Sister Witch, The Life of Moll Dyer (Legends of the Dyer Family, Book 1)
by David W. Thompson
Sister Witch is, as the title explains, a story about the life of Moll Dyer. Moll is a young, Irish lass whose family take her to England to find a better future. There, she gets raped and, to save her family name, she is shipped to Amerca with her uncle. The trip overseas is crucial for what happens to Moll in the New World.
What I liked about Sister Witch
I found the story very well written, drawing you in from the beginning, with hints of the paranormal and witchcraft. These hints are dispersed through the whole of the book, coming to a climax at the very end. It disperses with trivia and makes the most of issues that matter.
Most of all, the book describes what it was like to live in the seventeenth century, particularly as a woman. It is extremely well researched, and the knowledge is woven into the story with ease. Topics as rape and slavery come up in the book and are wonderfully challenged by the strong women in it.
What I didn’t like about Sister Witch
Although, strictly speaking, this is urban paranormal fiction, I would classify this more as a historical novel with paranormal hints.
It is not an action-packed story, apart from a few passages. My personal preference goes out to a bit more edge-of-your-seat suspense/action.
I would recommend this book to anybody interested in seventeenth-century colonial life, witchcraft, and stories about strong women.
This week, I have a double whammy for you. I’ve had the pleasure to have co-hosted two Dark Fantasy Books Giveaway Events with the authors of The Werewolf Whisperer, Bonita Gutierrez and Camilla Ochlan (amongst many others hosting the events who’ll you meet soon!). Bonita and Camilla have fun writing super exciting stories. Here’s some more info about two kick-ass ladies and their books.
Bonita Gutierrez & Camilla Ochlan
You’ve written TheWerewolf Whisperer books together. Is it hard to write a book with another person?
BONITA: I’m a huge fan of collaboration. I love working with a partner(s), bouncing ideas off each other, creating new stories. Camilla and I come from theater backgrounds, which gave us a good foundation for writing together. The very nature of theater is working in partnership with others to create a show. The same goes for film and television (where we’ve spent a lot of our careers). Each person has a part to play, something to contribute. Of course, there will always be points of the story to work through, differences of opinions. That just comes with the territory. But for me, the process is very exciting.
CAMILLA: I write with two different writing partners on two different series — the other one is OF CATS AND DRAGONS, a Young Adult epic fantasy. I also write solo projects. From my experience, working with a partner is great as long as your sensibilities for the project match.
WEREWOLF WHISPERER came out of the love Bonita and I share for hard-hitting urban fantasy with biting humor and world-shaking consequences. As long as the collaborators focus on the core of the story and serve the book, everything can be worked out.
The two main characters in the book, Lucy Lowell and Xochitl Magana (I’m not sure how you pronounce that first name 🙂 ), are women who complement each other. Are you those two women, are the two characters a mix of the two of you, or are they completely random characters?
BONITA: I think there’s a bit of both of us in each character. But we actually based Xochitl (pronounced Socheel or Sochee) on my experiences growing up as a person of mixed race (I’m half Mexican half Polish). Many of Xochi’s thoughts and feelings parallel my own and are deeply personal. That being said, she’s way more of a badass than I could ever hope to be.
CAMILLA: Aspects of both characters reside within me, as much as the characters sprang from my brain. But there is no everyday Lucy or Xochi walking in my shoes. I wish.
I understand Xochi’s temper, though I tend to keep that pushed far, far under the surface. I identify with Lucy’s pain most — her awkward social interactions and insecurity. But she’s evolving, becoming who she was meant to be, and I have to let her fly.
You both have backgrounds in martial arts. Does this feature heavily in the book? Would you have been able to write it without your martial arts knowledge?
CAMILLA: I have a black belt in Kosho Ryu and have dabbled in various martial arts over the years. I have a background in dance, and I studied stage movement and combat while getting my theater degree. I think having the background helps, but it is important to translate what you are seeing (in your head) to the page. That’s different even than crafting choreography, which is ultimately visual. You have to communicate the steps to your dancers or actors, and they’ll make it look good. On the page, you have to be clear enough so the reader can picture what’s going on, but not get bogged down with too much detail or technical jargon. I have used figurines to stage action sequences on checkerboards. I also focus on the consequence of the fight—if the character is hit or cut, how does that affect what’s going on?
BONITA: Like Camilla, I’ve been training off and on in martial arts for years (I have a background in Jeet Kune Do Kung Fu (Bruce Lee’s art), Kenpo Karate MMA and Kali Escrima (stick and knife fighting). It’s an essential part of my life. So, when we started writing THE WEREWOLF WHISPERER, it just felt right for the story and characters. We needed Lucy and Xochi to be formidable women who are able to handle themselves in very dangerous situations.
Though I still think we would have been able to write the series without our martial arts backgrounds, I think our training helps us create exciting, action-packed scenes that are still grounded in reality. There is something to be said for firsthand knowledge.
The books have a lot of Latino words in it (explained in a ‘lobo lexicon’ on your website). Who’s idea was that and is that because of their background?
CAMILLA: Living in L.A., Spanish is so much a part of everyday life. It was an important aspect for the tone of the piece. The city is a character, especially in book one. But we wanted to get it right, so Bonita’s dad was our best and most important resource. He is so generous. We still did a lot of research, hoping to find interesting, current language that would distinguish characters.
And then, with Kai, we wanted to bring in the Mandarin. Again, we were fortunate. My husband speaks Mandarin and helped shape the language.
BONITA: I’m not sure whose idea it was initially to have a spattering of Spanish in the book. I think we both thought it made sense for Xochi’s character. Of course, it helps having grown up around the language and having a dad who can help me with certain words I don’t know or a new colorful turn of phrase (all of which are on our website).
What is your favorite passage/dialogue in the book?
BONITA: Xochi’s “¡Híjole!” exclamations are straight out of my mouth. It’s a word I’ve adopted from my dad and can be used to express all sorts of feelings (good and bad). It’s the word that gives Xochi her flavor. Kai’s English/Mandarin/Spanish mash-ups are also a hoot. But my favorite thing to write is the banter between Lucy and Xochi. Their back-and-forth repartee helps the reader to really know the women and understand their profound friendship. Plus, it’s hilarious.
CAMILLA: There’s been a lot in the book that has made us laugh. I love Xochi’s Spanglish rants, where she’s completely aware that she’s going off the rails. My personal favorites are Lucy’s dreams. They are first person, present tense and so very, very different in tone from anything else in the books. They are like little buried treasures—just below the surface, and Lucy is completely unaware of what’s going on with all of that.
Did you do any scientific research for TheWerewolf Whisperer?
CAMILLA: Yes, quite a bit of research and extrapolation. The most profound, for me, was my initial archeological research, which led me to the grave of a Paleolithic dog in Siberia. This dog was buried in the same way a human would have been buried. Now why would that be? Was the dog so greatly loved that he was like a member of the tribe? Or was he a member of the tribe? The article sparked a lot of “what ifs” for me. Beyond that, we are digging into genetic research because we want to continue in that vein of werewolf by science and not by magic.
BONITA: Funny you should ask that. We’re currently swimming in research…lots and lots of research.
Who is the target audience for your books?
BONITA: Though THE WEREWOLF WHISPERER is urban fantasy, our readers run the gambit: men, women, twenty-somethings, fifty-somethings, teachers, forensic scientists, homemakers, and even mechanics. Anyone who likes an emotionally grounded, action-packed story laced with biting humor will dig our books.
CAMILLA: I don’t know anymore. I thought the books would be for female urban fantasy readers exclusively, but we’re getting feedback that shows that the book appeals to a wide age range and to both men and women alike. I’d been told that men wouldn’t be interested in a book with two female protagonists. Whoever said that was wrong, I am happy to report.
The series is not paranormal romance. Maybe that is the expectation, but that is not the book we wrote. That will be a different series 🙂
I love the music video on your website. Can you tell me some more about it?
BONITA: The song “El Gallo Mas Feroz” was co-written especially for THE WEREWOLF WHISPERER by David Gregory Byrne and my dad, Charles Gutierrez. It’s the signature song of one of our “Big Bads” — Memo “El Gallo” Morales, gang leader of East LA’s Los Locos and Xochi’s soon-to-be ex-boyfriend.
CAMILLA: We put the video together for a Halloween takeover (shout out to the Dark Fantasy Books Facebook group), and we liked it so much, we kept it on our Soundcloud. Thank you, P.J. for putting the video together.
Do you think The Werewolf Whisperer will one day be on the big silver screen?
BONITA: Actually, I would love to see it on the small screen. We originally developed THE WEREWOLF WHISPERER as web series. We even wrote a 13-episode story arc for season one. Those scripts turned into the novel series. So, I think television would be a natural progression.
CAMILLA: I think the series would be great as a long format TV show — like SUPERNATURAL but on Netflix.
It’s been two-and-a-half years since Book 2 of the Werewolf whisperer came out. When can your fans expect Book 3 to come out? What are you working on?
CAMILLA: We are working on BLOOD & BONES (book 3) right now, but there have been a few entries into the Werewolf Whisperer canon since the release of THE ALPHA & OMEGA (book 2). We released the novellas BEAST OUT OF HELL (on Amazon) and NO BEAST SO FIERCE (exclusive to our BEASTY BITES newsletter subscribers). As we are working on book 3, we are simultaneously working on a serialized novella about the character Kai.
But you’re right; we’ve taken a little extra time with book 3. I did, however, release NIGHT’S GIFT, RADIATION, and WINTER TITHE in the OF CATS AND DRAGONS series in 2017 with Carol E. Leever. And we have three more books ready to be released this year. Plus, Bonita and I have been meaning to break another urban fantasy series, which we are very excited about too.
BONITA: So, stay tuned!
Thank you, ladies. It’s great to hear you are so busy. I recently purchased the first book of The Werewolf Whisperer and can’t wait to dive into it after hearing how much fun you put into it!
Tomorrow, the 8th of March, is International Women’s Day, celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievement of women. As I have just finished writing the Suckers Trilogy and am bloody proud of it, I’d like to dedicate this week’s interview to myself 🙂 Let me bare my soul to you.
Why did I start writing?
It may sound cliché, but I had a dream. I dreamed about a girl bumping into a vampire and instantly falling in love. You can’t think of anything tackier, but I liked it. At the time, I was listening to popular music and one of the songs was ‘When the beat drops out‘ by Marlon Roudette. I guess the lyrics of that song got stuck in my head. I told my children about my dream, and they told me to write it down. I sat behind my computer that morning, and for the next fortnight, I only left it for the basic human needs even forsaking television (which is kind of a big deal for me). I wrote 55K words and completed my first novel draft ever. It gave me an enormous high to write. Never ever had I experienced something like this. I never took any drugs, so I can’t compare, but it is possible to get high without them, apparently 🙂 .
What is my literary education?
I don’t have a literary education as science was my first love. When I was four, I suffered a heavy concussion and skull fracture, and I spent four weeks on my back in the hospital. The nurses in the hospital were nice, so I aspired to become one. From the age of six (for the life of me, I can’t remember why that particular age), my aspirations were set a bar higher, and I set my sights on becoming a veterinarian. Animals can’t talk and tell people what’s wrong with them, so I wanted to help them. Helping others is part of what I am. Fortunately, I’m an eager learner and did well at school. I had a huge setback when I contracted a severe bout of glandular fever, or infectious mononucleosis, in my late teens. Unfortunately, it affected me far longer than the few months they say it lasts on the internet. For decades, I was affected with a bone-felt tiredness, but I moved heaven on earth to become a veterinarian and finally became one in my early thirties. By that time, I was ready to have children and found animals no longer a priority in my life. After I gave birth to our twins and stayed home for one-and-a-half years, I re-schooled and became a high school science teacher. This proved too tiring and too depressing for me (I was trying to keep the students in their seats more than I was teaching). I gladly took the opportunity when an office job presented itself.
When I had brain surgery in 2009, I decided that life was too short to be unhappy. I quit my job, a joint decision with my husband, and pursued many hobbies. I tried painting, drawing, scrapbooking, chainmail-, metal-, and pearl-jewelry making, taxidermy, and photography. Never did it occur to me that I could write a novel. I had a diary in my teens, but after I let my then boyfriend read it which made him cry, I never put a pen to paper to entertain people, thinking I could only hurt people with my writing. During my university years, I wrote in a student magazine, but that was purely information transfer. I was an office manager and secretary for a residents’ association for years, but again, that writing was also pure information transfer. My past-time I spent reading, though. I loved Terry Pratchett’s books and Anne McAffrey’s stories. I read Tolkien, the Eragon books, and many others. I loved being sucked into another world, forgetting my own troubles. That’s what I’m aiming to achieve when I write.
Since writing Books 1 & 2 of the Suckers Trilogy in 2015, I’ve spent most of my time reading up on and learning how to write. I’m still learning but getting better all the time.
Is there a bit of me in my books?
Hell, yes! Many people who know me have mentioned this. They see me as Kate. I have the red hair, make rash decisions, and am a vertically challenged person (for a Dutchie). Not everything Kate does is me, though (nudge, nudge, wink, wink). The two sisters of Kate, Maxine and Julie, also share the same first letters of my own two sisters, Marianne and Judy, but that’s where the similarities end. All characters are purely fictional and do not represent a particular person I know. That said, I based Caleb on the image of Ioan Gruffud and Charlie on the image of Peter Dinklage. They are two actors that I admire and love watching on the screen. I actually sent Peter Dinklage the first draft of my book but never heard anything back from him. I guess it’s not going to be filmed, then 🙂
Why do I write paranormal novels?
I love dressing up! At home, we used to have a large crate in the attic with dress-up clothing. Whenever we could, my sisters and I would dress up and play. My twin sister, Judy, and I used to make up plenty of fantasy stories on weekends when our parents would sleep in. With our dolls and fluffy animal puppets, we created whole new worlds, spanning our entire bedroom, where anything was possible. Our imagination ran rampant.
To be honest, I never had something special with vampires. Anything out of the ordinary would work for me, still does. I was engrossed in the Twilight series, though. The idea of being beautiful, being better at everything, and living forever attracts me. As a teenager, I suffered the usual teenager-amount of pimples. My sisters didn’t, and I felt like the ugly duckling. The only thing I had was being good at everything I did–what am I saying; I was excelling–until I contracted glandular fever. The disease made my grades plummet, and I had to sit my final high school year twice because of it. It caused an abyss in my self-confidence with a fear of failing which made me a terrible procrastinator up until today. As mentioned, I suffered a life-threatening head trauma twice, which makes one contemplate life a bit more than usual. Immortality is hence a very attractive alternative to this unpredictable and painfully short lifespan.
But your books all are based on romance, so why not write romance novels?
True, all my novels (this means not the novelette) have their feet firmly planted in romance. It is the core of the stories as without them they wouldn’t make sense. But there are so many stories about normal romances already. Don’t we all want to be special, experience something unusual, be part of something extraordinary? Enter the paranormal aspect.
There was a time I watched a lot of crime series on TV. Suddenly, I was fed up with all this pain and suffering as it became too real. I don’t watch any news or read any newspapers. It’s too depressing. What I want to achieve with my writing is for people to get away from this world and love on a deeper level. Hence, I also don’t take the (minimal) intimate details in my writing for granted. They have only been added to express the love, the romance, the needs of Kate, hoping it will flow over to the reader. I know my vocabulary needs to improve, but I’m working on this.
What’s next on the agenda?
First of all, I need to launch Killing A Vampire, Book 3 of the Suckers Trilogy. I screwed up the other books’ launches and want to do this one right. Procrastination is hard to overcome, but I’m trying my hardest. At the moment, only Book 1 exists in print format, and I want all three to be available in print. Before I can make this happen, I need to go through Books 1 & 2 and re-edit them (for the so-maniest time, I know), but I’ve learned so much since I wrote them, and they can do with another ‘upgrade.’ Audio format is the next step.
In the meantime, I am ready to start writing something new. Not writing for a few days made me depressed already. I’ve suffered from depression for a long time. My GP told me I was tired because I was depressed. I am convinced I was depressed because I was always tired. Who was right, I will never know. One thing I do know, and that is that writing is the only thing that gets me out of bed in the morning. Don’t get me wrong. I love my family to bits and honestly couldn’t wish for a better life, but writing fires up my soul.
I’ve got so many ideas in my head. Number one and two are another paranormal/sci-fi novel (I never seem to be able to stick to one genre 🙂 ) and a whole new fantasy series in the style of Terry Pratchett. I love putting humor and sarcasm in my writing, and this seems like a good option to get away with this. I will send out a newsletter to my readers soon and ask them what they prefer I should write first.
Well, that’s me in a nutshell. I’m proud to be a woman, proud of what I’ve achieved, and proud of all the women in my life. You girls rock!