roof, a place I never dared to venture. One blustery night I watched as that little white door slowly eased open, then slammed shut. Then eased open again, only to slam shut even harder. Over and over again. I was so frightened that I breathed as shallowly as possible. I could not call for my mom. I could not get out of my bed and run for the door. I sat on my bed in stone cold terror waiting for a horror to emerge and “get me.”

After a little while, it occurred to me that (oh!) the wind was doing it, and my fear abated and the clammy sweat dried on me. I was left feeling disappointed. A spooky attic was way more fun than an empty one. I guessed I had better go to sleep. But of course I didn’t. Nope, instead my brain started working, turning over that most delicious and wonderful of questions: What if?

What if the attic was haunted? What kind of creature existed in the pitched shadows beyond my bedroom? What would that creature want on this side of the door? It didn’t take too long before I’d worked myself back into a spooked thrill. My poor mom.

In my upcoming debut, Shadow Bound, the question, What if? takes the form of the deep, threatening shadows of a between place I call Twilight.

Shadow is the stuff of imagination, nightmare, and seduction. Enter at your peril.

Excerpt from Shadow Bound:

Talia heard Adam’s intake of breath as she wrapped the veil around them, the day falling from sunny blue to a dreamy murk. They stood in layered fog, the veils of shadow sensuously lapping at their bodies. The trees, the meadow beyond, the hulk of Segue Institute were all there, yet somehow appeared transient. As if one good gust of wind might carry it all away.

Adam’s hand warmed in hers. He filled her with his wonder, which was better than all the rest. Made her realize how beautiful shadow was, too.

“A little more,” he said.

Talia reached and the day darkened to dusk, the orb of the sun shifting from blazing yellow to deep violet. The world turned to myriad purples and shades of blue and black. Sounds stretched so that the birds’ twitters and crickets’ chirps became high, eerie notes warped by darkness.

Shadow settled on her shoulders and slid deliciously against her skin in welcome.

Adam’s wonder turned to awe and building excitement.

Talia glanced at him to see how much of what he felt could be read on his face.

He looked down at her, about to say something, but instead he stopped and stared. That sensation was back, a trickle in the sense of his discovery, then a flood blotting it out. Desire.

Erin Kellison writes paranormal romance with a strong emphasis on dark fantasy/urban fantasy. She attempted her first book in sixth grade, also a dark fantasy adventure, and still has those first, hand-written chapters. An avid reader, stories have always been a central part of her life. She graduated summa cum laude with a degree in English Language and Literature, with a concentration in mythology and folklore. She went on for a masters in Cultural Anthropology, focusing on oral story-telling and Native American mythology. When she had children, nothing scared her anymore, so her focus shifted to writing fiction. She sold her manuscript, Shadow Bound, to Dorchester Publishing via The 2009 Dawn Thompson Memorial Haunted Hearts Contest. She lives in Arizona with her two beautiful daughters and husband, and she will have a dog (breed undetermined) when her youngest turns five.

A commenter will be chosen at random on Tuesday night to receive a copy of Shadow Bound. Check back to see if you have won!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Guest Blogger: Sarah Avery

The winner of Sarah's book is: Tracey D! Congrats, Tracey D. I will send your email address to Sarah. Thanks to everyone who participated.

She loved it, my first critique partner did, when I sent her the first draft of Atlantis Cranks Need Not Apply. She loved it, but she gave me a perspective on it that floored me. All I could say was, "No, I didn't."

"You did, Sarah. You totally wrote a paranormal romance."

"But Jane is so cynical and profane!" I protested. "And the romance plot arc isn't even about her."

"Okay, it's the paranormal romance Kevin Smith might have come up with if he'd wanted to set a movie just up the Jersey Shore from Clerks, but it's still a paranormal romance."

And my critique partner was right . . . sort of. If you took a classic, indisputable paranormal romance and retold it from the point of view of the main character's best friend, the one who has misgivings about the new boyfriend, and who has major issues of her own to work out, it might looks something like Atlantis Cranks Need Not Apply.

Jane has fled a disastrous marriage and moved in with her coven-sister Sophie. Sophie's a latter-day hippie chick with a trust fund, and Jane's a hard-nosed accountant. They connect with their coven, and with Witchcraft, in totally different ways, but Rugosa Coven is a laid-back, open-minded little circle, with plenty of room for differences of opinion. The two women are making their odd-couple roommate dynamic work out okay in Sophie's beach cottage, until the day the coven finds a guy with gills washed up on the sand. Is he from Atlantis? Is he a Greek sailor who's just into extreme body modification? And is it strictly necessary for Sophie to fall in love with him at first sight? Because living in close quarters with improbable true love, when the guy is an impossible Atlantis refugee, is really cramping Jane's style.

The oddest thing about having written an accidental paranormal romance, one that really speaks to readers who are immersed in the romance tradition, is that the story idea first came to me as an experiment in psychological horror. What, I asked myself, would be the most horrifying thing to a postmodern Wiccan, one who did not want to be mistaken for a New Ager. None of that white light, fluffy-bunny, crystal dowsing stuff for Jane! Just nature-centered feminist goddess consciousness. I've known her type. I've been her type. I've carried that baggage. What would disturb her sense of reality more than anything else would be to find out that the New Agers were right about something. Anything, really. Atlantis would do.

And once I was forcing Jane to accept a reality she didn't want to believe in, I discovered what else she couldn't believe in anymore: true love. That was the moment when the story stopped being an attempt at psychological horror and became a comedy. Having Jane come to believe in love by falling in it would be too easy, for me and for her. No, she was going to have to contend with true love from the outside, to be an indispensable help to the lovers whose relationship she didn't want to see unfolding in the first place. Wacky hijinks, of course, ensued. Once Sophie's relationship with her Atlantean started to change not just the two of them, but all the characters in Rugosa Coven, and Jane most of all, the story became a romance.

Or so my romance readers keep telling me.

Sarah Avery is an escaped academic who returned to her first love, fantasy fiction. She is an initiated Wiccan priestess, a globetrotting ex-army-brat, a freelance SAT tutor, a longtime wife to her high school sweetheart, and a mother of a glorious toddler. She moved to New Jersey to get her Ph.D. and accidentally built a life there. New Jersey makes a better muse than you might guess. Sarah's urban fantasy stories have appeared in Jim Baen's Universe and Membra Disjecta, and she has sword and sorcery stories slated to appear next year in Black Gate. Atlantis Cranks Need Not Apply and Closing Arguments, the first two novellas in her Rugosa Coven series, are available in electronic edition from Drollerie Press ( and from all major e-book retailers. A print collection of Rugosa Coven novellas is scheduled for late 2010, as are the Trafficking in Magic and Magicking in Traffic anthologies, which Sarah is coediting with David Sklar. You can find an excerpt from Atlantis Cranks here (, and you can check out her blog, Ask Dr. Pretentious, here (

Sarah will be sending one commenter a copy of Atlantis Cranks Need Not Apply in the electronic format of your choice. Sarah's winner will be selected and posted on Tuesday evening. Stop back by to see if you won.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Why Women Love Vampires Article and Kindle Versions of My Books

Local Denver writer Ed Hickok wrote about me and my books in the

Here's the link to the story:

The Kindle versions of my books are now available in the Kindle store. I followed JA Konrath's advice and priced THE VAMPIRE SHRINK at $1.99 to encourage new readers. I also uploaded the books at Check them out!

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Guest Blogger: Lee Barwood

The winner of Lee's book is: Mariska. Congrats, Mariska! Send me your contact info and I'll pass it along to Lee. Thanks to everyone who participated.
Supernatural Ozarks

Lynda’s guest blogger Tracey Morris gave you a brief intro into some of the supernatural happenings in the Ozarks when she talked about the Crescent Hotel in Eureka Springs. Been there, done that – it’s a gorgeous old place and I highly recommend it to anyone who can get there; the atmosphere is superb for any lover of the paranormal. The town itself is pretty interesting, too – including the church that you enter on one level and exit on another (did I mention that the streets are very steep?).

My novels are set in the Ozarks too, but in the fictional counties of Blackburn and Fulbright, where “things happen” – everything from Civil War ghosts to the wanderings of sad souls still trapped on the Trail of Tears. There are plenty of real Ozarks locations in my stories, too, like Mammoth Spring and the wonderful Blanchard Springs Caverns at Mountain View. But having fictional counties to set my tales in has worked well because sometimes my characters need a location that’s just not situated properly for the action in the real Ozarks. They can always step outside their fictional homes, though, and visit the real thing when it’s called for.

My novel A Dream of Drowned Hollow is a paranormal environmental thriller that draws pretty heavily on the lore and legends that saturate the region. April Rue Stoner, my heroine, belongs to a family that has special talents – each family member can do something unusual, whether it’s a gift of healing or of music or of seeing the future. April Rue’s particular gift involves seeing spirits, but not just that – she can capture what she sees in photographs, so that others can see them too. That turns out to be her only weapon against a ruthless developer determined to bring his own version of prosperity to the place where he grew up. His goons have resorted to sabotage and even murder to force people to sell out to him, and April Rue’s photographs are the only proof of what he’s doing. It’s a race against time as she tries to expose him for what he is. Her grandmother has already died because of what he’s done. Will she be able to stop him, or will he get to her first?

There really are Ozark families with special gifts – such as dowsers, also known as water witches. When we first moved there one of our neighbors came out and witched us a well. The beautiful thing about the Ozarks is the daily, vital presence of beliefs that many other regions of the country have left behind. It has a rich history of folklore and old customs that haven’t vanished yet – old beliefs are still in practice, such as predicting the winter based on the shape of the seeds inside a persimmon: knife-shaped for knifelike cold, spoon to tell you you’ll need a shovel for all the snow, fork for mild. People still get together to play music, and still gather for community potluck suppers – things city folks would be very surprised at – and the presence of ghost lights at Durdon and Crossett are still reported, variously supposed to be the ghost of a railroad man killed by a train or the lights of UFOs. In Dyer, if you put your car in neutral on one side of the bridge, something will pull the car to the other side. And at Rogers, the former site of a Civil War encampment, visitors after dark will hear the sounds of marching troops, musket fire, and galloping horses.

One of the sad things about city living is that people tend to forget that there are such gifts, or pooh-pooh them and the beliefs that grew up around them. But in the country, where there are fewer distractions, a lot of things survive because there aren’t a lot of naysayers telling everyone that something’s impossible. And people know what they’ve seen. They may not have an explanation for it, but that’s the nature of the paranormal, isn’t it?

Lee will give away a copy of her book to one commenter. Her winner will be selected and posted on Tuesday night. Stop back by to see if you won!