Thursday, December 3, 2015

Crimson Peak and the desires of the "14-year-old inner bookish girl"

When I first saw the trailer for Crimson Peak last spring, I nearly lost my mind. Guillermo Del Toro (in!), Tom Hiddleston (so in!), Mia Wasikowska and Jessica Chastain (two talented ladies I love, double in!) and most of all the prospect of a classic, Victorian horror/ghost story with gorgeous costumes and creepy sets, as I am a fan of all of those things.
Reviews have been mixed for the film, with some calling it too overblown and unscary with a weak, predictable plot. I have to admit the predictable part is pretty true, but as many of those same reviewers also admitted - so what? Most of them agreed that no matter what you think of its predictability or inability to be truly frightening, the movie is seductive and impossible to look away from - a classic, gothic tale with sumptuous production designs, lavish costumes, and Technicolor-like cinematography that creates an atmosphere comparable to the stories of Shelley and Poe. It’s addictive, absorbing, and sexy (also three things I’m always a fan of).
And it’s no surprise that I and many other writers and bookworms like me are also fans of the film. In a recent interview with the Muse, Guillermo del Toro said this about one of his colleague's assessment of the movie: "He says you are channeling your 14-year-old inner bookish girl. Which I would agree with.” And it’s true. Crimson Peak is a sumptuous feast for any viewer who has a "14-year-old inner bookish girl,” as it is as much of a dread-addled coming-of-age tale with echoes of books like Rebecca and Jane Eyre as it is anything else.
So if you, like me, enjoyed Crimson Peak and your “14-year-old inner bookish girl” craves creepy but sexy Victorian horror stories, then my recent book, The Heartless City, will satisfy that hunger as well. Set in a reimagined Victorian London that has been quarantined and overrun by a race of monsters created by Dr. Henry Jekyll, it takes a broken young man and mysterious girl on a journey from seedy music halls to a ghostly abandoned zoo to the lavish halls of Buckingham palace, and though Tom Hiddleston sadly does not appear, the entrancing but foreboding sexiness he exudes most certainly does.

I guess it’s true that we write what we love.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde: Not necessarily a question of good or evil


October seems like the perfect time to write about the story that inspired The Heartless City - The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson. The title characters (or character, really) from the classic Victorian thriller have become a sort of Halloween staple, spawning numerous movies and even a Broadway musical. 

I saw the musical on Broadway as a teenager (and still love listening to the soundtrack with Linda Eder, who is a goddess, and Anthony Warlow, who probably has my favorite singing voice of any male singer ever) and in a film class I used to teach I had my students analyze the differences between the silent, 1920, John Barrymore film, the iconic, 1931 Frederich March film, and the production-code-restrained-but-fascinating 1941 Spencer Tracy film, so I know a LOT about the story, but it wasn't until a few years ago that I actually read the book. It's not exactly what one would expect (all the violence happens "off-screen" and it isn't revealed that Jekyll and Hyde are one until the end), but it helped me to realize something I should have realized long before: The prevailing idea about the characters is that Mr. Hyde is purely evil and Jekyll is purely good, but I realized Jekyll is not only not purely good.

He's not good at all.

In the song "I Need to Know," from the musical, Jekyll sings, "Give me courage to go where no angel will go," (and once again, if you haven't listened to the Anthony Warlow version, do it - his voice is liquid gold), and I feel this line is a good example of the truth about his character, because he does go where no angel would go, and does what no angel would do. His intention in creating the potion may have been noble, but once he knows what it actually does - that it turns him into a violent, conscienceless psychopath - he voluntarily continues to take the drug.

Because he wants to.

Jekyll may be polite and well-mannered, but as Stephen Sondheim brilliantly states in Into the Woods, "nice is different than good" (an idea I explore in even more depth in The Heartless City's sequel). Jekyll chooses as Jekyll to turn himself into Hyde, because he wants to feel powerful at the expense of other people. He wants to abuse and brutalize others - particularly women - and though he cloaks himself in Hyde to do it, it's Jekyll who makes the decision. It's Jekyll who decides to put his personal desires before other people's lives, and that makes him not only not good but evil - even more so than Hyde.

This realization is part of what inspired The Heartless City. To do what Jekyll did, a person would have to be completely devoid of empathy, and it made me wonder what might have happened if he hadn't kept his drug to himself but shared it with other, equally heartless and unsympathetic people. That idea of figurative heartlessness led to the idea of literal heartlessness - a city of heart-eating monsters - and a protagonist on the opposite end of the spectrum - an emotional empath.

Robert Louis Stevenson created a fantastic story with important questions and iconic characters, which is part of the reason the book has been reimagined as much as it has. It will always continue to be a favorite of mine, especially this time of year, and I can't wait to see how future writers, artists, and composers create something new from the classic tale.

Oh, and here is Anthony Warlow singing  "I Need to Know," because his voice is GORGEOUS:

Sunday, October 4, 2015

My 2nd book, THE HYPNOTIC CITY, is going to be PUBLISHED!!!

Some of you may already know, since I Twitter-announced this a while back, but THE HEARTLESS CITY'S sequel/companion, THE HYPNOTIC CITY will be PUBLISHED by Curiosity Quills! News that I feel is best accompanied by a dancing Stephen Colbert. :)

I'm beyond thrilled about this news, as this book is especially close to my heart. It follows Philomena (a secondary character in THE HEARTLESS CITY who became too cool and interesting NOT to have her own book) as she tries to make it on Broadway in turn-of-the-century New York. Here's the official blurb from Publisher's Marketplace:

Andrea Berthot's THE HYPNOTIC CITY, sequel to THE HEARTLESS CITY: in 1905, a young girl leaves London intent on becoming New York's brightest star - but is it her stage presence hypnotizing the audience, or something more sinister behind the scenes? again to Vicki Keire at Curiosity Quills Press, by Jen Linnan at Linnan Literary Management (world).

The release date hasn't been set yet, but I'll announce it as soon as it is. I can't wait for everyone to go on this adventure with Philomena, who - as I said before - SO deserves her very own book. :)

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The Movie in my Mind

When I picture the characters from THE HEARTLESS CITY, they look like they did in my mind when I wrote it. That is to say, I don't picture any "real life" people when I think of them - just the original, fictional images I created. However, quite a few people have asked me how I would cast a movie version of the book if one were ever to be made (and I personally think the book would make an GREAT movie, Hollywood agents *wink wink*), so I have come up with my own, personal "dream cast" for the film. It is truly a "dream cast," as some of the actors would have to travel back in time/do some reverse aging to fit the parts, but here it is:

Elliot: Young Leonardo DiCaprio
He would definitely have to go back in time, but Leo would be a great Elliot. They have only slightly similar features, but Leo's so great at expressing the kind of raw, unrestrained, empathic emotion Elliot embodies - especially in this particular gif from Romeo and Juliet, which freakishly mirrors an actual moment in THE HEARTLESS CITY:

Cambrian: Younger-ish Sebastian Stan
Sebastian Stan is not only an incredibly talented actor, as well as unbelievably gorgeous, but he exudes the same kind of arrogant and playful but also haunted and wounded aura Cam exudes.

Iris: Adelaide Kane
I adore Adelaide on the CW's Reign - she is such a talented actress that I feel for her and keep watching her story even though the rest of the show (mostly the writing, especially since season 1) is often ridiculous at best. Still, she is such a strong, beautiful and powerful presence that I could hardly picture anyone other than her playing Iris Faye.

Philomena: Sasha Pieterse
And I don't know her as well as an actress, but physically Sasha Pieterse would also make a great Philomena. Plus, she - like Phil - is a singer, and she looks a lot like the person in my own life who first inspired the character:

Andrew: Eddie Redmayne
It's not just because he's a redhead, honestly. Eddie has the quiet, soothing, bright spirit Andrew needs.

Jennie: Mia Wasikowska 
In any film, she really deserves a bigger part than Jennie, but Mia would be great at displaying her beautiful, hopeful nature.

I haven't really thought about the adults in the novel - The Lord Mayor, Virginia, etc. - but maybe I will at a later date. What do you guys think? Who do you picture for the parts?

Monday, August 31, 2015

My first book signing!!!

Last Saturday, I did something I'd only ever dreamed I'd do - held a book signing! It took place at this amazing coffee shop in Winfield, Kansas, where I live (College Hill Coffee - so good!). At first, I was kind of terrified, but after I did a short reading from the book I calmed down and had an awesome time (and sold all 20 of my books!).

My immediate family were like my own little marketing team. My husband set everything up (and took pictures, which is why he doesn't appear in any), my sister sold the books, and my parents took care of my kids. (You can see all of them in the next pic, except my mom - you can only see her hand holding my almost-3-month-old, Leo.) :)

My five-year-old, Max, was also helpful - he can be seen sitting beside me and eating a cookie. :)

One of my favorite moments happened just after I finished my reading. Everyone in the room clapped and then Max ran up to my table, stood on the chair next to me, and said, "Everyone! The girl who just read that - the author who wrote this book - she is MY mom." Everyone laughed, said "awe," and clapped, and then Max leaned down to me and said, "I love when people applaud for me." Definitely a future performer. :)

I'll leave you with a couple more pictures - including a close-up of Leo that has nothing to do with the signing but is really freaking cute. :)

Monday, August 17, 2015


IT'S HERE, IT'S HERE! I think I am still in denial, but my book is out in the world! Get a copy from Amazon, enter the giveaway on Goodreads, and/or follow me on Twitter or Tumblr for more updates. I'm just going to stumble around blindly until the reality sinks in. :)

Monday, August 10, 2015


In honor of The Heartless City coming out ONE WEEK FROM TODAY, here is a sneak peek at the book - the entire prologue!

London, 1890
Virginia shivered but didn’t dare reach up to gather her damp, wool cloak around her throat. She didn’t dare breathe, though she doubted the sound would be heard over the heavy rain pelting the canvas above her, or the churning waters of the wide and mighty Thames. When she’d first arrived in London five years ago, it had also been raining, but the circumstances couldn’t have possibly been more different. Instead of a wooden crate on a narrow and shadowy riverboat, she’d arrived in a bright steam engine after an ocean liner brought her from New York to Southampton, and her heart had been filled with pride and ambition, not gnawing guilt and fear.
She’d been the first woman from Atwood, Kansas to earn a college degree, and once she’d completed her graduate work in biology at Cornell, she was offered the once-in-a-lifetime chance to study in London. Her parents had bragged to the whole town that she would spend the next four years studying abroad, working with the most renowned and respected doctor in London. Some had simply scoffed at the news; others had warned that pursuing a man’s profession would be her undoing. Then, when she’d returned to her parents’ farm after only a year, all of them got to smirk, sneer, and boast that they’d been right. The whispers spread through the farms, the church, the tavern, and dry goods store: The Carroll girl was ruined in London.
They had no idea.
The boat dipped, and she swallowed and tightened her arm around her daughter, who was curled up next to her on the single trunk they’d brought from home. There was so much Virginia regretted, so much she desperately wished she could change, but nothing more than tearing her daughter away from their family farm. Even after both of her parents died of scarlet fever, and those who hadn’t already shunned her in Atwood turned their backs, Virginia had remained determined to raise her daughter there. She’d managed to keep the land and gotten a job as a nurse in town, and eventually, even convinced herself that she’d never left Kansas at all, that everything that had happened in London had only been a dream.
But then, three weeks ago, she received a letter from Lady Cullum, who had been not only the benefactress of her mentoring doctor but the closest thing she’d had to family while living in London. The letter confirmed the rumors that had only just reached The States, stories of a crisis that was crippling the city.
And you’re bringing your daughter here, she thought, guilt slicing her like a knife. You’re bringing your three-year-old daughter into a lethal, quarantined city.
She closed her eyes, reminding herself that she didn’t have a choice. Her parents were gone, and she had become a pariah back in Atwood; even if someone had been willing to take her daughter in, they certainly wouldn’t have given the girl the love and care she needed. And she’d had to return to London and do what she could to save the city, not only because Lady Cullum, who had never begged for anything in her life, had implored her to, but because she knew what Lady Cullum didn’t.
That, in a way, the crisis was all Virginia’s fault.
The boat rocked and then stilled, and her heart leapt into her throat. This was it; they had finally reached the heavily guarded border. She heard the booming voice of their oarsmana burly Scotsman who’d introduced himself as simply “Beck”but couldn’t make his words out over the rush of pounding rain. He hadn’t told her what lie he planned to give to the border guards, who would surely be baffled by anyone wanting inside the quarantined city. Virginia could only imagine how much money Lady Cullum had promised him to smuggle her in, because once they made it inside, he wasn’t getting out again. For a moment, she almost hoped the guards would turn their boat away, but then she felt a jerk as the oars dug back into the water, and she knew they were gliding past the border and into the city limits.
She waited for her veins to flood with relief, but instead, her lungs began to tighten and her throat began to close.
London. God in heaven, she was actually back in London.
Her heart sped up, pounding against her chest, and she clutched her daughter’s hand, pulling the little girl closer and inhaling the scent of her hair.
He’s dead, he’s dead, she told herself. He can’t hurt you now. He’s dead.
It was madness, she knew, to fear a single man when they’d just entered a quarantined city filled with monsters, but she couldn’t fight her terror of his memory any more than she’d been able to fight her adoration for him five years ago. He hadn’t just been her mentoring doctor. He had been the epitome of all she wanted to be―brilliant, passionate, well respected―and though it made her sick to think it now, beautiful, too. His eyes had been the color of honeya fierce, burning amber ringed with a band of vivid gold. But one night in his lab, she’d watched those beautiful eyes go black, and the man she’d come to worship as a god had become the devil.
She tightened her grip on her daughter and dug her free hand into her pocket, clutching the leather-bound notebook she’d been clinging to for three weeks. It was his journal, which Lady Cullum had found just after his death and mailed to Virginia along with the letter, hoping she’d be able to find some clues or solutions inside. At first, the sight of his coiled, familiar writing had turned her stomach, but she soon discovered that, strangely, touching the pages made her feel strong. There was something incredibly powerful about clasping the words he’d written with his hands in the palm of her own, as if it restored the power he had taken from her that night, when those handssuddenly smooth, strong, and ethereally pale―had ripped the seams of her lab coat and severed the fabric of her life.
The journal made her feel safe as well, because having it in her hands was further proof that he was dead, as he never would have let it out of his study otherwise. The story the pages told was common knowledge in London now, not because of the journal but due to one of the doctor’s friends, who spilled the truth to authorities before both of them were killed.
According to his journal, the doctor’s intentions had been noble; he’d wanted to find a way to extract the evil from human nature, but what he’d produced instead was a serum that did the opposite. The drug not only stripped him of conscience, sympathy, and compassion, it made him impossibly strong and terrifyingly beautiful, like the indefatigable offspring of an angel and a demon, with pale, glowing skin and deep and ravenous ebony eyes. The effects only lasted a couple of hours, but it was enough to change his mind and noble intentions forever. Soon, he began ingesting the potion nearly every weekend, prowling through the streets of London and taking and breaking its people and things like a child might batter its toys. Because he only took the drug while slumming in London’s East End, where minor spikes in violent crime were likely to go unnoticed, he managed to keep his secret under wraps for the next three years, but all that changed when he shared his creation with some of his wealthy friends.
The boat slowed and Virginia knew they must have been nearing the shore. Her suspicions were confirmed a moment later when the boat rocked back and she felt Beck leaping out and then dragging them up onto solid ground. She’d begun to smell a difference in the river soon after the border, but when he climbed inside again and peeled the canvas back from her crate, the stench of sewage, filth, and rotting death swept in like a wave.
“This is the building, miss!” he called out over the pouring rain, unlatching the door and extending his hand. “Lady Cullum will meet us inside!”
She nodded and took his hand, keeping her daughter’s tight in the other, and the two of them crawled up out of the crate and into the icy rain. They were somewhere near the East End docks, which a month ago would have been bustling, but now all the buildings were empty and dark, dead as the city’s trade. Virginia glanced up, unable to tell if the sun had set or not, as the sky was a blanket of fog, rain, and stormy, soot-stained clouds.
“Go to the door that says ‘Office,’” Beck yelled, crawling behind them and seizing their trunk. “She said it would be unlocked.”
Virginia nodded again and hurried toward the shadowy building, attempting to shield her daughter from the rain beneath her cloak. She found the door, pulled it open, and then ushered the little girl through. The room was dim and filled with ghostly papers, folders, and files.
“Are you all right, darling?” she asked, kneeling before her once they were both inside and smoothing the rain from her dark, unruly curls.
“Yes, but I’m cold.”
Virginia pressed her hand to her daughter’s cheek. “Go ahead. Just remember to stop once Lady Cullum comes for us with her carriage.”
The little girl nodded and closed her eyes, and her damp, clammy skin grew warm beneath Virginia’s fingers. She let out a breath and smiled, and Virginia smiled back.
“It shouldn’t be long now,” Beck called out.
Virginia looked up to see him hauling their trunk inside the room. He sat it down, closed the door, and then pulled a pistol from his pocket, peeking out through the curtains of the window a few feet away.
“I thought they couldn’t be killed with guns,” Virginia said, rising up. “That they heal and regenerate immediately after being wounded.”
There was a name for the creatures, but she didn’t like to use it, didn’t like to think it any more than she thought his name, because it was the name he had called himself that night. Thankfully, when Beck replied, he didn’t use it, either.
“They do, and that’s what people thought at first, but according to Lady Cullum’s latest wire, they can be killed by either a shot to the back of the head or complete decapitation. Anything that destroys the brainstem or severs it from the body.”
He glanced at the little girl then and cleared his throat, looking embarrassed, but she didn’t flinch, and Virginia actually brightened.
“That’s good,” she said, walking over to him. “They aren’t invincible.” She glanced at the second, smaller gun, sticking out of the top of his boot. “May I have that one then?”
He furrowed his brow. “You can shoot one of these?”
“I grew up on a farm. I’ve been shooting coyotes and rabbits since I was nine.”
Perhaps coyotes and rabbits weren’t the same as nearly invincible monsters, but Beck was impressed enough to hand her the gun.
“What else did she say about them?” she asked as she took it from him. “Lady Cullum, I mean. In the wire she sent to you.”
Virginia hadn’t had contact with Lady Cullum since her letter, as she’d spent the three weeks since then on a train and an ocean liner. She hadn’t even written her back, as it wouldn’t have been any use; by the time her letter had reached Virginia, the quarantine had begun, and mail was no longer being carried in or out of the city. Apparently, however, she had managed to transmit more information to Beck by telegraph.
“She told me what they do,” he replied. “I mean, the way they kill.”
Virginia swallowed, glancing down at her boots. “Yes, she told me that, too.”
In truth, she’d read that particular detail in the journal. A few months after the doctor shared his secret with his friends, one of them broke the circle of trust and tampered with the serum, altering the substance from a liquid to tablet form. Harsher and more potent, the new product didn’t simply increase its user’s strength and strip them of conscience, it transformed them into massive, hulking beasts with black, unseeing eyes; razor-sharp teeth; and smooth, hairless skin as white as a corpse. High on his own arrogance and eager to pad his pockets, the doctor’s friend began to manufacture and sell the tablet, and only then did the devastating effects become apparent. The doctor and his friends had stolen, raped, and brutalized, but the monsters the new drug created did one thing and one thing only: kill. But that perversion was not the worst nor the one that doomed the city. Once consumed, the new drug altered the user’s genes forever. After that, they could become the monster at any time, without any warning and completely against their will.
That was how, in the span of only two months, London collapsed. Half of its people were dead and a fourth of those left were clandestine killersticking bombs that could detonate at any given moment. And, as Beck had noted, they had a particular way of killing, a way that seemed quite fitting to Virginia.
They ate people’s hearts.
That was what the doctor had done in his lab all those years agogouged her hopes, slayed her dreams, and devoured the heart of her life. After that, she’d fled the country, never telling a single soul what her mentor had created.
Or that she’d been the first to face one of London’s original monsters.
But he was dead now, she reminded herself, gripping the gun and clenching her jaw as she looked back up through the window. When the crisis broke out and the government captured the man who’d made the tablets, he exposed the doctor’s secrets in an attempt to save himself. It didn’t work, however. Both men were taken and charged with treason, and an angry mob stormed the jail and killed them before the authorities could. Virginia would never see those burning amber eyes again.
Except, of course, whenever she looked in the eyes of her own daughter.
“That’s how they sense them, you know,” Beck said.
She blinked. “I’m sorry, what?”
“The monsters. They don’t see very well. The way they find their victims is by sensing their beating hearts.”
Virginia glanced at her daughter, who had seated herself on the floor against the wall, now warm and content. Lady Cullum’s wealth would give them a measure of security, but perhaps there was an additional way the girl could protect herself.
“ThereI think that’s her.”
Virginia felt the relief she had expected when they made it across the border wash through her veins. She turned to the window and followed Beck’s gaze as two stately horses materialized through the fog and rain. They were drawing Lady Cullum’s carriage, the same coach Virginia had ridden in with her five years ago, only now there were bolts on the doors and thick, black bars across the windows. Two armed men sat on each side of the coachman, and when the carriage stopped, they leapt down into the mud, unlatched the door, and slid it open. A wide, black umbrella emerged, and then finally, Lady Cullum.
The wealthy widow had no relation to the royal family, but one would never suspect it from the way she carried herself. Her firm posture and smooth gaze were nothing short of regal, and Virginia had never known a woman more confident or quick-witted. Even now, in a downpour on the ghostly East End docks, she walked up the path to the office door as if ascending a throne. The two armed men followed close behind her, and once the three of them reached the building, Beck opened the door and extended his hand to help her through.
“Lady Cullum.”
“Mr. Beck,” she said in her firm, crisp voice as she took his hand and allowed him to guide her inside. “I can’t thank you enough.”
He nodded deferentially and took her dripping umbrella, while the two other men remained outside the door, keeping watch through the rain. Lady Cullum turned and searched the room, and when she found Virginia, her eyes grew soft and visibly moist, and the thin line of her mouth curled into a smile.
“My darling girl.”
“Lady Cullum,” Virginia murmured, her own eyes suddenly stinging with tears.
The regal woman swept across the room.
“Silly child, call me Mary.”
She embraced her, filling her lungs with her familiar lilac scent, and Virginia closed her eyes and allowed the tears to slip down her cheeks. Besides her daughter, no one had embraced her since her parents died, and she hadn’t realized until that moment just how much she’d missed the comfort of someone else’s arms. Then, with a jolt, she also realized she still had the gun in her hand.
“Oh, wait,” she said, pulling back from the embrace and walking around Lady Cullum to hand the gun back to Beck. “Thank you. I won’t be needing it now.” She wiped the tears from her eyes and then turned back to Lady Cullum, but she was no longer looking at her.
She was looking at her daughter.
Virginia’s muscles tensed. She’d known this moment was coming, but she still was not prepared.
“Is this… your daughter?” Lady Cullum asked, turning back to her.
Virginia swallowed, set her jaw, and walked over to the girl, then helped her to her feet and took her hand.
“Yes, it is.”
Lady Cullum held her gaze and then looked at the girl again, and Virginia knew she was calculating her age and doing the math. There was no way she didn’t recognize those amber eyes; the secret Virginia had kept from even her parents was now laid bare. The room seemed to shrink and the air seemed to thin around her, but then Lady Cullum spoke.
“What a lovely child,” she said, glancing up. “She looks just like you, Virginia.”
Those words, combined with the warmth and understanding that shone in her face, filled Virginia’s lungs with air and her eyes with grateful tears. She knew Lady Cullum wouldn’t ask her any more questions, wouldn’t force her to open the wounds she’d worked so hard to close. But others, she knew, would not be nearly as kind or sympathetic. No one else who had known the doctor could find out about her daughter.
Or the strange, inexplicable things the girl could do.
Lady Cullum bent down and extended her hand to the child. “How do you do, my dear?”
Virginia felt her daughter’s skin obediently cool as she took the woman’s outstretched hand and replied, “Very well, thank you.”
Lady Cullum beamed. “What a proper young lady you are.” She released her hand and straightened back up. “Well, now that we’ve all been introduced, we’d best be on our way.”
They hurried out through the mud and rain toward the waiting carriage. The two armed men returned to their seats on either side of the coachmen, and Beckhis pistol still at the readyhoisted the trunk up into the carriage and climbed in beside Lady Cullum, across from Virginia and her daughter.
“I’m sorry you had to arrive this way,” Lady Cullum said to Virginia as the carriage lurched and then rattled up to the street and away from the docks.
“There’s no need to apologize. How else could we have gotten inside a heavily guarded city?”
“You wouldn’t have had to cower inside a crate like some kind of criminal if the Lord Mayor hadn’t refused to listen to me, as usual.”
“The Lord Mayor?”
“Harlan Branch. He’s in charge of the city now.” Lady Cullum sighed and shook her head. “The queen, all members of parliament, and most of the House of Lords escaped as soon as the crisis broke out. They relocated to York and made it the temporary capitol, leaving the Lord Mayor to run the city until the quarantine ends. I asked him to make a special provision for you to be allowed inside, and he not only refused me, he specifically instructed the border guards to deny you entry.”
“But why?” Virginia asked. “What could it hurt to let me in?”
“He said it would be a waste of time,” Lady Cullum said with a snort. “That only real scientistsand by ‘real,’ of course, he meant ‘male’could possibly be capable of discovering a cure. In truth, however, I think he simply resents the influence I still have and wanted to show me once and for all that he’s the boss of the city.”
Virginia’s chest tightened. “What will he do when he finds out I’m here?”
“He’ll remember that I’m a powerful woman who’s not to be trifled with. And then, when you do discover a cure, he’ll apologize and thank me.”
Virginia flushed, both with admiration for her audacity and with pride for how fervently she believed Virginia could help. But then the warmth dissolved, replaced by a rush of icy fear.
“But what if he’s right?” she asked. “I never finished my degree. I’m hardly qualified
“There’s no one more qualified than you. You were studying with the doctor when he first created the drug.”
“But he kept all that a secret from me, and this new drug isn’t the same
“But it exists because of his.” Lady Cullum leaned forward, her fierce gaze penetrating the shadows. “You will find a cure, Virginia. And in the meantime, I will do my part by creating shelters.”
“Yes. For the people who are infected.”
Virginia knit her brow, her blood running cold. “You mean… for the monsters?”
“They’re people,” Lady Cullum replied, leaning back but not averting her gaze. “They have a horrendous disease, but they are people like you and me. If I can create a place where they feel safe enough to admit they’re infected and lock themselves away from society with dignity, then we can make the streets that much safer until you find a cure.”
Virginia’s daughter yawned and laid her head in her mother’s lap, and Virginia smoothed her hair with one hand and pressed the other against the carriage wall to keep herself upright, as if she were physically bending beneath the weight of the challenge ahead.
“We can do this,” Lady Cullum continued, leaning forward again and clutching Virginia’s free hand in her own. “All hope is not lost.”
Virginia nodded, her throat dry, and Lady Cullum squeezed her fingers once more and sat back in her seat.
“Together, we will end the curse of Dr. Henry Jekyll.”

Hope you enjoyed! You can pre-order the book on Amazon, add it to Goodreads, AND sign up for a Goodreads Giveaway!

Monday, August 3, 2015


Welcome to the trailer for THE HEARTLESS CITY! It's short - only 30 seconds - but I had an awesome time making it. :)

Enjoy - and feel free to share!

Wednesday, July 29, 2015


Here it is! The gorgeous, stunning covert art for my book, THE HEARTLESS CITY!

I adore this cover and can't wait for everyone to finally read the book when it comes out August 17th!

You can pre-order it for your kindle or other electronic device here. I'll let you know when the print copy becomes available if that is what you prefer. :) Feel free to spread the word and/or add it to goodreads - I appreciate it!

Happy Wednesday!

Monday, May 4, 2015

Writing and Being a Parent: Part of the Writer Mama #Bloghop

Hello, everyone! As part of my Twitter friend and fellow CQ author, Sharon Bayliss's Writer Mama Bloghop, I am writing a post about being both a writer and a parent. For those who don't know, I have a five-year-old son named Max and I'll be giving birth to another boy around the end of this month. Part of the prompt had some questions to spark ideas, so I just decided to answer the questions in order. Here we go!
  • How do you make time to write?
I get up and write before my husband and son are awake. Usually this means getting up at about 5:30am or so. It may sound terrible to some people, but I have always been a morning person. Usually - with the help of coffee - my mind is bright and alive in the morning; whereas at night, my mind is a useless pile of mush. I also grab some time here or there during my son's naps, and over the summers (when my husband is working and I'm not) I'll sometimes have babysitters come over to watch my son and then I'll go to my local coffee shop and write there for a few hours.
  • How does your spouse feel about your writing?
My husband is incredibly supportive and one of the first people who encouraged me to follow my dream and write. I've read about some authors whose spouses read and edit their work, but that is NOT how things work with us - it would make us both miserable. He supports me with encouragement and by helping me find the time to do it, and that is exactly what I want and need.
  • What are the common questions or comments you get about being a writing mom?
Most people say things like, "I don't know how you find the time!" and I usually respond with the truth about what it takes: dedication and sacrifices.
  • Where is the strangest place or circumstance where you've found time to get some writing done?
I've written in a notebook while taking my son to the public pool, made notes on napkins at fast food places, and speak-texted into my phone while driving to and from work.
  • How much time a week do you spend writing? How quickly do you write books?
Every week is different, and I definitely go through phases that are much more productive than others, but it's taken me about six to nine months to write each of my four books. My most recent two (the one being published, THE HEARTLESS CITY, and its sequel, THE HYPNOTIC CITY) took longer because they're historical fiction and required additional research.
  • What impact (if any) do you hope to have on your children by being an author? Would you want your children to follow in your footsteps?
I just hope it encourages my sons to follow their dreams, whatever they may be. Being a writer requires so much work and brings so much rejection; I want them to see that I kept on trying even when it got hard and do the same with whatever their dreams are.
  • How old will your children have to be before you let them read your books (if ever)?
My books are all YA, but I would feel comfortable letting my sons read them in 5th or 6th grade I suppose. Now, whether or not they would WANT to read them is probably another story... :)
  • What tips or words of wisdom do you have to share?
If you think that having kids will make it impossible for you to be a writer, you are wrong. I didn't start writing novels until after my first child was born. Since then I've written four books, gotten an agent, and a book deal. Trust me, if I can do it, you can.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Solving Plot Issues with Character Development

One of the most frequent questions I get from my creative writing students is how to deal with writer’s block. My reply is always the same: that writer’s block isn’t real (as Jennifer Blanchard explains so well in her blog) but merely an excuse for not writing. However, when writing or plotting a novel or any creative work, some problems can arise that can make you feel stuck or unable to move forward, and I discovered a way to solve one such problem recently.

In Stephen King’s fantastic book, On Writing: a Memoir of the Craft, he describes only having what he refers to as “writer’s block” one time, and he realized the solution was to - ironically - create a “new problem.” In his case, he needed to kill off a bunch of his characters in order to make a new tragedy and goal for those left alive, and just a few weeks ago, I made the same discovery – not by killing my characters off, but bringing a new one to life.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I have been writing at a much slower rate lately because of my current pregnancy. However, since that last post, I have A) been feeling much better, B) finished the sequel to The Heartless City (it is called The Hypnotic City and is currently in the hands of my agent for revisions), and C) started researching and plotting my next novel (another YA historical fantasy unrelated to the others). While plotting, I ran into a snag: I needed the ownership of a building to go to a certain character at the end, but due to issues of legality (as well as simple reality) I couldn’t make it happen. I decided to let the issue go for a while and focus on other parts of the book – specifically character development – and in the process, a brand new character revealed herself to me. I thought about her, wrote about her, and eventually she became a developed, important part of the story, and only then did I realize that her existence also completely solved my building ownership problem! Everything fell into place and I’m now almost finished plotting, because I discovered – like Stephen King – that in order to solve a problem you simply need to create a new one, and – as Anne Lamott reminds us repeatedly in Bird By Bird – plot is something that grows out of character. Character is everything.