I’ve recently discovered that some book publicists and used-car dealers have one thing in common: their job description necessitates that they praise the merchandise, regardless of what their own personal opinion about this product might be. This makes me very wary when I’m offered books to review—“astounding” books by “incredible” authors.
Let me just make one thing clear: I don’t receive any payment in any forms for the reviews or videos I make. When I praise an author, that’s because I genuinely like what I read; not because I’m obliged to do so. And the reason you don’t find me criticizing an author/book is because I send any constructive review to the publicist/author instead of posting it for the public.
Some authors or readers here may make undisclosed donations to the charities I support, but any praise from me is unsolicited and unconditional.
Okay, recently two masterful authors, Cypher Lx (“Darkest Before Dawn“) and Stuart Land (“Epiphany“), have convinced me to praise books from a genre I rarely read: paranormal. Stuart is busy working a film project in Beijing, but we are honored that Cypher is here for an interview today.
Cypher Lx works full-time in law enforcement, part-time as an alternative model, and has a B.A. degree in Forensic Psychology. When she is not busy with those things, she participates in cowboy action shooting, makes Victorian gowns by hand, reads and writes. She is an avid reader of horror, mystery, and more specifically, vampire and zombie novels.
Her novel Darkest Before Dawn is a suspenseful thriller of mystery, action, psychological and paranormal intrigues.
“I am an author who will write just about anything paranormal, whether it’s vampires, zombies, other supernatural creatures, and anything else that goes bump in the night, with a psychological twist.” ~ Cypher Lx
Hello Cypher, thanks so much for coming in. Would you be so kind to give readers a one-sentence synopsis of Darkest Before Dawn?
Darkest Before Dawn is the strange and twisting journey Elissa Greyfield takes to solve the mysterious disappearance of her sister and how it may tie in with more recent serial killings where the victims are posed as angels in Laurel Hill Cemetery.
What compelled you to write this book?
I have always been fascinated with large, old cemeteries and the statuary. Combined with my studies in Forensic Psychology, I thought it would be interesting if a serial killer actually turned his victims into works of art that blended in with their surroundings. I decided to add a supernatural element to it, which is probably influenced by all the paranormal books and movies that I read and watch.
I can see how your work in law enforcement influenced this story. Would you like to elaborate?
In law enforcement, you undergo a lot of training, from firearms to handcuffing, and interviewing to investigating. The thought process in using these elements is as natural for me as it would be for a doctor writing about a medical mystery or a teacher writing about the educational system.
Tell us about cemeteries and the Goth club.
Laurel Hill Cemetery is a real historic cemetery in Philadelphia, PA. It covers over 70 acres of land and has many beautiful statues and mausoleums. It is also an arboretum and is just wonderful to walk through. The Goth club I used in the story is also a real place, though the Goth nights are no longer held at that venue on a weekly basis. There are still many Goth events held in Philly and the culture is very “colorful” despite the mostly black attire many people wear. It’s a very accepting group where age, gender, race, or pretty much anything else has no bearing on you as a person. As long as you are nice to people there, they will treat you the same.
Your characters are very convincing. How real are they?
That’s a difficult question. There are elements in each of my characters that are very real. Except for the family tragedy, Elissa kind of depicts the rebellious person I was when I was younger. Like her, I was an art student who later on went into law enforcement. But I wrote her having much more experience in the career than I ever had to this point. Sage is probably more like I am now. Still rebellious, but with a sense of authority and responsibility. She’s probably one of my favorite characters and has a few surprises coming. Sean and Michael are different blends of various men that I have encountered in my life. I have to admit, Sean is probably the most realistic of all my characters. He’s down to earth with a good mix of humor and protectiveness.
How long did you develop the book to its final state?
I started writing it in 2009 and published it in early 2011, so a little over a year.
How did you come up with the title?
Long before I started writing the novel, I worked night security at a chemical facility. There is an actual phrase that says, “It’s always darkest just before dawn.” Walking around at night, I realized that it was true and I thought it would make a good book title. At the time, I was just considering writing a vampire novel, but I didn’t actually start writing in earnest until four years later.
What’s your favourite paragraph in Darkest Before Dawn?
“Dance with me,” the familiar voice spoke softly in my ear. His breath was like velvet against my skin and his hand travelled down my arm to my hand, which he raised slowly to drape around his neck. He pressed his chest closer to my back and I took a shallow breath, my heart pounding as hard as the beat of the song. Briefly, I wondered how he had crossed the room without me seeing him, but his fingertips sliding down my side to encircle my waist distracted me and I lost the thought completely. To our left, I caught the sight of Wraith glaring at me, incensed. I gave him a defiant glance as my dance partner turned me to face him, still holding me intimately close. Looking into his eyes once again, I felt as though I was losing myself in his gaze. The lyrics of “The Sinner in Me” seemed to echo in the distance as our sensual dance intensified. The subtle scent of him only amplified the sensations I was experiencing, and I began to feel a bit lightheaded. If I had been able to think at all, only one word would have been suitable to describe these feelings. Euphoria. My eyes closed as his lips tenderly brushed against my cheek and down my throat. It was so soft and fleeting that I was unsure if it had happened at all. The song was nearly over as I felt him release me. I opened my eyes and he was gone, just as quickly as he had appeared only minutes before.
Thank you Cypher. Now let’s visit its sequel, “The Cold of Night”.
Would you like to give us a one-sentence synopsis of the book?
The Cold of Night is the continuing story from where I left off in Darkest Before Dawn, using Sean’s perspective of losing his partner and trying to cope with that while continuing the murder investigation.
Where do you get your inspiration for this sequel? Did you base the sequel on what readers like from the first book or your own inspiration?
I purposely left loose ends in the previous novel to continue where I wanted the story to go. I also couldn’t leave Sean the way I did in the end of the first novel. There’s a lot more about him in the second one. I used my own inspiration for the sequel. If I wrote what people expected to happen instead of what I felt should happen, I think I would be doing a disservice to the reader.
Tell us about these fabulous characters. Which actors would you choose to play them in a movie rendition?
I always have a problem trying to decide what actors would suit the characters in my books. One that I can definitely pin down is Elissa. I could see Molly C. Quinn pulling off the role if she was just a little bit older. She has the look and if you’re not familiar with who she is, watch the television series Castle. Sage is so much a part of me that I would have a very difficult time being satisfied with any actress. Typically, I have mental pictures in my head of what the characters look like that is never based on celebrities.
What sets this one apart from the first book? Is this a repeat or are there new excitements?
I’ve introduced several new characters and revisited others who didn’t get as much face time in the first novel. Things happen that are hopefully unexpected. There is a lot more that was only hinted at before, so I hope it’s exciting.
Why is this a must read?
The characters have evolved and there is much more action. There are also some questions that are answered, as well as more questions that crop up.
Sample paragraph, please?
My eyes snapped open and for several moments I stared at the blank ceiling, watching the shadows and waiting for my pulse to slow. I knew that I had been dreaming, but couldn’t recall the content. Whatever it had been sparked another anxiety attack. Stumbling out of bed, I opened the window to let in fresh air. A sudden chill went down my spine and I felt like I was being watched. Great, Sean. Now you’re just being paranoid, I thought. Until I saw him perched on the fire escape across the way. Michael Sheridan. I scrambled for my gun, trying to keep my eye on him at the same time. I had only glanced away for a split second as I checked to make sure there was a round in the chamber, but that fast he was gone. And just as quickly, I felt as if a railroad spike had been driven into my skull, dropping me like a rock. The entire dream in all of its detail slammed into me as if a rubber band had been snapped back into place.
When is the planned release? Tell us your latest news.
I’ve had to delay the release, I will announce it on my author page. I also have a new idea for a novel that may very well have some sci-fi overtones.
Good luck with that. Now on writing. When did you first know you just had to write?
I’ve been writing on and off since middle school. Mostly just short stories and poetry with a few failed attempts at longer stories that I gave up on. In 2009, one of my professors asked us what goal we wanted to meet in our lives. I wanted to write a novel. Little did I know that we had to share with the entire class. He encouraged me to pursue that goal and Darkest Before Dawn was dedicated to him. I now have four complete novels and several more ideas for future works.
Who would you say have been the most influential authors in your life?
What is it that really strikes you about their work? It sounds so cliché, but Stephen King and Anne Rice. I started reading King’s books when other girls were reading YA romance about cheerleaders. He really knows how to dig into the darkest part of the human psyche and bring it to life. It’s sometimes scarier than the monsters he writes about. Rice combines the horror and romance of vampirism so artfully that the reader can feel fear and sympathy at the same time. The Vampire Chronicles was just the start of my Anne Rice reading, but The Mayfair Witches and The Violin are also very good.
What story would you like to share about the joy, challenge, or hardship of writing?
Writing is a real roller coaster ride for me. I hate staring at that first blank page wondering how to start. When I finally jump off, everything starts to flow. Then I hit those loops where I have to keep going back to make sure I connected everything properly. Climbing that final big hill, I struggle to find a way to end it satisfactorily. Then it’s full speed ahead. There is the anxiety that builds toward that last big drop, because I wonder how people will accept the ending. Will they be happy? Will they hate it? After the ride is over and I publish, there’s almost a sense of disappointment that it’s over. Then I jump back on and ride again.
Who gives you the most encouragement? Why is that important to you?
My husband and my mother are probably my biggest supporters. I have other friends and family that support me as well, but they are the most important. My husband allows me to write for hours on end and will even help me out with parts of the plot that he is knowledgeable about, which is evident toward the end of The Cold of Night when I had to use his military expertise. My mother reads over my novels before I publish and tells me what sounds right and what doesn’t. She’s also excellent at catching spelling and grammatical errors that I may have missed. Above all, she’s my biggest promoter. She just loves telling everyone that her daughter writes books and will do just about anything for me, including going out in the rain to model for the new cover of Darkest Before Dawn.
You are so fortunate in your supporters!
You lead a very busy life. Would you like to elaborate on who you are when you’re not writing? Please tell us about some unique experiences in law enforcement.
As a female in any kind of law enforcement, it’s more difficult to prove that you’re just as capable as your male counterparts. I tried to reflect this in the character of Elissa, because I have had situations where the sexist perspective still persists. While I don’t go overboard with this particular theme, I want the reader to understand where Elissa is coming from in Darkest Before Dawn and how others in the department saw her in The Cold of Night.
I can relate to that! Geophysics was dominated by males:)
Becoming an alternative model happened by chance. I had gone to traditional modeling school and was essentially told that I would never get a job in the field because I wasn’t tall enough, thin enough, or conservative enough. That was before I had all the tattoos. Several years ago, I transitioned from the “normal” Goth style to cybergoth and, because it’s not as common in the US, it drew attention. I was asked to model for the BizR Babes, and I still do from time to time when my schedule allows it.
What you do with your B.A. degree in Forensic Psychology?
Currently, there isn’t a high demand for careers in Forensic Psychology unless you have a Ph.D. I’m looking into furthering my education, but for now I mainly use my knowledge in my writing.
And cowboy action shooting?
My husband initially got into cowboy action shooting and after watching, I decided I wanted to participate as well. It’s an international sport where people dress in period clothing and register under a specific shooting class like Traditional, Gunfighter, or Duelist. The shooter is timed while shooting for accuracy at interactive metal targets. Unfortunately, because my work schedule has changed, I haven’t gotten to do it in a while, but if I ever become a full-time writer I will be spending more time doing it again.
What fun! You also make Victorian gowns by hand. How is it?
The short answer is…I can’t work a sewing machine to save my life. The longer answer? Victorian ball gowns are beautiful, suit almost any formal event, and are very, very expensive if you buy one already made. Cowboy action shooting full weekend events tend to have a formal dinner and that started my obsession. But I have also made them to wear to the Gravediggers’ Ball, which is a fund raising formal dinner Laurel Hill Cemetery holds every year to keep the grounds beautiful through the donations of the patrons.
Would you tell us about your charity drive?
Due to the nature of the plot for my novel Christmas Evil, I have chosen to donate fifty percent of the proceeds of its sales to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
What one thing is important for your readers/audience to know about you? Why?
The most important thing to me is that my readers enjoy reading my work. If I have made you laugh, cry, or even hate me for what I’ve done to one of my characters, then I have done my job, because I want my readers to experience the same range of emotions that I have while writing.
Share with us some of your photography work and their story. When and why did you take them?
Each of my book covers has an example of my photography. The original Darkest Before Dawn cover is a photograph of one of the angel statues in Laurel Hill Cemetery. The newest cover, as well as the cover for The Cold of Night, are also of Laurel Hill. The models I photographed were digitally added later. All of the cemetery photographs were taken on rainy nights during an event called Dining Amongst the Dead, where patrons eat a delicious meal at the gatehouse prior to taking a guided stroll along the winding paths. The cover of Salt Bowl Death is a composition photograph by myself and my husband using us as models and his best friend’s barn as the background. Christmas Evil’s cover was a fun experiment in photography. I mixed up fake blood and smashed Christmas ornaments and candy canes just to see what I came up with. That cover is the result. More of my photography can be found on my website. Eventually, I would like to start putting prints up for sale, but I haven’t had the time or finances to make that available yet.
My best wishes on that, Cypher.
Now would you tell us about your home in Pennsylvania?
I live in a pretty typical middle-class neighborhood, I suppose. My house is a half a twin, which means I can sometimes hear my neighbors. Most of us have dogs or other pets and grill outside when the weather is warmer. Generally, we know everyone in our little stretch of houses. It rains a lot in Pennsylvania. Sometimes too much for my liking.
Any tips on reading and writing?
Read a lot and write a lot. Reading keeps the imagination going and writing only improves over time.
Thank you so much for your time, Cypher. Best wishes for all the books!
Readers, I hope you have enjoyed meeting Cypher. Following is my review of Darkest Before Dawn.
Darkest Before Dawn, reviewed by Ia Uaro
Title: Darkest Before Dawn
Author: Cypher Lx
There are so many things I want to say about this book. So, I’ll make a list of WHAT I LIKE:
– The masterful writing
These days it’s very rare that I can lose myself in whatever I read without analyzing the structure and noticing all kinds of errors. Reading DARKEST BEFORE DAWN however, I was allowed to fully focus on the story and enjoy myself.
– The deftly drawn characters
Goth girl with attitude Detective Elissa Greyfield–who is obsessed with dark clothes, frequents Goth club Nocturne, and decorates her room with pictures of cemeteries–joins the Homicide department of Philadelphia Police Department, where nobody can stand or understand her bitterness and strangeness, except the ever loyal and patient Detective Sean Winters, formerly the investigator of her sister’s case. Sean knows what has shaped this girl, and their interaction is precious.
Enter mysterious newcomer Michael Sheridan, who brings suspicion in the protective Sean and rage in former Goth boyfriend Wraith. These characters, Michael and Wraith, are remarkable, but I really can’t be a spoiler here.
– The deep mystery
The plot is meticulous. Elissa is the last surviving member of her family, after her sister disappears and is presumed to be brutally murdered. Four years on, as detectives she and Sean investigates a series of murders where the victims are exsanguinated and posed as angels in a cemetery by a psychopath who leaves notes of warning. But who is he warning? How much danger will Elissa’s fearless search for her sister’s bring? Why is someone shadowing her? And who is the mysterious Michael; is he the last gentleman on earth or is he too good to be true? And there are so much more to this book. Expect the unexpected.
– The author’s knowledge
The details are amazing. No matter what topic or setting she’s describing, without overdoing anything the author pays scrupulous attention to providing fascinating facts, teaching you either from her thorough researches or from her wealth of experience in the law enforcement and Goth culture.
– The uniqueness
This book is first of all a suspenseful mystery, something fans of Kay Hooper will enjoy, but there’s nothing quite like this one. “Darkest Before Dawn” is massive–a wholesome and intriguing blend of deep mystery, murder suspense, psychological thriller, police action, Goth community, family drama, and paranormal adventure. Do not expect your normal fares of these genres though, because Cypher Lx will take you on a journey to where you know not.
– This is not good bye
I have mentioned the perfect balance of the book’s structure. Everything is just at the right proportion. But I fell in love with the story and its characters and dreaded the approaching end. I didn’t want it to end! And so I was glad when Cypher announced on the last page that a sequel should arrive soon. Yeay!
WHAT I DON’T LIKE: Nothing.
Perfectly balanced, cleverly written, and stylish, this one is a masterpiece by a talented author who excels in everything that she does.