Night Vision: what is a “strige”?

February 18, 2015

Hi! Amelia Bishop here again! I’m back, this time to shed some light on the paranormal creature in my novella Night Vision. (Which released today!)

So first of all, yes, I did make up this creature. I started, as I mentioned in my earlier post, with a ‘scene’ in mind, of a person who liked to climb trees and rooftops. And I thought: something about that is bird-like. Owl-like, really.

I started to look at some pictures of owls, just for ideas, and one of the things I found was this:

With this caption beneath it: “The appearance and calls of owls, such as the Eurasian Scops Owl, may have influenced Roman ideas of the blood-drinking strix.”

“Srix” is a genus of the family strigadae – true owls. But “Roman blood drinking strix”? That had to be investigated! After some more time (okay way too long) searching online, I pieced together the myth of the Strix. In doing so, I also found references to the Romanian Strigoi, Both myths were similar – vampires, essentially, that could transform into an animal (usually an owl). These myths are not widely known, which increased their appeal, for me.

Armed with my research, I began inventing my character: the strige.

The strige is an emotional vampire. So he or she does not drink blood, in fact, my Strige Theron eats normal food, and enjoys cooking. But to feed the strige part of himself, he must also consume emotions. So he hunts, which means he sneaks around climbing trees and observing humans, and he absorbs the emotions they exude. Strige are nocturnal, but can tolerate daylight if necessary. They live longer than humans, but are not immortal.

I added some other details to my creature as well, including a bonding ceremony, and I hope you will read the story to learn more about the strige!

What kind of creature would you make up? What kinds of paranormal creatures do you most like to read?

Character Inspirations: Night Vision

February 18, 2015

Theron

Theron is the paranormal character in Night Vision, a creature called a Strige (yes I made that up) I sort of envisioned him as a vampire, but instead of feeding on blood, he feeds on human emotions. I also gave him some Owl-like qualities (Strix is the genus name for Owls, and that is partially where the name came from) so this picture is particularly perfect:

Miles McMillan, photographed by Ryan McGinley for EDUN, fall 2012

Miles McMillan, photographed by Ryan McGinley for EDUN, fall 2012

Also the model here is almost exactly how I pictured Theron as I wrote him! Maybe Theron should be a little bit older, a tiny bit heavier, but this is really close. Theron likes to sneak around, climb trees, and cook gourmet meals. He is old, and intelligent, and ruthless in many ways, but he is also vulnerable in that he has never before been in love. So despite all his age and experience, he is often unsure of himself when it comes to relationships.

Alex

Alex is the human, Theron’s love interest. I love writing more “normal” guys, and that is what Alex is. Except, of course, let’s imagine him sexy, shall we? He has light brown hair and hazel eyes, and works as a systems administrator. This picture would be a good one for him:

model Max Hauser

model Max Hauser

Though this model is extremely handsome, I think he could blend in with normal people… maybe?

So thinking of these two characters, I think the cover artist did a great job with matching them:

Cover by Catt Ford

Cover by Catt Ford

What do you think? How important is it for you to have a visual of the characters you are reading? Do you notice or care when the cover does not match the characters as they are described in the text? Or do you prefer to imagine characters your own way?

Release Day Party! Night Vision

February 18, 2015

Hi!

I am so excited! Today my Paranormal Novella Night Vision is finally out.  Look at the cool cover:

Cover by Catt Ford

Cover by Catt Ford

Nice, right? I am happy with it :)

I wasn’t sure what to talk about here, then I remembered what one of my friends said after she found out I had written a few books. She asked where I got the ideas for stories. She said, to her, that was the most unimaginable thing – coming up with ideas, and characters, and new plots.

So I decided it might be best here to begin at the beginning, with how I came up with this story concept. And since Dreamspinner totally let me takeover this blog (haha!) I will just ramble on about it in my own weird way.

Here is how it happened for Night Vision: I was sitting in my yard last summer, watching my kids play, and I looked up at our big oak tree. (I love that tree.) Anyway, a funny thought struck me – what if there was someone in the tree, watching, or hunting? Some kind of creature… And then my mind wandered about that for a while.

I imagined a scene, with two characters. One, in the tree (or maybe on a rooftop?) and the other, on the ground, who notices. And I thought, wouldn’t it be more interesting if, instead of being surprised or nervous, the character on the ground is more just irritated or mildly accepting? Like: “oh,” *eye roll* “he’s up in that tree again.”   And it was that imaginary scene that sparked the idea for Night Vision.

My character, Theron, climbs to high places, and my character Alex is the one who notices. I think they are a super cute couple. (My next blog post here is all about them!) But the entire story really started with that one picture in my mind, of a person in a tree and another on the ground, and I built the story around it. That is only my silly method of story creation, and I am sure there are as many ways to come up with a story idea as there are writers!

Do you write yourself? How do you get your story ideas?

What intrigues you most about the books you read? Is it creating the worlds and characters, or forming the complex plots? For me, I am always so impressed with authors who write mysteries, the way they can insert clues and hints into the narrative in ways that I don’t even notice, until it all adds up at the end. I think that is so cool!

How about you? Do you wonder at the writing process, or just enjoy the story?

RAOK Release Party: Liz Makar

February 16, 2015

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To celebrate the release of the Random Acts of Kindness anthology today, some of the authors will be sharing with you a little glimpse behind each of their stories.

 

Hi all. I am Liz Makar, and I’m the author of Pleased as Punch in the Random Acts of Kindness collection for Dreamspinner Press. I wanted to take a quick moment to explain the random place my story came from and how quickly I fell in love with it.

It all started with a name.

I spend a lot of time writing things in my head – short stories, character bios, novel plots, entire novels that might never leave my head – and when I am actually able to get pen to paper (fingers to keyboard), I relish making my thoughts come to life. Pleased as Punch began when I got the phrase “Liam Wayne Hidalgo, who asked you?” stuck in my head, repeated in a Southern accent, no less. I literally heard the quote over and over until I had to type it into a word document so I wouldn’t forget it. I am not from the South, nor would affecting a Southern accent sound accurate coming from my mouth, but this phrase in my head made me fall in love with a character I hadn’t even created yet. I needed to develop him immediately. Who is he? Carter Philips, a sarcastic, sharp, gay man with an incredibly charming accent. Where is he from? Clearly the South, Georgia perhaps. What does he do? He’s a student, starting college later in life. Who is his momma? Because I knew straightaway she would be a “momma” and not a “mother” or a “mom”, this seemed important. And of course, where on Earth will this random act of kindness come from between Carter and the other man I barely know, the apparently annoying/rude/nosy/eclectically named Liam Wayne Hidalgo who also deserves my attention, that will connect them and their development in an enjoyable way? There’s only one real way to find out: you’ll have to buy the book.

 

Liz Maker Author Page Here.

Check out Random Acts of Kindness here!

RAOK Release Party: Amy Rae Durreson

February 16, 2015

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To celebrate the release of the Random Acts of Kindness anthology today, some of the authors will be sharing with you a little glimpse behind each of their stories.

 

Believing in Kindness

I’m a great believer in kindness. Stating it like that always feels a little defiant. It’s so easy to assume the worst of everyone that declaring your faith in human nature sometimes gets treated as a sign of weakness or as if it’s a little embarrassing, like laughing too loudly in public, wearing a bow tie to the pub, or making obscure Doctor Who jokes to the cashier in the supermarket (all of which I’m certain Monty, the love interest of “Humming A Different Tune” has done).

But I’ve seen too much kindness to be cynical, from the lift offered by fellow youth hostellers when the heavens opened on the day I’d planned to walk five miles to the nearest bus stop to the usually gruff and belligerent fifteen-year-old who appeared by my desk last week to tell me that his best friend was too scared to admit how frightened he was about upcoming exams and could I please come outside and tell him everything was going to be okay. I’ve also seen phenomenal acts of kindness online, both within our own community and elsewhere. One of those was the inspiration for this story, and it’s also the story I tell every time someone scoffs at the idea of genuine kindness.

A few years ago, when my sister was pregnant with my oldest nephew, she joined an online support group for expectant mums. They all stayed in contact even after their babies were born, and she’s still friends with many of them now. They’ve travelled miles to meet for coffee, raised funds for a seriously ill child, and they’ve saved a wedding. It started when one of their number found out that her dad had only weeks to live. She was engaged and saving up for a big wedding, but cancelled everything so she could get married with her dad there. The new plan left them with very little money to put on a wedding celebration, but the baby group rallied round. They all donated, made, or lent something, from a dress to flowers to money to decorations (my sister made place settings).

I don’t even know the name of my sister’s friend, or the exact details of how it all worked, but the story stayed with me. The idea of collective kindness turning a tragic situation into something more hopeful is wonderful. In the story, my protagonist’s twin sister faces exactly the same family situation, but I made her a dancer, with friends in that online community. It’s an eccentric dancing friend, Monty, who first reaches out to Neil, my protagonist, and the two of them turn that initial kind impulse into a surprise wedding reception. It’s a bittersweet story, but I wanted to show how kindness can transcend tragedy and draw people together. Monty and Neil are both a little lost, but planning Lucy’s wedding leads them to each other.

So, yes, I believe in kindness, in both its existence and its power to change lives.

 

Amy Rae Durreson is the author of Humming a Different Tune in the RAOK anthology.

 

Amy Rae Durreson Author Page Here.

Check out Random Acts of Kindness here!

RAOK Release Party: Hannah Kollef

February 16, 2015

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To celebrate the release of the Random Acts of Kindness anthology today, some of the authors will be sharing with you a little glimpse behind each of their stories.

 

Hello,

I’m Hannah Kollef, author of One Cold Night in Prague. I am so thrilled to be in the Random Acts of Kindness anthology with so many talented writers.

I was excited about this theme as soon as I saw it announced. With all the negativity in the news, it’s nice to see a book centered around that oft-overlooked quality, kindness. My story is a romance that comes of a thwarted pick-pocketing. I hope it will raise your spirits – writing it certainly raised mine.

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Photo of Prague, inspiration for my story

I based my story in Prague after spending almost two years there. Like John Jacob Jingleheimer – yes, his full name, and yes he knows the song – I was an English teacher. I fell in love with the city, its crumbling buildings and pastel painted Renaissance architecture, gaslit side streets, and dark stone angels that watch over its citizens. Consequently, everything in One Cold Night is based on my experience in the city, including the grand Orloj clock tower that is one of Prague’s crowning jewels. U Medviku is a real pub in the center of the city, though I’ve taken a few licenses with the insides.

Ivan’s giant, pub-dwelling dog is also based in fact. I don’t think I ever entered a pub in Prague that didn’t have a few dogs running around. In Prague dogs are like children to their owners, and are taken to offices, cafes, and parks with equal frequency. And how can you be sad in a place where Great Danes ramble around with tiny Chihuahuas?

I hope you enjoy Jacob and Karel’s story. Maybe it will remind you of your own Czech romance, or inspire you to visit and find one. If you have a story about European travels or Prague specifically, please contact me and share. I’m always happy to meet new friends.

(If you don’t have such a story, don’t let that stop you from reaching out!)

You can find my Dreamspinner work and more about me at http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/AuthorArcade/hannah-kollef. And please come visit my author website, HannahKollef.com, where you’ll find more information about my previously published novels and short stories.

I look forward to meeting y’all, and I hope you enjoy all the wonderful tales in Random Acts of Kindness.

All the very best,

Hannah Kollef

 

Check out Random Acts of Kindness here!

RAOK Release Party: Jessica Chase

February 16, 2015

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To celebrate the release of the Random Acts of Kindness anthology today, some of the authors will be sharing with you a little glimpse behind each of their stories.

 

The Healer and the Thief – Jessica Chase

For Tobias, busy with his life as the healer for a small village, life was simple.  He cared for those around him and lived alone.  One day though, his life would be turned upside down.

Vials on the table were pushed to the side, the herbs tangled together and out of the neat piles he had left them in. Some of the books had been knocked from the shelves, and the blankets were pulled from the boxes.

In this chaos, he finds Joshua hiding from the men who are after him.  A split second decision to look after Joshua will change both their lives forever.

This story was one that I had wanted to write for a long time.  I’ve grown up reading fantasy stories, and I wanted to bring the world that was inside my mind to life on the page.  Creating the relationship between Tobias and Joshua was fantastic fun, and it is definitely a world that I wanted to return to.  With so many stories focussed on sadness, I loved the chance to write something so full of joy and tenderness.   By showing the relationship between the two characters and the way that they learn to trust each other, I was able to create a world full of kindness, where one person’s trust can return to repay them a dozen times over.

So now that you know a little about my story, I’d love to hear about your own experiences.  Any random acts of kindness which have impacted upon your life, or split second decisions you made which changed everything?

 

This will be my first time publishing with DSP, and I can be found on the DSP website at http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/AuthorArcade/jessica-chase.  My writing blog can be found at JChaseStories.blogspot.co.uk, and I am on Twitter at @JChaseStories.  I love hearing from readers, so get in contact!

Check out Random Acts of Kindness here!

Random Acts of Kindness Coupon Code!

February 16, 2015

 

Want to get 25% off the ebook or paperback copy of Random Acts of Kindness?

Use RandomActs (case sensitive) when checking out at the Dreamspinner Press store to redeem the savings.  But hurry, this code lasts for 2 days starting today!

Check out Random Acts of Kindness here!

 

RAOK Release Party: Indra Vaughn & Lane Swi

February 16, 2015

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To celebrate the release of the Random Acts of Kindness anthology today, some of the authors will be sharing with you a little glimpse behind each of their stories.

 

Hi everyone! Thank you for stopping by. My name is Indra Vaughn and I’m here to talk to you about the Random Act of Kindness Anthology, specifically the story Two For Joy.

The tale takes place in the city of Lincoln, UK. I actually lived there for three years before I moved to Cambridge, and absolutely loved the small city so I’ve been waiting for an opportunity to use the setting. The view of the cathedral when you drive into town is breathtakingly stunning.

 

Indra_Lincoln Cathedral

 

When Matt, the main character in the story, arrives in Lincoln he’s a bit too overwhelmed to notice how beautiful the place is, though. He just got in from Belgium, only to find out the university doesn’t have the promised dorm room for him, so he’s homeless! He tries to find another place to live but has no luck until a gorgeous, tall British guy kindly offers to help him out. Matt quickly finds himself embraced by a slightly odd English family, and loves it.

Now, Matt was born with a congenital amputation: one leg ends just above the knee. When I grew up I had a friend who was born with one arm amputated below the elbow, and while we lost touch when she moved, I never forgot her. The completely fearless way she went at life had me admire her even at a very young age. How she faced stares from strangers and how she got around doing all the daily things I could barely do with two hands was amazing. (Like putting her hair in a ponytail. As a little kid this completely fascinated me, like only kids can be unselfconsciously fascinated by these things.)

So in a way Matt is my little tribute to her. His prosthetic leg is there, and it’s completely normal as far as he’s concerned, and if people want to stare at it that’s their problem.

Apart from Gran. Gran doesn’t mince her words and he loves her for it.

I hope you like this little story and I’d love to hear any and all feedback from you.

With me here is Lane Swift, whose story also takes place in England, but I’ll let her tell you all about it. We’re actually good friends, and I am absolutely thrilled that she’s in this anthology too. You will love her story guys, it’s absolutely amazing, and I hope it will serve as an introduction to other amazing things to come from Lane!

Have a wonderful day!

Indra

 

 

Hi! I’m Lane. Yes, Indra and I became friends when I lived in the USA, and have stayed friends even though I’m back in the UK now. Europeans have ways of finding each other, no matter what part of the world they’re in! I’ve read her story, and I know you’ll love it.

I thought I’d use this opportunity to elaborate on the setting for my anthology story, The Blue Umbrella. After that, I’ll be interviewing one of my characters, Vik. (The story is told from Andy’s point of view, and Vik wanted to get the chance to have his say.)

Land’s End is a rugged headland in Cornwall, England, characterised by high granite cliffs and crashing waves. It’s the most westerly place in mainland England. According to the font of all knowledge that is Wikipedia: Land’s End has a particular resonance because it is often used to suggest distance. Land’s End to John o’ Groats in Scotland is a distance of 838 miles by road and this … distance is often used to define charitable events such as end-to-end walks and races in the UK.

Lane_Land's End

In The Blue Umbrella, Andy Haynes, dying of cancer, completes what he believes is the final leg of his journey from John o’Groats to Land’s End. However, when he meets Vik, while sitting on a bench on the headland, he discovers his journeying isn’t quite over.

Me: What did you think when you first saw Andy, sitting alone on a bench looking out to sea?

Vik: I couldn’t see his face at first, but from the way he sat, he seemed sad. I wasn’t sure whether to approach him. I thought maybe he wanted to be alone. Something inside urged me to go ahead though, and I’m glad I did. When I spoke to him he looked at me and, although I could see he was unwell, he was still striking. Some people have that, don’t they? The ability to capture your imagination with just a look or a smile. That was definitely Andy.

Me: So you offered Andy your umbrella because you fancied him?

(Vik laughs and looks down into his lap. I think his cheeks are burning.)

Vik: No, I would have done the same for anyone. But maybe I wouldn’t have sat quite so close if it had been someone I wasn’t attracted to. (Vik smiles again.)

Me: What would you say to anyone who doesn’t believe a story with a dying man can have a happy ending?

Vik: Believe! Cornwall is a place of wonder and magic. Anything is possible.

 

I hope you enjoy the story!

Lane

 

Indra Vaughn Author Page Here.

Lane Swift Author Page Here.

Check out Random Acts of Kindness here!

RAOK Release Party: Tray Ellis

February 16, 2015

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To celebrate the release of the Random Acts of Kindness anthology today, some of the authors will be sharing with you a little glimpse behind each of their stories.

 

Not Exactly Deep Thoughts, But Neither Fluffy Ones, On Kindness, by Tray Ellis

For over a week now, I’ve been pondering what sort of topic would be interesting with respect to the latest anthology that Dreamspinner Press is publishing, Random Acts of Kindness.  I have a story in this anthology, “Never Waste a Good Left Turn”, and it follows the unexpected romance between uptight Leif and Jason, who is living by the seat of his pants.  Jason gives away kindness and favors as easily as breathing and all that good mojo comes back to him double fold. He lets Leif take a congested left hand turn in the mornings, and after an auto accident, Leif stops to repay the favor.

But no satisfying topic jumped out at me.  (Other than possibly traffic, because the story deals with commuting and traffic, and everyone hates that.  But writing about it is a surefire way to make everyone cross, so better to concentrate elsewhere!)  I paid attention to my own life, weighing good deeds and bad, hoping to find something to tie in, but nothing seemed quite right.

But then I started to think about my own reactions to the kindnesses and unkind acts happening to me and all around me.  These things really, really matter.  They become talking points and topics of conversation, debates spark from their occurrences.  People remember them, long after they should have passed into obscurity.  Our lives can take direction from even the smallest incident, or the most carelessly spoken sentence.

And that is an excellent reason to delve into this anthology.  Fourteen different writers pondered deeply on this topic and then crafted stories where kindness matters and makes a difference.  All of them are focused on the better elements of human nature with romance all tucked in. Uplift your spirits! Who doesn’t need a little bit more kindness in their life?  This anthology provides it!

 

Tray Ellis Author Page Here.

Check out Random Acts of Kindness here!