Monday, December 12, 2011

December Deal

We've mentioned it on Facebook and Twitter already, but for all you blog-followers out there, here's a brief heads-up that Michele Scott's novel Happy Hour is currently only 99 cents through the month of December. It's time to stock up on digital books for your holiday break, and nothing says "it's time to kick back" like a good dose of Happy Hour.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

What to Give for the New Year

For Everyone:

There is one book that everyone should pick up before the start of 2012. And that is, without contest, Anna Lee Waldo's historical epic, Watch the Face of the Sky. We suggest this, of course, because the novel finds its way into the ancient Mayan city Chichen Itza, smack dab in the middle of the city's peak of power. Recently, we know the Mayan civilization best for its unique predictions about the year 2012, the end of the Mayan calendar, and the beginning of a great change in the history of humanity - and possibly the end of the world as we know it. Anna Lee Waldo carefully explores these predictions in the later chapters of her medieval narrative, weaving them seamlessly into the simply-told story of the legendary Welsh explorer, Madoc, as he leads six ships across the Atlantic to the New World. This is three hundred years before Columbus, of course, but it's more history than fable. A timely release, you'll want to share this with friends and family alike. That is, before it's too late.

Monday, December 5, 2011

What to Give for Kwanzaa

For the Brave:
There's nothing that says "Happy Holidays" like a set of VMK Fewings' Stone Masters Vampire novels. Actually, the series is an excellent gift for any occasion, especially since vampires are so popular these days. A word of warning - or perhaps a word of invitation - these vampires are not of the sparkling variety. They're the good old tormented undead, the kind that remind us vampire literature marked the beginning of the horror genre. We'd call these classics, and we'd pair them with nothing less than a DVD of the original Nosferatu. Unless you're very generous, in which case round trip tickets to Cornwall would do the trick.

For the Literati:
Michael Blake's novel, Dances With Wolves, has long been considered a classic of historical fiction. Its sequel, The Holy Road, is unquestionably just as profound - if not more so - as a narrative of the decline and fall of a Native American tribe. As a book, the novel easily stands on its own. But following the release of the 20th Anniversary edition of the DVD of Dances With Wolves earlier this year, the two make for an excellent gift. Share the Academy Award winning film along with its literary sequel, and maybe - just maybe - you can borrow both.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

What to Give for Hanukkah

For the dark soul:
While the most appropriate gift to pair with Edgar J. Rossi's gritty casino novel, One for the Road, might be some kind of vintage pistol, that might not go over so well at your next holiday party. A deck of cards would be just as appropriate, or a bottle of whisky, or a pack of cigarettes. Of course, it depends on who the gift is for. We might suggest that, in this case, you treat yourself.

For the philanthropist:
The Advocate's Conviction is really a good gift for anyone. While it's technically the third in Teresa Burrell's mystery series chronicling the legal thrills and chills of juvenile defense attorney Sabre Orin Brown, the book can easily be read independently of the series. It's also an excellent introduction to the struggles of foster kids and those who care for them. Bookmark this with a card marking your donation to CASA, IJM, or any other organization that works through or with the justice system to help the marginalized and oppressed, both at home and around the world. It really is the best gift you could possibly give, at any time of year.

Friday, December 2, 2011

What to Give for Christmas

Naturally, any Christmas suggestions from the ZOVA staff are going to involve our books in some way. But there are always ways to be creative with even the simplest of gifts. In that spirit, we've put together some gift ideas inspired by our publications.

For the foodie: 
Possibly the easiest gift in the ZOVA arsenal, Happy Hour is a book for every woman. Pair it with a bottle of wine (perhaps one of the bottles suggested in the back of the book, or mentioned in one of the more vine-inspired chapters) or a ticket to a local wine tasting event. The book is about four friends who share their lives over happy hour every month, so it would be appropriate - and more than a little clever - to get one for each of your friends so you can all read it together.

For the historian:
There are few events in American history more compelling than the story of the Great War. In Into the Stars, Michael Blake narrates several days in the life of one American soldier who finds help and friendship from a battered war horse after being trapped behind enemy lines. Many of the novel's themes are echoed in the upcoming Steven Spielberg film War Horse, which just happens to be coming out in theaters on Christmas Day. Pair the novel with two tickets to the movies, and you have a perfectly themed gift for your favorite history buff.

For your favorite kid:
You know those movies where the kid is at some turning point in his/her life and the wise mentor/father figure/pirate captain hands him/her a compass and says, "may you find your feet," in a stirring, emotionally charged way? Okay, maybe we're mixing our movie imagery here, but compasses have long been considered gifts of extraordinary significance. Jenny Bellington's classic fantasy adventure, East to Adonia, is an excellent gift for anyone from eight years old to eighty, and there's nothing else that goes better with your carefully wrapped navigational tools than a copy of this book. You could also pair the novel with a map, a mapping kit, or a magical mapping bag, but it may be that only crazy uncles have access to such wonders. Who knows.


Thursday, December 1, 2011

First Lines

The first day of any month is a day to celebrate, because firsts promise new beginnings, new experiences, new discoveries. We have a lot of hopes for our readers this December - that you'll enjoy whatever holidays you celebrate in a special way, appreciating the traditions you've carried with you till now, but also being open to new joys.

In honor of first things, here are some "first lines" selected from a few of our books. If they intrigue you, there's always a way to read more. But of course, we're also interested in hearing your favorite first lines. So please feel free to share along with us.

"Between the northern Welsh towns of Bangor and Colwyn Bay, an isolated family farm sat in a small meadow with rocky hills on three sides." - Anna Lee Waldo, Watch the Face of the Sky

"Like all nightmares, I wanted out." - V.M.K. Fewings, A Vampire's Dominion

"My head snapped back like the slide on a semiautomatic pistol." - Edgar J. Rossi, One for the Road

"Kat McClintock was late." - Michele Scott, Happy Hour

"My youngest brother is a bit of a weirdo." - Jenny Bellington, East to Adonia

"The fourteen-year-old girl struggled to break free from the bindings on her hands and feet." - Teresa Burrell, The Advocate's Conviction

"The bells of St. Paul's Cathedral rang loud and clear as they did every Sunday morning." - Clive London, Prince Albert and the Doomsday Device

"The scalp was red and thick, but what made it especially extraordinary was its great length." - Michael Blake, The Holy Road

"Outside the adobe walls of the sanitarium the eerie, primordial beauty of the southern California desert went ignored by the wandering inmates." - Mike Sirota, Fire Dance

"The bomb shelter was a large one, large enough to shelter a dozen men." - Michael Blake, Into the Stars

Monday, November 14, 2011

Stone Masters

Just a reminder that you can still read VMK Fewings' short story, "Mortal Veil," for free online right here.  It's an excellent introduction to the world of the Stone Masters - or more accurately, to the world of their vampires. It follows one man's discovery of a world he once knew too well. Perhaps you too may be reminded of something you've lost...

Friday, November 11, 2011

Further More Ask the Author: Anna Lee Waldo

Watch the Face of the Sky features some very strong characters. What inspires you to write such colorful people?


I watch people to learn how they react. I did research on leukemia in a large hospital in Dayton, Ohio, and saw people in pain, people with various diseases, bone fractures, and in childbirth. Some reactions were unpredictable, such as a patient stressed about his illness who brought a jar of urine into the lab to be tested - but it was from his dog. I saw a sobbing man climb into the bed with his wife who was giving birth. My husband was an inorganic chemist who worked with radioactive elements. He couldn't talk about his work, which was classified. He talked about architecture and government. We had five children, each a unique individual with completely different characteristics. I have good material to draw from for my characters.


Over the course of the novel, Madoc travels from the American South to Wales, then to a variety of islands, and finally to the Yucatan Peninsula. How did you balance the widely divergent settings with the same cast of characters?


All the characters have a "home background," same as migrants do today. These people use what they learn at "home," and watch and listen to strangers they meet. All new places have similarities to the old; for instance, there is land, edible plants, animals, and water. There is wind and rain, sun and clouds, day and night. Little by little, the characters learn a new language and a different way of doing things. Each character also teaches the strangers a new language and a different way of doing things. People always use and make do with whatever is available in the place they find themselves. Knowledge is shared and spread. Mistakes and accidents are made, but that makes the story interesting.

What writing project are you working on now?


I'm working on the last book in this series about Madoc and his people. I call the book, The Blue-Eyed Mandan. In this last story, you will find what happens to Madoc, his family, the other Welshmen, and the women and children in the Unproved Land. You will go up the Big Muddy River with some of them as they pass through the largest Indian settlement ever found in North America, which today we call Cahokia. While there, Bran again plays in a ballgame. The Palefaces show the Mandan Indians how to make fishing boats, similar to the Welsh bull-boats.


During the time of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, the Mandans carved Welsh leafy designs on the bull-boat paddle handles. They kept a few of the Welsh words in their language. The questions are: Did these few Palefaces, who were in the Unproved Land in the late 12th and early 13th centuries, keep their oath not to fraternize with the native people? Why?

Thursday, November 10, 2011

More Ask the Author: Anna Lee Waldo

Your debut novel, Sacajawea, was a #1 New York Times bestselling novel. What did you learn in the process of writing Sacajawea that still helps you in your writing today?


I had written a number of scientific articles and knew the rules for that kind of writing, but a novel was something completely different. At first, I tended to put everything in a story that I thought was unusual or interesting about background, people and their thoughts. That's too much good stuff for any reader! I learned to pare down my description of a landscape, how to skin an animal, or people's behavior and thoughts. I began to read novels in a critical way, so I would understand how good writers stated facts.

I learned not to let anyone rewrite my work. I learned not to believe all answers about historical happenings. After something has taken place, there are many ways to interpret the facts. I look for answers in more than one place. I go to the places I write about. I ask my local library to borrow books they don't have from other libraries, just for me. I watch the way people talk, use their hands and facial expressions, and how they dress.

I learned to let characters show their feelings by words or actions, not by me stating how they feel. I do not stay in a dramatic scene too long. I learned to plant an idea or the way a character thinks or acts early in the story, then I use those plants in a dramatic situation later so the reader thinks, "I knew that would happen." Though he really doesn't until he reads it and the plant has grown.

No matter how much I think I know about any subject, there are still so many things I don't know and sometimes my readers will tell me.

What are some of the more interesting responses you've received from readers over the years?

"I'm related to Sacajawea," "I'm related to Jean Baptist Charbonneau," "We have that book at home and it was written by Sacajawea herself." One time in Portland, Oregon, a young man said, "I have an original painting of Sacajawea, I call Birdwoman." I said I'd like to see that, and about an hour later he came back carrying a very large framed picture. I pointed out the name, "Pocahontas," printed in small letters at the bottom of the picture. He shook his head and said he didn't know what that word mean, but he was going to put a little strip of paper with the words, "Sacajawea, the Birdwoman," over the top of that Indian word so people would know the beautiful maiden's name.

I hear all kinds of pronunciations of the word Sacajawea. "Sack-a-jaws," "Stack-a-gooey," "Skith-a-jewy," "Sock-a-jaw," etc.

Once in a radio station in Boise, Idaho, I was interviewed by a newsman. I enjoyed talking with him because he seemed to be familiar with the Lewis and Clark Expedition. At the end of the broadcast, he moved his chair closer to mine and we continued our conversation for an enjoyable hour. When I was leaving, he called me back. Some of his radio fans were calling in to say how much they'd learned and how they appreciated his extra-long program talking with such an interesting author. He'd forgotten to turn his communication off and bring in music after our thirty minute interview. Boise and other nearby listeners sent me letters about the special broadcast for weeks afterward.

One of my sons, then a teenager, told me that whenever I gave a talk on radio or TV I must remember not to leave any "air space." I thought of him when I was in Paris to talk about the French edition of Sacajawea. One night I was with a group of French historians. We wore earplugs so that a couple girls could translate the French for me and translate my English back to French for the historians and the TV moderator. Things seemed to go well until my English translations went dead and the moderator asked me a question. Of course I did not understand his words. I began with, "A--when I was writing Sacajawea--" and went on with a story I knew well. Afterwards the girls giggled and said that was the best part of the show.

I have been at libraries and bookstores where lines of people were around the block waiting for me to autograph their books. And, more than once, I have sat alone at a table with a stack of books and no one came to have a single book autographed. In a bookstore in St. Louis, Missouri, I saw a woman with half a dozen of my books in her arms. I went up to her and said, "I'm Anna Lee Waldo, author of those books. I'll autograph them, if you like." Her husband ran up and said, "Ignore her! She's out-of-her-head crazy."

I never did that again.

When I was researching the first Circle book, about Madoc's boyhood, a woman called me by telephone to tell me she wanted me to write about her grandfather, a prominent rancher in Wyoming, and ended by saying she would send me clippings and other material about him. I told her I was not ready for that, but a week later I received a box full of most interesting things, which was the beginning of Prairie, the book about Charlie Irwin, the Y-6 ranch in Wyoming, cowboys, Sioux Indians, rodeo performances, and politics.


After Circle of Stones came out, a Welshman sent me copies of old maps showing places where English families crossed over into Wales during the reign of King Henry II and told me his relatives were druids who left England for Dubh Lunn. He was not happy with today's druids. He said the old-timers were peace-loving and highly intelligent.

What draws you to write historical novels?


When I was little, I was told many times that a culture's history shows its strength and weakness. I played among Crow and Blackfoot children. My father and the Indian grandmothers told us stories which made me think about how a childhood background, ideas, feelings, thoughts, actions, situations, or even artifacts influence people. I became an organic chemist, a scientific researcher, an instructor, and an author.

Thus, I am interested in history because of my childhood and background, and science makes me stick to facts as much as possible. I am curious and search for something different in settings, landscapes, and people. Novels are large enough to tell the whole story.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Ask the Author: Anna Lee Waldo

This month, ZOVA has the honor of releasing the historical epic Watch the Face of the Sky, by Anna Lee Waldo. Best known for her bestselling novel Sacajawea, Ms. Waldo has been studying and writing on obscure but deeply influential historical figures for decades. In her upcoming novel, she explores the little known legendary Welsh prince Madoc, who supposedly reached the shores of America with his crew of Welsh sailors three hundred years before Columbus. 


In the next few days, we will be posting some comments from Anna Lee herself, answering a few of our own questions about her writing and this remarkable novel in particular.

What inspired you to write a series about the legendary Madoc?


When I was little, my father told me stories that always had history somewhere in them. Until I was in high school, I thought Paul Bunyan was a real lumberjack; and about the same time I realized my father's Madoc stories had no real endings, except that he sailed away in Viking-built ships. I was fairly certain that Sacajawea was real, because I'd heard Blackfoot and Crow grandmothers tell stories about her. I believed their stories must be real because these grandmothers were my friends and they knew about Captain Lewis and Captain Clark. In school, I studied about the captains' expedition in American and Montana history. None of my teachers knew about Madoc and said he was a figment of my father's imagination. My father was well-known for being a history lover, and if asked would tell a story about most any well-known historical figure.

After finishing my book titled Sacajawea, I began to look into Welsh history to find more about Madoc, the son of Owain Gwynedd. There was not much written about him. Maybe he made two or three trips to an 'unproved land.' Maybe he found his way back to Wales and somehow gained more ships and brought Welsh women and children to the men he'd left in the unproved land. Hardly any librarian or historian I talked with had ever heard of him, coming to this country in the 12th century, 300 years before Columbus. So, I believed it was up to me to find out about this unknown, daring, courageous man and let other people know about him as well.



What kind of research did you have to do to write this novel?


I used local libraries for books and museums with artifacts to look at and touch to tell me what an early Viking one-sail ship was like. I found out what Welsh wattle and daub houses and their furnishings were like. I learned about the Celts and people who followed an old druidic religion and believed in the brotherhood of man. According to druidism, each person, no matter the gender, had special qualities and was more adept at certain lines of work than others. They also believed that every person had opportunities for good deeds. I learned about Welsh twelfth century gardens for flowers and for food, what animals were hunted for food and clothing, the gear that was used for both, and the games people played. Then I began to lean about Welsh and English history in the 12th century. I wrote letters to noted historians, geographers, and astronomers with questions.

I learned a little more about the man called Madoc when my husband, Bill, and I went to Wales. School children there knew about the Welsh hero, Madoc. I learned that people around Mobile Bay, Alabama, also knew about him. Bill and I went there to talk with those people. Then, because one man suggested that Madoc's ships were blown off-course by a terrible storm and ended up with the Incas, I began to check out the possibility of Madoc's ships landing on the Western side of South America, in Peru, where the Incas, or maybe the Mayans, were. Peru seemed almost impossible. Later, I found from a Navy man, a meteorologist and an oceanographer, that in a storm, the ships would have been much more likely to have landed on the northern top of the Yucatan Peninsula, where the Mayans really were. From there, directly across the gulf, is Mobile Bay and the mouth of the Mississippi River, the 'Big Muddy.' Bill and I went to Yucatan and found out about the Mayans. I began to read about archeological digs around Chichen Itza and how these early people lived, kept records, and followed the movement of Sun, Moon, and Stars, such as Venus. I visited Teotihuacan, once a city of ten thousand people, and read all I could about their ancient way of life, in order to use some of it in my story about Madoc.



The inclusion of the Mayan calendar and the foreshadowing of 2012 is very timely. What compelled you to include it in the story?


By the 12th century, the Mayan priests had books and books with facts about the movement of stars. They knew that the stars seen in a summer sky are different than those seen in an autumn, winter, or spring sky, and that Venus is both a morning star and an evening star. They knew that the earth moved around as a cone on a tilted axis. Its movements are similar to the movement of a spinning top, rotating very rapidly about its axis while the axis itself revolves slowly about the vertical. This slow change in direction of the axis of a spinning object, whether it is the earth or a gyroscope, is called the precession of the axis. The precession of the earth's axis is produced by the gravity of the sun and moon, which tug at the equatorial bulge of the earth. Under the influence of these forces, the axis of rotation revolves in a cone, completing a circle once every 26,000 years.

At present, the axis is pointed toward the North Star; 5000 years ago, it pointed in the direction of the star we call Thuban, in the Constellation Draco, and 12,000 years from now, it will point in the direction of Vega, which will be the replacement for the North Star. Ancient Mayan Sky Watchers knew this and predicted that in 2012 AD, the earth will have completed its fifth precession - and the sun, moon, and earth will be in perfect alignment with the dark place in the Milky Way. It will not be in this same alignment for another 26,000 years.

I found it so interesting that the ancient Mayan Sky Watchers knew about a precession - although I doubt they named the action - and ended their calendars on December 21, 2012, that I had to make a story about it. I felt the same way about the Mayan crystal skull.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Sneak Peek: A Vampire's Dominion

V.M.K. Fewings
---
Prologue
LIKE ALL NIGHTMARES, I wanted out.
Naked and barefoot, I sprinted along the uneven rain soaked pathway, my mouth dry and thirsting, terror constricting my throat and threatening to choke me. I tasted freedom as though for the first time.
Remembering nothing.
A cold salty sea mist hit my nostrils and I shook my head trying to repel nature’s sting. Night wrapped her arms around me as I fled past the grey crumbling wall, bolting left under an ivy-colored archway, descending faster down slippery stone steps.
Don’t look back.
Taking two at a time, I landed on the grassy bank and ran onward, following the sound of crashing waves.
I struggled to recall this place and how I’d gotten here, my memories seemingly just out of reach and my rambling thoughts making no sense and threatening to sabotage my focus. 
There was no time to question.
My gut insisted someone was closing in and dread shot up my spine forcing me to run faster. Rustling dead leaves swirled around my feet causing me to stumble. Quickly, I found my footing again, crunching over a pebbled beach toward the vast ocean, crashing six-foot waves onto a dappled-grey shoreline and rolling them into foam. The force with which I hit the icy water shoved my shoulders back and snatched my breath.
This was no dream. Descending further, spiraling into the darkest depths, the ocean buffered against me and with outstretched arms I thrashed blindly to stay afloat, braving to glance back.
The towering rogue wave broke over my head, dragging me lower and delivering me into the path of a riptide that snatched me further into the blackness, sucking me into the swirling undercurrent and forcing seawater down my throat.
Drowning me . . . 
Surrendering to the infinite darkness, I passed out.
Unsure of how much time had passed, my eyes opened to a blanket of white cloud revealing pockets of stars and a glimpse of the thumbnail moon, only for it to soon shy away. The night chilled my bones causing me to shiver and pebbles scratched my back.
Turning awkwardly, there was that same castle rising out of the granite, an intimidating symbol of supremacy conveying the gut wrenching realization.
I’d not made it.
A grinding pain in my right shoulder blade; I cradled my arm with the sudden awareness I’d dislocated it.
With mixed feelings that I failed to understand, I took in that dark silhouetted castle looming large on the horizon, trying to recall why it instilled such trepidation. My mind scrambled to piece together memories of having wandered along its sprawling corridors, losing hours within its age-old library, reading my way through its infinite collection of well-worn books, each one pulled from the antique mahogany shelves. With nothing but quiet for company.
More curious still was a faint recollection of whiling away endless days in there, waiting until sunset so I could return to the highest tower once more and paint my beloved nightscapes.
Daylight, that part of my life I’d long given up, exchanging her burning mortal kiss to become night’s lover, surrendering to that endless promise of eternity. 
As only a vampire can.
With an unsteady hand I stroked my clean shaven jaw and ran my fingers up and over the rest of my body, relieved to find that other than my arm there were no other injuries. Using my good arm, I staggered to my feet trying to distance myself from the waves spraying foam.
Across the shoreline Penzance lit up the night skyline, the sleepy town still, quiet, and desolate.
I turned and there, standing serenely staring back at me with dark brown eyes, was a tall young priest.
“Jadeon?” The stranger stepped closer.
I went to give an answer, but had none to give and considered diving back in to get away from the one whom I assumed had been chasing me. He reflected an easy confidence that went beyond his thirty years. He still hadn’t blinked.
Trying to judge if I could trust him, I struggled to hold onto the faintest memories that dissipated like cruel whispers clashing with each other, tightening my throat.
“You’ve hurt your arm,” he said. “Let me help you.”
Ignoring the pain, refusing to reveal any weakness I asked, “Who are you?”
“Father Jacob Roch.” His fingers worked their way down each button of his long, brown coat and he slipped it off. “Here you are.”
Cautiously I accepted his coat from him and pulled the left arm through, wrapping it over the shoulder of the right, unable to lift it.
He made a gesture to help.
“I’m fine.” Though clearly I wasn’t.
“You’re adjusting, even now.”
“To what?”
He went to answer but stopped himself as though unsure. Rubbing my forehead I tried to find the answers and not be influenced by the man who I had no reason to trust.
Far off lightning lit up the night sky, and a few seconds later came the crack of thunder. 
The sound of footfalls signaled someone fast approaching. Over the ridge a young man appeared and skidded to a stop when he saw us.
“Steady, Alex.” Jacob gestured for him not to come any further.
Alex’s expression was one of horror and I tried to decipher whether it was disgust or hate. Lost in a fog of thoughts I tried to recall how I knew him.
“Let’s go inside,” Jacob said.
The rhythm of the ocean sounded like it was now inside my head and my legs weakened. My feet gave way.
My mind blurred, threatening to slide off. “Who am I?” My face struck the pebbles.
“That’s what we’re going to find out.” Jacob’s voice grew distant.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Sneak Peak: A Vampire's Reckoning

V.M.K. Fewings
---
Prologue

Jadeon

THE POWERFUL, DISTURBING images—portraits of memories, a lingering resonance drawing together, fragments of consciousness—at times, I find myself reliving those fateful moments, surrendering to the consuming, agonizing details of June of the year of our Lord 1803.
I falter in the chill of the night, in the fractured stillness within the great pillars of Stonehenge. Exhausted from my journey, caught up in terror, the darkness engulfs me. But I will not flee, for the promise I have made, I cannot break—my life for that of another. I fear mortality. My apprehension intensifies.
The wait is over.
It is time to wake up.
I want to lead you to safety, distract you, and destroy the clues that lure you into my world. It’s too late for that now. This shakes me to the core. It’s impossible to turn back the clock, but I still crave peace, still want to gauge this feeling. Reassuringly, my expression does little to reflect such. In fact, all that my presence conveys is the demeanor of a twenty-five year old Englishman, and it easily disguises the enigma of my ageless, chiseled features.
Within those dark Wiltshire woods, hidden from view, I leaned my frame against the trunk of a large tree and stared, memorizing each groove and fissure of Stonehenge.
Scattered thoughts; a multitude of ways to begin.
Unable to stay still for long, I started pacing. Sunrise was only an hour away. A waning moon provided meager light. My gaze darted nervously. These murders had been committed to gain my attention, and it was working.
By my own hand my involvement was set, the consequence of my actions drawing me in. I watched the police exploring the area near the dead girl, positioned face up on the sacrificial stone. Though not foreign to death, I hoped I wouldn’t throw up on my tailored Savile Row suit. The mud on my shoes bothered me and the drizzling rain didn’t help.
Once apprentice to The Keeper of the Stones, such was the catalyst for all my nightmares. This was not how I envisioned my life unfolding. But I’m getting ahead of myself. It’s just that these were the darkest of days. Sharing it with you provides some comfort.
I should not start here.
My aim is to earn your trust, so that you gain insight and are able to comprehend the unfeasible. It’s important that this is documented. How ironic that I now reveal what I once strived to keep hidden. Time has proven that it is safer for you to have this knowledge, so that you can prepare.
You want proof. I shall provide it, if you give me an open mind. After all, you have come this far. Therefore, I scribe this for you, in the sanctity of my study, here in St. Michael’s Mount in Marazion.
Travel back with me.
The smoke and mirrors of my youth now seem such a brief moment in a long and unordinary life that passed with timeless ease. Those were the years when I knew only innocence. Cornwall, my birthplace, was renowned for its pleasant bays with their golden sands and bleak, sprawling moors.
Heritage made me the lord of a great castle that had been in my family for generations. This immense and towering mansion, grandly structured upon a small island east of Penzance, rests steadfast—as if a part of the very circular island it was built upon. The only access is by foot at low tide, or boat when the sea is in. Once, as a boy, I got caught when the tide turned. It never happened again.
Within these ancient walls, I grew up and took living in such a place for granted. Not so much now. The grand castle had once been a monastery owned by British Royalty during the Reformation, only to be sold again by Queen Elizabeth I to my ancestor, the Earl of Salisbury. The famous ancient vision of the Archangel Michael on the island had even inspired the occasional zealous religious pilgrim. Nevertheless, my father had been reluctant to encourage such an invasion, even one
as passive as Christian visitors. He used large hunting dogs to keep the unrelenting observers away and the staff in.
In my mind, I wander the corridors, settling in the Great Hall with its low beams, arched windows, and stone walls, bestowing gothic sconces and ancient relics—typical of an affluent and powerful family of its time. Great tapestries hang fast on the walls—priceless paintings positioned this way and that in order to catch or avoid light. Exquisite Roman rugs strewn over the cold stone floors, and candles light the rooms, casting unfamiliar shadows over everything. During fierce winters, the cold is unrelenting, hence the thick walls and grand hearths within.
The castle’s history is as varied as its many rooms—a regal ballroom, which has entertained kings; an armory, which held the weapons used for their battles; lavish bedrooms fitted for visiting dignitaries, a large kitchen, and modest servants’ quarters. The rooms facing south overlook the terrace and provide a good view of the gardens below. The castle’s imposing towers, once used by loyal castle guards as sentries, look out over the ocean.
Now in the twenty-first century, the posts stand empty. Very often, I like to go up there to breathe in the fresh sea air and admire the view. On occasion, when inspired, I even take my paints and a fresh canvas to capture the dramatic Southern nightscapes. My artistic nature is a good contrast to my athletic pursuits. I am a worthy fencing opponent.
I have traveled, yes, but this is home, where I feel most comfortable; yet still I am unable to shake off the eerie calm of the place. Visitors seldom come here, though when they do, they are excited to take a tour and explore the rare artifacts that have withstood the test of time.
Human nature is appealing when presented in its purest form, but I seem to move in circles that reflect the darkest of realms. By following this venture of self-discovery, I unveiled a supernatural truth. Indulge me again and allow me to wander back, for perhaps soon all I will have will be the memories of my beloved castle.
The library and reading rooms are favorites of mine. Alex, my younger brother of two years, and I received our many and varied lessons within these very tenements, presented by the finest of teachers. We were lectured in the arts, sciences, languages, music, and mastered horsemanship and hunting. My father ensured that we became proficient swordsmen, rounding out our education. Renaissance at its best.
When our lessons were over we spent our time playing, tirelessly investigating each room; but we stayed clear of the servants’ quarters for fear of being smacked around the head by the moody cook. We became familiar with the castle’s lower chambers, even venturing into its cold, gloomy cellars, bravely exploring the dungeons where criminals had once been held before being condemned and escorted away to suffer their fate. Only rusting shackles are left to convey what horrors these rooms have witnessed. As boys, our imaginations ran wild, though our play never matched the reality of what happened down there.
Although we had the run of the castle, there was but one room to which our father had banned our entrance. We did of course try to turn the huge brass handle of the large imposing door, but alas, it remained locked, its secrets kept hidden within. All we could do was wonder what lay inside such a chamber, until inevitably we became distracted. My fascination with that room was to be my undoing. My present irrevocably dissolves into my past.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

A Vampire's Reckoning

In St. Michael's Mount off the coast of Cornwall, behind the thick stone walls of a castle, the last descendants of an ancient race of vampire hunters live oblivious to their history - and their destiny. Jadeon and Alex Artimas are brothers, the eldest bound by tradition to follow in his father's footsteps. After witnessing their father participate in the gruesome torture of a mysterious woman, they are inclined to believe whatever secrets lie within their fortress of a home.

But the truth may come to them too late. For outside the castle, the enemy they are destined to destroy has found them first. He knows their names, and he seeks revenge.

The second installment in the Stone Masters Vampire Series, A Vampire's Reckoning intertwines the continued story of Daumia Velde from A Vampire's Rise with the developing narrative of Jadeon Artimas, as the vampire and the vampire hunter come head to head in a battle of conviction, retribution - and reckoning.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Ask the Author: Teresa Burrell

Fans of the ZOVA catalog have been following Teresa Burrell's Advocate Series for quite a while. We're eagerly anticipating the release of the series' third installment, The Advocate's Conviction, on October 22nd. To give you an idea of the author, her writing and life, here are some of our most pressing questions - and her answers:

What inspired you to develop the Advocate Series?

I worked in juvenile court for 12 years and saw some horrendous cases. Some of them just begged to be told. I wrote the first book, The Advocate, because I had this case that really haunted me. I knew it would make for good reading if it was told correctly and might help to educate the public as well.

How does your new release, The Advocate's Conviction, compare to the first two books in the series? 

This book is a little different than the first two. I personally think the mystery will be harder to solve. In the first two books it wasn't as much about who did it as it was the why. This one deals more with both. It also covers some strange cases that involves ritual abuse. Just like the first two, it isn't graphic, but it is filled with suspense.

What was the hardest thing about writing this book?

Trying to write about satanic ritual abuse without getting too creepy. I think it worked.


We know that you, like your character Sabre Orin Brown, were a juvenile defense attorney in San Diego. In what ways are you and your character alike, and in what ways are you different?

A lot of Sabre's experiences are the same as mine, but her personality is different. Her family life, her background, her personal experiences are very different from mine. Also, she is younger, prettier, smarter, richer, thinner...than me.

In using real cases for inspiration in your novels, how do you determine what works in fiction and what doesn't?

When something is too coincidental, no matter how real it is, I don't use it for fear readers will say, "That wouldn't happen." 



Each of your novels relies upon interesting secondary characters - as victims, clients, villains, etc. What do you look for in a good secondary character?

I like my secondary characters to be a little on the edge, sometimes they are patterned after real people (generally a combination of people). And I push the lines more with the secondary characters, like they be a little more "perfect" than Sabre, Bob, or JP, or a little too extreme. 


What habits do you have to help you write?

I write best in my home with no music, no phone calls, no interruptions. I need quiet to write. Occasionally, I can sit in a coffee shop or by the water if there's not too many distractions and I know where my character is taking me. My most creative moments are done in complete silence, however.


Sabre's experiences are very much shaped by the events of her past, namely, the disappearance of her brother several years before. How do you think her character might be different under different circumstances?

Sabre has some serious trust and abandonment issues, much of that is shaped by the disappearance of her brother, the death of her father, and we are just starting to see how her mother's has helped to shape her personality as well. Not everything about Sabre has been revealed yet, not unlike when you meet someone you might see some behavior in them but not know why they act the way they do. It's the same with our characters, we see what they do but we don't always know why. Sometimes I know why and sometimes the character shows me why.

What do you hope readers will take away from your work?

I hope it will help them escape to another place and just enjoy the read, stimulate the mind working as they try to solve the mystery, and maybe learn a little something about the juvenile court system while they're at it.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Saved

Yet another flash fiction piece from Jessica Therrien for the Writer's Campaign Challenge. If you like it as much as we do, be sure to vote at the link below. And follow her blog for more updates on Jessica's writing and the upcoming release of her debut novel, Oppression.
 
SAVED
I watch Nathan’s lips move as he prattles on about the new world, but all I can see beyond the rusted bow of the ship is water, black as coal in the night.
A rush of air chills my skin, and I fake a yawn, in hopes that he’ll excuse himself. He does. Thank God.
When I stand to leave, I hear a bang and the clatter of splintering wood. The boards shake beneath my feet.
“Pirates!” someone shouts.
Another bang. This time I fall. I scream as I tumble over the edge, but nobody hears me. I hit the water with force, then nothing.

***

I wake to the taste of salty lips on mine as breath is forced into my lungs. I cough and choke up water, digging my fingers into the wet sand when I catch sight of the half-naked man above me.
“Synbatec,” he whispers.
I freeze.
“Where am I?”
Source
The rising sun has stained the sky with pink, and I see no sign of the ship. I try to take deep breaths, but the smell of festering seaweed invades my nose.
He points to the jungle behind us.
“What?” I ask.
“Wastopaneer el tacise. Tu et Synbatec.” I can see every muscle flex beneath his coconut skin as he gestures with nervous eyes.
He beckons for me to follow him. My heart skips with hesitation, but I take his hand.
We walk in silence.
Without warning, a soundless arrow pierces my chest, and I cry out as sharp pain tears through me.
He catches me before I fall. I’m as good as dead. He grips the arrow, and I expect him to pull it out. Instead, the arrow disappears. The wound disappears. The pain is gone.
I stare at him. He smiles. We run.


(If you liked my story, you can give it a thumbs up here. I'm #70.)

Sneak Peek: A Vampire's Rise

V.M.K. Fewings
---
Chapter One

Spain 1471

OUT OF THE DARKNESS, I saw it.
More alarming it saw me, too. Even at the age of nine, I knew well enough to remain still.
The bull would be attracted to movement.
I sucked in air, trying to fill my lungs, yet no breath remained. Orange flames flickered from the few fire torches positioned around the empty arena.
He trotted toward me and then broke into a gallop. The ground shook and time slowed, forcing a dreamy sense of reality. Hoofs skidded to a stop, spraying up a cloud of dust. Sweat evaporated off his hide and a pungent aroma reached my nostrils.
Our eyes locked.
I bit down on my lip, fists clenched, fingernails digging into my palms, though I barely felt them.
He snorted, sniffed, and tilted sharp, devilish horns. My heart pounded, racing ever faster, and my hands shook as I rose to my full height and pulled my shirt over my head, hating those vulnerable seconds, careful to minimize my movements.
He pawed the dirt.
“Control with composure.” My brother’s words spoken to me long ago, conveying his poise as a seasoned bullfighter.
The bull flicked his tail and snarled. I judged which horn he favored, indicating the direction he’d go.
He thundered toward me, his hoofs rhythmically striking the ground, and I raised my make-shift cape. It brushed over his horns as he galloped past, and swerved left, snorting stale breath that left a putrid taste buried deep in the back of my throat. Lumbering, he turned to face me again, inclining his enormous head. My dry tongue cleaved to the roof of my mouth and I tried to gulp my fear. Taking short breaths, unable to remember my last, I suppressed a whimper.
Large nostrils sniffed the air again. I steadied my hands and flicked the garment as he lurched under my left arm, spraying up soil.
I backed up.
Head down, he followed.
My back struck the arena wall, betraying my escape, trapping me between it and him. His stare met mine and went on through. In a state of dread, those terrifying seconds seemed more like hours as they took my breath with them. I struggled to recall which saint could be rallied.
The ground vibrated, bringing with it a sea of black as a billowing dust cloud arose. I threw my shirt over his head and then dived to the right of him. The material blinded him and he plunged into the stone, horns scraping and grinding. He bellowed and shook his head.
I leaped to my feet and bolted along and over the enclosure, landing on the gravel, scraping my hands and knees. Still tasting the dirt he’d sprayed up, I turned awkwardly and peered back. The bull’s eyes bulged, his tail hung low between his legs as he trotted, searching. I sighed, almost forgetting my stinging, bloodied knees.
Whack!
Thrown forward by the crack that struck my head, pain exploded in my skull. Through a bleary stare, I lay looking up at three men, their shadowy figures looming over me, handkerchiefs pulled up to obscure their faces. The tallest of the three tapped his fingers against his thigh. In his other hand, he grasped a wooden cudgel.
After the third strike, I blacked out.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Sneak Peek: The Advocate's Conviction

Teresa Burrell
- - - 
Preface
The fourteen-year-old girl struggled to break free from the bindings on her hands and feet. One woman on each arm held her as she fought. Her feet were in stirrups, and the unbearable pain shot through her abdomen. Her blonde hair was wet with sweat. She yanked her right arm away but the heavy-set woman holding her arm threw her body across the teenager, pinning her down on the hospital bed.
“No,” the teen screamed. “No! Don’t take my baby.”
“Push,” the body-blocker said. “Just push.”
The tall, thin woman holding the teen’s left arm spoke calmly. “You need to stop fighting and breathe. Your baby is coming. You need to push.”
The girl looked around the small, dirty room for help, but all she saw was a man wearing a surgical mask sitting at the end of the bed between her legs, waiting for her to give birth. He would be no help. After all, she had agreed to this. The candles flickered around her, casting soft shadows around the room. The oak tree painted on the wall and the circle around her bed would protect her, or so she was told. But she hurt so badly and no one seemed to care.
The heavy-set woman was face to face with her. The girl could feel her breathing and smell her garlicky lunch. “Just push,” she said again.
The girl screamed.
“This is your child’s fate. Your baby must be sacrificed. Are you a believer?”
The girl wanted to say no. She didn’t know what to believe, but fear won out. “Yes,” she said.
“Yes, what?”
“Yes, I believe. I believe in the power of the oak. I believe in the power of the oak.” She was chanting now and the two women joined her.
“I believe in the power of the oak. I believe in the power of the oak.” The young girl screamed again as another contraction shot through her. She pushed as hard as she could, then stopped.
“Again!” the man at her feet yelled. “Push!”
She pushed and screamed in agony until she felt the mass exit her womb. Her body lay limp on the bed as she heard the baby cry. The heavy-set woman continued to hold her in place while the tall woman took the baby to the back of the room and out of sight. The baby’s cries still filled the room.
Then, silence.
A few minutes later the woman returned without the child.
The girl turned her head away and closed her eyes. What have I done?

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

When Titles Are Born

For those of you who have been following Jessica Therrien, whose debut teen novel will be out early next year, you'll be excited to hear some developments in the area of book and series titles. Naming things is an essential part of writing - from naming characters to naming narratives - and it's not one we take lightly. Jessica's novel has been under a working title for a while now, and we are excited to reveal the official series and book one title at last:

Children of the Gods
Oppression

The release isn't for several months, but we'll be giving you tidbits of information and sneak peeks into the story as time progresses. In the meantime, follow her blog, twitter, facebook, and anything else you can find. She's seriously worth following.