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

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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.

Coming Soon: HYSTERIA by Stephanie M. Wytovich

HYSTERIA by Stephanie M. Wytovich

Asylums once used to confine those deemed mentally unfit to linger, forgotten behind trees or urban development, beautiful yet desolate in their decay. Within them festers something far more unnerving than unlit corners or unexplained noises: the case files left to moulder out of sight, out of conscience.

Stephanie M. Wytovich forces your hands upon these crumbling, warped binders and exposes your mind to every taboo misfortune experienced by the outcast, exiled, misbegotten monsters and victims who have walked among us. The poetry contained in Hysteria performs internal body modification on its readers in an unrelenting fashion, employing broad-spectrum brutality treatment that spans the physical to the societal, as noted in Stoker Award winner Michael A. Arnzen’s incisive introduction.

HYSTERIA: A Collection of Madness by Stephanie M. Wytovich

Introduction by Michael A. Arnzen

Cover art by Steven Archer.

Collection of horror poetry coming in paperback from Raw Dog Screaming Press this summer

Raw Dog Screaming Press


Coming Soon: GREENSHIFT by Heidi Ruby Miller

To celebrate the cover reveal for Heidi Ruby Miller’s GREENSHIFT, the e-book will be temporarily 99 cents at Amazon!

GREENSHIFT is a tale set within the world of AMBASADORA.

Mari’s rare eye color makes her a pariah within Upper Caste society, which is why she prefers plants to people… except David, the former Armadan captain who shuttles scientists around on a refurbished pleasure cruiser.

But someone else is interested in Mari and her distinctive look—an obsessed psychopath who tortures and murders women for pleasure.

When the killer chooses Mari as his next victim, the soldier inside David comes alive, but it is Mari who must fight for her own life and prove she isn’t as fragile as the flowers she nurtures.

GREENSHIFT by Heidi Ruby Miller

Cover Art by Bradley Sharp

Foreword by Dana Marton

Space Opera/Science Fiction Romance paperback coming from Dog Star Books in August 2013

Dog Star Books
 
 
 
 


Book Review: MERLYN’S RAVEN by Rose Vanden Eynden

MERLYN’S RAVEN by Rose Vanden Eynden

5.0 stars

I recently finished an excellent first novel by a long-time student of Arthurian legend, Rose Vanden Eynden. MERLYN’S RAVEN from Soul Mate Publishing is a romantic fantasy set in fifth century Wales.

Merlyn's Raven by Rose Vanden EyndenGwendydd, the illegitimate child of an allegedly wild woman, suffers her mother’s reputation, but longs to know the truth of her heritage. Slated for a loveless marriage to her chieftain grandfather’s political ally, she meets and falls in love with a druid’s apprentice, a handsome man with golden eyes, possessed of second sight, yet said to be the son of a demon. Appearing and disappearing at will are a few of the many feats of magick the young Myrddin (Merlin) can do, as well as casting glamours—and building Stonehenge with his metaphysical prowess.

Beyond the disapproval of her family, difficulties mount when Myrddin’s clairvoyant visions foretell the birth of a great king who will unify a warring Britain. To shift the balance of power, they must succeed in a dangerous scheme, one that threatens their very lives.

If you’re looking for a book that’s a perfect potion made of magick, romance, and adventure, I highly recommend MERLYN’S RAVEN. Rose Vanden Eynden’s words flow like a rushing river. The setting is rich, the characters are fascinating, the magick is powerful, the treachery surprising. Keeping the pace brisk throughout, Vanden Eynden builds ancient intrigue to an exciting conclusion and sets things up nicely for the next edition of an enchanting saga.

You can watch the book’s video trailer at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zt4cu3rSKz8.

You can find MERLYN’S RAVEN at Soul Mate Publishing and Amazon.

The Goodreads page is http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13448335-merlyn-s-raven. You can find the author on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/#!/RoseVandenEyndenOfficial.


Hazard Yet Forward for Donna Munro

Ginormous Multi-author Genre Anthology to Benefit Seton Hill University Alum

Hazard Yet ForwardSeventy-six writers connected to the Seton Hill University Writing Popular Fiction program contributed to a multi-genre anthology, HAZARD YET FORWARD. All proceeds from this project benefit Donna Munro, a 2004 graduate of the program. Munro, a teacher living in St. Louis, Missouri, was recently diagnosed with breast cancer. An active member of the SHU WPF alumni committee, Munro helps organize the school’s annual writing conference, In Your Write Mind.

To aid Munro and her family, faculty members, alumni, students and friends of the Writing Popular Fiction program immediately responded to compile this massive anthology. The book features flash fiction, short stories and a full-length novella. There are 75 works total from various genres—literally, something for everyone—ranging from horror to romance to mystery, and everything in between.

Notable writers in the anthology are World Fantasy Award winner Nalo Hopkinson, Bram Stoker winners Michael A. Arnzen and Michael Knost, Bram Stoker nominee Lawrence C. Connolly, ALA/YALSA Best Book for Young Adults winner Jessica Warman, Rita finalist Dana Marton, Spur winner Meg Mims, Asimov’s Readers’ Award winner Timons Esaias and WV Arts and Humanities literary fellowships winner Geoffrey Cameron Fuller.

HAZARD YET FORWARD co-compiler Matt Duvall says, “It’s an unprecedented collection of stories from every genre imaginable.” This large volume is an electronic book for the popular Kindle platform and is available for purchase through Amazon, reasonably priced at $9.99.

When I heard about the project, I quickly responded by contributing my story “Mixed Breed, Loves Kids.” Donna was my sponsor when I entered the program in 2004, and she does so much for the WPF program. She’s an all-around fantastic person; I want to support her while she conquers breast cancer.

You can order HAZARD YET FORWARD here.

You can find more information about the anthology at http://hazardyetforward.wordpress.com. To learn about the unique and exciting Writing Popular Fiction program, visit http://www.setonhill.edu/academics/fiction/.


Book Review: GREENSHIFT by Heidi Ruby Miller

GREENSHIFT by Heidi Ruby Miller

GREENSHIFT by Heidi Ruby Miller

4.3/5.0 stars

Mari is a beautiful young woman from the polluted planet of Deleine. Her coral-colored eyes are the result of a reaction to a childhood vaccine. She seeks to make her mark in the field of science, upgrading the hydroponic botanical bays in spaceships.

When she meets Armadan ex-military pilot David Anlow, their chemistry turns to intimacy, and the virgin’s first amour becomes the one she would take as prime.

But when the slimy Dale Zapona hires Mari to upgrade his freighter ship, she accepts the on-board job against her better judgment only to find he and his henchman have something less businesslike in store for her because of her lithe body and strange orange eyes.

Like AMBASADORA, this prequel kicks ass. Miller weaves sci-fi and romance effortlessly, loading on the action and suspense. Although there’s a rough spot in the writing during a fight scene, the story is solid, the characters strong, the conflict palpable, the sex scenes hot, and the resolution satisfying. Everything in a book worth buying.

If you like genre mash-up like I do, I recommend GREENSHIFT. Miller knows how to tell a story and keep it moving til the very last page. I look forward to her next novel in the rich and imaginative Ambasadora-verse.

For more about Heidi Ruby Miller, visit her blog at http://heidirubymiller.blogspot.com/.