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Albert Camus

Don't walk behind me; I may not lead. Don't walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Guest Post, Excerpt and Giveaway: Isis, Vampires and Ghosts - Oh My! (The Other World) by Janis Hill

Cover Artist: Jade Zivanovic

Description:

Too late to save her sister’s life, Stephanie Anders must now try to save her soul from the vampire who has possessed her, Branwyre, eighteenth vampire Lord of the Aegean. 

With only the aid of the ghost of a pissed-off Buddhist monk with a potty mouth and the modern day Priestess of Isis, Stephanie must take on demons and other denizens of a world she knows nothing about if she is to succeed in banishing Branwyre. 

But even more difficult than that, she must learn how to forgive her sister Estella for what she did to her if she is to have even half a chance of saving her soul. Welcome to a world within our own – the Other World.

GUEST POST
Why Urban Fantasy? 

This is a question I’m asked a lot. Not just as a writer, but as a reader. And I can honestly tell you that people don’t like it when you simply answer “Why not?” 

Then again, I’m often asked to explain what exactly Urban Fantasy is as sometimes the lines blur between it and other genres such as speculative fiction. 

Well, to me, Urban Fantasy is a story set in our world (or a world almost identical to our own) where fantastical things can happen. Vampires and ghosts are proven to be real and will come around and give you a hard time if you keep saying they’re not. Urban Fantasy doesn’t have to be set in the here and now, it can be historical and it can even be set slightly into the future. In some cases it’s set in a time like our own, but with a slightly different history to our own. See Kim Harrison’s The Hollows series and beware the tomatoes. ;-) 

I think the reason I enjoy reading (and writing) Urban Fantasy is it’s close to real life, but the way we wish it could be rather than the hum drum it really is. That whole ‘What if…’ scenario of escapism through fiction. Where ‘everyday meets the unexplained’, except Urban Fantasy lets you explain it without having to stick to anything as dull as actual reality and proven facts. 

When I write Urban Fantasy, I set it in times and places similar to the here and now as I write in the first person narrative and I want my readers to believe the characters more by being able to relate to them. I do obscure technology, times, dates, etc a little to allow some time to pass in the hopes my stories won’t become dated too quickly. But it will happen and, who knows, someone in one hundred years may look back on what I did with mobile phones in Bonnie’s Story – A Blonde’s Guide to Mathematics and guffaw at the thought of such technology. Having that fantasy element there hopefully gives me just enough credibility to still allow the story to be believable. 

Urban Fantasy isn’t the only genre I enjoy to read and write, but it seems to be the one I’m most comfortable in. I do enjoy a good historical crime fiction story too, ones that were actually written in the times they are set, or ones that are created from researching the era. I don’t mind, as long as it’s a good read and the killer isn’t too easy to suss. And even in some of those there’s a bit of fantasy seeping out, as the unexplained has been with us a long time now. Some stories then go on to explain it in reasonable tones using logic and pointing out the strings and wires used to get the effect, while others happily throw such things as logic in the bin and point out it was a ghost or demon after all. And why not? Demons and ghosts got up to so many fun things in our history, why not let them have their five minutes of fame too? 

Why Urban Fantasy? Well, maybe because my imagination has allowed me to never truly grow up and I still enjoy a good fairy tale. Not a happily ever after, not always, but one where the bad guys are truly bad and do gruesome things and there is a good guy there to sort it all out. That play of Darkness and Light I use in my The Other World series. Just because we’re now adults doesn’t mean we don’t like stories about regular people, like ourselves, getting up to all sorts of fantastical things before heading back to work on the Monday. A perfect example of this is Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere. Perfect piece of Urban Fantasy and one I really enjoyed as the ‘What if…’ opened up so many awesome ideas within my own imagination. In a similar vein see Roofworld by Christopher Fowler. I read this story before Neverwhere and so that seed of ‘What if…’ had already been planted. However, Neverwhere sprouted a totally new series of ideas and situations for me to consider. Still, that whole society within our own scenario is one of my favourite ‘What if…’ and probably where my Other World came from. 

Is Urban Fantasy just another type of Young Adult or New Adult? Um, no. Not to me anyway. Although Urban Fantasy can be a sub-genre of both Young Adult and New Adult, it can just as easily fit into the ‘Adult’ section of books too. A lot of Urban Fantasy has adult themes, and not simply because it has overly raunchy sex scenes or drips with blood and gore after a misunderstanding between a vampire and a werewolf. Some Urban Fantasy simply has adult themes as it’s about life as an adult. The trials and tribulations of marrying, having a family, losing the family, etc. Youth don’t want to read about all that. That’s still to come for them and so they can’t always relate. They’d much rather the adventure of a young person like themselves doing daring things, getting the cute guy (or girl) and possibly living happily ever after, but with no true commitments in case someone else comes along in the next book. Well, that’s really just a quick cookie cutter approach to some Young Adult and New Adult Urban Fantasy, but you get the idea, right? 

What Urban Fantasy books would I recommend? Well, besides the ones I’ve already mentioned, I enjoy something that has a bit of humour and sarcasm in it as well. But that’s mainly because that’s what I’m like. I often have people ask if I was being sarcastic as I use it so often that it does sometimes get a little hard to tell if I’m being serious or not. Some may see this as a bad thing, but meh. ;-) 

Really, I just say go to a library and check out what they have. If you like a bit of paranormal in your Urban Fantasy, then authors like Kim Harrison, Katie MacAlister and MaryJanice Davidson are highly recommended. For a bit of Young Adult Urban Fantasy, check out Robert Westall or even some of Terry Pratchett’s work. I have to say one of my favourite Robert Westall Young Adult books is Urn Burial though do feel that one is heading more towards Science Fiction than Urban Fantasy. All the same, a good place to start. 

What advice would I give to someone who wants to write Urban Fantasy? Read it first. I give this advice to someone who wants to write in any specific genre. Don’t just think you can do it as you’ve heard about a couple of books and seen a few things on the TV, read the genre. I once thought I could write a romance novel. What I ended up writing was quite a good Young Adult story that was an introduction to Romance… but it did not even scrape the sides as to truly being part of that genre. Why did I fail? It’s because I’m not such a great fan of Romance novels and just felt I could write one as I knew how to write without having to read any first. This won’t cut it. You have to research the theme, learn the flow of the story and the tones to use. And you have to have an open mind and a willingness to learn the theme too and not just dismiss it as beneath you. The same goes for Urban Fantasy. 

If I wasn’t such an avid reader and prolific collector of Urban Fantasy, the supernatural and the paranormal, I seriously don’t think I could pull it off. Some people already don’t like my idea of the supernatural as I am avoiding the twinkly ‘Disneyfied’ version so common today and going back to the roots of it all. I liked the old stories, the old ways and the old creatures. And so one of my aims with my Urban Fantasy is to bring them back and let the loose in a new generation’s imagination. The origins of demons, the types of soul collectors and reapers, the difference between a ghost and a wraith. This sort of research is how I spend my writing days. And boy am I going to have fun sharing it! :-) 

Thank you Mythical Books for inviting me to be a guest blogger. Janis Hill.

EXCERPT

Chapter 5

Estella had the grace and timing to wake up just after I’d hauled her dead weight, literally, into the chair and balanced it there long enough the grab the rope.

“By the Light of Isis, what do you think you’re doing?” Her tone was nearly petulant enough to be the old Estella asking me, not the new peace-and-love one.

“Following your High Priestess’ instructions.” I grunted while tying her hands behind her back as best I could, before continuing to wrap the rope around her and the chair.

“But why are you tying me to a chair now?” she asked, aghast to realise just how tight I had done it. “Branwyre can’t take over until night time. We’ve got at least another hour.”

Ignoring her question for a moment, I snatched her right foot and tied it to the corresponding chair leg. Then, ignoring the attempted kick, did the same to her left one.

“Roxanna clearly states in her instructions here to gather the required items, purify them and set it all up, you included.” I waved the note at her before continuing to wrap her legs, backside and chair in the rope. Yeah, I’d gotten a decent amount. Who says two for one sales are a waste of time? “Nowhere in her instructions does it say we should stop for coffee and a chat. When I’ve got as much of it ready as I can before moonrise, I can actually have a rest. You know, something even we non-undead need to do from time to time.”

She went to protest, I even paused to watch the show I felt she was about to perform, but other than gaping a few times like a stunned fish, she stayed quiet. Wow, this Light of Isis was amazing if it could prevent the Queen of Whinge from speaking.

“Fine then,” she finally managed, a slight sulky tone to her voice. “But how am I meant to eat dinner?” 

I sighed; I hadn’t honestly thought of that, going along the lines that she was dead. Yes she was an animated corpse right now, but dead was dead. You shouldn’t have to provide meals for them.

“Nowhere in my instructions does it say I have to feed you.” I muttered. Then feeling I should relent a little as she’d found it within herself to be nicer. “But how about I order pizza, and you eat it cold later. Surely even the Light of Isis can’t have cured you of your cold pizza habits.”

She sighed, but said no more for a moment. Didn’t even pout, which surprised me even more than the silence.

“I do wish you’d be more respectful of Isis and her purifying Light,” is all she eventually said as I was adding a few more knots to the back of the chair.

“Uh-huh.” I was more interested in making sure I’d done a good job, than listen to a lecture on appropriate religious respect. Especially from someone who in the past hadn’t held any respect for anyone or anything.

“And no dinner is fine; I don’t seem to have the need to eat that often anymore.” She continued, trying to watch me over her shoulder. “I won’t have you dissing cold pizza though.”

“Sure!” I said, standing back and wiping sweat from my brow and then my hands on my dress. I remembered I was still in one of my best ‘sombre but not kinky’ little black dresses, not having had a chance to change. So Roxanna’s wodge of cash was buying me a few clothes tomorrow, too. Why not! If I wasn’t allowed to go home until this was all over, she owed me at least a pair of jeans and clean underwear. I checked the instructions again. Okay, so all items purified, sister roped tightly into chair. Salt time! Boy I hoped the motel’s maid service wouldn’t be too pissed at me, or at least wouldn’t notice until after we’d left.





About the author:
Janis grew up in and around Darwin, Australia, and its rural surrounds. As a child, she spent a lot of time around 'science geeks' at the Darwin University, where her father was a lecturer for many years. It took her a long time to realise that not everyone got to grow up like that or could relate to all the Science Labs scenes in the old Dr Who.

Janis now lives in the Adelaide Hills with her husband and 3 children, lovingly referred to as the ‘Demonic Hordes’. She is a semi-retired ICT Support Officer who, when not writing, takes pride in her work as a Haus Frau while dabbling in the art of translating century old cookery books into modern recipes to experiment on her family with.


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