I’m so thrilled to have Peter Farris on the blog today! Peter is the author of the upcoming noir thriller Last Call for the Living (feel free to check out my review, we’ll be here when you get back!), and he’s here to talk about his new book, if there’s such a thing as “too dark” in noir, and a side of Mickey and Minnie that you’ve never seen before (and more.)
Please welcome Peter to the blog!
Peter, your first novel, Last Call For the Living (due May 22nd) is already getting great buzz! Have you always hoped to become a writer? Can you tell us a bit about your journey?
I didn’t get serious about it until I was 23 or 24. A friend of mine had recommended I read a Mississippi author named Larry Brown. Brown’s work turned my world upside down, and pulled the trigger on a compulsion to express myself through fiction. But I realized if I was going to write publishable fiction it was going to take years of work. I suspect you can make a life study of it and still never truly feel like you have a grasp on what you’re doing.
Another pivotal moment came around the same time, when I asked my old man for some recommendations. He’s a writer as well, and recognizing I was eager to read with more purpose, he gave me “White Noise” by Don Delillo, “Blood Meridian” by Cormac McCarthy, “A Deadly Shade of Gold” by John D. MacDonald and Barry Hannah’s “Yonder Stands Your Orphan.” Those four loaners opened the flood gates. From that point on I never read anything for leisure. Every novel or collection—“literature” or genre piece it didn’t matter—was like a text book to me. There was always something to learn.
As for my own path, the first novel to get the interest of an agent was a violent satire set in the world of NASCAR. As that manuscript kept busy collecting rejection letters, I wrote the first draft of Last Call for the Living in 2006. About 20 drafts later (and 3 more novels in the can) I was offered a contract.
How did you celebrate when you found out you sold Last Call For the Living?
Mexican food and Pabst Blue Ribbon! My editor made a pit-stop in Atlanta while on a business trip and surprised me with the offer. We stayed up till 3 a.m. and watched The Friends of Eddie Coyle. It was a night I’ll never forget.
Can you give us a bit of a teaser about the book?
Last Call for the Living is about the Aryan Brotherhood, a bank robbery and a kidnapping. It’s set in Georgia.
What do you like most about writing crime noir/suspense?
There is something really appealing (and addictive) about following a character around until something bad happens.
But I do love the possibilities with crime fiction. It’s a genre that to me is wide open, and just begging authors to break the rules.
Is there anything in particular that you need to have handy to write? Coffee? Booze? Lucky pen? (Queue black and white pictures of noir writer in smoke-filled study, gin and tonic in hand, or, more appropriately, Southern Comfort)
Not really. There was a time when I was caught up in that romantic cliché of the hard-drinking, chain-smoking writer burning the midnight oil. I wrote two book-length manuscripts in a haze of cigarette smoke and Jim Beam. Total amateur hour. Those “novels” are terrible and worthy of a burn barrel.
I quit smoking three years ago and look at an ice cold beer as a reward for a solid day (or night’s) work, and not a supplement to it.
But I definitely think every writer should have: 1) a good dictionary 2) a window to stare out of and 3) a friend in law enforcement.
I recently read your flash fiction short, Disney Noir (voted Best Short Story on the Web by Spinetingler Magazine), and having just booked a trip to Disney this summer, know that I, for one, will never look at Mickey and the gang the same way again. What made you decide to show the dark side of our favorite Disney characters?
Prior to writing that flash fiction piece I actually visited Orlando with my fiancé and her family. I’m not sure who brought it up, but I remember a conversation about the park employees in costume, a rumor they all partied and did drugs and slept with one another—sort of like the culture at your local corporate chain restaurant. So naturally while strolling through the Magic Kingdom I assumed Donald Duck had been on a coke binge since Tuesday and Sleeping Beauty was treating a venereal disease and had a boyfriend in jail and felt guilty about cheating on him with the guy playing morning-shift “Mickey” in a bathroom near Space Mountain. Combine those wacked-out assumptions with the underground tunnel system that the costumed employees use to get around the park and, well, that’s where “Disney Noir” came from.
In your opinion, is there such a thing as “too dark” when it comes to noir?
First, I should explain that nothing offends me, so no subject can ever be too “dark.” Go on and kill the dog. Take some kittens out for batting practice or set the church on fire during a baptism, I don’t care. You’re not gonna make me flinch. But I think the way an unsettling or disturbing story/scene/character is presented is crucial when it comes to noir or crime fiction. You never want to be too coy, or by contrast too sentimental or too explicit. It’s a fine line to walk but if you do it right, it’ll probably make the reader put down your book and take a breath.
What are some of your favorite author or novels?
Joe and Fay by Larry Brown and Feast of Snakes by Harry Crews are three of my all-time favorite novels, and I’m hoping somebody will put a copy of Flannery O’Connor’s Wise Blood in my coffin. I’m also a great admirer of Jack London, Cormac McCarthy, Ron Rash, Tom Franklin, William Gay (RIP), Dorothy Allison, Chris Offutt, Rick Bass, Daniel Woodrell, Joseph Wambaugh and James Ellroy to name a few.
Also, in the past year folks like John Rector, David J. Schow, Grant Jerkins, Duane Swierczynski and Frank Bill have blown me away with their most recent releases.
What titles would you recommend to someone dipping their toes in the “southern noir” pool for the first time?
Boy, that’s a tough one. There are plenty of smarter people out there who could provide a better list so I’m gonna shoot from the hip here. If we’re talking about fiction south of the Mason-Dixon with crime and tragedy at its heart, I’d start with William Faulkner’s “Sanctuary” followed by Davis Grubb’s “Night of the Hunter.” Then any of James Lee Burke’s early Robicheaux novels, Karin Slaughter’s Grant County series (I really like Indelible), Jim Thompson’s The Killer Inside Me, Daniel Woodrell’s Rene Shade novels (available now as The Bayou Trilogy), One Foot In Eden by Ron Rash, Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin, Father & Son by Larry Brown, William Gay’s Twilight, The Missing by Tim Gautreaux, The Bottoms by Joe Lansdale, Dirty White Boys by Stephen Hunter and At the End of the Road by Grant Jerkins.
When you’re not busy writing, how do you like to spend your free time?
Between the day job and writing, I’m pretty much a homebody when the weekend rolls around. I played in bands for more than a decade so my passion for music runs deep. I still go to a few shows a year depending on who’s passing through town (the EARL in East Atlanta is hands down my favorite venue). I spend way too much money on vinyl and am a sucker for a good record store.
I also hit a pistol and rifle range at least once a month and you might catch me hiking Kennesaw Mountain, especially in the Fall when the leaves turn. Oh, and my fiancé and I love stock car racing so we usually make it down to Atlanta Motor Speedway or out to Talladega each year. There’s also an awesome dirt track not fifteen minutes from our house. A helluva lot of fun for $10 and the corndogs are deadly good.
If you weren’t writing, what would be your 2nd choice dream job?
A meteorologist or storm chaser. I’m fascinated by the weather, particularly tornados. I love watching the local weathermen work an outbreak. They’re like jazz musicians, but instead of tenor saxes they’re jamming with Doppler Radar while all hell breaks loose.
Is there any advice that you would give to a struggling writer?
Work intuitively. Read a lot and read outside your comfort zone. And it’s daunting but don’t give up. Even if the marketplace is shrinking and the number of writers out there keeps growing, don’t quit.
Regardless of a person’s background or education, almost anyone can write publishable fiction if they have a little imagination, keep their expectations in check and can commit to an apprenticeship period—meaning years of rejection and mistakes and frustration and despair. Every path to publication is different, but if the work is good and you go about getting it out into the world with some tact and professionalism, it will get noticed…and hopefully you’ll be rewarded with some of that validation we’re all after.
Anything else you’d like to share with us about upcoming projects or events (or anything at all!)?
I just turned in my next novel. It’s set in south Georgia and about a teenage prostitute finding sanctuary with an eccentric bootlegger.
Keep up with Peter: Website | Twitter
Pre-Order Last Call for the Living: Amazon | B&N
Last Call for the Living by Peter Farris
Publisher: Forge/May 22nd, 2012
Kind thanks to Tor and Netgalley for providing a review copy
There’s no police training stronger than a cop’s instinct. Faith Mitchell’s mother isn’t answering her phone. Her front door is open. There’s a For bank teller Charlie Colquitt, it was just another Saturday. For Hobe Hicklin, an ex-con with nothing to lose, it was just another score. For Hobe’s drug-addled, sex-crazed girlfriend, it was just more lust, violence, and drugs. But in this gripping narrative, nothing is as it seems.
Hicklin’s first mistake was double-crossing his partners in the Aryan Brotherhood. His second mistake was taking a hostage. But he and Charlie can only hide out for so long in the mountains of north Georgia before the sins of Hicklin’s past catch up to them.
Hot on Hicklin’s trail are a pair of ruthless Brotherhood soldiers, ready to burn a path of murder and mayhem to get their revenge. GBI Special Agent Sallie Crews and Sheriff Tommy Lang catch the case, themselves no strangers to the evil men are capable of. Soon Crews is making some dangerous connections while for the hard-drinking, despondent Lang, rescuing Charlie Colquitt might be the key to personal salvation.
Looking to settle down with a nice, gentle mystery, maybe about quilting, or something along those lines? Well, that’s not gonna happen with Last Call For the Living. Not by a longshot. Strap yourself in and get ready for a bumpy ride into the dark, Georgia woods with some of the nastiest characters I’ve come across in a long time. Young bank teller Charlie Colquitt was opening the bank with his manager on a normal Saturday morning, when hell burst through the door, killing his manager and taking him hostage. Hell, in this case, goes by the name of Hobe Hicklin, member of the Aryan Brotherhood, fresh off a long stretch in prison, and on the run from the partners that he decided to double cross out of the heist, and their take of the cash. Along with his junkie girlfriend, Hummingbird, Hicklin takes Charlie to a cottage in the woods to hide out and catch his breath. This is where things get really rough…
All Charlie can think about is going to school and building rockets. Somewhat of a savant, socially awkward, fiercely loved by his damaged and protective mother, Charlie is terrified when he’s taken hostage by Hicklin, but in the midst of the abuse that he suffers at the hands of Hicklin (and the pitiful, broken Hummingbird), something else begins to happen. Hicklin isn’t sure at all why he took Charlie hostage, but years of crime, prison, scoring quick cash, and doling out the abuse that was also heaped on him as a child have taken their toll, and you can sense the weariness in Hicklin, even if he is akin to a coiled snake, always just about to strike. The law is racing to find Hicklin and Co., in the form of Sheriff Tommy Lang and GBI agent Sallie Crews, but it’s not the law he’s worried about, it’s his former partners, and fellow AB members, that give him pause, because they’ll be out for blood (and they give Hicklin a run for his money in the mean department.) Make no mistake, Hobe Hicklin is a nasty, mean, no good son of a bitch, so how in the heck did I start to feel a glimmer of sympathy for this man by the end of this book?? I’m gonna chalk that up to Peter Farris’ talent as a writer, and he has plenty of it. I thought I knew where this book was going, and it surprised me at nearly every turn. Speaking of surprises: in addition to the tight, no-nonsense writing and pacing that doesn’t let up, there’s a scene in this book that I can only describe as awesome (in the classic sense.) I’ll just say that it involves a church revival, rattle snakes, and a shoot-out, and leave it at that. It’s amazing, and it left me with my jaw hanging open, blinking in shock. This whole book (in particular that scene) just screams “big-screen”, but I digress… It’s not for the faint of heart, though, and the terms “gritty”, “visceral”, and “raw” definitely come to mind. If you’re looking for a book that will shock you out of your current “book rut”, or a suspense novel that is just straight up made of awesome, look no further than Last Call For the Living!
Please welcome Lisa Brackmann to the blog today! Lisa is the author of the thrillers Rock Paper Tiger and (just out) Getaway, and was kind enough to answer a few of my questions!
Lisa, you’ve been writing since the age of five, and your first novel, Rock Paper Tiger, debuted with great reviews! Getaway, your 2nd novel just came out and is also getting great buzz. How did you celebrate when you found out that you’d sold Rock Paper Tiger to Soho? Was there squeeeing? Cake? Happy dancing? All of the above?
As I recall, I walked to a wine bar a couple blocks away, met a friend there and had a glass of champagne. I didn’t really have an overwhelming emotional response, I think in part because the book had been out on submission for a year. I’d come close at some houses but no one was willing to take the chance until Soho offered. I’d come close to giving up on the book, but thankfully, my agent at the time, Nathan Bransford, never gave up.
In general I’ve noticed that I don’t always react to the big moments nearly as much as I do to some random small ones. Maybe because the big ones are too hard to take in. Maybe because I didn’t have a lot of expectations. I just sort of figured, “okay, I’ve sold a book—that’s nice. It’ll get published, and that’s great, and I guess I should write another book now, but it’s not going to change my life all that much.”
Little did I know.
I’m assuming Rock Paper Tiger was influenced by your visit to China, of which you called “profoundly unsettling”. What was one of the most memorable things about that trip?
My first time in China was shortly after the Cultural Revolution, and I was quite young. I ended up staying there for six months. At the time, China was just beginning to emerge from decades of isolation and a prolonged national trauma. There was no American culture to speak of, and very few Americans or Westerners of any kind living there. I was an object of intense curiosity and scrutiny almost everywhere I went. Being that detached from my own culture, in a place whose every aspect was alien, it was life-changing. I spent many years afterwards trying to understand where I’d been and what I’d experienced. So it’s hard for me to pick one particular memorable thing! Maybe the total eclipse of the sun I saw while visiting the Stone Forest on my 21st birthday. Or the first time I ate a persimmon frozen from sitting out on a Beijing apartment balcony in winter. Or the Chinese professor who told me about his terrible experiences during the Cultural Revolution, and who hugged me goodbye when I left the country. I could go on and on.
Would you ever visit again if you had the chance?
I’ve been back at least once a year every year since 1999. I’d started studying Mandarin, which seemed to fill some kind of hole in my head, and returning to the country that had changed me so much feels like going home.
What made you decide to set Getaway in Puerto Vallarta?
I’d been to Puerto Vallarta a number of times and thought it was a really interesting setting with lots of contrasts—traditional Mexican town and resort, a beautiful place where a lot of foreigners come to vacation or to retire, but where there’s also a lot of poverty and a huge gap between the wealthy and the poor. You have some expat retirees who want to make this Mexican city a cheaper version of the States rather than accepting it for what it is. And even though Vallarta itself is really a safe place to visit and to live, you do hear about corruption, with the drug trade always in the background.
Mainly, one of the things I really like dealing with in my fiction is setting, and it’s hard to do a credible job if you aren’t familiar with the location, and Puerto Vallarta was a place I felt I could depict believably.
What are some of your biggest literary influences?
I’m never good at answering these questions, because I have a terrible memory for lists, and also, I don’t think I ever set out to emulate anyone. But there are a few authors who stand out for me: Hemingway, even though I can’t even remember what it was I read of his that made such an impression (this would have been in high school) – it was more the precision of his prose, I think. Joan Didion, same thing. Doris Lessing’s “The Golden Notebook.” Ursula K. LeGuin’s work. With most of these authors, it’s about the fusion of precise, almost epigrammatic and frequently beautiful prose. And now that I think about it, most of these writers had larger political or social issues that they were talking about.
I also had a writing professor who influenced me a lot, Lydia Davis. She’s best known for her short stories and for her French translations. She taught me a way of seeing, a way of focusing on telling, sensory details.
Of course, I’m not writing literary fiction; I’m writing suspense, but I try to bring some of that clarity to the way I write. And I like using suspense/thrillers as a way of talking about larger social/political issues as well.
What’s on your nightstand right now?
Way too many books! Tim Hallinan’s “The Fear Artist,” Chad Harbach’s “The Art of Fielding,” and Jasper Fforde’s “Shades of Grey,” which I just bought, and someone asked me if it was related to “Fifty Shades of Gray.” (it’s not)
If you could pack your bags and travel anywhere in the world tomorrow, where would you go?
I really love to travel, so I actually don’t care all that much. Anywhere different. I am overdue for a trip to China, though, and hope to go in the fall. I’d also really like to visit Cambodia, Vietnam and Turkey.
Ok, I have to ask…you were in a rock band. Care to dish?
I was really influenced by Talking Heads when they came out – the music, the lyrics, the female bassist. I thought, hey, maybe this is something I could do too. I started and played in cover bands through college, and then when I moved to Los Angeles, eventually formed my own band. We were guitar, bass and drums, with an additional backup vocalist/percussionist. I was the singer/songwriter/bassist. The guys I played with are awesome musicians and we were together for over a decade. Name a dive bar, we played in it! We got some good reviews here and there but I was hopeless at marketing and eventually realized that I needed to focus on something creatively, and that “something” was the writing.
Would you still go to space if you had the chance and does anyone still call you “Lunar Lisa”?
Maybe, and no.
Quick! What’s something that makes you laugh out loud?
My cat—okay, that’s corny, but she does this yoga-like stretch and then collapses onto the ground, and it’s just ridiculously cute. Gets me every time. This may be why she does it.
And this (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AWMJwAdLrQI) — “Thirteen Bears and a News Reader on Marijuana.”
Is there anything else you’d like to share with us about upcoming projects or events (or anything at all!!)?
I sold my third book, a sequel to “Rock Paper Tiger” tentatively called “Hour of the Rat,” which should be out around this time next year. Ellie’s back, and of course, she gets into a lot of trouble, but there’s some funny stuff in it too. And I’m really anxious to get going on my fourth book, which I’m not quite ready to talk about, mainly because I don’t have that little thing known as a “plot” yet. Event-wise, I have a few more appearances for the release of “Getaway” scheduled for the beginning of June, several in the Bay Area and one at Murder by the Book in Houston. Beyond that I’m not sure, but I will be at Bouchercon in October. Bouchercon for those unfamiliar is the biggest crime fiction convention in the world, held annually, this year in Cleveland. It’s a great opportunity for authors and readers to connect, and really a lot of fun!
Fallen (Georgia series #3) by Karin Slaughter
Publisher: Random House/June 2011
There’s no police training stronger than a cop’s instinct. Faith Mitchell’s mother isn’t answering her phone. Her front door is open. There’s a bloodstain above the knob. Her infant daughter is hidden in a shed behind the house. All that the Georgia Bureau of Investigations taught Faith Mitchell goes out the window when she charges into her mother’s house, gun drawn. She sees a man dead in the laundry room. She sees a hostage situation in the bedroom. What she doesn’t see is her mother. . . .
“You know what we’re here for. Hand it over, and we’ll let her go.”
When the hostage situation turns deadly, Faith is left with too many questions, not enough answers. To find her mother, she’ll need the help of her partner, Will Trent, and they’ll both need the help of trauma doctor Sara Linton. But Faith isn’t just a cop anymore—she’s a witness. She’s also a suspect.
The thin blue line hides police corruption, bribery, even murder. Faith will have to go up against the people she respects the most in order to find her mother and bring the truth to light—or bury it forever.
Karin Slaughter’s most exhilarating novel yet is a thrilling journey through the heart and soul, where the personal and the criminal collide, and conflicted loyalties threaten to destroy reputations and ruin lives. It is the work of a master of the thriller at the top of her game, and a whirlwind of unrelenting suspense.
First of all, if you love crime fiction and mystery, and haven’t discovered Karin Slaughter’s books, that’s ok, you don’t have to start at the “beginning”. You could pick up Fallen and, well, fall into the addictive stories that she creates. Fallen is the author’s 10th novel and easily one of the best (they’re all excellent if that tells you anything.) Fallen is Faith and Will’s book (although Sara Linton gets a big part in this one too), and begins with Faith going to her mother’s house (ex vice cop Evelyn) to pick up her baby daughter, and finding a house of horrors, starting with a bloody handprint on the door. One young man is dead, another is being held hostage, and her mother is missing. What follows is one of the most suspenseful, twisting crime stories out there.
Will Trent and Faith Mitchell are partners in the Georgia Bureau of investigation. Of course, with this being Faith’s mother that’s been kidnapped, it’s a little bit of a conflict of interest that Faith investigate, so it falls to Will and his ballbuster of boss Amanda Wagner (who is very close with Faith’s mother). Long suspected of corruption before her retirement, it seems that the likely reason that Evelyn Mitchell was kidnapped was for a pile of money, thought to be in her possession. It’s not that simple though, and it doesn’t help that the young men involved in the kidnapping are members of some very dangerous gangs. The focus of the book is on Evelyn’s kidnapping, but we also (finally) get a little forward momentum going with the undeniable attraction between Will Trent and Sara Linton. Will Trent’s got some roadblocks though, the biggest one in the form of his cruel and abusive wife, Angie Trent, who disappears regularly, sometimes years at a time. She’s horrid, and I was keen to see Will stand up to her after so long. There’s a long, winding, heartbreaking story behind their relationship, and it’s not a happy one, but you’ll (sort of) understand more about Will, and like him even more. Like I said, you don’t have to have read previous novels to start here, but I would recommend starting with Blindsighted and working your way through. You will absolutely fall in love with these characters and their stories, and Karin Slaughter is, hands down, one of the best crime novelists out there right now. I can barely put her books down for a minute (seriously, things like laundry, etc, get abandoned as soon as I pick up one of her books), and she’s a master at creating suspense so palpable, you’ll feel your own heart speed up along with that of her characters. Fallen is superb, and absolutely not to be missed!
By the Blood of Heroes (The Great Undead War #1) by Joseph Nassise
Publisher: HarperCollins/May 2012
The Great Undead War series
Thanks to HarperCollins and Edelweiss for the review copy
At the end of 1917, the increasingly desperate Germans introduce a new gas to the battlefield: T-Leiche-”corpse gas” – that radically alters the face of the war. Unlike other chemical weapons that attack the living, T-Leiche resurrects the bodies of the dead, giving the enemy an almost unlimited, if not quite fresh, source of troops.
When legendary Allied pilot and war poster-boy Major Jack Freeman is shot down and taken captive by the Germans, veteran Captain Michael “Madman” Burke is the only man fearless and wild enough to try to rescue the American Ace. With a small squad of heroes – his right-hand man Sergeant Moore, Clayton Manning, the filthy rich big-game hunter turned soldier, and professor Dan Richards, Tesla protege and the resident authority on all things supernatural – Burke must traverse the putrid ground of no man’s land to infiltrate the enemy’s lines.
Using an experimental dirigible, the team penetrates enemy lines to face incredible danger and find risk and peril at every turn, including ruthless traitor smugglers and marauding bands of the Kaiser’s undead. But only when they arrive at the prison camp is the true importance of their mission unveiled. Now, they just have to get back to their own trenches – if they can stay undead, that is.
First of all, this book was crazy fun. I’ll admit, I’m not usually a fan of WWI, WWII, or, for that manner, any war stories, but I’m a big fan of Joseph Nassise’s, and I was certainly game to give it a go. Turns out I didn’t have anything to worry about. In By the Blood of Heroes, WWI is in full swing, but the Germans have a bit of an advantage. They’ve created a “corpse gas” that turns their dead into zombies, and they’re using them on the frontlines. Able to control them using some sort of device, the prove to be an effective and demoralizing force to be reckoned with. When ace pilot Jack Freeman is shot down and captured by the Germans, his brother Camptain Michael Burke is put in charge of a group of soldiers tasked with his rescue. What follows is a rather exciting, fast paced adventure.
Set against a background of an alternate WWI, the zombies became much more terrifying, since they were being used and controlled by the Germans as killing machines. And we’re not just talking about mindless shamblers. The Germans have been…experimenting (shudder), and there are some forms of the zombies that have retained their faculties, and even their sanity (although I wouldn’t consider most of these guys sane to begin with, so that’s open to interpretation.) There are plenty of classic adventure and horror elements in this story, and the action is nearly nonstop. Also, there are lots of steampunk elements (Burke has a mechanical arm and can you say airships?), and the story is peppered with fun historical figures like the Red Baron. Plenty of zombie melee goodness, too, and the author keeps his writing tight and crisp, moving the narrative right along. There’s plenty here to love for alternate history and zombie aficionados alike, and lots of goodies that would be right up any horror fan’s alley! And don’t worry, even if Burke and his crew manage to rescue Freeman (against almost overwhelming odds), there’s plenty of evildoing to be done, and the Germans are more than up for the task. The author ends this one up wonderfully while leaving plenty of material for further novels. I’ll definitely look forward to more in the series!
Bone Gods (Black London #3) by Caitlin Kittredge
Publisher: St. Martins Press/Nov. 2010
Black London Series
Witch hunts are on the rise and supernatural turf wars are reaching a boiling point. Then, just when it seems life couldn’t get any worse for Pete, Jack reappears—but he’s no longer the man she’s always known. Hell has changed him forever. And he’s brought back with him a whole world of trouble…
A cabal of necromancers are using ancient, unspeakable magic to turn the tide of war in their favor. Then, as the city is about to sink into chaos, Pete receives a chilling directive: To end the war, you must kill the crow-mage. Beset from all sides, Pete finds herself turning to an unholy source for help…even if doing so could destroy Black London—and life as she knew it—once and for all.
Pete is still reeling from losing Jack to Hell, and now her old partner is seeking her help in a murder that has black magic written all over it. Literally. The corpse is covered in carved symbols and sigils indicating dark magic of the worst kind. When Pete heads into the Black to question some folks who might have seen this kind of magic before, she’s approached by a couple of toughs and a man that represents the Order of the Malleus, dedicated to bringing down magic users in the name of God. What Pete is certainly not prepared for is the sudden appearance of her mother, who left her when she was only 11, and who seems to be involved with the Order. Pete is even less prepared to deal with Jack’s sudden return, and he’s not the man he used to be…
Poor Pete. She really, really can’t catch a break. The events of Demon Bound were an emotional roller coaster for her, especially with losing Jack, but in Bone Gods, the stakes are much, much higher. A necromancer with plans to summon an ancient evil is on the loose, and the future of the Black, and all that inhabit it, is at peril. This is a lot for one girl to shoulder, and it’s not helping that Jack is certainly not acting like himself. Don’t get me wrong, Jack’s never been warm and fluffy. In fact, most of the time he’s a jerk, but he’s Pete’s jerk, he does love her in his way, and their bond has been a strong thread in this series. I’ve always given Jack a certain amount of leeway because of what he’s been through, and the nature of his immense power. If it weren’t for the drug and alcohol use, his power would have driven him completely insane a long time ago, and even with the help of the drugs, he’s just barely been able to keep his wits about him. Pete is caught between her love of Jack and her need to do the right thing, and the right thing may not be the best thing for Jack. When her former partner from her police days, Ollie, is kidnapped, Pete will have to call on a demon for help, and hope that she can stop the destruction of the dark and the Morrigan from taking Jack’s soul.
I do have to say, while I devoured Street Magic and Demon Bound, this one gets off to a bit of a slow start, but it does come into its own, and the co-dependent (and, er, rather dysfunctional) relationship between Pete and Jack is one of the strongest parts of the story for me. I love Caitlin Kittredge’s London, where around every corner you may slip into the Dark, where demons and mages (and other creatures-see The Antiquarian) lurk, and nothing is as it seems. This is one of my favorite series, and Bone Gods is a good addition; not as strong as the first two, but still good. The author keeps the emotional (and physical) stakes high, and Pete comes into her own more and more as the series progresses. There’s also a bit of a jaw-dropping moment in this one, but I won’t give that away. Just trust that it will make you want to move right on to Devil’s Business, the next in the series. The Black London series (and, well, anything by Caitlin Kittredge), is a must for any urban fantasy fan!
I’ve got 6 giveaway winners to announce today! Thanks to everyone that entered and congrats!
Blackbirds by Chuck Wendig
Congrats to Chris
The Norse King’s Daughter (3 copies)
Congrats to Brooke, Gale Adkins Nelson, and Danielle West
Lies & Omens by Lyn Benedict
Congrats to Kristen Heyl
Coveted by Shawntelle Madison
Congrats to Chelsea Foust
*All winnners were chosen by Rafflecopter, have been notified via email, and have 48 hours to respond with their mailing addresses. Thanks again to everyone that entered!
I’m thrilled to have Steven Harper, author of The Doomsday Vault and The Impossible Cube (and much more) back on the blog! He was kind enough to answer a few of my questions, and I’ve got a brand new copy of The Impossible Cube up for grabs, so be sure to check out the details at the end of the post!
Please welcome Steven to the blog!
Steven, your brand new book (and 2nd in a series), The Impossible Cube, just came out! Can you give us a bit of a teaser?
In The Doomsday Vault, Alice and Gavin manage to sort-of destroy the British empire, which alarms a number of important people. In The Impossible Cube they’re fleeing across Europe to China with a number of these important people hot on their heels. With them are Click the clockwork cat and Dr. Clef, a mad scientist who is desperate to recreate his impossible cube, a device of nearly infinite power which Gavin destroyed back in England. If Dr. Clef succeeds, he’ll have power over time itself. And Dr. Clef is thoroughly insane. Gavin, meanwhile, has contracted clockwork plague, and if he doesn’t reach China in time to find a cure, he’ll go mad and die. Even now he’s losing his grip on reality, much to Alice’s dismay.
I loved The Doomsday Vault (Book 1), and The Impossible Cube was just as good! Do you have specific plans for a certain amount of books in the series, or will you just see where it takes you?
Thanks! My editor actually just finished reading The Dragon Men, which is Book 3, and she surprised me by immediately asking for a fourth book. I was caught off-guard—in my mind the series was finished and I hadn’t even thought about more novels set in the Clockwork Empire. But my editor said another book wouldn’t have to be about Gavin and Alice necessarily. I started thinking, and it occurred to me that I haven’t really explored a clockwork Russia. So that’s what I’m doing. Book 4 is called The Havoc Machine, and it’ll have some overlap with supporting characters from The Impossible Cube. I’m writing Havoc to stand alone, but leaving enough ideas open so there could be a Boook 5 and 6, if readers demand them.
Why do you think Steampunk is so popular right now?
Our machines are getting away from us. They’re small and sleek and we can’t see how they work. Even our cars have microchips in them. Steampunk lets us operate in a world with advanced technology that we can see and understand, with gears and pistons and steam and smoke. And the clothes are cool.
What do you love most about writing Steampunk/Fantasy?
It lets me be big and bold. Where else could I use grand titles like The Doomsday Vault or The Impossible Cube and get away with it? I also don’t have to make up excuses for grand adventure and brave people involved in world-shaking events—it’s all expected! What’s not to love?
What are some of your favorite fantasy novels or writers?
My favorite writer is Octavia E. Butler, who wrote mostly science fiction but did a chunk of fantasy. Go out and get her Wild Seed right now! Terry Pratchett is another author whose books I always get right when they come out, and Esther Friesner does delightful YA fantasy and historical. Sarah Zettel is doing some very funny urban fantasy mysteries in her Vampire Chef series, too.
Are there any particular writers that have had influenced your work?
The single writer who influenced my work the most is Marion Zimmer Bradley, though she influenced it more as an editor than a writer. Back when she was editing Sword and Sorceress and her fantasy magazine, she was very clear in her editorials and introductions on how a writer should think and behave and about what makes a good story. She bought a number of my stories, rejected a whole lot more of them, and taught me a hell of a lot about being a writer. One of the bigger regrets in my life is that I never met in her in person (though I talked to her on the phone a few times) or got her signature on any of her books before she died. On the other hand, I’m sure she’d be quick to point out that I have her signature in the most important place a writer can have it: at the bottom of a contract.
How do you manage such a busy writing schedule while raising three sons?
You know, I really don’t know at this point. I write quite a lot, and it always seems to me it’s never enough, and then one day I have 90,000 words. A big part of it is that I don’t watch much television, and I schedule time slots for nearly everything: family time, homework time, housecleaning time, and so on. The boys know the routine and have learned over the years to keep the bothering to a minimum when I’m writing. Thank heavens I don’t have to change diapers anymore!
You’ve also published a book called “Writing the Paranormal Novel”. What’s one bit of advice that you would give to struggling writers?
I’ll give two that I think are equally important. The first is, always remember that the money flows toward the writer. That will keep you out of 99% of all publishing scams. The second is, don’t quit. You can’t get better if you quit.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with us about upcoming projects or events (or anything at all!)?
I recently sold a steampunk novella to an upcoming anthology of re-imagined fairy tales called Clockwork Fables. Roc is the publisher. My story is about a young tinkerer who encounters Baba Yaga in nineteenth century Kiev. I don’t know when it’s coming out, but I’ll shout about it!
Bloodline (Tom Thorne #8) by Mark Billingham
Publisher: Little, Brown/July. 2010
Tom Thorne Series
A killer is on the loose. The victims: children whose mothers can’t protect them.
The past is coming back to haunt the people of London: a murderer is targeting the children of victims of Raymond Garvey, an infamous serial killer from London’s past.
When Murder Squad veteran Detective Tom Thorne, who solves the London Police Department’s most difficult cases, is called into what seems like, for once, an ordinary domestic murder, he thinks he’s caught a break. A woman has been murdered by someone she knows. Thorne plans to question the husband, arrest him and return home to deal with his own deteriorating personal life.
But when a mysterious sliver of bloodstained X-ray that was found clutched in the victim’s fist is replicated at other crime scenes around the city, Thorne realizes that this is not a simple case. As the bits of X-ray begin to come together to form a picture, it becomes clear that the killer knows his prey all too well and is moving through a list that was started long ago.
As Thorne attempts to protect those still alive, nothing and nobody are what they seem. Not when Thorne is dealing with one of the most twisted killers he has ever hunted.
One of my favorite British detectives, Tom Thorne, is back in his 8th brilliant novel from Mark Billingham. A woman is found suffocated to death in her home, and Thorne is hoping for a quick wrap up. When the husband is cleared as a suspect, and a piece of x-ray is discovered in the woman’s hand, Thorne realizes this may not be as simple as he thought. The body count keeps rising, and when a piece of x-ray is found with each body, it’s obvious that a serial killer is at work, but Thorne has no idea that depths that the killer will go to in order to complete his plans.
This is what Billingham is good at: building dread in increasing waves and pacing out chapters to generate maximum anticipation. He does it expertly in Bloodline while also managing to juggle some personal issues of Thorne’s on the side. His girlfriend, fellow cop Louise Porter, has just suffered a miscarriage, and Thorne is not quite sure how to feel about it. In reading these books, much of my time is spent wishing Thorne would open up to someone, anyone, about how he feels, and experiencing frustration when he internalizes nearly everything, keeping everyone he cares about at arm’s length. There is hope for Tom though, and he shows some definite promise in Bloodline, especially when he enlists the help of retired cop and old friend Carol Chamberlain (love her and was delighted that she made an appearance in this one). I was reminded very much of Silence of the Lambs in Bloodline, especially when the reveal is made and you feel those little icy fingers of dread dancing along your spine. The killer is brilliant and diabolical, and a force to be reckoned with, not to mention just pure evil. There was a twist that I didn’t see coming, and the last 20 pages or so will leave you gasping. I can’t wait for the next one in the series!
I’m so happy to have Yolanda Sfetsos on the blog today! Yolanda is the author of over 15 books, and is here to talk about her brand new paranormal romance, A Patch of Darkness, coming up on May 15th! Please welcome her to the blog, and be sure to check out all of the stops on the tour!
Yolanda, you already have quite a few published titles out, in horror, urban fantasy, and romance, and your brand new book, A Patch of Darkness, featuring Sierra Fox, is out on May 15th with Samhain! Did you always want to be a writer? Can you tell us a bit about your journey?
Hi Kristin, it’s great to be here today.
Yes, I’ve been making up stories inside my head since I was a kid but didn’t put them down on paper until I was in school and won a short story contest in year 3. When I was in my teens, I started spending a lot of time in my room writing stories that I would share with my friends. It was a lot of fun and helped me get stated on this writing journey. That’s when I knew I wanted to be a writer, and continued typing away at my typewriter. Wow, that makes me sound kinda old, right? But it was an electric typewriter.
I never stopped writing, but knew that in order to get on with real life I’d have to find some kind of profession to support myself, so I worked in various roles of office administration for years. It wasn’t until after my daughter was born that I really got stuck into it every single day and became serious about submitting my work. I started out with webzines, sending out horror short stories and having several published. Then I took the big leap into the ePublishing world and haven’t stopped since.
Would you give us a teaser about A Patch of Darkness?
How about a snippet teaser?
I flashed him a quick smile and nodded. “Thanks for bringing me here tonight. I really need a break from everything.”
“Well, maybe it’s time you and I got away from it all by taking off for the weekend.”
“I’d love to, Jonathan, really I would, but you know I can’t just up and leave. I’ve got a ton of unresolved cases.” And even more I haven’t even looked at.
“There’s a haunted lighthouse in it for you, if you agree,” he said, waggling his dark eyebrows. Jonathan sure knew how to tempt me.
I bit down on my bottom lip. “As tempting as that sounds, I can’t leave right now. Maybe in a few months…” I sighed. “I mean, it’s not just me. What about the bookstore? You can’t close up for the weekend, can you?”
Jonathan’s disappointment was obvious. He averted his dark eyes to wind a clump of spaghetti around his fork. “The bookstore could have a month off and no one would notice. Oh, hold on—it did! And as I said, no one noticed.” He shoveled the Bolognese-smothered forkful into his mouth.
I smiled sympathetically. His bookstore, Prologue, was a cramped two-story corner store in the heart of the city. It was hard to compete with the large book chains only blocks away. Still, Jonathan gave his bookstore all he had and specialized in genre-specific novels and occult reference books other places didn’t stock.
That’s actually where we met, while I was on a job in Prologue. Of course, I waited until the job was done before giving in to a date with him. It’s not wise to cross professional and personal wires. I find it’s better to separate the two when possible.
Jonathan had called me because a poltergeist was tearing his books and store apart. I was contracted to find him, her, or even them—sometimes they like to team up, it’s very adolescent but not out of the question.
Chaotic ghostly behavior is unacceptable in society. It’s my job to locate and deliver them to stand trial. Break the rules and they’re forcibly isolated from society, and that’s if they have a lenient judge. Most times, something this severe could land the spook a one-way ticket to the ghostly patch forever, never able to return again after banishment.
I’ve been responsible for a few of those cases.
A shiver raced down my spine.
I’m sure there are a bunch of pissed-off ghosts on that patch complaining, or even plotting against me. Or maybe I’m just a little paranoid and self-involved.
Either way, I track down spooks—ghosts, spirits, poltergeist, orbs—whatever ghostly disturbance is affecting someone’s life in a negative way.
What do you love most about writing fantasy/urban fantasy?
Urban fantasy is one of my faves because it blends so many different things together into one genre. I also love the freedom it offers to create contemporary worlds that are similar to ours, yet packed with creatures of the night and mythology. Love it!
It’s great to write, but also to read.
What are some of your favorite authors or novels?
My most favourite authors are Clive Barker and Stephen King, and I’ve been reading their books since I was a teenager. They’re both excellent authors that weave amazing and often frightening stories. They always amaze and inspire me.
I also love books by Charlaine Harris, Patricia Briggs, Rachel Caine, Carrie Vaughn, Jeanne C. Stein, Holly Black, Kelley Armstrong, and a bunch of other urban fantasy authors…
Plus, I love zombie books.
What are you reading now?
I’m reading Fighting to Survive by Rhiannon Frater. I love a good zombie story, and this one’s excellent so far!
When you’re not busy at work writing, how do you like to spend your free time?
Whenever I’ve got some free time I take the opportunity to get stuck into a book. I absolutely LOVE reading and often use it as a reward for getting my own writing, revising or editing done.
I also love to go for walks and hang out with my husband and daughter. We watch TV shows, movies, play video games… we just love to spend time together. And our cat is always nearby.
If someone were to visit you in Australia, and it was their first time there, where would you take them?
Oh, good question. Well, there are many lovely places to visit in Australia! But since I live in Sydney, I would take them to the city so they can check out Sydney Harbour.
If we stop by Circular Quay, we can go and check out the Sydney Opera House, the Sydney Harbour Bridge, The Rocks and even head on over to the Royal Botanic Gardens—which is where hubby and I got married. It’s all beautiful, and there are many sights to see so they’d have to be wearing comfy shoes because we’d be doing a lot of walking.
Oh, and we have some beautiful beaches around here too.
What do you love most living there?
I love Australia. I think it’s a beautiful, wonderful nation with many opportunities and some lovely places. I was actually born in Spain and migrated here when I was seven. I’m glad that I ended up here. I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.
It’s also cool to live one day ahead of everyone else. Lol.
If you could pack your bags and travel anywhere in the world tomorrow, where would you go?
I would definitely choose the U.S.A. I’d love to walk down the streets of New York, visit Hollywood and Las Vegas, see the Grand Canyon, and check out Bourbon Street in New Orleans, the Savannah Historic District, Miami… OMGosh, there are so many exciting places I would love to see in the U.S.
Quick! Name something that makes you laugh out loud?
My husband and daughter make me laugh. They both crack me up with their sharp, quick, and funny comebacks!
Is there anything else you’d like to share with us about upcoming projects or events?
The Sierra Fox Blog Book Tour is actually going on for another ten days, so if you’d like to read some more interviews with me and guest blog posts about Sierra’s world, you can find out where I’ll be and when HERE.
Also, the second Sierra Fox book will be released from Samhain Publishing later this year. I’m so excited, and will soon get stuck into writing the third one. I can’t wait!
As for other projects, I’ve got a lot of other stories in the works…
About A Patch of Darkness:
In a perfect world, Sierra Fox would have stayed away from the Council she left years ago. But in this world—where spirits have the right to walk among the living—it’s her job to round up troublesome spooks and bring them before that very same Council.
Though her desk is piled high with open cases, she can’t resist an anonymous summons to a mysterious late-night meeting with a bunch of other hunters, each of whom seems to have a unique specialty. The news is dire: something is tearing at the fabric of the universe. If the hunters can’t find who or why in time, something’s going to give in a very messy way.
As current cases, family secrets, new clues and her tangled love life slowly wind themselves into an impossible knot, Sierra finds herself the target of a power-sucking duo intent on stealing her mojo. And realizing she holds the key to the last hope of sealing the widening rift.
Warning: Spook catching: may contain traces of ectoplasm and otherworldly nasties. Not recommended for those with allergies to ghosts, demons, and with boyfriends who think your power is theirs. While reading, avoid dark patches and stay to the light.
Pre-Order A Patch of Darkness: Barnes and Noble | Amazon
About the author (from her website):
Wife. Mother. Writer. Bibliophile. Dreamer.
Animal lover. Intrigued by the supernatural. Horror freak. Zombie enthusiast.
Movie & music fan. Slave to her muse.
Hi there! I’m an Aussie who loves to write tales of the otherworldly.
My muse doesn’t like restrictions, so I write in a variety of genres. And I’m always happy to toe the dark edge of storytelling.
When I’m not writing, I enjoy spending time with my family. I also enjoy going for walks, reading, cruising the Internet, doing research, watching movies, anime, and TV shows (mainly Supernatural, Dexter, Burn Notice, Castle, The Big Bang Theory, True Blood).