Wednesday, July 29, 2015

From the Bookshelf: THE JANUS DEMON by Roxanne Dent

Forget rainy days -- Roxanne Dent's The Janus Demon is the perfect read for any day or night, regardless of the weather.  The author’s paranormal dark fantasy, which travels a gritty roadmap from New York City all the way to Fey-ville and back, tells the tale of detective Mick Grimaldi, a private eye dogged by more than one dark secret.  Grimaldi’s world is populated by demons and a vengeful vampire crime boss, Kryak, responsible for murdering Mick’s parents.  From the moment readers enter the detective’s office – finding it overturned by a third-rate demon thug in search of information – they are treated to a nonstop thrill ride.  Soon on, Grimaldi crosses paths with his first love, Jasmine, who leads him deeper into a myriad of dangers.  Gorgeously written, even at its bloodiest (ie, the roasted white elves and theater scene battle between shape shifters), Dent's latest novel, released by the fine folks at Great Old Ones Publishing, is a must-have for any bookshelf!

I first met Roxanne seven summers ago, almost to the day, and was instantly smitten with both the author and her flare for telling stories.  It was my pleasure to sit down with the brilliant scribe and genuinely lovely lady to discuss Mick Grimaldi, his world, and hers.

Mick Grimaldi and his world are spectacular! Take us into the genesis of your novel, The Janus Demon.
I have a great many favorite authors in different genres, but the ones who influenced me to write The Janus Demon, are Jim Butcher, George Martin, Charlene Harris, Ann Rice, Robert Jordan, J.R.R. Tolkien and Ann McCaffrey.  As a child and teen, I also read fairy tales. Once I started reading adult paranormal novels, I couldn’t stop, often reading until the wee hours of the morning I liked them so much, I decided to write one myself, and began collecting information on myths and legends of ancient Ireland, Celtic names (I’m a quarter Irish), elves, the Fey, demons, witches, Griffins, shape shifters and all things magical.

You’re what I’d call a born writer. Share with us the Roxanne Dent story.
Although English was always my favorite subject in school, I didn’t start writing creatively until I was in my teens. Instead, I created stories in my head. When I’d see a movie or television show I loved, I’d act out the different parts with me in the starring role. If I didn’t like the ending, I’d change it. This might have something to do with my early upbringing by two actors. My mother would act out dramatic roles, usually Shakespearian tragedies in order to entertain me. As a child, I loved adventure stories, which included westerns, pirate movies and mysteries, although Peter Pan left an indelible impression on me that lasted for years. Later on, I became addicted to shows like Twilight Zone, Alfred Hitchcock, Star Trek and Outer Limits. Growing up, I avidly read National Geographic magazines and watched shows dealing with foreign cultures or ancient civilizations. They fascinated me. When I began writing, my love of foreign and dead cultures led me to place many of my stories in other time periods.

In High School, I began writing poetry. For the most part it was sad, tragic and full of teenage angst. However, I wrote a poem “The Devil’s Disciple,” which tackled racism in and around New York City. I entered it in a statewide competition. When it was accepted, I began to think for the first time about the possibility of becoming an author. I wrote my first story, “Karine”, a Regency novella for my sister Karen who was a teen and addicted to Georgette Heyer Regencies. A year later, I sold my first two novels, Island of Fear, a Gothic mystery and The White Fog, a Gothic paranormal to Avon Paperbacks.

What’s your process? How do you work?
Since I’m an early riser, I get up every day by 6 or 7 a.m., make a pot of French Roast, check out my e-mails and Facebook for about forty-five minutes, walk with my sister for about three miles before I start writing. I always have several projects in the works or a new idea to work on. I never lack for ideas. If I don’t have one, don’t wake up with one and am not inspired by something on the news, I will troll the internet to see what contests are out there and appeal to me. I keep a deck of playing cards by my side to shuffle when I’m stuck or just looking for the right word. If my sister, Karen, also a very talented writer, who has recently completed her first novel, A Case to Kill For, a paranormal Noire, is not on her way to work in Boston, we head out to Panera’s or Starbucks to write. I love this as I often get a lot more accomplished than at home. There’s something about smelling the food and coffee, the murmuring of the people around us, while free of guilt over chores not done that spurs me on to write. If Karen’s at work, I’ll sometimes grab my laptop and walk around the corner to the awesome café, “Wicked Big,” and write there.

You are prolific and juggle multiple projects, in multiple lengths and genres. How do you manage to maintain your consistent level of quality?
Perhaps it’s because I’m a Gemini, but ever since I first started writing and selling, I’ve always written in different genres, including Regencies, mysteries, westerns, fantasies, sci-fi, horror and YA, short stories and novels. I’ve also written screenplays, one of which The Pied Piper, won first prize in Fade-in Magazine. Karen and I also collaborated on plays together, which were put on at the Firehouse Theater in Newburyport, Massachusetts and collaborated on short stories. When we lived in NYC, we belonged to “The Sunday Club,” a group of independent filmmakers who gathered together to write and direct short movies made in one day. Out of this came Valentine’s Day, a three-minute thriller which won the Audience Choice Awards at the Bare Bones International Film Festival. Whenever I begin to write in a new genre or form, I find it exciting and inspiring and sometimes nerve wracking but always interesting and a great learning experience.  My father once said if you’re a writer – write. I’ve taken classes, workshops, attended conferences and belonged to critique groups and support groups. They are all helpful and enriching, but I also believe if you keep writing, you will get better and better. It’s the nature of the beast.

Is there a sequel to the novel in the works?
Beyond the Iberian Sea, Book Two of The Janus Demon, is in the works. It shifts between Mick Grimaldi, the lonely, sardonic, shape shifting NYC detective and Bronagh, the bitter, vengeful daughter of a Volk King. In addition to Beyond the Iberian Sea, I’m nearing the end of a Steampunk novella. My short horror, “The Haunting of Jemima Nash,” based on a poem by John Greenleaf Whittier, was accepted into an anthology for the Whittier Museum. It’s debut is September  26th at the Whittier Museum. I’m proud to say my story “Heart of Stone,” was in the fabulous horror anthology, Enter At Your Own Risk: Dreamscapes Into Darkness by Firblog Publishing, which was recently released.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015


According to the original note card upon which the story idea was jotted, I dreamed up "One More" in 1992 -- not long after sending my first stories out into the publishing universe.  To quote, "I'm at the ocean-side home of an austere man with silver hair..."  It wasn't until the summer of Y2K that I penned the actual first draft, which went into my archive of completed manuscripts.  For years, that dream haunted me, in which I found myself homeless and living on meager pickings from trashcans along a stretch of rainy beach.  My dream-character then found further horror in the ocean-side house of said silver-haired man, who had constructed a bizarre version of a roller coaster inside his lair.

When the fine folks at Firbolg Publishing put forth an open call for Dreamscapes into Darkness, an anthology that came with a warning to be careful for what you wish for, I cycled back to that story, and the main character -- a hungry, homeless boy desperate for his next meal.  The hunt for sustenance leads him past the trashcans and promise of returnables, to a house among the dunes he's been warned to avoid.  I dusted off that first draft manuscript, fired it off to Firbolg's leading lady, Doctor Alex Scully, for review, and was thrilled to receive an acceptance to the fine anthology, which also contains reprints by the likes of such literary superstars as Mary Shelley, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and H.P. Lovecraft.  "One More" is, in fact, nestled beside a reprint of "The Rocking Horse Winner" by none other than the brilliant D.H. Lawrence.

Several of my talented contemporaries in the table of contents were kind enough to share the back stories behind their stories in Dreamscapes into Darkness.

Patrick Lacey on "That Other Place": "I wish I could tell you a mind-blowing, earth-crashing story about where I got the idea for my Dreamscapes piece, but, like many of my other story ideas, this one came out of the ether. I was walking past a tree one day and imagined, for no reason I could pinpoint, that there was a window embedded in the wood. Not a decoration or a piece of junk but an actual window. It was stupid, I thought. You couldn’t make something so random into something scary. But the idea stayed with me. I’d already written about everyday objects/occurrences that become evil (see: video games, a dumpster, a cuckoo clock, and even junk mail), so why not this? I got thinking about what I’d do if I could see through the window, about what would be on the other side. Would it be a world similar to ours or entirely foreign? And if something lived in said world, would it be friendly? I assumed not if I was writing about it. Combine all this with my fascination with alternate dimensions and you have the boring but lucrative story behind ‘That Other Place.’"

Roxanne Dent on "Heart of Stone": "Initially, I received the idea as a writing prompt from a Sunday writers' group soiree. The word was ‘Stone.’ But the story itself developed after I attached the two words, ‘Heart of.’  I thought about the romantic relationships I’d had when I was young. I was often attracted to ‘Bad Boys,’ or those who had issues and couldn’t or wouldn’t commit. I was left in the dust, hurt and depressed.  It finally occurred to me I wanted to be the one who healed them of their pain and live happily ever after. It was unrealistic, arrogant and doomed to failure. The idea of creating a character with those exaggerated traits falling in love with the epitome of evil, unconscious of her motivation, caught my imagination.  Setting the tale in a church like the one mentioned in The Da Vinci Code, with the statue of a demon coming alive, came to me when I woke up one morning. It also tied in to my love of history and the supernatural.

K. Trap Jones on "The Weathermaker": "The inspiration came from a question lingering within my mind, ‘What if controlling the weathering elements were a job?’ The task has to be stressful with the way the atmosphere functions and the different environments requiring unique weathering patterns. The character of the Weathermaker needed to be unstable and I wrote the tone for him built around an elderly philosopher with severe anger issues. I imagined him being alone within a remote cabin and constantly having to monitor weathering patterns in order to avoid catastrophes. One slip could cause a typhoon or hurricane; one spike of anger could spark horrendous tornadoes. Although he is not a violent man, I wanted to create a personality built on frustration and resentment for the task he is burdened with and the lack of respect he feels civilization grants the weather. The combination of anger and resentment towards people surfaces when the Weathermaker has to sometimes deal with the occasional rogue death hiccup in the system.  When an adrenaline junkie crosses the threshold of purgatory and washes upon the shores of the Weathermaker’s land, he must not only deal with the anger of the old man, but also the reality that he alone has to continue upon the path of death in order to continue towards the afterlife."

(Promotional artwork for "One More")
Rob Smales on "First Horse": "When I write, I either write a flash fiction (something extremely short), or I run a bit long -- and these days, my tendency is toward the long. Sometimes…okay, often, I have trouble coming in under the maximum word count publishers are looking for. When the idea for First Horse occurred to me, I realized I would need an explanation of spirit guides, for readers who were unfamiliar with the concept. I did some research (the internet being a wonderful thing), and came up with plenty of Native American legends that mentioned spirit guides, but none that explained them, or gave their origins. So I wrote one. I enjoyed writing the tale that opens the story, the legend of Warrior and Dog, that Grandfather Whitefeather tells to Jimmy Tsosi. I’ve read Native American myths, and was trying to mimic the voice you hear in them -- a voice distinctly not my own. It was fun. But there was a problem: by the time I was done, I’d taken up over a quarter of the word allotment given by Firbolg Publishing, and I hadn’t even started the story I wanted to tell. *sigh* I picked up my editing pen…

B. E. Scully on "The Son Who Shattered His Father's Dream": "Parents always want the best for their children. But what if ‘the best’ ends up being the absolute worst thing any parent could imagine?  My short story “The Son Who Shattered His Father’s Dream” was inspired by an article in The New Yorker magazine titled ‘The Empire of Edge,’ by Patrick Radden Keefe. It chronicled the rise and fall of a young trader who got caught participating in a huge financial scandal, and focused especially on the trader’s childhood -- both the unconditional support and the crushing expectations of the man’s formative years. In fact, I took the title of my story and the anecdote behind it directly from an actual incident in this family’s life. The story was fascinating and, even though the trader certainly did have his fall coming, it was heartbreaking, too, particularly for his family. It got me thinking about the tricky territory parents navigate between pushing their children and perhaps pushing them too hard and way too far -- sometimes even straight off of a cliff. So I took all of this and turned it into my own more dark, much more sinister tale."

(The note card for "One More")
Nancy Hayden on "No Man's Land": "A few years ago, my husband and I visited the Western Front in France. I was interested in the Argonne Forest as this was where millions of U.S. soldiers fought at the end of the war, including my great uncle. Thousands were killed. We walked along a logging road in the re-grown Argonne Forest, past partially filled in shell holes, and found an old WWI trench that cut back into the woods. We decided to explore the trench. We hadn’t gone very far when my husband became uneasy. That wasn’t like him. A little further along, he said he had to get out of there, and before waiting for me to answer, he hurried back the way we’d come. When we were back on the logging road, he confessed to feeling anxious, like something was pulling him down, each step harder than the last. I don’t know what it was, but something was going on in that trench. And that’s where my story begins -- a husband and wife exploring France’s abandoned WWI trenches. Only for them, it wasn’t as easy to get out."

Kurt Fawver on "An Interview With Samuel X. Slayden": "If you've read my story, you'll know that it involves the torture (or perhaps terrible enlightenment?) of a group of writers who are well-known and well-regarded in the world of the story. However, when I initially wrote the tale, I used caricatures of authors from ‘real life’ as the bases for my fictional authors. As I edited, I decided that approach was too fraught with problems to be sustainable. One, I didn't want to represent any real author negatively for fear of offending and two, I didn't feel I ‘knew’ the famous authors I was using in any personal sense, so that the caricatures were too thin, too one-dimensional. So, I took my authors back to the drawing board and rewrote them all. I think the result was better, more realistic characters that had no cognate in reality. That said, even in rewriting, I did leave a few ‘trademark’ qualities stuck to several of my ill-fated authors. So it might be an interesting exercise for a reader to try to figure out what ‘real’ author was originally the foundation for each of my tormented scribes."

Joe Powers on "Lead Us Not Into Temptation": " This story, about a reformed child predator who finds himself back on the hunt, was based on a random guy I saw in the bank parking lot one morning. Something about the way he looked and carried himself made me wonder what he was up to, and I created this monster in my head based on that quick observation. I’d started dating someone new around the time I completed the first draft. She’d been very enthusiastic and supportive of the stuff I’d shown her to that point. Horror writers are a strange lot that are, at best, often viewed with wary skepticism, but she didn’t seem fazed by my chosen genre. Without really thinking it all the way through I sent a copy of the draft to her and eagerly awaited her adulation. It occurred to me not long after this might not be the best way to impress the mother of a young daughter. Luckily for me this wonderful woman -- now my fiancée -- drew no conclusions about my character from my questionable subject matter. We laugh about it now, but looking back it could have gone south in a hurry."