One year ago…

Whose idea was it to start a blog with Uni, a holiday, life, all within the first year of creation? Hmm? Who? My organisational skills have failed, my reading has failed, and my dedication has faltered. Always with intent or bringing it back from the lonely corner where it was continually pushed. Always hoping that what I had built up over the fractured year would remain when life got sorted again, I think it’s still there? Well as there as it was before, granted it wasn’t all that there to begin with if we’re honest.

One year ago I launched this blog. I had wanted to do it for so long, I wanted to write reviews about books I had loved, I wanted to explain what was exquisite about them and how they made my world a wonderful place. I wanted to read books that I hadn’t read before and if I hated them I wanted to figure out why, what was it that made me dislike it and find cause instead of just disliking it overall.

I never used to write reviews. I have been a Goodreads member for about five years and I never wrote reviews there either. It wasn’t a conscious decision, exactly, I just didn’t do it. But then a couple of years ago a friend of mine discovered Goodreads and she said that she looked forward to exploring the site and reading some of my reviews. It was then that I almost went to say to her that I hadn’t written any reviews and then I thought, ‘well why not? If she wants to read my reviews, my opinions and thoughts on a book I should probably start writing reviews’. So I wrote short reviews and long reviews and emotional reviews and all kinds for awhile and the idea of the blog grew. It had been there for awhile, popping up on occasion, but I never thought I could manage it, it seemed so hard and confusing. Funnily enough it wasn’t until a Uni course about 18 months ago that I realised blogs are not that complicated. The premise is there, it just needed to be started and so I took the plunge, a year and one week ago today I created my blog, technically, but today was the day it was released out on its own. Thinking back, before the chaos the rest of the year was to bring, it was beautiful. I had fun, people who read it enjoyed it, and I realised as it got more lost as the year progressed, just how much fun it was. Being able to escape for awhile and tell people about a book, just a simple book, that had had an effect on me.

In this year however I have had some wonderful opportunities I will remember forever. When I was still in the early months I was offered a chance to be part of a blog tour for the wonderful author Kerry Letheby. Her novel Mine to Avenge was a wonderful read and being part of her tour made me feel like I was helping something worthwhile. The second excellent thing was the amazing chance I had to not only get an advanced copy to review one of my favourite singers Aurelio Voltaire’s debut novel Call of the Jersey Devil, but I also got to interview him about it as well which was seriously the highlight of the year if we’re honest. I then subsequently ruined it by missing the chance to tell him I did all this when I met him, but we aren’t dwelling on that. I also got to do some great cover reveals, I have been asked to review people’s novels for them, and I also got to run a giveaway which was really wonderful.

But away from these great things, this  has not been the best first year I will admit. There were teething problems (understatement of the year) with the old site, and then so many interruptions and problems for the latter half of the year. Ignoring the three month Uni block, as well as the three week holiday, the other time I had seemed devoted to simply recovering from the emotional and work overload and suffocation I was feeling. I would look at these half finished reviews, of books I adored but I could not find the devotion to finishing them. What I realise now is I think I needed to recuperating time. I needed time after Uni finally finished to just gather myself up again after the mess of the last six months and try and hold myself together with more than sticky tape and safety pins. As I say, not much of a smooth start to this first year of blogging. But I will say that I have realised something in all this: the fact that through all of this I never once wanted to throw in the towel. I always felt guilty for neglecting my posts and for feeling like I let people down. That shows me that I do want to keep doing this. I know now that it’s going to take some time, I need to balance my time once more and work around things like Uni and slowly build myself up again before the new semester starts. Finding the passion again for what I like doing, gradually bring myself back.

I know this is not the most wonderful or uplifting of blog anniversary posts you may have seen, but this is where we’ve ended up. I’ve let out as much of my emotions as I am willing and I can’t really sum up this year without all the cracks. I am very grateful for those who have read my reviews this past year, and all those who found me on Twitter and Facebook and Tumblr, it is wonderful to feel supported and to be able to share things with you about books and reading and crazy things like fireworks and emotional instabilities.

I look forward to making this a better blog in this second year and building up my reviews once again. In the meantime I will quietly celebrate this one year anniversary because even after everything we cannot simply let it pass by unnoticed, and I hope you’ll join me in continuing this journey of reading and the world of books.


Another year over…

NewsWell, it’s certainly been an interesting year. There were ups and downs, boy were there downs, but luckily with my impenetrable emotional brick wall in place we don’t have to acknowledge those months now that it’s over. I have had it worse, of course it was more spread out than this year so whether that is a good thing or not I don’t know. But moving on!

Bookwise it’s been sad but wonderful. Because of things and stuff and life and everything I have hardly read anything. I managed just a mere 45 books this year, I think last year was 114 or something. Of course uni made that a problem because who has time for decent reading when you have too much to do and no time to do anything fun. But what I did manage to read was pretty spectacular. I am still behind on reviews, I know, I keep saying I will and I don’t, it’s the freedom. The fact I was locked into this uni thing with absolutely no time for months with barely a chance to think or relax or even watch TV, the thought of sitting too long on the computer writing is actually hard, I need to vege. I want to write, I do honestly, but relaxing and just enjoying my days catching up on doing nothing is wonderful. I am trying though. I need to keep trying.

I started this blog in January. In that time we have had so many things happen it is unbelievable. For newbies who may not know I started on, and after a few smooth months it crumbled and it crumbled bad. Server issues, site issues, an issue you want to imagine they caused me and after five months I had to pack up and move. I must say WordPress is better, much better. In the remaining seven months or whatever it has been great. I wrote some good reviews, I got to interview one of my favourite singers Voltaire about his debut book Call of the Jersey Devil and I wrote a wonderful review that people loved. I am still very much regretting that when I met him I froze completely and never got to mention I was the one who had interviewed him or wrote the review, but maybe next time when I have a bit more composure and less awe, I even forgot to take the book to get him to sign, granted I was there for a concert of his but that is besides the point.

I have said I do not want to stop doing this, I just need to find my way in again, get to a point where I can just finish a book and sit down and regurgitate all the emotions and feelings I had about it, that’s how most of my reviews have begun. Then I can find my way to finishing others, they are there, half finished and waiting. I think the new year is going to bring challenges but I want to be determined. Uni is coming to an end by mid year and after a stressful and crazy time when it starts again I am going to be at a loss and a freaking out state of mind where we could grab some evaluation time about what I am doing with my days. Christmas flew by, the year ends in six hours and who knows what is on the other side. I would love to just relax and watch TV and get invested in books and watch the days fly by until it is suddenly the end of January but the urge to not let that happen is also tugging at me. I have prac coming up in a couple of weeks in a library which is itself terrifying so we have an end point to my vegging, I am trying to do everything at once and it is making my head jumbled. So deep breaths everyone and let’s see in the new year like the responsible stable adult we’re convincing the world we are.

We’ll start with news. I have been lucky enough to be asked to review a book called Sun Poisoned by Nikki Rae, as a YA/NA paranormal romance it is intriguing. I also have been given the first book of the series Sunshine, so with both of them hopefully we can make them the start of our regular return. I miss you guys and my regular posts, they were a lot of fun. The other thing I must do is I also need to construct my Top Five list for the year. Last year had some wonderful books, this year had excellent books as well, they all seemed pretty spectacular so I get to revisit a few favourites, maybe it can help me finish the reviews as well, can’t be bragging about books when you don’t know what I really thought of them.

Other than that I think that’s all. It has been a good year, it has, all dramatic obscurity aside, it was a bit of everything, adventure, drama, action, young adult, fiction and non fiction, emotions and chaos, love and conflict, we’ve had it all. I hope you had a wonderful year yourselves, I implore you find and watch any fireworks you can get to tonight because they are sent by the gods and are the greatest things ever created. My absolute love and fascination with the beauty and gloriousness of fireworks can never be underestimated. Happy New Year guys, I will see you on the other side.

Aurelio Voltaire Interview

I have been excited about this for weeks. I was given the opportunity by the amazing Spence City Publishing to interview Aurelio Voltaire about his new book Call of the Jersey Devil and I am finally able to share it with you all! Now as we know from my previous post, I am a huge Voltaire fan so I was ecstatic and freaking out all at once. Now, I don’t want my dreams crushed by the revelation that it was via email, and I probably wasn’t the only one, but I will not have these dreams squandered. So, as we get the air of faux professionalism about us we can stop reducing our minor credibility we inflict upon ourself and get on with it.

Call of the Jersey Devil is Voltaire’s first fiction novel, one which is classified as a horror/comedy style, and is filled with wonderful artwork and an entertaining story about a Goth singer, five teenagers, and a legendary figure from Jersey known as the Jersey Devil. This is the story of these five suburban mall rats and the washed up Goth singer who find themselves stranded in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey where they discover two horrifying truths: The Jersey Devil, hellspawn of folklore, is in fact real; and New Jersey is the gateway to Hell.

As a homage to 80s horror and genre films I think what I liked most was this book has been described as having “Frankensteined together elements of Evil Dead, The Breakfast Club, Poltergeist, and This is Spinal Tap”, and this creation has created something that is funny, as well as terrifying at the same time. Fans and followers of Voltaire have been kept updated on the novel’s development via Facebook, Twitter, as well as Voltaire’s Nooseletters and website, and those lucky enough to attend shows have already been privy to an author reading of a chapter or so. I myself have been awaiting its release and I am over the moon to be able to participate in its promotion.

Once again I thank Spence City for giving me this opportunity, and thank you Voltaire for taking the time out of your hectic schedule to reply to my questions.

Did any of your music or film history influence the way you wrote Call of the Jersey Devil?

V: Absolutely! For starters, the book is populated by a handful of Gothic mall rats and so there are many songs from the genre that are referenced. They have conversations about The Cure, Black Sabbath, Danny Elfman.. there’s lots of stuff like that. And in general, the book is really an homage to the films I grew up loving in the 80s. Films like Evil Dead, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, The Breakfast Club. I think that someone who is familiar with those references is going to get a big kick out of this book.

A few years ago your advice to aspiring authors was “First you have to create the art; once the art is created the rest will come.” Is this still the case?

V: Yes, it still holds true. LOL! Unfortunately, having written a couple of books, I get a non stop stream of aspiring writers asking me how to get published (and for the record, I still don’t really know the answer). The problem is that the great majority of these people have NOT YET WRITTEN A BOOK! It’s kind of crazy. It’s like calling NASA and asking them to tell you in full detail the correct way to exit a lunar lander. Why should they waste their time? First you have to put in the work and become an astronaut. Then you have to go out in space a few times and THEN.. maybe someday, you get to land on the moon. But many people are not really interested in putting in the work. Sometimes they are not even interested in the art form itself.. They have no passion for writing or storytelling, they just like the idea of being a published author. They romanticize the idea of it. Honestly, I can’t even wrap my brain around it. For me, the most basic part is that I like to create, I live to create. If I was homeless and had no occupation, I would still be creating. I know this to be true because I’ve been homeless and I’ve been unemployed and I spent my days creating! LOL! The concept of being successful at it, making a living from it, that needs to come AFTER the deep seated desire to… create. Of course this is just my personal opinion. There are many people who are very successful who see it as a formula. They consider what’s popular. They write something that fits comfortably into the current trend and they find out how to get it published quickly. Those people suck.

So many other authors tell aspiring writers that they must read in order to write. You’ve mentioned before that you are not a reader of books, and yet reading Slaughterhouse-Five made you want to begin writing yourself. Did you find it more of a challenge because you were not a reader, or do you think a good story can be written regardless if you work hard enough on it and have a great story to tell?

V: I think the easy to answer to that is that there is a difference between writing and storytelling. I’m a storyteller. I have always been one. I’ve told stories all of my life. In my songs, in my comic books, in my films. Being a writer is different. There are rules to being a writer that you must follow, trends in writing you should know and perhaps emulate. Taking my storytelling and turning it into what people think of as writing today was a challenge, but not a huge one. I had an amazing editor, Trisha Wooldridge who was stern but kind and she guided me. I learned a lot from her and her input made for a much better book.

The reason Slaughterhouse Five inspired me to write, in short, was because when I read it, I instantly thought.. hey, this is how I speak! I imagined that if I already speak in a similar tone, that I could write a book, too. I was not aware at the time that you have to be Kurt Vonnegut to get away with it! LOL!

I think the end result on Call of the Jersey Devil is a book that’s written in a way that won’t startle anyone but still has enough of my irreverence coming through to perhaps have a unique slant. That’s my hope, anyway.

You have another book in the works with Mezco Toys, The Legend of Candy Claws, what is it about legendary figures that appeals to you, if there is any appeal at all?

V: Well, I guess you’ll be the first to know, but that deal fell through. Apparently Mezco bit off more than they could chew this year and sadly, my book was one of the casualties of them scaling back. It simply means that I’m back to where I was in the start, which was having what I think is a really great story on my hands and needing to figure out how to bring it to the world. It’s nothing that doesn’t happen all of the time in the world of business and nothing I’m not accustomed to.

As to the second part of your question… what’s not to love about legends? There is an inherent epic quality to legendary creatures and hey, when you can invent one of your own… it’s even better! I think Candy Claws or ‘Hargoyle the Christmas bat’ as he’s known to his friends, will see the light of day one way or the other and I think there will be people in the world who will fall in love with this giant, black furry bat the way I have.

 Despite your music typically being categorised as “dark cabaret”, you recently said your music does not have any particular style, is this true of your writing as well or is there a general dark humour similar to that of your albums?

V: My writing, like my music is, I like to think, multi-faceted. There is definitely going to be dark humor, there is going to be pathos, there are going to be moments of true terror, moments of levity, moments of tenderness. I don’t find any of this odd. This is how life is and for one to ONLY write comedy or only write tragedy, to me, seems alien and strange. For me, realism and truth is found in a place where comedy and tragedy live side by side at all times.

 You are very interactive with your fans on YouTube, as well as on Facebook and Twitter, do you look for inspiration from them in your work or is any inspiration you get from them purely serendipitous?

V: My fans play a big part in what I do. I mean, I talk to them pretty much all day long on the internet and all night long at the shows. They tell me what they like, what they don’t like. As I converse with them I learn about the things that move them, the things that bother them, etc… Now, consciously, when it comes time to make art, whether it be music, writing, films, etc… I am in my own head. My philosophy is that if I’m true to myself, if I write something that makes ME laugh or makes ME cry, there will be people in the world who will get the same thing out of the work. I really believe that. I think nothing resonates more strongly with people than honesty. But I’d be a fool to believe that all of the things I’ve experienced with my fans don’t trickle in. No man is an island. We are, in the end, subconsciously if nothing else, a product of our experiences, our interactions and conversations with the world around us.

You mentioned recently that a song on your upcoming album refers to one mentioned in Call of the Jersey Devil, did you plan the entire album based on the story, or was the new album written into the narrative?  

V: It’s a symbiotic relationship. When I set out to write a book about a washed up Goth singer, I drew from some of the early songs I wrote, ironically, songs from a decade before I started recording music. Primarily, because back then I actually wrote what one might call “Goth” music (as opposed to the dark folk/cabaret sound I eventually became known for). However, writing a book is a very time consuming process and in the months it took to write Call of the Jersey Devil, I spent a lot of time thinking about those early songs. Somewhere along the line, I got really excited about the idea of making the only album Raised By Bats (the band in the book) had ever released. And so… that’s the album I’m making. And I have to tell you, giving myself a reason to record and release the songs I wrote when I was seventeen years old has been one of the most surprisingly beautiful turn of events in my life. I have truly revisited all of the pain and hope from that time in my life. It’s been like finding an old scrap book from high school. It’s been… an experience.

What made you move to novels from graphic novels and nonfiction? Was it a natural progression?

V: Well, while it wasn’t really a conscious decision, I do have to point out that my experience is that no one cares about comic books! My graphic novels rank right up there with the most labor intensive and ironically thankless endeavors in my life. I worked for no less than eight hours a day (above and beyond what I was doing to pay the rent) to draw the pages of my Chi-chian then Oh My Goth! then Deady graphic novels. As far as I could tell, based on sales, people really didn’t care that much for them. However, I could never keep the toys in stock! Eventually, I stopped making comic books and only made the toys of the characters. To this day, I can’t keep the toys in stock. They are always the first things to sell out. I honestly don’t even want to think about it because I will get very misanthropic if I let myself believe that people don’t appreciate the thousands of hours that go into telling the stories and drawing the pages, but go bananas to get their hands on a plush toy that took ten minutes to design. LOL! Okay, yeah, let’s just stop talking about it.

You are a dedicated fan of Star Trek and Star Wars, do you read or secretly write any fan fiction about either franchise?

V: Nope. An ex-girlfriend bought me a Deep Space Nine novel as a joke from the gift shop of a hotel at which we stayed when we were on some tropical island many years ago. And when a monsoon hit, I did actually read it. It was… pretty bad. LOL! But no, I can’t see myself investing time in writing fan fiction. I have far too many ideas of my own and if I live to be a hundred, I will not have anywhere near enough time to bring them all to light.

How is your other story The Nothing going?

V: Terribly! LOL! I’m presently writing an album, touring, promoting Call of the Jersey Devil, preparing five different toy releases for this year, wrapping up my children’s book, writing a script for a feature film and doing another dozen things I can’t even think of right now. So, sadly The Nothing has really fallen behind. I don’t even have a full chapter written yet. But like everything else in the pipeline, I will eventually get to it and I will eventually finish it.
It’s just a matter of… time.

You can find out more about Aurelio Voltaire, his other equally amazing works, and any additional antics by visiting his website, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads profile, or his Youtube channel: The Lair of Voltaire

You also still have time for pre-orders before Call of the Jersey Devil is released on May 28th, 2013.