Interview: Michelle Renee Lane, Author of INVISIBLE CHAINS

Michelle Renee LaneMichelle Renee Lane started writing stories at the age of twelve and won a short story contest in elementary school. She really started exploring different kinds of writing in her mid-teens—poetry, fan fiction, short stories, and even a bit of erotica, “which,” she says, “I’m sure I would be embarrassed to read at this point.”

Lane now writes under the speculative umbrella, so her stories usually mix genres—horror, fantasy, often with a romantic/erotic element as well. “But,” she admits, “most of my stories don’t end with a happily-ever-after, unless you really dig monsters.” We do.

Michelle, what have you published so far, and where?

My first publication was actually in an academic journal. I presented a paper comparing the AIDS epidemic to vampirism for a colloquium at Shippensburg University many moons ago.

But my first short story, “The Hag Stone,” appeared in the anthology Dark Holidays (Dark Skull Publications). Earlier this year, my short story, “Crossroads,” appeared in Terror Politico: A Screaming World in Chaos (Scary Dairy Press). And my debut novel, Invisible Chains is available July 22 from Haverhill Housing Publishing LLC. I have a few other short stories coming out later this year, and next year as well.

Tell us about your new novel, Invisible Chains. What’s the most important thing you’re trying to say with this book? How does it express your experience as a human being that is uniquely you?Invisible Chains by Michelle Renee Lane

What am I trying to say with this book? That’s a great question. And honestly, for long time I didn’t know what I was writing about. I didn’t have any lofty goals or an agenda in mind. I wanted to write a vampire novel set in antebellum New Orleans told in the voices of several characters.

However, Invisible Chains evolved into a first-person narrative told by Jacqueline, a young Creole slave. In her quest for freedom, she encounters real monsters while dealing with the everyday horrors of slavery.

Jacqueline’s voice became the strongest voice in the story and I soon realized it was her story to tell. As I wrote her story, I realized she was experiencing many things that women of color are still experiencing today: racism, sexism, and violence against women. While history tells us that much has changed since Jacqueline’s time, there are several things happening in the novel that connect with the current state of our society that I hope will resonate with readers.

I also tried to create a vampire who was truly a monster. Despite his good looks and charm, I didn’t want to maintain the current trend of casting vampires as romantic leads. Personally, I love a good vampire romance. The bloodier, the better. But I often wonder how dangerous it is to keep creating male characters that normalize stalking and the threat of violence (sexual or otherwise) against female characters. While I enjoy reading about sexy vampires “wooing” their potential mates, I’m also aware that vampires are undead creatures who prey on the living. And, if you want your happily ever after with a vampire, your love interest must literally murder you.

What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?

My tuition to attend Seton Hill University’s MFA in Writing Popular Fiction Program. Not only did the program reignite my love of writing fiction, but the experiences and connections I made with mentors and fellow students gave me the confidence to really think of myself as a writer. I gained knowledge of the industry, an invaluable education in genre fiction, and friendships that have led to important introductions to the people who have decided to take me seriously as a writer and publish my work. SHU changed my life.

What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?

Growing up in rural Pennsylvania in the 1970s and 80s as a racially mixed kid meant that I heard racist epithets and jokes on a regular basis. I didn’t enjoy hearing this disgusting use of language, but it was common and, unless someone was targeting me, I tried to ignore it. Which seems odd now that I think back to how I coped with racism as a kid. People said a lot of hurtful things around me when they thought I wasn’t listening. Sometimes, I felt invisible. And other times, people said things directly to me that were more painful than any injury I’d experienced.

When I was fourteen, I was dating a boy I had known since first grade. We weren’t a couple in public. He cared about me, but it was a secret. I didn’t think much about that until I called his house one evening and his dad said, “Mark, your nigger is on the phone.” I remember the physical effect those words had on me. It felt like someone had kicked me in the stomach. I couldn’t swallow. My skin felt hot and feverish. I was stunned into silence. When the boy I cared about grabbed the phone from his dad, he told me that he would be right over and hung up the phone. About an hour later, he showed up at my house with visible signs that he had had a fight with his dad. He apologized to me, and my tears made him want to cry. Seven words changed both of our lives that day. And even though our young romance didn’t last, we both learned that regardless of whom you choose to love, love is worth fighting for.

What do you owe the real people upon whom you base your characters?

Ha! I’m almost afraid to answer this question. Carlos Velasquez is based on a real person. When I was fifteen and very impressionable, I had a pen pal that was ten years older than me and more obsessed with vampires than I was at the time. He dressed like Barnabas Collins, fantasized about becoming a vampire, wrote extremely inappropriate love letters to me with erotic fiction that featured our vampire alter egos, and he even sent me a vial of his blood. I met him in person three times. The second time, he tried to convince me to spend the weekend with him in New York when I was sixteen. Can you say sexual predator?

Perhaps unwisely, I maintained contact with him until I was about twenty-five. So, it was a long and strange friendship. He never hurt me though or tried to do anything inappropriate beyond the fantasies he shared with me in his letters. As you can imagine, he made a lasting impression.

What does literary success look like to you? Do you think you’ve attained it?

I suppose success is something my favorite writers have achieved—publishing multiple books and stories, establishing a writing career that pays the bills, gaining a following of readers who look forward to their next book. Writers I admire who immediately come to mind as successful are Toni Morrison, Jim Butcher, Charlaine Harris, Joe R. Lansdale, Anne Rice, Octavia Butler, and Joe Hill. With these folks who inspire me in mind, no I haven’t attained it, but I’m going to keep writing in the hopes that I do.

Have you read anything that really made you think differently about fiction?

Jewelle Gomez’s The Gilda Stories (1991) had a major impact on how I thought about my own writing and the kinds of stories I could tell as a woman of color. I wanted to write about vampires, but as far as I knew, women of color weren’t writing about them.

I had read a lot of vampire fiction, seen a lot of vampire movies and TV shows, but there weren’t many black characters in these stories. Aside from the Blaxploitation film Blacula (1972) and Akasha and Enkil, the original vampires in Anne Rice’s The Queen of the Damned (1988), I wasn’t seeing a lot of black vampires. To be honest, I didn’t really think of Akasha and Enkil as black even though they were Egyptian, because their skin had turned to the color and texture of marble. Gomez is not only a woman of color, but she wrote a vampire novel about a black bisexual female vampire that challenged many aspects of the traditional vampire myth. Gomez’s book gave me the green light to write the kinds of stories I wanted to write. So, a few months ago when Jewelle Gomez agreed to read Invisible Chains and had some very positive things to say about the book, I was beside myself with joy. I think I actually squealed when I read her feedback.

What was your hardest scene to write?

There were a lot of scenes that were hard to write, because they deal with some very difficult subjects. But, oddly enough, one of the hardest scenes to write is when Jacqueline takes back her power and stands up to the vampire. I don’t want to give too much away, because I hate spoilers. While I was writing that scene, I felt like I was Jacqueline summoning the strength she needed to protect herself and establish herself as a formidable and powerful woman. I had to dig deep and exorcise some of my own demons to write that scene. It took me three months to finish it, and I had a lot of encouragement from my mentor, Lucy A. Snyder, and my critique partners, Patricia Lillie and Amber Bliss. They gave me the support I needed to make that scene happen.

Does your family support your career as a writer?

Very much so. I am extremely fortunate to have such a supportive family who believes in me and encourages me to keep following my dreams.

How often do you write?

Not as often I should. I’ve been struggling to make writing a top priority for quite some time, but I know that must change if I’m going to take myself seriously enough to keep cranking out fiction. I work full-time and I’m a single parent, so there are plenty of days when I don’t write a single word. But I’ve come to realize that writing is one of the few things that makes me happy and, unless I’m doing it every day, I’m not happy.

What, according to you, is the hardest thing about writing?

At the moment, finding the time and motivation to write every day. I get hung up on all the other things happening in my life and I neglect the thing that matters most to me.

What would you say is the easiest aspect of writing?

Finding story ideas. My brain is constantly coming up with plotlines and snippets of dialog for characters I’m writing about or who want to be written about. I live in a fantasy world inside my head much of the time, so coming up with stories is easy. Making the time to write them, not so much.

Do you read much and, if so, who are your favorite authors?

I mentioned some of the writers I admire earlier, like Charlaine Harris, Toni Morrison, and Jim Butcher. I try to read often, but lately I’ve been listening to audiobooks because I can do other things while I listen. In the past three years, I’ve listened to every novel in the Night Huntress series by Jeaniene Frost, and her Night Price series.

I dove into the Mercedes Thompson series by Patricia Briggs. I enjoyed listening to Joe Hill’s Heart Shaped Box, Horns, The Fireman, NOS4A2 and Stephen King’s Doctor Sleep, so I’m well-acquainted with Inscapes.

Some of my guiltier pleasures include the 50 Shades series, which is great to listen to on long drives because the books are very entertaining and can make you feel much better about yourself as a writer. I have some biographies lined up to read later this summer to research some new characters while plotting the sequel to Invisible Chains.

You can connect with Michelle Renee Lane at Girl Meets Monster blog: https://michellerlane.com/.

Her Amazon author page is https://www.amazon.com/Michelle-Renee-Lane/e/B07Q7XSJR5

Demain Publishing Releases Short Sharp Shocks! Series

Writer and editor Dean M. Drinkel recently opened a horror press called Demain Publishing. On March 1 they launched the Short Sharp Shocks! Series with the first six ebooks on Amazon. Six more will be published by the end of March with another twelve coming in April. Drinkel’s been busy!

The first six books out now are:

Short Sharp Shocks! Series 1-6

Amazon is doing a deal on Books 1–5 at https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07NZXH9B3/.

Books 6–11 will be released March 29 and are available for pre-sales on Amazon:

Short Sharp Shocks! Series

All covers are by Adrian Baldwin.

You can learn more about Demain, submission calls, interviews with all the authors, and up-to-date news at https://demainpublishingblog.weebly.com/.


Interview: Brian J. Smith

Brian J. SmithI recently interviewed Brian J. Smith, who lives in southeastern Ohio with four dogs that he treat like his children. Brian has been writing since he was thirteen because, he says, “I didn’t have many friends because I was the quiet ‘Stephen King geek.'”

Brian loves horror fiction because he grew up watching slasher movies like Jason and Freddy, but his favorites were always the “bugs-gone-bad” flicks such as Kingdom of the Spiders, Island Claws, and Slugs.

He admits, “I fed myself on a smorgasbord of Tales From the Darkside, Twilight Zone (black-and-white and the mid-90’s), Tales From the Crypt, and Stephen King movies.”

Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
I want to be original. I’ve always tried to think outside of the box when it comes to my writing. I’ve written a few unfinished novels about zombies and other terrifying things but not vampires and werewolves like writers who came before me.

If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
Keep going no matter what anyone tells you. It’ll take you a long time but you’ve got to keep going. Stay strong and be patient.

How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?
When I published my first Kindle book, Dark Avenues (more about this later), I realized that the process takes a lot of time and patience to perfect. Short-hand first, then pounding it out on my computer, and then the long process of reading it out loud while editing.

What’s your favorite novel that you think is under-appreciated?
A Hell of a Woman by Jim Thompson. Thompson is known for other novels such as The Killer Inside Me, Pop. 1280, The Grifters and Nothing More Than Murder, but I feel like that A Hell of a Woman doesn’t get the attention it deserves. Those novels are good, but if I hadn’t read A Hell of a Woman, I wouldn’t have been inspired to write my own noir crime novel.

What is your favorite childhood book?
The Berenstain Bears. I also read a lot of comic books, too.

If you could have been the original author of any book, what would it have been and why?
Off Season by Jack Ketchum. His novels were such an inspiration to me. They opened my eyes to a version of horror fiction I never knew existed. Off Season was the visceral, gritty horror novel that got to the core of its subject matter and left a lot of blood on the walls.

When did it dawn upon you that you wanted to be a writer?
When my sixth-grade teacher told me I gave him nightmares and my parents were telling me to stop.

What inspires you to write?
Anything really. A lot of my short stories have been inspired by something that occurred in my past, whether during my childhood or my teenage years, or between myself and a family member.

Do you set a plot or prefer going wherever an idea takes you?
I’ve done outlines in the past but I’ve never stuck to them. I end up going off and adding something else later that I wish I’d included the first time. I like this. I’ve been told when you do outlines you put your characters on a leash. Life is full of challenges, and I like challenges.

Did you ever think you would be unable to finish your first novel?
No. I had doubts about starting with a short story collection but then considered that many other authors had started out like this as well.

Three O'Clock by Brian J. SmithHave you ever incorporated something that happened to you in real life into your novels?
A lot of times. I went to summer camp when I was ten, and we did all kinds of activities such as fishing and tubing, but one thing I really enjoyed was when we did “headstone rubbings”—putting paper on a tombstone and rubbing with a charcoal stick to get the text. I hope to pick this back up sometime in the future. When I set about writing my novella Dark Avenues, I used headstone rubbings in it, and it worked out perfectly.

Do you have a day job other than being a writer? And do you like it?
No. I’m a homebody so I don’t even leave the house unless it’s really necessary.

What books and stories have you published, and where?
I’ve published many pieces of short and flash fiction in multiple anthologies and e-zines, two with The Horror Zine, one with Metahuman Press, and I’ve even had a western horror story published as well. My other Kindle books are Three O’ Clock and The Tuckers. My publications are listed on my Amazon author page (see below).

Dark Avenues by Brian J. SmithWhat project are you currently working on?
I’m working on a short story collection that will be released in the fall. Dark Avenues will include the novella of the same name along with eighteen other stories that range from dark horror and other genres. There’s a haunted house story, a zombie story, and a post-apocalyptic story about how love triumphs over death.

You can find Brian’s publications on his Amazon author page at http://amazon.com/author/brianjsmith. Brian is on Facebook under Brian Smith and on Twitter @BrianJSmith13. Visit his website at http://brianjsmith468368465.wordpress.com.

Book Release: PSYCHONAUT by Carmilla Voiez

Psychonaut coverSatori is caught between two worlds. There is something he needs in one, but the other keeps drawing him back. However, he is in love and he isn’t going to let a little thing like death get in his way. To reach his goal, he must face unimaginable horrors, not least of which is his true self.

Star’s tortured and broken body awaits Satori, but does she really need him to save her? His rival, a rage-filled young woman, grows more powerful and becomes as twisted as the ribbons in her hair while the demon, Lilith, draws each of them inexorably towards her. Who will survive the coming battle?

Full of sex and magic, PSYCHONAUT is an exploration into the human psyche and the second book in Voiez’s STARBLOOD trilogy.

Carmilla Voiez is more of a singer than a writer. She tells her compelling story in a hypnotic, distinctive voice that brings her eerie world vividly to life.
—Graham Masterton

PSYCHONAUT is a book of mad impulses, inner vision, sadism, escape and belief. You feel uncomfortable reading it, like Alex strapped to the chair in Clockwork Orange being taught to feel sick at atrocity. Rather than leave us crippled by response, though, Psychonaut bears you through the hurt towards the only paradise we can be assured of…a love past fault.
—Jef Withonef, Houston Press

Carmilla VoiezPSYCHONAUT is the second book in Carmilla Voiez’s STARBLOOD series. It’s a relaunch of the novel by American indie Vamptasy Publishing. The series contains four books and follows the lives of a group of friends: Star, Satori, Freya, Donna, Raven, and Ivan, young Goths living in Bristol, England.

In the first book, STARBLOOD, Star breaks up with her lover, Satori, but he is unwilling to let her go. Satori is an adept chaos magician and decides to cast a spell to keep Star by his side, but because of competing forces Lilith, mother of demons, uses this moment to come to Earth and enter their lives. The result is a tangled web of murder, madness and betrayal.

You can find the first book at Amazon and other retailers: http://smarturl.it/Starblood.

PSYCHONAUT takes us beyond the urban lives of these ill-fated Goths and into other worlds full of demons, gods, magic, and monsters.

PSYCHONAUT is available now at http://smarturl.it/PsychonautVoiez.

Simple and Easy Way to Write a Book Review

writing a book reviewLike any other writer, I live or die by reviews of my books. However, while many people say they love my books or admire my writing, very few write book reviews—even if I ask them.

Perhaps it’s because readers aren’t sure how to write a review. Let’s solve that problem.

Here’s a simple and easy way to write a one-paragraph fiction book review.

1. Take notes as you read

The best way to remember what you liked (or didn’t like) about a book is to jot down your observations as you read, as well as any great quotes you’d like to mention.

I keep an index card handy as I’m reading a book. You can too. Make notes about:

  • Characters—Who were the main characters? Were they credible? Properly motivated? Did you sympathize with them? Who was your favorite character, and why?
  • Dialogue—Was it realistic? Revealing? Humorous? Engaging?
  • Genre—Did this book fit a particular genre, such as horror? Or was it a mash-up of several genres? Do you think the author did a good job of conforming to or breaking out of genre categories?
  • Plot—What was the story about? Did the series of events make sense? Any great twists?
  • Writing style—Does the writer write like another author you like?

2. Summarize your opinions

Jot some notes about your views (yes, it’s okay to express your opinions about the book):

  • Did you like the book?
  • What was your favorite part?
  • What did you like least about the book?
  • If you wish something were different in the book, what is it?

3. Make your recommendation

Would you recommend this book to other readers? If so, what type of readers would like the book? People who dig H.P. Lovecraft? Lovers of ghost stories?

Remember that a writer has spent a lot of time and effort in producing his or her labor of love. Although you may criticize, don’t forget to be constructive and kind. If you mention the author’s name, use his or her last name.

Writing the Review

A book review is not a long summary of the book, rather your brief commentary on it. Here’s the how-to of writing your paragraph review.

  1. Start with an interesting sentence that grabs the reader’s attention. You could make it a question: “Have you ever wondered…,” “Ever wish you could….”
  2. Introduce the subject of the book. What’s the genre? (horror, crime, sci-fi, fantasy, etc.) “Book Title is a horror novel about…” Then write a one- or two-sentence summary. Be careful not to give away the ending!
  3. Do you think the book measures up to the goals the author set out to achieve? Be honest yet tactful. Include some examples supporting your opinion.
  4. Who will enjoy this book? “If you like early Stephen King, you’ll love this book.”

Book review paragraph template

If you’re having trouble getting started, use this paragraph as a template:

Have you ever wondered _______________ (hook). Book Title is a ____________ (genre) novel about ______________ (subject matter). In it, _____________ (main character) tries to _____________ (main story goal) but encounters trouble when _______________ (some complications or opposition). The characters were realistic, and I especially related to ___________ (character name). My favorite part of the book was ________________. [Optional: But the author could have done a better job at _________________ (something that needs improvement). For example…] The dialogue was excellent and moved the story forward. It was fast-paced (or something else you liked). I really liked this book because ______________ (your opinion about it). If you like reading early Stephen King (a comparison), this one’s for you.

Example review

Here’s an example book review of Samantha Lienhard’s novella THE BOOK AT DERNIER.

The Book at Dernier is about a young man’s obsessive quest to learn about the dark and mysterious Marcus Phineas and his arcane rituals that led to past deaths in the superstitious town of Dernier.

Protagonist Paul finds a book by the late Phineas full of symbols and secret writing. Determined to crack the code, Paul succumbs to the thrall of bloody rituals. I feared for him and dreaded the results his search would lead to. As he descends into madness and the death toll mounts, can Paul solve the mystery? Will he escape a devastating fate?

Lienhard’s skillful writing drew me in and led me quickly to the chilling conclusion. Recommended for appreciators of Lovecraftian fiction.

Conclusion

That’s all there is to it.

Proof your review and post it on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or wherever you bought the book, Goodreads, Facebook, and on your blog.

Be generous with the stars: starred reviews encourage other readers to buy and read.

And why not let the author know you’ve written a review? It will probably make their day. I know it would make mine.

Dark Fiction by Lee Allen Howard

Sign Up for The Bedwetter Blog Hop & Advance Review

I’m seeking bloggers and readers to help me launch The Bedwetter: Journal of a Budding Psychopath on May 1, 2019.

If you’re willing to help, please fill out the following form and click Submit. Choose if you’re willing to:

  • Advertise the release with links on your blog on May 1 or shortly thereafter
  • Read a free copy of the book and write an advance review, posting it on Amazon, Goodreads, Facebook, your blog, or elsewhere
  • Both

Thanks for your help. I appreciate it!