My Bookish Ways

Interview: Lisa Jensen, author of Alias Hook

Please welcome Lisa Jensen to the blog! Her brand new novel, ALIAS HOOK, just came out, and she kindly answered a few of my questions about the book, and more!

lisajensenI love the premise of Alias Hook, and I imagine legions of Peter Pan fans will too! Will you tell us a little more about it and what inspired you to write it?
Alias Hook imagines the world of the Neverland from the viewpoint of Captain James Hook, its prisoner. He’s cursed to spend eternity playing villain to a pack of bratty little boys in a pointless war that never ends. Then something totally unexpected happens—a forbidden grown woman shows up in the Neverland, in defiance of Pan’s rules against “ladies.” She may be Hook’s one last chance for redemption and release.

I’m a movie critic in my “day job,” and I got the idea for this book one day when I was writing a review of a live-action Peter Pan movie. I suddenly thought how awful it must be to be an adult trapped in a world of eternal childhood. And that’s when I knew I had to write Hook’s side of the story!

You have a background as a film critic and newspaper columnist, but have you always wanted to write fiction? What is one of the first things you can remember writing?
Oh, boy, let’s see… I used to write little stories as far back as I can remember. I also used to draw out stories in comic book format. Alias Hook came this close to being a graphic novel—except it would have taken SO much longer to do all that drawing!

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This week’s Kindle deals (all under $5!!)

All of these Kindle titles are under $5…for now! It’s a grab-bag of awesome, with mystery, suspense, SFF, and YA, and you’re sure to find something to set you up for great weekend reading! Enjoy, and as always, be sure to doublecheck before you click the BUY button.

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Seeders by AJ Colucci

seedersSeeders by AJ Colucci (St. Martin’s Press, July 15th)-The new horror thriller by AJ Colucci features a secluded island, plant communication, and a group of six people secluded on said island for two weeks. Off to a good start, yes? One particular blurb likened it to The Shining crossed with The Ruins, and The Ruins I agree with, but I think I’d put it more in the And Then There Were None category. I really enjoyed Colucci’s first novel, The Colony, and while there is a science-y aspect to Seeders, as with The Colony, that’s really where the similarities end, so don’t expect more of the same. Isabelle Maguire has taken her two children, Luke and Sean (who hasn’t spoken since an accident), and their ward, Monica to the secluded Sparrow Island after her father, George Brookes, jumps to his death. George was a brilliant, if controversial, botanist, and when Isabelle and family arrive on the island, she finds Dr. Jules Beecher, a former colleague of her father’s, and also Ginny Shufflebottom, her father’s on and off companion of 10 years. They’re all there to hear the reading of the will and get her father’s estate in order. They get quite a lot more than they bargain for, however.

The basis of Seeders is that George Brookes has discovered a way for plants to communicate with humans, and that plants have…emotions, and can even feel pain. So, you can probably guess, if that’s the case, how happy plants and trees are with us, considering what we’re doing to the planet. During the couple of weeks that the group spends on the island, Jules starts hearing some voices in the woods (and becomes a flat out menace), bodies start piling up in those same woods, the kids are sent on a scavenger hunt for a diamond that has been left to Ginny Shufflebottom, and the plants? Well…the plants aren’t idle, that’s for sure. Isabelle is doing her best to keep everyone safe, but Sean seems to be helping out Jules a little too much in those increasingly threatening woods, and the teenage Luke is way too preoccupied with Monica. Teenage hormones are almost as dangerous as the plants, seriously. I have to admit, Monica drove me nuts. She’s kind of awful, but luckily, Luke is smarter than that, and doesn’t completely fall for her crap (in spite of the siren song of his groin.) He even notices his mother’s newfound independence once she’s away from his bullying father. Colucci is good at building the isolated, very eerie atmosphere of the island and the creepiness of sentient plants, and she also doesn’t shy away from some pretty strong horror elements. I like that about her. Things get pretty awful from our little group, and one begins to wonder if rescue will ever come. I’m not going to give that away, but…AJ Colucci knows her horror, and horror fans always know that in stories like this, a not so happy ending is always a possibility. This book is scary fun, and speculating about the possible sentient nature of organisms that are responsible for so many of the good things about our planet (and that humans continually abuse) is equally fun, fascinating, and food for thought.

The 2014 Man Booker Prize Longlist has been announced

The prestigious Man Booker Prize admits all novels from around the world as long as they are published in English, and the 2014 Longlist has been announced! Note that this is the first year that all English language books will be considered, not just those by British and Commonwealth authors. The winner will be announced on Oct. 14th. Congrats to all the wonderful authors on the list!

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Giveaway: The Arrivals by Melissa Marr

thearrivalsThe paperback edition of THE ARRIVALS by Melissa Marr comes out next week, and I happen to have a copy to give away, so check out the book, and the details, and good luck!

Chloe walks into a bar and blows five years of sobriety. When she wakes, she finds herself in an unfamiliar world, The Wasteland. She discovers people from all times and places have also arrived there: Kitty and Jack, a brother and sister from the Wild West; Edgar, a prohibition bootlegger; Francis, a one-time hippie; Melody, a mentally unbalanced 1950s housewife; and Hector, a former carnival artist.

None know why they arrived there—or if there is way out of a world populated by monsters and filled with corruption.

Just as she did in Graveminder, Marr has created a vivid fantasy world that will enthrall. Melissa Marr’s The Arrivals is a thoroughly original and wildly imagined tale about making choices in a life where death is unpredictable and often temporary.

The book includes a P.S. section with extra material from the author and a bonus story exclusive to this paperback edition.

**Wanna win a copy? Fill out the widget below and I’ll pick a winner on August 1st (US only). Good luck!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Guest Post: Casting Sacred Things by Jason M. Hough

If you follow this blog regularly, you know that I really, really loved Jason M. Hough’s Dire Earth Cycle series, and since it’s SDCC week, we thought it might be fun to feature a guest post since Jason is on a SF and Fantasy Lit panel tomorrow with the likes of David Brin, Marie Lu, Jonathan Maberry, Rachel Caine, and Henry Herz. So, if you’re at SDCC this week, don’t miss it! Enjoy!

Casting Sacred Things
Jason M. Hough

In my science fiction series, THE DIRE EARTH CYCLE, I treaded on something that should not be treaded upon. I’m talking about the good old US of A. In my novels, our great nation is a non-player. There’s only one American character in a bit roll appearing halfway through book two. America the superpower is a distant memory, long removed from the world’s limelight. It’s a place one character refers to jokingly as ‘North Mexico.’

That last could be taken as an insult to either America or Mexico, depending on your perspective, but I meant it as neither. The implication is that an equalization occurred. While America experienced a decline, Mexico rose to achieve something of a parity with us. Keep in mind, the books are set almost 300 years from now. A lot can happen in that amount of time. Hell, our nation isn’t even 300 years old yet. My inspiration for this transformation, by the way, came from the decline of Austria over the last few hundred years.

But this topic goes deeper than the specific scenario in my novels. The real point here is that one should not confuse science fiction with futurism. A futurist seeks to imagine our probable future. How things will actually turn out. For the science fiction author, while we could play futurist if we choose, all we’re really trying to do is imagine a possible future, however unlikely. I suppose what I mean is one should be careful to assume the specifics of a science fiction world are what the author feels is truly how things will turn out.

Still, there are some readers who will balk at a sci-fi novel that envisions a future they, the reader, don’t agree with. Certain things are seen as sacred by society and feelings may be hurt if you cast such things in an unfavorable light. It’s a risk you take as a writer, but I think as long as you back up your world with a realistic explanation for the situation as presented, the majority of readers will come along for the ride. There will always be some, however, who cannot suspend disbelief when it comes to something sacred to them.

My books feature a post-apocalyptic setting where the only viable place to live on Earth is in Darwin, Australia. The further you were from there when things went bad, the less chance you made it to safety. In such a scenario, it’s believable that not many Americans would be around. Given that, I reasoned that if America had already waned from its former glory at the top of the nation food-chain, I could more realistically keep the focus on the players who are involved.

In other words, my decision to put the USA in the distant background of this story was purely to serve my story, and that’s as it should be.

Photo by Nathan Hough

Photo by Nathan Hough

About Jason:
Jason M. Hough (pronounced ‘Huff’) is the bestselling author of THE DARWIN ELEVATOR, THE EXODUS TOWERS, and THE PLAGUE FORGE. In a former life he was a 3D artist, animator, and game designer (Metal Fatigue, Aliens vs. Predator: Extinction, and many others). He has also worked in such fields as high-performance cluster computing and machine learning.

He began writing THE DARWIN ELEVATOR in 2008 as a Nanowrimo project, refining the manuscript until 2011 when it sold to Del Rey along with a contract for two sequels. The book released on July 30th in the US and reached the New York Times Bestseller list the following week. DARWIN is his first published fiction.

The trilogy, collectively called THE DIRE EARTH CYCLE, was released in the summer of 2013. Jason’s next book, currently untitled, is tentatively scheduled for release in 2015.

He lives near Seattle, Washington with his wife and two young sons.

Wayfaring Stranger by James Lee Burke

wayfaringstrangerWayfaring Stranger by James Lee Burke (S&S, July 15th, 2014)-I shamefully admit that it’s been awhile since I’ve read anything by the wonderful James Lee Burke. It’s all good, though, because Wayfaring Stranger has reignited my love for his books, and I’ll be devouring the rest of them soon enough. Wayfaring Stranger could be called a thriller, I suppose. It’s paced like one at times. But, oh gosh, it’s so much more. Weldon Holland, grandson of Hackberry, is only 16 in 1934 when Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker come blazing through the Holland land after orchestrating the prison break at Eastham. Insouciant in their 1932 Chevy Confederate, they’re a source of instant fascination for young Weldon, especially the feral eyed Bonnie Parker with her beret titled over one eye. In a separate encounter a short time later, perhaps thinking he was protecting his grandfather, Weldon shoots his .44 into the back of the Chevy as it flees. This would prove to be a defining moment in his life. Then we move on to Holland’s stint in WWII in which he and his Sergeant, Hershel Pine, rescue a lovely woman, Rosita, from an SS death camp. Holland subsequently marries Rosita and when Pine tracks him down with a claim of a pipe weld that would never break, and the birth of their company, The Dixie Belle Pipeline Company, in 1946. The following years are good for them, but after a business venture goes south, they have no choice but to accept a loan from an untrusted source, and when Pine’s wife, the spirited and wayward Linda Gail, is “discovered” and introduced to the glittering gutters of Hollywood, it kicks off a chain of events that threaten everything they’ve built and everyone they love.

If you enjoy character driven sagas with plenty of kick, you’ll love Wayfaring Stranger, and if you’re already a fan of Burke’s work, it’s a given. Weldon Holland is a hero, but it’s his quiet way, loyalty, and deep seated morality that make him a standout. His fierce, fierce love for Rosita is enough to make a girl swoon. Enjoy that, because you won’t see me write that very much. I’m not much of a swooner, but good grief, the things he writes about Rosita are beautiful, and he respects and cherishes her in a time when women were sometimes not very respected, at least for anything other than how they looked. Lest you think that Weldon is the strongest character, Rosita is an absolute force of nature, Hershel is a loyal friend, solid and good, Hackberry Holland is very much the lovable curmudgeon, and if at first Linda Gail gets under your skin (oh, how she will), her eventual redemption and hard won strength are a glory to behold.

Wayfaring Stranger has a bit of everything that I love. It’s a grand literary tour of some of the most significant events in American history, and the glamorous parties of old Hollywood and sometimes diabolical machinations of behind the scenes players mark a time thought of as “innocent” which really wasn’t. I’m from Texas, and couldn’t help but revel in a book chock so full of so much amazing Texas history. How was I ever bored by this stuff in school? Maybe I just needed James Lee Burke for a teacher. This book embodies everything that I think a good story should have, and not only is it a fine story, it’s also a meditation on human nature and our capacity for cruelty, but also the ability of the human spirit to rise above it, to love completely, and to refuse to give into the evil the evil that men, and women, do. Rosita endures some horrendous things throughout the course of this book, and her refusal to give in to those that would hurt her is inspiring, even as your heart breaks for her plight. I savored every word in this big, bold, gorgeous book. I didn’t want it to end, but what a helluva ending it was, certainly worthy of a Golden Age Hollywood actioner (I may have cried, don’t tell anyone.) If you only read a few books this year, make this one of them.

Interview (and giveaway): Sarah McCarry, author of Dirty Wings

Please welcome Sarah McCarry to the blog! Her new book, DIRTY WINGS, just came out last week, and she stopped by to answer a few of my questions! Also, courtesy of the author, I’ve got 2 promo codes for a free download of the audiobook of DIRTY WINGS for 2 lucky winners (international)!

dirtywingsYou’re the author of the much lauded All Our Pretty Songs, and your new book, Dirty Wings, just came out. Will you tell us more about it and your protagonists, Maia and Cass?
Sure! Dirty Wings is a standalone prequel to All Our Pretty Songs that focuses on the story of Cass and Maia—the mothers of the two main characters in All Our Pretty Songs—as teenagers. Cass is a runaway street kid who’s squatting an abandoned house with a handful of punks; Maia is a sheltered piano prodigy who knows nothing of the world outside of her lessons and her strict, claustrophobic household. The two girls strike up an unlikely friendship that turns out to transform them both: for Cass, Maia is the stability she’s always craved, and for Maia, Cass is the key to her freedom. But when Maia falls in love with Jason, a boy who’s no good for her, everything heads south in a hurry, and the stakes get even higher when a music producer who may or may not be literally from Hell takes an interest in Jason—and Maia.

I love books that celebrate female friendship (also a theme in All Our Pretty Songs), and I imagine that will be a big draw for readers, but why do you think readers will connect with them?
Cass and Maia are characters with particular stories, but they both struggle with questions that I think are pretty universal: they’re trying to figure out who they are in the world, and who they want to become, and if their dreams belong to them or if they’ve been shaped by other people. They both make quite a few mistakes along the way—I don’t write about perfect people, because I don’t think they’re interesting (or real, for that matter). They’re also both girls who are outsiders for different reasons, and who choose to define their own stories and their own experiences—I think readers, especially women, who don’t often see themselves reflected in stories about growing up and making your own way in the world will connect with Maia and Cass. I tend to write for people who like bad decisions.

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Those Who Wish Me Dead by Michael Koryta

thosewhowishmedeadThose Who Wish Me Dead by Michael Koryta (Little, Brown, June 2014)-I’m not new to Koryta’s work, and really enjoyed The Prophet, so I had high expectations for this one. Since I read it in one afternoon, it’s pretty safe to say they were met. I’m a sucker for survival stories, and this is one, but it’s also a thriller that pretty much starts with a bang and doesn’t stop to take a breath. Jace Wilson is 13 when he decides to practice his diving in a quarry in order to make good on an ill conceived bet. He’s worried about the fallout if he fails to deliver on the dive, but when he encounters a dead body in the water, throat cut, after one of his dives, the bet becomes the least of his worries. This is a creepy, creepy scene, and Koryta sets it up perfectly, especially from the perspective of a 13 year old boy. If the body wasn’t bad enough, the two killers actually return, with a hostage, and poor Jace actually witnesses that killing.

Jace is subsequently given a false identity, and eventually finds his way to Ethan and Allison Serben, who run a survival wilderness program in Montana. Ethan and Allison are approached by former US Marshall Jamie Bennett, who had previously taken part in one of Ethan’s survival courses. Jamie gives them the bare minimum that they need to know in order to make a decision: one of the boys in their next survival program will be a witness under a fake name, and there is little to no chance that he will be found in the Montana wilderness. Allison initially thinks it’s way too risky, and Ethan does too, but Allison knows that he won’t say no, that he can’t say no. Soon, Ethan and Allison meets the new group of boys, and off they go, with Allison manning the radio, but with no knowledge of their route this time. One would think that Jace would be safe in the mountains, but these killers are far from ordinary.

Let’s talk about the Blackwood brothers (our intrepid killers) for a minute. Not only do they have absolutely no qualms about killing, and killing a child, no less, but they’re just creepy. The author notes that it’s like they’re in their own little world, and everyone else is just window dressing to be dealt with. They’re as cool, calm and collected as it comes, and very, very capable. As you can guess, a game of cat-and-mouse is afoot, but it’s in the Montana mountains with an advancing forest fire, and it’s a chilling scenario. Jace is a smart, capable kid, though, and he’s got Ethan, Allison, and emotionally damaged former firefighter, Hannah Faber, at his back. Koryta has a gift for smart characters that don’t stretch believability (they’re smart, but flawed, too), and in Allison and Hannah, he’s given us some of the strongest female protagonists that I’ve seen in a long time. Yes, Ethan is manning the survival expedition, but Allison is no wilting violet sitting at home waiting for her husband to return. She’s awesome, and the lengths that she will go to in order to protect those she loves is boundless. I also love a thriller that makes my jaw drop, and this one did it in the third act. I couldn’t put it down, seriously. This is a smart thriller with smart characters and some of the most unearthly bad guys I’ve read in a while. The pacing and dialogue reminded me a bit of peak Koontz (without the SF/supernatural element), and for me, this is a positive. Koryta’s got his own unique mojo, however, and it works, as does just about everything in this book. This is the perfect summer thriller.

Interview: Kenneth Mark Hoover, author of Haxan

Kenneth Mark Hoover’s supernatural western, HAXAN, just came out in June, and he kindly answered a few of my questions about the book, and more! Please give him a warm welcome!

kennethmarkhooverCongrats on the release of HAXAN! Will you tell us a little about it and what inspired you to write it?
First of all, thank you for inviting me to the interview! I have always been a big fan of Old Time Radio. I began to listen to the old Gunsmoke radio episodes written by its creator, John Meston. He wanted to bring adult sensibilities to the western and leave mythology and Hollywood clichés behind.

It wasn’t long before I was hooked and knew I wanted to write a story about the Old West along the same lines, but leavened with dark fantasy. Not a lot. I didn’t want the fantasy to overwhelm the Old West itself. Nor did I want the West to be nothing more than a backdrop.

I had also been a fan of the Jonah Hex comics. So using this as a starting point I began to write “Haxan” the first short story in the series. That was the beginning.

Have you always wanted to be a writer? Will you tell us more about yourself and your background?
I knew I wanted to be a writer when I was 9 years old. I’ve never wanted to do anything else. When I started there wasn’t a lot of research material in bookstores or libraries so you had to learn the profession as you went. I was lucky. I had two really good mentors, Marian Poe and Harold King, who showed me the ropes.

I’ve done other things besides, writing, of course. I’ve been a surveyor, a salesman, an educator, and I’ve delivered pizzas in college. But more than anything else all I’ve ever wanted to do was write.

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