The Courtesan’s Avenger by Kate M. Colby: Themes in a Series

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I would like to welcome author Kate M. Colby to my blog.  In this post, she discusses the issue of themes in a series of novels. Kate is an excellent writer, one I am proud to know. I respect her abilities and writing, and I have used her previous novel The Cogsmith’s Daughter (Desertera #1) in two of my college English literature classes.  So, welcome Kate please as she discusses Themes in a Series:

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 What makes a good book series? Most readers would say a captivating world, strong characters, and an overarching mission or journey. I absolutely agree … but I think there’s something missing there. Theme.

While books can (and should) offer escape and entertainment, they have the ability to do so much more than that. Fiction allows authors the opportunity to explore topics that matter to them on neutral ground, to expose and evaluate unsavory aspects of society, to celebrate all that makes up this wonderful and crazy human experience. As someone who blended sociology and English in university, this is exactly what I try to do in my fiction.

The world of my Desertera series is a steampunk wasteland. It’s about as far from reality as I could run. But the themes within the world really hit home with me, and have with several of my readers, too. My first novel, The Cogsmith’s Daughter, is a revenge tale. When Aya, my protagonist, was a young girl, the king had her father executed for treason. Therefore, at first opportunity, Aya joins a plot to avenge her father’s death and trap the king into a crime, thus bringing about his execution.

If I’ve done my job as a writer, the readers should be on Aya’s side. They should seethe with anger and root for her to succeed in orchestrating the king’s execution. They should identify with Aya’s quest for self-redemption, love, and the reclaiming of her sexuality. They should be appalled at the social injustices in the world, the stratification of class and wealth, and the hypocritical palace politics – all things that can be found in reality.

When I set out to write the sequel, The Courtesan’s Avenger, I wanted to tackle a lot of these same themes. Class struggle remains a central issue, along with love and sexuality, friendship, and self-discovery. However, I knew I had a responsibility to address the other side of revenge: justice.

I had to face the ugly truth of the morality I had exalted. As much as I respect Aya and her mission, revenge isn’t healthy. Even if it is “justified,” it can turn a good person evil, blind them to their own wrongdoings, and pose troubling moral questions for a society. After all, if Aya can (essentially) murder and (definitely) commit crimes to avenge her father, what’s to stop the other citizens from doing the same to address their own grievances?

Enter Dellwyn and The Courtesan’s Avenger. When one of Dellwyn’s fellow courtesans is murdered, she doesn’t desire revenge or any sort of payback. She wants justice. Her whole goal in finding the killer is to submit them to the authorities and the judgment of law. She doesn’t take justice into her own hands, doesn’t commit any crimes, and even condemns Aya’s actions from the first novel. Dellwyn has seen how Aya’s quest for revenge created rifts in their world, and she refuses to do the same.

This is all a longwinded way of saying that theme, just as much as characters and setting and plot, is a central part of writing a book series. As an author, you have the opportunity to highlight the wrongs and praise the good you see in society. You can help readers gain empathy for the corrupt, question their sense of right and wrong, or just consider an issue they’d never thought about before.

Readers, you have the greatest blessing of all. You get to pick and choose what to take with you. Every book, no matter how thematically driven, leaves a piece of itself with us. Pride and Prejudice encourages us not to judge others too harshly and be open to love, The Girl on the Train reminds us to take responsibility for our actions, and The Picture of Dorian Gray condemns vanity, self-indulgence, and moral duplicity. At least, that’s what I get from those three – your interpretations could be entirely different! You can take the author’s message at face value, mine for deeper meaning, discover something the author didn’t know was there, or ignore it all completely. That’s the beauty of theme.

So, fellow writers, have the courage to experiment and make theme a central part of your series. It’s not just for stand-alone literary fiction novels. And, fellow readers, examine everything the author presents and take whatever it is you need. Every possible meaning lurks between those pages, and you can have whichever one you like.

Happy reading!

Author bio:

Kate M. Colby is an author of science fiction, fantasy, and nonfiction. Her first series, Desertera, consists of steampunk fantasy novels with themes of socio-economic disparity, self-empowerment, romance, and revenge. She lives in the United States with her husband and furry children.

 

Book links:

The Cogsmith’s Daughter (Desertera #1) – http://books2read.com/the-cogsmiths-daughter

The Courtesan’s Avenger (Desertera #2) – http://books2read.com/the-courtesans-avenger

Social links:

Website – http://www.katemcolby.com

Goodreads – http://www.goodreads.com/katemcolby

Facebook – http://www.facebook.com/authorkatemcolby

Twitter – http://www.twitter.com/katemcolby    

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Roosevelt’s Cheeseburgers and Panfried Veggies

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Roosevelt Franklin, the protagonist of my horror novel Maledicus: Investigative Paranormal Society Book I, in many ways is a sophisticated man. He has expensive tastes in British tailored suits, fine cigars, and the best single malt Scotch whisky. He is not, however, a food snob.  His beloved wife, Sarah, was an excellent cook and often prepared elegant meals for Roosevelt.  Sarah died a few years before the beginning of the book, and Roosevelt honors her memory by not attempting to make those meals for himself. Now, he prefers simpler fare, even if it is not always the healthiest.

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(Photo by Liz French)

One of his favorite meals now is panfried veggies and cheeseburgers.

The Recipe:

Roosevelt emphasizes that, if possible, to use cast iron pans for the frying.

Ingredients:

One pound ground beef, preferably 80/20 mixture.

Cheese–American, cheddar, or Swiss.

Two to three large red potatoes.

One large sweet onion.

4-5 carrots.

One tomato.

One bell pepper.

One egg.

Ground pepper.

Sea salt.

Worcestershire sauce.

Paprika.

Dill.

*Clean and cut potatoes and carrots into irregular small pieces.

*Briefly steam the carrots and potatoes to soften them.

*Dice the bell pepper, tomato, and onion.

*Preheat two cast iron skillets to medium.

*Lightly coat one with olive oil or vegetable oil (this pan is for the veggies.)

*As pans are heating, mix the groundbeef with an egg and Worcestershire sauce. Season mixture with pepper and sea salt.

*Form into patties, as large or small as desired.

*Place patties into heated pan. Allow to sear on both sides.

*Add all veggies into other hot skillet.

*Season with pepper, sea salt, paprika, and dill.

*After about 5 minutes, reduce heat. Turn veggies ever 5 minutes or so to prevent burning. Add more oil if needed.

*If needed, reduce heat for hamburgers. Depending on their size and the preference for level of being cooked, it could take anywhere from 10-15 minutes to cook, so keep a careful eye on them.

*When close to being finished, add cheese and cover, so the cheese melts completely.

*Serve either on a plate or hamburger rolls. Add whatever condiments are desired.

Enjoy!

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Quotations on Hope

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“You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. I hope someday you’ll join us. And the world will live as one.”

                                                                  John Lennon

 

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“Hold fast to dreams,

For if dreams die

Life is a broken-winged bird,

That cannot fly.”

                                                                   Langston Hughes

 

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“It’s really a wonder that I haven’t dropped all my ideals, because they seem so absurd and impossible to carry out. Yet I keep them, because in spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart.”

                                                                    Anne Frank

Writing Progress

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I believe I have not done an update in a few months on my writing progress, so I will do so now.  I have finished a first draft of book 2 of my young adult series: The Ameriad.  Now like most first drafts, it is not very good, and I am being charitable, and it needs massive revision, but it is done. As I say to other writers and to my students, get a draft done, otherwise you have nothing to work on.  Now I have about 50,000 words for future revisions. I am anticipating both cutting and adding in the next draft.

That means, I will continue on my plan on completing 2 first drafts every year.  I now move on to book 2 of The Investigative Paranormal Society.  Each book in this series will focus on one of the three older gentlemen who form the nucleus of the group. This one will center on Sam, the retired homicide detective.  So, to work with this!  I hope to have the draft done by the end of the year.

And I am moving along with the manuscript of my horror novel, Maledicus:  Investigative Paranormal Society Book I. I will shortly send it out to be formatted, both for ebook and printing, and I am aiming at a release in late September. I will keep you informed as I move forward with promotion on it.

In addition to drafting, I am always revising also.  So I try to find separate times to do both most days.  I am now beginning a major revision of book one of my young adult series.  I will speak more of this in future posts.

Remember folks, keep writing and revising!

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Roosevelt’s Bread Pudding With Whiskey Sauce

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As an affirmed anglophile, and a would be British country gentleman, even though he is a proud American, Theodore Roosevelt Franklin, the protagonist of my horror novel, Maledicus: Investigative Paranormal Society Book I, loves some traditional British foods, but he always puts his own touches to the recipes.

One of his favorite desserts is bread pudding with a whiskey sauce, in this case a bourbon sauce. While not a baker, this is a dish he has learned to make to his taste.

Ingredients: (Roosevelt emphasizes that if you make this dish, adjust the ingredients according to your tastes.)

For the bread pudding:

4 cups stale French or Italian bread, cut in small, irregular pieces

2 & 1/2 cups milk

3 eggs

1 cup sugar

1 tablespoon vanilla (extract is fine to use)

1 teaspoon nutmeg

1 teaspoon cinnamon

4-5 tablespoon melted butter

1 cup raisins

For the Bourbon Sauce:

1 stick butter

2 egg yolks

1 cup sugar

1/3-1/2 cup bourbon whiskey, depending on how strong you want the sauce to be

How to make the bread pudding:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees

In a big mixing bowl, combine milk and the bread. Squeeze the bread until completely saturated with the milk.

Use another mixing bowl. Beat the eggs and sugar on a high speed (use electric mixer) until thick.  Add the vanilla, nutmeg, cinnamon, raisins, and butter, and stir together thoroughly.  Then add the bread to the mix and stir.

Next, let the mixture sit for around 10-15 minutes so there will be no separation during the baking. Roosevelt made this mistake the first time he tried the dish, and the result was not good.

Grease a baking dish (a spray also works well), and pour the entire mixture into the dish.

Bake about 45-55 minutes.  Check with a butter knife to see if done. Insert into the middle, and examine when taking it out. If the knife is clean, it is done.

Let it sit while preparing the bourbon sauce.

How to make the bourbon sauce:

In a mixing bowl, beat the egg yolks until they are thick. Melt the butter along with the sugar. Add the mixture to the egg yolks, and mix until thickened. Stir in the bourbon with a wooden spoon.

Serve by cutting pieces into a bowl, and pour  an ample amount of the sauce onto the bread pudding.

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Roosevelt usually eats his dessert with a glass of bourbon and a good cigar.

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Please follow the following links to find my novel:

ebook

Print book

Thank you!

The book trailer:

Maledicus:Investigative Paranormal Society Book I

My radio interview:

interview

 

 

Maledicus: The Investigative Paranormal Society Book I

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I have changed the title of my horror novel Evil Lives After to Maledicus: The Investigative Paranormal Society Book I.  An extraordinary cover has been designed for the book by Judy Bullard at customebookcovers@cox.net.  I recommend her highly. Her designs are professional and of excellent quality, and Judy will work with you to create the cover you need and are happy with!

I am targeting late September for the book’s release.

Here is a little about my novel:

“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” (Edmund Burke)

Roosevelt Theodore Franklin attempts to make it through life day by day.  Roosevelt is a widower, who lost his beloved wife to cancer and a retired history professor, and he has not stopped grieving.  Along with his two closest friends, also retired and who have also lost loved ones, the three men form a paranormal investigation group.  They hope to find an answer to the question: is there life after death?

When asked by a local teacher to investigate a possible haunting of her house, the group discovers an evil beyond anything they could have imagined.  This is no mere ghost. Maledicus, who was in life a pimp, torturer, and murderer during Caligula’s reign in Rome, in death has become a sociopathic demon that attacks the weak and the innocent.  Maledicus threatens a five year old child’s life and soul.  Terrified by what they have discovered, Roosevelt and his friends must choose to either walk away from this threat, or to do battle with this ancient creature at the potential loss of their sanities, their lives, and their souls.

Look for my book to follow this battle.

Favorite Horror Films of the 1960s: The Brides of Dracula

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A tsunami of horror films cascaded into movie theaters in the 1960s, some by the larger studios and an abundance of grade B-Z films from smaller companies. Following the success of Horror of Dracula, The Curse of Frankenstein, and The Mummy, Hammer created a plethora of sequels as well as new horror films. Frankenstein and Dracula would serve as the basis for the most sequels, thereby creating a seemingly non-ending money source for the studio, even as the films often became bad imitations of the original productions.

Oddly, the first sequel to The Horror of Dracula, The Brides of Dracula, (1960) does not feature Dracula as a character. Instead, the movie features a Baron Meinster, as the opening voice-over narration says is a disciple of the ongoing cult of vampirism led by the now destroyed Dracula. While Dracula does not appear, the renowned vampire hunter Dr. Van Helsing does as played once more by Peter Cushing. Along with Baron Frankenstein, this role would establish Cushing as a major horror film star of the 1950s-1970s.

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The characters are indirectly based on Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula, the foundation for most vampire films, until Anne Rice’s revolutionary treatment of the undead in Interview With The Vampire.

The plot involves a young teacher who is “wooed” by a Baron Meinster. He proposes to her, while intending to make her his vampire bride. The tone of the film is clearly Gothic, with an architectural focus on a castle, the threatened young maiden, and a Bryonic Hero–the Baron.  These are standard, but not all inclusive, elements of a Gothic tale, and the Byronic Hero is typically a sexually attractive and threatening person, but more importantly, someone who lives according to his or her own rules, ignoring  the dictates of society.

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While much of the film does not break new earth in exploring the vampire story, it does feature one very unusual twist. In one sequence, Dr. Van Helsing is attacked by a vampire and bitten. He passes out, and when he awakens, he is able to remove the curse of the vampire bite. He heats an iron in glowing coals, then uses it to cauterize the bite and finally pours holy water onto the wound. It works and suggest that the vampire attacks are not merely demonic but also infections. This motif is one that will be greatly developed in many later vampire novels, TV shows, and films.

Van Helsing is successful in destroying the vampire and saving the young woman. The motif of the holy symbols are repeated: Van Helsing throws holy water onto the face of the Vampire, repelling and burning him, and then he is able to catch the Baron in the shadow of a giant cross, which destroys him.

Terence Fisher directed, and the film did well enough at the box office to justify a chain of sequels. Even though Christopher Lee did not appear in this movie, he would soon return to reprise the role of Count Dracula in the near future.

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Please follow the following links to find my novel:

ebook

Print book

Thank you!

The book trailer:

Maledicus:Investigative Paranormal Society Book I

My radio interview:

interview

Favorite Horror Films of the 1960s: Psycho

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It is time to both revisit and move forward with my series on horror films. Psycho (1960) is a Paramount Film that was both produced and directed by Alfred Hitchcock and was based on the novel Psycho by Robert Bloch.  This movie stands as one of the best, not only horror but American, films as a whole. Hitchcock is, without a doubt, an auteur, one of the great Masters of American cinema, and this film had huge influence on the creation of slasher films and psychopathic villains in films.

The film revolutionized the way the public viewed evil; it did not have to be supernaturally based nor a radiation caused event; rather, Hitchcock established that the human mind and life experience could create more frightening monsters than vampires and werewolves. These are people who suffered horror, and their creators were other people, at least in most cases of psychopathology.

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Psycho had an exemplary cast. Among the actors were Anthony Perkins, Janet Leigh, Martin Balsam, and Vera Miles. All gave extraordinary performances in this movie.  From the deeply disturbing opening sequence of the murder in the shower to the end revelation of Norman Bates’ level of insanity, the film is a masterpiece of cinema.

Hitchcock’s cinematic formalism is evident in his complete control of every detail of each shot. This is a film that is created with the planned brushstrokes of a master artist. The power of the murder scene in the Bates Motel bathroom is so strong that many people watch it and believe they have seen much more than they actually have.  Hitchcock never shows the killer’s knife entering the body of Marion Crane, played by Janet Leigh.  Hitchcock’s use of careful angles and reaction shots as the young women is being murdered makes the viewers perceive more than is being shown on the screen.  The effect is far more powerful than later films which would rely primarily on gore to have an impact and not on story and cinematic technique.

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It is also interesting to note that the first victim, Marion Crane, was a woman who had committed a crime, in the theft of a substantial amount of money from her boss.  Hitchcock would establish this pattern that was too often used to the point of becoming cliched that the so-called “bad” girl was the one to be killed.  Additionally, if Norman Bates is also viewed as a victim of the circumstances of his own life, then the film focuses primarily on the impact of these crimes on the young.  This is certainly not exclusive; others who are older are also attacked, but Hitchcock seemed to be exploring the effect of this horror on the younger generation. Perhaps he also understood that group was the primary audience for his film.

Psycho made an extraordinary profit at the box office, and it was nominated for several Academy Awards.  Its legacy is well established. Norman Bates is a character who has grown past this film and entered into the public’s awareness through other remakes and adaptations, and many of the motifs of horror/slasher/gothic films are derived from this movie.

Psycho must be seen as one of the best films in American cinema, and Hitchcock is one of the American film masters. If you have not seen this movie and are prepared for powerful images and shocks, then I recommend it highly. It is one of the best films of all time.

 

R.I.P. Umberto Eco and Harper Lee

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The world lost two of its most important writers today, Friday February 19, 2016: Harper Lee and Umberto Eco.  I offer this small post in remembrance of their brilliance.

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Umberto Eco was a renowned professor of semiotics, the study of language and signs, as well as a best-selling novelist, and he died at the age of 84. He is probably best known outside of the academic world for his novel The Name of the Rose and the successful Hollywood film based on it, which  starred Sean Connery.  The book was, on the surface, a medieval murder mystery that was heavily influenced by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and his great detective Sherlock Holmes. It was also a multi-layered exploration of the medieval as well as the contemporary world. Eco incorporated a difficult series of puzzles and codes within the text by utilizing his knowledge of semiotics, and his labyrinthine library was based on the writing of Jorge Luis Borges.   The Name Of The Rose established Eco’s career as a novelist, which he followed up with books like Foucault’s Pendulum.   His writing entertains on  the surface and then challenges the reader to delve deeply into intellectual exploration of the world.

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Harper Lee,  the novelist whose seminal work on racism and justice in America To Kill A Mockingbird, also died today.  She was 89 years old. Her book focused attention on racism and the lack of justice in southern small-town America as well as the attempt by her hero Atticus Finch to fight for the life of a black man accused of raping a young white woman. This book, and the enormously successful film based on her novel by the same name and starring Gregory Peck, a powerful adaptation, are both beloved and masterpieces of literature and film. In 2015, Lee released a book that can be seen as a sequel, prequel, or adaptation of To Kill a MockingbirdGo Set A Watchman.

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As a reader, I have loved their writings.  I have also used To Kill A Mockingbird and The Name Of The Rose in my college classes.  Both books presented challenges to my students as well as great rewards for the studying of them.

The world has lost two powerful and deeply important writers.

Rest in Peace: Harper Lee and Umberto Eco.

 

Tour For the Re-release of The Curious Tale of Gabrielle by Zachary Paul Chopchinski

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I am very pleased to be one of the hosts on the blog tour of the re-release for The Curious Tale of Gabrielle by Zachary Paul Chopchinski. Mr. Chopchinski is a talented writer, whom I have had the honor of meeting through the world of the blog, and I hope all of you consider reading his book!

Mr. Chopchinski discusses his reasons for the re-release:

As with many things in life, you will always be your own worst critic. This is not only true in my case, but a savage reality that drives much of what I do. I look at my writing as an extension of myself, it is something that I created and breathed life into. You strive for perfection in what you create as it mirrors its creator, no? This is one of the primary factors behind me re-releasing my first book in a second edition.

There are many things that I had to accept and overcome with the first edition of The Curious Tale of Gabrielle. There were plenty of grammatical issues, to start. I like to believe that I am a gifted wordsmith, however it is impossible to produce a good piece of work without proper editing. This is exactly what I was missing as I couldn’t afford a conventional editor the first time through. While I was proud of what I did put forth, there was a lot to be desired in the final fit and finish. So the first step that I took was to enlist the assistance of a proper editor. Which made the first huge leap.

Secondly, as I am working on the next steps of the journey, I began to look at what will become of Gabrielle and the adventures ahead of her. I realized that, as I was currently writing, there was a lack of a running antagonist. All of the books would be stand-alone with their endings bringing the end to that story. I felt that by introducing a secondary protagonist (Morrigan), who will give Gabrielle someone to grow and develop with, this would lay the foundation and allow for the introduction of a running antagonist. I thought that this would bring a bit more depth and realism to the series. As my readers grow and develop relationships with the light in my books, they must first respect the shadow. So I designed and introduced a theme that will develop into essentially a fight between good and evil.

I also wanted to expand on the story a bit. For selfish reasons, I wanted to put my book at around the 70,000 word mark so that, by definition, it was a novel. This may seem petty, and I don’t mean for it to. I set a goal for myself to write a novel, and that is what I intended to do. I cannot bake a singular brownie and then proclaim it to be a cake.
So with the extensions of the book, the proper editing and accepting my own flaws, developing more profound foundation for the future works, and placing my book in an arena where I can look to it and be proud of what I have created, I felt that sending it out into the world with a proper sendoff was fitting. Hence the re-release.

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Author Bio:

Zachary is 27 and lives in Florida with his lovely wife, Layla. The two of them share a home with their four fur-children.

Zachary has degrees in Criminal Justice and Criminology. He had two short stories and a poem published by Ohio State University. Zachary has always had two passions in his life, criminal justice and writing. After spending nearly 5 years working in security, he decided it was time to give his other passion a chance.

Zachary is very much a family man and when he is not deep in writing, he can be found spending time with his family, playing video games or contemplating his next story idea.

Author and Book Links:

Where to buy the book:

The first edition of the book can be found on the following sites. However, the second (expanded) edition will be available on March 25.

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Curious-Tale-Gabrielle-1/dp/1508423938/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1453249542&sr=8-1&keywords=The+Curious+tale+of+gabrielle

From Me (cheaper rates): http://zachchop.com/mywork/

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/524345

Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/books/details

/Zachary_Paul_Chopchinski_The_Curious_Tale_of_Gabri?id=k4XjBgAAQBAJ&hl=en

Connect with me on social media

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Zachary-Paul-Chopchinski-772308849490741/?ref=aymt_homepage_panel

Website: http://zachchop.com

Tumblr: http://an-author-and-his-books.tumblr.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/ZachChop

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/9853623.Zachary_Paul_Chopchinski

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Mr. Chopchinski,

Thank you for appearing on my blog!