Lilacs

Lilacs

When I was a child we had a lilac tree in my back garden. I remember the flowers were beautiful and the scent out of this world. I longed to bring them inside, to place a vase on the dining room table, but my mum wouldn’t let me.

“It’s unlucky,” she would say, “unlucky to bring lilacs in the house.”

At some point the lilac tree became unruly and my father had it removed. Somewhere in the mounds of photographs in my basement from my dad, there’s probably a picture of that lilac tree.

Last week, we too had a lilac bush removed, but before it was cut I gathered lilacs and placed them in vases all around the house. I thought about what my mum would have thought about that, but I didn’t tell her.

It’s strange the odd superstitions people pick up … and it feels very good to realize they are just that, superstitions, they have no real power. We enjoyed the lilacs for a few days and I imagined they were the lilacs of my childhood.

Lilacs2

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SPOTLIGHT: THE GLASS APPLE SERIES BY ROBERT J. FRANKS

lmdavid54

Robert J. Franks

For orphans Jason, Kylie and Anna, magic was not a word that featured largely in their lives. At least, not until their American grandfather took them in. A comical old man with a name to match. Ethelbert Gobswistle. A magical campervan called Edsel transports them up to Yorkshire, where, in a bungalow called Cookiecrumb, they meet Gobswistle’s friend, a black plastic Christmas Fairy called Etain. Rambunctious, authoritative, and opinionated, she brooks no nonsense from either the children or the old man. And gradually, the small group becomes a family. But an ancient mythical witch, The Medb, pursues the old man and his family. She seeks his source of magic, the Anguinum, a powerful crystal carved to resemble a green glass apple shaped bowl. As they flee from her wrath, they seek the help of the Gwyllion, ancient fairies, who tell them they need three magical books in order to stop…

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Sins of the Past – Say Hello to Kerry E.B. Black

Kerry

Today on Paws4Thought I continue our series of Sins of the Past interviews with author Kerry E.B. Black.

Tell us a little bit about yourself, Kerry. 

I live in a little town outside of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in a little sunshiny house stuffed with a very funny spouse, amazing kids, two dogs, a soft cat, and two fish. The house is too small for all of us, but it is ours.

I come from a line of talented storytellers. My mom remains an inspiration. She tells amazing tales.

Who are your favorite authors?  

Good heavens, there are so many! I am an eclectic reader. If I have to choose but one author, though, I adore Neil Gaiman.

Tell us a bit about your story Maleficium?

My story in the Sins of the Past came from a document, a surviving letter from Anne of Cleves’ brother, requesting of King Henry Tudor a change in her household. I quote the letter at the end of the story. It fired my imagination, and that is how the story came to be.

Did you do any research for your story?

Of course!

What inspires you to write?

Writing is a way of being. It is a necessary creative expression and a skill to be honed. I enjoy the work. What inspires my stories? All manner of things inspire my stories. Some spring from my unhealthy array of fears. Others come from personal experiences and observations. I love to share my take on the world. I hope that readers like what I see.

If you could go back to any time period and place, when and where would you go?

I’m a bit of a history nut. I would love to visit much of our past, including Tudor England. However I’m also a wimp and really appreciate our modern conveniences.

When did you first start writing?

My first stories were written for underclassmen at my elementary school. I illustrated and wrote stories, bound them on oversized pages, and presented them. I was ten I think when I started these undertakings. Writing has nearly always been a part of my life. I write short stories, flash fiction, and poetry. I’ve published creative non-fiction and journalistic pieces as well. It is my dearest desire that my stories find homes within the imaginations of my readers.

What do you like to do to relax?

Reading, of course, or spending time with my family and friends. My life is quite hectic, so sometimes stealing a few moments for a hot cup of tea is the best that can be managed. I paint or sketch sometimes, too.

What are you currently working on?

I’m currently working on short stories for an anthology called Forever Red. The one that I’ve submitted is also historic in nature.

How can readers connect with you?

I have a Twitter account (KerryBlack@BlackKerryblick), Goodreads author’s page, and WordPress Blog (http://kerrylizblack.wordpress.com/)

Time for some Tudor terror – read a little of Kerry’s story Maleficium:

Something haunted the garden path. It was difficult to identify the cause of my unease. Certainly, another of the household could be enjoying the pathways. Something about the charge of the air, though, set my hair on end beneath my clothing. My eyes strained as I sought to identify the figures approaching.

Two people, a man and a woman, in proper, courtly attire strolled, but something in their movements betrayed them. The woman walked too free of confinement, and the man stalked like one of the panthers in the tower. Their heads jerked at odd angles, and their hushed tones carried alarming messages.

“Princess pudding is mighty nice!”

“I like royal flesh the best, but I am angry enough to eat the inferiors in there. How dare that flame-haired brat not show? Without a note of explanation, too.”

“I can braid her hair into falls. Red is much in favor these days. Red falls to sell in market when the meat is gone.”

With quiet care, I pulled my feet under the bench. The sulfuric stench choked me, but I held my breath to keep from coughing. They stood within ten feet of my hiding place, conversing as they stripped a thin branch of its leaves.

Want to read more? Pick up a copy of Sins of the Past today.

Sins Of The Past

Will There Be Watermelons on Mars?

Will There Be Watermelons on Mars-

The photograph of Jerusalem above was taken by my late father, Walter Manber. It gives me great pleasure to be able to use one of his photographs on the newly released paperback version of “Will There Be Watermelons on Mars?” If you would like to see more of my father’s pictures please follow the Facebook page, The Photographic World of Walter Manber, a page I have set up in his honor.

Also I’m currently running a Goodreads Giveaway for a signed copy of Will There Be Watermelons on Mars?

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Will There Be Watermelons on Mars? by Debbie Manber Kupfer

Will There Be Watermelons on Mars?

by Debbie Manber Kupfer

Giveaway ends May 21, 2015.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to Win

Also some exciting news, Will There Be Watermelons on Mars? will soon be an audio book and be available in Spanish and Italian.

In the meantime, pick up your copy today on Amazon in paperback for $4.99 or Kindle $1.99.

Introducing Adana the Earth Dragon

AdanaMeme

Happy Earth Day! Today I’m celebrating Earth Day with a special sneak peak of a beautiful children’s picture book I plan to release later this year. I’m particularly excited about this project as I get to work with an amazingly talented local artist, Emily Barbara Herrera.

Here’s a little sampling of Adana’s story:

Once upon a time there was a small brown dragon called Adana. Adana was an earth dragon and Adana was very sad. She longed to play with the other dragons, but none of them would accept her as a friend. “It’s because I’m small and brown and boring” she thought. “No one wants to be friends with an earth dragon.”

The air dragons would soar through the sky, their wings outstretched. Adana wished she could join them up in their playground of clouds, but she had no wings.

The water dragons would glide effortlessly through the lagoon, playing tag and Marco Polo. Adana yearned to join in their games, but sadly she could not swim.

The fire dragons scared little Adana with their tremendous scaly scarlet forms and flames that could toast two hundred marshmallows with one puff. Adana secretly tried gargling with fire water to see if she might make a flame, but she only gave herself a sore throat. Poor Adana, she could never be a fire dragon.

So sad little Adana slunk into her cave, curled up in a corner, and took a nap.

Now of course we’re not going to leave Adana so sad, but you’re going to have to wait to discover what happens next.

Adana

Original art copyright © Emily Barbara Herrera, 2015

Story Adana the Earth Dragon copyright © Debbie Manber Kupfer, 2015

Sins of the Past – The Mysterious Matt Lovell

MattLovell2

It’s Sunday, and Sunday on Paws 4 Thought means Sins of the Past. Today we introduce the second author in the book, Matt Lovell. Tell us a little bit about yourself Matt.

I’m an insomniac writer, actor, director, puzzle-maker, computer geek, music and TV aficionado, cat-lover, night owl, and internet addict.

Who are your favorite authors?

I’d have to say Douglas Adams and Ray Bradbury are at the top of the list. This list changes of course.  But really anyone that is very clever with words. Both of those authors were amazing wordsmiths in different ways. Adams was a master at taking words and overanalyzing them from a satirical point of view until you forgot what his main point was. That’s pure comedy gold. I’ve seen authors try to write comedy before in genre fiction(fantasy, sci-fi, etc). And they end up just falling flat. They made likable characters but their comedy just wasn’t funny. That takes a special gift really I think. I don’t really think you can teach someone to write comedy. It’s something you have…and absorb from other comedians (whether authors or actors or comics, etc). Anyway he’s a huge influence on fusing comedy into stories, even serious ones. As his stories are usually ABOUT something serious, which makes the comedy work even more.

(Totally agree about Adams and comedy writing. He’s up there in my top writers list too, DMK)

Bradbury on the other hand…every time I read a Bradbury book or short story I feel like I’m reading a free verse poem. Look at things like The Halloween Tree. There is more imagery in one page of that than a whole book of poetry. And even though he is “sci-fi”, most of his stories really are incredibly grounded in reality. No aliens or star wars stuff. A lot of “what if” future sci-fi. And really he melds sci-fi and horror quite seamlessly as many of his stories do NOT have a happy ending. Another thing I learned from him is not to over-explain things. He simply acts as if everything in his little world is common knowledge until suddenly while you reading, it IS! He doesn’t write down to people but assumes they are intelligent. I really like writers like that.

Tell me a little about your story Sic Semper Susurrus.

The first thing that came to my head for a historical time period was Julius Caesar with vampires. Sic Semper Susurrus is what came out of that. It’s about a bored Roman senator who suddenly gets in the middle of a treacherous conspiracy. But just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean something’s not out to get you. For research of course I watched Mel Brooks’ History of the World Part I’. Treasure Bath!

What inspires you to write?

Everything. Absolutely everything. However it’s a matter of whether I’m actually aware and ambitious enough to catch hold of that story idea that comes floating into my life and lasso it to the page. Usually I just absentmindedly let it float by in my laziness and go back to humming tunes stuck in my head. There are a couple of things I do that help me develop ideas. One is taking a shower and the other is going for a walk. In both cases there is just me. I am isolated. There are no distractions. No internet, no computer, no TV.  Just me and my thoughts. And I just force myself to think about my story issues and suddenly other ideas join together until I have a solution.

Let’s talk puzzles – tell us a little bit about the interactive stories and puzzles you’ve created?

Oh wow. I’ve been doing puzzles for several years now. I got involved in helping with various puzzle events at Microsoft. Seattle has quite a thriving puzzle community. Think crossword and word search puzzles on acid. The types of crazy things you found in Games Magazine (or today Games World of Puzzles). That magazine started my love of them. So I started making puzzles for these events. Usually relatively simple puzzles, but they’d always have a twist. My favorite is doing weird things with word searches. I created a word search that was crossed with a cryptogram that got all its clues from music files once.  I love music and like to inject my music favorites onto other people whenever possible. Some of my puzzles have actually been huge undertakings and were very interactive. I made a 4-part adventure puzzle which forced competitors to run to different parts of the Microsoft campus while having to solve four different puzzles based on Rush songs.

What do you like to do to relax?

I watch TV. Yeah, yeah I know. Lots of people say “OMG TV is so bad for you! I never watch TV!” I love TV. Wonderful stories are told on television. In fact it’s probably the number one source of comedy there is. I don’t take TV seriously. In fact I try to learn from it. I often come across a series that does things with a story in ways I never expected. It is great finding a great original new show. Of course if it’s that good of an idea it will probably be cancelled. Ha! I also like listening to music. Again for the same reasons. My favorite is 70s progressive rock. Lots of wonderful musical stories they are.

I’m a big fan of TV sitcoms too – do you have an all-time favorite?

Whoa, that will require a list for sure. Most of my all-time favorites were not exactly standard sitcoms. Topping that list I think is Futurama. The satire and stories are just brilliant. Sometimes really scifirific, sometimes very poignent, sometimes very biting, and usually hilarious.  (Great choice, DMK.)

Others on the all-time list are M*A*S*H, Monty Python’s Flying Circus, Red Dwarf, Blackadder (yes the British do comedy better). For more standard sitcom fair, I always really liked NewsRadio, Frasier, The Office (the Brit version is brilliant but the American version, once it found its own voice, was flat out uberbrilliant and hysterical to boot), Night Court, Seinfeld, and the original Bob Newhart Show…and how could I forget Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In. So most of my favorites are odd in their own way. I think you need that unusual setting or style in order to be really funny.

So music, what are your favorite bands and artists?

I so adore the stories and music landscapes of progressive 70s rock. Rush is my favorite. From 2112 and Hemispheres Grace Under Pressure, science fiction worlds are explored, philosophies pondered, and musical masterpiece achieved. You would really think Bradbury were writing the lyrics to so many of these gems. Also in that list are Genesis and Yes.

Genesis told more fantasy and dark stories with both humor and pathos. More briliant playing and tons of atmosphere. Steve Hackett’s swirling acoustic guitar really takes you on a journey. Yes, is like a bite of poetry that you taste that lifts you up and lets you float away on it. It is a bumpy ride, but at their best there was magic in their sound.

Pink Floyd – another seminal group. Everyone knows them, sure. I think their early middle period was best The Meddle/Dark SIde Stuff. Of course Wish You Were Here is also brilliant. (My favorite, DMK) These are groups really that every time I listen to their songs, there is an entire story playing out in my head to match, and oftentimes a different one than the last time I heard it. Can’t forget Beatles and Bowie of course….but there are tons of others I like. Too many. I must go listen to them all now.

Oh and one more thing .  I got a stereo for Christmas when I was young. I had it into adulthood. It was a very cheap and nothing stereo, but it had a turntable on top. One day I was listening to “Welcome to the Machine” by Pink Floyd, you know the song that starts with this robotic motor sound winding up and has this thump all through it…well at the end, once it is through (listen to it on youtube to hear what I mean), at the end, the song literally winds down. The wind up from the beginning is reversed, the synthesizer pitches up like an alarm sound and then winds all the way down to a low note and a last thump…when it got to that part….my stereo….stopped beating forever…and died. Was the most wondrous and sad music moment ever.

So the question I’m asking everyone in these interviews. If you could travel to any time and place in the past where and when would you go?

Probably wherever Doctor Who is so I can stow away and become the next companion. Then find a way to go back to the period where Tom Baker and Jon Pertwee were the Doctor. I liked them. I’d steal the scarf for sure. Somewhere in Europe would be nice though. Middle Ages maybe. I’d make sure I was aristocracy of course so I could wear all the cool clothes and not be gawked at and called a mere cosplayer. Live in a castle or manor house. Of course I’d get all the vaccinations I could first…and bring my computer. Do you think castles had wifi?

(Love it – I want to be Tom Baker’s companion too, DMK)

So what’s next from Matt Lovell. What are you currently working on?

Working on a few word puzzle projects right now. Unfortunately the letters don’t always cooperate and I have to keep yelling at the screen to get them to line up properly. As for writing I am going back through a number of short stories which I’m compiling into a YA horror anthology book. I probably have a couple more to write to get it complete. Maybe something about zombie fish or wereflamingoes. The world needs more of them. No wait. Wereunicorns! I hear they are fabulously scary!

(I’d go with the wereflamingoes – definitely – actually I kind of had one of those in Argentum, hmmm … DMK)

How can readers connect with you?

They can pick up the nearest object and throw it at me. Once I turn and shout things at them, we can then have what’s called a conversation. Of course, the days of throwing rocks at each other is a bit passé. I suppose most folks are on Facebook. Here’s a link that I THINK works, although they just YET AGAIN changed how Facebook is displayed so who knows?

Want to read a sample of Matt’s story? Sure you do:

I paid little attention to the orations today.

“And let us send this to another vote shall we, Senators? But first…discussion.”

Same dull lot blathering on. Persuvius….Glomus….Horatius… Dullus, dullus, dullus. They may as well ALL be called Dullus. What are they saying? I don’t know and I don’t care.

“And the temple gates need replacing…”

The hard stonework of the benches did little to improve my mood. Oh, my gluteus maximus.

“There is an ink shortage. Perhaps we can send an expedition to capture a creature called an octopus…”

Oh good, Carius Litus, he of the flashy purple toga. That’s all I need.

“The toga weaver requires yet more cloth and dye to make our new togas…”

I think I moaned.

I could use some mulled wine about now. Maybe I could chat up that fellow Homer and see if he has a new play to boost my spirits. The one about that captain that sailed away and lost most of his crew fighting monsters was a good one. That was exciting. He should write another of those. Things with monsters.

“-alus?”

Everyone is looking at me. Why is that?

“Galus?”

“Uh…what?” I replied.

“Galus, is something wrong? It is your turn to speak.”

“Monsters?” I said.

The onlookers and gawkers chuckled at me.

“Galus, are you feeling all right? You look…”

“How do I look?”

“You look…sad.”

“Sad,” I replied sitting back down, “I look sad. Sad hail Caesar.”

I stared at my sandals. Grey. Like my heart. I didn’t need to look up again to know they were still staring at me. Leaning into one another, covering their mouths with the sides of their hands. As if that hid their gossip from me. Their words were of a poison proportional to the number of teeth they showed. Thankfully, it didn’t last long. They quickly went back to business, i.e. talking at length about themselves to make themselves look good. I left before they finished. I really needed to get out of there.

To read more pick up a copy of Sins of the Past today!

Sins

Free Fiction Friday: Griddlebone by Debbie Manber Kupfer

My Sins of the Past story Griddlebone is featured on Horroraddicts.net today.

HorrorAddicts.net

Griddlebone
By Debbie Manber Kupfer
The werecat padded silently across the cobbles of the dark Vienna street. It was deserted now, but Griddlebone knew it would soon be filled with bootsteps and cries, gunshots and blood. They were slated to come at dawn, to cleanse this last Jewish neighborhood of its vermin, so that the proper folk of Vienna could finally live Judenfrei.
Inside the darkened houses, the residents huddled in fear. The news of the transport had only come hours before, and some still couldn’t believe it. They had been fooling themselves for months, believing this one insignificant street could survive in its own little bubble, that somehow God would protect them.They readied themselves with what few valuables they had left. Maybe they could still bribe the Nazi soldiers. Maybe there was still a way out.
The werecat flexed his claws, as he waited in the shadows. Griddlebone wished…

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