For the Love of Flying with EM Lynley

August 17, 2015

For the Love of (1)

I’m EM Lynley and today I’m thrilled to be talking about my brand new release ONE MARINE, HERO.

Thanks so much for stopping by!

This book is one I’m particularly proud of and I hope you’ll find it as enjoyable to read as it was to write.

The spark for this book hit me last fall during San Francisco’s Fleet Week.

If you’ve never been to a Fleet Week, you are missing out! You’ll find a dozen ships, even more aircraft, and tens of thousands of sailors and Marines all converge on the city. And since the end of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, it’s even crazier here in San Francisco.

But most of all, I love visiting the ships during Fleet Week. This year I visited the newly commissioned USS America, an amphibious assault ship. I didn’t know quite what that meant until I arrived. Basically, this ship serves as a support base for Marine units to stage an attack.

After making my way past displays of armored vehicles and light assault vehicles (tanks, to the rest of us), I arrived on the lower deck, where a number of helicopters were displayed. Pilots and members of the air crew answered questions from visitors. I was listening to other people (mostly men) asking questions, when it hit me that helicopters were a hell of a lot more interesting than I’d realized.

clean-and-ready

In fact, a helicopter pilot would make a fantastic main character for a book.

Up on the flight deck, about a dozen smaller helicopters were on display. Now I started taking notes and asking my own questions. To my surprise, the pilots were really thrilled to answer questions, talk about the capabilities of their aircraft, and even let visitors climb inside a few different ones. I happily spent about three hours moving between Cobras, Hueys, Super Stallions, and more. I took a lot of photos and, of course, asked how I could get to fly on a Marine helo. (The answer is, you can’t. Even the pilots’ own families can’t get on board, partly for security reasons and partly because the demand would be incredible.)

FleetWeek14_00037

By the time I got home, I was dying to include a Marine pilot in a story.

And that’s when I got the idea of writing about a former combat pilot who comes home to fly Marine One, ferrying US government officials around and dealing with the drastic transition between those two jobs.

If you’ve read one of my books before, you know I love to do research. Not much can beat spending several hours talking with Marine pilots, but I can tell you that flying a helicopter definitely does. I took a couple of helicopter flying lessons while working on this book, and it has been one of the most exciting things I’ve ever done in my life!

EM Lynley_Helicopter lesson

 

Why Marine One?

That answer takes us a bit farther back than last fall.

I’ve never followed politics much, but like nearly everyone around the world who watches international news, I had a strong image of the President of the United States getting into a green-and-white helicopter on the South Lawn of the White House and being whisked away to attend to some vital presidential business. I had a vague notion of the helicopter being called Marine One, but beyond that, I never thought much about it.

That changed when I was lucky enough to get a job at the White House Council of Economic Advisers. Though the offices are located in the Old Executive Office next to the White House, we were part of the White House complex. It was a thrill to be so close to the inner workings of Washington.

Even more exciting were the perks that came with the job, including attending any ceremony on the White House lawn, including welcoming receptions for visiting heads of state where the president and the foreign leader would inspect US troops and color guards and military bands.

And maybe one of the coolest is getting to stand on the South Lawn when the helicopter lands

One of my favorite Marine One touchdowns was when my mother came for a visit. I knew that Marine One was due to land shortly after her arrival, so I whisked her from the airport and to the White House. She was surprised (and impressed) that after being in DC for an hour she was already seeing the president live at the White House.

I was just as thrilled at being able to include her in such a special opportunity. I think at some level she doubted I could get her into the West Wing and then to the South Lawn. She was really proud of me that day too.

I hope that you’ll feel some of the excitement of both the helicopters and White House events when you read One Marine, Hero.

***

And you knew there was going to be a contest, right?

Are you a fan of military men? Tell me why and which branch of military you like best for a chance to win one of my backlist titles.

Thanks for stopping by today!

I love getting e-mails from readers, so don’t be shy.

You can also visit me online

E-mail: emlynley@gmail.com

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Jana Denardo: The Inner Workings of a Demon Hunting Team

August 16, 2015

Probably the best way to get to know the boys is to let them tell you what it’s like to be part of a Soldiers of the Sun team, especially one waiting to be assigned a new member so I’ll let them take it away.

Caleb – I’m the leader of the group and it’s something I take seriously out there. I expect all the members to be their best but ultimately I’m the one who has to make the toughest choices. It’s good though because I can trust Agni and Temple to do what they do best. They have never disappointed me.

Agni – Good to know. Sometimes the hardest part is remembering a team only works when we work together. I don’t have the ego that says I can’t take orders. I’ve seen teams like that and they are usually quick to lose a member. I worried a little about that when I first met Temple since he’s so loud and always in motion. I worried about nothing. The hardest part of dealing with Temple is getting him to exercise. He’d rather just depend on his big gun to get him out of trouble.

Temple –You’re such a wet smack, Agni. It is tough working in a team sometimes because your teammates pick on you until you think about feeding them to the demons.

Caleb – Temple, Agni, must you?

Temple – Of course we must. To be fair, the teasing isn’t out there in the field. I know I can trust them. My biggest fear there is accidentally plugging my partners. That chopper of mine puts out so many bullets, it’s a real danger. And I’m really worried about our new partner. We know nothing about him.

Caleb – General Taglioferro hasn’t even told me yet what to expect. I think our new partner will be another long range fighter like Temple as Agni and I do better close up. It always helps to have a balance in styles.

Temple – I’m also worried about the new partner finding out about us pitching woo. That could kill the team instantly.

Agni – Always so positive but you make a good point.

Caleb – We’re careful. I don’t think we have much to worry about there. Temple might just have to put the kibosh on his flirting for a while.

Temple – With you two, yes of course. But does that mean I can’t flirt with the muffins?

Agni – Could we stop you?

Temple – Absolutely not!

Caleb – We knew that.

 

Jana: With that, I’ll leave these three to get back to work. Let’s do the novel giveaway now to top off the night. We all have our favorite character tropes and group dynamics. Temple allowed me to combine characters of two like working with, the sarcastic wit and someone trying to cope with a rough childhood. I also love working with diverse groups which is what I could do with this team. So what are your favorite sorts of characters? I’ll leave the giveaway open til morning. And sorry for not sharing pictures of them. Half way through the pictures stopped showing even though they were fine earlier even if I had to use more than one method. Ah technology.

Thanks for being here with me tonight!

Soldiers of the Sun – eBook http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=6759

Soldiers of the Sun- paperback – http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=6760

Jana Denardo – Soldiers of the Sun Excerpt #2

August 16, 2015

“That was not how the New Year should be welcomed.” Temple sighed, undoing his bow tie. He and his partners shuffled through the quiet corridors of one of the male wings of the Soldiers of the Sun’s home base.

“I definitely had other ideas myself,” Agni said, and Temple looked back over his shoulder at him.

“Oh, really? And here I thought you were the staid, boring type who probably turned in at nine.”

Caleb suppressed a grin. That baiting sounded much more like the Temple he knew so well.

Agni huffed. “I suppose that means you don’t want to see what I would have done. My blood’s up a little too much to go right to sleep.”

Temple’s green eyes lit up. “I didn’t say that.”

“So I’m not getting sleep anytime soon?” Caleb eyed his partner as he unlocked the door to his apartment. Sometimes Agni surprised him. Caleb thought Agni only entered into this three-way partnership because Caleb asked, but he was beginning to think Agni truly enjoyed having sex with Temple too.

Temple stuffed his tie into his pocket. “You can sleep on the couch, I suppose.”

“As noisy as you are, if I chose that option, do you really think I’d get a moment’s rest?” Caleb slipped out of his overcoat and dress jacket, putting both on the coat rack by his door.

“Then you’ll have to join us.” Temple ran his hand across Caleb’s shoulders.

“Naturally.” Caleb turned and studied Temple’s face. “Are you okay?”

Temple shrugged. “I’m not perfect, but I will be eventually. Don’t want to talk about it now.” He fisted his fingers in Caleb’s starched shirt, pulling him forward into a kiss. “And I get the middle tonight since I earned it. All you did in the fight was stand there looking pretty.”

“And how was I to know which way the demons would run?” Caleb protested, breaking free. He caught Agni’s hand, tugging him toward his bedroom.

Temple followed behind them. “You’re smart. It sounds planned to me.”

“Keep talking, Temple, and your boyfriend for tonight will be found at the end of your wrist,” Caleb volleyed back.

Temple pouted, but he didn’t look particularly sad. “Ouch, you can be so mean.”

Caleb couldn’t hide his grin. If baiting Temple made him less morose, Caleb was happy to do it. It was so very easy to get his goat, anyhow. “You love it when I am.”

“Do not.” Temple’s sulk deepened.

“I have to side with Caleb. You thrive on us being hard on you.” Agni reached back to swat Temple’s arm.

Temple narrowed his green eyes. “I’m beginning to think my hand is the better choice.”

“At least your hand wouldn’t be mean to you,” Caleb agreed.

“And it would do exactly what you want.” Agni grinned.

“You two are just lucky I like you,” Temple huffed. “And I know you’re both damaged, and this is the only way you can show affection.”

Agni wiggled free of Caleb’s grasp, heading for the nightstand. He got out the jar of lubricant and put it in Temple’s hand. “Have fun.”
“And I’m not damaged. I barely remember being at the not-so-nice orphanage,” Caleb said.
“I was thinking more that someone at the orphanage dropped you on your head as a baby,” Temple said, taking off his ichor-splattered dress shirt, dropping it to the floor. His nipples stood up in the chill of the room. He went over and played with the heater controls.
“Go enjoy that jar.” Caleb shoved him.
Temple tossed the jar onto the bed, then tackled Caleb back onto the mattress.

Jana Denardo: Soldiers of the Sun: Let’s have a little music.

August 16, 2015

I’m very much a listen to music type of writer. I love having a sound track to write to. Part of the inspiration for this story had to be the swing band, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy. I listened to a lot of their songs as I worked on both Snowbound and Soldiers of the Sun. As I researched music from the actual time period the series is set in, I found some pretty surprising offerings. For example, one of the songs Temple takes a stab at in the novel is far older than I expected. Who knew Just a Gigolo was originally sung by Bing Crosby?

 

 

Not only did I find a plenty of really interesting music, I also came across electro-swing. It seems the swing revival of the 90s morphed into something that has a lot of high energy music. There is even a revival of a Charleston-like dance.

 

That fact led to Temple’s enjoyment of dance, seen in Snowbound and getting more depth in Soldiers of the Sun. Temple is the dancer of the group. He absolutely loves it. He’s tried to teach Agni and Caleb how to dance but they are a couple of dead hoofers. Temple is hoping his new partner can cut a rug.

Music is threaded through the story. There are a few dances, some of which even allow for some relaxation and fun time for the team. Others have demons.

What’s your current ear worm? Have a good song to share? It doesn’t have to be of the 1930s era. I’m always on the look out for something good to listen to, so share!

Jana Denardo: Soldiers of the Sun: Meet the Soldiers

August 16, 2015

Let me introduce you to the characters because they’re who we’re here to see.

 

Caleb Davies is the team leader. He’s an orphan from Wales originally. The Soldiers of the Sun routinely search for kids who can see demons and Caleb was adopted by an officer. He’s been raised within the organization since he was a kid and was close to his adoptive father. He was put together with Agni and Temple in London a few years back before being sent to America to fill the greater need for soldiers there.

 

Caleb takes his responsibilities as leader seriously even though he feels like he’s herding cats when it comes to getting Agni and Temple to cooperate. He’s bright, outgoing and thoughtful. He doesn’t mind the research and is highly skilled with swordplay and hand to hand combat. He likes sports, misses cricket something awful in the States. He’s a huge movie buff and goes whenever he gets a chance.

 

Agni Pradesh is the scientist of the group. Originally from Bombay, he was sent to London by his family when the Soldiers asked for someone from his family to join the London branch. His family have been demon fighters for generations. He’s the reader of the group. He’s never met a research project he didn’t want to dig into and he works with the scientific branch whenever he can just for the fun of it.  Agni misses his home but loves where he is at the same time. His apartment reflects his Hindu beliefs and culture which he loves sharing with Caleb and Temple. He’s the quiet, stoic one, though he enjoys winding Temple up.

 

 

TempleChevalier is from Paris. His family has been in the Knights Templar from the very beginning as far as they can tell. His upbringing was harsh, suffering abuse from a family member that he never told anyone about. He ran away from home at sixteen and joined up with the Soldiers in London. Their more inclusive and forgiving system of doing things suited him better. Caleb has described Temple as a human Irish Setter and that isn’t just because of his auburn hair. Temple is all enthusiasm and friendliness. He’s the talker and joker of the group and he’s not quite aware that his partners realize he does this in part to hide the emotional pain he’s in. Temple suffers from PTSD and hypersexuality syndrome, neither of which would have been well understood in the 1930s.

 

Temple is extremely outgoing by nature and is the one bisexual in the group. He does have a reputation a ladies man and his partners are willing to look past that, thinking it’s part of his attempts to cover up his pain. He truly loves is radio dramas, music and dancing. Never interrupt one of his dramas and dance with him when he asks and he’s a happy man.

 

 

 

So if you have any questions on how the gentlemen live their daily lives this is the time!

 

Jana Denardo – Soldiers of the Sun Demons!

August 16, 2015

Paul Richmond also did the cover for Soldiers. It’s also pretty amazing. Have a look at one of the battles.

 

 

I thought you might like a look at the villain of the piece, so here’s a drawing of him from an actual demonic lexicon. Hint: he’s a prince of hell and he is so much more powerful and dangerous than the lower level demons, Caleb, Agni and Temple are used to fighting. He is not really a looker.

 

 

 

So not only do they have to deal with having a new, untried partner and Temple’s past coming back to haunt him, the trio has to face this guy. He is most definitely not a looker but his ability to grant knowledge and wishes, at a high price that is leaving dead bodies all over Pittsburgh makes up for that.

 

The trick with this prince is that stopping a devil of this magnitude might be impossible. That leaves the team struggling to do the detective work to figure out who is summoning him and put an end to it before they end up soul-devoured and dead out in the cold.
As I said earlier, the action-adventure aspects of this series are every bit as fun for me to write as the romance, which is a bit atypical to say the least. And he’s just one of the demons that plague Caleb, Agni and Temple. What a way to begin a new year and a new partnership.

 

For a final picture, unemployment lines like this play a pivotal role in keeping the demon happy.

 

So what have been your favorite demon stories as villains (or otherwise), in any genre?

 

 

Jana Denardo Soldiers of the Sun Excerpt #1

August 16, 2015

Preparing to leave his little apartment within the walls of the Order of the Sun, Temple nearly slammed into his teammates Caleb and Agni. Caleb had his hand raised, presumably to knock. Temple eyed them sourly. “What are you two doing?”

“Taglioferro asked us along to meet your new partner,” Caleb replied, running his sword-calloused hand over his slicked-back blond hair. The gesture made Temple a little dry mouthed. Shaking the dirty thoughts out, Temple realized it made sense his teammates had joined him. Caleb was the team leader, after all. Surely he needed to be there.

“And since you’d be late to your own funeral, we’re here to hurry you up.” Agni made hurry-along motions exaggerated by the newspaper he had in hand—Temple’s paper, which he’d forgotten to pick up. Agni handed it to him. Temple set it on the door-side table, but not before he saw the headline about a couple of deaths of desperate men who’d died after drinking radiator fluid down at the Mon wharf. They had pulled out the potato they were using to detoxify the alcohol a little too soon. Under that was an article about another demon attack on a speakeasy. Hadn’t he and Caleb just cleared a speakeasy the other night?

“You’ll notice I am on time,” Temple grumbled, trying to lock his door. After a few moments of fussing with the key, a metallic clank echoed down the hall, telling him he was doomed. “Damn it, it broke again. Why do we have to live in such falling-down housing?”

“The building has been here a century. It’s bound to have problems.” Caleb shrugged. “Come on. I’m excited to meet our new teammate.”

“I’m nervous,” Temple said, walking down the old stone corridors. The Soldiers of the Sun’s complex had been built with castles in mind, well fortified but dark and cold. “How do I explain what happened to my last partner?”

Caleb shot him a look. “It’s not your fault Li died.”

Did Caleb think Temple blamed himself? Of course he did. Temple had said it more than once. Li had been the love of his life, and Temple watched him bleed to death. Caleb probably worried Temple wasn’t dealing with his guilt. His partners knew him pretty well, but he wished they were easier to hoodwink. He wasn’t well. The closeness he’d felt since all of them had become lovers was good, but it never lasted.

“We were outnumbered,” Caleb said as he opened the exterior door. The wind caught them in its maw, blasting through the open door. The sulfurous stench of the steel mills rode the frigid air.

“Then why does it feel like it is?” As Temple’s shoulders slumped, Caleb favored him with a sharp look. Agni’s face was inscrutable as always. After a brief silence broken only by the whistle of the wind through the buildings, Temple said, “Taglioferro is an understanding guy. He knows what we get up to, but it’s not always easy to find someone with our talents who wouldn’t want to beat us for being shirt lifters.”

“Mostly it means we have to be discreet,” Agni said, turning his cool gaze on Temple. After a second his nose wrinkled. “You’re right. You have a problem.”

Temple made a face. “Go to hell.”

 

Soldiers of the Sun – eBook http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=6759

 

Soldiers of the Sun- paperback  – http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=6760

Jana Denardo – Soldiers of the Sun & Giveaway

August 16, 2015

Switching gears, let’s talk about the novel, Soldiers of the Sun. Technically it’s the third in the series, but as mentioned, it’s a stand alone and the first full-length story. (And hey at the end of this post will be a giveaway!). Paul Richmond did another fantastic cover for Soldiers. Have a look at it. Just love it, especially the menacing shadows.

The original inspiration for the whole Soldiers of the Sun series was Dreamspinner’s Necking anthology, looking for polyamorous relationships. Simple enough, so very open ended. I have a thing for groups of warriors fighting the supernatural so making the trio demon hunters was a natural for me.

As to why I set it in the 1930s, I have a lot of theories. The leading one is my brain hates me. It’s a time period in which I had done no research. I suspect it went a little like this: Hey you like research. It’s only a short story. You can do enough research to handle that without much pain.

The research ballooned to a lot of work but I do like research. That really is half the fun. I set the stories in the Pittsburgh area because I grew up there and why not learn about the history of my own stomping grounds? Of course it’s still tricky to write historicals because it’s so easy to get accidental anachronisms in there. I’m very glad for eagle-eyed editors.

I tried to research the lingo and lucked into a website that documented where they culled the slang from, movie-wise. That was helpful. I also ended up watching some movies from the time period, even though that’s not my thing other than the horror flicks. Still, it’s a good view into the lingo and the clothing styles, or at least the styles of the wealthy, which I just happen to have in this story.

Caleb, Temple and Agni live in a world of repression and depression. They are lucky the Soldiers of the Sun is a fairly inclusive organization, religious- and gender-wise. They have male and female teams and represent a wide range of beliefs. This has not, however, left them untouched by the Great Depression. Even their headquarters is showing signs of not having enough money for upkeep. Temple especially is infuriated by Prohibition. At least the Soldiers are savvy enough to have relaxation times for them, including Temple’s favorite: dancing. However, the biggest piece of luck they have is the generals are content to look the other way when it comes to their homosexual soldiers and tries to keep them together in teams. That said, they certainly are not living openly but what happens behind closed doors is ignored by the organization.

The Depression plays a large role in the story. Without giving away too much, it is the impetus of why the villain of the piece has been summoned from Hell. This Devil is known for granted wishes and money and keeping your fortune is something he can help you with. You can see the appeal. Caleb, Temple and Agni have their work cut out for them.

Here’s where they patrol nightly.  photo aerial of oakland 1930_zpsyhjtrcsl.jpg

 photo oakland feb 1932_zpsrksmoueb.jpg

 

 

The end result of all the inspiration was a team of demon hunters in the 1930s, keeping the city safe at a time when my grandmother was young. In fact, she and her friends make a cameo appearance in the Phipps Conservancy – a place you should check out if you’re ever in Pittsburgh. She was thrilled I put her in the story but sadly Grandma passed before this came out (August is her birth month) missing it by just a few months. She was would have been 100 and the novel is dedicated to her.

What draws you to historical fiction? Curious minds want to know. I’ll be giving away a copy of Snowbound to one lucky commentor.

Down These Mean Streets with J.S. Cook

August 14, 2015

Skid Row Serenade is a novel about Tony Leonard, a down-and-out alcoholic war hero suffering from what nowadays we’d call Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. In the 1940s – when this novel takes place – it was more likely to be called ‘shell shock’.  During the war, Tony was a commando; he and others of his squad were taken prisoner by the Gestapo and tortured. Because of this, he is emotionally scarred, and can only face the outside world through a buffer of alcohol.

Skid Row Serenade is a noir novel, or what might otherwise be called ‘pulp detective’, a genre that hasn’t always enjoyed the greatest respectability. (When I was in academia, writing genre fiction was seen as something undesirable, almost shameful. You did it, but you never admitted to it, and among the academic community, it wasn’t seen as legitimate writing, not like literary fiction. Writing pulp was and still is too often regarded by intellectuals as the creative equivalent of picking one’s nose in public.) In its earliest incarnation, pulp referred to inexpensive magazines published from about 1896 through the 1950s. It was called ‘pulp’ because of the cheap, wood pulp paper on which it was printed – a direct contrast to the ‘glossies’ or ‘slicks’, magazines printed on high quality paper and often including lavish illustration. Pulps were priced at ten cents each, and within easy reach for almost all readers, unlike the slicks, which were typically twenty-five cents per issue. It doesn’t seem like much money to us nowadays in 2015, but in the dark and dirty 1930s, at the height of the Great Depression, a shoulder of lamb went for seventeen cents, and a dozen eggs were eighteen cents; bread throughout much of the United States cost eight cents. If you had twenty-five cents, you had a meal.

soupkitchen

Even though pulp fiction had a shady reputation, many of these inexpensive magazines played host to some of the greatest authors of the twentieth century. Writers such as Agatha Christie, (Hercule Poirot, Miss Marple); Dashiell Hammett, (Sam Spade, the Continental Op); Elmore Leonard, (Get Shorty, 3:10 to Yuma); and Raymond Chandler, creator of private detective Philip Marlowe.

Of Marlowe, Chandler said, “Down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid. He is the hero; he is everything.” Here is the detective as lone wolf, as modern knight errant, a man unafraid to tilt at windmills in pursuit of what he sees as justice.

Skid Row Serenade was directly inspired by Chandler’s The Long Goodbye—specifically, the character of Terry Lennox, the alcoholic war hero who befriends Marlowe and who calls upon him to whisk him out of the country when Lennox’s estranged wife is murdered. The story is told from Marlowe’s point of view, which got me wondering: what would the story look like if it were told from Terry’s point of view? In order to get into that 1940s detective vibe, I listened to the kind of music Tony Leonard – my version of Terry Lennox – might listen to: Billie Holiday, Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey, Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington. I immersed myself (as much as possible) in the culture of the 1940s, specifically the post-war era, when millions of armed forces personnel worldwide were being ‘demobbed’ and sent back to the everyday world they’d left at the beginning of the war. While I didn’t take up smoking again (I quit back in 2001) I did indulge in the cocktails Tony would have ordered: whiskey sours, champagne cocktails, martinis, and Raymond Chandler’s personal favorite, the gimlet.

What’s a gimlet? Half gin, half Rose’s lime juice. Shake over ice in a cocktail shaker; strain into a martini glass and enjoy. Trust me: it’s delicious.

Gimlet_cocktail

Something interesting happened once I sat down to ‘write Tony’. Maybe it was because of the music, or maybe it was because of the drinks, but I honestly felt as if I were channelling him. Every time I opened my laptop, it seemed he was there, dictating his story to me. All I had to do was take it down. This seemed to confirm something writing teacher Julia Cameron says: ‘writing isn’t about making it up; it’s about taking it down’. I certainly felt that way with Tony living in my head twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.

I wanted Skid Row Serenade to have the feeling of an old-time pulp novel, including the snappy patter the genre has always been known for. I wanted it to be funny, but funny with an undercurrent of grimness. For example, Tony muses on his dead wife Janet’s sexual escapades as he flees Los Angeles for Mexico:

“[She] prefer[ed] instead an endless parade of stout young swains eager to fuck her brains out,” Tony says, after Janet has been found brutally murdered, her head beaten to a pulp with what we later find out is a high heeled shoe. “Well, they were out now.”

I wanted the book to have the feeling of a Chandler novel, but not as an intentional copy. Rather, I wanted Skid Row Serenade to read like something Chandler might have written, if he had chosen to write The Long Goodbye from a perspective other than Marlowe’s. There are certain passages that deliberately echo Chandler’s style. For example, Tony’s thoughts as he regards Los Angeles from Mulholland Drive, high above the city:

“Down there, people were crying, being beaten to within an inch of their lives, being disappointed and abandoned, having their bluff called, letting their hair down. Somebody was sitting in an empty room watching the pulse and flicker of the disenchanted neon and waiting for a moving bar of light to fall at a predetermined point along the dank and rumpled sheets of someone’s lonely bed. People were being crushed, being knifed, stabbed and shot; people were bawling their eyes out and people were sitting in a bar drinking themselves into oblivion. People were laughing, celebrating, eating, toasting, gasping, breathing, and dying, and all the while the luminous flesh of the palpitating city didn’t give a sweet goddamn.”

At times, Tony finds himself in down-at-heel bars and taverns, looking for some liquid comfort, most likely in a bottle of gin or bourbon. He’s well aware that his drinking habits are not normal, but he knows he is powerless to do anything about it. His frequent forays into less-than-salutary places and situations see him doling out his usual caustic wit:

“Here.” The barman came back with a bottle of Wild Turkey and a glass. […]“Anything else?” he asked.

“Eternal youth,” I said. “Good teeth. Strong bones. A will to live. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Did I leave anything out?”

The novel noir’s most pertinent distinction is a protagonist who isn’t a cop or detective, but who can instead be seen as either a victim, a suspect, or a perpetrator. The noir character is typically weak, morally corrupt, and self-destructive. If he has morals at all, they are likely his own, drawn from his view of the world; there is little in common with the laws or social mores of the larger world. Because the protagonist is himself a victim (Tony is a horribly damaged prisoner of war turned alcoholic) he has no choice but to victimize others in order to achieve the objective of his own personal end game. Bad things happen to – and around – the noir protagonist, who is sometimes an unwitting patsy and the author of his own destruction.

But it isn’t all bad news for Tony: there is a luscious and brilliant detective to whom he becomes very attached, and while having an alcoholic for a boyfriend isn’t exactly the stuff dreams are made of, Skid Row Serenade definitely has a happily-ever-after.

****

Now it’s your turn… For a free copy of any book from my backlist, share your favorite cocktail recipes. What really inspires your inner tippler? Tell me about the first time you had it, who made it, and why you love it so much. Does it include exotic or bizarre ingredients like wood, cereal, or vinegar? Does it have hallucinogenic properties, like absinthe or a Mickey Slim? Or does it simply fly you to the moon? Leave your reply in the comments.

 

 

Image Credits:

Image 1: ”Volunteers of America Soup Kitchen in Washington, D.C.” by Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum – Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum (53227(291), 06/00/1936, 27-0692a.gif). Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

Image 2: By The Delicious Life (Vodka Gimlet no. 5  Uploaded by admrboltz) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Under the Big Top with Jessica Walsh

July 29, 2015

Under the Big Top

Today is the day of my first Dreamspinner Press release – so please be kind and I hope you enjoy it.  I’m Jessica Walsh, from Minnesota and I’ve been writing published works for the last two years, however this is my first solo work.  Ironbound Kisses and my other work are all Urban Supernatural – you know, our world with a bit of fantasy and the unusual mixed in.  This is a genre I’ve always loved, because I always preferred to think that this world isn’t quite as normal as we all think it is.

As for the circus, where this novella takes place, this is the first time I’ve written a story in such a setting, and yet it seemed to fit perfectly because the circus is supposed to be a place of magic anyway.  So I had a lot of fun pulling back that curtain to show the back area – something we don’t generally see.  In Minnesota we only really have one circus and it’s not in the best area and shows like Cirque De Sol weren’t exactly what I was looking for.  So instead, I found my research in the oddest of places – Netflix, PBS and a few scattered childhood memories.

The whole magic of the circus is being able to get your popcorn and candy and spend a couple hours watching normal people do almost magical things before your very eyes.  There’s something about seeing real people do it in front of you that trumps the feeling of watching it on screen.  Sure, with television and movies the effects might be flashier, but there’s times when a little ‘in person’ magic can also be just as stunning.  Be it stunts, extreme skills with sharp objects, or tamed animals that act like docile pets, you have to admit that it’s easy to lose yourself in seeing these performers show off their skills.

I had the most fun with Thomas, the main character.  Since he starts the story interviewing for a job at the circus, his curtained view of that world is immediately taken away.  He, and the reader, get to almost immediately see the reality of circus life with the hard work, traveling and living in trailers behind the large tents.  The magic and performance is quickly stripped away for hard work and very simple lifestyle.

But what Thomas soon comes to discover is that there’s still something hidden at this circus and there’s still magic and mystery hiding in the trees and one of the trailers.  So even in the background, behind the scenes where it’s all pulled away, there’s still something left to be discovered.

Part of the fun of writing in Urban Fantasy relates back to a very personal part of my childhood.  I grew up needing glasses from the time I was three because I naturally saw double.  This meant, at night, when I wasn’t wearing glasses it was really easy to see that monster hiding behind my door, in the corner of my room and my closet.  And even if you showed me it was a pile of clothes in the morning, when the lights went out I was positive it was there.

As I got older and grew out of being scared of the monsters, glancing twice at shadows and things that looked strange was a second nature to me.  I’ll still do it now when I’m sitting at home or work and I hear a strange sound, even though I’m alone.  Call it ghosts, fairies or the house settling, I notice it a lot.  And it’s now become more of a game to make up stories about what might actually be there just beyond my sight.  Maybe there is a ghost rummaging through the fabric in my sewing room at night.  Maybe there is a fairy hiding in the rafters of our basement, taunting our kitties who can’t quite jump high enough.  Or maybe my house is just far too old for any of that and the wood creaks and the pipes clang.  Whatever the story, it’s a fun ride for the imagination, and more than a few of those thoughts have formed into outlines waiting to be written.

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Aside from Ironbound Kisses I’m currently working on an ongoing series with another Dreamspinner Author: Briana Lawrence .  She and I have been together for almost 14 years and actually met through our love of writing.  We spent years writing fanfiction together before we moved on to our own original works.  Seeking the Storyteller is the beginning of our long series set in Minnesota and also has a twist of supernatural in it, though this time it’s not as subtle.  We introduce a being called the Storyteller, who lives in a room of endless books full of the stories of people’s lives.  He has the power to read all those stories and change them, however he feels fit.

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You can find both of us, most days, either at or preparing for our next Anime Convention.  We wear costumes, sell our books and crafts in Artist Alley and can generally be found having fun with other convention goers all over the US.  So I suppose, in a way, I’m still working the fun and magical into my life – now I’m just doing it with a notebook and a couple Disney Princess dresses I’ve made.

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So, what kind of magic is hiding at the edge of your world?  Are there dragons hidden in the marsh along your jogging path?  Fairies hidden in the cupboards above the work coffee machine?  Or maybe your dog chases little imps around the backyard trees.  Whatever it is, maybe you should take a second glance, because otherwise you might just miss it.

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Author facebook: https://www.facebook.com/storytellerhuntersseries

Blog: http://snowtigra.blogspot.com/

Website: http://www.sewntogetherreflections.com/books

 

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