Friday, 18 April 2014

Guest Author Interview - Chantal Noordeloos

Chantal Noordeloos, author of the short story collection 'Deeply Twisted' joins me for today's guest author interview, discover more below:

Please introduce yourself, who are you and what do you do?
Hi my name is Chantal Noordeloos, and when I grow up I want to be a mermaid… wait… uhm, that’s not right.. I grew up and I became the next best thing: I started writing. Most people ask me what genre I write and I tend to get a little evasive about that, because *sigh followed by a dramatic pause*… I may as well admit it now, I’m a genre floozy. I write anything from fantasy to sci-fi to horror, and I tend to be a little slipstream (mixing up the genres as I go along.) My latest love is Steampunk, which I like to mix up with the weird west and a bit of science fiction. I think my go to genre is Horror. I don’t know what it says about me that I find it easiest to write scary things. 

Once upon a time I had a very interesting life (most of this was before I became published) and I had a ton of wacky hobbies. Nowadays I mostly draw, once a year I still organize LARP events and on Friday nights we role play with friends.

What first inspired you to start writing?
That’s a difficult question to answer. Technically I’ve been writing since I knew how to make words, and I’ve been creating stories for as long as I remember. But I never saw myself as a writer, or even realized I had writing ambition until I turned fifteen. I had a wonderful English teacher who said: “This year we’re going to do a lot of creative writing.” I think I actually sighed and rolled my eyes. A week later I knew I wanted to do this for the rest of my life.

And what attracted you to writing dark fiction?
Not a clue. I wanted to be a children’s book writer… I have no idea why I write so much horror. Like I said, it comes easy to me. Maybe behind my fluffy demeanor lays a black heart… though I doubt it, I think I’m rainbows and kittens most of the time. I think what helps me in writing dark fiction is that I’m scared of everything. And it helps thinking of scary things when you’re easily frightened.

If you could spend a day with anyone from history who would it be and why?
Since I’m not particularly politically inclined, I would have to go with Dorothy Parker. That lady’s writing got me through some very dark teenage angst moments, and I would love to hang out with someone as eloquent, sarcastic and witty as her.

What makes your stories stand out from other books?
This is an evil question. I don’t think I’m particularly into comparing my stories to other books. All I can say is that I have my own voice, and I like to think that I’m as original as I can be. Everything has been written before, it’s true, but I write things in ‘my way’ and give them my own twist. I like to surprise my readers and take them on a journey with me through the worlds I create. One of the things I hear a lot from my readers is that my work feels ‘real’, and that I write things as if they actually happened. I have to say that I didn’t hate hearing that.

Every writer values a good review, what has been your favourite so far?
You ask me to choose between my babies? *gasp*… how horrid! I don’t have a favourite, but I guess that the most recent one I got, really blew my socks off:

What was the last book you enjoyed?
Hmmm, I’m a rather critical reader. And though I think a lot of books are ‘okay’, there are only a few that really rock my world. The last book I read was Good Omens (I loved that, but I doubt it counts because I’ve read it at least 5 times before) The last new book I enjoyed had to be Ocean’s at the end of the Lane, by Neil Gaiman.

What are you working on at the moment?
This question made me smirk a bit, because I tend to work on a lot of different things at the same time. So bear with me, okay? I suspect I might be a little ADD. Right now I’m working on a high fantasy novel called Alleria, on a paranormal (angels and demons) novel called Celestials (it’ll be the first book from a series of 3) and the first installment (novelette size) of my ‘Even Hell Has Standards’ series (horror) called Pride (there will be seven short books, each representing one of the sins). I’m also working on part two of Coyote, called “The Clockwork Dragonfly”. And I’m working on several short stories.

Tell us about your latest release and how we can find out more.
My latest release was my horror collection ‘Deeply Twisted.’ It can be found in all the usual ‘book hang outs’ online, like, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords etc. If you want a bit more personal information you can connect with me on my facebook page:
Or find me at the where there is more information about the Coyote series as well. These series are a bit different, because not only is there a book, the written part is accompanied by a second screen website that, and gives little extras like background music and short stories to add to the content.

Click here to purchase Deeply Twisted from Amazon

Book Impressions - American Gods by Neil Gaiman

I was recently asked what my favourite Neil Gaiman book was an I immediately picked American Gods (although Good Omens is hot on its tail), I then realised that I hadn't read it for a few years so I decided to give it another read. I'm pleased I did as it was actually better than I remembered. I know that this book has been criticised as a piece of writing, primarily because it does feel quite indulgent. Personally it's part of the charm for me, it fits the journey that is the core of the story.

And what a story it is. It has a marvelous scope and an interesting take on the meaning of being a god. Great as the story as, it was the characters and their interactions that stood out more than the plot. The vision of the blend of normal and paranormal provides some fun insights.

The Kindle version has some extra text that was removed from the original release, to be honest I don't remember the text well enough to comment on whether it adds or detracts. It didn't feel over long, in fact I would have happily continued reading more about what happened. This was a great read and even better the second time round.

Days before his release from prison, Shadow's wife, Laura, dies in a mysterious car crash. Numbly, he makes his way back home. On the plane, he encounters the enigmatic Mr Wednesday, who claims to be a refugee from a distant war, a former god and the king of America.

Together they embark on a profoundly strange journey across the heart of the USA, whilst all around them a storm of preternatural and epic proportions threatens to break.

Scary, gripping and deeply unsettling, AMERICAN GODS takes a long, hard look into the soul of America. You'll be surprised by what and who it finds there...

This is the author's preferred text, never before published in the UK, and is about 12,000 words longer than the previous UK edition.

Click here to purchase American Gods from Amazon

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Wednesday Blog - Jim Webster

Welcome to the start of a new feature here on The Cult of Me, a lot of the features on my blog are centred around giving something back to the various communities that I interact with. One of those is the blogging community who do a great job in providing a rich diversity of content not just related to books, but other topics as well. So every Wednesday I shall be featuring a blog and I hope you'll find them interesting and check them out for yourself. We start with Jim Webster's blog, find out more in his own words below:

What’s your blog about Jim?

That’s an interesting question. There have been times when I’ve sat down to write it and not really had a lot of idea what I was going to say until I said it. There have been other times when I’ve known what I was going to say, rehearsed it, honed it and finally poured out deathless prose onto the screen before posting it.
To be honest, either way seems to work.

But it strikes me I’ve answered your question without answering the question. I’ve always had a tendency to shoot my mouth off, normally in print. I have done a fair few opinion pieces as a freelance writer in various publications over the years.

Then when I started writing books as well, people said “But you’ll have to have a blog.” I started writing stuff saying how wonderful my books are, but frankly, it bored me writing it, so I’m pretty sure it was going to bore other people reading it. So I gave up on that and just write about what has attracted my attention in the previous week. Sometimes I manage to link it to a book I’ve written; sometimes it’s about something that has happened to me because I’ve written a book. Mostly it’s about what has happened to me that week that has had enough impact on me for me to want to write about it.

So if you fancy checking out some of my blogs, where do you start?

Depends on your interests; I did one on the equine community entitled “Four Lesbians in a fast car.”  which, as the old luvies say; “Was well received.”

Then there’s an acerbic commentary on a walk through my home town in “The dock was the colour of green milk.”

Or in “Who wants sexy checkout girls anyway?” I even manage to get in a mention to my books.

And finally, something very different; a lady I know who is perhaps a generation younger than me was travelling as a tourist to Vietnam. She asked me to write a blog about ‘Nam’ to help her get a sense of perspective, and I tried to put together something to give her a sense of the lost world that I remembered from the news broadcasts of my youth

And if you read just one? Then probably the last, because men and women grow old and forget, and every so often it does us good to remember for a change.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Tuesday Tease - Set in Stone by Newton

In this week's Tuesday Tease we feature an excerpt from Newton's gothic tale of magic, mystery and shattered romance 'Set in Stone':
Click on image to purchase from Amazon

“This is where the living end and the dead begin.”
Those were the words his father spoke as they stood at the gates of the Odessa Cemetery on the day Michael was officially inducted into the family business.  Although only thirteen, he was tall and strong for his age.  These were common traits among the O’Donahue family.  His father towered over most men and Michael was destined to become his spitting image.  His destiny, in fact, as his father was now explaining, was to follow in the footsteps of all the O’Donahue men as the caretaker of what his father affectionately called ‘The Yard’.

“Every town has a Yard,” his father said.  “And in every town there’s a family what takes care of the Yard.  And that’s us here in Odessa.”

Absentmindedly, Michael kicked a loose rock from the soil.

“Pay attention to what I’m telling you, boy,” his father snapped.  “This is important.  This is the family business.  Your great granddad helped build this cemetery; helped build this whole town.  He came all the way from Ireland to Kansas here, and that’s a long, long way.  So we’re part of Odessa, you see.  Part of this town’s history.  But you got to understand that, even though we’re a part of Odessa, we have to stay a bit removed from the rest of the town folk.”

With the word ‘removed’, Michael’s father motioned towards the cemetery gates.

“You see, boy,” he continued. “You get too friendly with them and pretty soon you’re burying your friends, or your friend’s wives; or their children.  And that’s hard on a man; too hard.  That’s why we keep a distance.  That’s why your mother come up from Newport.  That’s the way it gets arranged.  So she don’t have no kinfolk here.  And when it’s your time, we’ll find you a bride from somewhere other than here. Any of this making any sense to you, boy?”

“Yes sir,” Michael answered.

“Alright, let’s get going then.”

With his father’s shovel and pick slung over his shoulder, Michael followed along through the rows of gravestones and past the mausoleums to the oldest part of the cemetery.  Here many of the markers had cracked and crumbled and those still left leaned precariously with the weight of time.  This was where the founding families of Odessa were interred.  This was where they would bury Old Man Frederick Heidelmann, the patriarch of the most prominent family in town, who had passed away two days ago.

“Start right over here,” Michael’s father ordered.  “Use the pick first.  The ground here is stony; gotta break it up a bit.”

Michael’s hands shook as he clanged the pick into the rocky soil.  After an hour, he had sweat through his shirt, despite the morning chill.  His hands blistered and broke open.  Later they would become calloused and rough, just like his fathers.

“It’s good that Old Man Heidelmann is your first,” his father was saying.  “Frederick was one of Odessa’s most noteworthy citizens.  He paid to have that new school house built, paid for it all by his self.  He loved to go around telling people all about it too; loved to remind people that he was rich.  But even the richest and most noteworthy of Odessa must, sooner or later, pass through our gates and be tendered here in our Yard.  Just remember that, Michael.”

“Yes, sir,” Michael panted as he flung dirt over his shoulder.

“Here, come catch your breath,” his father said, motioning for him to come up and sit next to him.
Thankfully, Michael dropped the pick and sat down on the ground next to his father.

“The Yard is our responsibility, Michael.  Yours and mine just like it was your grandfather’s and his father before him.  We take good care of it and the town appreciates us for it.  The O’Donahue name is a well-respected name in Odessa.  And so it shall remain.  Understand me?”

“Yes sir.”

“Good.  You’ll learn all you need to know about caring for the Yard: How to set the stones, when to cut down a tree, where to replant a new one.  Lots to learn, lots to know.”

“Father,” Michael said looking into the woods that bordered the Yard.  “Are there really ghosts in the Yard?  Jacob Miller says there are ghosts.”

“Well, it is a graveyard, Michael,” his father smiled.  “So, yes, you may see a ghost or two on occasion.  Or you may never see one your whole life.  But if you do, just remember that it’s probably just the ghost of one of the good people of Odessa who all respect us because of the wonderful job we do with the Yard.  Anyway, there’s much more to worry about other than ghosts.”

“Other than ghosts?” Michael asked, “Like what?”

“Like wolves.  And wild dogs and them damn gophers.  In the winter, when the snows get bad, there isn’t enough food to go around for all the beasts of the Earth.  So they’ll come sniffing around the Yard.  And then they’ll get to digging.  Can’t have that.  That’s why I mind the Yard so close in the winter.  One time there was even a bear digging around in here.”

“A bear?  What did you do?”

“Well, I went and got Reverend Murphy and we both brought our rifles down here, but by the time we got back the bear had gone.”

“You weren’t scared of the bear?” Michael’s questioning continued.

“Sure, it scared me.  That’s why I went and got my rifle.  So I can tell you this; that bear scared me more than any silly old ghost ever did.”

“What’s the scariest thing you ever seen in the Yard,” Michael asked.

His father paused.

“I wish you hadn’t asked me that,” he sighed.  “But if I’m to be teaching you everything about the Yard, about caring for the Yard, I figure I ought to tell you.”

Pulling a silver flask from his coat pocket, Michael’s father took a long painful gulp, cleared his throat and then began.

“The most scared I ever been was back in 1879.  It was long before you were born, before I had met your mother even.  That year there was a terrible flood; worst in the history of Odessa.  It rained for three straight days and three straight nights.  We were waist deep in water by that third day.  For a while, we thought the whole town might up and float away.  But, the storm finally broke and the rain stopped and the town folk took to cleaning up the town and your grandfather and I took to cleaning up the Yard.  Hell of mess that flood made.  The whole Yard was nothing but mud; trees down all over the place.  We had a dozen or so caskets washed up out of the ground.  Out here, in the old part of the Yard, was the worst of it.  There were bones all scattered about.  And a stench so bad, I lost my breakfast.  So anyways, your granddad and I were about to head back to fetch Father Murphy so he could re-consecrate the grounds when we saw something sitting right over there next to the Vanderwal crypt.”

Michael’s father paused for another pull from the flask.  His hands were shaking.

“It had two heads,” he continued.  “They looked like... like baby’s heads.  Except they was mean looking; like angry.  Its body was all a mess of arms.  No legs; just eight or nine little arms.  It was... feeding on some of the remains that had been dug up by the flood.”

Michael stared wide-eyed at the Vanderwal crypt as his father related the rest of the story.

“I don’t know what it was.  Just some God awful thing that the rain had washed out of hiding, I guess.  But it was in our Yard and we couldn’t have that,” the flask tipped once more.  “So we beat it with our shovels.  Your granddad and I beat that ugly little thing to death with our shovels and it screamed the whole time.  Screamed bloody murder it did.  Then we burned it along with all the tree limbs that were down and we never told any of the town folk about it.  And neither will you.”

“Why didn’t you tell anyone?”

“Town folk don’t need to know about things like that.  They don’t want to know about things like that, Michael.  They want to know that the Yard is quiet and safe and that it’s a holy place and a peaceful place to bury their loved ones in.  Not a place of ghosts and monsters.  And it’s our job to make it that way and to keep it that way.  It’s the family business.  You understand me, boy?”

“Yes sir.”

“Good.  Always mind the Yard, Michael.  Always mind the Yard.  It’s the family business.  Now let’s finish this up here and get on back to the house.”

Click here to purchase Set in Stone from Amazon

About the Author:

From plumbing the depths of the Deep End to sifting through the scattered fragments of The Other Side, Newton has dedicated himself to crafting stories stitched together from the ruined spaces and forgotten places that most people tend to avoid.

Monday, 14 April 2014

Guest Author Interview - Jonathan Geffner

Jonathan Geffner, author of the intriguing 'Dummy Noir' mystery 'While the Village Sleeps' joins me for today's guest author interview, find out more below:

Click on image to purchase from Amazon

Please introduce yourself, who are you and what do you do?
I have been a (mostly full-time) professional ventriloquist for the past twenty eight years. I'm also a pianist, screenwriter, martial artist, Yiddish teacher/translater and single dad to two teenage daughters whose myriad talents dwarf mine. 

What first inspired you to start writing?
I've always written all of my material for my ventriloquist act. I've had to write material for all ages and kinds of audiences and venues, so it has amounted to a vast amount of writing. About fifteen years ago, my passions for both film noir and ventriloquism led me to the idea of wedding the two in the form of a noir-ish ventriloquist/detective who solves crimes with the help of his wooden partner. Over the ensuing decade or so I wrote a few feature film screenplays featuring the ventriloquist/dummy detective duo of Van Trillo & Sam Suede.

While the Village Sleeps started life as a screenplay, why did you turn it into a novel?
I tried for a dozen years to find funding to produce my several Trillo & Suede screenplays as independent films. Several times the funding seemed to be nearly in my grasp, only to see it disappear each time into the Indie Film Makers' Twilight Zone. So I decided to turn one of my screenplays into a novel. I chose the most recently written screenplay, While the Village Sleeps, which I felt lent itself most easily to adaptation as a novel. It has a good measure of Agatha Christie influence - being set mainly in an old, creepy inn deep in the English countryside - blended with noir sensibilities. It is the first of what I intend to be a series of Trillo & Suede novels.
Dummy noir has to be one of the more original genres I've come across, what led you in this direction?
As a ventriloquist I developed a reputation primarily as a kids and family entertainer. Although I enjoy performing for those types of audiences, after many years of doing so I yearned to explore a very different avenue for my ventriloquial talents. Something dark, intense, gripping, well as funny...and aimed at an adult audience. 

If you could spend a day with anyone from history, who would it be and why?
Harpo Marx. Ever since I discovered The Marx Brothers when I was a teenager, Harpo in particular has been my hero. Ironically, his character was mute whereas I talk for my entire cast of characters. But Harpo's whimsical, playful, endearing nature was and remains a great inspiration to me as a comedic role model. Moreover, from all that I've read about Harpo Marx, in addition to being a comedic genius he was also an extraordinary human being. He was universally loved and admired and had a wonderful, optimistic attitude toward life. I wish I could say that I am similar. I do share some of his whimsy and playful comedic spirit, but I have a decidedly cynical and pessimistic bent to my nature. I only wish that I were more like Harpo.

What was the last book you read? Was it any good?
Nine Dragons by Michael Connelly. I've read several of Connelly's novels and I enjoyed all of them, but Nine Dragons was a bit disappointing. The plot was a bit too far-fetched for my taste. And having lived in Hong Kong from 2008-2010 I felt that his descriptions of Hong Kong characters and street scenes were not convincing. Still, I plan to read more of his novels, because he is an excellent writer and a couple of his other novels that I read were great, especially Lincoln Lawyer.

What is the best writing tip you have learnt?
Be concise. I think that is the most important lesson that I've had to learn and of which I still have to continually remind myself. I received valuable feedback from a British director/producer, Ian Lewis of Farnham Films, on each of the screenplays that I wrote. One of the notes that he kept repeating was to be brutally tough with myself in editing my own work. Most writers by nature hate to cut anything they've written, which is why most of us need an editor when all is said and done to make our work better. But it is important to go through our own first draft (and subsequent ones) and constantly ask ourselves, "Is that word truly necessary? Or that phrase/sentence/paragraph/chapter?" If the answer is no then delete it, no matter the pain. 

What are you working on at the moment?
I've been too busy with performing ventriloquist shows - and raising two daughters - to write another novel yet. But I plan to make time for it soon. 

Tell us about your latest work and how we can find out more.
The next novel that I plan to write is set in Shanghai, China. It will be based on another one of my Trillo & Suede screenplays, and I'm excited about how the exciting, romantic, foreboding locale will serve as a backdrop for the novel version of the narrative.

While the Village Sleeps is available here

You can keep up to date about all my ventures - ventriloquial and otherwise - at...

There you will also find video clips from my various ventriloquist performances, including this brief Intro Video to the Trillo & Suede characters...

My Books on Goodreads