Beautiful Monster, a new novel by Jeanne Bannon

authorpic(sm)I am so excited today to welcome author Jeanne Bannon to my blog!

Jeanne has been a part of the publishing industry for over twenty years, working first as a freelance journalist, then as an in-house editor for LexisNexis Canada. She currently works as a freelance editor and writer and is represented by the Serendipity Literary Agency.

Her debut novel, Invisible, a young adult paranormal romance, has been optioned for film. Invisible is an Amazon bestseller both domestically and internationally. Another of her novels, Nowhere to Run, tells the story of Lily Valier, a woman of substance and beauty, and her dilemma when she falls in love with a man whose mission it is to bring her down.

Currently, I’m finishing up work on Dark Angel, a paranormal thriller.

Jeanne is here to introduce us to her new novel Beautiful Monster. 

Beautiful Monster, The Exchange (Book 1)

Beautiful-Monster (400x640)Lev Baronovsky, a soulless creature of the night, has a problem. Carly, the love of his life has just died in an accident and in three days will pass to the other side. Without a soul, he cannot cross over with her and the thought of spending eternity without his beloved is unbearable. Is seventy-two hours enough time to find a way? With the help of his brother, Alexei, they must face the vilest creature of all, Boris, an ancient one with selfish motivations of his own.

Chapter One

Lev moved swiftly through the hallways, darting in and out and around what, to him, were slowly moving nurses and orderlies—those unfortunates working the midnight shift. Faster than any human eye was capable of detecting, he made it to Carly’s room in a flash. In fact, he made it there just in time, nostrils plucking the acrid scents from the air better than any dog’s.

He sat on the bed beside her in the dimly lit room and noticed, thankfully, she had no roommate. The bed beside Carly was recently vacated. The scent of death still lingered heavily and sadly.

Taking her delicate hand in his, Lev noticed a monitor clipped on an index finger. It seemed it measured her pulse and heartbeat. He noticed too that her heart was beating slowly, though he didn’t need a monitor for that. He heard its throb, and it made him think of a dying battery.

However, relief settled on him as he realized he was the first to arrive after the accident that had left her comatose. Carly’s family was nowhere near yet. It would take hours for them to get here from the other coast. He had time, plenty of it. Stealthily, Lev glanced into the hallway from his perch in the darkened hospital room. The occasional nurse strode past, but it was late, or perhaps the better term was early. In the wee hours of the morning, there would be fewer staff than during the day.

With a sigh, he took Carly in. Her blonde hair was matted and dirty, even though it looked as if someone had tried to clean her up, perhaps finger combing her thick mane and tucking it behind her head. Her face was still perfect. Not a single scratch had sullied her beauty.

A knot twisted in his belly. Why hadn’t he known? He could have saved her if only he’d known. But even Lev couldn’t know everything. It was his brother, Alexei, who’d given him the news moments ago.

“Brother,” he’d said, “there’s been an accident. Go now to the hospital or you’ll never see your precious Carly again.”

He hadn’t asked the how, the why, the when. Alexei had dropped his mental barriers. Lev felt them fall like a drawbridge. His brother had let him in. It was easier than speaking—

Lev was able to glean whatever information he needed in an instant. But with the simple facts of Carly’s accident came the realization his brother was happy for the turmoil.

A hint of a smile had curled Alexei’s full lips, and his eyes were bright. Lev was not surprised.

He pulled his thoughts from Alexei and looked down at his beloved’s hand in his. Thepallor of it matched his own. He listened to the slow rush of blood through her veins, willing it to grow stronger.

Moving close, he whispered, “I can save you.” He brought her dainty wrist to his lips.

She smelled like death already—like the musk of freshly turned earth. It was now or never. His fangs pricked at her delicate skin, drawing a bead of crimson. It tasted of iron and copper and of her. Carly’s very essence was in that droplet.

He stopped himself, knowing she wouldn’t want him to go through with it. They’d talked about it many times, about the possibility of him turning her, so they could be together, not for just the blink of an eye that was a human lifetime but for eternity. She would be furious if he turned her, and he wouldn’t blame her. Lev knew the pain and sorrow of being changed into a monster against one’s will.

But at least she would still exist. We could still be together. He shook off that small, but oh so inviting thought. No, he would not make a monster of her.

With a flick of his tongue, he licked the droplet away. A shudder of pleasure shot through him, and as he pushed her wrist to his mouth, like a child ready to bite into a ripe peach, the monitor blared a warning. He dropped her arm. Panic filled him. Carly’s pulse rose and fell suddenly. The stagnant tone of a heart that was no longer beating blared from the machine, stabbing sharply in his ears, but the growing silence of blood no longer pulsing through veins and arteries seemed louder. Hesitation had cost him. His compassion, as his brother would say, was his one true downfall.

Two nurses and a doctor were in the room now, buzzing frantically around Carly. Lev had disappeared through the pane of the window unseen and watched from outside where the moonless sky hid him. His jacket flapped in a breeze that also tousled his long black hair. It whipped and slapped against his cheeks.

It was said creatures like him could feel no pain. That they existed only as predators—takers of life—but Lev’s world had just crumbled. If he had a beating heart, it would be broken in two. Tears welled in his eyes, and he longed to let them fall. No, more than that, he wanted to scream, wanted to rip his cold dead heart from his chest and stomp on it.

Lev gathered himself as best he could, pinching the tears from his eyes and staring up to the heavens, but there would be no help for him there. For Lev Baranovsky, there was no God, only this perpetual hell he lived in. Love may come for him again in time, though he wasn’t sure he wanted it to. Would he ever get over losing his precious Carly? The vicious cycle of love and heartbreak was enough to drive him mad.

He should go now. Carly was gone. There was nothing he could do. Even though his brother would be at home, he needed the comfort of his own space to grieve.

He looked down at the ground two stories below, and when he peered back up for one last glimpse of his beloved, his brows lifted and his dark eyes grew to the size of poker chips.

Carly was dead, but she wasn’t gone.

Purchase your copy of Beautiful Monster on Amazon today!

Visit Jeanne Bannon and learn more about her stories at:

Biologizing in the Highlands of Costa Rica

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Training for our upcoming hike into Corcovado National Park.

Last week I sent the completed manuscript for Daughter of Aithne to my editor Terri-Lynne DeFino. Now all I can do on that project is bite my nails as I wait for her verdict. Depending on the revisions she requests, we should be able to set a tentative release date in the coming weeks. I’ve been through some ups and downs with this manuscript, but I am happy with the final product, and anxious to share it with the world. Thank you, friends and fans of Eolyn, for your patience and support as we enter this final round of Eolyn’s journey.

Fortunately I have projects to keep me occupied while Terri goes through my third novel with a fine-toothed comb. I’m digging into the planned anthology for the Native American and Pacific Islander Research Experience (NAPIRE Program). We’re starting with a book proposal to outline our objectives and establish a tentative list of chapters and contributors. The volume will be divided into two parts. Part One will focus on the interface between science and culture, with an emphasis on pedagogical approaches that support multi-cultural academic experiences. Part Two will document scientific contributions of former NAPIRE students and mentors. It’s all very much in the idea stage, but hopefully in the coming weeks and months our ideas will start to become reality.  I will certainly keep you posted moving forward.

I also have a couple of exciting field trips planned. This weekend, I will accompany a group of students from the School for Environmental Studies to the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve. This is an extraordinarily beautiful area of Costa Rica, home to the sacred bird of the Mayas, the Resplendent Quetzal. I have not returned to Monteverde for a very long time, so I am really looking forward to this trip. I’m also looking forward to hanging out with students in the field again. Believe it or not, I miss my students! Though I am very grateful for this break, it’s odd not to be teaching and interacting with students this semester. It’ll be fun to have that opportunity again, for a few days and in a beautiful setting.

In other good news, it’s looking very likely that we will celebrate my birthday this year with a return to Corcovado National Park. Corcovado is home to the most spectacular lowland rain forest in Central America, and by some accounts, in all of the Americas. It is only accessible by hiking. We will spend about three days traversing the park, from its western entrance at Los Patos, through the heart of the reserve in Sirena, and exiting along the beach through La Leona.

In short, lots of adventures along the way.  And you’ll be hearing about them all right here.

Stay tuned early next week for a visit from author Jeanne Bannon, who is releasing a new book Beautiful Monster. Honestly, who can resist a novel with that title?

Also, remember that The Masquerade Crew is giving away free copies of the audio edition of High Maga, narrated by the incomparable Darla Middlebrook. Visit the Masquerade Crew to enter to win. Good luck!

Towards a More Positive Take on Sexuality

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Gustav Klimt, ‘Danae’ (1907)

Those of you who follow my blog know that I am not one to buck the trend – preferring as I do, on most occasions, to skirt the trend entirely.

This was my intention with respect to 50 Shades of Grey, released for the silver screen this past Valentine’s Day weekend. Not having read the book, I decided long ago I had few contributions to make to ongoing discussions of the novel’s style or content. It’s also true that I’ve been a strong proponent of a more open approach with respect to sexuality in our stories. For whatever reason, 50 Shades seemed to be providing an important release for a lot of women across the country. Who was I to complain?

Still, I’ve been unable to work up any interest in reading the book, and I’ve found myself strongly averse, on a very instinctive level, to seeing the movie. When Rosie Waterland’s review of 50 Shades of Grey started circulating last weekend on the internet, I felt myself vindicated. More than vindicated, I’ve been moved to share a few thoughts of my own.

Sexuality, especially women’s sexuality, has been a central theme of Eolyn’s story since I started the series. So important is this idea in the tradition of the Magas that I invented a word solely for this aspect of the sacred feminine: Aen-lasati. 

Literally translating to “the fire within”, Aen-lasati captures the deep mystery and intense power of one of the most revered rites in the life journey of a practitioner.

Aen-lasati is about sensual pleasure, but it is also very much about respect. Why our society should ever foster a disconnect between these two, pleasure and respect, is beyond me. Like Rosie Waterland, I find it deeply disturbing that sexual freedom would be coupled in any way with an emotionally abusive relationship, as Waterland has judged it to be in the movie 50 Shades of Grey.  A woman cannot experience freedom with a man who is emotionally abusive and dangerously possessive. Any argument to the contrary is simply delusional.

The Magas of Eolyn’s world (and, in the best of their traditions, the Mages) understand this. From the time they are children, aspiring practitioners are taught to respect Aen-lasati as a gift from the Gods. “Respect” does not imply prohibition, denial, or abstinence. On the contrary, to respect Aen-lasati is to live one’s sexuality to its fullest, even to take on multiple partners if one is so inclined, but above all, to experience intimacy in an environment free from emotional abuse and psychological manipulation.

That’s not to say all the characters of Eolyn’s world are able to achieve this ideal.  Indeed, the subculture of the Magas exists inside a strongly patriarchal society that strives without ceasing to keep women under tight control.

Yet setting up a healthy and open approach to Aen-lasati as the ideal from the beginning makes an important difference for Eolyn and all the women she comes to love and teach.  When abusive relationships manifest themselves in Moisehén, there are no shades of grey. There is only the tragedy of a woman misused, and the insidious dark magic that taints everyone because of it.

If you’d like to know more about Aen-lasati, please visit my guest post “The Magic of Love and Desire” on author Tracy Falbe’s blog. 

Love is Free

This weekend only, Hadley Rille Books is opening the doors to its very own Love Shack, offering all of its Kindle short stories free, and reducing prices on many of its novels. Eolyn and High Maga are available for $0.99 in their ebook editions, and the short story Creatures of Light can be downloaded free of charge.

If you aren’t familiar with these works, I’m providing brief descriptions below. Now is a great time to dive into Eolyn’s world, as the third and final book of the series, Daughter of Aithne, will be available within a year.

Heiress to a forbidden tradition of magic, Eolyn struggles to define her own path in a world largely ruled by men. Her journey celebrates the sacred feminine and calls into question the patriarchal structures of her world. The stories are written in the tradition of epic fantasy, but they take many of the tropes of the genre and turn them on their heads. In the first two books of the series, Eolyn achieves great triumphs and suffers tremendous losses. Where will book three leave her and the people she has come to love? You will have to start reading to find out.

Check out Eolyn and High MagaThis is a great bargain, and it will only last this weekend. If $0.99 is beyond your budget, by all means at least download Creatures of Light and the other free stories from Hadley Rille Books.

To get everyone in a lovin’ sort of mood, I’ve embedded the video “Love is Free” by one of my favorite modern magas, Sheryl Crow, at the end of this post. Wishing all of you a great Valentine’s Day Weekend!

Links for EolynSole heiress to a forbidden craft, Eolyn lives in a world where women of her kind are tortured and burned. When she meets Akmael, destined to assume the throne of this violent realm, she embarks upon a path of adventure, friendship, betrayal and war. Bound by magic, driven apart by destiny, Eolyn and the Mage King confront each other in an epic struggle that will determine the fate of a millennial tradition of magic.

“Vigorously told deceptions and battle scenes will satisfy fans of traditional epic fantasy, with a romantic thread.” – Publishers Weekly

“Magnificently written.” –Kindle Book Review

Amazon * Barnes & Noble


Links for High MagaWar strikes at the heart of women’s magic in Moisehén. Eolyn’s fledgling community of magas is destroyed; its members killed, captured or scattered. Devastated yet undaunted, Eolyn seeks to escape the occupied province and deliver to King Akmael a weapon that might secure their victory. But even a High Maga cannot survive this enemy alone. Aided by the enigmatic Mage Corey, Eolyn battles the darkest forces of the Underworld, only to discover she is a mere path to the magic that most ignites their hunger.

“War propels the book forward, and the characters are at their best when the events engulfing them are at their worst.” –Publishers Weekly


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Meet Selenia, a brilliant and ruthless woman scientist, and her lover Nicolas, intrepid explorer of uncharted lands. Together, they bring a world of wonder to the port of Talagna, but not without exacting a price. Dare to follow this unconventional romance in a brutal and gaudy age. Available as a Kindle short story or as part of the Hadley Rille Books anthology World Jumping.

“Beautiful. Rich. Ruthless.” -Amazon Customer Review

Stories and Giveaways

COLcoverproto3aI’m up on Heroines of Fantasy this week. My contribution to Love Fest 2015 is the short story ‘Turning Point‘, which first appeared in the 2008 winter edition of Zahir: A Journal of Speculative Fiction. It’s a magical adventure about a tropical entomologist who nets a handsome faerie. Visit Heroines of Fantasy to read it now.

In other news, the Masquerade Crew is running a giveaway for the audio edition of HIGH MAGA, narrated by the wonderful Darla Middlebrook. Visit their site if you’d like to register to win a copy.

This weekend, Hadley Rille Books will be offering free downloads for several of its Kindle short stories. Lots of romance to keep your Valentine’s Day weekend burning bright. Included in this offer will be my short story Creatures of Light – kind of on the dark side, but romance nonetheless. To browse other Kindle titles from Hadley Rille Books, visit their web site today.

That should give you enough places to go and things to do for the moment, so I will stop distracting you here. Thank you for visiting. I’ll be back with more news soon.

No One Can Live Without Love

Love Fest 2015

Gustav Klimt, “The Kiss” (1908)

Nadie debe, nadie puede, vivir sin amor.

This is a line from a song by Argentinian musician Fito Paéz. Roughly translated, it means,

No one can or should live without love. 

In a world where vitriol, cynicism, and the sheer sport of cutting down the ‘other’ seem to be fashionable, it’s hard sometimes to keep track of this simple but enduring truth.

Lately on Heroines of Fantasy, we’ve been busy endorsing the positive aspects of community. Mark Nelson set that tone in his first post for the new year. He was soon followed by Kim Vandervort’s very insightful reflections on The Art of Civility, and Terri-Lynne Defino’s reminder that we are all in the same boat with her post about the Misfit Myth. Love, of course, is part of the recipe for a more supportive and productive community; and love will be our theme on Heroines of Fantasy for the month of February.

Within the genres of fantasy and science fiction, love is often relegated to the realm of the tangential. It might be included as a reward for the hero once he’s finished with the “real” business of the plot. We say “love story”, and images often come to mind of endless streams of penny novels with cardboard characters and predictable plots. Love is perceived as fluff, adornment, a plot element without substance, a topic not worthy of true literary attention.

I may be setting up a straw woman here, but the truth is, I’ve run into these attitudes a lot; I’ve even recognized them in the way I myself have stereotyped certain genres. Yet in my own journey of writing and reading, I’ve come to this conclusion:

Love is the single most important experience we can write about.

That’s not to say our stories shouldn’t contain other very important elements, but when push comes to shove, if we want to make our characters real, we must allow them to love.

Love is at the core of the human experience, eliciting a host of other emotions ranging from ecstasy to despair. Love brings out the best, and occasionally the worst, in all of us. Love is not always romantic; there is love for siblings, offspring, friends, parents, family, strangers, pets. . . The list goes on and on. Love for our enemy has the power to transform the world.

February is the month of love, and we at Heroines of Fantasy invite you to celebrate with us in style. Starting on Monday, February 2, our contributors and reviewers will share stories of love, romance, triumph, and heartbreak from the various genres we represent. The full schedule of festival shorts will be posted on the right-hand bar of the blog. Join us as we honor the greatest of human experiences, and please share your own stories and thoughts with us along the way.

To get everyone in a Love Fest kind of mood, here’s that song I mentioned earlier, Amor Despues del Amor, written by Fito Paez and interpreted in this video by Miguel Bosé. It’s an old video, but a good song. Kick off your shoes and dance, and while you’re at it, help yourself to the virtual champagne and heart-shaped cookies at the back of the room.

Let Love Fest 2015 begin!

 

This post first appeared on Heroines of Fantasy, January 30, 2015