Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Week 8 of The Next Big Thing: My Work in Progress.

First, thank you Valerie Douglas for inviting me to answer this prompt.
Valerie is one of the founding members of APG and a great Fantasy writer.
Check out some of her masterworks, but be warned, they are longer works and once you start, can't put them down.

Here are my answers to the questions:

What is the working title of your book?
Yet, it may change by the final draft.

Where did the idea come from for the book?
I always dreamed of writing the original idea behind 'Dead Men Tell No Tales'. No zombies, set in 1720s (the real Golden Age of Piracy) and with a plot based on 'Paradise Lost' by Milton.
My original 'Dead Men' was titled 'Curse of the Black Schooner' and had no undead, just madness, in it. Also, it was intended as a longer work, not a short story.

What genre does your book fall under?
Difficult to pin down. There are swashbuckling elements, horrors from the Inquisition, some fantasy topics, and much literary fiction.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
Main Character: Antonio Banderas.
Main Antagonist: Ian MacShane.
Secondary Antagonist: Michael Mando
Co-Protagonist: Penelope Cruz.
There are many more...

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
God - Lucifer - Man.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
This will be definitely submitted to some small presses.
I promised a publishing house to submit my next, unpublished work to them. Should they not accept it, I’ll submit to the next one on my list. And so on.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
Don't know yet. At the moment, it is in preproduction status. I'm doing research, creating character's background, and outfitting the ship before setting sails to the Undiscovered Country.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Can't tell. Each story is unique to me. This will start a new 'piratical' series, replacing the 'Dead Men Tell No Tales' story line. I'm sorry, but can't cope with the dreariness of that short. I'm happy people liked it, but I wanted something different.
I'm taking risks here, I know, but I'm also sure my readers will love Captain Alec more than Captain Drake.
He is like ‘Puss-in-Boots’ in human form.

Who or What inspired you to write this book?
Meeting Michael Mando, a rising star in the movie industry. His acting of a heinous character, in a movie I was glad of being part with, inspired the figure of Caliban in my story.
This guy is incredible and you will hear a lot from him soon.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
Well, there will be a lot of adventure, dashing escapes, cruelty, real-life-of-the-times injustices and charm, and some thoughts-stimulating stuff.
This will be a 'real life' Pirates of the Caribbean.

Thanks for the opportunity. I'd like to pass this to some other author at Alexandria Publishing Group, but I'm afraid they all answered this prompt already.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012


The Southern Hauntings Saga goes on.
After 'The Vagrant', that introduced us to the weird character of Crate Northgate, comes 'The Girl', even more scarier and macabre than the first installment. More is revealed of Crate's past and of his personal ghosts as he confronts a mystery in the Appalachian mountains.
Yet, is there some kind of symbolism in this tale? Does the missing girl stand for Crate's own ghosts?
And why am I asking this? Am I firing on all rockets?
We look for symbolism everywhere. We can't avoid it. As a species, we look for patterns in every thing, because our mind can't cope with pure chaos, so we strive to find logic and hidden meanings even where there are none.
Yes, sometimes, stories are just stories, with no more depth than a puddle of rain on the highway. Some stories are made to entertain.
Bryan Hall is here to explain it better.

There's a scene in the Steven Spielberg version of “War of the Worlds” where Tom Cruise's character's daughter has a splinter.  Tom wants to get it out, but the girl (played by Dakota Fanning) refuses and gives a short speech on how her body will realize it's foreign and will reject it, forcing it out over time.  I read a review – I can't remember where but it could have been Rolling Stone or EW – that said this scene and the entire movie was symbolic of the Iraq war and Spielberg's thoughts on it.  Personally, I thought it was a bit of foreshadowing towards the eventual end of the alien invasion and nothing more.  Others just thought it was Dakota Fanning's character being a kid who didn't want her dad poking a sharp object into her finger to dig out a sliver of wood.

The point to this is simply that symbolism is important, but that you should always take it with a grain of salt.  Most writers incorporate it into their stories, and in many cases it's actually done unintentionally.  Subconscious saltings of symbolism often weave their way into books without the author even knowing they're there until they go back through and look, I think.  I know they do for me.  Of course, I actually do drop in some metaphors and symbolism here and there while I'm fully aware that I'm doing it.  But I don't expect readers to pick up on them all or to even care that they're there.  And that's okay. 

I know most readers of horror are reading to be entertained.  Or frightened.  Or disturbed.  They're not reading to find a profound literary tale that is filled with allegories and broad brush strokes comparing a monster from the deep to man's constant march forward into the future.  In “The Shining”, you can view the Overlook Hotel as symbolic of Jack Torrance's alcoholism and the way that the entire Torrance family is living their lives inside that disease.  Or you can view it as a scary-ass haunted hotel.  Either way, it's still a damn good book.  

I'm writing this post because I got an email from an advance reader of “The Girl”, out now from Angelic Night Press as part of my Southern Hauntings Saga.  The reader found some symbolism in the story and wanted to know if it was intentional or not, and if they were correct in their assumption.  The simple fact is that if you see something in a story as symbolic...then it is, whether the author meant it that way or not.  Stories mean different things for different people, as much of a cliché as that may be.  If you read “The Girl” - or any book, for that matter - and are entertained and enjoy yourself, then the writer did their job.  If you find deeper meanings in some aspects of the story, even better.  Far be it from me or anyone else to tell you what a story means to you.

Bryan Hall - Author of 'The Southern Hauntings Saga' and 'Containment Room 7'

      Check it out!                      Book One                                 AKP

Sunday, August 5, 2012


I’m honored today to host one of the most talented writers I ever met, Leigh M. Lane.
She is the author of a wide variety titles, spanning from the dystopian nightmare of ‘World -Mart’ to the classic gothic ‘Finding Poe’.

I asked her to enlighten my blog with a guest post presenting her latest work of art: The Hidden Valley.
Like me, Leigh is an experimenter of the written word, always striving to test herself and learn something new in the process. It is a risky business, but she does it excellently.

One of the most ancestral elements in Horror is ‘Isolation’.
I discussed this topic in one of my earlier posts.

Yet, in the gothic tale, there was another element of fear as strong as that: Nature.
Starkly beautiful landscapes by day suddenly turn into forbidding expression of dread by night. And enchanted valleys transform into blizzard swept dales of terror.

I leave you to her enriching words.

The Darkness Behind the Hidden Valley
by Leigh M. Lane

It’s interesting sometimes to look at the various motivations behind any given book. We all draw from what we take in around us, but inspiration can come from the most unexpected of places.

I’m a California girl. I spent most of my childhood and early adult life on one end of the coast or the other, swimming in the ocean, and appreciating the bright, temperate weather. More recently, I spent ten years in the Las Vegas area, laughingly sharing about my ongoing “culture shock” throughout my stay. Moreover, the summer heat each year was brutal—but with no ocean beaches to balance it out. I told myself I was never going to miss that place. How wrong I could be.

Last summer, my husband and I moved a thousand miles north to a small town in Montana. I fell in love with the place immediately. The landscape reminded me much of northern California. Everything was green. Colorful flowers bloomed everywhere. Waterfalls caressed mountainsides and fell into elegant rivers that followed the interstate. It was, quite literally, love at first sight. And then fall came.

The clouds rolled in … and they remained overhead without reprieve. While the autumn leaves were beautiful, everything else slowly became devoid of color. The town seemed to die slowly right before my eyes, until everything was gray and dark and lifeless. It remained that way through the winter. No sunlight dared to creep through. It felt almost as if time itself had stopped. Being one used to sunlight year-round, even in Vegas—which does get quite cold in the winter—I found myself wanting to do nothing but hibernate. I thought I might die with everything else here.

Being a writer, I took my thoughts and feelings to the written word, transforming the darkness that had enveloped me here into The Hidden Valley. Readers will notice the vibrant colors and rich language I use to describe the characters’ first impressions of South Bend:

It was the seemingly countless vivid colors that struck Carrie most as they entered the valley. There was a sea of green, a fine mosaic of tall heaps of grass, towering treetops, and sprawling overgrowth speckled with tiny buds and diverse flowers in every hue imaginable….

The highway wound around a mountain pass, on which massive formations of dark, rocky terrain broke through the heavy foliage, but the contrast only added to the striking landscape that unfolded as they traveled further into the valley. A river rushed to one side, offering varying shades of blue along with the white crests that formed as it splashed against the peeking rocks. Despite the minimal cloud cover and the visible absence of rain, a well-defined double rainbow stretched overhead, its illusion unwavering as the car twisted down the two-lane highway.

As the seasons progress, however, the characters see a different side to the valley, and while my experience here translated into mere feelings, what they find is a town that is slowly dying—and literally taking them with it. I separate the novel (The Whole Story) into four sections: Spring; Summer, Fall, and Nightmare. Each season is distinctly different from the next, each darker and more horrifying than the last, until the hapless newcomers find themselves in a desperate race against time: to get out before the town consumes them completely.

About The Hidden Valley:

Deep in a hidden valley, there is a ghost town that has experienced a miraculous rebound. It is separated from the rest of the world by a mountain pass, but it's found a dark and deadly lifeline…. Carrie and her husband Grant are moving wayward teenage twins John and Jane across the country for a fresh start. South Bend seems like the perfect place for it. Maybe just a little too perfect. When they become aware of the trap that has been set for them, will it already be too late for any of them to escape?

In addition to being a ghost story, The Hidden Valley is an experiment in structure. The reader will find that nearly every chapter is, in itself, a work of flash fiction. Each main character’s story may be read individually for a surprisingly different effect. Read The Hidden Valley by character; read The Whole Story in Kindle or paperback (coming soon); or read the weekly flash fiction serial at my website, The Cerebral Writer.

About the author:

Leigh M. Lane lives in the beautiful mountains of Montana, where she writes speculative fiction that spans from sci-fi to horror. All of her works contain a gritty realism that hallmarks her unique voice, which also often has social or political undertones. Her recent releases are The Hidden Valley, Finding Poe, World-Mart, and Myths of Gods.

Leigh's influences include H.G. Wells, Kurt Vonnegut, Isaac Asimov, Clive Barker, Edgar Allan Poe, Rod Serling, and Stephen King.