I’m super-excited to reveal Cover One to the first-ever DarkWhimsy Books release. The book will be presented in a retro-innovative binding I’m calling DoubleFront. The method of laying out the two stories offset 180% means that this collection of two Holiday stories “Blue/Christmas / The Beacon” will have two front covers (print version only). If you have ever seen the classic science fiction paperbacks Ace Doubles, you’ll get it. If not, you’ll just have to check it out in person. It’s cool. So enough about that, here’s the cover!!
Blue and Chip are enjoying a quiet Christmas Eve-ning together when the mysterious paranormal investigator Rebecca Burton knocks on their door… holding a peace offering. Blue and Rebecca had last parted ways furious with each other.
On the other hand, Rebecca had saved Blue’s life. Blue decides to hear her out–and hopes she won’t regret it.
Coming soon: the reveal of Cover Two for “The Beacon: An SF Comedy Play in Two Acts.” The cover is currently being created by RJ’s long-time awesome artist collaborator Ash Arceneaux.
Blue Christmas / The Beacon, a DoubleFront Holiday Book will be the first release of R.J. Sullivan’s indie press label DarkWhimsy Books. The mini-read will be available in plenty of time for Christmas. Watch this space for more announcements!
The larger world shared by E. Chris Garrison and R.J. Sullivan (they even co-wrote this blog post)
E. Chris Garrison and R.J. Sullivan: two great tastes that taste great…
Let’s start over.
Chris and R.J. met at an author’s retreat in 2011. At the time, Chris had released her first editions of the Road Ghosts Trilogy and Blue Spirit, and RJ had released the first edition of Haunting Blue. Through discussion and the group readings that happen during author retreats, they found that they tend to think in similar ways on such topics as character archetypes and styles, which made them fast friends.
Chris’ skills as a brewmaster may have also had something to do with this.
Their first venture into “crossing their universes” was a character to character fictional interview blog that proved a lot of fun. Eventually, they decided that using each other’s characters and settings in a shared universe made sense dramatically in certain instances. Over time, they found that telling tales that affected a larger world also made for a fun marketing ploy to coax sales. They drafted a simple agreement between themselves to work it out, and they have been trading characters and building upon a shared universe ever since.
Having set the stage, let’s look at how Restless Spirit, Chris’ latest release and the reason you’re here, is part of that world.
This second book in Garrison’s Road Ghosts Trilogy (written under a previous byline) marks the debut of Skye MacLeod, a cheerfully drunken gamer girl involved in a vampire live-action roleplaying game. The main cast encounters her as they attempt to save a poor little lost tween ghoul from a greedy opportunist who’s in league with a demon. Skye literally stumbles into trouble as she is possessed by the demon and forced to do its bidding. While this possession is temporary, Skye’s life and destiny are changed forever.
When the Trilogy ended, Garrison wanted to do something different. Skye was the first character she thought of to star in a spin-off series.
Set in 2010, the first novel by R.J. introduces flamboyant punk girl “Blue” Shaefer, her computer savvy boyfriend “Chip” Farren, and Chip’s best friend Phil Jenson. Against the backdrop of a creepy Indiana small town with a legendary secret, Blue and Chip meet, fall in love, and try to solve that legendary secret. Their efforts end up releasing a ghost and dark hi-jinx ensue.
The aforementioned spin-off of Garrison’s Road Ghosts Trilogy, this first book in the Tipsy Fairy Tales features Skye telling the story from her own point of view. She tells us a tale of her misadventures as a transplanted gamer girl whose life is permeated with the supernatural fairy world only she can see. Having grown up in Chicago, Skye never needed to learn to drive, so she takes the IndyGo buses or bums rides to get everywhere she needs to go. On one such bus, on an especially bad day, Skye meets a short, scruffy, gnome-like person who calls himself the Transit King. Skye sees past his sketchy appearance and recognizes him as a fairy lord. He proceeds to offer his assistance (in return for a promised favor) that further tangles Skye in high stakes supernatural politics.
In many ways, this first encounter not only drives the rest of the Tipsy Fairy Tales and provides Skye with a mentor, but introduces the Transit King as an unlikely favorite character from this book among readers and author peers. Chris was surprised and honored when later asked by R.J. if he could “borrow” the mysterious character for his own books.
In this sexy ghost story, frustrated geek girl Loretta Stevens boards a bus while fuming over how rudely she’s been treated by her boyfriend. She and Daryl had come to the local mall to shop for a birthday present and possible engagement ring for her, only to watch as Daryl instead buys a piece of overpriced Hollywood memorabilia connected to the long-dead gorgeous 50’s icon Maxine Marie. Disgusted, Loretta leaves him standing in the store, and she must now rely on public transportation to get back to her car.
On the bus, as she reflects on their relationship, a strange, creepy fellow with a thick accent advises her to wait for Daryl at his apartment. “Normally, I just…get travelers to their destinations…I’m just the Transit King, after all. …Follow yer instincts, not yer pride.” Yes, this is the same Transit King who plays such an important role in Garrison’s Tipsy Fairy Tales, making his “debut” in the R.J. verse.
Loretta ignores this good advice, to her regret. She learns that her boyfriend has been ensnared by the ghost of Maxine Marie herself. Maxine, now a sort of super-specter, is strengthened by the energy generated by her millions of fans, especially Daryl. The ghost is feeding off him, and he’s fading fast. Desperate, Loretta seeks aid from Rebecca Burton, an investigator of paranormal phenomenon who wields mysterious powers. Loretta learns that Rebecca’s role as a government agent is a cover that allows her to move about freely as she prepares to play a major role in an upcoming battle with the forces of evil.
The year is 2013, and Chip Farren and Phil Jenson are now students at I.U., roommates living off campus and ambitious game programmers. They’ve released a beta of Fantasy Free-Form, their multi-player heroic fantasy computer game. Blue travels to Bloomington over Thanksgiving weekend to sort out her complicated feelings with Chip about their relationship.
The three of them are unaware that the game has been targeted by a cult of demon worshipers who think they can use the game’s virtual environment as a focal-point to summon a demon, creating a portal from their dimensional prison in hell to the video realm and then from there into the real world. Fortunately, Rebecca Burton is already aware of the situation, and she’s employed a talented young woman to assist her–Skye McLeod. Before the night is over, Blue will nearly lose her life and her sanity, and Skye will have to find the inner strength to confront Rebecca and force her to do the right thing. Phil and Skye will also begin an unusual friendship that continues in…
In the following summer of 2014, Skye finds herself still underemployed and dependent on her girlfriend, Annabelle. Phil Jenson has taken the step of promoting Fantasy Free-Form at Big Con, an enormous gamer convention in Indianapolis, and has hired Skye on to use her charm to draw con-goers to try out the game. She’s delighted at her apparent good luck when Rebecca Burton calls her. Rebecca has heard rumors of supernatural activity at the convention, and she wants to hire Skye to watch out and report on anything suspicious. Trouble soon finds her, in the form of one of her gamer friends somehow amassing a zombie army, some meddling trolls, and an ancient horror lurking underneath the center of Indianapolis. She goes to visit her old mentor, The Transit King, who has become far more powerful after the events of Blue Spirit, and he gives her some cryptic direction and magical aid–with his usual price tag. Unfortunately, Skye gets pulled into the supernatural events more than any of her employers care for, and when one problem crashes into another, she feels forced to set them against each other, unleashing a type of hell into downtown Indianapolis in the process. She loses the support of Rebecca and the Transit King, and puts other relationships at risk, but Phil sticks with her to the very end, helping her make slightly more sober choices to undo what she’s done.
The story doesn’t end there. Garrison reports that Phil, Blue, and Rebecca return for the climactic third book in the Tipsy Fairy Tales series, Mean Spirit! So stay tuned for future Garrison/Sullivan character crossover fun!
About the author: E. Chris Garrison writes fantasy and science fiction novels and short stories. She used to publish as Eric Garrison, but has since upgraded.
With the release of Darkness with a Chance of Whimsy now just a couple weeks away, I wanted to do something new and interesting with my author photo. In a way, I see the short story collection as the end of an era, the time when I was finding my voice and discovering who I was as a writer and what I have to say. While this question will never entirely go away, I feel like I’ve started to get a handle on this in the past five years, and I wanted to celebrate the moment alongside my most popular creations that have been so important in growing my readership.
Darkness with a Chance for Whimsy is a collection of ten short stories and is on track to come out in ebook and paperback by Seventh Star Press in mid-June. I will definitely have copies of the book for sale in time for Inconjunction in Indianapolis over Fourth of July weekend. Stay tuned for more details.
Nell Williams has created a new Blue Christmas image for 2014, a (mostly) annual tradition of putting my characters in various holiday scenes for Christmas time, with the tag “Have a Blue Christmas.” This year, she Nell rendered a scene directly from the new short story “Blue Christmas” as featured in GIFTS OF THE MAGI.
Here is the base art:
Which she cropped to this.
Variations for Facebook memes:
And I cropped further for this portrait-like view of Blue and Chip.
Personally I love this rendition of the characters, particularly Blue. She’s grown a lot and been through a lot in two novels, and Nell captured the growth and maturity of that journey, something I didn’t expect from a fun little marketing piece. It makes me excited to write the next book in her story. Hmmmm…..
Maxine: I’ll have you know, Mister, that I haven’t been a day over 33 in nearly 50 years!
RJ: ….That would only make sense to you, Maxine.
Maxine: Why, thanks. I think.
RJ: I just mean that yesterday, Haunting Obsession received its 40th review on Amazon, and even though it was my second book, it’s easily the most it’s the most popular book in my loose trilogy in terms of both sales and reviews. So I thought—
[Maxine slaps RJ’s other cheek]
RJ: Ow! Seriously? What is wrong with you??
Maxine: You just called me loose. I may be dumb, but I’m not stupid.
RJ: I thought you’d want a chance to thank our loyal readers for all their support in getting us this far.
Maxine: Thank them? Shouldn’t you be thanking me? Do you want me to tell your “loyal readers” what you pay me to be your ongoing mascot every time you can’t think of a clever idea for a blog?
RJ: Hey now! I’m just saying, we owe our audience a huge thank you because we’d never had done it without them.
Maxine: Or maybe your loyal readers know an awesome cover when they see it. I mean, look at me. I am a dish, aren’t I? And Bonnie Wasson captured my good side.
RJ: Well, yes, it is a great cover, but—
Maxine: I mean, let’s face it, prop it up at your table and it sells itself. What fan of steamy ghost fiction can possibly resist?
RJ: Fine, then let me talk. I wrote this to extend my heart-felt thanks to each and every reader and for all the terrific comments I’ve heard about Haunting Obsession since its release. And I want to thank my publisher Seventh Star for it’s incredible support of me on this journey, and all my peers and friends who have helped me in more ways than I can say. I promise the best is yet to come. Most especially to Bonnie Wasson, Nell Williams, Nikki Howard, and Lily Monstermeat for offering their great interpretations of the character for me to use.
[RJ looks at Maxine]
RJ: Don’t you have anything to say?
Maxine: Sure. Thank you, RJ’s readers, for demonstrating your elegant good taste and serving as my willing minions in my plans to take over the world…one book at a time.
RJ: Okay, never mind, just join me in taking a bow.
Maxine: [wink] Ah-ha, I knew you were up to something, Mister.
Thank you, readers, for helping me reach this milestone. As a good friend likes to say: The Best is Yet To Come.
Here, re-posted for your consideration, is a writing exercise I composed this morning in one of my writer’s groups. A bit of metafiction whimsey and proof that while Haunting Obsession has been out for several months, Maxine isn’t done haunting me yet. (Yes, at the mentioned moment, two men stood just outside our open conference room door and proceeded to have a conversation.)
I stared at the laptop screen; the blank white surface stared back, screaming intimidation.
I glanced at the clock, mulling over the exercise, thinking, Wow, Steve, that’s a bit of a tall order. An evocative scene, using all five senses, simple words, and you want us to read it at the end of the hour? Really?
Behind me, I felt her lean against my shoulders, her breathy whisper in my ear sending a responsive shiver down my spine. “So, what’cha doing R.J.?”
I turned and looked behind me. There was Maxine Marie, the glamorous Hollywood ghost, the late great shapely gorgeous blonde, grinning for me and only me.
Still, I didn’t appreciate the timing. “Maxine, what are you doing here…now?”
Her bottom lip protruded, and she looked down at her feet. “Oh, look at Mister Serious Author, turning all grumpy-puss. As if I have any control over when I enter your mind.”
She turned and sat on the table, seated on her shapely bottom between myself and the new woman. Her body phased right through the chair, as ghosts tend to do.
It was fine, I could still see through her to the end of the room. A hint of vanilla lavender perfume drifted toward me. (Vanilla lavender? Sure, why not.)
“So,” said Maxine into the air, her nails tap-tap-tapping a quick rhythm on the tabletop. “You’re supposed to write to the five senses. What can we write about?”
I glared down, her nails, still ticking out their rapid tempo, the rhythm rapidly ratcheting on my last nerve. “Would you stop doing that please?”
She looked down, flashed an abashed grin, and folded her hands in her lap. “Sorry.”
“So how many have we covered?” she asked. I started looking over my draft. “Not sure. I wish those two guys out in the hallway would stop talking so we would concentrate on the assignment.”
Maxine nodded. “No kidding. Hey!” She offered a mischievous grin. “Want me to go out and scare them?”
I considered. I knew I should be filled with alarm, the very idea jolting my body so I could describe all sorts of abnormal sensations for this writing exercise, but my heart just wasn’t in it.
Truthfully, the thought of her walking through the wall, appearing between them while donning thick black glasses, hissing a librarian-like “shhhhh……” and then vanishing into thin air gave me the giggles.
But…I shook my head. “No, better not.”
“Oh, poo. You’re no fun.”
I reached for my blue travel coffee mug and took a sip, the tepid liquid, two hours past its prime, left a bitter aftertaste.
Maxine nodded. “Nicely done, sneaking in the sense of taste.”
I smiled at the compliment. “Thanks!”
I drummed my fingers lightly across the black keys in a repetitive motion, trying to think where else to take this scene.
“Hey, Mister,” she chastised. “Now who’s being annoying?”
I stopped. “Sorry.”
Maxine’s gaze lifted, settling on the clock, which showed quarter ’til.
“Think you have enough?”
“Sure. Thanks, Maxine.”
“Don’t mention it. Talk to you soon, RJ.” And she vanished.