Sunday, August 26, 2012

Books, Wine and Music – Club Fantasci - Guest Blog by David Lowry

A great honor, and a great pleasure: my guest blogger today is no one other than the one and only David Lowry, President of Lowry Agency!!

Books, Wine and Music – Club Fantasci brings you your three favorite things (Guest Blog by David Lowry)

If you love to read, think you are a wine connoisseur or love music then Club Fantasci is the new book club for you. A break from the traditional book club as it is held by a Google+ hangout, Club Fantasci endeavors to bring you something new to your reading experience. With live discussion, a sense of humor and also a critical look at books and all things necessary to help a book break through the masses, Club Fantasci will break down everything from its literary merits to its marketing. 

Our first meeting will be on August 31st at 7:00pm CST on Google+ with the live feed available to watch on the Club Fantasci website. To participate and share your views or just have fun with the hosts you can interact with us on our twitters pages @lowryagency, @ciaraballintyne, @dionnelister and @shannonmillion

Here is a bit more about Club Fantasci:

Club Fantasci is a book club taking the stigma out of speculative fiction. We want to expose you to the full gamut of the speculative fiction genre, including science fiction, hard SF, militaristic SF, high/epic fantasy, dark fantasy, dystopian, cyberpunk, steampunk, space opera, paranormal, urban fantasy, SFF romance and erotica, and everything in between.

We want to educate readers on good writing in speculative fiction, entertain with witty banter, and above all have a fantastic time. Fiction need not be literary to be well-written, and good writing need not be boring or mundane! We promise you we’ll do our best to bring you a good book every month, and if not, we’ll tell you why it’s not! For a bit of light fun, we’ll also be featuring a wine of the month and picking a song that best fits the book. So bring your book, keep that wineglass topped up, and don’t forget your i-pod!

Your hosts are David Lowry, Dionne Lister (author of Shadows of the Realm), entertainment personality and model Shannon Million, and Ciara Ballintyne – your resident fantasy writer/lawyer extraordinaire combo!

Club Fantasci is also featuring a ‘Wine of the Month’ – August’s pick is a 2011 ‘Suited Muscat’ from Sort This Out Cellars Winery in Solvang, CA. Club members are entitled to a discount – check out the club website for more information.

You can learn more about us by:

Joining our group on Goodreads

Liking our Page on Facebook

Checking out our Website

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Reporter From Marridon Blog Hop

It's a great honor for me to be opening the blog hop for Michelle Franklin's "Reporter From Marridon"!
Michelle and I met on Twitter - where so many serendipitous meetings happen - and somehow, we clicked right from the start. Michelle is probably the most diligent author I know. She works all the time! And now she's reaping the reward with this publishing deal. I'm awfully proud of her.
Congrats, Michelle!

To celebrate this launch, Michelle is giving us an excerpt from her new book.
Here is a synopsis:

Synopsis: A reporter from Marridon, the advanced and allied nation to the north of Frewyn, is dispatched to Diras to meet with the famous Commander and Den Asaan, heroes and saviors of the Two Continents. It would seem to be a simple task, to ask a few questions of the strange woman and giant, but when the reporter slights the king's personal guard, he finds that getting a story to print may be harder than previously conceived.

And here is the excerpt:

From Chapter 2

The reporter came to the iron gate of the castle to find a rather unbecoming guard standing in his way: a man of long face, curly and tied back hair, immense stature and stern conviction. He seemed to be proud of his profession as a Royal Guard, marked so by the ornamental shield in his left hand, the immense sword in his right, and by the lion-head pauldron adorning his shoulder. He assumed that such a devoted creature to be brutish and uninformed young man, but when he demanded, “I’m here on a matter of business. You would do well to let me pass,” he was treated with unexpected alacrity of mind.
                “And you are, sir?” said the guard in a bemused and chary tone.
                “I am a scribe from Marridon, merely here to have a consultation to edify the people of the Triumvirate.” A nod and a friendly smile would persuade the guard to open the gate, but the  reporter soon found himself under a mistake to think that such behaviour would be his admittance.
                The guard widened his stance and held his enormous shield in front of his chest as though preparing to strike. “Did Her Grace the Duchess of Marridon send you?” said the guard in a firm tone.
                “In a manner of speaking.” The reporter was still smiling.
                “Then I will need to see your documentation, including your Triumvirate travel documents, Marridon identification, and Her Grace’s summons to His Majesty King Alasdair.”
                All the graciousness in the reporter’s countenance was brooked by the guard’s obdurate adherence to the law. He sighed in contempt, handed over all his certifications, and tapped his foot with impatience as each document was carefully scoured.    
                The guard observed the reporter’s profession marked on his identification and instantly returned all the credentials to its owner. “None of these documents bear Her Grace’s seal. Does Her Grace know that you’re here?”
                “She does, but I am not here to see the king.”
                “You are not here to see the king, sir,” the guard heatedly corrected him.
                The reporter fleered at such arrogance, turned aside and placed his hands on his hips. “And who might you be?” he sneered.
                “I am Sir Mureadh Farhayden, Captain of the Royal Guard and appointed protector of the Brennin line, and whether you are here to appeal to His Majesty or to one of his commanders, you need the king’s permission or proof of a personal commons from someone within the keep to enter. Otherwise, you may leave.”
                The reporter made a drawn out sigh, placing his hand over his eyes. “I’m only here to see the giant and the woman,” he groaned.
                Mureadh had done with this insolence. He did not care for the reporter’s impropriety or his discomposed complacence. His sense of honour and duty to his commanders would not allow him to relent in his instruction, and he felt it advisable to enlighten him to the position of both the persons he sought. “And why exactly do you need to see Commander MacDaede and the Den Asaan?”
                “I’m here to carry out an interview with them-“
                “Has either commander or the Den Asaan previously agreed to this interview?”
                The reporter averted his eyes. “Not in so many words, but-“
                Mureadh interposed with a strident laugh. “The Den Asaan would never agree to an interview or even agree to speak to someone he doesn’t know.”
                “And how would you know that, Sir?”
                “Because he is my superior officer,” said Mureadh with resolution. “He trained me for the armed forces, and if there is one thing I’ve learned about him it is that he does not trust anyone he hasn’t investigated first. He won’t talk to you even if you sent him a summons.”
                “And the woman?”
                “The commander,” Mureadh said in a meaningful accent, “would probably laugh at you for coming all this way for nothing.”
                The reporter swore to himself and devised a small note to be conveyed inside the keep. “Would you take this to the commander?”
                “Absolutely not.”
                The reporter made a sly grin. “I don’t believe you’ve read its contents.” He winked and opened the note to reveal that it had been filled with more than a simple message.
                Mureadh did not flinch. “Not only is bribery illegal,” he said, now forgoing the formalities of title, “but those are Marridon bills. Frewyn does not accept those as currency and neither do I.” He pointed the reporter back to the docks. “Leave before I carry you to the peristyle and throw you into the river.”
                The reporter owned himself defeated at present; he had chosen the wrong man to underestimate, and now he could only lament and be miserable. He chided himself for being precipitant in his assumptions and was forced to walk back toward the square with diminished hopes and a slighted heart. He would contrive to find another means of speaking to the woman and the giant, but for now he must find one of Frewyn’s wretched taverns and search for lodgings for the coming evening.
                Mureadh, rather pleased with his performance, smiled to himself and looked up to find the Den Asaan at his usual perch for this time in early evening. He had little doubt of the giant seeing the entire affair from the crenels of the castle battlements, and he was not surprised at the commander coming to his side a few moments later to watch the reporter scurry away from the castle entrance.
                “Shall I ask about that shabby fellow?” the commander smirked.
                “A reporter from Marridon, commander,” Mureadh said with a salute.
                The commander beamed. “A reporter, indeed. You should have allowed my mate to see him.” She looked up and regarded Rautu’s austere watch of the capital, his trappings whipping in the gentle breeze of coming evening. “I daresay he would have gloried in his brilliant company,” she laughed. “I’m certain Alasdair would have seen him and sent all the necessary notification to the Duchess.”
                “He came to see you and the Den Asaan.”
                The commander gave Mureadh an incredulous look. “Me? Why me? A farmer can be interesting only those of her kind. A commander might be interesting to those in need of her assistance, but a woman can be interesting to no one at all when clothed, I assure you.”
                Mureadh simpered and shook his head, and he wondered whether he should have allow the reporter to meet the commander and Den Asaan if only to have the former attack him with her cleverness and the latter scowl at him accordingly. 

Michelle's Bio: Michelle Franklin is a small woman of moderate consequence who writes many, many books about giants, romance, and chocolate.

Links: Michelle's Blog( 

Publication Date: August 21, 2012
Publisher: Paper Crane Books

Read more about Michelle and follow the blog hop here:

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Barbie Doll

This story was originally published on

                                                 (Art: Eric G. Thompson)

I’m late for my lunch meeting with Freddy. 
Bloody stupid traffic jam held my cab up, so I jumped out and walked along the last couple of blocks to Harvard Square. Of course I’m sweaty and exhausted by the time I get to the restaurant where we like to hang out, but he’s there, good soul that he is, and has held the table for us.
“Damnable heat,” are his greeting words, and he raises his hand to signal to the waiter.
“Fish and chips,” Freddy says, “Today I’m definitely going to have that.” 
It feels much too hot to think of food.
“What about you?” He hands me the faux-leather-bound menu. 
“Salad. Just salad.” 
Freddy is at his dapper best again. I’ve never yet seen him in anything but those striped shirts and bowties, in winter with a tweed jacket, in summer with a straw hat. 
We’ve been meeting like this for quite a while now, maybe three years or so. It has become a kind of ritual, always the same place, and nearly always the same meals, at least for Freddy. He flirts with the menu, announces he will pick something else, and then ends up with the fish and chips and beer.
“So,” he asks when the waiter steps away, “What news?”
He always asks that question, as if I know everything only because I’m a police detective. In fact he seems kind of greedy for the morsels I’m allowed to spill.
“Nothing much this week.” A girl brings a basket of bread and butter, and Freddy spreads the linen napkin on his lap. Very daintily he picks out a slice of the bread and begins to nibble on it.
“It’s summer break, nothing much is going on. Everyone else has left Cambridge. Sorry, no gruesome tales for you today.”
His face falls at those words. “Oh. Too bad. You make me feel connected to real life with your news, my friend. You know how it is.” With  wave of his hand he indictates the general direction of the university. “Living and working behind those walls is like living in a different dimension sometimes.”
Freddy works at one of the libraries, the Archives, but I’ve never understood what exactly he does there, and to be honest, I don’t really care. That campus, Harvard, has always seemed like a strange world to me. Just walking through those gates seems like an act of profanity if you don’t belong there.
“We did have a stalking case this week,” I say, more to keep him amused than anything else, “But it was just that, a dropped lover who wouldn’t let go. The fact that he spent a night in prison was enough to make him leave town. Case solved.”
Our entrees are served. My salad looks intriguing and delicious with its mix of greens and fruit, and the two thin slices of poached salmon.
Freddy rubs his hands in glee over his huge serving of fish. I know he won’t, like every Friday, be able to even finish half of it, but will have the rest packed and take it home in a doggie bag. I’ve always wondered if he maybe has a cat that’s looking forward to his leftovers.
“That’s not really stalking.” He bites into one of his fries. It’s so fresh that I can hear the crunch.
“What is?”
Well-mannered as always, he swallows before replying. “The guy you’re talking about. That’s not really stalking. If he leaves off after you caught him and even goes away, that’s not stalking.”
Intrigued, I put down my fork. “Not? How do you define stalking, then?”
Freddy leans back into his chair. “Oh, a real stalker would never let go, I think.”
“You think? Yeah, I think they do let go if you scare the living daylights out of them.” Amused, his attitude amuses me. As if a librarian knew about stalking. As if dapper, slight and intelligently witty Freddy knew about stalking. Right.
His blue eyes regard me with cool amusement while he brakes off a piece of fish and pierces it with the fork.
“Change tactics, maybe, but never let go.”
The way he says that sends chills down my back. “You think so? You think a stalker can be obsessed enough to outsmart the police?”
“Oh, dear boy, most certainly.” He draws his brows together. “Now if I were a stalker, I’d never let go of the object I adore.” 
A group of tourists stream in, chatting loudly in French, and a bright smile flashes across Freddy’s face. “Ah, Europe,” he sighs, “So cultured.” He puts down his fork. “Well, as I was going to say, if I were a stalker, I’d lay my plans carefully, go about it slowly, and never take a direct route.”
“You’re scaring me, Fred,” I say, and it’s true. 
But he gives me a grin and pats my shoulder. “Come on, dear friend, we’re just talking hypothetically, aren’t we. I get to read many books in my line of work, some more fun than others.” 
“Okay, then, tell me!”
“First of all,” he slowly says, “You have to understand the underlying motives for stalking. Why, do you think, someone turns into a stalker?”
Now that one’s easy enough. I’m not a detective for nothing. Before I can reply though, Freddy goes on, “A stalker doesn’t decide to become a stalker. Let’s say I was one. Let’s assume I was a stalker.” He points at our waitress. “When I was a little boy I wanted nothing more than a Barbie doll. I wanted one with long, blond hair, and beautiful dresses, and I wanted to play with her, dress her up, do her hair, slip those high heels on her little plastic feet. I even had cleared out a nook in my wardrobe for her stuff, and built a house for her over the summer holidays. My mother thought it was for a rabbit or hamster, but no, I wanted my Barbie doll to live in it. I think my mother got suspicious when I started nicking scraps of fabric from her quilting chest to put on the bed and windows of my playhouse. I drove me mad that she didn’t have anything I could use for carpeting! And lace. I needed lace for the sheets on my Barbie’s bed, and so I bribed my friend Sam to steal some from his mother, who was a quilter too. My mother asked me why I thought a hamster needed a bed with a lace sheet, but of course I didn’t tell her. My birthday was drawing close, and my only wish was for a Barbie doll.”
He breaks off to take a drink of beer and a bite of his  fish.
“Nice story,” I say. My appetite has gone away. His tale sounds too real for comfort.
Freddy shrugs. “It’s just a story. I’ve always thought of writing crime, and maybe you’re just now helping me to find the courage to do it!” 
After another bite he goes on, “So my ninth birthday comes, and there’s no Barbie. Of course there isn’t. My parents would never give me, their son, a doll. I could turn into a fag, right?”
His English words always sound so elegant and sophisticated to me. A naturally born gentleman, is Freddy.
“And there I am, a disappointed young boy who wanted nothing but some feminine beauty.”
His tale is beginning to be amusing. This isn’t exactly how a man turns into a stalker, at least not in my book, but his narration is entertaining enough, so I let him ramble on.
“Of course, over the next years, I grow out of it. Dolls and dollhouses were…not so much forgotten as pushed into the back of my mind. The girls I try to date? They are all images of Barbie. Of course not one of them is really EXACTLY like her. One is too short, one too tall, the other’s waist isn’t slim enough, and the next one doesn’t have enough chest. That one needs to lighten up her hair, and this one’s has too much curls. I’m looking for the perfect girl. The one perfect girl with cornflower eyes, rosy lips, long, wavy, golden hair and the figure of a doll. The one who would wear high heels even when on her way to the shower, and who’d never talk. Can you imagine Barbie talking? I can’t.” Again, he shrugs. “Or rather, I don’t want to imagine how that voice sounds. It can’t be anywhere near good enough to match her perfect body.”
The blond girl who brought us our food saunters over with a jar of water to refill our glasses, and Freddy measures her.
“This one?” he says, “She would need SO much work to make her perfect. But it’s summer break, and there’s not much material around, so she’ll have to do.”
“Do? For what?” 
“Oh, you know. I need a Barbie in my life.” He asks her for another beer, and she smiles at him. It makes him regard her through narrowed eyes until she gets impatient and walks away.
“So why not buy all the dolls you couldn’t have as a kid and put them on a shelf now? You know you can get them on eBay easily enough. You don’t have to imagine live girls as Barbies.”
“Boring.” Again, he shrugs me away. “I’ve grown out of that by now.” His eyes gleaming, he leans forward and rests his elbows on the table. “And I have the ideal job! I work in the vaults of Harvard, in its oldest parts, and there are rooms that are unused, never visited, totally forgotten. Everyone would believe that if it were in a novel, wouldn’t they? And it would make a really great setting!”
It would indeed. I have to agree on that. Before my mind’s eye I see dark, dank corridors, creaking metal doors, muddy light from flickering bulbs…pretty much like the murkier corners of an old warehouse. And right at the end where you think you can’t go any farther, Freddy’s secret chamber…and I realize he has succeeded in planting this vision in my mind. I’m scared for him to open that door. He’s insanely good at telling his tale.
“I’ve found a space in the bowels of our building,” Freddy says.
I have to blink and take a good drink of my tea. Now I know why I never watch CSI or Criminal Minds or anything like that. It’s so far away from my daily police reality it’s almost like a parody, but strangely enough, with Freddy’s tale, it seems so much more real.
“And that room, I turn it into a replica of my doll house. It takes me a couple of years, I have to be very circumspect. But one day it’s finished. And then, during one Christmas night when really no one at all is around, I bring in a doll. Not a Barbie, mind you, but a life-sized dummy that I found on eBay.” He grins at me. “I do know eBay. And isn’t it just cool what you can get through the internet these days? There’s nearly nothing you can’t buy.”
I’m torn between scoffing and asking him if he really did that. My skin is crawling. But hey, this is Freddy, I’ve known him for years, and I’d be the last he’d tell he’s a…
“What you’re describing, Fred,” I say, “That’s not stalking. That’s budding serial killing, my friend. Watch it, you may have to change your premises.”
Surprised, he stares at me. “Really? You think so? I’ve never thought of it as serial killing.”
For a few minutes he sits silently, musing. Then he shakes it off, as if he has decided that this is something that doesn’t fit into his story.
“Anyway,” he picks up his thread, “The mannequin is all good and well, but it’s not perfect. I want a perfect, life-sized Barbie, and so I start strolling across campus with a different awareness. I attend lectures, I go to the cafeteria for lunch, and I sit on benches around the area to watch girls walk by. Then one day…one day I see her. The perfect girl, Barbie come to life. And I know she has to be mine, has to be enshrined in the house I built for her at all costs. I must bring her down into that room that is now a shrine to her, and I must keep her there, until the end of days.” He tilts his head at me. “Or at least until she fades and isn’t Barbie at all anymore but just another plain, blond girl.”
“So what happens then? What happens when she turns into a real human being in your eyes?”
“Oh.” Freddie signals to the waitress. “She’ll have to go, won’t she. She’ll need to be replaced. Every toy breaks after a while and needs to be replaced. There’s not much to it!”
I have to ask. I just have to. It’s my instinct, and my job. “So what do you do with her, when you find a replacement?”
He’s signing the bill, but that makes him pause and look up at me, his eyebrows raised in surprise. “Broken toys go into the trash, don’t they. What a stupid question.”

Outside, the air hits me like a hot, wet bedsheet when we leave the restaurant.
Freddy walks away without turning back, his hat at a jaunty angle on his head, his hands in his pockets.
My phone rings. It’s my partner, Jody.
“Dude,” she says, “You better get your ass moving. They just found a body in a garbage truck.”
“What?” The small word gets stuck in my arid throat.
Freddie is out of sight. I watched him walk through the arched gate into the campus just a second ago.
“A young woman. Blond, and quite pretty,” Jody is saying, “ Actually, she looks like Barbie Doll.”

Friday, August 3, 2012

I'm A Believer!

Rio Tinto Stadium, July 28th, 8.30 pm: HE takes to the stage.
His band has started off with the intro to Soolaimon, and I'm very happy about that because it's spectacular and brings the audience to their feet right away, never mind the really, really rotten sound in that open air venue. In fact the sound quality is SO rotten that it makes me cringe. These guys are normally so much better at this.

Anyway. This is not supposed to be a concert review. Everyone knows I'm a big Neil Diamond fan, have been for forty years. I like the music, I love the band, and I adore the Vocalist - and I know well I'm not the only one. But it took me all this time and a long trip to see him live in Salt Lake City to realize that there's actually a lot to learn from Neil.
It's actually quite obvious, and very easy.

Here's lesson No. 1: Be yourself.

If you found out what works for you, do it. Don't be deterred by what others say: if you feel good with what you're doing, do it. Neil Diamond did it, and it worked for him. He's an icon now.
This is a valuable lesson for anyone who wants to be a writer, you see, and the basic message here is: follow your instincts. There is only one YOU, and if you figure out how to use this in your writing, you will have your own voice, which is more valuable than anything else in writing. You can learn only so much from textbooks, classes, conferences or whatever. In the end, it always boils down to this: be yourself. In music, in life, in writing.
Neil Diamond is distinctly himself. Everyone recognizes his songs. They are unique. Sometimes a bit on the cheesy side, sometimes too melodramatic, but always clearly his. This is good!

Lesson No. 2: Be confident.

Believe in what you do!
If you don't believe in your own work, who else will? If YOU don't think it's worth the effort and the time, who will? Let those others smile and scoff, but don't stop believing in yourself. Ever.

Lesson No. 3: Never give up.

Because you never know which novel will be your breakthrough, and you learn with every sentence you write.
Just, you know, never give up if you really believe you have something worth writing. But that's something you have to figure out by yourself.

Lesson No. 4: Reinvent yourself.

Who says you have to be the same old self all the time? Wear them sparkly shirts when you think you have to, and when you think you need to tone down, wear a black business suit. Go on, surprise your audience! But whatever you decide to wear, always be dressed well and perform at your very best. And if the sound system fails, make sure you keep the show going without it.

Lesson No. 4: Stay humble.

Seriously: Stay humble. If you make it, then you made it because your audience and readers have helped you there. They are your friends. They love your work, and they probably admire you for your achievements. But: stay humble. Others work very hard too and maybe never make it, and the only difference between you and them is that one spark of luck or serendipity that gave you a head start. In the music business or in publishing hard work alone will get you nowhere. You need that golden moment of sheer, outrageous luck.

And finally:

Lesson No. 5: Age doesn't matter.

It doesn't. That is all. Just look at Neil: Seventy-one, and he still puts on a two-hour, no intermission, and he's the sole performer. No warm-up band, no guests, nothing. Just Neil, and his band of nearly half a century. If he can do it, so can we.

And now let's go out into the world and rock it with our writing the way he rocks it with the music!

Oh, btw: I'm in purple sparkles today, and off to write my novel No. 4. My publisher is waiting for it!