We're bringing something a bit different to Writing in the Modern Age today. Awhile back, I had an idea for a new feature and I reached out to some author colleagues to see if they'd like to participate. Today we're launching 'The Author's Bookshelf'. I thought it might be nice to show readers a few books that have inspired authors. You might find it enlightening, and at least be able to answer the age old question, "What the heck do authors read?"
Writers are readers too! Most authors love to collect books for their vast personal libraries. The written word is fascinating to us, and many newer authors as well as those in the past have helped to shape who we are today.
Without further ado, our first guest for the new feature is Ashley Fontainne, a very talented crime, mystery, suspense and paranormal/horror author. Won't it be interesting to hear about a few books that have inspired her on her writing and publishing journey? And what she thinks about them?
Sounds pretty awesome to me. So, take it away, Ashley!
1. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
Set against the tumultuous years of the post-Napoleonic era, The Count of Monte Cristo recounts the swashbuckling adventures of Edmond Dantes, a dashing young sailor falsely accused of treason. The story of his long imprisonment, dramatic escape, and carefully wrought revenge offers up a vision of France that has become immortal.
"This story is my favorite. The story
of Edmond Dantes demonstrates just what lengths a person is willing to go when
they seek personal justice for heinous acts perpetrated upon them."
2. It by Stephen King
“A landmark in American literature” (Chicago Sun-Times)—Stephen King’s #1 national bestseller about seven adults who return to their hometown to confront a nightmare they had first stumbled on as teenagers…an evil without a name: It.
Welcome to Derry, Maine. It’s a small city, a place as hauntingly familiar as your own hometown. Only in Derry the haunting is real.
They were seven teenagers when they first stumbled upon the horror. Now they are grown-up men and women who have gone out into the big world to gain success and happiness. But the promise they made twenty-eight years ago calls them to reunite in the same place where, as teenagers, they battled an evil creature that preyed on the city’s children. Now, children are being murdered again and their repressed memories of that terrifying summer return as they prepare to once again battle the monster lurking in Derry’s sewers.
Readers of Stephen King know that Derry, Maine, is a place with a deep, dark hold on the author. It reappears in many of his books, including Bag of Bones, Hearts in Atlantis, and 11/22/63. But it all starts with It.
“Stephen King’s most mature work” (St. Petersburg Times), “It will overwhelm you… to be read in a well-lit room only” (Los Angeles Times).
"I am a huge fan of Stephen King and
have read every single one of his works. I read It as a teenager and the story
touched a personal fear of my own: clowns. For some reason, I am terrified of
clowns, and Pennywise haunted my nightmares for years! A great story
encapsulating childhood fears and the evil that pervades our world."
3. Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
Gone with the Wind is a novel written by Margaret Mitchell, first
published in 1936. The story is set in Clayton County, Georgia, and
Atlanta during the American Civil War and Reconstruction era. It depicts
the struggles of young Scarlett O'Hara, the spoiled daughter of a
well-to-do plantation owner, who must use every means at her disposal to
claw her way out of the poverty she finds herself in after Sherman's
March to the Sea. A historical novel, the story is a Bildungsroman or
coming-of-age story, with the title taken from a poem written by Ernest
Gone with the Wind was popular with American readers from the onset
and was the top American fiction bestseller in the year it was published
and in 1937. As of 2014, a Harris poll found it to be the second
favorite book of American readers, just behind the Bible. More than 30
million copies have been printed worldwide.
"A sweeping saga written beautifully
and an emotional roller coaster ride."
4. Coma by Robin Cook
The blockbuster bestseller that kick-started a new genre--the medical thriller--is now available in trade paperback for the first time.
They called it "minor surgery," but Nancy Greenly, Sean Berman and a dozen others--all admitted to Boston Memorial Hospital for routine procedures--were victims of the same inexplicable, hideous tragedy on the operating table. They never woke up.
Susan Wheeler is a third-year medical student working as a trainee at Boston Memorial Hospital. Two patients during her residency mysteriously go into comas immediately after their operations due to complications from anesthesia. Susan begins to investigate the causes behind both of these alarming comas and discovers the oxygen line in Operating Room 8 has been tampered with to induce carbon monoxide poisoning.
Then Susan discovers the evil nature of the Jefferson Institute, an intensive care facility where patients are suspended from the ceiling and kept alive until they can be harvested for healthy organs. Is she a participant in--or a victim of--a large-scale black market dealing in human organs?
"A thrill ride from beginning to end!
Just the thought of what really happened to the patients in comas still makes
my hair stand on end!"
5. "The Raven" by Edgar Allen Poe
No poem has ever received the kind of immediate and overwhelming response that Poe's "The Raven" did when it first appeared in the New York Evening Mirror on January 29, 1845. It made Poe an overnight sensation (though his great fame never brought him much wealth) and the poem, a powerfully haunting elegy to lost love, remains one of the most beloved and recognizable verses in the English language.
"A haunting, narrative poem that
captured me from the very first line: Once upon a midnight
dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary;
Poe is the definitive master of
mixing beautiful words to tell a terrifying tale!"
And here is a little about Ashley's latest release, Night Court.
Merry watches, her presence cloaked by the shroud of nightfall. Nothing moves
except her eyes which focus on her target. No remorse. No regret. No second
guessing the decision to end the lives of the monsters who turned her into a
The peddlers of death from potent chemicals are found guilty. Punishment for
their crimes--death. Appeals denied. Sentencing to commence immediately. The
leeches who sucked out the life of addicts with each snort, shot, swallow, and
injection will now pay the ultimate price.
The idyllic world of Merry Marie Hall, once the loving wife of Harold and
mother to their only child, Joshua, is over. Extinguished when Joshua overdosed
and Harold died of a heart attack at the funeral. Now Merry hunts down the
guilty parties, and one by one, carries out her internal court's orders.
Court is now in session.
Merry watches, her presence cloaked by the shroud of nightfall. Nothing moves except her eyes which focus on her target. No remorse. No regret. No second guessing the decision to end the lives of the monsters who turned her into a killer.
The peddlers of death from potent chemicals are found guilty. Punishment for their crimes--death. Appeals denied. Sentencing to commence immediately. The leeches who sucked out the life of addicts with each snort, shot, swallow, and injection will now pay the ultimate price.
The idyllic world of Merry Marie Hall, once the loving wife of Harold and mother to their only child, Joshua, is over. Extinguished when Joshua overdosed and Harold died of a heart attack at the funeral. Now Merry hunts down the guilty parties, and one by one, carries out her internal court's orders.
Court is now in session.
Amazon Universal link: http://bookgoodies.com/a/B016N475SQ
And Ashley is giving us an excerpt from her book!
Merry watched, her
presence cloaked by the shroud of night.
been outside long enough for her vision to acclimate to the darkness. She
missed nothing from her perch against the old brick wall. Her shoulders, back,
and legs ached, angry for being stuck in the same position for so long.
screamed for freedom from bondage.
the pleas out—it was as simple as switching off a light switch. Physical pain
was a breeze to override. Years of fighting off the aging process by taking up
yoga, cross-training, and running, had programmed her muscles and brain to
block out body aches and pains. Gave her the internal fortitude to push on, not
give up, resist the temptation to cave in and surrender to the burn.
she took up those activities, she had no idea they would serve a much darker,
sinister purpose in her life.
anguish was quite another story. Merry fought hard, refusing to listen to her
mind and soul, which in the beginning, begged her to forget the disturbing,
insane plans ruminating inside her mind. The urging to not embark upon the
journey that took months of sleepless nights to craft.
taught herself how to push aside the faint voice deep inside, the one pleading
return to sanity.
last hurdle: a faint whisper to not take the life of another.
was all in the past now, just like her former life. She’d mastered the art of
turning her mushy heart and soul to stone. It was the main piece of the puzzle
needed to transform herself into a killer. The thought made her almost giggle
out loud at the absurdity of the phrase. On instinct, her gloved hand flew up
and clamped over her mouth, just in case a sound escaped her dry throat.
Murder by Numbers nailed it. I’m living proof of what one must do to become a
moved except her eyes, which were focused on the night’s target. He would be
her first execution.
remorse, no regret.
second guessing her decision to end the life of a monster who more than
deserved the punishment she was about to dole out.
actions would smother her old life of suburban housewife and mother, replacing
it with—what? Crazed serial killer? The hand of justice?
the end, did it really matter what others thought or called her?
one damned bit.
tensed and at the ready, her doubts and misgivings had vanished, pushed away by
the adrenaline racing through her. The Lycra top wasn’t heavy, just hot. It
trapped the humid night air against her chest like a vise. A thin bead of sweat
trickled down her forehead and perched on the tip of her nose.
sounds of the city weren’t as loud at three a.m. Traffic from I-30 hummed in
the distance. An occasional car horn beeped. Muted voices of the drunks leaving
nearby bars and restaurants buzzed around her. Dogs barked, along with the
shrill cry of a baby.
a siren trilled, making her heart pound, and breathing come faster.
Concentrating, she honed in on the sound. No, it wasn’t close, and it was
fading fast, which meant the cop was heading in the opposite direction.
Probably a unit responding to an accident on the highway or pulling over a
inhaled deeply, forcing her breath to return to an even, steady rhythm. Merry
focused her attention back to the noises around her position. The squeaks of a
few rats to her left barely registered. Squeaks which only a few months ago
would have sent her running and screaming in the other direction.
ignored it all.
mattered except completing the mission.
rational voice whispering in her mind to turn and go home, silenced, banished
forever the minute she dressed her five-ten frame in all black—red hair hidden
under a skullcap—and left her house earlier. Strength and power flowed through
her still torso, fueled by bloodlust. The sensations were much more enjoyable
than the gut-wrenching pain of the brokenhearted forty-plus-year old woman she
had waited in the alleyway for almost three hours, camouflaged in black,
crammed up against a filthy dumpster. No one except dealers and users ventured
into this part of downtown the minute the sun disappeared. The office workers
had scattered, unwilling to be caught on the streets after darkness fell. During
the past two months of careful plotting, she had learned the habits of the
lowlife drug dealer she had marked as her target.
discovered this particular alley was worked only by him.
her planning, down to every possible scenario, was only seconds away from
peddler of death was about to be Little Rock’s latest crime statistic.
he would be Merry Marie Hall’s first example of the swift judgment enforced by
her own internal court.
eyes narrowed into small slits as she watched him saunter into her trap.
is now in session. The Honorable Merry Hall, presiding. The defendant, Carlos
“Peppy” Ramirez, is found guilty. The punishment for his multitude of crimes is
death. Execution shall now be carried out by the Court. The Defendant’s appeal
is denied. Sentencing to commence. Right now.
bit her lip to keep the snide grin at the corners of her mouth at bay. She
watched Peppy's lanky body move with catlike grace through the alley toward
her. He was so close she could smell him—a disgusting mix of body odor,
chemicals and cheap cologne. He reeked, and the stench assaulted her nose. Less
than twenty feet away, he stopped and glanced around.
held her breath.
her research, she knew Carlos Ramirez had been a street thug for years. Before
his twentieth birthday, he’d been arrested over ten times for peddling
narcotics. Each arrest and conviction ended the same way: a large fine, no
prison time, and a slap on the wrist. A few times, forced attendance at classes
that were supposed to teach him how to live life drug-free. He’d be right back
on the streets within hours after an arrest and only went to
meetings for the free food—and potential of scoring new clients.
did his public defender sleep at night, knowing his legal finagling allowed a
dangerous criminal back on the streets? How did the prosecutors feel each time
they came face-to-face with the same exact person for the same exact crimes?
Did they feel like they were just spinning their wheels in the mud? What about
the judges? Did it ever get under their skin, knowing their courtroom was more
like a circus, and they were just shepherding the cattle and sheep in a
perpetual circle? Not to mention the heroic cops, who risked their lives every
single time they hit the streets. How much time and manpower was spent
arresting the wastes of society, only to have to sit back and watch the
bastards waltz out of jail?
a hefty fine.
the county coffers full.
animals—like Peppy were a threat to society. Leeches that sucked out the life
of addicts with each snort, shot, swallow, and injection they sold. Anything
could be used as tender: cash, other drugs, sex, or a combination of all three.
Peppy, and others like him, didn’t care about the age of their clientele or how
the poison they offered would condemn the user to a life of sorrow, pain, and
grief. They never concerned themselves with what the addiction would do to not
only the addict but to those who loved them.
had relived the nightmare over and over, until it finally drove her to madness.
She had been the kind of woman who had a loving husband, adorable son, great
job and was living the American dream.
idyllic world of Merry Marie Hall, loving wife of Harold and proud mother of
her only son, Joshua, was long gone. The disappearing act began the minute
Peppy Ramirez sold a little white pill to Joshua nearly five years ago.
Watching her child become a raging addict, battling with the court system,
(in-out, pay a hefty fine), and depleting their retirement for expensive
trips to rehab (which never worked) took their toll on her mental and
physical state. The countless arguments late at night with Harold about the
situation and the cringing when the phone rang at two or three o’clock in the
morning—the signal yet another arrest happened—had aged them both.
destroyed their marriage.
former life had been finally been snuffed out in less than one week. The flame
dimmed six months ago when she heard the news—the night her brother knocked on
the front door at three a.m. The minute Merry woke up from the sound of the
pounding, she went numb. In the deepest recesses of her heart, she knew Joshua
was gone. Felt the hole, the giant black void, gut her chest. She knew before
the stoic Detective Derek Isaac Clarke, her tough-as-nails brother, had a
chance to say a word. While she sat on the couch, erect and frozen in one spot,
hands clasped with Harold’s, the hole spread. Engulfed her heart and then
overtook to her mind. When Derek told them Joshua was the victim of an overdose
of heroin, the blackness began to choke her.
little light left in her world extinguished when Harold suffered a massive
coronary that ended his life at Joshua’s funeral.
the time to think about things you can’t change. Concentrate on your purpose.
blinked twice and refocused. The time for mourning was over. Carpooler, soccer-mom,
devoted wife—she was one with a quick smile and jovial demeanor. Now, all that
was gone—buried right next to the corpses of husband and son. What resided
inside her now was Maniacal Merry—a woman bent on revenge after her old life
new one was on the cusp of beginning—one started by the actions of Carlos
Fucking Peppy Ramirez.
waited and watched with patience. Not only was Carlos a dealer of just about
every conceivable drug, but he was also a heroin user. The combination made him
beyond careful. The times she'd followed him in the past, she had to maintain a
safe distance. Peppy was on constant edge and wary of his surroundings. The
little waste of flesh was intent on guarding his stash and cash from would-be
thieves or rival dealers.
could see his shoulders sag a bit, indicating he was satisfied he was safe.
Sure enough, Peppy reached into his pocket and pulled out a smoke, lit it, and
then leaned back against the dirty brick wall. He was less than ten feet away.
The lone streetlight cast eerie shadows across his withered face. The plumes of
white smoke looked like horror movie vapors. He wasn’t looking in her
direction. Peppy’s attention was focused on a barking dog at the end of the
alleyway. Merry stood and pulled out the syringe from her pocket. Her gaze
never left his torso, searching for any movement or signs he’d heard her move.
cell phone rang, startling them all, including the dog. The mutt bounded away
into the night, leaving the alleyway quiet again. With a flick of his wrist,
Peppy put to the phone to his ear. His raspy voice bounced off the walls
straight into Merry’s ears.
what ails ya? Uh-huh. Yeah, I gotcha back. Always do, right? Stuff is straight,
and I mean straight. No cuttin’ at all. Yeah, same place. Hurry up. You
know I don’t hang in one spot too long. Aight? Oh, I hear ya. Ain’t we all? If
it’s a problem, we’ll work it out. I know those lips of yours are worth their
weight, ya dirty ho. Later.”
disgust, Merry cringed while Peppy rubbed his crotch. The warped smile on his
face made her want to vomit.
mmm! Gonna fill her up right! She’s worth a few hits for free.”
the cap off the tip of the syringe with her gloved hand, Merry made sure to
keep her movements slow and quiet. Peppy finished his smoke and knelt down on
the wet cement. Removing his jacket, he fumbled around in the pockets while
muttering about his upcoming deal and payment arrangements. His back was to
Merry. Her steps were quick and sure. In three strides from her long legs,
footfalls silent, the thick rubber on her shoes covered by duct tape, she was
wouldn’t give Carlos “Peppy” Ramirez a chance to realize what was happening
until it was too late for him to do a damned thing about it.
her right leg, visions of her husband and son in their respective caskets,
Merry brought it down with all her might. The flat of her boot-clad foot
connected with the base of his neck. Peppy made a strange grunting sound as his
body jerked forward. His cell phone flew from his hand, clanking on the
pavement as it bounced away.
face slammed into the damp concrete. Red droplets sprayed into the air as his
nose and lips met the ground. He groaned again and tried to roll away.
down, she buried her knees in his back, her full weight centered right below
where his rib cage ended. Peppy squirmed underneath her like a worm on hot
blacktop in the middle of summer.
a handful of Peppy’s thin, black hair, Merry yanked his head up, and then
slammed it into the ground. His yelp of pain was muffled by the blood in his
mouth and throat, and the sound of his teeth shattering. She repeated the
movement until his arms quit flailing and no more grunts erupted.
was out cold.
his bare arm was exposed.
ask for it to get any better than this.
one swift motion, she hopped off his back and crouched next to his arm. Finding
his vein was simple, even in the dim alleyway. It stood, swollen and ugly from
God-only-knows how many years of abuse. Merry held her breath as she buried the
needle into it. She pushed the plunger all the way down, releasing the heroin
she found in Joshua’s apartment months ago into Peppy’s body. The empty needle
barely made a sound when she let it go and it fell onto the pavement.
of breath, Merry scrambled to her feet. She took several steps away from dealer
of death’s limp body and picked up his cell phone from its resting place. In
seconds, the movements memorized from hours of practice, she opened the back
and yanked out the SIM card and shoved it into her pocket.
three steps, she reached his jacket. She emptied the pockets, taking all the
drugs she found. After stuffing them in her waist pack, she tossed the
paraphernalia around like confetti.
let out a slight moan while trying to turn his head. Dropping his jacket, she
turned to look at him. His face was covered in dripping, thick red blood, dirt,
and pebbles. She couldn’t decide what was worse, the gore all over him that she
created or the fact it didn’t seem to faze her in the least.
moved closer, mindful of the pools of blood surrounding the head of her prey.
Flicking open his cell phone, she set it down inches from his bloodied hand.
She punched in 9-1-1 but didn’t hit send.
Peppy. Is this what you want? A chance to call for help before you overdose, or
bleed to death from the ass-kicking I just gave you? Hmm? Well, here you go.”
pointed to the phone, though she really didn’t know why. It was doubtful he was
aware enough to comprehend her words, much less see. “I’ve even dialed for you.
All you have to do is hit the send button. It’s right here by your hand. Come
on, just reach out and grab it. Help is only a few inches away. Isn’t that what
you want? What you crave? Help? Someone to rescue you from certain death?”
slight groan was Peppy’s only response.
disturbing memory of the last six months flooded her mind.
on the other side of the glass while the coroner pulled back the sheet,
exposing Joshua’s pale body.
holding her while she crumpled into a blubbering mess on the cold, concrete
floor of the M.E.’s office.
body lying in the casket.
own anguished screams when Harold clutched his chest in agony and fell to the
floor, dead before he collapsed next to their son’s coffin.
out caskets for the two most important men in her life over the course of five
memories infused Merry with righteous anger. She growled, “Guess what? That’s
what every single junkie wants, and you don’t give it to them. You hand
them death instead. Push their salvation away inch by inch with each hit you
sell them.” The toe of her boot pushed the cell phone out of Peppy’s reach.
“Just like I’m going to do to you.”
a sick, twisted fascination, Merry watched while the dying Peppy tried to form
words. His pathetic attempts to blink and wash away the blood clouding his
vision weren’t working. His fingers wiggled as they fumbled around for the
phone. As the drugs careened through his body, he looked like he’d become one
with the blacktop. Blood oozed from his mouth. A bubble of air as he tried to
sounds of heels clacking on the ground caught Merry’s attention. The bastard’s
last deal was close. Instead of finding herself a fix, the woman would turn the
corner and discover bloody carnage.
the sight will help get her clean.
leaned closer, her lips inches away from the monster’s blood-soaked ear. “That
was for losing my husband. This is for killing my son.”
a flash, she was on her feet. One final stomp to the back of his neck ended the
life of Carlos “Peppy” Ramirez with a sickening crunch.
sound of footsteps drew closer, so Merry quickened her pace. She bent down,
grabbed the still-warm index finger which was coated in fresh blood, and
scrawled a rival gang’s symbol on the pavement to his right.
that, Merry turned and fled into the night.
One down. Many, many more to go.
About the Author:
The suspenseful mystery, released
in September of 2014. Ashley
Amazon Author Central: http://www.amazon.com/Ashley-Fontainne/e/B0055O0VBY/
Movie site of FORESEEN (Adapted from Ashley Fontainne's The Lie): http://www.foreseenmovie.com
Movie site of NUMBER SEVENTY-FIVE (Adapted from Ashley's novel of the same name): http://www.number75themovie.com