Guest Post: My Love of Murder and Mayhem by Cleo Bannister #HorrorOctober

I discovered Cleo’s blog, Cleopatra Loves Books relatively early on in my blogging life, and have been an avid reader ever since. I really enjoy crime fiction, especially a good, gritty, psychological thriller, but I still find myself only reading them sporadically.

Cleo however, has a seemingly insatiable appetite for all that involves death and murder, something we have joked about before in comments and such. As Horror October approached I thought it would be a great opportunity to find out more about Cleo, her blog, and where her love of crime fiction came from.

Huge thanks to Cleo for agreeing and sending over this great guest post. If you don’t follow her, head over there ASAP (she also covers more than just crime fic btw).

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My Love of Murder and Mayhem

by Cleo Bannister, Cleopatra Loves Books

I came to murder fairly late in life, although on reflection the seeds were sown earlier, but up until relatively recently you were more likely to find chick-lit or historical women’s fiction decking the shelves of my bookcase. These days they are dominated by black spines adorned with words such as death, murder or the darkly mysterious single word title!

My earliest introduction to murder stories came in the form of true-crime, more specifically the very trashy looking True Crime magazines with which I scared myself half to death before passing them onto my younger brother (something my more responsible adult self would say is probably not to be recommended).

Buying these magazines was a feat in itself, we lived in a rural town where everyone knew my mother, who certainly wouldn’t have approved, and they were kept on the top shelf. I’m not exactly tall now, and in those days top-shelves weren’t meant to be reached by under-sized teenagers so it was only on trips to the nearby city, Gloucester, that I was occasionally brave enough to get someone taller to pass me a copy.

Our local library didn’t stock YA fiction, it hadn’t been invented back in the 80s, and so once I’d finished the children’s section it was straight round the corner to adult fiction where I continued to read the classics fairly indiscriminately interspersed with the occasional bonk-buster as was required reading for every girl my age! Now either my library didn’t stock much in the way of crime fiction or I simply never really came across it, remember these were pre-internet days, you read what was available and unless you had a title and an author it really was pot-luck when pulling books out of the shelves.

Murder on the Orient ExpressI do remember one holiday home we stayed in, I want to say it was Wales but maybe that is my adult self, superimposing the stereotypical rainy weather on an entirely innocent region, which contained a huge stack of readers digest magazines and a good stock of Agatha Christie books which I devoured with relish and then I returned home and they became the one highlight in a very wet, windy and quite frankly miserable holiday.

In no time at all I left home, joined a library in every place that I called home still without any real structure to my reading, except for an overwhelming need to have a constant supply of books and it was only when I moved to Jersey that I became reacquainted with Agatha Christie with Poirot being played by the marvellous David Suchet which was required Sunday evening viewing for an entire winter, as well as settling down more than happily to watch Inspector Wexford do his stuff in a gentler contrast to Poirot’s more flamboyant manner. I sought out Ruth Rendell’s books featuring the detective and fortunately not only was Jersey library better stocked, it was better structured, books were shelved traditionally but some shelves were designated genres, paperbacks or recently published books, although I found my best bet of getting the choicest picks was to peruse the trolley which had the recently returned books on it. There I picked up a book by Barbara Vine, A Fatal Inversion, and having worked out this was Ruth Rendell whose Inspector Wexford books had filled my need for police procedurals, who used the pen name Barbara Vine when she wrote about crime from a psychological view-point.

Happy Like Murderers - Fred and Rose WestIn 1994 Fred West, an odd-job man in Gloucester had his garden dug up and the bones of his daughter who had been missing for eight years were located, I was in hospital giving birth to my son when the news came through that more bodies had been found, twelve in total. When Fred’s wife Rose was arrested, and later found guilty, I wanted to understand how such a large number of murders could take place under the noses of the residents in Cromwell Street, a road that I had walked along the end of many times while living in Gloucester.

I also wanted to understand why? Particularly in the case of Rose; what sort of woman kills for pleasure? In short this case reawakened my interest in true crime, although I now accept that the answers to the why part of my question will probably never be clear since Rose has refused to say anything at all in the intervening years.

Jersey library had a fairly good stock of the books that spring up after a particularly sensational crime so for a while my days were filled with caring for my young children while my nights were spent looking into some of the most depraved minds to grace the earth. It will relieve all those close to me that I wasn’t particularly interested in the methods used, I was interested in the make-up of these men and women.

The Scolds BridleAt about the same time I came across Minette Waters who wrote in a new style, one which combined my interest in the psychological but felt far more modern than Barbara Vine, whose novels were often, but not always, set in a bygone era. Minette Waters used transcripts and newspaper articles as part of her stories, which were without exception incredibly powerful. In The Scold’s Bridle, Mathilda Gillespie is found dead in her bath, flowers in her hair and wearing just us to a medieval torture implement, the scold’s bridle – absolute genius, no crazed serial killer needed just a deeply disturbing (and it still disturbs me now twenty years later) image.

In many ways my crime fiction reading continued with those books picked up for TV serialisation so I came across the marvellous Dalziel and Pascoe, Inspector Frost and of course the wonderful Morse and true to form proceeded to read the entire series of each – people the books are so much better than the TV series! There is far more to these books than cosy Sunday night viewing, the depth in the Dalziel and Pascoe books whilst brilliantly portrayed on screen, is lost when reduced to a two hour show.

As the years rolled by although I picked up any new books by these now much loved authors, plus a few more favourites found along the way, most notably Gillian White who wrote brilliant psychological thrillers with P.D. James, Peter James and Gill McGown for the more classic police procedurals, my reading was more concentrated on the books of the moment, I loved Bridget Jones, Dorothy Koomson, Lisa Jewell and Jodi Picoult. At the same time I love history and have a particular weakness for dual time-line stories so Kate Morton, Rachel Hore and Lucinda Riley also have book that still grace my shelves today.

In 2010, with far more time on my hands, I decided to start reviewing the books I was reading on Amazon, and was lucky enough to be invited onto their Amazon Vine program which offered me free books in return for a review. I was in heaven and here was an opportunity to read books not only before publication but to check out those that I probably wouldn’t pick up in a bookstore.

The books I chose became increasingly dominated by murder and mayhem so that in 2015 out of the 111 books read and reviewed so far 67 are shelved under crime fiction or psychological thriller with a high percentage of non-fiction category also being books about murderous intent. My love of history, and particularly women’s history hasn’t dimmed, but now I enjoy books about Victorian Murderesses, women committed to lunatic asylums and suffragettes instead of love stories.

In 2013 Cleopatra Loves Books was launched primarily so that I had control of the books I’d reviewed and since then, the list of books I’ve found and been recommended that fit into this preferred genre has grown totally out of control. I thank you fellow bloggers for some absolute cracking reviews that has widened my reading to include such a variety of murderers from the domestic to the sadistic serial killer, I simply can’t get enough!

As you can probably tell, I have read loads of books about murder and mayhem so far so I’ll just leave you with a few suggestions from my bookshelves but if you want more detailed advice you can always contact me on my blog – I don’t even bite!

Police Procedural Series
Police Procedural

Roy Grace Series – Peter James
Lewis Trilogy – Peter May
Dalziel and Pascoe – Reginald Hill

Psychological Thriller
Psychological
Just What Kind of Mother Are You? – Paula Daly
Disclaimer – Renee Knight
Copycat – Gillian White

Historical Crime Fiction
Historical Crime

The Anatomy of Death – Felicity Young
Out of the Silence – Wendy James
Caversham Lock – Peter Conway

Non-Fiction
Non Fiction
A Very British Murder – Lucy Worsley
The Magnificent Spilsbury and the Case of the Brides in the Bath – Jane Robbins
The Suspicions of Mr Whicher – Kate Summerscale

Thanks again to Cleo! I hope this post has inspired you to pick up a murder mystery or two this Autumn, it certainly has for me! 🙂

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Horror October, The Finale: You’re Next (Part 1)

When I asked my good friend Graeme to write a review of the film You’re Next (a film that we’ve watched together and enjoyed immensely) for Horror October, he was all too happy to get stuck in. I’m not sure he really needed to spend an entire week watching horror films in the dark in preparation, but who am I to argue?

What Graeme, affectionately known as Biggie (it’s not what you think…no, not that either), actually came up with was a whole lot better than just another review

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You’re Next (Part 1)

It was back in 2007.

Deep in my postgraduate lull, I am holed up in my parents’ cottage in the remote Scottish countryside. It’s a cold, quiet night, but then it always is. The closest neighbours are the cows in the back field, who only really cause a stir when their calves are being taken from them (and whenever that happens, it’s the worst noise imaginable).

Since being here, when I’m not complacently watching hours of sitcom reruns, I half-heartedly tend bar at a local pub, serving pints to grizzled farmers who physically recoil at the mere mention of ‘London’.

It’s fair to say that post-grad bemusement at my circumstances has allowed the stench of complacent superiority to settle around my shoulders. I indulge this most every evening, pithily mocking my listless, bumpkin existence to the delight and curiosity of Big City friends on MSN Messenger, a bottle of something strong at my side.

It was business as usual on this fateful night, except I had been left alone to babysit two West Highland terriers. The elder was lolled by the study door, her old deaf ears sagging on the carpet. The pup insists on my lap, which is fine as long as I can reach the keyboard and the whiskey bottle.

A light comes on.

Somehow too near or too bright to just be the security lights out front.  Then the pup leaps noisily (and painfully) from my lap, 0-60 in seconds, rumbling urgently through the corridor. I follow, annoyed. The kitchen light is on. The kitchen light that I remember turning off after I let the dogs out earlier. Flies and moths gather otherwise, you see.

Just as I rationalise that maybe I did leave it on, the pup springs past my legs and starts clawing at the back door. When I crack it open, she noses herself out and swoops through the night, to all intents and purposes chasing something.

Now, I’m no fool. I’ve seen horror movies.

I don’t leave the house in such circumstances without picking up a weapon of some description. So, armed with a broom, I follow the little furry barker out the door.

It was only when the back door was out of sight – a mere ten steps – that I realised that I was, in fact, a fool. You see, I’ve seen horror movies. If someone wasn’t already inside, they will be now.

Or maybe they’re in the garage, outside of which the puppy has planted her puppy-hind. Specifically, three safe metres away from the wide open garage door, giving her options. Still noisy. Still aggressive. Making one hell of a stink, but no way is she shortening those three safe metres.

What was previously assertive, scattershot yapping, like usual, is now one long, strangulated growling; a noise caught midpoint between fear and the instinct to attack. Held in that indecisive spot, drawn out, but decidedly aimed in the same direction, at one target.  Something inside the cavernous black of the open garage.

As I move tentatively closer to the garage, every step incenses the puppy more. She’s flipping out. Almost literally flipping, like those toy dogs that used to be Christmas presents.

Now, I’m no fool. I’ve seen horror movies.

I know the dog always senses the malevolence first. I know the dumb human about to have their head hacked off always shushes them ignorantly, assuming superiority to their canine wisdom.

I discard my broom and make a sharp right turn to the greenhouse, blindly knocking over several things before I pull out a garden fork. It’s not an axe, but it’s weighty enough.  Thinking about it, a garden fork is probably easier to retract and re-stab into an assailant; I’ve cooked baked potatoes before.

Armed, I rejoin the pup, although she’s less intent upon the garage door than she was, instead scrambling at my leg, moaning, giving off a whole understudy-for-Lassie vibe. Telling me something. Bravely, I shout into the cavernous black – ‘SHOW… YOURSELF!’ – and immediately realise how underprepared for my impending doom I am.

No-one shows themselves. I tentatively approach. My fingers search the wall inside and I flip on the garage light. Nothing. And then – BAM! – a fucking bird flaps straight into my face and soars out towards the stars. I shake my head, laughing.

But then, a light turns on from inside the house.

A howl of pain electrifies the silence of the night. A cloaked figure appears at the window. A white mask, an immobile yet somehow taunting expression.

The window creaks open.

The figure raises an arm, and tosses out the severed head of an old, deaf West Highland terrier. Bouncing once, her head lands at my feet, her dry pink tongue lolling out of her open jaws. I find myself noticing how, even with her head detached from her body, her old eyes don’t really look much deader.

And then I fall back in disgust. I feel the vomit rise from my gut and then I watch it splatter out of me, onto the puppy who is scratching at my chest, begging me to do something.

When I look back up at the window, the figure has disappeared. But he’s let me know one thing:

youre-next-mirror

That story is partly true. You can decide when it starts being fictional (although I will tell you that the dogs survived). But that realisation – that severed head, those two-and-a-half words, the moment that suspense gives way to terror – are the key to horror for me.

In the aftermath of my “ordeal” I realised just how deeply home-invasion horror had registered with me, how its rhythms and clichés – however hokey – dictated my behaviour and accelerated my grim imagination in a real-life situation. It’s been a durable genre, and one that has attracted a lot of pop psychology attention as to why, when it comes down to it, we feel so paranoid about our own homes.

In the next post, I’ll revisit some of the most unsettling home invasion movies, movies that keep us double checking our front doors. 

Sometimes, Graeme Reid likes his movies to be as cheap as his wine. When I asked him what I should write in this bio he described himself as ‘an erstwhile blogger and full time nurse person who would like to see what your insides look like’. At the very least, two of those things are true.

Guest Post: When the 90s come back to haunt you

HorrorOct2014The lovely Kimberley G. Giarratano, author of Grunge, Gods, and Graveyards was nice enough to make us a spooky playlist to while away these dark, october evenings. In the words of my favourite Kevin, ‘don’t get scared now’.

When the 90s Come Back to Haunt You by Kimberly G. Giarratano

My debut novel, Grunge Gods and Graveyards, is a YA paranormal mystery set in 1996. It stars 17-year-old Lainey Bloom, an outcast who is given the impossible task of finding her crush’s killer. It’s atmospheric and twisty and full of references to awesome 90s music.

So I thought in honor of October, the creepiest month of the year, I would put together a 90s playlist celebrating both Halloween and the angstiest decade there ever was. Some of these tunes are creepy and some are flat-out haunting. And most of them are on this list because they had wicked videos that I wouldn’t watch home alone.

In fact, so much music in the 90s was intense and crazy. And it was mainstream. I remember all these song being played on the radio or MTV. You can’t find angst like this now.

A haunting soundtrack

  1. Sweet Dreams — Marilyn Manson: This remake of the Annie Lennox hit was my introduction to Marilyn Manson’s twisted art. I still shudder when I watch this video. The headgear. His red lips and pale eyes. I think calling this video “freaky” is an understatement.
  2. Living Dead Girl — Zombie: I think the title alone qualifies this song for the list. The tune doesn’t creep me out so much, but Rob Zombie’s voice is villainous. I wouldn’t want him chasing me through an abandoned house.
  3. Shame — Stabbing Westward: I remember this video on MTV. The obsessive, crazy boyfriend and his ex-girlfriend. Listen to how the song picks up as it goes. It starts off quiet, like the boyfriend’s machinations are just rumbling under the surface until he loses control. My pulse quickens when I watch this. It’s like a mini movie.
  4. Heart Shaped Box — Nirvana: I’m rewatching the video as I type this. There’s so much imagery here: the half-naked old man, the cross, the blood red poppies.
  5. Doll Parts — Hole: Courtney Love’s tattered little girl dresses (which she made popular), the vintage doll and the childlike hands, Courtney rolling around in the dirt. With more time, I could get all meta about this song and video.
  6. Blood Roses — Tori Amos: This song is off the Boys for Pele album. The liner notes defy creepy (Tori’s nursing a pig). But this sound stands out because of the harpsicord and the way Tori sings “blood.” I can’t help but picture a zombie minuet.
  7. Joga — Bjork: Whenever I hear the violin in this song, I imagine being lost in the woods and that just creeps me out.
  8. Sober — Tool (Vitamin String Quartet): This instrumental version of Sober is more haunting than the original.

I could include a myriad of other tunes, but I’d run out of space and time. I want to know what songs you’d add to this playlist. I’m dying to know.

Happy hauntings,

KGG

Huge thanks to Kim for putting this together. I LOVE her choices. I think I’d also have to add Northern Star by Hole – that song is so haunting too, Stay by Shakespears Sister (OK so it’s not actually grunge, but it is awesome), and Placebo’s My Sweet Prince.

If you liked this, but sure to check out her novel…

Grunge, Gods and Graveyards


GGGParted by death. Tethered by love.

Lainey Bloom’s high school senior year is a complete disaster. The popular clique, led by mean girl Wynter Woods, bullies her constantly. The principal threatens not to let her graduate with the class of 1997 unless she completes a major research project. And everyone blames her for the death of Wynter’s boyfriend, Danny Obregon.

Danny, a gorgeous musician, stole Lainey’s heart when he stole a kiss at a concert. But a week later, he was run down on a dangerous stretch of road. When he dies in her arms, she fears she’ll never know if he really would have broken up with Wynter to be with her.

Then his ghost shows up, begging her to solve his murder. Horrified by the dismal fate that awaits him if he never crosses over, Lainey seeks the dark truth amidst small town secrets, family strife, and divided loyalties. But every step she takes toward discovering what really happened the night Danny died pulls her further away from the beautiful boy she can never touch again.

Goodreads
Amazon

Horror October: Necro-nom-nom-icon….Cookbook of the Dead by Braineater Jones

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I can think of no better way to officially kick off Horror October than a visit by Braineater Jones himself. He has been kind enough to give us some pointers on how to keep those pesky undead friends of yours happy. Listen closely, it could just save your life… maybe even your un-life.

Hey there, cats and kittens. Braineater Jones here.

That’s right, a-holes. The man himself. Ever since I set up shop here in the Welcome Mat and became, well, let’s just cut through the froo-for-all and face it, a pillar of the undead community, I’ve been getting letters.

Whiny letters. Letters from old ladies, mostly, and churchy types. So far I’ve just been letting my “partner,” Alcibé the severed head, answer ’em. Which is why you haven’t seen anything back. Ha! Stupid head. It’s gettin’ to the point now though where I just want to say, “Shut up! I got crimes to solve and dames to lay.” But, you know, you can’t put that into writing in polite company. Or did I just?

Well, anyway, I finally decided to answer one of these inkeries, ’cause it’s gettin’ to the point where I can hardly even find a place to clean out my morning maggot hole in peace, what with all the fat stacks of fan mail lying around. So here’s a totally legit one:

Dear Brainsy,

You are so handsome and intelligent and above all else, tall. (Yes, I am a real twist with getaway sticks to die for and not somebody you just made up. But that’s neither here nor there.) What kind of tips do you have for caring for the recently deseized?

All My Love (and Panties, If You Want ‘Em)

Jane Rita Bones”

Good question, Jane Rita! And, may I say, well written, too.

The most important thing about caring for our kind is to feed us right. Now, the first thing to unnastan is, there’s two kinds of walking corpses: bubs and dims. Bubs like myself are thinky and drinky. But without booze, or, even with a little booze and a lot of time, we become dims. (Some people call dims “braineaters.” Yeah, like my nickname. But that’s not the kind of word you use around ladies. What? Don’t chastise me for being a hippopotamus. I’m reclaimin’ it.)

Aaaaaaaanyway, dims only want one thing: grey matter. Little inconvenient if you happen to be a breather, but kind of funny for the rest of us. Well, except when it results in pogroms. But I digest! Let’s take a look at some of the best recipes for both kinds of deadheads.

RECIPES FOR DIMS

1. Raw Brain

 
Ingredients:
One (1) human, preferably a child
One (1) ice cream scoop
One (1) bowl
One (1) crowbar
One (1) hacksaw

Directions:
Knock the child out with the crowbar. Using the hacksaw, gently saw roughly one half-inch all around the head, being carefully to stop sawing when you pierce the bone, but before you hit the precious, precious brains. Pry the top of the skull off, using the crowbar again if necessary. With the ice cream scoop, move the brain into the bowl, being careful not to sever the spinal column. Be sure to serve warm and bloody, or dims won’t touch it. Garnish with chunks of scalp to taste.

2. Brain a la mode

(Same as above, but serve with a scoop of ice cream. Wash the scoop off first or not, depending on taste.)

RECIPES FOR BUBS

1. Old Crow, Neat

 
Ingredients:
One (1) bottle of Old Crow Kentucky Straight Bourbon
One (1) lowball glass (substitute shotglass if necessary)

Directions:
Pour bourbon into glass and serve.

Well, there you have it, folks! The best way to take care of the undead is to keep us fed and keep us happy, so hopefully these recipes have gone a long way towards helping you satisfy the overpowering and all-consuming bloodlust with which we live daily. Toodles and cheers!

ABOUT THE GUEST BLOGGER

brain

Braineater Jones is the author of his own bestselling autobiography, available for purchase here. To share a drink with him, tweet #cheerstobraineaterjones. Otherwise you can find out more at http://manuscriptsburn.blogspot.com.

Huge thanks to the man behind the zombie, Stephen Kozeniewski! I reviewed Braineater Jones here.

Blog Take-Over!

Jennifer Gilby Roberts: The Inspiration behind her latest novel After Wimbledon

Did I ever mention that I love tennis? Oh I thought so…so you'll understand how thrilled I am to hand over my blog today to Jennifer Gilby Roberts, author of Tennis Romance, After Wimbledon.

Continue reading for Giveaway details!

The Inspiration Behind After Wimbledon

JGR
Naturally, for a novel by an English writer about the Wimbledon tennis tournament, After Wimbledon was born in Australia. For the tennis fans: it is the Laura Robson of chick lit novels.

I was taking some time out after finishing my degree. Having fried my brain by studying physics, a light-hearted romance was all I was good for. I arrived in Melbourne halfway through the Australian Open and spent most of the next week hanging out in Fed Square watching the action on their big screen. That was fabulous because it was right in the middle of the city and anyone could just wander down. I even sat in the Rod Laver Arena (the equivalent of Centre Court) for one day. Since I was travelling alone, I managed to grab an odd seat right in the front row. I heard Roger Federer swear, that’s how close I was. (RFed swears!? I am shocked!)

At the same time, I was struggling with a decision. I’d been dating someone for a couple of years before I went away and had left him back home. In a twist on the classic tale, he was sure we were for keeps and I was uncertain. I was only 23 when we started dating and wasn’t expecting to get serious. Marriage was something for my thirties, if it happened at all. One morning, in a shower stall at the hostel, I broke it off over the phone. It was Australia Day, but the fireworks seemed rather out-of-place.

A few weeks later, I decided it was time to write another novel. My first, The Dr Pepper Prophecies, had been completed five years earlier. Suddenly, I had something to write about again: tennis and major life confusion. And out of those things After Wimbledon was born. The first draft contained much angst. I reckon I cut out about 30,000 words to get to the final version. I’m just counting that bit as therapy. It’s a much better read without it!

And the boyfriend I mentioned? Reader, I married him. Only happy endings here…

After Wimbledon

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After 12 years on the pro. tennis tour and four years with her sort-of boyfriend, Lucy Bennett has had enough. She wants real life… and real love.

Her life, her decision. Right? Well, no one else seems to think so. With opinions on all sides, Lucy’s head is spinning. And she’s stumbling right into the arms of long-term crush and fellow player Sam. Shame her boyfriend – his arch-rival – would sooner smash a racquet over their heads than agree to a simple change of partners.

As the Wimbledon Championships play out, Lucy fights for her life on and off the courts. The question is: what will she be left with after Wimbledon?

After Wimbledon is available on Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, other Amazon sites and Barnes & Noble

Giveaway!

You can win an e-copy of After Wimbledon, and many other great ebooks, in the Chick Lit Ebook Giveaway on Jennifer Gilby Roberts’ blog, 1-14 March 2014.

Find Jennifer Gilby Roberts on her blog, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, LibraryThing, Wattpad and Amazon.

I can’t wait to read this, look out for my review in next fortnight. Huge thanks to Jennifer!

Blog Take-Over: B.I Woolet on the inspiration behind their World of Arcas series.

I’m absolutely delighted to hand over my blog today to B.I Woolet, authors of The Hunter, The Bear and the Seventh Sister (HBSS). I fell in love with the world they built instantly and I was intrigued to find out where their inspiration came from.

But first, here’s the low-down on HBSS:

hunter
Title: The Hunter, The Bear and the Seventh Sister
Author: B.I Woolet
Details: E-Book, Paperback
Publication Date: January 28th 2014, by ArcasArts

When a beautiful and powerful stranger throws Jackson into the world of Arcas, his predictable midwestern life instantly vanishes into an all-consuming adventure.

The last kingdoms of Arcas possess enduring youth, beauty, and wealth but have slowly crumbled under the weight of endless apathy and a painful past.

The rising evil of Gurges Ater now threatens to reopen the ancient kingdom pillars created long ago as passageways between Earth and Arcas. With access to both worlds, Gurges Ater will quickly conquer the weak kingdoms and establish his own throne.

Can Jackson along with a paranoid bear, a lone hunter, and the surviving seventh sister work together to protect both Earth and Arcas?

Or will the unlikely heroes allow their own fears, pain, and past to paralyze them as Gurges Ater opens the pillars and claims the throne?

Leave your own world behind, dive through the shimmering portal, and join Jackson to discover the beauty, danger, and adventure awaiting you in the World of Arcas!
Read my review here.

Thanks Lipsyy for letting us take over your blog today! 🙂

Fantasy and Sci-Fi adventures…

have always been an enjoyable part of our life. Like many others, we grew up escaping to the worlds of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R Tolkien. We loved to “journey” to other worlds but never thought that we would actually create one. Many readers have asked us about our inspiration behind The Hunter, the Bear, and the Seventh Sister, so today we hope to give you some of the inside scoop on our journey through the fantastical world of Arcas.

The idea of writing a fantasy story did not start on the side of a glorious mountain or before a marvelous sunset descending upon the crashing ocean. The World of Arcas was born during… a baby shower. I (Benji, the “B” in B. I. Woolet) was by sitting by the fire on one cold November evening in 2011. Actually, I was hiding a bit from the whole awkward feelings about being a man at a baby shower that wasn’t for my wife or for my baby. So, I sat alone in the back room, enjoying the warmth of the fire and looking out at the snow covered ground. Perhaps I secretly wished to be transported away, so I wouldn’t feel so out of place. “What would happen if I transported to another world?” I thought, staring at the flaming logs and breathing in their smoky incense. Thus, the dawn of a new world, the breath of new characters, and the rumors of a new adventure in the World of Arcas were all conceived during a baby shower.

The backbone of The World of Arcas Series is the union of astronomical science and fantasy. When we first started writing HBSS, the links to objects in the celestial universe weren’t totally formed yet. As fate would have it though, about the same time as the genesis of HBSS, my wife and I got interested in astronomy. As beginning stargazers, we started by learning the constellations and how to star hop. Once we recognized individual stars and the various characters in the night sky, we could use our telescope to find cool deep space objects.

orionDuring the day, we were creating a fantasy world. At night, we were gazing at the stars. As we searched the dark sky one night, the powerful figure of Orion—the hunter—almost demanded to enter the story. We knew there were already stories about Orion from various cultures throughout human history, but those stories seemed so removed from our world, so distant. It was time for the stars to come to life for a new generation. After all, the constellations do not just belong to the ancient world; they belong to those of us who are breathing, and seeing, and enjoying them right now. They needed a new story for a new age.

Now, of course, we didn’t get rid of the old legends all together. We did what most people do while forming a creative work: borrowed, altered, and added. Otava (which comes from the Finnish name for the constellation) is the great bear Ursa Major. However, in American culture, many people don’t even know it’s a bear; we usually think of it merely as the big dipper (which makes up the back half of the bear). Hence, we made our bear into a culinary enthusiast! And we also added a few jokes about Otava’s “big dipper.” But there are also many new and interesting aspects of the bear that we added to make him a loveable, powerful, and quirky character!

Ok—beware! I’m about to get super geeky on you now!

Another example of mashing together science with fantasy is found in the chapter “The Ring and the Lyre.” My “go-to” constellation is Lyra when I stargaze. I first use a trick my uncle taught me to test my optics out on the “double-double” (a set of two double stars in Lyra that you can “split” with the telescope). Then, I immediately look for the famous Ring Nebula (M57). It’s an amazing nebula, and I wanted something special for it. For the musical fans out there, the idea formed out of something similar to the dream sequence in Oklahoma.

ringWe turned the stringed Lyre into a magical instrument. So when Sulafat (Gamae Lyrae – the second brightest star in Lyra) plays the lyre, a cloudy magical ring appears that is reminiscent of the Ring Nebula: Upon reaching the bank, the cloud formed a ring swarming round and round, displaying blues and greens in the center along with golds and reds on the outside. The colors were vibrant yet muted by the white haze. A beautifully haunting tune quietly radiated through the ringed cloud.

There are so many other amazing star connections to be discovered as you journey with The Hunter, the Bear, and the Seventh Sister! Don’t get me started on the epic Horsehead Nebula in Orion, our inspiration for the warhorse Alnitak. Or the gravitational modeling involved in creating a planet within a trinary star system.

But don’t worry! Even if you are not into astronomy, you can enter the World of Arcas and enjoy the ride in complete bliss without worrying about star names or constellations or nebulas. It’s a fun adventure story for the whole family to enjoy. The backbone of Arcas may be the celestial universe, but the life of Arcas radiates through its memorable characters and on-going action.

HBSS was a two-year writing project and all this science stuff is great, but it doesn’t reveal our greatest inspiration. We were fortunate enough to receive continual encouragement from close friends and family to follow our dream and finish this first book. Every day at the gym, one of my closest friends asked (consistently for two years!) how the book was coming along. Now folks…that is real inspiration. Friendship.

Meet the Authors

b.i
B. I. Woolet (Benji & Ila Woolet) is the author of The Hunter, the Bear, and the Seventh Sister, the first book from the World of Arcas series. Benji studied Music Composition leading to a Bachelor’s in Music, and Ila studied English leading to a BS in Education. When they aren’t working, writing, or chasing their three little girls around, they are active in their local community and church. The couple enjoys creating lyrical and literary arts, playing music together, and exploring nature. They are happily married and live in Indiana.

Links
Website: World of Arcas
Facebook
Twitter
Find the book on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBookstore, and Goodreads.

Image Credits:
The Ring Nebula: The Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA) http://hubblesite.org/newscenter/archive/releases/2002/28/image/d/

Orion: images adapted with the courtesy and written permission of IAU and Sky and Telescope Magazine.

Blog Take Over: Uglies by Scott Westerfeld – A review by Dianne Tanner

Di

Today I have handed over the reins to my friend Di who you should all know by now because I talk about her a lot. Click on the polaroid to visit her stunning photo-blog Icefloe and stalk her as much as I do! Di has taken this opportunity to slag off review a book I recommended to her.

13581049Tally can’t wait to turn sixteen and become pretty. Sixteen is the magic number that brings a transformation from repellent Ugly into a stunningly attractive Pretty, and catapults you into a high-tech paradise where your only job is to have a really great time. In just a few weeks, Tally will be there.

But Tally’s new friend, Shay, isn’t sure she wants to be Pretty. She’d rather risk life on the outside. When Shay runs away, Tally learns about a whole new side of the Pretty world – and it isn’t very pretty. The authorities offer Tally the worst choice she can imagine: find her friend and turn her in, or never turn Pretty at all. The choice Tally makes changes her world forever.

Quite famously, ever since I finished reading the Hunger Games, my life has been empty. Bereft of all meaning. There is a Katniss Everdeen sized HOLE in my soul. So when Lauren [That’s me, Hi!] handed me this book UGLIES with the quote “BEFORE THE HUNGER GAMES, THERE WAS… UGLIES” emblazoned on the cover, I will admit, I was interested. At this point, I’ll read anything with a quote to this effect on the cover.

If you suffer from the Katniss Soul Hole let me save you some time and tell you that this is not the book you are looking to fill it. This book, is gash.[Bit Harsh, Tanner]

Tally Youngblood lives in “Uglytown”. Here she waits until she turns 16, where she will undergo some form of plastic surgery to be transformed into a “Pretty” and move to “New Pretty Town”. It must have taken months to come up with those place names. Currently, she is “Ugly”. Sigh. Then she meets a girl called Shay (also “Ugly”) who thinks the whole thing is a bit stupid and runs away, chaos ensues.

Are we supposed to like these characters? Because there was no point in this book at all that I connected with any of them. I guess maybe its aimed at a slightly lower age bracket then The Hunger Games so the writing is a LOT simpler. A lot of it feels like it was edited quite heavily, I spent a lot of time feeling like there was supposed to be MORE to a sentence, more to beef out the people, relationships, everything you are supposed to get your teeth into. Nothing about this book gripped me. I didn’t even finish it. I stopped reading about 100 pages from the end because I went away for the weekend, and have no inclination to pick it up again.

The main protagonist, Tally, is vapid and shallow. And stupid. She just cannot wait to be pretty. I actually found the concept and “science fiction” bits of this quite interesting. I feel like it could have been so much more. When Tally runs away to the “smoke” where people live like actual people (ew, they like, live in the woods and stuff! Fuck off Tally) I started to perk up, Tally meets the people who moved away from the “pretty” world people live in (I’m even sounding vague here because the whole thing is so vague in the book I can’t even begin to explain it) to the woods, you get more of a feel for what could have been. There is some good stuff there. But the whole tenuous “love” story – I guess I missed the part where Tally fell in love with David, it was sudden, unromantic and baffling. Ridiculous. The whole thing is just ridiculous. Part of me was left wondering if this was because it was written by a man? I love a good nonsense love story (the entire point of YA in my opinion is to be a 30 year old woman on a train to work feeling trying to capture that teenage feeling again) and this book is sorely lacking that.

Did I mention how STUPID Tally is? She gets given a little tracking necklace to wear which she knows her friend will be like “dude wtf is that necklace?” and she doesn’t just take it off before she gets to the Smoke, OR doesn’t just throw it in the river where it will vanish forever. No. She puts it in the fire, where it explodes, and goes of. What an idiot. I was literally screaming at this girl by this point. [Hahaha I KNEW you would be!]

There are hoverboards though, and everyone loves a hoverboard. But did we need 2 chapters about how Tally can’t ride one yet? No. No we do not.

When trying to explain to someone the concept of this book when I was reading it, I ended up ranting about how if I was an actual teenage girl reading this I would probably kill myself. I guess maybe you have to read the rest of the series to get to the part where Tally realises that looking the way she was born doesn’t make her “ugly” but frankly all this book does is demean women and leave you feeling bad about the way you look. Every time Tally speaks all she talks about is how she cannot wait to have plastic surgery to make her look like everyone else (The thought of seeing a person who has aged naturally disgusts her, and she can’t even look at them. That’s not ok).

Am I missing something here? Was this book supposed to be some kind of social commentary on the way women are made to feel by magazines these days? [That’s what I got from it, yes]Tally constantly bemoans her “too small eyes” and “frizzy hair”. Teenage girls don’t need to read this kind of thing. Teenagers don’t need to hear that “biology” tells them that being better looking makes life better.

Does this series get better? [It really does!] Do I have to read 2 more books to get to the point where it turns out that gosh darnit *slaps thigh* Tally was wrong the whole time and has seen the error of her brainwashed thinking?

I refuse. ONE STAR.

Dianne Tanner
http://www.diannetanner.co.uk/

Uglies was published March 29th 2012 by Simon and Shuster

Want More?: My review of Specials (Uglies #3) is here.