City of Lights is an IBD Award Winner!!!!!

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City of Lights IBD Award Winning Badge!!! :D

 

Wow, this is amazing! I’m so excited to announce that City of Lights: The Trials and Triumphs of Ilyse Charpentier has WON the Indie Book of the Day Award!!!!

Royal Certificates

Isn’t that awesome?! 😀

Please spread the word! 😀

Best wishes,

Melika

Melika’s Top 10 & Corcitura Giveaway at I Read Indie!

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It’s time for some fun on this Monday morning! Today, my Top 10 is being featured on the fabulous blog, I Read Indie. Many thanks to the equally fabulous Mandy for letting me hop on over to her site and share a little bit about myself and Corcitura! It was great fun! 😀

As a bonus, I am also giving away two Kindle copies of Corcitura to US residents! Follow the link to enter in the next six days for your chance to win:

http://twimom101bookblog.blogspot.com/2013/07/a-fabulous-top-10-with-melika-dannese.html

And while you’re there, check out a rather sanguinary excerpt from Corcitura.

Cheers!

Melika

Top 10 Reposted!

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!! 😀

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. 😀

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. 😀

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. 😉

New Interview and Corcitura Giveaway at Shut Up and Read!

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Happy Friday, everyone! Many exciting things are happening today! Head on over to Shut Up and Read for my latest interview, in which you will learn about the characters of Corcitura, discover what 80’s fantasy movie caused me to break my ankle as a child, read a brand new excerpt from the novel, and find out the latest news about Uendelig and the other planned works in my eight part novella series, Dwellers of Darkness, Children of Light.

And don’t forget to enter within the next six days for your chance to win one of five Kindle (US only) copies of Corcitura! http://shutupandreadgroup.blogspot.com/2013/07/q-with-melika-dannese-lux.html

Read on for the interview and short excerpt! 😀

1. Tell us a little bit about your main characters.

I had always wanted to try my hand at writing a book with multiple narrators. It’s fascinating how one character can perceive something and another can think he or she is completely insane and see the same events in a whole new light. When I set out to write Corcitura, I decided the best way to tell the story would be to have a trio of narrators pick up the strands and weave them into a tale that spans the years 1888-1895 and about a half dozen locations in Europe and America. Each narrator is interconnected with the others in ways he or she only begins to understand as the story progresses and the mystery deepens.

The lion’s share of the novel is spent with Eric Bradburry, an eighteen-year-old Englishman who embarks on a grand tour of Europe with his best friend, Stefan Ratliff. To Eric, the whole trip is a chance to see the world and possibly have the greatest adventure of his young life. The fact that he and Stefan are striking out on their own for the first time only adds to his rather grand expectations. He and Stefan have been inseparable for years (13, to be exact), and Eric has always trusted Stefan with his life, so when things begin to unravel almost the minute he and Stefan meet up with a coterie of bewitching and otherworldly people in Paris, Eric essentially has to grow up overnight and make several life shattering choices to try and save not only Stefan’s, but his own life and soul as well.

Six years later in Gilded Age New York, we meet Madelaine Dennison, our second narrator. Madelaine is a strong woman who fights for what she wants and is not afraid to speak her mind, even to her father (and this was a dicey thing at best in the Victorian age!), regardless of the consequences. She would literally “go to hell and back and cut off the devil’s head” to save the ones she loves. Madelaine, as one character calls her, is “a brick” and such a vital part of the second half of Corcitura that I don’t know how certain characters would have made it through without her. Can you tell I’m a fan of Miss Dennison? 😉

And then there is Zigmund Fertig. I love all my characters, of course, but Zigmund (the third and final narrator of Corcitura) is my favorite. Don’t tell the others. 😉 The shock and horror he endured at a young age at the hands of a Vrykolakas and the resentment and confusion he carried with him for thirty-odd years endeared him to me most, especially because everything he thought he knew about his parents and what he was a part of in Greece turned out to be a far cry from what really happened. I absolutely LOVED writing his narrative and exploring those feelings/emotions/demons he struggles to overcome, and whether or not he could ever overcome them at all. This conflict was vitally important to the outcome of the stories of all the other characters because their fates were so intertwined with the choices he might make. So Zigmund Fertig will always hold a very special place in my heart.

But, of course, you want to know about the vampires, right? Along with the Upyr and the Vrykolakas who create the Corcitura, there are several female vampiric characters, but I don’t want to ruin the surprise by revealing their identities to you prematurely. If you love seeing female vampire protagonists having a major role in the outcome of a story, then you will love the two in this book. Let’s hear it for the girls! They have enough history and chutzpah to fill volumes more, which is my intended plan. Oh, and, by the way, they also happen to be werewolves, and if that duality doesn’t intrigue you, I don’t know what will!

Finally, there is Greydanus, who has a huge role to play towards the end of the novel. Keep an eye out for him because if I tell you his lineage now, the whole plot will be blown to smithereens. Suffice it to say, the last half of the book hinges on the secret birthright of the little boy who cries blood.

2. How long have you been writing, and when did you first consider yourself an author?

I’ve been writing books since I was fourteen, but I first considered myself an author when I completed a novel at the age of 18. The fact that I had actually finished something that was publishable solidified my decision to pursue this career path.

3. How has your environment/upbringing colored your writing?

The fact that my mother started reading to me when I was in the womb and my father told me wild, not-exactly-verifiable tall tales while I was still in the cradle, really engendered in me an early love for reading. I was also brought up on Classics and some really fantastic literature, which was the first step in causing the writing seeds to germinate from a young age.

Following on from this early fascination with storytelling, a big part of my childhood was spent watching and marveling over fantasy movies and TV shows (Willow, The Neverending Story, Jim Henson’s The Storyteller, and Return to Oz, to name a few). I was a sponge for these films and shows and couldn’t get enough of all their magic and wonder. And to show you how deep my love for these movies ran, at the age of three, I broke my ankle pretending to be Dorothy as she stepped across the rocks to avoid the quicksand. Yes, I was hooked from a very early age. 😉

When it came time to write my first novel, I naturally set it in the fantasy genre. This was the book I began at fourteen but abandoned for school, life, and other projects. However, in July of last year, I broke the manuscript out of the attic and began totally transforming it into a dystopian epic set in a brutal and lawless world. The entire theme and outcome of the story have changed drastically but all the exciting bits (mythical beasts, hidden identities, battles, political intrigue, and some truly horrifying and treacherous villains) are still part of the fabric of the story. With the passage of years, however, everything within the story seems to have more meaning and gravitas to me now. It is definitely not the same book I would have written as a fourteen-year-old, so I am very happy I put the novel on hold.

You should also know that Gandalf is directly responsible for my decision to become a writer. It was all that wizard’s fault! 😉 My mind was made up in the winter of 2001 as I sat in a darkened theater and heard Gandalf the Grey speak the following line to Frodo Baggins:

“All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.”

That was it, and I haven’t looked back since. 🙂

In addition to loving fantasy, I was also a big fan of monsters, vampires in particular, so it was only natural that I would start writing about them, too, one day. A project begun in 2003 was finally finished nine years later with the publication of Corcitura, a 700 page novel about vampires that vampirised me! I remember watching an interview with Elizabeth Kostova once and laughing when I heard her say it took her a decade to write The Historian. At the time, I thought that was insane. A decade to write a single book?! Inconceivable! Serves me right for scoffing at her. 😉

In my current projects, what I’ve noticed is that I’m getting away from historically based novels and going back to my fantasy roots. Not straight or high fantasy, although a few projects down the line, I am planning on beginning work again on a fantasy duology that I’ve been writing on and off since 2003. One of the books in Dwellers of Darkness, Children of Light, an eight part series of loosely connected novellas I’m writing now (the first, Uendelig, will be released in a month or two), actually serves as a prequel to my fantasy duology, set 60 years before the action of the book.

My last two novels were set in our world’s past (City of Lights: The Trials and Triumphs of Ilyse Charpentier being a YA historical romance with a dash of sibling conflict; Corcitura being a combination of many genres, but set within a historical time frame), but even though my upcoming novella series is also set in our world, each story is infused with fantasy and the supernatural, dealing with creatures from the otherworld crossing the void into and wreaking havoc on our own. I love dropping the phantasmal into everyday life and seeing how my characters react—some with horror, some with laughter, others with extreme annoyance, as is the case in one novella with a character who finds it highly inconvenient that his brother is now undead. It’s great fun! 😀

4. What is a Corcitura and where did the idea come from to turn it into a book?

I’m so glad you asked! 😉 Corcitura is the Romanian word for hybrid. It has no vampiric connotations whatsoever, but before I tell you why I chose this as the name for my new creature, how about a little backstory?

A year before I even got the idea for the Corcitura, I had seen a painting that sent my mind reeling with all the possible implications behind it. The painting was “Oh, what’s that in the hollow?” by Edward Robert Hughes.

Oh, what's that in the hollow

I took one look at that painting and screamed “VAMPIRE!” There’s something so morbidly entrancing and enigmatic about that painting. Is he dead? The sheen of his nearly translucent eyes certainly seems to suggest it. But what if he’s just resting until the moon rises? I only recently found out that he is dead! But back then, I was still in the dark, and so I did what all good storytellers do: I totally ignored the inconvenient facts behind the painting and ran roughshod with my inspiration. Those translucent eyes were never far from my mind and inspired me so much that they found life in the book’s eponymous creature.

So, why vampires, after all? Out of all the monsters of myth, vampires had always been my favorites. I had always been fascinated by how they could be suave and alluring on the outside (or when the sun wasn’t up), but with the flick of a barbed tongue, turn into slavering, fang-toothed, bloodsucking beasts. The juxtaposition fascinated me, since in original folklore almost all vampires are essentially plagues. Some just know how to mask their true nature better than others.

I knew if I was going to write about vampires, they’d better be different and intriguing, and since I have always been crazy for folklore from different parts of the world, this idea gave me an excuse to explore vampire mythology. It’s fascinating reading, freaky, but fascinating. Up until this point, I had the rudiments of a novel, but my vampire was content to stay in the background, kicking through my mind until he finally distinguished himself enough to get the story going. Until then, I had nicknamed him “Our Combo,” since he was going to be a hybrid—created after being bitten by two vampires of differing species. Realizing that I couldn’t continue with such a McDonald’s Value Meal sounding name, I took the next step in finding out what the word “hybrid” in Romanian was (since Stefan’s family has a long and torturous history deep in the soil of that country). I have Romanian ancestors, so digging deeper into the country’s myths and legends was an added bonus. When I discovered that corcitura meant hybrid, I thought about it, and since I didn’t like any of the names I’d made up in the interim, it eventually stuck.

Yet the real impetus behind the idea of having the victim be a hybrid came down to one thing: sunlight. Yes, that’s how the whole “combo” idea started—finding a way to make sure my vampire would be able to frolic around during daylight hours without being charred to ashes by the sun’s rays. For three months, I went back and forth on how a vampire could achieve this, during which time I whittled down my choices for favorite vampire candidates. Once I started seeing how different the strengths and weaknesses were, and understanding how much more indestructible the combined blood of two vampires would be (plus the human blood of the original victim), I knew I was on the right path, and settled on the Vrykolakas (from Greece) and the Upyr (from Russia) for the creators of my new vampiric species.

5. What is the best advice you have been given?

One thing I always keep in mind is a quote from St. Catherine of Siena: “Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.” That quote, and the message behind it, has really helped me to not be swayed by unscrupulous people or other flash in the pan fads and associations in this ever changing and chaotic industry. In the same spirit, the best advice that I’ve been given has come from my parents, loved ones, and other authors whom I admire: be true to yourself and never compromise your principles in your quest to get ahead. In other words, stay grounded!

6. Do you have any hidden talents?

I’m a classically trained violinist, pianist, and soprano and have been performing since I was three. For something completely frivolous, 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.

7. Hard/paperbacks or eBooks?

Both! I publish digitally and in paperback format, and for a while there I never thought I would be comfortable reading on the Kindle. However, I have recently become a huge devotee and seem to be reading more books than ever on a digital device! It’s so convenient and almost like discovering some lost cave of wonders with all the free Classics available on there. I think I’ve just about completed my entire Alexandre Dumas, Wilkie Collins, and Charles Dickens collections thanks to the Kindle. Not only has it saved me thousands of dollars, but my library shelves are thanking me for not weighing them down more than they already are!

While I am excited about Kindle and seem to discover new books every day, I still love the actual feel of a book in my hands and will never totally stop reading or buying physical books. I have too many of them in my library, plus, I also have a colossal collection of bookmarks that would stage a revolt if I ever abandoned them. 😉

8. What book are you reading now?

Sad Cypress by Agatha Christie. I can always count on her to really get my mind puzzling over all those red herrings. Her books are so much fun! 😀

I love to chat with readers and other writers. Please feel free to connect with me on any or all of the following sites:

My web site: https://booksinmybelfry.com/ There are five more excerpts from Corcitura, plus a selection of quotes from each of the three main narrators, available on my web site. I also have a whole host of fun things relating to the book and my other novel and upcoming projects/releases posted there, so be sure to check them out if you’re curious! 😀

My Twitter: https://twitter.com/BooksInMyBelfry

My Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/950456.Melika_Dannese_Lux

My Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/booksinmybelfry/boards/

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

Melika’s Interview and City of Lights Giveaway at the Homeschool Authors Blog!

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I am so thrilled today to be featured on the Homeschool Authors Blog! Many thanks to Sarah Holman for letting me share a little bit about myself, City of Lights: The Trials and Triumphs of Ilyse Charpentier, and Corcitura on her wonderful site.

Please don’t forget to enter within the next ten days for your chance to win a Kindle copy (US residents only) of City of Lights!

http://homeschoolauthors.blogspot.com/2013/07/interview-with-melika-lux.html

And now…the interview!

Melika, Welcome to Homeschool Authors.  

Hi Sarah! It’s great to be here! 

Describe yourself in five words. 

God-loving. Loyal. Creative. Focused. Joyful. 

Tell us a little more about yourself. 

I have been an author since I was fourteen and write YA/NA historical fiction, suspense, supernatural thrillers, fantasy, sci-fi, short stories—you name it, I write it! I love to read just about anything and everything and am particularly fond of historical fiction, the classics, mysteries, epic fantasy, history, and non-fiction. 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. 

What was your favorite part of being homeschooled? 

I received so many blessings as a result of being homeschooled! I would not be the writer I am today if it had not been for my fantastic high school English curriculum, which could be defined as “classics, classics, classics!” Homeschooling instilled in me such a love and appreciation for these phenomenal works. Additionally, I believe reading classics from a young age molds your mind to appreciate fine literature. It’s like being classically trained in voice—if you have great training, you can sing anything. The same goes for reading. Even though I read a great variety of books from different genres, classics remain my favorites and are my “go-to” books.

Homeschooling also taught me the value of independent study and being self-sufficient. You certainly can’t blame your schoolmates for holding you back when you are the only one in the class! This self-reliance and discipline went on to help me a great deal in college, graduate school, and my post-academic life ever since.  

Who is your favorite literary character? 

I have to pick just one?! All right, it would have to be 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.

What caused you to start writing?

My love for writing grew out of an early love for reading.  I think what led me to this point, what essentially caused the inspiration to germinate, was that my mother started reading to me when I was in the womb, and my father told me wild, not-exactly-verifiable tall tales while I was still in the cradle.  I remember writing little stories and vignettes when I was a very young child and also staging my first play (an adaptation of King of Kings) when I was eight years old.  The budget was nonexistent, so my family was conscripted into the production, with my dad and mom playing six parts each.  I think that was when the writing bug first reared its head and bit me squarely on the heart. I felt a little like Cecil B. DeMille after that.  There is a VHS of the play floating around somewhere.  It is one of my first memories of writing.

One turning point I can recall was when I was about eleven or twelve.  I wrote a very short story along the lines of Jurassic Park.  It was about a brother and sister being chased to the edge of a cliff by a T-Rex.  The kids gave the Rex the old “one-two-jump!” fake out and the dinosaur tumbled over the cliff.  End of story—happily ever after for everyone except the Rex. But the point was that it was fun! I had actually finished something I’d set out to write! It was great, even though it was only six pages long! You have to start somewhere, right?

However, I had never considered turning writing into a career until I read Crime and Punishment when I was a senior in high school.  There was just something about that book and the way Dostoevsky painted with words that inspired me and made me seriously think about becoming a storyteller. But the real impetus behind my decision came in the winter of 2001 as I sat in a darkened theater and heard Gandalf the Grey speak the following line to Frodo Baggins:

“All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.”

That was it, and I haven’t looked back since. 🙂 

What inspired City of Lights? 

City of Lights: The Trials and Triumphs of Ilyse Charpentier

One night in December 2002, I was puttering around in my room when I suddenly started singing verses of a song I had made up in that moment.

“Tonight’s the last time that I’ll see your face, my love. This dreadful moment has finally come to be. Tonight the passion ends for you and me, my love. I’m traveling to a place where life will be hell for me…good-bye.”

My mind exploded with questions. Who was this girl? Why was she being forced to give up her love? Why would her life be so awful?

From that song, City of Lights: The Trials and Triumphs of Ilyse Charpentier was born. The song became Tonight, the lyrics directly inspiring the novel and making their way into a pivotal scene toward the end of the book. Now, the only thing remaining was a setting. I’m a singer, a Francophile, and a devotee of fin de siècle culture and literature, so the idea of Paris, forbidden love, and the added tension arising from my heroine being estranged from her brother (her only living relative) was too exciting not to pursue.

My grand plan all along was (and still is) for City of Lights to be a musical.  In addition to Tonight, I wrote eight other songs that inspired further chapters and the overall story arc, the lyrics of those songs also being adapted into dialogue and scenes. Even though the musical is still on the distant horizon, the spirit of the songs thread through the entire novel. And in case you were wondering, the recordings are securely stored in an undisclosed location, waiting for the day when they will see the light once again.  😉 

What is it about? 

City of Lights is first and foremost the story of Ilyse Charpentier, a young singer in 1894 Paris who has never experienced love because of the stranglehold her patron, Count Sergei Rakmanovich, has upon her life.  All that changes when she meets Ian McCarthy, a dashing, young English expatriate.  Needless to say, the Count is not at all pleased with this new obstacle.  As I mentioned before, Ilyse has also been estranged from her younger brother Maurice, who blames her for letting the Count drive them apart. Things are complicated further when the Count devises a way to use Maurice as leverage to get Ilyse to agree to his demands.  Without giving anything else away, Ilyse is forced to make a life-shattering choice that has the potential to destroy her hope of finding the love and freedom she has always been denied.  

Who will enjoy it?

I’ve had readers from 14 to 87 tell me how much they loved the story and how happy they were to read a clean, pure romance—with quite a bit of brother-sister conflict added to the mix. I wrote City of Lights at the age of 18, and it was always my intention to produce a novel that teens, parents, and readers of any age could enjoy. In my stories, I never shy away from showing evil for what it is, and more importantly showing how people triumph over it by determination, the help of allies, and the grace of God, but I don’t believe there is any need to get gratuitous in the content department. Doing so cheapens your work and turns off a whole swath of readers, myself included. If I wouldn’t read it, I certainly wouldn’t write it.

One of my favorite examples of how to convey an impactful statement without resorting to graphic descriptions comes from a movie that had a huge impact on my decision to become a writer—The Fellowship of the Ring: “Isildur, son of the king, took up his father’s sword.” There are so many implications in that little gem of restraint. Took up his father’s sword and did what? Cut the Ring, and consequently the fingers, off Sauron’s hand! There was no need to dwell on blood loss or gore to get the point across. There is a scene in my supernatural/historical thriller, Corcitura, where I describe a cadre of undead creatures descending on their victim. That could have turned into a terribly gory scene, but here is how I took a page from FOTR and held back for a more subtle (and I think consequently more horrifying) effect:

There was a shriek and then I heard a sickening crunch as Arabella’s cries died to a whimper. Something thumped against the ground as Augustin Boroi stepped back and drew his arm across his mouth.

The sleeve of his shirt had doubled as a napkin. It was no longer white when he pulled it away.

See? There is no need to slide into the mire of gratuitousness to be effective. More often than not, what is left up to the imagination is infinitely more scary, thought-provoking, and powerful than spelling out every aspect of a scene in bloody red letters.    

Do you plan to write more books? 

Definitely! In addition to Corcitura (which was published last November), I am completely rewriting my original first novel that I began at the age of fourteen, but abandoned for school, life, and other projects. I have been working on it since July of 2012 and have been totally transforming it into a dystopian epic set in a brutal and lawless world. The entire theme and outcome of the story have changed drastically, but all the exciting bits (mythical beasts, hidden identities, battles, political intrigue, and some truly horrifying and treacherous villains) are still part of the fabric of the story. With the passage of years, however, everything within the story seems to have more meaning and gravitas to me now. It is definitely not the same book I would have written as a fourteen-year-old, so I am very happy I put the novel on hold.

I am also mapping out and reworking my fantasy duology (which I’ve been writing since 2003) and am currently finishing up a collection of short comedy/fantasy/mythical stories set in Eastern and Northern Europe in the 1800s. It has been an exciting challenge to essentially create “Novels in Miniature” for this collection.    

Do you have any final thoughts?

One thing I always keep in mind is a quote from St. Catherine of Siena: “Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.” In that spirit, I would strongly encourage all homeschoolers, especially those of you who are writers, to use the incredible opportunities God has given you to further your literary dreams and aspirations. Develop your talents, use the free time you have to broaden your horizons with additional reading and study of the genres you are drawn to, and write, write, write! A homeschool education is a blessing, so be a blessing to others by sharing your talents with the world.  God has given you this time for a reason…so now it’s up to you to decide what you are going to do with it. 🙂

Additionally, I would love to connect with other homeschool authors, readers, and parents. Please feel free to contact me on any or all of the following sites:

My web site: www.booksinmybelfry.com

My Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/950456.Melika_Dannese_Lux   

My Twitter: https://twitter.com/BooksInMyBelfry

My Pinterest:   http://pinterest.com/booksinmybelfry/

Thank you so much, Sarah, for giving me the opportunity to be interviewed! I’ve had a great time! 😀

Corcitura Spotlight and Giveaway at Word Spelunking!

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Exciting things are happening, everyone! Corcitura is being spotlighted on the wonderful blog, Word Spelunking!

Corcitura Spotlight Word Spelunking 6-20-13

Click on the link below to learn all about the book, watch the trailer, and read a teaser excerpt from one of the most climactic chapters in the entire novel:

http://wordspelunking.blogspot.com/2013/06/book-spotlight-excerpt-and-giveaway.html

As a bonus, five Kindle copies of Corcitura are up for grabs to US residents! Make sure to enter by June 30, 2013, for your chance to win!

Best wishes,

Me Sig!

Spotlight: The Writers Room and His Last Mistress by Andrea Zuvich

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Many thanks to author Andrea Zuvich for alerting me to this fantastic new site! I’d like to invite everyone to check out The Writers Room, a great platform that brings authors and readers together. One of the most exciting things about The Writers Room is the Q&A feature. Readers can ask authors questions, then share the answers with their friends via Facebook! Sound like fun? Then link up, me hearties, yo ho!

http://www.thewritersroom.co.uk/

And while you’re spreading the word, don’t forget to tell everyone about Andrea’s new historical romance, His Last Mistress, now available on Kindle!

This sensational debut novella by Andrea Zuvich is perfect for fans of Philippa Gregory and Alison Weir. Set during the tumultuous late 17th Century, this is the moving story of the His Last Mistress by Andrea Zuvichlegendary Duke of Monmouth and his last mistress – and one of the most scandalous love affairs of the Seventeenth Century.

The handsome James Scott, Duke of Monmouth, the illegitimate eldest son of King Charles II, had grown into a spoiled and rakish young man. Tired of a cold wife and a tempestuous mistress, he is captivated by the innocent, young Lady Henrietta Wentworth. But Henrietta has been brought up to covet her virtue. She wants a good husband with whom she can bear children and grow old contentedly. She is determined to spurn the advances of the reckless Duke. But she cannot deny the chemistry that fizzles between them…

His Last Mistress is a passionate and moving love story set against a backdrop of political unrest and royal uncertainty.

“A brilliant novel that is both enlightening and enthralling.” – Tom Kasey, best-selling author of The Dante Conspiracy

Born in Philadelphia in 1985 to Chilean-Croatian parents, Andrea is a historian specializing in Author Andrea Zuvichthe Late Stuarts of the Seventeenth Century and is the creator and writer of the increasingly popular Early Modern history website, The Seventeenth Century Lady. Andrea studied History and Anthropology at both the University of Central Florida and Oxford University, and has been independently researching the 1600s since 2008.

As a UK resident since 2009, Andrea is a leader on and one of the original developers of The Garden History Tours at Kensington Palace, Historic Royal Palaces.

In 2012, she was interviewed for the Dutch documentary series, De Gouden Eeuw (NTR television, The Netherlands).

Andrea lives with her English husband in Lancashire, England, and is currently editing her completed work, William & Mary: A Novel, about King William III and his wife, Queen Mary II. She plans on publishing it later in 2013/14. To learn more, please visit: http://www.andreazuvich.com/

Ten years ago today…

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…I began working on what would become City of Lights: The Trials and Triumphs of Ilyse Charpentier. I can still see myself sitting on the floor in my spare room, rough-drafting the outline of the novel while listening to Lifehouse’s Hanging by A Moment:

This song ended up becoming Ilyse and Ian’s anthem to me and was a tremendous source of inspiration over the eight months I spent writing their story. It is still a huge inspiration to me a decade later. 🙂

As part of the 10th anniversary celebration, I decided to post a special excerpt from Chapter 2: In Which a Dashing Englishman Woos Mademoiselle Charpentier. Come along with Ilyse, Ian—and a most unwelcome third party—and share in an evening of burgeoning love and Parisian enchantment at La Tour Eiffel.

Enjoy! 😀

Best wishes,

Melika

       The dance hall was empty, save for Ian anxiously looking around so as not to miss his date. This is my chance to catch him unawares, Ilyse laughed to herself. The element of surprise was something La Petite Coquette had always thrived upon executing to the best of her sneaky abilities. She slinked across the hall, cast a glance into the bar’s mirror to make certain she looked absolutely dazzling, and tapped Ian on the shoulder.
       “Looking for someone, monsieur?”
       Ian turned and was visibly taken aback. “Il…Ilyse,” he stammered, “You look stunning!”
       “Thank you,” she responded, looking down to hide her blushing face.
       “Oh, I almost forgot.” Ian reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out the most beautiful white rose Ilyse had ever beheld.
       “Oh, Ian,” she gasped, “It’s breathtaking!”
       “Yes…breathtaking.”
       Ilyse looked up into his eyes and knew he wasn’t speaking of the rose. “So,” she continued, once again blushing to her ears, “what adventure are you taking me on this evening, Monsieur McCarthy?”
       “Well, my fair maiden,” he said, assuming an air of medieval gallantry, “the chariot awaits, ready to take us to La Tour Eiffel where, I promise, you will enjoy an evening of romance with a very charming Englishman.”
       All doubts that this was mere infatuation had vanished and everything now became so very clear to Ilyse—Ian had won her heart completely. She found it impossible to believe, but it seemed as though she was falling even more in love with Ian than she had thought humanly possible, and the idea that the two of them might actually have a future together made her heart nearly burst with joy.
       “Well, then,” said Ilyse, accepting Ian’s outstretched arm, “we mustn’t keep our chariot waiting any longer. On to La Tour!”
       “To La Tour!” he chimed in. The exuberant pair bolted out of the club and dashed heedlessly down the Boulevard de Courcelles to where their carriage awaited. Casting a last glance at La Perle’s palatial exterior, the besotted couple scurried in and set off, oblivious to everything, especially the fact that a shadowed form had taken possession of the carriage parked directly behind theirs.

***

The boulevards of lamp-lit Paris were alive with the bustling of street vendors, ladies of the night, and pleasure seekers all rushing toward their respective destinations. As the carriage wound its way down the crowded streets, Ilyse found herself realizing for the first time how wondrously grand and beautiful the city seemed once daylight had been extinguished. She laughed at the peddlers trying to sell over-priced wares to unwitting tourists, and thumbed her nose at the saucy behavior of the rouge-encrusted harlots. Paris was buzzing with excitement, but all thoughts of the denizens of the City of Lights vanished when Ilyse beheld the majesty of the Tower—the lattice intertwining of its ironwork, the awesomeness of its form against the star dotted sky, and the French flag flapping in all its tricolor glory at the tower’s zenith.
       “Oh, Ian,” Ilyse gasped, taken aback by the grandeur of the tower. “It’s magnificent!”
       “Wait a minute,” he said, staring at her with a puzzled expression. “Do you mean to tell me that you live in Paris and you’ve never been to La Tour?”
       “Guilty.”
       “Well, who’d have thought you’d have to wait for an Anglais to travel all the way across the Channel to take you?”
       Ilyse couldn’t help laughing at the absurd truth of this statement and saw that her mirth amused Ian. The infatuated Englishman clasped Ilyse’s hand and the two excited lovers rushed into La Tour, ready for an evening of romance and enchantment.

***

A rickety carriage pulled to a halt at the foot of the Tower. Seconds later, its door was forced open and a tall, Slavic-looking man dressed in black from head to foot stepped out. The stranger was just about to run for the hydraulic lifts when he was detained by his enraged driver.
       “Just a minute, you!” the driver shouted as he stepped in front of the foreigner to block his path. “That’ll be fifteen francs.”
       The stranger drew himself up haughtily and glared at the driver in disgust. “I will not pay that exorbitant sum. If you value your life, you will let me pass.”
       But the driver would not be dissuaded.
       “Don’t you threaten me. I’ll call the police, you lousy cheat!”
       The stranger tried to remain calm but was finding it impossible to control his mounting rage. “Do you have any idea whom you are talking to?” he sneered.
       “You could be the devil himself for all I care, now give me my francs!”
       A smile flickered across the stranger’s lips. “Your assumption is not inaccurate, tovarich. I suggest you take your leave before the situation becomes unpleasant.”
       “The devil, I will!”
       And with that, the driver lunged at the stranger and immediately found himself flattened upon the pavement. “Come at me again,” the stranger barked, brandishing his walking stick in the terrified driver’s face, “and you’ll be meeting him sooner than you’d like!” Without saying another word, the stranger straightened his top hat, spat at the disoriented driver’s feet, and made for the lifts.

***

The interior of “La Vue Dorée,” the Tower’s most affluent restaurant, was bathed in gold. Gilded bas-relief angels adorned its walls and every chair in the opulent dining salon boasted plush, honey-colored cushions.
       Ilyse and Ian were sitting in an intimate corner of the restaurant and had been admiring the Palais du Trocadéro through the Tower’s panoramic windows. They had placed their orders some time ago, but try as they might, every time they succeeded in sparking a conversation, the innumerable officious waiters came poking in and extinguished the fire. Garçons are supposed to be attentive, of course, but how many times does one need to be asked if the baguette has been baked to satisfaction? It was infuriating! It seemed as though the waiters were deliberately trying to ruin the young couple’s chances. The evening was threatening to become a complete romantic waste, and Ilyse realized she had better speak up before the nosy waiters intruded once more.
       “Ian,” Ilyse began, “thank you so much for bringing me here. I’ve been wanting to come for the past five years, but have never been able to, and now I know the reason why.”
       “And why’s that?” he inquired.
       “Promise you won’t laugh?”
       “I promise,” he said sweetly.
       “I believe it was Fate. I wasn’t meant to come with just anyone. I was meant to come with you.”
       Ian remained silent.
       “Oh, listen to me rambling on,” Ilyse chuckled, trying to dispel the awkward silence that had fallen upon them. “Fate and all, really.” But no matter how much Ilyse tried to resign her feelings to superstition, the more she thought it over, the more convinced she became, and it was obvious that Ian had started to believe it too—their meeting had been no mere coincidence.
       Ian suddenly clasped Ilyse’s hand and leaned in to kiss her, but their intimate moment was broken by the thrust of a plate between their faces.
       “Steak au poivre for you, Madame,” the waiter merrily chimed, “and the house specialty for you, Monsieur. Bon appétit!”
       “Well, then,” Ian muttered, annoyed at the waiter’s untimely entrance, “shall we?”
       “Bon appétit!” Ilyse mimicked. The pair chimed their champagne glasses and began to take part in their highly delectable yet ill-timed meal.

***

“Your aperitif and one plate of zakuski, Count Rakmanovich.” The waiter placed the refreshments upon the stranger’s table and gazed expectantly at his customer.
       “Do not call me by that name in their presence,” the stranger growled. He trained his glare upon Ilyse and Ian and sipped his aperitif, although he had no interest in the drink. “Why are you still standing here? Can’t you see that they’ve started talking again? Get over there at once!”
       The waiter shifted nervously and fiddled with his apron. “With all due respect, sir, I’m afraid I cannot intrude anymore.”
       “And why is that?” the stranger demanded, his face enflamed.
       “Because I have already interrupted them fifteen times and if I do it again, I’m afraid the monsieur won’t think too kindly of me when the check arrives.”
       The stranger reached for his walking stick and would have brought it crashing down upon the waiter’s head, but he suddenly thought of the spectacle such a violent display would cause, and relaxed his grip upon the object. “Do not fear what the monsieur will think,” he said menacingly. “Fear me.”
       The waiter was terrified by the stranger’s threatening manner and fearsome expression. “Very good, sir,” he quavered, and set out to once again intrude upon Ilyse and Ian’s evening.

***

“You know,” Ian said between mouthfuls, “I’ve never liked French cooking, but this isn’t that bad. I wonder what it is?”
       Ilyse took a sip of champagne and forced herself to swallow the piece of steak she had nearly choked upon. Try as she might, she could not smother the giggling fit that had come upon her and placed her hand over her mouth in an attempt to decorously stifle her laughter.
       “And what exactly is so amusing, Mademoiselle Charpentier?” Ian demanded playfully, looking up from his unknown feast.
       “Do you mean to tell me you ordered that without knowing what it was?”
       “Of course,” he said confidently. “I wanted to be adventurous and try something I had absolutely no clue about. So I opened the menu, closed my eyes, and chose the first thing my finger fell upon. I showed my selection to the waiter and ordered the dish without even reading what it was. I still can’t for the life of me figure out why that idiotic garçon went off laughing like a hyena.”
       “Well, all right, then,” Ilyse snickered and returned to her meal.
       After a few minutes of blissful munching, Ian’s curiosity finally got the best of him. “So what exactly is the house specialty anyway?” he asked, still thoroughly enjoying his mystery meal. “Pheasant, turkey, chicken…”
       “Cuisses de grenouilles, commonly known as Frogs’ Legs.”
       Before Ilyse could blink, Ian had spat the delicacy onto his plate and now had his hand wrapped around his throat. “Waiter!” he gasped. “Water! Quick!”
       The waiter who had been conversing with the menacing stranger seized a glass carafe, dashed to Ilyse and Ian’s table, and was so rattled to see the young man apparently choking to death that he poured the entire decanter of water down upon Ian’s head.
       Ian shot up from his seat, a dripping wet mess, and glared at the mortified waiter.
       “Oh, monsieur,” the waiter shrieked. “I…I’m so terribly sorry! Please…I was so… You seemed to be… I can’t believe… Oh, mon Dieu! I’ll never forgive myself!”
       “No, no,” Ian said, finding it difficult not to chuckle at the waiter’s overly dramatic ranting. “Just bring me something to dry myself off with, all right?
       The waiter apologized profusely and bustled off to find a towel.
       “So you let me order frog’s legs,” Ian said to Ilyse as he sat down upon his soaked seat.
       “Well,” she said with mock pomposity, “I thought that a mature traveler such as yourself, who’s had such wonderful experiences in France, you know, meeting men without trousers and things of the like, would certainly know better than to take liberties with unfamiliar cuisine. I had no idea you were conducting a dinner experiment! I mean, if I were in a foreign country, and I…”
       “All right, Coquette,” he interrupted, pretending to be annoyed, “I know when I’ve been outdone.”
       The waiter returned with the towel and check and helped Ian out of his soppy dinner jacket. Ian pulled a wad of francs from his pocket, smoothed some bills, and handed them to the waiter. “I’m in a merry mood, ol’ duck. Keep the change and let’s let bygones be bygones,” he said, winking at the befogged garcon, and throwing the towel about his drenched shoulders. The young lovers bid adieu to the astonished, overjoyed, and well-compensated waiter and looked fondly back upon their intimate little corner of the world as they made for the lifts.

***

The wind was whistling violently through the lattice ironwork of the Tower and the air was filled with the scent of lilacs. Midnight was drawing near, and as the lift began to rise, Ian suddenly turned to Ilyse and took her arm. “Let’s not rush off just yet. I know the perfect way to dry off.”
       “And what might that be?” she questioned, gazing lovingly into his eyes.
       “A trip to the top.”
       Ilyse was horrified. I get dizzy just standing on the second story balcony of Manon’s apartment and now he wants me to go to the top of La Tour? she thought to herself. I’d never make it through alive!
        “No, Ian,” Ilyse protested, “I can’t go up there. Besides, it’s getting late and I…” “Please, Lyse,” he whispered, pressing her hand to his heart. “Don’t be afraid. Just trust me. I’d never let anything happen to you.”
       Ilyse stared at him for a moment, unsure of whether or not to give in. But upon seeing the love and sincerity in his eyes, all her doubts and fears were destroyed. “Take me up.” Ian clasped her in his arms, ushered her into the lift, and watched the diminishing sights of Paris as they shot to the top.

***

“Isn’t it beautiful, Ilyse?” Ian gushed as he stepped out onto the platform. But Ilyse couldn’t budge. She was frozen with fear and stayed inside, clinging to the lift’s rail, silently refusing to take another step.
Suddenly, a light dawned in Ian’s mind. He reentered the lift, and clasped Ilyse by the hands. “Come on, I have an idea.” He led the frightened girl out onto the platform, and, placing his hands over her eyes, slowly guided her to the edge. “All right,” he coaxed, “now grab onto this here.” Ilyse did as instructed and grasped the iron bar, still not having the slightest idea where he had led her.
       “Now, look!”
       He let his hands fall and Ilyse grabbed her heart in amazement. There, from what felt like the top of the world, the sheltered young woman beheld the most magnificent view of Paris imaginable. Everywhere she gazed, her eyes caught sight of winding gas-lit boulevards and magnificent monuments bathed in moonlight. Exhilarated, she leaned over the railing and waved down to the people onboard the boats steaming across the Seine, not caring that they would never be able to see her from such a great height. Overjoyed, she turned to Ian and threw her arms around his neck.
       “Thank you so much,” she whispered into his ear.
       “For what?”
       “For showing me how to live again.”
       She released herself from their embrace but was immediately drawn back by Ian. His lips brushed against her cheek as he took her face in his hands. Ilyse wanted to share his kiss more than anything, but the thought of what consequences such a relationship might entail suddenly burst upon her mind and she pulled away. “I can’t.”
       “Why not?”
       “This is all happening so fast and there’s something I must tell you.”
       He stared at her worried face and drew her back into his arms. “No matter what you say, nothing in this world will ever change the way I feel for you.”
       Ilyse caressed his cheek and reluctantly pulled away from him. She walked over to the edge of the platform, and, looking out into the beautiful star-glittered sky, began to reveal her tortured past to the man who had captured her heart.

©2005, 2013 Melika Dannese Lux and Books In My Belfry, LLC. Unauthorized use or reproduction of this excerpt without the author’s permission is strictly prohibited.

Last day of City of Lights Tour: Interview at Oh, for the Hook of a Book!

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Morning Everyone!

Our whirlwind tour for City of Lights comes to an end today…with a bang! 😀 Many thanks to the multi-talented Erin Al-Mehairi of Oh, for the Hook of a Book! for featuring me and City of Lights on her blog, and for asking such incisive and awesome questions! 😀

Best wishes,

Melika

Exclusive and Magical Interview with Talented & Creative Melika Lux on Much More than Her City of Lights Novel

Today, we have a special treat because we have an exclusive interview with a very talented and sweet person, author Melika Lux. You can read my review of Melika’s book by clicking CITY OF LIGHTS. Our interview is VERY in-depth and you will marvel at Melika’s original personality, including how a trained stage soprano has such an addiction to Great White Sharks!!

I am pleased to have you stop by for a visit today, Melika! You sound like a fabulously creative person. How are you? Melika

Melika:  I am great, Erin, and thrilled to be here!  

Erin:  So happy!  Let’s move on and learn more about you and your writing! Q:  When did you first begin to write? What gave you the inspiration?

A:  My love for writing grew out of an early love for reading.  I think what led me to this point, what essentially caused the inspiration to germinate, was that my mother started reading to me when I was in the womb, and my father told me wild, not-exactly-verifiable tall tales while I was still in the cradle.  I remember writing little stories and vignettes when I was a very young child and also staging my first play (an adaptation of King of Kings) when I was eight years old.  The budget was nonexistent, so my family was conscripted into the production, with my dad and mom playing six parts each.  I think that was when the writing bug first reared its head and bit me squarely on the heart. I felt a little like Cecil B. DeMille after that.  There is a VHS of the play floating around somewhere.  It is one of my first memories of writing.

One turning point I can recall was when I was about eleven or twelve.  I wrote a very short story along the lines of Jurassic Park.  It was about a brother and sister being chased to the edge of a cliff by a T-Rex.  The kids gave the Rex the old “one-two-jump!” fake out and the dinosaur tumbled over the cliff.  End of story—happily ever after for everyone except the Rex. But the point was that it was fun! I had actually finished something I’d set out to write! It was great, even though it was only six pages long! You have to start somewhere, right?

Q:   What inspires you currently in your overall writing?

A: What began to stand out more and more to me as the years wore on, and what I think was the real reason I truly grew to love writing so much, was the freedom it gave me to be able to get lost in a different world.  I love creating characters and their individual stories.  Everything that a person experiences in his or her life affects the person they become and how they react to situations, so being able to explore this with my characters is something I am always eager to do—uncovering what motivates them, what drives their worldview, why they would make a decision in a particular situation, what makes them tick, etc.  It is thrilling when characters develop so fully that they essentially start to write the stories themselves.

Currently, I’m most interested and inspired by trying out different storytelling mediums and POVs. My preferred method of telling a story is first person, but in my latest works, I’m using third person limited and also third person omniscient, which presents a whole heap of challenges! I’m also experimenting with short stories. You would think this would be easier, but I’m finding it an exciting challenge to tell a complete and gripping story in 40 pages or less rather than having a broad canvas (my last novel, Corcitura, was 700 pages long) on which to paint, essentially, the characters’ lives.

My last two novels were primarily historical fiction, City of Lights: The Trials and Triumphs of Ilyse Charpentier being an historical fiction/family saga set in Paris in 1894, and Corcitura  being an historical fiction/supernatural thriller, complete with hybrid vampires, which takes place over the years 1888-1895 in locales across Europe and in Gilded Age New York. I have felt very comfortable writing in this era due to the fact that I read a tremendous amount of fantastic Victorian literature during my high school and college years and fell in love with the period. However, I am now transitioning into dystopian, horror, comedy, and fantasy. Talk about freeing! I no longer have to worry about when a word came into the vernacular! Huzzah! Besides that added bonus, I love to genre-hop and not confine myself to one particular time period. It keeps thinks exciting.

Q:  Did your musical background play any part in your writing? Also, explain your musical background for our readers.

A: Definitely. I’ve been surrounded by music since I was born and have been singing, dancing, and playing the violin and piano since I was three years old. I was part of a children’s performing group for most of my childhood and was also a member of a local youth symphony orchestra from the ages of 8-18. In addition to singing throughout my community and state, I also performed the role of Meg Giry in a college production of The Phantom of the Opera. What a blast!

In regards to my writing, I draw a lot of inspiration from certain pieces of music, especially movie soundtracks and instrumental numbers, which I love to have playing in the background as I write. Currently, for the dystopian/fantasy novel I’m writing, I keep epic music/soundtracks looping at a low volume in my ear buds. It really spurs my imagination and helps when trying to strike the right mood in battle and intense scenes, especially when there are “creatures” involved.

For City of Lights, Hanging by a Moment by Lifehouse was a huge inspiration and a song I kept looping in the background as I wrote the novel:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ESWjziG5B54

To me, this song epitomizes Ilyse and Ian’s love story, and remains a favorite of mine to this day.

Q:  Have you ever danced or been on the stage? If so, explain and if it helped in the writing of your book. What inspired you to write about a Parisian chanteuse in City of Lights?

A: Yes! As I mentioned above, I was part of a children’s performing group from the ages of 3-11. Additionally, I am a classically trained soprano. My most recent performance was in February 2012, at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustine, FL. You can view the entire concert or excerpts of my solos by clicking on the following link: https://booksinmybelfry.com/music/

Music has always been inextricably linked to City of Lights. The entire novel was actually inspired by a song. One night in December 2002, I was puttering around in my room when I suddenly started singing verses of a song I had made up in that moment.

“Tonight’s the last time that I’ll see your face, my love. This dreadful moment has finally come to be. Tonight the passion ends for you and me, my love. I’m traveling to a place where life will be hell for me…good-bye.”

My mind exploded with questions. Who was this girl? Why was she being forced to give up her love? Why would her life be so awful?

From that song, City of Lights: The Trials and Triumphs of Ilyse Charpentier was born. The song became Tonight, the lyrics directly inspiring the novel and making their way into a pivotal scene toward the end of the book. Now, the only thing remaining was a setting. I’m a singer, a Francophile, and a devotee of fin de siècle culture and literature, so the idea of Paris, a cabaret, forbidden love, and the added tension arising from my heroine being estranged from her brother (her only living relative) was too exciting not to pursue.

My grand plan all along was (and still is) for City of Lights to be a musical.  In addition to Tonight, I wrote eight other songs that inspired further chapters and the overall story arc, the lyrics of those songs also being adapted into dialogue and scenes. Even though the musical is still on the distant horizon, the spirit of the songs thread through the entire novel. And in case you were wondering, the recordings are securely stored in an undisclosed location, waiting for the day when they will see the light once again. 

In May 2003, at the age of eighteen, I began writing Ilyse’s story. Eight months later, City of Lights was complete, and another four years later, it was published. Now, it has been given a new look and is being made available to an entirely new readership!

City of Lights: The Trials and Triumphs of Ilyse Charpentier

Q:  Myself, I love books and information on the late 1800s to early 1900s in Paris. The entire ballet scene and its behind the scenes drama can be an infuriating tale to tell. Apparently, women still endure the dealings of men pulling their strings so to speak. What interests you most about this time period? Any further thoughts on the performance industry?

A: I’ve been interested in the fin de siècle for as long as I can remember. I think I first became cognizant of how exciting this time period was when I was about 8 or 9 and had just learned to play Orpheus in the Underworld with my local youth symphony orchestra. The Galop Infernal in that operetta became, of course, the Can-Can theme. That piece stayed with me over the years and led me to do research when I got older. As I learned more about France and the culture surrounding the cabarets and dancehalls, I was hooked and became a confirmed Francophile. Since writing City of Lights, I have become increasingly interested in that whole milieu and have since read Camille (A brilliant and tragic novel about the lives of the demimondaine—highly recommended!) and a few novels by Colette. I’m always on the lookout for new reads from or about that fascinating time period when securing the right patron could either make you a star or confine you to the gilded cage, as was the case with Ilyse.  

As for the performance industry, the main facet that I culled and incorporated into City of Lights was favoritism. Ilyse, although she is talented and the best singer to have graced the Parisian stage in years, is Sergei’s favorite. He “plucked her from obscurity” (a fact he never lets her forget) and made her a star. Without him, she most probably would have starved or been forced into a life of squalor, but given how controlling and suffocating Sergei’s hold over her is, accepting his patronage is a choice Ilyse regrets almost immediately.

Q:  I read the biography on your website and laughed to myself because in high school I decided I was either going to school to be a writer or a marine biologist (same as you)!!! I decided I was not cut out enough for the math and just loved the ocean and animal cause, so I went to college for Journalism instead so I could write all about all the many things I love. I came away also with English and History degrees. That all said, besides being afraid of sharks, what really did pull you towards your creative pursuits as compared to science? How do you feel about your decision?

A: Haha, what a coincidence!!! I’ve been obsessed with sharks from a young age. I remember going to Sea World as a three-year-old and spouting off names of all the sharks in the little pond outside the Shark Encounter ride. I also literally started watching Shark Week at the age of two during its inaugural season 26 years ago (dating myself here ;) I still remember them flashing the poster of an enormous Great White shark with a Bermuda-shorted surfer inside its gaping mouth. Fun stuff! 😉     

Then came Jaws—the movie, not the book. Let’s not even go there in regards to the book. I’ve never been more disappointed with a reading experience in my life! But I digress… I became fascinated with Jaws around the age of five when I went to Pic ‘n Save and saw the movie poster. What is it with me and posters? Anyway, I now make it a point to watch the movie twice a year, once on my birthday and once on the last day of Shark Week.  You probably wouldn’t want to watch the movie with me because I know practically all the lines and usually say them in the same voices the characters use. My favorite, obviously, is Quint. “I’m talkin’ about sharkin’!” I sing his little sea shanties with him, too. 😉 

What made me consider a career change, however, probably had something to do with Nigel Marvin and the premiere of Air Jaws around the year 2000. The fact that sharks could rocket out of the water was a paradigm shift for me and sort of tilted my world off its axis. Breaching sharks! It was a literary goldmine! Not to mention that it scared the wits out of me to think that I could be quietly minding my own business in a nice safe boat when Mr. Whitey would suddenly decide to go airborne and take me along for the ride. So that was when I knew I’d have more fun writing sharks into my stories instead of sharing the water with them. Strangely enough, though, a small insane part of me would still love to go cage diving with them in South Africa. We’ll see…

As far as creative pursuits in comparison to science, I still love the minutiae of marine and ocean studies, but I now find it much more exciting to be able to do the research or incorporate what I know about sharks and their behavior into my writings. In the dystopian epic I’m working on, white sharks play a huge role as one of the main antagonists (technically, a race of antagonists, because there are a lot of them!) of the story. They have their own species name, stratified society, unusual sharky abilities, and rather wicked roles to play in the oppressive world I’m creating. They are the toothed enforcers of the realm and have a symbiotic relationship with the undead soldiers who train them. They also get to wear steel helms and are so fierce you honestly can’t help thinking they are just a little bit awesome, as all Great Whites generally are. If I say any more, I’ll be giving away the plot, but suffice it to say that sharks are fascinating in real life and in literature, so I’m having a tremendously fun time giving them their own personalities and storylines and writing about their undeniable appeal in the new book. By the way, I’m a bit of a shark snob, so pretty much the only species of shark I’ll ever write about are Great Whites—my favorites. I tend to view every other shark as a poser. 😉 

As a side note, I recently took the Discovery Channel’s shark personality quiz and was matched with, you guessed it, Carcharodon carcharias. I always had a feeling… 😉  

Q:  What do you feel was an interesting or important point in history in regards to women and women’s history?

A: I’ve often wondered how I would have fared as a woman writer if I had been born a few centuries ago. When I think about this, the person who always comes to mind in regards to the restrictions on women and how they were looked down upon for being writers (as were women who chose to go on the stage; the horror! Remember the scandal with Nell Gwyn?!) is Charlotte Bronte and how she originally signed her name to Jane Eyre as Currer Bell. I know the novel had been rejected many times and she was listening to the advice of Wordsworth and others, who claimed that “novel-writing wasn’t the proper pastime of a lady,” but it must have been infuriating to not be able to lay claim to your own work, especially a work as brilliant as Jane Eyre. It’s infuriating to me nearly two centuries later! In my own writing, particularly in the first book of my fantasy duology, I have a character who looks down on his fiancée because she reads too many novels. Can you imagine that kind of attitude today?! So, as far as women’s history goes, I believe that when we started to take charge of our writing careers and not care what men and other women (who could be just as spiteful and controlling, if not more so) or society thought of our chosen profession, this was a giant leap forward and an important advancement, at least to my thinking, for the suffragette movement and ensuring the right to vote.

Q:  Do you feel women should “schedule” time for themselves as writers? Do women sacrifice too much instead of pursuing the muse inside them?  How do you make time for writing?

A: I think it depends on your situation in life. If you’re single, of course you should have more time to write, or at least I would hope so! If you have family and job obligations, however, it becomes much more difficult to carve out pockets of time, but still not impossible. If you’re driven enough and passionate about your writing, though, you can find time to write in just about any instance, even if it’s only a few seconds to scribble down ideas on the corner of a napkin. I’m speaking from experience here. 😉 

I do think, however, that women should try to set aside some quiet time (easier said than done!) where they can be alone and just let inspiration flow onto the page. I have a friend who designates specific days during the week where she will not take any phone calls or make appointments and just dedicates those set times to writing, so you can make it work; you just have to be creative about it. I try to carve out writing time at least every day. Sometimes I’ll have a span of maybe four or five hours in the evening, and sometimes weekends are totally devoted to writing. It depends on family obligations and other things that are going on, those so-called “life interruptions” that can be so detrimental to letting the muse have its day!

Q:  Where are some grand places you’ve traveled, or would like to travel? And why?

A: To date, I’ve been to Switzerland, England, Wales, France, Belgium, Germany, the Czech Republic (visiting Prague was a great help in setting the scene for the latter part of Corcitura), Austria, and Hungary. In addition, I’ve been to several Caribbean islands and 25 of our 50 states, my favorite being Hawaii, which I had the opportunity to visit eleven years ago. I do not have an ounce of Hawaiian blood, but my first name is Hawaiian (it means Melissa), so I’ve always felt an affinity for the islands.

I would love to visit Ireland and also Russia one day—Ireland because my paternal grandmother’s family is from there and I’ve always been fascinated by the country (most recently by the entire Home Rule debate—thank you Downton Abbey! 😉, and Russia because I’ve been a Russophile since I saw the animated movie Anastasia when I was twelve. The viewing of that film also engendered in me a fascination with the Romanovs that continues to this day.

Q:  Do you have some favorite authors? Some authors who have mentored your thoughts?

A: Yes, several! Some of my particular favorites would have to be P. G. Wodehouse, Jean Plaidy, Georgette Heyer, Daphne Du Maurier, Agatha Christie (I can never get enough of her mysteries! So entertaining!), Alexandre Dumas, J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, Jane Austen, Louisa May Alcott, and Sarah Rayne for her riveting novels of psychological suspense! Wilkie Collins is my wild card in there, too, and I also love everything I’ve ever read by Shannon Hale. Her novels are pure magic. 

As far as mentoring, it would have to be Dumas for his amazing ability to write action scenes, Wodehouse for showing me the trick to making people laugh in fiction, Jane for the effortless way she writes the “dance of romance,” and Tollers and Jack (Tolkien and Lewis) for being the standard by which I measure all fantasy and motivating me to always be original.

Q: What other writings have you done? What’s next for you?

A: My latest novel, Corcitura, was published last year. Here is everything you need to know about the novel in a nutshell: Two vampires…one victim…endless trouble. Beginning in London in the year 1888, Corcitura tells the story of best friends Eric Bradburry and Stefan Ratliff, two eighteen-year-old Englishmen who are experiencing their first taste of freedom by setting out on a solo, grand tour of Europe. But what begins as the adventure of a lifetime, quickly explodes into a twisted untangling of centuries-old secrets as our protagonists are forced to flee from people who turn out to be much older—and somehow possess alarming otherworldly powers—than they originally appear. I am talking, of course, about vampires, and the two progenitors of the Corcitura are the stuff of nightmare: a half-wolf, half-vampire Vrykolakas and a five-hundred-year-old Upyr with an uncontrollable desire to create a hybrid creature to use as his own personal agent of destruction.

But vampires are just one facet of this story. Not only are the vampires horrifying, and their trickery something I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy, but they have fascinating backstories that are inextricably linked with one of the main protagonists and his family—especially his sisters, who have a crucial role to play in how this story works itself out. If you love seeing female vampire protagonists having a major role in the outcome of the story, then you will love the two in this book. Let’s hear it for the girls! They have enough history and chutzpah to fill volumes more—which is my intended plan. They also happen to be werewolves. And if that duality doesn’t intrigue you, I don’t know what will!

My current project is the book with the sharks that I was talking about before. It is a complete revamping and reworking of my original first novel that I began at the age of fourteen, but abandoned for school, life, and other projects. I have been working on it since July of 2012 and have been totally transforming it into a dystopian epic set in a brutal and lawless world. The entire theme and outcome of the story have changed drastically (the sharks were always there, although they are a much bigger part of the story now), but all the exciting bits (mythical beasts, hidden identities, battles, political intrigue, and some truly horrifying and treacherous villains) are still part of the fabric of the story. With the passage of years, however, everything within the story seems to have more meaning and gravitas to me now. It is definitely not the same book I would have written as a fourteen-year-old, so I am very happy I put the novel on hold.

Additionally, I am mapping out and reworking my fantasy duology (which I’ve also been writing since 2003—that was my banner year for creative ideas, it seems!) and am currently finishing up a collection of short comedy/fantasy/horror stories set in Eastern and Northern Europe in the 1800s. It has been an exciting challenge to essentially create mini-novels in 40 pages or less for this collection.   

Q:  How can readers connect with you?

A: I would love for readers to connect with me on any or all of the following sites:

My website:  http://www.booksinmybelfry.com/

Goodreads:  http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/950456.Melika_Dannese_Lux

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/BooksInMyBelfry 

And if you want to contact me directly, here is my email: booksinmybelfry@hotmail.com

Erin:  Thank you so very much for sitting down and talking with me today. We wish you much continued success in all your creative pursuits!  It was so nice to get to learn more about you.

MelikaThis has been so much fun, Erin! Thanks for letting me share a bit of myself and my work with you and your readers! 

City of Lights Tour Day #3: Review at Oh, For The Hook of a Book!

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Hi Everyone!

What a fantastic way to start the day! 😀 Please stop by at Oh, For The Hook of a Book! to read Erin’s review of City of Lights: The Trials and Triumphs Ilyse Charpentier.

http://hookofabook.wordpress.com/2013/04/10/city-of-lights-by-melika-lux-sets-the-stage-for-intrigue-drama-love-and-triumphs-in-historical-france/

Best wishes,

Melika

City of Lights Tour Day #2: Author Interview and Giveaway at A Bookish Affair and Review at So Many Books, So Little Time

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Greetings Everyone!

Exciting things are happening on day two of the City of Lights tour! Visit A Bookish Affair today for a chance to win a signed copy of the novel and also to read a guest post about what inspired me to become a writer and how that led me to the creation of City of Lights: The Trials and Triumphs of Ilyse Charpentier.

http://abookishaffair.blogspot.com/2013/04/hf-virtual-book-tours-guest-post-and.html

Then, stop by So Many Books, So Little Time to read Denise’s review of City of Lights!

http://somanybookssolittletimeblog.blogspot.com/

Finally! Someone who appreciates Sergei for the lovable little psycho he is! 😉

See you tomorrow! 😀

Best wishes,

Melika