My Bookish Ways

Blog Tour: Jefferson Bass, author of The Inquisitor’s Key

Jefferson Bass (Jon Jefferson and Bill Bass) is gearing up for the release of their brand new Body Farm novel, The Inquisitor’s Key on May 8th, and they were kind enough to write a bit on the story behind the novel. There’s also a trailer for the book, so be sure to take a look! Enjoy!

The Inquisitor’s Key:
Medieval Mystery Meets Modern Murder

What if the John Doe in a forensic case was a skeleton from the closet of none other than the Pope? What if that skeleton had been in the papal closet – actually, mortared into the wall – of the Palace of the Popes for seven centuries, hidden in a stone ossuary and sealed with papal seals? And what if the inscription on the ossuary implied that the scarred bones were those of Christ himself? Truth or hoax – that’s the question facing bone detective Bill Brockton and his assistant, Miranda. Called to Avignon, France, to authenticate or disprove the authenticity of the ancient bones, Brockton takes on the case of the millennium in The Inquisitor’s Key. Think TV’s “Bones” meets The Da Vinci Code and you’ll be close to the mark.

This is the seventh novel in the bestselling Body Farm series, by ‘Jefferson Bass’ (the pen name of writer Jon Jefferson and forensic anthropologist Bill Bass). Loyal fans will find that this intricately plotted forensic thriller takes the series to a new level. Readers new to Jefferson Bass can dive right in, as this book doesn’t require any prior knowledge—just an interest in forensics, murder, and first-rate sleuthing … set against a historic background that’s literally drop-dead gorgeous. The stakes are high and the suspense is even higher in The Inquisitor’s Key!


*For more on Jefferson Bass, find us on Facebook, visit the blog, or follow us on Twitter @Jefferson_Bass.
Read an EXCERPT of The Inquisitor’s Key!
Purchase The Inquisitor’s Key

Early Review: Blackbirds by Chuck Wendig

Blackbirds by Chuck Wendig
Publisher:
Angry Robot/April 24th, 2012
Urban Fantasy/Noir
Kind thanks to the Angry Robot Army for providing a review copy
5/5

Miriam Black knows when you will die.

Still in her early twenties, she’s foreseen hundreds of car crashes, heart attacks, strokes, suicides, and slow deaths by cancer. But when Miriam hitches a ride with truck driver Louis Darling and shakes his hand, she sees that in thirty days Louis will be gruesomely murdered while he calls her name.

Miriam has given up trying to save people; that only makes their deaths happen. But Louis will die because he met her, and she will be the next victim. No matter what she does she can’t save Louis. But if she wants to stay alive, she’ll have to try.

REVIEW
First off, it’s awful hard to pick up a copy of Blackbirds without noticing the stunning artwork on the front, yes? I had no trouble using it to picture Miriam, and it also has so many little details in it that pertain to the story. That said, on to the story… Blackbirds begins with Miriam in a squalid little motel room with a man that’s about to die. He’s not the nicest guy (he’s really, really not), but Miriam feels she must bear witness to his death, since it was her that foresaw it. She’ll have access to the cash in his wallet, which will certainly help her get to her next stop. Seeing how people will die hasn’t made Miriam Black’s life a cakewalk, and she’s done her best to distance herself from everyone and basically lives a nomadic life, witnessing death and stealing, and recording it all in her diary. Things change when she meets the kind Louis, a truck driver who picks her and who’s death she sees. Par for the course, right? Not so much this time, since Louis will be murdered, and before he dies, he calls her name…

Mainly told while looking over Miriam’s shoulder, Blackbirds takes off like a roller coaster to hell, and really never stops. Miriam has a smart mouth and a streak of self-loathing a mile wide, but she’s also brave and rather tough. She has an ability that no one in their right mind would want, and years of witnessing all manner of death have taken their toll. We follow Miriam as she meets up with a con man that both attracts and repels her, and he has a certain suitcase that some very nasty people want back; people that will do anything, and stop at nothing, to get it.

Blackbirds is not for the faint of heart. The pace is relentless and the violence is brutal, but through it all, you won’t want to tear your eyes away. I think part of it is that Miriam is such a fascinating girl. She bears witness to awful things, yet she keeps going, driven by a force that not even she understands, at least not at first. This is also the first time she’s really cared about someone (in Louis), and it shakes her to her very core. I mean, this girl has been distancing herself from humanity for years. She’s had to, with the horrid things she sees on a regular basis. The poor girl really doesn’t get a break, and when the bad guys have her in their clutches, you’ll root for her to kick some serious ass. Speaking of bad guys… The author gives us some of the most evil, nasty bad guys I’ve come across in a long time. Forget sympathetic villains. You really won’t find those here, and the worst one is a woman. Yeah, she’s pretty awful, and you’ll be sneering at her right along with Miriam.

Chuck Wendig has managed to take the best of urban fantasy and crime noir, twist ‘em together like barbed wire, and drag you right over the barbs. Blackbirds is gritty and violent, yet never loses sight of the light that might be at the end of the tunnel. It’s there, I promise. You may have to squint a little, but Miriam’s humanity always shines through, even when things look pretty grim. Chuck Wendig hasn’t disappointed me yet, and I suspect he’s got quite a lot more in his arsenal. Don’t miss this one!

Pre-Order Blackbirds: Amazon | Barnes and Noble
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Interview (& Giveaway): Jillian Stone, author of The Seduction of Phaeton Black

I’m so excited to welcome Jillian Stone to the blog today! Jillian is the author of The Seduction of Phaeton Black and An Affair With Mr. Kennedy and was kind enough to take the time to answer a few of my questions. Also up for grabs are 2 signed copies of The Seduction of Phaeton Black! This giveaway is a little different, so be sure to read the rules carefully, and good luck!

Please welcome Jillian to the blog!

Jillian, you’re the author of An Affair With Mr. Kennedy, and the upcoming The Seduction of Phaeton Black (and more to come this year!) Have you always wanted to write? Can you tell us a bit about your journey?
I have always been a storyteller. At one time, I thought my career trajectory would land me in film, but I am very happy with the turn it has taken into fiction writing. I was an art director in advertising before I decided to try writing novels, which I guess makes me a very visual writer! An Affair with Mr. Kennedy was my second manuscript and The Seduction of Phaeton Black my third. I was fortunate in 2010 to win the RWA Golden Heart for An Affair with Mr. Kennedy, plus I met my agent, Richard Curtis, at the RWA Nationals in Orlando.

How did you celebrate when you sold your first book? Was there dancing? Cake? Squeeing, perhaps?
The auction process took a few days, as my agent had both books out at various interested publishers. The end result? Two, three book contracts! I think I remember celebrating with an iced coffee and cupcake pop! The thing about these career high points is that (for me) they are both thrilling and terrifying. Your life as an author makes a sudden shift from being a dream to a job.

Your steampunk paranormal, The Seduction of Phaeton Black, just came out (yay!) Can you tell us a bit about it?
Here’s a blurb:
THE YEAR IS 1889 and Queen Victoria, exemplum of decency and sobriety, is in her fifty-second year of reign. Paranormal Investigator, Phaeton Black, on the other hand, couldn’t be less interested in clean-living. He has recently taken up residence in the basement flat of London’s most notorious brothel. A dedicated libertine with an aptitude for absinthe, he wrestles with a variety of demons both real and self-inflicted. Unfairly linked to Scotland Yard’s failure to solve the Whitechapel murders, Phaeton is offered a second chance to redeem himself. A mysterious fiend, or vampire is stalking the Strand. After a glass and a consult with the green fairy, he agrees to take on the case.

On his first surveillance, Phaeton pursues an elusive stranger and encounters several curious, horrifying beings. But the most intriguing creature of all is a Cajun beauty who captures him at knifepoint and threatens to spirit away his heart.

Why do you think steampunk is so popular right now?
Steampunk is just so much fun to write and it is also a change of pace from vampires and shifters. I like to mix up genres so there are steampunk, paranormal and historical elements in Phaeton Black as well as a touch of Sherlock Holmes. It’s also a sexy read (Scorcher TOP PICK from RT Reviews) Just warning readers!

What do you love most about the genre?
The gadgetry! Both The Gentlemen of Scotland Yard Series and The Phaeton Black series incorporate steampunk gadgets. I‘ve also included a number of interesting steam driven machines, from airships to submersibles.

Do you have any unusual writing habits?
There are days when I don’t even bother getting out of bed. (Except to make coffee, of course!) I just prop up a few pillows and set my lap top on a breakfast tray. The ultimate in pajama writing!

What are some of your biggest literary influences?
Poe, Dickens, Lewis Carroll, Stephen King, Diana Gabaldon, Anne Rice, Ray Garton. In some ways, my storytelling is more influenced by filmmakers than writers. Might I include some amazing storytellers from film who I admire greatly? Guillermo del Toro, Tim Burton, J. J. Abrams, Alfred Hitchcock. M. Night Shayamalan (I like a splash of horror in my whimsy!)

If you could read one book again for the first time, which one would it be?
It’s between Interview with a Vampire and Outlander.

What’s on your nightstand right now?
Firelight by Kristen Callihan and Wicked as they Come by Delilah Dawson.

When you’re not busy writing, how do you like to spend your free time?
Not sure what you mean by free time––do writers under contract get free time? Gosh, if I write more books for either Pocket or Kensington I’m definitely going to ask for that!

Is there any other news of upcoming projects or events that you’d like to share with us?
I have six books coming out in my debut year as an author. I can hardly believe I just wrote that, but it’s true! At the end of this summer, A Dangerous Liaison with Detective Lewis (a Steampunk Victorian road trip with a sexy creepy villain). End of September, The Moonstone & Miss Jones (second installment of Phaeton Black) Sometime in October there is Pocket e-novella in the Gentlemen of Scotland Yard series (as yet untitled) and to finish up the year, A Private Duel with Agent Gunn arrives in time for sexy Holiday reading and gift giving. Whew!
Keep up with Jillian: Website | Twitter | Facebook

**GIVEAWAY DETAILS** 
1. You MUST answer this question in the comments: Whenever I begin a new story. I often use the voice and expressions of actors or real life people I know to help visualize how a  character moves and speaks. Eventually, a kind of magical thing happens and the character grows into himself (or herself).
Take a guess at which three actors (click on each hottie’s name to view) went into my hero bouillabaisse to create Phaeton Black? One copy of The Seduction of Phaeton Black will go to the first commenter who gets it right, and another copy will go to a commenter chosen at random. Good luck! 
1. Tom Hardy 
2. Colin Farrell
3. Ben Barnes
4. Johnny Depp 
5. Robert Downey, Jr. 
6. Dominic Cooper
ADDITIONAL GIVEAWAY DETAILS:
1. Giveaway is for 2 *signed* copies of The Seduction of Phaeton Black to 2 winners (see details above)
2. Want some extra entries? Follow me via Twitter (@mybookishways) or Facebook and let me know you did so (make sure you leave the appropriate usernames.) I’ll give you 1 extra entry for each (for a total of 3)
3. Giveaway is open INTERNATIONALLY (everyone on Planet Earth)
4. MUST include a valid email address with your entry
5. You must enter on or before 4/13/12
6. Giveaway books generously provided by Jillian Stone.
7. Please see my Giveaway Policy.

Interview (& Giveaway): EC Myers, author of Fair Coin

I’m thrilled to have EC Myers on the blog today! EC is the author of the brand new YA fantasy, Fair Coin, and he was kind enough to take the time to answer a few of my questions. Also up for grabs is a shiny new hardcover copy of Fair Coin,so be sure to check out the details at the end of the post.

Please welcome EC to the blog!

You’re the author of the brand new YA fantasy, Fair Coin, and have published numerous short stories! What made you decide to write a full length novel, and have you always wanted to be a writer?
I didn’t always want to be a writer, but I made some attempts at it when I was younger. I knew I had some talent, but I didn’t invest any time in developing it and pursuing writing as a career until after I graduated college, when I finally started writing and submitting short stories.

Many established authors have suggested that you should publish short stories for a while before attempting novels, because writing short fiction is a great way to learn the craft and building a reputation through short stories may help you get an agent or sell novel-length work later in your career. It does seem to work that way for some writers, but to be honest my short stories never got me much attention, as far as I could tell.

Writing them definitely improved and expanded my skills, though—especially through participation in critique groups. I’m proud of all of my published short stories, wherever they appeared, but their real value for me was in disciplining myself to write prolifically and submit my work; learning patience, persistence, and professionalism; and in the many wonderful writers, editors, and publishers I met over the years. Short fiction also helped me get into the Clarion West Writers Workshop, which gave me a big boost in both writing quality and motivation.

I suppose novels were always the end goal for me. The reality of publishing is you can’t make a living from selling short stories anymore; most writers can’t make a living from their novels either, for that matter. I held back for a long time because I needed a good novel-length idea and I didn’t feel ready to make the jump from short fiction, especially since I felt I hadn’t quite mastered the shorter form enough to get published in pro magazines.

Once I did have the idea for a novel though, I decided to ignore my doubts and start writing to see how far I could get with it. I didn’t believe in writing “practice novels”—novels that you don’t intend to submit, just for the sake of learning how to write them—but I did expect that I would learn it all as I went and then revise it into the best draft I could make it, with the intention of querying agents with it.

How did you celebrate when you found out Fair Coin would be published?
We happened to have a bottle of champagne handy, probably left over from some other celebration or party, so we were prepared to toast the good news as soon as I got off the phone with my agent.

Can you tell us a bit about it?
I got the call and an e-mail from my agent a couple of days before Christmas in 2010. At that point, we had an offer on the table but there was still a little negotiating to do, so it wasn’t yet a done deal. But I had a great feeling about my editor—I could tell that he got and loved Fair Coin—and I knew Pyr’s reputation, so I was very enthusiastic about the opportunity. We also still had some other editors looking at the manuscript at the time, so wanted to give them a chance to respond too.

It was an amazing, surreal moment. Publication suddenly seemed like a real possibility, albeit still more than a year away. Fair Coin had a long road to publication, sometimes characterized with disappointment and frustration and a lot of waiting, but as they say, all you need is one yes from the right person. The sale was a surprising end to an incredible month, in which I also got engaged and landed a great job interview—which eventually led to my current job.

Somehow, all the stars aligned for me all at once.

What do you like most about writing fantasy?
This is going to sound bad, but one of the reasons I like writing fantasy—especially contemporary fantasy with a slight magical twist, which some people call “slipstream”—is because it’s more natural for me to write. Does that make me a lazy writer? It’s just that the world building is easier when the setting is a modern day city that actually exists as a reference, or can serve as a loose model for a fictional place, as my hometown of Yonkers does for Summerside in Fair Coin. This lets me focus on the plot and developing the characters and working out the rules of the story without getting bogged down in inventing new geography or weird place names or a faux historical language or tone and spending too many words describing them for readers. I generally don’t write a lot of description in my early drafts, so I always have to go back and add more later. Plus, I really like taking ordinary people and putting them in extraordinary circumstances.

I like science fiction too, but it always requires a little more research, a little more rigor, to get all the details right, and with me there’s always the danger that I’ll get too preoccupied with researching minutia instead of writing and looking up the relevant information as I need it. Sure, the mechanics and cost of magic has to be just as consistent as science does, but I think the fantasy writer has more freedom to just make stuff up. That said, I do write science fiction books, and I’m planning a couple of more traditional fantasy novels that I know are going to be a challenge for me. But I’m looking forward to pushing myself. That’s how you grow as a writer.

What are some of your favorite authors/novels, and which have been your biggest influences?
Not by any means a definitive list… Some classic writers I love: Robert C. O’Brien, John Bellairs, C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, William Sleator, E. Nesbit, Roald Dahl, Diana Wynne Jones. I grew up on books by Judy Blume and Bevery Cleary, the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew, and Sherlock Holmes. Some contemporary YA authors I can’t get enough of include Philip Reeve, Scott Westerfeld, John Green, Maureen Johnson, Jonathan Stroud, Barry Lyga, Sarah Beth Durst, Diana Peterfreund, and Sarah Rees Brennan.

One of my absolute favorite childhood novels is The Silver Crown by Robert C. O’Brien, which must have done some interesting things to my impressionable brain. I think the biggest influence on me as a writer was William Sleator, particularly his novels The Interstellar Pig, The House of Stairs, and Singularity. He was a master of integrating real scientific theories into his science fiction stories, while focusing on flawed kids with relatable problems and complex motivations who sometimes made some shocking choices.

If you could read one book again for the first time, which one would it be?
The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar and Six More by Roald Dahl. Each of the stories in that collection enchanted me in a different way, especially “The Boy Who Talked With Animals”, “The Swan”, and “The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar”.

Have you ever “faked” reading a book, and if so, which one?
Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison. I only made it 100 pages in before a final exam in my freshman year of college, and I had to bluff my way through the essay question. Fortunately I’m good at making stuff up.

If you could have dinner and drinks with one other author, who would it be?
Sadly, one of the authors I never had a chance to meet and never will in this life: William Sleator.

When you’re not busy at work writing (and your day job), how do you like to spend your free time?
There isn’t much free time left over after all the writing and working, but I can generally fit in a little TV each week. Sometimes I manage to play video games, I read a lot, and I love watching movies. In my ideal world, I would watch at least one film a day, but these days I’m lucky if I accomplish that in a month. I’m trying to find a better balance between writing and the rest of my life.

Is there any advice that you would give to struggling writers?
Keep struggling. Write a lot of different things and read widely outside of the genres you’re comfortable with. Find or start a critique group and be open to constructive criticism. Don’t be afraid to write something bad. Learn to love revising and tolerate waiting. Don’t try to rush things (unless you’re under a contractual deadline)—just write the best manuscript you can. Write stories that you’re proud of today and will continue to be proud of years from now.

Do you have any more news of upcoming projects or events that you’d like to share with us?
I have some readings and group events with the Apocalypsies coming up on the East Coast; you can check my website for my scheduled appearances. I’m always up for more readings, library and school visits, and Skype visits, especially in or near Philadelphia and New York, if anyone is interested.

The sequel to Fair Coin, Quantum Coin, should be out from Pyr Books in the fall of 2012. Like the Facebook page to get the latest updates.

Keep up with EC: Website | Twitter

**GIVEAWAY DETAILS** 
1. You MUST fill out the form below (lots of chances for extra entries!)
2. Giveaway is for 1 copy of Fair Coin by EC Myers to 1 winner.
3. Giveaway is open to US/Canadian addresses ONLY
4. Must include a valid email address with your entry
5. You must enter on or before 4/13/12
6. Giveaway book generously provided by Pyr Books.
7. Please see my Giveaway Policy.

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Interview: Dana Fredsti, author of Plague Town

Today is release day for the awesome zombie urban fantasy Plague Town, by Dana Fredsti (feel free to read my review), and what better way to celebrate than with an interview with the author! Dana was kind enough to answer a few of my questions, so please give her a warm welcome!

Dana, you have the coolest background (don’t worry, I’ll get to this, most likely in detail), in acting, screenwriting, and producing (among other awesomeness.) You’ve also published numerous articles and stories, and (whew!)a mystery called Murder for Hire: The Peruvian Pigeon. Then throw a few romances into the mix! What finally led to writing Plague Town? Was it a story that had been brewing for a while?
First of all, thank you for having me here as your guest!  Lori Perkins of Ravenous Romance originally pitched the concept for Plague Town to me. Her pitch was essentially “How would you like to write something like Buffy the Vampire Slayer? …Except with zombies? And make it different.” My answer? An immediate “YES!” since I am a huge fan of Buffy and have been fascinated by zombies ever since I saw the original Night of the Living Dead. So no, the story wasn’t really brewing before Lori made her pitch. I was given complete leeway in developing the characters, plot arc of a three book series, and could put as much or as little sex in it as I thought worked for the story. So pretty much complete control over all aspects of it, Dana said whilst rubbing her hands together in megalomaniacal glee.

I took it from there (when I finished the gleefully megalomaniacal hand-rubbing). And while I was definitely inspired by the idea of a motley crew of friends and enemies as supporting cast to my heroine, Plague Town is definitely different.

Ashley Parker is very “regular girl”, but she’s also super brave, kicks tons of zombie ass, and has a heart of gold, not to mention a wonderfully sarcastic mouth! Is she based on anyone in particular, or a combination of folks? I mean, she wouldn’t happen to be anything like you, would she? :-D
Do I sense sarcasm behind that :-D, missy?  Yes, we are in emoticon hell. Heh. At any rate, they say (whoever “they” are) that every character is a reflection of some aspect of the author, be it likes, dislikes, personality quirks, etc. So yeah, I expect Ashley does have a few of my traits (although why you’d think sarcasm was one of them, I just don’t know!), including the heart of cold. And yes, I would go back for the cats.

When you started writing Plague Town, did you plan to make it into a series, or did you just plan to see where Ashley took you?
I knew from the get-go that it would be least a three-book series, with each one expanding the scope of the zombie plague (Plague Town, Plague Nation and Plague World), and that, so far, is still the plan. I certainly would not say no if asked to write more, though.

What kind of research did you do for the virus aspects of the book?
I spent a lot of time googling about things like bird flu, Ebola, HIV, viruses and bacteria, etc., to figure out how I wanted to handle the specific cause of the zombie outbreak that starts in Redwood Grove (Ashley’s home town). I don’t want to give too much away, but I did start with the premise that the walking dead have been around for centuries (I absolutely love the section in Zombie Survival Guide that goes into the outbreaks through history) and then thought about how one would “jump-start” an outbreak. But yeah, Google, the CDC website, a magazine that had an article about how some viruses combine (my cats, in their infinite wisdom, peed on that one so I have to keep it in the garage), and a slew of zombie books , both fiction and (ahem) non-fiction with different speculations as to how a zombie virus would evolve. I love the fact that there are so many variations on a number of themes as to the root cause of zombies, and each author or filmmaker seems to handle it differently, even if just a wee bit.

Why do you think zombie books, movies, and TV shows are so popular these days?
Because people finally realize how ultimately creepy, cool and versatile zombies are? Well, that might be part of the reason, but I think it’s because a few really good movies and books came out at the right time and hit a nerve with people. Zombies are creepy and they can stand in for a lot of fears and issues (rather than list them or even try to be as articulate as others have been before me, I refer your readers to this kickass blog post by Jonathan Maberry and a slew of the top names in zombiedom today). Also there are many people like me who have been waiting eagerly for our favorite monster to get more media time and we’ve proven that if you write/film it, we will read/watch it. The quality of the offerings has been consistently improving and now, with the impending film adaptation of Max Brooks’ World War Z (I mean, seriously, Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt duking it out for rights to a zombie novel?!) and AMC’s The Walking Dead (Emmy winning show here), zombies have more legitimacy as a media moneymaker than ever before. Plus they don’t sparkle.

What are some of your favorite zombie/post-apocalyptic/horror titles?
Oh jeez, there goes the rest of your page space.  Let’s see… I’ll save the bad zombie movies I love for the question below and start with ones I think are really good. Night of the Living Dead (original and remake); Dawn of the Dead (original, with the remake growing on me now that I’ve managed to stop comparing it to the original. Plus the remake has, hands down, what I consider the best opening ten minutes of any movie of any genre); Day of the Dead (original); Shaun of the Dead; Zombieland; The Grudge (creeped me the hell out, which is hard to do these days); The Dead; Return of the Living Dead; Zombie Flesh Eaters; Le Horde; Dead Snow; Rec; Resident Evil (silly, but so much fun, and another kick ass opening sequence); Mad Max; Night of the Comet (“Daddy would have bought me an Uzi”); Last Man on Earth; Dead Set; Halloween (the original); Escape from New York; Cherry 2000… I’m sure there are more, but I need to save some room for book titles, right:
So in no particular order: Swann Song (Robert McCammon); The Stand (Stephen King); Patient Zero, Rot and Ruin, Dead of Night (Jonathan Maberry); the Dead World series (Joe McKinney); the Autumn series (David Moody); the Monster Island/Nation/Planet books (David Wellington); Feed and its sequel (Mira Grant); The Morningstar Saga (Z.A. Recht);)… the list goes on. I always hate lists like this because I’m afraid I’ll leave out something/someone I really like, which I inevitably do. Like all the great anthologies out there! Book of the Dead I & II, the All Flesh anthologies, anything edited by John Skipp… Too much pressure!

If the zombie horde was on its way, and you had to get out of Dodge, what’s the one book that you would grab to take with you?
Oh heck, I have no idea… Gone with the Wind would be a good choice ‘cause it’s long and I love re-reading it once every few years… and it’s thick and could double as a bludgeon. But it’s also cumbersome. It’s like being asked what my favorite book of all time is; my answer changes on a daily basis depending on my mood. I suppose I should say I’d take Plague Town.

You have a background in sword fighting, so, what would you say is the most important rule when fighting zombies up close?
Stay away from their teeth? Heh. Okay, seriously, since zombies don’t generally swordfight, my background isn’t necessarily the most helpful. I won’t be challenging a zombie to a duel any time soon. However, knowing to use a weapon and get the maximum leverage when, say, making a cut, is helpful. And some swords would be kind of lame in zombie combat. I mean, my weapons of choice are rapier and dagger, but unless you’ve got amazing point control and can thrust the point into a eye-socket every time, and then pull the blade out quickly, you’re gonna get bit. As far as fighting them up close, whatever the weapon, you want to stay away from teeth, claws, blood and goo splatters. Of course, in some movies the blood isn’t infectious (in Dawn of the Dead, just to name one film, the heroes got blood spattered on their face and in their mouths without a problem; it was the bite that did it) so that’s not always an issue. You want to avoid grappling, if possible, and if they do grab you and pull you in for a bite, shove a forearm or hand under their chin and keep that nasty infectious mouth away from your tender flesh.

Speaking of that background in sword fighting… It says in your bio that you did theatrical sword fighting for the cult classic (and personal fave of mine), Army of Darkness (geek-girl swoon!). You must tell us more about that, and I don’t suppose you rubbed elbows with Bruce Campbell?
Ah, memories…Working on AoD was a one of a kind experience.. Even if it hadn’t turned out to be a cult classic, it would still be on my list of Top Ten Cool Things I’ve Done in My Life. I worked in two capacities on the film; armourer’s assistant and Deadite/sword captain. My then fiancé was the onset armourer, I was unemployed, and the Deadite scenes weren’t scheduled for shooting for a while so I had hands on experience “distressing” plastic armour (making it look real and, in the case of the Deadite armour, look like it could have been in the ground for a while. I also learned how to mend leather straps and play with grommets, helped suit up the extras in King Arthur’s army, and had the fun of being on hand when they filmed the scene where Ash’s car drops from the time /space warp thingee conjured by the incantation in Book of the Dead . What filmgoers didn’t see was the crane holding the car before the drop actually took a tumble off the edge of the quarry we were filming at. No one was hurt, but it was spectacular…

When it came time to film the Deadite scenes, I was fitted for my “A” Deadite costume (there were “A”, “B” and “C” Deadites), which involved a full latex body suit, gloves, a mask, and the aforementioned armor. Getting out of it to use the bathroom was a royal pain in the ass. As one of the sword captains, I got to teach some choreography and choreograph my own fights for the mass battles scenes. My favorite fight partner was Rick (I don’t remember his last name) and we choreographed this wonderful fight between us that got a thumbs up from Bruce by way of an approving nod when we finished running it during rehearsal. So while I did not rub elbows with him that was a nice bit of validation. Bruce reminded me a lot of Ash most of the time. 

It also says in your bio that you’re addicted to bad movies. What, for you, is the best of the bad?
I will give you a few titles to start with.  Showgirls (high budget badness at its best); Zombie Flesh Eaters (this is actually a good bad movie); Virus: Hell of the Living Dead (mercenary stops searching house for zombies in order to put on a tutu and do a little soft shoe, wtf?); Solar Babies (the best paved post-apocalyptic landscape in history); Manos: Hands of Fate (I can only watch the MST3K version); Beyond the Valley of the Dolls… And there are truly marvelously craptastic low budget/no budget zombie movies out there. My favorites are the no-budget ones where the director has obviously gotten family and friends to do everything from acting to camera work. And even though, yes, they are bad, I love the fact that people get these films made through sheer determination AND have managed to get them distributed and available on DVD. Gotta admire that kind of chutzpah.

Your bio also says that you love to surf! Do you have a favorite location?
Pacific Beach in San Diego, a few hundred yards north of Crystal Pier. It’s a beach break, not always the best waves, but it’s where I learned and will always be my favorite location. So many great memories! .

Also, don’t suppose you’d like to do a shout out about your experience with the Exotic Feline Breeding Facility/Feline Conservation Center?
You do realize that I could write an essay about this topic, right? Wait a sec, I DID write an essay about it and it can be found here. Just click on A Day at the Cathouse.

Seriously, this place changed my life. It’s one of the top exotic feline breeding facilities in the world, part of the captive breeding program to stop species from going extinct. And before anyone starts going on about “oh, but they only belong in the wild”, I would just ask that you read my essay and take into consideration that we wouldn’t have the captive breeding program if it was possible to successfully save these species only in the wild. EFBC/FCC treats the cats like the royalty they are … and they are the priority. And working there kept me sane during some rough times in my life. If you live in the LA/Bakersfield area and are looking for something unique and worthwhile to do with a day a week, consider volunteering!
Ahem. I am stepping off my soapbox now.

Thanks so much, Dana, for taking the time to do this. I had much more I wanted to interrogate, er, ask you about, but I realize you have a life, so I’ll wrap it up. Is there any other news of upcoming projects or events that you’d like to add?
Well, I’ll be doing some book signings for the release of Plague Town, the list of which can be found on my website on the events page. That would be here. Other than that, I’m busily working on answering interview questions and writing on Plague Nation, the second Ashley Parker novel! Thanks again for having me here!
Keep up with Dana: Website | Twitter
Snag a copy of Plague Town: Amazon | B&N

About Plague Town:
Ashley was just trying to get through a tough day when the world turned upside down.

A terrifying virus appears, quickly becoming a pandemic that leaves its victims, not dead, but far worse. Attacked by zombies, Ashley discovers that she is a ‘Wild-Card’ — immune to the virus — and she is recruited to fight back and try to control the outbreak.

It’s Buffy meets the Walking Dead in a rapid-fire zombie adventure!

Interview (& Giveaway): VM Zito, author of The Return Man

I’m very excited to have brand new author VM Zito on the blog today! Vincent is the author of the post apocalyptic novel, The Return Man, and he was kind enough to endure an interrogation, er, interview, from me, and take some time to answer a few questions. Also, the kind folks at Orbit were nice enough to offer one copy of The Return Man to one lucky winner, so be sure to check out the details at the bottom of the post!

Vincent, your brand new novel, The Return Man, just came out!
Have you always wanted to be a writer? Can you tell us a little about your background and what led to writing a novel?
Hello, and thanks for having me here at My Bookish Ways! It’s hard for me to believe, but I’ve been writing for twenty years — some of which were disciplined and committed to learning the craft, while others I barely wrote a page, and a few of those years I just quit cold turkey, discouraged. But I always came back to it.

Before THE RETURN MAN, I’d never written anything but short fiction. A novel was something I’d always wanted to do. It scared me — so many pages! — but I always say that being afraid is a horrible reason not to do something. (I have a motivational poster in my office, cheesy but comforting: Fear is a sign you are about to do something great.) So in 2008, I felt fearful but ready. A novel just seemed like the natural next step to me as a writer. THE RETURN MAN had been an idea in my head for a long time, and when I wrote the first few pages, it clicked, and I just had this strong immediate sense that it would work.

The Return Man is a dystopian zombie thriller set in the wastelands of America. Can you tell us a little bit more about it?
The book is set four years after the zombie outbreak splits the U.S. into two parts. Out west, the Evacuated States are full of the dead, while the eastern Safe States are still zombie-free. But there are so many grieving survivors, people whose friends and family now roam the West as zombies. The hero Henry Marco is a professional corpse tracker that you can hire to find your zombified loved ones and put them out of their misery. When the new government finds out what Marco is doing, they order him on a crazy, suicide mission into the Evacuated States to dispose of a mysterious dead doctor. And they won’t tell him why.

What were some of your biggest influences in writing The Return Man?
I’ve been a zombie fan forever, so movies like Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead hugely influenced THE RETURN MAN. But the novel also shares its spirit with other favorites from my boyhood: James Bond and Indiana Jones films, all those mad, fantastic, over-the-top action sequences that are impossible to take quite seriously but you love them anyway. In some ways I even imagined my character Henry Marco as a post-apocalyptic Indiana Jones — not always in control, stumbling through insane danger, but quick-thinking and somehow always able to pull triumph from his ass at the last second.

Why do you think the zombie genre, as well as post apocalyptic novels in general, are so popular right now?
I think there’s an underlying sense of wish fulfillment in post-apocalyptic horror. The economy has hit us hard, and many of us feel powerless; you see it in the headlines, how the 99% feel disenfranchised by the 1% in charge. A zombie apocalypse is a chance to start over, albeit in a horrific way, to turn the current power structure on its head. We imagine ourselves becoming heroes, rising from the bottom. Free from restrictions. Governing ourselves for a change. Of course, the death and destruction would be devastating in reality, but in our fantasies they almost seem like a fair trade. And so we want what we should fear most.

What are some of your favorite authors or novels?
I’m really bad at narrowing down my favorite authors. The list is constantly in flux, but a few of the constants are John Banville, Jack Ketchum, Alan Moore, Bret Easton Ellis, and Ray Bradbury, among many, many others. Same goes with novels, but definitely worth naming are The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger, Einstein’s Dreams by Alan Lightman, The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand, Ghosts by John Banville, and Battle Royale by Koushun Takami. Each in its own way taught me about the craft of writing and the art of story-telling.

How about faves featuring zombies?
WORLD WAR Z by Max Brooks. AUTUMN by David Moody. And I AM LEGEND by Richard Matheson, although it’s about vampires. I’m a believer in knowing your roots, appreciating where the subgenre comes from, and I AM LEGEND (written in 1954) was the genesis for Romero’s Night of the Living Dead.

If the zombies were coming and you had to make a quick getaway, which book would you grab to take with you (you can only take one)?
Hmmm. I’m going to be practical. I’ll grab the SAS Survival Handbook by John Wiseman, since I would need all the help I can get in the wild, zombie-infested post-apocalypse. I don’t even know how to work the grill in my backyard.

When you’re not writing, how do you like to spend your free time?
My other passion is trail running, just disappearing for a few hours in the forest and giving my legs a good thrashing up and down the mountain. And, of course, I geek out over video games (Uncharted 3, anyone?) and horror movies.
Do you have any advice that you would give to struggling writers?

Writing workshops are painful but worthwhile (once you figure out whose advice to take and whose to politely disregard). Compare yourself to good writers, then eliminate the differences. Be honest, but don’t be mean to yourself. Keep writing. Once a year, read a really shitty book, just so you can think, “This is awful, and it got published! I can do better.” But most of all, focus on writing something you truly like, which is more important than getting published in the grand scheme of things. And remember, fear is a sign you are about to do something great.

Is there any other news of upcoming projects or events that you’d like to share with us?
There’s not much to report yet. I’m in the early stages of plotting another book; it’s a supernatural tale (no zombies), set in the spooky backwoods of Vermont. Hopefully I’ll be done with it in another year. Until then, I hope you all enjoy THE RETURN MAN, and thank you again for chance to introduce myself!

Keep up with Vincent: Website | Blog

Read a FREE chapter of The Return Man!
Read my review of The Return Man

**GIVEAWAY DETAILS** 
1. You MUST fill out the form below (lots of chances for extra entries!)
2. Giveaway is for 1 copy of The Return Man by VM Zito to 1 winner.
3. Giveaway is open to US/Canadian addresses ONLY
4. Must include a valid email address with your entry
5. You must enter on or before 4/8/12
6. Giveaway book generously provided by Orbit Books.
7. Please see my Giveaway Policy.

read more

The Return Man by VM Zito

The Return Man by VM Zito
Publisher:
Orbit Books/April 1st, 2012
Horror/Zombies/Post-Apocalyptic
Kind thanks to Orbit Books for providing a review copy
4/5

The outbreak tore the US in two. The east remains a safe haven. The west has become a ravaged wilderness, known by survivors as the Evacuated States. It is here that Henry Marco makes his living. Hired by grieving relatives, he tracks down the dead and delivers peace.

Now Homeland Security wants Marco for a mission unlike any other. He must return to California, where the apocalypse began. Where a secret is hidden. And where his own tragic past waits to punish him again.

But in the wastelands of America, you never know who – or what – is watching you.

REVIEW
Henry Marco, former neurologist, is now a gun for hire in the wastelands of what used to be the western US (the Evacuated States). His business partner and former brother in law lives in the east, in the area deemed safe by the government, the New Republicans. Days are spent tracking lost relatives and giving them the peace that their family members desire, with the memory of his wife haunting his every step. Haunted, yes, that’s the best way to describe Henry Marco. Hardened by years of battling the undead, he begins to questions just what it is that keeps him going. Is it his “job?” Does killing the undead relatives of grieving survivors bring him peace and closure also, or does it just fuel the pattern that he’s been forging for years, alone and devastated by loss? Well, Marco’s lone wolf existence is about to be shaken up. Homeland Security has taken his brother in law hostage, using him as leverage in order to hire Marco to hunt the ultimate target: Roger Ballard, the scientist that may just have the cure for the Resurrection disease. The US government isn’t the only one after Ballard, though, and it will take every bit of cunning that Marco possesses to take on this job, out among the wreckage of a country in collapse, overrun by the hordes of living dead.

It’s probably pretty obvious to you by now, dear reader, that I like zombies. It’s a very popular genre right now, and when it comes to zombies, I’m not a gourmand, I’m a gourmet, and I’m always on the lookout for the next above-the-cut zom novel. Luckily, The Return Man more than fits the bill. When I mentioned that more than just the US is interested in a possible cure or vaccine for the Resurrection disease, take that to heart, because Marco will have to deal with some pretty nasty customers (other than zombies), on his journey to Sarsgard Medical Prison, where Ballard was last known to be. He picks up an unlikely ally (or is he) in the form of Ken Wu, Chinese assassin and spy, and a group of psychotic militia men are after them as well. Trust me, the Horsemen will give you a case of the shudders. I really enjoyed the author’s idea that zombies might have a trace of their old selves intact. Not much, but enough to seek out places that are familiar or give them comfort. While this isn’t necessarily a comforting thought, considering the state of these things that were once human, it provides a neat twist on the usual zombie fare.

I had absolutely no trouble getting into, and staying immersed in, The Return Man. There is a ton of carnage in this, seriously, the sheer number of zombies that Marco and Wu have to wade through is staggering, and when it comes to zombie killin’, the author doesn’t leave much to the imagination. That’s ok, though! I mean, you’ll cringe, at least, I did and consider myself somewhat jaded, but the gore really is necessary to paint a terrifying picture of what our hero has to endure, and has had to steel himself to in order to survive in the Evacuated States. The Return Man has quite a bit more depth to it than your average zombie apocalypse novel because Marco himself has a lot of depth, and we also get to know Wu quite a bit during the telling of the story. You’ll think you have Wu’s number at the beginning, but you won’t, and his story just added another layer to the unfolding of The Return Man. I enjoyed every terrifying bit of this book, and if you love zombies, good writing, and great storytelling, I think you will too!

 

Giveaway Winners: Tsunami Blue, Invisible Sun, Assassin’s Code, and Darkest Knight

I’ve got a few giveaway winners to announce today! Remember, if you win, you’ll get an email from me, so if you see your name here, be sure to check your spam too. I only send out one notification, and I’d hate for anyone to miss out. Thanks to everyone that entered and congrats to the winners!

Tsunami Blue and Riders on the Storm by Gayle Ann Williams (2 winners)

Congrats to Julie Le and Beth Cook

Invisible Sun by David Macinnis Gill

Congrats to Marlene Breakfield

Assassin’s Code by Jonathan Maberry (2 winners)

Congrats to Chelsea Foust and Hillary Jacques

Darkest Knight by Karen Duvall

Congrats to Sally Michele Shaw

*Winners were chosen by Rafflecopter, have been notified by email, and have 48 hours to respond before an alternate winner is chosen. Thanks again to everyone that entered!

New Releases: April 2012

Here are the new releases for April! Lots of good books out this month-happy reading!

April 3rd, 2012:
The Return Man by VM Zito (Horror) (April 1st)
The Slayer by Theresa Meyers (Steampunk/Fantasy) (April 1st)
Above by Leah Bobet (YA/Fantasy) (April 1st)
Faustus Resurrectus by Thomas Morrissey (Fantasy) 
Viral by James Lilliefors (Thriller) 
Let Them Eat Stake by Sarah Zettel (Mystery) 
Something Secret This Way Comes by Sierra Dean (UF/Paranormal) 
Old Sins, Long Shadows by PG Forte (Paranormal) 
Every Shallow Cut by Tom Piccirilli (Thriller) 
The Thirteenth Sacrifice by Debbie Viguie (Thriller) 
Blood on the Mink by Robert Silverberg (Mystery/Noir) 
The Stolen Bride by Tony Hays (Fantasy) 
Summoning by Carol Wolf (Fantasy) 
Caine’s Law by Matthew Stover (Fantasy)
Alien Diplomacy by Gini Koch ( UF)
Sword and Blood by Sarah Marques (Fantasy)
Plague Town by Dana Fredsti (UF) | REVIEW
Triggers by Robert J. Sawyer (Sci-Fi)
Fear (Gone Series) by Michael Grant (YA)
Immortal City by Scott Speer (YA)
Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers (YA)
Black Heart by Holly Black (YA)
Nocturnal  by Scott Sigler (Horror)
Lessons After Dark  by Isabel Cooper (Paranormal Romance)
Devil’s Punch (Corine Solomon) by Ann Aguirre (UF)
Magic Without Mercy (Allie Beckstrom) by Devon Monk (UF)
Ripper by Amy Carol Reeves (YA) (April 8th)

April 10th, 2012:
The Calling (Darkness Rising #2) by Kelley Armstrong (UF)
Royal Street by Suzanne Johnson (UF) | REVIEW
Assassin’s Code (Joe Ledger #4) by Jonathan Maberry (Thriller) | REVIEW
Blue Magic by AM Dellamonica (Fantasy)
Sacrilege by SJ Parrish (Historical Mystery)
LA ’56: A Devil in the City of Angels by Joel Engel (Mystery/Noir)
Wicked City (Zephyr Hollis #2) by Alaya Johnson (UF)
Lost Everything by Brian Francis Slattery (Fantasy/Dystopian)
Immobility by Brian Evenson (Sci-Fi/Thriller)
Glamour In Glass by Mary Robinette Kowal (Fantasy)
Blooded (novella) by Amanda Carlson (UF)

April 17th, 2012:
Deadfall Hotel  by Steve Rasnic Tem (Horror)
The Last Echo  by Kimberly Derting (YA)
Replicant by Dani Worth (Sci-Fi) 
White Horse by Alex Adams (Dystopian)
Agatha H. and the Clockwork Princess by Phil and Kaja Foglio (Steampunk)
Bewitched, Bloodied, and Bewildered by Robyn Bachar (UF)
Lucky Bastard by SG Browne (Suspense)

April 24th, 2012:
Blackbirds by Chuck Wendig (UF) | REVIEW
Deadly Descendant by Jenna Black (UF)
Tricked (Iron Druid #4) by Kevin Hearne (UF) | REVIEW
Masque of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin (YA)
Summoning the Night by Jenn Bennett ( UF)
Wizard Undercover by K.E. Mills (UF)
Wishful Thinking by Gabi Stevens (UF)
Border Run by Simon Lewis (Thriller)
Evil Dark by Justin Gustainis (UF)
The Nekropolis Archive by Tim Waggoner (UF)
Unraveling by Elizabeth Norris (YA)
The Minority Council by Kate Griffin (UF)
Wicked Road to Hell by Juliana Stone (Paranormal)
The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa (YA)
Lies and Omens by Lyn Benedict (UF)
The Wind Through the Keyhole by Stephen King (Fantasy)
Red, White, and Blood (Nathanial Cade) by Chris Farnsworth (UF)
The Mysterium by P.C. Doherty (Mystery)
Dark Eden by Patrick Carman (YA)
Thumped by Megan McCafferty (YA)
Insurgent by Veronica Roth (YA)

Video Interview: Adam Baker, author of Outpost and Juggernaut

Today brings something a bit different to MBW, and I think it’s kinda cool. If you recall, I reviewed the amazing Outpost a few weeks back, and the author Adam Baker was kind enough to answer a few of my questions, via video! No one has ever done this before, and I admit, I thought it was pretty darn cool, so please welcome Adam to the blog, and enjoy the video!

About Outpost:
They took the job to escape the world They didn’t expect the world to end. Kasker Rampart: a derelict refinery platform moored in the Arctic Ocean. A skeleton crew of fifteen fight boredom and despair as they wait for a relief ship to take them home. But the world beyond their frozen wasteland has gone to hell. Cities lie ravaged by a global pandemic. One by one TV channels die, replaced by silent wavebands. The Rampart crew are marooned. They must survive the long Arctic winter, then make their way home alone. They battle starvation and hypothermia, unaware that the deadly contagion that has devastated the world is heading their way…
Purchase Outpost: Amazon | The Book Depository

About Juggernaut:
Iraq 2005 Seven mercenaries journey deep into the desert in search of Saddam’s gold. They form an unlikely crew of battle-scarred privateers, killers and thieves, veterans of a dozen war zones, each of them anxious to make one last score before their luck runs out. They will soon find themselves marooned among ancient ruins, caught in a desperate battle for their lives, confronted by greed, betrayal, and an army that won’t stay dead…
Purchase Juggernaut: Amazon

About Adam:

Author. Screenwriter. Lover of cheese.

Adam was born in 1969. He is the son of a Gloucestershire priest.

He studied Theology and Philosophy in London.

He has worked as a gravedigger, a mortuary attendant, a short order cook in a New York diner, and fixed slot machines in an Atlantic City casino.

He is currently employed as a cinema projectionist.

He was also a close neighbour of serial killer Fred West.

His post-apocalyptic thriller Outpost is published in the United Kingdom by Hodder.
Keep up with Adam: Website | Twitter | Facebook

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