Friday, October 31, 2014

Halloween and Other Ghostly Stuff


To celebrate Halloween, I'm dedicating this week to Melissa MacVicar, author of ghostly YA paranormal tales about haunted homes and ancient rituals. MacVicar herself wraps up this series with a guest post.



Halloween and Other Ghostly Stuff

by



As a writer of books that have some serious supernatural drama, many people assume I go all out for Halloween.  When I was a child, Halloween was one of my favorite holidays but not because of the ghosts and goblins. Mostly, I loved it for the dressing up, the candy, and the camaraderie. I can still remember that feeling of freedom when I went out for the first time with a group of my peers, feet crunching on leaves as we walked the dark streets alone.
In the last several years, I have to say that Halloween seems to be less about hauntings and the paranormal and more about over-sexed costumes and pumpkin spice lattes. I imagine this would be disappointing to someone who is a serious horror fan, but truthfully that is not me. In fact, I confess that I am really a huge scaredy cat when it comes to the haunted part of Halloween.

When I was writing some of the ghost encounters in my novels EVER NEAR and EVER LOST, I quite literally frightened myself. The exorcism scene (yes there is an exorcism scene in EVER NEAR) was something I never thought I’d be able to write. When a beta reader told me I needed to add it, I initially dismissed the idea because it terrified me. That scene was truly a stretch both as a writer and as a person, but it turned out to be a really great part of the book.  

One thing I do love about Halloween is an awesome scary prank. There is nothing better than freaking out one of your friends as long as it’s good natured and not too extreme.  Here are two fun examples of well done pranks I found on youtube. Enjoy and have a spooktastic holiday however you decided to celebrate it!

Skeleton Drive thru

Supernatural Coffee Shop

Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Making of a Ghostly Book Trailer


To celebrate Halloween, I'm dedicating this week to Melissa MacVicar, author of ghostly YA paranormal tales about haunted homes and ancient rituals. In the fourth part of this series, I talk about how I made the book trailer for Ever Near.

No one knows for sure how effective book trailers are, but one thing is certain: they can't hurt. And they're sure fun to make. So when Melissa, having seen what I did for my own Artificial Absolutes trailer, asked me to make one for her YA paranormal novel, Ever Near, I didn't hesitate to say yes.

Now, I am the amateur of amateurs when it comes to video production. The only equipment I have is iMovie and a temporary subscription to a stock video website. But that's more than enough for a book trailer, which isn't meant to be literal anyway. In fact, I think it's better if it's not, since half the point of a book is for the reader to envision worlds of their own.

So I wasn't trying to depict actual events in the book, like a movie trailer was, but rather to create an atmosphere while presenting what the book's about. To give prospective readers a flavor of what's to come.

Melissa and I therefore set out in search of music and images that would evoke the feel of Ever Near, a ghost story mixed with a contemporary teen romance. The tagline, "Love is ever near, but trouble is never far," is both optimistic and a touch melancholy, and so I laid the text over an image of sunlit flowers that represent both emotions. To capture the paranormal elements, we picked haunting images of clouds and moonlight that immediately bring to mind the otherworldly. And since the story takes place on the island of Nantucket and contains a lot of local flavor, we included footage of shore houses and waves.

I really lucked out when I found a stock video of a teen girl walking into the water. Not only did she look like Jade, but the slow, contemplative way she enters the waves matches the summery feel of this teen romance, yet contains a tinge of sorrow. Jade isn't a tragic character by any means, but she sees her fair share of emotional turmoil.

We chose a slow, rolling piano song for the soundtrack because it gave the trailer both a haunting and contemporary feel, neatly tying together the main ideas of the book. Between voiceover and overlaid text, I chose text because the human silence adds to the ghostly element.

And here's the result:




Wednesday, October 29, 2014

REVIEW: Nearer Still: A Secret Affinity Story / Melissa MacVicar


To celebrate Halloween, I'm dedicating this week to Melissa MacVicar, author of ghostly YA paranormal tales about haunted homes and ancient rituals. Part 3 of this series is a review of Nearer Still (A Secret Affinity Story), a short prequel tale to accompany the series.



TITLE: Nearer Still (A Secret Affinity Story)
AUTHOR: Melissa MacVicar
PUBLISHER: Self-Published
AVAILABILITY: Amazon (e-book only)



GENRE

Young Adult - Historical Fiction

While the main books in the Secret Affinity series are paranormal tales, this little prequel short doesn't actively involve ghosts.

BOOK DESCRIPTION

Expanding on the world of Melissa MacVicar's debut novel EVER NEAR, this digital-only short story explores the background of Jade’s grandmother, Winnie Ferguson, growing up as a black teenager and a budding clairvoyant in the early 1960s. 

When Stanley Irving gets arrested during a sit-in at a segregated lunch counter, he makes the front page of the Baltimore newspaper. Eighteen-year-old Winnie Ferguson’s father is furious with his daughter's boyfriend and tries to break up the young couple. Will Winnie stand up to her father, or will the pair be ripped apart by the tension surrounding the Civil Rights movement? 

REVIEW

Nearer Still is a sweet little tale about Winnie, grandmother to the main character in MacVicar's Secret Affinity series. It's a subtly written vignette about life as a black teenager in the 1960s, and the author clearly put a lot of effort into capturing the essence of the time.

Winnie's voice rings true, and the period really comes to life through her eyes. The heart if the story is her romance with a boy arrested for protesting segregation. It also paints a picture of what the wise old lady in Ever Near (Secret Affinity #1, which I read first) was like when she was young.

Well crafted and charming, this tale is a quick read that will leave you smiling.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Melissa MacVicar has lived most of her life on Nantucket Island. A true native, she’s able to trace her ancestry back to the island’s first settlers. After attending The Pingree School, she went on to graduate from Franklin and Marshall College with a degree in English. She also received a master’s degree from Boston University School of Social Work. When she turned forty, Melissa decided to renew her adolescent passion for fiction writing. Having once thought writing a novel to be an impossible dream, she’s proud to be achieving her childhood ambition.

Melissa currently lives with her husband and two children on Nantucket where she teaches 7th grade Writing Composition. When she isn’t teaching, parenting, and writing, Melissa enjoys running, eating expensive chocolate, and watching her beloved Patriots. 

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

REVIEW: Ever Lost / Melissa MacVicar


To celebrate Halloween, I'm dedicating this week to Melissa MacVicar, author of ghostly YA paranormal tales about haunted homes and ancient rituals. The second part of this series is my review of Ever Lost (Secret Affinity, #2), which picks up where Ever Near left off.

TITLE: Ever Lost (Secret Affinity, #2)

AUTHOR: Melissa MacVicar
AVAILABILITY: Amazon (e-book and paperback)
PUBLISHER: Red Adept Publishing



GENRE

Young Adult - Paranormal

REVIEW

Ever Lost takes place a few months after Ever Near, the first book in Melissa MacVicar's Secret Affinity series. Jade's mother and stepfather have sent her to live with her dad, in hopes of stopping what they view as an inappropriate relationship between Jade and her boyfriend Charlie - who recently became her stepbrother. Jade resents the forced move to a new town, especially since her new school is full of elitist snobs, but does her best to adjust for her dad's sake. That proves difficult, however for two reasons. 

One, the charming Mateo is doing his best to win her affections, despite knowing of her loyalty to Charlie. And two: there's a ghost haunting the academy. But unlike her previous paranormal encounter, this ghost died recently - and he won't stop haunting her or the school until she learns the truth behind his death. 

I didn't think it was possible to love another Secret Affinity book more than Ever Near, but Ever Lost proved me wrong. It has everything I adored about the first book and more. Ghostly mystery? Check. Compelling heroine? Check. High school drama? Double check, since now there's a love triangle involved. And what self-declared reader of girl-centric YA books doesn't love those? Plus, Ever Lost contains elements of a criminal thriller as Jade delves into dangerous territory in her attempt to solve a suspicious death.

MacVicar's writing is among the strongest I've seen in recent YA books - and trust me, I've read a lot. It's hard to put my finger on exactly what it is that makes the Secret Affinity series so addictive. I guess because they have everything I love - mystery! adventure! drama! - wrapped in a lively voice and delivered through fast pacing. Jade is anything but a Mary Sue, which is a definite plus for me. I will admit that she's infuriating at times, but this is because she's a realistic teen. (And we all know that real teens are pains-in-the-asses). And her sassy kind of vivacious brattiness makes her lots of fun to follow.

Like Ever Near, Ever Lost feels a lot more like contemporary YA than fantasy, and it will definitely appeal to readers who like to stay grounded in the real world. Really, it's a contemporary high school story... with a ghost mystery driving it forward.

So if you're looking for your next fun YA read, do yourself a favor and pick up both books in the Secret Affinity series (and check out the prequel short while you're at it - it's only a few pages long but adds richness and depth to the grandmother character). I'm certainly glad I did, and I can't wait for Book 3!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Melissa MacVicar has lived most of her life on Nantucket Island. A true native, she’s able to trace her ancestry back to the island’s first settlers. After attending The Pingree School, she went on to graduate from Franklin and Marshall College with a degree in English. She also received a master’s degree from Boston University School of Social Work. When she turned forty, Melissa decided to renew her adolescent passion for fiction writing. Having once thought writing a novel to be an impossible dream, she’s proud to be achieving her childhood ambition.

Melissa currently lives with her husband and two children on Nantucket where she teaches 7th grade Writing Composition. When she isn’t teaching, parenting, and writing, Melissa enjoys running, eating expensive chocolate, and watching her beloved Patriots. 


Monday, October 27, 2014

REVIEW: Ever Near / Melissa MacVicar


To celebrate Halloween, I'm dedicating this week to Melissa MacVicar, author of ghostly YA paranormal tales about haunted homes and ancient rituals. First up: A review of MacVicar's debut novel, Ever Near (Secret Affinity, #1).

TITLE: Ever Near (Secret Affinity, #1)
AUTHOR: Melissa MacVicar
PUBLISHER: Red Adept Publishing
AVAILABILITY: Amazon (e-book, paperback, and audiobook)




GENRE

Young Adult - Paranormal

REVIEW

Fellow Red Adept author here. Bought 'n' paid for this book myself because I wanted to, and this review represents my honest opinions.

Ever Near tells the story of 16-year-old Jade Irving, who has recently moved into a historical mansion with her mother, soon-to-be stepfather, and his two sons. Except there are a few problems: Firstly, that Jade's school crush, Charlie, is also one wedding away from being her stepbrother, and secondly, there's a ghost haunting the old house.

Determined to stop the ghost before she drives her made, Jade sets out on a paranormal investigation. Meanwhile, she also copes with the difficulties of her new life - and the challenges of young love.

The story takes place in Nantucket and contains a lot of local flavor. The settings and characters really pull you in. I couldn't stop reading... or listening, rather, since I had the audiobook.

The narrator did a great job of capturing Jade's voice and told the story with all the vivacity and energy the character. The story's a lot more contemporary than a lot of paranormal fare, so I think it will appeal to crossover readers. While the plot follows Jade's efforts to deal with the ghost residing in her new home, much of the book also depicts her tumultuous life as a teen in a blended family and all the complications that arise. The realism surprised me, actually, and it's much more of a contemporary YA novel than a simple ghost story. 


I must say that I'm not usually a reader of contemporary YA - or even lighter sci-fi/fantasy that feels contemporary - so Ever Near came as a pleasant surprise. Something about MacVicar's writing through Jade's voice just kept me hooked... I listened to the entire audiobook in two sessions and was disappointed when it was over (and promptly cracked open the sequel).

Overall, Ever Near is well-written, fast-paced, and highly enjoyable. I would definitely recommend this to anyone interested in contemporary YA with a ghostly twist.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Melissa MacVicar has lived most of her life on Nantucket Island. A true native, she’s able to trace her ancestry back to the island’s first settlers. After attending The Pingree School, she went on to graduate from Franklin and Marshall College with a degree in English. She also received a master’s degree from Boston University School of Social Work. When she turned forty, Melissa decided to renew her adolescent passion for fiction writing. Having once thought writing a novel to be an impossible dream, she’s proud to be achieving her childhood ambition.

Melissa currently lives with her husband and two children on Nantucket where she teaches 7th grade Writing Composition. When she isn’t teaching, parenting, and writing, Melissa enjoys running, eating expensive chocolate, and watching her beloved Patriots. 

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Why I Write Horror



Halloween is just around the corner, and in anticipation, I'm dedicating this week to horror writer Stephen Kozeniewski, writer of creepy chills and gruesome thrills. The culmination of this series is a guest post by the man himself.

Why I Write Horror

by


I’m asked fairly regularly, “Why, Steve? Oh, God, why would you? How could you? Have you no soul? My God, no! Who could even think of that?”

Which I interpret as, “Why do you write horror?” It’s a fair question, and one I never get exhausted answering, just as, say, a person with a goiter never gets tired of little kids pointing and shouting, “What’s that on your neck?”

If I were to wax philosophical for a moment (and I were) I would point out that some, though not all, fiction genres are directly connected to emotional responses. Consider, for instance, romance or mystery, which are very closely linked to the emotions of love (or sometimes lust) and curiosity, respectively. As a counterpoint, some genres like, say, science fiction or Westerns, promise certain outer physical trappings, while the core emotions exposed vary somewhat. While they all boast spaceships and laser battles, my feelings while watching Star Trek, Star Wars, and Lost in Space vary quite widely.

Horror, though, I’m fond of pointing out, is an emotion. Horror is one genre that provides exactly what it states on the tin. The author (or filmmaker, or artist, or whatever, but let’s just focus on books for now) will be trying to horrify you. This can’t even be said to be the case in a genre as seemingly up-front as, say, romance. Some romance authors want to titillate you with sexy sexed-up sexiness, others want to make you cry at a lost (usually cancer-related) love, and still others want to fill you with that warm glow of happily-ever-after true love.

Horror as a genre represents a certain purity of purpose that I rarely find anywhere else in the world of fiction. If a novel bears that stigmatic “H” it promises, “Dear gentle reader, unless I, your humble author, fail miserably at my appointed task…you’re about to get freaked the fuck out, son.”

Which segues into my next point. Why would anyone want that? Why would anyone want to be scared? It’s interesting, I think, that no one ever questions someone’s decision to board a rollercoaster, but the act of picking up a horror novel raises all kinds of stink-eyes and lolling tongues of disgust. Yet the two acts are fundamentally the same. It is the act of stimulating the body into believing it is in danger.

And here we get down to about the limits of my technical knowledge, although I do know this: fear is the basest emotion. At the very core of the heart of the lizard brain, hidden away deep in your amygdala, surrounded by all that other fancy grey matter that evolved over the years to appreciate Mozart and potato skins and everything else that requires advanced thought processes, down at the heart of it all lies the fight-or-flight response. This was primitive man’s survival mechanism. Faced with danger, the lizard brain floods the body with hormones that allow it to think faster, run harder, and fight back with more strength if necessary.

That’s fear. “Fear,” as The Doctor pointed out in a recent episode of Doctor Who, “is a superpower.” And on the other side of it, after the fear is gone, comes catharsis. That sense of accomplishment. You rode the rollercoaster. You watched Pinhead fuck that guy up and you didn’t look away once. Think of the warm, fuzzy smile you get after sex. The greater the orgasm, the greater the smile, right?

Horror readers get to experience that warm glow every time they reach those words “the end.” Fight-or-flight has ended, the artificial fear has been vanquished, and you have only the sense of accomplishment of having finished it. What other genre offers you an adventure in the process of reading, along with the pleasures that come with any story? It’s like getting twice as much for your money.

As a matter of fact I’m ready to declare it: Horror. Best genre ever.

Stephen Kozeniewski is the author of Braineater Jones, The Ghoul Archipelago, and Billy and the Cloneasaurus. He is also a contributing author for two anthologies: Another 100 Horrors and At Hell's Gates. Check out his blog, Manuscripts Burn.

Friday, October 24, 2014

SPOTLIGHT: The Ghoul Archipelago Book Trailer


Halloween is just around the corner, and in anticipation, I'm dedicating this week to horror writer Stephen Kozeniewski, writer of creepy chills and gruesome thrills. Part 5 of this series is a spotlight on the book trailer for The Ghoul Archipelago.

The Ghoul Archipelago features a power struggle between political, business, and religious leaders while the world is consumed by the zombie apocalypse. Below is the book trailer, depicting an ad for the aforementioned business leader's key product... and a protest against it.