My Bookish Ways

Guest Post (& Giveaway): Wil Mara, author of The Gemini Virus

I admit it, bioterrorism gives me the superwillies, so why do I like reading books about it so much? Probably because the science behind such things is pretty fascinating, as scary as it is. Wil Mara’s new thriller, The Gemini Virus, just came out and he was kind enough to take the time to tell us a bit about his research for the book. We’ve also got a giveaway, so be sure to check the details at the bottom of the post.

Hello everyone, and thank you for having me on your site. I’d like to tell you a little bit about my new disaster thriller, The Gemini Virus, which released from Macmillan Publishing in early October.

The Gemini Virus is, as its title implies, a novel about a deadly pathogen. The virus in question shows up in the industrial Northeast one day and begins rapidly burning through the rest of population, first in the United States and then the rest of the world. The WHO, CDC, and numerous other healthcare agencies work around the clock to stop it, but this one’s the granddaddy of all viruses. Those who contract it die in about four days. The symptoms are horrific and the suffering is unimaginable, and it quickly earns the name ‘The Black Plague of the 21st Century.’

The story is told from a variety of perspectives. One is that of an epidemiologist from CDC who’s been charged with the unenviable task of backtracking the virus to see if he can figure out where it started and, hopefully, how to bring it down. This character, Dr. Michael Beck, is a brilliant and goodhearted man, but he’s also plagued by personal demons. And he has an assistant, Cara Porter, who shows tremendous promise and dedication but also grapples with personal issues. They make a great team, but they’re battling so many forces on so many fronts that their destiny is far from certain.

Another character group is an ordinary family of four, the Jensens—dad, mom, young daughter, even younger son, and their faithful dog. They live on a quiet suburban grid where little happens beyond the odd bicycle theft or schoolyard brawl. When they’re confronted with the pathogen—not on the news halfway around the world but right in their own town, with the potential for it to land on their street and even their front step—they find themselves torn between helping out their beloved community or escaping to isolated safety. And once they make their choice, they have to live with the consequences—which extend far beyond simple struggles of the conscience.

The story rolls out on other fronts as well. From a geopolitical angle, there’s the leader of a dying and desperate terrorist organization, who sees the outbreak as an opportunity rather than a tragedy. And there’s President Obama himself, trying to maintain global harmony while determining whether or not one of America’s most aggressive enemies precipitated the crisis in a bid to launch World War III. And then there’s the virus itself, eternally spreading beyond its point of origin, killing thousands upon thousands while infrastructures crumble, economies collapse, and life as we knew it slips away.

One other facet of the story worth mentioning is the fact that all of the science in the story is 100% credible. With all the books in my disaster series, I am committed to this critical point. For example, the first book in group, Wave, was about a tsunami striking a small barrier island on the East Coast. I didn’t want to write the book unless I could find a way to make the science absolutely credible. That meant I had to deal with this key question—could a tsunami really occur in the Atlantic Ocean? After hours of discussion with a veteran oceanographer from NOAA, we determined that yes, it could. Once that hurdle was behind me, I knew I had a good story.

In the case of Gemini, I had help from several highly qualified figures in the field of virology. All are authors in their own right, and all worked with me to assure not only that each victim’s grisly symptoms were realistic—i.e., based on actual case histories—but also that a brutal pathogen like the one portrayed could, in fact, one day visit our world. That, perhaps, was the most disturbing part of my research—learning that such a virus was not merely possible, but long overdue. And any ‘terroristic’ aspects of the story, I discovered, were equally plausible and were researched with the aid of the same talented people mentioned above, all of whom have had to deal with the unfortunately all-too-contemporaneous issue of bioterrorism in the course of their profession.

If you want more information about The Gemini Virus, visit my web site— And thank you again for having me as a guest on your site. I hope you enjoy the book.

1. You MUST fill out the form below
2. Giveaway is for 1 copy of The Gemini Virus 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 11/18/12
6. Giveaway books courtesy of Tor/Forge
7. Please see my Giveaway Policy.

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Guest Post (& Giveaway): Chris Marie Green (aka Christine Cody)

Please welcome Chris Marie Green back to the blog! Chris is the author of the Vampire Babylon series and the Bloodlands Series under Christine Cody, and she just came out with a brand new novel with Nancy Holder and Linda Thomas-Sundstrom called Undead For a Day. Chris was kind enough to stop by and talk about her awesome new venture GothicScapes and she’s also giving away the first 3 books (signed) in her Vampire Babylon series (Night Rising, Midnight Reign, and Break of Dawn) to one lucky winner, so be sure to check out the details at the end of the post!

GothicScapes is a new “primarily digital venture” from three urban fantasy authors, Chris Marie Green (AKA Christine Cody), Nancy Holder, and Linda Thomas-Sundstrom. “Urban Fantasy (x) 3” is their official motto, and what it means is that they are three authors who’ve banded together under one brand to bring you fun, emotionally touching, action-filled, paranormal thrills three times a year, three novellas per collection!

First off, thank you for having me here! This is one of the most informative sites out there, and it’s always a pleasure to be a part of it.

It’s crazy how the business of writing has changed in just a few short years. But how exciting is it that people who were once told that their books didn’t “fit” or authors who were dropped by their print publishers are now experiencing a rebirth?

Self-publishing is opening up a lot of doors. I love being able to access books on my e-reader that haven’t been “discovered” by anyone else yet. And I love that, as an author, I can write something purely for fun.

That’s what we decided to do with GothicScapes. Have fun. Also, Nancy, Linda, and I absolutely adore a shorter story format–in this case, novellas–and we wanted to dive back into new and familiar worlds full of adventure, creepiness, and elements of romance. Hence, UNDEAD FOR A DAY!

This book is our first collective step into self-publishing, and the three novellas are connected by the thought of… Well, being undead for a day. There are revenants, witches, and gargoyles populating these pages, and when our follow-up collection, STRANGE SPIRITS, comes out in December, we’ll be focusing on–you guessed it–more ethereal creatures!

I won’t sugarcoat this–a lot of work has been involved with setting up GothicScapes. I knew that would be the case, but, as an author who has been published with Ace Books and Harlequin, I have a new appreciation for the production side of things.

First, since we decided to use a name to brand our “product,” we thought trademarking GothicScapes would be wise. If you don’t already know this, trademarking can be a drag, but we used a literary attorney to expedite the process and to make sure all our “t”s were crossed and “i”s were dotted.

We also had to visit Mr. Accountant to structure the money end of things. (By the way, this was not the Fun! part I already mentioned.)

The writing is definitely my favorite GothicScapes activity, but when you self-publish, it doesn’t stop when you type “THE END.” Nope–manuscripts still need editing. And then there’s formatting. Lovely, lovely formatting. It doesn’t end there, either: after those pages are wrangled into shape, we send them off to another formatter who structures the book so it can be uploaded into places like Amazon and Barnes & Noble, etc.

We also work with a fantastic cover designer at Croco Designs, and we write promo blurbs for sales sites and the book itself. Here’s what we came up with for UNDEAD FOR A DAY….

Samhain. All Hallow’s Eve. A night when zombie-like revenants can be raised by a magic-using, ancient family to exact revenge on the hunter who wrecked their underground kingdom… A time when a redheaded blackbelt pits herself against warmongering witch clans… A holiday that allows the Underworld to open and the creatures to pour out, their freedom governed by a gentleman’s agreement between the forces of Light and Dark.

Welcome to UNDEAD FOR A DAY, a collection of three novellas from a trio of reader favorite urban fantasy writers: Chris Marie Green, AKA Christine Cody (Vampire Babylon and Bloodlands series), New York Times Bestseller Nancy Holder (Wicked and Teen Wolf series), and Linda Thomas-Sundstrom (Vampire Moons and Wolf Moons series).

“Raising the Darkness” by Chris Marie Green (A Dawn Madison Vampire Babylon novella) reunites you with former hunter Dawn Madison, who hasn’t been the same since she retired from the life. She’s tired and drained from injuries sustained during the team’s last stand against the dragon, but when the clock strikes twelve on Samhain, everything changes. It seems that someone has sent raised-from-the-dark creatures after her, and they’re out for blood—as well as Dawn’s life.

In “Into the Fire” by Nancy Holder (A Story of the Favored,) Bridget Flynn leaps into a bonfire and goes from Samhain year wife at the first stroke of midnight to widow on the last. Caught in the middle of a feud between rival magical Houses, Bridget raises a battle force of her own. But can she survive in the midst of hot-tempered witches intent on destroying each other?

“Trapped in Stone” by Linda Thomas-Sundstrom takes us to Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, where the forces of Good and Evil are playing a game of Chicken with one man’s soul, and the woman he loves is a major player in a challenge that has continued for a century.

Snag a copy of Undead For a Day: Amazon | B&N

We hope that you’ll give us a try and that you come back for more. I’m giving away my first three Vampire Babylon novels (signed) to the winner, so go ahead and enter! Most importantly, enjoy.

To enter: You must be a US resident and leave a comment on the post! That’s it! Make sure you leave your email in the email section of the comment form so I can notify you if you win! Ends 11/15/12

Happy Hunting, you all!


Book News: November 9th, 2012

Here’s my roundup of book news (and other fun stuff) around the web for the week! Sometimes I add stuff throughout the day on Friday, so be sure you check back over the weekend too!

Interviews and more:


Excerpts and such:

Fun stuff (some book-related, some not):

Also, the October Scare-a-Thon is over, but if you missed anything, here’s a list of the awesome!

Skarlet (Vampire Trinity Book 1) by Thomas Emson

Skarlet by Thomas Emson
St. Martins Press/Oct. 2nd, 2012
Kind thanks to St. Martins Press for providing a review copy

Fear grips London as dozens of people die after taking a sinister new drug called Skarlet. But that’s only the beginning. Forty-eight hours later, the dead partiers wake up and begin butchering the living for their blood. Soon, London gives a name to its terror: Vampires.

Jake Lawton, bitter and betrayed after the Iraq War, finds himself fighting another battle – against the growing army of immortal hunters and their human cohorts. Lawton joins forces with the journalist who brought about his downfall and the dealer tricked into distributing the drug. Together they take on the spineless authorities, the ruthless cohorts, and the hungry dead. But the vampire plague unleashed in London is nothing to what lurks beneath the streets. Waiting to be fed …Waiting to be resurrected …Waiting to reign again over a city of human slaves.

Jake Lawton, back home in England in ’08, 2 years after fighting in the Iraq War, is passing the time (and collecting a regular paycheck) as a doorman at a nightclub called Religion. On a night when the “vampires” come out in force, goths and sanguinarians (blood drinkers) alike, he’s frustrated that the club manager has let a known drug dealer back into the club after being banned for life. There’s really nothing Jake can do, but he’s determined to keep a close eye on the guy, just in case. Later that night, when club goers begin coughing up blood and dying on the dance floor, Jake is horrified. Soon, people are being attacked in the streets, their throats ripped out or turned into ravening killers themselves. Could this be a dangerous new drug, or something even more diabolical.

Skarlet is the first book in a new vampire series, and if you’re looking for vamps that don’t sparkle (or smell particularly good), Skarlet is the book for you. Vampire fiction has grown stale for me in recent years, but Skarlet takes the spitfire format of Jonathan Maberry’s Joe Ledger series (short, pulse pounding chapters), a historical thread going all the way back to ancient Babylon, and of course, blood drinking baddies, and packages it into a compelling, fast moving horror/thriller.

Jake Lawton is my kind of hero (surly, rough around the edges, good at the core), and I loved the London setting. I found myself picturing 28 Days Later frequently, except with vampires instead of zombies. The vampires are bad enough, but they’re really just pawns for a creepy brother/sister duo bent on resurrecting an unholy vampiric trinity of terror. Seriously, cruel, weird, and creepy really don’t begin to describe these two. However, the author gave them a history too, and it’s a tragic one, to be sure. Jake Lawton has a bit of a shady past from his tour in Iraq, and the very reporter, Christine Murray, that nearly ruined his life ends up teaming up with him to stop the vampire menace. Christine begins the story as your typical, annoying reporter, but as you learn more about her, and the shambles her family is in because of her career, she becomes more of a sympathetic character. Dr. Melissa Rae (Sassie) whose specialty is classical archaeology, provides a potential love interest for Jake, but I honestly found her a bit distracting, and not in a good way. Her knee-jerk judgment of Jake’s time in Iraq grated on me right off the bat, so she and I got off on the wrong foot at the get go. She’s a small quibble though, and horror/thriller fans should enjoy this creepy, roller coaster ride through a terrifying London vampire apocalypse, and you’ll have a bloody good time.

Purchase Skarlet: Amazon |B&N | Indiebound

Interview: Sharon Lynn Fisher, author of Ghost Planet

I’m very excited to have Sharon Lynn Fisher on the blog today! Sharon is the author of the sci-fi romanceGhost Planet (just out on the 30th), and she was kind enough to answer a few of my questions.

Please welcome Sharon to the blog!

Sharon, your new book, Ghost Planet, just came out! Will you tell us a little bit about it?
Thanks so much for having me!

GHOST PLANET is the story of a woman who travels to an Earth-like planet to work as a psychologist. Her first day there she discovers she died in a transport accident, has been reincarnated as an alien, and is symbiotically bound to the sexy Irishman who was to be her supervisor.

One of my favorite descriptions of the novel came from Publisher’s Weekly: “an absorbing and exciting story full of science, sex, and intriguing plot twists.”

Have you always wanted to be a writer? Will you tell us about your journey?
Yes, since I was a very young child. It’s something I’ve always believed was meant to be. I think that really helped me keep at it despite all the seemingly insurmountable challenges hopeful authors face.

I’ve always written speculative fiction, even as a child. I started writing my first novel when I was thirteen. I never finished it, but I remember it pretty well – story about a kid who used this spinning cube thingy (official technical description) to time travel.

I made my first serious attempts at professional fiction writing when I was in my mid-twenties. I remember when one of my partials made it to a second reader with Ace – I was ecstatic! But that’s as far as it went, and by my late twenties I’d put writing on the backburner.

I didn’t really return to it until around 2007, after my daughter was born. I wrote the first draft of GHOST PLANET in early 2008. Something had changed for me at that point, and I really committed myself to it. Five years later and here we are!

What do you love most about writing sci-fi/romance?
I love exploring relationship dynamics against the backdrop of an alien world, or really any type of speculative setting. It makes for great conflict and plot twists.

What are some of your biggest literary influences?
Richard Adams (WATERSHIP DOWN) and Madeleine L’Engle (A WRINKLE IN TIME). I read those books over and over as an adolescent. WRINKLE was the first sci-fi novel I loved. And WATERSHIP taught me a lot about creating story tension and plot twists.

If you could read one book again for the very first time, which one would it be?
Great question! I think the Lord of the Rings trilogy. I find Tolkien’s writing very comforting.

What are you reading now?
WOOL, by Hugh Howey. It’s an indie that really took off and now has a contract with a major publisher. I don’t have a lot of time to read these days and it’s taking me forever to finish. No reflection on the book. Howey’s a terrific writer.

In your bio, it says that you like baked goods. What’s one of your faves?
CUPCAKES. They make me happy. Especially lavender ones. Or white cake with chocolate frosting. Buttercream is important but I’m sort of neutral on sprinkles.

I read that you live in the Pacific Northwest. What do you love most about it?
It’s a beautiful part of the country—mountains, ocean beaches, gigantic evergreens. A lot of dreary days, but for some reason that’s a draw for writers. Perhaps because we’re all a little crazy.  We also have some terrific, funky little neighborhoods, fabulous farmers markets, and a great indie music scene.

Is there anything else you’d like to share about upcoming projects or events (or anything at all!)?
I’m currently working on my second book for Tor (THE OPHELIA PROPHECY), a post-apocalyptic bio-punk romance. A twisty tale with lots of color and texture, science, politics, adventure, and of course romance!

I’d like to write a short or two — a story set in the earliest days of colonization on Ardagh 1 (the “ghost planet”), and this unrelated zombie romance thing I’ve had simmering.

I also have another RWA Golden Heart finalist manuscript (ECHO 8) that I’d like to polish up and submit in the near future. It’s a sci-fi/paranormal blend about an energy “vampire” from an alternate Earth, the FBI agent intent on destroying him, and the parapsychologist caught in between.
Keep up with Sharon: Website | Twitter | Facebook

About Ghost Planet: Amazon | B&N | Indiebound
Psychologist Elizabeth Cole prepared for the worst when she accepted a job on a newly discovered world—a world where every colonist is tethered to an alien who manifests in the form of a dead loved one. But she never expected she’d struggle with the requirement to shun these “ghosts.” She never expected to be so attracted to the charming Irishman assigned as her supervisor. And she certainly never expected to discover she died in a transport crash en route to the planet.

As a ghost, Elizabeth is symbiotically linked to her supervisor, Murphy—creator of the Ghost Protocol, which forbids him to acknowledge or interact with her. Confused and alone—oppressed by her ghost status and tormented by forbidden love—Elizabeth works to unlock the secrets of her own existence.

But her quest for answers lands her in a tug-of-war between powerful interests, and she soon finds herself a pawn in the struggle for control of the planet…a struggle that could separate her forever from the man that she loves.

Guest Post (& Giveaway): Sandy Williams, author of The Shattered Dark

5 Things I Adore About Goodreads

-Sandy Williams

I’ll admit it. I’m a Goodreads addict. I compulsively check the site, read all my reviews – yes, even the negative ones – and stalk my friends’ updates. I love Goodreads! As a reader, I peruse the reviews to make sure a book is something I might like. As a writer, I feel like I did back in high school and college, when I turned in a paper and received feedback from a teacher or professor. Did I pass the test? What can I improve on? What did I do well? (Um, yeah, I was a total nerd in school!)

But Goodreads has a few features aside from just the reviews that makes it so much better than other review sites. Below are the 5 things I adore most about this site.

1. “Liking” reviews: I get an email notification every time someone likes one of my reviews. I love this! Not only does it tell me that other people sometimes read my reviews, but they enjoyed something about the review. Considering that most of my reviews are blathering lovefests, I’m sure many of the likes I get are because other people just like the book I reviewed but still, I get happy when I get those email notifications. As of today, my most liked review is of Amanda Bonilla’s SHAEDES OF GRAY.

2. Status Updates: I was on Goodreads for years before I noticed the tiny “Status Updates” link at the top right of my home screen. When people read books, they sometimes update their status, noting that they’re on page 162 or 52%. Sometimes, when they make these updates, they even add comments. I love this so much! I check it nearly every day because it’s pretty damn awesome to see when a book moves someone enough (either in good ways or bad) to comment. Occasionally, readers will write things like, “Noooooooo!” and when I look at the page or percentage, I can guess what just happened in the book. A recent example from THE SHATTERED DARK: at a little over 50%, someone wrote “Woah, didn’t see that coming!” I grinned because I knew what the surprise was.

3. Quotes: Readers can add their favorite quotes to Goodreads! This is another one of my favorite features. When you click on a book’s profile, the list of quotes shows up in the right sidebar. Even if a reader doesn’t add one herself, she can click on one someone’s already added and “like” it. In THE SHADOW READER, the *quotes people have liked are the quotes that I loved so much when writing this book. Writing is such an isolated endeavor; I never know if the scenes and words that move me will move others, but the quotes section of Goodreads is proof that they do!

4. Comments on reviews: This feature is similar to the status updates, but the comments are separate from them, and usually occurs after someone finishes and rates a book. Oftentimes, I’ll get a comment from someone saying they also loved the book or that they now want to give the book a try. I love that! Some Goodreads users get into long, thoughtful discussions on what they loved and hated about books, and I think it’s great. I won’t comment negatively about a book, but I think it’s fine for others to do so. Yes, this can get out of hand, but for the most part, people are just talking passionately about books. There’s something awesome about that. My most commented on review? My MOCKINGJAY review.

5. My shelf: I love having one place to go to see all my favorite books! Quickly glancing through my online bookshelf always puts a smile on my face. Every so often, I read the reviews I wrote, reminding myself of what I liked about a book. I write some sort of review for every book I put on Goodreads (I only put up books I’d recommend to others). Most of those reviews are, like I said, blabbering lovefests – nothing like the awesome, more professional reviews on this blog and others! – but they’re great for taking me back to that happy moment when I finished reading a great story.

Goodreads is one of my favorite and most frequented sites. The people who designed it have done almost everything right – they’ve made it a community!

Are you on Goodreads? If so, what’s your favorite part of it?
Keep up with Sandy: Website | Twitter

Sandy Williams

Sandy graduated from TexasA&MUniversitywith a double major in political science and history. She thought about attending law school. Fortunately, before handing over her life’s savings, she realized case studies weren’t nearly as interesting as novels and decided to get an MA in Library Science instead. She worked as a librarian until her husband whisked her off to Londonon an extended business trip. She’s now back home in Texas, writing full-time, raising newborn twin boys, and squeezing in time to play geeky board and card games like Settlers of Catan, Dominion, and Runebound.

1. You MUST fill out the form below
2. Giveaway is for 1 copy of The Shattered Dark by Sandy Williams 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 11/15/12
6. Giveaway books courtesy of Ace
7. Please see my Giveaway Policy.

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Interview (& Giveaway): Brenda Cooper, author of The Creative Fire

Please welcome Brenda Cooper to the blog! Brenda is the author of 6 books, including The Creative Fire (Book One of Ruby’s Song), which is out today, and she was kind enough to take time out of her busy schedule to answer a few of my questions!

I’ve also got a copy of The Creative Fire up for grabs, courtesy of PYR, so be sure to check out the giveaway details!


Photo by Joe Merkins

Brenda, you have 5 novels out (one with Larry Niven!) already, not to mention numerous short stories to your credit, and your new book, The Creative Fire, is out this week with Pyr! You’re also a futurist who gives talks on the future, technology and writing! Whew! You’re a busy lady. So, my first question is have you always wanted to be a writer? Will you tell us a bit about your journey?
I have always been a writer. As a child and a teenager I wrote poetry. I became a single mom at 19, and while I was pregnant I submitted my first-ever science fiction story to Asimov’s. That yielded a personal rejection that went something like “Your idea is hackneyed but your writing is interesting. Please send more.” Motherhood and school distracted me except that I did journal and write more poetry, and I went back to writing when my son turned 18. At that point, I decided if I really wanted to be a published author, I needed to get to it. By then I had been lucky enough to meet Steven Barnes, who was teaching Lifewriting at that time, and I learned some of what I needed to succeed from him. I also met a great poet, Joseph Green, who was teaching a creative writing class which I took. And thus I learned enough to start publishing. That was fourteen years ago, and now I’m six novels and a number of stories into a really fun career.

When I saw the cover of The Creative Fire, I couldn’t help but think of Kaylee from Firefly (it’s a great cover.) She’s holding some heavy artillery, and looks like she might be able to kick some butt if she needed to. Will you tell us a little about Ruby Martin?
Ruby is loosely based on Eva Peron. She comes from the underside of society and uses a combination of singing, fighting, love (some of it misguided) and sheer guts to help run a revolution. Ruby’s not a perfect character – she’s flawed and yet strong. The society she is fighting her way up through is patriarchal and rigid, and she has to find ways to succeed in spite of that. Because she’s young, she’s naïve. She grew up in a brutal society and has street smarts that help her navigate. So you get to see her both make mistakes and figure her way through them. In some ways, she’s a counterpoint to the perfect kick-ass female heroines that are sleeping and fighting their way through a lot of really enjoyable urban fantasy right now.

Do you think recent sci-fi has been better about featuring strong women? What is your take on that?
There are a lot more women writing SF than there were before, and that has improved the female characters. It has also resulted in more women readers, so most science fiction writers are paying more attention to their female characters. The same thing has happened to racial diversity. There’s not enough, but that, too, is getting better. As groups get more power in society, they gain visibility and power in fiction. That’s a good thing. That said, I think that the SF readership and list of successful writers remains more white male than society at large. We haven’t attracted women readers as well as we perhaps could. When I meet women in the non-geek parts of my life and say that I’m a writer, they perk up until I mention that I write science fiction. Then they change the subject. This is a problem I don’t have the answer for, other that that we should just keep writing great science fiction.

If someone were just now dipping their toes in the sci-fi genre, where would you suggest they start?
As readers? To some extent that depends on taste. But I would suggest that people pick up Robert Sawyer’s “Wake” which is very accessible, Allen Steele’s Coyote series, and just about anything by Nancy Kress or Connie Willis or Louise Marley. I also love Kim Stanley Robinson, and I think his global warming series is pretty darned relevant right now. It starts with Forty Signs of Rain. I’d suggest they read some of our classics, such as Dune and Ursula LeGuins’ wonderful short story “The Ones who Walk Away from Omelas.” I guess I’ll stop there, but there are hundreds of our books I would recommend.

What are some of your biggest literary influences?
Heinlein. Niven (Which made writing with him later pretty fabulous). Nevil Shute. Frank Herbert.

What are you reading right now?
I just finished vN by Madeline Ashby (a female sf writer and futurist who I just discovered). I’m three degrees through Six Degrees, which is a climate change book, and about half way through David Brin’s Existence. I’m about to start Apocalyptic Planet by Craig Childs, and I’m hoping to start Kim Stanley Robinson’s 2312, although I have a few books I promised to look at to blurb and am feeling like I need to get to those as well.

If you could read one book again for the very first time, which one would it be?
Frank Herbert’s Dune.

When you manage to find some time to yourself, how do you like to spend it?
Exercising. Mostly, I like riding street bicycles (I did one 204 mile ride this summer). And of course I love time with family and walking my dogs. Generally, moving. I don’t get nearly enough time to move.

What’s next for you? Is there anything else you’d like to share about upcoming projects or events (or anything at all!)?
I’m working on the sequel to The Creative Fire, which is called The Diamond Deep. It’s been a blast to write, and now I’ve got the daunting task of cutting it since the manuscript insisted on coming in long. I’m also finishing up a YA called “Post” that is a near-future adventure story of discovery for a young woman named Sage.
Keep up with Brenda: Website | Twitter

1. You MUST fill out the form below
2. Giveaway is for 1 copy of The Creative Fire by Brenda Cooper 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 11/14/12
6. Giveaway books courtesy of PYR
7. Please see my Giveaway Policy.

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Early Review (& Giveaway): Sealed With a Curse (Weird Girls #1) by Cecy Robson

Sealed With a Curse (Weird Girls #1) by Cecy Robson
Signet Eclipse/Dec. 31st, 2012
Urban Fantasy
Kind thanks to Signet Eclipse for providing a review copy

Celia Wird and her three sisters are just like other 20-something girls—with one tiny exception: they’re products of a backfired curse that has given each of them unique powers that make them, well, weird…

The Wird sisters are content to avoid the local vampires, werebeasts, and witches of the Lake Tahoe region—until one of them blows up a vampire in self-defense. Everyone knows vampires aren’t aggressive, and killing one is punishable by death. But soon more bloodlust-fueled attacks occur, and the community wonders: are the vampires of Tahoe cursed with a plague?

Celia reluctantly agrees to help Misha, the handsome leader of an infected vampire family. But Aric, the head of the werewolf pack determined to destroy Misha’s family to keep the region safe, warns Celia to stay out of the fight. Caught between two hot alphas, Celia must find a way to please everyone, save everyone, and oh yeah, not lose her heart to the wrong guy—or die a miserable death.

Because now that the evil behind the plague knows who Celia is, he’s coming for her and her sisters. This Wird girl has never had it so tough.

Celia and her 3 sisters find themselves in vampire court and Celia is terrified at what might happen. Misha Aleksandr has requested the presence of the Wird sisters after charging them with the murder of one of his family members. Today is their lucky day however, since evidence proves the dead vamp in question had a virus that caused uncontrollable bloodlust, and it seems to be spreading. People are dying at an alarming rate as the vampire virus spreads and infected vamps go on the rampage. In desperation, Misha Aleksandr appeals to the sisters to help him fight whoever is spreading the infection and weakening his power. Taran, Emme, and Shayna are horrified at the deaths, but they also don’t want to get involved. Celia sees it a bit differently and decides they should help the Master vamp fight the rival master that is causing the carnage. Not only does Misha want the sisters’ help, but he seems to have a bit of a thing for Celia, much to her chagrin, since she has her eye on a werewolf hottie, Aric, who also gets involved in the fight. So much for the Wird sisters laying low in lovely Lake Tahoe, huh?

The Wird sisters aren’t your usual supes. As the result of a childhood curse, they each have very unique powers, but consider themselves very much outside the supernatural community. All they want to do is carry out their day jobs as nurses and live in peace in gorgeous Lake Tahoe. However, Misha and the rampaging vampires don’t plan to let the sisters off so easy, and Celia’s interest in the gorgeous Aric definitely throws a huge wrench into things.

Sealed With a Curse has just about everything I want in a really good urban fantasy. Strong lead characters? Check. A sexy romance brewing on the side? Check. Vamps, weres, witches, and more? Check!! The story is told in Celia’s voice, and what I simultaneously love and hate about her is her vulnerability. Most men are very intimidated by her tigress (yep, Celia can change into a tigress, among other things), so she’s closed herself off to men, and yet she’s so very lonely and insecure. She berates herself more than once, and if you’ve ever wanted to hug a character from a book, you’ll want to hug Celia and shake her until she stops doubting herself. It’s also important to point out that while the romance element is strong in this book (lots of hotties running around, trust me), I swear there are kick ass fights every 3 or 4 pages. The author just doesn’t let up, and if you think you’ll be reading about the same old supernaturals, think again. The baddies are really, really bad, and the author never shies away from the ick factor. Cecy Robson has a very, very fertile imagination when it comes to the scaries, and she’s not afraid to use it. Celia and her sisters are a great fighting team and if you like books with plenty of girl power, you’ll love this one. I also really enjoyed Celia’s sense of humor and the “triangle” between her, Aric, and Misha. I swear this book has some of the funniest one-liners in urban fantasy. These nurses are good at their jobs, but don’t mess with them. Seriously. If you mess with one, you mess with all four, and the person/creature doing the messing is probably going to get the bad end of the stick (or blade, or claw…you get the picture.)

So, can the girls track down the source of the vampire infection and take care of business? Will Celia find the love she deserves? Will these poor girls ever get some much deserved peace? Probably not, well, at least the peace part. But that’s good for us, because that means there will be plenty of adventures with the Wird girls to come. I really enjoyed the prequel novella and was hoping Sealed With a Curse would live up to my expectations. It did. This is an exciting and refreshing debut and I can’t wait to see what’s next for this series!

Pre-order Sealed With a Curse: Amazon |B&N | Indiebound



***Hey, check this out! Courtesy of Cecy Robson, I’ve got another bundle o’ swag (water bottle, lip balm, and a magnet) to give away to one lucky winner, so as long as you’re a US/Canadian resident, you’re good to go. Just leave a comment on the review and I’ll choose a winner on 11/15! Make sure you go visit Cecy at her website!

Giveaway: Dark Shadows: The Salem Branch and Angelique’s Descent (2 books) by Lara Parker

Halloween is over, but that doesn’t mean the scary stuff must go away! I have brand new copies of Dark Shadows: The Salem Branch and Dark Shadows: Angelique’s Descent by Lara Parker to give away, so check out the books and the giveaway details, and good luck!

About Dark Shadows: Angelique’s Descent
The dashing heir of a New England shipping magnate, Barnabas Collins captures Angelique’s heart amidst the sensual beauty of Martinique, her island home. But her happiness is doomed when Barnabas becomes engaged to another. With this betrayal, Barnabas unleashes an evil that will torment him for all time. For Angelique is no ordinary woman. Raised in the mysterious art of witchcraft, she pledged her soul to darkness and became immortal. Vowing to destroy Barnabas, Angelique damns him to eternal life as a vampire—to accompany her forever. But little does Angelique understand the depth of Barnabas’s fury….

About Dark Shadows: The Salem Branch
Freed from his vampire curse, Barnabas Collins is ready to embark on a new life and marriage with his savior, the virtuous Dr. Julia Hoffman. But when Antoinette, a beautiful flower child with a shocking resemblance to the immortal witch Angelique, rebuilds the Old House, his past returns to haunt him. Discovering a grisly corpse in the basement—where his old casket once lay—Barnabas realizes another vampire has invaded his domain. His fight to protect his family from this new threat will take Barnabas back through time to an evil moment in America’s history: the corrupt witch trials of old Salem.

1. You MUST fill out the form below
2. Giveaway is for 1 copy each of Dark Shadows: The Salem Branch and Dark Shadows: Angelique’s Descent by Lara Parker 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 11/10/12
6. Giveaway books courtesy of Tor
7. Please see my Giveaway Policy.

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The Dead of Winter by Lee Collins

The Dead of Winter by Lee Collins
Angry Robot Books/Oct. 30th, 2012
Kind thanks to Angry Robot Books for providing a review copy

When the marshal of Leadville, Colorado, comes across a pair of mysterious, bloody deaths out in the badlands, he turns to Cora to find the creature responsible. But if she is to overcome the unnatural tide threatening to consume the small town, Cora must first confront her own tragic past.

Cora Oglesby is handy with a .35, a natural on horseback, and creatures of the night don’t do much to scare her, so when she and her husband Ben must tackle a creature stalking the citizens of Leadville, Colorado, it’s all in a day’s work for the twosome. Bounty hunting is Cora and Ben Oglesby’s stock in trade, but their specialty is in things that no human wants to deal with. Dispatching a lone creature is one thing, but something else has taken up residence in the silver mines right outside of town, and the threat has grown much, much bigger. Cora is tough, and Ben is smart, but can they take on a pack of monsters so dangerous they could decimate a whole town?

On the cover, The Dead of Winter is described as “True Grit Meets True Blood”, which isn’t a bad comparison, per se, but the vampires in The Dead of Winter aren’t particularly sexy, instead going with the more classic (and scarier, for me) form of the nosfaratu. The True Grit comparison does, in fact, apply and I love the gritty, snowy, Wild West atmosphere that the author has set up, because it’s a perfect environment for dread (picture 30 Days of Night.) Cora is also not your usual heroine. She describes herself as “not pretty” with crooked teeth and stringy hair, but she also doesn’t linger on such things (there’s monster killin’ to be done, folks.) Although, there’s a particularly poignant moment when she talks about how Ben looks at her with longing, seemingly not to notice her (self-perceived) shortcomings.

The duo actually remind me a little bit of Sam and Dean in Supernatural. Ben is bookish and shy, and Cora is a winner-take-all, both pistols blazing kind of gal, and I really like that about her. She’s like a particularly fierce force of nature and she blazes through the pages of The Dead of Winter, kicking ass and taking names. Hard drinkin’, hard gambling Cora is certainly the star of this book, but there are plenty of other interesting characters populating the landscape.

This is a fairly quick, fun read, and there’s a twist that you may not (or may…) see coming, and plenty of vampire killin’ mayhem to satisfy any urban fantasy reader, with lots of Old West flavor thrown in. I’m anxious to read the next book in the series “She Returns From War.” The Dead of Winter is a rollicking good debut!
Purchase The Dead of Winter: Amazon |B&N | Indiebound

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