My Bookish Ways

Interview (& Giveaway): Barbara Ashford, author of Spellcast

If you caught my review of Spellcast, you know how much I adored it, so when its author, Barbara Ashford, agreed to answer a few of my questions, I was beyond thrilled! Also up for grabs is a copy of Spellcast to one lucky winner, so be sure to check out the giveaway details at the bottom of the post, and please welcome Barbara to the blog!

Barbara, you have extensive experience in the theatre arts, which of course would explain the subject matter of your first novel, Spellcast, and you also spent some time as a lyricist. What made you decide to take the plunge into writing a full length novel?
Well, I might as well start off with the big “reveal.” Spellcast isn’t my first novel. My first (which was never published) was set in Scotland and combined history, fantasy, and romance. I was groping for a new theatre project when I literally had a dream that led me to write it. It poured out in three months and I’ve been writing fiction ever since.

Later, I wrote an epic trilogy entitled Trickster’s Game, a multi-generational saga set in the Bronze Age. It’s about the struggle of a nature-worshipping society to survive in a changing world and the struggle of one family to survive their dealings with a Trickster god. Those books – Heartwood, Bloodstone, and Foxfire – were published as Barbara Campbell.

It was my editor at DAW who suggested I write a contemporary novel that drew on my theatre background. (As I said in the acknowledgments of Spellcast: “God forbid I think of it!”) And since Spellcast was such a radical shift from what I’d written before, it came out under Barbara Ashford.

What are some of your literary influences?
As a lyricist, I was very influenced by the work of Stephen Sondheim. Don’t think any one novelist influenced me quite that way. But the stories that influenced me most were those with compelling protagonists who make difficult journeys and come through them having learned something about themselves. More than anything else, character draws me into a story.

What are five of your favorite novels?
Anne of Green Gables – Red-haired girl with big imagination. Totally identified with her as a kid.
The Lymond Chronicles – A six-part historical fiction series that captures the twisted politics of sixteenth century Europe and the dark soul of its charismatic and haunted protagonist.
A Prayer for Owen Meany – One of the few books that made we weep.
Cormac McCarthy’s The Road – Ditto. A master class in writing spare prose that is utterly evocative and all the more compelling for its restraint.
Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series – History. Romance. Time travel. Men in kilts. What’s not to love?

What is your most unusual writing quirk?
I “act out” scenes as I write them. I sit on my sofa and improvise the dialogue, speaking in the voices of the different characters. Which may sound nutty, but is more spontaneous than sitting at a computer. And as with any improvisation, the scene often moves in unexpected directions as characters react to each other.

What’s on your nightstand right now?
The Mists of Avalon. When I’m in the final stages of editing a novel, I prefer to reread a familiar book rather than plunge into a new one.

In your bio, it says you met your husband while performing with him in the stage play, Bedroom Farce. Can you tell us a bit more about that?
It’s a comedy that takes place in the bedrooms of three couples, whose evenings – and lives – are disrupted by a fourth couple who are completely oblivious to the havoc they’re wreaking. David and I played the fourth couple, self-absorbed Trevor and neurotic Susannah. We had a wonderful – and very physical – fight scene where I attacked him with a table lamp and we ended up rolling around on the floor. Since I had a crush on him, I loved rehearsing that scene!

What did you love most about stage acting? Did you ever get stage fright?
Just like Maggie in Spellcast, I loved slipping into someone else’s skin – the grown-up version of make believe. And I loved that zing of excitement that comes from performing before a live audience and knowing that if the stage manager forgets to put blanks in the gun you have to fire – or the blood pack you’re wearing under your costume starts to leak twenty minutes before you get shot – or the door flies open during the play No Exit (yes, that all happened to me) – you just have to forge ahead.

I rarely got stage fright. Actually, it was much harder to perform in cabarets because it was just ME up there, not a character.

When you’re not busy at work writing, how do you like to spend your free time?
I wish I could give you something fascinating, but basically it’s reading, going to shows, watching movies, having dinner with friends.

Quick! Name something that makes you laugh out loud?
The opening minutes of Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Especially the “autonomous collective” scene.

What’s one of the most daring things you’ve ever done (that you’re willing to admit to?)
I had to appear topless on stage twice. Each time, I was facing upstage (away from the audience), but it was still daunting. You’re dealing with your vulnerability plus the emotional moment in the play plus the very practical need of shedding layers of clothing without bringing the scene to a screeching halt. In The Elephant Man, I was wearing a Victorian costume with a gazillion buttons and ribbons and laces. By contrast, the nurse’s uniform in Tribute was a breeze. The actor playing opposite me in Tribute was very sweet – and very nearsighted. He patted my hand afterward and said, “Frankly, it was all a blur. But I’m sure they’re lovely.”

Is there any advice that you would give to struggling authors?
After you’ve finished that first draft, turn on the editor side of your brain. Does each chapter change the situation for your protagonist? Are you forcing your protagonist to make tough choices that consistently raise the stakes – for her and for the world? Are the events you’ve chosen the best ones to illuminate your character’s inner journey? Are they built on a chain of cause-and-effect rather than lucky coincidences? Editing your work is as vital as creating it.
The sequel to Spellcast, Spellcrossed, is out in June of 2012. Can you give us a bit of a teaser?
The book begins a year after Spellcast concludes. Maggie is now the executive director of the newly non-profit Crossroads Theatre, and we follow her through another summer stock season that features Annie, The Secret Garden, and Into the Woods.

Here’s part of the wonderfully vague snippet I wrote for the back cover: “While Maggie yearns to give others the healing she found at the Crossroads, she recognizes that magic must take a back seat to ticket sales. But magic is hard to banish and the past has a way of coming back to haunt you. And when the tangled spells of the past turn Maggie’s life upside down, it will take more than magic to undo them…”

Is there any news of upcoming projects or events you’d like to share with us?
I have a short story coming out in March in the anthology The Modern Fae’s Guide to Surviving Humanity. About a faery who gives self-improvement seminars to humans. As soon as I’ve wrapped up final edits on Spellcrossed, I hope to take a very deep breath and plunge into the next book in the series. And next summer, I’ll be one of the guest lecturers at the Odyssey Writing Workshop, the six-week program I attended for writers of fantasy, science fiction and horror.
Keep up with Barbara:Website

**GIVEAWAY DETAILS**

1. Giveaway is for 1 copy of Spellcast by Barbara Ashford

***GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED-THANKS TO EVERYONE THAT ENTERED!!***

Review: Heaven’s Spite (Jill Kismet #5) by Lilith Saintcrow

Heaven’s Spite (Jill Kismet #5) by Lilith Saintcrow
Publisher:
 Orbit (Hachette/2010)
Source: Purchased
Urban Fantasy
Jill Kismet Series
4.5/5 
Amazon| Barnes and Noble
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When a new hellbreed comes calling, playing nice isn’t an option. Jill Kismet has no choice but to seek treacherous allies – Perry, the devil she knows, and Melisande Belisa, the cunning Sorrows temptress whose true loyalties are unknown.

Kismet knows Perry and Belisa are likely playing for the same thing—her soul. It’s just too bad, because she expects to beat them at their own game. Except their game is vengeance.

Nobody plays vengeance like Kismet. But if the revenge she seeks damns her, her enemies might get her soul after all…

REVIEW
Heaven’s Spite opens with a bang, with Jill chasing down a trader that is set to murder his ex-wife. When Jill gets home, she finds her old nemesis, Pericles, menacing her new apprentice and offering up a “gift”. This gift turns out to be a talisman that was taken from her mentor by a Sorrows temptress named Melisande Belisa. Jill has no idea how Perry got ahold of it, but is determined to find out, and she has no trouble roughing up some Hellbreed to get her way. Meanwhile, Jill is called to the scene of a quadruple homicide, and it’s more than obvious that something otherworldly was involved. Jill isn’t quite sure what’s going on, but this case will stretch her to her limits and beyond, and possibly threaten the one person she holds dear.

I’m a HUGE fan of this series, but I waited a while before starting Heaven’s Spite. I’d heard that it has a hell of a cliffhanger ending, and that’s no lie, so I wanted to wait until the final book in the series, Angel Town, was out before starting this one. I’m really, really glad I did. I’m always eager to jump back into Santa Luz and kick some ass with Jill as she hunts down Hellbreed that aren’t behaving themselves. I’ve never been disappointed once in this series, and Heaven’s Spite is no exception. Lilith Saintcrow has created a dark, seriously gritty, and violent cityscape and more often than not, plops her heroine right down in the middle of the action. In Heaven’s Spite, Jill is torn between finding out an explosive secret about her ex-love and mentor and saving her current love, the werecat Saul. Old heartbreak comes bubbling to the surface and just when she thinks she’s out of Perry’s clutches, he sucks her back in. Jill Kismet is what dark urban fantasy is all about. She busts heads, hardly sleeps, hunts Hellbreed with a vengeance, and takes absolutely no prisoners. Underneath the blood and grit though, is a heart that will tolerate no violence against the innocent, and loves Saul with a passion. It’s this passion that carries Jill through all of the horror that she witnesses on a daily basis. I stayed up very, very late with this one and moved right on to Angel Town. If you like your urban fantasy dark and gritty, with a no holds barred heroine that’s not afraid to get dirty, you’ll love Jill Kismet. This series is a must for any urban fantasy library!

Changes!

Hi gang!

Just wanted to let you know that I’m revamping the blog, so very soon you’ll notice a change, a big one, but it’s still me and the look is really the only thing changing, with the exception of some possible additions (features, etc) in the near future.

Please excuse me as I work out the kinks, and be sure to let me know what you think!

Interview and Giveaway: Piper Maitland, author of Acquainted With the Night

I’m thrilled to have Piper Maitland on the blog today! Piper is the author of the upcoming Acquainted With the Night (my review), and she was kind enough to answer a few of my questions! There’s also a copy of the book up for grabs, so be sure to check the giveaway details at the end of the post! Also, before you go, be sure to click on the banner to see all of her tour stops!

Please welcome Piper to the blog!

Piper, your brand new vampire novel, Acquainted With the Night will be out later this month (Nov. 29th), and you’ve already published numerous novels under the name Michael Lee West. Have you always wanted to be a writer? Can you tell us a bit about your journey?
I grew up with southern cooks and storytellers, so the urge to spin a tale was always with me. But my mother thought writing was a crazy idea, so I ended up getting a BS in nursing. This was thirty five years ago. While I was a student nurse, I cobbled together stories in an airless closet under the staircase and pinned my rejection slips on the wall. We’re talking floor-to-ceiling wallpaper here. Some of the slips had tiny indentions in the paper, as if the editor had stabbed them over and over with a sharp pencil, or maybe a butcher knife.

The free wallpaper continued for a decade. Poems were published in small, not-very-literary places. One story was published by First for Women in the late 1980s. One Mother’s Day, my eldest son wrote me a letter: To my Mom. I’ve never seen anybody work harder than you and get nowhere. But I love ya.

It was a long, hard road. I didn’t have a PhD in literature. I didn’t know any writers. If I saw an infinitive, I gleefully split it. I thought a plot had something to do with gardening, as in a “plot” of land. But I kept going. I got up at dawn to write so my avocation wouldn’t interfere with family life, and I stayed up late. I joined a writing group. The members were spread out all over the country, and we communicated via snail mail. Somehow I kept going. My first novel was published in 1990. I was 38 years old. Like my mama says, I was the opposite of an overnight sensation. Now I’m 58. I just finished my ninth book. I no longer work in a closet, however I don’t have an office. I have a laptop, and I roam around the house. If the weather isn’t too grim, I like to sit outside with a legal pad.

Would you tell us a little about Acquainted With the Night?
In the winter of 2008, I got a little burned out by the writing business. So I decided to write what I wanted (and I assumed it wouldn’t be published). I got the idea for AWTN while driving to the grocery with my younger son, who is a biochemist. My husband chimed in—he’s a physician. Caro and Jude were created in the Publix bakery. I bought chocolate, came home, and started writing. And I regained my joy of writing. I didn’t have an outline; I just started with a character named Caro Clifford. Her story began in London and quickly moved to Sofia, Bulgaria. I couldn’t wait to get up in the morning to work on that book!

What made you decide on vampires as your subject for this series, as opposed to other supernatural creatures?
When I was a little girl, I’d stay up to watch vampire movies on The Late, Late Show. I’d get so scared, I’d holler for my daddy to walk me to my bedroom. I even swiped my mother’s garlic pods and put them around my neck. Boy, did I ever get in trouble when my mother needed those pods.

So no one in my family was shocked when I wrote a vampire novel. Not happy, mind you, just not surprised.

What are some of your biggest literary influences?
My mother introduced me to Louisa May Alcott. I liked what she brought home from the library: Intern by Dr. X, Valley of the Dolls, Princess Daisy, Rebecca. I love all kinds of fiction. In the past few years, I’ve gotten hooked on the Tudor period.

What’s on your nightstand right now?
Brief Gaudy Hour: A Novel of Anne Boleyn by Margaret Campbell Barnes

What is one of your most unusual writing quirks?
I write first drafts on yellow legal pads. When I revise, I print the manuscript, grab a blue Flair pen, and go to bed with the papers spread all around me—and assorted Yorkshire Terriers.

What was your favorite part of writing Acquainted With the Night?
I enjoyed the chase scenes, the love scenes, and the science of vampirism.

When you’re not busy writing, how do you like to spend your free time?
You’ll find me in the kitchen. I love to cook!

In your bio, it says you live on a farm in Tennessee. What do you love most about it?
I was a die-hard city girl (not quite Eva Gabor with her Yorkies in Green Acres, but almost), and I wasn’t happy about moving to the country. Now, I can’t imagine why I balked. I love the rolling hills and the big sky. I love the peaceable feeling of gathering eggs. I learned how to nurse weak kids and to bottle-feed lambs. Every single day, no matter what I’m doing, I wait for sunset. Farm life is a decorating style that embraces dirt and worn, much-loved objects. The animals are our pets. I’ve had kids in my dining room on Christmas Eve. One locked herself in the truck and we had to call OnStar to unlock the door.

If you could pack your bags and travel anywhere in the world tomorrow, where would you go?
A farm in the Cotswolds.

Is there any advice that you would give to struggling writers?
Never give up, have a strong work ethic, join organizations such as RWA and Sisters in Crime, sign up for workshops. Develop a tough hide but never become cynical—be hopeful. Always keep learning and pushing yourself. Don’t be afraid to try something different. Publishers are looking for new writers—you might be that writer.

Is there any other news of upcoming projects or events that you’d like to share with us?
A Teeny Bit of Trouble will be published in April 2012. It’s the sequel to Gone With a Handsomer Man (southern mystery series).
Thanks for having me!
Keep up with Piper: Website | Twitter | Blog

**GIVEAWAY DETAILS**

1. Giveaway is for 1 copy of Acquainted With the Night by Piper Maitland to 1 winner.
2. Giveaway is open to US addresses only.
3. To enter, please leave a comment or question for Piper with your email address (if you put your email address in the form, it’s not necessary to include it in the body of your comment). Following the blog is not necessary, but is ALWAYS appreciated.
4. If you follow this blog (via GFC or Facebook) please let me know in a SEPARATE COMMENT and I’ll give you ONE extra entry.
5. Giveaway ENDS 11/22/11
6. Giveaway book generously provided by Penguin.

Review : The Iron Hunt (Hunter Kiss #1) by Marjorie M. Liu

The Iron Hunt (Hunter Kiss #1) by Marjorie M. Liu
Publisher:
 Ace (Penguin/June 2008)
Source: Purchased
Urban Fantasy
Hunter Kiss Series
4.5/5 
Amazon| Barnes and Noble
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Synopsis
Silver smoke winds around my torso, peeling away from my ribs and back, stealing the dark mist covering my hands and lower extremities . . . tattoos dissolving into demon flesh, coalescing into small dark bodies. My boys. The only friends I have in this world. Demons.

I am a demon hunter. I am a demon. I am Hunter Kiss.

By day, her tattoos are her armor. By night, they unwind from her body to take on forms of their own. Demons of the flesh, turned into flesh. This is the only family demon hunter Maxine Kiss has ever known. The only way to live-and the very way she’ll die. For one day, her demons will abandon her for her daughter to assure their own survival-leaving Maxine helpless against her enemies.

But such is the way of Earth’s last protector-the only one standing between humanity and the demons breaking out from behind the prison veils. It is a life lacking in love, reveling in death, until one moment-and one man-changes everything . . .

REVIEW
I read a Maxine Kiss short story quite a while back in an anthology and remember really enjoying it, so I wasn’t surprised at how engrossing The Iron Hunt is. Maxine is a Hunter, from a long line of Hunters, tasked with keeping demons in check. She’s settled into tenuous comfort with her boyfriend Grant, former priest and so much more, and enjoys helping out at the soup kitchen and shelter that he runs. He veneer of normality that Maxine has cloaked herself in is shattered when she is accused of the murder of a private investigator. Her name is on a piece of paper found in the dead man’s pocket, and Maxine has no idea who else could know of her identity. Her investigation will lead her to a man who may have much to do with her past and creatures that hint at the possibility of a coming apocalypse.

The Iron Hunt opens with this line “When I was eight, my mother lost me to zombies in a one-card draw.” Sucks you right in, yes? It certainly caught my attention, and I ended up staying glued to the pages. There’s trouble brewing beyond the veil, and things not of this world are pushing through to this reality. What begins with the murder of a private investigator turns into a search into Maxine’s soul, and her past. Maxine is a tough girl, make no mistake, and her tattoos are, um, unusual. During the day, they are her armor. When I say armor, Maxine can get hit by a car and she’ll be right as rain. That’s some serious armor. At night, the tattoos come off and coalesce into five seriously rough and tumble little demons. Zee seems like the alpha guy of the group, and the only one that Maxine actually speaks with. They’re a charming lot, and I found myself falling in love with them as the book goes on. I mean, these little guys can devour a baddie in seconds, like to cuddle teddy bears (well, pieces of teddy bears), eat tools and other various non-edibles (somehow the author makes this charming, seriously), and will do anything to keep Maxine safe. Ms. Liu’s writing is sharp and immediate, and the action hardly lets up. I also like her concept of zombies. We’re not talking the shambling undead here. “Zombie” is used to describe humans inhabited by demons. Maxine is convinced the lot of them are up to no good, but Grant is convinced they can change, and he just might have the ability to make that happen. In fact, there’s way more to Grant than meets the eye. This is just another one of the stunning discoveries Maxine will make during the story. She knew Grant had some magic, but just how much remains to be seen. Her devotion to him is unshakeable, however, and her strength, tempered with an aching vulnerability are part of what make Maxine a heroine to root for. The author has a wonderful way with words, and has created a world rich in mythology, ghosts, demons, and plenty of darkness (although there is light at the end.) Her imagery is immediate and the twists and turns don’t stop! I highly recommend this series to any urban fantasy fan, and can’t believe I had it sitting on my shelf for so long!

Blog Tour and Giveaway: Theresa Meyers, author of Shadowlander

Please welcome Theresa Meyers to the blog today! Theresa is the author of The Hunter, The Vampire Who Loved Me, The Truth About Vampires and much more! Her brand new book, Shadowlander, just came out, and she’s here to talk about sisterhood and the role it plays in Shadowlander. Also up for grabs is one e-copy of Shadowlander to one lucky winner, so be sure to see the giveaway details at the end of the post!

The Ties of Sisterhood
-Theresa Meyers

Writers are often told, write what you know. There are many that say the ties of sisterhood are some of the strongest around. Now I don’t know that from personal experience because my only sibling is male, but I believe it. I remember being so desperate to have a sister I actually asked my mother if we could buy one for Christmas. (I was young, really young…that’s my only defense.)

There was simply something missing. An intangible bond I was searching for. Over the course of my life I’ve “found” sisters. My nearest and dearest friends who’ve shared many ups and downs with me. First there was Dawn Albright in grade school. We did everything together. In fact I think I spent most of sixth grade and at least half of seventh living at her house or her at mine, even during the school week. But then I had to move to a different state where I met Diana Cash, who suffered being a new-from-a-big-city-living-in-a-small-town, right along with me. We did everything together. And in some ways we had a parallel existence that was almost frightening. We both had step-dads, we both had much younger half-brothers. We both had uber strict parents who were very involved in their faith. We both married our high school sweethearts and we were both in one another’s weddings. But then life changed, and we changed. I still adore Diana, would still do anything for her, but our lives have diverged to a point where we only get to see one another now and then.

When I moved to Washington I found Karla Baehr and Jennifer Hansen. Karla never had sisters either, but it’s so dang easy to be around one another that it’s almost no effort. We like many of the same things, but we’re happy to be different people and have our families. Her kids are so much like my own (because they’ve grown up in each other’s pockets) that they’re really more like cousins than friends. Our husbands work together (which is how we met) and I always know exactly what Karla is thinking because she freely speaks her mind (which I love). Jenny is apparently raising my son, only a few years in advance (because my son acts so much like her middle son, it’s eerie. I can see exactly what I’m going to be up against in two years time). And I’m apparently raising her daughter (since she has only boys and my girl loves her). Both of these women are my “found” family. The family you pick rather than the ones you are born to. And I’m eternally grateful for every one of these amazing women who’ve been part of my life and become my “sisters”.

These kinds of relationships have helped me in working with my characters, the O’Connell sisters. They are so much alike in that they share the same odd family ability to see the fae, yet they are so very different. Sometimes they rub each other the wrong way, but ultimately every single one of them would do anything for her sisters. I get that. I’m fortunate to have my “sisters” who give me that same safety net in real life.

Catherine – Cate – (the heroine in my latest novella Shadowlander) is the eldest. She’s more of a mother hen to her sisters, but really wishes she could have her own time and space to indulge herself for a moment without having to worry about everyone else. She needs to be nurtured. And as the eldest she most keenly feels the loss of their mother. Margaret (Maggie) is my humanitarian, always trying to bring the sisters in harmony with one another and thinking about the bigger cause. Clare is more intuitive than her sisters, but at the same time doesn’t always trust what’s she’s told. She’s the one who has to analyze and know all the answers before she’ll make a decision, but once made, she’ll work tirelessly to make it happen. Jane, the youngest, is a bit of a free spirit. She wants to see and do and experience everything and dares anyone to stop her.

Each is very different, but in so many ways they are alike. They all value family. They all realize that their sight makes them have to hide their abilities from others. They all need a path to become who they were truly meant to be.

That’s a little insight into the ties of sisterhood of my characters, and myself. They say write what you know. I say, write what you discover.

What’s your most memorable moment with your sisters (regardless of if you were born with them or found them)?

Keep up with Theresa: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | STEAMED!
Entangled Publishing Book Site

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New Releases: Week of Nov. 15th, 2011

Check out the new releases this week!  Most release Nov 15th.  Also, Kindle Steals and Deals is back, so be sure to check those out too! Enjoy!

Urban Fantasy/Paranormal/Fantasy/Sci-fi/Horror:
Double Dead (Tomes of the Dead) by Chuck Wendig
Unfallen(ebook) by Lilith Saintcrow
Deadly Pursuit (A Blood Hunter Novel, #2) by Nina Croft

Historical Mystery/Suspense:
Red-Robed Priestess: A Novel (The Maeve Chronicles) by Elizabeth Cunningham

Young Adult/Children’s:
The Space Between by Brenna Yovanoff
Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi
Lightbringer by K.D. McEntire
Death Watch (Undertaken Trilogy) by Ari Berk
The Pledge by Kimberly Derting

Kindle Steals and Deals!
Urban Fantasy/Fantasy/Paranormal/Horror/Sci-fi:
The Bite Before Christmasby Heidi Betts: $4.61
Goblin King by Shona Husk: $5.59
Harvest Moon: A Tangled Web\Cast in Moonlight\Retributionby Mercedes Lackey, Cameron Haley, Michelle Sagara: $5.59
Two Worlds and In Between: The Best of Caitlin R. Kiernan (Volume One) by Caitlin R. Kiernan: $4.99
Deadworld by J.N. Duncan: $4.49
The Vengeful Dead by J.N. Duncan: $5.38
New Cthulhu: The Recent Weird by Michael Marshall Smith, Cherie Priest, Charles Stross, Neil Gaiman, and more: $4.95
Deadlock: Southern Arcana, Book 3 by Moira Rogers: $4.40

Mystery/Thriller:
Prey by Michael Crichton: $3.99
Fatally Frosted ($4.99 Value Promotion edition): A Donut Shop Mystery (Donut Shop Mysteries) by Jessica Beck: $4.99
Glazed Murder: A Donut Shop Mystery by Jessica Beck: $4.99
Already Gone by John Rector: $4.99
Flip That Haunted House (A Haunted Renovation Mystery) by Rose Pressey: $2.99
Progressive Dinner Deadly (A Myrtle Clover Mystery) by Elizabeth Spann Craig: $2.99
Scared Stiff by Annelise Ryan: $5.23
The Night and The Music by Lawrence Block: $2.99
Elvis and the Memphis Mambo Murders by Peggy Webb: $5.59
Wicked Witch Murder (Lucy Stone) by Leslie Meier: $5.43
The English Detective and the Rookie Agent (Harlequin Intrigue) by Pat White: $3.99
The Hollow House by Janis Patterson: $4.79

Young Adult:
The Dark Divine by Bree Despain: $3.99
Pirates! by Celia Rees: $1.99

Interview: Sean Cummings, author of Unseen World

I’m thrilled to have Sean Cummings on the blog today! Sean is the Canadian author of 3 urban fantasies, Unseen World, Funeral Pallor, and Shade Fright! He was nice enough to answer a few of my questions so please welcome him to the blog!

Sean, you’ve got three urban fantasies out and you’re hard at work on a YA novel. How long have you wanted to be a writer, and what made you decide to write your first novel?
I’ve been writing since I was a kid and first tried my hand at getting published in pre-Internet days when I’d pound a manuscript out on an IBM Selectric typewriter. There was a great deal of liquid paper used during my first weak attempts – children’s stories. I started trying to get a novel published in the early 2000’s and it was a hard, hard slog. A jillion different short stories and terrible books, it seemed. But I kept at it, joined a writer’s group. Tried to perfect my craft which I don’t think any serious author ever can achieve. I did it to see if it could be done – I’ve always loved a challenge and the benefit is that I love writing, so it’s always a game of looking ahead to the next project.

Can you tell us a little about your latest novel, Unseen World?
Unseen World is my take on bending urban fantasy with elements you’d find in a comic book. Marshall Conrad is a forty something guy with superpowers who basically hates everyone. Yet he uses his powers to fight crime, primarily to get rid of the migraine headaches that give him a glimpse into crimes about to happen. There’s a serial killer on the loose in Greenfield USA and he ain’t no Ted Bundy. This guy is a herald for a very bad dude named Grim Geoffrey, a supernatural being who resides in the Unseen World. This world exists under our noses and through the book Marshall enlists the help of an overweight witch and a senior citizen who can bench press a battle tank because all hell is going to break loose during the summer solstice and only Marshall Conrad can stop it.

What are some of your biggest literary influences?
I’d say Harper Lee but that’s because To Kill a Mockingbird is a perfect book. If anything, I’m influenced by my life-long love of comic books, but I’m a huge fan of Jim Butcher, Simon R. Green and Stephen King. King is my starting point for dark fiction. Butcher and Green show me how to make it fun.

What’s one of your most unusual writing habits?
Writing with a cat on my lap. Don’t ask me why but it relaxes me. I’m also fond of writing a killer first chapter and then leaving it for six months to see if it still gets me excited. That’s how it went with my second novel, FUNERAL PALLOR.

I read in your bio that you love comic books. What are some of your faves?
Werewolf by Night was a great series in the 70’s. Doctor Strange, Fantastic Four, anything that was written by Alan Moore. Watchmen is the gold standard for a comic book series in my view.

I’ve never been to Canada, but would love to go someday. What are a few places in your neck of the woods that you would take a first time visitor?
I live in Saskatchewan (say that three times when you’re drunk) and it’s the breadbasket for the entire country. I would take someone out into a farmer’s grain field and allow them to feel like they’re the tiniest speck of dust in the world because the earth touches the sky and you can become easily overwhelmed by the vastness of the Canadian prairie. I’d also take them to Fuddruckers for a burger or Jerry’s Food Emporium and of course the Fringe Festival which is awesome!

You mentioned that you love the movie Arsenic and Old Lace. So do I! What are some other pre-1960 favorites?
Lets see … The Searchers with John Wayne and Jeffrey Hunter. Frankenstein circa 1931. Peyton Place. Anything with Rock Hudson and Doris Day. Ball of Fire with Barbara Stanwyck and Gary Cooper – brilliantly funny movie. It Happened One Night with Claudette Colbert and Clark Gable. Dark Victory with Bette Davis. Pygmalion with Leslie Howard and Wendy Hiller…. Geez, I could go on and on and on and on….

So, you’re a huge sci-fi fan… What are some of your favorite TV shows or movies?
Doctor Who in all its incarnations. Period. All-time fave. Journeyman which was brilliant but cancelled. Threshold which was also brilliant but cancelled. 2001 A Space Odyssey because it changed everything. Planet of the Apes with Charleton Heston because it never gets old. I’m quite fond of Life on Mars – the UK version as well as the UK version of Being Human.

What’s the best bit of advice you would give struggling writers?
Stop freaking out about your query letter and focus on writing the best damned story you can write. Write every day, even when you’re dead dog tired – this is a craft and there’s so much room for improvement. Write for the love of writing. Write for the sheer joy of telling a story. Write for the feeling you get when you type “THE END”. Just write…

Is there any news of upcoming projects or events that you’d like to share?
My YA Poltergeeks is being shopped by my agent Jenny Savill. I just submitted TIM REAPER, my death spirit bounty hunter misogynist with a heart of gold and a penchant for hookers – it’s at my agent’s. I am now digging into THE NORTH – my YA zombie apocalypse novel where a group of teenagers in the Canadian Militia head north across a frozen wasteland to a place called Churchill on the southern tip of Hudson’s Bay. There are zombies, feral dogs, and packs of wolves, polar bears and survivalist humans who will cut your throat for a can of beans. It’s a dark and terrible book that makes me cold just thinking about it. I hope to have it complete in the next few months and off to my agent.
Keep up with Sean here: Website | Twitter

Purchase Unseen World: The Book Depository

Giveaway Winners: Goblin Moon, Fire Works in the Hamptons, Sins of the Angels, Hickory Smoked Homicide, The Doomsday Vault

I’ve got 6 giveaway winners to announce today!

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Hickory Smoked Homicide by Riley Adams:
Lethea B.

Fire Works in the Hamptons by Celia Jerome:
Mary

Goblin Moon by Teresa Edgerton:
Denise Z.

The Doomsday Vault by Steven Harper:
Amy Harlib

Sins of the Angels by Linda Poitevin (2 winners):
Mary Preston
Carol Pal

*Winners were chosen using Random.org and have been notified. Thanks to everyone that entered!

Early Review: Acquainted With the Night by Piper Maitland

Acquainted With the Night by Piper Maitland
Publisher:
 Berkley (Penguin/Nov. 29th)
Source: From publisher for review
Thriller
4/5 
Amazon| Barnes and Noble
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Synopsis
A woman’s quest for the truth…A medieval icon that holds the clues…And an ancient book with the power to shake Christianity-and humanity itself.

London tour guide Caroline Clifford has never believe in vampires- until her uncle is brutally murdered at a Bulgarian archaeological site, and a vampire hunter who corresponded with him seeks her out.
Strange anagrams on her uncle’s passport lead them to a cliff-top monastery in Greece, where a shattering revelation connects a relic Caro inherited to an age-old text on immortality-and an enigmatic prophecy that pits the forces of darkness and light in a showdown that could destroy all they know…

REVIEW
I wasn’t sure what to expect when I started Acquainted With the Night. Piper Maitland is a new author for me, and I’m certainly always up for discovering new authors, plus, it’s blurbed by Diana Gabaldon, which is a win. I had a feeling I’d like it, but had no idea I’d enjoy it quite as much as I did. I’ll be honest, I have a ton of books on the TBR pile, so I readily admit to checking a books length, and if it exceeds the 300 page mark, you might see me wince a little bit. Acquainted weighs in at a healthy and robust 500+ pages, but I swear, they go by fast! Caroline Clifford (Caro), is a former doctorate candidate turned London tour guide. Not really her dream job, but it’s a living, and she has a roommate she gets along with, so things aren’t too bad. When she gets word that her Uncle was killed in a horrible way while on a Bulgarian archeological dig, it’s a tragic blow for Caro, and it’s at that point that things begin moving very fast for our heroine.

When handsome Jude Barrett comes into her life, claiming to have a connection to her uncle, Caro doesn’t know what to think, but clues left behind with her uncle’s things will set them on a globe hopping adventure to find what may be the key to immortality. See, Jude is a biochemist, and had been researching vampiric properties in mice when things took a bad turn for him he had to run for his life. Turns out Caro’s uncle may have known a little something about the existence of vampires, and it could also have a connection to Caro’s parents and her past. What follows for Caro and Jude is an adventure filled with mysterious monks, religious idols, illuminated texts (one book in particular will prove very important), and the phrase “trust no one” will certainly prove true. Expect some sizzling hot romance with Caro and Jude, and while the twists are fairly easy to predict, I didn’t mind, because the ride was so much fun. A fascinating, historical story, some truly evil vamps (and a nasty human villain), brisk pacing and tight prose make Acquainted With the Night a worthwhile, rollicking read! The author certainly left things open for further novels with Jude and Caro, so I’ll definitely be on the lookout!

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