July 22, 2013

A Fabulous Top 10 with Melika Dannese Lux {Giveaway}

I have been an author since the age of fourteen and write Young/New Adult historical romance, suspense, supernatural/paranormal thrillers, fantasy, sci-fi, short stories, novellas—you name it, I write it! I am also a classically trained soprano/violinist/pianist and have been performing since the age of three. Additionally, I hold a BA in Management and an MBA in Marketing. 

If I had not decided to become a writer, I would have become a marine biologist, but after countless years spent watching Shark Week, I realized I am very attached to my arms and legs and would rather write sharks into my stories than get up close and personal with those toothy wonders.

1. Fav song/singer?
My favorite song is usually whatever I’m listening to while writing. Sometimes, a scene calls for absolute silence, while at others, it’s nice to have something pumping in the background to get the ideas flowing. For City of Lights: The Trials and Triumphs of Ilyse Charpentier, I listened to Lifehouse’s Hanging by A Moment. This song was a tremendous inspiration for me and became Ilyse and Ian’s anthem. For Corcitura, I listened mainly to Promentory from the Last of the Mohicans soundtrack when I was writing dramatic/conflict or chase scenes (the constant beat really helped focus my thoughts) and then Bleeding Love by Leona Lewis when I wrote a death scene for one of the vampires in the book. Given the sanguinary nature of the lyrics, I thought it was appropriate. ;)

For the dystopian/fantasy novel I began last year (and am still working on), I wrote the entire prologue while listening to Lux Aeterna (the version with LOTR-esque percussion and vocals). My gosh, that song is great background music when you’re writing about gargantuan beasts attacking in all their terrible grandeur! So fitting. For the other two chapters that I’ve written so far, I listened to the Gladiator soundtrack and other epic music compilations I discovered on YouTube.

Currently, for Uendelig (the first book in Dwellers of Darkness, Children of Light, an eight part series of loosely connected novellas in which young adults battle against creatures and fantastical beings from the otherworld that have crossed the void and ended up in our own), I haven’t been listening to anything while writing the opening chapters, but when I get to the draugr scene toward the end of the book, I know I’ll be digging into my stockpile of epic music to find something worthy for battle. ;)

Celine Dion has been my favorite singer since I was eight years old. I was lucky enough to see her in concert at Caesar’s Palace in 2005. Some singers sound terrible live, but Celine sounded amazing, even better than she does on her CDs. She was also really interactive and did quite a bit of dancing and kept up an incredible energy and excitement level throughout the whole show. It was a tremendous experience, and one that I’ll never forget!

2. Fav season?
Definitely fall. Just the feel of it. You can almost sense that it’s time to break out The Turn of the Screw for a millionth reread. Or is that just me? ;) I love the crispness in the air, the glorious burnt orange and golden hued leaves, the carte blanche you have to read all the scary/classic Halloweeney books (think The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, etc.) you want and classify them as “seasonal reading” without making all your Goodreads friends wonder if you’ve been bitten by a vampire and somehow developed strangely macabre reading tastes. ;) Plus, fall also means I get to bake these delicious chocolate chip pumpkin spice cookies that have become a tradition with me over the last few years.

3. Worst vacation?
I haven’t had one yet, thank goodness, although when I visited Paris in 2004, my hotel room was the size of a shoebox. There was also only ONE iron in the entire hotel, as we discovered when the concierge knocked on our door the second day we were there and asked for it back! But that’s beside the point. The important thing was, I was in Paris, and apart from the smallness of the hotel, the location was fantastic! I spent most of my time seeing the sights and wandering around the Rue de Rivoli, making daily stops at W. H. Smith English Booksellers. They were running a £2 for £5 and £3 for £10 sale, so I stocked up on all the UK Penguin editions of the Jeeves novels that weren’t available back home. I would go back to Paris just to shop there! ;)

4. Guilty pleasure?
British detective & mystery shows. I can’t get enough of them! Midsomer Murders was the show that launched me on this trajectory three and a half years ago, and I haven’t looked back since, moving on to Miss Marple (with Joan Hickson), Campion, Inspector Alleyn, Rosemary & Thyme, and, my most recent favorite (and probably most favorite of all) Inspector Lewis. As if visiting the haunts of C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien weren’t incentive enough to go to Oxford, there is now the added chance that I might bump into Robbie Lewis and Jamie Hathaway while they are on a case. ;) Thanks to Netflix (I love you streaming!), I’m currently time-warping back to the 1920s and enjoying Tommy & Tuppence. Such fun, and Tuppy’s hats are amazing!! :D

5. Fav book and/or author?
David Copperfield. I read this book close to sixteen years ago and can still quote passages and remember scenes vividly. All the suffering and hardships this young 19th century Englishman endured and all the mistakes he made in love and in life transcended the ages and became so relevant to me, a preteen living in the United States in the 20th century. That is truly a testament to the genius of Charles Dickens. It is also what I think makes a book a classic—its timelessness. 

My favorite author is Agatha Christie. I’ve read 40 of her books and plan to spend many happy years reading the rest of them. :D

6. One item you cannot live without?
As a writer, this would definitely be…my computer!!! I cannot even imagine writing a book, let alone a 700 page novel like Corcitura, in longhand. My admiration for Charlotte Bronte and Dickens especially (who was not known for his brevity) has skyrocketed ever since I became a writer. How did they do it?!

7. Hobby?
I’m a classically trained violinist, pianist, and soprano and have been performing since I was three. I wouldn’t call this a hobby, but for something completely frivolous and unbookish, I can probably recite the entire script of Jaws, complete with dialects and sound effects, and enhanced by the singing of various sea shanties! You wouldn’t want to watch the movie with me. I can also do a pretty mean Gollum impersonation, precious.

8. Fav movie/actor/actress?
Jaws. No question. I started watching Shark Week the year it premiered and became fascinated with Jaws around the age of five when I went to Pic ‘n Save and saw the movie poster. I didn’t see the movie in full until I was 15, but I can’t remember a moment when I wasn’t aware of Jaws. It’s been a part of my life for years.  

My other favorite movie is The Fellowship of the Ring. I love the whole trilogy, but The Fellowship (and Gandalf) had a direct bearing on my decision to become a writer, so it will always hold a very special place in my heart.

Favorite actor…hmm…how about we do a modern one and one from the past? Russell Crowe for modern (I love him in every movie I’ve seen him in, but am a huge fan of his historical epics  Gladiator, Robin Hood, and Master & Commander), and Danny Kaye, who has provided me with countless hours of laughter since I was a kid. There are also many classic actors I’m a fan of, including Humphrey Bogart, Tyrone Power, James Cagney, and Gregory Peck.

Favorite actress…Judi Dench. Love her! Her movies are great, but I’m a huge fan of her BBC sitcom As Time Goes By. I can watch that show over and over again, and have. I own the complete series (plus the reunion specials) on DVD, and am actually rewatching the final few seasons for what is probably the millionth time. It’s such a great show—like visiting with old friends. :D

I also love a bevy of classic actresses, too, such as Greer Garson, Vivien Leigh, Lauren Bacall, Maureen O’Hara, and Grace Kelly, just to name a few.

9. Fav food?
Jarlsberg cheese! Give me a handful of Jarlsberg, and I can write for hours.

10. Who would you like to meet? (dead or alive?)
Can’t I invite them all over for a ghostly dinner party and count them as one? No? Ok, then, let me think. I’ll keep it in the authorial realm and settle on C. S. Lewis. Jack! The Chronicles of Narnia have been a constant source of inspiration across all areas of my life for many years. I’ve read and reread my copies of the books to ragged shreds. One of my favorite of Jack’s quotes is “A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest.” I would love to hear him talking about his thought process when creating such magnificent stories that are relevant to both young people and adults, since that is something that I strive to do in my own writing. I would also love to have a deep conversation with him about faith, God, and, of course…The Inklings! Ideally, this chat would take place between us in the “Rabbit Room” at The Eagle and Child. Then Jack could give me a tour of Oxford, where we might just run into Professor Tolkien—and I would make Tollers read the “Riddles in the Dark” scene from the Hobbit in Gollum’s voice. As you can see, I’m determined to meet at least one other person from my phantasmal dinner party. ;)

Corcitura.  Some call it hybrid, others half-blood, mongrel, beast.  They are all names for the same thing:  vampire—the created progeny of the half-wolf, half-vampire, barb-tongued Grecian Vrykolakas, and the suave but equally vicious Russian Upyr.  Corcitura:  this is what happens when a man is attacked by two vampires of differing species.  He becomes an entirely new breed—ruthless, deadly, unstoppable…almost.

London, 1888:  Eric Bradburry and Stefan Ratliff, best friends since childhood, have finally succeeded in convincing their parents to send them on a Grand Tour of the Continent.  It will be the adventure of a lifetime for the two eighteen-year-old Englishmen, but almost from the moment they set foot on French soil, Eric senses a change in Stefan, a change that is intensified when they cross paths with the enigmatic Vladec Salei and his traveling companions:  Leonora Bianchetti, a woman who fascinates Eric for reasons he does not understand, and the bewitching Augustin and Sorina Boroi—siblings, opera impresarios, and wielders of an alarming power that nearly drives Eric mad.

Unable to resist the pull of their new friends, Eric and Stefan walk into a trap that has been waiting to be sprung for more than five hundred years—and Stefan is the catalyst.  Terrified by the transformation his friend is undergoing, Eric knows he must get Stefan away from Vladec Salei and Constantinos, the rabid, blood-crazed Vrykolakas, before Stefan is changed beyond recognition.  But after witnessing a horrific scene in a shadowed courtyard in Eastern Europe, Eric’s worst fears are confirmed.
Six years removed from the terror he experienced at the hands of Salei and Constantinos, Eric finally believes he has escaped his past.  But once marked, forever marked, as he painfully begins to understand.  He has kept company with vampires, and now they have returned to claim him for their own.

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Short Excerpt
Taken from Corcitura, Chapter 8, A Tavern in Venice

        “A toast to you, my brother,” he said, lifting his glass. “May your eyes be opened on this night, and may you see as you have never seen before. Knowledge is a very powerful thing. Drink and be free.”
       Red light shot through the glass, red light reflected from the candle guttering in its holder above my head. My eyes darted up toward the ceiling. First impressions are tricky things, and mine had been wrong—horribly wrong. There were no angels in these panels. What had I been thinking before? Demons cavorted in a pit of rocks and shattered skulls. Fire licked their hellish bodies as they danced through one torture scene after another. In the center panel, a huge, black-winged beast devoured something that was still kicking as it was being forced down the devil’s gullet.

       How could it still be kicking? Or, more importantly, how could I see it kicking?
       The figures in the panel were moving.

       Their movements were slow, tortured, dreamlike, but real—undeniably real. I watched, entranced, unable to turn away, as one poor soul after another was raked across hot coals or had its ashen flesh stripped by one of the devil’s overseers.

       I put my hand to my mouth, but still my eyes remained riveted to the ceiling. The other panels did nothing to cure my nausea. Eleven horned beasts—looking like crosses between satyrs and devils—formed a circle around a giant creature, half dragon, half man, that held a severed head aloft in its clawed hands. Blood dripped from the stump, falling into the waiting mouths of some of the beasts, as the others caught the liquid in black chalices.

       The fresco was blatantly hellish, but its living replica was even worse.

       I had lied to myself from the very beginning, deceived myself into believing that I was being fanciful and overly imaginative. Surely such monstrosities only existed in nightmares? Yet I had lived through a nightmare these past months, and that was no dream at all.

       I was still fighting against the awful truth, not wanting to give in, searching my mind for a logical explanation—but there was none. And the most horrible realization of all was that I had known, somewhere deep inside, ever since the day I first set eyes on that silver-tongued devil in Paris.

       Plague carrier.

       Living death.

       Drainer of life.

       The phrasing did not matter. No euphemism could strike fear into the hearts of men the way that single word could.


       And for me, the uninitiated, that single word meant death.

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