Spotlight On: A Place Beyond, by Laura Howard

 

Title: A Place Beyond
Author: Laura Howard
Genre: New Adult, Fantasy
Expected Publication: October 27th, 2014

The time has come. Allison’s quest to save her mother from Aoife’s wicked enchantment will test everything she believes in.

Who is trustworthy in the land of the Fair Folk, the Tuatha de Danaan? It’s up to Allison,  along with her ragtag host of allies, to unravel the truth.

Journey along and discover the power of love and duty as Allison faces the most difficult trial of her life.

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About Laura Howard
 
Laura Howard lives in New Hampshire with her husband and four children. Her obsession with books began at the age of 6 when she got her first library card. Nancy Drew, Sweet Valley High and other girly novels were routinely devoured in single sittings. Books took a backseat to diapers when she had her first child. It wasn’t until the release of a little novel called Twilight, 8 years later, that she rediscovered her love of fiction. Soon after, her own characters began to make themselves known. The Forgotten Ones is her first published novel.

 

 
 

 

Sneak Peek Sunday: Bound by Blood (A Night Shift Novella)

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Welcome to Sneak Peek Sunday!

For this week’s sneak peek, I’m sharing a glimpse of Bound by Blood, due out in November. So check it out, then HOP to the rest of the participants’ blogs for more great excerpts!

 

Excerpt

Oatmeal always makes me think apocalypse.

Not the kind of apocalypse I’m actually likely to witness, spread through droplets so small they can’t be seen by the naked eye, by germs so tiny that they might as well be science fiction to most people.

And not the kind we thought we were getting when the vampires showed up a few years ago—though something weird happened in Dallas recently, so the vampires have been hiding out for the last several months. No one knows why, for sure, but I know that the guys in the ER are thankful for the drop in neck traumas and exsanguination victims. And I was glad the hospital had an isolation hall created to watch ex-sang victims overnight, just to be sure they didn’t turn. It made my job as a consultant for the CDC—Center for Disease Control—easier.

No, when I’m confronted with the prospect of oatmeal, I begin to think how useful it would be in a world where scavenging had become the norm—like one of those zombie movies where people slide through grocery stores throwing food items into baskets, racing to gather as much as they can before the shambling horde attacks.

“I’m just saying.” I tucked a few strands of dark hair that had escaped my bun up under my scrub hat. “When the inevitable zombie apocalypse hits? Go for the oatmeal. It’s lightweight and nutritious, can be eaten alone or used to make easy-to-carry cakes, can even be eaten uncooked. It’s pretty much the perfect post-apocalyptic food.”

“That assumes,” Dr. Will Manning said as we scrubbed in at the sinks in the small anteroom that lead into the isolation unit, “that either there is someone out there doing all the hard work of growing and then milling it—or whatever it is people do to oats that turns them into oatmeal—or that there are few enough people around that the stores are still chock-full of oatmeal packets, just ripe for the picking.” He wrapped the paper gown ties around behind him, criss-crossing them around his waist and tying them in the front.

 

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Sometimes the monsters in the dark are real.

As a child, Lili Banta ignored her grandmother’s cryptic warnings to avoid children outside their Filipino community in Houston—even when many of those other children fell ill, and her neighbors whispered that a vampiric aswang walked among them.

Years later, Lili returns to Houston to work for the CDC—but she is plagued by dark, bloody dreams that consume her nights and haunt her days. As a strange sickness sweeps the city, Lili races to find its source, and maybe a cure.

But in order to save the children, she must first acknowledge the sinister truth: A monster stalks the night—closer than she ever expected…

 

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This novella is also part of the Mysticism & Myths anthology, available December 15, 2014.

 

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Interview with Chris Datta, author of The Demon Stone

Today I’m excited to bring you a Guest Post and Kind Fire Giveaway from Chris Datta. His first Novel Touched with Fire was a number one best-seller in the Historical Fiction category, and this supernatural thriller lives up to the high expectations readers have for this talented author.

The Demon Stone by Christoper Datta

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The Demon Stone is a powerful supernatural thriller that leads you from the killing fields of Africa to the quiet Boundary Waters of Northern Minnesota. In braided narratives, Datta spins a terrifying story about the spiritual forces—both real and supernatural—that incite the basest, bloodiest and most frightening of human behaviors.
“Reading Chris Datta is like riding a rollercoaster. It’s a fast ride filled with twists and turns. His Demon Stone is scary fun. Stephen King, watch your back!”
-Richard Rashke, author of The Killing of Karen Silkwood
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Interview with Chris Datta

Novel Publicity: What drew you to writing about spiritual forces, and could you explain how spiritual forces can be both real and supernatural?

Christopher Datta: I want to write books that matter and do more than tell a story, although I think that telling a good story is critically important. What could be more significant than exploring our spiritual lives and to look for purpose beyond unexamined living and consuming day to day? I want to ask questions and lead the reader on a journey so that by the end of the book he or she hopefully comes to a new understanding about life.
I read a great deal about new advances in theoretical physics. It is a fascinating field that increasingly shows us that the more we know, the more we come to see how little we really grasp about the mysteries of the Universe. There are things about the cosmos and our place in it that we may never fully understand; that are, in fact, beyond our ability as human beings to fully comprehend. In Demon Stone, I symbolically represent those mysteries through the supernatural.

NP: The two geographic locations in the book are very distant from each other. How did Africa & Minnesota become part of the setting for The Demon Stone?
CD: I lived for many years in Minnesota (I went to high school with Jessie Ventura!) and I loved camping in the isolated Boundary Waters of northern Minnesota. The wilderness is both a thrilling and at the same time dangerous and even alien environment, which again serves as a metaphor in the story for life. There is an incident with a black bear in the book that is close to something that really happened to me.
My career as an American diplomat took me to many places in Africa. The original inspiration for the book occurred when I was traveling through rural Uganda. I came across a hut with a hand painted sign advertising the services of a local shaman. Intrigued, I stopped and met the old man, who offered to cast a curse on any enemies I wanted eliminated. That got me thinking about what it would be like to have that kind of power, and what the unintended consequences of using it might be. The record of the human use of unbridled power is not very good. In my travels through many war zones I have seen incredible beauty and sacrifice as well as the most horrible and brutal acts of cruelty.

NP: Did you have to do a lot of research into different cultures and religions to write this book, and can we expect to delve into the differences between cultures throughout the book?
CD: I have lived and worked for many years in several African countries. I also studied the belief in demons in Africa, and Agbadofrom my story is a demon well known in Sierra Leone. My son is an adopted war orphan from Sierra Leone who has been with me since he was 14 years old and he was a big help with some portions of the book. Religion and culture play a big role in the story.

NP: How much of the book was inspired by your work overseas?
CD: I saw the aftermath of the genocide in Rwanda, was in Sierra Leone at the end of the brutal civil war in that country, was the acting Ambassador to Liberia when the capitol was attacked by two rebel armies in a war that I helped to end and I was again the acting Ambassador to the Republic of South Sudan when war broke out between that nation and Sudan. Again, I played a major role in helping to end that conflict. I have brought two African war criminals to justice and was active in a program to try to end the reign of terror led by Joseph Koney, the leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army, one of the most brutal and deadly terrorist groups in Africa. General Mosquito in my book is based on a real warlord in Sierra Leone. I actually played a role in bringing him to justice. I have had to deal first hand with the bane of child soldiers and modern slavery in Africa.

NP: The Demon Stone seems to have everything from love & tragedy to religion and supernatural beasts. Can you expand a bit on your writing process, and how you were able to bring the characters together across vast distances and very different settings?
CD: That’s complicated! Many of the characters in the story are based on real people I have known. General Mosquito, for instance. Gem and Hampton, the two dogs in the story, are dogs I have known and loved very much. Basically, I took experiences and people from my life in America and in Africa, put them in an environment of my creation, and let them weave the story together. My books never turn out the way I think they will at the beginning of writing them. The characters at some point take over and they tell the story. Sometimes, in my experience, all a good writer has to do is listen carefully to what the people he creates are telling him. That certainly happened in Demon Stone. But that shouldn’t be surprising. If you are really on a spiritual journey in telling a story, and you do a good job of it, you should expect to wind up in unexpected places.

NP: Who were the easiest and toughest characters to write and why?
CD: The toughest character to write was Morgan. She is one of the main antagonists of the book, but I didn’t want her to be a caricature and there was a real risk of her being a two dimensional archetype instead of a real flesh and blood person. On some level, for an antagonist to work well in a story, the reader needs to identify or on some level sympathize with that person. Morgan does terrible things, but terrible things have happened to her. I hope that comes across in the story.
The easiest character to write was Hampton. He’s a dog, a very loveable, dopey and fearless dog. I enjoyed writing about him.

NP: People often talk about feeling like they’re being followed, especially if they have to walk through a secluded area by themselves. What gave you the idea to play on people’s fear of being stalked for this book?
CD: All the time I spent in the isolated Boundary Waters Canoe Area in northern Minnesota. I love it, but there is nothing that will give you the heebie-jeebies faster than being alone in the middle of the deep forest in the middle of the night. I suspect thousands of years of human evolution dealing with the risks of being secluded in the dark in a wilderness just naturally puts the fear in us. We somehow intuitively feel the threat of being hunted.

NP: Demons are part of many religions and cultures myths. Was there a particular reason you decided to write about demons?
CD: We create demons, and we have always created demons. They symbolically represent the forces in life that we fear. A spiritual journey, which I hope readers of Demon Stone find the book to be, needs to confront those demons and the dark side of our natures.

NP: Symbolism plays a large part in The Demon Stone. The Demon within can sometimes be as scary as a supernatural being seems. Do you think that talking about human behavior through the use of symbolism makes talking about tragedies like murder easier or harder?
CD: The most frightening sections of Demon Stone are not encounters with the demon, but the real and terrifying things people do to each other, sections of the book based on real events. The demon Agbado is a symbol of that dark nature that haunts us, that leads some of us to rationalize the most horrible of acts andrepresents the loss of empathy that permits people to commit such unspeakable crimes as genocide, which I have personally witnessed. To me, the most terrifying story in the book is the tale of the child soldier Muctar. This story is based on a real child. The demon within is the real monster of the book. But yes, I felt the use of symbolism made talking about these horrors easier, just as Halloween or The Day of the Dead in Mexico make dealing with monsters and death easier for us to confront.

NP: This is a two part question. The cover of The Demon Stone is very unique and doesn’t focus on any particular character, rather an object. Who did you choose to do the cover art and why? How hard was it to settle on the cover, or was it love at first sight?
CD: The mask on the cover of Demon Stone is from my personal collection. I bought it in Rwanda when I was there helping to reopen our embassy directly following the genocide in that country. It was always in the back of my mind to use it as the cover for this book (and yes, I started this book that long ago). Finding that mask in Rwanda at that particular moment, and the way it looked, just made it seem right to me for this book.
This type of mask is actually from the Congo, and is used in coming of age ceremonies for young men. A good friend of mine, Don Hurlbert, is a photographer for the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, DC, and he took the photo. Mallory Rock designed the cover. She is a terrific graphic designer I know and I use her for all the covers on my books.

NP: Civil conflict and slavery were both a focus in your working life. Do you find that your writing reflects this in The Demon Stone?
CD: Absolutely. It is a major part of what this book is about, and not just in The Demon Stone. I also have published Touched with Fire, a novel set in the American Civil War inspired by the true story of a slave woman who escapes by posing as a man. She later joins the Union army disguised as a man so she can fight her way South to free her husband. That story is turning into a trilogy, and book two, Fire and Dust, will be out in November. It also extensively addresses the issue of slavery in America before and during the Civil War, but is told exclusively from the Confederate side of the war. Book three will be set in the Reconstruction period of American history and the characters from the first two books will meet.

NP: Survivors’ guilt can be devastating to many people who work in war torn countries and come back home to a peaceful life. Having worked overseas, and in war torn countries, do you have any advice for others. Would you say writing The Demon Stone has been a cathartic experience for you?
CD: I have been in some very tough situations involving life and death issues for sometimes thousands of people, as well as having been under fire myself. Sometimes I saved people, sometimes I couldn’t.
I have had to deal with instances of PTSD. It was never easy, and there were times I had to step away from Demon Stone because it was getting too deep into places I was not, at the time, ready to go to for the sake of my own well being.
What helps? Giving yourself permission to take the time to heal and being able to confront the demons with good friends are both important. Know and accept that you are not Superman, and don’t expect yourself to be. That’s not healthy. In the end, writing Demon Stone was cathartic, but there were times it was right for me to keep away from it until I was ready.

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About the Author

Chris1Debut author CHRISTOPHER DATTA is no stranger to civil conflict or the still-extant scourge of slavery. Most recently the acting ambassador to the Republic of South Sudan where he helped end a war in April of 2012, he has spent a distinguished career moving from one strife-torn country to another, including Lebanon, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, and Liberia. A lifelong student of the American Civil War, his research for Touched with Fire is exacting and based in part on a true story.