Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Posted by Harry Markov
Hello, and welcome to the special New Year Six-Shooter interview with author Justin Gustainis. Tuesday, December 30th, marked the official release date of "Evil Ways", the second novel in the Quincey Morris Paranormal Investigation series [Promo Post Here]. One day later we have Justin to answer some basic questions to poeple, who have yet to be introduced to the series. Now before we start, here is the blurb for Justin's first novel "Black Magic Woman":
"Occult investigator Quincey Morris and his partner, white witch Libby Chastain, are called in to help free a desperate family from a deadly curse that appears to date back to the Salem Witch Trials. To release the family from danger they must find the root of the curse, a black witch with a terrible grudge that holds the family in her power. The pursuit takes them to the mysterious underworlds of Boston, San Francisco, New Orleans, and New York, stalking a prey that is determined to stay hidden. After surviving a series of terrifying attempts on their lives, the two find themselves drawn inexorably towards Salem itself—the very heart of darkness."Harry: Justin, here is the first question to set the tone and get a reader in the loop. How was “Black Magic Woman” received? What was the general vibe from readers and had you had any contact with your readers in terms of what they wish to see incorporated as themes in further installments? Justin: Well, Harry, I should note that writing a novel isn’t really a cooperative venture. I don’t mean that I don’t get information, and even ideas, from others while I’m writing, but the readers, bless them, don’t determine the contents of the books. True, if I saw the same concern cropping up over and over, whether in fan mail or reviews, then I’d have to pay attention, but nothing like that has arisen, so far. I suppose you could say that the readers vote with their wallets. And the true test of that will be sales of “Evil Ways.” I assume those who liked “Black Magic Woman” will pick this one up, as well. I sure hope they do, and I hope they tell their friends. And I hope they have a LOT of friends. Still, if as many people buy “Evil Ways” as purchased “Black Magic Woman,” I’ll be a pretty happy little writer. H: Now judging from the blurb in the promo post and the excerpt “Evil Ways” will team up Libby and Quincey again on a new case together, but this time their mission seems a bit heavier. Both have their guns out and ready to shoot. Can you hint how Evil Ways extends and evolves the formula? J: Walter Grobius, the crazed zillionaire who was largely behind the scenes in “Black Magic Woman,” occupies center stage this time. Just because his plans for a “super ritual” of black magic were frustrated by Quncey and Libby (and others) in the first book, doesn’t mean he has given up. He’s a persistent old bastard. Quincey and Libby are drawn into the case from different places, not realizing the connection at first. Quincey is blackmailed by the FBI into investigating another series of ritualistic child murders – but this time it’s on a grander scale than in “Black Magic Woman.” In the meantime, Libby is nearly killed by a team of professional assassins, and yet she has no idea who could have sent them, or why. Quincey and Libby agree to help each other out, and they eventually realize that they’ve been holding opposite ends of the same rope. Then it gets REALLY interesting. H: I remember from a previous interview that they will have to save the world. That tension must bring out both the rest and the worst in people. What are the readers to expect from the characters? What character traits did you find yourself exploring in the character this time around? J: Quincey and Libby have some conflicts this time out. Quincey hires a professional bodyguard whom Libby strongly disapproves of, and Libby is unable to pull off some impromptu magic when she and Quincey need it badly. Of course, you also get to see how much affection the two of them have for each other, which makes the conflicts resolvable. There are also conflicts between FBI agent Fenton and his partner, a lady with some unusual abilities of her own. H: Quincey has been seen talking to agent Fenton, an old face from “BMW”. Will we see any familiar faces like agent Van Dreenan? And on an opposite note who will be the new faces included in “EW” and will they remain permanent figures in the series? What are your plans? J: Van Dreenan puts in a brief appearance – a cameo, really. And I’ve already told you that Grobius is back. New characters include Pardee, an evil, powerful wizard in Grobius’s employ, and I’ve already mentioned Fenton’s new partner – an FBI agent named Colleen O’Donnell who, like Libby, is also a “white” witch. And Fenton doesn’t know. Then there’s Hannah Widmark, occult bounty hunter – although, when it comes to “Wanted: Dead, Alive, or Undead,” Hannah much prefers “dead.” For a fee, this deadly lady will hunt down any supernatural creature you designate. She charges a lot, but, truth be told, she’d probably do it for free. Hannah’s got issues. As for who will be back for the third book, that’s just a sneaky way of asking me who lives and who dies in this one, isn’t it, Harry? Shame on you. Let’s just say that not everyone will die whom you might expect, and not every character you think will survive is still standing when it’s over. There are casualties – on both sides. H: I see that “EW” will involve quite the travelling. Iraq is one of the countries the action will take place. Is this the only stop on road and what geographical surprises are we to expect? J: Actually, Iraq is the only really exotic location in the book – unless you count Cleveland, Ohio, which some people from Akron probably consider exotic. The climactic scene in the book is set in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. It’s not exactly a thriving metropolis, but that’s where Grobius has a huge estate, out in the middle of nowhere. It is there that the battle lines are ultimately drawn. And in this battle, there will be no quarter given -- by either side. H: Last, seeing how Libby and Morris will be together again the question pops by itself due to the genre of the series. Will there be a romantic relationship? Somehow urban fantasy always leads there… J: Yes, but as you’ve pointed out elsewhere, I don’t write typical urban fantasy -- do I?
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Posted by Harry Markov
Title: "The Perfume: Story of a Murderer" Author: Patrick Suskind Pages: 272 Publisher: Vintage Originally published 1985 “The Perfume” has been slipping through the decades with one mission only and namely leaving you speechless. Or at least this is how it happened with me once I read the novel. Extravagant, visual and surrealistic the story spins out of reality’s control, demolishes the rules with a bulldozer and show like a grand theatre hall how the least likely things happen. During my German class years I had the misfortune to sample firsthand literary works written by German speaking and have been bored out of my wits. The reason behind this is because Germans never really incorporate emotions in what they write and go along the lines of a philosophical essay. Intelligence in a novel is something I value, but it can’t support any story on its own. Needless to say “The Perfume” came as a pleasant surprise and a dark fairy tale taken from the Brothers Grimm, left to mature and evolve and then served with an actual historical background. Süskind has woven a creepy tale, which dissects the human heart, spirit and essence so boldly, into our own time line in such a way that you begin to wonder what part is fiction and what is not and whether or not this is based on a true story. The protagonist’s name is Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, whose life is almost identical to most of the children in France during the 18th century. Left for adoption, then cast off into child labor and an unsure future. But what separates him from all the rest is his superhuman sense of smell. This is the first step into a new world for the reader as Süskind give smells a whole new dimension to play with. Jean-Baptiste can identify any solid, liquid or gaseous substance in all of its nuances. He can memorize them, mix them any way he wants and then use them as a map to guide himself without using his sight. Naturally this talent saves him from a low paying job as a leather worker and launches him straight in to the perfume business under the wing of perfumer Giuseppe Baldini, who is only interested in profit. Either way Jean-Baptiste soaks in all the knowledge and techniques from Baldini before leaving for Grasse. There he plans to learn new ways to isolate smells from inanimate objects, but after spending seven years into a cave to rejoice the absence of human smells his quest changes. Suddenly he realizes that his own body doesn’t emit any odor of its own. Now he sets off to create the finest human body odor there can exist and from then on the story progresses into a bizarre tale of murder and planning to create the ultimate perfume. A flask, which is filled with the scent of the 25 most beautifully smelling teenage girls. The nutshell version is the first hook in experiencing “The Perfume” and it doesn’t stop here. But be warned that this is a book for the people, who aren’t satisfied with the normal and would like something more daring, more surreal and sometimes if necessary vulgar. Süskind offers all. Every human relationship is being translated through the world of smells. The motherly connection with a baby, the way society recognizes and treats you, love and the concept of right or wrong are all a game of smells. Mix the right ingredients and you possess the power to make women fall faint from admiration, outwit and deceive the harshest law enforcer that you are as innocent as a lamb and if the circumstances require, turn invisible. This statement is proven in the novel with heavy scenes of a group festive orgy and an act of cannibalism that transcends the concept of love and twists it to portray the ugly extremes sowed in the human instinct. In the ultimate end with the right perfume you can test the morale of the human spirit, as proven there is none or at least it’s rather flexible; you can overcome limitations in communication and you can change identity with a simple spray. In the case of Jean-Baptiste, the freedom to forge any identity is what leaves him with none whatsoever, instantly detaching from the human world. He is an outsider, who is only allowed to observe. Of course another fun part is to perceive the world through the eyes of Jean-Baptiste, who is the epitome of all sociopathic anti-heroes to be created. His character is forced through another extreme, where it thrives and you wonder how in their inner world a human being can in reality never be part of the race. There are no attachments to the people in his life or around him. What ties him to the world is the abundance of smells, smells, which no one else can sense. Thus it leaves Jean-Baptiste a one of the kind character in a state of loneliness, some might relate to, but the majority will find too new and with different dimensions to connect. As a conclusion I want to add that “The Perfume” has done quite a lot to impress various artists, siring several songs, two of which are “Scentless Apprentice” by Nirvana and “Du Riechst So Gut” by Rammstein. A 2006 movie also appeared starring Dustin Hoffman, which earned a total 135$ Million in Europe. The story did quite well I think. A real rarity.
Sunday, December 28, 2008
I don't know if the rest of you deal with this, but I tell you, I get a lot of strange looks from people these days. I started blogging about 2 1/2 years ago and I learned real fast that a lot of people don't really understand the whole blogging thing-- never mind what topic you choose to blog about. To a person who doesn't blog, blogging is weird. But if you, like me, choose to blog about sci-fi and fantasy, you really are strange-- at least if you're married to a stockbroker.
I've brought this up with people online before and what people seem to say is that the reception you get when you talk about blogging has a lot to do with the crowd you associate with. The problem I seem to have is that I am surrounded by people who view the world in a black-and-white kind of way and I'm a shades-of-gray kind of girl. Because it's the holiday season we get a lot of invitations to parties all during the months of November, December and January. I've gone to office parties, preschool parties and soirees at homes belonging to anyone who is slightly prone to partying this time of year. I'm partied out.
Today we had an invitation to a late-Christmas celebration for a friend who lives in Japan and generally doesn't make it into town until after the actual holiday and I just didn't feel like going. I suppose I could blame it on party burn-out, that's a legitimate reason. But truthfully, I just don't have the energy to deal with any more strange looks or patronizing attitudes.
You see, to the professional women I am forced to socialize with, being a blogger who likes to watch and read sci-fi and fantasy is inexplicable. I've had women literally look their noses down at me and say, that's the only genre I don't read... If I get one more quizzical brow with a vague that's nice.. I'm going to scream. And it's not just the world of high finance that doesn't seem to "get" me. I have the same issue with suburban moms.
Let me just say this though. I love the moms I have met who live in my area. The moms at my son's preschool are the nicest people you'd ever want to meet-- so that's not an issue. But none of them blog. Not one. And it was became really clear to me when I went out on my "mom's night out" that I really don't have anything in common with anyone I know. As I was sitting there listening to the other moms talk about shopping, clothes, jewelry and other assorted "girly" things I realized I cannot relate to these people at all. I literally could care less about the things that make up these women's lives and they couldn't be less interested in anything I do. That sucks.
But what's really got me down today is that my husband doesn't "get" the things I do either. I am so jealous of couples who actually have similar interests. My husband is a great guy but he isn't really the creative type. He doesn't share my taste in books and he'd rather watch "The Godfather" than "The Dark Knight." And he doesn't understand blogging at all. I tried to get him into it, or at least to read what I post, but I couldn't scare up any interest. He likes that I get free books for review-- one less thing he has to pay for-- but no real excitement beyond that. So he went to the Christmas party alone today. He really couldn't get out of it and I wouldn't expect him to try since it's for an old friend. But I'm a little sad that I couldn't feel more at ease around the people he socializes with. I wish just one person wouldn't give me strange looks when I tell them I like sci-fi and fantasy. Goodness knows how they'd react if I said I dressed up like a Borg and spoke Klingon. Okay, I don't. But what if I did? Would that be so bad?
Friday, December 26, 2008
Thursday, December 25, 2008
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Monday, December 22, 2008
Posted by Harry Markov
Tonight we have the pleasure to bathe in the moonlight presence of Jocelynn Drake, a new priestess of vampire fiction. I was excited to take the opportunity to dissect the secrets of yet another author. As it turned out Jocelynn was willing to thrust the scalpel in my hand and guide me along the path of all her confessions. There is pretty much nothing she doesn't discuss with flare and great detail and this is exactly how we like our authors... chatty, not dissected. So let's give a warm welcome to Jocelynn, without whom I wouldn't have been able to interrogate yet another person. Harry: I thank you whole heartedly for taking a seat in my virtual chair this evening and will be answering some of my questions. Shall we cut to chase and begin immediately? As we all know “Nightwalker” has been released several months ago. First how does it feel to be the newest in the new generation of UF writers and does the experience amount to your expectations? Jocelynn: How does it feel? Thrilling, exciting, overwhelming and more than a little intimidating. To be included in such a fun genre is both thrilling and exciting – like being invited to an exclusive party. Yet, at the same time, I’m following in the footsteps of some amazing writers, forcing me to live up to some extremely high standards if I want to please my readers. So far, the experience has surpassed my expectations. Nightwalker received a very warm welcome from both readers and reviewers. I hope that I am able to maintain this kind of excitement through the rest of the books in the series. H: So let’s dig a bit in your writing career and start at the very beginning. What motivated you to pursue writing as a career and what was your first encounter with the art form? Also how did your family and friends receive the news of your decision that you wrote and planed to make money off it? J: I started writing when I was about 12 years old. I spent one summer rewriting the story of Robin Hood so that it now included a strong female lead to match Robin Hood. That officially got me hooked. From there, I have been constantly writing, jumping from one genre to the next, following whatever caught my attention at that moment. In college, I reluctantly changed my major from engineering to English when my parents had a talk with me about pursuing what would make me most happy in life. To me, engineering insured that I had a solid financial future, while writing did not. However, after a single miserable semester of calculus, I decided it was time to pursue my dream of writing. I was terrified that I would spend the rest of my life as a starving artist since I was already aware of exactly how hard it was to get published. But the novelist part of my life came several years after college. For the past 8 years, I have been a stock market analyst and financial writer, which has allowed me to write every day about the craziness of the stock market. If I can’t spent my day with my vampires, I have no problem spending it with Wall Street, as long as I get to write. H: Was “Nightwalker” your first manuscript and if not can you describe what you have been writing before that? Did you take any courses or classes in creative writing during your days before getting published? J: In college, I graduated with a degree in English with a minor in journalism, with a focus on creative writing. I’ve also attended the University of Iowa summer creative writing program (which I highly recommend). I’ve also toyed with the idea of going back to school to get my MFA in creative writing. Even after getting published, there still more things that I could stand to learn. Nightwalker is not my first full manuscript, but it is the first one I ever tried to get published. Prior to publication, I wrote whatever occurred to me. In high school, it was silly romantic tales of high school love. By my senior year, I had moved on to traditional fantasy, which I am hoping to return to some day. By college, I was onto poetry and short stories in the Raymond Carver vein along with some more contemporary literature. The vampires didn’t really start to show up until about 5-6 years ago, and they appeared in all forms – short stories, poetry, and finally novels. Happily, I think the vampires are here to stay for a while. H: As we trod into the matters at hand, can you share why did you choose vampires as the leading species in the Dark Days series? What was the quality for you that set them apart from all the rest for you? Hopefully that won’t involve Anne Rice or sexy aura. J: Ha! I read Anne Rice. I read Laurell K. Hamilton, and Kim Harrison, along with Charlaine Harris, Christine Feehan, and dozens others. Naturally, I also read Bram Stoker’s Dracula. I liked the darker vampires the most, those where their humanity was just a veneer. For me, the fun part of the vampire is taking something that was once human with human memories, but giving them super-human powers and the instincts of a deadly predator. You end up with a creature in constant turmoil as it struggles to reconcile the two sides. Is it still human? Is it more animal? Is it something else above what is human? It’s something that Mira struggles with, particularly when she is around others of her own kind. H: Your Mira is quite the contradiction. How did it occur to you to add her fire powers and does it stand as a symbol for you hidden from the reader? Also doesn’t there exist the threat she can get herself burned by the fire she manipulates? For some reason, Mira was always the Fire Starter in my mind. It was how she was born in my brain. I’m not exactly sure of the “how” beyond that. I know the “why,” though. It is linked to her lineage, which will come up in more detail in later books. Can she get burned? Not while she’s conscious. Unconscious? I’m honestly not sure. H: To what degree did research get involved in constructing you vampire society, its ties between one another and the hierarchy and what was fiction? Due to the Triad I think it was hinted that vampires have some sort of other magical skills, perhaps even their own vault of spells based on their peculiar nature. Can we expect some spell casting power from vampires? J: I didn’t do any specific research for my vampire society. I just tried to imagine how they would act according to the destruction of their human morals, and the general need for control within the chaos. You will meet more of the vampire hierarchy and its working in Dayhunter. The Coven, which rules the nightwalker world, is a dark, manipulative group. My vampires will never be major spell casters. There will be the occasional spell and some are very specific to their race. Others are just powers they gain with age. Jabari, my oldest nightwalker, can disappear and reappear over vast distances. Sadira can use telekinesis and fly. H: Speaking of making up things your new races naturi and bori are the hot topic among reviewers. What are your plans for them and will we be able to witness more of their power, magical and their history? How did you decide to involve these races, are there any guidelines you are following or reinventing the whole archetype and how did their names come to be? J: The naturi and the bori will remain major plot topics for quite some time within the series, even though there are a few other things that I would like to tackle. We will be able to see more of their history and their abilities with each book that is released, but I’m reluctant to give away all my secrets here. Dayhunter will give you a closer look at Rowe and his abilities along with his past with Mira. Meanwhile, Book 3 will give a closer look at the naturi hierarchy. I created them because I needed a powerful villain for the nightwalkers and I didn’t want their natural enemy to be the shapeshifters, so I essentially had to come up with my own race. Furthermore, I believe in keeping things in balance. The naturi were created first, but they needed a polar opposite to keep them in balance, so I also created the bori. The naturi name was created because I needed a creature linked to nature. The bori name was taken from some old mythology out of Africa. H: Danaus is one of a kind man and has captivated me with his unusual scent as Mira has described it, his mysterious part, origins and power. Quite frankly I have been using boiling blood in a project of mine, so I am very interested to know what intentions lurked in your head to give him such an ability and whether there are other like him as type of being? J: And I thought I was the first to use boiling blood! Just teasing. I needed a creature that could stand up to Mira and put a little fear in her. Why not a creature just as deadly from a distance as her? I can say with complete confidence that there are no other creatures like Danaus. I promise you find out about his unique heritage in Dayhunter. H: As you know great minds think alike, so boiling blood shouldn't be an issue. *grin* “Nightwalker” left the two mortal enemies, Mira and Danaus, closer as allies. I can feel the budding seed of something more than an alliance. Could you confirm any actual romance in the following novels or is it just going to become a strong friendship? J: Ha! You do want all my secrets! I am building the book so that it can actually go in either direction. The characters have a lot of respect for each other’s sense of honor and sense of duty, which I think is important for any kind of relationship. However, there are still some pretty massive barriers standing between them. IF they do end up more than friends, it is undoubtedly going to be a rocky road for them. H: From your blog stats I see that you are working intensely on new titles in the Dark Days series. How far do you think the series will reach, how many books is your contract for and how many do you think you can keep writing for the coolness of the world? Do you have any other ideas for series? J: I recently was offered a second contract for another 3 books by HarperCollins, so the series is looking at least 6 books, but I would like to go much farther than that. It’s hard to say how many books, but it will be a while before I tire of Mira and Danaus. I do have an idea for a shorter series that would run parallel to the Dark Days series. It would involve the same world, but completely different characters – though there would be the possibility for Dark Days character to make cameo appearances. However, it may be a few years before I can get about to working on that series. I have a few other books in other genres that I would like to finish first. H: Your day job involves close work with the stock market. With the recent crisis over at Wall Street how are things developing to handling the crisis and do you have any involvement in saving the financial world as we know it? I can already hear the puns “Financial Woman is here to raise your economic benefit”. J: LOL. No, I’m not currently in a position to save the financial market, but at least I can also say that I am not the cause of our problems either. I am just an observer of the market. I write my observations for a website and I am pleased to say that that is the extent of the damage I can cause. H: Now around the Black Wednesday that the publishing industry is suffering, how much in danger are new authors such as yourself? It is true that you had a really strong debut, a debut that turned in an instant bestseller at position 117 from 150 spots is quite an achievement, but do you have to fear anything regarding your books. J: I am pleased to report that I appeared on both the New York Times and USA Today Bestseller list, and stayed there for 4 weeks, positively stunning my publisher. I think that helped to win me a second contract. But even with that second contract in hand, there is always that fear that you will be next on the chopping block. I think most writers have that fear right now as book sales slow. It just forces you to make sure that your next book is better than the last. It demands that you are more aggressive in your self-promotion. For me, the greatest fear is being forgotten between books. Luckily, 2009 will be a busy year with the release of Dayhunter, the anthology short story, and then Book 3 in the fall. In the end, you just keep plugging along, being the best writer that you can be. H: So let’s cut with the more serious questions. How does one writing day pass for Jocelynn Drake with maintain both a professional and personal life? J: Typically, I’m in the office before 7:30 in the morning, reviewing the market news and beginning to prep my stories for the day. I work straight through until about 5. I’m home again by around 6:30 in the evening. I try to give myself about an hour to eat dinner and relax a bit. Then for the next few hours, it’s catching up on email, blogging, and a little light writing until bed. My heaviest writing days tend to be on the weekend, where I work all day with little to distract me. H: Who would you like to have Mira or any other character from your book fight in a death match, if you could choose from all popularized characters from all mediums, meaning games, comic books and etcetera? J: Wow! That’s a good question and a hard one. For fear of showing my geekiness, I would love to see Mira in an all out death match with Sephiroth from SquareEnix’s Final Fantasy 7 video game. He probably one of the best villains – and best conflicted villains—ever created. He also has some mad skills. I would love to give Mira the opportunity to just get into a fight and totally get dirty and violent, which is what Sephiroth would offer. H: Oh, I did watch AdventChildren so I know that one. He would be an interesting one to fight and be killed by Mira. Can you tip young writers all around the world with some writing advice that has been accumulated through your own experience? Reading and writing and then some are all very fine and dandy, but there is a lot more to the craft to expect in the advice department. J: For me, the devil is in the details. And I mean that mostly when it comes to characters. Know your characters inside and out. Their motivations, their hopes, their fears, their dreams, and their naughty, naughty thoughts. You have to know things that will probably never hit the written page. That kind of depth makes your characters so real and so alive to the reader. Give them faults that you know all too well. Make them fallible and broken. It’s something every reader will be able to understand.