I have been an author since the age of fourteen and write Young/New Adult historical romance, suspense, supernatural/paranormal thrillers, fantasy, sci-fi, short stories, novellas—you name it, I write it! I am also a classically trained soprano/violinist/pianist and have been performing since the age of three. Additionally, I hold a BA in Management and an MBA in Marketing.
If I had not decided to become a writer, I would have become a marine biologist, but after countless years spent watching Shark Week, I realized I am very attached to my arms and legs and would rather write sharks into my stories than get up close and personal with those toothy wonders.
City of Lights: The Trials and Triumphs ofIlyse Charpentier Summary/Blurb:
What would you risk for the love of a stranger?
Ilyse Charpentier, a beautiful young chanteuse, is the diva of the 1894 Parisian cabaret scene by night and the unwilling obsession of her patron, Count Sergei Rakmanovich, at every other waking moment.
Though it has always been her secret desire, Ilyse’s life as “La Petite Coquette” of the Paris stage has turned out to be anything but the glamorous existence she had dreamt of as a girl. As a young woman, Ilyse has already suffered tragedy and become estranged from her beloved brother, Maurice, who blames her for allowing the Count to drive them apart.
Unhappy and alone, Ilyse forces herself to banish all thoughts of independence until the night Ian McCarthy waltzes into her life. Immediately taken with the bold, young, British expatriate, Ilyse knows it is time to choose: will she break free and follow her heart or will she remain a slave to her patron’s jealous wrath for the rest of her life?
City of Lights: The Trials and Triumphs of Ilyse Charpentier Book Trailer:
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Corcitura. Some call it hybrid, others half-blood, mongrel, beast. They are all names for the same thing: vampire—the created progeny of the half-wolf, half-vampire, barb-tongued Grecian Vrykolakas, and the suave but equally vicious Russian Upyr. Corcitura: this is what happens when a man is attacked by two vampires of differing species. He becomes an entirely new breed—ruthless, deadly, unstoppable…almost.
London, 1888: Eric Bradburry and Stefan Ratliff, best friends since childhood, have finally succeeded in convincing their parents to send them on a Grand Tour of the Continent. It will be the adventure of a lifetime for the two eighteen-year-old Englishmen, but almost from the moment they set foot on French soil, Eric senses a change in Stefan, a change that is intensified when they cross paths with the enigmatic Vladec Salei and his traveling companions: Leonora Bianchetti, a woman who fascinates Eric for reasons he does not understand, and the bewitching Augustin and Sorina Boroi—siblings, opera impresarios, and wielders of an alarming power that nearly drives Eric mad.
Unable to resist the pull of their new friends, Eric and Stefan walk into a trap that has been waiting to be sprung for more than five hundred years—and Stefan is the catalyst. Terrified by the transformation his friend is undergoing, Eric knows he must get Stefan away from Vladec Salei and Constantinos, the rabid, blood-crazed Vrykolakas, before Stefan is changed beyond recognition. But after witnessing a horrific scene in a shadowed courtyard in Eastern Europe, Eric’s worst fears are confirmed.
Six years removed from the terror he experienced at the hands of Salei and Constantinos, Eric finally believes he has escaped his past. But once marked, forever marked, as he painfully begins to understand. He has kept company with vampires, and now they have returned to claim him for their own.
Corcitura Book Trailer:
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My web site: http://booksinmybelfry.com/
Spotlight Interview Questions:
1) What is your all-time favorite book and why?
David Copperfield. I read this book close to sixteen years ago and can still quote passages and remember scenes vividly. All the suffering and hardships this young 19th century Englishman endured and all the mistakes he made in love and in life transcended the ages and became so relevant to me, a preteen living in the United States in the 20th century. That is truly a testament to the genius of Charles Dickens. It is also what I think makes a book a classic—its timelessness.
2) Is there an author you could be compared to or popular fictional characters your book's characters could relate to and why?
The characters of City of Lights: The Trials and Triumphs of Ilyse Charpentier would empathize with any young people who have ever felt like they were being caged, denied the chance to live out their dreams, or achieve happiness and love. Since there is a healthy dash of sibling conflict in the book between Ilyse and Maurice, anyone who has had to deal with a bitter or impossible brother or sister would relate well to the characters, too. The villains would likely get along with anyone who has insane control issues and can’t stand seeing other people happy! ;)
As for the characters of Corcitura…calling all fictional people who have ever had to match wits and do battle against vampires! Apart from that, Corcitura’s characters would truly be kindred spirits with anyone—fictional or otherwise—who has faced something unknown and terrifying and has been forced to adjust quickly in order to stay sane and, in some cases, survive. I’ve had readers of all ages and walks of life tell me they can relate to the characters, but since the main ones are young and go through some growing pains in a rather dramatic set of circumstances, I would say older teens and young adults would relate best to them, since they are also trying to find their way in the world. When it comes to Eric, Madelaine, and Zigmund (my three narrators), if you’ve ever felt betrayed and realized that the people you think are your best friends, those you have trusted for practically your whole life, turn out to have been wearing a mask and are nothing like what they truly are—then you and these three characters will have a lot in common.
I always like people to go into my novels not having another author’s writing style in mind. I want readers to love my writing for its own merits and let the story and characters speak to them and touch them in their own special way, without any preconceived comparisons. Hopefully, people will feel my novels are like nothing they’ve ever read before. In the best sense possible, of course. ;)
3) Can you give us your favorite quote from one of your books and explain it?
I have a lot of favorite quotes from Corcitura, but one of my favorite snippets is actually a small bit of character interaction:
“Tell me, Eric,” he said, licking a droplet from the corner of his mouth. “Have you ever tasted blood?”
My mouth was so dry I could barely find the voice to answer him. “What an odd question…”
“But a valid one. Well, have you?”
“I’ve cut my lip before, so yes, I suppose I have tasted blood, but…”
“Not your own, you foolish boy.” He let out a short, derisive laugh and leaned in so that he was only a few inches from my face. “I mean the blood of another.”
“Good God, Stefan, of course not!”
This mini-scene was in my mind about three or four years before I began writing the book. It is really the “Ah ha!” moment of the first half of the novel, the climax as Eric realizes that there is no logical explanation for what he’s been trying to deny. Everything he’s witnessed with his own eyes has turned out to be one hundred times worse than anything he could have imagined. I ended up writing this scene first and then working my way back from it because it served as the springboard for quite a bit of the story arc and helped me tie several plot points together for the rest of the book. I also happen to think it’s a deliciously horrifying and creepy way for someone who has not been deemed worthy of induction into the ranks of the undead to be exposed to the reality of a vampire’s thirst for blood, but, of course, I might be a bit biased in that assessment. ;)
4) What types of things/people/music inspire you and make you want to keep writing?
I have always drawn a tremendous amount of inspiration from music and artwork, especially the paintings of the Pre-Raphaelites, which have inspired scenes, characters, and whole story arcs in my fantasy duology.
Movie soundtracks and epic music really fuel my creativity, too. Currently, for the dystopian/fantasy novel I started working on again after dropping it when school and life intervened more than a decade ago (I was 14 and it was my first novel), I keep epic music/soundtracks looping at a low volume in my ear buds. It really spurs my imagination and helps when trying to strike the right mood in battle and intense scenes, especially when there are “creatures” involved. And that’s all I can say about some of the beasts of my dystopian world without giving the entire game away. Just keep in mind that I used to want to be a marine biologist, so you’ll probably be able to figure out what kind of creatures they are descended from.
Writing something fresh and new and exciting, with characters you would want to know in real life and villains you absolutely would not; creating worlds you can lose yourself in and stories you’ll remember long after the last page has been read. All these things motivate me and keep me excited about getting to work each and every day. Writing is as much a part of my existence as the air I breathe. I cannot imagine life without it. There is also the fact that my characters are very insistent and want their stories told NOW! So how would I have a moment’s peace if I ignored them? ;)
5) Describe your typical writing day or week.
I try to carve out writing time at least every day. Sometimes, I’ll have a span of maybe four or five hours in the evening, and sometimes weekends are totally devoted to writing. It depends on family obligations and other things that are going on, those so-called “life interruptions” that can be so detrimental to letting the muse have its day!
6) Is there a food or drink you have to have when you're writing?
I like to keep a glass of ice water near me at all times when I write. I also like to take cheese breaks. Give me a handful of Jarlsberg and I can write for hours.
7) Can you tell us what you're working on right now (& possibly provide an excerpt & cover)?
I’m currently completing my final revisions on Uendelig, the first book in Dwellers of Darkness, Children of Light, an eight part series of loosely connected novellas in which young adults battle against creatures and fantastical beings from the otherworld that have crossed the void and ended up in our own. Uendelig (which will hopefully be released before the summer ends), is the story of Ragna and Sylvi, two young girls whose lives were forever changed when catastrophe tore their family apart. Now, living with their aunt in a small village in 19th century Norway, Ragna begins to change. She is distant, hostile, and has taken to carrying around a pair of viciously sharp scissors that frighten Sylvi for reasons she cannot understand. Most alarming of all, Ragna seems to want nothing more than to see Sylvi dead. The tragedy of the past must have finally driven Ragna mad. That has to be the reason, or so Sylvi tells herself. But as she digs deeper, Sylvi discovers that an ancient beast of terror and darkness is rising to finish the work begun before Sylvi was even born and claim the blood sacrifice it was denied a generation ago. But who made the devil’s bargain in the first place? And how can Sylvi—young, alone, and believing she is as useless as Ragna has always said—save her sister before The Bottomless devours them both? This excerpt is from Chapter 1: Unraveling. Enjoy!
My eyes darted toward Ragna’s lap, then up to her face, then back to her lap again, and I winced as I watched her razoring off the threads with a jackknifed blade. That ancient thing in her hand looked like a relic, something that had been dug up after being buried for hundreds of years. I had never seen her using those scissors before and wondered where she’d found them. With each tug, bits of rust flaked off one of the blades and fell against the crisp white fabric, leaving ugly red-brown stains behind. It was baffling to me that something so old and filthy was being used to mend her precious apron when I wasn’t even allowed to go near it until my hands had been practically scrubbed raw.
My gaze shifted to the other blade. This one was polished so brilliantly that I saw half my face reflected in its surface. There was no rust to be seen on this side, no dull edge, just a ribbon of steel that shone with silver fire and tapered to a lethal point.
Ragna relaxed her grip for a second, giving me a clear view of the handles—buttery, light-capturing gold, chased with strange shapes and runes in a language that had probably not been spoken on this earth in a thousand lifetimes. And yet…the markings looked new, the grooves still fresh and deep. That was curious. What could they mean? And where on earth had Ragna found this treasure? There was no question of the scissors belonging to her. That was impossible. Even with the generous allowance Tante Jannicke gave her each month, Ragna would never have been able to afford something so old and priceless.
I thought about running, now that she seemed to have forgotten I was there, but my curiosity was too great. No matter her reaction, I had to know. “Where did you get those scissors?” I asked.
Her lips were moving, but I couldn’t hear any words. I leaned forward for a better look into her eyes, but there was no one home behind them. They were green and murky and vacant, like two pools of algae-poisoned water. I wondered if she even knew what her hands were doing.
I cleared my throat. “Hoy, Ragna?” I ventured. “Didn’t you hear me?”
“Where did those come from?” I said, pointing at the scissors.
“I found them. And I claimed them. And there’s nothing anyone can do about it.”
“Why would they want to?” I asked, confused. “They’re just scissors. It’s not like they’re Queen Sophia’s crown jewels or anything, haha!” My teeth ground together as I snapped my mouth shut, biting off the laugh. To make such a loud noise seemed obscene in the stillness of this place, where the only sound was the eerie creak of Ragna’s blades.
She smirked and went on with her work, but that wasn’t good enough for me. I wanted an answer. I needed an answer, and felt as though my heart would explode if I didn’t get one. “They’re so ancient, maybe even centuries old. It’s not something you’re likely to come across in old Birgit’s shop.”
An aggravated sigh was the only answer I got. That should have been my cue to stay quiet. I bit my tongue to keep the burning questions from spilling out, but I had never been very good at lidding my feelings, and no matter how annoyed she was, now was certainly not the time to start battening down the hatches.
“You’ve been delving too deeply in the barrow,” I said in a voice that would have terrified a ghoul in its grave.
“Why would you say that?!” she snapped
“It was just an observation.” Good gracious, she was trembling! Maybe I should have tried scaring the truth out of her sooner.
“Well, it’s a morbid observation. Wipe that smirk off your face before I do it for you. You know perfectly well that there was never anything buried in that barrow. It’s just a mound.”
“A burial mound,” I said, giving her the sepulchral treatment again.
“Stop that right now!”
“Suit yourself.” I let it lie for a few minutes…revolving different scenarios in my mind…and then I finally saw the light.
“I know what this is all about! No wonder you’re being so secretive. Those scissors were a gift! From an admirer. Although I wouldn’t think too highly of his taste if he gave me a present like that. So, who is it, Ragna? Has Ulf finally declared himself?”
“Stop being such a child.”
“I am a child.”
“That doesn’t mean you have to be a fool.”
“So it is true?! Why else would you be so snippy?”
“Snippy? I’ll show you snippy,” she said, lunging at me.
I jerked back, but not quickly enough. A chunk of dusty red hair fluttered to the ground, catching on a sprig of crowberries. Hot tears stung my eyes, but I swiped my hand against them to keep them in their place. I wouldn’t give Ragna the satisfaction of seeing me cry.
“It’s an improvement, trust me,” she said, laughing. I shivered despite the heat, for the laugh that bubbled out of her was a mad little giggle that didn’t even sound human.
“You never know when to stop, Sylvi. You never know when the joke is no longer funny to anyone but you.”
“I would have never done that to you,” I said. I glanced at the clump of my hair, wondering why the strands were shifting in and out of focus, like twigs sinking below the surface of the waves. Something wet trickled down my face, and I knew why.
I pawed at my cheek and clenched my teeth, determined not to give in.
“I was only having a bit of fun. You can be so tiresome.”
“You meant to do that. Or were you trying for something worse?” I said, my voice ratcheting up an octave as a new and terrifying possibility suggested itself. What if she’d intended to put out my eye and I’d only been saved because I jerked out of the way? The loss of a few strands of hair suddenly didn’t seem like such a sacrifice.
“Oh, Sylvi, please. Come, now, enough is enough. Do make an effort and try to concentrate on finishing your side of the mending, won’t you? There’s so much work to be done. I can hardly waste the entire day sitting out here listening to your wild ramblings. Guard your tongue, Sylvi. If you’re not careful, someone will lock you up for thinking everyone is against you. That’s the first sign of madness.”
I felt a rebuke rising up inside me, but something told me to hold my peace.
The seconds ticked by, with her still hacking away at the threads. A nagging thought tugged at the back of my mind, refusing to be ignored. My resolve to stay silent had lasted all of a minute. That was long enough. I had to risk it. I had to know. “So, who did give you the scissors?”
“Will you never stop?! I already told you. I found them…”
“Found them where?”
“In a secret hiding place known only to the dead. Don’t press me, Sylvi, or I’ll send you there.”
That was a joke. It had to be. If the old Ragna had said it...
…but the old Ragna would have never said it, that was the trouble.
Silence blanketed us again. The light was fading, and before we left this spot that had always been filled with sunshine and laughter, I was determined to drag the truth out of her. She wouldn’t answer my questions, but maybe threats were a language this new Ragna would understand. “I think Tante Jannicke would find it veeery in-ter-es-ting that a girl your age has a secret beau.”
Stars exploded before my eyes as my lip was shoved into my mouth, the flesh catching in the space between my bottom teeth. I was so startled, I didn’t realize what had happened, until my tongue pushed against the skin, and I felt it rip open. Blood washed back into my mouth, gagging me into action.
I leaned over and spat it out before it could slide down my throat. One deep breath, in, out, and another… My hands shook as I braced them against the ground and tried to still my galloping heart. Finally, after more than a minute, I felt calm enough to face her.
“What’s wrong, Sylvi dear?” she said innocently.
“Who’s the one without a conscience now?” My lip had swelled alarmingly in the seconds since she’d hit me. The pain throbbed through my whole face and made me feel as though an army of demonic little creatures had burrowed inside my head and started striking my skull with hammers. “Don’t you understand what you’ve done?”
“Ragna!” I was too stunned to say more, too horrified to move, my ears still ringing, my body shaking more from shock than anything else.
“I told you I’d wipe that smirk off your face. Let that be a lesson to you. This is what happens to all little girls who stick their noses into other people’s business. You’ll know not to pry next time.”
“Fine,” I said, my voice so low it startled me. I didn’t even sound like myself. “Keep your secrets and your scissors and your bloody minded thoughts to yourself, for all I care.”
I didn’t expect her to suddenly apologize, but her silence was worse than the blow.
Mechanically, relentlessly, she continued to hack off those threads. Slice, tug, pop, slice, tug, pop, like bone being yanked out of a socket.
She was so focused, so determined…
And that’s when I knew that this had nothing to do with mending the apron. There was something else in her mind, an image of something with a head she was mentally trying to lop off.
Or someone….someone like…
I turned away and willed myself to leave that thought in the dark where it belonged.
The time had come to escape. Blood pounded in my ears, magnifying the sound of each sliver of grass that slapped against my legs as I eased away from her. Just a little bit closer…but I should have known this new Ragna would never let me go so easily.
Before I could move another inch, she skewered me with a stare that knocked the will straight out of me. Terror staked me to the spot. I sat frozen, not breathing, pleading with her in my mind to look away and free me from her Gorgon eyes.
“Oh, Sylvi, don’t look so horrified,” said Ragna, wrinkling her nose at me. “It had to be done. You needed to be taught to respect your elders.”
“Elders? You? You’re fourteen years old!”
“That’s old enough to discipline a nosy little hellion like you. Sometimes, Sylvi, force is the only thing wayward animals understand. My actions were entirely necessary…”
“And will the accident that ends my life be necessary, too?”
She was stunned! I’d done it! I’d finally shocked her as badly as she’d shocked me. Her hand spasmed, the scissors snapping shut on air. If she hadn’t been so quick, hadn’t moved in time, her little finger would have been severed.
She looked down at her hand with a curious expression in her eyes, then the shock seemed to wear off and she was back to her calm and collected new self. Why did my victories never last more than five seconds? “An accident, really,” she said airily. “If I were to kill you, I would have done it ages ago. And I can assure you it would have been no accident. But murder is a sin…”
“And ten times more damning than suicide,” I added, to drive home the point.
“You’re so right. I have absolutely no intention of going to Hell for you. But there are other ways of keeping my soul unblemished and still getting the result that would benefit us all. There are other means to achieving an end. I could always call in a third party.”
“What…” but my question was never asked.
Ragna had started to hum.
All anger and fear was pushed aside as I recognized the melody that always made me think of a mist-shrouded castle in the sky. Her voice dropped low to catch hold of the first note, then spun upward and came down again, rolling like a wave over the peaks and valleys of the music I had loved for as long as there had been life within me. This was our lullaby, our song, more comforting than the warm blanket Ragna wrapped around me when I screamed myself out of my night terrors.
The words danced in my mind’s eye as I swayed back and forth to the melody.
Little bear, little bear, do you hear me? How wonderfully warm is your fur. In your arms I sleep tight, in my mind dreams take flight, as we rock on the edge of the night.
I opened my eyes, ready to join in. How could she be lost to me if she still remembered this? She was still Ragna, my sister.
“Little bear, little bear, can you hear me? Draw near and attend to my song. See her veins are so plump, one quick snip and she’ll jump, and the earth will run red with her blood.”
I stared at her in horror. What had she done? How could she have done this? She’d butchered our song, twisted it into something thorny and evil, bent it into a lullaby fit for the children of Hell itself.
I tried to swallow, but my throat had gone dry. Fire burned across my shoulders—my muscles as taut as a fisherman’s line. My hands were balled into fists. When I finally forced my fingers to uncurl, bits of earth fell to the ground. I looked down in wonder. How could I have dug into the grass without feeling anything?
She was trying to scare me out of my mind.
And she was succeeding.
Icy fingers wormed their way into my heart. I rocked back on my heels. No matter that my legs were weak, that my mind felt as though it had split in two, I had to get out of here.
“Take one more step and I will make sure you never walk again. I can just as easily snip a tendon as a vein.”
Her gibbering laugh ricocheted off the trees. I cringed at the sound and the reality that went along with it. For the first time that day, I considered the possibility that my sister was insane.
She had always looked so innocent, so pure. Her hair was like a glorious red waterfall flowing out behind her. Her emerald eyes captured people’s attention the minute she walked into a room. Even her freckles were an asset, unlike mine, which people often took for scars left over from an attack of German measles.
I used to think she looked like an angel.
She was no angel now.
The sun glinting wickedly off that razor-sharp blade brought me back to my new reality. Ragna’s mesmerizing eyes were dancing. What was she thinking? I shuddered as my mind conjured up a vision of her stabbing the scissors into my back.
“What did you think of my song?”
“I think you’re mad, completely barking mad, and I don’t want to have anything to do with you.”
“Oh, Sylvi, I was only funning.”
“Funning… No, Ragna. You were dead serious.”
“That’s where you’re wrong, my dear girl. If I were, I would have sent someone to finish you off years ago.”
At those words, I fell back onto the grass.
A secret smile skittered across her face.
“What are you talking about?”
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