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Tuesday, 15 December 2015

☀✉ Bleizgeist - Hazel Butler

Thank you for joining us for the Release Day Party for Bleizgeist, a New Adult Dark Fantasy by (, Astrid Press, 94 pages).

PREVIEW: Check out the book's synopsis and excerpt below.  Read the first two chapters with Amazon Look Inside.

Also check out the two guest posts by author Hazel Butler: Unleash the Night: Dark Fantasy and Allegory and Why Write Strong Female Leads? Because You’re Still Asking That Question .

Author Hazel Butler will be awarding one (1) ebook copy of Bleizgeist to one of our readers, and five Paperback Copies of Bleizgeist, + Fine Art Giclee Print of the Cover Art to a randomly drawn winner via Rafflecopter during the tour.


Synopsis | Teasers | About the Author | Giveaway & Tour Stops

Synopsis

Ingary is a harsh land. Cursed by a perpetual winter, the isolated little town has all but forget why they worship the wolf.

Marked by magic she cannot control, Marishka is an outcast. Alone and starving she is plagued by geiste, the unconscious minds of the people of Ingary, roaming the wilderness as they sleep. Attracted to the gramarye in Marishka’s blood, the geiste give her no rest. Losing herself to madness, she is saved when she chances to fall in love. But when her affair is discovered, all hope is taken from her.

Beaten and lovelorn, she resigns herself to death.

And then the wolf walks through her door, and Marishka recalls the meaning of Bleizgeist—the spirit of the wolf.

Teasers

Excerpt | Guest Post #1 | Guest Post #2 |

Excerpt


     The sun was high in the sky before I ventured forth. There were few geiste abroad in daylight, and fewer still if I restricted my time without Bardawulf's protection to high noon, yet there would always be some, and without the safety of the pelt they had free rein of my mind. Even the waking minds of the townsfolk were a burden, though not as likely to induce lunacy as their sleeping counterparts. I had long since learned where the rough, invisible perimeter around Ingary lay, a short stretch from the town proper. Outside that perimeter, I was relatively safe from the waking thoughts of others and those few geiste that roamed in the sunlit hours.
     Given my new-found status as an adulterer, I expected to be prevalent in the minds of the townsfolk. There was nothing they liked more than gossip. Even weeks after the affair had been discovered I would still be a delicious scandal, the woman who came between Torsten Hern and his wife.
     There was a tight knot in my stomach from the moment I left the cottage, and it only grew worse as I approached the strange barrier that ringed Ingary. I sensed it as a physical entity, the life force of the town shimmering in the ether, a thickening of the air that produced a haze. The occasional spark of aurorae lanced across a great, virtually invisible dome above the town. It was true I did not have to be within that dome to be accosted, the geiste roamed freely enough outside it, but the presence of so many living minds, sequestered in one place, an ancient town that had seen generation after generation of minds live in the same buildings, walk the same streets, and slowly expand further towards the forest ... it was a heady piece of gramarye, a natural magic that few would ever understand.
     My mother had shared my gift.
     My curse.

Unleash the Night: Dark Fantasy and Allegory


by Hazel Butler

     Dark Fantasy has always been my favourite genre. Whether I’m reading or writing, it is a genre I return to again and again. This is partly due to my love of the dark, the gothic, the macabre, and the vaguely terrifying, but it is mainly due to the characters and meaning that often come with Dark Fantasy.
     Mark Lawrence, Anne Rice, Joe Abercrombie, Stephen King, Clive Barker, even Neil Gaiman and Robin Hobb exist in the murky realms of Dark Fantasy.
     It’s not a coincidence that almost all my favourite authors are on that list.
     This is a genre that allows, far more than most others, for the consideration of characters, themes, and actions, which would otherwise be considered unpalatable in mainstream fiction. The ability this genre has to reveal and explore the darkest aspects of human nature and experience has always been appealing.
     When I first put pen to paper to scratch out an outline for Bleizgeist, I had no idea it was going to be a Dark Fantasy tale. In fact, I was intending to write something a little more mainstream, a little more literary, something after the fashion of Rita Mae Brown or Sarah Waters.
     What I ended up with was considerably different, but it should not have come as a surprise.
     The character I had in mind, right from the very start, was a girl whose inherent nature was for some reason taboo. This made her an outcast, with few friends, no family, and only one means of survival—using the very nature that cursed her to her advantage.
     I was looking for an allegory, a means of depicting the harsh nature of the world when you are, in some way, different. The differences I was considering in this particular case pertained to mental illness and sexuality. I needed something that emulated the fractured and disturbing world inhabited by those with certain mental illnesses (schizophrenia and bipolar disorder), and the ostracism that is often experienced by individuals with such conditions, as well as those who are, for whatever reason, different to the ‘norm’ for their gender (gay, lesbian, bisexual, third gender, transgender etc.). My goal was to emphasise the duality that is often experienced by such individuals, in that their mental illness and/or their sexual identity is at once a wonder and a curse.
     For when you have a mental illness, or your identity (sexual or otherwise) is in some way different to the ‘norm’, it becomes the focus of other people’s opinion of you, and sometimes your opinion of yourself. It is the thing that people define you by, and judge you by, without any consideration for all those other elements that make up the whole of you.
     I struggled to find a suitable allegory for this in a story based in the real world, but a fantasy world? Or more specifically a dark fantasy world? That was a whole other kettle of the swimming things…
     And so Marishka was born, a young and vulnerable woman, outcast in her society as a result, not of any illness or sexual proclivity, but the very magic running through her blood. Magic that, if left unchecked, has the power to drive her insane. The so-called ‘black dog’ of depression was almost immediately embodied by an extremely large (and suitably ebony) wolf, while the fractured nature of reality, the disturbing presence within your own mind of thoughts and fears and feelings that do not belong to you, were embodied by the geiste. Spirits, but not the spirits of the dead. The spirits of the living. The spirits of those who share Marishka’s world but keep her at bay, never quite letting her in, never quite accepting her. By day the geiste force her to hear every thought and feeling of those near her, and by night she is plagued by their smokey, insubstantial forms.
     The geiste are entities with the power to break her will, and the ability to drive her mad.
     And yet her magic, her wolf, her ‘black dog’, proves to be her salvation.
     The very thing that causes them to abhor her is the one thing they desperately need. It is also the one thing she must accept if she is to retain her sanity, and truly accept her own identity.
     This book is dark, there is no getting around that. It had to be, for it deals with the darkest elements of human nature. Through the magical nature of fantasy, however, I was able to do this without writing a depressing treatise on mental health, rape, and gay rights.
     I am grateful for this.
     Not because I find these subjects to be unimportant, but because I believe them to be of the upmost importance, and am fully aware that people absorb and retain information far better if they are entertained in the telling.
     Dark Fantasy was the natural genre for this book, and Ingary was the natural place in which to set it.
     Marishka, as you will soon see, was the natural choice for telling the tale...

Why Write Strong Female Leads? Because You’re Still Asking That Question


by Hazel Butler

     One of my favourite writers (and directors), Joss Whedon, famously recounted an incident with a journalist during an Equality Now speech in 2006. It went something like this: the journalist asked, ‘So, why do you write these strong female characters?’, and in the style we have come to love and adore from the man who brought us Buffy, Angel, Firefly, Dollhouse, and The Avengers (amongst other things), Whedon simply responded, ‘Because you’re still asking me that question’.
     I’m fairly certain that everyone who has ever written a tale involving strong female characters—in particular a lead character—has been asked some variation of, ‘Why did you make your women so strong?’, and/or, ‘Why did you make your hero a woman?’
     I find it mildly ridiculous, but sadly not surprising, that this still happens. But it was a comment from a friend of mine after she read my first novel, Chasing Azrael, that really got me thinking about this. The friend in question is no chauvinist. She’s no stranger to strong female characters, in fact she’s all for them. What surprised me was her assertion that it was the first time she’d read anything wherein there was a strong female protagonist whose strength depended, not on her physical power or supernatural abilities, but due to her strength of character.
     Andee Tilbrook is not a strong character because she’s a slayer, an assassin, a world class spy, or physically capable of kicking the arse of anyone she pleases. She’s actually physically very weak, being extremely petite and rather frail. She suffers from depression, which weakens her further, and when we meet her at the start of the novel she is so lost in grief for her husband that she’s close to ending her own life.
     Doesn’t sound too strong, does it?
     But Andee’s strength is something that is demonstrated throughout the novel as it is slowly revealed what she has been through, and how she has endured these events. Her strength is revealed as she gradually comes into her own, accepts her powers, and uses them for the benefit of herself an others, not because she can fight for them, or protect them, or magically save the day, but because she’s independent, tenacious, intelligent, and driven.
     My friend enjoyed Andee as a character—despite her prickly appearance at the start of the novel—precisely because she demonstrated that it was possible to be strong, and a woman, and un-reliant on others, and save the day through sheer force of will, strength of character, and smarts.
     She wasn’t bitten by a radioactive spider that gave her superhuman powers. She has superhuman powers, but if anything these weaken her. They make her question her place in the world, they damage her grasp on reality, and for many years she can find no tangible benefit to them.
     Her powers are not a gift, they are a curse.
     She is not strong because of them, she is strong in spite of them.
     I was extremely pleased my friend had picked up on these aspects of her character, and encouraged to find that she—and later others—really appreciated them. When I came to write Bleizgeist, I wanted to further explore this notion of a strong female lead whose strength came not from any special powers or abilities, but from her character. While I wanted her to have special abilities, I also wanted them to go beyond being a mere hindrance and became an actual , threat. I wanted a girl whose ‘gifts’ had no tangible benefits and were weakening her more and more with each passing day.
     I wanted to heap a world of hurt on this girl and see how she dealt with it.
     I wanted her hurt, and vulnerable, and threatened at every turn by emotional, psychological, physical, and social hardships.
     I wanted a character who wasn’t just strong enough to endure, but strong enough to rise above and emerge victorious. Beyond victorious, I wanted her to emerge glorious.
     Whether I have succeeded in this endeavour remains to be seen, but while reading, should you find yourself wondering why I chose to write a strong female protagonist, my answer is simply this:
     Because you are still asking that question.

Bleizgeist
Available NOW!

UK: purchase from Amazon.co.uk US: purchase from Amazon.com find on Goodreads

About the Author

Hazel is an author, artist and archaeologist from Cheshire, England. She is the founder and owner of The Bookshine Bandit, a business dedicated to helping authors, writers, bloggers, and those looking to self-publish achieve their dreams and maximise their writing potential.

Since 2010 she has been working on a series of Gothic Literary novels, the first of which, Chasing Azrael, was released in April 2014. The Deathly Insanity series is a set of Urban Fantasy novels with overlapping character and plot-lines. Hazel’s other published works include ‘Grave’, a short Dark Fantasy story, and an additional short story and novella published under a pen name.

While her primary interests are in Gothic and Fantasy art and fiction, Hazel reads a wide range of subjects and enjoys most forms of art. In addition to this, she runs The Bipolar Bear, a blog on bipolar disorder, and loves dogs. Her King Charles Cavalier Spaniel, Dexter (yes, after the serial killer), is her near-constant companion.

Hazel is currently in the final year of her PhD, which focuses on Gender Dynamics in Late Iron Age and Early Medieval Britain. She studied at The University of Manchester for her Undergraduate degree, then Bangor University for her MA and PhD, spending the two years between her MA and PhD doing corporate archaeology and research excavations, both in Britain and in Austria. She has two papers published in international journals.

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Giveaway and Tour Stops

Enter to win one (1) ebook copy of Bleizgeist
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Enter to win one of 5 Paperback Copies of Bleizgeist, + Fine Art Giclee Print of the Cover Art!
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