Monthly Archives: June 2014

Sorren’s Secret History—Behind the Scenes of Deadly Curiosities

Several of the reviewers who read Deadly Curiosities commented that the first book didn’t feel like a first book. Instead, they said it seemed as if the characters and setting was already lived-in, as if they were coming in to the middle of an established universe.

They were. I’ve been writing short stories in the Deadly Curiosities universe now for several years, both the modern setting you’ll see in the book, and settings in the 1500s and 1700s, other times and other places that give readers insight into the background of Sorren, the story’s nearly 600 year-old vampire.

If you want to know what Sorren and the Alliance were up to before Cassidy’s time, here’s a brief recap.

Sorren was brought across as a vampire in 1465. He was “the best jewel thief in Belgium” until he botched a job and nearly got caught by the night guard. As he was hiding in a cellar, certain to be caught and dragged off to a dungeon, a stranger emerged from the shadows and offered him a way out. That stranger was his maker, Alard. Alard was already part of a nascent project between immortals and mortals to get dangerous magical objects off the market, the Alliance.

In 1565, Alard introduces Sorren to his first job for the Alliance, fighting a demon in Antwerp. Alard also introduces Sorren to his human partner, Carel, and Carel’s son Dietger, who run an antique shop (Vanities) that gets bad items off the market. Later on, Sorren teams up with Dietger on several more adventures in and around Antwerp. (Find the details in the short stories “Vanities,” “Wild Hunt,” and “Dark Legacy” on Kindle, Kobo and Nook. “Vanities” also appeared in the anthology, “The Bitten Word.”)

Skip ahead to the 1770s, and Sorren is now a major player with the Alliance. He has several antique shops around the world to help remove bad objects from circulation, including one in Charleston, South Carolina in the American Colonies. When two young men run afoul of pirates and a murderous necklace, Sorren and his human partner Evan jump in to take care of matters before more people die. Those two young men, Dante and Coltt, become Sorren’s new protégés, privateers in the Alliance’s cause. Haunted bag pipes, a soul-stealing judge and other nasties await. You can find details in the short stories “Steer a Pale Course,” “The Low Road” and “Among the Shoals Forever”—all on ebook as short stories. (The original stories appeared in the anthologies “Rum and Runestones,” “Spells and Swashbucklers” and “The Mammoth Book of Ghost Stories by Women.”)

You’ll meet a lot of Cassidy’s neighbors, friends and allies in Deadly Curiosities, but Charleston is a big place, and there’s too much going on for just one book. And, a number of things mentioned in the Deadly Curiosities novel connect back to the short stories. You don’t have to have read the stories to understand the book, but if you do, you’ll have an insider’s perspective.

For example, readers first meet Voudon mambo Mama Nadege in “Among the Shoals Forever”. She and her descendants, Lucinda and Caliel, are two of Cassidy’s most important allies. Caliel isn’t in the novel, but he shows up in “Coffin Box” (on ebook as a short story), and in “The Restless Dead”, a story for the Realms of Imagination anthology coming this fall from Dark Oak Books.

Mrs. Ernestine Teller, sweetgrass basket weaver and powerful root worker, plays a crucial role in the Deadly Curiosities novel, but she is also an important part of the story in “Retribution”, a story for the Athena’s Daughters anthology from Silence in the Library Publishing. And she figures prominently in “Wicked Dreams” (on ebook as a short story).

Father Anne Burnett, an unorthodox Episcopalian priest, makes her first appearance in “The Final Death,” (my free novella on Wattpad) and she also plays an important role in “Wicked Dreams.” She’s the descendant of Father Conroy, one of Sorren’s allies from the 1700s, and a member of the Society of St. Expeditus, a secret organization of Anglican priests who help fight monsters and dark spirits.  It’s also where you’ll first meet Ryan Alexander who leads a team of Urban Explorers. “The Restless Dead” introduces readers to the SPOOK ghost hunters, led by Kell Winston—expect to see both men and their groups show up often in future stories!

Deadly Curiosities Book Two won’t be out until 2015, but there will be more short stories direct to ebook and in anthologies coming between now and then. You may want to grab them all so that you don’t miss a thing!

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Come Party with Me to Launch Deadly Curiosities on June 25!

I’m holding an all-day Facebook Launch Party on June 25 and you’re invited! (Parties on Goodreads and Reddit, too!) Fun, freebies, contests and games—enter to win free books and short stories!

Meet 20+ of my author friends who are celebrating with me. Find out about their new books and upcoming projects, get a sneak peek at some cool new anthologies, ask questions about writing, publishing—anything at all!

Best of all, meet authors, talk about books, nab some cool virtual party favors, play party games and have fun!

It all starts here at 10:30 a.m. (Eastern Time) on Wednesday, June 25 on Facebook:

Here’s the Facebook line-up:

10:00 – 10:30 Me

10:30 – 11 Gaie Sebold

11 – 11:30 Pip Ballantine

11:30 – Noon Chris Verstraete

Noon – 12:30 Trisha Wooldridge

12:30 – 1 Heroes anthology authors

1-1:30 Leona Wisoker

1:30 – 2 Keith DeCandido

2-2:30  Cynthia Ward

2:30 – 3 Jim Lavene

3 – 3:30 Me

3:30 – 4 Jennifer Brozek

4-4:30 Joshua Palmatier/Benjamin Tate

4:30 – 5 Tricia Barr

4-5:30 Clockwork Universe authors

5:30 – 6 Athena’s Daughters authors

5:50—6 Me

6-6:30 Realms of Imagination authors

6:30 – 7 Kim Richardson

7-7:30 Tera Fulbright

7:30 – 8  Danielle Ackley-McPhail

8-8:30 With Great Power authors

8:30 – 9 James Maxey

9-9:30 Natasha Rhodes

9:30 – 10 Kelly Harmon

10 – 11 Me

On Goodreads, I’m doing an all day Ask the Author live chat! Enter to win a copy of Deadly Curiosities. Freebies! Games! Fun! I’m giving away an ebook each hour—must participate to win!

On Reddit/Fantasy, I’m reviving my Ask Me Anything for a Q&A, and doing a giveaway for copies of Deadly Curiosities!

If you’re in the mood to party, come join me for more Deadly Curiosities parties and signings!

  • Jun 27-29 LibertyCon, Chattanooga, TN  (launch party)
  • July 9 Reddit Featured author
  • July 11-13 ConGregate, Winston-Salem, NC (launch party)
  • July 19 Book signing Barnes & Noble, Pineville, NC
  • July 23 London, England—Signing at Forbidden Planet, stock signing at Waterstones
  • July 31 Cardiff, Wales—Signing at Waterstones
  • Aug. 1 Edinburgh, Scotland—Stock signing at Waterstones
  • Aug. 9 Book Signing at Books a Million Concord Mills
  • Labor Day Weekend DragonCon Atlanta, GA

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Welcome to the Hawthorn Moon Event 2014!

It’s that time again—a week when we celebrate the summer solstice (or the Hawthorn Moon as it’s called in The Summoner) with a look at new books, new interviews and a whole lot of fun!

Here’s what’s happening this week:

News flash!  Deadly Curiosities 2 is planned for 2015!

Where to find more adventures with Cassidy, Teag and Sorren before the second book comes out!

  • The Final Death novella takes Cassidy and crew on a whole new mission filled with vampires, voodoo and cursed objects—free and complete on Wattpad:
  • Three full Deadly Curiosities Adventures short stories are available on Kindle/Kobo/Nook in ebook for just .99 each:
    • Buttons—the story that launched the Deadly Curiosities novel. A hungry ghost haunts a dead man’s journals, and Cassidy and Sorren must destroy the spirit before it exacts its price in blood.
    • Coffin Box— When a prominent man and his wife die suddenly, a cursed gift appears to be the culprit. Cassidy, Teag and Sorren must hunt a supernatural killer before it strikes again.
    • Wicked Dreams-– Inexplicable murders among King Street merchants look like the work of a long-dead serial killer. Cassidy, Teag and Sorren go looking for an undead slasher before the body count rises.
    • Retribution: An all-new Deadly Curiosities story in the Athena’s Daughters anthology from Silence in the Library Publishing. An antique hip flask and a vintage poker set lead Cassidy and crew on a hunt to stop a ghostly killer nursing a decades-old fatal grudge.
    • The Restless Dead: Another all-new Deadly Curiosities story in the Realms of Imagination anthology from Dark Oak Books. An antique sewing machine may hold the key to preventing a deranged loner’s murder spree, but can Cassidy and her crew put the pieces together in time, even with some Voodoo help?

Stay tuned—I’ve got fun and surprises planned all week, and you’re invited!

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Epic Fantasy is No Place for Wimps


I’m always amazed when I run into someone who tells me that strong women characters–especially women who could fight–didn’t exist in the “real” Middle Ages.  Usually this happens when the person’s entire knowledge of how things used to be has been shaped by bad TV movies and costume dramas.

Read any serious medieval history, and you’ll see plenty of women who knew how to get what they wanted.  One of my favorite is Eleanor of Aquitaine (1124-1204), the mother of Richard III.  Back in the Twelfth Century, she rode off to the Holy Land to retrieve Richard after he’d been kidnapped, bringing an army with her.  Not only did she get him out of jail, but she managed to navigate a dangerous political climate and live to be 90 years old.

It took grit just to be a woman and survive, which I think a lot of people overlook.  As with women today who have grown up on farms, a certain amount of muscle is required just to kill the livestock required to be tonight’s dinner.  Noble women might not have had to do chores, but women of every other social class had hard physical labor to do just to keep a household running.  That builds muscle and know-how.  These women were not shrinking violets.

All too often, people will focus on a small period in history and generalize to think that those conditions applied to everyone, everywhere.  In reality, women’s role, rights, legal status and responsibilities changed dramatically over time and across geography.  Just because women in England in the 1600s had certain social limitations does not mean that the same was true of women a century or so earlier or in other countries.  Then, as now, the variations were numerous and fluid.

That’s one of the reasons I love writing about strong women characters in epic fantasy.  I tend to write ensemble casts, and I have important female characters in a variety of roles: warrior, noble, mistress of the manor, healer, spy, courtesan, madam, oracle, queen, priestess, whore, farmer and craftsperson, to name a few.  In some cases, the women are born into a role and responsibility, and in others they make their way however the opportunity presents itself. What they all have in common is a flinty determination to create the life they want, for themselves and for those they care about.

When you stop to think about how tough a woman had to be to survive without antibiotics, without modern obstetrics, often without access to any kind of knowledgeable medical practice, and without central heat, refrigeration, labor saving devices, easy transportation or even decent public sanitation, you realize that our foremothers were tough old birds.  They had to be. That’s the side I enjoy bringing to light in my epic fantasy worlds, they women who make their way, in spite of everything.  Those women never run out of adventures.

Reign of Ash, book two in the Ascendant Kingdoms Saga launches in April, 2014 from Orbit Books.  My new urban fantasy, Deadly Curiosities, comes out in July, 2014 from Solaris Books. I bring out two series of ebook short stories with a new story every month for just .99 on Kindle, Kobo and Nook—check out the Jonmarc Vahanian Adventures or the Deadly Curiosities Adventures.

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BLOODSUCKERS – A Vampire Runs for President

bloodsuckers-510by Michael A Ventrella

“Politics, intrigue and vampires—a match made in Washington, DC. A bloody good political thriller that sucks you in from the start and gets its teeth into your imagination.”

At least that’s the opinion of one Gail Z. Martin about my latest novel BLOODSUCKERS:  A VAMPIRE RUNS FOR PRESIDENT.  (Even if there were two Gail Z. Martins, this is the opinion of one.)  She was kind enough to ask me to talk about the book here.

BLOODSUCKERS is a political thriller — with vampires.

Norman Mark is a politician with skeletons in his closet (literally).  He’s a liberal Democrat who is constantly attacked by the tea party extremists who say he’s a socialist and an atheist and wasn’t born in America — and a vampire!  Everyone laughs at the crazies but it turns out they’re right about all of that.

Disgraced reporter Steven Edwards supports Mark completely.  When Mark is shot at a campaign rally, Steve looks to his acquaintance who drops the smoking rifle, smiles, turns into a bat, and flies away – leaving Steve as the prime suspect.  He is rescued by the vampire believers (Jon Stewart calls them “Batties”) and he goes into hiding.  The only way he can prove his innocence is by proving to the world that vampires actually do exist while  constantly on the run from the bloodsuckers and the FBI.

Steve learns that vampires have been controlling things behind the scenes for thousands of years, accumulating wealth and influence.  Many vampires don’t like the idea that one of their own is running for President and they’re trying to stop him, worried that he will expose their existence.  Others support Mark. Many of them want Steve dead.

BLOODSUCKERS is not a traditional vampire novel but more a political conspiracy thriller with humor.  Oh sure, people turn into bats and drink blood, but as I said, this is political.

Readers of my novels and short stories know to expect plot twists and turns and surprises along the way.  Part of the fun in writing it is leaving the clues so that when the twists happen they are unexpected but logical.  I also enjoyed working in real journalists like Brian Williams, Rachel Maddow, and Stephen Colbert.  OK, mostly real.

There’s a lot more information on my web page, along with links to other reviews and the first few chapters (so you can get hooked).  You can get the ebook, nook, or kindle for as little as $6 or so.

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The Long and the Short Of It


They say that you should do something that terrifies you every so often to keep yourself on your toes.

For me, that meant saying yes when I began to be invited to participate in anthologies.  I write epic fantasy, big fat dynastic sagas that easily run 600 pages.  The idea of writing a complete story in under 30 pages seemed terrifying.

So I said yes.

And I found out that short was fun, too.  At first, I told myself it was like a self-contained chapter, one that gave a complete scene.  After all, chapters run 20 pages or less, so it was a do-able comparison.  That helped me get up the nerve for that first anthology.  Plus I was intrigued by the concept–pirates and magic–and I thought it would be fun.

I created a world for that first short story, and when I was invited to do more anthologies, I decided to return to that world.  That got me into the third and fourth as well.  Those were stories that ranged from the 1700s to the 1500s, so it was still very comfortable from an epic feel.

Then came the Magic anthology for Solaris, and they wanted something modern.  I’d already gotten over my fear of switching from the third person narration I used in epic stories to the first-person of the short stories.  Jumping into the modern era and the real world, in an identifiable city (Charleston, SC) was scary in itself.  But I said yes, and took the leap.

Solaris liked the story.  In fact, they liked it so much, they asked for a novel set in that world.  Deadly Curiosities, my urban fantasy novel, will come out in 2014.

But that’s not all that came from taking the leap.  Beginning in January of 2013, I made a commitment to bring out a new short story every month direct to eBook.  Some of those are in the past and present of the Deadly Curiosities world.  Some are prequels to my Chronicles of the Necromancer book, epics in short story format.  I’ve gotten a lot more comfortable with the form, and I’m having more fun than ever.

So the next time you get an offer to move outside your comfort zone, say yes!  You never know what doors it could open.

Reign of Ash, book two in the Ascendant Kingdoms Saga launches in April, 2014 from Orbit Books.  My new urban fantasy, Deadly Curiosities, comes out in July, 2014 from Solaris Books. I bring out two series of ebook short stories with a new story every month for just .99 on Kindle, Kobo and Nook—check out the Jonmarc Vahanian Adventures or the Deadly Curiosities Adventures.

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