Friday, November 2, 2018

Jane Jordan - Sojourn Into the Supernatural


When Jane Jordan was a schoolgirl, she thought it took real inspiration to write a story. Although she enjoyed reading, her preferences leaned more toward art and biology. But her fascination with the supernatural was something  she couldn’t deny. “I believe growing up in England, a place full of strange folk tales, haunted castles and ancient graveyards gave me my first inspiration,” she recalls. Later, she had her own strange experiences and lived in a 500-year-old thatched cottage that she shared with the ghost of a cat. She also worked in a 1000-year-old castle that had its fair share of supernatural entities. These experiences would provide the inspiration she needed to become a writer.

Jordan was born in Essex, a town southeast of London. In 1992, her husband’s job necessitated a move to Michigan, a few years later she moved to Englewood in Florida. After nearly fifteen years in America, they returned to England, ans Jordan was surprised to find it difficult to adjust. “I’d become Americanized,” she explains. “I felt like a foreigner in England.” During this time, her interest in biology and love of gardening led her to study horticulture, and she eventually took a job as a horticulturist for a botanical garden in England. In 2013, she returned to the states, settling in Sarasota. Jordan kept busy gardening and helping her husband with his business. She also began writing articles for Florida Gardening Magazine. But a trip to England in 2004 was the catalyst that sent her life in a new direction.

Jordan and her husband had rented an ancient house in the town of Exmoor, and she became bewitched by the place. “Something happened that’s hard to explain,” she recalls. “We were driving down this narrow lane between high hedgerows when the road suddenly opened up and we were confronted by this magical house. There was something about it that captured my imagination. I fell in love with it.” Jordan began researching the house’s history and learned that Samuel Taylor Coleridge wrote his famous poem “Kubla Khan” there.   She also discovered that the house had some other-worldly residents. “The house had this haunted feeling about it,” she says. “On the first night, I was in the bedroom at the dressing table, and the closet door just opened behind me. A few other weird things happened. The caretaker told me that others had weird experiences there. All these things set my mind in motion and inspired me to write a haunted house story.” That story would become her first novel, Raven’s Deep – a dark romance that combines vampire lore with a modern love story.

Raven’s Deep spawned a gothic vampire trilogy. The second book, Blood and Ashes, takes the characters from Exmoor to London in a tale that Jordan calls “a mixture of love, revenge and horror.” The final book, A Memoir of Carl, tells the story of a man who, after being bitten by a vampire, allows the love of his life to believe he is dead rather than expose her to his true nature.

Jordan’s next book, The Beekeeper’s Daughter, actually started out as her second novel. “I began writing it years ago, but the other books got in the way,” she says. “When I got serious about writing, I wanted to write a witchcraft story set in a different time period.”  The Beekeeper’s Daughter tells the story of a young girl growing up on the English moors in the 1860s who, unbeknownst to her, possesses special powers inherited from her mother, a beautiful witch. “The witchcraft element was powerful and intriguing,” Jordan says. “Writing this book took me on a creative journey with lots of twists and turns.”

Jordan’s fifth novel, Whisht Hall, is set in a grand house on England’s beautiful and wild Dartmoor. “The moor is famously remote, filled with great granite outcrops, dense mists, and dangerous mires,” she says. “In Dartmoor, granite forms the uplands and the land is capped with many exposed granite hilltops known as tors.  It is a place of heather moorland, wooded valleys, and meandering rivers.” Dartmoor has also been an inspirational location for writers. Renowned for mysterious legends, it inspired Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to write his famous Hound of the Baskervilles. “It is not a stretch of the imagination to understand where he got the idea from,” Jordan says, “Dartmoor is home of the legendary Whisht Hounds, or the hounds from hell.”

Scheduled for publication in June, 2019, Whisht Hall is a multilayered thriller that spans twenty years and two continents. “I like to combine locations, in this case, entirely different countries, and construct a story around different cultures,” Jordan explains. “My other location in this book is New Orleans, seemingly a world apart from Dartmoor.  What I ended up with was a compelling story of the deep south, combined with the dangerous moors of Dartmoor, and a novel layered with betrayal, deception, and Voodoo.” 

Jordan's latest project has been a collection of short stories. Titled Dark Matter, this is a collaboration with her daughter and award-winning illustrator, Sarasota artist, Charlotte Jordan. "Over the years, I'd written quite a collection of short stories," Jordan says. "It was an ambition in the back of my mind to showcase some of them, along with Charlotte's artistic skills." The stories in Dark Matter are inspired by horror, the supernatural and the macabre.  “I like to draw on real experiences in my work, and many of these stories have a thread of truth running through them,” Jordan says. 

Feeding the Pigs” is one example. It tells the tale of three brothers whose lives are bleak. They are ruled by the eldest, Charles, a vile and violent man who no longer cares for his hungry pigs. The sense of despair and horror is overcome when his brother, Jack, can no longer stand the life and confronts Charles, resulting in bloody retribution. The story was based on a real house Jordan visited in England. “The house was strangely atmospheric, as if something awful remained within the walls,” she recalls. “This feeling led me to ask questions of people in the village, and the story they told me, along with my own impression of the place, led to this dark tale.”

“The Witch of Old Cleeve” was also based on an account from a local who lived close to a small village in Somerset, England. Some of the villagers believed that an old woman who lived nearby was a witch who could turn people into animals. “This story sparked my imagination, and, along with the colorful dialogue that the Somerset characters have, I thought it made for an interesting short story,” Jordan explains.

Jordan finds many inspirations to draw upon in the old countries of the world, with their ancient castles and haunted mansions. But when she returned to Florida, she began researching old stories and haunted places in her home state. This research inspired her to write a few Florida ghost stories, two of which, “Shadowlands” and “The Conch House,” are included in Dark Matter.

Like many other people, Jordan enjoys horror stories and the thrill of the unknown, but only in a good way.  “Dark fiction can make you confront your deepest fears, it can play on your darkest childhood terrors,” she says. “It allows a reader entertainment on a similar level to what our Victorian ancestors got, when they attended weekly seances. The difference being, with literary horror, once you close the book you are safely back to reality.”


For more information, visit the author's website at www.janejordannovelist.com .








Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Monster Mania - A Guest Post by Russell James



This month, Fabulous Florida Writers is pleased to welcome guest blogger Russell James. James is the author of 14 nail-biting thrillers and 8 short story collections. His latest release, Curse of the Viper King, is the third in his Grant Coleman series. James was our featured author on August 1, 2017.
 
My latest release is Curse of the Viper King. Set in the Amazon, it follows the adventure of paleontologist Professor Grant Coleman and environmental activist Janaina Silva as they try to find their way home. They discover an isolated logging camp, and the chance to hitch a ride back to civilization.


But the workers uncover a fossil of a giant snake, almost fifteen meters long. Grant is thrilled, but the superstitious workers believe they have let loose a demon.


That night, the world begins to unravel. A mysterious creature attacks the camp, kills several men, and sinks the only boat that can get them home. Soon Grant and the others are in a battle against colossal spiders and a descendant of that great fossilized snake. The key to survival might lie in the lost pyramid of the Aztec Viper King, hidden deep in the rain forest. But they need to get there alive, and one member of the crew has an agenda that doesn’t include Grant and Janaina ever getting home.


This is Grant Coleman’s third adventure, following his encounters with giant scorpions in a cave sealed for ten thousand years in Cavern of the Damned and his exploration of a dinosaur-infested plateau in Monsters in the Clouds. He doesn’t have the best of luck in making travel arrangements. All the stories are self-contained, like Indiana Jones movies, so you can read any of them without reading the others.


I’ve written a lot of horror novels, some pretty graphic. I attend a lot of horror conventions, and frequently have kids ask their parents if they can buy one of my books. I have to wave them off from some of the hard-R rated stuff. But I can direct them to the Grant Coleman series from Severed Press. They are not written on a kid’s level, but they don’t have any language or sex, and the violence is all Jurassic Park monster stuff. Fun for the whole family!


All the Grant Coleman books have some kind of giant monster in them. All are based on real life animal that are much smaller. The Afterword in each book tells you just how close the fictional one comes to the factual. It’s fun to let people in on how strange some real life animals are.


My next release will be The Playing Card Killer from Flame Tree Press in February 2019. This one is a thriller about a serial killer loose in the Tampa Bay area. Floridians might recognize a lot of locations in that one. Stay tuned for a update as that time draws near.

For more information (and some free short stories), visit his website at http://www.russellrjames.com  

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Marty Ambrose - Free-Thinking Females


If you enjoy books with strong, independent female protagonists, Marty Ambrose is a writer you won’t want to miss. This Pine Island novelist has penned eight books that feature women who live life on their own terms. “I like writing about women who challenge the status quo,” Ambrose says. “I’ve always been interested in how they do this.” 

A St. Louis native, Ambrose had dreamed of being a writer from her earliest years. “I’ve always had a love of language, and I started writing little stories in elementary school,” she recalls. “Later, I fell in love with the classic writers, especially Edgar Allen Poe. Something about him made me want to write like him. Maybe it’s because we share the same birthday.” After earning her undergraduate degree in English from the University of Missouri, Ambrose traveled to the United Kingdom to pursue graduate studies at the University of York.


It was during her three years abroad that her parents retired to Florida. “I came to visit and loved it,” she says. She inquired about teaching positions at Florida Southwestern State College and was offered a job. This was the beginning of a thirty-year teaching career and established Ambrose as a full-time Floridian. “I love the laid-back lifestyle and being able to enjoy the outdoors year-round,” she says, an enthusiasm she shares with her husband, former news anchor Jim McLaughlin, and Mango, a 90 lb. German Shepherd who happens to have an appetite for Pine Island mangoes.


Ambrose embarked on her writing career fifteen years ago with a romance novel titled Engaging. She followed this with a second romance, Heat Wave, before deciding to change course. “There are two parts of me,” she explains. “There’s the humorous side and there’s the romantic side that’s more intense and emotional.” Ambrose decided to explore her lighter side with Perils in Paradise, a cozy mystery set in Florida that introduced free-spirited Mallie Monroe, a journalist with a penchant for solving murders. Perils in Paradise was the first of five Mango Bay Mysteries: Island Intrigues, Murder in the Mangroves, Killer Kool, and Coastal Corpse. “The Mango Bay Mysteries were fun,” Ambrose says. “I enjoyed writing them.”


Ambrose’s latest novel came as an outgrowth of what she describes as the worst year of her life – a time when she thought she’d never walk again. In 2015, she suffered a serious back injury. A usually active woman with a passion for long-distance biking, Ambrose found herself housebound for three months awaiting surgery. “I realized that when you’re injured, everyone’s life goes on without you,” she says. “So I read. A lot.” One of the books she read was The Young Romantics. In the book, she came across a small excerpt from the journal of Claire Clairmont, the forgotten stepsister of Mary Shelley, author of Frankenstein and wife of poet Percy Bysshe Shelley. Intrigued, Ambrose began reading more about her.  “Claire was peripheral,” Ambrose explains. “She was left behind by the people who were most important in her life. It all coalesced for me.” It was then that Ambrose decided to give her a voice.


Claire’s Last Secret, a novel Ambrose describes as historical women’s fiction, takes readers on a fascinating journey through time to the “Haunted Summer” of 1816, a period that produced two seminal horror tales – Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and John Polidori’s The Vampyre. During this summer, Claire became pregnant by Lord Byron, the love of her life. The story, told from the perspective of an elderly Claire, shifts from 1873 to 1816 where she relives the events of that momentous summer and uncovers a secret that rocks her to her core. Publishers Weekly praises the book as “…most effective as a study of a young woman who takes a huge risk with her body and soul and spends the rest of her life dealing with the consequences.”


Ambrose’s meticulous research was made possible by a grant from Florida Southwestern State College that enabled her to travel to Geneva and Florence in 2016, which was the 200th anniversary of The Haunted Summer. While there, she was able to see Bryon’s actual letters and the original manuscript of Frankenstein. “I’ve studied the Romantics most of my life,” she says. “I thought I knew them, but I didn’t really until I made them characters.”


What began as a stand-alone novel has now become the first in a trilogy. “It started as a story, but then it took on new aspects,” Ambrose explains. “It deals with the interconnectedness of life and the way our past dominates how we live in the present.” The next installment, A Shadowed Fate, is half-finished and scheduled for release in 2019. “The Trilogy will take Claire on an odyssey of love and redemption,” Ambrose says. “The second book will tell more about her journey and how she heals from her past.” Ambrose will be spending two weeks in Italy doing research and serving as a panelist in the Women’s Fiction Festival.  


Ambrose hopes readers will enjoy reading about women who live outside the box. “What I enjoy most about writing is creating characters,” she says. “They become so real to me. It’s such a  joy. I love it!”



For more information, visit the author’s website at www.martyambrose.com.