Sunday, September 28, 2014

China’s Assassins

The first recorded assassination in Chinese history was that of rich businessman Wang Hai. Apparently Wang got naughty with the wife or daughter of another tribal chief while he was visiting the family. While he slept that night, a guard chopped off his head with an axe, then dismembered his corpse. It’s not known why the assassin killed him, but it’s generally believed that the hit was ordered by the husband/father.

One famous Chinese assassination was performed by Zhuan Zhu, who was in the service of Prince Guang. The assassination is a true reflection of the Chinese assassins’ creed, which states ‘it is honourable to die for people who recognise and appreciate your worth’. Zhuan was grateful for the way the prince treated him and his mother, so decided to do something nice for him: assassinate his cousin, who was king at the time, so the prince could claim the throne. Zhuan went to the effort of studying to be a royal chef, and specialised in the king’s favourite dish: broiled fish. Zhuan hid a tiny sword inside the king’s fish to get the weapon close enough to use, then stabbed him to death. Of course, the royal guards killed the assassin instantly, but his master did become king – quite a famous king, in fact: King Helü, one of the age’s greatest rulers.

Possibly the best-known assassin in Chinese history, Jing Ke, actually failed at the task. Jing clearly didn’t adhere to the assassins’ code like Zhuan, and, for two years, took advantage of the luxuries offered to him by the Prince of Yan, who hoped he would kill the King of Qin. However, when it seemed the State of Yan would fall, he finally devised a plan to assassinate the Qin King. It seemed he suspected he would fail, because, when the prince bade him farewell, he sang ‘I will go on my journey with no return’. To get close to the enemy king, Jing went to Qin’s court under the pretence of delivering a message of surrender. When Jing arrived in the court, he drew a poisoned dagger and grabbed the king’s sleeve, trying to stab him in the chest. The king’s sleeve tore, and the king ended up stabbing Jing to death instead.

There’s a plethora of tales about Chinese assassins, many of which romanticise them and their motives. Most ancient Chinese assassins, however, were very private people, and not many knew their motives or anything personal about them. In fact, even their assassinations and failed attempts were not publicised.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Doorway to Destiny (A Thirteen-Book Fantasy and Science Fiction Adventure Box Set)

iBooks has done it again, with a month-long international promotion of box set books for only 99c! I love iBooks! I was invited to participate in this promo, and of course I jumped at the chance. I teamed up with emerging fantasy author Vanessa Finaughty to create Doorway to Destiny (A Thirteen-Book Fantasy and Science Fiction Adventure Box Set). It has four of my series starters and the second book in those series: The Queen’s Blade, Demon Lord, The Cyber Chronicles and The Broken World. Vanessa Finaughty contributed two anthologies: Dragon Kin & other fantasy stories and Sorcery & Subterfuge, and her Legends of Origin trilogy. For iBooks readers, the new iOS8 operating system, launched on September 19, comes with the iBooks app pre-bundled.

Around 100 multi-author box sets are being promoted at iBooks between September 18 and October 14, so this is a great time for iBooks readers to load up their iPhones, iPod Touches and iPads with excellent books in a wide range of genres. 40 of the books came from, the world’s leading indie author publisher and distributer, giving readers a chance to discover exciting books by talented independent authors.

Congratulations to all my fellow authors whose box sets made it into the iBooks promotion! Thank you to Mark Coker, Smashwords and iBooks for being the best in the industry and having the foresight to promote indie authors! I’m blown away time and again by the amazing opportunities they give me and other indie authors. If you’re a new author looking for the best places to publish your books, I highly recommend and iBooks!

Some other box sets by Smashwords authors include:

California Dreamin' Boxed Set (Four mature YA Romances set in California to Benefit "A Chance for Children") featuring: Melissa Pearl and Anna Cruise
Dark Roses: Eight Best-Selling Authors of Paranormal Romance featuring: Terah Edun, P.T. Michelle, Anthea Sharp, Trisha Leigh, Cameron Jace,  Lola St.Vil,  Erica Cope, Sarra CannonDangerous Lovers featuring: Becca Vincenza, H. D. Gordon, Cambria Hebert, Janelle Stalder, Jamie Magee, A.M. Hargrove
Epic Apocalypse - Apocalyptic Horror Box Set featuring: Mark Tufo, Shawn Chesser, John O'Brien, James N. Cook, Armand Rosamilia, Heath Stallcup
From the Ballroom and Beyond, A Limited Edition Nine Book Regency Romance Box Set featuring: Rose Gordon, Ava Stone, Julie Johnstone, Catherine Gayle, Deb Marlowe, Jane Charles, Christi Caldwell, Claudia Dain, Jerrica Knight-Catania
Sassy Seven: Sexy, Stylish, Scintillating Novels from Some of Today’s Top-selling Authors featuring Gemma Halliday, Serena Robar, Eileen Cook, Barbara Ferrer, Robyn Harding, Shannon McKelden, Eileen Rendahl
Natural Born Thrillers: 11 Electrifying Thriller Novels from 11 Bestselling Authors featuring Jeremy Robinson, Joseph Nassise, Steven Savile, David Wood, Kane Gilmour, J. Kent Holloway, Sean Ellis, Jon F. Merz, Casey Neumiller, David Sakmyster, Rick Chesler
Intense Anthology - Ten Bestselling Authors, Ten Powerful Alphas, Ten Passionate Novels featuring: Kahlen Aymes, Sandi Lynn, Aleatha Romig, Vi Keeland, Penelope Ward, S. E. Lund, Julie Richman, Penelope Ward, Kailin Gow, Liv Morris, J.L. Mac
Playing for Passion: A Limited Edition Collection of Bestselling Sports Romances featuring: Carly Phillips, Toni Aleo, Chelle Bliss, V.K. Sykes,  Pamela Aares, Allie K Adams, Jami Davenport, Catherine Gayle, Mindy Klasky, Roz Lee, Dakota Madison, Bianca Sommerland

About Smashwords 
Launched in 2008, Smashwords is an e-book publishing and distribution platform serving authors, publishers, readers and retailers. Smashwords makes it free and easy for any author or publisher, anywhere in the world, to instantly publish and distribute a multi-format e-book.  Smashwords puts authors and publishers in full control over the pricing, sampling and distribution of their works. Authors and publishers receive up to 85 per cent of the net proceeds from sales of their works. Smashwords has distribution relationships with leading online retailers such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Sony, and leading mobile e-reading apps such as Stanza, Kobo, Aldiko, FBReader and Word-Player, spanning all major mobile platforms including Android and iPhone.  Smashwords is based in Los Gatos, California, and can be reached on the web at Visit the official Smashwords blog at

Vanessa grew up in Cape Town, and still lives there with her husband of fifteen years, her baby daughter and plenty of furry, four-legged ‘children’. Her passion for the written word started her career as an editor and copywriter, and she part-ran a writers’ critique group for close on seven years. She's been writing ever since she learnt how, has always been an avid reader, and currently lives on coffee and cigarettes. Her interests include reading, photography, the supernatural, life’s mysteries and martial arts, of which she has five years’ experience.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Assassins in Disguise

Most famous assassins haven’t bothered with disguises, but the ones who did are perhaps the most interesting to learn about.

For instance, in 2013, a group of Mexicans dressed as clowns assassinated Francisco Rafael Arellano Felix, a member of the Arellano Felix drug cartel family. While he was attending a children’s birthday party, the ‘clowns’ shot him, once in the thorax and once in the head.

Often called a terrorist rather than an assassin, Carlos the Jackal, born Ilich Ramirez Sanchez, was a killer for hire. Trained in guerrilla warfare, weapons and sabotage, Carlos also gathered information on people he felt were worth kidnapping or assassinating. He was a bold, merciless killer, often walking into a place, shooting or throwing a grenade, then calmly walking out again. It might be surprising that it took so long for authorities to catch him, but then, he was known as a master of disguise and used fake documentation to authenticate each disguise. It’s thought that, due to this, many murders he didn’t commit were blamed on him. In 1985, he was so famous that no one would hire him, and was finally apprehended in 1994. Responsible for the deaths of more than 80 people, in 1997 he was eventually sentenced to life imprisonment.

In 1973, ETA – Euskadi Ta Askatasuna, or Basque Homeland and Freedom – operators posed as sculpture students and rented an apartment along Prime Minister Luis Carrero Blanco’s driving route. From the apartment, they dug a tunnel across the road that Blanco travelled weekly. That done, they filled the tunnel with explosives and, on the day, disguised themselves as electricians, waited for Blanco’s car to pass by, and detonated the explosives, killing Blanco. It just goes to show that disguises don’t need to be complicated – as long as you don’t look out of place or suspicious, any old uniform will do, and people tend to not notice the face behind the uniform.

Perhaps the easiest – and most devious – disguise was that of Bolivian painter Benjamin Mendoza Flores. In 1970, Flores disguised himself as a priest and stabbed Pope Paul VI at the airport. Though the pope was badly hurt, he survived the attack.

Potential victims, too, can effectively use disguises, as President Lincoln has shown. In 1860, on his way to be inaugurated, a close friend uncovered an assassination plot against Lincoln, so he disguised himself as a frail old woman, complete with a dress, shawl and walking cane, thus foiling the assassination plot.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Interview with S.L. Eaves

Interviewer: TZPP Intern Andy Kubai   

As part of The Endangered blog tour, I’m pleased to share an interview with author S.L. Eaves, whose vampires vs. werewolves novel, The Endangered, was published in September.

When writing in crossed over genres, how do you balance the elements of your story between horror and fantasy, or do you feel the need to do so?

I think some balance is good, but I feel it’s less about balance and more about how effectively and creatively you incorporate elements of each genre. When you’re working within one genre and infusing aspects of another, a lot of the cross over happens naturally during the writing process.

When I started writing The Endangered, my goal was to write a vampire story that I’d want to read. While I love horror and fantasy, I’m also really into crime fiction and a sucker for a good mystery, so ultimately I set out to blend influences and it opens up so many possibilities. As far as the story goes, the need to balance all the components definitely came into play.

Vampires and werewolves both have any number of established rules and variations. When writing The Endangered, did you ascribe to a particular set of guidelines or make your own?

Yes, for sure. I tried to stick to the conventions described in traditional mythology and folklore; those the audience has come to expect. However, there are so many tropes associated with vampires and werewolves that, if you don’t create rules, your characters basically become invincible, and readers are less invested because there is nothing that they can’t overcome.

I made an effort to establish certain parameters, limitations so to speak, on their abilities. I wanted to make it clear to readers that these characters had vulnerabilities and felt it important to be consistent when exploiting any strength or weakness of a particular character.

How do you stay focussed on your world when writing a longer work like a novel?

It’s a lot about the mindset, I think. I only write when I have something to say; if it becomes a chore or anything less than inspired, I have trouble focussing and the quality of the writing suffers.

I also wrestle with the storylines in my head for a while before I feel confident putting it on paper, so when I sit down to write I’m at the point where it’s on my mind so much it’s practically irritating me and I have to write it to purge it from my head and move forward.

I also listen to music constantly when I write. I find it helps me stay immersed in the world of the story.

How do you evolve your characters and do they have minds of their own, so to speak?

When I write a character, I try to think ‘What would [such and such] do in this situation? How would they handle conflict, approach situations, etc.?’ And I would often write them in each other’s shoes and see what reaction worked best for the story. Like ‘hey, maybe this character should not be the one to discover this, because his reaction wouldn’t work for the plot.’ That sort of thing, so yes, I feel they have minds of their own.

In the case of this story, it was initially much more action driven and my focus was on the plot and not the characters or their interactions. When I realised the characters were more evolved in my head than what had made it into the manuscript, I made an effort to develop them further, because you want readers to care what happens to them. That is essential. But also the most challenging part. In writing, it is much easier to write what a character does than how a character feels. At least, that’s my experience.

In The Endangered, who was your favourite character to write and why?

Quinn. She is cunning and enigmatic and crazy. I based her off of Harley Quinn from Batman. She was fun to write.

As a reader or a writer, what makes a story really pop for you?

Unpredictability. As a reader, if you think you know what is going to happen next or how it ends, it is way less enthralling and immersive.

As a writer, the desire to achieve this caused some serious inner turmoil. I had to do what I thought was right to move the story forward in a captivating way to give it that ‘pop’. And that resulted in some hard decisions.

After writing The Endangered, would you like to work in this world some more or are you off to build other worlds?

I would. I think there is a lot more to explore. And I am working on a follow up.
I have also been working on a character-driven story set in more of a real world environment, no elements of science fiction or fantasy, but geared towards exposing a different sort of urban underbelly.

What would you tell other aspiring authors about the publishing process?

Don’t write with the goal in mind of getting published. Write what you love (cliché, I know) and others will recognise the passion behind your words and feel inspired to bring it to the public. You approach it like a job and your writing will suffer.

What is your favourite werewolf movie; favourite vampire flick?

That’s a tough one. For werewolf I’m going to go with Dog Soldiers because of the film’s depiction of wolves: the transformation and the upright stance is how I envisioned werewolves when writing.

For vampire, I’d say Interview with the Vampire because it does a great job of telling a story, establishing a world and making you care about the characters. I think it was a commendable adaptation of Anne Rice’s novel.

About the author:

Presently, Stephanie L. Eaves is a graduate student at Drexel University, pursuing her MBA. She received my undergraduate degree in Film from University of Pittsburgh. Originally from West Chester, PA, she lived in Pittsburgh and Minneapolis before returning to the Philadelphia area, where she currently resides. Stephanie’s professional background is in marketing, primarily in media and publishing industries. She sort of fell into marketing when she got tired of per diems on film sets and wanted a steady gig. She enjoys being in an environment that promotes creativity.

Stephanie loves to write. She’s taken a number of writing courses with a focus on crime fiction and earned a certificate in Professional Writing while attending Pitt. She’s also really into fitness, especially running and biking in her free time. While she readily confesses to being bit of a film and television junkie, music has always been a huge influence in nearly every aspect of her life and there’s nothing like a good live band.

When home, she’s never without a book in arm’s reach.

Connect with the author:

Goodreads (author page)
Goodreads (the book)