Everything’s Coming Up Superheroes

Divine Five

This week is shaping up to be decidedly super. My husband and I are halfway through the Netflix adaptation of The Umbrella Academy graphic novel series (more fangirling on that later!). I have my ticket to see Captain Marvel this weekend in the fancy Dolby theater at our local AMC (the one with leather recliners that rumble, surround sound, and gorgeous projection). And yesterday, Divine Five: Dawn published, an anthology of superhero origin stories, which just so happens to feature my story “Shock to the System.”

Fun fact: I’m wearing a Wonder Woman shirt today in celebration, but I digress…

This was such a fun project! The editor/publisher, Timothy Pulo, simply provided me with a location (Marseilles, France), a name (Nikolas Travers), and a superpower (but I’m not spoiling that part for you!), and said, “Uh, go for it!” So yeah, the story was completely up to me. I had full reign to create the world, the relationships, the storyline, and the character of Nikolas. That kind of freedom is so liberating! And I had a blast writing my very first superhero story. (Although, I think it’s fitting to apologize to my protagonist, Nikolas. I put the poor kid through the ringer!)

Here’s a sneak peek of my story:

Excerpt of Shock to the System

By Tiffany Michelle Brown

Three blocks later, the métro sign appeared. Nikolas nearly sank to his knees in relief, but the thought of Marceline propelled him onward. He raced down the concrete steps, past a group of figures who wore dark-colored trench coats and argued in harsh whispers—Drug deal gone sideways, Nikolas thought—and into the underground tunnels of Marseille.

He was greeted, as always, with the stale smells of urine, mold, and grit, but the foul odors barely registered, because Nikolas had somewhere he desperately needed to be. There was a short, yet slow-moving line at the métro turnstile, and he briefly considered jumping the barrier, but knew he’d regret the decision later. He stood in line, like everyone else, then fed his métro card into the turnstile and pushed onto the platform. An overhead announcement proclaimed the next car would arrive in five minutes.

Nikolas ambled to the knife edge of the platform, ignoring the yellow safety line, and peered down the track, into the cavernous tubes of the métro line, as if he could summon the car with his mind. Of course, nothing of the sort happened. All Nikolas could see was darkness.

Nikolas sighed. Of all the nights to be late. Though perpetual tardiness was his status quo, he’d promised himself—and more importantly, he’d promised Marceline—that he would arrive at her place at a decent hour that night so they’d have ample time to celebrate.

And he’d broken that promise.

Flushed with disappointment, Nikolas reached into his pocket and retrieved his cell phone. The time was 8:02. He’d meant to arrive at Marceline’s an hour ago. And, of course, there were a slurry of text messages from his girl.

At 6:45: Still planning to be here at 7? I’m making your favorite! J

At 7:20: I’m guessing the métro is backed up or you left a little later than expected? I’ve got dinner ready for whenever you get here. Give me a call and let me know what’s up?

At 7:50: Nik, if you’re still at the office…

At 8:01: I’m not mad (well, maybe a little). But now I just want to know you’re ok. Call me?

“Idiot, idiot, idiot,” Nikolas muttered. “And for what? A medical app? An email that could’ve waited until tomorrow? You have to make this right.”

Nikolas paced the platform wildly, thinking through what he’d say once he got Marceline on the line. He concocted harebrained excuses—the office was under siege! He practiced over-the-top apologies—I’m sorry to the moon and back! He considered chucking his phone in the trash, so he could explain that he’d lost his mobile and couldn’t have contacted her.

In the end, he settled on a simple apology, coupled with an assurance that he was fine and on his way. They would talk more once he got to Marceline’s. He took a deep breath to steady his nerves, took a step away from the platform—and his ankle rolled.

Suddenly, Nikolas was pitching past the yellow safety line and toward the buzzing tracks of the métro. As he fell, he thought of Marceline—her golden, cat-like eyes, the raspy way she laughed, the way he felt safe wrapped in her arms—and sadness swept through him.

But then he stopped, mid-flight, and was pulled backward with a sharp jerk. Nikolas stumbled away from the rails, gulping in air, his body a patchwork of fine tremors. Beside him, a woman wearing a black trench coat stood calmly, as composed as a statue.

Merci, merci,” Nikolas managed between shaky breaths. “You…you saved me.”

“Yeah, I did,” the woman said. “I had to. You’re him.”

Nikolas frowned. What did she mean? “Have we met?”

“No. This is our meet-cute. Charmant, oui?

Nikolas wondered fleetingly if she was high—and then decided she must be. All the signs were there. She’d been reckless enough to save a man tumbling onto the métro tracks, risking her own life (although she’d seemed preternaturally strong). She was talking in riddles with utmost confidence. And it looked like her eyes were all black—so perhaps her pupils were dilated?

“Sure,” Nikolas said. “Listen, I’m really, really grateful. I don’t have much on me, but can I give you a little something?” He produced his wallet, but the woman caught his wrist before he could offer her anything.

“No,” she said. “You’re all I need.”

“O—kay,” Nikolas said. This exchange had become truly uncomfortable, and the woman still had a grip on his wrist. A really firm grip that Nikolas wasn’t sure he’d be able to break. “Thanks again, but I need to be go—“

“Could you tell me the time?” the woman asked, her black eyes peering into his.

Nikolas lifted his wrist—the one free of the woman’s grip—and glanced down at his watch. 8:05.

Huit heures…” he began, then felt fire in his wrist as the woman wrenched him to the side—not further into safety but toward the humming track.

She’s strong—too strong, Nikolas thought.

And then his feet left the earth and he flew. But this time he knew the mysterious stranger wouldn’t halt his fall. She’d initiated it this time, and Nikolas had no idea why.

As he tumbled, Nikolas heard the screams of passengers waiting on the platform, but they sounded warped, like he was underwater. He felt a sickening jolt as his body struck and bounced like a ragdoll. Heat seared through him, and it ran so hot, he almost felt cold. Nikolas’s back arched and his limbs stiffened as an electric current swept through him, painting his world in pain.

To find out what happens on the other side of Nikolas’s fall, pick up your copy of Divine Five: Dawn today!

 

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kINKED Gets a New Cover!

kINKED

I will always have a soft spot in my heart (and my loins) for kINKED. Published by Pen and Kink Publishing, kINKED explores the intersection of ink and kink. And it just so happens to contain my story “Begin Again,” a tale that marks the first time I had the guts to publish something really, truly sexy.

Of course, a sexy collection deserves a sexy cover. And y’all, when kINKED first published, it had a cover that’ll make you blush…which proved a little problematic on good old Amazon. The OG cover is, well…visually risqué. And it made finding the collection organically via their search engine pretty difficult.

So…kINKED has a new, slightly less steamy cover. Check it out!

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And here’s a little teaser of “Begin Again”:

“When the blue door swung open, Melissa lost her ability to speak as her gaze swept over the man she presumed to be the tattoo shop owner. Warm, amber light outlined his lithe yet strong figure, his dark, unruly hair, and the tattered jeans precariously slung about his narrow hips. He wore a gray t-shirt that clung to his chest as if he’d been standing in the rain, and where cotton ended, color began. Every inch of his muscular arms were covered in radiant koi fish, dark, twisty woodlands, long-dead rock stars, and lines and lines of block letters and script.

Melissa’s fingers tingled as an overwhelming desire to sketch him stretched through her arms. As far as drawing subjects were concerned, he was her type, someone who would be more at home on the battlefield than lounging nude in the heavens flanked by angels. Well, the nude part would be okay.

Melissa reached for the pencil she routinely kept in the back pocket of her jeans. But having forgotten where she was and what she was wearing—a black pencil skirt and a sequined top—she grasped nothing but air. Coming up empty, she clutched the arm nearest her, unsure of which friend it belonged to in the moment. She was afraid if she didn’t hold something, anything, she’d reach forward to trace her fingertips along the elegant arcs of color on this stranger’s forearms.”

If you’re looking for a steamy read, you can easily search for kINKED on Amazon…or you can use this direct link.

Happy reading!

My Bloody Valentine: An Interview with Sonora Taylor

Happy Valentine’s Day, lovers! Today, I bring you a special treat to celebrate dark and deadly love, an interview with Sonora Taylor about her newly published novel, Without Condition.

I was a first reader of Without Condition, and I devoured it! The story is incredibly unique, unrelentingly dark, at times, sexy as hell, and just an altogether fun read.

Before we dive into the interview, a little about Without Condition:

Cara Vineyard lives a quiet life in rural North Carolina. She works for an emerging brewery, drives her truck late at night, and lives with her mother on a former pumpkin farm. Her mother is proud of her and keeps a wall displaying all of Cara’s accomplishments. Cara isn’t so much proud as she is bored. She’s revitalized when she meets Jackson Price, a pharmacist in Raleigh. Every day they spend together, she falls for him a little more — which in turn makes her life more complicated. When Cara goes on her late-night drives, she often picks up men. Those men tend to die. And when Cara comes back to the farm, she brings a memento for her mother to add to her wall of accomplishments. Cara’s mother loves her no matter what. But she doesn’t know if Jackson will feel the same — and she doesn’t want to find out.

Let’s get right to it. What inspired you to write a serial killer coming-of-age love story?

Something that had nothing to do with any of those things, ha ha. I was first inspired when I read an article about Tobias Forge, the lead singer of the band Ghost. Previously, Forge performed under an alias. He said one of the reasons he decided to come forward with his identity was because his mom wouldn’t stop bragging about him to her friends and neighbors. Forge typically performs in full Satanic priest costume, or in full skeleton makeup while wearing a suit. I couldn’t stop laughing at the thought of this man’s proud mother walking around saying, “That’s my son!”

 

From there, I thought about what it’d be like if a mother was like that for a child who was actually doing bad things — nay, criminal things. I’m drawn to extremes, and thus thought about what that’d be like if the child was a killer. I went first to a son, but to change things up, I had the child be a daughter. I started thinking of how this mother-daughter dynamic could play out, but it wasn’t until I came up with the daughter meeting a man that the story really took off in my mind. It became less about the absurdity of one mother’s pride and more about testing the limits of unconditional love.

 

What is your writing process like? Was there anything particularly unique about the process of writing Without Condition (anything that surprised you, was funny, was brutal, etc.)?

 

I try to write once a day, and to carve out a little time each day. I usually do a section a day for a short story, and 1000 words a day for a novel. Sometimes it’s less, sometimes it’s more; but having a number to aim for helps give me a goal to meet, and thus makes it easier to complete the task each day.

 

Without Condition was unique in the context of working on this novel versus working on my first novel, Please Give. For the latter, it was very easy for me to sit down and write. I often surpassed my 1000 words a day goal, sometimes writing 2000 or even 3000 words in a sitting. I had lots of ideas and, while writing Please Give had plenty of challenges, sitting down to write it wasn’t one of them.

 

With Without Condition, while I wanted to sit down and write, I found it harder to sit down and do so for long stretches of time. Some scenes would flow like butter in a hot skillet, while others would spread like cold butter on bread — ie, either not at all or else with a lot of torn bread.

 

Still, I found that when I went back and read what I’d written so far in Without Condition, more often than not, I found myself reasonably satisfied with the first attempt. Not satisfied enough to leave it unchanged, of course; but with Please Give, I must’ve revised some passages several times over before I was even close to satisfied. With Without Condition, I always felt like I had something good, even when I knew I could have something better. That was a pleasant surprise I encountered with this one.

 

In my opinion, you’ve written a protagonist who, yes, is a serial killer, but the circumstances surrounding her are much more terrifying than her propensity to kill. You cover a lot of horrifying topics in this book, many that are freakishly mundane and a little too close to home. Tell us a little about the themes of Without Condition (without spoilers, of course!).

 

The biggest theme, as alluded to in the title, is the idea of unconditional love. We often tell our loved ones that we’ll always love them no matter what. But what does that mean when someone is doing something heinous or wrong? Does that still apply? I wanted to explore that, and at a deeper level than the absurdity of that level of unconditional love from an outsider’s perspective. I wanted to look at it from the perspective of a mother’s love and from romantic love, and I found it more gratifying to do so from the point of view of Cara, the subject of both of those types of love.

 

Another theme that cropped up was enabling, especially through inaction. Rather than confront notable problems that Cara displayed, she was often dismissed or ignored. I consider that just as bad as the active antagonism she faced as a child, especially from some of her teachers.

 

One final theme I enjoyed exploring was the inability to let go, be it voluntary or not. I think especially of Cara hearing the insults of her classmates over and over in her mind, and well into adulthood. Some of that is involuntary, but other times, it’s a deliberate undertaking on her part to feel anger — a way to keep herself company that, in turn, ensures she’s often alone. It’s also dangerous company, both for herself and for the people around her.

 

I feel like the setting of Without Condition is very important for both the plot and the characters. Are you drawing from environments that you know well, or did you create the setting purely to support the story?

 

Leslie is a fictional town in North Carolina (as are Pinesboro and Egret’s Bay), but I drew on actual places I lived for inspiration. I lived in North Carolina for eight years. My family lived in Chapel Hill, I went to school in Durham, and I went to college at NC State in Raleigh. While none of the places I lived were as small as Leslie, the towns I lived in were a hop, skip, and a jump from more rural areas. I spent a lot of time visiting places with lots of farmland and forests, and I based the look and feel of Leslie on the time I spent in those places.

 

One tidbit I’d love to share here, if you don’t mind: Leslie was originally a placeholder name for Cara’s hometown. I named the town after Bill Leslie, a reporter in Raleigh who also has a career as a New Age musician. The name stuck as I kept writing. So, thank you, Bill Leslie, for the inspiration!

 

Without giving too much away, I will say that there are some very sexy scenes in this book. To you, what are the most important things to consider when writing sex scenes?

 

To me, sex scenes are at their best when they’re focusing on the sensations and feelings — some feelings of deeper emotion, like if someone’s happy or nervous; but more so feelings of lust and desire. Many romance novels focus on the longing, then end the scene before any sex happens; while a lot of erotica or straight sex scenes focus mostly on the actions. I prefer sex scenes that infuse both. I also like implications as opposed to direct references to certain body parts. Not dorky euphemisms, mind you; but not clinical terms either. It’s not that I mind seeing the word “penis,” it just seems to throw off the sexiness when I’m reading or writing a good sex scene.

 

I’m also not a big fan of sex scenes that refer to a vagina as a pussy. I’d sooner say “entered her” or something like that — I think most readers will know what that means, and can fill it in themselves (heh). But I think focusing on sexual emotions first, and then how the characters act on those feelings and desires directly after, is most important; letting each move and flow in rhythm like … well …

 

I’m definitely getting some Mommy Dearest vibes from this book. Are you a fan? Are there other works that have directly inspired either Without Condition or your writing in general?

 

I am a fan! “Tina! Bring me the axe!” But funny enough, I wasn’t really thinking of Mommy Dearest when I wrote this. I can see where those vibes would come from, though. Both feature overbearing mothers, as well as mothers who scar their children with their own fears and traumas.

 

I’m inspired equally by dark humor and mundane takes on things that are dark. One of my favorite authors is Augusten Burroughs. His humor is so biting, and he talks about some horrific things in his life with both humor and … like, he knows it was awful and traumatizing, but he also presents it as just so, because it was his life (and a large part of his life). He doesn’t hammer his readers over the head with what was shocking, bad, or wrong. He just shows it through talking about it and letting the events speak for themselves. I think that’s a rare gift.

 

In fiction, I’m similarly inspired by Flannery O’Connor. The way she tells a story about murder in “A Good Man is Hard to Find” is horrifying because of how casually she tells it. It’s just something that’s happening. I like horror that’s unsettling. It stays in my bones longer than a quick jump scare.

 

If there was a movie poster created for Without Condition, what would its slogan be?

 

She’s hidden the bodies. Hiding her heart is a little bit harder. (I love cheesy taglines)

 

Okay, this is a fun one for horror writers. We write horror, in part, to terrify others, but what are you afraid of?

 

My top 5: enclosed spaces, being bound or trapped, upsetting people (especially people I care about), slipping on ice, and the Extra-Terror-estrial ride at Magic Kingdom (it’s now closed. Good riddance).

 

I love that you published Without Condition so close to Valentine’s Day and during Women in Horror Month! What are your thoughts on being a woman writing in the horror genre – and also, what are your thoughts on Valentine’s Day?

 

I’ve always been drawn to dark fiction and horror in the stories I read and write. While I read a variety of genres, the darker stories hold a soft spot in my heart. My favorites tend to be less about monsters, the supernatural, and gore; and more about the darkness of people and their minds. This is the type of horror I like to write, and also the type of stories I like to write, period; be they straight horror, slice-of-life, romance, or other genres.

 

I like being able to write horror, and I like how much the genre has opened up to women writers over the past several years, especially in the indie scene. There are still barriers, but it’s really great to see women’s contributions to the genre being recognized and appreciated. Like any genre, horror is at its best when we get a variety of voices telling the stories.

 

I actually love Valentine’s Day. Growing up, it was always a friendship and family holiday for me. My parents gave me candy and a card (they still send me a Valentine’s Day package each year), and my friends and classmates gave each other those cartoon cards. As such, I never found it overly mushy, or felt anything against it; even though I was always single on Valentine’s Day until I met my husband. I still like to get cards for my friends, and candy for myself. And yes, I did intentionally release Without Condition close to Valentine’s Day because of its dark romantic nature.

 

Who is your favorite character in Without Condition? What’s your favorite thing they say in the novel (no need for context!)?

 

I like pretty much everyone (except Amanda and Mr. Murphy), but if I had to pick a favorite, it’d probably be Jackson. My favorite thing he says — the gravity of which will make more sense in context — is, “You would?”

 

What is your favorite line in Without Condition?

 

“She couldn’t help but think of Jackson as a small boy feeding a bobcat in his backyard, trusting that this wild animal would always be his pet.”

 

What do you hope readers experience when they read this novel?

 

This is always kind of hard for me to answer, because I don’t want to guide people’s feelings when they read my work (beyond what I establish in things like the book description). That said, I hope people will consider the sources of darkness, of what horrifies them, and what’s unsettling them as they read. I consider the serial killer aspect to be the surface — it’s horrifying, but there are also more dark and terrible things below that surface, some of which we might be uncomfortably more familiar with.

 

What are you currently working on? What’s next for you?

 

Right now, I’m finishing some short stories that I’m including in my next short story collection, currently titled “Little Paranoias: Stories.” It will include my flash fiction, some longer pieces, and a little poetry. Once I send the manuscript to my editor, I’m going to take a crack at my third novel.

 

You can purchase your copy of Without Condition HERE

 

About Sonora:sonora-taylor-26771109472762677651.jpg

Sonora Taylor is the author of The Crow’s Gift and Other Tales, Please Give, and Wither and Other Stories. Her short story, “Hearts are Just ‘Likes,’” was included in Camden Park Press’ Quoth the Raven, an anthology of stories and poems that put a contemporary twist on the works of Edgar Allan Poe. Her work has also been published in The Sirens Call and Mercurial Stories. “The Crow’s Gift” will be featured on the horror podcast “Tales to Terrify” later in 2019. Her second novel, Without Condition, is now available on Amazon. She lives in Arlington, Virginia, with her husband.

Find Sonora Online:

Website: https://sonorawrites.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/sonorawrites
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/sonorataylor/
Facebook author page: https://www.facebook.com/sonorawrites/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/17015434.Sonora_Taylor
Amazon author page: https://www.amazon.com/Sonora-Taylor/e/B075BR5Q7F/
Blog: sonorawrites.com/blog

Escaping Mortality: An Interview with Sara Dobie Bauer

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Today, Sara Dobie Bauer’s sexy Escape Trilogy comes to an exciting and scintillating conclusion with Escaping Mortality! To celebrate the shipwrecked, blood-soaked, oh-so-hot love story of Andrew and Edmund, I have Sara on the blog for a little farewell interview.

But first, a little teaser for Escaping Mortality:

Their ocean journey was successful, and Andrew and Edmund found an Elder just in time. As they wished, Edmund is now a vampire like Andrew. They have eternity together, but first, they must visit Edmund’s ailing mother in the English countryside with their flock of immortals, including the Elder, who has taken an ominous liking to his new creation.

When they arrive at Edmund’s family estate, his sick mother and her loathsome best friend await them. While ducking religious curses, Edmund struggles to harness an unexpected power gifted him by the Elder. Andrew fears for his beloved as Edmund becomes more and more monstrous—but vampires have always been monsters, haven’t they?

A battle is coming, for Edmund’s heart and his soul, and Andrew will lose neither. He escaped island exile and a near tragedy at sea to be with Edmund, the beautiful young sailor he loves. Andrew will do anything to keep Edmund by his side, but his most dangerous adversary may be Edmund himself.

And without further ado, here’s Sara!

Name five things (single words!) we can expect in Escaping Mortality.

London.
Fights.
Smut.
Immortality.
2011.

What has been the best part about writing and/or publishing the Escape series?

Watching people fall in love with Andrew and Edmund. It’s a toss up who has a bigger fan following (possibly Edmund), but it was so fun hearing the chorus of swoons as the series continued. Some fans have really bemoaned the big ending, saying goodbye to the boys one last time, but you never know where they might turn up. (And, for the record, I’m definitely Team Edmund.)

We get to know the Elder a lot more in Escaping Mortality. What was your inspiration for this character? Tell us a bit about him (without giving too much away, of course).

Imagine you had lived for centuries—watched the world change without changing much yourself. Imagine you had unlimited power but couldn’t show it off. Imagine being alone in darkness for a very, very long time … until, suddenly, a light appears in the form of a handsome, dying British sailor. That’s what it feels like to be the Elder, Brien. He is melancholy but adoring of Edmund. He is quiet and brooding, cunning yet protective and perhaps a bit needy. There’s great depth to Brien, but I better not say anymore. Spoilers.

In Escaping Mortality, Edmund’s character gets a little, ahem, dark – which is in stark contrast to the easygoing, sometimes silly, wildly adventurous personality we’ve grown to love in Escaping Exile and Escaping Solitude. What inspired you to share this side of Edmund, and how was it to write it?

Despite his levity, Edmund acknowledges his own dark side from the get-go. He’s pretty honest with Andrew in book one, admitting to his own madness and destructive tendencies. His somewhat villainous nature has been alluded to, so it shouldn’t be a total shocker when Edmund goes off the rails in book three. It was easy to write, because I saw it coming as soon as he washed up on Andrew’s island.

We all have a duality. We’re all different people on different days and in different circumstances. No matter how silly or easygoing we may seem, we’re all hiding a tiny monster. Edmund’s monster is just … ahem, hungrier. My favorite Hozer lyric: “Don’t you ever tame your demons, but always keep them on a leash.” Edmund drops the leash in book three.

Two vampires (Andrew and Edmund, of course!) walk into a bar. What are their drinks of choice?

Ha!! Well, Edmund is a sailor (practically a pirate really), so he would go with straight rum. Andrew, although not much of a drinker in the books, is a man’s man. To me, he’d be an aged scotch drinker. I’m talking that peaty shit that’s been aged for twenty years. No ice.

I’m a big believer in personal theme songs, tunes that epitomize where folks are in their lives at particular moments in time. What is Edmund’s theme song? What is Andrew’s?

Edmund’s song is “Waterbound” by The Fretless. He’s been waterbound (even drowning perhaps) his entire life. Plus, there’s something quite mad about a good fiddle.

And speaking of Hozier again, Andrew’s theme song is “Better Love.” It’s such a freaking EPIC song, and the lyrics are perfect. For Andrew, there is no better love than what he feels for Edmund.

What is the best review you’ve received regarding Escaping Mortality thus far? (You can excerpt, of course.)

Really love this quote from author Elizabeth Lister: “Exploring fascinating settings like a tropical, cannibal-infested island, the bustling port city of turn-of-the-century New Orleans, and Victorian London, Sara Dobie Bauer propels her vampires through escapades and adventures while weaving a tale of love, dark magic, sensuality, and violence.” The reviews have been pretty dang good, honestly, and everyone goes freaking ga-ga for the Escaping Mortality epilogue. No spoilers!!!

Now that this series has come to a close, what’s up next for you? Tell us about upcoming works or projects you’re currently working on. 

I have a Victorian romance novella called A Lord to Love coming out in March from Carnation Press. For Escape Trilogy fans, the whole trilogy will be released as a big, beautiful paperback in May. Then, in October, my very witchy Charleston romance, Destiny’s Dark Light, will be released by Pen and Kink Publishing.

In the meantime, I’ve been writing a MASSIVE Timothee Chalamet/Armie Hammer vampire crossover fan fiction on A03. I’m in the process of selling a literary fiction novel, and rewrites are soon to begin on my YA LGBTQ paranormal romantic comedy. I’m also recording the audiobook version of my first novel Bite Somebody.

Keep up with me on my website: http://SaraDobieBauer.com. You can sign up for my newsletter there or stalk me on social media!

About Sara: sdb (1)

Sara Dobie Bauer is a bestselling author, model, and mental health / LGBTQ advocate with a creative writing degree from Ohio University. Twice nominated for the Pushcart Prize, she lives with her hottie husband and two precious pups in Northeast Ohio, although she’d really like to live in a Tim Burton film. She is author of the Bite Somebody series and Escape Trilogy, among other sexy things.

Pick up your copy of Escaping Mortality today!!!

Four Stories to Kick Off Your New Year!

Apparently, I should go on vacation more often—because while I was traveling and visiting family for the Christmas and New Year holidays, four of my short stories were published!

Normally, I’d spotlight each publication individually, but since they all happened in such a tight time frame, I figured I’d tell you about all of them at once.

You can read two of these publications for free (hooray!)—and the other two are part of benefit anthologies with all the proceeds going to two very deserving charities.

First up, my romantic short “Anything But Plain” is included in the Giftmas 2018 Advent Anthology, published by Rhonda Parrish and benefiting the Edmonton Food Bank. Read all about the fundraiser and the advent theme HERE. And yes, while we already surpassed our fundraising goal for December 2018 – and you can read all the stories for free on Rhonda’s blog –  all proceeds from the sale of the anthology itself will continue to go to the food bank. (And bonus, you’ll have them all in one place, so they’re extra easy to read.) So, if you dig the idea of reading a super diverse anthology with stories across genres (for a good cause!), check it out in either ebook or paperback format!

Secondly, my sad but sweet, punk-tinged meditation on teenage grief, “Unspoken Words,” was published in Christmas Lites VIII. This anthology, compiled by Amy Huntley, benefits the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. The collection is family friendly (PG13 at most!) and features some stories by kiddos, too! Right now, the anthology is only available in ebook format, but I believe a print version is forthcoming.

Next, my drabble “All That Glitters” graced the Christmas edition of Trembling with Fear, which you can read for free online. Not for the faint of heart, Trembling with Fear keeps the merry scary going with stories of maniacal elves, age-old hauntings, revenge, and, in my micro-story, a grave decision.

Lastly, you can read my image-inspired flash fiction piece, “Le Cauchemar Vivant,” on Nina D’Arcangelo’s blog as part of the Ladies of Horror Flash Project. Can I scare you in less than 1,000 words? Check out my story to find out!

And with that, I’m off and writing into the New Year! On the docket so far for 2019 – a superhero origin story, a trilogy of M/M vampire romance novellas, some Black Mirror-inspired shorts, and much, much more.

Wishing you all a happy new year!

Quoth the Raven Author Victoria Weisfeld on Crime Writing, Dark Fiction, and the Timeless Works of Edgar Allan Poe

Victoria

To celebrate the release of Quoth the Raven, edited by Lyn Worthen and published by Camden Park Press, I’m getting cozy with my fellow anthology contributors to learn more about their stories and what inspires their dark little writers’ hearts.

For my final interview, I’m chatting with Victoria Weisfeld, author of “Tooth and Nail” in Quoth the Raven.

Quoth the Raven celebrates the eerie and influential legacy of Edgar Allan Poe. What is it about Edgar Allan Poe’s work that speaks to you (perhaps from the grave)?

As a crime writer, I appreciate how he built up characters who could get under your skin. Growing up reading Poe and Dickens, those long loopy sentences still carry me right into the story, though that writing style is definitely out-of-date today. It’s fun going back to it.

Pick three adjectives to describe the story you wrote for Quoth the Raven.

Obsession, compulsion, and (this is a long one) seeing the world through a cracked lens.

Imagine you’re in an old-timey elevator, a rickety one that boasts a well-worn, rusty cage. There’s a man in all black in the elevator with you, and he asks what your story is about. What do you tell him?

“Well, Mr. Poe, it’s about a woman who sees her twin brother as the other half of herself and will stop at nothing to keep him close.”

Okay, I’m continuing with this scenario thing. It’s 1849, and you’re at a gathering of literature lovers, a salon, if you will. Across the room, you spy Edgar Allan Poe, and you simply must go over to him to compliment his work. What is the story or poem of his that you laud to excess? And why?

After gushing shamelessly, and extolling “The Gold Bug” for igniting my interest in cryptography, and “The Purloined Letter” as an example of a police procedural, I’d settle on “The Narrative of A. Gordon Pym,” one of Poe’s longer works, as one of the best adventure stories of all time, especially for an 1849 reader as yet unacquainted with the National Geographic and television nature programs.

As a writer, what do you think are the most important elements of dark fiction?

Atmosphere comes to mind first and characters whose darkness (or by contrast, whose innocence) reveals the danger of their environment. Naturally, dark fiction employs sinister plots, but a plot that just piles on gore without establishing a sense of menace or without developing characters the reader cares about falls short. (A flaw in some modern crime fiction, as well.)

As a reader, why are you attracted to dark fiction? Why do you think we like to read about the things that terrify us?

This is not an original insight, but sometimes reading about—exposing oneself to—supremely terrifying things makes it easier to deal with the fearful events encountered in everyday life. Some experts suggest this accounts for the popularity among women of a certain kind of thriller. Reading about sexual violence helps readers contemplate not just the terror of such an event, but also its survivability. Maybe.

What’s a story or poem – by any author – that has truly creeped you out (in the best way possible, of course)? What was it about that particular story that just got to you?

The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris. It was the first psychological thriller I’d ever read, so I wasn’t prepared for how far he’d go. Julia Heaberlin’s Paper Ghosts is a 2018 example. A young woman, Grace, embarks on a road trip with a demented elderly man she thinks may have killed her sister a dozen years earlier. The cat-and-mouse game between them, as she tries to figure out how lucid is he, really, is nerve-wracking!

Who are some of your literary inspirations?

I am a Dickens fan, and my last trip to England was to be part of the celebrations of the 200th anniversary of his birth (favorite book: Our Mutual Friend). But since I’m a crime/mystery writer I have many sources of inspiration. I’d love to achieve the comic voice—even occasionally—of Joe Ide; the humanity of James Anderson; the literary power of Hannah Tinti, the suspense-creation of Gin Phillips. And many more!

What are you working on now?

Two novels are complete and appearing on publisher’s desks. One set in Rome, involving Eugenia Clarke, whom I’ve published several short stories about. Genie is a travel writer whose curiosity inevitably lands her in difficulty—deadly difficulty in this case. The other novel is about a New York architect whose mistress is murdered. On the surface, it’s about figuring out why she died and who killed her (and why they are plotting against him), but fundamentally it’s about a man trying to regain his self respect.

Where can we find more of your work or connect with you online?

I have an active website—vweisfeld.com—with a page on “My Writing.” You can link directly to many of my short stories there, including the Derringer award-winning “Breadcrumbs.” The website includes book, movie, and theater reviews; covers topics writers fret about; and offers some travel tips, possible fodder for Genie’s next adventures.

About Victoria:

My short stories have appeared in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine; Betty Fedora, Big Muddy, and the recent anthologies Busted: Arresting Stories from the Beat, Murder Among Friends, and Bouchercon 2017’s Passport to Murder, as well as Quoth the Raven. I’m a reviewer for U.K. website crimefictionlover.com and Broadway-based theater review site TheFrontRowCenter.com.

Quoth the Raven coverAbout Quoth the Raven:

The works of Poe were dark and often disturbing. From dismembered corpses, rivals bricked behind cellar walls, murders in back alleys, laments for lost loves, obsessions that drive men – and women! – to madness, his stories have had a profound impact on both the horror and mystery genres to this day.

In Quoth the Raven, we invite you to answer the call of the raven and revisit Poe’s work, re-imagined for the twenty-first century. Here, the lover of mystery and goth horror will find familiar themes in contemporary settings, variations on Poe’s tales, and faithful recreations of the author’s signature style.

Purchase your copy of the anthology HERE.

Read “I’ve Got a Soul to Catch” in Thuggish Itch: Devilish

TI - DEVILISH

I’ve always been fascinated by magic, especially that of the close-up variety. I love watching the seemingly impossible manifest (or disappear!) right before my eyes. I’m definitely the type of girl that would be straight-up charmed by a magician walking up to me and asking if I’d like to see a trick.

But what if that particular magician had devilish intentions?

My latest horror short, “I’ve Got a Soul to Catch,” published in Thuggish Itch: Devilish by Gypsum Sound Tales, features magic tricks, the New York subway, and an unnamed man in black with dark ambition and a pack of playing cards.

Here’s a little taste…

“He slid onto the bench next to his unwitting victim, a girl in her mid-twenties who was listening to music through a pair of purple earbuds, bobbing her head in a consistent rhythm. They were seated near the back of the car in the furthermost corner and, for all intents and purposes, they were quite alone. The closest individual was the snoring man, and he certainly wouldn’t be a problem. The other subway passengers—well, the man in black would ensure they kept to themselves.

He took a deck of playing cards out of his breast pocket and began shuffling and fanning them flamboyantly. The man kept it simple at first, sending the cards flying from one palm to another with perfect accuracy and timing.

The cards slapped. The subway lurched. The man smiled. And the third time he executed the trick, he caught the attention of the girl seated next to him.

The man gave her a devilish grin and flicked the cards into the air. If any human had attempted this stunt, the cards would have spun out of control and fallen to the dirty floor of the subway car. But since the man in black was decidedly inhuman, the cards traveled in a graceful arc a full two feet above their heads, then drifted down to settle in the man’s awaiting palm.

The girl plucked the buds from her ears, her eyes widening. “That was incredible!” She laughed, and a gust of her breath fanned over the man’s face. It smelled of cotton candy, and it took all of the man in black’s restraint to keep from swallowing her whole right there in the back of the J train.

Of course, that wouldn’t do.”

To read the rest, pick up your copy of Devilish HERE!

About Thuggish Itch: Devilish 

Devils, demons and the idea of Hell have always featured prominently in the horror stories that I found myself reading as a teenager or the films I still delve into on a rainy day. I’ve always found it quite amazing how differently the leading man, Satan, is portrayed depending on the creativity and beliefs of the creator. Sometimes he’ll sport a large pair of curved horns and a pointed tail, his skin red, his body smooth and muscular. Other times, he’ll have the head of a goat and a large pair of wings that sprout from between his shoulders like those of a mighty condor. Thuggish Itch’s Devilish collection features, in no particular order, thirteen of our favourite tales, each of which provides a different take on the mythology, the red man himself and all of his minions.