My Bookish Ways

Interview (& Giveaway): Stephen Romano, author of Resurrection Express

Please welcome Stephen Romano, author of Resurrection Express, to the blog! Also, be sure to check out the giveaway details at the bottom of the post for a copy of Resurrection Express!

Stephen, you have a long list of accomplishments to your name, including work in screenwriting and illustration. You also co-authored Black Light, and your brand new book, Resurrection Express, just came out! How long did Resurrection Express take to write, and what inspired you to write it?
I was broke and I needed to sell my soul in a big hurry! (Laughs) Seriously, though . . . in every joke there’s always a weak ray of truth, right? And the truth is that, yes, I have done a lot of stuff in a lot of mediums, including a great deal of raw, violent, uncompromising work that the “cool people” have found mighty darn awesome, particularly SHOCK FESTIVAL and THE RIOT ACT. You get great reviews and your contemporaries pat you on the back and call you a genius, but none of it pays the rent. If you don’t have a day job—if being an artist is all you know how to do professionally—then you’d better make money doing it or you’re just washing dishes on the day after the wrap party, you know? SHOCK FESTIVAL was a project I put my heart and soul into for two years and it got really dumped on by the publishers. It came out in 2008 and was a big disappointment to me on many levels. I ended up penniless and starving. So it was time to pull myself up by the bootstraps and do something about that.

I needed a few projects that could put me on a bigger, more commercial radar. I got a dialogue going with an influential editor named John Schoenfelder at Little Brown, who’d just been hired to head their new Mulholland Books thriller imprint. I didn’t have an agent at the time, but John and I really hit it off, and he was always interested in any story pitches I had, so I just kept throwing stuff at him until he liked one. That was Elroy Coffin and Resurrection Express. I just kind dreamt Elroy up on the phone one day when we were talking. He liked what he was hearing and I burned through a really hungry first draft of the entire novel on spec in just under two months—because I had to make a sale, like really damn soon, or I was gonna to be out on the street—then presented it to John. And that was when things got a little complicated. Basically, we disagreed about the direction I’d taken the story in. But Schoenfelder still liked my writing a lot, and he invited me to work with Melton and Dunstan on Black Light instead. I appreciated the offer and it was a deal that paid my rent for a while and got me an agent, too. I’d never had one before, always kinda taking it to the street, you know? But it’s a luxury I can definitely appreciate, and David Hale Smith is one of the best out there. He and I agreed that I’d nailed the character of Elroy Coffin with that tortured first draft of Resurrection, so we stuck by our guns when it came time to jump ship later and take it to Simon and Schuster.

As far as story inspiration goes, I just invent these things as I write them. That’s an approach that tends to scare the hell out of a lot of editors, because sometimes they wanna know up front what you’re doing. That was part of the reason John and I parted ways in the end. But, you know, if it hadn’t been for John’s initial enthusiasm for the project, I probably never would have written it in the first place. Define irony, man. (Laughs.) I did have a pretty solid idea of what I wanted to do—an angsty, claustrophobic heist/chase thriller that erupts on a far more epic scale—but I literally threw the early rough outline over my shoulder past a certain point and let Elroy run into a very dark night. He came in and took over the story! You have to let that happen or it just kinda devolves into cookie cutter bullshit. Outlines can be the death of true creativity when you’re on the front lines of something that feels like it could be special.

I made a conscious effort this time, however, to ratchet down the intensity of the violent stuff, so the book would be appealing to as many people as possible . . . but, well . . . even “toned down,” you can’t really take me anywhere. My stuff is very smartass, very full of a worldview, you know? It’s hard to calm that raging beast, even when you cut out a few exploding heads or usages of the word “fuck” or whatever. The attitude is always there. So I made an uneasy peace with a slightly cleaner direction, and when it went to Simon and Schuster, my brilliant new editor made the suggestions that aimed the novel into that elusive wider audience demographic. The final solution was something so simple, and it had been lurking right in front of me the whole time. Ed Schlesinger and the ladies who run Simon and Schuster/Gallery Books are geniuses, and Resurrection owes a lot to them, too.

What would be your elevator pitch for Resurrection Express?
In an overall sense, pitching it to a reader now, I would say it’s a dark action suspense piece with a strong obsessive romantic undercurrent and a real ‘anything-goes’ attitude problem. I wanted to take the idea of the male dominated action thriller genre and kind of turn it on its ear a little, while tackling the equation of a techno-thriller with all the boring parts cut out. The whole series character thing has been really played to death—it can be very predictable. And ‘cyber-crime’ stuff can get quite bogged down in its own technobabble BS. Nobody understands that shit anyway, so screw it, you know? What’s really important are your characters, and how they exist in the action. Nothing is predicable or dull in Resurrection Express. And the narrative flow is very front-loaded with a lot of literary devices that harken closer to guys like Chuck Palahniuk. I go around saying it’s MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE meets THE GETAWAY by way of Jason Bourne, directed in a tag team by Quentin Tarantino and Christopher Nolan.

What are a few of your favorite thrillers/crime novels?
SHELLA by Andrew Vachss is my all time favorite thriller. If you wanna see what fuels the “dark” in Resurrection Express, read that bad boy. It’s astonishing. Filled with truth. Hard and unflinching. Elegant and stylish, written in first-person from the point-of-view of a truly horrifying character, with a sensitivity that makes him totally accessible, and not a trace of wasted muscle anywhere on the damn thing. Almost perfect storytelling. And the thing with Andrew is that most of his books are very real—as in, he usually never makes any of this shit up. The awful beats and backstory that make up SHELLA are one hundred percent authentic. I think the best, most lasting works of fiction in this or any genre, have a lot truth to tell, and Andrew is a master of that truth. But do not come unprepared. It will shock the hell out of you.

Also, I would recommend, in no particular order: THE GAME OF THIRTY by William Kotzwinkle (see below), FREEZER BURN by Joe R. Lansdale, MONEY SHOT by Christa Faust, SAVAGES by Don Winslow, THE RAP by Ernest Brawley, THE RUNNING MAN by Richard Bachman, LOGAN’S RUN by William Nolan and George Clayton Johnson, A QUIOR OF ILL CHILDREN by Tom Piccirilli, GUN WORK by David J. Schow, NEUROMANCER by William Gibson and RUN by Blake Crouch. Those are some classics, with a few newer ones sprinkled in.

I like Christa Faust a lot. She’s a classic original. I love the tacky way she puts that quote from Quentin Tarantino on her books: “Christa Faust is a Veronica in a world of Betties.” I think I’d like it if John Waters called me a “Patty Hearst in a world of Hannibal Lecters.” Seriously though, these guys are all awesome. I’ve even been privileged to work with Lansdale, who is a true hero and mentor. We’ve done movie stuff together and he was my martial arts consultant on Resurrection Express and Black Light.

Are there any authors that particularly inspire you?
William Kotzwinkle is my favorite living author. He has written so many things in so many styles and categories and has excelled so well in all of them that I’m sort of convinced he’s not of this earth. I wrote a long gushing piece about him recently over at Criminal Element. You can read it here: The Kotz is the kind of writer everyone should read if they are learning the craft, because he teaches you that there is no such thing as genre. His magic stretches across those battlements and has created a truly astonishing body of work, from his early masterpiece THE FAN MAN, through NIGHTBOOK and JACK IN THE BOX, then holding steady with THE BEAR WENT OVER THE MOUNTAIN and his masterful mystery thriller THE GAME OF THIRTY. If you are not a writer, read him anyway. The latter two books I mentioned, BEAR and THIRTY, are great primers to his work. He is amazing. Oh yeah, and he even wrote one of the NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET films, too, so he’s also super cool!

You’re well known for your love of film (and success in the industry). What are some of your favorite crime films?
Oh, now you went and did it. Get me started on all this shit . . . (laughs) . . . oh, and by the way, what success in the industry are you talking about? My colleagues on BLACK LIGHT are a lot more successful than I am in the film business, that’s for sure. The bastards. (Laughs.) But I do like me some movies, in all kinds of genres. At my blog, I tend to concentrate more on film than literature, because it ain’t very healthy to shit where you eat, if you get me. I’m gonna get all kinds of hell just for talking smack about Christa Faust over here. (Laughs again, looking around nervously.)

Well, okay, let’s see. DIE HARD is still a real favorite of mine, even though that might seem like a cliché to some people in this day and age. I was blown away when I first saw that one and I still love it now, because it does what I’d partially hoped to do with Resurrection Express, in combining elements of rapid-fire action with a super-slick heist scenario, some shocking, brutal moments and a really believable central protagonist that you truly care about because he comes off like a guy you could have a beer with. But he’s also conflicted and vulnerable. The film does veer out of control in a few places, and I still think they have one too many cutsie joke moments, but it’s basically a really good synthesis of grit and crowd-pleaser beats.

NEAR DARK is a vampire thriller without vampires that almost everyone has forgotten about—and when I say that, I mean that the film is set in a world where the word “vampire” is never spoken. It kind of takes back the street cred from cute hipster stuff like (the original) FRIGHT NIGHT and LOST BOYS, which are set in the “real world” where everybody knows about these bloodsuckers and all the ways to kill them and the mythologies and such. NEAR DARK not only aces all that up front, but it really rewrites the whole idea of what a vampire is—these fellas don’t have fangs, they don’t turn into wolves, they don’t even dress very nice—and then tosses it with some real badassery. The scene in the bar where the vampire gang just rolls in and kicks ass is legendary. And Bill Paxton was never better.

Some other faves are Luc Besson’s LEON: THE PROFESSIONAL, John Woo’s THE KILLER, John Carpenter’s ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13—all films that favor style and soul and heart and attitude over narrative logic. I think the overarching themes and noble ambitions in those films outclass most anything being made today. On the more plotted and thoughtful side is L.A. CONFIDENTIAL, which I pretty much believe to be the best tough guy cop thriller ever made. Also you can’t go wrong with RESERVIOR DOGS, CHINATOWN, RISKY BUSINESS (yes, I think of that film as a thriller—watch it again!), FAST WALKING, I SAW THE DEVIL, THE MAN FROM NOWHERE, U-TURN (based on an equally amazing novel by John Ridley), VIDEODROME, THE BROTHERS BLOOM, BLOW OUT or John Carpenter’s ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK. The latter is another example of style and attitude over substance, but it’s a badass show of muscle, man. I never get tired of watching Snake Plissken. I almost cried in the theatre when ESCAPE FROM LA came out, though. So awful. Too much light and not enough shadow in that one.

You’re a man of many talents, but is there any particular medium that you prefer to work with over others?
Well, I was put on this earth to write, so that’s the medium I prefer . . . but I get ants in my fucking pants alla time, you know? (Laughs) I do those other things to keep from being dominated by all the Veronicas and Hannibal Lecters out there. I think if I only made music or movies or paintings or books, I’d go crazy. You gotta be well-rounded, right? It’s funny, because before SHOCK FESTIVAL, I was never a finishing illustrator. I dabbled here and there, but I never took any artwork to completion. I had to teach myself how to do that because the book’s art requirement was so massive, and I ended up becoming so good at it that real movie guys were suddenly asking me to do their posters! It sustained my life when the writing dried up for a while. That just blows my mind when I think about it for more than a few seconds. So it’s all served a very valuable purpose . . . but writing is what I always come back to. She’s my first true love. And I feel I’m better at it now than I ever was before. You know you’ve kind of arrived at a certain mastery of your craft when you can look back at something you wrote a few years ago and not be completely embarrassed by it. There’s still some early stuff out there that makes me feel like a Muppet in a world of Darth Vaders.

When you manage to find some down time, how do you like to spend it?
Christ . . . down time? What the fuck is that? (Laughs) Seriously, when it’s time to blow off steam, I get busy with nerd things and man things. I collect trashy paperbacks and movie tie-ins. I got really obsessed this year with stockpiling old Super-8 movie loops from the 1970s—films like REPTILICUS and KONGA, which are just about the coolest things in the world. I found a color/sound ten minute “best of” reel for a film called CREATURE OF THE LIVING DEAD, which is this fantastic cheeseball horror action jungle thriller made in the Philippines by Eddie Romero. It was a sequel to THE MAD DOCTOR OF BLOOD ISLAND. I was obsessed with the film for years, then found it on Super-8 on Ebay! I like shooting and hiking—I own a lot of the high caliber hardware depicted in Resurrection Express. I think most thriller writers who deal in this type of heavy weapons stuff should at least go out to a gun range once in a while. There’s nothing quite like holding one of those bad boys in your hand and exploding a target at fifty paces, man. You start realizing how tough your characters really have it. The recoil alone from a Mossberg 500 pistol grip assault shotgun will put you in the hospital if you’re not careful, man. I’m the only liberal you know who has a collection of firearms to beat Sarah Palin. (Laughs.) Ted Nugent could still kick my ass, though.

As a fellow Texan, I have to ask, what’s your favorite thing to do in Texas on a Saturday night?
A lot of times I’m a total shut in. I’ll spend months on projects and it’s hard to unwind after a day of writing or editing or whatever. I discovered Blu-ray in the past year, though, which is great if you’re a couch potato or a film nerd. Seriously, if that sort of thing means a lot to you, there’s nothing better than re-discovering ALIEN in Hi-Def. It’s like being a kid again, only better. But I also like the lakes in Austin, and Barton Springs. We have amazing sushi joints here, too, and I’m a junkie for all of them. Alamo Drafthouse is a great place for revival cinema, but that’s never on Saturday—it’s always Terror Tuesday and Weird Wednesday!

I also used to really love going out to the Continental Club on Tuesday to see Toni Price, who as you probably know, is an amazing folk blues singer. She has a whole cult of followers that totally pack that place every time she plays. It’s a real shot of concentrated Texas honkytonk culture. I was part of her congregation for more than two years. But I stopped going because I saw that Toni was drinking herself to death on stage every night, and I couldn’t bear to watch that. I hope she’s slowed down a little since then. People sometimes ask me if I named my femme fatale in Resurrection Express after her . . . but that’s a big no, no, no, folks. Actually, Toni Coffin is named after a rather feisty lady I briefly dated a few months prior to writing the book. If you know me long enough, you always end up as a character in one of my crazy stories. For the record, Elroy Coffin is named after the youngest Jetson and Eli Wallach’s “Adam Coffin” in a 1977 film called THE DEEP. Shit . . . see how boring I am? You ask me what my favorite Saturday nightspots are and I tell you about my characters. I should just stick with gun club stories . . . (Laughs)

Is there anything else you’d like to share with us about upcoming projects or events (or anything at all!)?
Well, there is a film in development based on BLACK LIGHT, which is being done by Michael DeLuca, the super-producer responsible for just about every cool movie you’ve ever seen, including MONEYBALL and THE SOCIAL NETWORK. We’re working on that right now. Everyone seems to want a film based on Resurrection Express, too, so we’re looking into that. And there will be a sequel in print to Resurrection, too. Actually, I finished the first draft just a few weeks ago. It’s called The Suicide Contest. Always gotta keep that ball in the air, baby . . .
Keep up with Stephen: Website | Twitter

There is no code Elroy Coffin can’t break, nothing he can’t hack, no safe he can’t get into. But for the past two years, he’s been incarcerated in a maximum-security hellhole after a job gone bad, driven to near-madness by the revelation of his beloved wife’s murder.

Now a powerful and mysterious visitor who calls herself a “concerned citizen” offers Elroy his freedom if he’ll do another job, and sweetens the deal with proof that his wife might still be alive. All Elroy has to do is hack into one of the most complicated and deadliest security grids in the world—clear and simple instructions for the best in the business. Or so he thinks.

Quickly drawn into the epicenter of a secret, brutal war between criminal masterminds, Elroy is forced to run for his life through a rapid-fire labyrinth of deception, betrayal, and intrigue— where no one is to be trusted and every fight could be his last . . . and the real truth hidden beneath the myriad levels of treachery may be too shocking to comprehend. . .

1. You MUST fill out the form below (lots of chances for extra entries)
2. Giveaway is for 1 copy of Resurrection Express by Stephen Romano to 1 winner.
3. Giveaway is open to US  addresses only (no PO boxes).
4. Must include a valid email address with your entry (no need to leave it in the comments, just include it when you fill out the rafflecopter form)
5. You must enter on or before 9/30/12
6. Giveaway book courtesy of Gallery Books
7. Please see my Giveaway Policy.

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Book News: September 21st, 2012

Here’s my roundup of book news (and other fun stuff) around the web for the week!

Interviews and more:


Excerpts and such:

Fun stuff:

Any news you’d like to add? Let me know in the comments, and have a great weekend!

Interview (& Giveaway): Laura Bickle, author of The Hallowed Ones

It’s been a while since the lovely Laura Bickle stopped by the blog, so when she agreed to answer a few questions about her upcoming book, The Hallowed Ones, I was thrilled! Please welcome Laura to the blog, and don’t forget to check out the giveaway info too!

Laura, it’s been more than a year (!! ) since you visited the blog, and your new book, The Hallowed Ones is out next week! What inspired the book? Will you tell us a bit about it?
Thanks so much for having me back!

My September release is THE HALLOWED ONES, a YA thriller. Katie is on the verge of her Rumspringa, the time in Amish life when teenagers can get a taste of the outside world. But the outside world comes to her when a helicopter falls out of the sky near her house. Katie must confront not only a massive disaster unfolding in the world outside her community, but also the threat of darkness in her own increasingly fragile society.

I live not too far from a large Amish settlement. When I was a child, my parents would take me to visit, and I was fascinated by a world very different than the one I lived in. I’d see Amish girls my age over the fence and wonder what their lives were like.

Amish life is fascinating and probably a bit of a mystery to quite a few people. What are some of the most fascinating things you found out while researching The Hallowed Ones?
I had a lot of fun doing research. One of the things that I found most fascinating was that church services are held every other Sunday at different families’ homes. There is no actual church building. There’s often a trailer with church pews loaded on it, and every family goes into the rotation to host services. That gave me much of the inspiration for the entire Amish settlement in my story becoming holy ground.

The Hallowed Ones is your first young adult novel. Was it tough to make that shift?
I always have a lot of fun writing fantasy. I love asking those ‘what if’ questions and building worlds around the answers.

The funny part about THE HALLOWED ONES is that I didn’t set out to make it YA. It just came out that way…I knew that I wanted to tell the story from the perspective of a young Amish woman who was dealing with issues of conformity and autonomy. I was completely unaware that it was YA until I turned it in to my agent.

I’m thrilled to be in the YA world now that I’m here! Everyone has been very friendly and I’m super-excited to meet new readers.

If someone wanted to learn more about Amish life, are there any particular books you’d recommend?
Stevick’s GROWING UP AMISH: THE TEENAGE YEARS is excellent. So is Hurst and McConnell’s AN AMISH PARADOX. Butterfield’s DRIVING THE AMISH was also very helpful, from the perspective of an English man who works closely with the Amish.

PBS has some excellent material online for their film, AMERICAN EXPERIENCE: THE AMISH. Some of that material can be found here.

On a personal note, what are you reading right now?
I’m reading Twyla Tharp’s THE CREATIVE HABIT. It’s a great book about how to just get over oneself and make something – whether it’s dance, writing, music, or visual art.

What makes you want to put a book aside in frustration?
Mostly, if it’s something I’ve seen before, I put it down. When I’m reading for pleasure, I want to see something I haven’t thought about before.

Any recent titles that have just blown you away?
I adore FEVER by Lauren DeStefano. Her voice is so incredibly powerful – I can’t wait for the third book in the Chemical Garden trilogy. Both WITHER and FEVER were books that lingered with me for a long time after I finished – I love it when a story takes up real estate in my head and haunts me like that.

Is there anything else you’d like to share about upcoming projects or events (or anything at all!)?
I’m finishing up on line edits for the sequel to THE HALLOWED ONES, and should have a title soon.

And we just adopted a new cat. He’s a sixteen-pound grey stray who turned up on our doorstep. We’ve named him Gibby, and we’re busily trying to socialize him to the rest of the herd. He’s living in my office at the moment…and he’s fascinated by typing. Slow going, with a cat on my lap and paws slapping my fingers on the keyboard.
Keep up with Laura: Website | Twitter
Read an excerpt of THE HALLOWED ONES

About The Hallowed Ones: Amazon | B&N
If your home was the last safe place on earth, would you let a stranger in?

Katie is on the verge of her Rumspringa, the time in Amish life when teenagers are free to experience non-Amish culture before officially joining the church. But before Rumspringa arrives, Katie’s safe world starts to crumble. It begins with a fiery helicopter crash in the cornfields, followed by rumors of massive unrest and the disappearance of huge numbers of people all over the world. Something is out there…and it is making a killing.

Unsure why they haven’t yet been attacked, the Amish Elders make a decree: No one goes outside their community, and no one is allowed in. But when Katie finds a gravely injured young man lying just outside the boundary of their land, she can’t leave him to die. She refuses to submit to the Elder’s rule and secretly brings the stranger into her community—but what else is she bringing in with him?

1. You MUST fill out the form below (lots of chances for extra entries)
2. Giveaway is for 1 copy of The Hallowed Ones by Laura Bickle to 1 winner.
3. Giveaway is open to US  addresses only (no PO boxes).
4. Must include a valid email address with your entry (no need to leave it in the comments, just include it when you fill out the rafflecopter form)
5. You must enter on or before 9/30/12
6. Giveaway book courtesy of the author
7. Please see my Giveaway Policy.

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Blood Riders by Michael P. Spradlin

Blood Riders by Michael P. Spradlin
Harper Voyager/Sept. 25th, 2011
Kind thanks to Harper Voyager for providing a review copy

The Western Territories, 1880. For four years, Civil War veteran and former U.S. Cavalry Captain Jonas P. Hollister has been rotting in a prison cell at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. His crime: lying about the loss of eleven soldiers under his command . . . who he claims were slaughtered by a band of nonhuman, blood-drinking demons.
But now a famous visitor, the detective Allan Pinkerton, has arrived with an order for Hollister’s release. The brutal murder of a group of Colorado miners in a fashion frighteningly similar to the deaths of Hollister’s men has leant new credence to his wild tale.
And suddenly Jonas Hollister finds himself on a quest both dangerous and dark—joining forces with Pinkerton, the gunsmith Oliver Winchester, an ex-fellow prisoner, a woman of mystery, and a foreigner named Abraham Van Helsing, who knows many things about the monsters of the night—and riding hell for leather toward an epic confrontation . . . with the undead.

1880: “Some other time…for Caroline”, the creature with the fangs and long white hair hissed to Jonas Hollister as he lay amongst the dead soldiers in his command. The sun was rising, and Jonas was sure he was about to die, but those are the words the creature uttered to him just before he left the scene of the massacre. Earlier that evening, Captain Hollister and his soldiers came across a scene of devastation that looked like an Indian attack, but supplies such as food and other materials were left intact. That in and of itself put Hollister on alert, but the fact that some of the settler’s bodies didn’t seem to have fatal wounds, but were dead nonetheless, definitely sent off warning bells. When the supposed dead began rising and attacking his men, Hollister couldn’t believe his eyes. What he knows is that he should be dead, and by all accounts, he might as well be.

It’s now 4 years after the attacks that killed his men, and he’s been in Leavenworth since he was court martialed for dereliction of duty, conduct unbecoming an officer, and a few other trumped up charges. He was in Leavenworth so fast his head spun. No one believed his story of blood drinking creatures, and frankly, he didn’t blame them. Now he’s come to the attention of one of the most famous detectives in the world, Allen Pinkerton, who brings with him an offer he can’t refuse. A similar attack has occurred, and the lone survivor is a relative of a powerful political figure. Pinkerton wants Hollister’s help, and in return, he’ll be free from Leavenworth and paid a handsome sum. But will it be enough to risk his life? He’ll find out soon enough.

There’s a war waging among the Archaics, and a beautiful woman named Shaniah, and a madman called Malachi are at the center. Malachi is bitter and enraged after Shaniah was named leader of the Archaics, and Malachi has defied centuries of Archaic law by feeding on humans. Shaniah is sure that the fate of her people relies on staying hidden, yet Malachi insists on indulging his animal nature, endangering his entire race. Shaniah is not about to let him run wild, and is very intrigued by the brave Hollister, who may be her key to stopping Malachi.

After consulting with Dr.Van Helsing (yep, the very one), Hollister, Chee (who has some interesting abilities of his own), and Monkey Pete (conductor, weapons ace, and field medic) hop on a tricked out train bound for the west where they are to confront these monsters, and kill them. They eventually arrive in a town that seems to be full of life interrupted, but eerily devoid of people. Then the bodies start turning up. The gang eventually finds a group of women and children holed up in the jail and they know they must get them to safety, but how? Night is falling, and the creatures have them surrounded. Remind you of anything? It very much reminded me of 30 Days of Night, with the Old West replacing Barrow, Alaska, and for me, that’s a good thing! The not-quite-vamps are just as scary, and I like how the author twisted the vampire mythos just a bit in order to keep things interesting. Archaics are not vampires, but they do share a few characteristics, and fighting them involves similar techniques and weaponry. Especially fun is the gun designed for them by Oliver Winchester nicknamed the Ass-Kicker, and it does, indeed, kick ass. The author did a very nice job weaving some history in with his action, and the wild west/vampire combo is lots of fun. If you’re tired of the same stories that seem to be dragging down the vampire genre, no worries, you won’t find that with Blood Riders. Neat gadgetry, a twist on vampire myth, Wild West showdowns, and a very strong female lead round out this exciting adventure novel!

Purchase Blood Riders : Amazon |B&N

Interview (& Giveaway): Jay Kristoff, author of Stormdancer

I’m very excited to have Jay Kristoff on the blog today! Jay is the author of the brand new Stormdancer and he was kind enough to answer a few of my questions.  Also, St. Martins Press has generously provided a copy of the book for giveaway, so check out the details below the post!


Jay, you describe yourself as a “tragic nerd”. Care to elaborate?
Damn, that’s a brutal first question. You don’t want to start with my favorite color or something?

Hmm, let’s see. I’ve been playing Dungeons & Dragons for, like, twenty years (not every day, obviously) Imagine a group of grown dudes sitting around a table rolling dice and saying shit like “I bat my eyelids at the Captain of the Guard” and “Ok, make a seduction check” and yeah, that’s us.

I can quote you the Princess Bride word for word. I play Star Wars drinking games. I named my dog “Samwise”. There will be a guy at my book launch wearing a copy of Stormdancer around his neck like a Flava Flav clock because he lost a bet to me over a game of cards – not a poker game or something cool like that. No, it was a Game of Thrones card game.

I am to nerds what nerds are to normal people. I am the Übernerd.

You spent 10 years in advertising. What made you decide to take the plunge and write a novel? What was your inspiration?
I was still in advertising when I started writing my first novel (a very angsty vampire book that will never see the light of day), but I didn’t really get serious about it until after I got made redundant. I shifted into a different career path and moved client side (which means I hire the agencies now – agency-side work is death) and that gave me a lot more free time. Writing TV ads all day, the last thing you want to do when you get home is write more frackin’ words.

My inspiration for that first book was just a scene I had in my head that I felt like putting down on paper. I’m not even sure why I started writing it, but eighteen months later, it had become my first book. My inspiration for Stormdancer was a dream, but that’s a really lame answer so I avoid it where possible and make up BS stories about ninjas and secret destinies.

Stormdancer has been described as “Japanese steampunk.” Will you tell us a little bit about it, and about your heroine, Yukiko?
It’s probably fairer to describe it as “Japanese-inspired”. Shima isn’t Japan – I’ve riffed on Japanese culture, but some of it I’ve altered radically, and other parts I’ve just made up entirely.

But, Shima is loosely based on Japan during the Tokugawa Shōgunate, also known as the Samurai Age of Japan. The nation has been catapulted into the industrial age by a combustible fuel source created from a flower called “Blood Lotus”. So they have airships, heavy rail, chainsaw katanas and so on. Problem is, the technology is poisoning the air and killing the earth, but Shima’s people are so addicted to the power this technology brings them, they’re unable to let it go.

Yukiko is the daughter of the Imperial huntmaster. Her dad is something of a deadbeat and a drug addict, so she’s grown up with a strong independent streak and a disdain for authority. She also has the ability to speak telepathically to animals, called “the Kenning”, which sounds like a cool power until you consider:
a)There are very few animals left alive with all the pollution around.
b)The group who build all of Shima’s machinery, the Lotus Guild, have a habit of burning people with the Kenning at the stake.

What kind of research did you do for the book?
I read histories of the Samurai Age (books like Taiko by Eiji Yoshikawa) and consulted a bunch of great online resources about Japanese history and folklore. I hit up the Encyclopedia of Shinto and Wiki for info on the Shinto religion. But I’ve always loved Japanese cinema so I picked up a lot of my visual cues from films I love.

Other than that, I had a few friends yell curse words at me in Japanese and ate pocky until I could see through time.

What do you love most about writing fantasy?
That there are literally no rules. If I want to have a world where huge mechanical war-walkers and griffins exist in the same space and story, there’s nothing stopping me. Anyone who tells you “you can’t do that” or “you’re doing that wrong” when you’re writing fantasy has got it ass-about-backwards.

There’s no limit to writing fantasy but your imagination. This is the ONLY rule.

What are some of your biggest influences?
William Gibson. Alan Moore. George Orwell. Stephen King (I was reading him when I was 10, which apparently makes him YA – who knew) Great storytellers and character writers like David Simon or David Knauf. And strangely enough, a lot of the lyricists of the bands I listen to. Telling a story in 100,000 words is easy. Telling in in three minutes with a few dozen is hard.

Is there anyone that you haven’t met (literary or otherwise), that if you were to meet them, it would bring out your inner fanboy?
Oh yeah, if I was to meet someone like Zack de le Rocha (Rage Against the Machine) or Robb Flynn (Machine Head), I’d literally lose my tiny mind. If I met famous authors I admire, like the folks above, I suspect I’d be hitting them up for as much advice as I possibly could. But put me in front of a musician I’ve been listening to for half my life, I’d soil my panties.

What book would you like to read again for the first time?
I am the Cheese by Robert Cormier, or Nineteen-Eighty-Four by George Orwell.

What are you reading now?
Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Lani Taylor.

When you manage to find some free time, how do you like to spend it?
Well, there’s the aforementioned nerdy pursuits. I like hanging out with my lovely bride and staying married – that’s a pretty cool use of my time. Reading. Seeing great films. And bourbon. I always try to make time for bourbon.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with us about upcoming projects or events (or anything at all!)?
I’d like to say thanks to everyone who has given any of their time to Stormdancer – reading, reviewing, spreading the word on Twitter or FB or wherever. Seeing this little seed I planted grow into this huge thing has been amazing, and I’m constantly humbled by the energy everyone is putting into it.

If you’re planning on reading it, and spending some time in the tiny world I’ve made – thank you!
Keep up with Jay: Website | Twitter

Don’t forget to visit all of Jay’s tour stops for more awesomeness and chances to win!

1. You MUST fill out the form below (lots of chances for extra entries)
2. Giveaway is for 1 copy of Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff.
3. Giveaway is open to US  addresses only (no PO boxes-most publishers use UPS, which won’t deliver to PO boxes)
4. Must include a valid email address with your entry (no need to leave it in the comments, just include it when you fill out the rafflecopter form)
5. You must enter on or before 9/28/12
6. Giveaway books courtesy of St. Martins Press
7. Please see my Giveaway Policy.

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Interview: Linda Grimes, author of In a Fix!

Please welcome Linda Grimes to the blog today! Linda is the author of the brand new fantasy, In a Fix, and she was kind enough to answer a few of my questions about her new book, travel, and of course, adult beverages (and she loves Outlander as much as I do.)

Linda, you taught high school English for a time and also have a bit of a theater background! What made you decide to take the plunge and write a novel? Can you tell us a bit about your journey?
Well, it wasn’t so much a plunge as it was sticking my toes in the water s-l-o-w-l-y at first. I’ve always made up stories in my head, and eventually I started to write them down. Wrote one novel over a period of several years—mostly a hobby, just to see if I could do it, and to keep me sane as I was raising kids—and put it away for a while to get some distance from it before revising it. I knew enough to realize it was not ready go out into the world.

While I was waiting, I saw the name “Ciel” on a license plate, and decided to keep myself occupied by writing another kind of book—a lighter, funnier read. At first it was only to amuse myself, but then I really liked it, and figured I’d shop it around instead of the first one.

Your brand new fantasy, In a Fix, just came out! Will you tell us a bit about it?
Ciel Halligan is an “aura adaptor”—a kind of human chameleon—whose job entails fixing other people’s problems for them. As them. If you need something done that you don’t feel like you can handle yourself, she’ll go in an do it for you. For a hefty fee, of course. She’s a helpful sort, but she does have to eat. Oh, and she’s not nearly as good at fixing her own problems as she as fixing other people’s.

What do you love most about writing fantasy?
I love that anything is possible in fantasy. No limits, as long as you keep it real within the parameters you set up for your world. Wouldn’t it be great if real life worked like that?

What are some of your biggest literary influences?
Books, of course. Other writers inspire me to be better. Diana Gabaldon, Vicki Pettersson, Jim Butcher, Harlan Coben … so many. But I’m also influenced by life in general, and by everyone I meet. Anything that goes in my ears or eyes is likely to be rearranged somehow, and spit out onto the page.

What’s on your nightstand right now?
A Kindle full of all the books I’ve been way too busy to read these past few weeks—can’t wait to get to them! Including Patty Blount’s Send, Diane Henders’ Never Say Spy, Kristen Callihan’s Firelight, Maria Zannini’s Mistress of the Stone, and a whole bunch of others. I’m afraid reading is one thing that’s getting shoved to the back burner while I’m in the throes of my first book launch.

If you could read one book again for the very first time, which one would it be?
Probably Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander. It was magic that first time. I still love to reread it, but that first-time excitement was unbeatable.

In your bio, it says you’ve spent time in Sweden, Switzerland, Ireland, and France. Do you have a favorite destination?
Sweden. It’s in my blood (my mom is Swedish). Give me some pickled herring and some chokladbiskvier (chocolate pastry to die for) and I’m in heaven.

If you could pack your bags and travel somewhere you haven’t been tomorrow, where would you go?
Oh, that’s a tough one! So many places I’d love to see. Hmm. Maybe I’d go with New Zealand. If it’s half as gorgeous as it looks in the LOTR movies, it would be worth the trip to the other side of the world, even though I’m not overly fond of flying.

I noticed that a martini glass is featured prominently on your site. Do you have a favorite adult beverage?
Well, I do love a good martini (as you probably guessed), but my absolute favorite adult beverage is a Manhattan. With two cherries. Yum!

Other than travel, when you manage to carve out free time for yourself, how do you like to spend it?
I wish I could say something like Roller Derby or drag racing. Alas, that would be a bigger fantasy than my books. Sounds boring, but I love hanging out at home with my honey. Especially when he cooks for me.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with us about upcoming projects or events (or anything at all!)?
Well, I’d like to share a Manhattan with you and your readers, but since that’s not feasible I’ll just tell you Quick Fix (Book 2 of the series) is coming out next July. And Tor is going to release a mass market paperback version of In a Fix right before then, in June 2013. Meanwhile, I’ll be busy working on Book 3.

Thank you so much for inviting me here to your stomping grounds! It’s been a lot of fun.
Keep up with Linda: Website | Twitter
Snag a copy of In a Fix: Amazon | B&N | Indiebound

About In a Fix:
Snagging a marriage proposal for her client while on an all-expenses-paid vacation should be a simple job for Ciel Halligan, aura adaptor extraordinaire. A kind of human chameleon, she’s able to take on her clients’ appearances and slip seamlessly into their lives, solving any sticky problems they don’t want to deal with themselves. No fuss, no muss. Big paycheck.

This particular assignment is pretty enjoyable…that is, until Ciel’s island resort bungalow is blown to smithereens and her client’s about-to-be-fiancé is snatched by modern-day Vikings. For some reason, Ciel begins to suspect that getting the ring is going to be a tad more difficult than originally anticipated.

Going from romance to rescue requires some serious gear-shifting, as well as a little backup. Her best friend, Billy, and Mark, the CIA agent she’s been crushing on for years—both skilled adaptors—step in to help, but their priority is, annoyingly, keeping her safe. Before long, Ciel is dedicating more energy to escaping their watchful eyes than she is to saving her client’s intended.

Suddenly, facing down a horde of Vikings feels like the least of her problems.

Bedbugs by Ben H. Winters

Bedbugs by Ben H. Winters
Quirk/Sept. 2011

FOR RENT: Top two floors of beautifully renovated brownstone, 1300 sq. ft., 2BR 2BA, eat-in kitchen, one block to parks and playgrounds. No broker’s fee.
Susan and Alex Wendt have found their dream apartment.
Sure, the landlady is a little eccentric. And the elderly handyman drops some cryptic remarks about the basement. But the rent is so low, it’s too good to pass up.
Big mistake. Susan soon discovers that her new home is crawling with bedbugs . . . or is it? She awakens every morning with fresh bites, but neither Alex nor their daughter Emma has a single welt. An exterminator searches the property and turns up nothing. The landlady insists her building is clean. Susan fears she’s going mad—until a more sinister explanation presents itself: she may literally be confronting the bedbug problem from Hell.

Alex, Susan, and little Emma Wendt just moved into a new apartment, the second floor of a wonderful Brooklyn brownstone, 1,300 sq. ft, a little under $3, 500/month. Sounds like a steal, right? Maybe too good to be true? It’s perfect for their little family of three, and even if Andrea, their new landlord, seems a bit strange, it’s nothing they can’t handle. Alex’s photography firm, specializing in jewelry, is up and coming, and it’s been successful enough that Susan has quit her job to stay home and take up painting again. It’s idyllic at first, until strange things start happening, and Susan eventually becomes convinced the apartment is infested with bedbugs. Everyone else, including professionals, says otherwise, but Susan has seen the bugs, and felt the bites. Unfortunately, she’s the only one. Is Susan going crazy, or is something more sinister at work?

If you’re someone that gets squirmy reading about teeny little bugs, brace yourself. Bedbugs is a rather short book, but the author manages to pack some serious dread into those pages. Honestly, at first, I didn’t like Susan all that much. Not working, at home with a 3 year old, and she hires a nanny to take Emma off her hands while she proceeds to get…not much done, accept for a few errands and unpacking the house. Ostensibly she’s supposed to be painting, and eventually she does. In fact, she goes on quite a little painting spree that ends up having sinister results. Then there’s her odd landlord, who seems to have quite a few secrets of her own, a friendly but somehow imposing handyman sort of seems to lurk in the background, and it doesn’t help that Alex is becoming more sullen every day. I was absolutely convinced that Susan was going batty, but it’s not so simple, and that’s the fun of this chiller. Slow dread builds into out and out terror, and it’s a heckuva ride. You’ll probably devour this one in one sitting, if you can keep your skin from crawling long enough. Get out your bug spray and give this one a try. There’s a lot to love for thriller and horror fans alike!

Purchase Bedbugs : Amazon |B&N

Interview: Rob Reid, author of Year Zero

Here to kick off the week is Rob Reid, author of Year Zero! Rob is much more than just a new fiction author (he’s also as sarcastic as I am), and he kindly took some time out of his busy schedule to answer a few of my questions. Please welcome Rob to the blog!

Rob, as the founder of, which created the Rhapsody digital music service, you have a very rich background in the tech industry. You’ve also written books on Silicon Valley and Harvard Business School. What made you decide to take the plunge and write a sci fi novel?
I’ve been deeply interested in writing fiction since shortly after college. I spent the year after graduating in Cairo, as a Fulbright scholar, and began work on a novel in a sort of magical realist style that was heavily influenced by Marquez’s 100 Years of Solitude. I never came close to finishing it. But when I got to business school, my first stop was the office that connects students up to alumni for career advice. I was probably the only person in HBS history to ask about writers amongst our alumni – and I was told that there was precisely one! The result was my memoir-ish book about being a first-year student at HBS. There were strongly fictional elements in it (because all of the student characters other than me were “composite” characters who brought together various elements of a number of people that I knew). I graduated and got inhaled by the Internet (becoming an Internet fulltimer quite early – 1995). Next thing I new, fifteen years had gone by! I love technology & hugely enjoyed being an entrepreneur, but I never lost sight of my interest in writing fiction. Then one day my wife & I were traveling around in Colombia, and I kind of spontaneously started writing Year Zero to amuse us both. I kept it up after we got home because we were both having so much fun with it. It took me about a month to acknowledge reality, and realize that I was in fact in the throes of writing a novel full-time…

What would be your elevator pitch for Year Zero?
Aliens seek to erase the ruinous fines on their vast collections of pirated American music by destroying the Earth. A young attorney must use his wits to stop them.

Why aliens?
I considered using Bulgarians, but decided that Bulgarians wouldn’t be believable or terrifying enough. For one thing, Bulgarians currently lack the technology to destroy the Earth if they wish. For another, the “Bulgarian invasion” tradition is quite thin in modern storytelling. Not so with aliens.

What are some of your biggest sci-fi influences?
Stanislaw Lem above all – he wrote some fabulous (and incredibly witty) speculative fiction, mainly in the 50’s, 60’s, & 70’s (although he still puts out the occasional story collection to this day). He lived most of his writerly years in communist Poland, which he fled in 1982. Douglas Adams, certainly. And to a lesser degree, Neal Stephenson.

What do you like to see in a good book?
OK, this will sound trivial, but can we start with CHAPTER TITLES? Writing is such a joy, and we writers are a creative bunch. So I’m always disappointed when a gifted author doesn’t bother with chapter titles. This is a great opportunity to foreshadow, lead, or just share a playful wink with your readers. So why not avail yourself of it, and share just a bit more fun with the folks who are flipping the pages? To me, a great book without chapter titles (particularly one with a particularly witty voice) is like Christmas without stocking stuffers – or a meal at a fabulous restaurant without appetizers. So by all means, give me chapter titles. Oh – and I also like a great plot, writing style, and characters…

What makes you want to set a book aside in frustration?
When an author makes a high-handed attempt to lampoon something that he or she knows essentially nothing about. I often see literary authors attempt this with white collar office culture. There’s plenty about modern business society that can and should be lampooned, even skewered. But so often it’s done by a tone-deaf MFA whose sum total of professional world experience is watching the “Office Space” DVD, and maybe working a few weeks as a de facto embedded reporter masquerading as a temp.

If you could read one book again for the very first time, which one would it be?
“And Then We Came to the End” by Joshua Ferris. This is the OPPOSITE of the phenomena that I just described. He takes on modern business society and lands countless punches (often to hysterical effect) because he’s a native of the land that he describes.

Quick! Name something that makes you laugh out loud.
YouTube videos of businessmen slipping on banana peels. Gets me every time.

When you manage to carve out some free time, how do you like to spend it?
Lingering over a home-made supper and a bottle of wine with my wife Morgan and Ashby the Dog.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with us about upcoming projects or events (or anything at all!)?
I’m writing a series of essays about copyright and piracy in the digital age that will crop up in various venues online and in print. The Wall Street Journal published the first one earlier this summer.
Keep up with Rob: Website | Twitter
Snag a copy of YEAR ZERO: Amazon | B&N | Indiebound

Interview: Alex Hughes, author of Clean (Mindspace Investigations #1)

I’m thrilled to have the awesome Alex Hughes on the blog today! Alex’s brand new book, Clean (Mindspace #1) just came out (feel free to check out my review at SF Signal), and she was kind enough to answer a few of my questions.

Please welcome Alex to the blog!

Alex, it’s obvious that you’ve loved books since you were a child. What finally inspired you to write your first novel? Will you tell us a bit about your journey?
I actually wrote my first novel when I was very young – too young to know better:-D  I was reading a book one day and decided I wanted to write one. I went to my mom and said, “I want to write a novel.” God bless her, she didn’t even blink. Instead, she said, “Then you should write a novel. Let’s get you a document on the computer.” I think she was surprised when she came back to several scenes a few hours later. After that, one of her answers to me complaining about being bored was, “why don’t you go work on your novel?” My parents never made a big deal about it, but they always made it very clear they thought it was completely within my capabilities. There was a certain childlike joy in writing that first book (all 200 plus pages of it) that now, as an adult many projects later, I’m always trying to get back to.

The process of learning to write a good book, on the other hand, took fifteen years, hundreds of rejections, and more than one crisis of faith. But I stuck with it, I got better, and I learned to do things on purpose. And finally The Call from the editor came.

In Clean, your hero is a telepath in a future Atlanta. Not only is he dealing with mistrust from his colleagues, he’s also dealing with the fallout of a drug addiction. Did you have a particular inspiration in mind while writing him?
I had a friend in college who was struggling to recover from anorexia/bulimia, and going through that process with her was deeply impactful to me. I wanted to write about addiction, but I knew her struggle was complex and deep enough to take over anything I wrote. I knew I needed an easier addiction to understand – and I had just re-read Joan D. Vinge’s Catspaw, a book starring a tortured telepath in a dark future world. I thought, why not write about a telepath struggling with a drug addiction in a dark future world? He could be a detective. And thus the seed of Clean was born.

Clean has a decidedly noir feel to it. What are some of your favorite hard boiled detectives?
The noir feeling is a little bit of an accident – I was going for cyberpunk, like Catspaw, but just couldn’t pull it off. But I grew up on police procedurals – we watched them as a family and talked about them together – so perhaps the final product isn’t so surprising. In fiction, I love Patricia Cornwell’s heroine and J.D. Robb’s heroine. In television, the ones that stand out in my mind today are Nowhere Man, the American version of Life on Mars, The Closer, and the first few seasons of the original CSI.

How about favorite sci-fi novels?
This answer changes all the time. Today I’ll pick Tanya Huff’s military SF series, Bitten by Kelley Armstrong, Robert Heinlein’s The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, Wen Spencer’s Tinker, The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley, Cast in Shadow by Michelle Sagara, and Jennifer Roberson’s Sworddancer.

What are some of your biggest literary influences?
Robert Heinlein and Anne McCaffrey are two of the big ones, along with Laurell K. Hamilton, Andre Norton, Edgar Allan Poe, and Emma Bull, but every author I’ve listed (and to some degree every author I followed) has influenced my work to a greater or lesser degree.

Is there one book in particular that you recommend to anyone that will listen?
Today I’ll say Catherine Asaro’s Primary Inversion. That book blew my mind. I still recommend it to people, although I’ll warn them the physics can be a bit hard to get through. Still, the depth of thinking about FTL travel and imaginary number mathematics, not to mention the quantum physics shielding programs, are astonishing and ground-breaking. It’s also a damn good story.


What are you reading now?
Honestly? Nalini Singh’s Archangel’s Storm. I love the worldbuilding and the angel society she’s set up in previous novels, which is both awesome in the original sense and bitterly tragic.

If an asteroid was hurtling toward earth, and you could only snag five items, what would they be? (Editor’s note: This was supposed to say “snag five items before heading into the underground bunker”, but I dropped the ball. I thought Alex handled this rather nicely, considering.)
Unfair question. We’re assuming the asteroid isn’t going to burn up in the atmosphere, I take it? And will end all life on Earth? Well, first, a spaceship with a good long-term life support system and alien starcharts, obviously. I want to survive the apocalypse, not just view it from a better vantage point. For the rest, I’d burn up as many of my allowed spots on people as possible – starting with Sam, of course, and going through the rest of my nearest and dearest. And honestly, to have a viable breeding pool and continue the human race, we’d need at least several hundred people. Plus the world’s best library of books, music and movies, to keep us from getting bored. And a viable destination…

Hmm. How long do we have before the apocalypse to plan?

Is there anyone (literary or otherwise) that would bring out your fangirl squee if you were to meet them?
Mercades Lackey. Catherine Asaro. Elizabeth Moon. Wen Spencer. Nathan Fillion. And, of course, Aeron (sp?) from Farscape.

In your bio, it says you’re a total foodie. What’s one of your favorite dishes?
Do I have to pick just one? Well, today I guess I’ll pick a healthy option: turkey italian sausage with sundried-tomato red-wine fennel sauce over perfectly-cooked noodles with a side of fresh arugula with walnuts, goat cheese and strawberries with a balsamic vinaigrette.

When you manage to find some free time, how do you like to spend it?
With delicious food whenever possible. I’m also involved in several writers’ groups and an artist’s movement group here in Atlanta. I love getting together with creative people and talking about how to be creative. It revs me up and makes me happy.
Keep up with Alex: Website | Twitter

About CLEAN:


I used to work for the Telepath’s Guild before they kicked me out for a drug habit that wasn’t entirely my fault. Now I work for the cops, helping Homicide Detective Isabella Cherabino put killers behind bars.

My ability to get inside the twisted minds of suspects makes me the best interrogator in the department. But the normals keep me on a short leash. When the Tech Wars ripped the world apart, the Guild stepped up to save it. But they had to get scary to do it—real scary.

Now the cops don’t trust the telepaths, the Guild doesn’t trust me, a serial killer is stalking the city—and I’m aching for a fix. But I need to solve this case. Fast. I’ve just had a vision of the future: I’m the next to die.

Book News: September 14th, 2012

I’ve got all kinds of coolness to report for the week in the world of books and bookish things! Be sure to check out some really neat giveaways at the bottom of the post, too!

Articles, excerpts, announcements, etc:

More neat stuff (giveaways, hint hint):

Have a great weekend!

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