Chilling Chat Episode 160 Michele Roger

Michele Roger is an author and harpist living and working in Detroit. Her previous novel, The Conservatory, was published in 2014. Her second book, Eternal Kingdom: A Vampire Novel, was published in 2015 and made into a film script. Dedicated to furthering the reach of women in speculative fiction, she is a founding member of, “The Wicked Women Writer’s Group.” Her short stories have been published in anthologies in both the US and UK. As a harpist, she is the founder of the Michigan Conservatory. She was a Detroit Music Awards Finalist for best classical composer in 2015.

Michele is an innovative and artistic woman. We spoke of music, the creative process, and her advice for the burgeoning female writer.

NTK: Welcome to Chilling Chat, Michele! Thank you so much for chatting with me.

MR: I’m thrilled to be here. Thank you for the invite!

NTK: You’re an accomplished musician. How does your background in music influence your writing?

MR: That’s a great question. In reality, there isn’t an easy answer. The two creative outlets sometimes inspire one another. That’s when it feels like a blessing. I can be writing a conversation between two people falling for one another and the music will start to play in my head. The epiphany will hit me that it’s not a song I’ve heard before. Then, I stop writing words and start writing notes on a music paper. Sometimes, the two outlets compete for my attention. I can wake up at 3 am with a story and the theme music and the entire movie score in my head. Then, it feels like a curse. Which do you act upon first? Honestly, it’s a good problem to have.

NTK: Do you find inspiration in dreams?

MR: My biggest inspiration is walking. But, dreams do come into play. If I set a story and its characters aside to do my day job teaching music or playing Harp concerts, the characters sneak into my dreams. It’s always the same dream to start. I’m asleep in bed inside of a glass box. The characters come and gently knock on the box while I’m sleeping. The characters return each night, knocking louder and eventually pounding on the glass until I finally start to write their story. Then, the dreams end.

NTK: Did The Harpist come to you in this way?

MR: Yes. The ghost in the story, Emma, came to see me first, as I was out for a walk. That night, I dreamed of her outside the glass box. She scared the hell out of me. But as a paranormal writer, that’s an advantage, I suppose. Elizabeth and Detective Flannery came to me the next day.

NTK: That’s a fascinating process. What is the difference between paranormal and horror?

MR: Paranormal, by my definition, is like a flavor of a story. There are elements that are scary or ghostly but those elements are just tools for telling a story. The Harpist is definitely paranormal. I’ve written two horror novels. The entire story builds and builds becoming more frightening at every turn.

Paranormal uses scary elements to tell a great story. Horror uses a story to convey something really scary.

NTK: Are your stories character driven? Or, plot driven?

MR: Depends on the story. My sci-fi book, Dark Matter was definitely plot driven. So was [ ETERNAL KINGDOM: A VAMPIRE NOVEL Paperback ] Roger, Michele ( AUTHOR ) Jul - 20 - 2014 [ Paperback ]my horror novel, Eternal Kingdom. But my latest shorts, like Addicted to Love and now this new novel, The Harpist, is far more driven by the characters.

I think, as I get older, the more I like how beautiful it is when characters are vulnerable.

NTK: How much control do you exert over your characters after they come to you? Do they retain their free will? Do they come to you with vulnerabilities?

MR: They come to me dragging their huge amounts of baggage. It’s just my job to spoon their personality and flaws out to the readers as needed.

NTK: What writers have influenced you most?

MR: My first love of literature bloomed after reading F. Scott Fitzgerald. When I read that Hunter S. Thompson said he wrote passages from The Great Gatsby over and over again to learn how to write well, I tried it. That’s when I knew I wanted to write. I didn’t realize I wanted to write speculative fiction, sci-fi, and horror/paranormal until I devoured Stephen King’s short, Thinner. Then, The Visitor series in the 80s and finally, Margaret Atwood’s The Heart Goes Last, had me writing in the genre and never looking back.

NTK: Were you a reader as a child?

MR: I loved to read. It was always my escape.

NTK: What got you into horror?

MR: In 8th grade, a friend gave me a copy of Stephen King’s, The Eyes of the Dragon. It was a fantasy story he wrote for his daughter. I was already reading all the sci-fi and fantasy I could get my hands on secretly (my mom thought I should read romance) so King’s fantasy novel became my gateway drug into his other stories.

NTK: What do your parents think of your writing? Have they encouraged you?

MR: Before my dad passed away, he came to every signing and author event I had; often buying a copy of books he already had just to show his support. My mom is supportive of all my creative endeavors.

NTK: You said your mom wanted you to read romance. Do you like to write romantic scenes in your books?

MR: The first romantic scene I ever had to write, I was so nervous, I had to have a cocktail to get through it. Now, I have become much closer friends with my characters. I adore helping them find their loves. Maybe, that’s the difference between writing my first love scene in my early thirties and writing now at 46. I’m more comfortable with my own sexuality and hence, I’m more comfortable with the romance scenes of my characters.

NTK: That’s great! Do you enjoy horror movies and television shows? If so, which are your favorites?

MR: Hmm. I love Stranger Things but really, I don’t watch much TV or movies. I’m a print junkie.

NTK: What do you like about Stranger Things?

MR: I love the duality of worlds; one we can see, one only a select few can see. I also adore how much they’ve embraced the deliciousness of the 80s, right down to the plaid flannel shirts. Seeing the story through the eyes of kids is one of the best parts.

NTK: You’re a founding member of The Wicked Women Writer’s Group. Could you tell the Addicts how that came about?

MR: Early on in my writing, a publisher told me that it would be hard for him to market my work if I used my real name. Horror and sci-fi readers didn’t buy work written by women (or so he thought.) I didn’t want to hide behind a male pen name. Instead, I started a group for women who wrote speculative fiction. I wanted it to be a positive place for female horror writers to support one another. It’s become so much more and I couldn’t be more proud of all the members and our collaborations.

NTK: Very cool! Thank you for starting this group and giving women writers a place to get together. What advice would you like to give prospective women writers out there?

MR: Just this week, The Guardian published an interview with Phillip Pullman, author of His Dark Materials series, and president of a UK author society. He said that the publishing world isn’t supporting authors. Less than 30% of authors can make a living by writing solely as a career. For women, the percentage is even lower. Hence, my advice is this: 1. Buy the work of all authors you love. As a woman and a writer, we appreciate the grueling art form. Particularly, buy the work of female authors. Show appreciation with our dollars. 2. If monetary support is out of reach, support women’s writing by posting great reviews of their work. 3. Never give up on your dream.

NTK: Wonderful words! Michele, as you know, Season 13 of HorrorAddicts is CURSED! Do you have a favorite curse? If so, what is it?

MR: Curses are definitely a powerful female tool. My favorite thing about them is that they’re more frightening than a threat. A curse actually feels possible. My favorite curse? “I hope you have a kid just like you!” That curse came true in my two kids. And, I couldn’t be more proud.

NTK: What does the future hold for you? What books, stories, and music do HorrorAddicts have to look forward to?

MR: The Harpist (Cursed) will be released this fall 2018. A short holiday story with Elizabeth and Flannery is in the works and the sequel to The Harpist is already outlined and taking shape. As for music, I’m working on another Celtic harp album which will hopefully be released in the spring of 2019.

NTK: Thank you for chatting with me, Michele. It’s been fun.

MR: Thank you so much for the interview.

Addicts, you can find Michele on Twitter.

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Guest Blog : Ungodly Undoing by Essel Pratt Review by Michele Roger

Review of Essel Pratts, UnGodly Undoing

by Michele Roger

It is rare to find a book with a fresh, creative delivery. UnGodly Undoing by Essel Pratts does not disappoint. In essence, a collection of stories but brilliantly presented via alternating chapters. The first chapter sets the stage for an ongoing conversation between a bookish, teenage boy and the local, elderly bookstore owner. The next chapter has the old man as narrator, telling a ‘real life’ story of the small town of Mishawaka. The old man in the bookstore explains that not all great stories are found in books and the stories of Mishawaka are of a town deeply cursed. The chapters continue in kind, in an anthology of a cursed town.

Love Transcends Death,” is a simple story about angst and grief of a local doctor who is mourning the death of his wife. One day, kissing her urn goodbye becomes his undoing. Pratts build up in this particular tale is well timed; revealing an unexpected plot twist.

In the chapter entitled “Damned to Life”, we hear the story of an unlikely step-father and his vampire daughter. Elizabeth is a thirteen-year-old vampire held captive in the basement of her family home. After a vampire raped her mother, Elizabeth was born violently, killing her mother in the process. She lives a life of her father feeding her tainted blood from the local blood bank. Her escape from her prison and the reconciliation between father and daughter keeps the reader guessing until the last moment.

One of my favorite stories is Canopic Servitude. This chapter tells the tale of how the town warehouse contains the preserved remains of cursed, Egyptian royal cats who come back to life. I admit I was reading that chapter with my cat in my lap. By the time I had finished, I obediently went to the kitchen, opened the fridge and made him an offering of vanilla yogurt to my familiar feline. Just in case. 

If UnGodly Undoing has one set back, it’s that the stories are told in present tense. All of them. While, as a reader, I like that the conversations between the bibliophile boy and the old bookstore owner are set in present day, it feels strange to read the town’s chilling past in the same tense. For the narration to feel more authentic, I would have liked the actual stories of the strange incidents in Mishawaka to be told in past tense.

All in all, the book is a page-turner with alternating chapters bringing both closure to the previous chapter and baiting the reader to read just one more story in the chapter to follow. Pratts final story in the book, Silence, My Love is chilling and complex. I think that his ability to write psychological horror shines in this closing story. I would hope that he would consider a whole novel in this particular sub-genre. Fighting the demons of the mind, attempting to decipher between fantasy and reality and the complete undoing of a man due to madness makes for excellent horror reading.

Clockwork Wonderland Author Guest Blog Post: Michele Roger

 

Alice in Wonderland: the Bridge Between Reality and Fantasy

By

Michele Roger

 

It’s a Fine Line

           I discovered Lewis Carol and “Alice in Wonderland” later than most children.  While many of my friends tell me they read it with parents as a childhood bedtime story, I didn’t read the classic tale until high school.  Admittedly, by the time it was assigned to me, I was resentful.  Why was an Honors English class reading a kids book?

 

Thankfully, I was a goody-two-shoes and wanted to impress my teacher.  I dug into the story, assuming it would be a quick read, an easy paper and take me that much closer to kicking off my Spring Break.  Like so many things in my teenage life, I was wrong.  Alice in Wonderland consumed me.  It resembled many aspects of my real life and the people in it.  Epiphany hit me somewhere in the wee hours of the drive from Michigan to Florida as I sat reading in the car on a family Spring Break trip in April of 1988.  I was suffering the microcosm of my dysfunctional family crammed in the confines of a compact Ford Escort for eighteen hours when it hit me.  Lewis Carol took the extreme personalities of people he must have met somewhere in his life and turned them into the most fantastic creatures/characters to help tell a story.

 

I knew people like the caterpillar. I had parents of friends who smoked hash and made it look enlightening.  Caterpillar people loved parties, where jazz played softly in the background and martinis, were served in the library or study where guests could check out all of the books they had read.  These same people rarely spoke to their kids (my friends), drove expensive cars and paid for things with large wads of cash from their wallet.  All the while, they seemed to sit in a lofty leather chair and do nothing.  How they made their money was a mystery to me.  Caterpillars seemed addicted to the excitement of impending metamorphosis and bragged about their state of great change, telling their children they should aspire to it.  In reality, caterpillar people never turned into anything beautiful; much to the disappointment of their children.  I, on the other hand, thought they were entertaining.

 

The rest of that sophomore year and through my first summer job, I decided to find fantasy characters in my own reality.  There was no option out with a glass that said, “Drink me”,  to avoid driving in a hatchback with my parents, younger sister and two German shepherds to go places.  Heading to summer family events certainly felt like I was falling down a rabbit hole at sixteen.  I had the same tumbling feeling when I got my first summer job testing water samples and writing mind-numbing reports for the State of Michigan.

 

Mad Tea Party

The summer of 1988, I met my own personal Cheshire at a beach party. While drinks were flowing under the cover of darkness, I was drunk on a boy. One part bad boy, one part overwhelmingly charming and kind, stunningly handsome one minute, gone the next, not to be seen for weeks; leaving me with the memory of his smile.  He was well read but only shared his love of books quietly, unlike the caterpillars.  As I waited for him to materialize, I read books in his absence, hoping it would give us a chance to have something to talk about.

With all of the reading of classics and sci-fi, something inside me stirred, I was afraid to leave the safety of summer and high school.  Wonderland, Orwell’s versions of earth, the worlds of Omni magazine short stories had become a refuge.  Every college application, scholarship essay and step towards graduation, college and looming adulthood threatened to take my fantasy characters and imaginary places away.  My parents were pushing hard that I change my major from special education to law.  Secretly, I longed to be a writer.

One simply didn’t spring changing my parents well thought plans for my future.  They had their hearts set on a family lawyer.  I couldn’t just change and be a writer. Suggesting such a thing took cunning and skill.  I took an assessment test and had it sent to my mother at home so she would open it.  I waited until the weekend when I knew the cocktails would be flowing and pressed her about my results.  In reality, the school librarian had already informed me of the results, but I wanted to present my case with hard evidence.

As she stirred her drink, prepping dinner, she told me that she nor my father believed in such tests.  It said I should become a writer or a journalist.  Everyone knew girls couldn’t make any kind of living doing either of those things.  All the big work went to men.  I sighed.

 

Return to the Realm of the Queen of Hearts

It’s fair to say that I didn’t understand the Queen of Hearts and the notion of yelling, “Off with their heads!” until I heard my inner motherhood scream, “if I see that kind of behavior again, young lady, heads will roll.”  Fast forward to 2009, I was a mother of young teenagers and unknowingly, I had returned to Wonderland.

As an act of preparation for life, I read Alice in Wonderland to my kids.  We had moved into an old farmhouse in the country.  It was easy to see the characters that real people could be. Raising teenagers required escape.  I began to write, using everything I had learned from my trips down the rabbit hole.  Parenthood was the white rabbit, always in a hurry but never the less, magical and maddening and a beautiful chaos.  Lines between reality and fantasy were blurred from exhaustion but it made life all the more like Alice’s; adventurous and full of discovery.  Three novels and one children’s book later, I am thankful for Lewis Caroll.  I would have made a lousy lawyer anyways.

https://www.amazon.com/dp/1544785518/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1493493560&sr=8-1&keywords=clockwork+wonderland

 

Michele Roger is the author of the Sci-Fi novel, “Dark Matter” (2009), “The Conservatory” (2013) and “Eternal Kingdom: A Vampire Story” (2015).  She is also the author of the “Mr. Kiwi” Children’s book series under her pen name, Michele Beresford.  When she isn’t writing, she is a harpist; performing and teaching in Detroit.

https://www.amazon.com/Michele-Roger/e/B00FJQIMJ6/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_5?qid=1492955702&sr=1-5

 

Book Review: It’s a Bad, Bad, Bad, Bad World by Curtis M. Lawson

Review of the Curtis M. Lawson book It’s a Bad, Bad, Bad, Bad World

By Michele Roger

Grinning like a school girl, she said a prayer of thanks to God Almighty and pressed a hand against her ribs. The bones should have been broken. They had been earlier when she lay on the snowy cobblestone in Boston alley. Now there was no pain, and breathing came easily. The blade, which bore the seal of Samael, had performed what it had advertised.”

51ms92t5gxlWhat if eternal youth didn’t come by way of a holy grail, or a fountain? What if it came in the form of a pair of ancient knives? The blades are said to not only take the life of a victim but also transfer the victim’s vitality to their murderer. Such knives are considered the reality behind the mythical powers of Vlad the Impaler and Jack the Ripper, showing up at just the right, or wrong time throughout the world and history, depending on which side of the blade you’re standing.

It’s a Bad, Bad, Bad, Bad World” is one part ancient relic mystery, much like the Dan Brown novels. Characters the reader comes to trust suddenly commit acts of betrayal. Villains, (and there are a whole lot of them in this story) come from every different background, backstory and motive. In the race to possess the two knives known as the Fangs of Wallachia, an assassin nun sent by the Vatican, a ninety year old occultist, two terminal cancer patients, a junkie, a gun for hire, a cop, and a pawn dealer, a misspent teenager, an antiques dealer and an aristocrat are all entangled in a dark web.

A little slow to start, Lawson’s book becomes a page turner. His characters are richly written with a plot that quickens its pace with every chapter. One part gore, one part Indiana Jones, it was a thrill ride I would highly recommend.

Guest Review : Michele Roger Reviews Seven Feet Under by Matthew Weber

 Seven Feet Under by Matthew Weber

7feetunder

Horror author, Matthew Weber offers seven stories steeped in the urban legends and ancient superstitions of the Deep South. Each story is unique in its own right, with a weaving of tales who’s connection is of hot summer nights and southern culture at its scariest. Characters are multi-layered and many do not live happily ever after; if they live at all.

Weber has clearly done his research, creating a world where the reader is immersed in the supernatural and the macabre. We are schooled in the hard lesson of dabbling carelessly in Voodoo. Then, we experience the tribulations of teenage angst when combined with a quasi-creative writing-telekinesis. In one of my favorite stories, we as readers are on the run from whatever mutant lurks down at the old fishing hole. His descriptions of southern life and backwater people captivated me as a reader and drew me into the minds of his tortured characters.

If I had one thing to improve upon in Seven Feet Under, I would say it was perspective. Readers who are contemplating reading this short story collection all in one sitting should take note. Some of Weber’s stories are written in first person and some in third person. Changing of one’s internal narrator may be required when ending one story and immediately beginning the next. That weak point for me may be a strong point for others. Each story could be read on a lunch hour or two and even better yet, on a flight to the Big Easy.

Seven Feet Under is listed as general horror, but all of its stories are void of extreme scenes, as well as blatant sexual content. So often, I am asked to recommend horror novels to young adults and those copies are few and far between. Alas, Seven Feet Under is one I can recommend safely while simultaneously singing its praises for scare factor and vivid, concise writing for all readers teenage age and up.

Many authors test their chops by way of short story. Fan bases and readership are made from horror anthologies. It is my sincere hope that Matthew Weber gleans an audience for his back country, home-spun horror tales. If we are lucky, perhaps he will delight his readers with a much longer, full length singular tale that will let us get to know the types of characters that I love; simultaneously flawed and heroic, a mixture of good and evil.

As the days get longer and the nights grow colder, new books call to those who love to read. Whether you take Seven Feet Under with you as you crawl under a pile of blankets or you beat the cold by traveling south, this book is a worthy page turner.

Wicked Women Writers and Masters Of Macabre

For Episode 130 of the Horror Addict podcast we will be highlighting the past winners of our Wicked Women Writer’s challenge and the Masters Of Macabre contest. The Wicked Women Writer’s Challenge started in 2008 by Michele Roger as a distraction to the monotony that can be writing as a woman in a genre dominated by men. It was also meant to bring attention to female horror writers and podcasters.  In 2011 Horroraddicts.net started the Master’s Of The Macabre contest to give male horror writers/podcasters a chance to compete. In each contest the participants are given a theme, a place and object with the goal of writing and reading the scariest story. In celebration of both contests here is a little information on each winner and what they are up to now:

www98012010497226_786392101430051_367125154057381978_o In 2009 the first winner of WWW was Heather Roulo the theme was doing away with your spouse. Heather’s story was called Graveyard Shift and was published in The Wickeds: A Wicked Women Writers Anthology (Volume 1). Heather is a writer of science-fiction, horror, and fantasy and has  a BA in English from the University of Idaho. Recently she released a new book called Plague Master: Sanctuary Dome.

http://www.heroulo.com/

TMOADOur 2010 winner was Rhonda Carpenter. The theme was seven Deadly Sins and Rhonda’s story called Barring Lilith. The Sin in question was lust and gets into what it is like if you are married to the demon of lust Asmodius. Rhonda is the author of the book Mark Of The Druid and was co-host of the podcast Podioracket.

http://www.rhondacarpenter.com/

2969162The winner in 2011 was Laurel Anne Hill for her story Flight Of Destiny. Her story stirs steampunk, infidelity, jealously, and a radioactive poison into a delicious hot-pot of horror. Laurel Anne Hill has been published in several anthologies including How Beer Saved the WorldShe also has a novel available called Heroes Arise

http://www.laurelannehill.com/

 

Obfuscate-Final-CoverIn 2012 Killion Slade won the Wicked Women Writer’s Challenge. Killion was assigned a holiday: Passover, a location: A Seashore and an object: A Garden Rake, she submitted Children of Angels. Killion Slade is a loyal reader of dystopian urban fantasy and has written two books in the World Of Blood series: Exsanguinate and Obfuscate

http://www.killionslade.com/

2013’s  winner was Maggie Fiske. In her story called A Quarrel for Jimmy Kills Crow,  the theme was the apocalypse and she had to write about solar flares while hunting in the mountains with a crossbow. Maggie had a lot of fun doing the sound effects for her story and made it sound like a professional radio play. Maggie has also written a novella called The Last Man to Die in the Nebraska Electric Chair. 

15838245DM Slate won 2014’s contest with her story Photo Finish . Her challenge items were a Dragon, Japanese Night Club, Hairspray and Hallucinations. D.M resides in Colorado and has a business degree from the University Of Northern Colorado.  She writes Horror, comedy and mystery. One of her novels is Roots Of Deceit.

http://www.dm-slate.com/
3841772015’s contest got a lot more difficult with each contestant having to do an audio production with more than one voice involved. Jaq Hawkins won with her story The Sun Child. Jaq is a British author in the genres of Steampunk, Fantasy and the occult. She wrote The Goblin Series along with several other books on magic.

http://jaqdhawkins.co.uk/

 

masters

2011 was the first year that horroraddicts.net hosted the Masters Of Macabre challenge and the first winner was Shaunessy Ashdown for his story Spectrophobia. Shaunessy is a fan of the Wicked Women Writers Challenge and was happy that he had a chance to compete in a challenge for the men and when he won he compared it to being kissed by Elvira. Shaunessy  is an editor for a German school book publisher.

23261059Philip Carroll won in 2012 , the theme was curses and Phillip’s story was The Curse Of The Lottery. Phillip likes to write urban fantasy but took a trip to the darkside with this one. Phillip is an Army trained Certified Orthotist and a master storyteller that has worked on several podcasts. He is also author of the book Flypaper Boy.

http://norvaljoe.com/

The theme for 2013 was haunted houses. Rick Kitagawa included a double wide mobile home and a black and white television for his story Uncle Neal’s House and won the challenge. Rick is a San Francisco-based fine art painter, illustrator, and storyteller who creates paintings, short stories, and illustrations in the horror genre.

http://www.rickkitagawa.com/about.html

205492262014’s winner was Solomon Archer for his story Surface Tension. The Theme was creature feature and Soloman’s story included New York City, a teddy bear and an Oceanic trench. Solomon is a criminal psychologist by day and writer by night. His short stories have appeared in several anthologies and he is the writer of PsyKu.

https://psykubook.wordpress.com/the-author/
51Rhbl0zlNL._AA300_In 2015 Rish Outfield won for his story Miss Fortune. Rish is a writer and a podcaster whose main goal is to scare their children into behaving, into going to sleep, or keeping their mouths shut about what they saw take place in the woodshed.

https://www.amazon.com/Into-the-Furnace/dp/B01FXVT6VO/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1468068806&sr=8-1&keywords=rish+outfield

http://rishoutfield.blogspot.com/