Memento mori, y’all!

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Happy Halloween! Tonight the world is filling with smiling skeletons, sexy zombies, adorable baby vampires, and every other thing that mixes the gruesome and morbid with the fun and cheerful. Perhaps I ought to be annoyed (I’m in the “Halloween should be scary” camp myself) but I can’t help it: I’m having too much fun. After all, combining the mystic and the everyday is exactly what urban fantasy does, and I love watching people embrace the contradiction. Happy Halloween, guys! Remember that one day all of you shall come to dust! Yay!

I was going to post a picture of my Jack o’Lantern, but it was meant to be Imhotep from The Mummy and came out looking more like the guy from The Scream getting his toe stepped on. Then I was going to post a picture of my cat in an adorable costume, but he’s twenty-two pounds of angry and pointy on five of his six ends; I know when I’m beaten. So I’ll settle for wishing you all an excellently spooky night filled with ghaisties, ghoulies and wraiths of all description. Remember that tonight the dead walk … and that tomorrow starts NaNoWriMo. God help us all.

Monster season (Free short story)

October is my favorite month of the year. Relief after the summer heat that sometimes lingers into September? Yes, please. Bugs disappearing for five blessed months? Hallelujah! Halloween? Making a costume is de rigeur, because c’mon, you don’t get that many chances to be someone else for a night. But one of my favorite things about October is that it seems to know how atmospheric it is.

I have never experienced an October whose drear and gloom wasn’t pitch-perfect. Cold wind, masses of wet leaves swirling down the street, stick-black tree limbs against the sky, screeching crows sitting on the power lines … The presence of Halloween and a mind inclined to fantasy make a miserable October a perfect October. With the ragged remnants of this year’s spiderwebs still hanging around my door, I don’t even have to decorate. October is Halloween season, and every time I see the crows or the leaves or the lone black cat slinking across the street, I feel like the world is winking at me.

Given what I write, of course, I almost feel professionally obliged to observe the season with all the doom and gloom I can muster. I like a bit of a laugh with my macabre most of the time, so I break out the Ray Bradbury (if you haven’t read The October Country, I can’t recommend it enough) and sit by the window to read while the light lasts. Bradbury’s vampires, bone-eaters, and Grim Reapers are perfect company this time of year.

Because really–we all know that October is monster season.

But October’s gloom can make you smile, and monsters can be all too human. Here’s a little something to play on that. It’s called “Exhibition.”

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Cover reveal: The God Collector

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The cover of my first romance novel–well, urban-fantasy-with-romance-elements novel, really–has been a bit of a running joke in my phone conversations with family over the last few months. After only one prior publication, the idea of choosing cover art is still a little foreign to me, and cover art depicting main characters even moreso. Would there be mullets? Was that still a thing in covers? I filled out the forms with my requests and thoughts for the cover art, but wasn’t sure what to expect.

Well. Today I got the final version of the cover art for¬†The God Collector,¬†and there’s nary a mullet to be seen. Am I fine with that? Yes. Do I love it?

Yes. Yes, I do.

I have no words. Unless "whoa" is a word.

I have no words. Unless “squee” is a word.

The red and gold especially made me very happy. The importance of color and warmth are recurring themes in¬†The God Collector, and as in the book, the liveliness of Theodora contrasts brightly¬†against the dreamlike world of snow and shadows. I think I owe Samhain’s art department a big, big cake.

What I’m Reading, September: stage magic, romance, and the anatomy of a murder

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I’m still figuring out how to be an author in a public forum, so I’d like to apologize in advance if this comes off as strange or nonsensical. But as long as I have a blog, I might as well talk about books, and talking about my own books all the time is more than a little egotistical. (Not to mention boring.) So this is the inaugural post of a new tag: What I’m Reading.

Most of my reads won’t be new releases. I grab things off the shelf based on my current interests, research needs, or just because it has a good title. I’m a sucker for a good title.

So here’s what I’ve been reading in the month of September.

This is Magic, Will Dexter (1958)¬†Experienced magician¬†Will Dexter takes the reader through the fundamentals of stage magic: card tricks, number tricks, cups and balls, The Lady Vanishes, and the history and mechanics of each. Not everything is revealed–that would be impossible in such a short book–but Mr. Dexter’s lively writing makes this a friendly, funny introduction to the magician’s art.

This book also provides what I think is a very useful maxim for anyone who wants to create or entertain. “A new¬†principle¬†in magic is a very rare novelty. But a new¬†effect–that’s a different thing altogether!” (p. 47) As it is with magic, so it is with fiction. As my father loves to point out,¬†The Lion King¬†and¬†Hamlet¬†both have the same basic plot, but their effects are definitely different!

Thunderstruck,¬†Erik Larson (2007)¬†I was drawn to Mr. Larson’s book¬†The Devil in the White City¬†(2004) by my love of Chicago history, and I was drawn to¬†Thunderstruck¬†by my love of¬†The Devil in the White City.¬†Here Mr. Larson follows a similar path to Devil, interweaving the story of a creator and a destroyer as they move into the same orbit. This time the creator is Guglielmo Marconi, father of the wireless telegraph, and the destroyer is famous wife-murderer Dr. Hawley Harvey Crippen.

The dynamic here is different, though.¬†Devil¬†had a kind of moral starkness to it, contrasting a great architect’s dream of human achievement to the eerie movements of a sociopathic serial killer.¬†Thunderstruck¬†is more shades of gray: Mr. Larson’s Marconi is also great, but he comes across as careless, unpleasant and egotistic, while we watch Dr. Crippen slowly buckle under the weight of his wife’s hostility. It’s a more intimate portrait of its two leads, and in some ways it’s more frightening.

Thunderstruck was sometimes hard for me to read. But is it a good book? Yes. Oh, yes.

The Duchess War,¬†Courtney Milan (2013)¬†Holy mood whiplash, Batman! I probably shouldn’t have listed these books alphabetically by author. But Courtney Milan’s work entertained me so much that I couldn’t not list her.

I bought one of the more recent releases of her Brothers Sinister series,¬†The Suffragette Scandal, after a glowing review on Smart Bitches Trashy Books. And I loved it. Bright, snappy characters, colorful historical detail, a romance centered around two leads who can make mistakes without being annoying–The Suffragette Scandal¬†was pretty much my Platonic ideal of a historical romance. Of course that was a bit of a problem, because now I have to go back and read the whole series in order. Woe is me.

The Duchess War¬†features a shrinking-violet heroine who’s hiding from a rather scandalous past, playing off against a young duke dabbling in pro-labor rabblerousing. Neither of the leads knows exactly what they’re getting into when they meet, but things rapidly get out of control and … well, spoilers. But Courtney Milan is now on my auto-buy list.

Coming 2015: Fell the Angels

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Back in 2010, Stark House Press published my first novel, Thief of Midnight. Today I can report that the sequel is finally on its way! Coming in 2015, the next instalment in the adventures of one small group of Chicago monster-hunters: Fell the Angels. Or as I like to call this one: Four Bodies, No Insurance.

What’s it about? Well …

A month after a ruinous assault by a family of bogeymen, the few humans in the know are still recovering and trying to figure out what they’ll do next. Abby Marquise is waiting for her son, Jimmy, to be returned by the forces that took him, but she’s still not sure if she can square her job with parenthood. (Intimidating therianthropes isn’t a common domestic skill.) It doesn’t help that Chicago looks to be ringing in the New Year with a string of mysterious deaths. The victims? Sorcerers, the rare human practitioners of magic, who are dying in inexplicable ways. Who’s the Crystal Lady? Where did those strange dolls come from? And what’s big enough to tear a human in half … vertically?

I think you’ll like the answers.

This is a book I’ve been working on since 2007. It’s been my experience that things are always hardest the second time, and¬†Fell the Angels¬†did not disappoint me in that regard. It’s also a new direction for me: there’s a cameo by some certain fear-based folkloric monsters, but this book is more of a straight mystery and an opportunity to see the human agents from¬†Thief of Midnight¬†working in their own sphere. Chicago is an old town full of dark corners, and I’m thrilled that Stark House has given me the opportunity to share another story inspired by the Windy City (and torment these characters a little more).

And now, because I’m excited and feel like sharing, here’s a short excerpt from¬†Fell the Angels.¬†The text is still subject to revision (ahh, the editing process) and is, of course, copyright yours truly. ūüôā

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Blog hop — four questions

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This was shared with me by the eminent Rick Ollerman, who tagged me before I could escape. But who am I to pass up a chance to talk about books?

What am I working on? Multiple projects. I’ve just begun editing a para-rom, The God Collector, and am hard at work on the third SSR book, Velvetopia.

How does my work differ from others of its genre? I like to focus on classic legends and folktale monsters which are neglected or under-explored in modern fiction. Thief of Midnight is a day in the sun (so to speak) for the old-school bogeyman, while The God Collector takes a new angle on the cliche Egyptian mummy story. Humanity has rich, varied folklore, and I think urban fantasy is missing an opportunity by not exploring it.

Why do I write what I do? Three words: Uncensored Fairy Tales. My parents told us all kinds of stories, and we were living in a city with an incredible, bloody history of its own. It was inevitable.

How does my writing process work? First I scribble ideas on any piece of paper to hand, usually in a cheap composition notebook. Transcribe, refine, copy-and-paste, write new pieces on paper and save any old files I cast off. A plot eventually evolves from the primordial slime. I do write plot outlines, but I always keep it loose because things can change a lot. I’ve never finished a book without looking at my own work and saying “Huh. Didn’t see THAT coming.”

About Me

My name is Catherine Butzen, and I write stories. I never consciously decided to take this tack with my life; it just seemed to happen, and I can’t say I regret it. I tell stories because I love stories.

I was born in January 1988 and grew up in Chicago, Illinois, as the fourth of five children. Unlike my siblings I started reading late, but my parents had already instilled a love of stories thanks to their habit of sharing books with the family. After dinner, two or three of us would do the dishes while the rest took turns reading aloud from the book of the moment. Family outings took advantage of the cheap yearly memberships at the museum campus, and I quickly developed a taste for history and weird trivia. Somewhere along the line I began making up stories, and before you knew it I was declaring an English major and scribbling notes about a family of bogeymen that resembled a mafia. Fate: sealed.

My first book, the urban fantasy-horror story Thief of Midnight, was published by Stark House Press in 2010; a sequel is forthcoming. Urban fantasy is my passion, but I also crossed over into paranormal romance for The God Collector, which has been contracted by Samhain Publishing and is coming out next year.

Today I write to entertain.¬†Whether I’ve succeeded? Well, I leave that up to you. I’ll be blogging here intermittently to share book news, interesting tidbits, writing notes, excerpts, and other bits and pieces.

I should probably apologize for or justify the blog title, but honestly? I just like terrible puns.