My Bookish Ways

California by Edan Lepucki

californiaCalifornia by Edan Lepucki (Little, Brown, July 8th)-Frida and Cal are about as happy as two people can be in a post-apocalyptic America that’s refreshingly devoid of zombies. This particular apocalypse was a protracted affair, consisting of more natural catastrophes, and as the country crumbled around them, Cal and Frida did their best to survive. Now they’ve settled, more or less, in the house of a family they once knew in the woods, far away from the dangers of Los Angeles, their former home. They cling to each other, and if the country is no longer strong, their love still is. However, Frida thinks she might be pregnant, and longs to seek out a populated place to give birth, one in which they’re not so alone. It just so happens, that not far away, there seems to be some kind of encampment, surrounded by tall spikes that make up a maze. Cal knows that, for his wife’s sake, he must make an effort to make contact with the people beyond the spikes, and they do, but a shocking revelation leads to uneasy alliance. Can Cal and Frida make a life among the people of The Land, and most importantly, once it is revealed that she is pregnant, will they even want to.

Yes, California takes place in a  “post-apocalyptic” setting, but that’s just backdrop to the very real human drama that she presents so effectively. Frida has long held onto her past, imbuing everyday items (but ones that are treasures in the current landscape), with near mythical properties and still mourns the loss of her brother who was part of The Group, whose whimsical activities first meant to call attention to our rampant consumerism eventually took a turn into terrorist territory. Cal is devoted to Frida and will do anything to protect her and their unborn child, and eventually becomes enmeshed in the inner workings of The Land and its upper echelons. Cal’s a rather handy guy to have around in the given conditions, having attended a school given over to the tenets of green living and self-sufficiency, and Frida notices that they are separated more and more. However, the folks at The Land are a secretive bunch, and whisperings of Pirates have Cal worried.

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Interview (& Giveaway): Stephen Lloyd Jones, author of The String Diaries

Please welcome Stephen Lloyd Jones to the blog! His new book, THE STRING DIARIES, just came out last week, and he was kind enough to answer a few of my questions about this rather awesome book (trust me, it is.) We’ve also got 3 copies of THE STRING DIARIES to give away to 3 lucky winners, so check out the details at the bottom of the post!

stephenlloydjonesCongratulations on the new book! Will you tell us a bit about THE STRING DIARIES?
My pleasure. It’s the story of a young woman, Hannah Wilde, on the run from a man who has murdered the last five generations of her family. All Hannah’s knowledge of him comes from a string-tied collection of journals, notes and letters written by her ancestors. They represent everything the family has managed to discover about this horror that stalks them.

Have you always wanted to be a writer? Will you tell us more about yourself and your background?
I’ve wanted to be a published writer for as long as I can remember. I received my first rejection slip when I was fifteen. There was a long period, as I concentrated on my media career, where I didn’t write a thing, but the dream never went away.

Why do you think readers will connect with Hannah Wilde?
Faced with an almost inconceivable threat, Hannah’s sole concern is her daughter’s future. She’s prepared to sacrifice everything to secure it: her life, even the lives of others she loves. That doesn’t stop her contemplating the agony of those sacrifices or her ability to make them, and it doesn’t dull her terror of what’s coming.

I hope readers will be able to connect with the idea that taking a particular path, even when you know it’s the right one, can be monumentally difficult.

What kind of research did you do for the book?
Some scenes take place in nineteenth century Budapest, and those took the longest to write. I travelled to the city, spent months researching Hungary’s history, and pored over old maps and photographs. It was great fun to bring it all together on the page.

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Giveaway: The Never List by Koethi Zan

theneverlistHow about a giveaway to kick off the holiday weekend? The Never List by Koethi Zan was one of my favorite books of 2013, and it just came out in paperback! To celebrate, the lovely folks at Viking have provided a copy to give away to one lucky winner! Good luck and Happy 4th of July!

For years, Sarah Farber and her best friend, Jennifer, kept what they called the Never List: a list of actions to be avoided at all costs, for safety’s sake. But one night, against their best instincts, they accept a cab ride—one with grave, everlasting consequences. For the next three years, they are held captive with two other girls in a dungeon-like cellar by a connoisseur of sadism. Ten years later, Sarah’s abductor is up for parole and she can no longer ignore the twisted letters he sends to her from prison. But when Sarah decides to confront her phobias and reconnect with the other survivors she begins unraveling a mystery more horrifying than even she could have imagined.

**Wanna win a copy? Simply fill out the widget below, and I’ll pick a winner on the 13th (US only.) Good luck!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Interview: Jamie Schultz, author of Premonitions

Please welcome Jamie Schultz to the blog! His debut urban fantasy, Premonitions, just came out on Tuesday and he’s got the scoop on the new book, what comes next, and much more!

jamieschultzCongrats on your new book, Premonitions! Have you always wanted to be a writer? Will you tell us a little more about yourself and your background?
Thanks! I wouldn’t say I’ve always wanted to be a writer, but I have always written to some degree. Little vignettes, short stories, and terrible poetry at first, and then I got bitten by the novel bug. I just really love working in the longer format—it feels natural to me.

As for my background… I grew up in the frozen Arctic tundra of Wisconsin. I spent high school swinging a hammer for my dad’s construction company, and then I ended up going to engineering school. I have a couple of wholly disparate engineering degrees (Aerospace and Environmental) that I haven’t used in ten years or more. I live in Dallas now doing business analysis work in the daytime and writing or extracting terrifying noises from my guitar at night.

What can readers expect from Premonitions? Will you tell us more about it?
The basic setup is that of a heist story, so I’d say the readers can expect a fair amount of action and mayhem (and, honestly, profanity. These are not kindergarten teachers we’re talking about here). I like to think the magic and supernatural elements help cast the basic story in a new light and bring some surprises to the table.

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A chat with Sarah Hilary, author of Someone Else’s Skin

Sarah Hilary’s debut novel, SOMEONE ELSE’S SKIN, just came out, and she stopped by to answer a few questions about it, and more! Please give her a warm welcome!

sarahhilaryCongrats on the new book! Will you tell us about Someone Else’s Skin and what inspired you to write it?
Thanks! Someone Else’s Skin is a story about secrets, and survival. The secrets that put us in danger and the ones that keep us safe. It’s about who we pretend to be in order to survive or simply to get by, and who we really are, under the skin.

My heroine, Detective Inspector Marnie Rome is an expert at uncovering secrets, and at keeping them. Five years ago, her family home was a shocking and bloody crime scene. Not even her partner, Detective Sergeant Noah Jake, knows much about Marnie’s past or the battle she’s fighting to make sense of it. Together, Marnie and Noah are investigating a stabbing at a women’s shelter. It looks like a cut-and-dried case of self-defence, but the violence spirals and everyone’s caught up it in, including Noah.

I hope it’s a novel that upsets the traditional ideas about domestic violence – and makes us look afresh at why people commit crimes of this kind, and how society chooses to punish them. I’m also fascinated by the psychology of seeing, the emotional lens that colours everything we witness, and by the role of the witness. This role is vital to solving and prosecuting crimes, but what does it mean to be the witness to a brutal crime? How does it change that person? Is there a sense in which he or she becomes responsible for the “truth” of what was seen?

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Bloodshifted (Edie Spence #5) by Cassie Alexander

bloodshiftedBloodshifted (Edie Spence #5) by Cassie Alexander (St. Martin’s Press, 7/1/14)-Warning! This review assumes you’re caught up, and doesn’t have spoilers for this book, but series newbies may want to look away, and check out my other Edie Spence reviews. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

Edie Spence has survived the events aboard the Maraschino, but she’s got a helluva struggle ahead of her, now that she’s a daytimer, and at the mercy of her maker, Raven, at least until Anna can gather together her posse and spring her from the catacombs that house Raven and his people, as well as a three-story nightclub that serves as both a moneymaker and human blood supplier to the vamps. She seems to have a likely ally in the form of another daytimer named Jackson, but his motives are suspect, and Edie really can’t trust anyone. She’s got to concentrate on keeping herself, and her unborn baby, alive, and getting back to Asher by any means possible. Being tethered to Raven is demoralizing, not to mention terrifying, and having to room with a bitchy daytimer who seems bent on terrorizing her is just another thing on her increasingly long list of problems. Edie is swiftly put to work, after all, everyone earns their keep in the catacombs, and scrubbing toilets is at least preferable to being confined, but soon, she learns of diabolical experiments being conducted in the underground warren, that may threaten the whole of humanity, and an ancient, and possibly very dangerous, figure keeps appearing in her dreams. Can Edie save herself, and humankind, without losing her own humanity in the process?

For pure fun, it’s really hard to beat the Edie Spence series. My favorite nurse-to-the-supes has been through so much, and come so far, to finally find happiness, then decides to go on a cruise (which should be fun, right?-but, no), then survives that mess, then…vamps, underground catacombs, diabolical experiments, and other horrors. However, Edie does have some allies (including a very unlikely one) within the compound, and waiting around to be rescued isn’t really Edie’s style. Cassie Alexander has never presented her vampires as, um, fluffy, and their innate brutality is on fine display here. There will be blood…so much blood.

I adore Edie, so the fact that Bloodshifted is the last of this series makes me sad. However, it’s been a great ride, and I’ll follow Cassie Alexander wherever her muse takes her. If you’re looking for a standout in the very crowded urban fantasy field, Edie Spence should be one of your go-to series.

Angry Robot Books just turned 5, so let’s celebrate with…Tim Waggoner (The Nekropolis Archives)!

angry-robot-logo-2Angry Robot Books just turned 5, and to celebrate, AR is doing some fun posts around the web and also offering some great giveaway. Tim Waggoner has written an awesome guest post, and we’ve got 5 copies of THE NEKROPOLIS ARCHIVES to give away to 5 lucky winners (the omnibus includes Nekropolis, Dead Streets, and Dark War)!

So, welcome Tim to the blog, and be sure to check out #AngryRobot5 on Twitter so you don’t miss out on other posts and giveaways!

                              Caveat Scriptor
by Tim Waggoner

I’ve encrypted this message into my latest Angry Robot novel Night Terrors, using a code sufficiently complex enough that with any luck They won’t discover it when editing the manuscript, but not so complex, I hope, that someone out there won’t be able to decipher it. If you’re reading this right now, it means I’ve succeeded. If you’re not . . . Never mind. I’m not going to go there. I have to believe that my message will make it to the outside world. It’s the only thing that’s allowing me to hold onto the last ragged scraps of my sanity.

TheNekropolisArchives-144dpiI’m not sending this message to save myself. It’s far too late for that. I’m writing this to those of you who might be thinking about submitting novel manuscripts to Angry Robot to be considered for publication. For the love of all that’s holy, DON’T DO IT! Several years ago, I submitted Nekropolis to Marc Gascoigne – or at least something that presented itself as a human being with that name – and it was accepted. I was thrilled, of course. What writer wouldn’t be? But then it started. First came the emails.

Hey, Tim! Just a quick note to let you know that you really need to be getting more sleep. We prefer our authors to get a minimum of eight hours uninterrupted sleep each night. It keeps their minds sharp when they sit down at the keyboard and start typing. And we want you to produce the very best work for us that you’re capable of.


The thing is, I’d never mentioned a single word to Marc about my sleeping habits. And this email wasn’t an isolated incident by any means. Over the next few weeks, I received a regular stream of messages regarding Angry Robot’s stance on proper nutrition, exercise, and even bowel movements. Writers want to be viewed as valued partners in the publishing process by their editors, but I think you’ll agree that Angry Robot’s interest in such intimate details of my life was not only intrusive but downright creepy. Still, a certain amount of eccentricity is only to be expected from those in the arts, and it wasn’t as if I didn’t possess my own share of idiosyncracies. Besides, the Angry Robot crew are British, and I figured there were probably some cultural differences at work that I wasn’t aware of.

Then the texts started coming.

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Catching up with Betsy Dornbusch, author of Exile

It’s been a while since Betsy has stopped by the blog, and since EXILE just came out in paperback, we thought it would be a perfect time to catch up and see what she’s been up to, and what’s on the horizon! Please welcome her back to the blog!

Red rocks cropped (2)Betsy, the first book in your Seven Eyes series, EXILE, is out in paperback, and the next book in the series, EMISSARY, is scheduled to release early next year. For those that haven’t read EXILE, will you tell us a bit about the series and what inspired it?
Draken is wrongfully convicted for murdering his wife. His home country of Monoea doesn’t execute prisoners but lets the gods decide their fate. So he is dumped into the bay of an enemy country. He doesn’t even have shoes! He’s a sailor and a soldier; it’s like dropping an American marine into Iraq or North Korea and telling him to make a new life. But when a bane, an evil ghost Draken thought only existed in cradle-tales, attacks him, he gets dragged into court intrigue and politics and war. All that probably saves his life, even if he’d never admit it.

I wrote EXILE as a learning experience and never intended to sell it. I had just come off a complicated project (my first book, ARCHIVE OF FIRE) and I wanted something easier so I could practice a few things in my writing. I made a few rules for myself: tropes are allowed, even encouraged, but each must be twisted. And I wanted to write only one point of view. Then my critique group encouraged me to start submitting. I did for a few years and trunked the novel for about two years until I met the folks at Night Shade Books. Even with all that went on there (my series was caught up in the sale) I’ve ended up in a good position.

At the time I had no idea EXILE would be the start to a series. It was written as a standalone but fortunately Draken had more things to do. The single POV is probably my greatest hindrance now, especially now in the third book.

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A cornucopia of Kindle titles under $5!

Looking to feed your reader with some awesome books? Look no further! All of these titles are under $5 on Kindle, and there’s something for everyone: SF, mystery, thrillers, horror and YA…we’ve got you covered. As always, check the price before you hit the BUY button, because sometimes these deals don’t last!

Note: If you scrolllll down to the bottom, you’ll see that the entire Outlander collection (with the exception of the new book), by Diana Gabaldon is on sale for only $4.99 a piece. So, now you have no excuse not to read this wonderful series!

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Interview (& Giveaway): Greg van Eekhout, author of California Bones

Please welcome Greg van Eekhout to the blog! I loved his new book, CALIFORNIA BONES, and he kindly answered a few questions about it, and more! Also, courtesy of the lovely folks at Tor, we’ve got a copy of CALIFORNIA BONES to give away to one lucky winner (US only)!

Be sure to visit the California Bones website, where there’s a video of Greg hanging out with John Scalzi at the Le Brea Tar Pits!

gregvaneekhoutI really enjoyed California Bones, and loved the idea of osteomancy (and other such magics)! What inspired you to write the book?
I grew up in LA and going to the La Brea Tar Pits was always a treat. When I started writing fantasy, I knew I’d eventually have to come up with a story that centered on the Tar Pits. At one point, I wrote a short story about a paleontologist who finds a griffin preserved in the Siberian permafrost. The story didn’t work out for a variety of reasons, but a few years later the idea occurred to me to put griffin and dragon and unicorn fossils in the Tar Pits. The magic system – eating bones of magical creatures to get their magical powers – and a world fueled by this magic and the characters who would live in this world–all got put in my short story, “The Osteomancer’s Son.” And I felt there was still plenty of fuel in that particular tank, so developing it more fully into a trilogy of novels just felt like a good move.

The California in California Bones is, and isn’t, the California that we know, and you included some very famous names in the book. What kind of research did you do for the novel, and what was one of the most interesting things you discovered?
I read quite a few books on Los Angeles history, plus articles from various historical societies and newspaper archives. LA is one of those places where the buildings and other physical structures of the past get bulldozed in favor of new things, or they get changed beyond recognition, so a lot of what I did was find cool stuff that’s been gone for decades and pretend it was still there. The Pacific Ocean Park amusement pier burned down in the late sixties, but the ruins survived into the seventies, and I have the vaguest of memories of seeing them when I was a really young kid. It’s almost like I remember ghosts from past LA more than I do past LA. So, that was the kind of thing I wanted to put in the book.

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