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Autumn in New Orleans: A Flash Fic

Autumn in New Orleans: A Flash Fic

How did I come to live in a forest looking like a freak with Betty McLean, leaving school, friends, and family behind? Well for starters, the red-gold leaf was as big as my face. Which is why it was kind of bad it stuck to…

A quick interview with L. L. Hunter: paranormal romance writer

A quick interview with L. L. Hunter: paranormal romance writer

My December author interview is with L. L. Hunter, whose Midnight Ball series concludes this month. Here’s some info from Laura about this particular series:

The first book, Reign of Secrets came to fruition about 7 years ago. I had this image of a princess with magical jewellery that could portal to different worlds. But the full world building of this series didn’t happen until earlier this year. My writers’ group helped me plan it out. We chatted about the rules that governed the world. I also wanted to write a story featuring gods and goddesses. At the time there weren’t many around in bookstores, but it seems stories of gods and goddesses are quite popular haha. I was glad in a way, because the book was received really well and is one of my highest bestsellers to date.

The sequel Crown of Lies, begins straight after the end of Reign of Secrets. I left it on quite a cliffhanger (sorry, readers!), but I planned to release each book fairly close together so readers wouldn’t have to wait that long.The last book, Queen of Midnight, follows Grace, as she not only deals with the aftermath of the gates of the underworld being opened, but her power growing stronger, and a couple of bombshells being dropped on her in the form of family secrets. She also doubts herself a lot in this book, so there’s a personal journey she has to take as well so she can eventually be queen and unite the kingdoms.There’s also the angsty romance between Grace and Maddi which I absolutely LOVE. I think they’re my new favourite couple.

So now I’ve whetted your appetite, it’s time for the interview to begin!

You mention in your bio you used to write fan fic. What fandom did you love and how have they influenced your original works?

Yes, I have written some fanfics. I loved writing Supernatural, and a few others. My friend and I actually wrote a Supernatural / X files crossover. I also had a Vampire Diaries one that was pretty popular online, as well as a few based on the Shadowhunter books by Cassandra Clare. They’re still published on Fanfiction.net. And no, I will not tell you my penname…

You’ve studied many different fields … vet nursing, forensic science, dramatic arts … how do they inspire this trilogy?

I’ve found that in studying many different subjects, it’s prepared me well for research when writing a book and as an author. I used some of my forensic science knowledge to write the Adelaide Paige Saga for instance.

You mention writing plays and musicals in your bio which I think is so cool! Any faves and how do they inform your novels?

With my drama class, back before I started writing my first novel, I wrote, produced and directed a series of musicals entitled No Frills Airlines. They were so much fun. Play writing and screenplay writing is a whole different ball game to writing a novel, but I guess they help you with plot. They use the same story arcs.

What speaks to you about paranormal romance? How do you think this trilogy stands out from the crowd? Also, any other great paranormal romances you’d recommend to readers?

I have loved paranormal romance since as long as I can remember. I love writing the creatures, their powers, you know, angels and demons with wings and glowing irises, and a man that can change into a dragon, etc. I think there’s something so interesting and magical about paranormal stories.

In thinking about the Midnight Ball series, when I was trying to market it, I couldn’t really think of a series that was similar. That’s good and bad. You want something to stand out from the crowd, but also something that fits, so readers finished one fantasy or paranormal series, can pick up another similar in theme and genre etc. When I first started writing and plotting Reign of Secrets, there wasn’t anything published that was like it at the time. And now a year later, I’m finding a lot more stories featuring gods and goddesses and epic adventure fantasies out there.

Can you give us an elevator pitch for the series as a whole?

The Midnight Ball series is about a young princess named Grace with magic blood. She lives in a kingdom named Sydlandia, which she then finds out is part of a bigger world called Aurum, and then that world is part of a bigger universe. There are secrets and magic and curses, witches, mysterious demi-gods as well as gorgeous gods and goddesses. Grace finds out her parents had been lying to her throughout her entire life, and she is part of a hidden destiny meant to restore peace throughout all the kingdoms and to unite the worlds. There is also a LGBTQ romance at the heart of it.

Tell us a bit about the trilogy’s protagonist and why we’ll love her.

Grace is naive at first, but only because everyone has been lying to her. But when she finds out about the lies, and experiences further betrayals, she really grows into her own skin and has to grow up quickly. She becomes strong and powerful and empowered, and that’s why I loved writing her. I hope you will love her as much as I do.

Why gods and goddesses? What about them appeals to you? Did you draw upon particular myths and legends for your trilogy?

I hadn’t written about gods and goddesses really before, and it’s something I’ve wanted to explore for a while. As well as creating a brand new world built from the ground up that has its own lore and rules. The trilogy was inspired by Greek mythology, such as the tale of Persephone and Hades, but in my books, Hades calls himself Aed.

Tell us a bit about what we can expect from the romance in Book 3.

Without giving away any spoilers, Grace and Maddi’s romance and relationship as a whole will really be tested in Queen of Midnight. But I promise you, there is a happy ending 😉

What kind of research did you do for this trilogy and what’s the coolest thing you discovered writing Book 3?

As this series is epic fantasy, and the world totally created by me, I didn’t really need research that much. But at a writing retreat, which is where I finally finished Book 3, I threw out a question to the rest of the ladies: If you could eat anything in the world, say it’s your last day on earth, or wanted that special dish you couldn’t get anywhere else, what would it be? Something gods and goddesses would dine on.

Some of the answers floored me, such as Strawberries served in fairy floss tasting clouds, golden pear tarts, and thousand year old mushroom risotto using mushrooms found at the end of the rainbow in the land of the unicorns … most of them made it into a scene toward the end of the book.

Do you have a fave passage you’d like to share with readers to tease the final book?

I can’t really share a quote that won’t spoil the book, but there are so many favourite scenes in this book that I love. It’s my favourite in the whole trilogy. Especially the very last epilogue scene…

Awesome Laura! Thanks so much for chatting to me at my blog! Readers, you can read the complete Midnight Ball series now.

Reign of Secrets: https://books2read.com/reignofsecrets

Crown of Lies: https://books2read.com/crownoflies

Queen of Midnight: https://books2read.com/queenofmidnight

L.L. Hunter is the author of over 20 published works, including The Legend of the Archangel Series and The Eden Chronicles. She has studied everything from veterinary nursing, forensic science, and dramatic arts, but has always known her true calling was to be an author. She has been writing since her teens – everything from fan fiction, to song lyrics, to plays and musicals. When not working on her next paranormal romance, she can be found at home in Australia, reading somewhere comfortable with one or both of her “fur babies.” Follow her on Facebook, Twitter @llhunterbooks, and her blog – http://llhunter.blogspot.com.au.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/llhunterbooks

Twitter: https://twitter.com/LLHunterbooks

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/llhunter/

Blog: http://llhunter.blogspot.com.au.

Bookbub: https://www.bookbub.com/profile/l-l-hunter

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/L-L-Hunter/e/B00B2B701I?ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1&qid=1604876963&sr=8-1

Newsletter: https://mailchi.mp/5b4d48345b2d/llhunter

A quick interview with C. E. Page: Epic Fantasy Novelist

A quick interview with C. E. Page: Epic Fantasy Novelist

So this is a bit exciting … I decided a while back to interview authors to showcase their latest work and so I could learn more about what’s happening in speculative fiction, celebrating with some amazing writers. So, every month I’ll be (hopefully) putting out…

The Lamplighter: A flash fic

The Lamplighter: A flash fic

Maureen’s Halloween inspired free October fiction. A lamplighter gets more than he bargains for when he comes face to face with a ghost …

Re-watching Sleepy Hollow (1999): One of the most beautiful horror films ever made?

Re-watching Sleepy Hollow (1999): One of the most beautiful horror films ever made?

As Halloween approaches, what better way to spend a cold and foggy Sydney evening then curled up on the sofa watching a spooky film? Some friends and I re-watched Sleepy Hollow (1999) and honestly, I can’t help but feel that this little gem is underrated. Yes, Burton has become far less interesting in recent years (Disclaimer: I haven’t seen Big Eyes, and Frankenweenie and Sweeney Todd were both astonishing films), and yes, these days he cannibalizes his own work so that everything feels like something you’ve seen a hundred times before, but something about this particular horror goth confection just works.

Maybe it’s the brooding atmosphere the cinematographers created (sets were built and feats of lighting and smoke and colour paid off – you can read some interesting behind the scenes on this here), maybe it’s Danny Elfman’s beautiful, haunting score, maybe it’s the fun of playing spot-the-Harry-Potter-actor (hint: there’s a lot), maybe it’s the puzzle box script or Johnny Depp back when he was indie or Miranda Richardson stealing every scene she’s in, or the theme of reason and logic versus emotion and heart. Sure, the romance between Ricci and Depp is a bit naff, but it’s all part of the charm.

The Cast

Johnny Depp is an awkward topic of conversation these days (why oh why did you not stay with Vanessa Paradis?) given a raging court case with ex Amber Heard and accusations of domestic violence. It can be hard to put knowledge of his real life dramas back of mind when watching him in a film, especially when many feel he has been dialing his characters up to 11 since the second POTC film. In Sleepy Hollow, he walks a difficult tightrope between leading man and character actor and in my opinion, pulls it off with aplomb. It’s one of Depp’s best performances in my humble opinion.

Police Constable Ichabod Crane comes to Sleepy Hollow from New York City to investigate a series of murders in the village of Sleepy Hollow by a mysterious Headless Horseman. His cowardice, snobbery (as a city slicker he sees himself as superior to the rural town he comes to deliver justice to) and childhood traumas make him an interesting lead. Crane is prepared to place women and children in danger before he himself is risked, but also shows courage, grit and determination in vowing to deal with a supernatural creature he only half believes in.

Christina Ricci as the leading lady, Katrina Van Tassel, is so-so and she and Depp have some cringe romantic lines, which in some ways simply add to the charm of the film (it’s so cheesy it’s fun). It’s also fun to see her play a different part (even if the age gap between her and Depp is a little creepy). Miranda Richardson as Katrina’s step-mum is, of course, brilliant (you can always rely on Ms Richardson to deliver her A game and she has an important role in this story). She’s also very beautiful. The supporting cast (including Michael Gambon, Casper Van Dien, Jeffrey Jones, Richard Griffiths, Ian McDiarmid and Michael Gough) are all good and each has an important part to play. Christopher Lee has a fun cameo and Christopher Walken is astonishingly memorable in his key part. One things certain, Burton put together a dream cast for this film.

The Visuals

Burton has always been known as a visual story-teller and that’s certainly the case with Sleepy Hollow. The contrast between the city and the village is cleverly done through use of fog and colour (or lack thereof), with each and every shot looking like a painting. The costumes are also extremely rich, with Miranda Richardson and Christina Ricci especially, having some beautiful outfits. There are some nifty steampunk touches too which I appreciated, curtesy of Crane’s newfangled detective contraptions from the city.

Some images really stand out … the young child watching a lit Halloween lantern cast shadows on his bedroom wall, the fog creeping as the horseman approaches, snuffing out the village’s torches, Crane’s bird in a cage trick, blood spurting up a pumpkin scarecrow, the way heads spun, the very landscape like a dream culminating in the Tree of the Dead.

Many reviewers at the time noted this is an old fashioned movie, doing visuals lovingly and painstakingly with every ounce of the sweat and tears of the production team evident on the screen. Ian Mcdiarmid was quoted as saying (having just come off the set of Star Wars: Phantom Menace):

Having come from the blue-screen world of Star Wars it was wonderful to see gigantic, beautifully made perspective sets and wonderful clothes, and also people recreating a world. It’s like the way movies used to be done.

For all it’s horror and death, this is a very beautiful film and it makes the journey memorable and worth watching again and again. I notice a new loving detail every time.

The Music

A lot of people feel Danny Elfman’s music sounds the same across Burton films. I’ve always disagreed with that. I think he’s a very good composer and when he’s inspired, his work is truly beautiful. Just think of Edward Scissorhands, Nightmare Before Christmas, Corpse Bride and the Batman films. I’d add Sleepy Hollow to that count. His music for this film tells its own story, full of eerie choirs, violins and crashing horror sounds. It’s a strong enough soundtrack I can happily listen to it on Spotify. The music really adds to the dread of the film and it wouldn’t be as good without it.

The Themes

I loved the motif running through the film about masculine coded reason and logic versus feminine coded emotion, imagination and superstition. It is only when Crane works with both sides that he is able to crack the crime and find love. I also thought the film did a good job of showing why Crane had fallen so hard on the side of logic (“I am beaten down by it”) whilst allowing nods to Hammer Horror and gothic horror tropes (for this is a film that nods to past films including the original Karloff Frankenstein). It really adds a little something to rewatches when you see how the scriptwriter wove this theme throughout the plot and character interactions.

To conclude …

I’m one of those people that just can’t get enough of Burton doing gothic horror. My favourite films by him all edge into that territory … from Batman Returns to Sleepy Hollow to Corpse Bride to Sweeney Todd, something about his lonely, constructed worlds speak to me. Though Sleepy Hollow was popular at the time, it’s a Burton film I hear less and less about as time goes on. I suggest it’s high time people dusted off their DVD jackets or hightailed it to a streaming service. There’s a lot to enjoy in this bloody, eerie tale. It may have little to do with the original Washington Irving story, but it remains a fun jaunt through a beautifully constructed world that could only exist at the movies.

Ben: A Poem

Ben: A Poem

Sadly, one of my closest friends passed away 2nd September. Ben was a wonderful friend; warm, kind, loving, gentle, passionate and caring. I hope this month’s freebie (a poem dedicated to him) captures some of what he meant to me. Ben We ballroom dancedthrough your…

Is C S Lewis any good today? Revisiting The Chronicles of Narnia

Is C S Lewis any good today? Revisiting The Chronicles of Narnia

This July to August I did an epic re-read of The Chronicles of Narnia. It’s been years since I’ve read the series, though they were a mainstay of my childhood (to the point I even owned an activity and recipe book inspired by Narnia and…

The Hestia

The Hestia

This piece was originally published on my InkAshlings blog in 2015 as part of the If Book Australia project, but I recently re-shared the piece with my newsletter so thought I’d also re-post to my author website. Enjoy!

The Hestia

My hips wedge against the boat rim. I can taste the roughness of knotted rope at my mouth. Thick braids constrict my hands, feet, waist. With the movement of the boat, I roll into cracked and peeling painted edges.

The Hestia.

I had defined myself by him and me: Paul and grey stone pylons, pebbled sand underfoot, waves crashing, shoreline to shoreline. Back then, I imagined that our love would run free, our feet taking wing. Like Jesus we’d walk on water into sunset, coming out the other side, unscathed…

“Hestia, Hestia,” he said early in.

“Not Hestia. Ruthie, remember?”

Too dark. Too reticent to be flaming Hestia.

He stroked my cheek.“My island worshipping Hestia, darling.” His eyes burn smoke rings on my retinas as he flings liquid all over.“Sacred heart, sacred flame, burn bright for me.”

The boat lulls gentle on cresting tips. He hasn’t shared salt spray or the scaly damp of silver fishies. Rainbows reflect in slick oil.

He drops the match, leaps ashore and pushes the crackling boat into deeper sea.

Blistering skin. Obscured by smoke and flame.

Behind me, the pylons and Paul’s mad shadow. Ahead, the promise of blurry sunset.

Homeless in Paris: A flash fic

Homeless in Paris: A flash fic

A homeless woman wakes up next to the Arc De Triomphe to find more than she bargained for when she comes face to face with Greek legend