My Bookish Ways

Guest Post (& Giveaway): Jane Kindred, author of The Midnight Court

Please welcome Jane Kindred to the blog today! Jane is the author of The Midnight Court, The Fallen Queen, and more! Jane is here to tell us a bit about her worldbuilding and she’s also offering 2 copies of The Midnight Court (one physical and one ecopy) to 2 lucky winners, so check out the giveaway details at the end of the post.

Over to Jane!

Monasteries, Murder Holes, and Mountain Cities

Thanks for having me today on My Bookish Ways—I’m excited to be here on the official release day for The Midnight Court! If you’ve read The Fallen Queen, you know there are some unusual settings in my books. This second book in my House of Arkhangel’sk trilogy gave me the opportunity to expand on the world of Heaven I’d touched on in Book One, as well as to explore more of modern Russia, where the first half of the book takes place.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have the chance to visit Russia again as research for this book, although I would have loved to. Instead, I explored Russia virtually via Google Earth and numerous websites on the Karelia area where many of the scenes take place. I needed something relatively close to the city of Arkhangel’sk, where my characters are living at the beginning of the book, where someone could be hidden away, and I wanted it to be something uniquely Russian. That was when I happened upon the monastery on the Solovetsky Islands in the White Sea.

As soon as I saw images of it, I knew this was the place. The Solovetsky Monastery is surrounded by a fifteenth-century fortress that protected it from attacks by numerous enemies over the centuries. It looks like a little kingdom of its own in the middle of a starkly beautiful archipelago. Its history, like Russia’s is tumultuous. The site of religious uprisings and a place of exile for anti-tsarists, the monastery was turned into one the most notorious labor camps of the gulag system after the Bolshevik Revolution.

With the fall of the Soviet Union, Solovetsky was returned to the Orthodox Church, and is now once again a working monastery with a small number of monks in residence, as well as a museum. I can only hope the monks of Solovetsky will forgive me for the license I took with it.

To parallel the earthly stronghold, I created a Heavenly one in the frozen north, and once I had a fortress to defend, I realized it couldn’t just sit there; I had to defend it. That was when I dove into research on the layout and functions of a fortress—fun things, like how to open a portcullis, and the purpose of a sally port (raiding parties would “sally forth” from a fortress under siege to attack the enemy), and murder holes. Because who doesn’t love saying “murder holes”? Then I had to figure out the strategy of a siege, and how medieval war engines were constructed, and how much grain your horses had to carry so that you didn’t end up eating them on a month-long trek over frozen tundra.

But my favorite part of Heaven that I got to create for this book was Aravoth City, high up in mountain country, where the angelic order of Virtues live. Oddly enough, their buildings and homes are based on ancient Roman architecture. Those Romans were pretty clever—central heating right in your home, plus an “impluvium” to catch rainwater. And of course, the Roman-style Aravothan public bath, which is to die for. I confess I patterned it pretty closely after Lynn Flewelling’s Aurënfaie baths, but in my own defense, I didn’t realize I had until I’d gone back to reread her Nightrunner series. She is clearly a woman after my own heart, and loves a good bath.

These are just a few of the places and things you’ll discover in The Midnight Court—along with the Midnight Court itself—as Anazakia, Belphagor, and Vasily take the next step of their journey.

As a special Release Day bonus, I’m giving away two copies of The Midnight Court today (or The Fallen Queen if you prefer)—one ebook and one paperback.

So tell me, what unusual place in the world would you most like to visit?

1. Answer Jane’s question above in the comments and specify ebook or physical copy (we’ll pick one of each!) Please don’t leave your email address in the body of the comment (as long as you fill it in on the WordPress form, you’re good to go-I may delete email addresses left in the comments)
2. Giveaway is open INTERNATIONALLY
3. Giveaway ends 9/8/12

About the author:
Jane Kindred began writing fantasy at age 12 in the wayback of a Plymouth Fury—which, as far as she recalls, never killed anyone…who didn’t have it coming. She spent her formative years ruining her eyes reading romance novels in the Tucson sun and watching Star Trek marathons in the dark. Although she was repeatedly urged to learn a marketable skill, she received a B.A. in Creative Writing anyway from the University of Arizona.

She now writes to the sound of San Francisco foghorns while two cats slowly but surely edge her off the side of the bed.

You can find Jane on Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, and on her website.

About The Fallen Queen, Book One of The House of Arkhangel’sk:
Heaven can go to hell.

Until her cousin slaughtered the supernal family, Anazakia’s father ruled the Heavens, governing noble Host and Fallen peasants alike. Now Anazakia is the last grand duchess of the House of Arkhangel’sk, and all she wants is to stay alive.

Hunted by Seraph assassins, Anazakia flees Heaven with two Fallen thieves—fire demon Vasily and air demon Belphagor, each with their own nefarious agenda—who hide her in the world of Man. The line between vice and virtue soon blurs, and when Belphagor is imprisoned, the unexpected passion of Vasily warms her through the Russian winter.

Heaven seems a distant dream, but when Anazakia learns the truth behind the celestial coup, she will have to return to fight for the throne—even if it means saving the man who murdered everyone she loved.

The Fallen Queen is available now at:  Amazon | Barnes & Noble | BAM | Books On Board | Diesel | IndieBound | Powell’s Books.

About The Midnight Court, Book Two of The House of Arkhangel’sk:
Against the pristine ice of Heaven, spilled blood and a demon’s fire will spark celestial war.

The exiled heir to the throne of Heaven, Grand Duchess Anazakia and her demon companions, Belphagor and Vasily, have made a comfortable home in the Russian city of Arkhangel’sk, but their domestic bliss is short lived. When their daughter Ola is taken as a pawn in Heaven’s demon revolution, the delicate fabric of their unorthodox family is torn apart—threatening to separate Belphagor and Vasily for good.

Anazakia is prepared to move Heaven and Earth to get her daughter back from Queen Aeval, risen in Elysium from the ashes of temporary defeat. But Aeval isn’t the only one seeking Ola’s strange power.

To conquer the forces amassing against them, Anazakia is prophesied to spill the blood of one close to her heart, while Vasily’s fire will prove more potent than anyone suspected. In the battle for supremacy over Heaven’s empire, loyalties will be tested and secrets will be revealed, but love will reign supernal.

The Midnight Court is available now in ebook and paperback from:  Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books On Board | Powell’s Books

Book News: August 30th, 2012

I haven’t done a news post in a while, so I thought I’d gather up some interesting stuff from the web and share it here. Have any interesting book related news? Feel free to share it in the comments!














Giveaway: In a Fix by Linda Grimes

In a Fix, the new fantasy by Linda Grimes is on my Top 25 Most Anticipated New Releases of September list, and I just happen to have an extra copy to give away to one lucky winner! Check out the book and the giveaway details, and good luck!

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-fiance 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.

1. You MUST fill out the form below (lots of chances for extra entries)
2. Giveaway is for 1 copy of In a Fix by Linda Grimes to 1 winner.
3. Giveaway is open to US addresses only.
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 9/7/12
6. Giveaway book courtesy of Tor
7. Please see my Giveaway Policy.

read more

Top 25 Anticipated New Releases in September 2012!

You may be asking yourself, how did I just pick 25? It was super, super hard, but I buckled down and did it (a few are missing, since I’ve already reviewed them.) September is a great month for new releases, and these are just the tip of the iceberg!

What are YOU looking forward to in September??

Something Red by Douglas Nicholas
During the thirteenth century in northwest England, in one of the coldest winters in living memory, a formidable yet charming Irish healer, Molly, and the troupe she leads are driving their three wagons, hoping to cross the Pennine Mountains before the heavy snows set in. Molly, her lover Jack, granddaughter Nemain, and young apprentice Hob become aware that they are being stalked by something terrible. The refuge they seek in a monastery, then an inn, and finally a Norman castle proves to be an illusion. As danger continues to rise, it becomes clear that the creature must be faced and defeated—or else they will all surely die. It is then that Hob discovers how much more there is to his adopted family than he had realized.

An intoxicating blend of fantasy and mythology, Something Red presents an enchanting world full of mysterious and fascinating characters— shapeshifters, sorceresses, warrior monks, and knights—where no one is safe from the terrible being that lurks in the darkness. In this extraordinary, fantastical world, nothing is as it seems, and the journey for survival is as magical as it is perilous.

Kiss of Steel by Bec McMaster
When Nowhere is Safe

Most people avoid the dreaded Whitecapel district. For Honoria Todd, it’s the last safe haven. But at what price?

Blade is known as the master of the rookeries—no one dares cross him. It’s been said he faced down the Echelon’s army single–handedly, that ever since being infected by the blood–craving he’s been quicker, stronger, and almost immortal.

When Honoria shows up at his door, his tenuous control comes close to snapping. She’s so…innocent. He doesn’t see her backbone of steel—or that she could be the very salvation he’s been seeking.

Clean by Alex Hughes


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.

Shift by Kim Curran
When your average, 16-year old loser, Scott Tyler, meets the beautiful and mysterious Aubrey Jones, he learns he’s not so average after all. He’s a ‘Shifter’. And that means he has the power to undo any decision he’s ever made. At first, he thinks the power to shift is pretty cool. But as his world starts to unravel around him he realises that each time he uses his power, it has consequences; terrible unforeseen consequences. Shifting is going to get him killed. In a world where everything can change with a thought, Scott has to decide where he stands.

Blackwood by Gwenda Bond
On Roanoke Island, the legend of the 114 people who mysteriously vanished from the Lost Colony hundreds of years ago is just an outdoor drama for the tourists, a story people tell. But when the island faces the sudden disappearance of 114 people now, an unlikely pair of 17-year-olds may be the only hope of bringing them back.

Miranda, a misfit girl from the island’s most infamous family, and Phillips, an exiled teen criminal who hears the voices of the dead, must dodge everyone from federal agents to long-dead alchemists as they work to uncover the secrets of the new Lost Colony. The one thing they can’t dodge is each other.

The Wrong Goodbye by Chris F. Holm
Meet Sam Thornton, Collector of Souls.

Because of his efforts to avert the Apocalypse, Sam Thornton has been given a second chance – provided he can stick to the straight and narrow.

Which sounds all well and good, but when the soul Sam’s sent to collect goes missing, Sam finds himself off the straight-and-narrow pretty quick.

Safekeeping by Karen Hesse
Radley’s parents had warned her that all hell would break loose if the American People’s Party took power. And now, with the president assassinated and the government cracking down on citizens, the news is filled with images of vigilante groups, frenzied looting, and police raids. It seems as if all hell has broken loose.

Coming back from volunteering abroad, Radley just wants to get home to Vermont, and the comfort and safety of her parents. Travel restrictions and delays are worse than ever, and by the time Radley’s plane lands in New Hampshire, she’s been traveling for over twenty-four hours. Exhausted, she heads outside to find her parents—who always come, day or night, no matter when or where she lands—aren’t there.

Her cell phone is dead, her credit cards are worthless, and she doesn’t have the proper travel papers to cross state lines. Out of money and options, Radley starts walking. . . .

Ashes of Honor by Seanan McGuire
It’s been almost a year since October “Toby” Daye averted a war, gave up a county, and suffered personal losses that have left her wishing for a good day’s sleep. She’s tried to focus on her responsibilities—training Quentin, upholding her position as Sylvester’s knight, and paying the bills—but she can’t help feeling like her world is crumbling around her, and her increasingly reckless behavior is beginning to worry even her staunchest supporters.

To make matters worse, Toby’s just been asked to find another missing child…only this time it’s the changeling daughter of her fellow knight, Etienne, who didn’t even know he was a father until the girl went missing. Her name is Chelsea. She’s a teleporter, like her father. She’s also the kind of changeling the old stories warn about, the ones with all the strength and none of the control. She’s opening doors that were never meant to be opened, releasing dangers that were sealed away centuries before—and there’s a good chance she could destroy Faerie if she isn’t stopped.

Now Toby must find Chelsea before time runs out, racing against an unknown deadline and through unknown worlds as she and her allies try to avert disaster. But danger is also stirring in the Court of Cats, and Tybalt may need Toby’s help with the biggest challenge he’s ever faced.

Toby thought the last year was bad. She has no idea.

In a Fix by Linda Grimes
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-fiance 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.

Bad Glass by Richard E. Gropp
Something has happened in Spokane. The military has evacuated the city and locked it down. Even so, disturbing rumors and images seep out, finding their way onto the Internet, spreading curiosity, skepticism, and panic. For what they show is—or should be—impossible: strange creatures that cannot exist, sudden disappearances that violate the laws of physics, human bodies fused with inanimate objects, trapped yet still half alive. . . .

Dean Walker, an aspiring photographer, sneaks into the quarantined city in search of fame. What he finds will change him in unimaginable ways. Hooking up with a group of outcasts led by a beautiful young woman named Taylor, Dean embarks on a journey into the heart of a mystery whose philosophical implications are as terrifying as its physical manifestations. Even as he falls in love with Taylor—a woman as damaged and seductive as the city itself—his already tenuous hold on reality starts to come loose. Or perhaps it is Spokane’s grip on the world that is coming undone.

Now, caught up in a web of interlacing secrets and betrayals, Dean, Taylor, and their friends must make their way through this ever-shifting maze of a city, a city that is actively hunting them down, herding them toward a shocking destiny.

The Hallowed Ones by Laura Bickle
Katie is on the verge of her Rumspringa, the time in Amish life when teenagers can get a taste of the real world. But the real world comes to her in this dystopian tale with a philosophical bent. Rumors of massive unrest on the “Outside” abound. Something murderous is out there. Amish elders make a rule: No one goes outside, and no outsiders come in. But when Katie finds a gravely injured young man, she can’t leave him to die. She smuggles him into her family’s barn—at what cost to her community? The suspense of this vividly told, truly horrific thriller will keep the pages turning.

Sacrifice the Wicked by Karina Cooper
Parker Adams has always done what’s expected of her . . . until a double agent with nothing to lose ignites a passion she doesn’t dare give in to.

Mission Agent Simon Wells is everything Parker Adams has been trained to fight: manipulator, murderer, spy . . . witch. But for her, what makes Simon most dangerous is his mesmerizing sexual magnetism, powerful enough to tempt even the famed ice queen of the Mission. Though she knows better, each encounter with the deceptive agent leaves her craving more.

Simon isn’t a man to let go of what’s his, and his pursuit forces Parker, a woman he can’t get out from under his skin, to make a stand that could destroy her. If they can work together, they might survive the politics that has enslaved their devastated world—or fall victim to the pitfalls of desperation, bone-deep mistrust, and a hunger that threatens to consume them.

Blood Riders by Michael P. Spradlin
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.

School’s Out Forever by Scott K. Andrews
“After the world died we all sort of drifted back to school. After all, where else was there for us to go?”

Lee Keegan’s fifteen. If most of the population of the world hadn’t just died choking on their own blood, he might be worrying about acne, body odour and girls. As it is, he and the young Matron of his boarding school, Jane Crowther, have to try and protect their charges from cannibalistic gangs, religious fanatics, a bullying prefect experimenting with crucifixion and even the surviving might of the US Army.

Welcome to St. Mark’s School for Boys and Girls…

Incarnation by Emma Cornwall
In the steampunk world of Victorian London, a beautiful vampire seeks out the author of Dracula–to set the record straight . . .

If one is to believe Bram Stoker’s legendary vampire tale, Lucy Weston is Dracula’s most wanton creation, a sexual creature of the night who preys on innocent boys. But the real-life Lucy is nothing like her fictional counterpart—and she demands to know why the Victorian author deliberately lied. With Stoker’s reluctant help, she’s determined to track down the very fiend who transformed her—from the sensual underworld where humans vie to become vampires, to a hidden cell beneath a temple to madness, and finally into the glittering Crystal Palace where death reigns supreme.

Haunted by fragmentary memories of her lost life and love, Lucy must battle her thirst for blood as she struggles to stop a catastrophic war that will doom vampires and humans alike. Ultimately, she must make a choice that illuminates for her—and for us—what it means to be human.

Full Blooded by Amanda Carlson
It’s not easy being a girl. It’s even harder when you’re the only girl in a family of werewolves. But it’s next to impossible when your very existence spells out the doom of your race… Meet Jessica McClain — she just became part of the pack.

In the vein of Kelley Armstrong and Patricia Briggs, a new urban fantasy that rewrites the werewolf myth…

The White Forest by Adam McOmber
In this hauntingly original debut novel about a young woman whose peculiar abilities help her infiltrate a mysterious secret society, Adam McOmber uses fantastical twists and dark turns to create a fast-paced, unforgettable story.

Young Jane Silverlake lives with her father in a crumbling family estate on the edge of Hampstead Heath. Jane has a secret—an unexplainable gift that allows her to see the souls of man-made objects—and this talent isolates her from the outside world. Her greatest joy is wandering the wild heath with her neighbors, Madeline and Nathan. But as the friends come of age, their idyll is shattered by the feelings both girls develop for Nathan, and by Nathan’s interest in a cult led by Ariston Day, a charismatic mystic popular with London’s elite. Day encourages his followers to explore dream manipulation with the goal of discovering a strange hidden world, a place he calls the Empyrean.

A year later, Nathan has vanished, and the famed Inspector Vidocq arrives in London to untangle the events that led up to Nathan’s disappearance. As a sinister truth emerges, Jane realizes she must discover the origins of her talent, and use it to find Nathan herself, before it’s too late.

Flesh and Bone by Jonathan Maberry
Reeling from the devastation of Dust & Decay, Benny Imura and his friends plunge deep into the zombie-infested wastelands of the great Rot & Ruin. Benny, Nix, Lilah, and Chong journey through a fierce wilderness that was once America, searching for the jet they saw in the skies months ago. If that jet exists then humanity itself must have survived…somewhere. Finding it is their best hope for having a future and a life worth living.

But the Ruin is far more dangerous than any of them can imagine. Fierce animals hunt them. They come face to face with a death cult. And then there’s the zombies—swarms of them coming from the east, devouring everything in their paths. And these zoms are different. Faster, smarter, and infinitely more dangerous. Has the zombie plague mutated, or is there something far more sinister behind this new invasion of the living dead?

The Dirty Streets of Heaven by Tad Williams
Bobby Dollar is an angel—a real one. He knows a lot about sin, and not just in his professional capacity as an advocate for souls caught between Heaven and Hell. Bobby’s wrestling with a few deadly sins of his own—pride, anger, even lust.

But his problems aren’t all his fault. Bobby can’t entirely trust his heavenly superiors, and he’s not too sure about any of his fellow earthbound angels either, especially the new kid that Heaven has dropped into their midst, a trainee angel who asks too many questions. And he sure as hell doesn’t trust the achingly gorgeous Countess of Cold Hands, a mysterious she-demon who seems to be the only one willing to tell him the truth.

When the souls of the recently departed start disappearing, catching both Heaven and Hell by surprise, things get bad very quickly for Bobby D. End-of-the-world bad. Beast of Revelations bad. Caught between the angry forces of Hell, the dangerous strategies of his own side, and a monstrous undead avenger that wants to rip his head off and suck out his soul, Bobby’s going to need all the friends he can get—in Heaven, on Earth, or anywhere else he can find them.

You’ve never met an angel like Bobby Dollar. And you’ve never read anything like The Dirty Streets of Heaven.

Brace yourself—the afterlife is weirder than you ever believed.

The Kingmakers (Vampire Empire #3) by Clay Griffith and Susan Griffith
Concludes the popular, genre-crossing, epic trilogy of a war between vampires and humans
A war to the death.

Empress Adele has launched a grand crusade against the vampire clans of the north. Prince Gareth, the vampire lord of Scotland, serves the Equatorian cause, fighting in the bloody trenches of France in his guise as the dashing Greyfriar. But the human armies are pinned down, battered by harsh weather and merciless attacks from vampire packs.

To even the odds, Adele unleashes the power of her geomancy, a fear- some weapon capable of slaughtering vampires in vast numbers. However, the power she expends threatens her own life even as she questions the morality of such a weapon.

As the war turns ever bloodier and Adele is threatened by betrayal, Gareth faces a terrible choice. Their only hope is a desperate strike against the lord of the vampire clans—Gareth’s brother, Cesare. It is a gamble that could win the war or signal the final days of the Greyfriar.

The Vampire Empire trilogy rushes to a heart-wrenching conclusion of honor and love, hatred and vengeance, sacrifice and loss.

Be My Enemy (Everness #2) by Ian McDonald
Everett Singh has escaped with the Infundibulum from the clutches of Charlotte Villiers and the Order, but at a terrible price. His father is missing, banished to one of the billions of parallel universes of the Panoply of All Worlds, and Everett and the crew of the airship Everness have taken a wild Heisenberg jump to a random parallel plane. Everett is smart and resourceful, and from the refuge of a desolate frozen Earth far beyond the Plenitude, where he and his friends have gone into hiding, he makes plans to rescue his family. But the villainous Charlotte Villiers is one step ahead of him. The action traverses three different parallel Earths: one is a frozen wasteland; one is just like ours, except that the alien Thryn Sentiency has occupied the Moon since 1964, sharing its technology with humankind; and one is the embargoed home of dead London, where the remnants of humanity battle a terrifying nanotechnology run wild. Across these parallel planes of existence, Everett faces terrible choices of morality and power. But he has the love and support of Sen, Captain Anastasia Sixsmyth, and the rest of the crew of Everness as he learns that the deadliest enemy isn’t the Order or the world-devouring nanotech Nahn—it’s himself.

Dead Mann Running by Stefan Petrucha
Just because a bullet has your name on it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t duck…

Either I’m stubborn, or it’s rigor mortis, but being dead didn’t stop me from being a detective or finding my wife’s killer. But it’s tough out there for a zombie, and lately it’s been getting tougher. These days the life-challenged have to register and take monthly tests to prove our emotional stability. See, if my kind gets too low, we go feral. I’ve been feeling a little down lately myself…

So when a severed arm—yeah, just the arm—leaves a mysterious briefcase at my office, my assistant, Misty, thinks figuring out where it came from will keep me on track. But this case goes deeper and darker than I imagined, and my imagination gets pretty dark. Turns out the people after it know more about my past life than I can remember, and even more about what I’ve become.

Slow Apocalypse by John Varley
Despite wars with Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as 9/11, the United States’ dependence on foreign oil has kept the nation tied to the Middle East. A scientist has developed a cure for America’s addiction—a slow-acting virus that feeds on petroleum, turning it solid. But he didn’t consider that his contagion of an Iraqi oil field could spread to infect the fuel supply of the entire world…

In Los Angeles, screenwriter Dave Marshall heard this scenario from a retired US marine and government insider who acted as a consultant on Dave’s last film. It sounded as implausible as many of his scripts, but the reality is much more frightening than anything he could have envisioned.

An ordinary guy armed with extraordinary information, Dave hopes his survivor’s instinct will kick in so he can protect his wife and daughter from the coming apocalypse that will alter the future of Earth—and humanity…

Undead by Kirsty McKay
Out of sight, out of their minds: It’s a school-trip splatter fest and completely not cool when the other kids in her class go all braindead on new girl Bobby.

The day of the ski trip, when the bus comes to a stop at a roadside restaurant, everyone gets off and heads in for lunch. Everyone, that is, except Bobby, the new girl, who stays behind with rebel-without-a-clue Smitty.

Then hours pass. Snow piles up. Sun goes down. Bobby and Smitty start to flirt. Start to stress. Till finally they see the other kids stumbling back.

But they’ve changed. And not in a good way. Straight up, they’re zombies. So the wheels on the bus better go round and round freakin’ fast, because that’s the only thing keeping Bobby and Smitty from becoming their classmates’ next meal. It’s kill or be killed in these hunger games, heads are gonna roll, and homework is most definitely gonna be late.

Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff

The Shima Imperium verges on the brink of environmental collapse; an island nation once rich in tradition and myth, now decimated by clockwork industrialization and the machine-worshipers of the Lotus Guild. The skies are red as blood, the land is choked with toxic pollution, and the great spirit animals that once roamed its wilds have departed forever.


The hunters of Shima’s imperial court are charged by their Shōgun to capture a thunder tiger – a legendary creature, half-eagle, half-tiger. But any fool knows the beasts have been extinct for more than a century, and the price of failing the Shōgun is death.


Yukiko is a child of the Fox clan, possessed of a talent that if discovered, would see her executed by the Lotus Guild. Accompanying her father on the Shōgun’s hunt, she finds herself stranded: a young woman alone in Shima’s last wilderness, with only a furious, crippled thunder tiger for company. Even though she can hear his thoughts, even though she saved his life, all she knows for certain is he’d rather see her dead than help her.

But together, the pair will form an indomitable friendship, and rise to challenge the might of an empire.

Interview: GT Almasi, author of Blades of Winter

Please welcome GT Almasi to the blog! He’s the author of the brand new cyberthriller Blades of Winter and was kind enough to answer a few of my questions!

You have a background in graphic design, and copywriting. What made you finally decide to take the plunge and write a novel?
I’d had a few ideas kicking around in my head for years, and I was at a place in my life where I was ready for a new challenge. But the most immediate catalyst that got me started was reading Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash one right after the other. I’d always figured writing a novel would be tedious and unpleasant because you’d have to use, you know, good grammar and all that nonsense. But the romping prose of these two books showed me that writing a novel could be a fun as reading one.

Your new novel, Blades of Winter, is cyberthriller at its best! What do you like most about writing in this genre?
I love how I get to mash-up all sorts of things; advanced electronics & old-fashioned bullets, carbon fiber & rusted metal, skinny geeks & beefy thugs, futuristic capabilities & ancient anxieties.

I just got a new smartphone, and the first thing I did was put a full-resolution copy of Blade Runner on there, just to see how it looked. It looked fantastic, but I couldn’t make myself turn it off and I wound up watching the whole thing and loving that juxtaposition of past and future. Something that strikes me as another example of this kind of mash-up is the Millennium Falcon, with its souped-up, hot-rod, hyper-space engines all banged into place with an old hydro-spanner.

What would be your elevator pitch for Blades of Winter?
“It’s a fast-paced, espionage cyber-thriller set in an alternate history where the Germans win World War Two.”

Alix Nico, your heroine, is quite young (19). Why did you decide to make her so young and was it tough writing from a female point of view?
Alix’s youth was inspired by watching the athletes at the Olympics, especially the gymnasts and figure skaters. Those kids are amazing, and I thought that if kids can do those acrobatics there isn’t much they can’t do.
Writing Alix isn’t like writing a “normal” female character because Alix is so enmeshed in the masculine world of being a covert-action agent. Another question might be, “was it tough writing from a sociopathic point of view?”

Where I tried to retain more of Alix’s femininity are the scenes she has with her mother. While nothing in the books actually happened to me or my family, these scenes are informed from when my sister and I were teen-agers and I was watching her and my mother learn the lessons a lot of girls and moms have to learn together.

A further source could be the brief but close friendship I once had with someone I was working with. She and I spent a lot of time talking together because we had a big thing in common; we both dated women and they were driving us nuts. What was most interesting to me was that her perspective was exactly the same as mine. It gave me the idea that the gender gap may have been purposefully manufactured to distract all of us away from things that actually matter. Maybe Mars and Venus are a lot closer to each other than we’ve been sold.

Did your career in graphic design help you visually in writing action scenes for Blades of Winter?
I’ve been drawing and painting since I was a kid, and that translated into my graphic design work. I’ve got a really visual sense of things, and pretty good recall. One of my college friends still remembers the first time she saw me successfully paint a sky from memory. Perhaps a corollary here is that I remember a lot of the action scenes, fight scenes, and martial arts scenes I’ve watched in movies or played through in video games.

But mostly I think what makes my action scenes fit together is that I act them out when I write them. I move around the room and brandish pretend weapons at pretend adversaries. Then I do it again from the other side. For driving sequences I call upon my vivid memories of driving like Bo and Luke Duke with my high school friends. I pretend to act these out too, which is why my characters get thrown around inside a wildly swerving car because that really used to happen to me. This play-acting may help me capture the details of what’s happening to the characters. Plus it’s totally fun.

What kind of research did you do for the book?
I did a ton of research for this book. I came to writing with a decent foundation in history, but everything else — science, espionage, all the locations, in-depth details about historical events — saw me starting at square one. Half my time on this book was spent doing research of one kind or another.

I know that some of your favorite authors include Robert Ludlum, Neal Stephenson, and Hunter S. Thompson. Which one of their books (or another’s) would you like to read again for the first time?
Cool question! The two books I mentioned for sure, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and Snow Crash. I’d love to re-live that sensation of being blown away by something I’d never seen before. Like when I first listened to Nirvana’s Nevermind, or the first time I saw Star Wars.

If you could read one book again for the very first time, which one would it be?
-Snow Crash

If someone were just dipping their toes in the sci-fi / thriller genre, where would you personally recommend that they start?
The Matrix, Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson, and Virtual Light by William Gibson, in that order. Then Blade Runner, Frederick Pohl’s Gateway and Beyond the Blue Event Horizon, and then Neuromancer by Gibson.

What’s one of your favorite lines from a book or movie?
I absolutely love quoting movies and books, so I can’t stop at just one:
One of all-time faves is, “As your attorney, I advise you to drive at top speed,” from Fear and Loathing. My friends I still say this to each other, especially when we’re running late for something.
I once got to say “Badges? We don’t need no stinking badges,” in a context where it really made sense! It was one of my movie-geek highpoints.

When my wife or I aren’t very impressed with something we do our Colin Firth-Mr. Darcy impression and say, “It’s tolerable, I suppose. But not handsome enough to tempt me.”

So, so many more, but I’ll stop here.

Favorite movies?
Casablanca, La Femme Nikita, The Professional, Blade Runner, Moonstruck, Godfather, Apocalypse Now, My Favorite Year, Racing w The Moon, Matrix, Bourne Identity, Daniel Craig’s Bond movies, Blazing Saddles, Aeon Flux, Stalingrad, Cabaret, Singin’ In The Rain, and many more. I love movies :-)

If you could pick anyone alive or dead to have coffee or drinks with, and pick their brains, who would it be?
It’d be Jesus. So much stuff has sprung up around his life and teachings that I’d love to get the straight dope from him and find out what really happened. I must admit part of me hopes he’d say that Christopher Moore’s book Lamb is completely true.

When you manage to find some free time, how do you like to spend it?
During the day I like to go out to breakfast with my wife, get together with friends, or take our dog for a walk in the woods. At night we go see one of friends’ many bands, or I catch up on my reading while my wife noodles around on the Xbox (or vice versa).

Is there anything else you’d like to share with us about upcoming projects or events (or anything at all!)?
The second book, Hammer of Angels, will be out in Spring of 2013, and I’ll be at NYC Comic-Con on October 13th and 14th (the Saturday and Sunday). The author-wranglers at Random House will set up my schedule for me, so I have no idea what I’ll be doing besides trying to get my picture with Mad Moxxie and Predator.
Keep up with GT: Facebook | Goodreads
Purchase Blades of Winter: Amazon | B&N | Indiebound

About Blades of Winter:
Nineteen-year-old Alix Nico, a self-described “million-dollar murder machine,” is a rising star in ExOps, a covert-action agency that aggressively shields the United States from its three great enemies: the Soviet Union, Greater Germany, and the Nationalist Republic of China. Rather than risk another all-out war, the four superpowers have poured their resources into creating superspies known as Levels.

Alix is one of the hottest young American Levels. That’s no surprise: Her dad was America’s top Level before he was captured and killed eight years ago. But when an impulsive decision explodes—literally—in her face, Alix uncovers a conspiracy that pushes her to her limits and could upset the global balance of power forever.

About the author:
G. T. Almasi graduated from RISD and moved to Boston to pursue a career as a graphic designer. While he built his design portfolio, he joined a band as the bass player, and wrote and designed the band’s newsletter. Once his career as an art director took off, he continued to supplement his design talents by writing copy for his clients.

As a novelist, his literary influences include Robert Ludlum, Neal Stephenson, and Hunter S. Thompson. He also draws inspiration from John Woo’s movies and Todd Howard’s videogames. Almasi lives in Plymouth, Massachusetts, with his wife, Natalie, and their lovably stubborn dog, Ella.

Early Review: Breed by Chase Novak

Breed by Chase Novak
Mulholland/Sept. 4th, 2012
Kind thanks to Mulholland for providing a review copy

Alex and Leslie Twisden lead charmed lives-fabulous jobs, a luxurious town house on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, a passionate marriage. What they don’t have is a child, and as they try one infertility treatment after the next, yearning turns into obsession. As a last-ditch attempt to make their dream of parenthood come true, Alex and Leslie travel deep into Slovenia, where they submit to a painful and terrifying procedure that finally gives them what they so fervently desire . . . but with awful consequences.

Ten years later, cosseted and adored but living in a house of secrets, the twins Adam and Alice find themselves locked into their rooms every night, with sounds coming from their parents’ bedroom getting progressively louder, more violent, and more disturbing.

Driven to a desperate search for answers, Adam and Alice set out on a quest to learn the true nature of the man and woman who raised them. Their discovery will upend everything they thought they knew about their parents and will reveal a threat so horrible that it must be escaped, at any cost.

When Leslie meets Alex Twisden, it’s pretty much love at first site. 17 years her senior, Alex is everything Leslie wants in a man: successful lawyer, wants a family, and absolutely adores Leslie. Leslie is quite capable on her own, working for an up and coming children’s publisher, and quite frankly, she’d have married Alex if he was cab driver (or other such blue collar profession.) But he’s not, and they’re deliriously happy, comfortable in the luxury of Alex’s family brownstone, with portraits of his ancestors looking down on the hopeful lovebirds. Only one thing is missing from Alex and Leslie’s bliss: a baby. After countless fertility treatments, medical tests, and ultimately, numerous forms of quackery, “guaranteed” to increase fertility and give them the child they so desperately want, they turn to Dr. Kis, a supposed miracle worker in Slovenia. He is recommended by a neighbor and lawyer that, in exchange for information about the doctor that resulted in his wife’s pregnancy, demands to be given a job at Alex’s firm. Alex acquiesces, and learns about Dr. Kis, who supposedly performs miracles of fertility on his patients. When Alex pitches the idea to Leslie, she’s less than thrilled, having tired of the endless stress and strain put on their marriage by their efforts to conceive. She realizes how important this is to Alex, though, and agrees to go, after extracting a promise that this will be the last effort. So, the couple makes the journey to Slovenia, to the office of the strange, abrupt Dr. Kis, where a slavering pit bull stands guard, and where, little do they know, they’re about to undergo a very painful procedure. Said procedure surely achieves what Dr. Kris promised, but at what price? Turns out, it’s a big one. Huge. Soon the couple begins undergoing some terrifying changes, and by the time the twins are born (early), their lives have already become very different.

Cut to 10 years later: The Twisden house is in decline, falling to ruins, and twins Adam and Alice are kept to a very strict schedule. Dreaded are the nightly dinners where they watch their parents consume meat so rare that it’s blue and swimming in a puddle of blood (what Alex and Leslie call “gravy”). They are locked in their room on a nightly basis, and the noises that come from their parent’s room (of which Adam hears through a purloined baby monitor) are terrifying. The twins are loved, however, and Alex and Leslie haven’t harmed a hair on their heads…yet.

Adam is convinced that his parents are going to kill them, and is determined to take his sister and escape. He runs to a trusted teacher first, but his parents prove to be talented trackers, and he doesn’t remain hidden for long. Meanwhile, Alice has met a group of feral kids in Central Park that will reveal much more about their condition and what their parents may be becoming.

At first blush, Breed is pure horror, but it’s the author’s wry observations on elitist society and also Alex and Leslie’s slow loss of humanity that elevates this to something much more. Alex and Leslie adore their children, but cannot fight the changes taking place within them, and their struggle against those changes (in particular Leslie), is heartbreaking, and horrifying. The author turns the creep factor up to about 11, and it’s the first time in a while that after putting the book down, I may have been a little afraid of the dark for a few nights. By turns very scary, and heart wrenching, Breed will take you for a ride you’ll never forget, all the way to its shocking conclusion.

Pre-Order Breed: Amazon |B&N | Indiebound

Early Review: This Case is Gonna Kill Me by Phillipa Bornikova

This Case is Gonna Kill Me by Phillipa Bornikova
Tor/Sept. 4th, 2012
Urban Fantasy
Kind thanks to Tor and NetGalley for providing a review copy

Linnet Ellery is the offspring of an affluent Connecticut family dating back to Colonial times. Fresh out of law school, she’s beginning her career in a powerful New York “white fang” law firm. She has high hopes of eventually making partner.

But strange things keep happening to her. In a workplace where some humans will eventually achieve immense power and centuries of extra lifespan, office politics can be vicious beyond belief. After some initial missteps, she finds herself sidelined and assigned to unpromising cases. Then, for no reason she can see, she becomes the target of repeated, apparently random violent attacks, escaping injury each time through increasingly improbable circumstances. However, there’s apparently more to Linnet Ellery than a little old-money human privilege. More than even she knows. And as she comes to understand this, she’s going to shake up the system like you wouldn’t believe….

When Linnet Ellery begins working at the White-Fang (yep, vampires) law firm of Ishmael, McGillary, and Gold, she realizes rather quickly that her professional life may be a bit boring for a while. Taken under the wing of lawyer Chip Westin, she’s recruited to help out on a case that’s been in litigation for many years. Stagnation seems inevitable, until a werewolf invades the law firm one evening, brutally murdering Chip, and nearly killing Linnet. Who would have wanted to kill the gentle,kindly Chip? And why?

I really enjoyed this fun, unusual urban fantasy! The alternate world the author created is just to the left of ours, and vampires, werewolves, and the fae (the Alfar) have revealed themselves and are collectively thought of as the Powers. It’s a boy’s club, however, at least when it comes to vamps and werewolves. You see, they’re not allowed to turn women, under any circumstance, under the penalty of death. Linnet was, in fact, fostered by a vampire liege from the age of eight, with whom she’s still very close to, so she’s sensitive to the discrimination that they sometimes face. Working at a White-Fang law firm doesn’t intimidate her, but knowing that she, and the rest of the women in the office, will never make partner, can be bothersome. As she follows the clues to find out who killed Chip, with the help of handsome PI (and Alfar) John O’Shea, she finds herself in danger more than a few times over, but she’s determined to get to the bottom of it. A shadowy firm called Securitech and its head werewolf, Deegan, seem to have something to do with his death, but she’s not quite sure what. She does know that Deegan is perfectly capable of tearing her limb from limb.

This book is described as Anita Blake meets The Firm, but I’d describe it more like Stephanie Plum meets The Firm. Linnet has the charm of Plum, but is plenty capable in her job, and I loved how the author actually gives her a life in between the werewolf attacks and law office politics (of which there are plenty). Linnet is an accomplished horsewoman, and I loved the passages that involved the ins and outs of competitive riding. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the action, but woven in with traditional urban fantasy themes are explorations of gender equality, and a rather sweet romance. It also wouldn’t surprise me to learn that the author is very fond of New York City, since it’s almost a character unto itself. I highly enjoyed This Case is Gonna Kill Me and I’ll be crossing my fingers for more adventures with Linnet!

Pre-Order This Case is Gonna Kill Me: Amazon |B&N | Indiebound

The Twenty-Year Death by Ariel S. Winter (Part 1)

The Twenty-Year Death by Ariel S. Winter: Malniveau Prison (Book 1)
Hard Case Crime/August 7th, 2012
Kind thanks to Hard Case Crime for providing a review copy

The body found in the gutter in France led the police inspector to the dead man’s beautiful daughter—and to her hot-tempered American husband.

A hardboiled private eye hired to keep a movie studio’s leading lady happy uncovers the truth behind the brutal slaying of a Hollywood starlet.

A desperate man pursuing his last chance at redemption finds himself with blood on his hands and the police on his trail…

Three complete novels that, taken together, tell a single epic story, about an author whose life is shattered when violence and tragedy consume the people closest to him. It is an ingenious and emotionally powerful debut performance from literary detective and former bookseller Ariel S. Winter, one that establishes this talented newcomer as a storyteller of the highest caliber.

1931: When a dead man washes up in a gutter of the provincial town of Verargent, the local police think it’s just a drunk, drowned in the downpour. The dead man has actually been stabbed to death, and it’s discovered he’s recently escaped from prison. Chief Inspecter Pelleter and Verargent chief of police Letreau team up to find a killer, which leads to something much bigger than one dead convict. The body count soon starts to rise, children go missing, and seemingly at the center of it all, is a child killer, imprisoned at Malvineau. When the dead man’s daughter (and wife of American novelist Shem Rosencrantz) goes missing, Pelleter knows that time may be running out, and is determined to find the truth.

The Twenty-Year Death is made up of three complete novels, spanning three decades, in the style of three great mystery writers. Connecting these three novels is the “great American novelist” Shem Rosencrantz. I thought it might be fun to do the review in three parts, so of course this review focuses on the first novel, Malniveau Prison, written in the style of the legendary Georges Simenon (Commissaire Maigret series 1931-1972). Centering on Pelleter, the story follows his investigation into the questionable deaths of several prisoners at Malniveau. Dogged to the end, Pelleter follows the clues by the book, seeing things through even as he misses his wife, and quite a bit of sleep, respectively. I enjoyed this seemingly straightforward procedural. I say seemingly because while it rarely veers from the investigation, when it does, the insights into its characters are illuminating and striking, perhaps because of the straightforward nature of the writing. This was a strong start to what promises to be a fascinating crime novel. More to come!

Purchase The Twenty-Year Death: Amazon |B&N | Indiebound

Interview: Paul Tremblay, author of Swallowing a Donkey’s Eye

I’m thrilled to have Paul Tremblay on the blog today! Paul is a two time Bram Stoker Award nominee, and his brand new book, Swallowing a Donkey’s Eye, just hit the shelves. He was kind enough to answer a few of my questions, so please give him a warm welcome! Also, be sure to check out the book trailer below the post!

Paul, you have an amazing list of publishing and editing accomplishments behind you, including two Bram Stoker Award noms AND you have a master’s degree in Mathematics! Whew! Did you always want to be a writer? Will you tell us a bit about your journey?
Thank you! And no, I didn’t always want to be a writer. While I had an inkling I might like teaching, I spent most of my youth not knowing what I wanted to do or be. I was good at math, so I just kept taking math classes in college and then in graduate school.

But Second semester of my senior year in college I took Lit 101 to fulfill part of my humanities double major alongside the math. I ended up loving the class. I remember writing a paper about the threat of violence in “Where Are You Going? Where Have You Been?,“ by Joyce Carol Oates and TC Boyle’s “Greasy Lake,” that I was inordinately proud of, especially considering I was a know-nothing math major. In grad school I read all the Oates, Stephen King, Peter Straub, and Clive Barker I could get my hands on. So while spending two years earning my masters in mathematics, I also fell in love with reading.

I didn’t think about trying to write my own stories until after I got my first high school math-teaching gig. My first story attempt was terrible (and is safely hidden in the trunk): Death confronting a serial killer who had messed up the grand plan. But I enjoyed the process and kept at it off and on for a few years until I made my first story sale in 2000. With the small sale I was hooked and threw myself into writing whole-hog. Or whole-donkey.

Your brand new novel, Swallowing a Donkey’s Eye, just came out. Can you give us your elevator pitch for it?
Oh, man, I hope it’s a long elevator ride.
*Tremblay slaps the emergency stop button so we’re all stuck between floors on the elevator. It’s good place to be for our collective frame of mind going forward*

Okay, okay, picture this (Tremblay makes a movie screen with his hands): Animal Farm meets Giliam’s Brazil meets Chuck Palahniuk!
What? Not enough pizzazz?
How about Meet the Feebles meets Citizen Kane! (nah, too obscure, and while there’s a kernel of truth to that pitch, it’s not one-hundred percent accurate. I love that pairing though. I’d be willing to bet no one has elevator-pitched with those two films)

Or: (Tremblay now speaking very fast) SaDE’s narrator is a nameless drone stuck at the mega-conglomerate Farm for the next six years of his life when he finds out that his mother, whom he left back in technocratic and corrupt City, might be homeless and soon to be deported below City to eke out her remaining existence in the Pier. (Pause for breath) The narrator decides to do something about it and hilarious, poignant, and emotionally devastating dystopian political satire ensues with people in chicken and duck suits, a mayor who write letters about outlaw campaigns and magic refrigerators, and a priest with ESP who swears like the proverbial sailor (although there are no sailors in this book).

What did you enjoy the most about writing Swallowing a Donkey’s Eye?
Generally, I enjoy the challenge of creating characters first and foremost. But with this book, more than any other I’ve written, I think I had the most fun with world building and the setting of the various insane scenarios.

That said, it wasn’t an easy book for me to write. It started as me taking the snippet of a Neutral Milk Hotel song title and trying to come up with a short story. This was sometime in 2005, I think. The short story became the opening of a novel. I worked on the book off-and-on for a little over a year and completed an early draft that I tinkered with and re-wrote, again, off-and-on, for a few more years.

On one hand, it was nice to have so much time to work on the novel. It’s a luxury that most writers don’t have as most 21st Century novelists are expected by the publishing world to pump out a new book every year or so. On the other hand, I worked on this so much it got to a point by the end of the process where I think I lost almost all objectivity concerning the book’s merits or demerits. Heh.
But don’t worry! I promise the book is aces. Plus donkeys.

What are some of your biggest literary influences?
I hope it’s not too obnoxious to say that I have ginormous (little known fact: that’s a secret number we mathematicians keep to ourselves) amount of influences. I try to steal from everyone. As a frustrated musician myself, music has been a very important in my development as a writer. Most of my books have titles that refer to songs, and more than a handful of my short stories have been directly influenced by music.

As far as other writers go, I already mentioned Joyce Carol Oates, and without her work, I’m not sure I would’ve tried my hand at writing. Other favorites (ie. writers who I will/do re-read and who never fail to make me want to steal from them want to write better) include in no particular order early-Stephen King, Kurt Vonnegut, Clive Barker, Aimee Bender, George Orwell, Shirley Jackson, Mark Danielewski, Will Christopher Baer, Stewart O’Nan, Peter Straub, Poppy Z. Brite, Jennifer Egan, Jonathan Lethem, Raymond Chandler, Chuck Palahniuk and Joe Lansdale.

I could go on if you’d like. There are so many writers doing interesting, daring, important, work right now, which is somewhat ironic given how messed up publishing is.

In your own reading, do you prefer books that have a “message”, something fantastical that you can get lost in, or both?
I think as long as a book plays fair by the set of rules it sets itself, I can enjoy the novel, and the novel almost by default will have a message or something to say whether it be personal or social.

However, I tend to be a style monkey, and love me an innovative or interesting style/narrative. Novels that do not show empathy (not sympathy, empathy; there’s a huge difference) toward all of its characters I tend to toss into the will-not-finish pile. It’s a big pile.

What makes you want to toss a book aside in frustration?
I sort of gave a preview in the previous answer, but to build on sympathy vs. empathy. I really don’t care if I sympathize with the characters. (another parenthetical aside: I want to eat the spleen of readers who complain of a book, “I didn’t think the main character was sympathetic.” Grrr. What they really mean to say is that the character wasn’t enough like them so they couldn’t feign interest in someone else for 300 pages…anyway, I angrily digress) I don’t care if they’re like me. In fact, I’d prefer if they weren’t like me. I just want to understand why they say they say, why they make the decisions they do. The characters who do unseemly things but for whom we feel empathy are always the most realistic and interesting.

All of which is to say, yeah, lame-ass characters make me throw books at walls.

If you could read one book again for the first time, which one would it be?
Let’s call it a three-way tie. Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughter House Five, Mark Danielewski’s House of Leaves, and Shirley Jackson’s We Have Always Lived in the Castle. I’d be a happy donkey reading and re-reading those three books in a constant rotation.

When you manage to carve out some free time, how do you like to spend it?
Beet farming.

No, seriously, I hate beets. Icky. Not as icky or hate-worthy as pickles. Though pickled beets are probably the second most hate-worthy food imaginable.

Besides reading, teaching, hanging with the family, I enjoy sports. Something simple like playing catch with a baseball is something I’d love to do everyday. My son is at the age now, though, where I have to beg him to play catch with me now. Sniff, sniff…

Is there anything else you’d like to share with us about upcoming projects or events?
As far as upcoming projects go, I’m excited that a YA novel co-written with Stephen Graham Jones was recently accepted by CZP. Also, I have a short story in the upcoming FUNGI anthology (edited by Silvia Moreno-Garcia and Orrin Grey).

As far as events go, I’ll be doing donkey readings/signings in September:
-12th, Providence, RI, the Brown Bookstore, 5:30 pm
-19th, New York City, NY, KGB Fantastic fiction series, 7:00pm (will be reading alongside Alma Katsu)
-29th, Worcester, MA, Annie’s Book Stop, 2-5pm
*Thanks for the interview, and I hope everyone reads the donkey and reviews online even if they don’t find the main character sympathetic!

Keep up with Paul: Website | Twitter | Blog
Purchase Swallowing a Donkey’s Eye: Amazon | B&N | Indiebound

About Swallowing a Donkey’s Eye:
Join Farm today! It’s only six years of your life! Farm is the mega-conglomerate food supplier for City, populated with rabidly bureaucratic superiors, antagonistic and sexually deviant tour guides dressed in chicken and duck suits, and farm animals illegally engineered for silence. City is sprawling, technocratic, and rests hundreds of feet above the coastline on the creaking shoulders of a giant wooden pier. When the narrator’s single mother, whom he left behind in City, falls out of contact, he fears the worst: his mother is homeless and subsequently to be deported under City to the Pier. On his desperate search to find his mother, he encounters ecoterrorists wearing plush animal suits, an election that hangs in the balance as the City’s all-powerful Mayor is infatuated with magic refrigerators and outlaw campaigns, and a wise-cracking, over-sexed priest who may or may not have ESP, but who is most certainly his deadbeat dad. Whether rebelling against the regimented and ridiculous nature of Farm life, exploring the all-too-familiar and consumer-obsessed world of City, experiencing the all-too-real suffering of the homeless in Pier, or confronting the secrets of his own childhood, Swallowing a Donkey’s Eye’s narrator is a hilarious, neurotic, and rage-filled Quixote searching for his mother, his own dignity, and the meaning of humanity.

About the author:
Paul Tremblay is the author of the novels The Little Sleep, No Sleep Till Wonderland, and Swallowing a Donkey’s Eye along with the short story collection In the Mean Time. His essays and short fiction have appeared in The Los Angeles Times, Five, and Year’s Best American Fantasy 3. He’s co-edited four anthologies, the most recent being Creatures: Thirty Years of Monster Stories (with John Langan). He is also the president of the board of directors for the Shirley Jackson Awards ( Paul is tall, likes walks on the beach (though isn’t a big fan of sand), and reportedly has no uvula.

Early Review: Mockingbird (Miriam Black #2) by Chuck Wendig

Mockingbird (Miriam Black #2) by Chuck Wendig
Angry Robot Books/August 28th, 2012
Urban Fantasy
Kind thanks to Angry Robot for providing a review copy

Miriam is trying. Really, she is.

But this whole “settling down thing” that Louis has going for her just isn’t working out. She lives on Long Beach Island all year around.

Her home is a run-down double-wide trailer. She works at a grocery store as a check-out girl. And her relationship with Louis–who’s on the road half the time in his truck–is subject to the piss and vinegar Miriam brings to everything she does.

It just isn’t going well. Still, she’s keeping her psychic ability–to see when and how someone is going to die just by touching them–in check. But even that feels wrong somehow. Like she’s keeping a tornado stoppered up in a tiny bottle.

Then comes one bad day that turns it all on her ear.

REVIEW (No spoilers, but assumes you’ve read Blackbirds)
Working the checkout line at the grocery store is no place for Miriam Black. Little acts of rebellion like staring into the laser light of the scanner just aren’t doin’ it for her. Of course she finally runs her mouth and gets herself fired, but gets an itch that she just needs to scratch. That would be touching the woman that fired her and finding out how she dies. The only problem is, when she does that, she finds out death isn’t far off at all, quite possibly for all of them. This incident prompts Miriam into packing up and attempting to leave the trailer that she shares with Louis. Feeling smothered and panicky, she sets off on foot, but Louis tracks her down. He always does. Louis talks Miriam into using her “talent” to help an English teacher at a school for troubled girls, which leads to visions of a serial killer. Let the descent into crazy begin…

If you’ve read Blackbirds, you’re already somewhat familiar with Miriam’s personality. She’s rude, mouthy, insensitive, blunt, extremely foul mouthed, and really, really hard to like. Ok, now set that stuff aside for just a minute. Bear with me. Yes, Miriam isn’t the most charming girl, and if anything, she’s even more abrasive in Mockingbird. Seriously, the girl would begin trying my patience in about 2 minutes. However, all of that crappy stuff is mostly a defense mechanism. Mostly. Her ability allows her to see horrible stuff, and the events at the girl’s school are just about as bad as it gets. Our Miriam, foulmouthed, childish, and surly, will put herself in the path of a Mack truck if it means saving an innocent life. She reminds me a bit of a zombie, without the whole rot and braaaaaiiiiiins thing. She will keep coming, until the job is done, and she’s dead. And poor Louis feels like he must protect her. Needless to say, I don’t envy Louis the job he’s assigned to himself. A killer is indeed cutting a swath through these girls, one that dons a plague mask and uses barbed wire for restraints. The situation is much, much worse than Miriam initially thinks, though, as hard as it is to believe, and she’ll need every bit of grit she has to get through this one. Dark forces are rallying against Miriam, because she’s been messing with fate, and fate is a fickle, vengeful mistress. Chuck Wendig’s mind is a terrifying, twisted, fascinating thing, and thank goodness he puts this stuff down on paper for the rest of us. Darker than dark, Mockingbird will take you on a journey you won’t soon forget, so fortify your stomach and settle in, because you’re going to want to read this one in one sitting. Can’t wait for the next one!

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