Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Unshelled: a Tale of the Nutcracker - set during WWI

Guten tag, commies!

Just because it's spring, doesn't mean you can't enjoy a Nutcracker story. I am pleased to share my latest monstrosity. After years of deliberation, I decided to jump on the bandwagon and write a modernized, realistic adaptation of a classic fairy tale. Unshelled is a retelling of a Christmas staple "Nutcracker". The story takes place during the Great War. If you know anything about me and my work, you can always count on me to take a beloved heart-warmer and make it sick and twisted.

I am fond of the cover because it reminds me of the latest Rammstein video - very timely and very appropriate. Hats off to my talented husband Herr Neary for the cover photo and the stunning model of German descent Chris Brooke for his depiction of a shell shocked soldier. 

West Germany, 1915. 

Marie Stahl, a stoic combat nurse in her late twenties, unhindered by her own ailments, converts her family countryside estate into a convalescent home for soldiers slapped with the controversial diagnosis "shell shock". Her only helpers are two taciturn factory girls of Slavic descent. Marie's altruistic endeavor brings on the wrath of her embittered brother Fritz, a Sergeant-Major in the Germany army. Having lost a foot in the trenches, he considers these men traitors, deserving of execution, not sympathy. The one he detests most is Christoph Ahrens, an engineering student nicknamed "Nutcracker" for his unusually strong jaw. 

Despite her morose disposition, Marie finds herself intrigued by the haunted youngster, who turns out to be a pupil of her godfather, Dr. Drosselmeyer, a physics lecturer at the University of Cologne and a military technology pioneer. As Marie and Christoph grow closer, he confides in her about his nightmares. The most horrifying images are not of his experiences in the trenches but of Germany's future—the old country they have been proud to serve will not exist twenty years later. As a woman of science, Marie rejects the notion of clairvoyance, although a part of her cannot help but wonder if there is some truth to his predictions.

In the meantime, the atmosphere at the convalescent home grows more hostile as the patients turn on each other and Marie begins to question her altruism.

Set against the violence and paranoia of the Great War, Unshelled is a gritty, sinister retelling of the Christmas classic.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

"Diabolus in Musica" - Phantom of the Opera Meets Dr. Faustus

Hello, commies!
Diabolus in Musica artfully blends high art and horror (just like in real life). Everyone knows that the devil wears Prada and loves beauty. 

A struggling tenor in a third-rate German opera house, Jack Horn feared his singing career was over. Then he met Belinda Fausse. World-renowned diva, beautiful temptress, she promised him fame and passion beyond his wildest imaginings. And she taught him well—until her private plane disappeared over the Atlantic.

Now Jack lives alone in Belinda's house, haunted by the night. For that is when she returns to him, taking his voice, his body, his being. And he is possessed by her, drowning in her perfume, suffocating in her embrace. Then friends and rivals begin to die, in ghastly, mysterious ways—and Jack realizes that no prayer is ever answered without a sacrifice... 

My thoughts
Brent Monahan's "Diabolus in Musica" will leave you with a strange deja vu feeling in a good way. The author weaves familiar archetypal themes of vanity, temptation and sinister contracts with the dark side. Be prepared to hear the echos of "Phantom of the Opera" and "Faustus". A handsome, vain though only moderately talented tenor with a telling name Jack Horn trades places with Christine from "Phantom of the Opera". His "Phantom" mentor is a stunning, mysterious, elusive diva by the name Belinda Fausse, whose career suggests that she is pushing 40 though she doesn't look a day over 25. When Belinda takes Jack as her lover and voice student, he has an unsettling feeling that there are dark powers at play and that there is a price to pay for this new skill and knowledge he is about to gain. 

I happen to come from a family of classical musicians. My birth father is a former opera singer, so I am familiar with many of the musical terms. But even if you are new to the world of opera, the author does a good job explaining the jargon without the characters sounding like "talking heads" (something Dan Brown and his imitators are guilty of).

What I like about this novel is that there isn't a lot of in-your-face gore. The horror is more suggestive than explicit. So if you can appreciate a modern gender-bender "Phantom of the Opera" type story, "Diabolus in Musica" is for you!