Sunday, May 18, 2014

Old Flames, Burned Hands by Tim McGregor (Review + Guest Post)

Adult, Paranormal, Vampires, Horror
Publication.Date:September 10, 2013
Pages:476 (Kindle)
Published By:  Perdido Pub
Website:Tim McGregor 

Old Flames, Burned Hands
My review copy:
Received from the author in exchange for an honest review

Where to get:

Struggling to balance an unstable career in music with her obligations as a wife and mom, Tilda Parish’s life becomes even more complicated by the mysterious return of an old boyfriend. One who died almost twenty years ago...

At 24, Tilda Parish had it all; her own band and a man she knew was ‘the one’ but fate had other plans. A fatal car crash took her boyfriend’s life and sent Tilda into a spiral of grief.

Seventeen years later, Tilda is married with a 13-year old daughter but her career as a singer-songwriter has been turbulent and unstable. Unable to balance her volatile career with her obligations to her family, Tilda makes a life-changing decision to walk away from music forever. Yet, after burning her guitar in a ritual bonfire, Tilda discovers that the past isn’t done with her. Hints of her old life pop up mysteriously and ghosts of her past haunt her present.

Alone one night, Tilda confronts an intruder she believes to be a stalker but the figure that steps from the shadows almost stops her heart. Her old beau appears, the one who died all those years ago.

He hasn’t aged a day. He says that he never stopped loving her and that he wants her back. Despite his death and the intervening seventeen years, Tilda realizes that she never stopped loving him either.

And now Tilda Parish is caught between two worlds; the everyday world of her husband and family and this new spooky world of an old lover who has returned from the shadow of death to find her.

What’s an ex-musician to do? (Goodreads)

With adrenaline doping her blood, fear tipped all the way over into a deep rage booing her guts. This asshole, this creep, had not only broken int oner home but plucked out this painful shard from her past and threw it in her face. The clammy sensation of being violated and exposed became gasoline on her kindling rage and she trapped the baseball bat with both hands and stomped out the door.
He looked away, as if shamed by her question. Sh emanated to rush forward but feared he would vanish like a miarge at her touch or she would wake and the dream would be gone. Then his yes swung back, landing on her bare feet in the wed grass and traveling up. Measure and unhurried, drinking in ever inch an every detail until his eyes drew level with hers.
The coven pounced.

Shrieks of terror and pain as the wraiths swarmed the boy and girl like piranha. Tilda's heart stopped, watching the monsters feed. Blood sprayed across the room, splattering even through the panel vent with an ejaculate of gore. She jerked back, wiping the blood from her face like it was poison. The victims cried out for help and for Jesus and for their mothers. Tilda clamped her palms over her ears to block out the unending torment of their screams.

Old Flames, Burned Hands begins with the short history of Tilda and Gil. Two twenty-something people who are deeply in love with one another. While out for a drive one night, Tilda and Gil's car flips, throwing Gil from the car. His body is never found and Tilda spirals into deep depression until she meets her husband, Shane. Tilda has minor success with her music career in her 30s, but after a gig doesn't go as well as she hoped, Tilda decides she is done with music. After playing a song she'd wrote for Gil, and has never played since, her life goes from normal to anything but.

Gil shows up looking exactly as he had the night he died. He apologizes to Tilda, stating he shouldn't have come but couldn't help himself when he heard his song. Despite this, they meet each night her garage/music studio. As reader's we soon learn Gil is a vampire. But not the vampires we are used to. Tim takes the lore of vampires and turns them into something truly evil and sinister. These vampires aren't beautiful, lurking in the shadows for their next victim/love, and they certainly do not sparkle in the sun.

It is an interesting change as well that the paranormal aspect isn't the main driving force of the novel. It's more about the relationship between Tilda and those around her, specifically those of Shane, Molly (her daughter), and Gil. However, I am unable to connect with her relationship to Gil. Aside from their relationship being cut short and being her first love (or so I assume), I was don't understand why she was so drawn to him and would risk her marriage/family/life to be with him. I wish that as readers we could have spent more time with their relationship prior to the accident to truly get a feel for the love between the two of them.

Tim's writing is beyond superb. His descriptive and vivid writing truly insert you into the story. You're standing in the kitchen and feeling Tilda's frustration as she cooks breakfast and prepares lunches while her husband and daughter sit casually at the table. You feel her pain as she sells off her music equipment to help pay their bills. His characters have a feeling of reality to them, even vampire Gil (if you remove the vampire aspect and the whole being dead for 20 years). Aside from the paranormal aspect, these characters could be anybody.

Endings carry a lot of weight for me. While they aren't all encompassing, in my eyes they can either make or break a novel. The ending is spot on. It is fitting not only to the characters and their plights, but to the story as a whole.

With detailed writing and lifelike characters, Old Flames, Burned Hands has the perfect mixture of paranormal and contemporary features that will keep you entertained until that last page.

Got a minute?

Coming up with story ideas has never been a big problem. Coming up with the right one is. Simple pragmatism. I don't want to spend six months writing a book only to find that no one is interested. This is what first novels are for. That story about the girl in college I was burning to write? No one cares. Dead book. Start over.

To avoid wasting months on a book that appeals to no one (outside myself), I've embraced the art of the elevator pitch. This is an old screenwriting trick where you have two minutes (or the span of an elevator ride) to lob an idea at a movie producer.

In order to make it work, the concept of the story has to be honed down to its essential core but it also has to hook the listener into wanting to hear more. You get an immediate reaction from the person you're pitching to. That's invaluable.

With a book, I'm not pitching movie producers or even editors or agents but rather people I know. Readers. Friends and family, other parents in the school yard waiting to pick up their kids.

“Hey,” I'll harass them. “What do you think of this idea?” And I'll hit 'em with the brief pitch. Two sentences, no more. And pow, I get their gut reaction. This isn't a long exchange. Just the pitch then a response. I don't badger the person with more details if they don't like it. I already have my answer.

Sometimes there's no reaction. Or it's a polite nod or a shrug. That means the idea stinks and has zero appeal. Now maybe this particular person simply does not like that story so I try again with someone else. If I get the same response from a handful of other people (a blank stare, awkwardness), then I have a solid notion that the idea stinks ans it's time to move on. That's life.

But if I get a good response? That's magic.

Often the listener doesn't have to say anything at all. The answer is written all over their face. Eyes widen in surprise and a smile instantly appears. What's happening is that the idea is popping in the listener's imagination. They're anticipating the story's potential and all of those tells on their face translates into one thing; delight.

It's funny how we have this physical response to a good story. It's like hearing a juicy bit of gossip (which, let's face it, gossip is a good story, isn't it?). The eyes go wide, brow shoots up, we lean in to catch every word. All of which translates into “tell me more.”

When I get that reaction, I'm on cloud nine. The idea works. It appeals to readers. Again, not editors or agents. I mean real people, the kind who read for pleasure. That's who I want to connect with. If I have that golden response, then this is an idea worth spending months working on.

That doesn't guarantee I'll write a good book but at least the core idea is solid. I'll feel better diving into the story without fearing that I'm about to waste the next year on a book no one wants to read.

That's the tack I took with this book, Old Flames, Burned Hands. The response I got from all those patient people I harassed with my pitch told me I wasn't wasting my time.

So. Got a minute? What do you think of this idea?

Struggling to balance a career in music with obligations to her family, one woman's life is suddenly complicated by the return of an old boyfriend. One who died twenty years ago.

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