“Play something.” The command slid from the genie’s tongue as his penetrating gaze crept down from the teenage girl’s face and onto the ivory piano keys. Seated on a couch next to the baby grand piano the girl, Lisette, kept her stare on the genie’s dark features. Her hands, which were clasped on her lap, were untwined as the black pool of Azhar’s eyes shifted to a vibrant shade of violet. With the genie’s eyes bathing the white colored piano keys in his violet glow Lisette felt the need to slide her caramel hued hands inside the front pockets of her skirt. She ran her tongue over her parched lips. “Sure Azhar, whatever. I’ll play you a song but only if you tell me how you became attached to the bottle.” The genie’s violet tinged eyes stood out in stark contrast to the black onyx like appearance of the rest of him. His glowing gaze shifted to where Lisette’s hands lay hidden under the sheer fabric of her clothing. “Of course I will tell you Lisette, my master, and then you will understand why I need you to speak the words.” When the word ‘master’ landed on her eardrums, she flinched. She detested her title and the genie knew this. “Why in blazes do you insist on calling me that?” “It is what you are. The torn skin of your fingers and trickles of your blood is the reason why I can at least drift for a time out from the pit of my prison. Or as your kind fondly likes to refer to it my bottle. Simply to serve you.” She drew in a deep breath then exhaled. “Oh my word Azhar, you act like you’re my slave or something and you’re not. Let me remind you that I haven’t wish for a single thing. Yet.” “You will.” “I might not. There is nothing I want that I can’t get myself.” The words had just leapt from behind her lips when the appearance of the genie shifted. No longer was he this large, dark looming presence because now he had taken on the appearance of a teenage boy. Lisette’s eyes grew wide before she yanked her gaze off the mask Azhar had fashioned himself with. “Stop it, you stop it right now.” The likeness of the boy slithered away as the dark, looming presence of the genie returned. “It is not my intention to upset you Lisette. I am happy to be of service to you. Grateful for your touch.” She had discovered his bottle near the shore where she sat on the beach just outside the rear of her home. Once her fingers had touched onto then encircled the bejeweled bottle it had latched onto her palm skin like thorns. The torn flesh and droplets of blood sank into the genie’s bottle, allowing Azhar to drift beyond its rim. Clutching onto the inside fabric of her skirt pockets Lisette rose up from the couch and went over and sat down on the dark, wood bench facing the piano keys. Only then did she slide her hands out from within the safety of her pockets. “I’m playing. Now tell me.” “It was the early 1800’s. During this time, we genies roamed freely upon this land. Allowed to do so as long as we found a willing human master whom we could latch onto. My kind could only step out of the hidden realm when a human granted us permission to do so and in return we would give them what they desired most. My first master was Mr. Taffer a complex human who owned a slave plantation. He was thin and short in stature. Many of those he owned, including the children, were several inches taller than he. When he spoke, his voice was low and he had trouble meeting one’s gaze. Mr. Taffer did not have the stomach for what it took to run such a large plantation containing slaves that sent whispers of rebellion throughout the fields.” Azhar paused. His sweet, smoky scent encircled her. She pulled it deeper into her nostrils as her fingertips played toward the climax of the song. “He uttered a wish for me to act as the property’s overseer. And for nearly a decade it was I who ensured that his slaves labored without any further hints of rebellion.” Lisette’s hands hovered above the keys for a moment. “How did you do that?” The fingers touched back onto the delicate keys. “When I first showed myself to these slaves I expected them to be afraid. Though I loomed over them and spoke with a tongue thick with accent, they were not fearful. Instead, they were intrigued. Brought from West Africa some had skin that was darker than mine and they too had foreign tongues. But my eyes, it was the violet hue of my eyes that unnerved them for a time, causing them to obey me. Late one night my ear picked up the sound of hushed voices. A large number of the men were speaking to one another. They were using their native language, more alarming was the presence of a crude map on which one was making marks. Both actions were forbidden by law. I relayed what I had seen to Mr. Taffer. He instructed me to handle the matter.” Lisette could feel the genie beside her now. Heat radiated from him. Beads of sweat broke out around her hairline. “Did you?” “After nightfall I gathered the men and as the rest of Mr. Taffer’s slaves looked on I had them place their hands palm down atop a table.” The girl interrupted with, “Then you what?” “I did what comes naturally to me. I set fire to their hands. The flame started at the fingertips and made its way up towards the wrists. The stench was great and it hung in the air for days after.” Lisette had to will her hands to keep playing a song she could no longer comprehend. A bead of the sweat crept down falling onto her eyelashes. She blinked not wanting to lift her hands from the piano keys fearful of drawing Azhar’s attention to them. “Were kids there also?” “Of course.” “Awful.” “It was important for them to see what would happen if they broke the laws.” Lisette nibbled on her bottom lip. Azhar said casually, “I restored the flesh to the male’s hands less than a week later.” “Oh, well then.” “This was how Mr. Taffer learned of my ability to put living flesh back onto bone. A short time later, his wife fell ill. She had a cough that shook her body. A green slime of some sort secreted from her cracked lips after each coughing spasm. A man, a doctor as you call him, came and assured Mr. Taffer that his wife would soon recover. She did not. Mere hours after he left, just before dawn, she rose up straight in her bed. Gripping her throat as her breaths came in gasps. I hovered in a dark corner watching this whole ordeal. Fascinated by the scene before me. Once it was over Mr. Taffer behaved in a way I had only seen female humans act. He clung to his wife’s body, whose appearance was quickly turning revolting, and he cried. At some point Abigail, one of the female slaves, whom worked in the home, entered the room. She wanted to fetch the one called doctor. Mr. Taffer’s crying ceased as swiftly as it had begun. He ordered Abigail from the room threatening to cut her tongue out if she spoke to anyone about what she had seen.” “‘Mrs. Taffer is not dead. You hear me Abigail?”’ “His tone was robust for once. Then he remembered I was still in the room and beckoned for me to come closer. The stench of death had already begun to set into his beloved. He placed his red lips over her graying ones as he wished for me to pull her back from death.” “And did you?” “I did. However, no genie can return a soul to a body once it has left. The woman was Mrs. Taffer in appearance only. She did not act as my master thought she should and this angered him. Unable to look at her he had the lady locked away in the farthest region of the house. He blamed his agony on me. As the days went by and the crazed, animal like wailing of Mrs. Taffer filled the halls his anger grew. He felt that I and others like me should have to suffer a similar fate. He turned to the very ones that he wished me to keep under his thumb. The enslaved ones had grown fearful of me convincing themselves that I was a demon. Late one evening I was summoned to the library by my master. I entered and found him waiting for me with a male slave believed to have ‘healing hands’ and who clutched a thick book with pages trimmed in gold. His cold stare and the way my master stood behind him unnerved me. I waited for a break in the silence. One came yet it was not the sound I expected. Instead of Mr. Taffer’s voice, I heard a soft click sound. It was the library door being closed behind me.” “This scared you?” “Troubled is more like it, you see when enclosed in a room I am rendered powerless. This slave held the book up like a shield and a spew of foul words fell from his mouth. Words cursing my kind, chaining us to bottles. Invisible chains that only stretch as far from it as to grant the wishes of humans who may or may not uncurse us.” Lisette did not want to stop playing fearful that once she did her lovely hands would soon become engulfed by Azhar’s vengeful flame. Since she was his master it was the only thing he could do to her. The thought of never feeling the smooth, coolness of the ivory piano keys beneath the precise stroke of her fingers saddened her. She bit down hard onto her bottom lip, which helped to anchor her back in the moment. Azhar’s violet glow was on her hands now. It felt hot like when she placed them just above the flames of a campfire. “I granted my former master’s wishes. My kind has suffered greatly because of one human’s emotional response. The words Lisette, when the time comes you will speak them, yes?” She slid her fingers from the piano keys and shoved her hands deep into the front pockets of her skirt clenching the fabric there.
Tanya Yvonne: What is Promo Day? Jo Linsdell: Promo Day is an annual online event that takes place at www.PromoDay.info. It brings people in the writing industry who are dedicated to promoting, networking and learning together. This free event takes place in May and this year we had 10 awesome presenters sharing loads of tips and advice on a variety of topics. There was also plenty of opportunities to promote and network both in the on site forums and via Twitter using the hashtag: #PD13.
TY: Oh, cool. What genres do you write in? JL: Currently, children's books and nonfiction in the "self help" category.
TY: Do you feel you need to, at some point anyway, concentrate on a single genre? JL: No. I don't like to limit myself. I like experimenting with my writing and when marketing and branding is done right it's not a problem to jump between genres.
TY: Do you ever think of yourself as a brand? If so what is yours? JL: Yes. I am a brand. I think more authors need to realize that in this business having an author brand is important, especially if you plan on writing more than one book. Hopefully "Jo Linsdell" makes people think of children's books, Italy, and marketing (especially social media related) as these are my main areas of expertise. When you build a strong author brand people will automatically think of you when they see certain things.
TY:Do you have a favorite genre? JL: This is a hard question for me as I love all the genres I write. If I could only pick one it would probably be children's picture books though. Writing for kids is always fun and it means I can involve my sons in my work too which makes the whole project even more special.
TY:What are your self-published titles currently available? JL: Currently I have Italian for Tourists (an English-Italian phrasebook) and A Guide to Weddings in Italy, then my children's books: Out and About at the Zoo and Fairy May.
TY: How have you profited from these projects both financially and emotionally? JL: It's a roller-coaster ride but totally worth it. I've earned royalties every month since I started out back in 2006 and Out and About at the Zoo has been a best seller since it's release in June last year. As a self-publisher you need to put in even more work in order to be successful but that just makes it mean all the more. TY:What are you working on now? JL: I'm working on a non-fiction book called Virtual Book Tours: Effective Online Book Promotion from the Comfort of Your Own Home. Lots of step-by-step how-to, and loads of resources for finding stops and promoting the tour. It should be ready for release this summer.
Well, here it is the prologue to my YA novel 'Violet Eyes.'
Azhar is Violet Eyes
I will not die here. Lisette pulled her knees to her chest, encircling them with her long arms as her gaze moved slowly about the space. The inside of Azhar’s bottle differed greatly from the lavish, close quarters depicted in popular stories about genies she had read as a child. Instead of an area drenched with vivid colors and lavish furnishings the bottle’s pit was devoid of bright tones. And where she imagined plush pillows and heavy drapery there was hardness saturated with gloomy grays. So Azhar was being truthful when he stated the bottle was his prison and not his home. She drew her bent legs closer against her curvy body as a conversation she once had with Azhar reentered her mind. “Is it true what they say about genies?” He had turned his deep violet eyes on her; they glowed brightly as his gaze slid over her caramel tinged hands. “Yes, unable to kill our masters we at times have resorted to burning their hands.” She pulled her gaze away from his and slid her hands into the front pockets of her skirt. “That’s an awful thing to do to a person.” “The hands,” Azhar said thoughtfully. “Are rarely burned to the point where they drop off.” Lisette let out a grunt. “That doesn’t make it any less awful.” “I understand why you would think that is true. But do you see our side of it? We only do this because it is the touch of human hands that beckon us genies from our cells or as your breed likes to call them bottles. An act, which signals an opportunity for us to bargain with you. Our new master. I grant you three or four wishes and in return you only have to grant my one wish.” Azhar had held up his end of the bargain. For he had granted her wish for a home, another wish for her to have someone to share that home with and her final wish for a child to complete her family. Yet when it came time for her to grant his single wish, she had refused to utter the words he had urged her to say. She had no choice but to deny him what he so desperately wanted, for the sake of her kind. If only I knew what he desired before I wished for any of it. Lisette bit down hard onto her bottom lip a move that yanked her back in to the moment. The dire reality of the situation was like canine teeth sinking deep into her flesh causing her body to quake with fear. Azhar’s scent -sweet and smoky- was strong, overpowering. She rubbed her arms hoping to keep his odor from seeping into her pores. She did not want to carry any part of him with her. As she rubbed, she noticed her hands. She brought them up so that the little light that filtered in could act as a spotlight on them. When she was seven her mother insisted she take up piano. She detested having to devote so much time to learning the notes. Yet now the thought of never feeling the smooth, ivory keys beneath her fingertips ever again forced tears to well up in her dark eyes. As his master she knew Azhar could not kill her, just maim her. But she also knew this rule did not extend to her loved ones. Whenever her thoughts turned to her husband and child, she would steer them in another direction like seeking a way out of his bottle. Unfolding her legs, she braced herself against the curve of the bottle as she pulled herself in to a standing position. Squinting she looked directly at the beam of light filtering down. Her gaze moved onto the surrounding walls, which contained crude shapes that jutted out. Lifting her right foot onto one of the lower juts, she wrapped her fingers around two of the higher placed ones. Just as she moved toward trying to climb out a searing, tugging pain crept across her face. Her hands slipped from the juts as instinctively they moved to touch on the fiery skin of her cheeks. She let out a moan as her body connected with the hard floor of the bottle. The tugging sensation intensified. Her fingers were pressed firmly against her face while the eyes blinked wildly as she tried to comprehend what was happening to her. The skin under her hands cooled as the fiery feeling died down. Slowly she let her fingers slip from covering her cheeks as the tugging, pulling sensation also edged away. Her stare roamed the tight space as she sought out any reflective surface. Spotting one her hands were quick to grasp it but slowed as they brought the rectangular object nearer to her face. A lump rose in her throat. She swallowed pushing it back down as she closed her eyes. With the mirror directly in front of her she drew in a deep breath before raising the lids of her eyes. Her full lips parted as the breath was released. Nothing appeared wrong with her face. No hideous burn marks as she had envisioned. As relief washed over her, a piercing sound cut through the silence. Her body jerked and the shattering sound of glass hitting the floor mingled momentarily with that of the offensive, rumbling noise. She tried lifting her arms but could not. Her body felt as if it were being crushed under the force of a great wave. Just when she thought she could no longer bear it, the pressure was released. She blinked and no longer was she down in the pit of Azhar’s bottle. Instead, she found herself in a familiar place. The dining room of her home. A near exact replica of herself was seated at the table next to her beloved husband. Her infant child cradled in its arms. She attempted a step and found that her body was frozen. He had made her in to a living statue. She could see her flesh was ashen in color like those angelic statuettes in the church graveyard. The eyes of the replica were violet in color and she understood now why her face had felt hot and why it seemed as if it were being pulled off. Azhar had concealed himself under a mask of her likeness and made her invisible to all eyes except for his piercing, violet ones. An innocent family meal is what he used to draw all that she loved most to him. Her gaze left his flaming eyes and went to where the entrance was. Except for a single door leading to a hallway the formal dining room was closed off to the rest of the house. She had to close that door. Once confined to a small space Azhar would be powerless and his body would revert to smoke, which his bottle would beckon back. Imprisoning him once again. “Now will you speak the words Lisette?” His voice was inside her head forcing her attention back on him. A pool of tears formed in her eyes as her heart ached. “No.” The single word did not slide easily off her tongue. Though barely a whisper it landed hard on the ears of Azhar angering him. The mask of her likeness he wore fell away as his body reverted to fire. Tears ran down from the face of Lisette. Helplessly she watched as the flesh of her husband bubbled and fell from his bones. Could do nothing as the pain stricken cries of her only child filled the space as its life was being consumed by Azhar’s angry blaze. Once they were reduced to nothing more than ash swirling about her Azhar lifted his spell off her. She knew he expected her to fall upon the floor weeping over her great loss. Instead, she ignored the scent of charred flesh in her nostrils, the taste of her husband and child’s ashes in her mouth and focused on the image of them burning to death against the genie’s body. Her aching heart knocked hard against her rib cage as she ran for the door. She made it out of the room and had her hands on the door poised to push it shut when Azhar realized what was happening. Within seconds, her hands began to burn. The fire started at her fingertips and ran up toward her wrists. She screamed but kept her flaming hands positioned on the door. Using her whole body, she shoved the door. It closed with a loud thud trapping Azhar inside. The flames threatening to engulf her hands were quelled. She heard screams but did not know if they were hers or Azhar’s as the bottle reclaimed him. When help arrived she insisted no one touch the beautifully, jeweled adorned bottle lying amongst the ashes of her family. Later with her charred hands wrapped in gauze, she crudely handled a pair of tongs. Using it to grip the bottle. After dropping it a few times she managed to get the genie’s bottle inside a rectangular, wooden box. With her elbow she slammed the lid shut then stepped aside to watch as her sister secured the lock. That night they walked onto the end of a long pier. As her sister threw the wooden box into the water the aching in Lisette’s heart eased a bit. “For the sake of human kind I hope the sea never lets go of Azhar.”
I amTanya Yvonne and thanks so much for reading and sharing.
‘Mediocre at Best’ is the title of one of aspiring poet Damien Boath’s poems but the work this tweet man and other half of NewbieWriters.com produces on their weekly podcast is anything other than mediocre. Below is his take on such things as sizzling genres, his fave interviewee and why the site NewbieWriters.com is definitely worth checking out.
Tanya Yvonne:What’s different about NewbieWriters.com? Damien Boath: The beauty about Newbie Writers is that it is portable. It has gone from a website that housed static articles on how to write and become published in magazines, to a popular blog and podcast. The podcast has really become the core of Newbie Writers and can be listened to on Itunes, Stitcher Radio, or via a pop out player on the site. That way you can fire up the latest podcast and keep browsing. You can hear us while you drive to work. Our aim is to provide constant content to motivate, to inform and to also keep it casual for people who are interested in writing. After all, talking about writing shouldn’t be boring! You don’t have to be a writer to listen to Newbie Writers. I am the newbie. I am not a published author and so I take on the roll of the audience. I am the ultimate Newbie and so I try to ask questions that I think us fellow newbies would ask. You shouldn’t need to invest the time in Newbie Writers, we are here to compliment the time YOU invest in your current writing project.
TY: I want names. Favorite interviewee(s)? DB: That’s a tough one because we have had so many guests it’s even hard to remember them all. I would say Genese Davis (author of Holder’s Dominion) was a fantastic interview because I am a fellow gamer and the conversation was a really easy one. Dionne Lister (author of Shadows of theRealm) was another great guest and has been on a couple of times to fill in. Set the record for the first F-bomb on our show!
TY: Most recent read? DB:Elfstones of Shannara by Terry Brooks. I am a fan of fantasy and tend to roll through the series of books I have every so often.
TY: Genre category that is trending up/down? DB: Well that’s a matter of personal taste. Genres such as romance and erotica are always ‘hot’ or popular. For me personally I am not a fan whatsoever. When it comes to genres that don’t seem to be prevalent of late I feel it’s horror. I seem to be seeing a lot of fantasy (thanks to Game ofThrones and The Hobbit revival) and less horror novels/books in bookstores etc. Vampire Romance (aka Twilight genre) is slowly dying thankfully. At the end of the day though, one should write what they are passionate about, a book will do well regardless of genre if the author not only writes well (that’s a given) but if they throw their weight, passion and every waking moment behind it. Sometimes one book can turn an icy genre into one that’s on fire.
TY: A yay or a nay for self-publishing? DB: I would say yay to self-publishing for a first time author. From what I gather, self publishing allows you to experience the world of taking a typed piece of work and converting it into a product. You have the choice to just pump it out in an e-book without a second thought whilst sipping on a cup of coffee, or you can spend the time formatting it into a short print on demand run. Con: Everyone self publishes, and everyone thinks they will become rich off it. It is unlikely that will happen. A con for both traditional publishing and self publishing: Your work (novel, novella, book, poetry anthology) becomes a product. One needs to see it from a business point of view. Sure you’ve done the hard yards and typed for countless nights on end to nurture your baby, but we hear time and time again from new authors that the work truly begins once the book is out. If you are not prepared to work hard on promotion and throw your passion behind the book, then it will fade into the 99 cent bin on Amazon and never get read.
Tanya Yvonne: NewbieWriters.com why should writers invest the time? Catharine Bramkamp: Writers learn all they can about their business and their world. So we listen to podcasts and classes in the car, we read in our genre, we read out of our genre, we collect writing books, we belong to book clubs, we take classes, and we join writing organizations. So for a newbie writer, a good introduction to this world would be to listen to Newbie Writers Podcast and sign up for the Newbie Writers Guide blog feed, both the blog and the podcast focuses on making it easier to be a writer today.
TY: Favorite interviewee? CB: Our favorite interviews are with writers and publishers who are willing to engage in a conversation and are comfortable with going off their script to just talk. TY: What do you mean by, “going off their script?” CB: We want to deliver real people and real information to our listeners and so we are not interested in interviewees who insist on controlling the interview by sticking to a written script and pre-written questions. We like spontaneity and yes, a little craziness!
TY: Which genre is boiling hot and which one is on ice? CB: One of the challenges in writing is to resist the latest trend. Once you’ve reviewed a dozen vampire books, then another dozen business books promising four-hour workweeks, you think, that’s what I should write because it’s hot. It’s not hot, by the time these books hit the books shelves or the top 100 on Amazon, the subject is over: cold and dead. Our job as creatives is to think of the NEXT hot item, and it’s not fifty shades of anything. The best thing a writer can do is write what you love, write what you want to bring into the world, write what you want to make sure everyone knows. And bring that originality to the table. Certainly follow trends, but don’t try to follow them too closely, you want to be different and new.
TY: Title of the last book you read? CB: Walt Whitman, A Cultural Biography TY: Self-publishing, can I have a pro and a con? CB: Pro: Self-publishing gets your book out quickly for a low cost. Ebooks should always be self-published, it’s easy and the books will actually earn some money. Self-publishers earn more money per book. Amazon and Create Space, along with Smashwords makes the distribution of your books and ebooks fairly trouble free. Con: Self-published titles are not easily distributed into bookstores and it is lonely. A hybrid, boutique or traditional publisher can help find good editors, book coaches and cover artists. More traditionally minded publishers will feature your book in catalogues and place the book in bookstores. Self-published books are not promoted by anyone but the writer. Which is the biggest challenge of self-publishing: All the promotion is up to the author - and if there is one thing authors hate to do, is promotion, followed closely by sales, taxes and death. Not necessarily in that order. Well, now you know. Happy reading, writing or whatever:!)
Someone once described a personal essay, a piece based on a childhood memory of one significant Fourth of July, I wrote as being “too safe.” This criticism both baffled and angered me. In the essay I had wrote how it was a miracle my father did not lose an eye or a limb as he chugged down a beer he held in one hand and lit firecrackers with the other. The criticism upset me because I got the sense that the reader wanted to see something more shocking written there. Like a passage about him chasing us around in a drunken rage threatening to set us on fire (for the record something like this never happened).
As time passed and I continued writing this early dig still gnawed at me. It was not until after I became a mother and the length of my free time shrinking forced me to watch my favorite shows like ‘Mad Men’ in marathon weekend sessions did it finally click with me as to what that reader really wanted from my essay. She wanted to know how I felt in that moment watching my father nursing a can of something that impaired his judgment while handling beautifully packaged explosives with his wife and children only inches away, cheering him on. How my young mind went about processing what I saw was the true area of interest. Take for instance the character Sally Draper portrayed by +Kiernan Shipka on ‘Mad Men.’
This character fascinates me because I love seeing how a young girl is internalizing this very adult world around her. For example this one scene during season five when she stumbles upon her step-grandmother performing a lewd act on her father’s business partner. She deduces that New York is a dirty place. I’ve learned that it is crucial for me to convey how key events in the lives of my characters are helping to mold them that the reader not only wants to see the world through their eyes for a time but to also slip under their skin, to know things about them they try so hard to keep hidden away. Don Draper played by +Jon Hamm is a great example. Once he has a dream in which he strangles a woman he had an affair with during his second marriage. The scene expresses to the viewer that Don is struggling with being faithful to wife number three and that she is unaware of this inner conflict. Those aforementioned episodes are why I, Tanya Yvonne, am mad about ‘Mad Men’.