Monday, June 18, 2012

A Drive In the Country…with Vampires and guest blogger Susannah Sandlin

Please welcom my guest today, Susannah Sandlin, as she talks about her novel, Redemption and what inspired her to write. Susannah will also be giving away a copy of her book to one lucky commenter, so don't forget to post.

Susannah Sandlin

Authors get inspired by all kinds of things--books, TV, songs we hear, people we meet, people we eavesdrop on, er, I mean observe.

And let's not forget places. Have you ever visited a place that inspired you to write? My paranormal romance, Redemption, was inspired by an afternoon drive to Chambers County, Alabama, and the county seat of LaFayette. 

It's a charming small Southern town, full of big old early-century houses, a classic county courthouse, a main street with picturesque storefronts. And it's isolated. Oh, my, is it isolated.

The isolation is what drew me there. I'd come up with the idea of a group of vampires who wanted to live with their human familiars like a family, in a rural area, and how they might react if they came under siege, and how one of them might fall in love after centuries of being alone.

I'd recently moved to East Alabama after many years of living in urban areas all over the country, so I pulled out a map of Alabama and began circling areas that were small and not within twenty or thirty miles of even a small city. 

I found a crossroads spot in Chambers County called Penton, about fifteen miles from the Georgia state line. It wasn't close to anything except the county seat of LaFayette, about ten miles south, which had a boomtown population of 3,000 or so, and this was not a boomtown time. (There are only about 35,000 people in the entire county). 

So I set out one afternoon, looking for Penton. Well, Penton wasn't so much a place as a sign and a literal crossroads, with a church on one side, an abandoned gas station, and a thriving stock car raceway. The surrounding area of green hills and thick pine forest was beautiful. And did I mention isolated?

Then I found LaFayette, and fell in love. Chambers County has an interesting history. It was originally Creek Indian lands, and many battles were fought in the area before they were forced out. The county has produced Pat Garrett (the western sheriff who took down Billy the Kid), and boxer Joe Louis. The economy of this part of Alabama and western Georgia was built on the textile industry.

But the textile industry has moved overseas. So on my first and subsequent visits to LaFayette, I was struck by how many of the beautiful old homes sat empty. In the charming downtown area, abandoned storefronts mock visitors with what might have once been there. The county courthouse sits majestically overlooking a town that's struggling for its survival. The mayor of the town is a rosy-cheeked, optimistic 21-year-old. 

I went home and began writing. In Redemption, the first book of the Penton Legacy series, I have moved things around. The town of LaFayette, minus the courthouse, provided the inspiration for Penton, which has become a virtual ghost town after the local cotton mill shut down. A handsome, charismatic Irish-born vampire named Aidan Murphy began systematically buying up the land, and eventually moved his scathe, or family, to repopulate the town.

I'm not sure how the folks of LaFayette and Penton will feel about their beautiful area being taken over by vampires, but they're really sexy vampires. Well, some of them. Yeah, some of them aren't nice at all.

Has a visit to a place ever inspired a story? How do you decide on your settings?


Blurb:
The world’s vampire population is on the brink of starvation since the vaccine to treat a global pandemic rendered human blood deadly to them. Their only hope for survival is a handful of rural areas that the vaccine never breached.  The tiny town of Penton, Alabama, is one such enclave, where the immortal Aidan Murphy has established a community of vampires and their willingly bonded humans. Together, they live in peace—until Aidan’s estranged brother descends upon the town and begins attacking its humans. Whether the rampage is a result of his centuries-old feud with Aidan or the civil war threatening to erupt in the vampire world matters not. All that matters is the blood.  Desperate to save his adopted family, Aidan breaks one of his cardinal rules, kidnapping an unvaccinated human doctor—and unexpectedly finding love among the ruins.



Excerpt:
Krystal Harris pulled to the shoulder of the two-lane road—highway was too grand a word—and punched the button to turn on the old green Corolla’s dome light. She counted to five before thwacking it with the heel of her palm, and a dim light blinked as if considering her demand. It stayed on―this time. The car was a dinosaur, but it was a paid-for dinosaur.
She dug a folded Alabama road map from beneath her briefcase on the passenger seat, smoothing the creases to make sure she hadn’t driven past Penton, which she suspected was no more than a wide spot on a narrow road. She didn’t want to get lost out here in the boonies.
Yep, County Road 70. The highway to Penton just looked like the express lane to nowhere.
A gust of wind rocked the car, sending icy air around the loose door seals. Maybe the chill of this night was an omen that she should take this job if they offered it, just so she could buy a more respectable form of transportation. Still, doubts nagged at her. What kind of clinic conducted a job interview at 9:00 p.m.? She should never have agreed to it, but the Penton Clinic administrator had waved big bucks in front of her huge college and med school debts, and she’d trotted after them like a donkey after a carrot
“You had the goody-two-shoes idea of practicing rural medicine, plus you’re already here,” she chided herself, clicking off the overhead and pulling back onto the road. “And you’ve gotta admit, this is rural.”
Another omen, and not a good one: she was talking to herself. Out loud.
A couple of miles later, her headlights illuminated a battered wooden sign covered in peeling paint: Welcome to Penton, Alabama. Founded 1890. Population 3,275.
Twenty years ago, maybe. Krys had done her Penton homework, and that was the boomtown population, when the mammoth East Alabama Mill still churned out threads and batting. It had wheezed its final belch a decade ago, and the town had suffered a slow death by attrition even before the pandemic. The most recent listing Krys found online estimated a population of three hundred. She was surprised they could afford to hire a doctor, much less pay a more-than-competitive wage.
But this was what she wanted, right? A place to practice medicine and be her own boss, to find a community where she could belong? After growing up in Birmingham—the wrong side of Birmingham—she hated the grime and crowds and noise of the city.
Lost in thought as she approached the outskirts of town, she thought she saw an animal in the road—a deer or a bear, maybe—God only knew what wildlife lived out here. But it was a man. He wore a long coat that flapped in the wind and was backlit by a lone streetlight in front of an abandoned convenience store. She’d have blown past him if he hadn’t moved into the middle of the road when the glare of her headlights hit him like a spotlight.
He stood with his hands in his pockets, feet planted apart, watching calmly as she floored the brakes. The Corolla’s old tires squealed, stinking up the air with the smell of hot rubber and stressed brakes.
Good Lord. Was he nuts?
She got the car stopped and took a deep breath, hands frozen to the wheel, her muscles jittery from the aftershock. The man walked around and tapped on her driver’s side window, motioning for her to lower it. Krys’s foot hovered over the accelerator, indecisive. Should she drive on and get the hell out of here?
No, by God, she should not. She’d at least lower the window enough to tell the jerk how close he’d come to ending his life as a hood ornament on a green Toyota Dinosaur.
He held up his empty hands in a gesture of peace. Right. Like he was going to hold up a sign that said Beware of Murderous Backwoods Whack Job.
She snaked her right hand to her purse in the passenger seat, wrapped cold fingers around the handle of a small pistol, and slipped it into the pocket of her suede jacket―after she was sure the man had seen it. The .38 Smith & Wesson snub-nose was her security blanket, and she knew how to use it.
His only reaction to the gun was a raised eyebrow. “I have a man injured here.” His voice was deep and melodic, and he had a trace of an accent, as if he’d grown up not speaking English but had been around a few too many Southerners. “You the doctor coming to Penton for the interview?”
She lowered her window an inch and stared as he knelt next to the driver’s side door, putting his face at eye level. And damned if it wasn’t one of the most beautiful faces she’d seen since…maybe ever.
He’d pulled his dark hair into a short ponytail except for one wavy strand that had pulled loose and blew against his cheek. The streetlight cast enough illumination for her to see the dark lashes fringing blue eyes that reminded her not so much of summer skies or robin’s eggs but of
the richness of an arctic sea flowing over darker depths. They appeared to lighten as he studied her with an intensity that almost robbed her lungs of air. He had a strong jaw, full lips, and a slight cleft in his chin. If he was a serial killer, he was at least a pretty one.
He cleared his throat. “Are you Dr. Harris?”
Krys caught her breath. Good Lord, what was wrong with her? She’d been practically drooling through a half-open window as though he were Adonis personified. He could be Charles Manson’s separated-at-birth, unidentical twin.
And he knew her name.


You can find Redemption by Susannah Sandlin at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other online retailers. Currently, Amazon is running a special price of $3.99 on a Kindle download.

Thank you again, Susannah for being a guest here at Romance In Flight! I look forward to reading Redemption!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Backstory EVIL STALKS THE NIGHT from

   
Hi again. Since childhood I’ve always been an artist and worked as a graphic designer in the corporate world and for newspapers for twenty-three years before I was able to write full time. Though I actually began writing novels at 21, over forty years ago now, and have had fourteen (nine romantic horror,
one historical romance, one romantic suspense, one romantic time travel  and two mysteries) previous novels and seven short stories published from Zebra Books, Leisure Books, Avalon Books, The Wild Rose Press, Damnation Books and Eternal Press. I’ve been married to Russell for thirty-three years; have
a son, James, and two grandchildren, Joshua and Caitlyn, and I live in a small quaint town in Illinois called Columbia, which is right across the JB Bridge from St. Louis, Mo. We have two quirky cats, Cleo and ghost cat Sasha, and the four of us live happily in an old house in the heart of town. Though I’ve been an artist, and a folk singer in my youth with my brother Jim, writing has always been my greatest passion, my butterfly stage, and I’ll probably write stories until the day I die.

In celebration of my 40 year writing career coming FULL CIRCLE with the rerelease of my first ever published 1984 Leisure novel EVIL STALKS THE NIGHT June 1 from Damnation Books/Eternal Press and all my old 15 novels finally out again after 2  ½ years of rewriting and editing. Below is the BACKSTORY ESSAY of why/how/when I first wrote EVIL STALKS THE NIGHT and its strange journey since it first came out decades ago.

The book itself is a romantic horror novel about a divorced woman, Sarah Towers, and her six year old son, Jeremy, who’s forced, by desperate circumstances, to return to her old neighborhood to claim a dilapidated house her dead grandmother has left her. She doesn’t want to go back because her family, parents and siblings, (except for one brother, Jimmy) had been murdered by an eternal malevolent
entity that lives in the nearby woods. Her grandmother’s house is too close to those woods. But she makes a new life, fixes up the house and comes to cherish it; meets a new love interest (Detective Ben Raucher, a local cop) while dealing with the reawakening of that eternal evil. What complicates
everything, as it’s done all her life, is Sarah is psychic. She faces her fears and the entity and saves not
only herself but the life of her son. So, in some ways, it has a happy ending and good triumphs.


Why I Wrote Evil Stalks the Night
…and also The Heart of the Rose
Damnation Books: http://damnationbooks.com/people.php?author=79 (in E-book and print)
Buy at Amazon.com: http://www.amazon.com/Evil-Stalks-Night-Revised-ebook/dp/B00882CBVI/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1338590749&sr=1-1

Evil Stalks the Night-Revised Author’s Edition is special to me for many reasons. It was my first published novel in 1984 and as it comes out again on June 1, 2012, rereleased from Damnation Books for the first time in nearly thirty years, it’ll bring my over forty year writing career full circle. With its publication all fourteen, and one novella, of my old books will be out again for the first time in decades. Sure, it’s been a grueling, tedious two-and- a-half year job rewriting and editing these new versions but I’m thrilled it’s over. I have my babies reborn and out in the world again…and all in e books for the first time ever. Now, perfectionist that I am, I can finally move forward and write new stories.
I’ll start at the very beginning because, though Evil Stalks the Night was my first published novel, it wasn’t my first written one.
That first book was The Heart of the Rose. I began writing it after my only child, James, was born in late 1971. I was staying home with him, no longer going to college, not yet working full time, and was bored out of my skin. I read an historical romance one day I believed was horrible and thought I can do better than that!
So I got out my borrowed typewriter with the keys that stuck, my bottles of White-Out, carbon paper for copies, and started clicking away. I’d tentatively called that first book King’s Witch because it was about a 15th century healer who was falsely believed to be a witch but who was loved by Edward the Fourth. At the library, no computers or Internet back then, I did tedious research into that time in English history: the War of the Roses, the poverty, the civil and political strife between the Red (Lancasters) and White Rose (Yorks); the infamous Earl of Warwick and Edward the Fourth.  Edward’s brother Richard the Third.  A real saga. Well, all that was big back then. I was way out of my league, though. Didn’t know what the heck I was doing. I just wrote page after page, emotions high believing I could create a whole book. So na├»ve of me. Reading that old version now (a 1985 Leisure Books paperback) I have to laugh. Ironically, like that historical novel I’d thought in 1971 was so bad, it was pretty awful. That archaic language I’d used–all the rage back in the 80’s–sounds so stilted now. Yikes! Yet people, mainly women, had loved it.
And so my writing career began. Over 40 years ago now. Oh my goodness, where has the time gone? Flown away like some wild bird. It took me 12 years to get that first book published as I got sidetracked with a divorce, raising a son, getting a real job and finding the true love of my life and marrying him. Life, as it always seemed to do and still does, got in the way. The manuscript was tossed into a drawer and forgotten for a time.
Then years later I rediscovered it and decided to rewrite it; try again. I bundled up the revised pile of printed copy pages, tucked it into an empty copy paper box and took it to the Post Office. Plastered it with stamps. I sent it everywhere The Writer’s Market of that year said I could. And waited. Months and months and months. In those days it could take up to a year or more to sell a novel, shipping it here and there to publishers, in between revising and rewriting to please any editor that’d make suggestions or comments on how it could be better. Snail mail took forever, too, and was expensive. But eventually, as you shall see, it sold.
Now to Evil Stalks the Night.
In the meantime, as I waited for the mail, I’d written another book. Kind of a fictionalized look back at my childhood in a large (6 brothers and sisters) poor but loving family in the 1950’s and 60’s. I started sending that one out as well. Then one day an editor suggested that since my writing had such a spooky ambiance to it anyway, why didn’t I just turn the story into a horror novel…like Stephen King was doing? Ordinary people under supernatural circumstances. A book like that would sell easily, she said.  
Hmmm. Well, it was worth a try, so I added something scary in the woods in the main character’s childhood past that she had to return to and face in her adult life, using some of my childhood and my young adult life–my heartbreaking divorce, raising my young son alone, my new love–as hers. It was more of a romantic horror when I’d finished, than a horror novel. I retitled it Evil Stalks the Night and began sending it out. That editor was right, it sold quickly to a mass market paperback publisher called Towers Publishing.
But right in the middle of editing Towers went bankrupt and was bought out by another publisher! What terrible luck, I remember brooding. The book was lost somewhere in the stacks of unedited slush in a company undergoing massive changes as the new publisher took over. I had a contract, didn’t know what to do and didn’t know how to break it. Heaven knows, I couldn’t afford a lawyer. My life with a new husband, my son and my minimum-wage assistant billing job was one step above poverty at times. In those days, too, I was so clueless how to deal with the publishing industry.
That was 1983, but luckily that take-over publisher was Leisure Books, now also known as Dorchester Publishing. A publisher that quickly became huge. Talk about karma.
As often as has happened to me over my writing career, though, fate stepped in and the Tower’s editor, before she left, who’d bought my book told one of Leisure’s editors about it and asked her to give it a read. She believed in it that much.
Out of the blue, in 1984, when I’d completely given up on Evil Stalks the Night, Leisure Books sent me a letter offering to buy it! Then, miracle of miracles, my new editor asked if I had any other ideas or books she could look at. I sent her The Heart of the Rose and, liking it, too, she also bought it in 1985; asking me to sex it up some, so they could release it as an historical bodice-ripper (remember those…the sexy knockoffs of Rosemary Rogers and Kathleen Woodiwiss’s provocative novels?).  It wasn’t a lot of money. A thousand dollar advance each and only 4% royalties on the paperbacks. But in those days the publishers had a huge distribution and thousands and thousands of the paperbacks were printed, sent to bookstores and warehoused. So 4% of all those books over the next couple of years did add up.
Thus my career began. I slowly, and like-pulling-teeth, sold ten more novels and various short stories over the next 25 years–as I was working full time, raising a family and living my hard-scramble life. Some did well, my Leisure and Zebra paperbacks, and some didn’t. Most of them, over the years, eventually went out of print.
And twenty-seven years later, when publisher Kim Richards Gilchrist at Damnation Books contracted my 13th and 14th novels, BEFORE THE END: A Time of Demons, an apocalyptic end-of-days-novel, and The Woman in Crimson, a vampire book, she asked if I’d like to rerelease (with new covers and rewritten, of course–and all in ebooks for the first time ever) my 7 out-of-print paperbacks, including Evil Stalks the Night–I gave her a resounding yes!
Of course, I had to totally rewrite Evil Stalks the Night for the resurrected edition, as well as my other early novels, because I discovered my writing when I was twenty-something had been immature and unpolished; and not having a computer and the Internet had made the original writing so much harder. Also in those days, editors told an author what to change and the writer only saw the manuscript once to final proof it.  There were so many mistakes in those early books. Typos. Grammar. Lost plot and detail threads. In the rewrite I also decided to keep the time frame (1960-1984) the same.  The book’s essence would have lost too much if I’d updated it.
As I finished the final editing I couldn’t help but reminisce about all the life changes I’ve had since I’d first began writing it so many years ago. Though it was actually published in 1984, I’d started writing it many years before; closer to 1978 or 1979. I’m as old as my Grandmother Fehrt, my mother’s mother and who the grandmother in the story was loosely based on, was back then. While I was first writing it so long ago, I was a young married woman with a small child holding down my first real job and trying to do it all. Now…my Grandmother, mother and father have all passed to the other side. Many other family and friends I’ve left behind, too. I miss them all, especially my mom and dad. It’s strange how revising my old books reminded me of certain times of my life. Some of the memories I hid from and some of them made me laugh or cry. This book, though, is the most autobiographical of all my novels as it contains details of my childhood, my devastating divorce, and what my life was like when I first met my second husband, Russell, who’s turned out to be my true love. We’ve been happily married for thirty-four years and counting. Ah, but how quickly the years have clicked by. Too quickly. I want to reach out, at times, and stop time. I want more. I have so much more life to live and many more stories to write.
So Evil Stalks the Night-Revised Author’s Edition (http://damnationbooks.com/people.php?author=79 ) republished by Damnation Books/Eternal Press will be out again for the first time in nearly thirty years on June 1, 2012, and I hope it’s a better book than it was in 1984. It should be…I’ve had over thirty more years of life and experiences to help make it so. 
Written this 1st day of June, 2012 by the author Kathryn Meyer Griffith

***

A writer for over 40 years I’ve had 14 novels, 1 novella and 7 short stories published with Zebra Books, Leisure Books, Avalon Books, the Wild Rose Press, Damnation Books and Eternal Press since 1984. And my romantic end-of-the-world horror novel THE LAST VAMPIRE-Revised Author's Edition was a 2012 EPIC EBOOK AWARDS FINALIST NOMINEE.
My books (all out again from Damnation Books http://damnationbooks.com/people.php?author=79 and Eternal Press http://www.eternalpress.biz/people.php?author=422): Evil Stalks the Night, The Heart of the Rose, Blood Forge, Vampire Blood, The Last Vampire, Witches, The Nameless One short story, The Calling, Scraps of Paper, All Things Slip Away, Egyptian Heart, Winter's Journey, The Ice Bridge, Don't Look Back, Agnes novella, In This House short story, BEFORE THE END: A Time of Demons, The Woman in Crimson, The Guide to Writing Paranormal Fiction: Volume 1 (I did the Introduction) ***

You can keep up with me on my Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1019954486, my Author’s Den www.authorsden.com/kathrynmeyergriffith  or my My Space www.myspace.com/kathrynmeyergriffith 

Friday, June 8, 2012

And The Winner Is



I’m sorry this has taken so long to post. I had every intention of posting on the first, however, a spring cold and a houseful of grandchildren prevented me from locking myself up in my cave.



So, without further ado—the winner of the Get Your Name In A Book Contest is-----
Okay, so there’s more than one winner, and that’s because I’m taking more than one name from the list.
For the role of our hero, I want you to meet Valerik (the brave) chosen by Ms. Rita Drake. Thank you Rita! He’s going to be a very interesting character to create. In fact, I’ve already introduced him in book 5, To Dream Of Dragons. Pitting him against Latham is going to be fun.
For the role of our villain, and I couldn’t have picked a better name myself, Kirill (Master-God) chosen by Adila Mammadova. Thank you so much for all the choices you sent. This is another character I’m going to have fun creating. The name may have been given to him by his parents, but he took the meaning to heart and won’t he be fun to write about. *grin*
Thank you also to Tommi-Beth, Chrissy, Sheila, and Shane for stopping by with their suggestions.