Monday, November 18, 2013

Larger Than Life Antagonists - Guest Post by Christine Amsden - Author of the Cassie Scot series

And the guests keep rolling in. The Mad Muncle is pleased to welcome Christine Amsden to the Forge. The anvil is yours, Christine...

“There is nothing so evil in the world as what humans can do to one another.” – Edward Scot (Cassie's dad)

The fantasy genre loves larger-than-life heroes, which is probably why we tend to turn to larger-than-life antagonists. Who can stand up to a man with the ability to crush a tree into splinters using only his mind? Not you or me, for sure. So instead we turn to werewolves, vampires, orcs, goblins, and demons, just to name a few.

But for some time I have felt that in the search for evil, we really need look no further than our own backyards. Human beings have an amazing capacity to hurt one another, and many of us even manage to rationalize that it's all for a greater good.

If my hero can crush a tree to splinters using only the power of his mind, then I can give you an anti-hero with the same power. Using that formula, you could say we may as well cancel the magic out and just write about regular people, but where's the fun in that? I do love make believe, or I wouldn't write fantasy. :)

There are serious advantages to writing human anti-heroes, chief among them being that it's rare to find a human who is pure good or pure evil. My kids may like knowing who the good guy is and who the bad guy is at all times, but life isn't like that. When you go beyond demons, you have the opportunity to figure out why the antagonist does what he does in terms that the average reader can understand.

On the flipside, why is your hero basically good? How did a two-year-old with some destructive power learn that he doesn't always get his way? Or did he?

As the fantasy genre matures, the demons themselves are becoming less evil in response to authors' instinctive realization that “BWAHAHA!” is not a great motivation for sowing destruction. Dark heroes are becoming the norm rather than the exception, vampires are simply misunderstood, and shape shifters are getting cuddly.

In Eagle Rock, Missouri, where Cassie Scot makes her home, I opted to create a world of mostly human sorcerers to prey upon one another. And in Secrets and Lies, you'll see some of the worst humanity has to offer.

Author Bio:
Christine Amsden has been writing fantasy and science fiction for as long as she can remember. She loves to write and it is her dream that others will be inspired by this love and by her stories. Speculative fiction is fun, magical, and imaginative but great speculative fiction is about real people defining themselves through extraordinary situations. Christine writes primarily about people and relationships, and it is in this way that she strives to make science fiction and fantasy meaningful for everyone.

At the age of 16, Christine was diagnosed with Stargardt’s Disease, a condition that effects the retina and causes a loss of central vision. She is now legally blind, but has not let this slow her down or get in the way of her dreams.

In addition to writing, Christine teaches workshops on writing at Savvy Authors. She also does some freelance editing work

Christine currently lives in the Kansas City area with her husband, Austin, who has been her biggest fan and the key to her success. They have two beautiful children.

Social Media Links:

Cassie Scot: ParaNormal Detective
Cassie Scot is the ungifted daughter of powerful sorcerers, born between worlds but belonging to neither. At 21, all she wants is to find a place for herself, but earning a living as a private investigator in the shadow of her family’s reputation isn’t easy. When she is pulled into a paranormal investigation, and tempted by a powerful and handsome sorcerer, she will have to decide where she truly belongs.

Buy Links:

Secrets and Lies (Cassie Scot #2)

Cassie Scot, still stinging from her parents’ betrayal, wants out of the magical world. But it isn’t letting her go. Her family is falling apart and despite everything, it looks like she may be the only one who can save them.

To complicate matters, Cassie owes Evan her life, making it difficult for her to deny him anything he really wants. And he wants her. Sparks fly when they team up to find two girls missing from summer camp, but long-buried secrets may ruin their hopes for happiness.

Buy Links:

Praise for the Cassie Scot series:

From Publisher’s Weekly:
“In this entertaining series opener, Amsden (The Immortality Virus) introduces readers to the eponymous Cassie, a decidedly mundane member of a magical family. …Readers will enjoy Cassie’s fish-out-of-water struggles as she fights magical threats with little more than experience and bravado.”

Kim Falconer, bestselling author of The Spell of Rosette, Quantum Enchantment Series, had this to say:
“When sorcerers call the shots, what’s a girl without powers to do? Get ready for a ripper of a murder mystery full of romance and intrigue, where magic potions bubble, passions spark and vampires are definitely not your friend. Cassie Scot: ParaNormal Detective grabs you by the heart and won’t let go until the very last page. Well written, immersive and unputdownable. This is urban fantasy at its best. More please!”

"Christine Amsden unleashes her brilliant storytelling magic as the adventures of Cassie Scot

escalate to the extreme. Rife with betrayal and a debt too deep for money to clear, Secrets and Lies plunges the reader into an utterly believable world where villains and heroes spring lifelike from the pages. Brace for a whirlwind ride of sorcery, romance and knife-edge peril. A truly original urban fantasy. Not to be missed!

Thanks for stopping by, Christine. Good luck with the Secrets and Lies (Cassie Scot #2) tour.  

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

There’s No Place Like Home - Guest Post by Maria De Vivo, Author of The Coal Elf

The Mad Muncle welcomes fellow Twilight Times Books author, Maria De Vivo. Take it away, Maria.

What’s the old saying?  "Home is where the heart is."  It must be true because one of the prevalent  Humans have an innate honing device that draws us to a nostalgic place of comfort and love. Some of the most influential stories of our time use HOME as a central theme.  After having experienced the wonder and glory of Oz, Dorothy said there was no place like it.  Her journey brought her to the realization that her black and white world of farm animals and twisters was really where she belonged.  Thrust onto an island while the war-torn world around them has no idea of their whereabouts, the children in The Lord of the Flies are in constant pursuit of returning home while in the process, create a home. And more recently, Katniss Everdeen initially strives to win The Hunger Games to go where?  Back Home.
themes in story-telling is the concept of Home - Having one, being a part of one, rejecting one, leaving one, desperately trying to find your way back to one.

In The Coal Elf, Ember Skye deals with this notion of Home from the moment she is called to her Life Job.  When she is sent to the Mines, her memories of her life Aboveground grip her so tightly that she is almost blinded by nostalgia.  The entire novel follows her path of dealing with those memories, confronting certain realities, and altering her own perceptions as to where she belongs, where she fits in, where she’s meant to be.

So what is HOME?  What defines it?  For me, it’s an unseen structure made up of memories.    Spring birds singing in the morning as I waited for the school bus.  Running outside on a cool summer night to flag down the ice cream truck.  Standing on tree stumps in my backyard as dead leaves fell from the autumn trees.  The smell of my father’s work boots in the hallway.  Cuddling with my sister on Christmas Eve.  Coming home from school and being so angry with my mother for cleaning up my room.  My uncle’s voice booming as he and my mother sang Kenny Rogers’s songs.  My concept of Home expands far beyond the actual dwelling itself, and now I’m making a Home for my daughter, hopefully helping to build those memories of love and comfort she will seek refuge in her future.

Maria DeVivo is a New York native who has had a lifelong love affair with "the pen."  A graduate of St. John's University, she has a passion for all things mystical and mythological.  She has taught 7th grade Language Arts since 2000, and in 2010, designed the curriculum for an academic elective course entitled Folklore, where she was able to share her passion and knowledge on concentrated topics such as folktales and mythology with her students.

Having grown up in a large Irish/Italian family (where Maria is the oldest child, and of course, the wisest) the mystery and wonder surrounding the holidays were a main staple of her upbringing.  At the age of seven, when her mother finally admitted "the truth" to her, she has become somewhat of a "Santa-phile", an obsession that has rooted its way into every fiber of her being.  Maria is one of those people who cries when Santa makes His grand appearance at the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.  Coupled with an obsession for all things dark and demented, her debut novel, The Coal Elf, was born.

Maria now lives in Florida with her husband, Joe, and daughter, Morgan.  When not teaching or writing or running around after her daughter, she enjoys drinking iced coffee, watching horror movies, and playing video games.

For a cool journey into the inner workings of the elves at the North Pole, check out Maria's, The Coal Elf.

Ember Skye is a fed up teenage Coal Elf with a big ashy chip on her shoulder. Having been torn away from a carefree life and forced into a world of dirt and darkness has started to get the best of her. And being the only girl-elf working as a coal miner at the North Pole doesn’t help much either!

Then there’s Sturd: a power-hungry, twisted elf with a checkered past and a serious grudge against Ember. Slowly but surely, his maniacal tendencies are revealed, leaving Ember with the sacred “Naughty List” literally in her lap.

When a mysterious illness threatens to decimate elves both Above and Underground, Ember is thrust into a journey that will see her confront the literal and figurative demons of her past and lead her to the head of the North Pole himself.

Yes! Santa is real. But this isn’t your childhood Christmas tale!

"...A story with plenty of twists and turns, the reader is drawn into a world of dust and darkness with tension so strong it can be felt throughout. You will hold your breath at the challenges Ember must face and be pulled along as the plot thickens." ~ Anne K. Edwards, author of The Last to Fall.

Amazon Buylink: The Coal Elf is currently at a special holiday price of $2.99
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