My Bookish Ways

Book News: September 21st, 2012

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

Interviews and more:


Excerpts and such:

Fun stuff:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Blood Riders by Michael P. Spradlin

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

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

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

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

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

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

Purchase Blood Riders : Amazon |B&N

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Interview: Linda Grimes, author of In a Fix!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bedbugs by Ben H. Winters

Bedbugs by Ben H. Winters
Quirk/Sept. 2011

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

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

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

Purchase Bedbugs : Amazon |B&N

Interview: Rob Reid, author of Year Zero

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Please welcome Alex to the blog!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

About CLEAN:


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

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

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

Book News: September 14th, 2012

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

Articles, excerpts, announcements, etc:

More neat stuff (giveaways, hint hint):

Have a great weekend!

Sherlock Holmes: The Army of Dr. Moreau by Guy Adams

Sherlock Holmes: The Army of Dr. Moreau by Guy Adams
Titan/August 2012
Kind thanks to Titan for providing a review copy

Following the trail of several corpses seemingly killed by wild animals, Holmes and Watson stumble upon the experiments of Doctor Moreau.
Moreau, through vivisection and crude genetic engineering is creating animal hybrids, determined to prove the evolutionary theories of Charles Darwin. In his laboratory, hidden among the opium dens of Rotherhithe, Moreau is building an army of ‘beast men’. Tired of having his work ignored — or reviled — by the British scientific community, Moreau is willing to make the world pay attention using his creatures as a force to gain control of the government.

Corpses are turning up in Rotherhithe, by all appearances the victims of animal attacks. However, the attacks are not attacks any animal that should be roaming around London (for example, a blacktip shark, common to the coasts of Australia), and one of the victim’s hands and feet were chained, which, of course speaks of human involvement. When Mycroft Holmes pays a visit to his brother Sherlock, and Dr. Watson, with a request for help looking into the mystery surrounding the nefarious Dr. Moreau and the events that took place on a South Pacific island, the detective is certainly intrigued. Dr. Moreau is supposedly dead, and the only man that survived the attacks on the island that resulted in his death has committed suicide by swallowing acid, so he’s definitely not talking. These deaths definitely seem connected to Dr. Moreau’s wicked experiments in altering humans and animals, but how? You can bet Holmes and Watson will soon find out!

This is my first of Titan’s series of new books about the escapades of Holmes and Watson, and I loved it! Told mostly from Watson’s point of view, it follows the dynamic duo as they attempt to infiltrate the lair of a man performing diabolical experiments in order to build his own army. The banter between Holmes and Watson is laugh out loud funny, and the author’s style stays quite true to their original exploits. Their investigation eventually takes them deep into the underground of London where they’re confronted with plenty of man-made beastly creatures. Things never get very deep, and some silliness does ensue, but who cares when a book is this entertaining? The writing is crisp, the dialogue sharp, and the pace unrelenting. If you love old fashioned adventure, and of course, Sherlock Holmes, I think you’ll find much to love about this one.

Purchase Sherlock Holmes:The Army of Dr. Moreau : Amazon |B&N | Indiebound

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