A Cafe For Authors and Avid Readers
My novel, Curse Me Not, introduces Appalachian unsophisticate Elzetta Swan who has recently gained the ability to see auras and the more lucrative ability to clean revenge curses from those auras. Embracing the gift faster than grass through a goose, she’s about to finish her first year as a licensed "bodywasher" in Knoxville, Tennessee, with a countrified inner child that’s skipping all the way to the bank.
Suddenly a routine cleansing turns ugly, leaving Elzetta to suspect a professional invoker has come to town—one who’s hooked on the rush of setting particularly nasty curses. If that wasn’t bad enough, the invoker may be visiting at the invitation of a mysterious local with a malicious hard-on for revenge.
As Elzetta attempts to track down the invoker as well as the source of rage feeding the invoker’s addiction, she must confront threats to both her trendy new life and the hallelujah hankering she’s formed for the reluctant—and way too sexy—urban white knight who’s helping her. Will those confrontations end up creating in Elzetta a vengeful rage all her own?
Elizabeth Fisher lives in east Tennessee and has deep Appalachian roots that involve all the usual elements—moonshine stills, horse thieving ancestors and rumors of illicit banjo pickin’. Fortunately, due to her father’s less felonious North Carolina heritage, Fisher makes an honest living as an author, freelance writer, editor and graphic designer. In her spare time, she reads, hikes and attempts to oil paint. She believes she’s making great strides in creatively incorporating the errant hairs of her cats—Buck and Bozo—into her still lifes. Her loving husband, Tim, is not so sure
I got fed up.
My favorite fiction to curl up with has usually been a mix or urban fantasy and paranormal romance. Yet now after bingeing on the genre for a while, I find myself diversifying.
Yes, I grew bored with the standard tropes associated with, let’s call it “paranormal fantasy.” You know the tropes I’m talking about: good vampires in love or bad vampires on the rampage; guilt-ridden yet heroic shape-shifters; witches who serve more as sex objects than as empowered women.
Aside from that, however, what really had me stepping back from “paranormal fantasy” was the absence of relate-able, realistic heroines. Invariably, the generic heroine is between the ages of 18 and 22, yet they always show the situational maturity of a thirty or forty-something. Granted, we’re talking speculative fiction here, so some willingness on the part of the reader to step outside reality is required. But c’mon. An adolescent heroine just hasn’t lived long enough to earn the right to be a truly multi-dimensional character in the face of calamity.
When I wrote, Curse Me Not, my “anti” paranormal fantasy, I first created a subtle, far more believable paranormal aspect to the story: my heroine (Elzetta Swan) can see people’s auras. Then I placed Elzetta in her early 40s, so the story could examine age-appropriate insecurities, hard-won skepticism and adult sensibilities. The story also shows Elzetta to have outgrown that “first love” phase of life. Instead, she would—and does—look upon idealized emotion with a certain level of fear and mistrust.
Victoria Lane of TheRomanceReviews.com wrote this in her review of my novel: What I liked…was that it focused on the case, the drama of what was happening. The romance is realistic and totally believable, and I seriously appreciate that the main characters are older than 40. Ali Barnard of Bargain Book Reviews was even more effusive. She wrote: I loved this book. Most [in the genre] are…Continue
Flash Fiction is a short—sometimes really short—form of storytelling. The number of words required in flash fiction differs from writer to writer, editor to editor, contest to contest, but some purists insist that it’s a story told in less than 75 words. For less-rigid flashers, anything under 500 words is flash-worthy. Either way, and despite the limited length, flash fiction can be a bitch to write.
For instance, the paragraph above is 68 words. Could you tell a complete story in a paragraph just a little longer than that? Yeah, writing flash fiction ain’t as easy as it might seem.
At a meeting of my writing group (a subgroup of the Knoxville Writers Guild), we decided to try our hand at writing a specific piece of flash fiction that we would enter into a contest in October sponsored by Brilliant Flash Fiction. This online “zine” showcases writers from all over the world, and the contest required 500 words or less using the writing prompt: It Came in the Mail.
Now, would you believe I won Third Place! I admit to being totally jazzed about it because there were a lot of good entries. Anyway, here's what I submitted:
The Secret of the Snoring Time
“What you got there, Millie?”
I shrugged as I pulled a greeting card out of a red envelope. “It came in the mail addressed to me, but there’s no return address. It’s a Valentine card, of all things.”
“Well, you already got your card from me this morning with the chocolates,” Franklin said in a rush as though he’d be…Continue
I’ve had my first novel published. I’ve garnered great reviews. I’ve created my website, my blog, my fool Twitter feed (or whatever!). I’m even close to finishing the novella that will act as a bridge to my second novel. So now it’s time to start on that second novel—for real.
Yeppers, Number Two is the shits. The time for excuses and procrastination is over. I must “sits” and I must “thinks.”
In a piece for Tor.Com, fellow author Caragh O'Brien writes, “Book 2 is often a gnarly, perilous, fascinating project, with built-in constraints and a backdrop of pressure from deadlines, critics and readers. Even with solid plans for a sequel, it’s not uncommon for writers to step into Book 2 intimidated. Guts are mandatory.”
Never once did I expect the self-generated pressure which would come after my first novel. I naively assumed life as an author would be all downhill from there. Silly, silly me!
At least I know my characters and enjoy them, much as my readers do. I even know what I am going to say in Book 2 through those characters, so that’s good. I just have to keep these tips from other authors in mind:
So there you have it. I’ll keep you posted and let you know how it’s going. And if you see me wondering around muttering to myself, pulling out my hair or…Continue
Cats have long been associated with the paranormal. One might first think of them as feline familiars to witches, but that is so not the beginning or end of their story. In Japan, myth says cats turn into super spirits when they die. Another culture believes cats routinely accomplish astral travel even in life. The Ancient Egyptians basically deified them.
And, of course, everybody knows cats can see ghosts.
Now, I don’t know what all this means for me. Even though I have penned a paranormal romance, I haven’t suspected my boys, Buck and Bozo, of having particularly paranormal aspects to their character. I’ve just adored the twin tabbies for their mystery and “inscrutability”—well, that, and the fact their purring is better than a month’s worth of therapy. Besides, they really love me back, and such reciprocated devotion is a true mark of a human’s worth as any cat lover will tell you.
Yet, I realize now that Buck and Bozo are not just blessings but curses too. Paranormally (at least to me) their cat hair seems to be found on every surface and in every corner of the house regardless of how often I clean or how often I groom their coats. Then there’s the possibility the boys are secretly attempting arcane ritual of some kind that will cause me to self-combust. They do this by joining me in my chair for some late night TV—one in my lap and the other draped over my legs—where they emit a gazillion BTUs of body heat. Regardless of the season they leave me panting and sweating like a jungle explorer down with malaria.
Next comes The Look. At any time one or the other of them is staring at me, all but expressionless yet with something in their eyes that leaves me wondering. Are they deciding which bits of me to devour first should I expire in…Continue
The paranormal twist I use in Curse Me Not is one that speaks to auras and curses upon auras. The fundamental question I had to answer as I developed the book’s alternate reality was this: While we can perceive our 3-D self just by looking in a mirror, how does our aura fit into our perception?
That each person has a luminous aura surrounding us is nowhere near as far-fetched as, say, the existence of werewolves or the efficacy of witchcraft. Indeed, a lot of people consider auras to be more than just a heat signature picked up via thermal imaging or a perceptual disturbance experienced by someone with a migraine. As a result, the more I researched for my book, the more metaphysically minded I became.
In my heroine’s world, auras are how humans manifest themselves beyond what is normally perceptible to the five senses. Auras are part color, part emotion, part state of mind, and part indication of who we are if civilization was stripped away. In Curse Me Not, I used the term preternatural to describe that altered perception. By the way, preternatural is a real word; preter comes from the Latin “praeter” which means beyond or past. Fitting, I think.
Establishing the rules in my heroine’s alternate reality was a difficult exercise, not from a writing standpoint, mind you, but from a personal and metaphysical one. Creating a world where auras are perceived by a select few and where curses on those auras directly affect people’s lives caused me to rethink my own view of existence.
By the time I finished the last chapter of Curse Me Not, I realized my heroine had spoken…Continue
As a newbie author, I recently realized how important—and fun!—it was to be a member of the Knoxville Writers Guild and the guild’s Sci-Fi/Fantasy Writers’ Group. I can’t believe how much I’ve learned over the past year and how much of what I’ve learned has affected my writing.
Here’s a case in point. The group’s latest “flash fiction” experiment was to write 500-1000 words composed solely of dialogue where the scene either begins with or features one of these statements: "No matter what happens, don't drink the water."; "We're not asking the dragon for directions"; "Forget the fish. We need to leave. Now."; "This is all a joke. Isn't it?"
What a challenge this turned out to be! Granted, I fudged on the dialogue-only part once at the very end. Still, this was not just a lesson in dialogue. It was a true drill of “showing, not telling”—that most difficult of fiction-writing maxims.
See if you think I “showed" the story well enough with dialogue alone.
"Forget the fish. We need to leave. Now."
“But it’s a fangtooth, Slapnutt. They’re so tasty!”
“We don’t have time to stop and let you chop it out of that frozen stream, Ooda Loop. The snow is starting to cover the trail. Cut the crap and keep moving. Besides, I can’t feel my paws.”
“But I’m hungry. Damn, and fangtooths are so good eaten cold.”
“Ogre’s teeth! You’re always hungry.”
“Shut up, Ooda. You have the fur of a woolly snuffle and the foot-pads to match. You wouldn’t freeze between a yeti’s legs. I, on the other hand, am just hairy. Besides human skin is worthless against the cold. And I was…Continue
It’s only natural that my novel, Curse Me Not, should fall into the genre that I read the most and like the best—paranormal romance. What’s unnatural, however, is the novel doesn’t involve any of the usual suspects found in the genre. Not a one. In fact, to some paranormal romance lovers, I may have committed a sacrilege.
For instance, Curse Me Not manages just fine without:
Seriously, folks, I haven’t broken any law by bringing a new twist to paranormal romance. After all, the genre is a subset of “speculative fiction.” To quality as paranormal romance, Curse Me Not just has to boast an element—In addition to romance—that’s outside the “real world.”
Nonetheless, the paranormal element in my novel is not the existence of auras. I’m not ready to say auras aren’t real. Nor am I talking about curses on those auras. No way would I dismiss the efficacy of curses on some people out there.
No, the truest paranormal element found in Curse Me Not is my heroine herself, an unsophisticated woman who can see auras and clean away…Continue
Join Appalachian unsophisticate Elzetta Swan as she explores the preternatural side of a world where revenge curses are real, auras manifest themselves to a select few, and the Golden Rule barely qualifies as a guideline.
Southern Appalachian unsophisticate Elzetta Swan has recently gained a rare ability considered very lucrative in her reality. She can see people’s auras and clean revenge curses off those auras. Even though the gift comes wrapped in premature menopause and ill-timed hot flashes, Elzetta embraces it faster than grass through a goose. As the story opens, she’s about to finish her first year as a legally licensed bodywasher with a countrified inner child that’s skipping all the way to the bank.
Suddenly a routine aura cleansing turns butt ugly. Elzetta suspects a professional invoker has come to town—one who’s hooked on the rush of setting particularly nasty curses. If that wasn’t bad enough, the invoker may be visiting at the invitation of a mysterious local with a serial hard-on for revenge.
Well-intentioned but often out of her depth, Elzetta attempts to track down the culprits. In doing so, she faces deadly threats to both her trendy new life and the hallelujah hankering she’s formed for a reluctant—and way too sexy—urban white knight who’s crossed her path.Continue
I mentioned in a previous blog that I’m a member of the Knoxville Writers Guild and, in particular, of the Guild’s Sci-Fi/Fantasy Writers’ Group. We love our “flash fiction" writing experiments, so I’m going to share another one. This one is based on a stock photo that was used as a "prompt," and while humor usually features in my flash fiction, this time I went serious – even spiritually serious. See how you like it:
The copper brazier was finally hot enough to make the ritual’s ingredients smoke within it. On the ground around Amatullah, a murder of wild hooded crows gathered. Some were still, others were shifting on gnarled feet, all were waiting for her to finish.
She gazed over her shoulder toward her people in the distance and sighed. Weeks before, her extended Druze family had been forced out of al-Manara and into nearby caves by Muslim villagers who blamed them for the lack of rain killing their crops. As she watched, most of her people were outside the largest cave trying to prepare a meager communal meal.
“As if we had the power to hold back the rain,” she scoffed aloud to the crows. “We can barely feed ourselves.”
She raised her eyes to al-Manara situated on the cliffs above. It was one of only a few villages of mud and straw that dotted this drought-stricken part of southern Ezbukistan. Some of the villagers she had once considered friends, but friends wouldn’t have stood by while she and her family were exiled to the deprivations of dreary caves, much less to what would surely be a painful death from starvation. No, she thought. They were friends no more.
She smoothed down the front of her long dress, paying particular attention to the beads and fabric of her most prized possession, a…
Sometimes shit happens and I feel compelled to “go there,” to speak my mind. And so…
To me it seems things have taken a turn in the U.S. that’s unlike anything I’ve seen over the past half-century. And, well, you know the Edmund Burke quote: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” With that on my mind, I write this particular blog as part of my stab at doing “something.”
First, I ask the reader to view these lyrics from the song “You've Got To Be Carefully Taught,” written by Rogers and Hammerstein back in 1949 for the musical, South Pacific:
You've got to be taught
To hate and fear,
You've got to be taught
From year to year,
It's got to be drummed
In your dear little ear
You've got to be carefully taught.
You've got to be taught to be afraid
Of people whose eyes are oddly made,
And people whose skin is a diff'rent shade,
You've got to be carefully taught.
You've got to be taught before it's too late,
Before you are six or seven or eight,
To hate all the people your relatives hate,
You've got to be carefully taught.
One of the themes of my novel, Curse Me Not, is to show how hoarding hate can be as deadly and tragic for the hoarder as it is for those hated. From observation alone, I’ve come to realize a hate “defect” in us comes not from being born with a demon seed (what nonsense!). It comes from being taught to hate.
Hate has to be taught—indeed, carefully taught—to get a foothold in the psyche of an innocent child. As for the “teachers” of hate, we need only look around us. It’s the priest or imam who preaches a false, self-aggrandizing version of religious dogma. It’s the family who ensures it’s heirloom of hate against those colored differently than themselves is passed down to the next generation. It’s the bullying parent who transfers their own sexual…Continue