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Guest Author Wednesday ♥ Anne Barwell

Happy New Year! I’m ecstatic to have Author Anne Barwell with me today share a bit about Shades of Sepia is book 1 of The Sleepless City, an urban fantasy series co-authored with Elizabeth Noble. Please say hi and leave her a comment or two below.

Anne Barwell lives in Wellington, New Zealand. She shares her home with two cats who are convinced that the house is run to suit them; this is an ongoing "discussion," and to date it appears as though the cats may be winning.

In 2008 she completed her conjoint BA in English Literature and Music/Bachelor of Teaching. She has worked as a music teacher, a primary school teacher, and now works in a library. She is a member of the Upper Hutt Science Fiction Club and plays violin for Hutt Valley Orchestra.

She is an avid reader across a wide range of genres and a watcher of far too many TV series and movies, although it can be argued that there is no such thing as "too many." These, of course, are best enjoyed with a decent cup of tea and further the continuing argument that the concept of "spare time" is really just a myth.  

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Thanks, Tempe, for hosting me today 🙂

The topic of graphic novels might seem like a weird choice for a blog post promoting an urban fantasy novel, but for this one it’s very apt. Ben Leyton, one of my POV characters in my new release Shades of Sepia, loves to read graphic novels. So do a couple of the other characters. I must admit I had a little too much fun with the references, but as a writer I like to give my characters quirks, and interests. It makes them seem more real and, after all, the story they’re in is just a ‘slice of life.’

Of course the fact that I’m an avid graphic novel reader helped, and the references are to comic books I’ve read. So what’s the difference between graphic novels and comics? When I first started reading comics I could only get them in single issue form, but it was easier to get hold of them then and to go into a bookshop and ‘browse’. These days they’re still available in single comics format but I prefer to read them in graphic novel/trade format which is a collection of the single comic issues collected into a book. It’s not only cheaper and lacking the ton of advertising in the single issues, but it makes it much easier to follow a storyline which tends to cross over into other titles I had no intention of collecting.

Most of my current reads are through the library as they have a really good selection, although there are a couple of titles I buy, or they’re on my wish list to buy. Graphic novels here are twice the price as in the US so I buy mine through online outlets such as Book Depository (as it has free international postage), although I’ve recently found a couple of local (NZ) online stores which have them for a similar price. I don’t buy a lot of stuff through Amazon because the international postage often ends up being more than the item I’m buying and finding a seller who will ship here is becoming more and more of a problem. It’s also difficult to find them in physical stores here unless I want to trip into Wellington city which I don’t as parking and petrol adds to the double price those stores sell them for.

I’ve always been more of a DC (Batman, Superman etc) comics’ girl, but since the Marvel (Avengers, X-men, Spiderman etc) movies, I’ve got sucked into that universe as well. I’m collecting DC’s Nightwing, and have done so for years, and also DC’s Red Robin, although I’m going to have to buy DC’s Teen Titans to read more of the latter as he hasn’t got his own title anymore *grumble *. And yes there is a pattern there with both Nightwing (Dick Grayson) and Red Robin (Tim Drake) being former Robins aka sidekicks to Batman. Since last year, and a friend hooking me by sending me cute pictures of Wiccan and Hulking kissing, I’ve also started collecting Marvel’s Young Avengers series. It’s a great series, has an interesting and involved plotline, and characters, and two cute guys in a relationship to boot. How could I resist?

But overall what’s the appeal of graphic novels? For me it’s a mix of things. I love the characters I read about, and their struggle to do the right thing while trying to keep that part of their life separate from the people they care about. Keeping a secret identity isn’t easy, and there’s often a rather dark duality lurking in there. Some of the plot lines are very complex, and cover several volumes and years of story. Coming in mid point isn’t easy, or picking up again after years of not reading. I remember doing that with Batman and having to do a crash course of reading around on wikis to work out what was going on. When I’d gone on reading hiatus, Dick was Robin. When I returned it was Tim, and Dick was Nightwing.

I also love the art work. There are some really talented artists out there, and the visuals are just gorgeous. There’s also the whole thing of guys in spandex but hey a girl can be shallow too, right?

Are any of you comic book/graphic novel readers, and if so what are your favourites?

Shades of Sepia      
The Sleepless City, book 1

A serial killer stalks the streets of Flint, Ohio. The victims are always found in pairs, one human and one vampire.

Simon Hawthorne has been a vampire for nearly a hundred years, and he has never seen anything like it. Neither have the other supernaturals he works with to keep the streets safe for both their kind and the humans.

One meeting with Simon finds Ben Leyton falling for a man he knows is keeping secrets, but he can’t ignore the growing attraction between them. A recent arrival in Flint, Ben finds it very different from his native New Zealand, but something about Simon makes Ben feel as though he’s found a new home.

After a close friend falls victim to the killer, Simon is torn between revealing his true nature to Ben, and walking away to avoid the reaction he fears. But with the body count rising and the murders becoming more frequent, either, or both of them, could be the killer’s next target.

Dreamspinner Press


“Cool. I knew you guys were like the Justice League or something.”

Lucas laughed. “I was going more for the Legion of Super Heroes, actually.”

“Yeah, but the League has Batman in it,” Blair began, “and the Legion is—” Luckily, whatever he was going to say was interrupted by the sound of a telephone ringing. Once he and Lucas started on one of their comics conversations, they’d go for what seemed forever.

“Aren’t you going to answer that?” Forge asked Simon.

“What?” Simon glanced around for the source of the ringing. He didn’t get telephone calls and had presumed the noise was coming from wherever Blair was.

“You’re the only one around here who insists on that horrible ringtone,” Forge pointed out, “so it’s obviously your phone.” He’d complained about it ever since Simon had explained—quite logically he’d thought—that if he was to carry a telephone, it made sense for it to at least sound like one.

“Try your pockets?” said Lucas helpfully.

“Oh, right.” Simon fished his telephone out of his pocket. Its screen was flashing with the name of the caller. Simon stared at it.

“You’re supposed to answer it, not stare at it,” Forge said. “Or have you forgotten how to again?”

“I know how to answer it.” Simon poked at the appropriate button, then held the telephone up to his ear. “Simon speaking. How can I help you?”

Forge snickered. Simon glared at him, thought for a moment about retreating to somewhere more private, then realized it would be a waste of time. Damn vampire hearing. Not that werewolves and ghosts were much better.

“Hey, Simon. It’s Ben.”

Perhaps he was calling to say he’d thought twice about meeting for coffee. But why would he take the time to do that? Surely if that were the case, he’d just not contact Simon again at all?

“Hello, Ben.” Simon took a couple of steps toward the door, half turning his back on the other occupants of the room.

“I rang to apologize,” Ben said, his words tumbling out over each other.

“Apologize?” Simon frowned. “Why?” If anyone should be apologizing for the way in which their conversation had ended, it should be him.

“I obviously upset you, and I’m sorry.”

“You didn’t,” Simon reassured him. “I overreacted. I do that sometimes.” He reached for his glass of milk and took a long drink. Feeling a little calmer, he collected his thoughts before breaking the silence. “Would you still like to meet for coffee?”

Lucas and Forge high fiving was something best ignored, as was the smug expression on both their faces.

“Yeah, sure, that would be great,” Ben answered very quickly. “When and where? I’m working a long shift tomorrow so that won’t work, but I don’t start until eleven on Thursday.”

After mentally consulting his calendar, Simon nodded. “That would be fine. I don’t have lectures on Thursday mornings. Do you know Hunter’s on West Thirteenth Street? We could meet there at nine.”

“I haven’t been there, but I’ll find it,” Ben said. “See you at nine then on Thursday?”

“Yes. Good-bye, Ben.”

“Bye, Ben,” called out Lucas.

“Bye….” Ben trailed off. “Hey, who is that?” His voice took on a rather suspicious tone. “Simon, is there someone listening in on us?”

“Unfortunately, yes,” Simon said. “I share my… building… with some friends who don’t understand the concept of privacy. That was Lucas. I’ll explain on Thursday.”

“Okay. Bye.”

“Good-bye,” Simon said again, this time to a darkened telephone. He shoved it back in his pocket.

“He sounds cute,” said Lucas. “I like the accent.” He grinned. “Can I come too? I want to hear how you explain me.”